How to Do a Successful Product Launch When You Have 0 Followers and $6

10 Jun 2024

Hi! Today, I want to tell you how I launched my project Chill Subs spending only $6 on a domain and gaining 3000 followers on my brand new Twitter/X account in the first 3 days.

For a bit of context, Chill Subs is, at its core, a database of over 4000 opportunities for writers looking to publish their work. When I started it, it was just me, and the website listed only 75 literary magazines. Two years later, we’re a team of 7 people working full-time in 5 different countries, and the website has over 26,000 registered users and over 60,000 followers on social media.

And it all started with just one fun weekend of coding after getting a beer in a bar in Gdansk.

Alright, let’s unpack this!

Idea & Execution

Like is often the case with great projects, I wasn’t even looking to launch a startup. I was just mad at the way things were, wanted a better solution for myself, and then somewhere halfway, realized that it actually might be useful for other people.

When you’re solving your own problem or the problem of people close to you, you have a massive advantage right from the start - the confidence in what you’re creating. You know when your solution works because you’re the first one to test-drive it. So, all that is left is to just make it known to other people (which, of course, is not a simple task, but much much easier and more pleasant to do when you’re not trying to sell something useless)

You don’t have to do anything super revolutionary. It can be just a website with a better UX than your competitor has. Or just that one missing feature that makes all the difference. The main thing is that you have to love it yourself and have this “Ohhhh I can’t wait to use it” thought running through your mind during development.

Note on finding the right ideas for yourself: I think fantastic projects happen when you bring together two of your different skills/passions. The fact that I know how to code and also am genuinely interested in the literary world gave me a unique advantage in creating a startup for writers. Few people in the industry know how to code, and when business sharks from outside the industry come and try to make a business there, it fails because they don’t fully understand the pains and needs of the community.

I studied the indie lit scene for 3 months before my project was born. I looked for literary magazines everywhere and put the ones I liked into a spreadsheet with all of their main submission guidelines and what I loved about the journal.

Here’s what it looked like:

I noticed a lot of things while I was doing this. For example, magazines are hard to find unless they’re The New Yorker, and when you do find them, it’s unclear whether they accept work right now and what their guidelines are. Sometimes, you might be looking at 5 pages of unformatted text trying to look for info with Ctrl+F. Or the page can say “Follow us on Twitter to know when we open!” Oof.

Then some places accept work through a submission portal, some through email, and some through Google Forms. Some want you to only use that specific font. Some want your bio under 50 words, and some under 75 words.

And hundreds of other rules like that.

There was already a website called Duotrope where you could find magazines and their stats, but it’s $5/m, and it looks like this:

I had two issues with this:

  1. I thought that magazine discovery should be free.

  2. I wanted something that looked less like a control panel, and more like a fun inviting place where writers could truly connect to a magazine. We’re talking about a creative industry here, so I knew people would appreciate a more human touch.

And that’s how I knew what I should do. I needed to turn my spreadsheet of lit mags into a free searchable database.

Industry Connections (You Don’t Need Many)

In my case, just one was enough. But it has to be a quality one.

How do you find it?

Look for the industry leaders. Not necessarily someone at the very top; they can be just cool guys on the indie scene, someone who people love and who has high post engagement.

If you launch inside this smaller but engaged circle of people and they love the product, it will scale naturally.

My connection was Bullshit Lit - a new magazine that writers fell in love with as the magazine had this punky not taking yourself too seriously feel (and well, of course, the title)

So, when I had a prototype ready, I sent a few screenshots to the editor and she loved it. This gave me the needed validation to finish it and launch it publicly.

And when I wrote the announcement tweet (the page had 0 followers), they reposted it, and it went viral immediately.

But it’s not the only reason why.

Good project + nice connections + … great presentation. Let’s go.

Social Media Launch

I launched only on Twitter so that first tweet was all I had. I needed to make it work.

What I did:

  • I spent a few days perfecting the text so that it describes the thing most effectively. People needed to know all the main features it has, and they needed to feel the vibe of the website through these words


  • I think crafting a presentation text as early as you can (even before the project is ready) is super important. I read Build and Tony Fadell says the same: this helps you understand what the most important features are. If they’re not in this announcement, they can probably wait.

  • I made a screen recording of using the website myself. This made it easy for people to get a feel of it without leaving Twitter. Everyone already loved the website before even clicking the link.

This is what the final post looked like:

In the thread, I added some secondary information like less shiny features, plans for the project, and the link for Buy Me a Coffee.

Website Copy and Power of the First Impression

So many people talked about the text on the website and said that the tone was the thing that attracted them initially. Not even features. Remember, the website only had 75 magazines while the competitor had over 3000.

This is what one of the first website versions looked like:

Homepage: “Find the right home for your writing (without wasting too much energy, losing your shit, and hating yourself for being unproductive)”

And this is what the About page said:

Writers said how reading all this was a breath of fresh air, and that this was exactly how they felt. They tweeted individual lines and screenshots.

And not only users! My teammates said they wanted to work with me based on that text alone.

Now, I don’t say that all the websites need to talk like this. What matters here is being able to read your audience and feel what tone would speak to them the most.

Finally, Start Small and Don’t Overthink (the Hardest One for Me)

I found that I really need to make myself launch the thing before I give myself too much time to let my inner critic talk. Before I think “I need to rewrite the whole thing”/”Not enough features”/”Not enough audience”/etc.

In this particular case, I could think that 75 is too few magazines. The people wouldn’t even take it seriously! I could spend a few more months improving the dataset (a few more months without testing my idea!)

But this is not what mattered in the end. People appreciated the feel of it and its accessibility, not quantity. It represented a needed change in the industry. And this gave them a reason to follow.

In a separate article, I want to talk about different ways to keep those followers engaged, so you may want to subscribe so as not to miss it.

Now, go launch something yourself!