Tiny struggles

Always hacking something 🧑‍🔬.

My micro-side project trended on HN and got thousands of visits within the first day

My micro-side project Netflix Calculator trended on Hacker News for a couple of hours and:

  • received 8K+ page visits
  • brought hundreds of visitors to watchlimits (my main project)
  • caused many new downloads of watchlimits
  • got me the first paid customer for watchlimits with a yearly plan
  • got multiple backlinks and started ranking top 5 in Google within a week - bringing SEO traffic already

Here is the traffic for the date (I put it on HN on the 17th July). Traffic

Also see a big spike of active users around 17-18th of July on the active users graph:

user growth


Getting eyeballs on your project is hard, right? Well, it depends on the project.

Getting traffic to your serious landing page will probably be really hard as it’s not something that people would be excited about and would like to share. But there are some types of projects that can become viral and get a lot of attention.

Those sites are usually simple, fun and produce immediate value for people making them cool and easily shareable. And if executed well, can be a great way to bring qualified traffic to your main project.

If you are an engineer you should consider side-project marketing.

Side-project marketing consists of building a stand-alone product or service to attract potential customers to your business.

One recent example of side project marketing I’ve seen was Books Calculator by Marc Lou. The project was pretty simple and Marc has been getting crazy traffic.

Books Calculator targets similar audience as Marc’s main product - Habits Garden. The side project was fun to build for Marc, got popular easily and was a great source of traffic to Habits Garden.

Was that Marc’s magic or would that be repeatable? I wanted to try it out.

Where did the idea come from?

So why Netflix Calculator in particular?

The idea came from working on the content marketing. I found a post on Quora asking how to check how much time one has spent on Netflix.

I thought that I could describe a couple of different ways, including the Netflix history file and also how to do this with watchlimits, my product. And through the process of that I found out that all the “calculators” mentioned in other articles were actually broken. Or at least broken for me.

That meant opportunity!

I wrote a blog post and I built a simple calculator online. It wasn’t very pretty, but it worked with my input and I shared the article on reddit. It had some traction.

I decided to double down on the calculator idea and build it similarly to the cute Books Calculator by Marc.

The reasons why I thought it was a good candidate for a side project marketing was that:

  • it would be quick to build (I had a prototype already)
  • it refers to the name brand
  • people are curious and the product delivers value quickly (just input the stats)
  • I could use Marc’s project as a reference
  • it would be a nice way to grow my design and frontend skills (I used it to play it with some new technologies as well)

What next?

Even though this launch greatly exceeded my expectations, I’m far from done.

I will continue marketing Netflix Calculator and learning from the experience.

For now I’m not planning to put a lot of development time in Netflix Calculator, but get the basics right - for example making sure it works for all sort of countries. But I don’t dismiss the opportunity of making it much more advanced in the future as I am just scratching the surface with the analytics.

One thing that prevents me from going full out is that I still want to make various improvements to watchlimits not to waste the opportunity all this high traffic is bringing. I timed the first launch of the Netflix Calculator with releasing the first premium feature of watchlimits.

Insights from this first launch helped me to get significant improvements already and there are many more to be done.

Next launches for the calculator:

It’s pretty scary, so wish me luck!

Check out my latest project Watchlimits
Watch time insights and limits that work for you!
This is my mathjax support partial