Many no-code enthusiasts we talk to are freelancers, and the one thing we unanimously hear from them is that managing a successful freelance business can be quite time-consuming. That’s why we were so excited to talk to Sylvain! He’s a freelancer that used his own experience with managing tasks to build a no-code platform on Bubble that simplifies the whole process so that you can get more done, with less effort.

Here’s his story!

Hi! 👋 My name is Sylvain Naessens. I'm a freelance product designer, no-code builder and Indie Hacker. At other times, I've also been a video editor, a motion designer, and an entrepreneur.

I discovered the world of product design while launching my first startup, and less than one year ago I started to learn no-code. I began first with Airtable, then Webflow, and finally Bubble.

Learning from my experience as a freelancer

As a freelancer, you’re often bombarded with a lot of tedious tasks that keep you from focusing more on what you love to do (which for me was design!). Things like invoicing, keeping track of my income and my projects, setting my rates — all of these are incredibly important tasks, but they also take way too much time!

I had to do something to make my life easier, and so I built a toolkit for myself. But a few months ago, I decided to share it with other freelance designers to help them become more productive and grow their business.

I called this toolkit Ninja Designer, an all-in-one toolkit for freelance designers. It's a niche I knew pretty well! Ninja Designer provides a single place where you can find all the tools you need for your freelance design business. From invoicing, to project management, rate calculator and more.

It's the first no-code SaaS I've ever built. At the moment, 150+ beta testers are using Ninja Designer. I plan to release more features in the next months, like a job board and an image search engine.

Building Ninja Designer on Bubble

I used Bubble to build Ninja Designer. I chose Bubble because I think it's the best no-code tool to launch SaaS products. My first challenge was to be able to build the beta version in 3 months as a side-project.

I'm not gonna lie to you, Bubble has a learning curve, and it's the reason why communities such as Makerpad or the Bubble Forum are very helpful. So the best thing you can do if you want to build a SaaS app with Bubble is to get over the learning curve as fast as possible! Once you have enough knowledge, it's pretty amazing what you can do with Bubble.

Here's the approach that I used to build Ninja Designer:

  • I listed all the core features I needed: login, signup, invoicing, to do lists and more
  • I used Makerpad's tutorials such as Airbnb and Instagram clones to better understand Bubble and its logic
  • I went through all the available tutorials on Bubble blog that were relevant to the features that I needed to develop for my app. For example this tutorial to build a Quickbooks clone

Choosing the right app architecture

When you build a SaaS app, you build what we call a single page app: one sidebar menu, one header, one content area.

With Bubble you can build this type of app in two ways: one single page app architecture or a multi-page app that fakes a single page navigation.

So which way to choose?

I read many forum posts on this topic. And some were saying that you can feel a difference in the page load time. Thus I chose the single page architecture for performance and UX benefits… But it turned out not to be a good idea!

In Bubble, with a single page app, you put all your designs and workflows in one page and at the end it can be a REAL MESS. You often end up spending hours to understand how your app is organized.

If I had to do it again, I would definitely choose the multi-page architecture, so each core feature will have its own page with its own designs and workflows. It’s way better in terms of product management. Regarding the speed issue that I mentioned earlier, I ran some tests and found that the difference in loading time between a single page app and a multi page app is very small.

Overcoming the next big hurdle in my product building journey

The second challenge I faced with running Ninja Designer was marketing. Marketing takes time and a lot of effort! I'm not full-time on Ninja Designer, so I have to focus on just a few channels. Slack has been my best acquisition channel so far.

Here’s what I’ve found: to get your first users you must have a simple acquisition strategy. What are your quick wins? Where can you quickly get access to your target? I didn’t have time to do detailed SEO which is why I put content marketing aside.

First, I used my own network and the network of my network to get my first 20 beta testers. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by many freelance designers, and as a result, I got invaluable feedback from them.

I also got a few users from Twitter and Facebook groups, but for sure my most successful channel was Slack groups. I joined as many workspaces as possible. I posted on all general channels (often #general is the channel with most members in a Slack workspace).

A quick tip: don’t be spammy. Don't ask your target to try your app even if it’s free. Instead use the “small ask” trick. I just asked if freelance designers could complete a quick survey in order to understand their pains.

In the survey I asked them if they wanted to sign up for the beta for free. And guess what? I got more than 150 signups!

Scratch your own itch!

Don't build products that nobody wants. "Scratch your own itch" is the best advice I can give for no-code builders; find a problem you have in your daily life or at your job and find a way to solve it. The difference between success and failure is the ability to find others with the same issue!‍

Thank you for sharing your experience with building Ninja Designer with us, Sylvain! You can find out more about his work here and follow his journey on Twitter