Weekly #4 - 1000 paying users!

Alright, I’m one day late, but I have a good excuse. I was waiting to hit a certain milestone so my goal of writing weekly retrospectives for the month of February would end on a high note.

Lunch Money just hit 1000 paying subscribers and $80,000 ARR.

Woohoo!

To celebrate, today I went on an engineering spree and shipped 7 feature requests from our Canny, and now I’m writing to all my internet friends about it while drinking a beer.

Growth since launch has been pretty steady. I ran some numbers to see how many weeks it took to get each subsequent 100 users. From my Hacker News launch in August 2019, I got my first 100 paying users (from just over 1000 signups). From there, it took an uncertain 12 weeks to get to 200. This is most likely due to the 45 day trial I was offering in the beginning (which I wrote about in The biggest mistakes I’ve made with Lunch Money (so far)).

Afterwards, 200 to 300 users was the quickest run at 4 and a half weeks. I would attribute this to my Indie Hackers podcast and this iconic tweet from a Dutch tech influencer which brought many fine folks from the Netherlands to Lunch Money.

500 to 600 users took the second longest at 10 weeks, from July 2020 to October 2020. This was a painful time. The organic growth I was enjoying the few months prior came to a halt. Lunch Money was getting single digit signups every day. The novelty of a new personal finance app had died down, leading me to realize I needed to put some tangible effort into marketing especially with Black Friday, Christmas and New Year’s around the corner. Around this time, I sought help from a friend with digital marketing experience and I started running Facebook ads.

My friend helped me draw up a marketing plan but wasn’t available for execution. Facebook ads were ultimately not worth it– I ended up sinking close to a thousand dollars for an abysmal number of conversions. The worst part is once you turn off the ads, all trace of your product is gone.

On average, it took about 7 weeks to get every 100 new paid users. That’s about every 6th app update (includes minor improvements and bug fixes), every 2nd major feature release and every 3rd newsletter campaign. Not bad!

I’m pretty happy with where I’m at. The last few weeks I was on the cusp of being overwhelmed, but luckily Ann (new customer support at Lunch Money!) has been doing a great job and I was able to achieve my goal of getting back to engineering this week.

So what’s next? With this major milestone, I feel like I can get back to coding on a more regular basis without feeling guilty about neglecting marketing needs or customer support. Bottom line is, I have so many plans for improving Lunch Money that I’m more than ready to execute on!

Email marketing

One of the (many) tasks I want to tackle is making better use of email marketing for existing users. I don’t know if I botched that term (I’m a beer in, please be nice), but basically utilize automated email campaigns more to improve in-app engagement.

The hardest part about my business is our reliance on Plaid. Bank connections often need to be re-linked and up until this week, there hasn’t been a mechanism that lets the user know. It’s only when they log in and discover their account hasn’t been syncing that they realize they need to fix their connection (bad!).

So sometime this week, I’ll be sending off a one-time campaign to tell everyone with expired connections to relink. Going forward, I have also set up a new email notification system for when a connection strays from a healthy state. Admittedly, I had been holding off on this because I was worried about an influx of support tickets along the lines of “I can’t connect to my bank!”. Thankfully, I have Ann now to help with any increase in emails!

I’m also going to be sending out a brand new weekly digest that rolls up all of a user’s unreviewed transactions for the week. Transactions that get automatically imported come in an “unreviewed” state. This is a big differentiator from Mint, where new imported transactions are indistinguishable and it becomes easy to overlook an expense. Budgeting and expense tracking then becomes a passive action and you’re not really sure what to look at once you’re logged in– but not with Lunch Money! Hopefully this new digest will get more users checking in more often.

This all brings me to my weird dilemma of the month. I have too many emails I need to send out and I ended up putting half of them on hold. To recap–

  1. Canny sends an email to everyone who voted on the features that I shipped today (I closed out 7 today)
  2. New weekly email digest roll-up for unreviewed transactions (scheduled to go on Thursday)
  3. An email to my personal newsletter to announce the release of this weekly retrospective (sent with a feeling of guilt)
  4. A feature newsletter to announce my Twitter giveaway (scheduled to go mid-day tomorrow)
  5. One-off email campaign to let users know to relink their accounts (ready to go, on hold)
  6. New email notification that lets users know whenever they need to relink their account (ready to go, on hold)
  7. An existing monthly Trends email that sends out at the beginning of every month which summarizes the previous month’s spending (was supposed to go out today, delayed it by a few days)
  8. A feature newsletter to announce the new features I released today (haven’t even bothered preparing this yet)

Gah, this is email overload! I’m literally worried about burdening people with the amount of work I’ve done today.

What went well

Lunch Money

  • Reached both a user and revenue milestone!
  • Got down to Inbox Zero for, like, a second
  • I received the final deliverables for the rewrite of our marketing site! I’m hoping it won’t take more than a day to launch the new copy (hah!).

Personal life

  • I reached my goal of writing a retrospective every week for the month of February! Thank you to everyone who sent in their feedback, shared their thoughts or simply let me know that they enjoyed reading these. I chose a short-term, attainable goal to best set myself up for success and I was propelled to the finish line by everyone’s support. I’ll likely continue writing these casual retrospectives but perhaps on a less regular or strict cadence– I was a bit stressed out come Sunday when I realized how quickly this last week had gone by!
  • We celebrated my parents’ birthday in person for the first time in over 2 years! They have the same birthdate, four years apart. We were able to enjoy a nice walk around Taipei Botanical Garden and a seafood dinner together.
  • Justin and I went to the local flower market and bought some nice plants to brighten up our apartment! As a result, we have a huge monstera in our living room that I’m hoping makes it to the end of the year. Historically, I have been pretty awful at taking care of plants.
  • I’m in Benzinga’s Women in Fintech feature for Women’s History Month! Also I think this counts as my first TV feature, but I’m going to be on YouTube live on March 2nd if anyone wants to tune in!

What didn’t go so well

Lunch Money

  • This was a really good week so I’m trying to think of something to write here. Although I got extremely behind on emails, I was able to catch up by the weekend. I want to continue to be transparent about the journey and write about the difficult parts, but I’m starting to realize that the “bad days” are more rare these days. I would attribute this to taking a lot more breaks in between work. If something isn’t going well or I’m feeling stuck or unmotivated, I’ll take a few hours or the whole day off. This week, I only worked 27 hours but I feel satisfied with my output. The number of hours clocked doesn’t matter– you’ve got to be efficient!

Personal life

  • I’ve been sleeping very poorly these last few days. I recently bought a fitness tracker which has a sleep tracker built in and I’m consistently getting less than an hour of deep sleep every night. Admittedly, I’m on my phone up to the minute I fall asleep– I just find it so hard to shut off my brain. Let me know if you have any tips on getting the highest quality sleep!
Thank you for your readership!

Jen is the founder of Lunch Money, a multicurrency personal finance tool for the modern-day spender. She is currently based in Taipei. Follow her on Twitter!

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👋 I send monthly-ish emails with updates on my solopreneurship journey.

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Weekly #3 - Major milestones in hiring and marketing