Digging Into a Solopreneur’s “Experimentation Stack”

What does a flexible solopreneur stack for testing out ideas look like, and how can costs be kept down?

I’m relatively new to the world of micro/solopreneurialism, but I’ve jumped into the pool this year and I’ve been thinking about how to work through my experiments and ideas without breaking the bank just to find out if something is going to gain traction.

As opposed to the technology stack of languages, databases and frameworks that I’m choosing to build my apps, I’d like to better understand what an agile stack of tools and services that enable the testing and launching of projects looks like. I’m calling this my experimentation stack. If you have an MVP actually up and running, these costs can include app-related costs as well, just to stand up the MVP.

Example: Put up a landing page → code/publish an MVP → get beta users/feedback → experiment with pricing/features → tweak app → keep going, or scrap….rinse, repeat.

I would love to share ideas about how to make this process more flexible, and less costly at each stage if possible.

I try to take advantage of free, open-source, or low-cost tools wherever I can, and if I can re-use tools across projects then even better. Some set-ups and expenses seem to be per-domain, though.

Here are the costs I’m working with so far.

My Cost Details

  1. Hosting: Digital Ocean droplet. This was relatively painless to set up.
  2. Blog (tbd): I’m thinking of using Medium for all my projects until I have a real need to change to something else more costly. Alternatively I suppose I could host my own blog on my DO droplet, but I don’t want to create any more work for myself than necessary since I’m already doing all the coding, design, marketing, etc.
  3. Email/Office: I opted for Gsuite for now, as I wanted to use the forms for collecting beta feedback.
  4. Landing pages: I’m really rethinking this one from a cost standpoint. I signed up for Leadpages because I like their testing and integrations capabilities, and I only committed to the monthly tier, which is more expensive than the annual tier. So I either need to switch to annual to reduce the monthly expense and consider it a cost to share among my future experiments, OR, opt for basic landing pages that I code and host myself.
  5. App email: I’m on the free tier of Mailgun for now, and it’s working.
  6. Campaigns: I’m not using too much of this right now, but I’m set up and within the free tiers of both Mailchimp and Drip.
  7. Tracking: Google Analytics for now (and Leadpages stats). GA needs tweaking if I’m going to get anything out of it in my SPA app.
  8. Logging: I’m using Papertrail free tier (only 7 days trailing)
  9. Let’s Encrypt!

Questions

Is it possible to do some of these things in a not-so-domain-specific way?

Do these expenses seem reasonable? I think I’ve gone pretty deep in these expenses so far, for not yet having traction in my first app, but I was committed to launching Setlistic.com regardless of traction, for the learning experience and because it’s kind of a personal thing.

Future Expenses

  1. Moving past the free tiers of things.
  2. Stripe transactional fees
  3. Separate staging/build server

Closing Thoughts

I have many ideas piling up. For the next few ideas, I think I’ll follow the sage advice of those who went before me, and publish different landing pages before coding anything and see what seems to have the most interest and the best problem/solution fit. That should save time and money.

As I spin these experiments up/down in the future, I’d like to make efficient use of my time by not reinventing wheels and making use of existing tools and services — while keeping expenses and time to a minimum.

I know once I find traction, those costs will just go up.

Would love to know your thoughts. :-)