Written by Jonnie Hallman
This weekend, Cushion’s expenses page made its way to the top of Hacker News, claiming the #1 spot for the day. I knew something was up when Hacker News bots filled my Twitter feed. Even on a Sunday, Hacker News was able to drive over 32,000 unique visitors to Cushion. I was out of the studio at the time, so I could only watch from my phone, but I was finally able to read through the comments once I returned home.
“Don’t read the comments!” everyone exclaims. Actually, the responses were mostly positive this time around. Hacker News is known for “you’re doing it wrong” comments, but I received a lot less than usual. Surprisingly, the majority of commenters showed appreciation for the transparency and understanding of my decision to spend more money on services early on.
When starting an app, everything feels like a sprint. I remember being so impatient with every day Cushion wasn’t online—I wanted it in the hands of others as soon as possible. Because of this, I knew to spend my own time coding Cushion-specific features and “outsource” parts that were the same for any app (servers, metrics, etc). A monthly bill and a few clicks later, I could have everything set up and running. If I wanted to build everything myself, I would have to take a DevOps crash course and spend weeks crawling through tutorials while Cushion sat idle. I do plan to eventually move off many of the plug-and-play services when the expenses become too much, but at the moment, they’re manageable, and it makes more sense to eat the cost.
These waves of traffic are great for spreading the word and potentially scoring new users (and maybe even new customers). So far, I’ve relied entirely on word-of-mouth for getting Cushion out in the world because I simply can’t afford any sort of worthwhile marketing routes, like advertising or sponsorship. Hacker News drove a huge wave of traffic, but since it was more about the expenses page than the app itself, Cushion only saw ~50 new signups—most of which are probably tire-kickers. But hey, I’ll take 50 new signups any day. The conversion rate might be incredibly low, but 32,000+ more people know about Cushion now. They may not sign up this week, but down the road when they’re ready to freelance, they might recall a freelancer app they once saw on Hacker News.