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Adam Hill
Adam Hill

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Building a Micro Business: What Services I Pay For

I'm a Python developer currently building devmarks.io, Bookmarking for Developers, on nights and weekends. There are lots of guides to free services to build your SaaS, but I think that's slightly misguided. Especially before your business is pre-revenue, it is tempting to only use free services. However, here is a list of products I am personally paying for while building a SaaS.

Some of the products I pay for are because I want to support businesses who are privacy-focused -- as the saying goes, if you don't pay for a product, you (and your data) are the product. Other products I pay for to support other bootstrapped companies -- it feels hypocritical to not support companies so they continue to stick around and grow. And others are because it's a quality product that saves me time which seems like a good trade-off to me.

For each service I'll detail my reasoning for using it, how much I'm spending a month, and then summarize the total amount at the end I'm paying out of pocket to launch my SaaS.

Paid Services

Heroku for servers

I realize there are lots of other players in the PaaS (platform as a service) field (both Render and Appliku look nice for hosting Django apps), but I've been using Heroku for over 10 years and they have been rock-solid in my experience. Even being acquired by Salesforce has not affected my experience with Heroku in a meaningful way. Personally, I do not want to think about DevOps or deal with infrastructure in the cloud -- I just want to deploy my code without fuss, easily use PostgreSQL and redis and have a nice dashboard of server metrics to look at. See my settings to deploy a Django app to Heroku with nginx, gunicorn, PG bouncer, redis and using poetry for dependencies.

The common complaint I see against Heroku is that they are expensive. I started with a Free dyno and recently moved to a Hobby dyno for the MVP ($7/month). Once traffic ramps up, $25-$50/month seems reasonable for the ability to not deal with infrastructure, security, or any operational headaches.

Heroku Postgres for database

Similar to Heroku itself, their PostgreSQL offering lures you in with a free offering and then ramps up its price, however it also does not feel outrageous to me. I am not a DBA and I am not going to be able to hire one any time soon (if ever).

I started with the Hobby Dev ($0/month), but quickly ran out space. Now, I am currently on the Hobby Basic plan ($9/month), but will end up moving to Standard ($50/month) if I hit any sort of traction, which seems well worth the price for database rollbacks, metrics, and overall support.

Heroku Redis for cache

Still using the Hobby Dev tier at $0/month and probably will be able to stay there for a while.

Sentry for error monitoring

You can't avoid bugs in production and watching the logs stream by 24/7 doesn't seem like a viable strategy to catch issues as they happen in real-time. I've been using Sentry since it first spun out from Disqus and love the product. It aggregates errors together, provides an error traceback, code context, and information from the request to provide all of the details needed to fix any problems. Totally worth the $26/month.

Plausible for website analytics

Plausible is one of the spate of privacy-focused analytics providers that have popped up in the past few years to compete against the "Google Analytics monopoly". Plausible provides just enough data to understand what is happening on your site, but doesn't overwhelm you with tools that only a diehard marketer would need. Simple and helpful for $48/year.

Panelbear for website analytics

Panelbear is another privacy-focused analytics provider, but it also provides uptime monitoring and page performance metrics. I learned about it from On Choosing Boring Technology and The Tech Stack of a One-Man SaaS and I wanted to support the founder even though I already paid for Plausible! However, I found that having two analytics providers has been helpful since they provide slightly different results and information. I signed up for Panelbear very early so I think I am grandfathered into a $12/month price that isn't available anymore.

Fastmail for email

Fastmail is not just for devmarks.io, but I use it to alias accounts on all my domains to filter to one inbox. Solid and dependable and they have a commitment to privacy that is commendable compared to Google. $5/month.

Namecheap for registering domains

Namecheap has been my go-to registrar after I gave up on GoDaddy and their previous shady sales tactics. Namecheap is solid, does not try to relentlessly upsell you when buying a domain, and is reliable. Yearly fee of $32.98 for devmarks.io, but that depends on the TLD and domain name.

Postico for PostgreSQL client

I love fast, native OSX apps that do one thing well and Postico is the cleanest Postgres client I have ever used. I use it daily to explore databases, write SQL queries, and update data. Currently a one-time fee of $39.99.

Sublime Text for text editor

Sublime Text is cross-platform, but never feels out of place. It's the fastest text editor I've ever used and popularized features like multi-select. I now tend to use VS Code to write code daily, but I still have Sublime Text open for quick editing sessions as a sort of buffer. A one-time fee of $99.

Sponsorships

I try to sponsor projects that I use daily and have provided value to me over the years. I do not currently spend a ton of money per month to sponsor, but as someone who also has GitHub sponsors enabled I know how nice it is when people show their appreciation by sponsoring me. My hope is to donate a percentage of profits (if I ever make any money) similar to Sentry's plan to donate.

The actual projects I donate to changes, but it currently includes:

Free Services

There are some services I use that are free, but I would be willing to pay for them because they provide so much value.

Cloudflare for CDN and SSL

I currently use the free plan for Cloudflare, but it provides a ton of value as a CDN, DDOS protection, SSL, and DNS for all of my domains.

GitHub for storing code

I used to pay for private repos on GitHub, but after they got bought by Microsoft they changed the pricing structure and it's now free. GitHub provides an unbelievable amount of value for free: code repositories, CI/CD with GitHub Actions, GitHub Sponsors, Dependabot for dependency alerts, plus tons more.

Uptime Robot for uptime monitoring

Simple uptime monitoring in 5 minute intervals. The paid plans provide more granularity and premium features, but I have never needed to upgrade.

Feather Icons and Heroicons for icons

I love both of these icon sets and use them both, although I tend to use Heroicons more at this point because of django-heroicons.

VS Code for Python IDE

After being a hardcore Sublime Text user after many years using Visual Studio on Windows, I never would have thought I would switch back to another Microsoft IDE. But, VS Code is a terrific experience with debugging that "just works", decent code complete with Pylance, and plugins to add different functionality as needed. The VS Code plugins I'm currently using.

Summary

One-time expenses

One-time expenses amortize over time so they aren't really monthly, but I'm including them because they are used while building my SaaS.

  • Postico (PostgreSQL client): $39.99
  • Sublime Text (text editor): $99

Total one-time expenses: $138.99

Monthly expenses

  • Heroku (servers): $7
  • Heroku Postgres (database): $9
  • Sentry (error monitoring): $26
  • Plausible (analytics): $4
  • Panelbear (analytics): $12
  • Fastmail (email): $5
  • Namecheap (domain registrar): $2.75

Total monthly services: $65.75
Total monthly sponsorships: $46
Total monthly expenses: $111.75

Hopefully this has been helpful as a guide to services that might be worth spending money on!


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Top comments (3)

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kostjapalovic profile image
Kostja

Hey, @adamghill ! Founder of Appliku here :)

I was happy with Heroku as well for some time until I had multiple small projects hosted there. It already costed a lot.

Actually I wrote a whole post about it last summer: dev.to/kostjapalovic/tired-of-depl...

If you ever need to cut down some costs on Heroku there is a Heroku Config vars Sync.

This allows migrating from Heroku gradually or just offloading some of compute resources from Heroku to a servers of your choice. For example, one of the first popular use cases was moving background workers off of Heroku, while keeping Heroku Postgres. Then you can move web workers from Heroku too and again – keep using their DB which i think is pretty good both in stability and tooling.

Let me know if you are ever curious about it, I'll give you a tour!

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adamghill profile image
Adam Hill Author

Migrating off of Heroku gradually is a great idea. I'll definitely give Appliku a try!

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kostjapalovic profile image
Kostja

I am excited to hear about your project's needs and requirements! If you are discord user appliku.com/discord

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