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Charlie from IdeaHub
Charlie from IdeaHub

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🧠 How to grow your SaaS by building free tools

Hey all!

Charlie here 👋

All SaaS businesses inevitably go through periods of stagnated growth.

An awesome way to combat this is to build free tools into new growth channels.

Today I’m going to break down how and why this strategy works.

Plus I’ll show you the top SaaS platforms using it to grow.

This week in IdeaHub…

  • The free tool strategy: How free tools are amazing growth channels.

  • Best ways to use free tools: How to use free tools to test new ideas and create SEO goldmines.

  • Free tools in action: The OG in free tools and one solo founder having massive success.

Let’s jump in… 👇

Join 600+ tech peeps learning to build SaaS products every week for free on IdeaHub.

1. The free tool strategy

It’s important to understand we’re not talking about free trials here.

We’re talking about separate free versions of paid-for products that require no signup whatsoever.

You might be thinking to yourself:

“How can that be of any use to my business?”

Well, to answer that, you have to understand two big reasons customers resist buying your product:

  1. They don’t trust you and/or your product to solve their problem.

  2. They can’t see results quickly enough to make a buying decision.

Building a separate free tool instantly breaks down both of these barriers.

Firstly, a free tool is much easier to trust as there is ‘no harm done’ if it doesn’t work out.

Secondly, having no signup, payments or onboarding means customers can see the power of your product much more quickly.

All this means you have a better chance of customers trying out your free tool than your core product.

The trick is to heavily limit the feature set of the free tool and include a strong call to action to drive customers back to your paid-for product.

This naturally means more signups overall than if you had no free tool at all.

2. The best ways to use free tools

Free tools can provide more than just a growth channel.

They can be real assets in a few different ways:

Testing new ideas

Say you’re at a crossroads.

You’re trying to decide whether to expand your product into a new niche or stay put and double down on your efforts.

It’s a big decision to make and could have a huge impact on your future success.

Instead of choosing to go all-in on one or the other, you could spin off your core product into a free tool and use it to validate the new market.

If it shows promise, fold it back into your paid-for product, or simply ditch it if it doesn’t work out.

Building SEO

Free tools have huge search volumes.

We’ve all searched “free tool for [X]” when we know what we need, but we just don’t want to pay…

Search results for free tools

Launching a free tool therefore provides the perfect opportunity to match searcher intent and start driving organic traffic.

Plus, if it’s on a separate domain, you can start creating backlinks back and forth from your paid-for product in all of your blog posts.

3. Free tools in action


The SaaS that made this strategy famous is Ahrefs.

It’s the number one platform for marketers to research new SEO opportunities.

Almost every vertical feature in their paid-for product is also available as a free tool.

It’s especially important as their products are aimed at users who aren’t usually the buying decision-makers in a business.

So when the free tools deliver value, marketers can evidence this to the real decision-makers.

And Ahrefs get the benefit of leveraging the existing trust circles of the organisation to close deals.


Pally is a social media management tool built by solo founder Tim Bennetto.

So far he’s built 9 (!) free tools each focusing on one feature of Pally.

But he’s also taking a unique approach:

He’s acquiring free tools as well as building them himself.

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Top comments (3)

hasanelsherbiny profile image
Hasan Elsherbiny

really nice article , i loved ideas you have introduced

ideahub_charlie profile image
Charlie from IdeaHub

Thanks so much, glad you found it valuable! Don't forget to check out the newsletter!

nathan_tarbert profile image
Nathan Tarbert

Hey there, nice article!
Have you checked out this open-source SaaS

GitHub logo boxyhq / saas-starter-kit

Enterprise SaaS Starter Kit - Kickstart your enterprise app development with the Next.js SaaS boilerplate

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⭐ Enterprise SaaS Starter Kit

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The Open Source Next.js SaaS boilerplate for Enterprise SaaS app development.

📖 Additional Resources

Video - BoxyHQ's SaaS Starter Kit: Your Ultimate Enterprise-Compliant Boilerplate
Blog - Enterprise-ready Saas Starter Kit

Next.js-based SaaS starter kit saves you months of development by starting you off with all the features that are the same in every product, so you can focus on what makes your app unique.

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✨ Getting Started

Please follow these simple steps to get a local copy up and running.


  • Node.js (Version: >=18.x)
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  • NPM
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1. Setup

Clone or fork this GitHub repository

git clone
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2. Go to the project folder

cd saas-starter-kit
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3. Install dependencies

npm install
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4. Set up your