Interview with Jim Raptis

updated on 29 February 2024
jim2-rta3a

Jim's links:

 X: @d__raptis

MagicPattern: website

SuperMotion: website

BrandBird: website

Introduction

Good afternoon/morning/evening everyone. Today we have a special guest - the one and only Jim Raptis. 

In this interview, we delve into Jim's remarkable journey, exploring the key takeaways from his prolific career. We discuss the secrets behind his success, his strategic approach to product design, and insights on the future of technology. 

I'm changing the format up a bit and starting with the personal favorites. Let me know what you think and I hope you enjoy.

The elevated eleven:

PC or Mac: Mac

Favorite color: Bluish Purple

Favorite food: Burgers

LinkedIn or X: X

Favorite designer besides yourself: James & Oğuz (I cannot choose one haha)

Favorite Business Book: Traction by Gino Wickman

A CEO you are studying: Damon Chen

Favorite video game as a child: Fifa 2003

Favorite sports team: Arsenal FC 

Favorite movie: Interstellar

Favorite holiday: Zakynthos Island

Jim at the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy
Jim at the Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy

Interview

Will: Jim! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. You have launched over 10 products that the world knows about. Are MagicPattern, Supermotion, and BrandBird the only 3 you are currently managing at the moment? What has inspired you to build so prolifically?

Jim: MagicPattern, SuperMotion, and BrandBird are my main products at the moment -more precisely, these are the monetized ones.

I have a dozen smaller apps and tools that run on autopilot. Most of them are free, and their scope is very narrow, so I rarely need to make any changes on a regular base. Of course, when there is an urgent issue (which is rare), I immediately jump in and fix it as soon as possible.

To be honest, it wasn’t my goal to build so many apps when I was starting out. I just loved building stuff from scratch, and eventually, I realized that this is my main strength as a solopreneur.

Every time I come up with a potentially useful idea for me (or other people), I immediately jump into coding and bring it to life. When people love it and engage with the app (request features, increase usage, etc) I consider investing more time to monetize and grow it further.

That’s exactly how MagicPattern & BrandBird were born.

The products!
The products!

Will: I manage two apps and at times that can become overwhelming. Share some tools and insights on how you stay organized. In the past, you mentioned you work in 2 hour time blocks, is this still the case?

Jim: Yep, I used to spread my day into time blocks (2 or 3 hours) and continually switch focus. Now, since my products are more mature and urgent feature requests are not so common, I have altered my system a little bit.

I dedicate an entire week to a few BrandBird tasks, then the next week, I switch to SuperMotion tasks, and so on. Depending on the urgency of the tasks, I organize my weekly/monthly plans accordingly.

Switching your context during the day can be exhausting, and dedicating a week to a product is less tiring, and at the same time, it allows me to dive deep into solving “bigger” problems.

Of course, when there is an urgent fix for a product, I prioritize it.

Will: Do you consider yourself a designer, a developer, or something else?

Jim: Half the day, I feel like a designer. In the other half, I feel like a developer.

Actually, it was a big problem for me at the beginning of my career because I loved both, and everyone was telling me to pick one and focus on it to become an expert.

Hopefully, I discovered Twitter early on in my career and learned that there are many people like me who “label” themselves as creative developers or design engineers. It helped me understand that it’s not a “problem” to have both traits, but it’s actually a huge advantage.

In retrospect, I can say that embracing both my analytical (coding) and creative (design) traits was one of the best decisions for my career. Now, after 5 years as an indie hacker, I can proudly say that I’m adding marketeer to my job title as well, haha.

Will: I have used all 3 of your apps and we’ll get into that in a moment. I noticed you use a different affiliate software provider for each. Is there a reason behind that?

Jim: To be honest, it was not intended. I started these affiliate programs in different time periods then I chose the best available solution back then.

BrandBird was my first affiliate program. I used Rewardful because it was a robust and trusted partner. It works fine, but it’s a bit pricy, especially for a pre-revenue product.

For MagicPattern, I wanted to test new software, that’s why I used promotekit.com, which is a product by a fellow solopreneur.

SuperMotion uses the LemonSqueezy payment provider that supports affiliate programs by default then it felt right to just use this.

Will: When I first used BrandBird I wasn’t expecting much. But something about it is truly addicting. It’s just so fun to use and I find myself wanting to use it. Are there any philosophies or frameworks behind how you build products consumers love?

Jim: For me, it’s crucial to dogfood your product. You need to use your own product daily and try to come up with ways to make it better and remove any unnecessary friction.

When I build a new flow for my products (or a new product), I ask these questions:

  1. What does the user want to achieve with this feature (or product)?
  2. What’s the fastest way for the users to achieve their goals?

It might sound funny, but you have to actually measure how many clicks the user needs to achieve the goal. The less clicks, the better.

That’s why templates work so well with most products. The user gets your product’s value with a single click.

Template Gallery
Template Gallery

BrandBird studio templates page.

Of course, to come up with UX & feature ideas, you need to continuously check how other products perform similar actions. Then, try to replicate the flow or, even better, find a better way.

The Hooked book by Nir Eyal utterly changed my perspective on how to design & build products. It’s a must-read book for anyone interested in building addictive products.

Will: Since this is IndieAffiliate, Can you share with our readers in what ways have you seen your affiliate programs contribute to the growth of your products?  (feel free to share or not share any numbers you want. Can add another product or even a product that isn’t yours if you have an example).

Jim: Affiliate programs are powerful because your most loyal customers promote your product on your behalf. At the same time, they can earn a significant amount of passive monthly income, which is a great reward for their effort.

From my experience with BrandBird, the most successful affiliate partners use a detailed blog post tutorial or a YouTube video describing their process with BrandBird. It’s really not so much effort from the creator’s side, and at the same time, the referred users become educated about our features & use cases — a double win.

Will: What makes for a good affiliate relationship? Anything you try and avoid? Is there a characteristic you track in ones you know will do well?

Jim: As I mentioned earlier, a good piece of content is usually enough to drive affiliate traffic to the affiliate program.

Some products (e.g., analytics tools and website builders) are a better fit for affiliate programs by their nature. Part of their product experiences include a unique public page for their users. Then, it’s super easy for them to track affiliate signups based on this unique link automatically.

Fathom Analytics for BrandBird
Fathom Analytics for BrandBird

That’s great because the user doesn’t have to set up anything, and the affiliate tracking works by default. This mechanism motivates users to promote your product even more because your and their success are connected.

The worst kind of affiliate partners are those who try to hack the system, like running Google ads for your brand in search engines or inviting themselves as affiliate signups to pay less for the plan. From my side (as a product owner), it’s very easy to notice this kind of abuse, and I immediately terminate those accounts. Then, it’s not really worth the effort.

Will: What’s a funny story, something unexpected, or a unique insight you learned recently.

Jim: It’s funny now, but it was a really stressful experience when it happened.

I was ready to sleep at 1.5AM and did a last check on my emails. I noticed a few Stripe emails with 3 new MagicPattern customers—such a pleasant surprise before a night's sleep.

I refreshed the page, and I saw another one. After a couple of seconds, even more customers. I was starting to get ecstatic. An influencer with a huge audience must have shared MagicPattern, and people loved it. Then, I began to check on social media about the reference.

However, the little devil's voice in my head was suspicious. I re-opened Gmail, and that's when I noticed a pattern. All emails use a similar pattern for the emails and the name.

It’s not a huge influencer share. It’s a scam attack with stolen Credit Cards.

Immediately, I signed in on the Stripe dashboard and turned off all the active MagicPattern plans. Hopefully, I realized the attack early on, and the attacker had created only 40 payments.

I refunded them all to avoid future chargebacks and issued credit notes for my accounting team. Also, before enabling the plans again, I set up a few Stripe Radar rules that immediately ban suspicious payments & customers in the future.

It was a super stressful experience but a valuable lesson to always set up Stripe Radar early on your product’s journey.

Just a fun photo I thought I'd add...
Just a fun photo I thought I'd add...

Will: Can you share any insights on lifetime deals v subscription model in your pricing? I thought the one time pass for MagicPattern is an interesting and needed approach to use a paid service. How has that performed?

Jim: On MagicPattern, I had great success with LTD offers in its early days. It’s part of my SaaS launch philosophy:

Launch a free version → Introduce an LTD → Switch to subscriptions

It’s a great way to earn more money and get more users quickly. In the early days, users & feedback are essential. However, you need to filter feedback and don’t listen to anyone. Ideally, you need to hear the ideas from people willing to pay for your product because it solves a problem in their daily workflow. That’s where the LTD offer comes in handy.

Of course, you must consider your costs before offering LTDs for a product. MagicPattern is a product that runs mainly in the browser with very minimal server needs. The costs don’t scale linearly with the customer's number; on the contrary, they stay relatively low regardless of the amount of customers. Then, offering LTD won’t hurt my startup economics in the long run.

In later product stages, once you have a more established subscription product, you can use lifetime deals as a way to get the users’ Lifetime Value (LTV) earlier during their customer lifecycle. When you know the LTV amount more precisely, you can easily set the right LTD deal price and gather the same (or more) amount of money while keeping your customer happy.

Unique approach to pricing
Unique approach to pricing

Also, you need to consider that most people either love subscriptions or LTDs. Then by offering both options in your pricing, you keep both of these customer personas happy.

Will: What’s something that you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out? This doesn’t have to be tech specific… nutrition, more sleep, time off, anything!

Jim: Succeeding as an indie hacker is not an overnight thing.

The most important success trait is being patient and showing up every day. Consistent is much more important than having the right idea or using the perfect tech stack.

The more time you spend in an industry, the more you will train yourself to discover great ideas. That’s why it’s crucial to be patient & show up every single day.

Another important lesson is to train your ability to not listen to this little voice inside your head that tells you to quit when things are not going well. As a solo founder, you’ll face countless challenges, and your emotions will be like a roller coaster, ever during a single day. Then, you must train yourself to endure these tough situations. You play the long game anyway, so you don’t have to rush yourself.

Will: Care to share a hint or sneak peak on any upcoming projects?

Jim: I’ve been fighting myself for years to write a book. I’m starting to lose this fight, so you’re the first person to know it, but a book might be on its way in 2024…

Will: What upcoming trends do you foresee occurring in design? Any hot takes?

Jim: I’m expecting radical changes in the design process due to the emergence of AI technology. Designers will be able to create pixel-perfect designs quicker, which is gonna speed up the product development process by a lot.

Tools like Framer are already changing the industry. It’s not a coincidence that you see mindblowing websites designed more often than before. The entry point for a designer is getting lower, so it’s logical to see better designs more frequently.

At the same time, the gap between design & coding comes closer day by day. Most probably, one day, design & code will merge into one.

Will: Where do you see artificial intelligence headed? Have you had the desire to ride the AI hype wave and incorporate AI into any of your existing apps?

Jim: I’m already using AI in BrandBird for some basic features. The AI advantages are happening with insane speed, and as a founder, you must embrace the changes; otherwise, you’ll be left behind.

For me, it’s crucial to incorporate AI smartly into your product. You have to detect flows & processes with friction during your user journeys and use AI to remove the friction.

As a founder, I suggest using AI to improve your established product instead of building new AI tools without any significant moat just for the hype.

Will: When you are not building products, designing, or engaging with Twitter, what are you up to? Do you have much “free time”?

Jim: Good question! At the beginning of my indie hacking journey, I used to work 12+ hours per day with very limited time for outside work activities. Eventually, I understood that you have to take breaks and log off work to get fresh ideas & avoid burnout (which is a real problem).

Last year I challenged myself to find more hobbies that I’m excited about. Some of my discoveries are CrossFit, reading books, rug making, and pottery.

Also, I adore traveling. It’s my goal for 2024 to live a couple of months abroad and discover as many new countries as possible.

Will: How do you feel about neubrutalism (Gumroad’s website design)?

Jim: To be honest, it’s not my favorite design trend, haha.

However, I love minimal black & white sites like satellitor.com. I bet we’re gonna see more sites like this one in 2024.

satellitor.com Hero section
satellitor.com Hero section

Will: On a scale from 1 - 10. How addicted are you to domain names? I noticed you’re not shy of extensions outside of .com. Do you feel this has any impact on your apps performance?

Jim: I’m not much addicted, I’d say around 5. Of course, I own 20+ domain names, many of which are about never-launched products. Now, I have set a more strict rule of not buying a domain unless I have the product ready, making domain purchases less addictive.

To be honest, I don’t really believe in the impact of .com domains in terms of SEO traction & authority. However, I always try to grab the .com domain when available since they might be valued more during a future acquisition.

Conclusion

Let me know what you thought of this interview. If you haven't, check out Jim's apps. I'm personally hooked on BrandBird for screenshots and purchased a pro plan. The biggest insights I gathered were Jim's approach to design which seems to permeate other aspects of his apps like pricing. 

If you'd like to be featured shoot me a dm on X or email me at will@indieaffiliate.io

Thanks, everyone!

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