34% of startups fail due to lack of product-market fit. Learn how to avoid it for only $15!

❌ Failed startup
✅ Successful startup

Content Snare: Leaving His Job to Build a +$5,000/Month SaaS

James and his business partner got fed up working for other people and decided to build Content Snare, a tool to help agencies get content from their clients. They validated their idea with a simple landing page and spent the next 6 months building the project. After many tries and errors, Content Snare is now a successful business.

Web Application
Up to 50K

James Rose

February 21, 2019

Sponsor Failory and get your business & product in front of +20,000 CEOs, startup founders, entrepreneurs, developers and marketers every month.

Do you want to grow your business? With GenM you can get free marketing from an apprentice as part of their training. The student will work 40 hours per month creating content, increasing SEO rankings, carrying out advertisement campaigns...

Want to take ownership over the growth of your business, but don't know where to start? Get 1-on-1 advice from vetted growth experts about your business.

Carefully marketing industry news, tech, and actionable advice — a 100% free jam-packed 5-minute daily read. Sign up today.

A 5-minute read that's informative, witty and free? That's Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley.

Hi James! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?

Hey! Before all this online business stuff, I used to program controllers that made real-world equipment come to life. Things like motors, pump, even entire mine sites.

Like most of us in online business, my business partner and I just got fed up working for other people. We started a long, painful foray into software and web design. Over nearly 8 years we’ve built 3 (and a half) software products for our own business, sold one of them, built countless websites and undertaken some huge software projects for a range of clients.

Content Snare Owner

One of the biggest issues we had was getting information and content from clients. To be blunt, it was a total pain in the ass. It held up payments, stalled entire projects and added all this extra stress we just didn’t need.

So that’s the challenge we’ve taken on with Content Snare - a tool to help agencies get content from their clients on time and in the right format.

My roles in this business are community management and marketing.

So… you know… doing interviews like this :)

I’m lucky to have a business partner who’s a total tech-head and pretty much the best developer I’ve ever met. He handles the tech team so I can work on getting more people using Snare.

Right now, Content Snare has a pretty simple model. It’s a monthly subscription based on how many team members are using the tool. In the future, we may toy with adding some services or add-ons.

How did you come up with the idea?

The original idea was actually completely different to what we ended up building.

When we were building websites, I was actually pretty annoyed at the briefing process. I wanted to build a tool to help clients better communicate what they wanted in a website.

I spoke to a bunch of web designers in our area about their process and bottlenecks. Almost every single one of them ended up focusing on getting content from clients. Not the brief. So basically, the idea was flipped on its head right away.

As an agency, we could definitely relate to the problem, which made it fairly simple to think through and design something to make our own lives easier.

Somewhere during our 8 years, our business kind of just fell into websites. Really, building and designing software has always been my number 1 business passion. That meant I had a ton of motivation to build this tool and make it our primary business.

How did you build Content Snare?

At first, it was nothing more than a simple landing page built in WordPress. It asked for an email address in exchange for a discount when we were ready.

To get people onto the list, I spoke to web designers I knew personally, got involved in Facebook groups and just asked people if they’d be interested. Really basic stuff.

I’d heard so many horror stories about products never getting off the ground, so I wanted some confidence that the product was solving a real problem and was something people would be willing to pay for. That meant asking for money before we even had a product. A ‘pre-sale’, if you will.

After we gathered a few hundred people, we ran a pre-sale to see if people would be willing to put money down. We offered a full year access to the product (starting when it went live) and beta access at an extremely discounted price.

Content Snare Pre-Sale
This is one of the screen mockups we used for the pre-sale.

We sold 25 out of 25 available spots in about 2 hours. That was an exciting day, and it gave us some confidence that the product would work.

That’s when development actually started.

First, we hired a UX designer to come up with all the different screens we needed. We listed out all the functionality we eventually wanted and removed everything that wasn’t necessary for the MVP. Our business already had software developers, so we diverted their attention to building Content Snare.

The front end was built with Angular 2, and the back end with Ruby on Rails. This is the tech stack we use for almost all of our client projects, so it was an easy decision.

It took maybe 6 months from the pre-sale until the doors opened. In that time, we continued to build an email list, grow a Facebook group, run ads and run a beta program for the people that had paid for the pre-sale. This was to make sure any major bugs were ironed out before releasing to the public.

One thing we focused on I think more than another MVP’s was the look and feel. We invested in good design up front, to make sure the product was visually appealing. Our target market are designers, after all.

GenM icon

Hire digital marketing interns. 40 hours for $49/month.

Learn More!


The free newsletter marketers *actually* read.

Stacked Marketer provides you with carefully curated industry news, tech, and actionable advice — it’s a 100% free jam-packed 5-minute daily read.

Sign up for free today  👉

Reach +20,000 Startup Founders!

If you are looking to get your product in front of founders, CEOs, VPs, web and mobile developers, makers, consultants, marketers, bloggers, product managers, and many other thought leaders, then we can help you.

👉 Sponsorships

Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?

It’s crazy when I look back at how many things we tried. If I told you about all of them, the answer to this question could fill an entire book. I was even documenting everything we did but had to stop because it was getting too much.

It has been pretty difficult, to be honest. There are SO many different ways to attract new users, and there’s no way to know which will actually work. So, you just have to test them as fast as possible.

The two biggest things for us have been:

  1. Our Facebook group
  2. A giveaway

From day 1, I began building a Facebook group of web designers. These are our target audience, so having direct access to so many of them allows us to better understand how they think and what kind of things they need to improve their business and lives. Through this group, I’ve even made a bunch of friends, several who I’ve met in real life.

After this, the most effective marketing ‘tactic’ we used was a giveaway. In the early days, this got many people talking about us in various groups, and doubled our email list in 2 days.

One tactic that didn’t work as well I thought it would, was Product Hunt. In the startup world, a lot of people put weight on getting to #1 on Product Hunt. We *almost* did that, except Facebook TV launched on the same day. So, we hit #2 instead. It drove a huge traffic spike, quite a few comments and more than 10x our normal daily signups, but none of them converted to paid users.

I wish I could say that there were one or two things that just smashed it out of the park and resulted in explosive growth, but it’s just not the case. Our growth comes from lots of small things adding together, adding a few users at a time.

Content Snare Podcasts
Going on podcasts has been a great channel.

Here are a few things we’ve tried and have worked to at least a small extent:

  • Getting interviewed on podcasts
  • Guest posts
  • Helpful, quality blog posts
  • Sharing those posts in places where people need the help
  • SEO on keywords our audience is looking for
  • Email competitions/giveaways
  • BetaList
  • ProductHunt

What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?

I think we’ve been fairly lucky in this regard. I can’t think of any major things we’ve had to deal with.

Some things used to get me really worried, like a competitor releasing a new feature or someone saying something negative.

These kinds of things just don’t get to me anymore. I’ve learned there’s just no point in letting them upset you. You just deal with it and move on.

The one thing that definitely still gets to me are the periods of slow, or even negative growth. It might only be a few days, maybe a week, but it definitely affects mood. Logically, all you have to do is zoom out and realize everything is still moving in the right direction.

Content Snare Growth
Slow and steady growth.

Which are your greatest disadvantages?

Wow, what a question!

For me, it is definitely motivation, especially during those down periods. When we’re growing strongly, it’s great motivation. When things aren’t perfect, it’s definitely harder.

Now that I say it out loud, I realized it’s the same when it comes to losing weight…

With respect to our market, one of the biggest ‘disadvantages’ I think would be that there are a lot of freelancers out there who are struggling financially. A big part of our user base are freelancers. If they can’t afford our service, we have a problem. That’s why we do a lot of education to help web designers grow their businesses. Plus, it’s nice to get feedback that you’ve really helped someone grow their business.

Your one-stop shop for everything dev-related.

Anything you need, our devs can build: complex e-commerce solutions, custom software or SaaS, beautiful WordPress websites… anything. We’ll fix, upgrade & customize your website, so you never have to worry about troubleshooting web stuff ever again.

Let’s get to work!
GrowthMentor incon

Grow your business. Get 1-on-1 calls with +100 mentors.

Learn More!


During the process of building & growing Content Snare, which were the worst mistakes you committed?

The biggest mistake by far was not being careful enough on feature selection when building our MVP. We rolled too many things into the first version which blew out our development budget. We spent way too much on our MVP.

If I had to do it again, I’d pull out everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, and work more closely with the development team to make sure we were all on the same page.

The other big one is probably keeping our web design business going at the same time. It’s hard to call this a mistake because I’m still not sure if it was the right or wrong decision.

The original idea was to keep building websites so that we had the additional income to keep us going, and so that I still had my finger on the pulse of the industry. That way I could write posts and make videos that helped out our target audience - so education-based marketing.

I’ve since realized that one bad client can eat a whole week of my time (plus the team’s time) that could have been spent on Content Snare. I also realized we can work with other people to provide education to our users through guest posts. They’re experts at what they do. That means they write things way better than I could have and get some traffic and SEO juice at the same time.

Truthfully, we probably should have dropped web design sooner.

If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?

Other than what I just mentioned, I’m really not sure! If I knew the answer to this question, I’d be doing it now.

I think I’d say to work on building relationships with potential partners right away. This is a hard one though, as you may need a working product or a “name” in the industry before certain people will work with you.

Apart from mistakes, what are other sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

This is heavily dependent on their industry, but here are some of my favorite books:

  • Never Split the Difference - One of the best business books I’ve read on creating better deals. It’s also entertaining with stories about real hostage negotiations where the principles came from
  • Influence - This should be a prerequisite for anyone before they write any copy or try to sell anything
  • How to Win Friends & Influence People - Such a classic that helps with all parts of life, not just business. Knowing the right people helps with everything.
  • Rework - A great book for SaaS founders with lots of practical advice

Where can we go to learn more?

You can find everything on the Content Snare website. In the footer, you’ll find the blog and a bunch of free resources. If you’d like to follow along on my personal site where I cover automation and marketing, you can find that here. Or you can follow our software and app development company!

✉️ Subscribe to our newsletter!

Invite us into your inbox and get immense learning and 80+ deals on tools to help you scale your startup (worth up to $50,000)!

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

👇 Other Interviews

Flexiple: $80K/month connecting startups with developers
Suvansh Bansal
September 26, 2019
Web Application
Below 150K
Turning $8k into a $30k/mo Drug and Alcohol Testing Business
Chuck Marting
September 1, 2020
United States
Up to 50K
Price2Spy: The Serbian price monitoring SaaS that makes $155k/month
Misha Krunic
January 29, 2020
Over 150K
Posture Keeper: Creating a Business to Solve My Back Pain
Shirley Tan
February 21, 2019
United States
No Data
Matboard and More: Digitizing a Startup & Making $170,000/Month
Mehdi Kajbaf
February 21, 2019
United States
Over 150K
Hubstaff: Growing a Time Tracking Software to $316,000/Month
Dave Nevogt
February 21, 2019
United States
Over 150K
Notezilla: The Wikipedia for High-School Notes that Made $0
Ada Des Etages
December 20, 2018
Trinidad and Tobago
Bad Marketing
Shutting Down a $3,500/mo Business due to Overwhelm and Overwork
Michael Hawthorne
August 19, 2020
United States
REPitchbook: Building a SaaS Priced at $1,500/Month and Making $0
Charlie Reese
March 27, 2019
No MVP Validation
Haptly: Failing to Build the Technical Product after 10 Months
Nelson Shaw
December 18, 2018
New Zealand
Technical Problems
MotoBox: The Story of 2 Technical Co-Founders
Joe Stech
March 16, 2018
United States
Bad Marketing
From $20k/mo to 0 - How incorrect market focus killed the encrypted Google Doc alternative
Justin Hunter
October 1, 2020
United States
Web Application
Business Model