💰 What are the costs of operating a No-Code SaaS business? - Issue #12

James from NoCodeSaaS
James from NoCodeSaaS
Hey there, hope you’ve had a great week!
This week I’m going to focus on the economics of building a SaaS business using no-code technologies.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about no-code, and Bubble in particular is how it fundamentally changes the economics of building and operating a SaaS business.
I believe no-code represents the biggest shift since Amazon launched EC2 in 2006 in terms of how new software products can be brought to market.
The radical reductions in build & operating costs mean you can build your company in a totally new way.
In this week’s issue, I’m going to cover….
  • How much it costs to operate my own #NoCodeSaaS UserLoop
  • How to predict which Bubble plan is best for you.
  • How to optimize your Bubble app’s capacity usage.
  • How building in NoCode changes your startup’s economics and how to use this to your advantage
How much it costs to operate my own #NoCodeSaaS UserLoop
The great thing about building in Bubble is that not only does it radically reduce the cost of building your app, it’s also very cost-effective to operate.
Normally if you were building a SaaS you might have to subscribe to 5 different AWS services. S3 for file storage, EC2 for compute, RDS for your database etc ets.
Not only does this all take more time to set up and manage, costs can very quickly escalate and become significant.
Bubble has abstracted all this complexity and gives you a simple choice of tiers to run your app. All the storage, DB, compute cost is included in the monthly fee you pay.
While Bubble’s concept of ‘capacity’ can be a bit hard to get to grips with, it does make things quite straightforward from a billing perspective.
I’ve built tons of Bubble apps, and there are definitely some things it’s worth considering when you’re building your project.
  • If your app is going to have a lot of users active at the same time completing operations, the lower level plans will not be able to cope with spikes in activity.
I once built a quiz app that sometimes would have 100 people on the app at the same time completing operations, even with all the optimization I could manage Bubble struggled and the app quickly became unusable.
Consider how many users might be on your app at the same time, if it’s a lot you should probably look at the Bubble Professional plan upward.
Here are the costs for my app UserLoop to keep it running.
  • Bubble Professional Plan $115 per month
  • Postmark for transactional email $10 per month
  • ApexCharts.js $7 per month
That’s it!
To operate the entire UserLoop SaaS app is $132 per month.
At the moment this happily services over 50 Shopify stores sending out thousands of surveys every month.
I believe I could stay on the Professional plan until at least 200 Shopify stores, on that basis it would be costing me $0.66 per month to service each store which is unbelievably low.
Of course, there are other costs with running a business, accounting software, marketing, advertising etc. Using no-code means your development and platform costs are lower, so you can spend more money on things like advertising which are going to help you grow.
The ability to have a ultra-lean cost base like this means you might be able to undercut your competitors and still make a profit if you wanted to. Or you might choose to invest more into your marketing.
The fact you’ve decided to build your app using No-Code means you’re highly likely to have very low operating costs which should open up tons of opportunities for you to innovate in other areas.
How to predict which Bubble plan is best for you
As we said earlier, if you’re planning on building a multiplayer game type app where thousands of users are online at the same time interacting with the app, Bubble might not be the right platform for you.
However, if you’re building a fairly standard SaaS type app you should have no problems at all starting off on the $29/month Personal plan.
There are a few other reasons you might want to upgrade from the personal plan…
  • Version control. This is really important for me. Having 2 development versions for my app means I can work on huge changes in one version and still have a development version to make bug fixes in the meantime.
  • Ability to run daily scheduled workflows. This is important for me as I use daily monitors to do things like send out emails and monitor customer usage.
  • Dedicated capacity. You get 3 units of dedicated capacity on the Professional plan which means your app is more likely to run smoothly at all times, you can also add more capacity units if you need to.
  • More storage. If you’re storing big files in Bubble, perhaps things like video, you might need more storage. You get 20 gb of disk storage on the professional plan.
How to optimize your Bubble app’s capacity usage.
Thankfully, Bubble provides detailed analytics on your app’s capacity usage which can help you identify things which your app is doing which might not be as efficient as they could be.
Head to the ‘Logs’ tab within Bubble, then ‘Capacity’.
In here you’ll find a ton of metrics which show you how your app is running.
Everything from how many workflows your app has run, the number of pageviews, ‘CPU’ usage and any periods when your app maxed out it’s capacity.

UserLoop's Bubble Capacity for the last 6 months.
UserLoop's Bubble Capacity for the last 6 months.
Ideally, I never ever want my app to hit maximum capacity - this means my app has essentially become unusable for my customers and isn’t acceptable.
If your app is running slowly or not working, customers are not going to put up with it and leave, so it’s worth doing everything you can to make sure this never happens.
UserLoop now runs around 38,000 workflows a month.
UserLoop now runs around 38,000 workflows a month.
This pie chart is one of the most powerful tools in Bubble for helping you identify what parts of your app are consuming the most capacity.
Clicking on each segment drills down to the workflow level to help you identify what operations are the most taxing.
It’s worth checking this regularly to make sure your app is running as effienciently as possible and you’re not wasting capacity on things you don’t need to.
Drill down into specific activity to see what is using your capacity.
Drill down into specific activity to see what is using your capacity.
How building in NoCode changes your startup’s economics and how to use this to your advantage
I estimate if I had gone to a traditional outsourced development agency, or hired developers to build the UserLoop product it would have cost me at least $150,000.
That means I would either have had to raise investment to get it built, be rich and fund it myself or start with a radically simplified version.
Building it in Bubble effectively meant the development cost was $0, it was purely my spare time putting it together, testing and extending it.
Given the costs to operate the app are also super low, this means I can invest in other areas of the business more to help it grow.
Whether it’s marketing, advertising or cutting my prices to attract customers, being on a no-code platform gives me a lot more options in terms of how to structure things as I don’t have huge development or operating costs.
This also means you effectively have ‘unlimited’ runway to refine your idea.
You’re only burning around $100 a month instead of tens or hundreds of thousands, so you have much more time to find product market fit without running out of cash.
This changes the risk profile of starting a software startup considerably. n
Not only do you not have to be a programmer, you don’t need many resources to build and run your software.
I believe this is going to lead to people from much more diverse backgrounds building their own apps for areas where they have expertise in a market.
We will see lots more builders, dentists, truck drivers, pilots, artists and many others building and selling a highly specialized SaaS product.
What a great time to get started!
I hope you found this issue useful, if you have any questions please drop me a line, I always love to help if I can.
Similarly, if you have any topics you’d like me to cover in future, hit the reply button!
Have a great weekend & happy building, James.
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James from NoCodeSaaS
James from NoCodeSaaS @jamesdevonport

If you're thinking about building a SaaS product using no-code or visual development tools - this newsletter is for you!

Every Friday I'll be sharing practical tips and advice on building a SaaS app using the Bubble.io platform.

From how to structure your database, to implementing 3rd party APIs, we'll touch on everything you need to know to get started and scale your app to thousands of users.

I'll be using my own Bubble app as an example. I'm currently building UserLoop.io - a Shopify App designed to help store owners automatically survey their customers and get more reviews.

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