Why Sponsor Laradir?

Published: 3 months ago

The reason Laradir exists is to help Laravel developers.

I realise this post might come over as a bit of a negative one, and if it does I apologise in advance. I am only trying to be frank and clear about the situation.

I actually don't have negative feelings about this at all; on the contrary, I'm super positive about what's to come!

Here's the current situation:

These are accurate figures as of today (Jan 18, 2024).

The running costs for the platform itself, the application, database etc are currently less than $20/month. The only other ongoing cost is the GitHub account which now has a few seats. So let's say $50/month total on costs.

The other $1,000 is marketing & sponsorships!

Laradir is currently sponsoring:

  • Filament
  • Pest
  • Laravel.io
  • Benjamin Crozat
  • Amit Merchant
  • Larabelles
  • Laravel News

These sponsorships bring us a steady stream of super relevant traffic, because these are high-traffic places where Laravel developers and teams hang out.

There are a bunch more places I've identified that I'd like to sponsor, and not just other website: I'd love to sponsor events and meetups, streamers, podcasts. You name it, we could do it.

More qualified traffic to the site means more searches, more conversations, and ultimately more connections and opportunities for every developer on here.

Of course, I want to keep on supporting these other platforms. And the more of this I can do, the better for everyone!

But I also have to be realistic.

The harsh reality is that this currently isn't sustainable long-term, because income is less than 50% of outgoings. At the moment, I'm personally funding this investment.

Eventually though, my own funds will run out and I have to address this before that happens.

If I could do this out of the goodness of my heart, I absolutely would. The truth is, a project like this requires constant and consistent financial investment and that has to come from somewhere.

So what should we do?

Reduce costs

This should be the obvious and correct first answer. It might not be the first thing we actually do though.

Why? Becasue less promotion will result in less footfall, which means the site won't be doing what it set out to do and developers won't be as invested in creating and updating their profiles.

That is a pretty common death spiral. A vicious cycle.

I mean, if costs go below income, it can at least survive, but it may only serve to prolong the inevitable.

If the worst comes to the worst, if this situation hasn't changed within a few months, I will be forced to do cost-cutting and most of these promotions will have to go.

But I'd rather avoid that.

In the interim, my focus is on doing more to bring the same or greater levels of traffic to the site with a much lower capital outlay, like marketing on social media and SEO.

Those are time-intensive activities for me, so they're not really without cost... they just have the perception of being 'cheaper'. In truth, they're probably far more expensive, it's just missed potential income (i.e. from my freelancing) rather than hard capital outlay for me as a solopreneur (or whatever).

That said, they do benefit from a much longer tail of influence. Traffic from ads/promos stop as soon as you turn the tap off; owned content takes a while to warm up and a while to cool down.

So it's a trade-off. As I say I'm doing some of this already, but trying to do more is tricky given my time constraints.

The more you can share positive things about Laradir with your own networks too, the better! Writing blog posts and social media posts all help massively.

Overall, I'm comfortable with the current levels of spend right now. I'll reduce it if I have to, but I'd rather not. And honestly I'd prefer to be in a position where we could increase all of these activities to get even more traffic to the site.

Get paying customers

This feels like it should be the main focus right now. And it is.

We do have 2 paying Teams on board right now 🎉. This is huge validation for me and proves that this can work as platform.

So the goal is to bring more paying Teams into Laradir.

From this angle, Laradir is really a B2B SaaS. And if you've ever done B2B SaaS sales, you know that it's not always easy, especially in such a niche as this.

Obviously, I'm doing my level best to promote the platform and get more teams to sign up. But I'm no salesperson! I'm a developer. So this is a learning curve for me. Enjoyable, but hard.

My developer brain keeps thinking: I would almost rather not charge for this at all. I genuinely believe it would be net better for everyone all around if all developer profiles were completely open and the platform was essentially free to use.

One thing I have to keep reminding myself though is that businesses all over the world are spending 10-100x the cost of Laradir's subscription every month on hiring engineers and the service is a good one that does bring value and convenience.

So why are't more Teams buying?

It could just be timing. It's the start of a new year, for one thing, which is usually always a bit of a slow period for hiring. Also, the tech hiring market is in flux right now: there have been another round of huge layoffs from larger tech companies and well-known startups.

And we also have to consider the sentiment towards PHP and Laravel outside of our bubble: while many teams do choose to work with the best platform available 🎺, millions are using other alternatives that they're choosing for all sorts of (hopefully-)valid reasons.

While I'd like to imagine that the number of teams choosing Laravel is growing every single day, I don't have the data to be clear on that one way or another. So I can't bank on this.

(Though I will be doing Laravel advocacy of course! More of that to come on this very blog soon.)

Ultimately, right now I've just got to keep finding new potential customers who are already embedded in the Laravel ecosystem and selling them on the dream of using Laradir as another great way to find developers.

You can help here too (and get rewarded handsomely for it), using my new lo-fi referral program!

What about charging developers?

It's a valid suggestion, but I really dislike that option for a number of reasons.

The primary one of those is: because Laradir already is a hugely international service... and I want it to remain that way.

Introducing a price for developers would make the service inaccessible to a lot of the Laravel world, which flies in the opposite direction of what Laradir is here to achieve.

I could have a complex, tiered pricing-parity setup and try to manage pricing and billing for everyone in these different economic circumstances, but I feel that's just going to be an absolute nightmare.

I could introduce paid tiers, whilst still keeping the base level free. This might be something to consider in the future for sure. But I think there has to be a really clear value proposition there. And I also don't want it to introduce inequality or bias on the platform between those who can afford a paid-for service and those who can't.

Secondly, I have to take the competition into consideration: other similar platforms like Cord, Haystack, Hired etc don't charge developers. So while I don't believe that means it can't work, I'd be fighting an uphill battle with some of the (much larger) competition.

The core Laradir service must (and will) remain free for developers. Forever.

Other sources of revenue

You may have noticed that I placed ads on the site. I generally dislike ads from networks, honestly. I think they're a lazy effort. I'm just trialing it to see what the income looks like with current traffic levels.

So far, it doesn't look like something I'll keep. With many of you using ad-blockers (which is your right, I do to!), the impressions that the ad slots get is way lower than our actual traffic. So income from that source will be minimal, certainly until traffic levels increase by an order of magnitude (i.e. 200k pageviews per month instead of the current 20k).

Even if the income from ads was better though, it likely could never be the only source of income. And I certainly don't want to be littering the site with ads just to make ends meet. I would much rather not have them at all.

An alternative might be to handle promotions and advertisers directly. While I could make more that way, it becomes another product to sell, which would be a distraction from focusing on the main Teams subscription product and the core features of the platform for devs.

I know which one I'd rather do.

The other source of income is sponsorships.

We've already got a number of sponsors! And I'm super grateful to all of them 🙏 Some are the brands that you see at the bottom of each page. Others are individuals/teams via GitHub Sponsors.

These sponsorships are great and I would love more of them. I think it's a perfect model for Laradir because the value exchange is really well understood and aligned with the goals of the people in this niche.

The challenge is to grow that.

Growing sponsors

This post is my attempt at doing just that by laying it all out there and letting you fine folks make your mind up.

Sponsors can be anyone just like you:

  • developers who are using Laradir to find work and other opportunities
  • teams building products applicable to Laravel developers
  • teams just wanting to be more visible in front of Laravel developers
  • anyone who wants to see Laravel developers succeed

If you're a developer using Laradir, it would be great if you would consider sponsorship. Think of it in this way:

  • You'd be allowing me to go out a sponsor/advertise in more places, which would bring more traffic and interest to the site
  • You'd be supporting other devs who can't afford to sponsor

If all the public-facing profiles live on Laradir sponsored just $20 per year, we'd cover our costs. That's less than $2 per month.

And you get more than just a good feeling! The sponsor tiers on our GitHub Sponsors page all apply. So you'll get some great rewards too! And if you have ideas for more rewards, I'm all ears! Please tell me what would make this even more compelling for you.

What it all means

The main goal right now is to get income to the point of breaking even with current costs. I will breathe a sigh of relief at that point.

But if we can grow beyond that, two things can start to happen:

  1. I can start to invest more of my time in the site, building features that make it better for devs and teams to find each other
  2. I can invest in more promotions, bringing more high-quality traffic to the site

Both of these result in better outcomes for everyone in the directory!

So, I hope you'll consider referring customers or sponsoring. And of course, if you're on a team that is hiring Laravel developers, please consider subscribing.

I will be eternally grateful 😊

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