Where to submit your next side project
When you’re starting out, posting projects online to popular websites is one of the easiest forms of marketing you can do. It’s a great way to get initial traffic and feedback.
In fact, submitting projects online is very common that there are actually services set up to handle your submissions for you!
Other than being effortless, submitting to a popular website or publication can help get you the initial amount of traffic you need to start getting initial traction. It also brings SEO benefits (backlink juice), especially if a journalist runs into your work and decides to write about it on other websites.
Back when I first launched Life Calendar, I was getting a lot of positive feedback from friends and family.
At that time I had no online presence and was having trouble with driving any traffic. After months of planning, I submitted to Product Hunt, and Life Calendar managed to end up in the top five posts that day. It was quickly picked up by a lot of other publications, including Lifehacker.
This feature was pretty much the only form of marketing I did ever since, and the SEO boost and visibility are still generating a healthy stream of visitors every month.
Submissions are can be a great way to get this initial boost in traffic. But since you usually have one chance, you have to maximize your efforts. In this article, we’ll list some common outlets that can generate some good traffic, and how you might go about doing that.
Weigh your options
Product Hunt is a website that lets users share and discover new products. Even though the competition is very fierce, getting to the front page can drive a lot of traffic to your project, and since a big portion of the community consists of early adopters, your work can be picked up by someone big in your niche. The community also understands that work submitted there is still new so they can be understanding if your project has issues or bugs.
Of course, if you’re planning on getting any success from Product Hunt, you need to get to the front page. Only users with posting privileges can submit new posts, but since anyone can manage to get a “hunter”, the competition is very high. Some hunters even have the ability to post directly to the front page, which is what you should aim for. Nevertheless, there are countless online accounts of people who managed to make it to the front page by having a successful launch.
If you’re just starting out, I would suggest delaying your Product Hunt launch until you’re a little more comfortable with your project. Try submitting to some of the other low profile websites we discuss here, and once you’re comfortable enough, invest yourself into the Product Hunt launch. Make sure you’re prepared and don’t rush it!
Reddit, ranked in the top 20 websites on Alexa, can be a great source of traffic but is very dependent on the type of product you’re submitting. The community hates self-promotion, even though some subreddits can be very supportive. Find a good subreddit, and contribute good material without being self-promotional.
There are a lot of online records discussing which subreddits to submit on. Reddit can seem intimidating if you’re not familiar with it, so spend some time familiarizing yourself with the community before making any posts.
Backed by Y Combinator, if you’re working on anything related to tech, Hacker News can be a great place to submit your work. In fact, there’s an entire section on the entitled “Show HN” that’s for people interested in showcasing their projects.
All submissions made on Hacker News get placed in the “Newest” section. If a submission gets enough upvotes, it moves up to the front page. This should be your goal. Reaching the front page is hard–a ton of posts submitted daily get buried in the newest page, usually within less than an hour. But if your post manages to reach the front page, Hacker News can drive ridiculous amounts of traffic to your website, more-so than any of the other websites we discussed here (even combined!). And while the community as a whole can be perceived as a little too critical, if your project’s niche is a good fit for the website, it should be one of your best options.
If you have a product still in beta testing or hasn’t been publicly launched, you should look into BetaList. While it isn’t as popular as the other options, the site presents itself as a way to get early users for testing your product. This can be a great way to get some feedback and generate some buzz before the actual launch.
There are a bunch of other websites that try do something similar, but BetaList is by far the most popular. And while posting on BetaList is free, there’s a huge wait line that can last up to a couple of months before your item gets listed. If you’re in a rush, you can opt in for the paid review option, which would get you listed within a couple of days. You can find the exact price during the submission process, but expect to pay at least around a hundred US dollars.
Lately, there’s been an increase in online lists that curate a particular category of products or tools into a giant list. Unlike websites like Product Hunt, where the directory is part of a bigger community, these curated lists are simply a collection of products or tools. A popular example would be Startup Stash, the no. 1 most upvoted product on Product Hunt.
While they usually don’t bring in huge amounts of traffic, getting listed into these lists can boost your SEO and bring some visibility.
Finding a list relevant to your project shouldn’t be hard. Some keywords to help you search include “curated list”, “stack”, and “directory”. For example, searching for “design tools stack” on google results in Web Design Stack, a list of popular tools used by designers.
You can find a lot of these lists on Github. If your project was developed for a particular development tool, such as Vue.js, you can try posting it in awesome-vue. Github lists extend beyond development tools; for example, if you have a project targeting marketing, you can use marketing-for-engineers.
Outside of Github, most of these lists don’t make it obvious how to submit your projects. These lists are usually maintained as personal projects or by a group number of people, though – you can reach out to them personally and ask them to be listed.
Indiehackers and WIP
Created with indie developers and solo founders in mind, Indiehackers and WIP are two popular communities you can use to get feedback and some initial traction and should be one of the first options to consider.
Indiehackers started out as a hub for interviewing successful founders about their businesses but has since pivoted its focus to its community. While the recent surge in its popularity has unfortunately decreased the quality of its discussions, it’s still a great way to get early feedback and testers. It’s also by far the nicest community you can join as a founder.
WIP is a community for founders to share their journey while developing their tools. You can ask questions, post frequent progress updates to your projects, or launch your projects. But the most useful part of the community is its telegram-based chat community, which is a great place to get help or bounce off ideas with other members.
WIP is a pay-for-access community; anybody can browse through the website, but only registered members can contribute. This makes the community very active and less prone to “noise” by one-time visitors or self-promoters.
I might be a little biased, but Postmake is another option if you’re looking to submit your projects. Postmake is a manually curated web directory of tools and resources you can use. Unlike the rest of websites we discussed here, Postmake doesn’t have a front page - it breaks down submissions by category, and allows browsing them through a search engine.
This means submissions on Postmake might not get as much initial traffic as the rest of the options but instead delivers a steady stream of users to your website. Since most users will be actively searching for a specific tool while browsing through the directory, they are more likely to engage with your submission, as opposed to other websites where visitors are casually browsing through whatever option they’re presented with.
Like BetaList, submissions to Postmake are paid, and all submissions are manually reviewed before getting published. This holds up the directory to a higher level of quality and sends away spammers and self-promoters.
Know when it’s time
You usually have only one chance to submit your project to a particular site, and depending on how helpful it will be to your particular project, you should be ready before submitting.
As it can bring in tremendous results to your public launch, some people plan for their Product Hunt launch months ahead. Instead of haphazardly throwing in a title and some screenshots and submitting, you might want to “test the waters” before submitting on a high profile website. Communities like Indie Hackers, WIP, and some subreddits encourage these low-key submissions, and they’re a great way to rough out any hard edges before going to the big names.
If you’re looking for advice on launching on a specific website, there are a countless number of posts about success stories and advice online, particularly if you search through publishing platforms like Medium.
Make sure you plan your launch ahead. If you’re expecting a huge burst of traffic, make sure your servers can handle the load. Set up your social media accounts. Set up an analytics tool. Make your call-to-action obvious.
And try to post on a good time - a post on a Saturday night isn’t going to get as much traction is one planned for a Tuesday morning.
Spend some time on your submissions
A while back, I made a post on Reddit about the Million Dollar Homepage, an old project that really blew up back in its time (and made its founder a millionaire!). It looked like a great piece of content to share, so I wrote a short snippet about and posted it on r/Entrepreneur. But for whatever reason, the post was buried and barely got any visibility, even though it seemed like the perfect kind of material for this subreddit.
Curious, I deleted the post, and a couple of days later reposted it again. This time I changed the title to include “a college student made a million dollars”, but made no other change to the content of the post.
The post quickly got hundreds of upvotes and more than a hundred comments. All it took was a “catchier” title.
When making a submission anywhere, the first and usually only thing a visitor sees is your submission’s title. We have a tendency to spend a lot of time perfecting and nitpicking our content, and when we’re almost done, we strap on a title and move on to publishing. But of course, all the work you spend fixing and polishing your content doesn’t make any difference if people don’t actually visit it! Next time, try to spend a little time with the title. Asking for a friend’s opinion is always helpful.
Don’t overdo it
Obviously there a lot of other options. What we covered here are most of the big names. If you want to dive deeper, look for other products in your niche, and try to learn from their approaches and experiences.
Remember that submissions are just a way to get initial traction and feedback, and is not be a long-term plan. Some people too much time compiling huge lists of directories and posting to them. This spam posting won’t be getting you any meaningful traffic, and can actually hurt your website’s rankings, especially if you post on low-quality websites.
Focus on one place, and try to make it as successful as possible. One very good submission is always better than a bunch that doesn’t warrant to anything!