Build something for less than the price of a Netflix subscription

How I built Imprint for under $15/mo

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May 16, 2020

(3 min read)

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Building software in 2020 is really, really cheap. You can put together a full blown product, and start charging money for as little as $15 dollars a month, and in as little time as a few weeks to a few months. If price is the one thing holding you back from committing to building something, then you should stop worrying and get started now.


I’ve been building Imprint, a blogging platform that combines the audience and simplicity of Medium with the control of Wordpress.


My total monthly cost? $15 per month. That’s pretty good considering the fact that Imprint is a relatively content heavy application. Here’s a breakdown of all the services I’m using to build Imprint, along with their costs.


  • Frontend hosting: I’m running a Next.js app on a Heroku hobby dyno. $7/mo
  • Backend hosting: I’m hosting my API and reverse proxy on a DigitalOcean droplet running Dokku. $5/mo
  • Domain: I’m paying for a .to, which is a bit pricier at $40/yr, or $3.33/mo. If you get a more standard .com, .net, or .co, it’d boil down to $1/mo.
  • Transactional email: Mailgun for sending and receiving emails from the imprint.to domain. Free for first 5,000 emails
  • File storage: AWS S3 stores all images, videos, assets. Free for first 5GB.
  • CDN and image transformations: AWS Cloudfront provides the CDN for all my S3 images. Also provides on the fly image transformations. Free for 50GB of data transfers
  • Database: MongoDB Atlas has been super reliable, and I’ve had no problems hosting my MongoDB/NoSQL database here. Free up to 2GB storage
  • Error Logging: Sentry. Free for 5k errors
  • Search infrastructure: Algolia saves so much time in both building a UI for a search bar and for the underlying search functionality. Free for up to 50k operations and 10k records per month
  • Analytics: Google Analytics is informative, and totally free.

And this should all scale up, at a similar price, for AT LEAST the first 5,000 active users.


BONUS: A couple ways to get platform credits and save a hefty amount of money.

  • AWS Activate. Could net you a couple thousand in AWS credits to get started. https://aws.amazon.com/activate/
  • DigitalOcean Hatch. Apply to their program and get started with a ton of DigitalOcean credits.
  • https://www.digitalocean.com/hatch/
  • YC Startup School. They’ve partnered with dozens of companies to provide amazing deals to all program participants. The program is free, and the curriculum is great.
  • Github Education. If you’re a student, the Github Education Pack has countless deals for almost all of the services I’ve mentioned above. Take advantage of this if you can! https://education.github.com/pack

Roland Shen

@roland

Building Imprint!

Roland's Blog

My thoughts, stories, and ideas

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