#003 Danielle Johnson

Discover the products nomadic maker Danielle Johnson uses to build her products


Welcome to Maker Stacks, a new newsletter from the Product Hunt team where we interview a maker about their stack.

In today’s edition, we have nomadic indie-maker Danielle Johnson. Danielle co-founded Leave Me Alone and Ellie, along with her partner James Ivings.

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Danielle Johnson

Hey, I'm Danielle, one half of a nomadic developer duo that travels the world on a small sailboat while building cool, ethical tech. Together, we have built and launched Leave Me Alone, a privacy-focused service that makes it easy to unsubscribe from unwanted emails, and Ellie — an AI assistant that writes email replies in your style and tone for you right in your Gmail inbox.

Since its launch in January 2019, Leave Me Alone has attracted over 300,000 users, made over $250,000 in profit, and is currently hovering at $6k MRR. We've scanned a staggering half a billion emails and unsubscribed our customers from a huge 3.5 million emails. Our commitment to transparency as an Open Startup means you can check out all our metrics anytime on our open page.

With Leave Me Alone ticking along, Ellie is our latest venture that's growing nicely. Ellie has had 10k installs on the Chrome/Firefox stores in the last year, and it has written 200k replies to emails for hundreds of happy customers — saving them a bunch of time in the process!

Danielle’s Stack

  1. VScode (My code editor)

  2. MongoDB + Redis (Databases)

  3. Digital Ocean + Bunny (Hosting)

  4. Mailgun (For sending emails)

  5. Stripe (Payment processing, also supports PayPal, which is epic)

  6. Xnapper + Cleanshot (For screenshotting / basic image manipulation)

  7. Figma (For mocking up and designing our products)

  8. Starlink (To ship from the boat hehe)

  9. ChatGPT (Helps with coding, marketing, and copywriting)

  10. Notion (We use it for our help docs)

  11. Makerlog (Staying productive through accountability)

You built multiple products to handle emails. Why is that?

Haha, you're right! Neither of us really like communicating via email or managing our inboxes and we are definitely not alone. There's frustration with the clutter and distraction they cause.

Email inboxes tend to become overwhelming due to an excess of subscriptions and unwanted messages, leading to a constant battle to reach "Inbox Zero.” We actually just published a blog post all about this.

This frustration led to developing solutions that help manage email subscriptions more effectively (Leave Me Alone) and enhance email communication efficiency through AI-driven responses (Ellie).

Everyone uses Notion a little differently. Can you tell me how you use it?

When we have a big feature to work on, we'll use Notion for project management - tracking task progress and bugs, etc.- which is made easy with templates for Kanban boards and ticket assignments.

The biggest thing we use Notion for is our help docs, which Helpkit powers. This makes it super easy for us to manage our knowledge base, and the best part is our customer support specialist can create and edit articles without having access to our code base. 

Where does AI fit into your workflow? I see you mention ChatGPT. Does it help with coding, marketing, and copywriting? 

AI, especially tools like ChatGPT, slots into almost every aspect of our workflow, from coding to marketing and copywriting.

For coding, it's great for quickly generating boilerplate code or debugging. In marketing and copywriting, we use AI to brainstorm ideas, draft initial content, and refine messaging.

Ellie itself is a prime example of integrating AI to enhance productivity directly within email communication. James definitely uses ChatGPT more than I do, but I'm starting to get into the habit of asking it questions instead of googling for things

A boat is definitely a more unique workspace! How do you stay productive in such a finite space? Do you have any productivity hacks?

Living and working on a sailboat definitely comes with more challenges than a conventional office, but we've never been conventional anyway! If I'm honest, we're not actually particularly productive, and that's okay! Our mantra is "work to live". We've always worked hard enough to make just enough money to keep living this life and traveling the world.

With that in mind, my best productivity hack is not working too much and taking lots of breaks to explore and experience the world around you. We do this regularly, and James says his best productivity hack is clearing his head every morning by freediving. We keep our tech stack small and mostly use tools and services we are already familiar with. Tools like Makerlog also help to stay accountable with friends.

Do you have any tips you would give someone who might want to dive into the nomadic lifestyle?

Start small and be flexible. You don't have to sell everything and buy a boat straight away. In fact, buying a boat was quite an ordeal, so I'd recommend land nomad life for a while first with short multi-city trips or remote working with your existing company. Also, embrace minimalism not just in your belongings but in your commitments. It makes adapting to new environments and challenges much easier. Remember to look up from your laptop and enjoy the world around you. There's no point in being in a paradise location if you're still working 50 hours a week from inside the four walls of your Airbnb.