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Ask HN: Fastest way to make $300-400 a month online?
304 points by needmoney on March 6, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 127 comments
This is approximately my cost of living (I'm from a cheap country). I need to pay for food and rent. I can program well and relatively quickly. I'm not looking to build a monster business, I'm looking to cover my costs of living as efficiently as possible.


If I said "I want the Wordpress theme from http://www.christmasbingocards.com done similarly except for St. Patrick's Day" and you were able to accomplish that without needing too much handholding, I'd be able to give you one project a month for $400 until you either got sick of doing them or decided to move upmarket. If this interests you, email me a link to your portfolio.

I have to say that I am impressed every time I read a comment from you - you manage to be relevant and drop some innovative new idea you're trying for your own business.

I agree. I even have a bookmark: http://news.ycombinator.com/threads?id=patio11

Like the OP, I'm also interested in building up a modest income with a side project. I have a question about it that you seem particularly likely to be able to answer:

How do you go about setting up an LLC from abroad (like you in Japan), and was it the sort of thing that could be done on a shoestring budget?


Oh, I think you emailed me about this. Sorry -- I starred it but I've been very busy this week.

Short version: You can get an American LLC created while living on the far side of the moon for a few hundred bucks, but I'd suggest waiting until you have a compelling reason to create one. I have not yet had a compelling reason. That might change in the upcoming year, but for the last 3.5 years, I've used the US'/Japan's most common business structure: sole proprietorship.

Thanks, I really appreciate you sharing your experience. That bit in your blog about "getting legal before legal gets you" had had me a little concerned. I had been thinking that somehow there was a requirement to make a real company in order to do software sales above some modest $ amount.

If you still haven't made an LLC, that assumption was clearly wrong, and the barrier I'd had to getting started is illusory. It's time to get to work!

Last question for you-- did you have to register your sole proprietorship with anyone or can you pretty much just make a website and start selling your software?

This can get complicated quickly. Businesses are generally licensed by state and local gov't. Most however don't require sole proprietors to register since they would generally be subject to the same tax as an individual.

My instinct would be to get started now. Complicating factors may include: product/Svc liabilities, IP rights/protection, your bookkeeping system, local rules & restrictions.

You'll find all the information you need in this interview from Mixergy titled "Law 101 For Startups with Bill Schreiber of Fenwick & West". If you're not a subscriber, then find the video podcast on iTunes, and you'll be able to watch it there [registration work-around]. You can always read the interview transcript if you prefer. The comments are usually really helpful, so look there if you have more questions. http://mixergy.com/bill-schreiber-fenwick-west/

If anyone on HN needs that video or mp3 email me.

Hi Patrick, I've emailed you.

First, a Web service that "meets an unmet need." Back in 2005 I built a "code snippets" site using the then-nascent Rails in just over 24 hours. I then spent a second day making the design more "Web 2.0" a few months later, but otherwise did little except mention it here and there and add my own code into it. It made ~$800 a month from Adsense for a couple of years and then I sold it to DZone for $30,000. Perhaps the lowest time vs money work I ever did.

Second, sell a killer screencast or e-book. You'd need to actually be good at making one of these, of course, and have a very good presentation. If you have domain specific knowledge, though, you may have something valuable.

"Second, sell a killer screencast or e-book"

Thanks for providing a spark of inpiration here! When I was in college I earned extra money teaching private guitar lessons. When I finally moved on a student of mine was kind enough to photo copy and hand me to a transcription of every_single_lesson I'd given them over three years. This stack of paper has been sitting on my shelf for nostalgic purposes only ... until now.

I run a simple little site that works as the middleman between PayPal "Buy It Now" buttons and shooting off an email with an expiring download link from a secure server. I'd be happy to give you a couple months free to dabble in ebooks!

Hit me up at contact[@]bitbuffet[.]com if you wanna give it a spin!

Hi, I'm not trying to be a jerk and it's very kind of you to offer a freebie here :) ... but I believe Google Checkout already does this for free (I recall helping an ebook author set this up) - but maybe I am missing something you offer than Google Checkout does not.

I'm not too up on Google's Checkout offering, but we have some stats and pretty graphs and such, multiple buttons, and we work with PayPal (which has more of a name recognition for buyers anyways).

I'll definitely look into Google Checkout though, its probably a great option for selling ebooks like you said.

Google checkout only work in a few countries.

Agreed re: writing an ebook. If you have niche content and can package it nicely, you can make $300-$400 monthly. It helps to have some venue for marketing though (blog or other medium).

I can confirm this. I run a service that specializes in digital product delivery. Spreadsheets are also very popular.

The hard part is identifying the niche and being patient enough to see it through. A lot of people seem to think they can setup a sales page, put the buy now button on it, and start making $500/mo in 7 days. It doesn't usually work that way.

So, how much do e-book writers have to worry about piracy? It would seem that the barrier for entry, so to speak, for piracy of a PDF is a lot lower than for software, especially as it seems that someone's more likely to email their friend "this cool article" rather than "this software" with its attendant installation hassles.

How many pages do you need for an e-book typically?

There really isn't a straight answer to this. I can tell you the typical is $0.25-$1.50/page rate for ebooks. I see some 100~ page ebooks from past affiliates that go for 50cents/page, but then some diet book sneaks in at $1.25/pg with 40 pages.

Its really not quantity! This is a market of quality. Just look through clickbank's affiliates for ideas for crap landing pages and crap ebooks (for the most part, spare maybe ~10).

Good sample pages, good outline, no boring plain black and white text, and connect with what your clients really need. Create a wiki/forum or something for registered users to access. The book isn't the only part... you want to build a community (elo adsense!)

Doesn't matter really. How you sell it and what's in it is far more important than the length. You need to nail the sales process and the content - everything else is of very minor importance.

This attitude is more obvious with screencasts. Even 30 minute screencasts can sell OK at $9.. and the amount of effort to put that together is far less than even a, say, 25 page e-book. You just need to hit the right stuff.

All that said, my basic investigations show that in the general programming world, books of < 100 pages tend to go around $9, books of over 200 pages tend to be > $20. But this is all very arm-wavey.

I used to do a lot of offline marketing of online products and made some good money. What I mean by this is selling sites/hosting/newsletter hosting to small, local businesses.

I did this when I was tight on cash, since it can usually be done in a weekend: research a local group of businesses (ie. dentists or furniture stores) using Google Maps and grab all of their info. See which businesses don't have websites - and if they do check out how they look/work.

For the companies that didn't, I'd write a simple sales letter offering a discounted website. Something like the client that originally bought the site ended up bailing near the end, but I got a deposit out of them so I'm selling this site for cost. Since the other customer already paid (say, $1000), and costs were $1500, I can give you the site for $500.

That site is really just a cheap TemplateMonster design ($40-50) and once I get the payment I'll send over a word doc requesting all of the info they want for the pages and all the media they want uploaded. Probably a good 6-10 hours of work, for a decent profit (I typically charged them around $800 for the site).

Once completed you sell them on hosting (grab a VPS for $30/mo. and charge them $50/mo. to host their site - I put ~10 clients on a VPS (comfortably) since the sites get very little traffic). You sell them on newsletter hosting, explain benefits of contacting customers directly about offers for almost $0 cost to them. Email is huge to local businesses, set them up with mail@theirdomain.com and many will worship you. So many people still use xyz123@isp.net for their BUSINESS email.

For customers that already have sites, offer a redesign, better functionality (contact/quote request forms, email newsletter hosting, etc.).

There's also lots of money in local business directories, if you know anything about SEO. Offer them targeted traffic/leads at $XX/mo. - even more if they want a banner on the site.

So much cash offline, go and take it. It may be harder to do it based on the country, but I refuse to believe there isn't at least some need for it. If not - hit up craigslist in the US and start pimping your offerings ;)

I posted an article from SAI the other day. Only 25% of local businesses are advertising online. Mostly because it's complicated and scary as shit to them. Of those 25%, 60-80% churn. That's because the companies doing this are so bloated that they only spend 50-60% on the actual ad buy and the rest on admin expenses. So yeah, the performance sucks.

I also read 91% of local businesses are unhappy with their online marketing efforts (i NEED to find the link for this again). If 91% of a population is unhappy with something, you probably have an opportunity. Go fuck shit up. You can do it, and you'll make your money.

My friend made a healthy full time income dealing with just local advertising and building a network of sites for his city (some place in Pennsylvania).

Businesses spend a ridiculous amount of money on offline advertising (ie. Yellowpages), so much that when you come to them offering online advertising for ridiculously low prices ($50-100/mo.) they just go for it most of the time. A Yellowpages ad can cost $500-1500/mo. for a tiny little placement.

My friend essentially built a network of niche sites for his city, so {cityname}furniture.com, {cityname}dentists, {cityname}antiques etc. The sites were just simple directories with some content, a contact/request a quote form and a list of local businesses. He'd gather a list of businesses and contact them all explaining the site and how it would cost them $50/mo. for a listing, it would help their search rankings, bring traffic, generate leads and new business, etc.

He said his best money was actually made off dentists and he had to break the site up into {neighbourhood}dentists because there were so many in the city interested. A typical site would feature 3-4 banner ads that cost $100/mo. (little 125x125 squares for each dental firm), and then around 10 or so $50/mo. business listings (custom page, images of office, testimonials, etc).

It's fair to say a single site would net him $800/mo - of course this varies on the type of business being targeted, but there are so many kinds of businesses to target that you won't be able to capture every market in the city.

On top of things, he made money generating leads for the businesses. For the dentist example, he had a "request a quote" form that basically got people to explain what they wanted done, budget, their contact info, etc. He sold leads for ~$20 each (would make the different dentists bid on them). This is nothing for most places as a lead can turn into $1000 worth of business in the first appointment, and thousands more over the years as that patient returns.

If you can create a value added service locally and get people onboard for next to nothing (as they see it, $50 is nothing), then you have a real opportunity to make some cash. Take this to the next level and start managing their PPC campaigns and managing ad deals and you have yourself a healthy local market - most of which you can find someone cheap to handle (around the cost of a secretary, anyone with a bit of technical know-how will do).

Bringing all this stuff up again kind of makes me want to go back into it.. hmm. weekend project perhaps?

Can you provide a link to one of these sites or similar?

I was so inspired by this model, that I actually generated a list of all cities in pennsylvania and the corresponding {cityname}furniture.com, {cityname}dentists.com, {cityname}antiques.com, only to find that almost all of the registered domains were just parked on GoDaddy or AdSense spam sites :(

I'm not trying to be a dick - the domain names your friend used probably follow a different pattern - but I'd really love to see an example of this.

Thanks a lot for an inspiring post!

From time to time I see this as a real market need and wonder how to generalize and scale such a service oriented business. Seems like you could throw a lot of tech at it but still need a lot of feet on the ground at the end of the day.

Yes, scaling local businesses are not easy.

My research on this topic... http://www.nikhileshrao.com/post/9824/links-on-local-interne...

the BIGGEST problem is scaling it (at any scale). All these companies have enormous sales forces running around. That does two things: a) causes less % of media buy to go to actual media b) causes the companies to have to raise tons of capital.

If someone can figure out a unique way to scale sales without adding more human capital,they will do very well. On the flip side, most of these people don't want to "do it themselves". You can outsource most of the actual service work at a scaleable expense. I look at it this way, sure anyone can learn accounting, but you want an accountant to do your taxes. Same thing with local businesses and web advertising- yes they could learn it themselves, but they'd rather have a pro do it. They just want to run their business.


+1 for "So much cash offline, go and take it. It may be harder to do it based on the country, but I refuse to believe there isn't at least some need for it. If not - hit up craigslist in the US and start pimping your offerings"

I can't echo this enough -- small businesses have so much cash for offline stuff, it's not even funny. I'm learning that via my latest startup, MailFinch.

" I can give you the site for $500... (I typically charged them around $800 for the site)."

How did this work? Was the final price after upselling on other services?

What I meant was, I'd typically get $800 up front for just the site, not including any upsells.

Basically I'd say the site was $2400, the company who was going to buy it paid 50% upfront. My costs for the site are.. $1900 (designers, devs, etc), so I'd just ask for the difference.

The site would cost $700 upfront for them, which looks like an absolute steal to them. I would then explain the hosting and the email newsletter stuff, and typically upsell them on $100/mo. in services (that basically cost me nothing to run, other than maybe an hour of work per month). $100/mo. was kind of the minimum, my biggest contract was $600/month for sending out 2 mailings a week and updating the site periodically. Maybe 3-4 hours of work per month - most of it was just copying/pasting and pressing save.

I earned about that much, completely passive, within 2 mos and it's been recurring with no extra work, doing some basic SEO and adsense work, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1merER1zVFg, skip to minute 2:40 to see my business model in work

That was a fun watch! I've bookmarked content authority as well. Can you point us to a finished site, so we can see the end result of the process?

maneesh! glad to see you're still wandering the world. we met in BsAs in dec 08. Do you know if there are wireless usb cards that work in multiple countries?

no...there are satellite sticks, but they cost an arm and a leg..

also yea, i remember you brian! Good to see you here :)

Interesting. I've been considering a digital nomad lifestyle for a few months now. Watching your video has just given me another nudge.

A few questions. Your Reliance Wireless Broadband stick.. What speeds can you get upto on it? Can you stream youtube videos smoothly?

About your 4hww model. If you're outsourcing all your writing, editing, seo marketing.. does that leave any profits left for you?

Reliance wireless goes at 3MBps, like 300 KB/s sustained... all over India. Yes, youtube or HD vids stream fine..

the costs are minuscule in comparison to the profits, esp caus ethe costs are one day costs and the profits are passive and month fter month

Cool video, but it seems like all the "magic" is taking place in the custom software, and the details aren't revealed. Anyone have more insight about this?

The custom software just parses this https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal tools and sends the selected keywords by mail to his writer. Nothing exceptional.

The software seems to do a few things:

1) Parse the CSV 2) Google search for each term, and get the # of hits (ie. the competition), and the page ranks of the top few pages. 3) Filters out, and displays the ones that are worth going after.

you're pretty close, it does mostly that, using my algorithm that determines which ones are valid or not...the new iteration of my software determines the best cousin keywords, evaluates the competition more powerfully, finds the words that are most likely to get to #1 on google, and then does the rest of it's work by itself....if anyone is interested in seeing the updated version sign up to the newsletter at maneeshsethi.com or email me...maneesh [at] maneeshsethi [punto] com

Inspiring video...but how does this lifestyle fit in when you get a family?

Very cool video.

How long have you been at this?

a little less than a year...and it's pretty profitable :)

Oh, forgot the most important part. Stay white hat. If you ever venture into the dark side of online ads, you will probably get caught and have a wasted investment.

Offline affiliate marketing is win-win, but in a cheap country it might be hard to pull off.


I know there are some issues with getting accepted for adsense in other countries. If you have problems, email me (profile link) and I'll give you one of the solutions.

1. Find a notepad. 2. Write: "Things I can teach you:" 3. List everything you imagine you can teach a person (This can range from simple math to programming to drawing to singing like an american idol?) 4. Hard part is over! Relax and decide on your mid-range topics (ones you're not a guru at, but with a little research could obviously teach someone) 5. Create little niche sites (google keyword tool -> show CPC -> Arrange by amount of hits (look in the 10k-20k views range -> google "keyword" (yeah quotes) -> if its less than 40k pages, and wikipedia is a top result, you probably just found a $9 investment (domain cost) that would turn into $20/mo. 6. Once you've spent 2 weeks doing this, you should have a feel for the idea and what grasps people's attention etc. Try some of your more guruish topics. Hell, make an ebook and offer it on one of your adsense sites.


<articles/imgs>There are also tons of sites that pay you to write articles[1] or photoshop!</art/img>

<translations>You said cheap country, but I don't really understand the scope of that... but I'm going to assume you know another language. If so, start a site offering translation services or just scope out people. iPhone apps, etc need translations and shell out serious cash for them.</trans>

my experience(I made money, got cocky, and lost too much): http://sanguinity.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/money22.png

xutopia's recent story(6k/ebook) http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1159445

One final bit: when you research (blogs/sites) you will probably stumble upon keywords like 'mesothelioma, structured settlements, annuity payments, criminal lawyers, tax attorneys, asbestos, etc,' being the gold mines. Don't waste your time. $40/clk($5-15 your share) sounds amazing, but its another losing game trying to get ranked in search engines.

[1: http://www.associatedcontent.com ]

Any concrete example of one of those adsense niche sites ? I have a hard time picturing what you're talking about.


First result in google for some micro niche. Notice how the articles are over on the right, the page is filled with content relating to the keyword, and adsense is splattered everywhere.

It is a generic site, probably spun articles (used a program to rewrite someone else's articles), but its still in the top of the search engine.

Once I got into SEO, I realized that 90% of the sites I access from random google searches are just there to make adsense money. No upkeep is involved. None of the content is original.

I was searching for "Ford Escort ZX2 2002 install intake" and the first 3 links were all spun articles... BUT I actually found the information I needed in these spun articles. So, how evil is this? Iono.

- Build a product worth $97 in value (I like teaching, so information products works best for me), then sell 3-4 a month.

- Find other people who want to know what you know, then charge $97-497 a month to coach them.

- Do NOT start a blog for advertising dollars or do mechanical turk - your ROI will be extremely low vs. the time and energy you spend. Instead, use a website to sell your products or services, whatever they may be.

Agreed. Mechanical turk is a waste of time for someone tech-savvy enough to ask HN.

I like this route. I can write well and I'm well-educated, so I feel like I have information that MUST be valuable. I just don't know how to identify / sell it. I know it's probably hard to give specifics without knowing what I want to sell, but can you give me any advice on how long generating such a product might take (how long it took you in the beginning, perhaps?) and how you might pick such a product?

"I feel like I have information that MUST be valuable"

I dunna about that, information is pretty FREE these days

But people will pay copious amounts of money to not have to read that information themselves, in other words; teaching and coaching that information can certainly be valuable.

If you truly feel that way then you should question the quality of the information you're consuming. Information is categorically not free; the people who are paying for it are the ones who need it before everyone else. They are also the people who are making money by having that information first.

Being that we live in an information age, it's the new currency. If you think that it's free, then you're only seeing the castoffs.

"I dunna about that, information is pretty FREE these days"

Yet, it's pretty expensive. The most used resources of information are schools/uni and they are the most expensive.

Books, videos, tutorials, Seminars... are also paying. There are free valuable information, but it's rare.

Universities sell credentials, not information.

To prove this, go to your local university and ask how much it costs to take a class by examination (no classtime, simply take the final exam).

Well, they also sell the class itself... go to your local university and ask how much it costs to sit in on a class for no credit. It's not going to be free, if there is even such an option.

It usually is free if space is available and you don't annoy the professor. I've had several non-paying students; the only time I ever kicked one out of class was because we ran out of seats.

MIT is actually well known for making information free, but the credential is expensive.


It usually is free if space is available and you don't annoy the professor. I've had several non-paying students; the only time I ever kicked one out of class was because we ran out of seats.

+1 to this - when I was in school, I was never denied a seat in a class that I wasn't officially enrolled in (I took maybe 6 or 7 extra courses that way - oddly enough, I was kicked out of some classes I enrolled in, for space/seniority/in-major reasons), and I always asked the professor before sitting in (I probably could have gotten away with not doing that, since in the math/science departments half the professors don't bother to learn names anyhow, but asking seemed like the polite thing to do).

Some of the most interesting stuff I learned was in those classes, and it's actually how I ended up getting back into programming (I hadn't programmed since middle school)...it's a great way to sample stuff outside your major without needing to worry about doing badly in the classes.

I know people that do this sometimes even as non-students, and they've told me that most professors don't usually mind, though occasionally they'll say no.

That's interesting because I wanted to sit in on the computational photography course at NYU and the registrar said it was impossible. Maybe I should have avoided talking to the administration? However, I did email the instructor and he did not return any of my email.

How do you even get into the buildings without an ID?

At MIT the doors are unlocked. People just walk in and sit in on a class, the speak to the professor before class starts and say "Hey can I sit in on this class" and unless the class is full they can normally sit in.

Getting into the buildings is a trickier matter, but only at NYU (every other college I've been to doesn't check ID).

My suggestion: photoshop something that looks vaguely like an NYU ID, then stick it in your wallet behind a clear window. Flash it at guards when you come in, they don't care enough to look closely.

You walk up just behind someone with an ID, and then you walk in before the door closes.

It's hard/impossible to do this at NYU.

At my university (Carnegie Mellon) the buildings are unlocked during the day. Just walk in.

I wish this were possible everywhere. Most of my final exams were worth somewhere between 30-50%. Taking this will only guarantee a maximum of failing the class.

Only some types of information.

Mechanical Turk sometimes has well-paying jobs, though it's less common than it used to be, and they usually disappear quickly. But I've made ~$30/hr on it before doing things that the requester grossly overestimated the going rate for. Admittedly, jobs paying effectively $3/hr are much more common.

Amazon Associates is a pretty good program that you can integrate into any consumer-facing site. When the Facebook app platform first came out a few years ago, I whipped up an app that integrated with Amazon associates in about a week's worth of time. Almost no maintenance since then (save for changes to reflect Facebook UI/platform upgrades), and it probably averages ~$40-50 a month, and makes several times higher during holiday season.

Amazon's Product Advertising API provides access to lots of their data, so if you so choose you can make mini niche shopping sites with significant dynamic data.

The only thing I'd be concerned about is receiving payments if you're not in one of the Amazon locales. Don't know if you need a valid tax ID or something. I think you can choose to get paid by checks though, if that works for you.

There are some good suggestions here, and I'll chime in on a few things that have worked for me. Keep in mind that I have no experience with adsense or affiliate links.

1. I second what peter said about screencasts or ebooks. We've made a good amount of money selling a DVD on SEO for a niche industry. Ours is basically all screencasts and basic SEO knowledge. If you have skills in that area or know someone who does, it can work. Granted, we did physical DVDs but you can just as easily do an ebook or web-based videos.

2. Take the BSD-licensed iui code (http://code.google.com/p/iui), style it up, and tie it into some PHP scripts so businesses in a niche industry can create iPhone-compatible websites (i.e. "iPhone sites for plumbers and contractors"). Give them simple install instructions for basic web hosts and it will sell. We've done it and it's worked well.

3. Niche industry WordPress themes. We just started doing this and it seems to be working. If you spin it for a "niche", you can charge more than the $30 themes you'll find other places.

Hope that helps.

How legit does the money have to be? An easy way of making money is following on trends and outbuilding products.

You can basically shadow interesting/scalable projects for sale on sites like Flippa. Occasionally, something good will popup, for example, a twitter spamming system that autotweets and adds followers.

Then you simply clone what works, add better features, do better SEO or whatever, and VOILA!

So is the idea that I clone it and then sell in on Flippa? Or make money from the built product itself?

Well obviously if the product has recurring income, keep it. Or flip and sell it early, depending on the space/risk for long term viability.

Write exploit code for vulnerabilities :)

Look at http://oss-security.openwall.org for some -- You could probably make around $500 to $5000 depending on your exploit / vulnerability.

Just thought you'd check that out if interested.

In the same vein: ~$500, depending on severity for Google Chrome vulnerabilities: http://blog.chromium.org/2010/01/encouraging-more-chromium-s...

Same for Mozilla/Firefox: http://www.mozilla.org/security/bug-bounty.html

here's how I made $300 last month (working 4 hours a week)

- Write articles (around $150).

- Make something (script, firefox addon) for a client (around $100)

- Google Adsense (around $50)

How do you make money by writing articles, and what kind of articles? Are you talking tutorials on some tutorial site that buys them or are you writing journalistic reports for blogs/news industry?

Or something else entirely?

Anything i can write about.

I find jobs on forums, problogger, blogs that accept guest posts...

Nettuts pays $150 if it's good enough

Do you know other good places to sell articles? Every now and then I come up with what I think is a nice easy to understand explanation of something and I'd love to write it up and sell it. Wouldn't need to be for a lot of money, but if I could make a decent amount to cover some expenses it would be nice.

Usually the topic are in math, statistics or philosophy. Nothing a professional (or smart undergrad) on these topics wouldn't already get, but something for other interested people.

Creating something that is viral is very ideal. I created http://AskJud.com in a week or so and the viral nature and mystery behind it encourages people to click on ads that generate around $500-$1000 a month.

Can you explain how this web-ified Magic 8 Ball is viral? I'm surprised not to see any Twitter / Facebook / Digg links anywhere..

Also, is this $500-1000 / mo sustained over a long period of time, or is it more like the flash-in-the-pan Facebook apps that briefly go viral, peak, and then collapse after a few weeks?

- 100k Uniques/mo sustained over 3 years.

- There is a "Share This" button at the bottom

- Things were viral before Twitter / FB / Digg - I believe its called "word of mouth".

Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. I'm always amazed by the little single-serving amusement sites that get sustained attention. Congrats.

(RE: Word of mouth - point taken.. I was just expressing surprise that you didn't take advantage of more direct forms of social media virality)

Between us, it is my belief that giving people more buttons to click makes them less likely to click the ads (as most people don't know what it is until a friend shows them), which is why there isn't anything more direct.

I would love everyone who has input on this to take a look at my topic ... which I created after reading all the great comments here.



* Create Wordpress Plugins that do small tasks and sell them inexpensively.

* Create small sitescripts that do only one small task and sell them for like $70. For instance, paid and free listing directory scripts, a twitpic.com clone, etc.

* Create really nice XHTML/CSS and/or WordPress themes. I used to think those themes didn't make money, but then I heard that WooThemes pulled in $2M in 2009. So, that sent me for a loop. It's all about execution, presentation, helping the buyer make a decision on what they're getting, the right price range, etc.

* Think up all the areas in your life you are excited about and knowledgeable about, and create blogs on each of these niches. Use a WordPress theme that supports ad blocks on the right, with space where you can either put your VideoEgg.com ads and things like that, or sell the slots. Create a CAN-SPAM compliant opt-in subscription list form where one can get your feed announcements by email, as well as receive pitches (once a month) for an eBook offer. To entice them, give them a free eBook for signing up. Send them only a monthly email. Start with other relevant eBook offers, but eventually you can create your own and sell those. Connect your blog post announcements to Twitter. Revise your WordPress RSS code (via custom theming or a plugin) so that occasionally a vaguely relevant CPA offer is injected in there every 6th post, or an eBook offer -- just as long as it's relevant.

* Create the same sort of concept as the blogs, but with forums.

* Add a live podcast or screencast to your blog, and make available the video or audio later on. This creates stickiness and excitement to your site such that the ads might get clicked.

* Use multiple whitehat affiliate marketing strategies but in niches that you feel passionate about. So, if you like Model Railroading, that's what you bring up websites about, mixed in with different ad strategies such as eBooks, toolbar downloads, CPA, PPC, and CPM. Just don't overdo it and, as well, try to keep those ads a little bit relevant.

* It's easy to write an eBook in an area you are passionate about, and then sell it. You could even purchase some inexpensive ones in a given niche you like just so that you have an idea of how to compose yours -- but don't plagiarize. There are tons of facts and statistics you can reprint if you follow proper copyright laws for these things.

* Eventually once you get rolling a little, you can briefly hire a web traffic expert to see what suggestions this consultant may have.

* Stay away from dropshipping, websites that supposedly make it easy for you to do something (like build a dropshipping business), selling offers you are not passionate about, greyhat or blackhat affiliate marketing strategies, or get-rich-quick schemes and guides.

* Once you get strategies working, you need to go back and design them better, and collect feedback for a little while to make the sites look more fantastic.

* Experiment on each of these things to see which systems bring in the most revenue.

* Automate all of this so that you don't have to spend so much time fiddling with it. For instance, with forums, there are many "lost souls" out there who want to be moderators, and who would do well in that role for free even. You could then sit back and moderate the moderators. If it's a good year with earnings, then around Christmas-time you can ask the moderators for a paypal ID and send them a small financial gift of say, $200 to $500 USD and just preface it with, "I don't always have an opportunity to do this, but we had a good ad revenue year and your skills as moderator were partly responsible, so here's a holiday gift as a token of my appreciation."

* Take 15% of all your profit, from day 1, and give it to charity. Clearly let your site visitors know this, and also provide them a donate button if they want to do that too. It boosts public perception of your site, the quality of guy you are, and so on. Plus, it's a tax write-off and for a good cause. Most of the time, this kind of goodwill increases participation on your site, rather than deflect it. And once a year, do a charity drive on each of your sites, using one of those thermometer things to show how much was achieved towards a goal. Start with a very low goal of like $2000. Compare your visitor levels to how much donation cash you received for a particular cause, and challenge your visitors to increase the needle on that goal every year.

* Most of all -- don't over-strategize. You can polish later. Just keep it legal, keep it fun, be mindful of your visitor's interests, don't overdo it, reinvest as necessary, identify and avoid time-waster tasks, automate like mad, and watch and sometimes emulate what others are doing to help their sites. But most of all, just --do-- something rather than nothing.

* And when you get bored with a niche after you've grown it, sell it for 30% to 50% more than last year's total earnings from it, even if you have to put the site on the market for awhile to catch a fish.

Excellent list. For selling sites, I recommend flippa.com. Averaging 7 to 12 times last month's revenue is very common.

On a side note, is it just me, or is Hacker News getting more and more interested in affiliate marketing?

Could just be more and more affiliate marketers are finding Hacker News :)

I'm slowly going back into affiliate marketing and product creation (did it for years, but became a consultant). Scalable income intrigues me (and I'm sure many others), never really liked the whole hours for dollars trade.

Some good ideas here. One note - WooThemes is making money by being a host for theme makers. Big difference.

1. Do highly-paid consulting work for 1-2 months.

2. Move to your cheap country and take the rest of the year off.

I hear Richard Stallman can actually pull this off in a not-so-cheap country, too.

You could try Amazon Turk as a side-job. In a few hours you could make 5 to 10 dollars or more..

It wouldn't serve as a main source of income, but at least you'll have money to spend on commodities that you won't have to take out of whatever actual main source you find.

Tip: If you try this, when searching for HITs, only look for 5-cent HITS or above, and don't bother with $5 stuff, which no one ever gets.

I wouldn't wish Turk on anyone unless their currency level is very low compared to the USD or other stronger Western currencies. I mean, spending several hours just to make anywhere from $5 to $10 -- that's not worth my time and there are faster ways to earn a buck online.

Besides, for anyone, I would recommend they get a relatively easy regular day job, such as paper-pusher or something -- anything where they work 8 hours exactly, never get asked to stay late, and can go home. Then, at night, work very hard for two years on passive income niche forums and blogs, small scripts, products, and eBooks. Once that builds up steadily, quit the day job and do online freelance work whether that be for PPC Management, SEO Management, programming, whatever. Mix the two -- active and passive income -- such that you can live a comfortable life. Then, use the Dave Ramsey Snowball method to pay down debts as fast as possible. Then move into site flipping, then small-time angel investment of websites and products in your interest, and eventually full-time angel investment work.

Sorry, downvoted by accident.

HN needs the ability to rescind an accidental misvote for at least a few minutes after a post, doesn't it? I've done that before as well.

Come and work for me - I'll give you $600 a month if you work 5 days a week. If interested -> max@cubeofm.com.

I would rather be paid by the task and not by the amount of time worked.

This seems to be beneficial for both parties:

a) Payer sets value for the service he wants and has that service delivered by a specified time (or I don't get paid)

b) I deliver as quickly as I am able to, thus achieving my desired goal of minimizing time spent earning the money

For that type of stuff, I use rentacoder, because the tasks are usually different and require different skills. So rather than using one person for the same task, can always get the best person. Also, the problem with working with people trying to optimize time is that they don't want to add the polish. If the project is technically done, they don't see the point in spending time polishing it, since they want to get paid immediately.

For someone who works fulltime, however, one can invest time showing how to do some things that require a long ramp-up period.

If you really want to make money fast, then rentacoder is a good choice, though it does not scale.

If you have a couple of month ramp up time, then you can look at making simple shareware - but this is not a good idea for something to do in panic mode.

I'm looking for a part-time front-end UI/design person with RoR skills to help out our bootstrapped nights/weekends genealogy startup. I could meet your income needs (paying by the task) and still leave you time for the other suggestions you've gotten here. My e-mail's dean (at) genlighten.com.

is there a definitive list of your projects out there?

AppSalesGraph, Art You Should Know, .. I'm just curious what else you're up to.

try some freelance boards, like elance.com, create a blog(no fast money here) , try meacanical turk...what language do you programm? offer your services for free to build some referals, and set a portfolio with those referals.

Python, ruby, php, scheme, c, c++, java.

Any ideas how quickly I could make the money off of something like elance (or how quickly you could, since we don't know our relative coding speeds)? Likewise for Mechanical Turk?

Get paid for doing open source code. It'll give you good karma and internet points. Definitely give you the 400 a month you need.

We just started our open source task site but there are two notable tasks for the languages you listed: Fix Audio Sync against Video in live555.cpp, $500 http://nextsprocket.com/tasks/fix-audio-sync-against-video-i...

Nokogiri pure-Java version for JRuby, >$600 http://nextsprocket.com/tasks/nokogiri-pure-java-version-for...

the nokogiri problem's been around and people are dying for a good solution!

Wow, I had been wishing for a site just like that - because I want to use it! Happy to see I don't have to build it : )

I would recommend elance. From the other side of the fence - We hire a lot of people off elance (currently spending about $6k per week). I think it's a great way for people from lower-cost countries who are competent and with good english to be able to earn money. It also works pretty well for us with what we do.

From a supplier point of view, there's two options - either going for fixed price bids for projects, or for bidding for stuff on an hourly basis.

In terms of rates we average about $20 an hour for top quality C++ stuff, about $17 for good Django/Python and about $12 for web-design/HTML. You need to subtract elance fees. But if you're good - it wouldn't be hard to earn a lot more than your target without having to work too hard.

Don't use elance, you have to pay to bid and usually you never get hire for a gig. Instead you might want to try oDesk, I go on there when I have nothing to do and I usually get gigs within hours.

Elance is free for the basic level these days. I think you get to bid on 3 jobs per month for free, after that you have to pay (weather your bids are accepted or not).

Where you really pay is that elance takes something like 5-10% of whatever you earn for the job.

That said, I created an account and scored relatively highly on a few of the tests a while back. I've gotten invited to submit proposals for jobs on a regular basis ever since. (For example, I received 7 invitations last month.)

I usually turn down the invitations, as I have plenty of work, but one of my favorite clients found me through elance.

I'm no a fan of elance, but at least you can search for jobs without registering, whereas oDesk seems to force me to register.

Here's an account of someone using the Mechanical Turk:


If it's like it was back then, I think you might be able to make $400 on it in a month. Not the quickest or most fun way to do it, though. I like the eBook idea.

hmm, it depends, I really can't tell you as it depends, the problem with the freelance boards is the reputation, you need to build a reputation to have good projects there. On mecanical Turk, you can start rright away, but you will not earn the world there, and I doubt you will earn 400 $ from it. Just drop me a mail at: djachao (at) yahoo.de , I may have something for you.

I was going to suggest Amazon's Mechanical Turk, but several others already did so. While this would take you some startup time and money, you could go the ebook sales route as suggested here:


I wish you the best of luck with trying to find a way to make a decent living.

how many hours a month are you willing to work for $300-$400 a month.

Or do you want to do x amount of work and expect to get $400 a month for life?

I'm not expecting $400 for life, I'm more interested in trading time for money. How much time? Theoretically that should depend on how good I am.

Some of the opportunities people (such as patio11) have posted are what I'm interested in. I will be following up on some of those.

On the other hand, I also find some of the longer-term infrastructure-building advice (e.g. SEO, e-book stuff) useful, provided it's got a high probability of generating some cash within a month or two.

here are two things that might help.

It's much easier to build something that makes thousands of dollars a month than something that makes hundreds of dollars (and it keeps scaling up).

It's much easier to succeed when you give yourself a few years than a few months.

I normally write at least one article a month for ~$100 each, I could easily write more if I felt like it, but I'm not really in it for the money, since I have a well paying day-job.

An article for an online programming 'zine normally takes me between 4 and 8 hours to write well (2000-4000 words).

If your English is as good as your post seems and you've got any web development/coding experience at all I could easily find $400/month worth of things for you to do, probably more. My Skype name is the same as my username here, if you're interested.

I have a domain and an idea, I pay you $400 and you work on this project and launch it in a month. Revenue is advertising. I own the site/code, you get the revenue from ads up to $400, anything excess is mine to keep. How's that?

No offense but that's a terrible deal. He does all the work (in a month at that), owns nothing and gets paid after you get $400 in advertising revenue, which could take months depending on the product.

"I pay you $400" suggests that he gets paid immediately, regardless, then gets $400 in ad revenue ( if any ), the the poster is left with the site and any further ad revenue.

Which sounds a lot better than your interpretation.

Create a simple site and publicize it :) AdSense or Sell Links and you will earn more of $300 a month. Be careful with Google penalty ;)

This is my experiment: http://www.readthislink.com

From what you said you can do, I can easily give you some tasks for 400$/month (or more depends on how much you want to do), you can contact me at pm -squiggly sign- gom-jabbar.org

If you happen to live in Southeast Asia or Oceania, email me, I sell a plant that grows in that part of the world but is mostly unknown by the inhabitants of those areas.

Are you skilled in RoR, Wordpress/PHP or Vbulletin? If so I have work for you. Please let me know your skype.

Build a comparison site or two: look for a market where affiliate programs are ubiquitous, structure the data and write a small application that helps customers decide. Get traffic using some basic SEO. Then pocket the commission from sales.

I did this for the personal savings market and "sim-only" mobile telephony subscriptions market in the Netherlands. It brings in a couple of hundred euros a month with only 1-2 hours of maintenance.

considering cheap Android apps, that is cheap as in 2 week dev time, are easy to do..that may be an option to consider.. or as someone else has suggested take a well known CMS and start developing themes to sell for it..

sell drugs on ebay

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