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Ask HN: What revenue generating side projects do full-time employees here have?
115 points by somid3 on July 19, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 117 comments

New account because I don't want my employers knowing.

My sideproject on iOS and Android generates 1.1M a year. About 90-100k a month.

I'm still employed because the app runs on its own, very low maintenance, so might as well get a salary doing something else and learn new things

My question is how do you still have employers when you're making 1.1M a year. Jeez.

Certainly is amazing!

I want to know the secrets to being such a good company and/or manager that you can keep someone earning 1.1m on your staff!

Lots and lots of work! Go home at 6pm, work till midnight. Eventually it paid off for me but a lot of times I thought it was just digging a hole to nowhere.

I think the GP was asking about how your company/manager is able to keep you working there.

I'd guess it's not the company keeping GP there; it's GP choosing not to leave.

You got it! Nothing that special about the company but it's in a good enough space that I choose to hang around and learn as much as I can about the space.

The app serves a good niche, I don't want to be stuck in the niche. Employer is in a very fast moving space so a lot of good learnings there. Would hate to stop learning about new things stuck at home

It's by no means guaranteed to last, 1M is not enough to retire in Silicon Valley, and 1M pre-tax is ~0.6M after tax.

we don't know if OP is even in the valley

How do you have something like that going and remain anonymous? Is your name not attached to the product in any way?

Incorporate and use your corporation name as the App Store and Playstore publisher name

Wow, congrats. Are you getting those numbers from selling new copies or through a subscription?

In-App purchase!

Just curious. Are you proficient iin both java and objective c, as in you developed both the apps natively. Again, how dependent it is on a web service? Did you do the back end yourself too?

I believe answering above questions will not affect your anonimity.

Proficient in both Java and Obj-C. I like just going native and learning about the platform rather than cutting corners with cross platform frameworks.

Very dependent on the API, wrote the API myself in Go.

Hosted on Google Compute and using RethinkDB as the database.

In general terms can you talk about how you obviously successfully marketed the app?

I think the commenters are jumping to conclusion that OPs profit = 1.1M - 100k. Most of these apps have a big running cost and the profit is not so much as one imagines. Otherwise, OP won't be gainfully employed.

39% profit margin. Server costs $350 Google Cloud Hosted

Very impressive. What is stopping you from working on the product full time?

Tell your story!

One day when If leave my full-time job!

I thought nobody but the big names were making money with apps ...

Sometimes the little guy sticks it to the man!

That's awesome! I'd love for you to give some more details if you could. Do you sell the app or is it from ad revenue? What sort of app is it?

In-App purchases, no ads.

can you share your app?

That would reveal who (s)he is.

Exactly, the corporation can easily be looked up and the ownership information can be found.

Also, I don't think you should work for an organization that does not allow you to hack up projects on the side for fun! Unless you think they can prove that you used company equipment/time to develop this project.

They allow side projects, they have no problem with it, but when your side-project is more profitable and earns more revenue than the company itself, it can bit tricky to explain

Also it hurts your position when negotiating pay & benefits and can give your colleagues a case of sour grapes.

So like $350,000/yr after the 30% cut from the app stores, and additional 40% cut from state and federal taxes?

yeah I'd keep my job too and look forward to those sweet tax deductions and getting all that extra social security withholding back

Where do you live that $350,000/yr isn't enough to live on?

the first question: do I feel like debating wealth inequality to get my HN karma back up?


anyway, in silicon valley (or san francisco in particular) you could not retire on that. you could coast, but you couldn't use it to buy a house (or apartment/condo), the moment you make a downpayment you absolutely have to keep working to make the monthly payments

350k after taxes and you couldn't retire? Do you mean in one year of work? You can live on 50k after taxes no problem even in SV. Also, why stay in SV if you're not working there? If you can maintain revenue for 5 years you can buy a house in cash no problem.

If you can maintain revenue, yes, get decent cash flow on a rental property, sure you can make it work

That says more about the foolishness of living in a boomtown during a boom than anything else.

We're talking about annual income 7x the Per capita income in the US and 10x of countries like Italy, Spain and Israel.

not everyone is living in the silicon valley.

I'm having a hard time understand the point of this comment. Are you saying this is not enough money to live?

theoretically? no, I would have said that verbatim then

the comment broke down the parent comment's earnings in a way this thread wasn't currently pointing out.

40% a bit too high for Canada.

Plus a 105k a year salary from day job. Its enough to live on for a 27 year old.

@cloudjacker - It's enough for me to live on, doesn't mean I'm not trying out a lot more things to earn even more

"This will never end 'cause I want more / More, give me more, give me more"

preaching to the choir, it was other people that thought my spot on observations were an insult to their aspirations

cool, can't get a palladium card with those aspirations

I would not have been satisfied with that when I was 27 and would have likely gotten an additional side contract, while writing calls in the options market, while buying powerball tickets

I run this website: http://step2scheduling.com It is solving the problem of scheduling step 2 CS exam for medical students. It uses selenium to refresh and check for schedule openings and automatically book tests for students. I coded it up for my G/F some time ago when she needed to schedule a test and couldn't find an opening. Now I'm making $500/month for doing next to nothing.

Very interesting! I founded ReSchedule Med (https://reschedulemed.com) to solve scheduling problems that residency programs have. Our solution is quite different but it's so cool that you've worked on a medical scheduling app- quite the niche space.

I'd love to chat! Email is in my profile if you're interested.

A buddy and I started https://goatattack.com last year. It doesn't generate a ton of revenue but we enjoy it and people seem to like it. It runs itself at this point.

Any plan to support international numbers? That would be nice.

As soon as Twilio supports it. Right now it looks like they've added Canada so I need to add that to the website. https://www.twilio.com/help/faq/sms/can-i-send-or-receive-mm...

lol this is my favorite product of the week

Do you need to have a company formed to accept payments?

I built a drop-ship site, it started as a way to play with some ideas I had at work. As a platform, I think it can scale pretty well... it has a super flexible EDI system allowing me to automate suppliers, inventory system, custom website, order management system, advertising feeds etc. It's built to handle thousands of suppliers, products, and orders, and has all the bells and whistles.

But I only really make enough to afford enough beer to wash away my regrets of spending so much time building this thing.

I attempted a drop shipping site as well, didn't go anywhere. Thankfully I used wordpress to set it up so not too much of a time waste, but only after building it did I realize its all about marketing your product. Not only that, the drop shipping suppliers are supplying to anyone that wants to do it, so there is plenty of competition.

I think drop shipping can be a very profitable business model, but it doesn't work for things with brand names. If you can google the product easily you're going to end up competing on price, and then the big guys with better pricing deals will win every time.

Generating about 16k/mo after about 6 months building an Amazon FBA business selling private label goods from Alibaba. Spend about 1 hour per week managing inventory, the rest (shipping, returns, support) is automated through Amazon and other various services.

Do you dropship from Alibaba/Aliexpress or get a bulk shipment wholesale and try to offload the entire shipment and recoup costs and earn profit?

Its a little different than that. I'm working 1-on-1 with the manufacturers to customize products based on their pre-existing "template" products. I try to work with manufacturers with low minimum orders to prove the demand before making bulk orders.

You wouldn't happen to have any case studies on a product that was successful would you?

Wow, this is very interesting and something I think I could handle, even making a fraction of what you're making. What kind of profit do you see out of that 16k, if you don't mind me asking (if so, feel free to ignore the question)?

Amazon FBA takes a huge amount, but it's worth it in my opinion. Look up "retail arbitrage" if you want to get your feet wet. There is a bit of learning curve with private labeling. I also recommend The Amazing Seller Podcast if you're serious about getting into it.

Thanks for the information. Will check these out.

I'm interested in something like this. May I pm you?

Yea sure, there is definitely a learning curve but simple once you know what to look out for.

I am interested as well

I wrote an e-book novel. So far, I have made about $24. I probably spent more than that on the electricity to run Notepad++ and 7-Zip, but OP asked for "revenue-generating", not "profitable".

It's not bad writing; I'm just terrible at sales/promotion. I don't really do it for the money, anyway.

I built http://www.whatsmyua.com/ for myself back in college, it reports and breaks down browser's User Agent strings. It now brings in $20-30/month via adsense.

I also built https://github.com/nfriedly/node-unblocker around the same time, it's a web proxy for evading government/corporate/school/etc. filters. When I had a copy of it online, it got a lot of traffic from around the world, and used to earn anywhere from $10 to $100/month from adsense, depending on the month. However, it wasn't worth the effort of keeping it online due to abuse + clueless sysadmins.

Unblocker also earned me a consulting fee a couple of times from folks who wanted help integrating it into their project, and I ended up converting it from a standalone site to an Express middleware to make that easier.

I couldn't see any ads on your "whatsmyua" site. Is there anything you control on when and when not to show ads? Also, I would like to know whether that 20-30$ is consistent over months.

Nice site by the way

There's a single adsense banner between the big user agent string and the JSON details, and just the standard adsense code, nothing to disable it. Google might just not have had any inventory when you checked (or you have an adblocker?)

And, looking at my history, "$20-30" is accurate for the past few months, but it was lower further back. This is the past 12 months, starting at July 2015: $12.41, 4.40, 21.29, 16.12, 13.38, 12.96, 15.56, 11.52, 23.93, 26.04, 23.84, 30.56.

It's been online since 2011 and more or less trending upwards, but last month was the first time ever to break $30.

Standard trolling-but-not-entirely answer, I'll probably get $8-10k worth of dividends this year from investing and holding in a bunch of low-cost index funds.

I actually appreciated your answer, because its easy to lose sight of truly passive options to make money. If you don't mind, how much do you have to invest to get that $8-$10k worth of dividends?

Unless my math is horribly wrong, $8,000/year of dividends in an ETF like SDY would cost you about $400,000 right now.

that sounds roughly correct

Are you reinvesting the dividends or cashing them out?

Reinvesting it all.

I've been running http://serializer.io for over a year. I get $3 a month as a recurring donation.

Me and the wife started https://arnestorp.se (Swedish) selling babynests about a year ago, along side two regular jobs.

It's been steadily increasing in sales volume to the point where my wife has cut some hours from her regular job to be able to keep up.

As she does all the real work (sewing) I've been able to focus on fun stuff like automating all the payment handling, bookkeeping, shipping etc.

Babynests seem to be a Nordic thing, I guess? Personally, I had never heard of them until I read your comment. For what it's worth, the US market seems to be quite unexplored, something you might want to consider. They look really cool, although there might be some safety concerns. I think that US pediatricians are currently unanimously recommending flat empty cribs / bassinets (no side padding or loose blankets) for newborns.

I DJ and coach powerlifting on the side, that earns me about $500/mo - not all side hustles are tech-related :)

I'm running a website called Narrow (http://narrow.io) on the side. It's a Twitter marketing automation company that was started not for the love of Twitter but the desire to get the benefits of Twitter without having to do a lot of work. Lazy, I know, but I'm a programmer after all. Let the computer do the work.

https://hackerlists.com/ - The goal is to create awesome lists of hacking & programming related resources for people to reference. I've had a couple of lists do really well on social media so far [1][2], but I'm quickly learning that my knowledge limitations are preventing me from creating the quality of lists that I want the site to be known for. Therefore, I'm starting to put my energy into finding a freelance writer with a technical background that can write at the quality level I want for the site. But so far I've broken even in the first month.

[1] https://hackerlists.com/hacking-sites/

[2] https://hackerlists.com/free-machine-learning-books/

I created a mobile game in 2014 that gets about 300 new users a day and generates about $1000 in pre-tax revenue a month

I run https://ubersuggest.io a simple keyword suggestion tool. On average I have 80k monthly unique users.

I'm quite surprised that you only average 80k uniques/month. With how much I see this tool being recommended throughout the SEO community, I thought it would've been a lot more.

Have other similar tools cut into your traffic?

I think this is due to the fact that in web marketing many people love to talk about tools they actually don't use (that much). By the way my traffic slightly increased over the last few months.

Cool tool! How much do you make per month through the ads?

Thanks, I prefer not to share the actual revenue but it's >1K€

When I am not doing software development, I like spending time hiking and backpacking in the outdoors. In 2014 my family and I successfully thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. To fund the project we produced a video series about the hike, which we sold on a subscription basis. We launched a Kickstarter project to pre-sell a bunch of subscriptions (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dtougas/beyond-our-boun...). We now have the video series for sale on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/boundaries) which sells a little bit of something every month (not a lot).

My next side project has been to create a social/micro-blogging platform for outdoor enthusiasts (https://outsideways.com/). It currently isn't generating any revenue (it just launched in May), but I have big plans for it if/when it gets a core group of users contributing regularly.

I don't have a project but I have always been wondering if there is some open-source style software (with a license that allows this of course) that would let me customize the software and sell it to other businesses and get small recurring income as a SaaS product (like $70 a month). Think small restaurant inventory management, pricing, CRM, software for real estate brokers to manage clients, dentist online appointment tracker etc. etc.

Thoughts ?

There are a few businesses built around that model: https://plan.io/redmine-hosting/, https://www.phacility.com/, etc. I attempted it once but quickly lost motivation because 90% of the initial work is marketing which I don't really feel passionate about (nor am I good at it).

You don't need to for most open-source software. You are free to take any GPLv2 software, modify it and host it on your own servers and charge a usage fee, all without publicly releasing your changes - it's an unforeseen catch in certain open-source licenses that only requires source release if the customer can get their hands on the binaries - if it's accessed through a browser or over the network then they lose that privilege.

This is what AGPL fixes, BTW. That's why many web based tools are under AGPL.

The key is selling it.

I've been running Flextory (http://flextory.com) for years now. However, the revenue it makes is pretty small now and customers have dropped off as more niche solutions come into existence.

I've thought about selling it or even just open sourcing it though. Maybe one day. It's been a really fun project though.

http://dummyimage.com does fairly well considering I haven't touched it since it appeared on Hacker News in 2010 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1077013

How well does Carbon Ads perform?

Have you compared it against something like Google Adsense?

$10 - $40 a month depending on traffic. Seems to be higher earning than Adsense.

Thanks for the info. I might give it a look.

I'm running a test prep class for the new FAA Remote Pilot License, which will be required this fall for all non-hobby drone operators: http://twincitiesdroneschool.com

https://rebrickable.com - A LEGO database that shows you which sets you can build from your existing collection, also includes thousands of fan-submitted designs.

I built my first SaaS app http://sharpplm.com, Quote Management for manufacturing companies. It has been pretty much autopilot and is still making $2k per year.

I am currently working on http://gemssports.com. It is activity, payments, member management for sports companies. Think sports trainers, tournaments, softball teams, etc. We are just getting rolling but having some good success.

About six years ago I pretty-much single handedly wrote the entire backend for http://www.ComedyCalls.com and other sites like http://www.WakeUpDialer.com, http://www.CallMyLostPhone.com, http://www.BirthdayDialer.com, and others - see the links in the footer. The PSTN system is all in-house (and we pay a LOT less per-call than what Twilio, for example, charges).

I have a 25% stake in the company - but I don't get much money myself, less than $1000/mo on average. This is because of our thin margins, and because my other business partners own the other 75% (50% is owned by the founder who created the sites back in 2008 using cheap outsourced labour that I was brought in to rewrite) and the other 25% is owned by another person for historical reasons. Furthermore because none of us spend much time on it anymore - or get much money from it - we're all very hesitant to spend money on marketing or advertising (we got marketing quotes starting at $5000/mo - and my co-owners are unconvinced that advertising would help at all), hence the impasse.

We do plan to create some new additional sites and services that have higher margins, including launching a "Twilio-lite"-like API which would offer much less functionality (as our backend is not as sophisticated as theirs) but would also cost less per-call. But that, too, would require marketing to get the word out.

If anyone here is a VC or is otherwise interested in investing for marketing, or is a marketing expert yourself, or interested in using our system - we'd be happy to talk a deal.

We did sell one of our older sites to a web publishing company a few years ago that went for almost a six-figure value - but unfortunately for me, that was after I wrote the entire stack, but before I was granted part-ownership (so I was just paid for my time: 3 hours to set a clone of the system up on the buyer's infrastructure).

One of my "rivals" - the creator of WakeUp.io posted his site to last month's "Show HN" thread, now it's my turn :)

https://www.versionsql.com - Version control add-in for SQL Server Management Studio. Built it for myself after lamenting a lack of affordable source control options for SQL Server -- turns out there's other people in the same situation :-)

I run a small platform for a couple of web designing friends. They can deploy webshops at the touch of a button while having full control over the design. It saves them the effort of having to ask more techy folks for assistance, and it lets me focus on more interesting things.

Started off at 3k EUR revenue a year, currently at about 2k. It doesn't cost me any effort.

Would be interested in this. Are you looking for a new customer?

I would be interested, but the way it's set up is kind of tailored to the way my friends work. It would take some time to make it more generally useful. I think there other platforms out there that do the same thing in a more generic fashion.

A new website for sports timing data for Alphamantis http://alphamantis.com/

Written in F# using the Suave.IO functional web libraries. It will be a site coaches/athletes can use to view/analyze data from their workouts, races etc. Lots of tables, graphs. Runs on Linux cloud vms.

https://play.freeciv.org generates revenue with ads.

https://moviemagnet.net I don't make more than a few quid extra over hosting costs each month.

Apart from venusflytrap90, it seems that not many devs have profitable side incomes -- or maybe are not willing to speak about them.

I would guess some people who had a profitable side project turned it into their primary source of income. Someone making $1000 a month from a side project can't afford to quit their day job. Someone making $10k a month from a side project can probably afford to quit their job and make the side project their primary focus.

None anymore, my new contract explicitly disallows side ventures. But about a year ago a friend and I built a screenshot-sharing service when CloudApp raised their prices. It's basically a dock app that watches for new screenshots and auto-uploads to the cloud, the same thing Dropbox and tons of others do. We never made money off of it, but learning stuff like how to incorporate and some new tech was worthwhile.

Job hunting ;)

In all honesty, I find that when people working full-time jobs look for side projects, either their not happy with the job they have or their job underpays them. (That's not to say that working on fun side projects that happen to lead to revenue is a bad thing, but seeking side project revenue is not a great indicator).

Things that I've heard from friends: - Shopify sites - Consulting - Tutoring / teaching - Affiliate sales

> In all honesty, I find that when people working full-time jobs look for side projects, either their not happy with the job they have or their job underpays them.

Or they just don't get fulfilled spending all day making someone else rich?

To add to this, I also don't get to program as part of my day job so it let's me scratch my creative/building and making itch that I do not get as a business analyst.

Err-- just because someone has a side project and/or wants to make money outside of work does not mean they are underpaid or not happy.

I have always pursued my own endeavors because I want to earn passive income and be independently wealthy. I don't want to work for someone else for the rest of my life.

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