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Indie Hackers: Learn how developers are making money (indiehackers.com)
971 points by csallen on Aug 11, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 184 comments

Very cool, but also a bit misleading.. I was wondering how the hell wub machine actually makes 900$/month, so I read it.

> Record high was $850/mo, record low was $40, with the average month bringing in around $300. Certainly not quit-my-job money, but it helps.

Posting the all-time high instead of the average is a bit off-putting imho, considering it's supposed to represent "paychecks." This is more like getting lucky once. Anyways, haven't read the rest of the stories, and I think it's pretty inspirational. I'd just appreciate more honest revenue reporting on the front page. (It actually says $900/mo, not just $900, so it's not like I'm reading this ambiguously..)

Edit: On second thought, it's not clear to me from the description whether he means that it made $900/mo for some kind of long streak or just one month.

I came here just to post the same comment. I hate to be negative because this site seems very interesting and I love the content, but what I would say is that I don't think there is any need to embellish the numbers for the audience this content will attract. I would have read the article had it said $300/month or $900/month all the same, except now I trust the overall site less than I would have had it been honest.

Thanks for questioning the honesty of the site. Your comment is truly productive and, sadly, at home against all the jaded (and envious) comments here on HN.

Sorry, I'm rounding peak monthly revenue to the nearest $100, which works well for dollar amounts in the thousands (e.g. $2.2k) but not in the hundreds. Also, in the future, I'll definitely include both peak and average revenue numbers.

The problem isn't rounding, it's that you report peak instead of average.

Yep, I agree! Will include peak and average in the future.

Cool ;)

Edit: I'll just note that considering the presence of peaks, probably median would be a better indicator than average. Hell, a whole distribution would be pretty informative lol, but that's probably too much info..

I mean, mean is better than median in that if you multiply it by time then it gives you the sum.

But mean over what period? It's a bit complex.

I think that probably @csallen was using "peak" because some of the projects had since gone defunct and he wanted to count them. Although I think in such cases it would make sense to do an average of the best year or something like that.

For projects like mine (https://complice.co/) which are still growing, "peak" is also weird, because it suggests that... I'm not still growing? I'm not even sure. At any rate, it doesn't make sense to use my average over the last year if my average over the next year is going to be twice as much. Better is probably just the total of my active subscriptions.

Moving average as an annual or monthly run rate is a decent way to express it.

Oh yeah, true.. I just meant to be less sensitive to outliers but you make a good point.


Needs more D3..

@csallen, I might have an easy solution for this, DM me on Twitter

Similar thoughts here. However, the one project Apex Ping, says he's making $600/m but not cash flow positive yet. I'm confused as to how that's even possible. I can run that service on a handful of VM's for ~$60/m.

He says he's using Lamda, perhaps he should rethink that decision if his overhead is really that high.

There's a lot more to it than that, and I'm currently supporting ~2000 users on the free plan as well (though I'm phasing that plan out).

Ping is running in 7 regions, has an Elasticsearch cluster for logging, another for the check data itself, thousands of checks running each minute and thousands of alerts running each minute. RDS for the primary store, SES for emails, EC2 for hosting the app itself. Add on extra services such as Baremetrics and these things add up quickly. Run 7 EC2 nodes and you're already well over $250, not to mention the loads in each region are different.

Lambda's pricing is indeed not competitive with VMs right now, but that will go down with FaaS becoming wildly available from other providers. The more important thing to me is that it's close to zero maintenance, no bastions, no AMIs, no provisioning, no third-party monitoring, etc.

If you've ever worked with Elasticsearch you'd also know that it requires a pretty substantial set of resources to function well. I'm happy to over-provision for the beginning if it means providing a better experience. Nothing would be worse than under-provisioning IMO.

>(though I'm phasing that plan out).

Would you recomend starting something with a free tier and phasing it out if it's not working over charging up front from the beginning?

I can see pros/cons to both sides.

I've been looking into myself recently.

From successful bootstrappers in B2B, nearly 100% of the advice that I've gotten is to start without free and add it later as a lead-gen mechanism if it fits your business. Early on customer acquisition is a slog and generally relies on 1:1 conversations often with a pre-existing relationship (in-network). Hopefully feedback from these people help you get close enough to product market fit that outsiders will consider using the product. From there it's a marketing and lead nurturing game where freemium may make sense.

Advice for B2C would be quite different.

I think it depends greatly on the cost of supporting the free plans, mine just went a little out of control, I was getting ~100 or more users per day. If it was really cheap to support them it might be worth the marketing side of things. And of course for VC backed companies this still looks more attractive than not having the free users at all.

Could be that most customers are on the free tier and he has multi AZ deployments plus other AWS services (data, queues, etc).

Typically base costs are higher when you design for scale vs when you don't. And marginal costs are lower when you design for scale vs when you don't.

There is no free tier. There's a trial.

And yes, that's obviously a concern, but you can design for profit first and refine for scale. It wouldn't be very difficult to put some of those things in a VM to start and then move them to lambda once breaking even is no longer an issue.

Responded above, there was a free plan initially.

This is very cool, but can I ask you a question?

Some days ago I posted a very similar website here (http://www.transparentstartups.com/) and I didn't get barely any vote whereas this one is getting totally viral (385 votes and adding).

Please let me know what I'm doing wrong. The only thing I can think of is that I didn't mention some key words like "developers" and "money" but "startups" and "transparency". Or is there anything else I'm missing here?

Thank you in advance.

UPDATE: I'm learning a lot today, thank you guys for the feedback.

Hi. My startup was listed in IndieHackers, and here is my experience, which I think might explain why this thread did as well as it did. A few weeks ago, Courtland, the dev who built IndieHackers contacted my via email with a polite request for me to list my startup on his upcoming site.

He had obviously done a lot of work scouring HN and Reddit threads to pick out people who fit his criteria of starting independent apps and emailed them one by one.

I was interested, so signed up on his site and started filling in my profile. And here is the clincher - I've filled out my startup profile on LOTS of sites, but IH was the only one where the creator emailed me back and asked for more information and clarification about my story. It felt more like an interview than a straight up submission, and it also lead me to believe that someone actually cares.

Then, yesterday, I received an email from Courtland mentioning that he would be posting about his site to HN as a "Show HN" post and asked me to support it by upvoting.

By this stage, I had totally 'bought in' to the whole deal, and when I woke up this morning, eagerly sought out the thread to participate and upvote. I was actually alarmed when I couldn't find the thread. A quick email and response from Courtland indicated that the thread name had been changed from a 'Show HN' thread.

I am thinking that it was the personalised contact with the participants, then the email follow and actual request to support the thread which lead to it getting the response that it has to date.

Hi cyberferret. This is a great answer that makes a lot of sense to me. Indeed, I didn't contact most of the featured startups, mostly because I thought they won't answer me until I have some volume on the site. That's a big lesson I learned today. Many thanks for the feedback.

He/she did "things that don't scale". See: http://paulgraham.com/ds.html

True, contacting personally people and manually reviewing all the stories is not very scalable. But I believe that's probably the most "lean" way to startup a Startup or Side Project. You start doing things that don't scale then, if you have the luck of getting bigger, you should start automating as much as possible. Giving the response he received, I think this non-scalable start has been absolutely awesome.

But there are lots of ways to automate personalisation :-)

Would be great if you can elaborate more about this :)

aka vote brigading

Nothing is organically viral

Thanks for term - good to know it!

In addition to what others have said, which I agree with, I want to point out one other small difference that makes me much more interested in IH than your site...the focus on an individual developer rather than a startup.

I've been through startups and know much of the work that it entails. I know (roughly) how much of my life I'm going to have to devote to that idea and the pain of fundraising/bootstrapping. But I've never had a revenue-generating side project or lifestyle business, so it's great to see examples of that and concrete numbers on how much those types of projects can generate. I'm far less interested in this kind of information at the level of a startup than I am at an individual level since I'm far more likely to put something together over the course of a few weekends and see if it can make enough for me to quit my day job rather than to opt into the commitment needed to do a startup.

I agree. Being a developer myself and knowing how hard is to make a successful side project, it is definitely more inspiring seeing those stories from solo developers like us working hard to become profitable.

Actually I have a mixture of young bootstrapped startups that were side projects just months ago like Nomad List (by levelsio), BugMuncher, StoreMapper, ... And other more stable startups like Buffer, Baremetrics, Groove, ... that are also very inspiring in my opinion.

I should add some filters asap to be able to filter by Bootstrapped vs Founded, Work Remotely vs Colocated, etc.

Thanks a lot for your comment! Great point mentioned.

Based on quick glance (which is what most sites get from me) one key difference is that indiehackers shows the actual amounts right there on front page. This is quite small thing, but for me it tells this site might actually contain something I'm interested in.

Yes, whether I'm looking to spend money or earn money the first thing I want to see is how much money. I hate product reviews where the price is buried in the article, put it where everyone can find it quickly.

I don't think this is about earning or spending money, is it? (but I've got the point, ShowMeTheMoney!)

For me, it is absolutely about earning money.

Frankly, I'm not interested in someone who built a side business with <$1k/m in revenue. That's a single retainer for my consulting company.

Stories where the developer has been able to attract meaningful revenue are for more interesting.

That's fear enough - and that's why I'm featured only Startups. All them generate much more than much $1k/m. The interesting thing is too see the reach that level starting from 0. This is what I call on the Site the startup "growth journey".

That's a good point, thank you for the feedback. Yeah, I'm not focusing on "money" but in "transparency"(which is a broad term). What I show in the list however, is what is the Startup notable for (aka "champion" in), e.g. remote work or bootstrapping. Definitely something I should think about.

I viewed the site because it displayed revenue. That was the interesting thing to me.

Good to know that. I guess the revenue thing is very attractive. Not sure if maybe others may be interested in Remote Work or in Open Source? I don't know.

The problem I'm realising now is that my site is maybe too generic and that makes not clear enough its purpose. I didn't want to saturate the list items with lots of info so I tried to summarised it with the "Champion" icon, but I agree it seems not 100% clear. I will work on that.

FINAL UPDATE: Before this thread is buried, I'd like to say a BIG THANK YOU to ALL of you that gave me Honest and Transparent Feedback.

Despite my previous submissions didn't succeeded (e.g. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12127979, only 3 votes), I feel very lucky to have raised this question in this thread and then received the great amount of comments that opened my eyes about why Transparent Startups is not engaging as I expected. Now with all this feedback I can work on these issues to try to make something better and useful that provides value.

You are awesome. Thanks again, Rafa

I went to your page. After 8 or 9 seconds, I thought "What is a transparent startup? This is just some random list of companies" and left. I have no idea what the content on your landing page means, at least within ten seconds.

Good insight. I need to work more on the "transparent" meaning for startups. Thank you.

Same thoughts here.

Thank you too!

A couple of points:

First and probably most important:

* IH - Big empty block at the top that states in clear, large letters what's going on. The text pops out and draws the reader to it. * TS - First thing my eye's go to is the first startup in the list. I have no idea why it's there or what I'm looking at.

Second: * IH - I see companies, names and logos and a revenue number that ties in directly with the stated purpose. * TS - I see logos, and a name but again don't know why they are there. It looks like a generic feed of some kind.

Basically, I'd say IH needs a site redesign. The current one doesn't tell me, as a reader, much about what's going on or what an item being on the list is about. IH doesn't look bad, it's just not as immediately obvious what the purpose is.

(missed a t)

Hi emeralds. Thank you so much for the feedback. I see your point. I need to work on removing ambiguity, making the front page very clear about what is Transparent Startups.

Instead of "embracing transparency" it should say something like "embracing transparent business practices". Someone landing on your site for the first time won't know what you mean by "transparency" especially when the first company listed on the page is named "Ghost".

I see, that's a minor but critical detail. I will reword the motto to make it clear. The challenge is to explain what "Transparency" means in this context with just a few words.

"Ghost" is actually very transparent :). Today there is a new one. I'm featuring one Startup every day at the moment.

Great thanks for the feedback!

I want to see how much money different sites are making roughly, and your site doesn't seem to do that. It isn't really pushing the same buttons for me as Indie Hackers.

Well, actually in their profile, the startup not only shows the revenues (money) but also many other things like: if they work remotely, how is their culture, their open source projects, their growth journey, if they have open salaries, etc... I believe is quite complete, not just money.

What about listing something like annual or monthly revenue and profit on the home page for each company?

That could help, but not all the startups are featured because of the revenue. For example, some have total Transparent Pricing but they don't disclose their total company profit.

For me is more inspiring and interesting the Story behind the startup rather than how much is the startup making at the moment... but yeah, that's me.

UPDATE 2: Most of you agreed about the key point of showing clearly the money or revenue.

I've been thinking about it. I agree revenue it is a very interesting data to show but I see a potential big problem: keeping this money amount up-to-date.

So personally I'd try to avoid displaying volatile data (like revenue) unless I have a mechanisms in place to update it regularly. Otherwise the info could not be accurate after some weeks of the publication.

That's why I prefer linking to their revenue boards, so it's up to the startup/founder to keep them updated. What do you think?

Hi Rafa! Nice to meet you. I didn't notice your submission. What are your goals with TransparentStartups.com? Let's talk over email if you'd like, maybe we can work together. (courtland@indiehackers.com)

Hey Cortland. Nice to meet you too! Congratulations for the site and this great thread that raised. There are a few of bootstrappers on my site I'm pretty sure they will love to appear in yours as well. Cool, let's talk.

I'd be interested in learning from founders of full-time businesses that started as side projects, how they made that transition from side project to full-time.

The amount of time you need to spend on a side project to grow probably increases faster than revenue. So inevitably there will be some point in time where your level of effort is much more than what you'd call a side project, yet your revenue is much less than what you'd call a business. I bet that's a frustrating point for many, as you can't just quit your job and stop paying your bills. I'd love to hear creative ways people have gotten past that hump that don't involve mortgaging the house, selling all your possessions and depleting your life savings.

I found two useful solutions to this problem:

1. Work as a contractor, rather than full time. That gives you some flexibility in how much time to devote to your side project as it grows.

2. Compete with a Yahoo! property and wait for them to do something stupid.

Work as a contractor, rather than full time. That gives you some flexibility in how much time to devote to your side project as it grows.

My upvote won't be visible to others, so I'm also posting to second the above explicitly.

Working independently usually means you have more flexibility in both time and money than you typically get as a regular hours, salaried employee. You can balance how much contract work you take on against what you need to do for your side project. There may well still be a point where you have to give up a relatively large amount of immediate revenue from the (absence of) contract work in return for much less immediate extra revenue for your side business. However, if you think the side business will grow in the future based on that work, you might consider that a worthwhile investment.

Another advantage is that operating independently also usually means you have a contract to work on one specific project. That contract would normally be explicit that things like the IP rights transferred to the client are only those relating to that specific project. In contrast, an employment contract is usually broader, and shady employers often try to include clauses that claim IP rights to pretty much anything the employee ever does, out of hours or otherwise. This is a legal minefield and the effect of those clauses depends on where you are, but in any case the last thing you need if your side project starts to become successful is a dispute with a past employer's lawyers.

> I'd love to hear creative ways people have gotten past that hump that don't involve mortgaging the house, selling all your possessions and depleting your life savings.

Got some bad news for you bub


This is a very useful contribution.

The only thing I would add is how many man hours the project took over what period of time.

I have to click on them and sort of guess if that site took 5hr/week for 10 weeks, or if it took 10 people working 10 hour days for 2 years.

Since you already ask for the tech stack, this would also help launch a dozen "which tech stack is more productive?" studies.

On a final note, I appreciate that you also ask about marketing. Maybe the marketing efforts and man hours can be summarized too?

I'm the founder of Complice, one of the sites featured. It took me a bit under 2 years to reach my "poverty threshold" target, working an estimate of 20h/week on average. To break it down further, it was more like 5-15 hours/week for the first 7 months, then 30-50h/week that summer when I was off from school, and other similar fluctuations.

These are all total ballpark estimates that I made a couple weeks ago: I've used various time-tracking systems but none that give accurate overall time spent. Based on my within-Complice stats though, I can tell you that I've done 2800 tasks towards Complice. That's not very specific, but still kind of a neat figure.

I don't have a good breakdown between programming and marketing time, but I would estimate that 80-90% of my time was spent on things more product-development related. Only 75% of Complice tasks, but the programming tasks are more likely to have been eg 8h working on a single feature.

Thanks Malcolm! Discovering your site has been a real eye-opener.

Founder of HR Partner here. I wrote the entire site from start to finish in about 3 months (from Nov/Dec 2015 to Feb/Mar 2016). Mainly working in the evenings (from 6pm to around 1-2am), after my usual consulting work during the day.

The site is around 22,000 lines of Ruby code, and has around 80 database tables. Not sure whether that is a normal rate of productivity for most devs, but as my interview explains, I am pushing 50 years old now, so my speed of development and my endurance is nowhere near what it was decades ago.

I did all the front end stuff as well for the public site, and the documentation site and the blog, status page site etc. About the only help I got was my wife to do the voiceover on the explainer video on the web site. (I had to learn After Effects to do the explainer video too).

I'm not featured on the site but I am a dev starting a company (http://www.askinline.com). I worked solo for ~2 months then asked a friend who I had been keeping updated on progress to join me as a co-founder. All up we've been going for just shy of 6 months and I believe we're just reaching the point where the product makes sense as a purchase decision for our target market. I say this based on continual discussions with early customers (in-network, pay nominal fee) and the fact that we're starting to land out-of-network customers.

You seem interested in the tech stacks. I have to say that when people have asked me what they should use I just tell them to go with whatever they are most productive in. Unless you're doing something to try out a tech or you're dependent on an outside system that demands a specific stack I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to learn too many new things while also starting a company. It's hard enough without adding tech concerns.

Patrick's thoughts on this resonate with me: https://twitter.com/patio11/status/763650535727648769

I (Apex Ping) went down the road of playing with newer more hyped tech like React etc, not really necessary for the project, and I can't say it saved any time (if anything wasted time) but still interesting.

AWS Lambda on the other hand has been a nice time saver aside from the fact that there weren't any good frameworks available really (with Go support) so I wrote https://github.com/apex/apex.

Founder of Complice (https://complice.co/) here, one of the sites featured (https://indiehackers.com/businesses/complice).

I'm game to answer questions that people have that weren't answered in the interview!

In the interview, you said that you had 10 paying customers before you even started coding or had a company. My question is:

How did you get those people paying you, and how much they paid? Since you have a monthly service, surely they haven't been paying your usual monthly fee for all that time while you were coding?

I reached out to some friends of mine, pitching them something like "I'm developing a system to help you achieve your goals. It's based on daily planning and reflection. Paypal me $10 for the first month if you're interested." The actual conversations were much longer than that, in which I explained a bunch of the high-level thinking behind it, mentioned that I was looking for some beta testers, etc. I probably also mentioned that I'd trialed the basic system myself and informally with another person.

One of the nice things about offering "I'll help you achieve your goals" is that pretty much anyone wants it if you can actually do it. The latter part is of course hard. But yeah, because of this I probably asked only 15-20 friends and got 10 to pay based on that. It also helps that I have friends who are willing to experiment and who trust me not to just run off with their money.

Part of what also helped, I'm sure, is that I reached out to people I knew individually and they got to have the sense of being part of this early group of testers.

I followed the "do things that don't scale" approach. At the start, I didn't have custom software, but I queued up emails manually using Boomerang, to bug people each day at the time they specified, to plan their day and reflect. They replied, and I put their data into a spreadsheet and elsewhere. I spent about an hour per week for each of those users at the start. I was giving them value manually/personally, rather than with software.

what were you big motivating milestones that kept you going? if anything caused you to almost give up, what was it and how did you overcome it?

Hmm. I think my biggest milestone came when someone signed up for the free trial, didn't respond at all to the personal "how is the trial going?" message... didn't respond to my "btw, your trial is ending in a couple days... any questions?" message...

...and then their trial ended and they paid.

Even though I'd written a full software system at that point, the app was still fairly hands-on, and it wasn't until then that it was fully obvious that someone would pay for just the software. In retrospect this is a pretty big thing that it would have made sense to test much earlier somehow.

I'm pretty optimistic by nature, and Complice has felt promising since the beginning. I think it probably helped that while I had a vision/goal (= become ramen-profitable by graduation) I didn't spend too much time fretting about it. I just focused on making incremental improvements to the system (eg UX).

And this in many ways is the philosophy of Complice itself: stay oriented towards the big picture, but focus on what you can do today.

If I was personally making thousands a month from a web app I made, I don't think I'd want to advertise that. Partially because it motivates competition, and partially because I feel like public information about my income could later be used against me (no concrete examples other than alimony/child support). I wonder why these people aren't bothered by this.

@harmegido is correct. I am one of the founders listed (HR Partner), and things like this go down as part of 'marketing' for me. I have already had hundreds of hits on my site this morning from the post in IndieHackers and the mention here, and a few sign ups, which is great.

I normally hate divulging figures too, but these days I have given myself permission to do so. I realised that in the past, I was acting from a scarcity mentality and was afraid that people would steal my ideas and concepts. But of late, I have realised that this is simply not true.

I am grateful that in my previous posts here on HN and on Reddit, when I have asked questions about marketing and sales, the most helpful answers have been from other developers of HR or Time and Attendance apps (Special shout out to the founders of StaffSquared and Tanda). We dance in the same space, but we all recognise the difficulties inherent and look out for each other, rather than steal from each other. In fact, I have actually referred some of my customers on to these competitors when I have realised that we don't fit their needs 100% and that someone else's solution will be a better match.

>But of late, I have realised that this is simply not true.

why not?

The theory is that building something and turning it into a company are wildly divergent things.

Yes, someone could copy your idea and implementation.

But are they going to dedicate themselves to this full time for a year like it took you before you reached a poverty level income? Are they going to cold call 10 people per day for three months? Are they going to learn to write, nurture a following of people and provide content and value to those people in the hopes that <5% convert to customers? Anyone who starts by copying an idea probably doesn't have the same drive to make the idea successful.

The actual trouble isn't that transparency invites competition. The trouble is competition that already exists somehow using the transparency against you. Numbers, to me, don't seem like the type of thing that an outsider could use against you. Effective marketing tactics and growth hacks on the other hand can be gold.

Interesting. What does "The trouble is competition that already exists somehow using the transparency against you." mean, how does it use the transparency against me?

Yeah, sure thing: I've seen it happen a few times mostly with companies whose founders I listen to regularly on podcasts. It's almost always tactical growth advice, something that every startup struggles to find early on. Where are our customers hanging out, consuming content, how do we engender trust with them etc.

Basically a founder says something like "We've recently discovered that paying a couple of talented designers to re-purpose our blog content as SlideShare presentations works surprisingly well for."

Companies have tried SlideShare as a means of creating additional distribution around their content marketing. It works for some and doesn't for others. It's basically target market dependent. Some markets have bloggers/curators who will pick up the Slideshare content and embed it on their site. Other target markets don't attach to that kind of content.

So, this founder shares this (and keep in mind Slideshare is just an example, it could be any marketing tactic) and the week after his podcast is released their largest competitor starts publishing content on Slideshare. Maybe their marketing team just decided to run an experiment? If the same thing happens three more times? Eventually that founder is going to start doing a cost-benefit analysis of this particular brand of transparency. He could continue sharing some stuff, their MRR and ARR seem like fair game to me but he probably wants to hold back on being specific about growth tactics.

why do they share that advice then? to disinform their competitors?

I suspect most of the founders are extremely focused on growing their business. Anything that can help with that (free advertising in this case) is something they'll do.

This is just a guess though - I'm not one of these founders.

I'd just reply to this even though it's probably too late, I hope you'll get notified in case you're interested. I've built Trackin (http://www.gotrackin.com) then MobyDish (http://www.mobydish.com) powered by Trackin.

First don't forget that the money doesn't get into OUR pocket, but to the company, then I'll have two reasons for me to share this info:

1- Having competitors is actually motivating, forces you to always do better and validate your market.

2- What matters the most is the execution. Google arrived after Yahoo, Apple took over Microsoft, etc. Nowadays, it's pretty "easy" to copy a software, but the way you'll deal with everything else (employees, customers, communication) is what will make you be the winner (on top of a product that people want... and some luck!)

3- (bonus answer) I'm not doing this for money anyway, mostly because I'm passionated about the delivery business and the food space and I believe it's lacking good tech. I started this as a full time job, and I'm still working more than everybody else in the company, while paying myself less than my employees.

I believe most of the founders feel the same, and if you think of starting a project that you want to make full time, you shouldn't do it for money. But if you do want to work on a side project as a complementary of your income, then it's a totally different approach. But in any case, you shouldn't be scared about the competition, if they do better, then learn from them as well :)

So I went to the site in Chrome and tried to back arrow to HN and the site cleaned out the history queue in Chrome. I stopped there. This is bad form in opinion.

Sorry! It was a bug due to redirecting from / to /businesses. Therefore clicking the back button would take you to / again, which would automatically redirect to /businesses. I just fixed it by using replaceState. I hadn't tested this before, because I just launched the site and therefore hadn't previously linked to it -- I'd always visited directly.

Thanks for clarifying and fixing.

As a quick tip, I don't think any modern browsers allow a site to wipe out history from previously visited sites. In this case for example two quick hits to the back button should have worked.

You can click and hold the back button to move backward more than one history instance.

Same here. Wasn't sure exactly how (or more importantly, why) it was doing this. Some lame attempt to keep me on the site? Or some misconfigured / misunderstood / improperly-used feature of a web app framework?

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness."

Yes, I noticed that as well. Hijacking the back button just makes it look more like a scam than it already appears... Write your own paycheck with this one weird trick! Maybe I'm all wet and this is totally legit, but that's not the experience I've had with people that make sites that do this. Huge red flag.

Scam? Are you serious? It doesn't appear that the site is selling anything. What could the scam possibly be?

You can't use the back arrow on Chrome anymore.

this appears to be fixed

Hi all, founder of HR Partner (http://hrpartner.io) as featured on Indie Hackers here. Happy to answer any questions that anyone has. As we are 'pre revenue', I would also appreciate tips and hints with respect to marketing and B2B sales from anyone who has been there, done that. :)

what was your first sale like?

Well, since our beta a few months back, we have had about 180 companies sign up, but all are under the 10 employee limit, which at the moment is free, so we haven't actually had anyone pay for a higher tier as yet.

Of that 180 sign ups, about 30 or 40 are quite active and visit the site often, although it is hard to judge because some only need to revisit the site once a month or so to update details and respond to reminders etc.

We are looking at scrapping the free 10 employee limit soon, and making everyone pay (except the early sign ups - we will honour their free tier pricing indefinitely).

How did you find your first customers?

Founder of Commando.io here (https://indiehackers.com/businesses/commando-io). Let me know if you have any questions.

How do you market/reach out to potential customers? Just word of mouth from your inner circle or do you spend actively on marketing?

Marketing and growth this is the hard part. Currently all word of mouth, blog, links, etc. I haven't really tried ad spending, because I feel like it would be a money pit, and hard to see a ROI. However, I am open to trying a Google AdWords campaign. Any advise?

(I'm a PM for AdWords, sharing my personal opinion based on experience and not speaking on behalf of Google)

If you want to avoid a money pit, I think you can. The trick is to pipe conversion data back to AdWords. This is pretty easy with Google Analytics but also not too bad to set up with any analytics provider.

If you're starting fresh, you will need to spend some money blindly (without the benefit of historic conversion data). But, once you start seeing some conversions, you can use our automated bidding strategies to say "only advertise when you are confident you can drive new users to sign up for less than $X."

My other tip would be to spend some time writing good ads (clear articulation of benefits, use all of the space provided to you, and make at least 5 that can be rotated against each other) and picking good keywords (multi-word as a general rule, and specifically related to your business, not too general and not too competitive).

Finally, call support and say you're new and you'd like help. We have big teams of specialists ready to get new advertisers off on the right foot, because we know that your first couple of weeks are crucial to keeping you. They're actually really good.

Here goes my two cents, but I don't think that advertising is necessarily the correct way to increase revenue -- at least on a long term. As far as I have understood traditional offline companies use advertising to sustain and defend their position from their competitors in the market.

I personally recognize your project's name and remember what it does just by its name, but lately all the Docker orchestration tools seem to do pretty much the same thing. Maybe create a blog post explaining the difference and pros and cons of each one? Case studies maybe?

Absolutely content marketing is the best, it is just very time consuming and soul crushing. I'm thinking of trying to hire some people to write articles about infrastructure, orchestration, deployments, server security, etc.

I'd personally go that route.

Best of luck with the project!

I also found it awesome! I too don't have a need for it yet, but I'll sure take a look at it later when the need arrives!

Looks like a great service, I'm actually sorry to say I don't have a need for it. Best of luck growing!

Who the hell downvotes this?

That you include actual numbers is awesome. Kudos

Thanks! I think hearing these types of stories is a lot more useful and educational when actual revenue and growth numbers shared.

I'm very confuse with sentence:

  sideProject.generate(8500, 'dollars').per('month');
Those are not side projects

Well, some of the ones making that kind of money probably started out as side projects. Obviously once you're making $8.5k/month, you can probably afford to focus on it full-time.

If you're making $8.5k/mo on something without focusing on it full-time, why would you give it more of your time? Just quit your job and enjoy only having to do a "side-project" amount of work to live comfortably.

Business is very much a timing/market thing. The money faucet could turn off any day. If you come across easy money you generally want to see if you can turn it in to not so easy but still efficient use of time money in exchange for getting a lot more of it while you can.

Also, it's a great time to diversify. If you have one successful project, you can leverage that audience to help get your next project off the ground.

I agree...for some people.

If you're comfortable living at a middle class level or just want to travel the world for a couple of years, then this is perfect for you. Do the Tim Ferris thing and just devote the bare minimum of time to it so that it keeps running and generating money - until it doesn't.

If you hope to become rich, then you would be better off either focusing your time into this business so you can grow it 100x+ or use it to cover your bills and to stack some savings while you try to build whatever business you are really passionate about.

If you instead want to get your education (like pursuing advanced degrees) then you can use this to cover your tuition and living expenses while you do so.

Just know that whatever makes you $8500/mo today will probably not keep doing so without some type of conscious effort to acquire new customers, to support current customers, and to either buy out or otherwise stave off competition. All of these require dedicated focus to do correctly. You can either do these yourself or you can hire help to do them for you but someone has to do them if you want your money to keep flowing in.

Granted. It depends on the project though, I think - If you think that by working on it full time, you could get it to a point where you could have to do no work to live comfortably (either by hiring people to do it for you, or by selling it for enough cash to live off for the rest of your life) I'd say do that.

If it's not that kind of business though, I definitely agree - go the Pinboard route and blog about your trips to Antarctica or whatever while doing a minimum of work.

Opportunities dry up very quickly, once people and businesses discover there's money to be made. Hence, why there's always a big rush to grow fast.

I think it's more of a marketing gag. If you can make 850/m you are already quite good with your side project.

At least a couple of the companies I clicked on started as side projects.

I think period should be a third parameter:


Probably makes it a bit complicated.

    revenue { amount: 8500, currency: 'USD' }
    periodic_revenue { interval: 'month', amount: revenue }
Then you can act on revenue amounts around the place, and only have to think/handle interval's if/when it's appropriate.

Great site, considering sharing some of my projects.

> Learn how developers are writing their own paychecks.

Would love to see a forum dedicated solely to "indie hacking" for developers. ie. threads related to all the ins-and-outs of independent product development, idea validation, market research, dealing with customers, marketing strategies, founder Q&A, etc.

While there are certainly nuances and specifics to marketing independent software, the truth is that market research, market validation, business plans, customer service, etc. are skills that are independent and not tightly coupled with software. Reading entrepreneur / business / marketing books can be very useful. You can take lessons learned from one business and apply it to your software business.

But yes, I've been looking for a a place where sharp solo tech entrepreneurs can talk, and even created a failed slack channel once, but I have yet to find it.

The http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/ forum should be fairly close to what you're looking for.

I'd love to add something like that to the site. If you're on the mailing list then in a few days you'll get an email asking for site ideas, so I'd love to hear more from you!

discuss.bootstrapped.fm and barnacl.es are similar to what you say. Somewhat low volume of posts and comments. First has been around a few years, second started somewhat recently, IIRC.

On very rare occasions, there's a post on HN that I wish I could upvote so much it would pin at the top of the home page until everyone had a chance to see it. This is one of those rare posts: fascinating, well presented, and I can see it being practically useful for a lot of people who aren't there yet as well.

This is awesome. Soon, I'm going to devour all the stories. How do the companies get to know your site and share their story before you were on HN?

I spent a lot of time scouring "Ask HN" and "Show HN" posts to find people who were running revenue-generating businesses. I think I compiled a list of over 140 people. I was able to track down about half of their email addresses and Twitter accounts. From there, I got in contact with everyone I could, and told them about the site. If they wanted to share and were comfortable revealing revenue (lots of people weren't), I sent them a Wufoo form I made. Then I edited their answers into the format you see on the site. There are still 20+ people who were interested in being included but haven't gotten me their info yet.

EDIT: A few people have submitted their businesses since I posted this Show HN, too.

Good hustling and startuppy stuff :)

Of the right kind.

I'd like to be able to subscribe via RSS

Added to my to-do list!

Please send an update to email subscribers when this is available. Thanks. :)

I would be interested in this as well.

Me too

It's not every day I'm happy to give out my email. very nice.

This actually motivates me a lot. Thanks for making this.

UI nitpick: when I navigate to the project's page, the if the project name is long, it goes out of screen on Nexus 5X + Chrome.

Cool project! One forward-looking idea for your site: You could start to incorporate a community platform where people can post side-project ideas, skills they're willing to contribute, skills they're looking for, etc..

I'd like to see an additional question asked: How did you go about designing the interface of your app?

I'm blown away by how good these and so many "show HN" entries usually look. Everything I've put online is functional but looks so obviously "designed by a programmer" that it's embarrassing to mention.

Do people first work on a prototype and then run it by a graphic artist/UI designer to make it look decent? Where do you find these people?

I'm kind of a jack-of-all-trades, so I did all of my own design. I don't know that I could get hired by a big company to do design work, but I'm good enough to make my own UIs.

One thing that has helped a lot is doing a lot of "hallway" tests: you watch someone sign up, then you cringe at how bad your UI is, then you fix it.

(I'm the guy behind https://indiehackers.com/businesses/complice)

Nice site, I enjoyed reading it.

I like the effect when transitioning from grid view to list view. Is that just CSS or is there some Javascript magic doing that?

I think this site is Awesome! IndieDevs love to find out what worked and what didn't. Can I make a suggestion? Perhaps, you can add a section or another site that lists how any successful businesses got their start, especially with elaborate insights on distribution as this is the number 1 barrier to entry for most start ups. Thanks!

Great work. Please provide an easy way to clear all the filters in one click. Subscribed and will be eagerly following.

Was literally lying in bed sleepless last night thinking about which side project on my list to start. Was digging through "Ask HN: How do you make recurring revenue" posts. There's always someone asking in HN. Didn't even think about researching side projects as a side project.

Very motivational that some apps can make those numbers - thank you for making this! (subscribed!)

I really like this idea, and even signed up for the mailing list. I've been scratching my head for years trying to crack income diversification without a lot of money to begin with. It's good to see some success stories.

Very important question but isn't mentioned much is: How do you let other people know about your business after launch?

Great site for inspiration. Gave me the same feels reading revenuenumbers.com (posted here a while ago) did.

Great job, subscribed! But here it is a simple question: what is the business model of indiehackers.com?

I have no business model yet! What I'm focusing on right now is how to make the site as useful as possible, so I can sustain the kind of traffic I've seen in the past 24 hours that this has been on HN's front page.

Find out what tools and services the startups/projects are using. You can then put a link to those services and get a commission.


Something like builtwith.com(http://builtwith.com).

This reminded me of the story of Builtwith, which started without knowing the commercial potential (http://www.startupdaily.net/2015/09/builtwith-is-perhaps-one...)...i wish you to reach the same results!

It would be great if there is a comment section, or private Q&A, to ask founders questions.

I'm the founder of Instapainting. Feel free to ask questions here!

Techcrunch article you refered to, mentioned Instapainting is YC Backed company. Quick look at CrunchBase says "The company is backed by Y Combinator and Start Fund (SV Angel and Yuri Milner)."

I thought the site was about self funded single developers? I am missing something?

Either way congrats and best wishes.

There's no rule on the site against having external funding of some sort. It really depends on the circumstances. I wouldn't accept a company that has raised enough money to hire a bunch of people or to spend months building out a complex product full-time, because most indie hackers can't do that.

Chris, however, was working alone when he started Instapainting. His funding had dried up and he was in significant debt. And it only took him 2 days to build and launch his product. So there's a lot there that we can all learn from, and nothing that none of us could do without relying on personal savings and a lot of creativity and hustle.

I definitely think it was a good success story.

I am merely asking whether Instapainting was YC Backed company as mentioned in TC Article as reading TC and looking at CrunchBase gives different picture from whats mentioned on Indie Hackers.

Hope the question is not out of line.

Sorted by revenue only seven make more than my Amazon affiliate site. I'm not sure if that type of site would fit in there but I did develop quite a bit of code for it. It's not a review site but rather a searchable product catalog.

It would definitely fit, and I'm already intrigued just hearing that! You should submit if you like.

Feature request: it would be nice to be able to communicate with the indie developer within your website. Maybe though a comment section at the bottom of the page or a community FAQ.

Anyways, nice website I will come back! Looking forward the rss feed ;)

Having the month and year of the "interview" would be helpful. Down-the-road, it will help give context to the information. A neat idea would be to allow for follow-up "interviews" later.

Cool idea, I hope to build something one day that I can publish on it.

I like that you can filter on solo vs. multiple founders. Very cool.

Interesting that there is only 1 multi-founder project listed.

Really good read, the structured Q&A format is great.

Great. I wish there could be charts of the monthly cash rate, also it would be nice to mention how much maintenance time and cost of servers and such...

This is very cool and one of the most handsome designs I've seen in a while.

wow, very interesting reads. Many of them make me inspired and frustrated at the same time. Inspired because of how cool the ideas are, frustrated because "why didn't I think of that?!"

Cool. Although the site breaks my back button on Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/52.0.2743.116 Safari/537.36

Yep, thanks for pointing that out. I need to fix the redirect from / to /businesses.

Same here on Safari Version 9.1.2 (11601.7.7). Just adding some data points to help you fix :). Certainly not meaning to pile on.

I like it and I have subscribed.

Very useful to see practical working examples of options for passive income in the field. I say passive because I could see myself doing something as a side business.

Same but on latest Android Chrome

Same but on iOS Safari lastest.

Nice site, but it hijacked my back button. There's no excuse for that.

Evil site, blocks back button.

Why do sites do this? To make us hate them?

Yeah, unless it's just a redirect bug.

This! Will be fixed shortly.

I think it is

It's the easiest way to make your portal sticky.

Let's implement all the retention tricks of a pron site.

And the BBC (news on mobile at least).

Could we get a less link-baity title? Something like "Viable Single-Developer Businesses" or the like?

I think the current title does a better job than the title you suggested.

Title when I wrote that didn't day "Indie Hackers". Those were a magical extra two words ^__^

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