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There are a few common options available to most developers.

1. Create a course or ebook plus screencasts. Charge a lot (e.g., $199 for the highest tier that includes everything in a bundle). Typical income range: $2K - $100K.

2. Create an ebook. Charge a lot (e.g., $49). Typical income range: $2K - $50K.

3. Write a book for a high-royalty publisher (e.g., PragPub). Typical income range: $10K-100K.

4. Create a SaaS product that solves a consumer or business problem in a given niche. Typical income range: $0 - $1M per year (mostly the $0 end though).

5. Create a mobile game. Typical income range: $5 - $100K (the majority below $10K).

6. Create a blog and leverage affiliate commissions and ads. Typical income range: $5 - $1,000 per month.

7. Create a template or plugin for a popular platform (e.g., WordPress). Typical income range: $100 - $100K a year.

All require work. Some will be more passive than others after your initial outlay of work (3 being the most passive).

How good are you at marketing? Because for software we have Market > Marketing > Design > Code.

My suggestion is to go for 1, 2, 3, or 4. Four is the most challenging among these 4 options and the least likely to succeed. But if it does, there isn't much of a cap in terms of how much money it can make.

Plus you get to hone your development and business skills further. Not to mention that you get to pick your own stack so you can experiment with new languages, frameworks, and technologies of your choosing if that floats your boat.

In general, I would recommend spending your spare time doing what excites you the most. Does the idea of a web side project excite you more than writing a book? If so, go for that.

My other suggestion is to create many micro-launches. Create small projects. Many of them. Stuff that you can launch in 1-3 months. See what sticks. Kill what doesn't. You'll end up with multiple revenue streams. $500/mo quasi-passive income here and there adds up quickly.




I've released 3 tech courses in the past year and it's anything but passive.

You'll end up spending ~2-3 full time months creating each course. Then you need to market it (or use a platform but then you don't build up a customer list of your own that you can use later), and on top of that you need to support all of your students by answering questions (not as bad as you would think but it's something you need to do constantly).

Then in 6+ months when the tech you've created your course on gets updated you have to go back and re-record your course to keep it relevant. There are some tricks to minimize this burden depending on what tech you're creating content for, but I would say as a whole expect to re-record the entire course every year. By this point you'll end up re-planning the entire course, so it's not a simple thing.

This doesn't mean it's a bad idea, but don't get the idea that you just create the course in a few tough weeks and then sit back on a beach while you sell dozens of copies a day for years on end.


5. given 20k games ship per month on iOS alone while it's true that the majority make below $10k it's probably also true the majority make below $100.

On top of that, passive income suggests that you make it and then collect money with no work for ... 1+ years? Games generally make all their income in the first 1-4 weeks and so are unlikely to turn into passive income


Seriously, this. This post is so misleading, hah. All of this assumes traction.


The sad bit is that the party who can actually provide transparency in these matters (Apple) has an incentive to keep the numbers secret, so developers keep coming and taking a chance at launching an app.


I think a lot of people just build for themselves and publish as a final "I did it" effort.

Games are also such a flooded market and user expectations are high, but because the top 5 earn millions, small devs keep playing that lottery hoping to win.


It's a bit more accurate for non-game apps. Those are a lot more likely to have recurring revenue. Still "the majority below $10K" would probably still be true at $1k or even $100. And if you've got a 10k app it might take 10 years for that $ to trickle in. I'm an iOS dev by day, but I wouldn't do an indy iPhone app with any real hope of making money in it.


aren't there a bunch of sponsors and game-sites that buy non-exclusive game licences?


> 7. Create a template or plugin for a popular platform (e.g., WordPress). Typical income range: $100 - $100K a year.

I get the impression that the Atlassian products (like Jira) make a good platform for paid plugins, because the companies using them are already in the mindset where they pay for solutions. At least we at $work use Jira with several paid plugins.


Thanks for the reply mentioning us! There’s quite a few independent developers selling their add-ons in our Atlassian Marketplace with yearly bookings of anywhere from a few thousand $$ to over $1,000,000 in some cases. Some have even been acquired by larger partners who double down on investment and now what started as a solo thing is effectively a big startup. We think it really makes sense and is a great option for developers to consider.

Here’s a couple of examples we wrote up: Atlassian Marketplace developer Wittified, a successful solo dev business, acquired recently by AppFire https://www.atlassian.com/customers/wittified. Atlassian customer Twilio, who use several add-ons from such developers and they talk about how it really makes their Atlassian products more valuable https://www.atlassian.com/customers/twilio-case-study.

There’s Bob Swift Software, a long-standing solo independent developer who started with us years ago and who has tens of thousands of customers, also acquired by AppFire. Theres’s our Marketplace developer eazyBI, a reporting tool started as a side-project by one person and now a profitable company with 7 employees. There’s even agile planning features now part of JIRA Software itself, which started as an add-on known as Greenhopper from an independent developer that we ourselves acquired some years ago. And these are just some of the smaller, solo and indie devs. The larger business that emerged on our platform are something to behold (one recently just took a $31M VC round!).

As the person at Atlassian who helped manage and grow this developer platform, I’m really proud of what the developers around us in our ecosystem have built - both their products and their businesses. The successful growth of sales and customers they’ve made in a few short years is extraordinary to watch and to be a small part of. If anything this post I wrote in 2013 is more true now than ever http://blogs.atlassian.com/2013/04/the-future-is-bright-for-.... If you’re interested in talking with some of these developers in our ecosystem, let me know and I’ll get you introduced.


Something I totally forgot to mention, which was remiss of me, is that the platform I'm talking about is also where developers who have their own product - SaaS or otherwise - can also distribute free integrations to our products. Loads of them do that and successfully bolster their own value within any joint customers we share a bit more too.


I remember last year I was going to start playing around with Atlassian JIRA API because of the massive installation my employer has (hosted internally, today's version: JIRA v6.3.11) and the experience was like an uphill battle.

If I want to get started again, where would you suggest me to look? I believe one should start with basic JIRA knowledge to understand the fundamental of the software/system/service before they continue to tackle the API (I believe most people, except Managers, use JIRA as told without knowing some fundamental idea behind it).


So you're going to develop something for JIRA Server (internally hosted software). You'll be using Plugins2*

1. Start here https://developer.atlassian.com/jiradev/getting-started/gett...

2. Install the SDK (it has some pre-reqs) and build Hello World https://developer.atlassian.com/docs/getting-started/set-up-...

3. Bone up on Plugins2 a bit more https://developer.atlassian.com/jiradev/jira-platform/buildi...

4. API Reference https://developer.atlassian.com/jiradev/jira-apis (I recommend the REST APIs + Webhooks wherever possible).

I'm really keen to talk with you about your experience going through that - there's a lot of history and we're aware we need to clean up the journey.

_* If you were developing for JIRA Cloud you'd be using Atlassian Connect.


Also note you're on an old version of JIRA so check that you're reading the related version of the API references.


So Plugins2 and Connect are different?

Like there's no one JIRA API via REST or something?

Thanks for the reply and the links. Really appreciate it!


Sorry I'm late here. Yes those are different, given the differences between the software running in the cloud and running on customers' own servers.



This developer is asking about developing for JIRA Server though, so I pointed them straight at that content. Connect is great for JIRA Cloud.


Great observation. The trade off is that the market is pretty small, and Atlassian controls the walled garden.

I built a WordPress plugin, and definitely struggle with people expecting everything for free.


I guess it's relative. Our market isn't the number of users of a consumer market like the Apple App Store or Google Play. But then again there's millions of apps in each and getting yours noticed is extremely hard.

Part of what we're trying to do for our devs is grow it steadily year by year, and small developers are able to grow along with us (often faster as they first gain new customers). You may not know this but there's more than 60,000 organizations with anywhere from 10 to thousands of users in our customer base. There's a whole lot more startups with 1 to 9 folks too. They've collectively bought a few hundred thousand licenses of our ecosystem developers products so far since we launched.

I'd also counter that we're fairly open about what you can build. We work hard to have supported, public, documented APIs and patterns, but within that you can pretty much build anything you want. Candidly you probably don't want to build something directly in competition with Atlassian but there's lot of value to add around what we do. Last thing we released publicly on this was a while ago - I'm working on another release because our devs are much further along at this point but here you go https://techcrunch.com/2015/12/15/atlassians-marketplace-for...


Making a decent course is a extremely hard task. And it requires a real (not based on inflated self-esteem) expertise.

Courses by Brian Harvey, Dan Grossman or Gregor Kiczales are real ones, while the crap could see on youtube, like Google's Python Course, is a disappointing waste of time.

Courses by Peter Norvig on Udacity are the gold standard.

Do not over-estimate your abilities. Good tutoring is hard. Just narrating copy-pasted stuff from the internet does not count as a course.

Same goes for books. On ought to grow up and become an expert first.


I thought you meant http://www.dangrossman.info/ had a course. Instead, I think you mean https://homes.cs.washington.edu/~djg/ The former is active on hn, and the later is a CS professor. Would be interested in a course from either :)


I've been generating income from http://aminosoftware.com going on 11 years now. There have been updates with every release of SQL Server and a handful of bug fixes over the years but it's amounted to about 10 hours of work per year.

Niche was key for this to work.


As someone who has a (very) niche product, I'm just wondering: what channels worked the best to get knowledge of your product to the right people?


I put up a test page for a niche C++ library I had developed, but haven't actually gotten around to selling it. I do keep getting a lot of e-mails from people who are interested in it though. But making sure the thing compiles on a lot of target platforms (especially Linux) is a hassle. So, what I've found, is that people need to be able to find you (duh). Try and figure out what the most likely search terms are for the problem they are solving and make sure you rank well there on Google. That'll get you 90% of the way there.

Which product are you selling?


If you wait until it's perfect you'll never sell a single copy. My advice is to launch it, get the money going, and use that to refocus your efforts on the edge platforms on which it won't compile.


People find us 100% through Google


Have you thought about allowing payment through the website? Making someone email you (a VA?) seems like an unnecessary hurdle.


We used to have that but it only accounted for a small fraction of sales. Our customers are large enterprises that have a quotation/PO invoicing cycle that pay by check or wire.


good ole mainframes still run half the computing world... we'll leave javascript to hipsters and stick to copybooks insteads :)


They run a hell of a lot more than half.


I am into #4 and #6. Launched a job listing site based on WordPress, hired a person to post jobs and approve jobs posted by employers / recruiters. I don't have to lift a finger so this could count as passive income.

Launched a few niche blogs which are monetized through Adsense, Amazon affiliate and a bunch of other networks. Had spent time in keyword research, content production and some SEO / marketing. Now I revisit the sites every few months for updates.

#1 and #2 always fancy me and I may write ebook or create course on Python, something that I am taking up these days.


How do you earn money through the job site? Charging for listing?


3rd party ads like Google Adsense. Job listing is free.


Do you mind giving a ballpark of how much you make? I was under the impression adsense basically made you close to nothing, perhaps unless you had millions of monthly unique visitors.


Earning from Adsense depends on number of factors including the Cost-per-Click (CPC) and Click-through-Rate (CTR). If you have content based on high CPC keywords and get traffic from western countries, you can make a decent earning.

For example, if you serve 10,000 page impressions per month with average CPC of $0.50 and a CTR of 3%, your monthly earning could be $150.


In a lot of countries (ex. Belgium, where I'm from) that is not a decent income. Not even close. So you'd have to have a lot of those niche sites to earn a (self-employed) living.


I run two blogs that i kept updating over the years. I don't post frequently, maybe once a month. I earn around 100-150 euro a month from them. It's not much but think of it as pocket money - its a zero effort income - especially if the topics you write about genuinely interest you.


It is supposed to be passive income, so yeah, you have to build a lot of such sites (or a few with high payouts) to replace your regular /salary earnings.


Yeah, that falls into the "just work a few extra hours in the day job and save yourself the hassle" category... Good to know that's how the numbers stack up.


Any chance we could get links to your niche blogs?


> 5. Create a mobile game. Typical income range: $5 - $100K (the majority below $10K).

That's a very dangerous advice. Games are cultural products, not technical. You need to understand programming, game design, UI design, art direction, and marketing at once. Plus it's a hit-driven industry.

I'd say the majority is below $10 (ten) in revenue. $5-100k is nowhere near "typical income range" for independent game development.


I think that was "$5 - $100,000", not "$5,000 - $100,000". Although "the majority below $10k" is an understatement.


It is not an understatement, mobile game development often ends up with negative income. If you're not featured by Apple or Google - it's over.


As a full time software developer I would find number 4 the easiest of the suggested choices, as its the only one I have done before. (Finding the niche is the tricky part I guess).


But it's definitely a paradox of choice. There are seemingly infinite problem and infinite solutions...so which do you invest your time in pursuing.


actually 5 is a good bet as well for a full time developer. e.g. make a WordPress plugin, give a demo but functional version out for free on WordPress.org, then sell the full featured version on a marketplace like Envato. If your plugin is genuinely useful to someone they will buy it. it won't be enough money to quit your job but it will be something on the side.


7 is arguably easier than 4 from a business and marketing standpoint.


true, the app stores take care of those parts for you. in both cases though it's just a very small minority that explodes into popularity.


Its the marketing thats the hard part - finding that niche and selling.

I read the side project/passive income posts and have built projects that have failed because there is no market


For a professional developer, coding would indeed be the easiest part.


Its is and it isnt - the problem for a professional dev/engineer is that you want the best technical solution instead of releasing some cobbled together rubbish as quickly as possible


"the problem for a professional dev/engineer is that you want the best technical solution instead of releasing some cobbled together rubbish as quickly as possible"

Yes, but have you tried to optimize for code size, clarity and speed of creating features rather than just technical completeness. As a single dev there is an incredible amount of corner cutting you can do which you can polish away once the product gains traction. You can hack stuff together just as long you know how it's supposed to be properly built and how you get there from the rapid prototype.


It's actually easier to do this as a single dev because you typically have a near-complete mental model of the software, including the rough bits and areas for improvement.

With a team of 4 people it's very easy for no one dev to have a complete mental model, which leads to nobody truly understanding the weak points underneath.


When you say "you want", generally that's because you have a full time job, and don't want to spend your free time doing the same as work.

Either you do quick hack because you want to play. Or you design nice stuff because you have to do something exceptional.

If you want passive income, you need to get out of that mentality. After work is still work, except you are the employer.


since you already tried this out. Were your projects similar to other services or they were completely new ideas?

I am wondering if it is easier to launch in a proven market and get a small portion of the pie rather than create a new idea that might end up not working out.


Generally sport related - but pushing technology. The problem was there was no market - in a few instances markets were established later but I had left by then. The upside is i can still trade on tech skills

Its a paradox of I can build anything, so why cant I build something that makes money


option 3: go after a niche in a proven market and rule that (i.e.: a beachhead market). After that expand.


Obviously that's the best option but finding that niche might still mean you have to create an mvp and jump through all the hoops multiple times to validate it.


Just one comment about point 4. I think 0 is only likely if you expect to create it and that customers will come on their own. If you create an SaaS that solves a real problem then you are definitely going to earn money it just won't be passive. Operations, support and marketing might become your new full time job but like acangiano said, depending on what your SaaS is targetting there's no limit on how much you can earn.


I clarified that I meant closer to $0 than $1M, not actually $0. :) If you do proper niche research and customer development, you'll make some money.


The bottom is -10k, you have to outlay for lawyer, marketing, hosting and possibly travel or industry specific capital. No matter what your research you can have zero paid uptake in the market. I.e. Google can solve your chosen task for your chosen niche for free and by accident or your domain experts can be confused about what technology will solve their problem until it really exists and is in front of them.


The majority of SaaS applications do not require their founder to travel or purchase capital. You have a good chance of not needing a lawyer[0], especially if you already have an LLC like a large number of developers do. Marketing is a likely expense but can be done for free if you're smart about it.

Hosting is really the biggest up-front expense, especially if you expect to have large spikes in traffic (SaaS around events or seasonal things) that you need to try to plan for.

[0] Meaning a large cash outlay to a person. You can get away with generic privacy, TOS, etc.


You can suceed on $0, but are you willing to fail to keep that limit? I've never seen someone not sink $5-10k post release into a production stage flop. A success may never need paid marketing, but a flop is a "what if" until you tried everything that seems reasonable.

The LLC is also not a total firewall. You can always raise your top by having the wrong/no insurance, but that is just making the worst outcome further negative.

I'm not saying its bad to try your own buisiness, I'm saying its silly to think your only downside is lost time. Unless you are a social pariah that no one will assist, you will have a way to risk losses and you should think about that and try to set limits that are realistic enough to stick to.


I'm working on my second million.

I gave up on my first.


question: is there still money in blogging/affiliate marketing ? does anyone here still makes anything worth the trouble by amazon affiliates etc?


Yes, there are tons of mommy blogger sites making a lot of money. The niche is important though. It also takes months/years to build up reputation.

Usually these high reputation content sites are used to drive traffic to a paid product that you own rather than selling somebody else's product. A weak example... you spend a year building a content site around React.js which you really love. You can throw ads on the site and push other people's product...but after you build up a large following of trusted users, you can release a a paid ebook/course and start advertising your React.js consulting company which will be much more lucrative.

Then you pivot to teaching people how to make money online like almost everybody does after they have one success.


As they say, the money in the list. If you can build a mailing list of buyers, you can strike gold every time a newsletter is shot out.


Not the easiest route for reputable niches, but there is money to be made. Especially if you grow your newsletter.


Points 1-3, are those figures per month, per year...? Are your estimates from personal experience or from people you know?


1-3 are total numbers. Obviously you can make more money and for longer if you constantly update your course or book.

I wanted to provide ballpark figures to give a general idea. Some are from personal experience, othes from friends and people I have helped, and others from general industry knowledge.


Thanks for that! I had a quick look at your website linked from your profile, you've got quite an interesting, varied career.

I'm thinking of self-publishing a book on a somewhat technical topic that's trending upwards at the moment, so this advice is most helpful and timely.


Thanks. Have you looked at solutions to actually produce the book? Unless you're already setup, three nice options are:

1. https://www.softcover.io/

2. https://www.gitbook.com/

3. https://leanpub.com/


Wow this is great, thanks so much again! I'll definitely look into these.




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