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Ask HN: How long did you work on a side project until it was your full time job?
88 points by jorgemf on Sept 18, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments
I am curious to know how long were you working on your side project until it was successful enough to become your full time job.

I'm probably near the higher end of the distribution to this among my Internet buddies: about 4 years. Partly this was due to it truly being a hobby, partly because bingo cards are not the most renumerative thing in the world, and partly because my skill level at the time was rather low.

A more typical number among my SaaS buddies is about 18 months of sustained effort until you hit $10k in MRR, which typically is enough (after expenses) to keep a solo founder in the field indefinitely.

The fastest I've ever seen it done is about ~6 weeks for SaaS. Even shorter for infoproducts, although depending on the dynamics of the business that might be "launch one, get relatively flush with money, buy yourself enough time to launch a second one" until you figure out some not-too-obvious things about how to sell them repeatedly.

A consultant, naturally, can hit day job equivalent levels of revenue virtually immediately after hanging out their shingle (if they've got a client lined up). A fairly common pattern is "Inform day job of intention to quit; immediately go back to working for day job as 1099 during transitionary period; start building pipeline while delivering for Client #1."

Patrick, do you intend to continue doing side projects with you new role at Stripe?

Best of luck at this new role :)

I'm going to keep writing/speaking, but probably not launch any new for-money style projects. Partly this is out of respect for the day job's wishes, partly this is out of desire to maintain free hours for spending with my young family.

Great. Glad to hear you'll still be writing. :D

28 months a mean of 2~3h per day. Now It's my full time job and 3rd Start-up. The most time consuming part until now, finding good partners, product definition, market research.

So far so good, but it confirms me that Europe is slower for firing up a project.

Can you elaborate on the Europe is slower part?

Sure !

There is not a big entrepreneurship culture in general (at least in Spain & Southern France) so starting a startup, learning through others experience, next steps etc.. It's harder.

Also the social pressure is a big reason why entrepreneurship is hard. While in USA, failing and starting over is seen as something natural, in the various Spanish and French communities I have lived is seen as a disaster. Even more in some places is seen as an intent of showing everyone that you are smarter than them so you create your own product/service in stead of working in making better the existing ones. I think it's a cultural thing.

Thanks for this. It really didn't occur to me (as an American) that starting a startup somewhere else could be more difficult, but thinking about it more and trying to think of each of the steps required to even launch an MVP, I realize that these things have been made easy for Americans because of those startups who came before us.

My opinion (which may differ from the other user), USA is a big market with a lot of similarities (a common language). Europe is a set of different countries which can be very different and do not share the same language among other things like the laws, bureaucracy, culture, etc. And there are more startups in USA, the ecosystem is more mature. I think all this factors make USA more atractive to get traction

Thank you for this. That makes sense.

Completely agree with you

If side project == freelancing, i just had my first (and only) month $1k. This was though Upwork. I negotiated hard and got 75% more than the initial offer. It felt more like negotiating a commodity (my day-job) than a specific skill set. I won't knock Upwork too much though, as I got my first freelancing gig through them without much effort.

Freelancing is not a side project, it is actually a job.

Sure. But it felt effing good :)

To clarify: it was a project outside of my 9-5, which made it feel side-projecty. It was also something that was paid on a contract basis which made it 'somehat official'.

I negotiated almost 2.5 months to get this contract, which also made it feel real.

I may not be answering your question, but I'm sharing this so that others know that this is a possibility and also because I wanted to. :)

I started to freelancing in a similar way a year ago, but I still keep my side project :) Actually it is a good way to have time for your side project

https://officesnapshots.com here -- I'd say it was 5 years of being a hobby before I decided to try to make it into my full-time job. Was a history teacher when I started the site.

Another 2 years or so of temping, miscellaneous web work, and anything else to pay the bills.

It has now been 2 years where the website is truly my full-time work and I'm looking to hire my first employee in the next few months. Pretty excited about that!

I'd still love to feature you and Office Snapshots on https://IndieHackers.com, Steve!

What's your business model like for Office Snapshots?

Primarily advertising based. I'd say that it resembles a magazine most.

Probably unusual, but about 10 weeks. It was a niche market paid iPad app, written and deployed in 6 weeks, and we saw immediate sales so we left off iOS contracting and began working on it full time.

That was a little more than 6 years ago and it has continued to be our full-time project. However we did add versions on most other platforms and a cloud sync service, and I'm not sure that we would've continued to generate good revenue without those additions.

What's the app?

18 months until I reached $4k in MRR. It wasn't enough to pay the bills, but I had a couple of years of runway.

I ended up not using my savings as the business started to grow 1k/month after I quit my job.

What was the project?

9 months, started interfering with day job, quit, worked out the notice month. That was 5 years ago :-)

4 years. It was successful, but my previous job was pretty good also.

I eventually switched getting paid for my side project because, it was open source, better management, and I got paid better. And I love doing it.

For me, about a year. I'm doing cloud design & deployment. Nervous because I know these contracts will not last forever. That, and I am the business. If something happens to me, I go from good money to $0 in no time flat. I got the work solely by word of mouth, and I'm not sure how to sell, to get more work.

I have a problem where I get distracted way too much and now have several side projects at 50% completion. And now looking at them, I wonder why anyone would pay money for them. So...I guess the answer is infinity.

It took me 9 months. In two weeks I'm quoting a day job. I hit $2k MRR (after expenses) and finished contracting. I'm planning to use the runaway money from contracting at the beginning.

For me, the worst thing is siting at the office, doing job for someone else and not being able to care about my project and customers. Doing it full time is a huge relief.

Back in 2006 I was making apps for SecondLife virtual world, it took six months to make the first $1000 in sales, then 3 months later it had grown to $5000/month so i quit my day job as a tech support rep. I did it for 4 years, now i'm back to consulting mostly because sales took a nose dive around 2009.

I've been working on my side project since the back end of 2014. I've had at least a couple of 3-4 month breaks from it during that time.

It's only just getting close to something that I can share with people, so I won't be working on it full time in the near future (if ever).

I'm not there yet. For me 'side project' is more a way of living, than a one-time effort to quit a day job. Even if my side project becomes main occupation some day, I'll come up with another side project to learn new things.

I don't really believe in deciding whether to go full time based on how long you've been working on a side project, but rather based on its traction.

Obviously it is not. You can read my question as how long did it take you to get enough traction in your side project to became a full time job. And still the answer will vary depend on how much do you spend in your side project, the market, your goals, etc. I hope no one decides to go full time with their pet projects because of the time they have spent on them!

Perhaps the post has changed but this is the title I see: "Ask HN: How long did you work on a side project until it was your full time job?"

Adjusting it would definitely helps clarify if that's not what you meant. Perhaps, "How successful was your side project before you went full time?", or "How much MRR / traction... ?"

What I wanted to know it is the time. Any metric I ask about a project is not going to be good. MRR -> it depends on your expenses and if it is a peak of a trend or something constant; active users -> depends if you are building the next facebook or a Saas business; etc... Any metric is deep linked with the project and doesn't say anything by itself without a good understanding of the project and the market. I just wanted to know the time because I was curious about it, but you cannot claim any conclusions based on a single metric and without a deep knowledge of the business.

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