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Creative Tim: Growing a side project into a $17k/month business (indiehackers.com)
445 points by csallen on Dec 29, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 139 comments

I really love these IndieHackers interviews but surprisingly find them somewhat demotivating.

Even the more successful interviewees make less revenue per month than I can make through straight consulting. And they're the success stories—most people (including myself) make far less per month from their products.

How do people keep motivated to work on side projects when consulting is so much more profitable?

Because money isn't everything.

What I'm working on isn't a side project, it's my main gig, but it's paying the bills nicely. But I started this after quitting from a post-acquisition job at Google paying $400k plus 4 years of retention bonus totalling a lot of money. I would absolutely have been financially much, much better off at Google. But I would have had to live in the US which I didn't want to do, and I would have spent my life in meetings, and I would have been working at least 50 hours a week on things that didn't interest me.

Currently I live in a small town that I love with no tech scene or jobs, I make a good living, and I spend lots of time with my wife and daughter. Importantly, I spend time with them whenever I feel like it, or when they need me to, and not when it's good for some company. I have great users and I enjoy improving their lives through my product, which is mostly a lot of fun to work on.

A few people have mentioned that working on your own thing requires a bunch of things that you'd rather not do - marketing etc, as well as things that are taken care of for you at larger companies such as setting up payment systems, worrying about tax, and so on. That is all true, but it's massively offset in my case by not having employees or bosses, and not having meetings. The sum total of doing things I'd rather not do is much, much higher working at a company doing those things than what I do now, where I spend most of my days writing interesting code and a relatively small fraction of my time on boring stuff.

"Money isn't everything" - guy who obviously made more than 2 million USD working at Google for 4 years...

I don't want to say you're wrong, but money isn't everything is easy to say when you have it.

Perhaps it wasn't clear in my comment - I quit right out of the gate instead of staying at Google. I essentially turned the job down.

For reference: 'Quitting' a job means you accepted the job offer and did the job, even very briefly. 'Turning down' a job means you did not accept the offer.

I quit the job after ~2 months, which I'd consider more or less turning it down. Since it was as part of an acquisition, it wasn't a standard job offer which I could accept or decline independent of the acquisition itself.

In his defense, he's really comparing ~$200k to ~$400k, not poverty to $400k. Beyond a certain point, the more money you have, the less extra money matters.

This mentality is what drives people to mediocrity. Not reaching your full potential just hurts yourself, your family and your community in the long run. If you have the capability to learn more, earn more and create great businesses don't sit on the sidelines the world needs more action takers.

You're equating potential with money. I make more people happy doing what I do now than what I would have done at Google. And importantly, I'm a much better father than I would have been were I working 50 hours a week. Me, my family and my community are all much better off with my current situation than we would have been had I taken the job.

>This mentality is what drives people to mediocrity. Not reaching your full potential just hurts yourself.

This mentality is what drives people to misery, greed, depression, stress, strained personal life and ill health.

One's "full potential" is not about making as much money as one could make.

I understand your point. But it doesn't mean we have to live with a hero complex / white man's burden. To consciously step away from earning more, and creating businesses doesn't mean driving oneself to mediocrity if it is to trade off for something they would rather do, appreciate more, and value more. It can be called selfish or hedonistic to do so. We only have one life, I'm not going to live it doing what others want.

There are things in life other than money, and people you can make happy in ways you never could with an extra couple of hundred thousand a year. We're social creatures, by and large - if you're trading away your time spent being part of society for some extra money, unless you're a certain type of person, you're almost definitely making yourself less happy - and if many people do it, they're making everyone else less happy as well as people have less opportunity to socialise and are more pressured into a game of increasing a number.

>This mentality is what drives people to mediocrity.

One reason for someone to think this way: in most western countries income at these levels is taxed at very high rates. Why work more when the government just takes a big chunk of your earnings?

> This mentality is what drives people to mediocrity.

As if excellence were measured in money.

Actually, if you think about it, those who have money are really only people who are qualified to say such a thing.

>I don't want to say you're wrong, but money isn't everything is easy to say when you have it.

Yes, but you can trivially find people who say it even though they don't have the money. And that they have made proven sacrifices for other causes (e.g. left lucrative careers for much less good paying ones that they love more).

I think you're been unnecessary defensive. I'm not questioning the value of doing side projects.

Money might not be everything, but it certainly is something. This is especially true when comparing consulting (something I genuinely quite like doing, it's almost totally bullshit free) with running my own SaaS startup (which also seems attractive, but would involve doing more of the things I dislike than now).

Still, to be clear, I absolutely do want to make side projects happen. It's just hard to keep the motivation up when there's a steady flow of interesting projects from clients which have immediate, guaranteed revenue attached to them.

Sorry if you thought I was being defensive, it wasn't my intention. I was just explaining why, for me, what is essentially a lifestyle business is much more attractive than consultancy, or working in a large company. If you like consultancy then keep doing it, by all means - I'm just happy to see people doing things they like doing.

For me, the really major win is not having to live in or near a tech hub or large city to have interesting work, and to have control of my time. Most of the lifestyle stuff just flows on from that.

Sorry, I guess I misread your tone.

Being able to work from anywhere is definitely a huge advantage (of both consulting and lifestyle businesses). I just wish I could make a lifestyle business which actually paid for the lifestyle my consulting does.

For now, my plan is to focus on becoming financially independent so I can work on anything (including side projects) without worrying about money.

Sure, and I think that's a great plan. It's more or less what I did - I didn't make FU money from the acquisition, but enough that I didn't have to worry about it for a while while I found something fun to work on. However you're in a better position than me because I truly hated that job for several years before it unexpectedly worked out well, which is why I was willing to sacrifice a large pile of cash for long-term happiness. If you can get to being sufficiently financially comfortable while doing something you enjoy, you should totally do that.

It seems like you're taking it harder than they meant it. They do say money isn't everything, but from their viewpoint, they have enough for what they need in balance with the rest of the their life. I don't see where they're saying it isn't anything/something.

I was a full time employee, then consultant, and now I run my own company.

Working and consulting limits your money making abilities to yourself. I have the potential to make much more running my own company (and I do).

"It's just hard to keep the motivation up when there's a steady flow of interesting projects from clients which have immediate, guaranteed revenue attached to them."

There is, for now. But this will change. It always does. I don't look forward to the roller coaster ride of finding that next consulting client or dealing with ridiculously difficult ones.

This also changes as you get older and have a family (many consulting gigs require traveling to work onsite or for important meetings). Consultants are also usually cut first at any big company, if you have long-term gigs.

The other difference is the type of work you want to do. I enjoy the challenge of starting a business from scratch and wearing many hats (including many non-technical roles).

I don't think I could ever go back to consulting.

They're (at least somewhat) passive income, while your consulting work is not.

Once up and running, these projects typically require far less time and effort to maintain, and majority of time is spent in improvements so the revenue grows in the future. Or the owner can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Four Hour Work Week [tm].

As a contrast, consulting gig is good money while you're working. When you stop (vacation, illness, whatever), the money flow stops as well.

That's true. However, you can't underestimate just how not passive this kind of income typically really is.

It takes quite a bit of level to get it to the point where you can afford to be lazy (passive), which just means spending less time on it, not no time.

That's why income from side project services/products is great in conjunction with consulting (or whatever) income. You can make an extra few thousand a month on a project that you wanted to start in the first place, with some part time number of hours per week.

Even the example in the post is $17k rev with a 6 person team. Although, this guy and his partner are from Romania - it's awesome there and your USD go VERY far.

Thanks for mentioning. This is something I needed to be reminded of myself. As part of my new year's resolution, I want to get serious about building a product from one of my seemingly endless ideas that I never execute on. I often give up part way through when I notice that my consulting pays exponentially more, but neglected to consider the passive side of the equation

If your goal is truly to build a business rather than just "side project for its own sake", then you might be trying to launch with too many features.

Best advice I've ever seen on this topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13213871

Yeah I also glanced at that earlier , but didn't read through it fully. This does seem to echo alot of the reasons why I don't follow through with things - ie. build too many features when I originally start off with 1 straigtforward goal. I think at this point, most of what's holding me back is psychological. I'm going to make a very strong attempt at figuring out how I can best focus on not act all ADD on my ideas.

I'm trying to be motivated enough to finish one of my own project ideas and get it up and running next week... Had a rough couple months (extenuating circumstances) and my goal is to have enough relatively passive income to cover the essential bills so I don't stress out as much as I have been.

Although my model won't be recurring revenue, so will have to do enough marketing to keep a more consistent churn. Fortunately, I can do some pretty targeted marketing in a service that isn't saturated, and the incumbents haven't kept up well.

Don't get me wrong, I think IndieHackers is cool and enjoy reading these stories but I also think people who are running very profitable SaaS businesses may be hesitant on doing an IndieHackers interview.

We don't think of our projects as "side projects" and don't really want to be grouped in as an Indie Hacker.

I would agree with this. Several years ago we were averaging $50k/mo with me and one employee, and we are now bigger in terms of both revenue and people. However I consider myself a profitable bootstrapped startup, not a side project or anything of that nature.

You should consider doing an interview, too! Indie Hackers is for both businesses and side projects, and features interviews with lots of startup founders. As long as you have a venture that people could learn from, it'd be awesome to feature your story on the site or in the upcoming podcast! If you're interested, hit me up at courtland@indiehackers.com.

> We don't think of our projects as "side projects" and don't really want to be grouped in as an Indie Hacker.

That's a fair point and maybe something csallen could take into consideration for branding.

The success story for side projects should generally be that they cease to be side projects. I'd be very interested in hearing about more businesses which started as bootstrapped side projects.

Interesting, I haven't spoken to anyone from a bigger company who's given me this feedback before. Usually if they decline to be interviewed, it's because they're not comfortable sharing their revenue. I've had a lot more success getting interviews for people in this category for my upcoming podcast, where I don't require revenue to be shared. Hopefully their interviews will help make it clear that the Indie Hackers label isn't only for side projects.

(The tagline on the homepage does say "profitable businesses and side projects, after all.)

By the way, I'm not sure what company you're from, but if you're interested in appearing, feel free to get in touch :D

Because the common perception is that a software product has a marginal cost of near zero and can scale, whereas consulting limits you to your billable hours and requires constantly chasing down new clients. You may debate the merits of that argument and it doesn't take into account product maintenance and support–but I think there is some validity to it.

Also, some SaaS/product success stories take the path of CONSULTING/AGENCY -> PRODUCT -> SUCCESS (e.g. Basecamp, SEOmoz, FreshBooks) but you rarely hear of the reverse.

> You may debate the merits of that argument and it doesn't take into account product maintenance and support–but I think there is some validity to it.

That's very true, but I'd also speculate that the vast majority of software products never pay back the flat cost of development.

IndieHackers is a compendium of founders who were successful enough to be worth interviewing, and even the vast majority of them make less from their projects than consulting can make.

> most SaaS/product success stories take the path of CONSULTING/AGENCY -> PRODUCT -> SUCCESS (e.g. Basecamp, SEOmoz, FreshBooks) but you rarely hear of the reverse

Arguably that's because it's so common that it's not worth talking about. I know tons of people who have launched projects which ended up failing, so they fell back on consulting revenue. Far more people than have successful side projects.

All fair points. Although IMO saying "the vast majority of software products never pay back the flat cost of development" is unfair. Remember, these are "side" projects usually being built as a personal scratch-your-own-itch, learning exercise, or hobby. An exact opportunity cost equation doesn't always work.

Different people are motivated by different things I suppose.

Sunk cost fallacy at work here. Yes, side projects may never pay back dev investment, but if you have already written all that code and invested, then you should not use that as a cost factor to make decisions about the future.

That's not the sunk cast fallacy.

The time you spend on developing previous side projects (which saw minimal return) should absolutely be a factor in deciding whether to start new ones.

> Also, some SaaS/product success stories take the path of CONSULTING/AGENCY -> PRODUCT -> SUCCESS (e.g. Basecamp, SEOmoz, FreshBooks) but you rarely hear of the reverse.

There are a lot of people (i.e. @levelsio) who launch a career as a speaker out of products, I imagine part of that is consulting

Wait what? I (@levelsio) am not doing that. I've made €2000 out of speaking total and only spoke 3 times. I don't consult.

My revenue doesn't come from speaking, it comes from product. I don't like those people who do that at all because how can you trust people that only speak but not make product?

I speak if I want to spread a message (although blogging is way more efficient).

I have to agree with this. A lot of people create products to augment their consulting services.

For me it's the drive to try to build something that might become something. (I was interviewed for indiehackers but only have 3k recurring revenue, so did not really peak any interest here on HN :)

Sure I can consult 110% and probably earn enough as three full time jobs. But I already have everything. Gadgets are not very exciting when your employer gives you top-of-the-line Macbooks and iPhones. I don't play video games. It's just an itch. Like hobby level soccer players who don't earn a cent yet play matches during weekends and train weeknights. It's a hobby, with an added benefit of actually maybe sustaining a full time developer (lower end of salary tier) in the future.

I'm definitely with you on the hobby aspect. That's why I keep trying: I do love building new products. The problem is that I don't really enjoy the other aspects of building a side business (marketing, sales, etc.) so it's hard to sustain those when the revenue is so pitiful.

Would you mind linking to your interview? $3k/m is certainly respectable and more than I've ever reached.

Absolutely! https://www.indiehackers.com/businesses/feeder

Also posting revenues is never really interesting without talking about costs... Also taxes take a lot from different directions, so even after hosting costs it's VAT and corporate tax and even more. That's when you see the scale needed to actually succeed with it for a living.

As for the other side (marketing etc) I couldn't agree more. Getting in a third person who actually likes that part made a massive difference for us. Not only for the product, but also within the team. I can really respect why having complementing co-founders is so important.

Thanks for sharing, feeder looks very impressive. I think you should raise your prices.

Working with a team definitely makes a huge difference. It's a lot easier to stay motivated when someone else is handling their specialty and you're accountable to them as well as yourself.

Not to be rude, but it's pique, not peak. Just thought you might want to know

3k a month seems entirely in line with this article, which is about a company of six people bringing in 17k a month.

If you can make more than $17k/month from straight consulting, I would like to subscribe to your newsletter please.

At a modest $200/hr, that's 85 hours. It definitely can be hard to line up that much work month after month, but I've had a few months in a row where I achieved that level of consulting revenue.

The key is to keep raising your rates.

I'm a new grad, but since when do consultants get to charge > ~double the hourly rate of what wages would be?

Did I miss the memo?

Two memos from the archives:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8706043 (see in particular the linked comment)

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7155387 (why a consultancy charges an $8k per month programmer out at $6k per week)

In addition to the factors kleinsch mentioned, consultants aren't necessarily charging double the hourly rate of employees.

Most of the consultants charging >$150/hr are people who could readily get a job in Big Tech paying >$250k/yr.

Happens all the time. As a consultant you're responsible for self employment tax (7.5%), benefits, vacation, sick leave, etc. You also have no job security, so you need to make enough that you can cover gaps in between gigs that ended. You price it into your hourly rate accordingly.

So yes, your hourly rate is significantly higher than a comparable salaried employee. No, you're not actually ending up with double the money at the end of the day.

Fair, but what's in it for the company? Why pay me a huge hourly rate when they could hire an employee for less? There are various answers to this: specialized knowledge, limited engagement, and so on. But it's important to establish your value as a consultant along these lines.

Employees are extremely undesirable to have. They're highly regulated, and mean that you have to hire HR departments to mitigate the constant risk of being sued. And there are many many regulations that kick in after you have X number of employees, so many companies stay at X-1 employees until they're ready to make the jump to 2X employees.

With a consultant, you cut them a check, they do the work, and then they go away. No hassle or risk.

It's the difference between logging onto a website like Fiverr and putting in your credit card, and paying a lawyer $500/hour to help you set up an employee health care plan.

How do I establish a background to be a profitable consultant?

- Work at X company for Y years?

- GitHub?

- Networking?

The only thing you need to get paid (picking a number) $40,000 for solving a business problem is to be able to sell a client you have identified on the desirability of paying you $40,000 to solve a business problem. This is the hardest thing for engineers to stomach about business. Being good at what you do is table stakes for consulting; a major determinant of one's success is one's ability to get good at selling.

There are ways to use OSS contributions or networking to assist in developing that client and making that sale, but they are not required. "I worked 5 years at Google" does not entitle one to a consulting gig.

You need to be able to find clients without spending a fortune on marketing. Networking is good for this; there are a ton of blog posts about how to build up a professional network. Low-cost "thought leader" content marketing might work too, like blogging, an email newsletter, social media presence.

You also need to understand what problems your potential clients are facing. This takes experience, which can come from working as an employee in that industry.

You need to convince your potential clients that you will reliably solve their problem--not only the technical skills, but the ability to apply them on time, on budget, and do what you say you can do. Case studies and client referrals are key here.

Working at X company for Y years is a good way to learn all about the problems that companies like X face, and to develop some stories about how you have solved those problems professionally. It can also be a good way to build a network.

GitHub is useful if it demonstrates skill and perseverance. If it is filled with half-done hobby projects, it will be useless or even a detriment. It is less important than a good track record on actual paying projects.

Finally, to be a profitable consultant, you need to know how to run the business--to estimate your expenses and set rates that are competitive but still make enough money.

EDIT: the blog at http://www.kalzumeus.com is chock full of detailed content on how to start your own software business, including consulting.

$17k/month in consulting is actually not too much. For 22 working days, 8hrs a day, for about $100/hour you can earn $17k month.

I make $30k+ in months when I am asked to work longer hours (50h of billable time). I wrote a book about how to break into consulting as a programmer; link in profile. The key is prospecting. I offer a fee chapter, devoted to 15 channels for finding clients.

I've billed $40k in one month. Typical months are closer to $30k. I have fairly specialized machine learning skills.

Do you need an advanced degree to do this? How did you land on your niche?

You need to be well known in the academic community, have worked on important and well known products, and spend a lot of time on potential clients. We have one person (the one with the most connections) who just finds contracts by going to trade shows and curating connections, and the rest of us work on them.

I've worked on products that you've used :)

With a consulting team of 6 people...? That actually sounds too low.

Been doing this for 3 years.

There are tons of programming gigs at $100+/hour. $100 * 40 * 4.33 = $17320 per month. It's usually tough to fill 40 hours consistently, but if your rates are higher, you can work less hours.

I don't have a newsletter, but if you send an email to me@morgante.net I'll let you know if I ever start one.

>How do people keep motivated to work on side projects when consulting is so much more profitable?

For one, you get to work on what YOU like, and do it the way YOU want it done.

Second, in lots of places in the world, that's equal or way more than you can make in consulting. And not everybody has the connections to go into consulting or desires to move to another country like the US to make more money.

Third, these money can be passive income, in which case, you do minimal or even no work, and still get them. That's a huge win, even if you make less you have 8+ more hours per day free for yourself.

You need to consider the fact that Tim is creating a real asset that has a market valuation based on a multiplier of revenue and/or profits.

In the business I created with my cofounder, we never made that much on a monthly basis, but when we finally sold the company, we did very well.

So to motivate yourself, just ask yourself how much would you like your business to be worth if you ever decide to sell it?

As one reference point, I've seen smaller saas-companies go for about [2,3] times ARR. Source: following feinternational newsletter. Always thought that was a bit dissapointing. Care to share your experience?

When you do consulting, you create asset for the client. But in side projects the asset can be yours. And assets may grow in value compared to consulting revenue.

Its more about earning passive income from something that was fun to build. I built my side projects simply because I thought it would be fun to build them. The passive income from something I only maintain a few hours a week is just a nice bonus.

I respect your position. When you are trying to pay the bills, every dollar is the same shade of green.

When you are trying to establish enterprise value, it's different. The value of a company is roughly (m/(i-c+g) - f) where m = margin dollars, i = the interest rate of your funders, c = churn, g = revenue growth and f = fixed costs. If you have a repeatable (and growable) cash flow, then it's worth a lot more than consulting work that you have to win every year. The math is highly oversimplified, but this is why a company like LinkedIn (Or Ariba in Web 1.0) can sell for 8 or 10 times revenue.

Don't focus on what revenue he makes per month. Next to his revenue, he's also building value into his company.

When you are ill, don't work in the weekend, go on holiday, you don't get paid.

His business keeps selling, in weekends, during vacations. When he wants to get out, he can sell his company for 2x to 4x his annual profit. Or he can remove himself out of the equation and spend only a small amount of time on it, and still make a profit each month.

He is building something of value next to getting paid, you are not.

Well, thing is that not everyone can charge that kind of money for consulting. It depends very much on the kind of work that you do and your location, and also on ones business skills. So if you can, then by any mean you should concentrate you efforts on the consulting. If I understood correctly this guy was from Romania, so from the beginning his options were probably much more limiting; for Eastern Europe $17K/month is a huge money.

> How do people keep motivated to work on side projects when consulting is so much more profitable?

They're side projects. Unless consulting is your side project, I don't really see the ultimatum here. Either you enjoy working on side projects or you don't.

The 'passive' income you get from them is a really nice benefit, but still the reason why you do a side project (as opposed to making it a full-time project) should be because you enjoy making things.

The idea here is to get enough of these autonomous side projects, that the revenue adds up. Maybe one out of ten will hit big enough to move on.

While it may be more lucrative to be a consultant, it may be harder for people to get into that career. I am not a consultant, so my experience is limited, but it seems that its all about having contacts and being good. If it's your first programming job, you may have neither the skills nor the contacts to be a successful consultant.

Contacts is just knowing other programmers.

These side gigs and businesses can scale to something larger than just one consultant is what I think the point is

Consider you make 6k a month, plus 17k a month is a huge jump for a side project. Not that many people can make more than 17K a month...

You, not others. Im happy your business is profitable. Bit others dont have the same options. We just play the hand we were given. :)

I doubt I could make 17k/m consulting while doing something I enjoy. I could probably make that by getting into the business side of things and away from tech.

I devour indiehacker's interviews and I love the transparency - thanks to both sides of the table.

According to the numbers here, 42% of the 17,000 monthly revenues are spent on 6 people. That's $1190 per person per month if everyone is paid equally.

Is everyone in Romania, and is that a living wage there? If not, how are your employees making ends meet?

Edit: that last sentence sounds accusatory - I don't mean it to. I just mean: do you have a strategy of part-timers who have other income streams, do you take side contracts, etc.

Glad that you like it! In Romania, the minimum monthly wage is 250$, then programmers start with 400$/month. Depending on experience and what they do inside a company they can grow to 2-3k/month in a couple of years. We are growing the salaries according to the experience and the position inside the company too. 100% of our employees started with 0 experience because it was their first job. Everything was learned inside our company.

Totally was not expecting the answer to be "yes".

Some countries in Europe is very low wage. There is an article about Italy millennia generation the 1000 Euro generation because that's how much many of them make per month. That isn't to say it's a living wage, but it's what a lot get. Tech isn't paid much compared to Bay Area either, look at London or Spain, dramatic wage differences (London especially since cost of living isn't different from Bay Area).

$1k Euro/month is decent living in Eastern Europe, Romania, Hungary, almost any place closer to Russia.

That stood out to me too. Not great at this stage but if they can continue to grow it, I suppose the pay will increase too. They started 2 years ago though. 17k in 2 years for 6 people is pretty low imo unless they are very part time.

Romanian here, living in the UK though.

Romania is a lot cheaper than any much any other place in the Western world. Granted, $1.2k a month wouldn't be enough to go on shopping sprees every weekend, but it's enough for quite a good life.

You can also take a look here to get an idea: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...

I think a good senior software engineer makes around $2.5k per month, but I think that's sort of on the higher end unless you're really a hot shot, and for Romania, that's an awesome salary, way above the average.

It's probably worth noting to the US audience that salaries in Europe are almost always quoted as net, with (usually) no further taxes due.

So if someone's getting $2.5K per month it's not the same as an American getting 12x that in annual salary, because it's (presumably) the after-tax number in Romania while it'd be the pre-tax number in the US.

Still, I get that tech talent is a great value in Romania. I wonder if there's a problem finding good people because so many would go to the West to make more money. But it seems the OP solves that problem by hiring beginners, which is probably what I'd do.

Yeah, generally salaries in Romania (any maybe other Eastern European countries) are quoted as net, per month. In the USA/UK it's almost always yearly-based, with hourly rates for contractors. In Romania people mainly talk about how much they take home from their salary every month.

With regards to the tech talent, I definitely think there is some truth to that. I'm no expert, but I'd say it might have something to do with the education system, or maybe even culture, which is quite heavily focused on maths and physics. With that said, we always rank quite low on most international education indices and the like. I think it might be some sort of educational inequality where children in the cities get quite good education and are pushed by their parents to study, while the ones in rural areas get the short end of the stick.

Also, something that really pisses me off is how many Romanians overstate our IT prowess. "Romanian is the second language spoken at Microsoft" is now part of folk wisdom, despite being proved to be false and just a media hoax in the '00s. We have many big companies with offices in Bucharest (and other cities), but they aren't really flocking to get all of this "enormous talent" just laying around. Don't get me wrong, we do have many reputable engineers and university professors, but nothing that would warrant this common perception about how incredibly skilled Romanians are in IT.

There did seem to be a little bit of PR about it... Cluj positioning itself as a very startup-friendly city, a documentary about all he evil hackers in Râmnicu Vâlcea IIRC, though it does seem a bit random.

Any idea how it compares to neighboring Hungary?

In Budapest there's anecdotally a lot of software talent and a fairly visible coworking/hipster-hacking/startup scene, but I still see Tata bringing people in from India to work.

And in Berlin there are people from all over the world toiling in the Salt Mines of Samwer, I would assume a lot of them from the former Eastern Bloc.

I wrote a blog post back in 2013 regarding how much I should make in more expensive cities of the world (London, SF, NY, etc) in order to have the same standard of living as in Romania for 1700 eur/month: http://programming.tudorconstantin.com/2013/10/why-ill-never...

>Is everyone in Romania, and is that a living wage there?

It's a very good living wage for Romania but low for what other IT people are earning, ~$2k monthly.

Why don't Romanians just get remote jobs?

They come to Western Europe :) Last year I hired two Romanian developers here in The Netherlands, both were very good.

Do you believe it to be that easy to get a remote job, such that all Romanians can simply just "get" one?

It's not easy, but you can do it. Source: I'm Romanian and I work remotely. I found the job here in the monthly Who's Hiring thread.

My point was not "Romanians can't get remote jobs," but rather "It's not so easy to get remote jobs that all Romanians can simply get a remote job."

It's as easy or as difficult as getting any other programming job. The more you know your stuff and good English, the better the job you'll find.

Jobs grow on trees after all /s

I've noticed many of the dev marketplaces (even the more expensive ones) are dominated by international developers. It's definitely a popular path.

There's a lot of friction for both buying remote work and selling.

It has to be really worth the other party's time.

Not everyone can be a freelancer, that's one of the points behind the theory of the firm.

Technological advances can and have shifted the % of freelancers, but I doubt it will ever be near 100%.

I say that as both having been a freelancer, currently working semi-remote, and hiring freelancers (both locally and from India and Pakistan).

> It's a very good living wage

It's a very good wage for _surviving_.

After taking care of rent/utility bills there's not much left to go around for actually living.

>After taking care of rent/bills there's not much left to go around for actually living.

Are you implying rent/bills in Romania are $1k/mo?

The rent in UK (not London), Germany, France (not Paris), Italy, Spain, Portugal, etc... are under $1k a month.

Romania is eastern Europe. It should be way cheaper than that.

Rent most likely ~200, food ~100-200, misc ~100. You can get by with 300-500/month in eastern Europe, but you will have to monitor your expenses really closely. 300 if you live with friends/parents, cook at home and don't really do much else other than eat, sleep and work.

Get a decent apartment, have some fun in your free time and 1000 does turn into a "barely getting by"-wage. 1.5k-2k is comfortable wage, but median is around 500-600 in most of eastern Europe afaik.

>1000 does turn into a "barely getting by"-wage

That's a very privileged view of "barely getting by". All you've described is someone spending everything they make on luxuries (nicer apartment, "having fun" - whatever that implies). By that token, someone could easily be "barely getting by" in San Francisco on an income of $400k by getting a nice 2 bedroom apartment to themselves in a hot location.

It seems that your 1000 may be rather comfortable, compared to the major tech cities. Different places have different standards for "barely getting by".

How much for a decent high-speed Internet connection?

In Romania? $5 for 1Gbps, I'd wager. That is really not the problem there.

9$. VAT, 24%, included.

$1k/mo is the budget for an employee. Based on an salary app I've found online, an employee will receive around 680$/month after all taxes. It's a bit under-average for entry level devs in Romania but it's enough to live decent (the average national wage is around 460$ per month after taxes).

One could say the same for Bay Area salary of $150k.

While this is Romania and one of the poorest in EU, one thing Americans tend to forget is that all the good things you like about EU like healthcare etc. come with a cost. It's not like only super rich put the money in :) The Silicon Valley wages are here utopia, even in the most expensive cities. Ask a Swiss about the salary your dev makes in Valley and he or she will have an heart attack.

from the article it seems like they are a consulting company and that this is a side project for them almost. So im sure they make money from their clients on top of the money from this

Thank you for reading it. We used to be a consulting agency, then when our side project (creative-tim) started to generate enough to pay our office and salaries for 3 persons we switched to it and then it was growing so we could get more people onboard.

Hi everybody, here is Alex, the co-founder of Creative Tim. Hope the information from this interview will help you achieve more with your current business or give you the courage to start your own business.

If you have any suggestions or feedback I would be glad to talk with you.

Best, Alex

Hi, Alex. Nice new material design templates and open sourcing them! It looks like the developer wrote their own code[1] to achieve the material design look and feel; will your team be using Google's Material Design Components in HTML/CSS/JS [2] in the future?

[1] https://github.com/creativetimofficial/material-dashboard

[2] https://github.com/google/material-design-lite

I came across your site a couple months ago and was really impressed with the design. I was also pleasantly surprised at just how permissive your licensing was.

I'm now happily using paper-dashboard for some internal admin areas. Thank you!

Hey Alex! Thanks for sharing about creative-tim!

You have an excellent business on your hands.

Thank you! Glad that you like it :D

Hi Alex,

Great work. I'm curious how did you get your affiliate programs in place, did you reach out to folks or did they reach out to you?

Thank you for the kind words! In the beginning, we started to talk with different bloggers or website owners that were sharing content for our audience, then with github repos' owners in order to get some of our affiliates, then we created a dedicated page on our website where we receive affiliates requests.

Hi Alex, thanks for sharing.

I was wondering, what you pay your affiliates is missing from the break down of costs. Why is that?

Glad that you like it! It is missing from the cost because we use a payment processor (Avangate) who is taking care of all our payments and also the affiliates commissions + European VAT and other taxes, what we have there in revenue is our net revenue after we pay all the VAT, affiliates and commissions of our payment vendor. So the Gross revenue is bigger than 17k/month, around 20-21k/month.

17k a month is only 204k a year which is awesome don't get me wrong but I'm not sure that supports 6 employees.

Average gross salary in Romania is $740/month, so $17k/month should be able to pay 6 salaries.

Does that take into account that they are in Romania?

In Romania they do..

With all these "success" stories flying about I'd absolutely love to know how many losers there are for each "Creative Tim". 10x, 100x, 1000x ?

They make great templates. We have used their chart templates in our BI tool - https://drilldb.com

Their pricing is also very affordable compared to many alternatives. You don't have to think twice before making a purchase.

I read some of the comments, many saying that $17,000/mo. isn't a lot of money, but don't forget that Creative Tim is based in Romania.

Salaries in Romania aren't as good as in the States.

I'm currently based in Italy and a programmer can make as little as 1,200/mo. (salaries in Italy are much higher than in Romania, possibly 100-200% more). I make more than that freelancing, but I don't think 17,000/mo. is bad, both in general and for a company based in Romania.

This worked very well on me, as I just bought one of their developer licenses for a pro package... Beautiful stuff.

here's a link to the other HN thread with no comments or anything:


The indiehacker guy is known for aggressively beating his own drum and posting and reposting his blog links.

Appears effective.

Speaking from personal experience - nothing magically happens even if you create something valuable and put your heart and soul into it. You have to beat that drum, even if you hate every note that comes out of it. Which is why there are roles called Sales and Marketing. Being a salesman is an under-appreciated, arduous but honorable job. They create mutually beneficial relationships between parties that might otherwise never find each other.

Oh yes I know this. Sadly great products don't sell themselves, but proper sales people can make shit sell like gold.

No one cares.

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