Defining successful as a profitable business which provides the majority of the owners income.
- https://www.indiehackers.com/ (of course)
- Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses? (Jan 5, 2017): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13326535 (thanks @jbonniwell)
- Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses? (Mar 9, 2014): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7367243
- Ask HN: Sideprojects/passive income businesses with little or no own coding?: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15806208
- Pieter Levels - Turning Side Projects into Profitable Startups (1h presentation): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6reLWfFNer0
But I'd say a large percentage of successful small saas products are very niche and would not benefit in the least from talking about it in a public forum.
In my case, none of my customers would be reading anything like indie hackers so I have no reason to get the word out through those channels. It would just invite competition without returns.
Also, the interviews are just one part of the site. Arguably the most useful part of Indie Hackers is the forum where people share what they're working on with the goal of getting feedback and advice from other founders.
I bet the interviews get way more traffic than the forums.
For lurkers, it’s the interviews for sure.
I think you're doing a great job growing the community, it has a different vibe from HN and r/startups and I personally do get a lot of value from it, although I'm still mostly interested in the interviews.
I started the business because I've always loved writing, am good at navigating tricky job search and career situations (I've seen it all after 20 yrs in recruiting), and I enjoy it more than recruiting. I also noticed most resume writers didn't really have a background in hiring, but rather were just trained writers that probably had a hard time making it in journalism or other areas.
I'd been writing resumes for my recruiting candidates for many years, and many of those candidates would rely on me for career advice as well. It was odd to provide career advice as a third-party recruiter, as there were times when I might have some financial interest in what a person does. As an example, if someone approached me and said "Should I leave my job?", a recruiter might say "yes" with the thought that if this person leaves I might get a placement fee if I help them find work.
Resume Raiders is now my primary focus and has been quite profitable since it started. There is very little overhead. I live in a pretty expensive area, but my clients come from all over the world. I also offer a discount to HN'ers (see my profile page).
People are more likely to follow a recruiting biz on social (might have a job for me?), but a resume biz is very time specific. Thanks for keeping an eye on me!
(aka stop running after shiny new things and just do it!)
Pieter's approach of what lead him to land on Nomadlist is I think where the value is - scratch your own itch, and do a lot of business experiments - don't spend more than a month or two on a business idea if it hasn't gained traction, move to the next one. Again, only works for some type of businesses.
Really, his projects are interesting and all but "just ship it" is not enough, it has never been.
With a 90% profit margin and 30% taxes, 378k per year in bank.
Not fuck you money, but that’s pretty solid. I remember getting paid 1k/month as my first Job.
Can't argue with results. I don't personally care if you have one file with 4500 lines or 100 files with 45 lines. You have a successful and helpful business. Good job!
Just had to add that...
WRT $50k/mo, for any sane person that's two times more-than-enough. If I could stably do $5k/mo from an app or website I'd be happy.
1) I was wrong about what was going on in that thread. I sort of scanned it at first and saw that snarky "this is why I build companies and you do contracts" post and it rubbed me the wrong way.
2) The $50k (or €50k, im not sure which it is now) number is a lot, but given the way I originally interpreted the thread my initial reaction was more of one like "who does this guy think he is?"
3) I later went back over the thread and saw that people were being needlessly critical of a tiny webapp.
All that being said, I do agree with the replies that are being critical of my thinking here -- I just can't go back and edit it on HN!
I think it's the word you chose that brought it all on you though. Yet empathising with the way you interpreted the thing, I could've made a similar rant too, frankly.
If unemployed and broke is at one end of the spectrum and living off investment dividends is the other, this is 95% of the way there.
That means you can either go for the lump sum or the annuity, either one gets you out from under The Man.
Hell, €5k that's just about passive income(like Levels business are close to being) would set me free and change my life in ways I cannot describe.
I f-you money is saying f-you to your boss, then yes it is. Even in the most expensive cities in the world. Hong Kong, SF
I’ll try moving the map attribution to left tomorrow or move the “by @levelsio” box! Thanks for telling me.
C'mon dude. At least be consistent with your line of reasoning.
I think it's really good. Probably the best startup talk I've seen in a while.
In my opinion, there are benefits to doing things alone, but you have to be able to learn a lot of things quick, have a lot of available time with few distractions, and be very focused and persistent.
Cons: it's not as fun, and will probably take longer than working with people with specific talents.
Typically when I see revenues posted it means the profit must only be a fraction of that amount.
I’ll be importing costs from several sources (like PayPal, bank etc) in the next few days and adding it to my open revenue dashboard:
Rough calculations is that it’s somewhere from 80% to 90% profit margin pre tax.
But I agree with you -- anybody posting "I'm making $X/month doing something that seems easy" is usually trying to sell you a book/workshop/seminar (which is where they make their real money).
I sell a book but that’s less than 5% of my income. 95% is business.
The question is for how long?
What does an an indie maker who has "made it" do next? What do the next decades of their life look like?
Will you ever team up with someone?
I think the most joy I get is from making, so I will continue that. Money was the goal in terms of me having to pay my bills, but the second goal was always that I just like to make things.
Before websites, I made music and visual graphic art. Making makes me happy.
And by definition profit is a fraction of revenue. It can't exactly be more than 100% can it?
Please explain the scenario in which you can take the same balance sheet and use it to show two different revenue figures. You can't. You can easily do the same thing with profit.
The story is pretty unimpressive... I had the idea back in the days when web 2.0 was the new hotness, so I decided to make it happen and use it as an excuse to learn web 2.0 technologies. It was a freemium model from day 1, though I didn't expect many people to buy the paid upgrade.
People seemed to like it, paid upgrades were getting sold, and after a while of it being a hobby I realized I could live off the earnings and decided to make it full time.
It allowed me to spend many years being a digital nomad back when that sort of thing wasn't quite popular yet. I traveled to a lot of places and met a lot of fascinating people. Now I'm settled at home but those years of my life were priceless.
These days we're one of the largest and most respected writing communities online, at least 3 of our members have been in Writers of the Future awards ceremonies, and our members regularly go on to be published by major publishers and smaller outfits.
I should also emphasize that having one's own business doesn't mean you're a millionare, like many assume. I make a comfortable living but much less than you'd think if you pictured a "business owner guy". I still very much consider myself a success, because I get to do what I love, and on my own schedule. (For example I took a little time off to start a new hobby, standardebooks.org, which produces high-quality, modern ebook editions of public domain literature, and releases them free of cost and via CC0.)
I got started by... well, sitting down and scratching my itch. I wanted good backups, and it turned out that other people wanted them too.
Does it backup my website like S3, or does it back up my personal files like Dropbox?
No. It backs up your files like tar. (Except with deduplication and encryption and cryptographic signing and off-site storage.)
I wanted to read comments in feed reader (there were few forums with very interesting discussions) and Google Reader only allowed to read blog posts. So I've started developing my own feed reader.
I believed that comments reading feature is killer and thought that Internet is big and many people will like it and I will be rich soon ;) I saved some money and quit my job to focus completely on my product.
Guess what? After initial release nobody purchased my product. I was quite disappointed and started asking people what they didn't liked (turned out to be the most important thing to do). And I've started to add features they've missed, asked again, improved again. And got first purchase few months later and second purchase few more months later.
Few times I thought to abandon project. But then Google announced it will discontinue Google Reader. By that time I had more or less usable product and got a lot of new clients and a lot of feedback (which is very important). Worked like crazy for a few months and after Google Reader was closed I've had enough clients to pay the bills.
It's still in active development with a huge TODO list.
Can't say that it is success. I would make more if I go to day job (and won't worry as much about what to do next to have income in the future) but I'm working on my own project, talking with my own clients, using technologies selected by me and can work on my own schedule (although after being burned out and birth of baby I returned to working 5 days a week in office -- my own office indeed, with piano ;)
Having one-person online business is definitely possible but it's not as romantic/easy as it sometimes shown. "Wow, this guy could work on the beach" is actually "damn, I must work even on the beach".
This is a fantastic way to put it.
She even featured on Dragons Den:
I started it in 1997 when I was in highschool. I found it interesting that slang terms frequently heard just the year before were already passe. I thought it was something that was worth capturing.
It affords me a modest salary in a fairly high-priced area, on around 2.1 million visitors a month. I estimate that it would get 2.5x - 3x the traffic (and hence the earnings) if google weren't up to strange shenanigans with the site's rankings.
How has UrbanDictionary affected your traffic?
Urban Doctionary gets around 30x the traffic. So it definitely gets the lion's share of slang dictionary traffic.
The Online Slang Dictionary was always a side project from when I started it in 1996 until 2007, when I started working on it full-time. It wasn't until 2007 that people could put content on the site without my manual intervention. So it's easy to see why Urban Dictionary overtook my site in the long past. Since 2011 though, Urban Dictionary's traffic has been artificially propped up due to an ongoing manual penalty against my site, which I've had no success in resolving.
So if anyone works at Google or knows anyone who works at Google - I can be reached at email@example.com or editor@<my site's domain>. :)
What are your recommendations for other firms?
If you're interested I've been documenting the entire process of taking BugMuncher from a side project to my full-time job on my blog starting here - https://www.bugmuncher.com/blog/from-side-project-to-profita...
A second business focused solely on Twitter analytics. Was about to shut that down years ago when Twitter suddenly offered free analytics, but it barely changed sign-up rates, so I kept it going.
On good days, I answer one or two emails, that’s it. The occasional one-week-of-hell when things go sideways
mixed in every few months, of course.
Now looking for the next project.
I guess I don't technically qualify for these posts anymore since I've hired a couple employees, but it was a one-person business for 9 years before doing so.
The basic origin was seeing photos of Google's offices and looking for a website that showed photos of other offices. There wasn't one so I made it.
Thank you kind sir for sharing your wizardry with us mortals.
I explicitly state in my support policy that emailed questions can take 48 business hours to answer. I take my laptop with me on vacation to answer support questions every morning. The rest of the day is free.
You could also contract out support for a week if you really want to avoid the laptop. Pay a contractor friend $$$ to answer your support emails for a week.
My main issue is that collecting money takes as much time/email as support. ~30% of my customers have some need for a manual touch during their annual renewal: forgot password, change email, billing question, etc. My first hire is likely to be an AR person who can handle that administration.
Patrick McKenzie is a HN celebrity that, in a previous life, blogged about his small consultancy and SaaS products. His insights about A/B testing and automated sales emails are worth their word-count in gold.
Only expense is my time spent and a $5 Linode VPS that hosts my shop & update server.
No paid advertising. I tried but it never really got to a point where it was worth it.
Sorry for being a little vague, I'd rather not state my revenue and product together. And sine I've already mentioned my revenue, I won't mention the product. ;)
I worked on it for about 2 years, mostly in open beta, and started selling it in December 2015. It's been the only thing I work on and has provided all my income since then.
If anyone is planning to try out Clojure, Cursive is free for non-commercial use (OSS, personal hacking, student work) so it's easy to give it a try. I make my money principally from companies buying licences for their devs.
I launched that in January, but the investment advice I've used for years (when it was a couple python scripts). It's regularly making 100% yoy returns for me, so I'm happy. Kind of different than most startups / businesses though. In late January I launched the paid version, and I'm getting a few trickling in every day. We offer one month free, every month you provide feedback (meaning I get feedback more than money ATM)
My other business is https://easy-a.net - it makes me a lesser amount of money, but enough to keep both projects running without me paying for infrastructure.
Those are combined under my C Corp, so I look at it as a single online business. Utilizing same tech stacks, methods, etc.
Still not providing the majority of my income, however it's growing to the point where it will in a year or so, depending how things go. If anything else it's been a wickedly fun ride, and I've learned quite a bit in doing it.
Started 2 years ago buying from stores etc, shifted to wholesale a year ago.
Plus you have unscrupulous competitors who will throw a little money in to buy a bunch of your products as soon as they appear (if your products compete with theirs), and then leave negative reviews. I suspect that eventually the only way to be a winner is to be a cheater. Surely you don't do that.
Agree with you on saturation, margins are tiny but some people are making serious bank, I know a couple 8 figure (gross) accounts
I have a course on how to do that. It seems pretty easy, but for some reason I never go out and just try it.
I have another business idea that I've been working on for some time. So, maybe that's the reason for not starting this one. But, why not have multiple source of income than rely one thing that may be BIG.
I guess I'm saying I'm throwing my hat into the ring today. Gosh, business is scary and exciting at the same time.
how do you advertise?
do you have a marketing campaign? how do you know people will want to buy what you have?
2. Not much advertising, just checked and YTD spend is $600, most on a single product. Most traffic is organic
3. Mostly sell existing items that already have a lot of sales and we just get a share of those. That's what I'm paying Amazon enormous commissions for - to bring the eyeballs
Thank you, @pyeu ;-)
Six months ago I started transitioning from service to product oriented approach with online vulnerability scanning service https://getroot.sh aimed at network administrators and webmasters.
I have another product targeted at penetration testers in works, to be released in couple of months.
For the second part of the question - I'd say do some original research and publish it. Hang out where other security people are. Still, the easiest way is to build street cred and professional network while you work for someone else.
I'm also pulling together a bunch of disparate services to make it a great experience, including SSO to the community, paywalled content and a custom emailer that integrates deeply with the CMS. So far, so good, and I basically slammed it all together until it worked over the space of a year -- but the real work was three years of sending a weekly newsletter as well to build up an audience before I even launched this thing.
At some point I'm planning to sell the application I wrote that powers it, because there's a distinct lack of 'community in a box' platforms that can solve this problem. First I have to finish it, but that's kinda the end goal.
https://char.gd/recharged if you'd like to try it! The code best-friends gives 25% off for three months.
I would be curious to know what your roadmap for the "additional features." What are the advantages you've found "slamming together" the system vs. having a custom system built?
1) Focus on the community, then the content. I thought the content would be some sort of mish-mash of opinion and really more long form stuff, but people prefer compact, quick takes, in 3-4 paragraphs. Makes sense, but hard to see as a maker!
2) Additional features is a great question! I plan a few different things:
- Community integration with the newsletter
- Integration with 'real-time chat services' like Discord, as I do think they serve a purpose
- Web push for notifying of "big" news outside of the band of the slow newsletters for those that want it
- Alternate delivery mechanisms for the newsletters (perhaps as simple, short FB Messenger pieces)
- Calendar subscription for events in the industry
- A bunch more I've forgotten already :).
3) Technically the system is custom built, I guess I'm referring to how it feels to have done that myself. I tried to hack it all together via existing stuff at first, but it was clearly not going to work, so I built a deep Craft CMS integration with my app to get where we are now. It's a great way to work because it's all built on top of relational content!
I started by thinking to myself "what would happen if I tried to make training videos?", slept on it and dove right into it the next day without knowing anything about creating videos.
Hosting fees and a hell of a lot of time are my only expenses.
Truly lifestyle business running from the cloud and not looking for investor, customers or employees...
One day will leave to my kids to run...
I have been writing options scripts (short puts) for a couple years and have had a lot of fun solving puzzles there.
Options are to complicated for me :-)
No one will publish a working trading strategy and even someone crazy enough to do it, it will be arbitraged pretty quickly...
The best way is to buy stock market data and start testing ideas until you find your edge...
All that said, here are the books I usually recommend, more for motivation and inspiration:
The Asian Saga by James Clavell, reading as a kid on how to rule your life, business and create a dynasty...
More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite by Sebastian Mallaby - on how to rule the world :-)
A Man For All Markets by Edward O. Thorp - basically the father of quant/systematic trading and one of the greatest minds of our time...
Then to back test, you have to do all that, not with an api, but against and data from a flat file or whatever. I guess you could do it by hand for awhile, but that would certainly become tedious.
It's actually quite complex. Would you recommend anything to read to get started building trading bots?
The automation after that is easy, the current data is not a problem either, you can get it trough the API from your discount broker, here are the docs for Interactive Brokers for example:
OSREC - https://osrec.co.uk
Bx - https://usebx.com
Got started with OSREC because I could see a gap for a good suite of tools that could automate mundane data tasks in banks and hedge funds. Also, I did not enjoy my investment banking job.
Got started with Bx because many people complained to me about Quickbooks/Sage/Xero and I thought I could do better :)
We're going to be releasing an improved version of Bx with some additional project management and task management functionality, so stay tuned! It's going to be a pretty awesome addition to the basic project management stuff on there already, so be sure to check back in a month or two :)
I have released these two products:
Working on some apps that I haven't released yet dealing with some telecom API, I got the idea of having a phone number without having a phone number to stop scam callers from calling me. But that evolved, of course... I started a virtual number service that privatizes your phone number with many added options -- basically your phone number can become a very useful piece of software.
I released Call Me Private about 3 months ago on Hacker News ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15905375 ) and just started marketing it a lot the past few weeks.. so far, I've got about 12 customers or so. Since I've released it ... I've also had a few organizations contact me for some minor customization requests, which I was able to make happen. My early customers are definitely helping the product to evolve more to suit their needs... and what they are asking for.. I usually weigh whether it would be beneficial to that one person ... or many. If its able to help many, I spend more time on it. If just that one person.. I might or might not, depending on the usefulness of the feature.
I started a resume company focused strictly on ATS optimization immediately after college with my best friend after we noticed how many peers were woefully underemployed.
A year later, after mild adoption and the co-founder deciding to focus on his career, I moved to South Korea to localize the company which the goal of supporting Korean universities & to escape the competitive pressures of the US.
Things are going well these days.
Also have these in the hopper - https://www.thinboxapp.com, https://www.enps.co, http://www.glist.io, https://www.voxloca.com
Idea is I'd love to cycle through them, sell whatever's working after a couple years. It takes time to find the right business at the right time so I advocate 'incubating' a project in the background, building SEO, seeing if it catches. It just takes time.
I'm polishing off a book about it now -- http://www.parallelentrepreneurship.com. It incorporates a lot of the wisdom in the comments here. (And I'm taking notes on the stuff I missed.)
Could've used outsourced talent for all dev and customer support but interestingly enough the reason why I hired was "what happens to all of our customers if I die?". I felt like I owed it to them to put a team in place, albeit a small one.
Small income, but profitable.
I have curated a stellar portfolio of brandable domains geared to startup community, allows me to dev other projects without raising seed. I succeed by being flexible/sympathetic with early stage companies, expect to reach six digit sales on almost autopilot.
i don’t know if this helps you sleep better or worse at night but it’s been really nice for me.
Been live for a few months now and enjoyed finding the balance between sales and producing new features.
Not exactly a conventional business, but I believe he does pretty well for himself.
Anything remotely close that comes to mind is phoronix, but that is in an different class entirely.
Well, not profitable yet, but promising :D
I launched in 2016 and have solid growth. It is the 3rd web business I have launched. My first was in 1998.