Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Those making $500+/month on side projects in 2018 – Show and tell
227 points by folli 88 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments
It seems this question hasn't been asked for some time, so I'd be interested hear what new (and old) ideas have come up.



I’m a full time developer but own a gym. By accident! I went to take over a building as office space that was a liquidated gym. Signed the lease and the day before we moved in the owner called and said we can’t remove the equipment as it was all put in before the stairs. I asked a lot of questions about why the gym didn’t work, had already seen the equipment in there and did some negotiating on purchasing the kit, knowing I could still convert an area to offices. The gyms main failure was due to the cost of staff. So I fully automated everything, door access, lights, aircon, TVs etc etc. Built a membership system. Making it a fully automated unmanned gym! We then recruited a freelance personal trainer who does all the inductions in return for advertising and doing PT in our facility with no charge. 2 years in and it’s making £4,000 profit a month with minimal costs. Now looking to buy the building. Gym: https://180fitness.co.uk Me: https://roybarber.com


Congrats. I generally understand that you made lemons from lemonade. But am confused about the machines problem. Was it a misunderstanding by the owner, who thought you wanted to run a gym? Was he trying to scam you? Does that mean you can't bring equipement into the building also? So you can never, say, replace an outdated treadmill with a newer treadmill?


If you go in the website and look at the gallery you will see a U shaped staircase. That was fitted after the equipment was hoisted up there. Replacement removal is possible but not without removing the staircase. Luckily the Technogym kit was only 4 months old. So we won’t be replacing anytime soon. Most of the kit upstairs are weight stacks anyway so require little maintenance.


I've been to one of these automated gyms in Australia and always wanted how they deal with insurance/liability/duty of care?

Could you please tell us how you went about writing the gym membership contract? Did you just rock up to your solicitor and say "Hey, I need a gym membership contact for my automated gym?"


We pay a bit more than a ‘regular’ gym for liability insurance. We have emergency buttons and our CCTV (nest) screenshots entry/exit against the logs. The contract is simple. There isn’t a payment contract just a set of rules and a detailed PARQ questionnaire where a doctors sign off is required on any medical conditions that are serious.


>the day before we moved in the owner called and said we can’t remove the equipment as it was all put in before the stairs

Kinda weird to take over a building and the owner then says you can't ... use some of it / move stuff...

You certainly made a great choice in the long run though.

Do you have someone come in and clean each day? Can't imagine you can automate that (roombas aren't that good yet...), granted as far as costs goes that is probabbly pretty low for a regular gig like that.


Exactly. It was a bank holiday weekend here in the U.K. we moved out of our previous office on the Friday and had the call on the Sunday when the removal work was scheduled. We have a cleaner that comes in twice a week. Members keep the place tidy surprisingly.


I wonder if in a smaller place like that people keep things cleaner.... their mess would be near them.


Late to the party but this is awesome. I'd love to have something like this near me. That facility and price are perfect.


Thank you so much for your sharing. I am curious that how much money you invested to set up the automation and how to prevent non-members getting in.


great story, congrats.


http://omgenomics.com/circa Circa is an easy-to-use tool for building circos plots with genomics data. I built the visualization piece (and most of the UI) with D3.js and made it into a desktop app with Electron. Initially sold it for $25 per user (one-time cost), which made about $750 a month. Then some professors told me it was way too cheap, so I increased the price to $100. Since then, it has made about $1,500 every month for the last year. This week I started to add some new features and will soon make some more demo videos to see if I can increase that number. :) I think it has worked this well so far because building circos plots is a well-known painful problem in the genomics field. And it was one that I had experienced myself during my PhD work. I was surprised at how many academics actually are willing to pay for software, but still unsure how big that market actually is and how much of it I am already covering. The nice thing about a tiny niche like this is that when you Google "circos", Circa's tutorial and demo videos show up on the first page.


That's pretty cool—congrats. Especially interesting for me to see, because it's the kind of tool and business model that interests me. One thing I wonder though is how it can be sustainable using the one time cost model. I suppose if the market were large enough, then you could just charge for new major versions every couple years and that might be sufficient. But maybe some kind of more expensive licensing for specific types of customers?


I chose the one-time cost model for several reasons: 1) the way scientists get reimbursed from grants is difficult for recurring purchases, 2) one-time pricing is easy to do and fits well with desktop software, 3) Circa is a product scientists only use occasionally, maybe a few times a year, so with a monthly model they would probably just cancel and resubscribe when they need it, which is more of a hassle for both them and me. Circa does lend itself well to desktop software because it allows saving the visualizations they are building straight to their computer instead of me trying to manage user accounts and storage in the cloud -- again, less hassle on both sides!

On the topic of more expensive licensing for some customers, I forgot to mention that for commercial entities it costs $200, but that accounts only for something like 5% of sales, since it's mostly academics who want to make pretty plots for their publications.


Just out of interest. Has anyone offered you a job because of this post? And to the wider world why not?


I do happen to currently hold a data visualization job at a genomics software company, which traces back partly to when I gave a talk there that included Circa and other visualization tools I built, the rest of which are open source and free since I built them during my PhD :)


https://fitloop.co/

A site I built to teach myself bodyweight fitness (from a routine I found on reddit) -- grew a userbase and built up more detailed tracking, configuration, and usability.

The MRR is a bit hard to calculate right now (since I charge annually), but somewhere in the $500 - $1000 range.

Edit: This app grew from feelings of being stuck / burned out / almost depressed that can come from being in front of the computer too much. I was trying to build another startup out of college from my parents' house, and was having little progress or social interaction. There's been a number of threads about depression on HN recently, I felt the same. I realized I needed to be able to work out, but had no good gym accessible at the time, thus this little project was born (and went on to be more successful than the app I was initially trying to work on).


Awesome. I would love to start bodyweight training, but your routine requires things like gymnastics rings and pull-up bars and I'm traveling at the moment. Are these absolutely necessary?


Nice work. I'd be interested to know how your customers are finding you. Have you invested much time into customer acquisition?


Great to e-meet you dude. I used this ages ago when I was getting into bodyweight fitness. Thanks for a really neat app.


Amazing work! Thank you for this!


This is a hardware project I started when I was a senior in college. U2F Zero, a open source U2F token / two factor authentication device.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01L9DUPK6 https://conorpp.com/designing-and-producing-2fa-tokens-to-se...

Brings in around $500-$1000 per month of revenue (when in stock haha). I started just to learn how to lay out a circuit board and make my own embedded device, just kind of took off.

Using the U2F protocol is nice, since it's a standard and the PC side infrastructure is all there for the users to use it. I just have to do the hardware development :)

Also, I'm working on a new U2F token. It supports FIDO2 (password replacement protocol, upgrade to U2F), NFC, USB-C, and will have a nice case. If you're interested, sign up here, we'll be releasing more news soon :)

https://solokeys.com/


I have a few U2F Zero's, they're really cool!


Can you please update the date on your KickStarter? "Fall" means nothing to non-American's.

Either a month or a quarter would be fantastic (Nov 18 or Q3 18).


Down For Everyone Or Just Me https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/

Makes ~$1,000 a month gross, lot less after AWS costs.

I've had it for a long time, but haven't done much with it because of my primary business. After I sold that I spent the last year playing with some ideas and testing. I am working to get a new design up and just partnered with a friend to redo the arch and let him see what ideas he has to better monetize it.


I use Down For Everyone Or Just Me a lot, it is a great little purposeful site :)


Thanks, we are trying to clean it up a bit now, both in look and simplicity as it has just been the same for a long time. The other owner is working on moving it to AWS and lambda stuff :). I bet he will publish something about it too.


What is the source of the income ? I mean what is the business model.


affiliate/ads. Nothing too fancy yet, we are starting to look at what else we could do.


I'd look at how websites like uptimerobot.com make money. Let people set up lists of sites to track and give them analytics about how often they're down.


We do a lot of stuff looking at what is being requested and serving hosting ads based on that, nothing has clicked yet.


I started https://usebx.com/app just under a year ago. We now do a few hundred thousand GBP per month in revenue. Nothing fancy, just a solid accounting and project management app, solid service, and good sales to corporate customers (we look after the smaller customers too, but only actively market to larger corporate clients, where the returns are significantly better).

We've just invested more in the code base to offer more features within our app, but kept things pretty simple at the start. Releasing in a couple of weeks!


Looks amazing and fast, congratulations. If you don't mind sharing, What is your tech stack ? How many developer hour were consumed developing it and how many to maintain it ?


Thank you :)

We wrote our own JavaScript framework called alive.js. We're going to open source it once we've got it documented properly. It's similar to Vue, but without the virtual DOM. Instead we keep track of "update" functions. It also has some nice async lazy loading capabilities which helps keep the experience fast.

Development time was about 4 months to an MVP. 2 developers, but one was an absolute rockstar. Maintained by 2 guys now (1 of whom is an original developer). Also have a small sales team, composed of 5 contractors.


What is your niche? What is it that makes you succeed in this crowded space?


We do in-house deployments for corporate clients, which many other providers do not offer.

Our app is loved by our customers, and especially so because it's a light PWA that feels native.

We also offer a free forever tier and are also integrated with UK tax authorities to submit company taxes online (this will be mandatory from 2019 onwards).

Our support is considered to be really good, because we bend over backwards for our clients. We listen to them and add features they ask for as quickly as we can.

We have in built project management and time tracking, and we're making this functionality better in our upcoming release.

Our quality of service and the easiness of our app seems to win us clients from the likes of Sage, QuickBooks and Xero. Try them all, and then try Bx - I hope the difference is obvious!


Very impressive! I must say, writing an entire accounting/bookkeeping package seems like a lot of work, especially as a side project. Can I ask what domain-specific knowledge you had before you decided to embark on it? For example, did you already have experience in small business financials to guide you? Did you have someone like a Chartered Accountant or Tax Lawyer advise you?

Also, just FYI -- your FAQ contains an outdated reference: API currently in beta, but will be available by mid November 2017


Thank you! I'm an ex investment banker, so understand financials pretty well. I've also grown up helping with family businesses, doing the taxes from age 13 onwards, so it's sort of in my blood. I also wrote a little PHP toolkit so my parents could track inventories based on their invoices (that was 16 years ago!). That was probably the first version of Bx right there!

Despite everything I thought I knew, the project was significantly more challenging than I expected. Writing accounting software itself is conceptually not that hard, BUT, putting a scalable analytics framework around it is hard. Optimising queries to get the most of your metal is hard. Writing a PWA and making it feel native is hard. These are not obvious considerations when you think about writing accounting software, but take up a lot of time when you're faced with them during the development process.

Almost all the things I thought were minor considerations were actually very challenging projects in their own right. They were also excellent learning experiences.

And yes, the API is in fact now live, but only for corporate clients. We found most small businesses don't really need it, and some people even tried to game our rate limits, so we disabled it. We're releasing a new, more robust API very soon.

Also, now that we have some cash, we're also going to improve the landing page, add some tutorials, maybe even start a blog and do some marketing.

P.S. I never really involved an accountant for advice because I wanted to stay away from accounting jargon in the app. No journals or ledgers etc. Just simple terminology anyone can understand. I showed it to my accountant a couple of months ago, and he was actually very impressed. In fact, he's started using it with his clients to record their sales and purchase more efficiently. I can't really ask for a better seal of approval :)


Are you including the funds passing through your system as revenue?


No. I define revenue as what we earn before our costs/expenses.


is this your side project? Sounds like a main one.


Started as a side project, and became a main project over the course of a year :)


Probably not what you're asking, but my side project is working on software projects for a couple local businesses. I work about 12 hours per week on the side at $150 per hour so I make about $7,200 per month.

Having W2 and 1099 income like this is advantageous as well. First, I max out my social security tax at my main employer which means my side income is social security tax free. Second, I max out my 401k employee contribution of $18,500 at my main employer. I then have an Individual 401k with Vanguard where I take about 20% of my profits and deposit that as the employer portion which lowers my federal taxes substantially. I take a good portion of what's left and deposit that in a 529 account for my kids which my state gives a tax deduction for that on state taxes.

My smaller client was just a friend that I met through my kids' school. My larger client I met while studying for a programming certification at a baseball clinic my oldest son attended. A guy who owned a local business saw me with a thick book and approached me with, "Are you in IT?"


I'm a php dev (5 years laravel), and vue+vuex (1-2 years)... primarily, is 150/hour really do-able for someone in php/vue stack? Is there a specific type of coding you do?

I've got some imposter syndrome/esteem issues I find it hard to pitch > $50/hour for my services... (I'm in utah)..

Average pay around here is also like $70-80k which I think is something like $35-40/hour, so again $150/hr just seems really high... I'd love to get $100/hour freelancing..


The cost to a company of an $80k/yr employee is well more than $40/hr.

You need to account for time not working, such as paid holidays, vacation and sick time. Also, you need to factor the amount the company pays in addition to the salary such as payroll tax, benefits, cost of the space, tools and amenities to let the employee do their job. These are all costs that will be absorbed by the freelancer.

All said and done, a company pays probably $60/hr, minimum, to hire an employee at $80k per year.

Doubling or tripling your salaried employment rate is not uncommon when freelancing in order to maintain the SAME level of income to account for non-billed time. This can be adjusted for longer term contracts.

My point is $150/hr is not too hard to justify as a consulting rate for an equivalent employee making in the salary range you specify.

The other consideration is the role you're in with the company who hires you. Are they hiring you to interface with an existing tech team, or is it a solo gig, where you also will be playing business analyst and project manager. The latter, IMO, would also justify a higher rate, assuming one is competent at it and is providing that additional value.


Charge your next client $100/hour then. What is the worst thing that could happen? They say no? Honestly if they say no you probably need to focus more on your pitch. Learn to sell and hourly rates are not your concern. I would learn to sell and then learn to sell your expertise in a different format than hourly.


Btw I have the same skill set as you but I sell myself as a consultant that just happens to code. A good client wants to see you as an asset that can solve problems not a coder that presumably needs to be managed.


Consider the fact that if the average pay is $70-$80k and you're working for a company that does client work, the company is charging its clients a lot more than $35-$40/hour for access to you.


Would you mind sharing what kind of work that is? Getting $150/h on small projects is no small achievement.


My small client is in the medical field and I created a brand new system from scratch that has become indispensable for his offices. If I ever get time, I'll turn it into a SaaS product and sell it to others because there does not seem to be a good competitor out there.

My large client had a fairly large and complex application written for him by a small company about 12 years ago. It was written in Visual Basic.NET and designed horribly. Since meeting him 8 years ago I've made major improvements to the system both in functionality and in maintainability including re-writing areas that I am naturally working on in C#, moving the business logic out of VB.NET screens, etc.

$150 per hour where I am (Top 5 metro area in US) is good but not great. I could definitely charge more if I wanted to squeeze my side clients for every dime and could even change my billing to something more akin to a percentage of NPV of projects but it's just side work for now.


https://www.manypixels.co

I started Manypixels as a side project while being a digital nomad in Bangkok.

After a few weeks it grew to $5000/month then $10,000 month and we're now at $40,000/month after 8 months.

Wrote about that story from the early beginning here: https://www.indiehackers.com/@Vinrob/bootstrapping-a-product...


I saw your comment, liked the idea / design of your site, and signed up since we're in need of designers.

Some feedback:

- There's no way to see full resolution designs. Looking through the blog where your portfolio links to, there are _some_ samples, but some are pixelated and low-res.

- After signing up there's only a link to the customer portal via email, but there's no way to submit a design order nor are there any instructions on how to do so.

- I've been billed for a subscription, but no services have been or began to be rendered. Since I haven't submitted any design requests or any services have started, this is disappointing.

- The billing invoice is really confusing. I signed up for one month, but see two line items and "MANYPIXELS SPECIAL OFFER (2 for 1)" and two invoice line items for "PAID" and "ATTEMPTING"

I assume that since this is still a young product and you're still building the business out; however, I would expect the main site, manypixels.co, to know I've registered, be able to show me some information about my design request, and to download completed assets from it.

Looking forward to using the product!


Thanks for the feedbacks! We are rolling out a v3 soon and will incorporate all of this!

Finally - feel free to dm on Twitter (@Vinrob) I'll happily give you my WhatsApp + email in case you need me to pick up the ball for your projects :)


Sure. Would love to chat. You're Twitter account is set to only allow DM's from people you follow. I'm @olingern


FYI I get an error when I try to visit the page (on Firefox) and have to add an exception. I think it has something to do with SSL? I tried to recreate it, but after I added the exception it's not appearing again.


Safari on iOS is reporting a certificate issue for Manypixels.


Fixing this! In the meantime go via https://manypixels.co


It sounds ridiculous, but I started a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/ClickClackClunk) a few months ago that focuses on my woodworking hobby. This was the first month that I made >$500 from amazon affiliate links (mostly from the instructables (https://www.instructables.com/member/clickclackclunk/instruc...) related portion of the project).

It's been a lot of fun and I enjoy focusing on something which is less about computers and more about working with my hands.


https://servicehq.ca Built this over about 2-3 months with the help from a Beta customer satisfying their requirements slowly, but still ensuring that the platform is generic and modular enough.

It’s now averaging about $1000/month with 2 customers. I’m now planning to slowly rebuild the mobile app (need to improve UX and add offline functionality). Once ready, I can start selling to more customers, Also thinking of adding a few integrations with tools like Google Drive, Office 365 & Slack to improve market visibility.

Our stack is Ruby/Rails/React/React Native.


$1000/month with 2 customers (for a SaaS) is impressive. Any tips for other SaaS-devtrepeneurs to achieve the same, without needing 100 customers per $1000?


Hey Jasdeep, How did you went about doing marketing for your product? Direct mails ? Adwords ?


hey! Our first customer was acquired through a personal contact and second customer came in as a referral from our first customer :)

We plan to better the product now before going in with full blown marketing/sales.


wwww.cronote.com

Simple website for sending reminders. It didn't make any money for 4 years until I added commonly-requested features (templates, recurring reminders, and variables for recipient names). Now I have about 60 paying customers and it makes about $600 per month after all expenses paid. It's been running essentially autonomously for the past five months.

The iOS app is still difficult to use. I'm slowly rebuilding it. I'd say the main claim to fame at this point is if you Google "text message reminders" it's the first or second result.


How did you get to that place in Google? Luck ? Or some serious seo work ?


Chrome has issues with your certificate...


It's because there are 4 "w" in the link - try https://www.cronote.com/


That's probably due to additional w in url.


Built WooRender to allow easy access to GPU compute. Basically leasing my deep learning server with 10x 1080ti cards for $100/day.

https://woorender.com


Pretty cool! How about turning this into a service where other people can lease their own GPU hardware? Either through your website or by offering it as a sort of turnkey solution.


I've though about this and the unit economics look good, especially with so many GPUs sitting idle now due to crypto situation. There have been some attempts to build this (vectordash.com and vast.ai are examples) but not sure they achieved type of scale I think it is possible. There are about 5 million GPUs bought to mine crypto that are mainly doing nothing today. Getting 1% of them to join a marketplace would make for GPU compute that probably exceeds AWS, GCE and Azure combined. Happy to chat more about this if anyone is interested, my contact is in profile.


Already exists: https://vast.ai/


Yes if it already exists lets certainly not make it


The picture of all ten of those cards together is breathtaking.

With the upcoming consumer RTX launch in a couple days, I really hope you've gotten your money's worth out of them. It's at least been a really long product cycle since their release.


How the heck do you fit 10 cards into one server??? Super cool btw.



Wow this is very cool. Can you share how much you're making?


Launched two weeks ago and had 5 days rented out so far. There is demand for this but a lot of capital expenditure. The server itself is $20k+ and then you have hosting. I am using a DC in bay area and it is $1200/month for server. So I can't say this is a business, more like an experiment right now.


Sounds really cool. Best of luck! :)


This site takes 45 seconds to load.


It took less than 2s for me on an iPhone 6S. (Your comment made me click the link because I really wanted to know what was taking 45s)


Took less than five seconds to load for me, your connection must be horrible.


https://www.traccar.org/

It's an open source GPS tracking solution. We make money on SaaS, support and customisation services. Some of it basically passive income from subscriptions, some is new development.


This is pretty cool. Extra liquid nitro cool because you’ve found a way to make a living from open source.


https://www.soundshelter.net

Sound Shelter is a vinyl marketplace that connects records buyers with small independent record stores.

Revenue comes from a mixture of affiliate sales and subscriptions from records stores listing their inventory.

Building a two-sided marketplace is a lot more challenging than I had expected but definitely rewarding when the users find the rare record they probably wouldn't have ever found.


https://teams.cardsync.xyz/, a Trello Power-Up I started as a Trello bot some years ago (I actually "invented" the concept of Trello bots as there were no one doing that at the time, but now all bots are banned).

I just made it because I thought it was a cool feature that was missing. As I started to develop it I realized it was much more complicated to implemente than it seemed, that was probably the reason the feature was missing. Anyway I accepted the challenge, put it live for free on Heroku and forgot about it.

One year later I got back to check it out and thousands of people were using it.

Still, I'm bad at market and monetization, and it's still a side-project to this day, but makes about $1200/mo.


I was trading options for a while and a lot of people kept asking me how I did it, just never had the time to describe everything. Finally decided to setup a website, www.marketgodfathers.com and a Discord channel. Automated reading my entries and exists from my brokerage and posting to discord allowing everyone to enter and exit the trades when I do. Now I just wait for people to sign up and I pay someone to chat with the customers/answer their questions on Discord.

Need to work on automatically posting my plans to other locations, or maybe find a service that does it for me, if anyone has recommendations. Looking to private message Discord users, Facebook friends, Facebook groups, Instagram posts, and Reddit subreddits/daily threads.


Interesting! Given the uncertainty in options markets and a rather tough job of following trades of others ... are you able to keep users going?

Also, your pricing seems quite steep ... just curious how many active users you have and revenue / month? (a single user on your monthly package gets you too $500! :))


The pricing is steep because I believe in my system. I don't believe there is an uncertainty if you have an edge. My system was designed with an edge in mind and was able to make profits in 2016 February and 2018 January while everyone was running away. Generally, if you start with a $30K account, the trial alone should pay out a years of subscription.

The subscriptions are growing, also I think I will raise it to $1,500 soon as I don't want too many clients ;) I've noticed the people who pay the $500 right away are happy, the ones asking for a discount drain too much time and cause this to be a real business. It's only $250 the first month, then $500 after that. Many people do the $250, then cancel, but really, the people who cancel are the ones who don't get into all the trades/are just curious.

Most the other services charge $99 or something, but they aren't half as good as me also they get into hundreds and thousands of trades. Mine can be done by someone at work that's the big part. The following the plans is rather easy because I tell the customers something like, if AAPL crosses $220, but the Jan 2019 $220 Options. Then an alert gets sent to Discord when I get in, so either they can setup a conditional order, or wait for my order to execute. At the start, I was not posting my exits, now I am posting my exits, so it can be easier for people and that's making the retention/marketing huge because most the other competitors don't get into all their trades, that's what makes me unique.

The one negative right now, I don't have my stats posted as to the win/loss rate to make people believe, however, I have a plan for January 1.

The part that is really flying is the "account management for larger accounts" as I have gotten people out of a few bad stocks and into a few more great stocks. I just don't know how to automate this and I am not sure which way it's going to grow, i.e. people will want to deposit in my account, or want me to trade from their account, plus I'm not licensed so I might be doing a CSC soon.

$SPY to $300 this year.


Can you please explain a bit about how you get this edge?


We built a proprietary system which listens to the market using technical analysis, fundamentals, and news gathering. It looks for stocks which are trading with a higher than usual volume pattern, or fast price movement depending on our scanning. Also, eliminates a lot of stocks which don't fit the system requirements, in order to increase the rate of return using rules that we have been adding. Does that make sense?

There are lots of ways to beat the market, many people are doing it, you can look in /r/algotrading on reddit as there some good discussions there if you are interested in getting started. The easy part is the implementing the strategy, the hard part is coming up with one. You can look into the Wheel Strategy as well if you own stocks.

You can look at our Discord, it's open until Wednesday. There are a few historical entries/plans/exits [1].

[1] https://discord.gg/n3dqVk4


Thank you! I am a newbie in options area. Shall go through the reddit and find more about the Wheel Strategy.


Hey, I just found the user again, check out https://www.reddit.com/user/ScottishTrader

He posts about Wheel Strategies a lot.


Don't be too cool to paper trade ;)


Where did you get the cover photo on your site?


That came with the template, I have been lazy to change it.

Edit: I also couldn't find a better pic, this one just fits for some reason.


I don't think many people are going to share their idea unless they are sure it's not something that can be hacked together in a week.

It would be interesting to also see people simply saying "I do" and maybe the "space" it's in?

That too would be encouraging I think.


If you can hack it together in a week then there are probably already a bunch of competitors. As has routinely been pointed out, many of the most popular apps can be readily copied in a fairly short time. The app is the easiest part.


Great niche markets are valuable secrets. I bought a house in Silicon Valley with money that I make with a side project. It has no competitors because people don’t know how easy it is to make money in this space. Someone with a tech background looking for project ideas would never find it. I’d never say what it is because then my shitty app would immediately be fighting for market share against competitors. Someone may discover the market eventually and kill my app but I’m not going to help anyone do it.


It's interesting to see a counter-example to the otherwise ever-present HN credo of "Ideas are cheap, execution is everything".

On one hand you have execution that can get you an advantage of a difficult-to-reproduce technology stack for solving a problem, but on the other hand, information that other players might not have discovered (yet) also can get you an advantage in the market. Although I find the latter to be less rigid and prone to disruption.

If I'm understanding you correctly, you have found a niche that is not at all in the tech sector, but through technology gets augmented into a proven market-fit? Can I ask you what your process was in finding that niche? You can leave out the specifics of course.


I basically have a shitty Rails app that solves a particular problem for a completely non tech industry (there are millions of such problems). It’s easy for me to find the people who need it. But if I ever had to compete with high quality software my app would probably die.


How are you monetizing your app?


Sounds like you should find someone to write you better software.


Curious to know how you reach your market, if it is completely non-tech. How do you reach new customers and convert them to paying?


Okay I'm going to go figure it out...

Just kidding. I'm glad you're successful, and I hope to find my niche. I think I already have but it isn't successful yet.


Doesn’t matter if you figure it out, you’ll never solve the problem unless you’ve seen it yourself. Imagine an app for plumbers, you’d probably need to know plumbing to make it. It’s like that.


I've once copied a service that took me a weekend to code. Then it took me six months to get a paying customer.


I specifically look at these threads for business ideas. I probably wouldnt straight copy any of them, though. Better to differentiate. A side benefit is that the new offering might not even negatively impact the person I got the idea from.


No one wants to advertise their money making niche ideas, especially if they are easy to copy.


Yep.

There are probably lots of HN users who have really nifty side projects but won't disclose it for more or less the reasons you cite.


Ideas are not worth much. Only execution matters.


This is very true. I happily discuss my ideas publicly for feedback. Helps with failing faster. Execution and luck are more important than the idea itself. In fact, I would say most ideas aren't really worth much (some are, but those are one in a million).


I think that's the difficulty a lot of people have with this: it seems to them like their idea might be one of those "one in a million".

Part of the difficultly for me has been realizing that the it's not just a rare, good idea that matters—but that it's a rare and good business idea specifically. For instance, I've had a couple projects that gained interest by researchers, which I took as evidence that they might be uncommonly good; but getting the attention of researchers is different from getting the attention of investors for a reason, and it's still questionable whether either has even above average value as a business idea...


The thing is, most people are actually good at generating ideas. It's really not the hard part. The fact that your great idea has probably already been done by someone before you is a testament to this fact. Sit me down for an hour and I could probably come up with 10 good business ideas, and I bet if I Google each idea, someone's already doing it. That's not a reason to be disheartened though. What you're looking for is an arbitrage opportunity in execution. Do you back yourself to execute better than the other guy that got there first? If yes, then press on. Nothing is more saturated than the market I chose (accounting/business management app). But the incumbents are cocky and out of date, and I felt my execution could win me a good share of customers. A definite gamble, but it's working out alright :)


I love this terrible sentence. But no (unfortunately). The idea is everything. A great idea and terrible team usually succeeds. An amazing team and terrible idea almost always fails.

VCs can only control the team. That is why they push this idea really hard.


I disagree with everything you wrote. There are tens of thousands of businesses that are successful with boring ideas. There are tens of thousands of great ideas with terrible teams that are long dead. Your statement is a combo of survivor bias and hubris. Case and point: the biggest industries for millionaires in the US are real estate and dry cleaners. Boring ideas executed well make boatloads. Stop worshipping TechCrunch and start doing the work.


They idea is not worth much in the sense that if you thought of it, there is a 98% chance someone else has thought of it before you, and 95% chance a few others are already doing it. The remaining few percents on both cases determine that the idea is not worth much. Great ideas with done badly can succeed, but those successes are usually short term and fade away, in particular when someone else copies the idea and does it better. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Really. Not that hard to come up with them. Coming through with one to a launch and running a business with it - that's the hard part.


"Ideas are a dime a dozen. Really. "

Really? Pitch me one.


Find an industry you are familiar with, or perhaps a friend or family member. Find their pain points. Find how technology can help. Then see if it is something that they will pay for. Look around your daily life. Find problems to fix. Most likely someone else is already fixing them and if not, they will once you start if your idea is good enough.

Two ideas for you off the top of my head:

Do CRM right for SMBs. (Sounds simple, but it's not, because of the S and the M in SMB).

Do time tracking right (timesheet management for contractors etc.). Never saw a single solution that didn't suck to the extreme.

Bonus tip: Here's a thing though: non techies won't have the advantage a technical person (i.e., adventurous software developer) has: The tech can do it with minimal resources and overheads. If you also have a business sense - that's great. Otherwise break existing market by offering a superior service dirt cheap (but not free!). Once you reach a critical mass, grandfather the existing accounts in their original early bird price and nudge the cost for new customers up a bit. Automate as much as you can and you have a side income with potential to be main income.


Well, sometimes. But a lot of industries suffer from too many people poorly executing ideas. Makes it even harder for the "good guys" to catch a break, acquire, and keep customers.

Some examples are SEO, entertainment, and mobile games.


Sounds like Sturgeon's law: Ninety percent of everything is crap.

"Everything" can mean every industry and their products.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law


That's not true, witness many deals for movie plots, where people simply pitch an idea and outline, and collect, sometimes big, money.

Of course the movie does actually have to be made, and well, to succeed, but the idea for it is valuable in itself, so long as it is actually an original and interesting idea.

A cynic might suggest that VCs spread the "ideas are worthless" meme for their own benefit.

Or perhaps they only ever really encounter the "uber, for doughnuts" type pitches which indeed generally have little value.


Films are not startups. A film is a sum of it's parts in a very even way. A good film must have a good story AND good acting and good cinematography, and good music. When the balance is broken the film suffers in some regards. When that balance is too broken it flops. Also, a film has a life shelf of a month give or take (in Cinema). Businesses hope to last (just a bit) longer.


>Ideas are not worth much. Only execution matters.

I'd argue both matter. It's just as easy to execute really well on a half-baked idea and get nowhere.


That's the problem, though, isn't it?

Someone could see a $500/pm idea in this thread, being developed by a solo dev, and think: "that's a good idea". They put a team of seasoned devs on it and created their own $500k/pm version.


If that is the case, that idea was in the wrong hands to begin with. All the successful ventures you see seeded by an idea but grow to the success that they are because of execution and good ol' fashioned luck. There is nothing original or groundbreaking in Slack for example. Nor are they the only ones playing in that space. But Slack are Slack because they executed well enough and luck was on their side (right place right time).


A list of validated-but-under-exploited ideas definitely has a lot of value.


Sounds like somebody participated in an accelerator :)


:) Never ever.


I'm a mechanical design engineer. I "accidentally" ended up as the solo owner and operator of a CNC machine shop. Instead of buying gifts for friends, i would design and machine some sort of a trinket. I was constantly told I should sell these trinkets. It never occured to me that people would buy something I made. I started SmallBatchMade.com a little over a year ago. To my suprise, I sold $700 worth of product the first month. I now pAy my shop rent with this "side" income


I started ChatterBox as a side project to the actual business I started. www.heychatterbox.com

Clients are all lawyers or medical/health services like Spas and Chiropractors. Marketing is all done by email. Everything in the service delivery is outsourced or automated. All I do is send some cold-outreach campaigns each month and process the client invoices at the end of the month. Just about past $500. If I focused on it more I'm sure it would grow a lot.


I believe that in Poland you cannot get a normal programmer's job after studies at universities. New programmers have such big lacks of knowledge that it cost really great amount of money and time to employers to teach them how to code properly. I started teaching people C++ in January 2018. I choose only those, who have basics of programming. I do not teach from scratch, because there are many such companies. I teach programmers tools (git, make, cmake, vim), scrum, exceptions, objective C++, STL, memory management, testing and TDD, Modern C++ (C++11/14/17), good programming practices, templates, recruitment tips. After the second edition of my course, I started earning over 8k PLN/month, which is over 2k USD/month. I spend only about 10h a week on teaching and running my business as a side project. I teach in Wroclaw, Poland. From the next year, I plan to make it a full-time job (it means 20h a week for me ;)) and prepare some good online courses. http://coders.school


I have created https://www.gematrix.org - it is an English and Hebrew Gematria calculator to calculate Gimatria values for words and phrases. It's making more the $500 a month with Google Ads and a some more for selling the Database directly.


I have an iOS glitch camera app making around $500/mo most months https://itunes.apple.com/app/defqt/id817026377 - app is featured in some China photography lists and Apple recently requested promo assets for a feature, although they have not featured it yet. The only marketing is on IG, just posting images from the app and from other Defqt users. Been in the app store since 2014. My main income is as a freelance iOS and Android app developer. It's really a niche app so unless we get featured by Apple it will stay small. Ranking in the app store is a nightmare and outside of spending your way into rankings, you are left with the coveted Gold Standard of getting Editor's Pick from the Cupertino gang.


checkout indiehackers.com!


https://netho.me/ - website traffic estimator. Now there are tons of sites like this, but when i started it the niche was not so crowded. I made this website while learning basic programming (php, html, css, js). It makes a bit under $500/month from ads. For now the main feature is to estimate website traffic, but pretty often it is not very accurate. Last feature i plugged is voting that allows tagging sites as legit or scam. Another one - showing free domain name alternatives. The system is buggy and from time to time i'm still fixing bugs and js\css issues when i have time. i've learned a lot building this thing.


https://wokabulary.com/

Wokabulary is a vocabulary trainer for macOS and iOS. We started many years ago when we were still studying and published various projects (like a text editor with syntax coloring) but Wokabulary is the only one left, that is actively developed. It grew out of a personal need and at first you could use it for free, only later we thought that we could also sell it. At some point we rewrote it and since then it's low maintenance, basically no known bugs. People a generally very happy with the apps and we still have a lot of feature ideas that would improve the whole platform. Time is our limiting factor, and of course there is a lot of competition out there.


I make about $800/month selling place card templates and formatting at https://www.placecard.me/.

I started the project last year and made $3 in my first six months. But have seen pretty decent slow and steady growth since then.

I've written extensively about the process on my website (http://www.coryzue.com/writing/) and on indie hackers in case interesting to anyone.


Bit on the weirder submissions for YC but our family genome sequencing facility is generating more than $500/mo on the side.

Currently growing at over 100% YOY (somewhere around 26% QOQ), closed out our last month at over $23k, and on pace to do somewhere between $350-400k. This is not an easy side project and there's been an insane amount of learnings on both the wet lab and informatics side. We've had some set backs but it's worth it when we get to hear what sort of life changing (literally) work we get to contribute.

https://thesequencingcenter.com/


At first I read human WGS and I was like uhhh...

But it’s good to see those machines go to good use! That last core lab I was in was still processing the same types of samples through Sanger (of course not WGS), so I’m glad that the research community is using the smaller NGS instruments for what I feel like they were meant for. Good on ya :)


Thanks! We're working on scaling up to human WGS but it will take time. We do have some ideas on how to reduce the price a ton but it requires more capital than we have currently - so either patience or VC.

So for now we're sticking with bacterial and targeted human as our primary market.


How big was the initial investment? What your background?


Initial investment was about $175k, plus some ongoing for various purchases equipment/larger purchases. This is all bootstrapped with no outside investment. Background for myself is in product management for analytics & ML applications in the enterprise space. Other 2 co-founders: 1 has a PhD in Biology and the other has background in QA and robotics/automation.


http://www.meetkaori.com multilingual virtual assistants. Right now the focus is Japanese / English but plans to add other tough to hire languages like Chinese.


I thought this was a little more than $500/mo class?


Well technically it’s a side project that generates more than $500 a month. Though I really should focus on this business or sell it.


I don't know why I have read $500k/month. The weekend bbq effect probably.

Anyone?

But then it wouldn't be a side project I guess.


The Hunt for the Red October was Tom Clancy's side project and look where that took him.


Yeah, he's dead.


ConvertCsv.com - converts delimited data to/from JSON, XML, SQL, HTML Table, XML, and more. I built it because I work with data every day and need these tools. API coming soon.


Can you say something more? How you earn moneys here? What's your business model?


wheresvic1 mentioned indiehackers.com. Ill add Barnacl.es also has lots of examples and advice for executing on the idea. Lots of articles on reaching customers, too.

https://barnacl.es




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: