I recently summarized all my projects and my numbers here, if it's of interest: https://www.simonmweber.com/2019/01/07/side-project-income-2...
However I was not really able to monetize in any form (needs permission from Spotify, and Stripe shut down the account before it got to even do anything). Did you encounter similar issues and if so how did you circumvent them?
I'm at a loss now and on the verge of shutting it down, but I have a few hundred users that periodically email me to ask for fixes / new features, and it pains my heart to just give it up like that, but it's just not making any sense economically for me now.
Charge $1 / user and setup targeting at genre level for MVP and similar artist level at your later stage version.
So a label/artist says "we want people who like electronic", you have 150 people in the list. You charge the label/artist $150 to add their song to the playlists which you generate.
In my case it's been a better-to-ask-for-forgiveness-than-permission situation. I've had almost no official contact with Google and do my best to abide by their terms.
Feel free to reach out via email if you'd like to chat! There's a chance I'd be interested in buying it if you're planning to shut down.
I believe Spotify has some API terms that say that explicit permission must be granted for monetization. I initially also went for the 'ask-for-forgiveness' route but Stripe didn't allow my account to get started at all as it was considered high risk.
For now I'm going to fix some issues and try to do more reaching out / marketing, and then I'll try reaching out to Stripe again - hopefully this doesn't look that shady / high risk anymore.
If you've never ran a business before, one important bit of advice is that you should assume revenue targets of 2-3x of what you'd like to actually earn in post-tax personal income. Most people underestimate the costs of running a business and forget that they will need to pay for a computer, software, accounting services, and lots of other things.
Depending on where you live, I'd say target $3k-$10k in MRR.
I just wanted to point this out for any potential digital nomads out there - yes it's possible, but probably not in most people's cases, although I'd like to hear stories of people who've made it work. Personally I could never make it work with less than $1k/month - but much of that was due to housing costs.
Keep in mind though the costs of even bare bones laptop & internet connection business models start becoming significant as a percentage when you operate at revenues this low. Replacing one broken laptop is going to eat more than half your monthly revenue, for example - and laptops/desktops are generally even more expensive when you're not in the US or China.
1. I do understand that cost of living varies. Still, I will insist that $500/month is too low. Even a single $2000 computer amortized over 24 months is going to eat nearly 1/5 of your revenue. Remember, your housing probably isn't free, you do have to plan for retirement, you do have to go to the dentist from time to time. Many people make unrealistic assumptions here.
2. If you start with $500 as your goal, you will end up reaching $500. You will have something that you have to support and maintain. If you designed it as a $500 dollar business, there is no good way forward, and you are stuck.
As to 500$ a month, many people live fairly comfortably on that in very low cost of living areas. Also, setting that money aside can add up quickly.
The effort of upgrading hardware take quite a bit of development time. Even if hardware was free I don’t think a 2 year upgrade cycle is worth it based on how slowly hardware is improving.
As to buying 1k vs 2k computers without a gaming graphics card or the need for massive storage you hit real diminishing returns at around 1k. 500gb SSD (90$) case (30$) PSU (40$) CPU (200$) MB (100$) RAM (200$) -= 660 for the guts, buy two 22 inch 1080P monitors for 100$ and you got 140$ for an OS keyboard and mouse. Sure you could spend 4x that but it’s not going to make that much difference.
So no, we don't need to replace electronics every two years, we just want to :P
If you designed it as a $500 dollar business, there is no good way forward, and you are stuck.
Disagree. If my living expenses are taken care of (500$ post tax is enough for me), then I can always look at improving this, or making bigger products
Start with one $500 / month business. Next month do another $500 / month business.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
After 10 months, it's $5000 / month.
After 36 months it's over $15,000 / month.
In all likelihood, your $500/month business will open a door to a $1,000/month business which will lead you to a $2,000/month business. You have to think of each part as a step on a path. You will never get to the last step if you never take the first small steps.
To be clear, I am totally in agreement that the important thing is to start wherever you can.
“Hey Bob, we have a customer support ticket for business 65”
“What does 65 do again?”
Step 2: ???
Step 3: GoTo 1
https://www.simplecrew.com - street team reporting/tracking tool (2012 - present)
https://www.crewfire.com - social media brand ambassador platform (2014 - present)
https://www.chainfuel.com - telegram analytics/anti-spam/management dashboard (beta release last week)
And yeah - the book's been effectively repurposed. We'll get around to changing that up and updating the copy.
Appreciate you pointing these out!
Hopefully more to come, but thanks for the tip!
Jonathan, the founder, also wrote a great piece on how he built it https://hackernoon.com/how-to-build-a-saas-with-0-fed2341078...
If you're interested in learning more about micro saas checkout Tyler Tringas Micro SaaS series https://tylertringas.com/micro-saas-ebook/
I allow users to store their DNS records in a git repository, then when they make commits & pushes I initiate an update to the live-zones on Amazon Route53.
It'll never make me rich. Low-end users use their domain-registrars. High-end users probably have lots of AWS-based infrastructure, so they can handle DNS themselves.
But there is a middle-ground, and I've been lucky enough to sell services to a couple of (European) universities. So different departments can handle different sub-domains.
Fun anyway, and although I do need to handle user-support the churn-rate is minimal:
In short I don't do marketing, but if I started losing users that would probably kickstart me into doing so.
Friendly reminder that the important components of a successful SaaS is marketing, marketing, marketing, and code, so how to market the app should be considered just as important as how easy it is to code.
I'd probably recommend you take whatever your idea is and offer it as a consulting service that you do yourself manually. If people won't buy that, they won't buy your app, and you can prove the idea without doing any coding at all. Once you have an audience for the service, you can just sell the automated version.
In a world where most people are just looking for a better to-do list, Complice is offering an entirely different philosophy of productivity, so it can be hard to explain it, as opposed to something that just straightforwardly scratches somebody's itch.
I will say that the software plays to my strengths: I'm not a data structures & algorithms guy, or a machine learning guy, or a fanatic about the perfect REST API, and Complice is much more about the workflow and the interface, which is what I'm good at.
So "super simple" also depends on what you're good at!
I noticed you have a coaching offering as a higher tier on Complice - have you had much success with finding takers on that? I'm currently working on a coaching practice of my own and have wondered how effective "coaching as the top tier of a SaaS that helps you do the thing I'm coaching you about" works.
And he is an excellent communicator; in particular look up his older podcasts.
But I think today it is getting harder and harder; so simple projects won't cut it anymore and more effort needs to be put into both product development and marketing to get any sort of traction.
I'd be willing to bet people have been saying that for at least 5000 years.
Appointment Reminder, for example, is now in competition with at least a half-dozen similar products, just from my personal experiences. And many of those integrate reminders with account creation, customer tracking, online bookings/cancellations, and even followup marketing.
That's just one example, and it's not a surprise that small services are followed by larger, integrated ones. There are still good, untapped ideas out there. But it's also true that new technologies create lots of first-mover opportunities and then slowly become less accessible to small providers as the simplest value propositions are consumed. Actually, video games seem like a particularly clear demonstration of the pattern. A solo developer can make a good and successful game, even today. But a successful solo game these days is usually either fun but very shallow (Flappy Bird) or a niche game that skips many elements (Dwarf Fortress). Twenty years ago, it was RollerCoaster Tycoon. On the other hand, solo VR projects are going strong because there are lots of unexplored ideas and a low bar for depth and polish.
I suppose there's a force in the other direction, too; improving tools and services mean that the same number of development hours provide more features to users, or open up new categories of problem. (RollerCoaster Tycoon was written in assembly, after all.) As PG puts it, the simple tasks no longer require a schlep. But that leverage is open to everyone, and it doesn't seem to break the broad pattern that newer technologies are more accommodating for small-scale projects.
In any new industry, there's always very low-hanging fruit ideas to pursue. Like restaurant reviews (Yelp) or an app to track your calories (MyFitnessPal). It was also easier to market it because more people had the need for those types of products back then, and thus willing to try it. Now? Nobody will listen to you unless you have a truly compelling, original product ("Oh, that's been done already. I don't want to hear about it")
And SEO and ranking in Google for competitive keywords was much easier in the 2000's, even as late as 2008. 2010-2011 was when things started to turn, and became insanely competitive.
If your approach to marketing is "Google will send me enough traffic to succeed" then you've already failed.
Presumably they haven't been talking about the same thing. You could sell software in catalogs for home computers, but that dried up. Then you could make web apps, and that dried up. Then you could make mobile apps and that has dried up.
(*Note: note completely, and I am sure many people know someone who still makes some surprising amount of money with this one weird trick/app)
When the next platform comes out (VR? Cars?) there will be a software shortage and you will have a few years to code up some stuff. Then the market will demand more elaborate and sophisticated software that will require a team, some investment and a lot of time.
Exactly this. There's no industry that's always been easy to get in to, but there's always been something. It changes as society changes. You just have to work out what it is at the moment.
And you can say that the tools and resources available to small time online entrepreneurs are better than ever.
There's always going to be problem domains where you can code simple solutions and make money but it's identifying the problem domains that's the hard part.
By the time you hear multiple people telling you "you can make something simple here and make a ton of money!" about a certain problem domain, you've already missed the boat.
It's a pretty simple concept: providing PhantomJs or Chrome Headless as a REST API.
The thing is, the SaaS itself is only about 1/3 the work. You need a website, account management, and billing too.
Today, there are perhaps other services you could leverage that can help reduce this initial burden (Kong?) but a few years ago when I started my SaaS, nothing really met my needs. Hope it's easier for everyone now!
I'll make a more generic domain name sometime in the future (lots of stuff to do....)
He has been documenting the whole process very well both on Twitter (https://twitter.com/czue/status/958993008543830017) and his blog (http://www.coryzue.com/writing/).
You will be at the mercy of these platforms when (not if) they decide to change their rules but until then, it can be a good source of side income.
It's usually the differentiation that makes the SaaS more complex than an MVP.
this homepage is actually our 3rd and probably most abstract implementation.
1st, 2016: https://web.archive.org/web/20161108025452/https://www.usefo...
2nd, 2017/2018: https://web.archive.org/web/20190107040431/https://fomo.com/
indeed, the numbers speak for themselves. over the last few weeks since deploying we saw lower signup conversion rates. but, we also have a few product launches forthcoming.
balancing between "be short and to the point" and sharing a vision is perhaps more art than science, and that's why we have so much art on our website.
The "Install Fomo in 29 Seconds" section from the first iteration makes me feel confident, as a developer, that there's a clear path to get your product working for me and it won't be a pita. A documentation link at the top, rather than hidden at the bottom, would be nice - see how Facebook presents their tech offerings (granted, open source) at https://reactjs.org/ etc.
I'm just one guy who makes decisions about what techs to use for myself and others though, so yada yada grain of salt. Maybe I'm not who you're targeting as much as salespeople themselves.
this is why we aggressively build native integrations, sometimes 1 per week. deters bad actors.
You should label/brand your pop-ups with a link to somewhere that explains this.
I reckon they could do a better job of conveying this, but I work in marketing and I understood it immediately. So I imagine their target audience understands it well enough.
Plus, the e-commerce sites that use it are usually small startups. They need to show that real people are buying from them to prove to shoppers that they're legitimate
You have to see it as a part of a broader persuasive effort. By itself, it doesn't work. But when it is paired with reviews, testimonials, ratings, high-quality pictures, etc., it adds to the impression that this is a legitimate product
In these cases, you're being pressured to act fast before the hotel/restaurant is fully booked. Further, this "proof" that people are making all these reservations right now also could make you believe your choice is a popular recommendation, persuaded your decision making.
So, say you're interested in a certain smaller brand that may not sell thousands or more copies of certain items, but something on the order of 50, or 100, etc.., then when you see that others have been purchasing said items you worry you'll miss out on your chance to buy one, and then you'll be one of the only people who like the brand who don't have said item.. thus, you wind up purchasing too.
since a customer can have unlimited websites per plan, we actually have around 5,500-6,000 customers. many will add a personal site and a company site, or an ecommerce store and a blog.
yes, older customers have plans as low as $8-12 /month. good times.
more here: https://blog.fomo.com/how-we-bought-a-small-software-startup...
(note, 2.5 year old post)
In the end, there are a lot of opportunities for SaaS, imho the DBaaS are the main reason to consider a cloud provider. Getting setup, failover, backups, hot recovery etc are middling to difficult even with dedicated resources, but tend to have solutions that scale well once you do.
Not suggesting that as something to do, the bigger cloud providers are likely to edge you out eventually.
It could be as simple as a better whois lookup service that is fast and deployed to multiple regions on the major cloud services. Whois in particular is difficult because the resolvers for some of the less big TLDs aren't as responsive, there's inconsistencies in standards and normalization takes work.
Again, it's a matter of figuring out a niche and filling it.
It's easy to read about a lot of the things in this thread and think, "I could easily hack that together in a weekend learning a new technology, why would I pay for it?". There's plenty of people for whom automating a simple repetitive task is both valuable and basically magic and there are so many niches to be had.
It's simple in terms of day to day running now that it works well but getting to that stage and the implementation behind it was a ton of work.
I don't think you're going to easily find a project that's easy to implement, requires little maintenance, has low running costs, markets itself, scales etc. You'll have to put in effort somewhere.
I think if you look into the projects being posted in the thread, you'll realise few are simple if you want to make something people will pay for.
I think the story is similar with simpler products too. Getting the word out and optimising your sales funnel takes much longer than you'd think.
Granted that person is cpercival but whatever :)
"Publish their own petitions" - can you give an example? Share more details, without giving your URL or any other secret sauce away?
I'm sure you know your audience very well - it is just that I am missing something.
That may come off as cynical to people, but as a petition-signer, I'd rather get followed up a couple times by an organization actually working on something I care about (and given a path to act a little more on my caring, even if it's 'come to this event' or 'give us money') than followed up indefinitely by change.org, who cannot seem to guess well at all what sort of petitions I'd like to support.
Customers can either self-host the software them-self (min $5/month) or pay a higher price (min $10/month) and use my "cloud" service where I host and install the software for them.
I use Golang to build everything, caddy for https, Hetzner for hosting, and docker to deploy cloud instances.
However, like anything simple on the exterior, there's still layers of complexity behind it. How do you charge users? Where do you host? How do you acquire users? How do you interact with customers?
Don't mean to be cynical, but even $500/mo is going to have some cost and time complexity. Best of luck!
I would discount all the people who say it cannot be done. There is a ton of opportunity out there if you are willing to do your research, take sensible risks and do the hard work to build and launch stuff. The trick (at least for me) is transitioning from the side-project to the fully self sustaining stage. There is a messy middle where the investment required (in terms of time and money) imposes a much higher risk.
It is a pretty simple straightforward approach but just takes time and discipline to grind through the process.
Pretty simple code poster creator.
It might provide some inspiration of related projects that are in your wheelhouse.
The same applies for email clients or calendar applications. Basically anything that orients around organizing information and priorities.
I actually created a to-do/note app that works for loads of users, I called it Thought Train because I kept losing my train of thought as I tabbed through Slack/Skype/Email all day.
It's not "The answer" but it's helped me daily since I built it.
The trick to creating something like this in a crowded space is not to compete against the others, but compliment them.
We're working on adding other alliances too though!
EDIT: Actually I see now that my partner added the list if you scroll down on the first page (Only visible if you're not logged in though).
Marketing wise, I would try initiating an affiliate program. If you tap into a power blogger network, you might be able to get hundreds of customers over an 18 month stretch.
Please note that we had worked with a few fintechs for about a year on a service basis and made a pivot to a subscription service just last week. This resulted in most of our existing fintech clients coming on board right away after we emailed them even though the website (https://moosecopy.com) is still under construction i.e. no writing samples on it yet. Our mixed background provides an excellent value for our clients and we have been fortunate to work with some great clients as well.
Lastly, as a few people have suggested wisely, it's a good idea to offer a service initially and then look towards building a product out of it (similar to Paul Graham's idea of doing things that don't scale during early development stage).
LINK => https://www.indiehackers.com/products?minRevenue=500&sorting...
It provides an optimized solution for a very niche type problem (making fuse bead patterns from images).
When he started more than a decade ago, there was zero competition and it was a novel idea. Now there is stiff competition.
This is far from simple - this is actually a very serious project, not an example of 500$ stuff!
Those BuiltWith folks probably have hundreds of regression tests running daily. Maybe a bunch of freelancers who check for newer versions of software too every month.
It does deliver value, and I'm sure there's more to it than you might see at first. But, it does seem a simpler space than many.
Squatters do this kind of thing already, but they demand an exorbitant price or have some kind of opaque bidding process. Park.io at least introduces some consistency and trust in this process.
I'd much rather pay a small premium ($99 for the domain vs however much a particular registrar charges) to avoid that hassle and still get a great name I would never have gotten otherwise by scanning for pendingDelete domains.
If you want passive income, write code for pay and invest some of the surplus.
If you want to do a startup, find a cofounder and apply to YCombinator. Or find another path to working at a startup.
So if I can hit the mark accidentally off a weekend project, it certainly is achievable if you put serious effort in.
I've started 2 simple SaaS products that are solidly profitable (simplecrew.com and crewfire.com), and a 3rd just shipped this week (chainfuel.com).
The internet is full of other counterpoints.
Then we would have some real data instead of my anecdote. And yours.
Anecdata of course, but it has been like this (and profitable) for the last 7 years. At least proofs it is not impossible (I also never really invested lots of time in it to get to this state)
I think i can bring it to 30k a year with sufficient effort, but then again, my salary is higher than that so it doesn’t make enough sense to switch my time to do so. (The growth problem of course is sales, not tech)