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Ask HN: How do you monetize a side-project?
24 points by yanis_t 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments
Hi guys,

I need an advice on how would you try to monetize a project like those ones that I have here:

- https://todox.app (personal task manager) - https://www.candlapp.com (book/readings tracker)

Those guys have been around for a while and both of them have some modest popularity (around 100 active users / day each ). But I'm having trouble trying to get some money out of it.

Not that I'm planning to get reach or start a multinational corporation. Just want to organize some small but stable cash income that would be enough to keep the projects running.

I've found that even when you have many devoted users, it's extremely hard to actually convert them into paying customers.

So if you have some wisdom to share, please I need some honest advices.






I pay for stuff that gives me good value. To convert me to a paid version of the app, I need to have a good experience with the base app and see clear value in additional features.

For example, for a TODO app, charge for more than a certain number of projects, recurring tasks, integration with some other service, notifications, shared task list, etc. I didn't look into the specifics of your app, but that's the general free -> paying pipeline.

But don't just randomly develop stuff. Figure out how your users use your product and add stuff they may want to a paid tier. Maybe that's asking them to take a survey, maybe it's some form of telemetry, that's up to you, but you need to get an idea of what your customers value.


Start with the customer, problem and value to the customer before you write code

But if I have users who are using the service for free doesn't it already mean that there is a customer, a problem and a value?

I guess I wasn't clear. The calculation you need to do is:

  NumberOfCustomers * RevenuePerCustomerPerMonth >= MoneyINeedPerMonth
Then you need to back out the product and marketing from this equation. For example, for your TODO app:

  NumberOfCustomers * $3/customer/month >= 2000
So at $3/customer/month, you will need ~670 customers.

Next you figure out: where the hell am I going to get 670 customers? I've been running one business for over 10 years and I think I have only 1500 customers in total. Finding customers isn't easy.

What I suggest is:

  NumberOfCustomers = 10
  MoneyINeedPerMonth = 2000
Create a product that 10 people will pay you $200/month for.

Now, no one is going to pay you $200/month for your TODO app as-is. But... What can you change to make it so useful that 10 people just throw money at you?

This is how I develop my ideas that are profitable from day one. There is a new software product I've recently created that I designed to make me $15K/day.

And it's working. Sometimes. But still, it's working, sometimes.

Edit: the worst thing you can possibly do is slap a price on what you've done. The reason is that you're just slapping a price on it, not because you've investigated the value added. If you really wanted to add a price of $3/month to people who are already using it, then add something that's useful to them. Perhaps integrate with Google Calendar as a pro feature. But now, you need to find 670 people who want your Google Calendar integration and need your particular TODO app. Not easy by any stretch.


How much money does it take to operate these projects?

If you're just trying to pay for hosting, resources, and Apple tithe, why not just add a PayPal button and call it a day?


I pay around $20 for hosting + DB + AWS services (s3, cloudfront)... But the idea I guess is to get some more money to keep the interest

$3 / month - try charging yearly?

Add testimonial from reputable company.


Good project



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