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Ask HN: Which is the most successful one-person business you heard of in 2019?
485 points by robsun 22 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 231 comments
You can find a lot of articles about the most successful startups / companies in 2019 but these lack information of one-man companies, unless you started as a one person and now you have dozens of employees.

My candidate is my friend. He built mobile app that generates revenue around 30 - 50k $ per year.




Ben Tossell of Makerpad. He made about $200k in the past year from a site that teaches others how to build interactive sites and apps without writing code.

Lynne Tye of Key Values. She made about $400k in 2019 from a site that connects software engineers with companies that that share their intangible values, e.g. diverse team, good for parents, fast or slow-paced, etc.

Robert James Gabriel of Helperbird. He struggled a lot with dyslexia growing up, and even had a teacher tell him he should give up and drop out of school. Luckily another teacher encouraged him to learn to code, and he's been quite prolific since. Helperbird is a browser extension that helps others with learning disabilities browse the web easier. Robert recently brought on a co-founder, but he'd grown the app to a "comfortable five figures a month" in revenue.

Plenty more on https://www.IndieHackers.com sharing their stories via interviews and on the podcast, and also posting about hitting revenue goals and other milestones here: https://www.indiehackers.com/milestones


I found out about Lynne and Key Values last year. At the time, I was feeling particularly unsure about my path. I sent Lynne a brief email on a total whim after reading the story behind how she came to create Key Values, and feeling inspired. Lynne actually took the time to respond and offer me advice in an email, and that made a strong impression on me. Wish her continued success in 2020 and many years to come !


I quit my job around the same time as I discovered that podcast. I was walking around in a daze listening to this episode pondering what I had done and it made me feel ok.


I'm still blown away that Key Values (as cool an idea as it is) manages to pull that kind of revenue. One thing I'd be curious to see is if the site actually can maintain revenue past year one?


Idea is really nice, but with such unpolished execution, I'm surprised there is so much revenue.

RE the execution:

- filters work unintuitively: selecting more filters often increases number of matches

- some filters are very fuzzy, and don't even have detailed description: "Creative + Innovative", "Committed to Personal Growth" or "Bonded by Love for Product"

- you can't negate the filters: e.g. you can select "EQ > IQ", but you can't choose "IQ > EQ", or any value which goes against progressive viewpoint.


Recruiting really, really pays.


So surely Key Values takes a share of recruiting fees, not just a fee to list on their platform? Idk, it seems like this site wouldn't help cut down on candidates that are completely not qualified to work at a given company, which to me seems like a much more daunting hiring challenge for small companies / startups.


Their whole business model is not taking a cut AFAIK. If you listen to the indie hackers podcast that will help explain why :)

Imagine if you run a company and have to pay $30k to a recruiter to find someone. And then imagine paying a fraction of that to post all your jobs on Key Values.


+1 on Robert of Helperbird. He's done a great job scaling that company up, although as you note he does have a cofounder now. Also a really helpful guy — I reached out to him and he was down for a chat about accessibility and assistive technology.


I’m a one man show. I made a SaaS targeted towards a specific company. I did all the work up front, got them to trial it, and when they loved it they singed a contract for just over $100k/year.

I have a site with ads on it that makes ~$1500–2000/m in ad revenue.

I also do some hosting/maintenance for clients. 4 clients and it’s about $1,000/m.

All in it’s about $130k/year and it requires about 5 hours a week of my time. It has freed up the rest of my time to keep building similar projects that can both boost and diversify my MRR.

I’m very grateful that I’m able to work on projects I enjoy now, but more importantly it’s given me time to spend with my family and be around for my kid.


Wow, those number sound so high for a third world country that I can't help thinking that if I were in your situation I would give half of that salary (5k monthly) to my brother and father so they wouldn't have to worry about money again. Congratulations for being in that situation!


Coming from scandinavian welfare state, it is really difficult for me to understand why someone would give to their relatives some of their income. Especially if you earn it by working, and the reasoning being so that they don't have to worry about money = have less pressure to work.

I don't want to judge anyone, just wanted to state that there is clearly quite a big cultural gap here. I don't know anyone around here who would do similar things.


> it is really difficult for me to understand why someone would give to their relatives some of their income.

This is an interesting mindset. I don't want to judge you either, but I never understood the value of keeping my money and collecting wealth. If I were struggling, I wouldn't go out of my way to help my family. But if I had extra income, I would help my family if they were in need.


He is from a country with a strong socialist welfare system, so when one is in need, the government is there to assist them and they don't need to feel like they are a burden on their family and friends.


Agreed, but this reminds me of the old joke about a bruised scout who comes limping to his friends. "What happened?", they ask. "I helped an old lady cross the street", says the scout. "But why are you so hurt?" "She didn't want to cross the street".

Obviously, if my family doesn't need help, I wouldn't try to give them money. But if they were in need, I wouldn't say that it's not my responsibility to help either. I think this is a simple judgement call. The efficiency of the Scandinavian welfare system is besides the point.


Your country has a welfare net. For the third world countries usually children are the welfare net. It's not that hard to understand.


There is factually/intellectually understanding it, and then there is being able to see things through that point of view, which opens up in depth discussions from it.

As parent said, he may have the first type, but not the second, so it's hard for him to answer on it without making it sound like a culture clash.


My non-European partner gives money to their parents despite being fairly middle-class and fiscally stable. You're right, it's cultural - theirs expects grown children to contribute to the parents after spending their childhood paying for them. It's an investment into the family unit as a whole, as the family will support you beyond what the state welfare could provide. Had a car accident and need some money? The family can help. Want help with a deposit for a place? The family will contribute.


In my waspy American family, nobody asks for help or even would let it be known they are in need. It would be an embarrassment. We are individual capitalist and you must not be weak!

That said, there are a few deadbeats who try to take advantage by always being in need. But only to finance their life of leisure, not real need.


Brit here. We have a welfare state (just about...), though it's getting pretty grim lately.

I've given a decent amount to family over the years. For the most part it's about a recognition of what people have done for me. My mother sacrificed significantly so that I could be the person I am today.

Not every country rewards work equivalently. In Sweden I see people working in supermarkets and petrol stations that still have decent lives. Norway is wealthier still.

That's not the case in Britain for the most part - we have much higher income inequality. Someone can work a full time job and still struggle, because the low end jobs pay biscuits.

(This is probably a significant contributor to the sticker shock I have when shopping in Scandinavia - the staff actually get paid...)


Real income in the UK has plummeted in the last two decades. The government's employment figures are just smoke and mirrors masking a gig economy full of low pay and sofa-surfing. The government has now started harassing low-income in-work housing benefit claimants to make sure they are doing enough to increase their hours. This is new territory as the housing element in Universal Credit payments was previously exempt from sanctions.


siblings are one thing, but your parents most likely worked very hard and spent a lot of money on you when you were young. They probably sacrificed some of their desires just so you could get an education, live comfortably, etc.

If you can repay them somehow and make their lives easier, why not do so?


Coming from a different country it is really difficult to understand why someone would keep their money for themselves instead of helping their families. Over here families thrive and fail together.


American here, my retired mom gets only "social security", which is about $700/mo. I have to give her some of my income or she would sink. (I don't give her cash directly, but I take care of repairs on her house, new appliances, her car maintenance, etc)

I wish her pension would cover her real living expenses.


It is common in asian cultures (I'm from India), where kids take care of parents and even extended families like uncles etc as they grow old. Though this pattern is shrinking in cities, most of them do keep aside money for their parents during their old age. In old times, whatever people earn is not for them to keep. The money from all the bread winners will be pooled by elders and will be shared by everyone for running of the joint family. This too is becoming uncommon but atleast people keep aside money (or some equivalent) so that it can be used for expenses of aged parents ...


Every culture in the world considers helping family to be natural and positive. Many consider it a responsibility, and that’s a beautiful thing.


I can't comprehend how you could judge someone negatively for wanting to provide for their family. So yes there does seem to be a huge cultural gap here and in this case I don't think Scandanavia does it better. Even if I lived in a country with a good safety net I would want to share my success with my family.


I know several Scandinavians personally who help their friends & family monetarily. It's also real common in Estonia, which is about a hundred miles from Scandinavia. Thus I don't think helping family is something that is missing in the region. More likely it's just a blind spot for spottybanana.


Most of Canada (population wise) is about a hundred miles from the USA. They even speak the same language! Yet ... assuming a similar set of moral archetypes and social behaviors on that basis would be a mistake.

Geography is interesting, but not deterministic.


Do you think Seattle is more similar to Vancouver or to some city in Alabama?

It's not an absolute rule for sure, especially over a short period, just look at Korea. However I've found that distance generally plays a very large role in culture, especially if given enough time. Of course it doesn't determine everything. You can find completely different cultures in different blocks in New York city. People don't always see eye-to-eye with their neighbor just some meters away.

In the case of Estonia & Scandinavia the history is rather long and entangled. There are the Vikings, who liked nearby islands - including islands of Estonia that aren't Scandinavia. There have been periods where Estonia was conquered and part of both the Swedish kingdom and the Danish kingdom. Even the Danish flag is attributed to a battle in Estonia. [1]

Would I say that Estonian culture is a copy of Swedish or Danish culture? Definitely not, there are significant differences. There are also big differences between rural and urban areas. There's probably more similarities between Estonian farmers and Swedish farmers than Estonian farmers & Estonian software developers.

At the end of the day, you can't deterministically say anything at all about a group of people, even if it's a small group. Saying something general about people in an area as large as Scandinavia is always going to be probabilistic.

--

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lyndanisse


Yup, there are many such hard to understand gaps from both sides. E.g. one such thing would be, in the "west" (I guess it's the same for Scandinavia) it is so common that parents are being put in old people's homes to spend their last moments of life among strange people, instead of their children taking care of them at home.


Really you guys don't do that? umm we do appreciate family values here. my brother who makes a lots of money just bought new car for my other brother who doesn't work yet i guess it's good thing to do this you win the family.


> just wanted to state that there is clearly quite a big cultural gap here

This is why socialism works in scandinavian countries (it's a need, not a luxury), but fails in the south of europe


Where in the post it says he is from 3rd world?


I think "for a third world country" here means "from (my) third world country perspective".


Yes, that's what I meant, sorry.


Parent didn't get where he is today by giving away half (!) of his salary.


He didn't get there by not giving half of his salary.


The "site with ads" is the one that really interests me. Can you give some details on that? What kind of site it is, how you grew traffic, what you use for ads? (Just AdWords?)


I made an API for myself in 2011 that I could consume at work. I made a site that lets people query it from a web app and docs on the API. Didn’t think anyone would actually use it though. Tossed an ad on it and forgot about it.

The API has been rewritten a few times now, it gets over 300 million requests a month. All organic growth, I can’t take any credit for it because I honestly have done nothing to aid it. Only use Google AdWords and it runs on a $40/m VPS.

We introduced paid plans a year ago and had a few sign ups. I think the paid accounts are about $440MRR but I split it with a friend who did all the work around paid accounts. (I didn’t think it would be worthwhile, he did, so he did the work around paid subscriptions)


This is super interesting to me. I have a couple questions! Although, by the way, found a typo on your /api page-- "The power behind MAC Vendors API is it's simplicity. Get started instantly, no registration required." That should be `its`, not `it's`.

Anyway, this whole thing confuses the hell out of me. You're receiving 3.6 billion requests per year and you've been serving it all for free with a single adsense ad and only making a couple grand a month off of it? I feel like I don't really understand. Shouldn't the hosting costs for multiple billions of requests be huge? Shouldn't you be charging for that? I'm speaking as someone who's never built anything like this, so I don't really know.


300 million a month only works out to around 115 a second. The API has been optimized a lot. We could probably handle 2x the traffic we are currently getting before needing to upgrade the server.

We do have paid accounts now but it doesn’t amount to a ton, around $440MRR.

I hesitated adding paid accounts for a long time because it cost so little to run but the ad revenue was alright.

Lots of niche markets out there, but my at revenue did take a long, slow path over 8 years to get to this point.


It really doesn't need to be expensive to serve hundreds-to-thousands of requests per second. Despite what some people will tell you, that's not actually very significant load.


I am serving around 3 billion requests a month (so around 10x more than OP) from one dedicated server that cost less than 100 euro a month.


Adwords, as in you pay to advertise the site on Google?

I found your project since you previously posted it on HN and linked to it in an answer below (hope you don't mind, I'll remove it if you want).


Sorry, Adsense


What's the API do if you don't mind sharing?


In his submissions on HN there's a link to macvendors.com

Pretty cool simple idea.


I visited the site, and turned off my adblocker, but am not seeing any ads. Are the ads hidden somewhere? What does one have to do to see ads these days? Edit - Nevermind, I thought I had my ad blocker off, but apparently incognito mode didn't turn it off like I expected it would.


Can you broadly talk about how you came up with the idea, how you contacted the company?


An acquaintance worked for the company and asked for help replacing an existing paper process with an excel document. I helped, but mentioned a web app would work much better. The company trialed the excel version but came back with some concerns. I talked it over with the friend and decided to spend my free time building it out. Once I had a beta ready they trailed it in their location and they loved it. We got it into 2 more locations (all free at this point) and everyone loved it. That raised interest and other stores in the district started asking for it. We launched it across the whole district and finally started to charge. After a year the company decided to launch it nationally. It was a risky move to do the work up front since it could have fizzled out, but it worked out in the end.


Beautiful! one again, "find Excel use case and replace with web app" seems to have worked :)

Thank you for responding.


Absolutely, I think there’s plenty of money to be made finding problems companies don’t know they have. The hard part is identifying them, and picking one where the value added by a web app is worth paying for.


What did your acquaintance get for their part?

I had a kindof similar situation long ago, where a friend worked for a high-frequency trading company and I had been developing a low-overhead high-precision resource and system monitoring framework. I would supply him development builds of the agents and a web login to monitor and tune their trading systems while I got some free production testing in return, it seemed fair at the time.

As things matured and I started exploring paths for monetization, when I approached that trading company about a possible contract my "friend" demanded half ownership stake in the business in return for their becoming the first paying customer.

Nope.


Acquaintance got the recognition at work for the tool implementation. They also got a vastly superior solution to a problem they had at work.

I had another opportunity to develop a similar tool for another company, but the person who pitched it wanted 50% despite having nothing to offer other than the idea, so I politely declined.


... so you got nothing at the end?


Asking here, unable to reply to the comment below.

The hard part is identifying them, and picking one where the value added by a web app is worth paying for.

As someone who doesn't have any contacts with companies (I'd assume this is true for most people here), any pointers on how to go about doing this? I tried the cold email route (even made a friend this way, we still keep in touch after two years, though we haven't met and probably never will), but I didn't succeed. I probably could have, but it made me so uncomfortable writing to total strangers :(


> As someone who doesn't have any contacts with companies (I'd assume this is true for most people here), any pointers on how to go about doing this?

You need to develop contacts at companies! There are lots of different ways to build your network, but the bottom line is that to be successful with this line of work, which is essentially consulting (at least in the beginning stages), you need to meet people and earn their trust. If you are introverted this will likely feel awkward and uncomfortable (which is why it’s called getting out of your comfort zone).

It takes a fair bit of effort to get someone to the point where they are willing to walk you through their business processes. Showing genuine interest in their operations and asking lots of good questions is key.


Yup this pretty much hits the nail on the head.

Learning to listen is very important, and really understanding what people are saying. Lots of times they aren’t really complaining, they’re just talking about something and if you’re listening closely you can identify potential opportunities in their systems and processes. Often people don’t know what’s possible, so they don’t come at you directly with a problem.

At an old job it was someone’s job to run a “install history report”, it was all the installs that were done the previous week (thousands) and read through it copying and pasting installs from specific cities into an excel sheet. It took about 12 hours a week. He explained this process whole asking a completely different question. I ended up writing a little script that completed this same task in a few seconds. He didn’t even know that was possible, so he didn’t know to ask.


Was it hard to negotiate/agree with them on the price?


Not particularly, I started a bit higher than I really wanted so they could negotiate down a bit, but it’s a reasonable price for what they get. I think the trick is pricing based on value provided by the solution; what’s it worth to them?


Cool. Well done!


Please write a blog post for us to learn from you.


Don't take this the wrong way.

What if you read what he did, do a lot of research on how to get similar results to him and blog about it so others can learn from you?

Don't wait for things to happen; go out and make them happen yourself.


What type of hosting/maintenance are you doing for clients and how did you find these clients? Interesting you were able to find opportunities for hosting services when there are so many easy PaaS options out there now.


Most companies don't know what hosting options they have. They'll take the first recommendation from their "tech person" or whoever developed their site.

The problem is, that's a shit experience for your average company. They rarely touch their site since they don't know how. Someone will create an account, they'll write the username and password down for all the various hosting providers they need to know, and things will usually go smoothly until their credit card expires, their domain name expires (which they don't even know is possible) or some other problem that results in a bunch of downtime and panic from everyone involved.

I pitch it as a worry free solution. I manage their domains renewals, DNS, hosting, security updates, framework updates, all things they don't know they have to do. Their framework will remain current, so if they want something done in 5 years they'll have the latest version of the framework, not some archaic thing that requires PHP 5.1 and relies on a weird MySQL bug from whatever version their host is using.

On top of that, they get a couple hours of maintenance included every month, so if they need a few small changes made to the site it's all included, no extra invoices, no quoting, no needing to get budget approvals or sign offs. They just shoot me an email and I make the changes. (hours don't roll over)


What kind of site do you run that generates $1.5k/month in ad revenue? High traffic niche blog?


One of many MAC address lookup services, https://macvendors.com


Awesome numbers! Did you do CS at college?


Nope all self taught. Nothing I’ve done is very complex.


If successful means total benefit delivered to shareholders, then I consider my one-man company to be very successful.

Used to be a corporate attorney grinding high billable hours at big firm. Quit to start a solo law practice serving clients working with my favorite thing, cryptocurrencies.

I made $100k working about 30 hours per week from home. Drop off and pick up kids from local school on cargo bike. Take them to the park after school a few days a week (babysitter gets them other days). Client list is kept short to manage stress and avoid need to hire employees.


I'm happy for your success, that sounds like a dream come true.


I'm running MinistryOfFlat.com and I have made 7 figures this year. No investors or co workers. No marketing beyond my 2k twitter followers and a website. Solve a very specific and hard problem and the right people will find you.


Just read through all your stuff, the UV unwrapper is very cool. Do most people use it with 3d paint tools? It seems the small disconnected bits would be hard to paint by hand.

some thoughts/questions:

- Do you use a library for packing? This alone is a lot of work. Since you write in C, are you using boost polygon or CGAL for the computational geometry algorithms?

- Have you thought about a data-driven approach? Unwrap and packing are geometric operations, but seam marking/segment classification may be amenable to an ML-based method (specifically the spectral graph CNN that came out recently). This seems like the largest hurdle to more "human-like" unwrapping but I'm only a hobbyist so this could be way off base.

I'm almost tempted to create a competing product, but alas I already have a startup in a different domain : ]


I don't use libs for anything. I write everything from scratch. Not having any dependencies is a huge win for many of my customers. You can find some of my source at gamepipeline.org


I haven't really done any serious 3D work in a few years but my impression was that there are already a few popular UV auto-unwrappers and techniques like Ptex that avoid UVs entirely. I was looking at the maps produced in the demos on your page and they're definitely not like anything I'd produce or want to paint by hand. I assume that's not the point, but rather to use tools like Substance Painter or Mari right?

I guess I'm just surprised that this niche is worth 7 figures. That's awesome.


This has to be one of the most astonishing and remarkable work I've ever seen in recent times. Holyshit.

UV mapping is a royal pain in the ass and I can't believe it can just be automated away. Many big studios tried - from Houdini to Maxon to large open source projects like Blender. You deserve huge returns, kudos! All the best!

Nit: you need a SSL cert on your website :)


Thank you very much! Its pretty good but its not even close to as good as the version I have in R&D.... SSL is coming, thanks for reminding me.


Could you tell us more about yourself and project. How would you able to do without any coworkers when many big companies tried.


I kind of did it by accident. It was a side project that people started getting in touch over.

I think I'm very suited to solve this problem for a few reasons. I used to be a 3D artist so I know what artists want. I'm a C programmers so I can make complex things go fast, and I have done a lot of procedural 3D stuff so I know a lot of mesh processing tricks. The complexity of this is substantial. its currently around 1.5 megs of source code, not counting UIs loaders and savers or any of that. So I would say many long hours and being very focused is key. You can find more of my work at www.quelsolaar.com and @quelsolaar on twitter


Your work is amazing. Great job! I'm super impressed. I used to do a bunch of 3D stuff but then I switched to web/mobile dev and that was it for 3D. I can see why your software is successful because it solves a very exact pain-point that is very costly and time-consuming.


For some reason, I was pondering over the problem (with really no background in mesh/geometry algorithms) - it feels very NP-complete-like problem. It just feels hard. Could you expand on some of the details of the algorithm in terms of how these 30 algos scale? Do they scale in polynomial time or do these algos scale in non-polynomial ways but the problem space is small enough for it to compute the solution quickly. Perhaps some epoch threshold has reached and the algos bail out?


That is amazing!

Love was so ahead of it's time, and has been an inspiration since I first found it maybe a decade ago. Happy to see you make a comfortable living in a related space. Cheers!


That'a pretty cool work; I've worked with UV mapping a bit and if this works this is beast. Side note, the top/hero video crashed mid animation for me (chrome/win10/modern hardware); everything else works fine.


Thanks! There are a lot of things that I could improve on my website but I don't think any of it matters that much. There are a lot of people in the startup community talking about metrics, marketing and having the right color on the download button, but its all kind of BS. It matters on the margin, but what really matters is delivering for your customers. Spend your time making the core offering good and if you do it right people will come no matter how ugly your webpage is. Its like a restaurant with amazing food doesn't need a good location of fancy interior design, it will always be full.


I think good design/presentation and solid approach towards attention to detail on everything you do - it only adds and it doesn't take away from the core functional aspects of the product or service. Uber-functionalism, which is what you seem to be obsessed with, has its drawbacks. Imagine if Apple didn't care about design or aesthetics or presentation of their products.

At the sametime, I see some contradiction to your philosophy - there is just so much pizzaz in the product you've built. It goes against the grain of what you just said - all those animations, futuristic aesthetic of your product, giant clock with Tron-like fonts, etc...all those things are unnecessary. You could just sell the command line tool, you know :)


I'm a graphics nerd so that stuff is just fun for me, and most of it is part of existing toolkits I have already written for things like font rendering and UI.

I used to think that quality was attention to detail and polishing everything, but now I think its a hump you have to get over. People stand in line for hours, in the rain and cold, and jump through a lot of hoops the stuff they really want. As a creator your goal is to make them want it that much, rather then worrying about the rough edges.


It sounds like confirmation bias to make a universal principle out of not needing a highly usable and accessible landing page/web site based off your success in a narrow B2B context, especially if you product is spreading word of mouth. Imagine how many inpatient people got frustrated with the video/landing page on mobile and closed the page? Are you running analytics? We could prove bounce rate against your theory of not needing a highly usable website UX.

It's just good for business to make the user interface as seamless and friction free as possible to get users the information they need at a glance to make a decision and covert faster = more conversions and more revenue $$$


I guess your product is B2B and perhaps that makes it different. Reminds me of Berkshire Hathaway's website: https://www.berkshirehathaway.com/

Zero fucks given.


"If you have any comments about our WEB page, you can write us at the address shown above. However, due to the limited number of personnel in our corporate office, we are unable to provide a direct response."

:-)


What is UV? It's everywhere in the website.


When you do 3D graphics you first build a 3D shape and then you wrap an image around it to give it surface properties like color, reflectance, and transparency. In order to do this you need to "unwrap" the 3D shape so that it every XYZ point also exist in a 2D UV image space. This unwrapping step us usually done more or less by hand and is both tedious and time consuming.


This is easily the coolest thing I've seen on HN this month! I'm a computer graphics and animation student/hobbiest in conjunction with my CS studies so this is very interesting to me. Any plans to incorporate your software into the content creation tools themselves by means of an addon?


What kind of license (one time fee/monthly subscription/???) and how much does it cost?


First that comes to mind is Joe Rogan. He started a podcast in 2009.

His SocialBlade profile says he makes between $16,500 - $264,000 a month from his youtube videos alone.

But the bulk of his downloads are going to be from his rss feed, where he has between 2m-20 million downloads per episode with about 4 ads baked into each episode. If he charged a (low) standard of $20 per 1,000 downloads for those ads, this means he makes at least $160,000 per episode. He does like 20 episodes a month. Some believe Joe may be the first podcaster to make a billion dollars. If he hasn't earned that already he will in the next few years.

Let me reiterate. Joe started his podcast himself. By himself. Like as in, he set up his Libsyn account, bought his own mic. Booked his own guests. Then published it all himself. Now he has very minimal help, like 1 or 2 people to help him. It's so insane.

Now you might say "that's not a one-person business". But in this gig economy, not many people are. There's always someone hiring a lawyer, or graphic designer, or podcast producer, to work freelancing gig by gig. So the single person business is usually getting help from others. But there are other podcasters who have also done it all themselves, and are raking it in too.


Pretty sure he was a celebrity before though, that kinda makes things easier than for the avg joe blow.


While true, not sure it's a material point in a discussion about who's the biggest outlier you can think of. Outliers get to be outliers because of non-standard factors.


Heard Sam Harris mention once that every Joe Rogan podcast has the same audience size as the Game of Thrones final. Too lazy to look up the numbers but it's very impressive if true.

I like his podcasts a lot, he's a great guy and deserves it all. He did mention once that he made "fuck you money" in his Fear Factor days. His income from that and his stand up tours probably contribute massively to his total net worth.


Sidekiq makes ~1M/year in gross revenue. I believe the only full-time employee is the founder, and it doesn't sound like there are any material recurring expenses:

https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/016-mike-perham-of-side...

It's the most profitable one-man show I know of, although there's many that I've run into that ~500k, albeit with a much higher operational burden.


Mike created a quality product that was much better than the alternatives at the time. I remember working in a Rails shop and struggling with Resque.


Agreed. Sidekiq solves a real problem much better than the alternatives. As soon as your app starts to make real money it's worth paying for enterprise for the support + added features. I feel like there's got to be other businesses to be built by creating 'premium' open-source packages for common pain points in application development.


After skimming through the podcast transcript it's still not clear to me how this works.

What's the difference with say the job queue system of Laravel / Horizon / Redis ? From what I can tell this has all the same features listen on the Sidekiq page except it's free.

What am I missing?


Sidekiq is using Redis behind the scenes. It's a job queue system for Ruby and Ruby on Rails


Seems to have only a few extra features compared to Laravel's Horizon (from looking at screenshots, I could be totally wrong).

https://laravel.com/docs/5.7/horizon

Horizon is free, crazy something like this could be monetized so successfully.


For every successful product, there's at least 10 free tools that do the same thing (or something similar). It's not crazy at all - people (in particular larger companies) need support, assurances the product will still exist/be maintained in the future, etc. A lot of people will pay you just so they have a human on the other side of the line to talk to, in case things go wrong.


Never used Sidekiq myself, but I believe its value is mainly speed and reliability. It suits systems with hundreds of thousands of jobs to process. At least that's what I read on website :)


I'm at ~$2m now. Still no employees.


Evan You is making Vue.js financed by Patreon donations. Looks like about 19k/mo, which is 230k/y. Although there are most probably people who help him, he is doing it mostly on his own. And I suspect that Patreon is just one of his income sources. https://www.patreon.com/evanyou


I run a one-person company [1] whose tech makes reading on screen easier/faster/more accessible. The B2C tools (iOS app and browser plugin) bring in 5 figures, but in 2019 the IP licensing took off.

We have large educational clients that are integrating the tech because of its benefit for students (especially those with ADHD and dyslexia). IP licensing is great because it means I don't need to spend time building the integrations myself, and I don't have any costs attached to the licensing deals, so it's pretty much all profit. In 2020 the IP licensing will greatly exceed the B2C revenue, and we may even make the B2C tools free at that point.

1: www.beelinereader.com


Do you think it makes sense to sell instructional content under IP licensing for basic education institution? I have produced a lot of basic infosec awareness materials this year I could be revamping to make suitable for teachers and school administration. Payment would be done once a year, more or less aligned with a new pack release which would contain updates/new content.


Just to clarify, would you be selling to K12 or higher ed? This could wrap into a "media literacy" package, which is taught in K12.

My gut reaction is you would not want to position this as IP licensing if selling to schools. We do IP licensing to edtech/education companies, but our school offerings are all software/SaaS. I think schools would find the notion of IP licensing to be a mismatch, which would create friction even if the offering itself is a good fit.


Basic education, mainly. All levels except higher-Ed. Yes, the idea is to wrap it into digital literacy/citizenship modules that teachers could be using in their classes as complementary topics.

I'm struggling to find the right way to position this as a service in which the client/user can work, edit, deliver the content or part of it without having commercial ownership over it, e.g. cannot resell my content to 3rd parties.


Selling into education (especially K12) is tough, and many startups have died on that hill. The sales cycle is slow, budgets are limited (unless there's a specific line-item for what you're selling, which is possible since "digital/media literacy" is popular these days), and billing can be problematic.

If I were you, I'd find other companies that are already in the space, see what they offer and how they price/sell, and either mimic them or consider joining forces in some way.


That's awesome. Just FYI the link to the Firefox extension at the above URL is a dead end.


Ah, yeah thanks I need to fix that, thanks!


Your ios app have very less reviews 20 and very low. Could you please explain how many downloads you re getting and how you are generating 5 figure.

Congrats!!


Most of our revenue is from our Chrome extension. And most of the negative reviews are people complaining about us not offering features that Apple prevents us from offering (like system-wide support).


I would love to have this in as part of `getpocket.com`. Maybe you could reach out to them about licensing it.


I’d imagine that many users don’t comment because they feel their salary mix is too sensitive.

I’m a mobile app dev consultant that also maintains a few node/docker appliances for industrial IOT clients.

I make enough to dedicate 10 hours a week (sometimes nights and weekends) to build and maintain an electron app that I sell for $50 a license. My software is beginning to compete with other software that costs $500 a license. I have a lot of room to grow, and it’s super unsexy: label printers. I basically created the label design app I wish I had. You can check it out at https://label.live.


Wish I'd discovered this back when I needed it, all label printing software is garbage but this looks perfect.

Just one issue - can't easily find the price of your app.


I have so many ideas and the path to reaching customers just seems impossible. I am constantly saying to myself, who could be persuaded to PAY for this? And yet so many people here have successful products that I NEVER would have thought could work (a color gradient on text?!?!). I do not know how people reach actual revenue on their side projects.


Color-gradient-on-text guy here. For context, I didn't quit my day job until after I'd won a couple startup competitions, including one at Stanford. It's been 5 years since I went full-time on BeeLine, and I've only been able to survive thanks to my savings (I used to be a corporate lawyer) and my wife (whose steady earnings as a professor cover our day-to-day). It is definitely stressful and hard to bootstrap a company, but if you can make it work it can offer great benefits in terms of flexibility/family life and social impact.


I have a lot of ideas and the capability to build them all. I’m sure I’d be able to sell them as well. My problem is that I don’t have time, because I’m the sole income earner for a family of four. I’ve tried to get numerous projects off the ground, but it always required giving up sleep and putting my day job under threat. I don’t have runway because that money is earmarked (not by me) for a deposit on a house in one of the world’s most expensive markets.


Get a slower-paced job? I'm assuming you're in the Bay Area by the mention to world's most expensive market - there's plenty of very high paying jobs here where you don't exactly have to worry much, and it isn't particularly hard to get them.

You can also go a very long way by using a small portion of your income to pay someone in a cheaper location to code for you. You can literally pay a full time engineer somewhere else if you stop eating lunch + one starbucks out every day, for instance!


I am in the same situation. I had to stop burning the midnight oil on side projects. I just work on one now but over a much longer time horizon.


I am the same here, I am so useless at sales that when I see the things some people manage to sell I get angry somewhat.


Don't hate the player, man. Don't hate the game either. Realize that reaching people, both literally and figuratively, is a prerequisite to improving their lives with your product.


what kind of ideas about what audience? perhaps talk to other makers with overlapping audiences, and help each other. sadly, the main online media have become hostile to boostrapped sites.


I run a small MOOC helping country side municipalities/rural communities in Scandinavia with teaching their youth and young adults about IT, networking and cloud technologies. It started as a pilot project in a small municipality north of the arctic circle and I sold my first license in February. It then quickly gained attraction in similar types of municipalities when the results came in.

It was a lot of work in the beginning, but now I usually have a very nice schedule. Every week I spend around 4 hours researching different topics, 8 hours on updating or creating videos for the platform and 4-8 hours in video meetings with customers or regarding new business opportunities.

This year I made north of €150k (~$167604) and will double that before Q3. Seeing how things are going, most likely I will not be a one man show by the summer due to a need for account management and/or content creation, but it's doable.


Hey there, congrats! How to reach you ? I run a digital product consultancy in Paris and we help SMB’s to increase performance on internal processes


My wife.

She runs her own web/digital marketing company and is the only full-time employee (which includes time for school pick-up/drop-off). She has a few freelancers for graphic design and content writing and I help out as I can while working a full-time corporate job.

Her company revenue is over 300k/year.


That is awesome. When did she start the company? What has her growth strategy been and how has she acquired new clients?


She's been running it for about 12 years, basically not long after the kids started at school. Growth has been organic, probably around 20% year on year at a guess.

For a long time new clients were mostly Google Ads/Remarketing, word-of-mouth and customer referrals and a few ongoing relationships with sales executives in traditional media like TV, radio, etc. Over time organic SEO has come into it as her ranking improved.

There's been minimal networking which is always a concern if online stops working. There's just not the time to be out at business chambers, BNIs, etc, look after kids and get work done. It's also a long term commitment.


I've got a business that my wife and I are launching, as well as a couple of other ventures queued up for 2020. All of them will rely on effective digital marketing. I'd love to visit with your wife, see if there is a fit. My email is chrisrikli at gmail.


What does web/digital marketing do?


I'm a one man development and consulting shop and have been so for almost 12 years.

My 2018 gross revenue was $600K and 2019 gross revenue will be about $780K.

I'm an extremely efficient developer, a very good salesperson, and I'm an absolute fanatic about delivering high quality work on time.

I don't presume to have any special knowledge but would love to find a way to help other devs/tech people do what I've done.


I'm a solid full stack developer and I feel like I have the time flexibility and ability to start a side consulting business. Do you have any tips to get started? How would you go from 0 to your first client?


Absolutely

0. Make sure your house is in financial order. If you are a habitual user of credit cards, have high monthly debt obligations, and no saving, before you even think about going out on your own, change that.

1. Audit your ability to estimate time and hit deadlines. Most developers are rubbish at knowing how long a project will take, even a small one. Make sure you can hit a deadline. This is more important at the outset than your ability to estimate.

2. Start thinking about yourself as a provider of solutions rather than as a developer. You happen to have the superpower of being able to create software, but that's just a tool. Real value is delivered by providing solutions to problems within a business.

I could write pages on each of these points, if you have further questions I'm happy to answer.

Getting your first client, a couple ideas: - Talk to small marketing / ad agencies in your town that won't have internal developers, offering to put some technical muscle behind what they're doing for their clients. - Look for people in your personal network that could benefit from your superpower. Offer to build tools to solve the issues they're dealing with.

These are super generic ideas, I can offer better and more targeted advice if I know a little more about you and your skillset. Hit me up at batmaniac@gmail.com.


Hey this is really amazing advice, thanks a ton for sharing! I'll definitely reach out with more questions! Especially the time estimation part. Even during my day job I find I tend to underestimate. Over estimating is probably more desirable in this line of work.


Yeah, time estimation is really tough. When I started I figured out I just needed to take my time estimate and double it. Then I got really analytical about it. Now I take my gut estimate and add 20%, but I've also gotten away from time-based billing into value-based estimating (that's a whole other very deep subject).

The "really analytical" phase wasn't too crazy by HN standards:

- Break the complete project in Pivotal Tracker down to stories no larger than 8 points

- Track the time spent on each story in Harvest

- Use that data to figure out how much time a given point score equated to, along with variance.

- Work to reduce the variance.

I should also say...I've been estimating software for, good god, I haven't done this math lately, 18 fucking years. Do anything repeatedly that long, your instincts become pretty solid.


Nice year on year growth.

What are your sales channels? Is it mostly online (seo, ads, remarketing etc), b2b networking or word-of-mouth referrals?


Hey, thanks!

I work in a niche of sorts, so the sales channel is 100% word-of-mouth referrals.

My champions are executives that tend to move from one company to another every few years and usually bring me in when they've got a new gig. Also, each new company provides the opportunity to build new relationships with new people who themselves move on to new companies, and the cycle continues. :)


In the digital marketing space it's the ambitious marketing managers who move from company to company (and like to work with someone they know). My wife makes a point of keeping them happy.

The issue is that in a competitive market it works both ways as every incoming manager will often have "a friend", so they have to be won over quickly to keep the account.


Man, been there. You have to act fast and aggressively to demonstrate that value that you've been providing to the incoming manager. And even then, you don't always win.

At the same time, once you reach a certain point, you can become choosy about who you work with. I maintain the client relationships I do because I like the people I work with. If someone new comes in, they're not value focused, they just want to bring in their guy no matter what, well, bummer, but attrition can't be completely avoided.


usually solo professionals like yourself will start a side business selling coaching, tools, lessons, guides etc to other practitioners. certainly have a huge base of developers out there who need help going out on their own and could use some coaching on the business and sales sides.


> certainly have a huge base of developers out there who need help going out on their own and could use some coaching on the business and sales sides.

Yeah? I was really planning to make a move in this direction in 2020. Another investment opportunity combined with imposter syndrome has put this on hold. Mostly imposter syndrome if I'm honest.

But...I should do this, work to help other devs move out of their employer's house and out on their own. It's as rough and shocking as those first few years outside of mom and dad's but man...if you can make it through the initial bits it's worth it.


you definitely should. there's a clear market gap. you can also build a community out of current/former clients and offer that support network as added value to clients. there's also a lot of hucksters out there who does this type of thing, and a good developer type would sniff them out quickly. stay genuine and real, and avoid the "You can build a life of FREEDOM and WEALTH from HOME !!" mumbo jumbo and you will do well.

It's also more scalable than churning out billable hours.


Yeah that hustle porn is all bullshit. I'd rather go back to bartending as I did in my 20s than be one of those losers.

Thank you for the encouragement. I'm giving this serious thought. One of my 2020 goals is currently vaguely defined as "invest into the professional growth of others".


If you made something like this, I would absolutely pay for it :)


Thanks for sharing this. Your comment and the sibling comment have me thinking through how I'd launch something like this.


Congrats. I run something similar, all referrals. Would love to trade notes, is there a way to reach you?


You bet: batmaniac@gmail.com


That's fantastic!

I have a one man software business but in creating and selling my own product, which has some strong pros and cons comparatively! I've been toying with the idea of taking on some consulting as well. The pivot to get into consulting seems much harder, however.


Yes, the pivot into consulting is hard. It's a lot more abstract than "I will build you widget X for $Y", which is a hard enough business in which to get initial traction.

The first shift for me was making a mental shift from "I provide widgets for dollars" to "I solve problems, sometimes software is involved". This altered the way I price my services and how I communicate about them to current and prospective clients.


Do you mostly work with non-technical clients/persons?


What kind of software do you do?


well, it's not the sexy stuff that creates "Show HN" posts! :)

Complex public facing sites for mid-size to large corporations. "Complex" meaning custom-written 3rd party integrations, highly interdependent content structures, and often tricky data migrations from incumbent platforms.

Internal process management tools. But! These tools are just the digital manifestation of a consultation where we do a deep dive into the client's existing processes to optimize and streamline them before we set them in concrete with code. I refuse to wrap software around rubbish processes.


How you get your clients?


At this point, almost 12 years in, I've got what salespeople call "time in territory". I'm known to a small but always growing group of executives who change jobs every few years. Fortunately they see value in having me come in to their new company on a basic consult, and often these basic consults turn into more extensive projects.

In the beginning I worked my ass off, frequently for next to nothing, just to make connections, deliver quality work, and build experience. When I was getting started in 2003 this meant writing an ecommerce site for my girlfriend's employer, taking gigs on Rent-a-Coder, and doing small jobs for the employers of friends.

The biggest thing has been maintaining relationships with contacts. Stuff like the occasional email to say "hey, what's new with you" or "I'm going to be in your town, let's grab a beer." It's fun to stay in touch with people and be someone that takes an interest in them and their growth. Sometimes this leads to business, but that's just a by-product. The objective is to build good relationships, as cheesy as that sounds.


Pull Reminders. Launched in 2018, acquired by GitHub in June 2019. A very good product that does one specific task really really well. I assume it was acquired for at least a few hundred thousand, if not a few million.


Sorry to hijack slightly, but figured it's related: I am trying to build a "lifestyle" side project into something profitable, as a goal to replace my job. I think I have a good product and niche.

What I want is some sort of mentor network. Someone who has already succeeded where I haven't, and that I can pester with questions, check I am on the right track, vent, etc, every now and then.

Does such a thing (or something like it) exist?


Drop me a message. I've started and run several ventures, a couple of which became more than lifestyle. Nothing is done alone though - there are always people who help you on your journey; employees, friends, mentors, family. Happy to point you in a direction


Great, thank you. PM'ed via LinkedIn.


Yes, they exist, but the ones I've seen are typically executive forums (ie a group of CEOs meet together). There also seem to be a lot of startup mentorship groups.

However, you might get the most mileage from finding a few people who have been successful where you would like to be, and reach out to them for mentorship. Such connections can make a huge difference.


indiehackers.com is a great source for advice, though it’s not quite as personal as a “mentor”.


Email me yo. Would love to connect.


What is a lifestyle project?


I don't know if there's a better term (I've just seen it used online). This is what I meant by it: https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/startup-vs-l...


Note that the lines are blurry and a lifestyle business can turn into a startup or a hybrid model if you run across something with good enough traction.


where are you located?


Been in NYC for a year, but moving back to Australia in 2 weeks.


I run SideProjectors, which generates some profit. But my reason for posting is for anyone who wants to take-over someone's side project, then have a look at some of the projects posted - https://www.sideprojectors.com - You don't need to start from zero. :)


Signing up to SideProjectors using Twitter requires permissions to follow, unfollow, tweet, update account info, read direct messages, etc. That's extremely scary.


Apologies - we only need to get user account info (to get the twitter username). Will go and remove those permissions now - we had this Twitter integration set up ~3 years ago and didn't review it - No excuses! :) Sorry for scaring you (and other users of course).


I'm a one-man army, too. I've built SaaSHub https://www.saashub.com & LibHunt. I left my job a few months ago and since then have focussed on developing and growing SaaSHub.

It's been growing steadily for the last 2-3 months. My expectations are that it will generate ~$2,500+ in January and $100k+ in 2020 given the current growth.

I have a massive list of ideas that I will work on next. Yet, I'd like to be fully sustainable (in an expensive city like Sydney) before jumping to the next project/idea.


p.s. another very successful one-person business should be levels.io. The person behind "Remote OK" & "Nomad List".


I built something similar to LibHunt without knowing about it. Someone on http://wip.chat pointed it out and I quickly shifted my focus to something else. It just doesn't seem like enough room in that space for two players and you already have the market cornered.


How does SaaSHub generate revenue? I have neither seen any ads nor any payment possibilities.


There are some ads on internal pages only. Not too many.

Also, companies can pay for a featured listing https://www.saashub.com/featured-products


How are people finding your website? How did you get first customers to list their products?


Saashub looks cool. How do you manage to get people to write reviews?


With proper incentives. Every day I'm featuring 4 projects (2 over the weekend) on the SaaS Tribune (homepage). These projects are usually selected 3 weeks in advance. During that period, product owners are reminded that their software will be higher in the list if they have more reviews.


Drew DeVault's SourceHut (https://sr.ht). It may not make as much revenue yet, but it provides value to the open-source community by developing a set of developer collaboration tools that actually improve on existing workflows and embody the Unix philosophy.


Pierre Abel of L’Escapadou - educational iPad apps for pre-K to early elementary. I don't know his 2019 numbers but I suspect he did at least $350k this year, down from $600k+ a couple years ago. (Note that the revenue charts in his post don't included educational bulk sales which he says are 45% of his revenue.)

https://medium.com/@PierreAbel/9-years-on-the-app-stores-b58...


Not a success story, but I've been building my venture for some time now and recently started making revenue.

We answer all legal questions in 42 minutes (http://www.helplicit.com), and are now expanding that to other domains (http://www.fortyq.com)

The reason I'm writing here is because I'm constantly surprised by the relative ease with which one 'lands' a 100k per year contract, or accidentally makes an API that forks its way to glory. I'm fortunate to know some amazing founders, some of whom are raising millions in VC. Been in and out of accelerators myself. Yet no story I know starts or has ever been like that.

Imho, it is excruciatingly hard work to provide people value and get them to pay for it. Takes time, constant follow-ups, a strong value proposition..none of which gets built jlt.

I wouldn't be fooled by the end result of $ x M ARR. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, which rarely gets spoken of because it sounds just sounds rad to say that I had an idea and somebody just signed me a cheque. No matter the entity at the paying end, people are fundamentally programmed to be uneasy letting go of large sums of money. Takes a lot of convincing to get there.

Having said that, building is an addictive hellride and I wouldn't trade it for anything else :)

Happy to share more of the limited experience I have, feel free to PM. Cheers to building!


All these nummers and still, my dad is a vet and earned 300k € in his best month ( without much sleep).

Most of the even more successful ones don't even take that in per year.

And yes, he is a one man show, no tech involved. It was very eye opening to me, since my dad can't even boot a PC.

Competition is local though, it's 6-9 other local veterinarians. He seems to be the most successful one (= he is the one everyone sees passing by day and night in the car)


Yes that is impressive but the difference is your dad has to work for that money whereas with software once you achieve success in you do very little work relative for the amount of money you bring in.


And everyone is forgetting their unpaid hours they did for getting it off the ground.

You still need support for all of your users and actual sales. Which is also work.

Users can ask for a refund if your cloud goes down.

I would also rephrase "once you reach success" to "if you reach success"

The statement is also not valid for consultants, only for business owners with SAAS products/licenses.

TLDR; you're statement is largely false. Success != Luck


This was posted a while back about their tech stack but lots of good comments here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20985875

Also very similar post as this one, some good comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13167156


A friend of mine runs a 1 person business. Well, technically, he does have an assistant who does his office admin and books.

My friend has steady gross revenues of $6M a year. When I first met him about 8 years ago he was 26 and living at home with his parents. He once remarked on how much he appreciated his mother still doing his laundry and cooking for him and his father.

I forgot to mention, he has extremely high gross margins and EBITDA. He does all the work himself other then that admin I mentioned already.

What is his business, you are probably wondering?

He owns internet domains. He flips them like real estate. He looks at Google trends, buys undervalued properties, develops their traffic via SEO, generates affiliate sales revenue, and if given the opportunity, then sells them at a much inflated value. He owns 1000s of domains and has built highly automated systems to efficiently manage them.


Money is money but this kind of business really feels dirty.

It's kind of like parking cars in every $1 spot you can find and then charging people $500 to take that spot.

Also, developing traffic via SEO for 1000s of (parked?) domains most likely involves even dirtier techniques.

Kudos to him, he's achieved more than I ever will but if that was me I couldn't look people in the eye when telling them how I made my millions.


Most forms of landlording doesn't add value to the society. This is especially bad in the case of domain names. What is the point of one person owning 1000s of domain names, with the single goal of selling them at an inflated price? The internet would be a much better place without people like these.


What sort of content is supplied by such web sites?


My understanding is he looks for phrases people are increasingly searching for such as "BHP Free Sippy Cup" and then buys a domain such as bhp-free-sippy-cups.com. On the site, he just displays affiliate links to various vendor product pages for that product, e.g. Amazon, etc.

The trick is understanding the trends and having the SEO skills to efficiently build the traffic. He can't put too much individual time into any one property because it will on average only generate a few hundred dollars a month in revenue.

If the trend becomes popular enough someone comes in and buys the domain for their real sippy cup business.



Depends a lot on your definition of "successful" and "business".

Most very successful one person businesses I know of are specialty consulting businesses.


This is a very good point. The definition I would use is not selling your time, where my income is not just a multiplier of the hours I put in, even if the multiplier is high.


I singlehandedly built a small business HR SaaS - https://www.hrpartner.io - over the past few years and grown it to a stage that I can now take a salary from it after 3 years of living on savings. I DO have a co-founder now who joined in May of this year, so strictly speaking I am no longer a one person business, but I created all the 50,000+ lines of code (and 200+ database tables) of my system myself.

EDIT: It has actually been a bit of a family project, with my wife helping out with voice overs and my son helping out with video production etc.


Awesome. What were the big mistakes you made along the way?


Thanks. I guess the biggest mistake in the early days was doing 'scattergun marketing' and not focusing on where our users actually were. Once we narrowed down and marketed to HR managers and business owners via LinkedIn and Capterra etc., we saw great results.

Another mistake was probably not sticking to a marketing avenue long enough. We would sometimes change our website completely a couple of times a month, so we never really knew what was working or not as we didn't have enough quantitative data. Nowadays we just rarely make sweeping changes, but instead make small tweaks to our marketing and watch analytics for patterns.

I do blog about some of these learnings over at https://devan.codes


I heard that the site builtwith is still being run by the single founder, maybe he has recruited help by now, but if he still run it all alone then it is most successful one person business I have heard of in 2019.


Yes, I've heart it's a one-man army project. His/their office is based on the other side of the bridge where I live. One of my small goals for SaaSHub is to be as successful as BuiltWith :)


I built a Product Management Interview training platform and earned about 50K total with 100K in the lifetime. Next step is to transition to online course and expected to make about $200k/year.


Jeff Meyerson at the SW Engineering Daily podcast. I'm not sure if he has any employees (maybe one part-time?), but the podcast pulls in $60k+/mo.

https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/114-jeff-meyerson-of-so...


I'm not sure how it's doing today but back in 2017 park.io was making over $1M/yr [1]. If I had to guess it's probably bigger today.

[1] https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/034-mike-carson-of-park...


Hi - I added a partner in 2019 and we are doing even better now, thanks!


Browserless.io - wonderful profitable niche running headless browsers in the cloud. Not sure if still one person anymore.


Way back when, Markus Frind was the first guy to make 1M / month off Adsense on the plenty of fish dating site. Which looked like absolute garbage but it was about the only free dating site at the time and it had grandpas, teenagers, crack whores and everything in between.

Eventually he employed his wife to do customer support and now it's been sold for millions and has hundreds of employees.

I used to do maintenance on a fairly popular dating site which was all horrible php spaghetti code, MD5 passwords ... the works. By the time I got to the office at 9AM they'd already received over 1000EUR in payments, every single day. They used really scummy techniques like fake profiles operated by off shore workers.


I know a guy from our local industry who has a free cybercafe software. He's making about $500k/year for the past 20 years or so. It's a one man business.

http://handycafe.com


How does it generate revenue?


Pinboard


I believe Pieter Levels makes about $500k a year from Nomad List and Remote OK combined.

As Courtland said, Ben Tossell and Lynne Tye are going great!

I recently interviewed Belle who makes Exist app for iOS with her partner Josh. They make 10k a month and are ones to watch: https://www.nocsdegree.com/self-taught-developer-talks-learn...


I'm a one-man army and my latest microstartup is https://visalist.io

Last month I earned around $7K and my estimate is I will cross $100K this year.


I worked with an entrepreneur who runs an affiliate site that pulls in about $100k/month, has zero employees, and no office.


What kind of site is it? If it is a review site, does he use the products he reviews?


It's a software review site and yes, he does use the products he reviews.


https://carrd.co/ by https://twitter.com/ajlkn - great for building small/simple websites/landing pages - seems still growing since its premiere.


Surely Ben Thompson (Stratechery[0]) must be one of the most profitable single person businesses / publishers around. One person, email distribution, multiple millions in revenue per year.

[0] https://stratechery.com


I’ve always respected his work. But I don’t subscribe to blogs, just see it pop up on HN frequently. I didn’t realize he was monetizing it. I’m surprised he’s doing so well with tbh but good for him.


Not the "most successful", but notable nonetheless - http://www.tinytouchtales.com/end-of-year-2019/

That's the person behind Miracle Merchant and Card Crawl games.


You could try looking up Solo Founders on Indie Hackers.

https://www.indiehackers.com


I run a one person company and made about 50K last year. This year, plan is to bring the courses online and generate about $100K in total.


@robsun what kind of app your friend built?


It's medical app. I don't want to provide more details as he is not aware I mentioned him ;).


The guy from builtwith.com


i think coinmarketcap was solo or one person


Solo = 1 person


it was, but i dont believe it is any longer.


I'm working on https://remoteleaf.com, at this point it's not a successful business. I'm in the process of appearing and talking about it in the 2020 version of this thread :)


Can't reveal product without their permission.

But know of 1 person company that generates $500k revenue per year and gets its customers via SEO.


That's a lot of revenue! What's the cost structure? That can make all the difference in the world.




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