> How many people on hacker news are running successful online businesses on their own? What is your business and how did you get started?
> Defining successful as a profitable business which provides the majority of the owners income.
> Has recent shutdown of economy affected your business?
The product allows you to send pictures in the mail to your loved ones via SMS. It works great for getting fresh photos to your grandparents who might not be super savvy with a computer.
My brother started it a few years ago and makes enough now to keep it going. Probably is the classic definition of a lifestyle business, but I think that's a success even if it's unlikely to be a unicorn.
Also and more importantly, the product helps to bring hundreds of families closer together, which is especially important right now given our elders are cut off from contact.
I would like to take this moment to give a big shout-out to the USPS. NanaGram wouldn't exist without the postal service, in the US and abroad. Apparently, the USPS is struggling financially right now. You can help the USPS by buying stamps, which you can order online . If you're new to the old-school hobby of letter-writing, I wrote some guides  to help you figure out how much postage you need for letters domestically and abroad (e.g. Canada ). Lastly, a delightful thing you can do for a family member or friend is send them old photos in the mail (just be sure to scan them in first if you're mailing originals) — I wrote a post about sending photos with stamps. 
Trying to sign up now, site is returning a blank page near the end of account creation.
Hopefully this is a good sign and you’re seeing the HN spike. Either way, thank you for making this a thing.
From our interactions, Alex seems like one of the kindest people we've ever come across, and I'd highly recommend anyone to give this a try if they're interested.
I have a lot of faith in it being a good service with Alex at the helm; if you're reading this, Alex, kudos to you! :)
No Nanas to send this to :( but will keep it in mind for other uses.
I find the online print services super clunky to print - but I could use this to send myself picture prints to frame? Just a thought!
Gumroad helps creators sell digital products directly to their audiences. We're expanding to Memberships this year.
I wrote about most of the story here: https://marker.medium.com/reflecting-on-my-failure-to-build-...
And COVID-19 has been a boon, as we help folks earn a living from home. We'll see if it sticks!
Looking forward to the membership part, might use it for another project of mine.
If so, surely that wouldn't have been possible without VC funding?
Yearly (subscription) revenue is at about $500K USD now. It has been growing by less than 10% for the last few years as I haven't been that interested in growing it - I want to work less, not more.
So far I haven't seen any negative effects because of COVID-19 in terms of revenue. If anything there seems to be a slight uptick in new subscriptions and slightly fewer support emails per week.
- MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress: https://mc4wp.com/
- Boxzilla Plugin: https://boxzillaplugin.com/
- HTML Forms: https://htmlforms.io/
I'm developing Advanced Forms (https://wordpress.org/plugins/advanced-forms/), not nearly as popular as your plugins but makes for a nice side income.
If you have the time I'd love to hear how you've been promoting and growing your plugins over the years. I find that aspect of the business challenging and have mostly been relying on outside help.
The shutdown halted international shipping from Japan to over 100 countries, so I’ve had to pause subscriptions for the time being: https://www.candyjapan.com/behind-the-scenes/on-pause-due-to...
I’m taking this as a much-needed break from running the site!
Could you give me some info about how you started? Especially about the legal and taxes aspect. More precisely, can I start without a company? If a company is needed, 個人事業主 or 合同会社? Is this even compatible with student visa? The tech aspect in not a problem, but starting the business side seems super tricky.
I got started over 10 years ago now, making Flash-based games and licensing them to various web portal and publishers, which was good money for a student back then! A little indie game developer golden age where you'd get a lot of players and also a few thousand dollars per game without too much trouble. I went on from there doing self-published games that anyone can buy on Steam or the Mac Store, both of which provide about 90% of my revenue, and the remaining 10% are from smaller stores and game distributors.
 https://store.steampowered.com/app/654960/The_Eldritch_Zooke... <- My current project.
In 2 days, I'll be launching a second product for a similar audience. https://phoenixigniter.com
Elixir is a tiny market compared to something like Ruby or even Rust, but it's my stack of choice and I love helping grow the ecosystem.
Starting out, I got my first 10 customers for Trunk by talking to users on e-commerce forums and focusing only on features that would help solve their problem. I didn't have any account management features (forgot password, change password, etc) or even obvious features that would make their lives easier (filtering, proper search, etc) for an embarrassingly long time. I still don't have a lot of these things! And the pricing page still... the horror. Instead, I dedicated all my energy to making sure inventory syncing covered all edge cases and worked reliably.
COVID-19 has actually contributed to an uptick in business, especially with brick & mortar businesses that are now looking to also go online.
1. What are the alternatives if they don't use a service like Trunk?
2. What have you seen as the "source of truth" for inventory? Is it Trunk or one of the services that Trunk connects to?
1. The alternative is manually adjusting stock levels on your other sales channels as things sell. For small shops, this is not too bad. It's usually the owner or some assistant who handles this but it can be a huge timesink. For high volume stores, this is a sisyphean task. Or you can just set stock high enough and not worry about it while emailing customers if you're actually out of stock and can't fulfill. Not a good idea though since you can get banned on marketplaces for overselling + it's a bad customer experience. Sometimes the sales channels themselves have their own integrations (e.g. Shopify integrates with eBay) but they have lots of issues
2. The "source of truth" before using Trunk is typically either Shopify/Squarespace or Square POS (for brick & mortar). So initially, Trunk can sync your most accurate sales channel to others that are out of sync. Once using Trunk, the inventory within Trunk essentially becomes the source of truth but it doesn't necessarily need to be managed there. For example, you are free to adjust stock levels within Etsy and Trunk will pick up on those changes automatically and sync them to Shopify, just as you'd expect. So it's flexible in that sense and gets out of your way/adapts to your workflow
I hope that info helped :)
I'm a one man team and have been since the beginning. I built it with PHP, LESS, JS, and good old HTML. I love answering all support emails because DM's users are so helpful and often have tremendously kind things to say. I guess it's because I took on the task of replacing Google Inbox.
DarwinMail is not as successful as some other companies run by solo-founders making 10k+ MRR however I feel really happy with what we (the users and I) have accomplished so far.
It's been almost two years since I wrote the first line of code and I very much enjoy working on DarwinMail each and every day of the week (even during dinner sometimes).
Check out the top products.
There’s also a massive longtail of people making no money too.
Making something that people want and will pay for that sustains a business is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort to get the first few paying customers.
Last year, I shipped nearly 4000 packages. My customers love our products, and most of our growth comes from word of mouth.
It's a single person selling a terminal and IDE color scheme for developers.
You can see live revenue/traffic here, as I share it all:
I have no funding, no debt, no employees, just revenue and profit margins are somewhere in the 80%-90%.
Nomad List got started when I was traveling and working remotely ~2013/2014 and wanted to discover more cities that would fit the criteria of nice weather, affordable and fast internet. Since then I've added hundreds more criteria and it's become a giant database, and also a community. The community is how it makes money as people can pay to join the site and access a chat, a trip planner, a forum and many more features.
Remote OK is a much more simple business as it's just a job board. It got started because after building Nomad List a lot of people around me wanted to start working remotely and traveling but didn't have remote jobs. There was like one remote job specific job board back then and it was quite limited. I thought "why not aggregate remote jobs from traditional non-remote job boards". So I did that, and slowly started selling my own job posts on the site which is how it makes money now.
The Coronavirus has substantially affected my business:
Nomad List especially has been affected losing over 50% of its revenue. The site is made for people working remotely and actively traveling so that is to be expected during this crisis. You can even see the complete disruption the Coronavirus brought to traveling members of my site, scroll down to "Trips Taken by Users" on https://nomadlist.com/open.
Remote OK is less affected and might even get a positive effect out of this crisis since remote work becomes more popularized and mainstream during and after this. There is in fact a rise in jobs posted, scroll down to "Job Posts Sold" on https://remoteok.io/open.
Personally I'm less affected financially since I don't have employees and I've saved most of my revenue over the last few years, hardly spending anything. Most people have told me to repeatedly over the years to hire and spend more, but I did the opposite. That means I have a very solid cash buffer now so I can weather this storm quite well. I feel sad/scared about other businesses with high costs that might not be so lucky, especially the employees involved.
Thank you for sharing your story again.
I am one of your biggest admirers and you have been a constant source of inspiration for me for a very long time. I'm currently working on my MVP to do something similar to you.
Thank you so much for everything. Hope to catch up for coffee or something when it all clears.
Also impressive what you've accomplished with them as a solo dev.
Is most of your NL revenue from user subscriptions or ads or ...?
It's mostly non-recurring memberships because I don't really like subscriptions as a customer myself either, and most people go nomad and actively need the site only for the first few months and then go off on their own, and a subset of those stick around. Which is fine with me. I don't like to create a very addictive product. I think I have a healthy balance of new people and long time members right now.
Ad deals are really hard to predict, usually a VC-funded company (ironically) asks to promote their remote work or nomad related product and they'll pay anywhere from $5k-$30k/mo to promote it on my sites. But those deals can last just a month, to 6 months for example. But ads are not stable income like memberships are for me, so I try not to rely too much on them.
I have slowly transitioned to reducing the reliance on other job boards as I got more job posts myself.
But then I also have to add there is probability involved in here. I'm rational enough to understand it's a probability equation of who actually makes it to the other side and can sustainably pay their bills with something they made for a long period of time. Most fail, some do okay and a few do really well.
also, doing anything in the education space is worth checking out... in other words, charging people for what you know is a well-worn strategy! an ecourse or online course isn't hard to put together... i did one literally with gumroad and notion docs!
Their product was analysis (energy markets), their customers were the banks / hedge funds, etc.
The analysis was provided by, um, analysts. These guys (and women) were Phd's, they were extremely well qualified and experienced.
Anyway you don't have to be a phd: the point is that if you have knowledge / expertise there may well be people who are willing to pay for it - the medium doesn't really matter.
Sadly, I have seen an uptick in revenue as a result of COVID-19, because my website is showing up a lot in search results for toilet paper.
I utilize their product advertising API, which provides enough data for my needs (since I'm not interested in every single product and I only update once a day presently).
The manual part is figuring out how many units are in each item. For Lego, it's pieces. For Poptarts, it's individual pastries. For toilet paper, it's individual sheets of TP. Every product is slightly different, and it's often times not obvious. Once this manual part is done once for an item, I never have to do it again -- it gets an updated price from the API, calculates the unit price (because it already knows the total units), and then it updates the website.
Originally the idea was to create a new textbook, but I found it easier to pair lessons with browser-based multiple choice quizzes that would hit the material home. Given the success of the first student, I thought it might be something people would be willing to pay for.
Since then, we have been adding a steady stream of helpful learning tools in addition to the textbook/curriculum that we are rolling out. There are dialogues with audio recordings so you can listen along. The entire curriculum is frequency based, so you are learning the most frequent terms first, which has proven invaluable with our students.
The recent shutdown has definitely affected our subscription rates, and I suspect the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until 2021 did not do much for the enthusiasm for learning Japanese this year, but you never know. On the brightside, it gives people more time to prepare.
Learning a new language is an investment in yourself and your brain health for life. Language learning is building a bridge where there is a chasm.
The recent shutdown has increased interest organically.
Covid19 has been a blessing to us since all our books are online and both writers and readers get to chat with each other alongside the story they are on.
Both started from open source projects of mine. I love building open tools and stumbled upon the fact that I could sell services around these projects after people started reaching out for support and extra features. I improve the products incrementally every week and eventually it adds up.
The virus shutdowns have affected Textbelt a bit because many of my users are small businesses doing appointment reminders and such.
It's a privacy solution that allows you to download apps from Google Play without having Big G claw into your smartphone.
The tech stack is quite extensive: Java for the application itself (Eclipse toolchain), LAMP for hosting the billing system (build on php, bootstrap and fatfree) and the website (build with Hugo using bootstrap).
COVID-19 hit hard. Even though I see more downloads, people seem to have become cautious with spending money.
If anything I’ve seen a slight bump from COVID. Lots of people with time on their hands who want to launch an MVP.
If I had to guess, the business is the “FastComments” SaaS mentioned a few times in your recent HN submissions:
“Are reposts ok? — When a story has had significant attention in the last year or so, we bury reposts as duplicates. If not, a small number of reposts is ok. — Please don't delete and repost the same story. Deletion is for things that shouldn't have been submitted in the first place.”
Basically, even though the topic is being reused, unless the responses are significantly similar, there’s no harm and if the community is not curious, it won’t get upvotes.