The service was targeted at advertisers who wanted to advertise in other countries but didn't have an easy way to see international ads or landing pages from competitors(most landing pages in this niche were geotargeted and would redirect based on your IP). It probably took less than 10-15 hours to hack together in PHP.
I didn't have a freemium model or anything like that, I knew that this service had some value to some people and priced it at $50/month.
I never took this seriously as a major project/startup, and so the only promotion I did were a couple of forum posts in the Buy/Sell/Trade sections of relevant forums. In retrospect, it could have been much more successful had I taken the time to drive paid traffic to it. I remember the customer lifetime value was north of $300, and conversion rates were very respectable.
The service wasn't positioned as a tool for anonymity/illegal acts(we explicitly stated we kept logs), so I was able to avoid the problem of chargebacks common to such services.
Because of that, unlike other proxies that had to take payment in complex, nonreversible forms like Western Union, I could take PayPal payments and automatically provision an account on checkout. After you signed up, you would instantly be given unique IPs for the countries you selected that you could just plug into your browser. This ease of use was a key factor in the service's success.
It ended up making between $600-$1000 a month pretty consistently only a couple months after launch. Eventually, I got tired of dealing with support issues and sold the site on Flippa for a healthy revenue multiple.
The coup de grace: I was approached by several of the people who didn't win the auction but were still interested in the site. I ended up selling a few white-label versions of my (very simplistic) software for $1000 each.
Or "la cerise sur le gâteau", if you prefer :)
Note to self, if I ever buy a site on Flippa, make sure to get a con-compete too.
1. Build a template of a simple site
2. Create 10000 instances of it & SEO them one at a time
3. Resell to suckers with too much money.
Just to test this out, if anyone is staying quiet about their project for fear of attracting competition, could they please reply to this comment and say so? Don't worry, your silence is totally understandable :)
(The sampling bias will probably still remain somewhat due to folks have their projects linked to from their profiles and not wanting to remove them.)
Most people won't be up-front about working in that space publicly.
Um, now that you've asked, the most important part of any secret is knowing the existence of a secret (or phrased otherwise: you don't ask questions about stuff you don't know the existence of).
So: no, you can't really control for this sampling bias.
But thanks for asking, we're fine :)
In 2008 I spent $7000 that I had made off consulting and 8 months of my free time to build my first project. It was a miserable failure. I've made about $80 off of it, so I'm still down about $6920... 3 years later.
In 2009 I built my second attempt. This time I spent about $1000 building it and it took me about 4 months to build it. I've made about $150 off that one, so I still lost money, but much less than the first time.
In 2010 I made my third attempt. This one I built at no cost, and 2 weeks of my free time. To date this one has made over $20,000.
I'm now in the 5th year since I first started on this journey and for the first time, I wrote myself a profit check last month.
Hang in there. You'll figure it out if you keep trying.
The thing that I didn't understand is that being successful in business has very little to do with having an original idea. You're much better off just looking at how other people are making money and becoming their competitor or improving upon what they are doing. 99% of successful businesses work this way. This may seem obvious to a lot of people, but I kept spinning my wheels trying to invent something instead of doing market research and building something that I know people need or want.
Just building something people need/want, or improving upon what works, is a deceptively simple generalization. It boils down to execution, and that's where our originality still comes into play.
If so, how difficult was it (or how long did it take) to get organic traffic/customers through google, etc. Since I would think your competitors were more "established" in the pagerank, seo etc.
Basically, I'm just wondering how hard is it to get traction against entrenched players. Even if your product were superior, you still need to draw traffic to sell and prove it.
First 1 I spent 12 months developing and only generated a few hundred dollars.
Few more in between all not generating much interest.
One took a few weeks of dev time and a bit coming out of it, still big potential there so I will pursue it, it just involves getting out to more businesses.
The most recent one built in a day to test the waters. Lots of positive feedback, 1 more day to polish the site (ie. make it look pretty) and now a large company is getting on board and lots of small businesses jumping in. (2 days work total) Obviously I have a lot more days of dev to keep expanding it.
I think the actual thing you learn is don't reinvent the wheel, just do something better than everyone else. And second start VERY simple, then build. Otherwise the app is too complex to get a quick and rapid user base who will then spend the time to use your app more.
What ended up happening by the end is that I fired the php guy for trying to sell my code to another company and then I rewrote most of the site myself since by then I was proficient in php/mysql and the code that was written was so inefficient that google crawling the site was crushing it. Lots of lessons learned in there.
After seeing piracy drop dramatically and talking with other Android developers with the same problems, I decided to build a site around it and sell my system to other developers.
It took me about 2 weeks to build www.androidlicenser.com and I saw my first $40/month subscription within 5 days. It still brings in about $500/month consistently. Google has since come out with their own licensing system, but it suffers from the limitation of it only working for apps purchased through the Android Market which, in a world with many Android Markets, isn't good enough.
If internet connection is unavailable or androidlicenser.com is unreachable, it is completely upto the developer to determine what to do next. My best practice recommendation is to allow the user to continue to use the application.
These are some good posts to start at:
I have to say, it's pretty rad. Software startups don't have a monopoly on giving you experience in doing branding, marketing, sales, running ad-campaigns, taxes, and just all manner of things that go into running a business.
Another huge advantage wedfog has over commercial if you're getting into it while you've got a 9-5 is the hours. You shoot on Saturdays, and edit at nights. It's still grueling to do while you've got another gig (the year before my wife quit we shot about 20 weddings, which each take 6-8hrs to shoot and 20-40 hours to edit)... but it can be done.
Many other genres are going to be difficult to start doing seriously if you have a 9-5... the business models are all different. Much more to say than fits in a comment. I've been meaning to write some stuff up, but meanwhile feel free to drop me a line and I'm happy to share anything you'd like to know. famousactress [at] gmail
Normally a headshot session with me costs $250, lasts an hour, and includes multiple locations and clothing changes. A client would receive a few dozen shots, high resolution, on a disk. This is appropriate for actors and authors picking a photo, but unnecessary for bloggers or people who just want decent avatars for linkedin, facebook, twitter, etc.
OH! You can also market this to people who need photos for online dating.
It was stunningly successful. I was able to take a slow time of year and churn out a lot of business. Because it is a special, it got written up in blogs and people Twittered it a lot.
So I say go for it! Just make sure you can deliver with quality headshots.
The trick with headshots is enough finding people (close to you) willing to pay enough money to make it worthwhile. That usually means actors, authors, or executives.. but I'm sure increasingly wide-eyed young startup kids and software developers make the Bay Area an interesting target.
S/W startups definitely don't have a monopoly on it, plus other types of startups make you face very different sets of problems than the ones generally/commonly discussed on HN.
It took 7 weeks for me to take it from idea to launching the MVP (during most of the build period I had people using the service).
I had my first paying customer 4 days after launch. It has now been running for just under 4 months and I am making $315/mo, though that number is rising almost every day (it is a freemium service with a free plan and paid plans priced $5/mo and $30/mo).
I am likely to reach ramen profitability within a few months and will focus fully on it.
I blogged about how I took it from idea to first paying customer, which may be of interest - http://blog.bufferapp.com/post/3328167762/idea-to-paying-cus...
I still pull in $30-$50 a month on it, but I don't do much to promote it anymore. Linden Lab has really fucked up over the years and the quality of their software (the environment my app runs in) has gotten considerably worse. Its sad to say that my machinima app ran better 5 years ago than it does today, and multiple re-writes over the years has proven it impossible to go any further with the it.
Alternatively, I just put my first app up in the App Store last night. Its waiting for approval. I'm going to keep launching small utility apps and see where it goes.
It was my Artix Phase.
On a similar note, I was looking at the difference in fruit prices between 'whole' fruits and sliced portions in super markets the other day and started daydreaming about selling portions of pineapple on warm summer days, much like an ice cream stand but with pineapple. I think the markup is similar to hotdogs - can you share how many customers you serve in a typical hour?
The gist of what I'm saying is that the majority of the revenue (which we may define as the baseline) is, for all intents and purposes, passive income akin to having self-published an ebook or an app in the past.
Besides, even if we disagree on the definition, the original question was about "small/passive" income. The OP clearly wanted to know about extra income on the side, more than limiting the field to 100%, strictly passive income sources.
Though I started in 2008, I didn't really make any attempts at monetizing until late 2009 and started with Adsense, then linked all the albums reviewed to two online stores that sell the CDs in question. All told, it took me maybe 3 months to make my first dollar and even longer for affiliate commissions to come in. I didn't make my first sale until maybe February 2010.
Obviously this isn't a product-based project, so it's not representative of the webapp stuff that others are producing.
If you're using Wordpress, try one of the Twitter integration plugins. You can choose hashtags when creating a new blog entry and it will be auto-posted to a Twitter account. You should see a bump in traffic after each post.
I've actually been doing manual updates to my personal twitter account after each post with a blurb about the latest article. Each tweet is customized rather than a generic auto-update message. I'm just not sure whether this is the best way of going about it or if I should take your suggestion and completely automate it. Maybe create a separate twitter account and do both?
No reason not to. :)
I had a few blogs (well, "autoblogs") go from $5-6/day on 400-500 unique visitors to $10-12 after installing and configuring Twitter Tools. A human touch generally results in higher yield than automation with most marketing stuff, though.
Do you think that's because readers recognize it as being "more human" and are more interested, or because humans are better at making copy than automation, or a combination of the two?
If you're writing posts/excerpts/replies manually, it's way more authentic and believable. Language is obviously super important in marketing (especially online), and it's one area where computers still have lots of improvement to make.
I started by buying a few samples to sell on e-bay to see if there was a market. So I guess you could say I started making money right away. The problem with trying to replicate my business, is finding the right product to sell. I was lucky that I saw they had this item, and I figured that there would be a market online for it. Trying to find a new product to sell and establishing links with the manufacturer would take some time. You would also need to contend with issues of minimum order size.
I guess you could call it a partial success. Currently its bringing in about $300 per month. I want to increase my revenue, but it hard to know what to focus on. The other problem is it has somewhat of a high overhead - we need to spend time shipping products, etc.
For my new side projects, I'm thinking of doing something digital, that can be handled entirely online.
I have tried selling photos to a stock photo service. I spent many hours tagging photos, waiting for them to work through the approval process, etc. After many months of letting my photos sit, I have yet to sell one.
Next I am looking at writing some Smartphone apps. We will see how that goes ...
'Staged' photos of people in various situations do sell better. People are always looking for photos that illustrate different abstract concepts, such as "income protection" or "brown nosing with the boss".
In my case though, I was looking to make some money of the photos I already had, which apparently were not that suited for stock. I don't doubt that if I invested time taking photos that were betters suited, I could make a little money. But from my early experience it would seem that too much effort was required for too little pay off.
To throw out some totally made up numbers, it was like; for every hour of effort invested in my grafting tool site, I could increase my monthly income by $2. For every hour invested in stock I could increase my monthly income by $0.10 . It quickly became obvious where I should spend my time :-)
I would guess that for anybody who can code, the numbers would likely prove similar. Therefore I would not recommend stock photography to the HN crowd.
It's a highly technical blog, mainly documenting my personal electronics projects, but covers pretty much anything I want it to, which rather limits my readership. Having a more cohesive, single subject would certainly raise the glass ceiling on readership.
Text ads, top banner and bottom of right bar. $300 a year; as a college student, yeah, that's worth it.
Why don't you have any ads on your C Programming Tips site? I'd be interested in the number of hits that gets compared to your blog.
Hits in last 31 days (5 month running CTR avg):
http://kennethfinnegan.blogspot.com/ - 4,574 0.33%CTR
http://ctips.pbwiki.com/ - 544 0.14%CTR
http://www.ducttape.pbwiki.com - 1,073 0.14%CTR
http://kwf.dyndns.org:5821/ - 164 (Mostly script kiddies attacking my Chumby) 0.86%CTR
The C tips site was a half-finished project. There was a lot more work to be done and I never promoted it.
And yes, all of them are very stale unformatted html pages. Web development isn't my interest or skill, and plain pages like those have never bothered me. Most of it is useful notes to myself, which I think others will find useful.
The Duct Tape site actually pays much better than my blog per page view, bringing in 2-3 cents per 1k, where the blog almost never brings in anything per 1k, but the blog pays $0.30-$1.50 per click, where the tape site only brings in 5-15 cents per click, so the blog brings in about 95%, the tape site the next 5%, and the C site brings in 2 cents on a good month.
The first step in being a real man is not looking to others on how to be a man. (Or at least finding a mentor with true character, not Maxim magazine articles and other garbage)
I still think your site has a great potential for an audience though, I fell for the same sort of BS when I was a freshman in college. Took me a couple years to undo the stupidity I had come to believe about what being a "man" really meant.
But being rude wasn't even the point though, was it? This is really just blogspam...
TL;DR: the cost of that extra 82 cents a day is having your site cheapened by advertising that you don't necessarily control and that negatively impacts your credibility. If the spare change isn't going to make a big difference, the perception that you don't need the money is of more value.
I plan to continue writing books, both non-fiction and fiction, and I expect that they'll all help bring in passive income.
Edit: I put a one-page sample on Lulu if you're curious.
If the revenue was being donated, I'd understand, but to do it for profit, and to brag about it here...
I'm also looking into advertising on Something Awful. I'm exploring Facebook ads, but I'm not sure how good they would be. Google Adsense would be nice, but I was banned from the Adsense/Adwords service some time ago for some reason and Google has been especially unhelpful about responding to anything about any of their services.
Personally, I found out about your book yesterday, after reading your comment about videos without captions in the code school thread.
At the point I sold them (22 sites) they were generating about $190 a month in adsense revenue, all this from me buying 'keyword in domain' urls, having a relatively good eye for writing seo copy and building some inbound links.
I sold the lot on flippa for just over $1k, so I suppose it made me about ~$300/mo for a year. I know of some individuals who have over 1,000 domains running (across some of the most random niches you would just laugh at!) so I think it's a pretty decent passive business for them.
I also know some people with hundreds or thousands of these kind of sites and I can assure you they're not happy.
Building a business that depends on Google's algo to be profitable doesn't make any sense to me.
EDIT: When I say it doesn't make sense to me I'm talking about side-projects where the goal is passive income. If you're going at it full-swing and plan on pivoting as required then it can absolutely be a genuine business model.
If you've got something that is growing or doing well already, see if you can grow it - when there is little competition in whatever segment it is an opportunity not to be missed. They are rare.
i did some basic SEO stuff (i.e. alt tags for images, a sitemap XML, an auto expanding index) and got some coverage for it on various sites (lifehacker, ...) which was quite easy because everybody loves searching for themselves.
the site is still hosted on a 1 EUR webspace / month and during its best time it had about 54.000 visits a day.
as for the business case: on a site with only images, people click on (google) ads. don't know why, they just do it. so the money was good.
google was ok for it for quite some time (hey, they even covered it on a google code showcase blog) but well i kept pushing the boundaries so i got a penalty (again and again).
now i got about 5000 visits a day from baidu and bing, but it's hard to grow these traffic sources (well that's true for bing, for baidu its mostly the language barrier). it was fun while it lasted, now i just don't care anymore. i keep it around (even though some people would like to buy it) as i might transform it into a real product sometime.
so what the bottom line: building a (SEO) sideproject for passive income is possible, but don't bet on it that it will last forever. oh yeah, maybe also: images + ads = awesome conversion
Licensing for the paid iPhone application for mylifeisbro.com (I didn't develop it) also brings in about a grand each month.
It took about a month or so to make my first dollar from the first site I launched "mylifeisg.com" (now defunct)
Once there was a user base to pitch new projects to, the other dollars became easier to make.
It brings in $100+ per month. I'm pretty happy with it.
The App: http://compiledexperience.com/windows-phone-7/to-do
The Numbers: http://compiledexperience.com/blog/posts/a-windows-phone-7-a...
I'm now working on a project where I want to collect semantic relations between books (sequels, prequels, translations into other languages etc.). It's not launched yet, so no income so far. It will have affiliate links to book stores. See https://github.com/moritz/quelology if you are interested in details.
Then I made my code free.
1. A tshirt site. This one is a step above cafepress. I designed all my tshirts but also had them printed on really nice alternative apparel shirts and people bought them.
2. A photo sharing widget that integrated w/ Flickr and SmugMug that people would embed into their blog/website. I put Adwords on the site.
3. A hot or not site for twitter with ads on the site. This still surprisingly generates more traffic than all my other sites combined.
4. A social media dashboard site w/ some decent analytics. This was geared towards marketing and pr firms.
5. Put up a Youtube review of the Iron Gym Pullup bar that did really well SEO wise and got rev share from Google/Youtube. I get a check from Google every 6 months or so.
6. An instant book search site - http://Shelfluv.com - got a few dollars from affiliate sales.
7. An iPad app that shows inspirational business quotes.
The tools probably took around 80 hours. The models probably are hard to say because a lot of discovery was done over time; actually implementing them only took a weekend. The iPhone app is probably going to take around 40 hours, but it's as much a learning experience and labor of love as it is an effort to make serious money.
I'm starting to focus on looking for passive income, though. I am entering a PhD program in the Fall, so an extra ~$1000/mo will make a huge difference in standard of living.
Have a few sales. Not complaining.
I've read quite some remarks like that here and in other places, and I've said it about some pages of mine too.
Maybe it would be a good idea to build a marketplace where developers and marketing people can get together, and share the additional profit that the additional marketing generates.
If anybody wants to take up that idea, I'd be happy to be your first customer. Currently I'm just working on other projects (see another reply from me in this thread, for example), so I won't do it myself any time soon.
Sounds like something someone could pick up as a side-project and maybe even earn some passive income. :)
The gist of the article was that when he moved from writing new games, to marketing his existing ones (and other people's), he actually saw his income increase.
I do this quite often!
So I setup a service (http://www.pearwords.com) to help startups get their message across to sites like Hacker News, The Startup Foundry, TechCrunch, etc, and, to use on their own websites to give customers a "two-second summary".
We hit profitability in our first 24 hours and we've have had a steady stream of customers since (some of whom are working on some really cool stuff -- communities like HN really are fully of some brilliant people). We've spent zero-dollars on advertising and have only posted a couple of comments (literally two) around on sites where people might be interested.
I attribute our success so far to: being very specific in what we do; high-quality work; being very quick; a clean website; and being cheap, though I think we could charge a fair bit more with little impact on orders -- we're just keeping it low for launch time while we really ramp up.
The website actually acts as a proof of concept as I plan to white-label it (that's why the stuff being auctioned are not expensive). But if the PoC works, I will focus on it.
My problems so far:
- Credit card and PayPal are very rare, I must rely on manual work (user banks in, I check my bank account balance, I approve/reject)
- Negative sentiment against penny auction
- Customer support (manual work)
To be honest, this is my first non-consulting real personal project (that is, a product, spends money, gets money). So even if this project fails, I still learn from it and reuse a lot of its software parts.
it'll be automatically forwarded to me. please ignore the language (it's Bahasa). my website is i18n ready, but i'm just too lazy to make English version (only less than 20% Indonesians speak English).
It's still hard working on these things with a full time job, but I'm hoping one of them will come through and I can start a business of my own. I used to freelance, but got tired of it pretty fast. A small business would be nice.
The blog I've been growing for six years, the wallpaper sites are pretty much instantly profitable for me. But we are talking about £40 per year. So like I said, profit on the domain name, probably not profitable when you take into account time spent developing them.
Status Crap took about a year to make some income (currently gets about 250,000 page views a month and growing between 10-40% each month). I've been trying to launch side projects since I was 17 though haha!
LinkWorth is nice because you an make decent money without any traffic. You need to have the right niche, a modicum of pagerank, and it helps to pay the small fee to promote your site. It also takes a long time to sell the links. My first one took 3 weeks.
But the last few months have seen a decline. Perhaps people aren't buying links as much any more.
Took about 2 weeks to get the first sale. Now it is selling at a rate of 1 copy a day
Wrote it for my own use as a better "alternative" to browse for Kindle books after too much frustration with Amazon's site for browsing about.
Since it works via affiliate fees, between friends and family I easily made my first dollar in the first hour of going "live" with it.
A few dollars come in here and there. A passive, side, small project for sure. But I still add stuff during the weekend.
And fill out your "About" page. That's always one the first sections I look at.
After reading that comment, I felt a simple yes/no answer seemed a viable answer (at least to me). I agree though, that this response would detract from the general trend and usefulness. (Although getting a neg score seems a bit harsh). Thanks for the response.