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Ask HN: Those making $500/month on side projects in 2020 – Show and tell
105 points by folli 36 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 76 comments
It seems this question hasn't been asked for some time, so I'd be interested hear what new (and old) ideas have come up.



Still working my day development job and now doing about $150k/month in a side project with 10 employees.

- make lists and use them!

- block lunches use them for meetings

- have day job pay your healthcare

- day job work stops on time! no meetings before 9 or after 5

- leverage your “No” to all frivolous time wasters

- focus on day job, side project, family, one hobby for exercise (4-6 hrs/ week)

- get really good at delegating and automating tasks

- hire overseas contractors to do menial, repetitive tasks that can’t be automated

- don’t sell software instead find something “real” that can be enhanced with software

- identify a customer and charge upfront; it’s the only way you’ll learn


Care to share what you are building?

> don’t sell software instead find something “real” that can be enhanced with software

Expand? :)


We sell paper.

I’d focus on anything other than software but use software development principles to make some part of the business more efficient whether it’s idea generation, product development, manufacturing or marketing.


I wonder if he sells printed silkscreen T-shirt’s? And found a way to automate some of the labor.


Very interesting! My day job is selling something "real" (stone slabs). What sorts of margins are you making in paper?


Paper has the highest margins outside of software and maybe sunglasses but none of the regularly recurring revenue or growth rates


That sounds very interesting! Care to explain a bit, what is something real? How do I tell?


Real means a physical product where the consumer knows they have to pay upfront for the good. It really can be anything provided there’s a market.

Locate a nice size consumer market where they hasn’t been much innovation and the consumer is passionate. Then run low-cost tests.

Examples: - Stance with socks - Curves with women’s gyms - There are a ton of examples but what as engineers you want is a good that can be sold via the internet


I started WebRender back in the spring to scratch a personal itch. Was lucky enough to get a couple good reference customers early on so it's already bringing in enough to keep the lights on:

https://webrender.io/

Basically, it's a quick and easy way to get SSR up and running for sites that use modern frontend frameworks for their whole site. It seems that every team I work with needs to jump through the same crazy set of hoops and stand up servers just so they can serve pre-rendered pages to search engines.

Our thing solves the problem by sitting in front of your site (using Cloudflare Workers), passing regular traffic through, and showing crawlers a cached, pre-rendered version.

Best (for me), it's designed to fail open, meaning customers are unaffected if my stuff falls over. Thus, letting me have things like weekends and sleep.


> It seems this question hasn't been asked for some time

You mean since last week?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24859111


I have a revenue of around $2500 for my productized SaaS SEO business with 20% profit margin. I sell SEO, Content and Graphic design service at a fixed rate of $599/month to SME's.

In this amount I provide 4000 words of content, 6 good quality graphics and few quality backlinks. Anything on top of this is a paid add-on.

I have hired a team of SEO Specialists, Content Writers and Graphic Designers. Most of my revenue goes in paying their salaries.

I found few takers(all dentists) of my service from Australia.

The best thing is that I have not even built any website or any FB, Instagram Page and still I am making this money through my old contacts.

I guess with my website launching in next few days, I should be able to sell even more and reach to around 100 customers in next year or two.


How'd you go about finding effective yet affordable content writers / SEO specialists? I have a side hustle that currently generates about $1.5k per month but I'm running into barriers bound to content and marketing.

Fiver hasn't provided any real skilled candidates :(


I have used Linkedin to hire specialists from developing nations.


Yeah, no thanks.


Try Spectroomz which I founded. I teach autistic adults SEO and you can hire them. There are some great writers there - https://www.spectroomz.com/


As an autist myself I will definitely check this out!

Thank you!


I made a Google Search API (https://rapidapi.com/apigeek/api/google-search3) which I launched at the start of 2020 and made over $6k+ so far. It cost me less than $100/month to run. All I have to do is answer support questions here and there.

I am currently trying to build a standalone website (https://goog.io) and moving the service away from RapidAPI.


hope you don't mind me asking, but why moving out?


It's probably a bit different from the usual HN side-projects, but I sell stickers on the internet. A bunch of print shops went belly up during this spring and I accidentally won an auction for the machinery for a song.

So far I've been selling by word-of-mouth, and in September I started an Etsy store. I'm also building https://egnastickers.se, but that landing page alone made me €100 in sales.

I'm close to €1k in sales for October on Etsy and I'm racing to sell as much as possible before the end of the year when Brexit wipes out more than half my current customer base.


Probably you should start focusing your marketing efforts away from UK.


Why does Brexit wipe out your customers?


When Britain no longer is a part of EU I’d have to get an export permit and my British customers would have to pay import tariffs. It doesn’t make financial sense any more.


Technical interview course that focuses on being accessible to beginners through visuals - https://algodaily.com - Imagine leetcode with a lot of hand holding.

Recently wrote about hitting 3k MRR at https://algodaily.com/blog/what-i-didnt-expect-to-learn-from...


Trading options on Robinhood


I'll upvote on the options, but I don't endorse RH for most. They are slow to react to corporate actions and have more glitches than others.


That’s fair. I use robinhood to get odds on option trades and mostly trade on Schwab, I hate Schwab interface though but I trust them to protect my money and trades more than robinhood.


Yeah, just use a real broker like Schwab.


May share your strategy?


I sell puts a week out at the strike price where I have about 90% chance of winning(Robinhood provides the odds). Obviously you get it wrong sometimes so you have to buy the shares so I always trade on stocks that I don’t mind owning. If I buy the shares then I sell call option a week out at the strike price equal or higher than what I paid to buy shares and it usually comes back up within a month or so.


Thanks for your explanation. Good luck!


You can use the Wheel it's bit more effective.


Thanks, I’ll check it out. What’s better about wheel?


I read your post wrong. You are running the wheel already.

Sell puts, get assigned, sell calls.


How do odds work? Would I need an account?

What’s the wheel?


You need an account and request approval for trading options but don’t think you need to put any money. Not sure about wheel, I’ll have to take a look.


Tendies


I’ve built a fully automated and passive stock market newsletter. https://bullish.email


https://www.useCastup.com – Podcast Editing as a Productized Service.

We build and work with software that cuts the editing time by 70% which allows us to offer our sevices at (somewhat) cheap rates while keeping the quality super high.

Started with a team of freelancers, now we have both freelancers and people working full-time.

Edit: I lead product for SF based startup as my full-time job.


Would be interesting to hear a before and after sample


We can provide those on request (reach out via the chat widget)


I’m building a private analytics suite for websites. It aims to be a more complete toolset than alternatives like Plausible, Fathom or Simple Analytics (great products too BTW). Feeling super lucky as I just launched and already handling millions of page views per month for 200+ customers.

Not yet at $500 MRR but I’m focusing on providing a lot of value in a simple package, and automating as much as possible to reduce daily operations and move fast.

The stack mainly consists of Python, React, Postgres, Clickhouse, and Redis running on Kubernetes (deployment configured via Terraform and Kustomize). Was running on DO + Linode and just moved to AWS.

https://panelbear.com

Happy to answer any questions!


Hey, that's cool! I run the SF Bay Area ClickHouse Meetup. We like hearing about new analytic apps. Let me know if you want to do a talk about how you are using ClickHouse. Our next meetup going to be in early December.

My email is on my profile if you want to contact me directly.


Hey thanks for considering me! I do intend to write a few blog posts about how I use Clickhouse, but I'll get in touch if anything.


Your landing page looks cool!

> It aims to be a more complete toolset

I tried clicking the "Features" page but I didn't see any features listed, in what sense is it more complete than the mentioned alternatives?


Thanks for the feedback! I have to improve the feature section.

As I just launched the MVP, I don't offer yet some of the more advanced features, but I will focus on them for the coming months.

Here are some ideas I've been bouncing around with some customers:

- Filter by any dimension on the dashboards.

- More performance metrics (like time to first paint and Apdex scores).

- Automated insights and anomaly detection (i.e. "XYZ page has a higher bounce rate than normal this week" or "Visitors coming from Y spend 50% more time on your website.").

As it's an early stage product, I'm still pivoting the direction constantly to find my niche.


The upcoming features sound really interesting, but I wouldn't market it as "a more complete toolset" until those features are actually implemented. Probably the other tools will also have those features at some point, I think customers are more interested in what the product does now than what it could do in a few years.


> I think customers are more interested in what the product does now than what it could do in a few years.

Panelbear already offers some of the additional features such as reports and dashboard filters is being released this week. It's not really years away what I'm talking about.

The intention is to gather interest/feedback, then build and repeat, not the other way around. This is how I know I'm investing my time on features that my customers actually want.

I failed miserably in past products by working for a year on a "feature-complete" service, only to realize there was no product-market fit. That's why I'm turning things around this time.

And thanks for sharing your thoughts, this is valuable feedback for me and I now know the landing pages need more work :)


Hi, with your service can I avoid to put the cookie banner? Or you use cookie?


Yes, Panelbear doesn't use tracking cookies, so one of the advantages is that you won't need a cookie banner for it.


I'm sold!


Built https://violinist.io for updating php (composer) dependencies automatically to scratch my own itch. Now comfortably making a profit after server costs and so on.

Best advice I would give:

Implement features for paying or potential paying customers first. They already love the service and this will boost word of mouth reputation in a SaaS segment.


Currently I'm making around $1k-$2k/month with a self-hosted analytics platform https://www.usertrack.net , but I recently switched to working on it full-time so I hope to be able to grow it enough to make a living out of it.


https://www.tunetranscriber.com/

Accidentally ranked high on some slow down mp3 keywords and make a small bit of cash each month with no time spent.


I started Sitesauce[1] to provide an easy way to make your website/blog static, without worrying about plugins and finding an alternative for your specific stack.

It allows you to enter an URL and deploy a static clone to Vercel in seconds. You can also configure it so that it updates your static side as soon as you change something on the dynamic one.

[1]: https://sitesauce.app


Built https://bufr.sh for some existing clients who wanted the functionality. Haven’t been able to sell outside much.


I run a small social gaming community. Mostly cute middle aged ladies playing family games while making friends, none of the social cringe. And also a virtual worlds community, those are a lot more weird people. I generally love small communities cause they re manageable.

https://joybuddies.com - https://opensimworld.com/


https://www.checkbot.io/ - I made a Chrome extension that bulk checks website pages for common SEO, speed and security issues. Free and paid version so give it a try on your own site. :)


I'm running as side project https://gosourcingwise.com

Built it during the lockdown in spring and its a enhancement for Quickbooks Online. Allows companies to ask request for quotations from their suppliers.


https://logmyhours.com - Time Tracking & Invoicing Software. Floating around the 1K mark. Been stuck here for a bit, struggling to get any more traction.


Awesome, the UX is beautiful.

I’ve got a couple Saas ideas for building as side projects but as the common startup advice goes - I need to validate the idea first. Would you like to share how did you validate the idea, or was it a project for a customer which was later productised? thanks!


Thanks.

I originally created the site back in 2011 mostly just freshen up my PHP skills, and I needed a way to keep track of my work hours. It was just a basic free to use timesheet tool for for around 4 years. It was super ugly but it was still getting people signing up but only a handful would stick around.

I decided rebuild it all and launch it was a proper SaaS in 2015.

If I had to start over today, I'm not sure what I would do. I just like to build things I would use. I'd try to find an existing tool and see if I it's something I feel I could do better.


Have you added a way to integrate the data to accounting applications like QBO ?


It's been something I've been wanting do but it keeps getting pushed back. Our App needs a major update first I think and then support for QB would be next.


built https://buyfunnyaprons.com/ - would love to get feedback and suggestions on what we can do to improve. POD store thats fully online. Thanks


Small nitpick: the prices shown in Rupees which got me excited and lead me to believe that the product ships to India. But it doesn't seem so after visiting /pages/shipping. (btw you should probably make this page more easy to find)


hi thanks for the feedback really appreciate it! The currency converter automatically changes to the website visitors' region. TBH, we haven't had a huge amount of enquiries from Indian customers but we actually do ship it there, for the trouble here is a 15% off coupon (FUNNY15%!). I've set up shipping to India so pls let me know if you would still like to purchase. Thanks


Just stopping by to say this is an excellent idea with beautiful execution. If there is a product with ‘geek humor’ I’ll buy right away!


No one would tell you their niche money making idea.


Why??

Dosnt the tech community believe ideas are dime a dozen?


Reminds me of Headlime's founder, who was kind enough to share his journey, but instead people copied his work/content (and had the audacity to ask for his advice) and then launched their own competing services that are downright identical.

That said, I don't know what else can be done differently, since Headlime seems to lack a protective technical moat. His story is certainly inspiring though.


I remember once upon a time I took a stab at spec work on 99designs. All the designs were sucky, but the contest holder commented he liked the direction my design was heading.

Within 24 hours all the other entrants copied it. That was my last foray into sharing my work. Of course, I knew this was the game, but I summarily bounced from playing that game ever again.

Don’t share your stuff until you are literally done getting what you intended to get (a job, money, credit, etc). It’s not a small community anymore, and people will copy everything.


Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Of that enormous set of potential is a much smaller set that satisfies the criteria:

- Is small enough to be done in spare time by a single developer - Is not so complex it can be automated to run mostly by itself - Is a service someone is willing to pay for - Has real customers

^ those filter criteria make the set of “profitable side projects” much smaller than the set of “dime a dozen” ideas

Profitable side projects have a low barrier to entry and are much more easily exploitable / copyable, hence my reluctance to share and probably many others reluctance to share


They are no longer just ideas. They would be sharing executions and proof of market demand.


This is the key: the market demand.

The ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s the market demand that’s the unknown. Once you identify that, then you can build your product to fulfill the demand.


It's very easy for niches to be overrun with folks once people get wind of it.


This meme is thrown around a lot, except by the people who've actually found a lucrative little niche. These people understand that one of the major reasons why there's so many coconuts for them is because they're the only one on the island.




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