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Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses in 2021?
319 points by codesternews 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 270 comments
This question was asked 3 years ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13326535) by mdoliwa, and I'm curious what it looks nowadays.

> 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.

Divjoy [0] is now profitable and my full-time thing. It did $50k in year one and my goal is to break $100k this year. It all started with a Show HN [1], so thank you HN :)

It was rough going at first, but I won the $15k YC Startup School grant [2], which let me jump into it full-time and give it my full focus. I managed to hit ramen profitable before having to go back to freelance.

The conventional wisdom is that devs won't pay for software (especially code!), but I've found it to be the opposite. There are a lot of employed software engineers who have disposable income and who are happy to pay for a dev tool if it means they can actually build and launch an idea in a weekend.

[0] https://divjoy.com

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20688044

[2] https://blog.ycombinator.com/announcing-the-startup-school-2...

I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the decision to have the first steps of the project customization process not require registration let alone payment. It makes for a better sales pitch than a hundred landing pages.

Thanks, that's great to hear! I'm not a fan of having to signup/pay to see how an app works either. Figured a tech audience would appreciate that.

Hi, I wonder what payment stack did you use? Is it only PayPal or do you use other, too? I'm thinking of integrating with PayPal API, too, but really didn't know the steps needed (not really friendly compared with Stripe)

For Divjoy I'm using Stripe and PayPal (one-time payments). In terms of the code I give customers, I'm just doing Stripe subscription billing via the hosted Stripe Checkout page.

> There are a lot of employed software engineers who have disposable income and who are happy to pay for a dev tool if it means they can actually build and launch an idea in a weekend.

This is absolutely true, but companies also, or even devs working in companies will buy out of their own pocket to improve their productivity without having to ask the Accounts department, I know I have!

That's a really good point! I may have a good number of those customers and not be aware of it. I need to do a better job of asking people what they're using Divjoy for.

I've been looking for something like this for ages. I have a small project I need to do and I'm not really a web developer. Muddling through setting all this stuff up for the first time would be far more work than the actual website.

How hard would it be for me to integrate with Authorize.net?

I'd say that if you're interesting in learning to code then Divjoy may work for you. I try not to over sell it to non-devs, but I do have a fair amount of customers who are hacking at Divjoy projects while learning to code and are very happy with that.

Since all the boilerplate works out of the box you can skip over a bunch of stuff (like understanding how auth works under the hood), but generally there's some custom logic you need to write and you'll want to pickup some JS/React to do that.

Any integration with Authorize.net would be totally done by you. You could export a codebase with Stripe payments so that you can at least see how payments logic ties in with UI.. but you'd need to then strip that out and replace with your own custom Authorize integration.

Oh, I'm a SW engineer. I just mostly worked in process control and consumer electronics. I've done a few websites.

Thank you for the reply. :-)

Gotcha! Then it shouldn't be too hard to integrate Authorize. UI is mostly decoupled from payment logic. Always happy to hop on a call if you need some help understanding anything in the codebase.

As an addendum... Purchased a copy of your thing, looking forward to exploring it. I'm reasonably clever and I don't expect I'd need any help, but I super appreciate the offer.

Thanks for buying! Once you give it a try I’d love to hear any feedback you have or requests for new components/integrations.

I also suggest using frontendor.com, it'll help you build a beautiful HTML interface for your website by copy-paste.

Thank you kindly.

Its amazing! thanks for sharing. Can you please tell from where you are getting the users? How you got your first users and what you are doing for marketing?

Thanks a lot.

My first batch of alpha testers came from a single Twitter reply [0] that got retweeted by a prominent person in the React community. It certainly helped that I had an okay Twitter following at the time (I think around 1k), but it doesn't need to be huge. You just need the right person to retweet you.

That was enough to iterate on until I had an MVP.

Then my Show HN [1] sent like 15k visitors in a day and that led to a ton of usage. I think something like 4k projects were created that day. I wasn't yet charging at the point, but probably for the best, since high usage meant a lot of feedback.

A few months later I launched on Product Hunt and that went well [2]. Beyond that, just improving the product every day, sharing my progress on Twitter, and trying really hard to turn every new feature into an exciting launch event.

I also started a React hooks blog [3] that sends me a handful of customers every month. I could probably do a better job of promoting Divjoy on there.

Haven't delved into SEO (barely rank for anything), content marketing, paid advertising, etc, so it's still very much a learning process for me.

[0] https://twitter.com/gabe_ragland/status/1108875975494795265

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20688044

[2] https://www.producthunt.com/posts/divjoy-4

[3] https://usehooks.com

How do you get visitors to the React Hook blog when you're not investing in SEO. Really curious.

The blog ranks really well without any special effort, but for Divjoy I haven't put in the work of setting up extra landing pages to rank for different topics. For example, I'd like to have a page like divjoy.com/nextjs+stripe that emphasizes that stack combination.

Would be cool if you could add Plausible Analytics!

I've been meaning to look into that. At the moment I'm using this library as the analytics abstraction: https://getanalytics.io. I'll see if the Plausible team wants to create a plugin or do that myself when I have time.

I’ve been chatting to Marko via email and they seem very approachable!

Looks like they don't have time, but there's an open issue here: https://github.com/DavidWells/analytics/issues/96. I probably won't have time for awhile.. but on the off-chance you're interested in tackling it, I'd happily hook you up with a free Divjoy account in return ;)

Hi, wanted to let you know that when I click on "see pricing" on the banner in the top of the page, nothing happens. There's no way to find pricing at all, since there's no link at the bottom of the page either.

I'm using Firefox 68.11 for Android.

Thanks for letting me know! If you scroll down below the "Choose your template" section do you see a pricing section with purple background? I'm wondering if the scroll to logic is broken or if that section is just not being displayed. If you wouldn't mind shooting an email to gabe.ragland@divjoy.com I'd love to follow-up about this.

I am in my 21st year of running a service that places bids the last few seconds on eBay. I am the sole employee and I outsource all of the heavy lifting. I have been doing the four hour work week since Tim Ferriss was in middle school. My house and farm in the Seattle area are both fully paid for. It allowed me to enjoy my children as they grew up and to afford serious medical bills (two of them are handicapped). It also allowed me to buy housing for several relatives, study constantly, and do a lot of pro bono work. It also allowed me to make some very expensive mistakes, but we were always careful enough not to do things that were fatal to our finances. It’s been an amazing set of experiences.

That sounds awesome. What is the name of the service?


I loved your story and that's the kind of business I am trying to build with my wife.

One quick question.

There exists many other sites offering the same service at even cheaper price points (e.g. EZ sniper, Myibidder, BidSlammer, GIXEN, JBidWatcher, esniper, AuctionStealer, Goofbit, etc.)

How do you survive in such a commoditized market?

Word of mouth, dedication to customer service, being first... and probably a good dose of luck.

I used it once to buy a laptop on ebay in 1999. It saved me.

How cool is that! And thank you.

Thanks, I used your service to buy a guitar I really didn't want to miss out on. You should update the copyright notice from 2015, though.

Thanks for the business and the tip! I bought the site itself due to my guitar addiction!

Oh amazing! I haven’t bought stuff on eBay in a while but I’ve absolutely used your service before. I remember using it A LOT back in the early 2000s - it was my secret eBay super power before others knew about it. Thanks again and so glad it’s been life sustaining for you. Cheers.

Really appreciate your business. I have used it as my guitar buying superpower myself. To the tune of 200 or so :0

As someone who has sold something on Ebay and seen the last minute bid, the fact that shopping works really frustrates me. It's such a bad feature of Ebay that the auction end time is fixed regardless of bids.

I think you mean sniping, not shopping, and I can certainly see your point. Believe me, when I bought the business I carefully thought through the ethics. At this point it is unlikely eBay changes its policy because the pros and cons both are run surprisingly deep.

FWIW there were a few studies done on it in the early days of eBay, and it appears that sniping tends to bring more buyers to the table, even though sellers can feel uncomfortable with it.

Yes, sniping sorry. It definitely seems to be a policy made to please buyers, but even on the buyers side it has a bad connotation for those who miss out by a few seconds. I agree its unlikely ebay will change it now.

so, I can blame your service whenever I can't buy something via a bid at ebay for lower price

If you lost by 6 seconds (our default buffer and so the most common)... yeah. Sorry about those vintage Hot Wheels

Curious, why'd you pick 6 seconds? (As opposed to 4, 5, 7, 8, etc)

It was a combination of data and guesswork, but the main factor was that for years, peak bidding periods on Saturday and Sunday nights caused server delays of several minutes and we wanted to account for that.

U would have still questioned any other number :-)

True but I have to admit it is the kind of question I would ask too.

I license a fully automated UV unwrapping tool at MinistryOfFlat.com . UV mapping is the task of unwrapping a 3D model to a flat surface in order to put textures on it. Ive been at it for about 3 years, and last year I made 7 figures. I do sell directly to 3D artists. You probably know some VFX companies and game companies that have licensed my tool.

I make a good amount from people coming to the web site, but the majority is made licensing the technology to various companies. The online sales are mostly there to spread the word, and gather user feedback.

UV mapping is a very difficult problem mostly because artist have very specific ideas of what constitutes good UV mapping and it doesn't conform to any simple heuristics. Its about a megabyte of C code without any dependencies, and that makes very attractive to licensees.

That’s really cool.

Do you worry about licensees keeping the code and using it without you knowing if they cancel? Or an employee at a licensee walking off with the code / binary etc?

We’ve talked about some of these risks at my current job which ships code as our product so curious how other people navigate this.

Congrats on the success!


First of all I sell perpetual licenses. For everything else I rely entirely on the honor system. I wont spend my time chasing some student who pirates a copy. The real money comes from the larger companies and they are terrified of getting in legal trouble for breaking any kind of license agreement, so they have no reason to screw me over.

I worry a lot more about making things complicated for licensees then I do about them taking advantage of me.

Love this! I wish more would share your take on this.

dude is obviously a fing genius and probably has calculated that its more worth his time playing in the stock market than tracking down legal cases.

glad to see a software guy use all the modern day tools to get out of the rat race. cheers


Its also much better for your health to focus on helping people who support you then, to worry about what a few bad apples might do without you ever noticing.

That's really cool. I have really hard time calculating the prospect price for commercial usage of software. can you share the average commercial license pricing range for a product? and how much does it differ from pricing for individuals? Thanks for sharing your stats.

Congrats! I’ve meant to ask you/Brent: what do you think holds ptex back in VFX and animation?

(For games, it’s clear that ptex is basically a nonstarter, since GPU texture mapping hardware can’t / won’t deal with it)

Lost of things. Lack of tools is one. Lack of hardware is another. Its incredibly useful to use 2D images as resources since there are so many tools, file formats and pipelines that support it. I have always seen Ptex as "UVs are hard, so lets reinvent everything to avoid solving that problem". Since I have solved the UV problem, there really isn't a need for Ptex.

Congrats! Sounds really amazing and great to see commercial success too!

https://pageflows.com has been paying my bills for a couple of years now

To give you an idea of revenue, it’s about as much as I’d be getting paid as a junior-mid developer in London and requires a day or two of work a week unless I’m adding a new feature, redesigning etc.

https://screenjar.com is also making a small amount of revenue, but nothing meaningful yet.

Screenjar looks very cool. Great idea! Bookmarking for later use

My former employer's support department uses TeamViewer with customers. A web-based equivalent would be a game changer for them, if you can go real-time.

Thanks for sharing, screenjar looks interesting. I'll try it out in a few days.

Awesome, thanks - let me know if you have any questions or feedback

Brilliant. Are all those screenshots and videos made manually? Hard work

Yep - I've looked into automating or hiring this out, but spending Monday every week updating/adding a product has been the simplest solution so far

I run BeeLine Reader, [1] which launched on HN years ago. [2]

BeeLine makes reading on screen easier and faster. At first, most of the revenue came from B2C mobile apps and browser plugins, but in 2020 it hit a tipping point and most of the revenue now comes from B2B technology licensing.

Blackboard recently adopted the BeeLine technology, and there are several other large education platforms that are planning to adopt in 2021.

Licensing revenue is uncommon for startups, but it's nice because it's very high margin. I actually used to be a lawyer, so I can keep the main licensing cost (legal fees) under control.

1: http://www.beelinereader.com

2: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6335784

Homepage looks a bit funky on iPhone SE (2016) https://i.imgur.com/QcaZVx8.png

I see this sometimes and then zooming out gives me the full view, but it's already zoomed out here.

Great idea btw!

update: Also checked on desktop, the site transfers 8.5MB and takes 13 seconds to load (the gradients). (My download speed is 7MB/s.)

Thanks for letting me know — I actually have an old SE lying around so will test this and see if we can get it to behave better.

What a brilliant idea :) Plus I like the name, it very nicely summarizes the product.

Glad you like it! Happy to send HNers a monthlong free pass — I'm nick@[domain].

What makes licensing possible -- do you have a patent? Reimplementing by a competitor, at least at first blush, seems like it might be feasible?

Yeah, patents. But many licensees are also just happy to have use of our JS, and to be able to use the name. The name has decent recognition in assistive technology circles and is gaining traction in among university students as well.

I develop Cursive - https://cursive-ide.com, a plugin for Clojure development in IntelliJ. I started working on it seriously in 2014, started selling it in 2015 after about 2 years in beta (during which time I had a daughter) and it has provided all my income since then. The sales are more than my salary + bonus (but less than total comp) at my last job at Google. This year is the first year that sales have dipped slightly, probably due to COVID and a better competitor for VS Code, but it's still very profitable.

Thank you for making. It makes learning and writing Clojure fun !!!

My pleasure, I'm glad you enjoy it!

I solely started https://testimonial.to 2 weeks ago, and it generated over $5k revenue for me since its launch. I wouldn't say success, but at least it's my best launch ever.

Well, the website is an app to help collect video testimonials for your businesses. I offered a lifetime deal, all my revenue is from the lifetime deal. Now the deal is gone. In 2021, I will be only focus on recurring revenue. Start all over again :)

Simple idea, love it. Well done.

Thank you! Yes, it's damn simple ;)

May I ask what you did to promote it adn get that initial traffic?

Most of the traffic comes from Product Hunt and Twitter. I'd share my update very frequently in my tweets. Also, I will study who is my initial paying customer, so I get to know which industry has potential market, then I just go after/outreach those potential users in particular area.

Thanks for adding.

Lunch Money (https://lunchmoney.app/) is run by one person. It is a personal budgeting app that is very well-designed and easy to use. The founder's journey is also quite interesting as she has been traveling as a digital nomad while building Lunch Money.

Jen here– thank you so much for the mention!

Big fan. The founder is worth following: https://twitter.com/lunchbag

Founder Jen is such an inspirational and helpful woman! Worth to follow her journey on twitter

I wish they also pulled in brokerage account transactions

I wrote an OFX importer for Lunch Money just last week. Do the brokerage accounts support that?

I'm running https://info-beamer.com, a digital signage hosted service using the Raspberry Pi. It started as a for-fun project 8 years ago when I decided to do the digital info system for a local hacker conference and didn't find anything that allows quick prototyping and rapid iteration/live coding of content. I then switch from "desktop Linux" to Raspberries and added a web based service around the fairly low-level command line tool. It's my main source of income for 4 years now.

Excellent product. I've been testing it out and find very useful - especially dual-hdmi support.

I run https://www.checkbot.io/. :)

> Checkbot is a Chrome extension that tests 100s of pages at a time to find critical SEO, speed and security problems before your users do. Test unlimited sites as often as you want including local development sites to find and eliminate broken links, duplicate content, invalid HTML/CSS/JavaScript, insecure pages, redirect chains and 50+ other common website problems.

I created it to scratch my own itch while working freelance on other websites. There was one website in particular where minor changes on one page was breaking unrelated pages so a localhost web crawler that checked for issues was invaluable when doing small and large refactors.

The guide I wrote that explains all the page factors Checkbot tests for (https://www.checkbot.io/guide/) also helped me brush up on current web best practices. People treat SEO like a scammy word but the general recommendations are good for humans too!

How much has this been bringing in for you?

https://next-episode.net is a service I run for more than 15 years now.

It's a TV / Movies tracking website/community that helps people organize what they watch and find new shows to watch.

I started it for myself (because I couldn't find such tool back in the day) while I was working as a front end developer in an outsourcing company and it slowly grew and became my (only) day job.

There is a lot to do in terms of user support and constant maintenance and development (considering also the iOS and Android apps), but I've made the conscious decision to stay a sole developer and not try and hire people to help. For me - I feel this works great even though I realize I may be missing a lot by not trying to scale up by hiring.

Hope that makes sense.

I'm around if anyone has any questions.

Love this service! Glad it pays the bills (I have a paid membership).

I'd use this opportunity to make a suggestion - how hard would it be to make more detailed map of which season is available on which service? I am especially interested in latest season usually, of course. When you have a show with 15 seasons and you want the latest one, the list shows all the services whether they have new the stuff or just very old stuff.

I'll keep using it anyway, because it's great :)

Are you able to do this full time to support yourself?

Do you feel like you’re competing with the many other app options out there with larger teams?

I’m currently building something in a similar space. I’d like to be able to devote myself to it but am worried about viability (both overall and as a solo developer). That is to say, inspired to see your post!

Yes - this business supports me and my family and I don't have or need another job. I'm lucky to have found something I'm passionate about and that I can be helpful to others with.

That said - I haven't had a day without working on it (for at least 30minutes to handle support email) in more than 15 years. Also - I plan all vacations around it (well, those are really vacations for my wife, I try and keep working as much as I can on them) by making sure we always have good internet connection and we're never somewhere where we won't have internet for more than a day. Thankfully, that's fairly easy to accomplish nowdays, but I can't, for example, do a multi day camping or hiking trips.

What I'm trying to say it it comes at a price and it's not all great even when it's successful.

And yes, of course I feel I'm competing with the other options - some with huge teams and VC money, but at the same time I regularly check them out and I'm confident my product brings enough value to stand its ground - it doesn't have tens of millions of active users monthly - and it doesn't have to. I'll be happy if I can keep the current scale and the level of satisfaction of my users forever.

Now, I wish I had some advice for someone with a new product in this space. The truth is I have no idea how viable or hard for someone to start something new may be.

If you want - let me know specifically what you're working on and I'll give you some feedback (either in here or through the contact form on Next Episode). (it's fine if you prefer to keep it under wraps too)

Thanks so much for your reply - I will definitely reach out via Next Episode to continue the conversation. Any and all feedback would be much appreciated.

Awesome to see you here. I've been using the paid app for years and I'm more than happy to support you forever.


I asked this question back in 2014 (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7367243) hoping to start something myself. It's now 2021 and I still have nothing to show but failed attempts. Looking through the list of businesses from 2014 and a vast majority of them look like they are still active which is great! Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It is tougher to find the time these days with 2 kids, but I am setting myself the goal of $25K from non hour based work this year. Well done to all of you that have succeeded. To all of us dreamers, this could be the year!

Yes, Decentralized Finance (DeFi) has been very lucrative

Basically its great because everything is client side so all you have to is make frontend websites for people to interact with, and even that isn't really necessary. You just need people, with wallets, to be able to interact with your smart contract easily.

The smart contract you deploy has to address a pain point for existing users, typically by consolidating multiple transactions they are doing into a single transaction.

Your smart contract can take a cut of the transactions that flow through it.

The ongoing overhead costs are practically non-existent. The initial costs to deploy your smart contracts can vary to be several hundred dollars at time of writing.

It doesn't really matter what people think is happening in the blockchain space, or their infinitely moving goal post to reinforce their view about a lack of use case. The reality is that there is a market and there are market needs, just like any other market. The distinctions in this space is that the payment system is built in and all the users bring their own connection to the nearest servers which store all your variables. It's not different than any other financial services, just way faster and permissionless to get a foothold in.

DeFi is really great for entrepreneurs yes: lots of curious users, lots of money in it, lots of VCs, can build on top of other projects without permissions, and no regulations.

And with crypto prices going up we are probably going to see the next DeFi bubble.

If you want to build a DeFi app, You need to learn DeFi development and I have a course just on that: https://eattheblocks-pro.teachable.com/p/defi-development-ma...

I also have a youtube channel for blockchain dev: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCZM8XQjNOyG2ElPpEUtNasA

For a developer who has no idea about blockchain, how hard/easy is it to get into DeFi?

Also, do you think this can be a long term career?

DeFi is easy and doesn’t really involve blockchain knowledge, but your use of the code becomes blockchain knowledge.

The programming is all javascript and solidity, which has syntax very similar to js. The blockchain imposes restrictions on how complex your code can be which means you are writing simpler code. More like building with legos (which is very similar to other programming where you have dependency hell, not really prevalent here because the other code-legos don't really change).

Private sector has not gotten around to valuing this skillset and typically interview out of novelty and curiosity but are completely confused and ignorant about what your involvement in “blockchain” actually was, but there are enough VC backed companies that operate in this space if you wish to eventually be employed.

You can also get wealthy enough not to care. Not from crypto prices rising, just from transaction volume and earning your crypto.

"just from transaction volume and earning your crypto."

Could you please elaborate? Do you mean taking a cut from the transactions?

Also, if I gave myself 6 months of part time study, will that be enough to get proficiency to start working on real world projects?

> Do you mean taking a cut from the transactions?


> Also, if I gave myself 6 months of part time study, will that be enough to get proficiency to start working on real world projects?


If you already know how to program it honestly won't take you that long. The bigger issue in DeFi and crypto in general is what to focus on. Here, all of your side projects can make money right out the gate without trying to look more legitimate than the next, but now some make more than others. The space moves extremely fast and other people's better ideas can be tempting to focus on.

Thank you for taking the time to reply. Checking your course

You are not replying to the person with the course right?

Because if so i would be skeptical.

People selling courses are selling the dream and hyping "money making" through some new shiny tech.

I hope these two accounts are different persons.

So what's your business exactly? Can you be a bit more concrete what your smart contracts are, what problem they solve?

My specific business? Hard to say because it changes every week as there is really just that much to build

If people find getting into interest bearing products to be complicated, then you would create a contract to make it less complicated.

Pooltogether.com is an example of something people like, I didnt write that. It just gives people a chance of earning more interest than they could alone, at the expense of earning no interest in the mean time. They bill it as a “no-loss lottery”, while it is really just helping people deposit into other onchain financial services. It is analogous to many people depositing into a single savings account to earn more interest than they could as an individual, and only one person getting paid all of the interest. So some people like doing that because their alternatives are non-existent.

You can make a competitor to that or something slightly different and get people using it.

With so much noise in the space, how do you attract awareness to your contracts? And how do you manage the community?

How do you audit the security of your contracts?

Unit tests like normal software development.

I don’t post or advertise audits, third party smart contract audits are expensive and purely a marketing racket.

A) users dont care

B) Vulnerabilities come from closed source pricing oracles.

C) users that do care understand that vulnerabilities are not really coming from the code and more so from pricing oracles

D) Users can buy smart contract insurance.

E) They can also buy their own smart contract audit, I at least make sure the block explorer has the code and ABI available

With all due respect, I think you're off on point C. There are a plenty of vulnerabilities as a result of code issues. Look at the great work that Trail Of Bits (no affiliation) has done in this space and you will see some great examples. There are a few folks that do solid audits, thought you are right there's no guarantee and it's expensive.

As to your point that user's don't care, I think that's the real answer, and it's a shame. Do you think the user base is not technical enough to care?

Sure, so first what I avoided saying is that plenty of code has intentional or unintentional backdoors and nobody can ever tell the difference of intent if those backdoors get used. It is a sad and risky part of the space for the users, but doesn't undermine any point I made about how the developer makes money. It does undermine how comfortable a publicly facing developer would want to be. Even if the developer does get vilified publicly and professionally or actually incurs some legal liability, they can still just change aliases or release more autonomous code under a new pseudonym. Either way it really amplifies their - or some other developer's - earning potential. And users can also buy third party insurance (which is its own sector and has its own growth challenges).

Secondly, another thing I was alluding to is that you can just copy working code. You can deploy the exact same service as someone else and compete directly. Too many developers think they need uniqueness, which may have been true in the "I can only get recognition from VCs to make real money" world. DeFi development is analogous to launching a grocery store offering slightly different brands. The code you copied from having already been audited.

Third, everything I wrote before was assuming no malicious intent. So if we are copying code for the most part, it moves the vulnerabilities to the closed source oracles and the behavior of the oracle's sources of data.

I'm always open to having this conversation, in general top level hackernews has not been ready for that conversation and they want to debate largely irrelevant things about their feelings over blockchain, as opposed to the state of various sectors in the space that they aren't aware of. So leading with nuanced discussion would hurt the visibility of what I actually have to contribute.

Cool, I hear ya and I agree, I wish there was more nuanced discussion on these topics rather than just "hodl, numbers go up."

It seems to me like you've found an interesting way to play in an adversarial space by selling shovels during a gold rush.

do traditional exchanges work through smart contracts too?

No they don’t

I would like to know more about the subject. Is there any way I can contact you ?

vmception00 [at] gmail [dot] com

I don't check it, but I'll try

Is there a way I can contact you? Interested in learning more.

vmception00 [at] gmail [dot] com

I don't check it, but I'll try

Beware of the selection bias before making any conclusions.

For every person who currently does X successfully, there will be a multiple of those who failed at the (nearly) same and aren't chiming in.

Well, but that is the idea, the selection bias is in the question not in the answers. He is not asking what % of one-person online business are successful.

Sure, but this renders most of the answers useless. Interesting, entertaining, curious, but useless.

Not at all. That's how people have learned to do stuff for thousand of years, you copy the successful cases.

I think that what OP is saying is that copying the successful case will not make you successful - otherwise everyone could be successful after reading a few discussions like this, or reading millionaire's books about how they became successful.

> otherwise everyone could be successful after reading a few discussions like this, or reading millionaire's books about how they became successful.

None of those things are actually copying, arent they? They are just reading.

Do I believe that everybody who actually creates a small SAAS emulating some of the ideas presenting here will be a smashing success? Of course not! Do I believe many will succeed? Of course!

This is like saying, how do I get to the NBA? Well, train hard everyday, eat well, get into a competitive basketball program since HS. None of those things are sufficient, but for sure are a great blueprint.

Selection bias, it turns out, is built right into the title of the post. Also, a hard-won concept I have learned in business is that it’s much better to learn from people who were successful than from people who weren’t (not trying to be arch or facetious here).

Correct - I run two Saas apps. One collects COVID symptoms from kids attending childcare centres and the other allows users to send SMS from Google sheets. I've made a total of $5 from both (first customer for SMS tool last month).

I had a lot of interest in the symptom screening tool, but then my provincial government changed the rules so child care centres didn't need to collect symptoms. I have 2 centres using it and I just cover the bills. I've told them they can use it for free. Probably more of a hassle to collect the $10/month from them.

I sell ebooks [0] and currently they are my only source of income (if you don't count savings interest). I started writing books as a last-ditch effort in late 2018. Had left my job in 2014, was living on savings and the occasional workshops I conducted in colleges. I had plenty of material prepared for workshops, so I started converting them to books.

First book didn't sell much but initial sales of the second one got me enough to cover about 2 months of expenses. Combined with workshops, books helped me through 2019 and early 2020. (Note that I live alone, in outskirts of a city in India - my monthly living expenses is around $150, which includes rent and domestic help)

Pandemic meant I didn't get workshops anymore, but fortunately, my ebooks sale picked up enough to more than cover that loss. I even spent about 5 months to just update my earlier books. Currently working on 9th book that I hope to publish by end of this month.

[0] https://learnbyexample.github.io/books/

Very cool that you are doing this!

May I give you advice as someone who buys a lot of e-books? A book is judged by its cover. Your covers look really cheap, and so everyone will judge the quality of your book in that fraction of time.

It's like a funnel, and a lot of people will already drop off by looking at your covers. Bad graphics, bad fonts, bad colors.

Hire a really good designer and let them make the cover. It doesn't have to be expensive. I'm 99% sure it will make a ton of difference for your sales.

Maybe try it with your best book first and see what it does to your conversion rate.

Thanks a lot for the feedback :)

I was going to say no, but you know what, I'll give it a honest try for the 9th book. I can probably afford it now.

I've gotten plenty of similar feedback before too. Grammar issues (English isn't my native and I'm not good at natural languages in general). Bland covers, like you mentioned. Marketing strategies, many which I do not wish to try (for ex: buy a domain for my blog and ebooks). There's just too many things to follow/maintain.

Researching, writing the book, reviewing and editing it, revising for later editions, etc are painful enough. I love the feeling of completing a book and seeing sales coming in, which so far has kept me going.

All I wanted since leaving my job was sustainable income and if I can maintain current sales, I'm more than satisfied. All my ebooks can be read for free online. I get most of my sales when I post about a new book on social media for free download. Both leanpub and gumroad allow paying more than the specified price and readers are willing to do so.

You are absolutely right, I closed the page as soon as I saw the book covers.

I came up with the idea of a hardware startup called AirGradient [1] focusing on indoor air quality monitoring due to annual recurring wildfires in my region and the wish to help my local school here in managing this better.

Very soon I realized, I lack the experience on the hardware side and a partner joined in (so strictly not solo anymore). Yes hardware is hard!

AirGradient focuses on monitoring indoor air quality in schools and offices and operates with a hardware as a service model, i.e. you do not have upfront costs for buying expensive sensor but you get the sensors provided for the duration of the service.

I am also running a blog on AirQuality. I created detailed build instructions to build your own powerful air quality monitor (PM, CO2, Temperature and Humidity) which is fully open source and open hardware and I am more than happy to send you PCBs if you want to build it [2].

[1] https://www.airgradient.com/schools/

[2] https://www.airgradient.com/blog/2020/08/25/the-airgradient-...

I've run my own one-man[1] software business selling desktop software for Windows and Mac since 2005. Products with launch date:

https://www.perfecttableplan.com (2005)

https://www.hyperplan.com (2015)

https://www.easydatatransform.com (2019)

2020 wasn't a great year due to the effect of COVID on PerfectTablePlan sales. But I've been profitable every year.

[1] With a bit of help from my wife on the accounts and freelancers for web design, testing etc.

I used to read your blog back when I was into shareware. What a trip down the memory lane. Glad to see you are still in the biz!

I think I remember you from the BoS forum.

Ah yes, the BoS forum. I was one of the moderators.

Some of the BoS regulars can still occasionally be found at: https://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/

Really tiny comment, but I noticed on Perfect Table Plan you have an example seating plan for a lodge with peoples names? As a member myself I know there are quite a few people who prefer to remain anonymous, so not sure if they'd like that image to be up (albeit the risk is very very low that they'd be identified from a table planning app!).

Any names you see in seating plans on the PerfectTablePlan website are ficticious.

BTW the fact that the seating plan isn't stored on a third party server is a selling point for privacy minded users/organizations. Particularly when it comes to politicians/royalty/celebrities etc.

I sell my own books. I started in 2018. As of 2020, that made about 80 % of my total income.

Previous programming experience was useful, I could hack together some WooCommerce plugins that help me take care of the customers (generating invoices, communication with the Czech Post, pairing bank payments to orders and informing me about payments that could not be paired reliably). That saved me a lot of repetitive work.

What subjects do you write about? Any place we can look at your books?

Mostly popular history.


Everything so far has only been published in Czech, though.

I started writing a popular history book a few years ago and found it really tough once I actually dug into it! Kudos on publishing so many and with such good reviews. Can I ask if you have an academic background in history?

I do not. It is just my passion since I learnt to read.

Around the age of 35 I realized that there was a lot of interesting and weird stories to share with others and I started narrating them in an online magazine published by my friend. For example, life and death of Hernando de Soto, the unsuccessful conquistador. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto).

People liked the format and actually started to send micropayments. It still took several years before I actually tried to put together a book. I started a crowd-sourcing attempt which, to my (pleasant) surprise gathered over 300 per cent of the target sum.

Now I am hooked to the lifestyle :-)

I’m surprised that you can live off of history books! Very cool.

Believe me, I was surprised too. Very surprised. The stereotype of a famished author is pretty strong here :)

Thing is, without middle-men (distributors, bookshops), most of the revenue accrues to you directly. Long live e-commerce.

I can imagine that you have built some sort of strong followers community to promote your books? I mean how do readers find your books?

I write quite a lot of (commentary) articles on my blog and some other Czech portals reprint them. This helped me build up a community of readers.

OptDuty [0] is ramen profitable in my place (like $1k per month) after 4 months from launching. Although it's still side project for me.

Everything started from a Show HN post and one comment on HN. Majority of paying clients are from HN too.

I started the project in May, and launched in August. And after 2 months I was thinking it's total failure, because target audience is too specific and my marketing skills sucks.

But by keep talking to a few early users I finally managed to convince them to use the product and than paid for yearly subscription.

[0] https://optduty.com/

I created https://huntr.co back in 2017, just reached $15k mrr last month. Looking to hire someone to help with sales in the next few months. It's been fun to work on such a variety of things in the past 3 years (design, development, sales, etc), but I'm ready to grow the team :)

Wow! That looks incredible! I won't be a customer right now but just wanted to say you have created a great looking product! Are the jobs within your search tool pretty US centric, or if I told my Canadian friends about this, would they get value as well?

Thanks! Not so much US centric, more tech focused. Jobs are sourced from career sites of hundreds of employers, most of them in the tech industry. There are quite a few jobs in the big Canadian hubs like Toronto and Vancouver.

Looks cool! How are you getting customers?

Thanks! About half of revenue comes from job seekers upgrading to a paid plan (freemium model). The other half from an Enterprise version for organizations that help large groups of job seekers get placed.

I'll be starting a Youtube channel shortly about solo bootstrapping a tech business around a mobile app and everything that's involved, from idea validation to implementation, launch and marketing. Let me know if that's everything you're interested in

I bet you could find some interesting guests in this thread. I'd be happy to share my experience, for what it's worth — feel free to contact through my profile.

That's a good idea thanks! I'll get in touch

Could you share the business you’ve bootstrapped?

This will be a new business from scratch, built with the community. I'm thinking about using a sleep diary app I've already mostly built

I'd be interested!

Yes please!!


Yes pls

yes, please.


That sounds really interesting.

During the pandemic, I launched [link redacted], an open-source tool to check if an email exists, without sending any email. Not sure what "successful" means here, but I have a couple dozens of customers, which for me is a success.

I'll definitely check this out. This would make it easier to move things from LinkedIn messaging (super annoying and low-frequency for many people) to email. There used to be a Chrome extension that made this possible (Rapportive?), but I think they got acquired by LI. Are there other efficient ways of doing this? I'm not looking to spam strangers — just to migrate conversations with actual connections off the LI platform.

Very cool! How does this actually check without sending any email?

From the GitHub source, it connects to the mail server for the domain’s MX record and issues a “RCPT TO:” command and looks for a non-rejection. Back when I was managing email servers, this option was typically disabled to prevent address enumeration and I’d be surprised if it still works reliably.

Many mail servers function by answering all “RCPT TO:” commands (for the domains served) with a success message that is effectively “Yeah, sure... give it a try” and, if the mailbox doesn’t exist, will email the sender a bounce message.

You can initiate a connection with the mail server, and then query it. I read about it years ago, never done it myself though.

Worth pointing out that it’s possible to configure an email server to not respond to these types of queries and many high-value targets (large corporate email systems) do.

I'm running two businesses:

1: https://postsheet.com for sending personalized emails and text messages using Google Sheets and Airtable

2: https://pikaso.me for taking beautiful clutter-free Twitter screenshots for sharing on Instagram

Nice! Pikaso is something that's super useful (just started a newsletter, and was looking for exactly this). Nicely done.

What kind of revenue do you make between these two?


Andrew is killing it. Already over one million in bids on his platform.

This is interesting. The copy on the page is pretty broad (beyond this single spot about horses and all small animals), suggesting they accept any type of shipment. However, when you look at the request they are almost 100% horses or other small animals. I wonder if the founder should niche down and focus on the animal market, seems like there is demand.

He runs at least 8 Facebook animal hauling groups, so he's well acquainted with the niche. His mom started the horse hauling group many years ago, and Andrew took over.

I think there was a TLC show about this industry and how they negotiated their routes and stuff, really cool project

This is super unique, really cool to see.

Tip: for each artist or author you recommend, put their top books under the name with the picture from amazon and link there with an affiliate account.

An unfamiliar author’s name means nothing to me, but I might have heard of some of their books. And I’ll open tabs to check them out later.

For artists I’d love to SEE their pictures. I don’t know many artist’s names!

Agree with the artist comment. I input 3 of my favourite artists and got some recommendations. I selected "I don't know" because I didn't know who they were. Could just show the top 5 results from a Google image search for their name, or an image from their wiki page.

Wow!!, How much money you are making with this? How long it took you to build this? How you are marketing this?

Can you please give some advice on marketing.

Please license gnod to Netflix :)

Before I clicked through, I assumed the site was named after a backwards word.

product explorer should ask what device you came from and set the minimum spec to match. It can probably pushState all the search params into the url so that these beautiful result sets can be shared.

Extremely great projects!

Thank you for making it

I created AuctionGo (https://auction-go.com) about 18 months ago and started getting traction really quickly through Google Ads. It’s white label auction software (like creating a private Ebay of your own). I had envisioned many medium sized businesses in the US would use it to sell commodities or host reverse auctions for suppliers, but all the interest has come from overseas companies selling all kids of things, especially real estate.

What is your tech stack?

A great many people [including myself] have a successful online business flipping which is buying and selling of goods (more used than new). Buying is from local thrift shops, auctions, garage sales, Craiglist, Facebook Marketplace, etc and selling is at Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, etc. If interested follow the Reddit sub-reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/Flipping/

The juice doesn’t seem worth the squeeze.

I can’t even be bothered to sell my own used junk.

But it is a low tech way to do e-commerce.

Isn’t this almost a zero sum game?

Yes. It is a lot harder to do than people make it out to be.

I'm able to support myself from my online business now, but it took three years of learning and struggle to get here. This was not time wasted, as I grew a lot.

I get a compliment from time to time from my users asking if I'm really running my product solo.

The tool is https://syften.com and it's a keyword notification service for Reddit, Hacker News, Indie Hackers, Slack communities, Facebook groups etc.

I think that the biggest help was the Indie Hackers community.

Interestingly, after reading all of Paul Grahams essays and going through startup school I saw no spike in my MRR. On the other hand, reading a handful of James Clear articles had a profound effect. It's important to keep in mind that if what you read doesn't change your behaviour then it's just entertainment.

Which James Clear articles did you like the best? There are a lot to choose from.

I am building a feature-rich and highly performant self-hosted analytics platform: https://www.usertrack.net

It is profitable as the running costs are very low, but currently my income is only around $1k-$2k/month. It started as a side-project but I have been working full-time on it since last year when the gaming company I was working for went bankrupt.

Being a dev I am too focused on product and I always want to "fix one more thing" before marketing it. As my savings got lower the product got better, I think I am now at that point when I can start finding customers without having to worry that "maybe my product is not good enough".

I write content to help people settle in Germany. They need certain services, and I get a commission when I refer them to those services.

I don't think I could trivially reproduce the results, but I'm happy to get paid for offering free advice. I hope it lasts.

Im a dev who just moved to Berlin. Found your website and content IMMENSELY well done and useful. Breathe of fresh air to see how up to date the articles were. Made the German bureaucracy much more manageable tbh. Let me know if you'd like some user feedback on anything!

I'd certainly love feedback. If there's anything on your mind, just drop me a few lines. It doesn't matter if it's about the content or the website itself.

How much do you earn and is the space not saturated already? Are you expanding to new niches ?

The space isn't saturated, but there is some competition. However the quality is often lacking. I maintain a smaller set of high quality articles, and keep those updated. I also have a more simple, direct writing style, and designed the website for readability.

I considered expanding to other places or bringing other people on board, but I doubt I could maintain the same level of quality. Those articles require far more research and domain-specific knowledge than your typical SEO spam.

I'm also not that interested in growing. I want more time, not more disposable income. I am sitting on a few decent business ideas, and this website could easily grow to cover other countries, but I'd rather do more pleasant things.

> How much do you earn

About the same as I did as a developer, though it's hard to get a precise number since it varies a lot.

Where do I find your service? I am planning on moving soon.

https://allaboutberlin.com - I don't offer any services, only free content. However I do have a small network of trusted people I work with, if you need extra help.

I'm not planning to move but I enjoyed the writing style. Thanks for sharing and great stuff!

I've used this before! There's a wealth of great information here.

I'm building a custom email forwarding services for your domain. Only have 2 customers right now though.


Every time I bought a new domain and need to setup DNS or verify email, all I want is to receive email from that domains. But setting up postfix or configuring lambda/ses is a pain. So I build this service.

All you have to do is point MX records to my servers and you will be able to receive incoming email.

This is the first time I have a side project that almost finished :-) after 10 years wanting to build a SaaS. To me that is a success.

Quick heads-up: There are some grammar problems on your landing page (e.g. "it can be send out to multiple email address like mail group." should be "it can be sent out to multiple email addresses like a mail group."), and there's "superful", which I'm not sure I understand ;)

Good luck!

Oh. Thanks you so much. I was meant to type `superhelpful`. Thanks so much. If you need an account, please reach out. I can give you a free account for life.

Thanks, that's a very kind offer :)

Consider it just some basic help on your journey.

This is a problem I need solved and if your service works, I'll be happy to pay your individual subscription fee. If it works well and I don't have to think about it anymore I'll pay for this for the next decade without thinking twice.

I just subscribed. You've designed the system in a way that's simple and strait-forward. As soon as I get a couple emails through it, I'll be asking you to take my money.

Your pricing is high for this service. Exceptionally high, given the limits and no sending ability. I'd suggest taking a good look at competitive services.

Thank you so much for your feedback. I'm still working out on the price. What do you think is a reasonable price?

Well, if I was shopping around, I might notice that an account at MXRoute costs less than half of your Pro plan, with fewer limits. And that's a full mail service, with mailboxes/POP/IMAP/SMTP etc, but it could also certainly be used simply as a forwarding service for custom domains. And they have many years in business, high credibility (well, higher than a brand new service). That's just one alternative.

Obviously if you have limited needs, just 1 or 2 domains, and can get by on the $1 plan, that is price competitive even with free services (like many domain registrars offering free mail forwarding). But the jump to $10 month is far too much, IMO.

I run my side project https://namesmith.io for about 5 years now. It is a domain name generator which can also check the domain availability. It is covering the server cost plus a bit extra. About $200 per month.

I didn't work on it for about 3 years but I recently decided to give it some love. I still think it has potential.

Earnings come solely from domain registration commissions? If yes, then $200/mo is not bad at all.

Some small earnings come from domain registration commissions themselves. Most of it comes from commissions for hosting packages.

In the past the site made more money because I got commission from domain sales/auctions. Because of API changes and what not this changed but I plan to bring this back. In my experience this is the most lucrative part of this site even if sales are very sporadic.

Not much of a success in terms of providing a large part of my income, but I have launched the SaaS Starter Kit (https://saasstarterkit.app/) 2 weeks ago for early access and I have managed to get 5 sales already. If I can keep up the traction and improve the product, it will be possible to have it make up a large portion of my current income.

So far, I have found the IndieHackers community to be very helpful, they are willing to provide feedback and the first two purchases have already come from there. In addition to that, I joined a conversation on Twitter under a thread Adam Wathan, the creator of TailwindCSS, started and it has generated quite a lot of initial traffic to the project.

I haven't launched it fully yet, I am still looking to collect feedback from the early users, so I am offering a large discount, but it feels great to be able to make some money with a side project after a long time working on it.

I run a paid addon for local e-commerce platform(with 25k shops build on it). It all started about 15 month ago when i was still working in a web development company. The platform owners came to us and offered us a partnership. We would develop some new addons for them, run them, and split the profits(80% for us, 20% for them). As i was the one most interested in this i got the first project and developed and supported it for about 9 month. I saw it could have a nice future and bought it from the web development company and quit the job. Now i run it by myself and i love it.

The addon provides an easy way to print paper labels for products and other things listed in the shops.

Can I contact you? I have an overlap in interest ( I'm building an e-commerce platform and things are getting real :) )

yup, definitely, it's pdonat@seznam.cz

Did you have to buy out the web dev company you were working for? Did they not want their cut?

I bought the addon from them. They wanted to run it however since i developed most of the app and supported it they would have to train new person for it and dedicate his/her time to it and nobody wanted to be that person.

It's not me personally doing it, but a relative is an effective teacher of 2D game development (godot, gamemaker, pixel art), with good pacing, helpful to customers &c (and pleasant to be around). Some examples of his work, which supports their family:



Super cool! Thanks for sharing.

How does did he initially get customers? How does he keep growing?

Asking him would get a more currently accurate answer, but the parts I do know include that he had the knowledge and so wrote a self-published book (paper and digital) about GameMaker some years back, and he is good at knowing about and being a positive part of his gaming communities, so he has built his name recognition over time, initially while working a full-time job and going to school. And I think toward his customers ("students"), he treats them with respect, and they say good things about him. I think he has a designated # of hours per week he spends on things like those. Plus, his personality and strengths line up well with the kind of work he does: he likes art, and gaming, and talking about them, and helping people, and has a sort of natural sense about people and a speech cadence that work well in instructional videos.

Other things that have helped him stay in business are that he and his wife both wanted and agreed early on to take Dave Ramsey's advice (which somewhat they also got from their parents' example), that it is worth being very frugal to prioritize debt avoidance, having some savings, and paying off a house, over many other kinds of expenses, so when there are ups and downs, they can ride them out.

Edit: They drove that old car for a long time even though the A/C didn't work right and the windows wouldn't all roll down properly etc. Then they saved up for a while, watched for good buys, and replaced it with a reliable used van for cash.

Edits: They also pray and pay tithing, and there are blessings promised in Malachi 3 (Bible) and elsewhere to those who do that (properly?), which I have also experienced, not in identical ways. And they are family, so my wife and I pray for them all, often.

Plus he sets objectives and works regularly on weekdays, and takes breaks on evenings/weekends to enjoy the family. And they read business books and discuss them.

Thank you very much for the detailed response!

(ps his wife has a blog about their family life: http://justasahmom.blogspot.com/ )

I created "Mixed CRM" https://www.mixedcrm.com/

to solve my client's problem: collaborative sales of apartments in realtime. later on, added automation features got generating sales offers/contracts/agreements, then a payment plan editor, and later on added activity tracking and more advanced user management etc ..

Pretty successful start, and getting many real estate businesses who would like to give it a try, a few more clients and might become my full time project of 2021.

Hit me up if you would like to try a demo.

I started Remote Leaf a year back and it's not yet sustainable yet. It's making $1.5k MRR at this point. One of my goals in 2021 is to grew it to $10k MRR.

- Planning to focus more on SEO

- Appsumo deal might work

Close Tools [1] is run by one person and they're currently at $40k MRR.

[1] https://jdnoc.com/open/

I was listening to My First Million podcast the other day and they mentioned a product that was specific to Poshmark, I wonder if this was it. They went on to talk about getting in early to platforms and making a killing (ex. when FB opened their API, Shopify marketplace, Google Ad words). Poshmark seems like a giant service that likely has a lot of area ripe for development.

Talk about Fomo :|

I had many un-used domains I've purchased over the years (>40) and I wanted to make use of them without having to spend time, so I built Newsy - launched 9 months ago.


It turns your un-used domain into a Reddit-like content aggregator with all sorts of features - membership, voting, comments, newsletters and monetization. The best thing for me is that it is completely automated and all of my domains are hosted on the platform. :) Not Ramen-profitable yet, but pushing it to get there.

How you got these approved from Adsense? Heard that usually have issues with content aggregators claiming such sites do not have original content.

Some sites have already been approved prior. We generally discourage our users to apply for AdSense initially (most likely it'll get rejected anyway) - so instead we recommend using other ad platforms (there are plenty).

I couldn't PM you via your contact details on HN. I can help you with this. Is there a way I can message you?

Sure thing! hello@newsy.co look forward to talking to you!

Can you share Adsense alternatives that can actually have steady payouts?

I run adhaste.com and you can send me a message if you want to try it out

Filled in the contact form.

This is pretty cool. I just logged into my namecheap account to see if I have any random names that might work. Unfortunately all my names are fairly specific and probably don't get any organic traffic nor are they well suited for aggregators I'd say. Just followed your Twitter account, I'd really love to see success stories.

I have a plenty of niche domains too and I try to gather contents focused around those niche areas and it's been awesome to see people flocking around those contents! (potential future users?) :)

This looks really cool. Will be considering for some future projects. One thing that immediately occurs to me is that I’d be concerned about vendor lock in. I wonder if you could offer a fixed fee “eject” option if I want the ability to go off and do my own development on top of what you give me.

Well, vendor lock-ins are everywhere almost right? We can allow some data export, but currently this isn't available - not necessarily a feature frequently asked for either, so we don't really have an immediate plan for this yet.

Great idea! How much does a typical unused domain make using this?

It varies.. some ad platforms are quite poor in terms of their payout (definitely not in AdSense league), but we are working on various features for more monetization options (e.g. direct advertising)

The dataloco example website is broken for me

I built a react-native app https://skintheory.app to help people get rid of their acne in a manegable way.

Currently working on an iteration to add affiliate marketing links to skincare products. The amount of money I'm making is comparable to losing my wallet (multiple times).

I love your analogy! I'm also running a unprofitable business that costs me money each month (G Suite, hosting, domain registration, SES, Wordpress plugin one time cost etc). I have 2 customers (one is a friend, another is a true customer). The true customer signed up knowing the cost and has told me I'm charging too little but with only a single customer, I can't bring myself to charge them. I feel like if I go that route it becomes a bit more of a business and I open myself up to other issues. I also don't have time to work on gaining more customers now (I work in COVID response, so it's been a busy 11 months). So I'm stuck just paying out of pocket.

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