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Ask HN: How much recurring income do you generate, and from what?
367 points by withoutfriction on May 20, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 306 comments


These days BCC is in maintenance mode (i.e. I respond to emails, cut checks, and put out fires, but I don't do active development or marketing). It works out to a bit more than my old salary for roughly 69.5 less hours of weekly work.

I have two other businesses: I do consulting and I have Appointment Reminder. Appointment Reminder pays its own way now, but doesn't put a meaningful amount of money in my pocket. Consulting does (egads), but distracts quite a bit from working on AR.

Patrick, if BCC pays you more than your old salary, did you consider giving up consulting and working solely on your startup business (i.e. Appointment Reminder or new product)

It seems like that would accelerate growth of your startup - while BCC revenues ensure that you have enough runway to grow the business.

Of course, it is possible that consulting adds in more value to the business (e.g. new domain knowledge, useful contacts ) besides pulling in revenue.

> Appointment Reminder pays its own way now, but doesn't put a meaningful amount of money in my pocket.

Do you think that, given enough time spent developing/marketing it, AR will provide as much recurring income as BCC?

I don't own a hat, but if AR doesn't become larger than BCC, I will buy a hat so that I have one to eat.

Aside from being owned by me, though, those two businesses are as alike as a kitten and a kumquat. (e.g. AR could take external investment, something which I am kicking around doing later. BCC would be an extraordinarily poor candidate for it.)

I'd be surprised if you don't do well with AR too. You could probably benefit from an active sales force a lot, though I could certainly understand why one wouldn't want to go down that route. The place I get my hair cut at, for instance, makes dozens of these calls a day yet would probably never hear of your service without a cold call.

Or a referral

Hey Patrick, any chance for an affiliate account with your service (as opposed to your white label)? I'd gladly refer my barber, dentist, plumber, etc. As a stats junkie, Id like to see how many of my referrals actually sign up. Getting a reward for it would also be pretty sweet.

This bears pointing out. People like knowing about their influence, so affiliate program may not need to give out money, just rewards and kudos.

It may just be my setup but on your http://www.bingocardcreator.com/expenses/expenses-pie-chart page the yellow text on the yellow background isn't even readable. Is it the same for the rest of you? Update: Looks like it rotates through colors for every refresh... So, if you refresh enough you can read all the sections of the pie chart.

Colors get chosen randomly on page load, so just refreshing will probably sort you out. (The actual stats are cached, the presentation layer not so much.) I have a string around my finger to fix that someday but today is not a good day and tomorrow not looking great either.

Yes. When I squint, I can tell that it says Advertising, in case you can't make it out.

With such a vast shift away from desktop downloadable applications, I'm curious to see what you've done from a marketing standpoint to get those numbers. How did you promote your application and drive sales?

The overwhelming majority of my customers are on the online version now, since I've exiled the downloadable version to electronic Siberia. If no customer ever found it again I would be happy.

With regards to marketing, see my blog (www.kalzumeus.com), but the short answer is I use organic SEO and AdWords. My one trick pony for organic SEO is scalable content generation, and what a beautiful, loyal pony it is.

Can you describe what you mean by "scalable content generation"? Sounds very interesting!

summary: "Data You Can’t Get Anywhere Else"

I make ~$2,000 a month with an iPad game for cats. My co-founder and I were working on a "more serious" game and it was taking a long time. We needed a quick win, so I agreed to do it if we spent less than 4 weeks on it.

We completed the game from idea to app store in 3.5 weeks and it is now, by far, our most popular game. * face palm *

EDIT: We split the revenue 50/50, so the revenue (after apple's cut) on this game is around $4k/mo.

Wait a second, the iPad app is free. Are you making money from cats clicking on ads?

If so, I salute you.

From the perspective of the advertiser that would be, at least, on the border of being a con job.

But the fine print on http://www.ipadgameforcats.com/ says that one level/theme is free and another is $1.99 as an in-app purchase.

Right. And sorry, I need to clarify. That number is the sum of our two cat apps. Our second app is a painting game (for cats). The code is essentially the same, just with a bit of GL painting + facebook sharing. (Yup, people post their cat's paintings on facebook.)

FYI my dog likes to play this game too.

I'm thrilled that you've actually played our game.

I didn't play it, the puppy did. I'll try to catch some video.

Our other puppy prefers a sound board: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshu/5702009514

WTF? This is a game for _cats_. Can't your dogs read?

What exactly is an iPad game for cats?

Edit: Is this something for the untapped Crazy Cat Lady market?

Your kidding, right? If this app makes $4,000 a month, I'm teaching myself iOS development this weekend.

If this makes money, then anyone can make money.

Not quite true.

This app makes money because anyone that owns a cat and an iPad looks for apps that their cat(s) can play with.

The same is true for baby apps. There are some super simple apps that babies enjoy, and those apps make very good money considering the development effort.

That being said, not everyone can pull it off. This particular cat app is fairly well done in my opinion. One must also keep in mind that just cause it makes $4k/month right now, it doesn't mean it'll continue to make that much 6 months from now.

I have two cats and it would NEVER have occurred to me to search for an app that my cats can play with. I am not a crazy cat woman and don't buy $1,000 cat toys. I mean, good on them for the success -- but I think anyone who actually stops and thinks "I wonder if there's a toy my cats can play with on my expensive electronic device" must be mental.

As much as I like cats, I am rather surprised people have no problem with cat claws on their >$500 touchscreen...

Gorilla Glass. If my keys don't scratch it, a cat claw definitely won't.

Even more surprising is that cat claws can't scratch those screens.

I'm impressed. Super clever, and I dig the website. How did you get the game in front of jungle animals?

A friend of mine joked that we should get a tiger to play our ipad game. I immediately became obsessed with this idea. We worked for a couple weeks calling animal shelters etc with no luck. But we told everyone we knew that we wanted to do this.

My sister ended meeting someone at starbucks who's daughter worked for a shelter and the rest is history: http://conservatorscenter.org

They love us because it brought a good amount of exposure to their center. They've already asked us to make more apps specifically for them. They use it as a way for kids to interact with the animals.

I think I love everything about you guys. Great concept, execution, everything! It benefits you and somebody else (and a bunch of incredible animals)

I've now put that center on the list of places I need to visit.

Absolutely brilliant work. Site is perfectly aimed to the target market, polished, the way you made it initially free with an upgrade, and working with the zoo? Spot on.

looks like you've got some competition -> http://gamesforcats.com/

True story: I emailed friskies about this in November last year. I sent them a video of our game and asked if they wanted to work together. I had a few phone calls with them and they told us they loved the idea. Then one day: silence. They wouldn't return my calls or emails.

Now just this week they release this game, same idea, almost same domain. (I would guess the reason they didn't use the domain gameforcats.com is because I also own that domain.)

Folks say I should contact an IP lawyer, but I'm not sure I a) want to go up against big-corp (who will just claim they came up with it independently) or b) believe in that sort of thing.

Any advice?

I'd try to create a big stink about it in the press ("BIGCORP steals indie company's idea!!"), but not actually sue them or anything. This would have the benefit that people would hear about your product, which would benefit you both (though I assume you more because you'll have higher SEO and ranking in the App Store?).

This is the right approach. See if someone like Mossberg at the WSJ would pick this up. The traffic increase would be huge.

If you actually have email responses from them, you might have a sufficient paper trail to make it worth trying. That said, assuming you only provided an idea and discussion, you probably don't have any particularly strong IP claim over their independently developed game even if you can show that they got the idea from you. So, it really depends on what result you want here. You probably won't manage to get any money out of them, but you might manage to get them to add a credit pointing at you.

So this makes them the zuckerbergs of ipad cat games?

Were you at the LA iPad hackathon event right after the iPad's release? There was a team that worked on something similar.

No but I'd love to talk to the guys who did it. Do you happen to know who they are? My email is in my profile.

I launched TikiToki Timeline Software (http://www.tiki-toki.com) in March. It is currently making about $250 a month from subscribers. This month I have also sold a $1500 single timeline license. Hopefully more of them in the future!

I am currently operating TikiToki as a side project from my main business as a freelance web developer. Aim to go full time with TikiToki at start of July.

This will be a bit of a gamble, given that what I earn from subscribers via TikiToki for a full month is less than what I would earn in half a day as a freelance developer!

We do it for love as much as the money!

Edit: If we want to go into detail, I should also add that I also earn about $80 a month from Adsense for a blog my wife and I run (http://www.casualgirlgamer.com) and about $25 a month via Big Fish's affiliates scheme. Peanuts really but it all adds up...

Man, that's great. I'm guessing the big clients would be news organizations. I would aggressive argue that this should be on their homepage as their updated news feed and then have the timeline move by the hour.

Beautiful timeline software is right. Great stuff.

Great looking site and good niche! Can TikiToki connect to Flickr or Facebook and create timelines from media in those sites?

Yes, we have Flickr integration. So you can add your Flickr images to your timeline. Facebook integration is in our roadmap, though not as yet a top priority.

Yeah this is bad ass, the site looks awesome. Great job! I'd totally pay for this service.

what blogging platform are you using for casualgirlgamer.com?

Something I rolled myself using Symphony CMS (http://symphony-cms.com/), a neat open source XSLT driven content management system.

I'm using a throwaway account here to protect my privacy.

I'm currently making between 90k and 110K a month in revenue as a sole employee running a fairly large active Web community (< 2500 Quantcast). The focus of the community is a niche market with very little competition but we fare well by providing good value to our community.

Our revenue sources breaks down as follows:

* 40/50K/month in subscription revenue

* 25K/month in adsense revenue

* 4k/month in other ad revenue (Ebay, Amazon, Viglink etc)

* 30K/month in license and royalty revenue

As the sole employee, my primary responsibilities are all of the development of the platform, all system administration, all marketing and business activities, financials, and I also provide all the primary user support for the site. We have approximately 120 administrators and moderators who are volunteers, and we also have 4 individuals who are independent contractors who receive a set amount every month to lead different parts of our site and lead those volunteers.

Our platform is primarily based on Amazon Web services but includes physical servers from other hosting platforms. Platform as a service providers that we use include Cloudkick, Chartbeat, Geckoboard, Dynect, and SendGrid.

The reason why we have been so successful is we cater to a hobbyist market and operate on a very generous freemium model. Our subscription revenue is solid and predictable, and we experience very few chargebacks because we have consciously decided not to do automated renewals. Our license and royalty revenue is due to licensing agreements we have with third parties who utilize our content and services and APIs, as well as mobile device makers who serve our content (primarily to the Android and iOS market).

All of the above is a full time job and I rarely ever have a day off, although I have a tremendous amount of flexibility with my schedule.

Sounds absolutely perfect! Well done.

Do you enjoy the community? Could you keep running it indefinitely?

For the most part I do. Large online communities have their challenges though with respects to the members. But I am an active participant on the platform with respect to it's content so I do enjoy the community.

I'm really not sure how to answer the question about running it indefinitely. I'm someone that doesn't like to sit still for long so I'd bet that I'll engineer a sale of this business someday in the next few years and move on to scratch another itch.

1) Why are you saying "we" if you are the only employee? 2) What are your monthly expenses?

Just a guess, but between his indep contractors and volunteer moderators (as well as all those members), I'm betting he doesn't feel too alone. I have a tendency to say "we" when talking about running a group I started and it has < 200 people :)

What would you say your monthly outgoings are on hosting, staff etc?

is this a forum web community or something the required a custom app to support the community?

I set up a web dev blog in 2003, at ILoveJackDaniels.com, and after a few months of rubbish blogging starting doing free cheat sheets to download. At its peak, from AdSense and text link ads, it made about $1200 per month. I had to move domain (trademark heat), and moved to AddedBytes.com. Lost lots of traffic and links, unfortunately. Ad revenue dropped over time (around $100 at its lowest), and I recently ditched the text links and adsense to go with CarbonAds.

Dude. Your cheat sheets were amazing back in the day (2004) when I was first getting into LAMP. The HTML entities sheet and CSS sheet were lifesavers. I had them all printed out and hanged up on the wall above my monitor.

Do you have a Paypal donate button/email? :)

Thanks :) - glad they were useful! I've got a paypal thing on the cheat sheet download pages ... http://www.addedbytes.com/download/subversion-cheat-sheet-v1...

Great! Have a beer or two on me. :)

Thanks very much - I will!

I love the internet :)

I can attest that Jack Daniels is litigious and they will actively defend their trademark. Jagermeister will also. And Chuck Norris. I speak from personal experience.

I LOVE jack daniels. Your site was incredibly helpful, I think I have 100 copies of various cheat sheets across all the computers I've used over the years.

Strangely enough, I don't drink JD any more. I prefer Bulleit and Jura these days. And I do miss having a domain that memorable.

Got any spare invites to carbon ads?

Sorry, the invites come from the company, rather than the community. That said, you can suggest your site via a form on their contact page.

Over the year I average $30 a month - but only with about 30 minutes of work a month. It's sad, but I bet I spend more time checking on that income than I do making it. These are mostly old learning experiences and playgrounds for me and I rarely update them.

60% is from Adsense on a sports-related niche website. I make most of that during a couple bursts related to sports seasons - playoffs, spring training, opening day, March Madness, etc. I absolutely stumbled upon that niche from seeing traffic on a related blog post I made. If I really did the SEO and worked on the site I could probably make 5-10 times as much, but I couldn't really grow to other niches.

39% of that is from Amazon affiliate links on a niche gift shopping site. That occasionally lands a sale throughout the year, but it booms from October to early December. This is something I could easily grow to lots of other niches - if I built out the automation. It doesn't really excite me, but shoveling Amazon affiliate links onto dozens or hundreds of niche shopping blogs should be lucrative. I would only focus on the Christmas shopping season though, unless you targeted different holidays like Mother's Day.

1% of that is from a few photos on iStockPhoto. That's where I actually want to put more of my effort going forward. I like the challenge of taking good photos and I like the idea of making my photography hobby self-supporting. But I also think the stock photography (and video) I produce will have a longer sellable life than anything else.

"If I really did the SEO and worked on the site I could probably make 5-10 times as much, but I couldn't really grow to other niches."

Ditto on this. http://islostarepeat.com doesn't get much love these days...

>> If I really did the SEO

I'm in a very close situation. What would you do, exactly? Pay for an Adwords campaign? Canonical URLs? Improve the load times of the web?

Until about 2 weeks ago I was the largest creator of stores on CafePress. I was earning decent residual income on existing stores that I had put up, but due to some external forces (some in my control, some out of it) I got my accounts shut down by CafePress. I still expect to earn some residual income for the next couple months on things I had already sold.

I had just started to seriously follow this path but I was earning between $100 and $375 per month in commissions from the test runs of my software that creates stores. I am in negotiations with them concerning turning my accounts back on.

I plan to expand this into a series of blog posts about lessons learned both business and technological. Upvote if that sounds like something you want to read.

Your software sounds clever. Are you confident CafePress will let you use it? How automated is the process? You're planning to use it yourself, correct, not sell the software? A blog post on your lessons learned sounds interesting, definitely.

I have been using it myself. I'm also looking into using it for other people as a service. I'm not sure how clever the software itself is but increasing the throughput was fun across as many as 8 slicehost slices. I did discover all of the pitfalls of this type of approach, which I'll cover in my series of blog posts.

My internal process is extremely automated, as in I wasn't involved directly unless something broke.

There is some politics involved also, including Osama Bin Laden stealing my retirement.

I'm working on a new site to sell my designs directly and these blog posts will mysteriously coincide with the launch of that site.

As to CafePress reinstating me: They were letting me use it at lower upload levels and when I got things really going I was a big piece of their API traffic (like half). I'm confident that they will see the value proposition to them, particularly after the projected numbers I worked out yesterday (which I will share in the posts).

Until 5/1 I was making about $1,440/mo from google adsense on my site dodgit.com and a network of other sites I had purchased from flippa. Then I received an email 'your google adsense account has been disabled' and Google seized about a thousand dollars from my account. I had been using a personal account and a brand new account I set up for a business I wanted to build and sell (acceptable, per google's TOS) but they shut down both. Google's claim was that the website content was lousy and the multiple accounts were forbidden.

To be honest, the blogs did have some crappy content. I would be happy to pull the ads off the bad blogs and put them back on dodgit, a service I have lovingly maintained for 7 yrs. Sadly there appears to be no way to appeal to Google once they drop the axe.

I'm pondering next steps. I know a few people who work at Google but haven't contacted any of them yet. I've played around with adbrite and some other ad networks, but none of them seem to generate money the way adsense can.

I've also created a number of websites that generate revenue over the years, that aren't dependent on adsense in any way. I'll definitely make more!

I had something similar happen to me.

It took a while, but I've come to realize that affiliate/product marketing can make a lot more money. Think about your audience, can you sell them a book explaining how to do something, and what existing affiliate products like those on Clickbank could you sell them?

$1,000 per month from two ATM's I own. The money is easy, but finding good locations that don't already have one is a complete bitch.

I'd be curious to hear more about how this works. Do you just contract out the work/money stuff to a bank?


This would be an interesting problem to solve algorithmically. If you could get a map of ATM locations and population density.

Or just look for the gun shops and liquor stores.

How did you get into this buisiness? Sounds really worthwhile for a few places I vacation to often.

I looked into this a while ago, but if I were to fully outsource it, it didn't make sense financially. Out of curiosity, do you use your own money in the machine and service it yourself? Do you own the machine or lease?

Short Version: Hosted Web App making just under $10,000/mo.

Using a throwaway account for this because I'd rather not share our numbers publicly yet, but in about 2.5 years since our hosted web app went live, we're generating just under $10,000 per month in revenue. That's working on it part-time for the first couple of years and, more recently, full-time.

It's targeted at developers/designers, and the growth has been very slow and steady. There's never been a break-through moment as revenue has grown at an average rate of about 3.5% per month since we launched.

You say "our" numbers. Is that $10k/mo split among a larger team? $10k/mo for eight people is very different than for two.

We have multiple people involved, but I'm the only one working on it regularly. We aren't paying any dividends yet, so the majority of that goes to pay my salary. At some point, we'll begin paying dividends to everyone. That's a long way of saying there are multiple people involved, but I'm the only person getting anything out of it at this point.

I own about 70% of the company and have done the majority of the work by myself thus far. (That's beginning to change.) My investor/business partner put up a small amount of money to get us off the ground, and he helps handle more of the business side of things so that I can focus on design/development. However, I'm still pretty involved in every aspect of the business.

Are you referring to business income/revenue or personal income from those businesses?

Of the 4 businesses I've founded or co-founded (BIG Folio, APF, NextProof, and 2 Tablespoons), the first two generate approximately half of their revenue from recurring fees (we also have setup fees). That adds up to high 5-figures per month for each (more in a good month). Of course, they both have the highest overhead in terms of labor and servers. For me personally, the recurring revenue results in a monthly draw/dividend that is now higher than my (good) salary. I spend most of my time (40 hours between the 2) on these two.

NextProof is a purely recurring/transactional revenue business. It currently makes in the low 5-figure range per month on subscription fees + about the same in transaction fees. User base is growing at about 3% per month. Overhead is fairly low (mainly hosting at EngineYard) and I work about 5-10 hours/week on it. I take a quarterly draw/dividen on this (not too big). As someone else said, if I really worked on some SEO and properly ran some campaigns/tests, it could probably grow at 10% or more.

2 Tablespoons is my newest venture and, so far, generates about $30 a month from one iPhone app (epic, I know). Launching a restaurant website service this month. Hoping to take everything I've learned from these other businesses–and from HN–and generate some solid recurring revenue without too much overhead. Haven't thought about goals, but getting to $2k/month by the end of the year sounds reasonable.

How do you acquire NextProof users? 5-10 hours a week is great for a website that generates 5 figures a month. I would love to hear more about this - do you blog?

We cross-sell NextProof to people when they sign-up for a BIG Folio site. We also rank well for some search terms that wedding photographers use. We run ad campaigns on occasion–AdWords and industry forums work well, FB ads don't.

I blog infrequently but mostly about Rails or iOS stuff. I don't blog much about startups/business. Only a few people do it well IMO and I'd rather spend my free time with my family–not blogging.

Is this your site? http://2tablespoons.com/

If so, Cilantro sounds interesting. One of the things I keep reading is that the restaurant industry is super resistant to change and adopting new technology. Or it seems that way.

How are you going about circumventing that issue? Or minimizing it, at least?

Yes, it is. Cilantro was originally going to be a "DIY Groupon" that you can embed into your own site and Facebook page and take payment via PayPal. But, after doing some research, I've come to the conclusion that white-label daily deal stuff is the wrong way to go.

So, I've decided to go after the website market and solve the Flash/PDF menu/no mobile/crappy website problem. Plus, I've succeeded in the niche website space already.

The cool thing is, I can still add coupons and daily deals into the website system–and with less friction.

To answer your question, I'm circumventing resistance to change by wrapping it into something every restaurant has to have (a website) and removing as much friction as possible (mainly time by making it so easy to create/update).

Very cool, thanks for the update.

I'm somewhat skeptical of the idea that restaurant owners think that the website should not have flash/pdf menus/no mobile etc, why? Well, look at all the crappy websites that exist out there, right?

However, I completely support your endeavour because I hate all those restaurants.

Could I get your email? I'd love to discuss this further and see if my product can help out.

Should be in my profile.

My thinking is that (a) there is a lot of restaurant turnover anyway, so new restaurants need sites and (b) every smartphone and Flash-free tablet sold increases people's awareness of their sucky site just a bit.

I generate about $1000/mo from an iPad app I wrote (that I haven't updated in a long, long time) and then between $5-10k from iPhone user interface design/development tutorials that I sell.

Dude, I learned so much from this one blog post of yours: http://flyosity.com/tutorial/crafting-subtle-realistic-user-...

I will definitely be grabbing some of those tutorials this Summer :)

Thanks! That's the most popular one on my site.

This is awesome, just what I needed. I can see how it's making so much money for you.

I'm curious, what do you do for traffic? Just SEO?

Don't do anything for it, don't even have it linked off my main personal site & blog cause I keep forgetting :)

Which ones, if you don't mind me asking?

I would love to hear more about this as well. How do you advertise? Do you just have the one free tutorial and the two paid tutorials (also sold as a bundle), or do you have others that I'm not seeing?

Don't advertise at all, just announced it through Twitter. Only have the 1 free one and 1 paid bundle for now, but working on more.

Sweet, thanks. How long did they take you to build? How long have you been working on them? Is it just you? Or do you have partners?

Just me, I do everything (design & code, ha!) and it takes about 4-5 weeks to fully do one. I'm working on more, just need to find the time to crank them out.

I started a ROM site when I was 14, it eventually got really popular and thus got quite a few youtube videos and good search engine rankings. These days the ROMs have been long removed so traffic has obviously fallen, however due to the links and still decent search engine rankings it gets roughly 100k page views per day. End result is that the ads give me around $2k to $3k a month. Pretty happy with that since I no longer work on it and it's basically just rotting away.

Wow. Why not move the domain to an anonymous registrar (or 301 all the traffic to a new one), host the site on offshore bulletproof hosting, and put the roms back? That's a huge chunk of change you're probably missing out on.

Too be honest because it felt wrong to run such a site and know you were a huge part of the piracy problem. But yes, I basically decided that I didn't want $20,000 a month. At the height of its time it served 2 million page views a day!

These days I'm just thankful for everything it taught me, I can safely say that my programming skill comes from this one website and the trial by fire that is to scale a website to such high traffic and bandwidth usage.

Yeah, the first time you take a site from nothing to large scale is awesome. :)

Would it still feel wrong if you geared it specifically to abandonware roms? Perhaps something to consider.

Are you using Google Adsense?

I did in the early days, but they eventually banned me. (still paid what they owed me, though)

I hear from a friend still doing this that adsense is pretty bad these days. More graphic ads convert better and pay more. So ad agencies like Matomy(Xtend), CPX (basically any yieldmanager platform) performs a bit better. Of course, if you can get into platforms such as Tribal fusion then you'll make a killing as they have really high paying ads.

About $7K per month in Android app sales.

(EDIT: Was at $15k per month last October before the competition started getting crazy)

About $2.5K per month hosting websites.

Then consulting income - I keep consulting because I feel like at any moment, the Android Market ranking algorithm will change or competition will wipe me out, etc, it's just to day-to-day to walk away from good old consulting.

Could you elaborate on the "hosting websites" bit? What scale and size of sites are you talking about and what sorts of clients are you hosting? Are they all just your consulting clients?

I work with another developer to do web development projects, and I always felt like hosting would be an easy way to get some additional income from our clients. He maintains that it's just too much of a systems administration headache to be worth it.

I host a couple hundred sites on dedicated servers. Mostly local business sites.

Hosting was hands down the dumbest move I ever made. I pay tons for servers, I'm fielding "I get too much spam" support requests several times weekly. Managing backups is a nightmare, then there's the endless responsibility of keeping the sites up and running. It's like jail I pay to live in.

That being said, I'm SLOWLY moving everyone to Rackspace Sites. Once everyone has moved, I think many of my headaches will be gone. Their email system is great and gets rid of 75% of my support requests.

So your issue is mostly with email-related support issues?

I'm working on something and considering if hosting will be a bigger headache than it's worth and if I can get away without offering it. I'm thinking I can't and that it won't be bad anyway.

I expect to keep things limited in scope so don't anticipate the issues you're having but I'm concerned that I might be overly optimistic.

Yes. I would say email is the #1 headache by far. Going with Rackspace Cloud and their email solution is helping A LOT. I'm moving my biggest accounts over, and they seem much happier, and I get virtually no support requests from them anymore regarding email. Amazing relief.

What are your problems with backups? Does Rackspace Sites solve them?

For 1 - it's expensive how I have it setup. I have dedicated servers and am running full-server backups nightly with 5-day archives. It takes more dedicated machines to do this. I need to find another solution.

With Rackspace Cloud Sites, they say they backup regularly for me, yes. They recommend MySQL backups on our own etc, but it's got me covered for the catastrophic situations I believe.

You might consider Amazon Web Services and their EBS snapshotting offerings. (I know.. I know...)

We run our Web infrastructure off an NFS cluster which has all storage on an EBS volume. We take snapshots from that.

$300-$500/month for a Windows desktop application. I wrote it to help out my mother-in-law since she found Photoshop too complicated to do what she wanted: placing text on pictures. Turned out to be a great learning experience on how to sell things online. See it here: http://www.pmesoftware.com

How do you market it? Adsense?

Yup, using Google adsense. Took a couple of months to tune it. That's really it. I tried 'seeding' the product by mentioning it photo forums and the like but it wasn't worth the time.

Did you mean "How do you monetize it?" (if you meant AdSense) or, did you mean "AdWords" if you really meant "market it"? AFAIK, AdSense is for making money from your content, while AdWords is for marketing your products / services.

I'd also like more info on this - I find that the hardest part of launching anything is connecting my super-cool app with interested people.

Roughly $1,000 a month in revenue from http://isitnormal.com. Expenses add up to around $300 a month for hosting on linode and paid moderators. Given traffic levels, I feel I should be able to do better than this somehow. Still searching for the best way to monetize all the super-weird (but interesting!) UGC content.

The ads on your site, the ones that show up in a lightbox that you cant close and show a little pre-OS X stopwatch icon for the mouse? Really, really, really annoying. I left your site and don't have a reason to come back.

how did you promote/market this initially?

Hmmm... It took quite a few years to build up decent traffic. At first I just asked friends to submit some questions (like http://isitnormal.com/story/-1/) and I seeded some myself. I posted the link on various forums and submitted it to "cool site of the day" type stuff. The concept has always resonated with people and I managed to get a few semi-decent sites to link to it early on.

New content started to slowly trickle in. Eventually search engines found the existing content. That search traffic led to more submissions. Rinse, repeat.

Most of the traffic comes from search now. Apparently people search for "is it normal that I ____" or "is it normal to ____" a lot. I didn't really anticipate this when I started the site in late 2004, but I guess I got a bit lucky with the name in that regard. However, if I had to do it all over again I'd probably pick a subject matter that's easier to monetize. iPods and cars instead of fetishes and phobias.

Last month my revenue was shy of $35,000, pretty minor expenses, and it's basically passive.

I sell a combination of e-books and physical books, I have a few dozen titles.

Any generic advice on selling ebooks? I'm preparing one and it will be the main offering of the site besides an established forum.

I do most of my volume through e-book reader sales like kindle. A lot of people do this whole "launch formula" thing with e-books, but I've never tried that, I just pick topics that gets decent google juice and let organic search bring in people to the sales site. I also pick topics that aren't covered, or at least not well cover, on amazon and the like.

I have seen the typical affiliate style 'how to make $100 a day on autopilot from adsense' e books around for a while and sold via click bank and the like. I take it yours are more mainstream?

Are you then saying that your sales channel is Amazon and selling PDF/kindle books. Any examples your willing to give of one of your titles?

Sure, take a look at the techzing link in the sibling comments, I talk about several of the titles in that interview.

I looked you up on the Kindle and didn't find anything. I'm guessing you use pseudonyms? Any reason why?

I've recently started working on a book that I intend to sell via Kindle. Any gotchas, pointers, things-you-wish-you-had-known and etc will highly be appreciated?

Price for volume. Also, no book of mine that had established competition in the search rankings of amazon ever sold very well. YMMV.

I co-own a web app which makes about $70k a year total, which I split 50/50 with my partner.

Living in a relatively expensive place, I'm satisfied with that for now as it enables a modest yet comfortable standard of living. The usual benefits - flexible hours, can work in any location with internet access, complete choice of technologies, etc. go a long way.

We could do a lot better, though and I'm aiming to do that. The current business I have can't grow due to the unique situation (it's based on another company's API, and that company is atrocious in every way imaginable - including developer hostility). It's been a blessing, though and I'm looking to build some great new stuff this year.

Please share more details!

$0 per month for my one-hand keyboard layout software, blah. Recently switched from a 'branded' domain to a exact-match domain, looking forward to seeing how that improves my results. Blog + regular content is next on the list.


It's based on the same muscle memory as two-hand typing, so any two-hand typist can learn to type with one hand in minutes. Good for a programmer with a broken arm, for example.

I would love to see a live video example on your landing page. It took me a long time and several clicks to figure it out.

Thanks, definitely on my shortlist.

As a programmer who tore my right distal radial biceps tendon and had surgery to repair it, I approve this message.

Exactly the kind of person I'm trying to reach! How did you manage while you were recovering? Did you search for any alternative layouts or guides?

I did and I found some options that have to do with alternative keyboard layouts, usually folding the keyboard in half using a hot key. I was lucky in that I had partial use of my hand and since my injury and surgery were so high up on my arm (as opposed to a direct hand injury) I wasn't as held back as I might have been otherwise.

I also looked into hardware solutions, but those are expensive and more for a person who isn't going to recover (longer learning time, more $$). At the time I also considered seeing if I could write something for my cell phone that would make using the keyboard on it with one hand easier too.

At the time, I certainly would have purchased a software solution if it was reasonably priced (maybe 33-50% the cost of hardware solutions).

Cool. Undercutting (plus doing it better than!) the expensive hardware solutions is my main goal.

I had a total of one customer until now, and that is not recurring so, 3 bucks. I was happy that day, though.

http://thathigh.com pays my rent. I haven't touched in quite some time, either.



im building a site in the same niche as yours, we should connect.

sure, email me dave@thathigh.com

About $2K-$6K a month from my blogs. (Plug: I'm writing a book that will help people do the same: http://technicalblogging.com)

Yes, I can't wait!

[I make about $800 - $1200 / month on my blog, hoping to increase it with Antonio's help :)]

How much uniques do you average?

About 125-150k per month.

Wow, you earn an order of magnitude more than I with only double the visits, and still see room for improvement.

how are you making money with it?

I'm selling an ebook on math -- more details about the process here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=870015

A question for you. I have a technical articles site, but I write something fresh around once a month, and my articles are massively long; would you recommend breaking them up and releasing parts more often?

Generally speaking, it's entirely possible to be successful with longer, more infrequent posting, however increasing the number of posts gives you more chances to get noticed (as well as more opportunities to promote your content). Do keep in mind though that while post frequency and length are important factors, consistency and having a solid strategy that justifies your schedule matters even more.

I was earning approximately $10-15k annually from affiliate marketing from 2002-2006 (formerly giftsforaguy.com), but I didn't spend the time I needed to stay up-to-date with my search rankings.

When I tried to start over with a more general gift affiliate site in 2009, I found that the game had changed so much that it would likely take over a year to get back to the earlier level using organic SEO.

So I've put it on hold, hoping to relaunch using social discovery for customer acquisition.

I make a few thousand a month from http://www.w3counter.com (freemium) and http://www.w3roi.com (no free plan).

The sites have similar revenue despite the freemium one having over 1000 times more total users.

These look great, and I'm surprised I've never heard of them. How do you market them?

I usually don't. W3Counter is big enough that it spreads itself, and if it grew any faster, I would probably have to hire someone to help me keep up with it.

My web games portal http://fstr.net earns about $5 per month. I put in a couple of hours a week looking through the games list and picking a few to become 'features'

If I put hours in I can do better - If I submit links to gaming sites it can earn a few dollars a day :)

I couldn't figure out how to scale the traffic, so I've left it on autopilot while I try building other sites. I have a blog that earns about the same and am working on a new idea now that I hope will be 'the one'

My overall goal is to build an autopilot site (or portfolio of sites) that earns ~$90/day. Then ... become a sci fi author.

(LOL ... damn you Tim Ferris! I wasn't miserable in my work-a-day life until I read your damned book - two years later I'm still trying to achieve those dreams of freedom!)

About $100 per month for http://giftyweddings.com/ -- a website that lets you make your own wedding gift registry/list (not tied to a specific store). At this point my maintenance consists of answering about one email a month.

I was making around $1,800 a month in AdSense revenue from The Online Slang Dictionary (and thesaurus) - http://onlineslangdictionary.com/

The site was collateral damage in Google's Panda update (which was hoped to reduce the prominence of content mills, etc. in search results) so that number has been greatly reduced the past 2 months.

About $10k a month from an old Facebook quiz app. I haven't touched the codebase or worked on said app in 8 months.

What's the name of the app, and what's the source of revenue?

how do you make money? that seems pretty high for advertising? did it go viral or something?

http://ridewithgps.com is signing up around $4k a month of recurring (yearly and monthly) users. Exciting to see what happens when we start promoting our premium services, and, excited to see the yearly people get rebilled starting in 10 months...

I have 4 apps on the Mac App Store. It took me a total of 2 months to develop. I make roughly $3300 in sales per month. After taxes and Apple's 30% cut I make roughly $2000.

What apps are they?

For fear of competition, I'd rather not say. They live in the education, lifestyle and graphics category. Two of them are ranked within the top 10 of most paid in many countries.

hm. do you have an email we can contact you at?

Sure smartieants1 at gmail.com

I generate about $700/month from a web-based timeline tool called Preceden that I built in about six months in my spare time [1].

Preceden's been in maintenance mode for about a year now, as most of my free time is spent working on a new web design tool called Lean Designs (formerly jMockups) [2]. Lean Designs isn't profitable yet, but it's getting there. Preceden, meanwhile, continues to grow organically. Lean Designs is more of a swing-for-the-fence project, but I've got high hopes for it.

Plan is to transition to full time sometime in the fall of next year.

[1] http://www.preceden.com

[1a] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1114834

[2] http://www.leandesigns.com

[2a] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2497266

6k-8k a month through small-time consulting. I've got one big customer, and two smaller ones. Good work, but it doesn't scale well.

I know it's recurring, but I thought the OP was asking about things that "sell themselves", that is, no effort on your part to make an extra unit of money. Could be wrong though.

I'm in the same boat, it's a comfortable way of life but I always struggle with how to bring it to the next level.

Make a product.

Would like to eventually, just need to have an idea pop that I really believe in and that I see a future in.

No you don't.

What do you need?

Just do something.

This thread may sound silly, but there's some truth here. Time you spend waiting for the idea is time you waste actually implementing an idea. PMF doesn't happen in your head, it happens when interacting with the market. Get something together, pitch it, refine it, repeat. You'll get there.

I would suggest starting the "idea" with data about paying customers. There's a lot of data out there. Find a market, figure out what they need/want and build a POC. Figure out if your market will pay for it and garner feedback. You might just find that your market will reveal the elusive "idea" for you.

This seems like one of the best "right answers" to the "doesn't scale" problem. You can sell a product over and over. If it's critical to someone's business or well being (according to some definition of well being) then you can sell it OVER and over.

What type of consulting?

I average about $300 a month from app sales of a paid app and an ad-supported app. (This month is looking better, for some reason)

[Edit: I didn't actually say it, but these are iPhone apps]

On average, almost all of my income is from app sales, and not from ads or In-App Purchases.

I had a Lite version of the paid app, but that seemed to do more harm than good.

I have In-App purchases (both to unlock some extra content and remove ads in the ad-based app, and to unlock each feature of the paid app into the free app), but these have been rather slow to sell (maybe 1 or 2 a week?)

My best paid app sales month was about $900. (This was actually Christmas and a strong early January, which was all reported as January) No other months have come close (although I've only been up since December, really)

I DON'T advertise of any kind. Even my official website gets zero traffic, so I don't bother to keep it up to date.

P.S. I honestly expected my apps to spike in sales and then drop down to a couple a week. In fact, all of my apps continue to be very steady. Even my highs and lows tend to be distributed across all three apps, implying (but not proving) that it's the market itself moving up and down, rather than anything I'm doing.

[EDIT: Responding to replies:] [EDIT: Responded to wallflower]


-I don't openly connect myself to my apps, mostly because they are a little embarrassing. Maybe I'll write a blog post tell-all.

-They started earning steadily from the beginning, almost entirely through searching for solutions in the app store. I should point out that the paid app is actuall $2.99 so $300/month is really only an average of 4 sales per day or so.


-As for getting started in the iPhone business, I came into it as a young but seasoned programmer who had an idea for a market that was somewhat established, but under-served. Since then, my opinion on that market and my initial idea have completely changed, but I don't have any better ideas for iPhone apps at the moment.

As for rules and regulations? I haven't registered a business yet, so Apple treats me as an individual developer. I tried to hide my real name when I set it up, which half-worked, but took like a week.

I've run into IP infringement cases for my apps, and have even had a DMCA take-down against it, which was resolved very quickly by both sides (at the expense of my app becoming hideous). Apple actually reviewed and approved my changed app within 2 hours of me submitting it, which was awesome. I actually only had a single day of zero sales through all that.

I had an app take about 2 and a half months to get through review. Apple is MUCH slower with free apps than paid apps.


The graphic design/presentation was absolutely awful for a long time. Now the app itself is decent enough looking (no where near "Apple" pretty, but the logo is still awful).

none Completely unrelated to your responses, I'm planning on submitting my fourth app this weekend (which is an optimistic estimate, to say the least).

Congratulations, I'm curious what is the level of the graphic design/overall presentation of the finished product? Without revealing it.

> -I don't openly connect myself to my apps, mostly because they are a little embarrassing. Maybe I'll write a blog post tell-all.

I know some prominent iOS developers who have a throwaway LLC where they test stuff. There is no shame in making what the market wants. Remember the ideal customer for most iOS apps are teenagers with their parent's credit card. Most of them are willing to drop $1 to look cool(er) to their friends. It's all about making someone look interesting or cool. Or momentary, interruptible entertainment. Not about business productivity.

Mind if I ask you how to get started on iPhone business? (skill, rules, regulation, etc)


Thanks for sharing Larrik... Or should I say "Professor" :P

What are your apps? I didn't see anything mentioned in your profile about it. And how long did it take for your apps to start earning at this steady level?


Generates about $125/mo from 30-60k pageviews per day.

Nice. So is the money from the mobile app?

Yeah, it was built by a couple friends of mine. They started advertising there when AdSense kicked us off for being apparently-pornographic.

Between 3000 to 5000 a month USD spending about 10 hours a month on support. Last year, made about $40K. Nothing to sneeze at, but nothing to get too excited about either.

I'd like to know what you do for your normal paycheck (and how much it is) if an extra $40k a year isn't anything to get too excited about. Isn't that close to the median household income in the U.S.?

About $250K/year doing contract work. Declined a lot recently so probably closer to $175K this year.

What industry do you work in?

I really want to know what kind of support work is that.

I make close to $1k/month on a few iOS apps and games, as well as an OS X app that I released a few months ago. One is a meditation timer, and the game is an elf bowling clone.

We're working to improve both products and fix bugs. It's not easy to stay on top of it as an indie shop, especially in between consulting gigs and new product development.

I also make another 300-500/month from ebooks and other digital products. Working on some software that I hope will make this number triple.

I once had a collection of poker-related software that did in the low 6 figures per month. Unfortunately recent government actions kicked that in the nuts.

Is it because you're US based?

Unfortunately it's more because my customers are. If I could just move I would have to have maintained that level of income. It's hard to pass up a few hundred grand a year for not much work.

I believe it's more that the majority of the market was playing on the sites that were recently shut down. Less online players and play opportunities would correlate to a reduced interest in playing aid software.

I think he's referring to some of the recent domain seizures from a handful of major gambling sites.

Wouldn't that be a good enough reason to move?

I make a couple thousand a month selling affiliate iPod transfer software on a popular post on my blog.

An online dating tips blog that I started over 3 years ago under a pseudonym very recently started bringing in a few thousand a month from affiliates as well. SEOFTW.

There's lots of potential to bump up the revenue on the online dating blog, but I'm finishing up my book on design, so that's more important.

I used to make about $1,200 a month from a website with dating advice on it, via affiliate sales of dating products.

It started off as a Digg-esque site for the vast quantity of dating-related articles on the net based on some custom Perl I hacked together, but I quickly realized that while that was getting me linked by 'dating experts', the traffic it was bringing in didn't convert, where traffic to very generic articles ("How to meet girls at the gym") converted much better.

I tried to make sure it was updated every day, and finding, sourcing, and writing the articles took an hour a day. I ended up selling the site for ~ $16k when I needed some money to pay a tax bill quickly.

There are now so so so many sites farming this kind of content, I think it'd be very hard to reproduce in this field. That said, the affiliate commissions are pretty good - one guy would pay you $40 for every $20 ebook of his that was sold as a result of you (because he figured you'd sent him a paying customer who'd end up spending a lot more with him).

Getting about 60$ a month with http://udeployer.com/ - considering the amount of work I put into it I'm definitely opting for more than 60 dollars, but better than nothing... at least I can have a fancy dinner once a month :).

Continuously expanding with some marketing, hoping to reach the $500/month mark someday.

Experiment with 10x the license fee just for one month. This is clearly targeting bigger teams / enterprises / SMEs rather than home users. $19 -- what were u thinking?!

I just started this in January so I thought I would give it some time to spread the word out with the low-pricing, then maybe make it more stable with a monthly fee.

Unfortunately I was selling this for about $200 and I wasn't getting any buyers at all, so I was forced to switch to a lower price.

looks pretty interesting, but I think your homepage needs some more explanations. Is this for local networks only, or can I use it to install software across the internet? We have staff in 6 cities, many working from home with company supplied computers. I would like a solution like this to keep the virus software etc, up to date. You may want to look at a monthly charge instead ($9.95 per month) or a charge for an account with so many licenses - 10 PCs for $10, 50 PCs for $25 per month, etc.

This works for local networks only. You're the first business that I came across that needs to achieve installations across the internet. It could be done but it's not the scope of uDeployer.

What do you suggest to add as explanations? I figured the homepage is pretty exaustive in telling what the program does.

$3000 from ads on Iconfinder.com

Oooh, this is the first icon site I've seen that doesn't suck! :) I think you should definitely market this more, there are probably many other people who could benefit.

I agree. At my last job I used iconfinder extensively, easily the best icon site I've come across.

Yeah, the potential is bigger for creating revenue streams. I'm working hard on getting there.

Thanks a lot :-D

How do you add the icons and the related information in your database? Do you do it manually? I am always confused about how people manage to put so much of data on the web with inconsistent formats on their website.

Ive used your site a ton recently so hope I've helped!

Thanks a lot

$7k/month in salary

Doing what exactly?

Running the website in my profile. Buy low, sell high, supply chain management, answer my email, SEO, SEM, the American Dream, etc.

"sell high"

Make about $40/mo on a couple iPhone apps (one paid, one free with a pay what you want in-app purchase). Mechanical engineer but taught myself iOS programming in my spare time for fun.

For those curious, the apps are "US Tax Receipt" (free) and "Candy Counter - The Candy Jar Estimator" ($0.99)

Around $350/month

$100-$200 a month selling virtual weapons in SecondLife (Used to be around $800 a month a few years ago)

$200 a month with my two iOS apps developed using Unity3D. Each took around 1 week to make! Seriously was worth the $300 license, I doubt anybody could match the development speed natively.

Just hit $200/mo from http://weddinginvitelove.com. App launched in January, and I launched paid accounts in mid-April. Not the best for one month, but not the worst either.

I have a blog on environment and green living (http://www.connect-green.com) which brings in around $20 a month from adsense, have a tutorial aggregating service (http://tutmash.com) which is pretty new and haven't started to make any thing considerable.

I do freelance web development. Even though not consistent, it's my main revenue source.

I believe there are very good opportunities to make a good income from online businesses but in my case, my acute procrastination issue is preventing me from making anything considerable.

About $300/month from a GPL script. A PHP class, quite popular, about 7 years old and still going strong. I am surprised nobody in this thread gets recurring income for sharing open source code. I mostly receive donations. I also sell licenses, from a few dollars to hundreds. I publish about three releases a year, and don't spend that much time working on it or supporting it. I shall not forget to mention that publishing this code got me a lot of freelance gigs. Bonus fact: it is rather enjoyable to go to a contract interview where the interviewer has actually used my code.

I made between 12k-20k a month for a little more than 3 years as an online poker player. And that was only "working" on average between 4 and 5 hours a day.

Sadly I am an American and that is no longer possible.

If you were making that much money, why couldn't just move to another country and make the money there? Is it illegal to do so?

Most likely, because there's no Americans left to play against. Only other sharks who've moved overseas :)


Basically zero for me. One question though is at what point do taxes become an issue, in terms of (in the US) the IRS becoming interested and ultimately how much they affect income?

You are required to report every dollar earned. Tax will be typical self employment taxes- your income tax rate + (approx 15% * the first 106K you make)

bliss (http://www.blisshq.com) hovers in the $1k - $1.5k bracket at the moment. It still is under active development though.

The main sales channel is SEO, but I have also had success by trying to integrate, both technically and marketing-wise, with other products and services. Referrals from blog reviews and forum posts also help a little. Adwords is very low, and is something I'm trying to improve all the time (thanks patio11 for the blog posts).

http://tweetclaims.com pulls in around $100-$200 per month. If we get big press (like a blog post), we will get a spike and triple that. I literally haven't updated the code in a year. Runs like a champ and does what it's suppose to.

I would love to expand on it or market it more, but time does not permit right now. I've started playing with Google Adwords, so we will see how that goes. We are also working on getting the site redesigned.

None. ;-)

Here as well, but after hearing what some of my friends do, and seeing stuff online being done, I keep thinking there's got to be a way to get in on that.

Will people really give away the sources of their income? I'm guesses not, since it's possible they could end up with a ton of competitors from it. (Which is why I'm not mentioning what my friends do. It wouldn't be fair to them.)

They will. I tell everyone I know about affiliate marketing and how I make money online, but I will never show anyone any of my websites.

It's too easy for someone of low skill to completely copy your operation. Hurting your own bottom line isn't good for business.

If you want it badly enough, you'll figure out a way to make $1/day online and then scale it to $100/day. If you don't want it badly enough, you'll get nothing and that's exactly what you deserve. It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding when you see the results.

maybe re-ask the question as a poll and put some ranges.

Actually, I guess that's not true: My bitcoin mining is currently making me about $200/month, minus power expenses of about $40. It's on a rapidly downward trajectory, though.


1) 377 * $20/month subscriptions http://www.postjobfree.com/premium-membership

2) ~$1000/month in AdSense

Expenses: ~$4000/month

I average $30 month on a fishing blog, I'm pretty passionate about it too so i don't really consider it work. All the revenue is via google adsense. I've been trying google affiliate but in 6 months have made zero on it.

The site is built on wordpress so i've been thinking about some kind of amazon affiliate plugin but i haven't pulled the trigger yet, haven't read any outstanding reviews on amazon plugins either.

I made $162 from an iphone app called Tank! last month, and it has been on the store for about 4-5 months. It is a simple clone of Atari Combat that was built with phonegap and Canvas + Javascript. I charge $2.99 per app sale, and that seems to be the sweet spot. http://robkohr.com/iphone/tank/ (pricing is wrong on this page)

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