Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Successful one-person online businesses?
246 points by World_Peace 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 146 comments
This question was asked a few years ago (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22858035) by committed, 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.

> Have any recent trends affected your business?

I ran a collection of websites that I built (see bolted together) with PHP, MySQL, and nginx. Most of them were curated media sites which made income with advertising revenue. A few services, most notably was a dating site I made for Mormons, which the church interestingly enough used a blind broker to buy and shut down within a year of going live.

I mostly ran the websites in to the ground with my custom wannabe frameworks on $5 dollar VPS's and lost interest. 2021 I sold the remaining three income generating websites for just shy of 1mill US.

I started the projects with a second person but ended up buying out their interest and running solo. I consider it success because I managed to last over a decade making on avg $400,000/year gross with that business "umbrella".

Advertising and publishing changed and continues to change by leaps and bounds on a yearly schedule. A lot good a lot bad, but its the same business over the years.

Any tips on how to run a site on a 5 dollar vps?

I built an MVP on a 5 dollar VPS. But I had to recently upgrade to a 12 dollar VPS as some of my analytics process were being stopped because of low memory. Aside from writing better code, I found out that using linux utils/app via system calls is the most effective solution as nothing I can write can ever be even remotely as performant as something like grep.

I am following a similiar path to yours but my stack is a bit complicated.

Python + SQLite on VPS

Vue/Nuxt + Auth on Firebase

The process is extremely hacky and experimental, so it might change. I am not planning to use a proper backend as the Python scripts communicates to the Firebase via its SDK. That is working for me at this moment and eliminates writing boilerplate API code.

> Any tips on how to run a site on a 5 dollar vps?

I don't know... from what I've used of Python it is pretty memory heavy and doesn't do well left alone unsupervised. I could be wrong but that was my experience trying various Py web frameworks.

My app servers were all $5 VPS with only nginx, PHP/php-fpm, and Memcached. PHP was cached, nginx assets were cached, and data was cached in RAM with Memcached which was updated from remote DB server on cache expire.

I would then stack as many of those behind a load balancer as needed (nginx as reverse proxy basically) and scaled up to serving 100's of terabytes of data monthly and billions of page views.

So while it was "$5 VPS" it was really a small cloud of them behind another $5 vps as a load balancer with a $25 database server supporting the data. Still cheaper than Amazon for equivalent loads.

Thank you very much. The only thing I can think of while reading your comment was, "wow this is elegant."

Have you consideres productize/templatize this stack and selling some kind license/supporting deal? Although a more marketable solution will be a redis + node based stack.

> "wow this is elegant." > Have you consideres productize/templatize this stack and selling some kind > license/supporting deal

uhhh it's really just a basic install of freebsd and a bunch of shell scripts! As far as I'm concerned anyone with a bit of time could google fu themselves in to production.

I am always happy to, and have, contracted to build similar setups for other people for CDN delivery, etc, but that was just another day in the life of a sysadmin basically.

Email in profile if you have any other questions.

Thank you very much for the inspiration. I appreciate your insights.

Did you use a dedicated database from the start of your project? Or did you use a simpler one like sqlite and then scaled up to your current architecture when you got more users/load to your site?

I started with MySQL from the beginning because it is the DB engine I knew.

Over the years I have played with sqlite and postgress. I keep coming back to Mariadb for my web apps.

Not OP, but I started up a project running Postgres, a Python backend (with FastAPI), and a NextJS frontend on the cheapest DigitalOcean droplet. Hosting+domain came to $7.68/mo

I can't say it's had very much production load testing, but using the site myself it seems to work fine.



Thank you for sharing.

I use mainly flask and restful flask. However restful flask has been deprecated, so I was really interested in FastAPI. Then someone pointed out the number of open issues on the FastAPI project, so I got spooked. Flask maybe has quite a few frameworks for implementing rest API. Not sure what the future holds for Flask.

As you pointed out

> A backend comes with all sorts of baggage: databases, managing user data, authentication, backups, and increased server load.

With Flask being a microframework and barebones, going through this list becomes a chore unless you have built dozens of webapp and have some kind of template.

So I kinda gave up on web-backend entirely and moved towards firebase. Most of the complicated stuff will happen on the VPS side of things and will be communicated to firebase via the SDK.

I always liked fastapi and didn't have any problems, so your comment on issues made me check. Currently there are 16 open issues.

However, I believe (based on vague memories) that there used to be a ton of issues on the fastapi repo that were basically support requests. Going throw some closed issues, it seems that these were closed and/or converted to discussions.

Yeah that sounds like a good choice for managing complexity.

Probably a trade-off with cost I'm guessing. For my project I was trying to get the cost as low as possible, since it's just a side project for me.

Interesting point about the open issues, I didn't notice that, but does seem like it could be an issue for the longevity of the project.

I run a SaaS that makes between $1000-$2000/yr on a $5 VM. My operations are as follows:

On the VM:

- Nodejs + React SSR

- Nginx

- Certbot to manage my SSL cert

- Integrated with Grafana's cloud service (free tier)

Outside of the VM:

- Managed MongoDB cluster

- API health check's every 3 min with email alerts (I use multiple uptime services to check from different regions) - DB backup cron jobs, backups are stored in 2 cloud providers

- Service desk for customer's to send queries/raise issues

- Alerts if CPU/RAM usage is too high (never got an alert for the past 2 years)

I also nuke the VM once a year and re-provision otherwise you have to maintain the OS, do cleanup etc.

Future work:

- Find way to backup my DNS records

- Probably need to monitor the SSL cert expiration in case certbot breaks


That is really awesome.

> nuke the VM once a year and re-provision otherwise you have to maintain the OS, do cleanup etc

That is really interesting. What are you using to re-setup your entire infrastructure after purging a VM? How do you manage the down time between one vm purge to setting up the next one.

I would love to know, going beyond the VPS what is your total infrastructure + maintenance cost.

Thanks :)

I set things up again on the new VM manually. I have a runbook for it, usually takes me 30 mins or less.

To not have any downtime I keep the old VM up and attach a new public IP to the new VM. I then update the DNS records and after a while when the new IP is mapped to my domain I then stop the old VM.


Managed Mongodb cluster: $9 but I share it between multiple side projects so let's say $3

API health checks - free! I use digital ocean and fresh ping

Service Desk - free! I use Jira

DNS: Usually $0.3

DB backups: within the free tier on both cloud providers. I have it set to only keep the last x backups so this should always be free

Cron job to run the backup: I have a serverless function for this, still within the free tier

SSL cert - free because I use let's encrypt

Docker image storage costs: <$1

Total ~$9.5

Can you please say the services you use for DNS, Docker image storage?

DNS - I use GCP as the domain was purchased with domains.google because I get free email addresses which I can receive and reply to from my personal gmail (e.g. support@saasapp.com). I'm not 100% sure if this setup will work with another DNS provider.

Docker Image - Since I'm running this most of the operation on AWS I use ECR

Truly incredible. Thank you very much sharing.

It's very simple - avoid unnecessary and overcomplicated "cool" frameworks/technologies which modern development is infested as old house.

I run heavy traffic EC sites on $20-30 VPS and can't imagine why you would need more, unless you do data analysis on same node.

Fancy things like Vue/Nuxt are cool, but do you actually need it?

Measure how long a response takes, shave that.

Count how many responses you're providing for a single request. Reduce them.

See what can be done in parallel or out of order, do that.

Check requests through time of day. Eliminate overload.

Sqlite is cool but you'll find Postgres will perform a lot better on average and not use much more resources (it only needs like 16mb of ram by default...).

> it only needs like 16mb of ram by default

TIL. Thank you very much.

I always wanted to invest more time in postgres, but I just find the Windows environment to be clunky when working with it. Like psql isn't supported in a windows environment (last time I check few months ago), and setting up the postgres environment on WSL was quite annoying as you have to figure out port forwarding.

I know setting up a postgres on a local machine directly or even without docker may not be a mature decision, but that is the hacky reason, why I keep going back to sqlite, as it is the easiest solution to get started with a database.

If you're using an IDE, many have DB browsers built right in (all jetbrains IDEs for ex).

But hey, nothing wrong with easy, usually. :)

I honestly started with CSV files and google sheets as my database! People think I am joking but Google Sheet is a zero setup always on database and the API is friendly for basic operation. Also you have built-in version control.

Once I started to feel limited by google sheets, I upgraded to SQLite. I will invest in postgres once I hit the ceilling with SQLite.

Nonsense. For read heavy content sites Sqlite will obviously perform better.

That depends on the read patterns. Sqlite doesn't even support some features that will make very simple aggregations much faster on postgres, even with the same indexes.

For purely sequential reads of data from disk, sure.

is there anything preventing a continuous "rinse and repeat" cycle of creating Mormon dating sites for purchase and shutdown by the church?

To the point, I offered them the .org of the .com they were buying, and they were not interested. I never did it, but wondered what would happen if I just... booted it up. Maybe I'll try it some day.

I was inspired to do the same, however, there are now at least 2 dating apps that cater specifically to Mormons.

I think the time when the church thought they could buy out that market segment, has passed.

There were other Mormon specific dating sites/apps while I started mine. I might have been the only one aggressively buying print ad space on BYU Provo campus with nice photography and taglines like "Meet Your Five Cow Wife Today On [...]" so I maybe added some visibility. And they saw my ad spends directly I would assume.

Makes me wonder what other types of sites/apps the blind broker might have instructions to buy out.

Heck just populate it with LLMs.

I'm really interested in what you did, because it sounds like what I'm trying to do!

Are you able to help me with these questions?

1. How did you decide which services to start? Did you have any criteria on what types of services you did and didn't want to start?

2. Was all of the income from those services advertising? Or were you charging users directly for some?

3. After it was built, how did you market a service and attract users?

Lot of work to keep the ad money coming in or was that just a Google AdWords?

Ads were the easy part once I stopped trying to run the ad containers and servers myself. When I started it was long waterfall chains of terrible javascript loaders which ended at Google typically. When header bidding came out it made the advertising world orders of magnitude better for end users, ad buyers, AND publishers.

> orders of magnitude better for end users, ad buyers, AND publishers.

Well, not end users. They're getting ads.

But I would assume that ad buyers and publishers have exclusive improvements. After all, it's not like the ad companies took a substantially smaller cut. It either lowers the cost to ad buyers or it increases the revenue to publishers. Since it's pretty much the same number, it doesn't seem both can be true.

>Well, not end users. They're getting ads.

I think advertising is a powerful way to support 'free'ish content and there are ways to use advertising tastefully. People who don't want to participate have options to opt out and are obviously welcome to not make server requests.

I'm supposed to accurately predict whether a website will serve me ads or not, before I've ever connected to it?

Right, not sure why we didn't think of that sooner.

Always wear a helmet when browsing the World Wide Web.

> it was long waterfall chains of terrible javascript loaders

> Well, not end users. They're getting ads.

Why not? Would you prefer ads, or ads with terrible javascript loaders?

I would prefer ads with terrible javascript loaders, as they are easier to more completely and reliably block.

The ads still use javascript; they are just not as "terrible" (a.k.a. waterfall).

The waterfall ones were easier to detect and block, IIRC.

Lol what are you talking about? Any improvement in conversion rate is going to help the publisher, the network and the ad buyer.

I’ll just ignore the part about what you said about end users other than to say it’s arguable.

When I say 'end user' I guess I am talking about the sheer amount of Javascript loading and computation they no longer had to put up with jumping through waterfalls. Header bidding fixed that which meant that javascript based ads loaded in a significantly more efficient and sane way. Privacy, etc is obviously a different issue.

> Any improvement in conversion rate is going to help the publisher, the network and the ad buyer.

Since ad buyers pay per conversion, I don't actually think it helps them to increase the conversion rate.

Don't be dense. If you pay $5 per conversion, and earn $10 per conversion, you make $5 profit as an ad buyer. What happens if you have 2 conversions? 3? 20? You make more profit.

Alternatively think about the flipside, how in the world could you possibly think having a lower conversion rate is good for the ad buyer? A 0% rate?

If you pay $5 per conversion, it doesn't matter if you have 100 impressions per conversion or 10 impressions per conversion. You are pretty conversion rate insensitive.

I mean, obviously it's different at the extremes like 0% vs 100%, but I doubt header-bidding produces that great an effect.

how were you able to get that type of traffic and revenue without spending serious money on ads?

How did you sell? What was your multiple? Did you use a broker?

I was approached directly in both sales. I personally never used a broker-- just kept a lawyer and my accountant handy. The last sale was roughly 3x multiple.

> most notably was a dating site I made for Mormons, which the church interestingly enough used a blind broker to buy and shut down within a year of going live.

That’s our Hitler!

I've collected 53 stories from past HN discussions: https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/wjRD/solo-founders-with-...

And another batch: https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/81714acf995e4968bb220684...

There's also @levelsio who's killing it with multi-million / year solo business: https://blog.kowalczyk.info/article/de943f80c7924745abf9405f...

Wow, I asked this questions 9 years ago to find inspiration to build my own successful one-person business. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7367243

I am happy to report that I am now running a very successful one-person business and killing it!

Only joking... I'm still reading HN posts about successful one-person businesses for inspiration and working for the man. Time does fly though...

Do you regret not trying to start one?


Never give up

I have run my one-man business for 13 years now. https://www.virtualhere.com . Back then I saw the market moving to the cloud and thought bringing device access there was needed. There was no one really doing this cheaply and easily. I posted a link to my software on the raspberrypi forum when that board came out and started getting my customers immediately that way. It took a year to write the initial software. Ive been adding updates and features ever since. I have made several million dollars in profit since then and its still going strong. I dont really have any competition at my price point .

I've been using VirtualHere since 2015, with multiple paid licenses.

It's a great tool with infinite use cases. I'm glad that it's a successful business for you!

This looks fantastic. I sometimes do audio mixing and I dread the day that I leave home for a session and forget to throw my iLok in my bag. I see someone’s already proven it works with that. Exciting!

That’s awesome! Congrats.

Are there any feature requests / product directions that have been requested, that you’ve rejected / neglected? For better or worse.

Solo building is often about hard decisions on what NOT to do. And with a generic piece of software like this, I imagine there are plenty of niche operators asking for “just one thing to make it perfect for xxxxx”

Yes generally i reject any request if its customization just for one customer. I try to generalize the change by e.g adding an API call. Also i get requests to keep xp/win7 support which i reject often.

The biggest thing I learned is to basically do nothing on the product, unless its needed. I used to be tempted to change things/add features for fun and for a challenge but its a mistake. The reason is it might introduce bugs. Too many customers and big companies rely on virtualhere now day-to-day and the software is complex enough that its hard to tell if the bug was always there or just from the new addition. Im very relucatnt to even upgrade the compiler unless i have to for a new OS etc.

> Also i get requests to keep xp/win7 support which i reject often

XP sure but win7?

Microsoft ended extended support for Win7 in 2020 and security updates in Jan this year. Seems reasonable to stop supporting it for third party, networked software.

What skills are needed to make this kind of low level application? Nitty gritty driver and kernel knowledge? C, C#?

Yes kernel knowledge and a lot of plain C. Surprisingly didnt have to read too much of the USB spec for the first few years.

Oh, the VirtualHere website does a really good job of hiding the fact that it's paid - I did all the research and was really excited about a convenient solution until I found out that it's $50. Whoops.

Though I guess I should've expected that on a comment thread about businesses, heh~

But... there's literally a "Purchase" link in the top menu bar. Should it have a big blinking box saying "IT AIN'T FREE"?

> there's literally a "Purchase" link in the top menu bar

Yeah, that's... how I found out? It actually took me around a minute to find that once I started looking for some sort of download. Maybe I just scan websites differently than you do, but it was somehow difficult.

Gumroad has one FTE (me) and 21 part-time contractors.

I write more about it here: https://sahillavingia.com/work

It was a natural outgrowth of working remote and then async to lean on the hourly contractor model.

It’s a little tough to scale, so we built some custom software to do payroll, contracts, etc: https://flexile.com

That is incredible! What hours on average do the contractors put in per week? That's such an interesting story, I'll have to read your book!

I read your book not long ago, thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the best business books I've read in a long time.

not gumroad user , but reading your stuff . question do you use your own payment/billing processor or are you using somtihng like stripe / paypall ?

For the past 3 years I've been running https://bettersheets.co/ Originally as a side project while I tried to start and run SaaS. But people kept buying memberships (lifetime deals) and I just kept adding content to it. In the past year I've hired a ruby on rails developer to help me scale, on a part-time basis.

And I've been making products within the Better Sheets umbrella myself in sheets. The developer is helping to add features to the site, but if/when they leave I can continue running completely solo. It's been my full time income for the past 1 year, and I expect to continue running it for a decade or more, at this rate.

I'm continually learning more ruby on rails to keep building tools baked into the site. And will ultimately combine Google Sheet integrated tools into Better Sheets instead of keeping them separate as it is now.

Better Sheets started as a purely content site. I started with with a carrd page and gumroad payment. Now it's all types of contents, courses, blogs, and tools. As well as a library of tutorials.

The recent trend of AI has made my extremely excited to keep building. I built a Google Sheets AI assistant: https://asa.bettersheets.co/ and will continue to work on it until Google releases their own and probably keep working on my even with a Google Sheets AI from Google. As I imagine I can take it in a iterated/pivoted direction once I see what they do release.

The total revenue each year, with roughly 40% going into my pocket each year.

1st Year: $34,000

2nd Year: $67,000

3rd Year: $95,000

Thanks for sharing your revenue, I didn't see anybody else do that here.

Happy to share. Its a rough journey for everyone.

What is the % of SaaS vs Lifetime deals now?

Omg the MRR or SaaS part is like less than $200. LTDs make up 90% of my revenue.

Yep! I run ExtensionPay, a service to allow browser extension developers to take payments in their extensions: https://extensionpay.com

I made it after Google shut down their Chrome Web Store Payments system and I realized how annoying it was to take payments in extensions. So I made it for my own extensions and also for anyone who wanted to try monetizing their extensions with payments. The included library is open source if anyone is curious: https://github.com/glench/ExtPay

So far it's made extension developers around $175k. Pretty cool!

I bought an HN extension w/ extensionpay recently. Cool that it's a one-man shop.

While this doesn't directly answer your questions, its worth mentioning that people interested in this topic may also be interested in the Microconf community:


Microconf is dedicated to mostly bootstrapped SaaS founders and has a lot of members and content who fit the description above

The conferences are fantastic. Go to one. Rob also runs this podcast:




Usefull. Thank you.

also indiehackers.com has few success cases examples and some relevant info too

For anyone who's interested in answering, I'd be curious to hear your thinking on how you keep focused and avoid rabbit holes, particularly with build vs. buy decisions.

I've had an intentionally-small business that I've been working on for a few years now, but I keep getting distracted by my desire to work on the stack itself instead of the core business offering. I've done a very good job of replacing Shopify with WooCommerce, Google Analytics with Plausible, exploring about every static site generator as a replacement for my slow CMS, automating my social media content, etc. I've done an absolutely shitty job of growing the actual core business. Particularly for those of you coming from jobs in a corporate environment, how do you keep your focus on your core offering instead of spending all of your time "fixing" your tech stack?

> but I keep getting distracted by my desire to work on the stack itself instead of the core business offering

The answer should be obvious. You are selling the end product, not your tech stack. For an early stage company there is zero benefit to wasting time on pointless engineering purism. You should use as much SaaS and other pre-built software as you possibly can and spend 100% of your effort on your core offering.

> You are selling the end product, not your tech stack.

I think the mentality is that by having a better tech stack the product will be better and also more "future-proof". Personally, I always spend (waste) time upgrading all the libraries to the latest versions and maintain the code up to the current standards. Maybe it doesn't really improve the product, but it gives me confidence that I am always ready to implement whatever features or most recent improvements in technology I could take advantage of.

As someone who recently had to do some work on a project running node 0.12, you are not wasting your time. (I can’t even use destructuring assignments, because JS didn’t have them back then. -_-)

It sounds like you’re either avoiding sales or just not interested in the product/space. Either way, the answer is force yourself to focus on sales. If it doesn’t invigorate your interest, let it coast while you work on something else entirely. View tinkering as an absolute waste of time. If you enjoy it, tinker on something else so you can perhaps point to net new growth for your efforts.

I have a comical lack of focus and love to go on coding expeditions. I don't want to be productive; I want to enjoy what I do.

The core business makes enough. Not a lot, but enough. I treat this as permission to do things that don't help the bottom line.

I've recently started thinking about new features in terms of: - Increasing revenue (by bringing in new customers or reducing churn) - Reducing my support load

That's basically all I care about now as a one-person business. Too much support load means I get burnt out and can't work on the stuff I enjoy (coding). Too little revenue means I can't continue operating the business.

By thinking about the features in these terms it has helped me be clear about which features are really important to me right now. So if my support load is too high, I work on features that will reduce it.

I think you already know the answer, but here it is: when running a SaaS, you should be either closing deals or shipping code that is being paid by these deals, especially in the early days...

Please note that you have to get an actual deal (i.e. contract/payment) before you start coding. I've fallen way too much in the trap where I didn't get a written commitment to "if you have this I will buy". This has never worked for me.

Edit: some additional clarification

That sounds like something I would do (and I have ADHD). It's a sign of boredom. If you're not interested in the actual "core offering" (regardless of how excited you are about it, or etc.) then distractions will be harder to ignore.

Only thing that worked for me was stimulants.

I suggest to perhaps change perspective. If you enjoy tinkering with stack maybe it's yours? And it's better to sell something you like instead of forcing yourself to do something you don't?

I run Bear Blog (https://bearblog.dev) which is a privacy-centric, minimalist blogging platform.

It's been running for over 4 years with about 10k active blogs. I'm the sole founder and maintainer. I write about it at https://herman.bearblog.dev

It pays me an above average salary and is mostly unaffected by the recent financial trends. I have however been dealing with a lot more AI generated backlink spam since ChatGPT hit the internet.

Hi, first of all congratulations, it is a service I love and I follow some of the blogs hosted by you.

I've always thought about wanting to start a mini blogging platform similar to yours but I've always been stopped by this: how do you moderate the content? if someone posts something illegal, how does it work? if illicit messages or photos are posted, of whatever form, isn't it a big deal to get out and let the police know it's not your fault? is a simple disclaimer of reponsibility enough?

thank you very much!

They have a pretty efficient manual review process. https://docs.bearblog.dev/review-process/

I dont use Bear Blog, but i love the blogs on that platform. It is what the old internet used to be.

Example - https://tiramisu.bearblog.dev/2022-11-13/

I really love bear blog, I've seen it several times now on HN. But how do you earn money from it? Donations?

edit: nvm. I saw the paid upgrade feature :)


I run https://next-episode.net for about 18 years now.

It's a website + mobile apps that help users track what they're watching (TV shows and movies).

I wouldn't say trends over the years affected the business much, but I'm playing with the ChatGPT API currently to try and improve some aspects of the functionality and maybe add some new cool AI powered features - so there's that.

I've been using next-episode since I saw you mention it here a few months ago... it's great!

But (as a non-premium user) I noticed I can't see my entire movie watch list. Was that a recent change?

I would have liked better transparency about not being able to see all the movies I added before I added them, but I realize as a non-paid user I pretty much just get what I get.

Please get in touch through the "contact us" link on the bottom of Next Episode so I can investigate what is happening.

There was no recent change affecting the movies list (other than some design tweaks which wouldn't limit the number of movies you see in your list).

I'm loving all the individual GPT-like creations, of this past quarter 2023... myself, been playing with image and text transformers since Holidays 2022, and am extremely interested in individual use-cases [from my premise and IMHO that entry-level computer jobs are effectively DONE by end of 2023, including multimodal document and image transformations and commoner customer service -type jobs].

Definitely an exceptionally-diminishing amount of users will be able to create increasingly-complex content which will demand higher wages for an even smaller subset of users/creators of GPT/image -type "creation."

How are you individually using it to increasing television/movie suggestions... beyond (hey GPT "What would you recommend if user A & B liked X but A & B did not agree on show Y nor Z?")?

I'm still experimenting different things with it so I can't tell you how exactly I'll end up using it, but yeah, ideally it should go beyond what you mentioned ...

How does this make money?

There is premium offering, though it does not say what those extra features are https://next-episode.net/premium

I've made a screenshot of what a users sees once they start the trial:


The most important Premium features are listed there.

Yeah, ads (for free users) and Premium membership which removes them and unlock features.

Which features? Sibling mentions not knowing what the features are and then you didn't elaborate.

Here is a screenshot of the list of the prominent Premium features:


Would you count a hybrid conference [0]? It's 100% indie and self-hosted in the sense that I wrote my own ticketmaster for it. Ticket registration flows are more complicated than meets the eye, and it was an interesting problem to solve.

I personally consume payment notifications from Stripe or PayPal, and the rest is processed in-house: updating sales records, generating QR code tickets, sending invites to a private conferencing server, and so on.

[0] https://handmadecities.com

> Ticket registration flows are more complicated than meets the eye, and it was an interesting problem to solve.

Could you share what some of the biggest challenges were? Something like handling concurrent purchases/carts, or?

> Concurrent purchases

This is definitely one of the challenges, since the majority of ticket sales happen in bursts.

Another big one is Stripe or PayPal making mistakes: duplicate events might be sent to my server but that doesn't mean someone bought two tickets. Perhaps an event failed to be sent at all. Or the payment event is fake (rare, but must be managed.)

A final example is that somewhere in the registration flow there's a network glitch: perhaps a confirmation email wasn't sent because the email API was down. How do you patch up these "holes" in a customer's record ASAP? All of these problems might influence and amplify each other too.

Anyway it's definitely solvable but requires programmer effort to scale and fail / recover gracefully.

I run BeeLine Reader, which has B2C tools (browser plugin, iOS extension) and B2B licensing. Our core technology, which powers both sides of the business, makes reading on screen easier, more engaging, and more efficient.

I handle the customer service and outsource the upkeep of the B2C tools. Most of my time is spent on bizdev for the B2B licensing, which is where most of the revenue comes from.

We have seen some slowdown in new conversations with B2B partners. Companies that are laying people off have a hard time justifying new outside partnerships/costs, even when those partnerships are structured to increase revenue and profits. But we've still done some important deals in the last couple months, and we're still moving forward in talks with companies large and small.

Some larger companies have even said that it may be easier to structure a deal now, since they otherwise would have been pressured to hire new employees to achieve a certain goal. Now they aren't allowed to hire, so the door is more open to a partnership with a company like BeeLine Reader. I imagine pricing conversations will be more constrained, however.

1: http://www.beelinereader.com

I develop https://webtoapp.design on my own and have a handful of freelancers for translation & some repetitive tasks. Basically I turn websites into hybrid apps (some native components + WebView). I started in December 2019 and I'm now closing in on making a regular european junior developer salary (3.5k/month).

I use Flutter which has saved me a ton of time - which is very limited in a solo business of course :)

I'm experiencing good growth currently, so I can't say recent trends have negatively affected me. I did notice a sharp ~20% reduction in Google traffic about 10 days ago, but that could be related to all kinds of things.

It will be interesting to see how the recently improved (push notifications) iOS PWA support will affect my business. On the one hand I'm stressing about it, on the other hand PWAs have existed for 10 years or something and barely any regular consumer has one "installed" on their smartphone. But who knows, maybe the improved iOS support will lead to more usage & customer education by businesses.

It's due to the March 2023 Google core update. Basically, they do these updates periodically, which can cause swings in organic search traffic.

Not a great article, but explains a core update: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-rolls-out-march-2...

Thanks - totally forgot about those since I'm no longer active in the internet marketing forums where these were a huge deal!

My rankings haven't changed much interestingly, just impressions. But might just be some quirkiness related to the update indeed.

I run https://keygen.sh by myself. I built it about 7 years ago and started running it on the side. I went full-time on it in 2020 when it got too big to run on the side. As for trends -- the market is a bit slower these days due to the current economic environment. I've noticed smaller businesses have had a tougher time buying (and staying on), while enterprises have had an uptick.


Started 5 years ago next month.

Flight/hotel/car rental search, plus deals that I find for Australians.

Running it is actually fairly easy. It started as a deals site, then I added in some whitelabeled software, mailing list, fb page, and frankly it's a numbers game - more visitors = more ads/affiliate revenue.

It's not huge, but it's been interesting at least, and very little in the way of expenses.

Huge fan of your site. My wife is Australian, and moved here to be with her. I used your site when purchasing my one-way ticket!

You're very kind, thank you! Glad it was of help!

I run Traverse (https://traverse.link/) - an app which helps students learn faster using mind maps, flashcards and notes.

It's been running for over 2 years now and provides steady recurring income - I've prioritized continuity over exponential growth. Have reduced operational work to a minimum now so I can spend most of my time working on marketing strategies to make it big ;)

I've posted before and never share any specific details.

I run a small one-person business in a niche industry selling a 'widget'. Profitable from day 1, pays all the bills but is not the sole income.

Got started by seeing a need in an adjacent industry and building the product. I do everything myself: dev, qa, support, everything. It's not too bad at this size, and I can probably scale and continue on my own at 10x the demand.

Word of mouth keeps things rolling so far and recent trends haven't impacted me much.

Someone else posted and I second, spending (wasting?) time on the "stack" instead of the product offering or marketing is easy to do and rarely benefits things. It's hard to do things like advertising or product refinement which I don't find interesting.

>Word of mouth keeps things rolling

In my own blue-collar version of this [i.e. starting my own residential electric service after an IBEW apprenticeship, licensed] W-o-Mouth was gold. I never advertised, not even from day one. The second I walked into local builders'/realtors' offices, my services were in demand and kept busy by turning out good work.

I will warn anybody thinking that running ANY kind of business is some kind of "luxurious relaxed mocha bong latté," I just want to warn you that you will work very difficult situations, with increasingly-difficult customers, the higher your hourly / contract rate becomes — there is a "sweet spot" that I would recommend not surpassing, and you'll know this when awakening to dread, daily for months.

Re: your last paragraph: definitely "feature creep" is not a user generator nor retainer [i.e. do not bloatware your simpleware!].

I've started as a developer and now "CTO" at one of the leading companies in its' niche. I've created several widgets (except chat ) which I'm itching to reassemble as SaaS. Is your widget self service or requires you to implement for customers?


Started that company about 10 years ago. It's a social network for online publishers. Thankfully, sites join mostly through word of mouth and advertisers mostly set their campaigns to renew monthly, so I usually focus on product development.

I also recently launched https://www.forourschool.org

A free platform for schools that they can use to run their activity based fundraisers (e.g. Read-A-Thons). I build it for my kids' school but made it so any school can use it. Now that my kids' Read-A-Thon is over (increased their donations by almost 50% yoy!), I am working on updates to it and hopefully bringing it to more schools.

I have a small one-man business handing registrations for juryed art shows (think white pop-up tents in the park full of artists selling things) that's called The Online Jurying System at http://ojs.biz. I built it on CakePHP, PHP, MySQL and VestaCP hosted on a Digital Ocean droplet.

It's currently using PayPal to handle the credit card payments but I'm in the process of adding an option to use Stripe.

The accounting is pretty simple, I keep a portion of the artists registration fee and the art show gets the rest effectively making it 'free' to the art show itself.

Thanks for asking and posting the old link. I for one never get tired of these types of questions.

I don't have an online biz, successful or not. I find these inspiring and depressing. Depressing because I feel like I never have any ideas.

Everyone always say look at your pain points or scratch your own itch. I don't seem to have an itch and as for pain points I just seem to go the flow and don't think of anything as a pain point.

Hey I feel your sentiment. I have lots of ideas but feel too lazy to actually follow through. I've had a number of half-assed attempts at online businesses and if I persevered they might not amount to much but I'd at least be able to say I tried.

> Everyone always say look at your pain points or scratch your own itch. I don't seem to have an itch and as for pain points I just seem to go the flow and don't think of anything as a pain point.

Same. Maybe we should start a business to help people and businesses find pain points and help them scratch it.

I’ve been running https://pollylingu.al as a single person company for a few years now.

beautiful UI!

My business is consulting but it is 100% online and is providing the majority of my income. I got started by working in consulting companies, building a blog and connections online and then just went at it. I do Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Power Apps development and consulting. My companies site is https://integrated.ee

can you share how much you make a year?

I'm building a highly curated remote job board called Remote Leaf[1] for remote job seekers. I've been doing this last few years as a side project, I'm planning to go full-time on this very soon and focus on it fully.

[1] - https://remoteleaf.com

That guy Maciej

I run a good and old tech blog[0] in Brazil for almost a decade. It's been my main income source since 2020, and I'm making more than I did in my last job in a traditional newsroom.

I actively avoid programmatic/invasive ads. My three income sources are: subscriptions (without paywalling anything), direct advertising deals, and content deals with other, bigger publications (they get priority to publish my stuff first, I publish later).

Last year I started an English-written blog[1], translating the best from my original, pt_BR one, in an attempt to reach a bigger, international audience. Slow start, but I'm fine with it — none of my business was an overnight success.

[0] https://manualdousuario.net/ [1] https://notes.ghed.in/

Coderpad was a one man show for a while I believe.

I have started UXWizz (https://www.uxwizz.com) as a side-project in 2013. Since the end of 2020 I went full-time on it. It is successful (profitable), but definitely nowhere near the potential at the moment, as I struggle a lot with the marketing side.

The revenue varies, but averages somewhere around $2k/month (which is good and mostly profit, but not enough to live from it alone in Amsterdam).

> Have any recent trends affected your business?

I thought the GDPR and privacy laws would make more businesses switch to self-hosted analytics platforms, but from what I can see, not that many really care about it enough to ditch sending data to 3rd party services.

I am still hopeful about the future, almost all customers really love the product once they use it. It feels like I am always so close to "making it work", but this feeling has been there for a few years already now.

I am also trying different things, like creating some more niche variations of the product which are easier to market, so I built https://wplytic.com, which is a trimmed-down version of UXWizz meant specifically for WordPress (fewer features but with less resource usage, better WP integrations, easier installation, cheaper pricing, improved privacy, etc.).

I had few ideas now and then, but I kept always thinking about one step that held me back - how do I get the right T&C and Privacy policy? Need to mention I'm from Poland and I guess it must be way different by law standards than it's in the US - take the GDPR alone but then a lot of hassle with local tax office... It just seems quite costly to just try an idea.

What should I do to get it right? Is it possible to get an US or other entity just to be able to have some kind of relaxed paperwork?

Not sure if they support Poland, but https://www.avodocs.com/


... as long as she "cuts me in @ 25%+," I'm down.

I've actually had this conversation with a SWer friend before, and she wouldn't budge over sharing 0% ["I have an EXPENSIVE lifestyle" she twits]!

LOL. Never spent a dollar on such stupidity, and would only do it for profit-sharing with some hard-working debutante =P

SWer is sexworker for anyone interested. But it could also be SoftWare Engineer.

Funny how that works.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact