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Ask HN: How much recurring income do you generate, and from what?
313 points by xjones 1876 days ago | hide | past | web | 279 comments | favorite
The last thread by the same name got a lot of attention, but seeing as it's over a year old it would be interesting to hear from new people and also get updates from some people who posted in the previous thread.

Previous thread: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2567487

I generate about $1K-$2K a month in passive income. I spend approximately zero hours on maintenance every week, and I bootstrapped it while holding down a full-time job. It took an extra 5-10 hours per week for about a year. Here's what I did:

a) Got a job at a major software company for very high comp. b) Spent an extra 5-10 hours a week working intelligently at my full time job; got promoted. c) Invested the salary, bonus, and stock from my high comp. corporate job in real-estate and tech-heavy index funds, and reap the (literal) dividends passively.

b) is optional; even without the promotion, I would still make enough money to generate almost all of my passive income via investments. Not bad for zero hours per week.

A stable income has allowed me to buy a house at the bottom of the housing market, which will appreciate at about 1% over inflation; my other investments typically do 2-8% over inflation (especially retirement funds, which grow tax-deferred). All in all, at least $1K per month, spiking to much more. At the rate I'm continuing to invest, I'll likely double that monthly return within 18 months.

Sure, this is all pretty volatile, but no more volatile than entrepreneurship, and with much better worse and average case scenarios.

Best of all, these investments will, in the long term, outpace inflation, which is more than can be said for selling software or tech stuff, which tends to depreciate in price over time (after all, the marginal cost of software is zero, which depresses prices due to competitive dynamics).

I've been saying for a long time now that people with the ability and motivation to make money in tech could probably easily do as well or better in other avenues. Tech entrepreneurship has its own rewards but on average it's hardly easy money.

Very interesting! I've been wanting to investigate this kind of thing for a while but just don't know where to start. Can you point me to any resources that will give me a good grounding in investment? In what way did you invest in real estate? How do you choose what to invest in? Would love for some direction here, would be very much appreciated

My aim is actually not to spend very much time on investing. Investing is not my area of specialization and I want to enjoy a high quality of life. I take advantage of division of labor to monetize what I do best--software development.

In a past life, I read many books on investing, primarily Jack Schwager's Market Wizards and my personal favorite, Reminisces of a Stock Operator. There's a lot of interesting stuff about the markets--game theory, behavioral finance--but unless you're going to spend a lot of time on it, the markets can be approximated as casinos for which you do not have an edge. Best to put your money in small and mid-cap index funds.

Similarly, most consumer real estate investments take a lot of time to manage (rental properties), so I've focused on my home, something which I would have to maintain anyway. In this climate you can get a loan so cheap you're best off putting as little down as possible and investing the rest. But you may want to buy a house within the next year or so as a hedge against inflation and to take advantage of the unholy combination of low interest rates and a relatively cheap housing market. If the Euro cracks or the Fed ends up printing money, we may find ourselves in an inflationary environment. If you have a fixed rate loan, you're golden--your income will rise with inflation, but your monthly payments will not, cheapening your debts.

Overall, my advice is to focus on setting up some compounding investments very early in life. Many people dabble in all kinds of things, like entrepreneurship, as a youth because they're fun. It's important to have hobbies, but for things that really matter, you can't afford to fool around. For example, I could join Y Combinator straight out of school and spend two years at a startup eating Ramen, or I could join Google and eat Ramen. If I did the latter, I'd have $50K in my 401Ks and up to $150K in other investments. Invested wisely, proceeds from those two years will give you $4M of today's dollars at retirement, even if you don't invest another penny--a nice safety net which will allow you to do riskier things later on in life. Entrepreneurship is a lottery ticket which is likely to fail. There are only so many good businesses (born of confluences of macro trends) out there, and it's hard to be in the right place at the right time. You could try to get lucky and end up scratching a living out of hardscrabbble, or you could use your talent to rise within the few companies which are actually printing money, and then let your dollars work for you.

I completely missed this response until now, so I'd just like to thank you for putting the time in to write this up.

    I'd have $50K in my 401Ks and up to $150K in other investments.
401k is a pension-type fund, right? I'm from the UK, so not entirely sure of the terminology. What would you put the other 150k into though?

    or you could use your talent to rise within the few companies which 
    are actually printing money, and then let your dollars work for you
Those are very wise words.

It's less about the money and ALL about creating and building and changing. In other words, I don't want to build someone else's Lego set - I want to create my own.

I think you're missing the point. The point is to spend just a few years building passive income through investments such that the dividends/distributions it throws off are enough to cover your living expenses. At that point you're free to do whatever you want and you can work on your startup or ideas without having to worry about running out of money or fragmenting your time with consulting.

I see it now, thank you.

A little over $2700/mo with Planscope (https://planscope.io), my SaaS product that's been out since February. I'm averaging about a 8% growth rate month to month, so very excited about how things are going.

* Bootstrapped

* Raised my consulting rates to free up more time for products (= same amount of consulting income)

* Most new customers come via referrals from existing users and organic traffic (via targeted blog posts)

* Wrote a complementary book targeting people who aren't necessarily looking for PM software (http://doubleyourfreelancingrate.com), and upselling Planscope through that. Extremely successful so far.

great job!

These are the sort of success stories from you regular joes that are more common than the typical "1 billion dollar acquisition" startup.

A couple of questions if you don't mind:

a) What technology stack are you using/did you use to develop planscope?

b) How did you deal with scalability?

c) Are you doing everything by yourself? Support, Development, Marketing, etc.

Thanks in advance!

a) Ruby/Rails on the backend, Backbone.js on the front

b) I really don't have any scaling issues. I have about 120 paid customers, and on a given workday half of them login at some point. It probably takes quite some time for the average B2B product to run into scaling issues (unless you're doing some sort of extreme number crunching or something)

c) I do everything. 20% of my product time is spent coding, the rest is marketing. Support whenever I need to (usually less than 30 mins response time if I'm awake)

Feel free to drop me a line with any other questions, I'm pretty much an open book :-) brennan at planscope.io

thanks for the answers! And yes, I will definitely drop you a line if i ever get my site up and running. I'm still in development mode now. :)

Again, congrats on your product and hope it gets better in the near future.

This looks great! I'll be checking this out. I've been in the market for something new/different/some kind of change with my freelancing project management.

I love the layouts on these SAAS products. Is there a central resource you guys all use for design? Any recommended reading? Websites/blogs?

The winning formula: Headline that keeps people from clicking the back button; subheadline that briefly describes the product; a few bullet points, testimonials, or short blurbs of text describing the benefits of the product; supporting imagery (screenshot); clear call to action (sign up!)

I did my own design, but there are plenty of themes out there that could incorporate the above formula and do just as well (or better).

Thanks, And how about for the Saas software itself? I note a lack of pure black text, it's always a dark shade of gray...softens the look nicely. Little touches like that, anywhere those tips come from? Any blogs, forums or such to follow on the design of saas software, specifically webapp deaign?

Check out theme forest, as a coder with very little design skills I generally grab a design from there Then once you are sure people want the product hire a design er to overhaul and improve your design (or you can do it yourself)

Check out http://themeforest.net/category/site-templates - lots of quality ready-to-use templates there

This is a great success story. Would you mind sharing what your conversion rate is on the 14-day free trial? Have you experimented with asking for a credit card upfront? Also, was there ever a time you thought about giving up?

* About 20% of people who sign up for a trial end up paying.

* I don't have a CC paywall, but people I trust who convert much higher than I do recommend it, so I'll probably A/B test a paywall soon enough.

* Nope. There is no such thing as a singular product launch. If you launch, and no one shows up, figure out what went wrong and repeat. Persistence is everything.

I don't have any questions, but I'd just like to say I'm an avid follower of your project and blog, and I truly appreciate your transparency.

It's a win-win for everyone.

I really like publicly journaling how my products are evolving over time, especially since it seems to be either helping or inspiring some people. And plus, I know I've received direct or indirect customers from doing this.

A couple of years ago I started a food blog with my mom (www.theyummylife.com). She does all the writing, and I do programming, design, and monetization. I spent a lot of time setting it up originally, but now it only takes a few hours each week of my time. Right now we're making $5000-6000/month after expenses, and I get 40% of that.

My main business (a bootstrapped SaaS startup) generates more than that, but the profits are mostly being reinvested back into the company, so I don't think it qualifies as passive income.

The site looks awesome and appears to have great monetization with links to amazon and ads from the BlogHer network. I recommend you experiment with "Add To Cart" links and buttons instead of "View On Amazon" because the cookie with a link to Amazon only lasts 24 hours and if they come back later and then buy the item you will not receive credit. But if you use the "Add To Cart" button, the cookie lasts 90 days!

This little known tip can net you a lot more money, it has worked for me... https://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/help/t2/a...

So that essentially gives you credit on their next purchase assuming they don't remove it from their cart immediately?

It gets added to the cart and it doesn't matter if they checkout then or not, as long as they don't remove it from the cart. If they come back within the next 89 days and end up purchasing it, you will get credit...

What if they add other items on day 80? Do you get credit for those items too?

No, you don't get credit for additional items between when your item is added and checkout. However, if they come back to Amazon from someone else's affiliate link, and your item was already in the cart, you retain the credit.

Thanks for the info!

Does your mom snap the photos herself? They're - dare I say - a big part of what makes the site so great.

Top-notch design.

Thanks! Yes, she takes all the pictures herself. It's incredibly time consuming, but pictures are such an important part of any food blog that it's definitely worth it.

One of her friends is a professional photographer and gave her some pointers when she first started which helped a lot. Even still, if you look at her older posts, you can tell that the photos weren't nearly as good back then as they are now. Practice makes perfect I guess.

Hey the_bear, I really like The Yummy Life. Just wanted to let you know I added it as a default subscription to the NewsBlur iPad app. This just means that if new users subscribe to the Food category, they'll get TYL. There's only 8 categories, so I'm sure this will net some new readers.

Wow, that's awesome! My mom's going to be thrilled. I don't have an iPad, but you just got a new web user. Thanks.

Great job on both of those! Very impressive.

I definitely think the SaaS startup is relevant here. I just used the same title as the last thread, but personally I'd like to hear about any sort of recurring revenue. And as someone who's developing their own SaaS product right now, I need all the motivation I can get from others' success stories.

I don't wish to pressure you about your metrics, but how long did it take you to get your SaaS startup to where it is now? And are you working on it solo?

There's an internal debate right now about whether or not it makes sense to release specific numbers, but if I have my way, there will be a post on HackerNews in the future explaining exactly how much money we're making, and how we got where we are.

For now, here are some things you might find interesting/motivational:

-My brother and I started the company about three years ago. We launched an MVP in January 2010.

-After 6 months we had about 10 paying users (at $10/user/month). After 12 we had 50, after 18 we had 200. Since then things have picked up and we're adding >100 paying users each month now. Both my mom's blog, and the SaaS business took a long time to ramp up, but both had their tipping points after about 1.5 years.

-About a year ago we hired our first employee to help out with customer service and other random things. We plan on adding four more over the next couple of years, two of whom have already started working part-time.

I hope that helps. There's nothing better than seeing thousands of people passionately using a product you created, so stick with it!

This is the exact kind of thing I need to read right now. Thank you.

Over 100 new paying customers per month is incredible in my opinion. Especially for what I would guess is one of the most competitive SaaS markets out there. If I can reach that many total customers on my cheapest plan I will be ecstatic.

If you don't mind me asking, what user acquisition channels have you found most effective for selling to small businesses?

Honestly, we're not doing a great job of user acquisition right now, which is exciting because it means that 100 users/month is just the tip of the iceberg.

When we started we spent ~$3,000/month on AdWords to get our initial customer base. Once we had enough users, we stopped advertising and word of mouth took over. We basically don't do any marketing right now, but that we're going to change that soon.

The detail and personal experience make it feel more adventurous than a normal cookbook or recipe blog.

I have a few questions:

* Are you building on top of a blog platform, or is this mostly custom? (The BuiltWith page makes this site appear full of tech [1]).

* What % of the revenue comes from Amazon referral links?

* Are there other revenue sources?

* Can you discuss your visitor distribution (first time vs. repeat), and traffic sources?

1: http://builtwith.com/?http%3a%2f%2fwww.theyummylife.com%2fRe...

The blog is entirely custom. Several years ago I made my own blogging software just as a fun side-project, and I decided to use that code as the base for The Yummy Life. It sucks missing out on all the great WordPress plugins, but it's really nice having absolute control over the entire experience. I know you technically have control with WordPress, but it's much harder to edit someone else's code than your own (for me, anyway).

Until recently, Amazon made up almost all of our revenue. Now that we're doing slightly better with advertising, Amazon makes up about 60-70%. We also sell a $1 eBook, but we only sell about one per day, so that revenue isn't significant. This information isn't up-to-date, but you can read a blog post about our monetization: http://www.lessannoyingcrm.com/articles/259/How_I_monetized_...

Visitor information:

-65% new, 35% returning

-1.7 pages per visit

-1.2 million page views last month

-Most traffic comes from Pinterest or direct. We get ~3000 visitors from search each day. My mom (understandably) hates link building, so we don't have many inbound links meaning there's not much referral traffic, and we also have weak SEO relative to other blogs our size.

-Almost all traffic comes from the U.S.

Have you ever tried selling the book for $30+? Probably the user do not see enough value in a $1 ebook to justify the effort to make the purchase...

Thanks for sharing!

Awesome! also: w/steel cut oats cook 1 min+chill =>AM bingo

Wow, that's a really great site. May I suggest working location into your amazon affiliate links. I'm sitting here in the UK looking at the refrigerator oatmeal recipe. If the links had said amazon.co.uk there's a much higher chance I would have bought the ingredients.

What are you doing to generate a profit? Your e-book only sells for $0.99; I imagine you're not selling 6K+ books per month. I imagine the links on the sidebar are some sort of affiliate program, so you probably earn some money there.

Also, I'm curious about the platform your site is built on, the affiliate links are cool because they seem to all be related to the recipe; I'm curious how you handle the organization.

Thanks for the feedback.

Just a heads up the top recipe link on http://www.theyummylife.com/recipes/browse/Appetizers_%26_Sn... seems to just redirect to the homepage (maybe an error?)

That's awesome, congratulations! Do you manage the PPC and stuff too? SEO?

Thanks! Yes, I handle everything except writing the actual content. That includes PPC, SEO, and making it easy for my mom to promote posts via Pinterest and Facebook (Pinterest is responsible for our success by the way).

Most of the revenue comes from the Amazon Affiliate program, but recently we've been making a decent amount off of display ads from the BlogHer ad network. Google AdSense contributes a little bit as well.

As for SEO, I wrote the blogging software from scratch (I don't like Wordpress) so the SEO is entirely under my control. I'm no SEO expert though, so I'm sure there are many things I could be doing better.

Seems I commented on this last year, so what the heck:


Sales are up by about 40% year-to-date over last year, owing to a combination of increased AdWords spend, organic growth in the business, and a successful redesign (and related conversion optimization) right before summer.

Appointment Reminder is doing fairly decently -- monthly recurring revenues (on the publicly available plans) are up about 4x versus the last thread. I've recently gotten some time to actually work on it (my wedding kept me busy for much of the earlier part of this year). My run rate is currently up about 50% since, oh, two months ago? (Why? Interesting question -- re-did pricing, tweaked my marketing knob to "slightly more than zero work", and started getting a wee bit serious about e.g. my use of email to people in their trial period.)

The enterprise pipeline, which is not tracked in those figures, is... well, like all enterprise sales operations ever, I cry a lot and dry my tears on stacks of money. Not terribly relevant to folks who like recurring revenue because it feels like avoiding work, since Enterprise Sales is pretty much exactly what work always felt like, but it is work you get to bank in the past and then get a fairly motivational check from monthly for the present and extending into the future.

I guess consulting doesn't count as recurring revenue, at least not on my model, so I'll skip it. I'm productizing one of my consulting offerings and should be releasing it later this month -- we'll see if that works out.

I'd like to hear your thoughts about mobile. Everybody seems to be stampeding in that direction right now but you seem to have ignored it so far.

Is this a deliberate decision or just a question of sticking to tools/platforms you're more familiar with?

I don't love the kingmaking economics of App Store distribution and don't know how to work them to my advantage. Price points for mobile apps are two to three orders of magnitude lower than software I routinely sell. The stores seem to be dominated by design, something that I am not good at. I prefer writing Rails to Java or Objective C. My consulting clients largely sell B2B software, and fairly little of that is currently mobile.

That said, there is literally infinite software that I personally will never write. That doesn't necessarily mean I would recommend against HNers looking at those projects either.

Good answer.

I've been doing mobile for the last 18 months or so but I'm strongly considering going back to my roots on the web for a lot of the reasons you describe. The lack of insight into user behavior and acquisition is really crippling.

It seems to me that people have gotten a little too caught up in the momentum of mobile. Certainly it's a very important and rapidly growing platform but I also think, as you say, there's still plenty of room for viable businesses on the "traditional" web.

Do you feel that there is more value making a desktop web app and making it responsive to work with mobile devices, rather than making a straight mobile app?

I don't feel particularly qualified to answer this question, but my opinion is that these questions should be secondary. The most important thing is identifying your target market and figuring out how to most effectively meet its needs and if you understand that well then that will probably dictate the details of your strategy.

What I think is pretty overdone at this point though are approaches that revolve entirely around a mobile app. Unless you're going for an aqui-hire or your potential customers just happen to all be entirely on one mobile platform I'd think twice about betting the farm on an app.

Patrick, big fan of your writing and projects like most others here.

Any new Kalzumeus Podcasts coming down the line?

I'd love to see some more posts on Appointment Reminder too. I think many of us could benefit from your insights on selling B2B SaaS products.

Any new Kalzumeus Podcasts coming down the line?

Yes, we're recording one in next week or so.

I think many of us could benefit from your insights on selling B2B SaaS products.

If that subject is interesting to you, join my email list, as it seems to get most of what I write on that topic.

patio11 is a god...can't imagine his consulting offerings will fail.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I would appreciate it even more if you that that I was impressive for shipping stuff and gradually doing process tweaks targeted at things that actually matter. People jump directly from "X is a god" to "I am mortal, and therefore, cannot be like X."

Pretty much all HNers capable of shipping product are equally capable of doing the sort of things I do to tweak those products' success upwards. There's not really any secret sauce or black magic involved, and to the extent that I'm better at it than other folks are, that's largely a function of a) having six years of practice and b) actually using the bag o' tricks. (Most common process failure with A/B testing: not A/B testing. Most common failure mode for lifecycle emails: sending 0 emails. Most common pricing mistake: doing no work on pricing whatsoever. etc, etc)

What drew me into your blog is that you started it when you weren't very successful. I don't remember the specifics but it seemed like you weren't all that confident and you were super conservative about how much you spent on your side project that has now become so much more.

That makes for a much more interesting (and useful) read than a blog in which the author is apparently cut of a different cloth than normal humans from the beginning.

I started reading patio11's blog from the start, and as far as I remember, he started blogging before the product was released. Right from the start!

I jump from "X is a god" to "I suck and therefore cannot be like X". Thank you, X for publicly stating this line of thinking is wrong. It's funny because I'm literally taking a 5 minute break from a project that's taking me down that line of thought so maybe the fact that I headed here to read this comment at just this moment does make you a god. Or maybe I just read the right thing at the right time haha.

Now that I have your attention.. my site: http://www.golfingstat.com

Should I quit it (brokeback style), spend some time making it mobile + setting a annual fee and trying to find the magic adwords amount to grow my userbase without losing money or keep on keeping on (trying to make some ad revenue with my current userbase of 150ish)

I know little about golf.

I know a bit more about selling software -- I can tell you, for example, that "Facebook integration" is not a benefit for most people (you mention it prominently like you believe it solves problems, but no golfer wakes up in the morning and goes "You know what was missing from my last golf game? Facebook!"). You're not making economically rational decisions trying to sell ad networ ads against a userbase smaller than X00,000 to X million. (You can have one-off ad deals which are viable much smaller than that, but that gets you into ad sales.) You're probably not going to have success with AdWords unless you can get people to a 3 figure LTV -- "make it mobile" does not strike me as getting you there given what I know about app store economics.

But help me on the golf front. Does this solve an actual problem real people actually have in their lives? Have you talked to avid golfers and have gnashed their teeth about how not knowing Average Score By Hole Distance is just crushing their enjoyment of the sport? Are these customers willing to pay for better golf scores, for example because it helps them invite more clients to more golf games and hence close more real estate sales, which is the reason they golf in the first place?

Talk to your customers. (Or the people who should be your customers if you were actually charging for this, which -- by the way -- is a great discipline to have from day 1 since it focuses you on reality.) If they're not wildly hair-on-fire enthusiastic about this, I don't know that I would spend lots of time on this when for the same effort of getting you from 150 non-paying users to 300 non-paying users would let you write software people that people would passionately care about.

Agreed. He should make sure people actually want to use this, and if not, then just move on. Seems he built the software before testing if there was a market for it. Golfers spend lots of money on the actual game and equipment, though. So maybe he could use this as a channel to sell some golf equipment. Maybe he can test different golf balls and then have the software tell people which to buy from his website. Though this would require more resources to be invested into it.

I think there's definitely a market for this type of tool if you target it correctly. I'm only a casual golfer, but my dad's a golfing nut. He plays everyday with likeminded golf nut friends, and they all track and talk about their stats to varying degrees. They also watch golf on TV and play fantasy golf leagues. I could see my dad and his friends getting utterly obsessive about a tool like this if it was done right. I could also see them paying for it if they liked it. Golfers tend to be pretty well off on average. I don't think they're likely to be very price conscious about a <$20/month service if it brings them any value or enjoyment at all.

That said, I think you need to work on your presentation and design. It doesn't inspire much excitement. Instead of listing features and talking about the app, I would focus more on capturing the user's imagination. Don't tell them what the app does. Tell them why they should care. Communicate more on an emotional level. That's where the decision to use/buy will be made.

The screenshots also look a bit dull. I know it's just an analytics dashboard, but I think a shiny interface is going to be important. You don't want someone's subconscious visual impression to be 'glorified excel spreadsheet', you want it to be 'futuristic intelligent stat crunching engine that magically improves your score'. Regardless of what the app does, the way it looks will deeply influence how powerful it is perceived to be. Imagine a golfing scene from some sci-fi movie set 100 years in the future. What's the interface on their super advanced tablet going to look like? That's what to aim for.

Last piece of advice: I would look at the ads in golf magazines or on TV for guidance on design and language. Selling equipment, gadgets, and media to golf nuts is a huge industry. The companies that have been around for awhile are experts at marketing to this demographic. The same techniques that convince someone to buy a new $500 driver or instructional dvds or some useless magnetic bracelet could definitely convince them to buy software that provides useful statistics if you present it right.

I agree with a lot of the points here.

Also - I think you should work on your slide show content and the headlines. Title's such as "Golf Stats" and "Golf Handicap" will not inspire your users. Hit them with something more interesting and thought provoking.

Your main heading might be the first thing your potential customer reads so make it memorable.

As an avid golfer, the only golf tools I have paid for are: League scoring systems & Callaway uPRO GPS for course downloads.

A few thoughts..

Have a free individual version (many of which are league members), and give them an incentive to switch their league to this platform.

A mobile scoring system integrated into league play allowing you to see realtime scores against your competitors may be compelling.

I've never golfed before, but I'm a huge bowler. During league, we have a lot of side-bets going on between individuals. High game pots, high series, brackets, etc. Is golf league similar? In bowling, it's obviously very easy to keep track of the current score and standings throughout the night. Would a live scoring tool enable, or improve, this aspect of league?

If you're not already familiar with them: www.golfshot.com

It's the best app I have ever purchased, and the most expensive. It does pretty much everything the amateur needs. They'd be tough to compete with.

I'm the proud Loser of the bunch, behold my magnificent FAILS. (The ironic thing is, I do UI/UX consulting. So I make time to optimize other people's sites but not my own)

http://residentevilradio.com = -$10/month in shoutcast server hosting (will switch to HTML5/Flash jukebox soon)

http://timeforzen.com = $0 no monetization or affiliate links yet

http://tasck.com/2 (NOT finished, PRE-ALPHA) = $0 no monetization or affiliate links yet

===== Dead Links Below =====

http://moviestop.info (success, no income, now offline/sunsetted)

http://humanchan.com (failure, no income, now offline)

http://humanchannel.net (failure, no income, now offline)

http://onenotes.com (failure, never launched)

http://businessgardening.com (failure, no income, no traffic, now offline)

http://extremephotoshopping.com (failure, a little traffic, no income, now offline)

As you can see, I'm a designer (markup, some php, some javascript, some jquery), not a developer. I can hack things together, build original themes, but can't code complex things from scratch. So I have to stick with small projects that I can actually finish. It sucks but I'm working my way up. I've got some really interesting sites, products, and services I want to experiment with in the future as I learn to program as much as I can.

http://chrisnorstrom.com (the best site I ever launched, a small collection of my ideas and inventions (the non-patentable ones anyway) )

BTW, We should start a fail thread where everyone posts all the failed projects/startups they've worked on over the years.

I wrote a simple android app which lets Virgin Mobile customers see how many minutes they have left on their account. [1] It is open-source [2], and I have optional ads. (I created the app without ads, and then added them in a later update with a note saying "hey, these ads are an experiment. You can disable them in the app's settings if you want, but otherwise, enjoy it!"

This generates between $60-$90 per month, depending on... well, I honestly have no idea what it depends on. Pizza money. And bragging rights.

This app is basically in maintenance mode though I have a lot of things I want to do with it. Android programming is so difficult, though (difficult documentation, impossible for me to figure out how to do anything gui-related) that it's been hard for me to really make big enhancements.

In fact, since going to Google IO this year, I'm no longer a VM customer! Might buy a cheap VM account to do maintenance on this app, which would still be profitable for me.

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jaygoel.vi...

[2] https://github.com/poundifdef/VirginMobileMinutesChecker

"Difficult documentation, impossible for me to figure out how to do anything gui-related."

Why is this? Do you have much experience programming in Java? The Android Developer [1] website is a fantastic resource for learning about both the design and development standards on the platform. The User Interface Guide [2] is particularly exceptional at explaining how to implement different UI components on a technical level.

[1] http://developer.android.com/ [2] http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/overview.html

Haha, fair question.

I'm really really proficient in Java. I used to teach it in school, I've done it professionally, etc. So I had no trouble at all writing the actual "guts" of the app, or even the android-specific APIs. And while I'm not great at swing/awt, I can make it work if I need to.

But it really breaks down when I get to the Android gui+os-specific things. I find myself having to memorize (and reference, and re-reference) words like Activity, Intent, Bundle, View, etc. You have many kinds of menus and dialogs - options menus, preferences menus, etc.

Of course, all of the information is there, and perhaps it's worth reading all of it, one page at a time, in order become a proficient android programmer. But it's so specific to that one platform, and has has such a new set of vocabulary which isn't common anywhere else in computing, that I personally have found it really difficult.

It looks like the documentation has gotten much, much better over the past couple of years, so maybe you've inspired me to give it a fair shake. But I really wanted to "jump in and build" and that has a much larger learning curve than I would have liked.

Curious what ad network you use? I just created an Android app and experimenting with a few.

I use AdMob - nothing fancy. There are other ad providers who send me spam emails about their services, but they seem really awful (they install their own apks to do more invasive interstitials, widget icons, etc.)

They have a feature called AdWhirl, which automatically displays ads from different providers depending on who will pay you the most at a given time. I have not tried this. If you do, let me know how it goes!

Thanks, I use AdMob as well right now. I tried using it as a meditation layer and including MobFox but I was getting horrible results with MobFox so recently dropped it. One of the challenges I'm having finding networks is finding one that doesn't require location/phone state permissions. I added it one time and a lot of users got pissed off :O. Will let you know if I come across anything better!

I know that it takes time for each ad network to warm up to your app, as it gets a sense of how much traffic, and what kind of traffic you have. Possibly swapping out different ad platforms exacerbates this problem, or makes it take longer for the network to reach its peak. What if you updated your app to switch to another network 100% of the time? (Or used the mediation layer to do this?)

I have no idea what I'm talking about. But there's a lot of interesting tests to run.

Also - and the AdMob guys told me the same thing when I talked to them at google io - my app only has about 30k active users. This is hardly enough (because click-through rates are so low) to be able to find meaningful trends and test them, because the data is so inconsistent and I'm probably not getting high-quality expensive ads anyway.

If any of the above is wrong, then let me know! I'd love know how this stuff actually works, especially as it applies to small-potatoes devs like me.

One other question if you don't mind: How did you initially market the app/gain traction? Right now I've been just reaching out directly to Instagram users (my app is for them www.TagsForLikes.com) and that has worked alright but wondering if you have any other methods.

Yeah, this was about as organic as it possibly could've been.

I bought an el-cheapo Android phone from Virgin Mobile and was annoyed that I couldn't check to see how many minutes I have left. I searched on the internet, and others had the same problem, and would post about it (eg, howardforums.com)

So I wrote the app and then posted to those message boards: "Hey, check this out, I created a free app. It's crappy but it works."

(This inspired me to hunt down that forum post. Here: http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php/1686978-Intercept...)

It started catching on from there, and it also shows up when you type "virgin mobile" into the android market store.

So besides plugging it on the internet (a few forums, on HN, telling friends) I haven't done that much.

I recently moved to Manhattan, and was in a radio shack buying a top-up card. I was chatting with the cashier, who was also a VM customer, and asked her if she'd ever used my app. I showed it to her, she liked it, and said she would recommend that all of her customers download that app when they buy VM phones. I have no way to know how many sales that generated, but it was a cool feeling!

Here's one data point. I found the app through HN a while ago. I've since moved on to non-Virgin phones, but really appreciated your app. :)

I have had a few interesting experiments here in the past year.

Experiment 0: I bought a hotel affiliate site off of flippa. It did pretty well initially, but I didn't do enough investigation into how the previous owner had been generating traffic. In short, there was a lot of untoward stuff going on. As I was getting all of that straightened out, the site got (deservedly) banned from Google's index for a few key terms. I made my money back and learned a valuable lesson: don't buy sites off of flippa.

Experiment 1: I created a few different sites around a big product launch, and monetized via product reviews and the Amazon Affiliate program. This worked very well for a period of time; the site was grossing $100 a day for several weeks with essentially 0 work. Slowly, my site dipped in the rankings for the key terms as much bigger players got their act together. From this, I learned that one-off sites can be valuable, but probably not in the long term. I should've sold the sites at their peak.

Experiment 2: I wrote some algorithms to find underpriced stocks and then examinate a few strategies around that security's options. This was actually a lot of fun. Based on my program, I ended up buying out-of-the-money puts on 5 or 6 different stocks. I'm sitting on a small profit right now. The next step is to exit my positions, finetune the algorithms based on a few key things I learned, and put more money into action.

One note here: Experiment 2 isn't exactly passive income, not until I get a lot more comfortable with the code. That's the goal, though, and I think it's the likely choice for the greatest amount of income (and least amount of work) in the long run.

Are you willing to tell more about Experiment 2? What kind of strategy are you using? What development platform (e.g. what language and libraries and what OS)? What trading platform (e.g. what brokerage / API)? Where did you get your test market data from / how much did you pay? What other strategies did you try first that didn't work? What blogs or sites do you read on the subject? What is your background in? Finance/Econ? Or programming? What other details would you like to offer? Some of us are very interested in this field. :)

I am interested as well. I've studied something similar, the idea is to find the underpriced option in a group. The premise is that the inefficiency in the market will work its way out in hours/days. But it's pretty hard to find a substantial price inefficiency based on my research. Needed a large amount of money to trade.

In defense of Flippa: I bought a site there recently. Checked it out, the owner was a stand-up guy, I even released the escrow early to help him out (he didn't ask for it). He continued helping with the site transition even after he received the money.

So buyer beware but there are some gems in there...

I won't go into numbers, but I make a living running http://www.improvely.com , http://www.w3counter.com , and http://www.dialshield.com

Improvely is a monthly subscription with a free trial period, W3Counter is freemium, and DialShield is pay-as-you-go. They are all bootstrapped and profitable.

Dan, I respect your decision to not discuss numbers, but judging by the quality of your products I'd have to guess you're generating an extremely healthy revenue stream.

Of all the SaaS entrepreneurs I've found, you seem to be the one who's closest to exactly where I want to be eventually (running a suite of SaaS products).

Do you have any general tips for people following the same path? Anything you'd do differently?

How do you compete with Google Analytics? From the first glance, most of the features of Improvely might be implemented with GA as well... or am I getting something wrong?

Your products look great!

I make between $200 - $400 per month off my HTTP testing tool: http://www.uresk.net/httpclient/

Not very impressive (who knew selling a niche tool in an environment where $5 is considered "expensive" wasn't the road to instant riches?), but it has been fun to make and it is always cool to hear about how useful the tool has been to fellow developers.

That's kind of a strange attitude to have. Your competition (more or less) charges $50: http://www.charlesproxy.com/

compare this to $0 fiddler2.com (only windows though)

Don't sell it to developers. Sell it to their bosses.

Generally speaking, I agree with you. In this case, however, this was just a weekend project and easy distribution was a goal of mine - hence the app store.

If I were trying to make a full-time living off something like this, then there are a bunch of things I'd do differently - such as what you suggest.

Ah, OK. It's actually good you've thought it through.

"Sell to the boss" is one of those little revelations I've had lately and, like any Damascene conversion, I'm being a bit of loudmouth about it.

Was pulling ~$600/month from iOS apps but yanked them all off the market in response to Apple's patent bullying. I plan to port the ones that make sense to Android.

I appreciate the stand against the horrible lawsuit, but your hurting yourself far more then your hurting Apple. Maybe take that 600 and use it to inform people of how you feel about Apple, or FEED a bunch of families.

The problem is that $600/month, in its own small way, strengthens and legitimizes Apple as a platform. Living in Vietnam I definitely appreciate the dire needs of some people in the world but I also think that the stakes in these cases are very high.

I expect to have a similar Android portfolio in the next six months anyway.

Do you happen to live in Saigon? If so I'd love to meet up.

Since you won't be selling them on the app store, what are the names of the apps?

The major ones are on my site:


I created FRUJI.com (Twitter Analytics service) and it keeps generating a minimum of about $50 a day, sometimes (often) more. It's fully self-maintained (unless the server or database crashes), which is just purely amazing. The machines sell, process the orders, upgrade, and provide the customer experience. All I did was programming it. I go for a run, my phone rings a couple of times, I look, PRO account purchased, PRO account purchased, THIS IS F* AWESOME.

I tried creating/selling other things to businesses. This time, it's mostly you and me's, paying it out of their own wallets. Never expected this to work so well.

I think your pricing is really low. Even for the Pro plan, you're offering quite a bit of benefits so you can definitely charge more. $25/year is too low. It should be a monthly-recurring charge, something like $9.99/month for the Pro plan would do.

Been trying for 15 minutes and haven't been able to get the site to come up.

ablabs.me (mentioned in your profile) doesn't seem to work.

In august I made about $122,000 from display ads, mostly Adsense. 5-10% of that is spent on stuff like server space and freelance employees. I can imagine that this will not be taken seriously due to lack of details, but for anyone interested, I'm open to answering non-specific questions.

Edit: I see 'from what' is also the question; I have a bunch of entertainment related sites.

Few questions, if you dont mind :)

1. How long did it take to reach this level of income?

2. What is the total monthly traffic that generates 122k?

3. How much time does it take to manage the whole thing in its present state?

1) 6 years

2) 8 million monthly uniques

3) Hard to say. I can take a month off and it'll probably go fine. If it crashes, I'm on it 24/7 (if I care for my wallet). I do work on it full time, but that's working on growth as well as managing the present state. I try to outsource as many chores and secondary tasks as possible, leaving the multi-disciplinary work for me.

Good job you've done there! Thanks for the info and good luck!)

Do you have any tips for squeezing the most out of adsense? Ad positioning, types, quantity, obtrusiveness?

Nothing that's not obvious.

Surely, there are methods to squeeze more revenue out of Adsense, or any display ad for that matter, but you'll risk being banned. So that's not worth it, especially when you get bigger.

I do recommend trying out different ad networks and having them compete with each other and with adsense in an ad server such as OpenX or DFP.

Great. Thanks for that.

What's your backup revenue plan in event of an adsense ban?

None, it would be disastrous.

I would probably work with other ad networks, but that wouldn't be cost effective to monetize my long tail of smaller sites. It would lead to a significant, if not huge, drop in revenue.

You do get in personal contact with people at Google starting at some level of revenue though. So if it ever happened, I guess I would see it coming in some way.

google doesn't care, the company that I work for does around 15x your monthly revenue and was banned from adsense and getting in contact with google was impossible, as was finding a resolution (other than "re-apply in 6 months").

I assume you can't share what company that is?

Or the market you were operating in?

I can't imagine that a publisher doing 25 million of revenue per year couldn't get in touch with anyone at Google.

Why wouldn't other ad networks be as effective as Google Adsense?

What makes Adsense unique?

Their huge reach. There's no network with the same amount of advertisers and publishers. Especially with smaller sites, they're the easiest way to monetize, and sometimes to only way at all.

I would love to hear some more on this if you don't mind. If you are making that kind of money, then our company is clearly doing something horribly wrong :)

You're not doing something wrong per se. I started out at the right time in the right niche, that helped me get away with a lot. I started out when in high school, when I had no costs of living, which is a great way to learn risk-free. As a result I now do 'marketing' as well as technical stuff, which keeps margins high, and gives me breadth in all those fields, which, I think, hugely contributes to my success. But mostly it's a matter of right place, right time...

- So is it niche marketing?

- Are all your websites revolving around the same niche?

- How many do you deploy for particular keyword and its long-tail keyword?

- How many years/months you spent on keyword research? I mean when did you eventually ended up on this niche?

- All your income is just Adsense? or Affiliate marketing too?

- All yours websites are ranked #1 on SERP or few just somehwere on page #1?

- Is your traffic source completely organic?

- How much of black hat SEO involved?

1) Depends on what you call a niche.

2) Yes.

3) How many what? Links?

4) I started out in the niche without knowing any SEO at all. Started building a product and built a lot of links for traffic. The authority and product I built then were the fundament for everything else. Not annoying my users, and building a strong site were always very important, as opposed to doing short-term black hat stuff while forgetting about content. I continually do keyword research; always keep my eyes open.

5) Not just Adsense, some other ad networks as well. All display ads though.

6) Depends. There are many keywords, some rank #1, some page #1, some don't rank at all. Depends on the quality of the content as well, I continually work on that.

7) For this project, yes. I've done PPC on other projects, but it doesn't seem to be profitable so far for this one.

8) Depends on what you call black hat. I've never spammed anything. Have bought a link here and there in the past, but I do have a huge amount of natural links as well. I guess that for industry standards, I'm pretty clean.

Do you have a strategy of how you built up your network? I'm really curious about how you started, and how you'd pick the right idea to pursue.

Copycatted a concept, added my own twist. Got lucky and got into a great niche without much competition. Grew from there.

How many sites did you mention? And how much unique visitor do you have in total?

A few dozen sites, with a couple doing about 80% of revenue. About 8 million uniques.

where do you find good freelance employees? Do you have many writers under your wing?

Freelancer marketplaces. You'll find a good one for every 50 crappy ones.

Are you in the sfw or nsfw biz?


wow, congrats. I'm sure a lot of hard work and energy went into this over the years!

$25k in revenue, ~$15k in net income (at 12-15% monthly growth) from http://jivosite.ru (English version http://jivosite.com is yet work in progress). This is online chat for e-commerce web sites sold primarily to russian-speaking audience, USA & Europe sales start in 2-3 months. Bootstrapped, no office, 2 co-founders (1 business+tech, 1 tech), 3 employees (1 marketing, 1 customer support, 1 programmer).

How long have you worked on that, and how long have you been in business in Russia?

We started coding in october 2011, first pilot customer was december 2011, and active sales started february 2012, with approx linear growth ever since.

I'm in business since 2008, and this is my second business, first one was hosted PBX service.

неплохо, хотя думал что больше)

Created an iOS dev company few months ago w/ a friend. We made $50k in August from a successful free iphone app. (around $40k in a regular month). We are only two in the company and we are still college students. Don't know what to say more about this but feel free to ask any question (except what is the app ^^)

That's awesome! You said it's a free app. What's your business model? Free+ads, In app purchase, freemium? And how do you market, do you use CPI/CPC networks?

Business model is ads only (well you can pay to get rid of ads but it only generates ~$40/day)

Aw man, you gotta tell us a bit more about what your app does. Do you utilize facebook connect?

What is the general purpose of the app?

Any tips on getting traffic to an app?

focus on popular niches, but not overdid ones (ex: games). Some have a lot of opportunities.

did you make that developing games for someone else, or is it revenue garnered from a game you made?

not a game, an app we made for ourselves. Our first one and we only work on this one now due to lack of time (takes a lot of time to maintain a 500k monthly users app :p)

sorry, i meant app in general. i just wasn't sure if you meant you made that developing for others or off something you made. that's awesome.

What ad networks do you use? How many daily impressions are you getting and at what eCPM?

10M/day ECPM ~$0.19

I make about $200 per month from Android app sales. $30,000 and counting over the last few years.

Back when Android had no apps (2008-2009) and all you could do was check the 'new apps' list for new releases, I noticed a spy camera app was released. The app was terrible and there were many comments asking for various features. I took a day off work, repackaged some camera code I had from a work-in-progress app, implemented the requested features, and blew the competition out of the water.

It's reasonably certain that the vast majority of entrepreneurs who are making large amounts of cash are going to remain silent!


"May you come to the attention of powerful people."

-- Old Chinese curse

It's not even that.

Oftentimes many of the recurring services are easily replicable. So until a market leadership position is cemented (until you set up the moat) you don't want others to know that building XYZ service actually could be significantly profitable.

I have a moderately-successful side project in the education sector that I'm not posting numbers about... not because I'm worried about competitors, but because I've already lost a few very large signups ("can we sign up every student in our school district?") when they get a sense it's a small project.

Even though the site has been up & running (and stable) for almost a decade now, they don't want to make the jump unless there are OTHER entire school districts already on board that they can talk to.

I'm not quite sure how to solve this chicken/egg problem yet. And since it's a side project, I'm not even sure I want to solve it right now -- that would sabotage my primary work, unless I could rapidly find someone capable to help with it.

But posting obviously-non-corporate-level sales numbers just a google away really doesn't seem like it would help things; ESPECIALLY because those same numbers will still be just a google away 5 years from now, even if the actual numbers are an order of magnitude higher by then.

Making cheeseburgers and fries is replicable, but I am not going after a piece of mcburger's pie 1st thing tomorrow (well, maybe I am, maybe I'm not). Selling is harder than most code jockeys can manage, so there is low risk. I think what you mean is that others are reading HNews too.

This is true, but also, competitors may find some of your strategies and numbers here. I know for a fact that people sign up for competitor services just to see what they are doing. I have live chat on my sales site and I have had competitors tell me they are ripping off my content, copy, etc...

http://www.gambolio.com - $0 a month

http://www.casualgirlgamer.com - $200 a month

http://www.musicgames.co - $5 a month

http://www.tiki-toki.com - $5,000 a month

http://www.peopleplotr.com - $100 a month

I make extra licensing some of my software but that does not count as recurring income and can vary massively month to month.

Unfortunately you're probably going to get lots of old ideas anyway as no-one that has recurring (i'm guessing you mean Passive Income) will tell you their current stream. It's a Goose that laid the Golden Egg problem.

What I would recommend is reading up about different ways to make money, looking at things that other people have done in the past, then find ways to think up what niche you could fill.

After that its about getting it done.

Look up Patio11 and read his comments, that's a great start.

I'm assuming you mean https://www.ruby-toolbox.com/? Props! I use that site all the time... surprised that it only nets you $10/month

Nope. I wish Id thought of what he did there. Mine is just a job board for ruby devs now.

ChubbyBrain (www.chubbybrain.com) makes $500-$700/month via good old Google ads and some Amazon affiliate links. It's not our core business, but it covers happy hour for the team and some misc expenses so we happily take it.

I have a free website/webapp in the education space that does about $90k/m right now (2012-2013 school year) while school is in session, and grows about 2.5x each year. Revenue is 100% Adsense. I'm happy to answer any questions that don't give away what the site actually is.

I'll be entering in the "worksheets" space, both free ones made by us and worksheets generators. I have a kind of a niche in a non-English website and I think it's a nice move.

Do you happen to work on anything related to that? Thanks!

Nope, nothing like that.

How much time did it take you to get to $90K/m mark or how old is the site? How do you market something like this, just SEO?

Is the site/app targeted towards educators or students?

It was originally targeted to students, but more specifically individuals not necessarily students who want to improve on our particular skill. Over time we found out that our user base was about 80% students in k-12 schools, so I added a lot of tools specifically for teachers to manage lots of students, and I've also started targeting educators more in my site copy. It was very unexpected, with my thinking being that schools had their own paid solutions and would not be willing to use an ad supported product, but I was definitely wrong!

What's the website called?

> I'm happy to answer any questions that don't give away what the site actually is.

$0, but hey I just launched. Asked again in a year.

(For those interested, it's a security plugin for Wordpress: http://www.panic-press.com)

I recommend putting some sort of security seal or emblem instead of just "Protected." on the pricing page or and some other places... http://www.panic-press.com/pricing

Dig the design

Pricing page needs a sign up button

Neat idea. I like it.

This is smart. Kudos.

Over $100k last year from educationalrap.com

- ~45 educational rap songs, divided into middle school subject areas, that include PDF worksheets and multiple versions of each song

- One-time purchases via song/album downloads and shipped CDs; recurring subscriptions to rrr.fm, a streaming music service for schools we contracted out (built on Rails)

- rrr.fm signup happens via Formstack, which drops the data into Campaign Monitor, PayPal, and our app

- $0 spent on advertising

- Sells mostly to teachers directly, but also to schools, libraries, etc.

- Part-time help to handle support and ship the CDs

- Still paying off debt from production and high burns 2007-2008, but comfortably cash-flow positive for a while now

About $150 per month with http://www.catgifpage.com (growing fast) and 10 bitcoins per month with a speed logo design service, I really enjoy earning money this way!

How about after hosting costs? I took a look at some image sharing sites today, some of the financials are painful to read. Key point is they're hoping for a buyout on the traffic rather than generating revenue themselves. We're talking break evens at 20mb per ad click. Possible for a blog, a balancing act for image sharing.

I own a sort of popular niche image hosting site (500k uniques per month) and while most image hosting sites do lose money as they get more popular there is still potential to make money in the area. Your right that it's never going to make as much money as any profitable niche pushing 500k uniques but it's still fun to run.

I'm looking for a developer that can help take the site to the next level if anyone's interested email is in my profile.

I do not lose money. My Outlay are low and will stay as my host bandwidth is unlimited.

whats the total monthly traffic (including bandwidth), if i may ask?

I see a lot of people mentioning passive income; i'm not a native English speaker; is recurring the same as passive? If you make $xxxx every month with a job it's recurring right? But that doesn't count here?

As I see some 'used to' posts as well; I used to make quite a bit from blogging (especially reviews I did, but real ones, not paid ones), however Google Panda tanked that. Even though it was nice content. It made over $10k/month. Dropped to around $100 which is just enough to pay the server.

Passive income means you built a method of generating income while you're doing minimal to zero work, example, built a website that require maybe an hour of work per week/month, or built a biz where operations have been/can be delegated to someone else.

Having income from a "job" is active income where you actively have to work (or pretend to work if your work can actually be automated and you've managed to fool your boss otherwise).

"passive" means "not active", as in "I didn't do anything." Here people are talking about projects that, after they are set up, continue to generate income with minimal continued work being put into it. This is in contrast to a product that you continue to invest work in maintaining, supporting or selling.

I've generated over $200k in the past 6 years with a website I started in high school in 1997 called hawkee.com. It's always just been a coding playground for me to experiment with new technologies and to hone my coding skills. I coded a product price comparison to help pay for the server costs and it has more than paid for the server costs over the years.

I do freelance coding, but I do come back to the site every couple months to play with new technologies and improve the user experience.

How do you make money on this website?

Price comparison in the hardware section.

A flash game I built in high school (about 7 years ago) went from an average of $30 per month on AdSense to $500 the next month, to $3,600 the month after that due to an unexpected surge in traffic for a keyword for which it ranked #1 on Google. The $3,600 month happened in May, and it has since dropped steadily to about $1,500 a month now. Regardless, it was a nice surprise since the game was just sitting there from when I spent a weekend building it a long time ago.

How is it making money? With ads?

Which game is that?

This is one of my favourite Ask HN's, really insightful

About $20 a month, from some flash games I made about 8 years ago... Not too bad?

~ $1,000/month in stock dividends.

What's the ROI on that?

Based on the original cost, it's 17% (10% excluding outliers). Based on current market value, it's 6%. I did sell off some REITs at a loss a three years ago for tax purposes.

we just launched an ebook that has 17 interviews with hackers who built recurring revenue apps: http://www.sideprojects.com

nice, how much have you made on the ebook

I make between $500 und $100 per month off my stand-alone cross-browser testing tool: http://www.browseemall.com

The product was launched on february this year and it's growing nicely so far. Not real recurring yet, as every sale comes with one year of free updates.

Interesting. How many unique views a month does your site get now and what kind of conversion rates are you seeing? I am planning to launch a paid version of my app, http://www.pageblox.com and my potential customers are also developers/designers.

About 200 - 300 a day...

I made an app for reading Hacker News called HackerNode which makes about $300 a month.


Do you guys have any ideas on how I can increase revenues?

Thinking of a subscription based model with a lot of killer features but don't know if there is a market for it.

Only thing I can think of is to often look at AlienBlue for inspiration.

About 500€ with an Android app (a Facebook client, link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.flipster), though I do not know if it will go up or down in the future, since I've just activated payment options in my app. (activated In app purchase on 1st August, released Pro version a few days ago)

Haven't done any marketing other then contacting a bunch of blogs (~20) before realizing that this feels a lot like "farming" in a MMORPG, which I hate doing, so I stopped. ;-/

Other than that, it's a nice playground for trying new stuff, which in some cases is directly reused in the products I build for the startup I am working for.

Sorry, no hard numbers for privacy reasons.

The basic living needs of my family (food, clothing, mortgage, utilities, cars, etc.) has been covered by my investment portfolio for several years by now. Any additional income goes straight towards increasing said portfolio.

Rough estimates for the source of the principal for the investment income:

- 50% - savings from worked income

- 30% - earnings from real estate investments

- 20% - earnings from outside consulting / freelance software projects.

I personally believe that anybody who exercises a fair amount of discipline to save away their income and spend reasonably can become financially independent within 15-20 years. Thanks to what I learned from my accounting classes, I was able to accomplish this in less than 10 years.

This is what I'm currently aiming for. I have about $100/month coming in from dividends and distributions and am looking to seriously ramp this up. I haven't really been paying that much attention until now. I figure if I take on side work, I could have my basic expenses covered within 5 years and within 10 years I would have enough to cover expenses for any children that might come along in the future and provide some cushion.

I generate about $25k/year in mostly-passive-income from single family rental homes. I average 20 hours/year maintaining this income stream in answering email, collecting invoices for my accountant, and making the occasional tough decision about renovating/repairing/waiting.

I got there after placing subcontractors for about 2 years with various companies, which built up the cash reserves that let me purchase the rental properties with no mortgages.

I got /there/ by inviting some young dude to a conference I organised whom I'd met at another conference. He and I worked together to match talented young programmers with companies that wanted them. Nice work if you can get it.

I just launched hacker fiction. It is a collection of stories (no more than 100 pages long) focused on hacking, sci-fy, and just about anything else I can imagine. It already made its first $20 on launch day. :)

You can read a sampler here:


I don thave a website yet, because Im still testing the idea to see if its worth investing time in. Plans would be to write a collection of stories and then sell them. Maybe some merchandise if any of the stories stick.

About 90 dollars a month in a little iPhone app called TweakyBeat .. it was free for like three years, then some day I asked myself if I could change it from free to pay, and yes you can.

I haven't gotten very far into passive income. So far, I get 10.00/quarter in sparse CafePress sales and ~60.00/quarter from dividend investments. CafePress has been a rough ride. I've put up a good number of designs I think should do well, but have yet to sell. That being said, I'm not really putting time into all of the other aspects of doing well with CafePress. At this point, dividend investments seem to be an easier route to consistent passive income.

I make about $5/month on Food Trucks Near Me [1] through ads. At least it's not losing money!

[1] http://foodtrucksnearme.com

PUT MORE ADS! In between each row should be an ad unit! Contact all the Food Truck owners and get them to put up an ad on a monthly basis. Food Truck owners are relatively easy to sell to (I have experience here) because their business is small. Take that money and reinvest it back into generating traffic and build your own list of food truck customers and then charge for blasts etc...

Fair enough! I'm writing a Stripe page to allow food truck owners to buy a 'priority listing.' It's currently set at $100/month and you are put in the top row. I'm thinking of dropping it to $20/mo. Any input on pricing?

Since you have 4 cities, you can test different prices in each. $100 sounds a bit steep for a food truck unless you can guarantee ROI for them. I think it would be smarter to just add more cities and keep the price lower.

I would try something like $25 a spot and try to make them sign a 3-month advertising contract. If they balk, just remember you have 30 other food trucks and only 3 spots. This makes more sense if you had a good amount of traffic.

Multivariate testing? Now you're talking.

I am considering a lower pricing tier for a menu. Currently only St. Louis has a couple menus, because curating and formatting the menus is a pain.

thinking the paid version would depend on local competition. Pay more to get more if you have a lot of competition. if low competition, they would pay less for the ad. You can determine which truck should pay how much based on geospatial statistics if you have a location for each truck (let me know if you have any questions about this). also, my brother in law has 2 food trucks on a Hawaiian island - and there are plenty here in California, so I hope you will add more locations.

Impossible to offer pricing advice without knowing about your traffic. Done right, you are offering a fairly valuable form of advertising and one that restaurateurs understand well.

Damn you should try San Francisco(The bay area). The food truck business is big there ! There is food truck 'party' every weeks. May be LA and Seattle as well. I was looking for a website like this when i was living there.

I just answered a similar request here [1] - but basically the site can't support a city with that many trucks because of Twitter's beloved API call limits.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4470623

Vegas has a great and growing food truck culture, and I'd dig a site like this for the area. Not sure what's involved in expanding to new cities, but I figure I'll throw this out there anyway.

Awesome, I'll do Vegas next! Kansas City is set for release this week - the data is already loaded, just need to do some aesthetic tweaks.

Philly has a lot of food trucks, too.

I've wanted exactly this site. Please add SF and Austin as locations.

The problem is the twitter API - I'm currently rendering with JQuery clientside, and the number of trucks in SF would exceed an IP's call limit.

I've been working on a cached serverside implementation that uses multiple IPs to overcome this, but it's too much of a pain. In addition, I would have to completely redo the UI to accommodate that many trucks.

I think that the current site will stay for mid-sized cities (30-50 trucks) unless a developer steps in. I had almost finalized giving 49% of the company to have the rails shop in town completely redo the site and do the caching.

49% is a whole lot. For that much, you should find a co-founder who will work full time.

Also, to reiterate what other people in this thread have said, find better ways to monetize this. Think about bigger ads, charging trucks to send email to your subscribers, etc. Traffic solves one of the bigger risks for a food truck.

Having a real business plan here means you can give away a much smaller chunk of the company, or pay cash, and give away no equity.

All good ideas. I hadn't considered the email - I am using Systematic Revenue for emails and this could be a great way to take advantage of the system.

I assume the hosting is not free?

I'm on a single Heroku dyno, which is free.

About $10-100 a month through Amazon Associates on a moderately popular blog (usually the lower amount). And $12,000 a month from a small Bay Area office building.

I make between $1,500 and $2,500 (used to be higher) on the App Store from two iOS apps (called OneVoice and Fluent). The rest of my income comes from design consulting.

Right now I am working on a new book that launches on Tuesday about designing iOS applications. If you are interested in iOS apps you should check it out: http://nathanbarry.com/inside-app-design-handbook

I learned web-development while making a little price-tracking/wishlist app: http://www.rankique.com/ (and a german version, pretty much for myself to use..: http://www.rankique.de/)

Together they make about 30-50€/month. I'm working on a couple of new features and I'm searching for a new name, but currently school takes up most of my time.

We run a couple of short URL and disposable e-mail websites like http://melt.li/ or http://www.fakeinbox.com/ that make around $280 per month. That's not much, obviously, but there was one month last year where we made $3.400 due to a traffic surge caused by someone using one of our short URL domains for spamming.

In my spare time during my first year of university, I coded a Mac app to calculate arithmetic and weighted average for italian universities: http://itunes.apple.com/it/app/mylibretto/id470129723?mt=12

I gained almost 50 $/month during last two years and it costs me some hours a year for customer support.

Right, I've pondered a while if I should be posting this but here goes. Out of sheer boredom I created a adult orientated site, yes the whole nine-nsfw-yards stuff. It's free to use, no sign ups, no premium accounts, no ads, no pop-ups etc. Content is user generated and aggregated.

Aug 3rd - Sep 2nd 2012:

Visits: 81,045

Unique Visitors: 54,386

Pageviews: 3,189,136

Pages / Visit: 39.35

Avg. Visit Duration: 00:14:12

% New Visits: 63.69%

Are these numbers good enough to even start thinking about monetization?

In a couple months I'll find out of the first full year of my Tarot deck's publication[1] will have resulted in continuing royalties. It came out only a couple months before the end of last fiscal year, and came close to earning out its advance, so I'm hopeful.

Royalties: passive income 1.0.

[1] http://egypt.urnash.com/tarot/

I launched http://bestattendance.com 20 months ago working solo while holding a full time job. Profitable and bootstrapped. Growth was slow at first, but things are really starting to take off now. It still does not support a full time income but I project that it will soon(ish).

I wouldn't call it exactly passive but it's not really a focus right now.

I setup an etsy shop on which I put some posters I've made. http://www.etsy.com/shop/Posterboard

I actually have made -$1.40 b/c that's what it costed me to put up the posters. It's been up for about 2 weeks now.

Just launched, $0/month . Breeze ( http://letsbreeze.com ), a simple agile project management tool.

It's kind a hybrid between Trello and Basecamp (yes, the interface design is influenced by Basecamp, but it kicks ass :) )

Basically it's a Kanban board with added time tracking and reports.

~10 bucks a month. http://hipsterorhomeless.com :|

Funny concept. Re-arrange the layout so that the ad units are on the left and right of the photos, not all the way down on the bottom. Also, allow for tagging so that the ads are more closely related. Also, after clicking the vote, it just takes me to the next page after quickly displaying the score, I want to know if the person is actually homeless or hipster? There are a few directions you can take this, and while I doubt it could ever be your main income source, you have potential to at least bring in a few hundred per month. ..

Hey thanks for the tips :) This was my first actual site done from scratch. I've come a long way now and work for an awesome company, and have another website that I am eagerly trying to find time to complete, but I definitely will try to attack some (all maybe?) of those ideas that you've shared!

No problem, if you need any other tips or clarification, fee free to drop me a line... Good luck!

Interesting concept there, plus some great shots


It looks like $70-100 is average for a "good enough" android app without any promotion. My IOU app is about the same. Launching a web-site for it soon (same as app, with sync) to see how it affects. Not expecting much income from all of this, it's just fun.

I generate maybe $10 a month after paying expenses (server, some small design work) on this spare time website, through adwords: http://www.challengelistcreator.com

Not sure it could go much further though.

I make a little over 600$ selling a Newsletter script on Codecanyon http://codecanyon.net/item/newsletter-mailer-v13/149365

Currently I am planing a SaaS Newsletter Mailer.

I use your script. It's very nice and worth the price, but the script setup is more complicated than it needs to be and the smtp is broken and I'm forced to use phpmailer. Two things I've never had issues with from all the other scripts I've installed on my server over the past 7 years.

I'd still prefer it over SaaS Mail because I don't have re-occuring costs every month and I like being in control of my own email lists and the iframe embedded email newsletter signup is awesome. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm the one that asked you about how to check the database to see if a user had already signed up for a specific category newsletter before adding them to it again. That's another thing you should fix.

3 little flaws but the rest of the script is just sooooo perfect. It's sold over 1800+ times because designers/developers like us HATE SaaS newsletter mailers. We like your script.

The problem with running your own mail script is your inboxing rate. Your IP is not going to be white listed and it can really hurt you later on. Not to hate on the OP, but if you are building a serious business that needs to ensure deliverability of email to users, I recommend an outside provider like SendGrid, SailThru, MailGun, MailChimp, iContact, etc...

The software also supports Amazon SES


We get anywhere from $50-250 per month from an iOS app called Basketball Shot Tracker HD (www.slyceapps.com/shottracker).

It tends to depend on how close it is to the basketball season. We found the in app purchase model to work really well for us.


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