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Ask HN: Ideas for a small passive income site
90 points by madd_o on July 31, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 32 comments
I'm a web developer, happy to use my spare time to build one or several small passive income sites. Looking for ideas for what to build.



Can I suggest that you focus on ways to create outsized value with software? This puts you several steps ahead of the game. Speaking in generalities, the "passive income" crowd don't tend to actually build businesses and often don't create sustainable, defensible value in their projects. If you build a business with sustainable, defensible value, then "all" you need to do from that point is figure out the right combination of algorithms and employees such that your personal time investment is sufficiently low such that it hits your "passive" threshhold.

If you want some more concrete ideas, in lieu of copy/pasting a previous comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5904316


Just read your list. Awesome. Can you expand on number 2 a bit? Are there other similar questions that can get people talking about solutions amenable to a software product?

I like the Excel idea a lot, I'm hoping to have several such questions.


You should build a site that helps people find ideas to gain passive income. This topic comes up enough that there is a clear market.


Thanks for the reply. I've visited many of the sites that attempt to provide a fountain of ideas, but never found them to be on point. Seems like a challenging product to make.


Isnt that market saturated? Smart Passive Income etc?


This is true, teaching people how to do business through videos is a clear passive income device.


Fork my Stopwatch app for iOS. It makes just over $5/day, and I never did much work on it.

Completely open source, no real marketing.

https://github.com/andrewljohnson/StopWatch-of-Gaia

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/stopwatch-+-timer-stop-watch...


Is there a way in iOS for one app to trigger the opening of another app? I was thinking more in an alarm clock situation but perhaps also in a timer situation. For example, "start my Spotify in 1 hour".


URL Schemes are the only way to communicate between apps. So to launch an app you'd need to know it's NSURL (for spotify it's "spotify") to build a URL and do: [[UIApplication sharedApplication] openURL:];


There are also App Extensions now, as of iOS8: https://developer.apple.com/library/prerelease/ios/documenta...


Yes, you can use app URLs like APPNAME:// or use the new iOS8 framework for inter-app communication (Extensions).


That's $150 per month - average salary of an experienced full-time school teacher in Georgia (eastern Europe). And no, living costs are not that different from your place of living.


I will look into this, thanks for the reply :)


That's so bold! You're a good guy.


Pick a specific audience and build them a platform or a way to connect with others looking for their services.

Some random ideas I just came up with are below. Not all of them passive, but might still interest you.

- Website with WordPress templates for real estate agents.

- WordPress multisite network that enables real estate agents to create a site quickly and then pay a monthly hosting fee. You could scale this by selling to different real estate companies, getting all of their agents a personal site.

- Mobile marketing for restaurants. Create a service that enables restaurants to send text message deals to customers.

- Pick an audience that interests you and post user generated content. Then sell ads/sponsorships to companies that want to be in front of that audience. For example, if you create a site for people to submit cute dog pictures, a company like BarkBox might pay for sponsorship.

- Teach people a skill and use Amazon affiliate links to the tools that you use (if possible).

- Marketing analytics. Build a tool that integrates with Google analytics and provides recommended actions to take to improve website performance.

- Create a stock photo site for a specific niche (doctors, lawyers, start ups, etc).

- Create a directory for a specific niche and then sell top placement on that directory.

- Create a site that allows people who don't know how to code to make an app.


FWIW I built idea #3 here (mobile marketing for restaurants), except I targeted another, but similar, niche.

I used long codes (short codes are expensive!), and I didn't do the marketing myself. It's basically a way for them to keep a list of customers, enable automatic signups by texting the number, etc. They write their own messages and send them out.

I'm not much of a salesman, but I was able to make a few sales, mostly to local places via in-person conversations.

Anyway, I have this software built and I'm willing to talk about moving it into other niches.


Move fast, this one will blow over quick: Ebola supplies/starter kits, either self-assembled (highest effort, high margin) or just stacks of amazon products with referrals (low effort, low margin).

Second revenue stream for this - there are lots of "end of the world preparedness" sites (think of the people who are buying Glenn Beck's gold coins and you've got an idea of the demographic) that would pay to advertise on a website that attracts people who want to buy their way out of future-phobia.


I was thinking about starting an open source project like Wordpress, Ghost.io, etc.. Then create a market for templates. There used to be more "production ready" open source projects back in the day.. Not as much anymore.

Some open source project ideas:

- subscription commerce (open source birchbox model)

- location based platform for mobile apps (open source Uber/Lyft model)

- host your own airbnb page (open source airbnb)

etc..

essentially, any type of successful business model that can be replicated in other industries, open source it, then monetize on templates.


Disclaimer: I have no stats to back this up, at all. Just been in the game awhile.

The entry level commerce space (shopify, opencart, woocommerce, etc) always feels overcrowded, but few things really nail it.

Opencart is the only truly free service that's a contender, and it's terrible. Granted - ecommerce, especially security, is very difficult, and asking for that in a free product is lofty.

If you can build a commerce platform that's as low-investment as opencart (read: free) with the UX quality of shopify, and just let it into the wild, you can make an absolute killing by owning the plugin and template market associated.


This has been written about so much there is really no point in repeating it here. Just Google Pat Flynn. He has a whole blog about it.


Thanks for the tip, I'll do that.


Short overview of what he does:

He has a wildly popular blog, and he is an affiliate for a few products, most notably, hosting. He makes 30K or more per month, from this one affiliate program.

He sells an ebook, something related to green architecture.

He also builds info sites, with Adsense on them and makes a few thousand from those.

He has a couple of iOS apps I believe, built with outsourcing.

As far as I can see, none of the above is passive or even close to passive (except may be the ebook). He worked hard to get where he is, and still does. He shares much of his numbers - good inspiration if you need some.


Passive does not equal no work. I think the passive comes in after you put in that initial work, creating ebook, adsense sites, etc. and then only needing to devote a minimum of time to maintain that income.


I feel like there's a ton of untapped potential in online store affiliates, beyond the usual "blogs and reviews". Maybe something that imports the wishlist for one particular "big box online retailer / cloud services provider" and notifies the user if any product on the list goes down in price at one of many different vendors?

I have a few other ideas in that vein, but I am curious of any traps that may be encountered.


Do research on fast growing internet markets (think Asia/Africa - may need to go one level deeper like a region or major city).

Then see if that country or region has a dominant job board/classified website/real estate listing etc.

Millions of users are just coming to the internet in those countries and have room for growth. Many of the existing websites offer horrible experience.


Try pg's list of "ideas we'd like to fund". http://www.ycombinator.com/rfs/

Ancient, but here's a blog post I wrote with some ideas: http://www.puremango.co.uk/2010/10/ten-ideas/

And Jacques Mattheij's post that inspired me: http://jacquesmattheij.com/My+list+of+ideas+for+when+you+are...


None of this looks small or passive to me.


dropship items that cater to an unsavvy market (old people, hobbyists, memes, videogame/fanship communities). People less inclined to seek things out on amazon themselves. alternatively, work on something YOU care about and make something worthwhile. You might even make a buck


Look through some of the sites and apps for sale on Flippa.com and SideProjectors.com. You can get some ideas and maybe find an existing project to take over and build on.


I've bought a couple of domains on Flippa that had a 'built in' business purpose. SideProjectors has been very hit or miss in that some of those sellers don't respond back to any questions (for me at least).


make some tool/app for people in lesser known occupation.. maybe plumbers or mechanics .. where they can exchange things,etc..


go to blackhatworld.com and In under a week you can build something since you have web skills that hits $10/day passively. Then scale parallel until you've got a salary, then work on your dream.




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