(This post is mostly fun and tongue-in-cheek, please contain your indignation.)
Every so often I encounter a comment on HackerNews that involuntarily makes my jaw drop, head shake and eyes water. It's usually concerning what some on HackerNews consider a 'worthwhile' amount of money you can earn as an solopreneur or maker VS being an employee.
Obviously, it's probably a small minority of the silent masses who scroll through HN daily who have these views, but comments like the following, or a variant of it comes up so often I can't help but feel that a decent part of the community is ridiculously out of touch with the rest of humanity.
$1000 per month from a side project is considered meh. 😳 🙃
And here's another from the same day,
And from the same user a few scrolls later,
My god. Look, the commenter had the self awareness to bring up regional cost of living and that not everyone can work at the FAMANGs of the world, but really? Getting $3.7 million dollars for just 7 years of work is, like, a bad deal?
To consider making $500K pa as a doable, realistic salary to be taken into account when deciding between starting a company or just seeking a job... Like us millennials say, "I can't. Even."
That annual salary far outstrips what I can reasonably expect to earn in a decade, and I'm a developer working for a fintech startup with a good couple of years under my belt. For most people in the world, $500K pa is a preposterous amount of money.
I'm too lazy to go dig up more examples, but I'm sure you'll find some more gems like these if you go digging around on past threads.
This kind of poo-pooing of what most - and I'm talking 90% of the US population, never mind the rest of the world! - would consider rather large amounts of money is incredibly mind-blowing and makes my head spin.
Now I'm sure that in commenters like the above's worlds, that kind of money is indeed average and peanuts, but I wanted to write this article for myself and the rest of us to just try and deal.
I'm trying to make sense of the fact that I'm on this forum, interacting with people everyday, talking about current events and issues, that make more money per year than I can even imagine. In a way we're peers, but more realistically they're like the gods of Olympus who occasionally slum it with the rest of us.
So if you're like me, and you consider even a $1000 as lot of money, let's look at this as average mortals should.
1) $1000pm is a flippen lot
Let's go with the $1000 pm example, because figures like $3.6 million is, to be frank, in the realms of La-La land for me and almost everyone I know personally.
And let's - for the sake of simplicity - assume that you can take home 60% of that revenue as net earnings. And that the project doesn't take up more free time with maintenance and support issues than you can handle on your own. That's $600 per month. Extra. From a thing on the side.
I realise that I live in one of those cheap, unappealing parts of the world, but that kinda money would easily cover me and my family's rent every month, and then some. Do you realise how much of a mental weight that can take off a persons shoulders? To know rent is covered over and above your day-job earnings?
Away with your $1000-is-not-worth-it malarky!
2) Making money with your own products is HARD.
When he last checked, 12 solo founders out of 17207 made more than $10K MRR. Only 54 products made more than $2000pm. I don't think I need to express that in ratios for you to see the probability of making a profitable project.
Starting a product and actually earning money from it is hard. Insanely hard. Hell, if you manage to make even $100pm from a side project you've got my respect. You've got me beat by a lot!
When I see makers on IndieHackers or Twitter celebrate $100 in sales I get genuinely excited for them. It's really an incredible feat. Bravo to them, I wish them luck and more success in the future.
That $1000 per month can grow
Another thing to consider is that earning a $1000 pm means your project is basically validated and ready to explode. With work, you could probably scale it to much higher multiples.
Sure, the money it makes is negligible to the higher beings in Silicon Valley, but for us regular plebs that's a strong signal that your project potentially has legs. It might even be a project you could sell for $3.7 million dollars in 7 years time, if you put the work in and get a little lucky.
Ya, but Rik, cost of living
Sure, things cost more in the States. And more so in SanFran. But I can't just up and go live in the States. Nor pretty much anywhere else in the First World. A heck of a lot of the people frequenting HN, TW and IH on a daily basis could probably not either.
So for people like us, it's inspiring to read about some rando making a $1000 pm, on their own, independently. It gives us hope that some dude in Alabama could start a thing and sell it for more money than we could expect to earn in a lifetime as a salaried employee. Because maybe that means we could too.
Because they used the same tools we have access too(except for Stripe 😝). They had access to the same markets we could reach.
And they make the kinds of money with those tools that could buy people like us freedom. Freedom from being chained to a job, freedom from financial stress, and possibly even the freedom to move our families to better places in the world. Places that others just get born in.
So when you see smarmy comments on HackerNews new putting down the success of others, take a step back and realise, it's not meant for you. It's not personal.
These are merely the musings of a few lucky, privileged gods, reflecting on the toils of the mortals.
Thanks for reading. If you have any comments or suggestions, follow and contact me on Twitter @RikNieu.
If you want to read more of my rants, sign up below and I'll mail you when I post new stuff. 👇