Ask HN: What is your money-making side project outside programming/CS?

I would like to if time permits. There is a huge untapped market here. The difficulty is in locating the parts that are both unavailable and 3D printable. I keep it in the back of my head as I repair other items. So much expensive stuff ends up in a landfill over a tiny part.

I could see someday having a github project for replacement parts, each one iterating and getting better an better — far beyond the original.

All plastic parts for appliances: dish drawer wheels, fridge shelves – are all designed to not last, run for $$$ on vendor site if possible to find at all. If you print it – they would come.

Launched in 2016 for free. Started making money in 2018 with $3,000+ MMR. Referral only (side) business. I work full-time as an engineer/principal in growth.

I conduct a form of ethnography, embedding myself in the lives of consumers the way Margaret Mead did among Samoans. I interviews my subjects and the people around them, itemizing the contents of their home (photographing and videotaping), and accompany them as they progress through their day. Then I sift the resulting information for weeks, even months, looking for connections and telltale behaviors.

The service is used mostly by founders for small businesses and startups. I takes questions about sales figures and product lines and reconfigures them into questions about worlds, the context in which people unthinkingly live their everyday lives. The idea is that examining the beliefs and unconscious biases that people have will eventually yield profitable insights for these businesses.

So far, I’ve done market entry for a few Chinese companies into Japanese market, helped indie game design company launch a successful game, a boutique lingerie shop launch a new summer line, street musicians, and a few cafes and bars.

I do this on the side with hopes to go full time into it soon.

This sounds interesting. Did you build an app around this form of ethnography? And do you collect and make sense of qualitative information?

This is the most fascinating side business I’ve read of! Does what you do ultimately help whoever you are following in their business? Have you seen them make changes that have helped the business in small or even larger ways?

I make and sell staff paper notebooks for musicians:

I’m an avid saxophone player and am taking evening classes in theory, so I made this to solve a problem that I myself had. Nothing else like it on the market!

Every part of this notebook is automatically generated with a bunch of python scripts: the cover design, the interior, the line placement, the margins. The program basically spits out a PDF which I can then send to print shops (which is the hardest part of the whole thing!)

The product is good, people like it, and the hardest part for me right now is sales – trying to get stores to carry it, or get traffic to the site to drive sales! If you know anyone who might be interested…

Thanks for posting. I have always wanted this. Just ordered 6 (accidentally, meant to order 3) and I’m hoping it’s as awesome as I’m imagining.

For the past few years I’ve been buying, renovating, and selling small-ish houses. My dad was a contractor growing up so I picked up most of the necessary skills helping him out during middle and high school. I mostly work on weekends and holidays which makes it a bit slow going, but I’ve made a reasonable amount of money. Even if the money was worse I would still probably do it, I really enjoy both the physical aspects of the work and seeing a house go from a beat up old husk to a shiny new place! I have to contract out some of the work (electrical mostly) because I’m not a certified electrician, but otherwise it is a one man show.

I did a coffee kiosk once. It went well, but required a large amount of energy and focus.

We did a little twist on the business model. Starbucks sells nice places to sit down. We sold drugs. The model, from logo design to promotions, was designed to create a habit loop where people would get their morning coffee from us.

It was so profitable that I seriously considered making it my full time career, expanding cafes all over the country. The only thing that changed my mind was 1) the startup boom 2) dealing with minimum wage workers is extremely depressing. The tech industry has its abundance, whereas with food and drinks, it was clear that income was limited and had to be managed carefully.

Did you consider paying more than minimum wage? I wonder if a higher wage would enable you to expand your talent pool to folks who would enjoy slinging coffee a couple days a week on the side to improve their situation while actually finding it fulfilling work. The math does seem fixed, there is only so much time in the day and the inputs have fixed costs, but if you can get it all well tuned to the point where effort and time in is worth it then it can just run for a long time until some change in conditions makes you walk away instead of tweaking again. It always seems to me like spending more for a better product should be the first tweak attempted rather than the race to the bottom so many places undertake.

I taught myself circuit board design and found a niche market that I designed a few products for that sold like gangbusters with zero marketing for a few years until the market cooled off and low cost knock offs started entering the market.

I also found that you could use the same CAD program that I learned to design PCB’s to draw outlines to cut out on the laser CNC machine at the local maker space. I ended up finding a niche on ebay building open air computer cases. Because of the economics of shipping large items from overseas and the low cost of the materials I was using I was able to under cut the imports on price by like 60% and still make a nice amount of money on a $/ hour basis.

In hind sight the best way to find these kinds of opportunities is not to be looking for them. You really just need to get a really deep understanding of a hobby or industry or market that interests you in some way and once you have that then these sorts of things kind of pop out of the woodwork.

I’m a lawyer who doesn’t do much (any) marketing. But when someone gets referred and calls or sends an email asking for help with setting up an LLC, helping wind-down or sell their business, or even something small like reviewing an NDA, I can jump in.

I’m solo, so I don’t have any overhead and I can charge far less than anyone else. This is also entirely a side gig, so volume is so low that I can be responsive, helpful and more like a thought partner who is also helping out on legal.

I do electronics repair for cars. For many older and rare cars it’s usually no longer possible (or desired) to replace broken electronic components such as the engine or transmission controller. So owners contact me to have the part repaired instead of replacing it.

The repairs are usually not that challenging for me, and it won’t make me rich, but it’s a great way for me to clear my head from challenges with my tech startup. It also gives me access to some very rare and expensive cars. Obviously you need to test drive the car if you just fixed the ECU 😉

I woodwork at a local makershop, I started out making random things for my home and when I no longer had ideas for other stuff I wanted I’d make things and give them away for free to friends.

Eventually other people wanted to know if I can make them custom pieces so I began doing it for money, mostly to cover cost of materials and a bit of time for labor.

Not making big money from it but it’s fulfilling work and good to know I could still have a place in a world with no technology. Surprisingly, woodworking shares some things in common with building software.

How did you get started?

I’ve been wanting to get into this for awhile, but find myself procrastinating mostly out of uncertainty and fear of failure; but somewhat out of just having no idea where I should start, what tools I need to start, and what is achievable for a beginner.

I’ve been enjoying some minor woodworking as a purely hobby. I agree, it’s great fun, and I think there is some common idea along with building software.

Wondering what you’ve found to be a reasonable amount of income vs work for sale? I’m not really interested in making money, but covering costs and feeling satisfaction would be good.

I’m an amateur musician. I have a website where I review music gear, especially MIDI keyboards (have a bunch of them).

It brings in a steady $1k+/month almost completely passively through Amazon affiliate commissions

Nothing, my day job is already enough.

Rather spend time with family and friends.

However, if I was forced to change job for whatever reason, probably something related with cooking.

I do business strategy for startups through topographical business maps. It’s the best strategy tool out there and helps avoid costly mistakes. It also aides in acquiring funding.

No website. Just referrals. Every founder I’ve worked with will always talk to other people about it and share my contact info. Works great because I cannot do it full time at the moment.

Email in profile if you have context-specific questions.

The real answer. After a loooong day at work my brain shuts down completely when i’m at home. Gaming, sleeping and going out for dinner is enough.

Helping organize small music concerts and festivals and recording local indie bands. Mostly friends or friends of friends.

I’ve been doing it since I was a teen, before I started programming, and the first significant amount of money I made was after I invested all my savings in a small festival I organized with my friends.

As for recording, it’s been a fun ride because equipment go so much better and accessible since I started 15 years ago. For recording, having portable stuff is nice, but affording to pick studios because of the room instead of the equipment was a real game changer.

I’ve been doing audio mastering as a creative hobby for about 5 years but I’ve never done anything professionally. I was literally just contacted early this morning (EST) regarding an opportunity to do some work professionally for an indie record label so I am going to see where that goes. There is a “Full-Time Effort” clause in my employment contract that might require me to get permission from my company to do it, but I’m hoping it won’t be an issue either way.

Investing. It takes a lot of time to have an understanding of filtering the good long term stuff from the bad short term strategies, but it’s worth it.

Tried everything:
youtube channel,
multiple tutorial websites,
music video making/videography,
photography, for artists and bands,
and finally sound design and mixing

The last one is the only that is actually working somewhat

I did consulting on the side until I burnt out.

Now I invest my spare time in being better at my full time job, and it’s paid off.

Attempting to make money making side projects and instead just expensing servers and subcontractors and getting the tax refund from everything my employer withheld by April

Poker. I’m not able to make enough for it to be a full time job, but it’s more pleasant than driving an Uber. Sometimes makes for good networking too.

Photography in the early 2000s. Made enough to level up my gear multiple times over. Renovated houses from 03-07. But now my money making side projects are programming-based.

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