The internet made so many things possible. From the words you’re reading on this screen to Google Maps, smart phones, and even smart coffee makers*, the internet offers endless possibilities.
But there’s one thing — one thing in particular which I find incredibly fascinating. And that’s the new kinds of businesses that have sparked all these products, services and connected machinery.
The idea that you can build a business independently, from the comfort of your own home, is simply amazing. All you need is an internet connection, and your imagination.
* Yes, these things exist. And in contrast to what this article tells you, no, you don’t need one.
Independent Hacking & Side Projects
There are a variety of words that are used to describe these kind of internet business. Some call them ‘Indie Hackers‘, which is actually an online community of ‘independent hackers’. In other words, indie hackers are those that ‘hack’ or ‘create’ an online product or service by themselves, often without external funding.
Similarly, you often hear the word ‘side projects‘. Because there’s a very low threshold to start, many coders, designers and entrepreneurs start their business ‘on the side’. They have a normal job, and simply start coding a website or building an online community in the evenings, weekends and nights.
But whatever you call it, it all comes down to more or less the same thing. It’s about setting up a (small) business that runs almost entirely on the internet — and needs little in terms of financial or human capital to get started.
Why is this so great?
The fact that you need so little to start an indie hacker project is what makes them so interesting. As an example, one of the projects I worked on in the past was a home goods company called Lowland Living.
Lowland Living offered one product: gummy bear molds. Don’t be put off by the weirdness of the product — to me, this was a revelation. As a Dutchman, I was able to sell Chinese-made products to consumers in the United States, while never setting a foot in either of those countries! The story of how I did that will be the topic of another blog post, but it’s a perfect example of what the internet has made possible, and how easy it was to start this.
A similarly interesting and personal example was an affiliate website I build in 2017, called All About Chairs. I’m not some strange chair fanatic, but on this site, I reviewed a variety of (office) chairs, rating them on how comfortable they were, their quality, etc. Throughout the website, I placed affiliate links — linking to Amazon where people could buy the chair in question. If they bought the chair, I received a small commission.
Just like Lowland Living, this project wasn’t a great success. And just like Lowland Living, how I built the company will also be the topic of another blog post. But again, these examples show the power of the internet, and how weird and amazing some internet businesses are. Plus, they really demonstrate what’s possible, as long as you’re keen to learn, are internet-savvy, and somewhat determined.
Some Examples of Fascinating Indie Hacker Projects
Now that I mentioned some of my side projects, let’s turn to what I find highly interesting projects by others.
Perhaps some of my favorites are projects I’d like to call ‘mail someone a thing’. Take for instance Ship Your Enemies Glitter. As the name says, this webshop allows you to ship your enemies very fine glitter. Which sticks. Everywhere.
Or alternatively, why not mail someone a potato? In 2018, this webshop was making more than $100,000 per year by shipping message-potatoes to people all over the world. A weird idea plus the internet equals profit!
But that doesn’t mean that an internet side project has to be meaningless or weird. At the Enter Network meetups that I run, we’ve had someone talk about a website that shows the ideal sizes of cabin baggage for specific airlines. Or consider NomadList, a community created for ‘digital nomads’, that brings in more than $300,000 per year, and was founded by just one person!
I can go on and on about these kinds of businesses. But the bottom line is, the internet is amazing. And there’s much more possible than you would think. Would you like to hear more about these possibilities and my own experience building indie hacker projects? Read more about this blog, subscribe and I’ll keep you posted.