Making $200k/year at 25 from online startups
Ch Daniel is a 25 year old founder who is making $200,000 in annual revenue from a variety of websites. He's made everything SaaS businesses to Reddit communities and podcasts with his brother David. Read his exclusive interview for his tips on making a living online.
Can you tell us about your entrepreneurial achievements so far?
Yeah sure! Let’s do this: I’ll put up the vanity metrics and then bring some realness into it
- 11,000,000+ all-time users reached
- Been making $200k/yr for the last couple of years
- Lately my 2nd company (successful company I should say, as it’s faaar from being the 2nd company at all) has reached $3-4k per month in revenue
- I run a community (Reddit SaaS) that has about 45,000 members
- I run a podcast where I talked to billionaires, partners of Jeff Bezos (i.e. Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp/37 signals), founders of unicorns, and other people with their top vanity metrics.
The reality of it is: my brother and I (co-founder) have been lucky a few times out of hundreds of tries. The bullet-point list above: that’s the highlight reel. We’ve been lucky at one point, and in the last few years we’ve only been moderately successful - but that’s ok!
That’s the beautiful thing about entrepreneurship, I think - you only have to be right once and, for some time, you can cruise on your success. Just like we did. We’re like those writers that start with a hit book, then they release stuff that is… so and so (our situation right now).
But make no mistake - we’ve been trying to get our next hit in the meantime. It’s just another one of those hundreds of attempts 😀 SignHouse, our eSignature tool, is our next attempt, which is also our most ambitious one so far. But I’ll talk more about it below. Anyway, that’s life so far!
How did you first get involved in entrepreneurship?
I started my first online business when I was 15 - it was an e-Commerce shop. (I’m 25 now). But the success I talked about above was started when I was 19, so 4 years into this sport. It’s https://legitcheck.app/. However, LC only became a company after about 2 years. So that makes it 6 years into the sport!
Regarding inspiration, I always thought entrepreneurship is the way to go, so I didn’t really consider a job. I took a job for some time, at one point, to try it out, but didn’t really needed. That said, it’s been luck yet again — I started practicing a sport early on, the same way LeBron or another one of your favourite athletes probably started very early on.
So if you’re reading this and you’re considering starting a business, do not postpone! You might or might not become LeBron. But in business, you don’t have to be LeBron to live a beautiful life.
How come you’ve chosen different projects over focusing on one thing?
A cocktail of probably-ADHD (haven’t been diagnosed, but wouldn’t be surprised) and shiny object syndrome 🤣
On a more serious note, hmm. A few months ago I’d have said it was the itch to keep on creating, which gets limited when you start one project (I don’t believe that anymore).
But then I’ve heard Andrew Wilkinson talk about the 4 types of entrepreneurs he’s seen in his (very extensive) entrepreneurship life.
See, after starting to really look into Andrew, I realised I could make use of his opinion: maybe I’m just the type that likes to start things, but I also suspect there’s something else in there that I’ve got too. Time will tell!
Regardless, it’s worth noting this: I’ve also started different projects because I thought of them as different stages:
- Junior year: LCBC is a great foundation for us, but I always thought the project is limited in terms of potential - and I was right! A low TAM that is now hit by the global recession
- Sophomore year: Simple.ink was meant to be a micro SaaS. And it turned out fine! We recently decided to call it our sophomore year because we learned so much about what we’d need to do in our…
- Graduation: SignHouse (I hope!). If SignHouse turns out fine, it’ll be our graduation - the accumulation of what my brother and I learned over the last few years.
Do you have to through these stages? Maybe yes, maybe no.
If you have previous experience (e.g. worked in a small/big/etc company), that adds in to the equation.
We just started from 0 because… oh well. I was 15 when I started, and then David was 15 as well when he started with me). So we were pretty much at ground 0.
What’s your technical background?
No technical background at all. I come from the design world, did graphic design. David isn’t technical either. We outsource this totally!
Any tips on how to grow a community on Reddit?
I’ve taken over Reddit SaaS when it had about 3,000 to 4,000 users, 10 years after the subreddit was started. Fast forward a few years later, it now has 45,000+ members, growing at a good pace.
We don’t want too many members really, because how many people are there in SaaS, truly? We can’t hit 1 million members, nor do we want to do that. If we’d do that anytime soon, it’d mean the subreddit isn’t about SaaS only.
When it comes to growing a community, what I’ve learned that works is:
- Keep it clean and tidy
- A community is like your house. Or a house party. Of course you want to make it enjoyable for you+others!
- A party doesn’t have to be big for your members (or yourself) to enjoy it!
- Think about what makes you want to join a party - do that for your community
- No need to make it the “hottest” party - you just need to have some activity that makes it worthwhile!
How come you’ve started your SignHouse SaaS?
We just wanted to go into a $1,000,000,000+ industry. Or a multi-billion dollar one.
This is the table that summed up one of the aspects. And dont’ get me wrong, I hate numbers, spreadsheets and all that. I’m not a numbers person. But what it says it very simple, yet effective:
- In a big market
- Every year, new money comes in
- If the market grows by 10% and the market is at $4 billion dollars in size
- That means $400M come into the market as new money (let alone the recurring money)
- If you take just a small small percent (0.1%)
- That’s $400k. In your first year. Without taking into account “getting” customers from the other players
You probably won’t make $400k in your first year. Businesses don’t scale the way you imagine them to scale. But hey, if you do that even later, that’s some serious money!
As always, there’s actually a plethora of factors, not just one. Back to starting SignHouse: of course we’ve had pains with eSignature tools and of course we thought we could do a better job. But you already knew that probably.
How are you planning on getting users for SignHouse?
Besides the boring answers (e.g. build distribution before you build product), SEO and a good product, I’ll share what we’ll be trying new here.
I think people are getting tired of subscriptions.
Therefore, I’ll try, at least for a bit, to sell one-off purchases only. I think that if you do the math right (and that’s a big if - but you don’t have to get it right from the get-go — you can adapt along the way), it can be the same in terms of company numbers, but:
- You accelerate, since you get all the money upfront, so you can build a better product faster
- Since one-off purchases are not the norm, and the customer sentiment for LTDs (Lifetime Deals) is very good, that might be the underdone move that gives you an edge
- Plus a plethora of other positive reasons. I put them up here: https://www.usesignhouse.com/ltd
What are your top tips for founders who haven’t made their first dollar?
I’ll keep it simple, as that’s my piece of advice here:
- Keep it simple
- You don’t have to study Musk or Bezos - you just need to stack one win on top of the other one
- Don’t aim for 0 to billions. Aim for the first $1. Then the first $50. Then the first $100 - etc.
- Experience teaches you 100x what an article/book/podcast/etc teaches you.
- For instance, you’ll see for yourself that making your dollars online is 80% about selling. Yes, even at a bigger scale.
- Go where the buyers are. Best product + bad distribution << Bad product + best distribution. You’ve seen this happening too, probably! How many bad products are you using just because you haven’t heard of the better ones?
- You can sell even with a mediocre product. And you’ll probably start with that. It only becomes better when you improve the product
What’s it like working with your brother David?
Working with David is a dream. Every now and then we have a reality check and take a sec to appreciate it.
I will ALWAYS choose making an average amount of money, working with someone you love over the other way around (make a ton of money with someone you hate or with someone you’ve fallen out with).
How do we separate tasks - he’s on distribution, I’m on product+design. But we know of each other’s specialty as well, so we’re making this as we go.
Do I recommend working with a sibling? That’s such a tough one to answer. I think our personalities allow for it, as we’re both able to compromise. But I’ve also seen it go very very bad with others. I frankly don’t know how to answer this question!
It’s worked for us and it will continue to work, but… It can also go very wrong.
Where can people find out more about you?
I wanna keep it simple here, as adding 15 links is the same as adding 0 links.
- SignHouse’s Lifetime Deal offer - we’ll launch with one, pretty soon.
- My Twitter, plus David’s Twitter, to keep in touch with us