Solo entrepreneurs doing $1M+ annual revenue

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Solo entrepreneurs doing $1M+ annual revenue

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The gift of the digital economy is that we can work from anywhere, build businesses by ourselves, and enjoy more freedom while doing that. The last few years have witnessed the rise of many solopreneurs and many new and interesting work/life philosophies. 

Whether it’s Dan Koe’s one-person business plan, Tem Ferris’ 4-hour work week, or Pieter Level’s Digital Nomad lifestyle building 12 startups (or more like 12 MVPs) in 12 months, one thing for sure is that there’s no fixed formula for success. 

And that’s why, inspired by Shaan Puri, we have compiled a list of businesses and solopreneurs that make $1M+ with zero employees. So, let’s dive right into them. 

TinyWow 

Ewan Gower founded TinyWow out of frustration with existing online tools. Seeing a gap in the market, he aimed to provide free, user-friendly AI-driven conversion tools for various tasks such as PDF editing, image and video editing, and more.

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Founded in 2018, TinyWow quickly gained traction, offering innovative solutions to common online tasks. Despite starting as a small venture, it rapidly expanded its user base and offerings, catering to the needs of millions of users worldwide. 

Right now, it has 3 million visits a month, and it got popular primarily through social media channels, specifically from user-generated content by TikTok. While generating a modest $20,000 monthly revenue, Gower believes rescaling monetization could propel TinyWow to Canva-like heights.

  • Difficulty Level: High 

Most of the users of TinyWow came from Social media, which is difficult to recreate!

Stardew Valley

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Stardew Valley, if you don’t know, is a video game founded and developed by Eric Barone. Recently graduated software novice Eric Barone didn't wish to jump into a regular job and saw an opportunity for self-learning. 

He turned to coding, using the creation of a gaming application as his modus operandi for grasping the nitty-gritty of software programming. Inspired by the ethos of Harvest Moon, a farming simulation game from his childhood, Barone decided to implement his version of the game. 

Barone committed to developing Stardew Valley as a one-man project, handling all aspects of game design, programming, art, and music. He poured countless hours into the development, refining every aspect of the game over around four years.

Despite facing challenges and setbacks, such as initial rejection from Steam, Barone remained determined. He continued to refine and improve the game, believing in its potential and refusing to give up on his vision.


Stardew Valley has sold over 20 million copies, mostly managed by selling at $13 per unit. Over time, the game has generated approximately $150 million in sales, an astounding feat for a single developer. 

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

The difficult part of this business is distribution and consistency. Stardew Valley faced its competition against games created by massive teams of hundreds of developers, showing that a quality product could indeed be built by a small, or in this case, a single-member team. However, people accepted this game because of its calming nature, friendly and warm ideas, and positivity. 

Only Finders

Only Finders is a specialized search engine tailored for OnlyFans, allowing users to discover specific types of models based on their preferences. Users can search for various criteria, such as blonde agents or other preferences, and receive a list of top-ranked profiles. 

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This platform, managed by a single individual, focuses on high-intent searches, ensuring that it ranks prominently for specific categories that align with users' interests, such as redhead or Indian models.

Furthermore, Only Finders employs a unique business model that facilitates traffic to OnlyFans models and agencies by charging them per click to send potential customers with specific intent to their profiles. 

This approach mirrors traditional search engine strategies, enabling creators to benefit from increased visibility and potential revenue opportunities.

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

You have to be good with sales/persuasion and product development to build something like this! If you have that combination of skills, this type of business may not be that difficult for you.

Pieter Levels

Pieter Level is a blogger, a modern indie hacker, and an entrepreneur known for starting up 12 companies in 12 months and creating a total of 70 companies. His approach involved creating and testing each of these startups as Minimum Viable Products (MVPs), showcasing his innovative and agile business strategy. 

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He is renowned for his success as a one-man business, developing various profitable products and platforms. Despite having no employees, he earns significant revenue, such as $2.7 million annually. 

His projects span diverse niches, generating substantial monthly revenue, estimated at around $50,000. Notably, his platform Nomad List alone contributes to his success, with reported earnings of $600,000 per year. 

Through strategic growth initiatives, Pieter has achieved remarkable milestones, including growing the Nomad List to $3 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR). 

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

Starting 70 companies does seem like a huge task! But essentially, the idea is to exploit the law of large numbers and work only on those products whose MVPs are successful!

Cyber Leads 

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CyberLeads, founded by Alex West, operates as a curated newsletter service catering to agency owners. West handpicks companies that have recently secured funding and are likely to seek agency services soon. 

Agency owners subscribe to CyberLeads, paying between $400 to $1,000 monthly, depending on their chosen plan. Each month, subscribers receive a newsletter containing a list of these potential clients along with their contact information and hiring details. 

  • Difficulty Level: Easy

This is comparatively simpler to do as you’re selling information to the people. While the concept seems simple, CyberLeads effectively provides clear value to its subscribers, as highlighted by its testimonials and success stories.

Lenny Rachitsky (Personal brand/Content-based Business)

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Lenny Rachitsky, known for his background in growth and product roles, including at Airbnb, has built a multifaceted personal brand encompassing Lenny's newsletter, communities, and job board. His strategy revolves around offering extensive free content tailored to a niche audience, aiming to establish authority and attract dedicated followers. 

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By delving into specific topics like how marketplaces acquired their first users, Rachitsky provides valuable insights through interviews and deep dives, also extending to podcasts.

His monetization model includes sponsorships for the newsletter, job board revenue, and a paid community membership. 

Estimates suggest his ventures generate annual revenue ranging from two to three million dollars within a relatively short timeframe of around two to three years. This approach mirrors other successful practitioners like the Design Joy founder, who leverage free content to drive consultancy and service revenue.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy

Again, Lenny has a content business and is essentially selling information! 

Photopea

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Ivan Kuckir, a Ukrainian developer, created Photopea as a solo project. Starting solo in 2016, Kuckir recreated Photoshop's complexity in a web browser, offering it for free. 

Despite immense technical challenges and seven thousand hours invested before generating revenue, Kuckir's commitment paid off. 

With 13 million monthly visits and generating nearly a million dollars annually, Photopea's success underscores Kuckir's remarkable achievement as a solo developer. 

  • Difficulty Level: High 

To give you a context, Adobe has a huge team of engineers, designers, distributors, etc., who made Photoshop possible and accessible, and that too as software. On the other hand, Photopea is super-accessible on any web browser and is created by just one person! You probably have to be a genius to be able to do that.  

Dan Koe 

Dan Koe has been highly successful in establishing a one-person business model, showcasing strategies for monetizing individual skills and interests. His approach emphasizes productizing oneself, offering single-skill freelance services and consulting sessions, often priced between $500 and $1000. 

His revenue significantly exceeded initial projections, reaching $4.2 million, with an impressive profit margin of 98% and no employees. 

His creator business generated $1.7 million in revenue within a year. His philosophy revolves around minimalism, and he repurposes his writing into YouTube videos, newsletters, podcasts, books, Tweets, etc. 

Difficulty Level: Easy

As Dan mentions, his strategy requires you to work not more than four hours a day to accomplish your own one-man business. His business is also based on content/information and his own personal brand! However, this approach does require a lot of discipline.  

Joe Rogan Podcast

Joe Rogan's success story serves as a prime example of the potential inherent in a one-man business model. Despite maintaining a small team of three people, including a relationship person and a show producer, Rogan's enterprise heavily relies on his individual efforts and personal brand. 

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His podcast, which generates substantial revenue estimated at around $50 million annually, primarily thrives on sponsorships, advertisements, and exclusive deals. 

Central to Rogan's success is his authentic persona and unique style, which have contributed to establishing a billion-dollar brand and attracting a dedicated following. 

Rogan covers an extensive array of topics through his podcast, reflecting his diverse interests and captivating various audiences. This versatility has played a pivotal role in expanding his reach and cultivating a loyal fan base.

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

Joe Rogan was a famous personality before he launched this podcast, and possibly had good connections and a decent starting point. Moreover, the show has thousands of episodes and has been running since 2009! So, Rogan had the consistency, background, volume, and most importantly, the first-movers’ advantage. 

Milled.com 

Milled.com is a straightforward platform that aggregates email marketing campaigns from various companies. Users can easily browse through emails sent by competitors, such as Ridge Wallet's Fourth of July promotion, for inspiration. 

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The site, created by a single individual as a side project, generates an impressive annual revenue of one million dollars through display advertisements. Recognizing the challenges of creating email blasts and conducting competitive research, the founder conceptualized Milled.com to streamline the process. By signing up for newsletters from multiple brands and providing a centralized platform for email marketing insights, Milled.com simplifies the task for marketers. The site primarily relies on display ads strategically placed alongside email previews. Additionally, Milled.com incorporates affiliate marketing by directing users to brands through affiliate links, allowing marketers to earn commissions from purchases.

  • Difficulty Level: Easy

This one is rated easy because of its simplicity of concept and low maintenance. 

BuiltWith

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BuiltWith, founded around 2015 or 2016, offers a specialized service within a niche market. It allows users to discover which plugins and technologies power websites, initially focusing on WordPress and later expanding to include Shopify. 

With tens of millions of monthly visitors, BuiltWith has become a valuable resource for individuals seeking insights into website technologies. Despite its narrow focus, BuiltWith generates significant revenue, estimated at around $14 to $15 million annually as of 2020, with just one person managing the business.

  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

BuiltWith functions as a data index or database rather than a traditional marketplace, providing users with valuable information about the technologies behind websites. The platform's utility and potential for growth make it an attractive prospect for entrepreneurs.

Gym Streak

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Joseph Mambra, originally from Zimbabwe, moved to England at the age of 12 or 13, where he encountered the internet for the first time. Self-taught in coding and design, he launched Gym Streak, initially an app for workout tracking. 

Using 3D visualizations of exercises, Mambra expanded the app's capabilities, offering AI-driven workout suggestions and premium features.

Gym Streak operates as a one-person business in the fitness industry, including online personal training services, where customized workout programs and coaching are offered through digital platforms. 

Additionally, Gym Streak develops and monetizes fitness applications tailored to users' needs. The business also earns income by selling digital products such as workout plans, meal guides, and eBooks. 

Despite being the sole employee, Gym Streak saw remarkable growth, earning $300,000 in 2021 and $2.5 million in 2022. Mambra aims to achieve $15 to $20 million in revenue annually within the next two years. 

While primarily acquiring users through Facebook and TikTok ads, he temporarily scaled back marketing efforts to prioritize family time after welcoming a child. By engaging in affiliate marketing, Gym Streak partners with fitness brands to promote their products or services and earn commissions. 

Furthermore, merchandise sales of branded fitness products, including apparel, equipment, and accessories, generate revenue. Finally, Gym Streak offers free virtual fitness classes and workshops, catering to a diverse audience of fitness enthusiasts.

  • Difficulty Level: High

Mambra is a one-man army that manages everything from the app to the marketing to distribution and more, which is a task that’s usually achieved by a team of experts. Even if Joseph delegated these tasks and worked with agencies, he must have solid management skills! Hence, due to difficulty in execution, this is a tough business.

Conclusion

If you noticed, three out of twelve businesses in the list above are content-based ventures, three were grown from Social Media or affiliate marketing, three are search engines, and others were software-based, high-utility businesses like Photopea.

Of course, there’s no fixed formula. You must pursue whatever is your natural interest! 

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