How to Lower your Side Project's Costs

So you've decide to start a side project - that's awesome! The first thing you should do is to get a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) ready in order to get your idea out to the world and get some feedback. With a side project, the biggest advantage is that you get to keep your day job - which means the ability to cover your expenses - all while building your project. Your biggest investment with a side project will be the time you put into it, which is a great compromise if you ask me. This post will explain how to keep your costs low for your side project so that money does not become a roadblock or an excuse to you.

PS: I like to use the term side project instead of startup because at this point in time, it's not a startup yet. This term is way over used these days.

What Tools Should you Pick?

The key when picking out tools for your MVP is to go with what's essential only. It's easy to lose focus and want all the fancy tools right from the get-go, but the idea here is to remain lean and cost efficient.

Here are the tools I recommend you begin with:

  • Email: Gmail - 5$/user per month
  • Calendar: Google Calendar - Free
  • Servers: AWS - Eligible for the free tier for the first 12 months. If you're not eligible for the free tier, I highly recommend Digital Ocean. I have only good things to say about my experience using their product, and they keep improving! They just launched load balancers this week, too. Servers start at 5$/month. Signup here and get 25$ for free to use on servers (Disclaimer: this is my referral link).
  • Domain: Namecheap - 11$/year
  • SSL Certificate: Let's Encrypt - Free (an article explaining how to setup Let's Encrypt is coming soon)
  • Team communication: Slack - Free (good for chat, phone calls, and video calls)
  • Team collaboration / sharing: Dropbox - Free
  • Code and issue tracking: GitLab - Free
  • Automated emails from your app: Mailgun - Free for 10k emails per month
  • Analytics: Google Analytics - Free, and Mixpanel - Free for 20M data points per month
  • Publishing apps: Apple's Development Certificate - 100$/year, and Google Publisher Account - 25$, one-time fee
  • Automated SMS messages from your app: Twilio - 50$ can easily last you about a year. It's 0.007$ per local message, so 50$ is over 7000 messages. Also, you can find a promo code to get 20$ off upon signup.
  • App monitoring: Sentry - Free for 10k events/month
  • Website monitoring: Uptime Robot - *Free

For this demonstration, let's assume you have 2 founders and need 2 servers for deploying your API and your website.

When we add up all the costs, we end up with:

  • Monthly costs: 10$ for emails, and an extra 10$ if you go with DigitalOcean instead of AWS' free-tier.
  • Yearly costs: 11$ for domain, 100$ for Apple's Development Certificate, and 50$ for Twilio's SMS services.
  • One-time fees: 25$ for a Google Publisher Account.

For a grand total of 426$ for the first year, and 401$/year afterwards.

Please keep in mind that some tools above are optional, depending on the type of project you are building.

  • Are you building a web app? Great, you can remove the Apple's Development Certificate and Google Publisher Account fees. That just saved you 100$/year and a 25$ one-time fee.
  • You don't need to send SMS messages? Great, you just saved 50$/year.
  • You signed up with Digital Ocean and Twilio promo codes? Great, you just saved 25$ + 20$.

The lesson here is that if you need all the tools above, it'll only cost you about 400$/year to build your project and ship it to users. If you ask me, that's a very decent price to pay in order to start building your business, validate your idea, and get some real feedback. It's a small investment that is definitely worth the price.

Finally, I'd like to wish you best of luck on your new project and I'd love to hear more about it! Hit me up and let me know what you're working on.

Do you have any additional tools that you use that I did not mention or forgot about? Don't hesitate to reach out to me and let me know! I'll gladly review the list as I get more feedback and as new tools arise.

Wissam Abirached

Wissam Abirached