Author Archives: Jason

Entrepreneurship Journal, 6/13/2018

This is the longest I’ve gone without posting an Entrepreneurship Journal entry in a while. The last one was almost three months ago.

I’m happy to report that I’ve continued to stick with the same focus, Ruby testing, and I still feel good about it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally enrolled in 30×500. It was 30×500 that helped me arrive at my focus of Ruby testing.

At one point I think I asked Amy and Alex in 30×500 how many subscribers I should have before launching my first product. I think had around 225 subscribers at the time. I was wondering whether I should work on getting more subscribers or if I should launch a product to my existing subscribers. The answer I got was that a list my size is big enough to launch a product to. The advice was to launch a tiny product.

So that’s what I’ve been working on. For the last couple weeks I’ve been working on an “Intro to Ruby” course. My intention is for the course to be tiny in scope and for the price to be relatively low.

Also since last time I wrote, I started a podcast called The Ruby Testing Podcast. According to the stats I’ve gotten 131 downloads so far. Seems good, I guess. So far I’ve interviewed two guests. I have one more interview scheduled for July. I’m holding off on scheduling anything more right now because I’m teaching a class through mid-July.

My near-term plans are to finish the course as quickly as possible and then launch it. After that I plan to work on getting more subscribers, improve the course, and sell the course for a higher price. I plan to pretty much repeat that process indefinitely.

Unlimited Memory

I just finished reading Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley. I have a hunch it might turn out to be one of the more useful books I’ve ever read. To be more precise, I read most of Unlimited Memory. Some time ago I let go of the idea that I need to read every book word-for-word.

Some years ago I read Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. I was inspired to read Moonwalking partly because I’m super absent-minded and I want to not be so absent-minded anymore. For example, one time I drove two and a half hours to Detroit for a work thing and forgot my laptop, so I just had to immediately drive back. Another time I accidentally left my car running overnight.

I found Moonwalking to be somewhat useful although the book format was my least favorite format of book. It was what I call a “journalisty” book. Some books, like The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker, are super thick and packed with a huge amount of data (data as opposed to anecdotes). Journalisty books tend to be short and contain anecdotes instead of data – and often specious conclusions. Other books of this format, that a bunch of people love but I don’t, include The Power of Habit and So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

Anyway, my memory from Moonwalking is that I learned from it the memory palace technique. I found that technique pretty useful. I actually haven’t put it to use a whole bunch since because, ironically, I forgot about it.

I also learned from Moonwalking that time passes by more quickly when each day is similar and more slowly when each day is different. I think there was some guy who spent a long time on an isolated island or something and he way underestimated how long he had been there because the days just blended together. This made me think about what a person’s life would seem like if they spent their whole life at the same job in the same town. Life would probably seem like a brief blur.

I found Unlimited Memory to be a better and more useful book than MoonwalkingUnlimited Memory was stylistically kind of amateurish but the content was sufficiently useful that I didn’t care about the style.

Unlimited Memory talked about the memory palace technique and also talked about using things like your car and your body in addition to the insides of buildings. I thought this made sense. I plan to make use of this idea.

The main thing the book discussed that I’m currently interested in is how to memorize numbers. The technique this book suggested was to turn numbers into words. Each number can be represented by a sound, like this:

1: T or D
2: N
3: M
4: R
5: L

…and so on. Vowels are “wildcards”. So the number 43 could be represented as “rum” – R for the 4, M for the 3, and U, which is just a filler. I could have used “rim” or “ram” for 43.

I’m currently using this technique to try to remember all the presidents. I have a quasi-autistic obsession with the presidents. So far I’ve read biographies of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. At one point I thought I would read biographies of all the presidents but later I decided that wouldn’t be the greatest use of time. I’ll just read about the most interesting ones. I just tested myself and I was able to remember the first 12 presidents. The cool thing about the number memory system is that it allows random access. So if you ask me who the 8th president was, I could say Martin Van Buren. Later I expect to use this system to memorize not just the presidents but information of a more practical nature.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 3/22/2018

So I’ve changed my focus for the thousandth time. I’m now exploring the idea of teaching Rails testing.

Let’s review what I’ve explored since roughly this time last year:

  • Angular + Rails
  • Landing page breakdowns
  • AWS + Rails
  • Shopify email marketing
  • Job search skills for programmers
  • Rails testing

Of all the things I’ve tried since ditching Angular/Rails, the job search thing was the most successful. I was able to get about 100 of my Angular/Rails email subscribers to follow me to that topic. I also wrote an ebook on the topic and sold more than zero copies. (I sold four more than zero copies, to be exact.) So why did I decide to move on?

In January I enrolled in 30×500 which was something I had wanted to do for a long time. My approach for going into 30×500 was to be totally neutral and not bring the baggage of any previous ideas or endeavors I’ve had. If going through 30×500 led to the job search focus still making sense, then great. If going through it led to working on something else, great. The important thing is that I come out with something that works.

A big part of the 30×500 process is research. You go to places where people talk about the thing you teach (“watering holes”) and find out what their pains are in order to alleviate their pains.

I decided to do my research at /r/rails, at least for starters, to see what I could turn up. I ended up uncovering a certain amount of pain around TDD/testing, which is something I have a lot of experience with. I’ve been doing Rails testing since 2011. Many of the questions I saw were things I could answer.

I started writing blog posts (“ebombs” in 30×500 language) about Ruby/Rails testing. To my delight and surprise one of my posts ended up getting featured in Ruby Weekly. Then I decided to email my list of 2,353 Angular + Rails and job search subscribers and basically say, “Hey, I’m only going to write about testing from now on. If you want to keep hearing from me, click this link. Otherwise you’ll be unsubscribed.” So far 154 people clicked the link. Combined with the 43 people who opted into my “Ruby testing micro-course”, that makes a total of 197 subscribers.

(Side note: I just remembered that I kicked off my Angular on Rails product sales with only about 300 subscribers.)

Here’s where I’m imagining going with the Rails testing specialty. I’m imagining that to make money from this I can do two things: 1) sell online Rails testing courses and 2) sell live, in-person Rails testing classes. These are arguably roughly the same service, just delivered two different ways.

I discovered not long ago, through a Twitter conversation with Wes Bos, that it’s apparently a common pattern for someone to buy a course and then request custom in-person training services. This was a real eye-opener for me. It means that, presumably, all the work it would take to market and sell a packaged Rails testing course would be along the same exact path that it would take to market and sell onsite Rails testing courses.

I’ve also recently realized that it would probably be a really good idea for me to speak at conferences. So I started applying to a whole bunch of conferences to talk about Rails testing. I even got a talk accepted but the dates ended up not working out.

My plans as of right now are to keep putting out educational material around Rails testing and to keep going through the 30×500 course and keep following its advice. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it has been to be part of 30×500. It’s so nice to follow a path as opposed to try to blaze my own trail which I’m demonstrably not very good at.

Unlike some previous ventures I have no goal of getting to my first dollar of revenue as quickly as possible. I want to focus more on building something that’s genuinely good and helpful. I want to focus more on doing things right than doing things super fast.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 2/1/2018

In 2016 I started selling an ebook about how to use Angular and Rails together. Between June 2016 and December 2017 I sold about $8K worth of the book and related video package. I sold (and still sell) these products at AngularOnRails.com.

In July 2017 I decided to put AngularOnRails.com on the back burner for various reasons. I then proceeded to flail around wildly for a while. I tried several new business ideas, all of which I ended up deciding I didn’t like.

I eventually basically said, “Okay, fuck it. I give up. I’ll just go back to the thing that was working—AngularOnRails.com—even though I’m maybe not super crazy about it anymore. It will be easier to grow this existing success than to try to make a new one.”

So I went back to AngularOnRails.com and tried to think of how I could grow its revenue. At that time revenue was at a couple hundred bucks a month (although it varied quite a bit from month to month). The two products I had for sale were a $49 ebook, a $99 video package and a $249 “corporate” package which no one had ever bought.

I figured the easiest way to grow revenue would probably be to add a higher-tier product (~$500) that people would actually buy.

I had gotten the impression that most people who were learning Angular + Rails were doing so because they wanted to get a job. So I sent an email to my list. The answer was an overwhelming yes. Over 50 people responded (out of a list of a little over 2000) saying yes, they were in it for a job.

So I thought maybe I could add some sort of “get a job” course as a higher-tier item in my product ladder. But then I realized there’s nothing specific to Angular + Rails about getting a job. So rather than add an item to my product ladder I decided to create a whole new product ladder.

I decided to call the new site Six Figure Coding, drawing some inspiration from Million Dollar Consulting. I emailed my AngularOnRails.com list. Over 100 people signed up for the SixFigureCoding.com email list within the first two days. The intention was to make the site all about how to get a higher-paying programming job (or how to get your first programming job).

Then, later, I decided I didn’t like the name Six Figure Coding. I renamed it to Code with Jason.

Then I realized that if I wanted an instant traffic injection for Code with Jason, I could just move some of my best-performing blog posts from AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com. That’s what I did and it worked.

Then, slowly, it dawned on me: I don’t have to completely abandon the audience I’ve built up at AngularOnRails.com. I can just retroactively decide that I’m just renaming AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com. I can still offer the same products, which are still selling, and I can still use the same lead magnets, which are still working. My email list can continue to grow as always.

But the advantage to the new domain name is that now I’m no longer limited to just talking about Angular + Rails. I can do a course that’s just Angular if I want. I don’t think the job search idea was a bad one but now I’m no longer sure that I want that to be the primary focus.

So my plans for the near future are:

  1. Launch my job search book, which I already have 95% done
  2. Move all the products at AngularOnRails.com over to CodeWithJason.com
  3. Move all the lead magnets at AngularOnRails.com over to CodeWithJason.com
  4. Start experimenting with an Angular-only product

I don’t imagine creating a product called “Learn Angular” or something like that. It will almost certainly be something more specific like Angular testing or observables or something like that.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 1/18/2017

Some interesting things have happened since my last update.

I renamed Six Figure Coding to Code with Jason. Something always rubbed me the wrong way about Six Figure Coding, like I was bragging about how much money I make or something. Plus I discovered that my readers aren’t mainly focused on making more money. They’re mainly focused on getting a more enjoyable/fulfilling job. I also like the name Code with Jason because it can be used for almost anything I want.

I realized that since I’m not concerned with keeping Angular on Rails alive as a business anymore, I’m free to move content from AngularOnRails.com to CodeWithJason.com for an instant traffic injection. So I did. I moved over my top 7 posts from AngularOnRails.com which account for about 2300 visits a month.

After I moved these posts I realized that if I want more traffic I can just write more about Angular + Rails. I can even move Angular for Rails Developers over to CodeWithJason.com and continue to sell it there.

I changed the name of my upcoming ebook from Six Figure Coding: The Book to The Job Search Manual for Developers.

I appeared on a podcast called Developer on Fire. Unfortunately I did this just before I changed the name from Six Figure Coding to Code with Jason. Oh well.

I plan to go on more podcasts after I finish and release the book. The planned release date for the book is still February 6th, 2018.

I’ve been working on the book pretty consistently. I got it to the length I want. Now I’m going through and editing it. Turns out I’m really not happy with most of what I wrote. So I’m rewriting a lot as I go. I suppose that’s kind of how it works.

Next steps are to finish the book, get a cover designed for the book, rewrite the sales page for the book, then launch the book, then go on a podcast tour.

2017 Review and 2018 Goals and Plans

2017 was an interesting year for me. One of the biggest differences between 2017 and my previous years of freelancing is that for about five months of the year I did very little development work and instead did corporate training as my main source of income. I had decided to get into training because I’ve never enjoyed sitting in front of a screen all day and training seemed like a good opportunity to try a different kind of work. Unfortunately, I had a hard time making training work out business-wise. I’ll recount my year in chunks.

January and February

In September 2016 started working with a long-term development client. The people involved with the project were good but the codebase was ghastly. Around December 2016 I told my client that I would only be available through the end of February 2017 because I wanted to stop doing development work and start doing training work. The reasons why I was motivated to start doing training work mainly revolve around the fact that in my experience software projects are generally high-stress affairs where everything is always “behind” and nobody’s happy. I heard a podcast episode about how training work is different and thought it sounded like a good fit for my personality.

In February I did my first corporate training gig. It was a 5-day Ruby on Rails class that took place in Vancouver, Washington. Due to a number of factors the class was a total disaster. I think the biggest factor was my own inexperience. These kinds of classes tend to receive numerical evaluations at the end. This one got something like a 3.3/5. It may not be obvious but 3.3/5 is very bad by corporate training standards.

I had also been working on Angular on Rails at this point, a business I started in the spring of 2016. In January and February Angular on Rails made $371 and $449, respectively. You can see the full income report here.

March, April and May

About a week or two after I taught the Vancouver class I was sent to Sofia, Bulgaria by the same training company that had sent me to Vancouver. This time it was a 3-day Angular 2 class. I had spent the time between the Vancouver class and the Sofia class frantically preparing for the Sofia class because I didn’t feel like I could afford to get another bad evaluation. I barely slept at all during the 3-day period when I taught the class. Fortunately, all my hard work paid off and I got (IIRC) a 4.5/5 eval for the Sofia class. I celebrated this success by getting drunk at a bar with a bunch of European strangers.

I returned from Bulgaria on March 11th. I don’t recall having done much work in the month of March. My wife and I went on a vacation to Savannah, Georgia later in March. In mid-April I went to MicroConf. I believe this was the first year that MicroConf was split into two parts, “Starter” and “Growth”. I understand Growth is for people who are already full-time on their business and Starter is for people who haven’t yet gotten to that point. I went to Starter because at that time Angular on Rails was only making a few hundred bucks a month (and, as of December 2017, still is). Starter was okay but it lacked the magic I experienced at MicroConf 2016. For 2018 I bought a ticket to Growth.

I think I spent the rest of April working on Angular on Rails and preparing for a class I was due to teach mid-May.

In early May I taught a one-day corporate class in Phoenix. It went great but I learned that one-day classes aren’t really worth it. From May 15-19 I taught a 5-day class in Detroit. This class was one of the funnest ones I had done so far, and everything went great as far as I could tell. Teaching this class really helped cement how different teaching is from programming. Teaching this class was way more fulfilling than any software project I had ever worked on. At the same time this class had been pretty draining. I remember thinking on Friday afternoon, “I don’t want to do this again for a LOOONG time!” Unfortunately I had to get on a plane the next morning to fly to Amsterdam to teach another class.

The Amsterdam class was good but weird. I was sent there by a shady Indian company who lied to the students about my background. (They said I had 15 years of experience with JavaScript frameworks like Angular, despite the fact that JavaScript frameworks have not existed that long. They also said that the “original” instructor could not make it due to a family emergency, also untrue.) Content-wise, the Amsterdam class went well and I got good evals. By this time I felt like I had pretty much gotten a handle on how to teach a good class.

While I was in Amsterdam I had a conversation with a new (US-based) development client. My memory is that this whole time I had been looking for another development client, but out of the several strong-looking prospects I had had, nothing had came through. It was actually really surprising. I had been getting nervous because I wasn’t earning anything between classes, and I was only teaching an average of maybe two classes per month. I think my income was less than half of what it normally would have been had I just been doing hourly coding work. Luckily, things worked out with this new prospect. I got back from Amsterdam on May 25th and started working with my new client the following Monday.

Angular on Rails was still going this whole time. In March, April and May it made $352, $735 and $480, respectively. I had thought I was on the upswing in April when I made $735. I thought my pricing changes and some other things I did were what had made my revenue go up. But apparently it was just luck. Revenue has never reached that level since. It was around this time that I did an interview on Indie Hackers.

Around April or May I decided to make one of the dumbest financial decisions I’ve ever made and buy an almost-new car. I bought a 2015 Subaru Outback. I don’t even know why I bought it because I don’t even like it that much. Whoops.

June and July

For the five weeks spanning June 12th to July 14th I taught a coding bootcamp in Detroit. This was a pretty stressful time. I was away from my family. I was continuing to run out of money. I was fairly consumed by teaching the class but I was also trying to work for my new development client nights and weekends to get some income coming in again. But as far as I can tell, the class went great. This is a class that happens every year and I was invited to teach it again in 2018.

This was also around the time I started considering pumping the brakes on the training work and going back to coding. Most of the training gigs I was doing were through training companies. Actually, most of my gigs were through just one single training company. The rates a person can get through a training company are not nearly as good as what you can get for direct gigs. The 5-day classes were lucrative enough to make the travel worth it but the 1-day, 2-day and 3-day classes pretty much weren’t. The travel was also hard on my family. I remember one Sunday when I told my four year-old son it was time for me to leave and spend another week in Detroit, he started bawling. Not just crying but bawling. That really tugged at the heartstrings. Experiences like that helped me realize that if I were going to do training for a career, I’d have to figure out a way to make my income from just one or two classes a month so I could make up for my absence during the time I was home. Unfortunately, when I looked at the numbers from the training I did in 2017, the math didn’t really work out. I think it was in late July when I decided to go back to contracting full-time.

Then, on Monday, July 17, the first business day after my five-week bootcamp ended, I got a call from my new development client saying he had decided to shut down his business. I thought I was going to have a somewhat steady income but now that was gone. My financial prospects at this point were comically dismal.

Luckily, I had lined up one last training gig. This was a two-day class in Palo Alto. I actually got on the plane the day after my main development client went out of business. I decided that I’d take advantage of the fact that I was in Silicon Valley and try to line up some in-person meetings with prospects. I shook the trees and was in fact able to line up two in-person meetings. One of the two prospects said they’d like to work together and we started working together pretty much immediately. I’m still working with them today. It’s full-time contracting which means it’s basically a job. I’m fine with that, though. After the rollercoaster that was February to July 2017 I was ready to just be a pair of hands and earn a steady paycheck for a while.

Sometime in June, I believe, I decided to stop working on Angular on Rails and start something new. Part of the reason was that Angular on Rails only made $185 in June and that was really a kick in the balls. Revenue was going down despite my efforts to make it go up. I also was never a huge fan of Angular. My interest in it was kind of mercenary.

After I back-burnered Angular on Rails I spent a few months trying out different product business ideas and flailing wildly. I was frustrated that after eight years of trying to build a successful product business I was basically back to square one and I didn’t know how to move forward. It was a painful time.

In November I started a new venture called Six Figure Coding. The idea is to teach job search skills to developers. Within nine days of creating Six Figure Coding I made $152 in revenue. Presently I’m working on an ebook which I plan to launch on February 6th, 2018.

August to December

Business-wise, not a lot of noteworthy things happened from August to December. Except for a few hundred bucks of product revenue, all my income has come from my main development client. I expect that it will be this way for quite a while, although I do expect product income to grow over time.

Reflections on the year

I learned a lot in 2017 about what works and what doesn’t work and why. I’m glad I tried training even though it ultimately didn’t work out the way I had hoped. If I hadn’t tried it I would have always wondered if I had left some huge opportunity untapped. Now I know what training is like.

By the way, I did learn how to theoretically make training sufficiently lucrative. I’ve noticed that the trainers who get the direct gigs (as opposed to gigs through a training company) tend to be people who have written published books or who have built a really strong online presence. So if I wanted to write a published book, I understand that I could expect to attract clients who want me to do training for them. I actually started to go down this path. I talked with Prag Prog about writing an Angular book and they were interested. Unfortunately, I decided that I really just didn’t have it in me to write an Angular book. I frankly think most of this single-page application stuff is a little on the bonkers side and I would have a hard time writing a whole book about something I believe to be crazy and unnecessary. Plus, if I’m going to spend a whole bunch of time putting effort into some extra thing, I think I’d rather put that effort into building  a product business since my ultimate goal is not to be a trainer, it’s to be a product entrepreneur.

2017 was my second-best year ever for product revenue and best year ever for service revenue. In 2016 I made about $4,800 from Angular on Rails. In 2017 it was about $4,300. This might sound crazy but my goal is to earn $100K in product income in 2018. I honestly think this goal is realistic given everything I’ve learned about entrepreneurship over the last eight years or so.

 

I’m going to ask myself a couple questions that I’m borrowing from my friend Kai Davis (thanks, Kai) as well as a couple questions of my own.

What went well this year in my personal life? In 2017 I honestly didn’t have much of a personal life. I spent too much time working. But there are a few things that did go well. I took my wife on a vacation to Savannah, Georgia (with no kids!) which is a place she had wanted to visit for a long time. We took a family vacation to Asheville, North Carolina which was really fun. I got my wife a dog. I got to visit two new countries, Bulgaria and the Netherlands. I met some cool and interesting people in the course of teaching classes. I recorded a couple new songs that I’m pretty happy with, although they’re not finished yet.

What went well this year in my professional life? Like I mentioned above, it was my overall highest-income year ever and my second-best year for product revenue. I learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in freelancing/consulting. I appeared on two podcasts. I started a new product business which only took nine days to earn over $100 in revenue.

What didn’t go well this year in my personal life? I didn’t spend nearly as much time with family and friends as I would have liked. My personal life was almost nonexistent. I also would like to have spent more time on hobbies, especially playing music and reading.

What didn’t go well this year in my professional life? 2017 was too much of a financial rollercoaster. I started the year with a lot of money, then gradually ran out of money as my spending exceeded my income. I spent about five months focused on training (March to July) and seven months doing contracting (January, February and August-December). Gluing myself to the desk all day every day has always been a struggle for me, and so the months I’ve spent contracting have been really unenjoyable. So something that didn’t go well is that I spent a lot of time doing things I didn’t want to do.

2018

My top goal for 2018 is to escape contracting and go full-time on my new product business, Six Figure Coding. This has in fact been a career goal of mine since around 2008. I finally feel like it’s realistic. I’ve learned a lot about entrepreneurship in the last ten years and I think I learned more in 2016-2017 than any previous period. I truly believe that if I apply everything I’ve learned to Six Figure Coding, it will be successful.

Financially, my goal is to earn $100K from Six Figure Coding in 2018. I can imagine it going something like this: $1,000 in revenue for Q1, $9,000 in Q2, $25,000 in Q3, $65,000 in Q4. I can quit contracting when Six Figure Coding reaches a steady ~$10K/month. My dream is to be able to quit contracting in July 2018. My goal is to quit contracting sometime by December 31st, 2018.

I don’t intend to pursue any new training work in 2018. I will be teaching just two classes, one in May and one in June-July, because those two classes still make business sense for me. The rest of the time I plan to just do regular old contracting. 2017 was a year of stumbling and flailing and experimenting. I intend 2018 to be a year of executing on what I know works.

These are my two professional goals for 2018:

I honestly think that’s it for professional goals. If I can hit those two, I don’t give a fuck about anything else (professionally, that is).

Quitting consulting is also as much a personal goal as it is a professional one. Quitting consulting will ostensibly allow me to finally have a social life again as well as pursue various hobbies that I’ve neglected for years.

I do also have some vague personal goals which I need to think about more. Right now my plans for the year look something like this:

January, February, March: contracting
April: Vacation (April 1-8?), contracting
May: MicroConf (April 29-May 2), contracting, training (May 21-25)
June and July: contracting, training (June 11-July 6), contracting
August-December: contracting

Lastly, something else I like to do from time to time is compare where I am now to where I was at this time in previous years.

In December 2016 I was working on a miserable, excruciating contract project. That sucked a bunch although at this point I knew I was going to make the leap to training soon, so I was optimistic. I’m feeling better about life in December 2017 than I was in December 2016 though. Product-wise, Angular on Rails’ revenue had started to peter out in December 2016.

In December 2015 I was working at a miserable full-time job with no end in sight. I actually quit that job in early 2016 with no other work lined up just because I hated it so much. At this time I don’t believe I had any product business going at all. I had recently shut down Snip after five years of effort. This was a pretty dark time professionally.

In December 2014 I was working for Andela and about to go to Nigeria. Andela was only part-time and I had way less work than I needed to make a “normal” income.

In December 2013 I had recently been fired from a job which ended at the end of September 2013. I had tried and failed to get my first substantial freelancing client. I was running out of money but also unwilling to go back to a job. This was one of the worst times ever in my professional history.

People often compare where they are now to where they could potentially be if all their dreams came true. This is often a demoralizing exercise because you’ll never be where you could potentially be. It’s often much more gratifying to compare where you are now with where you were at this time in previous years. As I look back at 2013-2016, I realize that I’ve come an incredible distance since when I started freelancing. I’m looking forward to seeing how December 2018 compares with December 2017.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 11/28/2017

The last few weeks have included some very positive developments.

Successful Launch

On November 8th, I set up a WordPress site at SixFigureCoding.com. My idea was that my next project would be teaching job search skills to developers.

I was able to leverage my existing AngularOnRails.com audience and immediately get over 100 subscribers at SixFigureCoding.com.

I wanted to get to my first dollar of revenue as fast as possible. So, on November 17th, I did a launch. What I sold was access to a Slack group for $19 and a coaching call for $249. Nobody bought the coaching call but 8 people did buy the Slack access. My total revenue for the launch (which took place over the course of 3 days) was $152. The first sale took place on November 17th, meaning it was only 9 days between the time I set up SixFigureCoding.com and the time I made my first dollar.

This is an improvement over Angular on Rails which took me 2 months to monetize. (And actually, Angular on Rails existed as an unmonetized blog for about 2 years before I made any real money off of it, but during that time I wasn’t really trying yet.)

And it’s a big improvement over the 18 months it took me to make my first dollar of revenue from Snip (my failed hair salon scheduling software business).

Next Steps

My planned next steps for Six Figure coding include:

  • Guest on career-related and coding-related podcasts
  • Guest post on relevant high-traffic sites
  • Write articles on SixFigureCoding.com to build up a body of useful content
  • Launch a light, relatively low-priced ebook

Something I’ve learned relatively recently is the wisdom of tapping into other people’s audiences rather than trying to create my own from scratch. A year or two ago, my traffic strategy might have been to write a whole bunch of blog posts to try to get traffic. That probably would have worked but it would have taken needlessly long.

This time my approach is different. I figure that when I guest on podcasts, I’ll get at least a little inflow of traffic as well as a backlink in the show notes which will have SEO benefits. Similar deal with the guest posting.

My thinking with the ebook is that it will have two particular benefits. First, it will get the feedback loop started early. I know that my first attempt at an ebook will not exactly be a bullseye. I’ll probably be at least slightly off the mark and I’ll have to go back and adjust based on buyer feedback. Since the first incarnation of my product will be imperfect and there’s nothing I can do about it, I might as well launch that first incarnation in a low-key, low-stakes kind of way.

Second, I expect that having an ebook, even a very small one, will do something to put my name on the map and lend me some credibility when I’m doing my outreach campaigns to podcasts. I’ll no longer be just “Jason Swett” but “Jason Swett, author of [whatever I decide to call my book]”.

Long-Term Vision

I’ve long been a fan of patterning off of successful people’s business models. For this one I intend to do a hybrid of Brennan Dunn and Ramit Sethi, mostly Ramit Sethi.

My understanding of Ramit Sethi’s products is that they’re mostly high-ticket items in the hundreds or thousands of dollars. Right now I’m thinking it could make a lot of sense for me to offer a program that is, say, $97/mo for 6 months, with the idea being that by the end of that 6 months you have a better job (or your first coding job).

Ramit’s “authority piece” is a published book. Brennan’s authority piece, on the other hand, was just an ebook. In the beginning, I think it was even just like a 30-page ebook. That’s the model I plan to pattern after because it seems a lot more achievable, especially in a short time span.

So several months from now, my product ladder might look like this:

  1. $49 ebook
  2. $599 job search program

That’s probably too big a gap between the tiers so it might actually look something more like this:

  1. $49 ebook
  2. $299 job search program (“light” version)
  3. $599 job search program (“pro” version)

If I can sell just 200 copies of something that costs $500 (just to pick numbers that make the math easy), then that’s $100K per year. That’s actually my #1 2018 goal, to earn $100K from SixFigureCoding.com.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 11/13/2017

In the last few months the following things have happened:

  1. I decided to put Angular on Rails on the back burner
  2. I started a new project called Landing Page Breakdowns
  3. I killed Landing Page Breakdowns and started a project called AWS for Rails Developers
  4. I killed AWS for Rails Developers and started trying to do Shopify consulting
  5. I decided not to try to do Shopify consulting anymore and decided to start a new website that teaches job search skills to developers

Here’s how the last thing happened. Some time after I decided to try to do some Shopify consulting, I realized how hard it was to get clients, or at least the right kind of clients. I also didn’t like the starting-over feeling of moving into Shopify consulting. It became apparently to me a little while after getting into the Shopify thing that it would take me quite a while to gain a level of genuine competence. To a certain extent I’m okay with a business idea that takes a long time to build but I’m not okay with an experiment that takes a long time to build.

Based on when I wrote the blog post about it, it looks like my decision to put Angular on Rails on the back burner came around July 2017. Then I spent July, August, September and October experimenting with various other business ideas, none of which ended up seeming very promising.

After all that time and effort and disappointment I asked myself, “Rather than trying to start a new thing from scratch, why don’t I just go back to the thing that was already working and make it work better?” Angular on Rails isn’t perfect but it does have revenue. And as of August through October 2017 it was even back to the $300-$400/mo it was doing around December 2016 to March 2017 (before it dipped sharply in June and July).

So I took a fresh look at Angular on Rails and even made a concrete list of things I might do to move the needle. One thing I wanted to think about was this: I have a $49 product and a $99 product. Is there anything I could create that would be worth, say, $499? Because it would sure be a lot easier to grow the business’s revenue that way than by just trying to increase volume.

In pondering this question I recalled that a good portion of the people who signed up for the Angular on Rails mailing list did so because they wanted to build side projects. I wondered if a large percentage of these side-project-builders were doing so because they wanted to try to get a better job. So I emailed my list of about 2,100 people and asked.

The response was somewhat overwhelming. Over 50 people responded, almost all of them with a yes. So I thought, it looks like there’s something here.

And then I thought: I could add a new product onto my Angular on Rails product ladder, or I could start a whole new product ladder. I decided that creating a whole new product ladder would make the most long-term sense. This decision was partially driven by the fact that a lot of the people who responded to my “Are you trying to get a new job?” email said that they were no longer interested in the Angular + Rails combo. There’s no reason why the skills of finding a new programming job have to be tied to any particular technology.

The name I came up with for my new endeavor is Six Figure Coding. IIRC I registered the domain on November 7th. By November 8th, I had set up a WordPress site (using WP Engine) and then I used Leadpages to connect my site with Drip, allowing people to subscribe to an email list. At midday on November 8th I emailed my Angular on Rails list and let them know that Six Figure Coding was open for business. I also tweeted about it and put a link on Facebook.

I would have been satisfied with 20 or so subscribers. I remember that I immediately got about 8 subscribers. Then later the number crept up to the mid-20s. Then the number passed 32, making it the second-biggest email list I’ve built after Angular on Rails. By the time I closed my computer for the day around 8pm, I had 67 subscribers. When I opened my computer the next day, I had 86 subscribers. By the end of that day, I had over 100 subscribers. Today I have 115. My expectations have been greatly exceeded.

At a high level, my plan is to come up with a product ladder with products at $0, $29-49, $99 and $299+. I plan to immediately sell access to a paid Slack org and see how that goes. I actually have that launch scheduled for Friday, November 17.

My plan for getting traffic early on mostly revolves around doing podcast interviews and guest posts.

I’ll of course continue to post updates here like always.

Watch me try to get my first Shopify client

For the last 6 years I’ve done mostly the same kind of freelancing work: web development at $X/hour. When I first started freelancing in 2011 I had some vague idea of the exciting life I was going to live, but I slowly realized that being a freelancer programmer is basically just a glorified job. Or more accurately, that’s true for most freelance programmers most of the time.

Because I intend to eventually to become a millionaire, I’ve been working for years on trying to build a product business. Those efforts date back to about 2008. My first five attempts didn’t make any money. My sixth attempt made something like $5,000 over the course of five years. My seventh attempt made about $8,000 over the course of a year. My entrepreneurial skills have been improving over time.

You could kind of say that my first five entrepreneurial attempts made an average of $0/year each, then my next one made an average of $1,000/year, then my next one made an average of $8,000/year. Now that I’ve gotten some decent entrepreneurial practice, I’m ready to build the business that will make $100,000/year. I’m not yet experienced enough to make a $100,000/year idea appear out of nowhere but I do believe I’m now experienced enough not to mistake a $1,000/year idea for a $100,000/year idea.

I’ve also come to understand that successful product businesses aren’t brainstormed but stumbled upon. So the question I’ve been asking myself has gone from, “How can I come up with a good product idea?” to “How can I put myself in a situation that will cause me to stumble upon a good product opportunity?”

I’ve cycled through a lot of different potential answers to that question. My current idea is that maybe I can get involved in the Shopify world and try to get a product idea to emerge there. How did I pick Shopify? I really don’t know. I just kind of randomly picked it.

My thought is that if I want to stumble upon a good Shopify-related product idea, maybe I can do some Shopify consulting for a while to give me some visibility into that world. In fact, maybe that Shopify consulting can even replace my freelance programming income and provide me with a better lifestyle during the time I’m working on my ultimate goal of build a product business.

The kind of Shopify consulting I’m thinking of doing is to help Shopify store owners build their email lists and make more sales to their existing email subscribers.

I’ve run out of time to write this post (gotta get back to the hourly programming work!) but I plan to share more as I go.

Entrepreneurship Journal, 10/16/2017

In the last few months the following things have happened:

  1. I decided to put Angular on Rails on the back burner
  2. I started a new project called Landing Page Breakdowns
  3. I killed Landing Page Breakdowns and started a project called AWS for Rails Developers
  4. I killed AWS for Rails Developers and started something else that doesn’t have a name yet

The reason I killed AWS for Rails Developers is because I realized that there are people who are just getting started with AWS + Rails who need help but don’t have much money, and there are established business who use AWS + Rails and have a lot of money and those two groups of people don’t really overlap. I’m capable of teaching myself how to help people get started with AWS + Rails but I’m not capable of teaching established businesses how to scale AWS + Rails. I believe that knowledge has to be gained experientially. I’m not really excited about the idea of doing something that requires super deep technical knowledge at this point, either.

The new idea I had was to build some sort of product for the Shopify ecosystem. I have no idea what this product might be.

My thought is that maybe I can do some consulting for Shopify store owners which would give me insight and visibility into the Shopify world. The consulting could potentially even be a good income source on its own. Maybe it could even be a replacement for my contract development income.

So far I’ve had calls with two Shopify store owners. Both expressed interest in working with me, at least on the free basis that I offered. Yesterday I had a call with a guy from Australia who I found on the Shopify forums. I plan to try to find more prospects that way.

I also have a friend joining me in the Shopify endeavor. We’re working on starting an email list for it too.