working on the rails

Why I work as hard as I do

I have a bit of a high-maintenance client.  He’s a nice guy and everything, but one of those people who’s a bit too A.D.D. for their own good… you know, always running a mile minute, talks in broken sentences across numerous emails and texts that I later have to piece together, requiring a fair amount of telepathy on my end to figure out what he really wants me to do.

Sometimes he asks me questions by email which cannot be answered in less than two sentences… and I just know that anything I write beyond 2-3 sentences will never be read by this guy.

Well, recently he asked me a question (I think because he’s angling to start some new tech start-up or app or something, and wants to test my interest), and I ended up putting an unexpected amount of time and passion into my reply.  I guess the question hit a chord in me.

Rather than let my words disappear into the ether, I thought I’d share them with you here.  Maybe they will strike a chord in someone else too.

The Question

what are your goals, if you don’t mind me asking? are you happy as a coder for hire? do you have a lot of personal projects?

My Reply

I’ll tell you straight up… my goal is just to get my passive income to the point where I don’t have to work as coder for hire anymore. :) Don’t get me wrong, coder for hire is the best work situation I’ve been able to find… work from home, set my own hours, all that.  But it’s still work, and I put in a _lot_ of hours at it. Truthfully I’d rather spend more time with my fiancee (soon to be wife), work on my own projects, etc. But there it is.

About a quarter of my income right now comes from passive things… apps I’ve built, ad revenue from sites I drive traffic to, basically recurring things that don’t require much effort to keep them going.  ‎Some day those things will grow (I hope) to the point I can just live off of them. But, for now, I’m lucky to eek out 10 hours a week (usually the weekend) chipping away at them.

‎The rest of the time I’m working on everyone else’s projects, trading my hours for their dollars. I’m grateful to be paid well for my hours, but it always feels like money comes and goes and I’m no better off in the long run.

So to be totally honest, what I’m most interested in are things that will bring me *recurring* income.  If somebody asked me to choose between, say, “build a website for $5000” or “build a website for $150/month for many years to come”, I’d much rather take the $150/mo. Hell, I’d do a 100 of ’em and be set for life!

My problem isn’t lack of ideas… I’ve got a whole laundry list of ideas & personal projects to make money.  My problems are 1) lack of time… because I’m always working on other people’s stuff instead of my own long term things, and 2) I’m a lousy salesman. I hate sales with a passion. I totally suck at it. If I were a great salesman, I could hit up every small business I know, slap together a website for them, charge $150/mo. (or whatever) for each one, and be set. But I’m not.

I love Toptal because they do a great job pimping me out…  all I have to do is show up and do the work.  Except it’s still hours-for-dollars… not recurring money.

If I could find a partner who’s a real salesman, who could bring in ‎those recurring contracts, maybe things would be different.  You know, maybe I’d do a lot of work upfront, but then sit back and split the profits for years to come.

On the other hand, I can always do more apps, because they pretty much sell themselves. I dunno.

That’s pretty much my story.‎ Thanks for listening :)

Someday when I have the time I’d love to expand some more on the financial aspect of freelancing… I do have rather a lot of thoughts and stories to share.  *sigh*

4 thoughts on “Why I work as hard as I do”

  1. Hey, Bear. Thanks for sharing that, I was hit by that also. Do you mind telling what kind of apps did you develop by yourself? I thought about creating some also, and after you said that “they pretty much sell themselves”, I’m even more determined into developing them.

    1. Most of my apps right now are ecommerce related. For example I have a handful of apps in the Shopify App store which literally sell themselves… I’ve put exactly zero effort into marketing them and yet I still pick up new users each month. Shopify as a platform can really be a pain sometimes, which is why a lot of people turn to apps to do various things. The great thing about Shopify is you can easily get recurring income out of your app… people there seem to have no problem spending $5-$10/month for even a basic app. It’s kind of a niche place to be, but it has served me well.

      I’m also dabbling with mobile development right now. There’s a much bigger pool of users in the main app stores (Google Play and Apple App store), but also a lot of competing developers. In that environment you have to have a killer app just to get $0.99 for it, which for a solo guy like me is more work than it’s worth. So instead the trick here (at least I think so) is to sell your app for free and find other ways to monetize it, like in-app adverts, pro-version upsells, or micro-economy purchases (i.e. games that sell play coins, etc.). I’m waiting to see how this all pans out… and hopefully write about my experience soon. :)

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