Developing Perspective

#60: The Path to Independence


00:00:00   Hello and welcome to Developing Perspective. Developing Perspective is a podcast discussing

00:00:04   news of note and iOS development, Apple and the like. I'm your host, David Smith. I'm

00:00:08   an independent iOS developer based in Herne, Virginia. This is show number 60 and today

00:00:12   is Monday, July 2nd. Developing Perspective is never longer than 15 minutes. So let's

00:00:17   get started. Today's topic is coming from a question that I received via email from

00:00:22   Mason. And it's like the end of the last episode in 59. I asked you if you had any questions

00:00:27   or comments or thoughts, please let me know because it helps me to make the show more

00:00:31   responsive and more interesting, hopefully. And, you know, I got a variety of feedbacks.

00:00:35   Thanks for that. Keep it up. Just, you know, anything that you're, you think would be interesting

00:00:38   to discuss, please just let me know. I'm happy to work on it. And so basically, what Mason asked

00:00:43   is sort of what about the path from being a nine to five kind of a job person to becoming

00:00:51   independent. So obviously, this is a, you know, developing perspective. A lot of what I talk about

00:00:56   And a lot of my experience probably moreover, is coming from the perspective of someone

00:01:00   who is an independent developer, someone who sort of makes their living directly from their

00:01:05   development, which is, you know, from from my perspective, which is the best way to make

00:01:09   your living, you know, and rather than being salaried, beholden, having all those kinds

00:01:14   of challenges, you know, to be able to just make your living doing what you love, to be

00:01:18   responsible for that to sort of enjoy fully the benefits and the income that that can

00:01:23   can give you and to enjoy that as that goes.

00:01:29   But Mason was asking essentially, how did I get here?

00:01:31   And what's the path from being a 9 to 5 developer,

00:01:35   being someone who's working for someone else,

00:01:38   and sort of archetypally working in a big software development

00:01:44   shop, someone that makes software,

00:01:46   and you're working in a team of five or six people,

00:01:48   how do you turn that corner?

00:01:51   So there's a couple of ways that people, at least that I know,

00:01:54   have become independent.

00:01:55   So the first one is people kind of become independent

00:01:58   because they have to.

00:01:59   And this is usually that they get laid off.

00:02:02   And in some ways, it's the easiest way

00:02:04   to become independent is to lose your job,

00:02:06   and then suddenly you are independent.

00:02:08   Whether you like it or not, whether this is something

00:02:10   that you would prefer or not, you're all of a sudden

00:02:13   an independent person.

00:02:15   If you're a developer, you're kind of an independent developer.

00:02:18   Certainly not the easiest, most comfortable way

00:02:20   become independent.

00:02:22   But it's something that I think if you are a developer who

00:02:25   suddenly finds himself laid off, certainly thinking of

00:02:28   yourself in that way, that you suddenly are going to have to

00:02:31   market yourself.

00:02:32   You're going to have to keep your skills up.

00:02:34   You're going to have to do all these things on your own.

00:02:36   Whether or not you're marketing yourself to find a

00:02:38   new job, or you're marketing yourself to find income

00:02:42   either by consulting or by making or selling, make

00:02:45   creating something that you can sell, either way you

00:02:47   become the product that you're selling.

00:02:49   rather than working for a company that has a product

00:02:51   that you are creating for.

00:02:54   So that's kind of the one way to do it.

00:02:56   The other way is you kind of just choose to do it.

00:02:58   And often I'll hear this from people who kind of get,

00:03:00   I don't know, sick and tired with their old job

00:03:03   and decide, you know, man, I don't

00:03:05   want to work for the man anymore.

00:03:06   I want to work for myself.

00:03:08   And you kind of obviously-- I think

00:03:09   it's easy to get wrapped up in that

00:03:11   and to think of it as more exciting than it actually

00:03:15   turns out to be.

00:03:17   Being independent is by no means easy.

00:03:19   I think it's desirable, but that doesn't make it easy.

00:03:21   That makes it worthwhile, maybe.

00:03:24   And so becoming independent that way is a little funny.

00:03:29   It's a hard thing to go to your boss and say, hey,

00:03:32   I don't want that salary you've been paying me

00:03:36   for the last couple of years.

00:03:37   Please stop doing that.

00:03:39   I'm going to go and try something else.

00:03:40   That's probably maybe a little bit reckless.

00:03:43   Maybe you can do it if you're sort of--

00:03:46   don't have a lot of family or kids or responsibilities

00:03:48   or those kinds of things.

00:03:50   But generally speaking, for most people, that's a little rough.

00:03:53   And so what I'd recommend is if you want to go independent,

00:03:58   at the end of the day, you're going

00:04:00   to have to be motivated to make whatever it is that you're

00:04:02   going to make.

00:04:03   If you want to be an app developer,

00:04:05   or if you want to be a consultant,

00:04:06   if you want to make apps for other people,

00:04:08   but be doing it on a contracting basis rather than an employment

00:04:11   basis, you're going to have to get used to

00:04:15   and comfortable with selling yourself

00:04:17   and selling the products that you make.

00:04:20   The best way to start is just to start.

00:04:23   If you think it's going to be-- like certainly,

00:04:25   things to avoid is a mindset that, oh, I

00:04:28   have this great idea for an app.

00:04:30   And if only I had time to work on it,

00:04:33   it would be a big success.

00:04:34   More often than not, in my experience,

00:04:37   going to NS Coder nights, meeting lots of people,

00:04:40   it's not so much a question of time,

00:04:42   so much as it is a question of eagerness, of motivation.

00:04:46   And it's easy and nice to have this unicorn off

00:04:50   in the distance that you can say, if only I had time,

00:04:54   I'd be very successful.

00:04:55   My app would be awesome, and that'd be great.

00:04:58   Because it's easy to then neglect

00:05:00   all of the work and the effort and the challenges

00:05:02   that you would hit between starting and finishing

00:05:05   that project.

00:05:07   And so the first thing you just have to get over and understand

00:05:11   is, if you're going to be an independent, just start.

00:05:14   just start working on whatever it is you're doing because if that, if you're building

00:05:20   a skill that's going to be useful for your current job, almost certainly. And even if

00:05:25   it isn't, well, you know, you're, you're certainly improving yourself in a general sense. So

00:05:30   in that way, I'd say just sort of just start. I mean, I have a group of good friends of

00:05:36   mine do go sort of treat their weekly NS coder night as that space for them where they can

00:05:42   kind of tell their family, their wife, you know, "Hey, I'm going to this thing. I'm going

00:05:47   to work on my own stuff there. I'm going to work on my own apps. I'm going to work on

00:05:50   new learning new skills. I'm going to work on building myself a reputation in the community."

00:05:55   And that works pretty well. It kind of gives you a space and a definite schedule. In general,

00:06:00   it's like I've seen with the show, as soon as you give it something, an actual weekly

00:06:05   schedule, your likelihood of you actually doing it increases dramatically. Your ability

00:06:10   to actually just be working on it, you know, whatever it is, it's once a week on Thursday

00:06:16   nights, that's what I'm going to do. Because you notice if you miss, and I think that's

00:06:20   the big difference often for like, oh, I'm going to work on it in my spare time. And

00:06:24   that spare time is a totally ephemeral concept that there's no real definite sense of what

00:06:29   that means for it to be a, you know, sort of my spare time or it's Thursday night, and

00:06:35   I don't do it and that was the time that I was supposed to do it. I'll notice that and

00:06:39   And I find that, first personally, very reinforcing.

00:06:42   So that's kind of a first thing, especially if you're

00:06:45   heading in the app direction.

00:06:47   But a lot of people, I'd say, for a lot of people,

00:06:50   if you want to be independent, or even if you just

00:06:52   want to view it as you want to have a backup plan,

00:06:55   I would say one of the best things you can do

00:06:58   is to head towards being available

00:07:02   and being ready for consulting.

00:07:04   And consulting is a great thing in the sense

00:07:06   that you can pick it up and put it down in many ways.

00:07:09   I've often seen people who do consulting just

00:07:12   for a couple of months and then go back to being

00:07:14   a regular employee, or they view consulting as a gateway

00:07:17   to help them work on their own apps and have the income

00:07:19   to support that.

00:07:21   Consulting is great because you are taking something,

00:07:25   a scarce resource of yours, typically your time,

00:07:27   and just putting a dollar amount on that

00:07:29   and then putting that on the market

00:07:30   and seeing what people are willing to pay for it.

00:07:33   And so consulting is really nice in that way,

00:07:37   because it's a very limited and obvious thing.

00:07:39   Developing an application is great

00:07:41   in that you take this time that you have

00:07:43   and you put it into something, and then you

00:07:45   kind of have the opportunity to get returned

00:07:48   from that in the future.

00:07:49   As time progresses, you can continue

00:07:51   to get money from time that you've put in the past, which

00:07:54   is great.

00:07:54   And having passive income is awesome.

00:07:56   As someone who has some of that, it is super cool.

00:08:00   But it's also incredibly hard to get.

00:08:02   And so just kind of having this very direct relationship

00:08:04   between your time and your money is pretty cool.

00:08:06   And as an iOS developer, I can say

00:08:09   there's a pretty good market for iOS development in the US

00:08:12   and around the world, I suspect.

00:08:14   But I can only sort of speak in the US.

00:08:15   That if you're a developer with some pretty good chops,

00:08:19   if you know what you're doing, you can sort of command

00:08:21   pretty reasonable consulting rates, which is kind of awesome

00:08:25   if you want to head down that path.

00:08:28   How do you get that first job?

00:08:29   do you get into consulting? And I think a lot of that's just a question of starting

00:08:35   with, you just have to kind of start. You just kind of have to put your name out there.

00:08:39   You're putting your name out on Twitter. You're going to local user groups. You are talking

00:08:44   at conferences. You're writing books. You're doing whatever you can to make yourself known,

00:08:49   make it known in the world that, "Hey, I know what I'm talking about, and I'm available

00:08:53   to make that next app for you, to make that next thing." I would say NS Coder Knights

00:08:59   or equivalents, which if you're not familiar with,

00:09:00   an NS code or knight is usually a weekly thing.

00:09:02   It's kind of informal.

00:09:04   We meet all over the country and probably all over the world,

00:09:08   where it's just kind of cocoa developers getting together

00:09:10   to talk about what's going on, just hang out.

00:09:14   My local one is just at a La Madeleine,

00:09:16   which is like a French coffee house slash bistro place.

00:09:20   And they just get together and they hang out and they talk.

00:09:23   Another thing that's kind of similar to that,

00:09:24   that you'll have in a lot of places,

00:09:26   is a thing called Cocoa Heads, which is a similar thing.

00:09:28   that's usually on a monthly basis. And that's usually a bit

00:09:31   more formal with like a presentation and talk. But going

00:09:33   to these kinds of things and meeting the local people. One

00:09:36   thing that I found very often with consulting is people are

00:09:39   far more likely to hire an unknown or a starting out

00:09:43   developer that is local to them. It's usually much easier if

00:09:47   you're trying to find consulting work to find someone local to

00:09:50   wherever you are, whether that's a local business, whether that's

00:09:52   a local consulting firm for you to subcontract through, or

00:09:55   whatever, it's it takes a lot of the risk out versus if you're

00:09:58   kind of putting your name out on what Elance or I don't know all these weird websites where

00:10:04   you're kind of competing against people all over the world and you're competing against

00:10:07   the guy in Romania who can work for $10 an hour and make a lot of you know sort of that

00:10:12   be cool for him or whatever like it's that's a really difficult thing. But if you can,

00:10:17   you know, sit down in a room with somebody shake their hand and talk to them, and they

00:10:21   can kind of feel that connection and that sense that you're not going to just sort of

00:10:25   disappear, or that, you know, if something goes weird, or

00:10:28   something goes wrong, they can actually just reach out to you

00:10:30   and be like, Hey, so that thing you did, it's not really working

00:10:33   or whatever, like, you know, there's something there that I

00:10:35   can definitely, I've definitely seen that to be a great way to

00:10:39   kind of get your foot in the door. So that's kind of those

00:10:41   things. And for me, my path, which is, I think, sort of part

00:10:45   of what Mason was asking about, it follows a lot of this. So

00:10:50   what my path was, I was a regular nine to five developer.

00:10:53   And then I had an opportunity to do a consulting gig.

00:10:55   It kind of came out of nowhere.

00:10:56   And so it's not necessarily a good thing for reproducing.

00:10:59   But basically, my wife's company needed a Rails developer

00:11:03   at the time.

00:11:04   And so it had nothing to do with Rails.

00:11:06   She works for an HR consulting company.

00:11:08   But they just had a project that they needed a web developer for.

00:11:11   And they just put out a company-wide email that says,

00:11:14   hey, does anybody know anybody?

00:11:15   And at the time, I was a little bit bored of my job.

00:11:18   I wasn't upset or unhappy.

00:11:20   But I was a little bored.

00:11:21   And so my wife was like, hey, I got an email

00:11:23   for stuff on the company-wide thing

00:11:25   saying they're looking for a Rails developer.

00:11:27   Are you interested?

00:11:28   And I said, oh, sure.

00:11:29   I looked into the details, and it just kind of worked.

00:11:32   And so I went independent, so I quit my job.

00:11:34   And the nice thing with that is it

00:11:36   was a set project for six or seven months.

00:11:39   And so it kind of gave me a long enough time

00:11:41   to get my feet out, try it out, see if I liked it.

00:11:45   And I did.

00:11:46   And so I've been roughly independent ever since.

00:11:48   I've had one little stint since then

00:11:50   when I worked for one of my consultants, they wanted to hire me on as a full time employee

00:11:54   didn't quite work out. So I went back to consulting. But consulting, you just kind of the amazing

00:11:59   thing is very often, if you do good work, consulting is very self sustaining in the

00:12:04   sense that your clients, almost always you're building something that then needs to be maintained

00:12:08   that needs to be extended that needs to be, you know, further worked on. And so most often

00:12:13   I just, you know, follow on work from follow on work from follow on work, you know, especially

00:12:17   if you're just one guy, it's very easy for that to keep you busy the entire time.

00:12:21   So that's kind of my path.

00:12:22   And then what I found into getting into apps, and this is the advice I've given to dozens

00:12:27   of people and it seems, a lot of people, it seems to sort of work with them, is if you

00:12:31   want to say, if you're an independent consultant and you want to get into apps, what I recommend

00:12:36   you do is you kind of start treating your apps as a client.

00:12:39   And by that I mean, you know, if you're a consultant who typically, whatever it is,

00:12:42   You work 40 hours a week at $100 an hour.

00:12:46   You're kind of targeting to hit whatever

00:12:48   that is, $4,000 a week in terms of gross income.

00:12:51   Not talking about expenses or anything,

00:12:53   but say like just numbers to work with,

00:12:56   nice big round numbers.

00:12:57   And if that's what you're doing, what I ever find doing

00:12:59   is start working on an app in your spare time.

00:13:03   Like I was talking about before, if you're on his coder night,

00:13:05   on vacation, if you have some dead time between client work

00:13:08   where you can't do anything else, pick up a consulting,

00:13:11   pick up your-- an app project and work on it,

00:13:14   and get it in the store.

00:13:15   You know, ship that thing.

00:13:15   Really work on getting it out the door,

00:13:17   even if it's really small and focused.

00:13:19   And then take the money that you get from that, anything at all

00:13:24   that you get, and view that as a client of yours who's paying

00:13:27   you to keep working on apps.

00:13:29   So even if your start off and your first app doesn't do very

00:13:31   well, say-- whatever.

00:13:33   Say it starts making you a couple bucks a day.

00:13:35   Say it makes you $5 a day, $10 a day.

00:13:37   It's like, OK, well, say $10 a day,

00:13:40   it's like every 10 days, you just bought an hour of your time. And that's not great at first. But if

00:13:48   you view it that way, and you kind of build up this repertoire of money that you're going to say

00:13:52   is paying you, it tends to snowball because suddenly now, whatever it is, even if you have

00:13:57   that one hour every 10 days or whatever, you make you make good use of that you make focused use of

00:14:02   that because it's limited resource. And then maybe that becomes, you know, $20 a day, maybe that

00:14:07   becomes $30 a day, it becomes $100 a day. And suddenly you start having this ability

00:14:12   to be shifting your time and your attention away from apps without having to sort of take

00:14:18   a pay cut, without having to take much of a risk because it just builds over time. And

00:14:22   for me that worked. That's how I got into apps and gradually at some point I hit the

00:14:26   point that my apps were paying better than my consultants see projects and so I stopped

00:14:31   doing most of my consulting. And that won't happen for everybody but I think that's a

00:14:34   a pretty good pattern to see if your apps are successful and viable.

00:14:38   They'll start paying for you and start paying for your time.

00:14:41   All right, so that's kind of a little bit of a round and round topic, but hopefully

00:14:45   that's helpful.

00:14:46   As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns, hit me up on Twitter.

00:14:49   I'm _DavidSmith.

00:14:51   The Twitter feed for the show is @DevPerspective.

00:14:53   Otherwise, I hope you have a good week.

00:14:55   Happy coding, and I'll talk to you later.

00:14:57   Bye.

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