I’ve been making websites in earnest for 9 years now and I’m excited to report, I’ve just made my first dollar on the internet. How did I do it, why did it take me so long? Sit back, relax and let me tell you a maker’s tale of misery and woe.
The “I’m bad at this” years
I’m not sure when I could finally make a decent website, but I can tell you when I couldn’t and that was when I first started. The problem with not being able to make websites very well isn’t really a problem of design or programming, it’s a problem of confidence. I would have an idea in my head and I would jam it out, but as I kept writing code for months and months, two things would happen. The idea in my head would never show up on the screen. In fact what I kept seeing on the screen was a pile of hot garbage in comparison. The second thing that would happen is that I would lose motivation and quit the project altogether without even telling anyone. This is the worst outcome for a side project, it demotivates you to even try again and it also means other than gaining programming/design experience, which is good, you just lost the opportunity to show someone something that although is rough, might just be useful to more than just you. This spiral of making something, not being proud of it, giving up, not telling anyone, and getting demotivated went on for quite a while before I made a change.
The “I’m bad at this, but I also want this so bad, I’m going to just put things out there” years
After I started to get less bad at things where if I squinted right and ignored a few of the glaring design flaws and the lack of polish, I could at least share what I’ve made. Of course these were also the years where I wasn’t putting enough time/effort into marketing, that’s still a problem I’m dealing with today, but at least I have the wherewithal to share the link in different places. I put out a lot of different websites trying to find something that was useful to me and useful to other people as well. These were the grind years, the years where I was trying to find the will and the motivation and a technique to finish my projects within the time constraints of a full time job and a full time life. I got married during these years, I bought my first house, I got a dog. I started traveling a lot more internationally. I was finally living life.
The “I’m actually ok at this, but I need to get better in other areas” years
A few years ago, I finally found the programming language that just clicked for me and my websites, it’s a little weird and a little esoteric, just like me. After I finally found something I loved to do every day, I got to work, but work on side projects wasn’t just like my day job programming for 8 hours with meetings here and there, it was more than that, it was marketing, it was selling. And to this day it still is. Once I found my one true language, it turned out not to matter, it’s nice to love the thing that makes the things people love, but it’s not what is going to make you that first $1. The thing that made me my first dollar was getting over myself, and getting over my fear of of what other people thought. My first dollar was made through a year plus of blogging in the open about my projects, and a semi-successful launch on places like product hunt. I may not have gotten to #1 that day, but I did get retweeted on the PH twitter, which was huge. When you’re small like me, existing platforms are the way to that first $1.
Where do I go from here?
Well, I just to have to market and sell directly even more and code even less. I’ve started a 12 startups in 12 month challenge, where I make 12 websites (or versions of those websites) and see if anyone wants them. There’s something scary about the unknown and about a life of side projects beyond programming, but I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care if I have to drag myself kicking and screaming up the mountain of shameless self promotion, I will reach the summit. Never give up, never surrender. Keep shipping my friends.