August 18, 2019
that’s like a dollar an hour
About 2 and a half years ago, I got an itch to start building websites. “Not some Squarespace out-of-the-box pre-packaged bullshit” was the philospophy as my reactionary mindset pulled me towards what the professionals used. The weird words you’d hear about after someone tells you they make 6 figures to work remotely and be on their computer all day.
“I work with Ruby on Rails. ”
“I built a PHP server.”
“I write scripts with Python.”
“I cAn CoDe HtML.”
On January 1st, 2017, I googled “how to code free” and scrolled through some posts on Reddit. I found freeCodeCamp.org, and the rest was history. Finally, there was a great place to learn the exciting field of Web Development for free, with actual challenges that made you truly sit down and concentrate on your code. My original idea was to build an app to help people make budgets, but after realizing how readily available the tools to succeed are, I set my heights on a loftier goal — starting a company.
I was using an app called Tilt to make apparel for events around campus as a side hustle in College. Tilt let me create crowdfunds for shirts, hats, and anything else that my business partner in Phoenix could print or embroider. In short, Tilt was a great app for me, and its demise left me with Venmo (or Pony Express era cash payments) to do my business.
All this obsession stemmed from the idea that somewhere on the web is the million dollar command you put in your computer that makes all your dreams come true. Thankfully, I found people to prove me wrong once again at my Coding Boot Camp.
If you want to be a strong Web Developer, you have to be comfortable with a wide variety of skills. I learned that almost everyone in Web Development encounters something Imposter Syndrome, which is basically insecurity about those skills, due to “everyone else being so much better.” The antidote to imposter syndrome is experience, and one of the most common pieces of advice for new developers, is to work on side-projects to get comfortable with technologies.
Reason being: if you have skin in the game, it’s not gonna feel like another day at the office.
I began putting together a prototype for my business needs, and after 1 year of starting to learn to code, I shipped.
It was fucking ugly.
It was littered with bugs.
It was beyond embarassing.
A shoddy firebase + heroku hosted React app processed 53 shirt orders at once, pocketing me over $200.
For the next 8 months, I spent hours upon hours designing, building, and testing an enhanced version of my vision. The app had been decoupled to two services: a RESTful API built on Node and postgreSQL, and a Server-rendered, SEO-optimized React front-end PWA.
On January 2nd, 2019, I launched the Populus MVP, and was fortunate enough to partner with the ASU Pi Kappa Alpha chapter for their philanthropy. Through Populus, we raised $2,186 for the Tempe Fire Department.
On August 17th, 2019, I delivered an order of shirts, and crossed $10,000 in total revenue for the year. Without quitting my job. While still taking online classes. While having no employees.
Life tends to come in waves of ups and downs, triumphs and challenges, strikes and gutters.
I’ll probably get some more business, and raise more money for charity.
I’ll probably ship a release that destroys my business.
I’ll learn a hell of a lot along the way.