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Been programming for 8 years, freelanced for 5, quit job of 3 years and moving to Thailand.. next?

Anything considered a "hustle" and not necessarily a CENTS-based Fastlane

DamienRoche

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I'd appreciate the opinion/insight of any level-headed members.

I taught myself programming about 8 years ago and ground away for 5 years freelancing until I decided to go get a 9-5. I've learned a massive amount in the last few years working among a team of 50 other developers, but I always knew this wasn't for me. I'd already tasted freedom when outsourcing towards the end of my freelancing journey.

I've been planning to quit my job for the last 8 months and handed my resignation in last month and am moving to Thailand (one-way with onward flight at end of Oct). I have enough savings to survive for 6 months without freelancing, though I'll likely do that part-time to keep funds topped up. The company I left have offered my job back if it all goes tits up.

I'm now in a position where I can build pretty much any kind of application I can think of. I'm experienced on every level of the stack, front-end, design, back-end (Ruby/Rails), systems, architecture, devops. I did originally deep dive into marketing way way back about 10 years ago but never took action! Fell into programming due to it better aligning with my personality and offering immediate returns.


This has put me in a great position, but I'm unsure of where to go next. Considering the above, what would you do? I have a few software products I've done some research on and am confident I will find *something* if I commit to failing/learning as quickly as possible.

But I do also have an option to lean on my strengths full-force and build a consulting business and scale that up THEN invest money/time into a more passive form of income. But that just seems like I'm going round the houses to get where I want to be. I'm 30, I can't really be bothered doing something I know I don't want to end up doing.

I'm well aware that my programming skills are not enough on their own, so I've been thinking of merging them with marketing skills by building services/tools for marketers - though haven't thought much beyond that.

That pretty much leaves me with building products. Any thoughts? Does this sound sensible? Any developers here who have any advice on a direction to go?
 
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AgainstAllOdds

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I'd freelance just enough to cover living expenses and investment expenses. Then I'd spend the rest of my time working on a scalable business.

You don't want to fall into the freelancing trap of quitting your job just to become a freelancer (another job). That's a good transition if you want more freedom, but not the optimal transition if you're ambitious.
 

DamienRoche

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I'd freelance just enough to cover living expenses and investment expenses. Then I'd spend the rest of my time working on a scalable business.

You don't want to fall into the freelancing trap of quitting your job just to become a freelancer (another job). That's a good transition if you want more freedom, but not the optimal transition if you're ambitious.

That was my original line of thinking. I know freelancing is just another trap. I won't give in until I've cracked passive income this time around. Thanks.
 

HackVenture

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If you have sufficient runway then by all means go full-force on your software ideas but I don't think freelancing is a bad idea either if you approach it with the right mindset; could turn into a consulting business IMO, while you work on your software ideas as a side hustle.

I worked in Bangkok for like a year, it was awesome!
 
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DamienRoche

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If you have sufficient runway then by all means go full-force on your software ideas but I don't think freelancing is a bad idea either if you approach it with the right mindset; could turn into a consulting business IMO, while you work on your software ideas as a side hustle.

I worked in Bangkok for like a year, it was awesome!

That was another avenue I had considered. I think the problem is I'm not used to having complete freedom to do as I please, and now I'm struggling to determine what exactly to do with it in order to maximise progress towards my financial goals. I did read a post here a while back about someone who built a $15k/m consultancy in 9 months.. without any programming knowledge. That would give me enough savings to buy myself off for a good few years without having to even worry about incoming cash.

At the same time, being in a "do or die" situation is great for fueling the fire.. my plan at the moment is to stick to a strict 15/hrs week MAX on any job-centric income. Rest of the time will be on building something semi-passive through software. Trying to develop an attitude of customers over clients.

If everything goes to shit, I'll do something a little less risky and little more secure (e.g. consultancy). In the mean time, I'm building software and using tools and learning subjects that will only add to my value as a programmer/consultant. Hoping this puts me in a position where I can't really lose.

Thanks for the feedback. Looking forward to Thailand! :D
 

DamienRoche

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Just wanted to post an update on this..

It's been almost a month since I left my previous life and moved to Thailand. I've had a great time so far, though have struggled to stay focused on my own projects. My expenses are covered in 10-15 hrs/wk freelancing, but the rest of the time I've pretty much spent dreaming, expanding on ideas, researching a little, dating (eek), buying things (double eek).

The "big" financial goal at the moment is to generate $1000/m profit so that I can quit freelancing completely and focus on my business full-time.

The two big changes I'm trying to make now are to become a producer instead of a consumer, and to focus on helping people instead of making money.

I did find a particular problem (validated by a semi-active community on reddit and some basic keyword research). I already built half the application and some tools to help me mine for data (crawlers, etc). The plan is to just build this tool and share it with that community, gain feedback and try to improve it. I do have plans of how I could integrate revenue streams, but at the moment I'm happy if it's just something people find helpful and interesting.

I also have a bunch of other, more commercially-oriented ideas (B2B, commercial platforms, etc).

I've also had quite a few itches since arriving in Thailand and reckon it might be a good idea to scratch a few of those and build some tools that would greatly help me during this time.

So yeh.. little fragmented at the moment, still trying to build a routine, and still having trouble focusing on one thing. I'm committed to solving that particular problem I mentioned above regardless of whether I expand on it later or not. I guess I'll decide the next step after I've solved it and gained some feedback.

Because there are so many great things to experience over here, I've started to put conditions on them. For example, I'm not allowed to buy equipment for hobbies or buy a motorbike or travel much until I've either achieved a certain level of monthly profitability or saved up a certain amount of cash. This has kept me much more motivated to follow through with some of these goals that don't have immediate returns.

Looking forward to posting better news!
 

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I'm 22 and moved to Vietnam and living here for 6 months now. Next stop, Thailand.

It can really work, but you need to secure minimum living expenses through either freelance or remote work.
With cost of living in Asia, this can be done with 1 day of remote work per week, and you can live fairly comfortably.

With your remaining time, you can commit to being a monk or startup something else. The beauty is the freedom to make your own decisions.

Best of luck. If you do move to Chiang Mai, get in touch :)
 
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AgainstAllOdds

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My expenses are covered in 10-15 hrs/wk freelancing, but the rest of the time I've pretty much spent dreaming, expanding on ideas, researching a little, dating (eek), buying things (double eek).

Thailand is one of the easiest places in the world to get comfortable.

I just spent two months there, and the amount of distractions that you have from travel, partying, and girls is incredible.

My advice: start by spending an extra 5 hours a week on building a passive income stream. Just five hours to start. Then slowly grow it to 10 hours, 15 hours, and 25 hours - a full 40 hour work week. Once you hit that point, you can start outsourcing and scale back to the easy life while your money machine brings in cash.
 

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If you have a lot of ideas you can test them before committing to code. This approach is taken from right here
 

Gwenqou

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@DamienRoche It's awesome that you moved to Thailand. The cost of living there is nothing compared to the standard here in NY

Been there for 1.5 months and I agree that the amount of distraction could be a bit crazy

but if you have your own apartment, it's much easier to stay focused and work on your business

Below is how I get myself to work on business tasks
1) Clearly identify what is the one thing that you're trying to accomplish
(i.e. license that software idea, sell your software idea to a corporation....)
2) List all the things you need to do to accomplish that one thing
(i.e. validate the idea, build MVP, marketing....)
3) Give each item (or at least those that you can accomplish within a year) a deadline and start working on them!

This method really works well for me

Knowing that I need to finish something by a certain date, I dive into work when I have any free time

Best of all, if you finish a task before the deadline,

you can dive right into the next task
or
you can take the time to fully enjoy yourself without feeling guilty because you're still on schedule!
 

splok

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I did find a particular problem (validated by a semi-active community on reddit and some basic keyword research). I already built half the application and some tools to help me mine for data (crawlers, etc). The plan is to just build this tool and share it with that community, gain feedback and try to improve it. I do have plans of how I could integrate revenue streams, but at the moment I'm happy if it's just something people find helpful and interesting.

I also have a bunch of other, more commercially-oriented ideas (B2B, commercial platforms, etc).

I've also had quite a few itches since arriving in Thailand and reckon it might be a good idea to scratch a few of those and build some tools that would greatly help me during this time.

Grats on making the jump! The quoted chunk reminds me a LOT of most of the developers that I've known, so I thought I'd toss in some thoughts in case it helps you avoid some of the problems that they've run into.

From my experience (and also, very generally speaking), developers love building interesting stuff and hate 'selling'. They think selling is sleazy and that the quality of their work should be all that matters. Even when they know that this isn't true on an intellectual level, they still act as if it is. What's more, they love to build tools because every tool they build will help them build even faster (nevermind the fact that they never actually end up building anything but tools...)

automation.png


Right?

And then, even once they decide to build something, it's always a giant thing that has to be better than anything like it. This also makes it something that they'll never finish (which was probably the point in wanting to build the giant thing in the first place, even if unconsciously). What's even worse, once they start building a real product, the closer it gets to complete, the less they want to work on it. Finishing up is 'easy', it just takes some time to grind it out. That makes it uninteresting, and developers only want to build interesting things, right?

So general advice: Read one of the physical product threads and apply every lesson to software. Start with something that's simple that you already know that you can make quickly and easily (yes, intentionally uninteresting), and make sure that it's something that someone else is already making money on, thus saving you the market validation legwork. And then, don't try to make it better than the existing products. Just pick one differentiator and tweak it so that it does one thing better, serves a slightly different target market, or whatever. Then actually go and sell it. Not just toss it up on a marketplace for a week and say 'eh, no one wanted it, see, I should have added 100 features!', but actually, really, try to sell it.

Specific: Take your half finished thing that you know people want, cut all the features that aren't done yet, finish it, sell it.
 

DamienRoche

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I'm 22 and moved to Vietnam and living here for 6 months now. Next stop, Thailand.

It can really work, but you need to secure minimum living expenses through either freelance or remote work.
With cost of living in Asia, this can be done with 1 day of remote work per week, and you can live fairly comfortably.

With your remaining time, you can commit to being a monk or startup something else. The beauty is the freedom to make your own decisions.

Best of luck. If you do move to Chiang Mai, get in touch :)

I am in Chiang Mai! :)

I'm only charging $40/hour at the minute (for a long-term client on Upwork), so I have to do 10-15 hours to keep myself afloat. My expenses run to about $1500/month, which I'm happy with. Having a nice condo and a motorbike and some other comforts is crucial to me at the moment. I might put some work in and go find a higher paying gig, but I'm quite comfortable with this, and I'm learning plenty of stuff (mobile design at the minute) which will help as I build my own applications.

Good luck on your journey! If you're ever in CM, feel free to ping me.

@DamienRoche It's awesome that you moved to Thailand. The cost of living there is nothing compared to the standard here in NY

Been there for 1.5 months and I agree that the amount of distraction could be a bit crazy

but if you have your own apartment, it's much easier to stay focused and work on your business

Below is how I get myself to work on business tasks
1) Clearly identify what is the one thing that you're trying to accomplish
(i.e. license that software idea, sell your software idea to a corporation....)
2) List all the things you need to do to accomplish that one thing
(i.e. validate the idea, build MVP, marketing....)
3) Give each item (or at least those that you can accomplish within a year) a deadline and start working on them!

This method really works well for me

Knowing that I need to finish something by a certain date, I dive into work when I have any free time

Best of all, if you finish a task before the deadline,

you can dive right into the next task
or
you can take the time to fully enjoy yourself without feeling guilty because you're still on schedule!

Yep! Can't see myself ever living in the West again. Good idea RE goals. What I've started to do is write out a list of important goals at the beginning of the week - stuff I wanna get done that week, then checking over that list at the beginning of each day and working on the most important things.

What I've found is that despite having around 8 goals/wk, I'm only crossing off 3/4.. and it's primarily because I've spent a lot of time procrastinating or being distracted. Thankfully, as you say, having your own condo is great for staying focused. I absolutely love my condo, and I know this is the place where all the magic will happen over the next 12 months.

Grats on making the jump! The quoted chunk reminds me a LOT of most of the developers that I've known, so I thought I'd toss in some thoughts in case it helps you avoid some of the problems that they've run into.

Right?

Specific: Take your half finished thing that you know people want, cut all the features that aren't done yet, finish it, sell it.

Right! That resonates with me big time, and I've seen it over and over again in others, too. I remember reading a series of blog posts a while back by a developer who had built a user feedback plugin. He managed to get it to around $4500/m in revenue after 8 or so months. One of his later posts was that he wasn't cut out for marketing and it was impeding his progress and ability to grow his business. He found it dirty and sleazy and.. etc..

And you're right - I did originally get into internet marketing and only became a programmer because it just felt more natural to me, and I enjoyed solving technical problems, rather than sales or marketing problems. I may bridge that gap in the future and start solving marketing problems using technology (I know a couple of guys here who are in that industry).. but I agree, marketing is of the utmost importance, and it's crucial I don't get carried away playing with code.

I did almost fall into that trap of developing a tool to help me find niche markets.

The only thing right now is that I have a particular problem I'm going to solve because I can solve it in around 50-80 dev hours. It won't earn me any money, but it is one of the more recent projects I've started, and I'm 100% determined to get it done and get it out there. The only goal with that is to finish a project I've started and to get something out in the wild.

The plan is to then move onto something much more commercial in nature. As you say, build something people are already buying. That idea 6 months ago was art gallery management software. I did a tonne of research but prepping for Thailand got in the way. I might jump back on that, not sure. My goal after deploying my other app is to focus all of my effort on generating enough value to get a sale from a product I've built. That will become my obsession until I've cracked it. Then 10 customers, then 100 customers, and on it goes.

Thanks for the advice! Very pertinent!
 
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splok

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The only thing right now is that I have a particular problem I'm going to solve because I can solve it in around 50-80 dev hours. It won't earn me any money, but it is one of the more recent projects I've started, and I'm 100% determined to get it done and get it out there. The only goal with that is to finish a project I've started and to get something out in the wild.

The plan is to then move onto something much more commercial in nature. As you say, build something people are already buying. That idea 6 months ago was art gallery management software. I did a tonne of research but prepping for Thailand got in the way. I might jump back on that, not sure. My goal after deploying my other app is to focus all of my effort on generating enough value to get a sale from a product I've built. That will become my obsession until I've cracked it. Then 10 customers, then 100 customers, and on it goes.

Thanks for the advice! Very pertinent!

Great! and don't be too sure that your project can't earn. If you've got a problem and there wasn't a suitable solution available, then other people have that problem too. Some of them would rather give you a pile of cash for your solution than to try and solve it themselves. You may have to think a bit more generically about the problem, especially if its very technical, but shifting context a little can open up whole new markets. Take your art gallery management, for example. There's probably at least an 80-90% overlap in the tech behind an art gallery management system and pretty much any other thing management system. Not sure how many art galleries there are, but it's probably at least 3 orders of magnitude fewer than the number of businesses that use (or could use) a general inventory management system.
 

DamienRoche

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Great! and don't be too sure that your project can't earn. If you've got a problem and there wasn't a suitable solution available, then other people have that problem too. Some of them would rather give you a pile of cash for your solution than to try and solve it themselves. You may have to think a bit more generically about the problem, especially if its very technical, but shifting context a little can open up whole new markets. Take your art gallery management, for example. There's probably at least an 80-90% overlap in the tech behind an art gallery management system and pretty much any other thing management system. Not sure how many art galleries there are, but it's probably at least 3 orders of magnitude fewer than the number of businesses that use (or could use) a general inventory management system.

That's it, the idea behind going after art galleries was that it was a more specific niche. The last thing I want to do is attempt to take on the world. Every one of my ideas turns into an all-encompassing solution to every problem imaginable and I need to get out of that mindset and tackle smaller problems initially to get my feet wet.
 

DamienRoche

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Just stumbled into this thread again, how are things going for you now @DamienRoche?

Hey!

Going quite well, I'd say. I've been in Thailand now for about 4 months, am due to extend my ed visa tomorrow. Majority of the time I've spent trying to get myself focused while freelancing, cut back on dating and indulging in random crap and then got down to the business of fighting through mountains of inertia and doubt to actually get something done..

..and then fight through the nagging question of whether you're wasting your time. I flitted between a few different ideas and found a few decent opportunities for software I could build. I have finally settled on a service I can build relatively quickly (somewhat validated by a bunch of products I found on indiehackers) and will be finishing that up this month and then start marketing it.

The aim is still to make enough in profit to quit freelancing so I can focus 100% on my business. At the moment that is only $400/wk, or $1600m. With my current service, taking into account the cost structure, tax, and paying myself a salary, I'd probably have to pull in about $2500-$3000/m revenue, which equates to around 300 low-tier customers (solo developers), though I will be tackling bigger customers (teams) after I've ironed out the service. There are other related services I can build, too, so the work will always pay off in some way.

Overall, I'm quite excited and I'm more than confident I'll find a way. Just need to get something in the market and start iterating over that. If I put everything I have into it and I still can't get it off the ground in 3-6 months then I'll take those lessons and move onto something else or expand it in some other way. Only upwards from here! The alternative (wage slavery) is something I'm just not willing to go back to without a war, so this fire will burn for a long long time, and there is no doubt in my mind I'll achieve these very realistic financial goals, and, in fact, far surpass them. One step at a time, ey!

Have also been dealing with issues of being alone majority of the time. I'm quite introverted so that isn't too much of a problem, and I'm very happy to see myself greatly maturing in this area to the point where I'm becoming my own best company, no longer bullying myself in my head or making myself feel crap. It's been a transformative experience, and nothing is more exciting than knowing I'm only the at the beginning of this journey, and that my life will just get better... I balance that with thoughts of losing everything - my skills, my visa, my ability to stay in SEA or work from my laptop - and accept it. Whatever happens (within reason), I know I'll be fine.

Best thing about my current situation is even if Thailand kick me out I can jump around SEA for a long time and support myself with my skills.. which means I will have the vast amount of free time I currently have for many years. Now I just have to face the challenge of investing that free time to maintain and increase my level of freedom.
 
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Andy Black

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Grats on making the jump! The quoted chunk reminds me a LOT of most of the developers that I've known, so I thought I'd toss in some thoughts in case it helps you avoid some of the problems that they've run into.

From my experience (and also, very generally speaking), developers love building interesting stuff and hate 'selling'. They think selling is sleazy and that the quality of their work should be all that matters. Even when they know that this isn't true on an intellectual level, they still act as if it is. What's more, they love to build tools because every tool they build will help them build even faster (nevermind the fact that they never actually end up building anything but tools...)

automation.png


Right?

And then, even once they decide to build something, it's always a giant thing that has to be better than anything like it. This also makes it something that they'll never finish (which was probably the point in wanting to build the giant thing in the first place, even if unconsciously). What's even worse, once they start building a real product, the closer it gets to complete, the less they want to work on it. Finishing up is 'easy', it just takes some time to grind it out. That makes it uninteresting, and developers only want to build interesting things, right?

So general advice: Read one of the physical product threads and apply every lesson to software. Start with something that's simple that you already know that you can make quickly and easily (yes, intentionally uninteresting), and make sure that it's something that someone else is already making money on, thus saving you the market validation legwork. And then, don't try to make it better than the existing products. Just pick one differentiator and tweak it so that it does one thing better, serves a slightly different target market, or whatever. Then actually go and sell it. Not just toss it up on a marketplace for a week and say 'eh, no one wanted it, see, I should have added 100 features!', but actually, really, try to sell it.

Specific: Take your half finished thing that you know people want, cut all the features that aren't done yet, finish it, sell it.
Rep+

Every developer I work with wants to build tools to automate what we do, instead of improving our product/service. It’s a constant battle to keep them focused on what’s bringing in the money.
 
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