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Exactly how I (anualized) am on track to make 300k-400k a year with software development (and you can too)

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zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
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San Diego
So this is one I really wanted to outline and get out of the way for all of the folks that are wondering exactly how I do this. There is no magic or secret sauce here. I frequently put in 80 hour plus weeks of work. And this work isn’t exactly the most mind-numbing thing like emails or phone calls(Not to say those things are not hard), this is coding work which can take a toll on your mental capacity. If this sounds interesting to you still please read on, it is by no means a get rich easy plan, but then again I guess nothing really is.


But first a small bit of background on why i'm even doing this. Feel free to skip over if you just want to get to the strategy:


This large workload is worth it to me as I am very entrepreneurial minded, closely relate and agree to many financial independence books(my favorite being the millionaire fastlane by MJ DeMarco) and would rather die than be in a corporate job for the rest of my life. I would also like something more guaranteed and high paying with money coming in then say a startup company or a business where it's more like a job(think subway owner or something along those lines). I got kicked out of my house when i was 19 years old with very little money and needed cash now, though i was able to move in with my girlfriend’s parents at the time. They were so generous and kind, I vowed that one day I would be rich enough to take care of those close to me. Seeing my folks fight about money, and hers as well, made me also realize that money is the key to get out of what I call “penny pinching purgatory”.


Penny-pinching purgatory is basically what it sounds like, people pinch pennies to buy just average stuff. Average food, average dates, average vacations, average house, average clothes, the list goes on. There is nothing wrong with average, but it is my personal philosophy that if you are going to work hard, you might as well get something exceptional out of it. Working 9-5 every weekday is hard, you might as well get something exceptional out of it. That is why I choose to work about 2 times more, but clearly my benefit is much more than 2x. Enough philosophy and opinions, let's get into the real reason why you're reading this.


First the path to 100k. A journey of 1 thousand miles begins with a single step. In this case the first milestone is 100k. I was able to hit this at the age of 20 years old, and I outlined that process in another article I can link here:




It is of utmost importance that you first start making 100k as a software engineer before doing the following steps. My path to getting higher income is simply working more projects, and if you think that you are going to be able to take on more than 1 project at a time before even experiencing one, you are going to screw yourself and actually slow yourself down. I mentioned earlier that I would rather die than be trapped in a corporate job so I know the feeling, but you need to start somewhere. It's also a good thing in terms of personal growth. You need to have cash coming in to know what it's like to have money. That may sound weird, but think about most lottery winners. They go from very little income in comparison to their winnings and blow it all. I feel like the easier it comes the easier it goes, so leveling up “slowly” is not a bad thing if anything it is the best way. I'm not going to talk about how you can go from 0 to 300 or 400k within a year because, to be frank, with this strategy that is impossible. The path to even 100k takes several years, and you need to be willing to grind it out. But let's say you weathered the storm, grinded it out and followed what I talked about in my first article. You have some experience under your belt now, are confident in your abilities, and are ready to take on more work. Now here's where the big jump in income comes in. Short term contracts, usually paid on 1099 or corp to corp, are where the big money in software(as a developer) lies. Having a w2 job is great, but you can't work 2 or 3 w2 jobs without running into some problems. I'm sure working one w2 job and one 1099 contract works as well, though contracts are generally more flexible and it is the place to be over w2. Keep in mind this only works with remote work, it would be impossible to work 2 or 3 contracts at the same time if you had to be in 2-3 offices at once.


Why 1099 over w2?


  1. Contracts are more flexible with scheduling. You don't usually have set hours if you are working remotely.
  2. Meetings are also a lot less prevalent. Especially if you are working as a regular or senior dev. Once you get into the principal or lead positions it tends to be a lot more hands on with developers, business analysts and project managers.
  3. Higher pay. This is the reason we are here right? Ill probably write another article about how to get the most pay out of contracts because there are some games to play here, just know that you can extract a lot more from these. The average pay for my software niche, iOS mobile development, in a salary job is about 100k where I live. The contracts I am landing pay nearly double that in terms of hourly rate. I have even seen some contracts go as high as 125/hr or 260k per year(have personally never landed one of those)! Keep in mind to hit 400k you need to make roughly 200/hr (416k exactly). The more reasonable contracts for my niche range from 60-100/hr depending on experience and responsibilities..
  4. These contracts are usually shorter term. That means you're not stuck in the same old boring project for years, and you can learn to adapt quickly. This makes you even more efficient, and can take a lot of the stress of off being an intermediate developer. The goal here is to get so advanced that people start coming to you(they find your resume on job boards) and try to pick you up for contracts and the cycle repeats. At the time of writing this I have 4 interviews lined up this week and next for future work, 2 of which came to me.

Start applying to these open positions. At the time of writing this during COVID-19, there are thousands of open software roles for contract and contract to hire on linkedIn, stackoverflow and indeed. Just start applying away. This is where the experience from the first 100k comes in to help you actually land the contract positions. You will have gotten to the level where the marketplace is now attracted to you. Pick up 2 contracts at high paying rates and go to town on that work. You wont regret it.


A few objections I'd like to speak to.


Once COVID is over, I don't see work going back to the way it was with the traditional office. Companies like twitter which are leaders and trend setters in the industry have already made the jump to full remote work.


Yes, you are billing almost 80 hours per week to two different contracts, is this illegal or morally wrong? If there is a non-compete agreement and you are working in the same industry then yes it could be. If you are not working the full hours then you may be committing some sort of time card fraud(so my research saids). But working in the same industry will never happen as you can just not apply to that particular competing contract. Is this morally wrong? The way I look at it is this: if you are hired to do a job, and you do it, there is no problem. Don't slack, dont lie, just do your work. There are so many corporate slackers in these huge organizations, it shouldn't be hard to outshine these guys. This is also easier as time goes on, as your skills get sharper you can complete things in less time and so on.


Also keep in mind that large companies do not give a single f*ck about you. They will lay off hundreds of people just so the executive leadership can save face financially. I'm not saying this in a suggestive way to ensue or coax you into doing a bad job and taking advantage of the business you are working for, I'm just saying that you understand your relationship with the business you're involved with. You may know people that love their job, but I guarantee you their job does not love them back and their manager wouldn't hesitate to fire them in a second if it ment profits were slipping.


Just work hard. That's all this comes down too. I'll try to cover the nuances of each step in future posts, but this is the overview.


I have posted a podcast version of this post, just to talk it out. There are some small items in there I might have left out here, so its worth a listen! Ill try to do another one of these next week. Please feel free to ask me anything in the comments :)


accidentally had the video on private lol, fixed that.
View: https://youtu.be/mYusZIBNSVs
 

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Last edited:

drahz

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Thanks for the article!

Do you know if it is possible to get a 1099 contract (or any other type) as a foreigner without a work permit?
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Thanks for the article!

Do you know if it is possible to get a 1099 contract (or any other type) as a foreigner?

By the foreigner, I mean no work permit.

It is totally possible. Now to achieve this high of a rate I have only seen that in the united states. But the principal still stands.
 

Bonetrousle

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Mar 11, 2016
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Awesome post! I'm working a remote job as a software developer myself and I can attest that my company bills their clients over 3x more than what I'm making. When you cut out the middleman you can quickly start earning in excess of $100/hr, given that you have the development and sales skills.
The next step for me is to start taking on additional clients as well.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Awesome post! I'm working a remote job as a software developer myself and I can attest that my company bills their clients over 3x more than what I'm making. When you cut out the middleman you can quickly start earning in excess of $100/hr, given that you have the development and sales skills.
The next step for me is to start taking on additional clients as well.

Thats how its done my man! Nice work and keep up the hustle. Once you land big name clients it makes it a lot easier to demand higher rates.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
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17
San Diego
Do you do anything special to avoid/manage burnout? For me I think that's the biggest impediment.

For me its really that first bit about my thoughts about money in general. I also think to avoid burn out a big part of that is continually growing which you can use all of your money to invest and grow.
 

Rabby

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Why 1099 over w2?

5. Because you can write off your purchases of technology, software, and books related to the business, against business income, on your tax returns. This is a huge advantage, especially when you're getting started, learning your trade, and experimenting. Employees buy their stuff with after-tax money, which is twice as expensive. And they still usually end up using it for work... what else would you use it for when you clock 80 hours?
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
5. Because you can write off your purchases of technology, software, and books related to the business, against business income, on your tax returns. This is a huge advantage, especially when you're getting started, learning your trade, and experimenting. Employees buy their stuff with after-tax money, which is twice as expensive. And they still usually end up using it for work... what else would you use it for when you clock 80 hours?

At least in my industry / niche, w2 usually means all equipment is paid for but I agree. 1099 is the way to go for expenses.
 

MJ DeMarco

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Thanks for sharing, so you also have a normal job, plus the contracts? Or the stepping stone was the job?

Not sure this is for everyone as the "you can too!" implies, but it outlines the steps I highlighted here...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_58zPgArb4&t=7s


Specialied Labor > specialized Skill > specialized unit.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Thanks for sharing, so you also have a normal job, plus the contracts? Or the stepping stone was the job?

Not sure this is for everyone as the "you can too!" implies, but it outlines the steps I highlighted here...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_58zPgArb4&t=7s


Specialied Labor > specialized Skill > specialized unit.
Went from normal job to job and contracts to just contracts. Yes, it is exactly the specialized Skill you described in that video. I am working towards getting more contracts so I can hire out the work, creating my specialized unit.

"Hire out the work" in my case is not a step you can just jump to right away either. At the end of the day if I am contracted to create a particular feature for an app or an app entirely that falls on me, and I need to be there to review code / manage the developers and make sure they are on track (talking about steps to get to the specific unit here). Being a developer myself will allow me to outsource the grunt work and know it is done correctly, and then go in and add any finishing touches and or review to make sure it's working for the client.

As for the "you can too" I really just want to show how this is possible. There's so much bullshit out there where people are talking about how they did something, and there was an unfair advantage behind the scenes that tended to make the biggest difference that they didn't talk about. The goal of my post really is to show how anyone can do this, they just need to work hard.

I'm geeking out that you responded to my post MJ thanks so much for replying and your book the millionaire Fastlane it legit changed my life.
 

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