The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

INTRO How a broke 20 year old college dropout started making 6 figures a year with code ( and you can too )

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Hey guys, this is my first post on any type of forum like this, so please forgive me if I begin to ramble.

That being said hello! My name is Zack. I don't claim to be a millionaire, though I am confident within a few years I will be there. I am currently heading toward ~400k a year as a programmer using a strategy I will outline in another post, this post is more about how I started. We all know how exciting it is to finally land a job and get coding doing what we enjoy. That first paycheck is sweet. It was especially sweet for me. When I was 20 years old I dropped out of college due to being offered a job with a 6 figure salary. I thought I was set for life. But how did I get to that point? That's what I will outline in this article, in a resume style format. I'll outline the skills I obtained and that were required to progress towards the 100k club.

The starting point:

My experience with programming started 7 years before I landed the job. Don't let that discourage you, because the majority of my experience was obtained in 3 years. That being said I'd rather not omit anything to be as transparent as possible. I started programming games on a game engine called “game maker 8”. It was a magical time in my life, but i'll spare you the fairytale. Every engineer remembers the first few things they made and how awful the architecture and coding practice was. Yet we reminisce on them as simpler times.

In the next few years I occasionally worked on these games, eventually landing an internship when I was in high school using the unity engine. Note that the language I learned for game maker 8 (Java) had nothing to do with unity (C#). Programming fundamentals are the same no matter what language you are using (from an object-oriented perspective). I also took AP computer science in high school, which is entry-level programming. If you know loops, functions, and variables you can pass the AP test. Easy stuff.

Enter college:

When college started things got serious, but not from a traditional going to class perspective. I never was great at math and HATED computer science class. In my college they had us learning c++ on an old terminal-based IDE (Integrated development environment). They retaught the same stuff I learned in high school all the way up to CS311. That's when I had enough and dropped out.

During this span of 3 years is really where the value for you comes in:

I bought an iMac with the money I had saved up by working at in-n-out the past year. I then immediately begin to learn objective c. I had a dream of becoming an app entrepreneur, you know the ones that sell an app for millions and get super popular among the tech community. I wanted the clout and I wanted the big paycheck, in that order. I thought it was easy, just make an app and cash out. This is the type of ambition that is required to put yourself on the fast track. Once I had a bit of objective c under my belt I then started learning swift. I thought I needed objective C but then when I learned no one was supporting it for the future and swift was the new hot language, I jumped on board with that. That's three months I could have saved right there by just learning swift.

How did I learn this language?

No secret sauce here. Just go on udemy.com and type in swift and take the latest fundamentals course. Try to take something using an AWS or firebase backend, as this will give you the experience required for most jobs. More specifically, look at how to consume REST API’s. Once I learned all of this (In the span of 1 month, doing it every day for an hour or so) I began to make my own projects. This is the most important part. You will need the experience to show on your resume for jobs, so you better have some great apps. That being said, your first app will be trash. My first app was a Frankenstein mess of code I had learned in the courses all pasted together. It was a social network that allowed you to see what cool things were going on around you. I was hyped and proud to send it to all my friends, though none of them ended up using it.

Joining startups as a founder

I know what you're thinking, I just learned swift and now I'm joining a startup company? A few key things with this that you can leave out of your job interviews: you don't need to be paid for the work, and your startup does not need to make millions. Leverage start-up incubators like Y-combinator to find a co-founder that needs an app and has no money, and then work like hell on it. By this time I had created a relationship with one of these founders and helped her build an on-demand yoga service that I stayed part of for a year.

By now, my resume looked like this(I'll leave company names out):

App company 2 years of experience: ( nothing wrong with having an app company where you publish your own apps. Does not need to have some crazy legal structure either, can just be your name)

App 1: using swift, xcode , objective c, and rest API’s I build a social network that allowed people to find cool things to do near them… blablabla

App 2: using swift, xcode , objective c, and rest API’s I build a music streaming service that allowed people to play youtube music in the background for free… blablabal

Startup company with app on the store and articles written about founder (social proof) :
using swift, xcode, objective c and rest API’s I build an app that lets yoga instructors be scheduled, paid for and messaged all in one place like uber for yoga! … blablabla


Once that startup company failed I was devastated. The founder had left me to hang dry with no payment for my app I made them, but I had the experience. And to get a job you need experience right?

I then started applying for jobs, and ended up at a global organization that had an app geared to restaurants making 6 figures.

That's how it shook out for me, but it doesn't need to be like that for you. If I had targeted the job a-lot sooner, I have no doubt I could have got there faster.

Final thoughts / TL;DR:

That's a very scattered context-driven explanation on how I did it, but the takeaway can be boiled down into 3 steps. Also you need to know how to sell yourself as a programmer.

  1. Learn a programming language that you can create a product or service with, and create your own projects.
  2. Join a startup company using that technology for free, who knows the company actually might workout.
  3. Transition that experience into a paying job. A college degree is no match for the real-life experience!


I hope this helps!

PS, I recorded a video for this article of me just voicing it over and adding stuff, if you are interested feel free to check it out:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1isyJf8Hks&t=7s


Thanks,

Zack
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

mon_fi

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Mar 3, 2020
394
711
275
Brussels
Amazing, great story, welcome on the forum!! I think this can be applied with pretty much any useful skills, from coding to marketing to copywriting. It's all about fixing a problem and helping someone.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Amazing, great story, welcome on the forum!! I think this can be applied with pretty much any useful skills, from coding to marketing to copywriting. It's all about fixing a problem and helping someone.

Totally agree, the reason I'm able to get to that higher level of income within that skill (200k and above) i just by working harder at it, there is no secret sauce. I bill about 80 hours a week right now(work weekends) and plan to do more.

Thanks for the support :)
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
You kinda mentioned my situation after the 30 sec mark. Thanks for posting and will check out any future videos.

Thanks! Im not looking to promote anything, just want to talk through how I did it and all aspects of the process in a transparent, informative kind of way. Will be posting these once a week from now on, might post more depending on how people respond.
 

Thiago Machado

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
347
1,116
369
27
Awesome stuff!

Looking forward to see how you're hitting close to 400k per year.

I'm looking to transfer my skills to grow my income too (Web Design + PPC).

Your experience should be helpful ;)
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
Awesome stuff!

Looking forward to see how you're hitting close to 400k per year.

I'm looking to transfer my skills to grow my income too (Web Design + PPC).

Your experience should be helpful ;)

Sounds good! I'll try to be as transparent and clear as I can. Its nothing special, just working multiple contracts at a high paying rate. Its a lot of work but worth the fruits!
 

Boogie

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Nov 27, 2014
20
25
26
Midwest, USA
I have done some Swift programming on a Mac Mini I have. I still find Xcode weird. I'm an Android user so I haven't gone all in on learning the IOS world. I've kicked around getting an iphone and ipad to play with. I get the occasional app idea.

Can you give a basic breakdown of your time over multiple contracts? I'm curious if you're doing a 40 with one main gig and a couple of 10's or what. How do you balance them?

Get a good quality office chair if you are sitting much. Making that kind of money, an Aeron, Leap, or Gesture, other other high end chair should be something to consider. They are body savers.

That much work can be tough but it could also be a good way to fund another venture. More importantly, you're seeing the kinds of applications that are getting funding and seeing how the development process works in multiple companies.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
I have done some Swift programming on a Mac Mini I have. I still find Xcode weird. I'm an Android user so I haven't gone all in on learning the IOS world. I've kicked around getting an iphone and ipad to play with. I get the occasional app idea.

Can you give a basic breakdown of your time over multiple contracts? I'm curious if you're doing a 40 with one main gig and a couple of 10's or what. How do you balance them?

Get a good quality office chair if you are sitting much. Making that kind of money, an Aeron, Leap, or Gesture, other other high end chair should be something to consider. They are body savers.

That much work can be tough but it could also be a good way to fund another venture. More importantly, you're seeing the kinds of applications that are getting funding and seeing how the development process works in multiple companies.

Ill be going over my breakdown in my next post, but I do two contracts at 80 hours per week. And yes it is a great way to raise capital if you have any other projects to go start, but that would mean leaving one if not both of the contracts to pursue. I can tell you right now with confidence that there are so many broken pieces and inefficiencies when it comes to development in large orgs, there's space for improvement.
 

GradyS

Bronze Contributor
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
Oct 16, 2018
140
159
146
North Carolina
Totally agree, the reason I'm able to get to that higher level of income within that skill (200k and above) i just by working harder at it, there is no secret sauce. I bill about 80 hours a week right now(work weekends) and plan to do more.

I'm interested in this part. How are you going to continue to grow at this rate? And perhaps you will discuss in your next post, but are you going to be hiring a team? Do you keep charging more?


I then started applying for jobs, and ended up at a global organization that had an app geared to restaurants making 6 figures.

Final thoughts / TL;DR:
  1. Transition that experience into a paying job. A college degree is no match for the real-life experience!

And, I may be misunderstanding, but you are with a company right now and are not running your own business. Correct? Is the goal to leave and do freelance on the side? Or are you just showing how important it is to have coding experience to get a high paying salary job?
 

Edd--19

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 20, 2020
29
16
17
London
That's an awesome intro you've got there!

You're dead right about experience being a crucial factor in getting jobs. I've been an IT Recruiter at my most recent job and Dev's were always in demand. Your strategy was pretty damn perfect.

Thanks for the encouragment and look forward to seeing you at the millionaire mark!
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
I'm interested in this part. How are you going to continue to grow at this rate? And perhaps you will discuss in your next post, but are you going to be hiring a team? Do you keep charging more?





And, I may be a misunderstanding, but you are with a company right now and are not running your own business. Correct? Is the goal to leave and do freelance on the side? Or are you just showing how important it is to have coding experience to get a high paying salary job?

1.
So the growth doing what I am is probably capped around 300-500k in terms of pay. That is, working 80 hours a week on two high paying contracts(1099 or corp to corp). I'll go into that in my next post as well.
Charging more is a short term growth, but obviously gets capped. If I want to grow past this I speculate i will need to hire a team, I'm no expert in that field yet( though I do have experience managing offshore teams of devs).

2.Right, I am with two companies that are contracting my services. The goal for me is to honestly get to 500k. That's enough for me as I have some other investing ideas I would like to start once I get there. I wanted to also show how important that first step is, what MJ would call a specialized skill, to your growth over time. I'll be outlining the next steps to get past 100k in the next post.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
That's an awesome intro you've got there!

You're dead right about experience being a crucial factor in getting jobs. I've been an IT Recruiter at my most recent job and Dev's were always in demand. Your strategy was pretty damn perfect.

Thanks for the encouragment and look forward to seeing you at the millionaire mark!
thank you so much Edd! I really appreciate that :) I'm doing a post every week, id love for you to stick around for the journey!
 

Edd--19

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Sep 20, 2020
29
16
17
London
thank you so much Edd! I really appreciate that :) I'm doing a post every week, id love for you to stick around for the journey!
Hell yeah! I'll put you on my follow list I want to see how your journey shapes up.

I'll have to borrow your idea too about making a weekly post (if you don't mind)! It'll be good to keep track of everything happening and get feedback from the seasoned members.

But dude, I'm pretty stoke for you!
 

Thiago Machado

Gold Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
347
1,116
369
27
I missed the fact that you were working 80hrs/week.

How do you maintain the energy to pull the long hours day in and day out?
That's been my biggest struggle lately.

Btw, where's that second post! :playful:
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
I missed the fact that you were working 80hrs/week.

How do you maintain the energy to pull the long hours day in and day out?
That's been my biggest struggle lately.

Btw, where's that second post! :playful:

Gotta stay motivated! a bit of that and more coming in the next post( posting now)
 

brian_petersen

New Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Aug 9, 2020
15
7
21
Utah
I can tell you right now with confidence that there are so many broken pieces and inefficiencies when it comes to development in large orgs, there's space for improvement.

I work as a full-time software engineer and I agree. I'm on the lookout for an opportunity to build a business around one of these pain points.

Really like your content! Keep it up.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
22
29
17
San Diego
I work as a full-time software engineer and I agree. I'm on the lookout for opportunity to build a business around one of these pain points.

Really like your content! Keep it up.
Thanks Brian! Good luck with your business!
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Hi Mj, I just bought it. And reading it. I think is a great idea to write using the stories to...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox Web School "Legend" Group Coaching Program 2020
Great post @Fox, very much appreciated! How can I reach out to you? I sent you a PM a while...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Hey @Lex DeVille ! Having some issues with the NOREGRETS code? Udemy thinks it has expired...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Grow Your Business With a Book (An Unorthodox Marketing Strategy That Built One of the Largest...
Are you looking for a new, lesser-known but potentially very lucrative source of leads to your...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Just got off the phone with @LightHouse. Having just a 45 minute conversation with him has...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
@Kak Thanks for the reply. Whats interesting is that I have an idea that's been cooking which...



Forum Sponsor

sponsor

New Topics

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

More Intros...

Top Bottom