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Making ~400k/year freelancing as a ios developer. How to take myself out of the programmer seat and into the business owner seat?

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zackj117

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Aug 24, 2020
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Hey guys,

I've made a few posts already here about what I'm doing to earn this much as a mobile iOS developer. I essentially work multiple remote contracts and work around the clock.
While this level of income is good, I wanted to get some advice on how to grow more and go from developer to managing a bunch of developers / getting clients. This is my ideal goal to transfer to this in the next 5 years.

I know how to build an iOS app fairly well.
I know how to manage a team of developers (SCRUM / agile)

Are there any freelance devs that have experienced this wall of scale? How did you get over the hurdle and start hiring devs and getting larger clients (that expect a team, not a single dev)

Any thoughts/experiences would be greatly appreciated.

Full speed ahead on the Fastlane!

Zack
 

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alexkuzmov

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Hey guys,

I've made a few posts already here about what I'm doing to earn this much as a mobile iOS developer. I essentially work multiple remote contracts and work around the clock.
While this level of income is good, I wanted to get some advice on how to grow more and go from developer to managing a bunch of developers / getting clients. This is my ideal goal to transfer to this in the next 5 years.

I know how to build an iOS app fairly well.
I know how to manage a team of developers (SCRUM / agile)

Are there any freelance devs that have experienced this wall of scale? How did you get over the hurdle and start hiring devs and getting larger clients (that expect a team, not a single dev)

Any thoughts/experiences would be greatly appreciated.

Full speed ahead on the Fastlane!

Zack
Well first of all, thats a nice fat income that you have there.
You have the oppurtunity to invest and have enough montly income to quit all your remote contracts and focus on your own business. Consider that as a first step.

Secondly, you may want to transition from developer to owner and manage your own team, but you are missing one curcial component.
What will you be offering the market?
What is your product/service?

I can tell you right now from experience that managing developers is exactly the same as coding in the sense that all your time will be once again gone.

Tell us a bit more about your goals and what you plan to bring to the market.
Maybe we can help you figure out if you even need to manage a team of developers.
 

Kasimir

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Hey Zack

I didn't do a lot of freelancing work, but you may still be interested in my opinion on that point ;).

If I got it right you make 400k/year with development on your own that's really incredible! However, you can't require that your employees will put in nearly as much work as you do. So I think you'll need at least two employees to maintain the work load and 3+ to get more clients.

If I were you I'd take a step back from the main part of the business and rather focus on managing your team. So I'd start with searching one or two young IOS developer. I won't focus on degrees rather give them a project and look how they do. Then I'd start by offering them an average salary in addition to that I'd give every employee a small profit participation. For example that every employee gets maybe 5% of the earnings of the business. (I know that isn't nice for you as business owner, but I think that's essential) Through that your employees will be put in a lot more time and work better, at least that was my experience.

Would be great if you could get two employees that could work 100% remotely. So you have fewer expenses.

I think this step you want to take right now is the best decision you made. However, there is a transition phase, until you have your first employee on a level which he helps more than he wastes your time, that isn't easy(you need to manage your employee while still taking care of your clients, that's a lot of work). This will probably take around a month and after that he can take over your basic clients while you work on the bigger once, while you get your second employee.

After that it's simple you try to get the perfect team (I would try to do everything remotely, that's much easier) and you can take a step back and focus on managing them and trying to get new clients.

That's at least how I did it in the past.

I agree with @alexkuzmov that if you want more help it would be great to get some more insides.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
31
40
97
San Diego
Well first of all, thats a nice fat income that you have there.
You have the oppurtunity to invest and have enough montly income to quit all your remote contracts and focus on your own business. Consider that as a first step.

Secondly, you may want to transition from developer to owner and manage your own team, but you are missing one curcial component.
What will you be offering the market?
What is your product/service?

I can tell you right now from experience that managing developers is exactly the same as coding in the sense that all your time will be once again gone.

Tell us a bit more about your goals and what you plan to bring to the market.
Maybe we can help you figure out if you even need to manage a team of developers.
Hey Alex,

Thanks so much for your response! To Clarify: I am trying to take my "one man" dev shop that is based on my name / experience, and transform it into a company dev shop that is based on projects. I currently contract within teams, my goal is to sell the team and help with all aspects of an iOS product. (design, analytics, code) and deliver this to a client. Im trying to go from being the worker to hiring workers, but the sales pitch is much different. Instead of "hey hire me heres my experience" it needs to be "hey heres my team wheres what we can do let's do it" type of thing.
I see that Key fundamental you bring up around "what will you be offering to market". I think mine would be delivering a quality iOS product, which sounds like there would be plenty of people doing it but many of them suck.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
31
40
97
San Diego
Hey Zack

I didn't do a lot of freelancing work, but you may still be interested in my opinion on that point ;).

If I got it right you make 400k/year with development on your own that's really incredible! However, you can't require that your employees will put in nearly as much work as you do. So I think you'll need at least two employees to maintain the work load and 3+ to get more clients.

If I were you I'd take a step back from the main part of the business and rather focus on managing your team. So I'd start with searching one or two young IOS developer. I won't focus on degrees rather give them a project and look how they do. Then I'd start by offering them an average salary in addition to that I'd give every employee a small profit participation. For example that every employee gets maybe 5% of the earnings of the business. (I know that isn't nice for you as business owner, but I think that's essential) Through that your employees will be put in a lot more time and work better, at least that was my experience.

Would be great if you could get two employees that could work 100% remotely. So you have fewer expenses.

I think this step you want to take right now is the best decision you made. However, there is a transition phase, until you have your first employee on a level which he helps more than he wastes your time, that isn't easy(you need to manage your employee while still taking care of your clients, that's a lot of work). This will probably take around a month and after that he can take over your basic clients while you work on the bigger once, while you get your second employee.

After that it's simple you try to get the perfect team (I would try to do everything remotely, that's much easier) and you can take a step back and focus on managing them and trying to get new clients.

That's at least how I did it in the past.

I agree with @alexkuzmov that if you want more help it would be great to get some more insides.
Hey Kasimir!

Thanks a bunch for your response. I am a big fan of remote, and want to keep it that way. I guess there is no magic bullet, seeing that you must manage the first employee and have them be a net negative contributor in the beginning.
 

thechosen1

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Hey Alex,

Thanks so much for your response! To Clarify: I am trying to take my "one man" dev shop that is based on my name / experience, and transform it into a company dev shop that is based on projects. I currently contract within teams, my goal is to sell the team and help with all aspects of an iOS product. (design, analytics, code) and deliver this to a client. Im trying to go from being the worker to hiring workers, but the sales pitch is much different. Instead of "hey hire me heres my experience" it needs to be "hey heres my team wheres what we can do let's do it" type of thing.
I see that Key fundamental you bring up around "what will you be offering to market". I think mine would be delivering a quality iOS product, which sounds like there would be plenty of people doing it but many of them suck.

Actually, I think you have a greater strength if you do it differently.

Use yourself as the brand, the salesman, and the image. Hire out the coding and train them to do the project the way you would do it.

That way you are still getting clients based on your reputation and experience, but you have a team so you can do more work, do it faster, more efficiently, and focus on spending your time on more valuable tasks that help everyone.

The next step would come after that is working.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
31
40
97
San Diego
Actually, I think you have a greater strength if you do it differently.

Use yourself as the brand, the salesman, and the image. Hire out the coding and train them to do the project the way you would do it.

That way you are still getting clients based on your reputation and experience, but you have a team so you can do more work, do it faster, more efficiently, and focus on spending your time on more valuable tasks that help everyone.

The next step would come after that is working.
Thanks for this. I really like this idea as it could serve as an intermediary step between the contractor to business owner step. I am seriously going to consider this.... Thank you!
 

thechosen1

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Thanks for this. I really like this idea as it could serve as an intermediary step between the contractor to business owner step. I am seriously going to consider this.... Thank you!

You're welcome, and actually... You would be a business owner.

The myth that business owners "do nothing" is just that: a myth.

edit: eventually you could be more "hands-off" but that doesn't come until you're much, much more established.

You would really be a business owner!!
 
Last edited:

Kasimir

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Hey Kasimir!

Thanks a bunch for your response. I am a big fan of remote, and want to keep it that way. I guess there is no magic bullet, seeing that you must manage the first employee and have them be a net negative contributor in the beginning.
There are also different options like @thechosen1 told you. The problem that I see with most of them is that you need to be involved at any point, and you can't take a step back and let your team handle it to 100%.

However, if you are worried about the transition time you could also hire just somebody to manage your team. I never tried that before, but a business partner of mine did, and it worked out great. And I think your case could be perfect for that.
You would focus on your clients, while somebody else is focusing on hiring your team. (they don't need to know much about coding, the basics is enough, however they should have a basic knowledge about marketing and sales)
This system is rather focused when you want to scale exponentially. If you say you see an opportunity to scale your business to for example to one million/year than I'd go with that. Because as soon as you reach around 5 employees you will need to hire somebody that takes care of all the paperwork, sales, marketing, etc. anyways. Why not do it in the beginning? :)
 

Jockomofino

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Actually, I think you have a greater strength if you do it differently.

Use yourself as the brand, the salesman, and the image. Hire out the coding and train them to do the project the way you would do it.

That way you are still getting clients based on your reputation and experience, but you have a team so you can do more work, do it faster, more efficiently, and focus on spending your time on more valuable tasks that help everyone.

The next step would come after that is working.
Hey Chosen,

Don't know if this is exactly what you are advising and if not, don't know if it applies to Zack's situation, but my wife started, branded and grew her own maid service. She had a unique pay model that gave the staff a percentage of the revenue from each job which amounted to more than any other maid service was paying per hour. This went over well with each employee for about 6-8 months at which point they started groaning about how they weren't being paid enough for the hard work and were constantly calling at the last minute asking my wife to rework the schedule because they had an appointment or something. My wife got the brilliant idea to make them all 1099 employees, effectively subbing out the work, giving them a significantly higher percentage of the revenues. By doing this, she got to get rid of the high payroll service expenses along with a lot of other overhead expenses. She is the face of her company in the ads and she still does the billing, pays each worker 65% of revenues for their work and gives (will give) them a 1099 each year at tax time. She still get's 35% of all revenues and she doesn't have to be bothered with last-minute schedule changes - the employees rearrange the schedule with the client and just tells my wife for billing purposes. She is much happier not having to manage them and they seem to take the job more seriously since they now see themselves as essentially 'owners', totally responsible for their own income. The difference in her own income is negligible as the lower percentage she gets per job is offset by the lowered expenses associated with how she used to do things. And best of all, she is much less stressed. Each year, when she increases her clients' rates, she makes more, the workers make more, and she is still feeling less stress.

I guess the bottom line is (if I understood the purpose of what you were saying, and is definitely true in our case) is that being able to choose between hiring people as employees or subbing out the work at the same level of quality and for the same amount of money, subbing is the better way to go.

Best of luck, Zack! Thanks, Chosen!

Jocko
 

thechosen1

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Hey Chosen,

Don't know if this is exactly what you are advising and if not, don't know if it applies to Zack's situation, but my wife started, branded and grew her own maid service. She had a unique pay model that gave the staff a percentage of the revenue from each job which amounted to more than any other maid service was paying per hour. This went over well with each employee for about 6-8 months at which point they started groaning about how they weren't being paid enough for the hard work and were constantly calling at the last minute asking my wife to rework the schedule because they had an appointment or something. My wife got the brilliant idea to make them all 1099 employees, effectively subbing out the work, giving them a significantly higher percentage of the revenues. By doing this, she got to get rid of the high payroll service expenses along with a lot of other overhead expenses. She is the face of her company in the ads and she still does the billing, pays each worker 65% of revenues for their work and gives (will give) them a 1099 each year at tax time. She still get's 35% of all revenues and she doesn't have to be bothered with last-minute schedule changes - the employees rearrange the schedule with the client and just tells my wife for billing purposes. She is much happier not having to manage them and they seem to take the job more seriously since they now see themselves as essentially 'owners', totally responsible for their own income. The difference in her own income is negligible as the lower percentage she gets per job is offset by the lowered expenses associated with how she used to do things. And best of all, she is much less stressed. Each year, when she increases her clients' rates, she makes more, the workers make more, and she is still feeling less stress.

I guess the bottom line is (if I understood the purpose of what you were saying, and is definitely true in our case) is that being able to choose between hiring people as employees or subbing out the work at the same level of quality and for the same amount of money, subbing is the better way to go.

Best of luck, Zack! Thanks, Chosen!

Jocko

That's not quite what I was saying, but wow that is awesome! That is a great way to do it. I wasn't taking a stance on full time vs. contracting out, I was basically telling OP that the best way to grow into a real business was by hiring people to do the work, which could be contractors or W-2 workers, either way.

Sounds like your wife is killing it!!!
 

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loop101

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Hey guys,

I've made a few posts already here about what I'm doing to earn this much as a mobile iOS developer. I essentially work multiple remote contracts and work around the clock.
While this level of income is good, I wanted to get some advice on how to grow more and go from developer to managing a bunch of developers / getting clients. This is my ideal goal to transfer to this in the next 5 years.

I know how to build an iOS app fairly well.
I know how to manage a team of developers (SCRUM / agile)

Are there any freelance devs that have experienced this wall of scale? How did you get over the hurdle and start hiring devs and getting larger clients (that expect a team, not a single dev)

Any thoughts/experiences would be greatly appreciated.

Full speed ahead on the Fastlane!

Zack

Eric Wroolie has a YT channel where he talks about his app agency, he started as a solo dev and now mostly manages others. I think his biggest challenge is finding employees who will maintain his level of quality.
 

Tiago

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I think it would be interesting to take a few steps back here and ask yourself what is it that you really want?

- More time freedom? What would that exactly look like?
- Increasing your skills, perhaps as a business owner? Which skills?
- Increasing your income while decreasing your time spent? By how much?
- Who would you like to work with?
- What kind of people do you want in your team?

Because the reality of how you get to a place you want to go is this: it depends. It depends on many variables, and what you value and deem is important to you.

For example, I have a friend who has a large company with revenues in excess of $70m. He still wanted to be in the lead of the strategy, but what he cared about most was doing a simple task (not going to disclose here to keep his identity private), that could easily be outsourced by someone by paying them $10/hour, but it's what gave him the most joy.

It's also what he's uniquely good at, so even though it's an $10/hour job, in effect it's much more than that, because that brings him the inspiration and innovation to bring out new variations of that task, which is the value proposition of the company.

So he hired a CEO, and now he flies around the country doing his "simple" task.

This story is just to illustrate that it would be interesting to get really clear about what is important to you. It seems cash isn't the biggest driver, since you've got that already.
 

Dark Water

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On the business side of things, is there a way to productize and standardize your offerings? If you can do that, you may be able to appeal to a specific audience while knowing exactly how many people (and who) you need to hire. I sense that having a surplus of work from all angles is may be great for you, but would be problematic for growth and scale, so that's where thinking about productizing could help out.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
31
40
97
San Diego
I think it would be interesting to take a few steps back here and ask yourself what is it that you really want?

- More time freedom? What would that exactly look like?
- Increasing your skills, perhaps as a business owner? Which skills?
- Increasing your income while decreasing your time spent? By how much?
- Who would you like to work with?
- What kind of people do you want in your team?

Because the reality of how you get to a place you want to go is this: it depends. It depends on many variables, and what you value and deem is important to you.

For example, I have a friend who has a large company with revenues in excess of $70m. He still wanted to be in the lead of the strategy, but what he cared about most was doing a simple task (not going to disclose here to keep his identity private), that could easily be outsourced by someone by paying them $10/hour, but it's what gave him the most joy.

It's also what he's uniquely good at, so even though it's an $10/hour job, in effect it's much more than that, because that brings him the inspiration and innovation to bring out new variations of that task, which is the value proposition of the company.

So he hired a CEO, and now he flies around the country doing his "simple" task.

This story is just to illustrate that it would be interesting to get really clear about what is important to you. It seems cash isn't the biggest driver, since you've got that already.
Hey Tiago,

Thanks for the response. Cash is something I hold very high on the priority list, as I want to reach a 7 figure income that is relatively stable / antifragile in the next 9 years. I would like time freedom in the sense that I work a lot (12 hour days are ok) but I can do it when I want ( early morning , nights ). I want to also increase my skills in the software product space, what gets me excited is building a product (app) that will actually help people and making that UI / UX as pleasurable to use as possible. I would like to work with offshore remote teams for the dev work, with senior / principle devs in the US.

This is the dream for me! Ive proven to myself I have the work ethic and drive, Im just trying to build the map now.
 

zackj117

Contributor
Aug 24, 2020
31
40
97
San Diego
On the business side of things, is there a way to productize and standardize your offerings? If you can do that, you may be able to appeal to a specific audience while knowing exactly how many people (and who) you need to hire. I sense that having a surplus of work from all angles is may be great for you, but would be problematic for growth and scale, so that's where thinking about productizing could help out.
Unfortunately, there is no way to standardize what I do, since it's all tailored to client needs. I definitely agree that the work is the bottle neck here, as hiring is something that I feel I am good at.
 

Jockomofino

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Jan 22, 2018
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That's not quite what I was saying, but wow that is awesome! That is a great way to do it. I wasn't taking a stance on full time vs. contracting out, I was basically telling OP that the best way to grow into a real business was by hiring people to do the work, which could be contractors or W-2 workers, either way.

Sounds like your wife is killing it!!!
The best part is, in cleaning every day, she has uncovered all sorts of pain-points and we have been actively designing solutions to those issues. We are in touch with multiple Chinese and American wholesale manufacturers and hope to have the prototype to address the most 'painful' one very soon. There is a long way to go, surely with many bumps in the road, but we are very excited. By solving her problems, we hope to solve those of hundreds, even thousands, more. Come to think of it, I may even start a thread about it soon, documenting the journey!
 

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