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Spent years pursuing the wrong business/career. Am I making the same mistake again?

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Zarathustra

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Yes, you can't make my life decisions for me. But advice/insight is always helpful and appreciated.

My end goal has always been financial freedom through entrepreneurship. I just spent the past three years involved in a variety of "no college required" career paths. These are widely labeled as "Internet marketing" and include: client social media marketing, dropshipping, SEO, designing/importing custom products from China in bulk, etc.

It all sounded great at the time. I could work from anywhere, not need to go to college, not have a boss, etc. Who wouldn't want this?

But after actually doing internet marketing, I generally think that pursuing it was a mistake. Recently, I've tried out programming and actually like it and all its possibilities. I am now looking to transition into programming (through a community college to state university route, for the sake of job security while working on entrepreneurial ventures).

Programming seems better than internet marketing (IM) because:
  • Software development is guaranteed consistent income anywhere in the US. Great cushion for working on entrepreneurial side projects. Versus with IM, it's either feast of famine-- extremely unpredictable (i.e. I was making several grand per month from Instagram for a few months, but then Instagram changed their algorithm and all that income evaporated instantly.)
  • With software, yes, new languages come about and become more popular such that you're forced to learn them. But generally, it stays consistent (i.e. after 20 years, C++ and Java are still widely used despite the rise of Javascript and Python). This consistency allows for deep mastery. Versus, in internet marketing, you can never become a master in anything because the landscape keeps changing for arbitrary reasons every 6 months to 1 year (i.e. a method becomes oversaturated, Google/Instagram randomly decides to change their terms/algorithm, etc)
  • In software development, you're actually creating things that people will use. Most of the time, you legitimately adding value to the world. In internet marketing, it doesn't really feel like you're helping anyone except yourself. You're not really creating anything of value, and sometimes are borderline scamming people or being generally parasitic
  • In software development, entrepreneurial opportunities are vast and quite often unsaturated in you're looking in the right place. This is because with software, you can create almost anything imaginable. Versus with internet marketing, it always feels like you're stuck in box. You can't code your way out of it. You basically have to scrape a meager income by following the same old crap everyone else is doing for a few months that will inevitably get oversaturated/patched by one of the tech giants.

Some other misc things I like about software development is the fact that I can work remotely and its fairly future proof (for the next few decades until the bots start coding themselves).

Anyways, I really don't like where I'm at right now knowing that I've sorta just wasted the past 3 years in a dead-end field. I want to lower the risk of software or whatever field I pursue being another false path.

Are my above characterizations of software development correct? Or do I have rose-colored delusions similar to ones I had about internet marketing 3 years ago?

Any other fields I should consider?


Any advice/insights into the pros/cons of software development in terms of the end goal being entrepreneurial freedom?
 

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Jeff Noel

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But after actually doing internet marketing, I generally think that pursuing it was a mistake.
I'm curious. Why was it a mistake ?

You failed. Did you learn ?


The thing is, even if you become a great developer or programmer... if you can't sell (marketing) what you make, you'll fail again. Unless you get in a partnership, which is not really advised if you did all the hard work of programming something by yourself.

I have a colleague. He developed a plugin for Atom.io (a coding software/IDE) after realizing this software had no FTP/SFTP capabilities. The plugin has over 1 million downloads nowadays. What did he do when it blew up ?

He gave his code to the second contributor. 100%. He could not manage the amount of work all this popularity brought. He panicked. Yet, he could've released a premium version of it, subscription-based for something like $4.99/mo. With a stupidly-low conversion rate of 0.1%, he would be getting an extra 5K/mo, passively, and could've hired the second contributor.


Why am I telling (writing) you all this ?

You're seeking Entrepreneurial freedom. Or, freedom through entrepreneurship. Now, you can know how to hit a nail with a hammer, but the business man behind the construction company knows a little bit of marketing, finance, construction...

Whatever the means, even if it's through programming. The ultimate goal you're seeking will require you to sell your product or your services to somebody else. It will require you to take care of the cashflow and reinvest in the business. You will need pretty much everything you learnt through your past internet marketing "failures".

You didn't fail, you just learnt something NOT to do, or something you should've done X way.
Try again, just take another path when the same problem occurs and find your way to the top.

There's A LOT of cheap, yet excellent programmers waiting for contracts. I wouldn't waste my time too much if I was you and I'd kickstart my idea with an experienced dev.

-My $0.02 as a web developer.
 
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r6203

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How are you going to monetize your skills?
 

Primeperiwinkle

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In software development, you're actually creating things that people will use. Most of the time, you legitimately adding value to the world. In internet marketing, it doesn't really feel like you're helping anyone except yourself. You're not really creating anything of value, and sometimes are borderline scamming people or being generally parasitic
I think these are some VITAL lessons you’ve learned for yourself. (And just FYI.. I’m right there with you.)

The truth is that internet marketing is desperately needed for businesses but that the stress of serving them is just not for everybody. SEO is competitive af and staying in that field takes a certain type of personality but if you really believe it’s a scam.. then coding might be perfect for you. I think we need to sit back and seriously ask ourselves “Can I be proud of myself for doing this work?”

It’s quite possible that you’re rejecting IM because of an inner mindset that you will ultimately meet again once you get good enough at coding. But I don’t think so. I think you ACTUALLY understand a lot about IM and that you can’t reconcile your moral standard with the meager financial rewards. Even 20k a month in a career that makes you feel like a scumbag just isn’t worth it.

Having to feel icky morally + unreliable income + no standard of excellence = Unhappy You.

I don’t think you wasted any of your time. I think you discovered some values of yours that you didn’t know were as important to you as you thought.

At the very least you’ll be able to understand both worlds if you become even marginally proficient at coding. At the best you’ll have a solid skill.

What I think will actually happen is that you’ll be giving yourself a much needed break and realizing that you can make money anywhere.. it’s just up to you to figure out where.
 

Andy Black

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It sounds like you were doing “make money online” rather than internet marketing?

I help business owners generate leads and sales. When it works those business owners are delighted and I feel good to have helped them.

Can you use the skills you’ve picked up in the past three years to help businesses with their internet marketing?
 
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Zarathustra

Zarathustra

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You failed. Did you learn ?


The thing is, even if you become a great developer or programmer... if you can't sell (marketing) what you make, you'll fail again.

Thank you, this brilliantly put it in perspective.

I actually did learn a lot about sales, marketing, and customer service since I did have successful ventures and that was one of the main tools you could wield.

Sales/marketing/customer service are not necessarily quantifiable "hard skills" like "I know Java, C++, Javascript".

But I can see how this actually does put me ahead of the pack of non-salesman/non-marketer coders when I do release software of my own.


How are you going to monetize your skills?
My plan is to get a job at first and then live off that high income while I pursue basically any business idea I desire in software development (or elsewhere). I actually have a lot of good ideas but don't want to throw a bunch of money at devs that might as well have been flushed down the drain (since most ideas fail). I'd rather make money while also building out my ideas myself.

I love the flexibility software devs have of making a high income through a job and being able to pursue entrepreneurial projects at the same time.


It sounds like you were doing “make money online” rather than internet marketing?

I help business owners generate leads and sales. When it works those business owners are delighted and I feel good to have helped them.

Can you use the skills you’ve picked up in the past three years to help businesses with their internet marketing?

Yeah it was generally "make money online" money chasing, unfortunately.

I leaned a lot towards the blackhat stuff, which did actually help businesses. But of course, it gets destroyed after a few months most of the time.

I did whitehat stuff too, which I couldn't really seem to get my clients results with. They kept paying me. But deep down, I knew my whitehat work wasn't really helping them much. I really think @Primeperiwinkle hit it on the head regarding this game being "competitive af" and "Can I be proud of myself for doing this work?”

But if you're proud of yourself and the work you're providing to clients, @Andy Black , I'm extremely impressed and happy that you've been able to create genuine value for others in this niche.
 

Creep

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This isnt a job forum.
I dont care what you do for income. It doesnt matter!

Take a step back, you're too invested in marketing and coding.

WHY are you coding?

WHY did you start marketing?

Are they stepping-stones to help you do a better job at your project you're currently working on, on the side?
Or is it just a means of getting money while you try to come up with your million dollar idea?

If you dont have an idea yet, start there.

Dont permanently prostitute yourself for an hourly wage if you can do better.
 

elusive97

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If you have social media management/marketing skills but aren't sure how to monetise them, I can help you out.​
What social networks are you most skilled on? What are your other skills besides marketing?​
If it's something you don't mind doing and pick a social network and niche you can stick to, you could grow your audience and monetise it in several ways.​
You can make thousands by publishing content, monetising videos, taking on sponsorships, selling products, selling services, becoming an affiliate for another product, or offering paid advertisement slots :)
At a higher level, you can reach out to celebrities with the offer to do the same for them. The person I learnt from makes over $10k/mo semi-passively from monetising one client's Facebook alone, after paying the team and giving the celeb their cut.​
 

elusive97

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"How long have they been making $10k/mo semi-passively for?" and "Have you been able to make a similar amount?" are the crucial questions here.
I don't work with them any more so I'm not sure. Pretty sure they're still posting to Chief Keef's page, so at least 18 months.

Yes, I grew my first page to 1M likes then monetised with Instant Articles and grew publishing biz. $12k/mo before paying the writer

It's just my personal experience but thought I'd mention when I saw you'd done internet marketing and social media marketing as that's the sort of background I had :)
 

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BlueMoon

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I'm quite experienced in digital marketing and basic web development (know basic html, css, java) and thinking of learning how to really code. The way I see it, as an entrepreneur you need to be able to do two things: 1) sell and 2) build. Later you can outsource those things.

If you want to go into software, learning how to code is just another way of learning how to build stuff which, combined with your ability to sell, should be a lethal combination. Tons of people over at indiehackers are proven this very notion
 

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