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Ship Something for Yourself, Even if you Only Earn A Dollar

On the heels of the product kata post, I’m going to double down on the “ship something for money” advice.

There’s no time to lose. Valuable, profitable seconds of your life are ticking by, and you’re missing out. Surely you’re aware of the concept of compound interest? In case you’re not, suffice it to say that long-term investment depends a lot more on when you invest than how much. The same is true with you using the Internet to earn yourself some money.

AnnoyingFireAlarm

Okay, at this point I probably sound a bit like a huckster. I get that. The sense of urgency might have been just a wee bit for dramatic effect, but I think the underlying message is nevertheless valid. You really ought to acquire for yourself the experience of making money via the Internet. I’m not trying to convince you to quit your job and earn your living this way, and I’m not even trying to convince you to attempt to make serious money. All I’m trying to do is encouraging you to make something.

What should you make? You could go any number of routes. You could start a blog and put advertising on it or use affiliate links. Writing a book or making videos for youtube would count. You could hook up with a content creation outfit, like Pluralsight, and do it that way. Building apps and selling them either standalone or through an app store is probably an option that appeals uniquely to software developers. Or you could always build a web-based product or start a company, if you really want to go all in.

If I’m not peddling a get rich quick scheme and I’m not even suggesting that you try to get rich, it’s certainly fair to wonder what my angle is. Why am I so eager to offer this advice? My reasoning is multi-faceted.

Opens Up New Possibilities

The most likely outcome to you starting a blog and advertising or building a little mobile app and selling it is that you’ll put in a lot of time and effort and get a little bit of profit back out. Hey, if you thought I was a huckster at first, hopefully I’m bringing it back from the ledge a little here by telling you that you’re pretty unlikely to get rich quick. The reality is that you’re almost certainly not going to retire from your first foray into entrepreneurship.

This type of bootstrapping is modest in aim and scope, for the most part. But it is an opportunity. And, it’s one with virtually no barriers to entry and not much limit to the possibilities if it takes off. Look at Life Hacker.

You probably won’t be Life Hacker, but maybe your blog/site/app/channel will become a fun hobby for you – a hobby that brings in a few hundred or maybe even a thousand dollars per month. And, over the long haul, it will also help you get your name and information out there to pry open the door to some networking and consulting opportunities as well. You’d be surprised at how many things come up when you just put yourself out there: job offers, consulting opportunities, speaking invitations, and more.

Introduces a New Earning Model

Most white collar workers spend an entire career working 40 (okay, who are we kidding, 45+) hours per week in exchanged for a fixed number of dollars. Wage labor is clearly the dominant model for income in our society, since traditional entrepreneurship tends to be a high risk venture. It’s all well and good for hungry kids just starting out on their career path, but a harder sell for folks with families and mortgages.

Building something small in your spare time with the aim of earning a little money, however, is not high risk. It’s the kind of thing you can do instead of watching a few TV shows. And, while the stakes may be small, the lessons learned aren’t. You’ll develop a sense of what it’s like to earn in a model where income is decoupled from time, which can be a valuable skill that you may use in your day job or, at some point, to start your own venture.

And There’s More

I originally wrote this post for the Infragistics blog.  Here it is on their site.  To read the second part of the post, check it out on their site here.

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Matt
Guest

Spot on, Eric. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you save some hours by not watching as much TV. I wrote about this in a similar vein a while ago, but from the user feedback standpoint. The average developer is probably “hidden” behind a company – putting something out there that is your own is scary but super rewarding! http://netkow.com/post/68064250286/every-dev-should-ship-side-project

Paul Smith
Guest

I just got on the “putting something out there” bandwagon about a month ago. I don’t have a monetization angle yet, but I’m finding that if you’re a .NET / C# developer, publishing NuGet packages is a good way to get worthwhile introductions. I’ve published three so far, at https://www.nuget.org/profiles/FuncularLabs.

Matt
Guest

Nice work Paul! That’s a great way to get your name out there. Keep going, looks like you’ve got some good download numbers already!

Erik Dietrich
Guest

I’ll have to give a look in more detail the next time I suit back up and start working on a .NET project with a persistence model.

Erik Dietrich
Guest

Absolutely. Being part of a company means everything at scale, and everything at scale means the sense of investment is distributed and comparably diffuse. Shipping things on your own gives you all of that sense of investment, which is really rewarding. You’d think it could be more crushing, too, if you fail, but I’ve not found that to be the case. Failures are battle scars that I learn from and move on.

dave falkner
Guest
dave falkner

Nice advice, simply stated. Might very well inspire me to do just that.

Erik Dietrich
Guest

Cool! If you do, keep me posted when you ship it. I’ll be interested to check it out.