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One Year After Quitting My Job (nathanbarry.com)
407 points by nathanbarry 1575 days ago | hide | past | web | 159 comments | favorite



First of all, congrats Nathan! Cheers bro :)

At the same time, while all this sounds so promising, in my humble opinion, I would say this wouldn't apply to everyone. Whether you know it or not, Nathan seems to have a solid plan - 'This is what I should do. This is how I should do it. And this is how much what I do might generate.'

I see a lot of people quitting their jobs just because it's become more of a cool factor now and most importantly because they think they could become like Nathan easily or rather quickly (like it's some get-rich-quick scheme). You should understand that Nathan has put in some significant, rock-solid hardwork (like developing his own apps, writing some quality books, etc.) into all this. If you just quit your job dreaming of cash flowing in the very next minute, that might not happen.

FYI - I quit my day job too. I wrote some apps too, dreaming of becoming someone like Nathan someday. Here I am, commenting here on Nathan's success story instead. Life ain't that easy dudes :D


When I quit my job last year I had a couple things going for me:

1. I had freelanced before in college, so that life wasn't totally new.

2. I had a lot of connections so finding work was never a problem.

3. I had almost $30,000 in savings to even out the slow months.

4. I had iPhone apps that I had built in my free time while I was employed that were making $2k+ a month.

So quitting my job was not risky at all. In fact, I really dislike risk.

All that said, I did come fairly close to running out of money this last August when I had put all my time into the first book and a consulting client didn't pay a rather large sum of money. Now had I not been working on the first book, I never would have used up my reserve cash.


point 2 is the most important one in the long term - once your initial sources run dry, you need to find new clients/customers. this breaks a lot of freelancing careers, have seen this time and time again in my circle of friends.

going solo means you not only spend time on building/creating stuff but also devoting time on building up a pipeline of work - which is initially a lot of unpaid work.

good luck to you nathan!


Very impressive story Nathan - you'll go far for sure. I would be interested to know now that you're working for yourself if you think you'll develop more iPhone apps in the future or does that effort consume too much time for the return?


Salute to your efforts and I see a lot of commitment there. Would request you to add these posts in your post as well. Will help people directly coming over there. !!

Once again congrats.


These are some really key points that deserve some highlight. Thank you, Nathan. Cheers!


very good points. While I agree with your initial post's synopsis (stay away from consulting) I also heavily agree that you might NEED it for starters. Thanks for the tips!


Thanks to Nathan for writing this post, and thank you Neya for commenting and letting us know about your transition.

I occasionally see posts on HN by people right as they are quitting their day-job (or dropping out of school). Those posts are filled with enthusiasm, and they frequently suggest that everyone else should follow their brilliant decision.

Hearing the RESULTS of Nathan's first year was very powerful (moreso than hearing about his hopes or plans for his first year would have been). At the same time, your comment was valuable to remind me that Nathan's experience may not be representative.

I hope to see more of these 1-year-after-my-decision reviews. Thanks for sharing your experience.


The pleasure is mine, dbecker :) Cheers!


I certainly didn't pull off $145k after quitting my job either. :(

It's not that easy and for those of us who are trying, are there pointers? Make everything snazzy, yes, but some days I spend so much time on polish it seems like it is for nothing! (disclaimer: some things I've done are very nonpolished.)


I think the number one takeaway is to focus on things that people want. If you don't have some real evidence that people want what you're providing, you're dead before you start.


It's still interesting though, what did you make? What was your plan, what failed? Did you after a few months decide to go back to work for someone again?


>What did you make?

Built a dozen Web Products for clients. I thought I could sustain developing Products for others. But unfortunately, payment was the biggest factor. If I charged someone $10,000 totally for a finished product, I would have been paid something like just $2-3k. Of course, I could revoke the license to my product or disable the product itself, but that didn't work out. Simply because my clients were confused. They would let the product stay alive for a couple of weeks, without marketing it, expect it to convert well and become rich overnight. And when that didn't happen, they would kill it. They would stop paying for the AWS boxes and Linodes. There went all my hardwork down the drain. And since it didn't work well, I would be paid just a fraction of the project's total cost. It was unfair, but it was a very valuable lesson. Right now, I charge 50% upfront and then proceed working on the project with well-defined milestones.

>What was your Plan?

My plan was only one thing. (Not joking). I wanted to buy a BMW 320d after building a dozen profitable web apps. The problem was, there were a lot of weak spots in my plan. (read below)

>What failed?

Working space - I live in an apartment. I assumed I could save couple of hundred dollars by working from my apartment instead of a posh office. I learnt that this is the last place where you should work. There is no motivation within an apartment. You eventually become lazy because everything is easily available to you - TV, BED, Dining, etc. So you lose focus much easily. When I was working in a company before, I was much productive. I would come home very late and still make some significant progress w.r.t to my Web apps (the ones I build for myself, not for clients). When I quit work, I thought I could use all this time for myself. I was wrong. My productivity went down. Drastically.

Team - I am a very fair person. I never like to live my life abusing someone else's hardwork. Because that's why MNC's exist (most of them). I hired some interns, they were really talented, but in the end, I didn't want them to work with me because I didn't want them to develop a web app in return for a couple of hundred dollars. Because that would be unfair. I tried seeking co-founders too, but the problem was I didn't like the idea of getting close to someone with a pre-determined self-benefit in mind. Because that would be a 'fake' relationship. Of course I did have some valuable friends who could have become great co-founders. Unfortunately, I figured out that they wouldn't be able to add value to my company (because I can code and design myself; I'm primarily a designer) and I shouldn't add anyone into the company for fuck's sake.

Burning the cash - I invested a LOT of money into buying domains. The problem with me is that I come up with some really really good ideas (and names) for startups. I would evaluate the idea's potential and quickly buy a domain name for it(simply because it would be available at that point). I invested over $1000-2000 in just domains. I didn't feel the pinch when I invested the first year. But the next year, especially when I was bootstrapping, it became a burden when these domains auto-renewed. If you are seeking for a great start-up name or a domain for it, please, please let me know!

Investors - Initially, I wanted to seek funding. I even applied to YC (and got rejected) as a single founder. But later, I was able to conclude that some (many) ideas don't require funding and can be monetized from day one. Hence I avoided a lot of investor meet-ups, camps, etc. and sat home working on my product (which is what I'm doing currently too). Because of this attitude, I'm forced to bootstrap. Bootstrapping teaches a lot of valuable lessons, but, you will feel much restricted without some 'cushion' cash with you. For example, if you thought a particular stockphoto would make your web app beautiful, but it costs $100, you would have to wait till you get a new client (which means you need to work on his product first, which will take more time to complete yours).

I wasted a lot of time arguing myself going with Play/Scala instead of ROR simply because it would scale well. Heck, I even learnt Scala simply for this reason and in the end, I realized it wasn't worth it, simply because ROR helps me (in my case) getting my idea up and running in no time (which is VERY important) rather than learning something complex and building my product with half-baked code. I realized I'd rather do it in ROR and have it re-written when I need to scale, because I would have the money to do it by then, obviously.

I also invested a lot in software at a very early stage. For example, I bought the Adobe Creative Production Premium 5.5 suite just for photoshop and After effects. While it's a really good bargain, I found myself short of cash in the following months. Of course I feel proud to own a legit copy of these softwares, but the compromise was painful in the sense that I had to work a lot to take back the money I invested in these softwares.

>Did you after a few months decide to go back to work for someone again?

Once you taste this kind of freedom, I think it's difficult to go back. I got offers from very prominent people, investors, MNC's to work on their ideas/products. But I simply refused because of my current lifestyle. In life, one thing I realized is that you should be the negotiator for your own life and not someone else. You should decide what you should do and how you should do to achieve what you want, and not someone else.

Despite these people giving me good offers (monetary-wise too) I decided not to work with them simply because they had their own rules. When I build something, I want to be a decision maker - I don't want to be following orders, simply because I'm getting paid. Currently, I'm working on my own product and also I am a freelance consultant for several start-ups helping them develop their MVP's and helping them choose what works best. I still have a couple of debts (=credit card), but I'm confident I'll clear them in no time. It's never about the money, it's always about the happiness.

I would like to remind everyone here of a beautiful quote -

'If you don't build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.'


"I hired some interns, they were really talented, but in the end, I didn't want them to work with me because I didn't want them to develop a web app in return for a couple of hundred dollars. Because that would be unfair."

My suggestion is to halt thinking on these lines. Even your clients would come to you because their value-perception of the output of your work (web app) would far exceed the money they pay you. That's what you would do with anyone you hire -- the value-perception of the output given by them (e.g. building the webapp) would far exceed the money you pay them. This is how businesses earn profit. If everyone paid their employees exactly what they themselves would be charging the customers, companies wouldn't earn profits.


Agreed, I need to change my mindset about this, for sure.


"Simply because my clients were confused. They would let the product stay alive for a couple of weeks, without marketing it, expect it to convert well and become rich overnight. And when that didn't happen, they would kill it."

This is a lesson for countless others who start with building products for clients on their own (thanks for articulating the situation). Milestones are the key, as well as sticking to the stringent "No further development without milestone payment" policy.


Exactly!


You don't much sound like you are happy. You are in debt, you are still working for someone else, you can't make solid business-technical wise decisions based on merit. You think you come up with really really good? ideas. Maybe you are just a dreamer.


Your comment is a bit harsh. But, you are wrong. I just posted my experience, a brief of what has happened all these years. Now, I'm earning a decent amount, and my debts are diminishing drastically with each month. I am not focusing full time on developing products for others just because I will make a lot of money, because I'm building a product for myself. Hence I want to keep my burn rate really low. I take very very few number of projects with high budgets, just to help me sustain for 6 months or so. So, I will have some time to work for myself.

And happiness - I am happy. I don't know what made you conclude otherwise. I am not working for someone else. I am offering a service, and people who are interested are paying for it. I still make the main decisions, including business and technical-wise. Because these are the kinds of clients I specifically want to deal with. In a company, things are different. You follow orders, no matter who you are (designer, developer, etc.) I have this freedom now.

I am not just a dreamer. I am an avid dreamer. And I am proud of it. But most of my dreams have come to life too. Thank you for your comment.


Thanks a lot for your reply! It sounds despite not having as much success as nathan you are capable of making a good living for yourself and you have a better taste in cars too :P


>you have a better taste in cars too :P

Haha! Thanks a lot Tinco, that makes me feel good :D


I need a domain how do i reach you?


Checking email, Twitter, and Facebook on my phone has also been a constant interruption of time spent with family. I think this is the biggest issue I need to deal with in 2013.

Man, do I ever sympathize. I was finding myself standing in groups of friends, outside on beautiful sunny days, and we'd all have our phones out looking at Facebook and commenting (out loud) on people's statuses (and the comment is always the same - "yeah, I saw that"). Its so lame!

For me the answer was really easy - just uninstall the app from your phone. You don't have to do anything drastic like quit FB, just uninstall the app from your phone and stop letting it fill up every free moment you have.

Do it now, before you do anything else. It will take 30 seconds and could change your life. Uninstall the FB app.


"Do it now, before you do anything else. It will take 30 seconds and could change your life. Uninstall the FB app."

That's actually what I really needed right now. Both Twitter and Facebook are now gone from my phone. Thank you!


Facebook. Twitter. Uninstalled. What about a moratorium on Hacker News? Personally, I could have launched several apps with the time I've spent reading Hacker News. However, I get a lot out of HN ... Damn ...


I am a bit late to this thread, so you may not see my response. Regardless...

I have wondered about this as well. I am considering two strategies:

1) Stop checking HN at all, and subscribe to Hacker Monthly (http://hackermonthly.com/), which is the best articles of the month in a nice format.

2) Schedule a time to check it once a week, and only look at the list of posts with over 200 points. http://news.ycombinator.com/over?points=200

We have to stop spending time on these sites, even when it seems valuable. Nothing is as valuable as actually building something and interacting with users.


I did that this year. Still look at Facebook on the browser but it cut down time on Facebook by a huge amount.


Me and my friends do the same but I don't think it's lame. I love it and can't imagine how things were before smartphones. Am I the only one who likes this social development?


I find it even more awkward when i visit my cousins and they post and tag me on facebook. They will later ask why i never liked/replied even after seeing me 'check facebook' on my phone. I want a less-posted life thats why I'm quitting most social sites.


With a preposterous amount of Facebook users all across the world, I think we are all projecting our personal experience on millions of others to make a value judgement. I personally get nothing out of it. How is it positively changing your life?


I don't use Facebook and uninstalled it from my Android phone. But as soon as I connect to the internet it comes back as an 'update'!!

It's so frustrating. I don't want the goddamn app.

It's a Sony Ericsson Xperia. Does anyone know how to nuke it forever?


Maybe you should try removing it from your Play Store account (the newest Play Store app allows you to remove apps completely), or just try disabling "auto update" for the Facebook app.


I quit Facebook this year and I'm enjoying spending more time with real people.


Well, I can check them using the browser =P FB app is gone for a long time now, it is very slow in my phone.

Just pay attention to your guests instead of making the phone the center of attention.


Clients being unable to pay has been frustrating and made me want to do less consulting... That’s why I love selling products, I get paid up front and don’t have to worry about collecting payments.

This is exactly why I left the consulting biz too. I had a web development agency with a bunch of friends & ex-colleagues that was about to make $1M in profits after 3 years. That number would be much higher, had it not been for clients (mostly startups and small businesses) that weren't able to pay (so they claimed) or went out of business. This is despite collecting a deposit of 50% of the estimated costs up-front.

Before we broke $1M, I saw a great opportunity to develop a product, so I shifted my focus and have been doing that ever since.

Consulting is good for getting (relative) immediate cash up-front, while products can take a long time to begin earning that same amount of cash. However, if done well, products can scale and earn much more revenue in the long run.

Nathan is definitely taking the right approach for an individual entrepreneur. He's diversifying his income (consulting, apps, books) while presumably moving his focus away from consulting as his income from apps and books increases.

Good luck man!


I may take Brennan Dunn's (http://planscope.io) approach of getting paid 100% up front. I still have a lot to learn doing consulting.

Like you said, a balance of consulting and products is a good way to go.


Interesting link, I'm trying to diversify my income for the same reasons as above.

What is your thought process for charging 100% up front if you don't mind me asking.


So you don't have any accounts receivable. Then you never have to worry about a client not paying. That link isn't directly to where Brennan talks about it (maybe it was on a podcast?), but read his stuff and you will learn a lot. I know I have.


I have a couple long term, open-ended contracts right now that I'm consulting on, billing out anywhere from 10-40 hours per week on each. The deliverables are frequent, communication is open, I invoice every two weeks with detailed line items, and get paid within 7 days. There are no up front deposits - honestly, it goes against my own values, I'm uncomfortable getting paid for work I have yet to do. The terms are clear in the contracts with work stoppage clauses and all. It's worked well going on about 6 months of doing this. Maybe I'm lucky, and maybe this is the nature of doing long-term gigs or just having clients you mesh well with, but is this really all that unusual?


I have one client I work for 5-10 hours a week consistently. Absolutely love doing work for them. They always pay on time and things work great. So I totally know where you are coming from. Basically find great clients and treat them really, really well and fire your bad clients.


But sometimes it takes a while until you find the right clients. I learned that you have to be very cautious.

One of the problems is also, that some clients are not realistic enough, they are very optimistic, which may lead to not being able to pay you.


> I'm uncomfortable getting paid for work I have yet to do.

But you're happy furnishing work to people they've yet to pay for?


In these small increments for projects of this scope, absolutely. For smaller things I have yet to cross that bridge, but honestly I'm going to try to steer clear from that type of work unless it comes from trusted connections.


I've consulted in this manner and I'm surprised this isnt the norm. It reduces risk for both parties. The client is seeing tangible results sooner and you're minimising potential losses due to non-payment (for whatever reason).


Exactly... at least if you're doing agile development, it seems that you should get paid in an 'agile' way :)


For many engagements, we required both an upfront deposit and invoiced payments every two weeks. In addition to the benefits you guys cited, billing often can also help manage scope creep - though I know some agencies thrived off the additional income from change requests.

I agree that it's possible to build a roster of clients that always pay you, but when you start casting your net wider (which we did), you encounter a greater variety of clients. We grew to a team of 20+ developers and aimed to keep our pipeline near 100% utilization.

With that said, we only had a handful of clients that didn't or couldn't pay. This was early in our existence and we learned quickly how to avoid, and dump, bad clients.


Consulting may be tempting financially, but is a terrible idea strategically. For me, main realization was - why waste precious time helping others develop their ideas, when you can develop your own instead.


Consulting may be tempting financially, but is a terrible idea strategically

Depends on your strategy. Building a consultancy with employees can be great strategy. Just ask places like Thoughtworks.

I'm using my consulting work to fund our product development work. The stuff I'm doing isn't angel/VC friendly and using consulting work as a funding source seems to be a pretty good strategy to me ;-)


Can someone explain what happens here with the past due balances? I mean is it literally that someone says "Okay I will pay you x/hr to do this work" and then when you bill them they say "oops I don't have the money"? Why aren't more of these people in court and what business does someone have hiring someone to do work for them while not having money? It blows my mind that humans work that way but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.


In our case, clients have either: 1) Gone out of business and dissolved their businesses, or 2) Claimed they don't have the finances to pay us.

All clients enter into a contract with us. So when they don't pay, we have legal recourse. In #1, there's little we can do, except go to court and get in line as a debtor. In #2, we ended up with a promissory note stating they're legally bound to pay us as soon as they are able to. There are other avenues one can pursue, this is just the deal we worked out with them and all the lawyers involved.


I had one client who was an old fashioned software developer, he didn't like in my code the OOP, he was unable to understand it so he didn't want to pay me, he was oversea so the getting those money for the project was more expensive than actually the money.


I'm young and naive. Please tell me why there is no way for you to receive your money? Are they not contractually bound to give you a specific sum? Is getting that money just too much legal hassle and money spent on court fees?


I'm young and naive. Please tell me why there is no way for you to receive your money? Are they not contractually bound to give you a specific sum? Is getting that money just too much legal hassle and money spent on court fees?

The biggest problems are:

* The client doesn't have any money to get - especially common with startups.

* The company disappears - bankruptcy almost always means that you will see nothing to very-little since you're likely one of many debtors.

* The amount of time it takes. Every hour you spend on dealing with debt collection, legal issues, etc. is an hour you're not spending on making clients happy, finding new work, developing your own product, etc.

The most cost effective solution is often to just write it off - and learn from the mistake you made in picking a client who could not pay.

Occasionally you can sell the debt on to a third party for some %age of the total figure - but that only works if the company looks like it can pay, and still involves admin work on your part.


They are contractually obligated to pay me, but it isn't worth it to collect. Plus, I still like them. It's mostly just startups that ran out of money.


"It's mostly just startups that ran out of money."

How is it excusable to have a finite sum of money, commit to paying you some of it, use all of it and then simply say "crap, we ran out of money". Some of the founders I've seen in the valley come off as incredibly immature and irresponsible, but this just amazes me, I genuinely cannot imagine being a businessperson and doing that.


> How is it excusable [...]

The simple answer is "it's not." You're completely right that the people who do this crap are immature, irresponsible and have no business having the financial well-being of their employees in their hands.

If you've got $10k earmarked and you need it for something else (such as electricity), it's your responsibility to contact the vendor, cancel work immediately, pay whatever portion of the $10k you're legally obligated to pay them because you signed a goddamned contract and hope that you have enough left over for whatever you need.

My consulting contract specifically states that not only is the agreement between myself and the client company, but also between myself and the client company's principal(s) personally. I make it exceedingly clear both in the contract and in face-to-face discussions that I run a business, I'm not in the business of doing work without getting paid, and I will not waste months trying to get my money before turning to more serious measures (such as litigation, which has only had to happen once and was settled for the full amount within 24 hours of the original summons).


It's actually a lot easier than you might imagine. You can kick off a $10K project with someone - when you have $50K in the bank and you expect to receive $50K in the next 4 - 8 weeks. As a result of many variables, you either don't receive that $50K and have blown through the first $50K on things you needed immediately (like salaries for your employees, light, the deposit on the project, etc.) - and because the project took 6 weeks longer than you anticipated, you never had the money when the project was done.

Don't be so quick to judge.

I am a consultant and have to deal with clients not paying on-time too - so I am not excusing it, but these things happen much more frequently than you may think.


"Don't be so quick to judge."

I don't understand. Do you NOT think people who do what you said above are irresponsible? If you have 50k in the bank and will need to use all of it on your employees and whatnot in the next 4-8 weeks, you absolutely, 100% should not be committing 10k to a project, it seems super irresponsible and amateurish. If I'm committing 10k to a project, I'm going to make damned sure I actually have 10k set aside for it. If you don't you absolutely should not be hiring anyone.


As I said....it's not always as black and white as that. Perhaps you DID set aside the $50K + $10K separately but then something comes up that you didn't forsee - which actually happens a lot (like one of your employees gets sick and needs surgery, their health insurance is blown through very quickly - or perhaps you didn't have health insurance for them - or one of a million other eventualities that happens when running your own business).

It's easy to judge people when you have never been through it. As much as you are responsible, the very art of starting a company from scratch means you have to deal with things that come up that were unexpected - on a regular basis. i.e. you can't plan for EVERY. SINGLE. Eventuality. It's literally impossible.

Yes, you may have gone through it and never had that issue - but not everybody has the same experience that you did. Don't assume because they don't have your exact experience that means they are irresponsible.


Someone getting sick might put you back on your schedule, but shouldn't be coming out of your own pocket. To the extent that delays in the project might mean delays in funding, I can accept that, but someone who can't judge expenditures out 4-6 weeks shouldn't be making financial commitments for 4-6 weeks in the future.

I say this as someone who ran a business, lost a lot of money, had checks bouncing, and all that. It was not pretty, but I didn't for one minute try to pin the blame on anyone but myself - I made poor financial decisions. I was irresponsible. It didn't seem like it at the time, but it was.


I am absolutely floored at your rationale here. Every single thing you describe is completely irresponsible. Didn't buy health insurance for your employees? You're not irresponsible, everyone else just "doesn't understand.

I'm not asking anyone to plan for every eventuality, but if you can't afford to pay someone, and still hire them anyway, I frankly don't think you deserve to run a business ever again. I feel like these founders should be named and shamed every single time this happens.


I have to point out that most of his income came from the ebooks. His income from consulting and apps came in less than the job he left. Self help has always sold very well the last three decades.

I 'believe' that many who come here and quit their day jobs are usually doing it for _startups_ and/or _app dreams_.

Nathan is working hard, doing as many things possible. Not many people can do this (unless/until they reach some desperation factor which makes one realizes the need to _hustle_ and get stuff done).

Bottom line, it's hard work and all sweat. Of course, knowing what industry sells and finding what niche your skills fit in work too.


Before the eBooks I was on track to barely beat my previous year's salary (I probably would have hit $75,000). But I focused a ton of time on the books rather than consulting or promoting my apps, so that decreased the revenue from each of those. So keep in mind that some of the book revenue is in place of consulting revenue.


"doing as many things possible"

That's my takeaway from this article, and your comment. Trying to go solo with only one source of revenue/income is foolish. Do as much as you can, as long as the return on investment is sound.


I wouldn't try to do as many things as possible. Work on one till it is making money (or needs to be shut down because it is failing) then move on to the next thing. Be careful not to spread yourself to thin. That said, get another income source (besides consulting) before you quit your job.


Well said. I'm nowhere near the success level of Nathan, but do see each year's hard work translating into incremental increases in quality of life every year (I'm a self employed consultant).

I lend an ear to freelancers and consultants quite a bit and a lot of the focus is on how hard they're having to work, and how surprising that is to them. The first thing I say is that yes, it's an incredible amount of work. You can ease the pain a bit here and there, but in general there are absolutely no short cuts.

To "make it" being self employed, or selling products, or both, takes an incredible amount of desire and persistence. So much that you really have to enjoy the process, otherwise most quit before they reach any reward simply b/c it's too much work combined with too much risk.


Congrats, succeeding on your own terms is what it's all about. Thank you for sharing your story, we need more of this and less of "hot new shiny mobile-social-blah raises 69 million, hires XYZ hotshot and fires ABC hotshot."


Nathan, firstly congratulations - it looks like you have definitely made a successful transition from company employment to self-employment. It's also great to see the variety of income streams that you have.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book and also learn a great deal from your blog, especially as you are so transparent with your failures and successes.

It would be great to hear a little more about how your time management differed in both roles. Are you working less, the same or more hours now? Also it would be good if you could divulge a little more on how the networking you've done has affected your success (if that's possible to describe or even measure!). Thanks!


Pretty similar hours (40-50 a week), I just get to pick what I work on now.


I think that this is the most impressive fact so far. Being successful on your own as well as maintaining a good work/life balance (especially with a family) is an incredible feat. Way to go.


"In May I made a commitment to write 1,000 words a day. [...] That slow, consistent progress is what allowed me to write two books, almost two dozen guest posts, and over thirty posts on this blog in the last year."

Very well done that man.

I was just wondering how many hours each day it took to crank out the thousand words? I'm assuming that research time was minimal as these appear to be howto books - the research was in launching two successful applications.


Anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours depending on how inspired I am.


Wow, that sounds great! Thank you for sharing such specific numbers on financials.

What I'd also like to see is a breakdown on the time spent doing things you'd rather not be doing (i.e. doing work), and how that compares to your previous salaried position.


I still waste a lot of time when I should be working. Especially on sites like Hacker News. ;)

Generally I work about 40-50 hours a week, spread out throughout the day, 7 days a week. Most of that time is spent designing or writing.


Great question and thanks for answering. I think that a lot of us have this dream where we work 20-30/hours a week and have the same results that you've achieved. Starting off, as with anything worthwhile, takes a lot of effort, hard work, and focus on what you want to accomplish. Thanks for the update, and please keep posting -- its keeps us motivated.


Amazing, congratulations. And congrats on writing a post like this and coming off as a down-to-earth, regular guy. These posts (along with the people who write them) can often come across as "Look how great I am because I don't follow the status quo!" kind of stuff, but you sound completely humble about it all.

Best of luck for the coming year!


Someone made a comment to me last year about a blog post I made "bragging about how much money I made." :( That's really not my intention at all. Just trying to be open and honest. So I'm glad this post didn't come across as bragging.


It bugs me when I hear this. Your post is interesting, inspiring & contains very applicable advice. It will be very valuable to a lot of people.

When people say "stop bragging" it usually translates into "stop making me jealous". It's not your look-out to cater your writing to those that don't want to hear about the results of hard work.

There will always be those that will explain others achievements away as talent or point to luck or resources.

Please continue to be open & write for the majority who will appreciate the assistance and use it as motivation to step towards building their own successes.


To be fair - many people who write this kind of post are - shall we say - a little detached from reality. I'm thinking of the yet-another-lifestyle-design-blog set, with their badly designed and poorly written ebooks, explaining how to 'live the dream' by writing an ebook and selling it to other, aspiring, lifestyle-designers.

Hence I felt I should point out that I liked this post because it's nothing like the ones I just mentioned :)


Someone just started saying that on patio11's post too. I for one am very glad you two are posting about your experiences. I hope to learn important lessons from you. Thanks!


I've learned a ton from patio11, so I love to read his posts!


It’s easy for people to take blog posts, forum replies, etc. out of context. Don’t sweat it and keep writing retrospectives like these. They’re very insightful.


I liked it. I've never understood the taboo on income disclosure--it's a valuable piece of data for evaluating many things.


It's human nature to feel uncomfortable, even angry, when a taboo is violated. Talking publicly about your income is taboo.


Talking publicly about your income is taboo.

Depends on where you are.

In my experience it seems to vary quite a bit - generally a complete no-no in the US, a little less extreme but uncommon in the UK, can be talked about among friends/co-workers in France/, topic of casual small-talk in Japan.


Why? Just because lots of people don't do it for their own personal reasons doesn't make it taboo. Lots and lots of people really like seeing these posts (as evidenced by this and patio11's post being at the top of HN all day) and they can be very useful. Patio11 for instance said he started doing what he is doing in part because of a similar post by someone else.

I think it's more likely that it's human nature for people to be jealous. Some people keep it to themselves, and others lash out on forums like this one.


As always, I'm happy to answer any questions. :)


When I see young men and women consulting, I'm always curious how it's working for them. Do your consultation customers care that you are so young?

I'm genuinely curious about this. Most successful consultants (that I know) have decades of experience in a specific industry or specialty, thus they have a large amount of knowledge based on actual, real-world experience and that is why clients seek them out. They are very successful, but that success seems solely based on their years of experience and insight.


I think the confusion comes from the term 'consulting'. In my opinion: Freelancing is not consulting. Technical problem solving (e.g. scaling db, infrastructure improvement, assisting in migrating to a more recent version of a framework, etc. borderline. Providing advice to a team of developers, and doing a little of that work is consulting.

I see so many people claiming they consult, when infact they freelance. They get assigned work, as a temporary employee. Nathan sounds like he started freelancing and now he gets a bit of consulting in the mix too.


Very well put. I agree. Freelancing is a much better word. After gaining many years of experience, then one will have the insight and ability to actually consult.


Based on that distinction (which I think is accurate) I probably do 50% consulting and 50% freelancing.


Most of my consulting comes from people I've met locally. I have a pretty good reputation from speaking at user groups and code camps, so a lot of people know me. Age hasn't really been an issue (I'm 22).

When I first did freelancing I was 15 and 16, so it was much more difficult then.


With $4000 monthly expenses, you should have about 100k left in savings or some non-monthly expenses and probably a bunch of taxes, what do you do with your excess?

Is it something mundane like saving for a bigger house, or your pension, or are you reinvesting?


Currently I have about $85,000 in the bank. Most of that showed up in the last couple months. Another $15,000 has been earned, but not transfered over to my account yet. The trip to Europe took quite a bit of money, so I didn't have much around July or August of this year.

I'm not sure what I'm saving for, but the more money I have, the more reluctant I am to purchase things. For example, I have wanted to buy a Lotus Elise for a long time. My theory was I would get a used one for about $30,000. I convinced my wife that I could buy one when we had $100k in the bank. Now that we are close to that number, I don't want to spend it on something so frivolous.

We'll probably continue saving for a house. For now I am going to do some more traveling and continue to live as inexpensively as possible. For example, my current rent is $650 a month.


Your goalposts are moving, and I've noticed that in myself.

I have freelancers I work with who tell me: "I'll just be fine when I've got 2 months of expenses in the bank". I tell them they probably won't, then they laugh, then eventually some of them see what I mean.

Sounds like you've got about 2 years of 'runway' in the bank - with no income and stable expenses, you could go for 2 years. I'm in a similar situation, and have found myself wanting less and less to spend any money. Some of that comes from simply remembering the effort it took to build up that amount, and then spending it literally in an instant on anything feels weird now. Yeah, I'd like a bigger TV (ours if 42" but 7 year old "ED" TV, not HD), but see little point in it as this one still works. Newer car? Yeah, would be nice - I can pay cash for a nice used car, but will probably hold on to this 8 year old one for another year or two.

The only things I'd like to buy, I want to pay cash for, and I'm still a long ways away (things like a private airplane, much larger house, etc). We do travel some - my wife will be going to Australia and I'll be going to Russia - buying those sorts of experiences with our families is one of the few things that we agree on spending money on. Outside of that, just continuing to pile up cash until there's a compelling case for spending it (or a true emergency need) is probably all you can do.


Sounds like you've got about 2 years of 'runway' in the bank - with no income and stable expenses, you could go for 2 years.

This is where true freedom comes from.

With a runway like that, one can afford both psychologically and literally to double down and crank out a lot more products or businesses to get oneself up to a 5 or 10 year runway (or even "financial independence" if one is very lucky).

I think the best thing to do once a little momentum is gained is to grab onto the pendulum and get it swinging big so one can travel, buy a house, and all those sorts of things in 3-5 years. (This is not a direct advice to you since it seems you are already thinking this way :-))


The biggest hurdle (for me, certainly) is having the guts to step off that treadmill and devote all your time to something 100%. Personally, I have a wife who supports me, and even then it's still hard. I have some colleagues in similar situations with unsupportive families, and they will likely never be able to make that leap, not because of finances, but because of emotional/familial situations.


I appreciate this is brusque and comes from a privileged position, but if my family were "unsupportive" or at least unable to pretend, they wouldn't be my family for very long, alas.


If you've got bills to pay and kids to support, leaving a full time job to work on something with no income for several months is just not something most of them are going to be able to do. Even if they could potentially scrape by financially for a few months, there's no guarantee of any success, and the wives (3 different people I've known) have always said "no".

However, what I've noticed is that instead of "no, we can't do that now - let's try to work on a plan to set aside 8 months of savings to let you focus on your idea", it's been just "no, you're not doing that". But... are you going to divorce someone over that?


Yep. I will readily spend money on experiences like travel, but think really hard about about spending the same amount of money on a possession like a car.

Both our cars are older (7 and 13 years old) and have been paid off for some time. Not having a car payment is great!


Same here, the more I save, the less I want to spend on these things. The one huge exception is traveling. I even set myself a goal of visiting at least one new country per year.

The interesting thing is that with the years this has also affected other broader considerations. Nowadays I don't really think about buying a house anymore, as it is too big of a 'money and time' commitment and also because it would make it harder for me to move somewhere (which I've been doing quite often now).

Same applies to having a car. While I agree that having one can be incredibly convenient (and, sometimes, even necessary), I feel so much better not having to worry about gas, taxes, or maintenance.


It's harder to move having a house, certainly (which I do), and where you live or move to will affect whether you need a car or not. In some ways, by not having a car, you're limiting your experience by saying "I'll never consider living in these places". That's OK, but it does have an impact. Likewise, if you wanted to have a car, you're sometimes restrained by the cost of parking the car in certain locations.

Gas - certainly a concern, but so is bus/subway fares, which replace gas if you don't have a car but still need to move around.

Taxes - for 2 cars we pay about $150/year.

Insurance - possibly $1000 per year.

So... maybe $100/month for taxes/insurance on 2 cars - for most people this won't break the bank. This also allows us to live in a more rural area with a somewhat lower cost of living (lower taxes for a start).

Maintenance - yeah, some. I don't think we worry about it, much like you don't 'worry' much about your electric bill or internet bill. It's a factor in life - there are repairs that come up, but again, the ability to be mobile when we want, in areas that aren't otherwise served by mass transit - is, for us, a plus right now.

Replacing gas/tax/insurance with monthly subway tickets, which I'd probably need to do if I lived in a major city, seems like it might be about the same (IIRC, a two week pass in Moscow cost be about $50?).


I definitely agree that mobility constraints are common and usually affect decisions on where to live. And, as I stated before, sometimes you do need a car.

But my point was not really related to cost, but to "freedom" in some sense. After the money saving, then no longer wanting to spend money on unnecessary things (but travelling), then moving around, I feel I no longer want to have a car.

Mainly for two reasons:

- I don't miss being stuck in traffic on the drivers seat, or trying to find parking spots. If I'm on a bus, and there is traffic, I don't mind as much as I can read, or browse the Internet, or game or whatever.

- If I don't have a car, I don't need to worry what to do with it if I want to move. No worries about trying to sell it, or wondering if it is worth it to take the car to the new place, what's the traffic legislation on the new place, etc.

Yet another part of my PoV is that, even if a car is necessary, I no longer want a new/expensive car. For example, before moving to the city where I currently live, I had to have a car (as there wasn't much of public transportation there). But at that point all I wanted was a used car that's good enough for the daily needs; and that I wouldn't mind getting rid off later.


We recently bought a car in cash ($27k all told) and it HURT. I really didn't want to do it, but we couldn't get a loan for various reasons (namely we didn't have PA driver's licenses yet!). This was when we had over 6 figures in the bank. And it HURT to write that check.

Common sense would suggest that having a load of $$$ would make you free with your money, but instead (if you're smart), it makes you feel very protective of it.


How did you handle health insurance?


I'm going out on a limb here and supposing that he buys it from an insurance company. Not trying to sound snarky, but it's just not that big a deal for most people - it's a service and you buy it. Yes, it gets expensive for some people with certain conditions or over a certain age, but it's just a cost of doing business for a huge number of people.

Get a high-deductible policy ($3.5k - $10k) and your premiums for an average family could be between $300 and $600/month. (blue cross blue shield in north carolina, husband and wife in 40s and 2 teenage kids - sample quote).


Would be interesting to hear more about how the different book packages worked out. Was it worth it to make the instruction videos and interviews?


Yes, very worth it. Checkout this post: http://nathanbarry.com/behind-the-scenes/


Tank you.


If you were in the bay I'd definitely ask you to coffee / be intrigued to hear of your experiences. Congrats, that is so legit!


What about taxes and health insurance?


I will have to pay a lot in taxes this year. Still need to do them... For health insurance I have a high deductible plan that comes out to about $280 a month for my wife, son, and I. We also keep about $5k (and growing) in a medical savings account to meet the deductible.


It probably makes sense at this point to talk to an accountant (if you don't already have one). I don't know how your business structure is set up, but you may want to look into setting up an S-corp and/or a retirement plan like a solo-401k.


$280 a month? Is that maybe an employer plan that your wife is on? If not, I've got to get more agressive in my insurance shopping. We haven't gotten a quote below $1000 a month for a family of four.


That is an individual plan for myself, my wife, and our 1 year old son. We are both young (22) and have no health issues. Also it has a $5k deductible and we live in an inexpensive state (Idaho).


What did you use to make the ebooks?


iBooks Author, then exported it to a PDF. It's great software.


how much tax you paying ?


A lot. I don't know exactly how much, but it will be far more than any other year.


Wouldn't it be good to figure this out before claiming to have doubled your salary? When you have a W-2 job, your employer pays a lot of taxes that are not included in your salary. When you switch to 1099 or self-employment, you now have to pay those taxes yourself.


The employer pays 6.2% of wages up to $110,100 for Social Security and 1.45% of wages (no limit) for Medicare. It's small but known quantity.


For next year, you probably want to talk to an accountant about paying estimated taxes. If you drop 20k in taxes to the IRS at the end of the year, they're not going to be happy. In fact, you can get fines for doing that.


These are the problems you want to have.


Thanks for sharing this, Nathan. I co-own a web development agency and share your consternation about accounts receivable. Our strategy has actually been to vet clients much more carefully and (as the agency has grown) to begin limiting the clients we take to larger, stable organizations where the accounting department and the product owner we're working are not the same person (so that a discussion about payment does not become a discussion about project status and vice versa).

Overall, congratulations on your success.


Congratulations Nathan. I've been a customer since 'The App Design Handbook' - and have never had an ounce of buyers remorse. I wish you all the best going forward.

I do have one question regarding consultancy though - how did you crack this one? How did you make the transition from web designer to consulting for clients and what does 'consulting' entail? (thanks to Swannie for providing a nice outline initially)

Thanks again for the transparency and inspiration Nathan.


Congratulations Nathan, it seems like the past year has been even better than you could have imagined.

I thought the write-up was great. There is something about your writing that comes across as humble and thankful for what you have, which is pretty refreshing seeing so many blog posts come across as a little too "know it all".


Hi Nathan, Congrats on the amazing achievement. Being in a similar situation as you, I'm curious as to how you and your wife divide finances. What does she do? I am mobile and me and my fiancé want to travel long term but I'm wondering on how to handle the money issue because she can't have a job on the go, and I don't mind bearing the expenses but are there any pro tips that can help me avoid money issues?

Like could we work on a plan for her to help with my apps, etc. ? How do you guys do it ? Great family btw :)


What do you do for health insurance? I'd love to be self-employed, but I have to take care of health expenses for my family, and they require health insurance.


This is one of the reasons why I'm an advocate of good public universal health care. Too bad it's not available everywhere. But this is a discussion for another thread/post.


I have a high deductible plan for $280/month. I live in an inexpensive area (Boise, Idaho) and my wife and I are both young (22) so it is cheap. We also keep at least $5k in a medical savings account.


Here's an interesting article about how one family deals with the issue: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/11/01/our-new-237-per-mo...


Your great success is very encouraging! I'm not sure if I could write a book, but the results from consulting and programming are very impressive for a first attempt.

I'm in the middle of making the jump myself, and am currently paying that $4000/mo for our family of two. Did you simply save up enough to live on that for a few months to make more of it? How did that work?

Thanks for the inspiration and congratulations again on your successful year!


Congratulations! Not only are those excellent numbers but the fact that you were able to do more of what you wanted to is wonderful.

Quitting a job isn't for everyone — no matter what anyone says, it requires tremendous discipline and focus so props to you for pulling it off. The key thing you are doing here, something that will hold you in good stead in the future, too, is the diversification of income sources.

Once again, congratulations!


Congratulations! Being solo myself, I find that your posts are all very inspiring, although my story has been much less successful.


Would be great to hear more less successful stories i.e. first freelance making less than the previous job.

It's tricky - and my first year isn't over yet, but not living in a concentrated tech city has made it difficult. Have been considering moving to a bigger city. I prefer working in teams, which is also an issue as most freelancers seem to prefer to work solo.


At the age of 22 if he can manage to do all of this (including great looking family). I am in awe. This man is definitely gifted.


You have inspired me to start writing 1000 words per day. While I'm typically satisfied with my finished written product, the process of writing usually isn't enjoyable for me. Hopefully, I will find a love for the craft of writing with this challenge. Thanks for sharing!


Do you write and edit at the same time? I found that separating the two tasks made it much less painful.


Not a bad suggestion! I'll give it a try.


Thanks! Let us know how it goes.


+1

I always have the same feeling.


Nathan, Great inspiration you are. I've read your thinktraffic posts and always enjoy. You have many great things to say.

Concentrate has helped me save thousands of hours. http://www.getconcentrating.com/

Keep up the hard work, and stay writing.


Good job Nathan, following the right path to being a successful solopreneur.

Do you use a publisher for your books and/or do marketing yourself to sell them?

Also, you should have visited Glasgow instead of Edinburgh, we are a much friendlier place :-P


All self published and marketed on my own.

Next time I'll visit Glasgow. :)


Congratulations, I've read your other posts and always impressed by your concise way of describing the processes you are undertaking.

One thing troubles me though, why did you goto Swansea on your UK trip of all places!?


A friend grew up there. Also, have you been to the Gower Peninsula? It's beatiful!


I was born in Cardiff but strangely never been to Swansea, currently consigned to the grey skies of London though!


Great work landing on your feet and got it going great. It's very impressive to do it for the first year, even more so for doubling over your old salary in the first year. Keep it up.


Nathan, congrats. You seem incredibly focused (even though you said that focus was an issue). What is your workflow process like? In other words, how do you seem to get so much done? :)


Love this article - your transparency is commendable. Thanks for sharing the numbers, it's something I wish more people did.


Congrats, it's always nice to see things work out well.

Next goal is probably increasing the share of passive recurring income. :)


I would love to hear about how you wrote / published the eBooks and launched and marketed them.


Well done Nathan. Hope you continue to do well. And thanks for sharing.


Congrats Nathan - really appreciate the openness & honesty :)


Congrats, brotha!


Inspirational :)



Why do you have $4000 a month in expense in Idaho??? That's like bay area expense level and a sr. anything makes like 150k...


We travel quite a bit.




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