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Lifestyle programming (successfulsoftware.net)
288 points by FollowSteph3 on Nov 6, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

Strange that this dropped off the page so quickly, I think it's an interesting post.

I'd like to add that it's quite possible to have a high growth company that does not take on institutional investment. My company is neither a Lifestyle business (I also hate that term, I think it's an awesome thing) or a VC-backed startup, but we have lots of users and are making really nice revenue.

The costs have gone down so much, that I think the reason people still think fundraising is required is because they can't afford to live or hire in SF without it, and there is a lot of pressure by successful investors for young founders to make the "big" bets.

My goal is to have an id software, 37signals, MailChimp, Atlassian, GitHub, Campaign Monitor, etc. kind of company. Now those companies are/were fucking cool. Plus, they've actually stuck around for more than a few years!

This line of thinking seems to be a small minority from those I speak with in the scene, but sums up my thinking exactly. I even get scoffed at sometimes that I am not going for the lottery-type odds endeavors solving 20-something first-world problems. To each there own, I suppose.

I'm seven years in, nice to meet a fellow "lifestyler".

I used to bring this out in people. Some things I felt were truly nasty were said. As 'yesimahuman' says, mainly by people very personally, and/or financially invested in the startup scene.

Since I’ve stopped hanging out so much IRL with startup guys, and instead with wider circle of folk, and networking more with "offline" entrepreneurs this has completely stopped happening.

Additionally using non-startup terms like "business owner" (vs say "founder") to describe myself and my company, seems to reduce the friction even when hanging out with the most agro startup guys.

Yea, it happens. But I realized it's often by people who have something to gain from you doing it, or don't have a lot of startup experience. Lawyers that make money by doing financing rounds are one example.

Let's come up with a better name. Howsabout "I built and maintain a personal freedom machine" or maybe "this is an FU business" or perhaps "I am a small business supported craftsman" or maybe just tell the truth proudly "I built and run my own small business".

How about calling it what it is? "Self-employment" is exactly what he's doing, we need no other name for it.

Lifestyle business, micropreneur, microisv, indie. None of them are great terms. I am still waiting for someone to come up with a better term for what I do.

I've always been fond of the label "living the dream."

Sounds completely unobtainable. Lifestyle at least sounds like a choice that a person could make, and have control over.

It's very subjective, but I find that what is described in the article is pretty much my dream. Of course, I'm not living it, so by that that standard it has so far remained "unobtainable".

Most of the people I know who use that phrase are being somewhat sarcastic. Most notably the helicopter pilot from Germany I knew who was getting paid absolute shit because until you make a certain number of flight hours, your options are extremely limited and you have to take a second job to make ends meet. Every time I said, "What's up?", he said "Living the dream, man!" then proceed to complain about all the shit he has to put up with. He loves flying, but the "dream" is anything but.

Poe's law strikes again!

You're a hacker, challenging the norms of what it means to start and grow a business. If software is eating the world, it's surely eating the capital requirements to starting software companies.

I quite like 'business hacker'. But 'hacker' comes with lots of other baggage (including the inevitable confusion with 'cracker').

I don't think there is a perfect term, but indieveloper sounds neat.

I like micro-isv. Still have a few of the t-shirts you used to sell.

They were a one-off Xmas charity special. I only sold about 100, so they are very exclusive! ;0)

"Self-employed" is the traditional term in the UK.

For those interested in this path, it's worth checking out Rob Walling's book "Start Small, Stay Small: A Developer's Guide to Launching a Startup."

I found this book especially insightful.

Ditto, great book. Rob's blog is also full of interesting stuff. (softwarebyrob.com)

and the podcast startupsfortherestofus.com

FollowSteph3 reminds me a little of Mike from the podcast. While Rob Walling realizes he needs to hire freelancers etc. in order to sustain the business and make it work in a reasonable time frame, Mike took a few solid years to bring in other people. He wanted to do it all by itself. I've been listening to the podcast for a few years and you can see how Rob built one solid business and just launched another one in the same time frame Mike barely did one.

Nice write up.

I wonder if this is something that's more common with certain life circumstances.

For example... I'm married and have 2 kids. I had a corporate job for the first 10 years of my marriage. I traveled a ton and completely missed out on their lives. When I changed jobs, it was a bit of a shock for all of us.

Now, we recognize that it's not what we want anymore. I work for a small software company that is ridiculously low-stress, but even now I wish I could spend more time with my family and be a little more free to take off and go camping with the kids if we felt like it.

AMEN: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” ― Bob Dylan

Totally agree - it's a great lifestyle. +1: It works for me too - have been doing it for 7 years now.

Could you share a bit more information about how well it works for you ? Are you making an income comparable with a 'decent' corporate job (eg. 100K + a year) ?

"But really, how much money do you need? Is money going to make you happy? How many meals can you eat in a day? How many cars can you drive?"

House and decent education for kids is a major expense.

Most families manage with combined incomes less than senior software engineers. How big does the house need to be?

Yes and in the USA a lot of them are one medical emergency away from bankruptcy.

Their kids typically don't get a decent education. Give me a location in a developed capital and a price bracket.

Get yourself a proper country.

Depending on your country, the price of education might not be much of a concern :)

Are there places where "birds of a feather" congregate? Forums, lists, etc? I'm excited to tap the wisdom of others as I get my business off the ground.

You might also check out this site (like HN, but more focused in this area):


Two free forums populated mainly by people bootstrapping their own businesses:

http://discuss.bootstrapped.fm/ http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/?biz

The bootstrapped.fm link makes me wonder what other wonderful sites the HN population visits, but that I have no clue about.

Snap. I've been looking into doing something like this for the past few months, and this is the first of heard of this and lifestyle.io. Guess I wasn't looking hard enough :)

The author of the original article was a guest on the bootsrapped.fm podcast - great episode.

Used to be Joel on Software forums, but it's basically dead these days.

A tragedy, actually.

There's the dynamite circle (http://www.dynamitecircle.com), but they're less about programming and software and more about internet marketing and blogging. Also, more emphasis on baselining your expenses via traveling / living in southeast asia.

So true. Reading posts like these makes me believe more and more what I decided to do by leaving a full time job and working for myself and what makes me happy the right decision.

I have only just started and am about to release my first startup so I'm not at that level yet. I'm hoping to get there someday though.

Wow, there are other people like me? I've been doing this for ten years full time. We should all get together or something. Maybe help each other out. I'll be making a move to a different type of programming or going back into the work force because my software is pirated so much these days.

Bootstrapped / friends and family only funded companies are the majority. You just don't hear about them much because they don't make for good headlines.

Working from home my employer's work has been drying up and I've been bouncing between building my own software or getting a "real job"... Your article (and software) has inspired me to do my own thing.

At least until the next article convinces me to learn more under someone else's time ;)

I also like this idea but it just seems difficult to get the business started and making enough money to compensate yourself. Just to be sure, I don't mean working from home for elance comes under lifestyle business.

Don't set the bar too high at first. Just aim to make "some money, greater than zero". If it's money you no longer actively have to work for, then congrats, you've got an income stream!

Do it again, and again, and you'll find that 1. You're getting closer to supporting yourself from it 2. You get a better idea of how to do it again, faster, cheaper

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But it is achievable. Especially if you put enough effort into the business/marketing side.

All the power to you brother.

Do you miss the human interaction one gets at the office?

Not really. When I work, I work. And I get to spend a lot more time with my family than I would otherwise. I have plenty of interaction with customers via email, skype etc. Also I hang out online with other entrepreneurs, who are generally very helpful and supportive. Its not quite the same as face-to-face interaction. And I guess I don't meet as many new people as I would working in an office. But I don't have to put up with people I don't like and I certainly don't miss office politics!

If you are very extrovert, it might not be for you. But how many extrovert programmers do you know? ;0)

What's utterly missing in the current environment is an avenue for the mid-risk/mid-growth businesses to get financing. Low-risk/low-growth companies can get bank loans, and high-risk companies have VC, but nothing's in the middle.

Something that reliably grows 25% per year isn't slow, ineffective, or useless. Most people would be thrilled to see 25% annual income growth (or even 10%). It is, after all, exponential growth. But that's a space that no one will finance. These companies are too risky for bank loans or personal funds (for most people) but VCs aren't interested in 20-40 percent per year. What I'd like to see out of the crowdfunding trend is a viable method of financing the mid-growth/mid-risk space.

This space is a natural fit for top programmers, most of whom succeed by continuously growing their capability (measured in value-add potential) by 20 to 40 percent per year-- not being goofy and trendy and hoping to be noticed by Sequoia or TechCrunch, which will probably never happen.

Here are some earlier thoughts I had on this issue: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/gervais-macle...

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