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- Introduction (0:00)
- How Florin made $22k in one month (01:05)
- Why Florin shares his revenue with us (01:52)
- How Florin plans to make $100K (03:12)
- A full-time job is still the best way to make money as a developer (06:41)
- How to build your own projects that make moolah (08:41)
- What skills and resources do you need to code a digital product?(12:06)
- If you build it will they come? (15:47)
- "If it's perfect when you launch it you launched too late" (19:39)
- Even if you fail, starting a business will make you a more empathetic employee (21:23)
- Is Florin scared of competition? (22:41)
- Why Florin has no regrets about his approach (25:24)
- How to choose a technology stack for your products (28:21)
- Not invented here syndrome (31:09)
- Building on the shoulders of giants (31:14)
- Follow Florin Pop on Twitter 👋
- Follow Alex from Scrimba on Twitter 👋
- Subscribe to Florin on YouTube
- Follow Florin on Twitch
- Ten++ Ways to Make Money as a Developer ($)
- Florin's income support breaking down how he made $22K in August 2021
Hello, coders. And welcome to the Scrimba Podcast. On this weekly show, I speak with successful developers about their advice on learning to code and getting your first junior developer job. Today, I'm joined by Florin Pop. Florin is an acclaimed course creator and the author of Ten++ Ways to Make Money as a Developer. It's a great book in which Florin outlines the different ways you can make money if you can code, from working a full-time job to freelancing, even creating digital products, like courses, apps, and even subscription-based software.
Florin Pop (00:37):
I started creating content for free. And then when I saw a need in the market, I created a digital product, my book, and then the course. And the next thing will be a SaaS, eventually.
There are no shortcuts. It all takes hard work. In this episode, Florin is going to give you some inspiring ideas you may not have considered. And in many of these cases, Florin actually has done these things and can give you a headstart based on his experience. Let's get into it.
On your website, I read that you made $20,000 from various projects in the month of August. How is that possible?
Florin Pop (01:15):
That revenue is from pretty much everything I'm doing for the past two years. I started with my blog. Then I moved to create the YouTube channel. Then I created a course with Brad Traversy. And I also wrote a book. So those are pretty much my biggest sources of income, my YouTube channel, the course and the book. And then recently I started a challenge of streaming my journey to building projects as an indie hacker and trying to monetize them. And this is also part of the income for the past month.
I think it's exciting that the book you wrote, Ten++ Ways to Make Money as a Developer, you're then actually doing the things you wrote about, and then writing transparently about the sort of revenue you're making, and streaming as you build the things. Why do you feel like you want to be transparent about these things? I think a lot of business people tend to want to keep it a secret.
Florin Pop (02:11):
The reason why I decided to be transparent is to inspire others. Because I also was inspired, seeing numbers and seeing the journey of others, reading about their story, reading about how they did what they did. And for me, it's just natural. I can't really imagine myself doing it otherwise, not being transparent. It's just part of my life. I pretty much share everything I'm doing, I don't know my weight loss journey, my blog, my YouTube channel, my challenges. And another reason is the fact that they keep me accountable for what I'm doing. If I say that I'm going to run a half marathon, I'm going to do it because I said that I'm going to do it. Those are the main reasons why I'm doing it. And also there's the benefit of growing my audience along the way, because people get inspired by what I'm doing and they follow along. And some of them might even become customers of my products.
So you have a few existing projects. You have some Udemy courses, your book, you've been monetizing your YouTube channel as well. You've had some huge success on YouTube, man. It looks like the algorithm has picked up some of your more popular videos, like 10 Projects in 10 Hours. It's got over a million views for sure. So you've got a few different sources of income that might perform a little bit different every month. But because you've diversified, it sounds like you're always not only having a decent month, but as you try new projects, you might create a new revenue source. And that sounds like what this Zero to 100K project is all about.
Florin Pop (03:45):
Yes, that's true. Besides my passion for programming and my passion for teaching and inspiring others, I also am passionate about the business side of things and the finances, I could say. I really like to study the ways to manage your money, to invest and eventually end up making more money so you can invest more. And what I've learned along the way is that it's very wise to have multiple sources of income and not just rely on one source. Because if that source crashes, then you are in a bad situation. And you want to avoid that. Especially when things are going well, thinking about having multiple sources. Even though, if you're like me, building multiple stuff, you can't really work on one project, give it all you have because you're running after multiple bunnies.
Florin Pop (04:39):
But at the same time, if you only focus on one niche and then that happens to fall because, I don't know, most people have a job, and as it happened last year with COVID, some people lost their job and it was very tough to get back up. And not only that, but people who rely on one source of income, and when that source of income goes away, you are forced to take whatever comes your way. And that whatever comes your way might not be the best opportunity you might get. And that's why it's risky to rely on one source. Since I started learning about this, it was years ago, my goal, even though it wasn't very obvious, maybe it wasn't even obvious for me. But subconsciously my goal was to create different sources of income and just diversify. And eventually, once you have multiple sources of income, you can focus down on one and make that, I don't know, boom it to the moon.
Florin Pop (05:39):
Although with my challenge right now, the Zero to 100K Challenge, my goal is still to build as many tiny projects as possible and have them on autopilot. So, bring them to a state where I don't have to work too much on them, but they still bring in some money. And who knows, maybe I can sell some of those along the way. That's my goal. We'll see how it goes. I'm still learning. This is why I made it public as well, and doing everything during streams, because I'm also learning along the way. I'm building projects, I'm brainstorming ideas, building them, figuring out ways to monetize them. So, I do pretty much everything.
Yeah. Having multiple income sources is probably synonymous with freedom and power over your own life. And most people only have one income source, and it's their paycheck. I read in your book, you're not really against full-time work necessarily. For some people it's a great decision actually, because it comes with a lot of security and benefits.
Florin Pop (06:41):
People often forget that we are different. And what might work for someone, might not work for someone else. I've learned this, very interestingly, because I was in my job three years ago. And my project manager, he was such a great developer, he could code anything and he was great at architecture stuff, and even stuff I don't know now to do. He was like probably the best developer I know out there. And I was thinking like, "You are such a good developer. You could make so much more if you go on your own road. Why don't you do that? I mean, of course, I guess you have a great salary and you're living a good life. But you could make so much more." And he replied that, for him, it was more important to go to the job at nine, get home at five, and that's all. He didn't want to spend more time working besides his job. Back then his wife just gave birth to their daughter and he wanted to spend time with the family. And he was okay. He had stability. He had some money saved up.
Florin Pop (07:49):
And I appreciate that. I mean, sure. It can work for some people. I'm not against anything, to be honest. I just want people to do what works best for them. For some people that could be freelancing. For others, it could be a job. For others, doing a bunch of projects. For others, it might be YouTube. It's just a matter of trying out things and seeing what works best for you. Because we are not the same, and what might work for me doesn't work for you. Just do whatever you want to do.
Maybe at best you'd look at somebody for inspiration, but you think critically about what parts of their lifestyle or their goals you want to adapt. I think we all saw this trend of videos on YouTube like, Elon Musk's crazy 05:00 AM productivity routine. I mean, many people tried it and found they couldn't wake up early, for example, because they are genetically dispositioned to be night owls. That's a thing apparently.
Let's talk a little bit about how people can maybe start building their own products. Do you think that they could maybe start building products on day zero without any income and just hope for the best? Or would you advise for somebody maybe finds a stable, of course, it might depend on their circumstance, but generally speaking, they might find a full-time job and then start to build side projects whilst they work full time?
Florin Pop (09:04):
Put safety first. Obviously, all of us need money to survive. It might be coming from a job or maybe, I don't know, you live with your parents and then you are secured that way. But if you don't, and especially if you have a family, it's perfectly okay to look after having a job first. What I did was, while having a job, we saved up money to have for six months of expenses. So basically first thing was to track all of our expenses. Every little one of them, even if I were buying, I don't know, a piece of gum. We were noting it down in a mobile app. After a year, we knew exactly how much money we spent. That includes vacation and gas and rent and whatever expenses we had back then. And by we, I mean me and my wife.
Florin Pop (09:50):
Once we knew what was the amount we needed in a month, we started to set aside the amount for our six months savings. It's kind of a backup plan. And only after that, I quit my job and started my new career, so to say, as a content creator, blogging, and YouTube and all that. And this allowed me to try things out for six months. And if it didn't work out, well, then I could go back to having a job most likely because it was in demand back then. I was a ReactJS developer and I was getting a job offer every now and then. So that wasn't the problem, but I still wanted to have safety first.
Florin Pop (10:36):
I don't know, maybe if I wasn't married, maybe I wouldn't need that much money and I could start sooner to build my projects. I see this happening with a lot of indie hackers who are younger like, I don't know, 20 years or something. But once you're married and especially if you have kids, it's not just about you, it's about the family as well and you need to consider that. Do what's best for you. But my advice will be to figure out a way to have safety. It might not work out. I mean, it could work out, but it might just need more time than three months, six months or a year. So just make sure that you plan for that period as well.
If you are enjoying this episode of the Scrimba Podcast. Please do us at Scrimba a favor and share it with your friends on social media. Word of mouth is the single best way to support a podcast that you like. So thanks in advance. Next week, I'm going to be speaking with a new developer who just got their first job. I love these episodes. I think it's important that we listen to experts like Florin, as well as people who are really just a few weeks or months ahead of yourself. I promise to dig into exactly how they trained, how they prepared for the interview and what specifically happened during the job process, so you can learn from it and find success as well. Remember to subscribe to the Scrimba Podcast in your app of choice, so you see it in your feed.
What kind of skills do you need to start your own digital product or SaaS Business? Do you have to be a great coder? Do you have to be a great business person?
Florin Pop (12:15):
Which product was that, Florin?
Florin Pop (12:42):
It was The Weekly Deals website. Tech wise, it's very simple. It's just a website with some images on it and some links. It was more about the marketing side where, well, of course I had my audience, I had that in my tool belt. But you can build an audience by being transparent. It might take some time. For me it took two years to get to 100,000 followers on Twitter. But you can do that. And then you have the audience which can validate the project you're building. Of course, if you don't have an audience, you can go down another path of being part of a community and figuring out a need that community has, or some problem they have, and try to solve that problem.
Florin Pop (13:26):
What I've noticed in the programming world is that, as developers, we tend to overthink everything. Even when I create an MVP for a project, I kind of get through it, but I still see people in the chat be like, "Oh, and are you going to write tests? And are you going to add this feature and this feature? And are you going to design it this way and this way?" And I'm like, "No. I just want to get it out in the public. I want to get feedback and to see if the minimum viable product is enough for it to make money. And only then, I'm going to double down on it and add more features to it." There are so many examples of small projects who just started out, like Product Hunt, if I'm not mistaken, they started out as a newsletter. And right now, they're this big platform with tons of features and they probably get hundreds of thousands of visitors and all of that. But they started out as newsletter.
Florin Pop (14:25):
I think what developers need to do, especially if you want to go down this path, is to develop your kind of business side of things, like the marketing side, and to be able to figure out what will be the minimum features your product needs to have in order to validate the project, and not go all in and work years on the project which might not even be successful. That's a mistake I wouldn't advise anyone to do. Build a small project. Try it out. Send it out to your friends, to your mom, ask for feedback, see if they would pay. And if they would, then double down on it. Maybe even invest some money for ads. Once it makes money, you can hire someone and you can build more features. But don't go all in for months and months without feedback. That's probably a big mistake.
In my experience, building it is the easy part. If you want to code something, I don't mean to trivialize it, it takes a lot of skill. But compared to then putting it into the hands of potential customers and having them pay for it, sometimes it's more comfortable to do the thing you know, which is to just keep adding features and you reason, oh, just one more feature and it's going to take off. But you need to think about the market and how you're going to reach developers or wherever your target customer might be. Your approach, I think, has always been to bring value to people such that you build an audience. And then because you've given away so much free content, you've earned so much good faith, people are then at least interested in what you have to build. What would you say to someone who perhaps doesn't have an audience today?
Florin Pop (16:00):
I've been on Twitter for two years, and I saw multiple people growing their audience. Well, besides me. I also did it. But what I noticed we all had in common was, we provided value, which is, I don't know, a helpful tweet, an inspiring tweet, an engaging tweet, something which people can relate with. And this way we built an audience. I don't know exactly why I picked Twitter. I think I gave it a try and I stuck with it because it worked. But it can be something else. Maybe your audience is on a Subreddit; maybe your audience is in a Facebook group; maybe your audience is on LinkedIn. The projects I build nowadays are solving my need first. For example, I want to develop a daily writing habit, so one of the projects I'm working now is exactly that, a tool which will help me develop a daily writing habit on Twitter. It will save my threads, it will tell me, good job, you've been writing daily for five days, you've been writing 1,523 words. And this is a leaderboard of other people who are also writing daily, and creating a community around it.
Florin Pop (17:14):
This is something I've seen that works, building something for yourself first. And then everyone, I think, is part of a community or at least should be a part of a community of like-minded people. And when you are inside of a community, you'll see people asking questions or people struggling with certain things. And over time, you'll develop an eye for ideas. Just give them a try. Again, it should be best to figure out what are the most required features. People get stuck in adding features, which are nice. They give more value to the project, but they are not the most important feature. And here, I'm talking about people being divided on which framework to use, which library, how to use it. And at the end of the day, the user won't care if you're using React or Vue or PHP on the backend or Node. They won't care. They want to use the app and solve their problem. People want to save money, save time, be entertained maybe. Then you can make money. That's pretty much how I've seen it work.
Can I say something? Scrimba didn't even have a password recovery button, maybe a few months ago.
Florin Pop (18:30):
See. Yeah. This is what I'm talking about. Still, it's doing great. As I said, this is what I've seen people do, especially developers. They over-complicate things. They think that they need to have all these features because they saw, I don't know, this big app having all of them. But you don't. You need to focus on the most important features and just launch it.
Florin Pop (18:52):
And the good thing about this, and also with digital products like an ebook and a course, the good thing about them is that you can change it. If you write a book and you push it out and people buy it and complain. All right. Thank them for the feedback, give their money back, if you have the refund policy. You should, by the way. Give their money back, take the feedback and edit the book. I mean, it's just a digital book. You can edit it. And then new people who buy it, they get more value and they get the best version of the book. Or the course, you can add more videos, you can do so much things. It doesn't have to be perfect when you launch. It will never be perfect. That's one thing. It will never be perfect. You will always find things to add. But, if you don't launch, you don't know if it works or not.
And if it is perfect, when you launch it, you probably launched it way too late, for one thing.
Florin Pop (19:43):
Exactly. There was a saying that, if you're not embarrassed by your launch, you launched too late.
I think that the same thing could probably be applied to portfolio websites and resumes, to anybody listening who might be looking for a job. For one reason or another, we as developers tend to want things to be perfect and overthink. And I just want to point out your great advice to scratch your own itch. It's also an unfair advantage. If you've experienced the problem, you're in a great position to solve it.
My favorite example ever is the founder of a company called Spanx. I think her name is Sarah Blakely. And Spanx is like some leggings or underwear or something for women. And she wanted to, I think she had some tights and she started cutting them and sewing them to make them work a certain way because they didn't fit her body or do what they wanted them to do. And then she turned that into Spanx, which is a huge business. That is not my itch. I could never have come up with that solution. But maybe I could have identified a problem as a developer or as a person learning to code or somebody trying to find a job as a developer. Or if I am maybe starting a product as a developer, I might be like, "Damn. It's so hard to find people to use my product. What if I made a website like Weeklydeals.dev, where I can list my product and then people can maybe find it. Yeah. I'm going to build that."
Florin Pop (20:58):
Exactly. That's the way I approach things now. When it comes to the indie hacker road, I'm still in the beginning. I have like three months or so. But it's very exciting because you get to work on products. You get to also learn new skills of marketing and selling and talking with people. And it's great. I advise people to give it a try. Who knows what you can come up with?
Yeah. And if you're learning to code. I think a lot of people give themselves a timeline, maybe six months, eight months, whatever it might be. And they will start to build side projects. I don't see the harm in trying to build something you could potentially monetize. And then, even if you fail, that's an awesome project for your portfolio, it's an amazing thing to discuss in a job interview. And frankly, every person who hires a developer, or hiring for a business, only thinking about code isn't going to get you the furthest. For example, if you're very dogmatic about every solution, you want it to be perfect for the code base, but maybe you should really want it to be perfect for the customer, and it's readily available or more flexible in the future or something like that. By building your own product, you get a bit of exposure to the difficulty that is putting your product out there. And that gives you empathy and perhaps would make you a better team player when you join a company.
Florin Pop (22:14):
Yes. I think that developers should also keep an eye open on what happens on the business side of their job. All right, they have to build these features for the projects. But why are they building this project? Who are the customers? What do those customers need? And by doing that, you can develop this skill of building useful projects and solving the exact problem that users have.
How do you feel about competition in the market, Florin? I mean, it's 2021. A lot of ideas have been had before.
Florin Pop (22:48):
So far, I don't know if I paid much attention to it. I know that it's out there and it might be a pain to deal with. But the way I see competition is like going for a run with someone, going for a run with someone who's at the same level, but maybe a bit better. You want to become better yourself, so you can beat them. It's just a matter of keeping you on your toes and keeping you evolving and learning and growing. It's a healthy thing, I'd say. Even when we play a game and it gets very easy, it gets boring. But if we can have a great competition, then it's more likely to be fun. Of course not always, it might be the best way. People could steal your idea and build on top of them. But that just means that you have a great idea. And you develop that eye I was talking about, to see the ideas.
Florin Pop (23:45):
So just keep doing it, and eventually you'll find something and you'll be in front and you'll keep innovating and building stuff. So it will be fine, if you keep growing. This happens even if you have a job. If you have a job as a developer and you don't learn anything, eventually you will fall off the track because technology keeps evolving. So you kind of have to keep up with the market.
Essentially, there are two categories of markers, or two problems you have to solve when you try and release a new product. The first is called "Problem-Solution Fit", which is, does anybody actually have this problem? The good news is, if you have competitors, they've kind of answered this question for you. The second step is something called Product-Market Fit, which is like, right, we know the problem exists, but do the customers want your solution more than they want your competitors? Do they actually care to pay for your solution? Honestly, doing anything, like learning to code or getting a developer job or starting a product, motivation is a huge part of it. You need to be able to show up every day for a long time. And you need to bake that into your strategy. And if you're quite new to business, and if you're doing it by yourself and you think you might get isolated, that might be a difficult route to go.
But when you can look at competitors and be inspired by them, and be influenced by them to some extent, or even recognize that there are things about their solution you could improve, because as a customer, you find them frustrating or you know there's a better way, or maybe that company's lost their way because they've become too commercialized, when you think the real value was their small community at the beginning. It gives you a lot of ideas. And it gives you some company along the way.
Florin Pop (25:24):
When I look back at my journey, I would do it the exact same way. I started creating content for free. And then, when I saw a need in the market, I created a digital product, my book, and then the course. And those did well. And the next thing will be a SaaS, eventually. Although, small projects with one-off payments are also something which can work well, they both have benefits and disadvantages. It's just a matter of figuring out what works for you. When it comes to SaaS businesses, having people paying a monthly subscription is great because you can estimate your revenue month by month. But at the same time, there's also this question of, do you like paying every month for something? And I've seen some people going from having a subscription-based to a lifetime deal option. So yeah, it's about exploring and seeing what works best.
Florin Pop (26:23):
As I said, when it comes to SaaS business, you have to provide value every month or it can just be a very great product, which is automated and provides value on its own. When it comes to digital products, you just sell a book and that's all. Then you have to find other people to sell your book to. What I've seen about digital products is that revenue can go down after a while. In my case, it went down. But now it's kind of on a steady pace. And it's not like a SaaS business, which can grow exponentially.
Florin Pop (26:57):
But at the same time, digital products can grow exponentially if it's a very good product. I've heard about a book called The Mom Test, if I'm not wrong. And what I've heard about it. I was listening to the podcast with a guy who wrote it. And he said that the book made $500 per month in the first year. And then at the time when the podcast was recorded, it was up to $20,000 per month. The same book. That was insane because what they knew up to that point about digital products is that they tend to go down after a while. But if your book is very good, then it starts to be recommended by more and more people.
Florin Pop (27:38):
And as my favorite indie hacker said once, Pieter Levels, Levels. I never can pronounce your name right. Sorry, Pieter. He said that we forget when it comes to one time payments that new people are coming into the market all the time. People are turning 18 all the time. And you just have new people coming into the industry. So it's not like, all right, I sold my book to a billion people and then done, I don't have an audience to sell to. Yes, you do because new people are learning programming, for example, every day. And new people are turning 18, as I said, and they want to get into the market. So you still have an audience to sell to.
When you build a product, how do you pick what technologies to use?
Florin Pop (28:26):
I usually pick the technologies I'm most familiar with. As I said previously, most of the times I don't want to spend extra time learning new technologies. My goal for this challenge, Zero to 100K is to develop a style and a set of tools, like learn a set of tools, which can help me get an MVP running very fast. So for example, usually I get new ideas when I'm running, when I'm not on my computer. And what I want to be able to do one day is to get the idea and build it as fast as possible in order to be able to test it as fast as possible and see if it has value or not. And for that, I kind of have my tools right now. I'm using NextJS with Tailwind CSS, for styling. I picked up Superbase recently, and I really like it.
Florin Pop (29:16):
I'm still kind of learning more about the payment processing part. And I'm still figuring out which players should I pick. There are a couple of players in this payment processing game. And once I'm ready, and once I have that tool belt of all these technologies, I was even thinking of building some sort of a template, which I can use to quickly push out new products and new ideas. Building a successful project is mostly about the marketing side, not mostly. But coding is not the most important part, but we also have to market it and sell it and validate the idea. So I want to get rid of the wondering, all right, should I use this or this, or this? No, I'm just going to use the tools I'm already good at and I already know. And I'm going to focus more on the skills I need to market it and sell it and tell people about it.
So you're being quite disciplined in picking a tool belt and sticking with it. You're kind of describing a boiler plate, right? There's a lot of stuff that exists for every app, like logging in, authentication, or taking a payment. You don't need to reinvent the wheel every time you start a prototype. You're probably at a point now where you can notice the patterns and abstract that into a boiler plate. That sounds really cool.
Florin Pop (30:37):
That's the goal. So the goal is to get the project up and running as fast as possible and validate the idea. And then I can double down on building extra features. There is one case where you want to build a side project because you want to learn a new tool as well, a new technology. And that's valid as well. But I'm sure that as soon as the project grows, you'll be kind of tempted to go back to the technologies you're most familiar with because you want to build the features fast.
Have you heard of not invented here syndrome?
Florin Pop (31:12):
No, I haven't.
It's like this idea that developers want to build their own solution instead of using one that already exists. So you might be tempted to write your own payment processing code instead of using Stripe, for example. Or to use your own database or real-time [inaudible 00:31:29] instead of using Superbase. But then sometimes when you use third party tools like Stripe, and I think Superbase is an alternatives to Firebase. Then Firebase, you have to pay for it. Tools like Auth0 for authentication, you have to pay for it. What's your opinion on sometimes paying for services that will kind of let you build more quickly.
Florin Pop (31:50):
I wasn't required to pay for something so far. But I have no problem. For me, time is one of the most important resources we have. And money comes and goes. So I'm happily paying for tools and for pretty much everything, which helps me save time. This is why, for example, I'm hiring coaches for teaching me about finances and all sorts of things, because I don't want to spend years and years trying things on my own. But I would rather talk with someone who's been doing it for years and get to pick their brains about stuff I'm interested in. Of course, I'm going to do my own research and I'm going to learn stuff. But I saw that working with coaches and people, it's much faster. So yeah, I would happily pay for anything which will save me time.
Florin, thank you so much for coming on the Scrimba Podcast.
Florin Pop (32:44):
Thank you for having me. It was very nice.
That was the awesome of Florin Pop, talking about his book Ten++ Ways to Make Money as a Developer. I've linked the book in the show notes, as well as Florin's Twitter account, where he fosters a sense of community among his 110,000 followers. This episode was edited by Jan Osinovic. And I'm your host, Alex Booker. You can follow me on Twitter @bookercodes, where I share highlights from the podcast and other news by Scrimba. See you next week.