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54 Comments

From unemployed to $2.5k/m - AMA!

Hey folks,

I run No CS Degree, a blog showing success stories from people who have learned to code without college.

Before that I was unemployed after I quit a dangerous job in a bookies.

I've mostly focused on the newsletter so far but I've recently started a podcast and I'm on the cusp of starting a YouTube channel too.

AMA!

  1. 4

    You've been tweeting lately about burnout, I hope you're okay.

    What's the best and worst thing about being an indie hacker?

    1. 6

      thanks mate! Feel better after some time off and I think I'll cut down on screen time.

      Best - autonomy

      Worst - no team mates

      1. 2

        Agree, no teammates makes it really hard sometimes. I wonder if this is a problem that can be solved.

        1. 1

          Sorry if it sounds dumb - but what about hiring VA's, or finding Partners / Co-Founders?

          1. 1

            It's not dumb, because I'm biased in the way I do things anyway. No personal experience in both; take my opinions with a grain of salt.

            Having co-founders helps a lot if the co-founders are good people (ex. ethical) and can work well with you (ex. compatible).

            VAs have very different incentives than you, the owner of the business, so in general, you will still be on your own when the time gets tough.

  2. 3

    how long was the progress from $0 to $2.5k/m?

    1. 3

      About six months although I've also had some lower months since then.

  3. 2

    Great work! One question: how consistent and sustainable do you feel this revenue is, given it’s ad/sponsor based? Have you considered subscription content as well?

  4. 1

    Great to read this Pete. Long may it continue.

  5. 1

    Hey Pete

    Congrats on your success. Even though I am not a developer, with my little experience I had, I started mentoring a lad whom he reached out through one of my contacts asking what he need to learn in tech first, Python, PHP etc/Frontend/Backend like that..

    I gave him a pretty basic idea of how stuff works & shared with him some resources. But day before yesterday I shared your site & after half an hour, while talking on phone he told me he completed reading 2 blogs & how much it encouraged him to follow the path.

    Well, you might be hearing many stories the same way, but just wanted to share how much the blog contributed to a young boy's dreams on his tech journeys ahead.

    All the best, will reach out for some ad spaces for some tech clients. 😊

    1. 1

      ah, thanks a lot! That's great to hear :)

      You can get some ads here or message me on Twitter

  6. 1

    Congrats :) I really like the website and great idea. Especially for all the people struggling to understand if it's too late to start.

    I am sure your podcast will also be successful!

    Just a few ideas:

    1. Creating a table rank of the most used resources that the people used to study coding.

    2. Adding categories, for the different coding languages for example.

    Besides this, your website looks very good :)

  7. 1

    I'm late to the party but who's your audience ? I know they are people who want to learn how to code. But what do they do for a living ?

    1. 1

      hmmm, I dunno! Some of my audience are also devs that just like the stories

  8. 1

    Congrats on the success! How do you make money? If you’re doing a paid newsletter, was it hard to start from free to charging your customers?

    1. 1

      The newsletter is free but companies sponsor it and articles on the blog :)

      1. 1

        oh that's awesome! When you say companies sponsor it do you mean by ads placed by these companies? I'm assuming it's like learn to code companies and maybe coding bootcamps?

        1. 2

          so bootcamps sponsor the articles and a lot range of indie hackers sponsor the newsletter :)

          1. 1

            sorry if you can answer one more question! Do you use any software to handle article subscriptions and so forth? I'm thinking of starting a blog as well but not sure whats the best tech stack/tools to use since I'm more of a mobile dev. What did you use to build out your website?

          2. 1

            Sweet! As a bootcamp grad this is very awesome and something I wish existed when I was starting out as well :) thanks for your answers

  9. 1

    Did you ever consider bringing a co-founder/co-boostrapper on?

    1. 1

      Nope - most people I admire are solo founders and I like autonomy/hate meetings

  10. 1

    The truth is not that the higher level of studies is not necessary but many times when one sets out to learn something it can be something amazing.

  11. 1

    Hi Pete,
    Thanks for doing this!

    1. How long did it take to break 1k/month?
    2. Was the growth exponential?
    3. Any fears while you were going through it all? (like, I'm not going to be able to monetize this, stuff like that)
    1. 2

      No probs :)

      1. I believe it was 4 months
      2. No
      3. Yes, lots but I had saved up a lot and I gave myself 6 months to get over $1k/m which I managed in 4 months. I also felt like unlike lots of people e.g. devs I didn't have a lot to lose money-wise.
  12. 1

    Hi Pete!

    Thanks for doing this.

    I recently quit my job to put 100% focus on my own project. I have sufficient savings but losing >50% of the monthly household income was a leap of faith for my wife as we have kids and a mortgage.

    I have 2 questions:

    1. How did you manage any stresses/fears from giving up your income for those first 6 months? I have zero fears that i will find a way to make this work, but with a small family and a mortgage there are moments of 'wtf did i just do' that pop up each day.

    2. How did you maintain focus and motivation? I find myself 'procrasti-working' when i know I have more important tasks to complete to ship my pared down MVP. 'Ooooo this would be a great feature I am sure someone will use, even though i didn't add it to my MVP checklist I'll just spend a few minutes coding it ....why did i spend 6 hours on this???".

    Bonus Question 😃 : Also, I thought I'd have 100% more energy and motivation once i left my 9-5, but the opposite seems to be the case. Did you run into this when you first left your job? I was super burnt out after 5+ years at my previous job as a agency web dev, and still feel that way even though I have the opportunity to work FT on my own project. I know i SHOULD probably take some time to just stop coding and decompress, but without the income (even though the safety net of saving s is there), I feel like i don't have the time/right to stop before I make my first $1. Did you run into any of this self-imposed (possibly unhealthy) urgency?

    I have so many more questions as my goal for my MVP is similar to what you seem to be doing on No CS Degree, but in the travel space: interviews, newsletter, podcast, blog. And I hope to get advertisers to earn recurring monthly revenue. In my previous 'life' I was in sales, so cold-calling, cold-emailing, talking to people doesn't bother me, but 10 years behind the screen means i'll have to dust off those skills.

    Thanks again for doing this! I loved listening to your podcast with @csallen. I also taught myself to code. In doing so, I worked my way into an in-house position helping to build out a custom e-commerce platform for a local multi-million dollar pool pool company, and then transitioned into a agency web dev role. No need for a CS degree 😃

    1. 1

      I can't really give advice as I don't have a mortgage or a family! I think something like a part-time job is a good alternative than going all in unless you can make money in your first few months. See the thread today from someone who made $47 in their first year :/

      Focus is hard - I find turning off my phone helps a lot and also giving myself a reward - do your tasks and you can watch a movie later, etc. It also helps to set a timer. Some tasks that used to take me an hour take me 20 mins now with a timer and a bumping soundtrack :)

      I don't think you'll get MRR from advertisers I'm afraid. Ads are lucrative but they churn etc. I've only seen MRR work with SAAS or with subscribers, not advertising but happy to be proven wrong!

      Interviews work well on social but they aren't SEO friendly which is something to consider. Podcasts = lots more work than newsletters!

      1. 1

        Thanks for the reply @petecodes.

        Re: MRR: My longer term goal is to build out a community and try to monetize with subscription similar to how @levelsio did with Nomad List, but am thinking Interviews, Podcasts, Newsletter, articles (blog) will help pull in visitors first, then try to build them into a community. I was hoping advertisers would offset that in the early days - once there are actual traffic to the site, of course.

        I'm surprised Interviews don't work well for SEO, as my plan for them would be to publish them like here on IH and focus on the interviewee's travel experience. I figured that would be great for SEO 🤷‍♂️

        Re: Podcasts vs newsletters: I agree, and am looking to more slowly ease into producing podcasts due to time and priorities.

        Thanks again for your replies - very helpful!

        1. 1

          no probs - they don't tend to work because no-one searches for "how Sarah learned to code without a degree" etc. I've had some articles with keywords rank but not many.

          If you are going to replicate Pieter you'll note he doesn't do a blog for any of his products. Making content people search for is what I'd do next time e.g. "best cities for digital nomads hot weather" etc

  13. 1

    First of all, well done!

    From what I understand, the bulk of your revenue is from sponsors/ads. What's your average sponsor deal duration like? Do you aim for one-off ads or try to get more long-term partnerships that lasts several months etc?

    1. 2

      Cheers :)

      I always advise long a deal as you can even if that means giving a discount. For instance I just did a month of ads for about $1000 and thought was a lot less hassle than chasing 5 people for $200 each, you know?

      I also talk about it in this course - https://monetizeyournewsletter.com :)

      1. 1

        Cool thanks! Yeah I also prefer longer duration deals. Less stress :)

  14. 1

    Hey, congrats on your success. I am also planning on getting sponsors for my app. Any advice from your experience on monetization from the newsletter.

    1. 1

      sure, I'd try to align the ads with your audience. So if you have a newsletter for indie hackers, don't show them ads for how to get VC funding, you know? Don't run ads that annoy your readers - try to find people that want to reach your audience and charge 5% of your subscriber level.

      So if you have 1,000 subs you can charge $50

      My course is here if you wanna check it out https://monetizeyournewsletter.com

      1. 1

        How often is too often for a newsletter. I am planning on a daily autogenerated newsletter.

        1. 1

          It depends - some daily newsletters I unsub from. I think daily news works well but I don't think daily edition of interviews would work.

          But that's just me - some people like getting a daily email. You can always experiment.

  15. 1

    First of all Congratulations! QQ: What's your revenue model?

    1. 1

      Thanks man :)

      Mostly sponsorships - articles and newsletters

  16. 1

    Hey Pete,

    Thanks for doing this!

    You said in the IH interview that you've learned coding; will you be building your future projects with code or will you be more inclined to utilize no-code tools?

    Also, I see your interview posts are kind of long, so I wonder if it was hard to get people to actually do the interviews. How did you find the interviewees?

    1. 2

      Hey, yeah I'm making something just now in Django :)

      I usually find people to interview on twitter and/or LinkedIn.

      People are usually pretty happy to talk about their achievements, haha although maybe 50% don't complete because they are busy or it's not what they expect. If you do want to interview people it's also good to catch people early on or at the mid point of their careers when they aren't bored of doing interviews but are impressive enough for people to read about.

      1. 1

        I also use Django:)

        I know what you mean. Otherwise, it's kind of a tough sell. Some people even prefer to stay anonymous.

        Thanks for the tips!

  17. 1

    I think your main source of income is ads/sponsorships, right? How does an indie maker with a blog or a social media channel approach this? Any tips?

    1. 2

      I'd find the people who want to reach your audience and just be bold about asking them for ads. It doesn't need to be a very big audience and a niche can help. But you have to not really care and just email people a lot asking for money tbh.

      1. 1

        Haha, nice! Good advice

  18. 1

    What was your single most effective action that led to the most growth (if there is anything identifiable)?

    1. 6

      I'd say not giving a fuck

      1. 1

        Haha, cool :D But what did you decide to do in terms of not giving a fuck what you were afraid or too self-conscious or whatever when still giving a fuck?

        1. 3

          Loads of things :)

          Asking companies to sponsor my articles, interview developers, start a podcast, sell a video course on monetizing newsletters, build in public, ship lots of side projects etc

  19. 1

    Have you noticed any patterns in what the people who are able to quickly find success do? Do they go for jobs, or start their own thing?

    1. 3

      Good question! I guess it depends on "success". Developer salaries are a lot higher in the US so I've seen people get to six figures there in a couple of years. I'd say most of the Americans I interview earn a LOT more than UK entry level developers.

      There are definitely some big success stories from people without CS degrees that have started things - Pieter Levels, Pat Walls and many others. Of course entrepreneurship is more risky than employment.

      1. 1

        The thing to keep in mind however is that comparing salaries 1:1 doesn't make much sense when the places have wildly different cost of living. I wish I knew of an easy way to compare two places' salaries + cost of living, to actually see in which place you'd be better off.

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