Should I move up the ladder or stay low and technical? – part 1

It’s interesting to see how people interact with my Matrix themed popup that I added to the blog a few months ago.

A lot of you saw it (go to one of my old posts, scroll towards the bottom and check it out if you didn’t) and resonated with my message, others simply closed it as a mere distraction and continued to the technical information they were looking for.

But there was yet another group of people that seemed to be flipped off by it. They would leave messages like “your popup is full of crap”. Someone even responded to his own angry message in the comments, creating an impression of discussion (but didn’t bother to give it some time or change the IP :)).

Makes me smile every time I see things like that. Fortunately, there are much more positive people in the world.

There are also explorers, people who would give me fake or spammy email addresses just to see what happens next. They would fiddle with cookies and sign-up multiple times just to test if the popup logic somehow behaves differently (it doesn’t). Classic engineers.

Just wanted to say that I love you all and thanks for bringing life into my sometimes pretty lonely days! (especially now that my wife and son are visiting my home country while I’m holding the fortress)

Ok, let’s get down to business.

Yesterday I received three emails from my followers with pretty much the same theme:

“I want more excitement and money in my life, but I don’t want to go into management because I won’t get to do my tech stuff anymore. What should I do?”

Now, let me say right away – you don’t have to move up the ladder in order to continue your growth. It’s just one way to do it.

There are plenty of people who stay solo and earn a living from the handful of tech products that they’ve built.

Just the other day I was playing around with React and needed some information about FireBase. Guess what, one of the videos that I found was made by the guy whose main job was to help take care of his wife’s online business. A perfect example of rainmakers team in action.

Fortunately today there are plenty of opportunities for engineers to make money online – you can create a SaaS product (love it because of recurring income), sell plugins, templates, scripts, educational materials (videos, books, courses), apps for different platforms.

There is even a variation for fix and flip business, but instead of homes, you deal with websites through auction sites like Filppa.

Those are just some of the ideas that popped into my head.

To give you an idea, my WordPress plugin still generates money even though I don’t actively support it any longer and the website that I bought on Flippa a few years back brings about $300 a month on average without me lifting a finger.

Sure, it’s not a ton of money and I did make much more from my products before, it’s just my focus lies somewhere else at the moment. I just wanted to illustrate the power of digital products that keep working for you long after their initial creation.

Here is another funny story. One of my friends who is involved in the iPhone apps business told me the other day that one of the apps they’ve built was removed from the Apple store for more than a year, yet he still receives regular recurring payments from the old installations.

I didn’t mention Freelance intentionally because it forces you to trade your time for money. It’s not something that strikes the cord with me personally, but I bet there is a huge number of engineers who manage to do it successfully and live the life of their dreams.

It’s all great and awesome, but there is one thing that I have to bring up before we continue. While it’s definitely possible to stay solo, you have to realize that in order to really make it work you will need to get some business and marketing skills in addition to the technical knowledge that you currently have.

You see, sale rarely happens on its own. Sure, you will sell a copy or two or a hundred, but it’s not something that will sustain you longterm. The key is to create a business around your product. I learned it the hard way over the years by creating products thinking they would sell on their own… Big mistake.

Which brings us to another important point – you can and should team up with someone to complement the skills that you don’t have.

Remember 10K hours rule – no matter what you do, it takes about ten thousand hours to get really good at something, whether it’s coding, marketing, soccer or anything else. There is no magic.

So if you are experienced passionate coder it’s unlikely you’ll become an exceptional marketer quickly. Even if you do it over time, chances you won’t be a great engineer any longer. That’s the main reason why partnerships between the right people do the wonders.

There is a correlation between the number of skills you possess and the amount of money you will have. It goes like this – the fewer skills you master, the more money you make. Get a copy of the book by Robert Greene called Mastery for more info.

Ok, if that’s true, then why in the world do I say that you should learn other skills in addition to what you are currently mastering?

The answer is actually pretty simple – you have to be able to identify and find top players in the game (hint: your potential partners) when you need them. In order to do that you need to understand what’s going on in other universes at least on the very high level, otherwise you are risking bringing on mediocre/inexperienced people who just know how to talk but unable to deliver any results.

It might also help you to confirm that what you are currently focusing on is indeed your calling in life. Who knows, maybe your real passion lies somewhere else?

Once you embark on the learning journey, beautiful things will start happening around you.

You will start generating more interesting ideas (the best ones often times come from mixing and combining different experiences).

New people will come into your life. New connections will form. New opportunities will present themselves.

All you need to do is open the door. Start making little steps outside of your known boundaries and see what happens.

In one of my next posts, I’ll tell you about my experience on the “management” side of things. I was planning to do it here, but don’t want to make the post too long.

Stay tuned.

Wake up, Neo... The matrix has you...

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