My journey from working a boring full-time production job to working as an independent web developer began almost 20 years ago. I spent the first five or six years working two full-time jobs. On top of my regular 40-hour a week job, I worked another 30 to 40 hours a week learning how to build websites.
Up on downtime
My boring regular job involved lots of downtime while lab samples were analyzed and so forth. During the downtime, I would plug my 100 MB USB key into one of the lab computers and work away on all things web development. Lab machines humming in the background while I learn web design. Good times.
That USB key was loaded up with a daily supply of web dev tutorials, all saved offline the night before. So while at work, I would study and practice by following along with tutorials, building all sorts of stuff. During that time, I also would write my own posts about things I had learned, so I could post them here at Perishable Press for future reference.
When I got home from work each night, I would spend time with my family and then jump back on the computer to knock out email and load up the USB key with another batch of fresh tutorials. Back then I subscribed to and followed hundreds of RSS feeds. Sites focusing on topics like web security, server configuration, performance optimization, SEO — even related topics such as graphic design and typography.
I played that game for about five to six years, essentially working two full-time jobs. I was learning tons about web development and then writing tutorials sharing my experiences. The more I worked, the more opportunities opened up. Eventually I started making money developing websites, enough so that I began thinking about making the next big step.
Quitting my regular full-time boring job always was a bright hope in the back of my head. But it wasn’t something I was really focused on too much if at all. Instead, I was just absolutely wrapped up and intrigued by web development, pursuing it for its own sake. I spent many, many hours studying, building, and writing.
Only after achieving some level of success working online did it really occur to me: why am I still working my regular dead-end, meat-world job? I was making enough to pay the bills, but also had a family to feed and a mortgage to pay.
And back then, some 12 years ago, making a living from online work was a terribly new concept. There were zero guarantees that things would keep going, and of course no benefits like medical/dental insurance, retirement, 401k, and so forth.
Making the leap
So it was a huge risk, but finally decided to give my two weeks notice and commit fully to web development. It was scary and super exciting at the same time. Finally being able to focus completely on my online work, things really began to take off. I poured 60 to 80 hours a week into reading, learning, building, writing, and sharing.
Fast forward years later, my schedule has evolved. I now work a comfortable 30 to 40 hours per week, although not like a typical 9-to-5 type schedule. Instead I work for about five hours during the day, maybe a couple more at night. And then also on the weekends a few hours as needed, maybe take a few days off here and there.
Reaping the rewards
The point of all this is: I enjoy my current work schedule. It is very flexible and provides the freedom needed to succeed online with plenty of time to enjoy life. To get here, took about 15 years of determined, focused, diligent work. 70 to 80 hours each week. Grinding. Learning. Sharing. Without a doubt it was not easy. But it definitely is worth it.
I think back to those first years reading tutorials on my USB key while slaving away at my 9-to-5. All the extra hours spent studying and practicing web development provided a way out of my boring day job. It reminds me of the movie Shawshank Redemption, that tunnel dug over so many years. Eventually led to freedom.