In the past 3 months, I’ve made $2000 from an app that took me 3 weeks to write and 1 month to test. Not only that, but I have amassed $1000/month in subscriptions (36 customers at ~$30/month). That’s income that will come in whether I decide to work or decide to go on vacation. I get paid while I sleep. I get paid while I’m at my job (on top of being paid for my job). It’s pretty awesome.
Now, it hasn’t always been this way. That’s only been the last 3 months. The past 3 years have been filled with struggle, learning, praying and seeking. Many of you may remember the Blacklet Project (R.I.P). It was supposed to be a culmination of everything I had learned about building an audience and digital advertising. In the end, it turned into something that put us further into debt. Not necessarily a blessing.
Three years ago, I told Hannah that I wanted to be an app developer. An Indiehacker. Someone who is a solo-entrepreneur, that can build a business and run every aspect of it. So, I got to work. I learned all I could about web development in a short amount of time. I made some websites, small apps, and was super stoked to get it all going.
After a few months, I began looking into how people made money making apps. Long story short, the hard part isn’t making the app. That’s only about 20% of the work. The hard part is marketing, advertising, distribution, sales, product management, market fit, customer relations and support, SEO, finances, etc. Crud. I had a lot to learn. It didn’t really phase me, and I didn’t really realize how many pieces there were to the puzzle, but I took them all on. One at a time.
I didn’t realize it was going to be a 3-year journey until I was 3 years in. I spent 6 months learning SEO, 6 months learning paid advertising, 9 months working on the Blacklet, and all the while I was building websites, testing out all of the things I was learning. I was consuming so much content, learning everything I needed to learn. Learning everything I didn’t need to learn. Right now I can tell you how to become a YouTube sensation if that’s your cup-of-tea. I just learned it all.
All of this learning added up over time. It was about 20 hours a week, every week. Sometimes more. I’ve put an insane amount of time (side-project time) into learning, building, and testing. It’s no accident that I’m in the position I am today. It was on purpose and simply a response to the vision that I stuck to from the beginning.
The vision set forth was also backed by faith - faith that our tithes and offerings that were sewn would reap a harvest in due time. Faith that God would protect the vision and see it come to light. Faith that even when things were tough, we were doing the right thing.
That faith. combined with action and persistence is what drove me to be in the place that I am now. And it’s what will continue to drive me forward for the foreseeable future.
Then Came Closet Tools
I had actually created the base functionality of the Closet Assistant two years ago for my wife Hannah and her friends. They were doing lots of manual actions on Poshmark that was taking a lot of time. I told them that I could automate the process, and I did. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
All the while they told me I should sell it. In the back of my mind I knew I should, but it was so simple that I couldn’t possibly sell that version of it.
Fast forward to a few months ago, and I needed an additional source of income. I had tried several things, but nothing was working out. This was my last-ditch effort before just handing in the towel and getting a second job.
I revisited the initial app I had written for Hannah, and realized that there’s a lot I could do to it to make it much more professional, polished and worthy of paying for. So, I got to work. I made the base functionality much more stable and bug-free, while building an interface that looked somewhat decent.
While building it, I went to the Poshmark subreddit and asked the users there if they were interested in an app that would automate some of the things on the website. I offered this initial version for free in exchange for feedback and ideas. The response was overwhelming. In just 3 days I had 150 people sign up to become a beta tester. This really helped me hone in on what I wanted the app to do, and see if people liked it.
Well, they loved it. Everyone was making more sales, getting more followers, and saving time while doing it. I was hooked, they were hooked. It was so cool helping people make more money. I kept working on the app for about 3 weeks until I had the first paid version released.
When I released the paid version, I got some heat from Reddit users, mostly because automation is somewhat unfair in their eyes. It didn’t matter though, because when I released it I got at least 10 sign-ups at $30/month in the first week or two.
This was awesome. It was my first experience actually making money online. Not only that, but people were thanking me for building it. They appreciated the time it gave them to spend on other things, and the increase in sales and followers helped too!
Fast-forward to today, and I’m 3 months in. This is really cool, and my customers still love the tool. I add features almost weekly, and each time I add a feature I get more sign-ups for the free trial. I can work on the app whenever I want, wherever I want, and I can directly impact my sales and growth based on how much effort I put into it.
This is the style of work I have been craving for the last 3 years. Something that’s proactive, but passive income. I’m not working for $X/hour, or working for a boss. I get to call the shots, I get to show of my skills, and I get to decide how much I want to dedicate to growing and succeeding. There’s no rules, just providing value and getting paid for it.
The ultimate goal is to get to 1000 active customers ($30k/month). That’s a big goal, but there are several million people on the platform. I don’t think finding 1000 will be too hard. It’s just a matter of time. My short-term goal is to complete the automation of the business, including user on-boarding, subscription ending, credit card updating, and SEO. I want to have all of those things in place by the end of the summer, and I would like to have the majority of it done before our little daughter arrives!
Some Lessons I’ve Learned
I put together some lessons I’ve learned along the way. I’m not an expert. I’m not right about everything. I just know what works for me, and what can possibly help you achieve your goals. If you’re remotely interested in attempting to do something like I’ve done, read on.
Audit Your Inner Circle
This is one of the fastest ways to get momentum in the right direction in your life. Get rid of the negative and bad people in your life, and replace them with good people that are positive and optimistic. It’s not only getting rid of the bad, but it replaces it with good. This will accelerate any progress that you’d like to make in any area. Sure, this isn’t easy. You’ll likely need to cut ties with someone you’ve been associated with for a long time. But what’s worth more, your future? Or not wanting to offend someone? That’s for you to decide.
Not just that, but become friends with people that are ahead of you in the area you’d like to excel in. Want to lose weight? Hang out with people that have lost a ton of weight. Want to learn a new skill? Hand out with experts in that area. Want to quit a bad habit? Hang out with people who have overcome that habit and can positively influence you.
The largest impact on this entire venture has been the words that I have been speaking daily. Words of affirmation. Words that speak life into the situation, and call into existence things that are unseen. (Proverbs 18:21 + Hebrews 11:1). No matter how things looked on the outside, I knew that this day would come. This future was inevitable, not just a chance. And simply by speaking the word and life into our situation, we solidified it’s destiny in the future, and it was just a matter of time before it was realized.
Sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo? I can assure you, it’s not. It’s the simplest and one of the most powerful ways to change the trajectory of your life. Don’t like something about yourself? Speak to yourself about the future self you want to be. I am successful. I am intelligent. I am resourceful. I am prolific. I am energetic. But, when you line it up with God’s word, it’s amplified. One of the best sources of affirmations in the Bible is the reading of the blessings that are contained in a covenant with God (Deuteronomy 28:1-12).
Become a Producer, Not a Consumer
There’s a fundamental difference between people that produce things and people that consume things. Consumers are all about entertainment, instant gratification, and the weekend. Producers are always looking for a way to create something meaningful, provide value to others, and progress forward in life. Consumers are reactive, producers are proactive. Consumers spend all day in their Instagram feed wishing they were like the people they look up to, while producers get to work becoming an inspiration for others. To put it frankly, consumers consume what producers produce. Guess which one has more fulfilment and success in the long run?
At the end of the day, you get to make the decisions that create your future. You either let your future happen to you, or you happen to your future. You can create the future that you want. You don’t have to let it be influenced by everything around you.
Blue Ocean Mindset
This is about abundance. The blue ocean mindset is a framework that allows you to understand that there’s enough out there for everyone and you just need to get your piece of the pie. Sure, there’s inequality. There are poverty and riches everywhere. But, every day trillions (yes, trillions) of dollars are spent and transacted. By 2020, the Apple app store revenue will increase from ~$50 billion to ~$75 billion (not the only reason why I’m an app developer, but it sure helps). Here’s the thing though, I don’t need that whole $25 billion. I just need 0.001% of it. When you look at it that way, there’s a lot of opportunity. Having a mindset of abundance will allow you to approach anything you attempt with less stress about competition or failure.
Triple Down on your Strengths
This has been super powerful for me. I have spent the last few years really honing in on my strengths. I know exactly what I am amazing at, and what I’m terrible at. But here’s the thing, most people focus on what they are bad at and they spend their whole lives trying to get better at those things. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is no excuse to not have fundamental skills that people need, but it is SO much more of a productive use of your time to focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. When you do this, you can truly become an expert in a very well defined area. That’s what gets people paid. Think about it, when you need a plumber, do you call a generic handyman? Or do you call a plumber that’s been in the business for years? Don’t try to be who you’re not. Emphasize your strengths, and find a way to let your talents shine.
Prioritize Your Time
This is a no-brainer, but it’s still very important. I have stopped all social media consumption several times, and each time it has helped me get more focussed and be more productive. Yes, I come back to it eventually, because I use it to keep up with people. On instagram, I follow 43 people. On Facebook, I follow about 50 people. Not hundreds, not thousands, but tens of people. This helps my stay out of my social media feeds and get to work. Instagram get’s pretty boring when you check it a few times in one hour and nothing has changed. It has helped me get the work done that got me to the place I am now. But also, prioritize your time for what matters to you. If you want to spend more time with your family, do it. If you want to spend more time learning something, do it.
Don’t feel like you have time? The best way to get more time is to go to bed very early and get up very early. I get up at 5:30 every day. Every day I have the first 2-3 hours of the day all to myself. I can work, relax, read, pray, exercise, whatever I want. But I have to be disciplined enough to go to bed on time so that I can get up that early.
This is one of those super-powers that are hard to explain, but it works like magic. People who are grateful tend to be more optimistic, more hopeful, and more joyful. Happiness doesn’t come from getting more things, or having more money, or climbing the ladder. Happiness comes when you are grateful for the things you have, the people in your life, and the opportunities you have been given. Expressing gratitude and treating other people with grace will free yourself to think more positively about the things you want to conquer. It will allow you to be your own cheerleader, and you can become the person you always wanted to be.
You don’t have to be super fit, or a super-genius, or a millionaire tomorrow. That’s just not realistic. Yet, when most people set goals for themselves (New Years resolutions) they start by changing almost everything in their life. They spend a day eating healthy, going to the gym, and other things that they think they should be doing. A week later, they are back to their old habits as if nothing changed. Now, of course you definitely want to change. This has nothing to do with your intentions, but more to do with your willpower.
One habit that I have been able to stick to for the better part of two years is getting up early. There’s a precursor to getting up early, which is going to bed early. So really it’s two habits, going to bed early and getting up early. Regardless, here’s how I became a morning person. I used to get up at 8AM every day. I started by getting up at 7:30 for a week straight, then 7 the next week, then 6:30 the next, and so on. A month or two in, I was getting up at the crack of dawn, but yet I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t jet-lagged, I wasn’t miserable. I was productive and alert, and I now had better control of my time.
So, what habits do you want to develop? Do you want to exercise more? Start by taking a walk down the street every day for two weeks. Or if you want to go to the gym, start out by just putting on your gym clothes at a certain time for a week (don’t go to the gym), then put your clothes on and drive to the gym (but don’t go in) for a week, then go to the gym and do one simple exercise for a week that’s not to strenuous. Keep doing this, and you’ll have the habitual momentum to be able to get fit and stay fit in just a few months.
Start with your goal and work backwards. Where do you want to be in 5 years? Break it down into small chunks, and take it on week by week or month by month. Chances are, it won’t take you 5 years to get there.
We only get one shot at life here on earth. You have one chance to become the person you want to be. One chance to do the things you want to do. One chance to attempt to change the world. Don’t settle for the person you are right now. You can be better, and it’s not impossible to change. Your current situation doesn’t have to define who you are, and every decision you make today decides who you are in the future. Are you going to decide to become the person you have the potential to be? Or will you just coast through life and let life happen to you?
There’s no judgement from me if you just want to coast. If you are truly happy, and you love yourself and your life, that’s amazing. You’ve won. But, for the many people out there that wish they were better than they are right now, this is a reminder that you can do it. It’s not impossible, and it’s actually very practically within reach. Make the changes, and get to work. You’ll wake up one day and realize you’re not the same person you used to be.