October 16, 2022
Learning to code, making a software company and being profitable in 1 year.
Note: Hi! 👋 I didn't planned on having this article public but someone posted it on IndieHackers and it made it somehow to the front page 😅
This article stops in October for now but I post daily progress here.
I also made a compilation of all the resources I used to learn programming here
To give some context: I started entrepreneurship in 2017, became a freelancer (media buying / eCommerce), and got decent success.
I have ok income, not amazing but not bad either, and I can live quite comfortably since I moved to Indonesia to reduce my living costs.
During those years, I focused a lot on eCommerce and Marketing (which became my main "job"), but I feel it's time to move to something else considering:
- The evolution of the market: ad costs rising like crazy, more emphasis on video content and less technical media buying
- The upcoming economic crisis: marketing expenses are the first to be cleared in every crisis. Also, consumers focus more on essential & cheap purchases during those times.
So, I decided to learn to code.
I'm not really starting from scratch, as I have always been interested in this, so I knew a few basics (like the different type of variables), but that's the first time I'm taking a "formal" class.
I'm pretty ok with HTML/CSS (not really coding tho) and have some decent basis in GDSCRIPT (very similar to Python but only used to make video games). Other than that, I never really followed any structured course.
I bought a $20 course to learn Python on Udemy. So far it's very easy since I have the basics, but hopefully, it will start getting complicated soon (meaning I learn new things).
I choose Python because it's a popular language so there is lots of documentation about it, and it seems to be a good language for anything related to AI. No idea if I'll reach this stage but still good to learn something with potential.
My goal is to finish my course by the end of this month and start doing my own projects. Not sure what exactly, but whenever I see something that annoys me I write it down to come back to it later, so I'll pick from that. I'll probably take other courses later to consolidate my knowledge.
There is 36 section in the course, already 11 are done so far.
I made this post for public accountability and "force" me to do it regularly. It might also help people who want to get into coding to find some ideas to start. It's probably gonna be boring tho.
Worst case, I'd have learned a new skill that will be valuable. Combined with my already existing business and marketing skills (advertising, idea testing & prototyping, team management, customer study, manufacturing, etc...), I'm pretty sure that would give me a safety net for the upcoming crisis.
Of course, I'll still keep my existing marketing clients for now.
A bit more than halfway through my course. Things started to get more complex, so it means I'm learning.
Learning to code and making the course's exercises takes more energy than I thought, that's def not the kind of thing I could do while being hungover or sleep-deprived (at least for now).
My pattern to learn is:
- Watch the course
- If I find a new functionality or something I want to understand better, pause the video and make tests on my own
- Make the exercises after each video
- Take a 5-10 mins break after each complicated exercise (doing dumb stuff that doesn't require brainpower)
Made my first "real" program that interacts with online stuff. It's a dad joke generator that connects to an API to get the jokes and return a random one inside the program. Very basic but that allowed me to test all the concepts I learned so far
Seems like I've finished learning the base concepts of Python in my course, and I'm now starting the interesting parts.
The next module will be about web scrapping; Something that can provide a shitton of value if done right.
So far, I understood most of the concepts. There were a few things that didn't really make sense IMO but still understood them, so, I'm pretty happy about that. I'll probably hit a roadblock at some point, but it's expected
To give some context, I've been doing this almost all day every day since I started.
I wake up at 6:00 to go to the gym, then go back home and code until I go to sleep. Of course, I have to make "breaks" to eat, rest my mind and do client stuff, but overall, I'm mainly doing code.
Almost done with the course. Only 2 sections left. Web scrapping is absolutely amazing, I can now get pretty much any data I want from any website.
For example, I can program a bot that will navigate through every page on a website and find every single email address. Could make an amazing tool for lead generation, even tho it already exists.
I'm going to take an additional course later on Python Data Scrapping, but for now, I have the basics.
Finished the course Yesterday. I still have some exercises I haven't done, but I wanted to jump directly into more real-use stuffs, so I'm currently learning to make web apps using Flask, a tool (framework) to use Python as back-end (server).
Alright, now that I've learned the basics to make a local server, I can code my own apps.
My first project is going to be an app that improves text reading, especially for people with dyslexia. It already exists, and there are APIs available, but I don't like the way it's done so I'll create my own.
Might sound complicated explained like that but it's not, just a few loops and list comprehension and I should have a similar result. Then, I'll just have to plug it into a web app.
That's my goal for June 2022, having this first app ready and available for public use (so, both front and back-end)
Well, I did it, I just realized my first web app, Augmented Reader! The reader is almost fully functional, it just needs a few tweaks and a better UI, but it works.
Here is a screenshot:
That's only for the "website" version tho, now I want to make it a chrome extension that can "Augment" any page to be read faster.
Some courses were on a discount so I bought a pack of 4 for $50
- Advanced web development (60h)
- Advanced data scrapping (10h)
- Machine learning & AI (40h)
That's going to costs me 180h in total, but I think it's worth it. It will probably take 3 months before finishing them all, more likely 5-6 since I'll hit roadblocks at some points and will do training projects.
I'll start with the machine learning one, seems like a crazy interesting topic, and highly valued.
Edit from the future: I compiled a list of resources I used to learn A.I here
Never thought I'd one day understand something like that:
I've always been a bad student in maths in school, and so, I thought "Hey, it's just not for me".
I even remember one of my teacher telling me I'll never be successful. Funny considering that a few years later I was already making two or three times her salary.
Anyway, to dive deeper into AI and shits, I need a better understanding of maths, so, whenever I see something like that in the course, I have to dive into it and make research to understand.
So far, it's not super complicated, I understand the concepts. Can't wait to go to the first practical applications!!
I'm now comfortable making AI that can make an analysis of "basic" data (organized data like a spreadsheet, to predict values)
From what I learned so far, the concept of machine learning itself is not that complicated, the hard part is to gather data and make them usable since computers can only deal with numbers.
I mentioned a project to a client I have for my marketing agency, he was extremely interested and told me to make this priority #1. The problem here is to get the data. If I have them, I should be able to make a great product.
So, I was looking for AI projects, and I ended up taking another course, but this time focusing on the theory and "math" part. Unlike the previous course where I mainly learned to use some pre-made libraries, this one showed me the mathematical model behind AI. The course is made by one of the most influential people in the AI/Deep Learning field.
I struggled to understand the "pure math" part since I have 0 background so I had to make some research, but now I get a way better understanding of how it works from the inside out. There are 3 courses. First, one is supposed to take 3 weeks, I ate it in 3 days and even got a "graduation".
2nd one is taking one month, and I'm almost done with it. Then I'll have one last one and I should have a robust beginner level. Enough to make cool stuff with AI and actually understand what happens under the hood.
For anyone wondering, I'm doing it all day, every day from 8h to 21h with small breaks on dumb stuff (social media) to cool down my head, thus why I'm able to move quickly.
Other than that, I pitched a project idea to my client and he was pretty hyped. He actually asked me for a quote earlier today. The project isn't even started or anything, it was just an idea. Not sure I'll be able to execute, it since I need to find a way to gather "sensitive" data, but if I manage to do it, I might be up to something!
There is a drop in sales on my client's website. KPIs are good, and it's supposed to be the very best month of the year. The only reason I see is simply people purchasing less because of the recession and fear. I told him some time ago it would happen, and it's happening now. I made a new strategy for him that include pivoting to a new positioning etc… But I won't go in-depth here since it's not really the subject.
Been quite a while since the last update.
I made a Chrome Extension of the small web app I coded last time (augmented reader), allowing users to turn all the text on a page into Augmented Reading text (basically, highlight some part of the words to read faster). I'm not going to make money from it, but it's a nice little project that allowed me to test my skills.
I mentioned last time that sales are going down. I told my client he needed to change things and gave him many recommendations a few months ago, but nothing has been done so far.
I recently made a list of all the things that should be done to grow the company, with lots of programming-related stuff.
If nothing is done, the company will be hit hard, in my opinion.
We had a call last week, and... he told me he wanted to stop in September because he wanted to replace me with another dude to "try out and see if it changes things because nothing is changing for months".
That would make me without income.
Hopefully, I had my offer ready, so I made a counter-offer to reduce/cut my monthly freelance fee and become the marketing director (CMO) to manage all the marketing in exchange for a profit-based income. If he says yes, I'll go full in, as I'll own a part of the result (I'll do a mix of marketing and programming to grow the company)
If not, I'll stop in September and start focusing on making apps for e-commerce owners (including him).
In both cases, the fact that I started learning to code 2 months ago makes a big difference here. If I didn't, I couldn't have made a good counteroffer.
But since I have a mix of skills that isn't super common (marketing + dev), that gives me leverage to offer him value he can't find anywhere else.
I'm done with the main content of the course. While I still need to learn some topics, they are more niche (like authentication, encryption etc...). I will need them for sure, but later. I can now start building.
I think my first project will be a basic web app card game. You can pick a card, and from it, you'll get a question to ask your partner/friend/etc...
I figured that's a game I often end up playing with friends. There is nothing new about it, it's just a small project to get started.
The first version of the web app has been published. It's more of a technical demo, but it works well!
I didn't found any app that bring "deep topics" on the table, so it might be a nice little something to try;
I'm pretty sure it's not that hard to turn a web app into a mobile app, considering it's already fully responsive.
I spent the last few days building a back-end system for my previous app. Pretty good learning experience!
Today, I started to build a new app that mixes a bit of everything I learned.
You write a product name and some features, and artificial intelligence generates product descriptions. So far, the technical demo is done:
It's pretty basic for now, but it will be solid once I have the AI trained. Maybe if I make it valuable enough, I'll be able to monetize it.
I started to code a few months ago (here) and I recently started my first "real" project one week and a half ago. Based on the feedback I received, I'm thinking it has potential, so, I'll focus on developing it and see how it goes. This thread will be my "update".
It's an AI writing assistant that helps you write content. It has two parts: One part with specialized modules that helps you write short content (product descriptions, Facebook ads, etc…) and a long-form editor to write stuff like blog posts, newsletters, etc… (article 100% generated by it here)
It doesn't replace a copywriter, but it's a great way to get ideas and get rid of the blank page syndrome.
Yes, I know, similar apps exist but that's a good sign. Also, I have a specific target + value proposition in mind that not many people can focus on (thanks to my experience)
**Where I am now:
**I started building the app two weeks ago. The specialized modules part is partially done, it can generate good product descriptions and Facebook ads already. The "long-form editor" is WIP but already working and producing good content, I just need to make some tweaks to make the user experience more enjoyable.
**Find people around me that would test the app and watch them doing so, to gather feedback on the user experience. That would allow me to improve it before releasing anything. Then, if I find enough people interested in the app and if they are ready to pay for it, I'll focus on making a "public" version.
No idea how it will go, but I guess it's experience in any case
I'm making progress. I managed to fix the issues that were left in terms of content creation, now it will likely be customer experience optimization. I released the first version of the app so one of my friends can try it and give me feedback already.
I think I'll focus on improving the UX for a few days and then start giving limited access to people.
Not gonna lie, I'm pretty proud of my work. Those past 2 weeks have been intense, from finding the idea to now having a functional prototype.
(To give some context, I work from 7-8AM to 8-9PM every day, with just a few breaks to eat and cool off my brain)
After getting some feedback, I decided to start from scratch again. The new version of the app can now generate whole articles just based on other articles links. For example, you find 3-5 similar articles, you paste them in the app, and the app will make a new article from it.
It was a headache to come up with it but I'm pretty satisfied with the results. The first beta testers are now using the app, while it's not 100% perfect, results are usually fairly decent.
The code is not the best, app is probably full of bug, but I'm not sure it matter rn, I'm trying to get a proof of concept, and as soon I have it, I'll be able to hire people.
Main main focus is going to switch from coding & building the app to marketing and user experience. At least until I get enough feedback to make a new iteration.
Spend the last few days reading stuff about marketing and GTM (Going To Market), it gave me a totally different perspective compared to eCommerce. I'm going to have to find my beta testers one by one, first in the people I know, but then probably cold emailing or something.
I have a pretty good incentive program (Lifetime "tester" plan for free) for those who test the app and give me feedback.
- Crash-proof the app (dev)
- Get people to use the app (user experience + product/market fit)
- Get feedback (user experience)
**(**0 **users, 0 customers)**
Spend the last week re-making the app to improve the quality and adding Stripe. I think it's now good enough to be used. I'm not a "real dev", and my code is probably garbage from that perspective, but it's good enough for my needs now.
I made a post on Reddit a few days ago, got a couple of people registering on my waitlist. I sent them an email today telling them the app was available, hopefully I'll get some users from it.
The app give you a free limited access (7500 words generated every month), if you need more you can pay a subscription. I think for that kind of app, people need to taste it before actually buying it. I might change the strategy in the future tho.
My current goals are:
**1: Getting product/market fit:**
How to get there:
- Getting first users to get negative feedback & improve the app
- Getting a first customer to prove that people would pay for it
Will be achieved when:
- At least 60% of the users will be disappointed if they can't use the app anymore
For now that's it. I don't need to make a better code or do social medias. I'm going to focus on getting users one by one.
Since my background is in advertising, I have to learn how to use growth hacking to sparkle the fire.
Sub-goal: Getting users
- Reading growth-hacking materials
- Extract actionable things from it
(6 users, 0 customers)
It seems like I got my first users!
I made a post on Reddit that was deleted immediately (my bad, probably made it too commercial). However, I then ran a Reddit ad, which allowed me to get users... who crashed the app
Good thing, on the welcome page, I gave my WhatsApp number and one of them was kind enough to text me, so when I woke up, I restarted it and fixed the issue.
(I had a shitload of other bugs to fix later, bug I guess it's good problems to have)
While waiting for the app to get approved, I learned a new sub-language (jQuery) that will allows me to code way faster and made a prototype for a small tool I'll use later to organize my learning materials (resources I found online)
(23 users, 1 customers)
Lots of changes since last week. In the span in a few days after starting the marketing, I saw 10 people doing the exact same app. Not gonna lie, the barrier to entry is low.
So I decided to do something else, way more complicated, an AI that can do customer service for eCommerce
Spend the last few days planning, then made a landing page prototype and posted in a few groups. Got a few people interested by it, so now I'm collecting feedback and making a more advanced prototype
In the meantime, I randomly got my first sale on the blog app
(5 leads, 1 customers)
I kept seeing even more new companies doing the AI blog writer. Good thing that I stopped. I spend most of the week working on a more advanced prototype of the AI to start doing marketing for the waitlist. It's way more complicated to do than just connecting to openAI, as it involve lots of data science stuffs, so the entry barrier is way higher.
I'm going to run ads on reddit, Google, and maybe Facebook later. Target is to get 50 leads by the end of the month to see which feature to focus on first. I'm also going to post on Facebook groups.
(6 leads / 2 customers)
Here is what I've tried those last few days:
- Google Ads: Ads are not even being shown --> Stopped
- Facebook Ads: CPM is absurdly high ($30, for a lead gen goal, wth) --> Stopped
- Reddit Ads: Got banned because they couldn't verify my ID. Fixed now, CPM is ok, but no clicks so far
- Posting in FB groups: Posts are removed by admins
Seems like I'm going to have to do a manual approach instead.
I got a second sale from someone I know for the blog writing app. He mainly uses the product description module though.