20 years without a 'proper job'

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Rachel Willmer - 20 years without a 'proper job' Have you ever wondered how you could be your own boss? or how you could make money from your side project? or build the next Facebook or Uber. To be a coder in today's world of work is to have amazing opportunities to design the business life you want. I've enjoyed the last 20 years without a 'real job', as company founder, freelancer and side-project-hacker. Now I am bootstrapping my current company to profitability. Listen to my stories and learn from my mistakes and successes. ----- Have you ever wondered how you could be your own boss? If so, then this talk is for you. Maybe you're working on a sideproject and wonder how you could make some money from it? Or maybe you have the idea for the next Facebook or Uber? To be a coder in today's world of work is to have amazing opportunities to design the business life you want. You can work remotely; you can write books, or teach, or consult, with anyone anywhere. You can have a crazy idea on Friday and have it running by Monday. Design your architecture to use cloud computing, so your tiny team can scale up your huge ideas. Or keep it small, and just earn some extra money with a Wordpress plugin, or a training course. It has been 21 years since I last had a 'real job' and a regular income. I survived creating and running a company through the madness of the dotcom years. I made money from sideprojects, that I had started just for fun and for learning. I have freelanced without needing to use an agency to find the work. And now I'm bootstrapping my current business to profitability. Listen to my stories and learn from my mistakes and successes.
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yeah so the morning everyone my mom I'm really happy to
introduce our 1st keynote speaker Rachel will learn rules as you will tell you all of which is a wife 20 years without having
a real job and yet so please give example rental the well thank you good morning
can you hear me back yeah of the
limit and you hear me at the back now great
when I was DM make storm which I start at about that is the end of my Spanish OK
said as my talk title implies I'm going to tell you how I have survived 20 years without having had a proper job by which I mean and I will see have been
working but I haven't had a salary that somebody else hasn't supplied to me for 21 years now so what I'm hoping to do with this tool is to teach to tell you some of the lessons that I've learned over the last couple of decades and to potentially give you some ideas about things you might want to think about yourself so this talk is merely aimed at people who and a job but would rather not because I have the pleasure of
almost every day I get up and go to work I look forward to and I look forward to it because I
built the work life that I want doing the kind of work that I want and sometimes that's made me a fair bit of money and sometimes it has but
nothing compares to the pleasure of actually looking forward to going to work so this is the you if you're in a job and you'd rather not be at all or if you we just like to perhaps make some money out of the side project you've been working on I have some thoughts to share with both of those types of people the like now it may be hard to imagine that that person
in the photograph is maybe 20 years ago and if you think of gold to what happens to you I have to tell you I didn't like that then either it's amazing what a
professional photographer condition but that was to extend
summed up will like go to live my life local company but this doesn't beginning I graduated 30 odd years ago as an then engineering students it was the end of this section which made it hard for most people to to get jobs but I was lucky because I was an engineering student and I had planned to carry it was very easy to get to get a job because there were many programmers around at the time so I started off working in different engineering company writing software lost about a couple of years and I went to research institute which is well I 1st discovered the Internet so that the been on the internet for 30 years which is I think the longer than some of you have been alive but I can remember the days before the internet and so the last couple years to another that's a lot of interesting technology related stuff but then I thought well know this working for the people you know it's not doing it for me so I'm
I'm a 1st very into self-employment and I left that company to be a freelance contractor again back then it was very easy to be a contractor because my basic picked to anybody that was thinking of hiring me was now I don't know how to do it give me a wheat that see how far I get and that work at the
time but I was not content with just being a contract even though it was a very easy way to make a fair bit of money at the time I have still got the idea that at some point I wanted to do something bigger than the so I started working on this this skills and the tools that we need to make a success out about it occurred to me that if I was going to start a company had stolen business plans then I would need to know about money not just spending the world of men in the business plan content so didn't accounting diploma and part time in the evening and at the end of that year I got a certificate but more importantly I could like the a business plan and I could understand the figures in other people's profit-and-loss account balance sheets that kind of thing we still have to be really interesting and useful later on but it is not that company just then I kept contracting and then my plan fell slightly lie because 1 of the companies I went to work for the contract was a company called spider systems and they were wonderful it was a terrific company but after a while they said you know Rachel we like we don't like your contract ingrates core work for us so I did some 5 years and spent there was programmer manager engineering manager and sales support person and now sells terrific from we work internet related stuff in the early nineties and it was just because everything was was was taking off and then in the mid nineties the Internet became more of a public property and it went hand now about that time
spiders this that income you was working for gold taken over by an American company so I thought this is the time to lead this the time and instead of my own the main thing so so left and I had an interest time in digital catch so I started to digital cash company in the mid mid-nineties which in
some respects was a great idea because it was people thought it was very interesting as a concept but as a business I do I have to tell you it was a dreadful idea it was 20 years ahead of its time if I had the idea 2 years ago I b the visiting nearby now but 20 years ago and there just wasn't a market for anyway saw this company and the the copy called into trade if you look them up on the website now the domain is used by spread betting company the best of my company mining might my idea was to have a digital cash exchange server so no matter walked Digital cash you were paying way whether the gold or did you go to CyberCash along the x or any of the other things the French and that my cashbox would take your money and exchanged into something more solid-like has sort of so because that was the concept that seem to attract some attention and raise money I go board directors I had a team of great stuff to to work with me on and I got a lot of stress partly because my concept was was an interesting 1 that was in Scotland at the time we had a really good job Paul and seen going on but we didn't have very many women doing it so just by that chance I stood out a fair bit which is my and uncover this magazine it wasn't because a particular to do what a huge article about maybe if you have inside the magazine is 1 column but they wanted to
stand out on the on the on the shell so what easy way to do that woman would cover so I'm very grateful for that like all this lovely center to show for it and look all that kind of thing was found but it's
distracting from the main job of actually finding customers that want what I did and making money from it so those of you who remember that all whom the stock competent times you remember it was while people were raising money for really crazy ideas and and then suddenly around 2002 not the crash happened and suddenly the dot com boom became adopt on bus and I still have stuff I still have an office we managed to keep that idea of learning from other 3 years after the crash which are pretty far out of but in the end I just had to admit defeat it was not going to be possible to turn my brilliant idea and my fantastic customer base into a viable business so sadly a closed it down which was 1 of the hardest things that have to do not that mental free to go off and do other things so this is take takes us to about thousand no why did after
that was a little weird about 6 months when you put your heart and soul into building a business it's difficult to just walk away from it it's like a divorce with that that about
6 months before I felt capable of doing pretty much anything else on on but I went back to doing this freelancing I went back to doing work in some interesting projects 1 of them was an open source project which I got paid for and I can talk about that a little later if you interested in that business model but eventually I knew
it was going to come back to this idea but that wanted to build something again and this time it happened more by chance because I was trying that aside projects as a way of rescaling myself because a problem I had at the time was and went on to big projects 1 of them was covered by in the eighties so I couldn't talk about it to anybody which made it hard to use and see that the 2nd 1 I was working on this open source project which was OpenPGP SDK the phenomena which is to talk with so I could talk about it all I wanted to but nobody would understand so I needed to put something on my see like a shadow and what it was like the and in fact what ended up happening is the psychologist became the they haven't actually witnessed the the since 1986 and I'm hoping that it will have to again so I retired projects I'm able I didn't have a website called how safe is your money doc code UK which made it easier to understand what the government websites and find out where the money was saved in the bank and they went bust and I went to a website there's a price check for the we when it came out I wrote much lots of small things like that but 1 of my big loves is people and so I wrote a little e-book price check and I made into a web site and it was the worst name I have ever heard in my life it was called the book price in fact which it did what it said on that in that my God and it didn't look
very good either media OK I'm not good at design and embedded computer system design and is not good graphic design but people started using it a model that's interesting and then 1 day when I was doing was
working on a contract somebody and the I got got an approach from 1 of the 5 biggest publishers in the world saying we want to buy your software and my immediate reaction was cool that's interesting and in the 2nd reaction is hell no note is looking at that can so it's not syllable condition it's about
packed together but being an entrepreneur I didn't say hello now I said to that's very interesting a constant software but what I do is license you the data you which turned out to be a great answer because for the next 18 months I think it was spice supplied publisher data that they needed to use their own strategic about what price movements were doing in the market and then paying me handsomely for it so I was working time on a contract for the BBC I was working full time on this it was it was a very financially rewarding time in my my life and to a large extent the
money that I took in from that period is 1 still using the funds invest myself what I'm trying to do without site now so this is the
precise as it stands now and this is what I'm trying to make a full time viable business cut such good loves me don't call me it's an e-book price comparison site so I encourage you to check it out if you do it you'll see natural like this at the moment this is the new versions coming up what 1 ontology with is different to what I did with into trading
because inch trader was the old style of venture-backed model of growing business where I had to write a business plan ahead to convince other people of the the merits of our plant and then have to get the office button find staff supported the lectures all those all those Joyce things and with this I'm trying to do different what I want to do is not go down that route of funding it 2 other people's money until I am convinced that scalable model because if I do that it means of a much better price and evaluation when I raise the money the next time but also it means I'm giving myself the luxury of trying things out I'm allowing myself to try and then you with the various ideas and using in this in this project before I have other people to tell me I can't do them but that's not about me I want to talk
about the what you could do because I think we as technologists all extraordinarily lucky to be
here at this time because of the In snack because of the globalization it's going along we have the opportunity to build stuff it all back bedroom by ourselves
and turn it into a profitable businesses which can replace a full-time job all just enhance the life that you have by doing it part time because we don't need to hire staff because we can build ourselves we don't have to have an office because you can use of virtual server on Amazon only on on well I think this is a terrific opportunity and as 1 of the things I would like for people to to start contemplating what they will do it because to my mind will return a change in the way we do work the future of work is not going to be what was in the past we don't have the likelihood of having a full time job even if we want to 1 of the rest of our lives in the nature of it all is becoming much more a portfolio career where you do 1 job lot of followed by another contracts that he'd take a maybe the day all week not for years or decades so I'm assuming that you
have some technical knowledge about something all you have an idea this
is some of the things that you can do with it now the big choice you need to make his going to build a product or I don't wanna service and they both have merit it's a very good idea I believe if you're not familiar with the idea of running a business or having something that you are
building that you are making and you are selling starting with a 1 of product is a much better idea than trying to understand this from day 1 you can write in the book in a week in fact 1 of the books I'm going to recommend later and was we'd never possible we can the reason why it's better is it means you can go through the whole process of having the idea building the thing going out their marketing it and it seems to me to pay for it without having to put in place to support costs of learning in there are and it's in really important but if you can go down this road that you experience the whole journey from idea sail and ongoing support because it's so easily to have the idea of the fun of building it and then go
on how Senate now that income talked about that that's the important if you don't make the step of finding somebody wants to buy preferably before it's you filter and sending it to them you don't have a business you got a hobby and that's because the Vatican today as long as you realize that that's what you're doing if you think you're trying to run a business but you are in fact having a whole they did you
know that even an enjoyable experience because you will another money so the 1 of things you can do is of you could write me but a good example of somebody made a lot of money out of doing that later you got out of the course so if for example you have to be the expert in I don't know John Jenkins pipes or whatever that's a terrific idea is new technology that people will want to know about somebody should be like a number what are called all online training so this is the product is great for sigh project or 1st but whether
bigger more long-term money seems to be in is in service related businesses because then you you get the Holy Grail of recurring revenue that every month customer is going to pay you money every month the nature
that is united to get support cost is a bit a big operation we need to think about and you have to commits to being available to do that support 24 by 7 365 days away so if you so found like maybe you might not want to do that because because you want to go on holiday or come to conferences but the idea that you have a service will website sitting there making money whilst you do things you want to do if 1 has an idea that works may very well and then the other thing
that you can do is to publish now publishing used to mean writing about watching blog but now it also means doing a video blog going
you into doing podcasts on the on the on the subject matter and this is great not just because you can potentially may monetize it to make make money out of what you're doing but by during that publishing by producing a podcast what you do is position yourself as an authority you may be an expert in the the world prospect but in particular field but if nobody knows about why will they contract with you why would they ask you for the consulting why would they ask you to fix the
problems so there's there's ways to monetize unlike doing intersection just on the core
question of monetization but here's this dispute them headings direct sales but it will be used to be so needed have an official publisher like a violin now is becoming much more common people self-published a technical book for
many reasons 1 of which is you don't have to ask permission you don't have to convince anybody else it's a good idea is to get out there and do it but also the time to market is much faster I have a friend who's written a book completed it
last year is ready to go but the traditional publish it is that to listen to the book and next year now that's 2 years of no income from that book that is ready self-published he'd be up to the beginning for right now the it Commissioner something which can what when you do it in a way which is not so if
you buy a book through my site for example then I get for the Commission feminism from is cost you anymore but I make the money for the connecting you without without vendor that a it is done well it can work nicely some sites tend to just push things that you whether they're good whether you want them or not and then I I find that cheesy I don't like same advertising advertising can be a very good way of monetizing and the website of service but only when it's done well you don't want to have the advertising become the point it's supposed to match the offering of what you're trying to to sell and useful sponsorship is that this is something that lower podcast environment so if you are writing for example me till is a subdivision and come to later but they do a podcast where it's sponsored by the current company would host and meet your website so what you doing by providing a podcast is finding and the audience that they want they they can do they targeted at the in the it has this form sponsorship on the podcast here you know exactly the target audience who they want to reach
then the other thing which you can pack into the cell which is what I've also made some money from with the books like is data analytics so because I have this website I have a lot of data about what people actually do when they're buying and that's data by itself is a viable product now I will say to anybody this subsidy thinking I use those me what about the privacy
aspects I don't sell individual data myself called aggregated data so I can say for example this book that you've never heard of is racing up through people's wish lists and but I want gives me examples of people that like you who have gone
down this path and made some serious money from it so
people think becoming way of writing a book based example civilized life meet your it is web framework for doing real-time data the documentation that came with it wasn't particularly good although the technology was fantastic so these 2 people such a great friend Tom Coleman
decided to write a book and website to to support that they packaged it such that you could choose what level of what you want to divide so I think there's a 29 . 0 options which is just the book was a 59 book which was the with which which was the 1st in the book with some training videos and then there was the that the high option where you got customer-support or something like that so this case study that they did we become mode which was the company that was selling it 300 thousand dollars in 18 months book this could be more than that now because of the book is still necessary to understand how to use media it's also if you're
thinking about things but I would recommend you check out their website because it is the best example I have found the how to a technical book it's it's just beautiful and it's the same way that I would choose to use a form writing 1 but 300 thousand dollars 1 book self-published it was a common stock business and we always
musical justice so they found a well is anybody here use balsamic you have held the source about it is back bedroom and last time I've seen some public figures on this what know profits when it 2 million
of of about 26 down there were remotely this is a beautiful example of how somebody from the sweet spot in the market FIL something he wanted to use himself so the setting and listen to his customer base and developed it the Senate is 1 offered to buy that business which is chosen not to take because even if you things you can do better these customer base by staying as an independent company it says we can do 1 person 2 million dollars people say companies and
Michigan nearer so well I have to say
I can say that that's wrong because my biggest customer when I was doing with the the book Data Service was in New York this the publisher using American publisher I've never even met them and yet I made I think about a hundred thousand dollars from a contract with company have never met and if you follow
technician I heard of egorical pattern 11 pattern against and he has won a number of businesses is is also by the way and if you get a chance to to following thing he says he he he really knows his stuff he was running successful small business so thought it was cool bingo card created units in Japan he then started doing some he discovered that he had a real talent for marketing software products and so
he was being hired by people of all creeds software and major US companies to help them sort out what the strategy should be positive in Japan and is thing when when people
start to think about trying to build something for themselves and make money from it the most common reactions but I can't I can't think of account do that because over you
whether list of excuses reasons you may have I don't believe that I believe that anybody in this room could if they wanted to I'm not saying that you should I'm saying that if you wanted to you have the skills to to the to get through that and it doesn't
matter how interested you all it doesn't matter how this you are it doesn't matter what your reason for that is that it will not come to can use you can and won't show you an example here is something I find totally inspiring John knowledge
is paralyzed neck down has to have a table by 7 support to do the basic things of of of living and yet despite being analyzed with muscular atrophy from from an neck he has managed to build a successful business he's his
particular talent is in copywriting to error and blocking so he he runs courses lights the data but but services is about how to be a better blocker the ones that company from his wheelchair and Haiti in all normal normal have forms of business people it's a he was probably unemployable and yet employed himself and he's made a really good business in a terrific like from come back so don't think you can't do it if the can do you can
so I have a few final thoughts which don't really fit into a particular category but it's OK start small
and that encourage at because what you need to do is to learn the business of being in business you need to understand what it means to file a tax returns on time because if you're doing the corporate business the rules are different if you're self-employed if you that register it's different than if you're not a field doing business In the fuel and it's a new kind of duty in business it dealing with the users in the rest of the year you got a whole different level of bureaucracy to to cope with those things matter as much as being as good as you can the thing you are trying to sell the start support not
finish 1 of the books that that I recommend is by a woman called Amy Hall and I don't know if you've heard of her amazing woman notebook is called just ship because what you learned by shipping a product to completion and having had the customer is something you cannot buy in a book you can only learn that experienced by doing it and then we we do it is by doing it to actually finishing the job it is OK to fail now I had a business in straight and adult column that would be a failure by anybody's and anybody's criteria 8 years I think I raised about half a million pounds for that in the 8 years we make profit in
2 months that's not a successful business however the business failed the idea failed but I did not fail I am not a failure because I had a business which did not work what I had was a learning experience most businesses don't get it right the 1st time and this is 1 of the things we especially
technology related business founders sometimes struggle with because we use to getting everything right near the nature of coming through the exam system at school when you do science-related subjects is you expect to be able to get 90 to 100 % on the exam because you know how to do the maths question the physics question and suddenly the real world is not like that the real world you have to experiments that don't work to find ways to that do work so it is OK to fail just don't make the same mistake twice and something to think very you may just want to start writing little Wordpress plugin just to try that experience that's fine but always and then back in 19 what like could I take
this if I was going to end it is 10 times bigger what what the next step would be to do that how do I get 10 times bigger 100 times bigger because there's all use the way and has a small nimble tech-related company you have the ability to move much faster than some of the behemoths
of the corporate world so you can take advantage of that if you have a choice between beta beta beta say which means business to business for business to consumer choose business-to-business every
time also anyone because they are used to spending money well as most consumers don't like spending money is examined in the book world if you try to sell and the but that's a fiction way now condition to understand that in the book on Kindle should be 99 pence 2 dollars cheap cheat sheet if you're doing a business related book in assigning that it is not acceptable to be to be setting up a 29 dollars 59 dollars 200 dollars most expensive books ever been sold through my website was 1 thousand 250 but I think it was a set of building regulations the new thing about
when you when you starting up you get to decide what is your doing that going to tell you if you
decide what kind of business you what which means choose the customers you want and employs accordingly so if you make the choice to have high end expensive customers are willing to spend large amounts of money with you then tries to cheap because if you price cheap you'll get cheap customers and shows more this is then the pact capture McKenzie has told me over the years he has his manager charge charge more this we have charged because until taken somebody's money that is not your friend your mother you the sister whatever that at most that you do not know his handed in their credit card online to you you've taken the money until you've done that you don't know whether anybody that she wants what you've got so you must charge because that's the only way validating your idea unintelligible because nobody charges enough to start with because you think know how how can I build something that will work with this amount of money W. prices
Tripoli prices 10 times suffice to see what happens i've got all when I was on sales trips with outside of myself but if he didn't lose 50 per cent of sales deals on price the charging enough and I am I really interesting idea that it's OK not to win sales data to make that work you have to have enough
of a point when can try about experiment both the high you can be utilized as a better service you can deliver to customers and you'd be surprised what they can when I did the book deal with the publisher I haven't got a clue how much to charge and so when we we agreed what I was going to deliver he does before the flies I was coming in and going about it said that we can know how to have funds this new and so I left it to him inadvertently needs and what we get a sorted how about I can't pay you would pay the apple people so and any name device which was like at least 3 times what I would have thought of charging so I felt great yet I can work without them showed up that it myself out of
total and underparts and my final what about you 1 of the which is known as which is if you've got any idea about going into business but this is the
side project work a big big external practice presentation skills you can them and this is 1 of the common things that we as techies feel very unhappy about standing up here speaking to a roomful of people is really it's scary but it's also fun and you can learn how to do this I I am a very shy person and a very introverted person but most people who know me don't think about it because they think I stand on a stage by myself talking to an audience of hundreds of must be an outgoing edge to the I just told myself child to do this and so I would really encourage you if you've never spoken public people start now he doesn't have be all like this good to let you local meet up with we won 1 in Scotland will always trying encourage people to fight in in a 10 minute talk son of a house might into thinking of them before is that the use of leeway to start because walking go will yeah you 5 minutes anybody can talk about something they can about 5 minutes here again and then you learn how to solve the problems of actually doing presentations like for example I know my knees get nervous so my my needs to my shake quite a lot when I'm feeling uncomfortable but I will it's tells us so you don't know that because you can't see them shaking things like that you learn by doing and this is the common thing about being in business you only learn by doing so get out there and start doing it my final
start next this is the single most useful business to you have got whether it's the of a technical book with you know doing a service based out of you want have to the people who share any interest at all in what you're doing so you can continue to have a conversation with them I have had a
whole lot of other things on say but I
think out of time so what I should do is moving in if 2 questions but what I'd like to say is that the people who were in the other room probably they're watching through the video link if you don't have the opportunity to be a question to me
now you do want to you can find me on Twitter you can find in a telegram app um I'll be
around so Wednesday so adjustment chat with me if you got enough interest I consider the section in the open spaces and and if anybody's watching this on you to that often goes to UT and just get in touch are will move on twitter all will not I think on the telegram and I if you if I said anything here that such as
unknown that makes you go and try something I'd love to know about it please let me know what you do and do something thank you very much Thank
any I think you were maturational off
at the