Original question from Quora:

How do I make a living with programming in 2017 by developing my own project?

I am much better suited for perfecting one specific idea/product/service, than working for clients, completing hundreds of different projects every year. I want to create something that has value, and sell it. Any advice? I am a freelance web developer.

My Answer:

There is one thing you need to do if you are going to develop your own project and I say this as someone who has done dozens of my own projects with limited to no success in most of them…

But first, let me tell you a quick story.

I’ve been hacking on code since my parents bought a Packard Bell computer in 1995. It ran Windows 3.11 for Workgroups and DOS. It was amazing at the time.

I built all kinds of games, small programs, apps, and websites since then. Some of them made money, most of them didn’t.

I’ll give you one great example. A couple years ago I built a service called Static Hosting that would be an easy and cheap way to host your static websites.

It was beautiful. All you had to do is upload a zip file of your site and it would be online.

We also built a command line tool to upload your site.

It was super slick and didn’t require as much config as hosting on Amazon S3.

The pricing wasn’t crazy, it was like $5 month per website or something.

To make a reasonable salary of say $50–60,000 a year we need like 1,000 websites hosted there.

It was a great service and my business partner and I used it. We even got a couple friends using it.

We never got anyone else to use it. It probably made less than $100 total, ever.

Now, I did go around and try and sell this idea to people and developers told me it was too expensive. They would rather use Amazon S3.

Okay, well that didn’t work.

In retrospect, I went about the whole thing wrong.

If I had to do it all over again, I would find developers and ask them if they want a product like this…

If they said yes, I’d offer them a deal - $30/year for life if you pay the first full year right now, before I build anything.

Because here’s the thing…

Until someone gives you money for a product, you don’t have anything. Period.

And that brings us to the big lesson that every web entrepreneur learns eventually.

It doesn’t matter what you build, it matters what you sell. Learn how to sell, then sell like your life depends on it.

Products, services, and ideas all die if you never get paid.

So, if you are wanting to go solo and build your own product - get good at selling people your product and getting money for it.

Until you have people telling you…

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!

…you haven’t figured it out yet.

Good luck, and get out there and sell!

-Brian

P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.