I’m currently a full-time freelancer working with various clients. I also work on a few other projects to turn into products, individually and with a partner. I have many ideas on what I could do professionally, but I also have limited time, attention, and resources to invest in my work. If I am overwhelmed with too many things, I will not make enough progress in each. I’ve recently thought a lot about my focus, and I want to leverage the Playground program I’m attending to gain some clarity.
My client projects have included software development, technical writing, and consulting. However, the overwhelming majority of my time goes to software development. I have a few long-term clients who enjoy working with me, and I enjoy working with them. The work, however, is often barely related to the specialization on APIs that I’ve built over the past years. On the other hand, I’m seeing a lot of business development potential for partnerships beyond freelancing. I don’t want to stop this work anytime soon.
Years ago, I set up a website and published a few blog posts around a business concept for developer content production. However, that doesn’t correctly reflect my daily work. I’ve done very little developer content and a whole lot of developing. I worked on this business concept because I saw the potential for scalability and the combination of my various skills and interests. Still, my journey turned out differently.
Many ideas about what I want to do are swirling in my head. Some are distinct from what I’m doing now, and others are close. Some of them are highly connected, while others are more independent. I wrote them down recently, without filtering, to find some patterns. My goal for the first week of Playground was to write this post to share a brain dump with the world. I didn’t quite finish it in the first week, but I’m catching up now.
I’m not sharing the complete list and all my thoughts today. However, it boils down to whether I want to be a builder or an educator (in the broadest sense of these words).
My biggest education project so far was the book “Designing APIs with Swagger and OpenAPI” that I wrote together with Josh Ponelat. Leveraging that book to sell consulting packages around API design and related topics would be a no-brainer. However, I need more than one book. As these consulting projects might be well-paid but limited in size, I need a sales funnel to generate leads regularly, which means spending a lot of time on cold outreach, content marketing, brand building, etc. I haven’t done so, mainly because my days were full of paid software development projects. I must choose between doubling down on what already pays the bills or setting up this new system. I’m considering the latter because this would be very intriguing and generate more money in the long run if I get the right clients. I’m doing the former because it’s inside my comfort zone, and, as I mentioned above, I’m enjoying the work and see a lot of potential in it as well.
I like building stuff. I’ve worked on software projects for myself since I was a teenager, and I still enjoy it. I also like talking about my work. Developer relations is fascinating because it combines technical and human aspects and is mainly about sharing a passion. I’ve enjoyed the developer content and writing projects that I’ve done, and I love giving talks and being at conferences and tech meetups. However, talking about things others have built - whether a community or open source thing or the product of a company contracting you - eventually becomes unsatisfactory as you think about how much you’d enjoy making it instead of just talking about it. At least, it’s what I’ve experienced.
Building things for myself is enjoyable. Building something for others is still good. The most satisfying (but also sometimes stressful) is making things for others that leverage assets that I’ve previously created for myself. And I can already do this in my current projects, with expansion potential.
For a while, I’ve spent much time reading articles about APIs and related topics and shared this content on my Twitter to build a personal brand. I’ve stopped doing that, and my Twitter output has become random. I first voiced some of the sentiments around my plans in December when talking about a social media and personal branding strategy in light of changes at Twitter. Back then, I decided not to make outreach a focus, but five months into the year, it might make sense to rethink that.
There are two paths forward for me. The first is to stay with the current software development projects that pay the bills and spend all unbilled hours on SaaS-style projects that could generate earnings in the future. I wouldn’t worry about branding, outreach, or content creation besides doing a bit of build-in-public on personal projects. My wish to write or do DevRel-style work would be limited to those projects. The plan might also involve adding some subcontractors to help me with the development. I could have an arbitrage opportunity in client projects and put the profits into my other projects.
The second is to seriously build another business that involves more one-off high-value consulting projects around APIs. It’s not the developer content business I tried setting up before (although I’m still open to it if client demand exists), but more focused on API design and related topics. It could include workshops and paid speaking opportunities as well. It’s an educational effort that would give me more money and exposure to leverage in other projects. It’s about building a brand as an expert.
I’ve started and stopped writing this post multiple times, mostly because I needed to see if it was the announcement of a decision or a basis for discussion of a decision yet to be made. I hoped it could be the first, but I need more time to decide. But the options are on the table now.