I had my first computer when I was 18. It was called CIP, and it was a communist clone of the famous ZX Spectrum. Same processor, almost the same board. You would load the operating system from a cassette tape, which made such a strange , acute noise. Any other programs (or games, mostly) had to be loaded from a cassette tape AFTER you loaded the OS. From those of you reading this on your phone, this must sound surreal. Prehistoric, too.
And yet, at that time, it was the climax of tech. That CIP was the iPhone of the eighties, in terms of coolness. I learned Beta Basic (in about two hours, that’s how easy it was) and I could draw complex shapes on the screen.
Although I followed a humanistic path, I kept my interest in programming alive. I bought a 486 while in college, which then got upgraded to a Pentium. Eventually, I changed this for a laptop running Linux. At that point, I was already an entrepreneur, coding in languages a bit more complexes than Beta Basic (PHP, that is). I built from scratch an online network of about 25 sites, with more than 80,000 lines of code. After I sold that business, I made my money through various means, like blogging, consulting and even a tango school at some point. But during all these years, I always had my Mac around (yeah, after those Linux years, I switched to Mac and never went back).
And not only have I had my Mac around, but I always did some bits and pieces of programming. I wrote from scratch iPhone apps in Objective C. I fixed quirks in WordPress, and, occasionally, I tried my hand with exotic languages like Lua or Angular-Js, just to keep being in shape.
These days I pay rent by being a programmer. And I am ALMOST ashamed to tell you how easy this is for me. And you know why?
Because I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years. I don’t think I passed a single month in these years without writing some sort of code, even if it was just a simple CSS bit. But the compound effect of doing this for so long is overwhelming. You have no other option but to become good at what you do.
Do what you’re good at.
Don’t give in to what you THINK you might be good at, or to what YOU’D LIKE to be good at. There must be some cool trend right now that you want to ride and you may jump into it, just to squeeze the momentum. Don’t. If you don’t know how to do it, just don’t. Just because it’s cool and trendy, it doesn’t mean you’re so good at it that you’d be able to pay rent by doing it.
Instead, focus on what you already know.
There must something that you’ve been doing for so long, that you had no other option but to become really, really good at it. You probably are so good that you think it’s sooo easy to do that. Well, for you it is, that’s true.
Just take advantage of that.
Do something you’re so good at, that it’s almost embarrassing for you to ask money for it. And yet, ask the market price for it.