Chapter 2 Let me share with you how I got started

When I was first starting out as a developer, I remember how excited I was at the mere thought of having any company interested in me. As time went on and I moved from one company to the next, my salary grew almost exponentially and in a very short period of time.

The first developer job I ever had, my salary was $32,000 per year and I was extremely excited! $16 per hour to do what I love to do was amazing. Six months went by and even though I loved my job, I happened to see a posting for another position at a startup company and decided to apply for it. It was a simple HTML developer position. They didn’t even require me to be an expert. If I remember correctly, the job description said that I should have “some” knowledge of HTML. Keep in mind it was at a time when HTML was less trivial to know than it is today.
Needless to say, I did the interview and amazingly enough, I got the job. I didn’t find out until afterwards that the job paid $64,000 per year! That was a 2 fold increase in my salary in the first 6 months of being a developer! I was ecstatic! You have to believe me when I tell you that this is an anomaly. You will see later in the book that I am a huge believer in finding out the salary or rate before you even get to an interview.

The company was amazing. Every benefit you could possibly imagine came with the job. From free gym memberships, to free food and soda all day long, there seemed to be no end. Who doesn’t love and I mean LOVE free food and soda! We had lunch and dinner catered from nice restaurants and even kegs of beer brought in every Friday. This was the life and I was as happy as could be.
Fast-forward six more months. My friend Bill sends me an email with a job description that a local company is hiring for. It’s a six month contract position with the possibility of extension. The pay is $50 per hour on w2 plus benefits. The job description stated that they wanted someone who had at least a few years of experience with Visual Basic and Desktop Applications development. I had neither. However, I had some knowledge of Visual Basic and was teaching myself the language from a book called “Learn Visual Basic in 21 Days” that I bought for $15 online.

I decide to go and interview just for the heck of it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and fortune favors the bold kind of thing. In the interview, I know they’re asking me fairly simple technical questions, none of which I answered correctly and all of which were over my head. I left the interview with my spirit broken and headed directly for 31 flavors to drown my sorrows in ice cream.

The next day I’m back at my job just as happy as could be and grateful for even having the job at all as I sit stuffing myself with Snickers bars and soda. I go check my email and see one from the company I just interviewed with that reads:

“Greg, thanks for coming in. We have decided that you are a good fit for this position and would like to know when you could start? The sooner the better. - David”

Um, I don’t know what just happened. I have to tell you that my first reaction was that the email was a joke on me. No one could have interviewed any worse than I did, nor have any less technical ability per the job description.

Now I start calculating what $50 per hour is as compared to my current $64,000 per year salary and it turns out $50 per hour is roughly $100,000 per year! My jaw drops and frankly I must have blacked out because I don’t even remember sending the email back stating how pleased I was that they wanted me and that I could start in 2 weeks. I packed up all the stuff at my desk, sent my letter of resignation to my boss and never looked back.

As a side note, that startup company which had received millions of dollars of venture capital to the tune of about 30 million dollars, having no business plan or any way to make money, went under 2 weeks after I left. I remember talking to my boss just a week before I left and telling him that I cannot believe this company is seemingly doing so well when their only product generates no income whatsoever. I say seemingly because who would be giving away so many benefits and perks to their employees unless they were doing really well? I wasn’t any kind of business expert, but I figured it was only common sense that at some point one would at least need a product or service with which to make money off of. Well, it turns out, management wasn’t so bright and less than bright people would give away benefits and perks when they weren’t making any money. I used to think that people in E level positions had some hidden genius, but in reality, they are no smarter than you and I. 

This entire experience was definitely a lesson learned to say the least.

So let’s look at the timeline here. My first year as a developer I start out making $32,000 per year and am as excited as can be. Six months goes by and I have already doubled my income to $64,000 per year. Six more months goes by and my salary has gone up 56.25% to $100,000 per year.

Think it ends there? Think again. Just 4 short months go by and I decide that it’s time to start my own consulting business and go find my own clients. I do as much research as possible on how to start a company and even what kind of company I should start (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp). After all was said and done, I started an LLC because it was fast, simple and cost virtually nothing to start or maintain.

Tip: Check your states corporation commission website for information on starting your own company, if you’re so inclined. It is remarkably fast and painless to start an L.L.C. (Limited Liability Company) You may or may not want to do this if you do any contract work.

I attained my first client through word of mouth. My per hour rate? $250 per hour working 40 hour weeks and being my own boss. A 500% increase in salary. I was raking it in, kicking ass and taking names.

Keep in mind the economy at the time was ripe for this kind of rate and businesses seemed to have no end to their cash reserves. The hype to get their business online drove the need to hire good developers who could get the job done and companies were willing to pay top dollar in order to do it.

Luckily I have always had one true asset about my personality that made all of this possible. The ability to read manuals, no matter how large they were, in one sitting. I absolutely despise reading books for leisure, I always have. There is just something about reading a book for fun that irks me and I could never truly pinpoint what that was other than to say, I hate wasting my time for something just to get “fun” as my reward. I always need to be learning something new or honing my skills, increasing my technical acuity and striving to be the better version of myself. Manuals were a way to learn something new, brush up on skills, have more knowledge, and for me, that was the best reward I could receive for my time. 500 page manual on Python? No problem, I’ll be done by the end of the day and amazingly enough will retain enough of it to be functional. Sure I didn’t memorize the whole thing but I could learn enough to get the gist and actually start getting work done. By the end of the first week I was coding with the best of them. This is how it’s always been for me. If I don’t know something, I’ll go out and learn it, as quickly as possible. I’ll try and master it and be the best I can be at it.

Between the age of 25 and 30 my net worth went from negative $22,000 racked up on my credit cards to a $500,000+ net worth with thoughts of retiring by the age of 32. (I really thought that I just needed 2 million dollars to my name and no debt to retire. I found out later that 2 million might not be enough.). Also, when I say retire, I truly only define it as not having to worry about money. I don’t think I could ever stop working. It just isn’t me.

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