Is the Work Finally Paying Off?

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Not too long ago, I was celebrating some major milestones. And while those were great, I started to wonder whether or not the work was finally paying off. In this article, I’ll take a look at what I think success is and whether or not I measure up.

Table of Contents

Backstory

It’s April 26th, 2019, and I’m reminded of the fact that I bought The Renegade Coder domain just over two years ago (April 20th, 2017). At the time, I was sitting in an engineering class at General Electric at 8AM when I decided to pull the trigger on The Renegade Coder domain. The reason? I was absolutely sick of working on a blog (Cybrotronics) with one of my best friends.

I won’t go into the details because I think my first article on this site does an excellent job of capturing my anger at the time. That said, I will remind everyone of the text that sent me over the top:

Jeremy, please don’t call me Mickey on the site. I honestly hate that nickname and want to move forward past it. Please just say Matt from now on with anything website related. I would like to be called that in general but I doubt you guys will change your way

Apr 20, 2017, 3:58 AM

To which I responded:

What’s it matter? No one puts an effort in the site. So no one will ever see it.
But I’m glad something finally got your attention hah
I’m over this bullshit.
You left the group.

Apr 20, 2017, 7:14 AM

And it was at that point that I became The Renegade Coder.

Goals

Flash forward to today, and you’ll see a dramatically different site. With over 250 articles written, a handful of open source projects in the works, and some generous community support, I’ve started to ask myself: is the work finally paying off?

Of course, that depends. What is my measure of success, and am I meeting those goals? Let’s talk about it.

Metrics

At the surface level, I’m always going to be chasing metrics like views, visitors, and revenue. After all, those metrics directly affect one of my main goals of becoming financially independent. So, how close am I to that goal?

Earlier this month, I released an article celebrating a few milestones like 100,000 lifetime views, 1,000 daily views, and 250 articles. Oddly enough, my website has blown up since then. In fact, on April 4th, I nearly cracked 2,000 daily views. We’re talking about doubling my viewership almost twice in the span of two months. That’s insane.

Naturally, the 100,000 lifetime views milestone is already starting to seem silly considering I’ve nearly doubled it in the span of two months. We’re talking about a number that I spent two years accumulating, and now it’s just another day at the office.

Of course, views are great, but there’s still a problem. I can’t convert visitors into members. As of today, I have 47 members of which just two are paid: one of my best friends and my mom. Sure, the $10/month is awesome, but I would have liked to convert a few more of those viewers along the way.

On the flip side, the ad revenue is finally becoming respectable. In fact, March returned a healthy $22, and now I’m averaging about $1/day. Hopefully by this time next month, I’ll have my first WordAds paycheck. Then, I should start seeing them more often—like every few months.

Unfortunately, I’m still worried the views will suddenly dry up. After all, I’m incredibly dependent on organic traffic, and one article in particular is carrying the bulk of my views. Hopefully, I can start building up a diverse portfolio of backlinks and members to protect against search engine updates. I’d hate to continue to be this dependent of organic traffic in the future.

Significance

That said, at a deeper level, I want to feel like I’m doing something significant. In other words, I want my work to feel like it’s worth it, and that’s a hard thing to gauge. Sure, I get some feedback, but I’m generally not that great with it. Compliments just make me feel awkward and critiques usually piss me off, and neither have really helped me feel significant.

I will say that I really like it when other bloggers write about my site. I’ve only had the pleasure of The Renegade Coder being linked on a handful of websites, but it makes me feel good when I start to get traffic from that source as a result. It’s like “wow, someone went out of their way to write about my work, and it wasn’t just a comment,” and that feels awesome.

If it’s worth anything, I’m starting to feel like a virus—in a good way. As my posts grow in popularity, people link to them which increases their popularity. It’s like a positive feedback loop that makes me feel like maybe my work is worth it.

Of course, I think I’ll always have this internal drive to become self-employed, so I’m going to continue writing no matter what. Sorry, haters!

Time

Despite feeling more significant, one thing hasn’t really improved since I started: time. In fact, I’d argue that I work harder and longer than I did before: both on the site and in my day-to-day life. As someone who saw this website as an opportunity to earn some passive income, I’m not exactly happy with where I’ve ended up.

In any given week, I’ve promised myself that I’ll post twice. Currently, the schedule is 10AM on Mondays and Fridays. Naturally, you can imagine it takes a lot of time to put together one post a week—let alone two. Fortunately, writing comes a lot easier to me now than before. Instead of spending tons of time trying to find the right wording, I’ve grown into my own style which allows me to write exactly what I’m thinking.

Regardless, I’d love to have a life outside of school and The Renegade Coder. Hell, I used to play video games, and I rarely do that anymore. My hope is that once the money starts coming in, I can start backing away from obligations that don’t bring a ton of value into my life. Of course, I’m sure everyone says that. After all, I’m two years in and still waiting for that money.

Joy

Now, to be fair, writing has brought me a lot of joy. In fact, I’d argue that it’s currently my main source of joy outside of family and friends. Unfortunately, that means a lot of my mental health rides on the success of every single post. Naturally, the quickest way to really ruin my day is to make some snarky comment about one of my articles. For example, someone didn’t like my example of an assignment grading program:

P.S. What is wrong with you Americans? Don’t you care for the alphabet? What happened to ‘E’?

Likewise, some people just like to try to read my mind instead of reading what’s actually written:

How is this a problem? Code with lots of branches is a design smell; don’t do that. Also, consider using the switch statement, which is getting more powerful with recent java releases. Or better, switch to Kotlin which has a nice when statement that is a bit more sane than switch or if else garbage.

There’s also the folks who can’t put two and two together:

The tweet mentions ‘JS’, not Java as far as I can tell?

And even the people who think they have it all figured out:

My friend, if you want to see and do macro programming right, you need to get yourself a Lisp.

Of course, I’ve received much worse—in fact, I’ve considered creating a wall of shame for such comments—but even these relatively light-hearted critiques can sap the joy out of my day rather quickly. As a result, I’ve grown a rather thick skin despite my best attempts otherwise.

Reflection

If I had to gauge my success up to this point, I’d say I’ve been doing quite well. Who else can say they’re making $30/month from work they did months ago? Who else can say they’ve written over 250 articles in two years? Who else can say they have open source projects with over 100 stars? When I look at it that way, I feel great. Let’s see how I’m feeling a year from now.

Until then, here are couple posts I think you’d enjoy if you liked this post:

Thanks again for the support! If you’d like to help me hit some of my goals outlined in this post, consider subscribing.

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