January 25, 2020

Six months ago I worked for minimum wage under horrible conditions. Today, I run a profitable online business that brings $2100/month in revenue

Pete Codes

Please introduce yourself (name, age, country, job before starting a company) and what you are working on

Hey, my name is Pete and I live in Edinburgh in Scotland. I make No CS Degree, which is a blog where I interview developers without Computer Science degrees and show that anyone can be successful in tech. I have taught myself to code and I want to remind myself that you don’t need a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science to get a degree. So this involves me interviewing developers and sharing their career change stories with the world which is fun!

I also run a few side projects like No CS OK, which is a jobs board for developers without degrees. This is so that programmers that have come through bootcamps or have taught themselves code can find jobs they know they can apply for.

I am also in the process of making Bootcamp Index, which is a directory of all the world’s coding bootcamps. It’s unique because it shows success stories from the blog. So users can see what someone that has attended a certain bootcamp has achieved. You can also search for bootcamps by criteria like what languages they teach, whether you can wait and pay once you have found a good job, if there are scholarships available and many more factors.

What's your backstory and why did you decide to start a business?

I was working as a researcher before and then I quit my job and went travelling for a while and made some websites that failed. After that I was unemployed and then was working in a betting shop. It was really dangerous and lots of people took drugs and were violent so I quit at the end of June 2019. That’s why I started No CS Degree because I felt like I needed a change and that I should give entrepreneurship another try. I’m glad I did!

Describe the process of starting and launching the business.

It was pretty simple. I asked Pieter Levels which blogging software I should use and he suggested Ghost. So I tried that out and really liked it! It’s got some advanced SEO features but is easy to use. I already had a good network of developers without CS degrees so I asked ten people if they wanted to do interviews and I think all of them said yes.

I shared it on Product Hunt and it did quite well, finishing in the top 10 of the day and getting featured. But what went really crazy was when I launched on Hacker News. That brought it 29,000 views in one day! So that helped increase the number of Twitter followers and one day I got 30 developers emailing me asking to be interviewed. This made my first couple of months pretty easy as I had a big backlog of people to ask.

My first revenue came from newsletter sponsors. Because I had a really good launch I got a lot of subscribers really quickly so I was able to charge for a discreet text advert at the end of the emails I was sending.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Definitely Twitter has been a big help for me. It’s where I find people to interview, find bootcamps to contact about sponsorships and where people can follow my progress. I share my interviews on other sites like Facebook as well but I much prefer Twitter. There are lots of developers there and I think any founder should have an account and tweet a lot. You’ll make friends with founders and they can help you.

Apart from that, I have my newsletter and that’s really a great way to keep in contact with people. If you have any sort of business you should keep a mailing list as it gives you control over how you talk to your audience. Obviously you have to provide them with good content and don’t annoy them with bad emails.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

So in December I made $2,117 which was my best month so far. It was really great to get over the $2k mark for the first time. My revenue comes from a mixture of newsletter ads, a little affiliate income from courses I mention but also sponsorships from bootcamps when I interview one of their graduates.

I’m talking to a few bootcamps about making longer terms deals so that will mean getting paid for several at a time which will be great. These deals usually take longer as there is more money at stake so you have to be a bit patient. It’s not like asking someone to pay $5 for a SAAS product.

My friend Andrey Azimov who makes sheet2site challenged me to make $10k MRR by November 2020 when I have my birthday. So that’s where I want to get to this year and hopefully I can make more. I have just made Bootcamp Index where you can find which bootcamp courses are the best for you depending on your circumstances. So I’m hoping that helps me get up to $10k a month quickly. I’m also improving my coding skills so I can make more products this year to my own specifications.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

I’ve learned that you definitely need to do a lot of outreach for every sale. You need to collect rejections. So for every sale you make you might need to contact 10 people who will say no. So you need this mindset that there are lots of opportunities out there - they call it an abundance mindset.

I think you also have to be optimistic. You’ll have bad days of course and it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. But if you can believe you can achieve. So a positive attitude is very important.

I often ask people for help and this is something that sometimes people don’t do enough. It just makes sense to me if I need help with sales I will contact a sales expert etc. So don’t be too proud to contact people and ask for advice. Of course, only you can make the decision in the end though.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

I use Ghost for blogging. I happened to ask Pieter Levels which blogging platform I should use in 2019 and he suggests Ghost. I’ve been very happy with it so far and it’s just a lot cleaner than Wordpress. No plugins to add etc. Everything just works!

I use sheet2site for the jobs board just now in order to test demand. Andrey Azimov provides excellent customer support and it’s a great way to test ideas out. I use Slack for the community, Mailchimp for the newsletter, Simple Analytics and Zapier to add subscribers to my mailing list. I also take some one-off payments with Checkout Page which is a way to get paid with Stripe but without writing code.

What are some sources for learning you would recommend for entrepreneurs who are just starting?

You can learn everything for free on Twitter, Indie Hackers, etc. You just have to analyze where people have succeeded and failed. You will begin to see patterns.

Also, just ask people questions if you are unsure. I made some mistakes recently because I made assumptions about other people’s business decisions instead of just asking them why they did something. I get a lot of DMs on Twitter so it’s better to just tweet me and ask me a question.

Advice for professionals who want to get started or are just starting out?

Definitely make something you need in your life. Don’t make an app for golfers if you’ve never played golf - you won’t understand the market or be motivated to work on the idea.

I made this mistake years ago when I made a sort of Nomad List for Skiers and Snowboarders. The only problem? I hadn’t skied in years. So I wasn’t really motivated beyond money and I didn’t know what people looked for in ski resorts nowadays.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

I’m not hiring, no. I like being able to work by myself and I don’t think I will need to hire for a long time. It adds complications like managing someone, organising their salary, dealing with how they see things differently perhaps. So I think one person can move quicker as they don’t have to think about someone else’s opinions.

Where can we go to learn more about you and your business?

So my main business is No CS Degree which you can check out here: www.nocsdegree.com

I also have a jobs board for developers without degrees: https://nocsok.com

I’ve just made a website for finding the best coding bootcamps: www.bootcampindex.com

I write a blog: https://petecodes.io

And of course I use Twitter a lot as well: www.twitter.com/petecodes