The year of 2010 marked a turning point in my life.

I had been designing web sites for 15 years, in every capacity. I'd been a freelance designer, a UI designer working on startups, an in house designer, leader of a design agency, and even a sales person. The only hat I hadn't worn was the elusive and superior title of "coder", and I wasn't sure I could do it, because I was a designer.

When I was in house at Viviti, as a UI designer, I dabbled in ROR (Ruby on Rails) thanks to Tyler Kiley who sat next to me and patiently answered my questions about coding (he's since moved on to found InQuicker).

Anyway, after that I decided I would try PHP, which I enjoyed a lot more. I'd been writing HTML in text since before there were WYSIWYG editors, so being able to build something from scratch without the magic of rails was more appealing to me. In early 2010, I decided to build my wife an app as a learning experiment, and I donned the coder hat for the first time.

App #1: Exching

Exching is a marketplace for used (pre-loved as my wife says) clothes and accessories. My wife designed it and I built it on Caffeine PHP, a very small framework my friend Gavin had been working on for years.

Exching is live, and growing every day (with no marketing budget). I launched it in March of 2010 much to the enjoyment of my wife. It's taken all year to gain any traction, but we're now seeing daily sign ups and items posted all over North America.

App #2: QuoteRobot

In June, I launched QuoteRobot with my partner Jon Cochran. It's an app that helps designers and coders create quotes and win projects. I use it every week and I love it. I'd consider it a success even if nobody else used since, since it saves me hours every time I need to write a proposal, but fortunately we had over 1000 people sign up the week we launched it, so others share my sentiment.

QuoteRobot became profitable in August and continues to grow. We built it on CodeIgniter, and Jon did most of the coding work, including some terrific Javascript wizardry. He's brilliant to work with, and I've decided that launching an app with a partner is definitely the way to go.

App #3: Golf Group Manager

In May I was approached to build an app called Golf Group Manager. This app allows golf groups to manage their members, create games, and track statistics. I took on the job, and as my first foray into creating an app for a client from scratch (without outsourcing anything), I admittedly did everything wrong. I underquoted, over committed my time to other projects, and blew the timeline in a way I hadn't since I was a teenager. Fortunately, I was blessed with amazingly patient and generous clients.

It was embarrassing, but in the end the project was launched and I learned a ton. The client is happy and the future looks bright :) Whew.

What I Learned

  • Everything takes longer to code than expected so add extra hours to every quote
  • Working with a partner is more fun and less stressful
  • Small projects are better for cashflow (as a freelancer) than large projects
  • Anyone who wants can learn to code (don't tell yourself you can't do something)

What do you think? I'd love your feedback on my year long adventure into coding so leave me a comment!