It has been a year since I quit my job and decided to go independent. I didn’t know what I was going to do, the economic outlook wasn’t good, I had two rental properties and a condo that I didn’t know how I was going to pay for. I was armed with only hope, ambition, credit cards and my fiancé’s love & support.
The first three months, I toyed around with different and random ideas, I read lots of technical books and online material. I learned a ton of stuff and in the process I launched an open source project called Yonkly that was written using Microsoft’s newest web framework – asp.net mvc.
Yonkly was initially a Twitter clone, it was free and it was open source. Feedback was positive for the most part and I kept getting requests for customization and installation. One of my first clients was isweat.com which was a custom version of Yonkly. This was a good deal because I was getting paid to add more features to Yonkly as well as have a good reference client. I was also lucky to have a great client Ryan Lee – who is just an all around great guy and pays on time – actually ahead of time.
I kept getting more praises on Yonkly and more requests for customization. That’s when I thought to myself that there seem to be a market for this things. It looks like people want to create their own Twitter-like website for whatever reason. Some wanted to cultivate a community around a niche topic, some wanted to generate money with ads, some wanted to communicate/collaborate within a group/team/company. Regardless of the reason, there seemed to be enough demand to take this to the next level.
I was confused (and still am) on which direction to go. There was the WordPress direction – offer a free, open source, extensible platform à la wordpress.org with an accompanying free hosted version à la wordpress.com. There was the Ning direction – offer a hosted, subscription-based product à la Ning that lets anyone create their own microblog with zero-friction. I kept going back and forth and finally settled on a hybrid model that leans more to the ning model. I still kept the open source version out there (albeit it is outdated). I chose a subscription-based model because I was tired of all these eyeball-centered business models with ads as their only revenue. I wanted to create a sustainable business that will generate predictable recurring revenue. The result was the birth of the hosted version of Yonkly – currently at yonkly.com.
Similar to ning, Yonkly allows you to easily create a microblog by simply selecting a name and a url. You can create soccermoms.yonkly.com and voila, you got yourself a Twitter-like website focused around soccer moms. If this is a small community then you can set it up for free. My first release had 3 plans priced at 25, 50 and 100, I quickly realized that these were ridiculously high prices. I also realized that people like, no LOVE free stuff. I quickly adapted by introducing a free plan and changing the prices to 5, 15 and 25 with even reduced prices for annual subscriptions.
The cool thing about Yonkly is its approach to white-labeling. If you are a premium subscriber, you can create a site with your own domain, your own look and feel and with no mention of Yonkly anywhere. Good examples of that is isweat.com and blogpei.com. Yonkly has come a long way and now has thousands of users and over 1600 networks hosted on it. It is also profitable. I know that is hard to believe in this day and age. I am not rich off Yonkly (yet) and it won’t pay my mortgage BUT it pays for itself and then some. I have some really big plans for Yonkly which I will discuss in a future post.
So that was the story of Yonkly thus far; about 3 or 4 months after I quit my job, I accidently :) signed a book deal with Wiley Wrox on ASP.NET MVC and Test Driven Development (TDD). It has always been a dream of mine to write a book, so I was really excited. I won’t get rich of the book but I think it is an excellent learning experience and a great résumé filler. It forced me to get better about the book’s subject and to get better at writing in general. It also made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into each book.
I thought it was going to be an easy task, I mean, all I have to do is write. Right? Wrong, that was so far from the truth. I was cranking out an average of 3 pages a day – a mind numbingly slow rate. It wasn’t consistent either. Sometimes, I will write 15 pages in 3 hours and then spend 2 weeks writing the next 15. Sometimes I also feel that I can talk about a specific topic for 20 pages and then 2 paragraphs in, I realize that I got nothing else to say. It has been an interesting experience. The good news is that I am pretty much done with the book now and it should be published by May.
In conclusion, a year after I quit my job here are the end results:
- Huge credit card debt
- Possibility of foreclosure on rental properties
- Zero financial security
- No stable income
- Unpredictable outcome
Overall, I am glad I quit my job. Other than the fact that I am broke, I learned and accomplished a lot and ready to take Yonkly to the next level.