It is always a rewarding experience for an author to see his product get published. In this article, I will encourage you to make your own path by breaking down the obstacles I had to face while learning how to create informative courses.
Obstacles are good
Life often gives us hurdles that seem impossible to accomplish at first. Regardless of whether we are talking about dating, public speaking, conference presentations, software development, or asking for a raise, the formula for success is the same.
I still remember my initial struggles with dating. You may relate to these lines recalling your own struggle when you literally felt your heart in your throat, not knowing what to do in a situation that matters to you a lot.
Mastering your software career is shaped by the exact same forces as dating. You put yourself in tough spots, you get more familiar with your challenges, you never give up, and then you reap the rewards.
You may ask, what factor determines our success the most? The answer is self-confidence. Unfortunately, human nature tends to block our path towards becoming confident. Think about it! Daily clichés mention pop stars on drugs and depressed celebrities. In our consumer society, advertisements make you feel bad so that you can get relief by buying the product they want you to buy.
As a result, less and less people know their own set of values, and an increasing number of people depend on external validation. In order to fight for your own goals, you have to respect yourself, as external validation never lasts. The act of respecting yourself is called self-esteem. In The Developer’s Edge, you will get an action plan to build your self-esteem without external validation. Regardless of whether you want to improve your dating life, or you want to get a raise, or you want to start establishing your online presence, the same principles apply.
Most of us have to work hard for what we reach in our lives. This is what makes the whole process more enjoyable. Without hurdles, just the benefits would not make us happier. It’s mostly not the achievement that makes you happy, but the path leading to it.
It all started with a blog
I personally think that blogging is an excellent way for shaping your thought process, and validating what you learned. In this article, you can read about some challenges of blogging.
Back then, I didn’t really know what to do with my blog. I just consistently created content, working on idea after idea. However, I never focused on creating anything else.
Many of my readers may already have blogs, but a blog without a purpose, a blog without a long term goal in mind, is just like a side-project waiting to be used in a professional environment. Once you start creating value though, opportunities start chasing you.
I got approached by companies to work for them. Both short term consulting gigs and long term positions became available to me.
Another guy approached me that he would like me to organize a webinar.
A third opportunity changed everything.
Almost two years ago, Pluralsight offered me to become an instructor in case I passed an audition process. My task was to prepare a short screencast.
The process itself was very unpleasant. It took me almost two weeks to create a ten minute long video. After recording and re-recording parts of the video, I remember having more than fifteen tracks on Camtasia, not even knowing what comes and when.
As a non-native speaker, talking was very hard for me as well. This was the reason why I kept practising over and over again, until the result was good enough.
The judges of Pluralsight are thorough. They spotted some weaknesses in my thought process, and gave me feedback on the video as well. However, it was great news that my video editing and speaking skills were actually good enough at the end of the two weeks. It was just the content that didn’t drive some points home.
Let’s write some books instead
I had to learn structuring my thoughts. What is the best way to do that? Well obviously, writing books helps.
During that time, I started learning marketing on top of software development in order to do something with my traffic and my blogs. Learning marketing as a software developer is another uncomfortable experience.
In fact, marketing is similar to dating. First, it is an uncomfortable experience, but once you are good at it, it works like charm. I am amazed how well some people market their products and services, and frankly, I still have a lot to learn in the process.
DevCareerMastery was my pilot project. The website itself looks slightly better designed than zsoltnagy.eu. In fact, the strong part of my tech blog is content, not its design. I know that redesigning zsoltnagy.eu will be inevitable, but first things first, I have some job to do before.
While creating this site, I started writing The Developer’s Edge. Writing more than 80 thousand words was a massive experience. It truly transformed the way how I now think about writing and storytelling.
Although the book itself hasn’t become a bestseller, I successfully applied my work ethic on another book: ES6 in Practice.
ES6 in Practice grew out of my desire to master online marketing. I wanted to grow an e-mail list, so I committed to one ES6 article including a couple of exercises every three days.
The first few of my readers got fifteen chapters in their inboxes, and some of you gave me excellent feedback. These 45 days were insanely hard. I had to write chapters for The Developer’s Edge, I had to come up with a chapter every three days, and on top of that, another opportunity arose.
Videos take 2
Last October, SitePoint contacted me that they liked my blog, and they wanted to cooperate with me. Amazing I thought, on top of writing an article every three days, this is exactly what I need.
However, I knew that the logical next step for me was to try myself out again with video recording.
I made noob mistakes during the first video. Then content became better and better. It was more and more organized, and I got a lot faster than before.
The videos were done near the beginning of December, and I was relieved, as it felt like leveling up.
Everything started falling into its place: video production, audio recording, slides, structuring of my thoughts, writing… the only missing piece was marketing.
The campaign of ES6 in Practice
The email course was a success, with a two digit click through rate all the way to the end. Therefore, I thought it would make sense to turn it into a book and add some bonuses.
You may ask, why would anyone come up with an ES6 book in 2017? Well, first of all, it is a part of a bigger plan I have for the coming years. Second, there was a major gap in the market. All books and courses I saw gave you theory, but no hands on experience with solving problems. ES6 in Practice includes 59 exercises and solutions that positions the book in a completely different market than the two great theoretical books, and the best marketed ES6 video course.
There is still a lot of work with the package, as I am turning it into a video course. Some chapters are done, but as usual, opportunities continued chasing me.
Mission Possible: 30 minutes of video per week
You may remember that I struggled with creating 10 minutes of badly organized screencast in two weeks, even though I had nothing else to do.
Today, I am creating three times as much content in half the time, and in much better quality. In fact, it was quite rewarding to see some of the mistakes made in the SitePoint screencast compared to the quality standards I currently have. Having a thick skin is an integral component of success, as there is no failure, there is just feedback.
I took a second shot at the Pluralsight audition. They almost hired me. There was just one tiny mistake in my new audition: the source code felt a bit gimmicky. The problem was, I presented a topic that was to be demonstrated in a big application. Given that the only application I could use was a corporate one, I chose to model the problem as a small fifty line code segment illustrating the essence of the problem.
They gave me another chance to correct this error. This would likely take me a couple of days of work though. Unfortunately, this step hasn’t happened due to lack of focus. By the time they got back to me with their result, another publisher offered me a cooperation for a six hour long video course. In addition, there was ES6 in Practice to be done in video format.
My goal was to work with as many publishers as possible, in order to get to know their process, their way of working. Oddly enough, I haven’t had a chance to work with the team I learned the most from. Once I finish my projects, Pluralsight may be my next client.
Do as I teach, not as I do?
I can still recall one of my programming classes from high school. An electrotechnician substituted our class, and asked us to write a program. Back then, we used Windows 98, and as you know, there was always a chance for the famous blue screen to appear.
The teacher looked quite credible until a point, when he approached the blue screen. He said, hmmmmm… then turned off the monitor, turned it on again, and was surprised that the blue screen was still there.
This was when the substitute teacher realized that a PC is not like an oscilloscope.
In order to avoid these things from happening, I practise everything I teach, including building my own online presence. In fact, this blog is also just one puzzle piece. My five year plan contains amazing things manifesting in the near future.
By the time the summer comes, I am planning to
- finish ES6 in Practice with all bonuses,
- rewrite some chapters of The Developer’s Edge, and proofread it until it can be published in other media than Leanpub
- there is another secret project in the planning phase, and I will focus on it once the above three projects are taken out from my pipeline
This pace is really fast, in fact, two years ago, I would have never imagined accelerating my rate of publication to this level. If you take just one idea away from this article, let it be this: it may feel drastically slow to get started. It may be very uncomfortable. But once you get up to speed and develop momentum, you will become unstoppable.
Getting started is worth it
As you can see, success leaves clues. The path is not pleasant, but as you get to cutting edge, it is very hard not to succeed.
All you need is a decision to get started now. As you are finishing this article, think about one thing you could do right now to set things into motion.
Maybe it’s installing WordPress. Maybe it’s checking out how you can do video editing. Maybe it’s learning something that separates you from that big raise you always desired.
As I promised, the path will be unpleasant sometimes. However, sacrifice is inevitable for success. When you feel the tension, you have a growth opportunity to create a life for yourself that’s better than anything you could imagine before. If you would like to share your story with me, feel free to drop me a mail after signing up to my mailing list.