Hundreds of Ways

How to Write Code from the Beaches of Spain w/ James Knight, Expat Entrepreneur & Product Consultant

July 10, 2020 James Knight & Eliot Raymond Season 1 Episode 2
Hundreds of Ways
How to Write Code from the Beaches of Spain w/ James Knight, Expat Entrepreneur & Product Consultant
Chapters
0:00
Intro
1:35
What James Does
3:20
How James Find Clients
4:53
Getting Started as a Developer
8:00
Dropping Out of College to Join a Startup
10:47
Leaving Las Vegas
11:35
Why Leave Google?
15:50
Taking the Leap Towards Entrepreneurship
23:31
Being Independent, Five Years In
25:59
The Importance of Adaptability
32:15
2020 is a Year of Change
34:56
Memories of the Early Days
37:57
Family & Travel - The Reason I Work
42:28
How To Become an Independent Developer
45:34
Book Recommendation: The ONE Thing
47:32
Reach Out When You Need Help
49:19
Next Week
Hundreds of Ways
How to Write Code from the Beaches of Spain w/ James Knight, Expat Entrepreneur & Product Consultant
Jul 10, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
James Knight & Eliot Raymond

This week, Eliot interviews James as he shares his journey as an entrepreneur: from teaching himself to code in college, through moonlighting as a freelance iOS developer while working at Google, all the way to his current life as an independent developer and agency owner on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Throughout the episode, James and Eliot provide actionable advice for anyone looking to start down the road towards career independence. They discuss the omnipresent fear before you take that leap, the joy that comes once you're in the air, and the realization that it doesn't stop once you've hit the ground: you just have to keep running.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week, Eliot interviews James as he shares his journey as an entrepreneur: from teaching himself to code in college, through moonlighting as a freelance iOS developer while working at Google, all the way to his current life as an independent developer and agency owner on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Throughout the episode, James and Eliot provide actionable advice for anyone looking to start down the road towards career independence. They discuss the omnipresent fear before you take that leap, the joy that comes once you're in the air, and the realization that it doesn't stop once you've hit the ground: you just have to keep running.

James Knight :

Welcome to hundreds of ways the podcast that celebrates entrepreneurship and career independence. Today's guest is me, we're gonna be exploring my career as a solo developer, agency owner and product consultant. Join us as we sit down and explore which of the hundreds of ways belongs to me.

Eliot Raymond :

Hey, James.

James Knight :

Hey, Elliot, how you doing?

Eliot Raymond :

Good evening, I'm doing really well. How are you?

James Knight :

doing? Great. So this is our first real episode. For the listeners. If you didn't check in last week, we did our episode zero as what we call it, where we kind of give a quick introduction to the podcast and what we're going to be doing in these coming weeks. So if you have a chance, definitely go back and listen to it. It's like six or seven minutes, something like that and give you a quick introduction. But today is our first real episode. And it's going to be our first interviews. And we're going to be interviewing each other to start off so this episode is going to be Elliot interviewing me and then next week we'll be interviewing, we'll be flipping the sweet seats around and I'll be interviewing Elliot. So Elliot, kick it off.

Eliot Raymond :

Can't wait. As I mentioned before, I'm really excited just because this is our first real episode. And as we mentioned last week, this may not be the most interesting one that we debut, but we have a lot of awesome guests lined up and, hey, I'm talking about myself. But, uh, so yeah, let's go ahead and get started. Why don't you just start by sharing what you do and what your kind of day to day is like over there in Spain?

James Knight :

Sure. So my wife and I run a company called St digital. And that same digital, we help non technical founders validate design and develop technical products. And what we mean by that is, clients typically come to us with an idea for an app or a website or a startup. We help them first kind of assess the business and the product side of it. Then we help them design that out. And then finally, We develop and help them launch the product once it's done.

Eliot Raymond :

Can you get them in like an example of a product that you guys would launch or an app like, just kind of to make it a bit more tangible?

James Knight :

Sure, so, so right now we're actually working on a pretty big port of a company called Station head. They have an iOS app, that's actually a super cool little app. And basically, what it is, is you connect to your streaming service, whether that's Spotify or Apple Music, and then you can use that to create a radio station. And you stream the radio out, it's live, and you can also have your voice on it. So it's a super fun product. As I've been working on it, I've gotten to kind of listen to some of these radio stations. And some of these people are just, you know, just regular folks building regular radio stations, they're putting together themselves and they're super fun to listen to. So right now what we're doing is taking that right now it's only on iOS, and we are reprogramming it in Android to release and the Google Play Store as well.

Eliot Raymond :

Nice, nice. And so that's a pretty specific product. That is not something that when I'm going on prospecting in my own business looking for new work, I'm going to say I'm specifically going after that type of work. How would you either with that project or another one get connected to that kind of work?

James Knight :

So I would say the majority of our work is, comes inbound either from referrals from existing clients, or we work with a number of sales agents and with an agency that brings us high quality projects.

Eliot Raymond :

And obviously, you have a website where a lot of people are visiting, seeing kind of what you do, the type of work you do, and that sort of thing.

James Knight :

We do have a site. It's not super. The site is comes in later in the funnel, I would say it's not something that's bringing the work in. It's something that we use to show our previous work. Basically, someone comes to us and or we reach out to someone through outreach, maybe We see a job posting on the web on Craigslist or anywhere, and we reach out. And then the site is something that we use to kind of hook that customer

Eliot Raymond :

after we've identified them to validate your offering in a way. So to take it even a further step back, I would say I've met developers who are either freelancers or run their own business all over the world. And it's one of the most versatile professions just because you're on the tool for most people is going to be your laptop, and you can work on your laptop from anywhere. The question is to get there, there are quite literally, as the name would imply hundreds of ways that you can become a developer, you can go to school, you can do undergrad to a master's program, you can teach yourself, you can learn on the job. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the work that you do and what your path was to get there.

James Knight :

Just like you said, development is such a great field if you're interested in working for yourself, either. a freelancer or starting some sort of studio, because there are hundreds and hundreds of ways of getting into it. Personally, I started teaching myself to program in middle school originally never really got off the ground with it. Tried to learn c++, which if you're familiar with the language is a really, really difficult language. It's hard to read, it's hard to understand. It's just it's very easy to make programs that blow up when you run them. And but, but that was back then what all games were programmed. And then I wanted to work as a video game designer. So I had to teach myself c++, it had to be c++, it couldn't be anything else.

Eliot Raymond :

And really quick, when you say taught yourself to me as a non technical founder, if you will. When I say think about teaching myself, I think about going to YouTube and typing in c++. At that time, what would what did that look like teaching yourself

James Knight :

at that time that looked like go into Barnes Noble I had my dad Take me down to Barnes and Noble, which was a place that my dad and I went a lot when I was a kid.

Eliot Raymond :

And some of our listeners may not even know it Barnes and Noble.

James Knight :

Barnes and Noble was a bookstore, and a bookstore. But what's that place that sold physical books? It's a weird thing.

Eliot Raymond :

our listeners should note we're recording during COVID. So the idea of a physical store is even more obsolete now than ever. But anyway. Oh, yeah,

James Knight :

sorry, I used another word they're familiar with outside is the place that you used to go to occasionally.

Eliot Raymond :

So Barnes and Noble, you and your dad,

James Knight :

Barnes and Noble nonfiction section. I don't think it was the idiots series. It was not the idiots guide to c++, although that existed back then. That was, that was definitely I think it was, I think it was the Borland book as an old you know, whatever. No, no, it was in 20 was the in 24 days or whatever, you know, Teach Yourself c++ and 24 days because I went through all 24 days for sure. I remember that. And at the end of the 24 days, I knew a lot of stuff and none of it was usable. You know, none of it help so. So yeah, so I started in middle school and it didn't really happen. I tried again in high school and it didn't really happen. And then finally, in college, I picked a Python, which is very different from c++. It's, even if you can't program it, you can kind of read it and understand a little bit about what's happening whereas in c++, everything looks like arcane magical symbols. And then from there, I got a job as an intern at a game studio in Phoenix to Xcode games. They were kind enough to employ me even though I had no idea what I was doing. And, and I built the Facebook login for our racing game. And then after that, I was in university for psychology for three years switch to computer science, decided I didn't like the computer science curriculum, so I switched to mathematics and that math degree Then left school without graduating the semester early and moved to Las Vegas with a

Eliot Raymond :

couple of friends. So can I just interrupt you there for a sec? You're saying you switch majors three times got through three and a half years of undergrad and then left a semester early without graduating? Well, four

James Knight :

and a half years of undergrad before? One does. But yes, I had a project that I worked on that summer with some friends that became they took to TechStars, which is a startup incubator if you're not familiar, and they had taken it to TechStars and gotten some initial funding and then moved to Las Vegas as part of the downtown project, which was a project from the founder of Zappos trying to turn Vegas into another tech hub. And so I moved to Vegas, and was lead engineer for engineer at the robotics startup and yeah, just you know, had like, I think I had one credit left and I you know, figured out ticket later online, which I did, but you had to I had to go so I love And then went to Vegas and and that was my first you know, real programming job the job at to excel was more of an internship and was definitely a lot of learning. Whereas at remote if I was, you know, building the Android app building the iOS app, all that kind of stuff.

Eliot Raymond :

What was that like leaving school with one credit left? But you had such an amazing opportunity on the table? Was that intimidating? Or were you just kind of caught up in all the excitement that you thought that was the only way to go at the time?

James Knight :

Yeah, I've always had this opinion that things that are transition periods, you know, life in school, to me is a transition period where there's this terminal point and you're working towards it. When you arrive at that point, which, which for me school, the point of it is to get a job and when you can get a good job, and school is over. So when that opportunity came, it was time to go,

Eliot Raymond :

right. totally makes sense. So let's just continue on this journey here. You ended up working there for how long

James Knight :

I was only promoted for about a year. startup time goes quickly.

Eliot Raymond :

And then I attest to that.

James Knight :

Yeah. A year is a very long time, especially at a zero year old startup. A lot changed. You know, we went from being four of us to wantI when I left, and that, you know, again in a year, so, yeah, so, you know, just things go quickly, and startup land. So I left and started freelancing for a bit but really just kind of helping a friend there with in Vegas with a project they were working on, and really just buying time. I wasn't planning on freelancing full time. And then after that, I ended up at Google in New York for three years.

Eliot Raymond :

And how did you get over to New York from being out in Vegas? Was it just for the job?

James Knight :

Yeah, we we obviously wanted to get out of Vegas. Las Vegas is Not the greatest place to live. And the downtown project was definitely an interesting experiment. But it It wasn't coming together in the way that Tony had hoped that it would. So we knew we wanted to go somewhere. We weren't super jazzed about San Francisco. We had a lot of friends in New York. So a friend of mine referred me to the Google office there. And I went through the whole multiple interview multiple weeks of phone calls process with Google. And then three months after probably my first conversation there got the offer, and when we decided to move

Eliot Raymond :

fantastic. And if I remember correctly, that was your last, what I would refer to as kind of full time corporate job before starting your own company saying digital, can you kind of walk us through what your three years there were like? What I mean, what was your experience, like? I know so many people who start their own company who have terrible experience their job and that's kind of the impetus for them to leave, and some people love it, but they just know that they've already been called to do their own thing. And that's kind of what started what, what caused you after your three years there to move on to the next thing? What was that driving factor

James Knight :

was definitely more of a second. That things. Google is a great place to work. It has the necessary trappings of big Corp job where you know, things move slow. There's a lot of bureaucracy, there's a lot of politics, there's 24 teams involved in any single initiative, and you're never really sure who's in charge. You know, all of those things are very true about Google. But it as big Corp goes, it's a fantastic place to work. Towards the end of my second year there I was working on a project that was a really big deal. It was bringing in. I think we brought in like 30 million a quarter one quarter with it, and we were getting a lot of attention from some of the higher ups and and then that project ended and that kind of work. Eve of energy crash, and it was like, Okay, cool. Well now go find the next one.

Unknown Speaker :

And

James Knight :

that moment of all these great things are happening, oh, we're doing all this great work. And now Okay, well, none of that work really mattered. Now we got to find the next one. And being just kind of a cog in that machine, felt very draining to me. And I missed having that sort of hands on. This is your project you and maybe a couple other people, everything you do is going to be fundamental to how the project develops. That is something that you're not going to feel at a big company like that. So I started working on the side at first, just kind of 10 to 20 hours a week doing iOS consulting, building, helping other freelancers who who are already doing freelancing with their apps. And then finally got to a point where I said, Hey, you know what, I'm actually having way more fun and Making about the same amount of money doing this stuff on the side. As I am at my day job, I should just probably do the stuff on the side instead. So

Eliot Raymond :

yeah, so I left and how how long did that take from the point you started doing some side work to feeling really confident that you were actually bringing in enough income to live off of and make that leap?

James Knight :

That is a good question. I don't think I've measured that. I want to say it's between six and nine months probably. Which is a function of the industry for sure. Yeah. Especially even even still and Ben especially in 2015. There's so much tech work out there. There's so many people that need help with apps with websites, all that kind of stuff. It's it's easy to get that initial footing under you. For sure.

Eliot Raymond :

And when you when you started kind of doing that side hustle that freelance work was that always in the back of your head like this is ultimate going to be what I want to do full time or was it just something you were doing to stay busy and keep yourself? You know, sane, more or less?

James Knight :

Definitely that is when I started that I don't think I had any idea of when I started, I was pretty serious about saying at Google for quite a while. I had this idea in my head, but I was gonna be there for a long time I started to even look at it going to business school at NYU Stern, I had some people there that were going to help recommend me, which that would have been a disaster. So me and me going back to school was probably not a good idea. But um, no, it was definitely not a part of the big plan. It was definitely Hey, this is an opportunity. Oh, hey, now, this is some extra money. Oh, actually, this is a way better use of my time, maybe I should make this switch.

Eliot Raymond :

So we've talked a little bit about what you currently do. We touched on that briefly, and we'll get to that more later. But this pivotal moment of moving from a corporation into being completely independent of anybody else paying your monthly paycheck? That's a big move for a lot of people. And that's often what holds up their ability to kind of take that next step and career independence career freedom. What can you just talk through what that was like your decision to leave Google was an easy one that popped into your head one day, and the next day you gave your notice? Or was it something you thought about for a while? And then once you did do it, what was the process? Like? I mean, did you just build a website? Start, just kind of walk us through that process?

James Knight :

I don't remember exactly that moment when I said, Okay, I'm going to leave I'm going to do this independently. I do remember playing with that idea for a while. I definitely had a good few months there where I was continuing to do this on the side and had begun to think about well, what would it look like if I did this full time? I don't remember exactly how long it was. But it definitely was, was kind of that you know, just Would a bad day would happen at work like they do. And the reaction would be, well, I don't really have to be here. And that probably went on for a while. Once I actually made the decision then to go talk to my manager, and that conversation happened, it was super liberating. Everything kind of just fell into place. And you know, even my actual work at my job, probably that two weeks felt like I was doing a better job. I was more energized when I went into meetings because I knew, you know, hey, this is kind of my last month here. It's my last little chunk of, of contribution to a company that I did really, really enjoy working for. Having made that decision really, really opened things up for me. Now, let's fast forward about a month to those last couple of days where I'm really starting to realize, okay, I don't I'm not going to come back here on Monday. That's when things got a little scary again, and especially like I can very vivid picture in my mind the walk out of the building on Friday afternoon. I took a picture by the Google Sign In the lobby and I even kind of remember, Steffi, my wife and I took a Uber home and I can remember that drive even I saw Kelsey Grammer walking. I remember that that was a very weird coincidence. But I remember that whole little, you know, I don't know, it's Manhattan. So it was like probably 100 yard drive. But it like all the little details are painted there because it was such a big, big deal. But then, Monday came and instead of going to Google, I went to a co working space with a friend of mine who had actually been working with doing iOS work and,

Eliot Raymond :

and life went on. And that brings us to the present, more or less, several. That's what you've been doing ever since leaving Google correct.

James Knight :

Different different shades, but for sure, since leaving Google Pretty much 95% of my time has been building apps for clients. So clients come with ideas, and I build them.

Eliot Raymond :

So between those first, first couple of days out, you're going to that co working space Manhattan to today while you're living in Spain with your family, and recently welcomed a second child to the family. super exciting. But tell me a little bit about what that evolution has been like learning and going through what it's like to run your own business. Because you hadn't done it before. That was the first time ever. So from that Monday to now what are some of those key learnings that you've kind of identified in your space?

James Knight :

So I had run businesses before but it's different, right? What I

Eliot Raymond :

was saying more is like this is everything's on the line when you leave your job like that in a way. And another thing we kind of chatted about, which I'd like to kind of loop back and incorporate into the question is like, what was on the line for you, what did you have to make happen in order to keep this dream, which was now a reality of float? Was there? Do you have a runway that you were able to kind of work off of? Or did you need to hit the ground running and within a week kind of make ends meet in order for this to continue being a reality.

James Knight :

So thanks to the work that I've been doing on the side, I did have a little bit of extra cash saved up. And that is something that I, I always recommend to anybody who's talking about making this leap towards freelancing, or Hey, I want to leave my day job, I want to try this other thing. Start before you leave. It's even if you're only working five to 10 hours a week, even if you just take, you know, if you just work Saturdays for a couple months, and just that just that one extra day, for a couple of months. You can save up you know, a few weeks at least of your living expenses and that makes a huge difference. That said, having runway can also mean that you you are going to burn through that runway trying to figure out what you need to do. And if it's your first time in business for yourself, you're going to inevitably spend time on things that aren't important. And having a runway can mean that you're going to spend more of that time doing those things. Because you're fine, you're safe.

Eliot Raymond :

You don't have that same fire under you that you would have if you literally needed to pay your rent in six days and figure out how to make that

James Knight :

happen. Yeah, exactly. And that and that fire it changes your decision making process, right. So you know, a lot of people be like, Oh, well, you know, I want to start a business. I want to go into freelancing, okay, I need a website and I need business cards and I need a logo and I need the like, if you got to pay rent in three days, your business cards aren't going to make a difference. What you need is to go sell something right? go sell your services, go sell your time. And that's something again, you know, for people who are making, we're thinking about making this change. The most important thing is that you you start the work right that you you go sell that you go You go find a project on Craigslist or or you meet somebody who needs something or you reach out to friends and you actually start doing the work. That is the first and most important thing.

Eliot Raymond :

That's that is what that the moment that you get paid for work that you're doing yourself is the moment that you're actually an entrepreneur before that anything you do before that is, is practice. I think that's a really good point. Because for a lot of people your note about starting while you're at your current job is so important, but at the same time, then it protects a safety net. And you can go building a business plan for five years, if you want while you're at your other job, you have nothing that is really pushing you off the ledge to really start. And that's such a key point execution is everything. You just need to go sell that product, sell that service, sell that time, because until you do that you're not even freelancing. You're just dreaming

James Knight :

for sure. And if you is able to make the excuse of Well, I I can't do that while I'm at my job but I don't have the time. I don't have the energy. I don't you know, it's toward, if you can't figure out over the course of a month or two while you're at your job, how to how to do this safely, right? Because you have like you just said, you have this safety net, you have the ability you could you can write that five year business plan while you're while you're working full time. If you're not comfortable doing that, on nights and weekends to start, if you're gonna be a lot more frightened when you've got two weeks of rent money left, right, so you know, there's there's something to be said about when you have that net under you taking the risks.

Eliot Raymond :

So looping back to the present moment now, you have been running this business for quite some time, you're past that point of having needing to worry about that initial runway of what it's like to have all those kind of initial feelings and fears that a lot of entrepreneurs or new business owners feel right away. You, I would say have quite a few experiences in the entrepreneurial field on your belt. So why don't you just give me a rundown of kind of now what your life looks like on a day to day basis. Running sane digital and the other endeavors that you're involved in.

James Knight :

One of the things about being a freelancer or an agency owner or any kind of entrepreneur is that even though you you have successes and the challenges of day one, go away, eventually you get that first project. Eventually you you learn how to find clients on a regular basis, eventually, you have people coming to you, instead of you having to go out and find everyone. But the thing about being an entrepreneur is that the challenges change, they never go away. So yeah, you know, you're you're past this initial phase where you have no idea how to sell anything, right? You're past this initial phase phase where you have no idea where to find projects. But now you have the challenge of, Okay, well, how do I how do I build a system that allows me to do client work and sell at the same time, because that's tough, right? by splitting that time. How do I have a system so that when clients come to me I have a process for for validating that they're, they're even able to work with me a lot of times you'll especially in tech, you get people who are super super driven to build the next Facebook slash YouTube slash Snapchat, except for it's gonna be on toaster ovens, and they have $5,000 and they get it done on Monday,

Eliot Raymond :

and it's for your dog,

James Knight :

and it's for your dog. And so, you know, that that is a challenge that you probably won't have day one that you might have day 10. And so the challenge is keep changing. So that's, that's something to keep in mind with this stuff is that you know, it, it never, it gets easier and that you get used to it, but it also gets different every day. And so there's always something new that you have to be working on. There's something new you have to be thinking about.

Eliot Raymond :

adaptability is crucial is kind of how I would sum that up from my own perspective.

James Knight :

And to 20 is a perfect example of adaptability is crucial, right like it so so this is a fun story. Elliot and I were sitting in Havana together here here, near where I live in Spain. The what is the 14th or 15th of March? I think 16th. The 16th was the day that we went into lockdown here. And you know, we were talking and making plans for the next week that never happened that never remotely happened because of Coronavirus. And, you know, if you have a full time job and something like this pandemic hits, yeah, your life changes. You know, now you've got to work from home. You got to figure out what to do to kids, maybe all that stuff. But that's not that big of a change. If you on March 15 relied on your business coming from in person conferences, there is not going to be one this year. So this is the sort of thing that when you're an entrepreneur, you You really, really have to be adaptable to to an extreme, extreme extreme level.

Eliot Raymond :

Oh my gosh, I have a friend who literally her entire business is she runs three conferences a year. And they are spread around. There's Yeah, they're spread around the world, one in Asia, one in Europe and one in North America. And that is her entire business model. So I've been reaching out to her just like what are you doing this year, and that is the key term that keeps coming up is it's all about adaptability, flexibility, being able to be dynamic and react to these situations creatively and without stressing out and freaking out too much. Because if you just freak out, you're not going to be able to figure out a path forward.

James Knight :

And so that you get better and better at I would say, or at least I have, we I think when you when you come into this you have a very narrow vision of, of what you want to do and what you can do. And as you get better at this as you have more experience you start to realize like You know, I always tell my clients Look, look, I'll I'll do pretty much anything you want me to, I'm just going to charge you for it. So you have to figure out if it's going to be the best use of my time. If you want me to change the copy on your website, I'll do that. I'm going to charge my usual development rate, which is a lot more than the copyrighting rate that I think a lot of people charge so that's part of you know, the flexibility part of your question. Sorry, we went off on a

Eliot Raymond :

Yeah, we did a little bit there. I was, but it's good. I think it's all super relevant. But anyway, go ahead.

James Knight :

Yeah. So So the other thing is was like day to day life and um, the the entire reason i say that i do any of the stuff that I do is for the day to day life, that it that it gives me I have an extremely flexible life because of my work. I you know, work hard and I have a lot of things I have to get done in a day but Whether I give it down at six in the morning or noon or six at night or midnight, it doesn't really matter. For my line of work I'm especially lucky in that my clients don't typically wake up until at least midday because most of my clients are in the United States. So I have a wonderful half of the day that I get to just you know completely that they're sleeping my clients are sleeping so I can just work and not not worry about having to to be in communication. And on the personal front that affords me, a really great lifestyle. I spend an hour and a half to two hours a day in the gym Monday through Friday. My I can take my son or now my son and daughter to the beach on a Tuesday at noon when no one's there, and it's not a problem. Our first year that we lived here in Spain, I think we were out of the not out of the country but out of our home six months out of the year. We spent more time traveling, whether that was in Spain or somewhere else in Europe than we did at our apartment that we were running. And that's all only possible, even remotely possible because of this path that I've taken.

Eliot Raymond :

It all sounds amazing. it from that perspective, but what were some of the kind of the challenges that you ran into executing on that lifestyle. I mean, for me, my personal experience, I love working from Europe because I'm most productive in the morning. And like you a majority of my clients are in the US. So that means I have six uninterrupted hours in the morning that I can crank out work and get everything done before I need to start hopping on calls or getting into meetings. What kind of challenges are there from living that lifestyle in relationship to the work that you do?

James Knight :

One of the biggest challenges with remote work in general, if anytime that you're you're working with a client, that's not where you are, it's Is the sales process. Not all clients, not all prospective clients, but a good portion, you know, wants someone local they want. If they're in New York, they want to work for someone in New York or they at least want to work someone with in the eastern time zone or at the very least, they want to work with someone in the US. And so we lose a fair number of prospective clients just just to our location. That said, when you work remote, you also are open now to larger markets, because you're open all of them. And so we can work with anyone in the US. We can work with anyone in the UK, we can work with anyone in Europe. We've had clients that are back and forth between the US and Australia. So you know, there are pros and cons to that, but that's definitely been one of the biggest challenges as sometimes. You know where we are in Alicante, we're a hour and a half flight from the nearest European International Airport and then from there, our six hour flight to the nearest American International Airport. And if that person that we're going to see isn't in New York or Philadelphia, one hour, another five hour flight from them, right, so that adds up. And that can definitely be a challenge.

Eliot Raymond :

So I think one of the really unique moments of the time that we're in right now is I spent the better part of 2019 being pretty quiet about my location independence. I was very after, when I was actually in the sales process with a client. I've very in depth, explain how it works. But it wasn't something I would outwardly promote in kind of external marketing materials and whatnot. Now with COVID, and how so much has shifted online. Obviously, Twitter and Facebook and a lot of other tech companies have announced more jobs going remote. I anticipate that this is going to be a trend that we're seeing and pretty obviously it already is. And that's actually going to be less of a disadvantage moving forward would be my Hope so many people are going to be able to take advantage of this remote lifestyle, whether it's from their own freelancing business or entrepreneurial venture, or just working for a typical corporation that they are going to be kind of having access to a whole new way of life that just six months ago wasn't even a thought. So that's kind of unique to think about. And I also am curious how that's gonna affect sales moving forward and how people think about working with external partners. So just to note there and excited to see how that evolves.

James Knight :

One of the reasons why we finally you know, made this podcast you know, actually got it out of just talking and said, Okay, let's let's actually get this out is 2020 is a is a huge year for change. And there is so much that one of the great things about moments in time like this, and there is tragedy involved in this time too. So I don't want to play it up too much. But one of the things about big shifts is that they Have you cover to make your own changes? And so, things that may have seemed impossible six months ago or four months ago, even now, I mean, do you have a choice, right? You can you can go out and make huge changes to your life because everything is changing. And that cover can give you personal and you know, one of the things you're going to get when you when you decide, hey, I'm going to leave my nine to five and go freelancing is is that your family, your especially your parents, probably, no matter how old you are, your parents are gonna go, you're gonna do what? And now if you say, hey, instead of, you know, instead of working for one company, in my pajamas on my couch, during the day, I'm going to work for a couple companies on my couch in the pajamas in my pajamas. That's a lot easier arguments in your family.

Eliot Raymond :

In terms of challenges when it comes to entrepreneurship, that can be a wrap At home, we could go down for hours, if not days. There are all sorts of big challenges that come up for entrepreneurs in every field. And it varies across the spectrum for you sales is obviously one of them based on the remote nature of your work. But let's pivot a little bit and talk about pros because we could also go all day on that. What are some of your kind of best memories or memorable moments from you running your own business?

James Knight :

One of my favorite things that I think about when I when I left Google, I was working with a friend of mine, Sam Kaufman, and our before seen digital, I had a different agency that was called gradient. And Sam and I and Sam and I work together in a co working space in the Lower East Side called projective. And it was really fun. We had kind of just, you know, the shared desk type situation in the middle of the room. But as we started getting more clients and started needing more Kind of, you know, private space and really less distraction. projective was a lot of fun, but it was not the best place to work. We moved to a co working space that had just opened in GLONASS, which is a neighborhood in Brooklyn. And we moved into that co working space. They were behind schedule on their construction. So they finished our office, our three desk office that we had, because we had another person that had joined us at that point. They finished our three that's office. And it was, you know, my first real office like, you know, never add to excel at Emotiv. And at Google, you know, everything was open plan. And remember, we worked in apartments because we were a super cool startup. It was my first like, office office, you know, we had a door that closed and but it was hilarious because it was three of us in this construction site, like the rest of the building was, like remotely done. And so that's one of my favorite memories because it was just so you know, One of the things that I like about freelancing about entrepreneurship about startups is there's this element of the Wild West. And there's really nothing that that gets that plucky, self made entrepreneur feel more than literally working at a desk inside of a construction site. So that's one of my favorite memories is just a lot of fun.

Eliot Raymond :

I think in the startup world that validates the I've made it kind of part you know, like, Okay, I'm officially a startup person now because I'm working in a construction site.

James Knight :

Yeah. Is is us in our in our really be I mean, they did a fantastic job in it. Of course, you know, about a month later, the rest of it was finished, but and it was gorgeous. And they were done. But it's like us working in this little tiny class bubble and it was just, you know, construction dudes, big, you know, men with sayings on their shirts, were carrying, you know, metal beams and things like that. And it was just such a funny

Eliot Raymond :

title away on your laptop.

James Knight :

Yeah, here's here's three little nerdy, you know, nerdy boy. in a room, you know, coding Android and iOS apps, and behind us are the real man building building buildings. So that's definitely one of my favorite memories. Since then, you know, we've gotten Steffi and I have gotten to do so many great things. We've gotten to spend so much time with our kids, because of our lifestyle. I think I've spent you know, more time with Teo than not my parents fault, but just they had careers so you know, I think I spent more time with Taylor and these last four years of his life than my parents maybe did with me in the first 10 just because toe is with me almost all the time.

Eliot Raymond :

If it wasn't clear stuff is James what James right. To his son.

James Knight :

Yes, I just drive to drop names without anyone having context. And so you know, that's something that again, just wouldn't be possible, even if I was working at a company with generous flex time, generous, paternity, leave all those sorts of things. Just not even comparable to when you work for yourself the flexibility you have and then on the on the kind of you know, more glamorous travel friend stuff. Like I said that first year we were here in Spain we we spent a year in Majorca which is a gorgeous island in the Mediterranean. We went to Paris, we went to Barcelona, you know, all these really fantastic places. We spent the next year we spent a month in Montpellier, France. We did intensive French lessons from I think like nine in the morning to 1pm and then we get out Steffi would go pick up tail we had this French babysitter that only spoke French to him, which was fantastic. And then I would leave you know and go to a coffee shop and work from one to 6pm 7pm. So again, you know, things that just aren't, are not possible. If you're if you're not working for yourself.

Eliot Raymond :

Well, so that all sounds incredible to me when I imagine sitting A cafe in Paris. It doesn't sound that cheap to me. How are you guys able to enable actually living that lifestyle and cruising around these different parts of Europe? What does that look like from a financial perspective?

James Knight :

It's a great question. I think that there's a you know an idea when you see these, when you see people on Instagram that are you know, posting their their photos from Santorini one weekend and their photos from Paris from another weekend that oh this this cost a ton of money. And it can cost a ton of money. But again, get on this flexibility point. Travel can be relatively affordable. If you're flexible, so that means not traveling on the exact dates that you want to go but on the dates that flights are are less expensive. For us. One of the things we did when we went to Montpellier a is we rented out our apartment here and we were in Valencia at the time. So we had someone come live literally I think they will stay with us. We're like eight of us in our team. Extra part of it because they stand up. Yeah, yeah, I think kind of dogs to get to eight but they came and stayed with us for a couple days and we showed them around Valencia really fantastic family from New Zealand and then we got in the car and drove off to to France and we're there for a month is staying in an Airbnb. So, you know, we were offsetting that cost with with some income from our apartment and we drove to Montpellier right so that's another thing right if you if you move to Europe, it's a lot cheaper to travel in Europe, right? Because for us it's it's a five hour drive instead of you know, a half day plane journey. So on this flexibility front, you know, if if something that you've always wanted to do is travel the world. Yeah, that's really expensive to do. If you work nine to five and you live in Manhattan and you're you're spending your two weeks of vacation time going to different cities around the globe. But if you get that job and you take your stuff out of that apartment and put it in storage or sell it or you know, get rid of it somehow. It's it's not that expensive to fly from New York to Lisbon. And it's not that expensive to live in Lisbon for a month. And then it's not that expensive to go from Lisbon to Madrid. And it's not that expensive. Well in Madrid for a month. If you have that flexibility, you can enable, you know, a quote unquote, glamorous lifestyle without spending a glamorous kind of money.

Eliot Raymond :

Alright, James, so you've sold me, I'm ready to start. I'm listening to this podcast and I want to do exactly what you do. I want to move my family to the Mediterranean coast and start my own business. Where do you recommend I start as somebody who knows nothing about development, and don't even know a single code language.

James Knight :

If what you want to do is learn to code there's never been a better time in history, maybe to learn anything. There are so many fantastic resources out

Unknown Speaker :

there.

James Knight :

I haven't read. I haven't looked at anything that's come out in the last couple years, I used to recommend really highly Team Treehouse. I really liked their lesson style and they teach you in my experience pretty actionable. actionable tools, things that you can actually go use and start selling. The biggest thing with learning to code and for me, it's the biggest thing with anything in freelancing is to not get not get bogged down by the choices, especially in tech. But But anything in entrepreneurship, you're going to when you go out and say, Okay, now I'm gonna do this suddenly gonna go okay, but what am I going to do? Am I going to let's just focus on tech, am I am I going to do web apps? Am I gonna do websites? Am I gonna do Android applications? Am I gonna do iOS applications? Okay, now I decided I'm going to do iOS applications. But what's this React Native thing? Is that something I should know about? One of the questions that I get asked the most by people who are trying to make this transition to development is, hey, what language do I need to learn? What platform Do I need to learn? And the correct answer is whichever one interests you whichever one you have access to learning materials for right now you can make a living, building react web applications, you can build Android applications, you can help people with their websites.

Eliot Raymond :

Really, the important thing is that you learn a technology and that you then learn how you can go sell that technology. One of the most daunting parts of this isn't learning the language per se, or isn't starting the business. But it's everything all at once. If you look at it as I want to go from point A, which is where I am, for example, in your situation in Manhattan apartment, working at corporation to bring my family to Spain and living in Spain, there's so much that happens in between there. So building out an actionable list of things that you want to start doing and put associating some timelines with it. You're not going to hit all those dates, but just breaking it down into parts that you can actually check off a list for per se, is going to be really valuable because then it's not going to appear as one impossible mountain. Climb, but just little portions that you have to chip away one part at a time. For me at least, that was one of the most valuable things to get started because it was just so daunting to say, I'm going to go start my own business versus, alright, I'm going to teach myself how to do this and start freelancing on the side and then start saving up money here, and have things come together more progressively in that manner.

James Knight :

on that front, there's a book that I highly highly recommend

Eliot Raymond :

is called the one thing who have never heard about this, please, might be next on my reading list.

James Knight :

So the book is written by Gary Keller, who's the founder of Keller Williams, it's a real estate firm. And the the crux of the one thing is that this the to do list can be daunting because you have, you know, 10 things on them. And that typically people get bogged down in Okay, well, should I do this one? Should I do this one, what's the priority? But if you had to answer the question of what is the one thing that will push things forward, it gets a lot easier and Like Elliot just said, if you want to become an independent developer and moved to Spain, that's a big to do list. But if you go Okay, well, what's what's the first thing I need to do? If you don't know how to code? That's the first thing, right? The first thing is get the skill. If you do know how to code, okay, well, then I would say your next first thing is find a project. Okay, how do I find a project? Well, the first thing would be to go look for people who need work to reach out to people who are friends who might have projects that they need done. If you know anybody who's coding, some of my first projects were working for other freelancers doing, basically helping them out with their excess work. And so I'll link the the book in the liner notes. I think it's a fantastic book for anyone, even if you're not a freelancer or entrepreneur, but especially in in this line of work, where every day you're gonna wake up and you're gonna be greeted with a laundry list of things that you could do. Having a system that helps you figure out which one of those is the one you're going to do is super high.

Eliot Raymond :

My gosh, I couldn't have said it better myself. I think my current laundry list is over 100 things long. So that prioritization, understanding what actually needs to get done, while also taking actionable steps toward some of those longer term goals is not only going to be essential for you launching your own business, but in your day to day execution of what you do, I mean, you're what how many years in and you're still playing that game of balancing what needs to get done right now and what's on that longer term docket. So if you can get it squared away right from the start more power to you.

James Knight :

And sometimes you might need help doing that you might need help, you know, Elliot's 100 100 items, if you're not used to 100 items to do list, it can be tough to get through the first time. So you know, that's one of the reasons we're doing this podcast and and our emails are on the site. I'm James at hundreds of ways calm if you need help figuring out how you're going to make this plunge, send me an email and we'll talk

Eliot Raymond :

I was about to make a plug for our social channels reach out to us on social media hundreds of ways. We're on Twitter and Instagram and just shoot us a DM and we'd love to talk. We're always interested to talk to entrepreneurs and just hear about what they're doing. And we may not have the best advice in your field or vertical, but we're well connected in so many industries. And we'd love to do it, we can help out,

James Knight :

for sure.

Eliot Raymond :

So we can keep going here for another hour about ways to get started. But I think if you want to reach out to us directly, we're happy to provide some one on one insight via email or social media, shoot us a DM and we're happy to chat. We love talking to entrepreneurs who are either in the stages of launching their own business or even thinking about it. So reach out in that way. But also, I think we're just going to get so many new and unique perspectives from the folks that we bring on and through that, you'll hear about some of our own learned experiences as well. So as I said, we could keep going for an hour about how to get started but that's what this is all about. Moving forward. So plenty more to come on that front. James Eliot congrats on episode one.

James Knight :

Thank you very much for being our host today.

Eliot Raymond :

Thank you for being our guest. Excited to continue this journey and thanks everybody for listening. It's been fun figuring out how this works and excited to keep going.

James Knight :

Next week we will be flipping the script. Elliott will be sitting in the in the guest chair and I'll be I'll be hosting and we're going to be talking to him about his life. So please subscribe to the podcast if you enjoyed this episode and next week we'll be talking to Elliott

Eliot Raymond :

Can't wait looking forward James. We'll chat soon.

Intro
What James Does
How James Find Clients
Getting Started as a Developer
Dropping Out of College to Join a Startup
Leaving Las Vegas
Why Leave Google?
Taking the Leap Towards Entrepreneurship
Being Independent, Five Years In
The Importance of Adaptability
2020 is a Year of Change
Memories of the Early Days
Family & Travel - The Reason I Work
How To Become an Independent Developer
Book Recommendation: The ONE Thing
Reach Out When You Need Help
Next Week