Posted by – December 7, 2011

I’ve become a bit lax about posting to this site. What’s even worse is, when I look at the front page, it’s become entirely about my random endeavours in Budapest, instead of being about more generally applicable things. Anyway, I want to post an update about what I’ve been doing just for the moment, then maybe I can get back to writing whatever crazy articles spring to mind.

A little while ago I posted something about an “experimental travel site” that I was working on. I’ve sort of already lost interest in that idea, and I’m thinking of using the site to sell software from . But, my mysterious friend “LP” did mention that indeed her friend is apparently able to set up travel sites and to already make something like 1000 euros a month from them after only a couple of months. But he works all day on them and is an expert on SEO. I’m still learning about SEO, and if I knew the trick to this I’d share it with you, but I don’t. Pretty amazing though — it really seems to contradict what we all hear, that it takes two years to make a blog successful.

As for myself, now finally I’m making a living by teaching software development online using Skype and other free software (my site is Cave of Programming). It happened quite quickly for me; my first student was through and came to me via pure luck. Someone advertised on there for someone to teach them Java, and I applied. That gave me confidence that there is a demand for this kind of thing, and I put my photo on my other site together with some more balanced, less over-the-top advertising information. Clients began to appear at the rate of about one every two or three weeks.

I also teach private English lessons here in Budapest. I advertised through the local newspapers and ended up with four or five clients. If you speak English you could definitely make a living like that, but I’ve decided to concentrate on teaching software online, since for me this pays more and is easier.

I definitely think that non-English speakers could teach their own language online via Skype too, especially if you speak at least some English (which you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this page). Set up an Internet site and regularly post little articles to it. Bookmark your own articles on social bookmarking sites, using titles with keywords that people are searching for (although this maybe isn’t as important as making sure your articles are useful), and consider making YouTube videos too. I make YouTube videos using Flashback Express (free) to capture my desktop. It’s really good, and every day or two someone subscribes to my YouTube channel. I take payments using PayPal, which charges a hefty percentage, but only of the money that you actually make — there are no upfront payments. It’s really, really easy to use; just log into their site and click. You can find more information about SEO (the art of writing pages that will get hits in Google) elsewhere on this website.

Basically, if you can think of something that some people are interested in learning and that you can teach, you can probably find people who want to learn it through the Internet. You just need to be patient, and do a little something every day to promote your website. Don’t give up the day job till you’ve got clients, at least not unless you have savings. OR, disregard my advice completely, quit your job, pay your rent with your credit card and try to get clients like crazy. You might succeed, but don’t blame me if you don’t :)

Budapest is quite a good place to live if you’re doing this kind of thing, since it’s cheap (for people from Western Europe or USA — although I don’t know how permits and visas work for US residents) and you can get a good Internet connection here. But of course anywhere with cheap rent and a good Internet connection works. If you’ve got your own house, even better! Right now it’s chilly in Budapest and everyone’s complaining about the cold. Except me — I love it. I seem to be permanently adjusted to English weather, so I feel right at home now.

Often Skype has a few problems while I’m teaching people, but we just work through it together and no-one minds too much.

The next step for me is to work on my language software, while continuing to take on more clients for programming training. I actually finished some language-learning software, but I am pretty unhappy with it — it’s very unexciting and tends not to install properly. What I’ve learnt from this is, if you’re writing software, think about how it will install before you even start, and use any helpful libraries or frameworks that you possibly can. Try to find a framework that does most of the work for you.

Talking of language software, recently I’ve been meeting people in Budapest from language-exchange sites to practice Hungarian. One guy G. happened to have taken English lessons with a man who wrote some of the Hungarian-learning books I’ve got. G. told me that this man was looking for people to write software for him, and for native English speakers to record stuff for his software. I arranged to meet this man, who turned out to be a grey-haired Russian. I couldn’t help him with his software since he write for Macs, which I don’t, but I recorded some text for him. He got me to sit in a little makeshift recording studio while I read out text for his latest software project. For this I asked for, and got, 4000 forint for an hour. For me it was an interesting experience, although I sensed he was skittish about my Derbyshire accent. But it was interesting to meet someone who had built a business around mainly teaching English.

This might be my last “journal” or Budapest-related post for a while. Since I started writing this journal, I’ve gone from desperately hoping that I could make a living away from offices, to actually doing it and (fingers crossed) succeeding. I’ve leveraged my software skills, but I could equally well have concentrated on teaching English. I think that making a living for yourself is not as hard as it can seem, provided you are patient and you take the trouble to promote your services or product. It used to seem like a black art to me, and for year after year I felt that office slavery was inevitable, when all along if I had just picked one sensible idea and stuck at it for a while and had not been afraid to promote myself, probably I could have avoided many years of frustration!

The best thing about working for myself is that I get to work with a diverse assortment of interesting and likeable people, and I often get really nice comments on my blogs — or people tell me they’re really grateful for my help. The worst thing is that sometimes I worry that my clients will all disappear and no new ones will come in. But that looks less and less likely with each passing month, as I acquire new clients. All in all, I can’t recommend this kind of life highly enough. I finally feel like I’m in control of my destiny. I get out of bed when I’ve had enough sleep; I stroll around when I feel like it, and no-one tells me what to do. Bliss.

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