Jonathan ES Lin
Life · Tech · Faith

Serial Loser

Jul 7, 2020

I found myself self-employed again (my fourth time) after I resigned in April 2020, during the lockdown period. My salary got cut, and I just lost motivation to keep working in the airline tech industry, given that the whole industry was burning in flames. Ten days after I resigned, the company retrenched my entire team (what luck, missed out on minor severance). This time, in order to resign, the excuse that I gave myself was that I would just continuously churn out ebooks and courses (on GCP topics) and sell them. I wasn't particularly enjoying the job, and was looking for an excuse to walk for months.

I actually managed to churn out two ebooks and one course during most of the lockdown period. I almost wanted to give up while doing the course. I tried making a similar Udemy course a year earlier, but I gave up halfway. The amount of effort is just amazing. For all that effort put into the course, the ROI was not even close to the ROI of the books (so far). Sales are trickling in, and the key to this business is to keep churning out content. But frankly, I have run out of steam and motivation for producing ebooks and courses.

I also managed to start a GCP newsletter called GCP Digest. Part of my goal for this was to promote my GCP consulting business. The newsletter remains alive, but my GCP consulting business has not really taken off. It's just a tough game to promote GCP in a 1-man consulting shop, and GCP itself is still struggling with market share.

I also started work on Readerize, potentially an alternative to Feedly and Google Reader. It's still in 70% development, but frankly I am lacking the big motivational push to launch it. I fear it may be another PageDash, i.e. a failure.

PageDash, my first product, is taking in about RM2000 per year, which is really nothing. Honestly, I am still mulling if I should retire the service. I tried adding Japanese localization earlier this year, expecting an uptick in Japanese users, but that didn't happen.

FindTutor.my is yet another distraction that I started during my previous self-employment stint. It is actually bringing in some money, but to me it is just a distraction. I don't really want to be a tutor agent. Somehow it was an accidental business opportunity that kinda got traction. Ironically, it brought in more revenue compared to all my software stuff.

KanRails is still my pet project. It is trying to compete with the likes of Monday and Asana, to be a work management platform. But honestly, it is still a toy in comparison. I remain the single developer, and I struggle to achieve feature parity with the big boys. Even adding small features to it is now an almost insurmountable task due to the complexity and also due to my current mental state.

"What do I want?" is the perennial question. After all, something is really wrong when I came out in self-employment not once or twice but FOUR TIMES!

Working for people is fine, until you stop resonating with the product, or what you signed up for changes dramatically, or until something in the company really irks you to no end. The COVID episode really unveiled how much my previous employer cared about people: working from home arrangements were a taboo topic! You can continue to suck it up, or you can count the cost and move on.

I have been doing some freelance gigs recently, with potentially more in the pipeline. But I honestly don't really see myself shuffling around from project to project in freelance consulting mode. I don't really care if the freelance pay is 2x my salary. Something is just missing for me from the freelance equation. Maybe the phrase I am looking for is deep contribution. Freelance is just touch and go.

I am hoping to get a job (again), but this time I do not want to code on the job. Coding is just tiring and repetitive. Let the younger ones do it. I am hoping to be a cloud architect, and do system design. But I also loathe to work with AWS and Azure. GCP would be awesome, but there are so few opportunities for GCP here in Malaysia. What can I do, then?

So, back to the question, what do I want? I was hoping to achieve product success, build something people want, get paid handsomely for it, hire a team, grow the product, get an office, etc. But looks like all that is just a pipe dream. Secondarily, I think if I can work my way toward being an enterprise architect focusing on GCP, that would be great. Maybe one day I'll come to terms with working with AWS/Azure, as there is just no choice if one wants to survice this route in the long term.

I don't really want to shuffle from project to project. If I build something, then it should be deep and long-lasting. Freelance consulting is just a story of sub-sub-sub contract, and you end up with the smallest of the pie. Even if you are the first contractor, local clients are just a stinge to work with. They think they can get an e-commerce mobile app for RM20K when the price is actually 3-4x of that.

I already killed off The Coin Parrot, a crypto news aggregator. I had an API customer but they halted my services, so I found no point to keep The Coin Parrot running.

The Malaysian Pulse is still running. But I plan to retire it by end of the year, once it reaches the next AdSense payment threshold.

It doesn't matter if a project is not taking up much of my time. If it is just stagnating, there is really no point keeping it around. Better to be hot or cold, not warm. Most of the above stuff I mentioned are warm.

So that's the rundown of Jonathan Lin, the serial loser.