As a teenager, I wasn’t interested in traditional part-time jobs, so I started exploring ways to earn money on the internet.
The first option I found was paidmailing platforms. A concept which remains puzzling to me even now – you’d get paid for simply opening promotional emails and websites. The earnings were ridiculously small, but these platforms had their own virtual currency, often linked to forums where users could exchange it for things like graphics, scripts, advertisements, or even money.
So in order to make more money I learned new skills.
At age 15, I learned graphic design.
I learned to use free tools like GIMP, Blender and Inkscape. My first graphics were far from perfect, but that’s how everyone started, right? I offered them and my services in the forum of the paidmailing platforms.
It was hard to win new clients with such poor skills, but I got better. The more feedback I got from customers, the more hours I put in, the better I got. I sold logos, illustrations, slot designs and marketing banners and website designs for the digital currency in a forum.
Here are some designs I made around that time:
The forum also had a section where people sold their scripts and programing skills. These services were more expensive than the graphics and I wondered if I could also offer these services. So I started learning.
At age 16, I learned HTML, CSS, PHP, MYSQL and the use of WordPress.
Learning to program and create websites was not as easy as it is today. Less information were available and I didn’t have anyone to teach me. It was the time when HTML5 and responsive designs came into fashion. Also optimizing websites for Internet Explorer 6 was still a thing.
Like probably every programming kid, I came up with the idea of programming my own browser game. It was supposed to be something with the Wild West, but I failed badly. I also made websites for clients and started diving into topics like SEO.
At age 17, I created my own websites and learned SEO.
My first website was a blog about electric cars. I lost the interest in the topic. Failed. Imagine what a blog started back then again could have grown until now.
The second one was about information and explanations about motors. I earned $2000 in Adsense revenue and ranked on the first Google page for the keyword “electric motor”.
Success. Despite the decent income, I lacked the confidence to start a side business due to bureaucratic concerns and doubts. In the end, I cashed out the money via PayPal and shut down the website.
Looking back, I invested a lot of time in these ventures – a lot of time. The hourly wage was not impressive, but the real value was in the independence and experience I gained.
At age 18, I took the normal route.
I studied mechanical engineering and quit all the activities around building my own business on the internet. In university I was interested in everything. There was so much new to learn. Many of my fellow students just wanted to put in the least effort possible for their grades. However, I was interested in other modules and wanted to learn more than just what was on the curriculum.
At age 21, I took my first job as an engineer.
I started my career at an engineering service provider. After four month I was borrowed by a startup with only 5-6 people working there. Everything was new. Everything had to be build up from nothing. I learned a lot. About how a business works and about how a company grew from a startup to a company with 80 employees today.
At age 25, I studied industrial engineering part time.
I have learned about marketing, finance and sales. But what I learned most during this time was to work hard. I worked 40 hours during the week and had lectures lasting several hours every second Friday and Saturday. On top of that, I had to study and take exams, as well as write a Master’s thesis, which I also did alongside my 40-hour job.
At age 26, I became product manager.
With the background of my studies I got offered a new job as a product manager.
I’m currently what it is needed to build a product with a market fit.
And here I am right now.
What I learned from this?
1. Self-initiative and self-learning:
Thanks to the power of the internet, self-study has become so easy that literally anyone can learn any skill. Once you have decided to learn a new skill, you can embark on a journey of growth and development with the resources available online.
The process starts with the decision to begin. If money is your motivation, fine, make it that purpose.
The most important thing I’ve learned is that I’ve been able to solve my own problems that have come up.
2. Adaptability and flexibility:
When I realized that I was spending a lot of time designing graphics but could make more money designing and building websites, I decided to go for it.
Recognizing the demand for website development and the potential for increased revenue in this area, I seized the opportunity to expand my skills and explore new avenues for growth.
3. Professional versatility and lifelong learning – Being a polymath
My learnings and my career always evolved. From a graphic designer to a website owner. From a mechanical engineering student to an industrial engineer. From an engineer to a product manager.
I believe that the ability to adapt is a valuable skill in today’s world. Things change so quickly in our complex world that we have to evolve and learn throughout our lives.