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Coding AI Update; Jan 31, 2019

Hey guys. I've talked to a lot of you about what I'm working on and don't really have time to update each of you individually. So I thought I'd just send one email to update everyone at once. Let's call this the first edition of the Coding AI weekly and/or monthly newsletter. If you're not interested in this sort of thing, just let me know and I'll take you off the mailing list.

Ok, down to business: Between finding new clients, doing work, and finding ways of speeding up my work I'm basically out of time. I'm not actually sure what the exact allocation of my time is, but for the last couple of days it's probably been like 50/40/10 between working on pages, pitching clients, and building tooling for myself. I'd like to bring people on to help me with the first two.

Right now my conversion rate for pitches is something like 30 to 50 pitches to get one job. This isn't great, but I think it should improve as I figure out how to pitch clients better, accumulate good reviews on my profile, build out my portfolio, etc. I've been filling up a spreadsheet with data about the proposals I'm sending out. I ought to be able to do some analysis on this to figure out what approaches work best, what price points to target, etc.

I completed my third job yesterday. It was actually a very simple one line CSS change. Someone posted a job that said, "I want my menu to be wider", and I responded, "I think that might be a one-line fix". He said "ok, here are login credentials for my site." I tried some stuff and within five minutes confirmed it was a simple fix. I asked for $30 to make the change permanent and he agreed. I then spent a bit of time confirming that I didn't break anything, and then I was done. Between the intial convo, making the change, and following up I spent about 20 minutes for that $30. I got the feeling he would’ve been happy to pay a lot more. This seems pretty good and has me wondering if the real money is in these quick fixes rather than in building full sites.

The other thing I've been working on is [redacted] -- this was my first client. The CEO paid me $250 to make an initial version of the site, then $29/hour to iterate on the design, help edit his copy, and stuff like that. He's wanted to change a lot of stuff so I've been racking up a lot of hours on this. I just got out of a meeting with him where I gave him a little training in how to use WP Bakery, the visual page builder plugin I'm using for his page. Hopefully he will be able to take the reins in the future and I can move on to other things.

I have a new late stage prospect that wants me to do ongoing maintenance for this WordPress site: [redacted] If he decides to move forward I think I'll start doing that tomorrow or the day after. I pitched him a rate of $35/hour. (As I have said, I'm simply trying to grow revenue slowly over time.)

Alex, you asked me to share some of the bigger picture stuff I wrote a while ago. Here are some links:

Like I said on the phone, that stuff is a few months old. It's really just some speculative ideas about how a fully automatic coding system might work.

I also wrote some other vaguely related articles you might be interested in checking out:

(It might not be obvious how the stuff I talk about in these posts connects to my main work -- I can talk more about that if you'd like.)

Like I said, I’ve mostly moved away from this theoretical work in favor of a more realistic, revenue driven, iterative approach.

Daniel, we talked about working together to build webpages. But now it's looking like there might be more demand for maintaining existing pages than building new ones. Also, I'm not sure exactly how we would collaborate if I'm doing a lot of quick-fixes like the one I did yesterday. Let me know if you'd be interested in doing this sort of work.

I can imagine a small group of people all sharing one Upwork account. Some people could handle pitching clients, negotiating rates, that sort of thing, while others handle building pages and doing quick fixes. With just a little sleight of hand you could make it seem like it was one person doing everything. Having multiple people share one Upwork account violates their TOS though, so of course it's not something I would ever dream of doing. But I'm sure the practice is widespread.

On the tooling side I built what is basically a json powered templating engine for WPBakery. I wrote a bunch of html templates and a script that merges them together. Except the templates are not pure HTML -- they also include WP Bakery shortcodes (shortcodes are basically like custom markup used by WordPress to insert premade components onto a page). This tool gives me the best of both worlds -- I can can write one layout that I share across multiple pages like you would using a normal web framework, while still retaining the visual page building interface that non-technical clients can use to make changes to their site themselves. I like to think of this as a page-builder-builder. Some additional layer of abstraction is needed to scale this sort of human/computer hybrid package I'm pitching to clients and I think this might be an important piece of that.

Happy to hear any thoughts you all have about all this. Sorry that this email is a bit of an unstructured brain dump, but like I said, I don't have a ton of free time at the moment.

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