This Woman Taught Herself to Code — And Earned $137,000 in One Year

Coding may be a pc language, but it surely’s behind virtually the whole lot we do within the digital age. This girl taught herself to code at age 11 and began her personal enterprise. She revamped $137,000 final 12 months — from residence.

Kelly Vaughn has by no means taken a category in net improvement.

She’s by no means attended a coding bootcamp.

Amidst a sea of dudes and CompSci majors, she’s uncommon: a self-taught feminine developer.

On the age of 24, she give up her job to freelance full time — and in her first 12 months, she earned $137,000. Right here’s how she did it.

An Early Intro to Coding

Vaughn first began experimenting with programming when she was simply 11.

She wished to create her personal group for the web site Neopets, so her dad purchased her an “HTML for Dummies” e-book.

Right now, she says, there are a lot of extra sources for individuals who’d prefer to be taught to code — together with coding bootcamps and websites like Treehouse and Codecademy — however along with her drive and curiosity, the e-book proved sufficient.

She continued to observe, and obtained her first paying gig at age 14, making a looking provides web site for a buddy of her father’s.

Her pay? One T-shirt.

Quickly after, she started promoting custom-designed MySpace themes for $15 every.

Taking a Completely different Path

But, when it got here time for faculty, Vaughn selected to not main in laptop science — she assumed working within the area would take the enjoyable out of it.

As a substitute, she graduated along with her bachelor’s in psychology after which pursued grasp’s levels in social work and public well being.

To assist pay for tuition, she saved doing freelance work on the aspect — a transfer that finally led to an aha second.

“Midway by means of grad college, I’m nonetheless coding, and I’m getting paid,” she says. “So it’s a job, and I don’t hate it. Perhaps it’s one thing I might take pleasure in doing full time.”

Not desirous to be a quitter, she completed grad college, and accepted a job with the Facilities for Illness Management. However after simply 9 months, she determined to take the leap to self-employment.

It was October 2015, and he or she was 24 years outdated.

Making It On Her Personal

Regardless of her younger age, Vaughn was ready to depart her full-time job: She had an emergency fund, a husband with medical health insurance and a dependable revenue, in addition to a contract for ongoing work with one firm.

She targeted her net improvement providers round launching on-line shops for small and medium companies — principally utilizing the Shopify platform.

Throughout her first month as a freelancer, she tripled her revenue. Throughout her first three months, she earned $28,000.

The next 12 months, she grossed $137,000, with simply $9,000 of overhead.

In Vaughn’s second full 12 months, she started to scale: She constructed a crew of contractors to assist with design, search engine marketing, social media advertising and copywriting, and determined to rebrand as greater than only a freelancer.

“If you wish to develop, you could separate your self from the model,” she says. “I might not be Kelly Vaughn Artistic; I needed to have a extra established company identify.”

She launched The Taproom Company in October 2017, and now has seven contractors working for her — all ladies, all distant.

“It’s a very particular factor to be a part of an all-female digital company in a male-dominated trade,” says Gemma Haylett, a developer at The Taproom. “I believe we’re distinctive in that everybody may be very supportive of one another… The one low is that I do not get to hang around with my superior coworkers since we stay all around the world!”

How Her Biz Grew So Shortly

A person types on a keyboard.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

It could appear to be Vaughn’s success got here out of nowhere, however the reality is she’s been working towards this second for greater than a decade.

“I spent a variety of time increase my buyer base and my advertising — getting my identify on the market earlier than I went full time” she says.

For years beforehand, she used social media to share her portfolio and work together with different folks in her area. She additionally joined Fb teams like Freelance to Freedom Venture and Unstoppable ($97/12 months), and has seen lots of people get their first shoppers that method.

“Somebody will say ‘Ship over your portfolio and I’ll cross on the names to my shopper,’” she explains. “It’s a very nice useful resource for people who find themselves simply getting began.”

One other consider her success was her highly-focused area of interest. Not solely did branding herself as a Shopify skilled amplify referrals, it additionally helped her portfolio stand out in search engines like google and amongst different builders in her group.

“The native part was essential,” she says. “Even at this time, a variety of the shoppers desire to work with somebody who’s native. Even when we by no means truly meet face-to-face, the choice is there.”

On Imposter Syndrome and Success

Greater than 90% of builders are male, which has led to some tough conditions for Vaughn.

“After I was youthful — 19, 20 — I’d sometimes obtain emails on my private portfolio saying ‘You’re actually cute for a developer,” she says. “I used to be like ‘Cool, how about my work?’”

A number of years later, one potential buyer even requested her: “How do I do know you’re not going to run away with my cash and have a child?”

Fortunately, as Vaughn grew extra skilled, she confronted much less and fewer negativity about her gender — however nonetheless, she worries about her age.

“I don’t like telling [clients] how outdated I’m, as a result of there’s a stage of judgment that comes with being so younger,” she explains. “Imposter syndrome is sort of an on a regular basis battle — how am I certified to be providing you with recommendation on methods to run your enterprise?”

However, with the assist of her household and buddies, and the success of the websites and shops she’s launched, she’s been capable of frequently construct her confidence.

“It’s the general feeling of accomplishment that issues,” she says. “That folks belief the Taproom; that we’re capable of assist companies truly develop.”

Susan Shain is a contract author and digital nomad. She covers journey, meals and private finance (mainly, how to economize so you’ll be able to journey extra and eat extra). Go to her weblog at, or say hello on Twitter @susan_shain.

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