how do you increase your runway? really – i’m asking!

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m running a business that’s not “ramen profitable”. That might not be true; it depends on how you define “ramen profitable”. If it means “you can afford to buy enough ramen to live on”, then, in fact, I am ramen profitable! That’s actually pretty cool. But if it means “you can afford to pay for your basic necessities”, then no, I’m not ramen profitable. And that kind of makes me sad. I can afford to pay my groceries on the income from my project. I can’t afford to pay for my health insurance, or my rent, or the gas that I put into my car. Any extra expenses come out of my savings.

more runway is better

In the startup world, your “runway” is the amount of time you have to run your company before it runs out of money. I worked as a software developer for many years before I decided to start my own business. During that time, I saved up a few years of living expenses. So my runway is pretty long. But it’s not indefinite. That means it’s imperative that I find a way to make more money from my current project, or that I figure out some new way to make money. If neither of those options works out, then it’s back to full-time employment for me. That would be more than just a little bit disagreeable, so you could say I’m highly motivated.

In case you are wondering, I’m already aware that you can improve your runway by trimming expenses. I’m pretty good at that, and I’ve done basically all I can do (or am willing to do) in that area.

I wouldn’t exactly call myself a “startup founder”, since I’m not trying to start a company that employs anyone other than me. I’m probably more aligned with people who run “lifestyle” businesses. The truth is, I wouldn’t work at all if I didn’t have to. It always surprises me when people claim that they would work even if they didn’t need to. There are so many other things to do in life, and so much of “work” is completely unproductive nonsense.

These are my ideal situations, in order of preference:

  • Do what I want and not work at all
  • Work on something that’s at least marginally fun, but not full-time, so I have plenty of time for other things
  • Work on something full time, but with flex hours; so, for example, I can go have fun during the week when other people are at work

I’m not even going to put FT work in that list. If I have to go back to the dreaded FT, it will be far from ideal. If it comes down to that, then I guess it will be a win if I can find FT work with flex hours. Not easy, even as a software dev.

So, my current and most urgent problem is that I need to increase my runway. People will tell you to “just take some contract work” in situations like this. This advice leaves me scratching my head. Based on past experience, I am pretty sure that I’m a good software developer and that I am quite capable of doing contract work. However, my experience has been that contract work is hard to come by, unless perhaps you are willing to take temporary full-time gigs. This is something I’d rather not do, because it would mean stopping all progress on my project. And even then, most of the available contract gigs are temp-to-perm. If you take one, you may have to lie, and say that you are potentially interested in going full-time at the end of the contract.

I have this vague feeling that there are tons of software devs out there, chugging along, doing contract work part-time to fund their labor-of-love projects. Is it true? If so, how do you get there??

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