Other People’s Side-Projects 4: Creating your own app
Maybe I’ve told you before, but I have a passion for dashboards, pretty dashboards with charts and graphs that illustrate stuff I need to feel empowered.
Cushion is one of those dashboards for freelancers. I’ve had it on my radar for quite a while, particularly because Jonnie Hallman blogs about it so transparently and obviously, because it’s so pretty and well designed.
Hey Jonnie, who are you and what is your background?
My name is Jonnie Hallman. I’m a freelance designer/dev based in Brooklyn, NY. I’m also the founder of Cushion, a forecasting app for freelancers. I’ve been coding since I was a kid and studied design in college. After a few full-time jobs, I realized I’d rather be on my own, so I’ve been freelancing ever since.
How do you generate your income?
Most of my income used to come from freelancing, but as Cushion grows, my need to freelance dwindles. Having a passive income really helps because I have the affordance to be more selective with which freelance jobs I want to take. At the same time, building Cushion into what it is today was no walk in the park. I probably worked the equivalent of several years of freelancing before reaching a point where Cushion made a decent income.
Are you a born entrepreneur or did you have to overcome obstacles?
No, I don’t see myself as a born entrepreneur—I never intended to run a company. I like to build things and be independent of employers, so I guess I ended up becoming an entrepreneur because this thing I built happens to be a business. Now that I’m running Cushion, I have a much more focused mindset than when I was freelancing full-time, hopping from project to project. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lack of motivation because the to-do list of what I want to do with Cushion is endless. Once I focus one task, I’m already thinking about the next.
Pretty dashboards: “Peace of mind for freelancers: Cushion will help you predict your unpredictable schedule and steady your unsteady income”
You now have a team to help you with Cushion, but how was that in the early stages. When you did most of it (if not all) by yourself.
Building an app by yourself is difficult, but also lonely. Because there are dozens are decisions to make throughout the process, there’s no one to talk to who is invested as much as you are. I ended up relying heavily on discussions with freelancer friends of mine. Since they’re the target demographic, even a casual conversation was user research. Bootstrapping Cushion in the early stages also wore on me. Watching my bank account balance plummet was terrifying, but I had to get used to that. Like with freelancing, I had to become numb to the ups and downs of both my bank account and my stress level. Over the years, I’ve gotten really good at it, but it’s still scary.
Do you have any advice or guidance for freelancers wanting to escape the “time-trading business”?
First I’d like to dispel the notion that passive income comes easy. There’s a saying for freelancing that “Freelancers work 80 hours/week, so they don’t have to work 40.” That’s 100% true, but for building an app, I’d say you work 120 hours/week, so you don’t have to work 80 hours freelancing. Granted there are dozens of other ways to build multiple income streams, like selling your work or your advice, but any route you take requires an incredible amount of time and effort. Personally, I’d much rather run my own app than work for someone else, so I’m happy to put in the extra hours.
If you’re a freelancer, or entrepreneur, check out Cushion. I originally built it for myself to overcome the rollercoaster ride of freelancing. I didn’t have a firm grasp on my income each year and I was constantly taking on too much work, so I designed Cushion’s features to help me visualize my workload and reach my financial goals. I also use Cushion to track its own income, so it works just as well for freelancers with passive incomes.
Note: I have an affiliate link, if you use it, I get a month free: get.cushionapp.com/e24e979280
Thank you for your time Jonnie, you are amazing. And thank you for reading, you are amazing. I hope you know that!
Brooklyn-based freelance designer/dev with a healthy balance of design and code. Enjoys working with positive people who share the same passion for simple and thoughtful design. Worked with many great collaborators, like Casper, Dropbox, Etsy, FiftyThree, Adobe, and Artsy.