A photo of a tropical banana stand

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand

In the TV show Arrested Development, character George Bluth Sr. repeatedly reassures his son Michael, that no matter what other dire financial mishaps are occurring to the comically mis-managed family business, “there’s always money in the banana stand”. Arrested Development is a comedy of errors, so the message is misunderstood, to predictably (and hilariously) disastrous ends. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it.

That phrase, though, has stuck with me: there’s always money in the banana stand. For many years I’ve had my own banana stand. Having it has substantially changed my relationship with employment.

I’m a software developer by trade. I’ve slung code either as an employee or as an independent consultant for over two decades. But around ten years ago, I started selling e-books about programming. At the time it was a way to recoup the time and energy I had sunk into researching conference talks, as well as a way to expand on the topics of those talks.

E-books expanded to screencasts, and then to courses. I found myself with a diversified product income that sometimes rivalled or even exceeded what I could expect from a developer’s salary.

As a result, gaps between gigs haven’t felt like “unemployment” for a long time. Instead, they are opportunities to work on my education business. Recently, a major gig I’d been looking forward to fell through at the last second. Once I worked through the disappointment, I was like: “welp, there’s always money in the banana stand!”

From time to time I find myself advising others in how to start or expand their own banana stands. There are some bits of advice and explanation that I repeat a lot. I thought maybe I’d start trying to capture some of these concepts in a series of posts here.

Of course, there’s lots of info out there already on so-called “side hustles” (a term I despise). I’m far from authoritative, or an expert. In fact as independent content creators go, I’m lazy, haphazard, un-optimized, often anxiety-ridden, and overwhelmed. But, I think maybe that makes my perspective useful to some people? If I can be this much of a mess and still have a successful banana stand, maybe you can too.

I do want to acknowledge my privilege, though, before I go any further. Most of the hustle-porn hype out there is made by (and implicitly for) white male cisgender abled middle-class people with few or no caregiving responsibilities.

I made a hojillion dollars selling golf swing advice from my couch, and you can too!*

(*so long as you are an energetic, charismatic suburban white guy like myself, with free time I’d otherwise spend on video games, and a partner who picks up all the slack, I love you Barbara you’re the light of my life)

— Every Hustle Guru Ever

I fall pretty close to the center of this demographic, modulo some extra caregiving along the way. I try to at least acknowledge the implicit privilege in what I do, but feel free to point out if I ever make assumptions I shouldn’t.

I also have a very particular point of view: I know (a little) about selling “information products” to software developers. I don’t know jack about selling to, say, knitters. Or about selling physical products. Or much of anything outside of my own little niche.

I do know that software developers and other IT nerds have both a leg-up (because our tech-savvy carries over to many of the tools and processes involved in a content business) and a disadvantage (because we often have preconceptions about How To Do Technical Things that are just… not right for running a business). If you’re a nerd like me, I might have some things to tell you.

Anyway, let’s get started with arguably the most important concept of all: Your Mailing List.

7 comments

  1. I’m already subscribed to your mailing list, but I’d subscribe again if I could after reading this. 😉 There’s a lot of wisdom in your writings, even when they aren’t about software development. Over the years, I could say I owe you for it.

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