John Purcell - Cave of ProgrammingMe in Lucca, Italy, 2008
The Cave of Programming was created by me, John Purcell, back in 2011. At the time I was working as a full-time software developer. In theory I was self-employed, but in practice I still turned up and worked as a hired hand in someone’s office for eight hours a day. I wanted to work for myself — really. So I created Cave of Programming with the idea of making money by selling advertising space. I began to create articles about computer programming for the site.

In May 2011 I quit my contract and moved to Budapest. I was determined to find some way of making a living that gave me more freedom than I had previously enjoyed. It was clear that selling advertising space was going to take a long time to get profitable, so I advertised 1-to-1 Skype lessons on the site instead. Pretty soon I found my first client.

In December 2011 I started creating YouTube videos about Java programming. I needed to promote my website so that I could find more clients, and my savings were running out fast. I was gratified by the feedback I got from my YouTube videos, once people started to notice them. And it worked; my site started to gain popularity as people discovered my videos.

Around June 2012, one of my 1-to-1 clients (thanks Mark!) suggested that I sell videos on Udemy, which I’d never heard of. Well, why not. I decided to give it a try.

I had been scraping by on seven hundred euros a month from lessons. In Budapest this is actually not a bad wage, but once I’d paid stuff like air travel (mainly to the UK, my home country), international health insurance, my addiction to Starbucks and buying Amazon books, etc, I wasn’t doing too well. My first month of sales on Udemy, driven partly by traffic from my website, made me five hundred US dollars all by itself. The next month I made $1000; the next month $2000. I remember being in Paris (my first visit there ever, even though France is next to England) and suddenly finding subscription alert emails turning up one after another after another. Like magic!

I gave up teaching 1-to-1 to concentrate solely on creating videos. I’ve become a passionate advocate of creating free material if you want to make money online. Not only is a free video or article a free advert for your stuff, but at the risk of stating the obvious, it also helps people by providing information. Numerous people have written to me to tell me they got a job or a promotion with the help of my videos, or they passed an exam or were finally able to understand programming, and I never tire of hearing it.

And that’s where I am now! The site you’re reading is the result of all this. Now, thanks to you and others, I have the freedom I always craved. And it tastes very sweet! And in return, I hope that my videos will help you do whatever you want to do in the world of programming.

Before starting Cave of Programming, I had worked as a software developer for about 13-14 years, starting out with CSC (one of the world’s biggest technology companies), moving on to various other companies in Cambridge, UK, and eventually becoming a contractor and working near London and in Holland among other places. Along the way I’ve acquired expertise in Java, C++, Perl and Javascript. I’ve also developed code commercially and in my spare time in a variety of other languages too.

I have never studied computer programming formally and I wasn’t one of those children who are glued to a computer from an early age. I was always more of a chemistry and physics enthusiast rather than a computer enthusiast (trying to avoid the word “geek” here ….) but when I was 23 years old I started playing around with my girlfriend’s computer and somehow ended up learning to program it, first in Basic then in C++. Although I learned programming purely as a hobby, I discovered that once you learn programming people will pay you good money to do it professionally, which is how I ended up in my current profession. If I can do it, you can do it too …

My other interests include Nature (especially wild plants and fungi), languages, the human mind and the way in which it creates its view of the world around us, other cultures, and the philosophical underpinnings of physics.

If you’re interested in other projects by me, I have a fledgling site about physics and consciousness here. I also have a site which I started before Cave of Programming, before I realised the importance of targeting if you want to make a living from the web; you can find it here.