How to Escape the 9 – 5 Prison. Developer Millionaire.

Have you ever felt trapped in your 9 to 5 job? I know I used to and every single day I wondered if it was possible to escape.

Fast forward 10 years and I’m now an entrepreneur who owns his time, but I certainly didn’t start that way.

In fact my starting position was probably like yours, just about covering my bills with a 9 to 5 JOB (Just Over Broke).

This is the story of how I went from that job to a $12,000 freelance contract in just 4 weeks. You may be thinking that I had amazing skills to have someone pay me that amount of money…

You couldn’t be further from the truth.

I was a complete beginner when I started applying for contracts and, as I would learn, this fact did not matter one little bit.

Read on to see how I escaped my 9 to 5 prison and how you can too, even if you have very little to offer.

What’s Your Catalyst?

Every great prison escape has a catalyst, some small event that finally breaks the camel’s back and commits you to change.

For me it was my former boss. 

I used to work hard at my job for just 2 hours a day. That was all I needed to output the same as my colleagues so I figured I was doing OK. The remaining 6 hours I would research “get rich quick” schemes (all of those failed by the way).

One day the big boss calls me in, holding a stack of printed papers:

“The IT department has sent me a report of everything you’ve been doing on your laptop that’s not work related….”

I’ll spare you the details but I got an “official” warning that day. After the shock wore off I asked why I was being reprimanded. After all, my work was high quality and always on time. His response? 

“We expect you to work for the company whilst you’re at work.”

Translation: You will work as hard as possible for us so we get rich. We own you for 8 hours every day. Do not use that time to enrich yourself.

This attitude from the higher ups of “never enough” really p*****d me off. I knew something had to change.

I bet that you’ve experienced something similar. 

Ever wasted a whole day doing nothing important except trying not to get caught by your boss?

Ever been at a meeting and thought “What a bunch of morons. I can do so much better.”?

You may think that being surrounded by idiots and achieving nothing isn’t harmful, but it is. You are slowly being dragged down to their level and becoming one of them, but there is hope.

When you have these thoughts, hold on to them. They are your catalyst of change.

You Must Act Fast

At this point it’s vital to act fast before these thoughts fade. You have 2 choices:

  1. Sit there and take it like a good little inmate or…
  2. Make a plan to escape

You’re here because I think you want option 2, to escape as I once did.

Escaping Prison is Not Easy

I can hear your objections already: 

  • How do I start? 
  • How do I find clients? 
  • Who will pay my bills? 

I had all these fears and more. The way was not clear at all. I hopped between ideas, never fully committing to any one thing. In fact I even had nightmares about being jobless and broke.

Pain Makes You Move

At my job the prison guards were watching me ever closer, making sure their inmate worked for the maximum 8 hours a day. This new level of micromanagement kept me frantically searching for that escape tunnel.

After much procrastination I decided to try freelancing, due to the fact I could get paid a hundred dollars an hour (in theory).

I had only one skill to offer though – very basic coding. It was so basic that I thought that no-one would ever hire me. In fact the more I thought about it, the more hopeless I felt, but my situation forced me to try. 

Hopeless and Depressed is Normal

If you plan on freelancing then know this: You will feel completely hopeless and depressed at the start.

During hard times I like to think of the famous escape scene in the film: Shawshank Redemption. The main actor chisels for months through hard rock, crawls through a mile of sewage tunnel and emerges outside the prison, looking and smelling inhuman.

But he is free.

We humans prize freedom over all else but would you crawl through miles of sewage to get it?

How I Escaped and You Can Too

With my prison guards keeping an ever tighter watch I sneakily applied to over 50 job posts on freelance platforms. Eventually one client replied (yes, only one). 

He wanted an Android demo where you could record rapping over a backing track. He was only paying $250, which was far too low, but I had no choice. I took it on.

It turned out to be a nightmare technical problem which took me 4 days to solve – resulting in a grand $8 per hour. But you know what?


I had built something on my own time, gotten paid and had the beautiful beginnings of my tunnel of freedom. 

If you decide to create your own tunnel of freedom then you will never forget this first taste of free air. 

You will feel elation in a way most people have not and never will.

Are You Professional? Does it Matter?

The demo app I delivered had that one recording function but it was a mess of third party libraries and buggy code. 100% certified BEGINNER level code. 

But you know what? The client was extremely impressed. After all, he could barely login to Facebook without losing his way and coding was black magic to him. 

From this I learned that your expertise only needs to be a certain distance ahead of the client to seem extremely impressive.

However there was one little problem – I was being paid too little. High off the success of my first completed contract I turned to solve this new dilemma.

Pay attention because this section is extremely important for your success.

The Fear of Moving from $8 to $80 per hour

You will struggle with this step of the journey. Lord knows I did. The reason is down to human nature. 

We humans are anchoring creatures. That is, once we define some part of life or create a habit then it becomes an anchor to reality. 

This is not a bad thing as we need anchors in life to be happy. However, they also hold us back. 

I’ve found that the greatest “hack” in life is to realise which anchors are holding you back and make a plan to replace them with newer, bigger, better ones.

Upping my rate from $8 per hour to $80 per hour required me to cut away that old anchor and create a new anchor to drop.

Make no mistake, this process is scary. You’re risking $8 to make ten times that, but if you lose then you make nothing at all.

How You Get Paid More

Once I had shown my value with my black magic coding skills (held together with duct tape), the client wanted to engage for a fully published app.

I started having phone calls with the client, not just to be helpful, but also because I wanted to see if he was serious and had the money to back it up. 

I was being selfish.

I don’t mean selfish in the incorrect way it’s used today: “I’m a horrible person who never thinks of others”. No, instead I mean the classical definition of selfish in that you prioritise yourself and your needs. 

You need to find a client who will pay and not waste precious time. You only do that by having your own ideals and prioritising them.

How to Know if Your Client is Serious

In my discovery calls with the client I found out that he was backed by a retired entrepreneur who gave off a rich vibe. Not “I drive a Rolls Royce” rich. No, I mean he had a deep tan that only someone with much leisure time could achieve. He also wore nice clothes, not with garish logos like Armani wannabes, but really high quality with subtle branding.

However what really sold it for me was his character. He was very open and willing to discuss any aspect of the app including costs, business model, ongoing expenses etc. Clearly, he was very experienced.

You need to keep an eye out for such people. If you can provide a valuable service they are a reliable financial ticket out of 9 to 5 and you can learn a lot from them.

How to Charge Your Worth (Quoting for Work)

After these discovery meetings it was looking good so I promised a quote. 

This was the most painful and agonising thing I have ever done.

You see, I wanted to charge my worth but I was afraid. What if he didn’t accept my prices? What if he told me I was trying to rip him off?

I spent 2 days trying to guess an acceptable price and eventually settled on $6,000. My girlfriend looked at the number and, like good women do, said it wasn’t enough. I quickly doubled it to $12,000 and sent it before I could change my mind.

Sometimes you just have to press send and let the gods decide.

The next 16 hours were agonising! Would he accept? Would he try to knock me down? Would he ghost me?

Would I be banished back to my daily prison sentence, working under the unforgiving gaze of my job prison guards?

Will Your Client Accept High Prices?

Within a day the client replied to my quote, saying “That’s fine, when can we start?”. 

Just. Like. That.

The next day a deposit of 3 grand arrived via old school cheque. I quickly walked ran to my bank to cash it before the client cancelled everything! 

Then I went to the Apple store. 

I picked out a brand new MacBook Pro, and my favourite part? When the assistant asked me if I wanted a payment plan I simply said, “No thanks, I’ll just pay cash”.

God, that felt good.

Can you imagine doing the same thing with your first well deserved freelance payment?

That’s where I’ll end this story but suffice to say my escape tunnel was successful and this story was the starting point.

Do You Know Why the Escape Plan Worked?

It’s time to extract the important parts of this story so you too can construct a successful escape plan.

1. No customer wants a big quote before they know you

With a low risk $250 job I first proved myself to the customer. This is easy to see looking back but at the time I thought the amount was far too low. I almost didn’t apply!

If you’re just starting out then you can take a few low paying jobs if that’s all you can get. You need the experience and you never know where it will lead! 

Raised rates come later, you must pay your dues first.

2. ABT. Always. Be. Talking.

Your customer wants to know that both his project and money are in good hands, but he’s not a psychic. He can’t just ask a crystal ball what you’ve done this week.

You must always be talking with your customer. Don’t just discuss technical aspects either. Also discuss the business, revenue model, financials etc. 

If you do all the above right then you will build a solid relationship. Once established your customer will be happy to pay the going rate and more.

And the most important part? If someone tries to undercut you they won’t succeed, because your successful life is built on relationships, not the cheapest quote.

3. SLOWLY Build Your Escape Tunnel

Finally, you cannot rush the process! I had to hit 50 personalised applications before one single reply.

You are playing a time and numbers game. Lots of contract applications and lots of time will pass by before success. 

Having said that, when you look back, it won’t seem very long at all. I did it in 4 weeks, but that felt like an eternity at the time!

Remember, every great prison escape was done over a long period. No matter how bad your skills and small your tools you can bring down a 6 foot stone wall, given enough time.

Did I Make More than 12k?

Oh yes I did! In fact the 12k contract was just the start. My second client added another 28k and it all grew from there.

To get those stories, and much more, then check out my Freelancing Guide on

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