How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify


271 Responses

  1. Patt says:

    Impressive and your website freelancify looks cool.All the best

  2. Neal says:

    This is an awesome story James. I had a similar mission in 2010 when I first decided I wanted to learn how to build web apps myself. I read a bunch of books on Python (just python) and then discovered Ruby through Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby. I was then lucky to discover Michael Hartl’s tutorial way early on when he seemed to be first testing out the book in the market. It was actually free to download the pdf at that time and it was with Rails 2.something.

    I struggled through it for over a month, I had no help, and I was too embarrassed about how little I knew to reach out to anyone in any extensive manner. Over time I’ve gotten a lot better at going through it, and as the founder of Code Academy I’ve made it required reading for all of our students.

    I will say that the fact that you had a background in HTML in CSS and web design in general probably helped accelerate your learning more than most.

    I’d love to capture more of your story sometime and share it to our community, if you’d be open for an interview we’d be honored. If so, drop me a line at – thanks James!

  3. Rashid says:

    Interesting post indeed. Publish another post with all the nitty-gritty low level stuff if you don’t mind. And why did you chose Ruby over let’s say Python for example?

  4. Juan says:

    Inspiring. Congrats! Definitely helps and boost my motivation to learn a new programming language and ship an app! Thanks! Please do write some more on how was your process in the last 12 weeks (software, tutorials, cost, hours/day …)

  5. Sai Nallapaneni says:


    Awesome story and an inspiring one. As Neal said, being a HTML & CSS developer did help you I guess.

    I am on the other end, I know the backend programming, web frameworks etc but time and again get stuck at designing my front end. Yes, wire framing and hiring a designer is a good idea, but what if I want to learn designing myself? Any books and tools that you suggest? I want to learn both for my project as well as a learning experience.


    • James Fend says:

      Designing to me is figuring out why certain elements make something look good.

      For example; go to any website. Any just ask yourself, why does this one look better than this one? What is it? The colors, the contrast, the spacing, etc?

      As you break down why something looks good, you’ll get a better understanding and can start mimmicking designs, then tweaking design, then eventually design from scratch.

  6. Joe says:

    Hey James, The story is excellent and inspiring for me personally. I know a good amount of HTML and CSS and some PHP for WordPress but I would like to get more into creating web apps out of the ideas in my head. It does seem like there is an invisible wall of toughness between CSS/HTML and the more complex languages…but that might be false. Thanks!

    • James Fend says:

      Yep, that invisible wall isn’t as hard as it looks. And the fear of ‘not gonna be able to get it’ is just that, a fear. Once you get past that 3 week stage, you’ll be fine.

  7. michael says:

    Like you.I begin to learn new language.And i want complete my idea.
    Thank your share.

  8. I loved reading this and have bookmarked it for reference. I’m in the same boat. I’m really good at design work and would LOVE to learn a programming language. I’ve thought for a while now that Ruby on Rails would be a good place to dive into, since it’s so commonly looked for in the work place. You have inspired me, sir. Thank you.

  9. AstonJ says:

    Nice one James, and congrats on the site. If anyone else is interested in learning Rails, I recommend you learn Ruby first – it helps a lot (and is very easy to pick up). I’ve blogged a step-by-step if anyone’s interested: Best way to learn Ruby & Rails

  10. TRUPPP says:

    Congratulation for your progress! I really enjoy to read such stories, because I had a similiar last year, except that I have not such a cool project like you to brag :P
    I am just wondering, if you considered to choose another language than ruby or did you stick to ruby, because of your opportunity having a ruby mentor? I, for example, choose to learn node.js :D
    And my last question: Did you make a plan how to develop your site in the days where you were still learning ruby or did you simply began and made everything just working?

    I wish you much fun with your site and programming =)

    • James Fend says:

      Thanks.. it was a combination of a lot of all those things plus there was so many resources online that looked solid. I felt like if I got stuck really bad, at least someone would help me out.

      Nope, I just went at it. Looked at what things were the easiest first and just went with the flow. Obviously, scaffolding the Users was where I started first.

  11. Great post. Good of you to take this on by yourself. I’m a Software Developer who works on the web, and I can only imagine the struggles you went through. Most programming concepts just take time to become clear. Good of you to stick with it!

    Best of luck!

  12. Juan says:

    Congratulations. What tool are you using to track the hours you spent on the project? I was looking for something similar the other day and I can’t figure out what tool is it from the screen-shots.


  13. Ershad K says:

    Your story is inspiring. Thank you, James.

    Looking forward for more posts from you, Wish you all the best for future!

  14. Nicholas says:

    Very inspiring story there. I’m embarking on the same journey (from the turn of this year). My goal is to be able to do freelance work beside my sysadmin day job. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I’m glad to hear that the Ruby on Rails Tutorial helped you learn web development. The new site looks great. Congratulations!

  16. Long Nguyen says:

    Very interesting, James. Congrat! I was scared of learning new language and building a real product. But no more, thank to this awesome story.

  17. MattB says:

    “eat the finest noodles Ramen, Italy ever made”

    Wow, you were obviously never seriously in danger of being Ramen (un)profitable if you think Ramen is a place in Italy. (And if you’ve never eaten Ramen, you’re missing out!)

    • James Fend says:

      Lol. Top Ramen was my best friend for awhile..

      • krangsquared says:

        I would highly recommend that you check out Indomie Mee Goreng noodles (Amazon has it). You’ll first try a pack, but I reckon your next order will be by the box. =) Extremely popular here in Australia, among us Asians anyway.

        And thanks for the post!! I’m coming to Rails from a different angle, from Java web framework land. Did Ruby for a few scripts, but never plunged into Rails. The HTML/CSS area is actually the hurdle I have to overcome.

  18. Robert says:

    Great post. I’m going through a similar experience right now. Just out of curiosity, what tool did you use for creating your wireframes?

    • James Fend says:

      Thanks. Since I was already a designer that could do html/css; I just fired up DreamWeaver and made the actual pages. Nowadays I just strictly use TextMate.

  19. Hey, thanks for writing out your experiences with RoR.

    I am seriously thinking of learning it too this spring. I have an idea for an app that I’d like to execute. Shouldn’t be too complicated, but then again… I am not a programmer. Yet :)

    So once more, thanks for the inspiring post :)

    • James Fend says:

      No prob.. thanks for reading. As long as the app isn’t the next Google or anything; your chances to build it are very good!

  20. Kristan says:

    I think that most techy things seem way more difficult from the outside. I still believe (perhaps foolishly) that if I had one year of free time and the internet I could learn *anything* – from neurosurgery to flying the shuttle.

    Congrats on your progress!

    • James Fend says:

      We share the same philosophy, I believe I can learn anything on the internet as well! From horseback riding to fixing cars.

  21. Duncan says:

    Hi James

    Great story, like a few people on here I’ve been thinking/needing to learn a development language as I already use html/css etc but been looking at what I believe is a mountain to climb so I’ve been dancing around the edges.

    Thanks for sharing and inspiring… time to dive in…

    • James Fend says:

      DO IT! You’ll never regret it, it’ll make your personal value higher to become a full frontend dev or even junior programmer, you’ll be able to throw up MVPs, etc.

  22. Marc Gayle says:

    Awesome story, reminds me of mine. The only difference is that I wasn’t a designer….but just like you, I faced a decision – do I build or try and find a co-founder. After months of procrastinating, I figured I would be better off just learning.

    The journey has been rough, but well worth it.

    If you are interested, here is my write-up of the resources that helped me learn everything (not just Rails, but Ruby and jQuery too).

  23. Sarath says:

    Inspiring work James , All the best .

  24. Rafael Knuth says:

    Hej James, great blog post – thank you very much for sharing. Very encouraging! I just started with Ruby on Rails with even less experience – not even HTML or CSS. I strongly believe you’re right: “I suggest everyone to learn how to code.” … computer literacy is turning into a basic skill just as reading, writing, math and such. Here are my thoughts on this:

  25. Lee Bandoni says:

    An inspiring read and really does prove that people only need to get focused and believe that they can to it to build great products.

  26. Shaan says:

    Freelancify looks really cool, and I really bothered James F over quiet a few features, but thanks a lot for your patience and answering my queries. Really looking forward for a cool freelance site. Cheers.

  27. googya says:

    someone said to me, the keys to learn rails are plan and confidence. until now I understand what it means!

    Thank you!

  28. Akd says:

    You are a real Genius , James. Great reading the article. I have a query. I am an aspiring web dev freelancer, i know xhtml, css , some seo n and some wordpress. But I am unable to decide whether to go for Drupal or wordpress or Python (another language) or RoR…which is most in demand from freelancing point of view.


    • James Fend says:

      Thank you! I would say Python and/or Ruby on Rails will give you the most opportunity, not only in freelancing and also employment opportunities to drop back on.

      • Akd says:

        Dear James…I m actually looking forward to freelancing only…so, plz help me choose between python n RoR…..moreover i see a boom in wordpress….will it be even better if i learn python or ROR instead focussing on wordpress….


        • James Fend says:

          Rails. I’m sure Python has a great community as well with tons of resources; to me though, it seemed to be a lot more gems and things made to help development made by other people contributing back to the Rails community.

  29. Techeese says:

    a very inspiring read. I don’t have a mac but I manage to install ruby on windows after I finish the basic of it. I’ll get in the track with ruby on rails next. :D

  30. Great write up :)
    Really inspiring, makes me want to go build one of my projects now!

    I hope freelancify goes well for you.

  31. Very nice blog post, I tried ruby once and lost motivation for during setup.

    Would you post a basic how to’s tutorial on getting started?

    Thank for this inspiring post!
    Good luck on Freelancify!

    • James Fend says:

      hey Vincent, thanks.. will think about it. There’s a ton of articles on how to set up, just depends on what kind of operating system you’re running. I found with Macs, it was way easier..

  32. Peter Gorski says:

    Great Story, it really inspired me to learn ROR. I been trying to do this for a year and been dancing around it with different tutorials.

    Thanks for pointing out Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl. It’s a great tutorial.


  33. venu says:

    very much inspiring dude
    many times i tried to learn ruby but always thought iam not getting enough time to learn a new language
    from your story i understood that its not lack of time its lack of interest
    felt ashamed now after realizing that
    will jump into rails from this week
    and thanks mate

    • James Fend says:

      No prob. There’s a confidence thing as well; just know you can only fail if you quit. I truly believe with enough hard work, anybody can learn anything. Best of luck with your learning again!

  34. Really inspiring and insightful article! Thanks for sharing. I’m also looking to learning Ruby/Ruby on Rails, but didn’t really know where to start, so this was really helpful.

    All the best with Freelancify :)

  35. Pete says:

    Great post! We’re somewhat in the same boat, but also want to hire someone to help us out. When you say the “guy didn’t come through for me” and you were left with “thousands in debt”, that makes me really nervous.

    Can you share a little bit of what happened there and how you might avoid getting burned like that for others who are hiring Ruby developers to assist in their projects?


    • James Fend says:

      Hey Pete,
      Thanks! I’ll have to make another write up about the general problems and what to look out for, etc. Definitely subscribe on the right-side and an email will shoot you when I post it.

  36. Akd says:

    Hi James !
    It was really nice reading your article. I need a little advice Please. Is going for Android development better then going for RoR from freelancing point of view…..I know , i m asking something unusual…but Please do kindly advise.


    • James Fend says:

      Either or. Both are pretty hot right now, both are in different industries. Mobile apps are only going to grow as more things are going mobile in tablets and cell phones. While everything software seems to be going cloud and SaaS, PaaS, etc. model wise.

      Choose what fits your style and what you like best. In this case; since both are hot, you have the luxury of going after what you like rather than what pays the most.

  37. Giedrius says:

    Inspiring! Nice job!

  38. Alex says:

    First of all great story. I’m currently learning Javascript first, then onto PHP basics (I’m a designer and want some control over WordPress and other CMS’s) and then I’m going to give Rails a good stab.

    One question though: did you learn any Ruby at all? I’m assuming, from the above article, that you didn’t. For me at the moment I’m learning Javascript before jQuery. What are your recommendations for Ruby? Do you think you would have done better with some knowledge of Ruby? Is it reall necessary?

    Thanks and good luck :)

    • James Fend says:

      Yes. I focused more on the Rails side of things to learn how to get a functional app up and running. But of course, Rails is built on Ruby, so you have to know a bit of Ruby in order to make things work. After I got a decent handle of Rails, I went back and started to focus on learning Ruby more as I knew how to write ‘pseudo’ code but couldn’t make it work.

  39. David says:

    I’ve probably already written a comment, but just in case I haven’t


    Screw trying to find an internship this summer (university student here), I’m teaching myself rails to build my MVP.

  40. Dhanya Ganesh says:

    Freelancify looks great! I wanted to learn a programming language. Think I’ll start with Ruby. Thanks for the article.

  41. Nathan says:

    Great post James. I’ve started learning to code on more than a few occasions, but it always seems to be such a huge mountain to climb.

    Any advice on keeping motivated? I find the hardest thing is that I don’t even know what I don’t know.

    I kind of wish that there was a bit of a table somewhere or a checklist of all the things I’d need to know to have a decent understanding of a language.

    You’ve inspired me to try one more time, as I’m sick of sitting around with a list of ‘ideas’ in Evernote that are going nowhere.

  42. Mayank says:

    Hi James,

    Inspiring story! I am too currently learning Django for my MVP and sometimes i feel like banging my head on wall when things doesn’t workout. But now i know i have to stick to it, and i can do it too!

    Thanks once again

  43. Fausto says:

    Hi James,
    thank you for this amazing post.
    It tooks me to think a lot about my dream idea.
    Also, your courage inspired me.
    Thanks a lot for this contribution.

  44. Richard Jordan says:

    I did the same thing. Got tired of having technical co-founders who didn’t get the job done – one of whom buggered off to find himself in India for the summer once the cash ran out leaving behind code garbage (as I can since be sure of, being able to read it now!).

    Best thing I ever did. I also now understand why good programmers love what they do. Hacking code is really rewarding. It’s fun. And you can get shit done. Congratulations. I’m a bit of an evangelist for doing this – being your own technical co-founder – since I learned just how easy it is if you’re prepared to put the work in.

    Nice post.

    • James Fend says:

      Wow. Thanks for the comment Richard.. Have to agree with you, it’s been a great move and opened up a lot more doors than imagined.

  45. Chris says:

    Fantastic post James! You have made be rethink on whether i should learn how to code myself or outsource. Could you had built your site with PHP instead of ROR? Im trying to pick whether to pursue PHP or ROR.

    Also how did you stay soo motivated to learn ROR. What really pushed you to take consistent action over those 12 weeks?

    • James Fend says:

      hey Chris,
      Sorry about the late reply. What motivated me was me wanting to launch Freelancify really badly.. I picked RoR because of the job opportunities after I learned it, how elegant and clean the code was, the free resources out there (tons of it), and the excitement in the Rails community.

  46. Julianne Shawe says:

    Hey James! This blog really hit home with me. My girlfriend Carley morrow is an Entrepreneur with 2 startups, one launced 1 month ago and 1 launching imminently.
    The 1st one we did got developed in WordPress, we knew quite a bit about it, but had to hire some Indian developers to finsih it but have had numerous problems with it, esp. its jst not coping with the amount of users hitting it.

    The 2nd website has been developed in ruby on rails by a company in Belfast, N. Ireland, and they’ve been a pleasure to work with.

    I’m a ASP.NET c# developer myself, but never dabbled outside of this world, but Ruby on Rails looks really exciting and creative, so I’ve literally just started this week installing and doing basic tutorials.

    Carley is the same as yourself, she can handle HTML and CSS, and knows the ins and outs of WordPress front end and plugins etc, but I’d love to get her to have a go at Ruby on Rails after reading this!

    It took me a day or two to get it all installed correctly, but cant wait to get stuck into the next project, which is a sister website to the 1st one!!

    You’ve inspired me!!!

    Freelancify looks fantastic and very much like the site we’re looking to create…

    Can i just ask, did you design it all yourself? how do you get it looking so Web 2.0 style and slick?


    • James Fend says:

      Hey Julianne,
      Great. Best of luck and wishes to you and your girlfriend! I have been a designer for the past 4 years so it’s a lot of using whitespace correctly when designing that gives it the slick clean look.

  47. 12 Weeks for Ruby on Rails pretty interesting.
    Great Job with the,
    We have a suggestion, try to workout more with design as your concept is really nice. If you work hard on design then it will also benefit you to market and do SEO.

  48. Charles says:

    Love your inspirational journey James! While I might not have a problem picking up a new language from a programming perspective, but I do have a problem designing as I lack any creative bones in me to design a fancy looking website like yours. Your programming journey is pretty similar to my web design journey, but mine ultimately ended in failure. I gave up as I didn’t know where to begin. Do you have any tips on how a beginner with no photoshop/web design experience go about designing his first ‘real'(my uber geocities experiences don’t count) website? :)

    • James Fend says:

      Look at the design works of others and try to figure out what makes something look good to you. The contrast, the spacing, the colors, blending, gradient, shadows, etc. Break everything down into really small elements and see what/why things look good together.

  49. Nnenna says:

    Thank you so much for the inspiring story. You reassure me that all these countless hours i spend reading and watching tutorial videos that sound greek to me will not be in vain. I am working on a learning site for Africans and with no knowledge of programming and after many biased opinions on what language to learn, Rails and Javascript are my demons to conquer over the next few months.

    I love your site and $(this) article. Best of luck.

  50. Budhram Gurung says:

    Awesome!!!!! Story James.

    It inspired a lot!!!
    Really feeling that it will accelerate my learning of Rails.

  51. Fabian says:

    Hi James
    very good article – congratulation. I am in the same situation as you right now. Know a lot about the internet (I’m a Swiss online marketer), SEO, SEA but want to do things like a webcommunity oder site on my own. Get in touch with Ruby on Rails isn’t easy for me, but posts like yours give me the power to learn for another 100 hours ;-)
    Thank you very much!

    KR, Fabian

  52. Abhishek says:

    Hey James,

    Your story is absolutely inspirational. I am attempting something similar and have been learning coding for the past 4-5 weeks already. In these 5 weeks I have learnt (at least I think I have) HTML, CSS, Javascript, and now Rails. Gonna take a stab at my project next week.

    Just a quick question though (a google of which brought me to your article): Is learning rails enough to put up a website? more specifically, a website like StackOverflow or Quora? What other tools are needed and how critical are they?

    Looking forward to hear from you mate.


    • James Fend says:

      You can put up a very very basic version of a Q&A site like those two. And yes, it can be done with Ruby on Rails.

  53. Alfred says:

    Oh wow, this is awesome! I’m in the exact same process as you, and even picked the exact same sites to learn before even reading this. I only just started two days ago, with just some minor HTML/CSS/Javascript knowledge, and hope to be able to build just such an awesome-looking website in a week or 12. Good job!

  54. Pari man says:


    Just read this post. Very very inspiring. Just wanted to clarify one thing.

    You said you were good at HTML/CSS and some wordpress mods. What did you mean by that? Were you good at PHP also or HTML/CSS was your only real arsenal?

    I am also currently finishing HTML/CSS and planning to dive into JS and then Ruby.

    Your response is appreciated.

    Pari man

  55. Pali Madra says:

    Inspiring story. Thank you for sharing it.

    I’m learning WordPress at this point of time. I want to get a good hang of PHP and use those skills to improve WordPrss. Your story has ignited the thought of learning Ruby on Rails.

    I was wondering how much time did you put in each day when you were learning?

  56. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the encouraging post, James! I don’t have the CSS/HTML/Web background but I am through the second chapter of the tutorial and just can’t wait to get over that wall you mentioned… Hopefully I can find a mentor in my area, it would help out a great deal. Unfortunately there aren’t any meetups in Columbus OH… If you can send me any tips/tricks or more specifics on your story, it would be much appreciated! Thanks again for your words and I hope Freelancify is doing well!

  57. Sandeep says:

    Great post James.Few decisions can be life changing at times like the one you took when you decided to learn RoR.
    How did you keep yourselves motivated all the time… as being a single guy myself… I know how difficult it would be at times.I have gone through and given up many times.

    • James Fend says:

      Think of something you want to build, start small… then research and research into how to make it a real live app.

  58. This was a really encouraging article for me. I have always been alright at computing and recently took the dive into learning HTML and CSS, only to find that I had already known most of the foundations and didnt even realize it. I just though “Oh all that stuff is way too complicated to learn.” I am currently about 1 week into the rails 3 tutorial, and have already gone though the foundations of programming, foundations of object oriented programming, and the Ruby lessons from start to finish. I can’t say i have broken through that invisible wall of understanding yet, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that I havnt been able to apply anything to one of my projects yet as ive needed to get through Rails first. Great read, hopefully I can have the same successes it appears you have had with the learning process.

  59. Great post, like many of the comments above I’m at the early stages of designing/building a webapp without previous experience and while your post is very informative it is also motivational as it proves that what we are trying is not impossible – it can actually be done!

  60. Rae says:

    This is incredibly inspiring. I love that you just went all in and it worked out. I found this post trying to find out why I should bother learning Ruby, and this also gave me a good reason for that (Freelancify looks good!).

    Just so you’re aware, in your intro, you spell mentorship “mentership” and I almost walked away from this post (sad but true); I’m glad I didn’t. Love this.

  61. Justin says:

    Great Post James.
    Hindsight 20/20, if I spent so much hard earned scratch paying for people to build my vision from my comps and wires.. in the end the best thing to do is learn to hack!! (working on that now!)

  62. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the share. Inspiring post for sure!

  63. Matt says:

    Mind. Blown.

    The first paragraph was exactly the motivation I needed since I’m not a programmer either. Now I can definitely start my own project with confidence.


  64. Brian Ng says:

    Nice post. It took me 8 weeks to learn Ruby on Rails. A small update though, Ruby is now fully supported on Ubuntu and CentOS5/6. That’s what I like about Ubuntu, it’s similar to CentOS so that after developing on your Ubuntu you can immediately upload it to the CentOS VPS server without much worry. Your comment on getting a Mac is not significant, I suppose.

  65. Al says:

    Awesome article, inspiring and great job on your website also :) Sort of in same situation as you – got an idea, got a background in xHTML/CSS/WP and some front-end development, been looking into RoR for quiet some time now,and your story gives a lot of encouragement. Thank you for tips and links to websites that have helped you to learn more about RoR.

  66. Yaacob Noor says:

    Thanks for letting me know I wasn’t alone. I was stuck as my company had subcontracted an application out for development , it was late and when it finally shipped to me for testing it was a disaster! I asked the client for a 90 day extension and fell into RoR, It saved me and my company.

    Now I have an outlet for all the apps in my head. Michael Hartl and Ryan Bates are my heroes.

  67. Im usually looking for excellent info on this topic. It can be difficult to locate sometimes. Thanks!. I will check back on your website from time to time to see what else you have to supply.

  68. Matt Kaszas says:

    Great article! Congratulations! You are truly a man who make things happen!

    You gave me a huge motivation boost to learn Ruby and of course Rails.
    BTW I found this article which I am following right now during the learning process:
    I am reading the Well-grounded Rubyist now. A really great book indeed!
    I set a goal to be able to program with RoR by the end of January 2013. But I will begin to program one of my planned projects sooner as part of the learning process.

    Thanks again and I am wishing You even more success!

  69. Great article – I’m thinking of jumping into Ruby from CF / PHP and the sound of the Ruby community has just pretty much sold it for me.

  70. Pratz says:

    Great article.Very inspiring! I have a question though. The idea of creating a web app is not as intimidating as the thought of marketing the damn thing. Especially on a small budget. Especially when you are dealing with members on your website. What I fear is that I somehow manage to go live and then there are only 5-6 members on my site (which would defeat the purpose of its existence) You ever wonder what the 1st member (other than you) on the site would do? He’d have nothing to do or post. How did you go about it? It would be great if you could share your experiences. Please Please PLease. Feel free to email me.

    • James Fend says:

      Yes. The classic chicken and egg situation. You just have to push push push through that; let the people know “hey, just started the site but if you stay with me, I will have some projects or freelancers available and joining real soon”.. other than that; try to do some marketing with big returns and a good amount of traffic so you can get over that initial hump.

  71. Roger says:

    Great post James!!! I wanted to know your take on TDD. Is that something you used in developing your website? Or did you just focus in on developing without testing?

    • James Fend says:

      Nope; I actually didn’t do any testing at all. I went back and wrote the feature files for Cucumber but never got that part working just yet.

  72. Nick says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post this. I am learning Ruby on Rails for the same reason that you did.

    I checked out Freelancify and it looks great! Best wishes to you for 2013!

    – Nick

  73. Dave Williams says:

    Hey James,
    I just happened upon your post here while searching for Ruby info. I’m in the same exact boat you were! I’m a graphic/web designer (it’s what I do for a living) and I have an idea for a website that I’d like to build. So I started learning PHP and using CodeIgniter. But I keep hearing such good stuff about Rails that for the past couple of days I’ve been doing some research (hence me finding this post).

    Hopefully I can come back in a few months and show you all my new, fully functioning, app!

    Thanks for the inspiration. Maybe if I have a question or two I can pester you for some help! :)

    – Dave

  74. Lucas says:

    Hi James, I felt really inspired after reading this post! Thanks for offering great tips as I am embarking on a new journey to learn RoR as well. Just curious, do you have a link to the Twitter app building tutorial that you mentioned?

  75. Robert Telreja says:


    I design websites using Dreamweaver but i do not have ANY means ANY knowledge of programming or coding. My current age is 28 and I am a commerce graduate. i don’t know much about computers. But i want to learn Ruby on Rails. So is it possible for me to learn this language? if yes, how much time do i need?

    Please help me to get into the tech world.

    Thank you

  76. Grace says:

    great post! Thank you so much for inspiring me to learn how to code. Cheers to the sale of freelancify :) go you!!

  77. Brian Beard says:


    I am also a Nashvillian and am finding the learning curve to be steep, especially when things go awry on a Win environment (aka – not being able to install a gem because it will not work in Windows!).

    At any rate, thanks for the encouraging article! Just what I needed. :)

  78. Well done, I’m sending your story to a friend who just said to me they wished they could code. Ruby is awesome
    Best of luck with your future exploits

  79. Jackie says:

    I work full time as a developer, but this is my first time using Ruby on Rails. The hardest part is figuring out what they call stuff! Like Layouts instead of master pages….Could you give me any pointers on handling login’s? I was thinking of having them authenticate via twitter or Facebook to avoid storing and managing credentials. But haven’t decided.

  80. helloman says:

    Amazing and inspiring post. Thank you.

    Have seen everyone referring to ruby gems on stackoverflow and github, so I figured I’m seriously missing out by not know what they are/do. Will definitely look into learning now.

  81. Great blog here! Also your web site loads
    up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  82. Rosy Eckstrom says:

    The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. A domain name is the name you want to give to your website. For example, the domain name of the website you’re reading is “”. To get a domain name, you have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website or anything like that. It’s just a name. It’s sort of like registering a business name in the brick-and-mortar world; having that business name does not mean that you also have the shop premises to go with the name.*

    Check out the most up to date write-up on our website

  83. Joshua says:

    I am just wondering if you knew ruby before starting? i read up there that you did try ruby. would you say that’s all you really need to know about ruby to get started?

  84. vikram says:

    Awesome Story …Am Also Started to Lear ruby on rails to Launch my Idea..

  85. Wilson says:


    I’ve been wanting to learn coding/programming for some time now and I stumbled upon your article after some search. It’s very inspiring and it’s given me that drive to learn RoR.

    In your opinion, Will Ruby on Rails be enough or should I also learn HMTL, CSS, etc? I have a business course and no programming experience. Hope you could help on this one.


  86. James says:

    Man, this is such an inspiring post, I feel like a loser sometimes while learning RoR and makes me lose interest. Thank you for giving me hope.

  87. Moran says:

    amazing story James! just found your blog!
    gonna start learning Ruby and follow your steps!
    1 question I have is…do you know if there’s a way to build iphone apps with Ruby?
    I know you can build iphone apps with JS and phonegap so I wonder if you know of option to do something similiar with Ruby?
    anyway, thanks so much for thte inspiration!

  88. Jason Carty says:

    Hi James,

    That was a good story! Well Done!

    I am also learning rails now and building something of my own, but I am also looking for small projects for practice. You mentioned a Twitter-like app? Where did you find that?

  89. Rick Yentzer says:

    I just came across this post and it was a fascinating read. I’m a web designer and like you I wanted to move past a wordpress site. I know some Php, JS, jQuery. I’ve built WP themes from scratch but I want to do more such as customer logins and perhaps a customer ticket system. I’ve been debating learning a phpframework or RoR. I’ve done TryRuby, read Learning to Program, and started Mike Hartl’s book. I just need to pick one and dig in!

    THanks for a great post and best of luck!

  90. Aleksandar says:

    Don’t waste your time with RoR! Plural, singular, the most stupid things ever… Backward compatibility, also. Old tutorials. No clean solution for complex forms, and tens,or hundreds other problems. Don’t make mistake as I am (one year, many nights without sleep).


    P.S. try google search with this “WARNING: Can’t mass-assign protected attributes” , and think about that why is there more than a million results?

  91. Jason Sherman says:

    James, great post, I feel like I have been doing the same things you have. The only exception is that I have yet to find a mentor to help me. And that I believe is the “Wall” that everyone (including myself) seems to hit. I have been teaching myself Ruby on Rails for almost 6 months now, and I have tried all of the tutorials, books, and websites listed in your other post about how to learn RoR. I am still a noob, after all this time, and it’s mostly because all these tutorials and videos, etc. don’t really help me learn how to build to build “What I want to build”. They teach me how to build a certain app or program, but then when I want to build something of my own, I’m not completely sure how to do that. That’s where a Mentor 2 times a week would be pretty crucial right now. Needless to say, I will continue to learn, but I feel like I’m going in circles, and I have to say it’s pretty depressing.

  92. Lawerence says:

    This is the right webpage for anybody who wishes to
    find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you
    (not that I really will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject
    that’s been written about for decades. Great stuff, just wonderful!

    my weblog; facebook password hack [Lawerence]

  93. samar kumar mishra says:

    Very nice ! gone through your post it was really a very good work done in learning rails so quickly. All the very best for your future James ! Me too an ROR developer since Dec 2011.

  94. Eeshan says:

    Haha man, I realise it’s been about 7 months since your last update, but I just have to congratulate you on getting Freelancify up & running!

    I’m at about Week 4 in your time line and things are finally starting to fall into place. Looking at how the next few weeks went for you is giving me hope! :D

    All the best again mate. Hope your next project is going just as well.

  95. Thanks for taking time to post nice blog on RoR.

  96. emeka says:

    hello James;
    What ruby gems did you use for your app?; i am just starting out in html(beginning from tomorrow)with css and then rails….hopefully i would be able to do it all in 12 weeks.

    2. “First thing I did was transfer all the HTML from the wireframe and organize them into view files and partials. I scaffolded up the Users and Projects”……How did you do that, both the scaffold and the transferring?

    Thank you.

    • James Fend says:

      I used quite a few gems… its too many to list out but most of the basic ones you will find available. I already knew html beforehand so it may take you longer… scaffolding is a line of code you can use while in Rails.. there’s many short articles on the net on how to do that.

  97. Michael says:

    Really cool article!
    I am already a developer but have never done web development. Because I have an idea for a site, I am currently reading my way into it.
    Also started the Rails Tutorial.
    The thing is.. I don’t know much about design.

    I can read HTML, CSS, JS and so on. But I wouldnt come up with a nice way to lay out pages. Can you give me some tips, how to find my way into the whole (web) design thing?


    • James Fend says:

      Design just takes practice.. just think of something like a logo of a company you made up and make several versions of it. Analyze why you think one looks better in design versus another… it’s really just a recollection of memory of what and why something initially “popped” out to you as “good looking”..

  98. Curtis Allen says:

    Thanks for the story. I really enjoyed it.

  99. Congratulations!

    Your story is really motivating. I “play” with rails since last year and now I’m using it to develop my final project to university.

    I’m learning a lot doing things than reading or just “understanding”


  100. Rimaz says:

    Impressive Story,

    I am a PHP Developer, and my next mission is to Master Java & Ruby on Rails, I was thinking what to start first, this story of you made me to learn R on R right away.

    And I really have to share your Story with all my Geeks.

    Thanks Again.

  101. Nima says:

    What is the website/app you are using to measure the time of studying? :)

  102. Ron says:

    Can I develop on Windows? Why do you recommend Apple? The reason is that the Apple computers are expensive. I have Windows computer that I am developing now. Please elaborate the reasons to use Apple? Thx.

    • James Fend says:

      Sure. It just makes setting up a bit easier and also being able to run locally on the machine easier. There is definitely nothing wrong with doing it on a Windows machine.. I just like to get up and quicker and it just seems like most docs and tutorials are written with Mac in mind.

  103. Ron says:

    Thanks for the reply. I installed Rails in an Ubuntu computer. Can you please tell me the steps that it takes to deploy a RoR app.
    Do you have you own server at home or office or you are paying to a company as a web server host/ If that is the case which company do you recommend? Thx

  104. Ken says:

    James, your story is awesome. I have been applications programmer for 25+ years, and have no web experience at all. I was just informed this morning, that I have to get myself up to speed with Ruby(ROR) on my own time while still doing my current job. So I have a big hill to climb, starting from scratch, starting right now!

    It sounds like my first steps would be “TRY RUBY”, “RAIL FOR ZOMBIES”, and the “RAIL TURORIAL”.


  105. Sovello says:

    Thanks. You just gave me the motivation I have been missing for the past couple of months.
    Am getting my hands dorty this and will come back with a story to tell.
    Are you available to provide assistance just in case things don’t move?

  106. Savoa says:

    Hi James, is there any tools that you used to debug Rails during your coding\developing? If there is not then what is the best way to debug Rails project?

    Thanks mate!

    • James Fend says:

      Nope, no debug other than the standard running it and then looking at the error logs. I’m sure there’s tons of debug tools out since so anything that pulls up popular on Stackoverflow is probably going to be your best bet.

  107. Franklyn says:

    Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know
    a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking
    issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same

  108. Danny K says:

    Very inspirational article! I LOVE doing the tiny bit of coding I know but thought I was wasting my time in learning because I would never pursue it enough to become an expert (ie. a college degree in computer science). Apparently that’s not true! has made learning Ruby SO much easier for me

    • James Fend says:

      Thank you! That’s great to hear, hope you learning pays off big time.

      • willie says:

        Hi James,
        First, thank you very much for your story; it was very touching and REAL for me. I am new to programming, and have no formal knowledge in HTML or CSS, Well VERY LITTLE. I am trying to learn Ruby on Rails with the hopes of doing 2 things, one is to find a job working for a company, and two would be to work on my own project with the hopes of taking my idea to market and or getting investors. What my question would be is this? Am I placing too much stress on myself by starting with programs like “Learn Ruby the Hard Way” and “Ruby Programming for the Absolute Beginner”? Both of which I find myself totally lost. I can totally relate to you when you talk about memorization of a book and it not being the best way, that’s what I’m finding myself doing and its making me crazy. The reason for my starting off with those two resources was because I first downloading the “Ruby on Rails program and PDF file onto my PC But, once I started to try and learn it, it became overwhelming for me and I COULD NOT figure it out. The reason I started with these sources was because I know nothing about syntax, loops, arrays, methods, or commenting, as well as a list of other programming knowledge I assume one would need. With that said, would you still recommend that I start with Michael Hartl’s tutorial (if so, what version) just asking from a beginner perspective.
        As it relates to mentors, where is another place where I might be able to find a mentor? I went to a ruby meet-up in my area and those guys were NOT nice to us newbies.
        This is very IMPORTANT to me.
        I hope that my coming across your site has been a GOD sent!
        I PROUD OF YOU!!!! Smiles

        • James Fend says:

          Thanks for the kind words! I guess everyone learns differently, but IMO; I would just learn by building an app that gets up and running and is live even if it’s the most basic. That would be Hartl’s tutorial.. it takes a lot of back and forth with Google to figure out the small stuff but eventually it will all start making sense. Nothing will come easy; and almost everything you will encounter in the books or tutorial will need digging into it’s own to self-learn.

          Sorry you didn’t run into anybody at the Meetups; I’d say keep attending and if they see you are trying to pro-actively learn then I would say at least somebody would start lending a helping hand.

          – James F.

  109. priya says:

    It was really inspring..I m wrkin in a product based comp as a fresher..we r using ROR oly…this is realy cool..and it would be nice of u if u hv time to share ur experience wit me..reach me at

  110. Yangonese says:

    Hello James,

    You wrote this article in 2012 and I’m sure it can still motivate to others like me in year of 2015. Thanks for great work.

    btw. I’m now in Week 3 of my journey. :)

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