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

Update August 1, 2016: I wrote this article over 4 years ago and it’s got such a huge response over the years, motivating a lot into learning to code, etc. Anyways; I’d thought I give an update to today. I am still using the skills from this post today and currently running one SaaS company doing $7k MRR (I built the MVP and launched it almost entirely myself); in addition, I have one more SaaS company launching within weeks.

(Update February 26, 2013: I have since this post sold to a new owner)


Before I begin, I’d like to recognize Josh Crews ( for convincing me to learn Ruby on Rails; without him and his hours of volunteered mentership and help, I wouldn’t be writing this today. Thank you.

I’d also like to address Please do not email me asking me to program your app for equity. I am not interested. It seems no matter how much I say this, people continue to keep asking in more and more subtle, sneakier ways.

On January 23rd, I launched my dream idea, Exactly 12 weeks before that; I was a tech entrepreneur who spent thousands of dollars to create any type of decent MVP (minimum viable product) because of a skill that I lacked, one that I thought (from the outside looking in) was way too complicated or take too long for me to try to learn. I thought (like many others) that programmers were born (and some are) with a magic set of skills in problem solving and math that made them geniuses to coding.

And exactly 12 weeks ago, I made the best decision I’ve made in a really, really long time. No longer will any of my dream ideas remain just that, ideas. I now have the power to throw up working versions without spending more than hosting costs and some sweat equity. In today’s time, this set of skills is like bringing a fleet of tractors to the California gold rush while everyone else is using shovels. I suggest everyone to learn how to code.

A correction I’d like to address: Previously, I stated in a post that I learned Rails in 8 weeks; doing an exact recount to launch date, it was more so 12 weeks. Although at 8 weeks, I feel is when I grasped enough and the next four weeks were more so spent putting that knowledge to work than learning.

What Skills Did I Have Prior To Learning Rails?
I was a web designer in HTML and CSS, I mainly focused on UI and UX design stuff. The furthest thing with actual code (other than HTML) was being able to tweak WordPress. Prior to; I had absolutely no clue what a MVC framework was nor how databases generally worked. Freelancify’s design/layout/and html wireframe was created by me in 2 weeks back in June 2011.

Why I Decided To Learn It?
Back in June 2011, when I had the wireframe done; I began looking for a coder to make that wireframe become functional. The wireframe was pretty much the entire deal, I had all the input fields, dropdowns, forms, buttons, links that took you to where it needed to go, etc. Found a developer and long-story short, the guy didn’t come through for me. I was left hanging with thousands in debt and no product close to finished. I then contacted Josh Crews (who I had met at a Ruby on Rails meetup he organizes in Nashville), and met with him in person to see if the current project was anywhere near salvageable. Sadly no, patching something up would take just as much time as starting fresh for a good developer. Heart sank; I knew I couldn’t afford the thousands more it would take. And then these words came from Josh….  “Why don’t you just learn how to do Ruby on Rails, this project would be the perfect way to learn.“, and then “I’ll even sit down with you twice a week and help you learn.

Sat down that night, and just thought for hours. My choices were: get a comfortable job and pay my bills OR risk everything to learn Rails and constantly eat the finest noodles Ramen, Italy ever made.

I decided. Called Josh the next morning. I’m going all in. I budgeted the last of my savings and bought 3 months of living expenses (for a non-married guy living by himself with no kids, $1K a month goes a long ways). Time to go to work, I am now a full-time student. Mind thought: Google searches, StackOverFlow, Josh, IRC #RubyOnRails, and the Rails community will have my back when I get stuck, sure enough they did.

My Next 3 Months – Mission: Get an MVP up, had to be enough to work but also not crappy enough to leave a terrible first impression.

Weeks 1 – 3
This was by far the hardest learning curve, but DO NOT give up.

Walls are built to keep the people who really don’t want it out.

Setting up the Rails environment for a total newb is mind-blowingly frustrating. Tip #1: get a MAC computer. Tip #2: use Homebrew and RVM and GIT and Heroku (that’s really all you need to get started). I spent a couple days setting up, taking everything out, and doing it again. Enough reps and you’ll get used to the command line terminal and understand why things work the way they do. From there; the first thing I hit was TryRuby, Rails for Zombies, and Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl. Don’t worry about not knowing 120% of the material, it’s not until you apply it that you really start learning it. I finished the Rails Tutorial and built that Twitter-like app in a week’s time, not totally understanding what I did. But later down the road, it’ll all start to make sense.


Weeks 3 – 6
With the Twitter app made from the Rails Tutorial; I gained some confidence. The tutorial didn’t make me a developer, but now I knew the general steps in making apps, from creating an app to getting it up on Heroku. Everything in between was still a blur. How would I start REALLY learning now? By working on an actual project, something that means something to you. Josh and I decided to let me loose on Freelancify and see what I could do

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. Then I started learning about my first real gem Devise. Then onto stuff that each User or Project has, for example; each User would have a portfolio. But users would have many portfolios while a portfolio would belong to only one User. Once you get a hang of how that relationship stuff works and how to call/display things that belong to something else, life gets much easier.

Any parts you get absolutely stuck in, skip it; chances are, while you are building another feature; you’ll also learn how to make the feature you skipped work.


Weeks 6 – 9
Bit by bit, I kept learning from repetition. I’d be able to get a few things working then bam; hit a wall and had absolutely no clue what to do. Hit StackOverFlow or Josh or the IRC chat #RubyonRails or RailsCasts, and eventually found my way around it. Doing this about a hundred times, and you will learn fairly quickly. Spending those frustrating hours testing out someone else’s answer on StackOverFlow to find out it doesn’t work for you is actually beneficial. You learn what not to do. And when you do find the answer, you begin to learn WHY the last thing didn’t work. Around this time is when I starting realizing the bigger picture of things and really understanding WHY things worked the way they do. I’d feel like an idiot and go back and re-factor old code after I learned better, more efficient ways to do things. Once I reached this stage, everything all started falling into place.

Weeks 9 – 12
This was just full-hustle mode to get Freelancify to launch stage. At this point, I felt like I was flying through getting features to work. Spent the last week tidying up different bugs and goofs. That Monday, I launched. But I’m still far from done learning..

That’s it guys. I left out (for the sake of this post’s length) the super specifics and technical stuff. But feel free to ask any questions in the comments, and I’ll def return an answer. Oh, and please subscribe (right-side box), it’ll give me motivation to write more!

– James Fend

p.s. – Although it helped having a mentor to meet in person with, you can still definitely learn Rails without. Or even go find one, many Rails developers love giving back to the community. Check for local meetups.

Update: 1/31/2014
I get emailed this one question at least 4 times a week..
“Where do I begin to learn Ruby on Rails, where would you suggest I begin?”Without a doubt, the best way I learned was by building an actual working app. I used Michael Hartl’s tutorial which showed me how to get a very basic Twitter like app up and running from scratch. I cannot recommend this tutorial enough; getting something up and going fast was key; it beats learning and memorization of a book by a mile.michael-hartl-ruby-rails-guide

301 thoughts on “How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify

  1. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. 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 …)

  4. James,

    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.


    • 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.

  5. 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!

    • 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 =)

    • 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.


  10. 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.

  11. “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!)

      • 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.

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

    • 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.

  13. 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 :)

    • 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!

  14. 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!

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

  15. 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…

    • 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.

  16. 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).

  17. 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:

  18. 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.

  19. 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.


    • 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.

      • 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….


        • 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.

  20. 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

  21. 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!

    • 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..

  22. 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.


  23. 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

    • 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!

  24. 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 :)

  25. 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?


    • 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.

  26. 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.


    • 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.

  27. 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 :)

    • 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.

  28. 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.

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

  30. 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.

  31. 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

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

    • 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.

  34. […] Living in a new city, trying new things, meeting new people Below is a list of the most important lessons that come to mind when I think of the past six months of my life. Months during which I moved to a new city, changed 2 dancing clubs, had to have beginner’s mind a couple of times, launched a successful product, met new people and read a number of life-changing books (Rework, The Lean Startup…). Experience is overrated Numerous times I’ve been held back in realizing my ideas by waiting for an “expert” to do his part of a mutual project. As the time passes I realize that learning what I need isn’t that hard at all and usually end up in the situation of this guy: How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify […]

  35. What are some good resources for learning Ruby?…

    Here are some Ruby resources I’ve used to good effect: How to Learn Ruby on Rails in Boston: Boston-centric, but most of the content is not specific to geography and can be used by any…

  36. […] may find this blog I wrote helpful: How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify You may also want to scroll through the comments as many, many great questions were asked. […]

  37. 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?

    • 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.

  38. 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?


    • 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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? :)

    • 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.

  41. 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.

  42. Awesome!!!!! Story James.

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

  43. 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

  44. 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.


    • Abhisek,
      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.

  45. 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!

  46. James,

    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

  47. 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?

  48. 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!

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

  51. 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!

  52. 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.

  53. 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!)

  54. 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.


  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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!

  59. 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.

    • 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.

  60. 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?

    • 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.

  61. 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

  62. […] and company growth. One such example is that of creator James Fend. His article How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify is a compelling story on how easy and useful Ruby on Rails is for coders. Rails has become […]

  63. 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

  64. 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?

  65. Hi,

    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

  66. James,

    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. :)

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. 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

  70. 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?

  71. Hi,

    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.


  72. 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.

  73. 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!

  74. 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?

  75. 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!

  76. 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?

  77. 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.

  78. 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]

  79. 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.

  80. 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.

  81. 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.

    • 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.

  82. 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?


    • 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”..

  83. 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”


  84. 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.

  85. 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.

    • 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.

  86. 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

  87. 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”.


  88. Dude,
    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?

  89. 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!

    • 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.

  90. 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

  91. Hi james.
    I just now start learning rails .But i cant get a clear idea about where to start .can u please help me out

  92. 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

      • 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

        • 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.

  93. […] 3: Learn Rails by Example – e começar a trabalhar diretamente em algo que importa para você. How I Learned Enough Ruby On Rails In 12 Weeks To Launch Freelancify é um excelente artigo, pois toca nesse ponto essencial. Tutoriais, aulas e conselhos servem pra […]

  94. Hey mate. Awesome story. Simply amazing.

    One question. Ive been reading a lot about front/back end. Ive learned that front is mainly design and goes with ‘web and graphics design”.

    Isn’t that enough to make a mockup and prototype?

    Also, I’m a marketing student and trainee photographer. Im wanting to learn basic programming/coding but really confused what to learn.

    So many “languages” and things to learn. Where do I start? Quora tells me JavasScript and Python. Some say the Front end HTML/CSS/JavaScript with SQL combo.

    BUt some say Ruby on rails is the best thing to learn now but they ALL say that one must know some programming before attempting to learn RoR .

    Whats your take?
    Ive got absolutely zero experience/skills in anything related to coding. Im a creative graphics person and got no idea about coding but I feel that Ruby is the answer

    Your wise words please


    • Depends on what you are trying to do. If you want a live web app quick, Ruby on Rails. Everything on the web takes front end so you’ll need to know html/css anyways for everything.

  95. Hi James,

    Your story inspired me lot. Even am started learning ROR on my own but getting lot of confusion in applying, please suggest me hoe to get on and i follow your suggessions.


  96. Hey James, great article. I’m learning PHP and Ive been thinking about learning RoR, this is actually the second time I read the article (I read it for the first time early this year) and I learn something new every time I read it.

    I’m subscribed to CodeSchool so I think I will follow the Ruby Path there. Thanks again for the article.

  97. Hey! James….just got tooooo much insperation from your story…
    can you help me am trying to add 5 new functionallity on Michael Hartl’s tutorial and as i am a new bi getting a lots of problems and the worst part is no one to help…so if u got time pls Mail me…

    • Hey, Unfortunately I don’t have much time these days. Have you checked out the IRC chats and any local meetups?

  98. Great Story! Learning Ruby now! Couldn’t find a Co-Founder so I decided to build a prototype last year using Wix. One developer suggested Ruby on Rails with Heroku. What editor should I use? I have a PC….Boothnezzi will be a studio cloud/booking facilitator for recording studios: similar to, Groupon, or Yelp (but for studios)…..

    • Any editor is fine really.. as you get going, you can look at others but that shouldnt be a worry at this point.

  99. James, thanks for this post.

    I have a dream app in mind and decided to learn Ruby and Ruby on Rails. Thanks for the resources you posted.

    I have one question, how did you market Freelancify? In my opinion, getting visibility for a newly created app is probably more difficult than building it.

    Thanks again.

  100. Hi James, I am currently trying to learn Ruby on Rails. Do you have any sources that can help me learn it? I am learning it on WildAcademy on youtube and thinking if codeacademy would be better or if there is anymore better sources to learn Ruby.


  101. 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. :)

  102. Hey James, just wanted to say that my situation bears a crazy resemblance to where you were 12 weeks ago. Here’s where I am right now – in the middle of chapter 7 of Mhartl’s walkthrough and already getting some sense of direction. Then I stumbled upon your site – thank you for the validation, you just turned my red to green.


  103. This is exactly what is happening to me. I was both amazed and shocked when I just read few lines of this post! I got a friend convincing me to start learning to code. Then after a month of practising by myself, he was impressed with the simple HTML and CSS I wrote and offered me a job, basically paying me to learn and also mentoring me from 9 to 5 at his home office.

    He lent me his spare MacBook Air, and has been giving me small projects to work on and to learn. This is my second month coding and third week working with/for my developer friend, so as you mentioned in your post Ruby/Rails has been the hardest learning curve so far. I’m just straggling to get along with it, and I hope I do because when I see a friend taking such a gamble on me then I want to do all I can to keep up and return some value to his work.

    Anyways, your story was very inspiring and one day ,pretty soon, I’ll be writing the same thing you wrote here :)

  104. Great story and motivational too.
    I just stated learning ruby from and after that i will learn Ruby on rail. please suggest me some good books and tutorials to accelerate my learning.
    I am also want to start my own startup.
    thank you
    shivam gupta

  105. One of the Best Blog on Ruby. Well done James, Inspiring. I want to develop and app. DO you think Ruby is the language for it or should I focus on something else. What do you think of Rubymotion ?

    • Thanks Sandy.. yes, Ruby on Rails is fine. Honestly, any of the languages is good. It’s all about starting..

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