- Diego Diaz, 23, founded Ammo Studio, a website development agency, in February 2021.
- He left jobs in security, at Amazon and in social media to pursue his dream of working in technology.
- Here is Diaz’s story, told to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Diego Diaz, a 23-year-old web designer and the founder of ammo studio based in Los Angeles, California. It has been edited for length and clarity.
This story is part of “How the Pandemic Changed My Career,” an Insider series documenting the moves and moments that have shaped people’s careers over the past two years.
At the start of the pandemic, I was doing cemetery shifts as a security guard. It was difficult, especially when I worked outside of an emergency room and had to witness the effects of COVID-19.
I was also worried about being released due to the increase in virus cases. It was far from my dream job, but it did come with a paycheck, so I stuck to it.
I’ve always wanted to work in technology, but never really knew how to get there without a formal background in coding or software engineering. I had been trying to teach myself to code for years using YouTube, codecademyand Visual Studio Code without success. I never stopped trying, though, and brought my computer with me on my shifts to help pass the time.
Early 2020 I came across an ad for Webflow
This was my first introduction to the “no-code” community, and it immediately caught my attention. I started researching Webflow and researched the company on Twitter. I met the wider no-code community there and knew deep down that this was my chance.
Over the next few months, I continued to research Webflow and make connections within the no-code community, but didn’t have time to dig deeper.
At the end of 2020, I quit my job as a security guard and found a new job as an Amazon delivery helper doing physical labor
Having to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and work 10 hours a day lifting packages between 50 and 300 pounds was exhausting, so I kept looking for my way out.
I emailed a company in the no-code space and somehow managed to get a social media job there with no startup experience.
I emailed the founder, set up a call, then had to write a blog post before making a decision. At first, I was extremely excited and grateful, but the salary was very low and I had to stay at my job at Amazon to get by. The long hours and constant stress took their toll, and I realized I couldn’t go on like this forever.
In February 2021, I quit both jobs
Wondering what to do next, I tweeted my departure from the startup and was inundated with different startups wanting to recruit me for social media positions. I almost signed with one but realized that I don’t really like doing social media. It was exhausting and the experience of the last job made me not want to do it anymore.
I took a step back and thought about what I loved doing, and realized it was building and designing.
So I took the leap into building a web design agency based on Webflow
The first six months were incredibly difficult with only two clients – one being hourly. Not only did this lower my confidence, but my family was telling me to get a “real” job back, which made it even more difficult.
In July 2021, I was no longer attracting new clients or prospects, and the only way to pay my bills was to be very thrifty and pay expenses with the money saved from my first client. During this time, I was 95% close to quitting, just a month before my business exploded.
After months of no success and wanting to quit, I finally started landing customers after launching my website and contacting more people on Twitter. I’ve been fine since.
What really started to move things forward was landing a project with On the bridge
A well-known person on Twitter asked about Webflow freelancers and I answered them, not knowing that the company she worked for was On Deck, a talent platform.
When the site I created launched, I posted it on Twitter, and leads flooded in after people saw my work.
My first five-figure project, for $10,000, came in August 2021. The most money I had ever seen at any point before that was $1,000 in my customer checks every two weeks.
Fast forward to January 2022, and we hit $57,000 in revenue that month alone
I have a few contractors helping me. We currently have $50,000 in new projects, two $20,000 projects, a few smaller projects, and a few recurring projects. I don’t think I’ve done that in my entire professional career before Ammo, and I’ve worked on and off since I was 16.
Some of the worst jobs I’ve had involved physical labor, but those with graveyard shifts and customer service roles have gone a long way in shaping the way I run my business now. Working hard, being disciplined, managing your time, and learning how to interact well with real customers turned out to be assets for me (even though I hated them at the time).
The biggest challenge I had during the transition was believing in myself enough to carry on.
Another challenge was time management. Since I no longer have fixed schedules, I really need to learn responsibility for myself, my clients and my team on a larger scale. It was a process – I just had to figure it out and prioritize the business over things like hanging out with friends and sleeping.
Something I never shared publicly was having to deal with serious
and health issues that really affected me. After barely finishing high school, I went into a deep depression. Growing up, I saw most of my family members struggle with depression, so I didn’t really see a way out. I knew I didn’t want to repeat the cycle, but with no money, connections, or resources, I didn’t know how to break it.
The pandemic has helped me realize that there are real opportunities out there, and those opportunities are especially available on the internet, even for people like me who didn’t have money or a network growing up. There’s a lot of money to be made if you spend time learning in-demand skills, solving important business problems, and putting yourself out there.