9 min 21 sec

EMT Moonlights as App Builder, Earns $15,000 a Month

An emergency medical technician builds iPhone apps on the side, landing gigs with Buzzfeed and the University of Massachusetts.
App Developing Hustles High Profit Power of Observation Service

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What It's About

When he's not out saving lives, this paramedic flexes quite a different skillset—app development.

Business Model
Skills Required
Web Developer & Problem Solving
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

It’s not always easy to stay on the cusp of the fast-paced smartphone app world, but Phil has a tip for those looking to make their way into the field. He believes that pre-launch day hype, like creating waitlists based on referrals, finding a public influencer in your target market to endorse your app, and having a solid marketing plan can all help move you up in the app rankings.

Fun Fact

You might think you have a ton of apps on your phone, but it’s hard to beat 57. That’s the average number of applications your average South Korean smartphone owner has downloaded onto their smartphones! But that’s nothing in comparison to 149.3 billion—the total number of apps downloaded, worldwide.

Notes from Chris

Episode 461

Phone apps aren’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when you think of "Emergency Medical Technicians" (or EMTs) but Phil Scarfi in NYC has always looked beyond the ambulance for inspiration. Whenever he went to work, he would spend any downtime dreaming of ways he could make his life easier.

He wasn’t looking for an easy way out, by any means. Just ways he could simplify an already hectic life. One day Phil might focus on looking for the latest gadgets, the next, he could spend searching for productivity hacks. But, no matter what, his attention always wandered back to phone applications.

App development had been an interest of Phil’s, ever since he studied computer science during his freshman year of college. Eager to take his classroom learning into the real world, he created an app that showed what the dining halls were serving for meals each day. Word slowly trickled out and eventually reached the dean of students, who notified the college… who then bought all rights to the app in one lump sum payment.

That success showed him the draw of coming up with app ideas. He eventually decided to become an EMT so he could help people facing their worst situations, but he never really let go of his love of computer science and app development… and especially creating solutions to make his day-to-day life easier.

After he’d spent years quietly developing apps for his own personal use, Phil’s friends started to make suggestions. And, eventually, they made some “friendly” requests of what they would like to see on their own phones. It was at this point that Phil started to come up with ideas to make other people’s lives easier. This led to a new side hustle, Pioneer Applications.

These days, Phil is bringing in around $15,000/month—he's come quite a long way from his cafeteria days! Phil also says that his app-building side hustle has been one of the best experiences in his life. While he’s happy with Pioneer’s success for now, at some point he may want to go full-time and take the business to the next level. In the meantime, he’ll continue to balance his day job with building apps that make people’s lives easier. It’s not a competition; it’s not a Game of Phones where a different character dies every week. Everyone can have a h-App-y ending.


  • Pioneer Applications: From dapper men's attire to Buzzfeed, Phil makes apps for it all! Learn more about the apps Phil is creating over on his website

  • A 12-Step Guide to Building Your Very First Mobile App - Part 1 & Part 2: A Chicago-based plastic recycling sales rep overcomes her fears and doubts to transform her love for DIY lamp shades and $10 in supplies into a multi-million dollar business
  • Flight Instructor’s App Takes Flight, Earns $30,000: Urs Camenish wanted to create an app to help him grow his income. But, he’d never owned a smartphone or used an app in his life
  • Spanish-Language Bible App Generates 1 Million Downloads: Opportunity knocks for a Utah accountant and leads to a fortuitous side hustle making $70,000 in one year with a $0.99 app
Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,


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Quote of the Day
"I cannot begin to tell you how many apps I’ve seen have so much potential, but their owners stopped pushing them because ‘the going got tough.’ Some might take weeks, others might take a year or so. Keep pushing forward!"
—Phil Scarfi #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau