I was in a similar-ish situation and can empathize. First I'll tell my story, and then offer some thoughts. The story is long and not really an answer to your question, but I figure that concrete experiences like this are helpful to hear about as a complement to more general stuff.
I taught myself to code when I was a sophomore in college. I wanted to start startups. It was a big struggle. I learned some HTML, CSS, JS and Rails. I was terrible. I graduated in 2013.
Starting junior year I started this startup. It totally flopped. I worked on it a bit after college. After a few months I decided to quit. Then I figured I'd get a job as a programmer. I need to learn more first. But I was struggling with it. Eventually I went to a coding bootcamp called Fullstack Academy. That got me over a hump.
Getting a job after Fullstack wasn't too hard actually. I applied to tons of places. I got a job after about a month IIRC. There were a few other places that I was late in the interview process with too. OTOH, I don't think that this is representative. The actual rates of getting a job within 90 days of graduating are something like 30-40%. I complained about this on HN years ago because they told us all that those rates are in the upper 90s.
I made $60k/year at that company. It was in Gainesville, FL though. It was a terrible company and I basically forced my way out after a year (rocked the boat and got fired) and got a job at a startup in LA called Clutter. I remember doing pretty good with the job search. I had offers from Fitbit and Zappos as well. Clutter offered me $80k and I negotiated up to $95k. Zappos was $100k. Fitbit was something like $75k + various benefits IIRC. I applied to 81 places (Google Doc).
Clutter sucked too though. It was one of those companies that wants you to work for 12 hours a day, plus various other unhealthy cultural stuff. Ie. they told us to go write good GlassDoor reviews and that they'd be checking to see if we did. I got fired after about five months after they decided to "double down on people who are truly committed to the company" or something.
At that point I was feeling burnt out. And I had about $80k saved up. So I took a year off to self-study computer science stuff. I figured it was worth investing in myself.
Then I ended up spending three years working on a startup called Premium Poker Tools. That also flopped (I make about $200/month on it).
Then I went to get a job as a programmer. It was rough! A lot rougher than the previous times I applied. I figured that I had spent that year learning computer science, learned so much working on Premium Poker Tools, have about six years of experience at that point, and so finding a job wouldn't be very hard given that I'm a good amount more skilled than I had been. Nope. That didn't happen.
I applied to about 165 places and ended up with two offers (Google Doc). I forget how long it took. Something like 4-6 months I think. Whereas my first job search was one month and second one maybe 1-2 months.
Anyway, this one company that made me an offer, I remember talking to the engineering manager. He made an offer as a junior engineer for $80k/year IIRC saying I had 1-2 years of experience. That didn't count the 1 year of self-study + 3 years working on a startup. To him, that didn't count.
The other company Elite HRV offered me $80k too I think + stock options, but I negotiated to get $100k with no stock options. It was a contract-to-hire role, but the CEO Jason said that that's basically a formality. That they just wanted to make sure I can code and he's very confident (he might have said like 90%+) I'll become full time after the three month contract. He also was very clear that money wouldn't be a reason I don't get kept on. I drilled him on this, and he went through their budget with me, explaining that they 100% have budget for 12 months, and really it's more like 24-36 months. But then I along with the other people who were contract-to-hire didn't get the "hire" part because of budget reasons.
But the angel investors for Elite HRV contacted me and wanted me to work on a freelance project for them. So I worked on that while also doing LeetCode stuff to try to get a job at Google (seven months). The freelancing was fine, until it wasn't. We agreed on a fixed price to get an MVP out. Scope creep happened. I was too passive and I let it happen. Similar with Google. I studied hard for maybe four months. I did well on the interviews. The first technical interviewer recommended me for level 4, second one level 3, behavioral level 4, and then I think 2-3 other technical interviewers recommended me as a close call between level 3 and level 4. I was open to level 3 or level 4, so I figured I'd get an offer, it just depends if it'll be level 3 or 4. But I didn't get an offer at all. The recruiter I spoke with seemed confused as well but assured me that they are in fact hiring for and were open to me being level 3. They just decided to not offer me a job for even level 3.
So I started applying elsewhere again. This time was even harder to find a job. You'd think that someone with seven years of experience and inches from getting a job at Google would have an easy enough time at finding a job somewhere, say, a rung or two down from Google, but nope. I didn't keep a Google Doc this time, but I'm pretty sure I applied to a little over 200 places and it took maybe six months to get a job. I was anxious about it and worried that I was seen as damaged goods. I ended up with three offers. One was for like $40k at a sketchy place that doesn't really count. Another was for a less sketchy but still sketchy place.
The third, Springbig, which I accepted, was shitty, but the best I could do. It paid $95k/year which isn't the worst, but the culture was the worst. Hostile, aggressive, cursing. So after a few months I realized that I want to leave. I wanted to stay there at least a year though, to make my resume look a little less bad.
But I had a friend who worked at Facebook who got me an interview there. That seemed worth it even if it meant staying at Springbig for less than a year. I studied some more Leetcode stuff. Something similar to what happened at Google happened though. The recruiter said he got good feedback on my interviews. And I took notes on how I did on those interviews and ran through it with that friend of mine who worked there. He had a lot of experience running interviews and said it sounded like I did very well. But I didn't get an offer, nor any explanation.
So, I stuck it out at Springbig until the year mark even though I hated it. I was going to stay on a little longer actually, but there was a straw that broke the camels back moment, so I started applying elsewhere. This really blew my mind. Applying had been getting harder and harder and harder throughout my career. But this time it was super easy! I had a job offer in less than a week! And tons of other promising interviews too. Wow! I still don't understand this.
But then that job turned out to suck as well. Unhealthy and unprofessional work environment. So again, I left. And again, the job search process was pretty smooth. I was selective in the places I applied to, instead of spam-applying like I had in the past. Maybe I applied to 15 places or so. I still got a good amount of interviews and ended up with two offers within a month or so. And I took an offer from Indeed. Which has been incredible. It's a great place to work. And it's made me realize that I'm not crazy. That the cursing and hostility I experienced elsewhere really isn't normal or ok.
And that brings us to the present day. I've been at Indeed for a little over four months now.
Based off of my own experience and the people I've talked to, it seems to me that years of experience is the big thing. Your impressiveness as a candidate is pretty proportionate to how many years of experience you have.
People also care a good amount about which technologies you've used. Ie. if you've used Vue instead of React, people might take a pass on you. But that's a YMMV type of thing. Some don't really care about it.
I don't have a lot of data points on how non-traditional career paths like my own where there's a startup in the middle influence things. Really, I just have myself as a data point, and it didn't go very well for me. OTOH my sense of what conventional wisdom is for a community like Hacker News, it'd be that starting a startup and failing is ok and won't hurt your career. Maybe that only applies if you are sufficiently impressive though. Like if you have a CS degree from MIT, work for Google for four years, go on to start and fail at a startup, and then go apply for jobs after that, yeah, you'll be fine. That's an extreme example of course. I'm not sure where the threshold of impressiveness is.
Another thought I have is that spam-applying is often a good idea. On places like LinkedIn with "Easy Apply" functionality, you can often apply to a job in less than 120 seconds. Which is often less time it takes to read through the description and think about whether or not it makes sense for you to apply. But even if it takes 10 minutes, I'd bet that applying to 6 places in one hour with shotty applications would be better than applying to one place in one hour with a good application. So I'd recommend quantity over quality. Except for the handful of companies you really like. For those handful I'd recommend taking your time and crafting a good application.
I'm also a self-taught programmer, and have never worked in the field (I spent ten years as a piano teacher, and now am earning an MS degree in wet lab biomedical engineering). I'm curious -- I looked at the fizz buzz test, and it says it filters out the "99.5%" of programming applicants who "can't program their way out of a wet paper bag."
I was expecting something challenging, but it's a ludicrously simple problem. Is the "99.5%" figure massively hyperbolic, or are a pretty large fraction of programming applicants really that incompetent? It would be nice to gauge the competition if I ever wanted to get a job in the area.