CONTRACTING 1 - HOW TO GET IN & OUT OF CONTRACT DEVELOPMENT
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So check it, you want to start your own software/web development business, right? The way to do it is all about building your portfolio and client roster one project at a time, and then use each past project to get an even better next client.
The way I got into contract work is because I ran out of money and got into severe debt trying to make my own startup happen. So what I did was use it, ReelProperties.tv, as the first portlier project in my newly created (at the time, ‘06) web development company, FaceySpacey. I got several small clients at the time, but one major client, SweetSubmit.com, which happened to be in the mortgage industry. ReelProperties.tv is what enticed the client to work with me--i.e. because of the close connection between the real estate and mortgage industries.
If you’re new to web development, you’re probably insecure about your portfolio projects. But the fact of the matter is: you have to work with what you have. Build your own company site, and make one portfolio project in there look like a million bucks--as big as you can. Give it a huge banner on the homepage, and write a case study and link to it, etc. Take that and go get your next client. By the time you have two or 3 clients/projects, you’ll be able to make it look like you have 3 featured projects in your portfolio, and you’re just not featuring the rest. When I got to 4 projects, i redid the FaceySpacey site in 2007, and made each one of those projects the feature project of 4 different categories of work we did (i.e. Facebook Apps, Flash Widgets, etc). So to the visitor, it felt like I probably had more projects stashed in my portfolio, but was only showcasing 4.
After that, you’ll just want to redo your site a 3rd time to accomodate the tens of projects you have. By that time you should be home free, established with your own web development company.
If it’s not clear what’s going on here, you need to basically do what you’re supposed to do a good job doing for your clients, for yourself! That specifically is making you appear bigger than you are. That’s the whole purpose of websites and software in general. It’s too get a lot done with a little--to create efficiency. So you need to very efficiently make your fledgling web development shop look way bigger and more professional than it is. Ultimately, that’s what your clients will want when they come to you to build a website for their new law firm, restaurant, consultancy, etc. They want you to make them look like they worth the high prices they want to charge.
Now, as for how to get out of contract development, the trick is to basically join one a startup that comes your way as a principal participant. In reality, to do this right, you’ll want to build a special relationship with one of your clients--to the point where you’ll come up with an idea together, or perhaps totally alter his/her original idea. Then you’ll get yourself an equal chunk of equity to him/her and roll out together. They handle the funding. You handle the labor.
Another way to do it, which is the way I took, is I just saved enough money to work for myself for long enough until I could make my own software successful. It’s a harder road because it took a lot of time to handle my financial problems, but I think it’s very important for software developers to be able to take their own time to go at their own pace at their own idea without someone who can’t code who just provides the money looming over your head. The reason is because you’re the true creator. At every step of the way, you’re making decisions about your application and how it should function--all decisions that your non-technical partner will never know about or be skilled enough to help with. Yet, they get all the credit because they brought a nugget of a concept. They better at least be bringing the money if they’re contribution is fucking ideas! Ideas are worthless. Your execution is everything, and money is valuable as well.
Either way, my point is that you need time to work for yourself, and yourself alone. Many developers are able to complete products for clients, but can’t for themselves, and have tons of half-finished projects. As human beings, we definitely revolve around people and function better when we have people whose opinions we care about and don’t want to let down. That said, when you work for yourself on your own idea and you complete something all for yourself it’s almost good for the soul. You really just did something for yourself.
You may want to start with small plugins and widgets because it’s very common to give up on your own project if it’s really large. Or you may just want to go for a large project of your own. The main thing is you’re going to learn how badly you really want it, and if that particular project is really what you should be focusing your life on. Does it represent what you’re really about? Is it how you want to be known to the world? Is it what you want to do for the rest of your life? Are you doing it just to get rich quick? In another article, I’ll examine the importance of choosing a project to do not just based on money, but all the other factors in your life that will hopefully bring you true happiness. For now, I’ll just say, you’re going to find out what you’re made of more than ever when working on your own project. Hopefully by this time, you have enough skill that you’re very prepared to do it. I think for most, though, it will force you to re-evaluate what you’re truly about since you now know how much work these sort of applications take. Many may never up making this project super successful, but they’ll be prepared to go for the gold on a project that truly represents them and makes them happy to work on it the next time around. And by that time, you’ll be truly out of contract development and on to running your business that you just love to grow, improve upon, and be committed to for a long time.