Topic: A Look at My Time Situation

This is a little bit complicated, so if you don't feel like reading complicated go to a ruby thread. wink

Here are both ends of the spectrum: Right now I am a freelancer operating as the single member of my LLC. It is my goal to someday build a full-blown web development company with a handful of employees.

So now you know where I am, and where I'd like to go. Now you need to know some more info to see how I might take the next step.

I'm mostly a Design/CSS guy, and the vast majority of my designing is for rails apps (both in development and in production). I hate being at the bottom of the food chain... not in terms of ego, but I like to have people resources, I love pulling people together on a project and setting the gears in motion, it's just not something I've done much of being a freelancer.

Time:

Currently company "X" buys 20 hours of my week. I'm not going to give actual amounts but I do want to talk money ratios, so for the sake of example lets say that company "X" is paying me $1 an hour for those 20 hours a week.

Company "Y" has me another roughly 20 hours a week. Its a royalty situation (please don't jump on me with no-spec, it really is a good situation, as hard as it might be to believe). I'll know in a month how much will be coming in through that company.

Company "Z" is hiring me for 10 hours a week at $3 an hour, and it may grow into more than 10 hours a week. Naturally I like making 3X more with company Z over company X.

Besides XYZ, I have maintenance stuff come up on old projects, and I have one simple CMS implementation site on the back burner.

Dilemma

I don't have quite enough work to keep a part or full-time person busy, but I'm so over-busy myself I don't have the time to market and court new clients. I feel like I'm stuck in an under-tow. Not to mention the issues of who I could bring in and their availability, or the complications of having a true-blue employee.

It seems I need to free up time, but that would mean at least temporarily letting go of income, which is hard. And all the companies are important... I don't know which I would cut... none of them. But the status quo isn't good, and I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere except for the natural gaining of experience and building of reputation over time, the latter I don't think I'm doing enough because almost half of what I do is in-house maintenance stuff for company X. Its not flashy.

I'm looking for a few sketches of a workable business model from where I am at, that I can then take and refine into an executable plan. Tricky stuff!

If you have any questions or need clarification, do ask.

"Bear 270, young man. Bear two, seven, zero, over." - Musings of a flight simulator guru, me.

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

I hope those hourly rates are just relative values.

Find a college student or other subcontractor?

"I was blind, but now I see!"  John 9:25

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

Montgomery wrote:

I hope those hourly rates are just relative values.

Oh they're very relative, be assured. smile I could live on either the 20 hours of X or the 10 hours of Z.

My problem with subcontractors are their daytime availability is so transient. The company Z guys does it, but I think he loses years off his life getting contractors together. Company X likes to have people locked in, and I can see why.

Granted in transition I will probably need to lean on some contractors, but who is good, has daytime availability, 20+ hours a week available, and isn't too expensive? Line them up.

"Bear 270, young man. Bear two, seven, zero, over." - Musings of a flight simulator guru, me.

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

I think there comes a time when a freelancer must choose between staying a freelancer and becoming an agency. Your dilemma is very familiar to me - I have to revisit my strategy and long-term goals every time a potential project comes down the pipes. I've made a deliberate decision to avoid going the agency direction and instead focus as much energy as possible on building a product (www.donortools.com). Someday, like you, I hope to have a small company with several employees manning the cannons. The only difference is that I'd like to support my products rather than working for clients.

Still, every single time a project shows up I am tempted to add it to my portfolio. It seems like it would be so easy to hire a designer part-time and take on multiple projects. But in my experience I've run up against two problems with this. First, it's not that easy to find good help. Especially not right when you need it. And the better the help the more it costs, so you have to charge more to have enough margin. Second, I'm not that good at managing multiple projects at once. I tend to get overwhelmed really quickly when there are more than two things on my plate at once.

If your vision were to freelance, then one obvious path would be to limit the number of clients that you work on at once, schedule projects far in advance, and use your scarcity as a marketing tool (if you're so busy, then you must be good, right?). If, as you said, your goal is to build a boutique, then you may be at a jumping off point. There are lots of ways to grow - all of them risky. You could take out a business loan to cover payroll for a few months, you could tighten your belt and pay yourself less, you could find a partner. 

One other problem that I have run into also is in the way that I relate to clients - since I am a developer, a lot of clients want to hire _me_ to work for them. I have not made the best effort in the past to market Art of Mission instead of Ryan Heneise. It sounds like you might have this issue with your current clients, where they might be put off finding out that you are not the one actually touching their code, or that someone you've hired is also touching the code. You can probably work this out with your clients; it's something to be aware of.

Ryan Heneise  |  Art of Mission  |  Now with extra-strong Donor Tools mojo

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

That's a tall bill to fill... Usually if they are good and don't already have a job, they need full time work, so 20 hours a week isn't enough. I think Montgomery is right though, either a college student or a subcontractor. Another option might be stay-at-home moms who have done web work.

The difference between sacred work and secular work is not what we're doing but why we're doing it. - AW Tozer

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

Leovenous wrote:

who is good, has daytime availability, 20+ hours a week available, and isn't too expensive? Line them up.

Hmm.

Good: Several good people here on Godbit.
Daytime: Just curious, but why?
Hours: 20/week may be a bit much for a lot of freelancers, but it seems a few could work together.
Expensive: What rate would meet your requirements?

Feel free to post in the Freelance Projects section, or send e-mail inquiries around.

(By the way, is your site getting a lot of traffic, or are you redesigning?
I'm getting "This website is temporarily unavailable, please try again later.")

"I was blind, but now I see!"  John 9:25

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

Montgomery wrote:

Good: Several good people here on Godbit.

I'm well aware of that.

Montgomery wrote:

Daytime: Just curious, but why?

I would have thought this would be easy to understand. I work in the daytime, that means I collaborate during the day, I make and take phone calls during the day, I IM during the day, and 100% of my clients work during the day. Maybe you're seeing a different workflow than I do. And especially as a demand grows for a lot of hours, then there has to be day hours.

Montgomery wrote:

Hours: 20/week may be a bit much for a lot of freelancers, but it seems a few could work together.

Which multiplies the complication of the operation. I'm a freelancer... 20hrs a week works for me if it's steady.

Montgomery wrote:

Expensive: What rate would meet your requirements?

Depends on the task, the experience and efficiency of the person doing it and the nature of the project. You know that.

Montgomery wrote:

Feel free to post in the Freelance Projects section, or send e-mail inquiries around.

I tried that last spring. It took a month and a half for one good godbit guy to turn up (you, incidentally). That doesn't give me a lot of confidence when approaching prospective clients (not a lack of confidence in you, but in my ability to find a good team on a deadline). Most the good guys are rather busy themselves. (BTW the BWC project is on hold because they are hiring an agency to re-define their companies focus, naturally the web site needs to wait on the results of that process.)

Montgomery wrote:

(By the way, is your site getting a lot of traffic, or are you redesigning?
I'm getting "This website is temporarily unavailable, please try again later.")

My site is down. I am between redesigns and I haven't quite gotten the new one online yet. I've been so busy it's been a low priority. I hope to have it back in a week or so.

Last edited by Leovenous (2008-08-29 09:51:23)

"Bear 270, young man. Bear two, seven, zero, over." - Musings of a flight simulator guru, me.

Re: A Look at My Time Situation

I've been in the same situation for the past 4 months. I have enough work coming in to bring on another person, but can also handle the work I have coming in myself, albeit I work a lot of hours to handle it all.

You really have to figure out what direction you want to go in - there are so many choices, all of which have their ups and downs. For example, I know for me, I eventually want to be developing my own applications and not be giving my mind share and ideas to other people's projects. However, other people prefer to work only for clients, in which you'll have to decide if you want to run a group of people to do the work, or do the work on your own.

I tend to look at the end game, where I want to end up and then trace backwards to figure out how to get there.

I'm not sure if you have made that decision yet or not, although your initial post sounds like you want to concentrate on working for clients.

As far as looking for a sub-contractor, that can be pretty hard. I know I have had a hard time on two fronts: 1) finding someone who I felt I could trust to deliver and 2) getting myself to let go of some of my work - not that I don't think anyone else can't do it, but that I take a lot of pride in what I do and want the person who I have working on my client's projects to feel the same.

I also completely agree with you with having someone who can work during the day, but I wouldn't require that be everyday, maybe certain days during the week so you know that you can get a hold of them easily.

And don't feel bad, my site has been up and down lately as I am trying to finish a redesign and a move to my own blogging system I wrote. smile