Tag Archives: business

Guides for Businesses to Automate Marketing and Rescue Projects

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just released two free guides for software businesses over at Little Stream Software.

How to Use Software to Improve Your Marketing

Businesses live and die by their customers. They are either trying to get more customers or build better relationships with the ones they already have.

Marketing can find more customers but it can take a lot of time, effort, and failures to find what works.

In this guide, I explain how software and automation can improve your marketing and give examples of how software can be used for the first stage, lead generation.

Download How to Use Software to Improve Your Marketing

Software Rescue Projects

No one enjoys a failed software project. But before it’s failed there is the chance to rescue it.

Software Rescue projects have become more common as the speed of development and change increase.

In this guide you’ll learn the causes of failing projects as well as ways to rescue them before they become total failures.

Download Software Rescue Projects

I’m working on additional guides, which I’ll be releasing as I finish them. By signing up for the Little Stream Software newsletter you can hear about them when they’re released.

Eric Davis

30 Days to Become a Freelancer

I hope you enjoyed the bonus content this week around the launch of 30 Days to Become a Freelancer.

If you’re thinking about going freelance or have just jumped, I think the 30 day action plan would be a tremendous help.

And if you’re already freelancing but feel like things aren’t going right, you might have missed some important steps along the way.

Really if you’re a freelancer or thinking about becoming one, you have nothing to lose because 30 Days to Become a Freelancer comes with a 1 year guarantee. If the plan doesn’t work for you, if you don’t like my writing, or whatever the reason, I’ll send you a refund within 365 days of your purchase.

Eric Davis

The Beginning of a Freelancer’s Journey (Part 2/2)

This week I’m launching a new ebook called 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. As part of its launch, I wrote about my path to becoming a freelance developer and the missteps I made along the way.

After a year of spinning my wheels and working in an area I didn’t plan to do, I finally got back into my expertise. I picked up a few projects at first but they were all over the map.

Then I noticed that a community I was involved in had rapidly growing businesses who needed custom development. The tool, Redmine, worked for them but it wasn’t a 100% perfect fit. Since it was open source they decided it would be better to customize Redmine than to go looking for a new tool.

Since I’ve already been customizing my own Redmine and some clients installs, I offered to help them.

One thing led to another and those couple of clients bloomed into a few more and then more and more.

Each project increased my knowledge and expertise which would prompt more clients to come to me.

That’s when I decided to become really focused with my services and I stopped accepting general Rails project in favor of Redmine projects.

This focus drove even more clients as I became the “Redmine guy”, the consultant that everyone with a Redmine system wanted to work with.

Even to this day I still have potential clients coming to me, even though I discontinued my Redmine services in 2012. The marketing machine I built up kept on working, long past when I stopped working it.

I attribute a lot of this success to the focus and clarity I had.

My first year I had neither and it showed in the projects I was winning. I was all over the map. I was unfocused.

But then I focused on Redmine, even to the extent that I turned down significant Rails projects from well known companies. I was focused.

It wasn’t easy. I still remember the back-and-forth and worry I had when I was considering what to do. Restricting myself and my services felt like it would handicap me.

And the advice I was getting didn’t help either. One side would say to focus. One side would say to be a generalist. One side would say to walk the dog (or maybe that was just my dog speaking).

It’s difficult to make a decision with so many different opinions and advice.

But it goes to show you that there isn’t just one path. Freelancers have made it work by focusing. They’ve also made it work by being a generalist.

That’s the important lesson: you have to choose a path that looks good to you and follow it.

Not all paths are created equal. Some are flat out wrong and aren’t based on reality. Some have gaps and don’t cover big things that could happen. But most important of all, some paths aren’t a good fit for you.

The path I followed is one path. It worked for me. Similar paths have worked for other freelancers.

I’ve collected my knowledge of the path I took and put it into a training called 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. Not only is it how to get started but it’s also how I wish I got started.

Eric Davis

The Beginning of a Freelancer’s Journey (Part 1/2)

This week I’m launching a new ebook called 30 Days to Become a Freelancer. As part of its launch, I wrote about my path to becoming a freelance developer and the missteps I made along the way.

My start in freelancing was an interesting one.

My wife and I moved from California to Oregon in 2007. As part of that move I sold my Jetta. The plan was to use that money to buy me a road bike or use the mass transit here and commute to work. But after arriving I had a different idea.

Instead of looking for a job and going through the whole interview process, I wanted to try to start my own consulting business.

In the spirit of fun, I made a bet with my wife.

I would take $450 of the proceeds from my car and use that to bootstrap my business. If after three months I didn’t earn back that $450 plus some, then I’d stop and find a job.

I didn’t even need two months.

When Little Stream Software was founded, I had over two years experience with Ruby on Rails. Rails itself wasn’t even three years old.

And Rails was hot. Rails developers where getting hired everywhere.

But I screwed up in my early freelancing days. Instead of going to the people who where looking for Rails help, I went looking for clients everywhere else.

Odesk, Elance, Craigslist, forums.

In my defense, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was stumbling around trying to figure everything out.

Luckily, I found a few clients who had work for me. But it was in PHP.

(I don’t have anything against PHP. It’s a good tool but I’m not an expert at it and at that time the rate differences between a PHP developer and a Rails developer were about 3x.)

Those first few projects were a success and because of my style of working (and my good looks :) ) my clients re-hired me to work on additional PHP projects. Gradually everything I was doing became PHP development.

(Though I was using many of the concepts from Rails. Let’s just say I created a few WordPress plugins that had a router, model, and controllers…)

At this point, business was okay. I was profitable and I had happy clients. But the work wasn’t enjoyable and I felt a longing for Ruby on Rails.

I kept marketing myself as a Rails developer and by happenstance I got a referral to a Rails project.

The problem was during this time Rails was going through a lot of changes really fast. In the few months I was working in PHP, Rails moved on and I didn’t keep up to date on my knowledge and skills. So before I could start that Rails project with the new client, I had to retrain myself in Rails.

From that project and a few following ones I slowly got back into Rails and phased out my PHP projects. Finally, a year later I finally got to where I was working full-time on Rails projects.

Which was where I wanted to be when I started.

Even with a hot market for Rails talent, because I didn’t know how to talk about my skill (Rails) and who my potential clients where, I ended up losing a year of my business. The year wasn’t a total loss, but if I knew how to start I could be at a completely different level by now.

Eric Davis

P.S. Starting to freelance can appear easy, especially if you know how to do the technical parts already (e.g. Rails, PHP, copywriting). But like my experience, there are a lot more non-technical areas that you need to know in order to start freelancing on the right foot. Your best bet is to learn by someone who has already done it, which is why I wrote 30 Days to Become a Freelancer.

Why freelance businesses fail

It feels like freelance businesses fail as often as “regular” businesses.

Though, and this might just be my feeling, when they fail it feels more personal. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten to know the founder, or because a freelance business is an extension of the founder, or maybe it’s just something else.

Over the years I’ve been freelancing and watching businesses fail, I’ve started to see patterns to the failures.

Hopefully by talking about these, it becomes easier for freelancers in trouble to recognize a potential failure and correct it. Or allow new freelancers to avoid these failures entirely.

No marketing system

One of the most common problems and one that many freelancers recognize is they lack a marketing system.

They don’t have a repeatable process in place that regularly brings them leads on new clients.

Well, maybe they do but the “Hope, Prayer, and Wish Marketing System” hasn’t been that efficient.

Your freelance business revolves around clients. Either you’re working on projects for them, talking about working with them, or your looking for new ones.

With the exception of performing your actual service (for clients…), there isn’t any other activity more important than finding clients and winning projects.

If you’re never seen a marketing system work before, let alone created one, it can be scary and complex to put one together. But it’s not rocket surgery.

Lack of a clear client

The other failure I’ve seen with failed freelance businesses stems from the lack of a clear client.

Like I mentioned last time, when I started I would work with anyone who had a pulse and a project. It was a struggle.

But early on I identified who my real clients were and why I’d work with them. From then on, my business became more stable and started to excel.

Not knowing who you want to work with, and knowing deep down in your heart, will cause an unbelievable amount of waste.

You’ll chase everyone with a pulse.

You’ll take projects you know you shouldn’t.

And let’s not forget how much harder your marketing will be when it’s targeting “everyone”.

Fly-by night operation

The third problem, and perhaps underlying problem, with failed freelance businesses are they aren’t treated like a business.

The founders treat them like a hobby. Something they do now and then to make some cash.

(This doesn’t include having a freelance business on the side, like moonlighting. You’ll see why in a minute)

These “businesses” are powered by whims and fancies.

“Maybe I’ll look for another client”

“Maybe I’ll post something to my website”

“I’ll go to this event and write it off as networking, even though it won’t have any of my potential clients there”

In the startup world, these are called want-repreneurs. They “want” to be an entrepreneur but they never get around to it.

Well, want-lancers have the same problem.

Freelancing is a business. It follows most of the same rules of capitalism as every other business.

It’s more flexible but it still follows them.

It’s not easy to overcome these three problems. It’s not hard either. It just takes work and awareness.

And the earlier you’re aware of them, the easier they will be to fix.

Eric Davis