Dealing with price dickering

One of the huge annoyances service providers encounter when they start talking pricing with clients is when the client asks you to provide the service for less.

You say you can do a job for $1500 and the next question out of the client’s mouth is:

How about doing it for $1000.

Yeah great way to ruin your day and to start the whole project off on the wrong foot. I think there is a reason that clients do this though and it’s partially your fault.

Intangible

When you hire me to build a website for you much of the work is intangible. I’m a knowledge worker which is defined by Wikipedia as:

Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Typical examples may include software engineers, architects, engineers, scientists and lawyers, because they “think for a living”.

Your thought isn’t something that your client can touch. They can’t touch the website I built and while they can touch the brochure you designed it is a small piece of paper that cost a lot to print.

Since it’s intangible stuff it’s easy to think that it didn’t take me 6 years of coding WordPress sites to learn how do build huge eCommerce sites. It’s easy to think that you haven’t spent 10 years designing for lots of different fields and have learned what works in some and what just falls flat.

That time spent becoming an expert isn’t something that can be touched by a client.

Since they can’t touch it they easily devalue it’s worth.

That’s where positioning and showing the value of your work come in to play.

Bringing Value Back

Once I’ve decided that a client is someone I want to work with we go over our business goals for the site and make sure we have a plan to measure them.

Measuring data is something that makes sense to clients and it shows them the value that you are bringing to their business.

For eCommerce sites we measure improvements in conversions (if they had a store before) or increase in total sales (if this is their first online store).

For many other sites we look at pageviews (since we are surfacing more relevant content to the user) or sign ups to email lists.

Numbers have a tangible feel to them.

We’ll talk more about value based pricing tomorrow when we dive into price anchoring.

But my client doesn’t have business goals

If your client doesn’t have business goals then why on earth are you working with them? Are they actually invested in the work or is it just something that they feel they should do ‘because’.

I ask for business goals right up front and if there aren’t any my first suggestion is to hire me to help them develop some proper goals for the site. If they aren’t in to that then I’m not in to working with them.

I only want to work with people that I can provide real value for. Value that we can measure.

Reduced prices mean reduced scope

I do understand that some clients may have a smaller budget than their initial vision allows so I’m not against reducing prices on projects. I just don’t do it by reducing what I make.

I reduce pricing by reducing the scope to fit the price.

Say a client comes to me wanting an eCommerce site and they want to use their own custom
payment gateway that interfaces with their bank. But their budget is only $5k.

Their budget doesn’t match their desired features. The site development alone (for me to build the site from a well organized PSD) will start at $5k. The payment gateway will be $1 − 2k.

I don’t say yes to doing the project and reduce my rates to match their budget we look at an existing payment gateway and use that for our site. If that doesn’t work then the client will need find more money to get the work done or hire a different contractor that can do the work while matching their budget.

Take Away

Get and set measurable business goals on projects to show your business value to customers.
Only work with people that want to set and measure business goals since they are the ones properly invested in their work.

If they start drilling you down on price take a real hard look to see if they are someone you want to work with.

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How should I price my services?

Our first post in the Pricing Series talked about all the different methods you could use to price your services. Yesterday I talked about how your speed at something shouldn’t affect your pricing (which is why hourly is a big bag of suck).

Today I’m going to talk about the 2 pricing methods I use for 90% of my projects and tell you why I like them.

Weekly

My top pricing method is weekly. I charge $3000/week (as of December 2013) for my services. I think that weekly pricing suits how I want to work with my clients (focused on one project at a time) and aligns well with my clients needs.

It lets me change scope without worrying as long as the new scope also fits inside the allotted time. I love serving my clients and being able to be dynamic. Weekly pricing lets me do that.

When I bill weekly I also know that I only need to work 3 out of 4 weeks in a month to make ends meet. That fourth week can be used to take a break or work on personal projects or if I’m ready to jump into a new project I just schedule it into that week. I’ve never had a client dislike getting to start a week earlier than anticipated.

The other main reason I love weekly pricing is that it fits how I work very well. I hate having many projects on the go. Changing between projects takes me forever and I easily drift into social media.

My productive billable time drops by about 30% when I’m switching between competing projects.

When I’m working on the same project all week I simply get up and get started on the project. Then I have lunch and get back to the project for the week.

I don’t have to decide which of my 5 clients currently has the biggest fire, I just have to work for the client I have booked for the week.

My wife has even noticed my stress level decrease and commented on it.

Flat rate based on value

My second method of pricing structure has been flat rate for fixed features. Yes you take more of a risk here but as you gain experience you also improve at pricing these projects.

I only do weekly now since context switching is something I suck at.

Last year I knew my client was paying $50k a year for a tool. I worked for 4 weeks to replace that tool and charged them $20k for it. That means I made $5000/week but I saved them $30k this year and next year the upkeep on our custom solution (which has features the old tool didn’t) will be less than $20k so they save even more.

Even when I’m billing based on value I treat it internally as a weekly project. So that $20k project was actually set for 6 weeks on my calendar just in case it needed extra time. I still have the advantage of scheduling myself for the proper amount of time and I get to make more than I do with weekly billing.

A word on effective hourly rate

Yes I think that hourly is a dumb way to price your services but I do still have an ‘hourly’ rate. Well actually I have an effective hourly rate.

An effective hourly rate means I take the hours I worked on a project and divide the total project cost by the hours. That tells me how much I really earned on the project. Lets do some math together to show you.

10 hours for $1000 dollars means I have an effective hourly rate of $100/hour.

15 hours for $1000 dollars means I have an effective hourly rate of $66/hour.

See not hard math at all.

I want to know the effective hourly rate of every project I work on and I want to see it over $150/hour. Yes my effective hourly rate is $150/hour (or at least that’s what I want it to be).

Do some projects come in under that mark? Of course some projects do. As I write this I’ve got a project that went over time and was entirely my fault. My effective hourly rate for this project is around $60 at this point.

No it’s not a weekly project and yes there is a personal relationship I am preserving. Be super careful about what type of work you do for friends.

Not a project I love working on as I see that number get smaller and smaller the longer I work on it but that is the reality of working for yourself sometimes.

Setting an effective hourly rate for yourself allows you to evaluate which projects you actually make the most money on. If you’re not making the effective hourly rate you set then you know you need to take a look at your business and change how you do things.

But

What do you do if most of your projects are smaller like if you typically have 1 or 2 week projects? Getting full payment before a one week project would mean that the client is going out on a limb with you having 100% payment and them having nothing.

I can certainly see how some clients would not love that idea at all.

The best way I’ve seen of dealing with this comes from Bill Erickson. He often does WordPress theme builds on Genesis and many of his projects take a single week.

He links his payment to his deliverables and invoices up front. So on a one week project he will send the invoice on day one with a due date slightly after the project is completed. This gives the client time to check the work out and approve it.

He also doesn’t wait for clients to enter content he ties the project completion to him delivering the theme work. Once that’s done the project is done. If it takes 10 months for a client to add all their content then it takes that long and Bill launches the site after.

I’d recommend listening to Bill explain this himself though. I haven’t talked to him, just listened to him speak so the above is my observations about how he runs his business.

photo credit: pfala via photopin cc

Speed and Pricing

When you start any type of work you’re slow. When I started building WordPress themes it took me 2 weeks to get something that I’d barely say is halfway passable (looking back at it now).

Now that I’ve been building themes for 5 years I can build a basic theme that would pass all of the pertinent items on the WordPress Theme Review standards in less than a week and I charge more.

When I started I also priced hourly at $50/hour and a theme build took me around 20 hours to do. That meant I made about $1000 on a theme. If I stuck with pricing my services hourly then as I got faster I’d be making less for the same amount of work. At the same time I’m providing more value in the form of better code.

Doesn’t seem right to me.

Price on hours to be poor

The speed at which you accomplish a task should have no bearing on how much you get paid to do it. You should be pricing based on value (and we’ll talk about how to approach this in a later post).

Does that design work increase the conversions to your clients coaching business? How many extra people convert and what are they worth?

Does the custom plugin you’re building mean that the client can stop using an external service they pay monthly for? How much do they pay?

Those are the questions you should be asking yourself and your client as you talk about starting a project with them.

Charging time and materials (another way of saying hourly plus any costs like subscriptions to services) caps your income by how many hours you can put in. It does not reward the value you bring to a project, just your “butt in chair time”.

photo credit: pfala via photopin cc

Breaking down my expense categories

So far this week we’ve talked about our personal financial journey at home, what a budget is and why you should consider creating one for your business, and how I broke down the numbers from years past to come up with what we hope is a realistic budget for the business.

Today we’ll talk about what we included in this magic budget of ours by breaking it down a little bit further.

Our budget seriously accounts for every dollar that comes into the business this coming year. When Curtis set his goals for 2014 he set an income goal of 175k. We worked with that number as the starting point when we set the budget for the year. Acknowledging that this is a significant increase over 2013 I also ran our numbers on 150K – still an increase over 2013, but one that I think he’ll hit no problem. Doing so helped us to know that we were being realistic.

If the numbers stay the same (but I don’t think they will) this year as last then we will have to re-work a few things and that’s ok. We are using this as a guideline. I am sure that we will have to make adjustments as the year goes on.

We have 4 main categories:

Taxes 25% – This one is pretty easy. We are in a 25% tax bracket so 25% of every check that comes in is instantly set aside for taxes. NO QUESTIONS ASKED. I really couldn’t imagine getting to tax season an being slapped with a $15K bill and having no savings for that. It seems crazy. And DUMB!

(Note from Curtis: If you can’t save taxes then you’re not running a viable business. We’ve been stuck paying taxes not saved and it’s a very painful experience.)

Salary 45% – We looked at how much we’d LIKE to bring home this year (little bit of a dream goal). We also looked at what made our family’s life a little bit more comfortable (a very realistic goal). Finally we discussed keeping the salary the same as it is currently which we have determined is comfortably snug. We set goals for both our reasonable salary increase (June) and our “dream” salary increase (September) and we’ll see if we hit them.

Profits 12-15% – Curtis automatically sets aside 5% that will stay in the business. We are actually hoping this year that the number will be more like 10-15% but again that will depend on what he earns. Why do we do this? It’s kind of like having a rainy day fund. It gives him some breathing room. It means that if for some reason there is a major meltdown and he has to buy a new computer, or give a client a refund (see post series here about when a contract goes bad) then there is money there to cover that without taking food from our mouths.

(Note from Curtis: If you can’t save that extra 5% then you’re not running a viable business.)

Expenses 15-17% – Expenses are broken down into a number of sub-categories, and I’ll outline them below for you so that you know exactly what we’re counting as expenses. These are basically things that the business pays 100% of. Write off’s – like housing costs, vehicle costs etc. are not counted amongst these items. Our direct business expenses are as follows:

Telus – Internet Connection – we took our current monthly cost & multiplied it by 12 then added a small cushion.

Bell Mobility– Curtis’ Cell phone – he uses this number as his business number. To calculate this number we did the same as above.

Software – This includes monthly subscription based products like Adobe Cloud an his invoicing tools, as well as plug-ins, apps, and other programs used to run his business. Based on last year’s number with a small cutback.

Hardware – Computers, headphones, phones, tablets etc. We have laid out a replacement schedule for some hardware items (like laptops and desktops) and are actually setting a budgeted amount aside every month so that at the scheduled time we will have the funds to replace his equipment as needed. In order to execute our replacement plans properly any “surplus” in this category will be rolled over to the next year as opposed to assumed as profits.

Office Supplies – Paper, printer cartridges, pens, you know, the basics. As you can imagine with the on-line nature of the business we don’t spend much in this area. We based this on last year’s spending.

Advertising – Again this is a pretty small category, but includes dollars set aside for sponsoring events like WordCamp etc. Again based on last year’s numbers.

Bank Fee’s – PayPal, Stripe, and other business banking fees. This is a percentage (about 2.2%) of our TOTAL projected earnings for the business based on the way the numbers worked out last year.

Education – On-line courses, books, conference fees. Loosely based on last year’s numbers, but increased based on Curtis’ goals for 2014. This is one number that will fluctuate depending on what he chooses to pursue as education, and also on his overall income.

Travel – Expenses directly related to attending conferences such as; airline tickets, hotel expenses, meals, bridge tolls etc. Again we tried to come up with a realistic number for this category based on conferences that he was interested in going to and their locations, but this number may also fluctuate depending on the overall income for the year.

Entertainment – Coffee, and any other expenses related to working in a “remote office” ie. Starbucks. Because our master bedroom functions as the Nursery, Bedroom and Office this is what we consider his “rent” to go out and work when the house is chaotic. This is one category that we do keep a close eye on to make sure that we’re not going overboard. In 2013 we were able to cut this category back by almost 1/2 over 2012. We’re planning on using the same number for 2014.

Other – I know sounds nebulous, but there are always miscellaneous things that don’t fall into another category easily. These include things like gifts given by the business, business licenses, etc. We based this number on last year’s expenses and chose to keep it the same. I don’t expect that we’ll spend to the max in this category either.

Whew, ok, that may be more than you wanted to know about budgeting but that is how we’ve done it for 2014. This is a bit of a trial for us having never really “set” a budget for the business and so we have entered into it with an open mind. I expect that as the year wears on we’ll adjust some of these numbers slightly but I do think that we’ve set them realistically enough to see little change.

Have you ever set a budget for your business? What worked or didn’t work for you?

Why on earth should you create a budget for your business?

This seems like a simple concept but let me give you a bit of a working definition of exactly WHAT a budget is. That way maybe you can understand WHY you should create a budget for your business.

WHAT is a Budget?

A budget is an INTENTIONAL spending plan for your business. It gives you spending parameters that you are working to stay within. It gives you goals or targets to meet. It creates a plan. It gives each dollar you earn a specific job.

In business I think we can all agree that you are way more successful if you are intentional in your actions. If you’re wandering aimlessly with no target then I guarantee you’ll spend more than you intended to and end up feeling like you have very little to show for your efforts.

WHY should you create a budget for your business?

WHY go through the pain of creating a budget? Well there are a few reasons and I’ll share them with you.

Truthfully for me it’s not painful, it’s interesting. I think Curtis would rather run 100K barefoot and naked in -50degree weather. (Note from Curtis: Yes I would. I know they are good but I hate doing them.)

As a business grows it’s only reasonable that the expenses will also increase. HOWEVER I think that the end goal of any business is to MAKE money and be PROFITABLE. It’s really easy to say – oh, I made x extra dollars this month I can afford to splurge on Y app, or Z hardware item etc. etc.

Unfortunately in doing so you are directly decreasing the profitability of your business. In some instances you may unwittingly be taking food from your kids mouths. No one wants to work just to pay the bills, but if your expenses are out of hand and your business isn’t really making a profit then that is all you’re really doing.

Freedom

I know, sounds funny. Most people associate a “budget” with this tight, chaffing, uncomfortable thing that restricts your fun. We have certainly found personally that a well thought through budget offers a lot of Freedom. I think that Curtis will find the same in the upcoming year as he works on keeping the budget for his business.

Now that coffee you just bought is GUILT FREE. Why? You have intentionally set money aside for “entertainment” each month. The money is THERE. You are free to spend it, no strings attached. You know what your other monthly expenses are and you know that the money is there to cover them. You aren’t buying coffee then hoping that you still have enough to pay the internet bill. You are free to spend that money on coffee because it’s job is to buy coffee.

Accountability

MMMHMM. I said it. Accountability. When you are working on your own this is especially important. There is no accountant, comptroller, manager, or corporate office telling you that you can or can’t spend the businesses hard earned funds on the latest Angry Birds. So you “splurge” and spend the $9.99 (or whatever it is) on the game. You work hard, you deserve it right? WRONG.

“Rewards” are important in business as they can be huge motivators for nailing that big contract, or hitting an income goal but there still needs to be some accountability for where that money is going. It’s EASY to “reward” yourself here and there with small app’s, books, treats, and other items but these expenses add up and ultimately detract from your businesses profitability.

When we sat down and looked at Curtis’ software expenses for 2013 we very quickly identified about $1000 spent on small apps that he was going to try to use for this that or the other but that hadn’t worked out the way he had hoped.

There needs to be room for that kind of experimentation in his business. We were able to come up with a number that gives him the freedom to try new tools with some regularity but he is going to have to be a bit more intentional about how he spends those dollars to stay within the budgeted amount. The realistic assigned dollar figure for his software column gives him a little bit more accountability while also leaving some cushion.

Profitability

I’ve mentioned profitability but it deserves some attention here.

Why do you run your business?

Just to pay your bills?

Wrong answer!!

If you are simply working to pay your bills and just scraping by you have a few problems:

  1. You aren’t running a viable business and you have some things to work on.
  2. I’m going to guess that you’re not having much fun. You basically own your job.
  3. You have no cushion, and you probably feel stressed about it when you sit down and think about it.

Being Profitable is the POINT of running a business. Once your business starts to be profitable (that means expenses paid, taxes paid, salary paid, and my oh my there’s money left over at the end of the month) then things start to get fun. You start to have incredible freedom (ha funny how that ties in here).

You can start to choose your clients rather than taking every job that comes along.

You can start dreaming.

You can start specializing.

You can start focusing on really growing your business.

You will feel like a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders when you look at your business bank account and realize that next months salary is already accounted for.

You will make better decisions.

You will do better work.

Your business will grow.

Don’t believe me? Fine, but I’m telling you we are the living truth here.

Having a BUDGET for your expense allows you to ensure that your business retains some PROFITS. When you have a set amount that you are going to spend and you cut off spending once that amount has been reached then you are allowing your business to have some PROFIT and as you continue to budget your profits will GROW. WOW what a concept.

So, the main reasons for creating a budget? Freedom, accountability, and profitability.

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

Creating an Effective Budget for Your Business

This week we’re going to be talking about creating an effective budget for your business. I know, most people hear the word budget and shudder. However a budget is a very effective tool that will allow you track your expenses, profits, taxes, and set a realistic salary for yourself. It will ensure that you actually MAKE money and I think that we can all agree that’s pretty important when you are in business for yourself.

I’m not sure what Curtis has shared about our personal financial journey so today to give you some perspective as to where this is coming from I’ll tell you a little bit about our life.

Over the last two years Curtis and I have been on a journey to improve our financial life in hopes of giving us more freedom to pursue our dreams and relieve the “pinch” that young families often feel.

When we started this journey in January of 2012 we had a mess of debt to clean up in the personal side of our finances. Curtis had been self employed for about 3 years at that point and his business had been growing steadily but it wasn’t what I would call flourishing. He pretty much owned his job.

A HUGE part of our journey and definitely the key to our success personally was creating then actually sticking to a budget.

We were both working full time and making decent money. Sadly we had little to show for it but a stack of bills and some fun toys. We had very little savings, no long term plan, and nothing to show for our efforts.

By learning to create a new budget every month then live within the numbers we committed to at the beginning of the month we actually “found” a huge amount of money that we didn’t know we had. That enabled us to eliminate our debt pretty quickly.

We’d been spending ourselves to death on little things here and there.

Our debt hadn’t grown in years at that point but it hadn’t decreased significantly either. We always paid cash for our purchases but we were still overspending in that we weren’t saving.

So what does all of this have to do with setting an effective business budget? Well, it was the starting point for us in a significant amount of change and growth; financially, personally, and as Entrepreneurs and leaders.

It was through our progress on our financial journey that we became aware of podcasts, blogs, and other resources that would help us become more successful in business. It got us started with goal setting, and motivated us to continue doing things that would move the needle. We saw that we could have a significant affect on our situation by being willing to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It has become incredibly motivating in all areas of our lives.

Over the last year Curtis has managed to more that double his business’ income. (**Note from Curtis: I wrote about my 2012 income in my January 2013 Income Report and my 2013 income in my recap.) This has allowed me to leave my full time job and be a full time parent to our two young children. It has also allowed me the privilege of being more involved in the day to day runnings of our business – it really has become OUR business over the last few months for me rather than Curtis’ job. I credit Curtis’ success in the last year to our family’s journey over the last two.

As I took on more tasks within the business over the fall it became increasingly obvious that while the business income had doubled so had the expenses (which he published. I’ve been the driving force behind the budgeting on the personal side of our life (always with Curtis’ input and consent I just happen to be the one that organizes the numbers because I enjoy it).

(Note from Curtis: I hate budgeting there are forms of invasive surgery that sound like they’d be more fun. Luckily I’ve got an awesome wife that likes budgeting. Who helps you?)

One day while we were discussing the steep rise in his business expenses this year it dawned on me that we were functioning without a budget. It was like a lightbulb came on. The reason we’ve managed to eliminate debt, build savings and have more financial freedom personally is because we’ve successfully lived within our budget. WHY haven’t we done this in the business too?

So this week we’re going to be talking about budgets. This may not excite some of you, but I think it’s valuable information. Tomorrow we’re going to talk about what a budget is and why you should have one.

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

Emergency scanning just increases your stress

Oh email…yup I know it’s a pain in the ass for you. It’s like that for me sometimes as well. I’ve been on an email diet for a while, but there is more to dealing with email than a diet.

It all starts with how you handle email.

If you’re a GTD person you’re going to recognize a bunch of this from David Allen’s book. If you’re not that’s where much of this is from, go read the book.

Handling email by not handling it

One of the first mistakes that most of us make with email (even me some days) is just scanning it and not dealing with it. You open your email client and the first thing you see is a pain so you close it.

The email didn’t go away, you just are thinking about it now instead of dealing with the issue at hand. Awesome job, waste that brain power.

Another way we just don’t deal with our email is by checking it from places where we simply can’t deal with it. For me that’s my phone and since I use OmniFocus so heavily and MailPlane I just can’t push things from email to OmniFocus easily from my phone.

On top of that I’m typically just sitting downstairs and was at my desk where I could deal with it. Why on earth am I checking my email from a place I can’t deal with all of it?

Why on earth are you?

How we deal with it

Second up is how we deal with email, typically just picking out the most urgent or easiest items from the list instead of dealing with them in order. First to last or last to first doesn’t matter the practice of dealing with them in order is the important part.

Open your email and start at whichever end you prefer and work all the way to the other side of your email.

Dealing with an email doesn’t mean that you are going to answer it right away, it just means you decide how it’s going to be dealt with. For me that means pushing client emails into OmniFocus to deal with when I’m working on their project for the day. Anything that can be dealt with in under 2 minutes just gets a response.

Taking this approach of dealing with email only when I can actually do something about it and being systematic about how I deal with it took loads of stress of my back.

What’s your email system? Do you even like email?

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There is no later

When you start running a business it takes a lot of hustle. If you’re being smart you’re not quitting your job right away. You’re working extra hours in the evenings and weekends to get the business going.

Maybe you’re working extra hours after your regular job to make your freelance business a reality.

You’re working ridiculously hard and a stupid amount of hours.

How you start

That hard work and those long hours are what the few people who really are going to win running their own business do to win.

That hard work puts them in the 5% of people that are really awesome. The 5% that don’t just own a job, but truly run a business.

The easy/hard thing is that how you start running your business is likely how you’ll continue to run it.

You’ll look up 5 years later and find that you’re still working crazy hours and giving up weekends.

For only marginally more money than you were making last year.

Working weekends just became what you did.

Missing birthdays was the norm.

80 hour work weeks are common place.

The fact is later always becomes tomorrow unless you have a specific plan.

There is a time

My November was hugely busy. I worked early and late many days. We planned that so I could take 2 months off when our new baby comes.

I currently have no official client projects going. Yes I have some things to clean up and get some emails on smaller tasks for existing clients, but nothing major.

I worked hard in November so I could be more available for my wife now when she needs the most help.

Working late and early will not be my norm. Later is now and I choose to work responsibly now.

I choose to work smarter not harder.

I refuse to look back in 10 years and regret no spending enough time with my family.

Do you have a plan to ease back? What is your metric/goal? Who knows about it that will hit you with something heavy when you keep working way too much?

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Don’t Quit Clients

The dream of many freelancers is to quit clients and focus on products. It may be themes, or books, or custom yoga pants that you want to make and sell.

The specific product doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that no more clients around would be awesome.

Quitter is a book about moving from your ‘day job’ to your ‘dream job’. One of the things that has stuck out to me as I’ve been reading it is the thought that you should probably stay in your ‘day job’ a lot longer than you really want to.

This concept applies to quitting clients in favour of product based income.

Why quit clients

At it’s simplest level many freelancers want to quit clients because they are tired of unreasonable requests and silly deadlines.

I got tired of that as well and by positioning my relationship with clients in a totally different manner I was able to kill most of those silly requests. I have better clients at higher rates with some strategy.

I think that the reason to build products is to help diversify your income streams. What if you get hurt or sick and can’t work for a bit.

If you’re only doing client work (even if you price based on value) your income will dry up at some point. You won’t be doing work and that means that you won’t be earning anything.

Having a fleet of products around can smooth out the bumps in health and work hours till they don’t really matter.

Having a decent amount of product income can mean that the low income months are still more than enough to pay all the bills and live comfortably on. Instead of having the low months eat in to the profit of the good months.

I’m all for having diverse income streams with a bunch of products that don’t not rely on you doing much work once they are set up.

But clients allow you to…

The thing is that quitting clients too soon may mean you kill that product dream.

Right now clients bring in 95% of my income. If I was to quit client work right now I’d also have to figure out how to live on a few thousand dollars a year.

Not possible and my wife would be pretty upset.

Hey honey I just quit all my clients so you’ll have to start growing cotton and making all our clothes. Okay? It’s my dream so just go with it.

Yup I’d sound like a privileged ass and I’d deserve the cast iron frying pan upside the head.

Instead I devote time each week to working on longer term projects (books, writing here, plugins…) and to client work.

It’s likely that at the end of this year my client work will be more than 50% of my income still. Who knows maybe client work will be more than 75% of my total income.

Working for clients allows me a flexible schedule and no one looking over my shoulder to make sure I put in my 40 hours. Working for myself gives me freedom in how I allocate my time, and clients make it all possible.

I’ll never quit clients

While I’d love to have less income reliant on clients I don’t think I’ll ever quit client work entirely.

The fact is that clients ask for things that are hard because they don’t know it’s hard. They want that last pixel adjusted and get you to do it. Sure it can be frustrating since we think it’s close enough but it pushes us. I know when I’m working on something for myself I can be biased to sticking with the easy way I already know to do things.

Even if the easy way I know how to do things is not actually in the best interest of the project.

My ideal would be to take 1 client a quarter for minimum 4 week engagements. Then spend the rest of the quarter finding that right client for the next quarter and working on my own products.

What I want is the ability to not find that right client for a quarter and not worry about how that will affect my life at all. That is my goal with product income, not to quit clients entirely.

So if you want to build products, take a good hard look and where you income is coming from. Make sure you don’t quit that income stream too soon.

Unless you like killing your product dream before it’s really had time to mature.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Do you finish as well as you start

I’m generally a pretty safe driver by all accounts. I drive just barely over the speed limit and rarely rush anywhere (no lane changing and weaving for me) since I simply don’t see the point in saving 30 seconds driving across town.

That doesn’t mean I’m free from driving mistakes.

Almost there

Yes the night was dark (uh it was night so of course) sure it was raining but my windshield wipers work well.

Not to mention that I Rainx the windshield.

Yes my brother-in-law was in the car and we were having a good talk. I was involved and enjoying time with him.

None of these external reasons had anything to do with me almost hitting a pedestrian.

The sole reason I was rolling through the stop light and not paying attention to anyone in the cross-walk was that our destination was directly across the intersection and the best route to parking is to make a right hand turn at the lights.

I was focused on the fact that I was almost there. My incorrect application of attention could have easily cost a couple their lives, or at the very least hurt them severely.

There would have been no one to blame but myself.

Almost done

I’ve had projects follow the same course.

I work diligently for months on something big. Then in the last 2 weeks I start to think about almost being to the launch phase. Launching means project transition and freedom, or at least a new project.

With that transition in sight I start to focus on the new project and getting it spun up only to miss something large and obvious in the launch of the project I should be focused on.

Things almost head off the rails and are only saved by last minute action and overtime.

Whew! it’s fixed and I launched the project properly but was anything learned?

Process

When I was in drivers education we were told to stop behind the big white line at a red light. Once we had come to a complete stop and surveyed the intersection and determined that it was safe we could roll forward and make a right hand turn on a red light.

There was a very specific procedure for navigating the process.

It was simple and repeatable.

It would set you up to catch most of what could go wrong during a right hand turn on a red light.

I totally threw that out the window when I saw my destination approaching.

Launching a site also has a fairly generic template of tasks.

  1. Get final sign off from the client
  2. Check DNS stuff
  3. Make sure no email will be affected with the DNS changes
  4. Backup the database
  5. Backup the files
  6. Double check your backups
  7. Move all the stuff
  8. Change DNS

You may argue with me on order, but you should catch my drift.

We should have a simple repeatable process to follow when we are launching a site. This simple process helps save us from ourselves since it allows us to see the forest for the trees.

It helps us focus on the fact that we still have a project to safely land before we can dash off to the next thing.

Do you have a checklist? Do you land projects as well as you start them?

photo credit: I like via photopin cc