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The Developer's Guide to Managing Your Business: Part Two

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Now that you’ve zeroed in on your target audience and researched the ins-and-outs of your niche market you can outfit your business with the essentials.

In Part One you established your minimum viable business (MVB), or product (MVP) to move ahead with a modest investment of time and resources.

The leaner the better at the outset, so take the Occam’s Razor business approach. The simplest answer is often the correct one, for now.

For developers planning to sell their IT expertise as a service, you’ll still need to network with like-minded peers. Contribute regularly to community networks and stay involved in coding events and camps.

Remember, “Know, like, and trust” is how you establish your reputation as an authority in your niche. This makes it far easier to leverage your relationships into a viable service or product people need. As a freelancer, you’ve already …

  • Determined your rate range, low to high;
  • Defined the type of work you like most and are best at;
  • Committed to seeking out contracts based on timing;
  • And planned to layer at least two contracts concurrently for “insurance” purposes.

‘Rise and Grind’ is a harmful myth

We mentioned that burnout is a real thing in our industry, and your mental health is a precious commodity, so pace yourself. Create a sane and sustainable business model.

With over a decade of expertise helping place talented developers with businesses and brands, we’re your biggest fans. Never be afraid to ask for help, especially from trusted communities of like-minded coders.

You’ll know you’re ready to go when:

  • You’ve narrowed your MVB or MVP based on feedback and research
  • Found your service or product-market fit through iteration
  • You’re ready to set up all the things!

With a solid path forward you can dig into the working parts of your business. “Just get started” is our mantra, and there’s no other way.

‘Time is money’ and yours is invaluable

As you prepare to venture out as a contractor or software savior never forget that your greatest asset is you. Don’t let prospects take advantage of your expertise.

Doctors and lawyers charge astronomical hourly fees for a reason. They’ve established themselves as well-trusted professionals in their field.

Now that you’ve established yourself as the go-to authority in your niche you’re ready to make good on your promise.

Whether your business plan entails SaaS, coaching, consulting, courses, or straight-ahead freelancing you’ll need the business basics kit:

1. Create a unique LLC for your brand

  • Your Secretary of State
  • LegalZoom

2. Get accounting software to invoice clients and keep track of time and expenses

  • Freshbooks
  • Quickbooks

3. Find business insurance to protect yourself from liabilities

  • Hiscox
  • Local Agent

Note: If you’re working on a SaaS product, there will be far more legalese and IP rigamarole. You’ll also need to plan on a longer timeline/runway to launch.

(Disclosure: We’re not lawyers)

4. And create a marketing plan that includes Owned, Earned, and Paid media channels

  • Website and email list
  • Github or community contributions and involvement
  • Google Adwords, Facebook ads, sponsored updates on Twitter, or Instagram

ABCs of how to keep work coming in

We hear this question all the time, “Sure I want to freelance, but how do I keep the work coming?” Here are a few solutions for establishing a foundation for the long haul:

  • Your LinkedIn profile: Your personal web page connected to a search engine specifically for your skills and experience. Don’t make the mistake of wasting it.
  • Job boards: As a tight-knit community, we can keep an eye on just a few places to capture new opportunities.
  • Client career pages: Your best clients are your existing clients. Keep an eye on past client career pages. As needs arise, reach out and offer your assistance.

Important factors to keep in mind doing client work:

  • 80% of your volume is going to come from 20% of your clients, focus on expanding those relationships;
  • Communication is the key to building and maintaining relationships;
  • Your best clients are often your existing ones;
  • Define your criteria for a “good client”;
  • Quickly dispense with those that don’t to save time and money.

No one needs a drill bit, they need a hole in the wall

“Benefits not features” is a great marketing slogan you can adopt. No one needs more software, what they need is the timeliest solution to their problem.

When devising your business plan be sure to develop an ongoing client or buyer persona. This will help you to stay in tune with their “hopes, fears, and dreams.”

Your niche audience or market will change over the years, just like all markets. And remember that markets are conversations. Be sure to speak to your clients in their language to establish effective communications throughout your relationship.

Staying relevant (and in-demand) means adjusting your product-market fit iteratively. We like to lean on the Japanese concept of “Kaizen” which refers to taking small steps each day to reach your goal.

  • Master one to three specific tasks, especially ones you’re good at;
  • Niche skills are great, but complementary niche skills are better;
  • Focus on improving in areas you are weaker;
  • Obtain certifications in niche disciplines and languages;
  • Obtain endorsements on LinkedIn;
  • Take code screenings on LinkedIn and CoderByte (used by Esteemed).

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas to help you along your journey. After a decade of helping IT pros connect with clients, we understand that learning is a life-long process.

Easy money is damn hard work

Now that you’ve got your business and marketing plans honed you’re primed to reach your target customers. By continuing to build your brand awareness and study the competition you’ll set yourself up for ongoing success.

As you build out your sales funnel, each quarter will continue to get easier and pay dividends. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to rest on your laurels.

There are multiple opportunities for establishing monthly recurring revenue (MRR) for yourself including:

  • Monthly maintenance - use or lose hour blocks, be competitive, make some offshore friends to support;
  • Audits - monthly security, SEO, or ongoing strategy audits can add to MRR options;
  • Content strategy and production - if you are a developer, hire someone to do the work, add a margin on top;
  • Retainers - ongoing consulting and feature enhancements.

By continuing to keep up with industry trends and network with your peers you’ll not only improve your entrepreneurial skills but also your standing in the community.

That’s where we come in…

We’re always here to lend a hand

As a community that promotes ongoing education, support, and prosperity, we only go as far as you do. That’s why we’ve created a network of like-minded problem-solvers with a commitment to excellence.

With the right help, you can take on projects, make a profit, ditch your day job, or launch a highly-profitable side hustle!

If you missed the first in our series start here: The Developer’s Guide to Managing Your Business: Part One.

See you out there.

Category: Contracting Tips