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- Comments about web programming venture
August 31, 2005, 9:56 am
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I'm wanting to start a small web programming venture, and I'd like some
comments from others who have done similar ventures.
First off, I've been doing web programming as a hobby and done sites
for friends and family for almost 10 years, and my forte is ColdFusion
and PHP. My graphic skills still lack, but I have some friends who are
great with graphics and will handle this aspect of it.
Anyway, I already have a full-time 8-5/M-F job as a web programmer for
a local business, and any programming I do with my own venture will be
done in the evenings and on the weekends. Is this common?
Locally the market isn't saturated by any means, and the few 'web
programmers' I've seen locally basically decided to do websites to make
money and charge way too much and do shotty 'programming' in Frontpage
only. They also charge WAY too much (like $1500 for a basic 3-5 page
site thrown together in Frongpage).
I want to try and convey to customers that my code is written by hand,
and it will be compatible with all popular browsers (IE, FIrefox,
Opera, Safari, etc) and using my experience the code will be W3C
compliant and the graphics compressed enough so the site loads quickly.
Again, the local programmers I've seen often take 1-2 meg files, use
height/width settings in <img> to scale it down, and the site takes 5
minutes to load for dial-up users.
So.. some questions --
1) Is it acceptable for me to put links to all the other local web
programmers in my area on my site? I think if potential customers,
even non-savvy ones, see what I charge compared to others and see my
pages compared to theirs, this'll be a shoo-in for me.
2) Since this venture is just to augment my full-time job (not replace
it), I'm only charging around $69/hour for programming. Is this rather
standard for other areas? I've seen local folks charge upwards of
$150/hour, and I know they're milking it because they'll use Frontpage
and create something I know was thrown together in 2-3 hours but charge
3) For others in this same scenario, have you found issues with
customers wanting stuff done NOW and not willing to wait until the
evening? I'm planning on guaranteeing 24-48 hour turnaround on all
programming changes, and most tiers I'll offer will have a content
management system. The CMS will be custom written in PHP.
4) I plan on hosting all my sites with PageZone's shared hosting. I've
been with them for a coupel of years, and I'm more then happy with
them. I plan on maybe moving to a colocated server if the business
picks-up, but should I be looking into this now?
5) And finally I plan on only working with local businesses, and my
motto basically will be 'no nickle and diming' like most other local
folks do. This is another reason I'd like to link to the other
folks... because I think most are shisters. So again, is this
acceptable? I'm looking at it like Progressive Insurance where they
show their competitors along with themselves :)
Thanks for any feedback or info based on your experience with similar
ventures or scenarios. My plan is to get the CMS written and working,
then this'll be like canned code I can plug-in and customise per
client. I'm also writing some custom CMS sites, like one for real
estate agents, one for car dealers, etc. I figure if I cater to these
folks and make it possible for them to update their sites at their own
leasure, this is a strong selling point.
Thanks again, and sorry this ran so long. I have LOTS of ideas, but
some are rather non-standard ways of looking at stuff.
Re: Comments about web programming venture
Hi there. I hope your weather is nicer than here. In Beachburg, Ontario,
it's rainy, muggy and all around unpleasant.
Sure, I'll take a stab at some answers from my experience.
Excellent. You should also make sure you've got a contact for a freelance
graphic designer who can do work for you if friends are unable/unwilling.
Sure - Lots of people like to get their feet wet before they take the
plunge. The drawback is that it takes your business longer to grow. The
advantage is that you've got your full-time job as a guaranteed wage and
bill payer :)
Already a coder after my own heart :) It would be a good idea to have a
page on your own site that covers the differences and benefits to why you
do the things you do. (Why is hand-coding better? Why is multi-browser
compatibility better? What benefit is W3C compliance? etc. It'll save you
making the same pitch over and over :)
Up to you. It shows a level of confidence in your abilities that I
personally get a kick out of (i.e. a Good Thing) - just make sure that
you don't violate any copyrights and if a competitor asks to be removed
from your site, do it quickly and without complaint.
Some may disagree with this, but personally, I don't like charging by the
hour: I charge by the project. This has the advantage of giving the
client a firm price right up front, eliminates a common fear that you
might stretch the hours out for profit and keeps the ability to make a
profit as your skills improve. (I.e. a project that takes you five hours
and you charge $500 for now, but in one year you're able to do the same
thing in half an hour does not necessarily mean it's value has gone down)
If you go over the hours you initially estimate - and as long as the
client hasn't changed any of the specs - eat the difference. You learn
quickly to estimate your own time and it saves you the headache of going
to a client and saying "Look, I know I said five hours, but it took me
ten, so you owe me double". Use your hourly rate to build your quotes,
but not in public.
Hell yes. I find that to be the most annoying aspect of being self-
employed. Personally, I prefer to be given my projects for a given month
and the guarantee that it will be up by the last day of the month. Of
course, life doesn't always work out that way. I generally give my quote,
my estimation for total implementation time and the time frame in which I
will be working on it, based on my other project load. If the client
needs me to change that, basically changing *other* clients timelines, I
charge extra for it. Usually enough to deter them from changing the
timeline. (Doesn't always work, but hey...)
You've got a difficult catch-22 that you'll need to deal with: As your
business grows and your work becomes more critical to your clients'
needs, their desire for immediate contact and turnaround will grow. On
one hand, you can tell them that you do this in evenings/weekends only
and they can't contact you otherwise, but that costs customers who don't
want to use a "weekend warrior" as their developer. On the other hand,
you can *not* tell them this, but run into contact difficulties as time
goes on. Ideally, if you can tell your current employer what you are
doing and get permission to make the odd contact here and there to ensure
your side-business' continuation, that works best. (I work with a graphic
designer who does exactly that: I keep my contact with him mostly in
email, respect his limitations in timelines and on the very rare
occasions I need to speak with him during business hours, I keep it brief
and to the point)
Always a good idea to work on your server admin skills now, before you're
thrown into it (This happened to me - it's not fun trying to figure out
how to configure and boot apache for the first time while 53 websites are
The sooner you can move to a dedicated host, the better, in my opinion,
simply because having root control over your site gives you a *ton* of
additional options that virtual and shared hosting most often do not.
(The biggest, I find, is module control for Apache) - If a dedicated
server costs $200 a month, as soon as you've got 20 clients willing to
pay $10 a month for hosting and support, go for it.
I do the same thing. (Often to my detriment - Turns out that a lot of
those five-minute freebies add into many hours of unbilled time in the
month) Customers love it, though, so it pays off in the long run.
Basically: Stick to your quotes: Honour them. If you badly mis-estimate a
project, get it done, eat the difference and remember the lessons for
next time. Figure out a decent incentive for referrals. Me, for example,
I offer 20% of the first invoice for any referred business. Some people
say "Nah, it's only a $100 project, don't bother with the referral" -
Bother with it - send them the cheque for $20. It shows you're serious
and you appreciate the business. (It also gets them thinking - wow, he
really did send me 20% on $100. Imagine if I sent him a $1000 project...)
Excellent! That's how the business evolves, by getting new people with
new ideas. Keep reading this newsgroup, along with the ones that relate
specifically to your programming languages of choice - Learn from those
with more knowledge than you and make sure you give thanks when you learn
something cool. (I only point that out because I recently received a
really nice thank-you email from a regular in comp.lang.perl.misc because
*I* said "thanks!" to the old-hands. Turns out that those who spend a lot
of time teaching the neophytes in the programming newsgroups don't get
enough thanks for the massive amounts of time given).
Hrm, speaking of which:
William Tasso, Charles Sweeney, Grey Wyvern, Tina (the AxisHost one,
formerly of that other host :), Els, Dylan Perry, John Bokma and Baho
Utot: Thanks for the invaluable information you've been passing on
through this group over the years. (And yes, I'm *finally* using CSS in
most of my work :)
Brucie: You're just damned funny :)
To anyone I forgot: You should have posted something in the last 24 hours
so my poor brain would have seen your name to remember :) :) :)
CGI / Database / Web Management Tools: http://www.internalysis.com
Looking for a new ISP? http://www.canadianisp.com
Re: Comments about web programming venture
Writing in news:alt.www.webmaster
From the safety of the http://groups.google.com cafeteria
How do you do?
friends or colleagues? friends won't stay friendly for long if you treat
them as unpaid slaves.
who decides the value? the customer? the designer? or you? May I be
so bold as to enquire how you know the details of financial transactions
don't bother - they won't care.
why just those? why not compatible with all browsers?
once again - they won't care, but in this at least, you will be able to
educate and sell.
There will always be a guy down the road who offers more/the-same for
less. Do you want to be responsible for a price war?
What's $69 dollars in an unambiguous currency code? specifically, does it
seem right for you?
Your prospects won't give a monkeys about your hourly rate - it may even
frighten them off. They will be buying a web-site and they will want to
pay for a web site. Honestly, they really wont care how long it takes you
so long as you meet the deadlines.
Trashing the competition (while providing fun and plenty finger pointing
opportunities) will win you no friends in business, and yes, it does
frighten the natives.
Sure - management of customers and their expectations is all part of the
Is that like the pizza 20 minutes guarantee - you'll give it for free if
you miss the deadline?
They won't (ok, one or two might) care what technologies you use.
That's a business decision for you to make - many stay with reseller
accounts, others wouldn't even consider setting up without a dedicated
server - and all points in between. Others, don't do more than introduce
hosts to customers (maybe for a consideration).
You seem dead set on this path. ok, try it this way - set up a comparison
site, keep it legal, play nice and by all means link to your own site, but
I'd advise you keep that stictly one way.
So far as I can see all you will achieve is free advertising for your
competitors, at best and possibly find yourself defending a law-suit if
you go overboard.
It is - there's plenty precedent.
remeber KISS - especially as you already have a 40h/week day job and your
employer has every right to expect you will be concentrating on the job in
Incidentally, if this venture takes you into competition with your current
employer then be prepared to be frog-marched from the building without
Re: Comments about web programming venture
<31 Aug 2005 05:56:35 -0700>
Its probably acceptable - but rather silly .
If your potential customers do see other options (and thats what you
would be giving them) theres always the chance the customer might see
some gimmicky trashy effect on another website and like it .
Re: Comments about web programming venture
Always pay for their work. Business is business. I've seen friendships
ruined over a "favor".
That's how I started 5 years ago.
Perceived value is more important than price. Those customers feel they
got their $1500 worth, so don't fight it.
It should be a great selling point, but in my experience, all of my
customers don't care that I hand code - they just want the site to look
good on their computer.
Bad idea. You'll just start a war that nobody will win. Rise above
that and gain business on the quality of your work, not the shoddiness
In the Chicago Market (my area), you're cheap. For South Dakota, you're
expensive. You charge what the market will bear. Price is only part of
the equation, perceived value is the other part.
Very rarely do they want it NOW. My contracts always give me a minimum
of 60 days, even if it's a simple 3 page site. That way when I deliver
that small site in 30 - 45 days, I look like a hero and I get a good
Don't guarantee anything, and if you need to, give it at least an extra
week or two beyond what you thought it would take. Once again, you look
like a hero for delivering early, but not TOO early. If you continually
deliver in 24-48 hours, your customer will expect that every time. What
if there's a death in the family, or some other emergency that comes up?
Don't lock in an unrealistic time frame, always pad it.
I'm with Page-zone, top notch all the way. Why give the hosting to
someone else? To me, it's all profit on top of the site design.
From a marketing perspective, by hosting you have the perfect excuse to
call them on a regular basis asking how they are doing, is the hosting
working out, can you do any updating for them - all customer service
issues. I have 3 customers that do a complete redesign at standard
pricing every year when I call about hosting renewal. Many of the
others are always adding a page or two, swapping a bunch of images, etc.
- all extra revenue just because I called to say "hi, I just wanted to
let you know that your hosting is due for renewal and I also wanted to
see if there was any updating you would like to do at this time".
Don't link! But I use the same comment about nickel and diming. If
they are a hosting customer and I make a quick text change, swap a
picture on a very occasional basis, I don't charge. If not a hosting
customer, they pay for my time in 15 minute increments at $100/hour.
It's an added benefit of letting me host the site.
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