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Someone please correct me if I am wrong but I believe it is against Fool policy to self promote your business like that.

FWIW, a friend and I are taking a stab at starting a side biz since we are both in programming jobs and have done quite a lot with web technologies.

dt
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it's against policy if it's blatant self-promo and it's spammed across boards.
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is including a link "blatant self-promo"?

just asking, trying to understand the policy.

sorry if i offended in any way. just wanted to find some Birds Of A Feather. i hardly think The Fool is a great place for looking for prospects.

i was more interested in comparing notes with folks on their experiences running businesses, costs, and such. is Fool inappropriate for those kinds of discussions?

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Hey Jan,

is including a link "blatant self-promo"?

Well, the way you posted this subject, it could easily be seen as self-promotion. That is against TMF's TOS. We are not allowed to promote our businesses here on the boards.

I am a hardware & software reseller. If someone posts on a board looking to purchase hardware, I can e-mail them offline and ask if they're interested in my recommendations for hardware that I sell. However, I can not post any recs/links/whatever on the forums that might promote my business. And, if the person I e-mailed offline tells me they don't wish to pursue this any further, I must abide by their request and not promote my business any further or TMF can remove my account for violating their TOS. (TMF informed me of this years ago.)

just asking, trying to understand the policy.

Understandable. Try reading;

http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=community03

sorry if i offended in any way. just wanted to find some Birds Of A Feather. i hardly think The Fool is a great place for looking for prospects.

Well, it happens occasionally that someone asks for recs for hardware, software, Webmaster's, whatever...plenty of chances for us to self-promote if it were allowed. We do compare the services we offer our customers and ask about "better" ways to aquire new customers, but we do not openly recruit new customers on TMF because of the TOS.

The Website Design and Webmaster's Corner;

http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?bid=115200

are great boards for learning new techniques for acquiring new web site customers and new technology for running/creating/maintaining our web sites. IIRC, there is also a "Small Business Owners" board on TMF that the posters discusses "Small Business Related Issues", etc, so it's not like we can't discuss business related issues on TMF...we just can't self-promote.

i was more interested in comparing notes with folks on their experiences running businesses, costs, and such. is Fool inappropriate for those kinds of discussions?

No, it's not inappropriate to compare notes and discuss business related topics, you just have to think about the context used so that you're abiding by TMF's TOS.

I think you'll find that most people here at TMF are more than willing to help people with any subject mentioned. I help people with Disability, BBQ, Computer, and Sexual Issues throughout TMF, so no subject is taboo, just don't self-promote your business. That's easy enough.

HTH

ßillƒ

P.S. The "Help" link can assist you with many TMF rules, functions, and Advanced Features;

http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=community01

http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=community02

http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=community02#Styling

http://www.fool.com/help/index.htm?display=community04

HTH

ßillƒ
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ZLeg,

sorry if i offended in any way. just wanted to find some Birds Of A Feather. i hardly think The Fool is a great place for looking for prospects.

The only reason I mentioned it was so you were aware and did not get dinged by the Fool for promoting your business. Bill covered the topic quite nicely so I have nothing more to add that would be of any value.

i was more interested in comparing notes with folks on their experiences running businesses, costs, and such. is Fool inappropriate for those kinds of discussions?

Not at all. As I had mentioned, a friend and I are trying to get something going on the side. I have been involved in web-related design and programming since the mid-90's. It started while in college and I was messing with HTML and basic web pages. That evolved into working for the university while still in school and developing the Intranet.

After I graduated, I have primarily worked for firms developing web-based applications. This friend of mine began taking an interest in it as well and had a contact that was looking for a site. We decided to work on the site together and that led to the formation of our business.

To this point, we have not promoted our business at all and have only done a handful of projects. We have a few things in the works but all of our leads have come from our personal networks at this point. Our costs have been the cost of hosting and the domain name. Other than that, the only cost has been our time, which certainly has a value but we have not calculated that out as a cost.

Is there anything in particular that you would like to discuss?

dt
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Is there anything in particular that you would like to discuss?

yeah, dt. thanks.

i'm trying to figure out pricing. i have done it in terms of hours, and have had clients won and lost because of it. but hours don't really reflect a long term effort level. it's a bit like doing software only moreso.

what i mean is that there's clearly some reuse of technique and code possible. sure, there are going to be changes, most cosmetic, some not. and there will be changes because of the latest security announcements and such. but i don't really know how to set a good rate for the long term here.

also, sometimes it pays to learn a new technique for a client, both for them and also because that might be something new clients might be interested in. Bittorrent or streaming media in PHP, for example. it's not entirely fair to assess them for it -- not to mention their balking at it -- but the alternative is never to offer such a thing until it gets "paid" for. that doesn't seem like the right way to go.

i have always tried to be open and honest with my prices and provide my clients with good value. i am also willing to be more transparent about how i price than many Web developers are. (i worked for an active full-time shop for a couple of years prior and during The Bubble.) but then i see prices offered for Web sites which are ridiculously low, even if the whole thing is being done in India or some place, and i'm wondering what's going on. do the developers just hook the client and then string 'em out, getting money as they go? how do they do that low-ball price without even seeing a specification? are these not genuine developers at all but jerks masquerading as developers just there to spoil the party?

what are your experiences here?

in other businesses, as far as i can tell, the means of setting prices is knowing who you are, who you want to be, who your customers are, and then knowing your established competition and their customers, and setting your price as an offset from theirs. this is a bit tougher in software and Web development, although i have amassed a bunch of research collecting exactly that kind of information.
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what are your experiences here?

Well, I am probably not the best person to be answering this because my company is quite new and has only done a few sites to date.

When we have a prospective customer, we like to try and meet with them to offer a free consultation. This gives us a chance to determine what their needs are and what they are hoping to have a website provide for their business. Once we have an idea of their needs, we then have two routes that we can take:

1. We have a few pre-defined packages that will encompass what many people are looking for in a basic website. If we feel that one of these packages will meet the needs of the client, we suggest this approach. Within our pre-defined packages, we have a breakdown of what is included and a disclaimer that anything outside the scope of that package will be billed at an hourly rate.

2. We can provide a detailed estimate for design and development. The detailed estimate is broken down to a granular level to indicate total time and cost per piece of functionality. This allows the client to either accept the entire proposal or to adjust it according to their budget.

As for hard numbers, we decided to go with what we felt was a fair number for our services. While we are in this to make money, we are approaching this as a side business so we may not need to be as high as someone doing this for their only wages. But at the same time we haven't gone so low that people wonder why our prices are so low. I think we are quite competitive.

A local company that I am familiar with just recently had their corporate site redesigned. The firm that they had selected to do the site seemed grossly overpriced to me and the timeline seemed quite lengthy in my opinion for what they were getting. For reference, this firm basically charged $1000 per page which included redesign of the entire site and all new code. I almost choked when I was told how much they were paying to have their site redesigned.

When you indicate that you have done pricing in terms of hours, do you provide a breakdown? Also, do you charge various hourly rates for different technologies? We have a tiered rate structure where basic skills are charged at a lower rate than more advanced programming.

Another area we have a few options is for maintenance contracts. We basically took the same approach where we have a few pre-defined packages that include specific maintenance features and anything in excess of that is charged per hour, or the client can simply pay on-demand at an hourly rate.

What approach have you taken to winning new business? Do you advertise anywhere? How effective do you think that has been? To this point, we have not spent a dime promoting our business and have only followed leads from within our network. But that is not leading to a whole lot of business so we have thought of exploring other avenues.

dt
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$1000 per page

pardon me while i recover from my faint....
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pardon me while i recover from my faint....

No kidding! If only we could all find clients like that!

dt
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Hey ZLegLogos,

also, sometimes it pays to learn a new technique for a client, both for them and also because that might be something new clients might be interested in. Bittorrent or streaming media in PHP, for example. it's not entirely fair to assess them for it -- not to mention their balking at it -- but the alternative is never to offer such a thing until it gets "paid" for. that doesn't seem like the right way to go.

I think you'll find most of the Webmaster's here feel the same way. They'll learn and implement a new technology for their customers, but will bill them based on the normal amount of time they'd spend with a similar Technology they already know. They don't feel the customer should pay for their learning experiences unless it's something they're positive they'll never use/do again.

ßillƒ
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A lot can be said for charging $1000 per page.

I do not do site layouts, but I have done a substantial amount of contract programming doing back-end web work. I am extremely careful to make it completely known in the contract _exactly_ the work I'm going to do and when it'll be done. Literally, it steps through the operation of the web site in very fine detail that says what each page and form submission is going to do along with the components. These things are a lifesaver.

I can't tell you how many times I've had customers want a major change to the site before it goes live and expect me to do it for the contract price. They can't understand why I charge an hourly rate for these changes.



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I can't tell you how many times I've had customers want a major change to the site before it goes live and expect me to do it for the contract price. They can't understand why I charge an hourly rate for these changes.

Exactly, that is why I feel the detailed contracts and estimates are essential. Otherwise there will be a large amount of scope creep and then the client will be complaining about the increased cost. It is best to make sure the client understands all of this before any work has begun.

Also, whenever a change is requested, it is usually a polite reminder to inform the client of the additional expense associated with such a change to verify that they do in fact want that change made.

dt
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oh yeah. almost, "of course".

i always work from a detailed contract. the fuzziness begins when the contract starts deviating from reality. these are things like the hosting service having a capability or policy different than expected. for instance, they might not allow any script to do LOAD DATA (non-LOCAL) which we might be intending to use for restoring from a backup. this requires us to write our own. no big, but still a change from contract.

normally, you'd pencil in how things are changing. however, most of my clients are small business folk like me and don't want to be tracking legalities each and every day.

in these situations we remain in constant touch. nevertheless, because contract isn't up to date, there is an exposure.

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yah...that's quite insane. talk about charging what the market will bear...
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