A new business model
Nov 01, 2007

When I first decided to start my own business, my idea was basically to offer IT services for Mac using individuals and companies. Previously I had been working in IT at an all Mac corporation, so I definitley have the skill set to do this. The problem with that idea turned out to basically be one of supply and demand: there's quite a lot of competition in the field, and as a newcomer without much of a background it was hard to distinguish myself and actually land jobs. During the past 18 months or so that I've been doing this I've gotten some work doing IT, but not really all that much. Instead I found myself filling the gaps by doing web development. For whatever reason, it appears that I'm much better at selling myself as a web developer than I am at selling myself as an IT consultant. So I've found myself doing mostly web development with IT work pretty much being something I do on the side. So in the past month I've made the decision to change my business focus. Instead of dy/dx tech being a Mac IT business that also does some web development work, it is now a web development business. I've even let my membership in the Apple Consultants Network lapse, as the main benefit I derived from it was the great prices for software which I've now already got. There are a number of benefits for me making this switch. The first is that I'll now be able to focus all my energy on finding web development work rather than it being a secondary focus. Since even as a secondary focus, web development was much more successful than IT, I think this will really pay off. The other benefit is that it will be easier to distinguish myself from the competition. I have a number of web site projects that I'm working on right now, and that I've worked on in the past that I can put my name on. Having that lets me put together a nice pretty portfolio of work, something that IT work just isn't as good for. I'm currently working on putting together a portfolio application in Django to add to my website. This will increase the ability of my website to sell my services, and also serve as visual evidence of my businesses growth and therefore as a rought metric for the quality of my services. I'm waiting to finish up a few of the bigger projects that I'm currently working on before going live with online portfolio. I will still, however, be doing some Mac IT work. But now I'll be doing it under the In Home Mac brand. In Home Mac is a company started by Matt Moglia, a good friend of mine from High School. He started doing the Mac IT thing for himself in the Bay Area at about the same time I started doing it in Boston. He's apparently much better than I am at marketing those services, and has now built up his company to the point where he's got multiple techs working for him in different areas. I'm now the In Home Mac tech for the Boston area. The main advantage of this for me is that I no longer have to worry about advertising those services. All the advertising and such wil be taken care of for me, so I just have to take care of the work when it comes in. This is just about a perfect arrangement for me as I can focus on selling the services that I'm actually good at selling and still have work to do with the services I'm good at but can't sell well. I'm pretty confident that this change will, in the next several months, lead to me bringing in a lot more busines than I have been. Especially as I've already got a pretty good business model for the web development side of things. It's pretty rare to find people who are both good designers and good programers. This makes a lot of sense when you think about it, but what most people don't realize is that both skill sets are necessary for functional websites. In general, I've found that web designers tend to do the designing and then either muddle through with what little programming skills they have or get a friend or relative who knows more programming than them to do it on the side. This works for a while but tends not to be a very scalable model for a number of reasons. First, someone who's doing web development on the side can often make time to get one project done, but they just can't do it for project after project because they have other things to worry about. Second, it's usually not reasonable for that person to quit their day job and do web development full time because a single web designer or small web design firm isn't likely to generate enough work to justify a full time developer. So I have an advantage here. I have as much time as I need to dedicate to web development. On top of that, I have enough time to fine more web designers to partner with. The more designers I work with, the more steady the work coming in will be. Currently I'm working with two different small design firms which brings in decently steady work, and I'm always on the lookout for more designers and small design firms that might be interested in hiring me to do their development. This basically ends up being win-win for everyone as several different designers get to have a developer without needing to hire one full time, and I get to work full time as a developer without having to sell my soul to a big company. My eventual plan now is to partner with enough designers and design firms that I can't actually handle all the work myself. At that point I can bring in more developers in the same way that Matt has brought in more Mac techs and my business can really start to grow not only in size and revenue, but in the variety and quality of the services that I can offer. There's only so much I can do myself, but when I start bringing in more people I'll be able to add their unique skills to the services I can offer and I'll be able to delegate work out in a logical way to improve the workflow, efficiency, and quality. I'm not quite to the point of needing to do that yet, but I think I'm on track to get there. And I've already got a few other people in mind to bring into the dy/dx tech web design fold including an SEO specialist and another general developer who's good with Ruby on Rails.
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