growing up

For a long time, whenever I did something that I thought was interesting, I would write it in an article.

I don’t write as much as I used to. Not because what I’m doing is not interesting, but because it’s taking a lot longer now to complete the interesting jobs, now that they’re basically full projects and not just little snippets here and there.

As an example, we’re doing some interesting work over in the KV WebME project. The most recent is an upgrade to image galleries allowing the gallery layouts to be defined using templates, instead of saying “you want layout 1, or layout 2?”. This work is then also used in the products plugin to let people sell images in their online stores.

There are a number of bits in that project that deserve full posts themselves, but as I basically commissioned the piece and got others to do the work, it’s no longer mine to describe. For me, the cool little tricks are now just a smaller part of a bigger picture.

The bigger picture right now is 20eu.com, where you can create your own online store within literally minutes for only €20 (compare that to the “free” getting business online project, which doesn’t have an e-commerce aspect).

It’s now harder for me to write about, because there are no longer single cool aspects that I can point to that can be re-used by other people.

I was walking to work today with Conor (an employee), discussing stuff along these lines, and these points stood out:

  • In the beginning, I was a programmer, and every task had something new to me but nothing I could write about that would interest experienced programmers.
  • After a few years, I was a good programmer, and I did less tasks, but they were larger, and there were often aspects to them that were brand new, so I ended up being one of the first to build them (it helps that my field is Ajax, which is basically new-born).
  • And now, I’m tired of being just a programmer and have started branching into managing other programmers. I’m more interested now in getting full projects done than in the nitty-gritty.

Unfortunately, this means there is less to talk about that is even vaguely techie. I feel like I’m shifting focus into marketing and project management.

Ick!

On the plus side (for me), it means that eventually, I’ll have enough resources that I can get the projects done that I’ve always wanted to do.

So, I plan on starting to write about the business end of my work.

Don’t worry – I’ll categorise it correctly, so if you’re only interested in my PHP or Linux posts, then just change your reader settings to only read from those RSS feeds.

What I’ve been up to

Being self-employed is hard work!

Naive person that I am, I thought it would be easy enough – I get to work on my own ideas all day long, occasionally selling something to customers who are happy every time.

Of course, that’s not true.

I spend a lot of my time working on jobs for my previous employer, and some other clients that have known me for years. The large pool of new clients that I expected would magically appear, never magically appeared.

Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Being out on my own has taught me quite a lot, and in a very short time.

  • Cash is king – there’s no point having a huge job which may potentially pay you thousands of euro in two months, when you need the money right now to go buy food for the house.
  • Advertising is not easy! I hate to pester, so advertising is not a natural thing for me, but it’s tricky to get new people to come in and buy from me if they don’t know where I am. Especially if they don’t know whether to trust my work! Conveying trust in ads is not a very easy thing to do.
  • Word-of-mouth is a brilliant thing. It is much easier to sell to someone if they’ve already been half-sold by their friends.
  • Low prices don’t always pull people in. Even though I charge about a fifth of other local web designers, I think I must also be getting only a fifth of the customers 😉
  • Salary is a wonderful thing, when it’s someone else’s job to make sure it gets paid.

Of course, there are also the upsides.

I get to work on my own projects without worrying that they my conflict with the company’s plans. Basically, I am the company, so anything I want to work on is the company plan.

To that end, I’ve created 20eurowebsites.com, a site-creator which is built on my kvWebME CMS (open source, PHP – download it yourself if you’re techie!). €20 to buy a website (including the domain name), and €10 per month hosting after that.

I have other plans in the works as well, such as a local odd-jobs finder which has a pretty good twist, and a free face-book-like chat application which people will be able to add to their own websites with just a few keystrokes.