January 1st 2013 marked our 5th Anniversary – wow, that was quick. As I think back to the day I “took the leap” to leave a perfectly good job for the world of self-employment I’m filled with awe and gratitude to those who leapt with me. Here are some of the reasons I think some of those early clients were willing to give me a shot.
Treat People Well. When I consider how we’ve secured work over these past five years, one pattern has been consistent: each contract came directly or indirectly through an ex-colleague. These were peers, managers, clients or subordinates that I had worked with at some point in my software development career. I could have treated them poorly or indifferently (and in some cases probably did), thinking they were of no professional benefit to me. However, you never know when that trainee beside you might become your boss or client down the road. Besides, it just makes work more enjoyable for everyone when you check your ego at the door.
Overdeliver. To stick with you, clients need to feel they’re getting value. Most of us make small decisions all day long that impact our client’s perception. Should I wrap up at 5:00 sharp or stick around a little late to finish this task? Should I bill for that 5-minute phone call? Should I include that extra feature or ask for more money first? I’m not suggesting it’s good business to give away the farm, but be sure to take lots of opportunities to let the client know their business is appreciated.
Don’t Panic. As a consultant, there are many opportunities to worry. When will the next contract come in? How am I going to meet those deadlines? etc. etc. These are the times that separate the men from the boys. If business is consistently bad, you may have to change a few things, but otherwise – be patient. If you’ve done your homework and there’s a market out there for your product or service, enjoy the break. The long days and deadlines are probably just around the corner.
There are tons of other lessons I’ve learned in these first five years and I hope to blog on some of them over the next few months. But these three tips came to mind as non-negotiable. Hopefully they’ll save you a little pain if and when you decide to take the leap.