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Independent Contracting Startup questions

My plan is to start a small company so that I can:
- Pay the bills
- Build a (software) product
- Create a customer base that I can eventually sell the product to.  The product is marketable to 99.999% of companies so I don't need to target specific markets for the consulting.


* How do you find part-time or after-hours contracting projects/jobs?

Word of mouth is great and cheap, which is good when funds are tight.  I'm more interested in the small business market.  What marketing tactics work? Direct Mail?  Cold calling?

One issue that I have is that I already/still work for a consulting firm in the area.  Which means that I can't target their existing clients.  That isn't a big deal at the moment since their clients are medium-large sized businesses.  I don't have any non-compete clause issues, so that isn't a problem.  I'd like to ramp business up so that I can consult/develop-a-product full-time and grow the business.  Any suggestions?

GG
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

A few reality checks:

Your target market is OK but you should know that small businesses generally aren't high tech oriented, and they're usually cheap and/or poor. They're not thinking "great! CRM is a solution!", they're instead trying to get a copy of Quickbooks installed on their computer.


The greatest need in most small businesses are probably IT support solutions such as outsourcing their system and network setup and installation of their software, rather than extended programming or network administration gigs. Most small businesses will prefer COTS products to any custom developed stuff wherever possible.


This is probably the poorest market (timing wise) imaginable to attempt to start such a business. You'd think that companies would prefer non commital outsourcing in such an uncertain economy, but most companies that need this stuff done want a wage slave they can push around. They'd rather hire someone who is cheap at high dollars/year rather than pay someone occasionally who really knows their stuff. Not sensible but it's the way it is.


You also have a great challenge in working around your present employment. Regardless of the low chance of competing against your employer, what if they hear about your moonlighting? A lot of employers have the mentality that it's like a "marriage" and taking on any similar outside work at the same time is "cheating" on them; and/or they will ask themselves and you why you have the spare time to spend on outside employment.


The "part time" nature of what you're seeking is also dubious. Most off site work is developmental in nature, and small businesses are allergic to custom development. So the role you'd find most  marketable to SOHO customers (namely support functions) would require you to be in their offices when your clients were open, which means you'd have an automatic conflict with your present employment. AND you can't guarantee response time to your side clients because you're already employed.


Developing a product on your own doesn't really require any extra funds, and trust me, consulting as a free lancer is NOT a stable career choice. In this economy, you'd truly be best off protecting your primary job and working on your product in your spare hours.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

GG,

<snip>
Word of mouth is great and cheap, which is good when funds are tight.  I'm more interested in the small business market.  What marketing tactics work? Direct Mail?  Cold calling?
</snip>

I feel that there is only one way to market to small businesses: networking.  Its ugly work and takes time, but it pays the greatest dividends.

After having done this for 6 years, I have discovered that most small business owners run their businesses just like I run mine: word of mouth.  When I need an accountant, I ask my lawyer.  When I need a painter, I ask my real-estate broker.  And so on ...

For myself, the direct mailing has been a mild failure and cold calling has been even more futile.

I advertise myself to the 'small business' market in two ways: local business groups and service organizations. 

Great contacts will make your business.  Go out and find them.

CRM
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Oh ... couple of other notes:

* Finding small jobs on the internet is risky, I would suggest avoiding that as a tactic.

* Local placement agencies CAN be great.  I had a fantastic contact who was a headhunter and he would refer all his smaller jobs to me.  This was maybe a fortunate stroke of dumb luck for me, an isolated incident perhaps, but I thought I'd suggest it nonetheless.

CRM
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

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