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How did you get started?

This question is mainly for people like Bored Bystander and Jonathan who are small companies not running through leeches^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hagencies. I'm curious as to how you took the first step and got your first clients. Care to share?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

They don't use ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H, they use ^W, that's how.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

what is ^H^H^ I've seen it and it looks stupid

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

^H is a backspace, the original poster made a joke :-)

Didnt you ever use a broken UNIX shell configuration and tried backspacing? :-)

Waiting for "How did you get started"
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The first work I had as a self employed/small business came from a call I took at Tandon where I was working at the time and just about to leave.  They needed a driver written for Data Pacs on Qnix.  It wasn't something Tandon was likely to do and it was coincidental that I was already about to leave.

Other than that a lot of work came from dealers I'd known either at Tandon or Apricot.

Then later after my stint at DRI and then going back to being self employed, my work at Pegasus meant I knew a lot of their dealer network and work still comes along now and then to do with that.

The great majority of the work comes either from people I've known for ten years or more, or from word of mouth, occasionally it comes out of something online.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I started through an agency (also called "pimps" in the US).  This gave me a record and I began to make contracts with companies.  After a while I went out on my own.  Here are some random thoughts from my experience.  YMMV.

- Sales - If you cannot talk about the value you bring, you need a pimp.  Some people are very bad at selling themselves or services.  This is your lifeblood.  If you want to avoid a pimp, hire a sales rep.
- Liability insurance ( ~$1,000/year for $1,000,000).  Companies are asking for this more and more as a check to ensure you have the money to finish a job and to hold them harmless if you screw up.  Mostly, I believe this is used by the bigger companies as FUD to keep the small guys out.
- Incorporation - In the past you could be a Sole Proprietor, but the MS PermaTemp thing screwed that up completely.  Under the current interpretation of the law, you cannot be a sole proprietor and work full time for another company. [You can get away without this, but it will take a lawyer to setup the contract in such a way to protect the company and most company legal people don't want the risk]
- You are a guest.  _Never_ make the mistake of behaving like an employee.  You have no opinion on management, salary, bonus, the future of the company, past, present or future decisions outside your scope.  Trash talking a manager or employee is a quick way to get the boot.  All an employee need do is report bad behavior to HR and most managers will have to let you go.
- Don't micro manage time.    At AT&T they used to record time in 6 minute intervals.  If you monitor every minute, so will a client.  If you put in a full day at their office, bill them a straight 8.    This way you don't get your time micromanaged.  (i.e. Is he billing me for the 10 minutes he was on the phone with his spouse?)
  - Don't be a lemming  - If you see something bad (or good)make a comment, plead your case, and live by the decision of the manager.  If the rule against you and you end up being right, work to fix it and never do "I told you so."
-  If you say Tuesday, it better be there Tuesday.  You do not have the option to be late.  It was your estimate and you said it would be ready.  If that means two weeks of all nighters, you will smarter next time.  If you say Friday and they pressure you into Tuesday.  You still cannot be late. 
- Take on the crap jobs.  Everyplace has jobs no one wants.  Reloads at 3 a.m., systems that are left to die, etc.  Take them on.  In no time, you are protected because no one wants to take that stuff back.
** Stay current. -- All the above keep you in your current position.  This gets you the next one.  If you think the future is C# learn it. (Yes, you will be wrong sometimes).  This helps in two situations - a company you are at wants to move forward (Look mom! I can do both!) or the company you are at needs to axe. In which case you are not the RPG gal trying to find a contract.
** Stay positive -- Always be positive.  It can be done.  Even if it is about getting axed.  Past clients are also future ones.  Even when they axe you, ask if they know someone in the company that may be able to use you.  [I was saved twice this way.]

Good luck.

Mike Gamerland
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

When I first jumped ship from the last company I didn't have ownership in, I left with 2 other consultants. We were tired of being paid $30K/year and being billed out at $80 an hour. :-)

We left over the course of several months. James, the first of us, left first because he had some $. I wrote a simple fax-blast program and we bought a fax list off the shelf of most of the companies in Vancouver. We sent out 1000 faxes a month, every month, with a different ad each time. We got some irate calls, but also managed to score some pretty sweet accounts. We did it all back then - custom software, networking, web "design". Once we had enough business to support another person, they left, and then again when we could support all three of us.

It took about 6 or 7 months to get us all on board, but we worked really well together and made some size dough. After a couple of years we all went our separate ways, but we had a blast while we did it.

Tim Sullivan
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Simon - That's pretty much what I thought, kind of already having contacts and therefore knowing who to talk to and so on. My problem is that when a company starts to act like a c**t I tend to push off because life is too short, IMO, to put up with it. That means my list of contacts is pretty small and those I do know are in companies who have a "no contractors/outsiders" rule.

Mike - no problem with selling myself - I think ever since leaving Uni 10 or so years ago, if I have gone for an interview I have always had the job offered to me; I guess either I have "l337" software skills or I just present a good "face", and as much as I would like to think I am the greatest s/ware developer in the world I know that I am not so have to assume it is the latter - my problem is getting into situations where I can give them all my flannel, particularly in this market. Part of this is probably because I used to do sales for a living, but never had to cold call, I always worked in a situation where the customer came to me first.

Tim - faxing is an interesting idea, but I'd rather not get known as a spammer :-) Is that option even still legal, by the way?

Thanks, anyway. Kind of interesting, that's three different approaches from the first three serious answers.

The "hire a salesman" advice is interesting and not something I had considered (to start out). I wonder whether that is best suited to a situation where there are three or four of you, though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

In Canada it isn't (or wasn't) illegal, so I didn't have a problem.

Nowadays, we probably would have just cold called.

Tim Sullivan
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

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