Contributions by Rachel Andrew
Our industry is remarkable for how many of us do unpaid labor—sometimes for exposure, other times to give back to the profession and help our peers. We’re all grateful for the free software, learning, and support made possible by this generosity. But in coming to depend in it, we can’t forget that people need time to pay the bills and assure a secure future for themselves and their families.
Chance can play such a vital part in your career. You may be unexpectedly exposed to technology that becomes central to how you make a living. People you meet who seem to have nothing to do with your work, or who were potential clients or colleagues that didn’t pan out, can end up connecting you to someone who turns out to be central to the next phase of your career.
If you only interact with users when they need support or have a feature request, you’re only interacting with the minority of your customers. The ones who don’t reach out to you may be creating their own workarounds to a problem you’d love to hear about, or they may have a use case that would lead to a brilliant feature. Are you guilty of the same developer shyness? Do you build things to enhance a tool or service for your own use, and assume the developer is too busy to want to hear about it? Don’t wait until there’s a need for support: ask your happy customers what they do with your product, and tell developers how you’re using their product.
There’s merit to keeping your small business nimble by keeping process to a minimum. But even in the tiniest one- or two-person operation, it’s plain that not all business tasks are improved by being hand-crafted. Rachel Andrew powers through business routines with checklists that free her mind for more compelling things. Remove friction from the rote tasks, so you can be at your best for the creative work that can only be done you.
Routine software audits sound like just about the most boring thing in the world. But losing access to a DNS server, missing important alerts from a developer, or paying for a forgotten service are adventures nobody needs. Often, a contractor or an employee sets up an account or buys software for company use. When that person moves to another role, important license or login information can get lost in the shuffle. Rachel Andrew wants you to love the drab old software audit. It’s your best ally for preventing nasty surprises.
Being your own boss is awesome. You’re the sovereign of your fate—and with that autonomy comes responsibility for making your business thrive. Your time management skills are more important than ever as you continue to get your to-dos checked off. The thing is… if you get an unexpected call from a friend, can you get away from that tyrannical boss of yours to do something unplanned? Are you able to schedule time with friends or family without feeling that you’re falling behind on work? If you can’t afford to take time to strengthen your connections with others, you’re at risk of being the monarch (and the serf) of an impoverished kingdom, indeed.
Partners in a small, close leadership team—such as in a family business—often know each other’s minds very well, and agree on most things. That’s great to keep things running smoothly (though sometimes there’s awkwardness when business disagreements intrude on home life). On the other hand, it can also lead to stagnation. Rachel Andrew is finding that an outsider’s perspective can help when partners can’t quite see eye to eye—or when they agree too much.
Long ago, a company had to grow to a certain size before it could embark on international trade. With digital goods, that’s no longer so. Learning all the applicable laws and taxes can be daunting, but that’s what allows the small business owner to stay independent as an exporter.
A perusal of the article titles in the seasonal magazine 24 ways shows how the things we’ve needed to learn and keep up with have changed since 2005. Amid all this change, one thing that remains evergreen is the generosity of web people in sharing their knowledge.
You’re proud of your product, and welcome user suggestions on making it even better. Will you be able to make everyone happy? Should you even aim to accommodate them all? Before you start coding, think about how to prioritize feature requests, and even say no to some.
When we’re physically together, even in public, glances and side conversations help us understand what’s going on below the public personas others wear. But when we’re interacting with friends mainly online, it takes a little more effort to see behind their highlight reels to get the full story.
Was that conference worth it? There were smart tips and awesome people. Should you buy a ticket this year? For a freelancer or small business, it can be a significant expense. Wouldn’t it be great to know if the investment in time and money is likely to move the business forward?
Great ongoing business relationships are good for both sides. But often developers aren’t in tune with their client’s day-to-day business needs and where their work fits in. And clients’ focus on immediate practicalities can make the developer’s work stressful and unsatisfying. Well, what better way to learn about the needs of the other than by becoming the other?
We tend to forget that the boots-on-the ground web generalists who do great work for small businesses can’t spare the time to implement an entire suite of best practices when they’re trying to solve one sticky problem on a tight deadline.
What’s holding you back from finishing that side project? It’s valuable, but how will you ever find time for it? The secret is…drumroll…real goals and deadlines, and a realistic plan on how to fit it into the open spaces in your schedule. Time to get it on your to-do list and feel the motivation kick in.
You’re never too young and healthy to make sure you can keep income coming in if sudden misfortune strikes. Often our livelihood depends on our physical abilities—such as typing code. Having a product as a side project can offer security if your daily work is disrupted by illness or injury.
The social events surrounding conferences are an integral part of the experience—and they mostly involve getting together over drinks. But as the industry becomes more inclusive, we gain more people for whom drinking isn’t a good option. It's time to add more ways to party and meet up that give us a chance to network with all of our peers—and maybe even leave us feeling up for that second-day morning workshop.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing—I can now see that many of the difficulties we experienced as a service business could have been avoided with a different pricing model. Yet what was ultimately one of our biggest mistakes gave us experiences we could draw on when deciding on a pricing model for our product.
The idea that everyone should get time off away from their business, perhaps even completely disconnected from the internet, is a pervasive one.
A local shop is part of an ecosystem — here in England we call it the High Street. The owner of a local shop generally has no ambition to become a Tesco or WalMart. She’d rather experience steady growth, building relationships with customers who value what she brings to the community.
In any given day I can find myself reading up on a new W3C proposal, fixing an issue with our tax return, coding an add-on for our product, writing a conference presentation, building a server, creating a video tutorial, and doing front end development for one of our sites. Without clients dictating my workload I’m in the enviable position of being able to choose where to focus my efforts. However, I can’t physically do everything.