Are Web Designers the new Tax Inspectors?

Having been a professional software developer for around 25 years I recently struck out on my own and started a small web design company. As a fairly new start-up I have been fortunate in that the local council run some extremely good free workshops to support new business.

In the last 4 months I must have attended 7 or 8 of these workshops ranging from how to write a business plan to the most recent on website SEO, I must point out that so far every single workshop has been well worth attending and I have learned a lot, however, on 2 of the workshops I have come away feeling like I am the local tax inspector come to check the accounts.

The first was a business workshop and didn’t have anything to do with websites but during and after the workshop the presenter made a valid point that no one these days has to pay for a website there are plenty of “free” websites available in the form of templates, free sites when purchasing hosting and free websites with adverts, however, over and over he stressed that web designers simply want to charge for something that anyone with a little knowledge could well do themselves at little or no cost, and to be honest he is right to a point any fool can drag and drop a fairly reasonable site together. The second workshop presenter was teaching SEO and what could be done by the average site owner who has access to the CMS it was a worthwhile extremely informative workshop and I learned a lot then we got into the “Why pay some guy to do what you could easily do given time” discussion and once again I fully agree, there is no way I can hide it in fact I wouldn’t try. I charge for websites and SEO both of which a business could do themselves certainly cheaper and possibly at no cost other than time and effort.

Now to the reason for the rant and the reasons I charge for my time and effort:-

Why I feel I add value to a small business are as follows:-

  • Most people are capable of dragging and dropping a website together but to be honest I make a better job of it.
  • Most business owners are too busy doing what they do best to build their business and simply don’t have time to build a website or perform SEO – This is where I spend the long hours on doing what I do
  • What sort of an image does a new company trying to build a reputation and build trust give to other businesses when the site has “provided free by SkiddlyDo” at the foot of the site and adverts for hemorrhoid cream popping up over what I am trying to read
  • How many businesses will cobble a free site together, make a reasonable job of it then not touch it again for 5 years complaining all the time that it does nothing for the business and doesn’t get any visitors.

What finally added the icing to the cake was a “Networker” I bumped into at a local meeting, we were sat doing the obligatory one-to-one, I told him I was a web designer, did SEO social media and other internet related stuff to which he replied “why would anyone pay you to do that it’s all free” so I explained that I could possibly make a better job of it and at worst I could free the business owner up so that they could concentrate on their business, “what do you do?” I asked “I am a life coach, I speak to people and make them feel better as well as telling them all what they are doing wrong with their life and helping them” mmm, “and do you get paid for that?” I asked unfortunately I didn’t hear the reply he got up and wandered off not sure but I don’t see him having any future one-to-one sessions with me.

Just a few examples I could buy the parts from a local shop and replace the brakes on my car but I choose not to because the mechanic is far better at it than me, I could pull my own teeth but I prefer the dentist to do it I am a bit squeamish that way, I can advise myself on how to invest what little money I have, I could build my own house, garage or extension I might even get some wire and make myself an electric blanket for winter but I choose not to the point I am trying to make is that all things can be cheaper or sometimes free, I can’t think of a single business that with time, effort or trial and error I couldn’t do myself if I really wanted to or had the time to do so but I choose not to, why, because if its not my area of expertise there is probably someone who would make a better job of it.

And as a final footnote the “Why would you pay someone to do SEO? ” workshop presenter who I might add was extremely good and certainly knew his stuff and to top it all seemed a really nice guy he runs a large and very successful Web Design and SEO company when he isn’t teaching.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At Activ Web Design (Yorkshire) we have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more information please visit http://www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 01482 861875
Mob: 07850 009750

Email: info@activwebdesignhull.co.uk
Website: www.activwebdesignhull.co.uk/
Twitter: @activBeverley

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old Chinese proverb).

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Top 5 Start-Up Questions

  1. What Kind of person makes a successful entrepreneur
    If you take a cross section of successful entrepreneurs you will see certain characteristics they have in common, whilst not a guarantee to success it is worth asking yourself if you have any of these attributes.
  • A strong desire to work for themselves and do things their way
  • A history of making good decisions
  • An ability to see the whole picture of where the business is and where it needs to be
  • A high energy level for the inevitable long hours
  • A thorough knowledge of the area that the business is positioned in
  • Ability to persevere when things become more challenging

Whilst it is not essential to tick all the boxes straight away, more crosses than ticks would certainly highlight a cause for concern; however, it may be that further training or investigation would go some way to turning crosses into ticks.

  1. Should I have a business plan?
    A business plan is necessary because it not only summarises both your vision of the future but gives a roadmap to follow towards ensuring your success.

The plan should include (but not limited to) initial start-up details, future direction, who is who, and projected profit and loss, cash flows and assets, the plan should include as a minimum:

  • A table of contents
  • A page identifying the company
  • An ‘Executive Page’ giving an overview of who you are, where you are and where you intend to be.
  • The background of where you and the business came from and skills possessed.
  • A Marketing plan summarising how you will promote your business and products
  • Financial forecasts and statements showing expected performance
  1. How do I estimate start-up costs and expenses?
    You need to know up front what your start-up expenses are going to be, without that information you have no way of knowing how much capital you need to get the business off the ground and running even if you are intending to be self financing you need to know whether you are going to hit cash flow problems. You need to find the costs of business premises (unless you are working from home) , rent, rates, telephones etc.
  1. Analysis of Monthly Cash Flow.
    Your projected financial figures may differ substantially from ‘Actual’ income, ongoing analysis will highlight whether you are accumulating enough cash to cover operating expenses as well as showing hopefully when there is an excess of cash to make purchases or expand your operation.
  1. The Competition.
    All businesses have competition, it is vital that you know who your competition are their prime concern is to get the business that you are now hoping to get, analyse how they get their business, their products their ‘uniqueness’ (the reason the customers chose them in the first place) their prices, their strengths and weaknesses.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

10 Things to Remember When Running Your Own Business.

Running your own business can be exciting, rewarding and stressful (not necessarily in that order), but life will be a little easier if you follow the following tips.

1.      Be passionate about your business
Work can and should be fun, having a passion for what you do makes coping with difficulties that little bit easier, regularly take time to think about why you enjoy being your own boss.

2.      Be flexible
It is a fact of life that plans will change from time to time; you need the flexibility to be able to cope with rapid change.

3.      Make timely decisions
It is ok to rely on intuition by all means plan and think about things, but don’t miss opportunities through lack of faith in your judgement. Don’t jump in to a new business venture without thought or planning but don’t wait for months either, try to find a happy medium most people benefit from a little pressure under fire.

4.      Don’t be afraid to fail
Learn from failure the alternative is to never try anything, if all captains went down with their ships there would be no captains left, hindsight is a wonderful thing, pick yourself up and assess what you would do differently. Remember you can’t run a business without taking risks, don’t let fear hold you back.

5.      Self Belief
You have to believe in yourself and your company, confidence is contagious both to employees and customers.

6.      Maintain a strong work ethic
Employees will follow your lead; it will help beat competition and maintain your edge with customers and suppliers.

7.      Your biggest asset is you!
Take care of yourself; your health is more valuable than anything maintain a healthy balance between work and family life.

8.      Step out of your comfort zone.
Periodically we all need to leave our comfort zone; there will be many times when you will feel uneasy implementing change.  So long as you mitigate the risks change can be good so long as it’s managed.

9.      Bounce back!
Learn from setbacks and move on.

10. Accept honest or justified criticism.
You won’t always get it right and just because you are the boss doesn’t make it right.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

How Good Is Your Software Team

Just how well does your software team rate? Answer the following questions it won’t take a minute honest.

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Do you do daily builds?
  3. Do you use bug tracking?
  4. Do you fix bugs before adding more code?
  5. Do you have an up to date project plan?
  6. Do you have a specification?
  7. Do your developers have a quiet environment?
  8. Do you have testers?
  9. Do you do UAT testing?
  10. Do new developers have to write code at their interview?

Didn’t take long did it now let’s look them in turn.

1. Source control is a must have, not only does it keep your precious source code safe but developers don’t usually know what the last developer did, how good he was, whether the code he checked in actually builds. A good source control versions your code, keeps a history and allows roll backs to an earlier version.

2. Unless you perform regular builds on your code you never know what state it is in till you come to work on it. The process can be automated not only to build the whole codebase on a regular basis but to create single step checkout and builds (overnight if required) the more steps you need to get to the point of building the code the more prone to errors. Daily builds on the whole code base will highlight errors such as a developer checking back in the code but forgetting to checking new classes or libraries, the code will obviously build on his machine but won’t for anyone else checking out the code (even worse if he locks his machine and goes on holiday).

3. Without an organised listing of bugs you are going to ship not only low quality code but probably re ship the code with reported bugs unfixed, you can’t keep all of the bugs in your head. As a minimum your bug tracker must keep:-

  • Steps to recreate the bug
  • Expected behaviour (without the bug)
  • Who spotted the bug
  • Who is to or has fixed the bug
  • Current status of the bug

4. If you are not fixing the bugs before adding more code you are simply compounding the problem, not only will it make bug fixing harder (you can’t even attempt to debug till the current code compiles) but you could well be introducing new bugs to the existing ones.

5. The code is important to the business, it is important for them to know when the code is going to be ready, developers are notorious for saying “however long it takes” unfortunately that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) cut any ice with the business,  they have to plan in advance for  when they expect to get ownership back of the code and the only way to do this is to plan ahead and keep the plan up to date, from the developers point this means that there is a good chance that you won’t suffer from “feature creep” and end up working on the code for the next ten years.

6. If there is one thing about spec’s it usually that everyone agrees you should have one but no one provides one.  As a result, when teams consisting solely of developers  approach the problem they go straight for a solution and dive straight in to coding resulting in much higher costs to fix any design or code issues. Software which wasn’t built using a specification quite often results in a badly designed product which doesn’t meet requirements and timelines spiral out of control.
7. We all know the developers work best when they can get into “the zone” where they can fully concentrate on their work, the trouble is that it is hard enough to get into “the zone” as it is without constant distractions, phone calls and the ever present “can you do this for me it won’t take you long” interruptions.

8. If your team doesn’t include at least 1 tester (ideally to every 3 developers) you are probably at best using a highly skilled developer to do a lower skilled job and at worst delivering buggy code to the business, saving money on not having testers is a false economy and can dramatically cut delivery times.

9. You simply have to have UAT testing, how many times are users given a new system and told to get on with it, more often than not they have had no input as to how the system works, scarily end users won’t even be asked what is wrong with the old system. UAT is an invaluable must have step in the process; no code should be delivered without first going through UAT.

10. Is there any other professional you would employ without first checking their work or at the very least have them highly recommended by someone you totally trust.You are placing a lot of trustthese people not to bring your business down, not to destroy the trust you earned for your business with your clients, every new developer should be asked to show competence to the level that the position requires.

 

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).

Why should you work for yourself?

1. You get paid for the work and effort you put in

When you work for someone else, you have a set number of hours a week that you are contracted to work and your wage is set, based on the contract you signed but in most jobs you work far more than you have to, if you work for yourself every minute you work will be for your own benefit.

2. There has never been a better time.

There has never been a better time to start a business; in the current economic climate most people are scared and holding onto their jobs tighter than ever. The rewards are out there for the people who have faith in themselves.

3. Don’t just wish it.

Do what you love whether it is money, people or a hobby do what you are passionate about this will give you the energy to succeed where others are failing.

4. A more flexible approach

Your work schedule should work for you, not the other way around. Some people are ridiculously productive working a few hours a day, others need to put in 40 hours a week, but few people work at their full potential if they are working 40+ hours a week with no breaks. Don’t get me wrong the work will be hard and the hours will be long until you are established but all the time you will be working for you.

5. A challenge

You will have no choice but to be creative. When you work for yourself you won’t be able to ‘coast’ along, instead you have to constantly stay on top of things, making sure your business and more importantly your life don’t go off the rails. This adds to pleasure and excitement of working for yourself as you have a solid purpose and often get great satisfaction from the work you do. Don’t allow yourself to be part of the mainstream anymore, instead start working for yourself, get creative and build something you’ll be proud of in years to come.

6. Set Goals

You cannot build a successful business if you don’t have your priorities straight and ego in check,”

While entrepreneurs should be confident don’t let it run away with you

7. Set Goals

Too many people think they need to reinvent the wheel, why not make an existing idea better.

8. If funds are limited

If you have limited resources your business need to be focused on making money. Determine whether an expense is a necessity.

9. Clients don’t normally seek you out

Put yourself out into the world. Always look to sell yourself without being over the top and annoying, try Joining groups, network (4N, BNI etc) regularly, and find different ways to get your business in front of people who matter.

10. Be afraid, be very afraid

Do you want to wake up 30 years from now doing the same job you are doing now?, how much more scary can it get.

If you would like any help or advice with your web presence or would like more information on cloud contact us.

At CodeSpinnewe have over 25 years experience of producing custom software.

If you would like to get more tips, or would like to receive a free 90 page eBook on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) please visit http://www.codespinner.co.uk/free-ebook.html

Alternatively if you would like us to discuss your software requirements contact me at:

Tel: 07850 009750
Email: info@codespinner.co.uk
Website: http://www.codespinner.co.uk/
Twitter: @CodeSpinner

Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand (old chinese proverb).