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How long does it take you to complete a web site?
edacsac




msg:4031669
 6:16 pm on Nov 25, 2009 (gmt 0)

I know this is a vague question, but as a part timer (have a day job I'm trying to transition from), I'm not sure I'm adding any value to what I'm trying to do.

Latest project: Database for users, items, payment, multiple expirations of service, routing etc. Custom image management, custom cart/checkout, complete user experience based on business plan.

I inherited this job from a fellow designer who got in over his head (just does template sites and rakes pretty good cash). Initially I got $300, then fanagled another $300. The problem is that this is quite a bit of code and logic for proper customer flow, lot's and lot's of testing. I can't even count the hours anymore. I guess 20-30 hours a week since early August.

Most of my projects come with the "portfolio building" potential, but this site had it's design complete when it got to me, and I wouldn't be happy to show it my portfolio. So some of the benefit is gone.

So now we're almost 4 months later and have a hit a roadblock with hosting/PCI compliance. Site is ready, but no funds to have PCI compliant hosting. So now it's possible the site may be scraped due to cost and return on investment with the PCI costs, and the fact that as a part timer, it's taking quite a bit of time complete.

I'm totally frustrated trying make the transition from part to full time. It's like a catch 22. I can't give customers my best having a day job, and I wouldn't be able to land any larger jobs with my delivery time. My specialty is on the backend, coding for business requirements, etc, and I'm just as capable in the graphics and layout area. I'm good at what I do as my day job has given me the opportunity to hone my skills over the years. I just can't translate skill into income. Although I watch others repackage templates and make more than I do for a fully custom solution.

I have several of my own projects that are rotting away, or have lost market potential because of no time to complete them because I'm working with clients on the cheap. I have one project that is 7 years old. When I get time to work on it, I'm changing it based on changes in the niche, never to be finished. I guess I could give up sleeping several days a week.

Do I need employees? Am I just not cut out for this? It depresses me so. I have gained so much experience, but there isn't enough time in a day to get off the ground.

 

httpwebwitch




msg:4033239
 4:11 pm on Nov 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

edacsac, I think the title of this post is inaccurate - you aren't asking how long it takes to complete a site. That's one of those unanswerable questions, like "how long does it take to build a sand castle". You could build one in 10 seconds by dumping a bucket of sand into a pile, or you could spend all day on it. A website is the same.

You are asking what it takes to make that transition from captive employment to working for onesself. It's a big risk when you detach from the employment umbilicus! It's scary! It's exciting! Takes a lot of work!

I diagnose right away from your post that you are stuck in a creative compost heap. 7 years on a project, and it's not finished? Dude, just put it online. Get it finished "good enough" and make it live. Then once it's live, fix it. enhance it. When you get hatemail that something is fubar, fix it. When you notice a typo in the content, correct it. A website is a plastic medium; it evolves, and grows. It doesn't spring forth from the womb ready for grad school. If you wait for something to be perfect before publishing, it'll never happen. Then all the time you spent working on it are wasted. Wasted time is what will prevent you from transitioning to self-employment.

Here's an exercise that someone influential once taught me.

1) create an empty HTML file, like this:
<html>
<head></head>
<body></body>
</html>

2) view it. Is it broken?
if broken, GOTO 6
else GOTO 3

3) No, it is not broken. It is merely missing some features. Therefore it is appropriate for public consumption. Publish that baby and put it on the web. Now.

4) Add something to that page.

5) GOTO 2.

6) fix it. GOTO 2.

The empty page is not a broken site. It's completely non-functional, but it is not dysfunctional. A link that doesn't exist is not dysfunctional, nor is an image placeholder, a page of content not written, or a feature unfinished. Unless something is dysfunctional, get that stuff off your hard drive and onto the web.

So to answer that other question,
The fastest site I ever created took about 2 hours from start to finish, including registering the domain and setting up the hosting. The longest time spent on one site is... almost 3 years so far, full time, 40hrs/week. Well in excess of 6000 hours for me alone, and I'm not the only one working on it. It's not finished yet, and it never will be.

One is finished, the other is not. They are both online, live, active, and earning revenue.

Get what I'm trying to say?

Rosalind




msg:4033324
 8:37 pm on Nov 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

One of the first things you need to learn is how long it takes you to complete typical projects, and then to charge accordingly. Custom database stuff is expensive and time-consuming. If you're going to specialise in this then you need the experience to be able to accurately guess the time certain tasks will take, otherwise you're going to get stuck with jobs that run months over.

StoutFiles




msg:4033346
 10:07 pm on Nov 28, 2009 (gmt 0)

2 days, 11 hours, 37 minutes, 14 seconds.

gpilling




msg:4033539
 2:33 pm on Nov 29, 2009 (gmt 0)

Latest project: Database for users, items, payment, multiple expirations of service, routing etc. Custom image management, custom cart/checkout, complete user experience based on business plan.

I inherited this job from a fellow designer who got in over his head (just does template sites and rakes pretty good cash). Initially I got $300, then fanagled another $300. The problem is that this is quite a bit of code and logic for proper customer flow, lot's and lot's of testing. I can't even count the hours anymore. I guess 20-30 hours a week since early August.

So if I read that correctly it is a custom CMS and Cart for $600? I know people who wouldn't customize a Wordpress site or ZenCart for that much, let alone write them from scratch. The template site guy had it right.

Do I need employees? Am I just not cut out for this? It depresses me so. I have gained so much experience, but there isn't enough time in a day to get off the ground.

I don't know how you would afford any employees. This is a lot of work, and you price would need to be much higher. You need to change your work plan to either get paid for time spent, or to use some of the shelf code to make it work (WP, Zen etc).

As to being cut out for this, it seems that you have learned one of those valuable lessons - the estimator can make or break your profits. You will now be a much better estimator on a project I would guess. You need to change the deal or move on. Good luck with the project.

edacsac




msg:4034600
 3:01 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all of the replies!

Ya, my 7 year project undergoes major changes every year based on the market, or what many folks like to call niche. But it's halfway through a major overhaul I started this past may. I like to call it my retirement project, since it will be another 10 years before it's complete I suppose. But the reason it isn't complete is because I'm working on projects for other folks. So I guess that is good.

So this estimating thing... Every project I do runs over by 4 1/2 times. Well, I had two sites that where just about on time and on the money, but everything else turns into a nightmare. I try to count my hours, but once I get under $8 an hour, I stop counting and just try to get it done as fast as I can. I get blinded by frustration.

Maybe I'll try the template route. I love challenges and problems to solve, but they are not worth the time anymore.

edacsac




msg:4034602
 3:11 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thank you httpwebwitch. I like the earning revenue part. I wish I could get to a point where I could focus on revenue. The most I've made so far has been $35 between two site over 18 months. Just no time for that either.

I posted this because I knew where I was going once I got into web design and after I gained useful experience with databases. But I'm easily 10 years into hoping I can be on my own one day. Well shoot, I'm getting older. I can't be starting a business in my 40's, but I'm starting to run out of my 30's.

httpwebwitch




msg:4034659
 4:28 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I like the earning revenue part

Everyone does. That is the gravy.

I wish I could get to a point where I could focus on revenue

That should be your primary focus from the start, not a point you "get to" someday. Your every moment working should be focused on whether it will generate income. If you're not doing that, you're not working. You're playing.

There's nothing wrong with playing. I have lots of hobby sites that earn $0, and I spend lots of time on them because they're fun, challenging, charitable, or whatever. Do not confuse that with "work". Keep 'em separate.

The most I've made so far has been $35 between two site over 18 months

That's not enough to live off, or retire with. But it's better than $0. Do you think you can increase that tenfold this year? And then next year, increase it tenfold again?
You've been roaming around these forums reading - has WebmasterWorld given you any ideas how to do that?

I can't be starting a business in my 40's

poppycock! balogna! ridiculoso!
OF COURSE you can start a business in your 40s. Who told you otherwise? Why would you think that?

LifeinAsia




msg:4034681
 4:51 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I can't be starting a business in my 40's

poppycock! balogna! ridiculoso!
OF COURSE you can start a business in your 40s. Who told you otherwise? Why would you think that?

Absolutely agree with httpwebwitch! Thousands of people started business in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even later. (Okay, so some of them had businesses before and they were starting a NEW business, but still.) Every day there are people being laid off due to the recession, cut backs, general downsizing, or reaching retirement age. Some of them are hitting the job ads and sending out resumes and some are moving to Florida and enjoying their retirement, while others are starting a business. There are also lots of people who started their business while working full time (me included). Some of today's big/successful (note that one does not necessarily imply the other) companies were started by people losing their jobs in the 80s recession or in the aftermath of the .COM crash.

It's like a catch 22. I can't give customers my best having a day job, and I wouldn't be able to land any larger jobs with my delivery time. ... I guess I could give up sleeping several days a week.

It all depends on how hungry you are and what your priorities are. Look at your life and prioritize things. Assuming you don't work at your day job during the weekend, that's 2 full days to devote to working on your own projects. Granted, working your day job 5 days then you other job 2 days, week in and week out has its limits. But you should be able to keep it up for several months to really build up your businesses.

And if you can't even do that, then you should forget about trying to build up your business. For most people, working 7 days/week (and more than 8 hours/day) for the first year or 2 (or more) when they start their business is the norm.

edacsac




msg:4034684
 4:54 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

If I didn't have a day job, I know I get at least one of these sites close to the top of it's market - using things I have learned here, elsewhere and years of market knowledge I've picked up.

But I need to be fresh when I sit down to work on these projects. I know I have to be different and exciting to succeed. That's why I'm worried about getting too old. I just can't get by on 2 or 3 hours of sleep like I used to. When I get home from work, I tend to work on mundane things since all my energy is zapped from my day job.

edacsac




msg:4034686
 5:01 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

It all depends on how hungry you are and what your priorities are. Look at your life and prioritize things. Assuming you don't work at your day job during the weekend, that's 2 full days to devote to working on your own projects. Granted, working your day job 5 days then you other job 2 days, week in and week out has its limits. But you should be able to keep it up for several months to really build up your businesses.

I've been doing it for years. I missed the boat on one project. Took me almost two years to get the back end code complete and tested rock solid. I probably needed another developer. By then the market became more saturated, and the bar was raised, so back to the drawing board on some areas. That is one of my 7 year projects. Now the market is so saturated in this one area, it's not even worth my time. I'm trying to port the code over to some other idea.

Getting burned out without seeing any real reward.

buckworks




msg:4034717
 5:58 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

need to be fresh

Don't create mental obstacles for yourself. You don't have to feel fabulous when you do the work, you just have to get needful things done.

get at least one of these sites

PICK ONE. Do what it takes to clear up other obligations, then pick one thing to work on for yourself. Focus on it to the fullest extent you can, given the realities of your life. Some days that might be ten minutes, on weekends it might be ten hours, but resolve to do something practical every single day that will help to advance your vision.

Invest some time to create a master to-do list that identifies what activities will advance your goals, and breaks down big jobs into lots of component tasks that you can do in small chunks of time if need be. Small steps can cover a lot of ground, as long as you keep taking them.

The biggest dream killer is working on random things, a bit here, a bit there, changing direction too often and not seeing anything through to completion, or at least to a workable pausing point.

Draw inspiration from the old fable of the tortoise and the hare: the tortoise wasn't fast but he reached the finish line because he was headed the right direction and he just kept going.

buckworks




msg:4034724
 6:01 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

almost two years to get the back end code complete

Consider a project that would be a lot smaller in scope, something you could finish in a few weeks.

Jack_Hughes




msg:4036060
 10:34 am on Dec 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

To avoid the PCI compliance issue use a hosted payment solution then they get to do the compliance not you.

Sounds to me like you've way over promised on the site. Site like that I'd expect to pay tens of thousands of $s for not $600. Whenever you get work passed from some other designer you should look at it with a very skeptical eye because there's usually a reason why somebody is passing up the "golden opportunity".

Mr_Matt




msg:4037128
 6:13 pm on Dec 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

So this estimating thing... Every project I do runs over by 4 1/2 times.

There's your solution. For every new project you are offered, figure out how long it would take....then multiply that number by 5 to get the number of hours. Know how much your time is worth and multiply that number by the number of hours. Done!

vincevincevince




msg:4037472
 3:33 am on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Don't be scared of charging what you know the project should cost. The client can take it or leave it; you still have your day job! If you don't get the contract, you still get to eat and pay off the mortgage.

The biggest problem with estimates however is not a faulty estimate, but a poor specification and/or scope creep. Some clients, and not just the ones experienced with such work, are expert at adding little request after little request until the job ends up much larger than expected.

This is where you need to put your foot down. You must have a specification. The easiest, in my experience, is just a bulleted/hierarchical list by section, page, unit and function:


* User login page
- * Common sitewide top menu
- * One introductory paragraph, editable
- * Form fields: username, password (*s), login button
- * Link to 'recover password'
- * Feedback message if incorrect data supplied
- * Javascript validation for non-completed field with alert() error
* Recover password page
- * Common sitewide top menu
- * One introductory paragraph, editable
- * Form fields: username, email address, recover button
- * Feedback message if incorrect data supplied
- * Javascript validation for non-completed field with alert() error
- * On submit: email link to user, with encrypted security code to allow change
- * Emailed link to be valid for 30 minutes
* Recover password stage 2 (link from email)
- * Form fields: username, password (*s), password confirmation (*s), change button
- * One introductory paragraph, editable
- * Feedback message if incorrect data supplied
- * Javascript validation for non-completed field with alert() error
- * On submit: change user's password to specified password
- * On submit: send email to user informing them that their password was changed (not including pw)

Send that list when you finalise the price, have them agree to it. Now, the moment that they ask you to do something which is not listed, tell them (even the very first time they ask):

"Yes, there's no problem with adding a 'remember me' function to the login system - the estimated additional cost will be $50 and the functionality will be as follows:

* - Remember me (checkbox) on login form
* - If checked, 30 day cookie set for user
* - Returning users with valid cookie automatically log in
* - Modification of 'log out' to clear this cookie as well as session cookie

Does that seem okay?

That is all it takes!

Bert36




msg:4039470
 2:25 pm on Dec 8, 2009 (gmt 0)

I am not sure, but perhaps you are suffering from the same "illness" I am. I am way too theoretical. I have all these great ideas, and I know in my mind how to implemet them, but then when I want to put them to practice I find myself feeling swamped with all the work, things are not getting dome fast enough and other things (like lack of money) get in the way.
I finish just enough sites so I can live of them, but all those are not the ones I am proud of, and I even feel ashamed putting them in my portfolio since they don't live up to my standards (even though the customers are all extremely happy).
I always find myself frustrated with the job simply because I feel inadequate when it comes to implementing (web) standards, accessibility, usability, design, clean code, etc. etc. All this I want to do and all this should lead to a good product...but it never seems to work that way.
Next to that I also have some ideas about open source projects I would like to do, wanting to create something for "the community", but indeed the same problems arise.
I also sometimes wonder if it would be in my own interest to find a "partner", one not only who would put things into perspective for me, but also to be able to distribute the workload more evenly.
I found a delicate balance by which I try to tell myself that as long as my clients are happy and say a project is done, I should be content and move on to the next project.

aspdaddy




msg:4045508
 2:59 pm on Dec 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

Bert36

Be content and move on but it is good to reflect on the project and think of how it could have been done better and how it could still be improved.

Its good because it can be used to help sell more work to the client and because it can help you do the next project better.

But dont dwell for too long because we could all improve all our sites given unlimited time/money. If you regularly get swamped - start with budget & timescale not the spec.

edacsac




msg:4067876
 5:57 am on Jan 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ya, scope creep. It keeps on coming. Every time I put the word out for acceptance testing, I get more work. I had to decline a customer with a January mockup deadline because of this site. I'm sure that looks great for me.

But ya, I'm just complaining now. Thanks for the great advice! Once this site is done I'm going to spend time finishing up a site that has major functionality and should prove that end of my portfolio, with progressive enhancement and the whole bit. Then I'll hit it again.

edacsac




msg:4067877
 6:00 am on Jan 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

@ Bert. I think we do suffer from the same ailment. I would like to give back with some tutorials and such (not even to the extent of an open source project), but I can't fit it in.

Bert36




msg:4068003
 1:16 pm on Jan 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Isn't it curious how some people seem to be able to do their job, maintain a blog, all their social networking stuff like facebook, twitter, etc. Do their administration, are able to write tutorials and to top it all off; run a household and have a life?

edacsac




msg:4068075
 3:16 pm on Jan 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, and those people are always more successful than myself.

caribguy




msg:4092847
 8:09 am on Mar 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

You'll find that those people have efficient work habits. They just DO, quick-prototype, without trying to create something grandiose.

Then, they keep tweaking -incrementally improving- their website, blog, home improvement project, garden or what have you :)

They also know how to say "No, sorry but that can't be done!" They win by cherry picking winnable battles, and projects with goals that are readily visible and achievable. Makes them look good, and makes them money.

Now that you know the secret: go, Go, GO!

PS: there will always be people who will be more successful than yourself. So what?

StratoCentric




msg:4115567
 7:28 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

They also are charging more per project = less projects. Benefitting from the labor of others...etc.

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