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If you could go back and give yourself advice

What would it be?

     
1:50 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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When an aquaintance bought a house, she went around asking everyone, "Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and tell yourself just one thing before you bought your house, what would it be?" The answers were remarkably varied, interesting and helpful.

I find myself looking to start up a site that I expect will generate moderate revenue. I've got all of my technical nuts and bolts down, hosting, etc... I'm also reading every bit of business document I can lay my hands on, have gone through this forum, gone through my local governments entrepreneur site, but now I'm looking for some more practical information. I know that this question was asked about a year ago, but I'd like to see what people have to say after another year of experience and/or get new people into the discussion.

I would ask you all the question, "Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and tell yourself just one thing before you started your company/site/other, what would it be?"

1:55 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Buy that domain name back in '97 rather than negotiate with that domain squating piece of **** in '03.
5:48 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Charge what I feel as though my services are worth and don't be afraid to walk away if I don't get it.
5:52 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Do freebies or full-price but don't do cheapies.
5:56 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Don't make a long distance phone call to USA in a London hotel room phone.

Don't convince boss that being number one in the organic results is the most important thing we can do. Just do it and tell him the PPC is doing better.

5:58 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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My number one, ultimate advice would be: DO NOT, please! Do not do favors for people/companies or give them major deals unless you feel comfortable with it. If you give a person/company an inch, they will take a mile.

Make sure you work with a contract and do not do ANYTHING until the contract is signed and you receive a deposit. No matter who they are. If they say they need a rush job and their attorney is looking over the contract, stick to your guns and tell them you need a signed contract and deposit. If they want that job rushed, they will have to rush to give you those items.

Get a program like Quickbooks to keep track of everything from the start. Don't put it in a pile 'to be entered' and then you are killing yourself on trying to get it done for tax season. (Advice from my sister).

I'm sure I can think of more.

6:01 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Don't expect anything to get done as quickly as you think it will.
6:06 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

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When starting out, set your price at market value and don't undervalue your time. I wish I'd had charged 3-5 times what I did when I started, instead of it taking me a couple years to raise my prices to that level. Companies don't mind slight increases in salary, but large ones stick out too much, and you could easily lose your first few clients if start charging them what you're worth.

It might take longer to get the first few clients, but once you do, you'll be making what you need to, not just making rent.

3:50 pm on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Wise words from everyone - especially the undercharging.

Mine is "don't take someone on unless you've checked their references and checked their work, and read between the lines when the references come back"

4:17 pm on Dec 19, 2003 (gmt 0)

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read between the lines when the references come back

Not sure if the overseas people know this, but in the U.S., you can be sued for giving a bad reference in some instances. Some industries, use a phrase like 'I can't make a comment about that aspect of their work' to mean, 'I don't like their work in that area, but I can't say that or I'll be sued'.

8:24 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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FYI: the term you are referring to is "slander", a criminal offense.

-Matt

8:48 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Don't do work for other people, just do your own sites

No hassle
no dead lines to keep
no debt to chase

ncw164x

11:48 am on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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FYI: the term you are referring to is "slander", a criminal offense.

<NitPick>It's "libel" when the defamation is published - "slander" is spoken word. It's not a criminal offence unless it's against the Crown (or in the US maybe against the state or something, don't know).</NitPick>

Advice I'd give myself is to make sure your CMS is fully debugged and every page validates *before* you launch and not after you've realised that you're serving googlebot session ID's.....

TJ

2:11 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>Don't do work for other people, just do your own sites
No hassle
no dead lines to keep
no debt to chase <<

I agree with this, too, but with working for the middleman. Make sure you know your process and stick to it. Ask if you can talk to the client on behalf of the company for any design specifications they might have.

3:27 pm on Dec 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Underpricing:
As so many others have said, charge what you're worth. Funny how when you lowball the fee to get a job, they don't respect you, and you often end up not getting the job. Somebody said, either work free or get paid full price, but don't work cheap.

Beware the Micromanaging Client:
He will whine and kill you with little add-ons, changes in plans, andrun you to death with the old "I-don't-know-what-I-want-I-just-know-what-I-don't-want" routine. In the end, he will have a hissy over your invoice and want to negotiate. A contract is always the answer. Make it simple. Call it an "agreement"-- not a contract (sounds intidating and some will want to have their lawyer check it over). Now you have delays as the lawyers justify their existence.

Always have a formal meeting that sets down in contractual terms what expected from you-- and from client. Especially add-ons or "nice to haves." Never, ever go into a job without knowing exactly what the client expects. That will cost you money, a flaming row and a bad reputation-- even if it isn't your fault. It's all about client expectations. If you know about "software engineering" concept of planning a job, go with that method of making sure what expectatiions are.

Always communicate with client during course of the job. Keep him informed of progress, problems or issues and especially of any price increases. Never let him find out about a problem from somebody else.

Always make a prior phone call to client about your invoice before just zapping it off. You will be able to soften the surprise of a higher than expected price.

Expectations, expectations.

1:49 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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TJ-

just a question: isn't something considered a criminal offense, if you can sue for it? i'm not a lawyer... just asking questions because i don't know the answer.

-Matt

1:56 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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isn't something considered a criminal offense, if you can sue for it?

You can file a civil suit for pretty much any reason - you might not win, but you can file the suit. It doesn't have to be a criminal offense, thats a different type of lawsuit.

1:58 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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just a question: isn't something considered a criminal offense, if you can sue for it?

No.

A criminal offence is an offence against the state (burglary, assault, theft, murder etc etc). Prosecution is taken by the state and penalties are fines and/or a prison sentence.

A civil offence is an offence against another person or company (as opposed to the state). Prosecution is taken by the wronged individual with a private lawyer (or state funded sometimes by legal aid). Penalties are usually financial damages.

Defamation (libel and slander) is a civil offence.

In the UK the one exception to defamation being a civil matter is defamation against the Crown (royal family).

I suspect there are similar exceptions in other countries.

If I make a wrongful and damaging comment about you on my website, you call a lawyer and sue me for damages, you don't call the police.

TJ

2:55 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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1) Backup daily

2) Design the structure of the site with keywords for the lower folder names

3) Buy a very comfortable chair

3:18 pm on Dec 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

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4) Get two big screens
1:55 pm on Dec 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Fantastic advice from all. I really appreciate all the replies.
12:27 am on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>Buy that domain name back in '97 rather than negotiate with that domain squating piece of **** in '03.

Heh, and register all the variants of your domain name also, don't be a cheapskate.

My biggest ones:

1. Sky's the limit, go for it.
2. Don't be intimidated by corps, you can beat them
3. Don't be intimadated by others you think know more than you do.
4. You don't need to take on someone else's methodology just because it works for them. It won't necessarily work for you.
5. Make goals, do good market research, ALWAYS have the bottom line clear in your mind.
6. Stay the course on your plan if it is well thought out and don't stray unless it is well worth it.
7. Always remember #1.

1:57 am on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Always follow up on your leads, no matter how busy you are at the moment.

That would be my best input, i think. It's really a simple thing just grabbing the phone or sending off an email, but you tend to forget when you're busy and you shouldn't do that. Also (this might be most appropriate for those that are not yet started):

Don't try to get everything right, just make sure you don't have too much wrong.

Some people will spend years crafting one business plan after another, calculating, budgetting, analyzing etc, and perhaps they'll never get started because of this. It is a learning process and you will not know all you need to know for a while, no matter how much you prepare.

/claus

2:03 am on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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DO NOTHING FOR FREE (favors for friends)!

CleverlyDifferent

1:46 pm on Dec 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If you know about "software engineering" concept of planning a job, go with that method of making sure what expectatiions are.

Can anyone point me somewhere to find out what this software engineering concept of planning and managing a project is all about? I've heard this advice a few times now and I'm interested.

Thanks,
Aaron

12:52 am on Dec 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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CleverlyDifferent, there're more different concepts of managing software engineering projects than you want to know. One that is very popular now states that you needn't spend much time planning.

Back on the topic:

1. Know where you want to get in 2-3 years. Have guts to decline any substantial work that doesn't help you to get there, no matter how profitable/prestegious/otherwise tempting it is.

2. When evaluating clients, think their long-term potential (repeat business, referrals) first, current job offer second.

3:00 am on Dec 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Do NOT waste your advertising money on those "15,000 visitors for $15 scams"
4:14 am on Dec 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Buy an ergonomic chair/keyboard/mouse/desk BEFORE your hands start hurting.