Seattle weather is ridiculously beautiful right now with Stephanie at The Edgewater Hotel – View on Path.
I’ve been noticing recently that freelancers around me seem to be disappearing. They’re taking jobs with cool startups, getting on board with agencies, or straight up getting hired by large corporations. Let me say something clearly.
There’s nothing wrong with being employed
…but I think talented people in our industry are selling out. Given the way the web industry and the US economy are right now, I say you can’t afford to be employed.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says growth in jobs for web graphic designers will increase at four times the national average in the coming years. At the same time, the studentscholarships.org database shows only a 3% unemployment rate for designers nationwide—compared to about 8% of the US population that is either unemployed or recently dropped out of the labor pool due to chronic unemployment. Combine this with the fact that a staggering 29% of broadly termed graphic designers are self employed, and you’ll see what most of us already know, web designers work so, dang, much. They also make over $43,000/year on average, so pay isn’t too terrible.
Another interesting thing I found, taking a full-time position simply because it offers steady income and some immediate safety is counterintuitive. The U.S. workforce is expected to be 40% contractor by 2020 according to a recent article on Quartz (and many other sources). Our workforce is currently at around 30% contractor by most estimations. You can’t think that finding a job or a startup to hook your wagon to will solve your career problems indefinitely. To quote another recent article,
This [shift in perspective] is not just a recession-induced thing… It reflects a long-term change in the economy. Since the 1980s, management’s philosophy has evolved to “look at work as projects.” Instead of keeping workers on staff to perform all tasks needed, they outsource them or hire consultants.
If our economy is shifting toward contractors and teams of freelancers, why do so many of us insist on taking a job? Knowing that jobs currently exist in great number, shouldn’t we be encouraged to reach higher? If companies are shifting to contract relationships, why not meet them where they’re heading?
Web people, you are valuable and needed
Excellence in our industry is in high demand. As overworked young professionals, the allure of a stable job that offers benefits and the ability to stop working nights at home is powerful. The funny thing is that what we can earn in traditional employment pales in comparison to what we can earn in other forms of organization (intentionally vague here, stick with me). Save specific skill sets like iOS development or web development in securities and commodities contract intermediation (whoa there!), growth in our salaries is startlingly average. Add to that, our quality of life can be much greater outside of employment. Shift gears again for a second.
It’s time to get down to business
All of us need to stop hating on business. Seriously. I work in a coworking space, and most of the time when I talk about the business of what we do my compatriots’ eyes glaze over and they say something like “I’m glad there are people like you” or, “that’s not really my thing”. I understand that sentiment completely. However, I value what you do just as much as I value what I do. I value both of our skillsets because together they can make both you and I happy, successful, fulfilled at work, and loved by our clients. Stop looking down on being a businessman or businesswoman AND a designer, developer, or whatever you are.
Accenture recently did a study on contract workers. They describe the relationships we have with each other as a “supply chain of talent”. The most successful freelancers find out where they fit in a bigger process and take advantage of the value they create in order to pay themselves, do what they love, and/or do things like work at home while the kiddos are growing up. This puts businesses who work with web freelancers in a weird position. The internet is ablaze with articles and opinions about managing people like us and successfully outsourcing deliverables. Businesses have to manage you, usually at distance, and they’re terrible at it. They’re terrible at managing your talent, they’re terrible at approaching you, they’re terrible at on-boarding you, they’re terrible at feedback, and they live in a world of analytics but don’t know how to measure your progress and success.
You must be good at managing yourself and your client
If you’re going to be the one handling solutions to your client’s weaknesses in process and approach, you need their trust. Getting back to the idea of making more money, having a better quality of life, and working with people you want on projects you want; this trust comes in part from how you approach your clients. The efficacy of freelancers compounds when we band together, and so does our ability to command respect, larger projects, and money. There’s a lot of reward in shifting the freelance perception. Clients who trust you give you the ability to do what you do best in the way you need to do it, while charging a fair price. If you put some effort into creating trust, it will pay back in spades.
There are a lot of ways to earn trust and in turn be awarded awesome projects, but I want to highlight one—I mentioned earlier that web professionals are in high demand. One way to effectively meet that demand and blow away your client’s perceptions is to group together as freelancers. Small communities like CoWork Greenville or companies like SuperFriendly are current illustrations of that power. Not only do we receive the benefit of working around awesome people, but we also have the added credibility of the roles represented around us. Pitching as a crack team of professionals assembled specifically for the needs of a given project is an attractive proposition.
As a freelance project manager I capitalize on this increased trust all the time. Clients tend to see me, if I’m alone, as a gatekeeper to what they want. I’m in the way. Clients also tend to see designers or developers as production skill that should be compensated at an hourly rate. When we’re together, they see a team that is worthy of pitching a full scope with value pricing. By grouping up we show them right out the gate that we will only assemble (and charge them for) relevant skills, that we know the roles we need, and that we believe ourselves capable of managing what we put our names to. We’re no longer two guys and one gal working for $125 per hour; we’re a team of specialists tackling a website redesign and CMS build at a fixed bid of $__,___.__ for a planned duration; complete with schedules and Gantt charts as needed. We have the power to manage the project in the way that our expertise and experience tells us we should, rather than struggling to conform to a client’s notion of how the second website redesign they’ve ever attempted should proceed.
I’m not saying you have the opportunity to hose your clients and get filthy rich. What I’m saying is that you will be able to reap the reward of taking more than just an hourly contractor role with your client. Your value increases if you can manage all of the pieces and shoulder the majority of the risk of failure rather than just filling one role. There’s no doubt you can make more money as a team, but there’s more to it. You can decide your schedule, and how much you should be paid to work 60 hours a week for two months (for example). You can decide if you want to travel to the client’s office regularly, and who else you want to work with. You get to set the tone of your relationship with the client as an equal rather than a subordinate.
Set your sights higher
Why are we happy trying to work for Facebook or a top ad agency instead of meeting the industry where it needs us, educating ourselves, and forging our own way? There are a ton of valid career reasons to get hired or stay hired as opposed to going freelance, and I’m not too blind to admit it. However, that should be an educated choice, not a default.
It’s a great day to go disrupt our industry. Get going, and name your salary while you’re at it.
Special thanks: A lot of my final thoughts for this article were refined at An Event Apart in Seattle. This has been on my mind for a long time, but dunking myself in the talent, personalities, and perspectives at AEA forced a lot of clarity. Kudos to a great conference.
I think inspiration is really important, and I think it’s distinctly different from having passion. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been driven and inspired. Maybe that’s just me, but having something pushing me from the inside always felt right. It was normal; being hungry for a challenge was normal. I don’t think it’s the same for everyone.
The first time I had a passion for something that I considered a potential career path was in high school. I always thought I’d make a good lawyer, writer, or businessman but I never seriously dug in. I loved logical debate, performing, writing, and engaging with people, so it made sense to me. Law and Order (and Sam Waterson) were awesome to me. My literature papers received praise from teachers. I was pretty good at administration and loved everything that came with being an elected officer in high school. The problem was that I couldn’t dig into the professions related to these passions—or I was freaked out that they were terrible career choices. I needed inspiration, but I was floundering.
Change of direction, I have a ridiculous imagination. It’s really easy for me to feel like I’m on Pandora when watching Avatar, I’m practically comatose if there’s a television in a room, and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating my own little fantasy world as a kid. I’m sure you know someone like me.
Being an entertainment junky with a big imagination made me super interested in animation, video games, stories, and movies as a kid. That plus growing up in the 90’s meant I lived out my imagination partly in video games. My first video game system as a kid was a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) that I bummed off of some friends when they upgraded to a Sega Genesis. I don’t think I could have been more enamored with it, and I beat every game my family owned except for Ninja Gaiden (darn you Tecmo). After a year with the NES I bought a Genesis for myself using Christmas money and discovered just how passionate I was about video games. I hated it; the experience was appalling. The controllers felt unwieldy and the games weren’t as much fun as Nintendo’s. I took it back the day after Christmas and bought a bug oven.
I played my NES all the way until the Nintendo 64 came out. By that point my affinity to games had persuaded my parents that they didn’t need to encourage my gaming by buying me new consoles. That’s when I met one of my lifelong friends, Seth. We had almost nothing in common except love of the N64, and he owned one. I think I spent more weekends with him than my family during late elementary school. I had more pizza, Mountain Dew, Goldeneye, and Mario Kart than any kid ever should. Even when my friends’ interest in the console started to wane, I was still in love with it. I always played the core games such as Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, and GoldenEye, but by junior high I had picked up a system of my own and started buying my own games. I played Diddy Kong Racing, Perfect Dark, Zelda Ocarina of Time, Rush, Starfox, Star Wars Episode 1 Racer, and many more. I was digging in. I was finding out what I liked and what I hated—don’t even ask me to play Super Mario 64.
Toward the end of my stint with the N64, I had an affair with the Playstation. I picked one up from my cousins when they moved on to the Playstation 2. They were generous; it came with three controllers (one great, one with sloppy sticks, and one broken), four games, one game guide, and two memory sticks. I played Tekken every once in a while just to mash buttons, and then I discovered Final Fantasy IX. It was awesome. I think I’ve beaten that game five times at around 70 hours a pop, and as I write this, I’m in the middle of it again on my PS3. Final Fantasy taught me something. I learned that whole worlds could exist within the confines of a game, and they could be viscerally intoxicating. Video games became a passion. Then Halo happened.
During the summer of 2002 my family went to Nags Head, NC for a week long beach vacation. Every evening I would sit downstairs with my cousins Dan and Will and play through the campaign of Halo Combat Evolved. I totally succumbed to its power. I fought the covenant. I had the chills for days after seeing The Flood for the first time. I was friends with Cortana. I became Master Chief. We beat the game by the end of the week, and I was hooked. As soon as I could scrape the money together, I bought an Xbox, Halo CE, and four controllers. It was my golden age of gaming, my renaissance, my new passion. I bought each Halo game after that on launch day, and they were pretty much all I played on Xbox. I trained my buddies on multiplayer, bought Xbox Live, made friends online, had LAN parties, joined Bungie.net, and generally did whatever I could to be part of anything Halo. Some of my best high school memories come from playing Halo with friends at 2am. I became part of the story of Halo, and it became part of me.
In 2005 I had to decide what I was going to be when I grew up. With all of my early life passions tied up in hobbies (or vices depending who you ask) like sports, animation, and video games, I fell back on what I thought I was naturally good at—those academic inclinations I mentioned earlier. I majored in Comprehensive Business Management during my first semester Freshman year, minoring in Creative Writing. It was terrible. Second semester I switched my major to Financial Management. Still terrible. Over the summer before my Sophomore year I decided to give in to my artistic and imaginative passions. I switched to Graphic Design and had one of the best experiences of my academic life. I pulled in good grades and loved absolutely everything—even painting. I finished that year supremely confused. I noticed that while I was above competent at design, inspiration to create unique work didn’t come quickly to me. I did well, but I was slow, and I wasn’t at the top of my class. Before my Junior year I made one final change to my collegiate concentration. I finished school with a major in Financial Management and a minor in Art. I realized that while I loved design and the studio environment, including everything that went into it, I didn’t want to produce with my artistic talent under the constraints of time and money. I couldn’t translate that passion into a career; I couldn’t sustain it. I told myself I respected it too much to become just another average guy. It was a hard choice, but leaving design gave meaning to my business studies. I became desperately interested in the business of design, illustration, and animation—from web design to animation and video games.
This is where everything comes together.
My passion for video games led me to love Halo, and Halo led me to pursue the business of design. I’d spent hours bouncing out of maps on Halo 2, which lead to hours of reading online about what causes those glitches. That in turn led me to read about how Bungie didn’t really have producers (or project managers if you please) for Halo 2—and the pain that it caused. From that point on I was all over project management and production for any type of creative studio. I read articles online, downloaded GDC talks, collected write-ups and presentations, and started looking for ways to plug my finance (and eventually MBA) skillset into the business of design. My passion for an awesome video game franchise developed into being consumed with making the creative process successful in a studio environment—which is what I get to do every day now with the best web designers and developers I know.
We’ll end the personal history there. My point is that inspiration is really important, but not in a gooey, feel-good kind of way. In short, not everyone is equipped to follow all of their passions in life, but inspiration can lead anyone to find new passions and achieve great things. Inspiration is something you find through passion, and it takes work to sustain it.
I love design, but I am not a good designer. I love illustration, but I can’t keep a consistent style with my drawings. I am enamored by beautiful and gripping video games, but there’s no way I could concept or code them.
Inspiration is that tricky blend of your passions and your skills. It’s something that can happen to you, but that you need to take control of. It should be harnessed and nurtured. In the business world, a popular topic to converse on is having the right people for the right jobs. Jim Collins (the writer of Good to Great) talks about having the right people on the bus and the wrong people off. One type of wrong person for any bus is someone that is super pumped about where he’s going, but has no idea where he’s supposed to sit; or worse, he’s sitting in someone else’s seat. Don’t be that person. I’ve been that person more than once, and it sucks.
I’ve by no means arrived at any form of perfection professionally, but I have come to the conclusion that I want to look for passion and help create inspiration. My challenge to you is to discover your passions. Figure out what really drives you as a person, and what can drive you as a professional. If you’re terrible at your passion, keep it as a hobby. If you’re great at it, feed it. Dream about it. Nurse that passion until you can find and create inspiration to do awesome stuff; work hard to find opportunities to take control of wherever it leads you.
If you’re already there, help other people find inspiration through their passions. We’re all willing to complain about how education needs to change, or say how much kids need great teachers and mentors. Be that teacher. Help turn passion into inspiration. Hand out opportunities.
*Disclosure: I owned and played many other gaming systems and games, some hand-held, others console and computer. If you’re interested in exactly how dorky I am, feel free to comment, email, or tweet at me and we can geek out over games.
Client services can mentally, emotionally, and creatively destroy you. It’s not always easy, it can be hard, and you have to find a good way to deal with people and organizations. As much as we all wish we could make awesome stuff on the web and never have to deal with the people who are paying for it, our industry doesn’t work that way. Sure you can take a shot with your own start-up or side project, but most of us will still have to work with clients at the end of the day.
There aren’t really a ton of tools and techniques out there to help freelancers strategically pick the right clients. By the way, you should be picking clients just as much as they’re picking you. Some freelancers have more choices than others, but ultimately you should be choosing every single one. What I see happening is awesome web people don’t do a lot of thinking before they sign on with a client.
- Why do you want to work with this client?
- What do you want to accomplish with this client and this project?
- What drives you toward the type of work this client offers?
- What is the most important characteristic this client needs for this type of project?
- Where do you want your work in general to take you?
If your first answer to each of those questions is some form of “more money”, you’re doing it wrong.
There’s a time and place to let money come first, but it shouldn’t be your universal answer. Anyone running any type of design gig should be able to effectively profile potentials and projects, set measurable strategic business goals, and be prepared for a personal post-project relationship assessment before ever accepting a client. You should be able to consider each client separately from the project they’re offering
Client qualification shouldn’t be synonymous to project qualification. Successes and failures are rarely caused by business justification, deliverables, timeframe, and money as long as you are setting up and executing your projects right. They’re caused by the people and impetuses behind each of those considerations. Making sure your work, team, competencies, etc. fit what the client needs isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about strategically steering the business of what you do; I’m talking about how to funnel your skills, interests, and inclinations into an intentional plan to take over your little corner of the world and win the hearts, trust, money, and acclaim of its inhabitants.
Many freelancers and small studios don’t consider the implications of working with who they work with. A lot of what comes forward in their thinking is simply “more”. More clients. More money. More awards. More opportunity to do and refine what I am good at. Figuring out a direction to take and exactly howto pursue it can be an arduous task. We can all solve this, and I think one piece of the solution could be client profiles.
Profiles are really cool. They’re simple, clarifying, and relatively easy to make and use as long as you have the information to make them accurately. To illustrate, consider user profiles for a website. For a negative example, think of racial profiling. See what I mean?
I haven’t figured out completely how I want to do this yet or what it will look like in order to be truly helpful and usable. Making a profile work in tandem with a playbook for approaching specific projects that come from different potential clients would be amazing. I see these profiles, even if they’re just for myself, as the first step in assembling a toolbox. Once I have the groundwork laid, I can start thinking about different areas such as contractor on-boarding for specific types of clients or projects, communication norms and peculiarities, process augmentations or no-no’s, etc.
Big picture, my hypothesis is that profiling each type of client who you want to work with (or who wants to work with you) will help you clarify how you’re accomplishing your goals, and what steps to take along the way.
Before I get into what I want to talk about with project management this month, I want to share some of my recent experiences. Have you guys ever seen those Venn Diagrams about life? They always include some version of family, work, and sleep; telling you to pick two. See below.
I used to think these were super funny and accurate, and then I realized something. My life has been brutally way outside of that trichotomy.
For months I’ve been bouncing around between different facets of my life, trying to do everything at once. Thankfully, that’s ending in just over a week when I finally finish my MBA.
I’ve been blessed with amazing family, friends, and clients who have stuck with me and supported my decision to work and attend school, both full time. I want to take a second to publicly tell all of you, I can never thank you people enough for the encouragement and support you’ve given me over the past 19 months. Every kind word has meant more than you can know. It feels like it’s been so long since Steph and I took a huge leap of faith; tearing me away from easy employment and tossing me into the freelance and higher education worlds. I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never regretted it.
Ultimately, I praise God for strength and His blessing. I’m super pumped about having that silly work, family, and sleep Venn Diagram represent my life really soon.
MBA: conquered (in a few days).
Speaking at Clemson to the MBAe students today was great. We had some awesome conversation about freelancers in the web industry, how to be a good client, and the process of engaging and executing on web projects. Big thanks to the participants (especially Stefan). I’ve included a link to the pdf I used below.
I referenced some resources in the PDF. Find those below.
Finally, I listed some example web sites that I personally like a lot.
IWC (beautiful large-ish site)
Fork CMS (cool and simple example of responsive)
Wilderness Downtown (getting old, but still cool)
Speek (example of a startup in process)
Update: .Net ended up posting my comments. Here’s the link if you’re interested; I’m one of many responses.
I figured I’d head this post with a photo of my most recent home office inspiration. Master Chief rocks. I need to write about Halo sometime. Nerdcore.
Anyways, I recently put together a little opinion about the place of project management in the web world and sent it in to a magazine. I don’t know if it will get published, but I’ll post it here as well. Hope it’s at least entertaining. I wrote it while sitting in Dulles trying to recover from a crazy day.
Project managers often cause more harm than good. I work independently as a freelance project manager for exactly that reason.
I think project managers tend to take roles that they shouldn’t for multiple reasons, the project is dragging, team leads are unavailable, budget is running out, you name it. The pressure to control variables that destroy projects can turn them into power-sucking monsters. I’m hearing Harvey Dent right now, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. A wise friend once summed up an experience by saying that as a PM if a project fails, it’s his fault; if it succeeds it’s the team’s success. Sometimes that means as project managers we have to be “the hero that [the team] deserves, but not the one [they] need right now”. I hope you’re catching all of the super hero references. PM’s should be exactly that, super heroes.
At SuperFriendly we’ve structured project management to defeat apathy and the forces of evil. Conventional project management puts up barriers, resists non-conformity, and strains the creative process. I think almost every designer can relate to the swoop and poop. A PM swoops in, tosses out several minutes of earth shattering changes or constraints, then flies off to some meeting. The project team has clean up the mess and carry on. This tends to happen when dollars are king and PMs are inept at controlling and foreseeing problems. There is an ever present pressure to supply a service or product for the most amount of money in the least amount of time. The result is usually mediocrity. What a team really needs is the project’s ultimate advocate.
I put the project first and I don’t BS anyone.
I make it very clear to all stakeholders that I advocate each project I put my name to. I have what feels like a million little things I do to keep that a reality, but it can be boiled down to several simple principles. Fight for quality, stand up for the team, tell the truth, and put on my cape—being willing to pay the ultimate price to save the project. Living by this code keeps me from manipulating, shifting blame, caving for extra margin, failing to plan, or being a miserable person to work with. I facilitate, I don’t mandate. I converse, I don’t coerce. I hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Take one of my recent projects for example. The client needed a ton of work but we knew they wouldn’t be keen on how much it would cost. I spent two weeks building their trust in my team, drawing up schedules and deliverables, and figuring pricing to make sure I’d hit a margin. I made it clear to the client that I wouldn’t bid to their budget and told them the exact truth about what we could do and why they needed us. We won the job. Since then we’ve kicked off, pivoted for their needs, planned to our strengths, told them the difficult truths about their current performance, and made extra trips to visit; all while we’ve maintained their trust and our ability to meet deadlines while augmenting the project to fit their exact needs. We’re not sticking them on details and we’re not cheapening our work. We’ve worked to facilitate their needs within the constraints that we set together. It doesn’t always happen this way, but when things do get ugly, clients know exactly where I stand: right beside the project, fighting to maintain success.
Project management is rife with problems because the opportunity to be a bad human for the sake of earning some extra dollars is ever present. Ultimately, a PM needs to be a solid person. It’s not impossible, but it’s sometimes hard. My advice is to work hard, stand up for the project, and wear a cape (sometimes).
Really cool stuff is going down.
I’m on a project right now with SuperFriendly; we’re going to tear the entire thing open and put it up on the internet as it happens. This includes meeting details, conversations, builds in process, notes, and even some files. It will all happen via posts like this online across multiple sites. I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s dig in.
A number of weeks ago SuperFriendly and Dan Mall received an email from Reading is Fundamental (RIF), they were interested in updating their website. I’ll admit, I didn’t know much of RIF before the email conversations started flowing, so I dug into the internet to learn more. I found this, this, and this. I was sold.
We took RIF through our normal process for new clients. After introductions we asked a good bit of questions via email (some hard and some easy), which set the tone for our first call really well and got the broad strokes of what our relationship could look like down in writing. Our first call was surprisingly awesome. Those guys just make you wish you could high five people through the phone. Stepping back from that call, and one follow-up, we had most of the information we needed to start crafting a project and process. I ran through multiple sets of numbers and several months worth of calendar while Dan started talking to some SuperFriends (enter Noah Stokes and Kevin Hoffman). Dan also threw Josh Luciano in at this point. He’d been crushing his work recently and needed something more worthy of his time and talent.
We came back to RIF with three different ballpark prices and structures, hammered through some more details on what the project needed to cover and wrapped up our preliminary conversations with a fully drafted statement of work and schedule.
Since signing stuff and passing some money, we’ve had multiple group calls, a full day kickoff in Washington DC, and a good bit of brainstorming. I can’t take you back in time and put you in a chair during those events, but I can share some of my favorite notes coming out of those meetings.
Quotes direct from RIF about what success looks like for them personally:
- “Really good communication”.
- “Don’t forget we’re a non-profit”.
- Hitting the mark on “time and budget”.
- “My fear is [website] support”, speaking of what SuperFriendly builds and how we follow through.
- “Everybody gets to go home at 5:30”, speaking about how effective SuperFriendly is at making this project work and not creating problems.
I think the best warning RIF issued to us was when they said they would love to see the website “drive the organization” in donations and brand presence. Shows the mentality they’re entering this project with.
I also think the best compliment they paid us was when they said “you guys, even in thinking, are going above and beyond”. Wow, big statement to live up to!
I love writing down quotes. It shows the honest opinion of our client at any given point, and gives us a great way to measure our success. If they’re still worried about a certain point, or we start slipping on one of their personal success factors, we’re doing something wrong. It’s black and white.
A few more notes I came away with that I want to share, not in order of importance:
- We need to limit recommendations we make to RIF about social usage, and make sure those recommendations, if implemented, would be effective.
- We should explore capitalizing on nostalgia (Owl Moon for me).
- Site analytics and donation analytics are really important, and a good measure of whether we’re doing our job right.
- We need to find ways to get rid of book data entry for RIF.
- How can we know what people want to donate? That’s really powerful.
We built our SOW and kickoff meeting around the broad strokes and following details in the early calls, but a lot of our strategies and tactics also grow from situational details with the team, secondary objectives, and goals that we discover and set during kickoffs and brainstorming.
I hope this is a healthy window into the beginning of our project. What I’m really trying to hit on is the assembly of cohesive plans and documentation based on information that comes from every direction in multiple places at multiple times. It’s really exciting to me to help engineer the compilation of everything needed to create success.
Looking forward to sharing more really soon! In the mean time, check out other perspectives on the beginning of this project from other team members who wrote some stuff:
Dan Mall - Head Honcho
Josh Luciano - Design Dude
I have a mohawk. Now, on to what I really want to talk about today.
I work out of a studio called CoWork Greenville; it’s a pretty awesome place. Every month we do something called Zero Day, a hiking metaphor. We all take the first Friday morning of the month, stop working, and meet up to talk about stuff that matters to us.
This past Friday I presented an idea about a potentially disruptive model for my industry. I do a lot of work with SuperFriendly (run by Dan Mall) and I’ve been thinking about how to organize a group of awesome web people that lets everyone remain independent, make lots of money, and work on projects they love. Most of my inspiration comes from where I started as a Freelance Project Manager (let’s call this FPM) just over a year ago.
Looking back, there are 4 common tracks that a FPM takes: they fail, get hired, take on tons of small clients to survive, or take on a few big clients. I’ll also admit that there are other possible directions to take, I just haven’t seen much else. See my little diagram below.
I’m on the few bigger clients path as a FPM. This gave me most of my inspiration for a new model idea. It’s very close to the structure of a legal practice (thanks David Haskins), but it’s also similar to a conglomerate, just made up of individuals.
The idea is to take independent web professionals and put them under one brand to provide consistency, a cohesive presence, and a store-front for work and contracts. This also gives an entity to hold contracts with contractors for outsourced work. It’s much more than this, but you get the gist of it. Check out my second diagram to illustrate.
I haven’t gotten super far in my thinking about this model. I’m really looking for feedback from anyone willing to share. Below are my slides that I used to present at Zero Day.
I’m not a huge fan of posting unfinished ideas, but I think it’s warranted this time. I know it feels awkward for some people to post in comments on blogs, but feel free. I’d love thoughts from anyone interested.
Like I said early on, my goal in writing is to post things that I’m going through in the hopes of spurring others to think outside the box while also refining my own ideas.