Over the course of this year -- especially since April, when I re-started Xgravity -- I've made some good moves and some bad moves. This post is as much a recap of "what I did right" and "what I did wrong" as it is a list of resolutions and goals for 2009.
Interestingly enough, fellow FileMaker Developer Dwayne Wright shared his 2009 resolutions on his blog yesterday. Be sure to check it out!!
The Right Moves:
I Found Inspiration
The inspiration for re-starting Xgravity came from a variety of sources, but there is one source in particular: The FileMaker developers that I've had the opportunity to interview for FileMaker Addict over the past few years. If you need inspiration, look no further than this blog, and read the interviews. Every one is inspiring in its own way!
I Had Support
My wife, son, family, and friends were very supportive of my decision to re-start Xgravity. They know me very well - probably better than I know myself - and know that my need to be entrepreneurial runs in my blood.
I Was Prepared
Before officially hanging the "open for business" sign up again, I made preparations. I had clients and projects lined up before I took the leap, and that's probably the best move I made. There were several people in my business network who were looking for help with projects, and the timing was perfect. This was as much luck as anything else. I honestly cannot imagine having made the leap without having projects lined up and ready to go.
Also, I had systems in place for keeping track of my time, bank accounts setup, insurance, and all the legal mumbo jumbo worked out. I was ready to hit the ground running.
I Sold Solutions, Not FileMaker
In looking at the Web sites of many of the FileMaker developers out there, I've noticed that a number of them appear to be "selling" FileMaker -- making the case for using FileMaker instead of selling solutions. There isn't anything particularly wrong with this approach, and FileMaker certainly plays a role in the solutions that we provide. However, I've found that selling a client a solution first, and then explaining how FileMaker is a part of that solution, is a good approach to landing new projects.
I Left My Comfort Zone
There were several projects that I took on that moved me well outside of my "comfort zone." Some involved integration with other technologies that I hadn't used in the past. Others were for clients in industries that I had no experience with. I don't know whether it was hunger or the fear of being "on my own" again that gave me the courage to take on these projects. Regardless, I'm glad I did.
I Took On A Wide Range of Clients
Related to leaving my comfort zone, in the process of doing so I ended up working on projects for a wide range of clients. I've got clients in the education sector, in healthcare, retail, marketing, professional services, technology, utilities, and more. And those clients are of all types and sizes -- from small businesses to large universities to fortune 500 organizations. This diversity has helped in a number of ways. First, it has given me the opportunity to work on a variety of different types of projects -- and as a result, I was never bored! Second, as the economy has ground to a halt and different sectors have been affected, the slow down hasn't hit all at once. And finally, the experience that I've gained in working with this wide range of clients has given me insight into their needs and challenges. It is interesting how the needs of clients in these different sectors overlap in many ways.
I Networked Like Crazy
When I made the decision to re-start Xgravity I told anyone that would listen what I was doing. I also took the time to re-connect with business associates that I had lost touch with over the past few years -- from old clients to people that I had worked with. I joined LinkedIn, and that helped with both reconnecting and meeting new people. In doing all of this networking, I was able to get business referred to me.
I Gave Back
Soon after re-starting Xgravity, I had the opportunity to do some pro bono work for a very worthy cause. While it was a little fightening to be doing work for free when I was just getting started, the benefits of doing this were numerous: I was able to raise my own visibility in the community that I helped. It gave me some experience in an area that I was somewhat rusty in. It gave me an opportunity to expand my network. And perhaps most importantly, helping out and giving back felt good!
I Contributed to the FileMaker Community
I'm the administrator for the Richmond chapter of the FileMaker Pro User Group (FMPug). Being involved with the group has been a great way to meet other developers, expand my network, and keep my finger on the pulse of the community. Want to know what challenges the average FileMaker user is facing, and where the opportunities are? Attend a FileMaker Pro User Group meeting.
I Continued To Learn
Wow, have I read and learned a lot over the past several months! I've been reading about AJAX, advanced PHP techniques, Web services, CSS, how to design better forms and user interfaces, and more. But it hasn't all been technology-related. I've also been reading up on design (and highly recommend both HOW Magazine and Daniel Pink's popular book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future), on business itself, and more.
Mistakes I Made:
I Took On A Lot of Work
Over the past 9 months, I've taken on over a dozen new clients and 15 projects. That's a lot of work in a short period of time. As new opportunities and requests came along, it was hard to say no. There were certainly times where I felt like I had taken on more than I could handle. If I had it to do over again, I would try harder to spread out the work or find other ways to assist these clients.
I Didn't Take Care of Myself
Not a week went by where I didn't pull an all-nighter, and there were plenty of 20 hour work days in the mix as well. Anyone who has worked at this pace will tell you about the toll that it takes on you both mentally and physically. It isn't a sustainable -- or rewarding -- lifestyle.
I Didn't Schedule Down Time
Vacation? What's that? One of my biggest regrets is that I didn't plan on taking vacation time. And when I did take some time off, it was all done hastily and without much thought involved. As a result, I spent a good chunk of that "down time" worrying about the business and the work that wasn't being done. Not good!
I Didn't get Certified
Another big regret -- not taking the FileMaker Certification Exam. I've got no excuse! I've got the training materials, I've even signed up for the exam -- and rescheduled. Not once, but twice!
I Didn't Post Regularly to FileMaker Addict
Another big regret -- not taking the time to make regular posts to FileMaker Addict. My goal had been to post at least once a week. At this point, I've only made 27 posts in all of 2008. Writing for FileMaker Addict is one of the few creative outlets that I have, and it saddens me that I let things slip.
I Didn't Attend Devcon
Ok, so now that list of resolutions for 2009:
- I will continue to seek inspiration from other FileMaker developers.
- I will continue to take on work that moves me out of my comfort zone.
- I will continue to grow my network -- both online and off.
- I will continue to give back -- and find additional pro bono work to do.
- I will continue to be involved in the FileMaker community.
- I will continue to learn -- about new technologies, business, trends, and much more!
- I will not take on too much work -- whether that means setting client expectations in new ways, finding help from other developers, or learning to say no!
- I will take care of myself -- including getting plenty of rest (no more of those all-nighters or 20 hour work days). I'll also start eating right, cut back on the caffeine and sugar, and start exercising again.
- I will schedule much-needed "down time" and vacations.
- I will spend more time with my family.
- I will get certified.
- I will post regularly to FileMaker Addict -- at least once every week!
- I will attend Devcon 2009 -- and I hope to see you there, too!
Happy new year, everyone!