Looking ahead to 2009

A few things I’ve been thinking about for 2009 in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s:

1. More formal partnering. I’ve always thought I would prefer a true partner (or a few of them) rather than having employees. I had one in mind last year that seemed like a natural fit, but it didn’t occur to me to suggest it when things were extremely busy, and now that opportunity is gone. Looking to others in 2009 to fulfill those roles I don’t, whom I can both trust professionally and mesh with on a personal level. If I find another person that I feel might be a potential partner on an informal or even formal level, I’ll make sure to express my interest in a timely manner.

2.  I’ll work on increasing my network of trustworthy subcontractors. I really think that trustworthiness and dependability are more important than a complex skillset. People can always learn new things and improve skills, but after a point, trust is either there or it isn’t.  I’ve also talked to colleagues about using interns (high school or college) for on a part-time basis for more mundane tasks – like populating a website with content after the basic layout is established.

3. Being even more choosy about clients. I got burned by one client this year who refused to pay – actually the project manager got burned, and I still got paid most of what I was owed. But I’m going to be even more choosy about who I take on. I’ve raised my rates for only the second time and established stricter payment terms with a new penalty for late payments.

4. Increase the hosting part of my business.  I’ve been doing reseller hosting for nearly two years and have about 40 clients (some are my design clients and some are not, or at least not yet). That’s easy money using WHMCS, which automates everything; I plan to market hosting more and to use HostGator’s new green hosting emphasis as a selling point; they’ve recently converted all servers over to wind energy for both power and cooling.

5. More useful services for clients. I’ve just started using Campaign Monitor in December and am going to begin offering it to my clients as an added service. I’m going to emphasize the value of creating a custom template based on a client’s website, and the pay-per-campaign pricing structure. This will not be a moneymaker for me, but just one additional way I can service clients’ needs all in one location.

6. Skills improvement. One thing I’ve always done is and this will continue in 2009 – I’m almost always in some online class (I just finished a database design course) to keep improving my skillset.  I’d like to get more competent with Javascript this year, and also start working with Flash again. And I’ll try to attend at least one web-related conference this year; I’ve already registered for a web design conference in Denver in February.

7. That digital camera. I bought my first D-SLR back in March and used it a lot up until the last couple of months. Taking the camera out for a few hours helps to replenish my creativity and I’m very good with Photoshop, so all the image adjustments are just play for me. I plan to continue hanging out with the local camera club and getting outside with the Olympus at least once per week. It helps me with my design work to both get away from the office and to narrow (or is it widen?) my focus.

8. Run, ride, lift… Even when I’m convinced I have no time to be at the gym, feel completely guilty about sneaking away from a pile of work and go anyway, I without fail feel 100% more relaxed and better able to think after a hard workout. Will try to include a run, ride,  hike or other treat at least three times every week. And more if I can manage it.

9. Grow my business – a little. If I partner more or find more good subcontractors or even an intern I can train, I’d like to start winning larger projects than I’ve had in the past. I’m already on the team for the largest site I’ve ever worked on and that project will probably run through the end of 2009 – that’s a very good thing. But I’d like to do more work like that. I’m at the point where soon I’ll feel better about biting off more than I can chew – when I know I have a good group of candidates to turn to after I commit to something really complex.

Anticipating big things in 2009!

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