Getting started with a business plan

When daZZee shut down their Springfield office, I promised myself that I would not get so easily waylaid again.  I’ve been enjoying my new job so far, but I need a way to get started with software programming.  That means tools like software development kits and computers like a new MacBook or MacMini.

Any savings I’ve had was erased during the five weeks without a job and the first two weeks of the new job before regular paychecks started.  I can’t use credit cards for many reasons, but the main one is that they are the tool of the weak.  If you don’t have the money to buy something, credit cards enable your weakness to be satisfied.

So to start a business I need to raise capital in a more traditional way.  The easy first step is the business plan–a list of what you need and how much it will cost versus the likely ways to get revenue and repay investors.

Needs:

* Software development kit for the chosen platform.  This is easy and free since most companies want you write for their platform.  My choice is the Mac and that means…

* Platform.  I need a Mac and, while I have three (!) they are all older G4-based machines.  New software development can’t be done on a machine without an Intel processor.

* Training. That comes from books, the web and time, all of which are affordable.

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Author: warwick

I'm a network architect in Springfield, MO. I like clever uses of technology whether it's in a data center or the kitchen of my house.

One thought on “Getting started with a business plan”

  1. So I don’t get it. Are you saying you found some temporary landing place to pay the bills and now you’re looking for starting the building blocks for a new company you want to form? Sorry — I’m following your blog a little late.

    I’m a PHP freelancer, supporting two teenagers, a wife, and feeding the meter on 2 SUVs, my daughter’s car, a mortage, a second mortgage, phone and Internet bills (they’re raping me), and about 3 credit cards with pretty decent balances. But I’m making it work, and I’d rather do this than anything else in the world. I jumped in kind of sink-or-swim when my last company wanted to get uppity and crazy on me.

    Have you ever heard of the empty job? I heard about this on freelanceswitch.com. It’s where a guy gets one of these forgotten jobs that doesn’t pay great but also isn’t very demanding. Often these jobs are county or state government jobs, such as working on the third floor in a library archive, answering the occasional phone call or filing some archive material away. You work your 40 hours and then you go home, never more. But, while you’re there, it’s also one of these jobs where dumb people take like 8 hours to do the work, but people like you and I can knock the work out in 3 hours and have the rest of the time to work on freelancing. Sure, it’s unethical, but hey, the boss gets his work done, and instead of high turnover in a position like that, people stick around. Now, I don’t have one of these jobs. But I got a chuckle out of hearing about how someone was doing that. It certainly can help one build up their business safely, and provide a safety net at any time of the month to fall back down on some kind of decent paycheck.

    And my situation was pretty scary when I got started. I could have thrown open a window and screamed. My family loves it here, and my wife has a great career, so we can’t move away. And I didn’t want to drive miles and miles away to the good-paying job. And I didn’t want to board a plane every week for a fly-around consulting job — been there, done that. So I started freelancing.

    So my advice to people wanting to break into their own web development business is to start looking at the market very carefully. What do customers want? For instance, forums, blogs, and websites with a CMS backend — that’s a common need. And often the people that bring up these sites make their cash on ad revenue or subscriptions for things, such as exclusive access to a premier portion of the website, or pay to download software or an eBook.

    Then you have to ask yourself, what toolkits and frameworks can I learn, purchase, or build on my own that can help speed up my delivery of these systems? First and foremost, there’s jQuery — everyone uses that these days because it makes tremendous sense. And then every site needs an admin system, but you have to think about that — you want to impress clients, but you also want a system that is easy for you to extend rapidly, and which doesn’t refresh its menus with every click (because that’s slow). Therefore, you need to think about building an admin system to your tastes, and which probably uses jQuery and AJAX to do right-pane updates based on left-pane menu choices (such as from an accordion menu) — thereby making the admin system draw on the screen fast with every click. And so I think you get it — you have to continue along these lines and build yourself up.

    And then there’s eCommerce. You should have a rudimentary understanding of how to make a PayPal Add To Cart button with Website Payments Standard, and a Checkout Now button. You need to know how to switch those things into sandbox mode and production, and have sandbox test accounts. And when you finally figure that out, you need to turn around and do the same with Google Checkout.

    Next is a really good CMS package. But not just any CMS package — one that you can integrate with your stuff in a polished, easy way. For me, I couldn’t find anything that was “drop-in” like I wanted. Most wanted to be the entire framework up on which you draw all your pages for the site, which was just too overwhelming for me. So, instead, I built my own. I applied the 80/20 rule to the design and stuck with sections, subsections, and articles. For comments, I learned how to integrate those in with PunBB forum software (which is free). And then I used TinyMCE in the admin system so that my clients could publish articles. Variants of this system are now being used by my clients and they love it.

    You need to spend the time getting yourself ready, because that’s what I wish I had done. The competition is brutal out here in freelance land. You need to have these tools, frameworks, and toolkits in place, and packages understood that you can integrate.

    Once you’ve got that established, try working slowly in the market with clients, and then grow from there. Let the freelance business literally pull you away from your day job, and don’t the plum fool thing that I did by going “cold turkey” on the cubicle job, jumping out on my own without a life raft.

    Sure, I’m making it work now, but it was a rocky, scary road. I HAD to make it work, you see. It was either that or bankruptcy or uproot my family to move us to a different place.

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