bigato's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 07, 2013 5:28 pm

Here is some of my recent ideas and activities.

IT Consultancy

As I told before, I decided to stop avoiding making money from IT. I am selling myself as IT Consultant, but I usually do not charge for the consulting per se. At least not so far. I usually talk to the client, understand his needs, and then write a report listing the ways available to fullfil his technological needs. Sometimes I am meeting someone who does a very basic use of IT (sometimes does not even know how to use spreadsheets properly), but it can also happen that I meet someone that already is more up-to-date with technologies. For example, some days ago I was talking to a guy who is already paying a programmer to build him an android app connected with a system in a website. Other day I met a guy who already has a business in the real world but no Internet presence and would like to start e-commerce.

One pattern that emerges most of the time is that of business owners who do not understand much of technology but need it/want it and start throwing money at what they see as the solution for their problems/needs. My role initially is to guide the person to a better understanding of how to make a optimal use of technology to improve their business and their profits. That is the consulting that I told above that I am doing for free. When I find that there is some work that I can do for a good price I offer it in my report; when there is something else cheaper in the market I also tell the client. That way to work tends to improve my social networking, even when it does not generate imediate money to me.

I am also generating work for a couple of friends that act in sub-fields of IT that I am not specially interested in doing the job myself. One of them does support and fix computers. The other is an artist that designs web sites and app interfaces. I am focusing in doing what I do best, that is dealing with code. I am not an artist and while I could do the support and computer fixing, I like programming better.

So far I am building network successfully and I have a handful of projects going, but none of them made any money yet. At least a couple of them will probably bring me some money, but all of them will generate me references to other people. I am dedicating from 4 to 6 hours a day to this, monday-friday; and a lot of hours in the weekends, specially in the rainy ones. I am finding that putting my knowledge in practice to work to people and to solve real problems is far more satisfying than reading endless books without applying the knowledge. I still learn on the fly and do research all the time.

Organic Vegs Business

Because I now have an activity (above) that can potentially generate good income, I am considering the possibility to hire someone full-time to make better use of the big plot of land that I own now. I believe that I can pay a minimum wage to someone to cultivate the land and produce organic vegs that I will sell on farmer's market at weekends. After some months, I probably will at least break and be able to have the employee to pay for his own wage. Since my land has two houses, I can offer one of them to the person to live rent-free. Considering that I will not pay for vegs anymore, even being pessimist I should be able to make some profit from the business. Since I can live on so little money, maybe it could even generate enough for me to live on and save some. With the additional advantage that it will free up my time that I will be able to put on more lucrative activities, be it programming or say, woodworking.

If nothing else, it will be cheaper to pay someone to cultivate the land and have time to build my furniture and renovate my new house myself.

I am looking for someone who will be a good employee for the position. It is delicated because the person will also live in the same plot of land as I. My day job is helping because I have contact with a lot of people. I only ask to people whom I feel that I can trust. Someone told me about a guy who was willing to take the job, but he was not approved in my "interview". I am not in a hurry for this, since it will cost some money up-front and I still have R$8k in debt to pay.

I find interesting that after a lot of time focused on reducing expenses, I am now thinking in ways to make my expenses turn into income. Instead of spending money on food, I make a business of selling organic vegs. Instead of paying rent, I now have a house that I can rent on weekends to tourists, while I go visit family or friends. Housing and food, those are the two needs that we can't do without. What about making money instead of spending!

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dot_com_vet
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by dot_com_vet » Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:17 pm

Bigato, I think I consulting, whether FT or moonlighting, is a great way to make money.

The faster you can start charging market rates, the better. I used to nearly "give it away" to build experience, until a client told me that I did consulting for fun. It certainly was work and not a hobby.

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Mon Jul 08, 2013 5:31 am

Thanks for your advice, dot_com_vet. I am doing only the initial research for free, as a way to attract new customers and build a name. I charge for the rest. It is a way that I found to advertise myself without paying money for it. Do you think it is a good idea? Would it be better just to pay for some ads? How do you get your customers these days?

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dot_com_vet
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by dot_com_vet » Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:19 pm

bigato wrote: I am doing only the initial research for free, as a way to attract new customers and build a name. I charge for the rest. It is a way that I found to advertise myself without paying money for it. Do you think it is a good idea? Would it be better just to pay for some ads? How do you get your customers these days?
I think it's worthwhile to give this a try! I've always seen consultants bill for planning and project management, but it could be a great way to get your foot in the door. The risk is that the client will take your plan to another consultant and have them implement it at a lower rate.

I always did FT IT work, and would get referrals for moonlight consulting from coworkers. There was always somebody with a side business that would need help with some technical part of a project.

Colleagues that consult FT all go through a tech firm, which take in a percentage of the billable rate. I've seen a few exceptions where the consultants become partners in the business itself, which is probably more rewarding.

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BlueNote
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by BlueNote » Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:35 pm

Bigato,

I had this post written last night but the power went out due to the large storm we had in Toronto. Here is my second take.

I have done a little bit of consulting in my short time on this planet. The key things I learned was that I could usually sell my next job by doing a good job on the current one and getting referrals. A good job means under promise and over deliver, everybody loves that and will most likely give you a good referral. Most new people in consulting will promise anything to get the work, which turns out to be a nightmare of time and money wasting for you. Another key thing is to never ever ever do work for free unless it's for a family member or someone you would trust like a family member. Even then they should probably be paying you, you are family after all!

I did some free computer work, starting my little technology consulting business, for my parents neighbour who was into geology. I helped him set up his old computer, get his microscope working on it, training, advice etc. Instead of paying me anything for the hours upon hours of time I spent on his computer he gave me some rocks. They weren't even his "top of the line" rocks that he kept in glass displays, they were the throwaways he kept in boxes in his basement. He literally paid me fools gold for some work. He also talked my ear off about everything under the sun because it wasn't like he was paying me hourly to do the work. He didn't give me a referral either. I then did work for another guy in the neighbourhood. He asked what my rate was and I told him 15 bucks an hour because that is what I made in my dishwashing job times 1.5 at the time. He told me my rate was $50 an hour and even that was a low price. He was a sales/marketing consultant and he said he has charged upwards of $300 an hour to meet with someone for a couple of hours. I set up his computer, home network etc. I have done a ton of work with this guy since and he has given me some good referrals and marketing advice.

When you are giving your work away people will often treat you like an intern, treat your work like a kids school project and treat your time like it was infinite. If you do a bad job they will still bad mouth you to people and impact your reputation. I suspect part of the reason for this is that people think they get what they pay for and if you charge nothing ...

On the other hand if you charge market or higher rates your customer will want to get right down to business and, unless they are rolling in cash, will generally spend a very small amount of time chatting. Do a good job and your work will be respected and used because they will want to get a return on their investment. Get a referral and you can do more work and charge normal prices for it. IF you do a bad job your will tarnish your reputation but you can always give them a discount and go and fix your error, they might still give you a referral for your willingness to give them a break.

I could see how providing a contractually confidential one time discount to your customer starting out would be a good wedge into the market, but don't do free work ever if you are trying to break into an industry.

Well that's my advice, it's free so take it for what is worth ;)

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dot_com_vet
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by dot_com_vet » Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:26 pm

BlueNote wrote: don't do free work ever if you are trying to break into an industry
Agree, agree, agree! Free work will sap your life force. :-)

llorona
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by llorona » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:31 pm

Agree! Best consulting gigs are usually repeat customer and referrals. Keep doing a good job and you will soon build up your network.

Don't ever do anything for free -- it devalues your worth in the eyes of the "client."

I learned this the hard way.

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Chad
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by Chad » Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:53 am

The management consulting I do is a little different, but the sales work is still similar. I agree with Bluenote do not give away your work...completely.

What I would do in your position is figure out the appropriate hourly rate. Let's say it is $50/hr for this example (could be $300/hr for all I know). You identify someone that could use both strategic IT planning (what you are currently doing for free) and actual IT work (what you plan on charging for). The strategic planning will take rougly 3 hours and the actual IT work will take 40 hours (I'm assuming the actual IT work takes way more than the planning). I would quote my correct hourly rate of $50/hr, but only charge 1 hour for the planning if I was trying to get in the door. This way the value your planning work, you won't shock them when you charge for the actual IT work, it's cheap enough to get you in the door, and is less likely to screw you on a future client who hears about your "free planning."

Giving away work is a tough road to go down. Especially in the service industry.

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:08 am

Thank you so much for all the advice regarding consulting. That's helping me a lot. I will write a more detailed response once I get to access internet through the computer. I have more questions.

People, I'm already in my new home and it's awesome. The only bad news so far is that it looks like the only internet here is the awful cell phone access.

rube
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by rube » Thu Jul 11, 2013 10:14 am

Enjoy your new house Bigato!

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:27 pm

Thanks rube!!

I'm so glad that the new forums are working and are fast, because now my internet speed is 32 kbps... :-) And it's fast and smooth even here!

J_
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by J_ » Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:53 pm

Living in such a quiet environment, I wish you and your wife good homesteading bigato, and good crops!

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:34 pm

Thanks, J_! It looks like we really have found our own personal blue zone!!! What a place! What a life!

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:45 pm

BlueNote,

Thank you very much for your detailed response. I should be smarter as to know that I should follow your advice. Recently I had a very similar experience trying to teach bjj classes for free. Once I started to charge for the classes, I started to get a lot more students! That's how things are. I should have learned the lesson already. I am changing the way I work in consulting, following your tips. I now have a hourly rate. One interesting nice side-effect is that I feel much better now. I am either making money with IT Consulting, or I will be saving money by working at something in my home, like growing food, fixing things. Damn it, I know how good my work is, I really don't need to work for free. I have a lot of better ways to apply my time.

Chad, thanks for your tip about the flexibility when charging for the planning. Very useful.

I said I had some questions, but I forgot what I was going to ask. Probably nothing important. Thanks again!

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BlueNote
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by BlueNote » Sat Jul 13, 2013 9:13 pm

@ bigato, glad to hear you're going to charge a market rate for your time. I don't know how long you've been charging nothing for your work but don't be surprised if people are pissed about it. It is well known that raising prices pisses people off because price is often used as a mental short cut to determine the value of things. If you were perceived as being a 'freebie' before then you may be perceived as a gouger by charging a market rate. Nonetheless it will pass with time as you prove your worth.

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:46 am

Internet Access

My internet cell phone provider was blocking me from accessing Internet through devices other than my cell phone. I pay them a small fixed amount per month to be able to access their slow mobile Internet. They want me to pay three times as much to be able to access the same slowness from PC. I don't think it is fair. I would gladly pay for more speed, if available; but they don't offer any such plan at the moment.

After some hacking around, I discovered the way their amateur people did the blocking, and it was quite easy to bypass it. Now at least I can use a real keyboard and mouse and my wonderful linux system again to access Internet.

Hottentot
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by Hottentot » Sun Jul 21, 2013 8:51 am

How they blocked and how you did it?

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:39 am

They were using the user agent string from my browser. Please just don't spread the word around in detail, because if a lot of people start doing it, they'll find a better way.

Hottentot
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by Hottentot » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:42 am

bigato wrote:They were using the user agent string from my browser. Please just don't spread the word around in detail, because if a lot of people start doing it, they'll find a better way.
Don't worry, nobody here is doing what you do as far as i know.
BTW, what a lame way to block your acess. :lol:

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:51 am

Well my friend, that's how a lot of highly paid Linux professionals solve problems. I bet you could make some money from your skills too!

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 21, 2013 6:59 pm

It looks like I underestimated them. Internet is still mostly restricted to Android phone. User agent string it's not the only validation they are doing. I still don't know how I will get reasonable internet here.

The good news is, this weekend I prepared the first two raised beds in my garden.

Hottentot
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by Hottentot » Mon Jul 22, 2013 5:19 am

I'm paying R$50,00/month for 1Mb here. Net.

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Sun Jul 28, 2013 5:25 pm

I submitted my resume to apply to a job position inside my company to work with a selection of some of my preferred technologies in programming. If my resume convince them, they'll put me through a practical test. I would work in Sao Paulo. It would be a nice way to make the rest of the money I need before quitting, and also would help me to get future telecommuting positions in the field. I would like to apply my programming skills in a professional position at least once. I have a kind of a frustration because one of the things that I can do better, I only did it as occasional side projects. I should know if they'll want me in some days. It's not very likely because they said they want someone who have at least a specific level in the company hierarchy (?!) and I have the lowest rank possible. But I sent my resume anyways.

This weekend I had three guys working here in my property. One of them was the mason that's finishing the bathroom (one more Saturday to go), and the other two were my uncle the carpenter and one of his employees, that were substituting some doors and a window. I would like to do it all myself, but it is still not possible yet.

I made one more raised bed today, now we have three of them!

I made a todo list regarding my property and so far there are about 50 items. Some of them are big projects, like building a big shop, and building all the wood furniture for the big house. I have a lot of fun ahead. I will be free from the job in the bank during the whole next month ( August). I will probably focus in doing what will make me or at least save me money, like preparing a big food garden and preparing the big house to rent in the weekends.

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bigato
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by bigato » Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:09 am

Half an hour before entering my vacations, not having received any answer about the job position, I decided to contact the guy who is doing the selection. He told me that I wasn't called only because they are prioritizing people who would fulfill all the requirements, and I didn't fulfill the minimum hierarchy level requirement. But... He wants to talk to me anyway. Interview on Monday!

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My_Brain_Gets_Itchy
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Re: bigato's journal

Post by My_Brain_Gets_Itchy » Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:42 am

@bigato:

If how you handled the forum migration is an indication of how you work in your day to day job (ie. initiative, problem solving, ownership, etc) I have no doubt your career will take a very successful path.

People in hiring positions eventually recognize those types of intangibles and it ends up creating opportunities that were never there in the first place.

Good luck bigato!

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