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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot Mitochondrion's Avatar
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    How to learn the business aspect of web design?

    The goal is to make me a savvy negotiator so I can negotiate a good contract and also to manage projects like a pro.

    Web design books tend to focus on ActionScript and PHP and nothing else...

  2. #2
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    This is a big issue that I have also run into. I am running a small web design company and have had to educated myself with lots of books, the internet, and experianced people that I know. However, I run into problems regularly and feel as though I need more business education to run my business professionally.

    I am considering getting a business course certification at a local 2-year college (I am about to finish my A.A.S. in Web Design). I have taken Intro to Business as part of my degree plan. Does anyone have recomendations for either of us? (I don't mean to steal your thread Mitochondrion, I just wanted answers to a similar problem).

  3. #3
    _ silver trophy ses5909's Avatar
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    A lot of it is experience. So many of us start out as programmers, get into web development and decide we want to do it for ourselves.
    Sara

  4. #4
    Webwellwisher Robert Warren's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ses5909
    A lot of it is experience. So many of us start out as programmers, get into web development and decide we want to do it for ourselves.
    Sara's right. The trick is to be constantly educating yourself, and to figure out as early as possible who you are as a business and as a businessperson.

    You won't learn a thing about the business from the bookstore's tech shelf. Guaranteed. Instead, go hit the business section and start reading. Read biographies of successful businesspeople. Read good books on marketing (I'm working my way through "High Visibility: Transforming Your Personal And Professional Brand" at the moment). Start building a library and keep building it - always be expanding your knowledge of the world.

    When you're done with the business section, head towards history, starting with the military variety. Remember, politics is just warfare carried out through other means. You'll learn a lot about how to manage conflict (probably the most important business skill) from learning how others have done the same over the last few thousand years. Learn from their successes, and try to be original with your mistakes.

    As far as legal stuff goes, I have two bits of advice (in addition to the common sense stuff). One, deeply scrutinize every contract you come across; research the language (info available on the Web, but visit a law library if need be) and learn everything you can about contract law. Learn how to write bulletproof contracts. Two, be on the lookout for opportunities to interact with the legal profession in a non-client capacity - you can learn a lot by just knowing lawyers, from friendly (i.e., NOT advisory) conversation about these issues. For example, years ago I participated on a volunteer basis in a copyright-related project for Harvard's Berkman Center, where I had daily conversations with some of the best IP attorneys in the country. I'm not a lawyer myself, and don't pretend or intend to be, but that experience has been useful as hell in my writing business. Look for similar opportunities.

    The last bit of advice I'd give is to choose your allies carefully and wisely - people better and smarter than you, more experienced than you, folks you know you can trust. Don't surround yourself with inferior copies of yourself. You'll learn a lot from good allies; they'll drive you to higher levels of professionalism, they'll keep you sane, and they'll remind you of who you are when you need to hear it.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Tyssen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Warren
    Learn how to write bulletproof contracts.
    Isn't that what lawyers are for?

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    Now available in Orange Tijmen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ses5909
    So many of us start out as programmers, get into web development and decide we want to do it for ourselves.
    That sounds very familiar to me . The only way you will really learn how it works, is to just start your own business and learn from your mistakes and the people around you.

    And like MCsolas said, making sure that its really clear to both parties what is and isn't included in the work that you agreed on doing is really important.

    I forgot to do that myself on something i'm working on right now, and i wished i thought about before i started working. But these are the kind of things you will learn from.

    No way that i will forget to get everything on paper next time that i start working on someone's website.
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    Spend a few years reading and screwing up -- thats how to learn. Meet people who know the ropes and ask them questions too, while you're at it.
    Bring out our hope and reason, before we pine away.

  8. #8
    PHP/Rails Developer Czaries's Avatar
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    I am a hardcore web designer and programmer, but I chose Business Administration instead of Computer Science as my major for this very reason. There's a lot out there about design and programming, but relatively little about how to run your own business effectively. I know I have some online resources to help you, but I don't have them with me right now. Let me get back to you on this one in a little bit .

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    Doing mistakes, and thinking about them...

    That was my way to learn the business aspect ...

    Ehm... That IS my way ....

  10. #10
    SitePoint Member
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    Trial and error works for many, but there are those who tend to get frustrated if they are not 100% prepared.

    Take on a consultant to show you the ropes or take some night classes at the local college. Education never hurts, but experience is always the best if you can afford the time and trials.

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    SitePoint Wizard
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    Trial and error, get a good attorney to outsource your worrying, quicken for easy to use bookkeeping, read, and experiment on your own in your free time, which you will have some in the beginning. DO NOT be afraid to try new things. Failing is part of the game and learning.

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    SitePoint Evangelist
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    Despite having years of technical experience I'm trying to migrate to working for myself full-time and am quite new this area. So far, I've learnt the from my mistakes (not charging enough for work, not getting things in writing). It's also good to make friends with veterans in the business and talk to them.

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    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy Kailash Badu's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, management is more of an art then a science. So what counts more is experience which only comes with time. Still, you can try your hands at some tecniques that might prove valuable in gripping that art faster, better.
    • Pay a visit to a web development company that belongs to some one you know (just to make things easier), observer processes and procedures, and try to get the lay of the land.
    • If possible, ask a friend/acquaintance of yours who happens to be salesperson, MD (or whatever) to take you along in one of his business deals. Keep an eye on how he gets things done.
    • Read. Especially blogs like our own Web Pro Business Blog.
    • Subscribe Fortune Small Business magazine. Or simply subscribe the RSS feed from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/

    • Wait and see what experts speak out in the posts that are to follow this one. Lol.
    Last edited by Kailash Badu; Nov 7, 2006 at 11:40.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Wizard mcsolas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitochondrion
    The goal is to make me a savvy negotiator so I can negotiate a good contract and also to manage projects like a pro.
    "Can I get that in writing?"

    Just keep repeating that phrase until you get it down. Countless ways to go about this.. get people to agree to things item by item in email, or all at once in a proposal.

    The more people avoid this process, the more likely they will try and screw you, change the deal, not pay.. stuff we (as professionals) dont deserve nor need to deal with.

    Once you get it in writing.. Save all correspondence. Keep it -organized- enough to read it back to them without needing to dig through a lot of items.

  15. #15
    Working on it... Contrid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MCsolas
    "Can I get that in writing?"

    Just keep repeating that phrase until you get it down. Countless ways to go about this.. get people to agree to things item by item in email, or all at once in a proposal.

    The more people avoid this process, the more likely they will try and screw you, change the deal, not pay.. stuff we (as professionals) dont deserve nor need to deal with.

    Once you get it in writing.. Save all correspondence. Keep it -organized- enough to read it back to them without needing to dig through a lot of items.
    I totally agree with you, even though I still struggle to do just that.
    Even though it takes time to set up documentation for all aspects of a project, it definitely is worth it over the long run.
    Not only does it make you feel secure, but as a result, your clients will also feel more at ease with what you are doing and what they are paying for.
    And so I got lost in code...completely asphyxiated by it...

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  16. #16
    SitePoint Wizard
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mitochondrion
    The goal is to make me a savvy negotiator so I can negotiate a good contract and also to manage projects like a pro.
    As the old saying goes... practice makes perfect. Becoming a great negotiator is a combination of knowledge and execution. Learn the tricks of the trade and how to put them into action.

    As you mentioned, web design books are not likely to give you that sort of knowledge. Business books, obviously focused on negotiations & sales, will be most helpful to you in becoming a savvy negotiator. Also, a good understanding of human psychology can be really helpful in negotiating and making sales.

    When I was in college (B.S. in computer science with a track in management information systems [mix of comp sci & business studies]) one book that was recommended consistently during my 4 years there by many professors was Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People." It was surprisingly never on the curriculum for any class that I had, probably because of the *self help* nature of the book. I suppose that type of book (self help) officially being on a curriculum is considered taboo by the academic world. Regardless, that book was recommended over & over by many professors and is definitely worth the read.

    Quote Originally Posted by FinalEclipse
    However, I run into problems regularly and feel as though I need more business education to run my business professionally.

    I am considering getting a business course certification at a local 2-year college (I am about to finish my A.A.S. in Web Design). I have taken Intro to Business as part of my degree plan. Does anyone have recomendations for either of us?
    Business degrees, in my opinion, are geared towards educating the student more for the role of being an employee and primarily focused on corporate environments. I somewhat doubt that a business certification would prepare you much in terms of being an entrepreneur. If you can find a course/certification on entrepreneurial studies that is what you should focus on.

    If you have no plans on working as an employee for another company, don't worry much about the "certification" or "degree." Focus your efforts on the problems at hand and the best way for you to solve them. Pick & choose the courses that you take, making sure that you only spend time in classes that actually benefit you well.

    You don't need to study accounting in college in order to effectively maintain the books for your business. If you plan to grow your business, eventually you will hire an "accountant" to do that for you. A program such as Quickbooks would make it really easy for you, without requiring you to study science behind accounting. Take a single course on Quickbooks if you need to.

    Taxes... the IRS often provides free tax courses to help educate small business owners.

    If you have employees, there are services that make handling payroll extremely easy... such as the new service provided by Bank of America (which is free is you pay your employees via direct depost to Bank of America accounts).

    Free small business advice is available through http://www.score.org/ which is somehow connected to the US Small Business Administration ( http://www.sba.gov/ ). "Score" = "Service corps of retired executives" who volunteer their time to help small business owners.
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  17. #17
    Non-Member buzzfretz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by john2k

    When I was in college (B.S. in computer science with a track in management information systems [mix of comp sci & business studies]) one book that was recommended consistently during my 4 years there by many professors was Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends & Influence People." It was surprisingly never on the curriculum for any class that I had, probably because of the *self help* nature of the book. I suppose that type of book (self help) officially being on a curriculum is considered taboo by the academic world. Regardless, that book was recommended over & over by many professors and is definitely worth the read.
    I have a BS in Business with a major in accounting. I was fortunate enough to have a friend send me to the Dale Carnegie Course as a graduation gift. He was a High School drop-out and an immensely successful business man. To him, Carnegie's techniques and methods were the most important skills he'd ever learned in a classroom. Everything else about business he had learned by himself. No Harvard Business School or fancy schmancy MBA program.

    Having said that...

    If you look at just about any business college curriculum you'll find these basic categories:

    Accounting
    Finance
    Management
    Economics
    Marketing
    Computer Science
    Statistics

    Having a basic understanding of all these subjects will go a VERY long way towards helping you reach your goals as a business person. Use all of the suggestions people have named on this thread to learn as much about these subjects as you can. None of it is rocket science. And I think you'd be surprised about how much clearer you can see the Big Picture if you have some of the fundamentals ingrained in your head.

    Another suggestion: There is a book called How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Gerard. Read it and then start doing the things he tells you to do. It is full of practical and very specific advice. It's not just a bunch of happy pep talk or lofty principles. Just straightforward strategies to build your business no matter what business you're in.

    One more piece of advice: If you want to be an artist then be one but don't expect to earn much money. Being an artist and being a business person are two entirely different things. You will be much happier and probably even more successful if you understand the distinction up front. I know what I am talking about.

    Sincerely,
    Middle-aged old f*rt

  18. #18
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    What helped me most in understanding the business end of our company is to look at companies out there and find out why they are successful. A great help to me has been the financial TV Network CNBC or similar type programs that I have running pretty much all day long. Also reading daily newspapers like Investor's Business Daily or the Wallstreet Journal always provides a lot of insight. Get involved with finances, start small investments to push you on with the learning of these very complex issues.

    Just making money does not cut it, you must learn how to hold on to it and make it work for you and your company. Without that kind of knowledge all the good jobs you might find will only feed you today, not tomorrow -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  19. #19
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    In Belgium there's a learning centre where you can follow evening courses for learning to run a business. Some of these courses learn you to negotiate, other to lead other people in your business, there are a lot of courses. I can 't say if they any good but these courses are a good starting point to come into contact with other sources and people who share your ideas and want to expand their knowledge. Follow a course a go drink something with your instructor!

    Do a lot of networking and exchange experiences and read, read, read, ... I still have to learn a lot before starting my own business. I would certainly read some autobiographies from succesfull business men, as Robert Warren suggested.

    Remind yourself that these things won't be found in books. But reading books can make you change your way of thinking, can make you develop a feeling for doing business. So does experiences (from you or other people). I gues that is what you are after?

  20. #20
    SitePoint Addict Adam A Flynn's Avatar
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    One book I would suggest, if you want a good overview of some of the more business-type things from a very technical perspective is "Professional PHP" by Wrox Publishing. The first 2 sections focus on purely technical information, and the third is dedicated to project management, application architecture, and other similar things (it starts off with a ficticious project and walks you through the stages from pitch to signoff, including technical and business aspects).

    It's not an amazingly detailed text on business things, but, for a PHP book, I think it does a good job of covering relevant issues.

  21. #21
    SitePoint Wizard
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    Wow, I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned already, but I think Brendon's Web Design Business Kit is a great resource to learn more about the business aspects of Web Design. Will it teach you everything you need to know? Of course not, but it's certainly worth the investment in my book.

    Steve

  22. #22
    SitePoint Evangelist Scott.Botkins's Avatar
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    I've been doing websites since 1998, but I wanted to wait until I was out of high school to turn it into a small business and go at it full time. This is my first year in business and it's been a lot of fun. I came in not knowing how I would do or where I would end up, I used to very shy which isn't good for a business owner at all.

    Now, I know where I'm going and what I'm going to do with my web design business. I've learned a lot by just having confidence and going at it hard but it took me a while to overcome the uncertian and fears, at first I had no idea how to contact potential clients and work out a deal but now it's like a simple everyday process because I kept learning new things as I went on and I continue to do so.

    Just go at it and learn from your mistakes I guess is the best way to put it. But be sure to research before hand, ask a lot of questions and make a plan on everything you want to do, then ask even more questions, be organized and stay focused. Go with what works, everyone runs a business differently. If you do things right you'll also meet a lot of great people too on the way who will provide support and help, be sure to always give them 10% off

  23. #23
    I Love Licorice silver trophybronze trophy Datura's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shockbotkins
    be sure to always give them 10% off
    That is a key point in business: make the customer feel really special, give him the little discount and you will be paid back many fold. I bend backwards for clients and it does pay. Once you got them on your side that way, you can very much be in charge, they trust you and your judgment. That is the way to build a solid base -- Datura
    Ulrike
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  24. #24
    Non-Member the baldchemist's Avatar
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    You know, If you learn how to write great clear and compelling creative in a fun humorous way you will always be forgiven for any business shortcomings. It's part of growing up, to have to pay your dues, making mistakes. Most important listen with genuine empathy to your client and don't get get frustrated by your own cashflow problems. It shows that you are desperate for the business.
    What you dont know make into a pertinant question.
    But irrespective of all the technology we are all still human and have a sense of humour( I hope) dont be frightened to use it.
    Take good care and I wish you well in your venture.
    One other thing if I may. Good enough is never good enough,good enough is boring and expected. You have to strive to go just a bit further.
    The Baldchemist.
    www.thebaldchemist.com

  25. #25
    SitePoint Member tombang's Avatar
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    Creative individuals (yes, that includes programmers) are not naturally business savvy. If you find yourself fumbling when it comes to making deals then reading ten books on business won't help you much, you have to be born with these kinds of skills.


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