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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    Whiny, Or Legitimately Overworked/Underpaid?

    I've registered for this forum because I'm trying to decide if I am just whiny, or if I am legitimately overworked/underpaid.

    I've only been working creating for the web for about six-months, and so as a profession it is still very new to me-- so new that I am not even sure how my skill set is classified if I have to find another job doing what I am doing.

    Where I am working:

    Currently, I am working for a firm headed by a salesman who sells brochure-ware websites via the phone to a specific industry in the US, and pairs that with some "social media marketing" training for the clients. He is a great salesman and since starting with him six months ago I have done on the order of eighty 10-page websites for folks from CA and FL.

    Mostly our sites operate on a templating framework that uses a PHP data file and customizing a set of images in photoshop.

    My history:

    While I have really only been working solely on websites since I started to work for this specific salesman, I have a long background in doing websites, doing one or two a year back into the 1990s. I have an MA (and most of a PhD) in English and have taught at several universities. Additionally, since starting to work at this place, I have learned enough PHP to implement our basic templating system and have gotten friendly enough with mysql to feel confident about installing/migrating the joomal, wordpress, and drupal sites I have occasionally had to create.

    The history of the place:

    When I started, there were three other people working in the production side: a professional programmer and two ladies with no real qualifications. Since then, these two folks left (on their own), and I have hired two more people who have some tech-support background and a kid out of college who can do just enough PS and html to make revisions to the websites. In late December, the programmer left, leaving me with finishing a Flash-based site and a couple of clients who need specific, non-template designs.

    So, in addition to churning out template websites, overseeing these three staff members, hunting for another person with some graphic design skills, doing telephone email troubleshooting, I now have to press what tiny amount of Flash knowledge I have into service.

    I am in BFE Texas, and I do this 40+hours a week (plus 5-7/wk hours spent on lynda.com) for 30K , on a 1099 (and have to be at work 8:30-5:30 and provide a computer and software).

    I am almost to the point where I feel like I ought to simply fire the salesman, though, of course, he pays my paycheck.

    So-- my question:

    Is this a normal working situation?
    If I had to find another job doing something similar, what would the job title be?
    In your experience, are their generally opportunities in cities like Austin or San Antonio, TX where the work is less complex and the pay is better?
    Should I just be grateful to have a job, as I don't have the several years of experience that most of the jobs I have been looking at desire?

    Sorry to write a novel on my first post, but I am kind of struggling and after a long career in the university, I can't tell if it is just that my expectations are off a bit.

  2. #2
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    If you are spending 5-7 hours a week on Lynda in order to meet you job requirements, it sounds like you are in the learning zone. 30K doesn't sound bad considering you are transitioning to the field. After you master aspects of Web Development you will be qualified to earn more money. Sorry, but a PHD in English doesn't get you far in this field.

  3. #3
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    'Fire the salesman' always sounds good to people in your position. Then again, without the salesman would you be earning anything at all? Someone who can make websites is generally less valuable than someone who can sell websites, so increase your skills until you are sure that you are worth more than you are getting paid, then move on.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    Fair enough: thanks for the perspective, from both of ya'll.

    I can see the value in a sales guy. I was earning about the same for the two years I did freelance AV production before starting with the guy, but it is a lot less feast or famine with his help and that is a nice thing. When the rubber meets the road, I am lucky to be able to watch the guy and take notes about how I could start a similar business, .

  5. #5
    SitePoint Addict NetNerd85's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sagewing View Post
    'Fire the salesman' always sounds good to people in your position. Then again, without the salesman would you be earning anything at all? Someone who can make websites is generally less valuable than someone who can sell websites, so increase your skills until you are sure that you are worth more than you are getting paid, then move on.
    From my experience I think for every 5 bad sales people there is one bad web developer. So I would agree, a good sales person is very valuable. Finding a good one that can sell according to facts, and doesn't piss your Project Manager off is very difficult.
    a new day, a new beginning
    never follow the crowd, the crowd is poor!

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    "Finding a good one that can sell according to facts, and doesn't piss your Project Manager off is very difficult."

    That is about the number we have experienced. We have gone through about 14 sales staff, and have about three (including the boss-man) that can consistently sell a site.

    Of course, I am trying to hire a designer in the area, and am having very little luck.

  7. #7
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NetNerd85 View Post
    From my experience I think for every 5 bad sales people there is one bad web developer. So I would agree, a good sales person is very valuable. Finding a good one that can sell according to facts, and doesn't piss your Project Manager off is very difficult.
    I'm not sure I understood that ratio - bad salespeople and bad web developers are both found in abundance all over the place

    But, a salesperson will by definition push facts to the limit and will always piss off a PM. I look for a salespeople that are most able to work with everyone, but in sales it's always about the numbers and if you find a real rain maker you can expect that they'll rattle some cages - and so it goes.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  8. #8
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    1. How can you be on a 1099 (independent contractor) if you have to be on the job at a certain time every day? That doesn't qualify you as an independent contractor.

    2. If you can get the work on your own and make more money, then there's your answer. I worked as a programmer (non-web) while building my web dev biz at night and on the weekend. I left when I was at the point where I was so busy with web work that I did not have time to go to my day job any more.

  9. #9
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    As a 1099 the only thing your boss can dictate is deadlines, and those are agreed upon on a per-basis. If you have office hours and just work 40 hours at a regular time then you aren't really a contractor. A 1099 means you are the boss and the employee of your business. You have to pay for all your own software and hardware but you set the terms as well. Might not want to be a boat you rock but thought you should know.

    That being said, making money of whipping out similar-structured websites is probably due to your boss getting the business. It sounds like his other business feeds into creating work for you. You might have done a lot of sites but it sounds like you've mastered a very specific setup only. Now that you are doing the work of the others, do you feel yourself struggling or keeping up?

    You don't have to know everything to be a web developer, its mostly about how well you learn new technologies and apply them that an employer is going to be interested in.

    I worked for an advertising agency for several years and it wasn't until i started doing a little side freelancing that i realized how specific my knowledge was, and how much i relied on the legwork done by the project manager and the lead developer to set up the requirements.

  10. #10
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    I've had been doing 1099 legitimate labor (mostly event A/V and some motion graphics work) before starting with this guy.

    He is, as I say, an excellent salesman, and one of the things that I haven't been able to figure out (I blame newness to the profession, but in reality I might be a little thick on some points) is how much I am getting sold. When I was doing actual contract labor, I was making 5 to 7x what I am making per hour, though I was working much, much less often and usually terrified of what I would be doing in a few weeks: I would make $100 /hr shooting video for a day, and then nothing for a week or three except running sound for a crappy music.

    And although he demands that I be on site, I am providing my own software and hardware and have most of the control over the how and when things get done. So I am aware that I ought to be classed as a W2 employee.

    I don't know if our site process is all that normal, as I have never worked anywhere else.

    He basically sells the site, and hands me a name, phone number, and email address: no production specs, all one price regardless of it being a template site that takes 4-7 hours to get through production or a custom site that takes weeks of back and forth communication with the client. And he does the billing. Those two things are big things, though.

    When a site gets sold, it gets pushed into a production workflow that I setup, where a guy I hired does the discovery (using a process that I also designed). Unless it is a more specific project, I just crank out the site, and I have the other guy do minor revisions. If it is more specific, then I usually handle the entirety of the design/coding/implementation/client training. On top of that, we have had to do a lot of management, as we are hosting folks emails.

    For what it is worth, I would be much happier crafting really awesome custom sites rather than cranking out brochures, but that is not the model of this business.

    "Now that you are doing the work of the others, do you feel yourself struggling or keeping up?"

    The thing that prompted me to post this on the forum is that when the programmer guy quit at the end of December, he was supposed to be paid hourly to finish a couple of websites, but the sales guy decided that it would be better to add them to my workload.

    I will get whatever done that needs to be done, I will happily do it. Since it is the salesman's business if compromises have to be made, ultimately that is his decision. But I feel like he would happily oversell what we are capable of producing and it is no fun to deal with grumpy clients who have to wait several weeks for a very basic site.

    Following Don's suggestion, I have done the math. If I could find someone to sell sites and paid them what he was paying the sales staff-- which he does entirely with commissions-- I'd be making far more than I am now. I just haven't manned up and done that, because... well, I just appreciate how hard it is to sell a site, and a regular paycheck is comforting. Sagewing is entirely correct that it probably looks like the grass is greener on the other side... but I am still trying to figure stuff out, and I appriciate all y'alls input so far.

  11. #11
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Going into sales isn't about 'manning up'. It a skill and a talent that can be learned but also needs to be a fit for your personality and strengths.

    Unless you think that you could really be good at sales, there isn't all that much benefit to moving in to it. Conversely, a good sales person should stick to sales and probably wouldn't be a great developer.

    But you have to accept the fact that sales takes precedence over services in the cruel reality of business. It doesn't matter how great a developer or designer you are if there are no sales, Cinderella stories aside.

    Find YOUR strongest skills, and then figure out a path to increase your freedom, income, and satisfaction!
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  12. #12
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    "Going into sales isn't about 'manning up'. It a skill and a talent that can be learned but also needs to be a fit for your personality and strengths."

    I don't think I communicated very clearly. On one hand, I don't think that I make a very good sales person. I understand the process a bit, but it isn't something I want to do.

    However, finding and hiring a sales person is some thing that I think that I could do, and do well for both me and whoever I could get who could sell. But committing to doing that-- essentially going into business for myself would take a lot of chutzpah, and that is what I was referring to by "manning up".

    "Find YOUR strongest skills, and then figure out a path to increase your freedom, income, and satisfaction!"

    Definitely... but (of course) that path is not obvious and is requiring a lot of reflection.

  13. #13
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    I find that websites sell themselves. I don't have a sales person and don't advertise, and I am turning away work. And my prices are not cheap. That being said, I *do* have to spend of a lot of non-billable hours on administrative tasks. It would be easier to have a project manager and sales person, but then that would cut into the money I'm collecting from the client, so it's 6 of one, half a dozen of the other.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Zealot TexasBob's Avatar
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    Sorry to raise a thread from the dead, but I'd like to update it.

    "'Fire the salesman' always sounds good to people in your position. Then again, without the salesman would you be earning anything at all? "

    Well, three and half months after leaving the job to hustle my work for myself, my provisional answer is "yes, yes I am a lot better off."

    I took your advice, learned a whole lot (and as with the rest of my life before and after am still learning), and moved on.

    My work is a lot higher quality, more interesting, and more useful to the people who receive it.

    I got one big account for myself and one little account, and quit the job so I would have time for both of these accounts which each paid more (by themselves) and took less time (collectively) than the job.

    Thanks for the thoughts folks.

  15. #15
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexasBob View Post
    Sorry to raise a thread from the dead, but I'd like to update it.

    "'Fire the salesman' always sounds good to people in your position. Then again, without the salesman would you be earning anything at all? "

    Well, three and half months after leaving the job to hustle my work for myself, my provisional answer is "yes, yes I am a lot better off."

    I took your advice, learned a whole lot (and as with the rest of my life before and after am still learning), and moved on.

    My work is a lot higher quality, more interesting, and more useful to the people who receive it.

    I got one big account for myself and one little account, and quit the job so I would have time for both of these accounts which each paid more (by themselves) and took less time (collectively) than the job.

    Thanks for the thoughts folks.
    Great job! I'm happy it's going well ror you. Now you have to start climbing the client ladder, getting larger and larger checks for doing less and less work You can do it!

    And don't forget to start working on that cash reserve. Still the #1 thing that kills tiny businesses is the inability to cash flow, and you'll need that ability to service larger jobs so make a cash reserve plan and stick to it no matter how hard it is at first!

    Almost every time I work with a small business who is struggling to grow and is cash poor they say a similar thing, "I would love to have bunch of cash saved up but it's just not possible until I get bigger business". Ah but is is possible and those who do it usually win out.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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