Let’s Get Started

By Andrew Neitlich
Mila is a prolific book cover designer on 99designs. Work with her today!
I'm led by "Work hard. Play fair. Be nice." That's a key to success.
Mila Milic

I’m delighted to have been selected to write this blog! Thank you Georgina and the Sitepoint staff for putting your trust in me.

My charge is to post about 3 blogs each week (along with one column each month). That’s a lot of writing. While I’m happy to write about issues that my current consulting clients face in marketing and selling IT services, or just talk about common marketing and selling issues, I’d prefer to respond directly to your issues and questions in this blog.

So, do you have a burning issue related to the business-end of running your web business? My expertise is especially on the marketing and sales side.

If so, either post a reply to any of the blogs in this section, or email me directly (with Sitepoint blog question in the subject heading) at andrewn@itprosuccess.com.

For instance, George has already written that when he started his business he didn’t have a clue about how much “painful administrative B/S” there would end up being.

He couldn’t be more correct. There’s bookkeeping/accounting, invoicing, proposal development, contracting with clients and (maybe) contractors and employees, benefits management, paying bills, and on and on.

There’s also marketing and sales, which should be your top priority, but which many IT professionals perceive to be “administrative BS.”

Here are some high-level pieces of advice about George’s issue:

1. Go out today and buy any of Michael Gerber’s E-Myth books. His focus is about why most small businesses don’t work. To him, most business owners spend too much time working IN the business, and not enough time working ON the business. To create a successful business, you need to develop a “franchise” — a repeatable set of business processes that allows you to grow. So how would you handle all the administrative stuff if you were working ON the business instead of IN it?

2. I can’t stand the administrative stuff either in my own consulting practice. So I budget 2-3 days a month to do all of it. By scheduling administrative days, it makes it easier for me.

3. I also hire part-time support to take care of the things I really can’t stand doing — especially bookkeeping. That way, I can spend more time marketing and growing my business, and developing client relationships.

4. It gets easier as you go, especially if you develop procedures (e.g. a common proposal/contract template) and use technology (e.g. QuickBooks with automatic bank downloads and electric bill pay) to save time.

5. Please don’t ever consider marketing and sales to be administrative BS. Business development is the lifeblood of your business. A great web developer who can’t market will lose to a half-decent web developer who is a great marketer — hands down, any day.

That’s it for the first blog. Please keep in touch.

  • http://www.billbolte.com bbolte

    Looking forward to the postings here. Should be some interesting and useful information.

  • http://www.saveourhomes.org firegryphon3207

    Time to subscribe to this one too. Looks to be very interesting.

  • http://www.calvertdesigngroup.com Calvert Design

    Building a repeatable process for everything from your sales/marketing efforts to documenting project progess is my number key to success. We’re now able to turn out a fully qualified proposal based on a structured needs analysis delivered in a professional package in less than 24 hours. Clients that are used to having a hard time getting prospective bidders to return calls are always impressed and it makes a statement about how we will handle their project in a timely and professional manner.

    Looking forward to more insight in the future.

  • http://www.delyrical.com davidjmedlock


    It’s absolutely great to see this blog. I truly look forward to your future posts and will definitely be keeping subscribing to this blog. Keep up the good work.

  • James

    Can you recommend a few banks, perhaps online banks, that offer enhanced online features? For instance: robust automatic downloads, good online reporting, features for self-employed, reasonable fees, …

    I want to use technology as much as possible to simplify the admin stuff. How about other web-based or other services to help a small web business? After I joined the NASE, they pointed me to SamplePay, which for a fee, helps me pay my spouse as an employee so our health insurance is tax-deductible. Are there other services like this?

    (Also in particular I need advice on a bank whose automated downloads work with Quicken on Mac OS X. Merrill Lynch failed in this.)

    Looking forward to your blog.

  • http://www.flippedout.net Bryce

    As a young web designer that has been wanting to start a business, this blog may just help me get some more confidence and finally get on my feet! Great idea to start this one up.

  • http://www.altstudio.com.au ccburns

    Fantastic! Looking forward to the information. As someone starting out any advise to potentially help my business would be great.

  • Michael Tumey

    I’ve run a “brick and mortar” graphic design/printing/signs/web development studio for 10 years. I’ve built sites for myself and optimized them for copy and keyword phrasing. For a while I had a site that was #1, 2 or 3 in any major search engine – until I failed to pay the domain fee and lost the site (aaah!)So I’ve spent the last year trying out new sites and strategies trying to get back in place. Using Wordtracker, I fail to find good keywords for my industry that have any KEI rating over 25. Finding good keywords is my current problem.

  • saponifier

    Andrew — Thank you, thank you, thank you… I’m signed up to your RSS feed. Looking forward to some great direction!

  • lostfox

    I am a 21 year old college student looking to start my own web business. My major hang-up(s) is what kind of license(s) do I need to operate. Do I need one of those DBAs or Federal Tax ID’s as well? These are just terms that I’ve came across recently. I would imagine that some of these items may depend on location, so would you know of any books/online resources/actual people to call to get all the information. OR do I really not need any of these items for the moment?

  • aneitlich

    [QUOTE=lostfox]I am a 21 year old college student looking to start my own web business. My major hang-up(s) is what kind of license(s) do I need to operate. Do I need one of those DBAs or Federal Tax ID’s as well? These are just terms that I’ve came across recently. I would imagine that some of these items may depend on location, so would you know of any books/online resources/actual people to call to get all the information. OR do I really not need any of these items for the moment?[/QUOTE]

    If that’s your only major hang-up, you are in great shape. Here’s a quick answer:

    If you plan to start out as a contractor with no employees, and do business under your name, then all you need is your Social Security number (I’m assuming you are in the USA). Clients will need that to file a 1099 form to the IRS, with a copy sent to you (which is why you need to keep good records of revenues).

    If you want to start a company (different name than your own and/or employees), then you need to choose the form your business will take. The decision depends on three factors: simplicity, how much liability you want to assume personally, and on tax consequences.

    Sole Proprietorship. This is the simplest form of structure. This is where you need a DBA (Doing Business As), if you will operate your business with a name different than your own. Essentially all you have to do is file notification in one or more local publications for a period of time notifying the public about your business. In my locale, the town and county offices gave me all the information I needed to handle the paperwork. Go with the least expensive publication(s). The other good news as a sole proprietor is that you are not double-taxed, as with a C-Corporation. The bad news is that your personal legal liability is unlimited; you could lose all of your personal assets if someone sues you.

    Personally, I’d start as a sole proprietor and save the money and time needed for incorporation until you get going.

    Partnership. Skip this structure as the risks outweigh the costs. You can have a partner, but if you do, set your business up as a corporation.

    Corporation. A C-Corporation sets you up to limit your personal liability. Unfortunately, you are double taxed: Once for corporate taxes, and again when the income flows to you as dividends. That’s why lots of small business owners set themselves up as S-Corporations or LLC’s (Limited Liability Corporations). In both cases, you limit your liability, and income flows right to you so that you pay taxes only once. In both cases, there’s a decent amount of paperwork for you or a lawyer to handle, not to mention filing and annual fees that can be significant.

    In all of the above cases, depending on where you live, you might need a city, county, and state occupational or business license to operate. Eventually, the government catches up to you, but you can wait until you get established in most places without fear of big penalties.

    Have your eyes glossed over yet? Frankly, the best thing you can do is ask a local lawyer and accountant for some quick, free advice in exchange for promising them work down the road. There’s lots of hungry lawyers and accountants out there who will be happy to comply.

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