Posts Tagged ‘Extreme bootstraping’

5 Startup Steps to finding & working with freelancers

April 7, 2009

As there are just two of us (Simon Oxley – my co-founder and I) in our startup we need outside help. We’d love to employ full time permanent staff but without external funding or product traction it’s too risky. The challenge is to find high quality external resources and keeping them focused on the project. Find the right fit/match and your onto a winner. This takes time and a bit of luck.

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Finding a good freelancer takes effort, requires teamwork & can be risky

So far we found freelance and company resources through our friends, Elance, 99Designs and LinkedIn. My friend Martin Wright at the new Web2.0 Surgery has asked me to post on our experiences working with freelancers:

  1. Where to find help? – As a startup we don’t have a long list of trusted suppliers. Trust takes time and experience working together. The next best thing is to ask your friends or rely on marketplace reputation e.g. Elance. We’ve been making lots of new friends at networking events over the last year. Many of these contacts are now on our LinkedIn contacts. Through LinkedIn we identified 12 local freelancers for our front-end web design/dev work. In the end we chose Luc Pestille because he had the right skills and understood our needs.
  2. Choosing right person? Keegan is one of the best freelancers we’ve worked with. We found Keegan through 99Designs and used him for our logo, business cards, Launch page and a new blog for Bootstrapping. Why did it work so well? We’ve now experienced working with logo designers and Keegan is an experienced designer with flare. We explained succinctly what we wanted and he understood our needs accurately. A good freelancer really gets under the skin of the requirement and turns it into a great product.
  3. How much to pay? – The saying goes “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” – James Goldsmith. As a Bootstrappping startup costs need to be kept down but cut too much and the job maybe be badly done. The deal needs to be a Win/Win outcome for both customer and supplier. Also remember that money is not the only motivator. If the company/freelancer is genuinely interested in the project and passionate about the work they will do a good job.
  4. Rules of engagement – My co-founder Simon has done a fantastic job in the architecture and prototyping of our new website monitoring app. Unfortunately there is only one of Simon. So we’ve used an offshore company to do much of the bulky development work. All projects should have a job specification/scope in place including  project timescales, a payment schedule and copy write/IP transference.
  5. Keeping focus – It is always useful to meet the people you are working with. This brings a personal aspect to the relationship which helps to work problems through. However its not always possible to met face to face when off-shoring.  Positive feedback is vital to keeping freelancers motivated. A note of warning: don’t interfere with the creative process once work starts. If you have done your homework and found the right resource get out the way. Otherwise you may do more harm than good.

We’ve benefited using freelancer by finding expert resources and only paying for them when we’ve needed their help. Its important to get alternative quotes because costs vary a great deal and be prepared to pay the going rate. A word of warning: don’t loose too much internal knowledge of your product. This knowledge brings the flexibility required to rapidly respond to customer needs and the ability to innovate ahead of the competition.

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Business cards – 5 key features for success

February 5, 2009

Business cards – a boring subject…but they are very important. It is said when you first meet someone you make your mind up whether you like them within the first 30 seconds! On these occasions business cards are often exchanged. Quality business cards can help make a good impression and are worth investing time and money on. The business card exchange ritual goes back along way:

businesscardattorney1895
American Attorney business card 1895
(a very serious looking fellow!)

I’ve received 1000’s of business cards over the years. They come in all different shapes, sizes, colours, textures, materials, etc. I’ve even been given a Titanium card!! With so many choices what do you choose for your business card? We dusted off our boxes of other peoples business cards last week and compared 100’s of cards. In the end we decided that the key feature of choosing a business card are:

  1. Text– Clear readable text which is a good font size and is well spaced. This makes the card easier to read and brings the impression of spaciousness. We found plenty of cards which used very small fonts and/or the text/lines were crammed together.
  2. Print quality– First impressions do count. Cut costs here and you maybe sending out a cheap low quality impression of your company and its products/services. Unfortunately we found several poor quality print jobs.
  3. Card thickness – Again quality counts. This is a strange thing to describe but when you hold a thicker business card it gives a feeling of substance. Again quality. When we looked through our cards quality thick paper makes a big difference (preferably 400g+).
  4. Back of card– IN the past I’ve used the back of peoples business cards to write summary notes. Alternatively the back of a business card is a great way to reinforce your logo and brand. It’s a walking advertisement of your brand. We found some great examples including Jive Software, Trampoline Systems and Mindcandy.
  5. Size– Having a card which fits into a wallet or purse is helpful. In a wallet it can be easily found and will be looked at again. I do like the ‘mini’ card funkiness but there just not practical as they get lost easily.

With all this in mind we had our cards designed by a professional designer. In the past we skipped the designer and did it ourselves. I think its worth paying that extra cash even when you are extreme bootstrapping to have it done properly. Here is our final result:

aware-monitoring_business_card1

Armed with a great design/layout you then need to find a good printer. We have looked at several printing companies and selected Printing.com. They offer a local service which is always useful when in a rush, a useful proof checking service and they are a big outfit which means they have good printers. Yes, we checkout what printing machines they used. There are lots of other printing companies. Emma Jones at Enterprise Nation has suggested several  including MOO and vistaprint.co.uk. “They cost as little as £15 for 250, again with free ‘template’ designs that look very professional” (Emma).

Good business cards really are worth investing in to give out the right impression when meeting a potential partner, prospective client, etc for the first time.

My other startup related posts:

Sourcing low cost logo designs – PART 1

January 20, 2009

Now you’ve got a business name and bagged the URL you’ll need a great logo. Head down the Street and you’ll find the local design agencies charge big business prices. $2000 in our case!  For extreme bootstraping startups like ours the cost of everything needs to be kept down. That includes design work. We’ve now sourced several low cost logo’s from designers across the world. Here are our experiences.

Our first two logo’s (viisys and E20portal.com) were sourced through Elance. Elance if you’ve not heard is a great resource for tech and design project suppliers. The client puts out a requirement proposal and suppliers bid for the work. After evaluating eleven bids on Elance we chose Canadian Nuvo Logo to produce our Viisys company logo at a cost of $215. We chose Nuvo because they are a small close-knit team offering a personal approach. Nuvo provided us with six initial design ideas based on a detailed questionnaire and lots of feedback:
concepts
The final logo was developed from the sixth design concept. We were happy with their final result, however Nuvo were too busy for our next logo. So, we used a much bigger logo design  house – NetMen Corp ($149 cost). Argentinian NetMen were very professional and efficient with account and project managers. They produced nine initial design concepts:

e20portalcom_lo-01 NetMen’s first three concept logo’s (the final E20portal.com logo was based on number 2.)

NetMen give us a great final design for our E20portal.com logo, however for our new Aware Monitoring service logo we used 99Design’s. This time we wanted more choice and a wider range of ideas. 99designs are an innovative design sourcing service based in Australia with a HQ now in San Francisco. I’m still amazed by the flat world we live in today with designers in Canada, Argentina, and from all over the world.

99 are very 2.0, open and like the threadless business model use a form of crowd sourcing. Some are very unhappy with the 99designs concept. The idea is the client sets a contest for designers to out compete each other. The designers do the work before they get paid with most of them not getting paid at all. We set our contest prize at the recommended $300 ($150 minimum/$600 maximum for this type of contest plus $39 going to 99 to post the contest). You also need to grab the designers attention as there are 1000’s of contest’s on the 99Design site.

I’ll let you know how we got on with 99Design’s and our thoughts on quality of the service, end results and the ethics of 99Design’s in PART 2 of this post..

My other startup related posts:

  • Using 99Designs: Sourcing low cost logo designs – PART 2
  • 5 factors in choosing a company/product name
  • 5 career alternatives for start-up founders during the recession