Monday, July 13, 2009

Why so quiet on the blog front, WebWeaver?

I'll probably jinx it by writing this, but the reason why I haven't been blogging much lately is because we (WebWeaver Productions) have been very very busy. Recession? What recession? (Ha! Now I've really gone and done it!)

In fact, we're so busy right now that I've actually stopped taking on new work until September at the earliest - and depending on a couple of proposals we're currently waiting on, it may end up being October before we can take on anything new. Crikey!

I never in my wildest dreams imagined we'd be doing this well. Which is why I keep on looking over my shoulder waiting for all the work to suddenly dry up. But so far, it hasn't. Hooray!

I really miss my blog, but I'm so busy right this minute that I'm working during the day and in the evenings as well in order to keep up with everything. That's not normally how I like to work - I think it's really important not to take on too much at any one time - but sometimes it can't be avoided.

Projects do run over sometimes - external forces being what they are - and occasionally projects come up unexpectedly that you really have to do straight away, and I like to be able to accommodate clients if I possibly can. It's only for a couple more days anyway, and then I can get back to concentrating on one thing at a time, which is how I prefer it.

A few people have suggested that, seeing as we're so busy, rather than turning down work we should take on a few more people and expand the business.

I've thought about it, and decided not to.

I'm an information architect, designer, developer, Flash animator and writer. I'm also the project manager and client liaison person for all our projects, and right this minute I think I have the balance just about right.

That is to say, if I took on more people it would end up with me doing more admin and project management, and less design and development - which would sadden me, because that's where my passion truly lies. I'd hate to be giving away HTML/CSS work to someone else to have fun with while I got stuck with all the writing of proposals and stuff!

Plus I'm just a tiny bit of a control freak (and that's just a tiny bit of an understatement), which means that I do actually like doing the proposals and the project management and client liaison for our projects - so I wouldn't really want to give that away either.

We're doing OK right now, and I have no wish to be Master of the Universe, and no plans to create a WebWeaver Productions empire. I like us just the way we are.

It's interesting that every project I've worked on this year has come through my networks, my contacts, and friends-of-friends. We still haven't had to respond to a single cold call for submissions in order to find enough work to do.

I'm fully expecting my list of people who know people to eventually run out - at some point surely we'll have built beautiful websites for everyone - but right now there are no signs that this is happening - in fact it seems to be getting even busier. Crazy! But in a good way.

My strike rate is pretty high in terms of winning jobs with the proposals I write. I'm not sure what a good success rate would be for the average web design company, but I reckon mine is somewhere over 75%, which seems pretty good to me.

I'm not entirely sure what our magic ingredient is - whether it's the way I write, or our winning personalities (!), or maybe it simply boils down to cost in the end - but I know that for most of our more recent pitches we've been up against a number of other web design companies, and more often that not, the client selects us. Hooray for us!

We're able to keep our costs down because Tom, Sue and I work on a co-operative basis - collaborating when the project demands it, and doing our own thing in between times - and we all work from home which means we don't have the overheads that come when you're a larger company with offices and support staff and stuff. It does mean we work about twice as hard as you do when you're working for someone else, but hey - that's what being self-employed is all about.

I get the feeling that being a small company is working in our favour on a deeper level too. I think that, as well as the obvious financial benefits in choosing a small company over a larger one with larger overheads and higher costs, there might be a bit of psychology going on as well.

Seems to me that in a recession there's a need to feel that you're really getting your money's worth - and that unconsciously it might feel as though you're doing your bit for the company if you choose the good quality reasonably-priced option rather than the larger, more luxurious and more expensive option. That might mean picking us over a larger, more high-profile and more expensive company.

There's certainly also a definite down-sizing of projects this year - more re-skins, more temporary solutions - and as budgets come down, more of them fit into our price range, which means there may well be a bit more work out there for companies like us this year than in a normal boomier year. Whatever the reason, it's all working out well for us so far.

I'm loving it. I still miss Shift - but every once in a while I get to go back and do a bit of contract work for them, which is awesome. They are such great people. It's nice because the projects we work on are about one-tenth the size of an average Shift project, which means our client bases are completely different. This is a Good Thing. I wouldn't really want to be in competition with my old workmates, after all!

It's funny how things turn out, eh? When I was writing Eulogy for my job at the end of last year I didn't imagine things would be going so well for us six months later. Long may it continue. And please Karma Gods don't jinx me for actually putting pen to paper (keyboard to screen?) on this very delicate subject!

I just think it's good to celebrate the fact that in the midst of tough financial times, you can still make a living if you work hard to get the work - and then you work hard actually doing the work :)

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