Launch Miniseries Post #3 – “Exchanging Services” (Trust your intuition)

Web developers, like many technical professionals, have to be objective and follow a rational process. Of course, so do business owners if they wish to see their practice succeed. Sometimes however, a good sense of intuition can help us decide on a decision which may have been rational at the time, but could turn out much worse than anticipated. At WebCakes, our “spidey-senses” have gone off loudest when we’re approached by individuals looking to exchange services.

The bartering system is as old as time itself. It was derived in a time where traded items were of concrete value, and services gave concrete solutions to your needs. In fact, one of my very first websites was an exchange service. I personally loved the concept, because it brought likeminded people together who saw value in bartering. I don’t disagree with the concept of trading services on an equal playing field.

However, there is a thin line between people who respect exchanging services, and those who have hijacked this system for selfish purposes. I am referring to people who want something, for nothing.

WebCakes is a young company, and we’re young and impressionable. We’re open to new ideas and are interested in change (See Post #2 of this miniseries). So you can imagine we’re approached often by advertisers, marketers, and resellers with their own projects. Respectfully, we almost always decline.

The first advertiser (Let’s call him “Ed”) approached us with his own newsletter & distribution project. It was built an a much older engine, with a theme to match, and housed something along the lines of 10,000+ articles. In return for us converting this to a modern, robust solution, Ed explained he’d compensate us with advertising. His advertising numbers were strong, and as advertising was our company’s weakest point, we agreed on a compromise. We’d provide an initial charge for the migration of the old website to a newer platform with a redesign, and from that point on we’d trade services. Ed had plenty ideas of expanding the website, so that was a lot of work on our end, but damn it.

Some readers are undoubtedly already baffled by why we would have agreed to such a one-sided deal. A quality website is a concrete product – advertising is often subjective and hard to effectively measure. Even at this point our intuition was screaming at us. You have to understand that on a logical level, it still looked promising. Even if months of development went into Ed’s site, a few good contracts would have shifted the agreement in our favour.

Fortunately for us, the red flags came up for us before actually starting. The distributed posters themselves were disappointing, and Ed conveniently “forgot” our compromise and expressed poorly-feigned surprise when we sent the invoice.  I’ve never seen James’s beard turn so red. Needless to say, we are no longer working with Ed.

This is not to say that all exchanges are a bad idea. In fact, we recently came to an agreement with another development firm concerning commission-based payment, and our intuition couldn’t be more satisfied. So my advice is, when approached by someone wishing to exchange services, ask all the right questions. Even if the numbers add up, listen to your gut instinct. How do you personally feel about that person and their practice? Do you think they’re as passionate as you are? Do you really see them going out of their way to deliver what their promising? If so, sweet deal. If not, save yourself from a world of hurt and walk out.

Launch Miniseries Post #2 – Always learn (And be ready for change)

Our mission at WebCakes is to surprise and delight. As such it’s my goal to keep up-to-date on the latest development practices, styles, and trends relative to our business. To do that, James and I are always learning new skills and improving old ones.

When I worked for my previous employers, it wasn’t a requirement to do so. If you’re hired as a front-end integrator, then some HTML/CSS will suffice. Back-end developer? Great, a moderate knowledge of Drupal theming is all it takes. If something breaks, google the fix. Rinse, repeat for 8 hours, and commute home. Not once is the infrastructure questioned. Not once do we think, if we did [insert anything here], maybe that would improve the quality and efficiency of our product. I always strived to new skills, and did so, but was unwilling to apply them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

When we started WebCakes, I was still a little unprepared for setting up an infrastructure, a process of delivering sweet, sugary webness to our clients. Not because I hadn’t learned what I had to, but because I was afraid of change. I knew that SASS/LESS was a great alternative to standard CSS, that building off Bootstrap was an optimal way of creating responsive solutions, and that WordPress made more sense than Drupal for most client use-cases. Eventually, with a little guidance from James, I learned to embrace these changes and incorporate them into our infrastructure.

The moral of the story is that it’s not just enough to learn a new skill or software. If you know that it’ll increase your efficiency, make the change! Update your process, and enjoy a world of benefit for you, your services, and your clients.

Launch Miniseries Post #1 – Find people as passionate as you are

For us, WebCakes is more than a joining of two devs with a similar idea. Ask any business owner about their enterprise, or a project manager about their latest work, and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s their baby.

When we conceptualized WebCakes, we wanted to break the traditional mould, and build our business model around our company motto (Surprise and Delight). We’re passionate about what we do, and that passion resonates with our clients and affiliates.

We also learned the importance of surrounding WebCakes with people who felt the same way about their own projects and professional ventures. It’s a game changer. It’s networking 2.0. It’s not just necessarily a matter of who you know, but how passionate they are.

When we attempted to incorporate our company, our lawyer saved us from the bureaucratic disaster we had almost cast upon ourselves, and we’ll always be grateful for it. (Protip: If you’re starting a business, invest in a lawyer) But it’s his passion and his own enthusiasm towards the WebCakes mission which truly inspires us. There’s not a week that goes by we don’t get a call from him with a potential lead. 

Another professional with a similar passion for his own business is our accountant. With his entrepreneurial approach to his profession, we could relate together more than a simple client-to-service relationship.

Strive to associate your business with people who are passionate about what they do, and are genuinely intrigued with what you offer! Offer them insights, show genuine sincerity to their mission, and ask them what you can do to help them reach their aspirations. When you’ve connected with someone on these principles, you’ve made more than a business acquaintance. You’ve made a friend, and friends have your back.

Miniseries: Launch Experiences & Revelations

We’re pretty excited to have launched the WebCakes blog. In fact, we’re so excited that we’re kicking off with a mini-series!

Over the next five days, I’ll be posting revelations and personal situations that we’ve had over the last six months starting up. Experience laughter, shed tears, and enjoy plenty of baking references. Most important of all, they’ll be reflective and (hopefully) inspiring, and open to discussion.

This post will be kept up to date as more posts in the mini-series are launched, so check back daily.

Post #1 – Find people as passionate as you are
Post #2 – Always learn (and be ready for change)
Post #3 – “Exchanging services” (trust your intuition)
Post #4 – Determining Price
Post #5 – Wrapping up

Update: That’s a wrap! I hope you’ve enjoyed our miniseries. Come back often for new posts, announcements, and possibly another miniseries in the near future!