Category Archives: Business

Reflecting on 1 year in business

It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since Taking the Freelance Plunge was published but time flies.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, the experience has been positive. I can’t remember being happier and less stressed, professionally or personally, despite the occasional “where’s my next client coming from” setbacks. My only regret wish is that I had started sooner. A few years ago, my employer had kindly arranged a career coach to interview me to figure out what I’d like to do. While speaking to her, I said “start my own business” and it just felt right. I didn’t get into freelancing until a few years later though. Oh well.
Want tips on getting started yourself? Check out Tips Getting Started in Freelancing. Also, feel free to Contact Me privately and I’ll give ya feedback.
Want tips starting your own Salesforce Blog? Check out Bob Buzzard’s Starting Your Salesforce Blog by the one and only Bob Buzzard.

What’s New

Awesome Client Still

Still have an awesome client. They are great to work with, the work is interesting and varied, and I’ll keep working with them as long as they’ll have me. I hope I get to be onsite again soon.

If I ever felt like being a full-timer again, I’d seriously consider these guys too.

Part-Time Work Halted

For a while, I was doing part-time as needed work for a client but they haven’t needed my services for a while. It’s a bummer because they had some very interesting and challenging technical work and are also great to work with. That’s ok though because the work I can’t take on, I usually forward to them along with potential job candidates because if full-time appeals to me again, I’d seriously consider working for them.

More Lightning

I’m now feeling comfortable with Lightning aka over the hump. It still feels like a beta to me because of the amount of developer plumbing needed to make simple things work but that’s ok. Also, I’m starting to like Javascript again but I’ll save that rant for possibly another blog post.

Contributing to Open Source

I’ve always contributed to open source projects occasionally. My focus lately has been contributing to Boostr for Salesforce, which is a Chrome Extension that enhances the Salesforce experience in various ways. “View Offending Process Builder or Flow” Link in Lightning and Field History Tracking Counter Configurability are two features I’ve implemented that are now released. It feels good to know that I’m contributing to the Salesforce world and helping others out. Getting some recognition and thanks is icing on the cake.

What’s Next

Aspiring To Becoming a Salesforce MVP

Recently, I started seriously researching what it takes to become a Salesforce MVP. I even reached out to two of them that I know and they gave me some really good feedback. Essentially, they said to contribute to the community and be very active in it too through whatever means you like such as blogging, social media, user groups, open source, or some combination.

This is a long-term goal and may take years but I think I’ll eventually get there. To help accomplish this, my plan is

  • Increase blogging frequency
  • More active in the community with social media, other blogs, user groups, etc.
  • More open source projects

Through these activites, I’ll be also accomplishing the “Keep Expanding the Network” that I’ve been writing about for a while.

If you have other tips on becoming an MVP, please let me know.

Also, if you feel like nominating me, please do so at Salesforce MVP Nominations which are open through August 7th.

More Open Source Contributions

I’ve been having a blast contributing to Boostr and am going to focus on some other projects too. Stay tuned…

How’s your business or professional goals going for 2017 and how will you reach them? What’s your experience with freelancing been like?

Related Posts

Reflecting on 10 Months in Business

While it’s technically a week shy of 10 months, close enough.

What’s New

Awesome New Client!!!

This contract started in April and it’s been great. The people are smart, friendly, know what they want, and are easy to get along with. I was onsite for a week and provided training and other services. Also, the work is interesting and I have the opportunity to do more Lightning development.

Turned down additional work.

The prospect from March reached out to me recently asking if I’m available for an urgent project they have but unfortunately I’m not. Instead, I referred them to some colleagues who will provide what they need. We kept the door open for future engagements.

More Lightning Development.

I’m currently implementing my first official Lightning component that’s like a Kanban board where one can drag-n-drop various items from one column to another.

Overall, the UI looks better but currently I still prefer developing, from a developer’s perspective, in Visualforce because performance is better, the amount of coding required is less than Lightning since more code is needed for basic plumbing and wiring, and the overall infrastructure is better.

There are also little things, such as Locker Service, that drive me nuts in the name of security. For example, I can’t add a custom attribute to a Lightning base component or even add an onclick event attribute to one.

Another little thing is always having to remember to add the v. prefix in {! v. } bindings to access attributes. I wish specifying the attribute alone was enough like it was in Visualforce and the framework could figure out where the binding originates.

Slackforce

Matt Addy and I started a Salesforce Slack team named Slackforce where Salesforce professionals can hangout and have real time communication with others. See Introducing Slackforce for more detail and on how to join.

One nice, somewhat unexpected, benefit of Slackforce is that it has helped fill the “Missing Professional Camaraderie” void by helping connect to many great professionals I’ve worked with in the past and present.

Changed Student Loan Payment Option

When I started the business, I changed my student repayment option to the graduated, extended 25 year plan so that my monthly payment would be the lowest possible because my revenue expectations were projected but unknown at the time.

With business doing well and my confidence in it steady, I’ve switched my student loan payment back to the graduated plan so that I can still pay the loans off within the original 10 year timeframe, which is in 4 1/2 years.

What’s Next

More Lightning

This recurring theme will most likely stay for a while since more and more people are showing interest in it. Additional blog posts are coming too.

Learning Other Salesforce Technologies

With Salesforce, there’s always something more to learn. Besides Lightning, I want to learn more about:

Platform Events – This native messaging bus could be very interesting for integrations and other pub-sub type architectures.

DX – I am now in the pilot but have to still try it. It’s on the backlog.

Einstein – Another thing on my learning backlog.

Keep Expanding the Network

Slackforce has helped with the networking goal but I want to keep expanding so I’ll do this by getting more involved in the community by attending conferences, meetups, open source projects, and other activities.

No Upcoming Product

I’ve given some serious thought about doing a Salesforce product but have decided against it for now because I’m not that passionate about the product idea I have. If I’m going to build something, I’m going to be passionate about it.

How’s your business or professional goals going for 2017 and how will you reach them? What’s your experience with Lightning been like?

Related Posts

Tips Getting Started in Freelancing

People have been asking me lately what it’s like to get into freelancing and how they could do it. Here’s my advice and tips for taking your own plunge.

Financial Reserves

Have at least 3-6 months of cash on hand because you may not have any customers at first or that project that was going well may suddenly come to a halt.

Not sure where your money is going? You better find out how much you’re spending because Freelance income is very lumpy. You’re not getting a steady paycheck any more.

I personally like Personal Capital since it aggregates all your financial accounts into one place and does various financial analysis like keeping track of your expenses, income, and your net worth.

Have Customers At the Outset

If possible, have paying customers before you quit your day job so you have some income still while growing your book of business.

Personally, I didn’t have any customers when I officially started in the beginning of August. However, I had a few leads that eventually became customers the first couple weeks in business. Looking back, that was rather risky but I had financial reserves and I knew I could find a job quick if I had to so it was worth doing it, for me.

Follow Your Passion Do What’s Valuable

Besides my family, my passions in life are technology, helping others, building things, and learning new things. Doing Salesforce tech consulting lets me accomplish all those passions and I get paid to do it. It also happens to provide great value to my clients since they get the software, training and other work needs to make their business better.

Note: I originally had “Follow Your Passion” but striked that out because it didn’t seem as accurate.  The “To find work you love, don’t follow your passion” TedX video conveys my feelings about this better than I can. As Benjamin Todd puts it, I’ve mastered something through achievement and it provides me meaning aka purpose.

How To Find Customers?

Most people that knew me before I got started have asked me how do you find customers. So far, my two primary sources are My Network and Recruiters.

My Network

Letting people I know that I went into business for myself has brought in business. For you, this could be former employers, family, friends, people in volunteering organizations, clubs, or even gaming clans, guilds, and so forth. If these people can’t be customers, they may know someone who potentially could be so they may give you some leads of people to talk to.

When these people help me out, I’m always on the look out to bring them business or help out in some other way too.

Recruiters

Finding good, qualified Salesforce professionals is hard. There’s a real shortage so it’s a pretty lucrative field, at this time. Thankfully, there are various recruiting firms out there that help consultants match up with clients and vice-versa. They get a take but the money, and more importantly, the connections you make are worth it.

One recruiter I’ve worked with lately, TJ, is outstanding. I told him what I have to offer, what work I’m looking to do and only brought things by me that matched my criteria. That’s better than many other recruiters who just throw every potential job at you even though it’s not a good fit.

Other Sources

  • Job Boards – Look at various job boards such as Monster, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc and apply to contracting / consulting listings. You could try applying to full-time listings too but only as a consultant but recommend the former first since this may not be as easy and I suspect many hiring managers will simply pass you over.
  • Advertising / Marketing – Try advertising your services and/or products. This could be social media ads, an email campaign, tv commercials, radio commercials, signs, and other advertising forms.

Personally, I haven’t pursued either one really. My biggest “marketing” activity is posting the occasional tweet or LinkedIn message to a Metillium blog post.

If you have other ways to find clients, please share them in the comments below.

Have a Website

Almost every business today has a website and so should you.

It shows the world and potential customers who you are and what you’re offering. It also shows that you’re credible. For example, I primarily share out Salesforce and Microsoft blog posts to share out what I’ve learned but it also shows people that I’m credible and have skills that can help them.

Note: This website doesn’t look like a traditional “business” website and it’s on my to-do list to revamp it a bit but it’ll be a while.

Structuring Your Business

There are many ways to structure your business such as a Sole Proprietor, LLC, S-Corp and others. Many people pursue the LLC or S-Corp formation for liability protection and/or potential tax benefits. There are many considerations to this and recommend talking to a lawyer first.

The good thing is that if you decide to incorporate as an LLC or S-Corp, it’s fairly easy to do but a lot of paperwork. You could do this yourself but recommend paying a few hundred bucks to have someone do it for you.

Health Insurance

Besides paying myself, health insurance is my biggest expense.  In western NY, family bronze to gold plans are $800 – $1,600 per month for individual plans. That’s roughly $10,000 – $20,000 annually, which is insane, and that’s just for premiums. You may have to pay out-of-pocket up to your deductible too depending on the plan you have. Thankfully, depending on your income, you may be eligible for subsidies and pay a lower monthly premium.

Bottom line, explore what your health insurance options are.

Liability Insurance

I also recommend looking into liability insurance so that insurance can pay out for any law suits that are brought against you. It only takes one mistake that could potentially cost you your business and potentially your personal assets.

Remember It’s About People

For consulting in particular, remember it’s all about people so always be courteous, on-time, polite, and always do a great job. These things usually lead to more business in the future by allowing people to refer you to other potential business.

Also, don’t forget to reciprocate. If someone brought you a lead or business, help them out somehow too. For example, even though I may not be hiring, if other people I know that are good are looking, I’ll ask around to see if someone may be hiring and if so, forward the job seeker the potential employer’s information.

Have a Good Team

No one can do everything themselves so outsource what you’re not good at or don’t want to do so you can focus on what you’re good at and want to do.

For example, even though I know accounting, I outsource that to a CPA firm referred to by a colleague and absolutely love my accountant. If you’re in Western NY, I can’t recommend enough, Dan Matteo at the RDHB CPA Firm in Pittsford.

Let us know in the comments what tips you have for getting started in freelance and what you think of the tips here.

Interviewing Tips

I have the great privilege of mentoring a high school student for their Programming Independent Study. This student will be graduating early and will then be looking for a programming internship before starting college.

To help this individual and other job seekers, here are interviewing tips based on my experience of interviewing  and being interviewed.

Before Interviewing

The high-level advice here is to know the company, interviewers, and job description in order to be prepared for the interview. Also, have a good online presence because the interviewers and recruiters will dismiss you if they discover any red flags.

  • Research the company. Go to their website, read Glassdoor reviews, speak to any current or former employees ahead of time, and use other sources when possible.
  • Research the interviewers and learn more about them. For example, see if they have LinkedIn profiles. This lets you know more about who you’re interviewing and you may be able to establish a connection with these people. For example, you may discover that you both went to the same school or worked at the same organization in the past. Also, these individuals will see that you’re looking at their LinkedIn profile which shows that you’re doing research and that you’re taking the job seriously.
  • Know the Job Description so you can focus on bringing up relevant examples and experience during the interview.
  • Have a good, presentable online presence. Interviewers and recruiters use your online presence to judge if you’d be a good fit for the organization or not. You may be really qualified but if you will be troublesome to work with, they’ll choose someone else.
    • Ensure that your social media profiles look presentable. For example, if you have a public Facebook account, don’t swear, post inappropriate pictures, and say bad things about former employers.
    • Create a LinkedIn profile so employers can see your professional experience.
    • Showcase your work online. If you’re a coder, use GitHub to showcase various sample work and/or contribute to various open source projects. Another option is to create a blog or website that showcases your work. This demonstrates your writing ability and how well you communicate.
  • After researching, write down a list of relevant questions to ask the interviewers so you can know more about the company. This shows that you’re interested in the position. See below for some sample questions.
  • Do mock interviews to practice, if needed. Many people get nervous and jittery during an interview, including me, so practicing ahead of time with different individuals can help.

During The Interview

  • Dress-To-Impress. Jeans and a T-Shirt are not acceptable and the interviewers will dismiss you for being unprepared. If you can’t show up prepared to the interview, you aren’t prepared to do the job.
  • Show up 5-10 minutes early but not any earlier and don’t be late. If you do show up earlier, stay in your car or the lobby and wait until 5-10 minutes before the scheduled interview time. You’d be surprised how many people inconvenience the interviewers by being too early or late. Don’t do this.
  • Look the interviewers in the eyes and speak to them slowly, concisely, and always try to frame answers around how good you are and how you’ll bring value to the organization.
  • Print Multiple Resumes in case the interviewers need them. I’d say 99% of all the interviews I’ve attended, the interviewers had my resume printed or available on their laptop but there were a couple instances where having them came in handy.
  • Bring relevant sample work. This allows the interviewers to see the work you’ve done so far and lets them have a more fruitful discussion. For example, if you have some code, print out multiple copies of selective code samples so the technical interviewers can see some code. This will set you apart from most of the other candidates who don’t do this and makes you more memorable to the interviewers.
  • Ask Questions. Ask the questions you’ve prepared ahead of time that are still unanswered and ask questions that came up during the interview. Most of the time, you have to wait until the end to ask your questions.
  • Thank the interviewers and tell them you want the job.

After the Interview

Email or write a letter to the interviewers thanking them again, discuss how you’re a good fit, and that you want the job.

Sample Questions For The Interviewers

Typically the end of an interview is reserved for you to ask the interviewers any questions you may have. Usually, this is 5-10 minutes. Use this time to find out more about the organization and job so you can determine if you want to work there or not. Here are some sample questions to get you started.

  • Describe the culture here. This open ended question lets the interviewers describe the organization’s culture and what it’s like to work there.
  • What do you like and dislike about working here? I like to ask this as a follow-up question to the culture question because the interviewer(s) will describe aspects that they like and dislike and you’d be surprised what people share.
  • What will I be doing my first week/month?  The interviewer will be visualizing you at the desk doing the job.
  • What is most pressing? What would you like to have done in the next 6-8 weeks?
  • Questions related to technology, processes, team size, or the project that were not addressed.
  • Last, ask some variant of “How did I do and do you have any concerns?”. This lets the interviewers provide feedback to you that you can respond to and use for the future too.

What other interviewing tips do you have?

Reflecting on 7 months in Business

7 months in business. 7 months… wow. It feels odd typing that since it feels like it’s been only a few months.

One unexpected thing about writing these reflective posts is they are really enjoyable because:

  • I review the good, the bad, and the ugly and take corrective action as needed.
  • It keeps me accountable to my Goals and Priorities.
  • Acts as a historical log so I can go back and review things.

What’s New

  • Project Workload Rollercoaster. January and February were really busy but now I have more availability for other projects. If you need some Salesforce work done, Contact Me. I completed a quick start Salescloud implementation and completed my primary, full-time 6 month project too. There’s other work but it’s part-time.
  • New prospect. After coming upon this blog, this vendor reached out to me about doing some contract work. We’re in early discussions but I am excited about working with them because they share the same values as me like putting your customers and employees first and giving back to the community. They also have very talented people and a diverse set of projects. There are other prospects of course so here’s to seeing what may be.
  • Turned down renewing my primary contract. For a variety of reasons, it was time to move on despite the client wanting to keep me on. The project is in better shape than I found it and they’re in good hands so I have no doubt they’ll succeed.
  • AutoRabit. It’s a cloud based Salesforce continuous integration and deployment SAAS solution and it’s great for a turn-key solution. It does deployments from various sources such as a source org, from version control, and even from past deployments. It also does version control management where you can specify the changes to commit from your org into a specific branch. These changes can then be collected into a “release” and promoted to various downstream orgs as needed. It also does data migration, UI testing, and static code analysis. Overall, it’s a great solution. Check it out if you haven’t heard of it. It’s better than rolling your own solution using a CI server such as Jenkins or Teamcity with the ANT Migration Toolkit if you can afford it.
  • More Job Offers. It’s reassuring to know that people want to hire you. Each one is attractive but I have to decline for the same reasons mentioned back in Reflecting on 4 months in Business. The most recent offer from this week was very tempting though because I really like working with these guys and the company culture and camaraderie is amazing. If I ever hire others, their culture is what I aspire to make mine like.

What’s Next

  • More Lightning. The basics are behind me and now I am going to do some more involved customizations that require components talking to each other and involve a custom community using the Napili template. There’s definitely more interest in Lightning in the community and I still believe 2017 will be the year it becomes mainstream.
  • Learn other Salesforce technologies such as DX and Einstein.
  • Expand the Network. Of the 4 items to complete from my 4 months in Business post, 2 are completed and the Lightning one is well underway. This one hasn’t started yet but will soon.
  • Lightning Product? I have this idea for a Lightning Product but am reluctant to invest in it. It is high-risk, high-reward. After helping bring a product to the AppExchange, I know what it takes to build one but selling, marketing, and supporting it are very different.

Last but not least, thank you new prospect for helping me realize I didn’t have an easier way to contact me through this website. That was resolved by adding the Contact page and the link to it in the main navigation.

How are your professional aspirations going?