[thelist] Advice on Getting That First Client

Ben Henick persist1 at io.com
Sun May 12 22:08:00 CDT 2002

I'm responding to this message in order to respond to Martin's responses
about a couple of the points made in my previous responsive (sorry, wanted
to write recursively) and I apologize in advance for throwing the thread
off ever slightly.

On Sun, 12 May 2002, Martin wrote:

> Otherwise you'll just come off as another bullshit hypemerchant. Which
> does not encourage clients to trust their money to you.

...Thus did the New Economy go into its own depression.

I just got home from the coffeehouse, where a friend was quite eloquent in
driving home the point that at the end of the day, Web developers deal
with end-to-end solutions.  That is to say, the client has a problem or an
objective.  The Web based tech we use has the sole purpose of engendering
the resolution... and while one of us, or even a team of us, may only deal
with a small part of that solution, it is a solution nonetheless.  The
client doesn't care about the details of the line work; they care about
the solution.

If the goal is not dependent on the Web, then at the very least the
developer (or developer's account executive) has to make an ironclad case
for the primacy of the web over other media and channels.  If that can't
be done effectively, there is no work to be had from that prospect.

...Knowing business in general, and your client's business in particular,
is information vital to making that case, if it can be made at all.

Earlier, Martin wrote:

> >  5.  At any but the smallest companies, there will be political
> >      factors beyond your control.

> ...and the smart way to approach it is to understand those factors
> and if you can influence them your way, do. Otherwise you're somewhat
> giving up before you start.

...Which ties back to the desirability of letting the client have
ownership of your ideas when- and wherever practicable.  This is a tough
skill to learn, however.

> > 11.  Eighty percent of your work is demanded by twenty percent of your
> >      clients - and usually not to the benefit of your bottom line.
> and also 80% of your proft is generated by 20% of your clients. Your
> job is to work out which 20% it is and give them the extra service
> they've earned.

"Me too."

> > 13.  Do not bow and scrape in the face of bad decisions... but don't
> >      complain, either.  Your backbone is your most valuable asset.
> but if it comes down to it, accept the decision, making damned sure
> that you have it in writing as an instruction.

...At the very least, in the event that your tasking constitutes a breach
of ethics or sound business practices on the client's part... therein lies
a thorny issue, but after the project's gone live and blows up in the
client's face, you've got ironclad documentation that will keep the snafu
out of court.

> > - "No, you are REQUIRED to use {name of tool}."
> This *can* be OK, it depends on what the background for using
> it is. So if you have a client who's spent big on an MS infrastructure,
> you shouldn't be surprised if you get asked to use FrontPage. And
> if you're going to be handing over stuff for them to maintain, it's
> fair for them to ask that it be handed over in the file format they
> use. Or if their systems people have decreed that {db/app server
> of your choice} is out, just tough.

I figured that the "it depends" condition would be implied, especially

The underlying factor is, do they listen when given a choice, or do they
just plough on ahead with their vision, full speed ahead and damn the
torpedoes?  If the latter outcome has no business case, you're dealing
with a bad client.

However, in an enterprise environment where investment in a suite of tools
has been made, there *is* a business case for their use (even if that case
isn't entirely visible to you).

As they say, "it depends."

Ben Henick
Web Author At-Large              Managing Editor
http://www.io.com/persist1/      http://www.digital-web.com/
persist1 at io.com                  bmh at digital-web.com
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?"
"I think so, Brain, but... (snort) no, no, it's too stupid."
"We will disguise ourselves as a cow."
"Oh!" (giggles) "That was it exactly!"

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