Why Web Developers Flake

"Flaking Paint" by Bart Everson

Whenever I speak to small business people, I always hear the same story – they found a web developer or web designer, contracted with them to develop their business site, then quickly became disenchanted with the results. Either the site took too long to build and wound up nothing like they had imagined, or the web developer simply up and flaked on them, never to be found again. This tale is almost always followed up by a request to take on whatever work the previous developer left behind. Never one to turn down money, I almost always used to accept.

I soon understood that I could take on this work full time and start my own business. In the Fall of 2006, I quit my full time job to start TechKnowMe: designing, developing, marketing and maintaining web sites for small businesses. Getting work was easy – I simply hit all of the local Chamber of Commerce mixers, introduced myself as a web developer and waited for the inevitable stories to be told. I marketed TechKnowMe as the company that would stick around. I was dedicated to building web sites for small businesses – nothing else. It wasn’t something I did in my free time; it was my job.

I soon found myself with far more work than I could handle on my own, so I sought the help of other local developers and designers to ease the load. For a while, things looked fantastic, and business was booming. But soon, due to a number of personal and economic factors – along with a rash of first timer mistakes I made – things began to fall apart. Before I knew it, the freelancers I worked with were no longer available, and I found myself stuck with half a dozen unfinished projects and practically zero cash-flow. With a new baby in our house, I had to improve our financial situation fast. I finally had to face the fact that I would need to take a full time job outside of TechKnowMe in order for my small family to survive. I explained this to my remaining clients and, though extremely frustrated, most understood and agreed to allow me to finish the outstanding work in whatever free time I had.

It’s been a year since all this happened and I’ve either completed most of that outstanding work or simply had to let it go. For some of my clients, I became just another guy who flaked on them.

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