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I'll bite! :) First off, awesome for you in getting your own company up and running off the ground! My question for you is, how do you give back?

 
 

Volunteering, and contributions and donations to open source. We like giving back to the tools and communities we use that are free.

 

My apologies to report this bug, though the website does not load currently.

Thanks. All fixed. I was editing a page and removed some files in our bucket by accident. 😱

Ha, I've messed up my static website many a times.

 

Nice! I found your Github Org (github.com/Lightmatter/). What was your favorite contribution?

We're doing some work with a django-based CMS with a team in the UK. Have some big updates coming May 15th and will share :)

 
  • How long did it take you to hire your first employee? We're you doing solo freelance work for a while and needed an extra hand, or something else?
  • How often, if ever, do you outsource extra work?
  • Favorite & Least Favorite parts about NYC?
 

Our first employee we hired 6 months in, and is still with us. Probably one of the things I'm most proud about.

Not solo but freelancing at the time. My co-founder and I had a few friends starting businesses at the time and they needed tech and design help, and we could both code. We didn't want to be employees at any company either, so it all kind of started from there.

We outsourced work in our first year and it was a horrible experience. We went overseas (for parts of projects, not the whole thing), and also tried a few contractors based around the US. Overseas just didn't work...the time difference and translation barriers were hard. And working with contractors around the US was better, but it was difficult to coordinate. It was so much easier once we just saved enough money and hired people full time we could work with in-office.

Outsourcing and overseas firms aren't bad though..they're just different. But I think you certainly pay for it in the long run with technical debt if you work with the wrong company. We've never outsourced another project after that. All of our work is done here by our employees. That's why it's taken so long to grow and hire (5 years, only 11 people) I'm sure we could have made a larger profit with better margins if we outsourced, but it's not the company we want to be building.

Favorite part of NYC: Dollar slice pizza on every block.

Least Favorite: The noise. I can hear the subway pass under my apartment every night. You get used to it, but the sirens and horns never stop.

 

Interesting. Thanks for the insight!

we could have made a larger profit with better margins if we outsourced

That definitely makes sense. Seems like it falls into the "You get what you pay for" category. Ya, it's cheap, but down the road, probably not so much.

Dollar slice pizza on every block.

Sounds Like Heaven.

but the sirens and horns never stop.

Ok... Maybe not.

 

Are you looking for any "very green" Junior Web Developers? :)

I'm currently enrolled in a full stack web development course and am looking to break into the industry once completed. Do you have any tips on how I should going about looking for jobs now? I'm about halfway through and have learned HTML, CSS, JavaScript, NodeJS, and am now getting into MySQl and Express. (I should've mentioned -- we're learning the MERN stack).

I've been told that at this point in the course, I'm more than qualified for some of these positions, but would like your take on this.

Thanks in advance! :)

 

We're not hiring at the moment, but I would love to chat and hear your story and help. Email me? I just added my email to my bio. There are tons of companies that could use an engineer like you!

 

Do you mind if I also email you? I've got a decent bit of experience and a pretty well rounded portfolio (at least I think) but can't seem to get any bites on job leads so far.

 

Hi, Greg. How did you make it through the first year? Did you save enough money before to spend them until you got the first revenue? Was it a high risk or did you figure it out to make it smooth?

Wish your company and you success!

 

Thanks Roman!

Our first year was pretty tough. Not only did we have few case studies and small projects from a budget perspective, we were generally just inexperienced at everything...

We didn't know how to estimate projects well, how to set expectations with clients, or manage a team. We had always been managing just ourselves and as we started to grow, we had to work more on managing the business operations.

One thing I found was that in our first year, and even now, sometimes you have to actively NOT do things that are necessary for the business, because there are more pressing matters. Kind of like that quadrant used for prioritization. Something may be important but not urgent, and it just sits for weeks. You have to be comfortable with ambiguity to make things work.

 

Hey Greg, how do you find new clients for your business? Do you specialise in a certain type of software and that has helped grow your business? Or did you find another way to get new work?

 

This is often the single biggest challenge for any freelancer, agency, or really any type of consulting firm out there. Finding new clients is tough. In reality, they find you.

I'm a big believer that outbound campaigns for services firm rarely work. They are time intensive, usually generic and bland, and hard to make believable. What are the chances that you're going to email someone describing an exact problem and solution they need? Highly unlikely. Software development and design is so custom and unique to each client (if you're a firm like ours) that it can actually work against you.

Ideally, clients come to you. But how do you get found? Writing. Creating an online portfolio. Going to meetups and speaking and networking. It's very hard to quantify, but by putting your work and yourself out there you increase the chances of someone discovering you who needs your help. Here's a quick look at our company's sales playbook and how we try to meet new companies and people who need help with software. Specializing is also a great way to find more customers, but it can be tough and a crowded market if you pick a specific industry or niche.

Feel free to message me at greg@lightmatter.com if you'd like to chat 1 on 1.

High ROI Activities:

  1. Individual Referrals - The single biggest source of new business comes from referrals from friends, pas clients, and designated referral partners of our company.

  2. Agency Referrals - We partner with other agencies who specialize in areas we don't, and send each other business.

  3. Online Networking - Like writing and posting stories on Dev.to, Quora, Medium, and other sites!

  4. Open Source and Implementation Partners - We've had a huge amount of business come in by working with open source organizations who get contacted all the time by large companies for help. Also, you can join partner programs at companies like AWS, Microsoft, etc as they have approved vendor lists when they're contacted by other companies for help.

Good luck!

 

Thanks Greg for the great response, it seems like the best approach is to creating a network of contacts through meet ups and social media then use example code or open source work to show what you can do and use content marketing to grow your exposure. A number of people I've asked this question have come up with the same answer you gave Greg, so it shows that the approach you've taken has not only worked for you, but others.

Stephen

Exactly. And the hard part is that it's still very difficult to measure ROI based on that playbook. So, by doing enough of that exercise, you'll start having leads and clients come in, but there's never really one way or place you can pin exact leads to. It never hurts though to ask your clients once working with them "how did you hear about us?".

 

Hi Greg,

What you do to get clients? What is your strategy? There is no one receipe but I would like to know what other developers do to get more clients for their companies.

Thanks

 

There are different strategies to be used depending if you are a freelancer or an agency / firm. For the later, you have more of a budget, more case studies, and can leverage your and your team's network more. So, I remember when acting as a solo freelancer having to be very methodical and persistent with networking and finding leads. Any time I wasn't writing code or designing, I had to be working on sales. Here's what worked for me:

  1. Attending Meetups - By far the best thing you can do as a freelancer. Whether it's a programming language specific meetup or one that is more general, this was how I found almost all of my clients when starting. It eventually becomes harder to scale this, but to just support yourself, meetups are a great place to start.

  2. Job Boards - There have been some great companies in the past 2-3 years started in the niche job board space. RemoteOK and others are one's I recommend. I have not heard good things about companies like Upwork and these large mass marketplaces for contractors. I'd stay niche, whether it's programming language, location, or type of work.

  3. Asking existing clients for referrals - Don't be afraid to ask any current clients of yours to refer friends and colleagues if they're happy with your work. People are really afraid to ask this but it's one of the easiest ways to bring in new work if you do it. Just ask!

 

Thanks for your advice, I am going to apply them asap!

 
 

2 remote employees, the rest in NYC!

 

Hi Greg, what's your biggest hurdles in growing your business and how do you overcome them?

 

The biggest challenge has been growing from our own profits. Bootstrapping is difficult but has been worth it every day. After salaries, then expenses, then taxes...I understand why companies raise money and give up equity to grow faster. Sounds obvious, but only until you really see the math and money flowing out does it make sense. But if you hold on long enough, it's a great feeling to be in control of your own company with your co-founder.

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Founder at Lightmatter, a software development and design firm. We help companies make their software problems go away...

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