2015 Year in Review
Happy New Year! It’s time to take a look back on 2015 to reflect on how the year went and what our plans are for 2016.
Getting rid of the hourly rate
This year two of our hourly projects went over our estimate at roughly the same time. One was over by a relatively small % (5% of the estimate, the other was over by a much larger margin (nearly 30%). In both cases it was an extremely uncomfortable and stressful experience for my clients and myself. Instead of focusing on finishing the project and delivering the value to my clients, I was stuck explaining why we went over, defending our hours, and reacting to confused and angry clients who had budgeted for the original estimate.
This conflict has never happened on our fixed-priced projects. After re-reading “Double your Freelancing Rate” by Brendan Dunn (seriously the book has paid for itself 100x over) and listening to Ep 97 (Weekly Billing) and Ep 143 (How and Why to Ditch Hourly Billing) of the Freelancer’s Show, I killed our hourly rate.
I’ll do a follow up post on our current billing model (which is still a work in progress) but now we bill on a weekly rate, taking one client at a time and focusing on that one client for the week. After rolling out the new model we did a trial run on a new client and the results have been amazing! I’m stunned at how easy and seamless the experience has been. I wish I had done it years ago.
PDF Press & EE3
Ellis Lab has finally released EE3 and it is great! Truly worth the wait. The challenge for us has been getting PDF Press ready for EE3 while keeping our commitments to our clients and Rets Rabbit customers. We’ve never had to support multiple versions of EE before so there were a lot of questions in my mind. Do we sell the EE3 version of PDF Press separately? Bundle both versions together? Do we charge an upgrade fee to move to EE3?
My philosophy has always been to keep things simple. We’ve decided to bundle the EE2 & EE3 versions of PDF Press together. When you buy the latest version of PDF Press, you’ll get both. We’ve activated the annual update pricing on Devot:ee (we’re one of the few add-on devs to do this) so you may or may not pay for an update depending on when you purchased PDF Press.
Big props to our developer Andrew, who was on winter break and was available for the entire week to help me get the latest version out the door. PDF Press 3.0 is now for sale on Devot:ee and directly through Anecka.
Rets Rabbit has had a great year! We started the year with a monthly recurring revenue of $39, now we’re over $1200. One of the best moments for me personally was presenting Rets Rabbit in a pitch competition (ala Shark Tank) at Peers Conference. The “sharks” were Rachel Andrew (Perch), Ian Landsman (Userspace) & Andrey Butov (Antair), and Amy Hoy (Freckle). Pitching and getting feedback on Rets Rabbit from experienced software entrepreneurs (and people I’ve followed and respected for some time) was a scary thrill. They loved Rets Rabbit and gave me some great advice.
Still though, the year hasn’t been without challenges. Importing listings is a computationally intensive process and each new MLS adds cost. Dealing w/ over 700 MLSs is a massive scaling challenge. For 2016 I want to focus on streamlining the on-boarding process for customers and reduce the friction of signing up and getting listings imported. We’re also going to focus early in the year getting Rets Rabbit ready for EE3 as well.
Positioning and focusing on a niche
In addition to eliminating our hourly rate, I’ve decided to change how I’m positioning and marketing our services. Since I started Anecka our positioning has been pretty general, we’re a web development agency for small business and startups. Due to our work around ExpressionEngine, Craft, and Laravel we’ve attached a number of clients who needed backend development on those platforms. Still though we’ve remained fairly undefined as to the types of customers we serve.
For 2016 we’re going to narrow our focus primarily to serve agencies and tech companies who need to work with real estate listings, specifically IDX/RETS. Due to our work on Rets Rabbit, we’ve gained considerable experience not only with the technology involved in dealing with real estate listing data, but in the rules and regulations across different real estate associations and MLSs. We feel we can provide considerable value to technical and design firms who have real estate clients. If you work with real estate clients often I’d love to hear from you!
Expect some more posts from me over the year regarding RETS, IDX, and other topics regarding real estate and technology. There are some big changes happening to how real estate data is shared and distributed online and tools to access real estate listings in software.
Haley and I have taken a big step and started fostering this year. We’ve had two placements so far, both boys under 1 year old. It’s been a life changing experience, at the beginning of this year fatherhood was this vague concept in my mind. Boy it gets real fast when you wakeup expecting a normal day and by the end of it you have a baby. 🙂
Honestly I wasn’t sure I was up for it or that I would like it. It’s hard to describe but raising a tiny human from near birth and watching them change over the weeks has affected me in a deep way. When our first placement left it felt like there was a giant hole in my heart. You don’t feel a loss like that unless what you had was something you loved.
Fostering has it’s own particular challenges, I can’t say anything public but if you see me at a conference I might tell you about it if you’re interested. We hope to adopt at some point in addition to having a bio-child.
In mid-July I started running again and I’ve signed up for a half marathon in April. I’ve fallen in love with running, when I was at my most stressed this year a good run would usually help relax me. Whenever I was stuck on a problem or worried about something, by the end of the run I would usually have an answer to whatever situation I was facing. My decision to drop the hourly rate was made during a run.
I run best listening to podcasts, so I’ve discovered a plethora of new podcasts such as Welcome to Night Vale, The Freelancer’s Show, Limetown, and Mystery Show.
More Year in Review posts
If you’re looking for more Year in Review posts from entrepreneurs/freelancers, I highly recommend you read Ryan Battle’s look back on 2015. Ryan is honest about how the year went, ups, downs, and what the future looks like for him, his family, and his business(es).