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Sold my 8-figure software services firm in 2018 to help similar businesses align with customers for better outcomes. More at

A tongue-in-cheek perspective on why hourly rates suck

If you've read some of my other articles, you’ll know that I hate hourly rates but saying that over and over again gets boring.

So, I’m trying another avenue. Sarcasm.

My teenaged son is nodding his approval… even as he’s rolling his eyes.

Here goes. Here are my top 10 super sarcastic reasons for sticking with billable hours for software services firms, consulting firms, creative agencies, and just about any other type of professional service firm.

1) You think of yourself as a hired hand

I mean, you’ve spent years honing your craft between school, work experience, and studying trends and emerging breakthroughs. …

Hourly rates are for rookies, shady motels, and sweatshops. Screw that!

Even Ron Burgundy is with me here.

😔 But I get it…

Hourly rates are easy to understand. I used them for years.

But they absolutely limit your potential.

And customers often expect them.

Yet ONLY because you haven’t offered them an alternative.

Start by listening.

Customers will tell you what they want.

Ask questions. Then listen some more.

You’ll hear what they need too.

What if the requirements are a bit fuzzy?

If what they’re laying down is clear as mud, don’t fall back to slinging hours. Big mistake.

The goal is to define the pressing…

If you only prize revenue per client, your business will suffer

Photo by Matt Helbig on Unsplash

Big customers can bring big revenue… and big headaches.

While growing my first software services business, big companies felt like the holy grail of customers. I saw revenue potential and chased it. And it nearly killed my startup business.

I was lucky — my business survived. I eventually grew it to $10 million in annual revenue before selling my shares and pursuing better outcomes.

But many firms aren’t so lucky. At least in the US, we live in a “big is better” culture where we covet bigger revenue, and thus, bigger customers.

Large companies seem like the logical way to…

Learn how to grow your team and business sustainably

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

You need to embrace processes.

That’s it. That’s the lesson. Not helpful? Not actionable? Let me explain.

Even if you do “custom” development, you need to have a guiding framework around it to drive predictable and highly valuable outcomes.

“Process” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. In fact, if you want your business to grow beyond you and a small disjointed team, you must craft the way your business will operate across every customer.

The key is not overthinking the journey toward processes. I’m not talking about documenting every detail.

You’d be surprised to discover what can be accomplished…

If you’re neglecting profit, you’re neglecting your business

Photo by Natasha Hall on Unsplash

Profit will come “someday”.

My business will be profitable “later” once I:

  • bring on that one critical hire
  • hit my next revenue goal
  • secure external funding

And the list goes on. All lies we tell ourselves to make up for the fact that we did not prioritize profit from day one.

I fell into that trap with my first software services business. We started out highly profitable yet that only lasted until we had a small team of dozen people. Right around the $2M revenue mark and two years in, something strange happened.

Owner compensation plateaued and profits shrank, while…

5 payment strategies to help protect your cash flow

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

Outside investment is NOT a good option for most businesses, especially software services firms. Yet it gets the lion’s share of words written about it and works spoken about it.

First and foremost, protecting your equity should be a critical focus for anyone growing a business. After all, you’re the one shouldering a ton of risk. And diluting your upside before you exhaust every other option is premature. You could end up killing your incentive to stick it out long term.

Yet we’re collectively enamored with the atypical results we hear about in the venture-capital funded startup scene.

I liken…

Little things done well can create huge value

Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Great onboarding helps clients AND employees yet we tend to undervalue it for both audiences.

Stop right there. Clear your mind then think back to the most recent employee you hired. Would you have known what to expect if you were in their shoes?

  • For the interview process?
  • Leading up to an offer?
  • After accepting an offer?
  • On your first day?
  • For your first 30 days?

Probably not. That’s the bar set by most software services businesses. When you do communicate, it’s haphazard at best, and often days, even weeks, go by with no updates.

I’m not picking on you…

Discovering value upfront is critical to aligning with customers

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels

Most of us started the same way — selling our time for an hourly rate. Yet it created some ugly behaviors almost immediately, like:

  • Our clients second-guessing our motives and scrutinizing our hours
  • We started looking at every non-billed hour as a lost opportunity
  • And, as our productivity improved, our rates couldn’t keep pace so we either made less money or inflated hours to maintain or grow revenue

I’m ashamed to say I inflated hours earlier in my career. It felt gross but I justified it given my results were “valuable”. …

What you need to know so you can go big on your own too

Photo by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash

Less talk, more action. He is proving one person can accomplish a lot on their own. Like a business that has grown to high six-figures in just a few short years. So, it’s time to put our talk aside and get started.

Brett Williams runs DesignJoy, an unlimited design service that specializes in product design and Webflow development. All by himself.

I recently discovered his business during an AMA (ask me anything) session on Indie Hackers, a community for developers building projects that generate revenue to gain financial independence or creative freedom.

How does he manage the workload?

With 30+ clients each expecting unlimited design work…

Why performing “work made for hire” is bad for your service business

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Most software consulting firms start out as laborers. Glorified pairs of hands that do something in exchange for money, at the expense of their minds.

While that may get you going, it’s a terrible business. Your profits (likely a function of cost, not value) will not sustain your growth and your customers will see you as highly replaceable. I’m going to assume both those statements made you uneasy. That’s good because it means you want something better.

What is “Work Made For Hire”?

By default, work is owned (or authored) by the person or people who actually created it. …

Casey Winans

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