This is our top three lessons learned from web consulting & building digital products in 2015.
Consulting: Small client projects require comparatively more effort than larger ones.
Products: Building digital products is almost easy - acquiring and keeping users is really, really hard.
Sideprojects: Building side projects for recurring income while consulting is hard. You need to seriously plan and prioritize side project work to actually get anything done.
Consulting / Client work
While our little design & coding shed was founded in January 2013, we only started running things full steam in Oct 2014. Like most web agencies, we started by doing websites for clients. We’ve been meaning to switch away from basic site building for some time (ok you got us, it’s been the plan ever since we started Wingmen in the first place), and concentrate on UI/UX work and our own products. Guess you could say that 2015 was a success: we only did four smaller website gigs during the whole year. We had the fortune to work on one big client UI project and several side ventures - not having to worry about new sales all the time.
We’re looking to continue on the same path in 2016. However, One big client issues are obvious: Most eggs are in one basket and you better not lose it. Finding the next big gig to pay the bills can be a pain in the a**! Looking back, for us it still pays off to stay away from small projects since they often require (a lot) more work relatively than bigger ones. Focusing on bigger projects enables us to deliver an epic result for our clients.
This doesn’t mean we don’t love to hear from all new projects, and we still often find it difficult to say no :) In 2016 we're also looking into more structured ways of handling small projects, where we'll be selling small projects as well defined products. Productized consulting can cut the overhead of smaller projects and produce better results for the clients too.
Products / sideprojects
While building several projects & ventures on the side (see http://wingmen.fi/#ventures for more) we learned some tough lessons about launching and marketing digital products. As you may already know it’s not like “Once you build it, they will come”. Nobody actually comes - without real, hard work. We learned our lesson and have started taking more people onboard in our side projects to take care of the marketing. After all 50% of something is more than 100% of nothing. So do not forget marketing, without it your project will be just a dead fish in the sea.
Another takeaway from balancing the work between client project(s) and our own ventures: side projects get always dumped in favour of client work. And even when there is not much real client work going on, own projects get a pass in favour of the latest episode of Something Totally Meaningless on Netflix. You have to start planning and prioritizing your own projects like actual work to make real progress. This is something we’re going to be focusing on in 2016!