Photo by Hugo Sousa on Unsplash

What kind of customers and projects am I looking for?

I am on the lookout for living, moving projects. I am not much for projects that you only work on for a few weeks or months, deliver it, and then you are unreachable for two months because you work full time on the next project for another customer. No, ideally this is where it really starts. We have made something beautiful together in the initial project, and now it has to stay beautiful for years.

First there is maintenance. Compare it with a house. You repaint the wood, take away old building materials, and regularly let someone check your boiler. On a website you modernise the theme, check if settings are still optimal, go along with developments on browsers, and keep the technical basis solid, so there is no technical debt. Your website is ready for future changes.

Regularly you build something new on top of this solid foundation. In the example of a house, you install solar panels on the roof and build an extra room. On the website you add an integration with a database or you show pretty graphs. You make a page where the available information is shown more clearly. You enhance the search page.

I am less a fan of flashy website with screen wide pictures and every few months a new homepage following the latest trends and dumping one hundred tracking cookies on unsuspecting visitors. I prefer nicely readable pages with a supporting picture every now and then, like this website.

Web shops are not such a good match either: I am a one man shop, so I cannot give 24/7 support when the payment module is not functioning and you are missing turnover. If there is a serious problem, I obviously fix it as soon as possible, within normal office hours.

I  am hoping for customers who have a soft spot for open source and free software. There are plenty of commercial CMS offerings where you pay a fortune each year for licences, and then you still only have the base system without customisations. With the CMS Plone you get a lot for free. Plone is made by volunteers, often employees of small Plone companies of big users, like universities, world wide. Plone is completely open source and will remain this way, through the Plone Foundation that has the copyright and protects Plone. A good part of my work consists of improving Plone for all clients: for customer one I fix a bug that would affect others too, for customer two I create an extra module that everyone can use, for customer three I improve documentation that everyone can read. Meanwhile, other Plone developers all over the world are doing the same, and all customers profit from this. On top of this, as Plone Release Manager I create new Plone releases for all customers, and as member of the Plone Security Team I do security fixes.

To be able to keep doing this, it is necessary to have a maintenance contract for a fixed amount per month. Then I can do maintenance and fix bugs, without starting the clock for every question that you ask, followed by an invoice. View it as a central deposit where all customers put in money, and from which I can make improvements that benefit all customers. Compare it with an owners' association where home owners put in money so there is budget for maintenance on shared parts like a stairwell of the roof.

In closing, let's talk about my hourly rate: this is between 100 and 150 euro, excluding VAT. This depends on the kind of project and customer. For charities or other non-profit organisations I gladly keep to the lower part of this rate.