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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Client Work (Part 1)

Ever since WooThemes established itself to such an extent that I could earn enough money from it to make a living thereof, I (Magnus & Mark made similar decisions with regards to their freelance activities) decided to call it a day for doing client work (which is why more than a year later, radiiate - a boutique web design agency before - is only making a comeback now).

As a result, we have a pretty strict “no custom design or development work” policy at WooThemes, since we choose to rather focus our attention on internal projects / ventures / activities that furthers & growths the business / brand. Yet, we still get a bucketload of e-mails from people (I’d assumed they’re fans of our work) requesting a custom quote for a designing / developing a site with X, Y & Z specifications. The answer is always the same however: “Sorry, but we don’t do custom design & development work.”

Considering the sheer amount of requests we get for client work though, has lead me to at least re-think our approach & more important our mindset in this regard. I mean - are we just ignoring the cash that is being put on the table right in front of us?

So I’ve gone back and forth about how we could potentially handle this situation (which is an obvious contradiction to our decision of not doing client work) and maybe maximize the potential profit or value from the opportunities that are presented. I’ve also decided that I need to take emotion out of it and I can’t thus justify my decision (not to engage client work) on the fact that I don’t like to work with clients, since that is completely subjective and based on bad experiences (neither of which makes for a good basis in making the *right* business decision).

In the end (i.e. after this epic conversation I had in my own head), I decided that this quote by David Heinemeier Hansson (from this video) summed up how I felt:

“If you’re not working on your best idea right now, you’re doing it wrong.”

What I’m saying is WooThemes’ best “idea” at this stage is to ignore the short term benefits (profits) of doing client work, as it is more profitable & sustainable to focus on building great products which would pave the way for the company in the longer term. I’m also 99,9% sure that if I actually did an extended financial analysis of this, it’d show that the ROI that client work would deliver in the short term is far outweighed by the magnitude of continuing to build our products and brand.

So that’s our decision in this regard. I’m not suggesting that it’s impossible to actually make this model work whereby internal projects / products are used for marketing (more on this in a future post) and to thus generate leads for client work. I am however saying that this is not a road that WooThemes are exploring at the moment…

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