Nothing I’m about to write is groundbreaking. If you’re looking to have your mind blown, move along. Actually, please still read. For me. :)
As a self-employed mobile app developer, I spend a lot of my time building quotes for potential and existing clients. There’s a special tension between trying to make as much money as possible while offering as much value as the client deserves.
On one hand we have four full-time employees, one part-timer and a bevy of contractors who all want to be paid on time (pretty modestly, I might add). We have production expenses, office space, travel and all of the usual suspects that drive up the cost of doing business. We want to make as much money as possible to pay for all of this.
And at the same time, our clients, understandably, want to pay as little as is possible for what we do. Not maliciously, of course. Every client—or almost every client—knows there is value to what we do, even if they don’t fully understand the time and effort involved. But at the end of the day, they are responsible to someone to say they got a great deal on the app they just purchased. Often, budgets create a very real price ceiling, limiting feature potential.
I’m always conscious of this as I’m estimating the costs to build an app. In the past I have made sacrifices that I’m not proud of to score a project or satisfy a client’s cost expectations. Sometimes this meant cutting features, limiting design, pushing contractors harder or simply working harder than we get paid for.
But the most egregious violation masquerades as doing good enough.
More times than I can remember, I’ve thought or even said, “We can make it good enough. We can keep it cheap, the client will be happy, and everything will work.”
In my mind I always aspired to greatness. I knew that I was capable of much and though I don’t know where that limit is, I’ve strived my whole life for it and I’ve yet to reach it.
How, exactly, did that phrase enter my lexicon? When did I give up on greatness?
Passion is the key. If you’re not passionate about something, you will do nothing of value—nothing of real value. It’s hard to be passionate about your clients’ projects. By definition, they are not your own projects. People—and entrepreneurs especially—have a hard time following the vision of others. We have our own dreams, goals, desires and ambitions. We’re passionate about those things. How can we be passionate about someone else’s idea?
It’s a real question. It’s one I’ve struggled with for a long time. And I don’t know if I have the answer, but I know what I’m going to attempt next.
I’m going to be passionate about making each project the best I can possibly make it. My company is highly regarded for creating simple, beautiful, easy-to-use apps. We take care of our clients and we do our best to make great apps. It’s something I’m very proud of.
We’ve made apps that I’m not so proud of, but, by and large, I feel like we’ve delivered value to each and every one of our customers. But if we’re going to go to the next level, we need passion.
So I’m no longer going to worry about budgets. I don’t care what it costs. We’re a reasonable firm—small and flexible without too much overhead—we don’t cost that much. But I’m not going to think about it any more. If you can’t afford for us to do it right, then you can’t afford for us to do it. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that if my name is going to be on something it’s going to be great; even if only my team and I know it. I don’t care about the credit1, but I do care that I’m happy about what I do.
I want to look at every app, every website2 that I make and be proud of what I did. I want the client to be elated. I want to make their users love them. I want to read reviews about how an app changed someone’s life. (I’ll admit, I don’t readily trust anyone who attributes a life change to the new app they just downloaded, but we’ve had some come through that way and it feels good nonetheless.)
I’m no longer satisfied with good enough. I won’t settle for anything less than amazing. If that means we can’t sustain the prices we need to charge, fine. We’ll switch business models or I’ll go get a nine-to-five. I could make just as much money with half the stress by working at a big company. But if I’m going to figure out how to pay employees and pay myself, I’m gonna fucking love doing what I do to ensure we can do it.