The Business of Rails

This was a panel discussion: Joe O’Brien, Nathaniel Talbott, Justin Gehtland, Geoffrey Grosenbach, Robby Russell, Andre Lewis.

When did you decide to work for yourself?
– When CEO decided it was more important to have his boat instead HR staff
– Job ended
– Wanted to pursue music career (Robbie)
– Wanted to write code, and work with Rails
– Wanted to junk the traveling consultant lifestyle
– Wanted to build things for yourself

“Never do fixed bid.”

Companies come to Planet Argon asking for Rails — they don’t need convincing. Other people bid projects in RoR and Java, and let the customer decide.

How to compete with cheap people? How to talk people out of fixed bid? Tailor response to customer:
– Hourly rate or 2-3 month projects ballpark estimate
– Maybe for a big client, you could double or triple your price and do a fixed bid
Talk to client, and if you don’t convince them, bail on the work. Maybe do first iteration at time and materials, and do a bang-up job. If you measure and refine your process, you can do fixed bid.

Words of wisdom: “Can’t rewrite GMail for $20K.”

How many are thinking of going out and doing consulting o your own? 20% of the audience.


Do marketing via user groups, etc. Getting leads sucks, but sales is actually fun. Don’t be superficial about it. Give back to community.

You can email for a contract template

Employees cost about the same as contractors, but you get more value because of collaboration
Incorporate, fool! So that your personal bank account is not at risk
– LLC or S Corp
– Talk to a CPA
– Need to build business credit history; fix separate taxes.
– Get a separate bank account
– AMEX card and buy something on it every month
Go to a local bank, where they will take your business seriously
– When that $100K check comes in, the banks will put a 15-day hold on it if they don’t know you

How do you manage to only work 40 hours a week?
– You don’t
– Hard to separate work and home when you work at home
– Have to be firm with yourself
– Find an office space

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