Customer Spotlight: Stephen Callender
What do you do for a living, and why did you make the jump to self-employment?
I run the lean operations at Shoe Shine Design. I help our clients establish cohesive content strategies before any design and development begins. I also still do a good amount of smaller development tasks.
I got into this line of work because my wife and I wanted to leave Los Angeles and live in Buenos Aires for a year or so. Self-employment as an ExpressionEngine web developer was the only sure way I knew to make money overseas, so I went for it. It turned out much better than I expected.
What’s a big challenge you’ve had with running your own business, and how did you overcome it?
Once my son was born and we moved back to the U.S., the financial realities of my pricing model, lack of a financial plan, and negligent marketing efforts hit home hard. I had to raise my prices, increase my work load, and pursue prospects more. That effort has paid off. I have much better financial analysis skills and lead generation processes to help bring in more reliable revenue.
What advice would you give to those who are just starting out on the journey of running their own businesses?
My advice would be to think about profit margins and to diversify your income streams, specifically looking toward ways to bring in high value recurring revenue.
Getting any relief from the trap of the feast-or-famine cycle will have an exponential impact on your life and work. Start small, if needed, and learn what's profitable for you. But even better, figure out what advice you're already giving away regularly and sell it as a package deal. It's better to have one client paying $500/mo than 20 clients all paying $25. Good profits are what keep people in business.
Where would you like your business to be three years from now?
Honestly, I want Shoe Shine Design to be what it is today—a lean, content-first web agency—but with an even narrower limit to the type of projects we'll accept. Financially, we'd like to be paying all salaries from our product sales and recurring revenue.
What quality, habit, or decision has contributed to the success of your business?
First, we stuck to one thing in the first four years: ExpressionEngine development. Second, we do exactly what we say we're going to do. And we do it really well.