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Hello! I'm Ali from Happy Bear Software


#1

I’m (ostensibly) a Ruby on Rails freelancer but after the talk on productised consulting by @patio11 at MicroConf in Las Vegas, I’ve been working on writing and selling an ebook/screencast series on web application security for Ruby on Rails.

I’m going to level with you: I dislike my clients. Not as people, as people they’re lovely, it’s just the that as soon as we enter a business relationship their IQ drops about 40 points. The battle of trying to get them to apply some thought to their practices is one that I have very little appetite left for. I’m willing to accept that this is mostly due to my own communication skills and neurosis, but I just can’t afford the ongoing therapy costs.

It turns out that I’m not entirely terrible at training however. My blog has a (quite humble) following, I’ve sold out a workshop I’m teaching about rails security and have meetings lined up with people who want in-house training on the topic.

Long term, my goal is to expand horizontally, covering different topics, rather than vertically (i.e. doing deep consulting engagements on any one particular topic). If the imaginary company in my mind had a mission statement, it would be “Make developers more excellent at things they’re terrible at”. I want to deliver this via some arrangement of screencasts, ebooks, in-house/public workshops, webinars and online courses.

So far I’ve been marketing the workshops by asking nicely on the London Ruby User Group mailing list and this has sold £5600 worth of tickets, but if I want to run it regularly I can’t just keep spamming the list. I need to start building my own following around the topic and intend to do so with a short email course, so that’s what I’m going to be working on for the next couple of weeks.

I’m fully aware that this is not a bootstrapped SaaS business with entirely recurring revenue, but as long as I can do it from anywhere and grow revenue to a point where I have plenty of free time to work on other projects, I’m not too fussy. It will be much easier to pursue a future SaaS offering with a full warchest and a couple of years worth of internet marketing experience.

Looking forward to sharing stories and adventures here!


#2

Welcome. TBH, you’ve got lots of good stuff going w/ your strategy. I’d pay money for a generic web security workshop (non-rails based). I write mostly in Go these days, so any framework specific security stuff doesn’t do much for me. With security, it’s seems like the biggest danger is that you don’t know what you don’t know.

Above and beyond that, you can always go meta and hold workshops on how to give workshops.

Looking forward to following your progress!


#3

Hi @amattn! Thanks for the feedback. No plans for a more generic security offering TBH, as it’s way too vast a topic to fit into my pretty little developer head. I have my hands full teaching people all the interesting ways to break-into Rails apps!

For more generic web app security advice, I strongly recommend that you get your hands on the the Web Application Hackers Handbook. I predict that developers will still be reimplementing vulnerabilities outlined in that book decades from now.


#4

Welcome Ali. It was nice to meet you in Prague at MicroConf Europe, too.


#5

Brilliant! It’s true, and it’s just waiting for an enterprising writer to expand it into a sitcom.

Welcome to the forum, Ali, and great to meet you at MicroConf.


#6

Welcome Ali! Thanks for posting up some really great stuff already. Can’t hurt to have a security guy around here :smile:


#7

Hi Ali,

I’m also learning how to promote an in-person course ( http://successfulsoftware.net/software-business-training-course/ ). You will probably have heard me give it a (hopefully not obnoxious) plug at microconf. It is quite different to promoting software and I don’t have any great insights to share (yet!).

Customers can be frustrating. Currently I have a customer who has totally failed to understand the first thing about how PerfectTablePlan works or what it does. She might as well be using Microsoft Paint. She has sent me about 20 emails so far. Grrrr. Thankfully these sort of customers are rare (in my line of business, anyway).


#8

I’m at the stage in my business now where I have a bit of cash in the bank, and therefore zero tolerance for this kind of behaviour. I’ve sent the following email a couple of times, with great prejudice:

Our sincerest apologies, but as the level of service you require is
beyond our capability to deliver, we hereby terminate the Master
Services Agreement as outlined in section 2.7b. Your deposit has been
refunded in full.

But anyway, let’s put all that behind us! We’re in a happy, safe place now. As soon as I’ve recovered from this nasty cold I picked up in Prague I’m going to write the crap out of the Rails Security Fundamentals email course that will hopefully help to market the workshop/book/screencasts etc.


#9

I very rarely have to ‘fire’ customers and I’m not quite ready for the nuclear option yet. It might come to that though.


#10

Hil @najafali No RSS/atom feed in your blog?


#11

I work in consulting as my day job, and this perfectly sums up how I feel about nearly every client interaction I’ve ever had. Welcome - I look forward to reading your input!


#12

Rather than simply firing customers like that, shouldn’t you try upselling them on … something … first? “Hi, in order to meet your needs for assistance, we have the premium-platinum support plan that costs $$$$$$”. That will either make them back off or pay above and beyond what they’re costing you, and is less impolite, potentially preserving a relationship that doesn’t sound that bad.

I’ve had to fire one or two from LiberWriter, but the only really bad one was one who lied to us and then started getting abusive in their communications in a mean sort of way, rather than the frustrated sort of way that is more typical and can often be diffused.

Are they sending you technical questions? If not, maybe a virtual assistant handling some of the support could help?


#13

@davidw Great suggestions!


#14

Hi Ali,
welcome to the forum. It was nice to meet you in Prague.