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#1
jtotton

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Hi All,

I read this board on and off quite a bit and have noticed quite a few of you run your own small gis/cartography business. I was just wondering if anyone would like to share a little information about their business.

How many people do you employ?

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)

What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?

What would you like to add to your business if you could?

You can share as much or as little about your business as you want, I am just very curious.

#2
Dennis McClendon

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Just me, using an ordinary PC for ArcGIS and an ordinary Mac for FreeHand and Photoshop. Niche: high-quality maps for print, a lot of it (historically) large-scale urban mapping for the commercial real estate industry. Would like to add: more customers.
Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics
chicagocarto.com

#3
David Medeiros

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Would like to add: more customers.


:) yup.

GIS Reference and Instruction Specialist, Stanford Geospatial Center.

 

www.mapbliss.com

 


#4
Hans van der Maarel

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How many people do you employ?

Just me, but I do partner with other freelancers and small businesses from time to time.

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)

An old Mac Pro (due to be replaced either this or next year), a relatively new no-brand Windows box and a HP laptop. Technically still have a Macbook Pro on the balance sheet, but it's pretty much retired now and I doubt I'll replace it, considering I already have a good Windows laptop. I use the Mac Pro for the bulk of my map design work. Other than that, a cheap b/w laser printer and a cheap color laser multifunctional (printer/scanner/copier).

What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)

MacOS X and Windows 7. For GIS I primarily use FME, Global Mapper and a bit of ArcGIS. In terms of graphics software I've got Illustrator with MAPublisher and Photoshop with Geographic Imager.

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?

I do map design and production, GIS data processing, consultancy, software sales and training. My particular niche is that, at least in my geographical area, I'm one of the few people who can do a pretty good job at both GIS and cartography.

What would you like to add to your business if you could?

Another me would be nice, but given the state of the world with just me on it, I'm not sure we'd want to risk that (aside from the fact that cloning is still illegal, morally wrong and not exactly easy to do). All kidding aside, even though it would come in useful from time to time, I dread the moment I'd have to start taking on staff.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
Email: hans@redgeographics.com / Twitter: @redgeographics

#5
Gretchen Peterson

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PEOPLE: 1, but I use contractors for things like extra GIS work that I don't have time for, projects that require more than one person (client needs something fast), high-level stats collaboration, proofreading, book layout design, and so on.

HARDWARE: Windows 64-bit, 8GB memory, a couple of large screens, Kindle Fire (great for checking email, blog comments, on the road!), and old laptop from ancient times that sounds like it will lift off if you leave it running too long. Also, an under-desk bicycle!

SOFTWARE: ArcGIS 10 almost exclusively. I use Illustrator on their month-month license and dabble with it from time to time. Box.net for all client files and for collaborating with teams. Mapbiquity for interactive maps (my husband's company). I've used GRASS for multi-threaded applications running on a university super-computer before, QGIS, and dabbled with most others. I'd like to learn R but gave up last time I tried. Need more patience/time.

SERVICES: I mostly do high-level geo analysis projects. Many of which are tied to natural resources in the Pacific Northwest including a lot of salmon habitat work. I help people who are trying to do GIS work themselves but who need to ask a question once in a while. I also do native cultural resources modeling, multi-criteria decision analysis applied to stream restoration work, and so on. I've helped people with their start-ups too--last year I worked on a complex grid-of-the-world numbering schema for a start-up. All my work involves cartography as a final output to help people understand the models and analysis results better. Some of my work is solely cartography (no analysis) but maybe only 10-20% of it. I write books about cartography and have another one coming out in a month or two.

ADD TO BUSINESS: About a year ago I read an article in Harvard Business Review about what executive assistants can do. I highlighted and underlined the thing like crazy. I was really enthused about all the things that I could have an assistant do for me: look for and respond to RFPs, keep the books, update the websites, anticipate supply needs, call vendors, and so on. I still haven't made the leap and only dream about how wonderful it would be. Maybe some day.

#6
Adam Wilbert

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I'm a lone sole proprietor as well and work out of a home office. I keep thinking about moving into a "real" office space, but the 30 second commute I currently have is too cushy to give up. I do *really* miss the collaborative environment of working in a design studio (from my Architecture school days), and that would be the motivating factor in moving to some sort of co-working space. More on that at the end of this post.

I currently use a 27" i3 iMac (12Gb ram) and an aging 13" CoreDuo MacBook laptop for on-the-road. I have a small BW laser printer for home use, but frequently use FedEx Ofice/Kinko's for quick larger format BW and color proofs, so thats kind of a surrogate. I also couldn't function without my Drobo external hard drive array, various other network hard drives, and I rely way too much on my iPhone for staying connected to everything, which has been incredibly freeing over the last couple of years. I just purchased a large desktop microphone (Blue Yeti) for doing tutorials and podcast type stuff.

Software: OSX Snow Leopard, I've heard too many bad / weird things about the newer Lion to make the switch. I use Parallels 5 for virtual machines of Win7 and XP. Adobe CS5 suite, and Suitcase Fusion 3 for font management. I spend a lot of time with Microsoft Office 2010 (chiefly Access and Excel) and a little bit of time in ArcMap 9.3.

My mapping niche is producing maps for presentations and traditional print publication; posters, newspapers, books, annual reports etc. Essentially taking the analysts work and prepping it for the public and/or press. I also do database training and consulting and that's started to become the bulk of what I do at this point.

If I could add anything it would be to spend more time in the exciting online database collaboration + high-end cartography space. There have been some really cool developments there, especially in just the past year or so (CartoDB, MapBox, stuff coming out of Stamen and Development Seed for instance). I *love* being self employed and am finding some measure of success at it, but I feel like I'm getting to the point where I'd like to go out and find a position with a larger organization again just to be part of that kind of deeper collaborative environment.

(BTW Jtotton, I really appreciate the question! This is a great topic)

Adam Wilbert
CartoGaia.com & AdamWilbert.com
Lynda.com author of "Up and Running with ArcGIS"


#7
Clark Geomatics

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How many people do you employ?
One, so far - me.

What do you have for hardware?
Mac Pro Workstation, couple of monitors and networked storage drives, inkjet and other misc. IT bits.

What do you use for software?
Primarily ArcGIS 9.3, Global Mapper, ER Mapper (old license), Illy, PS and InDesign on a mix of OS X (snow leopard) and W7 (64 bit).

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?
I've got two things going: first I run a cartographic business where I design, produce, wholesale and retail high-end recreational/topographic maps. Second, I'm a partner in a GIS/engineering consultancy offering geographic IT services to utilities, governments, private companies, etc. We've modelled tsunamis, earthquakes, evacuations; performed many needs / requirements analyses; carried out GIS implementations; designed GIS course curricula for schools; and more...

My cartographic niche is backcountry recreation maps; my GIS consulting niche is geospatial analysis.

What would you like to add to your business if you could?
Would start with cloning myself.
Cheers,

Jeff Clark
Principal
www.clarkgeomatics.ca

#8
skorasaurus

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Hi All,


How many people do you employ?
Do I count myself ? I'm just starting at the moment, I only have two clients right now.

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)

relatively older Acer Laptop [once I have more income, I'd like to reinvest it with a new workstation]; plus an external HD for backups, data storage, and also some data backed up on DVDs. I've done some test printing on my own HP inkjet printer; otherwise it goes to a commercial printer.

Also a gps enabled android phone, if I need to make GPS tracks.

What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)

At the moment, all open-source (I've used linux for years and am more comfortable with it, and it's cheaper, at least in the short-term). Ubuntu as the OS. post-processing, touch-up of imagery: inkscape, the gimp; analysis/creation: qgis, postgresql, GDAL; some OpenStreetMap-specific software [osmosis, josm]. Dropbox too .

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?

Map design, creation, Digitally and for print (presentations, one-time events, reports); Spatial Data Analysis, Also creating a Neighborhood Map for Print. Finding my niche at the moment.

What would you like to add to your business if you could?

A Mentor. A little more confidence and some leads for more clients. =)

#9
frax

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How many people do you employ?
Just me

What do you have for hardware?
A powerful custom workstation, Windows 7 64-bit. 16 GB memory, quad-core... External disk for backups, access to university network for Internet backups and printing. Wacom Intous, which I hardly ever use.

What do you use for software?
ArcGIS 10, Global Mapper, Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign CS5. Sometimes Grapher too.

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?
  • Thematic maps
  • Interactive maps
  • GIS
  • For themes - a lot of work is environmental, sustainable development and Arctic for me.

What would you like to add to your business if you could?
Hmmm not sure. Would be nice with some ways to get more regular cash flow, like publications, books, posters etc
Hugo Ahlenius
Nordpil - custom maps and GIS
http://nordpil.com/
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#10
Derek Tonn

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How many people do you employ?
Technically (legally) zero according to the IRS...since we are an LLC with no employees (two equal partners) and a series of "freelance" contractors using mutually-exclusive non-competes! Unofficially (in-practice, though not according to the rules set forth by our government), I would say 14 (about 8.0 FTE) via all the billable hours we secure on behalf of our team members.

What do you have for hardware?
Personally? I have an HP HDX "mobile desktop" with as much RAM as they would allow me to stuff inside the case. :) Need the processor to be screaming-fast to move GB of files/day and optimize tens of thousands of images. As a team? Pretty much every different kind of system out there. About 50/50, Mac vs. PC. Some desktops, some laptops, some Wacom Cintiq tablets, etc.

What do you use for software?
AI, PSD, INDD, Corel Draw, Freehand, Sketchup, Rhino, Poser, Bryce, Dreamweaver, and numerous other business management and image optimization programs. We do a lot of our work "in the clouds" too, via online software and services. For example, with our operational and account/project management tasks, if I can get on the internet from any computer, anywhere on the planet, I can run about 95% of our company. So when people ask "where are you located/headquartered?," I tell them "wherever I happen to be on any given day." USUALLY Southwestern Minnesota though.

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?
A little bit of everything related to custom cartography that ISN'T generated from a data set (no GIS work in our shop) ...though if you asked most people, they would say that we are best-known for our work in bird's eye/oblique/pictorial map illustrations. Primarily contract work for institutional clients, though that only represents about 60% of our current revenues (versus 90-95% in 2000-2006).

What would you like to add to your business if you could?
1-2 more people who really know how to sell, and 1-2 people who can help me push all the paper, keep current/prospective clients happy/engaged, and brush-up on their "Latin" for all those legal agreements. :) Adding more design help is fairly easy, as the costs associated with doing so are almost entirely tied to new revenues that walk in the door. Adding non-design, "admin" help is what is scary...since if I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to help with several back-of-house tasks, and our revenues do not increase to at least allow our firm as a whole to break-even?! Becky (my wife) and I don't eat. We need more non-design help to grow! But that is a big, BIG (risky) step to take. But we're two years overdue...so that's the direction we're moving this Summer.
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#11
Michael Schmeling

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Becky (my wife) and I don't eat.


I would appreciate any advice on how to do that and still survive :)
Michael Schmeling
Kassel, Germany
Arid Ocean Map Illustrations
http://maps.aridocean.com
Indie Cartographer
http://www.indiecartographer.com

#12
Derek Tonn

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Becky (my wife) and I don't eat.


I would appreciate any advice on how to do that and still survive :)


Ha! Yep. My reason for dragging my heels in past years related to adding admin help...as I haven't figured out how to do it either. And being alive is a GOOD thing, in my estimation! :)
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#13
Strebe

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Mapthematics LLC here. We are not a cartographic house, but rather developers of the Geocart mapping software.

How many people do you employ?
•None.

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)
•8-core 3GHz MacPro, which also serves as my Windows XP/Vista machine under VMWare Fusion.
•Various other hardware for testing different procesors and OS versions.
•HP DesignJet Z3100PS 24" roll printer.

What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)
•Primarily Mac OS, but also Windows under VMWare Fusion.
•Geocart for mapping.
•Adobe InDesign/Ph0toshop/Illustrator for collateral materials.
•Software developed in-house for obscure tasks.

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?
•Geocart development and sales.
•Map projection identification, development, and customization.
•Raster reprojection services.
•Base maps.
•Custom poster maps on arbitrary projections.

Cheers!
— daan Strebe
Principal, Mapthematics LLC

#14
Kalai Selvan

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Greetings!!!

Good Question, i started my own company, based on my Knowledge and contacts.I being the 1st Partner and 2nd being my ex colleague.
But time to time i employ freelancers on need basis.



How many people do you employ?
•2 permanent. and 1-5 variable employee

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)
Higher end Desktop computers,internet,printer,hand held gps,laptop with higher end which supports more software installation.

What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)
•Win7
•Adobe Illustrator/qgis/globalmapper/ and more gis OS

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?
•gis development
•Map projection identification, development, and customization.
•Raster reprojection services.
•Base maps.
•Geological Mapping
Utility Maps,Cadastral Maps,Electrical,plumbing,hvac maps

Thanks and Regards
Kalai Selvan


#15
Lui

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  • Interests:Natural looking maps, hillshading, mountain cartography, LIDAR, TLS, data fusion, photogrammetry, singing, poetry, cycling
  • Slovenia

How many people do you employ?
Myself and sometimes one freelancer.

What do you have for hardware? (computers, printers, gps, tablets, input devices, etc)


Heavy customized workstation, laptop and file&GIS server (ZFS based), all-in-one printer. Input devices: keyboard & mouse (surprise huh;-), Wacom Intuos, Wacom Cintiq 21", Saitek Game Commander, Space Navigator, joystick,... Yeah I'm still very addicted with input gadgets!




What do you use for software? (os, gis software, graphics software)
For cartography: OCAD, Adobe CS5, Global Mapper, QGIS, GRASS, SAGA GIS,...


For LIDAR & Photogrammetry: mostly Terrasolid

What do you offer for services to your clients, what is your niche?

From consultation to GIS product delivery including LIDAR & photogrammetry processing, data fusion, 3d data acqusition, cartography and GIS implementation. In cartography I'm producing mostly topographical, tourist and guide maps. But if I have to pick favorite kind (unfortunately not most valuable one) then my speciality is natural looking mapping and hillshading.

What would you like to add to your business if you could?

Trvia: More customers!





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