NACIS 2014 - Pittsburgh - Freelancer/Small Business Round-table
Chair: Nat Case, INCase LLC
How are independent and small business mapmakers adapting to the changing mapping environment? How are you integrating interactive and mobile development (or old-fashioned printed mapping) into your business model? How are you carving out niches of expertise, and maintaining those niches? What software and workflow are you using, and how do you see that changing? How are you getting the word out and finding clients? How has that changed and how do you expect that to change in future? Are you competing internationally, and have international freelance marketplaces affected you and your bottom line? Are you working with/for other cartographers or mapping firms, and what business structure for that kind of co-operation works for you? Any words of wisdom from more established freelancers/small businesses to people putting their toes in the water?
Notes by Stephen Smith - @TheMapSmith
I tried to record most of what was said. I didn't write down every answer that was said, but I tried to capture every question at least. Feel free to grab one you're curious about and answer below.
Established: 9 (2+ years full time or multiple employees)
Developing: 9 (-2 years full time or part time)
Hoping: 11 (students or nothing official yet)
Related: 3 (government employees who work with freelancers)
Unknown: 5 (walked in late)
Questions Asked (with some answers provided by the group):
Are there any tools that provide external frameworks to go around web maps and provide additional functionality like filters, printing, etc?
- Cordova PhoneGap - Create an app from a website
- Doesn't provide external framework though
Are you interested in doing awesome work like Stamen does? Seth said they sometimes gets asked to do projects they don't have the capacity to do - they want to have a network of passionate geographers that they could pass the along to.
How do you 'prototype' a proposal for a client without them 'freaking out' about an unfinished design?
How do you show your work to the customer, but still leave it open to changes? ("Let's make that purple")
How to handle non-profit clients who want lower quotes or who have a fixed budget due to grants?
How do you define the project before the client accepts the job? How do you set those limits in the contract? (Can you set a list of cities to appear on a map in the contract?)
How do you deal with customers who don't know what they want?
How to go from static to interactive maps? How do you manage clients who ask for a print map to go with their web maps, or web maps to go with their prints?
- Avenza GeoPDF
How to charge your clients:
- Hourly? Flat rate? Fixed bid?
- Write in a discovery phase - they pay you to develop a scope of work
- Be aggressive with change orders
- When: At end? Up front? Quarterly?
The Dreaded Contract:
- How do you learn to write one?
- "Steal" from elsewhere. Look to other creative fields for their templates
- What are some important clauses you include? (presented raw)
Work beyond scope - specific cycles of changes
Kill fees - if client drops project, charge if circumstances change significantly
Copyright retains with me until you pay your final bill
Informal arbitration - your lawyer, my lawyer, they pick a lawyer. That guy decides the case
Right of publicity
Indemnification if you give us the data
Delivery method (digital, paper, canvas, web, etc)
Ultimate clarity - avoid product creep
Learn to say "no"
Ownership of the data/product, they pay more to get the copyright, source data etc
You can't hold us liable with defects if you approve the final
Errors and omissions insurance
How to write a request for proposal? More informal proposal?
How to market or get new business or sell your work?
- How do you market your work?
- Partner with web developers who think all websites are better with maps
- Share everything you do online - how-tos, portfolio, processes
- How do you find a market for your work?
- Kickstarter - pre-sell your concepts
- Take a risk - TransitMaps
How do you make time for "fun" projects as a geo-entrepreneur? How can you find a market for it?
How do you solve the logistics of selling?
- Drop ship
- What's the business model?
- Order many, warehouse, ship yourself
- How well does the print on demand business model work?
- When is it worth it to go with a press for offset printing?
- How do you sell your prints?
- Avenza Map Store (you keep 35%)
- How do you price your map?
To sell services (consulting), or products?
How do you do market research?
How do you break into the business to begin with?
Where do you get business? Where have you had success? Where have you had crickets? Portfolio? SEO? Blogs? Twitter? Social Media? Reddit? Dribbble? Through the publisher? Word of mouth/referrals. Relationships with local/county GIS people for when they can't handle the work.
- Quality work drives referrals
How do you maintain ownership of any data you create? How do you use prior data? How to catalog the old data? metadata? file storage?
- Don't archive their data, just hold onto it for yourself.
- Charge them if they come back and ask for more
How to learn from other industries?
- Photographers maintain ownership of the images and license a copy, charge a premium if they want to own the copyright
Do you charge for an initial creative meeting? Do you have a list of questions that you always try to answer?
How do you establish your business legally?
- If you don't have any data liabilities you can probably just be a sole proprietership for now
Branding, logos, domains, blogs, sites, etc
What to do when your daily job becomes unfulfilling. How do you fuel your passion while on the job? How to ask your boss to give you more space to be creative?