The pros and cons of treating client projects as though they were your own business
Two years ago, I decided to a software development agency which had a unique way of operating - we would treat every project we worked on as though it were our own business.
Since then, Bytehogs has grown faster than I could have imagined with multiple products in production. So I thought now would be a good time to reflect on our learnings and share the pros and cons of our signature approach.
Pro: Every project is exciting
One of the main reasons we took this approach was to keep us excited and engaged with every project we took on. Ultimately, we produce our best work and we feel passionate about what we do. Treating each client project as though it were our own business aligns our motivation with the clients, and we share the same energy and drive that they feel when building their business.
Con: Greater risk of burnout
The internet abounds with horror stories regarding starting your own business, The high intensity can lead to stress, sleepless nights and ultimately burnout. When you take our approach and treat every project as your own business - the intensity and stress can really pile on quickly.
Overcoming this without compromising our approach has been a learning experience for me and the rest of our team. We have had to learn that launching a successful business does not mean working without sleep and that a healthy balance of work and rest is key to every entrepreneurs' success. Nonetheless getting to this point has been a journey and it would be remit to not mention this as a con to our approach.
Pro: Better collaboration with clients
One thing we wanted to avoid from the outset, was just being “code monkeys”. Our senior team all have a background in entrepreneurship and we wanted to leverage that to make the projects we work on a success.
We also appreciate that our client’s won't always know exactly what they want, the journey to a solution often involves a lot of missteps and the relationship we establish with clients allows us to experiment with solutions to achieve their ultimate goal - delivering a product which makes their customers happy.
Con: More heated discussions with clients
Sometimes, it really feels like it would be easier to say “yes” to everything a client wants and let them realise for themselves when a bad decision is made. If we were running a typical agency, this would make sense and, in the short run, earn us a lot more in terms of the development hours we can build for.
Instead - we fight our corner when we believe a certain feature or solution should be implemented in a certain way. We base our decisions on project timelines, budget and our knowledge of customer experience and solution scalability. It means we often spend more time agreeing on a feature before implementation than a typical agency would - but we feel this is offset by having to make fewer changes after the feature is built.
Pro: It brings out the best in us
When you run your own business, you are in some form or another, always working on it. We find ourselves talking about the projects we are working on to our friends and family. We discuss them over dinner and when we are out. We think about the feature we are build and the impact they could have before we go to sleep. Put simply - we live and breath the projects we work on.
The inevitable consequence of this is that we are able to contribute to the project in terms of its feature roadmap and marketing strategy to the same capacity as the client. Treating client projects as our own business brings out the best in us - allowing our team to better the product we work on beyond the specification.
Con: We can’t work with just anyone
The biggest trade off to our approach is that we have to be extremely selective about the projects we work on. In order for us to dedicate the levels of time and energy that we feel each project we work on deserves - we have to be inspired by the project and believe in the clients we work with.
We have been lucky to work with some amazing clients, and the process of delivery for each project so far has felt collaborative with all parties feeling they have produced the best possible result with time and budget allocated. We want to maintain this to keep our team working on exciting projects with incredible people!