Saturday, 22 June 2013

Referrals - How to Make Big Money in IT

"It is often said that hard work is a necessary condition for success. But it is rarely questioned whether it alone is sufficient. Hardwork iff Success?"
-My question to you, reader.

I know, I know, the title looks like a cheap advertisement line straight out of a self help book. And the meaning of big money is different for everyone, to me, a hundred bucks is pretty big money.  This entry will be most interesting to IT professionals who do contracts on the side and have a few good friends who are into the same thing. If you've established a reputation as a craftsman in your area, in real-life and even more importantly - online (e.g. on ODesk) then you'll come to a point when the problem is not getting the work, but having time to do it.

My area of expertise is creating complete (from login, product selection, checkout and all the way to the fulfillment system) e-commerce solutions for small to medium size companies. It is a good niche as existing solutions such as IBM WebSphere Commerce or Magento Commerce cost too much and require very skilled developers to extend and maintain (I can vouch on WebSphere, as I had a chance to work on it. Its great when you know what you're doing, but unless you've been working on it for years and your Dojo and JS (frontend) is in tip-top shape, as well as your understanding of JSP, JSF, EJB, data services, underlying DB (DB2/Oracle and uh oh, throw in OpenLaszlo for Management Center in there as well) is stellar AND you have an idea how this all fits together, its not going to go well. Thats why majority of work on WebSphere Commerce goes back to IBM, companies who buy the solution cannot extend functionality in a way that they need due to such a large knowledge and skill gap of their inhouse developers.

Back to the story - along came a situation where I was already working on a medium sized project ($5000), but was introduced to a client who required a project done in two months max, worth $15000-$20000. I couldn't dump the one I was already working on, yet I would very much like any additional money I could get. The way I went around the situation was referring the client to a friend in the industry who I could vouch for, for an agreed 10% cut of the fee (snooping around I found out that the standard referral fee in the industry is 5% though, so you should adjust your expectations on that). Once the project was done I pocketed $2000-something doing around 2-3 hours of work in total, and established a stronger business link with a colleague. Long story short, everybody profits with referrals, since next time its me who might have free time on his hands. Essentially, becoming a middleman like that is a way of extracting money from your network, and should push us all to expand and strengthen our networks (on effective ways to go about that I recommend you read "Making it Big in Software" by Sam Lightstone...and no I'm not getting any money on advertising Sam's work :)).

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