Building an Open Source Consulting Company

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Lessons learned from a successful open source consulting company. This talk is geared towards the open source developer who is considering starting his/her own business, and the entrepreneur who wants …

Lessons learned from a successful open source consulting company. This talk is geared towards the open source developer who is considering starting his/her own business, and the entrepreneur who wants to grow the business by leveraging open source development methodologies.

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  • 1. Building an open source consulting company Nate Aune www.jazkarta.com Open Source Bridge Conference Portland, OR June 17, 2009 1
  • 2. /me • First experience with Linux in 1994 • Founded Jazkarta in 2004 in Boston • Now 3 full-time staff and 10 subcontractors • Specialize in Plone and Python 2
  • 3. Topics for exploration • Marketing • Recruiting • Pricing • Finances • Contracts • Open Source citizen • Project Management • your topics? • Services 3
  • 4. Marketing 4
  • 5. Marketing & getting work • Speaking • Blogging • Sponsoring • User group / consultants group • Networking 5
  • 6. Pricing 6
  • 7. Pricing / rates • How much do you want to make? • What are your costs? • What will the market bear? 7
  • 8. $100,000 / yr $100,000/yr % 50 wks/yr % 20 hrs/wk = $100/hr 8
  • 9. Costs of doing business (overhead) • Self-employment tax • Legal fees • Accounting / bookkeeping • Office space • Hardware • Subcontractors • Telephone 9
  • 10. Market rates • What are your competitors charging? • How much will your customers pay? • How does the economy affect your bill rate? 10
  • 11. When to raise rates? • When your customers don't blink an eye when you tell them your rate • When you have more work than you can handle • When you have an in-demand skill 11
  • 12. Contracts 12
  • 13. Contracts • Get legal advice - don't do it by yourself • Optional scope contracts • Tools: EchoSign for digital signatures 13
  • 14. Traditional vs. Timeboxed Optional scope contracts: 14
  • 15. Project management 15
  • 16. Project management • Agile is aligned with open source development • 2 week iterations • 3 person teams (PM, dev, design) • Tools: ClueMapper, Google Docs, Dropbox 16
  • 17. Resource planning 17
  • 18. Global Team 18
  • 19. Global team strategies • Group team members in same or close timezones • Make sure everyone is on IRC and uses it • Set up a mailing list for each new project • Skype calls every week to touch base • Issue tracker (ClueMapper/Trac) • Version control (Subversion/Bazaar) 19
  • 20. Pros/cons of subcontractors • Pros • Only pay them when you have work • Can find top talent, specialists • Cons • More expensive • Can be difficult to retain if not enough work 20
  • 21. Services 21
  • 22. Services • Development • Training • Support Recurring revenue • Hosting 22
  • 23. Training • Private onsite training • Public training • Training as part of a conference • Online training 23
  • 24. Support • Open source = no guarantees • Retainer = insurance policy • Keeps the conversation going • Upsell support before the project is complete 24
  • 25. Hosting • Easier to support if on servers you control • Distribute benefits across all customers • Upselling opportunities • Steady source of recurring revenue 25
  • 26. Recruiting 26
  • 27. Recruiting • Read blogs • Attend sprints • Elastic staff • User groups • Internships 27
  • 28. Finances 28
  • 29. Finances • Get a good bookkeeper • Seek next project while still on first project • Find sponsors to fund open source dev • Tools: Quickbooks 29
  • 30. Open source citizen 30
  • 31. Open source citizen • writing documentation • contributing code • serving on board • sponsoring sprints • organizing user group 31
  • 32. Thanks! Questions? 32
  • 33. Stay in touch • Email: natea (at) jazkarta (dot) com • Twitter: twitter.com/natea • Blog: blog.jazkarta.com • IRC: irc.freenode.net/natea 33
  • 34. Books & Resources • e-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber • Manage It! by Johanna Rothman • Ship It! by Richardson/Gwaltney • Art of Agile Development by Shore & Walden • Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun • Computer Consultant's Guide by Janet Ruhl 34