Don’t wait to get help for your Web Dev Business

Listen to this Audio Blog post here:

It took years to start liking web development again. After my first HTML class in 1996, I knew this is what I wanted to do. The very next semester in 1997 I got a job building Websites for Art Street Interactive in downtown San Diego on 4th and G street. I worked there for a year, then started doing contract work for On Edge Interactive for a year and then went to work for a colleague from Art Street Interactive who was starting a new agency called Nuvonix. I worked there for two years, before the bubble burst and everything went to hell.

I had just bought a house and got a job at a web development company in Fallbrook. This was a software company, but they did websites too. In the early 2000’s it seemed like everyone was building websites. Within a few months of being hired, they did a massive layoff and got rid of half the company. I was supposed to be let go too, but my boss revealed, she was planning on leaving soon, so they should keep me. I’ll always be thankful for that. The next few years was a roller coaster ride of stress, emotion and uncertainty.

I buckled down and finished school while working full time. The company I worked for got out of the web development business to focus on their software product. I was learning more than ever as the company, A Certified Microsoft Partner, was transitioning from ASP, to .Net. Open source was gaining in popularity, but for serious web development, Enterprise was driven by Microsoft. Then on September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center bombing happened and all online commerce seemed to just stop.

We limped around for another year or so building out the new online version of the software product and then as the economy stalled and started, the company couldn’t handle the ebb and flow and laid me off. The timing was terrible, because we just found out my wife was pregnant. Believe it or not I looked at this as an opportunity to get back to web development full time. I started building budget websites, selling dialup internet access (DSL and Cable still had not fully rolled out) and offering website hosting. For almost 5 years I worked 12 hour days while managing a toddler. I was tired.

Running my business during this time had taken its toll. Managing a team of 11 subcontractors, dealing with non-paying clients and troubleshooting email connectivity problems wore me down. I couldn’t believe it, but I started to hate my job. My own business. There just didn’t seem to be a way out. This is all I knew. This is all I had done for the last 11 years! I started looking around and through the grapevine I heard some agencies down in San Diego were hiring. Luckily I got the job. Over the next few years working for different agencies, I started to realize I had done it right. I was really proud of what I had done on my own and some of the processes I invented to run my own business scaled and were quite innovative.

When working for yourself, it can be very isolating and lonely. I couldn’t complain to my contractors, they just wanted to get paid. I couldn’t complain too much to family members, because they didn’t get it. One day I was complaining to a friend and he said, “I think I have someone you need to talk to.” I was introduced to a guy that had been in the business before the CD ROM days and had already re-invented himself a couple of times. He helped me put things into perspective, taught me CSS and encouraged me to focus on development. He was a sounding board for new ideas and a sanity check for crazy ones. I look back now and am so happy that he was a part of my life back then. He is undeniably one of my mentors and really got me through some rough times. We don’t talk as much anymore, but I still confide in him and run important business decisions by him. There is no question, I don’t know where I’d be today, without his guidance.

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