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How I worked on “income-critical” applications with success

Hi, I’m Valerio a Software Engineer and Laravel-certified developer based in Italy.

In the last few years I’ve built a lot of e-commerce, marketing content networks, restful APIs, booking systems, and many other applications that my daily income — and my clients’ daily income — depend on.

It was not easy to work on multiple “income critical” projects at the same time, and I didn’t have a strategy to help me do so.

Every freelancer or small team knows what I’m talking about. The strong connection with our customers generates high exposure to competitive risks. It’s too important for professionals to preserve customers’ perception that we are the right choice for their interest in the long term.

The consequence could be not being able to retain customers enough to enjoy the benefits of our hard work, and out there, around every corner, there are agencies or others professionals ready to welcome a dissatisfied customer.

Sometimes I did a really bad job. I got lost in technical complications and the systems struggled to become stable. My clients got angry because every time something went wrong they risked losing money.

In the last few years I built a lot of e-commerce, Contents Distribution Networks, Restful APIs, booking systems, and many other applications on which my and my clients’ daily income depends.

Every web agency or freelance knows what I’m talking about. The strong connection with our customers generates high exposure to competitive risks. It’s too important for professionals to preserve customers perception that they are the right choice for their interest in the long term.

The consequence could be not being able to retain customers enough to enjoy the benefits of our hard work.

The first times I did a really bad job as a consultant. I often got lost in technical complications and the systems were struggling to become stable. My clients got angry because every time something did not work they risked losing money.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen with FleetBookings.com, one of the best projects I’ve ever built.

A taxi company received hundreds of reservations from their website and they managed the incoming work with email and paper.

They wanted a tool to automate booking and payments management. It’s a tool that will sustain the life of the company in the future. This is exactly what I mean by “income critical” project.

A small “Exit”

It took me around six months to build the FleetBookings platform (working simultaneously on other projects) and I sold it to a buyer in Rome for 30,000 euro after a monthly subscription for eight months at 400 euro/month.

It’s a booking platform for taxi companies. The buyer is a big company in the taxi market in Italy that manages dozens of cabs in Florence, Rome, Naples, Milan, and other major cities in the country.

For me it was a good deal, with a high hourly rate.

So I asked myself: Why did it go so well? What did I do differently to push this company to pay me 30,000 euro in one go?

1. I had experience

First of all, I was ready in terms of experience to work on an income-critical project like this. I had the necessary technical skills, team management, patience, customer management, and more.

Many times in the past I’d thought, “Okay, it won’t be easy, but I’m confident!” Instead, it turned out I wasn’t ready and the projects ran aground. However, I learned a lot digging deeper in steps two and three below.

2. I Invested in my tool set

Don’t search for a product just to solve a one-shot problem. Instead, find a solution that can expand your ability.

This is a key point I strongly advise you not to underestimate.

PHPStorm, DeployHQ, GitHub, Cloudways, my automated application monitoring tool Inspector, and many others have become vital parts of my developer toolbox. Each of these tools helped me not only in the short term. They have proven to be long-term investments that allow me to do the same job in less time, with better quality, even in all future work commitments.

Today, the first question I ask myself on any task is: “Can I use an automatic tool to do this job for me?”

In the past, the biggest mistake I made was to focus only on automating the work of our users, completely forgetting that we developers can do the same with ours.

Use automated tools to do… everything if you can. Consider that today, almost every product provides a completely free account with no deadline. This does not diminish our value as specialists; rather it enables us to provide more.

3. I put together a great team

I founded my company with two people that are very important to me. One is Francesco, the marketing manager, the other is Sebastiano the CEO.

This means that I can focus 100 percent on developing solutions for our customers using the best tools available.

Having people who share our journey is important and makes life easier for everyone.

Conclusion

The FleetBookings platform project was a financial win. But more than that, it helped me to become aware that freelancers and web agencies can succeed in delivering income-critical projects when all the right elements are in place. With experience, a great set of automated tools, and a team you can rely on, it’s possible to retain customers and deliver value to them with confidence.

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