vsupalov

The First Three Months

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Three months in from the first article Actually sixth months since I started considering what to do next (those three months of casual applications, discussions and in part vacation were a very good investment)

Pluses and Deltas

Niching Down

Feeling like giving up

Stuff which went well: Regular inbound leads, despite relatively fresh start Niched down, arrived at a pretty exciting area Spoke at a meetup, about the topic I’m focusing on Wrote a few technical articles Worked together with a company in the first month - but it wasn’t a paid engagement Inbound freelancing offers through recruiters, which were pretty close to an agreement

Stuff which I’ll need address in the future: regular checkins with more frequent, smaller articles work on establishing consistent processes (weekly reviews, goal reviews) Steady progress every day Less projects (a few which are more delayed than I’d like to) Don’t let negotiations become blocking - work on making the next one happen before a possible no

In the last article, I made a point that working towards a monthly goal of landing a first client was the thing I wanted to focus on. I’m not sure that was a good goal - maybe in part due to not hitting it in that month. As discussed previously, it’s also one of those goals where I’m not in control of the final outcome - one which is a reason to set other goals.

Right now I’m about 1.5 months into the year, and should take a bit time to reflect. Let’s look into the progress, stuff which went well and things which I should address going forward.

Niching Down

I started the first month with a pretty broad idea of what I wanted to do. This is how I introduced myself approximately:

I help early-stage startups who have secured cloud credits from AWS to skip the AWS/DevOps/Docker learning curve and focus on building their product without losing a co-founder to weeks of buzzwords and Google searches.

Also working with small technical teams to build reliable deployment and development environments with Docker.

Gosh, what a mouth full. It’s all over the place, naming multiple pieces of technology, the value is in there - but it’s so fuzzy, I felt the need to append a “oh, I also do this other thing”. Which is a sign that I’m either not confident in the focus, or it’s not a good one. Also, this thing is way too long.

After a few conversations and a bit of thinking, I decided to change that into:

Kubernetes automation for early-stage startups.

It’s still aiming at helping early-stage startups, but it’s way more concise and only talks about a single piece of technology which I’m excited about and confident in. Still not as good as adressing an outcome, but so much better than the previous one.

It’s Way more focused - one area (continuous integration, dev tooling automation, deployment workflows) coupled with one single technology, specifically for young companies aiming for a VC route - built for growth. Able to benefit from the tech Hyped

Benefits:

  • It’s easier to describe what you’re focusing on
  • People remember
  • Would you rather work with somebody who can do anything, or somebody who is really in-depth specialized on the topic which you need?

On DevOps

While we’re at it. This is a pet peeve of mine, which I’ve come to terms with. By now, people are using the term DevOps interchangeably with “a person who will take care of operations and deployment issues in a sexy, new fashion with heavy reliance on coding up solutions and automating stuff” aka server stuff. It is not exactly what the term is meant to mean - originally it was meant to denote a cultural shift inside of tech departments, where developers who code stuff up work together with the people who are responsible for bringing it online and vice versa - instead of one group of people throwing something over a wall and let the others take care of it

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Cold email outreach to people without a clear call-to-action which is in their immediate interest is hard. Not getting back answers or getting negative ones, takes getting used to.

Progress

Two individual leads - one company who found one of my online profiles and reached out (with the old positioning), because they’re in need of somebody who will help them skip the DevOps learning curve

Stuff that went Well

  • 2 leads which turned into proposals
  • First client engagement almost agreed on
  • Discussing a freelancing engagement which will satisfy my initial yearly (my year since starting, not the year 2017) goal - hitting it will not be challenging
  • Great progress working on the business
  • Published quite a few pieces of content on Docker and deployment
  • Improved skills (Docker, Kubernetes, Ops in general)
  • First “quote” from a collaboration
  • Made progress with outreach ideas (but not consistent)

  • Executed on outreach tactics (interviews w companies, cold outreach (bad), job post nagging (bad), meetup attendance, meetup talk proposal)

Stuff which can be improved

  • Didn’t hit my monthly goal (but that’s okay)
  • Stopped working on outreach / getting new leads once discussions for a single project started - which meant I did not have the next conversation lined up whenthe discussions did not result in a positive reponse
  • I need a schedule - weekly/monthly
  • Need to actually execute on planned activities (will work 1 hour on topic, no matter what)
  • Regular reflection and conscious planning - didn’t formulate proper weekly goals and the one for this month was not sound (wanted to speak at a meetup on Kubernetes automation)
  • Lacking consistency - gotta define the planned effort, expected results and stopping criteria in advance. Execute and follow through.

Future

I want to create high-quality work or articles to refer to. Maybe a meetup talk which I can use to build my authority in the exact area of expertise - open source projects, in-depth tech articles, stuff potential clients can use and take value from. Cold outreach without having a solid understanding of follow-up value is hard.

Want to provide value and get visibility + credibility

More frequent checkins here, shorter articles with a more tactical view (only if no ack from freelance position) On stuff which is happening or has happened (actual progress), not ideas and ambitions? Have a schedule - regular reflection, planning and this kind of articles

Schedule the time each week to really look into past plans, the week’s execution and maek conclusions


It’s more than 3 months in, and I still feel like I’m just at the beginning.

A few leads and negotiation

New freelance requests through recruiters almost every day, but only a few ones are interesting. Those that are however, are both very lucrative and quite attractive. Any of those, would have blown my yearly goal out of the water and extended my runway by over a year with just a few months of work.

Consistency is what I’m struggling with most. Progress is being made, but it’s hard to quantify at this stage.

I want to get into a regular reflection and publishing schedule for transparency-related topics - gonna publish something new (but smaller) every two weeks on friday from now on.

Have regular appointments with myself to keep on track and make steady progress, which is being reflected on

Making weekly plans is worthwhile, but I let it slip, and didn’t notice that I did

Every single opportunity which came my way, was handled in a blocking matter - I stopped looking for new ones while talks were scheduled and going on, which meant that I had to start from scratch when the negotiations arrived at a no, instead of having the next one lined up

Marketing

by doing cool stuff

Gonna speak at a meetup about Kubernetes this month - this was my last month’s goal, but the event I was aiming for did not take place

A webinar for a friend about data engineering and building data pipelines. They (beyond machine) are going to have a paid workshop event in the beginning of next year, and want to create awareness. Despite this not being my current niche, I am happy to join in, share what I know and provide value to anybody who wants to attend.

Publish interviews about DevOps in different-stage companies here in Berlin. They are recorded, and I need to write them up

A few ideas about interesting projects to work on, and write about. Only gotta find the time.

The email list is growing. I’m currently working on a 5-day email course on a particular detail about working with Docker - using ARG and ENV variables. Basically and expansion of a long-ish article, which will help people use the information, and improve their current workflows step by step. And learn

Niching Down

Why I think it’s really really interesting

Why I don’t like it: it’s not about a tangible outcome for a client, but about the “what” and the tech. It’s memorable and highly referrable, but I might change it in the near future (while keeping the tech focus, because it’s amazing)

Follow along on the journey of building an independent solo business!

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