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Posted by Firedove on

Taxes

Taxes

Firedove Technology will be raises our rates by 14.3% effective immediately. This brings our hourly rate to $40 per hour. We’ve decided to raise our rates for two major reasons.

The first, being of the utmost importance, is that the rate increase will allow us to cover most of our tax obligation. With the help of a CPA we’ve been instructed to stash away 16% of all of our revenue. We understand and agree that taxes are absolutely necessary, but they are a bit of a bummer to pay.

The second, is that we’ve hit another internal revenue goal and with that we’ve decided to raise our rates. We’ve made a decision to not arbitrarily raise our rates or to do so when we are crunched for cash. Instead, we decided that as we hit specific milestones we would increase our rates. We are not looking to gouge our client’s pocket books. We are really just looking to continuously expand.

$40 per hour is still incredibly affordable for this industry. If anything are rates are too low. We’ve had a few clients state they we are charging too little for our time, and that the rate is potentially creating a perception of lower quality of work.

It’s also worth noting that the $40 per hour rate helps us account for time spent finding clients, doing administrative work necessary to running the company (like taxes!), negotiating terms of the contract, answering emails, and marketing ourselves. In the briefest of terms, while do work 40 hours a week, we are not making $80,000 a year… at least… not yet.

We still intend to provide agency quality at a freelancer price. But there’s no way to do that if we are running away from the IRS.

Posted by Firedove on

Audio Engineering (Welcome Kevin!)

Audio Engineering (Welcome Kevin!)

Today we are happy to announce that Kevin Partridge has officially joined the Firedove flock! Kevin brings his audio engineering expertise to Firedove. He was able to put together a quick 30 second spot about Firedove to demonstrate his capabilities. Kevin also did the voice-over for the spot. Take a listen below!

Firedove can now offer even higher quality audio production, creation, and editing for our clients than we could have before. This combined with our strong marketing and analytics background allows us to help our clients with audio advertisement creation, targeting, production, media buys, and analytics.

Welcome to the team Kevin!

Posted by Firedove on

The Perils of DIY Marketing

The Perils of DIY Marketing

We’ve been running a series of Ads on Google Adwords Express.

Adwords Express claims that it “is perfect for the one-person marketing team, or if you don’t need all the features of AdWords. Just set up your account and we’ll manage where and when your ads appear on Google. No keywords to choose, no ongoing maintenance — so you can spend less time on advertising and more time with your customers.” They also have an incentive that for the first $50 dollars you spend, they’ll give you $100 dollars in ad credit.

As an agency that doesn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to marketing itself and is trying to maximize every dollar we’ve got, we’ve decided to give Adwords Express a chance.

We decided to run an ad within a 25-mile radius of our office that played to our known strengths, that we are local and affordable.

Adwords Express Ad

Our Ad

We decided to let the ad run for about 14 days without any interferences on our end. We figured that the best case scenario is that we’d start to get emails and phone call from prospective clients interested in setting up consults and that at a minimum we’d be putting our name in front of local individuals seeking the services that we offer.
Initial Adwords Data

Google Adwords Express Analytics

 

The first problem we ran into was that Google was almost exclusively running our ad on Google Partner Sites. Google Partner Sites can be anything that has space designated for advertising and is associating with the Google Ad Network. These ads typically just feature text and we have no ability to add images or specify the targeting.

We reached out to Google and asked for our ad to be only displayed in search with relevant industry search queries (web graphic design, website tech support, firedove technology, etc.). Google said that they would be happy to do this and it may take a day or two to kick in.

Ads on Google Search do not have a set price. Instead, it’s a continuously blind bidding system and the top ad spot goes to the highest bidder. Some phrases are extremely expensive as a lot of people are bidding on them, like “web design”, whereas others are relatively cheap as fewer people are bidding, like “firedove technology”. With traditional Google Adwords, you are allowed to either set a bid or have Google automatically bid within a certain range. With Google Adwords Express, Google automatically sets your bid.

This whole system is meant to automate the process as much as it can, so the small business owner can focus on providing their services to clients, and not crunching numbers or tweaking keywords. It is reasonable to assume that since Google’s business is advertising, that their algorithm would be able to know what is best for your business.

Our search ad was clicked on twice and consumed a whopping 37% of our, albeit small, budget for Google ads. This would be fine if both of those clicks resulted in a consult and perhaps just one of them resulted in a contract, but that didn’t happen.

Hotter Screencast

Hotjar Visitor Screen Recording

We utilize Hotjar to watch how our visitors use our website. The screencasts revealed that while people were reading some of the content on our website, they left the website before hitting the “Contact Us” button. While we want to bring more visitors to our website, we cannot afford to be spending $9.18 per visit.

With all that said, we are presented with a decision. Do let the campaign finish on its current course without intervention from us? Do we double down and increase our ad spend? Or do we pull the plug immediately and redirect our marketing budget elsewhere?

We stay the course… but not for the reasons you might expect.

As we mentioned before, Google is offering a $100 credit to first time Adwords Express customers after they spend $50. We’ve met that threshold and we have quite literally nothing to lose by spending the $100 credit to see if those $9.18 visitors (approximately 10-11 visitors) generate any meaningful ROI. Since we provide a service, one conversion (a person who sees the ad, sets up a consult, and signs a contract with us) would certainly cover our costs.

Would we do this again?

Probably not.

Both Google and Facebook have been offering seemingly cheap and automated advertising solutions for small businesses. For us, the time it would take for us to design a campaign with Google’s or Facebook’s traditional ad platforms would be worth the flexibility, targeting options, and ability to deploy more engaging ads. Designing our own campaign should allow us to decrease the CPC (cost per click) and net more visitors to our website, which hopefully should result in more conversions.

Why are we talking about this?

Because we are in this peculiar position of marketing marketing-service, and we believe that to be successful we need to have a thorough understanding of all the tools that our potential clients may be drawn to and with that we will be able to make accurate recommendations on services.

The cost of a seemingly inexpensive solution will outstrip the cost of using an agency to run your next advertising campaign. If you want to advertise in Spokane or the surrounding areas, consider giving us a call to schedule a consult and go over a few alternative options than Adwords Express, boosting a Facebook post, or other DIY advertising platforms.

Posted by Firedove on

Audio Editing

Audio Editing

Getting that pitch perfect sound in post-production can be a difficult and tedious task, so why not outsource it to us? Whether it is an audio book, podcast, radio advertisement, or anything in-between we can help create the perfect track for you.

Getting that pitch perfect sound in post-production can be a difficult and tedious task, so why not outsource it to us? Whether it is an audio book, podcast, radio advertisement, or anything in-between we can help create the perfect track for you.

We happen to have a knack for the type of work. Perhaps it is because Robbi and Keith are both musicians (albeit Keith is a far superior one). Maybe it is from the hundreds of hours of previously edited audio for other projects. Regardless as to how we initially established this skill set, audio editing is something of a harmony between our technological prowess and creativity.

Since each audio project is so unique, so we don’t have a set per minute price. Instead we will ask for an audio sample and a list of edits that you are looking to have made. We will perform those edits, time ourselves, and establish a rate or fixed fee from there based upon our standard hourly rate.

We take on projects of all sizes. Feel free to reach out for a free consult. We’d be happy to discuss your project over the phone, via email, or in person at our office in Downtown Spokane.

Posted by Firedove on

Truly Fair Pricing

Truly Fair Pricing

We use Bonsai for our invoicing. It’s a really neat system that integrates nicely with Stripe, and it makes managing invoices a breeze. Bonsai has made some of its data regarding freelancer’s rates public, and we have used that data to help inform us as to where our prices should be.

Web / Mobile Industry Average Rates

Industry Average Rates of Web / Mobile Designers on the West Coast with 3-5 years of experience.

This graph suggests that the industry average for web designers at similar levels of experience to us, end up charging folks between $60-80 per hour on average. Robbi has 6 years of experience, yet our hourly rate of $35 is 56.25% less than the industry average. We aren’t skimping on quality by any stretch of the imagination, rather we are providing our services at a price that we believe is fair.

Graphic Design Industry Average Rates

Industry Average Rates of Graphic Designers on the West Coast with 5-10 years of experience.

With respect to graphic design, Robbi has 8 years of experience, and while the average range of prices skews towards the lower end of the chart, the average is between $40-60 per hour. Our rate represents a 41.66% price difference over the industry average. Graphic design tends to be less expensive than website development because designing a static image is inherently less technical than building a website. Additionally, there are more graphic designers out there than web developers.

We are not looking to be cost leaders in our industry. We need to get paid, just as every other professional, and we are not advertising “cheap websites.” We are advertising websites at a fair price.

As we continue to try to buck the industry and bring the outrageous rates to a reasonable level, we welcome you to bring your next graphic design or website development project to us to help keep your piggy bank happy. ??

Posted by Firedove on

10K in 50 Days

10K in 50 Days

We recently achieved a major milestone for our company. After 50 Days of operation we reached $10,000 in revenue! ???

By our best estimate, we’ve consumed 175 cups of coffee since our humble beginnings on February 23rd, 2016.

coffee ad nauseamWe’ve committed 60 hours to sale efforts, 20 hours to administrate efforts (taxes, banking, etc.), and 19 hours to strengthening our brand.

Hours DistributionWe’ve worked multiple back-to-back 12 hour days, put in numerous hours over the weekend, and have adjusted to a life of being always on call to help our clients out when they need it. At a standard rate of $25 an hour, it takes about 400 clients hours to pull in $10,000. Those 400 hours divided over 50 days equates to 8 hours a day. Given the nature of running our own business, we have worked countless 9, 10, 12, and occasional 14 hour days to make time for our sales efforts, administrative necessities, and brand development.

Firedove Technology is on a very positive trajectory. From starting out with zero brand recognition, enough funds to purchase a laptop,  software, and few other odds and ends, and no office space, we are extremely pleased with the current state of our company.

We attribute our success to our fair pricing and high quality of service. We’d like to thank our significant others for not only putting up with the madness of starting a company, but wholeheartedly embracing the rollercoaster that comes from being engaged to entrepreneurs.

This is just the beginning for Firedove Technology. We’d be foolish to assume that anything will get easier from this point on. We will continue to work hard. We will continue to have long days.

At the end of the day, that hard work enables us to fly with our own wings as entrepreneurs, and we couldn’t be happier.

The data shows that business owners and consumers in Spokane appreciate fair pricing for their website development, graphic design, IT support, and data analysis.

The data shows that Firedove Technology is here to stay.

??

Posted by Keith Tatham on

The Original Co-Founder

The Original Co-Founder

“Why don’t we start an IT based firm in Spokane?”

Over the past six years Robbi and I have been piecing together wonderful ideas and businesses together, and we always had hope that some of these wild ideas would make us billionaires.

  • An equity-based crowd funding website (before the JOBS Act)
  • A tablet-optimized projector
  • A mirror with a computer built into it

And maybe they still will, but we always knew, with our past experience and knowledge we could always do IT in Spokane, as Spokane has everlasting ability to resist change. Well, the dream-team has officially reunited.

I’ve been friends with Robbi for over twelve years. Six years ago we both began our intellectual and business roots over on the west side of the state. I in Seattle and Robbi in Olympia. In these six years we found that we loved the idea of creating new businesses and ideas, hated working under people, but loved working for people.

I’ve done corporate IT before. I worked as a tech guy at an extremely corporate retail firm, and in my time there I learned that tech – in the large corporate world – has been bleached. In other words they’ve tried to make solutions that have a wonderful complex palate of colors into something that’s black and white. The reason technology is so wonderful is because each customer experience should be different, and tech has the ability to be customized on a person to person basis.

One thing I’d love to bring to the Firedove team is to bring more equipment-based thought to our team. I’d love to be responsible for completely setting up a new business: routers, computers, and servers… the works.

I also hope to bring a different train of thought to our customer service experience so that we can hopefully grow the Firedove team throughout the inland empire, maybe even to all of Washington.

I’m the original co-founder. Let’s do tech right.

Posted by Firedove on

Technocratic Expansion

Technocratic Expansion

We’ve been in business for 35 days and have been fortunate to experience strong growth while providing our services to 16 unique clients. We’ve been able to provide a wide range of technology, graphic design, and website solutions for businesses in all different industries of all different sizes. As we bring on more clients we have more responsibilities, and we’ve been observing how our distribution of hours is skewing heavily towards client time.

Hours logged by Firedove Technology Staff

No surprises here. As we increase the amount of time we spend on clients our cash increases.

We would love to be spending 100% of our time with our clients, but there are other functions of the business that we need to tend to, including our latest project, Firedove Incubator.

So, how does a small firm like ours increase the amount of hours we can commit to our clients and other business activities? The answer is deceptively simple.

The time has come for Firedove Technology to increase the size of our team. Before we announce our newest addition to our flock, we wanted to share with you how we are using our data to guide this decision.

Firedove Technology does not have the capacity to guarantee two (or even one) full time salary. We live and die on our invoices coming in on time. Some weeks are rather lucrative and others bring in minimal amounts of revenue. In the absence of consistent salaries, we needed to come up with an equitable way to pay everyone in the organization a fair amount that wouldn’t put us into any financial jeopardy. This is our solution.

Staff Member A Hours

Employee A

The image above is an theoretical breakdown of hours by an individual, Employee A, at Firedove. We’ve decided to weight each of our tracked hours with a different value. Client Time has a multiple of 5 (as it is what brings in most of our revenue) and Personal time has a multiple of 0 (as this time doesn’t add value to our company). By using these multiples, we can reasonably assess the value of each person’s contributions based on the activities that they participated in that week.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 1.43.02 PM

Employee B

In this example, we can see that Employee B worked 19.5 hours for Firedove compared to the 40 hours Employee A worked. If we calculate the division of labor solely using the total hours, Employee A is entitled to 67.2% of the earnings that week, whereas Employee B would be entitled to 32.8%. The difference between Employee A and Employee B is that Employee A had contributed a greater amount of hours that week towards Client Time than Employee B did. By using our weighted system, Employee A is entitled to 71.3% of the earnings (representing a 4.1% increase) whereas Employee B is entitled to 28.70% of the earnings.

By using data we can understand who is adding the most value to the company and reward them proportionally. Some organizations have a company and compensation structure that resembles a monarchy or oligarchy. At Firedove Technology we are attempting to model our company like a technocracy.

Posted by Firedove on

Introducing Firedove Incubator

Introducing Firedove Incubator

Today we are happy to announce the start of Firedove Incubator. Firedove Incubator is a division of Firedove Technology where we develop products in-house. As we’ve mentioned before, our team is full of individuals that have built numerous consumer electronic products. It should be no surprise that we are continuing to develop products, and starting today we will house those efforts within Firedove Incubator.

Why are we doing this?

A few reasons.

a.) It allows Firedove Technology to subsidize the development costs of a new product instead of having the inventors pay out of pocket for parts, tools, and the other necessary items to develop a new product.

b.) It consolidates our intellectual property into one entity. This makes it easier for us to maintain and license our IP.

c.) It takes a long time to build a product, and even longer to bring the product to market. Firedove Incubator allows us to still draw enough of an income from Firedove Technology so we can still feed ourselves while we are prototyping, designing, and assembling the products.

What will be your first product?

We are building a consumer electronic product to be made in Spokane, Washington. We hope to sell it for anywhere between $125-$200. We will periodically share more details as our development continues, but we think that anyone who shares our similar ethos in respect to design, technology, and data, will appreciate our first product.

Can I join?

We’d certainly be open to having individuals join the efforts of Firedove Incubator. Give us a call or email if you want to get in on this exciting new endeavor.

Posted by Firedove on

Sizing Up The Competition

Sizing Up The Competition

For Firedove Technology to be successful, we need to understand our competition. We provide four distinct services and we wanted to examine our competitive position in respect to web design. Since our brand  is still developing, we often need to fight and compete for new business by responding to requests for bids. We use a multiple tools to find opportunities to bid on, and one of them is Craigslist.

We wanted to know who we were bidding against, so we created (and have since removed) an ad calling for the following:

  • A website for a new business that shows our business, has a contact form, and lots of pictures.
  • Estimated total of 5-10 pages.
  • A cost estimate.

We received 18 responses in 23 hours.

Firedove Inbox, Mail Counter, Animation, Gif

This is what happened to our inbox after posting the ad. This is also the first animation we’ve made!

Firedove Technology would bid this type of project between $250 – $500. On average we charge about $50 per page.

55.5% of the 18 responses came in five hours after we initial posted the ad. We knew that there were a lot of web designers in Spokane, but we didn’t think that there would be 18 different bids that quickly.

Map of Spokane Web Designers, Google Maps

Well, there are a lot of web designers in Spokane. Maybe 18 responses makes sense.

Turns out, despite this being a local Craigslist ad, we were getting bids from people all around the country and even Canada.

  • 2 stated they were from Spokane WA
  • 1 was from New Jersey.
  • 1 was from Illinois after doing some research.
  • 3 were from California.
  • 2 were from Florida.
  • 1 was from British Columbia.
  • 1 was from Ontario.
  • 1 was from Toronto
  • 6 gave no indication as to where they were from.

Okay. So how did these 18 fare in responding to the ad itself? Only 7 provided bids. 2 respondents provided an hourly rate with no bid for how much time they suspected it’d take to complete the website. If we are being generous here let’s say that only 50% of the respondents actually read the ad and responded with the cost. Yikes.  For those that did response with the cost, it ranged between $175 – $650.

responses, hours,

The rate of responses from the ad.

A few of the company websites, portfolios, and examples that were sent over genuinely good quality. Unfortunately, the vast majority were either broken, extremely outdated, or just poorly designed.

The quality of the actual email response also varied tremendously.  Here are some of the worst offenders.

“Hey there i will built you a awsome web site for hundred bucks a page check out my portfolio at”

“Hiya, there are many CMS’s out there”

“I can build a custom WordPress website with custom traffic pulling plugins your going to love your logo included and 15 pages I will through in 3 bonus e-books on how to get free traffic to your site, Also as an added bonus if you get back to me in the next 5hours to give you time to think about it I will through in 100 custom keyword rich unique spun articles to use to add even more traffic to your site and I will show you how to apply for google AdSense  for added income for you. I can take all payments through PayPal. Contact me so I can get started rite away.”

To be fair, the two individuals from Spokane had the best written emails out of the entire group.

What does this mean for us?

This experiment validates that our pricing is in line with others who are competing for the same work and that our presentation is much better than our competition.

Are you curious as to how we respond to a request for a website? Contact us today to experience our service yourself. Or you can post on Craigslist, we might just respond.