It's been long since I posted on my journey as an afropreneur and just last weekend a special friend of mine pointed that out to me, so I felt it necessary to return back to chronicling this journey, although I am the view that some of my posts have been part of my journey I haven't titled them in the manner that would suggest that they are part of the journey. I think every experience worth remembering must be put down as an event that brings with it new lessons, successes and failures, triumphs and defeats, all must be given the proper attention.
As I seat here listening to one of Africas most distinguished musicians, Oliver Mtukudzi, whose music is amazing and a collectors item for any serious person, a million thoughts are going through my mind (honestly may be just one..When will I get more money?...:-) ..) am forced to focus on the current challenges am facing as web developer in a market where every "smart" university graduate and anybody who can write a program wants to undercut me on every project that pops up. I remember a time when one could survive on one project a month comfortably, the hourly rate for a project was strong enough to cater for my needs, a few years ago I used to get paid about Ksh45,000 (about 600$ USD at the current exchange rate) for about 5 days work (minimal effort required) without breaking a sweat now those were the good times. Now people approach me with figures which would make me run to hills like the freedom fighters (MauMau) of yesteryear.
I always thought that as you got better at what you do and honed your skills the more money you'd be able to command for work, just look at lawyers and almost any other profession, that belief has been crashed with the rise of "For 10grand I'do everything" breed of developers out there. Don't take me wrong, I understand that people need to eat and that we all can't charge high fees, but am also of the view that cheap is also bad for the industry because one day that ksh10,000 project will not be able to meet your current needs and you will want more but shock on you when you realise there's another coder standing behinding you telling your client "...I can do everything plus maintenance and even iron your clothes for Ksh5000..." and your left wondering "What have I done?.."
I'm afraid am part of the problem, having come from a culture of undercutting the competition on pricing we have spawned a breed that seems hell bent on giving more for less just to earn that shilling.
The solution, I don't think I have one, I could carry out mass genocide on "For 10grand I'do everything" breed of developers but that would only land me in court or worse death where I know I will never be able to renegotiate my way out of fiery gates of Hades (hell is real whether you believe in it or not) for now am thinking that an organisation or body of freelance developers could pool their resources and come up with a body that would ensure we maintain certain fee standards, guidelines that would ensure that we don't go cheap even in a flooded market.
There are projects out there that can only be done cheaply but careful consideration must be given before embarking on those projects.I have often found that "small" is usually big, because it tends to mean that the client hasn't properly thought out what they want and as such you end up doing more work for less. The exception must never become the rule.
Cheap is bad and it kills as all. I often say that "ignorance is good for business" :-) take web hosting and domain registration for example, charge a client 50$USD for a .com which could go for as little as 7$USD and 250-500$USD for hosting that can go for as little as 50$USD Why you may ask?greed..NO..the client is not only paying for the service his also paying for your time and the knowledge you have acquired over a period of time.
I am reminded of the story of the Ford motor plant, one time the assembly line had a problem that had resulted in the halting of production resulting in losses. Mr.ford attempted to solve the problem internally using all the manpower he had but to no avail, so he called in an engineer who came and looked at the machinery for about 10 minutes, keenly observing the workings, he opened up one section and twisted a knob and the machinery was up and running. The engineer then sends Mr.Ford an invoice of $10,000USD which was a tidy some in the 30's and 40's, Mr.Ford was shocked at this and proceeded to send him a note asking hwo he had come up with such a figure yet he had only "tinkered" with the machinery. The engineer then sent a rather smart response of a breakdown of his costs:
Tinkering 10$ USD
Knowing where to tinker 9,990$ USD
You are worth the tinker...act like it...