The League of Extraordinary Developers

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Whilst working on client projects we often find useful bits of information out. Where possible we blog about that information to pass on our knowledge. Below are some of our most recent entries.

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The League of Extraordinary Developers : Year One

A year ago today, The League of Extraordinary Developers officially opened it's doors. I thought I'd take this opportunity to write a personal blog post to talk about how things have gone in year one, and to thank a few people for helping year one to be a success.

I guess that last statement gives the game away a bit, but yes, I do count year one as a success. Don't get me wrong, it's not been perfect, there's still a very long way to go, but in general I'm happy with how things are going.

The Beginning: The Whys and Hows

Previous to setting up The League, I had worked for several marketing agencies around the country. Some big and some small. I've always enjoyed the marketing side of things, and taking the time to understand "the bigger picture" (urgh) when it comes to the work I've been involved in. I don't think sitting in the corner of an IT department tapping away on my keyboard has ever been for me. I think if I did that, I would definitely suffer from that "Sunday night feeling" that people seem to talk about. By the way if you do suffer from that "Sunday night feeling" you're in the wrong job. You spend a high percentage of your life working, you may as well do something you enjoy.

So I guess you're wondering why I set The League up if I've always enjoyed my past jobs so much, and that's a fair point. Well the reason is simple - control, and no I'm not a control freak, I just wanted to take control of my life and my career more. I have a young family, and I wanted work to fit around my family, not the other way around. On top of this, the area of the UK that I live in doesn't exactly thrive with opportunities for Senior Web Developers, so I decided to create my own opportunity.

There was one other major driving force for me. It's something that has bugged me for a long time. As a developer I've spent hours upon hours writing code for other people and producing websites / applications for them. What have I got at the end of each project? A nice thank you and a monthly wage. Now that's not a bad thing, but as developers we really are missing out. We are the ones with the tools in our hands and heads to create things for ourselves and yet so often we choose not too. We don't take the opportunity that is right there in front of us. Sure this isn't for everyone, but for me personally it was really starting to bug me. Don't get me wrong, there are aspects to the service industry that I like, however I hate being solely reliant on client work. Being solely reliant on traditional client work is not a good thing. Clients come and go, we need other streams of income.

I've heard plenty of people always say "There's a book inside everyone", well I'm a firm believer that there is a product idea inside every developer. Even if your idea isn't that great do it anyway, and force yourself to learn something new to create the idea with. Stop relying on the safety nets all the time.

That's my little rant about developers and their use of their skills overs. I promise to not mention it again, well, not in this blog post anyway.

So that's the "whys" over with, here come the "hows".

No I don't have a secret formula, there are books you can buy for that. Each day I'm learning new things about running a business, building a client base etc etc. I'm just going to mention how I got things going. The answer is simple really, slowly. There was no rush. The important thing was to do things right, and rushing things would make that a lot harder.

Year one objectives

I remember attending the first ever Hull Digital Live in 2009, and whilst the event as a whole was really good, there were a couple of talks that really stood out for me. One was about working Noded, by Jaan Orvet, and the other talk was entitled "Time to Start Up" by Mike Butcher. In his talk Mike said something that has stuck with me. "Consult, consult, product". By the end of HDLive09 I knew I wanted to run a Noded web development business, and as part of that business I wanted to build products.

To build products The League needed capital, this meant that the objectives for year one were simple. To build a solid client base that could provide regular work. Fortunately having worked with a few marketing agencies in my time, and built up a good list of contacts I was able to put the idea of The League to my contacts. Most liked the idea and The League has been able to win a varied range of projects. Unfortunately there are many we are not allowed to talk about, due to NDA's!

Some highs

Working with Nodes has been a fantastic experience. I've had the opportunity to work with some really talented developers and it's been great building up a reliable network of developers that I can rely on to get work done, and done well.

What I'm most proud of, is that for several clients The League has become the first port of call for when they need extra resource. We've even had several referrals, which is always nice.

At the beginning of this year, we received a very nice email from a client, with this glowing report in.

The League has certainly provided a very valuable and reliable service over the last year so I am certain we'll be working with you guys whenever we have the chance. I've outsourced to lots of places with mixed success but the level of professional consistency you guys have provided is a credit to your team.

Some lows

The worst part of running your own business is all the admin side of things. Each bit of admin eats into time that could be spent being productive. This is the one area of the business that I would love to improve upon, as I feel too much time is wasted. However, I doubt there is a lot that can be done about it, so it's just something we'll have to put up with.

Some thank yous

I'd like to take this opporunity to thank two groups of people.

Firstly, the clients that have used The League in our first year, without you we'd not have been able to pay the bills.

Secondly, the Nodes that have worked for The League and helped to grow the reputation of the business. So here is a big thanks to Adam, Andrew, Ashley, Darren and Hamilton and I look forwards to working with you guys even more in the second year of The League.

Plans for year two

The big push for this year, is to get several products developed and launched.

Slightly ahead of schedule The League launched its first product at the beginning of this year, called Incentive Maker. Incentive Maker is a online game based employee incentive application that we hope to get into sales teams and call centres. Of course it can be used by any company wanting to incentivise their work force. For this product we have partnered up with Wildfire Advertising.

The plan is for The League to increase it's product portfolio in year two, and we are already working in partnership with Experience Internet to build a recruitment system, that we hope will change peoples' opinions on how recruitment within the IT sector should be done. We hope to release more details about this product in the near future.

Final word

Year one has been really rewarding and setting up The League is the best thing I've done so far in my career. If you are thinking about setting up your own business this year, then I wish you all the best, and I hope it's as good for you as it has been for me.

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