It's inevitable. As every year comes to a close, I succumb to the cliché of reflecting back on the past 12 months.
For me, 2011 was an important year: my first full year solo. And, even better, a successful year for Emily Lewis Design, LLC.
I'm immeasurably thankful for my clients who made that success possible. But I wouldn't have those clients without my community. Every single project I worked on this past year can be directly attributed to a referral or an opportunity I got through people with whom I've established relationships.
And so it is to that community that I must express my gratitude. Without these wonderful people, my professional success this past year would have been far less.
Thanks for the Referrals!
When I started my business, I had no idea where I would get referrals from. I quickly learned it was simply a matter of telling everyone I know on the planet that I was open for business. Literally, in a matter of days, I had referrals from colleagues, family and friends.
Like all good moms, my mom boasts about me to anyone who will listen. And fortunately she boasted to my uncle, whose software company Protech was looking for some consulting help with a web site. And the rest is history … Protech has been my client for three projects (and counting!).
Thanks to a referral from Terri, I won the YMCA of Central New Mexico project that consumed the majority of my focus in 2011. But as appreciative as I am for the referral, I'm more grateful to Terri for the advice she's offered. Her willingness to share her own lessons learned running a business helped me (on more than one occasion) when I had an issue with a client.
I met Gabe at my first BarCamp Albuquerque, and got a chance to work with him during a code sprint for Upgrade NM. I'm glad I made a good impression, because Gabe was my referral for the MojoMotor site I built for the Law Office of Mary Griego (my very first, official client as Emily Lewis Design!).
And Gabe continues to be a source of new opportunities. In fact, I'm currently bidding on a real estate site opportunity with his brother, Eric (fingers crossed for a promising start in 2012)!
Thanks for the Opportunity!
Referrals are great, but it's even better when you already know the people you are going to work with. And it's even better than that to realize people you admire and respect trust you with their projects.
If you know Stef, you know how talented and awesome she is. So when she asked me to sub-contract with her this year (on three projects, no less), I was thrilled (and honored).
Thanks to Stef, my year got off to a good start with the eXperient Interactive project. Then I got a nice boost in mid summer with the Fresh Picked Design and Freecycle Plus projects. And I will forever be grateful for that Freecycle site … it was my first glance at seeing OOCSS in a real-world project (invaluable).
But aside from the work Stef sent my way, she's been a mentor since the moment we first had a Twitter conversation. Any question I have, whether it is about writing a book or dealing with event organizers, she's ready and willing to give her advice … advice from one of the most successful people in our field! I'm very lucky to have her as a friend.
Rachel is my amazing accountant. Without her, I'd still be fumbling around not realizing that I have to pay quarterly sales taxes in New Mexico. Hers has been the best relationship I've established since going solo. Having a knowledgable resource to go to for every minute tax- and financial-related question that enters my confused little mind … priceless!
So I was really honored that Rachel trusted me to design a web site for her accounting practice. She's given me so much from her knowledge and expertise, it was great to return the favor.
Lea is my co-host for the EE Podcast. It is because of her that I'm involved in the podcast in the first place and had full reign with the site development. (The site is still my favorite pet project.)
Though I'm so appreciative of Lea for bringing me on board the podcast — which certainly provides me more exposure to prospects — the real reason I'm grateful for Lea is that she's a kindred spirit. She's detail-oriented, organized, thoughtful, planned and strives for excellence. She makes me remember that it's a good thing to have high standards and care … especially when other people I work with don't.
Thanks for the Support!
Not all referrals translate into a client, but these folks kept me in mind all year long for projects and opportunities. Just getting that random referral, regardless of the end result, reminded me these ladies had my back.
Chantal is a bit of a legend here in Albuquerque. She's run a very successful web agency for years, created a hugely popular social network for the Duke City, and started the social group where I first met "my people" in this town.
If it isn't already evident, she's a bit of a hero to me. And so I'm incredibly honored that Chantal was confident enough in me and my business to send me several referrals this year.
Patti has been a member of Webuquerque since the very beginning, and she's run her own business for over a decade. I turned to Patti several times for advice on going solo and getting new business, and she was good enough to send me a few referrals over the year. And, for next year, Patti has introduced me to a new networking group that I'm hoping will lead to more opportunities for my business.
Anna has successfully run her own shop for years, and it's an EE shop! Since Anna and I take on fairly different projects, she has been fantastic to share with me any referrals she's gotten that just aren't a fit for her. Anna's also been great offering tips on how to get new leads and referrals.
Thanks for the Exposure!
I can't honestly say that any of my writing directly translated to a client or a project this year. That said, being able to share knowledge and demonstrate expertise has to have an impact on my ability to win a project. And I always learn so much when I write, which directly benefits my clients.
While I swore I'd never write another book, I never said I wouldn't contribute to a book.
So, when Christopher Schmitt contacted me at the beginning of the year to contribute to his HTML5 Cookbook, there was no way I could say no. Not only a chance to work with Christopher, but I could research and write and that's it. Nothing else. No really hard deadlines. No dealing with editors. No stress-ball in my stomach for five months. And bonus for my clients: I boosted my HTML5 knowledge and skills.
As an aside, Christopher has been a true friend and supporter to me over the past couple of years. He's constantly promoting my book. He's given me several opportunities to speak. And he (along with his partner–in–crime, Ari) introduced me to Salt Lick.
Having friends who support you like this, I think, makes it easier to do things like start your own business. When they have faith in me, it reminds me to have faith and believe I can keep my business running.
Web Standards Sherpa
When I presented at MIX11, I had the honor of meeting Aaron Gustafson, who this year launched the Web Standards Sherpa site through the Web Standards Project. A few months after meeting, Aaron invited me to join the Sherpa team and, of course, I said yes!
Writing for this project has been a truly unique experience. Sherpa has a very organized editorial team and process (in large part thanks to the wonderful Stephanie Troeth). As a writer, having this kind of editorial support is simply invaluable to making me and the final product better.
The folks at Script Junkie, in particular Rey Bango, have given me so many great chances to write since almost the very moment I went solo. And I love writing. It gives me a chance to do a deep-dive into a topic and then share what I've learned. I always end up using the knowledge I gain in my clients' projects.
This year I missed every single deadline Rey asked of me, and he hasn't (yet?) set a bag of dog poop on fire in front of my condo. Seriously, though, working with Rey and Script Junkie forced me to accept that I had to make changes to my schedule; that I couldn't do everything at once. It was a hard lesson, but worth it as I plan my activities for 2012.
It still blows my mind that I got a chance to write for .net magazine the first time around. I was relieved to know I must've done a good job when Tom May contacted me again this year for a contribution.
In issue 219, I wrote an opinion piece about Schema.org and its impact on/relation to microformats. It was probably my favorite writing gig this year, because it was short, sweet and all about my own opinion (no code samples!).
My professional life in 2011 was better than I expected it could be when I walked away from the corporate world. But I know that I didn't do it alone.
To all of my colleagues, friends, family, editors and publishers: I'm incredibly grateful to you for believing in me and helping keep Emily Lewis Design a reality.
P.S. As I was writing this, I realized the majority of people mentioned here are women. Maybe when folks ask "where are the women in technology?" the answer is "they're busy working … running their own businesses and supporting their communities."