Today I laid out my vision of a project for a “client”. I put that in quotes because I am not so sure any more. It seems like the my ideas about clients is diverging into two separate classes of work partnership.
On one hand we have the one-shots, someone needs a logo, or a brochure, or a static site with a few pages and a contact form. They are the people we get referred to us, or we hear them mention they need something done and we drop a business card on them. It is generally mediocre work (the actual work, since it is the thing we do all the time), and after it is said and done, everyone moves on.
There is are our ongoing clients, where we seem less like a consulting firm, and more like, well, a department. We are integrated in many of the procedures of how things work, either hatching up creative solutions for difficult problems, or even just commenting on a particular workflow. This is how I operate with Oakland Local and SVBC.
I like it. Besides just being more meaningful, I think that I have a nice niche where I can have that creative input without any of the real responsibility for implementation except where I shine, the technical. That is a large part of where the appeal comes in. I get the guilt-free association with the community-based crowd, which cares more about what I can do under their restraints than say, how I dress, or who I associate with. Basically, the things that bar me from certain corporate and/or political work are generally non-existent with these folks.
I begin to wonder what it is that creates this kind of work relationship. I am sure it is somewhat dependant on my personality. I set boundaries well, generally communicate clearly, and I find that most people get along with me, at least professionally. I also notice trends among the people I work with (in the client organizations), but that is for a different post. I am seeing these patterns, and I think I am close to figuring it out.
I think that to make cog motive sustainable we will a few more clients like this. I am not sure how one goes about finding them, that is the hard part, of course. It is about who you know, but not in the way that always made me feel sick to my stomach when I thought about how one advances their career. It is about who you know, and how you know them, and how your beliefs and vision align. Just like, you know, everyone else in your life.
One thing that I do know, the more clients we can get that share similar technical challenges (of which there are many common challenges out there), the more value we provide to all of them. The offsetting of cost for development is pretty substantial, and I am working to develop easy-to-use design patterns that we can share, in hopes that they will be improved upon as well as helpful for other developer/community-based organization communities out there.
After all, legacy is greater than currency.