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First off, I'm not looking for this answer: "learn PHP/MySQL, JQuery, HTML/CSS...."

My background, I wear many hats, and do many things. Currently I manage investment accounts with a business partner who is also a friend. He happens to be attending business / law school perusing a joint JD and MBA. As a result, we're putting our into "coast", maintaining our current clients, but not acquiring more.

Recently I've picked up some freelance graphic design / web development / online marketing side work (Photoshop, HTML/CSS, WordPress) through some personal networks. The work is enjoyable; now I'm thinking about expanding it into a larger business with these primary goals:

  1. augment my finances (I'm shooting for about $1,000-2,000 per mo.),
  2. learn new technologies,
  3. involve myself with meaningful work.

As an entrepreneur I don't mind the aspects of running a business that hassle other freelancers...
-- the marketing
-- the billing
-- etc.

I'm considering targeting the small to middle market businesses and organizations where I can contribute in marketing, design, and development building projects from the ground up. Thus I'll have freedom to decide the specific technology (I won't have to work with an existing code base).

What kinds of projects should I focus on? What technologies are a good fit for this style of work?

For example: It might be fun to develop with Ruby on Rails. However, maybe a lot of projects would be rolling out e-commerce solutions. Thus, I should focus on PHP due to more shopping cart options, skipping ROR entirely.

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I have written quite some e-commerce in RoR, online payment and all. No lack of solutions and a shopping cart isn't more than one day of work anyway. You shouldn't focus on plugin availability like this. –  thorsten müller Aug 7 '11 at 12:05
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

A lot of what small businesses need can be served with a content management system (CMS) such as Joomla, Drupal, or Wordpress, with some customization written in PHP, HTML, JS, and CSS. For $2k/month, you need a CMS as a starting point.

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I agree. Mentally I would rank the skill set (1) WordPress/CMS, (2) online shopping carts, (3) web apps. This also mirrors my experience that most small businesses need increased sales/marketing efforts. –  Jason Wirth Aug 7 '11 at 12:40
    
Definitely CMS for small businesses. Deliver a system that they can add content to without needing an admin/developer. Recently small businesses start stepping onto the 'social' train. Any help you can offer there to make good use of social networks and systems would definitely be valuable. –  Wivani Aug 7 '11 at 13:47
    
Since this question is tagged with RoR you might as well throw in Refinery CMS and Locomotive CMS. All Ruby and Railsy. –  Rig Sep 24 '12 at 22:47
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Try to get into SugarCRM or Magento everybody and their mom is in the CMS (wordpress, drupal, ...) and you will always be undercut in price. You want something with a pretty heavy ramp up time that's hard for people to just pickup. Then you can charge a much more reasonable rate.

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I am also suggesting you to learn Magento CMS. Like Clutch sad, wordpress and drupal are way easy to learn and you are going to paid at very low prices.

Learn Magento and target Turkey like countries which are developing their online sale market. ( This is way easy then you thought. Just add them on Linkedin :) )

After that, $1,000-2,000 per mo. is just a piece of cake.

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I would suggest rolling some kind of CMS. With my personal taste, I'd suggest rolling your own as I don't like presenting 3rd party solutions to clients, but that's up to you entirely. If you begin to move down this route, you can cut down your work substantially. All you really have to do with that kind of work is skin the CMS to the clients needs.

I would also start learning how to do some kind of server administration work. Nothing intense, but enough to get a traditional hosting stack off the ground. That way you can offer clients hosting for their projects for additional income.

BTW just a quick note: RoR is a good option for freelancing. You can find plenty of ecommerce/CMS solutions for the framework.

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