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3 questions to ask when you see a shortcut to profits

As as developer, I’ve written lots of code for clients, and many of those pieces of code can be reused for new projects. Where clients think we're building something totally new, I can see how under the hood we’re building a new UI on a similar idea from a previous client.

When I see these technical similarities I start to think about taking a shortcut and reusing something I've already built.

In 2016 I built a new type of product in Paid Memberships Pro for one client. When we moved to WooCommerce I figured we needed to do the same basic thing, so I could reuse 90% of what I had done previously.

Oh boy, was I wrong, and six months later I finally delivered the feature to my very gracious client. That experience became the ‘shortcut we will never speak of again’.


Before you figure you can reuse work make sure you ask yourself these three questions so you don’t get stuck in the position I was in.

1. Map out the needs FIRST

Before you jump in and reuse work you’ve previously done, write down all the needs of the current project. List every feature, along with how the client wants it to work.

You need to do this first because the next step is going to evaluate your previous work against the features.

2. Evaluate as a third party

Second, it’s time to step outside your own business and evaluate the work you’ve done before relative to the features your current client needs.

If you were evaluating this as a solution to spend money on from a third party, would you still use it?

With this thought in mind, make a list of the features it doesn’t have, that you need. Write down the ways that it doesn’t work for your current project.

3. What if it takes twice as long as you guess?

With your two lists in hand, ask yourself if it would still be a good idea to reuse old work if it took twice as long as you expected?

Would reusing previous work still save time/money and meet the client needs perfectly?

What if the client asks for a bunch of changes to the old work to make it suit the new project perfectly? How would that affect the project timeline and budget?

Far too often consultants choose to reuse work in an effort to gain profitability, and the ones that suffer are the end client. They don’t get exactly what they need and they still pay full price for it.

That’s not what clients want.

What clients want more than anything is to know that we're more interested in helping them than we are in maintaining our revenue source. - Getting Naked

Before you take that shortcut to save money or increase your profit, make sure you evaluate it objectively. Make sure the end result is in the best interest of your client and not just in the best interest of your bottom line.

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photo credit: mjfrig cc

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