In the past three years a vast amount of content, connections and knowledge has been grown under the Element Softworks name. We have grown significantly in the past 6 months, smashing all of our 2017 objectives out of the water. To name a few, I went full-time in September, we became VAT registered in October, we secured our first 5 figure contract in November, we contracted regular work out to over 5 people by December. And finally, we are well on our way to building an environment to become a local full-time team.
While entering our 4th year, our main objective in 2018 is to turn our name into a public brand that our connections and potential clients can see as a quality brand, where they can come to expect reliable and above-industry standard services. This page will outline our plans for 2018 with the goals and strategies we aim to use to achieve our brand image.
2017, A Year In Review
At the start of the year, it was just myself working part-time in Element Softworks. This meant that things moved quite slowly. The initial focus was on releasing software products and scripts through Envato, but due to a lack of available hours, this goal wasn’t pushed as much as it could of been.
In April we opened our business bank account with RBS and our company was approved to accept international payments in June. We also managed to be classed as a new business startup, so we were entered into a two year scheme that keeps us free from any banking fees.
September comes around and I go full time. This brings up the company weekly average hours from 5 hours to 50 hours, a significant increase with the work output to match it. Very quickly more projects were picked up, developed and completed. Element Softworks opened up on Loom.co and UpWork, two contract finding websites, with Loom.co being easily the more impactful website for us.
We also signed an annual agreement with The Accountancy Partnership to have our taxes, confirmation statement and returns handled through their team. They also provided some great tax advice that saves us up to 13% on all company profits, as well as a clear understanding on expenses and how to move our money around. Which includes how to pay employees in 2018.
By October, Loom was proving a sound investment. Our past portfolio propelled us to the top of the list for many of our potential clients. Several projects were contracted through Loom, the two most profitable contracts were Talkable and Skipper My Boat. Talkable is a story sharing platform surrounding mental health. Skipper My Boat is a luxury boat rental platform. Talkable was put on hold to pursue Skipper My Boat as SMB is a more lucrative and sustainable contract at this time.
In November I spent several weeks in the US, finishing up the Premier Gun Club contract as well as networking with more influencers in the gun industry. During that trip, I flew over to Austin, where Skipper My Boat is based. From that a longer term contract was signed and we were given funds to build a team to work on the Skipper platform.
Other notable projects are WS Training, a large apprenticeship company in Suffolk, UK, which they employ over 70 staff and handle £20 million in government contracts each year. We were contracted to design and develop their main website, which is due to be finished in May 2018.
And finally, West End Leasing, a finance leasing company also based in Ipswich. Their website was designed in October, but put on hold due to them not paying their bill, hmm…
Just before Christmas we submitted our first VAT return to HMRC, which marks a significant step forward in our professional image by needing a VAT number. As it is required by law for all companies with over £85,000 turnover annually.
Because we deal primarily with US based businesses, our VAT on US contracts is zero rated which means we don’t pay 20% extra tax. We can however claim back VAT on all suitable expenses, such as our new office hardware and equipment purchased in October.
Where We Are Now
Element Softworks has never been better than it is today, with clear expectations for our success to continue. We have managed to build a small team of talented designers and developers, which ES has contracted work out to for a number of months. Most notably, this is Nathan, a UX/UI Designer capable of producing some really modern and inspiring designs for our clients. And Ryan, a Full Stack Node.js Developer, whose skills mirror mine, which is especially important for the growth of the company to be able to double our man hours directly.
We now rent a coworking office space on the waterfront in Ipswich. We were accepted into the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre (IWIC) scheme as we are now an approved innovative business. This comes with great subsidies from the local university to make the space affordable for our growing team in 2018. The centre has also allowed Element Softworks to become introduced to a large amount of like-minded developers and companies in the local area that use the office space and network.
The main resources of Element Softworks has been focused on the Skipper My Boat contract over the past half a year. We are currently at a very exciting time as we have reached the end of the main development stage. This means Skipper My Boat is currently undergoing the funding application stage. Should the applications be successful, the SMB partnership will continue to support Element Softworks for the next 12–24 months; with full time work and salaries for our team.
What We Have In Store
Our first initial target is to secure the funding money for Skipper My Boat. This will allow us to grow our team to 5 people and to have them all working full-time in our Ipswich Office. The aim is to have at the very least, three people working full-time by June with full equipment in a fun and productive environment.
As mentioned in the introduction, our goal of 2018 is to build a reliable brand out of the ES name. We will start our road to this goal by releasing a new, mobile responsive, website with a heavy emphasis on attracting small business owners to our site. The website will be an improvement on the existing site by offering a more prestigious portfolio and a further refined array of services and products we offer. We need to drive home exactly what we do and why we’re good at what we do to our potential clients; and nothing less then that otherwise we risk losing engagement.
The next stage of the roadmap is to push a social media marketing campaign, initially through Facebook, to engage with business owners. Then to turn them into potential clients through Facebook Ads that connect the user to a chatbot we are developing for Messenger. This will encourage real engagement on our site and should decrease overall bounce rate.
We plan to supplement our marketing campaign by updating all of our social media profiles to best show off our services, skills and our new website. Along with this we will be releasing weekly updates to Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn; with high quality designed infographics, client showcases and progress updates of our team.
The third stage of the roadmap is to find a marketing professional to help manage and maintain our marketing campaign. And drive further sales by directly overseeing marketing and sales talks, so we as developers and designers, can focus on what we do best.
Ultimately we are pushing our marketing campaign and objectives to diversify our income streams. As our team grows, it’s important to realise that individuals working for us rely on us for job security, and therefore their families as well. We want our employees to be excited for their future with Element Softworks, and having a solid, varying client base will help achieve this.
A Personal Note
I am sincerely excited for the next 12 months of Element Softworks and what it has in store for myself and everyone else who has joined our journey. 2017 started something really unique for my company and has opened the doors to so much potential that I never expected, so much so, that it allowed to to commit full time to this. I have never been this passionate over anything else in my life and I determined to see our 2018 goals get smashed. I love the enthusiasm and motivation of everyone in the team, it’s going to be a good year.
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