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Can one make a successful business from Access consulting? RRS feed

  • Question

  • I'm not sure this is the correct forum for this question, but I'll ask it here, and if anyone can point me to a better forum, I'll gladly move it there.

    Can someone make a successful business from Access consulting?

    I'm semi-retired after 30 years of programming experience, including programming Word and Excel macros, as well as VB.NET. I'd like to start a part time business doing Access (as well as Word and Excel) consulting. Can this be successfully done? How does one go about finding businesses that use Access or would be good candidates for using it (probably small businesses)? How does one advertise their expertise?

    I see there are a number of Access MVPs here, so I'm thinking they might be able to offer me some insights.

    Thanks for any advice.

    Monday, April 24, 2017 7:27 PM

Answers

  • Being an Access MVP, having been published in several books, and doing Access contract work for years? The answer is most certainly yes. Being part of the “on-line” community has certainly helped people find me for work.

    At the end of the day, using Access, or say Visual Studio or <insert your favorite development platform here> is not really the most important part.

    So your question is not really about Access or say FoxPro, but that of becoming a freelance developer and consultant (and there are tons of sites in this regards).

    So the issue here is not really about Access.


    A business is willing to pay for solutions. How you achieve that solution often does not matter that much. However, one great advantage of Access is how after all these years is how popular the platform remains. So often a business will find themselves with an Access program that becomes critical (and thus valuable) to their bottom line. So perhaps an employee moves on, or perhaps they start to outgrow Access. Or perhaps they want you to add additional features that they don’t have in-house expertise with.

    So they might have a complex Access program, but now want to push invoices out to say QuickBooks or say Simply Accounting (sage 50). (you write that interface say in vb.net and use that .net object from Access).

    So often you be hired for the “hard” parts! Another common setup is increased number of users (mutli-users) and thus they keep the front end part as Access, but the back end data part becomes SQL server. Or the business expands to two locations and they want to use Access on the same data for both locations.

    So having the ability to say interface with Accounting packages, setup SQL server, or even have Access pull data from some web site/service tends to really help.

    In other words, you tend not be selling Access, but your ability to bring solutions to a business. It just turns out that Access is often a great choice – not because Access is great, but due to the ability of Access allowing solutions to be developed for a lower cost.

    Access is often used since it can be used to deliver a wide range of business solutions at a lower cost than other traditional development platforms. A business does not really pay you for Access skills, but pays for a solution that will save them MORE then what the cost of software you develop for them.

    So there are good number of consultants and developers that use Access as their main dev tool. And when a business outgrows Access or needs help adopting SQL server, or perhaps taking parts of the Access application and building a customer “web” portal, then that’s where you want to come in (why have a customer phone in to check their order status and have an employee fire up Access and type in some information when the customer can get that info via a web site?). So saving a business employee time is what software is and always been about.

    So often you be brought on to extend and enhance existing applications.


    However, how you go about finding new customers is not a lot different than starting up any new business – be it a coffee shop, a new car wash, accounting firm or some software development firm – they all have the SAME challenge in finding new customers. Access is really no different – it not really Access but the “act” of staring up your own business built around a skill set you can bring to customers.

    An accounting firm can be lucrative business – but it hard to get new customers unless you’re in an environment where lots of new business are starting up (since existing ones usually have an accountant already)

    I recall a young kid who left poorly printed flyers for building web sites at a business condo complex. He picked up a great number of customers (because of technology changes – few business had a web site and they all wanted one). If you left really nice fancy well printed business cards at the business condo today, you likely would not pick up one customer (because they all been scooped up). 17 years later that not so young fellow has a great client list.

    So one great lesson about the above is “big” opportunities occur WHEN technology changes. So you might have a business that been running a Access application for 15 years – but now they want something for people in the field say on their smartphones. Or they want some web site for their customers to inquire about all that great information locked up in that Access application.

    So “tons” of business spent money and automated their business process during the last 17 years of the PC revolution. Now you can un-lock information built up by say offering a business a “customer” web portal to self inquire and gain use of all that great information locked up in those existing information systems they built over the years.

    So “change” in the industry often opens the door here – but more important is this change often opens the wallets of customers who benefit from spending money on new changes in technology.

    I can remember re-writing new applications in Access when customers were using say green screen FoxPro/dBase programs. The customers wanted the new cool windows software. However the real benefits was not really the mouse and a GUI, but applications that work with say Excel and Outlook. There was really nothing wrong with the older green screen applications (software does not rust). However while the GUI was nice in regards to training, the REAL motivation was nice interfaces to outlook and say Word. (So that change to the GUI was an another opportunity).

    When technology does not change much, then existing software and applications don’t need much work or updates. Those consultants that rode the wave of changes (hopefully) built up a customer base. So getting a foot in the door of mature technologies can be a challenge. So look for change in the industry – you pick up some new clients that way and then often wind up doing “legacy” type work on their existing systems also.

    So in regards to starting a business? There are zillions of sites that give ideas on finding new customers and starting up a business – the “act” of starting a business really does not have a lot to do with Access and programming. Your technical skills are separate from the “act” of the nuts and bolts of starting a business.

    Here is some of my thoughts on “access” as a business tool – I wrote this article 16 years ago during the dot com bust – really not a lot changed.

    http://www.kallal.ca/Articles/fog0000000004.html

    One more tip: While I always strong recommend learning vb.net, I do suggest jumping over to c# - not because it is better or worse then vb.net, but vb.net does not appear much on job sites these days as compared to say c# + asp.net.

    Regards,
    Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP)
    Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    • Marked as answer by Shoomie1 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:52 PM
    Thursday, April 27, 2017 8:41 PM

All replies

  • Hello,

    Thanks for posting here. However, this is not one issue related to Access design or query or Office object model, sorry that we could not offer suggestion. I hope experienced Access MVPs here could offer their valuable advice for your question.

    Regards,

    Celeste


    MSDN Community Support
    Please remember to click "Mark as Answer" the responses that resolved your issue, and to click "Unmark as Answer" if not. This can be beneficial to other community members reading this thread. If you have any compliments or complaints to MSDN Support, feel free to contact MSDNFSF@microsoft.com.

    Thursday, April 27, 2017 2:47 AM
    Moderator
  • Being an Access MVP, having been published in several books, and doing Access contract work for years? The answer is most certainly yes. Being part of the “on-line” community has certainly helped people find me for work.

    At the end of the day, using Access, or say Visual Studio or <insert your favorite development platform here> is not really the most important part.

    So your question is not really about Access or say FoxPro, but that of becoming a freelance developer and consultant (and there are tons of sites in this regards).

    So the issue here is not really about Access.


    A business is willing to pay for solutions. How you achieve that solution often does not matter that much. However, one great advantage of Access is how after all these years is how popular the platform remains. So often a business will find themselves with an Access program that becomes critical (and thus valuable) to their bottom line. So perhaps an employee moves on, or perhaps they start to outgrow Access. Or perhaps they want you to add additional features that they don’t have in-house expertise with.

    So they might have a complex Access program, but now want to push invoices out to say QuickBooks or say Simply Accounting (sage 50). (you write that interface say in vb.net and use that .net object from Access).

    So often you be hired for the “hard” parts! Another common setup is increased number of users (mutli-users) and thus they keep the front end part as Access, but the back end data part becomes SQL server. Or the business expands to two locations and they want to use Access on the same data for both locations.

    So having the ability to say interface with Accounting packages, setup SQL server, or even have Access pull data from some web site/service tends to really help.

    In other words, you tend not be selling Access, but your ability to bring solutions to a business. It just turns out that Access is often a great choice – not because Access is great, but due to the ability of Access allowing solutions to be developed for a lower cost.

    Access is often used since it can be used to deliver a wide range of business solutions at a lower cost than other traditional development platforms. A business does not really pay you for Access skills, but pays for a solution that will save them MORE then what the cost of software you develop for them.

    So there are good number of consultants and developers that use Access as their main dev tool. And when a business outgrows Access or needs help adopting SQL server, or perhaps taking parts of the Access application and building a customer “web” portal, then that’s where you want to come in (why have a customer phone in to check their order status and have an employee fire up Access and type in some information when the customer can get that info via a web site?). So saving a business employee time is what software is and always been about.

    So often you be brought on to extend and enhance existing applications.


    However, how you go about finding new customers is not a lot different than starting up any new business – be it a coffee shop, a new car wash, accounting firm or some software development firm – they all have the SAME challenge in finding new customers. Access is really no different – it not really Access but the “act” of staring up your own business built around a skill set you can bring to customers.

    An accounting firm can be lucrative business – but it hard to get new customers unless you’re in an environment where lots of new business are starting up (since existing ones usually have an accountant already)

    I recall a young kid who left poorly printed flyers for building web sites at a business condo complex. He picked up a great number of customers (because of technology changes – few business had a web site and they all wanted one). If you left really nice fancy well printed business cards at the business condo today, you likely would not pick up one customer (because they all been scooped up). 17 years later that not so young fellow has a great client list.

    So one great lesson about the above is “big” opportunities occur WHEN technology changes. So you might have a business that been running a Access application for 15 years – but now they want something for people in the field say on their smartphones. Or they want some web site for their customers to inquire about all that great information locked up in that Access application.

    So “tons” of business spent money and automated their business process during the last 17 years of the PC revolution. Now you can un-lock information built up by say offering a business a “customer” web portal to self inquire and gain use of all that great information locked up in those existing information systems they built over the years.

    So “change” in the industry often opens the door here – but more important is this change often opens the wallets of customers who benefit from spending money on new changes in technology.

    I can remember re-writing new applications in Access when customers were using say green screen FoxPro/dBase programs. The customers wanted the new cool windows software. However the real benefits was not really the mouse and a GUI, but applications that work with say Excel and Outlook. There was really nothing wrong with the older green screen applications (software does not rust). However while the GUI was nice in regards to training, the REAL motivation was nice interfaces to outlook and say Word. (So that change to the GUI was an another opportunity).

    When technology does not change much, then existing software and applications don’t need much work or updates. Those consultants that rode the wave of changes (hopefully) built up a customer base. So getting a foot in the door of mature technologies can be a challenge. So look for change in the industry – you pick up some new clients that way and then often wind up doing “legacy” type work on their existing systems also.

    So in regards to starting a business? There are zillions of sites that give ideas on finding new customers and starting up a business – the “act” of starting a business really does not have a lot to do with Access and programming. Your technical skills are separate from the “act” of the nuts and bolts of starting a business.

    Here is some of my thoughts on “access” as a business tool – I wrote this article 16 years ago during the dot com bust – really not a lot changed.

    http://www.kallal.ca/Articles/fog0000000004.html

    One more tip: While I always strong recommend learning vb.net, I do suggest jumping over to c# - not because it is better or worse then vb.net, but vb.net does not appear much on job sites these days as compared to say c# + asp.net.

    Regards,
    Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP)
    Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    • Marked as answer by Shoomie1 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:52 PM
    Thursday, April 27, 2017 8:41 PM
  • Thanks so much, Albert. Your sage advice is greatly appreciated.

    Since I'm new to this, can you recommend a sit or two that would give me ideas for finding new customers?

    • Edited by Shoomie1 Friday, April 28, 2017 2:02 PM
    Friday, April 28, 2017 1:54 PM
  • Gee, nothing off the top of my head – as I stated sites on entrepreneurs and starting a business is rather popular and beyond common these days (perhaps more common than coffee shops in a large city!). I not visited entrepreneur sites in many years but I can say such sites are beyond popular if not too popular on the internet these days.  Also check out some of the groups on Linked-in.

    I have really no suggestions other then perhaps some site or association that is tailored towards business needs in your location.

    Regards,

    Albert D. Kallal (Access MVP)

    Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    Friday, April 28, 2017 2:44 PM