Interview with Deepa Govind, Zoho Creator Developer

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Deepa Govind is a very active Zoho Creator developer who develops custom Zoho Creator applications for clients. Recently she got featured in oDesk’s Newsletter

We interviewed her to see what goes on in the mind of a prolific Zoho Creator developer. If you are a Zoho Creator developer reading this, we believe the tips from Deepa will surely help you in getting more customers. Read on …

Tell us about yourself, Deepa
Well, I’m a Life Science postgraduate who could not differentiate between Windows the operating system & the one that looks out of my balcony. It was only after my PG, I was introduced to the world of “computers” via APTECH. This opened up a whole new range of possibilities for me & I haven’t turned back since. At the moment, I reside at Bangalore, India and work from home & I have no intention of going back to the brick-and-mortar routine.

Why did you choose to use Zoho Creator?
The drag and drop interface at form-design and at Deluge script won me hands-down. Additionally, the logic command blocks at Deluge Script , along with the help documents were very helpful in the initial stages. I sort of kicked-the-tires by developing some applications for personal use. Like, to keep track of client enquiries, team submissions, so on and so forth. Once this began to fall into a routine, I was all geared to take up projects that are built-to-order.

How do you pitch Zoho Creator to your customers? Has it been an easy sell?
In fact, I didn’t have to pitch it at all. Zoho Creator already did it for me! Anyone who has spent at least 30 minutes with Zoho Creator forms & the basic ‘Send Mail ‘ script will be able to comprehend what this could do to their business. So I was fortunate to have well informed clients who had tested Zoho Creator hands on. It has been my observation that, out of every 10 casual signups, at least 8 are willing to harness the developer pool for a decent remuneration. That’s 80% conversion rate, guys!

However, my motto had been Blog–Publicize–Connect. I was already having a blog that gave away tips on using blogspot templates. Later, I added Zoho to this and started posting simple how-to-do tutorials. Each of these tutorial posts targeted one aspect of Zoho Creator, and came up with demos (for live experience) and screenshots to explain the code behind the demo. Any comments received were duly attended to. Let us not forget the Zoho Creator forum.

Once the blog posts were out, there was Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn to attend to. I was my own P.R.O. So I began to tweet and post status messages that made clear of the fact that I am ready and available. I even had a ‘Get Quote’ form (of course, a Zoho Creator form!) all set up to collect enquiries. After that, it was time for me to wait. Any week that went by without a Zoho Creator enquiry, I would make a new post at my blog. And every enquiry was promptly responded with & I promptly connected with all prospective clients in any of the social networking platforms.

There is one more thing that I learnt the hard way. When you work for yourself (read, not associated with any company), there is absolutely no room for modesty. We have to scream at the top of our lungs to sell our skills, else the customer looks the other way.

How are you trying to attract new customers? 
The Zoho Creator Marketplace is a great place to start. Plus, I try to stick to the schedule & deliver results with my existing clients, and they get me new clients.

As a designer yourself, how did you find the Zoho Creator experience?
I personally prefer “less is more”. So, the form’s design elements were pretty much satisfactory. After all, we are using Zoho Creator as a database platform, and not as a website developmental tool. (Oh, I had those shares of enquiries as well – “Design a website for me in  Zoho Creator”!). I am not saying, “It can’t be done”. May be someone with a little more perseverance will do it soon. But, that’s not what Zoho Creator is meant to do.

Tell us your favourite Zoho Creator feature and why you like it.
I love the HTML View AND its ‘Convert to PDF ‘ option! Zoho Creator is database oriented, and HTML view coupled with Deluge script’s ability to pull out records to be displayed in HTML format is the ultimate report presentation ever. The look-and-feel is tailor made, the requirement decides the logic for data, and the pdf option allows us to save the report. Even without any data, these HTML views allow us to make wonderful dashboards that never fail to impress the client. What could be more alluring than this!

You are featured in oDesk Provider Spotlight. Congratulations! Tell us how it happened.
Thank you! Although, I signed up with oDesk in 2007, it took me almost two-and-a-half years to get to this spot. Thanks to Zoho Creator in all accounts, coz, Zoho Creator is indeed my developmental platform, and it is the users of Zoho Creator to whom I cater to. Without Zoho Creator & the support team, this would not have been possible.

Remember, a short while ago, I told you that I had to wait after writing the how-to-do Zoho tutorial blog posts. Well, I was not exactly waiting for ‘something’ to happen. I did a little bit of research on freelance marketplaces, and found oDesk to be reasonable and reliable. Profile building and understanding the system took a while, but completely worth it. I even did some gigs that were way out of database management. But, helped me to understand the portal as a whole.

At this time, Zoho Creator was gaining momentum, and the marketplace was not yet integrated. I came across a Zoho Creator job-opening at oDesk, where-in the owner wanted someone who could take his existing application and mould it to produce suitable results. By this time, I also had quite a few number of Zoho tutorial blog posts (See! blogging does help).

I promptly placed my bid for this project, and gave reference to my blog posts. And within 2 days, I officially received the hire notice via oDesk, and the project was successfully completed in 3 months. I still continue to provide ongoing support & attend to any requirements on enhancements.

The success of my first Zoho Creator project gave me the much needed booster dose of confidence. I would watch out for openings that requested for Zoho Creator skills and one thing led to another. Before I knew it, I was fully engaged at Zoho Creator, developing applications for clients. At this time, I was finding it increasingly difficult to maintain my Zoho tutorial blog. I still haven’t had time to do justice to my blog. In every sense, they are my silent partner, being there when I needed them the most, moving to the sidelines when my priorities changed.

Any tips for other developers considering building Zoho Creator Apps for their clients?
First off, All the best. You may know that you are the best, but you will have to sell this as well.

Have you seen a sketch artist’s scrapbook? All his/her work neatly arranged and bound for easy viewing. That’s just about same for us as well. It is not just enough to say “I did this-and-that”, you need to show what is “this-and-that”. However trivial, collect your work samples, and present them as your developer portfolio. Links are for reference, screenshots are for relevance. Use them wisely.

Frequent the Zoho Creator forum, and bookmark / follow the topics that are relevant to you, even at their tiniest proportion. A frequent forum visitor stands the chance of picking more tips, which might come handy later. Expertise is a journey; we will all get there sometime. It’s what you pick along the path that matters.

Watch out at the Zoho Marketplace. It is probably the first place a buyer would present his requirement. Plus, you can be assured that he has personally tested the Zoho Creator environment & understand what “Forms” & “Views” mean. You wouldn’t have to deal with explaining how forms / views are different from tables (as in the conventional database model). Believe me, it takes a great load off when the terminologies are understood in their actual sense.

 If you are active in any of the freelancing marketplace(s), stick to their TOS. You have greater chance of receiving payment on the work done there for any client who happens to contact you via the same freelancing marketplace. I am not ashamed to admit that I got my share of burnt fingers as well.

Last, but not the least, before you commence the project, confirm the requirements in a manner understandable and executable by both parties. You wouldn’t want to end up re-doing the whole application when the buyer says, “Oh! You did this, I thought that”.

And beyond that, do what you do the best. Knock yourself out building applications with Zoho Creator. And, don’t forget to get feedback from your clients. Need I say, use Zoho Creator forms ;-)