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GOLD! Moved to Scottsdale, Growing a Web Design Firm

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MJ DeMarco

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8/8/18 Update:
So what of you think of your first summer? Another month left and it will be smooth sailing for 9 months.
 

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So what of you think of your first summer? Another month left and it will be smooth sailing for 9 months.
The first few days of 110+ were rough but surprisingly got used to it and it hasn't been that bad at all. I can think of a few days I was running around going to meetings wearing some business casual clothes so that was rough in this heat.

These dust storms/monsoons have been crazy though, I luckily haven't lost power throughout any of them yet.

I've heard August is the worst of it, so just a few more weeks until it started to break!
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Everyone,

Wanted to share another quick update. Still has been over a month since I made a sale but my strategy to start charging a fair amount and not underselling myself has put me in a great position. All of a sudden, I'm in very serious discussions and consideration for 4 deals (all over $4,000). Some more likely to close than others, but I have a really good feeling the next few weeks / September is going to be a huge month for my business.

I've also been working to track the results past sites have gotten and came to a pretty cool conclusion - every single website project I did in the past, all sites are on the 1st page of google for targeted keywords (usually "niche + city").

Here are the current deals that I'm in discussions with and a little blurb about where they stand:

1. Commercial Real Estate Firm: Yesterday at a networking event, this lady happened to speak to me when she heard I did web design and we scheduled a call today. Call went really well and she asked for a more detailed quote. It's a decently large company 10+ people and they are involved with a lot of deals in the 8 figure range so they are doing well financially.

Quoted them at $12k - $18k (with tiered pricing) with help from Fox to figure out how to structure that and propose my services in a way to differentiate myself from the competition. Curious to see what they come back with.

2. Famous Fashion Designer: This was my first referral from the Comedy Central Comedian's site that I did. Some really famous fashion designer liked my work with him and this guy is looking for a relatively simple site that I know I can deliver on. Had a great call with his assistant and sent over a quote.

Quoted them $4,500 and she said she will run it by the fashion designer himself this week so I should hear back later this week / next week.

3. CPA Firm: After lots of back and forth, finally got the owner to see the value of this one (website redesign and a decent amount of SEO work to get his site to rank higher).

Quoted him around $4,000 for this one - he's figuring out some other details at the moment but finally didn't object to the price when I worked with him (originally quoted at $5,000). Will follow up next week if I don't hear back from him (he specifically told me he'd get back to me shortly).

4. Investment Management Firm: This was a referral from someone I met a networking event that I recently spoke about.

Quoted him at $7,000 and he said that sounds reasonable to him. We agreed to grab coffee late in August and have plans on Friday to meet to further discuss the project. Curious to see how the conversation goes but I've had a great track record of sales meetings going well in person.

Will keep everyone posted when I know more about these!
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Guys,

Today has been a great day! So I met with the investment mgmt guy this morning for coffee and the meeting went amazing.

Ended up closing a deal for $6,950 to completely redo the website and help setup/provide training for email marketing!

I'll celebrate once the invoice is officially paid, but he agreed to the price, we shook on it, and he told me to send over the invoice and that he'd pay the 50% deposit sometime soon.

Definitely a sigh of relief after a slow few months, but this could all of a sudden be a huge September for my business if I close another deal that I'm in discussions with.

Will keep everyone posted but this is by far the biggest deal I've closed so far.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Invoice paid for the 7k deal! Feels amazingly relieving and I’m ready to deliver for this client.

Also have a really promising 4.5k deal call with the fashion designer on Monday so all of a sudden if I close that I’ll make more in one month I would’ve made in a month at the old investment bank job.

Definitely celebrating tonight... feels so great to see the business really scaling and growing.
 

MJ DeMarco

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I've also been working to track the results past sites have gotten and came to a pretty cool conclusion - every single website project I did in the past, all sites are on the 1st page of google for targeted keywords (usually "niche + city").
OMG, flashback! This was a technique I used to secure new business... "Hey, look what I did for XYZ, they're on the front page of Google!" (Well back then it was GOTO). It puts you in a great position to advertise an "improvement" to their search rankings. (Not necessarily a first page)

Ended up closing a deal for $6,950 to completely redo the website and help setup/provide training for email marketing!
Yes! Congrats, very existing. Your thread is very nostalgic to me, reminds me of my beginnings.

Thread upgraded to NOTABLE.
 
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GuitarManDan

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OMG, flashback! This was a technique I used to secure new business... "Hey, look what I did for XYZ, they're on the front page of Google!" (Well back then it was GOTO). It puts you in a great position to advertise an "improvement" to their search rankings. (Not necessarily a first page)



Yes! Congrats, very existing. Your thread is very nostalgic to me, reminds me of my beginnings.

Thread upgraded to NOTABLE.
Hey MJ,

Thanks so much! This whole experience has been so incredible and rewarding (moving cross country to AZ where I didn't know anyone and working on growing out the business).

I still have a long way to go, but I really like the direction the business is headed and I'm going to work my a$$ off to continue to grow this business and make it work.
 

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Was looking for inspiration and just read your thread Dan and I like what I read! :smile:

Keep it up and updated whenever you can!
 

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I have milestones and then Arizona was one of my points of attractions. My friend said that their winter is the middle of summer, too hot to go outside. God forbid the power goes out and the ACs stop working.

Fun night life.
 
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GuitarManDan

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What a week... the fashion designer's people just got back to me that they discussed and want to move forward! More to come in a more detailed post, but his assistant is calling me in 30 mins or so to figure out the logistics.

This deal will be for $4.5k.

When this one goes through that'll be $11.5k locked up in one week!

This will be my first 5 figure month ever, more than I even made each month at my old investment banking job. Thanks all for the kind words and support!!
 

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What a week... the fashion designer's people just got back to me that they discussed and want to move forward! More to come in a more detailed post, but his assistant is calling me in 30 mins or so to figure out the logistics.

This deal will be for $4.5k.

When this one goes through that'll be $11.5k locked up in one week!

This will be my first 5 figure month ever, more than I even made each month at my old investment banking job. Thanks all for the kind words and support!!
Just wanted to say Kudos to your hustle, man!

Im sure as a young man in the Scottsdale area doing his thing its like paradise - keep it up!
 

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MJ DeMarco

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When this one goes through that'll be $11.5k locked up in one week!
Awesomely exciting! I remember the feeling, when you realize that holy-shit, next month can be much bigger because you aren't trapped into a traditional salary/hourly time arrangement. Gives me a zing remembering...
 
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GuitarManDan

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Awesomely exciting! I remember the feeling, when you realize that holy-sh*t, next month can be much bigger because you aren't trapped into a traditional salary/hourly time arrangement. Gives me a zing remembering...
Completely agreed, it's such a cool feeling that I can just decide to increase my prices by over 5-7 times! (last site before the 7k website was sold for only 1k).

It's very entertaining the reactions I've gotten when I've told family/friends the great news from the past week. I know my family means well, but all of a sudden they aren't giving me advice like "well.... if it doesn't work out, you should keep your resume updated just in case" and friends are saying things like "I hate my job too, you're inspiring me to start a side hustle and make it work".

My personal favorite, which I know you talk about in your books, MJ... people have told me how "lucky" I'm getting!

Next steps now are to keep attending networking events and keep the deals in the pipeline in a good spot to close eventually, but most importantly - really overdeliver and do an excellent job for these two new clients I just picked up.

Will keep everyone posted how it goes.
 
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GuitarManDan

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Hey Everyone,

It's been a while so I wanted to post and just provide some quick updates on what I've been up to.

1. I've been busy just focusing on really delivering for the two big contracts that I locked up in September. Both have been going really well so far - the fashion designer site is almost completely finished and the investment mgmt site I completed the first draft but the business owner needs a few weeks to review with the partners of his firm to share feedback (he also just bought a house so he's a busy man right now).

2. Continuing to go to networking events, and most importantly continuing to read and learn so that I can keep improving my abilities to market, sell, really deliver for clients, etc.

3. I created a YouTube channel as a way to try to build that out to get some inbound leads (on top of referrals). I just posted my first video today. I'm definitely a rookie but I'm going to keep thinking of content that will help business owners who want to audit their own website and maybe make some improvements.

4. Trying to really balance overdelivering for client projects and also making sure I'm doing prospecting so that I don't run into another slow period like I did in August of this year.
 
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Hey Everyone,

Wanted to provide a quick update on how the 2 big projects have been going and how everything else has been. Here are a few quick points:

A. Both projects are on hold at the moment and will pick up in December so I've been working the last few weeks on really bringing in new projects.
-The fashion designer's site is 99% done but for some reason he wants to wait until a specific date in Dec to launch the site.
-The investment mgmt site is 50% completed, I sent over the first full draft but the owner needs to review with his partners and they are super busy until Dec

B. I'm starting to really target more blue collar businesses (construction, steel manufacturing, etc) as targeting financial services businesses has a difficult component which makes it harder to sell (the SEC/FINRA regulations of websites are crazy and business owners seem to see it more as a risk of breaking rules vs. upside of bringing in new clients).

C. It's always tough when I'm just doing outreach vs. having a balance of doing client work and outreach, but I'm pushing through and doing a lot of cold calls, social media messaging and networking to bring in some new business.

D. Pretty promising CPA site in Scottsdale here that agreed to work together for $4k budget - he's just super busy so it's not officially closed but we've been speaking for months and months so I have a good feeling that one goes through in the next month or so.

E. Just a few general life updates, it's been so cool that really taking chances here has been working out. I've made some amazing friends and have built a pretty big social circle out here. It's funny... back in NYC, I would just be complacent with the same 2 friends or so... when I actually try to meet people and make new friends it's funny how well it's going.

With my good month in Sept too, I also decided to get a personal trainer for maybe 6 weeks max (won't be too much money with the plan I got) as I really want to make exercising and going to the gym a habit. Still working on finding a girlfriend out here too but that's something I'm not trying to force too much, just trying to enjoy things out here and take chances when I see an opportunity.
 

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Awesome hustle man - very inspiring watching you detach from the muggy east coast (I'm in coastal NC), most folks dont have the balls to say screw it, pick up and go.

Now that you have a pretty consistent hustle going and make decent money, are you thinking of ways to expand and scale beyond what you can do? Curious of your long term strategy and/or exit plan.
 

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I would focus on using the existing clients as referrals for getting additional work. I would also be looking how to further operationalize your work as to reduce the number of hours it takes to deliver a package. Then I would sub out the work to somebody on Fiverr so I could focus specifically on sales demos. This is because website development is highly commoditized and can be done with offshore Developers for 5 to 8 bucks an hour. Your highest and best use is on sales and the creative Design.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk
 
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Awesome hustle man - very inspiring watching you detach from the muggy east coast (I'm in coastal NC), most folks dont have the balls to say screw it, pick up and go.

Now that you have a pretty consistent hustle going and make decent money, are you thinking of ways to expand and scale beyond what you can do? Curious of your long term strategy and/or exit plan.
Hey man, sorry for the late response. Still working on getting it to making real good money before thinking of expanding or scaling.

Once I start to really get down the sales/pipeline aspect, I'm sure I'll start outsourcing portions of projects for more complex sites (for example, I'm in discussions with a commercial real estate company to make a new site with a complex listings section that they can update).

Thanks for the kind words.. it's been stressful and overwhelming, but at the end of the day I really enjoy the hustle of it and it's so so much better than working at a corporate job.

Just working on constant development personally and professionally with this experience.
 
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I would focus on using the existing clients as referrals for getting additional work. I would also be looking how to further operationalize your work as to reduce the number of hours it takes to deliver a package. Then I would sub out the work to somebody on Fiverr so I could focus specifically on sales demos. This is because website development is highly commoditized and can be done with offshore Developers for 5 to 8 bucks an hour. Your highest and best use is on sales and the creative Design.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk
Agreed, definitely making that a priority as well in terms of leveraging past clients. November has been decently slow so far, but I know December will pick up (2 existing projects will resume and at least 1 new one will be starting then that I'm close to closing now). For November, I've just been working on doing more outreach, refining my process, learning as much as I can, and taking care of housekeeping items (end of year taxes, how to pay myself from the LLC, healthcare for next year, etc).
 
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Hey Everyone,

Quick update from me as the year winds down on the year in review as I really started my biz in Jan of this year.

Right now I'm looking at just over $20k in total revenue for the business for the year, this is way below the mark I set for myself at the onset of $50k (for 2019 anything less than $100k I'll consider not successful).

I still have a few deals in discussion that could push me closer to $30-40k depending on how the year ends, but I'm trying to takeaway the positives of what I accomplished this year and the challenges to set myself up for success in 2019 with the business.

What Went Well:
  • Got my first paying client from cold calling and just hustling in the beginning
  • Proved the concept (really got great results for my clients thanks to my website design and copywriting that I learned from various courses and experts)
  • Successfully raised my prices 5-7x (once I proved the value from past clients) to set myself up for success in 2019
  • Worked with two celebrities to really give my company brand name more value than just a random website design company (adds legitimacy and great social proof).
  • Read countless business, marketing, sales, and other entrepreneurship books to continually learn and grow
Summary:

I'm definitely my toughest critic, so I look at $20k and think of it almost like I failed in a way (when comparing it to the investment banking salary I got last year), but at the same time I know how much of that 20k was focused towards the end of the year on just a few deals which makes it much easier to bring in much more revenue next year.

I've gotten a lot better at business skills I never ever had to work on in past jobs (writing sales emails, sales calls, closing in person, etc) and I know I'll continue to work and grow with this.

In terms of challenges, I know I need to do a better job of getting more opportunities and getting in front of more business owners to keep a constant pipeline. This year, it's been very up and down (usually close 2 deals at a time and then get busy and after those slow down I'll just be doing prospecting for a month or two before another deal goes through).
 
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@Fox wanted to tag you as discussed! Here's the progress thread I've been working on ever since I started the business and moved out to Scottsdale in AZ.
 

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@Fox wanted to tag you as discussed! Here's the progress thread I've been working on ever since I started the business and moved out to Scottsdale in AZ.
thanks, Dan, I will get up to speed on this and follow along here also.

Well done - I already know the progress you have been making and the tons of action you have taken already.

Can't wait to see how things go in 2019.
 
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thanks, Dan, I will get up to speed on this and follow along here also.

Well done - I already know the progress you have been making and the tons of action you have taken already.

Can't wait to see how things go in 2019.
Thanks man!

Quick update for what I've been up to the last week or so:

1. CPA Business Website Project: This started out as a cold email from July that's been going back and forth since then. It seems very close to closing (discussed budget of $4,000) for a website update built primarily to increase his SEO ranking. The owner seems to always be busy and makes flakey promises to reach out but he definitely seems interested and it keeps moving closer and closer.

I took the initiative today and redid the SEO analysis I originally did... good news for this sale (bad news for his business) is that for keywords he's targeting he keeps dropping (actually dropped off the front page of Google) so I brought that up and tried not to be pushy but just send a high-value email over. Will provide another update on how that goes.

2. Commercial Real Estate Firm: Not sure if I updated this forum yet, but had a strange thing happen with this one. My contact (who was managing this project) left or got fired from the firm and when I went to reach out the owner wrote back saying she is no longer there.

This would be a huge deal (quoted $12 - 18k) and the manager specifically told the owner and his daughter that I was a great fit and have the resources/capability to deliver on this project.

I took another initiative and found the owner's daughter's email and sent a quick intro saying I was working with my contact there and found out she is no longer employed with the firm and wanted to quickly introduce myself and learn more about this project and how I may be able to help out.

3. Year End Tax Paperwork: As this is my first year of owning an LLC (being taxed as an S Corp), I decided to outsource this work to a CPA here in Arizona. I found a highly rated one that is pretty reasonably priced so I was going crazy getting paperwork and making sure that I paid myself before Dec 31st of this year to be compliant.
 
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Not sure if I hit the character limit on the last post... but one last note from this:

4. 2019 Goal Setting: For 2019 the goal is to bring in at least $100k of revenue with the business and I know I'm going to do it. I was able successfully raise my prices a lot this year and get off the ground so with what I've been charging, it isn't that crazy at all to bring in around $8,300 / month. Some other goals I am putting forward is to keep going to the gym (started going about 2 months ago) to get in better shape and to be healthy.

It's amazing how much more productive I've been when I've been waking up earlier and going to the gym early in the morning.
 
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Hey All,

Closed a sale yesterday! Here are a few quick updates about what's been going on:

Annuity Business - Sale Closed

Closed a $1,500 very simple site yesterday. Was very unexpected... I fly back to the east coast to visit family and work from there for the next 3 weeks so I wanted to just do some networking catch up meetings with some of my old connections I've made out here before I head home.

This guy who is semi retired owns a few different businesses and after some discussion he told me he wants to work on a project with me and kept saying it would be very simple (it's for an annuity sales business that he has).

He asked what I typically charge and when I said I've worked for 1k - 7k so far, he proposed $1,500.

Not exactly a crazy amount of money but it'll be good value for the amount of work it'll take (homepage, about and contact - and he plans on writing all the copy). Additionally, this guy seems like a great client to work with and he's very well networked in the area so I see this as being a quick project that could lead to lots of future business.

CPA Business - Close to Closing Deal

The $4,000 CPA site the owner came back and said the following so this one seems very very close to closing (not sure if it will in Dec or maybe in Jan):

"That makes a lot of sense. I'll do the remaining things on my end and let you know when we can proceed. I don't expect things to take too much longer."

I believe I did a good job of creating some sense of urgency, as this deal has been in discussion with July. He's very concerned with SEO rankings and in July I did an in-depth audit of where he ranks for certain keywords...

I noticed and told him that he had dropped off the first page for those keywords and is now on the 2nd page so that's obviously cause for concern so maybe that'll be the catalyst to get him to take action?

Will keep everyone posted.
 
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Hey All,

CPA firm owner I’ve been speaking to on and off again for several months finally got back to me that he’s all set with the 4K budget we discussed.

Had a little hesitation at first and he wanted to go lower with the price but I was able to reply effectively thanks to help from @Fox - just sent out the invoice this afternoon.

Not official yet until he pays the deposit but if this one goes through that’ll put me at a total of around $26k total revenue for my first year in business.

Will be good momentum to bring me into 2019 - expecting big things from myself and the business this upcoming year.
 
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Hey All,

4K deal closed! CPA just paid the invoice for the 50% deposit.

Great way to start 2019 - and I’m excited for this one I see a lot of areas I can really add value with this client and help him out.

Since I’ve stated it before on here, the goal is $100k of revenue locked down this year. As long as I’m acting smart, constantly learning and taking action, I know I will do it.

2019 Tracker: $4k revenue / $100k goal
 

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Hey man, reading your thread gave me a great idea for my business, so thank you!

I'm working on a website to find freelance designers like yourself, so business owners can type up a brief and then send it to multiple designers they like. Their brief is also available in a feed that designers can see.

So my initial thinking was very broad stroked, like web design, graphic design, logos, etc..

I've just realized my marketing strategy should strongly use industry!

Targeting businesses by industry, I bet, will greatly improve results.

Previously my plan was targeting the keyword "freelance designer". Or people who needed logos. Or people who needed websites.

Now I've changed my marketing strategy so that I will go after e.g. dentists, and send them ads about seeing 10 designers who made great dental websites, logos, etc..
 
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Scottsdale
Hey All,

Just wanted to take a moment to really stop and appreciate the current situation that I'm in. I'm my harshest critic so I'll be the first to say I still have a long, long way to go, but things just seem to be coming together really well with my business and I'm so excited for 2019. I know I'm going to have an excellent year and challenge myself.

Reflecting on the past few days/weeks, it's night and day from my life when I was living in dreary NYC and working at an investment bank.

A few things I've really enjoyed in the past few weeks:

  • Getting a notification on my phone eating lunch with family/friends that a deal closed and I just got the 50% deposit from the $4k deal. This happened while family/friends were all moaning about having to go back to work.
  • Having the freedom to work from wherever I want. Instead of flying home for just Christmas, I decided to work from my parent's place in NJ and visit friends/family for 3 weeks and I fly back to beautiful Scottsdale on Saturday after a nice long break (where a check for the remaining 50% of another deal is waiting for me in my mailbox).
  • ***This is my favorite one*** - all of the people who told me I was "throwing my life away" and "making the biggest mistake of my life" are drastically changing their tone. Saying things like "I didn't really mean it" or "I didn't think you'd get this lucky".
  • Getting texts from old coworkers telling me management changed their expectations. Now, anyone who doesn't work a MINIMUM of 8 am - 8 pm is considered a slacker and is brutally criticized.
  • The fact that every single stress induced health issue I was having is completely gone.

Again just to clarify, not making this post to pretend like "I've made it"... but I was so in the weeds in 2018 trying to prove the concept with this business that I never took a step back and thanked everyone in this community, especially @MJ DeMarco , so much for opening my eyes and allowing me to step away from misery and work towards creating this amazing lifestyle.
 

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Welcome to 2020, I wanted to add in a quick note about gratitude for the new year...


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