Do you know why you price the way you do?
Do you know why you run projects that way?
Don’t let those holes stick around in your business. Put the time in to figure them out.
See behind the mindset that helped make me a 6-Figure consultant with my manifesto
Do you know why you price the way you do?
Do you know why you run projects that way?
Don’t let those holes stick around in your business. Put the time in to figure them out.
You know you should define your ideal client and filter prospects against that definition. Those ideal prospects are the only ones you want to convert into clients. Sticking to that axiom is going to help you create a business you truly love as you work for people (and on projects) that really get you fired up.
But what about those that work for you? Have you defined your ideal employee? Do you have a profile written down for the type of people you would prefer to work with?
I don’t mean just the technical skills they should have. Really, those should be some of the lowest things on the priority list. A good programmer that doesn’t yet know WordPress can learn to build a good WordPress site. Skills can be taught.
Think about the things you can’t teach. What is the personality you want? How do you want someone who represents your business to think about your clients? When an issue comes up, how should they approach it?
Do you want an employee who views a customer site as a series of technical check boxes, or as a dream they are fulfilling for a client?
How does that employee define their ideal project? Does that fit with the ideal project for your company?
If you don’t have an ideal employee profile, then take the time to create one this week. It’s likely that you’ll need to refine it a few times, but starting it now means you at least have some direction when you’re ready to hire.
Yes, it’s much easier to hire against a list of technical skills, but that’s not going to get you the employees you really want.
Remember when we talked about selling a dream? Once you get into the habit of selling a dream — as opposed to the actual product or service — your sales process will be so much easier.
Think about it your own purchases. Aren’t your quickest and easiest purchases the ones that give you a picture of a better/more fun life? That shirt you know you look good in is an easy purchase, since you see a future where you look freaking awesome.
If you’re not selling a dream, you’re pushing a new prospect to a sale. At each step in the sales process, you keep pushing the sale forward so that it actually happens.
On the other hand, if you successfully cast a vision of the prospect’s dream, that prospect will be pulling you towards the sale. They’ll want to get to that dream, and you are the one to get them there faster.
Which sounds like an easier sales process — pulling or pushing? Which sales process do you really want used in your business?
The hardest part of ‘pulling’ sales is truly understanding your prospect and their dreams. You have to listen to the prospect, no monologues. You need to engage with them and ask lots of questions so you can understand their dream and can cast that dream in your project plan.
It takes a bit more work up front (as opposed to just emailing a price quote) but doing so will yield clients who are really invested in working with you. Clients that will get the work they need to do done. Clients that you really want to work with and who will send good referrals.
That sounds like a better outcome to me.
A while ago Jeffro wrote a post about needing to achieve balance. Unfortunately for him, the post was prompted by a discussion he had with his wife about how much time he spent working. Seriously, read the comments in that post. Many of them have awesome suggestions for maintaining balance in your life.
Here are my top tips for staying productive but keeping balance.
Before we really dig into the tactics to maintaining a good work-life balance, let’s stop and consider this quote.
The really efficient laborer will be found not to crowd his day with work, but will saunter to his task surrounded by a wide halo of ease and leisure. There will be a wide margin for relaxation to his day. He is only earnest to secure the kernels of time, and does not exaggerate the value of the husk. Why should the hen sit all day? She can lay but one egg, and besides she will not have picked up materials for a new one. Those who work much do not work hard. – The Journal 1837 – 1861 Henry David Thoreau
Tactics can only get you so far. If you’ve experienced trying to juggle 9,000 things at one time, perhaps you’ve developed some strategies for juggling those things more efficiently. But just keeping all the balls in the air does not mean you’re achieving balance. At some point you need to really stop and understand that rushing back and forth among tasks isn’t the way to be really effective. Your strategy may be efficient, but it’s not allowing you to be effective.
Efficiency is not what you should strive for — you should be effective. If you’re going the wrong way, then moving faster (more efficient) is just getting you to a bad end result, faster. In all things strive to be effective. Face the right direction and make continual progress towards your goal.
Now let’s look at some better tactics — ones that will move you towards balance/effectiveness.
No, I can’t make that deadline (which was unrealistic in the first place). Sure, you don’t like to disappoint clients, but saying yes disappoints your family and pushes you to burnout as you work evenings/weekends to meet that deadline. You can’t actually manufacture time, even though you thought you could.
One of my favourite ways to tell new clients I can’t start with them now is to say:
Well, I guess I could say yes to starting next week, but I know if I did I’d be lying. I’d end up serving you poorly and serving my existing client poorly. I don’t think that’s what either of us wants.
Said that way, clients always agree that they don’t want poor service and 99% of the time they’re willing to wait until I actually have the time to start on their project.
Get comfortable with the word no. Just because someone wants to work with you doesn’t mean you need to take the work. Just because someone sends you a Twitter direct message doesn’t mean you are required to respond right away.
If you answered no to those questions, read the posts that are linked. My ideal week starts with 25 minutes of reading, followed by 25 minutes of writing. Then I get into client work without opening my email because I planned my tasks the day before.
I only take new prospect calls one day a week and if those days are filled for weeks, then a new prospect will have to decide if they can wait a few weeks to get in touch with me. My ideal client will wait because I’m the best person for them. If they don’t wait, then I wasn’t the right person for them.
Okay, it’s great to say you should schedule your week and set boundaries, but what about clients that just keep calling outside of those work hours? Well, that’s your fault, too.
I simply don’t answer the phone for anyone that’s not friend or family outside of my regular work hours. The odd client that’s complained about my availability policy is offered more availability…at a price.
Those clients that want me around evenings/weekends for any possible thing that could come up with their site get offered a fee of $15,000/month for me to do that. Remember, me being available at all those times means I need to be near a cellular connection for them to reach me. That means no mountain runs or canoe trips or…anything that gets me away from Wi-Fi or cell service.
The charge for that type of access to me is $15,000/month, because I don’t want to do it. If a client took me up on the offer, I’d hire one person and pay them $5,000/month for four days a week, spanning the weekend. Then I’d have to cover a few weekends a year while that person was on vacation, which is doable for $10,000/month profit.
Remember — access to you is something that has value and you can charge for that value.
Sure, I could spend time reading about CrossFit or watching the latest videos posted about CrossFit. I could check Twitter 52 times in an hour just to see if something is coming up.
CrossFit is something I do outside of work and is a good thing, in context. Every time I pull myself away from client tasks or my writing tasks I’m actually stealing.
I’m stealing that time from my family or other clients later in the day, or maybe next week. Those client tasks still have to get done and if I want to stick to my ideal week that means a project is going to take longer to get done than it should. That means I won’t be able to take a new project as fast and that means I make less money in a month.
If I stay a bit late to get tasks done then that means I just stole time from my family. I should be at home helping with the kids or house chores, or sitting and talking to my wife.
Every time you get off track you’re stealing from some other part of your life. Time is not ‘found’ since it doesn’t fall out of your pockets into the couch cushions. Time is not ‘made’ either, unless you somehow invented time travel and can go back in time to do things you missed.
Stay focused and stop stealing time.
When I get home, 99% of the time I put my phone on the counter. That means I can’t just pull my phone out of my pocket to check Twitter or see if any email came in. I do use my iPad in the house but it doesn’t have any social networks on it (well, it has Goodreads if you count that), and no email on it.
All I can do with my iPad is read RSS feeds, Instapaper and Kindle, or any digital magazines I have.
If my phone rings while it’s on the counter, I don’t even go look at it. See, I set up all friends/family who do have access to me on evenings/weekends with the same ringer, and one that is different from any other call. Therefore, I know immediately by the ring if a call is from a friend or family member, without needing to go visit my phone. Then I don’t have to exert willpower around not just answering a phone call.
This discipline is a bit more than just putting that phone on the counter, though. Do you let Twitter @mentions and DMs send notifications to your phone? I did for a while, but I don’t now. If a DM goes missed for days, that’s fine with me. I have email — which I check regularly — for communication. For current clients, I use Redbooth to communicate through, so those times I’m really busy I can just ignore my email since none of my current clients should be putting anything important in it for me.
Keep that phone out of reach and cut all those notifications. It’s way too easy to get dragged into the screen again.
For those with kids, you know that kids ensure you give attention to non-work stuff. They need to get driven to skating/hockey/llama wrestling and sometimes you need to do it. For me, it means hitting an arena once a week for an hour and watching a 4-year-old skate around, while talking to other parents and maybe reading a bit.
Saturdays mean getting a baby changed for the pool and sometimes going in with her. The times my wife goes in the pool with the baby, I’m sitting on a couch at the YMCA, reading. No significant work can get done since I don’t take my laptop.
It’s more than just getting out for ‘family’ stuff, though. Some of you don’t have kids to whine at you about your phone or computer time. You need to find something to do that’s not related to work that you enjoy.
For me it’s hiking, biking, CrossFit, climbing. I spend at least 10 hours a week split up between those activities. For you, maybe it’s going to do photography, or LEGO, or building models out of popsicle sticks.
Really, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something that’s not work related and preferably away from your computer. Sitting on that computer after work just isn’t good for you. Find something that gets you up each day and makes you work a bit hard. Even a stiff walk is good for you.
Just take yourself to a place where you can’t do work and you’re not sitting.
Okay, some of you don’t like the word “meditate”. The Christians among you may think about some religion that’s not ‘Christian’ and that feels creepy. I hear that — I felt the same way at first.
So call it prayer time, quiet time…doesn’t really matter. I have a friend that brews a cup of tea and sits down to drink it slowly before he starts his day.
It’s all the same basic principle. Take some quiet time first thing each day, and think. Think about nothing, or the sunrise, or how awesome your tea/coffee tastes. Sit in the quiet space there and don’t dwell on the 9,000 things you think you must do today. They’ll be there in 20 minutes.
Starting your day with that break goes miles towards pacing the whole day properly.
So we talked about how to not just work all the time, but I want to say that there are times when you need to work a bunch. The year my second kid was born I spent two months working longer hours three days a week so that I could take off from December 15th to February 10th of the next year.
My wife and I sat down and decided that the short-term sacrifice of two months of me getting up early and working an extra few hours was worth the almost two months off work. It was a season of working more.
The thing is, that for most people, that ‘season’ of working more turns into a new lifestyle. If you have a season of working more then sit down and decide how long that season will last before you dive into it. When the time is up, cut the work back to where it should be.
Be ruthless with yourself, even if you feel like you should be working more still. You need that break so you can get productive again. You need at least a few weeks of less than 40 hours working to recover before you can head into another season of working extra if you need to do that.
Those seasons of extra work happen, just don’t let them turn into a life of working all the time.
Those are my main tips for maintaining a good work-life balance. Do you have any that I should be adding? Are you using any of these with success? I’d love to hear about your success stories or any tips that you have to bring balance into your life. Even stories of how lack of balance hindered your life, since I’m sure that there are a number of people reading this saying ‘not me’ — until they read your comment.
Email can mean a bunch of context switching if you’re not careful.
Allow me to illustrate. You get an email from Client 1, and of course just dive into addressing whatever they wanted. That could mean anything, from a bunch of research or some code or changes, to a PSD or writing some content.
Then you send off the work and return to your email. There will be a few messages in your inbox that can be answered quickly then you’ll hit another one that initiates another context switch.
This is the big one — the costly one — because it switches you away from processing your email.
A rule in Getting Things Done (Amazon.ca) is that if a given task takes less than two minutes you should just do it. In that case the cost of processing it for later will take longer than just addressing it immediately.
The big problem most people have here is that they don’t actually have any idea how long a task will take. Sure, you figure a task will take less than 2 minutes, but if you were to track your time, you may realize it took 15 minutes to address a single email.
My rule is that if any email is going to take more than 3-5 sentences to respond to, it goes into my system instead of getting done right away. When I’ve passed that along to people, this simple rule of thumb allows them to assess an email task more easily, by looking at how much text they’ll have to write instead of estimating how long a task will take.
When I process email, all emails that can be responded to in 3-5 sentences get done right away.
Any email that’s going to take longer than that gets pushed off to Todoist. If I’m currently working on a project for a client and they email me something that’s going to take a bit, I set up the email to be responded to during their project time.
If it’s an email from a new prospect that’s going to take some thinking or research, I push it off to the time of the day (or maybe the next day) when I’m responding to new leads.
I strive for 24-hour response to all emails, but just because someone emails you doesn’t mean you are required to respond to them. And you’re certainly not required to respond to ANY email right away, so keep to your schedule.
Remember, email is mainly a way for other people to tell you what they think is important for you today. Check your email a few times a day and then just leave it. Plan your day the night before and don’t check your email until later in the day. I leave mine until just about the time I’m leaving for the day.
Your goal each day should be to accomplish the most important things on your list, not add to your list all day based on what other people think is important. If you allow other people to define what’s important, you will never really push your business forward.
Being more productive isn’t always a good thing. In fact way too often doing ‘more’ of something is seen as good when it’s anything but.
Make sure you’re running in the right direction before you start trying to run faster.
Sales and marketing is hard for most of us. We hate telling people how awesome we are (marketing) and then asking for the sale is often even harder.
Once you add in all the mistakes we make while trying to market and sell, and the whole process becomes even harder and increases our chances of failure. Here are the top five mistakes I see people making with their sales process.
The most important thing you can do in your sales cycle is to determine that the person/company you’re talking to is a proper fit for your organization.
If they aren’t a prospect that’s going to recognize your value and trade you money for that value, then 100% of your time spent working with them is wasted.
You should be looking to see if they are your ideal client. You should only be working with with your ideal clients.
The earlier you are in your business career the more likely it is that you’re making this mistake. If you don’t have an ideal client profile sketched out, your risk of making this mistake is high.
Sit down and write out who your ideal client is and then evaluate each prospect you talk to against that profile.
It’s going to take at least twice as long to close that sale as you think it will. Someone will go on vacation or an email will get buried on a particularly busy day.
Something will come up for the client in their business and that final document you’re waiting for won’t make it to you for 10 days beyond when you expected it.
Don’t run your budget/business around when you ‘think’ sales will come in. It’s always going to take longer than you think.
The larger the project is, the longer it will take to close. Where you were doing $800 projects and could close them in a day, expect it to take months to close that $80K project.
If there are multiple decision makers involved, it’s going to take longer to close the sale. It seems to me that about one week per decision maker is the minimum you need to add to your closing estimation.
When that prospect says they won’t be ready for 6 months, you follow up in 6 months to see how things are going, right? If a decent prospect drops off the radar for a bit you keep emailing them every 4 weeks untill they say they’re not interested, right?
I was terrible at remembering to follow up with prospects until I started using Contactually. Now, with Contactually, I close more deals and leads that in the past, I would have simply forgotten about, now turn into paid projects.
You don’t have to use Contactually, but you need to use something reliable to help you follow up with prospects.
Most people who do remember to follow up are following up with way too many people. You don’t have 100 ‘best’ prospects — you have 10. It’s likely that at least one of those 10 is actually a marginal lead, not a ‘best’ lead.
Only put time into the 10 best leads you have in your pipeline or you’ll be guilty of the first mistake in sales, and easily fall into number 3 because you’ll be overwhelmed with time-wasting leads.
Are you actually talking to the decision maker for the business or are you talking to the person that’s vetting information to pass on? You better know that and sell appropriately.
In my initial email to qualify prospects, I ask who the decision makers are and won’t get on the phone unless I get to talk to all of them on the phone.
Missing the decision makers means you’re selling to the wrong person and likely missing much of what the real decision maker cares about.
Have you heard that when doing sales you should ABC?
Always Be Closing
This is a maxim that many sales people have lived by for their entire careers. Every time you interact with a client try to close them.
First time you meet them, ABC.
Second call after a demo, ABC.
Their dog died, ABC.
If you’re doing one-time sales where you never want to hear from the customer again, then go ahead and use ABC. If you aren’t concerned with building a relationship or securing long-term revenue, then ruin away.
The problem with this old school sales mindset is that it really doesn’t factor in proper fit at all. The ABC method would have vacuum cleaner salesmen selling vacuums to people with dirt floors and hairbrushes to bald men. They wouldn’t worry about the sale being logical; just make the sale and let the customer worry about how stupid the purchase was.
ABC sales people often feel less then genuine. Actually, they feel down right slimy.
Years ago I was looking at purchasing a truck from a local Ford dealership. One of the salesman — a 50- to 60-year-old man — talked to me about trucks and started to try and close the sale.
I know enough about car sales to know that a person is way more likely to purchase if they stay on the lot. When someone leaves the lot they are much less likely to make that purchase.
I knew all this then, which was part of the reason I don’t make a purchase of this size without at least 48 hours to think about it.
Unfortunately for this ABC salesman, as I said thanks and started to leave, saying I’d have to talk with my wife about the purchase first, he said:
What — your wife? I wouldn’t have to talk to my wife about it. Just come in and sign the papers, she won’t care.
I immediately asked to talk to the manager or owner and told the owner I’d never be coming back after his salesman made a comment like that. The ABC tactics of that single salesman means I have never gone back to that dealer, even when they’ve had the exact vehicle I wanted, in the proper colour, for a good price. Why would I go to a place that implies a ‘man’ wouldn’t talk to his wife before a purchase?
I went with a different colour from a different dealer rather than go to a place that would pull those ABC tactics just to make a sale.
The goals of your interactions with clients is not to ABC, but to determine that you have the right fit for them. You should be spending your time researching their needs and making sure that you can fill the holes they have.
Make sure that you’re the best fit for their organization and the problems that they have.
Despite ABC being totally outdated, you still need to close a sale. If you never ask for that final commitment to the purchase then you’re never going to pay your bills.
I follow a standard process for my sales which looks like:
Once there is a project plan the client agrees to, it’s time to ask for the sale. Everything before that (and even the Project Plan) is about making sure you understand the project and the prospect is a good fit for your services.
Only once you’ve got through all the other steps do you ask for the sale.
I work from about 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, and only do client work Monday through Thursday. I spend Friday putting up blog posts and writing code for personal projects.
Sometimes the weather calls and I spend Friday afternoon on a mountain, or at the beach, or riding my bicycle.
I can live a life like that because I run my own business. I get to make the rules for my work.
While running your own business does provide some freedom and flexibility, running your own business won’t make you happy.
There are lots of people out there who figure when they get married they’ll be complete. They create an image in their mind of a magical wedding day, with birds chirping merrily, and forest animals helping them get dressed. It’s as if true love suddenly makes them a hero to someone and gives their life value and meaning.
That’s a fairy tale. If you’re not happy with your life before you get married, you won’t be happy after.
If you’re not comfortable in your own skin before you get married, you won’t magically become comfortable in your own skin after saying “I do”.
Oh sure, getting married may enrich your life if you’re already happy. But it also may only mask problems for a while (maybe even decades). At some point you’ll have to deal with your problems again. Only this time you’ll have another person along for the train wreck.
When I was getting my counseling degree and studying about counseling married people we often talked about how you needed to be the person you wanted to be before you got married. Or at least comfortable that you were on that right path first. Marriage, while a positive thing, does add a lot of extra considerations into the mix.
There are months/years where it feels way harder to stay in that relationship than it does to get out.
Running a business is much like maintaining a marriage. You need to be comfortable with who you are before you go into business. You need to like your life (or at least be happy with it and know you’re moving forward to where you want to be).
The act of launching a business — even with the freedom and flexibility — won’t suddenly make you happy. You won’t find birds chirping merrily outside your office window, leading you through a dance in the park on your lunch break.
You won’t suddenly become some knight in shining armour, ready to vanquish all your clients’ troubles.
You’re going to be the same person you are today, only with a bunch of extra responsibilities. No longer can you just design or code, but you’ll need to learn project management, marketing, bookkeeping and sales.
You are likely to have less time to do that one thing you really love (code/design/write) since you’ll be spending much of your time figuring out how to get more work doing what you love.
Don’t think of running a business as a magic happy switch you get to throw. If you’re not happy now, launching a business will only mask the symptoms for a while and you’ll have to deal with the fallout later.
I got this book because the movie looked interesting and I generally like to read the book before I see a movie.
That said, I hope the movie is better than the book. Now the book wasn’t terrible; it’s just that the main character (Greg Gaines) is pretty whiny and self-deprecating, which I find annoying.
The book is about a boy who really doesn’t have any friends and really doesn’t have any purpose. His mom makes him hang out with a girl who has cancer, and through that he eventually finds a purpose.
After she dies.
All through the middle we sit through Greg’s whiny musings on how life works. He goes on about everything from girls to school to…friends. Not that he has any friends — even Earl isn’t really a friend since Greg never actually shares anything real with Earl. They just make films together.
My hope for the movie is that Greg doesn’t spend 60% of his time talking, telling us how much he sucks. If he does (like he does in the book) then it’s going to be a boring movie.
I’m not sure if you should read this or not and I really haven’t been able to think of a way to help you decide. You’re just on your own.
What does it take to get a product right? Not only when you’re the sole developer/designer/mind behind it, but when you’ve been hired to manage it, or you need to hire someone to manage the product because it’s too great a task for one person alone.
What if you have many products and need to have them all run well?
That’s where a product manager comes into play, and this book is all about what it takes to be a good product manager.
It starts by walking us through the personality traits and demeanour that a good product manager should possess. Of course not everyone is well suited to the position (just as not anyone can be everything) so this start is a great way to help you establish what it’s going to take to find a good product manager.
The second section is all about what it takes to build a good product plan, from wireframes to when you get developers involved (hint: the same time as the designers and UX people), to how you build a roadmap and balance all the competing voices as you decide on feature priority.
The third section walks you through how to execute that roadmap by being productive. One of my favourite parts here is the stance on meetings which, according to the author, should not just be to update someone down the chain. Updates are what Wiki’s, blogs, or project management systems are for.
The book finishes off with a roadmap of what you should be doing for the first 90 days as you start a product management position. It breaks this up in to 3 blocks of 30 days each, and gives you the tools to hit the ground running as you start that new position.
In short, this is a great book for anyone working on a product even if you’re not the product manager. At least after reading it, you’ll know how things should be running.
I grabbed this one on my way down to Mexico. It’s in the same genre (Teen/YA) as Me and Earl and the Dying Girl but this one I really enjoyed. Here’s a quick synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly:
Weeks before graduating from their Orlando-area high school, Quentin Jacobsen’s childhood best friend, Margo, reappears in his life, specifically at his window, commanding him to take her on an all-night, score-settling spree.
I found Margo’s clues in the story to be intriguing and fun. It would have been very interesting to have a person like that around during my high school years instead of the normal crop of generic stereotypes that most of us actually experience.
But at that, the book really came down to (at least for me) learning to see people for who they really are. Margo wasn’t quite the outlandish person that everyone thought. At her core she was much less sure of herself, much as we all are.
Overall the characters had enough depth to be believable and it didn’t feel like a chore to watch them fumble with the clues Margo left. The end was both climactic and not, which was just right. I’ll leave you to read and figure out how it was both.
Song of Susannah is Book 6 of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Out of the whole series, this is my least favourite book. It feels like little really gets resolved. We start with Susannah being apart from everyone and that’s about where we end, though we lose a character that has just made an appliance.
It also feels self indulgent as we see the author become a major part of what holds the world together. He’s a beam, it would seem, and now needs to be protected.
The story has its interesting parts as well, as we see some shootouts and get to find out what ‘low men’ actually are. We learn more about the difference between some doors between worlds and get a glimpse at how the rose is saved.
If this was the introduction to the series I don’t think I would end up reading the series. Sitting here a few books from the end it’s decent enough to keep me reading the rest, and I know the end books are great reads.
This is the final book in the series (though there are a few short stories that explore more of Roland’s past). It’s a bit bitter as we see Roland get to the tower. He ends up without any of his long-term traveling companions, and while death travels with Roland almost everywhere, it may not find everyone that’s around him.
After such a long series this last installment feels ‘short’. It’s not really any shorter than previous books but the fondness you develop for the characters makes it hard to say goodbye, leaving you wanting to hear more and more about them.
It’s this personal wishing that makes me desire the quest for the Dark Tower to never end so I can keep reading about the issues that befall Roland.
As I’ve said after every review, it’s a great series I think you should read. This is at least my third time going through the whole thing.
That’s it for my July reading list. Let me know if you’ve read anything good this summer, and stay tuned for my August list in a few weeks.