Even if the client is annoyed by your question or your pricing the whole point to your client on-boarding process is to weed out the clients you simply don’t want to work with.
Remember that even if they’re rude.
See behind the mindset that helped make me a 6-Figure consultant with my manifesto
Even if the client is annoyed by your question or your pricing the whole point to your client on-boarding process is to weed out the clients you simply don’t want to work with.
Remember that even if they’re rude.
When I started my freelance business it was all daisies and roses. In those early days, each client who called me and said they had work and wanted me to hold a spot would, of course, come through.
I’m sure you can see where this is going…
The truth is, most of those leads didn’t come through, especially in the early days when my clients were lower quality with lower budgets.
One client in particular paid me a $2,000 deposit on a project. At the time, this $4000 total project was the biggest project I had done.
I was ecstatic that I’d be rolling in so much money.
Then the shoe dropped — the client decided they didn’t want to go through with the project and requested a full refund.
After I had turned away other work because this project was on my schedule.
Of course we had discussed the fact that deposits were not refundable, but was that detail in my contract?
Have you been on a roller coaster before? How about a really steep one? That’s really fast?
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach as you reach the bottom of the fall and begin leveling out — or loops?
That feeling is fun on a roller coaster, but not in business.
Do you know that watching some roller coasters makes me feel physically sick? Yes, the thought of that feeling in my stomach makes me feel sick. I don’t consider roller coasters fun.
That may sound totally ridiculous to you if you know I’ve paddled a whitewater kayak over 40-foot waterfalls, or that it’s common for me to travel 80km/hour down a mountain on a road bike.
That not fun feeling is the way I felt when the shoe dropped on my early project. Simply sick to my stomach, like I get looking at some roller coasters.
If there is one thing to take away today it’s that you don’t hold work time without a deposit.
Make sure your contract specifies that, and be clear on your refund policy. If the client requests a refund because they decided not to go forward after paying the deposit, then the client has a problem because deposits are non-refundable and you’ve already turned away work that could have filled the same space.
This may sound harsh, but it’s the smart way to do business. Operating with a clear-cut policy will make you a smarter business owner, and hopefully make your clients smarter as well.
Stick to your guns and get off the roller coaster that could make you sick.
Late in 2014 I was asked to do some technical coaching for a member of the WordPress community. It amounted to much of what I get paid to do for clients already.
I’ve got to admit that I was very interested in the work. I had a phone chat and exchanged a few emails about it with the potential client.
When we finally got down to the logistics of how the coaching would work, I let emails sit.
Two weeks went by then I apologized and got things back on track.
Then another email sat for 7 days, for no real reason. Sure, I was busy but I got back to lots of other emails in the same time frame with no issues.
Inaction speaks louder than words – Mike Vardy, Productivityist
What I eventually acknowledged was that while I was interested in coaching, I wasn’t as interested in technical coaching.
I want to coach business owners and help them run better businesses.
I used to beat myself up over prospect emails I didn’t get back to right away. I’d try out some new CRM tool or productivity method because it would ‘fix my email reply problem’.
None of them worked at all.
I still let some prospects sit for a week or more without reply.
What I realized was that these clients really didn’t fit my picture of the ideal client. I wasn’t truly interested in the work; I was only interested in the money the work would bring. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that money alone is a poor motivator.
So I let myself off the hook. Now, if a prospect email sits for more than 48 hours without major outside circumstances (like children in the hospital), I just politely decline the project.
I turn the work down.
Let’s take this idea one step further and apply it to the wealth of awesome ideas you have for side projects.
Is there a great idea on your ‘do now’ list that you just can’t seem to get to? If so, then ask yourself if you really want to do this great new thing — or does it just seem like a good idea for some other reason?
I’m not talking about ideas you spent 20 minutes brainstorming and filed away for later. I’m talking about projects you’ve started but dropped, and now never seem to find time to pick back up.
Like the CRM/PM tool I started and haven’t looked at for months.
For a while I felt guilty ignoring this project, then I realized that while it was interesting, it wasn’t something I was really passionate about, nor was it the place I can add the most value to the community around me.
Now it’s time to be honest with yourself. Look at your To Do list and delete the things you’re never really going to do and you would never pay someone to do.
Figure out where you provide the most value and focus there.
Removing those things from your list will remove a huge weight from your life. You’ll get to walk around feeling free again. And you’ll dedicate proper energy to those tasks you do keep around, instead of expending huge amounts of mental energy feeling bad about things that you shouldn’t be doing anyway.
I recently listened to a great podcast episode by Michael Hyatt on the subject of how you speak about your spouse.
To summarize, the way you speak about your spouse in public shows a lot about your character. If you speak poorly about your spouse, you most likely have, or will have, a poor relationship.
The language we use is important. Not just that we speak in the proper manner, but the words we use to express ourselves shows how we truly feel about the people and circumstances that surround us.
Look at sites like Clients From Hell. I’m not sure I’d want to work with any of the freelancers who post there. While some are funny, chances are that if you ever see a business owner link to the site, those owners are referencing the ridiculous posts — published about clients they’ve done business with.
Just what I wanted — a freelancer thinking I’m going to be an idiot before we’ve even worked together.
My local bike shop used to have an employee. He was a great mechanic, and seemed to be the only one who could get my rear gears to shift properly.
I really don’t love having anyone else work on my bike since I usually have to bring it home and do a bit of touch-up work.
So while I appreciated the work this guy did on my bike, the bad thing was that he would complain loudly about other customers.
You know XXXXX always comes in here and talks about stuff then last week he bought a bike on Craigslist. What a fat idiot buying a bike. He just needs to lose some weight not spend $4K on some carbon.
Yup, that’s what he’d say about paying customers. Most of these customers he complained about were people I knew, and rode with regularly.
I began to wonder what the guy said about me when I wasn’t around. I’ve been talking about a new bike for a few years, but between replacing all my appliances, and having kids, and trying to get the house ready for sale, the bike just hasn’t been a high enough priority.
What are the chances this guy tells other customers how much of his time I waste talking about a bike I’m not going to buy?
Are the customers really that bad and he just complains about them, or does his complaining create bad client relationships?
We’ve all seen Clients from Hell and many of the things are hilarious. I’ve even had a few of the silly scenarios happen to me.
It’s easy to complain about challenging clients with your peers, but what does it say about you and your business?
Does that mean you complain about the other freelancers when they can’t hear you?
Do you complain about all your clients at some point?
You’ve got ideas, right? You’ve got big plans for that big thing you’d like to create or launch, and you’ve already stopped lying to yourself about your time. So what’s holding you back now? What’s the reason you haven’t yet followed through on that big idea?
Maybe this new idea requires capital and you don’t have the money yet to get it going.
But maybe it’s time for you to act. I understand the concept of too many ideas, too little time. I’ve got 2 kids and a house to take care of, and we’re working to get our house ready for sale. I know what it’s like to consider your big win for the day to be that the kitchen doesn’t look like it exploded by the time you go to bed.
Maybe if you had more money….maybe if you had a new car that didn’t require so much maintenance…..maybe when the kids are older. The truth is, we’ve all got maybes.
I was talking to a freelancer last week who wants to put out as much content as I do, because they have some awesome stuff to share.
I think they even have more time than me with no kids at all, but this person still hasn’t gotten down to the job of writing on a regular basis.
They say it’s important, so what is the holdup?
Here’s the thing: It’s easy to be successful in your dreams.
In October 2014 I launched a course to help people have an awesome 2015 with their business — and no one bought it.
I got some nice emails from people saying how sorry they were that they couldn’t purchase the course right then, and yes, I know what it’s like for every appliance in your house to break, right when Christmas is looming, and you have nothing to spend on anything (my 2013).
People who saw the course material loved it and felt that the guide alone helped them improve their pricing.
But no one bought the course, so I suppose you could say it ‘failed’ and you all got to witness it. After that I had 2 real choices.
Of course I’m picking Option 2 and already working on another course/product for 2015 (jump on my email list to find out about it early).
Last year, back when I had nothing more than a great idea in my head and a healthy dose of positive feedback, I could have stopped there, kept the content to myself and lived with a successful course in my head. I would never have had to face the failure of a launch.
I wouldn’t have had to risk anything.
The best thing about other people allowing success to occur only in their imaginations but not testing their ideas in the market is that I am testing my ideas, therefore they aren’t competing with me.
Is that you?
You’re not working on content for your business site to attract customers.
You’re not writing consistently, giving business advice.
You’re not really doing much more than talking and ‘winning’ in your head.
You keep talking, I’ll keep trying, and in a few years we’ll see who has gone further.
But really, I’d rather learn from you. So I not only encourage, but I challenge you to hit publish and risk something. You’re going to go further and I’ll get to ride along with you as you share.
When faced with negative feedback from a client or a friend how do you deal with it? Do you get defensive or do you dig in and see where the truth is?
Do you create a plan to get better?
I was able to spend time with a few good books this past December, so in this post I’m sharing some of my favorite recent reads. Perhaps you’ll be moved to add a few of these to your reading list for 2015.
Get Kesrith on Amazon
Kesrith is the first book in C. J. Cherryh’s trilogy about 3 species figuring out how to work together.
The three species are: 1) the Regul, who are short, squat and not very mobile; 2) Humans (you know what we look like); and 3) the Mri, who are a bit taller and more slender than Humans.
In this story, the Regul employ Mri as mercenaries against Humans since Regul don’t fight. As the humans are about to land on Kesrith the Regul try to kill off all the Mri to please the humans that they are now in a treaty with. A treaty which violates the treaty with the Mri and Regul because the Regul are supposed to keep a planet where only Regul and Mri touch foot.
Just to keep things interesting, of course 2 Mri survive, along with a single Human who was captured before the genocide. This thrusting the three of them into a tough circumstance where they each come away changed.
In the end, the Mri are captured by Humans…and we don’t really know what’s going to happen to them next.
This is a great and fast read by Paul Jarvis with 18 (plus a bonus 19th) tips on being a creative.
Some people may not consider themselves creatives. If that’s you, take a look at this excerpt from Paul’s introduction and reconsider whether you may actually be a creative.
You’re a creative if you: Make anything, anything at all. Transform your ideas into something tangible. Curate or edit. Lead or teach. Put what you know out into the world for others to watch, taste, read or hear. It’s a wide net right? – The Good Creative
I agree and do indeed believe developers like me are creatives.
So while this book is firmly targeted to more conventional artists, the book includes a healthy dose of awesome advice for anyone running a business, or working as a developer, or…living on Earth.
So that’s everyone.
I’d recommend this book as a very quotable short book with lots of great philosophical takeaways for your business.
Everything I Know most closely resembles the content of The Good Creative, and to me seems like the real first stab that Paul took at the content.
It’s not a bad read really, just very similar to his previous work, and less coherent. This book does still contain some great takeaways and awesome quotes, though, so you might find some value in it.
My favourite quote is:
Everyone I know who’s good at what they do isn’t good because they have magic fairy dust or shoot unicorns out their ass.
Do I recommend this book? Sort of. I’d recommend you read The Good Creative first, and if you want a bit more of the same content and enjoy Paul’s writing style, then rest assured you’ll enjoy this as well.
Just don’t expect it to offer a lot of new material or concepts, or cover a bunch of additional ground.
I listened to the audio version of this book via Audible, and my first editorial comment about this book is that the narrator could use some lessons on making content exciting.
Overall I found the message of the book interesting enough that I will be purchasing the Kindle version so I can dig deeper into the material and take notes/highlight.
One part of the book I really enjoyed was the author’s examination of how we love to hate monopoly businesses, and how we can go about creating them. Or at least how we can have our best shot at creating one.
Get Good to Great on Amazon
Good to Great was my second Audible book of the month, and the best book I read in December.
I give away a copy of the best book I read every month via my email list, so subscribe if you want a chance to win a copy.
Good to Great is all about how mediocre (“good”), or even terrible companies, turned themselves around and transformed into companies with lasting success (15 years or more).
This book is full of great takeaways for entrepreneurs of any level.
I wrote a longer review of the book if you want to dig deeper, but I think it’s absolutely worth your time.
Get 48 Days to the Work You Love on Amazon
Looking for a new job, or need a resume? This book contains practical direction for navigating today’s job market, but is about much more than job searching.
More than just a reference on how to get a job, this book walks you through some great exercises on finding your own purpose. Should you be working for someone else, or would self-employment be a better fit for you? Maybe you need to change fields because you’d be happier in a different field, based on your gifts and the way you’re wired.
My only caveat is that the author is a Christian, so the book does contain scripture references, and references to the belief that Christians are called to use their gifts. If you would potentially find the Christian references a turn-off, then this may not be the book for you. But it is not implicitly a Christian book, and does contain a lot of useful, practical advice.
I’m not aware of a better book for a job hunt.
Get Shon’jir on Amazon
Shon’jir is the second book in C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy (Kesrith the first).
This book follows our Mri captives out of captivity, traveling on a ship with the only Human they feel they can trust. The Human has turned the ship over to the Mri (because Mri die as captives as a matter of choice), and makes the decision to become a Mri.
The ship passes over 120 dead worlds on the journey to the original Mri homeworld, which is something of a concern to the Humans and Regul who are following the same star charts to see where the Mri are headed.
To me, the most intriguing part of this story was watching the Mri bend just a bit to accommodate a Human, but the Human bend to the point of breaking to become a Mri. The struggle is full of food for thought.
Written by Mike Vardy of Productivityist, The Front Nine is a guide on getting projects out the door and starting a ‘new year’ any time you want.
I’ve written a longer review already, so here, I’ll just say that Vardy made a lot of great points in this book, but the book seemed a little heavy on the golf analogy for business. I sometimes felt like the content was more about the golf than helping me be better at business.
Those are my reads for December 2014. I hope you found something that interests you. If you read a great book in December, feel free to share it in the comments.
This is the second book by Jim Collins, Built to Last being the first. In Built to Last, Jim wrote about entrepreneurs who started businesses and managed to build big, profitable organizations from nothing.
Yet, Jim learned that while the stories in Built to Last were interesting, some people who read his book didn’t really want to hear about companies that grew into being great after being born. These readers really wanted to hear about companies that had been good but were able to break through and become great.
That question spawned Good to Great which looks at how average, or below average, companies turned themselves around to become something that grew many times faster than the stock market.
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Collins and his research team established very specific criteria for defining greatness. For example, a company needed to show 15+ years of turnaround after 15 years of mediocrity. The purpose of this time frame was to account for any temporary effect that one charismatic CEO could have on an organization.
Out of their sample size of 500 companies (SMP 500) they got only a few companies that met their criteria and Good to Great is about a scientific study (as scientific as management studies can be) of the commonalities in those organizations.
There are a few big takeaways that I’d like to highlight.
During the course of their study, Jim and his team developed the concept of what they termed a Level 5 leader, and the big thing that stuck out to me was how a Level 5 leader deals with problems — and successes — in their organization.
When confronted with a failure, a Level 5 leader quickly owned up to it and took responsibility for it. They reviewed any and all decisions that led to the failure and determined how to make sure the mistake was never repeated.
This wasn’t a blame and shame session; it was simply an objective analysis of the decision.
Now when it came to success, these leaders were quick to attribute those to external factors like their team, or luck, as the reason for their success.
Level 5 leaders were humble when it came to success and felt that 90% of the time it was the smart people around them that really deserved the credit.
Piggy backing off that concept was the fact that the first thing great CEO’s did was get the right people on the bus. They didn’t decide where the bus was going (as in what the strategy for the business was) but they surrounded themselves with smart people who were the right fit for their organization.
Only once they had the right people, with a solid work ethic, did they pick a direction. Then the whole team buckled down and kept pushing in one way until they broke through and became an ‘overnight success’. Typically that overnight success was 5 to 10 years in the making.
That’s 5 to 10 years of sticking with their Hedgehog.
Okay, now I just told you about the Hedgehog concept, which is another major takeaway.
During their study, Jim and his team developed what they call the Hedgehog Concept. (I urge you to read the book for the full story.) Leaders of good companies were much like foxes — cunning and wily, but lacking in clarity and focus. The great leaders, on the other hand, were more like hedgehogs — focused, and able to take a complex world and simplify it.
The Hedgehog concept has 3 key pieces:
Build your business around those 3 things, remain focused on them, pushing and pushing, and you’ll achieve breakthrough.
Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend this book for any entrepreneur. It’s entirely worth your time to read through it. I’m getting a physical copy to read (I listened to it on Audible the first time) so I can work through the material in more depth.
Back when I wrote about my initial prospect email I shared with you that one of the questions I required the prospect to answer went something like this.
How are we going to measure the success of the project?
You might think that is an obvious question to ask but most of the people I talk to selling web design/development services aren’t asking it.
Furthermore, even if they are asking it they often don’t loop back to answer the question at the end of the project.
I was listening to The Soul of Enterprise this week and it was all about Best Buy corporate and how they’ve moved from tracking hours to tracking results.
When I say they moved away from tracking hours, I don’t just mean flex time, where a boss has the freedom to give an employee permission to leave early (rather than adhering to a strict policy dictated from higher up the chain), but truly no tracking at all of when employees are working, but rather just measuring that the job gets done and yielded good results.
The interesting thing they found as they transitioned to a results only approach is that most people and managers actually had no idea what the expected results were, let alone how to measure them.
That’s where most web professionals sit — they have no idea how to measure the results they provide. Many don’t even really know where to start.
Sure they can talk about brand awareness or looking professional, but how do those things translate into dollars for a client?
Really, most of us aren’t working with companies who purchase Super Bowl ads, so pushing ‘brand awareness’ is often of little real value to a client.
Value, to them, is in more comments, more engagement, more email addresses, more sales…
I’d say that more traffic to their site isn’t even on the list since traffic doesn’t equal attention. Would they like 10K people that don’t do anything or 500 that pay deep attention to them?
We all know that 500 is what they’d want.
Are you scared to ask the question about what success at the end of a project looks like? If so, is it because you don’t know how to measure it? If that’s the case, I urge you to learn how to answer it because when you do, you’ll be more credible in the eyes of your clients and earn more of their trust.
The second big issue, once you’ve established how to measure the success of your projects, is what if you didn’t hit it?
What if instead of 10x more leads you actually ended up with 10% fewer leads?
What if comments or sales dropped off?
In that case, you might have to face the possibility that you don’t know what you think you know. Or at least not related to that one specific project.
Now it’s important to recognize that outcomes can’t be guaranteed. So sometimes all you can offer a client (in terms of a guarantee) is that when you’ve done similar work for other clients they saw XX type of result and we’d expect similar results for you.
When you’re walking along in horse country you can be sure that you’re going to see a lot of horses. Every once in a while, though — depending on where you’re walking — you might see a zebra. You may get a client that is that zebra. The work produces exact opposite results from what you expected, for some reason.
So what do you do if the results weren’t what the client expected? Well it’s time to find the problem and fix it.
But why would the client give you a chance to come back and fix the problem? Well you’re probably the only web firm that’s ever come back to them to make sure that the goals were accomplished.
If you just take a random guess about results or expected outcomes in any situation, your chances of being wrong are pretty high. That’s why we have the scientific process.
You begin with a hypothesis and then test it to see if your hypothesis is correct.
That’s the same thing we should be doing with our web projects. Decide up front what the expected results are (which really should be how you sell on value) and how you’re going to measure that with the client.
Then actually do it and look at the numbers.
Once you get over your fear, analyzing the real numbers will only make you better at your job since, if something didn’t work, you’re going to figure out why it didn’t work and fix it.
Then the next time you’re working for a similar client, you’ve already solved the previous issues and are unlikely to make the same mistake again.
Making that mistake a second time for a new client is bordering on negligence.
So for your next project, establish the criteria for success.
During the project, frame all discussions around that criteria. Does this extra thing help/hinder our success criteria?
Then when you’re done, go back and check to make sure you achieved the expected results.
Your clients will thank you for it and you’ll be more awesome as you keep learning how to be better at your craft.
This is my final post on the subject of the tools I use, and this one will be a bit of a grab bag. I’ve either written about these at length fairly recently or they just didn’t warrant a big long post because they were fairly straightforward. So today I’ll hit the highlights so you can see everything in one place.
If you missed the rest of the posts in this series (and any future items I add to the series) take a look at the sidebar to see all the posts in the series.
I’ve mentioned in a few of my recent tool reviews that Evernote is the place where I store all my client files. I don’t even keep them on a hard drive anymore in files and folders unless a client shares a Dropbox folder with me.
I just put them in Evernote.
One piece I do need to add is a proper Evernote backup. The whole Evernote database is backed up daily with my SuperDuper clone at the office, on weekends at the house, and in BackBlaze.
These backup systems would restore my entire Evernote database if I lost the whole thing, but it wouldn’t restore a random note I deleted by accident. Evernote Premium and Business customers do have a fairly robust trash to dig notes out of, but I’d still like a backup plan that I had more control over, not requiring me to rely on Evernote. What if Evernote central has an issue and I lose data?
To that end I’m looking at services like cloudHQ to sync my notes into my Dropbox account.
If you’ve got a good Evernote backup solution, please comment and let me know what it is.
I wrote a fairly long review of Evernote recently if you want to dive deeper.
Dealing with a web application and wish it was more like a native application? Here is where I use Fluid.
Fluid is a custom web browser for your application. It allows you to take your favorite (most used) web apps and effectively turn them into desktop apps.
Setting up a site in Fluid is very simple. Open Fluid, plug in the web address you want to become the application. Name the application and choose the icon you want it to have.
With that done, click ‘Create’ and Fluid will create a brand new Mac application and put it in your applications folder.
I used this with Redbooth, FreeAgent, Bitbucket, Trello, and now 17hats. Fluid is a pretty simple tool that simply allows me to launch the ‘application’ from the keyboard instead of launching a browser and then flipping through tabs to find the one I want.
I’ve always found using ⌘-TAB easier to remember than flipping tabs. Having the sites open in other tabs means I accidently ⌘-TAB to trying at get to the one I want, then realize my error and go back to the browser to find the tab I wanted.
One of the biggest ways you can waste time is booking appointments. A typical scenario is that you email someone various times you’re available, but when none of them work, more back-and-forth is required to settle on a time that works for both of you.
A more efficient approach is to use Calendly (or some other service) and let your clients book their own time. I simply set up the times I’m available and when a client wants to book a meeting I send them the link to my calendar and they can book it.
I can even add required form fields so they can only book the time if they provide me with their Skype information or a good phone number, so I don’t have to chase it down later.
I store contacts in 2 different places. The first is iCloud, which syncs the contacts to all my Apple devices.
For a long time, my biggest problem with that was I used the Google Apps web interface for email, which meant my iCloud contacts wouldn’t show up in my Google Apps address book unless I added them to the Google address book and the Contacts on my Mac.
I’ve tried a bunch of web-based solutions or Mac applications that claim to sync your iCloud and Gmail contacts but none of them ever really worked — until I found Contacts Sync for Google Gmail (boy what a mouthful of a name).
To use this, simply download it from the Mac App Store and give it your Google account password. Now it’s going to run a little app in your menu bar, and a few times a day it’s going to sync your two address books.
The second contact-related tool I use is Contacts Cleaner. This little app scans your contacts and finds duplicates, bad phone numbers and many other things.
Before you use it make sure that you export your contacts and save the export somewhere just in case you remove contacts you actually need later.
I run this monthly to clean up any things that have crept in. My biggest issue is how it looks at Skype contacts. I always make them a ‘custom’ phone number but Contacts Cleaner doesn’t see an actual number there so it flags the information.
You’ll note a bunch of things that I haven’t covered in my tools series, like all the development tools I use. That’s intentional for now, since this site is focused on writing about business. For that reason, I didn’t feel they fit here.
However, for any of you developers that read, here is a quick list of the development tools I use, with links so you can explore them further if you’d like.
That’s it for my tools for now.
Are there any great tools I missed? Anyone using a great CRM that I should look at?