201 FS Roadmapping with Brennan Dunn
Check out All Remote Confs!
02:41 - Brennan Dunn Introduction
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- The Freelancers' Show #96: Value-Based Pricing with Brennan Dunn
- Double Your Freelancing Rate by Brennan Dunn
- Double Your Freelancing Conference
04:00 - Roadmapping vs Estimating
05:28 - Why Brennan Started Roadmapping
09:38 - Paying for Roadmapping
16:03 - What goes into a roadmapping proposal?
19:14 - Reducing Risk
21:52 - Fixed Bids
25:32 - Common Objections
32:23 - Courting a Client
37:13 - Roadmapping for Strategic Projects
44:53 - Pricing
48:29 - Mistakes Made Along the WayPicks
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 201 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel, we have Reuven Lerner.
REUVEN: Hi everyone!
CHUCK: Jonathan Stark.
CHUCK: Philip Morgan.
PHILIP: Say, hey.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv. Got a few conferences coming up. You can check them out at allremoteconfs.com. We also have a special guest this week and that is Brennan Dunn.
BRENNAN: Hey! Thank you [inaudible].
CHUCK: You haven’t been on the show for a while. Do you want to remind people who you are?
BRENNAN: Yes. So I think the last time that I was here, I was the founder of Planscope and I also has a little blog and a few courses on freelancing consulting. But since then, I’ve actually sold Planscope so I’m officially out of the [crosstalk].
BRENNAN: Oh yeah. I sold it out a month and a half ago.
CHUCK: Apparently, I don’t follow your Twitter account as closely as I should. [Chuckles]
BRENNAN: Yeah, well it was one of those things that if you followed me and [inaudible], we both – he went down the software route, I went down the training route. We both started doing the stuff at the same time so there’s this kind of divergence. But no, I just realized I couldn’t run the SaaS while doing everything else.
About a year and a half ago, I moved everything off of the Planscope log and all these various single page domains and put it all under doubleyourfreelancing.com. So that’s my main website now; it’s a blog/podcast/[inaudible] courses and yeah, that’s what I’m working on. And a conference; I can now officially say conference [inaudible]. Yeah, [inaudible] about that. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: I thought you were going to tell me how much better my life would be if I was hanging on every word that comes out of [inaudible].
BRENNAN: No. [Chuckles] I try not to be better again. [Laughter]
CHUCK: Yeah. So what we brought you on today to talk about is roadmapping which, interestingly enough, you just sold Planscope.
CHUCK: I’m curious, just to start off the conversation, I think people have a general idea of what roadmapping is. But one question that came to mind when I was thinking about it was what is the difference between roadmapping and estimating?
BRENNAN: Okay. So the difference is roadmapping in a nutshell is a stand-alone product that you sell prior to a full-blown consulting engagement. Fixed price, generally fixed scope and it’s more or less a talk consulting gig that does have deliverable but it is – it’s not an estimate in a sense that it’s not really – it’s not like any roof estimate or something; it’s actually consultative. You’re there to learn about a raw problem and come up with the best plan of action to get a solution.
CHUCK: That makes sense. So you’re talking about roadmapping as an actual product, not as, “Oh, how do I figure out how long this is going to take?”
BRENNAN: That’s right. I mean that happens but – or it should. But no, it’s a natural product and there’s a lot of reasons why it is which I guess we’ll talk about.
CHUCK: I can now hear all the objections right, “But if I make them pay me upfront for something that this is the actual end result that they want, the nobody’s going to hire me.”
BRENNAN: Actually what happens is usually in the opposite. You’ll get more clients and you’ll get more clients at a higher rate – a higher price when then you would otherwise, typically.
CHUCK: Why is that?
BRENNAN: Okay. Mind if I give you a quick ‘why I started roadmapping in my own agency’ about five or six years ago?
BRENNAN: So I had a full-time business development person. We were getting a lot of leads and I think at that time, we were nine-ish employees or so. The problem was my business development guy was not in technical so he’s kind of like a qualifier. After we realized somebody wasn’t wanting a $500 YouTube [inaudible], go up [inaudible]. Then we do scoping and we’ve spent a good amount of time scoping out the project which just then, a lot of people – a lot of our clients were non-technical so they didn’t really – they didn’t have any experience building what we did which is custom software. So we went down with them and talked a little about the project and figure out what they need to get done. We’d listen to any kind of – usually, they’d have somebody in their head about what it should look like, how it should function and such but we would then come in and give them maybe contrary advice, then we would do the usual proposal writing thing.
Often times, what I end up doing is pulling somebody – one of my team members – off a billable project to spend a few hours building out an estimate. It was getting to the point where we were doing it so often that we were spending up [inaudible] 15-ish, 20 hours sometimes a week on time that could be build for that we weren’t getting paid for. So I’m gradually recharging for the week at that time, too. It was still time that we could’ve been making forward progress on projects.
So we ended up – I actually got the idea from Pivotal Labs down in San Francisco. The difference is they did something like this and they charged for it but it was something that happened after they’ve already closed deal on the project. So this was like – it was a mandatory on-boarding step of a new client but what we ended up doing instead was making it a stand-alone project or stand-alone product that we would sell – or a stand-alone service that we would sell to somebody before they’ve committed to the project they actually came to us from the beginning.
We did it because we were realizing we were getting a lot of clients who – they had an idea what they wanted but they didn’t really know what they wanted in. they didn’t always have the budget but they needed to do it. It was just getting [crosstalk].
CHUCK: I’ve never run into that.
BRENNAN: Yeah! I mean it never happens, right? [Laughs] No, but it was getting to a point where we don’t want to have a portfolio full of 404 links because the client had some crap idea or ended up running out of money midway through or whatever else. And a lot of the time, if we don’t have – we’re incentivized to close the deal when we’re doing an estimate so often times that might lead to a very – what’s the word I’m looking for.
BRENNAN: Optimistic. Yes, it’s a good way of putting it. [Laughs]
BRENNAN: On top of that, it would end up [crosstalk]
REUVEN: ‘Utterly falls’ would be another way to put it like that.
BRENNAN: Yeah, but I mean it’s great to give the client what they want and work as an order taker and then everything’s nice and great. Then you get to be [inaudible] on a project and everything explodes and their pissed of you. You know, it’s just a lot of stuff that could’ve been done differently in beginning which we weren’t [inaudible].
CHUCK: Lucky you, you give them exactly what they want and it’s still all your fault. [Chuckles]
BRENNAN: That’s the thing, right? I mean how many of us have done technically correct projects that were actually failures.
Yeah, so anyway, we started mandating this and first, we were like, “Ah, no one’s going to pay for this.” So we would do things like charge for it then turn it into a credit that if they hire us afterward, they can use the money they spend toward their new project. We wanted a way to just really qualify people, I guess, is a good way of putting it; really make sure that this is a sound idea that can be completed and built and so on.
So we went on that path and eventually got to the point where we didn’t offer credits anymore, became a really stand-alone product in some right. Lo and behold, we got more conversions and leads and it also allowed us really – that’s around when our pricing started to skyrocket and it’s because a lot of the resistance to pricing has to do with perceived risk. And if you can offer something lower risk upfront like one day session and that’s not a lot of money compared to the full project, it helps dissuade a lot of that risk.
CHUCK: So I guess the trick is that it seems like if people are paying just for the on-boarding or just for the roadmapping, I guess the concern is that you’re going to – some people are going to say, “Well, I’m not paying for that.” So I guess what you’re saying is that you’re going to get a higher quality set of clients out of it because the ones that do opt in for it are going to be the ones that are going to pay more and be more responsive and you can make them feel better about the project.
BRENNAN: Well, there’s also an educational component to it. I mean if you treat is as a paid estimate, you’re going to get resistance. But if you treat it as something that is – I mean every – if you go to any of these enterprise consultant firms, they all do some sort of [inaudible] with this, usually with very big price tags and probably a longer –. They’ll have – you look at a lot of these big design firms, they’ll have a discovery phase which is phase one and then they’ll get into design and then development or something like that. And all we’re doing here with roadmapping is we’re extracting up that discovery phase and front [inaudible] it as a stand-alone, independently valuable product in some right.
I mean what you’re really doing is we – the pitch, the one sentence pitch would be if you want to get – and we all know this – if you want to get to – if you’re in LA and you want to get to New York, you’re not just going to drive east. You’re going to waste a lot of fuel; you’re probably going to hit a lot of – you’re going to make mistakes. And what roadmapping does – some people think of it as like getting into waterfall development or something like that but it’s really just a way to have an idea of where you’re going, making sure that what you end up doing can actually yield a return on investment for the client.
Now I do – I present it as that. I tell the clients – my clients I don’t want to accept a project if I don’t know that I can actually make it worthwhile for them. So this is one way that we can really get on the same wavelength.
Let’s face it – we’ve all done consulting for a while, I mean all of us here. I’ve been in situations where when we’re estimating something, the client says, “Yeah, we want users to be able to join groups,” and we’re like, “Okay, yeah. That’s a join record between users and groups. [Inaudible].” Then we get into the project and they’re like, “Yeah, well we would like [inaudible] where you can have moderation cues and you have a group leader who sees this page where it’s all their request and they can individually communicate with each request and blah, blah.” They’re wanting a Lamborghini and you’ve quoted a Camaro which that can be very problematic.
So it’s really just a way to protect the client and really help them figure out if – what is the goal or what can we get toward? What is the problem here to solve? How can we consult with you to come up with the best path to get there, the shortest, most economic [inaudible] risk path of getting there? That’s the [inaudible]
REUVEN: So Brennan, you’re saying that basically, someone come to your agency and they would say, “We want to do a social network for people who love bananas.”
REUVEN: And then it was like, “We already gotten estimates for a few other agencies and we’d like you to be in on this also, to get an estimate from you.” And you’d say to them, “Listen, we can’t just give you an estimate because we don’t know. And we have this thing, we do roadmapping and then we’ll be able to not only give you a really good estimate but even if we don’t work on this, you’ll have this product that someone else can use.” [Crosstalk]
BRENNAN: It’s part of the whole [inaudible], yeah.
REUVEN: And you’re saying that basically, enough clients [inaudible] this, literally, that it was – it turned out to be a worthwhile business venture.
BRENNAN: Oh significantly. I mean this was something where when we explained why we did it – it’s like with anything. A lot of people are like, “How can you justify in charging clients weekly instead of hourly?” It’s like well, if you explain to them what the benefit for them is, it’s different. If it’s all you for instance, you’re not going to have a lot of luck. But the benefit for them is that you don’t want to put them in the position where they’re going into something blind that has a high risk of failure because, let’s face it, new projects all have a very high risk of failure typically. And what my job is is to – in terms of having this relationship with a client, my job is to protect them; that could be protecting them from the wrong scope.
So that’s what we’re here to do is we’re trying to figure out exactly what are we going to build? Why are we building it? How is this half [inaudible] – it is the best way to get to the end goal? What are the risks that we have? You know, the more you – you need to explain it as a consultant. I think a lot of people are nervous about this because we’re generally technical and we’re not comfortable talking business or a lot of us aren’t. So there’s a lot of – there’s some push back but when you explain it to a business owner, they’re typically, in my experience and based in the experience of a lot of people I’ve talked to, they’re pretty on board with it once you explain why you do it.
REUVEN: And those who push back and say basically, “What? You want me to pay for an estimate?” My impression is you would say, “Well those are probably people you don’t want to have as clients anyway or who wouldn’t go with you anyway.”
BRENNAN: I’m not charging them for me to tell them how long it’ll take. What I’m doing is I’m helping them actually design the overall project, right? I’m there to help them see exactly what needs to get done, why it needs to get done, how is this the best way to get it done. It’s more than just saying, “Okay, I’m an order taker. I’m going to tell you how long it’s going to take for you to do each thing that you request in.”
CHUCK: So let me troll you for a minute – like waterfall development. [Laughs]
BRENNAN: Yeah, to a degree but not in a sense of [inaudible] getting developed and you’ve got very specific stuff. It’s really just a way to see – we’ve all been there. We’ve all been on projects where sometimes the clients are maybe – they’re serial entrepreneurs and they’ve done this for a while and they have a little more experience than most. Often times, at least my experience, these are people that are – they have a business goal and they think – in our case, software can help them achieve that business goal but you don’t really – they think they know what it’s going to take but when we can come and we can say, “Look, before you spend a lot of money and a lot of time on a project that has – that could fail, that could not have a – that could end up being a wrong project, what we want to do is we want to help you protect yourself by making sure that there’s –.”
Some people want to do roadmapping; they do market research, they do a lot of different things. There’s no real one formula for this. It’s really just a way to really understand what’s the business goal and how confident are we of reaching it and if we’re not confident going into this, how can we be significantly more confident going out of it?
CHUCK: So you said – I don’t remember what you said – didn’t go into how long it takes, you don’t put that in there. So what do you put in there? What goes into it? Do you give technology recommendations? Do you – we’ve talked about other proposals where you put the risk in it and things like that. What are you looking at here?
BRENNAN: The formula that I use and I’ve done it is I – we kick off a meeting and we talk purely about the business pulse. So let’s talk about who – say we’re building the cat or – not the cap, the banana social network.
CHUCK: This sounds really familiar, doesn’t it, Jonathan?
JONATHAN: Banana book. [Laughs]
CHUCK: Not banana book but talking about the business goals.
JONATHAN: Yes, absolutely. [Chuckles]
BRENNAN: Yeah, so it’s wise as a business – how do you intend to actually make this a worthwhile endeavour? What’s success for you? What’s failure for you? Who are you selling to? Who’s the users and so on? So that would be kind of the opening, I guess. Then the next thing we would jump into is risk. This is where it kind of got fun. If we had a few people on our team and maybe a few on the client’s team, we would get Hershey kisses and each person gets three Hershey kisses so you get three votes.
BRENNAN: Then everyone, if you’ve done any sort of retrospective stuff, how you come up with these things and you write them on a 3x5 card. So we would – each person would write down risks that they feel going into the project. So maybe they know something about the client’s potential – the timeline they want, so maybe that’s a risk based of what you know so far about the project. Maybe the risk is they want to integrate with this weird third-party API that is untested or something like that, that could be a risk.
Everyone on both side writes down what they’re nervous about in terms of both technical and business success. Everyone then is able to vote on – you have three votes, you can vote on the risks. The purpose of the rest of the meeting is not only to prioritize developer’s scope and so on but it’s also to mitigate as much of the risk as possible because at the end of the session, you did the whole exercise all over again and see where we able to knockout any of the risks that were risks a few hours back? In my case, it’s usually a one day session where the majority of the session is doing things like [inaudible] parting so we would – who are the roles? Who uses the system? What actions are they doing then story card each one and so on.
What would end up happening after that would be – sometimes we do – maybe they need to do a little more research or talking as a team privately. But then we would produce a deliverable which would be a recap of the entire session. We would deliver the scope or the story cards rather to them. Any wire frames that we drew during the session, workflows and so on. So we get these assets in the end, but that deliverable, that report was effectively a proposal also.
So when I talk about increasing conversion rates, what ended up happening is instead of getting a proposal from us which a proposal doesn’t hold much value. It’s from somebody who is wanting the business and so on; instead, you’re getting a customized report which happens to describe what it would take financially and timeline-wise to get to the goal you’re looking to get to.
REUVEN: I also think it’s very interesting because I know you’re talking about this [inaudible] and we’ve talked about it also that reducing risk is such an important part of setting the client’s mindset. It’s not just, “Oh yeah, I can do this development,” but “I can do this and it’s going – and you don’t have to worry as much as you’d worry with someone else. We are actually going to get this done.”
It’s very clever that you explicitly called it out during the roadmapping session. You say, “Let’s talk about the risk,” and they didn’t feel not just, “Oh, these guys really want to reduce my risk. They want my business to succeed,” but you’re also practically then trying to attack the most problematic, the most bothersome issues that they have explicitly stated themselves. I’m sure you then – knowing you’re writing, you then point to them explicitly. “We will do X to mitigate risk Y.”
BRENNAN: That’s when the deliverable report itself which, again, in a way the proposal. We recycle all that. Any sort of financials that we maybe model during the session which usually – the benefit is the session is done under non-disclosure so they’re a paying client at this point. They’ve signed our NDA. They’re going to talk – they should be. They should be open to talking money because we tell them upfront that we don’t want our business unless we know there’s a clear path of financial ROI. So they’re more – especially now that they’re a client at this point. They can talk that kind of detail with us and then we use that, we leverage that in the report in our proposal.
CHUCK: One of the thing that I really like though is that you’re not just talking about the risks as far as the business’ viability but also just risk inherent in the project and if you can be explicit about those and talk about the way you solve them, you can actually give them a more appropriate and accurate estimate so it doesn’t just reduce the risk on them but it reduces the risk on you and it gives you better information to make those decisions overall.
BRENNAN: Yeah, and it might end up in you doing – let’s say they want to integrate with something strange. You might end up deciding early on; maybe it’s not worthwhile for us to even attempt that. Maybe there’s something else we can do [inaudible].
I’ve been in a roadmapping engagement before where had we not done this, had we just been order takers, we would’ve built this – it was like a weighted match, musicians with venues so if you want to play the coffee shop and you’re a guitar person or something, that’s what it would do. And out of the gate, the client wanted social features and all these different community type things. It was in that roadmapping that we were – we really got rid of it and we spent enough time; we did the due diligence on the idea and we said, “You know what, we don’t have a community yet. Let’s shelve all that for later.” We were able to trim his cost significantly and he ended up getting better than he thought getting into it.
JONATHAN: It’s pretty common for people – prospects to come to developers with a self-diagnosis or they’re like, “I like you to do this and this and this.” And if you – never mind the roadmap; if you just say, “Well, [inaudible],” because Brennan, I will not engage with someone who has not convinced me that they’re going to make money of the engagement. Then you say like, “Well – wait a second. Why do you want to do that? Why do you want to do it like this?” They already have this – they’re not an expert in software development and they’re already coming to you with like, “We want you to build this and this and this,” which is probably based on a couple of days of googling that they did.
So I pushed back like crazy on those phone calls, like those on the email, “We heard you’re an expert at this. We want you to build this thing for us.” And I’m like, “Sweet.” Here are some questions, let’s jump on a phone call and we’ll hash through it. And so I almost do like a mini – it’s not a roadmap but it’s a mini – similar kind of thing where I just – the whole time I just push back and be like, “Why do you want to do that?” Like why do you want to do that? Why do you want to do that? And then eventually you [inaudible] to and you find out what the real goals are behind these [inaudible] things that they prescribed, this medicine they prescribed for themselves. And you realize that oh, there’s probably a much easier way to do this with like an [inaudible] or press plugin or blah, blah. So Brennan, you’re touching on a million things that I think are super interesting. We can have an entire show on each one.
But for Reuven, maybe for people listening, it might help to distinguish between a roadmap and an estimate and a proposal. If I describe what I’m about to describe which is I – since I don’t do software development anymore anyway but when I did do it and I used to do this then I would get people fix bids so I was the one taking all the financial risks. So the way it would play out – and I only describe this because I think it might help explain how to sell it – the way it would play out is people would say we have this conversation, I’d ask a million times why do you want to do this. Finally, they would convince me that it was a good idea to do it. It’s been a day – half a day or a day putting together a proposal and submit them. If they said, “This sounds great but these prices are way too high,” and again these are fixed bids, this is not an estimate of how many hours it might take. This is like – it’s going to be $50,000 for this option, $85,000 for this option and $100,000 for this option.
If they’re like, “These prices are too high,” then I’d say, “Alright, well let’s do a roadmapping session. It’ll only be $5,000 to $10,000 and if we do that and we basically really drill into the reasons behind all of these things, a little bit more detail of what you’re trying to achieve, what you’re visualizing in your head and what your users actually want, then that’s going to decrease my risk and I’ll be able to do – revise the proposal and be much more specific and the prices can be a lot lower because I don’t have to add the cushion to protect myself against the risk, which perhaps makes more sense when you think of it that way.
BRENNAN: Yeah, if you’re going to be doing any sort of – if you’re going to be doing a fixed bid especially, you need to – you’re the one at risk a lot of the time so you need to be able to be confident that you’re in the same wavelength. That’s really what it is is it allows you and the client to be effectively on the same wavelength as you’re actually spending the time required to do that.
JONATHAN: It may end up getting a lower price because like if you pay me $10,000 now, it’s going to cut $50,000 off the project.
BRENNAN: Yup. Exactly, because again, you’re more confident in what you’re doing because otherwise, you need to build into that a lot of wiggle room, I assume.
PHILIP: Brennan, what are the common objections from clients when – let’s assume someone is intrigued by this idea but maybe they’re not great at selling it, what kind of objections can they prepare themselves for from clients?
BRENNAN: The big one is if somebody’s shopping around and they’re talking with a lot of – let’s say you’re a web developer and you’re talking to others like you, if you’re the only one doing this, it could be either a good thing or a bad thing but sometimes it could be potentially a bad thing because they’re like, well – and everyone else’s going with – to kind of what you’re saying for free. So what’s happening there is devaluation of exactly what you’re offering. It needs to be seen as what I – I don’t look at it as a –in my mind, it’s a requirement or should be a requirement. Step one needs to be this; step two is to do the engagement. The reason we do step one first is this and this.
We’ve all seen clients who have gone for, let’s say, the cheapest bidder then they get burned and then they come back and they have half the budget at that point and so on. So I think a lot of it is setting the right expectations and telling people like this is why – I do this because of this reason and the reasons are often times the – when you say something nice and I say something, the actual definition is often different. It’s really hard to actually be on that same wavelength and understand.
The other big thing and I think the biggest thing is when you actually spend the time to figure out what the business problem is and what the solution is where they need to get to. Where they need to get to is kind of like – it’s a milestone. It’s like the goal post. You’re able to then weigh every single feature, every single requirement against that and think – and actually discuss which should be doing is doing it this way – is doing this; it’s adding a community feature. Is that the single best way to make sure that this new business, this new venture becomes useful to people throughout the coffee shop and they want to fill it with live musicians? Is having a community the best way of doing that? No.
Emails – a lot of people just direct email each other at college and it’s fun. And it’s a way to just really flesh out exactly what should be done and why should we do it this way. Really, it’s just a way – I like to look at it as my goal here is to save you money just like what Jonathan’s just saying. My goal here is to get you to that end goal post as quickly as possible and as economically as possible because I don’t want you to build stuff in your first cut that doesn’t need to be there. I want to make sure that we can get – now that I know what needs to happen, now that I know the business case behind the project, I want to help you realize that.
I’m a consultant; I do this stuff for a living all day. You know your industry, you know your business. There’s value in having us both really flesh something out cooperatively.
PHILIP: Yeah. Let me play the devil’s advocate because I know some people are thinking this. Okay, so here’s the devil’s advocate position – I’m intrigued by roadmapping but I sell something that has this extremely long time horizon to get any kind of ROI.
Let’s say I’m a branding consultant. How does a branding consultant where maybe they don’t have a strong way to tie their work to ROI, is this a useful tool for them? If so, how do they get around that objection where they can’t just waive the ROI card as easily?
BRENNAN: Financial ROI’s usually the easiest thing to sell.
BRENNAN: Just say, “Hey, you spend ten [inaudible] and here’s how.” But yeah, I mean there’s a lot of other things; I’m just talking to somebody today who – he sells to big corporations where the people [inaudible] who were stakeholders are, let’s say, ahead of the department who’s far removed from any accounts receivable and money’s not a big thing. But for them, the goal is to understand touchy things sometimes but how do we make them look good to their boss or how do we make their department look amazing? How do we make the brand’s reputation?
Before we jump into illustrator and start knocking out a load of concepts, what are we here for? And I think it’s important – again, some designers do this. They usually make like a discovery into the initial phase but I’m just arguing that if you can move it out and move it – how to be a separate product, and how to be at a lower price, a low risk product? It actually will – what it does – here’s the big problem. The big problem is when you’re talking with a [inaudible] who has no financial, no commercial relationship with you; they’ve never got anything of value from you, there’s a big jump between zero dollars, no relationship and paying you gobs and gobs of money for a project.
All I’m arguing here is that if you have something that’s more like a business impulse spy; let’s say your average budget is $15,000, if you can offer something that’s maybe a few hundred dollars and it’s a much lower risk.
Let me give you an actual example of this. I’ve been looking into doing YouTube ads for a while now. But it’s one of those things where it’s like does it really work? Is there actually – will it actually – am I just going to waste budget? And I was talking to a guy named Jake who does – YouTube ads are his thing. And he’s actually somebody who went through my stuff and he now has $297 product that is a one hour Skype call where we’d get on the phone with him. He screen shares his Google spread sheet. He asks you about your customer lifetime value; he asked me about what are your typical conversion rates. I know this is all financial so it’s not exactly answering that question but he goes into this many talks about, “Well, here’s the average cost per YouTube ad and here’s the average – from the clients I’ve worked with, here’s some stats that they have,” and so on.
It’s just a way for me – me spending $297 or 300 bucks is nothing – I know what your spending that whereas the alternative which is what he upsold later was spending a few thousand dollars a month to manage it. So if I were to jump directly into a few thousand dollars a month to manage my YouTube ads, I don’t know if I would’ve done that. It would’ve been too risky. And by having this thing that was a no-brainer for me, just to in a way feel the waters as [inaudible] you got to work with, does he do a good job of understanding my business and so on? It made me more – what could actually take that next step to the full-blown engagement.
PHILIP: I love that term you threw out there – business impulse spy. [Chuckles]
JONATHAN: Me too. I was thinking of the same thing.
PHILIP: I think a lot of freelancers, 300 bucks is like a big deal. But like you said for a successful business, that literally is like – it’s the same thing as buying coffee.
BRENNAN: Right. That’s what – look at – just as consultants and [inaudible] and even Nick does this. [Inaudible] we used to have a $700 website tear down or landing page or sales copied tear down. She would just look at what you have, access it, point out all – what it was is it was a way for you to see – actually, what can you expect if she’s working on your project? What are her thoughts about what you’re doing and so on in a way that you can squeeze it in your company [inaudible] without going through a contract process.
PHILIP: Yeah, that’s huge.
BRENNAN: That’s what I meant by – the people who are doing this – actually, I ran a survey in my list where I asked them on average, how much time do you spend courting a client or a lead? Then what’s your typical conversion rate? The response I got back was on average, people spend about three to four hours in what I would call a meet and greet,0 the meetings along with the proposal writing process so everything before that. On top of that, they’re closing on average about 25% of leads. So I mean that’s – people are spending 12 hours of some time into getting more clients which to me kind of sucks. That’s a lot of time that you’re spending to do that. Especially if what you’re doing in that sales is kind of consultative.
It also sets a bad tone because if you’re doing all these free meeting where you’re talking about your project and you’re talking about your business. You see there’s a part of – like a cost of doing business. When they sign the contract and you’re now working for them then you dare start charging them for meetings – another benefit of having either weekly or fixed billing is you get to avoid this. But let’s say you’re billing hourly and you have a meeting as a line item, they’re used to getting your consultation time for free. So it’s one way to stop that early on and like what I was saying, to me, it’s such a low risk thing for a potential business if you do it right.
A lot of my budgets for my agency were a quarter million to half a million dollars so we would charge five grand which is nothing compared to what they would be spending. But I’ve seen people do everything from – lowest I’ve seen is $200 for about an hour which is still usually more than the hourly rate of the people who are doing this – we talked about that, right? But you’re able to then spend some time and actually do what often happens before in a way where – the [inaudible] actually takes a lot more seriously when they’re getting to [inaudible]. The value – I think I mentioned it earlier – the value of a proposal, the value of that time beforehand is relatively low but when you paid for that deliverable, that is, your proposal, you don’t treat it like you would a proposal.
I feel like it’s almost a little bit difficult to talk about this without talking about Philip’s stuff, with positioning yourself as an authority on a particular thing and the concept of this thing. I’m always hammering on which is ridding the world of [inaudible] and stepping up and saying, “Look, this is how much it costs for this outcome.” I can imagine the screams and the wailing cry of the audience listening.
BRENNAN: I think the holy trinities have all three. [Crosstalk]
PHILIP: Yeah, I mean you almost have to talk about the three, right?
BRENNAN: Right, but I mean as a counterpoint, I have some people who are generalists [inaudible] off and I have some people who do build for their time to pull this off. It’s not – and I don’t even mean pulling it off like [inaudible] by; they are very successful.
For instance, one of my – people I partnered with on this, roadmapping that I did recently at a course, he runs a development agency where they build by the week. He’s done a million and a half last year alone in just roadmapping. But he does – his is different. What he does is he charges 15,000 to 30,000 and he’s helping people who are kind of either bootstrap or friends and family and they want to raise money and they want to build out of prototype. They want to have a clear plan of action. He helped with the pitch deck, the market research and everything so it’s kind of like their product in a way is to help them be more successful in raising institutional money. Then obviously, when they do raise money, they come back and hire a team, too.
So they actually have to acquire and agency in your [inaudible] just to handle all the influx the support is getting.
JONATHAN: Yeah, I feel like in a way, since I don’t do development anymore, I feel like everything I do is roadmapping. It’s the same kind of thing where I – but it’s an on and on-going basis like I’m constantly roadmapping for my clients.
BRENNAN: Yeah, but I mean –.
JONATHAN: Here’s what we want to do with this, without outsource development firm and I’m like, “Okay, let’s make sure before we put together an RFP to send to them, to get a statement of work, I do a roadmap with them but then I never do the implementation. It’s like they just hand it off to the company. I get paid more than the people doing the actual development. [Crosstalk]
REUVEN: I find this fascinating Jonathan because I was under the impression that roadmapping was perfect for development projects. But you’re saying no, it could be good for strategic projects also. You come in and say, “Okay, this project is worth –,” in some ways, it’s even easier talking about ROI then because top [inaudible] company’s not going to have a new business project without having some built-in ROI calculated. So they know they want to do this project; they know they want to make money from it and now you’re going to [crosstalk] help the do it – oh no? Okay.
JONATHAN: No. I’m an insurance policy 100%. I decrease risks, that’s it. It’s weird because it’s tough to quantify over podcast with a bunch of people but if you’re sitting in a meeting and you saw the looks of really [inaudible] people’s faces when they say, “Oh, we’re thinking about doing this,” and I’d say something like, “I feel like we’re really stuck –.”
This happened the other day; I went into a brainstorming meeting with the client and they’re like, “The version of IE that they had built an application for that was deployed to all their very high paying clients was [inaudible] and they have this active X control that was no longer willing to run and we’re going to have to rewrite our entire infrastructure to do this in a different way, blah, blah. On and on and on like – they’re like they’ve been wrestling. I was like, “Why didn’t you – wait a second. Let me understand. Okay, these are the parts and pieces, okay. Couldn’t you just do this thing?” And their eyes all popped open. [Chuckles] They’re like, “Oh my God!”
BRENNAN: It’s funny that you mentioned that. I’ve actually seen a roadmapping. I’ve heard of a guy who did a roadmapping engagement in the build. The recommendation was to sign up for Wufoo. [Laugh] Yeah.
JONATHAN: I do that all the time. Here’s this off the shelf thing you don’t know about because you don’t study – you don’t pay attention to this stuff because you’re doing your job all day. You’ve got this guy who’s a free agent – me – floating around the internet, mostly doing mobile stuff but looking at what’s current at mobile, looking at – and me judging which frameworks are the most robust or the most flexible. So by constantly jus studying the market for – on a development side, the tool side and really the ecosystem and all that. But I just keep myself smart about that stuff. Then they have a situation that overlaps with that in a business way and I can almost immediately, off the top of my head, just comment on it and save them five figures to six figures. I’ve built up trust and there’s some other things behind it but it’s like my whole job is like word mapping on steroids on a monthly basis.
CHUCK: So I had to ask; so somebody pays, let’s say, even $500 for roadmapping. I can see people pan up to $2,000 or $5,000 and your recommendation is – there’s already something out there as Wufoo. [Crosstalk] Doesn’t that feel anticlimactic, right?
BRENNAN: Let’s say you’re just about to spend a bunch of cash at [inaudible] mart for development, something custom, and you find out that there’s – again, it’s all about knowing what the goal is. No one cares about – we like to pretend that our clients care about code and design – they don’t. They care about the results. They care about what they need done. That’s [crosstalk] you’re consultative.
CHUCK: Yeah, but it’s 500 or a couple thousand dollars basically for them to tell you about something that was essentially a Google search away if you would search for the right thing.
REUVEN: That’s the thing though.
PHILIP: And they get to walk into their boss’ office and say “I just saved us $50,000” or something like that.
CHUCK: So do you frame it like that? “You could save yourself $50,000 by using Wufoo” instead of saying “Wufoo!”
JONATHAN: Yeah, I’ve done that with AWS. The company was planning on buying a – like investing, I think it was three million dollars’ worth of IBM to buy servers for their data centre. And I was like, you guys, this is going to be 500 bucks a month on AWS maximum. [Chuckles]
BRENNAN: I’m talking about – a lot of my clients are the type who get their technical knowledge from airport billboards. [Chuckles]
BRENNAN: I mean it’s – yeah. [Crosstalk]
CHUCK: So to me it seems obvious but to them it isn’t.
BRENNAN: Right. Exactly.
JONATHAN: Besides, if you do Google search and it comes up, do you instantaneously trust the results?
CHUCK: That’s true, too. I always click the sponsored results because those are the best. [Laughs]
JONATHAN: That’s a great – you’re joking of course, but I literally never click on a sponsor result. I just assume I’s not as good as the organic ones.
BRENNAN: Oh here’s an amazing thing. How many people who are searching don’t even know the difference.
JONATHAN: That’s true.
REUVEN: That’s probably a shockingly large number which is keeping Google on business.
BRENNAN: Right. Exactly.
REUVEN: The number of times that I’ve [inaudible] to clients and I’ve pointed something which was painfully, ridiculously obvious to me and was not even a blip on the radar is huge but that’s the whole point. You’re coming in as an expert and in some ways having some sort of insight, it doesn’t mean they’re dumb. It’s just – not at all. It just means they don’t know this domain and it demonstrates your expertise, it demonstrates why they want to work with you because you’re coming up with this “Oh, I’ve done this ten times for the last month.” That’s great for everyone; that’s great for you and it’s great for them.
CHUCK: He said that like it was no big deal.
BRENNAN: Right. Take this as an extension of an example I wish to give but I think we all know Patrick McKenzie and he talked a lot – he talked – I think it was at MicroConf a few years back where he was saying something like, “Let’s say you did an eBook on Ruby on Rails deployment.” He was addressing the objection level – why would you do that when you can just google and find all that stuff. His answer which I love was something like, “Go ahead and convince an employer that they should write on their next payroll check for some developer, in the memo line, ‘reading free information on the internet’.” [Laughs]
If you think of it that way, a good business – the kind of people we want as clients value their time and spending a week googling and researching is not the best use of their time and they know it. So the kind of clients I think we want are the ones who implicitly recognize that. [Crosstalk]
JONATHAN: Yeah, that’s one of those [inaudible] before works like the people who are going to object to this stuff are people who have more time than money or are just straight up penny pinchers. You don’t really – you’re never going to provide them enough value to warrant charging them what you’re worth.
CHUCK: Well I also think that it makes a lot of sense when you’re thinking about it from the standpoint of “I have to go to my boss and tell them that I read a blog article by some guy I don’t know” versus “I went and I spent 50 bucks on this eBook and then I figured out that the author’s available and he can actually come and help us; so we’re going to bring in an expert that literally wrote a book on it.” It’s a much easier sell and it makes a whole lot more sense when you go to the boss and instead of saying, “I’m going to try a bunch of stuff,” versus “I’m going to have an expert come show me how to do it.”
BRENNAN: Yeah, and a lot of consultants have that’s why they want to get into products not just as a revenue source but also as a way to effectively have that impulse spy. What is – if you buy Pete Keen’s book on Rails on Stripe and then you end up hiring him to do your Stripe integration, that book was basically a very, very turnkey, very abstract, generalized roadmapping engagement, granted you had to actually apply the contents to the book to your unique situation but it’s that – having that thing beforehand. I think somebody called it once as a stepladder of trust. You see that a lot on people who have product portfolios. They have the two figure, the three figure then the four figure plus products; usually the people [inaudible] in the four figure plus.
PHILIP: One thing I wanted to circle back on a little more is pricing. A couple of questions – is roadmapping viable as a – clearly it is in some cases viable as a stand-alone revenue generator, but how should it be priced? Do you think of it as a loss-leader, etc? What are your thoughts on pricing?
BRENNAN: I wouldn’t make it so if you’re losing money compared to the equivalent time you’re going to be spending on an engagement, but I wouldn’t also use it as a way to make as a huge way to make a lot of cash. In my mind, it’s a way to financially qualify. So in the case of the – I don’t even know the guy who I sent 300 on for that one hour Skype call. I don’t even know if I did pay him for [inaudible] 2,000 a month. How many hours is going to go into that? I don’t care honestly, but I think you want to make it so it’s not to inexpensive but it’s not enough that they actually need to cautiously think, “Do I want to give up – do I want to spend this much on it?”
I’ve usually advised honestly anywhere between maybe 5% of the overall expected budget. A lot depends on what you’re doing honestly. If you’re going to be spending a whole day in a meeting room, you should be charging a few thousand for that. But if it’s say, one-hour, two-hour thing, maybe a few hundred or maybe even up to a thousand.
PHILIP: So to clarify, the specific kind of roadmapping you’re talking about is a situation where it’s a precursor to some kind of development project?
BRENNAN: Correct. In this case, I think really advanced level stuff like Jonathan was saying is where you can actually make it your end of the line or at least one of your end of the line. So I think for the majority of people, it should be used as a tool to increase your conversion rate and also increase the effective price of your projects because when you can do this, you can mitigate a lot of the rest and you can show them – we all like selling to existing clients because a lot of the crap that goes into selling something new doesn’t happen. In a way, what you’re doing is you’re able to sell to someone who’s already paid you in order – you want to give somebody an ROI on a roadmapping so that they naturally think “Well, if I got a ton of value after spending a few hundred or a few thousand dollars with him or her, I’m naturally – “it just becomes an obvious next step to go with them for that next –.
One anecdote I want to mention, too, is that one of my objection over coming things is – I do two things usually; I say if you don’t think it’s worth it, I will give your money back guarantee.
Now, I don’t do that with my agency but now that I’m doing shorter like one to two hour roadmappings, I don’t really care as much if I – potentially lose after this because it’s the ultimate objection killer to be able to say that. The second thing is it’s portable and I think we mentioned this before meaning the product you get from getting this, the plan of action is not something only I can do. However, data had shown both myself and from quite a few hundred other people I’ve surveyed about this, they usually don’t go [inaudible] because it would be too risky for them to start again with somebody who doesn’t have the context we have now even if they might save a few bucks.
JONATHAN: That’s been my experience. They never really – I literally used the exact same word like “Oh, we’ll do a design phase where we’re going to create wire frames. We’re going to do style guides. We’re going to make sure we understand what the goals are. Eat 5,000 bugs.” At the end of that you can take it; you have no hard feelings. I recommend that you shop around and try to get a better price if you think you can get it, they never do.
REUVEN: Right. Brennan I’m curious, it sounds like – you described earlier that it was a whole process coming to how you do these roadmaps. I’m wondering what mistakes you made along the way? Things that seem like really good ideas in doing roadmapping that turned out to be bad ideas or that were obviated by better ways and ideas.
BRENNAN: I think making it a credit was a bad idea. It seemed good in my mind but I think what it ends up doing is it devalues your time. Now you might counter that and say “Well, you just said I can get a refund if you don’t think it’s [inaudible],” I think that’s different though because then you’re explicitly saying if you don’t feel the value’s there, I can refund you on that. But it’s different than saying “Look, I actually think this is not very valuable so I’m just going to apply whatever you pay me now as a credit to your [inaudible] project.” I would say that’s one.
The other thing that I made a mistake of is not having my clients do homework beforehand. So we get to the meeting and then there’d be a little bum twiddling before we actually go up the momentum.
So one of the things we started doing was giving them – you don’t want people needing to figure out their customer [inaudible] values on the fly or any of that stuff. You want to equip them and help them to have that data beforehand so by the time you get to the actual live meeting, you already have a data and you’ve already let it – you [inaudible] in a bit.
So those were definitely two big mistakes. The other was not having an explicit post-meeting or follow up meeting after the deliverables’ sent. So what was actually cool – so much of this has to do with human psychology, it’s crazy, but when you sell something in roadmapping, you tell them – so you get a two hour meeting and then I’m going to write this custom report that’s going to tell you exactly what you should be doing. It’s basically the prescription. I’m going to follow up with you a few days after I send you that report and I can answer any questions you have and talk about your – basically point you to the right direction.
So that basically gives you as a part of a product that post-proposal dispatching a follow up call or follow up meeting so that was something, too. Because [inaudible], they see differently; they see the something they bought versus you helming them “Hey, hire me, hire me!”
JONATHAN: I’ve got one also which is you don’t want to make it too prescriptive because then, it becomes waterfall-y. So if we use the drive from California to [inaudible] analogy and say you want it to be like the appropriate level of focus like take this highway and then take this highway and then take this highway. You don’t get into like, “Okay, at this point, you pull off a highway, you get gas, you get back up [crosstalk].”
BRENNAN: You can figure out where you’re eating lunch and yeah, something like that.
JONATHAN: Yeah, because what end up happening is it’s too rigid and it ends up – when we get into the project, some of that stuff gets blown up for whatever reason and then it starts to eat into the trust. [Crosstalk] Yeah, it needs to be pretty high level. It needs to be – this is the business goals, this is the desired outcomes. These are the metrics that we’re going to measure along the way to make sure we’re on track. These are the concerns, these are the big moving parts but it needs to be, maybe not 30,000 [inaudible] view but it needs to be very specific about high level things if that makes sense. You don’t want it to be very specific about low level things. So I want lots of clarity but not lots of detail. It’s kind of a weird distinction but [crosstalk].
BRENNAN: I completely agree.
JONATHAN: Yeah. Now that no one knows how to do a roadmap [laughs], maybe they should buy Brennan’s course. [Chuckles] I’m kidding of course but it’s like it’s a really – I think this is a really valuable thing. I say this all the time; I apologize and I’m going to say it again but coding is one of the lowest value things that software developers have to offer their clients. [Crosstalk]
BRENNAN: Like [inaudible], that’s how people buy, right?
JONATHAN: Yeah, it’s not – people want outcomes; they don’t want code. They – you can write elegant code all day long and print it out and frame it on your wall because it’s so amazing and concise and I love that. I’ll probably hire you to do that for me but that’s not what your clients want. They want outcomes, and you can actually get those outcomes without doing the code. In fact, a lot of this – the most valuable stuff most freelancers and consultants who do software development – the most valuable stuff they do they generally give away for free. This is a way to start to tap into a more consultative relationship that you’re not coding, you’re not billing by the hour. This is – almost by definition, this is a productized service and your [inaudible] looks good.
It’s going to take some time but you’re not billing by the hour for – or anything like that. You’re just like, “Here’s the price. This is the outcome that you’re going to get from it.” I think it’s a fabulous entry point into a world where you are differentiated expert or you are not billing by the hour and you’re getting paid for your head, not for your hands.
REUVEN: I actually was speaking to someone just a few days ago about the whole programming versus training thing. And I was trying to explain to them or I was explaining to them that training pays us more. And they said, “Why?” I said, “Well there are all sorts of reasons for it but I think a lot of it is when you’re doing development, the person who is approving your budget is someone who’s hiring developers and so they’re looking at your requested cost versus the cost the developers they’re hiring.” They’re like, “What? I am not going to hire a developer for that much.”
But if you’re talking about doing more strategic stuff or more business stuff or training or whatever, you’re talking to someone who has a completely different set of goals, a completely different set of budget and they’re not interested in how much the developer costs. They’re interested in ‘can I get my things done’?
I’ve reluctantly over the years, come to [inaudible] Jonathan because really, you just go like, “What? These software companies, they’re making software. Clearly, my program is the most important thing they can be doing.” Even at the end of the day, they needed software, they need other stuff at least as much or more, and the combination of the business skills and the technical skills is where it’s going to get to. I found, just to bring this back to our actual topic, that in some of these [inaudible] meetings or even a little bit of roadmapping that I’ve done because I haven’t done that much of it, this is a chance to shine and show them that you understand the connection and is worth paying you to come and do more.
PHILIP: I concur. [Chuckles]
CHUCK: Alright, well we’ve been talking for about an hour and that was after our 15 to 20 minute warm up. We’re talking about other stuff. That just shows that we all enjoy talking to you, Brennan.
Let’s go ahead and get to picks. Jonathan, do you want to get us to picks.
JONATHAN: Absolutely. Well let’s get this over with. I have a roadmapping project that you can sign up for if you like. It’s expensiveproblem.com/roadmap. I’ll leave that at that.
A tool that I’ve used recently, thanks to Philip. Philip’s recommendation is something called Dropshare. Folks might be familiar with CloudApp which is something that has been a daily part of my workflow for a year or two at least. They seem to be going on a direction that I do not appreciate and I was looking for an alternative and Philip recommended Dropshare which I like at least twice as much as CloudApp. It’s totally configurable which I love. It allows me to share my files or upload my files directly to S3, shorten the links using Bitly, etc. So if you know what CloudApp is and you’re looking for an alternative then Dropshare is – I give it a huge thumbs up.
Last pick is a TV show pick; I guess you could call it that. It’s a web series but Louis CK who is, in my opinion, a modern genius has a show called Horace and Pete which you can buy off of his website at louisck.net. It is – hyperbole is a problem with me but I think it’s probably the best TV show I’ve ever seen. It is just totally mind blowing. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever watched before. So if you’re into Louis CK and you are not – don’t have a problem with lots of swearing [chuckles], that sort of thing, then you should check out Horace and Pete. You will be blown away.
CHUCK: That makes my day. I quit using CloudApp quite a while ago because it was doing dumb crap.
JONATHAN: Uh-hm. Yeah, they’re going the wrong direction.
CHUCK: Philip, what are your picks?
PHILIP: I’ve been using Dropshare now for three or four months. It has not let me down so I just want to echo what Jonathan was saying – it really hit a lot of the right notes for what that kind of tool is supposed to do. Jonathan, I don’t mentioned this, but it unhitches you to needing to pay whatever per month that CloudApp charges.
JONATHAN: Oh yeah right, it’s not a monthly fee.
PHILIP: Dumping on CloudApp here but yeah, it’s a pay one thing and then use whatever storage you have. I find that a more attractive pricing model for my own purposes.
Second, I wanted to do a pop culture pick. If you’re into Sci-Fi, I recently binge watch the entire of – first season of a show called The Expanse. I’m pretty critical about Sci-Fi. It’s like my genre for TV. There’s not been a lot that’s been coming out in the last two years or so that’s been satisfying but this show was intellectually and emotionally satisfying in a lot of ways, really kind of intriguing premise. Enough of the bridge from present time to an imaginable, realistic feature that involves space exploration that – I just thought it was great. Really good stuff.
My second pick is a new landing page build where I have been experimenting with called – what’s it called – it’s by Thrive Themes [crosstalk] but it is – they have some name for it. Anyway, if you google for Thrive Themes landing page builder, it runs locally in WordPress so on the theme of ditching subscription software, unlike something like lead pages that entails a monthly subscription, it’s a pay once product and [inaudible] at the end of the year to continue getting support. If you can get used to the interface which has a small learning curve, I found it really pretty well done, and I’ve tried a lot of lame page builders and not a lot of them make the cut for me so this is one I can recommend. That will be it for my picks this week.
CHUCK: So I want to double down on one of yours, too, the Thrive Themes landing page builder. I actually – I had to put up a landing page recently and I already had a subscription but I haven’t actually used it yet so I just threw it up like an hour and a half, two hours and it did everything I want it to including integrating with Drip – no problem. So just [crosstalk]
PHILIP: That’s nice, yeah. Nice.
CHUCK: Reuven, what are your picks?
REUVEN: So I got two picks for this week. One of them is I think many listeners know that I’ve been getting into data science more and more for teaching it and just also learning it. I’m discovering it’s a world of fascinating stuff. Someone recommended that I look at machinelearningmastery.com. There’s this guy named Jason Brownlee from Australia who publishes these short but really nicely written – very tightly written eBooks on machine learning in both Python and in R. He just keeps churning out more books on them – how the algorithms work, how to use them; be practical, be theoretical. He has a very nice style. And if you’re like me, trying to learn as much as you can about this more and more, definitely worth looking at machinelearningmastery.com where he has many free things as well.
My second pick is a while ago on the podcast, I picked a book called The Terrible Two which was just super fun. I read it to my then eight and half, nine year-old. Well, there’s a new book out of the series called The Terrible Two Get Worse which is just as funny. Very good for parents and children as well so if you have a middle school aged kid or – that reading level or you just enjoy reading to them or you’ll sneak it out at night. Very funny; lots of good making fun of kids and parents alike. Lots of fun for all involved.
CHUCK: Alright, I’ve got a couple of picks. First off, the last week and a half, I was at a couple of conferences. The first one was the Build Conference which is Microsoft’s developer conference. It was really cool; a lot of fun stuff there. I got to meet a whole bunch of Microsoft folks and I got to see my friends on the Angular Core Team and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun so I’m going to pick that. Interesting enough, I never really thought I’d be going to a Microsoft Conference and it was surprisingly fun.
One other thing I want to pick there is they had a HoloLens demo and they teamed up with JPL from NASA and they took all the images and other information that’s out of the Mars Curiosity rover, so images and readings and all that stuff. They put it all into an experience that they have at the conference so you actually got to walk.
First off, you saw Mars and you saw the satellites orbiting and drew lines where the orbits run and showed you the rotational velocity and they pointed out features on the planet surface and stuff like that. Then they took you into a fully immersive experience – well, visual audio anyway where you got to actually go – from what you could see and hear, you were on the surface of Mars so you could bend down and get a really close look at the ground. You could look at different things and pointed out different features of the landscape and different features of different parts of Mars. Then it showed you the Curiosity rover. Incidentally, the MC for the experience was none other than Buzz Aldrin. You could actually walk up and you could look at his jacket and see the stitching on the pad. It was really cool. Anyway, HoloLens is super cool so I’m going to pick that and pick the Mars encounter experience.
Another thing – anyway, then I went to Las Vegas and I spent a couple of days there with the guys from Entreprogrammers which is my mastermind group and we actually record all of our Mastermind calls as a podcasting. Go check that out at entreprogrammers.com. Yeah, had a lot of great experiences there; just getting brain share about all the stuff that they’re doing in their businesses and that I’m doing in my business that it’s hard to convey over Google Hangout. So I’m going to pick retreats with other people and then MicroConf.
The MicroConf was awesome. I actually saw Brennan there and got to meet up with a whole bunch of other people. And I will tell you the presentations in my opinion are worth the price of admission but that is hardly the most important or most worth it part of the conference; it’s the parts where you’re out in the hallway for the snacks or your at – they have after parties every night and just being able to connect with people and talk to people and get their feedback on what you’re doing and give them feedback on what they’re doing and just lining up all these connections.
I think I have – so I created three lists for the conference and just give you an idea. There are about 25 people on the list of people I want to follow up with. There are about 30 things on the other two lists and those are things I want to check out or things I need to do. So I just came away with a huge list of things that are going to make a huge impact on my business and the way that I do things moving forward. Those are my picks.
Brennan, what are your picks?
BRENNAN: So I just did a – my site’s on WordPress and I just did a huge redesign, and I’ve got a few picks actually from that experience I just want to share. One of them is a little plugin called advance custom fields [chuckles].
BRENNAN: You know what I’m talking about? [Laughs]
CHUCK: Okay, I have to interrupt you and just preface this a little bit. So as part of the Entreprogrammers’ retreat, I wound up hanging out with Derek Bailey who does watchmecode.net and John Sonmez and Josh Earl who both are partners now on simpleprogrammer.com. Josh and John convinced Derek to switch over to WordPress for WatchMeCode a year or so ago. I was talking about some of the things that I keep having to debug on devchat.tv which is a custom Rails app. They all looked at me and said, “Why aren’t you on WordPress?” and so I said, “Well, I didn’t do what I wanted to do.” They asked what that was and I started explaining and pretty soon, they had me coding in WordPress to make all that stuff happen and advanced custom fields was a big part of that.
BRENNAN: It’s awesome. I built this whole topics page with different landing pages so I could put in – overrate the headline and have a little blurred thing on the right and can do all these different data types like [inaudible] or media or [inaudible] – whatever. Anyway, awesome, little plugin.
I also just once – still kind of doing it but I’m moving all my stuff off of Gumroad and a hodgepodge of Gravity Forms type of Stripe to WooCommerce so I’ve been using that to just sell stuff. Say if you’re using – doing roadmapping, it actually have kind of a booking plugin that’s like clarity.fm but without the 15 or whatever percent fee. So if you wanted to use something like that to sell even your time, that’s doable, too.
Anyway, I really enjoyed it. I’m moving all my courses to [inaudible], dabbling into coursework membership stuff and really liking WooCommerce and their kind of ecosystem of extensions. Actually, it’s funny; WooCommerce is free but I don’t know if all the extensions are 100 or 200 bucks. It actually adds up pretty quickly but I really enjoyed working with it.
The other things are – I think I’ve mentioned it but somebody mentioned that I do [inaudible] to my own stuff but I do have a – just came out with a new course on roadmapping that I flew to LA and met with a friend of mine – actually a student of mine and a friend who – he’s the one who have mentioned who was [inaudible] and a half last year just roadmapping. We went out, we filmed a five-hour video course but we also interviewed a lot of his clients and asked them point black like why did you – what objections did you have? What was the effect? It was just – came out really well so that is over at doubleyourfreelancing.com/roadmapping.
The third I would say – again, I don’t make any profit on this so I’m happy to say it – but we do have – we’ve got a conference coming up which you can see, Reuvener at Stockholm this June and it’s the Double Your Freelancing Conference Europe which actually Jonathan was at. Philip was almost at but he had a sickness in the family. hopefully, they’ll both be there again for the upcoming ones. Anyway, it’s just – I’ve tried to make it kind of like MicroConf where the talks are all actionable; very focused not on like look at me and my story but instead, tactical stuff that you can apply to your business so we’ve got the Europe conference in June.
Happy to announce, we are confirmed for end of September for the US Conference again.
CHUCK: Sounds like fun. And if people want to find any of that stuff, where do they go?
BRENNAN: doubleyourfreelancing.com and then click on events. It has links to both the Bay conferences.
CHUCK: Awesome. And I’m assuming you’re roadmapping course and all the other stuff is there – available there, too?
BRENNAN: Yeah! That’s if you click on – actually, what I can set up is I can set up doubleyourfreelancing.com/freelancersshow with an ‘s’ and I’ll just have redirect and all so have it apply a 20% coupon. Do you want to pick it up?
CHUCK: Oh cool! Appreciate that.
BRENNAN: I haven’t done that yet so don’t publish it in a few minutes. [Laughs] I’m sure you’re not.
CHUCK: Yeah, we usually publish a week or so out.
BRENNAN: Yeah, so I’ll get that up.
CHUCK: I did an interview at MicroConf that I got to publish before this one.
BRENNAN: Cool. Perfect.
CHUCK: Alright. Well I don’t think there’s anything else. Anything else that you want to bring up before we wrap up?
CHUCK: Alright, we’ll go ahead and wrap this up. We’ll catch you all next week.
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