Chris: Let’s go ahead and do the questions and then if we have time we’ll give people an update on what we’ve been working on lately because I’ve got three questions. I think one or two of these are going to take us a little while to answer though.
The first one is, it says, “Sorry if it’s already been answered in one of the previous episodes of the show.” That’s okay. “How do I get good freelancing gigs online? Knowing that last years I worked exclusively on desktop apps and only converted to web development a few months ago which is why my portfolio only consist of toy projects I did to apply what I’ve learned from my studies. I think I’m getting good at JS dev back end and front end but it seems that every gig I see online freelancing platforms requires somebody that’s already worked on a few real world projects. I would really appreciate your answer.”
Philip: That sort of classic. How do I boost trap my way into either freelancing at all or better freelancing gigs? What’s your take on that Chuck? I think I’ve got few things to but Chris what your take is?
Chris: There are a couple of things here. One is, okay you transitioned from desktop apps to web apps so you still have whatever experience you have, programming in general. It’s not like you’ve got no experience to speak of whatsoever. The other thing is that, again we’ve talked about this a bunch on the show where the focus around web development, focus around I can solve your problem and finding that niche which is what Philip talks about a lot. Jonathan talks about basically moving that into finding an expensive problem and solving it. Just providing value and then bidding according to that value.
I think there’s a lot tied up in that but essentially what it boils down to for me is, instead of focusing on hourly dev work, go out and solve a problem really well or find a platform that you can work in and work in that platform. Own that space and stake out your ground and then from there you should be able to find clients. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a long resume or a short resume instead what you’re doing is you’re speaking to them directly about the problems they have and the way you can solve it. If you’re doing that a lot of times they may ask for a resume or ask what your experience is but for the most part if you’re speaking to their problem and you can articulate a solution that they believe you can implement, it won’t even matter. What’s your take on it Philip?
Philip: I’m taking down some notes here. Like I mentioned, this question comes up in a number different context. One of which is brand-new to freelancing. How do I get started? The other is, I’m on a level up, basically. I think the challenges are the same in both cases. What’s the name of the person you asked this question?
Chris: I didn’t get their name.
Philip: Okay. To your dear questioner. I know what it’s like to be in this situation because what you’re probably doing is sort of focused on how different, at the technical level, creating a desktop app is from creating a web app. I’m not saying, “Oh it’s all in your head,” But I think there’s some ways to work around your perception of the difference.
The first thing to do is to try to, as much as possible, get into the mindset of the person who would be hiring you for the gig that you’re applying for. I think one way you can differentiate yourself from other people who may have more experience than you, is to ask better questions.
During your communication if you are applying to a job board one of the ways you can differentiate yourself is by not just saying, “Well, here is my experience. I’d be happy to work on this.” Some people will even go so far as to throw out a rate, like an hourly rate, or some other rate and I’m pretty sure I’ve done this in the past. You say really stuff that comes back to bite you later and then you say things like, “Well I think I can do this for $1,000 or this looks like $3,000 minimum.” You start talking about price before you’ve talked about much more fundamental parts of the problem. I’d say the first thing you could do is ask better questions than a lot of your competitions is going to be doing because a lot of your competitions can be doing that stuff that I said is a bad idea like talking about rate or prematurely estimating the project or stuff like that.
I would try to ask better questions more insightful questions that is usually begin with the word why. “Can you tell me why are you wanting to build this?” Or “Why do you feel like Angular plus whatever is the way you want to approach this?” Not that you should outright challenge people right off the bat but at some point, you can start to probe a little deeper than your competition is going to and that for the right kind of client, the kind of client you want to work with, that’s going to immediately differentiate you from a lot of other people.
Two other things I would suggest are look at whatever could function as proof that you’re reliable, that you can reduce risk on this project and to be sure, your technical skills are one of those things, that serve as proof. The other is, the fact that you’ve worked for other clients in the past so if you can get testimonials from them and sort of remove or tone down the references to the specific desktop, technology and accentuate the other stuff, I think that’s kind of help. Really try to kind of abstract the way the parts of your proof that are specific to desktop stuff so they can be more general purpose proof that you’re reliable, that you know how to achieve business goals, that you know how to have a project happen on time, you know how to stay on track and stay on budget, and all that stuff. That beginner and intermediate freelancing stage, those things are really important. Those are taken for granted at the more advanced stages of our freelancer’s career but at the beginning and middle they still are pretty important to explicitly talk about how you keep project on budget.
Finally I would just look for maybe some hidden opportunities where your exciting experience is a benefit. For example, I know that anytime Apple release its desktop software, a couple weeks after the major release comes the minor release with all the bug fixes. You might talk about how your experience in the desktop world has given you experience and a shipping bug free software not that there isn’t any such thing as totally bug free software. What are the highlights of your experience in that domain of desktop software that might be advantages in the world of webs software? That be my third tip for you is, look for those advantages that may not be quite so self-evident so you look a little bit to your experience and think about it more broadly.
Chris: One of the things I want to just jump in on here is, it says that this person is looking on online freelancing platforms. In other words, it kind of feels like you’re looking on job boards. If you can get referrals instead, even if you’ve been a desktop programmer in the past and you’ve pick up web development now, you probably still know people that know people that need your help. I would also be looking at your network and try to find ways to get those people to come in that way. In that way, instead of you being a stranger saying, “Hey come work with me. Let’s spend a bunch of time together figuring this stuff out.” It’s, “Hey, I’m a person who knows your friend or your friend knows and trust me.” Then you can come in with a little bit more authority and a little bit better position in that way.
Philip: Yeah I agree completely with that. I think you have better luck with that kind of thing if you’re more specific. Rather than saying, “Hey, do you know anybody who has web work?” If you can make it a little more specific. And then another thing you can do is look through LinkedIn and look at the people that your connections are connected to and think about whether those people work at companies that could need someone like you. Then ask for specific intros to people by name. I think that, and in my experience, that’s far more effective than just saying, “Hey, can you intro to me to somebody who whatever.” That puts the burden on the person you’re asking for the intro. Instead if you do a little bit more homework and list a shortlist and ask for intros to people by name and explain why that tends to be more effective because you’re doing more of the legwork. You’re not asking those people to go fetch for you.
Chris: It’s funny you bring that up because that’s how I tell people to find a job. I’ve been working on the get a job for programmers specially in youth programmers and it’s the same thing. It’s alright well, who do you know at the company you want to work at? Who knows people at the company you work at? Where are those people? Are they in a specific forms or email list? Are they at the meetups locally? Then go be where they are. In that way, they will at least have seen your name. They’ll know who you are. They’ll have some idea what you’re about and you can then meet people there who can introduce you to the people you need to know.
Philip: Yup. I think it’s based on the same principle exactly.
Chris: Keith asked, what’s the best way to start with customer discovery and roadmapping? Are there specific resources?
Philip: Well I can tell you, a friend of the show, Brennan Dunn Has a whole course on roadmapping that would be worth checking out. I think I could probably pretty quickly put together some links. I know some people have written blog articles about the subject of roadmapping.
Chris: I know we’ve also done some episodes about it, about that.
Philip: Brennan was on the show actually talking about it.
Chris: In fact the other question that came in was, can you please show me some examples of an email proposal to a client? A lot of this comes down to the same thing. Asking those good questions, doing that discovery, and then putting out a roadmap and proposing this is what we’re going to get done and this is how much it’s going to cost.
Philip: Yup. I know Jonathan Stark has sent out a couple of great emails to his list about asking those why questions. WHY. Maybe we can just kind of compile some links to those. There’s a great stuff out there actually.
Chris: We should probably gather a list.
Philip: Yeah. I would do that now but I’m a terrible multitasker.
Chris: Now that I’m looking at this question, this one’s Ross’. She actually says, In what order to say stuff or even to say like, “Hello I’m a friend in web dev. I’m experiencing doing such a job. Here’s my website. I would like to learn more about what you need.” This is kind of a cold outreach and I guess Keith is after they’ve express interest, how do you that discovery which is what we’re talking about before. How do you put together your cold emails to get people interested or to find out if they’re interested? I have some thoughts here but I’m curious what you’re thinking.
Philip: I work with some mentoring students a lot on this. They are cold emailing people for the purposes of getting a short 15, 20-minute interview to gather information. In one sense is a higher pressure situation because you’re asking somebody for their time, their most precious resource and you don’t really have something to give them in exchange. At least when you’re writing someone to see if they have a need, there’s the possibility that you’ll be able to build something for them.
Now really when you asked somebody for their time to ask them some questions about their pain they’re often quite grateful to have somebody to talk to. It’s like free therapy in other words so there is an exchange of value but the most successful first approach I have seen is, a one-sentenced email. The subject line is usually the name of the company that you’re emailing. This, by the way comes straight from my friend Jill Konrath. He’s done a lot more testing of this than I have. I have just taken what’s work for him and use it in my mentoring program.
The one sentence of the email is, are you the right person to talk to about whatever? If you’re looking for work, it’s the problem that you would help them solve. Are you the right person to talk to about resources for your internal software projects? Or are you the right person to talk to about optimizing the sales of your public facing ecommerce site door. That’s the entire email. Now you’ll have some kind of like sign off and it’s good to have your contact info there because that really demonstrates that you’re not some kind of scammy operator. That’s it. That’s the first email and it is intentionally short. To a lot of people, it feels kind of rude because they feel like specially like me, if you grew up in the Southeast in United States, you feel like you need to be friendly. The way you do that is by talking people up and then actually just waste their time when you’re talking about their inbox. That’s why we want to keep it short. It’s really just designed to start a conversation and point you in the right direction. That’s one way to get that started.
Chris: The other thing that I will add and I always go in a completely different direction on this is that, if you’re reaching out to somebody take five, ten, 15 minutes and actually see what you can find out about them. Go look them up on LinkedIn. Go look them up on Google. Go see what’s on their GitHub profile. Go see what they’re tweeting about. Go find out what else there is about them that you can find out. In that way, you can pretty quickly in a lot of cases figure out this isn’t the person I need to talk to or if it is the person I need to talk to then it’s, “Okay, they have this position in this company and they’ve been trying to solve this particular types of problems.”
Then you can come in with prior knowledge. You can ask the right questions, say the right things and hit their interest in the right way. If you are going to send them a little bit longer note that says, “Hi, I notice from your blog post that you’re struggling with this particular problem.” Or “I was talking to someone who works at your company.” Because you figured out that you know somebody there. “We we’re discussing this particular issue and I realize that I have a solution that would solve it so they would put me in touch.” You can get that warm introduction. You can do all of those types of things because you’ve done that homework. You’ve figured out who this people are. You’ve figured out what makes them tick and then you can make it work.
The other thing is that, if you find out some of the personal things. Let’s say they have a favorite sports team or something. Philip was saying, “Don’t write a big long email. Hey, how is it going? I know you’re a terrific person stuff,” but you can say, “Hey, I’m a BYU football fan. I only watched some of the games but anyway I watched the BYU game last night and they lost again. Can you believe that call?”
In that way, you can just kind of put out there but you’re a person too, you have something in common, you can make that connection or you can save that up for when you actually get a chance to talk to them. Whatever the case I found out that just a little bit of upfront research puts you in a position where you can actually directly and specifically talk about the issues you know they have. Then you can explore your way into the other things you can do for them.
Philip: Actually I agree with that because that can be very successful too. I guess the thing we’re implicitly saying avoid doing is just going in blind. In any case, you benefit from doing research. I’m constantly recommending the book Selling To Big Companies by Jill Konrath. That’s got like more similar to checks approach. Tells you how to do some of that research and helps you understand how informed you really need to be before you go in, to approach the company cold. If you like that approach is a little better, a little more suited to a low volume high quality approach and my approach is more suited to a high volume, I don’t want to say a low quality but lower response rate approach and either one can work.
Chris: Yeah definitely.
Chris: Your approach is effectively what I do for sponsors. It’s, “Hey, are you the person to talk about sponsoring a podcast?” That’s effectively what I sent people.
Philip: Yeah. I shouldn’t really call it my approach but the approach I’m taking about which is advocated by a number of people really fits well where either you have a larger list you’re going through or you have something where it’s a standardize thing you’re selling which is like what your podcast sponsorship is. I think it works well on that case.
On the other hand, if you can put together a list of ten or 20 clients where you’re like these are the dream clients. I know for sure these are the perfect clients. I think a much higher touch approach is, is probably the right approach to take because once you get to that list of 20 you’re done. I think you want to make everyone count and that’s where that extra research can definitely payoff.
Chris: Yup. One of the thing I want to say about this email is or this particular question I’ve been pasting in the middle of the chat is the example mail is, “Hello I’m a friend in Dev. I’m experiencing doing such a job. Here’s my website. I would like to learn more about what you need.” There’s a lot of I. I, I in there. It’s much more effective to talk about you, you, you. Even the one liner is, “Are you the right person to talk about this?” It focuses on, “Are you the person I can help?” “What do you need?” Not, “I can help you, I can solve your problem.” Anyway, it comes of a whole lot better if you have it the other way,
Philip: Yeah. If there’s one key that say, “You really put your finger on it.” That is how can you get into their world and live in their world and write them an email that they would be like, “Yes, actually can we get on the phone and talk about that?” It’s hard to do as a beginning freelancer that was very difficult for me to do and it still is not the easiest thing in the world but that’s absolutely the key to making any kind of cold outreach work is what email would they be so happy to get that they would willingly get on the phone or respond to your email.
Chris: Keith mentioned getting past gatekeepers which is different animal from what we’ve been talking about here.
Philip: I want to say, you got to read Selling to Big Companies because it has a lot of advice about that. I’m really just ripping from that book when I say that you’re not trying to get past gatekeepers because the gatekeepers in most cases are actually very skilled at understanding what will benefit their boss or the person or the gate that they’re guarding. They understand what creates value for the company often a lot better than almost anybody else in the company does. It’s not like you’re trying to maneuver past them. I’m not saying that’s what you’re saying Keith but one interpretation of that is, how can I circumvent them and what I love about Selling to Big Companies that Jill Konrath presents things more from our perspective of how can you make them your ally.
Really what you have to do is be able to make a case for value that makes sense to the gatekeeper and then the gatekeeper is going to happily pass that on to the person whose time they’re protecting or attention they’re protecting because it’s a win. It creates value. They’re doing their job. They’re actually making their boss better off. They’re improving the condition of their boss.
I just, again not that that’s what you’re saying Keith but I want to warn people against that perspective of like, “How can I trick the gatekeeper into letting me through?” You’re just going to create two enemies if you do that. The person you trick and the person you wasted their time. Thus, really you got to think about how you can create value for somebody and how you can work with the gatekeeper to demonstrate that value very quickly so that they get on your team and help you out.
Chris: I was going to say you either have to win them over or you have to find another way in. If you’re going to try and trick the gatekeeper like Philip said, it’s not going to work out well for you but if you can make them an asset so that they’re telling you what their boss is going to want to see or hear or know or have solved. Then they’re an asset to you and once you can articulate to them, as Philip said, that you can give them that value then you’re there and then they’re on your team because it works. The other way in that I’ve seen is that if you know somebody who knows them then again you have to make sure that you understand what those needs so you’re not going in and as Philip said, once again, you’re not wasting your time.
I’ve gotten past gatekeepers because I didn’t know there was a gatekeeper. I just knew one of their buddies they go golfing with there or something. I’ve found out from their buddy what they needed. Then I made the pitch to their buddy in two minutes and then made the pitch to them in ten minutes. That what got me the job.
Philip: Another great thing about Selling to Big Companies, I’m such a fan of this book. Jill Konrath talks about how you can actually benefit from a more of a two-step approach where step one is, you don’t plan to talk to the person beyond the gatekeeper. You’re just talking to the gatekeeper and trying to get information that can help you refine your approach and make it more targeted. Then with the gatekeeper’s help you come back and say, “Hey, remember blah, blah, blah,” Then you actually are going for the goal of being put in contact with the decision maker.
Chris: Keith says, “Timing often works, they go home at 5:00PM.” I don’t know if that means you wait in the lobby and then ambush them or if you go up and talk to the gatekeeper after their boss has gone home and he isn’t looking over their shoulder and maybe get a little bit of time.
Philip: Or vice versa. Sometimes the boss works longer and the gatekeeper gets to go home at 5pm. If that’s the case, then you can sometimes get through directly when the gatekeeper’s not there.
Chris: Yup. A lot of times if you can get face time and you know you have the value that they want, then you’re in. It’s just a matter of figuring that out.
The last question that came in was, I’ve been maintaining our clients out for a while now. Getting a steady retainer for it. They are looking to expand abroad and want me to handle the tech and marketing side of that expansion too. Looking at the business, it has good potential. Would accepting profit share as a retainer maybe a good idea in this case?
Philip: It’s kind of a reductionist perspective but that makes you a professional investor. Maybe you have a rate track record at that. It sounds like you have some inside into the company which is one thing investors want so that’s great. At the end of the day you’re sort of becoming an investor and I feel like people ask that question out of a good place but also sometimes out of a sense of fear like they don’t believe in themselves so they don’t believe that they can just charge for their services or there are cases of course where it’s difficult to set a fair price or assess the value. Those are cases where you’re tempted to take the easy way out of just taking the cut of the profits which I’m sure works out spectacularly well sometimes I just, I don’t have a lot of friends to pay their mortgage with profit sharing on stuff they put sweat equity into. I would be very hesitant to do that and check on a few take over list of the rest of this rant.
Chris: I have feelings on the profit share angle. How do I just say these nicely? Every time I’ve had that pitch to me, I’ve been pretty certain that somebody is trying to take advantage of me or they think they have a million-dollar idea and they’re just blind to all of the risk that’s involved. I’m not a big fan of that kind of arrangement specially since the kinds of arrangement that I really get into are the kinds that I can control. It’s, “I will get you this outcome and then you will pay me my fee” Or actually the other way around. “You will pay me my fee and then I will give you that outcome.” That way it’s all up to me. At the end of the day, I have the list of things that I said will happen and I make those things happen. Then you agreed that it was worth the value of the money that you gave to me and that works out.
By doing some kind of profit share in a company that I don’t actually own or control, I just don’t get comfortable with that. If it were an absolute slam dunk like if I could see the future or at least I’m looking at this company and I’m going, “You know what, this is Facebook all over again.” And it’s really starting to have that exponential growth. They’re doing all the right stuff. It seems like it’s an absolute no brainer slam dunk then maybe but even then, I’d really just be tempted to continue to work with them based on the value that they’re going to get from my work. The whole idea of profit sharing, profit sharing with employees that’s a different animal. That profit sharing as your retainer fee it just, it doesn’t sit right with me at all.
Philip: There’s probably some cases where it might make sense like kind of a blended cash compensation plus.
Chris: You have to know a whole lot more about the situation that we do I think.
Philip: That’s right. I guess what I’m saying is, in some cases I might be open to profit sharing as a bonus for like awesome above and beyond performance but you get paid this cash based on no matter what. Something like that could make sense because that’s a little bit more of a, “Okay, I know that I’m going to be paid but if I get extraordinary results, I get an extraordinary return.” That’s kind of like being a salesman with a salary plus commission. I think that’s the situation I might be more open to the idea of profit sharing.
Chris: That’s true. If your outcome is 3x the business, then yeah you take profit share if you 5x the business. I can see that.
Philip: If it’s like an hour, a week of work and you don’t really care then the risk to you is minimal. There’s a lot of sort of edge cases and extra emulating circumstances but generally I think we all have this kind of reflex when someone says, “Take profit in lieu of payment.” We’re like, we’re kind of thinking well what if that profit never materializes. You’ve just lost money. But again, I think there are some cases where maybe it might make sense but those are definitely the minority of cases where people born in that.
Chris: My brother was in the startup and he was kind of their lead sales guy. He had a whole bunch of deals, all completely lined up. The companies are ready to sign them. They were kind of middle large sized companies. They’re on the larger end of companies but they’re not like Fortune 500 companies. They’re kind of a tear, two down from there. He had them all lined up what it paid all the bills for the business, or what it given on case study they needed to go after bigger fish and the CEO came in. Who is this business partner? A majority shareholder so he could basically do what he wanted. He came in and decided he wanted more money out of those companies and ruin all three deals.
My brother has equity in that company. He has everything what he worked out, lined up and they could have gone from we need more investment to actually having cash to move ahead with and everything died. He wasn’t in control of that situation and it’s the things like that that just make me go, “I think I know who this people are.” “I think I know what they’re about.” “I think were aligned on our goals.” And then you find out that they’re not.
Philip: It can happen.
Chris: That’s why I’m raising the flag of warning. The situation that you outlined where you know you’re going to get value or value on your time or effort and with a reduced risk. I think that really just comes down to what you’re comfortable with.
Philip: Business can be risky and surprisingly sometimes.
Chris: Yup. The other thing to keep in mind is that, if they want you to handle the tech and marketing on their expansion of their app, then make sure that you are getting commensurate compensation for that. That just doesn’t get rolled into the agreement that you already have. If it’s more work then you should get paid more for it.
I think that generally goes to that saying but sometimes we’re just like, “Oh yeah, I can do that too.” Then we don’t understand that they’re saying, “Can you do that too for what we’re paying you.?” Just make sure you’re very clear on what the details are on that expansion. Anything else to add Philip?
Philip: I think that about covers it.
Chris: Alright, those are all the questions we have. Keith, do you have any other questions we can answer? I’m going to ask Philip what he’s been working on and then if you have any questions coming, I’ll answer those. Then I’ll talk about my stuff and then we’ll wrap up.
Philip: That sounds good.
Chris: What are you working on?
Philip: I’ve got a three by five card here tape to my display that has my like three big priorities. It’s really interesting that I’ve been able to reduce it down to that. I rewrote the Positioning Crash Course. That’s a free email crash course that you can sign up for at positioningcrashcourse.com. Long time listeners of the show are going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah we know.” Because I mention it from time to time.
A couple things that happened, I have significantly revised the positioning manual and sort of reframed how I talked about positioning hopefully to be more helpful to people. Provide more appropriate guidance based on where their business is in terms of its maturity.
The crash course which really is two things, it’s trying to educate people but really it’s trying to get people to realize that they’re learning about something that’s better learned through a book and essentially sell them on the book. The Positioning Crash Course never change with that update to the book so I needed to update it anyway so I rewrote the Positioning Crash Course. That really took a fair bit of my time last month in September.
A related project is to rewrite the sales page for the positioning manual which is not like my primary income source but it’s a big part of my business and again, I updated the book dramatically. The sales page never really changed that much. Working on that, that has turned out to be a bigger project like many of these things has turned out to be a bigger project than I thought.
The third thing that I’m working on a high level is, I’m trying to build a course that would be sort of an alternative to the positioning manual but the course provides more guidance, some more structure, and more accountability. It will be more cost-effective option to what I’m now calling that Positioning Accelerator Program which is a sort of monthly mentoring thing that I do. The new positioning online course is only in the planning stages right now, it’s a ways out.
I just got an email, I’m on Paul Jarvis’s list, I just got an email from him last Sunday. He laid out his approach for validating an online course idea. The approach is to do a workshop version of the course which doesn’t entail building out all the course materials. You would build a slide deck. You would sell access to the workshop. It would be like an online workshop instead of the course and you do that as a sort of pre-validation step, I am going to do that I think.
I’ve already gotten help with designing this course because I want it to be good and see so many courses that are kind of like a copy paste from a book with some additional video content or something. I guess there’s value on that but really my goal for this course is for it to be a really valid alternative to mentoring and to have the structure that it needs to help more people be successful, people who can’t just read a book and implement on their own which is a lot of us. Janelle Allen who maybe has been on the show before. She talked about designing courses?
Chris: I don’t think we’ve had her.
Philip: She should be on this show. She knows a lot about designing courses. She helped me do some research in planning to come up with the what she called a Course Map for the course. That’s awesome. I think what I’m going to do is turn that into the sort of intermediate thing of an online workshop, run that, get some feedback, and then build the course. That’s a long after Chuck. That’s what I’ve been up to. It’s all kind of building products or product like things for my business. I’ve been able to take a break from client work for a while which has been great because it really let me start to build out some of these revenue assets that I think are going to be very good for my business in the long term. There’s a bunch of ticky tacky other stuff but those are the big three. What about you?
Chris: I’ve had a whole bunch of stuff going on. I’ll start with the conferences. I’ve been scrambling to get conferences together through the end of the year. Rails Remote Conf actually starts tomorrow. I did manage to get all the speakers spots filled even though it was kind of last minute. I actually hired somebody to help me with that and she utterly failed to communicate with people in two weeks, that’s why it was all last-minute stuff. I’m working on that. I’m finalizing the speaker list for React Remote Conf and then I’m doing DevOps and No SQL.
And then I was looking at next year for the conferences because I’m starting to plan out some of the things that I want to do next year. I’ve done JS Remote Conf every January. I’ve decided that I’m not going to just continue to scramble and trying get people in. I’m going to do JS Remote Conf in March, Freelance Remote Conf in April and push the conferences back a bit. There are a couple of conferences I tried to do last year that I’m not going to do this year just because nobody signed up for them. Then I think I have a pretty good idea of how to do the outreach on that. I’m starting to pull that stuff together and then I’m trying to make sure that everything is buttoned up neatly for the podcast. That’s my main focus through the end of the year is just to get that dealt with and handled so that things run pretty much smoothly and as automatically as I can for that stuff.
Right now, currently if somebody get schedule for the podcast to get an email that tells them where to get the podcast guest instructions. It also tells them where to start collaborating with us before the episode and what that does for us is then we have a Google doc that we can handoff to people for show notes. We can also make sure that we know what questions and what narrative we want on the podcast then we can assess out stories that they can tell and stories that we can tell and figure out what all of that stuff is so that we can put together maybe a little bit more cohesive show. It emails them, it emails the panels and then it does something else but then all of the social media stuff at the end, I’ve got somethings going on there that I won’t be able to email the guest after work and say, “Hey. thanks for coming on. It’s released now and here’s a link to a page that you can use to share that episode out to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Just get all that together so that we can get more people in the door.”
I’m also working on the Get A Coder Job book which for freelancer’s probably is not that interesting so I’m not going to spend that time on it but it’s focused for new people in programming, finding a job. I just got asked that question about 150 times. I decided, “Hey, if there are enough people out there that have question there is probably a book that needs to be written for them.” Pulling that together and making that happen.
I haven’t done client work really for about a year, now that I think about it. That’s the other part of getting a podcast all buttoned up. Making sure that everything happens for sponsorships when it needs to happen. I’m still figuring some of that out but for the most part, it runs rather smoothly. That’s what I’m working on. Lots of automation stuff and then just getting processes in systems and hiring people and things like that.
Philip: Sounds like a real company over there.
Chris: Yeah. I hate having to let people go. I did that last week but it created a bunch of extra work for me. To have to go scrambled at last minute to get speakers lined up because that communication didn’t happen.
Philip: Sorry to interrupt. Did you do a little test project thing with new people? I’m curious.
Chris: I’m going to start doing that. I was trying to figure out how to do a test project for that kind of thing like emailing people. I don’t know exactly how to do that. I think I’m going to give people test projects or other stuff like just to put together a plan for social media. Put together a plan for reaching out to people. Have them right test emails and stuff like that. And that way I can hopefully at least, I can feel good about what’s going on there. I hired a part time employee. Technically she was a contractor.
Philip: Yes, somehow this was right at my fingertips. Kai Davis wrote this, somewhere between a blog post and a procedure like you can just copy paste.
Chris: Kai is really good at procedures.
Philip: He can poise in me. In his procedures, how to hire a part time employee. I think it would work just fine also for a freelancer, a part time contractor, and it sort of is based on that idea of having them do a test project so that they can give you an actual demonstration of their ability to execute before it gets to that point where you’re wishing you never hire them in the first place probably.
Chris: I also wrote a book called Who. It’s a pretty involve process but it basically tells you how to set things up so that you can hire people, so you’ll ask them the right questions, so you’re getting all the information you need before you run through. This also looks a little bit like what John Sonmez and Josh Earl do at Simple Programmer. They don’t necessarily, well they do but they go on Upwork and they write the job ad. And then they disqualify people based on whatever they disqualify them on. But essentially what they do is they hire the 10 most promising people and they essentially give them a test project. The test project is more or less the actual job they’re going to be doing.
Philip: Got it.
Chris: They hired a video editor. What they did is they had the same video edited by 10 different people for like $20, $30, $40 a pop. They picked the one that did the best job and things like that.
My other issue, if you listen to Entreprogrammers at entreprogrammers.com, you’ll hear a lot more about this. The other issue was, she wasn’t communicating with me. I didn’t actually know where things were at. I kept asking and bugging, and bugging, and asking and finally I was just like, “You know what? I have to have somebody who is not going to give me an anxiety attack over whether or not things are happening.” In other words, they need to just be telling me, “Hi, this is what I did.”
Chris: If I have to ask and ask and beg, I’m not working for you and I’m not your mom so I’m not going to keep you. I like this person. I thought they were a terrific person but it’s just it wasn’t what I needed. I’ll have to look this over. The thing that I’ve been doing is I’m just looking for another part time contractor who can pick up some of this work. I have somebody in Philippines that does a good job. It’s just that usually I have to train him and then correct him about three or four times but after that then he does the job right like no problem. He’s definitely worth keeping around but I keep thinking that it’d be nice to have, because it’s hard to check in because of the time difference, it be nice to have somebody on listen who can do the more critical stuff that I can actually just grab onto and talk to every week.
Philip: It takes time to delegate stuff no matter what.
Chris: Anyway that’s something that I’ve been figuring out. I’ll figure some of this stuff out but I’m probably going to be hiring somebody again here within the next few months. I just need somebody that will get in and do the stuff that I don’t have to really worry about. That’s kind of where I’ve been at. A lot of focus on just automating and delegating stuff that I don’t have to worry about this much.
Philip: Really cool.
Chris: I didn’t see any questions coming from Keith so I’m going to assume that he’s going to go out and make a $1,000,000 now as a contractor.
Philip: It’s all good to go? Is that for life?
Chris: Yup. We’ll go ahead and end the call. I guess we should do some picks. Do you have some pics?
Philip: I am going to re-pick the Jill Konrath book. It just so good. It’s this combination of sort of helping you understand the world of the people you’re trying to get in touch with, which is I think the most important thing overall. But also, has some very specific tactical stuff you can do. It’s a book called Selling to Big Companies by Jill Konrath. People are beginning to think I get the cut of the sales or something, I don’t. I just think it’s great. It’s just easily read and no fluff kind of thing. That’s one pick.
Then I’ll pick that article that Kai wrote about, How to Hire a Part-time Employee? I’ve seen that work for several people that is why I’m such a big fan of it. It’s that I’ve seen that exact process just be sort of a copy paste applied by at least two people and it works great for them. It’s a really good starting point. I think the critical differentiator there is that it involves a life paid. It’s a practice project. It’s still a cycle life project.
Chris: As long as it is paid, that’s the thing is. I want them to get paid if they’re doing some for me.
Philip: Yup. You just kind of scale it to the point that you can afford it and it just seems like there is no substitute for seeing a potential employee do the thing they’re going to do for you and a real situation and then you include that in your hiring decision. That’s why so many jobs have a three-day, three-month trial period. Same reason it’s just when you’re hiring a subcontractor or a freelancer you’ve got to approach it a little differently. Those are my picks for this week. I’ll link up to both of those. I guess I’ll drop that in Skype so we have that for the show notes.
Chris: Nice. I’ve got just one pick this time and I think I might have picked it last week, I don’t remember but I’ve been reading this book called the 12 Week Year. The idea is that a lot of people do an annual planning. A year is just too long to kind of keep that vision and idea in mind. What winds up happening is people get a little bit behind in January. They go, “Oh well I guess I still have 11 months before I’ve got to finish up my year stuff.” Then they get to like March and they’re like, “Yeah I’m a little further behind but I still have nine months.” Then September, October, November hits and they go, “Oh crap, I’ve got two months to get my stuff done.” Then they wind up getting it done in the last two months. If they had work like that or work toward getting those goals during the first few months, then they would have gotten way more work on. What they advocate is instead of doing annual planning, you do a 12-week planning. Then you’re monthly planning is essentially planning out those 12 weeks. Then you’re weekly planning is planning out the five days during the week that you work. You sit down and you figure out what are the four things you want to get done over those 12 weeks and then you plan it out.
Week one, you got to do this. In week two you got to do this. In week three you got to do this. These are things that you have to do every week and these are the things that you have to do over this amount of time. It’s really an interesting approach. I actually like the book so much that after I finish listening to it on Audible. I actually closed the book, opened it up, and started it again. I am really committed to that. If I start 12 weeks with this week, it actually works out the end of the 12 weeks is December 31. That kind of worked out neatly and I can start again beginning of next year. I’m digging in and I’m figuring out what my goals are for these 12 weeks and then we figure it out from there. I’m pretty sure that one of them is going to be to find on board a new part time person. Another one for the business is just next year I would like to get completely out of debt except for the house. Just having all of that stuff off my plate financially will put me in a position where I can do more interesting things with the podcast and everything else. I’m kind of looking at what I need to set up this year in order to get there. And then next year it’s going to be okay. So, the first order is going to be payoff these things and stuff like that. And then just one or two other goals around my family and other personal stuff. One of this probably can be related to losing weight but I have to quite figure out what those are.
Philip: I thought it was just me with the like planning a whole year seem like a crazy way too much time. I thought it was just me so I’m glad to hear other people work better to shorter timeframes.
Chris: They’ve got a whole system for this. Figuring out your vision and figuring out, “Okay that’s my vision now. What do I have to do these three months in order to get there?” All of that stuff. It’s definitely worth the read.
Chris: Yup. We’ll talk to you later.
Philip: Thanks for the questions, Keith. Bye, everybody.