Reuven: Hi everyone and welcome to episode 233 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Philip Morgan.
Reuven: And Jonathan Stark
Rueven: I’m Reuven Lerner. Jonathan, why don’t you describe what we’re going to talk about
Jonathan: Okay, great. There’s this Seinfeld Clip for this certain Seinfeld Clip episode, there’s a clip on YouTube called the Indecisive Carpenter, which you can Google for. To be honest I haven’t seen the whole show but this segment, about a minute long and Jerry has hired a carpenter to come in and redo his kitchen. It starts off with Jerry sitting in his tables, he’s trying to do his bills and the carpenter keeps interrupting and he’s like, Jerry listen, do you want this hinge or that hinge? And Jerry’s like, “It doesn’t matter, either hinge.” And he’s like, “Well, they’re not the same thing. This and this like this, this and this like that.” Jerry’s like, ‘I
don’t care. Just pick either one.” The guy looks at his hands and Jerry says
left and so the guy’s like okay, he used the left hinge. Then the cuts to
another scene where Jerry’s trying to leave, he’s trying to go out with his
friends and the carpenter is like, “Jerry, Jerry before you leave I just want
to ask a couple of questions about…” And Jerry interrupts and he says, “Just
It’s hilarious logical extreme of what I see so many developers
doing with their clients, designers too. Designers are famous for this, where they
are invading the clients into the sausage factory way too much. I used the clip
to illustrate that sort of morale or I was like you be the expert, you do. Don’t
ask your customer’s opinion or your client’s opinion about which hinge to use.
They don’t know. You have to educate them about the differences between the two
hinges and how you’re wasting their time and you’re wasting your time because
ultimately they’re going to do what you recommend anyway. Just do it.
I found myself, as I drilled into this topic a little bit more, because I set it up my list and wow, it really touched a nerve. Lot of people almost angrily emailing back like so my clients shouldn’t be involved at all in the decision making process? Things like that. Because people are billing this and they can’t imagine what else do we do, what they would do instead. So they’re like, what else would I say? I cannot ask what hinge to use o which font to use or what color to use or how big to make the logo or where to put the button or how big to make the button, if they like this or if they like that and most people probably do this and think that is what we’re talking about when often advocate having a lot of client communication but I think that’s a mistake because really what you’re doing is asking your client for uneducated opinion that you are far more qualified to provide. If you just do the thing, you pick the hinge, you pick the logo size and so and so forth, just do it.
If you get to a point that you are developing you design, you’re like I wonder if I should do this or this? Just do one. And then if you really want to in your design review, I wouldn’t even bring it up. In your designer view you can just present it and if they say, “Why do you go with that hinge? Why’d you go with that color? Why’d you go with that font?” Don’t ask them in advance. Just present what you think is the best thing and if they bring it up and maybe you can have a discussion, maybe they are educated on it. But I would even move farther and say you shouldn’t do that but let’s baby step here.
The idea for today’s show is start there and have a conversation
around what sort of input should you be getting from your customers when you do
a designer view or have weekly stand up. And what shouldn’t you ask. And of
course how does that translate into your career, your fees, in making your
business better growing, that sort of thing.
Reuven: Client communication is always crucial, you want to be talking to them all the time. It sounds like what you’re talking about is, there are certain things that you should be communicating and there are certain things you should not be communicating. You should not be asking for, I like the way you describe the uneducated advice or uneducated opinions. You are the expert. And yet I feel like in many cases, if it’s on the software the software side, right? Because I am a developer and so forth. They come to me and say, you know I’ve heard this no SQL thing is really great. You should be using MongoDB for everything. I definitely have sort of opinions and arguments against that. That’s the sort of thing where I feel like they should have no opinion. I’m not just so that I could ask them. I don’t think anyone have ever challenged me on that sort of thing. That said, there are plenty of these especially when it comes to design. I definitely could see they have strong opinions and they will express them, and they want the website to work on this certain way.
Philip: A client has literally never come to me and said, you know, we organized a Git repost, seems a little strange to me.
Jonathan: I know that. It doesn’t happen. Or you’re building an API, it doesn’t happen. Developers are insulated from a lot of this because a lot of their work is below the water line. Once you get above the water line, where most designers are operating, some frontend developers. Developers definitely inhabit the space, you get opinions and we’ve talked about this in many shows.
Before the project even starts you need to set goals for the project. We need to agree with the customer or the client what the goals are. This would be business goals not goals like finish this feature list, implement this feature, that’s not a goal. It’s not a business goal. You want to get business goals from the customer or the client and once the project starts and somebody says, “You know I’ve been hearing a lot about MongoDB or could you make the logo bigger. Either you say, why? You make them make a case. You don’t bring it up, do not bring it up. Do not say, what do you guys think about a [00:06:31]? What do you think about the size of the logo? Do not bring it up. If they on their own bring it up, you ask them why they brought it up. If you are really the pert and they really aren’t, which is usually the case. They’re the expert on their business. They’re not the expert on what you do. If they do bring it up, and you are the expert, you won’t be able to make a case. You can say, I don’t see how this achieves a project goals, you don’t have any kind of argument how this achieves the project’s goals. Let’s put this on the back corner and focus on the stuff that we know achieve the project’s goals. If we have time and money left over later, resources left over later, we can either ab test these things or put them in or we can put them off for a phase too.
This is the key I think to managing scope creep is to have business goals to find and not ask them for their opinion on stuff that you are the expert on. They’re paying to do it, that’s why I thought the Seinfeld episode is so funny because Jerry was so annoyed, the customer is asking for his input. He’s asking Jerry to make decisions that Jerry was not qualified to make. And I think if we will just do that as almost the defense mechanism, you told me to use this hinge. Well, the door’s falling off. You’re the one that picked it. By the hour you can get away with that.
Philip: I can see both sides of this. I am going to throw out a situation that occurred
to me earlier on in my freelance career and I really would love you guys input
on this. I cannot my build myself as a technical writer when I started out,
that was my market position. That’s how I describe what I did. As a result, the
kind of gigs that I would get, I would kind of feel the backup plan and here’s
what I mean by that. With writing as a little bit unique this way, I think it’s
certainly different in software development, although this shows up also in
bigger companies you as a freelancer feel like a backup plan because you’re
doing something that the client could do in house and probably would if they
have the bandwidth for it. like I would get hired or write a white paper for
example and maybe this is kind of me projecting my insecurity on the situation
but I often have feeling that a client would do an in house if they had the
time, if they had the capacity if they weren’t under the gun for big product
launch or whatever the specific situation was. It would have one of their in
house subject matter experts to it and they’re off to the marketing department
to be polished and I will never have gotten hired for that. For me that create
this but again the insecure feeling of like oh gosh I really needed to do it to
their specs like they’ve designed the blueprint and I’m the carpenter in here
who’s executing on it or the assembly line worker who needs to follow the spec.
And that really led me to feel like I needed to get a ton of client input all
the time throughout the project.
Yeah. That’s totally fair. What you’re describing
in the developer world is staff augmentation.
Philip: Right and it’s a fine way to pay the bills and keep the lights on but it’s no way to
build a business. If you’re going to do that to just get cash flow and you
might be the employee just like the economic sort of slightly difference so
they don’t see the need when you’re long term. You’re basically behaving as an
employee where you need to get the approval of your manager at all times. It’s
understandable for people who are in that situation are be confused by what I’m
saying with the carpenter example.
Once you have that base line of financial security and you are looking to grow your income profits and your revenue you want to start saying things like client comes to you and says hey we want you to write this with you and you want to say why? That’s the goal of the white paper. And you’ll probably say shut, hang up, see you later, we’ll just get someone do it for us. But a good prospect for you or someone in that situation would be like the reason that we want you to make papers were trying to attract leads to the website. How many leads you want to attract? While you’re looking to do it. At the end of the conversation you have done a diagnosis of their melody so they have some either some opportunity they want to capture, some problem they’re trying to solve. If you just say okay, I’ll write the white paper for you without finding out what the melody is or what the opportunity is. Doing the white paper it changed nothing meaningful for them. If you want to move into that realm, it’s farther from freelancer and closer to consultant or visor and you want to start asking those questions. I don’t thinks it’s really push back
you were just asking questions like maybe the white paper is the best approach.
I just want to make sure before I write this thing for you that your money that
you spend with me is going to be a good investment to you because in that will
be longer relationship for both of us. And they might say we really just want
to get more leads and if you have somebody to do that we’re all ears. That’s a
good client, possibly a good client. Okay, I get some of their ideas about
this, I’ve been doing this for five years. Or maybe you could just spend a few
bucks on Facebook as in be done with it or whatever. And head them from a more
Reuven: Yeah. I’m glad you said that. I’m trying to imagine what the folks at home are
thinking. You’re not likely as a newish freelancer or you’re new to this
approach, they’re not going to say let us set up a meeting with the CEO for you
and the CEO has just some questions for you. They may just say well, we just do
what we always do in our product launch. We just always write six white papers
to support the product launch or of course we want to sell more products but
even getting that kind of answer, even if it’s not the right answer or the best
answer for those kind of why question. It’s incremental progress in your
movement out of being a hired pair of hands and towards being access to your
brain which is where, as we all know, where the real money is, right?
Philip: And figuring out and getting better and better at working your way up to the true
decision maker. Because you’re right. If you’re just starting, it’s highly
likely that the person attempting to hire you or hiring you toward the white
paper, they don’t know the answers to these questions, some are just told them
to do it and they don’t want to tell you to do it so they can get it off to
their to do list so that in their weekly meeting they can yeah, that’s someone
writing the white paper. They don’t know why. That is not a good relationship,
it’s not good, that’s too vague. It’s not a very profitable relationship for
either party. To push for greater wealth creation for all involved, you can ask
questions to a person like this, who if they’re having a good day will indulge
you and say you know that’s a realty good question but they really don’t know
the answer. And in a good situation, you could say, who does know the answer? I
don’t really want to take this on not knowing if I really helped the overall
business. It’s difficult but you can try to work yourself up the
entrepreneurial chain of commands must speak to get those questions answered.
Illinois has a pretty specific advice on this where he got this
two stage approach to it. One where he just sort of says like what I just said,
well if you can answer these questions, you can and then if the person wants to
act like a gatekeeper and sort of prevent you from talking to their superiors
then you can say something like well, if this project goes probably wrong, you
kid of threaten them. It’s not going to be my fault, it’s going to be your
I don’t think either one of us wants that. So I think it’s in your
best interest to let me talk to your boss. He’s operating, he’s not writing
white papers. He’s operating on a different level, of course. I don’t think it
matters what level you’re at, as long as you have this understanding, this sort
of world view, this mindset that could be your head. Don’t think of yourself as
someone who writes white paper, think of yourself as someone who solves a
particular problem and you happen to do it by writing white papers. And focus
on the problem that you’re solving from the business and come up with the other
ways that you can solve it or further up the value chain. Takes time to do it,
of course but you want to get to a point, I have to put some really good words
to the mouth of the thousands of listeners but personally you’re listening to
this because you want to make your business more profitable and the way to do
that is to go further of the value chain. You’re going to do that is to ask why
you want to do certain task and to do that, you would probably lose out on some
work. Eventually, you’ll start getting better work for better and better
clients. Like before, create this baseline of income where you’re trying out
white papers and you’re asking what chains to use. But the while trying to
attract better clients while you have these keep lights on gets going.
[00:15:58] their clients further up the food chain to grow your business and
eventually you can stop doing the [00:16:04] work stuff. And do more advisory
type of engagements.
Reuven: It’s a major mind shift and I think it’s only recently that I understood a
completely. The difference between a consultant and an employee is not just
you’re paid differently, it’s not just leader relationship. Is that you being
call as an expert on very specific thing and so it’s normal for me to go to my
accountant and say and ask questions about how should spend money, save money
and so forth. I’m going to ask him those questions. I have a dialogue about it,
right? But I’m not say have this types form, have a bad tax form. First of all,
the day that I do that would be a crazy day. You know what it’s like? It’s like
those people go to their doctor and the doctor says well, I think you have such
and such. But I read on the internet. The difference is that with a real
consultant, with someone who’s bringing authority there, they’re coming in for
that sort of advice which is wildly different mindset wise, then what have on
an employee and so as an employee, yes you always have to be checking with your
boss and making sure it’s the right thing because it’s the boss’s name who’s
going on it. It’s the boss who is responsible for because you’re doing the work
but their name is on it. And here, it’s your expertise, it’s your ideas and
you’re name is on it. And if it doesn’t work out well then you’re out not them.
You still have those conversations, I mean Jonathan, you said at your podcast
at some point, by the way I’m forgetting his name, you guys have been doing
value based [00:17:50] for a long time. I just read the interview with them,
Jonathan: Ron Baker.
Reuven: Ron Baker. I think you gave the example like when you go to your doctor, you’re not
going to tell them how to do the open heart surgery. That really clicked for
me. And yet so often it’s so easy to get sucked in that kind of conversation,
right? You want to still please the client, you want to make them feel like you
care about their opinion because you do. That’s a fine line to some degree in
Jonathan: I love the accountant example. Because I imagine that most people are not into, they don’t have this earning desire since they
were a little kid and to like be all up in their own finances. It’s one of
those things that’s highly personal, it’s very emotional, their money and what
it can do for you and what enables you to do or not do, or lack of it that
prevent you from doing. My relationship with my accountant is just like what
you described, I say I describe my situation, I got this many kids, they’re
this old, my wife blabla. This many cars, office. What should I do?
Ask the client relationship that you want to foster as a freelancer moving into
consulting round. You want to find client who’s going to look at you and say,
here’s my situation, what should I do? Not look at you and be like, client
looks at you says, “Do these 15 things.” That is the thing that will pay the bill
for you because you know how to do those 15 things, you know how to create a
You know how to slice a photoshop document and so on and so forth. Recognize that those things are never going to get you anywhere you need to move away from those things if want to increase your income. You love those things, your craft, you labored over them, you have a sense of mastery over those things, they’re not going to get you to the higher levels of income, those things. You need to transform those mastery into advice. Your understanding of how photo shop works or what’s possible with react or even in a web browser in general. That expertise can translate into advice. Where people are like we have this high risk situation, our competitors are destroying us, we know we have to undertake this massive redesign, if we screw it up my head is going to roll and probably the business is going to go down under. We need somebody who we can look at and say here’s our situation, what should we do? And you tell them, and they do it. Learning PHP or React or photoshop or illustrator leads to that.
That’s what I did. I started out with PHP and work my way up to do
that, do this. And I tell that to a lot of people and they freak out
because they’re absolutely in love with their craft and having the semi colons
and keyboard shortcuts for photoshop and so on and so forth. Eventually, if
you don’t leave that behind, you’re going to hit that income ceiling very
quickly and it’s going to be around $140,000 and that’s you’ll ever make the
rest of your life for a year. If you want to go that $140,000 ceiling, you have
to go up a level and use the expertise that has accumulated from while you’re
doing the sort of implementation things.
Reuven: What about when the client wants to be involved more? Let me just give me examples. I work for them in years, I really love them, they’re great people, interesting and everything. And they’re on a market where Airbnb is sort of a similar market. Not exactly but some more. Whenever we bring in design, I’m not the designer at all, so this does not affect me directly. One of them would be like
well, this is not like Airbnb, and he’d be like they have so much more money,
and they have so much more markets space, they have spent time researching it.
It’s clear that whatever Airbnb is doing is the right thing to do. We just make
a book like them. They have bigger photos, we shoot bigger photos. They have
down the line and so
Jonathan: We’re working like that.
Reuven: Often times I get that in sort of Facebook area where somebody else client will say,
well Facebook done all this user research, we should just copy whatever
decision they made about the hamburger menu or how to do a navigation or
whatever. My answer to that is always, you’re not Facebook, you’re not even
close to Facebook. Now these guys they are close to Airbnb or they’re trying to
be but I would ask without presuming the answer, I would ask is copying
Airbnb’s design really the fastest way to the goals that we’re trying to
achieve here? What are the goals we’re trying to achieve, Airbnb is not a goal.
They must have specific business goals or hopefully they have specific business
goals and it’s highly unlikely that copying Airbnb’s design is going to
automatically work to get them to these goals. Like you can see why someone
would think that. It will look like Airbnb. What if we make it look like craigslist,
what’s our competitive differentiator?
Jonathan: The argument is a little more serious, the area was not just like aesthetics. The argument was, they’ve done AB testing and
they’ve published on their blog. That doing aesthetics wise and more effective,
thus let’s just take that research and go with it.
Philip: It’s like somebody else to do work for free.
Reuven: Like I said, I wouldn’t presume to know what the correct answer is but I would run
any design decision regardless of any decision or anything that they are sort
of any place where it feel like the customer is trying to do your job for you
or micromanage you or something like that. I always say the same thing. I say
what’s the business case?
We need to do integration with segment.io. What’s the business
case? Well, we’re trying to get the single for all our leads to be collected,
why don’t we send it them all in [00:23:59] integrate with it. Oh we can do
that? Yeah, we can do that? Yeah, just do that.
I think you’re doing your customer and yourself this service if
you skip over the diagnostic phase of any request. They make some specific
request, use that hinge.
Philip: Alright. We can totally use that hinge. Why do you want to use that hinge? Why do you even care which hinge we use? I thought that you just care that your kitchen was better for entertaining lunch parties? Yeah but I read this thing on
[00:24:27] that said that that hinge is a blablabla and then you might say,
whatever. Those get in my nose, you can use whatever hinge that you wants. Or
you could say, you know, this hinge actually is five times more expensive than
the other hinges and you got 45 of them in this kitchen. Which means that we
can afford average hinge if you want to stick to the budget. It’s kind of a
priority thing, resource wise. Would you rather have this hinges or the average
hinge or we want to increase the budget? You got to keep them honest.
I feel like when I’m in a project, there’s me, there’s the client
and there’s the project. Project’s like this other entity that both of us need
to protect and effect to me protecting it. And at the end the idea is that I
want to be a gigantic success because that’s how that customer’s going to gauge
their satisfaction with me. We need to know upfront what success looks like and
then by hook or by crook into the nail brought the project, I do everything
that I can in my opinion that’s going to keep the project on course. You ask me
for something that I think has no effect one way or the other, I’ll just do it,
but if think it’s going to have a major impact one way or the other, I’m going
to raise that issue. And say look, this is a tradeoff. Somebody says, we want a
classic one with flame design. There’s are always in the middle of the project
saying [00:25:54] more analytics, [00:25:55]. And before you know it you have
other network request. And they’re all slow and not of them, are mobile
friendly and so at the beginning of a project knowing that’s usually a problem,
I’ll say what’s the goal of this project? And a lot of times they say we want
this to be really snappy on mobile, when it’s finger friendly, it’s mobile
friendly, we want to be super fast. Okay. It’s good to know. And then six
months later. When they’re like yeah, I’ve throw in overture and add words and
double click in Drip and Facebook. Alright, we decided that we’re going to have
a maximum two second load time called cache on these pages. Is this worth
throwing that constraint out? Or should we pick and choose a little bit adding
this things [00:26:47] they have no impact on the performance [00:26:49] to a
Jonathan: I love that you call it diagnosis. I love it because it really gets me at least into the mindset of a doctor, right? What’s the case here? Let’s figure out what’s going on. What’s necessary? And always, always asking them, what’s the business case for this? I feel you can’t go wrong asking that question.
Philip: It’s malpractice if you don’t. I often wish that this software consulting profession
had a sort of AMA type of body that you can be kicked out off.
Reuven: I’m sitting here scratching my chin thinking about this transition from sort of
that staff augmentation mindset which is really a great way to describe how I
thought about working with a client once I started out to this more advice
giving consultative mindset. It’s not easy, if you don’t feel some feeling of
confidence in your own judgment. It’s really hard to make that transition. Have
you seen yourself go through that? You don’t count Jonathan because apparently
you’re confident about everything you’ve ever done.
Jonathan: I’m often [00:28:03] but never in doubt.
Philip: Which is kind of nice. What about you Reuven?
Reuven: I now that I went through that transition. I definitely felt like for a number of
years [00:28:22] would turn to me and say what do you think about X and I think
I don’t even feel like I was responsible for telling what I thought about X.
They weren’t necessarily asking. That was my position, I need that fellow. But
it was not obvious when I start consulting to that was necessary to all part of
the job. Fortunately I don’t even want. Staff augmentation is definitely what I
imaging consulting to be, when I started at it. That was 100% what I thought it
would be when I started at it.
Philip: I think a good approach for people who do have that fear or maybe it’s a little
more positive term like [00:28:59] to say what they should do. A useful tactic
is to target business that don’t have your skills in house and don’t want it,
like an accountant, I don’t want be good at that. I don’t want to hire someone
to do it internally. I’ll completely want to outsource that. It’s distasteful
task in my opinion or to me. I’m probably a great customer for an accountant
because I don’t want to get in their business at all. Now imagine if you were
an accountant and you were going to do the books for another accountant or
someone fancy themselves as an accountant.
I’ve certainly have projects with folks who fancy themselves as developers or that’s bootstrap their way with enough technical skills to be dangerous into a successful business and then realize that they’ve over their head once they’ve got the revenues stream. Makes financial streams to I come in, they have a hard time letting go of the fact that they know how they did it and they have this pledge on when they patch together and it’s hard for them to switch that off. The better clients you can do that, the other ones eventually probably just let them go because
their constantly asking you question and they never take your advice. They just
second guessing you and micromanaging all time or questioning decision
endlessly. Very tedious.
The point I’m getting at is if you do a thing and you want to move away from staff [00:30:39] or you want to target businesses that don’t have your capability in house and want it. If you are a React developer, if you’re going to go offer your technical services to like a valley startup that has 5 other developer and staff. They’re not impressed with your skills, they’re not going to be impressed with your skills. They have 5 other guys that do what you do, or 5 other girls that do what you do. They just need another pair of hands, that’s how they’re going to treat you. But if you’re an amazing Mac developer, you could target, what I always say, dentist or you could target somebody who’s never going to have React developer on set. You can target a market who’s never going to hire a full time React developer and find problems that they have that you can solve with your skills and you will be an expert.
The dumbest thing that comes out of your mouth about React is going to be 100 times better than anything that they’ll ever think of. So [00:31:39] with my
accountant, my accountant would be an idiot, I have no idea. I am not smart
questioning her judgment. I just met her, I trust her, a friend recommended
her, I just trust her, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I
know absolutely 0 about accounting and I always outsource. One way of saying
expertise is relative. The thing that you’re an expert at is in supply those
current customers are probably never going to really value you that highly. You
probably want to find customers who don’t [00:32:13] more of you in house and
who probably never will. And you’ll feel much more confident because everything
you say will be like, ugh, that’s a great idea. Go ahead and do it.
It gets back to a question we got last week in the Q&A. You have to be willing
to use something other than just your craft. In other words, you’re building a
business based on expertise then you have to be willing to do that business-y
stuff like talk to clients. I think if you want to just do your craft 24/7 and
be around other people who are also craftsman that’s much more like being an
employee than it is like being a consultant.
Reuven: When you move out of that staff augmentation, the stakes do go up and one the ways that I started getting more comfortable with at was too just simply when I was having a meeting with a client to as soon as possible in that pre-meeting
chitchat time to say how’s business going? Instead of how was your week end?
Which is fine or whatever, right? To say how’s business going? For me it was
just an easy low stakes way to start trying to get outside the scope of the
project and hear from the client in their own words, how’s business going? Just
the one simple thing I can advise to folks at home. If you’re in that position
of like, oh my gosh, this sounds so risky. You’re right it is. The most risky
thing you can do is be a pair of hands where somebody else makes a decision.
And Jonathan’s salary cap numbers pretty consistent with what I would say as
It does involve risk to get away from being a pair of hands but I think there are ways to do it gradually. It’s not like an overnight transition, because that’s really setting yourself up for failure if you just expect to be able to ask the right two questions then the world open up to you and all of a sudden you’re getting triple the amount of money you used to. Doesn’t really work that way or at least it didn’t for me. Maybe I’m just slow, though.
Philip: It takes time. You have to learn how to do it. How to ask the right question.
Which people you want to talk to. Who are the one’s worth talking to. All of
this takes a long time to get right.
Reuven: It’s a risk or reward thing. If you are happy capping out with $140 or something and you’re just comfortable, cool. That’s cool. Not saying it’s bad. But if you
want to go past that, you’re going to have to take some risk. Let’s put this in
a bigger scheme of things like, what are we talking about risk wise here?
You’re not wrestling an alligator. A lead comes in and you try to handle it in
a way that you’ve never handled it before. The way that we’re describing. You
do a diagnosis, you push back, you don’t jump to offer the lowest price. Maybe
you don’t get it for the first time. But what did you really lose? And if that
next gig is like if you need to get it, your mortgage or your car payment or
whatever. Don’t do it on that one. Wait till you got a little bit of cushion
and when you’re feeling comfortable, then that’s time to try it a little bit different
way to have a wide conversation, which matter. Do a diagnosis. You’ll be
shocked what happens. You’ll be setting yourself apart from virtually everybody
else they’re talking to. Because no one else is going to be like, [00:36:59] is
this, yes, yes, yes. I can do everything you want. I can start tomorrow. The
other way that they’re really have to compare them, a group of people like that
is like giving the lowest hourly rate. But if you’re the one that says, oh I
can do that for you but what are you trying to achieve because it’s hard for me
to see where a company like you would benefit from this thing that you’re
asking me to do. And they’ll sit back, well, okay, this is what we think. It
get some engaging at a completely different level, a more of a partner level.
And you’ll screw up the first few times but what else do you get to do?
Philip: I guess I’ve done three roadmapping projects from people now. And first of all,
I found that laughable at the beginning that anyone would blame me to that sort
if estimate. Because really, it was certainly more thorough that the other
estimated I’ve done for clients in the past. But [00:37:57] that much more
thorough. I mean, for crying out loud, it was like, 10 page instead of 5 pages
or 6 pages. And they were paying me for crying out loud. And the thing is, I
was very so nervous about asking, I have sort maybe not the best kind but a
sort of wide conversation, asking them.
If you like to describe a job that at least why this and why now.
I didn’t really get to the why me because it was a road map and I think they
were fascinated that anyone was taking an interest in this. The way they was
talking about their organization and wanting to hear them justify what they
were doing. I don’t think they’ve ever stepped back and thought about it. it
think they were very pleased to have to be able to have the opportunity to do
this thinking and filter things out and this is important and that’s not
important. And the definitely sort of putting in their eyes as an expert.
Yesterday, I got an email from one of the people from where I done the road
map. Where they decided not to sort of go with me for the development but just
stick with their existing [00:38:54 parable ….] company and they wrote to me
and say you know we were so happy with the work that you did there. We like to
bring you and tell us how to construct a technical staff in house. You have to
go with it. There we go. Basically, because these questions I was asking and
because of the way I was communicating with them about what are the goals? It
totally worked to my advantage in the long term.
Reuven: Look where you put yourselves in their minds they don’t see your highest value as a
developer anymore it is as an adviser.
Jonathan: Yeah. That’s going to be the more profitable
project anyway, right?
Philip: Here’s the thing. For the audience. Let’s make it super clear what we mean buy
profitable because it’s not more revenue, it’s more profit. A software project,
an implementation could be 3, 6, 9, 12 months long. That’s a lot of revenue.
Your overall gross sales would be a $100,000 for a 6-month project easily.
That’s high revenue but it’s usually low profit because you’re either paying
employees, you’ve outsource some of the labor or you’re doing it yourself and
all of your time, you have to subtract your time as a cost. It’s not that
profitable. It’s stable, good income overtime but it’s not that profitable. If
you write a 10 page report or something and they pay you four figures for it,
that’s far more profitable. It’s only a $1000 or $2000 but you did it in three
hours and you’re positioned in this client’s line as someone’s that operates at
a higher level, who can tell them what they should do. And so you can create a
much more profitable in terms your price minus your cost, that’s profit. You
can create much more profitable offerings for these people. You need to do a
lot of them because it’s not a 6 month thing, it’s like a one week thing. It
means that you can work for four hours a week. And make a good weekly income,
if you get a lot of these. Overtime, you’ll start to get a lot of these and
then you’re like wow, I’m working 20 hours a week, $300,000 a year.
Reuven: People talk. I guess they talk in all industries but I feel like especially in high
tech and maybe it’s double especially in Israel where it’s like a very small
country. Everyone talks to each other. Maybe it’s not a coincidence actually
that I was contacted by this organization and on the same day the one whom
which I was in touch, her husband runs a company called me up and said hey I
can use some software advice on things and maybe some development. Right?
Basically it’s amazing, it’s a total different image you write then being the
software developer to my turn. Even though this sort of way to get to where
they wanted involves software [00:41:44].
Philip: The funny I find with people who picture themselves as developers that anything
that’s easy for them, they feel like has no value.
Jonathan: Hahaha. That’s right.
Philip: That’s exactly where all the value is. It’s the thing they give away for free. They’re
like somebody says to him, I’m considering using phone gap versus native iOS.
If somebody said that to me, I would ask some six questions and I tell him
which one to do. With 100% confidence. And it would be so easy for me, air
quotes “easy” because I’ve been studying it for 10 years. It would be so “easy”
for me to answer that one question which could swing a $1,000,000 one way or
the other for that company, they could do a $1,000,000 project using the wrong
choice and end up finding out at the end that it was a huge mistake. How much
do I charge him for that? It’s a good question, depends. But it’s certainly
highly valuable and it adds something that you want to be giving away for free
all the time. Nothing to feel bad about charging a fair price for.
Reuven: Let me put that in a [00:43:01] a contrast.
Philip: I’m sure you’ve heard that before.
Reuven: I need that. This road mapping that people would call me back now easily like a
quarter of the time was me explaining to them that on a website, like web
application, you need to have a database server and a web server and the
browser and how they work together. And I think most developers will be like,
what? You charge the money to explain that the web works, are you kidding me? Yes, and not only did I. But they’ve loved it and they were [00:43:35]
about it, and they’re asking for more. And that is 100% the sort of thing that
I would give away in the past. I’m like well, clearly everyone should know this
if they are going to a web project the after we have been on that we can talk
real stuff. For them this is real stuff because it’s all new. The fact that we
do it every day doesn’t make it less new to them.
Jonathan: Just point out that value is completely contextually defined.
Jonathan: And this is where I was talking about before where the Garden Variety web developer who has been doing this for three years maybe has like a CS degree has way more information about the basics of like the puzzle pieces involved with creating say an ecommerce store. Then a billion potential clients, at least millions. If you target clients who already know all that stuff that you already know, then you’re going to be perceived as not an expert. But if you target someone who knows nothing about that because they’re an accountant and they don’t care about that stuff other than what it can do for them, they don’t care about what’s under the hood. And you will be like an expert and if they click with you personality wise and you just have a good relationship and they trust you and you’re a reasonably good communicator, they’ll cling onto you like a life preserver. And you will treat them with respect and trust and you will not make them feel like an idiot when you
explain the difference between http and https and they will love you for it and
they will gladly pay you for it because it’s valuable to them. Anyway, this
people which change to use.
Reuven: What do you think about the NAV? Like if that ever comes out of Freelancers’ Show listener’s mouth?
Philip: [00:45:18] and my shoe. Or the internet [00:45:22].
Jonathan: I think we should start wrapping up but that seems like such a natural question for someone to ask. You show enough what you’ve done, right? You’ve created this magnificent design, you’re showing it off to your client and instead of saying what do you think? What should you be asking, do you think this fairly captures the business goals or achieve a business goal we want? Is that what we should be saying?
Philip: You asked the wrong guy because I put up proposals were, like you are not allowed any input on the design of your website.
Jonathan: You really say that to your proposals?
Philip: I did one proposal where I explicitly said. Basically I said, you can give me
your input but I have to retain veto power because a lot of design decisions
that people tends to make, business owners tends to make are counter to the
goals of this project. You’re going to ask for bigger crisp images, you’re
going to ask for more images, you’re going to ask for more tracking and all of
these things are going to decrease the stated goal which is to increase sales
on mobile. It was sort of a rare project in the sense that we had our very
clear bottom line [00:46:33 metric]. They’re usually not that clear and so in
that case I was like, I’m not taking this risk unless I give myself the power
to veto design decisions because they will affect these stated outcome. I don’t
usually go that far but this was such a clear outcome and I want going to out
myself out for that.
Reuven: What should you do in designer view, I think the most important thing when I’m
communicating with the customer, there are two things really that get
communicating, one is that we’re making good progress or not. Basically a
progress update, we had some surprises with the offline support on mobile
Safari we’re working on it. I think we have solution but I’ll keep you posted.
That’s taking longer than expected. Or we say everything is going great.
Progress is right on track. Here’s the timeline and here’s where we are, here’s
where we end this. We’re making progress.
And then the other thing I will do in those meetings is I will say something we
came to a fork in the road, I might not even tell them what the fork is but say
I came to a fork in the road and it led me to ask this question and I will ask
them a business question. I’ll say something like there’s a design decision
that we’re considering. This every [00:47:44] the two possibilities to them
I’ll ask the question that is like is it more important to target 18-25 year
old males or females or is it going to be both? I won’t even get into like the
whole, well if it’s going to be female, it should be red. If it’s going to be
males, it should be green. I’ll just be like we came to a point where we didn’t
have enough information about your business, usually it’s about their
customers. That’s usually the question is like. What do your customers prefer?
How savvy are your users? Should we do something really slick or really,
really [00:48:22]. Do we really down it down and make everything just spelled
out in the interface? Give me example of a typical user. [00:48:33 Do they
understand] double click, do they know how to drag and drop? And sometimes
they’ll get people like my customer don’t understand if somebody say drag and
drop my customer would just stare at me.
Jonathan: Really? Wow.
Reuven: I had a question the other day that was like, I spent 15 minutes on the phone
call the other day I will say okay, data site is up, you guys can test it. You
can imagine all the things say, and you’ll give me all your email address, I’ll
create the accounts, I’m going to change your passwords, here’s something the
interface works… I tried to make it as straightforward and non-technical as
possible and I get questions like I’m doing the screen share to group the
people and I get questions like is that the URL that it’s going to be at? And
questions like what browser should we use for this? It was like an internal
admin, like almost like a WordPress administrator on Facebook. What browser
should we use for this? Is this going to work on our PC? I’m like wow. It was
like 16 people on the phone that were like asking questions. I don’t want to
come across like I think they’re idiots because I don’t. They’re great at their
thing which has absolutely nothing with web developer.
Philip: Which makes them such great clients because they appreciate your expertise. They’re not going to second guess you and the questions are coming from ignorance not stupidity and in many ways I find this sorts of clients are often easiest to work with. I guess that what you’re saying easy to work with, appreciative and often offer insights that I never would’ve thought of myself.
Reuven: You can be a superhero to them.
Philip: If you respect them. Problem is I think a lot of people start to disrespect them.
And they’re like oh these clients are so stupid or these clients are horrible
or client will ask for something that on the surface it is an idiotic request
and if you’re the type of the person to just take orders from your clients then
that can get really frustrating. The ramifications of the client later would be
oh, this ramifications are horrible like well you ask me to do it. But if
instead they going to ask you that’s sort of idiotic on the surface and you say
why do you ask that? What’s the business case for that? Why do you want that?
Why did you bring that up? Why did that occurred to you? And you can get at the
root because they are totally over their heads, out of their depth. You can
usually explain the question away. Like oh, that one matter because and say or
just install chrome, can you guys install chrome on your machines at work? You
had it? You have it? Okay great. You’re all set, just use chrome.
Jonathan: I seem to remember Patrick McKenzie tells a story about when he was doing bingo card creator. This was like an applications for elementary school teachers, maybe middle school teachers. And he got some teacher asking him why does it work when I’m using the green google but not the blue google? He was like what the heck? Any technical person or most type of people would sneer at that and ignore that. But he beyond understand that if I’m not to say that was a different browsers and of course no clue about different browsers. Just in the browsers like explain things in different colors. And through that he was able to bug it and won a customer for life basically.
Reuven: Anybody listening to this show, you’re an expert compared to somebody. Find them. Be their champion. They will gladly pay you for it.
Philip: About that. I feel like I’m on like crazy on this show so we should probably.
Jonathan: This is good. Any last thoughts, Philip? Anything more to say before we’re going to picks?
Philip: That was a perfect note to end on. Really just that the most vague level we’re
talking about. Really, we’re talking about how to manage a project but it kind
of boils down to where you can create the most value because if the value
proposition is compelling, you get a lot less. You just inherently in the
project get a lot less micro-management but I found this to be true for myself,
it’s really is how you behave. At least for me, most of the problems came from
my own behavior as a freelancer. Start there, when you’re looking to improve
things. Go slowly. It’s a change, it’s not going to happen overnight.
Reuven: That’s nice. Jonathan, got any picks for us this week?
Jonathan: I do. Let me see if I can find that actual name of it. Mike Monteiro, this is especially for the designers in the room. Mike Monteiro does a fabulous canoe, [00:53:00] give it a few times that very much hammers on a lot of these same notes. But he’s very much focused on designers and I think designers are the ones that suffer from this sort of make the logo go bigger problem for the most people. They might get the idea like yeah, you’re right but what do I actually say it can be tough when it comes right down to tactical situation. Wonder [00:53:29] what I actually say and if you want more of this look for, go to the show notes, I’ll have the link to it but there’ll be a Keeno video of Mike Monteiro. I think the Keeno is called “You’ve been lied to” It’s great. If you read every word of it and as always sort of cranky old man presentation style which is great.
Philip: I don’t know if I have seen that one but I definitely saw, I think it was that
one plus one or two others of this. He’s a great speaker.
Jonathan: Yeah. He’s one. Just sort of a random pick. Mulling to the holiday season and I have this thing that has been a trusty companion in my bag that I got from everyday carry old Gerber Shard. That’s like this little medal multi tool that does like, it’s like a bottle opener, a screwdriver. It’s kind of like the single metal that you can put in your keychain as no moving parts and I got to tell you, I use this thing all the time. Especially when I’m travelling because it’s TSA approved and in our house we’ll have a Christmas, we have a whole bunch of toys with batteries, they have this little Phillips head screw on the battery compartment and this thing is really [00:54:48] I’m going to have it in my pocket that has a Phillips head
that I’ve been using endlessly on Christmas days. By the time this comes out
maybe it will be too late for Christmas but whatever holiday you celebrate but
this is a great little tool to have our new keychain. And I recommend it.
Reuven: This is not made by Gerber like the baby food company. It’s a different Gerber.
Jonathan: Gerber knife, I think. I don’t know if that’s the same company. Baby food and knives, that’s kind of a weird line extension.
Reuven: Philip, you got any picks for us this week?
Philip: Jonathan’s pick is hilarious. I earlier on the show wrote down a note to do a pick for Mike Monteiro’s book Design is a Job. I bet it’s a real similar content to that
Keeno talked about. Really, really good book, when I read it the first time I
though, this is not going to be probably for me, this is for designers. But it
was recommended whatever, turned out it was a great book for anybody who
provides expertise for clients or billed things for clients. I agree with a lot
of what’s in there. It really is talking a lot how to make that transition from
pair of hands to adviser or consultant and gives a lot of practical advice for
how to do that.
I got another book recommendation for my second pick which is a book called Start with No by a guy named Jim Camp. I read over the past month or so and that’s another book I was really expecting to just be like I don’t know. But it was
recommended to me enough times it got over the threshold of I’ll read it
anyway. Even though it seems like it’s not for me and it’s just amazing. It’s
an amazing book on how to do negotiation, a part that resonates with me and
actually kind of connects back to something Jonathan said where each request
that clients gives you, you need to have a sort of separate micro discovery
session for that request. Which could just take 10 seconds where you say okay,
why do we need to do that? Why do we need to make the logo bigger? Or why do we need to add those fields to hat form or whatever it is. That connects to this
book because Jim Camp talks about how every little tiny aspect of a longer
relationship a negotiating partner is the term little negotiation and again the
thing that resonated with me, he talks about trying to uncover, he uses the
word advisory to talk about who you’re negotiating with. Kind of uncover their
pain, the thing that you can help them solve and use a negotiation conversation
as a way to find out what that is. It’s just completely opposite all of the
other advice I’ve ever seen on negotiation and all that other advice really
seem to me to be about power and giving what you want rather than helping
somebody else to get what they want at it just so happens a premium right for
that and Jim Camp’s approach just made a lot more sense to me. The book’s
called Start with No and that’s my second pick for this week.
Reuven: I got one pick for this week. I’m sure all those kids are familiar with the
Dilbert Cartoon. It’s got Scott Adam who draws it. I just read how to fail with
almost everything and still win big kind of the story of my life which is a
book by Scott Adams and I see it recommend, it thought okay, I’ll take a look
at it. I would say a good quarter of it found just sort of silly and
ridiculous. But a fair amount of it is was actually quite interesting, I think
in particular he says I serve more start of term that we would normally use,
set up systems. Right, this is something that we talk about the show quite a
bit and we heard from the people whom we interview that if you set up a system
in your life and you’re more likely to do it and achieve something. And it
talks a lot how to do that do that in different areas of your life, not just in
work. It’s very encouraging for people who fail at things which is basically
everyone. And he goes out of his way to mention all of the stupid things he’s
done or many of them. And how he was able to turn some of those bad things and
turn them into good things. And of course he’s kind of funny too. So I
definitely recommend taking a look at that.
I guess that is our show for this week. Thank you Philip and Jonathan. And thanks
to you all out there in podcast land from listening and we will talk to you all