The Freelancers’ Show 068 – Building a Consultancy with Ben Lachman and Robert Cantoni
Panel Ben Lachman (twitter blog) Robert Cantoni (twitter) Ashe Dryden (twitter github blog) Reuven Lerner (twitter github blog) Curtis McHale (twitter github blog) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Ramp Up) Discussion 01:29 - Ben Lachman and Robert Cantoni Introduction Nice Mohawk 02:26 - Finding Work Dividing Client Communication Handling Marketing and Sales 06:52 - Forming a Partnership Contracts 08:23 - Partnerships vs being on your own Finding work for others 15:39 - Managing larger consultancies 16:18 - Potentially expanding the business 18:33 - Marketing Avenues Referrals/Word-of-mouth 23:02 - Working with other consultancies 24:59 - Ideal vision for the business 29:10 - Advice for someone looking to build a consultancy Pick your projects wisely Picks A/B Testing (Curtis) 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron (Eric) Coursera Public Speaking Course (Ashe) Nairobi Developer School Indiegogo Campaign (Ashe) Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are (Jeff) Patrick Mackenzie: What Product Companies Can Learn From Consulting Companies (Reuven) David Siteman Garland: Create Awesome Online Courses (Chuck) Jefferson's Bourbon (Ben) Matasano Crypto Challenges (Ben) ustwo Pixel Perfect Precision Handbook (Robert) Mike Monteiro: Getting Comfortable With Contracts (Robert) Book Club Getting Things Done with David Allen! He will join us for an episode to discuss the book on July 30th. The episode will air on August 7th. Next Week Setting Boundaries Transcript CHUCK: Ashe is our voice of reason. BEN: Great. [Reuven laughs] ASHE: Oh, we're in trouble. [Laughter] ERIC: Can we mute her then? [Laughter][hosting and bandwidth provided by the blue box group. check them out at bluebox.net.] [You're fantastic at code, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at nextlevelfreelance.com!] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 68 of The Freelancers' Show! This week on our panel, we have Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hello from Madison, Wisconsin! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hello there! CHUCK: Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Hey! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What's up! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. We also have a couple of special guests! Our first guest is Ben Lachman. BEN: Hello from Athens, Ohio! CHUCK: And we also have Robert Cantoni. ROBERT: Yup! That's my name! Hi, everybody! CHUCK: Why don't you guys introduce yourselves before we get going? BEN: Go for it, Bob! ROBERT: [Laughs] Okay! Ben and I work together, we have a company called "Nice Mohawk Ltd.". We do iOS development and lots of freelancing stuff. We have one app of our own that's sort of out in the store, that's what we do; mostly contract work at this point. CHUCK: You say nice mohawk, and I think bikers. ROBERT: [Laughs] Like motorcycle? CHUCK: Yeah. ROBERT: Motorcycle bikes? CHUCK: Yup. BEN: Not tricycle. ROBERT: Yeah. CHUCK: Not tricycles [laughs]. Sweet. [Robert laughs] CHUCK: Ben, anything you want to add to that? BEN: No! I mean we have -- so I started out on my own. And then a little over a year ago, we started Nice Mohawk together,
CHUCK: Ashe is our voice of reason. BEN: Great. [Reuven laughs] ASHE: Oh, we're in trouble. [Laughter] ERIC: Can we mute her then? [Laughter] [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net.] [You're fantastic at code, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at nextlevelfreelance.com!] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 68 of The Freelancers' Show! This week on our panel, we have Ashe Dryden. ASHE: Hello from Madison, Wisconsin! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hello there! CHUCK: Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Hey! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What's up! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. We also have a couple of special guests! Our first guest is Ben Lachman. BEN: Hello from Athens, Ohio! CHUCK: And we also have Robert Cantoni. ROBERT: Yup! That's my name! Hi, everybody! CHUCK: Why don't you guys introduce yourselves before we get going? BEN: Go for it, Bob! ROBERT: [Laughs] Okay! Ben and I work together, we have a company called "Nice Mohawk Ltd.". We do iOS development and lots of freelancing stuff. We have one app of our own that's sort of out in the store, that's what we do; mostly contract work at this point. CHUCK: You say nice mohawk, and I think bikers. ROBERT: [Laughs] Like motorcycle? CHUCK: Yeah. ROBERT: Motorcycle bikes? CHUCK: Yup. BEN: Not tricycle. ROBERT: Yeah. CHUCK: Not tricycles [laughs]. Sweet. [Robert laughs] CHUCK: Ben, anything you want to add to that? BEN: No! I mean we have -- so I started out on my own. And then a little over a year ago, we started Nice Mohawk together, which was kind of new thing of doing development and indie contracting as a partnership instead of just completely on your own. CHUCK: Nice. I'm kind of curious because I have some friends over here in Utah that they went into business together; they decided they were going to do their own consultancy together. They seem to be doing okay finding work for themselves on their own before they teamed up, but for some reason, as a pair, they couldn't quite find enough work to make it work. So, I'm wondering what the tradeoffs are there and what they may or may not have been able to manage that you guys seem to have been able to do? BEN: I think one of the big advantages of having more than one person is that we divide up client communication for maybe betting out or inspecting out a project with a potential client. One of us can keep working on other projects without taking time from those projects. We both have clients that are kind of 'we're the primary communication person' for that client, which I think has been, for me, has been really nice. ROBERT: We have a lot of clients who just don't want to talk to Ben; they just feel like, "Man! Ben is just the worst!" So I try to make them happy and tell them that I'm the good part of the team and they should know -- [Chuck laughs] ROBERT: They should only talk to me. I think you can run into trouble if you sort of double your overhead, but don't necessarily double your contacts for having sort of new clients. Now, I suddenly have 2 people, but I don't necessarily -- we know lots of the same people. And that can make it hard if you're trying to go into business and start out sort of adding your team member. It's been interesting for us because we -- I started out just Ben already had an existing business, and I was just sort of helping him with few different projects where he had some clients with apps that needed updates: and so I would sort of handle the updates. And then eventually, I just took over those projects and became the primary person for those ones. So then, it made a lot of sense for us to just say, "Oh, well let's just do this thing as a team." CHUCK: Is there a process that you go through then to build up from one person to 2 people? BEN: Since I did have an existing business, it seemed like it made a lot more sense to start something new versus have Bob kind of try to buy into that. Just for my purely financial standpoint, it didn't make a lot of sense to maybe have him, but basically buy equity. So starting on kind of an even playing field was really good because there was an emulate, "Oh, I've done this thing for X number of years that's why it's worth this much money," or any of that kind of conversation that was most just, "Hey, we're going to start something new," and see how it works. CHUCK: The next question I have is, are you both kind of in-charge of marketing and sales and finding new people or new clients, I guess? Or, does one of you do that and the other just make sure that the work is getting done? ROBERT: Yeah, we both kind of do that. And it seems like somebody's have to work, that's working pretty well for us. I know we have friends who have consultancies where they'll have, if you have 3 people, you're going to have one person who just does the business development. That makes a whole lot of sense. It seems like that could be nice to sort of take that stuff off your plate. But I think we're both pretty comfortable with that role, and that's one of the nice things about doing consultancy, especially this kind of iOS consultancy as we get to do a bunch of different things. We get to have the coding and end of the design, and then also even on the client's side. I find that -- sometimes, that client communication can be frustrating -- but for the most part, I actually like that; I like that part of the two. I think that works well for us. If we got super busy, I could see that being a problem where we're just both really into trenches working on a project and then there's nobody sort of figuring out what the next project is. But that's something we have to sort of just try to keep an eye out for. BEN: I feel like the marketplace is also a pretty nice place for that right now. It's something that, generally, there are lots of requests for work when there aren't -- there are more requests than maybe we always have time to respond to or deal with. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. CURTIS: I'd like to know what the highlights of any contract you guys sign together just in case things go self. Did you guys work that out beforehand? BEN: We didn't do a 50-50 partnership. We did a slightly offset ownership because we felt like maybe we got around some of the need for lots of pre-arranged stuff. I think it's like 52-48 or something like that split on the partnership, so there is definitely on there; there's a primary partner and not majority partner. I think that was enough for us. We've known each other for a long time; our background is that we went to school together in 2001-ish. ROBERT: Yeah, it's been a while. BEN: Yeah. ROBERT: So if we were going to be -- I would not have a relationship with a client that is as contract-free as our relationship. We do have some paperwork there, but generally, we have worked stuff out to just sort of by talking through it if anything comes up on a per project basis. That's worked out well for us so far. It's something where we have this relationship where we know each other and we trust each other. One day, that's going to just bite Ben in the ass -- [Chuck laughs] ROBERT: But for now, I'm biding my time. CHUCK: One thing that is unique to my situation is I'm starting to get to the point where I want to build up a little bit more of consultancy thing, but I'm not really sure that I want a partner. I've got it right now that's I'm kind of apprenticing so he works on client work for most of the time and then we actually set things up so that I pair with him for an hour or two each week; we also check in periodically to make sure that the work's being done the way that I want. That seems to be working, but I'm just kind of curious if you've seen that kind of set up work where there's just one person that's kind of overall in-charge and then has his subcontractors or employees that do some of the work as well. ROBERT: That's definitely how we started out. Ben was definitely is the primary and I was just sort of coming in and we were definitely check in and worked together a fair amount. We still work together, obviously, lots of the time. For us, it was a natural progression where Ben had other stuff going on and so I was just like, "Alright, well, I'll just do all of this and do the communication," rather than just be working on a feature or a couple of features and have Ben be handling the actual client relationship. It made sense for that to grow a little bit. And as the client got to know me, then I could become the primary contact for them. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. ROBERT: It can be nice for that if that can work out in a maybe more organic way, then I think that can make a lot of sense. BEN: I think also, it's sometimes hard to both be a managing personnel subcontractors (however you want to do it) and managing client relations. So if you purely have people work for you, I feel like there's larger management load versus a partner relationship. I'm not managing Bob; I'm doing my own work and we touch base on stuff, usually daily. But in the past, we have a couple of contractors and it's been more of a management type relationship. I think that makes it a little bit hard to do the purely kind of single-person-top-down thing. When you have two people and you want to grow out to a third or fourth, I think it becomes fairly easy to have one person kind of be director or engineering style role, and then the other partner be more client relations business development business administration stuff. But if you have one person that you try to expand of that, that maybe is too many different hats for that one person to wear easily. I know people that have done it so it's not by any means impossible, but I think it may not be quite as natural. CHUCK: That makes sense. REUVEN: I've had sort of ups and downs, I don't have a partner, but I've had ups and downs with employees over the years. I think just before the dot-com bust in 2000, I had 5 people working for me. Now, I've got one person working for me and sometimes I've been on my own; I've sort of seen advantages and disadvantages in different ways. But the thing that was always really hard for me was finding work for the people working for me because it's like finding work for myself - not so hard to do. Finding work for people working under me is a little more difficult partly because I'm selling them (and they're not as experienced as I am), and partly because there just more to sort of go out and sell. I'm wondering if, (a) you've experienced that; and (b) if the nature of the partnership changes that because you're sort of closer to 'too equals' and so people will see you that way. BEN: Right. I think for us -- ROBERT: Many people see us however we present ourselves. But definitely having the body of work that sort of, "Our team did this," and it's not necessarily like, "Alright, I did this or you did this," but we can put that forward and have people feel like, "Yeah, we do have experience doing this stuff." They're not necessarily too worried which one of us is going to be working on this project. BEN: Yeah. I think that that has definitely changed the challenge. Because it's like, when we've had contractors do subbed out work, you're kind of vouchering for their quality, and that's a lot of pressure to put on someone who's not actually maybe as bought into the outcome as you are as a owner or a partner. ASHE: I ran a business a few years ago and I had employees. I think that the more stressful part of that, for me, wasn't selling their services, but the fact that their livelihood is kind of dependent on me selling services. I actually found it was a lot easier and less stressful to have partners because these are people that are equally invested in getting new business and understanding implications of not completing a project or on an unhappy client versus people that are just working with you for a paycheck. CHUCK: Yeah, I can vouch for that with my subcontractors. I always feel bad when I don't have enough work for them and tell them that they're kind of on their own until I find more. For the most part, I'm pretty good about providing steady work, but every once in a while, things get slow. And when it comes right down to it, then I have to do the work so that I can get paid, and I feel bad whenever those things occur. So I definitely feel that stress - the stress of, "Okay, I need to keep these guys busy." BEN: Yeah, I feel bad when Bob doesn't get a paycheck also. [Laughter] REUVEN: No, it's true. When the dot-com employees that happened in 2000, I had 5 or 6 people working for me. And basically, over the course of 3-5 months, I had to lay them all off because it was clear there was not going to be work and at that point, they were all on salary. There was a limited amount of time that I was willing to pay their monthly salaries out of my pocket hoping to find work, and that was very difficult. Because right, saying that "I'm sorry, I have to let you go not because you're bad, but because the marketing conditions have changed," that definitely made it a very sensitive point as made me much more reluctant to hire people than with the case back then. I'll only do it if I'm really, really sure both for my sake and for theirs that I'll be able to keep the steady work coming. ROBERT: I think for us, we used a few subcontractors for the parts of our work that aren't iOS development, that aren't sort of the strict coding. So if we have a particular design need or a particular need for some kind of backend, we'll reach out to people for that stuff. But then it's really clearly that it's on a per project basis. It's not as good for us because we don't have those people on-call all of the time and they may not be available. But I think that makes a lot of sense for us in terms of we're not responsible for their entire livelihood; we're just happy to use their services when we need them. CHUCK: Have you guys worked for or managed any larger consultancies that had more than just the two of you? BEN: No. I started as an indie Mac developer and doing some freelance stuff on Mac prior to iOS, but it was always kind of renaissance developer style. Even for a lot of my early stuff, I did all the design and possibly down to the touch of many some of my products. But I've always been on my own and kind of working for myself. REUVEN: Have you guys considered adding partners or expanding the business at all. Or, at this point, you're pretty happy with where you are and you're in-sync, I don't know, strategically as well? BEN: I think it would be a little bit challenging for us. I don't think it's something that we wouldn't if we found the right person; that's kind of a cop out answer. There's always that person out there that you would of dead. I think particularly somebody in the kind of more graphic design realm or somebody maybe stronger in the web development skill set, since we are both almost exclusively iOS, both of those might be someone with a skill set and kind of technical contribution that would make us interested. I think the hard thing would be is that, since we have known each other for so long and have a pretty overlong relationship, that it would be an interesting challenge to add another partner that maybe didn't have that - that long of history with us. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ROBERT: The other part of our business that relates to that is that our business is sort of split. We were doing this consultancy a fair amount of the time, but then we're also using that to make our own apps. And so we have different needs for those different projects where the web -- having a really good web developer is useful for a vast majority of I think the contracts that we take on. It's not really as useful for us when we're doing our own projects, at least the ones we've attempted so far, and maybe that would change if we had another partner who was really into web stuff. But I think that because the business is split a little bit, it makes more sense to have those guys help us out on various projects rather than be part of the team. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ROBERT: That's they're not part of the team; they're valued, they're team members, we really respect and appreciate all of them. CHUCK: I'm a little curious, and maybe you can talk about this a little bit more, but how do you do your marketing then? You mentioned that you're like, "Our team, and us, and we," but what avenues do you pursue to find work? Is it mostly referral? Or is it, you actually go and find the work? ROBERT: It's a lot of referrals, a lot of word of mouth. If we do see an interesting project, either when "if things are getting slow" or if I'm just on the look out maybe for some really fascinating project that's like contract project that I'd love to work on, so if we see something like that, then we will sort of contact them and see what we can do. We have a website, we have a blog, stride out and maybe give ourselves at least a little bit of credibility. And then for our client work, those are iOS apps and they're not released under our name or under our company. So it's really helpful for us to have our own product and maybe have multiple products where people know, people can see, "Alright, this is our thing," and then also where we can have complete control over that product so we can make sure it looks as good as we can make something look. I think those things help us to have that portfolio that otherwise, as an iOS developer, we might not have if we didn't release our own products. But for the marketing aspect, it's a lot of word of mouth and that's been okay so far. I'm not sure if there are other avenues that we could be pursuing that we maybe should be thinking about. BEN: I had interesting experience. Yesterday actually, I was at my preferred Apple store and I was exchanging an iPhone. I was talking with the business team at the store, they just came over to kind of chat. I've talked with them a little bit before, but I've never really pursued anything. I was asking employees if they had kind of a list of contractors that they recommended to people as the business-to-business aspect of their tear function is; that's what the team is there for. And they said they had one guy that was kind of flakey [laughs]. CHUCK: Oh, man! [Laughs] BEN: I thought that was like kind of fascinating. So I was like, "Hey, here's my card. If you want to refer people to us, I will talk to them." But I wasn't like -- when I walked into the place, I was just there to exchange my iPhone. But I think that might be an interesting way of getting clients as well. We've never done it in the past, but it was just kind of a random thing that came up yesterday that might yield something in the future. It's not one of those do-it-and-it'll-get-you-a-job-in-two-weeks kind of thing, but I think for maybe a longer term investment. And once they have, maybe, have referred somebody to you and it's gone well, it could become more beneficial for them and for you as a contractor. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. I kind of like that approach and that my mind going about some of the computer places around here that maybe I can have them send me people who are interested in whatever it is that they need. BEN: I think the hardest thing once you grow past a single person is that, knowing basically how much work to commit to is harder because when it's just yourself -- everybody has a decent idea of how much work they can get done; sometimes, you overcommit to things. But when you have two people, that's another kind of variable amount of time to budget as far as projects go. So we have had a couple of times where we kind of have too many irons in the fire, too many projects going at once, which is not good for kind of client happiness and stuff like that. But on the other hand, you do have a little bit more flexibility of doing more projects at once, though the result of that is that you can put a little bit more time to talking with clients and maybe marketing yourself and see how more clients coming to you. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. So do you ever do work with other consultancies that do the same thing as you to kind of take care of that extra work if you pick it up? ROBERT: We haven't done that so far, but that's always a possibility. I was just talking to a friend of mine who does consultancy the other day and he has too many projects and could maybe use some help. That's something that is, I had to tell it challenges maybe, where we have to say, "Alright, well, are we a subcontractor for you and are you handling all the client communication? Or, are we just going to sort of take this over?" I think the challenges there are that all of us engineers maybe have a hard time communicating. And when you're communicating with a non-technical person who is the end client that hasn't done challenges, we try not to let there be too many layers of communication there. But yeah, that's a possibility and there's definitely lots of people out there who are maybe trying to do iOS development and trying to do consultancy, and it's easy if we will both take on too much. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. BEN: What we have done a couple of times when we've maybe been a little overloaded with stuff is sub out somehow our own software to other people. Not necessarily like a large part of it, say, you need to have some updates done to your web backend and you really don't have time to do it yourself, we have people that we work with that do iOS and Ruby. When we've been busy, that's the times when I was going to be like, "Oh, well we can have these people work on these small components of our own software to keep them fresh while we focus on some of our contracts that need to get done." CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. REUVEN: I'm sort of curious, when I started consulting, I had these grandiose visions of, "One day, I'm going to have a huge consulting firm and we're going to do enormous projects!" and over the years, I've become quite the solution with that sort of thought and like, "You know, I'm happy to be me working with maybe one employee and a subcontractor and keep it small and more intimate." Do you guys have any sort of vision of way you want to go? I know I asked this earlier, but do you think of that getting bigger? Or, you're sort of happy with where things are now and you wouldn't mind having that continue for years to come? BEN: Oh, I'm interested in hearing answer to those question. [Laughter] ROBERT: It's interesting for us because I think we're maybe trying to figure out, "What is that ideal vision? Is it just sort of us doing our own apps?" I think it's nice to have that consultancy and have that not just for the income, but also because you get to work on a variety of different projects. So for the moment, I feel like we're trying to get to the point where we can just be working on sort of our favorite projects, and if that, sometimes, that's client work that's going to be the most interesting client work that we can find. Maybe that would mean, yeah, expanding and having a designer who works with us and is also a partner, and maybe having a web developer who's working with us. I target on managing at expanding much beyond that, but maybe to 5 people so that seem ludicrous. That seems like that would probably be, if it was going to be more than that, it would be a different kind of business, a different kind of thing. That kind of thing could be fun, but those organizations also already exist and we could be working for one of them. So part of the reason we do this is that it's really nice to have that independence and work on our own and be our own bosses. But then, the other part of it is it's really nice to work as part of a smaller team rather than part of the big organization. So that would be an interesting transition. If that ever happened, I'm not sure if we would be excited about it, or if we would be sort of, "Man, now I'm just a manager and I miss the days where we could just be sort of doing around thing." BEN: Yeah, I think I pretty much agree. I can see adding a person or two, but I don't know if I have the vision for managing an organization that's farther from that. CHUCK: Well, I worked for a consulting firm out here. They were primarily .NET and Java and they had 30 or 40 employees and the whole flavor changes after you get to a certain point so I can definitely see that. And it's interesting to hear you talk about the kind of desire to keep it more of a lifestyle business where it's more about what you get from it in sort of the intangible things than necessarily building a huge consultancy that makes you millions of dollars. It comes down to what you value and I saw that in that business as well where the owners, to some degree at least, we're much more interested in making the money than they were in about providing lifestyle for the people who work with or for them or any of those other things that you're talking about there. ROBERT: Yeah. And I think so far, when we talk about that stuff, it's in the interest of, "Man, if we had an in-house designer, we could make better stuff." So we tried to keep the focus on, "What would let us make better stuff?" rather than "What's going to be the way to make this into a multibillion dollar company?" Unless, Ben, you have a plan for making it get into a multibillion dollar company, which I haven't heard so far. In which case, we can do that. [Laughter] CHUCK: Yeah, Ben, if you want a million dollar company, you're welcome to it; you're welcome to all the work that comes with it. [Laughter] BEN: Yup! CHUCK: Oh, interesting. So if somebody came to you and said, "I want to start a consultancy," what advice would you give them? BEN: I think my advice would be "Pick your projects wisely" because the urge is to just take whatever job comes to you right at the beginning when you're doing that. I don't know how many freelancers I've talked to that have (including myself) that have that one contract from when they've started, it just keeps on bothering them for [laughs], it seem like for the rest of their life as a freelancer. So yeah, pick your project carefully. ROBERT: Right. And from a little bit more technical aspect, if somebody was going to say, "Alright, I want to start a consultancy that focuses on mobile application development," maybe we'd say, "Yeah, you'd probably need to have like an iOS guy and an Android guy," that's definitely a limitation we ran into with clients where they want to have an Android version and sort of do that development side-by-side, and that's not at all what we do. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. BEN: I think that technical limitation as something they would think about as like, "What are your skills and what can you provide? Is it enough to basically attract the kind of clients that you want?" CHUCK: Yeah. Alright, well, we'll go ahead and get into the picks then. We kind of have a full crew this week. Curtis, why don't you start this off with picks? CURTIS: Alright. I'm going to pick "A/B Testing", something I've just started to do on some of my sites. I ran them all on WordPress, and I know a couple of other guys here do it as well. I've got a good blog post that shows you couple of different ways to do it. CHUCK: Awesome. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: Alright, like I said last week, I'm in the process of writing another book. One book I read that was pretty good for me, it's "2k to10k: Writing Faster Better and Writing More of What You Love." They came out of a blog post by a writer, how she kind of analyze, how she worked, and sort of taking like a lot of notes and actually metrics out of writing and basically found what worked for her and this is a short book that goes over that. It goes over writing, editing, (it's mostly fiction stuff) so it's like plotting story, all that stuff. But just using a few tips from this, I was able to really improve my writing, like I used to struggle to get 1000 words out in a couple of hours, and I just talked with Curtis earlier like there is one day where I actually put out over 6000 words. So it's a good book; it's really short. If you do any kind of writing even if it's just blog post, you're going to pick something up from this. CHUCK: Nice. That sounds really good. Then we had a discussion yesterday about writing books, and I'm getting excited about that, too. Thanks for the recommendation. Ashe, what are your picks? ASHE: I have two. The first one is, Coursera is offering a class right now that is an introduction to "Public Speaking". I've been trying to get more people to get into speaking at conferences and user groups, so I think that's a really good first step for people who have some [inaudible] around speaking in front of people, and I'll drop the link. That one just got started, but I think you can join at anytime over the next 10 weeks. The second one is a woman named "Martha who lives in Nairobi, Kenya". She was denied a Visa into United States to attend Hacker School in New York City so she decided to put together her own developer school in Nairobi and she is raising money for that. I think she has almost 2 weeks left, so playing your time to donate to that. CHUCK: Awesome. BEN: That sounds really interesting. CHUCK: Yeah, it does. Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: I have one. It's a "TED Talk by Amy Cuddy" about body language and physiological and psychological changes your body language has on you. It was an interesting talk. I've been doing too much tech stuff, so it's interesting. CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: Well, I picked up one pick for this week. We've got a lot of people, and I've learned my lessons from previous weeks, just one "Patrick Mackenzie", known also as @patio11, who just consistently comes out with really, really clever essays. I think this is a new one; I think it just came out this week or last week about products versus services. I just thought it was both generally interesting because he writes really well, but my favorite part was where he says, "This is what the consultants are saying: Oh, we wish we could do products. This is what the product people are saying: Oh, we wish we could be like consultants." [Laughter] REUVEN: The point of view of the essay is basically, "What can everyone learn from everyone else's business model?" So I definitely recommend it. CHUCK: Awesome. Alright, I have one pick this week and it is a little bit expensive, but so far, it's been really, really good. I've only watched the first module or two and it is "Create Awesome Online Courses". That is put together by David Siteman Garland from The Rise To The Top. It's pretty awesome. It's a video course that walks you through how to build awesome online courses. I've been, like I said, really enjoying it so I'll pick that. And we'll throw it over to Ben. Ben, what are your picks? BEN: I have two this week. The first one is completely none digital related. It's "Jefferson's Bourbon" and I have the pleasure of having someone who's out in San Francisco for WWDC recently, and it's like a small batch blended bourbon, and it's really nice. The second one is a really neat kind of service. It's called the "Matasano Crypto Challenges". Basically, they're a security analyst group and they will send you a crypto challenge that have a time for you to do and they're able to be done by pretty much any programmer in the language of your choice and they're just kind of our way of teaching you about problems with security and cryptography. And they don't require knowledge of how to do crazy cryptology math. They just send them to you 8 at a time and you send them back then they kind of chat with you about it. So it's really a kind of neat service that they're doing. CHUCK: Awesome. Robert, what are your picks? ROBERT: I also have two picks. Two picks that I think helped me get started with doing this kind of consulting. One is the "ustwo Pixel Perfect Precision Handbook". It's just a little handbook about how to do stuff with pixels, some design principles that relate to digital design. I think it's helpful for people who are getting into this kind of -- especially with iOS development, there's a lot of design decisions that you need to make. And sometimes, when you're doing consultancy, you don't have the luxury of having an external designer especially when you're working with clients, they have their own graphic designer, but they don't necessarily have somebody who's comfortable with digital design or with iOS design. So knowing this sort of basic principles I found really helpful. And it's helpful for me just to sort of go back and maybe read it and be able to articulate stuff that you understand from having a little bit of a design eye, but that you haven't really thought about in-depth. The second thing that was really helpful to me getting started was "Figuring Out Contracts". Mike Monteiro does a great -- he has a blog post on contracts, he has a great vimeo/video that's a talk that he gave about getting paid. That also seems like, man, something that is super important to doing consultancy, and it was really helpful for me starting out because we were maybe a little bit -- it's uncomfortable talk about money, it's uncomfortable to try to feel like you're trying to get somebody pay you. And Mike Monteiro's talk has a great title about that you should get paid. CHUCK: Yeah, that video in particular has been picked on the show a couple of times. ROBERT: Great! Excellent! CHUCK: But, yeah! Terrific! Well, thanks for coming on the show guys! We really appreciate your input and hopefully, this helped some folks who are looking at taking things to the next level. ROBERT: No problem. Thanks for having us! BEN: Thanks for having us! It's been a pleasure!