The Freelancers’ Show 072 – Saying NO

00:00
Download MP3

Panel Reuven Lerner (twitter github blog) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Curtis McHale (twitter github blog) Discussion 01:18 - The Power of “NO” Getting Things Done by David Allen Instapaper Evernote Omnifocus 06:56 - Just-in-Time Learning 09:02 - Saying “NO” in Hindsight Overcommitment 11:54 - Getting Comfortable with Saying “NO” Derek Sivers: No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no. Confidence Risk Level 19:14 - Having a Financial Cushion Accounting The Freelancers Show 072 - LessAccounting with Steven Bristol 23:04 - Red Flags That Mean an Instant “NO” Client Investment Slimy People The Ruby Freelancers Show 054 - Red Flags with Potential or Current Clients with Ashe Dryden Disrespectful Clients 32:31 - Irregular Clients Project Minimums Referring Clients to Other People Picks Das Keyboard (Reuven) Kalzumeus Podcast 5: Quitting Consulting Via Productization (Reuven) About the Facebook platform, from Pando Daily (Reuven) Derek Sivers: No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no. (Eric) Filmic Pro (Eric) Jaybird Bluebuds (Curtis) Next Week Book Club: Getting Things Done with David Allen Transcript CURTIS: So, am I the leader since I'm recording? REUVEN: I guess so! [Laughs] CURTIS: Whoo-hoo! ERIC: Curtis, leader! [Laughter] CURTIS: That's right, you can call me "The Leader" for the whole show. [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!] CURTIS: Welcome to the Freelancers' Show Episode 72! Today, we're going to talk about the "Power of No". We have, Eric Davis joining us. ERIC: Hi! CURTIS: And Reuven Lerner. I'm Curtis McHale, filling in for Chuck today because he is, I don't know, he's off, probably sitting on the beach somewhere, not doing much. Like I said, today's topic is the "Power of No". As we've been coming up to the bookclub, I've been reading the "Getting Things Done" book and I think the thing that's continually been impressed on me more and more and more is that so many of the issues are all these tasks and 9000 things that are flying at us are just the power of 'No'. I actually been used it yesterday in my Instapaper queue at 97 articles and decided, "I'm never going to read half of these, why they even put them in?" and just said 'No' to them all and dropped down to like 25 actual real articles that I will make time to read. What about you guys? Eric, have you used no or have you, I guess, not over-committed yourself? ERIC: No. CURTIS: [Laughs] Thanks! ERIC: Oh! Yeah! [Laughter] ERIC: I have to say that a lot. While you're talking, I open up my Instapaper, and god! Maybe a month ago, I actually went in there and there's a button, I've been afraid to hit it. It basically says, "Delete everything that's aloo in 30 days." I've had Instapaper stuff in there that came from tags that I had in Delicious, which were from 2005-2006 that I've -- CURTIS: I don't know there is that button. That's just on the web view? ERIC: Yeah. CURTIS: I manually deleted all mine! ERIC: Oh, yeah! Look for an "Archive All", it's on the right side. But yeah, I overcommit stuff. I've had times where I've had over a thousand items on my to-do list, and the Getting Things Done stuff, that's not really...

Transcript

CURTIS: So, am I the leader since I'm recording? REUVEN: I guess so! [Laughs] CURTIS: Whoo-hoo! ERIC: Curtis, leader! [Laughter] CURTIS: That's right, you can call me "The Leader" for the whole show. [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!] CURTIS: Welcome to the Freelancers' Show Episode 72! Today, we're going to talk about the "Power of No". We have, Eric Davis joining us. ERIC: Hi! CURTIS: And Reuven Lerner. I'm Curtis McHale, filling in for Chuck today because he is, I don't know, he's off, probably sitting on the beach somewhere, not doing much. Like I said, today's topic is the "Power of No". As we've been coming up to the bookclub, I've been reading the "Getting Things Done" book and I think the thing that's continually been impressed on me more and more and more is that so many of the issues are all these tasks and 9000 things that are flying at us are just the power of 'No'. I actually been used it yesterday in my Instapaper queue at 97 articles and decided, "I'm never going to read half of these, why they even put them in?" and just said 'No' to them all and dropped down to like 25 actual real articles that I will make time to read. What about you guys? Eric, have you used no or have you, I guess, not over-committed yourself? ERIC: No. CURTIS: [Laughs] Thanks! ERIC: Oh! Yeah! [Laughter] ERIC: I have to say that a lot. While you're talking, I open up my Instapaper, and god! Maybe a month ago, I actually went in there and there's a button, I've been afraid to hit it. It basically says, "Delete everything that's aloo in 30 days." I've had Instapaper stuff in there that came from tags that I had in Delicious, which were from 2005-2006 that I've -- CURTIS: I don't know there is that button. That's just on the web view? ERIC: Yeah. CURTIS: I manually deleted all mine! ERIC: Oh, yeah! Look for an "Archive All", it's on the right side. But yeah, I overcommit stuff. I've had times where I've had over a thousand items on my to-do list, and the Getting Things Done stuff, that's not really...But it's just kind of like I dump anything in there and I'd commit to things or I'd have an idea and -- they're actually like thinking about the idea and commit to it and put them on my to-do list, and then 6 months, 12 months down the road, I had realized, "I'm probably not going to do this," and I delete it. I was basically adding 50 or 60 things a week to my to-do list and it wasn't really getting through anything. I've had this problem; I still have this problem. But I've kind of, I guess, watched my commitments a lot more. I say 'No' unless it's something I really, really want to do. CURTIS: I've actually taken, like for new product ideas or something, I just have an Evernote, include a note for them, tag it with the product, and plug it in there instead of keeping it on my to-do list that took on me later. I let myself spend 10 or 15 minutes actually flushing out the idea a bit and then I put it away, and next time I'm coming to a product, I can dig through all those and then move one into my to-do list to actually work on. REUVEN: Wow! I wish I were as disciplined as you guys. Although, I'm definitely better over the years, and there are different aspects to know. For you guys, you've been talking about sort of things that seem interesting to read and useful to read even and things to do. I just have this one big file called 'To-do', not surprisingly; it's just sort of like a growing, growing to-do list. And once every (I don't know) 4-6 months, I sort of go through and I say, "I'd never going to do this, I'd never going to look at this," and I do something, so I don't use Instapaper or anything like that, but I just have a ridiculous number of tabs open in my browser at any given time. The ones in the far left are the ones that I opened 2, 3, 4 months ago that I said, "Oh, really should read this." Once again, every so often, sometimes when my browser crash, it doesn't remember. Sometimes, because my browser crashes, sometimes, because I just decide to delete things, then I go through them and I say, "I never going to look at this." But it is definitely an empowering sort of feeling to say, "Wow! You know what, I'm not going to spend on this, I'm going to spend time on things that are actually profitable for my business, or useful for my family, or useful for me personally." CURTIS: I even wipe the slate clean 2 days ago with Omnifocus. I've written on my blog, trying to figure out how to do my to-do list and I, yesterday, just wiped it totally clean, reset the database on the server, and said, "Here's the new things that I will do, not all these old epic things and all these reminders that are 9000 things. I need to make harder choices upfront before I put them in my to-do list." ERIC: It's kind of hard -- REUVEN: There's a smarter way to do it. ERIC: The big thing is like, if you -- I learned Getting Things not a while ago, and so it's where I'm coming from of this -- if you want to go through and process things quickly and you have a stack of papers or potential to do that it almost like most of the time, your goals get through that stack, that means learn it to enter your to-do list. The problem, like you said, was you end up with 900 things in your to-do list. It's kind of a balance like you might have to, instead of change it to take 5 minutes on each item, think about it like, "Should I really do this? Is this the right thing for me?" and then if it is, put it in to-do list. But that 5-minute thinking kind of affects how fast you're going to get through that pile. So you're taking more time upfront to think about something. It might actually cause you hit backed up and you might kind of have problems of 'this stuff you haven't looked at yet' and you need to go through that process. That's the problem I've had. I've slowed down and it means that I always have lika a basket over here that's full of stuff that I need to look at and I get worried about, "Oh, is there something in there that's actually going to blow up my face in a little bit?" REUVEN: Right. Well, that's the thing. I'm always worried that there's something that when I put it up more positives, then I almost always, when I read something (when I read a blog posting, when I read an article), there's some nugget in there that I'm going to use, and usually it's with a client, within a week or two. It's amazing how often that happens. So I'm always nervous, "If I don't read this and if I don't understand it, then I'm going to lose out on some insight that I can give to a client." But there's so much passing in front of me all the time, and so much that I'm reading that maybe I will miss out on something, but I can't drive myself nuts over it. I can't spend 6 hours a day reading blog postings just because it might help out a client. CURTIS: I think that even like that, it comes back to recognizing Just -In-Time learning, which I have been listening to on a podcast -- I can't remember, I'll dig out the link for the show notes -- where they talk about, like even when you're setting up a new site, do you worry about what type of pop-up works the best? Or, do you get the site setup like if you're thinking 9 steps ahead of where you need to be now or you are now? Then, you're just wasting your energy, right? 9 times out of 10, when I've decided, "I'm not there," so I'll figure it out later. The answer comes across my desk and I don't have to look it up; I don't have to spend all that time digging through because I said, "I'm going to say 'No' to the task today." I said, "Oh, that's not something I need to worry about now." REUVEN: I would say, you're mostly right on that. My one counterpoint would be -- CURTIS: No, I'm all right. REUVEN: [Laughs] That what happens when you're in-charge, right? CURTIS: That's right. I'm the boss today. REUVEN: [Laughs] Chuck, come back! Come back! CURTIS: [Laughs] REUVEN: I would say the one counterpoint is -- I do a lot of training and teaching, and so I'm constantly, like there's never twice that I teach the class in exactly the same way, but because I'm filling around with things and because they say, "There's one little point that if I were to add it, I think we put things in a better context." Those additional points and perspectives, I would say, half the time come from people asking me questions as I'm teaching. But the other half, when I'm just sort of reading blogs or articles, then I say, "That's really an important point that would make everything better." But yeah, I can't drive myself nuts over it. If I were about every possible thing that I could teach all the time, then I'd just be sitting and reading all the time and never actually doing anything. CURTIS: Yeah, fair enough. That's why Chuck managed the paper queue down to the ones that I really am going to get to, and all these other ones that are might be interesting and I might learn something. I just said 'No' like I'm not going to bother, I'm not reading 6 books at a time neither I'm reading one. I'm going to read it all the way through in it, and I will learn 1 or 2 things out of it. REUVEN: Right. And this is clue with the power of editors and editing as well. It might be fun to read all news from all over the world all the time, but no one's going to do that so you read a newspaper or a magazine that's edited according to your interest or taste or needs. CURTIS: What issues have you had when you haven't said 'No'? I'm sitting with 2 client projects right now that are mildly interesting for decent clients, but I just should have said no to them at the beginning and I didn't. And I keep looking at them and think, "I don't want to do that," so I'm expanding mental cycles everyday saying, "I don't want to do it," and working on the things that I do want to do with these things hanging over top of me, and the odd email coming in from the client asking where we are. ERIC: Yeah, you've already committed to it so you kind of have to finish it up unless you want to cancel the contract or get out of it that way. Whenever that happens with me, I would just try to figure out what went wrong, like was it I've had a gut feeling that going into it that it wasn't going to be good, or was it going into it was fine and then some event in the project happened and made it go downhill. Basically, it's trying to identify that so next time around, I can watch for that specific red flag. It's hard because that doesn't help you right now and you still kind of got a slug through it. But, maybe in the next project that comes around, that's kind of teetering on the edge will help you figure out like, "Is this a 'Yes' project or is this a 'No'?" REUVEN: Right. I was telling you guys before we started recording that I got this piece of advice years ago when I started consulting, and they guy said, "You should always take whatever you can, take whatever work comes your way." So I did that for a few years, and I found I was just completely overcommitted. I'm overcommitted on things that were not really in my area of expertise or interest, and with clients who were not so great. So over the years, I've gotten much better about sort of identifying clients where even if the people were interestingly nice, even if the technologies might be appropriate, it's just not a good fit. And so I tried during my initial consult with, my initial conversation to try to feel them out and see, "Are these people are really the sorts of folks that I'm going to want to work with for the long-term?" because I would much rather have a long-term relationship. Most of my clients turned out to be long-term even if it's only a few hours a month here and there. So I've gotten better about sort of trying that off. But yeah, as Eric said, sometimes things will change in the middle. I had this client (I guess it was a year or two ago) where after a few months and things were going pretty smoothly, they hired a CEO, and the CEO was just disastrous; he was really disastrous in my eyes. I finally got up and left there, and I was very happy that I did that. But at the end, it was fine at least. CURTIS: At least one of my clients, he was an existing client, that was awesome and is awesome to work with. But the new...that someone else I do development in the middle and I don't even know how their site runs currently because I cannot get it to run on any server that I own. So, I've just shut it down in [inaudible] so that I can do a little bit of work in one portion of it without touching anything else, that's the best I can do. I was sort of certainly something that came up in the middle and maybe I should have stuck to my guts better and say, "No, we got to do code quality. If it's not there, then I can just do the work for you." ERIC: Another thing with 'No', the more you say 'No', the better you get out of it. I was very wishy washy, like I would feel like, "Well...I don't really want to..." if someone push me hard enough, I would basically agree to do almost anything. As I started kind of growing and figuring I need to start declining stuff that's not a good fit for me, I got better at it. Now, I pretty much know my default response to most things, commitment wise. It's only if something's like going to be really amazing that I actually switch over and say 'Yes'. It's weird to be like that, but at the same time, that lets me really focused on the few really good things that I know are going to be awesome for me or the company or my clients. And there's all have it in the pick, but there's a blog post by Derek Sivers that's about this. It's basically -- you have 2 options: it's you either have a 'No', or a 'Hell Yes' option. If it's not a 'Hell Yes', the default is the 'No'. That's, I remember this year, that's basically how I keep approaching a lot of these things, especially the bigger kind of more transformation-all type decisions. CURTIS: How did you move from that like when you're at the beginning and more at well-known? Like from, I guess, having to say yes to more stuff that wasn't hell yes and into getting stuff that's only hell yes. Because that's the difference, like when I was starting, I just email a bunch of business that are around and say, "Hey, I can do a website for almost nothing," and I got one or two decent ones in there and then just kind of kept upgrading. How did you make that transition? ERIC: That's how I sort it, like I was the quote hungry freelancer. When I started, I've been doing Rails for 2 or 3 years at the time, I actually had several sites and production. I knew what I was doing basically; I was knocking maybe. But my first few projects, I took in PHP because I just didn't have the confidence to say, "Yes, I want to start that project," or "No, that's not a good one for me." I was picking up anything! I even had one project, the first time I said no to was actually like someone writing some PHP program, not even a web program, just a program to connect 2 FTP sites and download stuff. It was Iike, I think I may found it on Craigslist, they had like a budget of like under $500. I was like, "Well, it's money. I can use the money." I really didn't need it; it was more of just me feeling like I need it to fill my plate. It ended up, I think it took about a year, maybe a year and half of doing kind of the bottom of the barrel projects before I realized that I was getting stuck there, I wasn't actually doing Rails, I wasn't actually growing, and I was I hating what I was doing; I was hating all the freelance stuff. So I ended up kind of just starting to just decline it and look for the one or two 'Hell Yes' type of projects, and eventually, I found one. That made me just feel so much better, a lot more desire to work and grow, and then I found another one. Once you kind of get into it and once you have the, not the attitude, but the feeling like, "I could do this, I know what I'm worth, I know what goals I can accomplish," people can see that, and then you actually be picked up for a lot more projects. And so for me, it just started with one and it started to spiral up. Now, I'm not doing any PHP or any projects that I don't want to do. REUVEN: I think that's an important point, though. A lot of people, when they start off freelancing, first of all they might not -- I would say, most of all, they just don't have the luxury to say no to projects, or at least they don't feel like they have that luxury. You decided you're going go freelance. If you decided to go cold turkey, I suppose to slowly but surely easing into it from a salary job then because you have to pay for food, you have to pay for the mortgage or rent now, so you're going to take whatever projects you can. I don't know about you guys, but I actually already been there where I said, "Oh, I'm just going take this project even though it's not a great one." But I agree that at certain point, when it becomes a trend, when you're taking things because you have to or you're capitulating on price to ridiculous degree because you have to, that fairly points more to a marketing problem than anything else. ERIC: Yup! REUVEN: Also, I remember, I had someone working for me until -- I still have one person working for me -- but second person is working for me, it was about a year and a half ago, he was between projects and he said, "Oh, what are we going to do?" I said, "Don't worry, in this business, something always comes up." And literally, within an hour or two, I've got a phone call asking if we had capacity to work on a project. That's one thing also that you can say no because you will be able to find something else. The confidence of knowing that, "I will find other projects" even when a big one goes away, has been a big change sort of changed my mind set over the last few years. CURTIS: Yeah. It took years to get there, right? REUVEN: Right, it took years. And I'm not sure if it really points to any difference in my consulting or my networks, although certainly, it really helps that sort of people know me as, especially a Rails guy - Rails and Postgres, and so people sort of call me out of the blue, which is a very nice feeling. But I think it's really largely in mindset as well that I now realize this sort of thing will happen, and I realize that I can find work and I don't only need to take the first thing that comes my way out of just kind of rate just because, "Oh, my god! What am I going to do?" CURTIS: Yeah. I'm in that position now, even looking 3 or 4 weeks, I'm not super full, but I got 3 or 4 inquiries in the last couple of days that one of them comes through and that means I'm full until the end of September again. But it took me quite a while to get to that point as well to realize I could say no to some other ones because more stuff was going to come! ERIC: There's another aspect which is kind of the risk level. When I first started freelancing, it was because we moved from California to Oregon where we knew no one up here. So we had the big move, I basically quit my job, and my wife transferred. So just personal income wise, we were pretty tight. We had some money and savings, but not a whole bunch. First few months of freelancing, it was like counting pennies, like making sure we could pay all the bills and I can keep doing this business so I didn't have to let go and get another job. Even though I was taking kind of bottom of the Rail project, projects I didn't care for, that did let me build up to actual business inside of the savings. Overtime, as that grew and got large enough, then I was able to kind of fall back on that like if I was going to have a month where I'd either have to take a project that I would hate or I would be doing nothing and actually dip into savings for a couple of hundred bucks; I could actually dip into savings and not take on the very, very worst left. So overtime, being able to kind of make a bit more decision because I had that cash behind me to back me up as a safety net, I was able to kind of level up the projects I was doing, that's basically how I continued it now. Like, where I'm at is between the savings we have and the savings my business has, I can take what projects I like and I can decline once that have even the slightest inkling that I think there's going to be a problem. So having some kind of safety cushion, it could be savings, it could be maybe you have a spouse or a significant other that has regular income, that can actually help out a lot, too, and put you be a bit more picky. If you are, say, just freelancing on the side, your day job might let you pick the top most project that you want when you're freelancing because if you don't get it, you're still eating; you don't have to really worry about it. CURTIS: I think lots of new freelancers jump out way too early because they're super excited. I was [inaudible], I waited until I had 3 months income. But looking back, I wish I had waited until I had 6 months. That would have been the difference of 4 weeks approximately to finish off the one big project, and I would have had 6 months income because I burnt 2-3 months income faster than I anticipated at least. REUVEN: Faster than 3 months, in other words. CURTIS: Oh no, not faster than 3 months! REUVEN: Oh! CURTIS: But I figured, 3 months, that's good, I'll get some projects, and I had one big project. But if I hang on for 4 more weeks in the job I didn't really like, I would have had 6 months income; I just would have had a lot - a better safety net. I know, in my first year of freelancing, there is at least once that I can remember driving to the next town over to pick up a check to deposit it so I could pay myself that night. If I waited for the 6 months -- and that may still have happen I suppose -- but if I waited for 6 months and said no to myself, "No, you can't leave yet. Just hang on for a little bit, be an adult!" to lay that gratification, then things would have just been a little easier. I would have more of a cushion and maybe wouldn't have had to take some of those bad projects or lower quality projects. REUVEN: Yeah, I think having a financial cushion is really important and useful. For the last number of years already, we've been taking money out of my personal account every month, and I'm pretty sure you can do this easily outside of Israel. I've heard banks are advanced in other countries as well. ERIC: We're going there... REUVEN: Well, they don't collapse! But basically, we have an automatic withdrawal from our personal account every month, where we take some money and put it into a long-term savings plan. It's not earning amazing interest, and we're talking to people about sort of how to invest it better and smarter. But for now, at least, it means if we need to, we have a number of months of income there, and we start doing that because I'm incorporated so I have a separate corporation from my own personal account, so the corporation is doing that also. Right now, I'm in Chicago and I'm basically taking 2 months off to try to push ahead as much as ridiculously possible on my PhD dissertation. It means that basically, when I get back home to Israel, if we need to dip into that savings, we can and we have something to go with. ERIC: Yeah. REUVEN: And that's this thing, given an incredible feeling of freedom and power that I certainly didn't have number of years ago. ERIC: There's this one, we're talking about Steven from LessAccounting how I mentioned like I do my accounting every week because that's billing off that hard, and I can spot stuff. I do it every week, and then every month, I do kind of a more higher roll up of stuff. I use that to figure out like, "Okay, how's the savings going? Am I spending more than I need?" it lets me really quickly see if there's going to be a lot of expenses. Like this summer, I'm taking a lot of time off so I'm saying like, "Oh, I need to start pushing my marketing a bit more, maybe to get a client after summer or maybe just some book sales," that sort of thing. But compared to some freelancers I've seen that will go 6 months or even an entire year before they even look at their books, they wouldn't know that they've been in the whole $200 a month, and now their savings account is about to die. REUVEN: I feel good that I'm not the worst of the bunch [chuckles]. At least I know how much we've got in our personal and our corporate accounts and more or less where the trend is. Also, I don't have that many clients. In a given month, I have 3-7 who are paying, and a roughly how much each of them owes me and what's going on with that? So can I have at least some sort of estimate there...But reviewing your books every week actually sounds like a very smart thing to do. Also, I assume you can then see the trends, as you said, and then decide what you have to do during the coming weeks to make up for that. ERIC: Yup! That's why I do it every week. I don't love it, but I don't hate it; it's just something to do. It feels best for me, it gives me the most information for at least to none of effort and pain. REUVEN: Right. CURTIS: Why don't we move in to talking about some red flags that mean an instant 'No'? For me, I sat with a client, local client, and they kept talking about SEO, and I told them that if they wanted to do that, then they needed to write a blog post article every week and they need to commit to that. And they looked at me and said, "I would never set article like that because when you fail, you just feel bad about it." I looked at them and said, "Why, you know, I think this meeting is over. Thank you very much." because I'm not willing to work with someone who's not has invested in your side as I am. And, I don't know, I don't think of blog post will cost that much when you have like 4 employees who could write it and they got a new product in all the time. That's one of my red flags. Reuven, what's one of yours? REUVEN: Slimy people. CURTIS: As in like slimy they live in the sur, or slimy... REUVEN: [Laughs] ERIC: Like they know a lot of product in their hair... [Laughter] REUVEN: Neither. CURTIS: So an old grease days for Reuven, okay...There we go. REUVEN: [Laughs] Yes, I didn't do a lot of work in the 50's. CURTIS: [Laughs] No, it's dye, but that has aged at least... REUVEN: [Laughs] I'm not that old! [Chuckles] Back in the Mesozoic era, when I was designing websites, basically, I always have an initial meeting with people either on the phone or ideally in person, sometimes even both. I try to feel them out. I try to feel, "Are these people just like..." I don't want to say fly-by-night operators because they might even have a decent business. But "Are these are sorts of people whom I'm going to want to work with and whom I can trust to really even be my partners if I'm doing the technical stuff and that all I want to spend a lot of time with and who respect me also - respect me as a professional." And so I said, "Have we gotten the feeling?" No! No, these people just don't know what they're doing. Or, even if they do know what they're doing, they're just not the sorts of people I'm going to want to work with. Unfortunately, I'm not always the best judge of character on that. There was a guy a few years ago who had me do some work for him, and everything seemed great. And then I found out, he was indeed a con artist and fly-by-night operator. I was taken for a very, very little when he didn't pay, it wasn't worth going after him, but I've found that lots of other people had been taken by him also. Of course, as I mentioned to you guys before we start recording, my wife figured this out right away and she was like, "I told you, you shouldn't work with this guy!" But basically, since then especially, I become attuned to, "Are these people actually decent? Are these people I'm going to want to work with?" CURTIS: And you're attuned to that because you asked your wife and just listened to her? REUVEN: [Laughs] No, I think I try to listen more to what's their experience is, where they see their company, how they treat their people. There was once a company I spoke with a few years ago, a much, much larger consulting company, where they do a lot of work with like [inaudible] and that sort of thing. The guy, the CEO, was incredibly proud of the fact that he had this spreadsheet showing how profitable was each employee down to like the number of hours, the number of dollars they brought in. It was clear that he was just gleeful at squeezing every last little bit of money out of his employees without regard for their actual pleasure or their welfare. And it was clear that I was just not going to want to work with this guy. CURTIS: Eric, any red flags? ERIC: Yeah, I have a document that actually add to as I basically learn and discover like, "Oh, there's a new red flag." I've talked about a few of them; we had another episode, it's like Episode 54, where some other people on the panel that aren't here has went through some of the things. I think there's 2 big red flags from me that come up quite a bit. The first time one is, "Does the client respect me?" I've actually had potential clients cursed at me because they don't like my contract. It was during the contract negotiation phase, it's like -- REUVEN: [Laughs] ERIC: They're cursing at me how we're negotiable. They basically start to cursing at me on the phone while they're driving. I basically fought at home, "Look, this isn't going to work out. I'm not going to work with you," and they threatened -- I don't know, threatened is a strong word -- but they basically threatened me that I would never work in this industry again because they know people... CURTIS: [Laughs] Oh, people! ERIC: Yeah. REUVEN: Ah, okay! [Laughs] There's a red flag over there also - lack of being grounded in reality. ERIC: That's my first red flag. They're the only one that have ever done that, but it was such a strong red flag that it's number 1 on my list now. The second one, and sometimes it comes up, it's not so much of red flag, it's kind of a cautinary one. When I go into a project with a client, I assumed that I'm going to be the expert on the specific technical matters, and maybe if there's business processes around the technical matters, I'm more of the consultant, where they're the expert on their business, how their existing processes work, and what they need in their market. With that kind of setup, if I get a recommendation, they can overwrite it and say their business works differently. But if they tell me something like, "We need to work like this," I can still suggest alternatives for like, "Hey, maybe a process is a bit too complex." The red flag comes up if they start telling me what I need to do. I've had clients tell me how to write my SQL code, it's nice that they want to help, but at the same time, it really is showing that they don't respect that I'm an expert in there as I know. Once again, it comes back to respect. If they can't kind of let me do stuff and I'll micromanage, then that's a huge red flag. I don't think I've fired a client, but I've had some serious sit down conversations with them because of the situation. REUVEN: Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. I had this one client where everything is kind of smooth, and they brought in the CEO after a few months. The CEO had come from a few other high-tech companies and he had a computer science degree, but he haven't really been actively coding for a few years. And he looked at how I was doing, I think it was categories of articles or types of users, something like that. He said, "You know, the way you did is totally unscalable. What you really want to is bit masks and apply those to the database." I was like, "Okay, first of all, I really don't think that's a good way to do it. Second of all, we have maybe a thousand people a month visiting this website, I really don't think that scalability is a big issue." This became a major point of contention between us, not because I really care that much about (he didn't ask so I do think it's a pretty dumb idea), but because why was he muscling his way. Why he didn't have enough to do a CEO, he also had to be supervising the coding, and didn't he bring in as an expert? It really fell like a blow that he just didn't trust me and he was going be second guessing all of my decisions. CURTIS: Yeah, a CEO's job is to direct the company, not to read down the minds everyday working on. I had one recently, too, where I got a, not quite directed at me, but some profanity and an email that I dumped, put the client I'm already working with, then I wrote back and told them that, "If I saw that again, I didn't care how they chose to speak amongst themselves, but that is not how you spoke to me and in any communication with me." That was the single warning, next time is they would just get an invoice with the rest of the work and all their code. If that started like that, I just would have said no right upfront. REUVEN: I think I'm willing to be a little more liberal on that if they want to curse at each other or insert a casual conversation that's not my style. But when they start attacking me, then [laughs] I would certainly draw the red line there. It's a professional relationship, we're supposed to respect each other, we're supposed to work together; you can get angry all you want, but get angry with my decisions, don't get angry with me. Or, if it's disagree with me, which is also totally okay. What was their response by the way, Curtis? I'm curious. CURTIS: They said, "Oops! Sorry." Again, if they want to talk if we're right doing something and they swore here, then that's not going face me. I don't swear by nature, unless I whack my thumb with a hammer, there might be a few choice words at that instance... REUVEN: [Laughs] CURTIS: But aside of that, I don't. They said, yeah, they basically went back and apologize out. Yeah, that's exactly. That's what they say, "Eric, ouch!" which is Eric? It wasn't Eric...I'm just putting in chat, which I shouldn't be reading. I said, "That's not acceptable. This is a professional relationship and that's what we do. And this is not how I expect my clients to treat me, and I won't accept it again." Alright, Reuven, why don't you, since you have the next topic, why don't you introduce it to us? REUVEN: I'll get that a little, I just wanted to say one other red flag that I have is, people saying they just want a little bit of help, and I work here or there and that would be it. I've just found the overhead associated with starting that is just, I wouldn't say it's the same, I was starting out at real client, but it's pretty close, and it's so annoying because you go through all the same discussions and negotiations and contracts and coming in and this and that. And at the end of the day, you're going for 2 hours, talk to them, and that's the end of it. It's just so not worth it. So I always tell people, basically, I even tell potential clients, I say, "I like to work with nice people on long-term projects with interesting problems." Each of those interesting problems, everyone thinks they have interesting problems, everyone thinks they're nice so that I can decide otherwise, but long-term I think puts in the correct context. They should understand I'm looking for a long-term relationship that we'll both benefit from, not "Oh, my god! My server's having problems, can you help with it for the next hour?" ERIC: Yeah. CURTIS: Yeah. I want a client that once like emergency, "Oh, you're around all the time, right?" "No, I'm not around all the time," I just say I'm not there; I'm not around on weekends really, I'm not around like 6 o'clock to chat, and I don't answer my phone. ERIC: What I actually found that helps with that, like kind of the piece of no work is, I have a project minimum, I think it's like 1000 a month right now. So if someone comes to me and if they only want a few hours and it's below that minimum, I'm like, "Sorry, I have a project minimum because it's not worth the overhead to try to manage you as a client just for a few hours a month. If you only want a few hours, here's some other people that might be able to help you." Just by having that and stating that as like, "That's my policy," it's helped out a lot. I think one client actually ended up where they're like, "Hey, when I get back to you, I'll batch up some work," so they actually had maybe a dozen, two dozen hours of work, but they were hoping to spread it out over a couple of months. Instead, they just gave it to me in one chunk, I did it, and then they went off and used it. So if you consider a project minimum, whatever you want, you can say it's in hours or in dollars, I found that's actually really effective for kind of keeping it so you don't lose all the efficiency of the overhead. CURTIS: I actually changed my inquiry form so it didn't have like below 2500 thing. No, it's 2500 and up was all the different ranges for approximate pricing. That actually meant I don't have to say no because I just didn't get inquiries below that range much anymore. REUVEN: That's very smart. And even if people contact you, it sends a clear message, "This is the sort of project I'm interested in right now." CURTIS: Yep! REUVEN: So I'm interested in the next topic, I was curious to know. When I started consulting, I would half-jokingly say that if someone calls me up and says, "Do you know technology X?" I would say, "Yes," hang up the phone, read a book on technology X, and then go and try to help them out. That actually work surprisingly well to some degree. But nowadays, I'm a little more conservative, even a lot more conservative in terms of how many new technologies are learned just for the sake of a particular client. What do you guys have in terms of boundaries in terms of what you want to do? CURTIS: I'm pretty open, at least, with the technology that I work with, PHP, WordPress, JavaScript, that stuff, to say yes to things that I haven't exactly done before, or that are a little different. But if someone said, Ruby, and someone said, "Hey, Curtis! I hear you've done some Ruby?" I'd say, "Very, very little at this point because it's been so many years since I've really dug into it," and to that, I'd say no and refer. But some variation or something you'd have to dive into in WordPress that's newest and the latest release, I'd dive into that without any issues. ERIC: What about like CakePHP or some other PHP framework thing where it's still PHP, but it's actually like not in the WordPress area? CURTIS: No, I'd probably say no at this point, because like I don't think that's fair to a client, right? I'd say, "Can I figure it out?" "Sure!" "Could you give me a lot to figure it out?" "Yeah, probably!" but you can probably pay someone else that already knows it. That's how I've approached it because it's not my wheelhouse, as what I've always said. ERIC: That's what I do, too. Basically, I do Rails stuff, but for a while, it was only Redmine and ChiliProject. If someone even came to me for like a generic Rails project, I would decline it. But now, it's like anything with like 60%-80% of it is Ruby or Rails or Sinatra or whatever, Ruby Web App stuff, I would do it, and kind of the extra like if there's additional libraries like maybe someone has used Backbone or whatever, which I don't have very good experience with, or good memory stuff I guess is another way to phrase it. I might take it, but I'll let them know upfront that, "Hey, I don't know this. I haven't worked on it that much." So as long as the 'I don't know' factor is like a minimal or an add-on technology, I'd be fine with it. But if they came to me saying, "We want to use Node.js and Knockout for aside," I would say, "Well, I know Knockout, but I don't know Node.js so I'm going to have to pass on that." REUVEN: Right. Every projects I do, I guess this is true for every project, you're always learning some new thing. But the core I found increasingly that's useful, they just sort of stick to the core that you do know - I'm also doing a lot of Rails stuff, Ruby-related things, lot of Postgres-related things. But just this morning, I got email from someone saying, "So, do you want to do a project in PHP?" let's ignore the fact that they would require someone to be in-house because he's just trying to place a full-timer (although I think he should be willing to have a contractor there), I'm just sort of out of that world. Even if I could do it, it's just not going to advance my consulting business the way I see it moving forward. CURTIS: Yeah, fair enough. So my kind of realm would be WordPress I suppose, right I[inaudible] with anything there are: themes, plugins, JavaScript, AJAX, PHP, and like when you're JavaScript library is in there. But there's certainly some things that I, even in that realm, that I say no to that are just not interesting. Some rescue projects that are really tiny, that's just not worth it because you're fighting around bad code all the time; not getting to write anything good. REUVEN: Right. I'll tell you that with the training, every so often, I am approached and asked if I can teach people something in a language that I know that even that I haven't taught before, I have been doing a long time. For instance, I used to do a lot of Perl training, like I almost doing a lot of Perl development. But it's probably been a good 5 or 6 years since I taught any Perl classes. So this company that was really begging me, "Please, please, please can you come into Perl training for us," because I've done other training for them in the past. I said, "Well, [chuckles] I'll have to revise all the next slides and my exercise and this and this and this, I don't know if it'll really be worth it for you. But if you're willing to pay me to do it, I guess, maybe, reluctantly, and at that point, they realized that it was probably just best to go someone who's an expert on it. CURTIS: Alright, why don't we move on to picks? Reuven, what's your pick? REUVEN: Sure! I've got, let me just bring up that buffer... CURTIS: Oh, you're not ready? REUVEN: Oh, I'm totally ready! [Crosstalk] ERIC: I guess he gets it out from 2 months ago... REUVEN: [Laughs] CURTIS: Yeah, it's probably on his old computer then, right? REUVEN: [Laughs] Please, please, it's in Emacs! What you mean not everyone keeps picks in Emacs? This should be a picks mode, right? [Laughter] REUVEN: So 3 picks; number 1, I decided to invest in a new keyboard for my Macbook Pro, an external keyboard. After playing around a little bit and exploring a little bit, I've got a keyboard from "Das Keyboard". They have a version that has no key CAPS, oh, not no key CAPS, but no labels on the keys at all. That seems a little insane to me even though I've been touching things since I'm not with the age of 12 or something since my parents forced to; by the way, one of the best things my parents ever forced me to do. Overall, I've been very happy. It's a little annoying that it's sort of externals so I can't bring it with me so easily, and the fact the it has a USB hub is nice, but then you have to plugin it into both USB ports on your machine. So it's not quite as amazing as I would have thought, but the feel of the keyboard is pretty great, there's no doubt it. It's not quite as loud and satisfying as the old IBM keyboard -- when I was in college, people actually ask me to type more slowly so I would annoy them less because I was sitting next to them -- so that's not going to happen with this. It's definitely a much, much, much more solid keyboard than the one that comes with the Apple products by default. And then 2 blog postings that I saw that are I think appropriately interesting. One of them is from the "Always-writing-always-speaking-always-doing-things Patrick Mckenzie". His latest podcast from Kalzumeus is interesting and that he talks about how to move into products from consulting. It does tells quite a bit with blog posting that he wrote about I think I picked a few weeks ago. I just saw it today that there's a whole article on "Pando Daily" which is a Silicon Valley news service where they have a very, very long story about the Facebook platform, and how it has disappointed a lot of people including people at Facebook. I thought it was interesting at someone who not only has used the Facebook platform, but is also interesting in implementing platforms in the future to see where they made mistakes and where ticked off a whole bunch of people. Anyway, those are my 3 picks for this week. CURTIS: Eric. ERIC: Okay, so I mentioned one earlier, it's by Derek Sivers, it's an old one, it's called "No more yes. It's either HELL YEAH! or no". Again, it's actually a very short post, but there's like 521 comments on it. It's been around a lot; this is kind of where I got the idea from of like how to say no to a lot of things that are really aren't the best thing for you. Second pick, this past few days, I've been doing a lot of kind of video stuff like actually videos of me talking as opposed to what we talked about on the last show of screencast stuff. Man! There's so much in that industry! It's amazing how much you have to learn. But one thing I found is actually the iPhone; it's actually a really good camera. It's actually was way better than anything on my Mac or the Mac camera. In fact, a lot of the recordings stuff would actually stutter at 1080p, but recording it on my iPhone is actually pretty nice. There's an app I got, it's called "Filmic Pro". Basically, it's relatively inexpensive because you have a whole bunch of options that I was actually able to really play with it and make the videos look at least wide-thought to be pretty professional for the experience that I had. So that's my pick. There's also a new app kind of related to it that was pretty sweet. Tell me what it's called, but it's made by the same company and what it'll let me do is I'd have my iPhone actually recording facing me, so you're using the back camera. And then on my iPad, I'd be connected remotely and be able to control my iPhone zoom and all that stuff from my iPad. So it was pretty cool. That way, I can actually sit there and get the whole shot composed because there's just me doing the videotaping. It was pretty neat that [inaudible], but for -- I think it cost me like $12 for both of them, it was totally worth it. So those are my picks! CURTIS: My pick is going to be the "Jaybird Bluebuds Bluetooth Headphones". We've mentioned once or twice, at least off-air, I do a lot of cycling, and they are excellent bluetooth headphones. Occasionally, when I'm riding by a parallel lines there above ground, it gets some feedback, or don't get a clear signal, but outside of that, there's super tiny and they last like 6 1/2 hours. So I've taken them on a number of 6 1/2 hour bike rides, or even 8-hour rides, and they last until the 6 1/2 mark playing music the whole time. Super comfy; they're excellent. They are a little bit expensive; I think about $170, so you pay for it. And they're waterproof; they're covered with liquipel. So I've ridden with them even in the pouring rain once or twice and they have been totally fine! REUVEN: Oh, that's pretty great! CURTIS: Actually, they have a, I guess, little special in-ear clips as well so that they stay in your ear if you're running and stuff and you can mount them kind of over your ears as well so they're wrapped around at the back of your head. Yes, Eric, I thought about you for running. They're great! ERIC: I got these, I don't know what it's called, it's clips onto the actual older iPhone headphones and it kind of gives you the over-the-ear. They were scrapped -- I've been using it for over a year and they're classic; they're falling apart. I don't think they work on the near ones so I've been kind of been looking around that stuff. I think Evan a long time ago recommended another type of bluetooth thing, but it kind of sat there on your neck so I was afraid if running it'd bounce around too much and fall under your ears. CURTIS: That's what's the T-mounting up here is one kind of down off of your ear and of it over the back. It actually has little cable tie so you can slide it and it likes [inaudible] tight at the back of your head. They're excellent! And it connect up to 7 devices even, Reuven, so you could use it on your Mac. I have it on my phone and my iPad and my wife's phone as well. You just turn on the host and open the device that one connected to this one. That's it. REUVEN: Wow! CURTIS: They're excellent! I guess that wraps it up today and we've had a little sporting talk as well. REUVEN: [Chuckles] CURTIS: That's it! Thanks for listening guys! REUVEN: Next week is bookclub, right? CURTIS: Oh yeah, that is right! Next week is bookclub, we're doing Getting Things Done and we get to talk to David Allen. REUVEN: So put that on your to-do list. ERIC: Well, more along the lines of listening and taking notes as much as possible. REUVEN: [Laughs] CURTIS: I think I'm taking notes, just David Allen will expound for the hour next week. ERIC: Alright, take care! CURTIS: See you! REUVEN: Bye-bye!

Sign up for the Newsletter

Join our newsletter and get updates in your inbox. We won’t spam you and we respect your privacy.