The Freelancers’ Show 083 – Virtual Assistance with Mandy Moore
Mandy Moore, the podcast's producer and Chuck's VA, join the Freelancers to talk about how to become a virtual assistant and how freelancers can use virtual assistants in their businesses.
CHUCK: Alright. Here it goes. MANDY: Don’t forget the book club. CHUCK: Yes, ma’am! [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net.] [You're fantastic at coding, 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!] [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration net built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price out new estimates and once you’re underway and help answer the question, these get done on time and under budget. I’ve been using Planscope to do my estimates and manage my projects and I really, really like it. It makes it really easy to keep things in order, and understand when things will get done. You can go check it out at Planscope.io.] _ CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 83 of The Freelancers’ Show! This week on our panel, we have Ashe Dryden. _ ASHE: Hi there! CHUCK: Curtis MacHale. CURTIS: Good day! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi everyone! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi! CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv with a quick reminder to go check out my freelancing video at GoingRougeVideo.com. We also have a special guest, and that is Mandy Moore. MANDY: Hello! CHUCK: Since you haven’t been on the show before, though you’ve listened to every show – [Laughter] CHUCK: [Chuckles] Do you want to introduce yourself? MANDY: I listen to every show twice. My name is Mandy Moore, I am also known in the community as The Ruby Rep. My job, some people categorize it as a virtual assistant, audio engineer, podcast pro, secretary – CHUCK: Life saver. REUVEN: [Laughs] MANDY: Chuck called me the “MISH”, Makes Important Stuff Happen. CHUCK: [Chuckles] MANDY: So I do it all. I really don’t have a title per se; I just, I guess, play a role and getting stuff done in the community. CHUCK: Awesome. I don’t know what we would do without you, so I’m glad to have you. Before we get too far into this, I want to remind people that we’re going to be doing the book club with Joe Kutner in a couple of weeks. We’re going to be reading his book, The Healthy Programmer, so go pick it up and give it a read! I’m a little curious, because you’re effectively a freelancer, how is freelancing for you different than freelancing for us? MANDY: I’m not a programmer, number 1. I’m not a developer, I know no code. I work from home, I run my own business, do my own accounting, finances, and everything. [Chuckles] I basically just do a bunch of stuff to help get things done. I run a lot of podcasts, do a lot of secretarial stuff, book guests for the shows, remind the guests to show up for shows, that’s pretty much what I do. CHUCK: Man! Sounds like your clients work you to the bone. [Laughter] MANDY: Yeah. Sometimes, it can be a bit tiring, but I really like it and I like being able to work from home, around my daughter and be able to take her to the doctor if necessary, make dinner at night, and then come back make my own hours, stuff like that. It’s great! CHUCK: How did you get into virtual assisting or podcast pro, or whatever you want to call it? MANDY: It was darn luck! I was a single mom, on my own, and I needed to work from home. I was a former waitress and, as you can imagine, that’s not a very good career for somebody who’s raising a child on their own with day care and babysitting and stuff like that especially when you’re working until 2 in the morning. So I was trying to find a job where I could be working from home, and I ran into a post that Avdi Grimm put out on oDesk. At first, I was skeptical, but then we had a Skype meeting and he was like, “You’d basically work from home, I’ll pay you this amount of money per hour,” and he at least started off slow. At first, I was pretty overwhelmed because of “What is he talking about; what is Ruby? What is this?” I was really nervous. But I pulled through it, learned a lot about open source, just this stuff I have never heard of before, but it’s really familiar to you programmers in general, and picked up some of the language and figured it out. He ended up recommending me eventually to the point where I was able to make it fulltime. I started working for Bryan Helmkamp of Code Climate doing some stuff for him. He was my second client, so I just [unclear] by word-of-mouth. Now, I’m fulltime. Basically, Chuck, he was my main client. CHUCK: Yeah, I make her work a lot. MANDY: I’d say about 20-22, sometimes 25 hours a week! CHUCK: Well, good for me! [Laughs][laughter] REUVEN: Mandy, are you still working with other people, too? Or, the 20 somewhat hours a week are enough to fill your time? MANDY: No, I am still working for Avdi; I do run the Wide Teams podcast. I also still do a lot of scheduling and cow under stuff for Bryan Helmkamp. And then, my most recent client is Nathen Harvey and Bryan Berry of The Food Fight Show. I edit their podcast, but I just edit the podcast and do the show notes. I don’t really do the whole running of the community; scheduling guests, and stuff like that for them because I do enough of that here [chuckles]. CHUCK: [Laughs] Awesome. MANDY: I don’t want to get people confused. REUVEN: [Chuckles] CHUCK: Every so often, I run into somebody who is looking to make a career change, or they’re not happy with what they’re doing. I tell them, “Well, you should just go do virtual assisting. I think you’d be good at it. You’re detail oriented and whatever.” What skill set do people need to do what you do? What would you recommend to people who were thinking about going into this as a career? MANDY: My biggest thing is – I guess it could be a downfall because I am rather OCD. So my biggest 4 things that I recommend to people who are looking to do what I do is: Consistency, Dedication, Communication, and Motivation. I have never missed a podcast. I’ve never said to Chuck “I cannot do this; I can’t make it happen”. Because when I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it. Dedication. No matter how much, I feel like I bugged Chuck. I’m like, “Ping! Remember to do this. Have you uploaded the files yet? Have you done this yet?” and then getting up every morning, checking my email, making sure action items get done, following up. I love follow up CC; I am constantly using that because if you want a guest on the show, if they say, “Not right now, but hit me again in a couple of months,” I’d set a reminder and then emails them a few months later. I follow up of them like, “You said to remind you in a few months, are you still interested in coming on the show?” and then more than likely, they’d say ‘Yes’ and we set up a time. Communication is a big part. I answer every email – every email. It doesn’t matter if it’s small or how menial it is. If somebody says, “I didn’t get invited to Parley,” and I know I invited them, I’ll still go back and re-invite them and say, “Okay, I’ve sent the invitation again. If you have any problems this time, please check your spam folder first, and if there’s another issue, we’ll get it fixed right away.” So people know that I am there for them and communicating. Customer support is a big thing. No matter how much sometimes you can be in a bad mood, wake up in the wrong side of the bed every day and be like, “Oh! More email,” REUVEN: [Laughs] MANDY: You’ve got to just push through, and that’s the biggest thing. CHUCK: [Laughs] CURTIS: Do you use a system or anything to keep track of all this stuff besides just email? Are you using, I don’t know, even like OmniFocus or anything like that? MANDY: I use Evernote a lot because it syncs with my iPhone. I have files – I’ve showed Avdi before, I’m like, “Isn’t this creepy, I have a file for you on my computer? [Chuckles]” REUVEN: [Chuckles] MANDY: I have a file for Chuck, I have a file for Nathen, I have everything separated into notebooks, and [chuckles] yeah, I’m like the CIA [laughs]. ASHE: [Laughs] MANDY: Really, I just check my email. Even on the weekends – I used to work every weekend, 7 days a week. And then finally, I was like, “I can’t do this anymore,” so I work regular Monday through Friday. If people talked to me on the weekends, I just mark it as unread, and those are action items the first thing Monday. Other than that, Evernote and email, I use Thunderbird, and my iPhone. CHUCK: I would love to see how you use Evernote. MANDY: It’s not as complicated…whatever you call it. ERIC: System? MANDY: System! There we go! CHUCK: [Laughs] REUVEN: How often do you talk to your various clients about the tasks that you have to do when they’re priorities? MANDY: Honestly, not that much. My biggest window for talking to my clients is through Skype. If I need to talk to them or say something to them, then I say it. Skype is just the biggest tool. They pretty much just let me go because I’ve gotten in the groove so much that it’s just second nature to me, and I don’t really need that much support. ASHE: I’m kind of interested, lately I’ve been thinking about hiring someone that does the exact kind of thing that you do because there’s a lot of stuff that can’t be automated and need a human, but I have this issue where – like email is definitely something where I need the most help with – but everything is in my email like the ability to reset passwords, thanking information, personal information, all of that stuff is in my email. Is there a system that you use with your clients to basically separate out the emails that they want you to take care of or any other things in their inbox that they want you to take care of just to maintain some level of information security? MANDY: What works well is using LastPass for passwords for websites. Now, there’s not to say – I have passwords to all of my clients’ Paypal accounts and everything, that’s where trust, big level of trust comes into play because I would never ever steal from anybody, and you’ve got to maintain some level of trust with your clients. But as far as email goes, I have found that if you do hire an assistant, you make them their own email address like email@example.com, and then you put all your email, like you only give the people you want to talk to your personal email. firstname.lastname@example.org, something like that, on all your websites and all your pages where you refer people for support, that’s the email address you use. And then the ones that you need to take action on, I’ll say, “Forward it here, to Ashe,” at your other email address, and then the ones that I can take care of without you, I take care of it and then BCC when like, “Okay, this has been taken care of,” so you can just basically look and delete that email. ASHE: That makes sense. That’s awesome, and I knew that you would have some amazing system for it. The other question I have is, do you have somewhere that you go? As programmers, we have places that we go to learn new tips and tricks to stand the cutting edge of the best way to do things. Do you have a place that you go to learn more things like how you can be more efficient to doing something so you can be billing more hours or doing less work? MANDY: Yes. I’m not very ‘in’ with the virtual assistant/administrative consultant community. I’ve basically just learned on my own, but I do read a lot of books. I don’t know the name of that, but if I can it, I’ll stick it in the show notes, but it was a really good way. It was like the A-Z guide for virtual assistants, which told you a bunch of tools, they got a good to download and use. And then I just actually signed up for Brennan Dunn’s Freelancers Guild, which I’m really excited to start. We haven’t started yet, but I just got my class and we’re working up time and schedules; I’m really excited to be a part of that and see how that goes. But as far as having my own community, I don’t really. I interact with the programmers and developers more so than any other assistants’ community because I just do. That’s all I can say about that [chuckles]. ASHE: Check! Makes sense. CHUCK: I want to go along the same lines that we’ve been asking about here. What kinds of things do you wind up doing for your clients? You have mentioned editing podcast, but what other things can people delegate to a virtual assistant or somebody like them? MANDY: By far, my favorite is the podcast editing. I really, really take pride that I get better with each and everyone, learning the controls, and being better about taking out the ahms and ahs, quick pauses, and placing words together so they sound good. As far as other things to delegate, you can have them do the airline reservations, searching for the best deals, booking hotel rooms. Also, I schedule a lot of haircuts for Bryan Helmkamp [laughs], I also keep track of Parley for Ruby Rogues; I add them and keep up with that. Also, with books, I do a lot with DPD – Digital Product Downloads – and do a lot of book support for Avdi so people lose their links to download his eBook – I take care of that. You can also ask them to be open to doing other tasks like find out where the best place to eat and the next place you’re travelling is and make reservations and things like that. REUVEN: Why do you continue like being a general purpose VA and not just sort of move into podcast editing? MANDY: Well, that’s what I’m doing [chuckles]. REUVEN: Oh! There you go. MANDY: I was a general purpose VA for I guess the first year. I didn’t mind doing it, but then it just kind of became like more secretarial. I’m trying to get less secretarial and more into a niche, and the niche that I really enjoy is the podcast editing. But for people just getting into it, you do have to work your way up. I had no idea how to podcast edit, or use a software anything when I first started. I learned and I got good at it. So then, more and more, I could drop out of doing the more secretarial type stuff and move in to doing the things that I like to do, which is podcast editing. ASHE: We talk a lot about either pricing ourselves out of things that people wouldn’t want to pay for, or the kinds of clients we don’t want to have, or just kind of optimizing for the stuff that we do enjoy doing like the things that we can grow doing; be more well-known for doing. So out of curiosity, are there things that you’re doing to kind of position yourself so people know that podcast editing is something you want to do? MANDY: Yeah, and I talked a lot about that when I went on the Rogue’s retreat in Texas a few months ago, that I’m working toward the title of just ‘Podcast Expert – Audio Engineer’. I just tell from my older clients, I’m not going to quit on them and be like, “I don’t like doing that anymore,” I’m still going to do it. But when I do take on new clients, I’m beginning to be known for just podcast. So it takes a lot of word-of-mouth and a lot of doing stuff that you might not necessarily like to getting to do the stuff that you really do love doing. CHUCK: The thing is this, if you have enough work and you can face all the way over to podcast production, I would actually be finding somebody else to do the stuff you don’t want to do. But I like having one go-to person – MANDY: Well, yeah. And I like scheduling, I like interacting with the guests. I like scheduling the guests, I like doing all that other kind of stuff. And all the stuff that I do for you, Chuck, I really do enjoy doing. CHUCK: I know that we talked a little bit about it with you at the Rogue’s Retreat, but have you thought about bringing somebody else on to do the stuff you don’t like to do? MANDY: I have, and I am currently in the process of trying to make that happen. I just have a real problem with trying to carry on my hardwork, dedication, and trusting somebody else to do the same thing and the same work that I do, and give my clients the same level of dedication that I am really devoted to doing. To me, it’s scary to try and branch out like that a little bit. So it’s some one of my own insecurities doing that, but I want to do it because I want to grow and kind of have the developer niche, programmer niche, and be able to not have to say no to people who want me to do things because I just don’t have the time. I need to sleep, I need to spend time with my family, I don’t like having to turn people away, so I do want to bring more people on, but it’s also a matter of ‘who’ to bring on. ASHE: I think that’s something that every freelancer has dealt with. Chuck has talked about hiring other people to help him out, and I think that all of the concerns you just voiced were the exact same things [laughs] all of us have thought about bringing somebody else on to help us because we want to be able to tackle a bigger market, we want to be able to work on bigger projects because it’s hard to do larger projects when it’s just you, want to be able to grow your business and your opportunities, want to be able to have somebody else do all of the kind of work that you don’t enjoy doing so you can spend more time doing the stuff you do like doing. So I definitely don’t think you’re alone on that. MANDY: Yeah, it’s scary! And it’s a real thing. It gives you anxiety and just the jitters, like I worry about that first bad review [chuckles]. ASHE: Right. CHUCK: I think it’s funny, too, that you’re talking about, “I really have trouble just letting go and letting somebody else take care of it,” but that’s exactly what we have to do when we hire you. MANDY: Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m so big on the trust factor, too. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Texas so bad – to meet you in-person so that you got a sense of who I am and who you’re working with and not just the face behind the computer screen. CHUCK: And that makes sense. That personal rapport really does make a difference. REUVEN: I have a question: I guess it was about 10-13 years ago already when I had a few people working for me – I actually had an office and a bunch of people working for me and a secretary. This was the first and only time, I guess for about a year, that I have a secretary. I found, it’s actually kind of nice! It’s kind of convenient to have someone working for me, taking care of errands, going to the bank, doing scheduling, and so forth. But nowadays, it’s just me. I had someone working for me also, but basically, he just works on fulltime projects. I keep thinking on the one hand of there, these things that I want to take care of that I would rather have someone else do. But it’s not obvious to me if a VA is the right kind of person because so much of it is really sort of in-person, again, going to post office, going to the bank, that sort of thing. So is it possible to hire, not you, but I guess, is it possible to hire VAs on a very short-term basis like if I just need an hour a week, 2 hours a week? Or, is it generally a longer term commitment? MANDY: I’d say, if you’re going to hire somebody in-person, then it would probably be their best interest to be fulltime for you because you can’t just hire somebody to come in for 2 hours because I’m sure they want to have a fulltime job. If you just want somebody to do a couple of hours here and there remotely, no, they can’t go in the bank for you, they can’t go to the post office, they can’t pick up your dry cleaning. But oDesk is a great place to get started; that’s where I got started, and I really, really like the system. REUVEN: Interesting. I thought about having someone take care of the stuff in-person, but right, I think it would be more practical to have someone do the remote stuff. But yeah, it would only be a few hours here and there. oDesk is an interesting idea. MANDY: If you do oDesk, then that person who’s working for you probably you’re not just their only client. They probably have 4 or 5 or 6 clients that they do 1 or 2 hours for every week. CHUCK: The other thing that I really like about oDesk is the fact that if it’s just a 1-hour here or 1-hour there, you can actually just set up a contract for that 1-hour here or 1-hour there, and pay them for the job as opposed for the hour. In that way, you can say, “Hey, I’ll pay you $20,” to do whatever it is that you need done. And then if takes them 10 hours, then fine. If it takes them 2 hours, then fine. It really just boils down to you got the job done, they feel like they were well- compensated for it. MANDY: Yeah, that’s the fixed-priced. CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: On the other hand, I actually have a VA from oDesk right now. For her, I just have a budget set for 10 hours a week and I’ll just throw stuff at her. I think last Friday, I had her do market research type stuff that I could do with a pretty time and sends her process, and she had it done by Monday. And then if I don’t have anything for the week, then she works on other projects. It’s nice because I can just give her 1 or 2 of task for a larger 30 or 40 hour task and just say, “You’re going to take a couple of weeks to finish this, but it’s like a low priority.” REUVEN: Eric, it sounds like you don’t have your VA do scheduling and emailing such other than market research. What do you have them do? ERIC: I guess a lot of market research stuff, a lot of collecting and collating information. My email voyance is not that much; I’ve been pretty strong about taking it out. I don’t schedule many meetings so that’s not a problem. It’s mostly stuff that she could look online or dig into; kind of public information, but public information that’s scattered across 500 different sites, pull all that together into a Google Doc or something that I can go back and review and then make the next step on. ASHE: The oDesk thing is interesting. Because I think about how I work with other programmers, I almost always want a recommendation from somebody else that I know, like somebody else has worked with them who knows whether or not they’re going to do the task to my standards, the same thing that you were worried about, Mandy. I want to know that I can control the quality and time and all the things that if I were doing it myself, I would be able to control. So doing something like oDesk feels like one step removed from there. But I’m also not [unclear] in to a community that uses virtual assistants or executive assistants that kind of thing that they would be able to recommend somebody for me. CHUCK: We did do an episode about oDesk a little while ago with Jonathan. But yeah, you do get the reviews of the other people that hired them. Mandy, why don’t you talk about the process that you went through to find us a new transcriptionists when that happen. MANDY: Well, the one transcriptionist, I guess we’ll call it just took a vacation without telling anybody. [Laughter] CHUCK: True story. MANDY: It was around the holidays as well. REUVEN: Are they still on vacation [laughs]? MANDY: No, they’ve since come back and they’re doing back episodes of the transcripts so we can get all the transcripts done for the episodes like the first ones that Chuck never had transcribed. She’s working on those at her own pace. But the ones that I hired now, I recommended to Chuck that we get 2 instead of 1 because he was also starting iPhreaks. I figured, it would be a lot better if we just had 2 instead of 1 then we get more done faster. So I just went on oDesk and I said what I wanted. I said, “I need 2 transcripts done every week by this time. Can you handle it?” I interviewed a bunch of them because once you post a job on oDesk, they will pour in within the first 10 minutes. I went through the ones that really put time into their response to me that weren’t just this automatic copy and paste “this is what I’m going to send to everybody to get a job”. So I really recommend to people who are searching to get hired on oDesk that they write personal things like “I could do this. I’m interested in this. I know tech, I know language, I know this, I’m good with accents, and stuff like that.” So the more personal you make your online resume, the better of a chance you have to get hired. I found 2 that I felt that I liked and could trust and could handle everything, and I hired them and they’ve been working for us for about a year. ERIC: I used the system for oDesk; I learned it from Rob Walling, he has a product I’m going to pick later, people want to get into it. When I was looking for a VA, I got 70 or I think it might be 71 applicants, and I closed it after 48 hours or so. From that, if you’re digging through it and doing interviews with people, I ended with one person that was really good. There’s I think 2 other people that I would have work as backups if I needed it. REUVEN: Chuck and Eric, since you guys have worked with VAs, how do you build up the trust relationship that Mandy was talking about so you feel comfortable giving them access to email and your [unclear]? Also, I don’t know, do you guys give access to your bank information? CHUCK: I’ll let Eric answer first. ERIC: I haven’t yet. My current one, I checked that on oDesk, and then 2 or 3 others in the past. I go through this cycles where I figure I need to doing the delegate correctly and be a manager and hire VA, and then I’ve ran out of work and we kind of go our separate ways. Actually, I think all of them, it’s only been kind of web research or non-sensitive banking stuff. What I’ve heard from people is you start on the basics and then you’d slowly give them more trustworthy type stuff. And then as you work with them, they earn trust and you sort of slowly develop them into someone where you can give them full account access and all that stuff. I think Paypal does, and I think a couple of other banks, too, they can let you do a limited account status where someone can login and do refunds and look at history, but they can’t actually transfer money or do any be higher more I’m-the-owner type stuff. That’s something to look into, too. CHUCK: For me, I went through 3 VAs before I got to Mandy. Basically, I would just send them the work that I needed done. Most of it was centered around the podcast, so it was getting the show notes up, getting the shows edited, things like that, getting graphics done; I had one guy that was somewhat capable with photoshop and whatever. So I would get inexpensive graphics because he just bill me for his time. But the problem was that none of them were reliable. I’d take it back, one of them was reliable, but didn’t have a fast enough connection to actually upload anything to the internet. Anyway, I’m not going to go into too many of the details; I’ve complaint plenty about these folks. [Laughter] CHUCK: Anyway… CURTIS: What do you mean?! REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: Anyway, with Mandy, it was a little bit different because I handed her just a handful of things. I think initially, I don’t know if I told her exactly how many hours I expected her to work, but I was really only thinking 3 or 4 hours a week and then we’ll ramp up from there. The crazy thing was that I’d send her stuff to do and I’d get an email or a Skype message back within a couple of minutes saying that it was done. That totally blew me away. So immediately, I started feeding her more and more stuff to do. In fact, I started giving her the work that the other VA who I was still paying for was supposed to be doing. It just worked out so that eventually, as things progress, it was like, “I need you to handle this other thing for me.” She mentioned Paypal; she does have a limited access account to my Paypal account, and she could go in there and mess things up for me. MANDY: [Evil laughs] CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah. But I needed her to do it; I didn’t have much choice on that. But the other thing was that, I had worked with her for long enough to know that I could pretty well count on her to just do her work and not do anything there. There was a little bit of risk because she’d only been working for me for a few months, but still it was a major victory to hand all of the Parley stuff off to her and not have to worry about it. MANDY: Yup, the Parley is a big job to handle, too, because you have to keep track of all the money that comes in, the email addresses to make sure that it’d go at the right stuff. That’s a big part of my day – handling just Parley. CHUCK: We’ve automated a lot of it now, so hopefully, it’ll become less and less of that. But since we made the transition to discourse, I think it took an uptick because there were some issues getting people into the system. That kind of stuff. So she has access to that, she has access to my Stripe account; I don’t think I’ve given her any credit card numbers yet, but she hasn’t needed them. I haven’t asked her to do anything where she would need them. But really, at this point, it has come down to the point where we’ve done enough work together. She has proven herself to me, so I can just trust her to take care of it. But I think, it really depends from person to person how that works out. The other thing is that the fact that she showed integrity with the stuff that didn’t involve credit card numbers or Paypal account in the sense that I’d ask her to do something she’d say she’d do it and it would get done even if she wind up in the hospital having gallbladder surgery, she still got it done. MANDY: [Laughs] CHUCK: Even though we told her not to do it, she still got it done. REUVEN: That’s a pretty tough act to follow [laughs]. CHUCK: It’s that kind of thing. It’s like, “She’s a person of integrity”. If she says she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it. If I extend trust in other ways with my email account – I’m pretty sure has access to my email account, I’d given it to her at least once, maybe twice… MANDY: Yes, I do. CHUCK: That kind of thing, again, it really can affect my reputation and things. It’s just the more you work with somebody and the more that you see that they are committed to doing the right thing for you, the better off you are. And it’s not a big deal to go, “Okay, well, I need you to book me into hotel, here’s my credit card number,” or things like that. oDesk is another example; she could go and have people do a whole bunch of expensive work on there, but she helps me find the best deals, and she does a lot of the right things there. So I think, you really just have to have a tracker code of trust, and that’s where it boils down to. MANDY: That’s why my biggest goal is to provide people with that trust. That’s why I have such a fear of not maintaining bad reputation. ASHE: I have a question: I think that it’s important to establish trust especially when you’re having somebody handle such valuable assets to your business, to your personal life, or whatever it is. It’s important to establish that as soon as possible. But Mandy, did you worry that you were setting up unrealistic expectations like answering whatever Chuck needed so quickly or doing all of those things right away? Do you worry, not just Chuck, anybody, that in doing those that quickly that they would always expect that level of promptness? MANDY: Sometimes. But my main goal for everything was I just didn’t want to go back to waitressing, and just go out there and do what I could and make a name for myself and just succeed and show everybody around my county that I could succeed and I could build my own business and I could do these things. It was more about “I’m going to prove that I can do it”. So yeah, I do pride myself on being fast. I try to tell everybody I will get it done, if it’s a reasonable project, within 24 hours. This is my career so it’s just like going to work every day; you’ve got to go to work every day. But I do pride myself on being fast and reliable. Even when I did go in the hospital, I was laying there and I was on my phone telling them what had happened. The next day, I asked my boyfriend to bring in my computer to the hospital so I could answer a few emails before I went in the surgery, then he took it home and hid it. He’s like, “You’re taking 24 hours off,” and that was miserable for me because I think maybe it’s also me being a workaholic because I was like, “Please, just give me…” he was like, “No, you’re sitting on the couch and you’re going to watch movies and TV all day, and you’re not doing anything.” I was like, “Okay, just give it to me tomorrow [sighs].” CHUCK: [Laughs] The funny thing was this, I think Avdi and I, because we’re both on Ruby Rogues so I think we had talked about it, I think we were both tempted to send in flowers for that because we wanted you to recover and be at 100% more than we wanted the work done right away. And that’s the other thing; that long-term commitment goes both ways. And we become friends since then, too, and that’s been another thing that’s been really nice about this relationship. MANDY: Yeah. That’s how I feel it should become eventually. It’s hard to trust at first, and it’s hard for both parties. But I’m really happy with the way it’s gone, and I am looking to expand. I just am waiting to make a move [chuckles]. REUVEN: I was just going to ask, Mandy, you are our most frequent listener, as you pointed out in the discussion before we started recording, you listen to every podcast twice. So you hear tons of advice on this show, I think some others as well, about your career as a freelancer and your work and your career goals and how to sort of move forward a little just a bit so far. I’m wondering, how have you decide to sort of push your career forward in the future differently than you might have a year or two ago? MANDY: I get a lot of advice from listening to the shows, this one in particular. I used ‘Getting a Raise’, I forget which episode it was, but you guys have talked about how to get a raise… REUVEN: [Laughs] MANDY: I basically asked Chuck and said, “Well, I do this and I do this, and I’ve come through and I’ve followed the formula exactly,” and he was just like, “Okay,” CHUCK: [Laughs] MANDY: So I do really get a lot out of this podcast especially the accounting and lawyer stuff. I do really pay attention to and used – and a lot of the picks, I check out – and I get a lot of good advice from this podcast. CHUCK: Yeah, I remember that. You’ve all heard my train-wreck story with hiring assistants in the past. I’m wondering, now that you’ve been doing this for a while, if you have advice for people who are looking for assistants so they don’t wind up with somebody that they can’t rely on or that doesn’t do a good job. MANDY: I would say word-of-mouth is a big thing; definitely, do some research. Through this job, I don’t like to say it, but I will admit I had become a great internet stalker just trying to track on people’s email addresses and how to get in touch with them for the shows because some people are very private and they don’t put their email addresses on their GitHub accounts or their websites, so sometimes, I have to stand out a general tweet and hope they respond. But my biggest advice is: hire somebody that you do trust because somebody else trusts them. That’s what Avdi did for me, and I’m sure that plenty of people out there have assistants. I’ve heard Corey Haines has a good assistant, I don’t know their name or anything, but there was a tweet the other week about somebody looking and they recommended me and Corey Haines’ assistant, so word-of-mouth. And just get yourself a small client while you still have another part time job to rely on, and do a few hours a week for one person. Once that one person likes you and trusts you, their word-of-mouth will get around. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. And then that’s eventually what worked out for me; Avdi was saying, “Hire Mandy, she’s awesome!” MANDY: That’s why he makes me call him ‘Your Worship’. [Laughter] CHUCK: He makes everybody call him as ‘Your Worship’. ASHE: What a guy. CHUCK: Yeah. It’s a running gag on Ruby Rogues. REUVEN: [Laughs] MANDY: I start every email with, “Good morning, Your Worship,” ASHE: What a guy! [Laughs] MANDY: “Today, we have this, and this on your schedule…Have a wonderful day!” [Laughter] MANDY: I’m kidding [laughs]. Me and Avdi have established – we live very close to each other – so we have established a good friendship on top of our working relationship so our kids do play and I know his wife as well. We’re good friends outside of work as well. We started as a working relationship; I think I worked for him for 8 or 9 months before I actually met him even though we live 20 minutes away from each other. REUVEN: I was going to ask if you ever meet people in-person. MANDY: I’ve met all of the clients that I currently do the most work for in-person. I’ve met Nathen Harvey, Avdi of course, I’ve met Bryan, and I’ve met Chuck. CHUCK: Yup. REUVEN: That’s pretty great. CHUCK: Alright. Well, I think we’re getting close to the end of our time. Are there any other aspects of assisting or podcast producing or any aspects of your business, Mandy, that we should talk about? MANDY: No, I think I might like to come back and do an episode just on the podcasting audio aspect if people are interested in that. Maybe we’ll get me on for that again in the future. CHUCK: Yeah, that’d be awesome. ASHE: Yeah, I think that’d be great. CHUCK: Alright. Well, let’s get into the picks then. Eric, do you want to start this off with picks? ERIC: Sure. I have 2. First one is called “Why I Like The Term Author-Publisher”. It’s by an author, he basically talks about the term ‘self-publishing’ or ‘self-published authors’ has a bad taste for him. The guy has some language, kind of not safe for work or whatever, but he’s really funny, really good writer. The second one, I mentioned Rob Walling has hired a lot of VAs and he actually made a video course on how to hire a VA. I’ve talked to him in the past about his process, and I’ve actually bought this from him. Literally, I took what he’d taught in here and used it to hire the VA I have now. It’s a paid course, but I think it’s worth it if you’re really serious about hiring someone. Right now, it’s about 10 hours a week, and she is probably saving easily 5-10 of those hours of my own time. So it’s well worth it if you’re actually busy and have work you can outsource. CHUCK: Alright. Ashe, what are your picks? ASHE: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I have a really rough time with email. I get a ridiculous amount of email every day, and I’ve done a lot of stuff to automate that as much as possible, but it’s not quite where I would like. I was very happy that last week, I was able to inbox 0 for the first time since July. That was really a big deal for me. CHUCK: Yay! ASHE: I set balloons and confetti, I was really great [chuckles]. REUVEN: [Laughs] ASHE: [Laughs] It was like, I cried, like I literally cried answering my last email. So, all of my picks today are relating to email. The first one is a Chrome extension called “KeyRocket” and it’s an extension specifically for Gmail that will help you memorize all of the keyboard shortcuts that go along with using Gmail. My biggest thing is I’ve been using Gmail basically since it’s been around, and they didn’t always have keyboard shortcuts so I have always used it the same way, but I’m trying to get more efficient. So that really helps it basically just remind you every time you didn’t use the keyboard shortcut for something; what the keyboard shortcut for that action is. The next one is an app called “The Email Game”, and this is by the same people who created Boomerang; if you remember some shows ago, I recommended Boomerang. Basically, it’s a game of answering your email. It challenges you based on the length of an email or how complicated an email seems to be to answering email on a certain amount of time. So it gives you a certain amount of time to read it and a certain amount of time to respond, so it kind of forces you to take action on it immediately which is difficult for me because a lot of my emails are complex, and those are always the ones that I want to answer last. I keep joking that I want a Gmail extension that’ll basically sort my emails by shortest to longest so I can answer all the shortest ones right away. So, that one is really neat. The third one is a set of blog post that I’ve written over the past few years about “How I Manage Email”. I have a really complex setup to manage multiple email accounts from one inbox. I also talk about more complex use of filtering and labels, and also, kind of my methodology for having people send me email. This thing that I put in all of my email signatures about “Please ask me before you send me an email so I can figure out if it’s something that I can actually help you with beforehand or if it’s something we can just do over Twitter,” instead of kind of giving people the space to ask tons of things or expand on a ton of things they don’t necessarily needed. So those are my 3 things – all on email. CHUCK: Alright. Curtis, what are your picks? CURTIS: I’ve got 2 today. The first one is “1Password 4” which just came out, has a bunch of new updates and even does multiple vaults, all of which is a caveat there if you’re syncing with Dropbox to your iOS devices. But a multiple vault would mean that, like Chuck, you could share just passwords you wanted Mandy to have with her, and it would sync back and forth all the time. So you can divvy up all your passwords; I can share all my clients’ passwords with like a VA. The second is the “Harvest Mac Tracker”. I have recommended Ronin before as the billing software I used, and then they went and did something dumb and got bought by GoDaddy’s – CHUCK: [Laughs] CURTIS: [Chuckles] So I’m on the lookout for a new one. REUVEN: I’m sure their bank accounts are not calling you dumb, but maybe their clients are [chuckles]. CURTIS: Yeah, well, maybe. We’ll have to see. I’m looking probably at Harvest now, and they have a really nice Mac app which is just a timer right on your desktop, which is awesome. CHUCK: Awesome. Yeah, I use that, too; very, very handy. Reuven, have we heard your picks yet? REUVEN: No, not yet. I’ve got 4 quick ones this week. First of all, if anyone out there listens two podcast, and I think at least a few of our listeners do, I have an Android phone, and I’ve been using “Double Twist” for quite a while now. It syncs very nicely with my Mac and iTunes and everything, so I’ve really been enjoying that. Those of you who enjoy politics – I tell people I don’t follow sports, but I do follow politics – so there’s this wonderful blog called “Political Wire” which really is nonpartisan, picks out great call, it has great information, updates. For political junkies, it’s super great. I think they’re starting to make in-rows into the US as well so to speak, but they’re super popular in Israel. So much so that there was a bug in “Waze”, which is like a social GPS program you have for your smartphone. Apparently, about a year or two ago, there was bug in Waze that send enormous number of some Israelis into traffic as opposed to away from it, and caused huge traffic jams in Tel Aviv. Other than that, it’s been very popular and very positive, so I definitely recommend people try it. I managed to amuse/horrify my family a few weeks ago coming back from a vacation where I decided to just sort of randomly choose languages to have announced directions in. First it was in Spanish, then in Chinese, it was great fun, and potentially could be a way to learn new languages, folks. The last thing is, if you’re into tea, the Republic of Tea has an “Almond-Vanilla Tea” which is super delicious. I bring it with me everywhere I go with a little bit of milk; highly recommended both by itself or the decaf version. Anyway, those are my picks. CHUCK: Alright, I’ve got a bunch of picks here that I’m going to share. The first one is “YourFirstVirtualAssistant.com” that’s Jonathan Shank, I mentioned him earlier. We actually shared a room at New Media Expo this year and he’s just a super awesome guy. He has talked to several people about finding virtual assistants. He’s an expert in using oDesk, but he really does have some expertise in the other areas of hiring more long-term in the US virtual assistants if that’s what you need. I’ve also spent a bit of time getting to know “Chef” which is a DevOps system, so I’m going to pick Chef. You can also get a hosted version of Chef because it does client server; you can also use Chef Solo, but I’ve been using the client’s server. You can get a free trial; a little less you have up to 5 machines, and it works great. So you can go and sign up for that on Opscode’s website. I followed a tutorial by Nathen Harvey. Just this morning, he actually helped me find 2 bugs in the Apache2 Cookbook where I was having trouble. We just went and explored some of that stuff to figure out what the problems were. So I’m picking “Nathen”, and I’m also picking his tutorial as well. His tutorial has videos that walk you through most of the things that you’re going to need to know for setting up Chef. Finally, when Ashe was talking about her email, and only having people email her, she thinks that she can help them, I have people email me all the time with “Quick Questions”. My response, if I don’t have time to answer, I actually use “Text Expander”, which is my pick. If I type NNO, then it’ll actually replace it with “Hi! I really want to help you, but I’m really sorry I have these other things going on, and I just can’t get away from them. So in order for me to get this stuff this important done, I’m going to have to tell. But, maybe somebody else here or there will help you out.” If I feel like it’s important or I feel like I have a few minutes, I’ll try and help them. But a lot of times, I can’t. So it’s nice to have a way for me to just say ‘No’ without being a jerk, so that works out pretty nicely. Mandy, what are your picks? MANDY: Alright. Well, the first one I have is a little Mac app called “Caffeine”. That is just a little program that puts an icon on your menu bar and you click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep or dimming the screen or starting screensavers. That’s really handy sometimes for a lot of stuff I do because sometimes, I just need to get up and go get a drink quicker, go to the bathroom, so my work is not interrupted. The second pick I have is a free eBook from Help Scout; it’s called, “10 Stories of Unforgettable Customer Service”. This was an amazing short little book. It took me 20 minutes to read on the way back from a day trip to the beach. It’s just customer service, just people going out of their way to make other people’s lives happier or just little acts of going the extra mile for customers. So I would definitely check that out. I guess that it’s a really quick, quick read. The third pick I have is a little website from “Quora”. I came across it, and it’s just one of the best new products that people don’t know about. It’s just this thread of awesome inventions. There’s a wall plug that you can use as a safe, there’s this really cool tray to carry wine glasses, there is a wearable wireless mouse, and then there’s independent kids where they have this really small simple tool so that water comes out further instead of straight down so your toddler or child can wash their hands more easily without your help. It’s just this cool little inventions that would actually make a lot of our lives a lot easier. My last pick is just “Netflix”, I recently got into that. I really, truly do love watching TV shows, but everybody gets upset every week when you’re like, “Oh, come on! I have to wait next week to watch the next episode?” so I’m always late to the party. But this past 2 months, I watched the whole series of Weeds, that my leisure at once and that was so cool. Now, I’m doing the same thing with Breaking Bad. So I’m just going straight through this episodes, and it’s kind of my later unwind after a work day and just relax. So, those are my picks! CHUCK: Awesome! Alright, well, thanks for coming, Mandy, talking to us. MANDY: Thank you for having me! CHUCK: I really appreciate all the work you do; it really makes a big difference. MANDY: My pleasure! CHUCK: Before we wrap up, I do want to remind everybody to go read Joe’s book, The Healthy Programmer, you can get it at PragProg.com. We’ll also have a link in the show notes. And, we’ll wrap up the show. We’ll catch you all next week!