The Freelancers' Show 094 - Famine
The panelists talk about what to do if you find yourself without work and how to avoid getting in that position in the first place.
REUVEN: Well, Eric was the only one with you at that time, so. CHUCK: Yes, and I'm totally rehashing these, because I figure you guys have stuff to add -- and I keep learning stuff. ERIC: Sorry, I was busy on YouTube. [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 nine 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 -- nextlevelfreelance.com.] [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration app built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price up new estimates, and once you're underway, helps answer the question, “Will this 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 94 of The Freelancer Show. This week on our panel, we have Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Hello! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello. CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi, everyone! CHUCK: And I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. And this week, we are going to be talking about the feast and famine cycle and what to do when you get in to the famine part. We'll probably also talk a little about how to not get into the famine part [chuckles]. And Chuck needs to layoff the… oh, this isn’t a teleprompter… [Laughter] ERIC: Unfortunately, think about the things you can put up. CHUCK: That’s right. I'm awesome. And I'm not… Okay, I'm going to stop now. [Laughter] ERIC: That didn’t take long. CHUCK: Anyway, so how often do you guys run into the lean times, where you are not really sure what you are going to be doing maybe tomorrow or next week for work? CURTIS: A couple of times a year, mine are pretty cyclical and expectable now; like June, the summer is always slower and then it starts picking up again in like late September or October. And I'm crazy from October through to like the following March, or I guess following May. CHUCK: That’s when Wordpress comes back into season, right? CURTIS: I guess so. I talked to a number of other Wordpress consultants and businesses who have a very similar… like the beginning of the year specially super crazy and then it kind of slows down through the summer months again and then picks up a little bit, but not as much as the beginning of the year before Christmas. ERIC: That’s actually how my cycle used to be a couple of years back beginning the year because budgets get renewed and then summer, because people are moving or kids are on vacation, so people have no sanity left. And then after summer, people start getting back into things and try to get ready for the holiday rush or any of that stuff. CHUCK: That makes sense. Or they are trying to spend the rest of their budget before it gets taken away at the end of the year. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s what I've got. I mean, with training, basically the number of companies that have contacted me to do training in the last… basically, as long as it starts in December, they are happy. So I've got to think two or three different courses that I'm teaching, each of which starts the last week in December, just so they can claim it in the 2013 budget. CHUCK: Right, so then they can write it off and what have you. REUVEN: Right. ERIC: Yeah, I get a lot of clients who… I do a lot of 12-month contracts i renew, and so a lot of the times, the last week and a half or whatever after Christmas, they'll send me and early payment for January just to get stuff on to this year instead of to next tax year. So I get a lot of pre-payments at that time. CHUCK: Yeah, I had a client do that with me. And the funny thing was that he sent it I think like two days before the end of the year, and I cashed it like 3 days after the end of the year. REUVEN: Oh, [Chuckles] he was probably not happy. CHUCK: Well, I didn’t even get it until like the 30th or whatever. But yeah. ERIC: Yeah, but it doesn't matter if he's on a [unintelligible] accounting; he can still claim it because the service was rendered or whatever. CHUCK: Yeah, he wasn’t upset at all. REUVEN: Oh, okay. CHUCK: But yeah, he got to claim it the last year, and I got to claim it the next year, so I could keep my tax liability down. It was enough to actually affect that, so. But yeah, kind of interesting. So when things slow down, what do you guys do? ERIC: Sleep. CHUCK: Oh man. CURTIS: Margaritas and sunbathe. CHUCK: Now I want things to slow down. [Chuckles] I've got more work than I can actually do. CURTIS: You are right Eric. I don’t sunbathe in Canada; we snowbathe in Canada. It’s always snowy up here. REUVEN: [Chuckles] I mean like, despite what I just said about all these courses happening in December, literally in the last 3-4 days, I've discovered that the number of them have gotten canceled. Whereas I was convinced a few days ago that my December was 100% full basically for anything. Suddenly I have like a week or two that are sort of free. So on the one hand, I'm trying to push ahead of the dissertation -- as always -- using that free time. But I've also started to reach out both to clients with expressed interest in doing some work or doing some more work. So, I've emailed a bunch of older clients where I thought there might be a chance to renew things. And I've poked around and see who’s looking for people and send out some feelers. Although quite frankly, I'm not sure how any of those will work out, so in some way I think it’s busy work. And I've been investing more time in my newsletter and my blog. CHUCK: What I typically do, I had it happen to me twice this year and the first time I was so burned out that it wasn’t even funny. Anyway, I basically just go to kind of what you were talking about Reuven with like former clients and stuff. I tend to think of things along the relationship pyramid, or the sales funnel or however you wanna do it, coin that, where you have the people who know, like and trust you. And I have to say, I've been listening to the Duct Tape Marketing book and he talks a lot about this. But when I need work now, I go to the people that know like and trust me, so to speak. So you know, I'm talking to family, I'm talking to friends, I'm talking to former clients, I'm talking to show co-hosts, I'm posting to Twitter hoping that people who know, like and trust me because of the podcasts will have work. And typically, something will materialize because of that. That’s typically where I go. CURTIS: So here’s my question, Chuck: why don’t you do all that stuff while you still have work? I have plenty of work now, because the baby comes and I'm teaching at a local college, I'm essentially booked till February 15. I am still sending out emails and following up with clients every day. CHUCK: Yeah, I've been doing that lately. I wasn’t doing that earlier this year, and that’s why I had those openings ; I had one in March and one in August. And they didn’t last; it was like a couple of days for each one. You know, kind of sucks. [Chuckles] Because it’s like, “Where am I going to get the next check?” But yeah, you have to be doing that all the time, and then you don’t have to go to those folks. But when I wind up in that position, that’s what I do. CURTIS: I think the other thing that affects how stressed you are about it is what your saving is like, right? So right now, I'm working on March’s pay check, which is good because I'm taking off a good chunk of January and February. Typically, I'm working 3 or 4 months ahead on paychecks, in which case a slow time, I had that. Even in October, I had work the first week and worked the last week. And honestly, the two weeks in the middle, I didn’t care about because I just didn’t worry about it. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a big difference too. I'm sure you guys do a lot better at saving than I am. CURTIS: The last I heard, Eric has like ,1000 days, right? You don’t need to work 3 or 4 years, right Eric? ERIC: [Chuckles] I wish. It’s about six months right now. And that’s part of why I'm taking a break, to kind of learn some other things and kind of rest during the holiday season. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s pretty great. ERIC: So that ‘sleep’ comment earlier was only a half joke; it was kind of true. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah, I do have to say though that if you’ve… it also depends on what your experience is. Like I said, I haven’t had a slow time that lasted more than a week. And this year, they each lasted like a couple of days. And so, I don’t freak out because I figure that something is coming fast anyway. REUVEN: That’s the thing I keep telling myself always during these slow periods; that I've been doing this now since 1995, and every time there's been a slow period, it’s least lasted a week, maybe two weeks -- or in really extreme cases, three weeks. And then a combination of me reaching out to people, and people reaching out to me, something always happens. And in some cases, they are very long, very good clients. So I just need to sort of keep it going. And Curtis’ point, I think about doing this not just for the slow times, but while you are full of work, I think is a very smart one. CHUCK: Yeah, so I know that Eric did real well with this too. I kind of wanna ask you guys about that. So since you brought it up Curtis, let’s ask you first. So what kinds of things are you doing now while you have work, to ensure that you have work coming up? CURTIS: Well, I have I think about 50 different task items to follow up with clients coming up in the next couple of weeks, so unless the client is a pain in the butt, I even bump out other current clients say two months and just send them an email or send them an article or something, like Michael Port talked about a few episodes back when we talked to him about his book, which is escaping me right now. Book Yourselves Solid? I think that’s the one. I always get that confused with Get Clients Now book. And so I keep that going all the time. And it’s as simple as OmniFocus comes up, and I can click right on the last email thread we had, because it saves the link to my account and I can just follow up on it, right? The client who just got married, he got a gift and he would really like me to do work right now, but I'm booked and it is too long for his business timeframe, but he is… I mean like, “Oh you are available in February?” “Good. I need to look around and make sure that I have something because I’d like to use you again.” This is our third project together. And that’s really how I do it. I’d like something a little better; what I’d love to be able to see is my contacts, the next time I'm going to contact them, so I can scroll through my contacts and say, “Well, I liked these people. And for some reason I just fell off my radar.” And so I can see when the next time to contact them is, but I don’t have that yet. REUVEN: So Curtis, let me understand how you do that. So you have this list of clients with whom you’ve worked before and you just sort of ping them every so often and say, “Hey we liked working together before, do you do anything new for me?” CURTIS: Well, not even that. So I have a number of ecommerce clients in my ecommerce article that come by that maybe one is an antique dealer and so very high in products. I think his cheapest thing is like $1,200 is cheap stuff. Most of it is like $10,000 or something. When I see something that’s going towards high end products or that type of stuff, I´ll send that to him. I won't send that to the person who is selling little widgets at $25 a pop, necessarily -- it’s not applicable. But I´ll send that to them just kind of even randomly, and then I follow up more specifically to make sure their site is going good if they are having any issues just how things are going - that’s really it. So it’s mostly informal, “Hey, how is it going? Did you have a good weekend? This is what’s up with me. I wanna see what is up with you. Is your site running smoothly? Did you have any issues? Have a good day.” CHUCK: So how do you run across stuff like that? I mean, I've been pretty terrible at following blogs these days. And not everything that I'm interested in or following is going to be applicable to my clients. ERIC: I was going to make a crack about this awesome thing called the internet, but I'm kind of [unintelligible] with the blog part. CURTIS : I just follow a lot of blogs, right? And as I've been trying to mark more towards ecommerce, I'm following a bunch of ecommerce blogs as well so that I can kind of keep my skills up. And working by myself means I have to learn everything myself or getting some of these other blogs at least summarizes data for me. What I find interesting, I just send it off to them. I'm flipping through flip boards sometimes, I´ll find one that’s good for clients or… that’s how I do it. CHUCK: How much time do you spend? CURTIS: Over a week. Probably under half an hour. Its super-fast. So when I see a good article, I just pull that email out of my iPad and I´ll send them the link only, and I´ll BCC a couple of people, right? So the two or three clients and I´ll put a subject in and honestly, fairly generic so they can apply to any the two or three sites that I'm sending for the people, are fairly generic email saying, “Hey, that look like a good article. It will be interesting for you to read. Have a good day.” Sometimes I hear back, and sometimes I don’t. CHUCK: How about you, Eric? I know that you had a pretty involved process around like RedMine, when you were doing that. ERIC: Yeah, so I kind do like what Curtis did; I can't follow Michael Port system for giving out a piece of article stuff. I just never got it to stick. But the thing was since I was focusing in RedMine, I was in that community, so if I see, say a new feature comes out, I would know right off the top of my head like three clients would be interested in hearing about this. And so by really being specialized on that, I could actually… I don’t have to do as much searching. It would be the time I'm already using working in the community doing stuff and I would basically pull out five to ten different things each week of like [unintelligible] are interested in these or “Oh, here is a little twist for how clients can make it work for them.” And I think that’s just kind of the thing; as you get more expertise and if you have all your clients all have kind of similar needs and interest, like it can be really fast and productive. So that was one thing; just being in community and doing that stuff. And the other things I was doing was I had.. it was a weekly newsletter where basically I was emailing people using RedMine like, “Here's some tips about how to use it better and more efficiently.: And basically all of my clients are like perfect people to be on that newsletter as well as potential clients. Like, if you are just starting using RedMine, you don’t know how to be productive with it, you can get on this and the mailing list was completely free, so they could kind of do the whole know like trust thing; learn about me, learn about my services, but also get some value out of it. And so because its weekly, it was kind of a recurring thing. It’s someone like get ten or twenty newsletter and then they’d be like, “Okay, I'm ready to hire Eric. I'm going to talk to Eric about doing something,” or whatever. And so it’s kind of this… kind of just like the standard sales funnel marketing. I had all these different things out there where I’d be attracting clients or people would be interested in the work that I do, and giving them a whole bunch of free stuff and then eventually some of them who need more help, who need something custom will actually come to me and end up being my clients. CURTIS: I find too that as I've done that, it gets faster. Just after we talked to Michael Port, I hadn’t really formalized it by sending articles and stuff and so I did. And for the first couple of weeks, I had to really think about it and make a conscious effort. Now I'm just looking around and be like, “Oh, that would be for this client, that would be interesting for this client.” REUVEN: And they don’t take these articles… I mean, first of all, it sounds really interesting. It sounds like a good idea. I tend to send some of these articles to clients whom I am in touch. So the idea is sending out to people who I'm not in touch so much seems to be smart, but I've never gotten a negative reaction from people saying “Why are you sending me this stuff? I hadn’t talked to you in months.” CURTIS: No. sometimes they don’t reply, but I'm not sending them like ten articles a week, right? If I realize, “Okay, there's two really good articles that I've sent this week, then I might just skip one.” Or put it on my to do list to send to certain clients in like a week or in two weeks. So then I have something and so when it comes up, I can be like, “Oh wait I don’t have anything right now. I´ll send them this article.” ERIC: And if I remember Michael Port system, he said like make a list of I think like 30 people you wanna stay in contact with and then each day, you contact one and you cycle through the list. So over the course of a month, you are going to give one person one article. So that shouldn’t be able overwhelming. People get more stuff like that from Facebook; like family member sending random things that are completely worthless versus you are giving them something valuable. REUVEN: I think you’ve just answered this question pretty clearly, but you definitely find that this helps; that clients appreciate it and they'll turn to you for work? CURTIS: Oh yeah, because you are the person that they are in touch with, right? You are the person who is continuing to reach back for them. I have one client that I ended up not being able to work with because of my timelines and I got booked out before they would give me money. But they are continuing to ask me questions and continuing to like “There's another project.” And I've guessed I've been on a little bit of a from them on some questions. And they are actually paying me a little bit of money for the little bit of time I can work to I guess being an outside consultant to make sure they are getting good service. CHUCK: One other thing that’s related to some of this is that I realized when I was talking to my mastermind group yesterday, that most of my clients don’t shop around. And so, they are just going to go to whoever they think can do the job. And we were talking specifically about raising my rate then, but I really did realize that they are not out there shopping around. And so, they are just going to go with the person who they think can solve their problem. And if I'm the guy that they are hearing from, then I'm the guy that they are going to turn around and come ask for work. And they are not going to go out and go, “Okay, well lets go talk to four or five folks.” No, they have a relationship with me. They feel like they can work with me and there are a lot of benefits to going with somebody that they feel like they already know. CURTIS: Yeah, my longest term client started with me and I charged like $50/hour is my hourly rate then, and I now charge $100/hour. And at $50, they were very price conscious. But over 4 years, they have never questioned a raise at all; when I said, “This is my rate for the new year.” They have never questioned it even though its double of what they are paying -- four or five years ago. And it’s just because I'm around; I can do the work for them and I know it and yeah. CHUCK: Well, the thing is that I think for longer term clients, you remove a lot of the risk because they know you can do the job, they know they put the money in and they get the code out, kind of thing. They have a relationship with you that, you know all these ‘I can trust’ thing that we’ve been talking about. And so, for them to actually go and do the work of finding somebody else and then making sure that they are the kind of person that’s going to deliver for them, it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, it makes a whole lot more sense to stick with you because you already have the momentum there. And it’s the same thing even if you haven’t worked with these folks before; if you’ve been consistently demonstrating to them that you are capable of solving their problem and you can make pain go away, it may not be worth it for them to go and try and vet somebody else. ERIC: Right. And I think I've told this story before, like I was working with a client whose doing Rails stuff and they brought me into an existing team, and paid me my Rails expert rate to do Wordpress development. Like I know PHP from my past job but I'm not that good at Wordpress -- I barely knew it -- but they paid me my high rate and they even said like, “If you have problems especially with the wordpress API, talk these other people on the team and use their time and we'll pay you to learn these things.” And they did all that just because they needed this project done and they knew me already, they could trust that I was going to deliver results, they could trust that I was going to do the best that I could and they trusted that if there is a problem on the project, I´ll raise the problem to them and they can actually solve it. And so, just by having all that trust from my relationship with them, it make it work a lot better than even if they went and paid half the price for a wordpress freelancer that they didn’t know. CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: The number of companies with whom I've spoken just in the last month who are looking for a web developer because they are fed up with the lack of trust or the lack of communication, I would say that’s easily three quarters of them; but they are happy with the technology part, but they are not happy with the communication and trust. And so, I mean, if you can manage to establish that, I think being in touch with people all the time is certainly the way to do that. That’s going to be amazing. And just sort of tied back to what we are talking about in terms of like the getting through the leaner times with the famine part, I think Eric, you’re the one who said in your Long Term Contracts book that it takes the same amount of time find a client no matter how long term they are. And so it’s always frustrating, right? You are in your lean time and it’s like, “Oh my god, I need to find clients.” But if you’ve been investing this time, like say an hour or half an hour a week forever, then you are going to save yourself that time and then some. ERIC: Right. And that's kind of interesting because I heard Chuck saying he had some lean times of like a day or two. And in the beginning, I had lean times, but lately the longest lean time I had was about a month, and that because I was turning down a bunch of projects because they would’ve worked, but it wasn’t like the best project. And in the end, after about 3 weeks, it might have been a little longer, but I found a client and I've been working with them for 8 months straight. And I think I made like… that was one of my recent clients that I made probably a year’s worth of income in those seven or 8 months with them. So it was like stereotypical great, long term contract. But, it’s because I had the confidence to know that there's going to a good client coming out soon, I had kind of the marketing behind me, so I was getting enough potential clients coming to me. And then like Curtis talked about earlier is I had the savings, so like I could go a month without having to pay the bill. Like I had savings as a backup, and so I could be a bit picky. And that one month, that was actually because I took three months off when I had the birth of my daughter. I mean, I was completely off the computer for three months. And so, going back from nothing to that, like that’s about normal. And I think since then, I haven’t had kind of the famine part for a few years since, like before that just because I did long term contracts, I had my marketing going at a certain level. And you know, the only famine I had was self-inflicted where I was taking vacations. CHUCK: Well you can turn those famines into vacations, right? It’s, “Okay, I'm still looking for a client to eventually fill the need to earn more money. But you know, for right now I can kind of not panic and I can take the time that I could spend with my family and things. “ ERIC: Yeah, you could do that, but I mean mine, it was actually like January I would say, I'm taking off to write a book whatever. And I would take half off even though I had potential clients saying, “We wanna hire you in April.” I actually self-imposed taking time off. And at a point, I think I was like booking clients out six or nine months ahead of time. And some clients aren’t going to want to be able to do that; like they have a deadline they can't hit, but half of them were completely happy if like you know, “Put it on the calendar whenever you can get to us.” CHUCK : yeah, absolutely. ERIC: I mean, I've written about this I think in the Long Term Contracts book, but I also on the new book I'm working on right now. Really like the feast and famine cycle, it’s completely self-imposed. What happens is you are working so hard, that you are not doing your marketing. I mean because you are not doing your marketing and there's a delay between ‘you do marketing’ and then ‘you get work from marketing’, that you don’t do marketing, you still see like a couple of these coming in and you think everything is good, but actually in reality, you're kind of like it’s called …. I guess. Like the new clients coming in is decreasing. But by the time you notice that you have no more potential clients coming in, your market has completely dried up. And basically, what happens is you got these two cycles, and they are staggered enough that you are so busy, that you kind of have a short term focus and you lose sight on the long term of, “Oh, this project is ending in two months and I don’t have anything ready to go.” And I mean, all you really have to do is you just have to realize that and do what Curtis does; keep up your marketing or like what I was doing; I have long term contracts, so my cycle was 12 months, 18 months long. And that’s really how you defeat or don’t even get into the feast and famine cycle. I mean, don’t over commit yourself and make sure you keep up on the long term marketing stuff. CHUCK: Yeah. I don’t know what else to add to that, other than just to say that that’s been my problem every time I've had a lean cycle. ERIC: Yeah, and I mean I had it too. It happens but it’s hard to… it’s the whole idea like you don’t see the forest for the trees, you don’t see six months out when you’re focused on next week. It’s like a habit; it’s a skill you have to really build up because when freelance, you kind go get this idea of it turns into a job; like you come in at nine, you put in your thing but it’s actually still a business; you actually have to look at 12 month projections or larger things like in the US economy and stuff like that. You have to look at that and factor that into decisions you are making now. And if you are a freelancer or you are with one or two people, it’s not as big of an impact; like you can be a lot more Agile than larger companies, but you still need to at least look at that and kind of get an idea of how things are going and plan out yourself. And if you don’t plan, like you can plan to have something coming up, either problem, a failure or a famine. CHUCK: so One thing that I've been wondering about… I'm going to change the topic just a little bit, is targeting this marketing toward people that you wanna work with. And this is something that I've really been thinking about lately. And I've realized that the people that I've really enjoyed working with are these entrepreneurs; they have some idea that they want to implement or some business that they want to start. And I just love just getting in there working with these guys because they are so passionate about what they are doing -- and they are usually interesting and cool projects. So the issue I've been having is figuring out where do I go to get in front of these people to bring them in. I mean, if you're doing say Wordpress development or RedMine development, or some other open source project development, it’s pretty easy to target a lot of that, because those people are looking for those particular technologies. Am I missing the boat somewhere with entrepreneurs or new businesses? ERIC: Well, I mean you have to… let’s say you have gone through and you have like your target market, target or ideal customer, you'll have all that. You know entrepreneurs, say venture backed entrepreneurs because that’s a bit more focused. If you want venture backed entrepreneurs, are you going to put an ad in the Utah Classifieds? No. They are going to read it. Are you going to Silicon Valley and go to meet up groups that have venture capitalist and this entrepreneur is there? Yeah, that would probably work. So really, you got to look at where your customers hang out at. Amy Hoy covered this extensively in 30x500, which is product focused, but I guess I've kind of repurposed this in my latest book to be freelancer-focused, but you’ve got to look at where they are at; where they hang out, what they do, what they need -- all that stuff. And especially for entrepreneurs, I guess if you are going for like venture backed companies like there is tons of places; even just online where you can find them. I mean, there’s Hacker News… If you don’t do venture backed, you can do bootstrap. There is bootstrap forum that’s kind of newer.... You go to those places and they are like you could basically throw a rock and hit five year customer. And so, kind of like how I did it in RedMine; you got to do it a little bit differently where you can't just go in and say “buy my stuff, buy my stuff, buy my stuff.” No one appreciates that. You know, the whole trust thing is gone at that point. But, you can go in there and be useful -- kind of like what Curtis is doing -- share resource, maybe postal link to Hacker News about a new company that got started or the new Y Combinator or something like that and build up your profile; build up your kind of reputation and then people will kind of come to you about it. Maybe you'll write a blog on your site that talks about like summarizes some concepts and you put it on hacker news and so they kind of see you and you could build your reputation that way. I mean, you got to go where they are at -- that’s the simplest idea and the easiest way to look at it. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. You either have to go where they are at, or get them to come to you. And usually, it’s a mixture of both that gets them to come to you. ERIC: That’s the whole inbound marketing, outbound marketing. I mean, inbound is when you kind of, you do certain things or you are marketing to attract people to you -- they are coming into you -- or you do outbound stuff, which the easiest way to think about that is advertising. You advertise for them. And you know, advertising might work, but you got to try it. But you know, if you are taking to standard consumer or like whatever, another group that advertise your works for, you can do advertise. You can do the outbound marketing and that would work. But you are going to need a little bit of both; you got to mix it up for your business or for your actual market. CURTIS: My single biggest advertising return was an interview I did for WP Engine, which is a premium WordPress host, and they brought in one of the $25,000 based off the one interview of people saying, “Hey, I read your interview and you seem really smart and I’d love to work with you.” And one client I worked with like all last month and we still have a little cleanup that we are doing and it looks like that will probably continue at a little bit for the indefinite future, and probably another couple of full weeks again after February. ERIC: Yeah, and I mean you never know kind of what the result is going to be. Like my RedMine stuff, it’s a larger body of work, like I did… I think I did 100 plugins or close to 100 plugins for a few years, but that whole body of work plus the stuff I was doing in the community, that probably… a couple several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of work. And at that time, 99% of my projects were clients coming to me. I had no idea who they were. They said, “I saw your work or I saw your blog post. We wanna hire you.” It wasn’t, “Please submit this RFP and we'll get back to you.” Or that sort of thing. “We wanna hire you. Can you do this for us?” And because I had this huge kind of inbound marketing machine going there. And if you have one really popular plugin or one really popular eBook or anything, they could trigger that whole thing too. CURTIS: And I should probably clarify; they read the article and then read some more stuff about me that specifically in the ecommerce space and the problems they had that I had blogged solutions for. REUVEN: I can easily imagine even if someone who does not have the sort of inbound marketing setup, I mean I speak on a number of conferences, I've got my external column, and I sort of go to various meet-ups. And I get a reasonable number of calls from people based on those. So you can only begin to imagine that as my blog and newsletter sort of expand, and more people read them and more people see them, that is just going to sort of build on itself. CURTIS: I'm working on a contract to write a book for beginning of next year, which is the thing I will do in January. And that is solely for the marketing aspect, I don’t really anticipate the return on investment financially initially from the book sales, to actually pay off the time if I was consulting instead. But it’s a good thing I can pick up and put down if the baby comes early or something like that -- as opposed to client project. CHUCK: So I'm wondering how much you personalize the follow up? I mean, you talked a little bit Curtis about you find an article and you send it to somebody who is interested in it. Do you ever just have conversations with people over email or things like that, “What about this?” “What about that?” You know, just answering questions or just having a discussion over some aspect of business or things like that? CURTIS: Oh yeah, one client who just got married, we talked probably a month and a half ago, we talked a bunch about him getting married, right? And I've been married for ten years now, and he asked if there was anything good to read or what I thought about marriage and how that went in general. And actually, when we first did his project a year and a half ago, it went well and then it went poorly and then we salvaged it. And so they salvaged project as well. On my end, in my fault I was not as stellar as I should have been. So we had to chat mostly about that, right? And he asked me to look at an RFP because he always expects everything out and he asked me to take a look at that. Marriage consulting, I did not try it for the marriage consulting even though I have a counseling degree. CHUCK: [Laughs] CURTIS: But even when I send an email to an individual, I will personalize it a bit; ask about how something is going. If know they have kids or anything like that. When I find out their birthdays, I’d write them down. When I find out their anniversaries, if it comes up, I write it down. So on my last project, I had a client and I didn’t know it was their birthday till I was on the call and they brought a birthday cake and started singing. And my next stop was to jump on Amazon and send him something immediately to the office. And I have Prime in the US too, so I got it there like the next day. CHUCK: Nice. ERIC: You didn’t use the helicopter droids to get it there in 30 minutes? REUVEN: [Laughs] CURTIS: You know, it was a few weeks ago. They didn’t have the helicopter droids yet. CHUCK: I so want those. Army of minion droids CURTIS: For collections, right? CHUCK: Yeah, there you go. “These are not the droids you are looking for; they are looking for you.” REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: Awesome. So are there any other things? I mean, I guess you just have to keep working on your marketing, even when things are good, in order to keep things going. Are there any other tips that you guys have for making things work when things are a little bit lean or work is non-existent? ERIC: Before it gets lean … the marketing, figure out and experiment I guess with different marketing methods in forms, so like blogging and podcasting whatever. Try to use that time when you are not stressed to figure out what works good for you and the other thing is I say figure out kind of like the minimum power of marketing you can do. So if that means like you’ve found that doing one blog post will be consistently is a minimum you need to kind of keep a little bit of leads coming in, you know like when I get busy, I need to keep that minimum. And that needs to be like your number one priority above your busy client work, because that’s going to keep you from getting out of famine few weeks or a month. That’s kind of the biggest tip and that will help you from getting in to a bad time because you can always fallback on that. If you are in a bad time, I think it comes down to do you have savings to kind of be picky and wait for a really good client that’s going to get you completely out of it? Or do you just have to pick up anything that comes to your way? And you know, once you are in it or you weren’t able to think about it ahead of time, it’s a hard choice to make, but there's no shame in picking a project that’s not the greatest project, it’s a lower rate or its not skills that you’re good at. If you have to pick up something to kind of pay your bills, do it. There's no shame in that. I mean, everyone has done projects that they don’t want to talk about to anyone else – myself included. CURTIS: I have friends who say they will never do whatever x or y jobs and I always shake my head at that because the only thing I will not do is something that is morally objectionable to put food on the table. The thing to remember is that when you are first starting this is it feels like a lot of balls to juggle, because you are picking up new balls to juggle, which is why you use the analogy, right? When you are starting freelancing, you get yourself to work and stay at your desk for eight hours is a big ball to juggle -- often when you’re starting your own business. But once you have the marketing going, it’s not really that hard, once you have kind of the process and you've been doing it for a while, it gets a lot easier. REUVEN: Right. It sort of sounds like the bottom line with this is be as prepared as possible, so that you don’t have the leaner times and that means a lot of marketing and scheduling, and planning, and saving if you can. But I don’t know, I feel like there are always short term jobs out there. It might take a little bit of effort. It might even take a week or two to sort of find them and get them, but they do exists and especially on line nowadays, you can find things. They may not be ideal, they may not pay the best, but the odds of a programmer being able to find anything at all, I’d say are pretty slim. CHUCK: Well, there are always local businesses too, right? That, “Hey, I went to your website and it looks like it could use a refresh,” or you know, “It looks like you are using this spreadsheet to manage this process,” or what have you. I mean, it might only mean a couple days’ worth of work, but it’s something. ERIC: Right. Actually a good thing do to, especially before you get in there, but you can do it while you still have a lean time is find freelancers that do subcontracting, like Chuck here does that. Be friends with them, build up trust with them just like a client because when you get slow, you might be able to go to them and they might have extra work. I mean, I don’t pick up that much that way, but I'm in groups and I've seen dozens of, “Hey, I have some free time!” And someone else in the group says, “Hey, I could actually hire someone for 10 hours a week.” And boom, that guy just got some work. And that kind of passing and referral happens a lot. That’s something that’s not advertised; you can't go Google searching for it. You have to have a relationship with people, and building that up can actually really be a good support group, especially if you don’t wanna do a lot of the marketing or you are having problems with it. CHUCK: Yeah, this isn’t up yet, but I will have it up before the show is released. Go to iephq.com/subs and ‘IEP’ is Intentional Excellence Production, which is my company and then HQ, obviously. So yeah, so if you go to iephq.com/subs, then you can actually enter your information and then when I have contracts that I need people on, then I will helpfully have looked through your GitHub repository and stuff, and feel good about hiring you, so. ERIC: And you could always try to get Chuck’s mailing address and send him brownies or cookies and I'm sure that has *no* effect on his business decisions, whatsoever. CHUCK: It does. It has no effect whatsoever because I'm diabetic and it will do bad things. [Chuckles] My wife would appreciate it. REUVEN: [Chuckles] Yeah. Here's a little hint for those who are trying to get work from Chuck: Don’t try to kill him. CHUCK: Yes! Yes! Very good. All right, well, anything else that we need to talk about in this? I know that both Curtis and Eric have written books about finding clients and running a business. And so, we'll make sure that we have links to those in the show notes. And I think Eric and possibly Curtis, I don’t remember which of you guys have banners in the side bar on the website, but you can also just go click on that. Anyway, we'll make sure that we have links on the website one way or the other and you can go and click on it and buy their stuff. Because it’s good stuff and they know what they are talking bout. Anyway, let’s go ahead and do the picks. Reuven, do you wanna start us off this week? REUVEN: Sure. So I've got three picks. Picks of all, for those of you who work a lot online -- and my guess is its most of you – there's this great replacement for SSH that I found. I know it’s not just me that. Someone at MIT this thing have come up with this thing called Mosh. And Mosh it the Mobile Shell and I've even been using it quite a bit because it’s great; basically, it reconnects you automatically the servers when you disconnect from the internet and reconnect. So I just have a bunch of terminal Windows open with Mosh sessions on the various servers I work on, and I never need to worry about really logging in to them and so I found it to be very convenient nice little productivity booster. And two other fun ones: one is something I just found from the last week or so is improve your geography site. I'm going to be going to Romania next week to teach a Python course and so I've been looking to lots of maps of Europe and discovering that a lot of countries and locations that I really haven't really thought about since elementary or high school, so I'm trying to familiarize myself with the map a little bit to know who is where. So I've got a link there to a nice little online quiz, where you can check your knowledge of geography. The link I´ll put is to Europe, but there are a bunch of others as well every continent and many, many countries. And the third is when I was a kid, there's this great show on the TV called PBS called The Electric Company for learning to read and I can tell you as a parent and as someone who watched it back then as a kid, it’s an amazing show; great, extremely funny Bill Crosby, Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman, and they teach kids how to read. It’s available on DVDs and it’s available on Amazon streaming. I highly recommend it. And it’s not obvious to me whether the kids will enjoy it as much as the adults do, but I definitely recommend it for anyone who is interested in some entertainment -- and even helping teach their kids to read. So that’s it for this week. CHUCK: Awesome. Curtis, what are your picks. CURTIS: I'm going to pick Zapier and CampFire. And Zapier is a service that basically connects other services. So I have Zapier set up to grab all my trailer card notifications and all the beanstalk commits and send them into Campfire for specific projects, so that we have a running tally of what's up. We've also got it sending out of my email, sending anything I send to taxes goes into my Evernote with the receipts for the current year. CHUCK: All right. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: So my pick today is the book I just released. It’s for basically people that are getting started with freelance or they got started and they are kind go flaundering and can't figure out how to make it work. I wrote it because I was getting a lot of emails and personal messages like, “I don’t know where to get started.” And a lot of the getting started as a freelancer stuff wasn’t really the greatest in my opinion. But the book is called 30 Days to Become a Freelance Developer. It kind for walks through picking your ideal client, and figuring out what services you can provide to them, finding your ideal client. And then it gets into kind of building a simple marketing system. And it’s 30 days. You can do it in less if you want, but it’s kind of a nice breakdown, so you can do your daily task. I´ll have a link in the show notes. This is the thing I've been working on I guess the past few weeks, so I’d appreciate if you are interested, take a look at it. If you’re not, that’s fine. CHUCK: Sounds like something I could use. CURTIS: If you are just getting started. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s right. All right, I'm going to go ahead and pick a few things. The first one that I'm going to pick is I keep picking books. I've just gotten hooked on books lately. One of them is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. It’s a pretty terrific book. And he's just got some pretty awesome ideas in there. The other pick I have is, I'm also going to be doing a course, so I'm going to pick my own stuff. The course is three month course, it’s for learning Ruby on Rails, and you get a whole bunch of video content and then I'm going to offer both office hours and Q&A sessions, meeting and so you should be able to call in to those one way or the other and check it out. So if you are interested in all of that, then you can go find that at railsrampup.com. And yeah, that’s all I got. Thanks for listening. I hope you all had a terrific holiday. And we'll catch you all next week!