The Freelancers' Show 122 - Valuing Time & Saying No

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The panelists talk about valuing time and saying no.


ERIC: You can always just measure the level of hate mail to see if it’s gone down.**[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at]**CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 122 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Woohoo! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi. CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hey everyone! CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from, and this week we’re going to be talking about valuing your time, how to handle people who are coming to you and trying to take advantage of your kindness by getting free advice, that kind of stuff. Let’s go ahead and talk about this. ERIC: So we got some free advice for you here. CHUCK: Yeah. CURTIS: No. CHUCK: The pernicious evil that I see when people have this kind of stuff is they send you an email and they say, “Hey, I've got a quick question” – and it is. It’s a quick question to ask but not a quick question to answer. CURTIS: Yeah. I keep one call per week open to talk to new freelancers, because other freelancers helped me at different points, and I will book them into that half-hour call to basically ask whatever they want for half an hour, but when that half hour is done, it is done. CHUCK: Mm-hm. CURTIS: I’ll say, “Sorry, half hour’s done; that’s all the time I have. If you want further help, consulting, whatever, then you need to pay me for it.” I do very similar things with clients – if they have a question and I can answer in their intro call, which is part of my on-boarding process, then I’ll answer it right there, that’s fine. But when they come back with “Here’s two or three other ones. Can you take a look at my site?” I respond back with, “Here’s how much it costs to hire me. This is a minimum of five hours to start going through this and we can start scoping out your project, but that’s it. I'm not just giving free advice all the time.” REUVEN: I think it’s an easy trap to get sucked into for a lot of us. I don’t know about you guys, but I got into consulting, in part because I really like helping people. I really like using the skills that I gained to help people who don’t have those skills. And so when someone comes and says, “Oh, could you help me out?” My first instinct is to say, “Yes, I'd love to help you.” It took me a good few years in the beginning to realize that first of all, this is a losing business strategy – to constantly be just helping people and not charge for it – and secondly, the advice I'm giving people is hopefully and presumably helpful and worth something to them, and if it’s worth something to them, then that is worth paying for. The bottom line is, I tell people, “I wish I could help you for free, but I got to pay my mortgage and pay for food and so forth, because this is how I earn a living.” CHUCK: I really like to help people too. Yesterday I was actually over at Starbucks; I set up a co-working thing every week and we talked, and a junior developer that I know showed up and he was bidding out a project, and so he asked me a bunch of questions. If I'm out there hanging out, if I'm at a users group or something like that, I don’t mind chatting with people. If you have questions, I don’t mind answering questions. The problem comes in when I have –. For example, I have about 500 emails I need to get through probably today to get caught up on my email, and I’m probably going to see about having Mandy or somebody else help me with my email load because it just kinda blew up on me, part of that’s because I was gone for two extra days this weekend. But anyway, I don’t have time to answer those questions, and a lot of times that “quick question,” it’s a quick question to ask, but I have to sit down, I have to think about the answer, I have to come up with a good response, and it’s not a quick question for me. So yeah, a lot of times, I’ll give them a cursory answer, which is something along the lines of, “Well, we did a Freelancers Show episode or Ruby Rogues episode about this,” and things like that. How do you tell people that without being rude? CURTIS: Well, some people are just going to think it’s rude, right? I don’t get as many emails as you do, but I just don’t respond to ones where it’s – I just don’t. Especially when it’s the “me, me, me, me” like “How can you help me? How can you help me? How can you help me?” and they're not offering me anything whatsoever. I just don’t have the time; I've got kids that I would like to hang out with at some point. That’s why I only book only one call in a week to help someone else, and that’s a half-hour. If we can answer it in half an hour, that’s fine; if it’s takes another half an hour, then you got to pay me for it. Same with the client stuff – we can start scoping your project if it takes longer than half an hour. Otherwise, then I  just can’t do it. I don’t worry about it; I will be rude. All of my friends know – even friends know that I do give free advice or look at their stuff. They know that my world does not center around them, so if I'd take two weeks to look at it, then they can pay me to take less time, or they can wait two weeks. CHUCK: I found kind of the same thing; I've also let people know, “Hey, look. Here’s why I'm busy: I record four podcasts in a week and I have client work, and I just don’t have time to formulate a great response for this. Here are the two or three things that come to mind in the two minutes I'm going to spend on this email, and I'm really sorry that I don’t have time to give you a better answer” and most people seem to be okay with that. They understand, “Hey, he’s doing all this other stuff and I'd get a lot of value out of the podcasts,” which is usually why they’ve emailed me anyway. “I love your podcast and I have a question.” People tend to be okay with that for the most part. CURTIS: Another thing that I'm thinking of doing as my email scales up is, again, booking a half hour to answer the emails, and whatever emails I can get through in half an hour – great. The rest are just going to trash, because I simply cannot deal with all of it. CHUCK: Yeah. I do like to give people a response, some kind of response, but –. CURTIS: Why, though? CHUCK: I don’t know, I like to feel connected. CURTIS: No offense to our listeners – and I'm probably sounding rude –. CHUCK: No, it’s a good question. CURTIS:- but we all have lives that do not revolve around everyone else, right? My life does not revolve around each and every listener and what they might need from me at any exact point. I love to help people and I teach, and some of the best stuff I do is actually – I love teaching my students – when I teach WordPress stuff or anything. I love mentoring and helping, and that’s why I'm in a Mastermind group and everything else, but I simply cannot do it for free all the time, unless I want to live in a fridge box with my family, and I really don’t, [inaudible] it would be a little more cramped than where I am, even.**CHUCK: Even if it was a nice, two-bedroom fridgebox? CURTIS: Even a two-bedroom fridgebox. Even if we happened to have a washer, like a washing machine box inside, it would be more cramped. CHUCK: Yeah. REUVEN: I'm not always so good about getting back to people via email quickly, especially if it’s not urgent for business stuff, but I do feel – and perhaps this is just me – I definitely feel that if someone writes to me, they deserve a response. Maybe a short response, maybe an – I don’t know – but I'd feel pretty bad if I'd ever end up not responding to anyone at all. I do feel like I'm sort of obligated – I don’t know – maybe just by culture, to respond. ERIC: If you're working with a good client, of course, you're going to respond to them, but if it’s someone who you don’t know, they know you, they're not on your mailing list, they’ve never bought a product from you – it’s just a completely anonymous person –. There's not much there for you to respond with especially, like Curtis said, if they're talking about them and they want to take information or stuff from you, sometimes I’ll just delete those, or archive them, or just ignore them, and other times it’s just a template reply if it’s the same question that a lot of other people have asked. It also steps up like, I have a list of my best customers, I have a list of people who are on my newsletter, who I've had conversations with – those people, you kinda have more priority. My email recognizes that they’ve contacted me several times, so I can actually say, “Oh, I know this person. He actually takes my advice, has good responses to it; it’s probably going to be good for me to interact with him.” Sometimes it even helps me, like if he has a problem that I can write about or do something where you write about it once and then a hundred people can learn from it, sometimes that’s actually a net benefit. CURTIS: Yeah, like I saw – Eric emailed me last week and we had two or three emails going back for a couple of days in a row, I would jump any of the emails from those I knew here on the podcast or other guests we've had – I would jump on those quite quickly. When people contact me on Twitter, I reply to almost everyone if I can help at all, because it’s a limited form of communication right out of the gate, right? But all the emails I come through, some I just don’t have time for, and I make time for my children. Yes, Eric, you should be happy. You're doing a happy dance, right? ERIC:**Right. [Chuckling]CURTIS: Yeah, Eric is right – it really does depend on relationship. REUVEN: Yeah, I had this guy who called me I guess once every six or eight months for the last few, say, two years or so. He called me again today, and in the past he has asked me, “Well, do you think Ruby is a good programming language? What should I work on? I tried this tutorial –” so I point in the direction of Michael Hartl’s tutorial. I pointed in the direction of a few other things, and then he called me today after, again, six or eight months that I've not heard from him, and I totally remember who this guy is. I basically came to the conclusion that I just don’t have time to start answering lots of questions. And he said, “Here’s my problem. Ruby isn’t quite working on my system. Can you help me out?” I was very straight, I said, “Yeah, I can help you out, but here’s what my rate is to help you.” I think he was a little surprised, and he said, “Well, is there anywhere I can get free advice? I've heard that there's a meet-up once a month in Tel Aviv.” I said, “Yeah, if it’s not that urgent to you, then you can probably go there and people will help you. It’s all a matter of how important it is that you get this fixed now and working now. If that’s important, then I’ll have to fit it in with my schedule and find a way to do it, and for that you have to pay.” He might have felt a bit taken aback by this, but when I hung up the phone, I felt really good. I felt like, “You know what? I'm going to give him good advice if and when he wants to get it or take it, but I'm also not going to feel like, ‘Oh my God, another morning I spent with someone doing something for free. Now I got to work late at night to make up for that to pay bills.’” CURTIS: Well it’s about –. ERIC:[Crosstalk] If someone needs something right now, like it’s urgent, and you have the answer or whatever it is, they're going to put more value on it; they're going to be will to pay for it. If you are giving someone specific information like, “Oh, your Mac has a problem with Ruby because you don’t have this other thing installed” versus generic information of “Step one, do this. Step two, do this,” the more specific the information is, the more people value it, the more they would pay for it. Like in this case, for some people, it’s not urgent and it’s not really that important. The benefit they're going to get from you helping them on their exact case, it’s not worth it for them to pay your actual rate and so it’s just the cost-benefit equation.**CURTIS: Yeah, when I do user groups, most often it’s – if there's even speaking it’s not something that I'm there to get the whole topic on. I'm there to meet people and I have certainly sat an entire user group helping someone with basic problems with WordPress to business stuff, and that is what I'm there for at that point and I don’t mind making myself available. We have our upcoming Word Camp and I will – when I'm not speaking, I would sit outside in sessions and help people the whole day. That doesn’t bother me at all. Again, sandboxing – I can’t do that every day. REUVEN: Right, the context matters a lot. If I'm at a users group – if I'm even at a conference – then someone comes up to me, I think I'm more likely to help them out because I'm there, as opposed to at my desk, working on client work, trying to get through my to-do list for the day or for the week and someone calls me up. They're not going to get the priority. CURTIS: Yeah. The unfortunate part is that too many people assume that my hour only or someone’s only thing today is to reply to your email. My friend Pippin, whom we've had on a number of shows ago, I've emailed him for support and I even have his personal cellphone number, like I can just call him and ask my questions, but I know his day is not centered around me. So I’ll send him an email and I’ll wait the two or three days it takes for the support team to get through it and that’s totally fine. If I have a real issue, like I had a triple charge on my credit card once and I emailed him specifically. “Is this how it should be?” and he bumped – he said no and bumped it off to the right person. But other than that, I just let his support process take it and that is fine with me. REUVEN:**I have something [inaudible] which is similar, I guess, to what we’re talking about. As I've said many times, as you guys know, I do a lot of training through this company in Israel, John Bryce. They make a lot of money in general, but they discovered that they can make a lot of money off of conferences as well. And so I guess, each year for the last three years, four years, they called me up and said, “So, would you like to speak at such and such a conference?” Now, my general reaction is, “Yes. Yes, I'm happy to speak at conferences” mostly because I know that sometime after speaking at a conference it will lead to work. It might take six months, but it will lead to some work. And so I was a little surprised – and that’s usually a 20-minute talk, 30-minute talk, I stick around a little bit, I get a free lunch out of the deal – fine, not so bad. So I was a little surprised when they called me from John Bryce a few years ago and said, “Would you like to speak at a conference?” and I said, “Yes, how long will it be for?” And they said, “Oh, the full day.” I said, “Oh, and you're going to pay me for this, right?” They said, “Oh, no. It’s such amazing exposure for your consulting business, we don’t pay speakers.” So I said, “Sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t do that” and so I was pleasantly surprised when this year, about two months ago, they called me up to speak at a conference and they said that they would pay me and they gave me the option also of having a booth that I could staff from my company. Given that the company is me and a programmer who works from home, the booth was not really a good option. I was happy to see that they were willing to pay me for it, but I'm sort of still shocked that they'd generally assume that people can just take a day off and they’ll, of course, make tons of money off of us.**CURTIS: Yeah. Like in Word Camps, you speak for free, but I know that they don’t profit any money. The money goes back to the overall foundation to supply other Word Camps that don’t make a profit. And so I speak for free there. REUVEN: Yeah, that’s a totally different story, right. CURTIS: Yeah, I'd speak for free there and take on my travel but I was asked to speak at another one that they were charging. WordPress conferences are like 25 bucks to go, right? I was asked to speak at another one in Vancouver that was like a thousand-dollar ticket and it was of the no-pay variety and I said, “No. At a thousand dollars a ticket you guys can afford to pay me and afford to pay for a hotel room for me to come out.” I'm not getting up at 5am to go out and drive. Whereas, say, a 25-dollar WordPress one – I’ll get up at 5am. I’ll go drive into the city, I’ll speak and I’ll hang out all day and then I’ll drive home. I can spend a long day, that’s fine. CHUCK: We want to help people; we want to take the time out. Sometimes taking the opportunities that people present us are worth it for our business or what-have-you when there is a clear business benefit. For example, somebody has a question about some technology that you have some expertise in and it may lead to work. What's the boundary that you hit before you start saying, “Okay, you’ve got to start paying for my time.” CURTIS: I think, again, it depends on relationship, right? If any of you guys wanted to sit and talk with me about WordPress for an hour on Skype, I'd just do it. I won’t even really think about it, right? CHUCK: Uh-huh. CURTIS:**But if a random client wants to sit and talk with me for an hour, I would say no. Yes, Reuven, I would even give you two hours, but I would expect coffee when we meet [laughter].**REUVEN: Come and get it guys. CURTIS: Come and get it – okay, I can go to Israel and get it. But a client – my process is I have an email and there's a whole ton of questions in it and they need to answer most of them as best they can – they can’t answer all of them usually. Then we’ll go back and forth to tweak some of our answers and find out what we want to do. If, at that point, we think it’s a good fit, then we move into a half-hour call. We do that half-hour call and that’s it. I book them back to back so it is literally a half-hour call and I have 10 minutes in between them. If they need more on-phone time like that, then I'd really sit down and think, “Is this actually a good client? Is this a $25,000 project if they want another half hour on the phone to just make sure we tweak something, it’s great. Otherwise, I'd book them into a scoping session. I'd say, “This is a scoping session with clients.” With people that want business advice, then – I'm actually looking at a site called Clarity, and it allows you to charge by the minute for your time. I could say, “You know what? If you have more questions, you can, by all means, book my time here” and so they could pay for 15 or 20 minutes of your time, but then you're actually on the clock as well. REUVEN: Yeah. My strategy over the years has been to give people an initial meeting for free, and the assumption is that that initial meeting will be about an hour long. I used to go to meet with people for that hour, and at a certain point, my wife said, “Why are you doing this? If it’s really important that they need for you, and if you're meeting them for free, have them come meet you at our house.” And so just yesterday, two days ago, I said that to someone. I mean, I've started doing this more and more and people are generally willing to do it, which frees up an enormous amount of my time. I'm thinking of moving into just limiting it even more, because just finding my time is so limited, and to start saying to everyone in the known universe, “Oh yeah, I’ll give you an hour for free” can become a little overwhelming at times. That said, yesterday, I had two hour-long meetings with potential clients for free and I went to them because both of them are likely to happen and both of them seem really lucrative contracts. My decision was, I think it’s worth giving them this because it’ll be so, so worth it in the long term. ERIC: Yeah, and I've been changing how I'm doing stuff. After the first two emails of introductions, I have five or six questions. I’ll basically email them and try to get responses, and that’s what I used to qualify people. If they respond to the “what’s your budget” question, if I have a $100, I know it’s not going to work for me and I'd kind of move on. I’ll point them to other resources to do what they need, but I try to get answers to those questions and figure out like, “Okay, there's a good chance that this will be a good fit in regards to we’re kind of on the same page” and then I’ll do a 30-minute meeting with them. Basically that’s their free advice. I want to feel out the relationship, see how we’re going to communicate; I want to learn about their project, like if they have technical problems or whatever, but mostly it’s to see how well they can talk to me on the phone, how I can talk to them, answer any questions they’ll have if they have business questions like how they're going to monetize and all that. I’ll answer it, but after that, basically it’s either let’s go to contract or let’s part ways. It’s basically because I've been in some meetings where it’s gone four or five hours of meetings over a course of a month that wouldn’t just go anywhere. CURTIS: Yeah, I don’t do that if clients want me to go in and meet with them. Like in Vancouver, that’s a 60-mile, 100-kilometer drive for me and depending on traffic can be two hours. I tell them that it’s a billed day from the time I leave my doorstep to the time I make it back. That actually usually gets them to say, “Oh really? How about I come out to you in Chilliwack?” because I don’t charge for travel time at that point. We pick a spot; there's a room that I can rent really close enough, just go over, walk two blocks over to the room and I don’t charge him for walking two blocks. CHUCK: I'm a little curious now. Do you find that doing things like this brings more people to you that have that quick question? CURTIS:**I think this is the first time that I've made it - [inaudible] you mean, or like me?**CHUCK: Just doing things like the podcasts and stuff. CURTIS:**Yeah, I think it does. I've got more questions since I started doing the podcast and put out some other books. This is the first time that I've made it more public that I keep kind of a half hour a week aside for other freelancers. Usually, it’s just so many emails [inaudible] questions I'd say, “Hey, why don’t we jump on the phone if you want. Book a time. Here’s the link” and they can book it themselves in the timeslots that I've allowed for that. Only one per day.**REUVEN: I don’t think I've gotten very much email having to do with the podcast or based on the podcast. I probably get – I don’t know – an email message every two to three weeks from someone needing some help or advice, but it’s also very hazy for me, because some of it has to do with work –. And I'm also involved in my community; I have this email list for people living in my city, so I get a lot of personal email there asking about it. And I've been running my own business in Israel, so I get email from people either wanting to do that, or moving to Israel and wanting to know about it. It’s not that much, but it occasionally happens. I think my preference is –. I'm happy that we now have – here’s a quick plug – I'm happy that we now have the forum for the podcast, because it means that someone can ask a question, and the answer can benefit a lot of people, which is more efficient for everyone than just providing a one-on-one answer. CURTIS: Yeah, for my students I actually started using Slack, and a few of them have private messaged me or emailed me and I've wrote back, “No, ask the question where everyone can see it” and they ask it. I've actually had a lot of times where my other students have answered it for me by the time I get in, by the time I've had the chance to look at it, or everyone can see the answer and others didn’t so like, “I'm so glad you asked that too.” ERIC: The other thing with this podcast is we’ve covered a lot of topics, so I get some emails from some people who listen, but most of the time, they're kind of higher up on the scale of – they put effort in, like they listen to shows and most of the time they're looking for pointers of, “Hey, have you guys talked about invoicing clients?” and not a question of, “Hey, I need to invoice a client; how do I do it?” A lot of times I can just send them a link to a past podcast or some resources I already have, so it’s a lot lower commitment on my end, which has actually made it pretty good. When I was doing a lot of open source stuff with Red Vine, the support burn of that was basically overwhelming. I was getting dozens of emails per day from people who needed custom help and weren’t willing to pay for it. It actually got to the point where I actually burned out a couple of times and basically said, “I'm not doing support. I'm not doing this anymore” – that’s a significant part of why I actually left that ecosystem completely. CURTIS: I keep a bunch of my WordPress plugins of the bigger .org WordPress repositories simply so I don’t have to deal with support. I find on GitHub, when people get it, they more often are willing to actually, “I have a solution as well as a problem” right? Or I'm willing to work on a solution with you. REUVEN: I've also found sometimes that it helps – I mean, I started blogging a bit more over the last few months, and so if someone asks me a question that I think would be generalizable or generally interesting to people to answer, I’ll even tell them, “Look, here’s my quick answer, and I'm going to think about this and write something up in the coming days.” I think I've done that once or twice, and it benefits them, and it also benefits me. Once again, it makes the answer public, and it helps boost my reputation, boost my Google score and all that other stuff, so it’s sort of good for everyone. CURTIS: I do that all the time too. I know Eric asked me a question recently, and I started writing to him and I was like, “Wait, wait, wait” and I wrote a whole blog post about it, and then sent it off to him too. I sent him the advanced copy first, and then sent him the whole blog post. ERIC: Yeah, one thing I've started – not started, I've done it but I'm kind of changing it is, if you get a lot of questions about one topic, like what your niche is, your specialty or whatever, you can also create a survey form. Send people there like if they ask you a question in email, I say, “Hey, thank you but I don’t have time to answer this in detail. Can you fill out this survey?” and then every month or whatever I’ll go through it and I’ll answer those questions on a public blog post. The nice thing is sometimes, if it’s not an urgent kind of thing like I talked about earlier, they can put their question and they know they're going to get an answer, you can answer it at your own pace and you also get the benefit of sharing it with the community. One thing I've noticed, you get a lot of similar classes of questions. They're not identical, but there's like 80% that overlaps, and so if you can do a blog post or something like that that answers that part of it, most people can read that and have their own custom part for the 20%. Like, “Oh well, you told me how to do invoicing; I have to do it a little bit because I'm in a different country,” but they get the basics in there. Surveys are really good for that and they have very low maintenance on you, like if you're busy, you don’t have to go through and do a lot of work with them. REUVEN: Have you guys found that when you tell people that you charge for your work, that you can’t provide that much for free, do you find that they're a bit resentful or upset about it? ERIC: Yeah. REUVEN: I've generally found they're pretty okay with it. CHUCK: Some people are. I think it depends on who it is. I've had some people where I basically explain, “Hey, look. I've got a lot going on and I just don’t have time to give you a good answer” or “I don’t have time to give you a good answer right now” they feel like I'm blowing them off and they get all upset because they feel like, for some reason, I owe them a proper response. CURTIS: For what reason, though? Because they gave you money? Because they're your friend? Or just because they're some random internet person? CHUCK: Because they're some random internet person and because I think they're accustomed to getting content from me for free anyway in the form of the podcast and they think that I'm famous or rich or something – I don’t know. ERIC: Expectations. CURTIS: You are rich. You are rich, aren't you? CHUCK: Yeah, I wish. But at the same time, I think most people are pretty reasonable about it; it’s just that occasional person where it’s like “I thought you being a whatever-whatever in the community would be more willing to help and open and blah-blah-blah” and I don’t respond to these people. CURTIS: I would never respond to that, yeah, if I got that back. There's always going to be people that are like that. There's nothing you can do about it and honestly, I hope they never talk to me again after that, because I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I've got way better things to do with my time, like massage my beard, than deal with people like that. CHUCK: Yeah, totally. There have been a few times where I really wanted to just say, “Well, why don’t you go count the number of hours I put into putting content out there in the form of video or audio?” but really, there's no arguing with these people. It’s not a reasonable thing – they're upset and that’s basically the way it is. ERIC: You can just ignore them. I use Sane - it’s SaneEmail, SaneInbox, whatever, but they have –. CURTIS: SaneBox? ERIC: Yeah, they have a feature called Sane BlackHole, which –. CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: You put something in there and anything from that sender is immediately deleted. It’s like a blacklist, but it doesn’t even put it in spam; it’s just gone. I've thrown some more of the abusive people in there. A lot of it is, like I said, their expectations aren't set. I've had a person asking for advice and I said, “Sorry, I don’t have time to answer this” and they replied back with, “Well, would $20 change your mind?” and I'm like, “No.” CHUCK: Yeah. ERIC: I wrote back and said, “No, but 500 would. If you got 500 bucks, I've got half an hour.” CHUCK: That’s one thing that I've done too. I actually have in TextExpander – I've used TextExpander and I had a response in there that basically said, “Hey, I'm totally willing to help you out, but here are the limitations of how I can help you out, unless we’re coaching, and here are my coaching rates.” And that seems to work out pretty well. And yeah, I've used the same BlackHole thing again too, and it’s pretty handy. CURTIS: Maybe I should do that; I just keep deleting them. CHUCK: Yeah. If you put it in Sane BlackHole – the way that SaneBox works is it actually combs through your inbox and then moves stuff. For about two seconds, it’ll show up in your inbox if you're there at just the right time; otherwise, you'll never see it. ERIC: Yeah, and for some of the other ones I've set standard message filters where if it’s from this person, put it in this folder, and that’s done on the server’s site so it doesn’t even show up in my inbox. I like going to wherever it gets filed and I'm like, “Oh, look! I guess this person is sending me emails again. Oh well.” REUVEN:**I don’t think I've ever had anyone repeatedly send me email that was so annoying that I need to put them on an auto-delete list. [Crosstalk]CURTIS: I got one. REUVEN:[Inaudible] invited that upon myself, right?**CURTIS: Yeah, I'm going to automate that today because I have nothing else to do. I’ll automate annoying emails through Reuven. I've had one plugin developer who wants me to try their plugin because it’s the new best thing that’s ever going to be out there, and I'm a fool for not looking at it, and they continued to send me that. After my one, “No, thank you. I just don’t have time” I just delete them now. REUVEN: The whole thing has – getting requests for free advice over the years has completely changed my perspective. Not that I never really ever did this, but I feel bad for doctors and lawyers and other people who are constantly getting requests for “Oh, can you just explain this? Can you just do that?” CURTIS: Yeah, I actively avoid talking – I have a good friend of mine who is a doctor and I actively avoid asking him any doctor-related questions. He has treated my daughter once in the emergency room; he actually asks us sometimes like “How is she doing for this? How are the kids doing?” Unless he asks, I say nothing about it because he has other stuff to do. CHUCK: Yeah. I mean, if I'm sitting down and chatting with somebody and I know they have some expertise, a lot of times I’ll say, “Hey, do you mind if I ask you a question about whatever?” but I usually try and keep it to five minutes and really just be respectful. And then if I do need their kind of expertise or whatever, then I’ll email them and say, “Okay, what kind of arrangement do we need to make in order to do this?” Most of the time, like Curtis was saying before, if we have a relationship already, most of the time they're like, “Let’s just talk” and then if it turns into something that really does require a bit of time, then we’ll start working things out where I'm paying them for their time. CURTIS: Yeah, I make up to them if they need to be paid for time. I go in assuming I'm paying. My friend is a physiotherapist; after my big ride I had a little problem with my ankle and he said he’d give it for free. He’d look at my ankle for free and I said, “No, I’ll pay you” and after our first 20-minute consult he said, “I don’t need to see it again. Just stretch it; you'll be fine. You don’t need to pay me for 20-minutes of my time.” But that was his choice; I would have paid him for whatever time he felt was necessary. REUVEN:**A number of years ago I saw some sort of – it was a satirical, obviously fake questionnaire for people applying for membership to a synagogue. It said, “I would like to sit next to – check here: Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant, Therapist [chuckles] for free advice while services are going on.”CHUCK: Oh, that’s funny. REUVEN:[Chuckles] Of course the sad thing is, you know it’s true. I mean, I don’t get it so much in the synagogue, but certainly when we first moved into our apartment building, within a day, our new neighbors were like, “Oh, welcome to the building! It’s so nice! We hear you're a computer person – is that really true?” and thankfully I said to them, “Yes, I'd be happy to help you – by the way, I don’t know anything about Windows” and that shut that conversation down very quickly, thankfully.CHUCK:[Laughs]CURTIS: Yeah, I've actually had to shut the questions down for some of the pastors at my church who were like, “How does – my email’s not working right on my Mac.” And I was like, “I don’t even use the same email program as you. I have no idea” and so I just had to write an email saying, “Hey, I just don’t have time guys. I'm really sorry. I can’t do it. If there's an emergency where children will die and you need my help for it, I am there; I will drop what I'm doing for the day. Other than that, there's a computer repair person, just go see him. Go see the guy that works with us or is at our church that does Mac training.” CHUCK: Yeah, people’s salvation is getting backed up; hurry and fix the email! REUVEN:[Chuckles]**CHUCK: What about family? This is one that gets me all the time. I finally told all of my brothers and sisters, and all of my wife’s brothers and sisters, “You get 10 minutes for free, and then I'm done. The only people that I will help for free are basically people who were directly involved in giving life to my wife and I. In other words, my parents, my grandparents, her parents, her grandparents –. CURTIS: Again, it all depends on the expectations though, right? I do some work for my brother’s website and he sends it off to me and he’s “Hey Curtis, when can you get to this? I would love to see it in the next three weeks” and usually it’s something really trivial or quite small for me, I just need to get a half an hour for it, and he expects to pay me as well. So after a month or two, he’s like, “I haven't seen an invoice. Do you have an invoice for me?” and I will invoice him for part of the work, because he also writes it up for his business as well. CHUCK:**Yeah, I do a lot of the same kind of thing for my dad, but I've [inaudible] my mom – she expects me to drop everything and come help her, and a lot of times I'm just like, “Look, I can’t come until Friday.” She gets angry, and then she gets over it, and then I come on Friday. I think there's a little bit of art to saying “no” or saying “not right now” to people you do have a relationship with.**CURTIS: You could just do it like me and live on the other side of the country. It’s a 52-hour travel time, so. CHUCK: There you go. It’s about 20 minutes to a half hour to get over to my parents’. REUVEN:**I've been giving my parents, especially my father, advice for many, many, many years on computer stuff and he never really takes my advice. When I was in high school, sometimes – and this sort of says what kind of high school I was in – I would sometimes be in the office just answering the phone instead of the receptionist. There was a bunch of students who would do that, and so my parents would know roughly when I would be there so that they could call. My father would say, “I need some help with the computer – it’s not doing x, y and z.” It was definitely a good thing when he found some local teenager to help him out with computer stuff. Unfortunately, that teenager then recommended, “Oh, you should totally switch to Linux! It is the coolest thing ever!” [Chuckling] Oh…Oh, my God. So that was bad advice, but at least it wasn’t mine.**CURTIS: I think it’s all an approach to you, right? I help my friends who are not very computer literate at all, and every time they say, “Hey, Curtis. I don’t know what's happening to my computer. Can you come over?” We show up; I’ll go over; I’ll take the whole family, they give us all dinner, and they arrange when they could babysit our kids again so we can go out afterwards as well, and they have usually a very easy problem like they installed browser toolbars or something. Or my grandmother wanted to learn how to use a computer and she’s like, “Just teach me one thing, like how do I open and send an email today.” I'd teach one thing and she’d show it to me next week then she goes, “Now, how do I open up Skype?” It was one thing, and that was it. And again, over there for dinner every Tuesday night, so I teach her, that’s fine. It was not all about “me, me” like, again, “Help me, help me, help me”; it was “how can we also make sure we’re helping you at the same time?” CHUCK: Makes sense. Anything else we should go over with this, or should we get to the picks? REUVEN: I think we may go to the picks. CHUCK: Alright. Eric, do you want to start us off with picks? ERIC: Sure. I don’t know if I picked this before, but I read it again recently. It’s a book called The War of Art – not to be confused with The Art of War. It’s by Steven Pressfield and it’s basically targeted towards writers, but it’s actually good for anyone who does creative stuff. It talks about – there's this thing called The Resistance and how your battles with that basically determines how your creativity works and all that. It’s nice because a lot of it kinda helps you get over stumbling blocks, writer’s block – that’s sort of thing. I reread it recently and it’s actually helped out with a couple of things I've been struggling with, trying to get going. It’s a pretty short book; it’s really good to get little snippets of advice from. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s a terrific book. I also like his Do the Work. ERIC: Yeah, Do the Work – it seems like Do the Work was a lot like, not Cliff’s Notes, but a very shrunk down version of it. I read that first and so I knew kinda the ideas around War of Art, but I like this one better. It seems to be – kinda it connects a bit better; there's lot more stuff that kind of link to each other. CHUCK: Awesome. Curtis, what are your picks? CURTIS: I'm going to pick a book called Boundaries, which is about your own emotional health and setting boundaries in all facets of your life, whether it’s your spouse or your parents, or –. So Chuck, you're doing a good job of saying, “Yes, I’ll be there on Friday – that is when I’ll be there.” It will even help you in this conversation, setting boundaries with your clients or with your children or everything else – it’s a good book. CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN:I've got two picks for this week. First of all, I've been looking to doing some ebooks, and I think I mentioned in an earlier podcast - [inaudible] has a system called Quarto. Unfortunately, it seems broken right now and I'm either too lazy or too impatient to actually try it out, so I talked to a friend of mine who also had tried Quarto, and he pointed me to I've just been looking through it, and it looks like an interesting and potentially very rich tool chain for creating ebooks and selling them. It’s from Michael Hartl who did the Rails tutorial book and videos and empire. This is basically what he’s using now for doing his books and so forth; I think his plan is to make the tool chain available for free, and it is open source to anyone who wants to use it, but then it’ll be really easy to publish. It’s sort of like a Heroku of publishing, if you can imagine that, where you just publish it and it goes to his website and it’s available for sale and so on and so forth. I've only started dipping my toes into that, but it’s been very impressive so far. And as many listeners know, I've gone to China a few times in the last few years – around three times in the last two years, I guess – and I'm going again twice more this year, and so decided that I've probably reached the point where I can’t teach myself any more Chinese; I actually need to get a real tutor so that the people at Beijing are not inflicted with my terrible Mandarin, and then I'm not stuck trying to understand what they actually say when they understand my question and answer at rapid speed. So I found this company called; I've had three lessons so far. It’s a one-on-one video with Skype, and I've been really, really impressed. They seem to have very good customer service; the prices are good, they let you pause it in the middle if you want. I'm impressed with this business, and so far, I feel like every lesson, I have actually been improving. Maybe millimeters each time, or whatever you measure language progress with, but definitely positive. Anyway, yes, it’s Mandarin, Curtis. It’s Mandarin Chinese.CURTIS: So when are you doing a whole show on Mandarin for Mandarin listeners? REUVEN: My estimate is if I stick with it at this rate, hopefully like in four or five years. I’ll be able to do something like 70 series, talking at least part of the time in it. It’s a somewhat complex language, especially the pronunciation, and – I mean, I just want to be able to ask for directions and not have people give me funny looks, or if I ask for directions and they understand me and they answer in rapid fire Chinese, I’ll understand what they're saying. It’s an incredibly cool language, and it’s been very refreshing. I know this is going to sound funny because I just finished a PhD and everything, but it’s very refreshing to be not a teacher but be the student in a typical classroom type of setting in something that I really don’t know. It’s already changed a little bit of how I do the teaching of the programming courses, seeing how hard it is to assimilate some of this information and put it in context. CHUCK: Awesome. Alright, well I've got a couple of picks here – the first one is a book by Jim Gaffigan. It’s called Dad is Fat. It’s pretty funny. He’s a comedian and it’s just kind of a whole bunch of funny stuff about being a parent, so if you're a parent, it’s pretty funny. I'm also now listening to the last book of The Wheel of Time series – books 6 through about –. ERIC: 500? CHUCK: Through about 10 – are kinda slow, but it’s kinda moving all the pieces in place so that things can wrap up, but the last three or four books, things are really starting to happen and move into place. I think that’s partially because Robert Jordan, the author, passed away and Brandon Sanderson picked it up, and I think he was trying to fit it all into one book, and it wound up being three books’ worth, and so things just kinda have to move along so that he could wrap up the story. It’s been really good, so I enjoy those. And finally, Curtis keeps mentioning RedBooth as the system he's using to manage tasks, and so I've been using that. I'm really liking it, and I found a Chrome plugin that adds RedBooth features to your Gmail, which is where I'm at for email, so I'm going to pick that plugin as well. CURTIS: I didn’t know about that. I have to check the show notes. CHUCK: So those are my picks. I want to remind everybody that we are doing the book club book To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink, and we’re going to be talking to him in the beginning of August, so go pick up the book and read it. Look forward to that, and we’ll wrap up the show. We’ll catch you all next week! 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