The Ruby Freelancers Show 001 – Getting Started

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Panel Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Summer Camp) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Evan Light (twitter github blog) Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog) Discussion Transition from other work to freelancing Finding clients Have money in the bank Have no money in the bank Selling yourself short Billable time, administrative work and time spent working Finding prospects Get involved with user groups, the community, for networking Host events, get behind podium, have credibility Confidence for getting clients and not selling one's self short First and second degree contacts Find out where your customers are Picks Harvest (Chuck) VIM (Chuck) MacVIM (Chuck) Freshbooks (Evan) Getting Things Done by David Allen (Evan) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (Evan) Pinboard (Jeff) Skype (anti-pick) (Jeff and Evan) Cashboard (Jeff) James Bond by Ian Flemingy (Jeff) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (Jeff) The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (Jeff) Reading for fun (Evan) Get Clients Now!(TM): A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches by C. J. Hayden (Eric) Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port (Eric) Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide by John Jantsch (Evan) Freelancing Weekly (Eric)


CHUCK: Hello everyone, and welcome to Episode One of the Ruby Freelancers Show. I'm your host, Charles Max Wood. And this week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi. CHUCK: Since this is our first podcast, do you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself, Eric? ERIC: Sure. So I've been doing Rails development for a while now. I don’t remember when I started. And then, started freelancing 3 or 4 years back. Basically been doing it full time ever since I started. It's been fun. Been doing some of my own products and stuff. It's a really nice thing to be able to do, because you can work at home, you can work on projects you like, and other things we'll probably be getting into over the next few episodes. CHUCK: Alright, we also have Evan Light. EVAN: Hello. CHUCK: Do you wanna introduce yourself, Evan? EVAN: Actually, I thought I was going to listen to the kid cry in the background a little more first. CHUCK: (chuckles) Sorry. EVAN: (chuckles) It's okay. So I've been working in Ruby I guess about six years now. I've been a contractor, freelancer for the past two. Like Eric, I can pretty much work from anywhere, pretty much anytime. And having some flexibility in the projects I work on is nice; having flexible schedule is nice. Starting my day at 1pm with this call. CHUCK: (chuckles) Happy to help. EVAN: (chuckles) It's fascinating. CHUCK: We also have Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: Yup. CHUCK: You wanna introduce yourself, Jeff? JEFF: I guess like everybody else, I'm a Ruby on Rails guy. My past is a little sorted; I spent the better part of the decade doing Microsoft stuff, SQL server, ASP.NET, and finally came back to the light once I've found Ruby, and didn’t blow it off like I did a few years earlier. So freelancing for a while -- 5 years or so. I started when my second daughter was born, so almost five. And it's interesting -- I'll leave it there. CHUCK: Alright, I'm Charles Max Wood. I run Teach Me to Code. I got started freelancing about a year and a half ago, so I'm kind of the new guy. And I fell in with this lot, and they’ve helped me kind of figure out where to go, and what to do. Anyway, the other day we are chatting, and we kind of decided to put this podcast together. So this week, I really kind of wanted to talk about how you guys made the transition from full time work, or if you never did full time work. How you made the transition from whatever you did before into freelancing, and how that worked out. And then I thought maybe we should give some general tips this time, and then we can get into the specific topics next episode. So Evan, how did you get into freelancing? EVAN: Am I better than Eric now? (chuckles) No, I probably gotten into freelancing in the most classical way that people get contracting. I was working for a company that folded, and I live kind of in the middle of nowhere, where there's no tech work to speak of, so I had to find something to do. I could have tried to find somewhere to remote tech work, working full time. But I figured, “Hey, what the heck. Why don’t I try go in to freelance now?” And once I started, then I had just 2 years of non-stop work. So why go back? CHUCK: Yeah, makes sense. Jeff, how did you get started? JEFF: I guess sort of similar to Evan… well, not similar at all. I don’t know why I said it that way. CHUCK: (Chuckles) JEFF: Because it sounded good, I guess. Evan and I lived sort in the same geographic area, but my commute was significantly more horrible than his. EVAN: Well mine will be worse than yours now. That’s for sure. JEFF: Probably. EVAN: I live in Ocean City, Maryland, remember? JEFF: So instead of getting closer to my job, I always found jobs that were further away. And at one point, I worked  for a company in Cabin John, Maryland, and I was commuting round trip, probably an hour and a half on goods days, and 3 hours on bad days. And there were a lot more bad days than good days, and so, I had to find something closer. There was an opportunity that popped up with the local government, so I moved away from my old company, but they still wanted me to help out. And so I contracted back to them on the side. And that became more interesting than playing with government folks that punch the time card, and didn’t care about what they were doing. So I transitioned from more fulltime work to more contract work, and then, switch over to a bigger contract. So I finished all the stuff for the company I was working for, switched to a new contract was going to… it was a buzzword city,  I was going to help lead this team to become more agile. They wanted to do some Scrum stuff, and they were convinced they were going to do it better this time. EVAN: Wait, are you a certified Scrum master? (chuckles) JEFF: After I left the job, I got certified, because I thought it would help me for something else. Being certified only means you have to spend money. CHUCK: (Chuckles) EVAN: It's the agile alliance scam, right? CHUCK: You spend money and spend a day or so. JEFF: Right. And then you have to keep spending money every year -- you wanna keep your certification.  It's a racket. But if you want to train, it's like ten grand a year. It's like $300 or $400 to be a certified Scrum master. But it's like $10,000/year to do the training. These guys make crazy bank, because they don’t teach you anything in the class. I mean, if you are reasonably intelligent and have read anything about scrum or agile before, you don’t learn anything in the class. That’s a different topic for maybe another show. But anyways, so they were convinced they were going to do better, and so congress actually shut the project down that I was working on. This is the tenth year it's been in development; over like 250 million dollars have been spent on it, and got in to it sort of pumped up with a bunch of other people that were talking a good game, but really didn’t have the power to do anything. EVAN : We both escaped from federal government contracting. Woo hoo! JEFF : (Chuckles) Yeah. I've got a bunch of stories about all kinds of federal government stuff. So I left. Before I got back, I did a bunch of defense contracting , worked for like joint staff and Pentagon, with some intelligence communities. It's interesting stuff. But anyways, so that project went away, because congress shut it down. And I scrambled to find some work, and that sort of… I was more contractor with one steady client, and I jumped into having to find clients to keep me busy on a regular basis. That’s my story. It would be long, but that’s my story. CHUCK: Alright, cool. Eric, how did you get into freelancing? ERIC: So it was kind of like an experiment, I guess. Me and my wife lived in like Central Valley, California… and I'm going to get the dates wrong, because I don’t like figuring out dates at all. I use IRB to actually calculate how old I am. CHUCK: (Chuckles) ERIC: Yeah, you laughed, but it's true; I have a class method called Eric with an ‘age’ method that I call. So I think around 2007, we moved from California, here to Oregon, and that’s kind of as part of it, I sold my car, because we don’t wanna deal with having two cars up here. As kind of an experiment, I was like,  “Well, instead of me trying to go out and find a job,” I was like, “Let’s see if I can figure out some freelancing or consulting stuff.” What I did is I took the money from selling my car, which is like $900, maybe $1,000 and used that to kind of bootstrap my business. And me and my wife agreed like, okay, I have three months to make back that money, and try to see if I can have income for the next six months. And so took a couple of projects -- even from my past employer -- at an extremely low rate. Like I laugh at it now. And got back to my feet a little bit, and then from there, started marketing, and found a couple of clients. And I think by like the third or fourth, I pretty much just said like, “Yeah, I can make this work.” And ever since then, just been working full time freelance, taking a week off here and there every month as I need it. I'm doing my own things  on the side. So it's kind of interesting, like we just made a choice when I like, “Let’s try freelancing,” sell my car and now, this is my fulltime job, and pretty good-sized business that I have. CHUCK: Nice. So I got into freelance, it was kind of funny because I’d been talking about starting an internet business for quite a long time, and my wife was all worried about it, wasn’t sure about it. So I was kind of trying to start something on the side, and I never really got it going. And then I got laid off. And this was a year and a half ago. And it was funny, because a month after I've gone to the Ruby web conference, and I had saw a bunch people about freelancing, and I dint realize that I was going to have to apply that like a month later. EVAN: I don’t know. When we talked about it, it sounded like you thought you might. CHUCK: I really wanted to, but I didn’t think I could convince my wife. But I got laid off, and so I got a little bit of severance, and we had gotten a bonus for a bunch of work that we have done. And so I probably had about 6 weeks’ worth of money in the bank. And so I figured, “Okay, I'll make this stretch and I'll find a few contracts, and then I'll just look around for job,” because I knew that that was what she wanted me to do. And it turned out that I wound up finding enough clients to actually keep us afloat. And so by the time I actually got an offer for “real job”, I was actually doing pretty well contracting, and wound up turning them down. And the salary was enough to where my wife told my mom, that I had turned down a job for that salary. And my mom just about passed out. But it was just kind of the way it worked. And so I've been pretty steadily busy ever since. It was just the first month or two where things were a little bit slim, while I figure out how to find clients, but after that, it's been great. EVAN: Yeah, pretty much the same thing I went through. CHUCK: Yeah, so one thing that I get questions about all the time is, what advice I would give to people who are just getting started or who want to make that transition from full time work to freelance. And I'm curious as to what you guys would suggest to people. EVAN: That’s hard. I don’t usually just have one thing like you asked for. I’ve actually started, I mean you guys know this already, but for the people listening, I've actually started consulting with people who want to become freelancers. And I spent an hour and a half brain dumping to the first guy I was talking to, and he walked away feeling really good about it, but I can't say if there was any one thing. CHUCK: So one of the things that when we were talking about freelancing in that little chat, or you might have mentioned it later, was you mentioned that book, “Get Clients Now.” EVAN: Yeah. CHUCK: Really talk about kind of the funnel? EVAN: I even blame Eric or Jeff for that book. JEFF: Probably both of us. CHUCK: So that’s definitely a good way to go to get advice on building a funnel. Do you guys recommend that people have money in the bank before they jump out? EVAN: Oh yeah. JEFF: Having not had money in the bank, I would definitely recommend it. The way things work, I didn’t have… everybody talks about have this cushion… I mean, you had six weeks, Chuck, but I mean, I've seen numbers as high as like, six months so that you can deal with it. EVAN: Yeah, that’s what I like to do. JEFF: That will be awesome, but the other part of it is, if you know you have to hustle your ass off to find work, because you have to feed your kid or whatever, there's some motivation. So I don’t know, I would definitely recommend having a cushion, but I wouldn’t let that stop you from leaving right away. EVAN: Okay, I'm going to speak to the flipside of that. If you get into freelancing because you wanna have better work than you had as a full timer, you want a cushion. Because if you don’t have that cushion, you are going to be desperate; you are going to take the first job that comes along – and you are going to kick yourself for it later. Because I hear Jeff complain about clients on a regular basis. (Chuckles) Not just Jeff, but people in general. ERIC: I was going to say, when I got started, like I said, I did some work for a previous client and I picked up a couple little things. And I mean, I'll tell you like it's so funny to look back, but I think I was charging $25/hour or maybe $35/hour. CHUCK: (Chuckles) ERIC: I mean, this was 2007, maybe 2008. EVAN: There are freelancers in India who charge more than that. ERIC: I mean for perspective, I was using Rails, and I had Rails applications in production on medium size sites for the company I was working for, before it was Rails 1.0. So like I knew what I was doing, but I undersold myself, didn’t have confidence and basically like, “Oh, pick a random number.” And it ended up, because I mean I had money…  we had money in the bank in case we needed food or anything, but the lack of confidence and the, “Oh shit, I need to get work!” type feeling, so I ended up taking like PHP projects for about a year. And if you guys know what the market PHP projects are usually a lower hourly rate than Rails, just because of demand. And so, that really like set me back for a while, because that was like, okay, now that I have money coming in from PHP projects, I still had to kind of like still be out in the community, and still be seen as a Rails expert. And it was a hard shift to kind of get back into where I really wanted to be. If you get laid off and don’t have money for freelancing, like just mad scramble like “you have to pay bills” type thing is good. But on the other hand, if you are like, you wanted freelancing because you want to work on fun projects, or your current job is too boring or something, get some money in the bank as a “just in case,” because the money is going to let you be selective. And if you don’t have that money, you can't be selective about what you take on. EVAN: Right. My first couple months as a freelancer… or not as a freelancer, but as a freelancer trying to find work, and I had two month since that time… I guess I've spent about 2.5 years, where I was trying to find work also, where I just had a little bit of downtime. And the savings allowed me to not freak out. It allowed me to take a little bit of downtime to just relax, allowed me to be picky about my work. I actually passed on a piece of work or two, because they weren’t good fix. And while it's a little bit frustrated to burn the savings, it's better than working on a project that I know I'm going to hate. CHUCK: So kind of what I'm hearing is both sides where, if you really want… if you don’t have the money, then you are hungry, and you are going to find a work and you are going to make it happen. But the flipside is if you have the money in the bank, then you can pass on the projects that don’t make sense for you. EVAN: On the other hand, if you are one of those people who are just in it for the money and doesn’t actually like what he does, then just do what Jeff did. (Chuckles) JEFF: It's always an option. EVAN: But I hope people listening to this podcast, they are actually in it because they like what they are doing. CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the things that I think is really kind of the draw for freelancing is that, you get to pick your projects – at least to a certain degree. Whatever comes your way, you could sift through it and find the ones that you will like more. And you know, you definitely get a different level of freedom. One other thing that I think I like to tell people is just, “Look, if you are looking for a 40-hour/week job, this probably isn't it. EVAN: Right. CHUCK: I mean, I wind up billing somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week. And to be honest, I wind up working probably 50 hours a week or something, because I'm constantly working on other things, other projects that I have going on, other products that I wanna put out, doing these podcasts, chasing down leads and stuff like that. So that’s another piece of advice I give to people is like, “Look, you better like programming, and you better be willing to do the business stuff, because if you are not, then it's just not going to work.” And you have to be aware of the time commitment, etc. EVAN: You know, I guess I have a hard time seeing it as more than 40 hours a week. You might be right, it's just the paperwork sucks. I think everyone here will agree the paperwork sucks. CHUCK: Yes, hire a bookkeeper, and a good CPA. EVAN: Get an accountant. I wish I've gotten an accountant from the get go. But for example, I spent a lot of time researching, I spend a lot of time reading blogs and seeing what other people are doing. For people who are newer in programming, it's not necessarily a useful thing to do. They should just be hacking. But I don’t usually count that as time working, but really, I guess it is time working. It's relevant to what I do, I just enjoy reading these stuff do. So yeah, that time counts. But I'm the same as you. I usually bill 20-30, and if I'm billing more than 30, my brains is usually not working very well. CHUCK: Right, absolutely. How many hours do you guys bill? Jeff? Eric? JEFF: Probably in the same range as both you, ranging 20 and 30. CHUCK: And how much other time do you spend per week, do you think? JEFF: Too much. I mean, if I counted working time as on a computer and not with my family, or on the PS3 or whatever, then I probably spend 60 to 80 hours. EVAN: What are you doing? CHUCK: He include a PS3 in it, so. JEFF: No, aside from family, PS3. I mean, I'm on my computer doing something -- whether it's tending to clients or dealing with clients or playing with products that I wanna pimp or whatever it is I wanna do. I consider anytime I'm sitting on my desk work time -- and I sit here a lot. I mean it's the whole work expense to fit the time you are here, so I don’t have maybe the pressure that I need to feel to compact my work. But I spend too much time… EVAN: I really would love to hear an accounting of how you are spending that time, because I might be the weird one here, but I don’t spend that much time in my desk. ERIC: No, I'm different too. On a busy week, I have a goal of 4.5 hours of work a day. And by ‘work’, I mean like billable work for client or if I'm working on a project. And then probably in 1 or 3 of like administration work like, email, chatting on Twitter, shuffling paper work. And lately, I've been pretty lucky. I have kind of a system I'm doing. I'm pretty much right around 40 hours a week, probably a little less at the moment, because I just wanna take a little bit of time to relax. But I've also noticed that… Okay so when I clock out at five o’clock, I don’t actually stop working; I'm still thinking about, okay, what do I do tomorrow? What do I need to do for my next book? I think about that stuff the rest of the day, and then probably an hour or two at night, reading. Like the last time, I was reading about Rails deployment stuff, and then I was watching video about like psychology and business stuff. And so you know, if put everything like this is work, yeah, I can probably say I do 60 to 80 hours a week. But as far as like, butt in chair, doing work, it's probably 30 to 40… And I mean, a lot of that is like me, if I got really tied on the time, I could probably cut a lot of that time out and really just have the billable work in probably an hour or two a day of like managing the business. EVAN: Maybe this is me being defensive of feeling like a slacker, but one thing you said Eric, that resonate with me is that the time spent not working, is the time spent with ideas simmering at the back burner, and I have a lot of that time where I might not be working, but idly thinking about what would I… how am I going to solve this problem  or that problem, or what am I doing next? CHUCK: Yeah, I think that’s something we all face. I mean, I'll be in the shower brushing my teeth or driving my kids to school, I'll be thinking about different project ideas, or different business ideas and just things like that. ERIC: Wait, you brush your teeth while you are in the shower? That can save me some time. CHUCK: (chuckles) Multi-tasking. Don’t spit on your feet. ERIC: Just don’t put shampoo on your toothbrush. CHUCK: There you go. (chuckles) Anyway… EVAN: How about, Eric? So Jeff just sent out a breakdown of his time. This is really for one week, Jeff? The past week? This week? JEFF: For this week. That’s what rescue time thinks anyway. EVAN: So rescue time thinks that this whole week, you spent 10 hours 45 minutes coding. Wow, I've done more than that. JEFF: Yeah. EVAN: But 7.5 in communication, yeah, communication counts too… JEFF: That’s a bunch of daily emails with the clients. (chuckles) EVAN: Wow, that’s a lot of emailing… I like to do Skype and just have faster communication, but emailing sometimes too. CHUCK: Yeah. So that’s another thing that I think I get a lot of questions about when people are asking about freelancing is how to find clients. And you know, we mentioned Get Clients Now, but I mean, if you are out there, you don’t have a job, you don’t have any clients that you are working for, because you are just starting out. I mean, it is kind of scary to look at that and say, “Okay, I have no prospect of making any money here,” and so I've got to go find something somewhere. What places do you guys usually go to if you are in that kind of situation? And I know you haven’t been there for a while, but what would you do? EVAN: First thing I'll do is I'll ping you, guys. (chuckles) JEFF: No, if you are just starting out, I don’t know who said it but it certainly wasn’t me, but there was somebody that said, “If you take everybody you know – all your friends and family – and maybe even extended your extended relationships to some point, and call them up and tell everyone of those people what you do or what kind of problems you can help them solve, in your own network, you should be able to find some work. And I forget who said it, Michael Port or one for the business gurus. EVAN: Yeah, I tend to buy that. CHUCK: Right. One other thing that I did is like the community out here, I went to the users group and was talking to them, and you know, so I got a couple of leads that I followed up and wound up getting a contract off of that. JEFF: Yeah, that’s huge. Even if you don’t have whatever it is you are doing, I mean this is Ruby, I mean if there's not a user’s group for whatever interested in in your area, starting that user group already make you seem more important than anybody else, to somebody that might wanna hire or give you work. And then the side benefit is that you might be able to get a couple of people to come. But then the more you do this, speakers… I mean, you talk to the speakers you talk to sponsors, whoever else, and then you are seen as the point of contact, same with local conferences. I mean, Evan’s done Ruby DCamp a couple of times. EVAN: Yeah, I was going to jump in there and wanted to wait till you are done there (chuckles), so I'm having to pull a ‘Kanye West’ now. Damn, no one laughed at that. But, the perception of importance, it sounds cynical -- it may be is cynical -- but Jeff I think that way. But let’s talk about that for a second, because I don’t feel like my approach necessarily works for everyone, but what I did was I started conference Ruby DCamp that I've been running for going on 5 years now – not just a couple. I didn’t start it because I wanted to have advertise; I started it because I don’t like most Ruby conferences -- and I felt very strongly about that. And that’s me; when I feel very strongly about something, I do something about it. But once I decided to go into freelancing, where do you think it got me the first piece of  work? It was from people who were at Ruby DCamp who knew me. So there's maybe some perception of importance there. But to stretch that though, -- and Jeff was sort of saying this already -- you speaking at user groups, speaking at conferences especially, especially the regional conferences to get 200 - 300 people, people will tend to believe that because you are on that podium, that you are an expert -- whether you are or not. Now, I'm not saying that I go up there as complete idiot and that talk about things – occasionally, I might feel like one -- but I've known people who’ve given presentation on topics as though they’re an expert on it and they had one week of background in it, and people have responded well to the presentation. So just the fact that you are standing at the front of the room and they are not, makes you look important to them, which means that they'll be more receptive to working with you. JEFF: Yeah, it's also a networking multiplier. I mean, instead of one on one at a user group or one or one at chambers of commerce thing, it's one to hundred or one to fifty or how many people in the audience, whether or not your problem resonates with them at the moment, or your talk resonates with some problem they have at the moment, you have the confidence to stand up in front of them and speak. And days later or weeks later, when they are thinking about a problem they need to solve, there is a Ruby thing… I remember Evan was giving a talk about this and I sort of know how to get in touch with him, so let me call him first. CHUCK: Right. That makes sense. So I kind of wanna turn the conversation back to any other advice that you could offer to a new freelancer. ERIC: Kind of something about that last one, real quick. So this happens a lot. I see it in a lot of technical people mostly, but if you are going to a Ruby conference and giving a talk on Ruby, that’s great. It helps your image, but unless the people who are going to that conference are your customers, that doesn’t help you as much as you’d think. If your trying to do subcontracting, like I know a couple of other people who will hire other ruby developers out to work on a larger project, your client in that point is other Ruby developers who are freelancing that needs subcontractors. But if you are trying to chase actual businesses who needs Ruby help, a Ruby conference probably wouldn’t help you. EVAN: Not just one. Yeah, I agree. ERIC: Yeah, if you go to like at night or if there's like a local business conference like there's one here when I first got started. Stuff like that, then you are talking to businesses, then you are talking to your actual customers. And at that point, you don’t need to go on there and say, “I know active record like the back of my hand.” They don’t know what active record is, but you can say like, “I provide this kind of value to your business,” that will be good for them. They'll see you as a technical person and then you can get a project that way. That’s where actually the majority of my  stuff I get from is like someone saw me like, “Hey, I see you are really good doing X. I need X done. I don’t know how to do it. Can I hire you for it?” So that’s just a big thing is like don’t think you need to do all these things or don’t like start blogging about the internals of Rails 3, if you are not going for those kind of customers. If you wanna raise your profile, that might work but they are not directly related. EVAN: Right. Hopefully Chuck, you don’t mind, but let’s elaborate just a little bit. So I thought about this too, Eric. I totally agree. What you are talking about is kind of like second degree contacts versus the first degree. The first degree the ones that are going to pay you probably. The second degree ones might pay you, but what I found, and Jeff said is the networking effect, that if you are connected enough, that those people will connect you to the people who have the work to give away. But what that implies in my case is I had to make a larger investment upfront, in terms of time and effort to make those connections. It just so happens that I really enjoy talking to guys like you, because I'm stuck out here with no one like you, (chuckles) so I take every opportunity I can. I love it. CHUCK: Yeah, well I think Eric has a good point. I mean, there is the possibility of work coming in, especially from people where basically their cousin is, “You are a programmer, can you help me with this?” And it's like, “Well, I don’t have time. You need to hire a freelancer. Ask that guy.” But it's not a direct contact; you are not out in front of your target market. And so yeah, you have to find other ways of reaching those people. And maybe next week, we can talk about how we fill our funnels. EVAN: Sounds like elaborating upon Get Clients Now. That was what I was to talk about again. CHUCK: Yeah, and that’s definitely a good source of information on building that lead funnel. And I think I need to formalize mine a little bit more. But anyway, it is interesting figuring out where that sweet spot is, and where your customers are and getting in front of them. EVAN: But it's also figuring out -- without going too much in to Get Clients Now -- what particular styles of marketing suit you? Because what's effective, and I completely agree with what Eric was saying like getting in front of the people who will pay you is the most effective, but what are you most comfortable with what's most repeatable for you? And for me, it's talking to other techies is totally where it's at. And it's less effective in the short term, but it works pretty well in the long term. CHUCK: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. So I don’t know if you guys have been listening to Ruby Rogues, but at the end of each podcast, we've been doing picks. And the way that we've been doing that is the panelists just mention that one or two things that they’ve been using or you know, people I think picked TV shows and they’ve also coding tools or whatever. So you just pick a couple of things that you like, that people can use and we just put it out there. So I'm going to kind of wrap this one up and we'll go ahead and do some picks. And then next week, we will talk about filling the pipeline. And if you want to, you can read or re-read Get Clients Now, because I think a lot of material probably come from that or from own experience. So I'll go ahead and do my picks first, just so you can get an idea of how this works. So one tool that I use in my business for my subcontractors, and for myself to track time is Harvest. I really like it for tracking time with my subcontractors, because then I can see how many hours they’ve worked, how many hours I've worked. And I can then tie it all together, and  send out invoices. Does Fresh books do that, Evan? EVAN: Fresh books does everything Harvest doesn’t -- and does it better. (chuckles) CHUCK: Okay. So that’s what I've been using. And it works well for me, it has a little button click to start your time, and click it again to stop your time. And anyway, so that’s what I've been using. A couple of tools that I've been using to do my development. I was a systems administrator for a long time, and so I use Vim off and on to do my development. And I use Textmate for a while to do development and then I kind of went back to VIM. And so I've been using Mac Vim, which is kind of just a desktop version of Vim. And I've been using the Janus setup that Carl and Yehuda have put together. And it works really well; it has all the syntax highlighting. It has all the bells and whistles that you want in your Vim setup. It’s just a really nice way to go. So if you are looking for a way to set things up, and you like Vim, and you like key bindings, then go ahead and give that a try. Evan, do you have some picks for us? EVAN: Entirely too many. I guess I'll go with three. First, I'll have to entirely disagree with you about Harvest (chuckles) because I've used Harvest before. I won’t pretend that there's any perfect app, but Harvest is missing a lot of things that I like. Freshbooks which I mentioned briefly in contrast, first, it's free for the first three clients that you have, so it gives you a great opportunity to get used to it. Second, it makes working with subcontractors an absolute dream as long as they also use Freshbooks. I can't go in to the number of ways that Freshbooks has made my life easier, but let me put it this way: they are the first web service where when I finally got to the point where I had to pay the money, I felt good about paying the money. So huge thumbs up. Two thumbs up for Freshbooks. That’s one. Two, I'm going to add the people’s reading lists some more. For me, the book that made it possible for me to even be consider being a freelancer to… because I'm naturally a bit of a scatterbrain, so to get organized, what I did was I read David Allen’s Get Clients Now. Not Get Clients Now, it’s Getting Things Done. (chuckles) Excuse me, I've been saying Get Clients Now too much lately. Getting Things Done was truly life altering for me. If you buy the book, and you just read enough to get to the first exercise and complete the first exercise, you probably be sold too. It reduced my stress massively, and has continued to, even when I don’t practice my GTD as well as I should. And the third and final book,  which was actually recommended to me by a good friend Jim Meyer, not a freelancer but a still… and many of you probably heard of it, it's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And while that’s an old school corporate book, so a lot of people might poo poo it, it's very good for really figuring out, really distilling what's important to you, and making sure that your life is headed in that direction. Freelancing is a big decision; it will take over a lot of your life, so you wanna make sure you are doing the right thing. CHUCK: Yeah. I've read that book. I really liked it. I actually met Steven Covey too. EVAN: Oh. CHUCK: Yeah, his granddaughter was married to a guy that I worked with out here, and so we had kind of a combined party with this guy’s apartment and my apartment. And the most convenient place to have it is at Steven Covey’s pool house. So we were out there playing in his pool and his backyard (chuckles) and he came out and met… EVAN: I tend to quote space balls with the scene with dark helmet in lone star. CHUCK: (chuckles) EVAN: Anyway, if you read it years ago, it's totally worth rereading again. You will see it all differently. I've read it atleast twice now. CHUCK: Yeah, there are definitely some good things in there; both about time management and setting priorities. EVAN: Yeah, to me it's really about the principles. GTD is how you get it done, and 7 Habits is why are you doing it and are you doing the right thing? CHUCK: Okay, that makes sense. Alright, Jeff do you have some picks for us? JEFF: Yeah, probably. I guess the one for me and is sort of old news, but it's something I hit every day, a couple of times a day is Pinboard. It's a replacement for Delicious since Delicious was sold by Yahoo and completely bastardized by whoever bought it. CHUCK: (chuckles) EVAN: That’s better. That's the Jeff I know and love. JEFF: I'm telling you, if they can listen to this podcast, I'll them they are complete assholes for screwing that up. Because I love Delicious. I love it. I've been using that since it existed, I think. Thousands of bookmarks and completely awesome to do research on. What Pinboard is trying to do sort of the same thing, and they implemented most of the delicious API they claim they have, but… so Pinboard is sort of my go to now, but it doesn’t fill my Delicious need. That’s my first pick. If the Pinboard people ever listen, if they would make tag URLs work, then I would love them even more. EVAN: Okay, this is precious. On their homepage, they have quote. The best quote was from the economist allegedly. I wonder if this is real. This one dude in his underpants somewhere with five windows open to terminal servers. (chuckles) JEFF: What is that, Delicious? EVAN: No, this is a quote on the Pinboard page. The front page of Pinboard. JEFF: Oh, I have to log out to see it, I guess. CHUCK: (chuckles) EVAN: Underpants. You kind of had me with one dude in underpants. Oh wait, so he must be a freelancer. JEFF: Yeah. And you have to sign up like the price goes up every sign up or something. I forget what the formula is. So I paid back when it was like $4 or something. Now it's $9 now, but that was years ago. I mean, it's very incremental that it goes up, but like Delicious you could go freelance+Ruby, and you’d find all the links that somebody had tagged both Ruby and freelance. But in Pinboard, you can't do that. EVAN: So do you have a public Pinboard then? Like Delicious, can other people see yours? JEFF: You can subscribe to it. I don’t know if it's by default as public as… I'm not sure if it's as completely public as Delicious was. And whoever has Skype noises, they suck. CHUCK: (chuckles) That’s not me. I turned them off. JEFF: Skype would be my anti-pick of the week. EVAN: (Laughs) JEFF: I hate Skype too, man. EVAN: Well I hate Skype, but I wanted to love Google+ Hangouts, but Google+ Hangouts is buggy because it's flash. CHUCK: Yeah, I was going to say as much as I hate Skype, I haven’t found anything that really is better, so. JEFF: No it's like an email client from a long time ago. We just suck less. All email clients suck less So, all of these things suck and Skype just sucks the least of all, I guess right now. But anyways, so that was a big one. I do cash board for time tracking. I'm sure Eric uses something different, so there will be opinions for how to track your time, but I used to be on a binge with reading a bunch of business books, but I've since stopped. I went through all the James Bond novels, all the original Ian Flemmings ones and then did Winter is Coming, who is that guy? EVAN: Oh come on, George R.R. Martin. JEFF: Right, I read all five books he had out. The fifth book took forever, but that was really good series. And then my wife recommended I read the Hunger Games and so I read through all three of those trilogy. It sort of tied up weird at the end. CHUCK: (Chuckles) I've read them. I know what you are talking about. EVAN: It's important to take a break from reading technical stuff, and occasionally just read for fun. JEFF: It is. The Hunger Games, mental bubblegum might be a little too insulting, but I mean it's a fun read. Those series of books are all good books, if someone is into the exact same things I am and wanna read my books, so. CHUCK: Alright, cool. Eric, do you have some picks for us? ERIC: Yeah, so kind of just like what Jeff said about reading the different books. I try to make sure I have like three at a time at least. Usually a business book, usually a technical book and then some kind of fiction or biography or something so it's like, a fun one. Because the business ones, I tend to get… I read everything on my Kindle, and I tend to go through it on my kindle and like highlight every single page. Same for the technical ones. And then for the fiction, I just like burn through the books just like in a the couple of days. But I mean, I've already mentioned it like Get Clients Now, like is my main thing. It's actually sitting on my desk. I had it out yesterday. I was reading through it… it's all about services, and I'm trying to figure out a way to adopt its product stuff for product marketing. Awesome book, it's great for the developers because it's a very good system, it's like here’s menus of things pick out what you want. And here's the 28 day cycle that you go through. I mean, if you know agile stuff, it's like an iteration. It's awesome. This is probably my fourth or fifth copy. I've gotten my first one from the library, I've given some out, I've bought some for people who are just getting started. Like if you can only read one thing, this is probably the book to read. And then if you wanna read another book, Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid is a good one. It's pure marketing, but it's about service businesses again. I guess it's a very non-selfie way. Developers will get a lot out of it. It has kind of a system to it also, but it's not as rigorous. But his books are good for kind of getting the more like meta level of your business, like what are you actually doing in your business, what's the mission statement, all that stuff. JEFF: Sort of sustainability too. He talks about the red velvet  rope policy or whatever, and so that would be my order to Get Clients Now, Michael Port’s book I forget the name of it and Duct Tape Marketing will by… EVAN: I'll be honest, I started reading Book Yourself Solid because Eric recommended it and I got maybe 50 pages into it, and maybe I got the important message, which was that red velvet rope policy was to unload one client. So to that extent, it made me a lot happier. Maybe there is more to it, Eric (chuckles) but that was a big deal for me, atleast. ERIC: Yeah. That policy is a great thing and to summarize, it's basically figure out what are your good clients or the clients you wanna work with. And I actually during one time when I was having a kind of a rough patch with one of my clients -- I guess ex-clients now – I made a list of things they were doing wrong, and that became my policy. And whenever my clients will do  things on that wrong list, I would kind of give them a strike and three strikes, they are out. And I'll move a client off to another person or just say, “Sorry, I'm not going to renew your contract,” or “We need to stop working  together.” I mean, it seems weird turning down people who wanna pay you, but I found the stress of dealing with that, and having to kind of like do something you are not enjoying is really not worth it. EVAN: That could be a whole another episode just talking about turning down clients. CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. ERIC: And so those are my two picks; Get Clients Now and Book Yourself Solid. And then a third one, this is actually Jeff’s thing – I know because I just got it – but he does a weekly freelancing newsletter. It's a whole bunch of links with like stuff for freelancers. He does this and then Peter Cooper does one for Ruby called Ruby Weekly, which some of the listeners probably heard about that one. But I love these things because now I don’t have to subscribe to 100 blogs. And it's kind of the whole curation, and it saves me a ton of time. So Jeff has one, it's still pretty new from what I understand but I get that, and I probably bookmarked like 3 or 4 different links in each week it comes out. EVAN: Wait, where is this because… on Jeff? CHUCK: It's Freelancers weekly? JEFF: CHUCK: Yeah, I just got one today or yesterday. JEFF: And that's where I spend a good chunk of what too… is a pain in the ass. EVAN: Yeah. How did I not get to this sooner? CHUCK: We appreciate it. Alright, well I guess that’s it. Hopefully we'll get this into iTunes soon, so that people can subscribe and get the content. Like I said, next week I think we are going to talk about finding clients, generating leads, filling your pipeline, that kind of stuff. So if you are getting this through iTunes, then by all means, go to iTunes and leave us a review. The show will be up at And hopefully, this is helpful not only to people doing Ruby for freelance, but other service based businesses for freelance. And that’s kind of what we are shooting for, but Ruby is kind of our niche and so I thought it was appropriate to name it that way. So anyway, that’s it and we'll catch you next week.

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