Freelancers’ Show

The Freelancers' Show discusses the challenges that freelancers face. The panel includes technology freelancers and entrepreneurs with many years of experience.

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008

The Ruby Freelancers Show 008 – Products


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

30×500 by Amy Hoy
See Project Run
Refactoring Redmine
Redmine Tips
Authoring Ebooks
Chirk
SAAS
Freelance Funnel
Newsletters
iPhone Apps
BDDCasts
Rails Beginning course
Evan's iPad app
Scratch your own itch
Marketing works well over time
Batch up work
Scheduling blog posts
Bufferapp.com
Budgeting time to do product development
Marketing takes up the most time
microconf
Micropreneur Academy
Why are you building what you're building?
Project vs Product
Momentum
Marketing to build momentum
4 Hour Work Week
Lean Startup
How do you find a product to make that your market wants to buy from you?
Yes, 50 scientific whatever,….
Product focused business – The product is the most powerful
Market focused business – The market is the most powerful
Opportunity cost of product development
Time and location freedom

Picks

Seth Godin's blog post on “People think Photographers spend their time…” (Eric)
21 times (Eric)
30×500 (Eric)
Tripit (Evan)
Steven Baxter's manifold series (Evan)
Nathan Lowell's Trader Tales (Evan)
Hugo and Nebula awards (Eric)
Yes, 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive (Jeff)
James Bond – Ian Fleming (Jeff)
Robert Heinlein (Jeff)
Goodreads (Chuck)
Things (Chuck)
Siri + Reminders on the iPhone 4S (Evan)

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TRANSCRIPT

ERIC: [In a southern accent] Do I have to pay taxes? CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: Which state are you from again? Somewhere down south? I’m from Texas. We are gonna secede. CHUCK: [Chuckles] I always love it when people bring that, “We have a secession clause.” So? [This podcast is sponsored by Harvest. I use them from tracking work and invoicing clients. You can get a 30-day trial at getharvest.com. Use the offer code “RR” at the end of your 30-day trial to get 50% off your first month.] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 8 of the Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi! CHUCK: We have Evan Light. EVAN: You! CHUCK: And we have Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What’s up. CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from teachmetocode.com. So this week, we are going to talk about Products and Building Products. I know that some of you guys have built products.  I know that Jeff for example has The Freelance Funnel, and I also get your newsletters. I don’t know if you count those as products or not. And then Eric has some stuff that he’s been working on, and hopefully we can get him to talk about that. I’m not sure that Evan has a whole lot of products yet, so. EVAN: I do nothing. No, actually I wrote an iPad app that people crapped all over, so I can talk about that. CHUCK: Yay! Failed products. I’ve got a few of those under my belt. So first off, I’m a little curious how do you guys decide products to work on. ERIC: For me, the first one started as just a, “Hey, I have some stuff here I can do a little bit more work and turn this into a product or two.” And then now, if you are not familiar with it, Amy Hoy does a classical 30×500. There’s a process in there for like looking at products. And basically because of that, I noticed like, “Oh, there’s a product opportunity over here.” And that’s kind of how I pick like… there’s an opportunity, there’s a hole in the market over here I can work in and I’m going to build a product for this. CHUCK: Right. So what products do you have, Eric? I know you have Refactoring RedMine. ERIC: There’s one I did called C project run, which was basically a project management application based on RedMine. It was a totally failed product because I didn’t know what I was doing with stuff. Basically failed for business reasons, not technical reasons. And then I have a book I wrote after that called Refactoring RedMine. It’s an eBook. And then I have RedMine Tips, which is another eBook. And then I also bought a third eBook called Authoring eBooks.  Those are all my current products. And then I’m working on a new product called Chirk. It’s a product for HR professionals to kind of do better with hiring. And so I started with SAAS, built two eBooks, bought a third eBook, and then I’m building a SAAS again. CHUCK: How do you spell Chirk? ERIC: C-h-i-r-k. And the website is chirkhr.com. CHUCK: Okay. Jeff, you wanna talk about the products that you have? JEFF: Sure. Freelance funnel like you mentioned. It takes the headache out of finding new leads for freelancers, all kinds. The biggest group of leads that I get are for designers, followed by copywriters and a lot of the programming trades all roll up after that PHP, WordPress, some Ruby and some other stuff. So that’s one. I don’t know if I consider the newsletters product or not. They are definitely an effort… CHUCK: Oops. JEFF: You dropped your mic? CHUCK: No, I was scratching my head, and I elbowed the scissor arm that I have holding it up in front of me. JEFF: That’s bass reverb. So yeah, newsletters. I have three newsletters right now. I would consider them… I don’t think I consider them products. I have a couple iPhone apps; one in the store, two pending review to get to the store. Minute Math — addition, subtraction, multiplication. I’ll have links to those somewhere because the iTunes URL for that stuff is miserable. And then a while ago, BDDCasts is still around — screencast for Behavior Driven Development — that I did with Istvan Hoka. It’s been a while. I see a couple of purchases for those come through, which is interesting and people still want us to do some more. And so I’ll probably have to break out screen flow, I guess. There are probably others that I don’t remember. And definitely several failed or shattered versions of products too. EVAN: Woohoo! Failure! CHUCK: [Chuckles] so speaking of failure, I actually have a couple of that I’ve tried to do. And I really think that they failed more for marketing than anything else, which is kind of weird considering that I now have a pretty solid podcast listening audience. But basically, I tried to do like a Beginning Rails Course, and I only had a handful of people sign up. I think I was also trying to create a product with that the market that I was selling it to wasn’t necessarily my podcast market; because most of people who listen to Ruby Rogues are more experienced Ruby on Rails developers and don’t need a beginners course. So, probably should be marketing something else to them. Anyway, I did that. Any of the other product ideas I’ve had, I haven’t finished. And maybe that’s something we wanna talk about. I don’t know. So that’s kind of the big f that I’ve gotten. I mean, I did make a little money off of it, but not a lot. EVAN: I actually have had two then. There’s the one I actually shipped, and the one that I kept tethering with and I’ve never really got anything done with. The iPad app was totally something that I was just experimenting with. I guess I wrote it like 2-2 ½ years ago. When I first went solo as a freelancer, it had a little bit of downtime. So I only worked on that so long as I had downtime. As soon as I got fully engaged, I put that down, because well, I was getting paid and spending all my hours working in a lot of them. So I had something working by then, by the time I started being by the time I was fully engaged with clients. But what really shot me in the foot more than anything else, is the lack of testing automation around iOS back then. So my last shipped version was a… it turned out. So people are having bugs left and right just because I didn’t adequately test the release before I pushed it, so it got tons and tons of crap reviews. But I mean in a nutshell, it was just a read-only pivotal tracker client. Because at the time, there weren’t any iOS pivotal tracker that I really wanted just a… So backing up before I can even finish that sentence, I like to scratch my own itches when I work on products. I mean, to me they are tools, but I figure if I’m going to built it… if it’s something that I want badly enough that I’m going to build it, then odds are someone else will probably be stupid enough to wanna use it. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: Yeah, I’m kidding with the ‘stupid; part. But I’m really trying to scratch an itch with the hopes that other people will find it useful and maybe I’ll make a few bucks off of it, but not with the intent of is someone going to buy me out or I’ll get rich. And it worked up until that last built, and I guess I didn’t deploy that last build to my iPad. And I didn’t realize that for quite a while. The other one I had is a product idea I’ve had in my brain for quite a while, related to my wife’s health, and managing my wife’s health. And I think what stymied me there for very long is that I had too many feature ideas, and I didn’t narrow down the MVP when I first came up the idea, must have been three years ago, when I was still getting the hang of MVP. And now that I have kind of a clue about how to narrow feature sets down, I’ve just been too busy lately. CHUCK: Right. So you brought up a point that I kind of want to go into really quickly, and that is you said, “I’ve spent time on my products when I have downtime. And if I’m fully engaged, then I don’t.” And it seems like a lot of times, we hear from Eric when we were chatting on Skype, to spend a few hours every week working on products. Is there a right way or a preferable way of doing that? And what are the tradeoffs for doing that? EVAN: Well, I’m certainly no expert in the matter, but I suspect that… I tend to think I’m doing it wrong as far as products go. I think all of us know in terms of marketing — having all read Get Clients Now at least once by now — a little often tends to win in at least the marketing sense. And I tend to believe that  a little bit often, tends to win in a lot of cases. So trying to sprint a client through… (I didn’t mean “the client”) a product through downtime is probably not an effective way to build a client… Wow, I keep saying “client”. How to build a product. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: Yeah, I’ve got the Freudian slip going on here. It’s not an effective way to build a product. Maybe a prototype, but I don’t think that’s a good way to build something that you wanna ship and maintain. I’d love to hear it from the guys how actually shipped stuff that people actually paid money for in an ongoing basis. ERIC: I mean, it depends I think. Like marketing stuff, you wanna a bit overtime. Because I mean you hear like the big launches, like “I’m buying a superbowl ad style.“ You’ll hear about them for like an hour, and then you forget about them. And so with marketing, yeah, you want kind of a little drivels over a month, versus like one day where it’s like that’s the only thing you hear about. But on the other hand, especially as developers, as people who create things, most of the time, we need to sit down and have like big uninterrupted blocks of time. So that’s the hard thing. That’s something I learned at first, since I thought I could take like half a day on Friday, have a big, four-hour uninterrupted block, do all my marketing and then I’ll be good. Well, it was too much at once. So now what I do, is I kind of take half a day, do a bunch of marketing, but I do it in away where I did the work like this afternoon, but that work is going to be driveled out over the next week and a half. And I’m still tweaking it and getting that going better, but it’s going to get to a point where I can kind of batch up work. And so I work with client work in about an hour and a half weeks a month. And so during that time, I’m basically like, you won’t see me on twitter, you won’t see me online. But I’m trying to get like so marketing blog post, tweet all that stuff kind of still goes out. And so it looks like I’m still doing things even though myself, I’m sitting in the corner writing code for the client. CHUCK: Right. That makes sense. And there are tools for spacing that out. If you are using WordPress, you can schedule your post. If you are Twitter or something, I think there’s buffer app and there’s a few other out there you can use to kind of space stuff out. Is that kind of approach that you take with that? ERIC: Yeah, and because most of my marketing is writing, because I enjoy writing, that’s what I do. And basically I use WordPress and I just use scheduled post like if I’m writing a blog post, that I’m going to post today, I still schedule it out for like ten minutes. I don’t post something live. I kind of give me a chance to put it out there, let it sit for a second, and then it goes live. And then I have a… it’s in WordPress, but it’s like  a Tumblr style blog. And that’s where I post all my bookmarks and stuff  to. And I’ll schedule up a couple of those, which is like more from me, like these are interesting  links, but that gets fed into Twitter and Facebook and all that too. And I’ve seen a lot of people like retweeting or favoriting and valuing it a lot, so. CHUCK: How do you approach this, Jeff? JEFF: I probably fall much more in the same camp as Evan as opposed to Eric. Eric does a lot better than I do, being able to budget time to do product development, or in his case, marketing. I mean, most of the time it is marketing. The development for us is the easiest part of this whole thing. But yeah I mean, for me it’s sort of when I get a chance, and I haven’t got a chance in a while, but when I get a chance, I’d love to get up to a point where I can schedule in marketing the products, and marketing the business and working on a business and all the other stuff around or with client work. But I’m not very good at that sort of scheduling it. CHUCK: Do you feel like you should be marketing way ahead of when your are going to release? Or is it generally okay to do the marketing after you’ve got it done? What do you guys think about that? JEFF: Marketing is a never-ending task. I mean, if you listen to a lot of people, I think Rob Walling, he does for the rest of us and puts on microconf. That’s micropreneur academy. I think his recommendation is to start marketing before you write a line of code. Most people, I mean, the code aspect of it is so small compared to marketing. I mean, 80/20 is probably even still well-skewed, in favor of development time. But the vast majority of time used to be spent on and for marketing. ERIC: I mean, from what I’ve seen, you can do it anyway. Like as developers, the problem we are going to have is we are not going to market. That’s the problem. I wouldn’t worry too much about you need to do it before or during or after, or whatever. If you can just market whenever, try to see if your market is going to buy your product and all that, you are already ahead of most people. If you are doing that, it’s best to start marketing beforehand. It’s little drips kind of thing. Your marketing is going to take a couple of months before you see anyone really noticing it and any sales coming from it. So if you launch and then start marketing, you have that two month gap after launching. But if you start marketing a month and a half before you launch, you are going to start seeing sales right away. But I mean, I think the biggest problem is just doing the marketing and getting in a habit of doing it. That’s the big problem. EVAN: See, I think this also goes back to the larger question of, “Why is it you are building what you are building?” Are you building something because you hoped to make a steady income off of it? Or are you building something because it satisfies a need of your own and you are going to share it with other people. And maybe they’ll find it useful or maybe they won’t, but at least you’ll have something in your own that you find useful. I think — atleast maybe for me, naively — when I’m building a tool for me and not really marketing it because I’m focusing on maybe building it for me, then maybe after I got something to show for it, you might say like, “Hey folks, I’ve got those thing. Let me take a look at it. If you hate it, then oh well. And if you like it, then hey, cool. Tell me what you liked. Maybe I’ll make it better. Or if you don’t like it, maybe I can make it better.” I don’t know. JEFF: The second thing you described is a project and not a product. In my opinion, if you are going to make a product that you are going to sell, you are going to get the most value for your time. If it is something that… EVAN: Fair enough. JEFF: …you are scratching an itch, wanna play around with something, wanna see whatever it is, I mean then it’s a project. And sure, a project can turn into a product later and you probably have a whole lot of mental baggage around how cool or awesome that project it is, by the time you turn it into a product, that you might be hamstringing yourself. And I’ve done that a few times. But I mean, it’s my opinion, but a product you are focusing on, providing value and charging for that value. A project, you are just playing with. CHUCK: Okay, I guess my next question is how do you determine whether or not you market wants the product you wanna build, or do I have that backward? JEFF: This goes to sort of the advertising thing. So there are two points I want to follow from Eric on advertising. One is momentum. So there will come a time in the life of any product or project, it’s like the 80%-90% point where you are almost done, and it’s impossible to hit that last 10% percent just to push out the door, to ‘kick it out’ so to speak. And so if you are doing some marketing and you get people to atleast respond to you, or to retweet or say anything that looks cool, then they’ll help you with that momentum going forward, so it’s easier to push it out the door. The second point, and sort of the lead into your question, the 4-Hour Work Week we talked about Tim Ferris, all the Eric Ries and Lean Startup, I mean, their whole thing is you put up a landing page with screenshots or copy text to get it on a mailing list. Tim Ferris is a little more… he will go a step further and you buy $100 worth of google ads, you go to this landing page, describe some version of a fake product you think you wanna make, and see how many people you can get to click through and take first call of action. And you’ll say, “Well, it’s not quite ready yet.” But based on some of those conversions, you get some idea for whether or not the people you can reach with $100 thinks the idea you thought is good or not. That answers a different question. I think you asked two questions. Eric can answer the second one, but that question is, “How do you know if there’s a market for a product that you already have in mind?” And so the other half of that question is, “How do you find a product to make that your audience or market wants to buy from you?” I may not make sense. That’s two questions though. I might not have articulated the second question well. CHUCK: I think that’s a very relevant question, mainly because I think a lot of us in different ways, we have an audience, I mean whether that’s the people that we are talking to conferences or the people that we are spending time with at the users groups, we have people that we already have kind of a rapport with, we have trust with. And so I think it’s way easier to sell something to them than to sell something  to a market that we are not a part of or that we don’t understand or that we don’t know.  And so… JEFF: I’m cutting you off but I just.. EVAN: “I’mma let you finish…” [Chuckles] JEFF: Yeah, I’mma let you finish, but… [Laughter] JEFF: I drove to New York and back from New York from a funeral and I listened to Yes, 50 scientifically proven whatever… I’ll get a link and that will be a pick maybe. But one of the things they talked about, I think it was… I listened to a lot of stuff, but there are three things: the easiest thing to sell is ‘an existing product to a new market’, ‘a new product to an existing market’. So those are the two easiest ones. So the hardest is ‘a new product to a new market.’ So that just sort of falls down with your comment there. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. ERIC: Yeah, and there’s a way I’ve kind of looked at it. I’m probably borrowing someone’s saying since I’ve read so much about this thing, but you can either do a product-focused business or you can do a market-focused business. And the product focus one is where like Evan said, like “I have this idea for this itch I wanna scratch. I’m building this, I’ll ask the people if they are interested.” And that’s where the product, the idea is most powerful thing in the business. The market-focused business is I have these group of people who let’s say are Ruby freelancers, they have certain problem, they have certain pains, they have certain loves, hopes, dreams – a whole bunch of different things. What can I build using the skills I have for this group and what would they buy? And that’s the market-focused way. And I’ve done the product-focused way on my first SAAS and my first eBook. And I’ve done the market-focused way on Chirk and on my other eBook. And I have to say the market-focused way, it takes a lot more of like the market research and thinking about stuff and it’s a lot harder brain activity. But in it, it feels a lot easier. Marketing feels a ton easier too. CHUCK: So I was actually talking to my mastermind group the other day, and this is something that kind of came out of that was… EVAN: You mean we are not your mastermind group? CHUCK: Okay, so I m a member of two official mastermind groups, and I’m on free podcast with panelists that are kind of like mastermind groups… in the sense that we have this mind share. And then I think honestly, the four of us together are smarter than if you took how smart each of us is, and added it together. Because I think we can kind of synergize ideas better this way. EVAN: I think I subtract brain power from this group. CHUCK: [Chuckles] I don’t think so. Anyway… JEFF: Too slow on the mute. Too slow on the mute. [Laughter] EVAN: Close the blast doors! Close the blast doors! Open the blast doors. Sorry. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: You were saying? CHUCK: Yeah, where are the controls to extend the bridge? I think I just shot him. EVAN: [Laughs] Nice. CHUCK: If we are making Star Wars references. Anyway, so I’m a member of what’s called the Podcast Mastermind. It’s actually put together by Cliff Ravenscraft over at podcastanswerman.com. Big surprise, I’m part of the big podcast sharing and mindshare group. Anyway, so we are split up into smaller groups of about… there are about 6 people in my group. And so we sit and we talk about our podcast, but we also talk about just life and our business and things. And one of the things that came out of that was somebody was talking to an attorney, because one of the guys in the group is an attorney. He has yet to start his podcast. But we were having this same kind of discussion, and somebody pointed out, “Well, if you are doing coaching or consulting of any kind, and you have the same question coming up over and over again from your market or from your clientele, from the people you are coaching, then there’s probably a product there.” And I think this kind of comes back into the market-focused business a little bit, in the sense that you are getting feedback from the market. Your market research is almost being done for you because they are saying, “We want this.” And in particular they are saying, “We want this from you because we know you can deliver it.” And it really occurred to me that there really were a few things… I get questions probably a handful of times a week, and I think if I open myself up to it, I’d get a whole lot more. And I really don’t mind answering people’s questions, but sometimes if it’s going to take more than like 5 minutes, I’ll make them pay me. But anyway, so yeah, it really occurred to me that I probably have about 4 products sitting in my inbox right now from different things that people want to know, or want me to provide for them. And you know, I was kind of kicking myself for the next date, just because like it was so obvious to me. And so if you have any community interaction in your market, then I think that’s a great way to figure out what they want — and in particular, what they want to know. If this is an information product anyway. ERIC: So I’ve stopped tracking ideas about how this might be a product like a while ago. I just opened up my document. Last time I used it, I put in ‘idea 192.’ CHUCK: [Chuckles] ERIC: So yeah, when you start thinking like, “Oh, this could be a product.” You are going to get a ton of ideas, a ton of like, “I think this could work.” Best advice for that is to write them down, and try to ignore the idea for a couple weeks and come back to it. Because I’m looking at these ideas and I’m like, “Really? No one’s going to buy that. That’s a stupid idea.” You don’t get that right away. When you have the idea and you wanna rush and build it, and sometimes you got to hold yourself back on that. CHUCK: I really like that idea of writing down our ideas too. Yeah, because for me, if I don’t write them down, I don’t get them out of my head, then they sit there and I’m constantly thinking about them, and kind of overthinking them until , yeah. ERIC: Well, they end up growing and growing and then you had this huge behemoth of this product with 50 thousand features and it’s always like you are 90% done and never launched, and you are going to be like, “I just need one more thing and I’ll get it out to customers.” And there’s always that one more thing. JEFF: It’s not even that. I  think it’s the mental energy you are spending convincing yourself that it’s going to be a good idea. It’s harder to go back and say… EVAN: Instead of just building something. JEFF: Well that, so Eric has 192 ideas, but if he kept a few of those, the one that he just said, “Oh, no one is going to buy that.” If he had kept chewing on that idea mentally for a while, it will be a lot harder for him to say, “Nobody is going to buy that.” It will be a lot easier for him to say, “Oh yeah, this is a genius idea. Everybody is going to buy it.” And so I think that’s a big deal too. I mean, ideas are worthless, right? EVAN: Yeah, I spend a lot of time chewing on idea. I actually have become increasingly skeptical of it, but maybe that’s because of my nature. CHUCK: I think it can depend. I mean, because some ideas I get, and the more I think about them, the more you think, “Gee, that’s a dumb idea.” And what’s funny is sometimes I’ll wind up talking to somebody and they’ll come up with the same idea, and they’ll start getting amped up about it. But then other ideas, I start thinking about it, and the more I think about it, the more I see potential in it. So I think it really depends on how well I identify with the market for it; if it’s something I would really want as opposed to something that it’s just like, “Yeah, that could make money.” And then you start thinking about the obstacles to get there, and realize that maybe it doesn’t make sense. Maybe it doesn’t make sense for the market that you are trying to push it out in. ERIC: One other way to look at it is I mean, we are all freelancers, so we pretty much have an hourly rate. And for you to go and build something, that’s going to take x amount of hours, at x amount of dollars an hour, that’s an investment. I mean you are not putting money upfront, but I mean, I’m looking at Chirk right now, the entire Chirk project back to take November when I first started researching it, I’ve spent 114 hours on it. That’s a significant amount of time and money right there. So that could have been quite a large client project or two, that could have brought cash in my bank, but I chose to put that on a product. So it’s a huge a opportunity cost you have to be aware of too; the larger the idea, the harder it is. EVAN: You see, that right there… I should have said this earlier, that right there is why I don’t work on product outside of downtime because I don’t think about how much my hourly rate is, how much time I’m spending on it, and how much time if I focused more on getting work or doing client work, I could be making right now, versus the opportunity cost that I really might not see anything back on — except on scratching an itch. It’s one of the reasons that I like scratching an itch, because at least if I’m scratching an itch, I know at the end of it, I’ll have tool that’s useful to me even if I don’t make much money off of it. CHUCK: Right. The flipside for me that I see is that if it is a product that’s bringing in… even a couple thousand dollars a month, if I do hit a slowdown, it will smooth that out or something. I don’t know. It really does come down to that kind of thing, just freeing up time because if you are making a few thousand dollars a month, that’s a few thousand dollars’ worth of income, of hours that I can spend with my kids and my wife. So I mean there’s this flipside, but yeah, it really comes down on opportunity cost and really the risk that you are taking on that investment. ERIC: Yeah, I mean that’s an important thing it’s like we didn’t touch on it. I’m kind of not mad, but kind of mad that we didn’t do it at the beginning, but like, you have to have a reason why you are building a product. Because I mean, Evan’s kind of pointed out that it’s easier for him to just get clients and do it that way. But for me, see I actually want to build products, so that I have what some people call “time and location” freedom. Like right now, I have location freedom. I can freelance from almost anywhere in the world. I just need an internet connection, power and time to work. But I pretty much have to work at 9 to 5 schedule because that’s when most of my clients work. I can’t just say, “I’m just going to work nights from now on,” because I won’t be able to call my clients. So products are kind of getting me towards that way of having that time freedom. And what they are doing right now, like I’ll say like, I have the three books in the market, they’re making roughly a thousand dollars a month, plus or minus a couple hundreds. Some months are higher, some months are lower, but even the really low months get balanced out because the next month is high. So, I’m making a thousand dollars and I pretty much figured that, “Okay, these products are basically paying for me to have about a week, maybe two weeks off a month to work on either the products I have now, or new products.” And so, for the past, I think almost a year now, I’ve been funneling the money I’m getting from products that I already done back into either marketing those products or building new products. And basically bootstrapping my way so that the products can sustain my business. Because once I can do that,  then I can do a whole bunch of other freelance stuff. And I can work on whatever projects I want; I can pick stuff, if I don’t feel like freelancing somewhere, I can take the time off. And there’s a whole bunch of the freedom that I can get from having them. And that’s why I’m trying to build new products. I know a lot of people kind of have that idea too, but they don’t actually supposedly say like, “This is why I’m doing it.” So that’s like a big important thing. If you are going to build products, figure out why you are doing it. Are you trying to become Facebook 2.0, or are you just trying to be able to spend time with your family or what? CHUCK: Right. I think one other thing that comes to mind there — and you kind of alluded to it — and that was that you said that it frees up without a week or maybe two every month. And I think that’s another thing that you can really look at and say, “Look…” let’s say I’m only making like $200 or $300. Let’s say $300. And my hourly rate is $100/hour. I mean, that’s at least three hours a month that you could put in the product to either grow it or market it or whatever. That you don’t have to go out and find a client and work the couple of hours for them. And hopefully, then you’d be able to build on that as you find ways of making those products earning you more money. And so hopefully, you could grow in to the point where you are self-sustained off of the products. EVAN: but is it an illusory gain or is it a real gain? Because you  have to invest the time in order to make the products. And once you get it out there, a product that’s essentially unattended is going to have… Most of the time, I have believe, is going to have a finite life span. The question is, is the money earned greater than the money input? And if it’s not, then you are not necessarily gaining much. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s potentially true as well. I think for me though, I’m a little bit of an optimist here. I’ll admit that. But I also think that… EVAN: Optimist. [Chuckles] CHUCK: [Chuckles] I think that if I can get to that point where I can self-sustain for atleast a couple of weeks out of the month off of the products, then if it buys me more freedom, I’m not sure that it’s not worth it even if you are just measuring on a monetary scale. And I think that’s kind of what Eric was talking about with why you are doing it. Because if you are doing it, and you are just measuring it by money, then I think that’s kind of a hard metric to go by sometimes. It’s really hard to measure in a lot of cases, but if you are going off of some of the other factors such as how much time did I free up? How many hours did I get to spend with my kids. So I sacrifice for a month or two, and then I open up all these free time. And sure, I may never “earn” the money back, but you know, did it change my quality of life in a significant way? EVAN: Where I’m getting at is.. and I don’t think that this is particularly pessimistic, is it a false dichotomy? Because if you aren’t  freeing more time than you earn in terms of money, can’t you just be working less in the here and now, and spend more time with your family in the here  and now? CHUCK: That’s true. EVAN: And what that is called is simply, just work less, earn less, spend more time with your family. CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: I mean, the counter example I’ll give and I’ve mentioned before, I do not work 8- hour billable a day. None of us do. I mean, I average between 4-6, probably closer to 4. And that gives me more time to goof off, or it gives me more time to be relaxed and hang out  with my wife in the evening. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. JEFF: Or charge more. EVAN: Yeah. JEFF: Charge more and work less. EVAN: That’s the Eric Davis formula. And I’m not picking on Eric when I say that. I followed it and it worked — to a degree. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s working for me. EVAN: There you go. Yeah right, so if we haven’t said this one lately, “Raise your rate people!” CHUCK: [Chuckles] I think  we said that like two weeks ago. EVAN: Maybe. But it’s worth saying again. CHUCK: Yeah, definitely. Alright, well is there anything else that you guys wanna add to this discussion before we get into the picks? ERIC: There’s a whole bunch, but I don’t think we have 48 hours for me to go through everything. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Alright. JEFF: The last point was doesn’t just have to be… I mean, we focus strictly on us doing either hourly or us doing product work, and there’s no in between and no other alternatives. But I’m much happier to pay someone, certainly for the building stuff. I mean for marketing, you sort of have to own that for a long time because no one is going to believe in it as much as you do. I mean, the building of the product, I would much prefer to have somebody else build a product and I would wanna build them myself, just because it’s so easy to get chasing down the rabbit hole, and write off 8 hours that should have been a couple hours. And I’m a lot harder on other people’s time than I am on myself. I’m more forgiving when it comes to me chasing down… EVAN: Yeah. In order words, for product development, you are willing to do yak shaving, whereas you would expect other people not to. JEFF: Yeah, exactly. EVAN: Yeah. JEFF: It might be hypocritical, but I mean it’s a lot easier for me to… I guess justify a way when I have to justify it to myself, it’s a lot easier to justify it away, than it is if I was trying to justify  that to a client because like upgrade to Rails 3.2 from 2.0, I mean without some significant whims I mean that’s a whole lot of work for no apparent benefit. So that’s an extreme, but I mean it’s easier for me to justify that to myself, especially when I’m not filing it out on as some expense on QuickBooks to say that I’m syncing all these costs into product  versus hitting on somebody for  whatever. EVAN: Well that’s another thing. When I wrote my iPad app, in the interest of opportunity cost, I viewed it as an opportunity to build myself how to develop for iOS. So I completely left it out. There’s a whole other aspect of building a product, and also be a form of investment in yourself other than just short term monetary or even long term monetary. This is indirect improving myself and building up my skillset. JEFF: Some people would almost argue, and I will almost argue that it will be more beneficial to try and get some sort of a job doing iOS… like the iOS example you have, it will be better to get sub to a normal iOS dev and have them pay you while you are learning, instead of drop all that cost into a product and still… I mean that’s frustrating as hell  for me, and I have a few apps out there, but I mean it’s still like a lot of different build  targets and schemes to try to get the code base share between model build targets, so I can tweak a few things and have a few different versions. And I’m still, to this day, questioning this because I mean, we spent a lot of time – “we”, collectively — I spent a time individually with Ruby, so there’s an idea of best practices  “all over the room.” But I mean I have no idea in Objective-C. and that’s why I’ve hired people to work with me, to pair with me, to build some of these stuff just to get me up to speed. But I mean if I could have subbed somebody at half my hourly, and still be learning at the same time, I mean I’ll probably one of the habits I’ve done that. EVAN: Actually, I’ve talked to a few people before about doing iOS work at a reduced rate just to get iOS work, so that I can have an excuse to play there more. CHUCK: Yeah, I think there are a couple of good ideas there. But the one that kind of struck me – and I think we’ll attempt it this way – is to go out and build the product ourselves. And you know, if you can get past that, and maybe pay somebody less than what it will cost you to do it, then you would have the product, and the marketing is kind of the big piece that we all may or may not be terrific at. Anyway, we really do need to get to the picks. Somebody said that they had to be off the call in about 15 minutes. EVAN: Yeah, okay. somebody did say that. CHUCK: Let’s go ahead and get into the picks. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: Okay, so I got three. First one is Seth Godin posted a blog post that is about… it’s really relevant to freelancing. It’s part of an infographic that says, how people think photographers spend their time. And it’s like 80% taking pictures, 15% is traveling to exotic locations, 5% is partying like rock stars and the next is  how photographers actually spend their time and has like accounting, bookkeeping, upgrading computers, all that stuff. But the rest of the post is interesting where he talks about how on the right side, you can kind of hire people to do the work you don’t wanna do, and try of get your life more towards the left side, which is kind of the ideal side that people have a, “You are a developer. You must be writing code ten hours a day, every day.” So I thought that was pretty interesting today. Another one which is relevant to products, it’s called 21 Times. It’s email and newsletter, mailing list type thing. I don’t know how often, but basically, it’s startup entrepreneur type stuff. Most of the ones I’ve seen are like blog posts you’ve already seen or you might have already seen on the internet, but it’s a good way to kind of exposure to a lot of different ideas. I read a couple of them yesterday, and I’ve already read the blog post, but there’s such good blog post that’s like, I wanna have an email copy of this. So I’ll put a link on the show notes. You can sign up for that. It’s free right now it looks like. And then the other one I mentioned earlier which is Amy Hoy’s 30×500. It’s a class. I think it’s like 3-4 months or something, but it kind of teaches you how to build product. It’s probably the best product-building course I’ve ever done. She touches a bit on marketing, but the whole point is to go from like ‘you think you have an idea’ to ‘you’ve launched a product.’ Really good stuff. It will really kind of change how you think about products, and specially how you think about ideas. Kind of what I was talking about earlier about like, this is a product-focused business versus a market-focused business. I think she’s opening up her new session pretty soon. It’s pretty good. I’ve been in It for years. So that’s my picks. A blog post by Seth, 21 Times, and then the 30×500 class. CHUCK: So you are saying 30×500, you’ve been in it for years? So once you are in, you are in? Is that kind of how it works? ERIC: Yeah, so say you signed up for the one that just ended session. When you are done with it, you go onto the alumni list and it’s a private mailing list where all of the past people are on. And so it’s a huge benefit because like someone will say like, “Hey, I’m almost done with my product. Here’s my website for it. Can someone give me a review?” And you can get like a dozen or two dozen heavy reviews like, “This word sounds out of place. You market will not respond to  this word.” Or “You need to put your graphic here.” I mean, I’ve been doing products for a while. I posted my thing for Chirk there. It took me two weeks to get through all the feedback and all the changes and all the ideas. And the difference is like, “Oh my god, this is awesome looking now.” So yeah, you sign up for it and you basically get reinvited in as an alumni. It’s pretty good. I mean, just the mailing list alone is pretty good. You don’t have anyone, if you are freelancing at home and you don’t have anyone to kind of bounce ideas off of, like the mailing list is awesome. CHUCK: Now if you are an alumnus can you re-take the course? ERIC: I believe so. I’d have to check with Amy. I’ve been around since the beginning, so she kind of had me like a kind of teacher’s assistant type thing right now, I think. But yeah, I think you’ll get full access to all of the lessons again. CHUCK: Okay, cool. Evan, what  are your picks? EVAN: Well like before, I’ve been traveling a lot. I’m surprised no one said anything about… I’m going to fall back on Tripit, which is actually been around for a bit. But Tripid is a webapp and iOS app, and probably an Android app by now, which monitors your travel plans and lets you share your travel plans with it. People, when I say “monitors”, it will inform you if the plane is running late, how late, etcetera. It tends to update pretty quickly. Really handy for keeping track of things like frequent flyer miles and that sort of thing and frequent flyer status. I probably should have mentioned this before because all the travel that I tend to do, which I guess I average maybe… well I say ‘a lot’ maybe it’s every other month. But it’s a game changer for me; it  makes my travel life a lot easier. Also with the traveling, I’ve been reading more fiction, so I’m going to throw a fiction pick in there. I’ve been reading Stephen Baxter’s Manifold series. Manifold Time, I’m reading the second book, Manifold Space. They are very big, ambitious stories; they have characters that are kind of two-dimensional; more about the stories but they are pretty nifty stories. So if you are looking for a decent Sci-Fi read — which I often find very difficult to get a hold of – I enjoy the heck out of those books. Oh, and the one that I’ve mentioned to Chuck and to Jeff, they both loved… I read a while ago is Nathan Lowell’s Tales of the Solar Traders or something like that. CHUCK: Tales of the Solar Clipper. EVAN: Tales of the Solar Clipper, there you go. He’s published 3 or 4 of them in paperback and eBook now, and the rest of them are available on audiobook —  podbook or podiobook is he calls them. He’s getting them written down finally instead of just in audio format. But I got impatient a few months ago and went through all of the audiobooks for them, and it was worth it. It’s really great story. CHUCK: Yeah, you can get them in iTunes. You just subscribe. And what he’s done is he’s actually posted them in reverse order, which means that when you see them listed in iTunes, they are actually in the correct order because of the way he posted them. And then I’ve also subscribed. There are six of those books. I think there are Half Share, Full Share, Double Share, Captain’s Share and Owner’s Share… EVAN: And then… you were going to mention the following book he wrote that’s related but separate? CHUCK: Is that Shaman’s tales? EVAN: There’s another one? CHUCK: There’s Ravenwood. I haven’t listened to these yet. And then Shaman’s Tales South Coast… EVAN: There’s another one that’s in the same universe. Neither of those that I’m aware of. It’s a side story and it’s killing me what it’s called because the name is really very simple. I think it’s something like A Light in the Dark or something like that. Is Shaman’s Tales another one in the same universe, just a side story? CHUCK: I wouldn’t be surprised at all because… A Light in The Dark is just the one that I’m seeing here in iTunes. EVAN: Yeah, but Shaman’s Tales is under Clipper Diary. I just googled it. A Light in The Dark was a good read. I read that on my last trip. CHUCK: Yeah, I don’t see it in podiobook form, at least not in iTunes under podcasts, but it is there under iBooks. EVAN: Oh yeah, Shaman’s Tale isn’t on the same universe. It’s set on St. Cloud, which might ring a bell for those of us who remember the earlier books. CHUCK: Anyway, they are super. I used to listen to them while I was trying to go to sleep, and inevitably, I just lay there and listen to it for like 2 hours. EVAN: I’ve done that. I don’t know what makes them quite so compelling. It’s like the antiphysis of space opera; it’s dramatic, but there’s almost no conflict; no blasters, no star fighters. It’s just kind of Firefly except the Firefly were legit instead of about crooks. CHUCK: Yeah. I think my favorite one is Double Share. EVAN: You still have more to go. [Chuckles] CHUCK: I’ve listened to all the Trader Tales once. EVAN: Okay. CHUCK: I didn’t like the way Owner’s Share ended. EVAN: Yeah. You can get a bunch of them for cheap on Kindle. That’s how I found them. I went on the Amazon Kindle store and was sorting by rating, and just stumbled on them and loved it and then told Jeff and Chuck about it, and I guess you guys are hooked now too. [Chuckles] ERIC: Real quick. I haven’t done it yet, I’m starting to. If you guys are interested in Sci-Fi or any kind of fiction, like I’m going to circle through all of the award winners from the Hugo Nebula Award. Like these are the top Sci-Fi for the year. I’m sure all other genres have these kind of awards, but I figured I’m going to go through them chronologically and you give me plenty of stuff to read. EVAN: It will, but they can be pretty desperate, and some of them you might not like at all. I’ve tried that a little bit, and was a little bit disappointed. But you’ll find some good stuff that way too. Chuck, let’s have a side topic. This  is something that we talked about once before, maybe we can bench it briefly. Chuck and I kicked around the idea of doing a Sci-Fi book podcast once upon a time, and then we shelled the idea and we end up doing this podcast. So if folks would actually be interested in that sort of thing, give us a shout out, then maybe we’ll actually do it. CHUCK: Yeah, it kind of occurred to me that Eric’s idea of going through like the Hugo or Nebula Awards and just reading through the books and you know, just getting on every week and talking about a few chapters out of whatever book. That might be interesting. The other one that we get kicking around, and I’ve actually now purchased the first book in this series was A Song of Fire and Ice… or Ice and Fire. EVAN: Or just go watch the HBO series. [Chuckles] CHUCK: Yeah, there’s a bit of nudity in that, and I’m not sure if I’m ready for that… EVAN: That one work for some people. CHUCK: For some Mormons on the podcast just yeah… EVAN: Well, there’s some things in the book that are pretty intense too, but the book doesn’t talk about the nudity as much, but it doesn’t shy away from the violence at all. But then again, some folks for some reason seem to have a better time with the violence and nudity [chuckles] — in general. I’m not picking on any religious folks in particular. I’m just saying. JEFF: I’m picking on all of them. Not just some of them. EVAN: American folks seem to like their violence just fine and they get really upset when they see a boob. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: I can say that word. That’s a safe word. Am I going to get bleeped? [Chuckles] CHUCK: I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out where the line is with literature and stuff like that. Because it’s not always clearly defined. Anyway. Do you have any other picks, Evan? EVAN: No, I think that’s plenty. CHUCK: Alright, Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: I just had the one Yes, 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. I was looking for an audiobook to read on the way to New York and back, and I had that one. I tried to sync a couple over, and I don’t know if I didn’t check on them, or I have to sync everything two or three times for it to actually get over to my iPhone for some reason. But I wish I would have remembered about double share, because I’ve been waiting for them to publish a book, because I like to read them better than listen to them, but I would have listened to them on the way to New York, and that would have been a  nice one to get through. I don’t know about the Nebula Awards, but I went back through and read… I have a tendency to read everything by an author, so a while ago, I read all the James Bond, all the Ian Flemings novel. I read all of them. And then before that, I did Robert Heinlein — everything that he wrote. EVAN: Wow, that’s a lot. JEFF: Yeah. But I mean, you get into a mindset where you really sort of adopt his style of… you just get used to a way he writes or something, so it’s a lot easier for me to stay with the author, so I just churn through it. EVAN: I totally did that with Asimov in Foundation. CHUCK: It’s interesting that we all kind of find some sanity in reading literature. I mean, I’ve been reading the Inheritance books by Christopher Paolini. That’s Eragon and all of those. They are not incredible books, but I mean, if I need to shut my brain off, it’s a good way to go. So yeah, my picks a couple of them that I can throw out there, one is Good Reads. I wasn’t going to pick it before the podcast, but just about everybody’s brought up literature one way or another. Good Reads is terrific; great way of sharing what you  are reading, finding out what other people are reading and just really, really love it. One other thing that I discovered, and I’m really enjoying, it’s called Things, and it’s an application for the Mac. You can get it in the Apple AppStore. And what it is it’s a to-do list, but it has all the features that I wished all of the other to-do lists that I’ve ever tried to use had. So the big one for me was that I can schedule the to-dos, so if there’s something that I need to do every week, that I can schedule it weekly. If there’s something I need to do on particular days of the week, I can schedule that. If I need it every day or every week, I can put those in and they show up on my to-do list for today. And I can tell them, it should show up in the to-do list a few days before it’s due or when it’s due. I can sort things into projects, I can sort things into different roles that I play, like being a dad and being a developer and clients and what have you. And you know, just really helps me organize all of these stuff I have to keep track of. So I’m really, really enjoying that. Really think that it’s just super. So those are my picks. JEFF: Things is not new pick for you. Is that a new discovery? EVAN: Right. Because the four of us have talked about Things and Omnifocus and TTD and a lot. This goes back to episode one; I mentioned Getting Things Done and it doesn’t do cloud sync yet. They’ve added that very, very recently. CHUCK: It will sync with my iPad over the wireless. EVAN: Yes, Wi-Fi sync only. JEFF: Yeah, my impression was that Things was basically dead. It’s last major update was in 2009. CHUCK: Oh, really? JEFF: I think so, yeah. EVAN: It hasn’t really gone to where they’ve been promising the cloud sync for ages and it hasn’t showed up. CHUCK: Anyway… EVAN: It’s really nifty. The other alternative is Omnifocus, which has tons and tons and tons of features. And so many features, it kind of hurts my brain to use it. JEFF: HitList, Wunderlist – there are about a billion of them. EVAN: Yeah, now there are. Totally. JEFF: That’s for all the assholes scratching their itch. chuck: [Chuckles] yeah, I was using Wunderlist before, and the problem is that it doesn’t do all the scheduling and management stuff. JEFF: But it’s open source. Fork it. CHUCK: [Chuckles] It’s open source? I didn’t realize that. EVAN: Then there’s another one that a friend of mine likes to try. It’s called Flow App, and it’s supposedly good for teams. I had a hard time using it. Everyone likes their TTD tools different. Then they have people at Mountain West who, oh my gosh, use a Moleskine notebook. CHUCK: [Chuckles] EVAN: It’s high-tech, man. Really high-tech. CHUCK: I have a Moleskine notebook and I carry it around with me, but the reason that I have it is because I find it too painful to type stuff into my phone. JEFF: I have a Moleskine too, and that’s probably not even how you supposed to say it. Mine was given to me, but I have a hard time writing down just junk in a $15 notebook, because it’s like I’d rather write down 99 cent notebook whatever it is, so then I don’t have to worry about whether or not my ideas are good enough or potent enough to be in this holy of all holy notebook. I had a major hang up for using my Moleskine for anything. EVAN: So I guess while we’re talking about to-dos, I used to do all kinds of fancy things, and now  what I use is Siri on the iPhone 4s. Allows you to record reminders with your voice. That one to me is almost the ultimate, because I had the problem that I always think of things to do when I’m doing something else, and I don’t want the distraction. Especially when I’m driving. So I usually drive with a Bluetooth headset when I can, and I just hit the button on the headset and say, “Remind me to blah, blah, blah.” And eventually after trying  3-4 times maybe, Siri will get it right. Sometimes it gets it right on the first try. Or it will get it close enough to where I can look at it later and go, “Oh, that’s what I meant.” So the reminders app on iPhone 4s is pretty sweet. The other thing that I really dig about it that’s missing from almost any other to-do app is you can set location-specific reminders. So, “Remind me when I get to this place to do this.” JEFF: That might actually help me. Because I was going to remind everybody to set your default reminder time. Because I use Siri to tell me to bring like a shoebox in to my daughter’s class and leaving and coming back home at 9 o’clock, it reminded me; but I dropped her off at 8 o’clock. So that didn’t help me. EVAN: So the iOS reminders app is really very barebones, but on the other hand, for TTD process, barebones can be kind of a good thing; constraints can be a good thing. It’s been a kind of common theme for me lately. It’s far more simpler just than almost anything else. It doesn’t have tagging, it doesn’t have any of that. It just have a few categories. And frankly, I have to dump almost everything in the inbox. And if the inbox gets too big, then I’ll probably start deleting stuff. And then I have a back log for older things that maybe doesn’t in the inbox and stuff I just need to look at every now and then. CHUCK: Yeah, I just use the Moleskine when I’m out and about. JEFF: Now he’s pronouncing it better. CHUCK: [Chuckles] Yeah. So I’ll write things down when I’m out and about, and I don’t have like a device that I can sync up with things, and then when I get back, then I’ll do a quick mind transfer from one mind to another. [Chuckles] Then it just works for me. Anyway, with that, we should probably wrap up, since somebody has a meeting like 5 minutes ago. You can catch us in iTunes. We actually made it in New and Noteworthy. EVAN: Yay! CHUCK: In technology, of all things — which is like hard. So thank you all for supporting us, rating us, leaving us reviews. I think it’s really what gets us up there is that and new subscriptions. So, thanks again for everybody who’s been listening to us. And go leave us a review, but also, go to rubyfreelancers.com, click on ‘request a topic’ and let us know what you wanna hear about. We do have 30-odd topics in there, but we can always use a few more. So with that, we’ll wrap this up. We’ll catch you next week!

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