The Ruby Freelancers Show 010 – Conferences at MWRC

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CHUCK: Alright. So we do a weekly podcast where we talk about freelancing, and freelancer stuff. And we’ve talked about kinds of stuff like Setting Your Rate, Getting Started, Marketing (lots of marketing). So anyway, what are going to talk about today is we are going to talk about marketing through a conference like this. There are lot of things that we can do to do that kind of stuff. I am not much an expert on this but I know that these guys are. Why don’t we go ahead and introduce ourselves, and then we’ll start talking. I guess I’ll go first. I'm Charles Max Wood. I do this podcast, Ruby Rogues, JavaScript Jabber. And on occasion, I actually do another few podcasts. I am a freelance developer in Ruby on Rails, and I live here in Utah. EVAN: I'm Evan Light. I'm also a freelance Ruby developer. I also run the Ruby DCamp Conference and occasionally speak at conferences about Ruby stuff, and whatever the heck is on my mind that people talk about in conferences. DAVE: I'm Dave Brady. I'm the Chief Metaphor Officer at Slide Rule Labs. What does that mean? Somebody asked me, “What is a ‘chief metaphor officer’? What is that like?” and I said it’s like being a Chief Simile Officer -- only without the word “like”. I do the Ruby Rogues Podcast with Chuck. And I’m ready for hire. That's me. EVAN: I think they are pretty much all available for hire. TIM: My name is Tim Connor. I run Cloud City Development, which is a small Agile shop in San Francisco. I have a couple of guys here, and a bunch of remotes actually because this thing in San Francisco, they hire remote. So, if you want to work with people, you can get a much better deal. CHUCK: Alright, let’s start talking about this. One thing that’s kind of come up, I don’t know if it has been in the podcast, but at least chatting with Eric Davis is that he likes to point out that if you go to the conferences usually talking to other programmers, these programmers are not the people who are going to be hiring you. So he was kind of like, “You are not talking to your market!” And I think there are some answers to that, you can get referrals and things, but is there a way that you can reach your target market through the developers at conferences? EVAN: Okay I got to go first with this one because first, I have to make fun of Eric because he is not here. Eric is a bit more of an introvert than most of the freelancers I know. He doesn’t really like conferences that much. I love going to Ruby conferences because I don’t get to hang out with nerds like these, unless I talk to them online or I actually spend money to go to a conference. So, going to a conference is good. I get something out of it than just for my business. But on top of that, talking on conferences is a smaller form of marketing because it’s indirect, but all the work that I have gotten because of all the talks that I did on conferences and from running Ruby DCamp. So, it does work. You are not necessarily talking to the people who will hire you. In some cases you are. There are some times where people with budgets who or some entrepreneurs who are looking for help,  but work gets around. It’s basically a form of paying it forward. You are giving to the community and people recognize that, and you are showing them something with value and therefore you are worth looking at. CHUCK: One other thing that I’ve seen -- because I have the same problem with my podcast or screencast and stuff -- is that most of the work I do targets developers. It’s something that they are going to listen to or they are going to watch and learn something from. So, I'm not really putting something together that the guy with the business idea is going to go, “Oh I really ought to watch that because it’s this or that.” Or “It tells me how I put together a product, or tells me if this guy knows how to do it. But one thing that I did find was that  some of these entrepreneurs are just smart enough to decide, “Hey, why don’t I try and do this on myself?” And so what happens is they wind up listening to a programming podcast. Or they wind up coming to Mountain Ruby West Conference because they are thinking, “If I can go to the conference, then I can build my app.” And what winds up happening instead is that you are exposed to somebody, that they realize programing is hard, knowing what I need to know in building this stuff is hard. And then there are a whole bunch of people here who know how to do that. But at the same time, they realize this. And so if you come out and you are saying, “I’m a freelance developer. I’m available for hire.” And you are talking to something that they need then sometimes you are talking to your target market even though you are at a place that is primarily populated by people who aren’t. TIM: A lot of these people work for companies who are willing to hire contractors and it turns out that the engineers can talk to their bosses. And if you have them convicted then you are on your way towards getting contracts. Whereas if you are talking to an entrepreneur in the ways he’s not going to know if you are… whereas if you convince an engineer then their boss is probably going to actually listen to you. That's also the other important part is where you are spreading awareness; like a lot of marketing is slow in getting your name out there. Speaking in conferences, blogging, podcasting etc. also that helps when you have a potential client, then they know who you are. So, it’s not just the direct sales like don’t confuse marketing with sales. Yes it’s not a sales channel, but it’s totally a marketing channel to get your name out there. EVAN: So then we talked about a little bit when we had the broad talk about marketing. I keep titling the book “Get Clients Now”. Speaking at conferences is one of the top three or four ways that is listed on that book to market yourself. The point is to make things that you are comfortable with. Like, Eric doesn’t like being around tons of people, and I love talking with people; so Eric blogs, he does a lot of open source; I talk too much. TIM: It turns out… I think part of the reason that people don’t think conferences aren’t good sales channel or marketing channels is just they need to work in their elevator pitch. Because if you are coming here and just listening to the people talk, and you are just talking and you never put in the fact that, “Oh, by the way, I'm available for hire,” which I think a lot of people who don’t put that in there, you are going to go, “Oh, I didn't get any of that conference.” Whereas, if every time you are talking to somebody like start with, “By the way I'm a freelancer,” and then you get talk, and they are going to remember that. If you get that out to every person you talk to, you will get work out of it, I almost guarantee you. I met a plenty of guys who you don’t know until after 20 minutes of conversation that they are looking for work, and it is like, “Wow!  If I knew that earlier, if I haven’t gotten that question there, I wouldn’t have ever known that I might hire you.” CHUCK: Yeah. There is a lot like that. And the other thing I’ve noticed is as I talk to people about some of these technical things. In a lot of cases, it will become apparent that you have an expertise they need, and you are not talking to somebody who needs you to build a full on app. But it’s like I really need to scale this up, and I don’t know anything about MySQL. So as you are talking, use these solutions I found that these different things apply in different situations, you might wind up getting more of a consulting as instead of build somebody their app kind of thing, and wind up getting that kind of work instead, and its paying work. In those cases, you actually work with other developers instead the sole being technical person on the project you are working on. TIM: And you should charge more for consulting work if it’s a small piece of work, rather than if you are doing dedicated 6 weeks, 40 hours versus you are doing, “Oh, I'm consulting little for here or there,” and you charge the same amount, it can  be worth not as much. That's a whole talk that I think you guys had have there. Evan keeps giving me faces for everything I say. EVAN: Yeah. I'm disagreeing with some of these things, but they are really personal disagreements. (I just hate Tim. No, I'm kidding I like Tim. I tend to try fully laid-back approach into my business, in that I don’t wanna think about it too much like a business is an extension  of me. One other thing is that I try hard to do is not bullshit people; never try to tell them how it is. So at least how I see it. I don’t necessarily know how it is. I feel funny charging variable rates depending on the work. I know different freelancers feel differently about that if they can solve someone’s incredibly hard problem an hour as opposed to taking hundreds of hours, and still charge the same amount of money. I'm a little iffy about that one.  What I was really starting the whims out there was use of the term “branding” and “elevator pitch.” TIM: I live in SF what can I say. EVAN: Yeah I know, I feel you. You are living in San Francisco; all of the people I meet from there speak about their start up lingo. To me, it’s just talking to people and sharing who I am, and trying to understand who they are. And if one thing that I guess I look for is customers or potential clients. Just people in general. Are these people I can relate to? Are these people who can relate to me? Because the last thing I want is a client who I can’t communicate effectively with, and where I feel no empathy for. TIM: Oh, certainly. And I'm not advocating that just being friendly and talking to people. If you only get at a setting like this, you can meet a hundred of people, and some of them you might only chat with for 5 minutes. And you have no way of knowing (and that's what I'm saying this is a marketing channel) you have no way of knowing which developers here work for the company that is desperately looking for people. It’s just getting the word out, how you wanna phrase it. If you don’t make sure that the people talking you know, “Oh by the way we take work.” Just total lost what might have been a big contract to get you through the whole year. CHUCK: Yeah, one thing I thought was interesting too about what Evan was saying was that, he likes to think of it as more of an extension of himself. (Is that what kind of you are saying?) And the thing is you need to draw that line between it being something that you spent time on, and it being a business. You need to figure that out. So I think what Tim is saying is actually very relevant with a lot of the business lingo. Everybody has a different style. And I think that is fine, but if you are not thinking of it as a business, if you are not thinking of it as, “I have this opportunity… at least let people know that I am available for hire.” And you don’t have that elevator pitch; you don’t have that value proposition that you can give to somebody. And you know, you are not trying to do a “hard sell” but you need to at least be thinking about this as a business. “I need to find client, I need to make money.” You can still do that and have an organic, friendly, nice conversation with somebody. And you are not being super commercial, but it’s important to think about that and realize that this is a marking channel, it is something that you need to be considering. And its perfectly okay to let people know that you are out there to make money, so you can support yourself. TIM: I think a lot of people say that they are afraid of. . . DAVE: The “m” word. DAVE: Well yeah, “marketing” they are afraid of. EVAN: “Mormons?” DAVE: They are afraid of doing sales. I hate doing sales, and so they don’t wanna come schmooze. And you are not afraid of doing sales, you are afraid of being seen as a “salesman”. It’s actually a good fear because what you are really saying or speaking or in favor of is that you wanna be authentic. EVAN: Right. It’s not fear of being seen as a salesman, because it’s how you feel. It’s all about how you feel. DAVE: But the reality is that you go to this and you freelancing, you are looking for work, be authentic. Go ahead it’s ok to tell people, “Hey, I freelance.” And if you have time in your pipeline (we call it being “desperate”) people know I'm freelancing. And, “Hey, I got time available if you know anybody.” And like Tim said, the best contract I got last year was from another programmer who got way over loaded by a factor of 3, and picked up two to come by and work. EVAN: You passed up a perfectly good opportunity to talk about your pipeline. Sorry, I have to get that there because you know its Dave Brady. Actually Dave kind of said what I was trying to get across too that it is for me, try to be authentic. I like to think I just am. It’s just something that I tried not to be a fake try not be anything that I am not. So I still kind of a little in the “m” word. “Marketing” not “Mormons”. (I like to tease Mormons. I don’t know. Why maybe I'm just a bad person that way, in the good way). CHUCK: We set ourselves out sometimes. EVAN: I forgot what I was going to say because I still think you are going on. TIM: Oh yeah, what I was going to say is sales and being authentic is very easy. All you have to do is believe in what you are selling. As the freelancer, you should really believe that I'm good at this and I have a service. Then it almost becomes not sales anymore. It doesn’t becomes sales, it becomes the reason I tell people, “Hey, I run a company to help you out,” is because I know I can solve their problems. And I know right now there is such a demand for senior skilled Rubyists that I can sell problems they probably desperately need. So it’s less about being sort of “markety” or “authentic” as much as get that in the conversation somewhere just in case that, “Hey, I might be able to help them out.” And yes I made good money doing it but happens to be nice also. CHUCK: Well, I think that ties back to what you are saying about charging more for consulting than coding, is that it comes back to that value proposition, is that value there for them. And if it is, then why shouldn't I get paid? TIM: And that value is not there for me. If it’s like, “Oh, why don’t you fly in for two days? Like help us out and then take it off.” And it’s like, “Oh, I really need a dependable work. If you want that it’s going to cost.” CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. TIM: I also have… it’s not freelance anymore running a small company, where it’s sort of that borderline big firm and freelancing. So occasionally, I might look at it and slightly it is a business because I am essentially becoming a business person; like I do less daily work and more of consulting. And that has definitely started a shift from my view on these topics. DAVE: The most helpful things, mental shifts that I have made in this regard is that JT Zemp (my partner at Slide Rule Labs), we started to use the word “hack” when it comes to people skills. So right now we are “hacking” sales and marketing, we are hacking business, we are hacking start up. and that somehow it calms down the freaked out engineer inside of us. And we can go, “Oh I can just approach this like any other tractable problem.” It’s just hard, and it’s got people skills. So there is a lot of hidden variables, but now my standard approach does apply here because now, I can start experimenting with things, trying things. For example here in the Ruby Rogues. . . EVAN: We are not on the Ruby Rogues Podcast! DAVE: This is the sleep deprivation podcast. But yeah, here in the Ruby Freelancers Podcast, by the way I’m available for hire! EVAN: One point I was going to make to something Tim said earlier was as far as that “elevator pitch”, when I speak in conferences, I always get in, I'm a freelancer that I always looking for work. That's just easy. So I don’t necessarily have to go around the conferences and tell people, “I'm a freelancer,”  whenever they ask me what you do for a living. But when I'm on the stage in front of them, at some point in the microphone I say, “Hey, I'm Evan. I'm a freelancer and I'm looking for work.” Problem solved. TIM: I think a number developers look at people skills and marketing, and the sales as not fit in their personality types sort of over almost “worshipping” this concept of, “Well, I am an introvert; therefore I fit this coder personality, therefore I won’t be good at these.” Well that sort of dedicated mind-set of learning skills applies just as much just for marketing sales, and other skills. Honestly, you can’t really be good, really, really good at technical sales unless you did use the program. I can hire someone else to sell for myself and for my company, because they are going to totally over-pitch things and not know how to do it -- and no one is going to believe them. So I've had to learn from sales skills, and it turns out they aren’t that much different from any other skill set; like you examine the problem, determine what approach you are going to take and practice, practice, practice. Which is why conference is nice, because you have lots of time to chat with people and see in which different settings, oh hey, you guys are short but looking for one of the more common pick up tasks for a freelancer is, “Oh, you are trying to hire, would you like some help while you are hiring? Would you like to wait some of these things done instead of waiting six months and where you can find this mythical, senior, available like Rubyists?” CHUCK: One other thing that I wanna point out is that, in a lot of cases, you can make yourself stand out. One example of this is just I've reached out to Apache Foundation last year, and I just got a contact with  somebody I knew who is involved over there. And I actually did an interview with him  with my Teach Me to Code Podcast. Then I said, “Hey, there are some interesting projects,” things like that. I was like, “Hey, who do I talk to for that?” So he got me in touch with their press person, who got me in touch with the conference organizer. And I end up going to Apache North America last year. The cool thing is you start talking to them, and you find out real fast even the conference organizer is interested in. And so I talked to the organizer, I talked to the press lady, they put me in touch with the president of the Apache Foundation. So by the time I showed up, I mean they are all geared up for me to show up because I was podcaster they wanted exposure. I mean, I was like the only person that got a press pass for that conference because I was the only coder who is actually doing some press thing. But the cool thing is, if you can get in touch with the conference organizer, you have something that they want, something that they are interested in -- be it exposure or something else -- you can usually work things out so that they start introducing you around. Because I’ll tell you what, at this conference the people who know who’s there are the organizers. They know who the sponsors are, they know who the big names are and not only that but they have like a direct line to them especially while they are at the conference. So what winds up happening is, you go and you say “Who should I get to know?” And then they will hook you up. So you go to lunch with big names, and you can at least gain some credibility that way. And a lot of times if they have that kind of credibly, people will either approach them, trying to hire them. And sometimes, they have time so then you get referrals that way or you can work something else you wind up working with them. There are a lot of things there. You can get, like I said, introduced to some of the sponsors and you can start figuring out what they want. I know for a fact that at least three of the sponsors that are on that banner over there -- that you people who are live streaming can’t see, and I guess you people listening to the podcast can’t see either -- I know at least three of the sponsors on the banner hanging in this room are hiring. And that is one of the primary motivations for them sponsoring this conference is to get their name up there, so that they can hire people. TIM: I assume a lot of them are hiring. CHUCK: Yeah, so the whole point is then you can do what Tim said. And since you are getting to know the conference organizer, you can exploit that “direct line”, get noticed, get out there. And then maybe make that pitch and say, “Look,” and then you are trying to fill some spots. Maybe me or some of my guys on my team or my sub-contractors or something can kind of help bridge that gap until you find somebody. EVAN: And speaking of someone who does organize a conference, I have to agree with what Chuck said. With Ruby DCamp, I know the sponsors -- to some degree -- and I know who the big people are at Ruby DCamp such as it is. So yeah, that can work. TIM: You are the big people at Ruby DCamp. EVAN: Only in terms of mass. [Laughter] EVAN: Yes, I would admit that. DAVE: So I just kind of had an epiphany based on what you guys have all just said. I talked to people who are hiring and say, “Hey, do you need help crossing that gap?” And Chuck is talking about finding a press pass and you are talking about organizers. What I'm realizing is that for the past 5 or 10 years, I don’t think I ever gotten a job by walking in the front door and applying for a job. If you wanna get up to somebody and say, “I wanna get a job,” and I say, “Well, I'm hiring,” now I have to begin this whole vetting process, there's this application, there is this test where I find out who you are. I've taken the side door in to pretty much every job I've ever had for the past decade. EVAN: Same here. DAVE: And the thing I just realized -- especially with that press pass idea is -- if you are looking into market and network, and you want to stay authentic, and you are afraid of the sales. The reason you are afraid of it is because that is walking into the front door, and trying to convince somebody who doesn’t know you. People work with who they like and people that they know. If you want to get hired as a freelancer, find a reason to be around the people; go to a watering hole where other people are, and find a reason for people to want you to be there; bring something to the table like a podcast or something else. EVAN: Because it started with marketing at conferences. So, this is why organizing conference is good although it’s not why I started organizing DCamp. I wasn’t even a freelancer or thinking about it then. It’s one of the reasons I speak in conference.  It’s one of the reasons I go to conferences anyway, though I just love them. So doing what you love, believing in what you have to offer (as Tim said) and then going to these events where you can meet other people with similar interest. And they can get to know you, which is part of what being on a stage and talking to people is that you are introducing yourselves to them, so they become aware of you. They get to know you to some degree, that you build some trust or maybe they like you, maybe they don’t. TIM: I forgot what I was going to say. Go ahead. EVAN: I'm good at doing this to you Tim, aren’t I? TIM: Yeah, you throw me off somehow. EVAN: We need to work together. TIM: I’ll throw some more business lingo at you then. ABC, Always Be Closing. Ruby is such a community-driven language; like go to these events even if you don’t drink. I don’t drink anymore even though I'm not Mormon, I'm very not Mormon but I still don’t drink. DAVE: It’s the first step. [Laughter] CHUCK: Dave said that is the first step. TIM: I spent ten years in Utah; trust me, the missionaries don’t even come on my door. EVAN: Sorry, I was going to say they probably think Tim or David as for someone not even try approaching. TIM: No I spend two hours unconverting a couple of missionaries. So they do actually. They are like, “This house is not safe.” CHUCK: If you are on there, do not call. [Laughter] TIM: Yeah, for their own safety. No, it is so community driven that yeah, and where you get to know a large part of community and Rubyists at this conferences. I don’t go for the talks because as much this time actually if there is a number of talks I haven’t known the material, but if you are reading all the blog posts, (which you should be, like 300 blogs or 500 or however they are now of well knows Rubyists), you learn a lot of material in the talks, conferences are worth it even if you knew the material in every single talk… just  to get to get your fellow Rubyists who might someday wanna hire, who might hire you, who might employ you as a contractor. So that's what I meant by “always be closing”. You will always be networking. Also even outside of this. A couple of my larger, more prestigious projects that I've turned into like years of work before, came from hobbies I have that I was valuing the ski for someone because I used to be a competitor bump skier and he said, “How are you doing?” And he was like, “I run this company doing this.” And he’s like, “Oh, what is your rate?” And he run a company on New York where rates is so much different, that he heard my Utah rates and he is like, “Yeah, we should talk.” EVAN: After you go to enough TED conferences or for at least any one topic, a lot of topic starts to sound the same, granted this year’s not on the list in terms of TED topics for me, but I don’t go to these conference for the talks. I totally go for the whole track in the back channel. And frankly, it’s entirely why I make DCamp. Because once I realized I don’t go for the talks, I go to hang out with awesome people and share every time with them, and learn from them and teach a little bit. That's where DCamp came from, it’s that realization. DAVE: One of the most frustrating experiences I ever have was with Mountain West Ruby Conf, not with conference. Chuck and I were working together with the company and we had converted basically an entire company of PHP programmers to Ruby. They were complicit in their conversion and we convince them all to switch to Rails and Ruby, and I convinced the company to buy a ticket to every single one of them, for every single coder to come to Mountain West. The first year that we live streamed, and every single one of those SOBs -- except for me and Chuck -- stayed home and watched it on the live stream. I'm like, “Well, we got most of the conference because we watched it on video.” and I'm like, “You got 10% of the conference.” The whole reason is that I sat at this conference I'm sure there were these thing going back over my head, but because that is I was hacking, I was chatting with people and their whole point of, “I love podcasting with you when you don’t have a mic because you got a back channel up here and its messing with my head!” CHUCK: Now you know how I feel with the Skype chat channel that’s on the podcast. It’s funny because Jeff and Eric and Evan, like I will be introducing the podcast, and they’ll be typing random crap into the chat just to try and get me to trip up. It’s really, really funny. But any way, I roll back to something else that Dave was talking about where he said he only ever got a job through the side door. And if you go read “Get Clients Now”, you are going to figure out pretty fast that the whole purpose of getting that pipeline going, I mean you get people on the pipeline and you pursue them sure, but the real trick is getting them to come to you and ask you to work for them. It’s not the hard sell of, “You want me to work for you right? Are you sure? You need my help don’t you?” DAVE: It’s a combination, I think. If you want people to come to you, and have like website or blog and videos and all that stuff is great because it’s a credibility indicator. Like if you meet a stranger, like “Who is this guy? It’s like oh, its Chuck! This is the guy from Teach Me to Code!” Okay huge credibility indicator, but another big piece of it is while you are waiting for people to come to you, they give you this plan for manufacturing as many side doors as possible in the town that you are in. EVAN: You don’t listen to our podcast do you? We talked about that like episode one or two. DAVE: Well this podcast today is 50% Mormon, so I'm going to use the word  “tracting” knocking on the door, knocking on Tim’s door and say, hi what do you know? Oh it’s you. [Laughter] EVAN: Sorry. So I totally forgot what I was going to say. So, the important one, and I’ll admit that I'm a little disappointed that we don’t have too much of a live audience here. And the only reason that I am disappointed is that what a lot of people don’t get (and I understand as a full time employee, a little more five years, about 8 years ago) is that, the only difference between being a freelancer and a full time employee is whether you actually invest in your career, and get out and show people what it is that you like to do, and what you can do for them. Other because having people come to you and have them want you to work for them, getting that, I mean I get most of my clients that way, most come to me and I would not have it any other way. But that works for full time careers people too and I a lot people just don’t get that. DAVE: So I actually wanna say something. All the time. [Laughter] Just by default. So there's like 5 people on the room because we do this adhoc, and so I have actually uploaded a flicker picture of our audience which is just the center aisle which is the empty part the people on here at the sides. However, I'm getting tweet from people who are watching us on the live stream. So people watching in the live stream, I am checking twittr, so if you have any question for us send them to @dbrady on Twitter. EVAN: I have questions about poop. TIM: The only thing I hate more than hearing my own voice is watching myself on video. So now I'm now I'm aware of the camera that I was ignoring, thank you Dave. [Laughter] Networking is networking. And you should come and visit events because right now, maybe you are looking for work. Tomorrow, maybe you are looking to hire someone. Maybe in a year from now you want steady job. Building a network in a community and meeting your fellow Rubyists works whether its sales, works whether you are hiring -- it’s all the same. So going to the conference with the purpose of marketing, go to conference and meet people and network, it turns out you'll do marketing and hiring and everything else while you are doing that just as part of it. Are you guys going to read Tweets. . .? CHUCK: So one thing that I just wanna add to that is that, before I went freelance I had built quite a network. I mean through all the different things that I've been doing and I (yeah I did a talk with Ruby Conference and I also) I mean there are a whole bunch of other things that I done, (Teach Me to Code) but building that network made it way easier to find work when I actually did go freelance. Because I literally started just talking to people that I met through the conferences and through some of the other things that I have been doing. Basically it worked out and I was like, “Okay, I need work.” And so I had a few people offering to hire me freelance to get going. EVAN: But you are doing these things because you like doing them right? So when you stepped into freelancing, it was really more of a matter of stepping on the career that you wanted to do. CHUCK: Yeah, that is absolutely right. I mean if you’ve ever tried to maintain a blog, you realize how hard it is right? Or if you try and record a podcast every week, it’s hard. It’s fun; it’s a lot of fun. So you know I have guys like Evan and Eric and Jeff that come on and they like to talk and stuff, but ultimately they show up for an hour and they are done. I'm responsible for getting it edited, getting them show notes together, getting all that other stuff together, finding sponsors and doing all of the other work. So it’s really a lot of work. So unless you are committed to it, unless you like doing it then yeah it’s just kind of rough to get going, but it really pays off. Doing a podcast or speaking to a conference, the only difference is that doing it every week or every couple of weeks. DAVE: I just want add to that. That's the reason why ADDCasts is kind of up in the air suddenly on hiatus after only about 10 episodes, and Ruby Rogues is now past 40 episodes. My advice to everybody who wants to be on a podcast but doesn’t want the work of podcast, track Chuck down because he starts a new podcast every three months. CHUCK: That's about my track record, actually. I started this podcast and JavaScript Jabber within one week. TIM: Someone asked if I'm cold. Yes, Bryan I'm cold. I'm also hungry. So my belly is just sort of, “Eat him.” And then warm up. EVAN: That's why I put Dave next to me because we both need a little bit of extra meat, so Dave be eaten not me. CHUCK: So do us any other question from Twitter because if we don’t, then what I’ll probably do is just let us do some quick picks and then well go get lunch. DAVE: “What kind of tool sets would you guys recommend for freelancers?” TIM: Same ones for any other Rubyists. CHUCK: Right. I mean if you are talking about for running your business but even then a lot of companies out there are using something like Harvest. TIM: I use Harvest. Everyone uses QuickBooks, unfortunately. I hate Intuit in general, I hate QuickBooks but if you are at the point of actually having job contractors, and it’s sort of what you use supposedly the online version is better than that. CHUCK: Yeah I'm using the online version. I'm also using Harvest (sponsored the podcast thank you very much.) TIM: Alright. This is actually fantastic question from Twitter form Matt Nielsen, “I know you guys talked about this on Ruby Rogues before… Matt Nielson asked one of the most dangerous questions, If you got a W2 job, this is the question I get asked most as a freelancer by people with w2 jobs, “How do you get over the fear of losing your steady pay check?” And I can give a real quick answer for me which was, I have for a government contractor. I got laid off. So there is no way in heck I was going to lose that steady pay check and then bam, I lost the steady pay check. TIM: Savings? What a concept. One thing I discovered as a freelancer is you are going to get screwed w your taxes; you have to be very careful. So an accountant is definitely another thing. But just put 30% to 40% of everything you make on every pay check in saving. You'll be able to pay on IRS,  and actually have a little cushion too, because at first the  money will seem so good you are getting all these cash and you will realize, “Oh yeah, because I'm not getting self-employment tax taken out, etc. “ And it will bite you. So, ideally I’d say if you can save 50% of your money, 30% of that will go to IRS and the other 20% is like a cushion. You will not have steady work at first, so I advise people count on billing half of the time unless you are very lucky doing 20 hours a week. So, one, charge accordingly; and two, save like mad because you might go a month and where you are like, “Sweet I can go to the beach every day because I don’t have work.” CHUCK: There are definitely a lot of things. And we've talked about getting started when you can start maybe moonlighting or sub-contracting, part time and then you kind of move over to… so you can make the transition of at least having steady work. But I think it’s a mind-set thing. I don’t think it’s really like a money thing or risk thing or anything else, because what you really bring down to it’s just as risky for me to be on this job, while my boss can decides he hates my guts and fire me tomorrow; as it is to go and work for a client who may run on the money or have any other business problem and decide they can’t afford me. So the real deal is, you just kind of have to get past that mind-set. It’s kind of hard to do unless you are on the other side. Once you have been there, then it’s kind of that way. But for me, what really craft it for me was that I had two jobs that I loved, three jobs that I loved and then… but the third one that I loved got acquired and it turned to a job that I hated. Anyway, I could have stayed at the job I hated for as long as I wanted, they wanted me to stay. The ones that I really loved being at, they have money issues or direction problems and laid me off. So what it really came down to was, if I can have a job that I love and keep it, then I will be fine -- but I can’t do that. It just doesn’t work that way. And so for me it was, “Well, let me see if I can create a job that I love.” And that's where I wound up. DAVE: That word right there “create”. If you think about it, if you work at a w2 job, and you are terrified of unemployment, it is because you haven’t learned to hack the hiring process or hack sales and marketing or networking. When I first started out, I felt as a freelancer a couple of times because I wasn’t willing to go learn sales and marketing and network, that sort of thing. And now that I have a pretty good hand around it, I have absolutely no fear of losing my steady pay check, because I am now in complete control of the hiring process. If you are working w2, you are not in control of your career -- you are here by someone else’s whim. EVAN: Okay. So let’s back up a little bit. The one word that I keep hearing all the time that people are dressing directly is “fear”. It’s not about necessarily money. It’s not about the risk of being unemployed. It’s not any of that, it’s about being afraid. I don’t remember the delicious Mark Twain quote something about ninety million debts; (you guys probably know which I mean). TIM: Heroes die at one breath, and cowards die a thousand, something like that? EVAN: That wasn’t Mark Twain he has a much more than that. I don’t remember it, unfortunately. So what it comes down to (I always come back to mindfulness practice with regard to business stuff some point or another) is understanding yourself because everyone has different fears. So you need to understand what is it you are afraid of, and then you just have to start knocking them down one at a time. If you are afraid of not having enough money to be able to take care of your wife, then you save money. If you are also afraid of not having money, and what you do is don’t have any debt pay your credit card every month. You don’t let yourself spend more than you take in. Pretty simple things for me at least, I didn’t become a freelancer until I have a nice big… well, in short I can be unemployed for up to a year and not worry. Well, I worry about it because I worry about I start running as soon as I don’t have work even though I have savings, I just hate spending it. But it’s all about finding out what you are afraid of and confronting it -- which is a good thing to do as a human anyway. TIM: It turns out that I'm terrified on working at the same product for two years as a freelancer. Doing what you love and being able to sell people on it, is you have to really be willing to be a freelancer, you have to be willing to be in the… and this is why I'm doing this. This is why I find it easy to pitch because I love helping people build products ideas. People will be like, “Well, do you believe this product?” Well I'm like, “I don’t have to.” I believe in it if the person I am helping believes in it strong enough, and I know that they will pivot and they’ll keep going. I love helping them out, and so because of that it makes it easier for me to not think of it as sales or marketing per se, but as I'm trying to find people that need my help and that I can help out. And I love doing that enough. Then all of a sudden, that fear of having to be a sales guy goes away but instead, I'm looking for, “Who in this room can I help out?” And then that's kind of easy to do. CHUCK: Right so you are not looking for client you are looking for a partner? TIM: Well, client technically but yeah, basically. CHUCK: One more question from Twitter, and then well do picks. DAVE: “How do you approach clients who don’t have tests or continuous integration, and need to be moved in that direction?” I have to good answer to this but I’ll leave it, I’ll open it first. CHUCK: So ill jump on this really quickly. One thing that I have found is that (and you don’t play this card directly) but indirectly, you can kind of imply that, “I'm a technical expert, I understand how this stuff works and you need this in order for me to effectively work.”  You can then start evangelizing the benefits that they are going to get from it, but you have to have that level of trust first. And if they are  not seeing you, “This is my technical expert on this project,” try to tell that they need to change something, that is really hard. EVAN: First off, I don’t wanna answer this question, but I want to go back to what you were just saying before one last thing I have to get in. That is the whole concept of doing what you love. And don’t become a freelancer because you want to get rich. You can earn more money, (Okay Chuck is laughing,  Dave is nodding his head furiously), you can work as many hours as a full time person and earn more money, but you will lose a lot of hair like Dave and Chuck -- or it will go gray like mine. Or maybe you will have strange jewellery like Tim. I don’t know. He doesn’t have it today. It’s all gone now. You get into freelancing because you do what you love, and you wanna have more control, more choice about what it is that you do. If you are doing what you love, you are going to perform better than you did when you were just a full time slob. You can get a job as full time slob, and doing something that you love also, but the trouble is you do have less control in your career that way. It’s just a matter of, if you can do what you love, you’ll do better and your career will be better at it -- and you will be happier. Back to the Tweet, what was the question? TIM: How do you approach. . . EVAN: Chuck, was approaching it from the positional subtlety. I don’t do subtle. I usually tell them, you don’t have tests, your entire code base is legacy code; you have no proof that anything actually works. So any changes that I make will allow it to break anything in your application. Not necessarily that I am  shitty coder, but I test for TDD for a reason I wrote much better code when I have test backing me up and I know that I'm free to change things. So for clients who do not have tests, I would insist every new bit of code I write has test. Anything that I touch will get tests. It’s that simple. If they won’t do it, I wouldn’t work with them. I have standards. I would not deviate from some of them. TIM: I was going to say, I'm increment list on the panel because I approach it as a positively of saying, Hey, it’s good that they don’t have test, but the things I will help them with which is yeah this is a problem, you don’t have test but I don’t try to say, “Oh, we don’t have to retest everything in there but when you write new code, it will have test.” And wherever I have a chance to when I’m touching old code, I will at least write characterization test that cover it, and this will put you even if we didn't get through all the features, your code base will be better off for it. EVAN: You are saying the same thing I am. TIM: That's why I said “positively”. Everything is an angle that you can put on and say, “Hey, here’s how I can help you out.” And this is a sign; maybe too much I'm becoming an… I should go back to school or something. But everything is an angle to point out, “Hey, this is how I can help you.” And so take that negative, and say, “This sucks.” But I would be better when you are done. DAVE: So I got a little bit older as a programmer because now, I like Chuck’s position and go in and say, you need to say, so as an older programmer, I guess I get to come in with a little bit (this is for the live stream by the way) [Laughter] I mean I get to come in and basically be a little bit more of an authority figure and people taking more of my word. So, if I come in, I started unit testing when I was like 25 or 28, and I was the young upstart on most teams. And so my view is for young upstart ideas, so they will reject it. So, for those of you that are over 40, just say “Because I said so.” Now I'm going to take what Evan said, and give you two specific things that you can do to help people that aren’t testing: the first thing is to be aware that not testing is about ego. People don’t wanna test their code because they don’t wanna believe that the code might not work. That's just a foolish, stupid and wrong idea. That's my talk from yesterday on It’s a very left brain. “I know what I know and I what don’t know, I refuse to exist.” So what you need is something that you can say, that they know is provably true and absolutely certain and it’s this, if you write so many lines of code, you are going to add so many bugs. If you are somebody who doesn’t test code, you just double the chance that you are going to write a bug that is true. That is true in exactly the same way that it is true, that if you work a math problem, there is a certain amount of creating an error. If you go back and check your math, you have increased the chance that you have caused a math error. But you have actually, significantly decreased the chance of getting the wrong answer. So when people say chances that it might cause errors, I say it’s checking your math. TIM: You don’t have to be 40 to bring it all the way back around, all you have to do is come speak in conferences, build your name and then people will come to you saying, “We don’t have tests,” would fix them or can be you as the expert. And then you will say, “The first thing you need to do is fix this.” DAVE: That's just a really good. Go read Get Clients Now. You can be 25, and walk into a room and say so you are testing… because I said so. And If you have brought up enough credibility by contributing to open source, and got lucky and won the fame lottery, people will say, “Yes, sir!” CHUCK: Alright. Well let’s go ahead and get into the picks. We didn't warn Tim ahead of time. Basically, what a pick is a couple of things; they can be products, movies, TV shows, we pick all kinds of stuff but basically it’s just anything that you can make your life easier. Sometimes related to what we talked about, sometimes it’s not. At Ruby Rogues, Josh will come back around and say, “Okay this is what I'm watching in Netflix.” So I mean it really can be anything. I’ll go ahead and get started first. I was playing around with some stuff I've been talking with people about CRMs and I used “Highrise” quite long time ago, and I just couldn’t get a solid work flow. I think the problem was that I was using Gmail and Highrise. They really don’t talk to each other automatically. So what I've done is I went out and started looking at what options there were for tying together, and I found out this software called “Yesware“ And what it is, is it’s actually a widget that I goes into your Gmail, and you can track all of the different deals that you are looking on in there. But the other thing that it does is it adds like count responses to your reply, so you can reply and you click the category. And so you can pick the ones that that way except you are using to click your buttons typing in character sequences. The other thing that's nice is that it adds an automatic BCC to Dropbox, and you can turn that on and off just by checking and unchecking. So it’s really handy that way. It’s actually improved my workflow in tracking the deals that I have going, so that I know which ones I'm working on, know which ones I've won, know which ones I've lost and I can keep track of that. I found that it only works for me in Chrome, I only use MailPlane for my email, but I've had when I'm doing this kind of email work I actually have to do it in Chrome, because I have to add extensions and install. So that is kind of a downside but my picks this week are Highrise and Yesware -- just because they have been working well for me. EVAN: This week I actually have a piece of software. I've been using an app for my iPhone called “Happiness” by Good To Hear Ltd. This is actually the second version of their app. The first vision didn't have UI but had more functionality. So the point of the app is when you are happy or unhappy about something, you just go into it and on a scale of 1-5 positive or 1-5 negative, you just give a score and you put some tags on it, “This is what made me feel this way.” And it gives you a chart or something like that which shows you proportionately what things have affected you, how they have affected you. And it’s been somewhat interesting and revealing for me to in some cases get validation to the things that I think tick me off the most. In other cases, some little things in my life just proportionally piss me off.  (No, Chuck doesn’t piss me off. But Dave is an asshole.) So I kind of dig this app because I don’t reflect as much on how I feel like I should. So it’s a good reminder to know how things have been going and what has been happening with the things I've been doing. It’s like a very light weight journaling system that I found effective and it helps me course correct a little in life. DAVE: I like to think of myself as an asshole joke. EVAN: Asshole joke? DAVE: Where did poop jokes come from? [Laughter] Yes, so that's a joke really. DAVE: Okay, so I have two picks. One, I have given on another podcast which I will not name because I've called this podcast that one so many times. But there is a fantastic book by Martin Seligman called “Learned Optimism”. It is the most incredible book for hacking happiness in your brain. The biggest problem on this book is that it’s very hard to give it to someone, because you are calling them a pessimist or you are saying, “You need this.” “What it is that?” “This book will make you happy.” It’s just amazing because it really gets into the science of optimism and pessimism, and how to actually hack it and change it in yourself. My second pick is a technical one which is SendGrid. If you are freelancing especially if you are like working in a consulting shop, if you are freelancing, you need to try and step up your game and try to act like you are a consultant shop. Sendgrid is an email delivery system and basically, you can buy and get them in Thunderbird and send your mail through Sendgrid. Basically, what they do is they give you back metrics. They tell you how many people opened our mail, how many people clicked on your link, they give analytics on what you did. And if you are a one person shop and if you have 50 friends or hundred acquaintances, and you are looking to fill the pipe line (that could be another poop joke if you want) if you are looking to fill the pipeline, you can send out this and you can find out what works and what doesn’t and what you can measure, you can manage. It’s a fantastic way to go. TIM: The best reminder replacement ever, the original, the notebook. I've always started carrying the notebooks that fits in my pocket because it actually takes less time to take it out and write something down than it does to enter a reminder. So I use reminders for like my tasks of when I sit down during the day and I go over my notes and put on like make my next day’s to-do list. I don’t have a fancy gtd folded thing just a notebook that you can put in your pocket. EVAN: I don’t have fancy GTD software because I never wanna lose the things I write down in my notebook because I always lose notebooks. But never use my phone permanently. TIM: That can be a problem, definitely. And I do a combo; I use reminders also because it’s nice to have it in iCal and everyone else. But sort of the urgent task, your handy I can’t fit in the my book sheet I'm not going to get through with that day. CHUCK: Alright will thanks guys that was terrific. So we’ve been doing this for about an hour that's usually when we wrap up. So, I just wanna thank you guys once again. Really quickly, since we are all kind of doing the freelance or running a little consultancy or something, were just going to go down the line and you can tell people how to find you if they wanna hire you. So I think the best way to go for me right now is Up in the top right, there is my email address and phone number. So if you do need some freelance help or some help with like node sql or things like that, then I'm definitely available for that. EVAN: I actually make myself extremely difficult to reach, that way I know that my clients really wanna work with me that badly. No, I'm just kidding (damn it, no one laughed at that one.) DAVE: [Chuckles] EVAN: Thanks, Dave. If you wanna get hold of me, it will just be and Triple Dog Dare is my company, yes. DAVE: Do you have a catch all at EVAN: Yeah I think I do. DAVE: Okay, so you can reach Evan at ihave*** EVAN: Or, I think that will all come in the same place, which is straight to hell. DAVE: You can find me at I'm and so we also have a catch-all so you can send email to and I would happy to reply. Slide Rule Labs, the motto we have is “We fix $5 haircut.” We’ll give you a fantastic haircut, and we’ll come in and train your barber. TIM: I'm “timocractic” everywhere -- on Twitter, GitHub, Gmail etc. etc. EVAN: Oh yeah, so Twitter’s Charles is @cmaxw, I’m @elight, David is asshole—I mean, @dbrady and you already got @timocratic. CHUCK: Alright well, thanks again guys, and thanks for everybody on the lived feed. And if you are catching this in the RSS feed of off iTunes or something, you can find us there. You can get the past shows and definitely if you are in iTunes, you are checking out the podcast, leave us a review, let us know your thoughts and well catch you all next week!

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