The Ruby Freelancers Show 040 – Grab Bag
Panel Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Evan Light (twitter github blog) Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code) Discussion 01:28 - What do you do when prospective clients only want to hire you full-time? Employees vs Contractors On-site work 08:35 - How to get clients from a different country or timezone Enforcing contracts Marketing 13:49 - Do people hire you because you’re specifically a “Ruby” freelancer? 21:02 - What types of jobs do you accept and what types do you refuse? Will the project be successful? 30:35 - What types of jobs are you getting from Ruby on Rails? 33:35 - How do you deal with uncertainty or risk when writing a Statement of work? Identify risky areas Be as specific as possible 39:25 - Building LinkedIn recommendations Testemonials 43:32 - Working on a retainer Support Agreements/On Call work Picks Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone (Eric) Nexus 7 (Evan) SCOTTEVEST Fleece 7.0 Jacket (Evan) Twitter Bootstrap (Chuck) Downton Abbey (Chuck) Rails Ramp Up (Chuck) Transcript CHUCK: Yes, I put my microphone right on my face. So you get all of the good noises that come out of my mouth. [Are you a busy Ruby developer who wants to take their freelance business to the next level? Interested in working smarter not harder? Then check out the upcoming book “Next Level Freelancing - Developer Edition Practical Steps to Work Less, Travel and Make More Money”. It includes interviews and case studies with successful freelancers, who have made a killing by expanding their consultancy, develop passive income through informational products, build successful SaaS products, and become rockstar consultants making a minimum of $200/hour. There are all kinds of practical steps on getting started and if you sign up now, you’ll get 50% off when it’s released. You can find it at nextlevelfreelancing.com][hosting and bandwidth provided by the blue box group. check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 40 of the Ruby Freelancers Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: We also have Evan Light. EVAN: Hello CHUCK: And I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. This week we're going to kind of work through some of the questions that have been put on our user voice panel. There are a handful of them that we don't think necessarily merit a full show. Meaning that, we don't know if we could talk about them for a full hour so we'll just ask some of the questions and then work our way through them. So the first question that I see that I want to go over is "what do you do when prospects only want you as a full time employee?" And there's a bit more to this, Bryan Ray put it up and it says "I'm pretty new to freelancing. I moonlight in pretty much all of my prospects in the past couple of months, seemed interested after a couple of conversations, but eventually they are only looking for full time employees right now. Either full time or 30-40 hours a contract work, which at that point you're basically an employee working for one client's stricter hours indefinite work as opposed to distinct projects, etc. I'm pretty sure it's due to the fact that I can't dedicate many hours per week right now. Do you guys run into this problem? Or did you when you first started out?" EVAN: For me, I tend to work for one big client to one smaller client at a time so I'm not quite fulltime with a client, but I tend to dedicate a lot of time to one client, but not fulltime. And I've gotten some people who want me to work fulltime and I generally try to avoid those period. If they said that's what they want, usually they're inflexible on it, then I just move on find someone else. At least that's been my experience. ERIC: It's been a bit different. I did, I think it was 2 up to maybe 4 or 5 clients at a time for a while there.
CHUCK: Yes, I put my microphone right on my face. So you get all of the good noises that come out of my mouth. [Are you a busy Ruby developer who wants to take their freelance business to the next level? Interested in working smarter not harder? Then check out the upcoming book “Next Level Freelancing - Developer Edition Practical Steps to Work Less, Travel and Make More Money”. It includes interviews and case studies with successful freelancers, who have made a killing by expanding their consultancy, develop passive income through informational products, build successful SaaS products, and become rockstar consultants making a minimum of $200/hour. There are all kinds of practical steps on getting started and if you sign up now, you’ll get 50% off when it’s released. You can find it at nextlevelfreelancing.com] [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at bluebox.net] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 40 of the Ruby Freelancers Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hello! CHUCK: We also have Evan Light. EVAN: Hello CHUCK: And I'm Charles Max Wood from devchat.tv. This week we're going to kind of work through some of the questions that have been put on our user voice panel. There are a handful of them that we don't think necessarily merit a full show. Meaning that, we don't know if we could talk about them for a full hour so we'll just ask some of the questions and then work our way through them. So the first question that I see that I want to go over is "what do you do when prospects only want you as a full time employee?" And there's a bit more to this, Bryan Ray put it up and it says "I'm pretty new to freelancing. I moonlight in pretty much all of my prospects in the past couple of months, seemed interested after a couple of conversations, but eventually they are only looking for full time employees right now. Either full time or 30-40 hours a contract work, which at that point you're basically an employee working for one client's stricter hours indefinite work as opposed to distinct projects, etc. I'm pretty sure it's due to the fact that I can't dedicate many hours per week right now. Do you guys run into this problem? Or did you when you first started out?" EVAN: For me, I tend to work for one big client to one smaller client at a time so I'm not quite fulltime with a client, but I tend to dedicate a lot of time to one client, but not fulltime. And I've gotten some people who want me to work fulltime and I generally try to avoid those period. If they said that's what they want, usually they're inflexible on it, then I just move on find someone else. At least that's been my experience. ERIC: It's been a bit different. I did, I think it was 2 up to maybe 4 or 5 clients at a time for a while there. And it would fluctuate like some would be just a one of project, some would come and then go and then come back later. Right now, though, I'm basically doing fulltime for one client, and it's working pretty good. But I think the other side of it is there's some clients that want like a fulltime person on-site, basically bot and C-type programmer. And the whole on-site thing, I'm not flexible on. I basically decided I want to work where I'm most effective and I know that's at home where I'm comfortable with my tools, my equipment. And so if they want an on-site fulltime thing, I basically pass on it. If they're okay with the remote and maybe come in every now and then, like once a month for just a synch-up or whatever. But full-time hours -- I would kind of consider based on like "what kind of revenue am I looking at to have other clients? How much do I want to work?" that sort of thing. And it could end up being that I might work fulltime for 3 months and then take a month off. But I think there's two separate questions kind of hidden in there. CHUCK and JIM: Yeah. CHUCK: I think as far as I go with the 30-40 hours contract work, since it seems like that's what most of us deal with, I'm more along the lines with what Eric said. I mean for a long time I would just tell people "look, I can't give you 40 hours a week", but I'd somehow wound up on this contract and it seems to be working out alright. It is still hard to get off 40 hours that they want every week with the podcast and other things going on, but for the most part it's worked out well. The money is good. The people I'm working with are pretty awesome. So it has worked out. I don't know if I'd want to do this like for the full year. That's something that I'm kind of running up against right now is they want to renew and I'm trying to decide if I want to commit to another 6 months or whatever of this fulltime thing because it's stressful, because it's a lot of work. EVAN: Or stressful because they put constraints on you because if you have to work 40 hours, you might have to work some of those on their schedule, I assume, too, that you need to be there all day or during certain hours. CHUCK: Yeah for certain meetings and things. There's a general expectation that you're around during regular work hours and, they're on the East Coast, so they're 2 hours off for me anyway. But yeah, it does kind of get interesting, but I can't say that's it's been awful. EVAN: It's also a legally shady area that a lot of employers find themselves in because the "what connote to them flavors versus what connotes a contractor" is a fuzzy line. And the more constraints they place on you, the more that they're vulnerable to you being designated as an employee by the IRS, for example. CHUCK: And that's something that neither you nor they want. EVAN: Right. CHUCK: Because they get nailed for basically for half of your self-employment tax and for -- ERIC: And then penalties for not reporting it and all that stuff [inaudible]. It's nasty for them and it's nasty for you. CHUCK: Yeah because then you're in the spot where you got a W2, that you may or may not know exactly how you want to deal with. You can't treat 3 things the same way because you're an employee, not a business where you're making your own business expenses and things like that. For the most part though, if you're working from home, you have your own business entity, you're using your own equipment, and they don't put a lot of constraints on when you have to be around, it's like "we're having these meetings" maybe and that's it, I think you're pretty safe. But you're definitely going to want to talk to a tax professional if you're worried about any of that. If they go 30-40 hours, talk to your accountant; maybe to a tax attorney and just make sure that you're good there. I don't want us to represent ourselves as knowing exactly where that line is. EVAN: Right. There I said it. ERIC: So yeah I mean, my kind of advice is if they want a fulltime employee like on-site, that's very sketchy. It's going to be really hard to say you're not an employee, and I personally decide that's the line for me like "no, I won't do that". If they want like fulltime hours, and I could put those hours in however I want, and typically also if I'm willing to do the work and I don't have other commitments, I might consider it. But for the most part, it's a lot of risk, it's really hard; unless there's a lot of good upsides, I usually don't choose those things, and rather kind of project work or like kind of part-time longer term stuff. CHUCK: Yeah one other thing I want to point out is that, I don't have a problem going on-site, but only for like a week out of every few months or something like that, where it's an arrangement where I'm not there all the time. And that's where I really worry about getting into that grayer area, because at that point they're providing everything, except basically my laptop. Are there any other things that we want to talk about? If they're asking for an employee, do ever try and pitch them toward freelancing or -- EVAN: Sure! It's just that I don't spend a lot of effort on it because I don't expect them to be interested, but I just put it out there as an opportunity. If they want to pull that, well then great; if they say "sorry, we're only looking for an employees, then that's fine, too! CHUCK: Usually it's a lot of work to educate them if they want an employee as to why it might be a good idea to pick up a consultant or contractor. EVAN: Yes. CHUCK: So I generally take the same approach as you. If they want a fulltime employee, then I'll say "I'm happy to backfill until you find somebody or how trained (or whatever), just let me know how you want to contract that". Yeah, I don't chase it too much now. Alright, should we go on to another question? Or is there another angle on that that we want to hit? ERIC: That's good. EVAN: That's good, next issue! CHUCK: Okay. So the next question is: How to get clients from a different country or different time zone? Honestly, I really haven't had any issues with this. And by not had any issues, I mean I've had contracts with people in China, Singapore -- EVAN: China? [laughs] CHUCK: I have Hong Kong; I've had few people talk to me in Europe, people across the US. It really doesn't tend to be that big a deal unless they want to set up a meeting time of some kind. I'm in talks with a guy in Australia right now, and he actually likes it because he gets to talk to me in the morning, and I get to talk to him in the evening after I'm done working for the client that I'm doing lots of my work for. But -- EVAN: One thing I'd be -- sorry you're still got.. CHUCK: No, it's fine. You're probably going to say something along the lines of what my only concern really is with it, and that is if they're outside the country and I have a contract with them -- EVAN: Bingo! How do you enforce it? CHUCK: How do you enforce it...yup! EVAN: You got it! [laughs] CHUCK: But most of these folks, they're either pretty good about pre-paying or you just get into a place with them where you have a relationship or you're comfortable with them, but yeah, it is. I don't know exactly how you would enforce it if they're out of country. I did a contract with a guy in Dubai, and I did about $8,000 worth of work for him and I got a $4,000 deposit, and that's all I ever got. Of course he never got any code, but that's all you really have to hold over him so -- EVAN: Yeah, that's right. CHUCK: So that's the only thing that I've seen is, because I held the code in collateral until he paid me. EVAN: Sure. And that's often what I -- You look for some kind of leverage basically because the contract's only going to do you so much good. Even in the States, the contracts won't going to do you so much good because, unless it's a lot of money, is it really good to be worth your time to push through it? CHUCK: Yeah. I did a contract with somebody in Canada. In fact I've done it with two people; the one person, she was really good about paying me, the other guy stiffed me. And I really don't know how many recourse; I can't send them to collections or anything. It does happen, and it is painful. So if you're really concerned about it, what I would recommend is either get them to pay upfront before you do the work so basically you're just working off with a prepaid, or use some extra service so that they get code delivered and you get money delivered at the same time. EVAN: This sounds like a little bit off to me. I think the original question was just "how do you get clients in different parts of the world?" At least that's what the original question sounded like. But the answer to that one just seems to be universally, well, marketing. CHUCK: Yup. Yeah, exactly. For me, it was people that found one on my podcast or something, and they just happen to be in that part of the world. EVAN: Next issue! CHUCK: So Eric put one in the chat, and I really like it... ERIC: Well that's the same one that's actually a little bit more context around it. CHUCK: Oh, it is? ERIC: Yeah. CHUCK: Okay so it says "He'll mention that you'll talk about clients. A lot of --" EVAN: [laughs] That's a different problem, do you want us to talk about that one? [laughs] CHUCK: Yeah. "...A lot of people wanting to be freelancers are doing so because the local industry sucks. In my city or country, the market for software project is small with low budgets like payments and it's already saturated by all kinds of consults. So here's what I --" ERIC: Yeah, sounds like marketing. CHUCK: Yeah, it is. It really is! And it's about differentiating yourself so that you can get the clients that you want. Any other angles or things to talk about there? EVAN: Talk at conferences that are in some place that you want to work or have clients in. In marketing, it's "get people in that area" (if you're targeting area), you get those people to know you. And so you do that however suits you best, which is go [inaudible] clients the ones that helps tell you how to do best [laughs] CHUCK: Yup. Absolutely. EVAN: I'm sorry to fall back on the recipe of "go look at stuff we've talked about before", but that's all I've got... CHUCK: No, it's okay. I actually have several friends that do that. The one that comes to mind is somebody that I talked to on a regular basis. His name's Cliff Ravenscraft and he has a podcastanswerman.com and has a podcast there about podcasting, and that's what he does. He's usually pretty polite, but at the same time says "Hey, I get people asking me questions like this all the time. I really want to help them, but at this point I get so many emails, I just can't. But just so you know, your answer is over here if you want it. And then if you need more clarification, then call back in and I'll see if I can answer it on a future show". EVAN: And seeing his other show is the Grab Bag...[laughs] CHUCK: Yup. Well his show usually is a Grab Bag, questions of people have about it. So, I'm going to skip the one about an attorney because I actually want to get an attorney on the show to talk about that. EVAN: Huh! Interesting. CHUCK: I want to get an attorney on to tell us what they can do for us, not just us tell people what we've used them for. EVAN: They can charge us lots of more money than we charge our clients. CHUCK: Yes. In many instances, that is very true. [laughter] CHUCK: So here's a question: "Do call yourselves "Ruby Freelancers" or something else? And then the follow up is: "Do people hire you because you're a freelancer? Or because you can build, solve, fix X and you preferred hammer, happens to be Ruby? I'm considering going into freelancing in a few months and I don't think there's much local demand for Ruby work explicitly, but I'm sure there's demand for people, for business systems internet, CRM, inventory telephony (whatever), or a man shops that could be built with Ruby". ERIC: I like rock star, I'm a rock star. EVAN: Well, how about ninja or a pirate? ERIC: Pirate-ninja-rock star -- EVAN: Pirate-ninja-rock star? ERIC: Yes. CHUCK: [laughs] I like it. EVAN: Well, first I would argue that there's actually quite a bit of Ruby work out there. It's just that, again marketing, you just have to be known so it finds you. But there is quite a bit of it. ERIC: And a lot does not advertises Ruby work as all just advertises "we need help" or "software development" or "we have a project that need Mes Queuing type stuff" -- EVAN: But secondly...I don't know. I won't say I'd market myself in any one way. I've taken the use of the term code gem because I consider it ironic and because I timidly fix a lot of people's code or haven't gotten them having to fix another people's code and have a perverse ticket for pleasuring it. I've been working mostly or almost entirely in Ruby for many years now, but I have no version to doing it in other language which is I just keep getting pulled in to do it in Ruby. And occasionally, I do get pulled in just to consult on technical things in general, not just Ruby. But yeah, I don't say I'm a "Ruby" freelancer, I say that I'm a freelance software developer. I am [laughs] the [inaudible], making jokes in the chat room of -- CHUCK: [laughs] You should just read that, it's pretty funny. EVAN: And that's [inaudible], so I'm done [laughs]. CHUCK: The thing is, I typically bill myself when I'm talking to people as a software consultant. I tell them I specialize in building web-based applications, usually in Ruby. I do have expertise in Java script and -- When I just kind of explain it that way, it seems like a good chunk of my clients that I've worked for in the past have a -- You guys are really distracting! [laughter] EVAN: At least, it's not just me [laughter]. CHUCK: So anyway -- EVAN: It's to finally got Chuck! It's taken months! CHUCK: [laughs] So anyway...So one of the clients that I've worked for for over a year, he found me because he was looking for somebody who could build a Twitter clone. And it also worked out that his brother in law had recommended that he look into Ruby on Rails, and so I kind of got the best of both worlds there. And some of the other cases, it's really just been "Hey I need a CRM or some other thing as CMS. Can you build it for me or can you modify the system that already does this?" So I've done a little bit of work with spree and a little bit of work with some of the other software out there, and then just done some customization on it. So it depends. I mean, sometimes they just want the problem solved; in another cases, they're actually looking for somebody with Ruby expertise. That make it works both ways. It just depends on what people are looking for. If they're looking for a Ruby person, then Ruby freelancer probably work for you. If they're looking for consultant that can solve the problem, then targeting that particular problem in the way that you address yourself is going to bring them to your door. ERIC: The way I've been kind of doing it is I've been freelance Rails developer, because basically Rails is the bigger chunk of all the stuff and I've been doing it for a long time. So it's like that's kind of how I would market myself and then yeah, I can do non-Rails stuff like sinatra stuff here and there. But I typically won't take on PHP, I typically restrict it to just Ruby or technically Java script, too. And so I kind of branded that just more as a filter, but -- I mean it's also like I can go look for like something I put like on my homepage and then have a description of my services that would go on to more depth about what I do. But it's kind of hard to say like I'm a "Ruby" freelancer", it's very vague and it speaks the technology not actually the problem that a client might have. And so this person might be good like if they've been doing serum systems for a long time - sander, web serum, system developer might be a better angle for them to do. That would be something to look in to into the markets and what demand in there is, too. EVAN: I guess when I'm marketing myself, I say "code generator", I say that "I mentor developers", I say that "I write new apps". I don't necessarily just use a title. I guess I just describe, I try to describe in a nutshell, the various things I tend to do for people. And I don't usually say "Ruby Freelancer", I just usually say "Freelance Developer" or something like that if someone just wants to know in two words of what I do. ERIC: That's a good point. Because actually, I'm talking about some of my wife's co-workers at a dinner the other night, I basically said that I run a software company where I build web applications. Like that's how I described it. And when they talk to me, I was like "Yeah, I use Ruby on Rails" because this person knew a bit about software, his brother was in hardware or something. And so, I was able to kind of gave him more depth but I basically kind of take it as high levels "I can". The big thing for me is web applications, not websites or web designs, and not like just app software, if people still make that stuff. CHUCK: One other thing though that I want to point out is that when you're talking to people, you really have to focus what you do one way or the other. You can be general and say "I build web pages" or whatever, but on the web and on your website, you can brand it (in) all kinds of different ways and target those to different audiences and then try and bring them the traffic using different techniques for each one. You have to be narrow in your message, but you can put out multiple messages for different audiences. ERIC: Two point, yeah. You can have different pages for different audiences, but if you have a -- CHUCK: That's what I'm saying. ERIC: If you try to do too many messages, you can get [inaudible]. So I would try to take like in your mind what you want to be and then see if you can expand out from that, maybe one or two lines and make that kind of a cluster of how you want to do your branding or naming stuff. And also at the same time, it might not even matter like it might just be over thinking the problem. CHUCK: Yeah. In a lot of cases, it may just be enough - "Hey, I'm a Ruby person that you can hire to work for you 20 hours a week". So it really just depends on where your audience is looking and what would it get you. The next question is: "What types of jobs do you accept? And what types of jobs do you refuse?" And further it says "What types of jobs do people approach Ruby and/or Ruby on Rails freelancers to implement? There was a panelist on The Rates Show mentioned that his company gets a lot of jobs to fix for the implemented Rails Apps. Is that common? Do you get people asking you to make websites? Is it mostly businesses doing ecommerce? Is there any pattern or trends that you see about the types of jobs that you get?" So it seems like it's two questions because "what types of jobs do you accept and what types of jobs do you refuse" sounds more like when do you say yes and when do you say no. And then the other question is "what types of jobs are you getting for Ruby on Rails?" EVAN: Great. CHUCK: So what makes a job worth accepting of refusing? Let's go with that one first. ERIC: There's the obvious of "is this client going to pay me; do they seem shady" type stuff. But for me, my thing is this: it has to be a web application. Most of the time I always try to do business-type of web applications like not that it goes to consumers just because this consumers startups stuff, I don't have an inch of interest in and they're kind of harder to do where like B2B stuff, it's a little bit easier. I've been doing B2B stuff for years, that's easier to think about. Stuff I refuse, a lot of the pioneest guy dreaming of Facebook 2.0 stuff I refuse just because it's -- I don't know...I mean sure it's funny but I don't mind. CHUCK: You know how many of those I've done? [Chuck laughs] EVAN: [laughs] Okay I'm not laughing at you, Eric. I'm just laughing because I've been there [laughs]. CHUCK: Yup. Oh, yeah. [Evan laughs] ERIC: It's probably funny for some people and it's probably a rush and I'm sure there's some great applications and stuff there, it's just -- it's not for me. [Evan coughs] ERIC: I mean I've tried it, I've never enjoyed it. It's always felt like a hamster little for me. And so -- CHUCK: My thing is, so I've taken some of those jobs. I mean honestly, you hit the main points where they going to pay, is the project interesting, that kind of thing. But I've taken those kinds of jobs, the Facebook 2.0 or the Twitter 2.0 or whatever, and the thing that I really like about them is that they usually have some interesting things to fix or change in them. Now when the client that I did the Twitter Clone for came to me, I was ready to tell him no. And the reason was because -- I was trying to explain to him "Look, you have this thing out there called Twitter that does what you're telling me you want your thing to do because you said Twitter Clone! And you realized Twitter isn't making any money so if there are going to make money at this, you know what, (it) makes you special". And he had an interesting spin to it. Now if he had actually had a real good vision of where he wanted it to go and what his business model was, I think it probably would have been released by now. But he doesn't know how to sell it, he doesn't know all of these other things. I feel kind of guilty for having done that much work and have had input that much money into it just to have it not go anywhere. And he's got somebody else working on it now, but -- EVAN: If I (heard it) all right, at the time when you started working for him, you were convinced that he had a shot... CHUCK: Yes. And -- EVAN: So in that case, you have done what you thought was reasonable due diligence, it's just that -- what I like to tell people (is) I know software development teams, I know software, but I don't know what makes a successful startup necessarily. I might have some insight into it -- just like you as you have some insight into it, I'm sure -- so you didn't necessarily hold the tools to evaluate whether you're successful; you just base on what you knew. CHUCK: Yeah and...I don't know, I still feel kind of guilty. I have another guy that I built the social network for that was based around assigning and reporting on tasks to be done. And same kind of thing, I feel a little bit guilty because it never came to fruition, it never happened for him. I did this before the Twitter clone and he really didn't have a business model around it, at least not one that he explained to me so that I could start thinking about how to build it in. I think the idea was that he was going to have company sign up for it or something. But again, If I don't see it as something that's going to be a success, I'm not going to work for these folks just because they're going to pay me. EVAN: Right. CHUCK: And that's kind of where I'm driving at. So, hopefully something -- EVAN: I knew there was a reason. I like you, Chuck. CHUCK: So hopefully there's a win in there for them and a win in there for me in the sense that we get something out there that people are using that they're excited about that solves the problem in the market; or at least that they can launch and say "Hey I have this business plan behind it", and then it can win or fail on its own. But I want to take something to really [inaudible]; I don't want to just take your money until you're out of money and then "Oh well, shocks! This thing didn't work." EVAN: I think it would be easy to be that guy who says "Well someone else is going to take their money so better me than them", but I'm completely with you there. I will not do a project just to get money, just to get paid if I'm convinced it'll fail. I've spent way too many years working for the government on projects that should have succeeded and didn't, or projects that never really had much of a chance to (sorry, my phone), so (I'm) completely with you there. But first again, I'd stop and say this is just a great question because this is the "please give us completely self-serving answers" question, isn't it? [Chuck laughs] EVAN: Really! It's the "tell us what kinds of projects you've accepted, which ones you don't" so please advertise to us on the podcast. [laughs] ERIC: Oh wait! Can I take my answer and redo it? [laughter] EVAN: Do you have some copy or you should have read during that section there -- "According to my website --" [laughter] EVAN: For me, one of the first and most important thing is that someone that I want to work with. It's not just "will they pay me". Even before I get to the "will they pay me", what's my first impression of the person. Is this someone who I feel comfortable talking to or uncomfortable talking to; if you feel uncomfortable, why? And at the same time, there's of course all the curly practical parts of "do they have money to pay me". What kinds of projects do we turn down? Hundreds of people come to me and say "I have this great idea, but I don't have any money". Well thanks, you just wasted both of our time there because I have to earn a living and I can't just take options. If I want to just take stuck in the company, I'd come up with my own great idea and I wouldn't be freelancing; I would be building it and making gobs of money maybe to put something I care about passionately. So yeah, other things I look for in projects are things that appeal to me personally, technical challenge, and excellent team to work with. Although if they have an excellent team, why did they want me there? I'm terrible. No seriously, if you have an excellent team, why would you want any of us? Unless you really just need more manpower...which I guess I've seen a little bit of sometimes with a few startups. But most companies that have lots of great people don't need a freelancer, don't need consultants. CHUCK: And they usually, with those great people, have a really good way of finding more great people. EVAN: Right, because they already have great people. And there's a startup that show to me nameless, but there's one that was like that and then they recently took a big hit. So sometimes...sometimes I don't know. That's a tangent; I don't know where it's going. I'm going to stop there. CHUCK: But yeah, it is important to work with people that you want to work with. EVAN: Yeah. Working with people you want to work with; ideally working in an area that's interesting to you at least, so that the time feels like it's worthwhile beyond just getting paid (which will probably end up being a topic of a different episode we talked about doing). Kinds of projects I refuse, well I already mentioned the kind where they can't pay me, that's one. The kind where I get a bad read on a customer for one reason or another; the kind where the client can't convince me that their project will be successful because I don't want to just rub them blind. And when I'm not convinced, just as Chuck said, I'll call them on it just in the initial discussion and say "I have doubts because of XY and Z". Maybe they can convince me great, if they can't, well I'd point out to them "maybe you should be considering something else because this doesn't seem like a good use to your money". CHUCK: Yeah. On that point I also usually will try and approach them and say "Look, if you want me to consult with you for a couple of hours every week until you can get these issues ironed out.." because sometimes they'll listen to you and then they'll go "yeah, those are really things that I need to address". I'm happy to help find the answers, but I'm not going to bill them a bunch of time coding until they know which direction they're heading. EVAN: It's interesting point. I've worked with one client like exactly like that basically, the one where I say are kind of like contracts CTO. I tried to help them solve big picture issues and then when we got to a point where they could use some code, then I did some code for them. But a lot of it was trying to just little bit of the time help them understand and trying to find the problem. So I guess that's it for me in a nutshell. Again, I like the question. CHUCK: Yup. So then the other half of the question is "What types of projects do you guys typically wind up working on? Are they the fix-it-up projects? Are they the just general websites, ecommerce, social networks?" EVAN: I'll start this time. We've talked about this before by degrees in all the episodes -- I'm still here, right? Because my monitor -- CHUCK: You are still here. EVAN: Yeah okay. Because both of my screens decided to go blank at the same time, that's weird. I tend to work for startups; Eric was doing enterprisey stuff done, he's doing different stuff, he'll talk about it. I tend to work on existing code bases and tried to improve them. But as I've also have said before, I like working with existing teams and I tried to help teach them how to fish better so that way they're making better mistakes rather than the same old mistakes, and I tried to help dig them out of those holes. That's really pretty typical for me. That's my bread and butter; that's most of my projects. CHUCK: I think that's funny because most of my projects have been green field or pretty close to green field. A lot of them have been things that I've been able to do myself; I've only really been involved in one project that had a team of developers around it - that's the one I'm on right now. Anyway, Eric, how about you? ERIC: One of mine came from Redmine ChiliProject so most of this were around like [inaudible] automation and kind of reporting business intelligence stuff. Basically they have a list data, make sense of it. (I'm) kind of doing I guess kind of more business to business startup stuff now, at least that's what I'm getting into more just to kind of have a different taste, different challenges, different kind of perspectives. Like Evan said, a lot of my stuff used to be more enterprise where it's just an internal app run by a company, that sort of thing. So scaling is not a problem, that sort of idea. Yeah I think that's it. I don't think I've done -- I've done some ecommerce, but most that's been internal business backend like the actual credit card process and stuff like that. Nothing really very much public apps, actually now I think about it. CHUCK: Yeah I've worked on one ecommerce that was under NDA because I was subcontracting for a firm here in Utah. I don't think I really answered this question before, so the other ones have been mostly social networks of one sort or another and I did one, which was actually a maintenance contract on -- the website is "thebolditalic.com", it's kind of an eclectic news site that's run by GNAT press, they're the folks that do USA Today and is focused in San Francisco. That's more less it. I think we have time for another question here. And this one is "How do you deal with uncertainty or risk complexity unknown scope grip when writing a statement of work?" EVAN: Ohh...That is such a big one. I love that one. I'm trying to figure out where to start. Someone else go first [laughs]. CHUCK: One thing I want to throw on this is just that, if you're hourly and they're just going to pay you for programming regardless of what it is, then they just pay for it because it takes more time. EVAN: Well yeah, BUT -- and I do this a lot for my clients even when I'm hourly -- I'm routinely pointing out the cost benefit tradeoffs because I think that's what a lot of (when I work with the clients, that's where I see) a lot of the risk is when something might be excessively costly in terms of time and/or money; and where there might be cheaper alternatives that have (of course come at) a different kind of tradeoff, and routinely trying to make them aware of those. [crosstalk] ERIC: I have to find that, but I have to find that in conversations within not necessarily and this is what I'm going to be -- EVAN: I don't necessarily do a statement of work per se. I mean I do a -- I guess it was when we've talked about discovery process where I give them a breakdown of the tasks that I see involved. And what I tend to do is I try to mitigate risk upfront, that is I try to identify all the areas that I consider to be higher risk. I punched up their cost accordingly, that is they get higher values of my estimate because they're riskier, and I frontload them onto the schedule for the activity. And I explain to the client that I consider these particular areas to be risky that's why they appear at the top and that it engage me. Then the first things I tackle are almost universally the highest areas of risk so that if there's going to be a problem with the cost and/or schedule, that they'll be aware of it right away. If they don't like the way things are going as a result, they can fire me and I'm okay with that; I've never had that happen, though. CHUCK: Yeah I was going to say, I usually try and talk through it with them, but if I, say in a contract, I'll work so many hours and you pay me so much per hour then -- yeah we just talk through it, it doesn't come out in the statement of work for me anyway. ERIC: Yeah same thing. I do, like what you said, Evan, have the "these are the big risks, we should focus on them first", but that's typically not in the statement of work at least as far as with an hourly-type contracts. EVAN: Right. ERIC: With the fixed one, that's a different story. I mean that's where you'd probably making estimates, you are taking on the risk of the uncertainty; kind of the idea of "double your estimate, pat it", whatever you have to do. EVAN: Right, so I'd overdo fixed; I just do hourly so I just really explain to them how I'm going to minimize their risk. If they don't like how I minimize, again as I go, then I'd tell them to fire me aggressively. CHUCK: Yeah. The other thing is this, I've had on some fixed bids in the past and probably do some in the future, the other thing is this: I become very very specific in the statement of work. So as much as I can, I explain "this is exactly what you get, you don't get any more or any less", and (I) just nail it down as much as possible. But there are definitely going to be some areas where you just don't know. EVAN: That's one of the reasons I never do fixed bid. I've seen so much of that in the government space and what invariably happens is that one side or the other wants to go back to the negotiating table or rather disforced to bring both parties to the negotiating table again because there were something that one side or the other didn't foresee which requires a contract re-negotiation. That just seems such a pain of the ass. CHUCK: Yeah. You do have to deal with contract for negotiations. On most of the fixed bids, if I give them a contract with fixed bid, then it also explains in there that "if we're going to negotiate more work, then that's going to be under a new contract". And then if they want to re-negotiate the work that's currently in the statement of work, then I usually add a fee onto that just to make them think "is this really what I want; is this really the direction I want to go". I might okay with the statement of work as it stands because if not, then it's going to cause me to change it. ERIC: Yeah it's hard either way. It have to be very very verbose or you're going to have to talk about it again. My general take on fixed bid is, if you can give them short, quick deliverables, kind of small deliverables, and cycle through 10 fixed bid contracts instead of one big one, I found that easier because then you can re-negotiate based under renewal. But -- EVAN: But you still prefer hourly over that, I assume. ERIC: It depends. I've had some clients where they say they cannot accept an hourly contract; they have to have a fixed bid. It's kind of weird, but -- EVAN: I've had that once or twice. I sympathize -- you probably said that one on the enterprise, right? ERIC: Yeah. I think that was my big big client. EVAN: I had one enterprisey client who didn't last very long with me where there was something like that. We negotiated out something wonky -- the business aspect had nothing to do with why it didn't work out. But yeah, I understand where you're coming from. ERIC: It worked out, but it was kind of like we're handed up of a contract that defined A and everyone on the project knew that we'd be doing B, but we had to do A just to satisfy, to get it through the bureaucracy. It worked out fine, but it was just one of those kind of awkward contract writing processes. EVAN: Yup, sounds exactly like what I did for being vague. [laughter] CHUCK: Alright, anymore on that one? EVAN: Nothing here. Next issue! CHUCK: The next one is, it actually starts out "Hi! This is a question, not a topic." It says "I had a presence on LinkedIn for years, but never bothered to gather recommendations; I now think it would be good to start building them. My question is, should I go back to my old jobs, clients, colleagues? Some of whom I may have had little or not contact for years except maybe already being connections on LinkedIn and ask them to post the reference. These are people who I trust who'd give me a good write-up or just start fresh from my current activities. If I do go back, should I carry that LinkedIn shows the date the recommendation was posted, and it'd be obvious that they're all recently added? EVAN: A, you should go back anyway because hello! source of potential business! I mean if these are people you had a good relationship with, then you should maintain that relationship and possibly want to work with them, at least I would tend to think so. ERIC: Well counter point. I mean are they going to remember you? Don't just like jump act and say "hey buddy!" -- EVAN: Oh yeah! [crosstalk] EVAN: Yeah. But you also might be surprised; on the other hand, they might be glad you came back, too. You don't know, right? I mean you don't know until you try. But yeah, totally. And I wouldn't worry about the date so much better to have endorsements of some form than not had any. CHUCK: One thing that I want to put in here really quickly is that, if you're doing a lot of marketing on LinkedIn, this is definitely something you should do. If you're not doing a lot or people aren't really finding you on LinkedIn, it may or may not be worth your time to go do it, asking for recommendations doesn't take a lot of time, but at the same time it really just depends on what your approach is. If you're very active on LinkedIn and really trying to hit some of the list and make contacts and things like that through LinkedIn, then by all means go for it. One other thing that occurs to me, too, is that those recommendations are probably pretty good ways of getting like testimonials and so then you can reach back out to the people who you their reviews and say "hey can I use your quote on my website" or this or however. Then you have something that you can put up somewhere else that says "so and so said (this was posted by John) 'John is a really good worker' or 'John solved this problem really really well and made my life immensely easier and I would recommend him to anybody', that kind of stuff. Those are just some ideas that come to mind. But I rarely have people reach me through LinkedIn so I don't pay as much attention to it as this is kind of employment you might want with. Other thoughts? ERIC: I don't use LinkedIn that much. I've thought about using it more, but I just haven't seen many people come from it. And so it's kind of the idea of I'm investing in the channel instead of working the best for me, and LinkedIn hasn't been one of them so I haven't put time into it. But it never hurts to go back whether it's on LinkedIn or any other network, or even just via email or talk to past colleagues or clients or employers and just build relationship there; they might refer you stuff or maybe even you could help them like if they're looking to hire someone new that you know in your network is looking for a job. Just social skills, people skills stuff. EVAN: I don't invest in all for that, LinkedIn either. Honestly, I don't take it that seriously. I've gotten lots of recruiters through LinkedIn, but that doesn't help me find work. Maybe if I did more of Jim did, maybe I would get some contracts although I don't know if I may like it or not. But occasionally, I guess I get a ping or two from there. But just as Eric said, I focus more on what works and also what I enjoy. LinkedIn I guess, I go back to LinkedIn occasionally because it's a little bit of fun because it does let me see what other folks are up to in ways that some other social networks don't. But I really don't spend much time there. CHUCK: Yeah. Alright. Well, I don't know if we want to do one more question or not. EVAN: Yeah! CHUCK: Okay. We'll do one more and then we'll get to the picks. So, I have to ask...This one's on working on a retainer, is that worth a whole show? Or is that something that we want to just -- is this another 5-minute question? EVAN: First off, if you want to hire me on a retainer, yes please do! [laughter] ERIC: We can probably touch on it and then do a show. [Evan laughing on the background] CHUCK: Okay. Well let's go ahead and just talk about it for a few minutes. And then if we feel like there's a whole show's worth, then we'll attack it another week. EVAN: I looked at doing into doing that once for a maintenance contract I was starting to put together for a client. But then I decided I didn't want to work with that client anymore so then I dropped it. That's really all I got to say about that. CHUCK: For me, a retainer is we want to guarantee that you'll be able to do so much work for us every month. EVAN: Right. [inaudible] That's why I've made some for a maintenance agreement. CHUCK: So it's kind of a placeholder in your schedule, more or less, that they're paying for. And then, you give them so many hours or whatever every month -- EVAN: Guaranteed availability - much exactly the hours that you promised them the availability. CHUCK: Right. Yes. ERIC: Well it depends. I've come back and forth with this with one client who had me on a retainer. There's kind of two types of retainers: there's the "bucket of hours", and then there's the "on-call". Bucket of hours is "Chuck, we want 10 hours a month of your time, up to 10 hours - we might want 5 this month, or whatever; you bill us for whatever you use", and then there's the On-call which is like "Chuck, we're going to pay you like $500 a month for you to be on-call and you will provide us with up to 5 hours of work". So one way -- EVAN: It doesn't sound like retainer, though, to me; they just sound like constrained hourly grip. ERIC: Yeah, exactly. One is typically like an hourly agreement with a budget that's typically a long-term, and the other one is more of like the lawyerly-type retainer where you're going to get this fixed amount of money and you're going to work variable amount of work. CHUCK: Yeah I typically think of it as the second, not the first. EVAN: Yes. ERIC: Yeah. Well I'm just saying like this client was on -- he had me on a retainer and then some of his clients were on both different types of retainers. So he was actually the first one that kind of showed me that people use the word retainer for different things. I don't know if it's the industry with different industries or different things like from this training, but there's a bunch of weird different ways to doing retainers. EVAN: And you're sure this client wasn't crazy? [laughter] ERIC: No! I'm sure. [laughter] ERIC: Yeah I know this guy's business, he's not crazy or he's just fooling a lot of people. EVAN: Okay, just checking [laughs]. CHUCK: So the thing that really occurs is that in the second case, it seems like a win for you because you may not have to work those hours they're paying for. But at the same time, it's a win for them because they know that if they need those hours, you got them. And so it works out "It's not that well, I'm sorry I don't have time for you this month". That's "Well, we paid you for so many hours, okay well I will give you so many hours this month if you need it". So, it works out; it makes sense. I don't feel bad about taking a retainer if that's what they need, but I've never actually done it. ERIC: Yeah I've done both; I've done the bucket of hours type thing. Do you guys had it basically a long hour term contract? EVAN: Yeah. [crosstalk] ERIC: Yeah. That's the one that's kind of questionable to me, but what we actually decided on made sense than I work for both parties. I think I was on that with a couple of clients, I think one of them was like 2 or 3 years straight, and it's a good one. I mean you have to deal with a stable client like you don't want to start off on a retainer because there's no relationship there, you don't know how you guys are going to work out. EVAN: Right. ERIC: And like, I think it was you Evan who said it, like maintenance stuff is really good for this kind of thing. EVAN: Yeah. ERIC: The standard type of retainer where they're basically paying you a fixed fee and you're provided a certain amount of work, I've done that more as a support contract like "Eric will be available between these hours and will basically be on-call if something happens to handle emergencies". That was really good for me because that actually -- I got their system set up in such a way where it was stable. And so I wasn't called that much and so I didn't have to do that much work. And so that's a lucrative one, but it's also the one to be careful with because they can go either way. Because you are only going to get a certain amount of money and if it isn't up, or your estimates are wrong or something goes off, you could be in the hole. EVAN: Oh no! That fix - that's what I was going to say. I would say that for what I was planning on doing [inaudible], I just execute on it. Was that the retainer would be good for up to X number of hours and that they would end up having to be other agreements that would be involving beyond X number of hours. Also for support would also seem very important. I think this is just irrelevant for retainer, well perhaps, that for a support agreement at least specifically that your responsiveness to their request also should induce a scaling fee. That is to say, if they expect you to respond within an hour and be working on it within an hour, that's one very high-dollar amount, within a day another dollar amount, and a sliding fee downward. But that's augmentative; that's not just a fixed amount, that's above and beyond. ERIC: Yeah that's what I did. Because I basically gave them a couple of options with different SLAs of "do you want a 24-hour response of fixed--" EVAN: Right, SLAs. ERIC:"Do you want like next business day fixed-type thing", and they pick whatever is good for their budget, for what they needed. And like I said, because the system ended up being stable, there's very few issues. But that's were a few -- you can get yourself in a bind if you're booked on other client stuff and all of a sudden, all your retainers have needs to be worked on, too. If you have an SLA like -- you just kind of be careful. I guess looking at jurisdictions and looking at worst case scenarios -- EVAN: Well you can't assume the SLA as "free money". The prudent way to do it would be to assume that that time is already spoken for; you just don't always have to work it. You could hedge your bets a little bit and maybe slightly overbooked, but then if you get slightly overbooked and you get called on, then you kind of point out you have to work all of it. ERIC: Yeah I did it. I can't remember exactly, I think it was based on that contract I would book other clients for like 4 days out of the work week and kind of leave one day as a floating day. If nothing happened I would give the other client work, but I always have that floating day that I could pull in if I needed to do that support stuff, and then plus nights and weekends if it was really bad. CHUCK: I've been on-call before and I'll tell you right now that my rate on an SLA is anything less than at a day or two. In fact even at that rate, it's probably going to be at least double [laughs] like double rate because -- EVAN: Yup. CHUCK: I've been there and I just don't really want to do it. And so they're going to really really want me doing that to the point where they're paying double or triple my noble rate in order to get it. EVAN: I completely agree. SLA was exactly the right term, I heard it before. I guess I quite have it in my lingo when I was first thinking about this. But Chuck, I had proposed essentially the same thing, this client, that if they wanted immediate or essentially immediate turn around, then that would be a very high-dollar figure. If they want it within a day, that would be somewhere like 3 or 4 times of my hourly rate. And as I explained to them the point was I wanted to disincentivize them from asking for high turn around fixed or if they wanted the new features specifically from coming to me and say "well we need this and we need it tomorrow". Well if you really need it tomorrow, I'm going to make it cost you a lot because it's going to be a pain in the ass for me. CHUCK: Yeah if you need it tomorrow, I'm going to be working 68 hours on it and it's going to cause you a grant. EVAN: And you're going to be working 68 hours on it after already doing 68 hours for someone else maybe. So you're going to be very unhappy camper for doing it. To me, what a lot of it came down to is "if you're going to inconvenience me, I'm going to make sure you are at least equally inconvenient so that way you won't do it". CHUCK: Yeah. EVAN: But if you really want it, it's there. You just have to really want it that badly. CHUCK: Yup. ERIC: For me, it sounds so much inconvenience place into, but it's a business risk. I mean if you have an SLA or a long-term commitment and it's unknown if you're going to have use that time, you have to kind of change how you book stuff. So they're basically taken up (your) availability, but not. And so you have the opportunity cost. But in my opinion I think retainers, whatever model you do, can be good especially if it's existing clients. Basically, there's something I try to pull out of my little bag of tricks when I'm talking with the client, but it's "don't force fit". I mean I think retainers are great for support or maintenance, or any kind of long-term, kind of slow-work stuff. Like if you want to do a retainer for like retrospectives or maybe kind of a higher level coaching level stuff, I think retainers are pretty good for that. CHUCK: Yup. Alright well, Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: Okay, my first pick's, I have been using it for a little bit, is my new microphone which probably makes me sound better than me sitting in a cellar. EVAN: I thought you were going to say "this made me sound better than Evan", which who knows, I'm not sure. [laughter] ERIC: No comment! [laughter] EVAN: No one sounds better than me! I have a awesome voice! [laughs] Or weird one... ERIC: Yeah. Alright. Anyways, so I don't want to get into USB-type microphone because from what I see most USB microphones are kind of on a low-end as to one to get like an Xor system, but most Xor systems are on the high-end, like you talked to Chuck in his system. We don't have 50 minutes here to describe it, but they get pricey and they get complicated. And the other side is, I wanted to actually use a good mic if I did screencast and this kind of hard to get an Xor into your computer if you're screencasting. So I was just browsing around and I end up coming across the "Audio-Technica ATR2100" USB, and we'll have a link so you don't have to type that out. But it's basically a dynamic USB and Xor microphone; right now, it's $43 on Amazon. The nice thing about it is, it comes with the mic, the USB cables, the Xor cables, a little desktop-tripod stand; it's great because I can start with the USB and use it for screencast, and then if I decide to get fancy-deluxe-podcasting system like Chuck, I can go and upgrade to all the Xor equipment and use the same mic for a little bit with that. So it's pretty nice and it's very inexpensive on Prime on Amazon and it's like if I break it, it's just $40 and I'll buy another one. CHUCK: Yeah I have the previous generation of that mic; it's a pretty decent mic. Evan, what are your picks? EVAN: Okay, so I did more travel lately and before I travelled, I guess I gather a few more whiz-bangy kind of things that actually did make my trip a whole lot better, so I figured this (is) worth mentioning. I bought a "Nexus 7" lately, and this is odd for me as an iOS guy who's only tried Android once in the past 5 years, for those of you -- darn you, Eric! Stop making jokes in the chat room! For those of you who are Android people -- yeah fine you're already thinking Android's wonderful -- Android people, Nexus 7 is pretty fast, just not as fast to say an iPad 4, maybe it's a little more like an iPad 2. But the great thing about it is the form factor so people would say "iPad mini, yeah!" but I wanted to essentially glorified book reader because I read stuff from Kindle all the time, but the Kindle Android device isn't quite as nice. And you can get a Nexus 7 for $200, whereas an iPad mini is a minimum of $330. For some reason $200, at least in my brain, just seemed a lot more reasonable than $330, even though, yes I know the iPad mini could use all of my apps, blah, blah. But the iPad mini has the highly-pixilated screen compared to Nexus 7, which has not written their "quality", but it's pretty nice. So when I was stomping around Toronto, I was wearing my shiny new "SCOTTEVEST Fleece Jacket 7.0". The reason I love this thing is because I carry -- when I'm a road warrior, I have my backpack with me almost everywhere; that's kind of my office in the bag minus my iMac. The SCOTTEVEST really is pretty freaking amazing in that I can actually get a lot of the salient parts of my backpack in my jacket. I had my phone, I had my Nexus 7, I had my iPad in there once upon a time, I can fit an 11-inch iMac in there instead of the iPad, but it just feels like a piece of body armor then. [Chuck laughs] EVAN: A passport, a pen -- seriously, it feels like a body armor plate in my jacket when I've got my iMac in there. It's a little bit bigger...I mean my iMac; my MacBook Air 11-inch is what I meant, not -- ERIC: Oh, okay. That's the [inaudible]. EVAN: Yeah I feel my iMac in my jacket! Right, that would be pretty wild. [crosstalk] EVAN: It kind of feels -- I'm serious! It kind of feels like (what), there are -- it claims there are 23 pockets. But when they say 23 pockets, some of them are little tiny ones for storing things like pens or ear buds, or whatever. But the jacket is just kind of amazing because I have so many things I usually need at my fingertips or near my fingertips most of the time, and I didn't have to carry my backpack everywhere. So I love that thing. It costs $160; it's just a little bit high, but for the utility I got out of it, it's been great. The Nexus 7 is a lovely book reader, which is my primary use case for it. ERIC: If your jacket can carry your iMac around, that's a pretty good cover. EVAN: Well it almost could carry -- there's one really big pocket in the back of the SCOTTEVEST that I really don't know what the heck I would ever use it for. It's not going to fit an iMac, but it could easily fit a couple of 11-inch MacBook, or you can probably fit a 13-inch maybe even a 15-inch Mac in the back pocket. I don't know why you'd want to because it's at your lumbar level which means that you'd probably sit on it and break it. So I don't know what that pocket is really for. CHUCK: Awesome. I've seen these and they look incredible. EVAN: The older ones I thought looked a little clunkier; with the new ones, it looks like a jacket. CHUCK: So just to clarify, you're picks are the SCOTTEVEST and the Nexus 7? EVAN: Yeah. CHUCK: Okay, awesome. Alright, so I've got a couple of picks. My first pick is something that I've been playing with for the last day or so. I played with it off and on for a while, but it's made building a halfly decent looking website really easy, it's "Twitter Bootstrap". It's just nice because then I don't have to do a lot of design stuff and then I can tweak it from there because that already looks okay. The other pick that I have is a television show that I've been watching with my wife on Netflix and then on Amazon Prime, whatever the heck that's supposed to be. ERIC: It's a video? CHUCK: Yeah, it's a video. It's "Downtown Abbey", which you would kind of think "ehh", but it's actually really good. EVAN: My parents have been watching that. I don't know a thing about it, but they keep talking about it. CHUCK: Yeah it takes place in England right before and then during World War I. So it's kind of funny because they get electricity in their house, and then they get a telephone in their house, and then of course everybody, all the characters and stuff are interacting and manipulating and stuff. It's really really kind of an interesting show. So those are my picks. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: We already did my picks. EVAN: [laughs] We've really confounded Chuck today! CHUCK: Oh, man! [laughs] It must be getting late. EVAN: I was going to say "looks like you picked the wrong week to quick amphetamines". [Chuck laughs] ERIC: So I'm picking my microphone this week... [laughter] CHUCK: Oh! Yeah. EVAN: Hey, Eric, you tell us about -- ERIC: Evan, didn't you get a jacket? That's pretty nice. Why don't you tell us about that? I hope you can fit an iMac in it. [Chuck laughs] EVAN: Actually, let me tell you about the jacket that fits my iMac, yup. CHUCK: Alright [laughs]. Anyway, there's one other thing that I wanted to talk about really quickly -- EVAN: Actually my last pick for this week are amphetamines. Chuck needs them. Send them to him [laughs]. CHUCK: I make at these packages in the mail. EVAN: [laughs] You're the [inaudible]. CHUCK: My wife's going to be like "what are these?" ERIC: Put "some white powder" on the label. CHUCK: Yeah. Anyway -- EVAN: You can have the ATF showing up at your doorstep. CHUCK: Yeah. Anyway, so I'm also going to do a little bit of shameless self-promotion. I've been working on -- okay so DEA, thanks! [Evan laughs] ERIC: I don't -- why is Chuck going to be away from the keyboard? CHUCK: [laughs] So I've been working on this 8 videos series -- I can't even talk anymore you guys! I've been working on this series of 8 videos that I'm going to be presenting between March 1st and April 30th. The first is actually going to be on March 6th, then the last one will be on April 24th. Anyway, I've had a lot of people talking to me about the different ways that they've been trying to learn Ruby on Rails, and essentially what it came down to is that they wished that they had more coaching and more live coding examples. And so the presentations are going to include those and if you sign up for all 8, then you'll get some coaching along with it. If you just want to bone up on one or two areas of Rails, then you can just sign up for the relevant videos. Anyway, you can go sign up for that at railsrampup.com. It's not up right now if you guys go look, but it will be up when this episode goes out. So go check it out and sign up!