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I Am Not A Shop

I Am Not A Shop

I got a phone call yesterday about 2pm.  I was in Mahon Point (a Cork shopping centre) finishing up lunch with a friend. John (not real name) is on his way over to your office at the moment said the persons secretary. Yes John had hopped in his car and was on his way to my office.  I work from a home office.  It is large and roomy and kicks the ass of any office I ever had when I was a cube slave.  It has tons of room.  I listen to music a lot there and work long, long hours there.  I also take long lunch breaks and can facilitate my sons when they need lifts and take Toby the dog for walks when others are locked into their 9-5. I more often than not work 50-60 hours per week. But I don’t take walk ins.  I don’t know of any company that would.  I am not retail.  And I value my time. The guys secretary seemed a bit miffed that I was not patiently waiting for this person to call. One of the things that I jealously guard is my time and access.  I don’t answer my phone every time it rings, don’t instantly respond to every email and when Skype burps I don’t charge to open it and reply.  I have actually contemplated turning off Voicemail on my phone.  Yes maybe slightly odd. One of the things I love about what I do is that I am in control.  I control when I have meetings,...

Hoovering

Hoovering

I just finished hoovering the living room.  Why I did it is a complicated story involving teens being on holidays and refusing to do chores.  If you have teens you would understand and if you don’t its like trying to explain advanced astrophysics. I did it during work hours.  Heaven forbid! There are companies and people in my town who will clean your house from top to bottom in about 3 hours for about 90e uro,.  I used one of them once when my wife was on vacation.  They do a great job.  They did it while I was out and the house looked spotless and I was happy (as my wife was on her return). For the mathematicians amongst you the above task is about 30 euro per hour.  But hold on buddy.  Two of them do the job. I know as I arrived as they were leaving moving on briskly to their next job. So digging into the math book chapter 15 under long division that is more or less 15 euro per hour.  Good luck to them and their business is still going strong. Now while I was thinking about this as I pushed the vacuum cleaner around the house (along with how to dispose of a 15 year old boy’s body without the cops finding me) it brought me to one of my pet topics.  I will probably bore the shit out of you in a corner about this with a beer bottle in my hand if we ever meet. Its how valuable...

The Little Things

The Little Things

As creatives and freelancers one of the challenges you will encounter is when customers come back to you to do “a quick job” or “a tweak” or a “the quickest of quick jobs’. These phrases are all code words for free work.  Don’t do it ever. This may sound like a very aggressive statement -.  Why not do a quick job for a client who may have paid you a decent invoice as it probably take too long. The answer is two fold, First is that there really is no such thing as a quick job.  But let’s explore the anatomy of a quick job. Phone rings or an email comes in. You process what the client wants. Perhaps there is the need for a reply to a follow up to clarify. You look into the task. Execute it in 10-15 minutes (or less). Give feedback to the client. There may be another iteration or correction. Make the change Give feedback to the client Best case scenario here we are talking 3-4 tasks and a minimum of 15 minutes. Secondly I assume you are a professional which means you want to earn money.  I appreciate that you feel that charging for such tasks doesn’t always make sense.  But as you get more clients and more projects these type of tasks can mount up over a busy week and before you know you will have 5-6 of these in a week. But let’s say your rate is $/£/€100 an hour....

Call Out Charge

Call Out Charge

Our oven broke recently.  Some element deep down the back was hosed.  Don’t ask me I can’t change a plug.  My wife does that (seriously). We called THE MAN.  You know the guy.  You ring him up explain the problem ,  He asks a few questions and quotes you a call out charge (75 euro in this case) and the price of the part. The man arrived that afternoon as I was working.  For the mad laughs (its how I roll) I timed how long he was here using Toggl for Deskttop  I use Toggle to see how long a job I have procrastinated about actually takes. Between the hello, and doing the job he was here for 5 minutes. Call out Charge €75 Replacement Part €22 Total : €97 Now I know there are other costs associated with doing jobs, running businesses and so on.  but it was fucking (oops he cursed) good money for such a short visit. As a website, marketing guy who has been immersed up to my neck in tech and the net for over 20 years I can do some stuff pretty dammed fast. Set up an email address – BANG  – done. 5 Minutes Redirect a domain – BANG. 5 Minutes Create a business Facebook account – BANG 5 Minutes OK enough banging.  But more often than not I haven’t charged it for it.  I analysed this a lot.  I am pretty qualified dude, good university degree, MBA, tons of great experience. I realised that as I had done it...

Why Freelancing isn’t Volunteer Work

Why Freelancing isn’t Volunteer Work

One of the things that I found very hard when I first started out working for myself 6 years ago was talking about money.  I of course wanted to make money and as I had left a salary paying job I had to make money. But when you work in the comfortable confines of corporate life where your pay check gets deposited monthly you basically have little or no skills in chasing money – unless you worked for a debt collection agency -. Having the ability to face up to a customer and say that item ABC will cost XYZ with an unblinking stare of confidence takes a lot of practice. It came back to me recently in two simple examples. Smiley Face Project – The Email Newsletter An existing client for whom I have done some well received WordPress work in the past asked me to do a PSD to email newsletter conversion for them. In the bad old days I would have been very excited at getting a new project and possibly steamed right into doing it without mentioning the M word till later.  This senseless enthusiasm is long gone. Now I do a quote – make sure my costs are covered and sent it off to him (I can now do that in under 15 minutes).  Then I don’t do anything bar follow up if they don’t get back to me within a day or so. The client called me back 15 minutes after receipt of the quote paid the deposit (always a deposit people) and the job got done...

What to Bring to Meetings

What to Bring to Meetings

I don’t  do tons of meetings and when I do I try to have them in my own office.  This was one of my New Year Resolutions to myself in 2014 which worked well.  If you want to talk to me come to me.  Of course there are exceptions. I started doing this as a few (not too many) people would ask you to come meet and within seconds you knew that they were wasting your time and you were wasting theirs.  At least when they are in your own office you haven’t wasted a few hours going to and fro. This has lead into another of my New Year Resolutions which is to be much better at customer needs collection and filtering.  This may sound like I get thousands of requests but it just means understanding that we (you and I) are talking the right language. This can refer to price, scope and your interest levels. When I do meetings I always use Evernote to take notes now.  There is a pen buried in my laptop bag but it is rarely used.  Often I may just take the notes on my phone as the laptop can be intrusive. Sometimes a pen has to creep out but the notes nearly immediately get put back into Evernote as if left in the notebook they don’t  make sense after a few days. So I bring as little as possible as the most important thing is me. One thing I constantly have at the ready is my “Dummies Guide to SEO”...

My Favourite Application

I love apps and tools for making my life easier. You may call this lazy (I do sometimes) but doing something in one tenth of the time it normally takes always appeals to me. I always look at a task and see if it can be automated or made easier.  Whether it be an Excel macro or an app like Textexpander that I use hundreds (yes hundreds) of times per day.  I am always downloading new ones, trying them out and binning them if they don’t suit.  I have a core set that I really love using and really help my productivity.  One that is top of the list is Bidsketch What is Bidsketch? Bidsketch is cloud based proposal creation tool.  There are lots out there but this ticks all the boxes and more.  I am not going to list out all the features but an example will explain how I use it and how I get new business from it all the time. Bidsketch & Me I was contacted last week by a website prospect.  We had a nice chat on the phone. She said she had a brief and would send it onto me. We had a a follow up call to clarify some of her questions. I added her to Evernote with a reminder to catch up with her after Christmas.  Tagged there as a lead.This happens every day with me so I have a slick process for this too which I will explain in another post about my CRM...

Its Not Magic

Its Not Magic

Its not magic. Its sitting in front of the keyboard. Typing, reading , trying things, screwing up. Trying something else. Learning something small every day. Writing crap blog posts, writing better blog posts. Working that extra hour in the evening and managing your time that little bit better. And then starting again. There is no magic button that you press to succeed online. If there was I would be hammering it morning noon and night. Tons of people think there is. They really do. They don’t see the blood sweat and tears. You sweat the small stuff. Then you try again. Its not magic. Photo Credits: Flickr Image by Evaysucamara

Never Fast Enough

Never Fast Enough

I spend a lot of time trying to find faster more effective ways of doing things.  Sometimes longer than the original task may have taken. There is a certain fascination (I have anyway) in trying to find a way of doing a 5 minute task in 5 seconds (think Excel macros if you use Excel). The whole premise for this of course is that it removes the boring and frees up time to do value added things.  Reading in your niche, customer contact, building your network or writing that amazing piece of content. Pity it doesn’t always happen.  It is a constant challenge. So fast isn’t the promised land quality is.  

Textexpander Saves Me Seconds and Thirds

I try and make the mundane tasks as fast or as automated as possible.  I love Excel macros.  Shortcut keys, Photoshop actions and all the little things that help me do things that are mundane and boring faster. Textexpander for the Mac is head and shoulders above all things the most important App I use.  I could survive without PhotoShop (Gimp), could survive with lots of the clutter I download use for a bit and abandon but Textexpander stops me looking like an idiot. I come from keyboard land.  I start programming on PDP-11s in the early 1990s and then Sun Workstations (still one of the most amazing machines I worked on) and Unix and keystrokes were the way to do things.  I worshipped Perl.  But I digress I like to have my hands on the keyboard.  I type fast and noisily.  When I sued to work in the office (shiver) and be one of those head down focused typing frenzies either with emails or documents or code people used to look over at me and think there was something wrong with me I was banging those keys so hard. But I make loads of typos when the speed increases which is where the core premise of Textexpander rocks my world.  For instance I have loaded up on the most commonly misspelt words from Wikipedia  so every time I do use one of these it immediately auto corrects for me. It has also lots of form fillers, code snippets and you can...