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Saving Seconds

Saving Seconds

“Work Smart – Not Hard” I remember nearly 25 years ago working in the US in one of my first jobs I worked a full day editing some raw data to create a long structured report.  After about 4-5 hours work one of my colleagues came to me saw the report and asked if I had used the Perl scrip to create it.  I looked at him with despair in my eyes. There’s a Perl script to do this? There was and running it created the same result in about 5 seconds.  The task in question was something that in the following year (using the script) I did countless times often several times a day. Since then I have become addicted to trying to do mundane tasks quicker. Whenever I have a repeatable task I immediately ask myself if I can do it quicker or automate it in some way. The mistake you might make is thinking  that repetitive is equal to mundane and unimportant – it usually isn’t.  I have tons of little automated tasks that make my life so much easier. Here is one that I put in place just this week. Closing Out When I am finished with a customer one of the things that I usually request a Google review. It is good for local search and all reviews are great (if great).  It used to be a bit of a pain explaining to a non technical person how to go to Google Maps, find the link, post the review and...

Contracts Save Lives

Contracts Save Lives

If this is TL;DR then just one thing.  Always do a proposal no matter how small the job is and get the customer to sign or agree to its contents. But onwards. Leads that Turn into Customers I have done work for 30 euro and work for 10K.  For the smaller jobs I used to never ever write proposals.  I thought it was embarrassing to have to put something in front of a customer for a job that was under 2-300 euro even. This is a massive mistake. It is super easy to have a template (or use a cloud service which I do) to create a set of standard documents that outlines what you are delivering to a client.  Please don’t use email.  It sucks and can get lost in translation. My website proposals go basically something like this. I will create a website for you, it doesn’t include training, lifelong support till my eyes belled and you pay me a deposit, interim payment and until you pay the last payment you don’t get a site.  It will cost you XYZ. It is more detailed than that but you get the gist.  For smaller jobs I do the same.  Some of my proposals are just one page with a link to my terms and conditions.  I always drop my client a short email that ask “Did you read the Terms and Conditions?”   Until I get the yes (and the deposit) the work doesn’t start. Why Bother? There are many reasons but the most important one...

Why I Don’t Travel

I rarely leave my office these days to meet prospects or clients.  When I tell people this they look at me with shock. No I haven’t grown a beard and become a hermit.  I still leave for lunch, meet friends for coffee. Walk my dog, go for a run.  But hopping a car to drive to a prospect is something that I have practically eliminated. Here are the main reasons why. International Me I work with about 6-7 customers outside of Ireland in the UK, US and one in New Zealand(to a lesser extent).  So my hours vary wildly and I have the tools (Skype, email, Slack recently) to manage our conversations.  We have worked well for several years and I don’t need to visit them so visiting you in Cork may not be needed either and you can come to me. The Time Suck Its all about sucking time out of my week.  I like to work a normal work week of 35-40 hours. Sometimes I work a lot more and sometimes a bit less but 35-50 hours is my norm. If I have an 11AM meeting I am sitting outside your premises definitely at 10.45AM.  So say the journey takes 30 minutes, getting , organised in the office another 15 minutes (where are my damned keys!) you have an hour already befoe a meeting.  That doesn’t include perhaps pulling information together perhaps for the meeting. Add in the time for the meeting of worth (an hour) the journey back to the office and you can...

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...