What I read – March 2014

This is my first instalment in a monthly series recapping the books I’ve read in a month. Today you’re looking at the books I finished in March.

It’s likely to mostly be business books but do expect some fiction, parenting and marriage stuff as well.

Yes most of the links are going to be affiliate links.

In March I’ve managed to finish 4 books about business/freelancing and start 1 more.

1. EntreLeadership

This was actually my 3rd time reading through the book and it was totally worth it. Dave shares the techniques and thoughts that have allowed him to grow his business from a card table to a national brand with hundreds of employees.

Want to learn a bit about product launches and marketing? It’s here.

How about hiring? Dave covers it.

Budgeting? Also here.

I think that it should be required reading for freelancer’s.

2. The Virtual Assistant Solution

I’m in the process of looking for an assistant and it’s a bit scary actually. I’ve tried a few times to get get one and never been happy with the work I got in return.

Actually my 3 year old could have produced better work in most cases.

This time I’m going in much slower to try and get the right person and Micheal Hyatt’s book has lots of good information to get you thinking about hiring a VA.

I wrote a review of it if you want more information.

3. Year without Pants

This is by Scott Berkun and was a very enjoyable look at the culture and process inside Automattic. I grabbed a few highlights and nots but the main take away was how they make distributed work work.

I’d love to build a culture where people help out and truly love the work they do. This gave me a taste of it.

Other people have reviewed it in depth so here is some more information.

4. Remote

I’ve been a fan of many of the books written by Basecamp (formerly 37Signals) but this one just didn’t do it for me at all.

I got about 30 pages in and it just felt like they put together a bunch of feel good statements about remote work.

No real substance at all and I stopped after 30 pages.

5. Quitter

This was my audio book of the month and my take away is that it’s worth purchasing on Kindle and diving deeper in to. If you’re thinking about quitting your job and you think the time is right, read this first and make sure.

That’s it for March. Any books you’d recomend?

photo credit: ciro@tokyo via photopin cc

Monthly reading recap

I’m starting a monthly post about the books I’ve read that month. If you didn’t know it already I read a lot. My family doesn’t watch TV during the week days and even when we put a movie on over the weekend it’s not uncommon for me to read anyway.

I certainly read through the weekly viewing of what ever movie is my daughter’s current favourite.

The only difference between where you are today, and where you’ll be a year from today, are the books you read and the people you meet. – Charlie Tremendous Jones

Why read

I’ve pretty much always loved reading so it’s not a big chore to get me to read. Until I really started using the Kindle app on my iPad the real chore around here was building a new bookshelf every year to hold the paper.

But what if you don’t like reading?

Do it anyway, it’s so good for you and here’s why.

1. Free mentors you can’t afford

I could never afford to hire Dave Ramsey for 1 on 1 consulting for my finances or business. I have however seen how his business works on the inside and how he hires and built his culture.

I got free mentorship from Dave by reading.

2. Reading helps your analytical thinking

Yes you read that right, reading helps your improve your analytical thinking. That means you’ll be able to analyze, articulate and solve problems easier.

Solving your client’s problems is your job so wouldn’t you like to get better at it?

3. Reading makes you sound smarter

The more you read the larger your vocabulary becomes. You are forced to encounter new words as you read and figure out (or look up) what they mean.

Then you’re going to start to use those words in your regular daily interactions. When you talk to clients you’re going to use them.

You’ll present yourself better and sound ‘smarter’. Or maybe you’re finally going to sound as smart as you actually are.

How I read

I have a 2 pronged approach to reading. Many books start as an audiobook via Audible.com. That lets me listen at double speed to see if the book is really worth my time to dig in to.

I do most of my listening during my bike rides (usually 4 days a week I ride for a few hours).

If a book passes the listening test then I’ll purchase it via Amazon for consumption on my iPad via the Kindle app.

Here I can take notes and highlight important passages.

Look forward to my first installment later this week on the books I’ve gone through for the month of March.

Business Backstop

You may remember that I wrote about most people pulling all nighters just being idiots. I had a bit of feedback on that saying it just happens sometimes, which I totally agree with.

Having a sick kid during the day may mean you have to make time up during the night. Having a bunch of extra bills to pay and choosing to take on extra work will mean you have to work extra hours.

The thing is that pretty much everyone you hear talking about ‘all-nighters’ aren’t in one of those scenarios (or a variation of them). What they have is a problem saying NO to work. I get that, saying no is hard. I think that all people running their own business will have a hard time saying NO to work at some point.

The last 3 weeks (and probably 1 or 2 coming up) I’ve been pulling ‘all-nighters’. For me it’s actually a 5am – 9am shift before my regular work starts but it’s the same thing. I have a bunch of extra work and need to get it done at some point.

My reason is that we have a baby coming in January and I’d like to take a few weeks off. We also have $2k in extra expenses coming up with our house. For a short time we (my wife and I) decided that I’d work extra and even weekends to cover the extra upcoming expenses.

A totally valid reason to work extra.

The problem

Here’s where I still have an issue, I’m driven. I don’t think that a successful business owner can be anything but driven. Secondly I love what I do. Even when I’m ‘off’ client work I think about stuff like Sass, or Grunt, or the new date based queries in WordPress.

I breathe development. It’s mental sustenance.

The issue is that it’s so hard to make that ‘short time’ actually a short time. I talk about taking time off over Christmas and then I get emails from awesome previous clients that want me to do some work.

I want to do the work, but I also want to be an awesome dad/husband. In fact I want to be an awesome dad/husband more than I want to be a great coder. No one will stand at my graveside and say that I knew WP_Query best. They’ll talk about how I treated my family and my community.

Even knowing that it’s hard to say no to work. I’m very lucky to have an awesome wife that is involved in my business. Not a bunch (I doubt you will ever meet her at a WordCamp) but enough to know what’s going on.

So when that awesome client comes in with a bit of extra work she can be my backstop. In my case for a bit of work over Christmas she actually said yes. The truth is I’m going to tack away at a personal project anyway. So why not make it something I enjoy and get paid for?

Your backstop

Do you have a backstop? In my case it’s my wife but it doesn’t have to be. Do you have a close friend that will recognize when you’re neglecting the relationships around you? How about one of your parents? How about a mastermind group? How about a mentor?

I think that not having a backstop for your business decisions is a supremely bad idea. If you’re driven then you need someone to temper that drive with reality.

A bit of reality and pacing in your business will help you go much farther for longer.

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

You can read about how my wife supports me in her series last week about supporting your spouse/partner in business.

Bit of a Format Change

There is going to be a slight format change around here. For a while now I’ve been writing pretty much every week day and while I loved it I’ve been getting some feedback about the content which I’d like to take to heart.

I’ve heard a few times that many of the posts I write leave someone feeling like they need just one more bite of content. It was almost filling but not quite.

Starting in a couple weeks I’m going to be changing up to ‘series’ style posting. That means I’m going to try and take a week (maybe 2) to cover a topic in great detail. It’s likely that some days you’ll get 3 posts but I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

Some of the first topics will be a bit of a repeat since I recently posted about the topics but left the meals lean. Some of the topics will be brand new.

I’m aiming for 2 series a month and that doesn’t mean I won’t be writing on the other days they’ll just be similar to what you’re getting now.

Some of the series that are started are:

  • Legal Stuff (contracts, NDA’s, non-competes…)
  • Income Cycles (how to analyze your income cycle, budgeting for it, smoothing out the valleys)
  • Success (what is it, some stories of success around me, my version of success, failure, business success, setting up for success)
  • Pricing (pricing models, productivity and pricing, why clients low-ball you, how to show your value)
  • Stuck Projects (why are they stuck, getting them unstuck, leaving a stuck project gracefully, our parts in stuck)

On top of that I’ve got about 15 other ideas for series that I just don’t have outlined yet.

If you’ve got a topic you’d like covered in detail over a couple days please let me know in the comments.

Bit of my blogging history

Brian and I had an exchange about our blogging histories. I figured that I’d round up some stats about my personal writing.

This site (personal)

My first blog post on this site was August 8 2008. It was a giveaway of some free Photoshop brushes. Since then I’ve written 664 posts.

My 664 posts are spread across 29 categories. No my categories didn’t get totally out of hand, I used to have many sites.

See I wanted to keep this site focused on WordPress development and design so I had a site about productivity and a site about cycling. No links because I merged those 2 years ago and write about pretty much anything I want here.

No this site isn’t really focused, unless you consider whatever I’m interested in a focus. Over the last 6 months many of my topics have been business and customer focused. Some highlights include:

This site has seen 103,000 pageviews since I started using WordPress.com stats. I see about 10k pageviews a month currently and a handful of comments.

WP Theme Tutorial

In September 2011 I decided that I needed to move my WordPress tutorials out to their own site and WP Theme Tutorial was born. With the addition of my cycling site and productivity site, I was simply drowning any decent WordPress content I had. I also had some ideas for products that I wanted to sell and felt that a dedicated WordPress site was the best vehicle to get that going.

WP Theme Tutorial has 189 posts spread across 13 categories. I’ve been much more careful about my categories there, but really I could reduce them and be a bit more focused on certain topics.

My total pageviews since I started tracking are 76,000 with a monthly average somewhere around 5,000.

Future

Moving forward I’m going to keep both sites going as they are. Typically 5 posts a week here and 1 – 2 on WP Theme Tutorial. I’ve got lots of topics around so it shouldn’t be hard.

How about you? Care to share any stats?

Ideas beget Ideas

A few weeks ago I launched a book that really just crept up on me. I wasn’t planning on writing it really my WordCamp Vancouver presentation script turned in to 16k words in the blink of an eye.

And I had a book.

I really had no further plans to talk about business or release other products around running a business. It seems that everyone is doing it these days and I may just be another voice in a bunch of voices.

All vying for you time.

Really I had decided to not bother with other stuff around running a business.

Release begets release

I sit here 1 week after release and I now have 10 ideas for things to help business owners. The simple fact of releasing a book and having some moderate success with it has meant that I’ve got ideas floating around.

I thought of 2 new things today to help people run a viable business.

Blogging

I’ve found the same thing with blogging. The more I write the more I think about things to write about. Particularly when an article gets some decent coverage.

It’s likely that part of this is due to the fact that getting traffic to an article and tweets about it validates me on some level. Doesn’t mean I’m a better husband or father but DAMN in feels good. I want to feel good again so here I go and try to reproduce that success.

There is a bit more to it than that though.

Muscles

The fact that I thought a bunch about business means I exercised my business muscles and guess what they are stronger. Thinking and writing about business is easier now than it was.

So I have more ideas.

If you want to blog a bunch then start writing. If you want to start a weekly newsletter then start it. If you want to start writing about WordPress code then do it.

Don’t worry if you don’t have 10 million ideas at the beginning just start it. As you exercise your brain on the topics you’re going to find more content around.

Not starting though will ensure you never have more ideas.

photo credit: zetson via photopin cc