You Have to Finish Something First

After Brendon Burchard’s first book didn’t do as well as he hoped, he started interviewing bestselling authors to see what made them bestselling authors. He describes his findings from these authors in High Performance Habits on page 199. The first point is the crucial one:

  1. Finish writing a good book. Until that’s done, nothing else matters.

If you want to start selling plugins, finish a plugin.

If you want to start selling themes, finish a theme.

If you want to become a podcast editor, finish editing a podcast. Have one yourself if you don’t have anyone that’s willing to be the first to take a chance.

Point two is also good:

  1. If you want a major publishing deal, get an agent. Or just self-publish.

Note the second sentence. Don’t wait for permission. It’s not coming. Finish your thing and start telling people about it.

Tell people about it as you do it.

If you’re not going to finish something, stop wasting everyone’s time telling them about it.

If time for that thing isn’t on your calendar, you’re not going to finish it. If that time on your calendar isn’t sacred and can’t be moved. You’re not going to finish it.

Stop fooling yourself.

If you are going to finish it, put it on your calendar and don’t let anyone move that time. Stick to it and make forward progress.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

PS: If you’re looking at time blocking, we talk about building your idea week in The 8 Week Business BootCamp. Get your time on track.

Photo by: clement127

What I Want in Invoicing – yup it’s a pipe dream

I’ve been looking at freelance invoicing and billing software again after about three years with 17Hats. I’ll be digging into options for the next number of weeks seeing if I can find exactly what I want.

Of course, that means first I need to define what I want.

Solve a problem

I’ve said a few times, that you must be solving a problem if you’re going to look for a new tool. The biggest problem I have with 17Hats is that it has no way to show me internal projects vs external projects.

I can create myself as a client and then book all my writing time on a book towards that project. But then, it’s hard to figure out exactly how I can push the sales of my books from WooCommerce or Amazon into 17Hats to see how we’re doing for break even.

Now you may be asking Why do you want that at all? The thing is, I do a lot of stuff. I’m a guest contributor on a few sites that pay. I’m building some courses for Asian Efficiency.

I’m writing books and building out membership content for my site.

As I move forward, I want to know which types of content production are the most profitable. If it takes too long to produce video content for Asian Efficiency vs writing for some of the other sites I have, I shouldn’t be doing video content for Asian Efficiency. Or at least I need to see that there are other profitable things coming from it in addition to the course fees. Maybe the appearances on the podcast that goes with the course mean lots of email subscribers who become my clients.

The point is, it’s almost impossible for me to gauge the profitability of all the different projects I have going.

When I talked to my members, they have some of the same issues as well.

What I Want in Freelance Invoicing and Time Tracking Software

So here is a list of my ideal wish list of features. I know that some of them are pie in the sky things, but if I’m looking, I might as well wish for as much as possible and see what I can get.

There are numbers beside the wishes, but only so that we can compare long term not because this is in any order.

1. Internal and External Projects

Like I said at the top, I want to see internal vs external projects. I’d be okay if this means that I have to be a “client” and then I invoice myself when a project makes some money.

I just want better transparency into the projects I’m doing internal and how long they take for against the sales they make.

2. Goal Setting

I’d love to see an application that has goal setting in it already. Cushion and Harpoon have this already. I’ve dabbled enough with Cushion to see that I can forecast my earnings and they show on the goal as well. This is great for me since I know that my coaching clients will be paying me for a few months. I can see exactly how that income goes towards my bottom line.

3. Time Tracking

I need to be able to track my time. I want to be able to track all my time for everything, including stuff like this blog post. I should be tracking my time on client projects, even though I never bill by the hour.

I should also be able to bill flat rate, and then see how the time I tracked compares to that flat rate billing number. That will let me see how profitable a project was.

Bonus for having an iOS app that can track the time since I spend most mornings in an iOS only world.

4. Proposals with Options and Contracts

Good proposals have options. If you don’t have options, you’re losing money. I want to see a way to create options in a proposal and then allow the prospect to choose their option.

It should also have something in it to allow you to have a contract signed as soon as someone accepts the proposal.

5. WooCommerce Feeds?

Yes, this is pie in the sky. I want to be able to ping the system when my WooCommerce install makes a sale and have the payment assigned to a project by product. So if I sell a copy of Effective Client Email, I should see it show up as income under my Effective Client Email Project.

Ditto for Easy Digital Downloads. I sell a membership plugin and have a few others I’d like to release so I want to see them as income against the project I used when I tracked my building time.

6. Payment

It should accept Stripe. PayPal is acceptable as an option, but no Stripe, not looking.

Others Need

I know that others need multi-currency. So I’ll at least look at that though it’s not make or break for me. I always invoice in USD and plan to stay that way for now at least.

I like owning my data as well. I’d hope that everything has a way to export data to…something.

The Current List of Contenders

Here is the list of options that are on my list right now. I know that some of them don’t have the features I need and thus, I may not use them at all. Still, they’ll have things that will inform my desires for the next tools.

I don’t promise I’ll do a full review of them. Some may get bundled into a group post on options that didn’t last more than a day or two.

Another thought as I look deeper into Scrum and Agile and my use of Trello is that some agile tools like Planscope tick some of these boxes as well. My true ideal system would take a prospect from the initial emails and follow up, through proposal into a project and project management, then exit them and drop them back into a follow-up process.

If you have other options, let me know.

There are some other contenders that run inside WordPress which I’ll take a look at as well.

Is there anything I should be adding to the list?

Photo by: Jannis

Are You Measuring The Gain or the Gap?

I just finished reading Michael Hyatt’s, Your Best Year Ever. Yup the review is coming.

Today I want to talk about one of the ideas in that book. Most times we measure the gap. The distance we have to go till we reach…success…or whatever we’re striving for.

Till we match the success of someone we look up to.

That’s faulty, we should be measuring the gap. The distance we’ve come since we started working on our goal.

But that can be hard. Listen to the podcast today to hear more about my struggles measuring the gap instead of the gain.

Resolve Conflicts by Playing Nice in Your Sandbox

Nothing ever goes as smoothly as we’d like. There is always conflict at home and work, and we have to deal with it. Few of us have effective strategies to deal with the conflict though.

That’s where Play Nice in Your Sandbox by Ron Price, comes into play. Price is going to give readers a short look at effective conflict resolution and negotiation.

Dealing with conflict in a productive way is the greatest challenge we have as a society and as individuals.

Price starts this by reframing how we think about conflict. It doesn’t have to be thought of as bad because it often isn’t. Conflict can be handled in a way that is beneficial to both parties and their relationship, personal or professional, can take on a new level of thriving after a conflict well handled.

Disputes and conflict can actually be healthy experiences when handled well. If everyone on a team thinks identically then some members are likely not necessary. Occasional disagreements can bring about new ways to get things done, spur efficiency, and create better products.

There are two truths that Price walks readers through. First, he tells us that most conflicts should be avoided and uses chapters 1 – 4 to detail how and why to avoid conflict. The second truth is that when conflict is handled well, it can be very productive. He uses chapters 5 – 8 to tell us how to handle conflict well.

Let’s look at each of these truths.

Truth One: Turn from Conflict When you Can and Should

Price starts of truth one by giving us three questions to ask ourselves when we’re thinking about engaging in conflict. The answers to these questions should lead us to either head into the conflict or realize that it’s not worth it.

  1. “Can I truly put this out of my mind and not let it influence my relationship with this person?”
    2.” Is the pain the other caused so slight that I have no desire to hurt them back?”
  2. “Can I refrain from talking to others about what he or she did to me?”

According to Price, if you answer no to any of these, then conflict is worth the effort. Otherwise, we need to look to our conflict avoidance tools.

Conflict Avoidance Tool One: The Pause Button

In avoiding conflict, the first tool that Price provides us is the pause button. This is where you increase the time between stimulus and reaction which is a key goal of most meditation practices.

You cannot control how others treat you, but by pushing the pause button, by taking time to choose your response to situations, you can be far more in control and far more likely to make appropriate decisions.

This recognizes that you are in charge of how you feel and that you must make a choice to respond appropriately. I get reminded of this when my children argue about the name of some character on TV. They hear it one way, and I’m reading it on IMDB in the way it should be pronounced. Ultimately it doesn’t matter in any fashion, and when I take a second, I just agree with them instead of trying to correct them.

No one cares, and if they do, they’re wasting their time.

A second great tool is provided in the form of a story by Price. The story goes that an older person in the company is always viewed as always so gracious and thus is asked how he does it.

He says that he has a list of the top 10 faults of people and when something comes up in the list, he just applies grace to it and doesn’t worry any further. Then another employee asks to “trade” lists, and it’s revealed that there is no list. The staff member just applied it to every time he got annoyed at how someone treated him.

He decided to give grace in all situations. This leading with grace thought leads nicely into the second tool.

Conflict Avoidance Tool 2: Assume Good Intent

We always judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. That means when my kid is constantly going on with “suggestions” on some home project, and I can’t think, I get annoyed. I’m judging the actions she’s using, not stopping talking1 so I can think for a second.

But see, she’s doing it to be helpful, and that’s how she perceives her actions. When I get annoyed at the non-stop talking, she’s mad because I am stomping on her help.

Price describes it with these few quotes from the book.

Everyone you are close to will, from time to time, do or say things you do not appreciate.

then…

You can choose to give the other the benefit of the doubt that he or she didn’t mean to upset you. And if they did, it’s likely they were having a bad day and wrongly took out their frustrations on you.

Finally, remember it doesn’t matter WHY they did anything or why you were treated in a certain way. It happened, and now you have to deal with it. Assume grace and move on if at all possible.

Conflict Avoidance Tool 3: Yield

So much of conflict doesn’t matter at all. When my wife and I disagree on the movie to watch on Friday, does it matter at all? No, the content of the magic wall box makes no difference in life.

Usually one of us tells the other to pick, and we spend time on the couch together with each other anyway.

There is a bit more to yielding than that though. According to Price, we need to take time to understand where the other person is coming from. We must listen well.

To listen well to another human being you must choose to make listening a priority. You must choose to make listening a priority. You must prevent your thoughts or distractions from getting in the way.

This matches up very well with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where Covey talks about first seeking to understand someone before you work to be understood.

Far too often, in fact maybe most of the time, we are waiting for our turn to inject something “smart” into the conversation instead of trying to deeply understand what is being said. Even when we understand the words, do we take the time needed to understand the deep-seated fears and emotions behind what is being said?

Empathy is listening not only with the ears, but with the heart. It involves deeply listening not just to what another is saying with their mouth, but what message is coming from their core.

Once you understand the core of someone’s issues, it’s very easy to come to a quick resolution that both of you think suits. Once someone feels understood, they’re very likely to dig in with you to understand where you’re coming from.

The essence of this tool from Ron Price is to be the first person to take the time to listen deeply. Yield your position and understand the other person’s side in the conflict.

With that, we’re on to section two and dealing with the conflicts that can’t be avoided.

Truth Two: Some Conflict Can’t be Avoided, but it Can be Productive

Truth two is all about how to deal with conflict effectively. Price again provides us with some tools to use in conflict resolution.

Conflict Resolution Tool 1: Negotiate with, not against the other person

Too often, when engaged in a dispute, we tend to demonize the other and think all sorts of negative things about their character, their personality, their intelligence and so on. We strive to make them into such a terrible person to justify our being in dispute with them. That may be enjoyable in some perverse way, but it will do nothing to help resolve the issues which underlie the conflict.

The “other side” in a dispute is not dumb. They have very valid concerns that they want addressed. In fact, you’re in conflict now because those issues haven’t been resolved with other available methods.

Second, this is not gladiator combat. No one will die at the end. Good conflict resolution shouldn’t leave one party feeling like they got a terrible deal but they had to take it because it was the best they could get.

Both parties should feel like the deal is as mutually beneficial as possible.

Choose to separate the person from the problem, focusing on what really has come between you. When you do so, you will typically discover your “adversary” is in fact someone who is very much like you in many regards and certainly not worthy of your hostility and contempt.

Conflict resolution shouldn’t be rushed either. You’ll be better off long-term if a resolution takes a few extra weeks or months instead of doing it quick and dirty in a few days to get the pain over with. That’s like putting a bandaid on cancer.

It will cover the problem, but solve nothing. You’ll be back dealing with the conflict again eventually.

Conflict Resolution Tool 2: Identify Key Underlying Issues and Interests

The second tool provided by Price is very similar to the third tool in Conflict Avoidance, you need to understand what the other person wants.

When in a dispute with someone, always ask “why do you want that?” or “if I were to grant your request, what would that do for you?”

Don’t dwell on the specific item asked for. The item itself likely represents the feeling behind it. You must dig deep to find out why it’s important and often you can find an alternative that suites both parties.

Where are the other tools??

Now there starts to be more repeat in the content of the book. Tool three is about working with someone to a mutually beneficial result. Which is a nuance on understanding them and not treating them as an adversary.

It does add one key point outlined below.

By the time they come to mediation, each person has likely spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours contemplating their side of the issue and what they think should be the eventual outcome. Rarely have they spent much time thinking about what might motivate the other to be willing and able to move on.

This is formally called perspective taking and is a great way to realize that you’re probably worked up over something that’s not as big a deal as you thought. At the very least, you didn’t understand how important it was to the other side, and it’s not important to you so just yield.

The final tool is around exploring options. If you go in with the mindset that you won’t be able to solve the problem, you’re right.

…if you approach a problem/dispute/situation believing there is simply no way to resolve it you are very likely to be correct. The reason you will be proven correct, however, is that if you genuinely believe no solution is possible you are not going to invest the time, effort or resources that would be necessary to bring about a resolution

This harkens back to the quote saying “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” You’ll let your internal thinking turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Don’t do that. Go in with an open mind, thinking that you can resolve the issue.

Oh Crap … Bring in the experts

The final short section is all about mediation and arbitration so that you have an overview of what the processes look like usually. This will help you choose which process may be right for your situation.

Recommendation for Play Nice In Your Sandbox

If you’re looking for a quick read on negotiation to get your working knowledge primed, this is a great book.

If you’re looking to go deep into negotiation get Never Split the Difference. It will give you much more on the psychology of negotiation and more tools to use in the midst of conflict.

Get Play Nice In Your Sandbox on Amazon

Photo by: jose_antonio_hidalgo_jimenez 


  1. And I’m also a bit amazed at her lung capacity because I swear she doesn’t breath for 30 minutes as she has suggestions. 
Play Nice In Your Sandbox Book Cover Play Nice In Your Sandbox
Ron Price

A short book that is a decent primer on negotiation.

Is Your Mind Prepared?

If you’re not continually preparing your mind to accept new information and ideas, you’ll just become an old dried-up field full of weeds. – The Success Grower

So many people I talk to get tired of programming. They don’t want to do client work. They are not up to date on the latest languages and techniques in their niche.

They’re tired of learning.

But it’s not just programming either. You can often tell when a pastor graduated based on the publish dates of the books on their shelf. They might not have any after their graduation date.

But it’s not just pastors either. When I go to my friend’s houses, I see huge stacks of kids books on shelves and floors and on counters. But it’s rare to see a book at all that would be for an adult. When I probe further, they don’t have a device to read on digitally either. They just don’t read.

You Must Learn or Your Business Will Die

If you want a business that’s going to stick around for the long haul, you must learn. I’ve been in WordPress for 10 years, and I’ve spent a bunch of time learning PHP and HTML and CSS to start. Then a bunch of Javascript. Now it looks like I need to get more comfortable with this thing called Gutenburg.

It’s tiring to always be changing my technical skills, but if I want to stay relevant, I must keep learning.

But it’s not just technical skills. SEO and content marketing is changing all the time. The best practices used to talk to clients changes regularly. How to write a winning proposal is in flux.

Every part of your business is always changing, and you need to keep up with it on top of any technical skills you need to maintain.

If that sounds like a lot of work it damn well is. Get used to it.

If you want to be successful, start reading. Start digging deep into your assumptions and become a better critical decision maker.

If you’re not going to do that, then you’re not cut out for running a business. Stop fooling yourself into thinking that you are.

If you’re not learning, you’re going backwards.

Now, if you want to learn. If you want to dig deep, I’ve put together some reading lists for you. Go look through them and start with the thread you struggle most with.

Start learning. Stop going backwards.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

PS: If you’d like a fairly concise workshop on running an awesome business join my 8 Week Business Bootcamp.

Photo by: pasukaru76 

Trying to Measure the Artistic Gain

Because instead of comparing me with me, I was comparing me with da Vinci, with my friend the professional illustrator, with all the artists who’d inspired me to want to start to draw. The first bar was way too high. I’d just started to jog and was beating myself up for not running a marathon in under three hours. – How to make learning to draw a whole lot easier

I get this perfectly right now as I learn to draw. I see some improvement but I’m not near creating the characters I have in my head for a comic strip.

We do this in our businesses as well. Comparing your income numbers to what someone else published they did. I’ve talked to some people with published numbers and they may or may not be real.

Note especially the three rules at the end of the post.

  1. Never compare yourself to other artists
  2. You’re making more progress than you think
  3. Everyone struggles in the beginning

I’d amend the last one though to say “everyone struggles” beginning or end has nothing to do with it.

Can I niche my freelance business around a technology

Reader Stephen asked:

I’ve been reading a lot about finding you niche (I have a copy of your book) and positioning, and a lot of what I’ve read seems to suggest working within an industry sector, but I don’t have a industry I like working in. I’ve built web apps for many different types of client (small businesses, startups, government departments and single person entrepreneurs). All working in different industries.
What I do like is building web apps using a certain technology (Angular).
My question is, is it possible to still position yourself if you focus on a single technology, set yourself up as an expert in the field of a certain technology (e.g. Angular). Or is this still to generalised? And if so how can you niche down further if, like me, you’ve worked in a variety of industries for a variety of clients?

Looking at the early results of my ongoing content survey (yes please fill it out if you haven’t yet) one of the top interests is finding your niche. There are two ways to niche your business, and each is a valid option.

One, you can niche down into a specific market, say CNC machine manufacturers. This allows you to target your marketing only to those businesses. Attend only those conferences. Cast a tight net and capture clients that fit well within that niche.

Two, you can niche down into a technology or service. My friend Jason provides Drip services. I’m niched like that for Membership sites over at sfndesign.ca. I don’t concentrate on a certain market so much as helping you gain and keep members.

On this site, I focus on technical men that want to run a great business and still hang out with their kids. They want to be good parents as well.

Do I have female clients? Yes. Do I have female clients with no kids? Yup. In fact, 50% of the coaching clients I have are not men.

Even though I try to speak to men. Heck one of my coaching clients isn’t in a technical field at all, and she’s a she.

Having a niche doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with anyone outside it. In fact, one of my female clients says she loves talking to me because I don’t get as concerned about her feelings, I just shoot straight. She has been coached by women before, and she was always frustrated by all the punch-pulling that happened.

Am I for every woman? Nope. But I’m not for every technical man with a family either.

Still, having a niche gives me focus. It means that I have three persona’s for men in business at different stages and I can target my content towards them.

So, yes it’s valid to niche around a specific technology. That gives you the focus to write about only that technology. To become an expert in it and thus attract clients.

Have an awesome day!

Curtis

PS: I wrote a book called Finding and Marketing to Your Niche that addresses building a niche following in your business. There is also a whole section in BootCamp on your niche and finding it.

Photo by: activars

You’re Building People not Robots

Countless numbers of leaders gain much of their education from on-the-job training, where they watch and mimic the behaviors of others. This has its merits, but the serious downside is that the leaders in the making aren’t necessarily learning how their mentoring leader thinks. – Paid To Think

When I was landscaping the one issue, my boss always had with me was that I asked why. I wanted to know why we did so much of the job in the way we did it.

My boss just wanted to give directions and have his people do work. No interaction past following orders.

So many bosses are like this. It’s effective at the moment to just have people follow orders.

But it means they always have to come back to you for orders. They can’t, in fact, they’re actively encouraged to not, think on their own.

Invite the why questions and explain the reasons. You’re building people, not robots.

Have an awesome day

Curtis

Photo by: clement127