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See behind the mindset that helped make me a 6-Figure consultant with my manifesto

NO is NOT a Curse Word

The Good Wizard

Did you set that expectation and tell no one?

Possibly one of the most frustrating things about being married is when I’m ‘expected’ to possess the power of ESP. My wife is annoyed about something, or she wants me to do something, or…and I’m completely unaware of any expectation having been put on me.

Which means I have no way to actually meet that expectation in any fashion other than by random chance.

To be fair, I am 100% guilty of this as well.

Your Team

Guess what? Your team doesn’t have ESP either. Neither do your clients. While we know that people don’t possess ESP, we all suffer from the Illusion of Transparency.

The illusion of transparency is a tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others. Another manifestation of the illusion of transparency (sometimes called the observer’s illusion of transparency) is a tendency for people to overestimate how well they understand others’ personal mental states. – Wikipedia

This means that when you’re trying to show your team that you’re actively listening to them, the possibility exists that they may actually interpret your ‘listening’ face as your ‘super annoyed angry face’ instead.

Which means that when you think you’ve conveyed the importance of a project to your employees through your tone, your intended message likely wasn’t conveyed.

But the client didn’t say …

Yes, in an ideal world the client would tell you exactly what their expectations are for a project and you wouldn’t have to try and hit what feels like a randomly moving target. But that’s not our reality.

The truth is, there is always something left unsaid on both sides and if you want to really meet your client’s goals — perhaps resulting in them going on about how awesome you are — you need to ask some very pointed questions about what project success looks like for them.

I start this in my initial client email when I ask:

What will happen to your business when we finish $feature? How will it move your business to the ‘next level’?
How are we going to measure the success of $feature?

Then I use those things to develop my my estimate for my client. We go over the goals that we will accomplish and continually refer back to the goals to assess whether we’re meeting them or not. We assess whether they were even the right goals to be shooting for or not.

Remedy

The only ‘remedy’ for misguided expectations I’ve been able to use with any success is a weekly debrief for projects. When a team is involved, we do one debrief with the internal team and another with the client and the team.

We show the work accomplished during the week and talk about how it meets the goals as we refer back to the estimate provided to the client.

This gives us a regular check-in with clients and a regular re-establishment of the goals.

It’s not foolproof but it’s much better than unstated expectations.

photo credit: weesen cc

Emmet Reading - big book

April 2015 Reading

Wow — I only read one book this month. That’s a great indication of how busy I’ve been this month at home.

Very busy.

1. Race Against the Machine

Get Race Against the Machine on Amazon.

Race Against the Machine, by authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, is a book that explores how the increasing power of technology is affecting employment and income in the US. The big question the authors address in this book is: does technology actually help or hurt? Does it employ more people and lead to better wages, or does it do the opposite?

Unlike many of the big technological advances (think steam power and the industrial revolution) the authors contend that computers are increasing in capability so fast that income levels may look better on paper, but they certainly don’t lead to an increase in employment.

To illustrate this point, Brynjolfsson and McAfee use the example of Bill Gates walking into some random bar. Once Gates arrives, the ‘average’ income among the crowd in the bar suddenly goes up. So, when looking at income averages among a large group of people, when the income averages rise, the change may sometimes be the result of a small part of that group with high earnings skewing the results. The authors of this book propose that’s exactly what’s currently happening in the US economy.

Secondly, they contend that because of the rapid change in job skills, workers displaced by computer power are not able to train into new fields fast enough to curb the employment numbers. In previous revolutions, people were often able to learn new skills quickly enough to keep up with technology.

It’s more than just retraining, though. With computers being increasingly utilized to do things formerly in the domain of humans (think self-driving cars or voice-to-text programs as far-out examples) there is simply less need for lower-skilled workers in many industries. Less demand for those lower-level skills (now being done by machines) is creating a huge downward pressure on the income of workers still attempting to make it fields where computers are capable of performing the work.

In this book, the authors even offer up ideas for transforming the effects of this change, such as spending more on schools or more funding for entrepreneurs. The problem with these ideas is that with so many good ideas to fund, the US (and not only the US) continues to spiral deeper into debt. At some point you have to set a limit on funding to programs.

Besides, people don’t care enough about entrepreneurship or schools to make sure they’re funded properly. If they did care, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about funding them because people would push their representatives in government to get it done.

Overall, this is an interesting book to read. Lots of things to think about and wrestle with as you decide how you see the economy/employment/wages progressing — and how you’re going to make sure you’re in the right position for changes to come.

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Does a month of success affect your budget?

Prompted by this awesome question, today I’m going to talk about what I do when things go amazing in a particular month.

I mean, what if your monthly average is $6K and you suddenly do $24K in a month? What if it’s more, even?

Budget

It’s been a while now, but I did a whole series on budgeting. If you don’t have a business budget then you’re setting yourself up to struggle in your business.

Without a budget, you’re way more likely to overspend on things that aren’t really necessities and then not have enough money to pay your real bills at the end of the month. But of course, you’ll enjoy the latest Mac you just ‘needed’.

So when things go really well in a month I go back to my budget. I keep paying myself the same amount. I put money in savings for a new computer. I put money away for my education needs.

Really, I don’t do anything different when a month goes extra well, except maybe increase my 30% rainy day savings up to 40%. There is rarely such a thing as too much money in your rainy day fund.

But life happened

As I’m writing this, I just had a plumber come in and say we need a new hot water tank because our 20-year-old tank is leaking and can’t be fixed.

The sales for my Effective Client Email went pretty well and while I’m not rolling in money, the sales will more than cover the cost of that hot water tank. So this month I’m not saving the income; instead, I’m putting it towards a new hot water tank.

I’m totally okay with this, because if my income had been low for this month, funds for the new tank would have come from my emergency fund. It’s very important, though, to understand what constitutes an emergency. Don’t make a habit of continually finding an ‘emergency’ every time you have a good month and some extra income. (By the way, emergencies will always find you — you don’t have to go find them.)

But I want STUFF

Yeah, I know there is some new gadget that you want. I want a bunch of new stuff for my bike as well, but those aren’t priorities.

More than some new thing, I want a business that can weather a storm — and the only way to ensure that is to stick to my budget. Save extra and keep on the slow and steady plan.

So many businesses struggle simply because the owner couldn’t keep their spending under control.

Don’t be that person.

photo credit: pasukaru76 cc

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Would you work for yourself?

Many years ago my job was to build sundecks. Well actually, my job was to lay the vinyl coating on sundecks. It was hot work in the summer and freezing cold/wet work in the winter.

It was work that took me out dawn till dusk year round. It paid well in the summer when there was plenty of work and lots of hours to do the work in.

It paid less well in the winter when it was wet and the glue wouldn’t work, or you had to build out crazy tarp contraptions to keep the deck dry.

During my career as a deck builder, the one thing that always got me was calling the boss around 3 p.m. when I needed something, only to find out that 4 days out of 5, he was already at home or out for a beer with his buddy.

He was enjoying a cold beer while I still had hours of work left. To make matters worse, I often found his estimates didn’t match the work that actually needed done.

Despite my boss’s generosity, [1] I hated the job.

The only rational way to structure a company is in such a way that you would work well within it. In other words, you should create a company you would want to be the employee of, not merely the boss of. – Growing a Business

Would you be an employee?

Some of you may be thinking that as the owner, you’ve taken all the risks and are therefore entitled to the overwhelming portion of the ‘success’ [2].

Do you have the newest, nicest computer within your company (that perhaps you only use for your email writing)?

Are you sitting on the newest ‘hot’ chair while your employees deal with old, abandoned chairs that have been there since you opened up the office?

Would you want to be treated like you treat the newest employee?

If you’re answering ‘yes’ to the first two questions or ‘no’ to the last one, it’s time to stop and think about the type of business you’re running.

If you wouldn’t work for the business you run, why on earth are people working for you? If you have high employee turnover, it may be due to the fact that you wouldn’t enjoy being treated like you treat your team.

Start taking the time today to build a company that you would actually want to work at.

[1] The deck boss was generous with annual bonuses but a single bonus never quite felt like it made up for many 10 p.m. nights and 5 a.m. mornings when I learned he was out at the movies while we worked, and still making more money than us doing the work.

[2] Success usually defined as profits or vacation time.

photo credit: jys07 cc

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You won’t drift to success

There once was a cruise ship departing from Vancouver bound for Hawaii. It had all the normal things you’d expect on a cruise ship, like pools and food everywhere and a deck to walk around on.

It was missing a few crucial things though — like engines or any way to steer it. The owners of the cruise ship figured they’d just hire a tug boat to tow it to open water then they could drift to their destination and save lots on fuel, which would increase their profits.

Of course we can see this fictional story wouldn’t end well. We’d later read about this absolutely insane ship that had crashed into the coast somewhere, or got lost in a storm and eventually capsized. We’d laugh and shake our heads, wondering why anyone would get on the ship in the first place. We’d be mad that the cruise line was allowed to do business that way and endanger lives.

Yet despite the obvious poor planning these fictional ship builders (and the equally misguided passengers), so many of us run our businesses this way. We drift from one point to another with no clear plan or the proper engine to drive us to our destination.

To get anywhere that’s worth going, you’ve got to be intentional—every day, not just every now and then. – One Bed One Bank Account

What’s your plan for your business? Do you even have a destination? Any road map for reaching your destination?

Not sure where to start? I’m starting up some mastermind groups to help freelancers (and those wanting to make the jump) have direction and earn well. If you’re interested get in touch to talk more.

Lets get intentional together.

photo credit: biplex cc

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My Writing Workflow

Welcome to the final day in my series on blogging. Today we’re going to talk about my writing workflow.

I’ve taken a look at my writing workflow twice before:

  1. How Evernote Took Over my Life
  2. My Writing Workflow

It’s actually changed since those posts were written, even though one is barely a few months old.

Where it starts

Writing starts with inspiration, and as I said a few days ago much of my inspiration comes from reading. Typically I’ll be reading along and something in the text will spark an idea, so I stop what I’m doing and write out a whole post.

Sometimes my laptop won’t be handy while I’m reading. For example, I might be sitting in my comfortable chair at home, reading on my iPad. In that instance, if something in my current book inspires me, I’ll copy the inspiring text out of the book and save it in Evernote in my ‘inbox’. This step ensures that when I clear my inbox once a week — from my computer — I can put the note into Scrivener and then turn it in to a blog post that ends here.

Where Words Go

All my writing is now done in Scrivener. Blogo is a great application if you want to get your writing into Evernote, and see other possible sources of inspiration for an article, but it had a few little bugs that led me to drop it.

Stuff like having to fight image placement or ending up with duplicate copies of articles. For a while I had one copy that I couldn’t delete. It just sat at the top of my stream of work and…well, sat there being annoying.

Another complaint I had with Blogo was that drafts ended up getting ‘pushed down’ below my current posts. I knew this was due to the fact that Blogo actually connects to your site, serving as an editing interface to the site. I’ve never really loved apps that allow editing of your site content remotely, though publishing is awesome.

I’ve used Scrivener for all my book writing and so I figured it would likely work as my blog writing tool as well. Guess what? It’s a great writing tool.

I currently have four main binders in Scrivener:

1. Final Proofing

This is where my content goes when I’ve got it all written but need to read it over before publishing it on the site. It’s not uncommon for me to have up to 10 articles sitting there, waiting for my final review.

2. In Progress

In progress is where I park the set of articles that are in process. These include articles with a solid outline, or ones partially written. If they’re outlined, that means I’ve really thought them through. Many will even have headings sketched out with a few bullet points and links under each heading.

Some of the in progress content is even closer to complete. Maybe I’ve filled out all the headings with content, or maybe I’ve just done a few of the headings. Either way, stuff here still needs more work and I know it.

3. Ideas

Here is my vast treasure trove of things I’ve thought about writing for the site. I really only dive back in here when I’m looking for something to write during my weekly writing sessions.

If inspiration doesn’t hit during my writing session, I come to this list. Typically this process ends up in good writing, though the final product may not be exactly what I envisioned when I wrote down the idea.

Just starting often gets the gears greased so I can keep writing.

4. Posted

If you blog regularly, it’s sort of fun to go back and see your year-to-date word count as you go along. As I write this I’ll be crossing 50,000 words by the end of May. No, word count alone isn’t an indication of awesome writing, but it’s kind of fun to see the accomplishment.

Formats

I write in Markdown formatted text. If there was one big thing I wish Scrivener would do better it would be deal with Markdown text by doing bold, italics, links like you see in applications like Byword. Sure, Scrivener handles the text it’s all just text without the fancy syntax support that makes your text easier to read. I can deal with it but I hope a future update includes better Markdown support.

After Scrivener

When I’m ready to put up my content for the week I open up Scrivener and start pulling content out of the Final Proofing section. I end up using a copy/paste operation to move it from Scrivener to Byword. Here, I give it another read-through and often end up making a few edits. I also use the Byword preview to make sure that my Markdown syntax is correct.

Byword offers a pretty decent publish feature that lets you send your content directly to your WordPress site. I use this to get my post set up as a draft with the proper title. I wish that Byword populated your categories on your site so that it you could just check off the proper category. You currently can enter them, but typing in a comma separated list is less than optimal and I just skip it.

It’s online

Here is where things start to get out of my hands. I use CoSchedule as my editorial calendar. I’ve written in depth about CoSchedule before.

I still take care of getting a featured image, which is typically a super fun foray into Flickr CC photos of LEGO.

That’s it — my current writing workflow.

If you’re looking to start writing, the biggest thing I suggest you do is not adopt my tools, but to start writing. And to kick-start your writing, I suggest you start reading proper books in the field you want to write about.

Simply starting to write regularly will get your pump primed for writing more, and reading will give you inspiration. If you have nothing to write about because you never try, then the tools you never use don’t matter at all.

photo credit: rg-b cc

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Blogging and Quality Content

In an earlier post, we discussed the fear that you’re not a good writer. That’s a totally legitimate fear because if you haven’t done much writing then how on earth are you supposed to be good at it?

There is a legitimate fear that self-publishing is going to yield low-quality writing.

The simple fact

Let’s face those fears here today.

To begin with, the simple act of writing and writing and writing will make you a better writer.

One of the best things you can do when you’re starting out is to write a post then leave it for a day or two. When you come back to it, read it again and fix all the issues you find.

Read it out loud and it’s going to sound totally different. This will not only help you catch mistakes, but the things that sound silly.

Find a problem and fix it.

What about taking it to the next level though?

Hire an editor

In late November 2014 I hired an editor. Her name is Diane Krause. Before Diane, I had my administrative assistant read through my posts to correct any spelling mistakes.

She caught some errors and my posts were better, but some small mistakes still slipped through.

Working with Diane I get something more though — I get someone to tell me when a post is just plain bad, and if it is, we take it back and re-write or scrap it altogether. She helps clarify my message so I’m communicating with my readers in the way I intend.

It’s more work for me now, but it results in better content for you — which is ultimately better for me, because better content attracts more readers.

If you are looking for an editor send me an email and I’ll put you in touch with Diane.

You can’t afford an editor?

At first, I couldn’t afford an editor either, but I could afford to have friends read some of my posts and provide feedback. These were people in my mastermind group, or other WordPress business owners. They helped me see where my message was unclear or where I sounded like a jerk (and I did sound like a know-it-all jerk for a long time, sorry).

These trusted people helped me refine my writing so I could reach more people.

Even with an editor I still send some of my posts out to friends for feedback. I believe more feedback will help me continually refine my content and bring more clarity.

If I have to make a choice between quality and quantity, I’d rather drop a post a week and have better content.

If you’re feeling less than confident about your writing, ask your partner/spouse/friend to be around when you want to run a post by someone. Most likely they’ll say ‘yes’ and then you have one more person on your team, helping you get your message to your clients.

photo credit: kevinpoh cc

Emmet Reading - rock

When You Struggle with Blog Content

Yesterday I gave you a bunch of prompts to prime your writing pump. I could come up with another 100, and while that would help you, it still wouldn’t really give you my ‘secret’ to writing.

My secret is start reading — and not just blogs, but full books.

So many of my posts start with a thought or a quote from a book I’m reading. If you see a quote in a post it’s likely that I was reading and that particular part of the text inspired a new blog topic (so I wrote it down, of course).

Don’t keep up with me

It’s not uncommon for me to read 6-10 books in a month but you don’t have to read that much to get inspired.

All you need is one sentence that makes you think. Once sentence that you disagree with, or have a different take on.

Write out your thoughts on it and share them with the world. The work of writing it out will not only refine your thoughts, it will refine the thoughts of others.

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Curtis McHale

Helping you answer the hard questions about your business