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Why I write and teach about business

There are a few reasons I write here.

Help

Helping others run better businesses and make more money is a good reason. I do love seeing others win and love knowing I’m a small part of someone having success.

Expert

Another great reason is that writing here helps establish my expertise.

This is a long term good thing as I plan to open a few paid Mastermind groups and some paid coaching spots.

To fill those I need people that think I can help them run a better business.

If you want to get in on some of those coaching spots get on my email list to hear about them first

Teacher

The real long term reason I started writing is that it makes me better at running my own business.

I’m forced to think harder about a problem then I would if I didn’t have to explain it.

Then I have a more profitable consulting business because I’m simply better at running a business.

Mentor

I coach one person for free for the same reason.

Their questions challenge me with a situation that is a bit different from my own.

The answers that worked for me may not work for the person I coach.

So I need to go back to the principles and come up with new applications. Maybe I need to throw out the principles and get new ones.

Again that helps me run a better business while it helps someone else succeed.

You

Obviously you read blogs since you’re reading this.

That’s one level of learning for you.

Do you write about what you learn?

Do you pass on your new found knowledge to someone who’s a few steps behind you?

If not then you’re leaving some huge opportunities for making yourself better on the table.

Take every opportunity to learn and you’re going to go further.

photo credit: kalexanderson cc

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Does the market agree with you?

I’m sitting here on launch day (to my email list) for my Hope is not a Strategy course and you know what, there hasn’t been a single purchase yet.

Of course I sat around last night talking about how sales could work and running numbers.

Yes I even dreamed about selling out of all packages on day one.

Funny enough this great post from Seth Godin comes across my desk as well.

…while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you.

I still feel like the course has way more to offer than it costs.

At this moment with no sales, so many questions about me are going around.

Have I really found a problem that other businesses are having?

Have I shown that I actually have expertise in this arena?

Have I wildly over estimated what others feel the material is worth?

and with clients

Sending estimates to clients used to be the same way with me.

I’d send an estimate and then sit around stressing about the targeting of the estimate.

Did the customer think my pricing was outrageous and totally out of line with the value I could provide?

Did they not like me?

I know that some of you are the same way when you send out estimates.

Not anymore

I don’t feel like that anymore though.

Now I’ve dug in to the value that the solution will provide to my client and state that value.

It took a long time to get that way though. Lots of estimates went out. Lots of trial and error.

You’ll get there too, just keep at it.

Focus on the value you provide to your client. Show them that you can provide the value and then tell them how much it’s going to cost for them to get the value desired.

photo credit: tijger-san cc

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You’re not perfect – find a problem and fix it

We’ve all been faced with a problem that’s clearly outside our comfort level.

Maybe it’s a coding challenge that you just don’t know the answer to.

Maybe it’s an estimate for a big corporation and you just don’t know how to position it.

Maybe it’s a tough blog post that you don’t know how to write.

Shitty first drafts

Most people have heard that they should just write a shitty first draft of a blog post and then improve it.

Have you also heard that you should do the same thing for that coding challenge?

How about that estimate?

Then you need to read it again find a flaw in the work and fix it.

Solve the problem

Taking this approach gives you the freedom to fail. The first iteration isn’t supposed to be perfect it’s supposed to have flaws.

Understanding that it’s supposed to have flaws means that you are free to make mistakes.

You’re free to fail.

Then just sit back and read it again and find a problem and fix it.

You can almost always find one errant word or optimize one line of code or tweak that bad first pass at a design.

You can’t ever write it perfect the first time. So don’t expect perfection.

You’re only going to let yourself down.

photo credit: wwarby cc

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The rule of thumb I run my business by

I wrote yesterday about your screw up not being your client’s fault.

I told you about my screw up and what I did to make it better for the client.

But I didn’t tell you my guiding principle to running my business did I?

How do I think you should treat clients at every interaction?

How do I decide to treat my contractors with every interaction?

Everything is awesome

I do my best at every point to interact with others through my business and make them feel awesome.

I want them to be blown away with my generosity in gifts.

I want any contractors I hire to tell me they’ve never been paid that fast.

When my client paid an invoice they were not expecting and hadn’t agreed was needed I wanted them to say “wow he empowered us to have the payment discussion on a level playing field, I didn’t expect that”.

All you’ve got is your reputation so make sure it’s one where people think you are awesome

photo credit: gerrysnaps cc

Ahhhhhhh

Your screw up isn’t your client’s fault

It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada and I screwed up.

Last week sometime I emailed a client about a project that had some extra technical issues. They had a bunch of plugins that were simply broken.

There were errors that prevented me from working.

They had a whole day of downtime with their host last week, which cost me a whole day of work.

So I said we’d need an extra week to take care of the project and that’s going to cost extra.

My client emailed

When my client emailed the response they indicated that they expected an invoice for another $1500 and that was it. Not a full week invoice.

It’s a long weekend.

I usually make a 1/2 week 3 days if it needs to be.

So I didn’t really question the client on the $1500.

Then I sent an invoice last week.

Oh that invoice

Now it’s Monday and I’m spending a few hours catching things up before I make a Cinderella cake for my girl that turns 4 tomorrow.

It turns out I didn’t really check my records properly and that $1500 my client said they expected wasn’t part of the original contract.

We didn’t really talk about the extra it would take either.

That means I basically sent them an extra $1500 invoice for something that I shouldn’t have, yet because I didn’t have them on board and agreeing with the costs.

They called me on it.

What to do?

When this comes up you have a few ways to go:

You could get righteous and keep the money because it’s taking longer. But then the client is going to probably feel like you stole from them.

You could get humble and explain about why you feel you still should get that money paid. But you never really agreed on it in the first place, so it’s likely the client is still going to feel like you stole from them.

You could say they’re right, and refund the money and then have a talk about it so you can agree on how to handle the extra time and cost.

High road

If you’ve been reading my site for a while, you know I picked the high road. I instantly refunded the money so that we can have the discussion without them feeling like I have something they own in my possession without the right to that item.

I admit that I didn’t want to, but as soon as I did a weight lifted off my shoulders and that ‘problem’ I read about yesterday isn’t really a problem today.

You can’t refund

I know that some of you out there simply couldn’t refund the money. You’d truly be in a position where you needed every penny and that money would already feel like it’s yours.

Your client doesn’t care if you’re in that position. You not budgeting and saving and overspending isn’t really their problem.

So stop whining and choose the high road.

You’re going to get lots more respect from your client and you’re going to build your character.

photo credit: kwl cc

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Don’t say it’s easy, you have no idea yet if it is easy

It’s so easy when your on the phone with a client or in a meeting to tell them that a certain feature is ‘easy’ or as the tweet below says “straight forward”.

Edwin has it right, saying something is easy is often a way of saying I really haven’t thought about it yet.

Limit Comments by Team

Last year I had a project come my way where we needed to limit comments made on a custom post type so that they were visible to only users of the same ‘team’.

When the request came through to me there was some line like:

I don’t know how to do it, but it doesn’t sound too hard to me.

Now of course that’s often a flag on a project, though I’ve worked with this designer a bunch adding features to their work so I let the flag go. I know they are awesome.

Really this designer doesn’t even have a proper framework to evaluate the complexity of the project. Which means I asked all these questions:

  • but do Editors (or other roles) have access regardless of teams?
  • do Admins see all comments regardless of the teams?
  • do all users see admin comments, even if they have replied to someone from another team?
  • are we going to show comment counts for the team, or for the whole post?
  • how are we dealing with comment visibility in the WordPress admin area?

Depending on those answers, it may not be very straight forward.

You want to sound awesome

When you’re on that call or in that meeting with the client and you want to tell them that something is easy stop don’t say it.

You’ve had 5 seconds to think about it, not 15 minutes to probe the problem.

I only came up with my questions after checking out the WordPress source for a few minutes to see how comments were written so I could start to work the code out in my head.

You simply don’t have that time when you’re in a meeting.

Then you’ve said it’s ‘easy’ and the client expects a price for ‘easy’. If it’s not actually easy you’re then stuck with your price anchored at ‘easy’.

That may mean the project won’t happen because the cost is suddenly to much for an ‘easy’ bit of work.

Back to the teams

With my project above all the answers came back in the easiest way possible so the project was really straight forward. Add about 30 lines of code and push it out for testing.

One day of work and it’s all tidy.

But I wouldn’t have known that without taking the time to actually start working out the solution in my head.

Next time you want to say “it’s easy”, stop and tell the client you need to look more at the problem and get back to them about it.

Then take that 15 minutes and start to work out the solution in your head and ask your client the questions that will come up as you look at the problems.

It’s often not as “easy” as you thought and then you don’t look as awesome as you’d hoped.

photo credit: azrasta cc

Art of Value is 1000% worth your time

You ever find a great new resource that blows your mind with every piece of content you get?

You know one that makes you really think about how you’re running your business.

How your pricing your projects.

The weight you put towards project management as the thing that really makes a project awesome.

It’s all about value

I’ve talked about Kirk before and what I still think is one of the best episodes of the Freelancer’s Show where he gave us a mind blowing lesson on value based pricing.

Did you know that he now has a podcast called Art of Value and you guessed it, it’s all about how to do value with your projects.

The only problem I have so far with the podcast is that I listen to them while riding my bike which means I can’t take notes.

So I have to listen to them twice.

Art of Value has a new permanent place in my list of podcasts you should be listening to.

I’ll do a full podcast update list in January with all the changes I’ve made recently.

I also am on the episode that goes live today (I swear it wasn’t planned that way on my part). I talk a bunch about how by serving your client you can go further.

Hope is not a Strategy

Kirk has also been kind enough to say yes to joining me for my course that went on sale yesterday called: Hope is not a Strategy: Plan your next business year. He’s going to talk all about value for us via a webinar.

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Curtis McHale

Freelance Business and Productivity