Back to School With NB

Nicholas Bate’s seven step planning list for the new term.

Back to School With CO

Cultural Offering’s prep list for the new semester.

What Is My Target Market?

Continuing with the book, Book Yourself Solid, I’ve identified what my ideal client is, but what’s my target market?

18 months ago if you asked me who my target market is then I would have to answer, “I haven’t a clue”. Fast forward to today and the answer is still pretty much the same. The reason for this is that I have two types of clients. My major clients are clients I work with in what I see as my target market, the healthcare sector, they’re organisations and businesses that require deliver software for the NHS, GP’s and other healthcare organisations in the UK. The minor clients are clients I do work for on a rare occasion. I might have provided a website or application for them and they never require much work to either fix or upgrade what they have. They usually require a single week’s work every six months or so.

I’ll be honest, I still don’t know for definite what my target market should be. I’m still getting a feel for the kind of work I want to do and whether there’s a long term future for me in that market. Ideally I would like to do consulting work for healthcare software providers or even straight to the healthcare businesses themselves, providing myself as a development consultant and resource, but I don’t want to do this forever. There’s two options I see ahead.

The first is looking into another target market. I have a few in mind but nothing concrete. The reason I am exploring other options is that while I have firm background in healthcare I also have some experience in other sectors. One area of work I did that was interesting was risk management solutions. I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to working in this market again.

The second is building a revenue stream from a number of products that will provide a steady income over the next few years. It has to be years as anything short lived like a book or a screencast is only going to generate so much revenue over a short time frame. If I went down this road I would need to continue releasing books or screencasts every six months and I’m not sure that this plan is for me. Something more long term like a software product or service would definitely be something worth looking at however, getting the right product is a challenge to begin with.

I know what my target market should be and maybe that’s enough for me to be going on with for the next few years. There’s no rules to say I have to stay with that market. If it doesn’t work out then I can always change.

The Missing Tweets

I finally found a place to put my tweets from my now deleted account. Sadly Twitter isn’t the same service it was in those great days. I still miss it though.

Notebook Hacking 101

Wonderful idea for organising your notebook.

Need a Productivity Boost?

The brilliant Nicholas Bate has what you need.

Fixie Friday - Bombtrack Needle

I’ve got a thing for black fixies. I think they just look better. And this Bombtrack Needle is no exception.

via PEDAL Consumption

Bad Press

With anything we create we take a risk of getting a bad review of comment. Dealing with this is just about facing a simple truth. There’s no pleasing everyone.

If you’re in the industry of creating content, products or services for people then chances are you’ve been faced with the dread that is a negative review. As creators we want to our little ideas grow and flourish and eventually make the world a better place for people. It doesn’t always happen that way and along the road to success you will encounter bad reviews and negative comments.

If you’re under the illusion that there’s no way you could have created something that anyone is going to think ill of then you’re wrong. With the billions of people on the planet now being more connected than ever before, we’ve created a soap box where anyone can join in. Unfortunately that means that anyone can share their views and opinions on anything, including your little bud of creation.

I recently had the unfortunate experience of reading about some negative comments about Journalong. I only happened to stumble on them after doing some research for other online markdown journals. The author of the comments was entitled to share his views on Journalong and unfortunately for me, he found Journalong not to his liking.

It was hard to read the comments. My little journaling application has been a side project for two years now, and while it hasn’t been a success financially, it has been an experience for me and I’ll continue working on it for as long as I keep journaling with it. Journalong hasn’t been high on the priority list for the last few months due to freelancing being a priority, but I know that it is far from perfect and there are definitely places where it could be improved. It’s a labour of love and it will continue to be.

Comments like this can be a confidence knock and it was for a few hours. That is until I realised that pleasing everyone wasn’t the goal of my creation. It was to create something for me to use. It was something that I wanted to use. I don’t have paying customers or a market to please and I think that’s why I let the comments slide. If Journalong was a product that generated revenue then yes, I would have paid more attention to the comments and perhaps even scheduled in immediate development time to rectify those issues.

With anything that we create, we take a risk of creating something that not everyone is going to find favourable. Even if we have tested the idea with a select group of people, it’s still nothing compared to the number of people that will see our idea across the world when it comes to releasing it into the wild. There’s definitely no pleasing everyone.

How I Use Filters in Todoist

Last week we looked at labels in Todoist and how they provide context to your tasks. This week we’re going to look at how I use Todoist’s filter feature.

Before we talk about filters, let’s just recap how we can already group tasks in Todoist. The first is by assigning tasks to a project. This is ideal for tasks we know that belong in a specific place. The second is by using labels which are more of a form of tagging in Todoist. You can label tasks across different projects thereby bringing similar tasks together.

Filters in Todoist are similar to labels but they can bring together more tasks depending on your filter. A filter in Todoist is a search term that matches tasks and can then be saved for future use. The benefit here is that filters allow you to bring similar tasks together rather than focusing on tasks from a single project or label. Combining dates, labels and some boolean logic allows us to filter for specific tasks and labels to give us a list of tasks that are suitable to our location and environment.

Here’s a few ideas for filters that I am using at the moment:

Low Hanging Fruit

Filter: "(@Low & @5mins) !@Errands"

I use this all tasks labelled with these and complete when I’m stuck for something to do.

Errands & Emails

Filter: "@Errands | (@Email & @Low)"

I sometimes opt for public transport when I need to head into town to run some errands. It’s good, as it gives me a chance to walk to the bus stop and get some air, but also there’s 10 minutes on the bus where I can carry out some email tasks before getting into town to do some errands. This filter is great for those tasks when you’re out and about.

Upcoming Posts

Filter: "14days & @writing"

I’ve started scheduling blog posts into specific days so that I’m keeping my writing varied. Rather than using a calendar though I find it easier to put due dates against the tasks in my writing list and then tag them with @writing. Combining this with the 14 days term and I can get a list of blog posts I’ve got scheduled for the next two weeks. If there’s any gaps I can pull an idea in and schedule it with a date.

Filters are one feature that set Todoist apart from other to do list applications. Using filters you can build custom lists that are more than just a single project or label. You can build lists that can be done in certain locations or at specific parts of the day, thereby making yourself a little bit more productive. It’s worth noting that filters using a boolean operator is only included in Todoist’s premium subscription.

That’s it then for Todoist. This is the final post in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it. If you’ve any questions about Todoist then I suggest you check out their help and support sites which are full of help and advice.

My Ideal Client

Do you vet your clients for suitablility before working with them? Maybe you should for happier freelance career.

I’ve started reading Book Yourself Solid as part of my daily reading. It’s time I started taking my career more seriously and invest some of my time in marketing and promoting myself. At first I didn’t know where to start but seeing as Curtis McHale has mentioned this book so often and his career is flying then it must be a good indication of its impact.

The first section of the book is about laying down the foundations to build upon. The first chapter is about trimming your clients down to only the clients that you want to work with. While my client list is fine at the moment, there may come a point in the future where I have a client that isn’t a good fit for me. Rather than letting myself be saddled with difficult or problematic clients in the future, I need to perfect my red velvet rope policy which is mentioned in the book. Your red velvet policy is a guideline to the ideal clients you want to work with. Before accepting any work from a new client I need to decide if they are the ideal client for me.

In Book Yourself Solid, Michael suggests you identify the types of clients that you don’t want. In doing this you end up with a list of traits of clients you do want. This is my ideal client in the three simplest terms that I could think of. They don’t cover all aspects of a great client but it’s a start.

My ideal client has interesting projects to work on

During those first few meetings between yourself and a prospective client you should get as much details on the type of work you would be doing with the client. It’s here that you can get a good sense of what projects they have. As a web developer it might be tempting to always take greenfield projects on but these don’t necessarily mean that they are great projects to work on. In the early days of any greenfield project there can be technical issues with untested technology such as programming languages and frameworks, dependency issues with hardware and even implementation problems if you are expected to lead a team of developers who have never used this particular technology before.

In Chad Fowler’s book, The Passionate Programmer he mentions the legacy technologist who is familiar with ageing frameworks and languages and is able to work with legacy projects without a problem. These people are essential as they can nurse projects through their final years before the software is upgraded or replaced. I know many developers who would quickly sidestep projects like this but having seen the importance of technology specialists in this field from my ERP days, it’s not only work that is essential but also interesting.

Legacy have their problems but what’s so interesting about them is the chances that are available to refactor them or gradually migrate them over to other applications. In my days as an ERP developer I not only maintained a number of legacy ERP systems I also has the chance to provide and support and knowledge on these legacy systems to clients. It was rewarding work helping out people with their problems and fine tuning the system so that the same problem couldn’t be replicated in the future or at least improved slightly.

My ideal client communicates often

Having worked on a number of projects with different clients, one of the best pieces of advice that I have had is that you should communicate with your client often. For me it’s every day. Not a day goes by where I don’t ask a question, drop them an IM, an email or even schedule a phone call to discuss something about the project. I used to hesistate in the past about doing this on a daily basis, but now I see it as acceptable behaviour. If I’m continually communicating with the client to clarify requirements on the project then I’m doing both of us a big favour. We’re making sure that both of us don’t get the end of the project and then think, “That’s not what we wanted.”.

However, the same goes the other way. Just like I communicate with my client frequently, I expect the same from them. If they have a question they should drop me a message or an email. If they want me to sit on a meeting, then tell me the date and time. If they want me to discuss further options then they should ask me too. I’m not a mind reader but I do try and pre-empt what the client wants. For the rest of the time I expect the client to ask questions when they need to, send me updates to the project and anything else that keeps me in the loop.

My ideal client pays on time

An obvious one for many freelancers but it’s one of the key points in ensuring you enjoy your career. I’ve wrestled with this in the past and I’ve had clients that have paid on time and clients that have paid late. It’s can be frustrating.

Lately though, more clients have come round to paying invoices on time. It’s such a boost to your confidence and productivity knowing that your work is valued and that you will be paid for it when you expect it.

I haven’t got to the stage where I have parted ways with a client over late invoices but it is something at the back of my mind that I do think about. I’m happy to report though that my client list all pay on time.

These are just three basic guidelines to the kind of clients that I want to work with. Ideally I would like to narrow this further by a specific market, but that’s for another day.