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Getting Clients to Commit! 

Getting Clients to Commit! 

As a startup, and even as an existing business, it’s becoming seemingly harder to get clients to commit to business for a set duration. However, for some businesses, it might mean the difference between sinking, floating and sailing.

Committing clients to a five year contract for a simple service in this economy is ludicrous. Six-month and twelve-month contracts with three month trials are more favorable, and even then, termination clauses sometimes have to be penalty free from the client-side, which reeks of unfairness on the service provider’s end.

Striking a fair balance is sometimes hard, especially if a young business is providing a service to a company who has been around for some time. Negotiating termination and payment terms seem to be the biggest hurdle, but something to keep in mind is that if the client came to you, or chose you out of a pool of suppliers, you may have more weight than you think. Opening a discussion about changing the standard terms to something more fair is always a good place to start.

Working closer to your ideal arrangement with a client with every contract is also a good method to get what you need from them while providing fair terms. It will give the relationship some time to grow while you establish trust and confidence with your client.

Client contracts are key to the health of a business. Use them with as many clients as you can manage as it helps you to forecast your cash flow and protects you legally if a client does not want to pay. They should be mandatory, at least for new clients, conglomerates, or companies you’re unsure about.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, just speaking/writing from personal experience, and there may be important details missing, such as the specific protection a contract can provide. 

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three

The rule of three is simple.

Pick three things you want to achieve today. And focus all your efforts on those three things. 

By doing this, you end up clearing your task list much faster than you expected, you’re not as drained, and you’re more relaxed, because you only have three things to do today. The bonus is that when you’re more relaxed, your performance and output increases exponentially (there are hundreds of studies on this to prove it) and by achieving these three things every day, you’ll feel an overall satisfaction with your life.

A good idea is to make one of those three an item you’ve been procrastinating for a while. By ticking it off, you’ll be encouraged to tackle more on your list, which is always a great thing.

A bonus tip is when you’re finished with those three tasks and you have the time, don’t stop there. Tackle a fourth, or perhaps a fifth. And do keep track of your progress somehow so that you can reward yourself for all the hard work!

How valuable is YOUR time?

How valuable is YOUR time?

How much do you value your time? Do you have a dollar figure per hour?

Every business has tasks that no one wants to do, but someone has to do it, right? And if no one else can do it, then you have to do it, right? Wrong.

When you, as a specifically-skilled individual, have to do a million things unrelated to your exact skill-set, you’re wasting your time. Wasted time in a business is bad for business. You’ll end up being strung out, exhausted, and unable to focus on anything, because you’re doing things you shouldn’t, and you’re not doing a good job anyway because you’re probably dragging your feet on it.

Outsourcing or hiring someone to do the smaller things will allow you to focus on your business and provide a better product and service.

Knowing what you’re worth helps you weed out unwanted clients. 

Every business knows this one… The clients that are an instant migraine. Clients who are usually unwilling to pay you for your time are usually not worth it, because they waste a whole lot of your time and theirs, most likely don’t know what they want, and you might just end up dropping them.

It’s better to just say no from the onset, than to subject yourself to that pain. Do yourself a favor and send them to a competitor! It will keep them busy, haha! #sorrynotsorry

Now that you have all this free time by hiring/outsourcing those tasks, and saying no to all those waste-of-time jobs, you can now plan your time more easily, and live your life doing things that mean something to you. Take your dog for a walk, or read a book.

It’s very tempting to accept every single request from a client, especially as a small business because that means extra revenue (which could mean an equipment upgrade, a bonus or a new employee), but you have to stop and ask yourself if that task is worth your hourly rate, and if it’s not, then don’t do it!

Getting things done… 

Getting things done… 

You can read hundreds of articles and books on getting things done, and download dozens of the top rated productivity apps in the App Store, but there is one method that many “productivity gurus” seem to forget to mention…

Just sit down and do the fucking work! 

There. That’s the best piece of advice I can give to anyone about productivity. Put one foot in front of the other and start walking. No amount of books or apps can do that for you. Keep it simple, make a task list, cross things off.

Bonus tip: make your bed every morning. It’s one of those items on your list that you can achieve, and by mentally ticking it off, you will set yourself on a path of productivity for the day. It actually works… Try it for a week and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Plus, your bedroom looks 200% neater when the bed is made up! Pros all around! 👌

How to keep a consistent blog schedule

How to keep a consistent blog schedule

Blogging is hard work; but the hardest part of blogging is not the actual writing and research, it’s the time. Keeping to a consistent schedule is hard, and consistency is a very important factor to a successful blog.

I have a system, which on most days helps, but I do falter from time to time; nothing is perfect.

Keep a Notebook

It doesn’t matter where you initially write. You can write directly in WordPress and save as a draft, or you can write in a note taking app, like Evernote, Google Docs, or One Note; it really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you write somewhere.

Once you start to write, ideas will flow. When I start writing an article, I’ll get about five to eight ideas for other articles, because no one wants to hear me ramble for 2000+ words; so I write it down, and continue from where I left off. This will provide you with more articles to add to your blog schedule.

Determine a Schedule

Then you have to do is determine how often you want to blog. You don’t have to blog every single day, you can have a weekly blog, or a weekday blog, but the important thing is that you determine how often, and then (here’s the key part) you have to stick to it.

This blog has never been able to really stick with a schedule, and that’s 100% my fault for not making it a priority. I’m a serious blogger; I love writing and this is how I get to help people. But sticking to the schedule is the hardest part, and it takes some sacrifice if you’re already pretty busy.

The Editorial Calendar

WordPress has a nifty feature of allowing you to schedule blog posts; which is great if you’re like me, and don’t have time to blog every single day, but you write on weekends. There is a gap in this system, because you have no visual reference as to when your posts are actually scheduled for.

There is a plug-in called WordPress Editorial Calendar and this solves this problem. It gives you a full month where you can see exactly where your posts are scheduled for, and you can drag and drop them to change their order, which is great.

My System

I *try* to have an article published every day. It’s not easy, but I try. I fail, a lot. But I try.

I write in Evernote; and I have about 2000 original blog ideas just waiting to be written, and quite a few are added every day.

I set aside a day on the weekend (either Saturday or Sunday) and dedicate this to writing and other blog maintenance work. Sometimes I write during the week, if I really feel like it.

Then I schedule articles, one a day, for the week, or two, depending on how much I wrote that week.

The editorial calendar really helps in this process, because I can see where I’m missing articles for. And a visual reference is always a lot more serious, for me at least, than a list of scheduled articles.

This is how I get blogging done. It’s a sacrifice I love making, because I love blogging. It’s not a part time hobby, this is a full time career for me (because blogging is so much more than just posting articles). So, good luck with sticking to your schedule!

What methods do you use for blogging? Write to me and let me know!

Get Sh*t Done with Project Management

Get Sh*t Done with Project Management

For those who don’t know, my career was in Events and Project Management before I took the dive to pursue my deep love for technology. I was 17 when I hosted my first event, which naturally was a total flop, but great lessons to be learned from that story, and I’ve had the fantastic experience of working on Trinidad’s biggest event for the year, Soca Monarch.

Recently, I had the pleasure of guest lecturing for the Creative Media Production final year class, and the topic was project management. And I was tasked with giving a brief overview since that particular unit was around project design, implementation and evaluation. So I’ve taken my notes from that class and adapted them for a great blog post.

What is a project?

It’s important to define exactly what can be considered a project, because you might have tasks which you’re thinking are projects:

“A project is an endeavour in which human, material and financial resources are organised in a novel way to deliver a unique scope of work of given specifications, within constraints of cost and time, so as to achieve a purpose defined by both quantitative and qualitative objectives.” – Rodney Turner

Basically, a way to GET THINGS DONE (GTD).

What are Benefits of Project Management?

There are several benefits of project management, many of them are obvious, but I’ll just name a few:

  • Accomplish more in less time
  • Meet the deadline
  • Less stressed
  • Make better decisions
  • Have time to hit Maracas the day before project is due.

So, what are the characteristics of a project?

How can you identify a project from a task?

  • Projects are temporary
  • Have a definite start and end
  • Have clear objectives
  • Progressively elaborate
  • Upsets the Status Quo

Properly planned projects deliver within cost/budget, scope, time, and quality.

Here are some definitions of terms I will use in this article:

  • A Project Charter is a document that formally authorises a project documenting the initial requirements that satisfy teh stakeholder’s needs and expectations.
  • A Project Plan documents the actions necessary to execute the Project Charter.
  • The Work Breakdown Schedule (WBS) determines the tasks involved, and the human, time, and financial resources to execute the project scope.
  • SWOT Analysis determines where your project’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. Turn the weaknesses into strengths, and the threats into opportunities.
Laws to Note

Like all things in life, project management is ruled by a few laws, but I’ll mention the most notable of them all:

  • Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • Pareto’s Principle (80/20 law): 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

(Source: Wikipedia)

So, what next?

There are three main phases to simple Project Management:

  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Evaluation

There are more in-detail phases, but I thought that I’d just mention the most important of them all, and they really sum up project management quite nicely too.

The planning phase is the most work. A well planned project will go more smoothly than one not properly planned, but such are all things in life. The key is to plan, plan again, and again until you have a plan A, B, and C. You have to remember that Murphy loves it when you have projects, because it means that he has something to do… But you have to be prepared for him.

The next phase is execution. If you have a properly planned project, execution should be smooth, with a few bumps in the road which you took into consideration with your plans B & C. This is where the extra planning comes in handy. What do you do when a deliverable is late, or has run over budget? What do you do when a venue you booked was double booked? How do you mitigate these potential project-ending disasters? You have two contingencies, within which you catered for these things to actually happen, so now, it’s just a matter of executing something in plan B or C.

Evaluation has to be one of the most important parts of project management in moving forward. You have to look at what went wrong, and how you could have handled something better, or even how you could have planned better.

I’ve outlined some steps to follow to make your project management processes a lot easier.

THE PLANNING PHASE

Brainstorm Session: The Project Charter

Step 1: Define the Project Objective – What is the project looking to achieve? Define your aims, goals, and objectives.

Step 2: Define the Deadline and Time Scope – When do you need to finish this project by? How long do you have or giving yourself to finish your project?

Step 3: Define the work involved (Scope of the Project) – What must be done to make this project successful?

Step 4: Can you make that deadline with this project of this quality and scope with your workload AND your lifestyle? (If yes, skip step five) – Be realistic. Don’t try to set a project timeline what you know from now you cannot achieve by any means, because you will end up either with a half-baked project, or an incomplete one.

Step 5: Re-Evaluate the project until step four can be met.

Planning Session:

Step 6: SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) on new project idea – make certain you know what your weaknesses and threats are. This will help you decide if you need to refine your objectives or your timeline.

Step 7: Define your priorities – What is critical to completion and what is not? Where are your trade-offs? What are you willing to “shed” off as “dead weight” when it comes to crunch time?

Step 8: Determine who is doing what, when, where, how and why (Human Resource Scope) As long as you have other people involved in your project, you need to clearly define this so everyone will be on the same page.

Step 9: Create the schedule A (Work Breakdown Schedule) – This is your “if all goes well” plan. Remember to be realistic.

Step 10: Plan for the worst (schedule B) (Risk Management – Contingency plan) – This is for when Murphy pays you a visit. Remember to take all possible worst-case scenarios into consideration.

Step 11: Plan for the Zombie Apocalypse – This is when Murphy brings a friend or few. Make certain that you have everything that can possibly go wrong in here. This is for when core elements in your project go haywire. So like when a venue for an event is double booked, or a caterer suddenly cancels on you.

Step 12: Determine your means of communication – choose your method and stick to it. Email is generally the best since it leaves a reliable paper trail but in this age of technology, WhatsApp groups seems to be gaining popularity. Just remember to keep a backup of your conversations.

Step 13: Create a project plan and all team members must sign it and have copies – once you sign something, you agree with it. Your signature is on that agreement, and you’re now responsible for getting that element of the project done.

Step 14: Get executing; you’ve wasted enough time!

Planning tips:

  • Set your end point, and work your way backwards when working on your Work Breakdown Schedule.
  • Define the most critical tasks to project completion, then schedule in all the tasks, including those which add “fluff”.
  • Always have additional time for tasks in your original plan. The idea is to have “extra time” so that if you finish on time, or before time, another task can be started early. The extra time is also an extra support in case something runs a couple days later than expected; it would not disrupt your entire project.
  • If the deadline is unrealistic on paper, it’s impossible in reality.
  • Find creative ways to cut task time down in half.
  • Do not overcomplicate it. Keep things stupid simple.

THE EXECUTION PHASE

Step 1: STICK TO THE SCHEDULE
Step 2: Communicate every step of the way
Step 3: Communicate every step of the way
Step 4: Communicate every step of the way
Step 5: Ensure all project objectives are met

Tips for PM:

  • Ensure you’re on schedule. If not, revert to plan B.
  • If plan B is not working, bring out the big guns.
  • Evaluate your project’s quality with every task completed
  • Make certain you stay within budget. If not, you have to look at where you are, and what can be dropped if you’re confined by a strict budget.
  • If you are running behind schedule, either extend the hours the team is working, or determine which tasks can be shed (Trade-Offs)

THE AUTOPSY (EXECUTION PHASE)

If you answer all these YES, then you’re flawless and should be the best project manager in the Universe.

  • Did we meet the deadline?
  • Did we meet the quality of work as planned?
  • Were we communicating as agreed?
  • Did we stick to the plan?

So, something went wrong. Let’s figure that out.

  • Was the project objective clearly defined?
  • What schedule deadlines did you meet and not meet, and why?
  • What was different with the quality of the project in the end when compared to the original idea? If it did not meet the original quality expectancy, what went wrong and why?
  • Determine the differences between the Planned Project and the Actual Project.

There are thousands of templates online for project charters, project plans, WBS’, SWOT analysis, etc. All you need to know is the basics, and how to use Google and you’re pretty much on the right track, to getting the initial resources together. It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as the project is done on time, within budget, scope, and quality.

Google Analytics: Behaviour & Engagement

Google Analytics: Behaviour & Engagement

How many of your users are new? How many are returning? How engaged are they? How many pages deep are they getting? You can get all these statistics in Google Analytics. I’ll help you answer those questions in this article.

New versus Returning Readers

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This feels like an age-old question, and in many ways it is. Shops know their new customers and they know their returning or repeat customers, so why aren’t you looking at yours?

We would have looked at this briefly in the first article on the basics, but this time we’re going to look at it on a deeper level.

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The bounce rate seems to be higher for returning visitors rather than new visitors, however, returning seem to spend more time reading more articles than the new visitors.

Page Depth

Page depth tells you after your user has visited your site, what next they do. Do they leave (which increases the bounce rate) or do they read another article.

Here we can see that most sessions read two articles, but the interesting stat is the last one, 7 sessions read 20+ pages, which means that there are users who just sit and read article after article. Great if you’re content driven!

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Session Duration

This is a more detailed breakdown of your time on site or session duration.

Sadly, 331 sessions lasted less than 10 seconds which is really bad for content. However, there is a bright side, there are over 50 users spending more than 3 minutes on the website, which is not great, but could be worse.

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User Flow

The User Flow allows you to see your traffic more clearly, and you’d be quite surprised by the stats.

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Green indicates traffic coming in, and the red bits are the drop offs. Here you can see how the traffic just whittles down into nothing. Nearly all the traffic which started on an article dropped off, indicating a lack of engagement. Few who started on the home page did go to other pages, but then, they just disappeared.

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All in all…

Users need to be more engaged. The session duration was pretty poor, even though the page depth seemed to be in a better state. There is also a high number of users dropping off after an article. This would indicate that a better content navigation system should be in place. Also, most of the users are new users, and not enough returning. Content topics should be re-evaluted for efficacy.

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