My Favorite Slack Feature

Since a lot of people are starting to work from home, and maybe starting to work in Slack for the first time, I wanted to share my favorite feature; “Remind me about this.”

Best used on a Friday afternoon, when someone sends you something and you know it can wait, you just have Slack remind you Next week.

Now, where you go from there is up to you. I sometimes make notes in my paper to-do planner, or make a note in Todoist, BUT… having Slack remind you of a thing, rather than relying on a Calendar or Reminders app is super solid.

Do Your Work

I stayed up late on Wednesday night, watching all of the commentary about the NBA game cancellations. Since Thursday morning, things have been hazy. My head just feels in a fog, with so many reports, stories, and noise.

What’s the best course of action? What to do next? Should I get extra cat food?

Then a Friday call with a good friend set me at ease; “just do your work.” I’m paraphrasing, but the first thing I need to do is my work, because it needs to get done, so I can send an invoice and get paid.

Does it NEED to be done? In the grand scheme of things? Doesn’t matter. Now isn’t the time for grand thinking, and figuring things out. Do the work, then do what else needs to get done.

Clients

Spoke with a good friend today about being our “authentic self” online, and sometimes fearing the vibe we give off could lead to lost work, as maybe a potential client is turned away by the way we carry ourselves.

One lofty client came up, Starbucks, of course. They’re top banana, sure. But who’s the #2 coffee company? Who’s the #8 coffee supplier on the East Coast? I bet they have a budget, right?

Meg Lewis comes to mind when thinking about this sort of thing, as she is so amazingly herself. Such an inspiration, and a reminder that playing the part is just sort of playing yourself. Be who you are, and you’ll attract your dream clients.

Make Yourself Obsolete

Quote of the year so far, from Bobby Goodlatte:

https://twitter.com/rsg/status/1228487241556586496

Love that last line: You should be so much less focused on how hard you work, and so much more focused on how to automate / make yourself obsolete.

I admit I got caught in the habit of grinding. Cranking. Just apply more focus, keystroke commands, turn off Slack, roll up the sleeves and just ATTACK.

Or pay someone on Fivver $5 to do it.

Because now that 45 minutes of work I didn’t really wanna do now becomes free, and my brain gets to focus on bigger problems. Bigger challenges.

That’s what $5 buys me – the ability to use my near 20+ years of internet smarts on something that might make me $5,000.

Keep The Store Open

Had a great talk with a buddy I met through Seth Godin’s “Freelancers Workshop” today. They’re a freelancer, and they’ve been sick this past week. Too sick to really work.

When I’m too sick to work, I think too much. Fret. Worry. Think of the worst possible outcomes – missed emails, uncompleted tasks, work piling up. I’m not just bad at my job, but now I’m bad. My work is me, and I am my work. So without it… without about being able to work, what does that say?

It made me think of our how our work is like a store front, and if we’re not working, the store is closed. A sign in the window says “NOT OPEN.” People walk by and mumble under their breath about our closed business. Did they not pay their electric bill? Health code violations?!

Being so connected to work is scary, and so many of us in the freelance world are one stomach bug or flu virus away from being knocked out of commission for a week.

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with outsourcing some of my more administrative tasks via UpWork and Fiverr. It’s virtual assistant type of work, and by paying someone else to do it, it gives me time to work on bigger projects. Though Close Mondays isn’t some automated machine just yet, it’s good knowing that a handful of my daily tasks are now taken care of by someone that’s not always me.

Schedule Yourself First

Some thoughts from a book I’m reading, Free to Focus:

If a doctors appointment or a work call is on your schedule, nothing interferes with that. It’s a commitment, and you’re offline.

So as a remote worker / remote worker / freelancer / knowledge worker (as I’ve been since 2006), I believe you must schedule times throughout your way when you’re unavailable. Offline. When that last minute ask comes in, nope – your afternoon is booked.

Your afternoon is booked for your sanity, your health, and your mental clarity.

See also: “Focus is the art of knowing what to ignore,” from James Clear.

Switched from Revue to Mailchimp

When I started the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club email newsletter, I wanted to try something different, and I picked Revue. It turned out to be simple to use, and easy to manage, but as the list and my process has grown, I sort of outgrew it pretty quick.

Previously I was using a Google Form to collect people’s birthdays and other info for the Birthday Club. This is important stuff, as whenever there’s a birthday, an email gets sent out.

Even more important is people being on the email list! What good are these emails if half the people who sign up aren’t on the email list?

So I moved everything into Mailchimp, and set up the sign up form like the Google Form.

I just couldn’t add all that in Revue, which is okay, since they’re built more for growing a list and then monetizing it, or selling ads – and it’s great for that. I just needed something different.

Exporting my user date from Revue and uploading to Mailchimp was simple enough. I just needed to set up the extra fields in Mailchimp (Birthday, First Name, Last Name, etc.), and everything lined up just fine.

Now when people sign up to be in the Birthday Club, they’re on the email list as well. This removed an extra step from the process for the person signing up, and honestly not everyone who joined the club went and subscribed to the newsletter. Extra steps matter! So now it’s streamlined, which means I get to grow the newsletter at a better clip.

Another reason for moving back to Mailchimp is that the emails will look a little better now, too. Revue only had a few different templates, and didn’t let you add to much to the design, so it’s nice to have some of that control back.

Again, not a knock on Revue – their service is great for what they do! I’ve just been using Mailchimp since forever, so it was nice to “come back home.”

P.S. If you want to sign up for the Metal Bandcamp Gift Club Birthday Club, just click here to subscribe!

Write It Down

My to-do list app (Todoist) is worthless if it’s not the first thing I look at when I sit down to work.

This Christmas I got a nice Panobook (thanks, Bill), and it’s helped me finally take the plunge into a productivity concept that I’ve read about countless time but never put into practice; write down the most important things you gotta do tomorrow.

Now, when I finish up my work each night, I write down the 3-4 BIG THINGS I need to start in the morning.

Then, when I sit down at my computer, even before I wake my laptop, the most important things are right there in front of me.

Finally Bought a Monitor

After staring at a 13″ laptop screen since about 2003, I finally invested in a monitor; the $450 LG 27UK850-W 27″ 4K UHD IPS Monitor with HDR10 with USB Type-C Connectivity and FreeSync.

What the heck does any of that mean? Eh, I have no idea. The biggest feature is the USB Type-C Connectivity, which is kinda handy, as it’s one less single-purpose cable I needed to buy. Oh, and it charges the computer, which is nice.

The biggest feature? It looks enough like a retina screen, and at 27″ that’s pretty damn good. I admit I bought a cheap $250 big monitor from BestBuy before but the resolution was garbage, so it was just a bigger image, but with actually not that much real estate on the screen. I returned it.

With this new set up I can have two full size browser windows side by side, with room to spare. This has helped me be more efficient with my work, as I’m not cycling through tabs all the time. Time saving is a good thing.

Funny story: I went to the Apple Store ready to buy the LG UltraFine 4K 23.7″ Display, which is $700. See, I didn’t want to buy another monitor, set it up, plug it in, and then see that it’s garbage. I went to the Apple Store, played with the monitor they had on display, and was like, sure, let’s do this.

The person who helped me out asked me some standard questions, like what I’d be using it for, the work I do, and then basically said I should do some research online and find something that’s bigger and probably cheaper. Woah! And they were 1000% correct. I compared the resolution and other specs of the LG UltraFine to this one, and they seemed about the same. Sure, I bet side by side there’s some diference, but I spent a lot less and got a bigger screen (27″ vs 23.7″).

Creating Sustainable Businesses

Alex Hillman recently shared some great business tips via Twitter:

Service businesses are 1000x easier to start than product businesses, but they’re much harder to grow. Almost all of the successful people I know started a service business, then raised rates to reclaim time, and invested that time in growing more durable revenue streams.

Alex Hillman