How to change someone’s life

Many years ago, all the way back in 2005, I had a corporate job.

It wasn’t a huge firm, but it was multi-national. I was a software developer, then a senior, then I became Technical Director.

As part of my work, I needed to simplify some code we were using, so I did some research. And I found this thing open source called “ActiveRecord”. It was written in a language I’d heard of, but never used, called “Ruby” – and it looked like exactly the sort of thing I needed. I thought I’ll study how it works, then copy it over into our system.

But as I delved deeper into how it worked, I discovered the rest; all the stuff that came with ActiveRecord. For those Rubyists out there, you’ll know that that means Ruby on Rails – a framework for developing web-based software that, a couple of years later, would take the world by storm – and still powers some of the biggest websites in the world.

More than Rails, though, I also discovered 37Signals and David Heinemeier Hansson. He had created Rails (and ActiveRecord) as part of their brand new “Basecamp” project management tool. And as I learnt more and more about Basecamp, DHH and 37Signals, I became entranced.

Because 37Signals wasn’t your ordinary web development agency.

They had principles. They took a stand.

Ruby on Rails was inefficient by most standards, because it prioritised “developer happiness” over code speed. Developer Happiness? When was the last time you heard of a technical tool that prioritises a person’s happiness?

Basecamp was simplistic by most standards, because it prioritised communicating with your clients over project management systems. Communication? In a project management tool.

And 37Signals took a stand against toxic work cultures, against Venture Capitalist culture and against long hours.

In those early years, I used to exchange regular emails with David (I doubt he’ll remember me now) and we met once, at RubyConf in Berlin (when I was working with Brightbox, another pioneering Ruby on Rails company and still the best place I’ve ever worked). He was always gracious, always friendly and always willing to help.

You might think that this is a nice tale and all, but you’ll never get real success that way. But you’d be wrong. 37Signals (now called Basecamp) is a multi-million dollar company – but they still fight to keep the company small so they can remain true to their values. DHH is a multi-millionaire himself, but he still speaks out against toxic work cultures. And Basecamp is still my favourite project management tool – because it’s still incredibly simple and just designed around getting out of your way.

What’s the point in all this?

Well, DHH is proof that, if you stand up for what you believe in, if you stick with it and you bring people with you, you can get there. Things don’t have to stay the same. You might not change the world, but you can change your world and the world of those around you.

If I just had more time I could get everything done

Have you ever looked at your task list and despaired?

Have you heard the phone ringing yet again, saw that it’s that client (the one who always needs their work completing TODAY) and had your heart fill with dread as you realise that, once again, your plans for the day fly out of the window?

Have you ever thought “if I just had a few more hours in the day, then I could get all this stuff done”?

So you hunt for time management systems, productivity hacks, maybe even change your sleep pattern to try and squeeze more in to your day.

Because you’re so close to getting it all done. You’re so close to clearing that list.

But is that really the problem?

Do you really suffer from a lack of time?

Or is your problem that you actually have too much to do?

  • Deadlines that made sense when you agreed them but don’t any more.
  • Clients who interrupt your plans and fill your days with unscheduled work.
  • Projects that never seem to finish.

Instead of trying to squeeze more work into each hour, why not try to get more money from each piece of work?

  • Because if you do that, you take on fewer projects and you free up your time.
  • Because if you do that, you can afford to outsource the stuff you don’t want to do and free up your time.
  • Because if you do that, you stop selling time for money and instead start delivering results.

Selling expertise frees up your time.

Making these types of changes are not a quick fix. You can’t expect tomorrow to be wildly different to today. But my PDF Action Plan can get you breathing space in half a day and deliver tangible results in just four weeks.

The first stage is to prioritise what’s already on your plate. If you’d like to get started download my free planner by clicking here.

How do I write my first proposal?

Congratulations.

You’ve done the hard work.

You’ve found a potential client.

You’ve listened to their needs.

You’ve explained what it is you do.

They sound really interested.

“Send me a proposal” they say.

And you stop dead.

Because you’ve not done a proposal yet.

You’ve never written one before.

What do you do?

The single most important thing to remember is you have not got the client yet. That means that your proposal is a sales document. You are still “persuading” the client that you’re the right person to work with.

And the client is going to be looking for three things:

  • Will you help me achieve my objectives?
  • Will the price you charge be worth it?
  • Are you capable of delivering this project?

So your proposal should not just say “I will build a 5 page website for this price” or “I will keyword optimise your site for this price” or “I will write a Javascript component that does X for this price”.

Because that does not answer the client’s questions.

They don’t want a 5 page website – they want more sales1.

They don’t want keyword optimisation – they want more traffic2.

They don’t want a javascript widget – they want happier customers3.

In all three cases I’ve made an assumption about what it is the client is actually looking for. It’s your job, during the course of your conversations to figure out what their objective actually is.

And then you state that, front and centre, in your proposal.

“The aim of this project is to help Client X achieve Objective Y”

Straight away, you’re answering the client’s question – will you help me achieve my objectives? Yes, it’s right there on page one, paragraph one.

Next, is the price you charge worth it?

Well, if you’re going to help them get more sales, how many more sales do they want? Is it £100/month, is it £1000/month, is it £10000/month?

If you’re going to help them get more traffic – what is that traffic worth? Do 1 in 10 visitors become customers? Do 1 in 100, or 1 in 1000 or 1 in 1000000 visitors become customers? And how much is a customer worth? You can then use this to figure out that if you boost their traffic by 100 or 1000 or 1000000 visitors per month, they are going to make £M in extra revenue.

If you’re going to help them keep their customers happy – what is their customer churn rate? If a customer stays with them for an extra six months, how much is that worth to them in subscription revenue (or however they make their money)?

Because once you’ve got a monetary value, a measure of the difference you’re going to make to their business, suddenly, you’ve got something to anchor your price against.

“According to the projections, implementing this project will raise your revenues by £1000/month”

When you then state that your price is £5000, you’re immediately saying “so you will have made your money back in 6 months” – answering question two.

Now you’ve proven that you know what they want to achieve, you’ve proven that it’s worth their while choosing you – now you just need to prove to them that you can be trusted.

The easiest way to do this is to offer some sort of guarantee.

This might fill you with terror – but remember, you can choose what the guarantee looks like.

So, never pick something that is outside your control. You can’t promise them £1000/month in extra sales, because what if their product is utter crap and no-one wants to buy it? Or a new competitor comes out with something better that’s half the price? Your guarantee just fell through the floor.

Instead, choose something you can control.

The website will be completed, to your specifications, with 3 revisions, within 6 weeks of the contract being signed.

The optimisation process will result in new website copy that reads naturally but has a keyword density of X.

The javascript widget will reduce the customer journey from 5 steps to 1 step, resulting in smoother order processing.

We guarantee that this project will meet the following criteria providing our specialist development process is followed.

And that way, your proposal answers your clients three major questions, puts their mind at ease and makes it easy for them to choose to work with you.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

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  1. Probably
  2. Probably
  3. Probably

What sort of person pays $10/month for a Chrome Extension?

What sort of person pays $10/month for a Chrome Extension?

The short answer:

The sort of person who charges their time out at $50/hour and doesn’t want to waste more than 12 minutes a month doing something tedious.

The long answer:

The person who has a specific need.

But even though they have this need, they may not realise it. They may not even know that they have a problem, let alone know that a solution exists.

There’s just something, in their day to day life, that bugs them.

It doesn’t bug them a lot.

Just enough for the odd complaint to surface – a comment on Hacker News, a question on Reddit, a rant on Twitter. Every two or three months, they do a quick search to see if there’s a way round it.

And then they stumble across your Chrome Extension.

They didn’t even know they were looking for a Chrome Extension.

But the headline on your announcement post says “Does it bug you when X happens?”.

They go “woah – that’s actually been bugging1 me quite a bit recently”2.

Your post then describes this mild frustration3, pointing out that it’s one of those things that actually happens quite often. If you thought about it, it would amount to a lot of time spent in low-level annoyance. And no-one wants to be low-level annoyed. 4

Your post continues … just picture your relief if this problem went away. Instead of wasting those minutes every day, instead of carrying that bad mood with you, you could get on with something more meaningful5. Something that actually earns you money, something that allows you to concentrate on what’s important.

And all it takes is a one-click install of this Chrome Extension. Isn’t that worth $10?

Because, no-one pays $10/month for a Chrome extension.

But they do pay to move away from annoyance, to escape a pain, to avoid a problem.

If you can capture that pain, if you can understand how it affects them and if you can paint a picture of what life would be like without it – they will sit up and take notice. They will think you have read their mind6. And they may just buy your product.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

  1. You know it “bugs them” rather than “annoys them” or “grinds their gears” because you’ve done your research and seen that exact phrase on a number of Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants.
  2. You know it’s been bugging them quite a bit recently, because you’ve done your research and seen the number of Hacker News comments, the number of Reddit questions and Twitter rants about this very problem
  3. Using words that you have learnt from Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants
  4. At least if you’re full-on annoyed you can kick a bin and swear a lot. Low-level annoyance just sits there like a damp cloud.
  5. Citing a specific thing that they would rather be doing – again (you’ve guessed it) taken from Hacker News comments, questions on Reddit and Twitter rants.
  6. You can guess what I’m going to say here – you kind of have. Except, instead of “their mind” read “Hacker News comments, Reddit questions and Twitter rants”

How is the transition from giving up a stable job to starting a business?

If you’re thinking of quitting a stable job and starting a business, the transition can be one of the hardest things to deal with. There are a lot of things to think about – and at times, it can feel totally overwhelming.

Are you cut out for business ownership? At a fundamental level? At a financial level?

Do you have a realistic starting point to progress your idea from?

Are you happy to learn from your mistakes – or will you find the possibility of failure devastating?

Will you miss interacting with co-workers? Will you be able to deal with the loneliness?

What about slacking off for weeks and still getting paid? That’s not really an option when you work for yourself.

The thing is, you are told that it is much safer and more stable to work in a large company. But in reality, it’s the exact opposite.

Do you have an insight of the health of the company you’re in?

Are you petrified you could get fired or downsized at any time?

Are you at the mercy of an incompetent manager?

Are you constantly being asked to do stupid things? Do you find it intolerable?

Do you have to keep your arse in a chair between two arbitrary times, even though it has no correlation with your productive hours?

Could your company choose to change direction and lay off 400 employees, even though they’re really good at their jobs?

I can tell you, for myself, the journey has definitely been worth it.

My life is in my own hands, which always feels more secure.

I have independence and freedom. My fate is not in someone else’s hands.

And I’m constantly learning – it feels like every day I’m progressing.

So if you’re considering trading in that “stable” job for something more dynamic, more exciting, something more fulfilling – it doesn’t have to be terrifying.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

Is it normal to know where you want your business to go but not know how to get there?

So you’re planning a startup.

You’ve got the idea.

You’ve got the vision.

You know where you want to be.

You know what you want to do.

But there are so many avenues open to you, so many routes to getting started that you just don’t know where to begin.

What was an exciting idea can suddenly look like a long, tedious process. Just thinking about it can make you scared.

If only it were easier. If only there was a roadmap. A signpost.

Well, there is. A really simple roadmap. You just need to know how to design it.

As it stands, the problem is you are looking too far into the future. When everything is far away, you just can’t see the detail that you need.

So, let’s break it down. As if you were planning a long road trip around Europe.

  • Where do you want to be in five years time?
  • In order to get there, where do you need to be in three years?
  • In order to get there, where do you need to be in one year?
  • To have any chance of that, what do you need to have completed in six months?
  • Which means you need to have done what by three months?

Three months is a magic goal. It’s far enough away that we can make some real progress. But close enough to us that we still keep our eyes on the prize.

So let’s take action.

  • In Week 12, I want to be at point A.
  • So in Week 11, I need to have completed B.
  • Meaning in Week 10, I need to have done C.
  • …and so on, and so on…
  • …in Week 1, I will be working on D.
  • And that means today I need to work on E.

Work backwards from your eventual goal.

But only start getting detailed when you’re looking at a 12 week horizon. Any further and you’ll lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. Any closer and you won’t make enough progress.

And once you’ve drawn out your roadmap, you will know exactly what you need to do for the next 12 weeks. You just need to stick to it.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

Speak soon,

Baz

How to successfully work for yourself if you’ve only got an engineering background and zero experience of business

I still remember when I quit my job and started working for myself.

I was a coder, a programmer, a developer.

I had zero experience of business.

And eventually things got so bad at the place I worked that I just leapt into the dark.

Looking back on it, it was terrifying. And possibly stupid.

I made it through, but it’s been a rocky road at times.

And if I were doing it over, there’s one thing I would tell past me.

Do your research

Choose an audience.

Specialise. Pick a niche. A narrow one.

This is actually terrifying and it feels like it’s hard to do.

But once you do it, it’s one of those things where you feel the relief flood over you, as everything else becomes easier.

Research your audience

The reason you need to pick a niche is you then need to research your audience.

If your niche is too wide, you won’t find consistent data – at least not data that’s consistent enough for you to use on a small scale (it’s different for organisations with huge budgets – they can afford to throw money at a problem).

And the things you need to learn?

Where do they hang out, what problems do they talk about, what solutions do they pay for and what language do they use to discuss those problems?

Help people

Now you know where your audience is, you can go there and help them. Discuss their problems, suggest solutions and, because you’re using words that they know and understand, you will become an expert in their eyes.

Because, ultimately, everyone wants to work with the expert. Everyone pays more to work with the expert. The expert gets more done in less time. The expert is more likely to succeed.

But you can’t be an expert in everything, you can’t help everyone.

So stop putting it off and choose an audience.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

What happened to loyalty?

I remember when I had a job working for another company.

It wasn’t a huge corporate, it was a relatively small company, with a lot of software developers based in India, and a smaller team based in the UK.

I was quite senior, and I really believed in the company.

But, at the back of my mind, I just felt like I was being taken advantage of.

Long hours. Carrying the weight of the company on my shoulders. Having to go above and beyond every day.

Questions would race through my mind.

When does life get better?

When do I start making money?” (I wasn’t really after money but I did want to live a decent life and take the odd trip away)

I want to make a difference but I’m wondering if I’m just burnt out

And then I would think about loyalty.

Don’t I owe it to them to stay? Don’t I owe it to them to give it everything?

The turning point was when we had a total disaster. I had been working 16 hour days for weeks. It was tough. And things still failed, we lost a significant amount of money and we had to sack a number of staff.

It was horrible and I took it very badly.

Then one day, my friend said to me “I don’t understand why you blame yourself – I’ve seen how hard you’ve worked for the bosses and you can’t blame yourself for all the things that went wrong – it was their decisions that lead to this

That was a trigger for me.

Why was I being loyal?

Why was I working so hard for these people?

Why was my well-being tied to people who were making bad decisions, who were making choices that lead to others losing their jobs?

And that’s when I decided I was going to figure out how to start up on my own.

At least that way, my fate would be in my own hands.

If I succeeded, it was down to me. If I failed, it was down to me.

And my loyalty would be to people who deserved it.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

How do you work through anxiety (and accompanying self-doubt and fear of failure) to start a business?

I’m sure you recognise the feeling.

Paralysed with anxiety.

Frozen with doubt.

Your stomach rolls, you feel nauseous and your palms go sweaty.

Because the thought of starting a business can be terrifying.

It doesn’t have to be like that though.

You can figure out the path you want to take, ahead of time.

You can learn where to find your clients, and understand what they’re looking for.

You can look beyond whatever is holding you back and take steps to move forwards.

Because if you plan it out, if you understand the way, if you have a roadmap – and then you take it one small step at a time, then whatever it is that you’re afraid of now will seem completely insignificant when you look back in a few months time.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now

I have an idea that could make me money but I don’t know where to start

So you’ve got an idea.

You think there’s a market for your idea.

You think that people will pay for it.

But you don’t know what to do next.

You need to find a way to make this idea a reality.

You need to find a way to make it happen without wasting a huge amount of time or money that you don’t have.

You need to reduce the risk.

To be brutally frank, you’re probably starting from the wrong place.

The idea might be amazing.

The idea might change the world.

The idea might be the greatest idea anyone has ever had.

But if people won’t pay for it, it’s worthless.

You need to start with an audience. You need to pick a niche.

Who are you going to target? Who do you know? Who can you get in front of?

This is important, because it then leads you on to the rest of the process. For example, poor people are generally a bad market to get into. It’s tough, but they necessarily have to look after every penny. They will ring you up for help and support, because they have nowhere else to turn to.

It’s actually easier to raise your prices and sell to the rich. Because they will just hand over money to make their problems go away.

And the more focussed your target audience, the closer you can understand those problems and the easier it will become to get them to pay you.

So don’t start with an idea.

Start with an audience.

If you’d like to take control of your time, escape the constant firefighting and build a business that works for you, the easy way to get started is to build a 12 Week Plan. My free planner shows you exactly what you need to do.

Download your free planner now