I'm taking a month off from reading or watching the news. Maybe longer.
I'm a bit of a news junkie in that I find myself checking news sites probably a dozen times a day. It's part habit, part entertainment and part curiosity. But more and more I find myself annoyed and really kind of disgusted with traditional media.
There are two things that really bother me about my little news addiction…enough so that I feel I need to take some time off from consuming it, possibly permanently.
When the news started spreading about the Boston Marathon bombings, I immediately started checking as many news sources as I could. Feverishly refreshing pages trying to get the latest information. Looking for photos and videos to try and piece together what happened.
But not once did I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Not once did my mind go to all the people who were injured or killed and wonder what they and their families might be going through and how I could help. I just wanted more information and "the story."
I'm desensitized to many of the highs and lows of humanity because I consume so much of it in the context of emotionless news articles.
And that scares me.
It's Unbalanced and Misleading
There are so many things the news never covers. Not because they don't have the resources to cover it, but because they don't have any reason to. Certain types of stories simply get better ratings than others, and I can't blame them. News outlets are businesses. They will always be biased towards whatever makes them the most money.
But consuming biased sources makes you, wait for it…biased.
It notoriously highlights the negative and buries the positive. The negative and the dramatic are far more entertaining because it makes it easy for us to think "I'm glad that's not me."
But even in grossly over emphasizing the negative, news outlets bury or never cover some of the most epic failures of humanity.
Two people dying from the bird flu can set off a worldwide panic, but the fact that 2.5 million people (over half of which are children) die every year from diarrhea…who cares. It's old news. And nobody wants to read articles about diarrhea anyways.
Or what about human trafficking? 27 million people are being bought, sold and traded like baseball cards. But that's depressing. And I don't know any slaves, so what does it matter?
Orphans? 150 million.
Lack of clean water? 800 million.
But all of these stories get relegated to random "specials" on Dateline or 60 Minutes once a year.
These are issues that, as the richest country on earth, we could literally put an end to. But the media chooses to use their platform to talk about things that are largely irrelevant and unactionable to us.
So, I need make my move to fix that. I need to spend time resensitizing myself. I need to spend time finding out ways I can actually do something about global issues affecting humanity. And right now, ending my consumption of traditional news is the first step towards that.
The buzzword (or letters, as it were) of the past year or two in the startup world has been "MVP"…minimum viable product. You should shove out the smallest version of your product just to get something out there and get real humans using the thing.
In general, I agree with that. The sooner (and faster) you can get something out there, the better. But what typically gets ignored with "shipping it fast" is "killing it fast."
The focus is still very much on features and just piling them on. Get something out there with a basic feature set, then use customer feedback to add more features. The emphasis is on "expanding" the product, and less on "refining." That needs to change. We need a culture not of shipping it fast, but of killing it fast.
So. Much. Clutter.
Over the past couple of years, my wife and I have been on a bit of a mission to de-clutter our lives. We've cut our wardrobes down significantly, had multiple yard sales, and have donated more stuff to the local thrift store than I can even remember.
In doing that, we've simplified our lives and made them much more manageable. When we want to find something, we generally know where it is. When we want to wear something, we don't spend a ton of time staring at the closet trying to make a decision. Everything is where it should be and it doesn't drive us crazy trying to figure out where things are.
In case you didn't notice, there are many correlations with well made software.
When you pile on features and expand what you offer, you complicate things. You add visual complexity that makes your users think. You add overhead for maintenance down the road. You add support weight to your customer service process. Everything has a cost. Everything. Doesn't matter if it's some tiny icon hidden in the corner. It cost something to include and maintain that.
It's your job (and everyone working on whatever you're building) to keep things as "cheap" as possible while maximizing value.
How do you know when to bring down the hammer?
For me, knowing when to ax something is simple. I generally play in the world of building products at their earliest stages (both on a personal and consulting level), and in those cases, the metric is always this:
If it doesn't have a noticeable affect on revenue, it gets killed.
The only kind of business I care about is a sustainable one. And the only way to sustain a business is with revenue. So, no positive affect on revenue? It gets the boot. Simple as that.
Kill it quickly
How do you know when it's time to kill it? As soon as it's obvious it's not adding value. I've killed massive features that took 6 months to develop in as few as 3 weeks after launch.
By having good analytics on how users are interacting with your product, and also being self-aware and honest with yourself…you can pretty easily know when something isn't working like it should.
Slow down on pumping out every feature your users request. Regularly audit what is and isn't being used and what is or isn't affecting your bottom line. If it's not helping your business grow, it's likely hurting it. A feature that's hurting your business is a cancer…and you need kill it. Quickly.
The headline is admittedly a bit dramatic, but I needed something clever...and that's pretty dang clever.
Last night I sent an email out to over 20,000 TrackThePack users letting them know that as of March 31, TrackThePack will cease to exist.
TrackThePack was launched back in 2006 while Ashley and I owned Fugitive Toys. We had dozens of shipments of toys coming in at any given time from all over the world, and I wanted to be able to keep track of them all to know if there were any delivery issues and when to expect a bunch of huge boxes being left outside our apartment door.
It started as an internal tool, but I eventually released it to the public, and it became a pretty fun project to watch grow. Initially it was just a little side project, but as it became more expensive to run, I decide to try a few things to monetize it.
But as you'd guess, since I'm shutting it down, none of those ideas really panned out.
It's incredibly difficult to monetize a consumer web app that's just "nice to have" and even if we had grown to hundreds of thousands or million of users, the costs associated with tracking all those packages just never would have made it profitable.
I launched TrackThePack: Commercial a few years back as a way to try and build a solution for businesses, and while that turned out to be much more profitable, the amount of sales work required just wasn't something I had time or interest in doing. And since we got out of the ecommerce business back in 2009, I was no longer an active user of the Commercial product, so I just wasn't in the position to build something truly useful.
Some highlights from the past 7 years...
1.8 million packages tracked
8.3 million events tracked
First service of its kind to support forwarding shipping emails as a way to track packages
iPhone app downloaded by 10,000 folks
350,000 push notifications sent to iOS devices
One of the most interesting aspects of running TrackThePack was the opportunities that came out of it.
I ended up with a lot of consulting gigs purely because of my work building TrackThePack. The most significant of which ultimately led to me being co-founder and CEO of PopSurvey (which is another post in itself).
So, lots of really great memories from running this app, and thinking about how it all started makes me all sorts of nostalgic. But alas, it's a business. And it was bleeding money. And after running something for 7 years, I just don't have the passion to keep running a failing product (economically, at least).
To all the users, friends and family who have given feedback and used TrackThePack over the years, it's been a fun ride. Thank you.
Back in April of this past year, Freelancers Union launched a weeklong campaign to bring to light the plight of many freelancers around the globe: not getting paid. They called it, "The World's Longest Invoice" and freelancers could post their name, along with the job they'd done and the amount they had been stiffed for by their deadbeat client.
In one week's time, nearly $16 million in unpaid work had been posted. A pretty epic amount, and although exactly $0 of it was verifiable, it did a great job of showing the side of freelancing that people don't like to talk about that much: running your business.
While I felt bad for all these thousands of freelancers, I couldn't help but shake my head and think of all the ways all of these people could have avoided being owed anywhere from a few hundred bucks to over $100k. As mad as you want to be at the scum that screwed all of these people over, the fact of the matter is that there are just some crummy people on earth and you can't fix that. Instead, what you do is learn how to avoid them and not get yourself into a bad situation in the first place.
So, here are a few lessons, tips and tricks I've learned through a good decade of doing consulting work. The large majority of the work I've done for clients has been design, development and motion work, but these really apply to anybody doing work for anyone on a contractual basis.
If you don't read anything else, read this: you absolutely, unquestionably need to have a contract.
This is one that blows my mind every time I read a story of someone not getting paid. It's the easiest, most practical thing you can do to ensure you get paid. And really, the contract isn't so much about having a legal document to use against a client in court. It's about establishing expectations up front so everyone is on the same page about the work being done, how much it will cost and when payment is due along with what will happen if the client doesn't pay.
If you're like me and hate the legalese present in most contracts, you should check out Andy Clarke's Contract Killer. It's a fantastic start to building your own contract.
So, you've taken my advice and vow to get a contract together, but it's still just a document and it doesn't guarantee that you'll get paid.
But you know what does guarantee you'll get paid? Getting paid.
Don't start a single second of work until you've got a deposit. For new clients, I require 50% down to even put a client on my calendar. Having the upfront deposit means that you unquestionably get paid and shows that the client is serious about you doing the work for them.
On top of that, you don't deliver the final product until you get paid the remaining 50% at the end of the job.
Requiring that the bill is paid in full before delivering the files typically gets most clients who thought about stiffing you on payment to go ahead and fork over the cash.
For larger-budget jobs, I'll typically divide a bill up into 3-4 payments due every few weeks.
NET30 is ridiculous. There's zero reason to have payment terms that long. Any company that tells you they only pay NET30 (or longer) is bluffing. They're just delaying payment as long as possible for cash flow reasons, but the fact of the matter is, they can unquestionably pay you faster.
You're not a bank. You did the work and they owe you money and they're sitting on it for as long as they can. Not gonna work.
I have NET10 payment terms, though I know folks who do NET7 or event "due on receipt." I'm not a fan of "due on receipt" only because it's not really practical for most businesses and it doesn't set a hard due date that everyone agrees on.
You should communicate up front with the client what your payment terms are and, just as importantly, what the penalty is for being late on payment.
At the end of the day, this all really comes down to one thing: communication. So many people could have avoided all the issues they had with getting paid (or not), had they just communicated well up front.
Communicated about what their expectations were. Communicated to understand what the client's expectations were. Communicated about the services that were to be provided and on what terms.
Before you start any project, you should talk to your client at length. Learn about the person you'll be working with and the company you'd be working for. Learn what their values are. Learn why they're hiring you in the first place. Learn what their end goal is for the work you're doing. Talk to them about exactly what you bring to the table and see if they find the same value that you find in yourself.
Then learn to walk away.
If something doesn't sit well, if the client pushes back constantly on the budget, if they talk frequently about how they're a "startup and doesn't have much money"…move on. Walk away.
Have a little common sense, use your gut, and don't get blinded by the prospect of "winning a job." Bad clients just aren't worth it.
I've been hearing a good bit lately from current and propspective clients who say something like, "Our previous designer went MIA" or "The previous developer stopped answering our emails."
Each time, I literally cringe. If you're a freelancer of any sort, leaving a client hanging mid-project without any communication is never okay. You're in client services...the business of serving clients. To bail like that means you've failed miserably.
I understand that clients can sometimes be extremely demanding, but whenever I've had a bad experience with a client, it's usually because they didn't have a good understanding of the process. In which case, that's my fault as the "expert."
It's your job to be a communicator. If the project is starting to hit the fan, then you need to talk about it. Dropping off the map and acting like your client never existed is low class. Don't be that guy.
One year ago I started using Rdio exclusively. Meaning a year ago I completely scrapped my iTunes library (literally moved all my music to an external drive just to store it), and started using Rdio for all my music listening needs. Unfortunately, Rdio has now ruined new music for me.
A year ago, Rdio's selection of music wasn't quite as great as it is now and for a month or so I gave Spotify a try. Ultimately Spotify's UI made me want gouge my eyes out, so I switched back (the premise here is the same for any music streaming service). Now there are very few things that I want that Rdio doesn't have, so I'm perfectly happy with it as a replacement for owning music.
Previously, every Tuesday when new albums were released, I'd spend at least a couple of hours in the iTunes store listening to every preview of every song of any new album I might be interested in. Then, after having thorougly checked out every second of music I could, I'd pick a few albums to purchase. In a typical week I might spend $10-30 buying a few new albums.
The amazing thing about Rdio is that for the price of a single album each month, I can get (for all practical purposes) unlimited new music. In the past month, I've added 52 new albums to my collection. That would have set me back a good 500 bones before and I'd have missed out on hundreds of new tunes. That's a win, right? Maybe not.
In my former iTunes life when I "owned" my music, I felt some sort of connection to it. I spent my hard-earned money on it. And I listening to each album almost obsessively. I'd have those few albums on repeat for at least the next week, picking every song apart and narrowing down what tracks I really loved.
But with Rdio, there are plenty of albums I haven't listened to all the way through and probably hundreds of tracks I haven't listening to at all. Scrolling through all my music, I keep saying to myself, "What on earth is this album?"
And there in lies the problem. I look at music like the baseball cards I collected as a kid, adding new albums to my collection without doing more than previewing a few seconds of a single song and then many times never hearing the album again.
I don't really know the balance here. I've found I'm much more likely to either pick specific albums I loved pre-Rdio and listen to them over and over, or I just listen to my whole collection on shuffle. Listening to my music is less an "event" and more just background noise.
Another thing I've started doing recently is creating monthly playlists. For instance, any new music I find this month gets added to the "June 2012" playlist. I then spend a lot more time just playing through that playlist.
Both the genre and monthly playlists do help, but I still hate that most albums just end up getting lost in my collection.
All that being said, I wouldn't trade it. While a lot of albums get buried, I've experienced more new music in the past year than I had in the previous five. Absolutely worth it. I just need to come up with a better system for really taking in new music.
In most service-based businesses, the phrase "the client is always right" tends to come up. The idea being that because the client is forking over their cash, they get what they want.
Fortunately for you, that's bull honky. The client is not always right. In fact, they're frequently 27 shades of wrong. They don't have a fat clue what they want or why they want it. That, my friend, is why they hired you.
If you aren't pushing back on nearly everything that comes out of your client's mouth, you're doing it wrong.
Now, I'm not saying you should be a jerk and make the client feel like an idiot. You shouldn't. But when you get hired to do something like design, development, writing, or art, it's typically because you know your stuff and are good at what you do.
For example, when someone comes to me for UI design work, it's because they need help. And they don't need help just "making it pretty." They may say that initially, but if they think that's all there is to UI design, then it's even more clear they need to be guided towards good UI design.
It's your job to educate them. It's your job to teach them why their suggestion isn't such a great idea. You're an expert in your space and they hired you for that. Don't just sit back and take whatever awful suggestion that gets spewed out because you're afraid you'll offend them. Consciously or sub-conciously, they are looking for guidance from you because they weren't able to pull it off themselves.
Push back is part of the process. It's about refining and forming. It makes a better end-product 100% of the time. The success of their business depends on the quality of your work, and you owe it to the client to make sure they get the absolute best.
Fruit & Veggie Fast Day 5: The Early Belated Finale is finally here!
As you may have heard, though probably most likely not, we ended our fast early. Seems 10 days is more than we could handle, but 5 was just right.
The primary reason we cut it short was lack of energy...to the point where it was getting hard to function. We were just feeling so lethargic that we didn't want to do anything at all, so that wasn't good.
It was overall a great experience and I do feel like we learned a ton from it. So much so that we've decided to cut out almost all meat products from our diet (at least at home). I wouldn't call us "vegetarians"...more quasi-vegitarian. Quasitarians. We'll just be social meat eaters.
I definitely recommend checking out Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and potentially trying a couple of days of just fruits and vegetables. If you pick the right combo of foods, I think you'll find it refreshing to do short term.
And finally, here's my last video update. Without a shirt on. Enjoy.
Day number four! One day before day number five! Six days before day number ten! I'm practically finished!
Pretty good day. Better than yesterday, for sure. Energy level seemed normal and food today was pretty good. Lots of fruit, and Joshy loves the fruit.
Last night I started watching Forks Over Knives and I felt like that gave me a kick in the pants to keep pushing through. Maybe I'll just start watching documentaries about eating healthy every night to keep me motivated.
Today hasn't been entirely pleasant. Food was fine, if not a bit bland, but psychologically I just wasn't feeling it. I'm tired of eating leaves.
In addition to the psychological side of things, I did feel more groggy/tired today. Supposedly I'm right in the thick of the "detox" phase and in the next 24-48 hours I should start feeling great and have my energy back.
I'm really hoping that upswing comes, otherwise it'll be torture to keep this up seven more days.
Ashley made a grocery run today and got two more days worth of food. Grand total cost for five days worth of produce is right around $225...not cheap.
Day 2 of the fruit and veggie fast had some highs and lows.
It started off great with a mint berry smoothie that was fantastic. That got me pretty pump about the rest of the day...until about 2 hours later when it was time for a mid-morning snack.
I think it's safe to say that the juice we made for that snack tasty like burnt hair. No one drinks burnt hair. Ever. The fact that the recipe called for 12 radishes should have probably sounded some alarm, but unfortunately it didn't. And I would have rather thrown myself out the window than drink this concoction.
Lunch didn't instill much more confidence in our decision to do this fast. It was a classic rabbit meal with lettuce, carrots, celery and fennel. Blah.
Thankfully, dinner saved the day. We had roasted acorn squash stuffed with portobello mushrooms and sage. And it was delicious. We'll almost certainly cook it again after our little experiment is over.
Physically I felt great all day. I had good energy and didn't have any headaches. The mental side of things, or at least the psychological side of this, wasn't so great. After our experience with that death juice this morning, I was seriously second guessing the decision to do this fast for 10 days. Thankfully Ashley was there to help encourage me.
Overall, I felt pretty good. Supposedly you can feel a little groggy the first few days as your body is purging toxins, and I still may feel that way, but today I didn't feel to bad, other than being a little low on energy this afternoon/evening.
For most of the day I didn't crave other foods much, but late this afternoon and around dinner I craved the junk out of bread, cheese and sweets. So, I ate a banana to help get rid of the craving.
Here's the food I ate today, mixed together in various combos. Sometimes juiced, sometimes just thrown on a plate together.
Just so you know, things are about to get fruity around here.
In the past month or so, my wife and I watched a documentary about juice fasting called Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. It was really quite fascinating to watch two overweight and very unhealthy people dramatically turn their lives around by shifting their diet to solely fruits and vegetables.
They each did 60-day juice fasts where the only thing they consumed for 60 days was juiced fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables).
The benefit of a fruit and vegetable fast for most people, though, is not necessarily weight loss...it's detoxification. It's a chance for your body to "reset" and clean out toxins from your body, among other things.
My wife and I will be doing a 10-day fruit and vegetable fast and I'll be documenting it here.
Today, my daughter and I went to the grocery store and purchased 2.5 days worth of produce. Lots of things I've eaten before and love, and other things I've eaten and would rather not touch with a 10 foot pole.
I highly recommend the documentary, and we'll see how things turn out over the next 10 days!
This morning I posted on Twitter about how I wished Photoshop had the ability to create groups/sets of guides. And shortly there after (literally, probably 30 seconds later), I found a solution.
Most designers I know are on one of the spectrum or the other. They either use very few (if any) guides and just get all hippy on their PSDs and let their design flow wherever the Grateful Dead tunes that their listening to take them. Or, they're on the other side of using them and create so many that it becomes hard to keep track of what set of guides is for what elements their aligning. We'll address the latter.
The problem gets compounded particularly when you're doing web or UI design and you're designing multiple (sometimes dozens of) screens all in the same Photoshop doc.
Theoretically, you'd be designing on a baseline grid system, but on smaller UIs (like an iPhone), you may have multiple sets of grids based on what element you're working on.
I'm debating on doing a little experiment: For an entire month I'll only produce and never consume.
David Tate wrote a great article a few months back called The Dangerous Effects of Reading, where he talks about how, for most people, our lives are optimized for input (consumption).
We dedicate so much of our time to consuming. Standing in line at the grocery store? You're probably checking your email. Lying in bed before you go to sleep? You're probably reading the news on your iPad. In the bathroom? You're probably playing Angry Birds or checking Facebook.
It's all consumption. Every free moment or every moment you're trying to procrastinate is spent consuming. It's bad for you.
On the other side of the coin is producing. Being creating. Making things.
Creating changes you and the way you think:
When you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. Your tastes only narrow & exclude people. So create. -- _why
When you're creating things on your own will, you're almost certainly doing something that you love. Whether it's woodworking, writing, painting, making a short film, playing an instrument, etc...it's something you love and that can only make you happy.
It's the same reason Seth Godin doesn't watch a lick of TV. There are just so many other, better things you could be doing with your time.
So, my question here is, can I go a whole month only producing and never consuming? What would that look like? Is it even possible? No Twitter or Facebook. No RSS feeds. No CNN or USA Today. No books. Any free time I have is either spent with real live human beings (ie. friends and family), or it's spent producing.
I can't say I'm ready to go cold turkey yet. What about you? Think you could do it?
The neighborhood I live in is fairly expansive (as in, there are an absurd number of houses that stretch for miles), so what that translates to is us getting a lot of people trying to sell stuff door-to-door to us. It's easy for them because they could spend days or even weeks in one neighborhood walking to each house and trying to pitch something.
Most of the time I just keep my mouth shut long enough to let them finish their pitch and then quickly tell them I'm not interested.
But recently, on a hot Saturday afternoon, a younger guy (probably 18-20 years old) knocked on our door. He had clearly been out quite a while and was sweating profusely and I just felt bad for the guy.
So what was this guy selling? Magazine subscriptions. As if anyone on the planet needs more magazines.
I wanted to hear his story, though. Why was he out in the blazing sun, walking door to door, trying to sell people magazine subscriptions?
Turns out, he was trying to pay for school. He was going to a local trade school to become a tattoo artist.
I can respect that and I'm happy to support that. So, I said, "I don't want a magazine subscription, but I'm happy to give you some cash. Here's $20." His response? "No thanks, I really need to sell magazine subscriptions."
What? Seriously? He went on to tell me about how he'll get a $1,000 bonus if he sells 250 magazines and that's what he really wanted.
But here's the problem, and the real point of my post: that bonus was unattainable. He had been out selling magazines for months and had sold 20 subscriptions, but he needed to sell 250 subscriptions to hit that bonus. It could take him literally an entire year of going door-to-door for a $1,000 bonus.
What he needed was cash, and if he wanted to keep going to school, he needed it right then. So there I was, offering him the same amount of money he'd make from selling a dozen magazine subscriptions, and he didn't want it. He wanted to keep trudging along for another year. He lost sight of his real goal because he was convinced that selling magazines for a year to get a one time, $1,000 bonus was worth it.
Don't lose sight of what you're really wanting in life because someone is dangling golden carrots for you down the road. Set your sights on the fastest way to get what you want, take no prisoners and run as fast as you can. That road is much shorter and much more rewarding.
Back in high school I went on a mission trip to Brazil. Everyone in my youth group had volunteered to do various things on the trip with the kids we'd be working with (soccer, crafts, music, etc). What did I sign up to do? I signed up to be a clown. So that ultimately meant making balloon animals and juggling...both of which I had to learn how to do. I never got all that great at balloon animals, but I can still juggle pretty well to this day.
Unfortunately juggling physical objects (balls, bowling pins, rubber chickens) has zero correlation to juggling life.
Being a Maker of Internets™ means I have my hand in a lot of things, and pretty much anyone with even the tiniest entrepreneurial bone in their body is the exact same way, especially if they've got some development chops.
So, how on earth do I juggle all of these things? And how on earth can you juggle all of your projects?
I've tried a number of things and some work better than others based on the number of projects you've got, the amount of free time you've got, etc. So I'd encourage you to give them all a try and figure out what variation of these works best for you.
The ultimate goal of these methods is to push multiple projects along on a consistent basis. That way you don't end up with a project going weeks or months without getting any love.
One Project a Day
Method: Devote one full day a week to a different project. It doesn't necessarily limit you to 5 projects a week, but the idea is to work on them in a consistent order, so if you had 3 projects, you wouldn't loop back around to the first until you'd spent 3 days of work total.
Pros: You can get a surprising amount of work done when you put all of your effort for a full work day into a single project.
Cons: If you aren't able to finish up the feature (or whatever) you were working on that day, it could be any where from a few days to 10 days before you get to loop back around and work on it again.
Method: Like the One Project a Day method, but divided into half-days instead of full days.
Pros: Where this method really shines is when you're doing consulting while trying to build up your own products. So every morning you might work on client work and then after lunch, spend the rest of the day on your own personal projects.
Cons: Progress on your projects will move slower.
This typically works better when you've only got 1-2 side projects.
Sliding Scale: Money
Method: The amount of time spent on a given project is proportional to the importance of the project, as defined by money. The project that makes you the most money, gets the most time and the project that makes the least (or no) money, gets the least.
Pro: The projects that bring home the bacon get the most love so said bacon keeps gettin' brought home while you're still able to make some progress on a regular basis with your other projects.
Con: There's no major con here. It really just depends on what your long term goals are. Obviously the projects that make the least money will move along more slowly, but that might be just fine for you.
Sliding Scale: Future
Method: Like the previous sliding scale, the amount of time spent on a given project is proportional to the importance of the project. But in this case, "importance" is not defined by money, but rather by what you want to be working on in the future.
For example, say your current big money maker is the Widgetizer 3000. But while it rakes in the cash, it's also becoming really monotonous and uninspiring. But this new side project, a social network for mobile phone users who love chili dogs and Mountain Dew, really does get you pumped.
So, with this method you let your cash cow (Widgetizer 3000) keep bringing in the money but you start putting the bulk of your effort in to what you want to support you in the future, while just putting in the minimal effort needed to keep the current money maker afloat and bringing in cash.
Pro: You work towards your own personal happiness and make serious progress on the thing you love.
Con: Risky. The project that doesn't make any money right now, also might not make any money in the future. But then again, if it was easy then everybody would be doing it.
So what am I using? I haven't been as disciplined lately as I'd like to be, but I typically do the Half Day method, with the bulk of my time going to PopSurvey and the rest divided up between my other projects and consulting work.
These are just some of the methods I've tried over the past 8 years or so of juggling more projects than I probably should.
Which does beg the question, and it's something I'll write more about in the future, but all projects are certainly worth looking at and asking, "Is this really worth my time?" A yearly purging is absolutely a healthy thing to do.
Give these methods (or some combination of them) a try for a while and tweak as needed. I think you'll find that at least one of them will help you manage things a bit more efficiently.
Okay, so there's no official "law" called "The Designer's Law of Diminishing Quality," but it very much exists in the design world.
Here's the gist: the tighter the deadline, the lower the quality. Meaning, for every day that you want your project finished faster, the quality and attention to detail drops accordingly.
You want that logo designed in a week? Fine, you can have something generic that "looks cool" in a week. But something that's well researched and thought out just won't happen in that amount of time.
You want a full site redesign done in two weeks? Okay. Again, you'll get something generic that probably will satisfy you. But it the little things that make a design great and more importantly, usable, will be left out and you'll most likely feel the pain of that decision with a higher support load or lost users.
Good design takes time, and not just pure grunt work. Letting a design sit for a couple of days and coming back with fresh eyes does amazing things. "But letting a design sit means I get my design later," you say. Yes, yes it does. But it also means you get a better end product.
It's worth noting here that there does come a point in the life a design where you've just got to call it done and move on. Trying 37 different shades of fuschia is, in most cases, a waste of time. And most designers would tell you there's always more they'd like to do on a design. From a client perspective, you've got to trust the designer to know when a design is finished and give them time to reach that point. You'll both be happier because of it.