One of the big realizations I’ve come across running the agency is that clients are just as scared as you when starting a project.
There are many reasons to be iffy when you start a project, mine in particular are usually along the lines of: Will we deliver the best quality work? Will we be able to turn a profit? Is the projected timeframe enough?
Clients on the other hand may have tens or hundreds of reasons to worry when they engage with you. To name a few:
- Did I hire the right freelancer/company/agency?
- Will this project stay within budget?
- Will he/she/they meet our deadline?
- Will he/she/they be able to build what we want?
- Will we see any ROI from this engagement?
If there’s one thing you could do to appease the relationship with your new (or old) client, communication is it.
Be transparent, talk, ask, do whatever it takes to take control of the situation and show the client they are getting their money’s worth. Show them how you work, what they’ll get, send them updates, don’t be a black box.
There is really no trick or gimmick. Just communicate, daily or twice a day even. You’ll have happy clients that I guarantee will send you more work.
Just last week I came across an article written by Paul Boag from Headscape aptly titled You Are Not A Machine. You Are Not Alone. I really encourage you to read it.
Paul discusses a silent struggle that many of us battle with on a daily basis: overworking, stressing, keeping to ourselves, bearing too much, the list goes on.
I agree with him that there is something wrong with the industry: we are expected to work 24/7 to just barely stay competitive. When this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
We need time off, and it’s ok. It’s as simple as that.
Overworking, long hours, stressing and not having any means to vent is not only unproductive but very dangerous for our mental health.
The current state of mind that we need to work all day, all week and be available via email, IM or whatever other means 24/7 is wrong.
We are only human, we need to disconnect. We need leisure. We need time to sit in our boxers and watch all of the ‘Friends’ re-runs from time to time.
I’d like to end this post with my favorite paragraph from Paul’s article:
This post gives you permission. Permission to stop being a machine and become a human being. Permission to spend some days in your pants watching daytime TV rather than working. Permission to be honest about your fears and stresses. Permission to tell somebody you are struggling and get help.
About a year ago, I was in Miami with the team working with a client from LA. Just before we left he walked up to me and said:
“Max, you’re the James Bond of web design. You travel around the world saving one product at a time. Thank you.”
He didn’t realize how much his words meant to me – and probably hasn’t to this day. It was at that moment that I realized I was doing things right, that’s the exact reason on why I started the agency.
There should always be a reason on why we’re doing what we’re doing. And equally important that reason needs to be measurable.
What’s your reason? Why are you doing it?
As far as I know there is no holy grail of things you should do to make a company successful. Follow your intuition, your passion, be true to yourself and others and most importantly surround yourself with the right people.
But every know and then you realize there’s something worth remembering. Here’s five things I always keep in the back of my head:
You have to give it 110%
You have to work & hustle, period. There are no shortcuts, you can learn to delegate but everyone depends on you.
It’s a marathon, not a race
No such thing as overnight success, keep at it.
You will mess up
I used to beat myself up every time I messed up. Then you just realize we’re all human and make mistakes. Embrace your mistakes and hold yourself accountable.
You will fail
You will fail, a lot. It’s part of getting somewhere, there is no golden path. We all need to walk the wrong path to realize it’s not the right one.
Don’t worry too much about competition
I never obsessed too much about competition. It’s a good thing. But I see some of my colleagues obsessing too much, it’s almost sickening. You have to stop, focus on what you’re doing.
The topic of the future of work-life balance has been catching my interest lately. I’m always looking for creative ways both to run a company and motivate myself and my team.
But, will we ever find the perfect balance? I’m not sure. But the future looks pretty exciting if you ask me.
We’re already living in a post-industrial society (defined as that point where revenue from services generates more wealth than manufacturing) and the fact that a lot of service industry jobs rely on just access to a computer, opens up a lot of doors.
For a couple of years now there has been a lot of discussion and books around the 4-day workweek, the 3-day workweek and remote work. Forbes posted a great article last year on the benefits of cutting the workweek short.
So we’re talking about a not so distant future where we work 4 or even 3 days out of the week. Or maybe there will be no schedules. Many companies are now shifting to a result-driven approach instead of the usual nine to fiver. The remote work movement has gained tremendous support over the last two years.
Combine everything and we get 3-4 day workweeks, where we manage our schedules and work from home (or wherever we want). Everyone may not be ready for it, but I honestly think that’s where we are heading.
A great deal of compromise, dedication and responsibility is required by a company and it’s employees to accomplish such a feat, but then again in today’s world these should never be overlooked by anyone.
Since my son was born, my family has required more of my time than before. I expected that, just not this much time! I’m in a spot right now where I think I’ve found a good balance. I work, I hustle and I do it wherever I am. I schedule work hours around the time my family needs me around.
And even though there’s so much to do, I’ve also managed to make time to relax, enjoy a glass of wine with my wife before bed and even got back to playing xbox online with my friends.
Here’s the punchline: my company is doing better than ever. Sitting down 9-5pm on a desk does not equal productivity.
My mind has shifted now towards the industry as a whole. Is it time for a big shift? I think so. Both companies and employees should be aligned to each others needs.
I’m seriously considering a mix of remote work and reduced workweek for the agency (but don’t tell anyone who works there, yet.).
Have you experienced, worked or implemented a work-life mindset shift? I’d love to know!
My all time favorite quote was said by Steve Jobs back in 2005 during his Stanford speech:
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
I recently had to make a tough career/personal decision, and this quote held true as it always does for me.
Simply said, if you’re not happy with your current life or professional situation, you need to change something. Change is usually not easy, but no one is going to do it for you. It’s a path you need to decide to walk.
Your life is yours. Your happiness is too. If you’re waking up feeling miserable too many days in a row, time for a change. I’m constantly assessing my current situation and state of happiness with what I’m doing and bring changes accordingly.
Everything, absolutely everything around you is within your grasp to either change or just eliminate from your life. We all have the power to change our reality.
I was very naive at negotiating when I first started Ideaware. Starting a new agency to compete with Silicon Valley counterparts was not an easy task, hell, it still isn’t.
Starting up in South America (Colombia), there was only one way to compete and step into the market: cheaper hourly rates. In other words: cost.
We tried – and succeeded sometimes – to deliver that ‘top agency’ quality at a fraction of the price. But this came at a cost, as great things take time to make. Time I wasn’t charging for – or undercharging for.
This took a toll on both revenue and in the end quality, as having enough cash is vital to having the necessary resources to deliver the work.
One day it all dawned on me after reading a blog post somewhere (would love to cite, but couldn’t find it): budgets buy time – quality should always be a given.
It rocked my (and Ideaware’s) world.
Budgets were suddenly time. I started talking time with my clients and team. Daily project management questions suddenly changed to: How much time do we have? Does the client have enough budget for that?
What happened next rocked my world (again): we started delivering the best quality work we’ve ever done and clients have never been happier working with us.
We no longer negotiate quality, but time. Time and quality equals results. Results are good for business.
Great post on Ux Magazine, couldn’t agree more.
Last September marked four years since I quit my ‘full-time’ job and started my current journey. Here’s the post on this blog from four years ago – So I quit my job, what’s next?
I remember the mixed feelings of uncertainty, doubt, hopefulness but above all that sense of satisfaction that I took a first step to follow my dreams. I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, I even set a goal for myself when I was in University to not have a desk job by the time I was 30. I made it happen when I was 27.
Above all else, the last four years have been the best of my life: I found my soulmate, started my dream company with her full support, got married and I’m now a very proud father of my 1 year old son. I have no regrets and nothing but blessings that I’m thankful for.
In four years I’ve consulted for startups and fortune-500 companies, I started Ideaware from my living room and grown it into a 30+ person agency, I’ve invested in startups, I’ve created products and above all I’ve learnt from countless mistakes and failures along the way.
I’m very thankful for everyone I’ve met along the way so far, I learn so much from everyone in my life. Currently working in my next 4-year plan, but that’s another post.
Have you quit your job to start a company? Taken any life-changing decisions in the past four years? I’d love to hear your story.
Here’s a favorite quote of mine from motivational speaker Jim Rohn:
You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend Most Time With
As simple and straight forward as the quote may sound, there’s actually quite a bit of depth to it. Who you are at any point in your life is strongly defined by those 5 people that are closest to you.
In my experience there are three types of influence people have on you – positive, negative and zero.
Positive and negative influencers are easy to figure out – and I strongly recommend cutting out those who are the negatives, but I’ll write about that some other time.
It’s those people who fit into the zero category that you should be weary about – those who bring in nothing to your personal or professional relationship.
It’s the kind of people who are there, barely noticeable just leeching off of you, they do nothing but wear you down.
This is why this quote really struck me – one day I realized I was surrounded by people who wanted something from me, but gave nothing back.
We’ve got two surround ourselves by a supporting spouse, good friends and business partners that will help and push you to your goals.
It’s the kind of people you both teach and learn from, you help and get help from – a symbiotic personal or business relationship.
Those are the kind of people we all need in our lives.