The last word on email signatures

This week in Freelance Camp (https://freelance.camp), a rousing discussion on where we stand when it comes to email signatures.

This is a topic I have a lot of strong, strange opinions on.

In Camp, I shared an impromptu teardown of my email signature, and I’m sharing it here with you. Maybe this will spark a few ideas on your part.

—-

I separate the body of the email from my email sig with a horizontal line. There’s an argument to be made that the horizontal line says “You can stop reading here.” Which, fair point.

I still like it.

Kai Davis • https://kaidavis.com

I sign my emails

Talk soon!
Kai
---
<Email Signature>

Which means I include my name twice in an email.

That… could be improved.

The Link — I’m of the mind that including a link to more information about you is a good move.

The homepage isn’t the ideal place to drive these eyeballs. The link should, ideally, go to an about page (or similar, scoped for email).

To do:

  • [ ] Cut name from signature or from “Talk Soon!” block
  • [ ] Find better use for name space
  • [ ] Change URL to /about/

I reply to email at 10 am Pacific Time and 4 pm Pacific Time, Tuesday through Thursday.

Expectation setting on both sides:

  1. Expect replies from me in those windows and during those times
  2. “Kai, make sure to only dive into your inbox in those times.”

1 is working. 2 isn’t.

Typing this, I realize that I should schedule email time on those days (instead of all days).

To do:

  • [ ] Rescope email time on my calendar to be in my email time windows

If you’re looking for a reply outside of those hours, I recommend my 1-on-1 Business Coaching for Freelancers and Consultants (https://kaidavis.com/coaching/)

I think that this call to action for a service is a great thing to use and include. It costs nothing and gets in front of hundreds or thousands of people in a short time.

The implementation of the CTA could be better.

I like the bridge from ‘expectation that replies take time’ to ‘here is how you get in touch with me as you need.’

CTA should have a benefit included in addition to the above.

I don’t like listing the service name here. That may be space I can repurpose for benefits.

Coaching is an okay target for this, though I’d argue that no one is reading my signature and impulse-purchasing a 3-month $3,000 project https://kaidavis.com/coaching.

I’ll consider making this a smaller, initial purchase, like The Initial Call Script (https://kaidavis.com/initial-call-script) or a 1-on-1 Call (https://kaidavis.com/call).

To do:

  • [ ] Rewrite CTA to add a benefit to the description
  • [ ] Drop service name and use that space in another way
  • [ ] Include UTM tags so I can track using SegMetrics
  • [ ] Evaluate a separate, email only landing page. Pluses: a bit easier to track in Google Analytics. Minuses: Yet Another Page.

Where do you stand on email signatures?

Excelsior!

Kai

BattleBoard

The one thing that I usually break out when I’m in the final stages of shipping a project/preparing for a trip is

The BattleBoard

The BattleBoard is a Kanban board named Today that has a simple, essential function:

Take the pile of things I need to get done and turn it into an ordered, scored, estimated list of things that I can move to Completed.

It’s a Trello Board set up as a Kanban board. On the right of each card, it looks like there are a bunch of pixelated tomatoes.

I use Trello for my BattleBoard. You could use Notion for it. Or you could use your tool of choice. (You can find a Trello and a Notion template to copy at the end of this article)

How To Play BattleBoards

Here’s how you get started.

Start Your Day

You start your BattleBoard by doing a brain dump and calendar dump of everything that you have to do today. Write it on paper with pen or pencil.

Schedule 30- to 60-minutes to just brain dump every single task, project, action, and item that you need to tackle. Get messy with it.

Alright, you’ve written down everything that you need to get done.

Build Your BattleBoard

Spawn a new Trello/Notion/Whatever board. Create the following columns:

  • Backlog
  • Working On (2)
  • The Pen
  • Completed

That “(2)” is important. We’ll come back to it in a bit.

In Backlog, you want to create a card for each thing on your list.

Boom. You’ve got a messy list.

Now, for each card, ask yourself:

Why should this card stay?

Make the default deleting the card.

If you can’t identify the reason why you need to tackle this today, stop thinking about it.

Get it off your board.

🍅 Score Your Cards

The Pomodoro Met –

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.

https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique

Cirillo named the system “Pomodoro” after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks.

https://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730

Ahem.

The Pomodoro Technique has you work in a 25-minute working session followed by a 5-minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique is a great way to score your projects. Is it going to take:

  • 25 minutes? One Pomodoro = 25 minutes = 🍅
  • 50 minutes? 🍅 🍅
  • 75 minutes? 🍅 🍅 🍅

That’s a very convenient way to estimate how long something will take.

And, hey, it works well on individual Trello cards.

Go through your board and do a rough time estimate for each card:

  • 🍅 (25 minutes)
  • 🍅 🍅 (50 minutes)
  • 🍅 🍅 🍅 (75 minutes)
  • 🍅 🍅 🍅 🍅 (100 minutes)

“But Kai, what if a task will take less than 25-minutes?”

Score it as one tomato 🍅. If you finish a card early, take your break early and then get started on the next card.

Prepare for The Game

Alright, now you’ve got:

  • A BattleBoard
  • A bunch of cards in the backlog (your ‘deck’ )
  • Tomatoes all over your cards

Here’s how you prepare for your game.

Stack Your Deck

You want to sort your deck of cards (your ‘backlog’) so the most important cards are at the top.

Go through the cards in Backlog (your deck) and stack it.

Put the cards you want to tackle first at the top of the deck. The cards that, when completed, will have the most impact.

Prep Your Notes

The back of every card is a spot you can leave yourself notes: instructions, links, summaries, checklists, or quick notes.

Click on the card. Add to the description and comments.

Hide Your Phone

Store your phone outside of your working space. Put it in your bedroom, your bag, your car, or leave it at home.

Capture Distractions As They Happen

Get a pen and a piece of paper or a legal pad.

During each Pomodoro, write down distractions as they happen.

When you’re distracted, make a hash mark on a piece of paper.

This is what my “Distraction Log” looks like:

Each time I get distracted – tabbing to Slack, grabbing my phone, checking iMessage, whatever – I make a hash mark on the paper.

This technique comes from Scott Hanselman’s talk Scaling Yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FS1mnISoG7U

Get Your Timer

You want to be reminded to take breaks. Remember, you’re following The Pomodoro Technique. That means a 25-minute working session and then a 5-minute break.

I use an app on my Mac to run 25-minute timers (https://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/47506/timebar). A timer on your phone works quite well.

Get Your Time Tracker

“Kai, a time tracker?”

Yup.

I love using a time tracker. (I hate hourly billing.)

Using a time tracker lets you see how accurate your time estimates are.

If you say “This is going to take me 25-minutes,” how do I know if you spent too much time on it? How do you know if it only took you 10-minutes?

A time tracker lets you close that loop and see how long it takes you to finish a card.

I use Noko (https://nokotime.com/) for my time tracking and like it. Any time tracker will work.

When you move a card from “Working On (2)” to “The Pen” or “Completed,” you can log your time as a comment.

Then, when you complete the card, you can compare your estimate (🍅 🍅 🍅) against the time and see how accurate you were.

This feedback loop lets you adjust your scoring as the day goes on. Find that you’ve under-estimated the time required for a few cards? Review your deck, adjust your estimates as you see fit, and re-stack your deck.

Playing BattleBoards

Your goal is to move cards from the left (your deck) to the right (completed) and through:

  • Working On (2)
  • The Pen

Cards can only move to the right, with one exception explained in “The Pen.”

As you tackle new cards, pull them from your deck and move them to

Working On (2)

You get to work on two cards at a time. Maximum. You can’t be working on more.

When you’re done working on the card, move it forward to “Completed” (if the card is complete) or “The Pen” (if the card isn’t finished)

What if you’re waiting for someone to send you information so you can complete a card? Let me tell you about

The Pen

The Pen is where you put cards that are stuck, stalled, or waiting on other people.

  • Stuck and need to hit pause on a card?
  • Waiting for someone to send you some information?

Put the card in The Pen.

When you’re ready to move a card out of The Pen, move it back to “Working On (2).”

When you’re done working on the card, move it forward to “Completed” (if the card is complete) or “The Pen” (if the card isn’t finished)

Completed

Completed is where you put cards that you’ve completed 🎉


Start Your BattleBoard Game

You’re ready to get started.

To review, you have:

  • Your BattleBoard
  • Your Cards (a ‘deck’) on your BattleBoard
  • …with a Time Estimate (🍅) on each card
  • Notes on the back of the relevant cards
  • Your Timer (to take breaks)
  • Your Time Tracker (to measure the accuracy of your time estimates)
  • Your Paper (to track distractions/interruptions)
  • Your Water Bottle (because it’s cool to stay hydrated 🚰)

You’re ready to play BattleBoards

Start your timer. Start your time tracker.

▶️ Take the top card or two in your backlog and move them to “Working On.”

📇 Work on your card. Move it forward to “The Pen” or “Completed,” depending.

⏰ Take breaks when your timer tells you to take a break

⏲️ Track your time in your Time Tracker. Record how much time you’ve spent on a card

📝 Write down distractions as they happen in each Pomodoro.

🚰 Stay Hydrated

2️⃣Two cards maximum in “Working On (2)” at a time

🌟 Your goal is to move as many cards from your deck (“Backlog”) to “Completed” as possible

When you’re done for the day, count up all the cards (and 🍅) you completed.

Congratulations, friend. That was a great workday.

Here’s the truth: you aren’t going to complete everything you intended to in a day. That’s just how life is.

At The End of The Day

You’ll have cards in:

  • Completed
  • The Pen
  • Working On (2)
  • Backlog

Get rid of all the cards in “Completed.” They’re done. You don’t need to think about them anymore.

You want to prep for tomorrow’s BattleBoard. That means:

  • Create a new column named “Tomorrow”
  • Move all the cards all the board (The Pen, Working On, Backlog) into “Tomorrow”
  • Get out a piece of paper
  • Brain dump anything that comes to mind that you need to take care of tomorrow

Tomorrow, you’ll start with two assets:

Your Brain Dump

Take this as a jumping-off point for your brain dump process. Write down everything that comes to mind.

Your “Tomorrow” Cards

Tomorrow, start by reviewing all the cards in your “Tomorrow” column. These are notes to yourself from Yesterday.

For each card, ask yourself:

Why should this card stay?

Make the default deleting the card.

If you can’t identify the reason why you need to tackle this card today, stop thinking about it. Get it off your board.

Templates for BattleBoards

Trello BattleBoard Template

Open this board in Trello and make a copy of it and you can get started with your BattleBoard: https://kaidavis.com/battleboard/trello

And if you’re new to Trello, you can sign up through my referral link: https://kaidavis.com/loves/trello

Notion BattleBoard Template

Open this board in Notion and duplicate it and you can get started with

your BattleBoard: https://kaidavis.com/battleboard/notion

And if you’re new to Notion, you can sign up through my referral link: https://kaidavis.com/loves/notion

Excelsior!

Kai

  1. 🚨 Very Important Footnote: Stacking the deck doesn’t mean ‘put the easiest cards on top.’ If you do that, when your energy starts to drop, you’ll be looking at a stack of challenging cards, and your enthusiasm will wane.
    Instead, put the most impact generating cards at the top. These might be small (🍅) or large (🍅 🍅 🍅 🍅), depending.
    There’s always a chance you won’t finish your entire deck before the day ends. If that’s the case, you want to make sure you’re tackling the most important cards at the start of your day.
  2. Hell, if you’re feeling particularly courageous, walk up to the barista at your coffee shop and say, “Hi, I’m working on a project. Can you put my phone in the lost and found with my name on it and I’ll pick it up when I’m done?”
    Then give them a tip.

“How does a Sales CRM fit in? “

Lead Tracking

Should you use your CRM to track your sales leads? Most likely. That’s what the tool is for.

Should you use it to track non-sales leads? What about past clients? That question leads to some interesting conversation.

Past Client Follow-up

One significant advantage of using a sales CRM (like Pipedrive: https://pipedrive.com, https://kaidavis.com/loves/pipedrive ← affiliate link) is that you can easily follow-up with your past clients.

Ideally, you’ve been using your CRM to track your leads. That makes following-up with past clients super easy:

  • When you close a deal, schedule a follow-up activity (“Send Follow-up Email”) with that contact for 2-4 months down the road.
  • Schedule the activity now, at the moment the deal closes, instead of waiting until you remember to schedule it
  • When that follow-up comes due, take that action. Send your contact a short email to check-in and then immediately capture your next follow-up activity with that contact.

This way? You’re automatically optimizing for more follow-up with past clients.

Pipedrive’s Activity Based Selling approach (https://kaidavis.com/activity-based-selling/) is like a Vitamin B-12 shot for your sales process.

Now, if you have not been using a CRM, you might be thinking to yourself

Kai, this tool sounds great, but I’ve got none of my data in there. How can this work for me?

If you’re just starting to use a Sales CRM, then one of the first steps is to migrate your data in.

Now, your friend Kai is a fan of the slow and cautious approach. When you’re getting started with a CRM, you don’t want to throw all your information into it.

Why?

Because dirty data stains any system it touches. And if you throw all your data in, you’ll be throwing trash in.

Instead, the slow and cautious approach:

  1. Make a list of your past clients (spreadsheet, paper, and pencil)
  2. Create those clients in Pipedrive (create a contact, create an organization)
  3. Schedule days to send follow-ups to these clients (schedule a future activity on these contacts or companies)

And… presto. You’ve now imported a select group of your past clients and schedule a follow-up activity for each one.

You’re a follow-up master 🌟

Ready to give your sales process a Vitamin B-12 shot? https://kaidavis.com/pipeline-essentials/

Excelsior!

Kai

“Driving Pipe”

A friend asked an excellent question about if Pipedrive (or another Sales CRM/Digital System) would help with their sales, outreach, and follow-up.

Would it help? Most likely.

The indispensable part of using a Sales CRM like Pipedrive?

You delegate the action of remembering you have an email to send to a trusted piece of software.

Software is terrific at remembering things.

Human brains? Not so great.

If you need to send a time-sensitive message in the future, like:

Send Jim a follow-up email about the paper deal on October 30th

Why try and remember that yourself?

Delegate the remembering to a trusted tool — a sales CRM, like Pipedrive.

https://kaidavis.com/pipeline-essentials/

Tomorrow? Two steps that will guarantee a level-up in your follow-up.

Excelsior!

Kai

What topics would you like to read about?

I have the “Ask Kai Anything” (https://kaidavis.com/aka/) page on the site, where y’all can ask questions at any time, no matter how specific they are.

However, I figured I’d make a post to see what more general topics you’d like to see me cover.

Feel free to send me an email (kai@kaidavis.com) and let me know what you’d like to read about (whether it has to do with consulting, freelancing, marketing yourself, productized offers, outreach, or whatever).

I’ll write about the most requested topics.

Excelsior!

Kai

Security First; ???; Safety Third

I have committed security worst practices, and this is a learning moment for everyone.

Two years ago my friend Adam Burns (https://operatingops.org/), wrote a fantastic article “Hygiene Checklist for Paid Subscriptions”.

This article is recommended and required reading for every independent consultant and freelancer out there.

Reading this article will save you time and money.

https://operatingops.org/2017/03/18/hygiene-checklist-for-paid-subscriptions/

Over to Adam for the intro:

==== Start Adam ====

One day I get a text from the illimitable Kai Davis. He’s had a Bad Moment.

Adam. I have terrible OpSec.

A former user had deleted a bunch of files. Luckily, he was able to recover.

Teach me how to OpSec.

No worries buddy. I got you.

Kai is a power user, and in today’s Internet that means he subscribes to two dozen hosted services. How do you manage two dozen services and keep any kind of sanity? I do it with checklists (read this book).

Before I show them to you, we need to cover one of the Big Important Things from Mr. Gawande’s book. Kai already knows how to manage his services. He just needs to make sure he hasn’t forgotten something important like disabling access for former users.

I wrote Kai two checklists. One to use monthly to make sure nothing gets missed and one to use when setting up new services to reduce the monthly work. I assume he has a master spreadsheet listing all his services. Kai’s Bad Moment categorizes as OpSec, but I didn’t limit these lists to that category.

https://operatingops.org/2017/03/18/hygiene-checklist-for-paid-subscriptions/

==== End Adam ===

Kai here.

The reason this article came to mind?

Today, American Express sent me an email to let me know that they were sending me a replacement card for my business account. The card was in the name of a person that no longer works for me.

![[Enable Images To See This Amazing Gif]](https://kais-stuff.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/gif/what-nope.gif)

The email was just an automated “we’re replacing your card with one with new features!” message. Nothing to worry about.

I snap-called AmEx and had them shut that down and remove that person from my account.

Have you ever sat down and thought about what your Security Hygiene looks like? Have you…

  • Updated those out of date passwords that 1Password is warning you to change?
  • Set a reminder to review your recurring subscriptions and cancel what you aren’t using?
  • Shut down your accounts on those services you signed up for ages ago and don’t use anymore?

I sat. I thought.

I got scared.

Then, I remembered that Adam wrote this excellent checklist to teach me how to OpSec.

It’s time for me to implement these best practices. I encourage you to read Adam’s excellent article and do the same.

Read Adam’s article over here: https://operatingops.org/2017/03/18/hygiene-checklist-for-paid-subscriptions/.

The “set a reminder to review billing” tip will save you thousands of dollars.

And if you like it, subscribe to Adam’s mailing list here: https://operatingops.org/subscribe/.

Excelsior!

Kai

Value

Value is Impact divided by Effort.

  • High Impact, low Effort? That’s valuable.
  • Low Impact, high Effort? That’s not as valuable.

What does Effort mean for a client when they’re paying you to do the work? They aren’t putting in the sweat equity of Effort themselves, you are.

The Effort represents the Price that the client is paying for the project.

Impact is the outcome of the project for the client.

For a client, Value is Impact divided by Price.

  • High Impact, low price? That’s valuable.
  • Low Impact, high price? That’s not valuable.

(“Impact per Dollar”)

What does Effort mean when you’re working on your own business?

You’re putting in the effort and sweat equity and maybe you’re going to get paid directly from your work on your business.

The Effort represents the Time and Money that you’re investing in your own business. Mostly Time.

(“Impact per Hour,” “Impact per Dollar,” or “Impact per Effort”)

When you’re working on your business, It will take a few months for you to see the Impact.

When you’re planning what to work on — for a client, for yourself, for self-care, whatever — think about it in terms of “Impact” and “Effort.”

  1. What Impact will this have? Is it “Low Impact,” “Medium Impact,” or “High Impact”?
  2. How much Effort will this take? Is it “Low Effort,” “Medium Effort,” or “High Effort”?
  3. What does the Impact for the Effort look like?
  4. What different things could you work on that would provide a higher Impact for the Effort?

How can you learn what high-priority, impactful things your lead or client is looking for help with?

Sit down with the client and ask them questions about their business and the outcomes they’re looking for. Invite them to a Roadmapping Session (https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/)

Excelsior!

Kai

Monthly Website Commentary Extravaganza

Last week in Freelance Camp (https://freelance.camp) we hosted a brand new event in the community:

Website Commentary!

[Enable Images]

It was an hour of straight talk, actionable advice, and helpful commentary for every member that signed up. We’re already planning the next Website Commentary event for August.

Every week in Freelance Camp we have a different community event, like a Book Club meeting, Lunch and Learn, or a Campfire Call.

If you’re interested in joining a community of freelancers and consultants, applications for Freelance Camp are currently open.

Head on over to https://freelance.camp/ and learn a little more about the community. If it sounds like the type of place you’d enjoy, fill out the application form to reserve your spot.

You’ll hear back from me shortly.

Excelsior!

Kai

p.s., the advice that applied to nearly every website we looked at? Add more social proof to your website! Go read these testimonials from Freelance Camp members: https://freelance.camp/#testimonials

The Legal Pad

On my desk, there is a legal pad and a pen. These two tools help me stay focused on whatever I’m working on.

They protect me from distractions and side quests.

When I’m working, I’ll often get distracted by a small, related task:

  • Fix that webpage
  • Place on order for that shirt on Amazon
  • Send that email
  • Post that tweet

And I’ll jump around and start working on that next thing before I’ve finished working on the first thing. Oy vey.

Now? When I get that “oh, I should take care of This Other Thing!” feeling, my first step is to write This Other Thing down on my legal pad:

Take care of This Other Thing

Then, I get back to work on whatever I was working on before. Once I finish working on that, I can start work on the next thing.

This small habit helps me fight fires throughout my day.

Let’s say I have a call with a prospective client. I’m writing them an email with a link to the page for my Business Strategy Session (https://kaidavis.com/call/). Before I hit send, I remember “Wait, I need to add that new testimonial to the page!”

Once I have that thought, I write it down:

Add new testimonial to 1-on-1 call page (https://kaidavis.com/call/)

And then I get back to what I was working on.

Does the page need to be updated? Absolutely.

Do I need to do it this minute and break context on what I’m doing? Absolutely not. Updating the page isn’t an emergency. No one is bleeding.

The flow I’m working on looks like this:

  • Start work on That Thing
  • Remember This Other Thing that’s related to That Thing
  • Write This Other Thing down on The Legal Pad
  • Continue forward with That Thing I’m working on
  • Finish That Thing
  • Look at The Legal Pad and This Other Thing. Decide, “do I need to tackle This Other Thing now?” If not, add it to Omnifocus/Trello to sort in later.

By writing the ideas, distractions, and thoughts down as I come across them, I avoid getting lost on these small, related projects. With this little habit, I’m able to focus on my priorities and avoid getting distracted by side quests.

Excelsior!

Kai

A Real Professional

Swizec (https://swizec.com/), a friend, writes in with a great insight after yesterday’s letter “I will send along an NDA to get the discussion started” (https://kaidavis.com/freelancers-guide-to-ndas/)

Swizec adds:

It makes you look like A Real Professional who certainly knows what they’re doing.

Swizec is 100% right.

When you take the initiative like this, you look like a real professional to your leads, clients, and prospects:

  • You’re identifying a pain on the lead’s side of the table (Their desire for security and peace of mind via NDA)
  • You’re preparing a professional document that addresses this pain (An NDA crafted via your lawyer)
  • You’re making this document part of your standard process (“Here’s our standard NDA to ensure that we’re both protected.”)

All of this adds up to looking like A Real Professional™ who knows what they’re doing. This applies no matter what the document or pain at hand is:

  • Your Contract
  • Client Onboarding
  • Client Offboarding

Identify the pain. Put together a document and process. Present your clients with this process.

You’ll look like A Real Professional, my friend.

Thank you, Swizec! Great insight!

Excelsior!

Kai

p.s., I had ‘A Real Hero’ from the ‘Drive’ Soundtrack stuck in my head while writing this letter.