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!”
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.
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/)
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:
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!
p.s., I had ‘A Real Hero’ from the ‘Drive’ Soundtrack stuck in my head while writing this letter.
If you're routinely or occasionally presented with NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), this can be a source of friction in your business:
👨⚖️ Signing an NDA could open you up to legal risk
💸 Having your lawyer review NDAs costs you money
🕰️ Reviewing the NDAs yourself costs you time
I take the stance that you should set up a 'price speed bump' to discourage people who show up with NDAs in hand.
Here's the language I recommend for this, pulled from the as-yet-unpublished Just Say 'No': Scripts for Freelancers and Consultants:
There's a $500 fee for the cost for my lawyer to review your NDA. If you're willing to pay that fee, send the NDA over, and I'll send it to my lawyer. No guarantees on me signing once my lawyer has reviewed it.
Today, I ran into something that opened my eyes to a different approach.
Pay your attorney to draft up a standard NDA for your business. Have them walk you through it:
What you can negotiate
What you cannot negotiate
What should make you think: "I better talk to my lawyer."
Then, set up a standard process where you offer to send your NDA to the other party
Great, I'm excited to learn more about what you need help with. I'll go ahead and send over our standard NDA for you to review and sign.
You get a few perks in exchange for the cost of doing this:
👨⚖️ Boutique NDA
You have an NDA that's written for you, your business, your needs, and your protection from legal risk.
You can rest assured that your NDA will protect you.
♻️ Rinse and Repeat Process
You now have a 'rinse and repeat' process you can follow to send your NDA to any lead that asks for one: send them the NDA through HelloSign (https://hellosign.com).
☮️ Peace of Mind
You can offer your leads and clients the peace of mind of knowing they've signed an NDA.
💰 Save Money by Investing Money
If you have your lawyer review every NDA that's sent to you (or if you're spending the time to read them all yourself), then you have a cost each time an NDA shows up.
Dodge this recurring cost with your one-time investment in a custom NDA for your business.
Now, instead of a recurring cost, you have a standard operating procedure you can follow and a standard document you can use to offer your leads peace of mind (and give yourself legal protection).
This morning, as I wandered into the kitchen, still half asleep, I remembered that there were pre-made smoothie bags in the freezer from this week’s meal prep.
For a delicious berry + greens protein smoothie, all I needed to do was:
Pop the bag out of the freezer
Dump it into the blender
Add soy milk
Turn the blender on
(Spot the critical missing step yet?)
I followed my remembered process, prep my smoothie, turn the blender on, and smoothie promptly coats my kitchen cabinets and counter.
I forgot to put the lid back on the blender.
You don’t ever think to yourself:
I should write down the steps I follow to make my morning smoothie
or, for the business equivalent:
I should write down the steps for how I use my budgeting software
Or Google Analytics. Or add a page to your website. Or send an email to your list. Or invoice a client.
And then, when you don’t expect it, smoothie flies up into your face.
No matter how small the action or project, if it’s something you’re going to do more than once, write the steps down. Create a Standard Operating Procedure you can follow. Future you will thank you for taking the time to write down the steps:
Here are three things to avoid discussing or mentioning in conversation with your lead or client — and suggestions on what to say instead.
If you use a consulting ‘term of art’ (a word or phrase that has a precise, specialized meaning within the fields of freelancing and consulting), you will accidentally confuse your client.
“This is a Productized Service”
Don’t call it a Productized Service.
Why? This is a highly technical term. Your client will not understand what a Productized Service is. Referring to it as such introduces a lot of potential for risk and objections.
One time, a lead heard me say “Productized Service” when discussing their upcoming project. Immediately, they raised an objection: they thought we were discussing my service and instead, we’re talking about my product? Confusion city, my friend.
When you’re talking with your clients, keep it simple and keep it crystal clear. Don’t call it a Productized Service; call it a Service.
Don’t tell your client that you’re following a value-based methodology to determine their price.
Why? If you open up a conversation about Value-Based Pricing, then you’ll be talking about (and defending) your pricing process instead of talking with the client about the project.
Instead, just share the price and why this is a valuable investment for the client:
This is the price: $…
Don’t mention your pricing process, systems, or techniques — value-based or otherwise — to the client.
Don’t call it a Roadmapping Session.
Let’s compare and contrast these two names for the same hypothetical service: a marketing plan for your Shopify Store that defines the top 2-3 priorities to focus on to get more conversions.
Shopify Marketing Roadmapping Session
Shopify Marketing Action Plan
The second focuses on the outcome/output of the process (the Marketing Action Plan) instead of focusing on the process.
Roadmapping Session is another highly technical term that you want to avoid using with clients. A Roadmapping Session is a type of engagement: a paid discovery and strategic engagement that helps you and the client learn more about the client’s business and current situation and determine the best paths forward. https://kaidavis.com/roadmapping/
When you’re offering a Roadmapping Session, make the name attractive and relevant to the client.
“Action Plan” instead of “Roadmapping Session.”
“Website Rescue” instead of “Website Audit” (no one wants to be audited)
Name your service in a way that aligns with or hints at the outcome or benefits your target market is looking for.
If you’re a Windows/Linux user, I recommend searching around (duckduckgo.com) for an OS- or Web-equivalent. In The Year of Our Lady (YOOL) Two Thousand and Nineteen, there are (most likely) similar pieces of software out there for you to use. If not, hey, there’s an app idea for you!
None of these recommendations are paid recommendations. I’m not compensated in any way for these recommendations. There is one affiliate link that’s clearly labeled.
OmniFocus is available on macOS, iOS, and has a brand new web version (https://www.omnigroup.com/OmniFocus/web !!!) which seems rad as hell. I’ve been wishing for OmniFocus for the Web for 9 years. Hallelujah.
TextExpander — Text Snippets
TextExpander is my secret weapon. Email templates, little snippets of text (phone numbers, addresses, names), and everything else you can think of, you can store in TextExpander.
They’re the best in the business when it comes to securing your passwords and making them incredibly easy for you to access.
1Password is built around making your passwords secure and easy to access. You need to remember your Master Password to unlock the app and your vault — mine is a multi-word phrase that’s easy to recall — and then you have easy access to your passwords.
1Password (https://1password.com/) makes it so easy to access my passwords, I’m finally using long, random, highly secure passwords for each website I use. It’s great. And it’s painless.
I’m including this here as a recommendation because nvALT is a fantastic tool:
You pop it up and start typing. Search or create a note in seconds. It has blazing fast and accurate full-text search, the ability to find related notes based on content, and very complete Markdown editing tools (complete with syntax highlighting and theme editing).
I’m switching from Gmail (with a set of Gmail enhancing apps) to a desktop client.
In the past, I used and loved Newton (https://newtonhq.com/). Great app. Then it shut down. And I learned today that it’s back open? It’s on the list to try out again.
Right now I’m trying out Spark (https://sparkmailapp.com/), on Philip Morgan’s excellent recommendation. It’s a lovely piece of software that has ~3 of my favorite (paid) Gmail extensions baked into the app. That’s pretty cool.
I haven’t used either enough yet to give a strong recommendation.
If you enjoyed this dive into software Kai uses, loves, and recommends, after using it himself for hundred of hours, then hit reply and let me know. I can write you a wicked sharp article on tools (and recommended systems) to make your Gmail email experience less distracting, more productive, and less anxiety-inducing.