Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 43 post collection

A spreadsheet will do

 •  Filed under Posts, Freelance

Over the weekend I closed my Highrise account.

In case your not familiar with the name, Highrise is a CRM product for small businesses. It started life as part of the 37signals range of products, but has since branched out onto it's own.

The initial pull to using a CRM tool like Highrise is that I wanted to a tool that allowed me to store important emails from clients as well as track projects and work I was chasing with prospective clients. Highrise has great email integration that allows you to forward emails from clients to Highrise and it will store them for you. It also allows you to track deals which in my case represented prospective work with clients and creating proposals to win work.

I should mention that while Highrise is a great product, my decision to cancel my account with it isn't anything to do with the performance and features of Highrise. It is a great product and under the right circumstances it is worth looking at if you need a CRM for your small business.

My main reason for moving away from Highrise was more to do with how I wasn't using it to it's full potential.

In the time that I've had to use Highrise, I've used the deals section rarely. It's nothing to do with Highrise, it's just that in the time that I have been freelancing, most correspondence takes place over email and I've rarely had to pitch for work. Most prospective clients like to discuss the work that they would like me to do and discuss my background and experience. After a few emails, most of these prospective clients then decide to exchange contracts to begin the work. I've rarely had to pitch for work and so the deals feature of Highrise has been left untouched.

The email integration with Highrise on the other hand though was used on a daily basis. Client emails went straight to Highrise as well as my replies to them. Although I used this feature daily, there were only a handful of different clients to deal with at anyone time so while the archiving of these emails in Highrise was nice to have, most of the emails involved discussions before work began. My email provider already offers a large amount of space to store emails and they're filed away in a folder. I was starting to wonder if I needed Highrise to manage the storage of emails.

Finally there was the managing of contacts. Yes I do have all my clients contact details, but I rarely have to refer to them. I speak with clients daily when working with them, I use email to send weekly updates and invoices and for all other daily correspondence with clients I recommend Slack. All my clients details are saved on the appropriate devices I need to have them on and aside from that there's no other special requirement to managing this data.

It was starting to look like I didn't need Highrise at all.

After deliberating for a few days I finally decided to export all my data from Highrise and delete my account. Without a CRM though I needed something else. All my client details are already stored in my address book but I needed something else that acted as a more detailed version of their details and allowed me to find and filter contacts based on information I have recorded against each of them.

The answer lay in a document type that I rarely use. The spreadsheet.

After getting the contact columns in the spreadsheet in the right order, I imported the contact details in and started adding the necessary changes I need so that I could filter those contacts.

Right, so the spreadsheet doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Highrise, but for the moment it will do. I've got all my contacts in one place. I can filter them based on the next date with which I need to contact them for a catch up and there's enough flexibility in Numbers in that I can add more information if I need for each client.

If my client base was to increase over the next 12 months and work started to change on a monthly basis then I would definitely consider Highrise again. It is a great product, but I couldn't justify it's use as a simple address book and email archive.

For the moment though, the spreadsheet is enough for me.

New iMacs on the way

 •  Filed under Posts, Apple, Technology, Freelance

Great to hear that new iMacs are on the way.

Regarding iMacs, Schiller also said that new iMacs are in the works, slated for release some time this year (no specifics other than “this year”), including “configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind and acknowledging that our most popular desktop with pros is an iMac.”

The Mac Pro Lives by John Gruber

I've been looking to replace my MacBook Pro for a while now. I do most of my work at home and it's rare that I do serious development during a client visit. While the MacBook Pro made sense at the start of my freelance career, I think an iMac would be better for myself.

The question of what to do on client visits though remains. Should I still keep the MacBook Pro for client visits? Unless I'm called on to write code during that visit (I never am) then I think it's safe to say that I can relegate the MacBook Pro to another younger member of the family who can use it for school work more effectively than I would use it as a second development machine.

I'm still debating the purchase of an iPad Pro to act as a portable device. I would use this more for admin, marketing and writing and planning tasks. Anything that isn't writing code essentially.

I'll get the desktop hardware sorted first before I go down this road though.

Chain of thought

 •  Filed under Micro Post, Writing, Marketing, Freelance

Lately I've been thinking a lot about marketing.

While making my afternoon coffee I was running some editing changes through my head on a post I'm writing. And then it struck me.

If you're not writing, you're not marketing.

I've struggled with marketing my freelancing business in the past, but I certainly could start making a step in the right direction by writing more for my freelancing business.

Level up

 •  Filed under Freelance, Posts

There comes a point in your career when you can no longer coast along just punching in and out and doing a day's work. Nobody tell's when that time will come. It can be in the first few days of your job or after years of working for yourself.

When that time comes to level up, you can do two things.

  1. Ignore the opportunity and keep coasting along doing the same thing you do every day. Eventually though the opportunity will reveal itself again.
  2. Use the opportunity to level up and start making improvements in your career and your prospects.

While I've been doing client work for five days a week for the last two years, the chance to level up has presented itself on a number of occasions. Each time though I've used the excuse that I don't have the time to make improvements or start learning something new, and while that is a poor excuse, it's what I did.

I'm paying the price for it now though. I'm still busy working for clients and next year's schedule is looking great. I can't always bank on having the same clients though in the next five years. They may no longer be using the web frameworks that I specialise in, they be looking for alternatives that I am not well versed in. They might even want to take a look at something completely new.

When clients want to level up, you need to be ready to level up with them. Whether it's technology, tools or processes, you need to be able to have enough knowledge to level up with them. To make this transition as easy as possible it helps if you can be the one that levels up first. Then your party of clients can follow.

So when the opportunity presents itself to learn something new, do yourself a favour. Don't ignore it.

The Three Cs

 •  Filed under Links, Productivity, Freelance

I think I've found myself a new set of labels for categorising my tasks in Todoist.

Think of your tasks in categories called the "three Cs," he says: creative, collaborative, and connecting. Schedule your creative work—when you’re thinking, making decisions, writing, and planning—when you’re mentally strongest. For many, that’s early in the day, he says. Block out times for collaborative work, such as meetings, phone calls, and other work tasks where you need to interact with others. Then, plan your connect time, when you recharge with family and friends.

8 Productivity Habits Of The Most Successful Freelancers by Gwen Moran for Fast Company