10
Apr 14

Find projects quicker with Freckle’s new Timer

Freckle’s Timer has received a facelift and optimizations to be quicker to use and prettier to look at!

timer

The main thing that works differently from before is the much improved search. Either click the project search box or type the / shortcut key to start searching (you can also just start typing any letter or number to stat searching when the search box is not active yet!).

Freckle will now find projects that are similarly named and typos are no problem if you’re not sure about the spelling of something. Use your and cursor keys or mouse to select a project and press or click the play button to start your timer or log it!

Want to create a new project and start timing immediately? Easy, just use N (hold down your shift key and press “N”) or click the “+ new project” button in the top right. Fill in your new project name, hit and you’re done!

There’s more keyboard shortcuts available—check out the build in cheatsheet by pressing ? (that’s / on US keyboards) or clicking the keyboard icon in the bottom right.

The Timer now always has a bright pink bar on top to make it easier to find if you have tons of windows open on your computer, and the currently running project’s colors are large and brightly visible so you can see what project you’re running the timer on at a glance.

For those of you who have lots and lots of projects—you’ll enjoy the much improved load times when you have hundreds of projects.

Don’t forget—the you can safely close the timer window at all times. Browser crashes? Freckle laughs in the face of those… Timers are stored on Freckle’s servers so you can just reopen the timer window, even on a different computer or your phone and all timers will still be there!

We’ve updated our help article on the Timer as well, it’s a great refresher if you haven’t used the timer recently. :)


09
Apr 14

Heartbleed and Freckle

tl;dr Freckle was patched on Monday within hours of public knowledge of this security problem. We recommend that you change your password and API token.

This Monday (April 7, 2014) afternoon (ET) the Heartbleed bug (CVE-2014-0160) was made public. It is a very serious security problem with the way web servers (like Freckle) handle encrypted data. (For a non-nerdy explanation see this XKCD comic!)

This vulnerability affects a large number of web sites and applications, from big ones like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, GitHub, your bank and so on down to smaller services like Freckle.

The gist is that an attacker could have read some encrypted data, including passwords and other sensitive information; as well as impersonated other people and logged in to their accounts. Unfortunately there’s no way to know for sure that we’ve been affected or not. We do not have any indication that any Freckle data was exposed.

We take your data security very seriously, and immediately dropped what we where doing to fix this problem.

Steps we’ve taken to fix this problem: (warning, nerdspeak ahead!)

  • Within a few hours of the vulnerability becoming public knowledge, we’ve patched our servers and issued a new SSL certificate. The old SSL certificate has been revoked.

  • We’ve changed the encryption keys used for our cookies, making it impossible to use older cookies that may have been exposed to sign in. This reset all active browser sessions. (You may have noticed that you had to sign in again.)

  • We’ve updated internally used passwords and API keys.

  • A while ago, we enabled Freckle to use Perfect Forward Secrecy, which makes it almost 100% impossible that anyone could read past traffic data exposed by the Heartbleed bug.

  • Additionally we have our normal security measures in place.

Steps we advise you to take:

  • Change your Freckle password. While we don’t think passwords have been exposed, it’s a good idea to change passwords from time to time anyway. We recommended not to use the same password as on other services.

  • Generate a new API token. If you use our API, please generate a new token, just to be sure.

  • If you run your own servers that use SSL, as many of our customers do, please update them, now.

If you have any questions, please contact us at [email protected].


07
Apr 14

The Psychology of Customers

I’m not ashamed to admit that I, Devon Kreider, have made my fair share of infomercial purchases.

There’s a reason why infomercials have become a massive phenomenon and and why many of us have contributed to the growing infomercial market.

photo cc: DonSolo

photo cc: DonSolo

On the surface they’re cheesy, a bit abrasive, and provide comedians with an endless supply of jokes.

But if you can get past all the simultaneous slicing while dicing and chopping while mopping, infomercials can actually teach us a thing or two.

The secret to selling like Billy Mays isn’t in the shouting, it’s in the structure.

Infomercials have a unique marketing structure, that when applied to a sales page or other promotional material, will cut right to the core of the psychology of a customer.

The Secretly Awesome Structure of an Infomercial:

  • Sell the benefits of a product
  • Back up your claims with solid data
  • Demonstrate your expertise through testimonials
  • Capitalize on the power of storytelling
  • Be a little repetitive
  • Show some comparisons between you and the other guy
  • Absolutely have a call-t0-action

Your customers wake up in the morning with a business problem.

It may seem like a software problem or a design problem, but what they’re really looking for is a solution to help them save money or earn more money.

Infomercials are able to sell even the most ridiculous products because what they’re really selling is a solution to a distinct problem.

The trick is to use real emotional triggers to talk about your customer’s problem.

You want your prospective customers to feel like you understand where they’re coming from. Like you know their pain and that you care about helping them solve it.

That’s where the benefits come in.

Often, we get wrapped up in all of the features our products have.  But your customers aren’t looking for features.

Despite what we may think, customers aren’t looking for fast, free, easy, fun, and pretty.  They’re looking for a way to earn more money, save time or increase their own customer base.

If you pay attention to the exact words your customers use, you can explain how and why your product will help them.

Nothing motivates people more than hearing their own words repeated back at them.

And if they can hear their own words through the testimonials of your satisfied customers, well then you’re one step closer to getting their business.

The biggest lesson we can learn from infomercials is that selling is, in fact, a science.  It’s a social science.

When we’re marketing to our customers, we want to drill down to the core reasons of why someone would want to purchase our product.

And to do so, we need to understand their motivation, their fears and doubts, and but most importantly, their pain points.

Then you can use the marketing structure of an infomercial without ever needing to say, “But wait, there’s more!”

 

 

 

 

 


31
Mar 14

Sell Yourself, Not Your Soul

Getting a customer to spend that first dollar is an uphill battle.  Sometimes it can even feel like a really steep incline that just goes on and on and on.

That “first dollar problem” is why branding and positioning and marketing are so important.  And not just for big bad enterprises with tons of money, but for small businesses too.

Self promotion isn’t about taking two days a month to market yourself and your biz.  It’s about the little actions you do everyday, and it’s about your sales pitch.

photo cc: HikingArtist.com

photo cc: HikingArtist.com

 

Selling yourself doesn’t have to make you feel sleazy or uncomfortable.  In fact, it shouldn’t.

You’re good at what you do.  You’re a pro.  And your customers need you.  They’re out there actively searching for the perfect you right now.

Creating that customer connectedness and developing a feeling of trust is difficult when you’re not face to face with a prospective customer.

So it’s your job to make sure that your message and your positioning is clear.  Not just so that customers can find you, but so that the right customers can find you.

On your sales page and in all of your promotional material you want to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Now I don’t mean reinventing the marketing wheel and coming up with the next viral marketing campaign.

I mean communicating who you are, what you do, and the value your product or service provides, just like you would in person.

You want someone to go to your website, read your copy, and be hooked on you and your biz before they even think about the price.

Because at that point, the price is trivial.  You’ve already got them nodding their heads uncontrollably and saying, “yes this guy gets it.”

But how?  How do you get someone to go from concerned-about-price to could-care-less-about-price? That’s a big leap, right?

Well, I’ll tell you this, it’s not by having beautiful Pulitzer Prize winning copy or really ingenious and witty slogans.

It’s by listening to your customers and understanding what their pain points are.

Getting to the core issues behind why your customers buy takes time and it takes research.  But if you don’t do your homework, you’re not only hurting yourself, you’re hurting your customers.

When your positioning and your marketing reflect exactly why your customers want your product or service, you’re not being sleazy or tricking them into making a purchase.

You’re telling them about a solution they desperately want to find and who (that’s you) is the best for the job.

P.S. Next week we’re going to talk about what you can learn from infomercials.  It may sound crazy but those direct marketers know what they’re doing!

 


24
Mar 14

Avoid Problem Clients and Reach Your Goals at the Same Time

I think it’s safe to say that no one wants to wake up in the morning and dread working with their clients.

When you work with clients that aren’t the right fit for you, it not only makes getting out of bed in the morning difficult, but it makes it harder for you to do your best work.

Your dream clients should want the same things you want.  They should really resonate with you.   But finding those shining star clients among a sea of bad ones can be tough.

The good news is, that once you’ve got a firm grip on who your ideal client is, you can easily evaluate all your future clients against those good client guidelines.

photo cc: Franklin Heijnen

photo cc: Franklin Heijnen

 

It’s important to find the right type of customers for your business – whether that be only working with software companies or seeking out customers with whom you can have a strong mutually beneficial relationship with.

It’s equally as important to make client qualification a part of your-everyday-biz habits.

One way to help you identify the good guys (your dream clients) is to use a little something I like to call, a Principle Document, to consult with before taking on a new client.  Kind of like talking to your best friend, if your best friend was on paper and concerned with the health of your biz.

A Principle Document is merely a fancy phrase for, a checklist that is combined with your long term goals.

The checklist is for you to compare potential clients with the principles and guidelines you use to describe your ideal client.

Now, let’s talk long term goals (cue the cheering crowd).

Too often when we hear the word, “goal” we automatically think of the word, “task”.  And no body likes likes the word, task.

Setting goals is super important for you biz.  But not if you set them for the wrong reasons.

The key to setting good solid long term goals is to align the goals and operations on your business with your values.

You want to start by figuring out what is the most important to you and your business.  Because you can’t find your dream clients until you know the key drivers behind why you do the things you do.

  1. How much money would I ideally like to make?
  2. How many hours would I like to work a day or a week?
  3. What types of projects do I want to work on?
  4. What other professional avenues do I want to explore?

Aligning the goals and operations of your biz with your core values will help you identify what streams you need to cast all of your lines in (that was my attempt at a fishing metaphor).

In other words, when your goals are consistent with your values, you’ll be loads more likely to target the right markets and the right clients for you.

The long term goals part of the Principle Document can seem a bit daunting.

But don’t let the terminology trip you up.  These goals are a reflection of your hopes and dream, your values and your passions.

Your Principle Document should do two things for you.

  1. Help you prioritize what factors are most important in a potential client
  2. Keep you from wasting time looking in all the wrong places for your dream client (cause let’s face it, the world is a big place).

Working with the wrong clients has ramifications.

So draft up a Principle Document, hang it on the wall, and consult it often and always.  You’ll love not waking up in the morning dreading the clients you work with.

 


17
Mar 14

Say Goodbye to Bad Clients

No matter if you provide a service, or sell a product, I think it’s safe to say that there is one thing every business can find a common ground.  Bad customers and clients.

If you put a group of people in a room together, all from different industries and different markets, I guarantee everyone would have their own customer horror story.

In fact, most of us can spot a bad client from a mile away.  We see the warning signs in their behaviors, and maybe our gut tells us to run…fast!

Yet a good majority of us turn a blind eye.  We ignore the creepy music playing in the background and go into the basement.

photo cc: Bricks of Horror

photo cc: Bricks of Horror

There is a school of thought in the biz world that says no customer is a bad customer, and that you should satisfy the needs of any paying customer.

And to the teachers of that school I say, wrongo! As someone who works in customer support, I’m fully behind and in love with customer satisfaction.

But satisfying all of your customers is simply not feasible.

Now, before you go off on a rant about how backwards I have it, let me explain.

The kind of bad customer that we can all pick out in a crowd may technically be giving us money, but they’re giving us significantly less money than our awesome and beloved customers.

Generally speaking, these are the customers at the low end of the spectrum.  They perceive less value from you and your product or service, and they have more ridiculous demands than the customers and clients at the high end of the spectrum.

In the end, they cost you more than they’re worth to you.  Not just in financial terms but in terms of your productivity and happiness.

The way to satisfy all of your customers is to choose the ones that are right for you.

Our instinct is to look at our customer and clients and identify the bad guys. Because that’s easy.  We can probably all name a handful of bad customers right now.

But what about the good guys?  What do they look like to you?

That’s definitely a harder question to answer.  But it’s the one that will make a huge difference in your business.  The right customers and clients are willing and happy to pay you more money because they value you.

And the right customers and clients, they remind you why you got into this business (whatever the business is that you’re in) in the first place.

So, how do you spot the good customers and avoid the bad ones?

First, you have to figure out who your ideal customer or client is.

And there’s no right or wrong answer here.  There are many parameters to consider when describing your ideal client.

  • Size of the company you enjoy working with
  • Minimum project budget and your payment schedule
  • Scope of the project
  • type of relationship with the client

But who has time to go through all of the possible good client guidelines that are out there?

You’ve got a business to run and a team to manage.  You need to be able to identify your most bestest, most ideal client without wasting any time.

To save on time (and you know we’re all about saving you time) ask yourself 5 key questions about your ideal client.

  1. How would my ideal client value the type of work I do (design, code, writing, etc.)?  How happily would they pay for it?
  2. How would my ideal client define quality?  Can they tell when my work is great, and when it’s just okay?
  3. How would my ideal client work with me? How and when do they give feedback? How much do they trust me or try to control me?
  4. How would my ideal client see my work (and me)? Is it instrumental to their business, or as a necessary evil?
  5. Have I ever worked with a client who fits this description? How’d it feel? How’d I find them?

When you can answer these questions, you’ll find that you can work with your ideal client. 

Not only that, but you’ll find clients that will look at the work you’re charging for as an investment.

Goodbye bad customers and clients, hello better business.  

P.S. Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to continue talking about how to work with the clients of your dreams.


10
Mar 14

How to Communicate Your Value

I hear the terms “value based pricing” and “perceived value” thrown around a lot when talking about raising rates and earning more money.

photo cc: lalegranegraSometimes I feel like you can’t go five minutes in a conversation about pricing without hearing one, or both, of those terms.

And it’s true, determining the value you provide a client and pricing go hand-in-hand.

 

But once you’ve figured out how much value your work creates for your client, then what?

How do you justify the price you’re charging, even if it’s totally what you’re worth?  What if they run away screaming and refuse to pay a higher price?

Just a couple of don’ts:

  1. You *don’t* want that screaming, price haggling client.  You want clients who are happy to pay the amount of money you’re worth.
  2. You *don’t* need to justify your price.

You need to communicate what you’re going to do for the client and how you’re going to help them.

When a client has a problem there are two things that they value more than money.

  1. trust
  2. the perception of reduced risk

Whether you realize it or not, clients approach every new project with a tremendous amount of fear and doubt.  They’re already thinking about the last four times they hired someone to fix their problem and how it didn’t work out.

Your job is to change the client’s perception of you right off the bat.

When you do that, they’ll be willing to pay your quoted price, and they’ll be telling all their other scared client friends about you!

The thing is that clients are just like you and me (the good ones, not the bad ones).  They just want to work with someone who understands them.

And you need to be able to communicate that with them.

Some Rules of Communication

  • Say things your client can understand and perceive value from.

Technical jargon and seemingly random numbers aren’t going to mean anything to them. How are you going to fix their problem i.e. increase revenue or reduce costs?

  • Don’t be afraid to be passionate.

When you’re talking about something you love or love to do, it really shows and it’s contagious.  Clients are excited about what you’re saying when you’re excited about it.

  • Show your expertise in your field and how you’ve solved similar problems.

Communicating that you’ve succeeded before, and then some, is the sexiest thing to a client. (Laugh now, but wait till you see it in action.)

  • Make it your business to know your client’s business.  They’ll be so impressed that you understand them that they may just fall out of their chairs (which would be hysterical).

If you can communicate what you do best, in a language they understand, it won’t matter what other competition is out there.

Because you’ll be selling your client on you and your price without them even knowing it’s happening!

So next time you hear someone talking about “value based pricing” and “perceived value” remember that those terms are just code for, getting your client to feel like you’re going to deliver on the promise you’re communicating.

The promise that you’re going to solve their actual problem and bring value to their business.

You want to leave your client thinking, “Wow, he gets me.  I can talk to him and he understands my pain. I’m willing to pay just about anything for him because he can get it done.”

And all it takes to get there, is some good old fashion communication.  

 

 

 

 


03
Mar 14

Charging More the Value Way

How much value does your work create for your clients?

When it comes down to it, that is the question at the core of the pricing issue.

photo cc Kalexanderson

photo cc Kalexanderson

After all, your clients hired you for a reason.  You’re not just a means to an end.

You’re a part of their business.  You’re adding to their business.  You’re saving them money and helping them make more money.

When you want to set a new rate, the first step is to understand the value you provide.  How you help improve their business.

Defining your value to a client can feel like a loaded task.  But don’t panic just yet, it’s not as hard as you think.

Before you can explain why you’re worth what you’re worth to someone else, you need to understand yourself.

Take a look at your last project (or last couple of projects) and ask yourself, how have I (or my work)…

  • created new business assets/products
  • improved existing assets/products
  • brought in/reached new customers
  • made more sales to existing customers
  • decreased risk
  • increased opportunity
  • increased efficiency/helped the client focus on their core skills
  • increased cost effectiveness/cut costs
  • created a competitive advantage
  • increased customer happiness
  • reduced stress over workload or responsibilities
  • expanded into new areas/markets
  • improved the client’s company/brand image

The key to earning the the rate you desire, beating out competition, and landing the clients/projects you want is communication.

The better you can communicate your value in a way the client can understand, the easier it will be to not only, earn more, but work with awesome clients.

For next week’s post we’re going to keep the conversation of perceived value going strong.

If you’re like us, and think that ideas about value based pricing are a bit vague and hard to implement, then you’re gonna want to come back and read next week’s post!


24
Feb 14

A Magical Formula for an Increased Bank Account

If you’ve ever had trouble getting a client to pay you, then you know what a huge time kill it can be.

Not only does it take weeks, sometimes longer to resolve payment problems, chasing down a client who hasn’t paid drains you of all your focus and keeps you from doing your best work.

photo cc @storem

photo cc @storem

The good news is that not all clients will waste your time and make you chase a check on a string.

The better news is that there is a super simple way to get rid of those dirt ball clients for good!

A fixed payment schedule, including up-front deposits, is one of the biggest differences between a Seriously Cash-Strapped Freelancer and a Serious Freelancer.

A clearly defined, no-nonsense payment schedule separates you, the expert, from the competition and the few unscheduled “creative types” your potential client may have met in the past.

It’s true!

When a Good Client pays you something up front, they feel better about you getting a nice, firm grip on their project. They can rest easy, knowing you’re not wasting your time (and theirs) trying to rustle up fast cash.

Now, repeat after me:

“I take a 50% deposits to begin work.”

(Unless it’s over $10,000, in which case, it’s 30%.)

If that feels like too much to ask for upfront, and like you’ll send the client running out of the room, remember this:

Down payments are an accepted practice in several industries.  Really bad clients look at non-existent payment policies as a way to avoid laying out cash for as long as possible.

Get rid of those guys all together!

If you follow this magical formula you’ll be able to to create a life-saving payment schedule for any project.

  1. Take an up-front deposit to begin work (30-50%)
  2. On large projects, take a payment mid-way (25-30%)
  3. Bill the remainder on completion (25-40%)

As long as those percentages add up to 100%, you’re golden.

For small, one-off projects such as illustration, single-page designs, or telephone consultations— take 100% up front. Nobody wants to fiddle with 3 payments of $300 (unless they, too, are cash-strapped).

A good client won’t even blink at the 3-pronged payment plan you present them. The clients you want to work with will find you more appealing as a result!

The best part about a having a well oiled payment plan is that not only will your flush bank account thank you, but your new, awesome, paying clients will too.

Everyone will know where they stand on project milestones at all times.

Everyone wins! :D

 

 


17
Feb 14

Eliminating Freebies Is Easier Than You Think

If you’re a freelancer, consultant, small biz owner or anyone who’s time is their bread and butter, you spend a lot of your day switching between small tasks and trying to do multiple things at once.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/

photo cc: JD Hancock

And task switching and multitasking sucks.

No, really, it sucks. It sucks your time, your productivity, your motivation and in the end, your money.

Let me explain.

Nothing ever really takes one minute.  By themselves, small tasks and “just one quick question” requests seem harmless

In fact, it seems hardly worth it to track small tasks, such as answering an email or making notes after a consultation call, let alone charge someone for a couple of minutes.

But those small tasks that you do throughout the day, they add up.  A task may look like it’ll take just 2 minutes…but how often does that task actually take 15, 20 or even 30 minutes?

Even if a task takes only 5 minutes to do, you lose up to 30 minutes of “flow” when you’re switching modes, or get interrupted.

And if you’re not charging for 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, or 2 minutes for this quick change — everyday — then you’re losing several hours and lowering your hourly rate.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking about how annoying it’s going to be to keep track of all of those small tasks.  Your thinking that your clients are going to flip if you show them a timesheet with “flow” time.

Here’s the thing.  You don’t have to!

The trick is using a minimum billing increment. Basically a tiny time “package”.

Most consultants & freelancers in the creative industries bill in 15 minute increments. That means if a client calls you for a 5-minute discussion, you’d bill them for 15.

Minimum billing increments are a billing buffer.  They help compensate you for the time you spend switching between tasks and changing gears.

And when you use a minimum billing increment you’re not prone to lowering your rates because you’re giving your time away.

That means you’ll earn more, you can take on fewer clients or projects, and you’ll have more energy and focus for each task you do.

Oh, and did I mention that you already have this built in security system right at your finger tips? Freckle supports minimum billing increments and they’re configurable so you can change them per project or choose one for your entire team to use.

Your time is precious and you work hard, so don’t give away freebies. Use minimum billing increments to take back your time and get rid of freebies all together!