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Consulting Tips

Consulting Tips

As independent consultants, we want to connect with people and influence them in a positive way for the changes we want them to make. The question is, how best to do that? One powerful answer is to use storytelling. Edwina Pike, the creator of “Irrational Change,” has some insightful methods to share on the power of storytelling — and how to use it to help change people’s beliefs and behaviors in a positive way. At a recent virtual event for the…
“I like the idea of independent consulting, but I’m just too risk averse for that path.” I’ve begun responding: “So you are more comfortable investing all your working hours in a single company. Do you invest all of your financial assets in the stock of a single company?” Of course the answer is always: “Oh, no, I believe in diversification.”…
What does your consulting firm really do? Can you communicate your consulting firm’s mission — who you serve and what you do — to your clients in just one sentence?  If not, you aren’t alone. Summarizing your business in just a few words can be an intimidating task.  Fortunately, consulting expert David A. Fields has created a way for independent consultants to do just that. He calls it your fishing line. What is a fishing line? According to Fields, a…
Pricing is always an important topic for companies, but in these days of high inflation and disrupted supply chains — as well as the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic — it’s become critical. Yet many companies are struggling, not having had to flex their pricing increase muscles for a few years.  “Pricing is a product-centric idea,” says Ian Tidswell, an independent consultant focusing on B2B pricing and the co-founder of Ideal Price. Pricing is usually set depending on how…
Having a solid content strategy brings a number of benefits to independent consultants. Here are the five types of content every consultant needs to utilize. Jake Jorgovan of Content Allies shared these five types of content for consultants in a Webinar for the Umbrex community. Before diving into the five types, he outlined just why content is such an important aspect for independent consultants — and why they avoid it. In his experience, when people think of content as part…
If you are looking for a new way to build your brand and reputation, consider hosting thought leadership executive events. Umbrex member Amanda Setili of Setili & Associates shared her process and tips how to plan thought leadership events with the Umbrex community in a virtual webinar. Setili began setting up such events in 2011 for four reasons: To save time. She was spending a lot of time calling clients, having meetings or lunch with them — a process that…
Corporations are beginning to change their operations and strategies to become more sustainable. This can seem like a huge undertaking for a company that is already long established, but some Umbrex and Veritux consultants are focusing on helping client companies become more environmentally sustainable. Nidhi Chadda, Founder and CEO of Enzo Advisors, says it’s often hard to know where to begin. “When we guide companies and investors in thinking about sustainability and how it impacts their respective businesses, we always…
Most people value creativity, but only one out of four feel they’re living up to their own creative potential. Fostering creativity in your business brings many benefits, professionally and personally. So says consultant and brand strategist Susan Meier, who led a virtual workshop on creativity in brand-building for Umbrex and Veritux women’s groups in April. Meier, who runs Susan Meier Studio where she acts as a brand consultant and conducts workshops on the topic, says that fostering your own creativity…
Winning projects is what independent consultants concentrate on most, but sometimes how you wrap up your work with a client is just as important as how you start the conversation, especially if you hope to win client recommendations. Best practices and tried and tested tips were revealed in Episode 287 of the Umbrex Unleashed podcast, featuring David A Fields, consultant and author of The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients. Hosted by Will Bachman, the show finds its jumping off point…
The skill of persuasion is an important one to hone. Here we share some top strategies for building influence and persuasion. The Harvard Business Review did research that revealed the top personal — or soft — skills of successful entrepreneurs. The number one skill was persuasion. “The quality serial entrepreneurs displayed above others was persuasion, or the ability to convince others to change the way they think, believe or behave,” study results stated. “Persuasion for this study was defined as…
A simple set of prompts for a daily journaling practice: What did I do yesterday? What am I working on? What’s coming up? What am I grateful for? From Nicolas Cole. Do you have a regular journaling practice?…
Stuck for ideas on how to market your independent consultant practice to bring in new clients and projects? Here are 21 business development ideas, along with links to relevant episodes of our Unleashed podcast where applicable. Editorial note: This article was originally published in January 2021 and was updated in April 2022. 1) Start a podcast and invite potential clients as guests We recently released a detailed resource guide on how to start your own podcast, from the technical and…
Should have done this a long time ago: There are some phrases that I find myself typing all the time on my phone. I finally set up a few text replacements. Now, if I type “;cal” that text gets replaced with “If you’d like to book a call with me, you can find a time that works for you on my Calendly: [link included here]” On an iPhone: Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement Instructions for Android. What’s your…
There is a difference between being good at what you do, and being recognized for being good at it. But how do you become a recognized expert in your field, and establish your reputation as a thought leader? That was the topic of a recent Umbrex Presents conversation with Dorie Clark, a Wall Street Journal best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker. “We know this is a really noisy and crowded environment,” Clark said of the business marketplace for independent consultants….
Creating your own podcast provides multiple benefits, including: – RELATIONSHIPS: An opportunity to build relationships with potential clients or collaborators – VISIBILITY: If you host an interview-based show, your guests may promote the episode to their followers on social media – CREDIBILITY: Even if a client doesn’t listen to a single minute of your show, if you’ve published 50 episodes on a topic, you’ll be viewed as more credible than someone with a similar background who has not published any…
              Umbrex is working pro bono to connect clients to Ukrainian professionals who have been displaced from their jobs and need work. So far we’ve found work for ten Ukrainians. We’ve created this web page where you can: – View a directory of freelancers and contact one of them directly – Submit a request and we’ll work on finding someone who is a fit We’ll be featuring one freelancer each day with a post…
  Based on input from members of the community and from experts such as Josh Spector, we just published a step-by-step guide on how to create a newsletter that includes this checklist. A newsletter is a great way to stay top of mind with potential clients. For inspiration, subscribe to newsletters that other members of the community send. The guide includes links to newsletters by these members of the community:       Maureen Dolan Bala Robbie Kellman Baxter Robyn Bolton David Burnie Terry…
Change filenames from your perspective  –> to that of the intended audience. Proposal to Client X.ppt  –>  Strategic sourcing project proposal from Consultant Y.ppt Resume_marketing_version_finalfinal.pdf  –>  Firstname_Lastname_Resume.pdf [If you have multiple versions of your resume, save them in separate folders.]…
  Looking for a data set to answer a question? You could hit up Google. Or you could try Nomad Data, which uses AI and machine learning to connect data seekers with data sellers. [I interviewed the founder, Brad Schneider, yesterday; Unleashed episode will drop later this week.] Nomad has 1,000 data sellers on their platform. As a data seeker, you type in a plain language query. Traditional market size/share example: “I need detailed information on what broadband services each carrier…
1. What am I most avoiding right now? 2. Why am I avoiding that thing? The first question guides me to that task which should probably be my top priority. And resistance tends to weaken once exposed to the daylight of that second question. H/T: Kristine Steinberg…
IndeCollective runs cohort-based programs for independent professionals who seek to take their practice to the next level. Three members of Umbrex whom I respect have gone through the program and recommended it to me. IndeCollective Founder Sam Lee described the program to me on Episode 460 of Unleashed. This link provides an overview of the program summarized in the three slides included above. This link has the calendar for the upcoming cohort, which starts March 24. Applications for that program close January 31. The standard ten-week…
22 Business development ideas for 2022 1. Craft a memorable fishing line. Video. 2. Identify your core network. Podcast. 3. Make your LinkedIn profile a client magnet. Podcast and template. 4. Create a project list. Podcast and template and sample.. 5. Create a portfolio of sanitized sample work. Podcast. 6. Avoid common resume mistakes made by independent consultants. Podcast. 7. Start a newsletter. Podcast. 8. Start a podcast. Podcast. 9. Create the 5 types of content every consultant needs. Video. 10. Create a plan for the year. Podcast. 11. Craft winning proposals. Template. 12. Clarify your…
Subtraction can also be powerful, and is often overlooked. What’s one thing you will leave behind and do less of (or quit entirely) in 2022?…
Josh Spector (website) publishes one of my favorite newsletters, For The Interested (25,000 subscribers), which features ideas to help creators produce, promote, and profit from their creations. I’ve been reading every issue for over a year, so it was a lot of fun to have Josh as a guest on Episode 459 of Unleashed. This episode is particularly valuable for anyone who is thinking about creating some kind of regular content with the goal of business development. Key takeaway that shifted my…
  Thanks to Umbrex member Robyn Bolton for this tech tip: Krisp provides “awesome noise canceling for Zoom calls.  The free version only gives 240 minutes per week which is plenty for me but other may need more depending on their environs and whether or not they use headphones.”…
Loom is a great tool to quickly record a short video of both your screen and you talking on the webcam. To send a message to a colleague or client when you aren’t able to connect live on a Zoom or Teams meeting, or to document a process….
Particularly in an initial discussion with a potential client, it can be productive to flip the question: 1. Client: “Tell me about your relevant experience.” Flip the question: “To help me identify which experiences may be most relevant, do you mind if I first ask a few more questions about your project?” Comment: Clients aren’t actually that curious about our experience. They care about their problem. So try to spend time learning about their problem, not talking about your past. 2. Client: “Tell…
Here’s an exercise I found challenging. Picture yourself in ten years. Who you are then. What skills you have. Your relationships with friends and family. What you own. What you’ve accomplished and how you spend your time. Now, speaking as that person, that “you + 10 years,” talk about yourself (try doing it out loud): “I am…. “I’m friends with… “I own… “I know how to… “I’ve traveled to…. “I’ve built…. “My typical day involves… “Over the last ten years I have…….
Over the past few weeks, two consultants told me that DocuSigns they receive always go to their spam folder, and they couldn’t figure out how prevent that from happening. With most email providers, you can set a filter so that emails from a given sender always go to your inbox, never to spam. Or if you want to get emails from a given sender out of your inbox but you don’t want to unsubscribe, you can set a filter to…
On their LinkedIn profile, about 90% of the members of this community still have the default, greyish banner. This is a missed opportunity to communicate a visual and emotional message about you or your practice to potential clients. Here are a handful of ideas to serve as an inspiration for your profile’s banner image. It does take some thought and some effort to get a banner selected and perhaps designed, so the meta-message is: “I’m a person who takes the…
During Week One (Report the Facts) of the annual planning process, you may ask yourself questions such as: What are my best sources of project leads? Which sources of leads convert at a low rate? When I lost proposals, what was the reason? While a CRM system such as Pipedrive can help you answer those questions, it’s also possible to use Excel. For years, James Black has tracked every proposal he submits using an Excel spreadsheet. He tracks Point of contact Client…
Start now, and finish in time for the December holidays: In Episode 445 of Unleashed, David A. Fields walks me through an eight-week annual planning process for consultants. Should take just 90 minutes per week. In the podcast, David goes into some detail and provides examples. If you want the core message in written form, read David’s post “8 Weeks to Get Juiced – A Better Strategic Planning Process for Consulting Firms.” Also in Unleashed this week: Episode 446: Vijay Mehra on…
Tired of small talk? Here are 30 questions to spark a meaningful conversation: How much is enough? What are you grateful for? What setbacks have you endured? What accomplishments are you proudest of? What’s a long-term goal you are working towards? What dreams have you given up on? What role have mentors played in your life? How and when have you experienced transcendence? What do you wish that you’d done differently? What have you built? What’s a story you’d like…
Bord (great name!) is a new collaborative whiteboard workspace tool designed specifically for the needs of consultants. The tool is currently free and you can register for an account here. Key use cases: 1. Multiple online users can collaboratively, in parallel create a presentation. It has good tablet / PC integration – so you can sketch a slide on a tablet and then you or someone else can type in text on a keyboard. The sketching aspect works better than Google Slides…
“What the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years.” – Chris Dixon, Partner at VC firm a16z I’m curious to know what I’ll be doing during the week ten years from now, so: What do you do on the weekend?…
One idea for starting a project in a new industry or with a new client: scan all client documents handed over as part of an initial data request, make a list of acronyms you find, and look up any that are unfamiliar. Then: ask the client about any not found online, because those acronyms are likely company-specific. Also: search online for “____ industry acronyms.” How do you quickly get up to speed on a new industry?…
Here is a reframing that I’m working on this week: Instead of asking myself, “What should I do for [this person]?” I’m working on asking “What does [this person] need from me?” So instead of asking: “How can I help this client?” I’m asking “What does this client need from me?” And at home, instead of asking: “What should I do to be a better father?” I’m asking: “What does my son need from me?” When the subject of the…
Here’s an exercise I’m working on right now. Make a list of activities for each of these categories: Things I am now doing that only I can do Things I am doing that I could possibly have someone else do Things I am doing that I should definitely have someone else do Things I’ve already handed off to someone else Things I’m not doing now that I should be doing When I actually write the list, I’m finding that stuff I had mentally put in the first category really…
Veritux member Gary Chan runs Alfizo, an IT security consulting firm. His firm offers a set of free security awareness training videos that I recommend. Register here. Sample insight from the video series that seems obvious in retrospect: Many websites ask security questions you can use to reset your password (name of your first pet, name of your childhood best friend, model of your first car, etc.). On all those questions, you should lie. Make up an answer and record it in…
This past week I read Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (recommended.) Burkeman argues that time management systems and productivity hacks are ultimately self-defeating: “they do work – in the sense that you’ll get more done, race to more meetings, ferry your kids to more after-school activities, generate more profit for your employer — and yet, paradoxically, you only feel busier, more anxious, and somehow emptier as a result.” He recommends that we adopt a different mindset…
Step 1: Write a list of 7-10 things that are irritating you. Step 2: Pick 3 of those that you could do something about in the next three months. This exercise helped me realize that the physical setup of my office has been a low-level drain on my energy level (tripping over wires, printer in my way). It only took an hour to rearrange the desks to eliminate the trip hazards and make space for a brainstorming area where I’ll…
Veritux member Tim Streeter has published Contentment Commitment, based on a framework he developed to enhance the level of contentment in his own life. Tim shared the framework with friends, and they shared it with their friends. After a few hundred people had used it successfully, Tim felt compelled to share the approach with a wider audience. The first step in the process he describes is to “reflect, rate, and rank” your current level of contentment across six dimensions and 36 sub-dimensions,…
From The Trusted Advisor, by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford. Excerpt from Chapter 3, “Earning Trust.” === In an instant, Charlie’s mind seemed to have been sucked dry. He had no idea what was meant by industrial consumables. Then, a revelatory thought popped into his mind: the man is talking about sandpaper! But that knowledge only served to deepen Charlie’s fear. He was sure that his firm had not done any such studies. Charlie felt sure that if…
  Technique to boost creativity you may have heard of: Make a daily practice of writing a list with ten ideas to improve X. This article suggests tweaking that technique: Pick someone you’d like to meet, and write down ten ideas that could improve that person’s business (or blog or website or podcast) and then send them the list….
I highly recommend Your Music, Your People, a recently released short ebook by Derek Sivers. You can buy a copy or read the whole thing for free at that link. (How cool is that.) The book is ostensibly written for independent musicians, but the messages apply equally to independent consultants. Here’s a quote: “Marketing means making it easy for people to notice you, relate to you, remember you, and tell their friends about you. Marketing means listening for what people need,…
Those of us in the advice business ought to read Henry Oliver’s article “Whose advice should you take?” – full of gems, a 4 minute read. Samples: “The marginal cost of giving advice is way lower than of taking it.” And “What we are seeing is a pattern where advice tends to be good when it is based on expertise and relatively fresh. Real advice is closer to knowledge or informed opinion than wisdom. People mostly go wrong with their…
Our instinct is to want more. More clients. More friends. More trips. More subscribers. More dessert. More outbound phone calls. More square feet. More comments on our LinkedIn posts. More good habits. And there is nothing wrong with wanting more good things. The problem is that our instinct when solving problems is to do more of something. This study in Nature found that “people systematically default to searching for additive transformations, and consequently overlook subtractive transformations” and therefore “defaulting to searches for…
I’m inspired by Amanda Setili, who for years (pre-COVID) organized semi-annual events in Atlanta that brought together 40+ senior executives for a panel discussion or featured speaker. During COVID she has organized a series of virtual events. A few outcomes of these events: – Amanda collected content for her first book, The Agility Advantage – Amanda learned what problems were top of mind for her clients and target clients – Attendees made valuable connections with other attendees – Amanda built…
Umbrex member Tineke Keesmaat, Founder and CEO of TILTCO Inc., has published Succeeding in a Hybrid World: A Playbook for Leaders. The Playbook, accompanied by a three-part podcast series, provides leaders a practical framework to re-imagine, re-build, and re-boot their organizations post-pandemic in a world where there is a mix of in-person and remote work happening for their teams. You should really check out that link and download the document. The design is absolutely stunning. Tineke used a mix of podcast interviews,…
zoom bingo What’s missing that you’d add to a video conference bingo card?…
On his podcast Invest Like the Best, Patrick O’Shaughnessy has a great interview with Jesse Pujji (iTunes), the former CEO and co-founder of Ampush, a leading performance marketing firm. The episode is an excellent introduction to what performance marketing is and how it works. One quote in particular from Pujji really struck me: whenever he hears a client say “that doesn’t work,” he encourages the client to restate it as “the last time we tried that, it didn’t work for…
Setting: An initial discussion with a client who needs help on Project X. You’re excited because you’ve done Project X before, and you’ve shared convincing evidence that you’re an X-pert. In this scenario, it is easy to forget to establish with the client the business value at stake. After all, the client wants a problem solved, and you can solve it. And yet the client may not have thought through the business value of solving the problem. Having an explicit…
Periodically I speak with consultants who are looking for advice on business development. One of the questions I ask is whether the consultant has created a target list of clients – not just in their brain but on paper or in a spreadsheet. Usually the answer is no. One of the reasons we avoid doing this, I think, is that when we get explicit on which specific clients we’d like to serve, we must be willing to make choices and exclude every other company….
In Episode 373 of Unleashed, I share tips on how to increase the chances that your client will pay you on time, based on my experience collecting on 1,500+ invoices over the last 13 years. The episode covers: 1. What to include in the contract 2. Questions to ask after the contract is signed 3. What to include on your invoice 4. How to follow up after sending your invoice You can listen on the website or subscribe to the show on iTunes or Spotify….
Cyril Lagrange has the the most useful and engaging email footer I’ve come across. He gave me permission to share. Here’s the email footer:   The first link takes you to his one-page website: a simple, clean, professional design (and a nice model if you’re ready to create your own website.) The “My Favorite Digital Workplaces and Solutions” link takes you to this Airtable view of Cyril’s favorite tools: The Credentials link takes you to his project list, also built in Airtable. Not everyone…
This list of 100 Rules of Life from Ryan Holiday has some real gems. A few of my favorites: 28. Do the verb, rather than being the noun. 39. When evaluating an opportunity, ask yourself: What will teach me the most? 62. Belief in yourself is overrated. Generate evidence. 87. Have unrelated hobbies….
In a book that I recommend every consultant read, The Irresistible Consultant’s Guide to Winning Clients: 6 Steps to Unlimited Clients & Financial Freedom, David A. Fields explains how to identify your core network. This is a useful exercise. If you go through the steps, you’ll almost certainly find names you had forgotten about who you’ll want to reach out to. Once you’ve identified your core network, you can establish at what periodicity you want to reach out to each person on…
[Download the above chart comparing entity types.] Independent consultants starting out often ask what type of entity they should use to establish their practice. Episode 353 of Unleashed could be helpful for consultants in the U.S. who have not yet established their entity. In this episode, Jonah Gruda reviews the most relevant aspects of the five types of entities that are most commonly considered: Sole proprietorship Partnership Limited Liability Company S-Corporation C-Corporation For each entity type, Jonah reviews: Formation requirements Liability Exposure…
Since I started my own practice 13 years ago, last week was the first time that I received payment for a consulting project by credit card. It turned out to be simpler than I expected to set up. We already had a Stripe account for accepting payments for the Guide to Setting Up Your Own Consulting Practice. I entered the payment info on Friday and had the funds in our checking account on Tuesday. I don’t recommend taking credit cards if you…
Helpful exercise: Create a comprehensive list of every project you’ve worked on – as an independent, as a member of a firm, as an employee in industry. You can download a template here. Fields to consider including: Name of client company Name of client executive Client team members Consulting team members Project start date Project end date My employer at the time Primary location Description (situation; what did I do; what was the impact) Industry Function Completed a case study? Sanitized…
“Show and Tell” is more powerful than “Tell.” When independent consultants ask what’s the one thing they can do to increase the conversion rate of leads into projects, my answer is: Create a portfolio of your templates and sanitized samples of your work. When a client hires McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, KPMG, LEK, or any other top firm, the client has a good sense of what she is going to get. The output will look like the decks from previous projects,…
If you are planning to start a blog or a newsletter or podcast or other form of regular content creation, it is worth taking time up front to articulate – at least to yourself – your objectives. It is easy to get distracted by metrics such as number of views or downloads, when those may have no relation to the reason you decided to create content in the first place. For example, if your primary goal is to build relationships…
I’ve worn glasses since 9th grade. My corrected vision has always been fine. Then three years ago, age 47, I was experiencing serious eye fatigue when working on the computer. I couldn’t keep the text in focus. Over the course of a year, seemed like the problem was gradually getting worse. I thought: “too much screen time, too much blue light.” Finally I visited the optometrist. She gave me a prescription for intermediate lenses, designed for looking at a screen…
Develop expertise. Become the best in your niche. We often hear that advice, and I’ve probably said it a few times. Well, there’s also value in becoming BAD at something – particularly considering the incremental value per unit effort. Example from chess: If you have never played before and don’t know the rules, you are not even bad at chess. You are level 0. When people talk about the game, you have no intuition at all of what chess feels like. Now let’s…
Here’s a set of 100 tips for a better life published by Ideopunk on the blog LessWrong. Check the link for the full list.  #100 is a good reminder: “Bad things happen dramatically (a pandemic). Good things happen gradually (malaria deaths dropping annually) and don’t feel like ‘news’. Endeavour to keep track of the good things to avoid an inaccurate and dismal view of the world.”…
The end of the year provides a good occasion to reflect on what went well and what could have been improved. And to set priorities for the year ahead. If you are looking for a template or set of prompts, here are five to check out: For the past week I’ve been spending a half-hour each morning writing responses to prompts in The Ultimate Annual Review, created by Steve Schlafman. Tara McMullin assembled this list of 30 Questions for Reviewing An Unusual…
You might check how your professional email appears in the inbox of recipients by sending yourself an email to a personal account. Some issues I commonly see: Instead of seeing the sender’s first and last name, just see the email address Sender’s first and last name are all lower case “first name” or some odd case “FIrst Name” What’s the impact? The sender looks just a bit unprofessional to every recipient Adds a stumbling block when recipients using an iPhone…
I used to start writing an email by first adding all the email addresses. And then, once, I accidentally hit ‘Send’ on an email to clients when the email was still very much in draft form. New habit: Write the email first, polish it, review it: and THEN add the email addresses as the last step….
On several occasions recently, well-qualified consultants didn’t get a project because, in the initial call with the client, the consultants spent too much time talking about their own experience. Consultants may ask about our experience. But they actually don’t care about our great case examples. They care about their problem. If clients do ask, “Tell me about your relevant experience in the widget industry,” try responding with a question instead of answering. “Sure, happy to discuss some related work I’ve…
  I got this tip from my son’s friend, who is staying with us at the farm for a week (after a negative COVID test.) Izzy pulled his laptop for schoolwork out of his bookbag and then pulled out this 15.6 inch portable LED monitor to serve as a second screen. The monitor – about the size of a Macbook – fits into a convenient carrying sleeve. At home I’ve got two 27-inch monitors, but I’ll admit – I was not aware that…
A new service that we’re offering to members – custom LinkedIn sourcing. How it works: You let us know a set of criteria to filter on and the fields you’d like to get, and we’ll create a Google sheet with LinkedIn contacts, as in the example above. A few use cases for this service are: 1) Business development – get a list of execs in your target niche 2) Identifying experts to interview for a project 3) Due diligence: identify…
You can hire a college-educated full time employee – 40 hours per week –  based in the Philippines for ~US$400 – $800 per month. Consider what you could achieve with that leverage. The best site that I’m aware of for hiring a full time employee in the Philippines is onlinejobs.ph. You pay a flat fee of $69 per month to post a job and review resumes. You can hire employees directly without going through the site, and once you’ve found someone,…
There’s a certain magic in starting. We may have the idea for a bold new initiative, think about it for months, making no progress. Setting aside one hour, we get started. And then, the universe conspires to bring the project to fruition. This Sunday, many of us will get a free hour when we turn back the clocks. Some ideas for what I call Start-Something Sunday: 1. Register a domain for that new company you’ll start 2. Sign up for…
Thanks for Margarita Soto for obtaining this new benefit for Umbrex members: I’ve found Transferwise to be the best way to send or receive funds when a currency exchange is involved. If I receive an international wire transfer via my bank, they charge a hefty fee – not as an explicit line item, but built into an unfavorable exchange rate. If I receive the same payment via Transferwise, however, I end up with ~2% more funds received. And when I’m…
Julia Cameron introduced the concept of morning pages in her seminal book, The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self. The idea is simple enough: every morning, within forty-five minutes of waking up, you sit down and write whatever comes into your head, for roughly fifteen minutes. It is not intended to be a journal. You aren’t intended to ever read the entry again. Just write. Many people have reported making stunning personal and creative breakthroughs after…
  Mekko Graphics is a plug-in originally developed for Bain that enables consultants using Excel or PowerPoint to quickly create compelling and insightful charts that go far beyond the standard built-in options. Seriously, check out this PPT deck with 250 beautiful charts. David Goldstein, one of the Founders of Mekko Graphics, gave me a demo of the product, which you can watch as Episode 333 of Unleashed, or on Vimeo….
As knowledge workers, each one of us is running our own knowledge factory, but school and most workplaces teach us to run our ‘factory’ more like an artisan’s bespoke workshop, with each knowledge product we ship lovingly hand-carved and made-to-order. Last Friday I shared the productivity lessons I learned from taking Tiago Forte’s course Building A Second Brain. In case you missed it, here is a recording. (To see subtitles* when watching the video, click “CC.”) I’d encourage you to check…
I dictated this section and had it transcribed with the otter.ai app.  I haven’t fixed any typos, just added line breaks Otter is a very powerful. Artificial Intelligence transcription tool. That’s very affordable for just $10, a month, you get 6000 minutes of transcription, that works out to .16 cents per minute. Here’s three ways you can use it. Number one, when you’re out and about. You can leave yourself a voice memo, and have it transcribed and email to…
I’m loving Airr, a podcast player app that allows you to highlight and share clips from podcasts. When you are listening to a podcast and hear something you’d like to save or share, you just click a button. By default the app selects a 45 second clip surrounding that point in time. You can adjust the start and stop point, and then title the clip. Some of the more popular podcasts include transcripts.  You can click on the transcript and jump…
Do you find yourself reading books with amazing insights that you expect will transform your thinking — and then six months later you can’t even remember what the book was about? Happens to me all the time. I just signed up for an account with Readwise, which aims to address this problem. Readwise sends you a daily email with text that you have highlighted when reading Kindle books, so you can review the passages you previously captured. The tool also allows you to automatically…
You can use IFTTT (stands for “if this, then that.”) to connect many common applications with one another. No coding required. E.g., I used this applet to send all my Instapaper highlights to my Evernote account. For more advanced integration options, check out Zapier….
This tip is from an exercise we did last week in Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain course. Write down your twelve “favorite problems” and save in your notes app or desktop or some place you’ll see regularly. The idea being: by writing them down and reviewing periodically, your mind will be working on these problems in the background. Here are some examples from those shared by participants in the course: How can I spend 75% of my time doing work that…
LinkedIn launched a feature in July that lets you show people how to pronounce your name. If anyone has ever been unsure how to pronounce your name, consider taking thirty seconds to add the pronunciation to your profile. Just open the LinkedIn app, click to edit your profile, and click on the banner….
Another recommendation from the Building a Second Brain Course: save articles and long newsletters to a read-later app. This allows you to avoid distractions throughout the day and schedule focused reading time. I’ve set up auto-forwarding filters for the newsletters I subscribe to. The two leading apps are Instapaper and Pocket. They have similar functionality. This Medium article can help you choose….
I’ve tried using a digital task manager in the past, but gave up. My list of to-dos was unorganized and became unmanageable. For the last five years, I’ve used a notebook, writing a new task list each day, by hand. I do like the physicality of the paper, but I often lose track of longer-term action items. On Saturday, I set up a Todoist account, and it feels like a massive weight has been taken off my shoulders. The key…
If you – or your client – ever needs to verify that a set of emails are valid, Neverbounce is a useful tool. I recently used it to validate a list of 2,700 emails.  Simple to use. I uploaded a CSV file and within a couple minutes Neverbounce tested them all and identified 21 emails that are no longer valid. Cost: $40 buys you credits to test 5,000 emails….
This free course launched last Friday and so far 1,874 people have signed up for it.  About four hours of video content. I went through 85% of the course videos over the weekend and highly recommend it to anyone who is – like me – new to Twitter and trying to figure out how to use Twitter (and not be used BY Twitter.) Sign up for the course here: https://join.oliviercantin.com/…
A few workshops that look awesome. I’d do all of these if I had the time. The Marketing Seminar:  “An Akimbo workshop for marketers who want to grow.” Registration for the next session starts September 15. Also check out the other workshops run by Akimbo, founded by Seth Godin. Building a Second Brain: “Helping people save their best ideas, organize their learning, and dramatically expand their creative output.” Enrollment for the next cohort is open now through August 24. Write of…
Last Friday I shared tips on what to put in an email when you respond to project opportunities – either a direct client inquiry or with an intermediary. You can view the recording of the webinar here and download the slides here….
  These shortcuts are handy for anyone using Google Calendar. Not shown at left: 6 –> Full year view Other shortcuts are here. Five minutes that can save hours: Whatever product you use, try doing a search for ” keyboard shortcuts”…