I work long hours. Everyone does these days. It’s the only way to make it in this game.

In addition to having a business though, I have a family. Trying to balance the two is incredibly tough. Working 24/7 isn’t a realistic long term possiblity either.

Part of my strategy for maintaining my sanity and having a good quality of life is to take weekends off, and to close the studio in time to have dinner with my kids.

The challenge is that there is an expectation on the part of some of my clients that I be available to chat during non-traditional business hours.

This is complicated by the fact that my clients are spread all over the world. Trying to connect during office hours when our time zones are on opposite sides of the world is plain impossible.

Obviously, if I want to play, I’ve got to pay. What I’m wondering though, is how you handle this situation. I’ve got our studio hours posted on the contact page of “my site”:, but that’s the absolute bare minimum.

So, what do you do?

Proposal Gallery

If I had a spare moment, here’s what I’d do with it: _Note: I am aware how incredibly lame it is that I’d use my spare time to do more web work. What can I tell you? I love this stuff…_

I’d build a gallery of proposals. Proposals for all kinds of work: design work, consulting work, building work…

It would be organized by category. Prices and names (including firm names) could be blacked out. The point would be to create a resource for best practices in proposal writing.

Anyone know of anything like this? Anyone want to create it?

The ROI of blogging

_Note: this is also posted at “The Blog Studio”: Sorry for the duplication. Should I cross post the article, or just include a link?_

At the Blawgthink conference in Chicago this weekend, one of the concepts that came up was the return on investment of blogging. The point was made that calculating time spent vs dollars gained doesn’t give an accurate answer.

One must also consider the money and energy saved as a result of blogging. Think of the money saved in print advertising, yellow pages, etc. For a small business, this can result in a significant savings.

As a small business owner, I can assure you that blogging is an *amazing* way to earn business. I don’t have an ad in the yellow pages – I don’t need one (that’s a savings of thousands of dollars a year in this market).

If you’re concerned you can’t afford to put the time into blogging (and really, who isn’t?), consider how many hours you have to put in to cover the cost of your existing marketing? I’m not saying that blogging will replace your current ad spending, but it may make a pretty big dent in it.

Grow: THAT is the answer

_Note: also posted on “The Blog Studio”: blog._

After consulting with a number of people I know and trust, I’ve made the decision to move ahead and grow my business. Current challenges have to be overcome, and future opportunities abound. I need great people here to work with me.

Today Michael Caputo and Lucia Mancuso joined Richard and I at TBS world headquarters. Mike is an excellent designer, with a keen eye for balance and placement. His work has an elegance that fits well with my aesthetic. He’s pretty handy with xhtml and css too.

Lucia joins us as project manager. She is here to save me from myself. Ask any of my current clients, and they’ll tell you what I mean. She’s been here for a day, and already there’s a sense of control returning. Lucia will take over the tasks that I don’t particularly excel at or enjoy. This will allow me to focus more on design and managing the overall creative direction.

I would like to thank my clients for having the patience to stick with me during this nutty growth spurt. I’m writing this publicly to preemptively let the blogosphere know we’ve “experienced slippage” in many of our recent milestones. If you’re going to hear about problems with my company, I want you to hear them from me.

I’ll tell you honestly: I misjudged my workload. I hadn’t factored in the slack to allow anything to go wrong. Hence, once somthing did, it spiraled into a nasty storm at a wholly inopportune time (of course).

The addition of Mike and Lucia to the team is specifically to help us get back on track. As a result, we’re not going to be starting any new work until Dec. We are booking work though, so if you have a project you would like to discuss with us, please do so sooner rather than later. This will ensure we can get it on the schedule as early as possible.

There’s lots of lessons here, not the least of which is “be careful what you wish for”.

To Grow or Say No: THAT is the question

Ok dear readers, I need your help. I’m looking for your recommendations on consultants. Not so much “consultants are good” or “consultants are bad”. More along the lines of “Bob is a really great consultant to web firms facing rapid growth”.

Do you know any Bobs?

Full Time Employee #001

It is with great honour and excitement that I’d like to introduce you to “Richard Thomas”: Richard is “The Blog Studio”: employee number 001.

Richard is a very talented designer. His current “site”: is nice, but isn’t up to date. His recent work is really top drawer.

I’ve got some pretty exciting projects on the go, and the time seems right to bring someone in house. It’s terrifying and utterly thrilling. Taking responsibility for someone’s livelihood is not something I do lightly. But I am confident in our ability to crank out some amazing work together. Having Richard’s help will ensure that we deliver a top end experience for our clients, from first contact to final delivery and beyond.

Truth is, as much as I love design (and I looooooovvvve design), I also really enjoy business development. Bringing Richard in will allow me to devote more energy to building our brand and expanding our network.

I’m also very excited about the challenge of managing a creative team. I’ve managed large teams in the past. But managing creatives is a different game entirely. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.

With luck, you’ll be hearing a bit more from me again. Not right away – there will be some adjustment time for sure. But hopefully within a few weeks I can start adding some value to the conversation again.

Big thanks to “Lisa McMillan”: for the heads up on Richard! See, this 9rules thing really works.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some Ikea office furniture to put together.

My (b)5 cents

I’ve got to keep this short, since it’s nutty nutty nutty in the studio. But I’ve got to throw my 5 cents into the ring regarding the “b5media”: launch. Yes, I’m highly prejudiced (I designed the main site, and have just rolled out “cellphone9”: and “play-girlz”: (no, it’s not what you think)). But my point still holds merit.

There has been some significant backlash to the news that b5media will be paying its writers 40% of blog income. Many, many folks have suggested that anyone who falls for such an offer would be a fool. “Don’t they realize they can do it themselves and keep 100%?” is the common cry.

Well yes. They can. But by joining the network, there are certain benefits. Like instant traffic. Like *majorly* smart and committed people working on maximizing revenue. Like professional design.

These things cost money. It would take a blogger quite some time to build up a site to the degree where it could even pay for its own hosting, to say nothing of paying me a couple of grand to design a site and manage the revenue.

Given the option of having 40% of something vs 100% of nothing, well, you do the math.

I’d like to rant on about this. There are ties to my “blog manager”: post of a week or so ago, and many offline examples I’d like to quote. I’ll cap it at that for now though.

Blog Networks: The game hasn't even started

There’s interesting talk afloat about blog networks these days. An interesting discussion is underway at “ProBlogger”: (read the comments) about the potential success or failure of the network model and whether or not there is room for more networks to become successful.

There is much talk of the *big 3*, and whether or not a new network can supplant one of them. This is, forgive me for saying, a very narrow way of looking at the situation.

Blogging is in its absolute infancy. There is no limit to the success that can be achieved over time. The potential audience is in the billions. To suggest that 3 players will dominate that is, well, I don’t have to say it.

Let’s look offline for a moment. Go to your local mega-book-store-cum-gift-shop, and you’ll find hundreds of magazines. A blog network is very much like a magazine. The money comes in from advertisers, and goes out to writers. There are magazines focussed on narrow topics, and magazines that talk to a wider audience. Magazines woo advertisers by delivering qualified eyeballs. Just like blog networks.

Taking this analogy one step further, we can see the role of the network owner as that of a magazine publisher. The publisher looks after design, advertising, management, promotion, etc etc. His role is very much like that of a “Blog Manager”:, a concept I coined a few weeks ago.

The definitive business model for publishing online has yet to be written. I suspect it will be many, many years before it is. The current magazine publishing business methods didn’t spring up overnight, but evolved over time. Blog networks will do the same. Success only ever comes from failure. So we’ll see many, many new faces before the dust has settled on this one.

My suspicion is that the ‘big3’ will become the ‘big50′. My gut tells me that networks will become more closely focussed around single topics, rather than trying to appeal to a mass audience. It’s much easier to sell advertising when you can deliver targeted readers. A network of car blogs for example will have an easier time landing GM ad dollars than a general mass market network. GM ad dollars are not insignificant. Again, one only needs to look at the newsstand for a glimpse of blog networks’ future.

The potential for the blog network doesn’t even exist yet. The world is a vast place – the work Scrivs and co are doing with Spanish blogs gives a tiny indication of the massive potential we’re only just starting to see. It’s pretty easy to get caught on the micro details of our little blogging world. Take a macro look though, and that where you’ll find the future.

More on the Blog Manager.

A few days ago I posted a bit describing a new job: the Blog Manager. This person would manage the traffic and revenue on behalf of his client. He or she would handle all the technical stuff, would optimize for seo and adsense. Would do everything the pros do to maximize the revenue potential of the site.

Quite a few people linked to that article. It’s started a bit of discussion, and I’d like to help push it along. I’ve got a few thoughts on how this might work. Here’s what *I* would do if I were pursuing this (potentially massive) revenue stream.

First, I’d take a good close look at my skills. Am I marketable as a Blog Manager? Nope. No way. I don’t know much about advanced SEO, and I have no proven history of success with adsense. Also, too few people know me. I have a theory that the more you are known, the more valuable your trustworthiness becomes. If you screw up in front of 10,000 people, its a bit more embarrassing (and career killing) than to screw up in front of 10. Ergo, a well know Blog Manager is *perceived* as having more a stake, and would be more likely to be honest. Seriously, who would you trust to manage your blog? Me, or someone who’s making thousands of dollars a month from blogs?

Instead of trying to market myself, I’d try to form an alliance with a brand name blogger. Someone who’s doing well, who people know. Someone with a demonstrated history of generating a buck from his or her blog. How would I do that? Very good question, given how busy these uber-bloggers are. I’d make them an offer they can’t refuse.

“Let’s form a partnership,” I’d say. “50/50. You supply the credibility and expertise, and I’ll do the work.” If there’s one thing a problogger loves its making money from blogging. This would be a hard opportunity to pass up. “What, you mean I talk to you on the phone for 10 minutes describing what I’d do, and you give me a couple of hundred bucks? Yeah, ok, let’s do it.”

Once the partnership was worked out and the details put in place, I would start looking off-line for clients. I’d want to find people with a well known profile who aren’t yet blogging. I’d want to show them how they could earn a buck or two, plus connect with a wider world. I’d be going after actors, retired athletes (Reggie Jackson’s daily baseball analysis), politicians, etc.

Of course there are many people online who would benefit from our services as well.

I would manage all the details, directed by my uber-blogger partner. Together we’d promote and nurture our client’s blog into profitability. We’d be paid by the month, with bonuses for achieving pre-set targets. Good business coaches charge in the neighborhood of $400 a month for 3 thirty minute calls. Our fee would be more modest. But not by much.

In time, I can see a stable of regular clients – people with something to say, but without the time, technical ability, or desire to learn the intricacies of constantly twiddling with ad setups.

I certainly wouldn’t quit my day job to do this – it would take time to build into a sustainable business. But it could add to the stream, and earn some valuable exposure (which is where the real money is).

Anyhow, that’s what I would do. What about you?

What do you do when the client won't pay?

My friend Mike at “screenflicker”: has a post up that rings (unfortunately) near and dear to my heart.

He describes his experiences trying to get a client to live up to their end of an agreement, weeks and weeks after their site went live. I find myself in a somewhat related position. And I hate it.

The money at stake is not huge – about a grand. But its enough that not getting it will sting. It’s not really enough to pursue through the courts. Besides, that would probably take years. In his article, Mike suggests going to a collection agency. That’s a plan I hadn’t considered.

Usually, I’d suggest pulling the site (not sure of the legalities involved). In my case, the site isn’t up, so that’s not an option. Still, all the objectives outlined in the agreement have been met. I’ve done my job, and I’d like to be paid for it.

Have any of you ever gone the collection agency route? Any suggestions or war stories to share?