WTF #12

Your sign of life.

❓ WTF No Code

SOMETHING WORTH YOUR TIME

It’s been a while.

When I started WTF NO CODE, I really expected it to take shape over the course of my effort to develop and grow a freelance services business. I use writing and content creation as a vehicle to achieve a healthy balance between tactical, hands-on work and creative work that requires some deep thinking.

That worked well as the summer came to a close, and as I looked forward to a cushy escape to Barbados for a week. I seemed to anchor all that I was doing against this holiday, aiming to take a break from work for a week or two, and setting expectations with my client accordingly. I was looking forward to the break after months of catching up on a slow start to the year.

What I failed to anticipate was how that gap week would lead me to ghost for a few months. The rhythm I had developed over the year simply came to a halt. I was offbeat. My habits were out of whack. And my writer’s block, err creator’s block, was pretty damn profound.

I’d focus on all the wrong things: I’d be quick to edit anything I wrote. Punctuation mattered more to me than the substance of what I was writing. I’d justify working on client projects during times that I usually allocate to writing and connecting with people.

Ideas would still come to me, but they’d all just add to the creative build-up and the number of drafts I had stored across different platforms.

It became unmanageable and intimidating.

A number of things likely compounded what I was feeling and experiencing; ultimately leading me down the path of general absenteeism. One thing, though, stands out the clearest: a project I agreed to take on once I got back from vacation.

GO DEEPER

The fit was there and it was clear to both me and the client pretty early on. We were connected a couple of weeks before I was set to board my flight so before taking off for my vacation I moved things along to as far as I could while setting expectations as accurately as possible. The client knew my timelines they shared theirs so we could find the right overlap. We talked budget and project scope, understanding that the best approach would be to iterate through different phases. We locked in tooling and what a migration from Google sheets to Airtable would look like, how we could codify workflows around the platform, and what we’d want out of a user interface (spoiler alert: it was going to be Glide and Airtable’s Interfaces).

The client had spent years building out their business operations and it was all very piecemeal. Google sheets that could be accessed by dozens of people were being used as templates that were copied for each of their customers. There were competing sources of truth and their customers were being asked to do a ton of data entry.

This usually means there’s an opportunity to really surprise my client as I build a solution that saves them from doing hours of tedious, manual work and eliminates the toil and glut of administrative overhead. This time, it meant I’d get caught up in the minutiae of having the client tell me how I should be working. In this case, nothing really warned me about this possibility. As you can imagine, this dynamic certainly led to a challenging conversation when I reset expectations with my client so we knew what lanes I’d be occupying in our collaboration. I also had to flag a few examples where goalposts were being moved and the very aggressive timelines we agreed to were at risk.

There isn’t really anything remarkable or groundbreaking to share with you here. The challenges I faced aren’t terribly unique – clients will put their best foot forward just as much as I would as a freelancer. The important part throughout those initial conversations is the gain alignment on the problem so that you can prototype and develop a solution that fits the client’s needs. This particular project was built using a stack intentionally similar to what I used to build an ordering system, so much of what I learned there was streamlined and repurposed for this project.

All of this did me well since I was able to bring in revenue, forecast what the rest of this year would look like, and build something meaningful. This also helped me justify not creating that content and engaging much online. I let this new project take me out of it and I didn’t have that voice in the back of my head to encourage me to think about things in the context of learning and sharing – an otherwise perfect mental sticky note I leverage for WTF NO CODE.

So, as you probably guessed, I overcame that creator’s block and wrapped up that project. As I got back into the groove of it all and thumbed through my mental Rolodex (or Time Capsule backup, depending on how old you are), I realized there were a few lessons I learned while I was out of it

  1. Don’t half ass taking a break.
    I intended to unplug completely but instead I kept things ambiguous. I figured I’d purge my inbox while enjoying my morning coffee like I was “reading the morning paper” and it was the year 1996. That only drew me into other browser tabs and unfinished things on my to-do list. It’s not so much that I did work while I was away, it was more that the work was so accessible that it stayed top of mind more often than not.

  2. Always get paid upfront.
    There’s always a little bit of excitement/anxiety as you discuss commercial terms with your clients. Once you agree to terms, that feeling shifts “to I wonder how quickly they’ll pay their invoice?”. When you’re on vacation and likely to spend some money, make sure it’s money you have and not money you might get once your client pays that invoice.

  3. Creative debt grows faster than you expect.
    This is something I struggle with and I’m certain I’m not alone. Ideas flow faster than my fingers can type and that means I need a system to capture, groom, and prioritize my work. On top of that, everyone seems to be joining in on the content creation rat race thanks to what can be done with a little bit of automation sprinkled in with some AI. The only solution I’ve got in mind to keep things from growing out of control is to ruthlessly archive ideas that don’t resonate and come back to them on a rainy day. What’s your approach?

  4. Less is more.
    That’s really it. By definition, you can only ever have one priority. It’s impossible to add more waking hours to your day without sacrificing sleep, which only has terribly compounding effects on focus and productivity.

All in all, this project was a solid way to close out the year. It also forced me to think through what I’m doing with WTF NO CODE and how to best deliver value to you on a regular basis.

If you have any ideas, please share them in a reply. I’ll have more to share about that later on this month 👍

🌶 Spicy Takes

This gets your attention today but won't mean much in a few months.

Chad’s Tweet is loaded with conflicting ideas but at least he’s got one thing right – explore your tools’ API docs and you’ll find yourself thinking through your client’s problems and solutions in a different light. I’m happy Chad is moving away from Zapier and Bubble and everyone else in that thread seem to want to share their thoughts on it all too.

🌶🌶🌶🌶🌶
(out of 5 🌶)

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