WTF #7

Sometimes, life comes at you faster than work can handle.

WTF No Code

We’re going to start things off with a reminder to check yourself before you absolutely wreck yourself and burn out. Running a freelance business doesn’t come easy and putting it all together takes a lot of effort and patience. It also requires a ton of discipline and self-awareness; something I lost sight of pretty quickly this year.

Arvid Kahl summarizes it well –

When wiser, more experienced people swear by whatever regiments work for them it’s not to convert you into following their lead, it’s because its worked for them. What Arvid does here is abstract all that specificity away to simple principles that hold true no matter your experience or domain.

In my case, I can tell you what didn’t work as 2023 settled in, and naturally, I whined about it on Twitter –

What I didn’t know then is that I was at the start of a eight-week ordeal that had me completely down for the count, struggling to maintain the professional commitments I had made. As everyone’s mindset was to start the year off on the right foot, I had succumb to compounding injuries and ailments that quite actually had me off both feet.

When it came to getting work done, I didn’t have a foot left to stand on.

So, while I was down for the count physically I couldn’t help but lose sight of the productivity, the efficacy, the tinkering that makes freelancing fun. Mentally, I was AWOL and suffering from a tunnel vision I hadn’t really experienced before. When you rely on an employer for your paycheque, certain things (read: insurance, teamwork) kick-in so you can take a step back and heal. That wasn’t going to happen for me and things started to compound to the point where I was in the hospital for four days; hooked up to an IV working to gain weight and not that next dollar.

The news worth sharing is that I was able to find answers and craft a plan with my doctors. I’m left astounded with how connected the human body is and grateful for the roster of medical professionals I’ve come to know in the last while.

But, with time it becomes much easier to reflect on WTF went down so here’s what I’ve been able to wrap my head around 55ish days into 2023 as I tried to continue maintaining relationships with my clients and work on what made sense while very, very sick.

When things take an unexpected turn, understand how you’re adapting

Tunnel vision is a reactionary adaptation that comes with some real benefits when it kicks in for the right reasons. I’m convinced we’ve spent so much time on the internet that we run the risk of being rewired to the extent that the same phenomenon hijacks our routine internet habits and quickly become detrimental.

How often are you looking up at the clock to realize it’s hours later than you expected and you need to eat something? Over the years, I know I had done this exact thing enough times for it to affect my health. It’s so simple and I can’t help but feel foolish in retrospect but I realize that I had poorly transitioned from working at in-person startups to working from home. My office is three feet away from the kitchen but I’d neglect to graze or eat when I was hungry. Guess I got too used to those fast-paced startups that justified financial line items for kombucha on tap, fresh fruit around most corners, and a respectable-enough breakfast bar.

Some clients get it, others DGAF

Maintaining boundaries with your clients is a must but there’s nothing uniform about where those boundaries get set from client to client. Some people are all business and that usually becomes clear pretty quickly. You’re not going to get much more than courtesy small talk from these types of clients and, if you absolutely must step away from the work they’re expecting you to do, they’ll never be able to properly frame the personal challenges you’re going through in the context of what they care about – their bottom line and the agreement to complete a project for them.

There’s nothing flawed with that, that’s just the rules of the road for this part of the journey.

When you’re sick, expect these folks will only accept a delay to your delivery timeframe or a gap in your availability if you’re clear on how it affects them. You can spare them the details of what’s affecting you, they’re not terribly interested in that sort of thing.

If you’re fortunate enough to have timelines to your return, you can share them but keep in mind that your health can change rapidly. What you want to avoid here is kicking the can down the road.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve got the compassionate and involved client that likely blends work and life liberally. They’ll get it – something I’m incredibly grateful for after my last few weeks – but they may need some reinforcing when it comes time to getting back into the swing of things, especially if you’re dependent on them for input or information.

You’ll already know if you’re engaged with a client that fits the mould. They’ll likely be easy to get in touch with and overall communication will be smooth. You can probably offer up a bit of detail so they know how you’re being impacted by everything that’s going on in your life.

Regardless of the type of client you have, if you find yourself needing to take a step back you’ll want to ensure you “meet them where they’re at” when you share the news with your clients. At its core, this loose framework is inspired by some of the Product Management principles I’ve learned over the years – stakeholder management, clear communication & expectation-setting, and clearly understanding scope of work & its involved dependencies.

I’m grateful for having learned those skills and for the folks who have reached out to check in. We can all use a little bit of that every once in awhile so why not dish it a bit.

Ask for help

This is often trumpeted as the thing you do shamelessly but many know it’s not easy to do. Whether you’ve got ego and pride wrapped up into things or you just can’t find the right words, it might not be that simple.

From that health perspective, seeking help can be straightforward. There are a number of outlets that can support someone in need; from clinics to ERs. But, you’ll want to make sure you have a good support network of people who know you well enough to know you’re when you’re in need and so they can offer something specific and real when you ask them for a hand.

For better or worse, the network of specialized healthcare practitioners isn’t terribly dissimilar from the network of the technology professionals I’ve come to rely on in getting my freelance business off the ground. At least in foundation. Anecdote and data suggest that my best client are the ones sent my way through friends and connections in the network. I don’t know how the doctors tending to me recently found the one doctor I saw across town three years ago but they did because that synaptic-like connection had been made in the network.

So, with a little luck I’m hoping to rely those synaptic-like connections as I get back in to the swing of things. If you know someone looking to break ground on a new no code project I’m available to work. I’ll even pay out a finder’s fee for any referred client. Get in touch at [email protected] for more info. 

🆗 Simple $%!#

My latest project update or feature release. That's it. That's the $%!#.

The Need

A friend of mine who works as a nurse recommended I track my ankle pain and how it was progressing so I had something I could refer to when discussing things with the doctors I’d end up seeing.

Naturally, I turned to Airtable.

The Stack

  • Airtable

  • iOS Reminders

The Result (ELI5)

A simple and effective way to track where my pain was at over time. The epitome of no code, I took the URL for this Airtable form and dropped it into my phone’s reminders app at equally-spaced intervals and it did exactly what I needed.

Step 1: Capture your data

Step 2: Do something with your data

The Extended Version

There is no extended version. I don’t ever want to revisit this Airtable base again 🙈

🌶 Spicy Takes

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

Which is it, people? Is no code an onramp to learning a new coding language? Is no code a new language? Whatever it is, if someone utters the phrase “high code” at me I might just need a new pain tracker.

Then we’ve got this SaaS-hole gunning for engagement through enragement.

What's your view on the no code approach to development?

It's been asked before but I want to know what you think.

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