Instagram is creating a generation of poor spellers

I’m quite aware that there have other posts that have called out poor spelling and general use of the English language, like in this one from BuzzFeed.

 

What I  usually say is “come on, it’s Instagram what can you really expect.” But I’ve realized that I was very wrong. We can’t let this go unchecked and we need to help people become better spellers immediately. What is it that made me do such a 180 on the subject of spelling, and that one should at least try to use the correct spelling, even if it’s on Instagram?

 

Summer is my favorite time, not just because of the sun but because I love all of the summer fruits. Of course you can find most things all year round but it’s always better in the summer.

 

 

Here are 5 fruits being misspelled by the thousands

 

 

1. #PINAPPLE ≠ #PINEAPPLE

Almost 140k posts by people who can’t spell PINEAPPLE. In their defense PINEAPPLE is more of an exotic fruit it’s not something one might see everyday.

 

Instagram photos

 

 

2. #RASBERRY ≠ #RASPBERRY

There are so many for this one that I had to double check that I was using the correct spelling. Unfortunately I am not wrong. The ‘P’ is silent but perhaps overtime like evolution it will just go away because no one is using it.

Instagram photos

 

 

 

3. #BLUBERRY ≠ #BLUEBERRY

This is shocking because it’s literally two smaller words that describe what the fruit looks like put together! BLUE + BERRY = BLUEBERRY – how hard is it?

Instagram photos

 

 

 

4. #STRABERRY  ≠ #STRAWBERRY

Ok not quite as easy as BLUE + BERRY = BLUEBERRY but still. Many of the photos actually have straws in them too, so next time STRAW + BERRY = STRAWBERRY.

Instagram photos

 

 

 

5. #ORINGE  ≠ #ORANGE

This one has absolutely no excuse, just learn how to spell it.

Instagram photos

 

Presentation tips from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful VC’s

The best thing about being part of WeWork Labs is being surrounded by super smart people with great ideas. You also get a chance to see way more presentations than you’d ever wish for. Some presentations are better than others but it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on why. A great idea and ‘entertainment value’ are certainly factors that might get you hearty applause but these alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll get an investor. You know you’ve got a great idea but how do you convince someone else that it’s worthy of their cash?

 

 

WeWork Demo Day
Another really good way to figure out what makes a great presentation is to go watch a few…hundred? Demo day at WeWork in Chelsea, NYC.

An idea is not enough (no matter how good you think it is)

 

A great idea is not enough, you have to have a plan.

“My idea is so awesome! I’m going to focus on my product right now and when it’s good enough to get out there, then I’ll work on my plan*.”

*plan = how the idea will actually make money

 

If that sounded familiar, read on.

 

 

Don’t forget that you’re trying to start a business

 

By the time you build whatever you’re building, you’ve already put yourself in a very risky position. It’s possibly you do end up having a viable business on your first try but it’s very likely that you won’t.

 

Bright lights startup city is blinding. Knowing what I know now and having spoken to so many people in similar positions, we all had wished we’d had that simple checklist of things to cross off so we knew we were on the right track and what to do but alas, the hard things are supposed to be hard right?

 

But it turns out someone must of hear our calling and we came across exactly what we needed, a checklist of all the ducks you need to have in a row before going to pitch for that check. This is courtesy of Khosla Ventures, a VC firm that’s invested of several startups you’ve might have heard of such as Instacart, Scribd, DoorDash, Everlane and Wattpad to name just a few. (check out their full portfolio here).

 

Khosla Ventures companies
Some startups in Khosla Ventures portfolio.

 

Good read –> Why startups fail, according to their founders

 

There is no magic, you have to do the work

 

Yes I’ve seen all those articles, the ones that go like ‘The only thing you need to say in your pitch’, ‘The 4 steps to getting funded’, ‘Pimp power poses VC’s love’ etc. If it seems a bit far fetched, it probably is.

 

There is work to do and you have to do it.  Rather than spending time looking for shortcuts or tricks, spending time doing the work and putting in the time (no 4-hours work week here) is the magic.

 

poo on a presentation
Not want you want your audience to see (or smell) when they see your presentation. This presentation actually wasn’t a pitch, this is actually the head of product at Giphy – the ONLY person who could pull off this slide.

 

The questions you need to be able to answer, in no particular order

So thanks to Vinod Khosla we have a ‘Checklist’ of the questions you should be able to answer when going to ask for funding. Note that there is no reference to ‘crushing it’, ‘tres commas’, or ‘cashing out’.

Vinod Khosla
Vinod Khosla, Founder of Khosla Ventures and oh yeah and also Co-Founder of Sun Microsystems. Photo credit: TechCrunch

 

Before reading the list just pretend for a moment that you are the one with the money and you’ve never met you (the person with the great idea) before. What is the info you would want to know that would give you the green light to say “I am guaranteed to get my money back with this person”. Guarantee? whoa that’s a lot of expectation you say?  Well why would anyone give anyone money expecting to lose it, I don’t think any investor invests knowing they might lose it, they only pick what they believe will be winners.

 

Now if i haven’t discouraged you too much, here’s the checklist!

 

Problem/mission/vision

  • What’s the big vision?

Product

  • What does your product do today?
  • What is your value proposition?
  • What is your unfair advantage?

Market opportunity / size

  • What’s the opportunity?
  • What’s the market size?

Team

  • Tell us about the executive team
  • Why are you uniquely qualified to solve this problem?

[UPDATE: tips on getting your ‘Team’ slide right from Phin Barnes @firstroundcapital]

Proof of product / market fit

  • Growth to date: sign-ups, weekly or monthly active users, paying customers (if relevant)
  • To the extent it’s relevant, do you have quantitative evidence that you’re better than competition/incumbents?

User engagement + retention

  • Engagement metrics for core product features
  • Monthly or weekly cohort retention (depending on the kind of product/company); churn (for subscription products)

Customer acquisition

  • What are your customer acquisition channels?
  • How much does customer acquisition cost (per channel)?
  • How will you make this money back and how long will it take?
  • How scalable are these? How big can you get with your existing product + customer acquisition channels? At what point do they get saturated or become too expensive, and what do you do if/when that happens?

Business model / monetization

  • Do you make money today?
  • How will you make money?

Competitive landscape

  • Do you have competitors? Who are they?
  • If no one else is doing this, why not?
  • What are others doing in adjacent spaces?

What’s next / fundraising ask

  • How much money are you raising?
  • Use of Proceeds: What will you do with the money you raise?
  • What are the milestones you will accomplish to get to the next phase of your business?
  • How does this tie into achieving your big vision?
  • Are there any gaps in your team you need to fill?
  • What are you looking for from an investor?

 

In case you’re a more ‘visual learner’ here’s an illustrated version,

 

Pitch the way VC's think visual illustration
Pitch the way VC’s think – the illustrated version. Image credit: Khosla Ventures

 

If you find that you can’t answer most of these questions THAT’S A GOOD THING. Now won’t waste your time, or a potential VC’s by looking like an idiot when you go to ask for money and have no answers to their questions.

 

If this list has got you feeling a bit humbled or discouraged just ask yourself this question, “Would I give myself the money to do this?”. So many people who want to have a startup think it should be easy to get money and there’s so much of it to go around. But would you give someone who doesn’t have a plan or doesn’t care to come up with a plan any money? Yeah ok. no.

 

It seems that saying ‘If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail’ can be applied in this case as well.

 

If you want a PDF of the list you can download it on Khosla Ventures’ website here

 

 

 

Want good requirements? Focus on these 2 things

Why is the important part of a project is also the part that no one ever wants to do? Getting requirements down on paper is the first step towards success. But while so many people know this, it still happens all the time. Here are some of the most common reasons I hear for why no one write down the requirements:

 

  • “We didn’t have time we had to start asap to make the deadline.”
  • “There was no budget available for a resource do the requirements.”
  • “The goals of the project were not clear at the beginning so we didn’t bother.”
  • “The client wasn’t available to talk to us about what they wanted.”
  • “We’re an agile team so we don’t need requirements.”

 

If any of the above this sounds familiar this is for you.

 

What is a ‘requirement’?

A requirement describes how something must work to meet the objectives of the end-user.

 

 

Why do you need them?

If you want a project to succeed you’d best have your requirements clearly defined and available for your team. If you’re a one or two person team it’s completely possible that you didn’t have any written requirements. However, with more complex projects and larger teams, not having a set of requirements to work with increases risk significantly.

 

Why are they useful?

Requirements are what should guide the project team on what they should be building vs what they think they should be building. Requirements help remove a lot of the guesswork that has to happen when things aren’t clear. We know that it’s impossible to reduce uncertainty completely. By defining requirements you’re putting your team and project in a much better position to succeed.
Having requirements is also the most effective way to get everyone on the team on the same page. Especially where you have cross-functional teams made up for roles from designers to developers who may not all be working out of the same office.

 

 

How do you write a good requirement?

There are many resources out there that will tell you the best way to document requirements. I recommend that you search these out for yourself so that you can find something that works the best for you.

 

For our purposes here and for those who may be new the the requirements process, I’ve condensed the process down to just two key steps. Now let’s get to these and some examples.

Requirements for good requirements

 

Requirement Rule #1: An effective requirement must be clear

Seems simple enough right?  Don’t be fooled! Really ‘being clear’ with your written requirements will require you to cut through a lot of ambiguity. If there’s any room for interpretation (or misinterpretation), it’s guaranteed to happen if your requirements are absolutely clear.

 

You might be familiar with this cartoon below. If you’re a PM or have ever been part of a project team, you might be laughing (or crying!).

tree-swing-project-management-featured

 

Ok, now let’s get to some examples.

Let’s use the example of a simple website redesign and development project. You have a customer who you’re redesigning their existing website for. Their current website is a static site so the new site will have an updated visual design as well as a Content Management System (CMS) so they can edit and update the content themselves.

 

Website Redesign Requirement #1

 

“The customer should be able to update website content.”

 

At first glance this makes total sense but there are a few things about this statement that makes it not as clear as it could be. We can ask a few questions to try gain more clarity:

 

1. Who is the ‘customer’ referring to in this case?

 

  • Is it someone you’re building this website for and the person who will be administering it?
  • It referring to the end-user customer, aka the users/visitors of the website?
  • If the customer is referring to one administrator this is much different from multiple
  • customers who need site editing abilities in some capacity.

 

2. What does ‘should be able to’ mean?

 

  • In an ideal world one ‘should be able to’ something but alas, summer Fridays are here and the whole team had to head out for beers. It’s always best to use the word ‘must’ when documenting requirements so it’s very clear to all stakeholders that something is required, not just a ‘nice to have’.

 

3. What content needs to be updateable?

 

  • Does ‘content’ refer to site text and images? Are there any other content types that the Administrator (the customer) will need to update? (eg. videos, products etc.)
  • Must all content be updatable or specifically page content via a WYSIWYG editor.

 

Based on these questions we just went through, we can update this requirement to this:

 

“The website Administrator must have the ability to edit/update and delete website content that includes content page text, images and embedded video links.”

 

 

Let’s do another one.

 

Website Redesign Requirement #2

 

“The website needs to integrate with Twitter.”

 

Even if you’re not so familiar with Twitter the first question you might ask is ‘integrate how?’. The word ‘integration’ is thrown around a lot these days and can mean a lot of different things. So in this example let’s see what questions we can ask to try and clarify further:

 

1. What the specifics on the Twitter account?

 

  • Is there a specific Twitter account the customer is using?
  • What is the Twitter handle for that account? (This might seem like a basic question but it’s possible the customer does not actually have a Twitter account)

 

2. What exactly is meant by ‘integration’?

 

  • There are several ways to integrate twitter with a website, which type of integration is being required?

 

If we say that for this example that the customer would like their twitter feed to appear on the website, we would update this requirement as follows:

 

“Website will integrate customer’s Twitter account (@custhandle) to display the latest Tweets ordered from newest to oldest on the website’s homepage using Twitter’s ‘user timeline’ feature. Implementation documentation is available in Twitter’s developer documentation.”

 

Once you think you’ve done your best ensure your requirements are as clear as possible, you can move onto the second step.

 

Requirements Rule #2: An effective requirements must be verifiable

 

Once you think you have a list of requirements that are clear, you can move onto step two.  The second step here is reviewing your requirements to make sure they are verifiable.

 

What exactly does that mean? If a requirement is an explanation of how something is supposed to work, there needs to be a way to test to see that it does work as intended. This is why things get confusing later if a requirement wasn’t clear to begin with.

 

So in step two, we want to document clear steps on how we test whether or not a requirement has been completed to spec and checked off as ‘verified’.
Let’s try this using the first example from earlier.

 

“Website administrator must have the ability to edit/update and delete website content that includes content page text, images and embedded video links.”

 

 

In order to verify if the requirement works to its specification, we could use these steps to help us verify if it works or not.

 

1. Administrator log into the administrator dashboard of website.

2. Administrator navigate to an editable content page (e.g. ‘About us) then:

(a) edit some page text then save changes

(b) edit a page image then save changes

3. Refresh edit page and confirm that changes have been saved.

 

If all three steps can be completed without interruptions, you can say that the requirement has been implemented correctly.

 
Let’s do the same with the second requirement example.

 

“Website will integrate customer’s Twitter account (@custhandle) to display the latest Tweets ordered from newest to oldest on the website’s homepage using Twitter’s ‘user timeline’ feature. Implementation documentation is available in Twitter’s developer documentation.”

 

In order to verify if the requirement works to its specification, we could test it as follows:

  1. Navigate to website homepage.
  2. Scroll to section displaying Twitter integration.
  3. Confirm that the latest Tweets from the account (@custhandle) are displaying on the page.

 

If we can confirm seeing the latest Tweets on the homepage of the new website as stated in the requirement, we’ve verified that this requirement has been successfully implemented.

 

In this simple example it might seem like additional work to write this all down. However, if it is that easy, taking just a few minutes to write it down should not be a big deal. If you start writing and find out it takes any longer, it’s usually a sign that the requirement is not clear and that you need to go back and clarify it further.

 
If you were making something that already exists you would just copy what’s already been done before. So when you work on requirements, think about them as an opportunity to create something new. And as with anything, the only way to get better is to practice, practice practice.

 

Next time you have to write requirements for a project, focus on making sure they are:

 

1. Clear (must be no room for misinterpretation)

2. Verifiable (a way to test to pass fail)

 

If you can do these two things you’ll be well on your way to running a more effective project.

Digital cryptocurrency basics: what’s a Bitcoin?

What is Bitcoin really? Digital cryptocurrency isn’t cryptic or mysterious in any way (although they might seem so because they’re still so new); ‘crypto’ refers to how the currency is  secured which is through cryptography, or codes.

 

So if fiat money (regular paper money) was originally based on gold, you could say that digital cryptocurrency is based on math. Whereas governments today issue money by printing it, Bitcoin is issued via a method called ‘mining’ which essentially involves completing a set of math tasks. ‘Miners’, people who ‘mine’ or produce Bitcoin, earn them in exchange for their work to produce them and this is how Bitcoin supply is distributed without a centralized authority managing the process.

from cows to cryptocurrency

Can I mine Bitcoin?

Well the math work that miners do in order to earn Bitcoin is no secret, it’s all open source information that can be downloaded by anyone. So why isn’t everyone mining Bitcoin you ask? The amount of computer processing power it takes to  successfully mine is immense. So immense that Bitcoin miners who already have powerful machines often work together to group their machines together into ‘nodes’ in order create create a more powerful super machine.  In addition, as more people mine the amount you can earn naturally starts to decrease. Even with a somewhat powerful computer, earning potential could be in the hundreths, or even thousandths of one Bitcoin so it’s not as easy as it sounds.

 

What’s Bitcoin worth?

Here’s the current price of Bitcoin here.

 

 

The Bitcoin protocol specifies that there can only ever be 21 million bitcoins in total. No one is 100% why Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s mysterious creator, chose the number is 21 (although there are some theories) but the original idea was to create a currency that would be deflationary so limiting the amount that could be produced would be a way to do this. As of this writing there are almost 15.7 million Bitcoins in circulation, you can check Blockchain.info for the most up-to-date numbers.

 

One Bitcoin can be divided down to 8 decimal places (which looks like this: 0.00000001) and this smallest amount is called a ‘Satoshi’, named after Bitcoin’s creator. Since Bitcoin is not a centralized currency the names of the other denominations are somewhat up for discussion and if you’re interested you can follow one of them here on bitcointalk.org.

 

The best way to understand Bitcoin is in relationship to how we understand the kind of money most of us are still using day-to-day.

 

 

How is a digital cryptocurrency like Bitcoin different from regular money?

Feature Details Pro Con
Decentralized Probably its most defining feature, Bitcoin is completely decentralized so there’s no issuing or governing body like the Federal Reserve for example. Being decentralized also means that there is no one single point of failure. And no bank and seize your money or manipulate its price. Anyone can setup a bitcoin address and send and receive bitcoin anytime form anywhere since it’s all digital. You can buy Bitcoin anytime from anywhere and move them around freely anonymously. If you ever loose the private key to your bitcoins there’s no one to help you find them.
Distributed Since Bitcoin is digital, there’s no central bank or central location that stores it for you and the value is determined 100% by the the market (aka supply and demand). If you’re concerned about the rate of inflation or don’t feel like your money is safe in a bank, Bitcoin can help hedge against these risks. The value of Bitcoin is not guaranteed by a central authority which brings with it inherent risks.
Secure The Bitcoin protocol is secure and uses a type of transaction verification system called the ‘blockchain’, similar to a bank’s ledger. However with Bitcoin there’s only one ledger and the ledger is completely public. If you want to receive or make or accept payments with fewer transaction fees (and paperwork) than credit cards and bank wire transfers Just as you need use strong passwords for any other type of online account, it’s up to you to do the same to secure your Bitcoin wallet.
Anonymous To mine, buy or trade Bitcoin all you need is a Bitcoin ‘wallet’ which is basically a digital location to store your Bitcoin.  A wallet will have 2 addresses, or keys.  One is the wallet public key that you can be share with other people so they can send you Bitcoin. The other is a private key that’s like a password, only you know it and use it to send Bitcoin to someone. A key is composed of a string of letters and numbers – no names, addresses or other personally identifiable information. Transactions on the Blockchain record only a transaction ID and the number of Bitcoin exchanged in the transaction. If you want to receive or make or accept payments with fewer transaction fees (and paperwork) than credit cards and bank wire transfers etc., Bitcoin could be right for you. If you buy something and don’t get what you expected there’s no way to track down the seller. Beware in general and make sure you know who you’re dealing with.
Transparent Because all transactions (not names) are recorded and viewable by anyone on the Blockchain, anytime a new transaction is made it’s cross-checked against the Blockchain to make sure it wasn’t used before. This makes it impossible to counterfeit or double spend Bitcoin. Bitcoin has the security features in place that could potentially make it a strong candidate to become the digital currency of choice for the future. As mentioned before, even though everyone can see everyone else’s transactions you won’t know the individual they’re attached to so use caution.

 

Where can you buy Bitcoin?

The easiest way to buy Bitcoin is through an exchange which is like a brokerage. You sign-up for an account (you won’t be anonymous when using an exchange, the exchange will know who you are) and connect your real bank account info or credit card and then purchase Bitcoin this way. You can hold your Bitcoin in your exchange’s wallet or you can move it to a Bitcoin wallet.

 

Coinbase is a popular and reputable one that’s really more like a comprehensive digital wallet that can be used to store, spend, buy an store Bitcoins and only charges a 1% fee but all Bitcoin-to-Bitcoin transactions are of course, free). There are many others exchanges, you can check out the latest list on Wikipedia here.

 

You might be asking yourself, “but if Bitcoin is supposed to be decentralized but if I buy it from an exchange like Coinbase, doesn’t that mean Bitcoin is actually centralized?” Good question, but the answer is No. The difference according to Erik Voorhees who explains in this article, requires and understanding of the difference between ‘coercive centralization and market-based centralization. Bitcoin possesses the latter, but avoids the former, and that is a crucial distinction.’ To put it simply, no one has to use Coinbase (or any of the other exchanges) in order to buy, sell or trade Bitcoin. This ability to ‘opt out’, or not use a centralized service (e.g. like a bank) is what makes Bitcoin decentralized.

 

What can you buy with Bitcoin?

While it still remains to be seen if a digital cryptocurrency like Bitcoin will really be the currency of the future, there are more and more places accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment. Here are some places that you might not have known accept Bitcoin:

 

  • Amazon – you can’t shop and pay directly with Bitcoins but you can use Bitcoins to buy Amazon gift cards (and then pay for your stuff with the gift card).
  • Gyft – is a digital giftcard platform where you can buy gift cards using Bitcoin for hundreds of retailers like Amazon, Target, BestBuy and Home Depot.
  • CheapAir.com – book a flight or hotel (or both!) on CheapAir.com with Bitcoin.
  • Dish Network – the cable TV provider started accepting Bitcoins in 2014.
  • Etsy – there are almost 700 sellers on Etsy who accept Bitcoin.
  • Simon Fraser University – SFU is the first post-secondary institution in Canada to accept Bitcoin for textbooks
  • Namecheap – the first domain name registrar and hosting company to accept Bitcoin payments.
  • Bitcoin.com store – naturally you can buy various ‘Bitcoin-wear’ and accessories on the Bitcoin.com store from T-shirt to Bitcoin soap.

 

 

Are digital cryptocurrencies right for you? Where can you buy Bitcoin?

 

Whether or not you ‘invest’ in buying Bitcoin or any of the other lesser known cryptocurrencies will likely depend on your attitudes on the future, the state of technology and of course your faith in a decentralized currency. Regardless of how you see things now, there are a significant number of resources available to learn more.

 

Here are links to some great resources that provide a great overview/intro to Bitcoin:

If you’re still confused about what the Blockchain is, here are some great references:

 

Other Stuff:

Check out this Podcast from Tim Ferris, ‘The Quiet Master of Cryptocurrency’ with guest Nick Szabo (and Naval Ravikant too!)  A must listen.

COOL –> A visual demo of blockchain technology in action, the blockchaindemo.io will guide you through each component of a blockchain step-by-step.

Managing Expectations: 6 ways to get really good at it

Dilbert on managing expectations
An amusing perspective only possible from Dilbert. Credit: Dilbert.com

 

What does managing expectations really mean?

What managing expectations really means is making sure that there are NO SURPRISES.  Outside of birthday parties, wedding proposals and maybe winning the lottery, surprises not usually good things. The whole point and goal of managing expectations is to reduce the number of surprises. People don’t like uncertainty.

 

before_after
Which is before, which is after? Somehow the before and after are never quite as you imagined them to be. This is why it’s important to start managing expectations from the get go, not when it might already be too late.

 

As much as humans like to be interested in different things, we all work with some sort of life/work routines. It’s been proven that routines help us focus on what’s important by reducing the number of decisions we need to make each day just to survive when each day is different form the next.

 

That they all happen to start with ‘C’ is pure coincidence. Here are 6 ways you can work on your ability to manage expectations and get better results in whatever situation you might find yourself in.

 

1. Be cautious

You’ve probably head people say ‘don’t over promise’. This doesn’t just apply to project deliverables but every aspect of a project or relationship. If following a presentation your client asks you, ‘so can setup another meeting in a couple days from now to review those changes?’, DON’T OVER PROMISE by agreeing. You should agree of course, that meeting will definitely happen but a couple of days from now might not work best for your team (who are the ones who need to do the changes in question). The best answer when a Client is trying to get a commitment from you on the spot is

 

“Sure, let me check with the team and I will get back to you by (______).”

 

No can fault you for wanting to confirm with your team first so you’re sure.  After all they’d rather know that they won’t have to rearrange their schedule either. The most important thing here is to make sure you get back to them by when you promised them.

 

 

2. Be consistent

The easier you make it for people to know what to expect from you, the easier you’re job will be to manage expectations . If you always send out notes and action items following meetings, the people who receive them will come to expect it. They may not necessarily acknowledge the effort because, ‘thanks for sending me more action items Tara!’, said no one ever.

 

When you do something consistently, it helps to provide some stability to whoever, Client, team etc., that you’re working with. It also communicates (without you having to say anything) that you’re serious about this project and that they should be too.

 

Now if you send notes and action items after some meetings and not others, this isn’t good. If there’s nothing worth noting at the conclusion of a meeting, it pretty much means it was a complete waste of time and that you should work on managing expectations for what you want to get out of meetings in the future.

 

 

3. Read the contract

If you don’t know what the contract says then you’re kind of ‘up the river without a paddle’, or rather ‘heading down to whitewater with no life preserver’. Maybe it’s called a ‘Scope of Work’ or maybe ‘The Brief’, whatever document it is that outlines what you’re doing for who, for how much and by when is the contract I’m talking about. Read it once and then read it again, slowly if you have to, don’t skim it. Skimming leads to ‘oh i totally missed that before’, a.k.a. budget and schedule over-runs aka. mad client.

comical illustration about contracts
No matter how much you don’t want to do it, make yourself read the contract. You might start to like it! Photo credit: Fran Cartoons

 

Know exactly what you’re on the hook for and if the contract is unclear in any way, which i’m quite sure it will be, schedule a quick meeting with whoever wrote it so you’re both on the same page as to what it means, what you’re doing and most importantly, what the client is expecting.

 

Here are some quick tips on how to read a contract to avoid problems later on.

4. Over communicate

Everything is always going great until it isn’t.  That once friendly client contact now wants to know where you are all the time, and would quickly take a spot sitting on your shoulder if she could. Remember that as soon as you give a client, or anyone for that matter, a reason to doubt you or worry, it’s a very difficult thing to undo.

 

It’s a good thing to keep in mind that your client usually has a full-time job to do in addition to being your point-person. It’s not their job to manage you and you shouldn’t need them to. So over-communicating doesn’t mean share every possible detail, it means emphasizing the the most the information that is most relevant to obtaining an outcome that is beneficial for everyone involved.

Dilbert over communicate

Let’s use an example for this one. Say you’re setting up that meeting your client was asking about earlier to go over those revisions. Since this would be the 2nd meeting you might follow a process where after a certain number of revisions, you require a client’s approval or sign-off to proceed to the next stage of the project. If we assume that this is a meeting where you will be looking for approval, you’ll want to make sure you’re client is well prepared to give you what you need.

 

To over-communicate in this example is to make sure both your team and the Client are clear about what the objective of the meeting is in advance. This would mean speaking to your main Client point of contact to make sure that they know what the meeting  objective is that anyone from their side who should be involved in making an approval attend the meeting. Over-communicating means actually stating these steps and then following them up with an email. An former colleague of mine Nicole taught me this gem which I’m now passing onto you,

 

“If you ASSUME you make and ASS out of U and ME”

 

Remember, NO SURPRISES. Never assume that what you’re thinking about is what other people must be thinking about too. Everyone has their own priorities they need to get through everyday, respect this and help them by over-communicating what you need up front and in point-form.

 

 

 

5. Be candid

 

Yes honesty is always the best policy but within reason. Anything information that would cause a client or your team to worry for no reason is usually something you can keep to yourself.

 

For example, say the Jr Visual Designer working on the project is going on vacation in 2 weeks and another designer will take over any work until they return. It’s likely that the Junior designer is not client facing so that they’re going to be away would be of no consequence to the client. The most important part of this scenario is that the work that needs to happen while they’re out is being covered by someone else, and you already have a plan for that.

Dilbert be candid

Let’s look at another example. Say that if you’re two weeks away from launching a new e-commerce website for a client in a week but something is going wrong with the products database but your engineering team is not exactly sure what it is just yet but they’re working on it. The client has announced the launch date to the press and has sold a lot of advertising that will be nonrefundable so close to the air date. Assuming that your engineering team agree this is a problem that has the potential to impact the site’s launch date, being candid with your client about the true situation is the best plan so they can do whatever they have to on their side to help mitigate the risk.  And remember to over-communicate how the problem was identified and now what you’re doing to fix it to reduce worry as much as possible.

 

 

6. Be Clear

 

Perhaps it’s obvious but I’m including it for good measure as it’s something that I work on everyday to try improve. The easier you make it for the other person to understand what they need to do, the higher the chance of them doing it.

 

So what this really means is be clear about the call to action. Do you need a response? If so, what type of response do you need? For example, if you need an approval for something say you need approval and by when. If you need the person you’re emailing to follow-up on something to get information back to you, state that clearly. Just remember that most people are focused on doing their job, they don’t have time to figure out stuff for your job. Helping them helps you – before you hit ‘send’, read it out loud to yourself. If you start to feel silly reading it, change it before you send it.

Dilbert on communication
No one has the time to figure out what you’re trying to say, let alone what you actually want, simplify! Photo credit: Dilbert.com

 

And here’s a bonus!

 

7. Exercise Clairvoyance (the bonus ‘C’!)

No one expects you to see the future but if you’re doing all the above you should be able to imagine what possible scenarios you might encounter down the line. A big part of managing expectations is being able to foresee potential issues and try to prevent and/or mitigate them early on.

 

If you can apply these to every situation you’re in you’ll be doing a great job managing expectations and people will be lining up to work with you. Here they are one more time:

 

  1. Be cautious
  2. Be consistent
  3. Read the contract
  4. Over communicate
  5. Be candid
  6. Exercise clairvoyance (if you can)