Archive for December, 2011
I am sure that by now, your twitter stream, blog streams and email inboxes are stuffed full of posts and articles telling you that now is the time to review all your freelance and small business achievements in 2011 and plans for 2012. I know I have seen countless such items.
Well, I am here to suggest to you that now is not the time to do an annual review or plan setting exercise.
The reason for this stems from when I was employed as a senior manager in a software company. I was told each year to carry out a yearly performance review of all my team (around 35 people) and review what they had done well in the last 12 months, and review any mistakes for areas to consider for improvement.
Well that instruction did not make sense to me. Why would I review somebody once a year, and talk about things that had happened 11 months ago?
So yes, I did the annual review (as instructed), but I did it only for the purposes of a salary review.
Instead, my management style was to review every month – tell people there and then when they did a good job, and also pick up on mistakes as they happened. After all, people should be told when they do a good job at any time, and why leave mistakes to fester until the next annual review before corrective steps are taken?
And that is why I suggest if you do go ahead and make plans, budgets, goals, targets or even new year’s resolutions this new year, do yourself a favour. Go to your diary and pencil in the same reviews at the end of March, June and September 2012. If you can manage it, also include mini reviews at the end of each month.
Trust me, you won’t regret it. It will be worthwhile time working ON your company, rather than working FOR your company.
Oh, and a Happy New Year to you. And I wish you, and your business, the best for 2012.
I am going to share a Contract Search tip which was emailed to me by a long term reader of this blog (so a big thanks to Rob). It’s a very useful tip for those looking for the next freelance gig or contract job.
Rob says when you are applying to 5 or 6 contract/freelance jobs every day, it can quickly become confusing on what you have applied for, what jobs need what skills, and which agent was used for what position.
To aid in the search, Rob cleverly uses Evernote. When Rob replies to an emailed job, or just before he hits the ‘apply’ button on the web based job board, Rob highlights the job detail text and uses the Evenote web/text clipper to add a new note into a new Evernote ‘Contracts Applied For’ folder.
If an agent calls or emails him back, it’s a quick task then to pop into Evernote, search on the agents name (or company), and all the posts applied for through the agent are listed.
It’s also a useful tip for checking that you are not applying for the same position again where it is re-listed in the jobs board, or is going through more than one agent.
If you have never used Evernote before, the clipper function is an add-on which installs itself as a tool button into most browsers and MS Office/Mac programs and allows you to quickly highlight text and add it as a new Evernote note. The clipper can be downloaded from the Evernote add-on site.
Thanks for the tip Rob.
Last week I learnt an interesting fact from a friend who works in a contract placement agency. Of all the emails he receives in his in tray from people looking for placement in contract or freelance positions, he only ever looks at about 10%. Put it another way, 90% of people responding for a contract job fall at the first hurdle.
He suggested to me that this was fairly typical now for most of his fellow workers – they all ignored the vast majority of CVs and Résumés that were sent to them. And this ‘ignored’ number is growing.
When I enquired why this was the case, he shared the following tip, which I now pass on:
That was the word he used. He had no idea if any of the candidates were relevant to the positions he had open.
He was in no doubt that the contract and freelance market was tough – very tough – and getting worse by the week. Two years ago for every position he had managed to open in the market, he would have between 10 and 20 applicants. Today, it’s more like 70 to 100.
Of course of these 100 applicants, many are also applying for 5, 6 or 7 contract positions in a day – and there lies the problem. If he posts 3 contract positions online, by the afternoon he will have around 300 emails with attached CVs – it would take him more than a day to go through all of them.
How could he possibly know which to pick from all of that noise?
Why the Cover Email is King
In his view, the cover email (or letter) was far more important than the CV. The contract or freelance agent is the first (and main) filter between the candidate and the client. That is why the cover email needs to give enough reason for the agent to open the CV.
He suggested the following tips are the difference between him calling a candidate, and simply pressing the DELETE key on the email:
- Keep It Short – The cover email needs to be short – as short as possible. They don’t have time to read war and peace in an email – keep to the facts.
- Reference the Position – If you are applying for a contract role, quote the contract reference number or as a minimum, the job title. He said it was amazing how many emails he got which talked about “applying for the role” when he was juggling 12 or 20 roles.
- List the skills THAT MATCH – the only way your CV will be looked at is if you have skills that the client needs – so list why you are a match for the position in the cover letter. Cover the skills required, but don’t expand into unrelated skills.
- Current Status – Show your current status. Are you currently in a contract, in a full time job, available now, looking for something in 6 months time – he needs to match your availability with his clients requirement.
- 5. What you are looking for – Indicate where you will work in terms of geographical location. Again, this needs to match his clients requirement. Also, say what your minimum day rate is – most jobs are listed as “Market Rate” – but he needs to know what you would accept.
- Contact Details – Finally, make his life easy. Include a telephone number that he can contact you on – mobile is best.
What to Take Away from all of this
In a nutshell, make the cover email specific to the role. If you are applying through an on-line contract search system, NEVER use the option for a standard cover letter – this is what most people use, it does not cover the points above, and it will mean that your CV will end up in the recycle bin.
So let me introduce you to a great money saving application for your smart phone called vouchercloud. Note before you continue reading… this is currently for the UK only, but there are plans to expand into the USA!
Rather like the much hyped Groupon, the application works by listing different off-line (and on-line) deals available. The app is available for most brands of devices, and shows you scores of discounts without having to print out vouchers.
I have found that unlike Groupon (which I find disappointing for its range of discounts), vouchercloud has much to offer business users, with discounts at restaurants, as well as many office retailers such as Staples, PC World, Viking etc.
It’s simple to use – just turn it on at any high street and it will use the phone’s GPS system to show the discounts on offer at nearby restaurants and shops. Discounts are arranged into different groups including hot deals, meals, electronics, office products, entertainment and more.
Currently it has more than 2,500 retailers and chains on board, including Pizza Express, Cafe Rouge, Strada and Coffee Republic. The deals vary according to the chain, but in terms of meals, are typically two courses for £10, or a set percentage discount on the final bill. At business supply shops (e.g. staples) it tends to be in the form of £10 off for every £40 spent.
The system works so well that you can check it in the middle of your meal, drink or shopping adventure.
When you go to pay, you show the waiter the code on the phone’s screen and the bill is lowered accordingly.
It’s worth equipping your phone with this app – and saving you (and your company) money when you are out and about.
Download vouchercloud now!
A real quick one from me today on a new resource I have come across.
Predominantly this is for UK business to business (B2B) companies, but will be useful for business to individuals based companies and companies/freelancers from anywhere outside of the UK.
PayOnTime (www.payontime.co.uk) has everything you need to deal with late payers. It includes the details of UK laws regarding late payers, templates for letters and emails you can use, rules regarding interest and late payment fees, a discussion/advice forum and a late payment interest calculator.
If you have ever had a late payer, a bad payer or think this situation may arise, you need to visit and bookmark this great FREE web resource.