Spring cleaning animal style

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I keep my hard drive reasonably well-organized. But every once in awhile I do a little spring cleaning. Get rid of the junk, eliminate duplicates, re-arrange folders.

I’m sure you do the same.

At some point, you might want to do something more radical: empty your hard drive and fill it up again from scratch.

Like this:

Move the contents of your hard drive into one temporary folder. Go through that folder and only “put back” the stuff you know you’ll need and use. It’s like cleaning out your clothes closet. The best way to do that is to remove everything and only put back the clothes you still wear, making room for new clothes.

If you don’t want to do this with your hard drive, you could do it for your note and task apps. Set up a new Evernote account, for example, and add back selected notes from your old account.

As you do this, you’ll look at everything with fresh eyes. Your old notes will give you “new” ideas. You’ll re-evaluate your priorities and make your workspace more efficient. You’ll revisit past victories, smile at past mistakes, and discover things you didn’t know you knew.

Bottom line: you’ll be better organized, more productive and ready for some new ideas to fill up the empty space you just created.

Have you read Evernote For Lawyers?

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Pushing politically correct envelopes for fun and profit

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Yesterday, I used a phrase that some might say is politically incorrect. I said, “They may love you like a brother.”

Did you notice? Did you wonder why I didn’t add “or sister”? Did you wonder why I didn’t include the 71 gender identification options available on Facebook?

Am I sexist or just sloppy? Was it a slip or did I do it on purpose, poking a finger in the collective eye of the social justice warriors who have kidnapped our language and are holding it for ransom?

I wasn’t making a political statement. I did it because “Love you like a brother” is a term of art and makes the writing better.

But I admit that in today’s hyper-sensitive social climate it also makes the writing edgier.

And that’s a good thing.

Edgier writing is better writing. It makes people slow down and think about what they just read. A thinking reader is a reader who is likely to keep reading and come back for more.

You should go for the same thing in your writing.

I’m not advocating anything radical. You don’t need to immolate yourself in public. Just take a stroll off the well-worn path in the middle of the road and wave a little flag. Get people to notice that you said something unexpected and maybe a bit controversial, instead of the same bland and boring things everyone else says.

Yes, that means you have to take some chances. Go out on some limbs. And yes, that means you might get labeled by people who don’t “get” you or that have no sense of humor. You might lose some followers. Even a client or two. But the people who stick with you will bring others who also like the cut of your jib.

Some might even love you like a brother.

Go write something that will bring in some new clients

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Stop talking about yourself all the time

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Not everyone in your target market needs your services right now. Not everyone is ready to hire you. Not everyone has someone they can refer.

Someday? Sure. Just not today.

So when they talk to you or read your blog post or email, a lot of what you say goes in one ear and comes out the other.

They may hire you (again) someday. They may love you like a brother. But if they don’t need your services right now, they probably aren’t interested in hearing you endlessly talk about what you do.

What if you talked about something else once in awhile? What if instead of talking about what you do and promoting your practice, you promoted someone else?

Do you know any real estate brokers? Anyone you think highly of and openly recommend? How about promoting them?

Write a post or article about them. Interview them. Put one of their cards in the envelope when you mail invoices and attach a sticky note saying something nice about them. Put a link to their website on yours.

When you hear someone talking about buying or selling property, tell them you know a great broker. When you speak with another professional, bring up the subject: “By the way, if you have any clients looking to buy or sell property, I have a great broker I can recommend”.

You could promote any professional you know, any contractor, car dealer, insurance agent, or small business. Do you have a VA you use and like? A graphic artist, video whiz, or website developer?

They don’t need to be a client, just someone you know and trust.

Why wouldn’t you do this? If you would recommend them when anyone asks for a referral, why not recommend them before anyone asks?

The people you talk to (who don’t need your services right now) may be looking to buy or sell a home. When you bring up the subject of a good broker, they may be all ears. They’ll appreciate you for helping them find someone and remember you when they do need your services.

They’ll also appreciate you for talking about someone other than yourself.

Oh yeah, the broker you promote? They’ll appreciate the hell out of you. And maybe they’ll promote you, too.

If you want other lawyers to recommend you, get this

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Maybe you need to get out more

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If you’re like most people, you spend most of your time with people who are similar to yourself. Other professionals you know through work, neighbors with similar income levels and lifestyles, friends with similar values and interests.

This isn’t a bad thing. But it can get a little boring.

How about meeting some people with different backgrounds? How about talking to people who disagree with you and have different values and interests?

You might learn something from them, and they from you.

I know, it can be stressful meeting new people. And it takes time. But there is a payoff: New ideas, new resources, new ways to do what you already do. You might even make some new friends.

Worst case, you’ll confirm what you already think and that you like things the way they are. Best case, you’ll stumble into some great adventures.

You might meet someone who leads you to your biggest client. You might get excited about learning a new skill that changes everything for you. You might meet the love of your life, find a new business or investment, or cross something off your bucket list.

You might have some fun.

Start small. Join a club. Take a class at your local college. Invite someone to lunch with whom you have little or nothing in common.

You never know where that first step might lead but you won’t find out until you take it.

The most profitable clients come from referrals

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When the client is ready, he will find you. Maybe.

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Over the weekend I bought a piece of software I first looked at several years ago. I wasn’t ready to buy it back then, or maybe it wasn’t ready for me, but that was then and this is now.

I got it, set it up and fooled around with it all weekend. I’m happy. Yay me.

A few thoughts.

First, I didn’t go looking for this. I happened to find it again when I was looking at something else. I got lucky and so did the developer.

I was lucky because the software will help me save time and make money.

They got lucky because I found them again and I might not have.

I wasn’t on their email list so they couldn’t stay in touch with me and sell me on their product. They couldn’t tell me about updates and new features, prompt me to watch videos to help me see how I could use it, build trust by showing me reviews, make me special offers, encourage me to tell others, and all of the other things you can do when you have clients and prospects on an email list.

Had they done that, I might have purchased this a year ago. I might have told others about it, on my blog and newsletter, and on social. I might now be ready to buy something else they offer, aka “repeat business,” or recommend their product to other people I know, aka “referrals”.

Lesson: get thee an email list and stay in touch with folks.

Second, I found the software (again) not through search but while browsing through a site that recommends software in different categories. I recognized the name as something I had looked at before and took another look.

Lesson: find sites, blogs, directories, et. al., that sell to or advise your target market(s) and do something with them.

Show them what you do and how you can help their customers, clients, subscribers and visitors. Offer to write articles for them. See if they want to interview you. Comment on their blog posts. Share their products and services and content with your subscribers.

Your clients will appreciate you for telling them about things that can improve their life and the people who sell the products and run the sites will see you as someone they should work with and promote.

Third, I didn’t find this product through search, but I might have. Not by searching their name (I didn’t remember it until I saw it) but by searching keywords related to what the software does.

Lesson: use keywords on your site(s). Don’t obsess over it, don’t pay companies exorbitant sums to work voodoo magic, just use those keywords in your content.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to get back to playing with my new toy.

Turn your site into a client magnet

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Are you willing to take my challenge?

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You’ve heard me preach about why you should prioritize important tasks and projects over everything else. Do your “most important tasks” because they will help you achieve your most important goals.

Today, I want to issue a challenge.

If you take my challenge and are faithful to it, you will make steady progress towards accomplishing your biggest goal.

And yet the challenge is simple.

Every day, without fail, do one task related to your biggest goal. You can do more than one, just make sure that you always do at least one.

The task might be big or it might be small. It doesn’t matter. Read an article. Make some notes. Make a phone call. Anything. Just do something that helps you move forward.

It could even be an action to remove something that blocks or slows your progress or sucks up time that could be used to work on your big goal. It might be valuable or important, urgent even, but if it distracts you from or slows your progress towards what’s most important, you should eliminate it, delegate it, or automate it.

The habit of doing something every day to move you towards your big goal will condition your brain to prioritize your big goal, think about it, and find more things you can do to achieve it.

So, are you ready to take my challenge?

What is your big goal? The ONE THING you want to be, do, or have more than anything else?

Whatever it is, identify a list of related tasks and do at least one of them every day.

If you want to get more referrals, your first task should be to get this

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When is good enough good enough?

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When is the document you drafted good enough to file? When is the letter you wrote good enough to mail? When is your case prepared enough to take to trial?

I don’t know but you do.

Maybe not consciously, more like a feeling in your gut. You know something isn’t perfect but you know, somehow, that it’s good enough.

One thing’s for sure, when you have a deadline, the notion of what’s good enough gets hazier. You’ve got to get it done or there will be consequences so you get it done. It is deemed good enough because it has to be.

In a pleasant bit of irony, the pressure of a deadline doesn’t necessarily cause more errors. Instead, it often allows you to cut through the fog and quickly find the right path. When you don’t have time for minutia, it’s easier to zero in on what’s important.

So good enough is a relative term. It means different things under different circumstances. How do you get comfortable with this murkiness? I think it comes down to understanding a few things:

  • Good enough really is good enough. You will get most things right most of the time. Most of what you fear will never happen.
  • While many errors are embarrassing, most aren’t fatal. If you can’t fix something, you’ve got insurance to protect you from the worst case scenario.
  • You can minimize problems with checklists, forms, templates, and boilerplate language, and by having another set of eyes edit or at least look at your work product.
  • You’ll get better over time. Experience will help you minimize errors and improve your ability to make decisions. You’ll also get things done faster because you’ve done the same thing so often.

Ultimately, the best way to find out if something is good enough is to release it into the world. The world (your clients, your opposition, your target market) will tell you if something is good enough. Most of the time, the answer will be in the affirmative.

Are you getting paid for all of your work? This can help

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How many hours a week do you work?

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How many hours a week do you work? Probably more than you would like and more than you should:

A recent Gallup poll found that the average full-time employee in the US works a 47-hour week, nearly a full workday longer than the standard nine-to-five schedule. Moreover, nearly one in five workers (18%) reports working 60 hours or more per week. [cite]

I’m pretty sure attorneys work even longer hours.

The question is, are longer hours worth it? Are you getting more done? Earning more income? And, considering your health, your family, and your overall quality of life, is it really worth it?

That’s for you to decide, of course, but there is a point of diminishing returns:

A Stanford University study found that employee output declines sharply after 50 hours per week and nosedives after 56 hours to the point where someone who puts in 70 hours doesn’t produce anything more with those additional 14 hours. Similar studies have linked long hours with absenteeism, long-term memory loss and impaired decision-making skills.

If you work for a firm and you are competing with others to make partner, if your employment contract demands a minimum number of billable hours, you may have little choice, at least in your current job. But if you’re self-employed, you have options and you may want to explore them.

You may find, as I did when I cut my work week, that you are more focused, more productive, and earn more income. The question is, how low can you go?

If you earn more (and are happier) working forty hours instead of fifty, will you earn more still if you cut your work week to thirty hours? How about twenty?

Is the four-hour work week possible for a professional?

It might be fun to find out.

The key to earning more and working less is leverage

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Mind your own bees wax, bub

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I emailed an author to tell him I enjoyed his books. I told him a bit about myself so he could see that we have some common interests and experiences.

We went back and forth a couple of times and then I did it. I gave him a suggestion about how he might change his work flow to improve his productivity. I offered this in a sincere effort to help, but as soon as I sent it, I regretted it.

He was clearly successful doing things his way and he hadn’t asked for my advice. He really didn’t know me. “Who am I to tell him what to do?”

I thought he would brush me off and I wouldn’t hear from him again. Instead, to his credit, he replied and explained why he does things the way he does them and moved on to another topic.

All is well. But the experience reminded me of the danger of providing unsolicited advice.

If someone doesn’t ask for our advice, we need to think twice before giving it. We think someone will appreciate our ideas or suggestions but too often we alienate them or insult them with our “superior” knowledge.

I’m not saying you can’t share ideas or suggestions with people. Just be careful about how you do it.

Instead of telling them they “should” do something, you might turn it into a question. “Have ever thought about. . ?” Or put the advice in the mouth of others: “I hear a lot of people are having success with. . .”

Don’t tell, ask. Don’t push, mention.

You can also get into trouble providing advice when people ask for it. Just because a friend asks for your opinion, it doesn’t mean you have carte blanche. Some people really don’t want your opinion. They’ve already made up their mind and they want you to confirm that they’re right.

With clients, you’re not going to win hearts or minds by pointing out that they made a bad decision or that they should have listened to you the first time. If they messed up, the odds are they know that and are expecting you to give them a hard time.

Don’t do it. Don’t lecture them or try to make them feel bad. Find a way to let them save face or just talk about what to do next to fix the problem.

Calm, cool, collected. The voice of reason.

There are times when you need to let that go and put some fire into what you say. If you see the client about to go off a cliff, it’s your duty to do whatever you can to wake them up and get them to listen.

Raise your voice if you have to and tell them the facts of life. Go over your reasoning again. Put a CYA letter in front of them and ask them to sign it, to protect yourself, of course, but also for dramatic effect, to let them know that they are about to make a serious mistake and to get them to reconsider.

Sometimes, you have to take the risk of alienating a client and losing them. Let’s face it, if they don’t listen and they get hurt, they’ll probably blame you anyway.

Who would make a good referral for you?

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Don’t fall for this email scam!

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AT & T is my wireless carrier. Last night they sent me an email asking me to take a survey. I usually decline these things because I’ve been burned before by survey requests that promised to take only a few minutes but went on endlessly, but in a moment of weakness, I clicked and answered the first (easy) question.

Things quickly got real.

If you get the same email, don’t open it.

It’s a trap.

They’ll ensnare you in a bottomless pit of questions, asking you to decide between a four and a five, a six or a seven, and you’ll wind up clicking anything just to get to the next question, and you’ll swear you’ve already answered that question twice, but no, they’ll ask it a third time, and after what seems like twenty minutes, you’ll either give up and close your browser or berate yourself for getting suckered yet again.

They’ll tempt you to play their insidious game. They’ll tell you they depend on you, they’ll offer to enter you in a drawing, they’ll make you curious about what they might reveal.

Resist. Start another Netflix episode. Or close up shop and go to bed.

I can’t imagine that the companies that conduct these surveys get much useful information out of them. I suspect that most people who start them never finish, and the ones who go all the way do so because they’re not crazy about the company and want to vent.

They do these surveys, I suspect, because they think it will make them look good to shareholders.

There’s nothing wrong with surveys, per se. They can provide valuable feedback and you might put one together for your clients. If you do, remember that a survey is as much an opportunity to engage with your clients as it is a way to guide your next move. So if you do it, don’t alienate them with one of these monstrosities, make your survey short and sweet.

Promise it will only take 30 seconds, a minute or two. And keep that promise.

Ask a few questions, not every question you can think of.

Make it easy for them to choose by asking things like, “Of these two options, which one do you prefer?”

And when the survey is done and you tally up the results, share those results with your clients and subscribers. Let them see that you really do value their feedback and appreciate them for taking the time to help. They’ll feel good about responding and be more likely to do it again the next time you ask.

Because a survey is as much an opportunity to engage with your clients as it is a way to guide your next move.

Where is your next referral coming from?

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