Living by Doing

I'm a single founder working on improving my business and myself.

22. November 2014 11:41
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Yes! I got it. Damn! I lost it.

22. November 2014 11:41 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

I added videos to my watermark software's homepage recently, hoping it would lover the complaints I got from users who found the software too hard to use.

First, I added a video to the front page, showing how to add a watermark in 41 seconds, secondly I added a video to the help and support page that explained in greater details how to use the software.

Thirdly, I removed the wizard from the software and replaced it with the longer video from the help and support pages.

My reason for testing videos was the steady stream of complaints from people who was unable to use my software that they found too complicated.

What happened next was far from what I had expected, the day after adding the videos I had my fifth best day this year, day three was 'normal' and day four again was double what I used to see when it comes to conversion.

It got my mind going, and as so many times before, I dreamt about having struck gold and made my conversion sharply increase.

On day five, my conversion was around 25% and since then the conversion slowly tanked. 

I honestly believe that I ended up overselling my (hard to use) software, promising to watermark a photo in 41 seconds, and then the user realizes that it takes much longer than that is not a great user experience.

I removed the video from the front page after one month. While removing the video I thought to myself that I would try one more thing that many users requested a longer trial.

Previously a user could test the software once and then they had to pay, and every day I got one or two complaints about the short trial period.  

I bumped it up to 4 times, so they could really test the software and see the benefit before choosing to buy it. (After the trial expires, it adds an “Unregistered Version” watermark to all photos processed)

I really believed the longer trial would affect my conversion because so many people complained about it, and for once, I was right.

Not in a good way!

My conversion slowly got lower and lower through the month of testing, and at the end, I was baffled and stunned why it did not work. As a side note, I still got complaints about the trial mode ending.

This made me remove the “fully working trial” period. The software now adds the “Unregistered” text from the first run, so if you like what it does you have to buy it.

That helped!

My conversion double (in orders, my avg. order value has been lowered a bit) and astonishingly the amount of complaints about the trial expiring has plummeted to zero.

I still get the occasionally complaint that the downloaded the “free trial” version and not the actually free version, but that is ok, those would never buy anyway.

So apparently, charging still beats not charging.

15. October 2014 21:59
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Working while on vacation feels wrong

15. October 2014 21:59 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

I am currently on vacation. Five days together with my wife and daughter having friends over for dinner and arranging play dates for the daughter.

One thing that always happens when I am on vacation, when it is weekend or Christmas is that I get inspired to do new things for my TSR business.

The act of relaxing, not having to juggle a gazillion queries, customers or employees leaves enough brain cycles to spare that my idea part fires up and start generating ideas to implement.

I guess it's part of what is necessary to be an entrepreneur, to always be inspired and get ideas by reading, talking, walking and even sleeping.

The problem is that not long after I start getting these ideas I become unhappy and sad, not that it is not okay to have those feelings (it is okay!) but it has been annoying and frustrating for me for a long period that I could not just relax and enjoy my family and the company of friends.

Today I figured out why I get those feelings, it is because:

I am ashamed that I would rather work than being together with my family.

I am ashamed about not being present enough.

I am ashamed because I have high expectations for myself and my role as a husband and as a father.

My expectations demands me to be present and ready to play with my daughter all the time while also being ready to talk to my wife and of course cook dinner clean, be the perfect host etc. etc.

Did I ever mention that I am an overachiever?

Did I ever mention I run a consultancy business with 5 employees?

But I like to work on my TSR projects, they give me energy and happiness - they give me the energy to keep on, they give me a place to try out crazy stuff and to be me 100%

the next problem is that whenever I open my computer, I am assaulted with 'important' messages and problems that needs to be put fixed. So to use an hour or two on my TSR projects, and myself, implementing a new idea or trying out a new feature feels wrong.

Very wrong.

However, I have to work on taking this time for myself, because taking this time off for myself while on vacation (and at work) is what keeps me happy and free from stress and depression.

Getting ideas and testing them out is what motivates me internally, as much as much as being a good husband and father does.

Doing work that is internally motivated makes me happy, relaxed and much better at being present when my wife & daughter wants to show me their latest drawing/invention/idea/etc....

6. October 2014 21:43
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Thanks to a fellow Micropreneur

6. October 2014 21:43 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

One of my fellow Micropreneurs, Christoph Engelhardt just posted his second monthly income report online at his blog http://www.it-engelhardt.de/ detailing his linksspy.com endeavour.

I must admit that it is some of the bravest writing I have read from any in the self funded entrepreneurial scene.

It is one thing to write a monthly income report when the ball is rolling, when the idea is spreading like wildfire and you are able to work on you project full time.

It is completely different ballgame when you are not!

Christoph is working full time in a “normal” job; he is doing some freelancing work and building linksspy.com “on the side”. If I remember correctly, he was enlisted in the military recently and had to put the programming on hold.

This has not deterred him from pushing on, and now he post about it online, and not always about the progress, but also about the setbacks and how an error from his side halved his perceived MRR.

For me who are so lucky to have a thriving business; making a living from a passive income stream, while running a consultancy that is doing fine, it is humbling and scary to imagine not making more than a couple of hundred bucks a month.

At the same time, it is inspiring to realise that we all start at that level, no matter who we are, and each time we start over, we start from zero.

Thank you Christoph, for sharing and for helping me remember that it is ok to make zero as long as you keep pushing the project forward.

I will use this realization and push forward on my spacetimehq.com project that I have not done enough on because I was afraid.

Afraid of failure, afraid of it not being right, afraid of not being worth it.

 

PS. After reading Christoph’s blog post, I created a new feature for my watermark software that allows you to add a 3D embossed text to an image, something I have dreamt of creating for months if not years.

So for the last time, thank you Christoph, for being brave and being you!

25. September 2014 15:51
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Friends

25. September 2014 15:51 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

It is hard for me to believe that others find me interesting!

I have struggled most of my life to get others to like me, I have pleased others, done what I thought they wanted me to and generally played the best parrot act I could pull out of my hat.

In the last couple of years, I have stopped pleasing others, and worked very hard every day on becoming myself.

This has led to the most wonderful experience, others has started to find me interesting!

When I stopped wanting to be liked I became liked, when I stopped trying to get people to like me they did.

I just realized that the person I respect the most and has some of the highest thoughts about wants to spend time with me and enjoys my company.

Even though we have known each other for many years, it is still a shock and revelation that he actually likes me, for being me, not because I play a parrot!

To all the parrots out there, I give you the advice that it is ok to spread your wings and fly your own way, and some might even find your way interesting!

21. September 2014 11:47
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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How I fought my founder’s depression (And how you can do it too!)

21. September 2014 11:47 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

Five years ago, I gave up and ran from the company I had built.

I did not get much with me when I ran, a computer and a few customers, just enough to survive.

After a two week vacation, I went back to work, although "work" at the time meant three hours a day.

I did not have more energy a day, because I was truly burnt out, depressed and stressed out of my league.

Recently Rand from Moz wrote about his depression and he touched ever so slightly the subject of shame.  

The reason for mine and many others depression can be found in shame, as Rand also writes, “That depression, I believe, stems from shame. I was and remain, ashamed of myself” 

Shame is a powerful feeling that easily takes control you and your actions. 

It is a feeling that is so hard to live with that people split their personality to get away from it. 

I have found that the only way I can demolish my shame, the only thing it really despise and die from is light. 

Therefore, to get out of a shame spiral you have to do what is the hardest of all thing, talk about what you are ashamed about. 

This is hard, because what you are afraid of in the first place is for someone to figure out what you have done of shameful actions, and now my suggestion is for you to talk about it! 

You have been fighting for (days/months/years) to keep you shameful actions hidden so that the shame would not become real and now I am telling you that you have to talk about it to get it to go away!? 

(I know where your thoughts are going right now, as a true entrepreneur who makes a living of fixing stuff and finding a way, you try to figure out a way to avoid this, but trust me, from 11 years of experience, I have not been able to cheat shame) 

This is why so many others and I keep on doing shameful actions for many years - to avoid shame. 

Yes, to avoid the shame we do shameful actions. 

Think about that for a while! 

It is with deep insight and good reason that one of the confucian virtues is "a sense of shame"

My shame was mostly about not being good enough and not doing enough – and the weight of all that shame made it impossible to work more than ½ hour a day when I had it worst. 

I was at work 8 hours a day, but I only did real work for 30 minutes each day, the rest of the time I did a lot of stuff that lead to more shame. 

I tried to hide that I was not working (Lying is a very shameful action), I took on a lot of menial tasks that I used a lot of time on (Procrastinating is also something that when used like this is a shameful action) and I would always pick a fight over doing work (Fighting is a shameful action) 

Can you see the pattern? I believe it very easy to spot, I was ashamed of myself, to hide that fact from others I started doing shameful actions, this lead to more shame that I used more time to hide etc. etc. 

Spiralling out of control in a self-sustaining and ever increasing shame spiral, you end up depressed, stressed out and possibly as I did contemplating suicide to just get it all to stop. 

I do two things to free myself from shame and you can do the same! 

First off, understand what you are ashamed about and start talking with others about it. 

This will help you to realize that those who respect you will have sympathy even when your actions are shameful. 

In most instances, they will even tell you that it is ok to do what you did or that they do it themselves and understands you. 

Enter onto the scene “the Mastermind group”. I have written about it before, a Mastermind group is 3-4 people whom you meet with regularly and talk about business and private life. 

The most important aspect of a Mastermind group is that what is spoken at a Mastermind group stays at the Mastermind group, so this is a place where you can test your stories before telling it to the world (or your spouse, parents or others very close to you) 

The other thing I do to avoid being ashamed is to be more myself, because when I am myself I do not do shameful actions. 

This sounds easy, but in reality, it is hard, mostly because after 11 years of not being me I had forgotten how to do it. 

I had to rediscover who I am and what I like to do, I had to figure out my inner beliefs and core values. 

The more I understand this, the more I can be me, and even though I do not understand the connections entirely yet, this leads to less shameful actions and more inner peace.

One more thing

If you are as depressed as I was (or more) I will recommend seeking professional therapeutic help, I did and it did help!

Also staring at yoga, Taiost Tai Chi (www.taoist.org) or another gently workout will help you get some energy and help to heal you.

Also, eat right, drop the fast food and drink only water (and coffee, because I still do :)

Lastly, remember that you are not perfect, I am not perfect and that “Perfect” only exists in the movies.

17. September 2014 09:39
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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How to motivate through transparency (Even though it is scary as hell)

17. September 2014 09:39 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

More than ever before, new companies started are more transparent than ever, publishing their numbers online and talking a lot about how they do their stuff.

How come not all do this, how can it be that most will not even let their employees get access to these kind of information’s, or any other relevant information for that matter.

Because some might say no, some employees might choose that what you do and what you stand for is not what they like, and you might be afraid that this employee is important for your business to survive.

It is that simple, but hard to fight and work against.

When business fight against the transparency they keep secrets and becomes like a light bulb painted dark that cannot help or spread its light on its employees or customers.

I have been wondering how that could be and I finally realised that it is insecurity and fear that makes us become translucent and finally solid black.

Fear of not being selected, fear that employees or customers select another vendor, fear that the next customer or employee is the most important one.

When (if) you shed your fear you will be able to be more transparent without losing (important) customers or employees.

When you are transparent as a company you let it be up to your employees to decide if they want to stay and work for you, based on your stance and opinions. Those who chooses to stay will have done so for internal reasons.

When you get there, where your employees go to work for internal reasons you have reached a major milestone, because internally motivated people stay healthier, produces more and is happier.

Research in internally motivated people shows they are less susceptible to stress and depression.

This means that if you create a transparent IT company, you will be able to help alleviate stress and depression among a group of people who has a bad track record of being stressed and depressed.

On the plus side (phun intended) you will get motivated and productive people who will work harder for less money (remember they get their internal pay by being able to choose) while being healthy and without stress and depression!

Who do you think creates the better and more creative solution?

What do you think creates most trust in your employees?

8. September 2014 17:24
by Anders Thue Pedersen
0 Comments

As you probably have noticed, I have not blogged for some time.

8. September 2014 17:24 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

First it was because I was on vacation, then I thought it was because I had taken a break, but now I believe it was because I was unsure what the reason for this blog was, why did I write?

If it was to get readers I am doing a lousy job since I get around 1-2 visitors every day, and I have been doing zero to get more, even though some part of me wants to have a million readers the part of me that has to write the blog couldn’t really care.

This made me wonder what the part actually writing got out of this; some of the answer is a place to let thoughts get out of my head. The process of writing and rewriting a blog post helps me get some of my thoughts straight and document where I am and what I am doing.

I have slowly come to the conclusion that I am writing this blog for me, to help me find my way in this strange world, and to document what I am doing. Then you might ask why blog, why not just write a diary, but the accountability of a blog is necessary for me otherwise I skip it too easily.

Since the last blogpost I have gone through some major internal and external changes that has taken some time and energy to getting used to, this has drained me for energy to the extent that blogging was a task that slipped out of my “must do” list. The fine about this is that it made me reconsider blogging and made me realize that I actually got a lot out of blogging that I otherwise might have missed.

I feel like a different person now compared to who I was before the vacation. My motivation is more internalized now and for the first time I have noticed that it really pisses me off that what I have created might not survive. This has made me fight for our survival in a much fiercer way than I have ever done before, but it is taking its toll on me.

The real life panda update had roots going deeper than I initially thought. It was not only a question about money but also a question about the work we do and the way we deliver this work to the end customer. Luckily, everything is something that is fixable, and the fixes are simple, hard but simple.

4. August 2014 22:08
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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Growing from the pains inflicted by a real panda.

4. August 2014 22:08 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

My consultancy business has grown and we are now ready for a new level of customers.

It all started when a real life panda hit me, this forced me to think hard about my business and I came to the following conclusions.

1. I love my consultancy business!

2. I love my employees

3. I love the solutions we create for our customers.

So I had to figure out what was wrong and what we could do better, to grow our business organic and quick, the findings was not obvious but luckily I had four weeks of vacation to ponder the questions and come up with answers.

The payoffs of the changes we have made are more instantaneously than I would ever have believed!

Today we delivered the first solution made since the panda hit us and we delivered on time and more than promised, to the customers surprise and great delight!

I cannot wait to hear the feedback from the customer, and to be honest, this is probably the most proud I have ever been of something we have made!

What we have done differently is as profound as it is obvious and simple.

Simple, not easy though!

I have used the metaphor of a golf player standing at the tee whacking the ball down the fairway.

Previously each part of a project was not intertwined into the next, like a golfer who moves the club a fourth of the swing and the lets go of the club and let it tumble to the ground. Then he picks it up to continue the swing until he hits the ball where he once again let go of the club and once again picks it up and ends the swing.

This way of doing projects is very unsatisfying for the customer and us. Now we follow through, never letting go of the club. Even more we will continue to follow through on the swing after the ball has been hit, this is important for a golfer since the end position of a gulf club has a big impact on the direction and length of the drive.

The same is true for our projects, after we deliver the technical solution, we have to continue our support, educating and helping the customer translating all text, getting images for the website, and even further on, helping the customer with google, SEO, SoMe, advertising, cutting edge ideas, split testing and much more.

It is not enough to create a technical sound solution, or to be the master of design.

You have to make the customer love you and your solution by smothering them with love, help, support while listening to their needs and desires.

You have to follow through and help them with everything they are unsure about and kill all doubt and fear before it becomes a fire.

If you do all this and whatever else that pops up along the way you just might be lucky enough to create something special for the customer, and if you are lucky they might even think it is special enough to tell their friends about the magical company that actually delivers, on time and above their promise.

28. July 2014 21:13
by Anders Thue Pedersen
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The vacation is over

28. July 2014 21:13 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

The general theme of the vacation was sickness, first my wife, then my daughter and at the end me.

At least the last 4 days was really wonderful and made up for all the sickness, thanks big brother!

Regarding being sick on you vacation - I was emailing with my favorite SEO expert and he nicely suggested that it might be because I was too overworked before my vacation that I got sick.

I had silently made the same conclusion before he wrote, so it was easy to read and accept the truth that I just have been too stressed for too long.

To alleviate me from stress I have decided to make some changes to my business life.

1. No customer consulting Monday

I need to make sure I have a day where I can talk with the employees, help projects get along and work with my own projects. To be able to do this I will book every Monday for the rest of the year and not put any customer into that space.

From now on Mondays will be team meeting, individual meetings with employees about personal stuff, projects and their work situation in general.

2. Improve project management

Until shortly before my vacation every project sailed its own way, its own course in its own time, the new Mondays will also be used to follow up on projects and decide what project will be the next one that we will sprint on.

3. We will start working in sprints on our larger projects.

Currently I think we will do one or two weeks sprints with one week rest between.

Sprints will be a period where everybody focuses on one project and helps each other. This do not mean that they shall ignore the regular customers, small support items and stuff like that but it do mean that they should use all available time to help the project that is being sprinted.

We did this the last two weeks before the vacation and it was such a fun and energizing experience where every one of my employees (and me) smiled more than usually and generally had a great time working together.

Seeing a project moving forward at great speed is extremely giving, it motivates and opens you up for doing things faster than usually, thinking in new ways and trying out stuff that you normally would have avoided.

4. Work on projects so that they are complete and followed through

I have been having this image in my head most of the vacation of a golfer at the tee driving the ball down the fairway.

Even though I do not play golf, I do know that, even though the golfer only has contact with the ball for a short instance, the entire swing is important to the length and direction of the ball.

At the moment we hit the ball (delivers the project to the customer) we kind of loose interest in the swing.

From now on, we will focus on every part of the swing, so even where the club ends after the swing is completed is important to us.

I got the inspiration for this from the excellent book “From worst to first” by Gordon Bethune where he talks about how he asks who is most important in the business by comparing it to a watch and asking “what part is most important” and the takeaway of course being that no part is more important than the other.

If you remove one part the clock stop working.

The same way with a project and a golf swing, if you do not follow through it has an impact on the project delivered.

5. DYFR by Brennan Dunn

Keep reading and applying what I learn by reading DYFR by Brennan Dunn.

Even though I have been self-employed for 15+ years I apparently still have a lot to learn!

Status

We are still working on our next non-consulting project, a mobile time registration solution for MS Dynamics Nav – the feedback we get from the beta testers are great and it is really moving forward.

 

9. July 2014 21:56
by Anders Thue Pedersen
0 Comments

Vacation

9. July 2014 21:56 by Anders Thue Pedersen | 0 Comments

I am currently on vacation, which is the reason for the lack of posts.

The first week I went mostly offline, living on a smallish island, in a tent camp with no electricity, only gas for cooking, petroleum lamps for light in the evening/night and a toilet that is a hole in the ground.

Did I forget to mention that I had to do one task every day, cooking some days, making the fire (for the marshmallows) the other?

Do this sound like vacation to you? Well I am looking forward to this week all year, and I really enjoy it!

Actually, it is the best week of our vacation, and our six-year-old daughter talks about it all year round!

Why is it so good? Because it is so primitive that you have to look around yourself and notice those around you (remember no electricity so your phone dies pretty quick), and when you do you discover that you are among 100 others that are there for the same reason as you and you get a sense of belonging there!

If you did not know it already, that sense is what drives us!

On a side note, a fellow Micropreneur was surprised that I took four weeks of vacation, but is that not what we are working for, the freedom to take a lot of vacation if we want it?

See you in three weeks’ time :)