Another Weekend Begins

It’s Saturday night and I’m on the cusp of another weekend. And I’m excited. But it’s not just for the break, like most weekends working past jobs. I’m excited for the work I did today, too.

Some months ago, while trying to generate ideas for products I could sell, I went back to the drawing board on a problem I’d had in the states. While there I wanted to buy kettlebells to work out, but couldn’t find them locally, and was nervous about spending the $150 to order one when I didn’t know what size I would need. Plus, I knew that often it would be best to have various sizes for different exercise movements. Why couldn’t they make them adjustable like ordinary weights?

Well, a search on the internet revealed a variety of options, all expensive, and none with the range of weight I would need. So this past year I sketched up an idea for a new style. And left it in my notebook, like most of my ideas.

Design from my journal in January
Design from my journal in January

But last week I came across a job where the client wants new kettlebell designs with decorative patterns. As much as I promised I was perfect for the job, with my long workout and design history, the client hasn’t contacted me back. It happens. But I really want this job.

So I’ve taken the time to research kettlebells and weights more, and finally finished the design I sketched so long ago. Even more exciting is the connection a friend of mine has to a weight manufacturer in China who could actually produce the design. Who knows, maybe this will be on the shelf in a year. If that happens, you can definitely expect an even more excited post.

The completed design for the adjustable-weight kettlebell
The completed design for the adjustable-weight kettlebell

Part of today, though, was working to stay proactive. Honestly, I’m worried right now – I don’t have any clients lined up beyond the one I’m working with, and I’ve only got one other potential “on the line”. I’ve submitted more proposals, but won’t likely hear anything back till Tuesday my time/ Monday US time.

There’s always a part of me that, when scared, wants to mope. But I can’t do that and expect to create a good business, so that’s why today I modeled my own designs and took a skill test. I’ll fight to do whatever I can to gain even a slight edge, and take the risks to be successful.

Bon weekend!

Today I Became a Man

November 22, 2013. Mark it on your calendars, for today is the day I became a bona fide entrepeneur. Today is the day I actually earned money for my work.

Last night I received payment to start the initial work on a hand mirror design, my second job, which was exciting. But more exciting was logging in this morning and finding that my first client had both marked the job as complete and also released payment. Complete. My first job on Elance is done, and the client is happy.

Cutaway of the ceramic design for a football mold
Cutaway of the ceramic design for a football mold

And the second part of that may be much more important. For the first time today I was able to submit bids without being a complete newbie freelancer. I got full marks in my review, and I feel much more confident in placing bids. My first two clients will always have my gratitude for taking a risk on me, an inexperienced freelancer.

Alright, just a short post tonight. I had a late start today, and only got a full day in by working past ten in the evening, which should be time for me to spend con mi nin’ta. Buena noche.

Another cutaway. Want one of your own? Just $500 :-)
Another cutaway. Want one of your own? Just $500 🙂

P.S. – A favorite quote from a great, though short-lived, television show, Everwood. “Anyone can get what they want. But knowing what you want — that’s what seperates the men from the boys.”

Think in pictures

I remember a discussion with a successful Engineer Solopreneur about his unusual method for determining the height of roads when he was doing the Civil designs. Instead of complex computer models, he used printed elevations, push pins and yarn. The simple method allowed him to replace days of small-screen computer modelling with a few hours of big-picture thinking and intuitive adjustments.

Written calculation save me from complex WordDoc formulas, but communicate the idea clearly
Written calculation save me from complex WordDoc formulas, but communicate the idea clearly

Thinking of that, when I needed to figure out how a tortilla could be shaped into a football on my first project, I didn’t make a model of a tortilla — I cut one out of paper and played with it. That paper model gave me confidence in the designs ability to shape, and saved me a lot of time spent in uncertain computer models.

Today I began work on my second job, and again I’m using paper, but this time to communicate. In past jobs I would have spent a few hours on the computer modeling or drawing designs so that I could communicate ideas, but I’ve decided to go back to low tech. Five minutes on paper can help me communicate the ideas I need to, and the black and white picture editing I described yesterday helps me make the photographed designs look right in documents, without the inherent shadows.

My (profitable) work today was to continue work on the first project, bringing it up to near completion, even with the additional requested work. Since my client wanted me to upload models for the 3D manufacturers, I first created a dummy email address, then created different accounts in each of the three 3D printing companies (Shapeways, Ponoko and Imaterialise). I’ve uploaded the files and communicated everything to my client; the ball is now in his court.

More pictures. This sketch took five minutes on paper, but would have required an hour on the computer
More pictures. This sketch took five minutes on paper, but would have required an hour on the computer

With my second client, I was asked to review an existing design of one part before beginning work on the design of an interfacing part. Everything is new. I’ve never done a design review, and it took me more than 50% more than my budgeted time. However, I now have a document with good flow and illustrating the more difficult to describe ideas. The review begins with thoughts on the design aesthetic, then details a review of each parts function that include questions and recommendations, where applicable. In the summary I restated the questions and recommendations so that my client has all of the actionable information in one place. I’m hoping it results in clear answers. We’ll find out tomorrow.

Making mistakes and, I hope, making money

Yesterday I received a second message from a potential client wanting to speak on the phone. That was not a problem. What was a problem is that he wanted to speak at 3am. Well, to be fair that’s the middle of the afternoon his time. The problem is, though, that while I was debating whether to try to adjust the time or bite the bullet and wake up for a 3am conference, I fell asleep. And so I didn’t get back to the prospect for 12 hours. I haven’t heard from him since. Oops.

Another mistake I’ve made is with my first job. I’d read that you can often change an hourly job to a fixed price, which I would have preferred. But I didn’t ask. Not, I asked and was rejected, I just didn’t ask. I’m trying to complete the job as quickly as possible, and it now looks like I’ll actually finish in less time than bid, and will end up getting fifty dollars less for the job than originally expected. On the good side, that should surprise and please the client, and I’m hoping it will translate into a good review. So far all of our correspondence has been very positive. In challah.

I’m excited to soon be completing my first job, though still apprehensive until everything is complete and the money has been transferred and my review is in. I’m staying on my toes; this is all too new to relax now.

In other amazing news, I’ve been selected for a second job! This one will be quite a bit more complex, and involves more artistic design work for an antique-looking mirror with a modern functional twist. The client had me sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) this morning, and awarded me the job tonight when I returned back home. I feel both elated and very grateful; I’m doing the job I’ve dreamed about for years, and things are actually moving forward.


PS – I saved quite a lot of time today by using a photograph of my signature to sign the NDA. I wrote my signature on a sheet of white paper, photographed it, then saved it to my computer. The background wasn’t white enough, so I opened it in PowerPoint and edited it to be “black and white, 50%”. Only the signature stood out then. After I served it as a jpg in Paint and inserted the image into the PDF using a free online PDF editor. Voila.

My first job (without having a job)

I was awarded my first job! It’s a small job, just 12 hours of estimated work, but I landed it! I got the news last night and instantly told Nin’ta; we spent a few minutes just excitedly talking, and I decided a glass of wine was an order. Definitely a good feeling.

And today I began working on it, with more than a bit of nervousness. Fear, more honestly. The whole fear of others’ expectations, of not being able to complete the project well, of failure. And I wrote in my journal, “What if I can’t do it? What if I make a mistake?” Then, “I’ll make it right.” Because, at the end of the day, I’m going to make some mistakes. But having already decided that I’ll do what it takes to run this business well, to make things right and fair even if it costs me, I can forgive myself, and can be brave enough to move forward.

And I have. Even though there were some distractions today (I met up with a few new friends), I got in about 5 1/2 billable hours (4 1/2 on workview, and some other work that I’m hoping he’ll be willing to pay for, but it was off the computer), and I feel like I moved forward quite a lot. The basic design work is sketched out on paper, large amounts are modeled, and I’ve researched different materials.

Oh, and thinking of sketching, to get around the WorkView Tracker when doing non-computer-based work, I’ve set the computer camera on and pointed it at my sketchpad. That way, as the tracker takes screen shots I have evidence that can show that I’m working. I hope everything goes well with approval. Looks like my hours will go through next Monday, then I should be payed the following Friday. Just in time for the end of the month, like a real job — but without an office.



Another week begins

It’s Monday and I’m excited. That hasn’t happened at the beginning of a work week in a long, long time. Maybe the espresso is talking, but I feel like I have more energy now than when I started this morning. Something good is happening. 

First off, I took a full day yesterday to relax with my girl. Both last night and Saturday night we went out to see the lanterns being set off and joined in with the Loi Kratong festivities. Having time completely set aside from work makes me feel much more ready to go today. Plus, how can you say no to spending time celebrating a festival that looks like this?


Today had a bit of a slow start. I think I’ll need to spend a bit more time planning the evening before so that I don’t end up groggily stumbling (metaphorically) through the first hour of my work day. On the plus side, I did get in nearly a full day today with 9 hours of work time start to finish, even though quite a bit of it was spent resolving computer issues.

I found out that the SolidWorks version I so painstakingly installed last week doesn’t run very well on my computer. Easy, I thought. I’ll just go back and purchase an older version, I thought. It’ll be fine, I thought. I thought. Turns out, with Windows 8, no other version of SolidWorks will run. So, essentially, I flushed 700 baht away today on software CDs I can’t use. On the good side, I got extra RAM installed on my laptop, and at 8 gigs, SolidWorks is now running fine. Some waste will be inevitable.

So far I’ve heard back from 3 of the 15 clients I contacted. That’s not a great ratio, but I’ll reserve judgement until tomorrow morning; right now it’s only 7a.m. Monday morning in America, and I don’t think that the engineers there are getting up excitedly to review my bids after the weekend. I’ll know more tomorrow.


I’ve been using the gap time right now to re-model some of my previous projects so I can have something in my portfolio. Honestly, I wouldn’t hire me without anything in my portfolio, and I wouldn’t blame the clients if they feel the same. I’m about one and a half pieces into the portfolio; I figure 5-7 good pieces will do for now. 

Alright, I need to go find trouble to get into for the night.



Two days and fifteen bids later…

Yesterday I woke to exciting news: my country was verified on Elance and I was capable of submitting new bids. With my day mostly taken up with social activities, though, I only got a couple of hours to actually work. I need to figure out how to keep the balance between taking advantage of social opportunities and keeping boundaries around my work time. In any case, with the new time management blocking system and some motivation, I was able to send off all but one of the five bids I’d written. The fifth had already closed; c’est la vie.

I’m trying something out that may backfire. Instead of providing complete bids based on the information given, I’m sending out requests for more details, along with some highlights of applicable design and modeling experience. Most of the job descriptions are too vague for me to accurately bid, but I’m purposefully withholding the bid on all jibs for more than that. I want to get a conversation about the job going to help me stand out from the crowd through clear communication and insightful design questions that will demonstrate my knowledge. Once we’ve started talking, then I’ll give a price, and I’ll know whether it was the price or the initial proposal that failed when I don’t get jobs. I could end up turning off some clients this way, but the only way to find out is through trying, right?

So far I’ve heard back from two customers, which is not bad considering that yesterday I contacted only four. Today I’ve sent out another ten information requests and my mind’s eye is now cross-eyed. Since it’s the weekend I don’t expect I’ll hear anything back till Monday or Tuesday, but that doesn’t stop me from nervously and excitedly checking each incoming email in hopes that I’m getting closer to my goal of completing $300 of work this month.

I can’t really plan out next week the way I’d like to before the weekend, but my goal is to land jobs, and accomplish significant work on any that I’ve landed. If I don’t get many responses, then I’ll focus more on developing my portfolio with old design work, and also look at doing some interim teaching to keep bacon on my table.

Alright, the weekend is starting I five, four, three…

Weekend Beguns

Time to bid, or soon, I hope

Today I’ve run into yet another hitch. Oddly, knowing that I can expect this has lowered my stress; I know that from here on out there will be many roadblocks to overcome. My roadblock today is Elance not updating my country location after more than 48 hours with my scanned driver’s license and 12 hours with my scanned passport. But even though I couldn’t place any bids today, I still felt like I accomplished a lot.

I knew that today’s next step was bid proposal, but with the roadblock, I couldn’t. But just because I can’t submit the proposals, that didn’t mean I couldn’t write them and get ready for when the roadblock is removed. I spent the morning (here defined as 0930-1430) researching and writing five bids. Doing a little research on advice for proposals yielded little new information; mostly it was a case of having the courage to start. (However, there is some useful advice here and here.) The courage to try will be a recurring theme.

Another useful thing today was trying out the Pomodoro technique and setting goals for each half hour. Instead of spending an hour or two researching and tweaking proposals and getting distracted, by setting short goals, I was able to power through distractions, then relax and refresh for a few minutes. I definitely plan to use this technique more in the future; I can accredit most of my useful work today to that one time management technique.

Guru Box Co-Working Space -- for one
Guru Box Co-Working Space — for one

More from today… well, I tried out a new co-working space called Guru. Clean, open space with plenty of light, free coffee and, well, noone else working. I assume it’s new and just unknown. After a week of coffee shops, having reliable internet and not feeling like a freeloader was really nice. Next week I’ll be looking at a few more co-working spaces, too, hopefully to gain a few friends and more allies.

Alright, it’s late, I’m tired, and tomorrow will be another full day.

P.S. – no post yesterday due to a border run to Myanmar. 30 more days added, and a new country stamp in the passport. Good day.

Support, or, How alliances can make you a survivor

Today was a complete contrast to yesterday. I knocked off everything on my to-do list and retroactively completed the necessary part of yesterdays. And thanks goes to Lee.

Move quickly toward profitability
Move quickly toward profitability

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is what new companies use for testing ideas on their markets. While I’ve been busy setting up a website, researching multiple freelance sites for use, and spending (I kid you not) two hours creating a Favicon for my website, the thing I haven’t been doing is the actual work itself. I haven’t placed any bids. I haven’t won any contracts. I haven’t completed a project and gotten paid. And, to be successful, those are the things I actually have to do.

It’s not that I don’t want a kicking website with a great logo, but I was reminded today that those things can come later. Even video bids, as much as I think the idea is great, can come later. Right now I need to focus on landing, completing and being paid for my first job.

To-do lists -- done
To-do lists — done

In that vein today, and based on time spent on the different freelance sites, I decided to fully complete only one profile. If I want to I can later finish signing up for Odesk and Freelancer, but for now I’m only available on Elance. I’ll also postpone completing my website, working on it in free time until I actually think it will allow me to expand my business. Today I’ve browsed dozens of jobs on their boards and flagged about fifteen that I’ll bid on as soon as my account is verified.

All my work now will be streamlined into getting to the first paycheck, the validation I need to know that I can really earn a living with this business model. But now it’s 7:30, and it’s time for music and dancing. Buena noche.

Step one, where I am now
Step one, where I am now

Momma said

I realized today that with freelancing I’ve most likely signed up for a lot more days like this, days where you spend hours running into the same wall, unsure if you’ll be able to figure out a way through the barricade you’re facing. But I hope at least most of those days will end as this one just has, with a bit of success.

Today has been largely discouraging. Actually, only the afternoon was rough, but as often happens, it’s overshadowed the better morning. I’d picked up some software and just. Couldn’t. Get it. To work. It’s now almost 1 a.m., and I’ve finally gotten the install to work correctly.

Other parts of the day were better. I started a bit later than ideal, but I think that’s going to be a gradual adjustment. Going from English teacher hours to engineer hours will take a few weeks.

I’d mainly wanted to figure out my focus over the weekend, and after a bit of research, I know what to do: I’m going to focus on drafting, 3D technical modelling, and product design. Long term I’ll learn more about green production and focus the business in that direction, but today I have enough to start with.

I’ve written a business plan using the one-page form from The $100 Startup , a good resource for small businesses in general. And after a bit of research, I’ve also registered a new domain using SiteGround hosting. The service seems good and prompt so far, with live customer support guiding me through the initial stages of setup. Once I’ve got a basic site working I’ll post a link to my new business page.

Stormy days can have beautiful sunsets.