The Ruby Freelancers Show 041 – Hiring Other People

by woody2shoes on December 27, 2012


  • Eric Davis (  )
  • Charles Max Wood (   )


02:33 – Designers

  • Referrals

12:00 – Bookkeepers

  • Accountant recommendations/preference

19:44 – Virtual Assistants

  • Groups vs Contractors
  • Reliability
  • Cost/Quality

36:45 – Accountants

36:50 – Attorneys


  • (Eric)
  •   (Eric)
  • (Chuck)
  • (Chuck)


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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 41 of the Ruby Freelancer Show! This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis.

ERIC: Hello!

CHUCK: And I’m Charles Max Wood from This week we’re going to be talking about “Hiring Other People”. I don’t think we’re getting it into subcontract when we talked about that before, but maybe some of the other folks that we need in order to get stuff done. So I think we’re talking about designers, virtual assistants, bookkeepers, that kind of thing.

ERIC: Yeah kind of like a general support people like, not actually the core competency of your business like writing code, but stuff that’s going to help you do your business and do what you services better.

CHUCK: Absolutely. So is there a one particular aspect of this you wanna kick-off with, Eric?

ERIC: Well, I’ve hired virtual assistants and lawyers and accountants. So that’s kind of — or I have experienced or I’ve talked to people and have heard other people who’ve hired designers and worked with designers who were hired by my clients. So I can speak to that a little bit. I don’t have any like first-hand all to that.

CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. I’ve hired VAs, I’ve hired bookkeepers, I’ve hired — I paid designers to do work. I have an Attorney that I go to for my attorney stuff. In fact, I probably have to bring him on the show for a couple of time so we can talk about some of the legal stuff that we need to go over. And yeah — I mean I’ve hired subcontractors, I have an accountant so (I don’t know) we can definitely dig in to some of that. So do you wanna just kind of start with, I don’t know, designers? [laughs]

ERIC: Sure! I’m actually thinking about it. I actually hired a designer I guess twice maybe for my own stuff like — basically when I got started I have done…come up like an HTML skin for my site. And I’ve since to use them across multiple versions of my site and multiple sites that are kind of assembler. So I guess I have hired a designer, too. And enact is just basically him down to “I can do a design, I can do some good CSS, but coming up with something from scratch, I’m not that good of ‘em”; so slow at it that it’s easier for me to have someone else who’s an expert, created for me, handed it off to me, and then I will do like minor Tweaks whatever and any integration I need like if it’s a journal SAP or something.

CHUCK: Yeah, I’m kind of the same way. I mean for my — way back when I had a friend of mine who is a designer and I had him do a design for one of my blogs. That design is not up anymore. It was okay but I didn’t totally love it so I just kind of went with the WordPress theme on that site. In any case, I didn’t pay him a whole lot; and he was kind of nice because he do me a favor just put it together. For, I actually paid the design firm a fair bit of money to put a design together and I thought it looked pretty darn good. You could go look at it now, the site’s up. It’s broken, but it’s up. And so you can kind of see the design there and there’s a bunch of artwork and stuff that I’ve never could’ve done on my own. Typically for other websites, I tend to do just having simple with “twitter bootstraps” or something. But I wanted that website to be representative of something a little bit more. But as far as the rest of the designers I’ve dealt with, they’ve all been people that were hired by the client. And so, I just get a bundle of HTML and CSS or something from them. And then yeah, I just slapped it on top of Rails and off we go! Beyond that, I’ve had one client that kind of did some mockups in some Microsoft program, and then I made it look as close to that as I could without making it look as crappy as it did in that mockup. So how do you select your designer? How did you find your designer, Eric.

ERIC: Well let’s see.. .the designer I used — I’ve worked with her on not necessarily client project, but it’s kind of like a — you can call it like a mini start-up like bunch of people [inaudible] and just got together trying to build something. It ended up failing but it wasn’t like our primary focus. She helped out of the design on that and so I got to know her from there. And basically when I needed a design for my site, instead of shopping around or whatever I just went to her and said “Hey, could you do this for me? And how much would it cost?” And so, it was basically “I knew someone who knew someone who knew her” and that’s how the introduction was made and then working together. And I think that’s like the best thing you could do because you basically get to see their work, be able to work with them, and then you can decide like “Yeah, I wanna actually buy something from ‘em” but that’s kind of hard dew unless you’re actually working for a lot of designers.

CHUCK: Yeah. My situation was a little bit different. I actually went to the user’s group and I said “Hey! Does anyone know a good designer that I can have build this design for my site?” And it worked out pretty well that somebody knew the guy that or had worked with the guy that was the main designer behind the shop that I went to. They came highly recommended. I went and talked to them. I actually went and had lunch with them, talked through some of the stuff with them, got to kind of form a little bit of a rapport with those guys, and at the same time, they showed me some of the other designs that they were working on for other clients and things like that and really gave me a good idea of what they were capable of. And so at that point, once they gave me the quote I was very comfortable with the price for what I was getting and comfortable with the fact that they would give me what I wanted and that we could iterate over it for as frequently as we needed to, within reason, to get it to something that I could’ve use. And so that was what was important to me; was that it would be delivered and that I could say “Hey, I need this tweaked in order to make it work”. And since they were both flexible and easy to work with, it just worked that well that way. But yeah, I got a referral of the user group list, that’s how I found ‘em.

ERIC: Yeah. And actually, when I first started my business, I just took a template off the shelf and done a little bit of customization to it, minor CSS stuff. And I used that for about 6 months, maybe a year and then I actually went back and actually had a complete custom designed on. And it’s kind of the thing like you can get started with something very basic and minimal and then later on, get a full designed on or get something customed for you. And mine, since I’ve had my designed on, I’ve ported it to I think 3 or 4 different platforms. Like my site’s been studication at one time, it was a Rails app for another time, and now it’s a WordPress system. And I’ve kept my design the entire time and I think I’ve all supported to about 3 or 4 other sites or products that I have just to kind of have a close to matching brand across them all. And so I paid couple of thousand whatever for the design 6 months after I started, but I’ve been able to use it for couple of years now and it’s across multiple sites. So it’s actually paid for itself quite recently.

CHUCK: Yeah. That’s another thing that’s really nice is that when you hire designer like that, you usually in the contract wind up owning all of the intellectual properties. So all of the images, all of the design concepts and things, and so you can move it around to do it whatever you need to it with or without having to jump through any hoops with them. And you wanna read the contract to make sure the best the case because if they create it by law, they only copyright unless they assign it to you in the contract. It’s kind of like code; if you write the code and your contract doesn’t stipulate that your client has a license to use it, then they don’t have a license to use it because you own the code. And another thing is that having a designer on deck is also really handy thing because then if people come to you and say “Hey, I have this idea and I need any artwork done for it or whatever”, it’s nice to have somebody you can say “Hey, well this person did my site. Have a look and then you can go talk to him”. Or you can even subcontract them and kind of make pretend that they’re part of your company and then just say “Well my design guy can take care of the design. Here’s some of things that he’s done”.

ERIC: Yeah. And I’ve actually — I’ve had a couple of clients come to me looking for like a custom app and then after talking with ‘em I figured out like custom apps not going to be the best fit and they’d be better served by using WordPress and maybe getting a custom plugin to do the different things that they wanna do. And I actually referred them over to my designer and say “Look, she built my design; she knows some of the dev side of WordPress. Talk to her and you could probably get what you want – both the look and feel, and also the functionality for a lot cheaper and a lot easier than getting a complete custom app”. And so I’ve referred stuff to her and she’s referred a couple of projects to me where like she would know someone or have some contact her who needs a lot more on the dev side than she’s able to do. And so I’ve talked to a couple of them and, I only have few of ‘em turned into clients, but it’s basically a sharing of leads because we’re both freelancers.

CHUCK: Yup. Yeah it makes sense. Anything else you wanna add on designers?

ERIC: No. I mean that’s really typical to hire one. I mean you wanna look around, look at what they can do and get to know ‘em. It’s always better to hire someone you know and trust than put like an RFP our or something like that.

CHUCK: Yeah the other thing that just came to mind was that the person who did the logo design for Ruby Rogues, if you’ll look at it it’s kind of a cool design with stylized Rs back to back with the ruby, negative space in the middle one stuff. The guy did a really good job! He’s a good designer but he totally flaked out and we haven’t able to contact him since then to do some other stuff for us with it. So we don’t have the original Photoshop files or anything like that and so that’s been kind of a pain that we’ve ran into. So if you find them, and they come highly recommended, that’s something just to be aware of. Like any other freelancer, I guess is that you may not be able to count on them for the long term.

ERIC: Yeah. And also depending on what it is, get the source. I mean it’s kind of like if we’re building Rails App and let’s say use Rubinius, which actually by compiled version, if you just gave your client a Rubinius by compiled version, they don’t have the source code, they can’t go and modify it. It’s kind of the same if you’re doing a lot of artwork, if you don’t have the raw Photoshop file, you’re stuck with editing a .peg or .jpeg and that’s really not the best way to do it. So that’s something that I also watch for. I remember that mine will go — I can’t remember — like a dozen different source formats like they exported that’s everything I wanted and so I can go and edit it – a sug or a .jpeg or whatever I feel like.

CHUCK: Yup. And that would be nice for us but that’s sadly not the case. Alright so, let’s talk about bookkeepers for a minute; and this is something that I’m struggling with right now. I had a virtual assistant firm that I was working through for my VA, and one of the services that they offered was bookkeeping. And so they had a VA that was a trained or capable bookkeeper or something. She did pretty well. My accountant was pretty happy with the way that my books came out last year as far as being able to figure out what I could deduct and what I couldn’t had a handle of that stuff. But in October, I fired them; and I’m not going to go into too many details until we talk about VAs but…

ERIC: Basically, call them to the board room and put the trumpet on.

CHUCK: Yeah. So anyway, I don’t have a bookkeeper; I don’t have a bookkeeper for about 2 months. And since we’re approaching the end of the year, it would be really nice to get all my books done so I could just take everything to my CPA and say “HI CPA! I would like to have my taxes done now so that I know what I have to pay on April 15th”, and I don’t. So I’m kind of in this weird place where I don’t really know how to choose a bookkeeper. I thought about just going with the bookkeeping folks that he has it who’s a CPA firm, but they’re a little more pricey than some of the folks I’ve been looking at online and so I’m trying to find the balance there and that’s why I had to hire somebody. So I know you do your own books. If you had to hire somebody to do your books, how would you go about doing that?

ERIC: I have an accountant, and basically I use her. And she’s mostly like a tax accountant for me where I give her like “here’s my profit and last statement, here’s my wife made from (what is it, W2) yeah W2s, and whatever 1089s we get personal”. And she basically crunches all the numbers and says “here’s what you going to owe in taxes, here’s different scenarios”. And so basically, I have to do all my own books and get her the profit and loss. If I was looking for a bookkeeper, I would have to — I would need to look for someone that knows the software I use. I use GnuCash which is basically accounting software for Linux. It’s free and open source and it’s really the only one I like using. I tried every other one and they all pretty much suck. But that’s kind of the first requirement because not a lot of people know that. If I kind of flex on that and say I’m using Quickbooks whatever, I would probably ask my accountant for recommendations. Because realistically, she’s the one who’s using that data and so if I hire someone that kind of does my books in a way that’s not — doesn’t conform to what my accountant is thinking or going to be doing in, that could be a problem like if say someone categorizes books that I buy as assets instead of as reference material, that’s going to change my tax situation. So most accountants will either have bookkeeping in-house like Urista’s, or mine is just a solo person like she’ll probably be able to recommend a dozen or half a dozen people to me of will go bookkeepers who can handle full service or basically like just entering the stuff into Quickbooks; and so I would start there. If you don’t have an accountant, it’s harder. I would probably say like “I think if we did a show on accountant, so you don’t go look for an accountant first” because the accountant is the one who’s going to give you the most value for your business; the bookkeeper is the one who’s basically going to save your time. And so find an accountant and find what, who, or what they would recommend to different bookkeeping.

CHUCK: Yeah and I’m thinking that I’m probably just going to wind up paying somebody who’s firm to do my books. That being said, it’ll be really nice because yeah, then at the end of the year it’s like “okay well, your guy or girl or whoever did the books and yeah, looks like it all came out” and we know how much we’re going to pay.

ERIC: Yeah. And that’s something like, it kind of doesn’t bother my mind, but I get kind of concerned that other people better like 6 months behind on their books. My books — I did my bookkeeping every weekend, both personal and business. And so at any given week, I can talk to my accountant and actually have up to the date numbers on my entire business. And especially right now I mean it’s we’re recording some of 20th of December, Like I’ve contacted her last month and we basically are doing some things that are going to like basically move deductions around so that I’m going to bill and take a couple of thousand dollars more on deductions this year to offset a larger money income that I made this year. And so if I had books every 6 months old, I wouldn’t be able to have this discussion of her. And so I’d end up paying more in taxes than I would’ve otherwise. And so that’s kind of like you wanna get your books done, I mean whether you do it or you hire someone to do it, really keep ‘em up to date because I mean that’s basically data on your business. And if you have good solid relevant data, you can actually make better decisions.

CHUCK: Yeah. That’s another thing that I really want is I want somebody who can do my books and at the same time give me a report at the end of the month. Or if they’re doing it in Quickbooks, then I can just import or whatever. I think I’m going to move off of Quickbooks online and just use regular Quickbooks, but I can’t bring it in and I can’t look at it and run my own report and say “Okay, you spend so much on books or training materials or reference materials or whatever you wanna call ‘em. You spend so much here, so much on this, so much on this, and so much on this.” And then I can’t look at it and say “Okay well, since I spent this money on all this stuff, how does that figure in with maybe the budget that I have for my business?” and I can’t get an accurate representation of that. Honestly, I would rather just have the bookkeeper just fire off a report via email at the end of the month. But in any case, I like the idea of having the numbers on your business. It’s kind of like anything else when you read any of the startup material, they tell you that you have to track the things that are important and if you don’t track them, then you can’t change them.

ERIC: Yeah. And I mean like if you think about it, if your revenue starts tipping, like say clients aren’t paying you and all that, if it’s taking a long [inaudible] your books, you might have an inkling of that, but you’re not going to actually know for a fact that “look, I have (whatever) $50,000 in accounts receivable that are over 90 days”. If you knew that as was approaching there, you can kind of adjust, maybe lean harder on these clients or maybe start marketing if you think you’re not going to get that money and pick up clients before it gets to be actually a cash flow problem. And I mean that’s, like I said, kind of [inaudible] like I’ve — I graduated college with a Business Finance degree and I loved my accounting classes; this is kind of how my brain works and so having different metrics and different numbers you can use, if these for me, it helps me really think about what my business is doing. And it’s almost always at least a month ahead or sometimes even like 6 months ahead, depending on what I’m thinking about.

CHUCK: Yup. So is there anything else that we should know about bookkeepers?

ERIC: It’s kind of the same as designers. If you can find one and get ‘em trained and they’re good, stick with ‘em. I mean even if it means paying more or if they have their rates and stuff. Because realistically if you look at the rate for the developer versus the rate of a bookkeeper, it’s well worth the money hiring it out and paying more to stick with someone who knows your system that you don’t have to re-train. I think I’m in kind of a unique case and that I enjoy doing my books and it makes me feel like I have control over my business that’s why I haven’t outsourced it. But if you don’t like books or if you’ve kind of like anti-accountings or whatever, then find someone to do it for you.

CHUCK: Yeah. Well, we need people out there who like doing the bookkeeping because otherwise, I would go insane! So let’s see, who-what else should we talk about? Virtual Assistants?

ERIC: Sure!

CHUCK: So what’s your experience with a Virtual Assistant?

ERIC: So I’ve hired two — yeah I’ve hired two in the past. First one I hired, she was great; it just came to the thing of I didn’t have enough work. I personally — I don’t have a problem with it, but it’s really hard for me to let go and to delegate things. And I think a lot of other freelancers are the same way. And so, it takes a lot of effort for me to actually give something to someone else to do and of her basically down to “she finished all the work that I needed her to do”. I didn’t have enough time to figure out what other stuff to delegate so we ended up just cancelling the contract and go on our separate ways. The current bookkeeper (oh not a bookkeeper), the current VA I’m using, I’ve kind of given her more to do at the very beginning and kind of given her more freedom like “I need X code, do you X? I don’t really care how you do it just let me know when it’s done and I can check it and we can adjust”. So I’m trying to work around my — not micro-manage, but a control of “do it exactly this way”. But for the most parts, like even though if the expensive VAs that I was looking at, it’s a well-worth your time to do that than to hire someone just because, same with the bookkeeper, dev rates are X dollars whereas VA rates are lower than X. So it’s a good use of your time even if they take a bit longer than it would take you to do.

CHUCK: Yup. So I’m going to tell a long sad VA story.

ERIC: Wah, wah, wahhh.

CHUCK: [laughs] Yeah. Where is that sound effect when you need it? Anyway so back in, I think it was like May of 2010, I was swamped — I was totally swamped, and so I decided I was going to hire a VA. And I kept hearing about this firm. Usually when I talk poorly about a business, I usually don’t wanna give the name. However, I have recommended them in the past and I’m worried that somebody else will go hire them and have a similar experience. The company is called “Contemporary VA” and so I hired them and they assigned this girl to me to help me get my stuff done. And so I was passing different tasks off to her. I trained her to edit my podcasts and my videos and how to get them uploaded to YouTube and how to get them posted on my website and things like that. And things would kind of even flow as far as how consisted she was with the timing of getting ‘em out. And so sometimes they’d come out on time, sometimes they’d come out later than I wanted them to. And so anyway, eventually it’s just wasn’t working out. And so Contemporary VA, they assign you a customer advocate. And so I had my customer advocate and I said “Look, I have tried every which way to make this work and it’s not going to so I need somebody new” and so they assigned me this other girl. And so I started handing out all my stuff off to her. Well, the first time she uploaded the video to YouTube, Comcast came and smacked her on the head and said “You can’t upload that much at once” and shut off her internet access. And so I had her for about 2 weeks, but she was amazingly consistent. Very, very good at everything and was excited to be helping me with the stuff that I was doing. So I went back — she went to the customer advocate and said “Hey look you know this type of work is something that I just can’t do because I can’t get an internet connection that they will allow me to do it on”. And so then they assigned me to this guy, and he was my VA for about a year. He was my VA from, I wanna say like June of 2011 all the way up through October, when I quit. At first he was pretty consistent; he would get things in pretty regularly. I didn’t have to remind him too many times to get things done, but by the end of — by the time things rolled around to like June of this year, it wasn’t working. And I would ask him to do things and they wouldn’t get done; I would ask him to — I was telling him that I needed the podcast to go out on a regular basis and those weren’t happening. And so what would happen is people would get like 3 at once or 4 at once which meant that they didn’t get any for a month and then they get 4, stuff like that. And finally I — then kept pushing back and I’m like “Dude, you gotta fix this because I can’t have this going on like this” and I went to the customer advocate, they said that they would talk to him. And finally in October I just emailed the customer advocate and said “Hey, I’m done”. Two out of the three were completely unreliable, and unfortunately the one that was reliable just couldn’t do the work. And so in the meantime, while I was getting ready to quit, the guys on Ruby Rogues kept pushing at me to try out the VA that Avdi Grimm uses. She’s a woman out in Pennsylvania and she’s terrific! And he kept telling me how awesome she was, and she was doing all of the work to get his podcast out and keep his stuff up to date. And so I said “hey, can I just give you some work to do and on a trial basis, we’ll see if we can make this work”. And she was like “sure!” so I started handing off the podcast and they were going out like immediately. And so it just worked out that she’s been amazingly consistent. I mean every once in a while there’s some dumb little thing that she forgets or that, this or that. But it’s usually like some dumb little stuff in the process and it’s something that’s easy for me to go in and just fix. And that happens maybe once every 2 months. I mean I’ve done this like twice since I’ve hired her. For example, she left the media file off of one of the Ruby Rogues episodes that was supposed to go out recently. And so I just went put it in and updated the RSS Feed, it wasn’t a big deal. But she’s been amazingly consistent and really really done well. And with the other company, to add insult to injury, when I requested to quit they pulled out the contract that I had with them and waved it in my face and said “You have to give us 30 days notice” and so I said “Fine!” Rather than 30 days notice, because this was the middle of October and their billing cycle is to bill at the beginning of the month, so I said “Rather than go for 30 days notice, why don’t we go ’till the end of November and at the beginning of November, just charge me for the 20-hour per month package instead of the 40-hour per month package that I’ve been paying for?” And they said “Okay” and so I waited until the beginning of November and then they charged me full price for the 40-hour package. And so I emailed them and I said “Hey, you owe me half of the money back” and I didn’t hear from them for about 2 weeks. So by the middle of November, I disputed the charge with American Express and then they came back and said “Hey, you disputed the charge! What we really needed from you is a new statement of work”. And so I signed a new statement of work, because they said that they would give me a refund if I did, and then they turned around and said “Well we can’t give you a refund while this is in dispute with American Express”. And I wasn’t about to drop these dispute with American Express because I didn’t trust them to give me my money back. So anyway, they pushed on whatever and I kept saying “Look, if you give me the money back I will close the dispute. In fact if you refund the money to American Express, I’m pretty sure they’ll close the dispute”. So anyway, time went on. Eventually American Express — because they reported that what I said was I quit the service, they overcharged me blah blah blah told ‘em the whole story and all American Express saw was “the guy says he quit and the company says he didn’t quit the service”. And so they upheld the charge and this was like 3 weeks ago and I’ve been emailing them since then to try and get a refund because they said that once the dispute was over, I’d get a refund. And they are not returning my emails. So between the customer service nightmare and the fact that I couldn’t get the services done that I needed to, I’m going to unrecommend and heartily warn you away from Contemporary VA, and instead, what I would do is I would go talk to somebody who is deliriously happy with their VA and see if you can hire them. I don’t know that might VA is open for — is taking new clients, but at the same time, if Eric is super happy with his VA and he or she has extra time to do more client work, then that’s something that you may wanna consider. Or just ask around. Because there are a lot of people out in the community now that have VAs because we’ve talked about ‘em, another people have talked about ‘em, and I bet you could find somebody that has a VA that has time that can take care of you. So anyway, that’s my sad story.

ERIC: Yeah that sounds like a bunch of fun there.

CHUCK: Yeah let me tell yah. But anyway, one thing that I wish I had done was at the beginning when I first hired that first VA, I really, really wish that I had gone and switch it off sooner. And then when this guy started to flake out, I wished that I’d again given ‘em a reasonable amount of time which is what I did, again, more unreasonable amount of time but just said “look, you have a few weeks to fix this and then I am out of here” and just made it very clear that those were the stakes and not waited the 6 months to a year through all the issues that we had to finally quit.

ERIC: Yeah and I’ve looked at hiring VAs like, I think couple of years back I did a big search, I actually did an RFP-ing guy, I think 2 dozen, maybe 3 dozen different people applying. And some of it, it’s like a one-person VA and some of it, it’s like of group of ‘em. And basically, from that and from everything I read and researched on it, the benefit of having a group like you did is if someone doesn’t work out, whether it’s personality conflict, technological conflict, or they don’t have the skills, when it’s a group like that, you wanna go back to the project manager or the client advocate or whatever and find someone else for you. Because that’s the whole point of having a group with them, is that you can shift between the different people to find the one you like. I’ve heard stories of people who’ve had to change the person they work with 3 or 4 times and then they found one person and everything became like perfect to that point. And so because VAs are very — it’s like a personal service like you have to find someone that’s compatible with both the work you need and also with you and how do you do your business.

CHUCK: Yeah one other thing I wanna add to that is that groups are nice, too, because if my VA was sick or gone on vacation or something, they would assign me somebody else temporarily. So the work would still get done and with Contemporary VA, well the other thing I liked was that they build the manual for your stuff. And so they would just hand the manual off. It might take ‘em a little bit longer because they’re not as familiar, but they can follow up step by step through the manual to get the work done.

ERIC: Yeah I mean it’s a lot like with software, I mean where you get redundancy with that. I mean if you build a single server and have your app on a single server, if the app crashes or the server crashes you lose everything like it’s a complete down. But if it’s like a cluster of ‘em, one server can go down or the app can go down on one server and you can have a balance around to the other one. It’s not as fast and you might have some problems but it’s not a total failure. And it’s kind of like that with the group stuff. The only difference is if you do like a single one like maybe it’s just a single person, I’ve kind of gone through and built up the documentation and built up the process manuals and all that to kind of give me a little bit of that redundancy and stuff. So if like she’s really busy or if I wanna bring on a second person, I can kind of use this manuals that we’ve been building over time and bring someone on. But it would be a lot harder then if I had a good group of 6 or 7 VAs that I can just kind of send work to.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. The big thing for me though was that the firm was unreliable and my current VA, who’s also just a single contractor, it has been extremely reliable. And that’s the first and foremost thing; it’s that the work is getting done and it’s getting done the way I want.

ERIC: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think it’s like of a groupie kind of have more the really, really great parts and the really, really crappy parts, you’re kind of smooth over. But with a single person I get to find someone that’s amazingly great! Like I know your VA and if for podcast stuff, she’s amazing! And the hard thing is it’s just hard to find them. I mean because not only are hard to find them like marketing websites are trying to contact them, but they didn’t get booked up quick because they might have maybe 40 hours in a week and that’s depending on who their clients are, that could be 1, 2, maybe even just 3 clients.

CHUCK: Yup. One other thing that I wanna point out, because I have a lot of people ask me what they should be paying for a VA? I have talked to VAs that charged anywhere from $15/hr-$40/hr, so just be aware of that — that’s the reasonable range. If you’re getting somebody that’s highly-specialized, you might wind up paying more than that. But anyway, that gives you an idea of kind of a price range that you’re looking at to hire somebody.

ERIC: Yeah and you can get cheaper, and sometimes a lot cheaper if you go outside the US or outside North America or Europe. The problem is you’re paying less per hour but you might be paying more hours like the same task, it might take an extra 2-3 hours to communicate what you want to them and it might take ‘em longer to do it. And once there’s a general stuff there’s always exception I’ve heard of people. They can find people like the Philippines that are great grasp of English perfect project management stuff and are able to work just as good as some English speakers. But in general, if you get out of the kind of first-world countries, you can get stuff a lot cheaper, but you might be paying for that by just having a higher volume. And so, especially if you’re just a freelance developer, it’s almost a good thing to kind of just hire someone semi-local. If you pay a bit more just because, once again, how much are you charging per hour versus how much hours the VA charging per hour. There’s quite a bit of a difference there.

CHUCK: Yeah I wanna kind of jump in on that a little bit because I actually have a transcriptionist in the Philippines. And I’m paying her $2 or $3/hr, I don’t remember. But she does all the transcriptions for all of my shows and so her English is pretty good. It takes her for every hour of audio that we put out, it takes her 3-5 hours to do the transcription on her end, but that’s way cheaper than any other services I found here in the States. And then I just have Mandy, my VA go over it and make sure that the quality and formatting is right before it goes into the show notes. So that’s worked out really well. And there’s a little bit more flexibility there because it’s not something that’s absolutely critical, it’s just something that’s nice to have.

ERIC: Yeah. I mean that’s the other thing I was going to say, it’s the quality bar. If someone’s editing the podcast, that represents like your business. You want the quality to be as high as you can because that’s pretty large kind of thing, you’re doing a big large event versus I’ve had my VA just research like a hundred different blogs on a certain niche. And that’s something that the quality is not — you don’t have to be that high. If she misses one or gets one that’s like slightly incorrect, it’s not the end of the world. And so, depending on what kind of task you have and what you want people to do, you can kind of pay different amounts for the quality. I’ve heard of people who have like a US-based VA for like Tier 1 support stuff and then might have someone in the Philippines to do kind of like back end process, any stuff like that. So I mean you can hire more than one person, that’ something you can make up, too, depending on what you’re doing.

CHUCK: Yup, absolutely. But yeah, the thing I really wanna stress is that if they are not getting the work done, it is really, really hard and really stressful. And so if you’re not happy with the work they’re doing, then let ‘em go. Just like if somebody’s not happy with the work that I’m doing, I expect them to let me go. So other service providers, did we mention any others? Do we wanna kind of get into the big ones like the Accountant or the Attorney?

ERIC: Well we had a whole show on Accountants. I think that kind of covers it pretty good especially of the little bit of bookkeeper stuff we talked about. Attorneys, I’d like to have the Attorney you’ve talked about come on because that’s a very — it’s a very high in-service and hopefully if you’re lucky you don’t need an Attorney that much in your business. Maybe just a draw of your contacts and ask questions, too, but you’re not going to get seed and anything like that.

CHUCK: Yeah that’s pretty much all I use, my attorney for — and I guess we can kind of thumb nail that real quick. I mean, my CPA I got through a recommendation from David Brady, the Attorney, there’s a local they call it “lunchup” which is kind of a Meetup for barn-racing businesses kind of thing. And so they have business people come in and talk and they have a workshop beforehand. And so they have a legal workshop and a technology workshop and stuff. So I went in and talked to some of the attorneys about some of the things that I had questions about. That’s how I met this guy and I got his business card and then I hired him to drop my contract and things like that. Yeah, I think the best approach that would be to bring him on and talk about that. So I probably see if we can get him on a couple of times next year and talk over some of the legal stuff with having a business.

ERIC: Yeah. And I think a little…I mean that’s the kind of the people I’ve used. If you actually go and start hiring other developers like subcontractors or you want a girl and you hire like someone in-charge of the business development or stuff like that. Like those one, I don’t have very much experience or of any knowledge of it, too. That’s kind of a little separate thing, bringing up people to help your services – more supplementary versus like complimentary.

CHUCK: Yeah I agree. I mean most of the concepts that we talked about with hiring a bookkeeper or whatever, they apply to hiring subcontractors or business dev people or whatever. I’ve also got a sales guy that contacted me and he’s got a bunch of contacts that he’s working. And then from there he’s subcontracting me, kind of. We’ve got a kind of a nebulous arrangement at this point, but we’re solidifying some of the details on a contract by contract basis. But bringing somebody like that, and again, you just vet ‘em like anybody else and do the best you can to make sure that they can do the job. The subcontractors, you have the expertise to do that. With the others, sometimes you don’t. Is there anything else that you wanna add? Any other areas that we need go over?

ERIC: No, I mean I think that’s it. I mean, think of parts whenever you hire anyone and try to get a sample of what they do, and if you can start working with them like kind of a short-term basis like a trial basis. And then I guess you wanna be able to fire them as quickly as you can hire them. So if they’re not doing the services you want or like you’re saying if they’re inconsistent, you wanna have the flexibility to fire them and pick up someone else.

CHUCK: Yep, exactly. Alright well, let’s get into the picks then. Do you wanna go first?

ERIC: Sure, so two blog posts this time. One is by Ernie Miller; it’s called “Why I Love Being a Programmer in Louisville (or, Why I Won’t Relocate to Work for Your Startup). It’s a pretty good blog post that kind of talks about like why he likes where he is and why he’s happy there and doesn’t wanna move to like San Francisco or New York or stuff like that, pretty interesting. After I read it, reminded me of another blog post by Derek Sivers, which came out just like beginning of this month called “You Don’t Have to Be Local”. And this was kind of interesting because Derek talked about you can neither focus your time on working locally or globally, but you really can’t do both. And kind of the idea is like for example for me, I do — I work globally. I help people across the globe like I have clients in different countries and all that. And a lot of the stuff I do, I try to do on the internet, so it’s anyone across the world can get other use or that get value from it. But because I focus on global stuff, I don’t do much locally. Like in my local community, I haven’t gone to a local Ruby meet up probably a year or two. And that’s just because I’ve been focusing more on putting stuff online versus going in person. So Derek’s post kind of talks about that and outlines the differences. Basically it’s kind of a “don’t beat yourself up if you’re doing one and not the other” because it’s really hard to do both at same time. And I think he might even say some possible to do or to do it effectively. But it’s just kind of interesting because it matched up with the other blog post that like “even if you live kind of in backwards nowhere, you can still do work that affects stuff globally”. But if you wanna affect stuff locally like the local Ruby scene, you might have to move to San Francisco or someplace where there is a large local Ruby scene or start one up wherever you live. So it was just interesting as kind of some good reading I had this past week.

CHUCK: Sounds good! I might have to check that out. Alright well, I have two picks. The first one is (what is it called), it’s “closure-compiler”. And it’s actually a web interface to the closure compiler by Google. The cool thing is, I ran into this issue today where I had some code and Chrome was complaining about it. It was saying that “there was an unexpected token” or something like that, which is really helpful. And it was telling me that it was on one file that I couldn’t see any SyntaxErrors in because that’s usually what unexpected token means. And so I started taking the likely couprets for the Javascript files and copying their code and pasting it into this closure filer and then running the compiler. I put the first one in and it passed, it compiled. I put the second one in and it passed, it compiled. I put the third one in and it gave me the error and told me “which wine” I was missing the common. And so just to put that out there, it was really handy tool for actually finding the errors because Chrome wasn’t telling me the right things to help me track it down. So I had to recommend that, I’ll link to that in the show notes. Another one that came up during the episode of JavaScript Jabber that I did that I really, really like, it’s called “Headline Hacks”, and we were talking about writing conference talks and giving conference talks and going to conferences and making the most of the experience there. And Headline Hacks is about writing a good title for your blog post so that you can draw people in by your headlines and it’s also a really good way to write titles for your talks. So that helps get people’s attention when they’re looking at the program and it helps give the organizers something interesting to look at. So that’s and you can go check that out as well. Those are all the picks I have.

One other thing I wanna remind you of is that I will be teaching the Rails Ramp Up Course in March and you can get all the details about that at if you want to learn Ruby on Rails. It’s an 8-week webinar series with Q&A and forms and all that stuff to make sure that you’re getting it and make sure that you can get the help that you need to learn Rails. With that, we’ll wrap up the show. Is there anything else that you want to talk about or announce before we go?

ERIC: No, I’m good. I mean it’s basically the 20th so probably see everyone in the New Year!

CHUCK: Yup! If you’re celebrating a Holiday this time of the year, then Happy Holidays! And we will catch you in a week or two.

ERIC: Oh and if the world ends, then nice talking everyone.

CHUCK: Yup! Yeah we’ll see you all in heaven or hell tomor –


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