It's a framework to build a scalable freelancing business model.
As a freelancer, we trade our time for money. As such, we inevitably hit a ceiling on our earnings due to a limitation on the number of hours we can work. To increase our earnings, we only have two options. Option one, increase our hourly rate or option two, work longer hours. But what if there was a third option?
When the work you do is labor-intensive and you've maxed out automation, a third option is to add human capital. But adding more people often becomes a bigger burden for the freelancer as they soon discover delegating a task still requires significant time and energy.
As a full-service self-publishing work-for-hire firm, nearly every book we build is a custom job. Some clients require more 'hand-holding' than others. Due to the dynamics of different authors, genres, and niches, we've never found the 'one size fits all' model to work.
Our business ebbs and flows. As a result, I manage an on-demand workforce that is dispersed around the world. I have a cover designer in El Salvador and an illustrator in Ecuador. I work with book formatters from California to India. Our clients are all over the world.
I've learned that when I measure what matters, what I measure improves. No matter how many times I've done something, it's too easy to leave out a vital step without a process. Book publishing is more complex than it appears and producing repeatable quality work requires mature processes, checklists, accurate data, and regular communication with the author.
Once a client greenlights a project, email is no longer an effective way to manage the massive amount of information that will begin to flow back and forth. In the past, I'd spend a disproportionate amount of time searching for one piece of information that was hiding in an email thread related to something else.
To make matters worse, if a client can't find what they need, they'd have no choice but to email or call me. It created an unnecessary layer of time and energy impeding progress.
Over the years, I tried different project management tools. Basecamp, Desk, dapulse (now Monday), and Trello are just a few of the tools I tested over the years. Problems soon arose. Either the site would change the interface, it's business model, or disappear altogether. Often the site was trying to meet the needs of too many different businesses and as a result, failed to address vital aspects of our business.
This presented me with a variable cost that was difficult to plan for. It was always time-consuming to learn a new tool and migrating data from one to another was never easy. Each time I added a new user I’d usually have to pay for another seat. Passing the cost on to my clients was rarely an option. Worse, I'd lose access to important features only available if I paid for the next higher 'level' of service.
The challenge was to build a tool with enough structure to sustain productivity, yet allow enough flexibility to achieve a wide range of different outcomes.
In 2015, we spent six months building, testing and customizing what would ultimately become the platform to meet all our needs and scale the business. Today, AuthorDock 2.0 is a robust project management tool with over 150 users. It's been used to launch more than 50 bestsellers and allows me to effectively manage multiple projects using a globally dispersed team of agents, freelancers, and clients.
Implementing AuthorDock has allowed me to scale my business while maintaining a fixed cost to manage it. There is no limit to the number of projects or users I can add. Since I've been able to consolidate all my tech docs and tutorials into AuthorDock, it continues to increase in value the more I use it. It allows me to see with greater clarity the steps (and missteps) of a project. When a similar project comes along, we can copy the entire project and get off to a running start.
Looking at the same dashboard, 'stand up' calls with my clients, partners, and agents are handled with ease. We can dive deep and see the nitty-gritty details of a task or zoom out to see how it plays into the larger strategy. Driven by deadlines, it brings to light outstanding tasks, upcoming milestones, and allows the publisher to seize new opportunities.
Although the tool features much of what you'd expect in any project management tool, a few key aspects of the tool been major change-maker in my own business. Combined, they save me over 30 hours of labor/year which works out to over $3,000/year in hard dollar savings.
With AuthorDock, I find that I'm able to quickly get back up to speed on a project and pick up where I left off, even after an extended absence on the project. Since it contains a time tracker, my agents (whom I pay by the hour) can log their time and assign it to the client & project they are working on (i.e. billable hours). This results in fewer non-billable hours.
The time tracker module made it possible for me to shift to a new business model at the end of 2018. Our new 'VIP' model produces recurring income every month, a struggle for most freelancers.
Similar to a concierge program some doctors now offer, VIP clients pay a monthly fee to receive time pre-allocated each month. I can monitor time logged by everyone on the team. Reviewing the 'hours utilized' report, I can decide with greater confidence when to bring on additional resources or scale back.
I'm able to see whether we are over or under on the time a client has paid us for on a retainer. When our monthly time is underutilized, we can allocate more time next month. If we go over on hours, I can explain why they will get less time next month or send them an invoice to approve 'overage' hours. It's very black and white because the time is logged along with a description of the work performed. Costly clients are exposed, while good clients are rewarded.
When it's time to payout my agents, in one click I can see the time they've logged across all projects. When it's time for a status meeting with a client, I pull the cumulative time log for their project and see the tasks each agent has worked on. It's a big reason why my VIP clients stay enrolled in the program - they can see exactly where the time they are paying us for is being utilized.
Key to any system that is highly depended on is a disaster recovery plan. In the event our system is compromised or corrupted, a daily script runs on the server that backs up all the data (which is stored in a single SQL file). The backups file is routinely copied off the server for redundancy.
While there has been plenty of innovation at my company over the years, Authordock remains as the one invention that stands out. It's the engine that allows us to deliver results and maintain the highest standards for our clients. Given the minimal investment, the payoff has been nothing short of remarkable.
This calendar will guide you towards activities each week you can focus on to publish, promote, and profit from your book. Book promotion is an ongoing effort and creating a schedule is vital!
AuthorDock is a writer's dashboard
Strategies, collaboration, leveraging the best practices. It's the power of the POD!
AuthorDock is the tool we use to manage all of our client work across our entire team.
If you are an existing client or partner, we'll provide you a link to create an account and give you secure access to your page(s).
If you'd like to learn more about the tool yourself visit AuthorDock.com
That assignee will be notified. The assignee can also see the newly assigned task on their 'My Page'
Alternatively, you can setup a search URL to see what is 'new' but not yet 'in process.' This is a good way to look at your queue.
The first step in the workflow is to review the scope and allocate the required time in your schedule.
In the first 10 minutes of your day, define what you will work by slotting it onto your schedule!
AuthorDock is an all-in-one secure space to manage your publishing business.
The purpose of AuthorDock is to turn ideas into projects and projects into actionable steps.
The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline. AuthorDock provides a structure to assign deadlines (and resources) to produce the outcomes necessary to achieve your goals. Ideas are turned into action when you take the first step in your action plan.
Each author receives a secure 'project' page that includes the following components (depending our your level of engagement):
All the vital information that you need to refer to on a regular basis. Marketplace links, descriptions, keywords, categories, pricing, etc..
You can login anytime to add items to your plan and monitor progress. At your discretion, your team can have access to your project page as well, allowing them to quickly convey important updates.
‡ Recommended resources, tools, and success stories. The most successful publishers are always testing out new strategies. In the news section, we'll share 'best practices' and new ideas to try. The world of digital publishing is an ever evolving universe. The advantage goes to the nimble authors who can act quickly. This is one of the things that makes AuthorDock especially valuable; over the past 5 years, we gathered a rich database of extremely valuable information that you will find helpful in moving ahead of the competition.
I acquired this knowledge through my experience in using a help desk ticketing system.
You have things that need to be done. You can't trust your memory. You can't trust others to remind you. If you don't have a good system, opportunities are lost forever. This kills many businesses - as the owners are unable to capitalize
The system that works for me:
Each project you start has a series of events. Each event can be viewed as one long email thread. As you complete the objectives of each event, you complete it it out and move on to the next.
Unfinished events must be dealt with through personal action or delegation. As long as the person you are delegating to has access to the system, and has all the information, knowledge, and experience they need to accomplish the task, you should leave it up to them (avoid telling them HOW to do it, just tell them what needs to get done).
Here's the SIA system as it works:
Also, clarifying the goal, and working intelligently. This is where you think before you act.
This is where you make space to accomplish the task. It should be scheduled into an increment that is available in time & space. There is a transactional view of task completion that demands the effort is budgeted for in both time & money.
Here’s where you hand it off. By this point, you’ve already defined requirements and can drop the job into a work order. From here, it's time to hand it off and track it to completion. All you need to do is monitor the number of open cases for an agent!
Gamify it! Create a dashboard that allows you to showcase the number of completed events by agent. Offer a weekly reward to the agent who completes the most!
Next to the task, there's a box with 4 squares. Identify where the task is in the SIA process to determine what need to be done with that task! Assignment follows invoice. Checkmark means complete!
I created an excel sheet: F:\Dropbox\1-Strategic-BizDev\8UP\SIA Accomplishments.xlsx
The constraints of using a ticketing system like desk are helpful. You need to follow a rigid accomplishment system, otherwise, you will spend precious energy trying to manage it.
A few of the reasons AuthorDock is helpful
A collaborative work order system - something that insures the client is providing us everything we need.