Josh Pitzalis

Understanding Retention

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Creating Your Menu

If you’ve ever hired anyone, then you probably know that there’s a whole range of questions spinning around in their head: Can I trust this person? How much will this cost me? What does the process look like? What do I even need? What if the scope spirals out of control and I waste my precious budget with the wrong person?

Creating a menu of your freelancing services is a painless way of offering a fixed-price service with a pre-defined process. You let people know exactly what they’re getting and how much it will cost from the get-go.

Besides making you easy to hire, giving people clear options up front eliminates the need for proposals. When you package up your service, you’re defining what the deliverables are, what you’ll do, what the price will be, and what the scope of work will cover. There is no need for back and forth, you have already boiled everything down to a simple...

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Reaching out to people and finding work as a freelancer

I started my freelancing career as a personal trainer. The easiest way to get started as a personal trainer is to work for an agency. They take a cut of your profits, but they set you up in a gym and show you the ropes. Showing me the ropes meant a two-day workshop on how to find and work with clients. I did the workshop over a decade ago, and the one thing that stuck with me was something called the 6 by 6 promise. They promised that if I did one of six specific things for six hours a day, I would be fully booked with paid clients in 2 months. I used this approach to successfully find clients when I first started working in a gym, I used it again when I set up my own clinic years later, I used it again when I switched careers and became a freelance software engineer.

They gave us a pdf at the end of the workshop, and I’ve held onto it so I can actually show you the original diagrams to...

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On Specialising as a Freelancer

The instinctive thing to do when you start looking for work is to go out and try to find as many new clients as you can. This seems like the obvious things to do, because - what else could you do?

Finding clients by word of mouth is largely down to figuring out who you are in the best position to serve. The idea is to figure out who the right kind of clients for you is, and then aim to do as much work as possible with them over time.

Look, finding new clients is a lot of work and can be expensive depending on how you do it. More it takes up a lot of time that you are not being paid for.

Working with new clients also means building a relationship from scratch, establishing expectations, and understanding how you both like to work. You end up spending a lot of time fine-tuning these nuances.

When you work with repeat clients, of clients referred to you by your repeat clients, you...

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An Unusual Guide To Professional Networking

Unfortunately, the most qualified person in the room doesn’t always get the job. Qualifying for any job means the position has to exist. This implies that a company had to advertise for that position. Applicants apply. Job interviews begin and somebody gets picked. People do get jobs this way, but it’s not the way most jobs get filled because most jobs never get advertised.

The informal job market is made up of all jobs that are not filled through formal advertisements. Usually, a position needs filling, and an employee knows somebody who’s qualified. Other times, a team wants someone specific to join them, and they create a position for that person out of thin air.

CNN, CBS, and NPR estimate over 80% of the jobs in America get filled informally. There is debate over exact numbers but the reality is likely more skewed in countries where application procedures are less formalized.


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Determining Our Usage Interval

I want to know how often I can expect people to use my app. I want this understanding to be derived from actual data, as opposed to my best guess of what I think is ‘normal’.

Once I’ve established a baseline for how often the majority of people have meaningful interactions with the app, then I have a clear benchmark to help people get to with my onboarding efforts.

I intend to plot my usage interval in Amplitude since it’s a tool designed specifically for this.

This means:

  1. Signing up to segment and Amplitude. Adding a tracking snipper to your app so that you can capture events. A connecting segment to Amplitude. They have a nifty little debugging tab so that you can make sure events are getting to Amplitude.
  2. Tracking incoming users. This means figuring where in your authentication flow you can send an event with basic user data to establish who you are tracking.
  3. Tracking your...

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Everything I Know About Gamification

Gamification is about using game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.

Game thinking is a great way to approach a problem because it starts with asking why people buy, use or do your thing in the first place? The process always begins by understanding THEIR motivation.

Game thinking also prevents you from calling people ‘users’. Apart from the fact that it makes me think of junkies, it also misrepresents who is in control. Having ‘users’ fools you into thinking people need your app. The truth is that they can always stop using your thing when it becomes shit. Calling them ‘players’ subtly highlights this fact and makes it clear that the onus is on you to figure out how to make your thing more compelling, interesting and fun.

Gamification is about motivating people.

If you need more qualified people, or if your prices are too high, then gamification won’t help...

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Measuring Retention

If you care about growth then you should care about retention.

Retention is the number of people who continue to use your product.

Without retention, all you have is a leaky bucket.

You can pour as much time and money into marketing as you like, but no retention means zero long-term users. The long-term growth of a product and the overall health of a business depends on how well you retain your users.

If you don’t show people the real value of your product early and often, it will die.

Even the best products lose the majority of their users in a few days. Amplitude wrote an amazing book called Mastering Retention and in it, they estimate 80% of new users stop using the average app three days after downloading it.

If you make retention your primary growth metric, you can change the trajectory of your company from one that loses users over time, to one that sustains true growth.


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Samuel Hulick wrote a fantastic book called The Elements of User Onboarding. This post is an outline of how I intend to apply the principles of the book to my current project.

The main lesson learned is that onboarding is not about teaching someone how to use your app; it’s about helping someone become a better person.

Hulick’s point is that to your user; your app is just a means to the better version of themselves that they signed up for. Nobody cares about your project. What they want is the improvement it affords them.

Understanding how people want to improve and what they think they are signing up for is key here. No amount of flashy marketing or fancy design will win over a clear understanding of your audience and how they would like to improve.

Applying this to my current project, I am helping average freelancers make the jump to becoming PRO.

Your average freelancer lives...

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A criminally-undervalued aspect of product design is the act of simply acknowledging that someone has achieved something important or complex (or both).

Samuel Hulick, The Elements of User Onboarding

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Client Tree Helps Freelancers Book Clients Three Months In Advance

Client Tree, a project started by two friends in Goa (India), announced today their new tool to help freelancers battle the uncertainty of finding great clients and booking high-quality work is out of beta and ready for the public.

The new tool was built as a direct response to the growing number of people who now have a second or even third job in the gig economy. The term “gig economy” was popularized around the height of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and refers to the dramatic change in the way people view and perform work. Being hyper-connected via social networks has increased communication and has opened new ways to make money online, picking up a “gig” (or a temporary work engagement) can be as easy as making plans for dinner.

The problem is that the vast majority of the new ‘gig-economy’ workforce has little to no experience running their own business, finding work or...

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