2020 In Review And A Look Forward To 2021

Best wishes to all of you for 2021!

Let’s hope for a brighter, happier, safer lap around the sun this time.

Winter snow
We had a December snowstorm! Lots of fun with the young ‘uns 🙂

This is annual review number 6!

As always, I’m super grateful when I sit down to write this because it means I’m still working for myself and building this business.

2020 was a difficult year for the world.

I’m fortunate to have my health and so do those close to me. I can’t imagine how difficult 2020 has been for those who have lost someone. My heart goes out to you.

My wife and I have taken the virus seriously. Given my history of pneumonia in the last two years (see challenges of 2018 and 2019) I can’t afford to take this virus lightly.

We’re extremely fortunate that we already work from home, so that didn’t present a significant challenge when the whole world went remote. However, going from full time childcare to no childcare was certainly a challenge.

I’m looking forward to 2021 and the promise of a vaccine. I haven’t seen my UK family since January 2020 and I miss them (and the UK) terribly.

I’m cautiously optimistic that 2021 will be better, and make up for the annus horribilis that was 2020.

With that, let me present my review of the year:

Did I Meet My 2020 Goals?

Overall, given the circumstances – I probably had 50% fewer working hours this year because I spent that time with my kids – I’m really happy with what I achieved and feel positive about how the year went from a work perspective.

  • Publish more high-quality tutorials than in 2019 (target > 17) – Yes! I wrote 26 new tutorials this year. 💪
  • Hit 50k newsletter subscribers and send out a tip every Monday – Yes and no. I sent a newsletter every Monday and hit 40k subs, which I’m super happy with. This is after removing 8k inactive subs, so I actually got pretty close to my original goal.
  • Update my existing Google Sheets courses – Yes! I re-recorded all of the Google Sheet course videos. I’m updating the Automation with Apps Script course at the moment, which will complete the update process.
  • Create one new Google Sheets course – Yes! I launched the Google Sheets Essentials course this year.
  • Run 10 in-person workshops – No. Obviously not 😉
  • Re-brand my digital assets – Yes! I was thrilled with how it turned out. Details below.
  • Find a VA to help with the business – Yes! And she’s been an enormous help. Thanks, Jo!
  • Live-blog Google Next 2020 again – No 🙁 Obviously, this didn’t happen since the conference was cancelled.
  • Work through this book: Data Science on the Google Cloud PlatformSort of. I started the book and worked through another BigQuery book, but it’s still early in that journey.
  • My overall number 1 goal for 2020 is to be healthy – Yes! Apart from my whole family having the flu in February and a grotty headcold in August, I’ve been healthy this year.
  • Fitness goals: be active 5 times/week (a mix of spin classes, runs and at least 1 run/hike up the mountain) – Sort of… my R knee is still not healed from the running injuries last year, so I’ve been confined to hiking and occasional yoga classes.
  • Keep up the weekly brainstorming hike with my wife – The pandemic put a dampener on this. We’ve managed a few hikes together but since childcare is limited in the current circumstances, we haven’t had the opportunity to do this weekly as we’d hoped.
  • Read 30 books – No. I read ~20 books, but the last one I read was 650 pages of small print, all about life in Stalin’s Russia of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. That counts for at least 3 or 4 normal books by my reckoning 😉

2020 Highlights

2020 felt like a long year. Events from the start of this year feel like they happened years ago. I feel like I aged 10 years!

But despite the terrible toll the pandemic exacted on us all, there were plenty of highlights throughout the year.

In no particular order:

1) New Brand

I hired the super talented team at Left Hand Design to do a rebrand for my business and courses.

I wanted something simple, bold and geometric, and I think Left Hand Design did an outstanding job.

Over the course of a couple of months, they created new family of logos, new color scheme, fonts and styles for my entire online presence. They created new images for my courses and a new slide deck template for the lessons.

I also need to credit my wife, Alexis Grant, for the green dot over the “i”, a wonderful addition!

This new brand represents a huge leap forward for my business.

benlcollins logos

benlcollins logo

benlcollins social logos

benlcollins typography

benlcollins colors

Google Sheets Essentials

2) SheetsCon

SheetsCon

In March this year I ran my most ambitious project to date: SheetsCon, a 2-day online conference for all things Google Sheets.

When I planned the conference in late 2019, way before any of us had heard of Coronavirus, I envisioned an online conference so that people from all over the world could participate, free of charge.

SheetsCon ran on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th March. My sons had their last day at preschool on the 13th March, because it shut down the following week. We all went into lockdown that weekend.

The timing of an online conference in March might have looked prescient from the outside, but I can promise you it wasn’t planned that way because of Covid.

SheetsCon stats

The event was a massive success; we had almost 7,000 registered attendees, 3,800 of whom attended live, and 89.5% of whom said they’ll return in 2021.

Watch the 2020 SheetsCon replays for free here.

Read about what happened behind-the-scenes to make SheetsCon happen.

It was a huge amount of work. I’m glad I didn’t realize that when I embarked because I might not have done it!

It’ll be easier in some ways in 2021 as I have a blueprint to follow. However, I’m looking to make it bigger and better.

See you there, on 24th and 25th March 2021!

SheetsCon Swag Bags

3) Online Courses

I only added one new course this year: Google Sheets Essentials.

Google Sheets Essentials Course

But I also updated every course in my catalog*, to reflect the changes in the Google Sheets and Apps Script environments.

This was a huge project to re-record over 300 videos and create new templates. It occupied me for most of the year!

* at the time of writing, I’m in the process of updating the Automation with Apps Script course, which is the final one to update.

4) Website

benlcollins site traffic

  • I published 26 new posts this year, which was really pleasing. I had a burst of creative energy in November and December.
  • The traffic to benlcollins.com continues to grow and now reaches around 200k+ users each month for about 350k+ pageviews. Wow!
  • Across 2020, the site saw over 2 million users and nearly 4 million page views 🤯
  • Traffic has increased steadily across the year, although it’s mostly plateaued in the second half of the year
  • I want to keep growing this traffic in 2021!

My favorite posts of the year are the ones that nourish me intellectually.

This year, my favorite ones to research and write were:

5) Google Sheets Tips Newsletter

2020 email growth

My email list has grown from around 30,000 at the beginning of the year to over 38,000 by year end, after removing over 8,000 inactive subscribers part way through the year (the steep drop).

Email continues to be my main marketing channel, and the list grew steadily throughout the year. I get about 40 – 50 daily signups for the Google Sheets Tips newsletter, which goes out at 11am every Monday.

I sent 51 Google Sheets Tips newsletters this year, only skipping the Christmas week.

2020 saw formula challenges #3 and #4, with formula challenge #5 straddling the Christmas holiday break.

As a surprise, my dad printed me a physical copy of tips 1 to 100! Thank you!

6) Community

I’m grateful to all of you who read this website, open my Google Sheets tips newsletters or learn from one of my online courses. It’s a great privilege to share my teachings with the world. I love my work and hope to serve you for years to come. Thank you! 🙏

I’m also extremely grateful to the Google Developer Expert Workspace group and the Googlers I’ve gotten to know over the past few years. It’s been a real pleasure to learn from you all and I’m humbled to be included in such a wonderful and knowledgeable group. Cheers to future collaborations! 🙌

7) Dream Office

I set up my dream office in 2020.

New Office

Office door decal

Lego Saturn V rocket

8) Non-Work Highlights

Being a dad!

Spending lots of time with my two young sons this year and watching them blossom, despite the difficult circumstances. Yes, it’s been frustrating and challenging at times, but it’s impossible to put into words how much I love these two little guys and want to do my best for them.

(We even made spreadsheets together 😉)

We had a wonderful week at Deep Creek Lake with my wife’s family in August. It was relaxing and we got to be mostly normal for a week, and socialize with more than just my immediate family four. We enjoyed time on the lake, some great hikes, fires and BBQs!

Locally, I’ve done tons of hiking on our local trails. I can walk miles in either direction along the Appalachian Trail from my doorstep, so I’m really fortunate in that regard. Most recently, I had a great hike up the mountain during the December snowstorm and rounded out the year with a 19-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail with my wife.

Challenges In 2020

Oh boy!

2020 was an incredibly challenging year for everyone. I’m grateful that I, and those close to me, have remained healthy this year.

Aside from staying healthy and isolating, the biggest challenge for my wife and me was the lack of childcare.

We had no childcare in April or May, some in June to August, and then about 28 hours/week since September-ish. Since we both have our own businesses and are ambitious, it’s been a tricky balancing act.

Looking Forward To 2021

I’m super focussed on doing just a few things as well as I can, so I condensed my entire 2021 plan onto a single whiteboard.

Obviously, this only covers the big ticket items, and not things like the blog posts. I find it incredibly helpful to have it written down though. I look at every day to keep me focussed.

New Initiatives

My big initiative for 2021 is to create a cohort-based course for Google Sheets and data analysis, tentatively called ProSheets.

It’ll consist of two live classes and office hours each week for 5 weeks, with a project to finish. You’ll be in a cohort with other students going through the same transformation, so you’ll have a peer group to be accountable with. You’ll leave the course as a pro with Google Sheets, how to solve business and data analysis problems from end-to-end, and have an amazing group of peers to continue learning with. More details to come in early 2021!

To make this new course as successful as possible for students, I’m joining two training programs myself in early 2021. They are: 1) the Keystone Accelerator course, a course/mastermind with other ambitious creators looking to start cohort courses, and 2) the Scaling Intimacy workshop, all about how to create memorable online experiences. I’m super excited about both and can’t wait to put these lessons into practice.

2021 Work Goals

  1. Run 3 cohorts of this new live cohort based course
  2. Run SheetsCon 2021 in March
  3. Improve the SEO and site speed of benlcollins
  4. Publish 30 long-form blog posts
  5. Publish a comprehensive guide to REGEX in Google Sheets
  6. Hit 60k newsletter subscribers
  7. Send a Google Sheets tip email every week for the next year
  8. Create one new on-demand video course
  9. One technical project, related to Sheets/Apps Script/Data in some way. This is partly for my own intellectual curiosity and learning but will also lay the foundations for future blog posts and courses.

Other 2021 Goals

  1. See my UK family!
  2. Have another healthy year
  3. Exercise regularly: 4 hike or bikes each week, 2 yoga/strength
  4. Go camping again! I used to do a lot of camping but it’s been a few years since I last went 🙁
  5. Take my boys out on lots of adventures and camping trips.
  6. Read 30 books (same target as 2020)

Thank You

Finally, my biggest thanks are reserved for you, dear reader 🙏

It’s an extreme honor and privilege for me to help you through my writing and teaching.

My work to create the world’s best resources for learning Google Sheets and data analysis is just getting started.

Best wishes to all of you for 2021!

Cheers,
Ben

Happy Holidays!

christmas tree

Previous years

Dream Home Office Setup

New Office

How it began

Growing up, I vividly remember sitting in my dad’s home office after school, waiting for him to get home from work.

The office had a tall ceiling and a single window at the back that opened into a tiny access courtyard between our house and the neighbor’s house (it was a semi-detached Victorian).

My dad sat behind a heavy wooden desk, with a big, boxy desktop computer sitting atop. On one wall was a bookshelf, full of computer books and boxes of floppy disks for illustrious programs like Microsoft Windows, Lotus 1-2-3, Borland Quattro Pro, and many others I’ve forgotten.

I would pull the thickest manual off the shelf and ask dad to explain it to me the minute he got home from work. I’m sure it’s just what he wanted to do at the end of a long work day. Sorry (but not sorry) dad!

I’ve wanted my own work space, reflecting my personality and overflowing with books, ever since.

Working From Home

I’ve worked for myself for 5 years now, so I’m used to working from home.

For the first couple of years, I worked from a small desk in the living room and then the basement of where I lived at the time.

When my wife and I moved to Florida in 2017, I rented a 1-person office in downtown St. Petersburg. My youngest son was only a few months old so I needed a quiet space to record videos. (I launched my first online course in 2017.)

I customized that rental office to make it my own. The first investment was a Fully Jarvis standing desk, which I still use and love today.

Last year, we moved to Harpers Ferry, WV, and it was a chance to set up a new office. The only change was the better scenery out my window and a couple of pieces of artwork on the walls.

This year, 2020, we moved out of the rental house and into our own home, so it was finally time to build the dream office. This is iteration three of my home office.

An Investment In You And Your Business

I’ve come to realize that the environment in which you do your work is important.

To do my best work I need to clear my mind out first. If there’s clutter everywhere, which is most days since I have young kids, then my mind is using energy to think about it. In my head, I’m doing a virtual Maire Kondo where I sweep it all away and out of sight.

My office is one space I have control over though. I can set it up to be clean and minimal.

Today, I’m much more sure of who I am and what I do than at any previous stage in life. And that translates into being able to create a workspace that facilitates the work I do now.

Global HQ for Collins Analytics LLC

My 2014 MacBook Pro is 6 years old and showing its age.

I don’t do a lot of heavy-duty computing, but I do work with large video files. And of course, I have a lot of Chrome tabs open at any given time.

The time from deciding I needed a new computer to actually purchasing one was about 12 months!

I spent a LOT of time researching options and looking at other’s setups.

But it wasn’t until I saw this Mac Mini and Ultra widescreen setup that I found what I was looking for. This was the perfect setup for me.

Here’s my current home office setup:

New Office

I’m using the new  Apple Mac Mini with the M1 chip, powering 2 monitors: an ultrawide Dell U3419W (supported by a Fully Jarvis monitor arm) and an Acer R240HY.

The microphone is a Blue Yeti on a Blue Compass arm, and the light is an Elgato Key light.

Everything sits on Fully’s Jarvis standing desk, which I’ve had for years and love.

Apple Mac Mini

So far, it’s a fantastic combination! Super fast, quiet and tons of real estate.

That’s a Lego Saturn V rocket on the window ledge, one of the greatest Lego models of all time.

Lego Saturn V rocket

Office door decal

How To Become A Freelance Google Sheets Developer

You’ve decided you want to be a freelance Google Sheets developer. Great!

But how do you get started?

I get asked this question a lot, so I’ve compiled my email answers into this blog post.

But first, let me share my story, so you hear it from the horse’s mouth:

My Journey As A Freelance Google Sheets Developer

I quit my corporate accounting job in late 2014. I was unhappy because I felt like I was living someone else’s life. Deep down, I knew I wanted to do something technical and creative.

After leaving corporate accounting, I spent six months learning to code and looking for tech roles.

Following the advice for job hunters at the time, I created a blog (this website) and began writing about about lots of different technical topics including coding, data and Google Sheets. Without planning it, I was learning in public.

The first post was about how to build a dashboard in Google Sheets. It was by far the most popular post for search traffic that first year.

And it led to my first client, which was fortunate because I wasn’t getting anywhere applying for tech roles. (And I really mean that, I applied for a bunch of web developer roles and data analyst roles and was yet to get past the first interview. Things worked out in the end though.)

First Client

My first client was a small real estate company using Forms and Sheets to collect data from their sales agents. They’d seen the dashboard tutorial on my website and asked me to create something similar for them.

I charged them $400 and the project took around 10 hours. (Actually, it could well have been 20 hours because I didn’t track my time when I first started.)

Although the dashboard was basic, it delivered huge value to the client.

Cultivating Inbound Leads

I kept publishing content about Google Sheets and Apps Script. The website picked up more search traffic through 2015 and each subsequent year since.

I realize I was lucky with my timing since Google Sheets growth was exploding and there weren’t many resources online.

The search traffic brought more inbound leads: people contacting me for help with their projects.

Once you have a reliable source of leads coming into your business, you can focus on being more efficient and expanding beyond the feast to famine freelance cycle.

After a few years of freelancing, I stopped trading time for money (which we discuss below) and eventually moved to creating online courses and teaching online (but that’s a story for another day).

Freelance Google Sheets Developer
Yeah, this is a 100% truthful representation of the freelancer life 🤣

Your journey won’t look like mine, but there are universal actions you can take to get there quicker than I did. So, turning our attention back to you, here are some actionable steps you can take today to start your freelancer journey:

Freelance Google Sheets Developer Playbook

This short guide is broken into a few sections dealing with different aspects of freelancing.

The most important lesson to takeaway is that you need to spend as much, if not more, time on sales as on the hard, technical skills.

With that in mind, let’s begin with the most important thing you can do for your freelance career: get clients!

1. How To Get Clients As A Freelance Google Sheets Developer

This is the most important thing you do.

Not your Google Sheets skills. Not your business skills. Not time management. No, the most important thing is getting clients. (And then making them happy of course.)

This will determine whether or not you succeed, so focus heavily on this from day one.

Specifically, here are some ideas to get your first clients:

  • Email all your friends/family/contacts to tell them you’re doing this and ask for work referrals.
  • Offer to do pro-bono (free) spreadsheet work for small orgs/non-profits to gain some experience and testimonials.
  • Look for freelance spreadsheet work on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Choose one and build a portfolio/reputation there.
  • Look for Google Sheet jobs on job sites like Indeed (hard to find ones where this is the main skill required though).
  • Keep your eyes on “spreadsheet” companies that build solutions on top of Google Sheets (e.g. this list on Product Hunt). They occasionally hire part-time and full-time spreadsheet developers.
  • Create a (simple) website and share your work/ideas/knowledge. This will help you figure out what you want to do and demonstrate you can do it.
  • Add a “Hire Me” page with details of your work and testimonials. Make it easy for someone to contact you through a form.
  • Create a white-paper or short ebook that’s helpful in your industry and share it with your network. Ask them to share with their networks. You’d be amazed at how shareable a high-value asset like an ebook can be. Creating content is a high leverage activity (i.e. the reward > the effort, at least over the long run).

Spreadsheet tea mug

2. Fees: What To Charge As A Freelance Google Sheets Developer?

“What should I charge?” is probably the second most frequently asked question (after “how do I get clients?”).

The answers and advice are across the board:

“Do it for free to get exposure.” (But how will you pay the bills?)

“Charge what you’re worth.” (Super helpful when you’re starting out!)

“Whatever number you have in your head, double it.” (Ok, that’s not bad advice as most freelancers undercharge).

Consider Both Sides

Most of us, especially when we’re new to this game, think about fees based on what it takes to complete the project, i.e. how many hours it will take.

Maybe it’ll take me 15 hours, which, at $100 / hour, is $1,500. Bingo! Invoice for $1,500.

That’s fine, but it’s only one way to think about it.

The other way is to think, “what’s the value of this to the client?”

Suppose they’ve asked you to automate their reporting pipeline and they’ll save 3 hours a week. Now that analyst’s time can be repurposed to do more meaningful work.

From the client’s perspective, this is hugely valuable.

They’d probably happily pay multiples of $1,500 for that solution.

So you have to think about both angles: your side, in terms of how much time it’ll take you to do the project, and then from the client’s side, and what’s the value there.

Hourly Pricing

The rate is dependent on many factors: your experience, the niche you’re working in, the market you operate in etc.

Just remember, you’re competing with people who answer questions for free in forums and folks who charge $5/hr on Upwork.

It’s hard to compete on price and you can’t work for $5/hr if you’re living in the U.S.

Assuming equal spreadsheet skills, you can differentiate yourself by being super reliable, a pleasure to work with, a great communicator, knowledgeable about the client’s industry, etc.

And then you can consider consulting rates for Google Sheets work in the range of $50/hr – $150/hr.

Project Pricing

As you improve your systems and grow your business, you’ll become more efficient at solving problems (for example, you have templates for contracts, NDAs, etc. or a gallery of solutions that you can partially re-use).

It makes sense to ditch hourly rates and move to project rates. This way, your efficiency is rewarded. If you do project pricing though, you have to define the scope of work carefully and precisely, to avoid scope creep.

For example, rather than say “Includes planning calls” in your scope, say “includes two 30-minute planning calls” so you set expectations with the client. They won’t ask for more and neither party will expect anything different.

Most Google Sheets development projects will be one-off, but you may get lucky and land a client on a monthly retainer basis, where you’re paid to keep their Google Sheets humming along each month.

Think about the “both sides” idea discussed above. Work out the hours you think it’ll take and use that as your lower pricing bound. Then think about the value to the client and come up with an upper bound. Pitch the client with your bid somewhere between these two bounds.

Pricing Strategy Tips

  • You might start with a few small free projects to generate leads and portfolio pieces.
  • Then start charging an hourly rate on the lower end, say $40/hour.
  • Raise your rates every 6 months or so early on, until you find the optimum level that keeps you busy and maximises your earnings.
  • Once you have some experience under your belt, try project pricing so your efficiency is rewarded.
  • Push yourself to pitch higher than you’re comfortable with. If the client rejects your offer you can always go back with a lower offer.
  • When you propose your opening bid, price it high enough that you have wiggle room. The client may counter with their offer and if you’ve priced low to begin with, you won’t have room to go down.

3. How To Be A Good Freelance Google Sheets Developer

Once you’ve got your first client, you want to make them happy. Happy clients return for more work and refer you to their network.

Follow these few simple steps and you’ll be way ahead of your competition:

  • Always be polite and courteous in your communications. If you feel like emotion is clouding your decision, walk away from the email or say “I’ll get back to you” and sleep on it. Inevitably, when the fog lifts, you can see the correct decision.
  • Always be professional and do what you say you’re going to do.
  • Stick to deadlines and be on time with your submissions. (If you can’t hit a deadline, let the client know as soon as possible and they’ll generally be understanding.)
  • Be honest with your clients, e.g. if you need more time, it’s going to cost more.
  • Have a bias towards over-communicating rather than under-communicating. Clients appreciate being kept in the loop.
  • Have a bias towards action and don’t expect to get everything right first time.

Remember, you’re serving the client, not the other way around. Focus on delivering value to the client, not treating them like an ATM.

4. Implement Systems To Increase Efficiency

Set up systems as soon as you can. It’ll be hugely beneficial for you.

Pre Engagement Phase

The pre-client phase is one area where it’s easy to lose a lot of time. (I’m speaking from experience.) It’s a great area to implement systems to save yourself time and headaches. For example, consider:

  • Using a service like Calendly to schedule calls, rather than back and forth emails.
  • Creating a standard work template and pricing structure so you can easily see whether clients are a good fit.
  • Setting a minimum project price and let potential clients know relatively early in the process, so you don’t waste time with people who won’t pay you.
  • Set up a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) workflow (doesn’t have to be an expensive tool, a Google Sheet also works). Whenever clients dry up, you can email former clients to see if they need help.

During the Project

  • Use a time tracking system (e.g. Toggl) to track your time. This will be super helpful for costing out future projects as well as the current one.
  • Batch your time so you avoid too much context switching. For example, schedule all calls on Tuesday afternoons. Open and reply to emails twice a day in 30-minute blocks, then keep your email shut in between (not always possible).

After the Project

Create a standard post-engagement workflow. You have the opportunity to leave the client feeling happy and help your future business prospects.

  • Check the client is happy and whether there’s anything else you can do for them.
  • Systemize your payment process to make sure you get paid in a timely fashion. I use Harvest App to create and send invoices.
  • Ask for testimonials. Use a Google Form so they’re all together in a Google Sheet and you can access them anytime.

5. Niche Down By Industry

Focussing on a specific industry has many benefits:

  • You develop industry knowledge, which improves the quality of your work product.
  • You develop a reputation as an expert in the field, the “go-to” person for this type of work.
  • You develop a network and get referrals.
  • You can more easily systemize your business e.g. client onboarding.
  • You can even productize your work e.g. create a Google Sheets template for that industry. This is great for lead generation and could potentially be a revenue generator.

Don’t stress too much about a niche to focus on when you’re just getting started though, unless you have prior experience that gives you a clear advantage.

Otherwise, see what type of work you like doing and what’s popular with your clients. I did Excel, SQL and Tableau consulting and training, as well as Google Sheets work, for the first 2 years, before really doubling down on just Google products. And I worked across all industries to begin with.

Many small businesses, nonprofits and mom-and-pop stores could use help with their data, which in all likelihood exists in spreadsheets!

6. Scale

Finding clients and doing high quality work will always be the two most important aspects of your business.

As you scale, you grow from the feast-to-famine freelancer model to a more predictable monthly take-home as a small business.

You’ll need to systemize more parts of the business so you can focus less of your time on repeatable tasks (like invoicing) and more time on high-value, unique tasks like finding new clients and hiring staff members.

Freelancer To Business Journey

Freelance Google Sheets developer → sole-member business → sole-member business with an assistant → sole-member business with contractors → agency business model with full-time people

At some point you need to decide if you want to do the work or run the business. You can’t do both.

I love my work, so I’ve deliberately kept myself as a single-member LLC with one assistant, so I can keep doing the work.

But it’s an equally valid path to hire contractors, and eventually employees, who carry out the actual spreadsheet work, whilst you run and scale the business.

Some ideas to think about:

  • Find other contractors with complimentary skills so you can refer work to each other, or collaborate together on projects.
  • Outsource non-core tasks. For example, hire a bookkeeper to do your accounting for you.
  • Get rid of clients that are hard work (because they pay low rates, haggle over everything, don’t respond to you etc.). Marie Kondo your client list! Does this client bring me joy? If not, let them go!
  • Culture also becomes a critical part of your success as you start to hire people.

It’s simple in theory but hard to execute: hire great people, give them a compelling vision for the business and get out of their way so they can do great work.

Resources

Check out Andy Conlin’s How To Be A Freelance Google Sheets Developer talk from SheetsCon 2020.

This is a useful article from the Excel consulting world from the perspective of the client hiring a freelancer.

Good luck!

Ben Collins, December 2020

P.S. Share your own freelance journeys and tips in the comments below! Everyone has a unique journey and value to add.

In Pursuit Of A Dream

As I’ve grown, my values have changed and evolved.

Things that mattered to me in my twenties and early thirties don’t matter so much now.

As each year passes, what matters to me becomes clearer. A simple life, with a focus around family, regular outdoor exercise, and a good work routine is what I’m looking for.

(Honestly, I think this guy had it figured out 😉 )

For the past few years, my wife and I have nurtured a shared dream of moving our family to a small mountain town.
Continue reading In Pursuit Of A Dream

Recap From Google Cloud Next ’19 Conference

I’ve recently returned from a fantastic week in San Francisco at Google’s Cloud Next ’19 conference, which is their annual Cloud conference for developers and vendors. It’s a huge event, with some 30,000+ attendees and 500 sessions.

Google made a 122 announcements, including some exciting developments relating to Google Sheets.

Here are the talks from the Google Cloud Next 19 conference that related to Google Sheets:

1. 30 Ways Google Sheets Can Help Your Company Uncover and Share Data Insights

If you only watch one session from next and you’re a Google Sheets user, then I’d recommend this one. It’s really well presented look at the capabilities of Google Sheets in the context of working with data and the Sheets team give plenty of sneak peeks into where the tool is going.

Here are the new features we can expect to see in the future:

Images in cells: allows you to add images anchored inside a cell, not just free-floating, and without needing to use the IMAGE function

Trim Whitespace: natively remove whitespace around data in cells, instead of having to use formulas

Remove Duplicates: natively remove duplicates without needing to use an add-on or manual formula methods

Slicers: controls to add filters to pivot tables and charts

Reports & Themes: features to make dashboard reports easier in Sheets

OnPrem data connectors: data connectors to other SQL databases to easily access data from Sheets

Connected sheets: easily connect Sheets to BigQuery and use Sheets functionality, like pivot tables, formulas and charts, with millions or even billions of rows of data inside BigQuery. The presenters showed an incredible demonstration of running a pivot table on 128 million rows of data!

View and edit history of individual cells: see how cells have changed over time

Embedding Sheets in Docs and Slides

MS Office Editing: work on Office files straight from G Suite without having to convert file types

Legacy keyboard shortcuts

2. How to Grow a Spreadsheet into an Application

Most of us use spreadsheets beyond simple data tasks. We build to-do lists, address books, scheduling apps, bug trackers, etc. Eventually, however, there comes a time when you need something more robust than a standalone Google Sheet, and this talk explores that journey, from single Google Sheet to full-blown application.

3. How to Simplify Business Processes with G Suite

4. Google Docs: Taking Collaboration Beyond Real Time

5. Open Doors to ML: How AAA Leverages BQML and Google Sheets to Predict Call Volume

An interesting session looking at how AAA uses BigQuery and Machine Learning to create predictive models that everyone can access through the Google Sheets interface. It was fascinating to see how Google Sheets has been positioned as the final step of the big data/machine learning pipelines.

6. Bring Your Favorite Enterprise Apps to G Suite with the New G Suite Add-ons

For Add-On developers, there was a big announcement about the new G Suite Add-Ons, which should make developers lives easier:

The full library of sessions from Google Next 19 can be found over on the Google Cloud Platform and the G Suite channels.

See you at Google Next 20 perhaps?