Basic, Simple, Roasted Tomatillo/Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 2 Roma Tomatoes
  • 4 Small Green Tomatillos
  • 1/2 Small Onion
  • 1 Serrano Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp White Vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Water
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Power (or 2-3 garlic cloves, just roast them with the veg)
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano

Quarter the tomatoes, and slice the others in half to create a large enough surface area to get plenty of color on them, and add to a searing hot pan with oil. Cook through until the juices they release evaporate, and you get char on one side. Usually about 5 minutes.

Repeat the process until you get color on all sides. This will take less time with each side. It usually works out as 5-3-2 minutes for me. Once this is done, move everything over to the blender.

Add the vinegar, season to taste and blitz. Taste for heat, and adjust spices accordingly. I use Chipotle powder to adjust heat, because of the smoky flavor, but feel free to use whatever you want. Something in the tomatoes will make the sauce thicken once it cools, so don’t worry about it being too thin now. If it ends up too thick once it cools, you can just thin it using a mix of water and vinegar, and remember to re-season to taste.

You can use pretty much any pepper without an overwhelming flavor. Most restaurant-style salsas that look like this, use some combination of toasted Dry Arbol and Japones chiles. If it has a more fresh/vinegary taste, then they are most likely using canned Jalapeños and/or the vinegar from canned Jalapeños. If it has a dark color and smoky taste, they probably added Chipotle or the Adobo Sauce from a can of Chipotles.

What to try when remove_action doesn’t work

This one might seem like it’s an obvious “DUH” but it’s caught me up more than once, so I figured I’d write myself a note so I don’t spend hours digging thru forums.

Action hooks have to removed after they’ve been added (obviously), but sometimes a hook is added on the callback function of another one like this from the Genesis

[php]
add_action( ‘admin_init’, ‘genesis_add_taxonomy_seo_options’ );
/**
* Add the SEO options to each custom taxonomy edit screen.
*
* @since 1.3.0
*
* @see genesis_taxonomy_seo_options() Callback for SEO fields.
*/
function genesis_add_taxonomy_seo_options() {

foreach ( get_taxonomies( array( ‘show_ui’ => true ) ) as $tax_name )
add_action( $tax_name . ‘_edit_form’, ‘genesis_taxonomy_seo_options’, 10, 2 );

}
[/php]

I kept simply trying to use a remove_action inside of my plugin file, but I could not for the life of me figure out why it would not remove the actions.

It turns out that by the time my code executed, the Genesis hook had not been added, so it could not be removed.

This did work

[php]
add_action("admin_init", "remove_genesis_actions", 11);
function remove_genesis_actions(){
remove_action("dlb-challenge-actions_edit_form","genesis_taxonomy_seo_options",10,2);
remove_action("dlb-challenge-actions_edit_form","genesis_taxonomy_archive_options",10,2);
remove_action("dlb-challenge-actions_edit_form","genesis_taxonomy_layout_options",10,2);
}

[/php]

The moral of the story here, is that when an action that you want to remove is added during the callback function of another hook, you may have to add your remove actions inside of a callback function attached to that original hook with a different priority. (Say that 10 times fast)

In my case, I had to hook my remove_actions onto a later execution of the admin_init hook. This way all of their add_actions were in the queue when I removed mine.

Worpress Submenu Page External Link

Okay so I’ve officially hit the “this is why other developers start a blog” point.

I’m tired of digging through bookmarks and code snippers to see how I’ve done something in the past and for most stuff GitHub is just not an option for simple snippets.

I wanted to add a submenu item to a Custom Post Type that pointed somewhere else.

Here’s how to do it:

[php light=”true”]

add_action( ‘admin_menu’ , ‘dlb_challenge_redirects’ );

function dlb_challenge_redirects() {
global $submenu;
$submenu["edit.php?post_type=dlb-challenge"][] = array(‘Manage Actions’, ‘manage_categories’ , "[URL GOES HERE]" );
}

[/php]

*Caveat – The menu you’re adding this sub menu page to must already exist.

Small Victories Deliver Big Contracts

small-victories

This is a follow up to previous post about the 3 things you need to know to sell more.

One my first mentors, Don Vogt, taught me that it’s 10 times harder to replace an existing client, than it is to keep them. I’ve made it a mantra. I don’t like loosing clients.

One of the biggest mistakes I see clients and other freelancers make, is that they focus entirely on new client acquisition, and not on increasing their average revenue per customer.

Whenever I start working with a new client, I start writing down all the services that I can sell to them (long and short term). Most clients that we work with, immediately need these 3 things:

  1. A brand new website.
  2. SEO work.
  3. An evaluation of their business and client database to see if they’re leaving money on the table.

Then there’s all the other services we can sell them:

  1. Video marketing.
  2. Email marketing.
  3. Custom web applications.
  4. Social Media.
  5. Content development and marketing.
  6. Print work.
  7. Brand identity.

If you’re not making enough money, or you want to make more, here’s a question I want to ask you.

If I were to buy every product and service you offer, what would I get and how much would I pay for it?

I learned that little doozie from Mari Smith at a conference, and it completely changed the way I looked at my business. To be honest, it put the brakes on a revolving door business.

Here’s how I sell more services to the same client

First, I figure out what they are going to need, both short term and long term, to get their business to where they want it to be. Usually, it requires much more work than what they originally hired me for.

Second, I find a way to score a small, simple victory and report the good news to the client immediately.

For example, if I’m doing some marketing for them, but they’re apprehensive about rebuilding their site, here’s how I would approach it.

  1. Install google and clicky analytics on their existing site. This way I can show them that we are growing traffic to their site.
  2. Start doing some basic SEO, if they are a local business start there (it gets you results faster). Usually this is not too hard, it’s just a bit of keyword research, tightening up some of the internal tags and doing some basic link building (internal and external). Rarely, do I ever have to do major cleanup.
  3. Once you start seeing a pattern of growth on the analytics, report your findings to the client. An email or phone call works well, but this is also your perfect opportunity to schedule a time to come in and see them, or present your results more formally and advise them of what you should do next.

Third, start recommending other related services. This is one of the best times to do this, because you’ve just come off a win and you have momentum.

I used SEO in that example above, but you could substitute that with Social Media, Content Marketing, or anything else. The point is to get them results, so you can score a win and build credibility.

Hopefully this helps. The roadmap and decision tree after this point, depends entirely on the client’s business and what services you can provide.

This tactic works. 3 of my biggest clients started out as simple little projects that grew because I was able to deliver results and build credibility. With quite a few of my other clients, I’ve had plenty of second, third, and fourth bites of the apple, not to mention some great referrals.

 

3 Reasons You Should Pay Attention to The Red Flags

116017204_3a475bc6a1_o

Yesterday I had the distinct displeasure of digging through my inbox from 4/1/2011 to 8/1/2011 looking for an email. It was like taking a trip down Nightmare lane.

As a freelancer, your gut instinct should be one of your biggest factors in making a decision about what projects to take or continue working on.

I’ve ignored my gut instinct and a some red flags twice; I’ve completely regretted it both times. The pain, frustration and stress necessary to finish the project was not even worth the money.

One of those projects was long term, which made it worse. One of the weeks, right around Christmas, included multiple 18 hour days and a single 30 hour session. I mistakenly took a nap with my phone near me, only to woken up by the client calling me. When I woke up I felt like I was having heart attack. This was arguably one of the worst days of my life.

This, by the way, was the project I was working on without a contract. I haven’t made that mistake again.

So here are 3 reasons you should pay attention to red flags.

1. They give you an insight into who you’re really working with or for.

Most people’s public persona is not who they really are. It’s really, truly is rare to find someone who’s themselves all the time, especially if they run a business or have to manage people. In my experience, every time a red flag has gone up, it’s when that person’s public persona cracks and who they really are bubbles up to the surface (even it it’s just for a moment or 2).

Whenever a project goes sideways, and they inevitably do when there’s red flags, you should be asking yourself do you want to be dealing with this person?  In my experience, no, because you’re going to be dealing with a jerk.

2. It’s a sign of things to come.

Whenever I sit down with a potential client and they tell me how much they love marketing, I get a chill running down my back. When I look at examples of marketing they’ve done, if I see that they’re members of the idea of the week club, I write the most ridiculously skewed proposal that will inevitable get rejected (so we both save face), or it’s so lucrative and the scope is so defined that it’s worth my time.

Here’s a funny example of a project can go straight to hell really quickly. It’s actually really funny.

3. What happens to you when you ignore them.

When I had that rough week, everyone around me felt it. I had no energy and I was really short tempered. Luckily I have some amazing friends that knew it was just a rough patch. The real problem, though, was that it took a while for me to want to open up a text editor and write code for a while. I pushed through and made my deliverables, but it just wasn’t the same. Quite a bit of my work for about a month felt forced.

I was lucky, I managed to recover. I know plenty of people who call it quits after some bad experiences in creative services. It’s a shame too, because many of them have  quite a bit of talent, but they just can’t get past the fact that they have to force themselves to do something they are good at.

Why You Should Always be The Dumbest Person in the Room (Even if You’re Not)

You can feed your ego, or you can feed your family.

It can be hard to pretend to know less than you do, but it can pay off in spades.

No one wants to enable or empower a competitor, but everyone likes to feel important, because they are being paid attention to.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned over the past 5 years:

People who are good at what they do, like talking about what they do. At great length, too.

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie writes that one of the fastest ways to build rapport with someone is to let them talk about themselves, and what’s important to them. In my experience, most people’s favorite subject is themselves (in one way or another).

At events, when you get a chance to hang around people who are in similar, or related industries to yours, you can have them tell you the ins and out of their business– what they do, how they operate, how the bill, what their contracts look like, where they get their clients, etc (you name it), if you show genuine interest in what they do.

Some people really like teaching other up and comers, and some don’t. That’s just the way things work, but you can get anyone to talk about their business and teach you, if you get them talking about their selves and make them feel like they are teaching you something.

If you make them feel like your peers, then it gets much harder to learn from them. You’ll usually be talking about stuff on the same level that you’re currently at, maybe a notch up. When you take on the role of the student, then you get to be the person asking the questions. If you’re asking the questions, then you’re in control of the conversation. You get to guide the conversation where you want it to go. It’s much easier to answer a question honestly, than it is for someone to tell someone who is eager to learn that you don’t want to answer that question. People get uncomfortable saying no.

When I wanted to learn about the ins and outs of video for the web, I tagged along with a videographer as she was shooting b-roll all around Long Beach for an afternoon. After 4 hours of asking questions, coffee, and dinner, I knew just about everything I needed to know to start selling high quality video content to clients. All I had to do was take some time, and be curious and in awe of what she did, the rest just paid off.

If you take the time to get good at it, then you can get and learn all kinds of neat things.

I did this at a networking event in Culver City a few years ago, and I left the event with a free invite to a conference (tickets where like 600 and sold out), an invite to a brand strategy session at a down town creative firm, and I learned enough to realize I could double my rates.

 

The 1 Clause That Needs to be in All Your Contracts

Signing a form

I’m shocked how few creative professionals have formalized contracts.

I’m even more shocked at how short and toothless those contracts are.

If you’re a creative services professional, you should have a service agreement or a contract for every project you work on.

I know that, sometimes, you feel like a handshake or a series of emails will do, but you really should have everything spelled out in one place, and in writing. If you don’t, you’re really just asking to get ripped off.

Without clear deliverables, there’s no expectation of when the project is going to end, exactly how (and in many cases how much) you’re going to get paid, and what the process for resolving a dispute will be.

I can tell you from personal experience, that the worst project I was ever involved in, was one where we did not have a clearly defined contract. That’s a mistake I won’t make again, and it’s one that usually drives people out of the business. It’s such a shame too.

Every single one of your contracts, should have a clause, which clearly states that all intellectual property rights to whatever you are working on for your client transfers when you receive full payment for your services. If you can, you should have an attorney draft your contracts. It may cost you several hundred Dollars, but it will worth it.

This intellectual property clause is absolutely non-negotiable in my contracts, and I’ve turned down projects where the client has wanted it removed. To me, it’s a red flag that there may be issues getting paid once a project starts.

I’ve never had to use that clause, but I know people who have. If someone uses your intellectual property, and makes money off of it, you can file an injunction to stop them from using it, and potentially even receive monetary damages.

You can read more about intellectual property law here.

With this clause, more often than not, a simple attorney letter to someone who uses your work, without paying for it, should get you paid. Every time a client shows me an invoice from a printer, I cringe at how expensive that stuff is. Image if you’re a logo designer and you catch a client using a logo they never paid for? The sheer cost of replacing business cards, signage, stationary, update a website, etc, can easily be multiple times the cost of what you’re owed.

3 Keys to Selling More

piggy-bank

Freelancers live and die by their ability to sell. Reputation can, and will get you far (if you’ve got the chops) but at the end of the day, sales is what pays for the roof over your head.

I never really thought of myself as a sales guy, until I had a few partners on joint ventures tell me that I was good at it. I guess it just takes practice.

This post is for everyone in creative services who’s out there fighting the good fight 🙂

Here are the 3 things that I believe have been most helpful in landing regular work:

  1. I believe in my, and my team’s ability to do great work.
  2. I prioritize personal contact.
  3. We (Strategy Partners) try to delight our customers.

Believe in Your Abilities

I’ve sat in with clients on pitches by other professionals, and I can’t tell you how often I see sales people that seem intimidated, or don’t come across confident. It’s a huge red flag to anyone that has to make a buying decision. If you can make the person on the other end of the phone (or desk) feel like their business and their life if going to be better with you in it, all you basically have to do is ask for the sale.

If you can make them feel this way about you, you will be surprised how often budgets seem to magically increase by 20-30 percent. I’ve seen it happen so often that when I basically ignore whatever number a prospective clients tells me their budget is. I know they can go higher, they just have to have someone with confidence on the other end of the phone or across the table that makes them feel like it’s going to be money well spent.

Personal Contact

In a world of email, Facebook, Twitter, and all those other methods for staying connected, it’s really easy to forget the power of a personal, face to face, connection.

I try to make it a point to see as many of my clients, partners, and referral sources as often as our schedules align. When you get to know these people on a personal and professional level, you build rapport with them. For clients, its even better to build relationships with their staff. You’ll be surprised how far a box of chocolates, lunch, or even a cup of coffee can get you.

I’ve had assistants tip me off that other professionals are trying to poach clients, or that new projects are coming up. I’ve even had junior associates tip a proposal in my favor, because I am a known quantity that they can work with.

At the end of the day, it’s all about who you know. When I started on my own, I made it a point to build a solid referral network, and it now accounts for almost 50% of my business. That network was built almost entirely, on beer, coffee, and meals with people. The fastest way to build a relationship, is over a meal. The fastest way to build a business relationship, is to develop a friendship.

Delight Your Customers

In our industry, people have come to expect to be nickle and dimed. When you can break that mold, and undermine that expectation, you will be surprised how often your own clients will refer to you.

It’s always been my philosophy to deliver a little bit more than someone asks for, or expects. Most of the time, it comes in the form of extra attention and patience, rarely (if ever) does it involve delivering more than the contract specifies. When a client calls with a question at 8PM, and you answer the phone and talk to him or her, your stock goes up.

If a client wants you to teach them how to use a CMS so they can manage their website, go out of your way to spend the extra time to teach them. More often than not, that effort will be what gets you the long term maintenance contract. When you educate someone on what their site can do, you’re empowering them to test their imagination. Every time a client has an idea, it creates an opportunity for you to sell more.

 

Code.org — Why Schools Should Teach Kids to Program

Take a few minutes to watch the video, and you’ll learn just how important it is for every kid in the United States to know how to code.

I never imagined how much my life would change when Ben and Apoorav, told me that I had to learn python so we could make one of the first releases of Tactical Iraqi for the new Marine Corps contract.

Knowing how to program is extremely empowering. I can’t begin to say how it has had a profound impact in my life, and not just financially. It has boosted my confidence. Whenever I’m feeling down, I take some time and figure out how to build something using a technology or an approach I’ve never used before. I also love that it forces me to keep up with new things, so I never stop learning.

I think the most critical thing highlighted in this video, is that learning how to code, inherently puts you in a creator’s mindset. You’re continuously looking to create a solution to a problem. With an ever changing (and globalized) economy, the most important skill a kid can have is the ability to think critically. Teach someone how to be a good learner and how to implement that knowledge, and I’ll show you someone who probably will never be out of work for very long.