OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part IV)

freelance WordPress developer

freelance WordPress developer

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

This experiment in web design + business building is currently being embarked upon by OWS community member Ashley Rustad, who is on her second Skillcrush Blueprint and is kindly documenting the process for us here! Take it away, Ashley.


(Editor’s note: In Part I of this series, Ashley broke down how a Skillcrush Blueprint works for us as she was completing the Web Designer Blueprint. In Part II, she introduced us to the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint, which she took us deeper into as she learned the WordPress Professional Best Practices in Part III. Below is Part IV, the final step in her current Blueprint!)

We’re at the last month of the Skillcrush WordPress Developer Blueprint and man, is it jam packed with lots of info. This last class in the three-part Blueprint walks through how to find, land and manage a client.

What is Skillcrush 303?

The final session of the Skillcrush Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint is three weeks long. It starts with scheduling a 1-on-1, 20-minute consultation via Google Hangout with a Skillcrush Career Counselor. The consultations are to answer any career, coding, or client questions. Tip: Being prepared with questions for the counselor is a great way to make the most of your time with them.

The rest of Skillcrush 303: WordPress Apprenticeship (now called Industry Crash Course) is made up of three weeks:

  • Week 1: Finding a client
  • Week 2: Landing a client
  • Week 3: Managing a client

Each week includes webinars, downloadable slides, and templates that help to guide you through the different aspects of getting clients. The lessons are broken up into support, work, learn, and earn sections. Here’s more about each one:

Week 1: Finding a client

Support section: This module is all about the 1-on-1 consultation with a career counselor. When I had my consultation, all my questions about working as a freelance web designer were answered and I was able to feel more reassured about going into this line of work.

Work section: Included two webinars — Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Scoping a WordPress Project. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is about how to gain confidence in your abilities and not being afraid to call yourself a WordPress developer. It can be really hard in the beginning because your skills are so new. Scoping a WordPress Project is about estimating all that is involved in creating a WordPress website.The instructor’s’ slides were given to us to take notes with and refer back to, which was helpful.

Learn section: Made up of the Responsive WordPress Workshop. This workshop came with slides as well. I do feel the responsive workshop could have been expanded on with more lessons in a different area of the WordPress Developer Blueprint. I don’t think one 45-minute workshop on responsive WordPress design is enough.

Earn section: AKA “The Fast Track Formula” — A breakdown of how to reach out to your inner circle, with a guide of great examples for emails and social media posts to help you in the beginning. If you’ve gone down the route of taking the whole blueprint and not just one or two classes; you’ll know this fast track formula was already taught in Skillcrush 203.

Week 2: Landing a client

Support section: It’s all about portfolio hours. You can join a Google Hangout with your instructor and other students to talk about what you plan on putting in your portfolio, how you’ll set it up and who your potential target clients are. You’ll be able to talk about your work and get feedback from your instructor and your fellow students. It’s really informative and helpful in getting other people’s opinion about your work and how you’ll go about it.

Work section: The webinar topic here was Building a Healthy Client Relationship. The workshop walks you through your first client meeting from prep to the meeting and after the meeting.

Learn section: There were two webinars here. The first is Ecommerce Solutions. The webinar goes over three common solutions for selling products with WordPress — offsite, onsite, and the five-minute solution.

The second webinar is the Proposal Writing Workshop. Once you’ve found your first potential client, you’ll need to write a proposal. The webinar goes over everything you need to know about the proposal from why you should be writing them to what needs to be included. The templates provided here are invaluable.

Earn section: Continuing from last week, they focus on the next step in The Fast Track Formula: reaching out to your outer circle. There are templates for doing this, building on the work done last week.

Week 3: Managing the client relationship

Support section: Reminds you to sign up with your career counselor, about the grad party and the ongoing Slack alumni group.

Work section: Includes one webinar called Getting Paid for Freelance Work. This webinar covers it all: prepping estimates to dealing with money and sending contracts and invoices to time tracking.

Learn section: Covers three case studies of businesses built with WordPress. Freelancing isn’t easy, but these quick case studies gave us a glimpse at how three different women are using WordPress in their business.

Earn section: Goes through the last step in The Fast Track Formula, which is about expanding your reach. It teaches different ways to reach out to strangers and tell them about your freelance business.

My overall takeaways

The Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint is packed with lots of great information. This Blueprint really lays the foundation for your freelance WordPress developer career because it’s all about how to get clients. The only limitation is that the information comes almost completely in the form of webinars. If you don’t learn well from lecture format, this really won’t work for you.

The biggest problem I had with this portion of the Blueprint is that all but two webinars (Responsive WordPress and eCommerce Solutions) had previously been in the “Career Path” section of Skillcrush. While they certainly fit here, I do wish they were re-filmed with updated material. What sets this run-through apart from the “Career Path” section is the one-on-one consultation, case studies and a portfolio review. The “Career Path” section has even more webinars and downloads geared toward getting a job with a company, not freelancing.

Who Skillcrush 303 Is For?

Anyone wanting to freelance. It takes you through all the steps of preparing you to become a freelance WordPress developer, minus the coding (which was covered in the first two classes of the Blueprint).

All the skills in the world won’t get you anywhere if you can’t land clients, which is that makes this class crucial.

Who isn’t Skillcrush 303 for?

This isn’t for anyone that already knows how to find and manage clients. If you’re moving careers and have already dealt with finding and managing clients in a different creative field, I think those skills would transfer. If you’ve taken previous Skillcrush classes, you can get 75% of this class’ webinars in the “Career Path” section.

Are you interested in taking a Skillcrush class?

If you’re interested learning more about Skillcrush, you can dip your toes in with their free, 10-day bootcamp. If you want to take this class alone it costs $175, but I highly recommend looking into the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint, which includes three classes and keeps you on a track that provides context for everything you’re learning for $149/month. To find out when the next enrollment session is, scroll down to the bottom of this page.

What questions do you have about Skillcrush and/or tech skills, in general? Leave ’em in the comments below!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of Skillcrush Blueprints. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from — and Skillcrush is among the best of the best!

OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part III)

OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part III)

OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part III)

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

This experiment in web design + business building is currently being embarked upon by OWS community member Ashley Rustad, who is on her second Skillcrush Blueprint and is kindly documenting the process for us here! Take it away, Ashley.


(Editor’s note: In Part I of this series, Ashley broke down how a Skillcrush Blueprint works for us as she was completing the Web Designer Blueprint. In Part II, she introduced us to her current Blueprint, the Freelancer WordPress Developer Blueprint. Below is Part III, where we continue to follow her journey!)

To say the second month of Skillcrush’s Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint was packed with new learning and immense progress would be a crazy understatement. It was during the second phase of the Blueprint that I learned all about the WordPress Professional Best Practices: GitHub, command line, child themes, professional workflow, and advanced themes customizations. (Sound like gibberish? This might be the perfect course for you…)

It was definitely a big month of learning. This class has been harder for me than the past classes I’ve taken; I’m still practicing what I’ve learned, and will be for a while. But that’s not to scare you off — let’s jump right into what you can learn in Skillcrush 203 of the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint so you know if it’s right for you.

My major takeaways from Skillcrush 203: WordPress Professional Best Practices

Takeaway #1: Community is key

Skillcrush 203 kicks off with a five-day crash course on Git, GitHub and command line. In all honesty, this section was definitely the hardest for me to learn, but one of the great things about Skillcrush is that they have Mightybell message boards to post on. The community there allows you to learn from others who are going through the same coursework. The collaborative spirit that they promote is great.

Takeaway #2: WordPress customization is endless

Following Git, GitHub, and command line, we really dug into WordPress child themes — which is how you’re able to turn WordPress into an awesome CMS. We learned how to create custom post types, custom fields, and custom archives, and played around with 404 (error) pages, custom about pages, and contact forms. In simple terms, you learn a lot about changing WordPress into exactly what you want it be.

You also learn a professional workflow for setting up/deploying WordPress sites for clients (or yourself). It’s been really fun learning how to deploy a site the correct and professional way.

Takeaway #3: You get “hands-on experience” with a fictitious client

While learning all of this, you work with a fictitious client to get her site re-designed. Instead of getting your typical email from your Skillcrush instructor, you get an email from “your” client. It’s been fun learning this way, and it’s great practice for working with clients in the future. It was definitely different getting emails from the “client,” but I looked forward to the changes. Truth: I’m not sure I’ll always feel that way when working with actual clients.

Takeaway #4: Skillcrush remains career focused

Like every class I’ve taken so far, Skillcrush 203 includes career content sections. In this class, we focused on how to package and price freelance work, find and land clients, and the fast track way to get clients now. The career content sections come in the form of webinars, which are about an hour long each. The ones I have watched so far are super informative.

Who Skillcrush 203 is for

Skillcrush 203 is for the person that wants to take their knowledge of WordPress to the next level to customize their WordPress site, and work with others to build unique sites. Also — if Git, GitHub, command line, mobile optimization, and professional deployment are terms that aren’t familiar to you, this class might just be the perfect fit.

Who Skillcrush 203 isn’t for

If you’re not interested in learning the next level of WordPress or you’re already a pro at customization, this class might not be for you. Additionally, if you’re not interested in working with clients or other developers on WordPress sites, you may not need all of the material taught here.

Are you interested in taking your knowledge of WordPress to the next level?

I’ve learned so much in this Blueprint so far, and while there’s still more to learn, I’m already feeling empowered to truly customize my own site and start working with clients.

If you’re interested in learning more about Skillcrush, check here for more information. You can take the WordPress Professional Best Practices alone, but I highly recommend looking into the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint, which includes three classes and keeps you on a track that provides context for everything you’re learning. To find out when the next enrollment session is scroll down to the bottom of this page.

Next up for me is Skillcrush 303: WordPress Apprenticeship. I will be learning all about finding, landing and working with a client. Check back here soon for my recap!

What questions do you have about Skillcrush and/or tech skills, in general? Leave ’em in the comments below!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of Skillcrush Blueprints. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from — and Skillcrush is among the best of the best!

OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part II)

One Woman Shop Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush, Part II

One Woman Shop Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush, Part II

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

This experiment in web design + business building is currently being embarked upon by OWS community member Ashley Rustad, who is on her second Skillcrush Blueprint and is kindly documenting the process for us here! Take it away, Ashley.


(Editor’s note: Last month, Ashley broke down how a Skillcrush Blueprint works for us as she was completing the Web Designer Blueprint. Now, she’s on to the Freelancer WordPress Developer Blueprint, and is letting us following along!)

April was all about transitioning from the Web Designer Blueprint I completed during the winter and beginning the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint. The first class? Introduction to WordPress. This class is the primer on all things WordPress: It teaches the history of WordPress, how to install it, the WordPress Admin (which includes Posts, Pages, Setting, Widgets, Themes, and Plugins), Introduction to PHP, the WordPress loop, debugging, creating a homepage, QA, launching WordPress, and security.

Also, throughout the course there are “career sections” which include revamping your resume, using Adobe Photoshop, using social media to get hired, and writing cover letters. Needless to say, there is a ton of stuff packed into this first month of the three-month Blueprint. Below, I’m sharing my takeaways, as well as who this class might be a good fit for (and who it might not be).

Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint: Takeaways

I have one overall takeaway that I should share first: This class is the primer for the rest of the Blueprint. That being said, if you already know certain aspects of WordPress, some sections may be more of a review for you than others. That was the case for me.

Takeaway #1 – If you know the WordPress Admin, be prepared for review. If you know nothing about WordPress, there is a big learning curve, but everything is explained very well.

By “knowing” the WordPress backend, I mean you can create a post and page, you know what all the settings are and what they do, you know how to create and organize widgets in the sidebar and footer, you can create menus for the navigation bar, and you can download and install themes and plugins. If that’s all in your wheelhouse, those parts will be a refresher, which was the case for me. But…that’s all I knew.

Takeaway #2 – The bigger learning curve comes with an introduction of PHP. (Already know PHP? This may be a review for you, too, but can be a really good refresher.)

I didn’t know any PHP, which is the programing language that WordPress uses. (It’s amazing.) The Blueprint taught the sections by recording Adda write PHP, having us then copy her on our computer. (It sounds much easier than it is because if you miss one character, it won’t work.) Since this was all new to me, I had to go back and watch a few sections over again to see what I missed. I was never worried about not being able to figure it out — Skillcrush also provides the written out pieces of code to compare against, so I could easily see where I may have gone wrong. Truth: It could be frustrating at times, but when I got it right on the first time, it felt amazing! There was no better thought than, “I’m actually getting this.”

Takeaway #3 – The videos are well done, but be prepared to pause, rewind, and rewatch when it comes to the actual PHP programming.

One thing I didn’t like about the PHP videos is that they went too fast for a beginner like me. Adda is a pro-programmer, so her mind works quickly, sometimes making it hard to keep up with her. Having the video at my fingertips to watch at my own pace meant rewinding to go back and see exactly what she typed. And when all else failed and I couldn’t quite figure it out, the Blueprint provides the actual code to install if I just wanted to move on. Patience is key in learning code.

Takeaway #4 – It’s not just about learning to code; it’s about learning how to apply it as a career.

The program is broken up into weeks and days. There’s homework each weekday for three weeks, then the fourth week is filled with what Skillcrush calls “Career Content.” These weeks have information-packed webinars about the career side of becoming a web developer.

There are three Career Content sections: revamp your resume, Photoshop & social media, and cover letters. Each of the career content sections have a webinar-style video that’s at least 45 minutes long. Skillcrush includes the webinar slides and sometimes an e-book type of download for further reading. I haven’t actually watched all the webinars yet, but ones I have watched have been super informational and helpful in the career aspect of the class. Since they are webinar style, they don’t have the extra graphics and video quality like the rest of the videos from the class, and I do wish they were divided up into shorter segments since they are so information rich. I would have preferred to watch four, 15-minute videos over the course of a week about cover letters.

Who is/isn’t this course for?

The introductory class of the Skillcrush Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint is great for anyone who has little-to-no knowledge about WordPress and/or PHP. With an introductory level knowledge of WordPress and PHP, this course would be a good review. Since I’d worked with the WordPress Admin in the past, that portion was a review for me, while the PHP section was brand new, and more challenging for me to learn.

Overall, I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot. Learning all about WordPress and PHP are the building blocks of becoming a great WordPress Developer — and I can’t wait to go through the next two courses of this Blueprint. Before long, I’ll be building websites for clients and helping them get their message out into the world.

Stay tuned for next month, when I share the behind-the-scenes of the second course in the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint: Git, Github and the Command Line.

What questions do you have about Skillcrush and/or tech skills, in general? Leave ’em in the comments below!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of Skillcrush Blueprints. As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from — and Skillcrush is among the best of the best!

OWS Experiments: Learning to Code with Skillcrush Blueprints (Part I)

learning to code skillcrush

learning to code skillcrush

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

This experiment in web design + business building is currently being embarked upon by OWS community member Ashley Rustad, who is on her second Skillcrush Blueprint and is kindly documenting the process for us here! (For those of you who were around this time last year, OWS co-head honcho Sara was test driving the Blueprints — check out her breakdown here. She’s now passed the torch!) Take it away, Ashley.


Starting my own one woman shop has always been a dream of mine. But despite reading this blog for a while and being endlessly inspired by other women solopreneurs, it wasn’t until recently that I decided I wanted to build a business as a web designer.

I’ve always loved working on and customizing my own WordPress sites in the past, but had a barrier to being able to build a business around helping other women with their websites: I needed to learn a lot more about coding and web design beyond what I had taught myself. So I started searching online — and, well, there a lot of places to go! I was completely overwhelmed until I stumbled upon Skillcrush.

Skillcrush is an online coding company teaching a plethora of digital skills. Skillcrush Career Blueprints are each made up of three classes to teach you the exact skills you need to become a web designer, web developer, WordPress developer, Ruby on Rails developer, and more.

I dipped my toes in with Skillcrush’s free 10-day bootcamp: fun, informative videos, interactive lessons, and a dive into HTML. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with their classes. After completing the bootcamp and watching a few Skillcrush webinars, I decided to sign up for the Skillcrush Web Designer Blueprint.

Skillcrush Web Designer Blueprint

In October of 2015, I started the Skillcrush Web Designer Blueprint. Like all Skillcrush Blueprints (except Front End Developer), the Web Designer Blueprint consists of three classes. The Web Designer classes include UX & Web Design, HTML & CSS, and JavaScript & jQuery. All three classes, which run for a month each, were informative and helpful in giving me a jumping off point into web design — especially since I’d never really dabbled too far into any of it before.

What’s in a Skillcrush Blueprint

All Skillcrush Blueprints are set up similarly. Here’s what you can expect:

  • The classes are self-paced. Each morning, you receive an email with a link to that day’s materials (videos, downloads, worksheets) and often a few supplemental materials, as well. You can expect to spend about 30 to 40 minutes per day on the class work. If that doesn’t work with your schedule, you can spend a few hours batching the work each weekend. Since the classes are self-paced, it’s truly up to you.
  • You have lifetime access to the classes, so you can always look back if you get stuck in a later class — and if you fall behind, you can choose to catch up or just pick up where you left off. Honestly? In self-paced classes like this, I don’t really think there is a “behind.”
  • The lessons come with suggested homework for each day, and an interactive platform where you can upload or save what you’ve been working on.
  • Each Blueprint has an associated community on Mightybell where you can turn to get your questions answered. The questions are answered by the designated teacher, teacher’s assistant and other class members. It’s very community oriented.

What do you need before starting a Blueprint?

Depending on the Blueprint, there may be a prerequisite. The Web Designer Blueprint and Front End Developer Blueprint do not have any prerequisites, but all the other Blueprints have a prerequisite of at least knowing HTML & CSS. (Not at an expert level, but a comfortable level.)

Even without a prerequisite, you will need to make sure you have the time to invest in doing the Blueprint. While you can take each differently — for example, on one of the classes, I worked ahead on and learned as much as possible because I was going out of town, whereas another I did the class as I received each email — each one will still require a designated time investment.

Beyond the Blueprint

Skillcrush truly builds a community around each Blueprint. Beyond your Mightybell community, there are also weekly “office hours” held via Google Hangouts, where your teacher can answer any questions related to the projects you are putting together in class.

The teachers are current web designers and developers. Some of the teachers work at other companies, plus teach Skillcrush classes, while some teachers own their own businesses. The teachers are pretty interactive on Mightybell. Your level of engagement on Mightybell is entirely up to you.

In addition, once per month, there is a “Circle Chat” — a big group chat/forum where you can ask questions and meet other people in your class. It’s a great time to meet up and start collaborations, if that’s what you’re looking for.

They also have monthly Master Classes, where they interview someone from the tech industry like Adda Birnir, Randle Browning, and Rachel Papst. They teach classes about writing resumes, social media, project management and more. You also have access to the backlog of Master Classes. The interviews give great insight into the tech industry and have been helpful in teaching new skills like how to transition from a non-tech job to a tech job.

Setting you up for a career

Skillcrush isn’t just about teaching you the skills — they are all about helping you launch a career based on them. Each Blueprint comes with an additional program taking you step-by-step through what you need to do to jumpstart a career in tech, called a Career Path.

The Career Path takes you through building a portfolio, getting organized, and tips and strategies on finding a job. Learning how to create a portfolio and a website to advertise my new skills as a web designer will help me to promote my one woman shop. These same skills can help someone just looking to transition to a new career in tech.

Who the Web Designer Blueprint is for

Skillcrush is a great way to get started if this is the first time taking a class on web design or you’ve just dabbled in web design. The Blueprint is a comprehensive approach to learning web design: It doesn’t just teach foundational HTML & CSS. In the UX & Web Design class, you learn wireframing, user experience, a little Photoshop, and how to create and use sitemaps. (And if you don’t know what any of that means, then the class is perfect for you because you’ll learn it all!) The thing I love about Skillcrush is that you’re not jumping from site to site wondering if you’re learning it the right way or learning it well. I felt comfortable that I was learning what I needed to know to design a website from scratch.

After going through the Blueprint, I now know what I need to prepare for a meeting with a potential client, how to outline a sitemap for them, and where to start on the layout of their site — things I had no clue on before.

Who the Web Designer Blueprint isn’t for

Like any course, one Skillcrush Blueprint cannot possibly teach you everything you need to know about web design. You have to be willing to hit roadblocks and run Google searches.

In addition, if you’ve dabbled in HTML or CSS before or have built a website from scratch, the Web Designer Blueprint may not be advanced enough for you. Advanced Blueprints from Skillcrush include a Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint, Mobile Web Designer Blueprint and Ruby on Rails Developer Blueprint that may be more suited for someone that is familiar with HTML and CSS. It’s also possible to take individual classes, so if you know HTML & CSS, but not UX & Web Design, you could just take that one class.

The team at Skillcrush is great in helping you get on the path you need. If you ever have any questions you can always email someone at Skillcrush or use the chat box at the bottom of the page when you sign in.

Are you interested in Skillcrush?

If you’re curious about Skillcrush and how the Blueprints are run, take their free 10-Day Bootcamp. It will give you a great taste for what the paid classes are like.

What’s next for me

The next step for me is take the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint. I’ve always loved the WordPress CMS and I’ve always wanted to build sites on that platform. Since Skillcrush has classes teaching all about being a Freelance WordPress Developer and that’s what I want to be, it’s the next logical step. I’ve really enjoyed learning with Skillcrush and am so excited to start my business soon with the skills that I am learning. The WP Blueprint outlines exactly what you need to do build a freelance business, plus the skills to make it happen.

Stay tuned: Over the next three months, I’ll be walking you through the Freelance WordPress Developer Blueprint here on the One Woman Shop blog!

What questions do you have about Skillcrush and/or tech skills, in general? Leave ’em in the comments below!

We are affiliates of and may receive commission from sales of Skillcrush Blueprints As always, we only promote products and services that we love and/or think you might benefit from — and Skillcrush is among the best of the best!

One Woman Experiments: Coding With Skillcrush (Part I)

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines! This experiment in web development is currently being embarked upon by OWS head-honcho, Sara Frandina.

I’m a multipassionate. I don’t believe in confining yourself to a niche; I aim to learn as much as possible about many different things; and I sure as hell don’t ever find myself bored.

Being a multi-passionate, to me, means constantly evolving and trying new things. I’ve learned to overcome my fear of public speaking and won a campus-wide contest. I’ve learned to speak fluent Italian and traveled there as part of a full-immersion program. I’ve researched carboys and the best oak to use as I learn to make wine.

My Type-A personality lends itself well to learning, sticking with something, and getting pretty good at most things. (I’m not bragging. It’s a blessing and a curse.) But there’s one thing that’s been on my bucket list for far too long now, that I simply have not been able to grasp: coding. (Web developers: you have my undying envy + awe.)

Learning to code as a One Woman Shop

I’ve putzed around with the self-teaching route for coding. When I launched my business in late 2013, I even set out to build my own site. As a copywriter + editor, it was a complete mindset shift from the creative, free-flowing words to the rules-laden, no-room-for-error world of code. But still, even after embarking upon the process and keeping the best notes possible, I just wasn’t getting the hang of it.

A lot of that came from being a One Woman Shop who really needs to spend the majority of my time doing the things I’m good at to keep my business growing — and therefore not being able to devote consistent time to a “non-essential” skill like coding. But the desire to learn to code hasn’t escaped me — especially as I have client after client ask me how to put the web copy I write to its best use.

So when one of Cristina’s online contacts connected One Woman Shop to the ladies at Skillcrush suggesting we collaborate, it seemed a match was made in heaven. What’s Skillcrush? Oh, just a company that aims to teach tech skills to people who are complete newbies in a non-invasive, self-paced way. (And it’s a company built + run by a team of women — even better.)

Learning to code, the Skillcrush way

Skillcrush has designed what they call Career Blueprints: comprehensive, three-class plans that you purchase as a package. They currently offer Blueprints for Web Design, Web Development, Freelance WordPress Development, and Ruby on Rails Development.

I know what you might be thinking: how is Skillcrush any different than the classes I can find, most likely cheaper, on Skillshare, Udemy, and the other online learning platforms that we love? Now that I’m nearly two weeks into the first module, let me count the ways:

Structure

The thing I lacked most in teaching myself to code was structure. Even going to frequent Girl Develop IT classes put on by our local chapter just didn’t provide the structure needed to learn, implement, and keep learning. With Skillcrush’s Blueprints, you have set lessons to follow — whether you do it for an hour daily, as they suggest, or at your own pace — and a road map for where you’re going. Suddenly, I understand the pieces of what I’m learning and how they’ll all work together.

Support

The community around the Skillcrush Blueprint is amazing. Not only do you have the support of your teachers, but you have constant access to fellow students running through the same program you are. They’ve built the Skillcrush community via Mightybell (basically a social intranet), which takes some getting used to, but it’s fantastically active.

Syllabi

The Blueprint is fantastic in that I know what’s coming next — and the lessons drop into my inbox every day, so I don’t have to remember to go log in and check them out. I’ve just dipped my feet in the water with the first monthly module, HTML and CSS, and I’ve got a full four weeks of lessons to help me fully immerse myself and put it into practice before the syllabus calls for the next modules, JavaScript and jQuery, and Ruby, Git, and Sinatra. Do I even know what half of those things mean at this point? Nope. But that’s the beauty of the guided syllabi — I’ve got the path laid out for me.

Why this is truly an experiment

Skillcrush makes some big promises: on the landing page for the Web Developer Blueprint, it tells me that I’ll have “everything you need to know to become a kick-a$%, take-no-prisoners, digital native.”

After years of trying to learn, I’m excited to see how true that is. And with the structure, support, and carefully-thought out syllabi, I’m dedicated to taking my hour each day to see it to fruition. Will it be perfect? I doubt it. Will I struggle? For sure. But that’s the purpose of this column: so you can learn from my mistakes and see if Skillcrush is the answer to your tech-savvy dreams.

Stick with me — I’ve started off strong and now I need you to hold me accountable. I’ll be sharing the ins-and-outs of learning to code with the Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint over the next three months!

PS – Skillcrush isn’t just a pay-to-play learning site. I’ve encountered countless fantastic resources via the Skillcrush blog to help me in both learning to code and learning to excel as a solopreneur.

PPS – Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links + Skillcrush has comped the Blueprint for me as part of this One Woman Shop Experiment. (Aren’t they awesome?) That being said, everything I share is made of up my candid, honest opinions as I move through the Blueprint.

One Woman Shop Experiments: Grammarly

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines! This experiment was diligently embarked upon by author, editor, and writing coach Amanda Shofner.

I set out on an experiment with Grammarly, an automated grammar checker. The question I wanted to answer was simple:

Can Grammarly replace the need to have an extra pair of eyes on your blog posts?

As an editor, I know how important it is to have someone else look at your writing — and how awful grammar checkers like Microsoft Word can be.

In the online business world, especially when you’re going it alone, it’d be convenient to have something to catch potentially embarrassing mistakes before you hit publish. If Grammarly could be that thing, I was determined to find out.

Tell us your methodology.

My Grammarly trial lasted three months. Because I was looking specifically at blog posts, I only used the Grammarly app when I was getting ready to schedule posts, which is when I proofread.

Being unfamiliar with Grammarly, I didn’t have specific measurables, but planned to pit Grammarly’s corrections against my own thoughts about editing. For every correction, I asked, “Would I have suggested this?” or “Would I have caught this?”

What were the results of adopting Grammarly into your proofreading process?

Full disclosure: I had mixed feelings.

What worked for me:

  • Each flagged item included an explanation so you can a.) decide for yourself if you want to correct it, and b.) learn from it.
  • The dashboard and app is very intuitive. If you can copy and paste, you can use it.
  • Grammarly picked up tiny mistakes I didn’t catch — e.g., ‘roadblocks’ is one word, not two.
  • It pointed out vague words and suggested alternatives.

What didn’t work for me:

  • The “business” mode is formal, which means it flags contractions, prepositions at the end of sentences, and conjunctions (and, but) at the beginning of sentences as wrong. In blogging, though, if want your personality to shine through, those things are good, not bad. You can use the personal mode for blog posts, but it doesn’t catch as much.
  • The explanations provided were filled with grammatical terms, which only helps those who know them. (It’s unavoidable, I know, but it won’t benefit those unfamiliar with grammatical terms.)
  • Grammarly may be better than MS Word, but it’s still a software program, which means it can’t grasp all the intricacies of grammar — numerous times it told me something was wrong when it wasn’t.

Here’s an example of my last point:

Grammarly Trial - One Woman Shop

“When your binge on writing”? Not exactly. Problem: Grammarly wants me to use binge as a noun. I used it as a verb. Binge can be a noun or verb.

Based on what didn’t work for me, I suspected that Grammarly wouldn’t help proficient writers. You might catch a few minor mistakes here and there, but you’re probably smarter than you give yourself credit for. Read your post out loud — that’ll catch mistakes too.

But I wasn’t ready to give up. I formulated a new question:

Can Grammarly help self-proclaimed ‘less-than-proficient’ writers with their blog posts and online content?

I roped The Stacey Harris into helping me, because she’s talked about not being a fan of writing multiple times. Using the same methodology above, we took one of her sales pages and ran it through Grammarly.

Here were some of our mutual observations:

  • It’s easy to use.
  • It’d be great for her son once he hits the point in school when he’ll be required to write papers.
  • Some of the suggestions weren’t helpful. (Stacey would say, “But I liked it the way I wrote it.”)
  • I had to explain what some of the explanations meant, like the one on passive voice, and how to fix it.
  • The cheapest subscription plan was $139.95 for a year (or $11.66 per month). A monthly plan is $29.95 per month.
  • My edits of her sales page (which I did for comparison’s sake) were more in-depth, but that’s because Grammarly is a proofreader, not a copy editor.

Side experiment: a quick run with Grammarly Lite

We discovered that Grammarly has Grammarly Lite, a free version of the browser plugin.

The free version checks contextual spelling, commonly confused words, article use, capitalizations, and comma use in compound sentences. Sounds decent, but the pro version checks for word choice, subject-verb agreement, pronoun use, run-ons, and comma splices, where the majority of people’s troubles lie.

If you want the browser plugin, the pro version will catch more of those embarrassing mistakes.

Conclusions + Summary

In the end, I had two questions to answer. Can Grammarly replace the need to have an extra pair of eyes on your blog posts? and Can Grammarly help self-proclaimed ‘less-than-proficient’ writers with their blog posts and online content?

The answer is yes, but you need to understand what you write and what you want you want.

Grammarly was created for students and corporate businesses, and for those purposes, it’s a great tool. Having Grammarly when I was writing my Master’s thesis would have been awesome.

But because Grammarly is best with formal language, bloggers or brands who pour their personality into their writing may struggle. The business option suggests changes that are too stuffy; the personal post option doesn’t catch enough. A business casual option would go a long way toward easing that struggle.

My final note for you: remember it’s a proofreader, not an editor. An editor digs into who your audience is and what your post needs to accomplish. She’ll rearrange your sentences for clarity or make suggestions to better develop your post. If you’ve got that down and want to focus on surface issues, Grammarly will work for you.

This post contains affiliate links. We only promote products + services that we believe you might find valuable. 

One Woman Shop Experiments: Growing Our Email List

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

A few months ago, we decided that we were truly committed to growing our email list. The reasons are many (here are just a few), but essentially, we realized that we were missing out on HUGE opportunities to connect with our target individuals by only engaging with them on social media.

We love social media (especially Twitter!), but we felt that adding subscribers to our email list was the best way to ensure that we have direct access to them.

Think about it: we currently have about a 50% open rate on our email campaigns (which is an awesome percentage!), while only a fraction of the people who follow us on Twitter or like our page on Facebook see each post or tweet we send out.

We were already doing a variety of things to build up our email list: a visible email opt-in on our homepage, occasional posts about our email list on social media, asking anyone who contributed if we could add them to the list, etc.

What we hadn’t done was make a giant list of all of the women we wanted to connect with and actually taken the time to reach out directly.

Sounds simple, right? It is, but how many people do you think are currently doing it? Not many is our guess!

Here’s what we did and how you can do it too:

    • Keep a running list of anyone you think would be a great addition to your community, network, client base, partnership roster, referral roster, etc
    • Consider hiring a VA to do a bit of online stalking research on them to be sure they fit your ideal customer/partner/collaborator avatar. For example, we were only looking for female solo business owners, so businesses run by two women would be out
    • Find the person’s contact information and shoot them a brief but informative email about what you offer. Directly ask them if you can add them to your email list
    • Follow up if need be

Our results after 47 days:

    • We contacted 103 women through email or their website contact form. We followed up two weeks after our first email if we hadn’t heard back
    • 5/103 women responded back letting us know that they would check out the site but were not interested in being on the email list (most cited overcrowded inboxes)
    • 31 women said they would love to be on the email list
    • 67 women did not respond at all

So, 65% of individuals didn’t respond, roughly 5% opted out, and 30% opted in- these might not seem like awesome numbers, but think about it this way: if you add 30 individuals to your email list and just one of them converts into a paying client, you’ve probably more than made up for the time you spent (depending on the cost of your services or your hourly rate).

Also take into consideration that marketing efforts generally amplify naturally. For example, in our email, we asked that the women forward our email to any friends who run solo businesses. In addition, once you bring new people into your community, you’ll probably experience more shares of your content, which extends your reach organically.

The bad:

    • It can be demoralizing to not hear back from so many people, but it’s worth when you get a great response (in our opinion!)
    • One woman said anything slightly rude, but hey- it’s only 1/103!
    • It’s very time consuming to do so much research, which is why we recommend enlisting help if you can

The great:

    • It was AWESOME that we added so many relevant women to our community!
    • Numbers aren’t everything! We also found several women to curate our Weekly Finds, got interviewed on multiple blogs, and struck up tons of interesting conversations
    • We got quite the ego boost when we heard back from women who were genuinely pleased that we had taken the time to reach out

A few notes:

    • We starting reaching out to people on March 21 and originally planned to do the experiment for one month. We decided to keep it up because we were excited about the results
    • We actually had quite a few unsubscribes during this experiment. We began sending emails more frequently, which led individuals who were on the fence about our site and offerings to unsubscribe
    • We found that it took about 4 minutes to send each email, including research time

The lesson:

Want to know more, like:

    • Where and how to actually find individuals to add to your list?
    • How you can save time with effective research?
    • What tools you can use to best track your results and stay on top of your outreach efforts?
    • What we said in our emails to get a 30% sign up rate?

Get on our list to get more information about our Building Your Online Community e-course! (You’ll also get our 28 Secrets to Growing Your Community with tips from business experts like Sarah Von Bargen, Ashley Wilhite, Amanda Genther, April Bowles-Olin, and Nikki Groom).

One Woman Experiments: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

When Hope Connell came to us with the idea to implement a new morning routine based on Laura Vanderkam’s e-book What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, we were all for it- after all, we love tinkering with our schedules (and even debating about them).

What is your experiment and why?

A strategic morning routine might seem like a no-brainer to some people, but I have always been a person that sleeps until the last possible second. I’m neither an early bird nor a night owl. I love sleep, and I have always found it challenging to get up early “just because.”

Despite my inclination to hit the snooze button, I typically got up early with my husband on the mornings when he had to be out the door by seven, partially because it was hard to sleep though his preparation, but also because I knew I would be handling the morning routine of our toddlers singlehandedly. I wanted to get a couple basic things done before I was pulled into the demands of diaper changes and Cheerio refills.

These mornings gave me two realizations:

  1. I felt calmer on the mornings when I didn’t hit the ground running from the moment I woke up.
  2. I did not feel any less rested, even though I was getting less sleep.

I was considering the implications of these observations when I stumbled upon Vanderkam’s book, and I knew it was time for me to start setting my alarm clock.

Without sounding too much like middle school science class, tell us about your methodology.

The book recommends the following steps:

1) Track your time.

Confession: I did not do this. However, I did implement a strict bedtime of 10:00 pm, setting an evening alarm clock to alert me when I had 20 minutes before lights out.

2) Picture the perfect morning.

The book advises focusing on items that are “important but not urgent,” things that wouldn’t otherwise get done unless I make a special effort to schedule them in. I had several brainstorming sessions, which all resulted in long lists of possible ideas and no clear way to narrow the list down. Part of the issue was there were several items that I wanted to do, but that I didn’t necessarily need or want to do every single morning.

I eventually developed a variation on the Pomodoro method. I have three areas of focus with little breaks for quick chores in between. The areas of focus were mind, body, and business. Each day I would fill this time with something that strengthened me in those areas:

  • 6:00am Alarm goes off. Turn bedroom light on, hit snooze for 5 minutes.
  • Mind: 30 minutes of reading (when I’m lucky, my husband brings me coffee in bed while I read)
  • Break: 5 minutes to make bed and start load of laundry
  • Body: 10-minute workout video or doing a gentle stretching routine while I watch The Daily Show
  • Break: 5 minutes to get dressed for the day
  • Business: 30 minutes of watching video tutorials to develop my coding skills (or business training/inspiration videos) or writing

3) Think through logistics.

To being with, I started incrementally setting my alarm clock earlier until I was getting up at 6:00 am (this did not work, so I finally ended up just going “cold turkey” with the new wakeup time). I also made sure my current book and the kitchen timer were on my nightstand, so I was ready to start my 30 minutes of reading as soon as I woke up. I settled on a workout video to try, and I talked my plans over with my husband to see if any of it was going to disturb or annoy him first thing in the morning.

4) Build the habit.

I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was for me to commit to the new routine. I have skipped the routine a couple of times, but they were after long nights with a teething baby. On those mornings I figured we could all use the extra sleep, so I turned my alarm off.

5) Tune up as necessary.

One thing I’ve learned is that I need to settle on the specifics of my morning routine the night before. Which book am I going to read? Which workout video am I going to do? Was I going to write (and what writing project would I work on) or watch videos (and which ones)? Having these decisions made ahead of time helped me make smoother transitions between activities, which saved time and mental energy.

How did you feel when you adopted the practice?

Overall, I have felt great with this new routine! Some mornings it’s hard to pull myself out of bed, but I know that if I just get past that initial resistance, I will wake up and feel good and get some important stuff done. The book said this would happen, but I was surprised when I started to genuinely look forward to those quiet morning hours when I could work on long-neglected activities.

It’s hard to measure any quantifiable increase in productivity. Since the book suggests incorporating things that would not get done otherwise, my day after the morning routine looks almost identical to what it was before. The items I added to my morning routine are also not particularly productivity-centered, but I have seen progress in those areas, and my overall level of stress has gone down.

Reading: I’m not reading more books per month, but I’m reading them a little at a time rather than binge-reading right before the books are due at the library.

Workout video: Right now I’m using a video specifically focused on ab strength and health following pregnancy, and I have definitely seen an improvement (though it’s hard to measure).

Team Treehouse videos: This is one of those things I always mean to do but can never find time for. It doesn’t make me more productive, but it makes me a better web developer.

Writing: This is where I’ve seen the biggest improvement. Working on writing a little at a time helps me space out the work I need to do, and I don’t end up with a stressful few days before the deadline. In fact, since I started this morning routine, I have turned in two articles early because they simply got done sooner than I thought they would.

What was the toughest/best part of the experiment? Do you think you’ll stick with it?

The toughest part about maintaining my routine is the unpredictability of my children and their sleeping schedules. My morning routine goes flawlessly when they sleep until 7:30. But if my kids are up at 6:30 and my husband has to leave at 7, it’s really hard to get everything in around changing diapers and fixing breakfast.

On days like this, it’s hard not to push my morning routine onto my to-do list for the day. This is unhelpful, because I already have a full day (hence the need to find extra time in the morning to get these things done). When this happens, the routine that is supposed to make my life less stressful makes my day more stressful. I’m still working on letting those activities go until the next morning.

The best part for me has a lot less to do with productivity and more to do with guilt, believe it or not. I have always loved sleeping in but always felt guilty for doing it. It seemed like sleeping in isn’t the mature, grown-up thing to do. Similarly, I’ve been meaning to start workout videos for a long time, but I was always finding excuses not to do it, and that made me feel guilty. When I’m up against a writing deadline, I often feel guilty for not planning ahead and pacing myself better.

Now that I’m getting up early and crossing these things off my list every morning, all of that guilt is relieved. I’m not a person usually motivated by guilt, but in these areas, I was often feeling frustrated with myself for not getting things together. Now that I have a process in place, these guilt-inducing issues just take care of themselves.

I will absolutely keep my morning routine. I think it will be especially helpful as my kids get older and start sleeping later and more consistently. I feel just as rested, my mornings are calmer, and I am able to tackle important tasks consistently.

Questions for Hope? Ask them in the comments!

One Woman Experiments: Testing Out Facebook Ads

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!

Ah, Facebook- as business owners, it’s our best friend and mortal enemy. With the changing algorithms, it’s getting more and more difficult to build traction without paying for Facebook ads. So, Laura C George, a consultant who works with artists, decided to test-drive Facebook ads and report back with her results.

What is your experiment and why?

I tried out Facebook Ads to promote a webinar. I’ve heard some good things about these ads like the fact that you can set a reasonable price to spend, whatever reasonable means to you. And I heard they’re really effective, generating more Facebook likes or business leads. So I decided to test drive a Facebook Ad.

Tell us your methodology.

I used a great LKR Social Media article to devise my master plan. First, I designed a regular post for my page, with an image attached. This became the basis of my ad.

Then I went into the Ads Manager to create an ad. I followed the steps in the LKR article, targeting:

    • People who live in the US, Ireland, Canada, or the UK
    • Women who are 25-45 years old
    • People who like “visual arts,” “arts and music,” “painting,” “fine art,” “illustration,” or “printmaking”
    • People who graduated from college
    • People who speak some version of English
    • People who are not already connected to Laura C George (my page)
    • And people whose friends are already connected to Laura C George

I let my max bid be at the top edge of the suggested bid, which was $0.70 and asked to spend no more than $10 a day for 8 days.

I’ll note here that I didn’t think ahead of time to set up goals in Google Analytics that would have allowed me to track which webinar signups came from this ad and which ones were from other Facebook activity.

How did you feel when you adopted the new practice?

It was really exciting to track the ad as it was going on, watching the impressions and clicks add up.

With the above specifications, I got 30,304 impressions (number of times my ad was seen), 98 clicks on the ad (in certain situations you can like the page or click the website link without clicking on the ad as well) giving the ad a decent click through rate of 0.32%. There is also the “unique click through rate” which is the percentage who clicked on the ad out of just the number of unique people who saw the ad – mine was 1.11%.

My cost per click was only 51 cents and I spent less than $50 total during the whole campaign. I also found it interesting that people saw my ad an average of 4 times and a decent number of people clicked on the ad multiple times, meaning that people who were interested were very interested.

And I found that a lot of people were telling me they saw the ad and it reminded them they hadn’t liked my page yet, so I increased my page likes by another 20 – a big deal when you’re under 500. Because I didn’t properly track how my webinar signups got to the page, I can’t tell exactly how well my ad converted for this particular project.

Any revolutionary/surprising insights? What was the toughest/best part of your experiment? Do you think you’ll stick with it?

I can tell that Facebook Ads are a really inexpensive way to get new leads into your business. So when you’re on a budget or just want to really fine-tune who sees your ad, this is the most effective advertising.

The hardest part of this experiment was getting my hopes too high. With all the excitement around Facebook Ads, I expected to gain hundreds of new likes for my $50. With this experiment under my belt, I have a more realistic view of this method of advertising. I can also now refine how I create my original page post – using an image that is designed to become an ad (it needs to pop out on the page more and more clearly show what the ad is about), fitting a link into the short summary on the ad (so people can directly click to my site instead of having to click the ad before clicking into my site), and adjusting the wording to very briefly entice people to click.

But I will definitely try again. I’m eager to see if I can beat my numbers the next time around, armed with experience.

Questions for Laura? Leave them in the comments!

One Woman Experiments: The Covey Time Management Matrix

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines!


We were recently introduced to The Covey Time Management Matrix, which some people swear is hands-down the most effective tool for time management. Ashley Brooks of Brooks Editorial stepped up to test-drive using the matrix. Here are her thoughts and the outcome.

What is your experiment and why?

For nearly a month, I’ve been using the Stephen Covey matrix to determine which work gets done first, and what gets pushed to the back burner.

This productivity system is based on figuring out which tasks are urgent (need immediate attention) and which are important (don’t need to happen right away, but are necessary to achieve your professional goals).

It’s arranged as a graph with four quadrants. These quadrants are:

  1. Tasks with high urgency and high importance
  2. Tasks with low urgency and high importance
  3. Tasks with high urgency and low importance
  4. Tasks with low urgency and low importance

According to Covey, most people get stuck in a pattern of “firefighting” and only focusing on the most urgent tasks. I have to admit, I’m one of those people. By always placing the most urgent work first, I was never able to carve out time to focus on important things like business planning or writing an e-book. I was hopeful that this experiment would help me stay on track with my long-term goals.

Without sounding too much like middle school science class, tell us about your methodology.

At the end of each day, I list everything that’s still on my to-do list for the rest of the week. I decide how urgent and important each task is, then assign it to the quadrant that’s the best fit.

Using my list, I begin every day with high urgency, high importance tasks—like a client project with a looming deadline. From there, I need to evaluate my unimportant, urgent tasks (which Covey refers to as “interruptions”). If they’re not too time-consuming, I’ll take care of them right away. But if they’re bigger than that, I’ll try to reschedule or delegate the job so I can focus on more important tasks. This is also a good time to figure out why it’s so urgent. Is it because I procrastinated, or did I say “yes” to a last-minute request I should’ve turned down?

Questions like these allow me to prioritize the kind of work I take on, especially regarding my overarching business goals. As I made my way down the list, it was easy to focus on one thing at a time instead of being dragged down by the thought of other things that needed to be done.

By the end of the week, I would hopefully have finished all my urgent tasks and left myself time to focus on important goals. The end of the week is also when I would force myself to be honest about the jobs I hadn’t completed: if they’re low urgency and low importance, they probably don’t need to be on my list at all.

For example, I was in the habit of replying to e-mails that didn’t need a response because I thought it was the polite thing to do. I also learned I was spending way too much time on Facebook and LinkedIn discussion groups. Even though they’re work related, I was letting them throw my true priorities off balance.

How did you feel when you adopted the new practice?

It took some getting used to, but the results have been fantastic! I’m able to be more productive without feeling guilty about pushing certain tasks aside for the day. It’s freeing to look at a task that feels urgent and remind yourself it’s not important in the long run. I was motivated to finish urgent tasks quickly since I could see that they were taking time away from more important goals.

E-mail and social media engagement were the two biggies that always fell into that tricky “urgent” category. The matrix provides a nice way to keep everything in perspective: getting my client work done and writing incredible content is more important than being constantly accessible through social media.

What was the toughest/best part of the experiment? Do you think you’ll stick with it?

One of the toughest parts was recognizing that sometimes client work isn’t urgent. It felt weird to be doing business development ahead of a billable project — even when its deadline was still several weeks away. It’s a great reminder that your business is built on more than just client work.

Another tricky issue was realizing that certain tasks consistently showed up as not urgent and not important. Stephen Covey calls these “distractions” and tells us to drop them completely. It’s hard to give yourself permission to take something off your list for good, but it’s so rewarding once it’s gone.

My favorite part of the experiment was giving myself time each week to focus on an important part of my business. Sometimes it was catching up on accounting, reading a business book I’d been meaning to get to, or working on the e-book I’ve been planning forever. Sometimes big business goals seem unattainable, but using the matrix has already brought some of mine much closer to completion.

I don’t know that I’ll continue writing out how urgent/important each task is, but the matrix itself will definitely continue to be part of my business. Now that the system is in my head, I’d like to keep using it as a way to organize my to-do list and vet new projects. Hopefully I’ll use it so much, it’ll become second nature to give important tasks the time they deserve.

Thanks for taking us through your experiment, Ashley! Now, it’s your turn: Give the Time Management Matrix a go and share your results in the comments!

1 2