The Residue of Busy Work

It’s there in the back of your mind when you’re on the phone with a client, or working one a big project for another – the handful of “busy work” you have get through.

Maybe it’ll take an hour, or most of your Saturday morning, but you’re thinking about it now, when you should be focusing.

When I used to meet clients in person (remember those days?!), this busy work would be on my mind. I’d cram in some busy work before heading to the bus station. Shuffle emails on the bus ride into NYC. Work a random Starbuck between PABT and the client’s office. Then, during our meeting, I’d be tending to the busy work, the incoming requests, the loose ends.

One way to cut down on the busy work is automation.

FRONT: If you deal with a lot of emails, I recommend adding Front to your work flow. I’ve been using it since August 2019 and swear by it.

I’ve set up a workflow where incoming emails get assigned to certain people based. When they complete those tasks, they add a tag to the email, and it gets automatically assigned to someone else.

In the past I would’ve played traffic cop with those emails, sometimes shuffling around 10-20 emails a day like that.

Front cuts out the busy work.

BASECAMP: I’ve used several other project management apps (Todoist, OmniFocus, Things), but when I started to build up my team, I wanted something that was web-based.

Yeah, Todoist can be web-based, but I wanted URL slugs for the stuff I’m working on. I didn’t want clicks and menus – I wanted to be able to send a URL to someone for a task. Or a file. The ability to add a URL to my Reminders app, or the Calendar app.

So as you grow your team, Basecamp can be super helpful. It’s easy to bring people on board, limit access, and remove people when projects are finished.

Some next level shit? Adding Zapier into the mix and automating emails from Front to be added as tasks in Basecamp, and auto-assigned to your team members. Yeah, it’s magic.

Of course, the other way to reduce your busy work is with people power. Yes, this costs money, but so do the apps mentioned above, and everything else in the world.

I’ve had tremendous luck with UpWork. You might have some people in your network that you might reach out to. Either way, know what you want, set yourself a budget, and just start it.

The sooner you start outsourcing your work, the sooner you’ll actually get good at it. Time is money, and the lessons you learn today – with a tighter budget and fewer clients – will pay off when you have more cash flow and clients.

Hire Small

Make your first “hire.”

Hiring doesn’t mean bring on a part-time employee, or not hiring (and just doing it all yourself). It’s not black and white.

You probably hired someone to set up your website. And do your taxes.

Hire someone to take one task off your plate. Just try it for a week. Or a day.

It’s not black and white.

I started outsourcing in 2019, and made a few mistakes. Over paying. Hours got out of control. Poor work. But you learn best when you lose money, and I lost a few bucks.

Hire out a small, annoying administrative task. Data entry. Moving links around. Posting things to your outdated website.

Just try it. You can literally get something done for $20, just as a test run.

Will it be perfect? Right the first time? Probably not. But you learn, and then hire someone else.

Write down how you want something done. Dumb it down. Then dumb it down even more. Stupider.

Then hire someone on Fiverr or Upwork. Set a clear due date.

One of the best tips I ever learned from ‘The Four Hour Work Week,’ by Tim Ferriss; tell your new helped, “do this project for 15 minutes then check back in with me with questions.”

This way they don’t run off for three hours in a direction you never intended.

Set limits (only work on this task for one hour).
Set safeguards (show me the results before putting it in the final client-facing project).
Set expectations (grammar, quality, style).

Don’t hire an assistant for 20 hours a week if you can get the work done in five. Learn how to slice up projects, tasks, and duties. You might save yourself a ton of time and money.

Hit me up with questions you might have about finding help with your busy work: seth@closemondays.com

You Deserve a Sane Inbox

Every email is a potential ding, a notification, one more thing to process. With SaneBox, you train your inbox to recognize what’s important, and what can wait.

Drag those monthly billing statements to SaneBulk. Drag the 12 newsletter you signed up for to SaneLater. Drag pesky emails from lists you never signed up for to SaneBlackhole, and never see them again.

Yes, you can set up filters for all that, and click unsubscribe, but really how much more $10/hr work do you need right now?

Keep the mega important emails in your inbox. SaneBox won’t touch those.

But now when your email dings, you know it’s actually important, and not just some 12% off sale at BestBuy.

I’ve been using SaneBox for years, and swear by it.

Email Works

Social media algorithms are going to keep making it harder for you to reach your fans. Start an email list today. Get people on it. Every person who’s on social media today had to sign up with an email address.

Q. “But what will I put in the email?”
A. The photos and random bits of text you shovel into Instagram and Twitter and FB every day. Condense, edit, crop, and send.

Q. “But I already have 93,242 followers!”
A. Same can be said for all those MySpace fans you had, too. Same will happen with Twitter and Facebook and everything else. And it’ll cost you to reach those 93,242 followers. That is if you TRUST the companies you’re paying. They will take your money and say that 40% of your audience saw the post, but can you really be sure?

Growing an email list ain’t as cool or hip as social media follower counts, Likes, polls, etc. – but they WORK. There’s a reason why every company out there is sending you 320,984 emails a day during the holidays. And why politicians send your 3 emails a day after you donate.

Email works.

It’s Okay to Start Small

I somehow got reading ‘5 reasons why music mentors are better than managers,’ and it made me think of my recent post ‘Lessons Cost Money.’

We all need to learn lessons, and lessons that don’t cost you a bunch of money are a good way to start.

Absolultly hire a manager, booking agent, professional photographer, top rate producer… but, maybe after you’ve tried hiring some other folks over the years?

Learn how to deal with invoicing (and late payments), learn contracts, learn pay raises, learn cutting back on hours, learn the tricky conversations with $250/project professionals before you hire anyone for $5,000.

Learn the feedback loop, the revision process of a band logo before hiring a giant firm. Work with a smaller studio for your first demo or EP before working in a bigger studio experience where the mistakes cost you a lot more money.

You’re a great creative force, but are you a good… boss? Have you really developed your management style? Does your work flow allow for adding someone (or a whole team) to the mix?

Best to start small, when the mistakes don’t cost you a ton of money.

Lessons Cost Money

If you’re a band, you probably have to hire someone to do your album art and layout.

If you’re a photographer, sometimes you need to pay an assistant for bigger shoots.

If you’re a label with no in-house publicist, you hire an indie to handle that work.

Same goes for any indie publicist. Outsourcing has a dirty reputation, but it shouldn’t.

I always tell my busy publicist clients that the best use of their time is getting their clients on magazine covers, not filing links into Google Sheets.

You can do the same thing. Look up “data entry” on Upwork, and find someone to file your links. Yeah, it takes some work to teach someone your system. Put your instructions into a Google Doc, and keep updating it with all the questions that person asks you. There’s your FAQ. This way when you (maybe, okay probably) switch to someone else, you don’t have to repeat all your instructions over again.

It sounds like a huge waste of time – making a document filled with instructions, screen shots, and links, but it’s worth it.

And note: you can go cheap, but you get what you pay for. It’s better to pay someone a better hourly rate at first, to really refine your system. Figure out how to make it work while paying someone $15/hr before you even think about trying to find someone to do it for $10.

The time you save and the dollars you spend will only be as good as the system you have in place. You’re going to screw up at first. You’re going to over-pay, you’re going to get shoddy work, but cut your losses and move onto someone else. Find another solution.

Hit me up with questions you might have about finding help with your busy work: seth@closemondays.com

Own Your Thing

Facebook didn’t just stop at destroying democracy – which is a very important thing, of course.

Also of note, Facebook did a number on music outlets, too. And in turn bands. Venues. Artists. Gear companies. Just pay to reach your “audience!”

Absolute trash bananas.

I get it. Twitter and FB don’t exist to benefit anyone but themselves. But don’t tell everyone to pivot to video, then lie about the metrics.

Engage your audience direct. On your own channel. Email (set up an email list). Website (buy a domain name).

“But people don’t even go to websites,” some might say.

Don’t tell Bandcamp. Or YouTube. Or Netflix. You (used to) buy tickets to shows on websites. You shop on websites. You’re reading this website right now.

Social media is modeled after casino games. Ditch the dopamine rush. I get it. You post something, 12 likes! 4 re-tweets! And they can (and sometimes do) build momentum.

But social media is like handing out flyers on the corner – necessary, but it’s not what you do. The point is to get people to the show, to fall in love with your art, to watch your video.

Yes, hand out your flyers, but make sure they tell people where to go.

Make it Easy, Make it Hard

Make it easy to buy your thing.

Make it hard to forget.

Nearly every social media post, include a link to pre-order / pre-save / buy your thing.

Nearly every social media post, pound it into people’s heads when your release is coming out.

At least every other day.

Don’t worry about looking spammy.

Hell, the social media algorithms prevent 60% of your posts from being see anyways.

Include the important stuff in as many posts as you can. Give yourself a chance.