Process: Sign up for an event

Posted by & filed under Processes.

  1. Sign up for the event using my name and e-mail address.
  2. Add it to my calendar, either using the event page or by
    creating a Google Calendar entry.

  3. Confirm that the event appears in my Google Calendar, and
    that the details are included in the calendar entry. (URL for webinars, location
    for in-person events – confirm that the map displays the location, and edit the
    location as needed.)

  4. Buffer: For in-person events, add 1 hour buffer before and
    after. For virtual events, add 30 minutes before and after. (If there are any
    conflicts, I’ll probably listen to the recording instead.)

What I’m looking for in terms of accounting

Posted by & filed under Plans.

I’m looking for someone who can answer accounting questions and review my books.

I have a small federal corporation. My income primarily derives from consulting and illustration, although I have some occasional income from other sources (including USD through Paypal). My fiscal year end is September 30, and this is my second fiscal year. Last year, I prepared my return using Quickbooks and TurboTax, which was fine although I think it would be even better if I could ask someone accounting questions.

I use Quickbooks for general bookkeeping. I have low transaction volume (22 transactions last month, which is typical) and am happy to enter this into Quickbooks myself.

I use a business credit card for practically all business-related expenses. I scan my business receipts and file them in folders by fiscal year, and rename the files to start with the transaction date for easier lookup.

I don’t claim automobile expenses or transportation (I usually bike), and I don’t have a dedicated space for the business-use-of-home claim.

I remit HST and corporate income taxes on a quarterly basis. I currently use the regular method of calculating HST, and would like to move to the quick method next fiscal year. I am comfortable reading tax references, but would appreciate being able to ask questions and have someone doublecheck my setup.

Here’s what I’d like help with:

  • Review my Quickbooks file to make sure that GIFI codes are properly set.
  • Doublecheck my calculations for the salary/dividends question for low income (~$8,000-10,000 annually?) and the CPP deduction/remittance process (including preparing slips) so that I can do this going forward.
  • Doublecheck that my quarterly remittances are correct.
  • Tell me how to categorize uncategorized expenses (once in a blue moon, or we can batch this up near the end of the tax year).
  • Help me correctly account for corporate tax liabilities and payments in Quickbooks.
  • Show me how to account for personal benefit so that I’m correctly deducting things like delegation or cellphone use. Help me
    recalculate and adjust my previous return if necessary.
  • Give me more information on PHSPs and help me correctly set one up if it’s a good fit. (Brock Health’s administration fee is 5%; can you refer me, and is it worthwhile given my low tax bracket?)
  • Review my capital cost adjustments and help me with succeeding years’ depreciation.

I expect that working with an accountant will primarily increase my peace of mind. It may also result in tax savings, which would be nice. I’m not interested in one-size-fits-all advice or having someone completely take care of accounting for me. I want to know what’s going on and where I might be misunderstanding something or where I can improve the way I work.

I am comfortable talking to people over Skype, Google Hangout, or e-mail, and don’t expect immediate responses to questions. (A week is fine.)

Are you a Canada-based accountant who might be able to help me? E-mail me at [email protected] with how this might work out.

Process: Add a testimonial from Twitter

Posted by & filed under Processes.

People occasionally say good things about my sketchnotes on Twitter. To save them for later, I mark them as a favourite. Not all favourites are testimonials, so use your judgment and ask me if you have any questions. 

List of my favourites:

For each of the testimonial tweets that aren’t yet on

  1. Click on “Embed this tweet”.
  2. Copy the HTML code.
  3. Go to and log in with the provided credentials.
  4. Click on Testimonials – New Testimonial
  5. Click the Text tab. <- important!
  6. Paste in the HTML code.
  7. Click on Edit next to Publish immediately and set the date. Click OK.
  8. In the title field, type in the name of the person or organization.
  9. Click Publish.
  10. To confirm, click on View testimonial.

To add a testimonial from Storify, click on Original link and follow the “Add a testimonial from Twitter” process.


Posted by & filed under Lists.

See this list as a table

Idea status

Stamp calculator

Business model: Advertising

Task and time trackers

Freemium, SaaS

Wardrobe organizer and tracker

Business model: Subscription service? Some apps are starting to get into this

Math resources for grade school and high school students

Introvert-focused networking tips

A book building on The Shy Connector

Quantified coaching

Next steps: Create coaching services page

Emacs resources

I’d like to put together more resources for people who want to learn about Emacs. Similar: Mastering Emacs, Emacs Rocks

List of things I would like to see fixed

I brainstormed a list of things I would like to see fixed. Of this list, there are probably quite a few things that people will pay for. Of that list, there are probably a few things that I can build a sustainable business around. It’ll be interesting …

Business idea: Hand-drawn web designs

Reason: I want to do this for myself anyway, and other people might be interested. Other companies in this field: In a Nutshell Studio (ex: Religion Out of the Box)

Business idea: Content marketing for conferences and events
20130101 lean canvasses - content marketing for conferences and events

Business idea: Delegation coaching
20130101 lean canvasses - delegation coaching

Business idea: Technical writing
20130101 lean canvasses - technical writing

Business idea: Visual book reviews
20130101 lean canvasses - visual book reviews

Business idea: Self-tracking tools
20130101 lean canvasses - self-tracking tools

Business idea: Social intranet community-building
20130101 lean canvasses - social intranet community-building

Business idea: Visual communication coaching
20130101 lean canvasses - visual communication coaching

Business idea: Presentation design
20130101 lean canvasses - presentation design

Related businesses: Existing companies: Big Fish Presentations, Duarte Design Business idea: Hand-drawn vector microstock images  

Business idea: Hand-drawn vector microstock images
20130101 lean canvasses - hand-drawn stock images and illustration

Hypothesis: People will pay for my hand-drawn images for presentations, designs, and webpages Why this business idea interests me: It’s a good complement to sketchnoting, it turns my practice sessions into something valuable, it can be a small but usef …

Business idea: Tweetchat summary service

I can help corporate Tweetchat organizers who need to prepare better summaries / visualizations / analytics of tweetchats so that they can share what was discussed, what trends were seen, and who the participants were in order to continue engagement an …

Writing e-books and other information products
20130101 lean canvasses - writing

People want to learn all sorts of things, but don’t always have the time to do the research themselves. People are also interested in other experiences. If I can get the hang of putting together e-books that help people save time and do better, that wo …

Business idea: Digital sketchnotes for conferences and events
20130101 lean canvasses - digital conference and event sketchnotes

Summary: Promote pre- and post-event engagement/conversion through digital sketchnotes for presentations and events People say these sketchnotes are awesome. They love these 1-page summaries I do of business and technology events. What if I build a dig …

Process: Update galleries with better titles

Posted by & filed under Processes.

The big picture: I want to put in better captions for images so that people can browse and search through them more easily. This information might not be in the filename, and besides, the automatically-generated filename is hard to read.

Information needed from me:

  • Which gallery to edit
  • Lastpass shared account credentials for


I’d like to know how much time this takes you per gallery, so please time yourself. If you aren’t sure about how something is spelled, continue with everything else, and then e-mail me parts of the image that you were unable to read (plus your best guess). You can use the Snipping Tool if you’re on Windows 7. 

  1. Log on to with the provided username and password.
  2. Hover over Gallery in the left sidebar and click on Manage Gallery.
  3. Click on the name of the gallery you want to edit.
  4. Title: Change the title to a title that’s properly capitalized. Use spaces instead of dashes where appropriate. (Ex: quantified-self-2012 becomes Quantified Self 2012).
  5. For each of the images:
    1. Change the alt text to the human-readable version (properly capitalized, using spaces instead of dashes, indicating title and speaker – look at the image if the filename does not include it). You may find it easier to type the titles into a separate window while viewing the image, then copy and paste them after viewing the image. In general, the titles should be of the form Talk title – Speaker name(s). If there are multiple talks, use a semicolon between each talk: Talk 1 – Speaker 1; Talk 2 – Speaker 2
      • Example for a single speaker: 20120915-nancy-dougherty becomes Nancy Dougherty
      • Example for multiple speakers, one talk title: Opening Plenary – Gary Wolf, Ernesto Ramirez, David Maskin, Robin Barooah
      • Example for multiple talks, multiple speakers: Reverse Mood Tracking – Dr. Alan Greene; Quantified Creativity – Amy Robinson; Quantifying Seat Time – Mark Leavitt
      • Hind Hoboeika, Jan Peter Larsen, Natalie McKeever, David Albert,

        Yasmin Lucero, Anne Wright,

        Paul Abramson

    2. Copy the alt text to the description field (the text area below the text field).
  6. Click on Save Changes.

E-mail me when you’re done with the galleries specified, and tell me how much time it took.

Delegation: How I hire and manage my virtual team

Posted by & filed under Hiring.

I’ve been helping other people get started with their own experiments in delegation, and one of them asked me how I manage my team in oDesk. Here’s how I do it.

Setting expectations

I like thinking of oDesk contracts as mini-experiments. It’s not about hiring amazing people – as in the regular job market, amazing people usually have their plates full of work and don’t have to look for more (aside from word of mouth). Each hire is an experiment involving the process and the person. If it works out, wonderful; I’ll keep them on as long as I can find work for them to do. If it doesn’t – and there have been some gigs that were just not a good fit – well, it’s only a small experiment.

I like taking notes so that I can hire people again for other things. Many people move on from oDesk after some time, though, so I haven’t always been able to go back and rehire people who have worked out. I try to focus on developing good processes instead of relying only on hiring good people, though, so I don’t mind turnover so much. I sometimes have to refer to my notes to remember whom to send tasks to, though!

Someday I might graduate to having one or two assistants with more time dedicated to my tasks. In the meantime, this patchwork of assistants requires a little bit more oversight.

Posting a job ad

I usually post my job ads for as-needed work, 1-3 months, < 10 hours a week. This gives me the flexibility to experiment on a low-commitment basis.

In addition to describing my requirements, I also ask that job applications show their attention to detail by beginning and ending their cover letter with an unusual keyword, such as “blue”. This makes it super-easy to filter out people who are indiscriminately applying to job posts or who don’t read the requirements all the way through. Many people put in the first keyword, and a few remember to put in the last keyword as well.

I often ask people to include a sample of their relevant work in their cover letter, and to describe their experience (especially for skills that are optional but useful). I detest the scammy practice of asking people to do unpaid work as part of their application, so I only ask for existing work samples.

One of my role models uses a riddle in his job application / interview process as a way of testing people’s thinking. He spins one of the classic riddles into something that’s not easily Googleable, so he can see if people can figure things out on their own.

Here are some job posts I’ve used:

Filtering people

As mentioned, I use attention to detail as one of my quick filters for applications.

I usually also search and filter by 4.0+ rating, > 100 hours on oDesk, but I’ll look at the reviews even for people with lower rating if I like their profile. I’ll occasionally take a chance on people who are new to oDesk – everyone’s got to start somewhere – with the expectation that I’ll need to teach them a little more about working with me or using oDesk to file time.

It’s always a treat to find good people in the Philippines because I’m from there as well, so the shared cultural background makes interviewing and working a little bit easier.

Inviting specific people

When I come across interesting people’s profiles, I save their profile in oDesk or Evernote (Evernote is easier to browse/search). After I post the job, I invite them to participate. There are so many good people looking for work, though, so I don’t often do this.

I occasionally create private job posts and invite specific people to them. I more often post public job posts even though I invite specific people to them, because you never know what kind of awesome talent is out there.

Interviewing applicants

I want to confirm that people understand the job requirements, find out how much they meet the requirements, and – also important – learn more about their other skills and their career goals so that I can come up with more tasks that fit them.

I use ScheduleOnce to schedule Skype interviews. The timezone difference and the interface turn out to be useful filters for attention to detail and willingness to deal with unknown tools. For virtual assistant positions, communication skills and trust are key, so I like talking to people first.

I also want to answer any questions they have. Contractors take on some risk whenever they accept a contract, as there have been quite a few employers who have scammed them into unpaid work or feedback blackmail. I want to give them the opportunity to make sure I’m not crazy, too. =)

I’m working on improving my interview process. In particular, I’m going to start asking people to tell me a story about the time they were wrong about something or the time that they argued with someone. Talking to my mom about her HR issues (and now, sorting through my own!), I’m beginning to realize the importance of understanding people’s conflict/disagreement resolution strategy and whether they can maintain calm and respect under stress.

For straightforward tasks like transcription, I might hire someone without ever talking to them in real-time, because I can “interview” them in the process of them working on their first paid task.

Hiring and onboarding

After we answer each other’s questions satisfactorily, I go ahead and set up the contract. For virtual assistants who will be communicating with other people on my behalf, I’ll set up a Google Apps account. LastPass makes it easy to share and revoke passwords, and I’ve also started the habit of keeping track of who has access to which accounts in order to simplify offboarding them when I end the contract and onboarding a replacement.

I usually keep the job post open until the person has satisfactorily completed their first task and we’re happy with the time/process. That way, if I need to hire someone else, I can choose from the pool of applicants that I’ve already shortlisted. Depending on whether I have tasks that can be broken down and done in parallel (ex: data entry), I might hire several people with the understanding that I’ll choose one or two going forward.


I send most tasks by e-mail because that’s the most convenient for me. I use Skype or Google Hangout to explain tasks in more detail. Since Skype tends to perform badly when I’m out and about, I also give assistants my cellphone number. I’ve been trying to get people set up using my VOIP phone so that they can call me, but we haven’t sorted that out yet. The easiest way might be for me to fund a company Skype account and have them call me with that.

I don’t want to require people to shift their timezone / sleeping habits – some of my friends have done overnight shiftwork before, and it really messes up one’s social life. Since my virtual assistants have access to my calendar, they can either use that to directly book me or use ScheduleOnce to find a time that works with their schedule.

I try to remember to specify due date and time budget (ex: spend a maximum of 2 hours on this, then send me whatever you have so that we can make sure you’re on the right track). The due date typically works, although I don’t think anyone’s been paying attention to the time specifications yet. I might revisit the Four Hour Work-week’s templates for getting these things communicated.

I hate the idea of tasks falling through the cracks especially if assistants get preoccupied with other things, so I’ve been experimenting with project-management applications like Trello or Asana. I want to be able to see what tasks I’ve assigned to people, what’s waiting for a response, and what’s done. One of my assistants just updated her Trello board – hooray! I gave her a bonus to recognize her initiative. =) We’ll give that maybe six months of trying before I even think of introducing a different tool. We’ll see how this goes!

Rewards and recognition

In addition to the automatic billing that oDesk takes care of, I like catching people doing something good and giving them an unexpected bonus. I always explain why I give the bonus. For example, I’m impressed when people take the initiative and when they submit excellent and timely work, especially if this is my first time working with them.

People don’t often negotiate with me for a raise, probably because my contracts tend to be shorter-term. As a client, though, I like being different by proactively giving people raises – I occasionally check my contractors’ profiles to see if they’ve raised their rates, and I’ll raise them during our existing contract because it’s good to reward good people.

I also take notes on people’s career goals and personal interests, and I try to tailor the tasks to fit them.

Dealing with miscommunication and disputes

As the employer, the buck stops with me. If someone didn’t complete something to my satisfaction, it might be because I didn’t sufficiently communicate the requirements, didn’t invest enough time in oversight or training, didn’t filter enough for skills/fit, and so on. Each mistake is a learning opportunity.

Typical mistakes and how I’m learning to deal with them:

I didn’t specify the level of detail I wanted, so I get back a War and Peace epic equivalent when I wanted Hemingway-short summaries.

  • Share the big picture (Why do I want this? What will I use it for?).
  • Provide sample output.
  • Give a time budget, so that people get back to me after 2-4 hours instead of spending two days on a task. (Still working on getting people to follow this…)

People promise to work on something, but end up not doing it. It happens; people can be over-optimistic about their time.

  • Set earlier deadlines than I need, and give myself leeway to try someone else or do it myself.
  • Follow up. Then follow up again. If necessary, take the task back.

I get the output back and think I should probably have done it myself instead (skills, background knowledge, whatever).

  • Breathe.
  • See the value in a first draft and alternative perspectives. Focus on the good.
  • Remember the additional benefits of this delegation experiment – it’s not just about saving time, it’s also about learning how to give instructions and work with other people.

I find that some steps are missing.

  • Consider whether the steps are truly necessary.
  • Review the process and flesh out the steps. Explain why the steps matter.
  • Turn the process into a checklist. Add the checklist to my e-mail templates if needed.
  • Keep a closer eye on tasks, at least until the process is sorted out

An assistant is uncommunicative / unreachable.

  • I take back any tasks needed.
  • I follow up to see what’s going on. Life happens, and people sometimes need support and understanding to get through rough spots.
  • If they’ve become too busy to work on my tasks or they’ve gone AWOL, I shrug that off as a cost of doing business, and pick up the threads from there.

For chronic mistakes: If I get along with the person, I might give them different kinds of tasks instead. I might end the contract, but be open to hiring them again in the future. If I feel really uncomfortable, I end the contract and resolve not to hire them again, which has happened in a couple of cases. That’s also a good prompt to go back and think about how I can improve my hiring and training processes.

Ways to improve

I sometimes get distracted by other things I’m working on, so I end up not sitting down and investing in delegating tasks. I’ve attempted to address that by giving people 10-25% discretionary time for learning things and brainstorming other ways they can help me, but assistants seem to be reluctant to take this self-directed time, so I may need to tweak how I communicate it. Maybe I should turn it into a formal task, or establish a weekly wask – “I want to give you at least 5 hours of work each week, and if I don’t, please use one hour to brainstorm ways you can help me and send me a note.” Hmm…

Another tip from one of my role models was to involve assistants in your weekly review so that they can help you with your big picture. One of my assistants has a long-term career interest in HR, so I’ve just invited her to set up a weekly one-hour meeting with me where we can review what I’m working on and what I’m planning to do next. Maybe she can help me brainstorm what and how to delegate. I think that would be great, and possibly more useful than the discretionary time idea (at least for starters, until people get a better sense of the big picture and trust that I won’t blow up at them for learning something.)

What else would you like to know about how I delegate? Do you have any tips that can help me do this better?

Originally posted on my main blog

Archive: Job post for a transcriber

Posted by & filed under Hiring.

Found a good transcriber through this one – picked someone with an engineering background.

Posted on oDesk with the subject line: Transcription of MP3s/Videos

I’m looking for a transcriptionist who can work on an as-needed basis. Ideal candidate will be able to work in either US English or Canadian English (as specified), creating edited or verbatim transcripts in DOC or HTML format.

Must be comfortable with coordinating through Dropbox and Skype. WordPress experience preferred. (Please indicate.)

Technical background and social media experience preferred – please indicate if you have a computer science, programming, or engineering background, and which social media tools you use.

To show your attention to detail, please start and end your application with the keyword “blue”, and indicate your typing speed in WPM after the first “blue”. In your cover letter, please include one page of sample formatted edited transcript that you’ve completed recently. Thank you!

Type: Hourly
Workload: As needed – Less than 10 hrs/week
Duration: 3 to 6 months
Posted: December 8, 2012
Planned Start: Immediately
Visibility: Public

Category: Administrative Support Sub-Category: Transcription

Archive: Job post for virtual assistant

Posted by & filed under Hiring.

Here’s the job position that I posted on oDesk. Got good results!

Subject: Virtual assistant needed for appointment setting, following up after events, managing social media, etc.

Job Description
I am looking for an administrative assistant to help me manage my calendar, follow up with people after events, draft sales letters / proposals, manage social media, analyze data, and handle miscellaneous research requests. Proficiency with Google Calendar, Microsoft Excel/ (especially pivot tables / data pilots and charts), Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress is required. Evernote, HTML, CSS, and some Javascript experience is a plus. Drawing skills and experience with illustration software (ex: Gimp, Inkscape) is also a plus.

Contractor requirements
You need to be able to speak, read, and write perfect English (native speaker preferred, but not required). You must also be familiar with the following software: Microsoft Office /, Dropbox, and Skype.

How to apply
To show your attention to detail, please start and end your application with the keyword “Orange”. In the rest of your cover letter, please reply back with your experience with the software and tasks.  Please include references that I can review as well as samples of e-mail correspondence you’ve written to schedule appointments or follow up on events.

About the company
‘m working on learning more about business. So far, consulting is going great, and I think I might have another viable business idea. I need help so that I can make sure things get done!

Process: Scheduling an online conversation

Posted by & filed under Processes.


  • I prefer Google Hangouts, then Skype, then calling people on their phones.
  • Please create “Buffer” appointments 30min before and 30min after. “Buffer” can overlap with “Travel” appointments.
  • Make sure calendar entries have backup contact info (give my cellphone number and ask for theirs).
  • Cc: me on all correspondence. If you need action/input from me, add Sacha: <message> near the top of the e-mail.

STEP 1. Find a time that works for people.

Timezones can be tricky, so make sure you specify timezones when offering times, and also ask/translate into their timezones whenever possible. I live in Toronto, Canada (EST/EDT).
You can offer them as a way for them to pick times that work for them in their timezone; if we use this, make sure to come back and add the “buffer” appointments. Note that people often have a hard time figuring out how to use, so it’s probably better to offer them some times in text.
This is also a good time to ask them if they have Google Hangouts set up, if they use Skype, or if they would prefer that I call them on their phone. Get a backup phone number for them if I don’t already have one in ConnectedHQ.
STEP 2: Set up the calendar entry.
Make sure you create this on the right calendar: Sacha – Main.
Add the Google Hangout directly to the calendar entry. As a reminder, add “Google Hangout” in Where.
In the description, add:
Backup contact information:
Sacha’s cellphone: _____   Skype: sachachua
___’s phone: ______
If this is your first time using Google Hangout, please allow for ~5 minutes to install and enable the plugin. If the Hangout doesn’t work for you, please contact Sacha through Google Chat, Skype, e-mail, or phone, and we’ll work out a different way to connect.
To reschedule, please contact ______ at ______ . Need to reschedule on the day of the event? Please call Sacha.
<agenda/email text>
Location: Skype: sachachua to call <username>
Backup contact information:
Sacha’s cellphone: _____
___’s phone: ______
To reschedule, please contact _____ at ______ . Need to reschedule on the day of the event? Please call Sacha.
<agenda/email text>
Location: Phone: Sacha to call ________
Backup contact information:
Sacha’s cellphone: _____
___’s other phone: ______

To reschedule, please contact _____ at ______ . Need to reschedule on the day of the event? Please call Sacha.

<agenda/email text>