Mike’s User Manual

As a freelancer, I work with new people on a regular basis. This user manual (inspired by an article on LinkedIn) is designed to provide transparency about my work style, so we can have a great working relationship right from the start.

While I'm usually not comfortable talking this much about myself, I'm doing it here so the people I work with can understand the best way to work with me from the start, rather than taking a few weeks (or months) to get to know me.

 My style

  • I’m curious. I ask a ton of questions. Partly because I love learning new things, and partly because I like digging deeper to solve things that haven’t been solved yet. Asking questions is how I boil down complex subject matter, so I can understand it and then write about it in a way that's interesting and relevant. I’m also very comfortable looking at things as an outsider, and questioning why things are being done a certain way.
  • I love big projects and big challenges. Whether it’s writing a book or building a 300-page website, I enjoy really digging into a project over the course of weeks, months or even years.
  • I like spreadsheets and lists and charts. A lot.
  • I can be a bit intense. The good news is, I’ll be the one worrying about deadlines, next steps, etc. The bad news is, you may need to tell me to “relax” once in a while. (I won't be offended.)
  • I’m not afraid to make decisions or lead a project (or step in when there’s no clear leader).
  • I strongly prefer to have large blocks of time in order to process information and do my best work. (If you’re the same way, you might like Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, and Deep Work.)

What I value

  • Intelligence. I like working with really smart people, because it challenges me to be at my best.
  • Proactiveness. You can’t anticipate everything, but there’s a lot of value in looking forward a week (or a month or a year) and planning for the future.
  • Follow through. Life is better when people do what they say they’re going to do, when they said they were going to do it.
  • Creativity. I like working with people who aren’t afraid to think differently.
  • Resourcefulness. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get the work done.
  • Responsiveness. I appreciate when I get information in a timely manner, because it helps me stay on track.
  • Flexibility. Goals change. People change. Projects change. You have to be able to recognize that and adapt.

What I don’t have patience for

  • Inefficiency. I realize that some processes are inherently inefficient (due to office politics, or just the nature of the job). That’s fine. But I get frustrated when I’m not working as efficiently as possible.
  • Laziness. I work hard, and I expect others to do the same.
  • Lack of focus. With every project, you have to make decisions about what you will do, and what you won’t do. Sometimes you have to ignore all the things that could get done, so you can focus on the things that should get done. (If you agree, you might like Essentialism.)

How best to communicate with me

  • Be direct. If you don’t like something, please say so.
  • Send me everything you have, as long as it’s relevant to our work. I don’t mind reading through a 100-page report to learn more about your business. More is more.
  • Use email when possible. As a writer, I usually write more clearly than I speak. I also prefer having time to let information sink in, so I can provide a thorough response. (That said, there are certainly times when it’s preferable to have a conversation, rather than go back-and-forth via email, and I’m 100% OK with that.)
  • It’s OK to skip the small talk if you want. It’s not my strong suit.
  • Offer praise. I love to hear when people like something I did – it motivates me to keep doing a great job.

How to help me achieve better results

  • Provide clear expectations. Don’t be ambiguous. Let me know what you want, when you want it.
  • Give me deadlines – including milestone dates for key parts of a large project.
  • Let me know your ultimate goals. A website, brochure or ad campaign is just a tool to help you get more customers, increase your revenue, etc. The more you tell me about your business – and what you really want to achieve – the more ideas and insight I can offer.

What people misunderstand about me

  • I’m an introvert. Yes, I like getting out of my home office once in a while. And I do enjoy working with people. But I still prefer sitting by myself, with my headphones on.
  • I don’t mean to be critical. When someone asks for my opinion, I typically start by pointing out what’s wrong and what needs to change, rather than pointing out what’s right. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the good things. But I do tend to focus instead on what needs to get better.
 

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