Adopting Unoffice Hours

Here's a new experiment I'm rolling out.

I'm officially starting an experiment: setting time aside for Unoffice Hours.

The original idea is from Matt Webb, who gave an overview of his results in this post. He opened time slots in his calendar and allowed anyone to book a quick chat with him, for any reason. No agenda required, no need to mail first.

This shouldn't be a big deal, but it is for me. When I first started freelancing - and didn't know how to market myself yet - I had an open agenda. I'd say yes to anyone and everyone who wanted to "jump on a quick chat".

While this created loads of serendipity (unexpected friends, clients, and partnerships), it came with two harmful side effects:

  1. Wasting time taking calls from vendors or self-oriented people who would pitch me their services straight away.
  2. A chaotic calendar made it increasingly difficult for me to find enough time for deep work and hurt the quality of my delivery.

As always, the problem was not the calls but the process.

The Business Of Taking Calls

Getting more and more annoyed by this, I started to take measures to make those meetings more "productive" and profitable:

  • I've added a form to vet out salespeople or apparent bad-fit prospects.
  • I've designed a calendar that worked for me, blocking every morning for deep work and batching calls on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • If someone asked me for more than 30 min or a call to "pick my brain", I started directing them to a page that asked them to pay for the call.

My goal back then was to maximize my hourly rate, and these changes did help me to do it. But they also created some unintended consequences, and helped me realize that in the past year or two I'm playing a very different game.

The bulk of my profits do not come from selling 45-min consultation calls, nor do I want it to be so. It comes from either long-term-oriented engagements or digital products. This allows me to maximize impact, transform my clients' businesses in a sustainable way, and help them build a consulting practice on their own terms.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't run a coaching business whose main offer is clarity calls. You may, and you can. But we're talking about two different things here.

Discovery vs Open Calls

If you're a consultant, you don't give your expertise away for free in a private setting. I also charge for discovery and will continue to do for as long as I consult. They are part of my work.

What I found out though, is that the calls I enjoyed the most in the early days were not sales-oriented. As Matt puts it, "I was missing the serendipity of grabbing coffee."

These are open conversations. Maybe we're exploring ideas from blog posts and books. Maybe we're sharing work experiences, and talking about recent events or changes in the industry. Or we're just having an informal chat via video after meeting online.

These are the kinds of calls I enjoyed the most when I first started out. Grabbing coffee with peers and friends. Creating serendipity.

I set aside a couple of hours each Wednesday afternoon for Unoffice Hours. You can book 30 minutes in my calendar here. See you there.

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