Neptune – web based lead management / tracking tool – launch

Neptune has been launched and can be found online at the following website address …

www.neptuneleadtracker.com

Neptune has had a “soft” launch in that no huge marketing efforts have been done yet and there are still plenty of features to add to Neptune over the course of time. Marketing and feature development will be on-going.

Any updates to Neptune going forward will be posted at this blog as usual.

Neptune – web based lead management / tracking tool – email address conflict

Last week I spoke about the upgrade to Neptune in that Neptune now accommodates multiple users per account. Originally a Neptune user-account was the whole account. With the advent of the modifications last week a user-account now has a one to many relationship with an account thus allowing for multiple user-accounts under a single account.

Visit Neptune here …

www.neptuneleadtracker.com

I thought this was suitable for purpose until I started thinking into some of the scenarios that could crop up when Neptune finally goes live. If Neptune was left with this solution then the user-account could not be shared across different accounts. Lets say a person from Account A wants to add Jon Doe to his account and a person from Account B also wants to add Jon Doe to his account. This scenario would not be possible without Jon Doe having 2 different accounts with different emails addresses meaning Jon Doe would have to create another email address to have an account with Account B …

Account A
User-account A – Jon Doe

Account B
User-account B – Jon Doe

User-account A and user-account B both would have different email addresses. User-account A and user-account B are represented as 2 distinct user-accounts.

The above system could be improved upon so I set upon improving it. I came up with 2 solutions …

Solution 1

Keep the one to many data structure between the account and users and have it so “email addresses” do not have to be unique in the users table. The email addresses would then only have to be unique per account they are related to. I could then give each account a special login URL which is unique to the account in which the user-accounts can login with. This would result as follows …

Account A
User-account A – Jon Doe

Account B
User-account B – Jon Doe

Although it looks the same as before, user-account A can have the same email address as user-account B, in the old model this was not so and user-account A had to have a different email address to user-account B. User-account A and user-account B are still represented as distinct user-accounts though. The system would know which account the user was attempting to access via the special login URL given to each account and the system would only have to check the uniqueness of the email addresses for each given account.

Solution 2

Get rid of the one to many data structure and replace with a many to many data structure. This solution is the most taxing in terms of implementation as the code would have to be altered in the system to accommodate the many to many relationship which also means swapping a few other database columns round and getting rid of some as they would be no longer needed.

Luckily due to the way the system was abstracted in the code, it turned out that most of the changes could be accomplished by altering a few class methods. Essentially just changing the way those methods returned the data they where fetching from the database.

Using this solution the result now looks like the following …

Account A
User-account A – Jon Doe

Account B
User-account A – Jon Doe

In this solution both accounts share the same user-account. The user-account obviously uses the same email address as it is the same user-account across both accounts. If a fictitious Account C wants to add Jon Doe to their account the system would first check if the email address for Jon Doe exists, if it does then the system will link the Jon Doe user-account to Account C, if not, then the system will create a new user-account for Jon Doe and then link the newly created user-account to Account C.

When a user logs into the system using this solution and the user belongs to more than 1 account the system will present a list of accounts that the user-account belongs to in a selection list. The user can then choose which account to fully log into. If the user-account is only in 1 account then the user is taken straight to the account.

In the end Solution 2 was chosen in favor over Solution 1.

Neptune – web based lead management / tracking tool – multiple users

Neptune – Lead Tracker has been updated. The latest change to Neptune is the multi user capability. Originally Neptune had just 1 account per user. All users would login to the same account using the same username and password. There was no way to differentiate between users within an account.

The fundamental structure of the user accounts on Neptune within Neptune has changed. Now users create an account and an account can have multiple users within it. Each account has a Administration user which controls the creation, updating and deletion of users within the account.

Visit Neptune here …

www.neptuneleadtracker.com

Users are managed within the Administration screen only accessible to the Administration user …

Neptune user accounts page

This change to Neptune is part of a series of changes leading to a paid version of Neptune. It was decided to make Neptune a paid for product using a monthly subscription model.

This release is expected to go live with the new subscription payment integration within the next couple of weeks.

Neptune – web based lead management / tracking tool – lead statistics update

Neptune – Lead Tracker has been updated. After using Neptune to keep track of my own leads I decided that Neptune needs a way to show how many leads are in each of the lead categories.

Using Neptune you can store, process, search your leads and opportunities.

Visit Neptune here …

www.neptuneleadtracker.com

Originally I was going to leave this feature until I had extensive time to do a nice reporting system for the leads with charts etc. I do not have time to create the reporting system yet so I decided to just put the statistics in the drop-down filter for the lead categories for now.

When selecting the drop-down to the right of the leads data-grid table you will now see the drop-down includes the number of leads in each category …

This is a nice little place to put those statistics for the time being.

Neptune – web based lead management / tracking tool is released

Neptune – Lead Tracker has now officially been released. Using Neptune you can store, process, search your leads and opportunities.

Visit Neptune here …

www.neptuneleadtracker.com

Just enter your details on the homepage sign up form and you will be signed straight into Neptune, a password will be emailed to you so you can access Neptune using your email and password in future sessions.

Update: The sign up process may have changed since the time of this article.

Tips for freelancers

Here are my tips for new or existing freelancers. Looking around the web there are many articles that discuss this theme and they all seem rather identical to each other.

I personally get bored of reading these after a while but I can promise you that even though some of the ideas discussed in this article may be similar to other articles, they are all my personal tips. Each one of these tips is important even if they may seem generic …

Shared office space

Certain situations may happen whilst freelancing when you need the advice of other freelancers. Preferably this would be face to face advice. When working in a shared environment with other freelancers this gives you the opportunity to get the needed advice right at the time you need it.

You may think that having your own private office is better as it avoids interactions with others but this can be a lonely road and getting advice on internet forums or through Skype just does not have the same effect.

Also being around other freelancers can provide a motivational boost to your energy levels as well as providing opportunities you may have missed whilst working in a private office.

Sell yourself as an individual

If you are freelancer then sell yourself as a freelancer. At a certain point in time a client is going to know that you are individual and not a group of people anyway.

A client will wonder where the rest of the company is, at that point you will have to explain that the company consists of just yourself. Save yourself the hassle and just sell yourself as a freelancer.

Payment schedule

Agree to a payment schedule with your clients and stick to it. Preferably agree a payment schedule where you are always paid in advance so you are never having to do work that you have not already been paid for.

Hourly rates

Charge hourly rates for your work. Quoting for fixed price is always a headache.

Even if you think you have everything covered in your fixed price contract the requirements of the contract can be too subjective and no matter how detailed it appears some of the requirements will always be left open to interpretation i.e. client wants a new kitchen, you build him the kitchen, client actually wants a kitchen with gold work surfaces.

Yes you can argue that you have provided the kitchen thus fulfilling the requirement however the client will also argue that the gold work surfaces came under the “new kitchen” requirement.

Arguments can then happen, clients may threaten legal action, you are a 1 person freelancer against the larger client company. You can take this risk if you want to or you could just save yourself the hassle and charge hourly.

Sustainable hourly rates

You may find that you will not always have a full schedule of work as a freelancer. There are gaps in the work flow and other expenses that need to be accounted for.

Clients will always know someone who can do it cheaper but the bottom line is it does not matter what Bill or Joe next door charges for their freelancing services. Your hourly rates need to be sustainable.

If you do not have sustainable hourly rates then you will not have a business for very long. This business has got to support you if it does not then it will not last.

There is no point in charging cheaper rates to get work if those rates are not going to sustain your business.

Contracts

Adopting the “hourly rate” idea earlier your contract should be reasonably straightforward, an hour of work done, an hour of work paid.

Charging by the hour takes some of work out of the contracts as you not agreeing to a requirements specification on a feature by feature basis.

Always have a contract though nevertheless, contracts provide help when dealing with client disputes.

Client profiling

Do not just accept any client that wants you to do work for them.

Profile the client …

  1. What are the clients good and bad points?
  2. Does the client value your work or see you as a commodity?
  3. Is the client someone you really want to work with?
  4. Is the client criminally minded?

Come up with a profile of the clients you want to work with and only or at least mostly only work with those types of clients.

Process

Have a clearly defined process for dealing with clients from on-boarding, design, development, testing, delivery and on-going work.

Every freelancer will have a process of some sort but it is important to get the process defined and written down.

The process is good material to present to clients thus helping with marketing activities. The process is important to you as it improves reliability.

Consider these tips if you are a freelancer or are new to freelancing.

Neptune – Web based lead management / tracking tool

So I am bored and I have spare time. How am I going to spend this spare time? I am going to re-introduce Neptune as an online Lead Tracking tool. As a freelancer I have had to store leads in TODO lists, Notes, Databases and free online CRM tools. None of these options where ideal. The CRM came close but it provides a ton of other features that I did not need and the other tools were too simple.

Neptune will be introduced as a lead tracking tool that can accessed through the web browser. It will be hosted by myself and will not be made available for download like the Neptune – Task Manager system was.

I aim to create a central area for the storage of leads. Leads will be added using a form. I aim to keep this project simple and straight to the point of storing leads. As the project has been stripped down, this will give me the opportunity to provide the tender loving care which a larger project like the Neptune Task Manager lacked. The ability to collect leads from external web forms is yet to be decided and may be included after the initial release.

The project will be released to the public through its own website. Neptune – Lead Tracker will be accessed through a single user account as I did not feel the need to allow people to create multiple user accounts under one company. The user login will be kept simple in that each company will have a single user account with which to access the software.

Look out for Neptune – Lead Tracker, expected release date is January 2017.

Update: Neptune – Lead Tracker has now been released, visit Neptune here … www.neptuneleadtracker.com

Transparent backgrounds using the Mac Preview tool

Downloading an image with a white background when you want the background to be transparent can be a pain. I have recently found a way of converting a colored background to a transparent background using nothing more than the standard Mac Preview tool. Before I found out this method I use to believe that I needed a proper graphics package to accomplish the task but now I realize I do not.

Follow the steps to turn a colored background into a transparent background. The way this process works is you are essentially just removing the colored background and re-saving the image …

  1. Click View -> Show Markup Toolbar, this will open the Markup Toolbar if it not already open.
  2. Click the Instant Alpha tool, image shown below.
  3. Mark a section of the colored background by using the mouse and dragging in the colored background area.
  4. Once the selection has been made click Edit -> Delete. This will remove the colored background.
  5. Save the image by clicking File -> Save.

Instant Alpha tool …

Your image will now be saved with the colored background removed. Thus having a transparent background.

animate.css

I use animate.css to power the left side menu animation on this website, when the page loads you will see the left side menu zoom into the website. The animate.css library was recommended to me by a colleague as quite often emails are sent sent around which include links to interesting code libraries and tools.

You can download animate.css at its website …

https://daneden.github.io/animate.css/

Using animate.css all you have to do is drop in a CSS class into the HTML element you want to animate and hey presto you have an animated HTML element. The animate.css is easy to setup, you just include the “animate.css” stylesheet and you are good to go. The animate.css library includes around 75 different animations to choose from.

You can choose to have the animation in a infinite loop by adding a further CSS class “infinite” to the HTML element. Further settings can be customized by extending the CSS file including duration, delay and a specific iteration count.

If you are looking for a quick way to add animations to your website give animate.css a try.