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8 Ways For Your Startup To Successfully Outsource To Freelancers

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For the last few weeks I have been searching for a young entrepreneur who is absolutely crushing it and could show you how easy it is to be a successful startup if you put the hours in and have a good idea. I didn’t have to look too far when I remembered that my friend Adam Stone fitted the brief perfectly. Adam is a 20-year-old, high successful, entrepreneur who a lot of people know in the tech scene.

He started a phone unlocking company when he was 12 years old while he was living in Chicago and got handed down a Blackberry from his dad that needed a change in telco provider. The unlocking business is now highly successful and has more than 100,000 users. Adam learned the craft of outsourcing at this very young age because he outsourced all the operations of the business, customer support, and even the supplier relations.

I first met Adam at an investor’s lunch in Melbourne and was surprised to see someone so young with so many brilliant investors. Adam has one of the smartest business minds you will come across and see’s opportunities and then takes action immediately. Obviously I am not the only one that see’s his talent as he has recently moved from Melbourne to San Francisco and been accepted into the famous 500 Startups program run by Dave McClure. Once in San Fran, Adam used the powerful proximity effect of being in the right place, to put together a deal with WIX to feature in their app store through a chance meeting with them.

Adam’s latest project, Speedlancer, is the world’s fastest freelance marketplace with a 99% customer satisfaction. They deliver design, content and data entry tasks within 4 hours and connect users with the highest quality, pre-vetted freelancers. If after one revision a customer doesn’t have their work fulfilled in line with the description then they are entitled to a full refund, removing all the risk and inefficiency of outsourcing to freelancers.

Adam came up with the idea when he began outsourcing using sites like Fiver, Zirtual (Virtual Personal Assistants) oDesk and Freelancer due to not being a software coder or graphic designer himself. He found that getting little things done quickly was very difficult, and he could often be left waiting weeks for something very small. For small tasks, you don’t want to have to post the jobs, go through bids, interview people and have a choice of over 10,000 people to work with.

A lot of you are always asking what the secret is to start a business that creates a marketplace and how to get one started. In Adams case, he looks for where talented freelancers like to hang out online such as forums and blogs. The ones with a good track record are then invited to the marketplace. There is then a further two rounds of checking where more than 50% of applicants can be knocked out of the recruitment process. To stimulate the other side of the marketplace Adam validated his idea further by sending out cold emails (try Sendbloom, Tout App and Outreach.io for cold email software that helps you do this) to different segments of the market to see if they had a need for his service. He would get the business owners email addresses by using business listings and then contacting them using LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. This allowed him to fail fast and find where the customers were that could afford to use his platform.

Below are the top 8 tips from the master of outsourcing, Adam Stone.

 

1. Start small with your outsourcing

You should be outsourcing everything within your startup. Start by offloading small, easy, common support queries and operations, and then as you build more trust with your outsourcing team, start giving them bigger tasks to complete for you. If you’re a founder of a startup that can’t code then, that will also be one of the very first things you outsource. Later on you can add to the list design and content. If all of this is working well for you, then one of the final tasks you could look to outsource is PayPal disputes. The things you shouldn’t look to outsource are growth and marketing although you should be looking to systemise these areas so that parts of it could be outsourced if need be. In terms of your accounting, it’s good to have that local to where your business is so you can go and see them, and be able to talk about the tax laws with someone that understands them in your area.

 

2. Build a team around someone and then systemise

Once you have your first successful freelancer, you can then move them away from simple customer support tasks and get them to build a team around them with people they trust and know how to work with. You can then unload more tasks to this person, and they can delegate amongst their team and focus on documenting all the processes required to complete each task. This is very important because you have to think of all your outsourced freelancers as replaceable.

Always start by writing the processes yourself and writing down as many steps as possible. Once this is done, give it to your project manager to start actioning for new requests of this type and get them to expand on your knowledge base for this task. Adding videos of the task being completed, Youtube videos of other people doing the same tasks, or screenshots is also very valuable and makes the learning process easier for new entrants to the team. Once all the knowledgebase is written you need to store it in a central location such as Dropbox or Googledocs.

Once this model is setup, the idea would be that you send all the tasks that need to be outsourced to this one person and then they delegate it out to their team and manage it. The benefit for you is you now only have to manage one person for multiple parts of the business – Adam describes it like having “One Uber Manager.” This process of setting up a structure and having processes around your business makes your startup a lot more valuable, much more scalable and allows you to hire on a whim.

 

3. Streamline communication between your freelancers and customers

All the support should be managed by an email address that matches your domain, so the end customer doesn’t know they are talking to someone who isn’t directly employed by you. The support tickets can be managed through something like Help Scout allowing simplicity for your freelancers when dealing with issues. If you are an early stage startup you should oversee every ticket at the start until you are confident that your team are handling them in the correct manner (the customer is everything remember).

To reduce your risk when communicating with your customers, it’s best to start with your freelancers drafting all responses and then you physically sending the emails. In each of these cases you would send the freelancer the edits you made, get them to document it, and then they would gradually learn how to deal with each type of problem, without risking customer satisfaction. You can start to send out canned responses to your customers if you are getting a lot of the same queries and slightly tweaking each one to keep it personal.

 

4. Interviewing your freelancers

Give them a knowledge base you have written, give them common support queries and then give them the opportunity to answer them as a kind of test. Whichever freelancer answers the questions the best then moves on to round two where you interview them over Skype. Ask them if they have done the role you are asking them to do before. For example, if they had done customer service before but haven’t dealt with the phone unlocking industry before, that’s not an issue. Pick one skillset that you are really looking for and then teach them the rest. Look for the ability to learn, willingness to learn and general experience throughout the interview. The goal of this process is to find a freelancer that has an interest in what you’re doing and wants a long-term relationship. There are plenty of freelancers in the software development industry that operate under a “Dev Sweat Shop Model,” where they are just in it for the money and not the long term, which you absolutely must avoid.

If you are using a marketplace likeSpeedlancer to find freelancers, then Adam says you should allocate around a week to find the best person, although on his platform this need is removed because they do all the vetting for you.

 

5. Be aware of cultural differences in different countries

Cultural differences in each country affect the way your freelancers can operate. Certain countries will expect more money than others and it can be often hard to pinpoint whether the person you’re actually talking to is from, and whether the country they say their in is where they actually are. Reviews and honesty will help weed out these types of challenges.

Some freelancers will quickly say yes to things even if they can’t deliver on them and other times you will find a difference in how hard freelancers work. You may find that freelancers you deal with will not value long-term relationships and may just be after the quick sale, so you need to watch out for that as well.

 

6. Understand pricing structures

With freelancers, you can be charged by the hour or by the task. You need to be weary of this because Adam has had times where developers have quoted on a certain amount of time and then taken three times as long to complete the task. You don’t need to pay for the most expensive person, and it goes without saying that you shouldn’t ever pick the cheapest. If you have very little money to spend then you can find a freelancer that has zero feedback and tell them they have to do it really cheap. In this scenario, you would only pay them after the job is complete. The promise you make to them is that if they do a good job you will give them excellent feedback and more work in the future. While this strategy is someone riskier and can see you fail a few times before you get it right, it can be a great long-term way of doing things.

“The biggest mistake a startup can make is not outsourcing”

For small tasks, freelancers will usually charge a fixed price on most marketplace platforms likeSpeedlancer. For larger tasks, you will typically pay hourly or weekly, and you can pay the freelancers using PayPal to avoid fees. Maintenance and building features on a development project with freelancers will usually be billed hourly as well. When you’re figuring out how much you are going to pay them, everyone’s ethics will vary as to what’s fair. It’s always a good idea though, to pay them more than they can get elsewhere, so they stay loyal to you. If you want to WOW your freelancers then build in performance bonuses, so both you and them win as well as giving them five-star feedback.

“Spend more time on your marketing and getting sales, than trying to hustle down the price of your freelancers”

The other area of pricing that is hard to manage is when you are being charged by the hour. When you’re not physically next to the freelancer it is hard to know how long it really took to do a task. Some platforms have a time tracker and allow you to see their screen. Trust comes into play a lot here and everyone’s idea of big brother tactics to manage costs will differ. One of the reasons Adam made Speedlancer a 4-hour deadline on tasks was to stop procrastination. In an 8-hour workday the average person is only really working 4 hours. On some platforms it can take 15-30 mins to complete your task, yet it takes them days and even weeks to complete the smallest of tasks. Efficiency on a platform like Speedlancer is a great way to control the price in a fair manner.

 

7. Post a great job advertisement

It goes without saying that when you are creating your ad to put up on a marketplace like Speedlancer, you want to be specific. It’s important to remember though that if you’re too specific then you will usually pay more to have the task completed. With something like development, you don’t want to disclose everything up front to them. It’s better to disclose the sorts of things you’re looking for first.

 

8. Think about disclosure when outsourcing

Don’t worry about getting them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement because if they are in another country and they break it, there is not a lot you can do about it. If you want to limit your liability on the customer support / operations side, you can limit permissions to your software and websites, and only allocate certain tickets to them that don’t require them to know secret information about your business. Never disclose any marketing channels to your freelancers unless you have really systemised the process and there is nothing proprietary for them to steal from you.

“The rule of thumb should be don’t disclose anything to them that you are not willing to disclose publically”

One way to combat the disclosure issue is you could, for example, look to have an outsourced developer complete 90% of your home page and then get an in-house developer to finish it off. By doing it this way, if the in-house developer tries to steal anything, you would at least have some sort of legal recourse.

For Adam, the one issue that he had with outsourcing was recently when one of his freelancers sold the code for his unlocking site. Surprisingly it didn’t have much effect on revenue because you need more than the code to replicate a business. You need the SEO, relationships, the rankings, etc

Adam Stone from SpeedLancer being interviewed by Tim Denning

Adam Stone, Founder of Speedlancer

 

Adams favorite book is Tim Ferris’s “4-hour work week,” and his favorite quote is “The harder you try the luckier you get.”

 

If you would like to know more about freelancing and outsourcing, then visit Speedlancer to try it for yourself and feel free to share your own stories below.

Tim is best known as a long-time contributor on Addicted2Success. Tim's content has been shared millions of times and he has written multiple viral posts all around personal development and entrepreneurship.You can connect with Tim through his website www.timdenning.net

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Shanky

    Jun 14, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    Great concept and I am really inspired with Adam. I worked as freelancer and now providing tips related to freelancing career.
    Sppedlancer is very useful…
    Thanks again for very creative blog post

    • Tim Denning

      Dec 30, 2015 at 2:38 am

      Not a problem Shanky and all the best with your freelance work.

  2. Sally Baughman

    May 24, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Helpful tips, thank you. I just met with SPARK in Jackson Hole, and they are working to bring the freelancers visibility up. So, if folks have “co-working communities” where tech skilled people are working in shared office space, knocking on THEIR doors can help us entrepreneurs, too.

    • Tim Denning

      May 25, 2015 at 9:56 am

      Thanks for the insight Sally I will be sure to check them out.

  3. Dion

    May 24, 2015 at 1:36 am

    Tim, Solid post as always.
    I’ve got a question for ya. For tip 2(building a team around someone…) How do you go about finding the “right person” to assist you in building a team? Are there any particular practices that you use to find and screen potential freelancers?

    Thanks,
    Dion

    • Tim Denning

      May 24, 2015 at 3:18 am

      Hi Dion, once you have started to interview and try different freelancers you simply just pick the most responsible person to build a team around. If they have proven that they are capable and they want to know your startup, they could be a good fit. There is no magic solution though, you just have to try someone out and see how they go. The moment you know they are the right person, get them to help you build a team, suggest people and delegate out tasks.

      Private message me on Facebook if you want to know more.

  4. David

    May 6, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Fantastic article, thank you so much! I am going to sign up for Speedlancer.

    • Tim Denning

      May 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Glad you liked it David and thanks for your comment.

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Startups

You Are The Problem With Your Business

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A great way to screw up your company is to get into the habit of blaming your suppliers, the market, your staff or your product for your failures.

I recently heard a story of a business that had set up a website. They sold various products and services focusing on helping people with psychological issues. The business owner was smart. The product solved a problem.

Unfortunately, the company was making almost no money. They’d hired someone to help them with their digital marketing and it wasn’t working.

Plenty of traffic was coming to the site, users were having a look around and then not buying a single thing. Who’s fault was this?

Well, according to the business owner it was the person running their digital marketing. As a result, they wasted approximately eight months marketing a website that couldn’t make any sales. The reason the business was failing according to the owner was because of the keywords that were being targeted in the marketing campaign. This is a horrible excuse.

The reason your business fails is because you’re blaming someone other than yourself. It’s the quickest way to bankruptcy. Don’t do that.


Your company is a reflection of you.

It took me a long time to figure out that a company is a reflection of its founder.

One of the businesses I had, had a toxic culture and a bunch of people that were rude to customers, arrogant and not nice people. That was a reflection of exactly who I was at the time.

The company was reflecting the flaws of my own life and what I refused to admit.

In the case of the business owner above, what was obvious is that they were good at telling lies to themselves. It was easy not to change as a business owner and insist that the change needed was nothing to do with their vision.

The issue of their company was not the digital marketing strategy but their lack of understanding around what their customer wanted.

The thought that their products were too complicated, not solving a real problem or priced incorrectly was an admission of guilt they wanted no part in. Hence the eventual demise of their company.


Take responsibility and it will change.

When you own the business, everything is your fault.

You have the power to solve any problem you choose. It starts with you being brave enough to admit that there’s a problem, and then secondly, being bold enough to insist it’s your fault and that you can change it.

The problems in your business can all be solved. That’s what it took me a very long time to understand. When I changed as a person and faced up to my hidden battle with mental illness that I didn’t want to talk about, the odds turned in my favor.

Had I have not taken responsibility for my mental illness, I would have never become a leader in a business or started another side hustle. I would have been crippled by the big, bad world that I thought I could control.

Control came from responsibility, and responsibility solved the major problem in my business: me.


Change is a must.

Not with your digital marketing strategy.
Not with hiring new people.
Not with developing a new product.

Changing yourself is the *must* because YOU attract the problems and the solutions into your business”

You can’t find the solutions or stop the never-ending problems until you stop the cause of it all: you. You’re the problem with your business. The good news is that it’s entirely within your control to fix.

Change you.

Not the business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

The Different Ways of Measuring the Success of Your Start-Up

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startup success
Image Credit: Unsplash

You’ve probably heard people use the term “unicorn” in a business context. This means a privately held start-up whose value has grown to at least one billion American dollars. Think Airbnb, Uber, and so forth. There is no doubt that some start-ups have been major financial successes. And many smaller-scale start-ups are doing great as well, working hard and turning a steady profit. But that begs the question of whether finances are the only way to measure the success of a start-up. As it turns out, they might not be. At least, not always and not on their own.

How to Evaluate Success

As anyone who’s been involved with start-ups knows, you need a fair amount of flexibility to do well in this environment. Take the division of labour for example – rather than strict roles, you’ll often see everyone do a bit of everything. The same principle extends to measuring success. It can be vague and mean different things to different people, and it can change over time.

But amongst all that vagueness, one thing has become clear. Predicting the success of a start-up is very difficult for external observers. As a matter of fact, it’s often impossible. Therefore, in order to evaluate how successful a start-up has truly been, we need to know the goals of its founder(s).

“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others.” – Marianne Williamson

The Numbers

When people think about business, it’s common to boil matters down to the finances. And it certainly is possible to use numbers to measure and predict the performance of a start-up business. Net worth, gross margin, customer acquisition cost – these can all be indicators of success. But, a start-up can post impressive numbers for a while, perhaps even attract large investors, and still shut down in the end. So does this make it a failure?

The answer to this depends. If the founders wanted to start a lasting business, then yes, they failed to meet their goal. However, that isn’t always the case. If they were looking for a short-term solution and came out with more money than they had coming in, a closed-down start-up needn’t be unsuccessful. It can actually be the opposite of that.

So, looking at the figures isn’t enough, and there are different perspectives to consider. When they start planning their business venture, start-up founders may not have any particular numbers in mind when it comes to profit. Instead, they can judge their success according to some of the following criteria.

1. Happy Customers and Solving Problems

The story of a start-up often begins with a problem. The desire to help people overcome a specific issue can be the spark which ignites the creation of an entire business. And in the end, that may be all that matters to the founders.

This is closely connected to the happiness of the customers. If the resulting product or service has made people happy by helping them solve a problem, that is all that may be required for a start-up to be a success. Now, no business wants unsatisfied customers. But in cases like this, happy customers aren’t the way toward the ultimate goal – they are that goal.

In other words, some start-up founders don’t just use financial reports to measure how much they’ve achieved. To them, the one metric which stands above all others is the quantity of positive feedback they’ve received. The main area of focus is customers who use the start-up’s products or services to solve a problem they were having.

2. Impact

Every start-up founder likes doing well in terms of revenue. But for some of these entrepreneurs, the profit is merely a side effect of what they actually set out to do – impact the world in a positive manner. You can see an example of this line of thought with Elon Musk. He said that back in college, he had wanted to be a part of things that could end up changing the world. The continuation of this philosophy is evident in his electric cars (which aim to reduce pollution) and the SpaceX program (which strives to break down some of the barriers of space exploration).

In both cases, the furthering of mankind is the ultimate goal. Many other start-up founders feel the same, even if they have smaller goals in mind. To these people, there is no greater proof of success than if their company has had a positive impact on society or even a small segment of it. In their view, to make a difference is to succeed.

“The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment.” – Tony Robbins

3. Freedom

For some, starting up their own business is less about getting rich and more about gaining the freedom to conduct their business the way they want to. In this case, financial success is just a means to an end. The endgame is to be your own boss.

The fact is, some people don’t do well when they’re constantly receiving orders. They are simply hardwired to be free thinkers and they require an environment that allows them to do things in their own way.

Being in a position where you hold all the cards can be exhilarating. The knowledge that your decisions are final is very empowering, and many strive for such freedom. If a start-up can allow such people to go from being a regular employee to being in charge of making all the decisions, then it has already achieved all the success that it needs to.

4. Time for Friends and Family

As many people know all too well, a job can easily turn into the focal point of your daily life. Instead of being a way to support your lifestyle, your work dominates your time. And when that happens, the time you have to dedicate to your loved ones becomes scarce. Combating this is precisely what some have in mind when they decide to take the leap and start their own business.

Now, running your own company is no mean feat and it will require a lot of effort. But the beginning is the most time-consuming part of the process. Later on, it can be possible to create a system which leaves you with a lot more time on your hands. You can spend this time with your significant other, your children, or your friends. A start-up which gives you this opportunity is perhaps the greatest success of all.

A start-up is an extension of its founders and so are that company’s goals. Some entrepreneurs are in it for the profit, but not all of them. In the end, there is no single way to measure the success of a start-up. It all comes down to the specific aims of those who established it. But if the founders can end their day on a happy note, then the venture is a success even if it doesn’t fit some standard definition of the term.

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Startups

The Problem Is Not Your Website Or Your Product.

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spend a lot of my time talking to business owners. They focus on their product, their marketing channels and trying to make more profit.

I met one such business owner who was in the plastic surgery business. Their product (boob jobs and nose jobs) was not working. Their website sucked and people clicked off as soon as they visited it.

People would call their office, get put on hold, listen to the on hold message and hang up.

This business didn’t seem all that special. I’ve talked to many businesses and didn’t think for a microsecond that a plastic surgery clinic could ever teach me anything valuable.

I’ve been to Hollywood on holidays and the issues of body image are all too apparent to me. Anyway, this post is not about body image.

I ended up losing this business as a customer — not that I would ever have sold anything to them if it were up to me. I sat down one afternoon and thought about why we no longer did business with them.

That’s when I realized it’s not about your product or your website. All the issues with this plastic surgery clinic and a lot of other businesses I’ve dealt with stem from one thing. Let me explain in more detail.


Your Google Reviews say you’re an piece of work.

I looked up their Google Reviews and their customers said they were assholes.

They spoke down to clients, they didn’t deliver their clients what they wanted, they argued with their staff in front of customers and they treated people like they were nothing more than a dollar sign.

All I had to do was read their Google reviews to see that the problem wasn’t their product or their website.


Your clients tell you every day that you suck.

I asked the plastic surgery what their clients said.

Many of their clients told them that their services sucked and they would prefer to go to places like Thailand where they could get a better product at a much lower price.

The business owner made the mistake of thinking it was their product that was the problem and that a new website will tell clients a different message.

That wasn’t it.


You abuse your staff and they consistently leave.

I spoke with many staff that worked for this business.

Every single one of them hated the company and were not afraid to say what they thought of the business owner.

The business owner would sit outside on a nice sunny day and look across the street at all the yachts and the people boarding them.

They’d sit there and think that every lead they got was going to take them one step closer to owning their very own yacht.

“If only I could deliver more boob jobs, maybe I could have one of those,” they thought quietly to themselves hoping that no one else could hear how ridiculous this sounded.

I can remember multiple times being on the phone to the business owner and having one of their staff burst into tears halfway through the call.

The first time it happened I didn’t think much. After the third time, I got the message. During the short time I dealt with this business, people consistently left. If you made it to the six-month mark, you were some sort of hero and would probably be given a free surgery to say thank you for your work and make you feel worse about your own body at the same time.

It was free noses and boobs in return for daily abuse.

The problem still wasn’t the website all the product.


You don’t solve real problems; you solve your own problem.

A good business solves a problem.

That problem typically affects human beings and solving it is how you make money in business. Solving problems can start out with a problem that affects you, but at some point, you’ve got to start solving that same problem for other people/businesses.

This owner of this plastic surgery clinic was only trying to solve their own problem which was making more money to buy fancy items like yachts.

Only solving your own problem is not just selfish but bad business.

Good business is solving a big problem or lots of small problems for entire strangers who you don’t know thus doing something valuable for the human race.

Solving only your problem will make you poor.

The problem still wasn’t their website or product.


Creating more problems.

Everything this business owner sold created more problems.

They’d film videos to purposely make people feel like their body wasn’t perfect.

They’d write articles suggesting that everyone needs botox to feel young.

They’d take photos of men and women who were supposed to be perfect so that young people would dream of looking like them.

Not only was their business not solving a real problem; it was also creating more problems every day that it existed.

If your business creates more problems than it solves, you’re in real trouble.You need to take a long hard look at the business and become obsessed with doing everything you can to change it — and do so damn fast to limit the whirlwind of problems you’re creating behind you.


The heart of the problem.

It’s the business owner.

The business I mentioned will fail. That part is certain. The problem with the business is not the website or the product.

The problem is the business has no heart because the business owner has no heart.

You cannot focus on your own selfish desires, create really bad problems in the world, treat other human beings like garbage and expect to go buy a yacht and live happily ever after. It just doesn’t happen like that.

Whether you are a plastic surgery clinic like the one I described or a solo entrepreneur, the problem with your business is you.

Fix the problem of YOU. You can’t get away with being horrible forever.
Being horrible is bad business.

Being respectful, kind and valuable is the final answer to the problem with your business.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Entrepreneurs

18 Must Read Business Books for Emerging Entrepreneurs and Startups

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business books

Reading is both relaxation and training for the mind. Who reads, dives into another world. Learning, entertaining and breaking out of everyday life for a short moment. One could go even so far as to say reading is the second most beautiful thing in the world! Whether it is non-fiction or a novel of all the world’s man has created, the book is the most powerful tool. That is also, why we wanted to find out which business book you should undertake in the new year. (more…)

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