Sweeping the Corners: How One User Optimizes Ballpark for His Personal Workflow
We have excited users that love our product, and we love our users back. With your feedback, we can make Ballpark better for you. We talked to user Trevor Hinesley for that very reason. He is a Nashville-based startup founder, musician and developer. Trevor is a great person to interview because he has always helped us improve by sending our product manager worthwhile feedback that was based on his actual workflow.
I had the pleasure of chatting with him on a sunny afternoon last week. Trevor does a stellar job of showing us his AHA! moments, and some usability features rarely talked about.
Ballpark: You live in Nashville? Tell our readers what type of work do you do.
Trevor Hinesley: Yep I do! I’m involved in two entirely different career fields and love them both. I tour full-time in a band, and do web development full-time as well. I started as a back-end developer, later shifting towards full-stack development. I’ve been lead developer for a startup in the past, and am currently co-founder and CTO of soundstripe.com, as well as doing tons of freelance work for different clients. That’s where Ballpark comes into play for me. 😃
Sounds fun! (You can plug your band, too!)
I play in a band called VERIDIA. It’s an electronic rock band with a girl singer. Whole lotta fun!
Nice! So do you have multiple workspaces? What’s your ideal workspace setup like? A coffeeshop with your headphones and laptop, or a quiet home office with a pet by your side?
Great question. For a long time, my workspace was me, my couch and some sunshine from my living room windows. I also worked out of a space owned by southernmade.co for a while, they’re good friends of mine and I’ve worked with them in different companies and capacities over the years. Sometimes I’d take a rare trip to a local coffee shop. Now, I use my basement recording studio that doubles as a Twitch-streaming station and full-blown development heaven. I love it. Since I’m around music all the time, it’s funny, but I rarely listen while I code. If I do, it’s something chill like Tycho.
Sounds like you’re making an informed decision! I have seen Tycho end up on quite a few designer playlists.
Haha man, it’s really hard to beat for focus music.
Besides Ballpark, what other hardware, apps, software, or tools can’t you live without?
I think I’d be lost without Alfred, Sublime Text, and Cinch. Cinch is a really simple little app for OSX that mimics the way Windows does window snapping. It works a lot better than any attempt Apple has made at recreating the window-snapping feature, and it’s essential to my workflow. I use it constantly. I’m also a Rails developer, like many in the community, and though it’s not an app, the speed at which it lets me get projects up and running, sure makes it feel like a productivity app in itself!
So speaking of apps, at what point did you decide Ballpark was the app that you’d “rather not live without” (to quote Sandwich Video Guy)?
I literally went through pretty much every invoicing software on the market. I’ve even tried some out since deciding on Ballpark, and nothing even comes close to it. Everything is simple and intuitive, but very full-featured. I have auto-generated invoices for my recurring clients, multiple payment options, and even a timer that shoots me an email to let me know when I’ve left it running after work hours. That was a feature I didn’t even know I needed. I got an email one night that my timer had been running for over 12 hours and thought to myself, “If this hadn’t emailed me, I probably wouldn’t have remembered how many hours I worked today by tomorrow when I realized it was still running.”
Features and usability aside, the support and hospitality I’ve received with any questions I’ve asked has been incredible. I even wound up small talking about personal and work stuff with Patrick for a bit one day last year. Killer product and great people–can’t really ask for much more than that. I’ve even gotten inquiries and compliments about Ballpark from clients who were impressed with the generated invoices. 😃
Just speaking truth! Been a customer for a while now, I love it.
I like what you pointed out about the timer alert. That makes me think: what advice would you have for someone just starting Ballpark this week?
Honestly, there’s not much that I can say that you wouldn’t be able to figure out in the first fifteen seconds of looking at the product. If I had to give some advice, it would be to group things into Projects, even if you aren’t going to allot a specific number of billable hours to that Project. Being able to track time for specific Projects is great, because you can look back at not only how much time you’re spending on individual clients, but where your time for that client is going. It’s a nice 10,000 foot view, instead of having to scroll through individual timers with differing descriptions to see where your time is being most-spent. This is super helpful for freelancers, because you can see what KIND of Projects are more time-consuming, and you can find common denominators like that across multiple client Projects
Agreed, glad you pointed that out. I make good use of Projects, too. We take a look at that view on Friday afternoons, just to get an idea of how our workweek looked.
Helps a ton. It helps get a bit more granular than just, “Marketing sites don’t take as long as eCommerce apps,” haha.
Totally. How else do you use Ballpark in your workflow?
I use Ballpark for Estimates as well. Which is really helpful for me, because the times I’ve needed Estimates, they fill a perfect hole in the client acquisition workflow. I had a client once that needed quite a few things built, but with Ballpark’s Estimate feature, I could build out an Estimate that had each feature of the site broken down as a flat-fee line item. This allowed them to look at the invoice, and quickly pick out which features were priority. It also unknowingly helped them map out an MVP. They were able to save money and time on the initial build, by seeing what features could come later based on cost/need. Very useful.
That also gives me a way to get my thoughts on the architecture and planning of the site down on paper. Before, it was just a series of emails back and forth, and I’d have to compile the consensus at the end. Now it’s all in one place, organized and easy to digest.
It sounds like it provides a great view on the front-end project management / overview tool; i.e., putting you and the client on the same page, roadmapping an MVP.
Exactly. It’s a similar concept to doing it the email route, where you discuss it back and forth, but this way you can do it all inside the Estimate view so it’s contained. By doing this, it’s not cluttering up your inbox with tons of other client project discussions, and the info you need is already right there in the Estimate.
It’s also a nice archival tool. I can go back and look at the discussion pertaining to that Estimate/invoice right there in it. No need to dig through email accounts and compile a conversation.
Exactly, a lot of our users love that siloed communication, where everything concerning project scope is recorded right there.
What is your best Ballpark time-saving shortcut or workflow?
Probably the recurring invoice feature. It’s almost like a reminder as well. On the 15th of the month, I have my recurring invoices generated and drafted. I can then go review them, make any necessary changes, and send them off. It prevents me having to write up a new invoice every month for a contract structured as a retainer, and it keeps the layout/format consistent for their records and mine, because each invoice looks almost identical, give or take a few minor changes and date differences.
Yeah, that’s invaluable. It’s like having an assistant just draft it up for you!
What is one dream addition you would root for in Ballpark?
A dream addition would be allowing the management of multiple organizations, profiles, or personas from one account. Some way that I can just have a solo account like I currently have, but write up invoices as different business entities. It’d be great to write up my music-related invoices through Ballpark as well!
So you want to toggle Ballpark for your different types of businesses–that makes sense. How would you use it for music industry-related tasks? Settling up with promoters?
Most of it would be related to gigs, yes. But other stuff too. When in the studio, I have to keep track of my hours just like a regular freelance gig. Being able to do that with Ballpark, and do invoices for per-gig, per-rehearsal, or per-event flat-fee projects would be super helpful. The features are all there to make that happen, I’d just need two accounts to do what I need.
Oh, wow! Not to get too granular, but do you quote mix projects on an hourly basis? Or, rather, would like to?
I do (recording) engineering as well, but am not engineering as much lately. My hourly stuff is mainly related to when I’m acting as a session musician.
Well, you may have hit on a wider-angled application for Ballpark, especially in the Nashville area! You’ve such a good sport to do this today, Trevor. Wrapping up, what’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
The best business advice I’ve ever received, was probably to remain teachable. There’s always more to learn, and that includes everything, not even business concepts in particular. I’ve learned so much about ethics, kindness, humility, etc., from the people I work with, and that’s invaluable.
That’s a really upbeat note to end on. I can’t thank you enough for taking your time today and talking with me.
No problem at all! Glad to help out. Thanks for thinking of me.