SASM 010 – Freelancing Traps, Clever Productivity, and the Croatian Bear with Bernard Vukas

Smart and Simple MattersIn this episode of the Smart and Simple Matters (SASM) show, you’ll get geeked up about spreadsheets.

Wait. Spreadsheets aren’t your thing?

Then you’ll get geeked up about freelancing, productivity tips, how to live like a digital nomad, and laughing at me for making a fool of myself in part of the show.

I landed Bernard Vukas – also known as Mr. Spreadsheet – for episode ten. But Bernard is so much more than a fancy spreadsheet creator.

Who else do you know that has increased their freelancing hourly rate 1,400% over four years and will tell you how they did it? Who else do you know that’s been featured in Chris Guillebeau’s sweet book, The $100 Startup? And who else do you know that’s been personally thanked by the CEO of ODesk and nominated as “Best Contractor” in an uber competitive field like software development?

Bernard was gracious enough to speak with me recently from paradise in Boracay Island, Philippines. Although Internet connections aren’t exactly blazing fast out there, the scenery more than makes up for it.

Join us as we talk about some pretty awesome things that everyone can get into. And did I mention we explore the myth of The Croatian Bear? Yep, this one got a little wild at the end.

What You’ll Learn

Bernard has a history of teaching entrepreneurs, creating business plans, and showing people how project management is done. But today, you’re getting a look into the future of where freelancing and location independence is heading.

In this episode you’ll learn about:

  • Which productivity techniques are best for working from home (they’re not what you think).
  • The biggest freelancing trap Bernard fell into … and how he got out.
  • How many books you need to read to become an efficient digital nomad.
  • Clever ways to curate that you’ve never thought about.
  • Rocking exercise routines for freelancing pros.
  • Why Ethan Waldman is going to laugh at me and how I made a fool of myself.
  • Whether the myth of The Croatian Bear is actually true.

Resources and Items Mentioned in This Episode Include:


  • [03:04] The impact starting young with computers can have
  • [06:28] Books that provided the spark for Bernard’s entrepreneurial spirit
  • [09:09] Which productivity technique works best for Bernard
  • [13:15] How curating can be delicious
  • [16:12] Freelancing traps and how to avoid them

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10 Responses to SASM 010 – Freelancing Traps, Clever Productivity, and the Croatian Bear with Bernard Vukas

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    Wow! That’s amazing confidence that guy has. I guess that’s what happens when you systematically tackle your fears :)

    • Bernard definitely tackled his fears. I don’t know how systematic it was, but perhaps he can add to the conversation and let us both know. Whether it’s the “Fire. Aim. Ready.” approach or the “Ready. Aim. Fire!” approach, breaking down the barriers that hold you back are always worth hearing about.

  2. Ethan says:

    Ahhh, come on… you didn’t mess it up that badly! Glad to hear that you’re going to check out IFTTT more- As an guy who appreciates systems and productivity, I know you’ll really dig it.

    • Dude! I thought that Bernard made or executed actual cooking recipes with If This Than That. I mean, that’s a bonehead move right there. At least we got a good chuckle out of it and a number of good chuckles elsewhere. Did I mention that having your own online show can be a lot of fun?

  3. Erin says:

    Thanks for the reminder about IFTTT :) I need to figure out how to put it to good use, too!

    I always like hearing about the details of what works for different people, so I really enjoyed this interview. I also love the theme of “try it for yourself” / “experiment” — it can be easy to get stuck in doing things “the right way,” so it’s nice to hear from someone changing things up and doing just fine.

    • Not that I’m trying to make Bernard’s freelancing essence bite-sized…but if I were, I think it could be summed up as “big rocks first” and “give it a shot to see if it works.” I love the approach!

  4. It’s interesting to hear how much he tries out different tools to get the job done. Sometimes, people just zone in on one piece of software and try to make it work for everything.

    I’m a big fan of IFTTT, but I try not to use it too much. It can be so easy to share data back and forth between programs that you can flood yourself with information. I’m actually going through the process of cleaning out my Evernote account because of this exact issue.

    When used well, though, IFTTT is a very powerful tool that saves a TON of time.

    Thanks for the discussion!

    • “When used well” could be the starting sentence for everything that’s had a positive impact in my life. I could tell you plenty of stories that start “When used poorly…” Michael, but I’ll save that for another time. Thanks for sharing your IFTTT story and providing a warning to others about what can happen when technology is used, shall we say, “sub-optimally.”

  5. Sarah says:

    For someone who does spreadsheets, I really like his seemingly laid back approach. “I read the four hour workweek so I moved to Thailand to try it.” I think that’s cool – and then going back to the systems as means towards an end, rather than as the basis for life. Interesting stuff!

    • Bernard talks about everything so matter of fact that it’s a bit hidden how much he’s done to pull off a remarkable lifestyle. I’ve found that some of the most remarkable people just set up their life in a way that, to them, seems unremarkable. When you’re a humble guy like Bernard, it’s good to have other people to trumpet just how much you rock or have achieved. That’s where Smart and Simple Matters comes in me and I love being able to toot people’s horns for them!

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