Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, entrepreneur, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Database tips

Pick an app that runs on your laptop and phone. Make sure it has keywords, notes, and hopefully a conversation history. This is the difference between an address book and a “contact manager”. A good contact manager will let you keep track of past phone calls, emails, conversations, including a date. When you hear from someone after two years, you should be able to pull up your notes and remind yourself what happened last time you spoke.

Try to find one with reminders. It is so nice to punch a future date into your computer, and tell it to remind you to do something on that date.

Whichever one you choose, know it well. Spend a few hours really getting to know it. Then it will be effortless for years to come.

Keywords are the most important thing in your database. Every person should have a few words attached to their record like “drums, webdesign, percussion” or “JavaScript, Ruby, songwriter”. Some people will only have one word there, some will have a list of the 25 instruments they can play. This comes in the most handy when you need to find “drums” in Texas, or you’re trying to remember the full name of that webdesigner named “Dave”.

You need a big text area for notes next to their contact info, where you can type anything you want. Type notes from your conversations. Save the emails they’ve sent you.

Mail-merge is what they call it when you write a form letter, and it puts the person’s name in each letter, sending it separately, instead of sending everyone something that says “Dear Music Industry Professional” or “Hey everyone!”. You can even use these on a small level. Sometimes you need to email ten guitarists to see who’s available. Mail-merge would let you easily personalize those ten emails.

What program? Well, ACT! is the original, and still a great option. But times change so fast, new things coming out every month, and old things disappearing, so if you find a better one, please let me know.

Database tips