Derek Sivers

Why you need a database

2018-02-09

A database is just an organized collection of information. You could have a database of your music or your books. But I’m going to talk about a database of all the people you know.

Your email program is a kind of database. It has an address book of everyone you’ve emailed, and a history of your emails with each person. So half of what I’m going to describe here, you’ve already done.

But I’m going to recommend you go further than that, and also keep track of:

Once you have this information, you can easily find every agent you know in London, and email them about a gig.

Because the other best feature of a database is that it can personalize your communication. Instead of blasting out a message like “Hey everyone. How are you?”, your database will send out personalized emails like, “Hey James. How are you?” — “Hey Sarah. How are you?”. Not only does it get their attention better, but it’s just more polite.

It will keep a history of your communication with everyone. This helps when you hear from someone for the first time in years, it can remind you who they are, and show you the last time you spoke. It also helps you do things like contact all the people you haven’t heard from in over a year, to keep in touch.

You can set calendar reminders, so for example it can remind you to follow-up with someone after a week.

As for which database to use, I have three recommendations:

  1. Cloze. Go to Cloze.com. Link it with your existing inboxes and social media accounts, and it will pull in the information of everyone you’ve got in there already. It’s brilliant and full of features.
  2. Highrise. Go to HighriseHQ.com. Sign up for free, and choose their “Personal” plan. It’s got the most beautiful design, and easiest to use.
  3. Monica. Go to MonicaHQ.com. It’s the most personal and people-focused, encouraging you to keep track of everything you know about everyone. It’s also open source and free to install on your own server.

I ended up programming my own database software, which I plan to share for free some day. Maybe by the time you read this, it will be ready. Just email me to ask.

Using a database is one of the most powerful things you can do for your career. Please don’t put it off. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. The sooner you begin, the better.