The Elephant in the Room Episode 4: Aggression

podcast 300x300 The Elephant in the Room Episode 4: AggressionI wanted to explore the issue of aggression at work, so I decided to bring on not one, but two fabulous guests to share their perspective and help me wrestle out loud with these issues.

My guests were Bridgett Hart, business coach at Hart Connections, and Arielle Hale, community manager at AppSumo, about being aggressive at work. You can follow them on Twitter at @arielle_hale and @HartConnections 

Disclaimer: I’m really new to podcasting, and this is my first time having two guests on at once. There are definitely things I need to improve on (like talking less, interrupting less, introducing guests better, asking more questions, learning how to edit and modulating audio levels, and figuring out how to use Audacity to cut less than 10 seconds), but I listened to some old episodes of This American Life, and I think I’m doing okay…and that you’ll get a lot out of their insight, despite my developing moderation skills. icon smile The Elephant in the Room Episode 4: Aggression

Discussion questions

  • What’s the difference between being too aggressive and simply showing a lot of hustle?
  • How does the risk of being too passive factor in?
  • What are some rules of thumb to follow when determining how to approach a situation?
  • How can we make sure our criticism (or that others have of us) gets real results?
  • What are some ways to we learn from mistakes going forward?
  • Does gender play a factor? Should it?

Show notes

Not all criticism is shaming. In fact, even the most severe criticism when it fairly hits the mark is apt to be greeted with an internal Ah-hah! if it shows the artist a new and valid path for work.  The criticism that damages is that which disparages, dismisses, ridicules, or condemns. It is frequently vicious but vague and difficult to refute. This is the criticism that damages. -Julia Cameron

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. -Anais Nin

 

The first three episodes

Just in case you missed them:

Episode 1: Net Neutrality with Bartees Cox

Episode 2: Metrics with Sam Blake

Episode 3: Age Dynamics with Holden Page

Stuff I Wrote: August 2014

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: August 2014Greetings from the beautiful Sonoran desert! I’m chugging a mason jar full of water from my beautiful new home in Scottsdale, Arizona while putting together this month’s collection of posts.

Another update this month: I’m thrilled to be listed on Copyblogger Media as a Certified Content Marketer. If you’re looking for a qualified writer for a specific project, you may want to check out the list. You can even find a copywriter who specializes in the specific area for which you need.

I wanted to share a project I backed financially that I care about: supporting independent journalists reporting in Ferguson on a site called Beacon, which some of you may remember from my own failed crowdfunding attempt. icon smile Stuff I Wrote: August 2014 I see this as a very important project, and thought some of you may want to support it as well.

This month’s posts include a few fitness articles for you golfers, and anyone wanting to get the best results in the gym. An older post of mine–originally a print article–got translated and published in Japan, so I included the English version as well.

The fitness section is followed by a smattering of posts about freelance writing, content strategy, and content marketing–from the sophisticated to the nitty gritty. I hope you find something highly useful for wherever you’re at with your business or brand. Enjoy!

Fitness

  • Improve Your Golf Swing (Experience Life) I share a workout designed by Chris Poulin to improve your strength and mobility and prevent injuries that could put a crimp in your golf game.
  • Restoring Smooth Movement (Japanese Journal of Acupuncture and Manual Therapies) This piece, originally published in the November/December 2012 issue of Massage & Bodywork, was translated into Japanese–and republished! (I linked to the original–in English).

Freelance Writing

Content Strategy

Marketing

The Writing Process Blog Tour

Depositphotos 8822693 xs 300x225 The Writing Process Blog TourWhile everyone else is busy dumping buckets of ice on their head, I got tagged to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour by Jenny Neill.  If you haven’t seen it, basically the game is to answer the four questions below, and then tag three more people to do the same. You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #mywritingprocess.

Question 1. What are you working on?

I always have to be a bit vague when describing specific assignments, since in many cases I’ve signed agreemerunts promising to keep the details under wraps until the posts are live. However, I can say that right now I’m in various stages of working on about 10 different assignments:

  • a list post based on a book/author Q+A for a men’s site
  • another author Q+A/book review for a writing site
  • a post describing the key differences between two different genres of writing
  • an opinion piece on curated news in the age of social media
  • a couple of SEO and content marketing posts
  • an app round-up piece
  • a post on the misconceptions in big data
  • two fighter profiles/interviews for MMA sites

In addition to my writing, I typically spend the first two or so weeks of the month working as a managing editor for a couple of brand blogs and an online fitness journal. I then switch to pitching in the last two weeks of the month when the editing dies down a bit. That’s true this month as well. I am always working on new pitches for Wired, since it’s been my long-standing goal to break into their FOB section. I’m also working on updating my resume because I want to apply for some online editing gigs.

Question 2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

This is a tough question to answer because my work has never fit neatly into any one genre. I’ve done health and fitness writing, med devices/healthcare IT, business, tech,  etc. and since I train in BJJ, have always written a bit about combat sports on the side.

What makes my work stand out in these assorted genres?

First of all, most of my writing is pretty quote-heavy. I’m big on reporting and work hard to quote key players when possible, rather than just analysts. I prefer using multiple sources, and actively look for long-form writing opportunities.

Second, I try to back up everything I write with solid statistics or research from credible sources. This may be due to my undergraduate education at Shimer College, the Great Books school where I spent four years debating classic literature and philosophy around octagonal tables. The idea of finding references in the text to support our point of view was beaten into us.

This means that I don’t do well when asked to write posts that are overly simplistic, or when my writing gets edited in misleading ways. Also, I really enjoy it when I have great editors who ask skeptical questions and force me to dig deeper, even if it takes me a lot longer, because it improves the quality of my work and teaches me new skills. (Lately I’ve been thinking that I really want to be able to crunch my own numbers, so I’m actively looking for opportunities to learn data science so I can scrape and clean large data sets, beyond what one can get from simply taking a workshop.)

Last but not least, my writing is a bit on the edgy side. I tell the truth as I see it unapologetically, and go to great lengths  to maintain the integrity of my work. This isn’t to say all of my writing is hard-hitting investigative work. I’ve written plenty of fun, fluffy posts and enjoy gushing about products, books,  or organizations I love. It does mean that I don’t shy away from taking a stance, even if I know it may be unpopular, and that’s evident in a lot of my work. I named my podcast “The Elephant in the Room” for a reason.

Question 3. Why do you write what you do?

I think my underlying motivation in both writing and editing is to liberate information, especially if it’s inaccessible to the public or to readers in some way.  I think it is a radical act to create and share content that will positively impact people’s lives or that they’re really searching for, and to break it down for them in a way that is accurate and easy to digest. That’s why I seek out publications and brands that have a mission beyond simply selling a product, subscriptions, or ads.

I write because I want to dig beneath the surface. I want to figure out what really drives people or events. Writing is a great excuse to get answer. I’ve found that it also gives me a bit of cover to ask a lot of questions that would normally be offensive or be considered inappropriate to discuss. This is especially true if I’m reporting on a field or an industry that’s particularly male-dominated, as I often do.

Question 4. How does your writing process work?

First of all, I use Basecamp to keep track of all of my projects and their respective deadlines. Without that piece of software, I think I’d go insane.

After an article is assigned, I typically start with a lot of research and information-gathering beyond what I’d researched for the pitch. This involves a fair bit of internet stalking as I sleuth out relevant documents or reports, scout out background information, and work to get really great sources and then track them down.  Sometimes I have to do additional research after an interview because I don’t understand a key piece of information or something seems amiss.

After I’ve gathered everything I need, I usually transcribe any interviews and cut and paste relevant statistics into Draft. Once the prep work is completed and it’s time to start writing, I need to get really comfortable.

My husband used to joke that I had a “floffice” and a “coffice,” since I’d write from the floor or couch instead of my home office. On cold winter days in Minneapolis, sometimes I’d even work from my “boffice” since I wanted to stay curled up in bed all day.

I do like sitting at a table or desk as well, but it has to be  really comfortable. I just moved into a new place and sadly had to say goodbye to my last desk, so the hardest thing for me has been finding a place to sit where I feel comfortable while I save up for this $1100 desk set I have my eyes on.

My home office is sadly filled with boxes at the  moment, but even when it’s all decked out, I sometimes get bored sitting at home all day. so I’m always in search of new cafes (or coworking spaces) with fast wifi to work out of.  I also play with different music options until I find one that matches my mood and helps me get in the groove. I use Spotify or Songza for tunes, or Coffitivity for background noise.

Once I’m comfortable enough to get started, I read through everything I have in Draft and a loose outline begins to form in my head. Then I just start writing. When I get stuck, I find that switching from Draft to Google Docs, MS Word, or even directly into WordPress can help. Often I have two files open and cut and paste clean copy from the sloppy post into the clean one. Changing the background color or font can also sometimes help, too.

After I’m done with a draft, I’m constantly reworking the lede and headline, which have been a struggle lately. I try to put posts and articles away and look at them later with fresh eyes. I’ll read through for style first, and make sure everything’s appropriately fact-checked and cited (if necessary) on the second go-around. If I’m lucky, I’ll be working with a great editor who can give me feedback and suggestions on improving each piece. One of my goals this year is to focus less on pay-per-hour and do things the long, hard way as long as I am enjoying the process and gleaning insights that will not only improve the specific piece I’m writing but my skills as a writer.

I just got a very nice package in the mail from a Twitter friend (!!) and it had these great college-ruled notebooks, sharpened pencils, and pretzel erasers! I have written almost exclusively with a pen when not on my MacBook, but am excited to give these a go. I’m always trying to think of ways to improve my skills, and perhaps some good old fashioned writing practice will help.

Next up: Sonia, Shane, Holden, and Gideon!

Yes, I was only supposed to pick three people rather than four to spread this meme forward…but I’ve never been good at following rules.

Sonia Simone is the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Copyblogger Media, and one of my favorite writers and marketers of all time. (I added serial commas to this post just for her.) You can find Sonia on Google+ and on Twitter.

Shane Snow is a NYC-based technology journalist, CCO of Contently, and author of Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success (out September 9th).  He’s also one of the nicest people ever. Oh, and he has great hair.

Holden Page is up-and-coming tech writer based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He’s also a copy editor for Lawyerist. Holden covers entrepreneurs, startups, and devices. I made him co-teach a workshop on PR for Startups with me once. I miss him.

Gideon Walker is an entrepreneur dad living in Las Vegas. Formerly a copywriter at AppSumo, he now writes about parenting, marketing, business, and productivity, and is working on his first book, the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Copywriting.

Stuff I Wrote: July 2014

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: July 2014July was an amazing month for me. I got married to the love of my life, took the first entire week off of work since as far back as I can remember for our amazing honeymoon in Alaska, and then immediately came home and started packing to move from Minneapolis to the Phoenix area. Nevertheless, I managed to get some writing done. Here is a list of 12 posts I wrote that were published outside of this blog last month.

Building An Audience

Knowledge Bombs

Damage Control

MMA

Yum

Stuff I Wrote: June 2014

Depositphotos 2902188 xs 300x300 Stuff I Wrote: June 2014Here are 20 posts I wrote that were published outside of this blog in the month of June. I’m really grateful to be writing for some of my favorite sites in the planet, and I hope you get a lot of value out my writing.

Media

Content Strategy

Search

Health

Miscellaneous

What I Learned From My Failed Crowdfunding Attempt

avatar aa368c6d5c31 128 What I Learned From My Failed Crowdfunding AttemptAs you recall, I was working on getting 40 backers for a crowdfunding project on Beacon, to write about people overcoming odds to learn new skills. I unfortunately did not get all of the backers needed for the project to be a success. This really bummed me out because I love what they are doing and think the cofounder I interviewed is a genius… and because I really believed in the project–and still do. But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and I learned a few things in the process. Here are the lessons  got out of it.

1. Details are really important.

I hired one of the best editors I know to take a look at my project draft and help  me flesh out the concepts. And I think it was the best investment in the project. It helped me get incredibly clear on the stories I wanted to tell. Even though the project didn’t get enough backers on Beacon, I plan on pitching and writing articles in the same vein, and possibly working on a book proposal. Having great clarity on the approach for each segment will be my guiding light.

2. Did I mention that details are important?

Along the process in getting the project posted, I was asked some probing questions about my project description, which made me realize that the person asking wasn’t really clear about what I was trying to do. Some suggested changes would have given off a different impression than what I had intended. And a couple of times, updates with typos or errors were sent out, which I felt reflected poorly on the project and on myself. One of the biggest mental blocks I have right now is my often unrealistic expectation that people who manage projects I work on will have a greater understanding of them than I do. I’ve found that my desire for a de facto meritocracy is compounded even more when it’s a project I care very deeply about… the more passionate I am, the more I really need to work on my own patience.

3. Crowdfunding can feel like groveling.

I usually have no problem selling, but for some reason, asking people to pledge felt like begging. I was even more leery of asking multiple times. Although I got a lot of exposure about the project and thought it would sort of sell itself, I felt weird being very salesy and overly promotional when it didn’t. Even asking people to share the project with their friends felt a little icky to me. The truth is that you burn through a lot of social capital doing so, and I had a feeling the project wouldn’t be backed the entire time, so it felt like wasted effort.

4. Passion projects can make selling even harder.

Knowing that even 40 people at $5/month wouldn’t cover my expenses made it more difficult for me to work hard to reach the goal.

5. Timing is everything.

I was hesitant to launch this campaign so close to my wedding, when I already feel like a mere wedding invitation could come across as a request for gifts, and before a planned move cross-country. In retrospect, I wish I would have waited, even knowing that summer launches don’t work as well.

6. It is hard to mobilize people around a common idea rather than a theme.

I’m thinking a campaign based on just one central topic, such as weightlifting or programming, would have gotten more support within that specific niche than the way I went about the campaign.

7. Recurring subscriptions make people nervous.

They’re worried they’ll keep paying even when no updates are made. I think it’s a valid concern, since I subscribe to a Beacon writer who hasn’t updated in months. Having access to every other story in Beacon is pretty great, though.. In any case, a lot of people wanted a non-recurring model that was lower than the two we set (at $30 and $55), which would’ve been okay if I had reached critical mass. Otherwise, though, a$5 donation toward what is supposed to be an ongoing project doesn’t mean very much, which is why Beacon uses an ongoing subscription model I think people used to Kickstarter are more comfortable with a non-sub model and magazine/literary journal people are more comfortable with subscriptions. Both rely on a critical mass or a certain amount of cash in order to work and help fund a project. In any case, it seems that we are still learning what works and doesn’t work in the crowdfunding space.

8. Sometimes it may be easier to go through a gatekeeper.

I have never had luck building an enormous email list and selling people on my list info products. However, I’m really great at getting publishers and brands to pay me to write. Most people have the opposite experience. I don’t know that one is  necessarily easier than the other, but perhaps different people are geared towards different models. In any case, there’s no way I am giving up on this idea, though perhaps Beacon isn’t the answer.

9. There is no real sense of closure when a project isn’t backed.

Once my project didn’t get funded, I didn’t have a nice debrief call or anything. It just sort of fizzled and died.I don’t even have email addresses for everyone who pledged, though  plan to try to find them so I can keep people informed on the status of the project. I still don’t feel like the idea is any less valid and the amount of support I did get feels like a partial win for me, but I still feel like the whole thing isn’t really resolved yet.

10. Some projects are really sticky. Others aren’t.

In the middle of my crowdfunding attempt, I was asking friends on Facebook if they knew of a magazine that read like a cross between Wired and Made Man, or Men’s Journal, but was geared towards women. Women who like gear and tech, and want to decorate but only if it’s done in 20 minutes and costs $30 or less. Women who want to know the best beer bars or burger joints rather than the best grapefruit and yogurt. Women who don’t wear heels and like to go camping and are addicted to apps. A lifestyle site that’s less political than Bitch or Jezebel, and with less fashion and celeb news than PureWow or Refinery29. That post got hundreds of comments, with writers and readers alike very interested in getting involved. For some reason, some types of projects just get people excited more than others. I’m aware that this could be entirely different than how they’d react once it comes time to actually pay for it, but it’s interesting to me what people react to strongly, and what they don’t.

That Contently Summit Recap You Were Asking For

4d6.logo  That Contently Summit Recap You Were Asking ForI went to the Contently Summit in NYC last Wednesday, where marketers from various brands, agencies and publishers converged to hear industry leaders discussing brand publishing, metrics, ethics, audience acquisition, storytelling, and more.

Aside from MadLibs, a man on a typewriter writing poems on demand, liquor-infused ice cream, a really fun photo booth, and great conversation with amazing editors and agencies and brands, there were some panels and discussions as well. Here’s a recap:

Truth in Advertising

The first panel, Truth in Advertising, was a frank discussion about transparency and ethics in brand publishing. (I thought this was actually pretty radical to have during a content marketing summit, but Contently has always been a bit of a game changer.) Panelists included Meghan Graham, DEFY Media VP of women’s content, Eric Goeres, Time Inc. Director of Innovation, and Jeff Jarvis, the Director of Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Transparency was the overarching theme. “We all have biases. The more open we are about those things, the better off we’ll be,” Graham pointed out Jarvis, who has an impressive list of disclosures n his website, said it’s important to make sure the reader is never confused about the source of content. Goeres also echoed the sentiment: “Don’t trick ‘em, don’t piss ‘em off” was his advice.

We discussed Forbes BrandVoice, and whether it is transparent enough to have “what is this?” written on top of the page, with a description when people click on the link. Goeres stated that some would argue that the Forbes brand has taken a major hit, a sentiment with which I agree.

The New York Times’ Orange is the New Black infographic is listed as a paid post, with a small logo and a URL starting with “paid post,” but some argued that this wasn’t transparent enough.

There was also some discussion on making sure that paid content was highly relevant and well-written, with Graham asking if the money from a product you’d normally mock in your editorial section is worth ruining your relationship with your audience.

What I found most interesting in this panel and the discussion is people’s thought processes. It’s easy to view brand publishing and native as a black and white issue, but I appreciate the nuance involved in the discussion. These issues are part of a much larger dialogue, and publishers and journalists alike continue to grapple with them. Resources: Contently’s post on Orange is the New Black

The Numbers Game

Up next was a discussion on numbers with Buzzfeed data scientist Ky Harlin and Moat president Aniq Rahman. Since most metrics and analytic tools are designed for publishers selling ads, this conversation was to discuss metrics to measure to build relationships with customers. Harlin recommended measuring everything, but said that ‘likes’ on their own are a meaningless metric. He does look at viral lift, measuring the propensity for shareability based on the ratio between viral views and seed, or controllable, views. Rahman recommended measuring attention. One metric he  looks at is scroll velocity, to determine whether content is actually read. Resources: 10 Charts That Are Changing the Way We Measure Content

Getting (and Keeping) an Audience

This was a fascinating panel with PureWow Director of Marketing Alexis Anderson, Mediaco Editorial Director Erin Scottberg, and Refinery29’s Senior Director of Marketing Irene Lee. I wrote a recap for the Content Strategist, so thought I’d just link to that! Resources: ‘Growth is Not a Hack': 7 Strategies for Building a Loyal Audience, and Refinery29’s Intelligence blog

The Storytelling Arms Race

This panel was about content campaigns from start to finish, and including Microsoft storytelling manager Ben Tamblyn and American Express VP of Content Carrie Parker. The two have opposing brand storytelling strategies. Microsoft’s stories tell all about Microsoft, whereas Open Forum is not really about American Express. One interesting takeaway for me was when Carrie Parker mentioned that non-inspirational posts aren’t widely shared, but get traffic via search. Conversely, posts that are widely shared don’t often do well in search. There was also a lot of discussion on great stories (which are not press releases!).Both Tamblyn and Parker predicted that storytelling will include content that’s much more visual, as well as a rise in mobile. Resources: Microsoft to World: Yes, We Can Be Cool and Innovative, Too, and the Net Promoter Score

More Resources:

RebelMouse Contently Summit Recap 5 Things We Learned At the Contently Summit

Why I Want To Write About “Impossible” Things (And How You Can Help)

Screen Shot 2014 06 21 at 2.23.22 AM Why I Want To Write About Impossible Things (And How You Can Help)“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’

I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast…” -Lewis Carroll

It was 1998 when I first stepped foot into Shimer, a very bizarre, non-traditional college, as a student. Our motley crue, which would best be described as a ragtag group of idealists, didn’t look like much. We had off-the-chart standardized test scores and poor grades. (Mine? 1240 SAT–out of 1600 back then– 28 out of 32 on the ACT,  and 2.3 GPA.) Many of us would pool our money together to make sure weed was always plentiful, but couldn’t always do the same for food. Our student body included high schoolers who evaded becoming dropouts by making it into the early entrant program. We also had a handful of adults juggling work and families with school on the weekends.

Some of us struggled with basic social skills. Some of us (me!) struggled with basic hygiene skills. And I’ve sadly watched year after year as my dear friends and classmates lost their lives to everything from drug overdoses to suicide. If there’s a central theme that binds us together, it may very well be our  existential crises and consistent collective struggles with addiction, depression and every other issue under the sun.

And yet there was one thing we could always do, no matter what else was going on in our lives. We could read any book in the entire Western canon, sit around an octagonal table,  and figure it out together.

One time I got stuck in Chicago with a new used bike I’d just gotten. Apparently I read the start date wrong because they didn’t yet allow bicycles on the Metra, not until the next day. The kind bike shop owners offered me a ride–a really long ride–to campus, which was close to the Wisconsin border, and asked me to ‘work’ while I waited for the bike shop to close. I secretly idolized one of the women working there. She wore clunky bike jewelry and had lots of tattoos, sure, but what I really loved was that she seemed to know more about bike repair than anyone else in the store. But when she handed me tools and told me to do something and instructed me to figure it out when I asked questions, I didn’t think I had it in me. I asked someone else for direction and she later told him he wasn’t supposed to help.

What is the difference between these two situations? What makes a group of students, many of who had failed at just about every academic skill they’d ever attempted, get to the point where they expect to be perfectly able to not only puzzle through every book but analyze it, no matter how undecipherable it may be? And what makes someone who’s perfectly capable of wielding a combination wrench AND a patch kit decide that paying someone to replace a tire is the only legitimate option?

These questions are fascinating. How is it that some people overcome blocks, real or perceived, to figure out how to do things they know they’ll never master, whle others struggle with the basics? Why is it that some non-technical folks can figure out how to code in their 50s, while other people decide they’ll never even learn how to use email? How come some city folk can learn wilderness survival and others decide to try to avoid anything outdoorsy altogether? How do you teach yourself a sport in which you’d always have a handicap?

Is it a mindset issue, where you simply will yourself to learn something and won’t give up until you get there? Is it just a burning desire to beat the odds? Or are there particular subsets of skills that can be developed that are transferable across disciplines?

If you’re as interested in these nuanced stories as I am, please consider sponsoring my crowdfunding campaign on Beacon. Just $5/month gets you access to stories about people who gain proficiency in seven different areas, despite handicaps. Topics include coding, drawing, music, Olylifting, language acquisiton, and more! A subscription gets you access to hundreds of writers on the Beacon platform… and you can cancel any time.

If a recurring subscription isn’t your cup of tea, you can pay $30 just one time for a non-recurring 6-month subscription.

Check out the information here: http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/seven-impossible-things-before-breakfast.

Many people focus on underdogs who beat the odds to become truly amazing, and many people focus on the prodigies, champions born and bred. Most of us exist in the murky area between the two. We’ll never be world class, but can make a choice between proficiency and ignorance. What makes some people choose one over the other?

Back me and I promise to explore this in depth and come up with answers that are more nuanced than truisms and more accurate than doomsdayers would like you to believe.

http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/seven-impossible-things-before-breakfast.

 

Travel Hacking 101: How I Flew To New York For Five Bucks

800px El viaxeru dUrculo 300x225 Travel Hacking 101: How I Flew To New York For Five BucksSo I’ve been visiting New York for the amazing Contently Summit, which I’ve got a lot to share about, but the question I’ve been asked the most is how I managed to land a five-dollar flight to New York City.

People often ask for travel hacking information, and it’s incredibly complex. I really recommend Chris Guillebeau’s ebooks and courses on the topic, as well as the many resources available online.

But a lot of people don’t want to hear theoreticals. They want nitty gritty details about specific trips. So here are the steps I took for this particular trip. (And by the way, this is all completely legal.)

1. I got a Gold Delta SkyMiles credit card from American Express. The annual $95 fee was waived for the first year.

2. As a promotion, they offered 30,000 SkyMiles for anyone who meets a $1,000 minimum spend.

3. Since I’m not in the habit of putting that kind of cash on a credit card, I went to CVS and bought two Vanilla Reload cards. I used the credit card to put $500 on each card. (Total cost: $3.95 X 2 = $7.80) This process is referred to in travel hacking circles as”manufactured spend.”

4. I also got a free BlueBird card.

5. I transferred the money from the Vanilla Reload card to my BlueBird card.

6. I transferred the money on the BlueBird card back into my bank account.

7. This got me a $50 statement credit, 30,000 bonus miles, and a free bag check on each flight, as well as priority boarding.

8. I got 2500 more points over about six months  by using the card and then immediately paying it off.

9. I redeemed the 32,500 points for the trip I wanted. The flight to NYC cost me 12,500 points and the return flight was at a higher 20,000 point tier. Cost: $5 for the flight. (The tickets I wanted went from $440 to $604.

Amount spent: $7.80 + $5.00 = 12.80.

Amount saved:  $50 credit, $50 for the bag check, $440-604 for the flight.

Total saved: $540- $704, minus the $12.80, equals $527.20 to $691.20 in savings.

Questions?

Crowdfunding Campaign Update

Screen Shot 2014 06 11 at 6.45.55 PM 300x165 Crowdfunding Campaign UpdateA few days ago, I wrote about my crowdfunding attempt to get 40 sponsors for a book project called Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

I have received 13 backers in 6 days, and am looking for 27 more backers in the next 8.

Please read about the project and consider becoming a sponsor.

$5 per month will help make this reporting possible and also give you access to hundreds of other writers on Beacon.

Again, that site is http://www.beaconreader.com/projects/seven-impossible-things-before-breakfast.