Crowdfunding Campaign Update

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 6.45.55 PMA 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.

Why You Should Stop “Building Relationships”

Paul_Klee_WI_(In_Memoriam)_1938Ask anyone for networking advice, or how to monetize your social contacts, and they’ll likely tell you to “build relationships.” What does this look like? Instead of hitting up strangers for work, you get all dressed up for networking events where you eat small bites of cheese and stale crackers and pretend to be really interested in their lives, in hopes that they’ll one day hire you for something because you seemed really nice. A plethora of business card exchanges take place, and you go home exhausted from all that fake smiling, and then do the whole thing over again.

My advice? Stop. Just stop.

Why? Because “building relationships” by being fake nice to people in hopes of something in return is manipulative, and it poisons the well. Enough new “friends” who are secretly–or not-so-secretly–scouting for work and everyone is suddenly paranoid when someone is genuinely nice to them, wondering what it is that they actually want.

I’m not saying that getting to know people is a bad thing. I am saying that treating people like numbers to help you on the way towards your goal is ruining “real” networking for people who actually just want to associate with like-minded folks without expectations of anything in return.

People are not numbers.

If you’ve ever been to a store to buy an appliance and felt like your newfound friend was very upset after spending a ton of time showing you options when you didn’t go with the one they selected, or even (gasp!) decided to think about it and come back another day, you know what it feels like to be treated like a number, or a stepping stone to someone’s quota. It’s not fun. But hey, at least you expected it in a store. Attempts to build one-sided relationships at industry events create a bad dynamic, and ultimately stop people from wanting to attend altogether.

So instead of attending networking events in hopes of meeting people who will give you a cookie in the future, why not try being real?

Beyond “Schmoozing”

Here’s my strategy:

  • I don’t go to any event that I’m not absolutely intrigued by. That means that I might go to the Hack Factory to learn lockpicking because I think it’s fascinating, but I won’t go to BNA meetings, even though I could probably profit off of their nepotism with a slew of referrals.
  • I don’t talk to anyone I’m not genuinely interested in, and not just because I’m hoping to get something from them. I only talk to people I actually like and want to get to know. (I only work with people I like and want to get to know, but they’re a teeny subsection of people I want to talk to either at industry events or cocktail parties.)
  • I don’t engage in weird politics where I feel like I’m competing for someone’s attention, or surrounding them when they’re trying to leave the room. This creates a competitive, cutthroat-like dynamic, and I’d much rather bow out.
  • If someone is in line to talk to someone, I gracefully step aside to give them their turn. I already talked to someone, now they get to, and we can both follow up when we want. It’s all good.
  • I don’t give people referrals just because we’re friendly. I only pass on names if I’m absolutely sure their work is high quality or if I’ve had experience with them in the past. Likewise, I don’t expect referrals from people just because we’re friends. I’m perfectly happy keeping referrals and friendships separate.
  • Again, if I happen to be meeting with someone socially, even if they can potentially do something for me in the future, I don’t make that the point of our meeting, nor do I expect it. I apply like everyone else.

Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love meeting new people and talking to them about their projects, and helping people with whatever it is they’re working on. And I am absolutely not afraid of selling or marketing. I just try not to muddle the two.

(For more on my approach to ethical selling, see Skip Miller and Jill Konrath‘s books.)

Thoughts?

Podcast Preview: Age Dynamics & Generational Gaps at Work

podcastTomorrow, I’ll post the third episode of The Elephant in the Room. My guest, Holden Page, is a freelance writer and former corporate community manager.

We’ll be discussing generational gaps and age dynamics at work.

We’ll delve into political/cultural problems that arise, how to deal with a distinct lack of experience, and whether or not these situations are necessarily due to someone’s age, anyway.

We’ll talk about what organizations need to do in order to address dysfunctional dynamics and work together as a team.

Stay tuned!

In Defense of Mediocrity (Video)

20110329-084413I was lucky enough to be selected to speak at Ignite Minneapolis 7 last night! My five-minute talk was in defense of mediocrity! Check it out below (at 1:13:57), check out the other speakers, and please consider pledging for my crowdfunding campaign if you’re especially intrigued by the topic!

Seeking Serendipity: Birchbox, Quarterly & Other Miscellaneous ‘Gifts’

White_paper_bag_on_white_and_black_backgroundI’m addicted to boxes with miscellaneous items. Perhaps this stemmed from my middle school days playing AD&D (Second Edition!) and being unreasonably excited about the bag of useless objects, a funner version of the infamous bag of tricks.

In my adult life, my obsession with boxes started as a foray into the world of Quarterly.co, where I could pay to have a box of random curated goods sent to me quarterly. (Nitinol! Music boxes! Lock picking kits!) I’ve also tried Good Box, handmade care packages based around a specific theme. I get Birchbox once a month. There are countless others: Barkbox for dog lovers, Loot Crate for gamers, PlaceInABox, you name it.

Some subscription services are based on convenience. If you can have clothes sent to you through StitchFix, or Bomb Fell or TrunkClub for men,why go to Nordstrom’s to try on clothes?  Heck, True & Co. will even send you bras you can try on in the comfort of your own home and return the ones you don’t like.

Another reason for subscription services is to support the person making the products. It’s the same reason you sign up for a CSA to support local farmers, no matter what ends up growing.

But the big reason, in my opinion, is that we’re missing a bit of serendipity in our lives. As shopping moves more and more online, and sites — and ads — become increasingly targeted, picking up something random on a whim is becoming a rarity. If you happen to run across the same product twice, it’s likely because of ad retargeting, not coincidence. And so we buy boxes of random objects, to pick up items we could have obtained for a much lower cost. I’ve unsubscribed from a Quarterly curator because I felt like I was paying money to get stuff I didn’t need sent to my house. And as much as I appreciate the well-designed products, I’m noticing that they’re merely stemming a profound desire for something different in a world where random and different things are becoming more and more difficult to find. Have we optimized the serendipity out of our  lives?

Boxes also allow us to explore items we normally wouldn’t have bought. If it wasn’t for BirchBox, I’d never wear bright pink lipstick or silver eyeliner. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I’d like to purchase products that are specific to my style (and skin tone). On the other, I’m tired of an overly regimented world and staying in my little box, and sometimes trying something that seems completely wrong for me can be a lot of fun.

I’m not sure if random boxes are a solution for an overly sterile shopping experience. Ideally, we’d all send boxes of random objects perfectly selected for each other. I am always looking for excuses to send people miscellaneous gifts, which is just as much fun as getting an unexpected package on my doorstep. Perhaps we need to curate more presents for one another, in a world of gift cards and registries and rigid expectations.  Gift boxes seem to be a more artificial version of this.

Cultivating Equanimity

Equanimity3What do teaching, business, and creative client-facing work have in common? They are absolutely governed by your mood. Walk in with the wrong attitude and it could ruin your entire day. But trying to be cheerful all the time or attempting to force yourself to be happy when you’re just not feeling it isn’t realistic. Enter equanimity.

Being equanimous means that you maintain composure no matter what is happening around you. This can stop you from taking on other people’s problems or letting them negatively affect your mood, but it’s also important to remain equanimous in the face of praise. By not letting your emotions rise and fall like a rollercoaster, you draw your power from within rather than allowing yourself to be manipulated, positively or negatively, by others.

What does this look like? You might be sad if someone says something negative, or you’re not getting the attention you feel that you deserve, but you won’t become unhinged by it. You may be happy if you do a bang-up job on something and appreciate praise, but you won’t become addicted to it.

Practicing equanimity allows you to have control over your emotions, rather than being swayed by the wind.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Three Great Resources

640px-ShakespeareI wanted to let you know about three great resources I’ve come across that I haven’t written about yet.

Shakespearances

If you go to see Shakespeare any chance you get, this site will save you an awful lot of Googling. You can see a list of where’s playing what if you want to look up your town, or anywhere that you’re visiting. Or, if you want to go on a special trip to see Troilus and Cressida or All’s Well That Ends Well, check out the list of what’s playing where.

Geek Feminism Wiki Resources For Therapists

The geek feminism wiki is a treasure trove of information, and this new resource for therapists has been put together to get therapists up to speed on the background, issues and incidents relating to gender issues in tech, gaming and other related fields that are unfortunately rife with bullying, harassment and misogyny. Even though the resource is intended for specifically for mental health professionals, I think it’s a really good primer to get anyone up to speed. If you are writing about these issues or are just curious, I’d really recommend taking a look.

Reachable

Reachable is a great resource for trying to track down a decision maker or someone else you want to meet, using social media profiles, provided that you’re okay getting intros to intros to intros until you meet someone who can introduce you to the person you’re trying to reach.

How To Attract and Retain Top Freelance Talent

Depositphotos_19834643_xsIn the words of content marketing guru Brian Clark, “the writer runs this show.” Whether you’re running an agency, publishing a magazine, or just trying to keep your brand’s blog updated, the quality of your writers can make or break your business. If you’re looking to hire and retain the best talent, here are ten factors to consider.

1. Do you have a strong core mission?

No, I’m not talking abut the statement you wrote in some retreat that’s been doing nothing but collecting dust. A mission for your business should be palpable. It should be a guiding factor in all of your decisions and be based on something greater than just making money. Having a strong vision will attract writers with the same vision, and it’s the reason they’ll go the extra mile to find cutting edge research, or scrap a draft and start over when new details emerge rather than turn in work that’s passably good–but not great.

2. What does the energy feel like?

Even remote workers can pick up on your company’s vibe. High expectations, consistency, and a clear company culture go a long way.

3. Are your expectations reasonable?

You may work 60 hours a week and on evenings and weekends, but expecting freelancers to submit rewrites at 1AM is completely unreasonable. Asking for twice as much work as negotiated in the scope of your original agreement is completely unreasonable. The list goes on and on. Remember that just because someone is responsive to these requests at first doesn’t mean they’re thrilled about it. Trying to see just how much you can get away with is not a good recipe for retention.

4. What about everyone else’s expectations?

You’re probably not the only person interacting with your freelancer. If clients treat them like automatons or are disrespectful, that’s a part of their experience with your brand. So are those endless conference calls where they’re not really supposed to talk and are playing 2048 or muting their line so they can do their dishes.

5. How do you resolve conflict?

You may think you treat your freelancers just fine, thank you very much, but what do you do when there’s a conflict between a writer and a client? Bending over backwards when someone’s being unreasonable may keep them happy in the short-term, but freelancers like to work with people who have their back. Drawing a line with a client when necessary is a sure-fire way to win points with freelancers. So is working on eliminating extraneous steps and streamlining a process, with everyone’s feedback. If you do this on your own without them having to talk to you first, all the better. This isn’t to say that you should always placate freelancers, either. Just be fair.

6. How much of a cut are you getting, and what are you doing for that cut?

You’ll never hear this brought up to your face, but every freelancer will wonder about this at some point. If they’re practically running one of your projects, and you’re pocketing a hefty percent, you damn well better be providing value in some way or another. If you are micromanaging, adding extraneous tasks, or making mistakes your writer has to clean up for you–and adding additional steps for them in the process–you  may wind up with a retention problem.

7. Do you have a crazy Draconian contract? 

Nobody wants to sign those. Even if you pay enough that they will, they probably won’t feel good about it.

8. What does your CMS look like?

Do you have a sleek, sexy CMS that’s easy to use? Or are you forcing your freelancers to use some antiquated system that is ridden with bugs and occasionally breaks? Redesigns that everyone complains about and which don’t actually solve the problems people have don’t count as an improvement.

9. Do you give specific feedback?

The best writers want to improve their skills. You using their work as is could very well be a red flag. That said, it’s important that the feedback you give them is actionable and specific. And make sure to throw some praise in there as well, when warranted. If you can share metrics, all the better.

10. Do you accept feedback?

If you ask for it and ignore it, it doesn’t count. If your company isn’t agile enough to act upon suggestions, you’ll likely have problems beyond attracting and retaining talent. Also, it’s worth noting that feedback isn’t always honest when you’re just chatting by phone. Anonymous surveys are a good start. Hiring someone else to analyze them is even better.

Following these steps will not only help you attract and retain top talent and win their loyalty and affection, it’ll also help you build a damn good business that can weather any storm.

(More) top posts from 2013

220px-The_sun1Earlier this week, I posted the top 13 blog posts from 2013, according to my analytics data. Today, I’d like to link to some posts I have available elsewhere that I think you might find interesting.

Putting together this list was ridiculously difficult. I’ve interviewed so many rock stars this year for articles that didn’t make the cut (including some of my personal heroes) , but really wanted to focus on the content that would be most helpful and relevant. (Since we’re in the throes of shopping season, I also didn’t include posts that were behind a paywall, such as Medical Decision Making, and Hacking Paleo With Patrick Vlaskovits). In addition, I didn’t include ghostwritten work (which was the majority of my writing this year), pieces that aren’t timely or fresh, or any of the pieces that’s in print only (in magazines, trade journals, etc.) and is not available online. In addition, I removed posts that are difficult to link to directly (such as a piece for Costco Connection) which require a lot of scrolling. It’s all about good UX, right? With only a few exceptions, I also removed posts that highlighted just one specific product or service, but instead focused on the bigger picture and on concepts you can implement (or ideas you can draw from). This somehow helped me narrow it down to 15. Enjoy!

 

Content strategy

Business building

Health, fitness and sports

 

Top 13 posts of 2013

imgresEach year around this time, I write a series of posts recapping the year. To start, I’d like to repost my most popular pieces this year, based on Google Analytics data.

This year, I taught a workshop on PR for startups, and put a lot of time behind the content to promote the event as well as the video course. Some of the posts around this resonated.

I did a bit of self-reflection…

…and even wrote about some dental work I unfortunately needed.

On a brighter note, I also wrote about some products I like, including some interviews.

I use this blog as a forum to delve into political issues, and this year that included some writing about sexual assault…

..as well as a post in memory of a dear friend who died, and a fundraiser for a local non-profit organization I support. This wasn’t as big as last year’s fundraiser for Children of the Night, to support child victims of human trafficking in the US, but it was still significant. Thank you to those who donated in Chris’ name.

Last but not least, remember that you’re beautiful with this poem!

That concludes the top 13 of 2013. I’ll be posting some of my top posts and articles on other sites (and magazines) soon, so stay tuned.