Some lessons I learned from Tim Ferriss . . .

so I have to you tell you about a little book I read. . (btw, I’m an avid reader. Of physical hardcopies of books. Never caught on with the Kindle thing, but I digress)

It’s called “The 4-hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss.

If you haven’t been under a rock in the past few years, you’ve heard of this book. Right behind when “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. (God Bless Inbox Zero)

What this post is about is something I should have heed a LONG time ago when I first read the book. Quoting Tim Ferriss directly,

THERE ARE A million and one ways to make a million dollars. From franchising to freelance consulting, the list is endless. Fortunately, most of them are unsuited to our purpose. This chapter is not for people who want to run businesses but for those who want to own businesses and spend no time on them.

What I’m referring to is my decision to start my own business last year, but to say ‘screw all of the evidence’ and do it service based. Thinking to myself I can leverage the power of WordPress to sell websites ($0 upfront cost and Time later)

1 year later, I learn two things. 1) I’m not a graphic designer by any means, so that’s where the majority of the cost of the ‘design’ phase of the website is and 2) People are very finicky about their respective designs.

So I have to change my plans, and go for sales, as Tim mentioned.  But that’s not all.

A second lesson leared, through my frustration, I learned something about myself. I actually enjoy Marketing.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d do Marketing and Sales. I hate the latter in the 100% commission range because it just makes the human condition ugly (i.e. Are you talking to me because I’m your friend or that you need to make a sale?)

The only caveat is that yet again I don’t get along with the majority of the creatives out there.  Too much ego and some with very shoddy personalities.

I am getting into what’s deemed Direct Response Marketing.  The basic premise is that we write ‘copy’ (advertisements for those who don’t know the lingo) which has a traceable result.  So instead of taking a picture with a slogan and a testimonial and placing an ad in a paper,  we niche it down to a smaller audience, put a call to action with a phone number or website, and then track the results of the campaign.  I’ve learned that I’m kind of with the Dark Side of the force. However, being the geek, I’m attracted to the numbers, conversion rates, etc. about it. It makes sense to me, as opposed to ‘making it look pretty’ and hope people show up.

Thirdly, I like telling people what to do.  I don’t want to be the boss or a manager, but I like telling someone what to do, they say ‘Yes, Sir’ and come back with the result.   That’s cool. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Tim’s book inspired me to hire an assistant. I had a Virtual Assistant that got me out of a jam earlier in the year, but I found out later on that the building I work in has a concierge service. Any research, event planning, or appointment scheduling goes through her now and it’s an awesome relief. I still intend on retaining the VA to speak on my behalf in a few manners, but regardless. To quote Tim again, “Get an assistant, even if you don’t need one.”

That’s it. So, I’ve decided to completely change my business model.  I’m getting out of the website design business.

Thank you, Tim Ferriss.

BTW, it’s also no surprise to me either that another new hero of mines, Jason Fried of 37signals is friends with Tim Ferriss.

Tim Ferriss: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/

Jason Fried: http://37signals.com/svn/

7 things everyone ought to know. . . about finding a job

Being unemployed for a year, and 6 months in my life, there are things that I learned in both experiences that I vowed I’d never do again.  I got lucky last go round to find a position while I was still employed, however, now I even have a ‘better strategy’.   I feel blessed to be employed right now, however, if I were let go today, this is what I would do.

1. Remove any and all unnecessary expenses.

For example, you really don’t need a smart phone, cable, gym membership, and a latte-a-day Starbucks habit while unemployed.  So get rid of that crap.  Besides, most of what you wanted to watch on television can be seen online anyway, so why waste the money?

2. Recruit other people to do your job search for you.

Remember all of the time you DIDN’T have to see your friends? NOW you’ve got time.  Go through your list of connections, friends, co-workers, etc. and make appointments to see them and hang out.  While you’re there, gently remind them that you’ve just been laid off and you’re looking for a position.  Recruit your friends to help you search their ‘hidden market’ for available positions.

Contact every headhunter, temporary work agency, recruiter that you can find.  This includes ‘job centers’, church groups, etc.  The majority of all of these firms work on commission (i.e. you have to get hired in order for them to eat.).  While some can be shady and yes you’re going to lose %10-%15 of your potential salary, you could also be employed and deal with the details later.  After being unemployed for a year, I signed with a Temp Agency.  5 days later I had a full time job and 6 months in I was ‘bought out’ by said company.

3. Get ACTIVE.  Get out at least two nights a week.

You might not be social.  You might hate talking to people outside your comfort zone.  But the alternative is to sit at home, getting depressed and continuing to be broke.  By being active, you break that hold and open yourself up to potential.  Volunteer for your local charity / cause.  Go out to networking events (they are either free, or severely cheap.  http://www.connectworkchicago.com/ allows you to work the admission fee off for some events).  Start building your Linkedin ‘million dollar Rolodex’.

4. Re-evaluate your priorities

Right now is the best time to take inventory of your life. If you were laid off for amicable reasons, then you can make a list of people you enjoyed working and interacting with and touch base with them.  If you were fired, hated your job, or just didn’t like your environment, more than likely something in your world brought you to that place.  My suggestion is to weed out those people and situations out of your life.  Almost like breaking up with someone, give yourself the gift of a clean slate and a positive environment.  It will help in the long run.

Also, check your career priorities.  Whatever you come up with, add that you’re flexible enough to change careers or industries.  I’m currently in a position that I never thought I could apply myself to, but the employer found enough potential in me to bring me on board.  If I was narrow minded, I would have never taken the position.  While you’re at it, if you have an opportunity to sharpen your skills in technology (word, excel, website design, social media, repair), and/or sales (marketing, writing copy, headlines, offers, etc.) you can write your own ticket for your next position.

5.  Start a blog, and build your own web-presence.

I personally believe that people make blogs more simple, and more complicated than necessary.  Everyone has an opinion, and it doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it, but how many people do.

Besides, my reasoning for starting a blog / website is three-fold.  For starters, future employers are doing ‘Google searches’ for you before they hire you now.  You want to be in control of said search so that your site and information comes up first and not your embarrassing photos on Facebook (Speaking of Facebook, now is also a good time to check your privacy settings and make sure you do look professional if you decide to keep your profile open to the public). Secondly, You can demonstrate your subject matter expertise of your industry (or niche), and host your resume!.  Last and certainly not least, you could potentially monetize your traffic with affiliate offers.

And if you want someone to do the blog for you, check out my friends at Free Blog Factory! (Yes, it’s an affiliate link)

PS, if you can belt out at least 150 words a day, you can develop enough traffic to do some neat things with it.

6.  Make a list of companies you would love to work for.  Find out the CEO’s name and information and send them a personal letter.

This is something I think people overlook as a strategy.  The letter can be typed, double space, but it should be signed by you, licked stamped and sealed in a standard envelope.  What is going to be on this letter?  Do some market research about the company, tell the CEO or Founder that you admire his or her firm and mention you would love to work there one day.  Attach your resume.   Plan on sending 2 more followup letters a few weeks later.   Although you might run into gatekeepers, it helps to get to the ‘decision maker’ of the company to make sure that they are aware of your presence.  At the very least, you might get a contact inside the company that you can network with.  Ask your connections inside said companies for either informal interviews, introductions to managers or HR folks, something that gets you into the door and puts your face to the resume that casually goes across someone’s desk.  (For an even faster way for this method, find the charities that said companies sponsor and volunteer for them.  More than likely a representative from the company will be there AND they will be open to being your friend since you share a common interest in the charity.  Neat, huh?)

7. Find ways to make money in small increments.

You could give away free blogs for me.  You could sell tickets to networking events.  You could run errands for your friends (start a personal concierge service or virtual assistant service, really popular!).  Walk dogs.  Wash cars in the summer.  Write reviews for products on Amazon/Yelp.  Send traffic to your blog so you can sell affiliate offers to your friends (btw, Groupon has an affiliate program too.  You could make money just by referring an already awesome service to their friends!).  These are not all full time income type things, however, if done right can make you some extra income and at least keep you afloat till you get on your feet.  I’d stay away from direct sales (Avon, Amway and the like) and I’d definitely not SPAM your friends, because that can have an adverse effect.

BONUS! 8.  Develop an online Daily Action Plan

Take one hour out of the day to focus on your current job, which is finding a job.  So the goal is to list all of the job websites (career builder, monster, craigslist, etc.) and make it a point to apply to x amount of jobs on each one, regardless of if you’re qualified or not.  Get on LinkedIn, contact 3 people a day, participate in 3 group discussions.  Call 3 people a day with the intent of discussing finding a position. (you could outsource this to ya know. . )

What’s your number?

The Number 12

No, it’s not what you think.

I wanted to address really quickly one of the Social Media Pet Peeves I have, which is that somehow, some way, ‘The Money is in the List’.  And the ‘larger’ the list, the more income that can be generated.

If ONLY I had such list.

What I’m finding though is that having the largest list is somewhat irrelevant.  I’m quite sure that I could friend enough people and talk enough to get TONS of friends (and max my personal profile to 5,000 people), but then what?  What exactly do you do with that?  More importantly, I’m finding that 90% the larger list people don’t correspond to intelligence, integrity, or even basic respect.

Keep in mind, while I’m ranting about this, I got sucked into the numbers game as well.  I realized all too much that my ego was tied to my number of Facebook friends.  As soon as I realized how much stress was involved in doing so, I’ve changed my strategy.  I’ve even removed some of the people I’m following on twitter because just about half of the people on are irrelevant to me. People would appeal to my ego checking out my Facebook and Twitter counts.  I got sucked in because I wanted the attention that it drew for me (and of course the potential money involved.)

But where I always stopped short was when I was asked to essentially ‘sell out’ my list to interested parties.  One person even expressed to me a strategy of creating a second Facebook Profile (which is against the TOS), adding friends from various networking groups under false pretenses (in groups / circles that I’m known, thank you very much!), and then do a bait and switch into an offer!

THe main reason I never do it is that I don’t want to ruin the relationships I have already with said list.  If I ‘suddenly’ start pitching for products or people, regardless of the ‘premise’ of said pitch, people get skeptical.  I’m starting to realize that I automatically tune out when anyone starts telling me ‘they’ve been featured in so many outlets’ because that just shows me they have a problem reaching ‘real’ people.

So, if the money is in the list, I don’t think so.  I think the money is in the ‘relationship’ you have with said list.  And how much value are you giving said list!

Even more so, there is still a human element involved.  While I have a big list, and people / friends tend to get lost in the shuffle, I try to make it a point to reach out personally to my friends and try to meet them in real life, as that does more for my ‘list’ than anything else I could do online.  Which is one of the main things that I preach in any strategy online, bringing the the relationship offline somehow (phone, event, etc. .)

The Cost of not being authentic: Farmville

NOTE:  I had an awesome time at Social Media Dev Camp last weekend!   As soon as I get some source footage, I will post it on my blog and various social networks.  Also, if you haven’t checked out Scott Bishop, I am STILL blown away by our co-hesiveness during the presentation.  We were put together in the last second, and I’m humbled by the fact that we share the same values in our Social Media spaces.

Check out his blog http://realtimemarketer.com/ and his Twitter http://www.twitter.com/thescottbishop

This blog post is going to expand on some of the points that I made during the presentation.

There was an article that brought a smile to my face.

The company behind FarmVille and Mobster Wars had a bit of a challenge to their conscious, relying on ‘scam and spam’ opt-in adverts to generate revenue. I already had apprehensions playing ‘online games’ to begin with. For a few reasons being the lack of professionalism it displays on your facebook feeds, and two the lack of experience it provides it’s users, along with bucking the trends! I knew inherently the goal was to entice players / users with free offers or some kind of validation (i.e. I beat your ass at this game, and all of your friends know you’re a wuss!) in hopes to bait them for advertisers. Even the early games on facebook relied on using the fabled ‘viral effect’ to exchange value after inviting 15 friends to play this ‘game’. The game itself becomes of no value to it’s users, because it’s diminished by the true premise of developing a warm market for Advertisers.  Casinos (slot machines), Strip Clubs (look but don’t touch!), MMORPGs (to an extent) all use this tactic to generate revenue.  Except, in the online world, when people tune out of the banner adverts or counter-program them (adblock them), they get desperate and become more pervasive.   Providing users with an opportunity to opt-in advertising in exchange for in-game currency to me is a violation of ethics, not to mention moral grounds.  Not even World of Warcraft does that, and it’s one of the most addictive games on the planet!

My proof of this? The reaction of the heads of these various outfits in response to being questioned. They respond in anger, which tells me that at some level, they know what they are doing is wrong.  They wouldn’t want to be treated that way as a consumer, but quick cash and a viable excuse “well, they were stupid enough to buy it anyway” to me is not a viable business plan.  It amazes me that regardless of the potential liability, people are still trying to find a way to separate fools and their money using Social Media, when there is nowhere to hide once the damage has been done.

I would like to point out that regardless of case studies and stories of people looking to the number of ‘eyeballs’ on Social Media as an opportunity to sell CRAP as opposed to engaging with them has dire consequences.  These people and businesses do not last long.  From the Spam Kings of the AOL days, to the myspace invaders of the 90’s, they have all been caught, and their effectiveness diminished.  While we can’t provide a user guide to every user on every network, there should be a zero-tolerance policy regarding this kind of behavior.   Social Networks need to remain vigilant and stop these people, regardless of the money involved, because the damage to one’s reputation to me is far greater than any amount of money that could be received.  I sure as hell would not want Facebook to become the Myspace of the new millennium.  Although, as trending seems to show, younger generations are already wisening up to this fact and beating us to the punch.

Even scarier, the game changer might come in the form of the Federal Trade Commission changing the rules for endorsements and advertisers.  In attending Daliah Saper’s presentation during Social Dev Camp Chicago this weekend, I remember distinctly a question from the audience, asking “How is this going to affect affiliate marketing?”  I’m sure the people on the borderline of ethics are scared out of their wits. Read More Here about the FTC.

A Thank You

Twitter Wall Flyer from Domino's Pizza
Twitter Wall Flyer from Domino's Pizza

Ramon has done it again!

If you don’t know Ramon DeLeon, you should.  He’s the best example that I can point to of what Social Media is about.

First of all, he sent pizza to my birthday party at District (do a search for #wbdayparty on twitter).

But even MORE awesome is now my quote is going out on various pizza boxes on his flyers! (see above).

THANK YOU SOO MUCH!  YOU ROCK!

Will English and Ramon DeLeon
Will English and Ramon DeLeon

Before you take your PC to get fixed, use these 4 free tools

An average technician repair for a computer with ‘viruses and spyware’ will cost you anywhere between $100 – $200 minimum.

But did you know, all most techs are doing is running scans for said viruses and spyware that usually resolve the problem?  Did you know these tools are free?  Some technicians are making a fortune doing incident repairs on computers that maintenance scanning would do wonders for.

Before you take your computer in to get fixed, or call in the calvary, download these free tools and run the scans associated with them.  If this doesn’t resolve your problem, then call in the good guys.

If it’s a trojan horse, then here are some free tools to try and remove it.

AVG Anti-Virus http://free.avg.com (Never pay for an Anti-virus program!  There are plenty of free alternatives.  This is the best one for my needs and it works really well)

Ad-aware from Lavasoft http://tr.im/hhNX (for Ad-aware)

Spybot Search and Destroy http://tr.im/hhOd (for Spyware)

CCleaner (which is awesome for getting rid of temp files and freeing up harddrive space)  http://tr.im/hhOx

Another tip to greatly reduce spyware and adware is switching to a non-internet explorer browser (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera works) and loading an ad-blocking plugin.   I like Mozilla and Ad-Block Plus, along with the Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-out plugins.

3 WordPress plugins to add to your blog

Gina Trapani put together an awesome article regarding tricking out WordPress, which my blog and most of my web design clients are hosted on.  The software cuts development time in half for most websites.

However, I wanted to add three more plugins that I think will help tremendously with your current page.

Tweetmeme – This plugin adds the ‘retweet’ button to your posts, making it easier for users to get your information out there on the web.  I don’t know how ‘Project Retweet’ from Twitter will affect this feature, but regardless it’s still awesome

DISQUS Commenting system – This plugin allows visitors to comment with their preferred network (I mainly like the Twitter Connect and Facebook Connect portions of the plugin), so that way you have another avenue to connect with your readers

Lastly Twitter Tools – This plugin will post your blog posts into your Twitter feed, along with configurations to use a url shortener (for Metrics and Analysis).  Just set it up and go!

Although I think the greatest advice from Gina that was missing was regardless of the cool features of WordPress, content is still king, and I tell folks to focus on getting posts out there as opposed to tweaking the bells and whistles.   You can always have time to do that after the site gets going and you see the traffic.

The last frontier then also is how to monetize posts, without spamming your friends.

Death of a Sales Letter, Moment of Silence.

(note: this is an example of what not to do with Social Media)

Stop Me if you’ve heard this one before. .

I’ve got this amazing product that I want to share with you, that’s going to replace your current income with money from the internet and it’s so easy

http://www.willenglishiv.com

I thought it was easy too, I have this really sad sob story as to why I developed this product, connect with this story and buy now!

http://www.willenglishiv.com

And if you haven’t clicked on the first two links (cause it was so obvious my product was SOOO awesome) here is the third link!

http://www.willenglishiv.com/

Most of what is taught in these secret Internet Marketing classes follows the method of the letter above, give or take.   But I know for a fact that unless the email is solicited (i.e. I was interested in buying what you are selling) that anytime an email has 3 links in it, it’s a bona fide internet marketing sales letter.  I also know for a fact that whatever this person is selling I’m DEFINITELY not interested in buying.  Especially when 4 or 5 of my friends send me the EXACT SAME SALES LETTER.

In the interest of fairness, yes I did post the Tony Robbins sales letter onto my blog.  However, my intention (value proposition) was to help people get discounts to an event I know that some of my friends in my network ALREADY planned on attending.  I disclosed everything regarding the proposition in the beginning of the post.

The other pet peeve in the internet marketing realm is the ‘annoying ‘ lead capture page.  Mind you, I respect that most blogs have some sort of ‘opt-in’ mailing list.   That’s respectable.  Some places even go the more ethical route and do a ‘double opt-in’, where a confirmation email is sent to make sure the recipient wanted to sign up in the first place.   But it’s considered a ‘lead capture page’ where  potential clients qualify themselves to your company in order to business with them.

What’s the difference between a respectable Lead Capture Page / Opt-in letter and an annoying one?  I know that again I’m not interested in buying if when I get to said LCP, a video AUTOSTARTS asking for your email in return for some ‘perceived value’.   If there is some javascript applet that offers you some more value (or a one time offer) as you navigate away from the page (and I specifically block popups, so there is some kind of counter-programming going on) and the second page is even worse than the first.  If it was so awesome why didn’t you offer it the first time?  I will inevitably develop a lead capture page for my IT Business.  However, it’s not required for my readers.  I’d prefer you contact me if you want to, not because I tricked you out of your email address.

Oh, and it gets better, this product I was pitched today was about monetizing your Social Media audiences as a turnkey system.  On the premise of being ‘ethical’.  Yeah right.  That’s already been done before.

Last point, one of the main reasons why I like my business is because I can see building and scaling my business, because it’s something I enjoy and love.   Internet Marketers come and go.   While they may be selling one product and making millions with it, for some reason that pot of gold runs out.  They develop a new product, or they re-package their old information and re-sell it.  Their sales cycle is around 6-12 months, and they always need more!  They are serial-monogamists in that regard, tied to the next idea that’s going to fool them today.  And they assure you that this product, THIS TIME, will be the millionaire jackpot.  Thankfully, I think many of the people that are still around and sustainable are not employing these shortcuts and tactics.  While these people have more balls than brains and are making more money than I am at the moment, I totally do not envy their position.

My experience with Video. .

At the most recent gathering of Social Media Club Chicago (a great gathering of wonderful people, might I add).  Put me smack-dab in front of one of my worst fears.

And that is doing some kind of Video blog.   Or posting Videos of myself on the internet.

I believe my fear is something similar to being afraid tripping the rift and the ‘unintended audience’.  As a matter of fact, my question that I posed to the panelists about Video was in response to the “If You’re Applying for a Job, Censor Your Facebook Page” article on Fast Company, not to mention people younger than I am shying away from Social Media (or at least my theory, the mainstream has ruined the fun and it’s no longer a safe place to hide shenanigans from your ‘unitnended audience’)

Either way, while I was asking the question to the panelists in hopes of spurring a conversation, Tim Jahn from Beyond the Pedway recorded my ‘akward silence’ for a few seconds.

I didn’t know he was recording me, and had I known, I probably wouldn’t have been so stiff.    I guess the other issue would be being my worst critic.   Writing about my experiences seems to be a safe harbor for myself, although as the panelists explained, video does the same thing, and more because it shows more vunerability due to connecting with your facial features and vocal tonality.

As Kelly Olexa (one of the queens of video blogging) mentioned to me ‘just be yourself’.  I’m really good at that!!

Darren Williger, my partner in crime mentioned how his spymaster rant broke down some barriers during a interview with a top company.  .

Believe it or not, I always had a dream of doing some kind of television show.  I actually wanted to do the news and/or the weather when I was younger.  I distinctly remember freezing up at the CNN HQ when I had the chance during a tour when I was younger.

Since then, I’ve gotten over my fear of the stage, have done comedy stand-up routines, emcee’d in front of large audiences (if one day I could EVER get proof I would be soo enthralled),  But if you take all those things away, it’s just me and whatever medium, I can’t do it. . . until now. .

Ethics and Censorship in Social Media, Part 2

author’s note: this is a repost cause I accidentally deleted my blog! Thank goodness for backups!

The other side of the ethics debate is the issue of censorship.   Or even more close to home is self-censorship.   What can you and can’t you say online these days?  We assume that whatever we talk about online, photos we share, etc are part of our small social circle, and thusly invisible to say ‘the unintended audience’ member.   Social Media has changed the game as to the idea of ‘communication’.

Where it would be easier to shape opinion and categorically deny any wrongdoing with communication really being in a vacuum and traditional media having a monopoly on the message, politics has changed drastically due to the ability to look through archives and records of people’s communication online.   There is only a perceived layer of security from the ‘unintended audience’ of your communications online.   I covered in one part of my presentation “The Art of the Conversation” that there are some things that you shouldn’t talk about online.   The reasoning is not because you don’t have the freedom to talk about what you want.  However, most people aren’t prepared for the consequences that responsibility holds.

Something very chilling to me was reading the initial report about someone getting sued over a tweet.  It was pretty high profile.    Regardless, I do have a few cardinal rules, a personal code for myself and my online communications.  The big one is not to make personal attacks or vindictive statements about entities.  There are always exceptions to the rule, and bigger brands usually fall into that exception (I doubt AT&T will sue everyone who has had something negative to say about the company, since it has become a trending topic on twitter quite often lately)  However, the idea is that there is a tangible liability to the information that you post.   Libelous information, even in electronic form, can land you in court.  (Later on, it was revealed that the suit was a counter-suit to an original problem.   However, I believe the damage has already been dealt, regardless of the well-intentioned.)

Taking legal action against social media counterparts however usually doesn’t bode well for the brand making the suit.   The RIAA is a perfect example of this.   Even worse, denying your imperfections after the fact leads ‘patriots’ to dig up even dirtier laundry about the company.   Very simple transactions can turn into MAJOR PR nightmares.  Some brands have decided not to go that route, and actively search for and silence all critics by resolving their needs quickly.   They know the value of communicating that their brand takes care of issues and problems quickly as soon as they come to light.

Of course, this can be taken advantage of, which is always the danger.  But the benefit of resolving issues online in the Social Media space, despite the opportunity for a brand to resolve the issue legally is to broadcast your good name in front of the respective complainer’s audience.   This is better than any marketing platform, or message controlling campaign you could put together.  It’s called word of mouth marketing.