Category Archives: discourse

Going Freelance – 5 Tips For Entering The Freelance Economy

5 tips for entering the freelance economy

Photo Source: Kaboom Pics

A few weeks back I gave a talk at The Alley about my experience in joining the freelance economy. The evening was filled with personal stories and powerful tips for getting started. I learned a lot from the other presenters and had a great time sharing my experience so far. Below are key takeaways from that talk.

1. Establish your value-add.

Before you make the jump, it’s critical to understand the value of what you bring to the marketplace. Speak with business leaders in your circle to understand their needs within your area of expertise. For me, it was an intimidating process because marketing is such a huge vertical. After I understood what people needed the most help with, I was able to establish a framework for how to help.

2. Get organized.

I use Trello to manage action items related to the business itself. For example, I have several lists set up for capturing to-dos and tracking leads.

One thing I wish I did earlier was set up a separate gmail account for business correspondence only. Having a separate account helps keep things streamlined and creates a better work-life balance.

Each client gets a tracking number. This number is added to their Trello board, Google drive folder, and company profile within FreshBooks.

Google drive is key for collecting and sharing project files and documentation. I use Freshbooks for invoicing, Slack and Skype for communication, and countless other services for managing my calendar and keeping inboxes streamlined.

I went to the bank and got a business checking card to separate business expenses from personal ones. In conjunction with Mint, this will make things much easier come tax season.

3. Optimize your environment.

For the first two months as a freelancer I worked from home. I learned that it wasn’t sustainable over time.  I needed to get out of the house in order to work more efficiently in general, and get at least a little amount of socialization in.

One of the hardest parts about going freelance for me, outside of worrying constantly about money, was working alone 100% of the time. I learned that I need to be around other people to get the juices flowing,  so I designed a work environment that worked the best in order to achieve that.

4. Remember that Energy is greater than Time.

As a freelancer it’s important to optimize your time, but it’s equally if not more important to maintain mental energy. If your energy is low, you won’t be able to complete tasks as quickly or with nearly as much focus. It may seem selfish at first to prioritize self-care and maintain a healthy work-life balance. But in the end, it’s critical in order to prevent burn out and keep your energy reserves high over a sustained period of time.

5. Plug-in to like-minded communities.

Go to events hosted by companies that support the freelance economy. Some examples of companies that host great events include:  WorkFrom, Fivver, and Cloudpeeps. Explore co-working places and opportunities to work with others. Co-working communities often host events for socializing and have Slack channels for participating in knowledge share during the work week. These communities are helpful for building friendships, finding resources, and generating leads.  

Remember, your desire to be a freelancer is a logical one. It was never explained to us when we were young that this way of living and working is a viable option, therefore the concept can at times appear hazy.

However, the percentage of freelancers is on the rise. Freelancers are part of a larger movement focused on creating a sustainable and independent work economy. With some solid strategy, decent organizational skills and willpower, you can make the transition too.

View the presentation from my talk here.

Becoming Antifragile – How To Gain From Disorder

 

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes

Image Credit: Andre Faria Gomes via Slideshare: Antifragile: Lessons Learned

“Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos – you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind.”

-Nassim Taleb

Last week I gave a talk at the monthly Catalysts Collective event here in San Francisco on the topic of antifragility. The following points are highlights from my talk.

To understand the premise of Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder there are three key areas to consider.

We know what it means to be fragile – to be easily broken. Another way to interpret it is to be damaged by disorder. The world’s banking system is a good example – something left vulnerable to chaos, randomness, and uncertainty.

After the state of fragility comes resiliency. Things that are resilient have the ability withstand disorder. Imagine a structure built to withstand earthquakes. When an actual earthquake occurs, the building (hopefully) remains standing. It does not change.

A great story of being resilient is the phoenix. The phoenix may rise from the ashes, but he rises only to become what he once was before. 

The final state Taleb focuses on is the state of being antifragile.

Antifragility is when something benefits from disorder. While startups are known to harbor an improbability of success, when viewed in increments success happens as a result of randomness, chance, volatility and instability. 

When viewed from the macro level, the startup economy benefits society as a whole. It creates room for opportunity and innovation. Things like volatility and instability are required in order for them to achieve the point of contribution at scale. This concept can be applied to the contribution of individuals too – organic things, like muscle mass, require some level of instability or challenge in order to grow.

I believe that being antifragile is essential for personal revolution.

Some benefits of being antifragile include:

  • Increased confidence
  • Welcomeness to change
  • The allowance of discomfort
  • Possessing a growth mindset versus a fixed one.

Here are  ways to become antifragile:

  • Think of perceived failure as opportunity
  • Lean into fear
  • Embrace community
  • Listen to yourself and to others
  • Seek opportunities
  • Build a strong baseline
  • Use the barbell strategy.

The barbell strategy is a method presented by Taleb. Consider the image of a barbell. The maximum amount of risk you’re willing to take goes on one side. It’s balanced by Maslov’s basic needs (food, water, safety) on the opposing end.

This is a very basic introduction to the basic concepts of Antifragility. If you’d like to learn more, I recommend checking out the book itself or visit the following blogs that present nice summaries and applicable tips for becoming antifragile.

Taylor Pearson – Antifragile Book Notes

StartupBros – How You Can Profit From The Unknown: Becoming Antifragile

Buy – Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (Amazon)

Getting To Inbox Zero In 3 Hours Or Less

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I always thought “inbox zero” was an urban myth. How is it possible that one’s inbox could have literally no emails in it whatsoever?

The last time I checked there were around twenty-thousand messages. Incoming ones starred for later, bookmarked newsletters going back to the beginning of time begging for acknowledgement — the dutiful read, watch, response, purchase or listen that may or may not make our lives slightly more whole.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a hoarder of information. I’m pretty much obsessed with emailing myself several times daily — links to recipes, lengthy thought pieces, cute shoes — never to be opened at the fabled moment for where there’s actually time. Let’s face it, emails generate more work than pleasure. And if the case was in fact pleasure, my pocketbook surely wouldn’t be pleased.

I also have a terrible habit of staring at my inbox for moments on end. I sit unblinking and motionless, eyeballs glossing over the never ending list. Whether starred, marked as “important and unread,” or falling within the categorical everything else, without moving a muscle the meter on my forehead goes from full to hovering near bone dry.

One Friday evening I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to part with these missives from the past. They were slogging things down, preventing crystal-clear clarity in order to have a more fulfilling, energized, and productive day.

Here’s how I finally reached the ever-so-elusive Inbox Zero in less than three hours.

1. I took to e-mail management tools.

Basically, if there’s a way to cheat through technology I’m going to do it. In this case the enablers were Sanebox and Boomerang.

I implemented Sanebox to filter out everything that wasn’t urgent. Most emails were automatically delivered to a new inbox called “SaneLater.” Urgent e-mails, as defined in this case, arrive directly in my main inbox from the fingertips of human beings I actually know. Anything and everything else goes to SaneLater.

I made use of Boomerang, which I’ve had installed for years and never actually noticed. I scheduled starred emails to return on the day an action item was due. The original message was then archived.

2. I took the plunge.

The great thing about Gmail is that all your archived emails are still searchable (via the nav bar at the top). They live in a far-off place you don’t need to visit unless absolutely necessary, far away from your actual inbox.

Sanebox offers a simple and useful methodology for e-mail management: Delegate, Defer, Delete, Respond, and Do.

After responding to, rescheduling, or filing away everything timely I could find, I did the unimaginable. I selected everything in my inbox — I mean everything — and *gulp* clicked Archive.

Sanebox has a tiny learning curve when it comes to additional features. Part of the fun is leveraging them for specific needs.

For example, I don’t always need a message to return if I don’t hear back from the recipient. I do, however, need constant reminders in order to follow up with people within a reasonably courteous timeframe and/or get things done by a specific date. Having the message go away then reappear when the timing is relevant is a hack that’s been working massively well for me so far.

After it was all said and done, my inbox looked like this!

IMG_4517

Day one went flawlessly. By removing the clutter I felt immeasurably energized and ready to do the deep work instead of staring at the screen in an overwhelmed stupor. I didn’t miss anything about the old e-mail workspace. I found myself attacking the “to dos” — the major bullseyes of the day that mattered most.

Email became secondary to workflow. Actual work came first. By using chunks of time specifically set aside for e-mail I now manage inbound communications tactically (while attempting to avoid becoming obsessed with the notion of persistent zero!). This week was noticeably more productive — my headspace has been clearer and I found that my mood was actually better.

All in all, the tedious effort was worth it in the end.  Inbox Zero for the win!

Now, does anyone have any tips for keeping it this way?!

A Quiet Revolution Is Happening

Cartoon from the June 1, 2015 edition of The New Yorker

Cartoon from the June 1, 2015 edition of The New Yorker

The other week I attended a Creative Mornings lecture featuring David Allen, founder of the forthcoming Jazz & Art Museum in Oakland. Each monthly lecture features a theme and this month’s was “Revolution.”

Allen spoke about the history of jazz, folding in its founders as key examples of revolution. He said that bebop musicians understood their present and transposed it into action –  men and women who struggled like crazy for a genre that would later be called “America’s classical music.”

A few hours later, news broke that the Supreme Court of the United States ruled gay marriage legal in all fifty states. What a glorious time to be alive as we fight for equalities on American soil and see real progress being made.

Revolution comes from struggle. Personal struggle funnels up to a group of individuals who share their personal experience with others and choose to take action.

As a society, we are in the midst of a revolution. It’s not experienced in the way it was in the past because its roots take place online. We are no longer observers. We have countless channels for communicating our beliefs and participating in public discourse. There are easy-to-access options for liking and sharing; simple tools to comment and express.

Thousands of people are at our fingertips while ironically enough we ignore the person in front of us. Still, we can be heard.

We are in the midst of a quiet revolution.

We are a version of the New Abolitionists – a force that is non-violent yet aggressive, independent yet united, creating a sentiment and building a mentality that’s impossible to imprison.

Protests have been replaced by individual storms that spread across the internet like wildfire, collectively building in strength. Sit-ins have been replaced by Facebook. Moral outrage has turned inquisitive, even irreverent. Daily, we fan the flames of our collective fire.

We are ambitious, informed, and connected all the time.

We are the first generation to have grown up truly digital. As adults, it is now our responsibility to make the world a better place. In this century of innovation we have awesome tools at our disposal and through ambition are all too aware that we have limited time on this earth. The goalposts have moved and our challenges are greater than ever before.

When we tell our stories and use our voice, somehow the world aligns. It funnels back to the feeling that we are participating in our own personal revolution. “This is mine.” The present has evolved from the future I had previously imagined for myself and my kin.

We, a united group of voices, continue to be relentless in building solutions and seeking better ways of doing things and treating people.

It takes civil disobedience to enforce and encourage Democracy, a word that hasn’t been used in practice for decades. That disobedience is really a mentality our generation has created through collective mindshare.

Together, we speak. United, we have the ability to create change.

 

I Won’t Wear Android…Yet

Samsung Smartwatch

I don’t want a computer on my wrist. Or anywhere on my body, really. Having an iPhone tracking every movement from my handbag is alarming enough.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a flip phone? Sure, there wouldn’t be any fancy games, or maps, or cleverly branded apps for taking selfies. Sure, I could turn off “Location Services” and refrain from checking-in. But what’s the fun of that?

Maybe I’d enjoy life a little more.  Maybe I’d experience some…freedom.

Google wants it all. The contents of my e-mail, exact location, browser visit, search, preferences, along with anything else they can reach.

And, similar to Facebook, it’s my fault for willingly giving it to them in exchange for free services and the convenience of a single log-in.

But are these services free? These days privacy is seemingly more valuable than an SSN. Why would I give up privacy so voluntarily?

Then again, who cares? It’s not like I’m a criminal unintentionally leaving digital breadcrumbs of evidence strewn across the internet.

But, back to the Watch.

The only functional solve I see to the Android Watch outside of what the iPhone already provides is pure physical convenience. You don’t have to continually pull your phone from your pocket to read a text or answer a call.

For now, I’m unwilling to have a computer strapped to my body for the sake of convenience. A line has to be drawn. Until the phone offers drastically new features, and until I’m in control of the information I choose to disclose (likely, never), I’ll default to my trusty analog watch.

A watch is the kind of device that does one thing and does it well. It retains a timeless style that requires actual physical tending. Conversely, it does not tend to my physical being by recording every output.

Also, it doesn’t die every 4 years.

Perhaps I’ll be seduced by the sleek design and inevitable heart-tugging campaign surrounding the launch of the Apple iWatch. Until then, I’ll cling to the throwback of form and function as my daily business continues to tick on.