4 ways to stay focused

Written by Verne on August 17th, 2007

Whether you’re running a company or studying for the last set of undergraduate final exams you’ll ever write, or both, staying focused on the task at hand can be tough… especially when there are about a million other tasks waiting to be “at hand”.

I’m definitely the type to keep busy – often too busy – and over the last few years, I’ve picked up a few tricks that have helped me retain my sanity while managing to-do lists longer than my girlfriend’s shopping list.

For all the overloaded entrepreneurs and freelancers out there, here are 4 ways to stay focused.

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What’s The Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned About Freelancing?

Written by Verne on August 13th, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim FerrissAs part of FreelanceSwitch’s launch of its new Forums (which is a great resource for freelancers to share and learn from each other), it held a contest that asked “What’s The Most Important Lesson You’ve Learned About Freelancing?“. The prize? A copy of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss.

Being the ambitious and involved freelancer/creative entrepreneur I am, I decided to submit my 2 cents. About 10 minutes ago, I excitedly received an email from Cyan from FSw that I had won myself a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek! :)

Here’s my entry and those of the 4 other winners:

The most important lesson I’ve learned about freelancing is that it’s just as much about love as it is about talent. It’s that simple. Your passion for the work you do supersedes all other aspects of your freelancer life. If you don’t love what you do, everything will be strictly transactional (read: meaningless). If you do, it becomes a dream come true!

So I guess the lesson is: love what you do, or don’t do it at all. If you love it, you’ll work hard, you’ll succeed, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labour (what I like to call your Return on Entrepreneurship – or in this case, Return on Freelancing). A simple concept, but one that I think applies to all aspects of life.

Whether it is a small job or a big project, before i start working on it i realised i have to get a written creative brief approved (bullet points will do). If the client does not know how to brief me then after the first meeting, i myself write a creative brief and ask the client to agree on it. If you start with out a creative brief approved then you are shooting in the dark!

Freelancing (or working for yourself) is the only career where you have the ability to say “No.” In every other job, you may be able to say “yes” to many things, at many levels, but you can’t say “No, we should not do that.” There is always someone – a boss, a board of directors, stock holders or investors who can overrule you.

Saying, “No,” to a client, project or request, when you know it is the right decision or when your gut tells you something is not right, is an important skill. Learning to say it in a way that does not harm relationships is one key to freelance success.

Never agree to anything over the phone. There’s no record of what was said and things that get forgotten can lead to disputes later on. Also, if either or both of you are mobile and have poor signals sometimes critical words can get cut out. If there is a need for communication via phone always tell the client that you will write up what you talked about email it to him so he can confirm it for your records and to clarify anything that may be incorrect before moving on.

Respect your boss!

I’d like to share some link love with the other winners, but none of them seem to have their websites in their profiles. Plus, they weren’t linked in the post that announced the winners. (If you’re listed above, leave me a comment and tell me your link!)

I’ve heard great things about the book and it comes just in time for the next stage of my entrepreneurial adventure. I look forward to reading it!

7 ways to not get a job

Written by Verne on August 10th, 2007

Every so often, my creative marketing agency does a call-out on various job boards and forums to bring in some new talent to work on upcoming projects and initiatives. Whether we post on design-specific job boards like FSw Jobs, Krop, or FlashinTO, or on more generic boards like CraigsList, we always seem to get a nice pool of respondents. However, like anyone in HR can attest to, only a small handful ever end up actually being considered.

The ones that don’t make it past the cut form a nice collection application faux-pas. Some are mind-blowing. Some are sad. Some are just plain funny. In light of one of our recent call-outs for creative talent, I thought I would shed some light on some of the things that get an application a line by-pass… to the garbage. Here are 7 ways to not get a job.

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Customer service matters most 0.1% of the time

Written by Verne on August 9th, 2007

You might have noticed that the site was down for a good part of the day. It caught me by surprise this morning as well, and only after submitting a ticket in the afternoon to my host midPhase was I alerted that:

At 9:45AM CST we experienced complete connectivity loss with our upstream providers. While most of that connectivity has been restored at this point, we are still working to restore connectivity to a few cabs.

You’d think that as a customer, you would get a notice of something like this without having to submit a ticket. midPhase would probably also save themselves a lot of trouble from answering all the tickets by just sending out a mass email to its affected customers.

It’s funny (or sad) how so many companies, who would otherwise be considered exceptional, often forget the importance of customer service. You can offer a guaranteed 99.9% uptime, but it’s during that 0.1% that your customer service really matters.

In any case, your regularly scheduled blogging will now resume. :)

What helps you be a better creative writer?

Written by Verne on August 8th, 2007

On any given day, I write a lot. From well-crafted emails to strategic creative briefs to catchy marketing copy and taglines, writing happens to be a big part of my life, and thankfully, one aspect that I also thoroughly enjoy. However, authoring creativebriefing.com is really my first attempt at free-form creative writing.

What I’ve learned throughout this process is that writing for yourself and writing for an audience is very different. What’s more, I’ve learned that writing for email recipients, designers, consumers, and blog readers are all very distinctly unique arts as well.

So my question to everyone is this: what helps you be a better creative writer? I’d really be interested in reading about the things that have helped you craft the written masterpieces that continue to entertain and inspire your readers (whether it be for your blog or some other medium).

I’ve come across a handful of exceptional writing and I’ve been fortunate enough to even know a few exceptional writers (to name a few: Gizelle Lau, Satish Kanwar, Andrew Peek). It’s time to share your secrets!

My prescription? Read. A lot.

What’s yours? 

If I get enough responses I’ll consolidate everything into a nice and friendly list, so comment away!