The Fetch Blog

The best events and reads for professionals

Personal brand it up: mastering the art of self branding when freelancing — June 25, 2015

Personal brand it up: mastering the art of self branding when freelancing

This is a guest post by Christina Morales from the CloudPeeps blog.

Businesses spend billions of dollars on marketing to build their brand. It’s brand recognition and a unique identity that sets them apart, bringing customers through their doors and keeping them coming back. But large companies with big budgets aren’t the only ones who need customers coming through the door.

How are you branding yourself as a freelancer?

Okay, so we don’t usually tend to have logos, slogans, or even a brick and mortar building for customers to visit, but the image and knowledge that we convey will show our credibility, which in turn builds trust and leads to loyal clients.

While we are not actually selling a tangible product in most cases, we are selling our talent and our potential to become an important asset to a would-be client. Here are three tips to brand yourself better as an asset that your client customers need.

1) Get specific when communicating your expertise

You may be an incredible writer, but just providing a blanket statement like “I’m a writer” won’t get you very far. Are you a technical writer, creator of marketing content, or grant writer?

Let’s get more specific: are you a technical writer for the usage of smart phones and mobile devices? Do you create online marketing content across social media channels? Do you specialize in writing grants pertaining to education?

The more detailed you get, the more likely you’ll be to find those clients who are searching for a writer with your expertise. Better yet, you can join communities and discussions with like-minded professionals or follow industry leaders (like on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.) and stay up-to-date on important information and get your name out there to those who may be hiring.

Starting out and not sure how to title your expertise? Check out job sites like CloudPeeps, Upwork, or Guru to see how employers are advertising for the jobs that you are qualified for.

2) Customize your portfolio for the clients you want

You’re only as good as your resume, work examples, and references, so make them all standout. Career expert Alison Doyle writes on about.com that you should, “Focus on accomplishments rather than duties or responsibilities. A list of what you did isn’t going to help you get interviews. What you achieved will.”

What part of your resume makes you stand out from the crowd? Consider customizing your application to appeal to each potential job opportunity. Directly address the qualities they desire on the posting and explain why you’re the best person for it.

Freelancers Union has a great article on “How to Write a Killer Freelance Resume” that you may want to look into for step-by-step details on constructing a great resume. They have a ton of do’s and don’ts that are really helpful if you’re just starting out or if you find that you’re not getting as many callbacks as you’d like.

3) Formulate your voice to appeal to the clients you want

It seems like every profession or field has its own personality. For example, computer programmers tend to be quirky with a unique sense of humor, startup employees are often more laid back workaholics, and non-profit workers are more personable and outgoing.

Depending on your expertise, you’ll need to formulate your own voice that appeals to the clients you want to attract and the audience that they are trying to appeal to. Confused? Lindsay Shoemake who works in the social media and digital marketing space for a luxury brand and also runs the popular blog That Working Girl has great advice for branding yourself. She says:

“When strategizing for That Working Girl, I knew that I wanted the blog to become the go-to resource for smart, savvy women in the PR, marketing and advertising industries. I wasn’t for posting in a Valley Girl voice at all, but I didn’t want the blog’s verbiage to come across as too uptight either. After a few weeks of posting I fell into my groove and haven’t looked back.”

Wrapping it up: you are your brand

Finally, you are your brand and your first order of business is to think of yourself as a product. Since I knew most of my jobs and networking would come from online resources when I first started freelancing, I polished my resume, got professional headshots, and continually posted my latest work on various social media sites (like Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.).

I’m also careful when it comes to blurring my online personal and professional life since my brand covers both (you may find pictures of me with my kids at the park, but you won’t find political commentaries or anything that I would be embarrassed to show my mom).

Social media specialist Simon Mainwaring has said, The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability. If you pass the test on these four points, then you’re well on your way to taking the freelancing world by storm.

10 time-saving methods to help you master scheduling — May 6, 2015

10 time-saving methods to help you master scheduling

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This is a post that first appeared on my blog last year.

I think of the last two years I’ve spent in New York as professional finishing school. If there’s anywhere on this planet where people are stupendously busy, it’s this place. It definitely took me a few months to settle into the rhythm. Combine this experience with recently fundraising, and I now feel incredible mindful of everyone’s time. So, without ado, I wanted to share 10 tips on how to win at professional time etiquette:

1) For the love of humankind, be direct with asks

Growing up in England and Australia, I was taught to be the opposite of direct. Skirt around issues, don’t address things head on, be tirelessly polite and pad lots of superfluous info around a lone ask. What I’ve now learnt is that one of the kindest things you can do for someone’s time, is to be as direct as possible. Don’t ask someone for coffee if you can put something in a one-sentence email.

2) Do double opt-in introductions

When I receive an email with the subject line: “Introduction…” my heart sinks. Connecting someone to another without asking the person if they want to opt-in, in a professional context, isn’t a favour to the recipient – it’s often a burden. In the days of overflowing inboxes, managing requests and day-to-day work – we can be plagued with guilt of not being on top of it all. The best referrers understand signal over noise – what each party is looking for. Over time when you build up trust in a professional relationship… use it wisely.

As Fred Wilson writes on AVC:

“When introducing two people who don’t know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.”

If you’re the one asking for an intro, include the context and a blurb that the introducer can easily copy across. Make it easy for people to help you.

3) Bcc the introducer post introduction

Once you have that intro, reply! It sounds super obvious but there’s been countless times when someone has sent an intro to me and the requester didn’t reply. Don’t be that person! When you do reply, move the person introducing you to bcc so they see you’re on it but you’re not clogging their inbox. Simply say thanks and that you’re moving the introducer to bcc in the email copy. No more getting stuck on irrelevant back and forths.

4) Don’t ask questions that you can easily google

Please don’t ask what someone’s email address is via social media when you can easily find it on the web. The same goes for other minutiae like addresses. If I’m sending a calendar invite through for a meeting, I’ll find the office address online (if it’s not on the website, look in their email signature, Foursquare/Yelp data and so forth).

If you’re reaching out to someone for advice, make sure you’ve read what’s out there first. Every man and his dog seems to have been interviewed about their journey or write a blog with their thoughts these days. Don’t make people repeat themselves.

5) Don’t abuse Facebook messages

This depends on personal preferences but I’m less of a fan of using Facebook messages for work comms. In a way, I’m glad Facebook is now splitting out the messenger app so I don’t have to install it and can switch off from another inbox to manage. If you want to say something important and have a request, don’t send it via Facebook. It’s likely just going to sit in someone’s ‘Other’ section unnoticed or just annoy them while they’re busy wading through the latest click bait in their feeds!

6) Calendar invites or it’s not happening

If you’ve arranged to meet someone or are hosting an event – calendar invite that thing up! Forget Facebook events invites or group text messages, New Yorkers sendPaperless Post invites that you add straight into your calendar. It often takes weeks to get on people’s schedule here – you’ve got to make sure you’re literally on it. If you’re finding scheduling is taking up a lot of time, check out services like Zirtualor Assistant.to.

7) Do phone calls

I have to admit, I used to hate phone calls… I’d much prefer an email. When I first moved to New York, I was surprised at all the phone call suggestions verse in-person meetings. The thing is, getting around the city takes a lot of time so why spend two hours out of your day commuting then having coffee, when you could fit it in an half-hour phone call. The same goes for email – if you’re forming work relationships, don’t ping emails back and forth, New Yorkers pick up the phone and hustle.

8) Do your background research

Preparation and research beforehand will make your meetings. Don’t spend time asking basic questions – the more you can deep dive, the livelier, more interesting and memorable the conversation will be. If you’re fundraising, for instance, go in knowing what companies/founders someone’s invested in, what their investment thesis is and if you’re at the right stage (e.g. What’s their average check size?). It’s likely not worth both of your time, if these things don’t align.

In terms of insights, Refresh is seriously a great app – it offers a nice (and often a bit too ‘stalkerish’) overview of the people you’re meeting with. It’s actually made it onto my phone’s homescreen it’s been that useful.

9) If you’re not 10 minutes early, you’re late

Australians are known, well, for being casual with time. It’s quite okay to ‘rock up’ five to 10 minutes late to a meeting there. I mean, it’s obviously not great manners but most people do it. Fast forward to when I moved to New York, and had a steep learning curve. Over time, I’ve stopped arriving in the nick of time – and now give myself 10-15 minutes before any meeting.

10) Follow through

Pipeline’s Natalia Oberti Noguera recently said at a conference:

“Fortune is in the follow up.”

All of the above tips are nothing if you don’t follow up and follow through. Following up makes it worth it and is the ‘getting stuff done’ part – make sure you get your follow ups done within a few days post-meeting.

8 tips on how to give the best feedback of your life —

8 tips on how to give the best feedback of your life

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This is a guest post from Shannon Byrne at our sister company, CloudPeeps.

Sharing feedback is tough no matter what circumstance you face. Most of us try to be constructive, to balance positive and negative, to tailor it to the recipients communication preferences and ideally, to communicate your overarching goals while sharing.

It’s nerve-racking.

The first thing to know is that the responsibility of sharing effective feedback should not rely solely on the provider. Feedback should be a two-way dialogue. Expectations should be set to create a collaborative environment open to feedback, and all parties should agree upon the end-goal in mind, as well as everyone’s role in reaching said goal.

Here’s eight tips for sharing more effective feedback and improving collaboration among your team, whether they’re in-house, freelance, or volunteer.

1) Keep it professional, but friendly

Feedback presented with hostility enters dangerous territory. The recipient will immediately become defensive, and the discussion will turn into an argument that lasts way too long. On the flip side, there’s a fine line between being empathetic and being passive when taking a friendlier, softer approach.

Remember that you’re having a professional conversation. When providing feedback, your tone should be friendly, but not overly casual; assertive, but not mean or demeaning.

The best way to refine your tone is to practice. Ask your loved ones, friends, and colleagues if you can practice giving them feedback, then have them critique your approach. How meta, right?

More importantly, remember that you’re talking to another professional — an expert on the thing that you hired them to work on.

This 2013 study from The Journal of Consumer Research says that when people are experts on a subject, or consider themselves experts, they’re more eager to hear negative feedback, while those novices are more likely to seek positive responses. Take this into consideration before having a feedback discussion with the recipient.

2) Be direct and candid

This Harvard Business Review article suggests that in order to get down to business and avoid weird anxious feelings among both the provider and recipient of feedback, start the conversation with a straightforward “I’m going to give you some feedback” or “Are you open to my coaching on this?”

This way, no one will be caught off guard by whatever it is you’re going to say next, which should be candid insights on what’s being presented.

Additionally, it’s possible to be candid without being mean. Be empathetic. But instead of starting a sentence with “Maybe instead you could…” start it with “Instead, you can take this approach…here’s why the results will be closer to what we’re looking for.”

With this approach, you’re solving a problem together rather than passive aggressively sharing what you would’ve done differently.

3) Share technical instructions, not emotional appeals

As mentioned in this New York Times article, author of “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure,” Tim Hartford says: “We need to separate the emotional side from the technical points.” It’s not helpful to say “that’s really good” or “that’s really bad.” It’s helpful to explain how something should be done.

I’ve faced this challenge in providing feedback on pieces of writing before. Rather than saying “this is really good, but… ” to a specific point being made, I provide specific instructions, such as:

  • “Typically, our blog posts start with an impact — lead with the point you’re making, then back it up with research and opinions. Tell your story throughout, rather than all at the beginning.”
  • “There’s a lot of run-on sentences in this paragraph, here’s how you could break up this sentence, for example….”

You’ll see that the first example isn’t overly direct. That’s because the idea of disregarding someone’s feelings when giving feedback is a difficult one to swallow. Very few of us are good at sharing instructions without any emotional appeal. It’s ok to keep a level of empathy, as long as you’re still instructing on what needs to be corrected. Which leads to the next tip…

4) Avoid the compliment sandwich

So often when giving feedback we want to start by sharing something positive, then move to the constructive feedback. But of course we don’t want to end on a negative note, so we share something positive again then go on our merry way. We’ve been conditioned to give feedback this way.

The problem with this, is that often times it leads to the constructive part being lost entirely. Then, when a contract ends and you don’t renew with the contractor, they are left confused and perturbed.

This situation can be avoided by applying tip number three. Provide instructions rather than emotional appeals. Be clear in sharing the specific results you’re happy with, the ones you’re not, and why for both. That why is crucial here.

The why allows the recipient of feedback to understand what went wrong and how to correct their course of action. It relates the work that has been done (or hasn’t been done) back to the overarching goals that everyone involved has sought out to achieve.

The article “The Power of Feedback” by John Hattie and Helen Timperley published in The Review of Educational Research says that if providing positive feedback, sharing exactly what it is the recipient did correctly is more helpful than just telling them that they did a good job. This way, you’re creating a learning experience that the recipient can build from.

5) Share feedback often with regular check-ins

Timeliness is key to avoiding a potential disaster. Upon initial agreement of an engagement, set a schedule for results presentation and feedback. You can name this standing meeting however you like. Perhaps something along the lines of “weekly check-in” or “one-on-ones” in order to avoid any anxiousness among any party, or stigma that the meeting will be a lashing session on someone’s work or leadership style.

Rather, these meetings should be short and periodic reviews of what has been done correctly and what can be done better. It’s also a great time for the recipient of feedback to ask any questions they may have been uncomfortable interrupting the provider to ask.

Start each meeting by quickly reviewing what you’re going over and what the end result of the meeting should be. Then give each party plenty of time to present their work and to have collaborative discussion on the points made. Most importantly, make sure everyone involved walks away with action items owed to each other.

6) Develop a collaborative dialogue

The effectiveness of feedback is measured significantly by perception. By developing an understood and agreed-upon language for all parties to adopt when giving feedback, misunderstandings will be avoided. The result for the receiver is that they know when they’re being given constructive feedback, not just being scolded.

Allow your recipient to take part in defining this language. Maybe they have trouble differentiating when you’re sharing feedback from when you’re unhappy with something else happening in your life. By sharing this with you, you’re able to improve the process and create feedback guidelines together.

Roger Schwartz, author of “Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams” says that you should allow feedback recipients to share why they’ve taken the course of actions they have. This understanding lets you provide what they can specifically do to produce improved results next time. It also opens your mind to other potential solutions to the issue or work at hand.

7) Avoid micromanaging; let the recipient share their results first

This doesn’t mean that if you see an issue (let’s say a typo in a tweet) pop up that you shouldn’t say something. That isn’t micromanaging, that’s pointing out a typo and asking a colleague to be more careful and helping them to learn to pay attention to details.

However, if you’re commenting on every piece of work (or every tweet) you see published, the recipient is going to feel over-monitored and is going to resist any feedback you provide, before you even get a chance to properly share it.

Rather, let the recipient present the work they have done and the results from said work. From there, you can provide instructional and clear feedback on what has been done to your standards, what hasn’t, and why.

8) Have patience

Patience is an important quality in a leader, it’s also one of the most difficult ones to adopt and maintain. We all lose it sometimes, and that’s ok. However, when working with a team and several different personalities and work styles, patience is necessary to keep your sanity.

Sometimes you’re going to have to share the same piece of feedback three times before a change is made. People are busy and have a lot on their minds. Refining work is a process and some areas of work need more guidance than others. Have patience, but also set limitations on flexibility.

If it takes more than three times sharing the same piece of feedback, you likely need to assess how you’re presenting such feedback. Are you being clear? Is the recipient understanding what you’re saying? Don’t hesitate to ask them — have them repeat it back to you. How else are you going to know, and get better at sharing feedback?

Wrapping it up

These tips will help you improve your feedback style, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Working relationships are dynamic and unique to the individuals involved. Be honest and genuine with each other while maintaining an appropriate level of professionalism. It’s the only way you’ll learn how to effectively communicate with each other.

About our contributor // Shannon Byrne is the Chief Content Officer for CloudPeeps.

Interview: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity marketplace — January 6, 2015

Interview: Dan Martell, founder of Clarity marketplace

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Ashley Bloom talks startup lessons, the investment mindset and futurism with the prolific entrepreneur, Dan Martell.

Feeling weary just before midnight, I was met by the steely gaze of Dan Martell, a proud Canadian, husband, and father of two young boys. He’s a five-time tech startup co-founder (two failed and formative, two successful acquisitions), frequent investor and 500 Startups mentor, with all his current focus on Clarity, a platform for paid business advice via phone calls.

Within a few minutes it’s as though I’ve downed a long black or two, buoyed by Dan’s high energy and very Canadian earnestness.

His biggest two lessons from failed startup number one (Maritime Vacation) and two (New Brunswick Host):

  1. He picked too small a market (Canada only, and the very specific niche of cottage vacations that was limited to a market of 300). The action step: Think bigger than your neighborhood, street and city.
  2. He picked a commoditized industry (web hosting) in which the margins are tiny, many customers demand service 24/7, and servers can break down at any time. The action step: Build a differentiated service/product (not a commodity) that cannot be easily replicated, or there will always be someone willing to do it cheaper than you.

Startup Truth Bombs and the investment mindset

Dan explains that since the DNA of the founding team is found in every aspect of a company, what matters more than oft-touted product-market fit is product-founder fit.

Why did you start Clarity?

When I started Clarity, I never thought there was a better idea that had such alignment with who I was as an individual, that I cared more about, as well as a business that could have a big impact… you see it in all the great companies, where the person had deep domain experience, a passion for the customer, and they couldn’t help but start a business to try and solve the problem… the bad examples are completely the opposite, where somebody shows up with a spreadsheet and says… “here’s the opportunity.”

What aspect of running a business is where you shine most?

My default state is trying to find the hardest, biggest problems in the business and solving them. Three months is the longest I can spend on one thing. That’s it. That’s my timeline… Once it’s figured out, I’ll build the team around it to execute. If it’s fundraising, I get it done is six weeks. After three months if it hasn’t made progress then either the problem’s not important, the people around the room are the wrong people, or something changes.

That question right there: ‘What do you want your day to look like?’ is way more important than how much money do you want in the bank. Because some people have $100M in the bank and their day is just totally fucked with back-to-back meetings. They’ve created this nest of bullshit that they have to be involved in. And they’re not happy, and they don’t know how to go back from it… Most people should start off saying ‘In 10 years, what do I want my day to look like?’ not how much money do I want to have.

Is your current business always your Everest? Can you see over the horizon?

I don’t imagine the next thing. To me, there’s enough opportunity in Clarity to be a $10B company… We’re going to be doing a big push into organisations with Clarity for Organizations, which we’ve already tested at 15 companies, where they’re deploying it to their employees. You can imagine the future of learning at companies and corporations. It’s for Millennials. People want self-directed learning. They don’t want to take a course. They want to talk to people who have experience that can give them context.

What’s ripe for investing now?

Anything I find interesting, I just invest in. I’m super bullish around Bitcoin, 3D Printing, Drones and Wearables.  I meet entrepreneurs through Clarity, which is great, since we have some of the smartest entrepreneurs in the world. I don’t need to build the companies anymore to feel like I’m still around and participating in these really disruptive technologies. I’ve done 33 investments, almost 34 now. The cool part is that it allows me to be interested in the new and innovative, but also continue the absolutely content focus on building Clarity into a big company.

Finding clarity and mentorship 

Your blog alludes to being on medication and having a wild upbringing, can you share more about this?

When I grew up, I had a pretty crazy lifestyle. I call it a colorful upbringing. The truth is, I just needed to find something to do that wasn’t illegal. No matter what it was, I was gonna go all the way with it.

This year I’ve already spoken to a dozen groups of kids that are in that kind of scenario. About 13-14 years old, to let them know that what they’re doing… the focus is wrong, but who they are and their skills are absolutely necessary and important and they’ve just gotta channel them.

Perhaps their talent is there, but not in the form of our current education system?

They are talented. That’s the funny part. I know. If I want anything in life… If I want money, I want love, I want relationships – all that stuff. You got to  put it out there first. To me, spending time with these troublemakers is paying it forward. I just can’t have it in my life unless I give it away.

Where would you be today without those sorts of mentors?

I wouldn’t be here, I’d be dead. That’s a guarantee. You can talk to anyone in my family. It’s really the power of the 15-minute conversation… [just like the] moment when someone pulled me aside and said to me, “This really isn’t for you,” and it was the first time in my whole life (at 16) that somebody said that. Even if it’s just the parents or the kids… anytime I’ve just gotten up and shared my story, I know one person out of 100 will change their direction. Because, what’s really important in all this and ties into Clarity is the messenger is more important than the message.

So you have two people go up and say the exact same talk. Me, who has gone through it, and somebody else who read the book. The guy who read the book, people are going to dismiss. Me, they’re going to listen…

So I know my responsibility as somebody who has gone through that specific scenario is to pay it forward, because it’s a very small amount of time that I believe can have a huge impact. So I’d be an idiot not to do it, plus I feel like the only reason I was ever given the opportunity to do this is because I was supposed to give it back.

There’s a great book called ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’. You know, stop trying to be great at things you’re not good at, but instead mitigate them so you’re not crippling yourself, but figure out the things you’re really great at and passionate about and double-down on those. That  was a turning point for me.

Futurism and technology

What do you see will change in tech and business as another ~2 billion people get on the Internet in the next five years?

Knowledge workers losing their jobs to marketplace freelancers. See article Five Reasons Half of You Will Be Freelancers in 2020.

Do you believe in Ray Kurzweil’s (futurist, inventor and Google director of engineering) assertion that a technological singularity will occur?

The biggest concern I have is around AI and how that plays out. When you have computers building other computers (seeing this already with 3D printers), then it’s really about the computers. With the advent of quantum computing coming online within the next 5-10 years, then AI will be a major issue.

What are the most exciting few companies in the world (besides yours) right now?

Less companies, more technologies:

About our writer // Ashley Bloom is a humanoid ball of stardust residing in Melbourne, Australia. One who enjoys writing, expansive living and multifaceted learning. Follow him on Twitter @AshtrayBroom.

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia — November 17, 2014

Featured event: counting down to YOW! 2014 Conference in Australia

This is a promoted post from our friends and Kickstarter backers at YOW! Conference.

News & updates 3

Melbourne 4-5 December | Brisbane 8-9 December | Sydney 11-12 December

Over 2,000 tech professionals will learn from the best and are expected to attend YOW! 2014 Conference which operates across three cities, with 42+ Speakers39 Talks and 24 Workshops.

There are over 42+ national and international software authors, thought leaders and world experts presenting this year about the latest practices, technologies and methods in software development and delivery. Many speakers have not presented in Australia before so this is a great opportunity to learn from them while they are in town! You can download the list of speakers here.

Topics covered in 2014 include the latest in Agile & Lean, Microservices, Architecture & Design, Functional Programming, Big Data & Analytics, Web & UX, DevOps, Performance & Security, Mobile, and Languages.

Check out the 10 Reasons why you should attend YOW! 2014 Conference.

So your mind is made up. You’ve seen the line-up and the location. You will be attending YOW! 2014 Confence in December. Now a common challenge… how to convince your boss to let you go? You’ll find some information that will help you and your boss make an informed decision here

News & Updates 1

To make the most of the opportunity, YOW! also offers smaller workshops with some of the visiting experts:

These workshops are a great way to learn specific skills, network and brainstorm with international field experts, local thought leaders and other talented developers about the latest practices, technologies and methods. Don’t miss out as places are limited.

Learn more about the workshops in Melbourne on 2-3 December or  Sydney on 9-10 December.

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