The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

How to connect with top players in your industry while working from home — July 7, 2015

How to connect with top players in your industry while working from home

Working from home comes with a plethora of benefits including low to no overhead, the convenience of creating your own schedule, and working in a space where you can best focus on a project. However, there are also some relatively large drawbacks when you work in isolation, including a lack of effective networking opportunities. Having a hard time creating relationships with thought leaders and influencers in your industry? Here are some fool-proof ways that you can connect with important people in your field while managing your workload remotely:

1) Find relevant online groups

One of the greatest benefits of the Internet is its capacity to bring like-minded people together. The hard part isn’t necessarily finding a group; it’s deciding which ones to follow! On Linkedin, search in the “Interests” category to determine which group best suits what you’re looking for. If you can’t find one that fits, you might consider starting your own. Another good resource for finding relevant groups and influencers is Twitter. Click on a category of interest and follow leading players. From there, comment on their tweets or start a chat of your own. You may also consider following some blogs written by successful people in your field. Many times, they’ll share great tips and advice to follow. Leave a comment at the end of their blog and it’s likely they’ll respond. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the online communities that are available.

2) Attend events

It’s nice to chat online and join in discussions, but let’s face it: nothing makes as big an impression as face-to-face meetings. Websites like The Fetch gather important events in major cities around the world so that you can meet with others in your industry. If you don’t live near one of these metropolises, don’t worry. You still can attend chamber mixers, conferences, or special interest clubs in your own demographic through meetups that highlight events within a certain radius of your specific city.

3) Connect with friends (and their friends)

Whether you realize it or not, every friend you have on Facebook and every person you chat with at a party is part of your networking strategy. Think of it like this: if you have 300 friends on Facebook and each of those friends has 300 friends, you are just two steps away from thousands of people who could potentially impact your career. So make your dreams and what you do for a living known! Who knows if your high school buddy has a friend at Lucas Films or a cousin at Amazon that would be willing to give you a few pointers as to how to enter their companies.

4) Leave an online trail

Another way to meet professionals in your field is to leave a strong paper trail on the Internet. Publish your works on Articlebase, Tumblr, Google+, or LinkedIn. Create a blog to shares your professional tips and insights, and share your posts on Twitter or Facebook. Get your name out there and let others in your field find you while they’re scanning through search engine results. (Another benefit to this: you will establish credibility in your field by the knowledge you share.)

It can be difficult to connect with others in your industry when working from home, but reaching your professional potential and creating success are both tied to the business relationships that you create. Keeping up to date in your field and finding future job opportunities will depend on the people that you know or reach out to. It may take a little extra time, but the benefits will far outweigh the sacrifice.

About our writer // Christina Morales is a freelance writer specializing in creating online marketing content. Her dream is to one day rule the world with just an iPad, a case of Cherry Coke, Twizzlers, and a glue gun.

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.

8 tips on how to give the best feedback of your life — May 6, 2015

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: Rachel Hills, gender writer and author of The Sex Myth — July 26, 2013

Interview: Rachel Hills, gender writer and author of The Sex Myth

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Maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now… One of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.

The Fetch recently spoke to Rachel Hills – an Australia blogger, TEDx speaker, cultural chronicler, and sex author living in London. Along the way, we got a fascinating glimpse into how to rise from blogger to full-fledged journalist to (soon-to-be) published author, and what you need to do to juggle time zones. (Hint: cut stuff out). We’ll be keeping an eye on Rachel, as she navigates the junction of sex, identity, Gen Y, and media. Could there be a more interesting zone to be in, these days?

You are currently in the process of having your first book, The Sex Myth, published. How has taking on the role of author in addition to journalist changed your daily life?

Writing a book has given my life more stability, especially in terms of income (not really any freelance writer’s strong suit). It can also be emotionally draining, though. Because the project is so long-term and has such a broad scope, it has required more focus, patience and internal motivation than the adrenalin-fuelled hustle and bustle of everyday freelancing.

Creatively speaking, it’s been great to work on a project that has really pushed me to my limit. Even the best newspaper and magazine articles have a relatively short shelf life, but a book hopefully has a bit more longevity to it. Which means you want to be doing your best work.

The Sex Myth explores the notion that unrealistic expectations about sex are plaguing the current generation of twenty-somethings. What surprised you the most as you carried out research for the book?

How much the subject matter has resonated with people. I started researching The Sex Myth five years ago because I felt like a misfit when it came to certain my sexual history, and I wanted to understand why. Half a decade, hundreds of interviews, and a slew of public speaking engagements later, I understand that a) there are a lot of people out there who feel like sexual and romantic misfits (more, perhaps, than who feel like their sexual histories are ‘normal’), and b) there are also a lot of people out there who are thinking very critically about the messages we are sold about sex, and about what it means to be liberal or progressive in this arena. Sexual freedom doesn’t just equal freedom from being told what not to do anymore; it also means freedom from being told what to do.

Your blog Musings of an Inappropriate Woman has received a number of awards over the last five years. How did you get started with your blogging career?

I wouldn’t call it a “career” – it’s more a hobby – but I’ve been posting work on the internet since the late 1990s. I started my first website, which was basically fan and pop culture commentary when I was still in high school, kept a website and various online diaries when I was at university, and launched my current blog in late 2007. It too is constantly evolving, but tends to focus on the subjects of gender/feminism, creativity, and the politics of everyday life.

Immediately after finishing college you went to work as a freelance writer for 10 years. What advice would you give aspiring freelancers on maintaining structure and balance in everyday life?

Wow! It’s been 10 years already! I didn’t actually believe you on that one until I checked my own LinkedIn page. That said, those earliest clips weren’t very impressive – and I’m pretty sure they didn’t pay (I didn’t start freelancing for money until a couple of years after I graduated) – but they were good for building experience and learning how to really write.

To answer your actual question, maintaining structure and balance is a huge issue for freelancers, and it’s something that I struggle with even now. I’m not someone who is terribly given to routine, and one of the main ways I keep myself on track is by constantly switching up my routine: a new routine is fresh and exciting, and it keeps you on the ball for a while.

Other tips? Keep your plate filled with work so there is always something immediate to be focused on. And ‘to do’ lists. There is a special thrill in checking things off on ‘to do’ lists.

Your work has been published across the globe, and you are self-described “fluent in time zones.” How do you keep a finger on the cultural and social pulse of global happenings enough to maintain relevance in your writing?

By not trying to stay on top of everything. Obviously you want to keep abreast of the main stories and conversations, but sometimes it’s nice to pull back for a few days and focus on the projects you’re actually working on. Good work requires you to go deep as well as broad.
Other than that, I read a lot. Twitter, RSS feeds, mailing lists, magazines and newspapers, the stories my friends post to Facebook. Sometimes it’s nice to get offline and get back into the “real world” as well.

Did you envision your life taking you in the direction that it has?

You know, it’s funny, because I went back to one of those old websites I mentioned earlier a few weeks back, and my life has unfolded pretty much exactly as I wanted it to when I was 19. Which is pretty amazing when you think about it. It has unfolded so slowly I barely even noticed it was happening, though, which always seems to be the way.

What are your favourite events to attend in London?

It’s a little bit daggy, but I love the Southbank Centre: the Hayward Gallery has London’s best contemporary art, the National Theatre is phenomenal, and then there are all the weird and wonderful speakers and performers that they bring in – recently, I saw Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker talk about fame, and a hilarious bunch of London cabaret performers put on an Alternative (and very dirty) Eurovision. For parties, I like the trashy pop of Guilty Pleasures and the immersive decadence of the Last Tuesday Society. For Literature, Kit Lovelace’s ‘Romantic Misadventures’ readings are always good for a laugh, and I love a good supper club as well. Live & Unamplified is my favourite I’ve attended so far, and I also recently launched a supper club of my own at Hub Islington.

About our contributor // Eliza Dropkin is a lover of live music, good food, and beautiful places. Connect with her on Twitter via @elizadropkin.

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