Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Weekend In A Few Words. Cabin Fever And Huevos Rancheros.

 I woke up Saturday morning with serious cabin fever.  It was 5 degrees again and coffee wasn't going to be enough.  I wanted to go outside.  Real bad. You may not believe it but I can be quite unpleasant when I'm in the throes of a winter bout of cabin fever.  I have so much respect for anyone who can live in Alaska....  So the New Jersey-ite and I jumped in the car and headed to the Domes in Milwaukee.  To pretend that we were outside.   It's 3 biodomes with 3 themes: desert, rainforest, and show (flowers and pretty stuff).  
Then we headed over to El Rey which is the most amazing Mexican grocery store where you can get all kinds of things that you can't get anywhere else.  Like the flour you need to make tortillas, these crazy snack things that you cook in 10 seconds and are better than potato chips (we bought them because we thought they were interesting pasta!), and super spicy red sauce for huevos rancheros which I could honestly eat every day.  This morning we tried it out and it was one of the best Sunday breakfasts we've ever had!
I've been missing Satna Fe a lot lately.... or maybe I'm just missing the sun.  Either way... we had a very desert themed weekend. We brought this amazing Santa Fe cookbook with us  - I love it because it explains all of the types of chilies and what you're supposed to do with them.  Great if you like spicy!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Product Placement Is Growing... But Will It Work? A Clorox Story.

Clorox and Univision have teamed up to more deftly embed brand messaging into our entertainment by creating a prime time program with Clorox heavily involved. "There has been a change in the way we have thought about messaging, from commercial units to content," said Ellen Liu, director-media at Clorox.

Fine, okay.  TV ads aren't working and we have to figure out a better way BUT there's a scary part of this whole thing. Univision Studios is a new arm of Univision and it will serve to create prime time programming for advertisers to place product in - "The whole creation of Univision Studios, frankly, is to build on our capabilities in this area,"
That quote was from the head of sales and marketing.  Shouldn't someone who is involved in content development, someone involved in the creative process of show writing or... I don't know.... the head of Univision be commenting on the studio?  It seems shady for the sales guy to be so heavily involved in the programming.
I believe this, in a worst case scenario, will lead to programming around diet stories and cleaning or drive through Taco Bell runs.....
Anyone have thoughts on heavy product placement in our TV programming?

UPDATE:  Ford and Telemundo have a similar product placement agreement. Looks like the Spanish speaking world is leading the charge for programming around products.


If You Are A Small Shop, You Will Take The Heat. Do It Better.

Obviously, we don't set out to make mistakes in our work.  We don't want to hit rough patches, low traffic times, factual errors, planning errors, or even typos but they happen.  They always have happened and they always will.  Sometimes it's small like a number typed wrong and sometimes it's an idea that seemed really good but turned out not so good (United not responding to United Breaks Guitars).  In social media there's a lot of room for the latter type because to be perfectly honest there's a lot of new things every day that someone is trying to find a way to use to their benefit that no one has tried before.  
One of the things that comes along with being a small shop, freelancer, or CEO is that basically everything is personally your fault if it goes wrong. People who do well running their own business have to have no problem sticking their neck out for ideas (good or otherwise).

In larger companies there are whole departments that can shoulder blame.  For example: "Oh, the marketing department thinks we should put some more videos on our YouTube Channel" and when no one watches those expensively produced videos it's the "marketing department" that is blamed.
When I personally tell a client that I think we should spend more time / money in a certain place and it doesn't do very well I get phone calls asking me what the hell I was thinking. 
What I'm saying here is that small shops really have to get behind their ideas more, think them through more, because they are going to be held more accountable if it fails.  (This is also why I think a lot of larger companies are so interested in hiring smaller shops these days).  We don't have nebulous scapegoats to blame or whole departments of interns to throw things at.
So how do entrepreneurs deal with the fact that they are front and center?  
One of the best ways is not a quick or easy way but it's to thoroughly check your work before it goes out. As in, yourself.  Not an intern.   If I have a question about how something will work then it will usually be the undoing of the project.
Ask yourself every single question a client would ask.
Even hard ones like "Why do you think this will work?" and "What will this look like in 2 weeks if it's not going well?".  Being able to answer ALL of those will not only help you think an entire social media endeavor through but you also won't look like like a moron when the client asks it a week after launch.  
Manage expectations and be clear.  Really, really important for freelancers and small shops to be to-the-most-minute-detail clear about deliverables. I notice a lot of small shops not even writing up contracts for projects.... this is not a good idea (and probably a whole other post).  Sometimes I feel like a total type A insisting on timelines and contracts for everything but the reason I do that is because it's very easy for you and your project partners to have very different ideas on what's being delivered and when and it's not fun to have to straighten it out once it's a mess. 
Become Ok with the fact that you will be on the receiving end of fingers pointing, laughing, ridicule, questions, and praise.  Because it's simply going to be part of your everyday life.  You will be the ultimate comment box and the end of the line so get ready.  It happens with larger companies too it's just not so concentrated.  Just take a moment and know that it's not the end of the world to have to fix a mistake or clear up a question (laughing is a bit harder).  
Don't Pass The Buck.  You can never tell a client (or anyone) "well, that was done by so and so, not me".  Your clients won't care who did what they will want solutions.  I try to move very quickly past the "who came up with this" and "how it happened" and onto "how we will move forward" part.  That's all most people want anyway, an answer or solution not a head to put on a stake.  
You Can Say "I Don't Know".  This is a hard thing I think for entrepreneurs.  It's easy to think that the person running the place should have answers but sometimes we don't. I have found that clients can respect it if I say that I'm not exactly sure how this community or site or project will perform.  A lot of the trouble is with online, maybe no one has done it before and if you march in claiming that you KNOW exactly how it will turn out you will be wrong.  Getting comfortable acknowledging limitations with people is a big step towards taking the heat better.  

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Designers Making Really Amazing Postcards.

I love, love, love getting / sending mail and when I saw these I thought of about a million people I'd love to send them to.  Hey, if my bills came with these I may be less inclined to throw them out upon opening...  The top ones are from Grass Studio, the bottom one is from Lovi Oy.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is It Geeky That I Want This? Antler Charger Holder.

 Via Urban Flea
This, from Japanese design shop Nendo, is such a brilliant idea.  I've got so many charg-y plug-ins that they drag all over the floor.  I suppose I could find some kind of organizer but..... I just want these.

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Stay Curious People. A Video And A Guilty Pleasure.

'curiosity' from Nic Askew on Vimeo.
I like this video because I sometimes feel like being curious isn't always given proper due in the business world.  Often viewed as 'time wasting' and 'fooling around', curious people take a lot of heat for wanting to know more about things. Seth Godin is worth watching in this video.
My number 1 favorite curious guilty pleasure is Craigslist.  I love to explore what it would be like to live in different places in the country by trolling Craiglist and seeing what kind of apartments people live in and what kinds of things they sell and trade.  My most recent favorite is Charlotte, North Carolina.  I am, however, almost embarrassed to admit to people the ridiculous amount of time I spend checking out cities I may never live in. 


Wow, Wal-Mart Made A Commercial That's Actually Funny.

I can't believe it, but they may just be starting to make commercials that are more interesting than their money saving bit that makes me yawn every time I see it.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If Philips Wants To Bring A Tiny Farmer's Market To My Kitchen I'll Let Them. Because I Was Traumatized By Produce.

photo by Veer
This is one of the coolest ideas I've seen in quite some time and since I have been produce traumatized twice in my life I pay attention to the ways we can become less dependent on grocery stores for produce.

Once:  Living in Durango Colorado comes with some really great perks: skiing, mountains, wildlife but it comes with some serious downs as well.  Like being in a grocery store with no PRODUCE in winter.  I'm talking no tomatoes, no lettuce, nada.  Let's just say this didn't go over well for me.  Managers were called, tears were cried amidst the empty tomato bins, and it's blurry but maybe I was asked to leave.  I don't remember that as well......
Seriously..... I look at the produce section EVERY time I'm in a grocery store now to make sure I am still connected to the world. 
Second:  There comes a time in winter in Madison where you might not be able to find certain produce.  Like Basil, Avocados, and Good Lettuce.  You can drive around all you want but you're not going to find them.  Because the produce fairies apparently can't get here in winter.  Or Copp's is messing with us.  Either way, I can be found loudly proclaiming my distaste for 'tundra grocery stores' for most of January. 
Enter the Philip's Kitchen Skyscaper.  It's a unit similar to those little biospheres you can buy for herbs but it's bigger and better.  Also, it's designed really well isn't it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Company Spotlight: Slow Cow - The Opposite Of Red Bull

Slow Cow is a Canadian invention touting itself to be the antithesis of Red Bull.  Interestingly enough, you're directed to drink it under the exact same conditions as Red Bull would suggest: when you're nervous, when you have an exam, when you've worked out, etc..  It's got all kinds of interesting goodies in it to keep your nerves calm.
No social media or marketing going on yet but the packaging is very nice and I can see a lot of really cool social opportunity there by positioning itself alongside the 'slow food' movement or even as a direct challenge to Red Bull.....  stay posted on these guys.

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Wood You Like A Cup Of Tea?

Love and Scandal are the best sweeteners of tea ~ Henry Fielding
teapot by Jakob Solgren

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey Freelancers And Freelancer Wannabe's..... Conference In Denver Just For You!

The 2010 Creative Freelancer Conference will be June 5-6.  They've got some really interesting looking sessions like "You Are A Business"and " It's Your Money So Take It Personally".  I'd love to see some sessions added around coworking, business dev., and some around freelancers online.  It seems like the numbers of people trying to get their freelance business off the ground are growing. 


Wow, Banksy's Got A Film: Exit Through The Gift Shop

This looks pretty interesting.... I've been a Banksy fan for a while but I have to admit I'm anxious for a bigger peek into his life/mind/style.  Aren't you?


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Freelancers And Location Independents: How To Meet Like Minded People.

As a location independent I can work from wherever I want, which is great.  I can work from Tahiti, or Miami, or somewhere exotic like that but I usually work at one coffeeshop in Madison because I like this one particular chair there.  So most days I am slogging away with my breakfast sandwich and coffee and its great.
Except I don't get to talk to as many people as I'd like. 
In an office, there's a whole bunch of people right around the corner to complain to, laugh with, and have grocery store birthday cake with.  I really miss the birthday cake.
So I was looking around one day and I realized that probably over 50% of the people in the shop with me were there every day also.  I even started to play a game of "guess what that person's profession is" with myself based on their computer and working posture. I eventually met one of them and we became friends. 
Now I had a coworker of sorts and I was thrilled because my new friend was going through the same things I was.
Still, Christmas was coming up and we didn't have our own office party to go to.  I wanted to wear this dress that I hadn't worn in a while and I wanted to meet more of the people in the coffeeshop and I wanted to do it wearing my dress dammit.
So we started a group.
On Facebook.  It's called Because We Can, Afternoon Drinks For Cool Small Business Owners.  It took maybe 10 minutes.  We invited about 5 people since we didn't know that many location independent people.  We immediately set up a non office Christmas Party For People With No Office and decided that probably she and I would be the only ones there in our party dresses. 
But some people showed up. 
They were people from coffeeshops.  We said things to each other like "Which coffeeshop are you at? I'm at the Barriques on PD." and "Which site did you use for your billing?"  and "Is your December really slow or is it just me?" 
I was shocked that people actually came to be honest but I was really happy that I got to wear my dress. Then we got bold and had another one this week. We invited everyone that came last time plus a few more and discussed whether the impending "Ice Storm" that the weathermen were predicting would kill our event.  I was going to go anyway since I was really sick of the coffeeshop.
And more people came.
This time I knew even less people but we had a whole lot more conversations about working remotely.  A lot of them told me they were really happy we started our group because they were feeling lonely working from home and how it wasn't really enough just to "connect with people online" like so many people will suggest.  One woman looked at me and said "it just drives me crazy sometimes.  I love, love, love what I do.  It's my passion.  But this is the price." 
I knew how she felt. It drives me crazy sometimes too.

I am really surprised at the number of people out there that I sit next to all the time that are silently working on their dream job.  I'm planning social media strategy and they are designing websites, or crime scene clean-up, or someone's finances, or video game makers and I'm happy because now I know some of them.  Next event I'm bringing birthday cake. 

Here's what we did:
Start a group
pick somewhere to meet that has a good drink special (if you call beforehand most places will give you a special.  Make sure you tell them it might just be you in a party dress) 
Pick somewhere that's a good place to talk but cooler than where all the other networking events are.
Pick a topic for your event.  Feel free to not talk about it but you can bring it up if conversation gets slow.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

More Stuff For People Who Suck At Making Things: Ed Roth Stencil

I saw this book at a tiny shop in New York and turned to the New Jersey-ite and said.
"Oh, I really want this.  We could make some badass stuff from the stencils in here....  like the spice rack we made?  We could do some stencils on the side... the stencils of the cassette tapes... maybe the headphones....look!  Over here!"
And I moved on into the next project in my mind, the next aisle, the next 'I need this' .  I completely forgot about the book but The New Jersey-ite gave it to me last week.
Here's why it's amazing:  The stencils are not of the flower, duck, tree, breed.  None of that heinousness.  Get it here.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Need An Online To Do List? Teux Deux

I tried this out Teux Deux this morning and as a maker-of-lists this is really simple and cool.  

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Overheard: An Actual Conversation

At Le Tigre -
Girl : "Oh no!  I bent my earring!"
Guy (voice full of judgement): "Oh.... are you one of those people that sells jewelery?"


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Deisel's New Print Campaign: Be Stupid

Not sure I love this but apparently they are being pasted are all over LA. Is this a good message to be sending? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things You Can Make If You Suck At Making Things.

photo by flowertrip
Maybe it's just the throes of winter but I've been talking to a lot of people lately that want to 'make something' but they're not sure what to make or where to start.  Generally, they come up with something that's sort of an extension of their job.  They tell me that they'll maybe just 'fix their resume' or 'go to an exercise class'.  Ummm.... that's a horrible cop out and I hate to state the obvious but you're not actually making anything by doing that.  
I get it, it's hard to make something that even pros mess up sometimes and it's really disappointing when you throw your whole self into a project only to have it become a testament to your inability to make things.
Short Example:  My first cooking experiment about a year and a half ago which started with a difficult recipe translated from Spanish, an $80 trip to Whole Foods, and ended with a Turtle Sundae, tears, and a kitchen that never entirely recovered. 
So if you're not an Etsy knitting queen or a super artist yet where should you begin?  First, don't think about it like you're going to create something amazing for over the dining room table.  Think of it like 'I'm going to make something that will take a few hours and I will finish it'.  You might throw this thing away.  That's perfectly ok.  Here are some ideas of easy things:

Create a room to be your perfect space - This is really fun because you can research all of the great interior design blogs for ideas.  Apartment Therapy and Desire To Inspire are two of my favorites.  Once you pick one out you can set out to make small changes to copy it.  Example, I loved this green kitchen so I created some of its flavor in mine by repainting a bookcase and turning it into a spice rack.  See?

go to an antique place and get something ugly - like the above bookcase.  Or the frames we got from the antique flea market that were something like $3.  Just get something cheap and wooden so that you start learning how to sand things down and repaint them.  You can't put your own style onto anything until you have the basic skills down.  Also, you'd be surprised at how zen it can be just sanding some ugly thing down and repainting it. 
make a headboard - We have no headboard and it completely drives me nuts until I realized there's an incredibly easy fix for that.  ANYTHING flat can serve as a headboard.  Check this one out below.  All I have to do is scavenge some boards and put them together. 

make the perfect meal - By that I do NOT mean that you should choose the MOST DIFFICULT thing you can find and make it.  Most people I know make the same 5 or 6 things all the time so just trying a few new things can satisfy some of your creative juices.  Try my favorite site Tastespotting for ideas. 
pillows - Two pieces of fabric sewn together around batting.   It really doesn't get much easier than that and the cool thing about it is you get to find fabrics that are exactly your style (and hopefully not too expensive).  Make two and put them on the couch and viola!  You've made something.

The truth is, the first projects you have are going to probably turn out sort of ugly.  You can't be expected to have a good idea of good resurfacing finds, good paint colors, good headboard ideas, etc. until you try it a few times so go easy on yourself when you first start.  Good luck!

My Treehouse Obsession Goes On.

This tree house is by Nicko Bjorn Elliott and I guess it's a playhouse but I would be satisfied if this was my real house.  I'm aware by the way that my wish to live in a tree house of some kind could make it seem like I'm somewhat immature.  The whole 'living in a fort' thing and all not being the most grown up of ideas.   However I think it's not as high on the list as my Japanese toy collection, my propensity to use the New Jersey-ite's grooming tools as cleaning utensils, and the Barbie I just won't get rid of.   

AT&T, Twitter, And Not Making Social Media A Quick Fix.

I have an iPhone which I love on most days.  Ok, some days.  On the days my calls go through.  On the days my calls do not go through I can be found complaining continuously about the iPhone and my service provider AT&T.  One day last week I was so angry that I did what any self respecting social media addict would do.  I took it to Twitter.

"Dear AT&T, it's not that I don't appreciate all of your late Xmas gifts of dropping EVERY call I make because I do. Really."

So around 2 minutes later someone from AT&T messages me to give her my e-mail because she wants to help me fix the issue.  I am impressed.  I am thrilled to be heard.  I am thinking smugly 'finally an issue that has been solved by a Twitter feed' and also 'damn, AT&T has got a great social monitoring team'.

When I give them my e-mail I get a response from someone else at AT&T about 5 minutes later asking for my number so we can get this all figured out.  I am elated.  It was so efficient, easy, fast to fix this.  I think about all the other companies that should be using Twitter to monitor company complaints (Charter is, Best Buy is).

The next day someone else from AT&T calls me and tells me that I am having dropped calls for 1 of 5 reasons.  I ask him if he can check my area reception.  He tells me to go and get a new iPhone.  I tell him the New Jersey-ite has an iPhone and doesn't drop as many calls.  He tells me again to go and buy a new phone to SEE if that works.  I am no longer elated.

Social media critique:  The Twitter team is impressive and has done an amazing job catching angry people and getting them to e-mail (looking at their Twitter feed that responds to angry Tweets you can see there are a LOT of people hating on AT&T online).  The e-mail team is doing awesome in getting someone on the phone with me.  After that, not so good.  Same old phone company.  Here's the thing, Twitter and social media in general can be a great extension of your customer service but the service that you give once the online customer is funneled offline has to be great as well. 
Social media is only going to be as good as the company (and service) that backs it up. 


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Really Great Business Cards And Do We Even Need Them?

cards here from '50 beautiful cards' DesignCove
I have always been really judgemental about a person's business card.  It's not really fair  because a lot of people that work for larger companies have nothing to do with their cards, don't design them, or write the copy on them but I still like to judge a company culture by their business card.
I generally like companies that allow the employee to have some kind of personality showing through on their cards.  One agency in Chicago has some free association words describing the person on the back of the card like "twin", "photography", etc.
With online networking, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, and every other way to contact you online available I am starting to wonder if we even need business cards at all anymore?  Honestly, I use them less and less in favor of "I'll find you online". 
What are your thoughts, do you use them?  Does your personality come through on them?

How To Live To Be 100: Video

This is such an interesting video well worth the watch for anyone who is vowing to eat healthier in 2010.  I started watching this thinking "who would want to live to be 100 anyway if you're sick or frail?" but after watching how healthy these centenarians are I started paying closer attention. 


Monday, January 11, 2010

Location Independents, Freelancers, And Those With Niche Talent: People You'll Need To Know.

I used to say yes a lot, or a lot more than I do now at least.  I used to take a project and plan it out and gather people to work on it and boss everyone around until it was done.  Because I'm bossy and I enjoy that sort of thing.  The problem was, I was spending so much time accepting projects that I am semi good at that I wasn't spending time doing things I am really good at.
Like when I first started out and thought I would be the best person to design a charting feature on a client's website.  I am a) not a designer and b) I hate most charts including excel (I will avoid this application at all costs).  I was clearly not the right person to do the job but there was a tiny bit of social media need for this client so I accepted it anyway.  To make a long story short it didn't go well (understatement). 
If you are a niche shop, freelancer, or location indie you should know this:  you are not a one stop shop.  People don't expect you to be a one stop shop.  Do what you're good at and refer the rest.  Which leads to my pearl of wisdom for the day and your homework assignment.
Write down complementary services to yours and meet people whose work you trust in those areas.
For example:  I get a lot of projects that require an actual designer, a programmer, and a video production crew.
In order to ensure that I work on things I am really good at I started going to local design meetings, stalking designer blogs, and watching a lot of online video to find out who was going to be good / reasonably priced.  Then I started referring.  I didn't try to manage the project and take a cut or somehow get involved I simply told the client "look, this isn't really my expertise but I have worked with _________ that would be a perfect fit" and turned over the whole thing.
That was really scary because sometimes I turned over projects when I wasn't really that busy and I could have really used the money. 
Eventually what started happening was my new 'complementary services' friends referred projects back to me that fit my skill set perfectly.

This will also help you network with a purpose.  I need to have a purpose when I network because otherwise I come home with 18 Real Estate broker's business cards and a few others' whose businesses will never want to work with me.  If I know I need a designer / programmer on some upcoming projects I know who I want to talk to when I get to the event and I get caught up with the real estate people a whole lot less (no offense real estate industry... I end up talking to you guys because you're more outgoing than everyone else).

Networking purposefully and creating a circle of complementary resources means that when you turn away projects you will look good by providing a solution to your client's problem and you keep the project 'in the family' at the same time.  You can probably still boss a little from that distance too if you are so inclined.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Book For Creatives And Those Who Need Inspiration

An inspiring guide by Dave Brown of Holiday Matinee to being creative and making awesome.  Looks cool, get it here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I'll File This Under "Horrendously Ironic Ad News": Hanes Drops Charlie Sheen.

The ads were pulled on Dec. 28th right after he was arrested again for hitting a girl again.  Honestly?  I am not really sure why Charlie Sheen was chosen to hawk wifebeaters in the first place....


Dealing With A Braggert.

photo from romantics
I have a situation that has been driving me nuts lately.  It's a friend (we work in semi competitive fields) that calls me up once in a while and leaves a message to call her back right away.  When I do, the conversation goes like this:
me: Hey!  How's it going?
her: great!  So great!  I'm incredibly busy, my phone's just ringing off the hook with business.
me: that's amazing!  Glad to hear it.
her: Yeah, I got a new boss but he just loves me!  My job is so great.  So busy!
me: really?  that's really awesome.

And literally, this conversation goes on and on like this with my range of answers being great, good for you, and that's awesome until I get off the phone.  At first, this friend used to make me feel really bad after I hung up.  Ummmm, why isn't my life that amazing?  My phone rang 3 times today and rarely rings "off the hook" like hers apparently does.  Am I just jealous? I am not above being envious but she really takes pains to rub it in and I couldn't understand why she never inquired as to how I was doing.  Ever. 

 The thing is I can't really burn the bridge and tell her to eff off because we see each other sometimes at professional events and I don't want to get into a straight out fight.  So if you have to be around a braggart you could try some of these.  Come up with fun games for these conversations like:
Can I actually get through this entire conversation by just saying "that's so great!"?
Try to squeak something in about how satisfied you are with your life and watch the braggart ramp up how amazing life is even more.
Play a fun game inspired by Penelope the One Upper from SNL.  See if they pick up on it. 

I still dread talking to her but it's at least slightly more entertaining now.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I Don't Post Much In The Way Of Accessories Anymore But.....

I need a new wallet and I love these wallets and pouches by Tracy Tanner and guess what?   They are all so reasonable and chic.  The little guy at the bottom is $25. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New Kind Of Surfer Movie: Modern Collective - This Movie Looks Awesome.

Modern Collective - The First Visions from Poor Specimen on Vimeo.
This looks really good.  I wish I was a surfer.  Or looked kind of like a surfer.  Or had dated surfers or something.  Damn Wisconsin.....
From an advertising perspective, notice that Monster is directly sponsoring this movie.  I am anxious to see what kind of placement Monster will get in the movie itself and if it will be like the sitcom "perfectly turned cans in the hands of every surfer" type of placements. 
Who could sponsor my Wisconsin Tundra Sledding movie?  Maybe North Face...  or a salt company....


Location Independents: Have A More Productive Day, Not Week.

photo by Cowe
Being a location independent comes with some really amazing perks like working on my incredibly comfortable couch and being able to go to the gym when no one else is there (this is a really big perk for me since I absolutely cannot stand waiting for workout machines.  Traffic? no problem.  Waiting rooms? fine.  Waiting for an elliptical machine is like a tiny death for me).
Being able to work from anywhere does present some interesting obstacles when it comes to creating a schedule for yourself though.  When I wrote recently about my confusion at how I wanted to run my business some of that was just confusion about what to do at what time of day.  Being a location independent means that you have to decide how much time you're going to spend on any given thing.  This sounds easy but trust me, it's not.  For example, how many hours a day should I spend staying current on social media trends?  How many hours should I spend on a pressing project if I also need to spend time finding new projects?  There is no boss to tell me that I'm spending too much time in one place and not enough in another.  Until I came to my December realization:
Break down your tasks into days and not weeks.
The way I was setting it up previously was like most offices do: plan out my week.  This just doesn't work that well for freelancers and location independents because we don't just have projects to worry about.  We have to factor in new business development, web maintenance, networking, billing, and anything else that pops up.  This is how I fixed mine.
1) Determine your goals and the percentage of time you want to spend on them.  For me it ended up being 40% project work, 30% writing, speaking engagement planning, and staying in contact with my network, and 20% upkeep of knowledge and new business development, and 10% new site building, accounting, etc.
2) Decide which things should have the most weight.  Things that pay me or are going to pay me (new biz dev.) are likely going to have the most demanding timelines so those will have to have sufficient time in the day when I am most productive.
3) Plan your day accordingly.  If you know what percentage you want to spend on your goals you know how much time a day you should be doing things.  Not every day is going to fit perfectly but most do.  It was so amazing how much better this method has been working for me, how many more things I am getting done, and how much happier I am.  What was happening before is I would not be doing any business development until ALL of my projects were completely done.  This is crazy by the way and should not be attempted.  If new business development is going to be 20% of your business than it should be 20% of your day every day.   

By planning my day like a microcosm of my whole business things have been running a whole lot smoother from wherever it is I'm working.  Any other location independents have any good tips for planning your work day / week?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Brilliant French Lingerie Campaign!

Aubade from Chainsaw Advertainment Company on Vimeo.
via Agencyspy
Wow did French Lingerie Aubade hit the nail on the head with this one.  Just look at the people below staring and taking photos trying to figure out if someone really lives up there or not.  Playing on people's utter fascination with the lives of others and not going the traditional "girl in bra" route was such a great idea.

Doesn't Anyone Tap Dance Anymore?

Last night I convinced the New Jersey-ite to watch Cover Girl (1944) with me by telling him it was a great old nostalgic movie.  He lasted approximately 20 minutes and then told me that he was going to take the dog for a walk (it was maybe 8 degrees out and 10PM).  Ok, fine I admit that maybe there was a little bit too much singing and tap dancing for his taste.  Don't you love how almost every old movie includes tap dancing?  It seems like that was a standard talent for stars in those days.
Does anyone tap dance anymore?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Post In Which I Break Some Of My Resolutions And Why Confusion Is Ok.

Nietzsche said, "You must have confusion in your heart to give birth to stars."

I wrote a post last week about New Year's resolutions and I spelled out what I was going to do this year and how I would carry less in my gigantic purse. My purse is at this moment on the counter and still gigantic. I took out a toothbrush and some receipts. I pretended to take out some other things but I didn't really try all that hard. So fine, purse resolution fail.

The other resolution downfall for the year (yes I know we're only 4 days in) has to do with all of the confusion.  Not confusion like "which clients do I most want to pursue" or "will social media be big in 2010" but a bigger confusion about what kind of business I want to run and how I'm going to get there.
I have had days where I only want to do social media if it's for a large company
I have had days where I want to write more articles
I have had days that I spend trying to meet new people in my field
followed by days where I am totally over seeing "social media experts" online
followed by days where I am convinced that I only want to work with progressive small businesses

Confusion and I have become close friends.

 This drives me crazy because I can't make plans down to the minute for the next 5 years like I want to and proceeded to spend a good portion of December worrying about this whole thing because people always want to know what your next step is going to be and God forbid I say "I don't know".   This unsure-ness started to really get to me and the more I tried to eliminate it, the more I felt like I had taken a wrong turn and the harder I tried to get back to my regularly scheduled life where I had one idea and one way to get there.
The thing is, I don't have a crystal ball nor can I hurry things up so it's going to be pretty hard to plan around that. 
So then I started reading all these simplify your life blogs like:
Zen Habits
Quest For Balance

These started to make me realize that maybe it's ok if I take things as they come.  Maybe, just maybe, this confusion is even helping.  Also, it made my resolutions seem pretty shallow because none of them addressed this large "state of mind" thing I had going on.  
How confusion can be a good thing:
Confusion allows you to try things you might not normally try because you have no set plan.  When I was approached to do a collaboration that seemed cool but not in my regular plan I said yes instead of no.
Confusion forces you to have a good day.  Worrying about my next move was not allowing me have good days so I decided to just go with it.  Now, I'm focusing on making the day as productive as I can, not the month or year. 
Confusion can make you more creative.  All of this craziness has made me start reading voraciously again (Just finished The Boat, it's great) and I started knitting (thanks Mira) and am freelance writing more.  I think it's because being unsure of my next step made me start doing things because I liked them instead of for the outcome.

I don't think this phase of "what's next" will continue forever but if you're in the same boat hang in there and try to look on the bright side of confusion.

A House In Stockholm With The Strangest Windows.

This house in Stockholm has windows like picture frames.  Wow.
via Urban Flea

Really Cool Urban Looking Stop Motion.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Company Spotlight: Chiquita Banana

Somehow I stumbled on the Chiquita Banana website over the weekend and was really pleasantly surprised.  I believe that simple, household names have amazing opportunity in social media (like Skittles or Butterball Turkey) because they don't have much to explain about the product and can focus on helping or entertaining people. Everyone knows what a Chiquita Banana is so there's no introduction of new technology or updates to the product to explain.
The Chiquita site has a large number of activities from designing the sticker on the front to a dance off to Chiquita health benefits so I spent a good 15 to 20 minutes there just poking around.
What They've Done Right:
The site is well designed and thought out so this is definitely a nice move forward for Chiquita.   I noticed that they are collecting e-mails and data from visitors by asking people to log in so that they can save their sticker designs.  This is going to help them build a nice e-mail list of people who are actively engaging with their brand (hint: CEO's really like to see lists like these in the ROI reports).  They also have all of the standard "Follow us on Twitter" and Facebook connecting options so that fans of the brand can continuously connect with them. When I checked out the Twitter feed, the updates were interesting although their followers were a bit low. 
What They Should Do More Of:
The site feels a little insulated, like a game.  Since the setting of the site is a street it might be cool to have a "graffiti wall" with comments from other visitors or a way to engage with each other on the site more. 
Also, and I think this is the main issue, they should promote the site in other places.  I saw the exact same problem with the Milk site a few years ago.  The brand blows their whole budget on the cool site and then doesn't save anything for promotion so the traffic to this amazing site has stayed relatively low.
Lastly, it could be neat to do a little spin-off campaign of the story they have going with the good and bad bananas on the site.  For example, make a Twitter feed for the bad banana character and write updates from him. 

Overall, really cool site worth checking out!