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Portfolio school: Get better clients

There’s a tragedy unfolding all around us, unevenly distributed. It’s about health and it’s also about the economy. We are called upon to not panic, to try to focus, to figure out how to make it all work. And many of us are overwhelmed. From health care workers who are burning the candle at both ends to parents with too many demands on their time, it’s been crazy.

And if you’re a freelancer, it can be challenging because the steady gigs or the easy gigs might be on hold.

If you’re fortunate enough to have time on your hands, what to do with the downtime?

If you’re looking for a gig or if you’re hoping for a new client…

It’s easy to get stuck waiting. The alternative is not to wait.

More time spent fretting isn’t going to help.

The alternative is to dig in and build your portfolio.

A portfolio that includes three things:

ONE: What are you good at? You can dramatically increase your skillset (including your attitude about the work you do) in just a few days of focused effort.

TWO: What have you done? You can actually do work, real work, volunteer work, spec work, digital work and you can do it right now.

THREE: How have you expressed 1 and 2? When we look at your portfolio, what do we see?

You are not your resume. Your prospects are based on the work you’ve done and the way you do it.

When you do a good job on your skills, your work history and your expression, you’re more likely to get better clients.

Getting better clients is super simple and really difficult. The current environment makes it even harder, which means we need to be prepared for a longer, more difficult process ahead.

The benefit of better clients is pretty clear: They challenge you to do better work, they talk about you and your work, they pay on time, they want you to do work you’re proud of and they’re motivated to do more than most people expect.

The difficult part is becoming the sort of freelancer that better clients seek out.

Because while it’s true that better clients make you a better freelancer, the work is too important to simply wait for them to show up. Particularly during difficult and uncertain times. Maybe this is an opportunity to reset expectations and recommit to the practice.

If you’re seeking better clients, I hope you’ll check out The Freelancer’s Workshop. It launches today. You can save some money by clicking the purple circle, which is at maximum value today.

We considered canceling this scheduled session of our online workshop, but for many, this is a good moment to take a breath, settle in and level up. These are perilous times, and it’s easy to get pessimistic and stuck. Let’s learn together instead.

Here’s to health and peace of mind as we all slog forward together.

[At 11 am ET today, I’ll be taking your questions on working from home, freelancing and resilience. We’ll be on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, tech permitting–LinkedIn gets posted later.]

GenC

It doesn’t really pay to classify multitudes by their age–every generation is complex and intermingles with all the others.

But it might be a useful way to understand the issues we’ve faced and where we might be heading.

Generation C was inaugurated with the events created by Covid-19, and it is defined by a new form of connection.

There’s a juxtaposition of the physical connection that was lost as we shelter in place, and the digital connection that so many are finding online.

Not just a before and after for the economy, but for culture, for health, for expectations. School and jobs are different now, probably for the long term.

No idea or behavior shift has ever spread more quickly or completely in the history of the planet. In seven weeks, the life of every single person on Earth changed, and the unfolding tragedy and the long slog forward will drive expectations for years. Expectations about being part of a physical community, about the role of government and about what we hope for our future.

If previous cycles of media were about top-down broadcast (from radio, TV and cable), the last few years have been about the long tail, about giving a microphone to anyone who wanted one. But now, the peer to peer power of the internet is dominating. The Kardashians won’t be as important as 3,000 people with a thousand connections each. Never mind a million people with 100 each.

Companies are now competing to see how few employees they have instead of how many. The lattices of the connection economy are racing to replace the edifice complex of the previous one.

And if Covid-19 and Connection are the first two C’s, the third one is going to be Carbon.

Because we’re going to need to pay. All of us. To pay for the dislocations and to pay for the treatment and to pay for the recovery.

Worldwide cataclysms are different from local ones. As we shift gears and seek to revitalize our economy, put people to work and build a resilient future, it might be tempting to drill and burn, and to try to adopt an emergency footing that disregards any long-term future more than a few months ahead. But GenC may be too wise for that. And they may be connected enough to speak up and overrule the baby boomers.

A threat and an enemy will focus public attention. For a long time, that enemy was other people or other nations, and an us-vs-them mindset was a great way to get attention or get elected. But just as we came to understand that you can’t bully a virus, you can’t personalize carbon either.

The worldwide challenge of carbon is not a problem for someone else, it’s a problem for all of us. Using carbon consumption as a way to pay for rebuilding our community brings all three Cs together.

Emergencies are overrated as a response mechanism. Preparation and prevention are about to become a more popular alternative.

My generation was the dominant voice for sixty years. A voice that worried about the next 24 hours, not the next 24 years. That’s about to shift, regardless of what year you were born.

What can we do that matters instead?

“I’ll go with my principles tomorrow”

In the short run, it’s easy to abandon what we believe. Deep down, we assume that once things go back to normal, so will we.

Organizations end up with bullies, predators and bad actors for only one reason: In this moment, it’s easier to keep them. There’s some sort of urgency that makes asking them to leave too difficult right now, so we put it off for a little while. When we make a “just this once” exception, we’ve already made a decision about what’s truly important.

And the same goes for those moments when we’re inclined to be, just for a moment, a bully, a predator or a bad actor as well. Few people decide to be selfish for the long haul.

What makes it a principle is that we do it now, even though (especially though) it’s hard.

Communicating online (the big leaps)

It’s not just like the real world but with keyboards.

Leap 1: Attention is too easy to steal online, so don’t. Spam is a bad idea. Interrupting hundreds or millions of people doesn’t cost you much, but costs each person a lot. You wouldn’t stand up in the middle of a Broadway play and start selling insurance from the audience. Don’t do it with your keyboard. Permission is anticipated, personal and relevant.

Leap 2: There’s a difference between asynchronous and synchronous interaction. We know this intuitively in the real world (a letter is different from a phone call) but online, it’s profound. A discussion board isn’t the same as a Zoom call. It turns out that we can create rich and layered conversations with async communication, but we also have to be just a bit more patient.

Leap 3: More than one person can ‘talk’ at a time. In the real world, that’s impossible. At a table for six, we take turns talking. But in a chat room, we can all talk at the same time. Use it well and you can dramatically increase information exchange. But if you try to follow all the threads, or you miss what you need, then it’s actually less effective.

Leap 4: Sometimes we leave a trail. Most real-life conversations are inherently off the record because the words disappear right after we say them. But if you use a keyboard, or you’re attached to a server, assume you’re being recorded and act appropriately. And sometimes the people who are talking are anonymous (which never happens in the real world).

It’s possible, with effort, to transform business communications (and schooling) away from the top-down, synchronized, compliance-focused, off-the-record, hierarchical and slow status quo to something significantly more fluid and powerful. But we’ll need to do it on purpose.

 

PS the free co-working space we’re offering has become a successful community hub. Thanks to the Akimbo team for putting so much into creating it, and for the thousands of people who have found energy and solace by being part of it.

Generous isn’t always the same as free

People have been generous with you through the years. A doctor who took the time to understand your pain. A server who didn’t hesitate and brought you what you needed before you even knew you needed it. A boss who gave you a project at just the right time.

Gifts create connection and possibility, but not all gifts have monetary value. In fact, some of the most important gifts involve time, effort and care instead.

Money was invented long after humans arrived on the scene, and commerce can’t solve all problems.

In this moment when we’re so disconnected and afraid, the answer might not be a freebie. That might simply push us further apart. The answer might be showing up to do the difficult work of connection, of caring and of extending ourselves where it’s not expected.

Is everything going to be okay?

That depends.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it was and the way I expected it to be?” then the answer is no. The answer to that question is always no, it always has been.

If we mean, “Is everything going to be the way it is going to be?” then the answer is yes. Of course. If we define whatever happens as okay, then everything will be.

Given that everything is going to be the way it’s going to be, we’re left with an actually useful and productive question instead: “What are you going to do about it?”

Let’s do it together

As we’ve seen through these challenging times, the real skills matter. The ability to hold it all together, to lead, to bring insight and care to interactions. Too often, we’re pushed to only focus on the easily measured, but each of us knows that the human elements are critical.

We’re relaunching the Real Skills Conference. We ran it a few months ago and it was the most effective and extraordinary online event we’ve ever experienced. More than 97% of the participants in this two-hour online conference were still actively engaged at the end of it.

It runs on April 24, but you need to sign up in advance, since it will be fully enrolled.

You can find out all the details at realskillsconference.com. If you click the purple circle on the site, you’ll save quite a bit on the fee if you register today.

We can move forward, together.

You are your clips

A divisive radio personality, asking for forgiveness, says to his critics, “don’t judge me by my clips.”

Why not?

The things we say and the projects we do are our clips. Taken together, they are our contribution. If you don’t want to be judged by a clip of something you said or did, the path is pretty clear.

The best resume says, “please judge me by my clips.”

Moods and actions

The way we feel can be triggered by outside events.

And that can change how we act.

And the way we act can reinforce how we feel.

Of course, the opposite is true as well, and far more in our active control.

How we act always changes how we feel.

This is a perfect moment for upskilling. For a sprint in learning something that’s difficult to learn. Not because a teacher or a boss made us do it, but because we chose to. Not only do we get to keep that skill forever, but the act of taking control and expending the effort will change our mood.

And this is the perfect moment for generous connection. Going way beyond the news of the day, we have the chance to create intimate digital interactions that last.

It’s a significant posture shift, one which might change who you see when you look in the mirror.

We might not be able to do anything about external events, but we have control over our actions. Sometimes, it’s hard to stare right into that opportunity, because it comes with a lot of responsibility.

What will you learn today? Who will you teach?

Fill in the blanks

Other than multiple-choice, this is one of the easiest ways to work through a test or a workday.

Find the blanks, fill them in.

Here’s the question: Who decided what the blanks were?

We get to write our own, any time we choose.

Life’s actually an essay, not a series of responses to someone else’s agenda.

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