Highway of Speed Bumps

Last week was pretty brutal; like a high way of speed bumps.  While looking ahead last Sunday I knew it was going to be a tough week, given my intense work schedule and time-consuming objectives.  I had set my mind to plough through it but I didn’t know half of what I was up against.

Lately, the restaurant has been short-staffed.  The week of Valentines Day is one of the busiest weeks of the year.  As expected, I was scheduled to work every single night and doubles on the weekend for a total of 9 shifts.  In addition, my shifts started earlier and ended later than usual, especially Valentines Day.  It’s not so bad to work every night as long as I have enough time during the day to work on my business and an early out or two so to have some time at night to touch base with my client and spend some time with my girlfriend before it gets too late.  Those early nights also allow me catch up on sleep if necessary.  I sort of have a routine and this last week threw it all off-balance.    On top of that, I had four disasters occur.

First, the sewer lines backed up into my apartment on Valentines Day.  The main for the whole property was clogged so whenever the tenants in the main house flushed a toilet or ran water it backed up into our apartment because our apartment sits lower than the house.  Shit literally runs down-hill.  Unbeknownst to them their toilet was running for hours (somebody forgot to jiggle the handle) so ours was over-flowing for hours, flooding our apartment with the foulest mix of shit you can imagine.  It backed up into the shower too.  My girlfriend spent the night at a friend’s house so she could shower for work in the morning.  Thus, I was left to deal with the plumber and clean up the mess.  The only good part was all the puns…can you believe that shit?  Why does this shit have to happen this week?  Yeah, I cleaned that shit up.

The second disaster shouldn’t have been a disaster at all, maybe an incumbrance at best.  My car needed brakes.  I had been putting it off for two months and knew if I didn’t do it soon I would end up with a major problem.  Plus, during my Monday commute I had to slam on the brakes and noticed they don’t work so well in that type of situation.  Enough is enough.  I scheduled it early in the morning so I could still put in a solid day’s work afterwards.  But fuck me runnin’ sideways, an hour and a half job turned into 6 hours!  By the time I got home I had just enough time to take a shower and get to work.

Next day, my girlfriend’s car won’t start…as if I need to spend another day at Firestone.  Jumping it did not work so it could be the alternator.  Hoping it’s just a really dead battery though.  Regardless, I’ve had to shuttle her to and from work the last few days.  Another hour a day gone.

Fourth, my girlfriend’s dog had a seizure yesterday during a conference call with my client.  We had been playing phone tag all week and didn’t get more than 30 seconds in before I had to go.  For that I was frustrated but for the dog I was scarred.  It was Sunday so the vet was closed and I couldn’t afford to take him to an emergency clinic.  Fortunately, he was back to normal before I had to go to work.  However, this is the second time he has done this so we need to figure out why this is happening.  The blood work will be expensive but I can’t let the little guy suffer.

So….Monday was the only normal day I had.  The rest of the week was pretty much sabotaged.  I did not prospect for new clients like I wanted to.  I did not complete any of the medial tasks I promised my client.

However, last week wasn’t a complete failure.  I still managed to notch a few achievements.  While at the body shop I skimmed through an entire book on Wordpress that I’d been meaning to get to since November.  I learned a lot about plug-ins, user management, advanced customization, optimization, and other cool stuff I honestly didn’t understand yet.  I also enrolled two business ideas in a fast pitch event coming in three weeks.  Who knows maybe someone will like one of them.  I checked the block on some monthly financial goals too.  Best of all, what I would I call my crowing achievement in a shit week, I finally persuaded my client to redo the book cover, found a good freelancer to do the job, and looks like we’ll get rolling on it this week.

Looking forward to a smoother road this week.

Gut Check

I’ve been putting in a lot of time promoting this book.  I wake up, go right to my computer, and work right until I should’ve been in the shower in ten minutes ago to be to work on time.  Half the time I forget to eat lunch.  I haven’t taken the dogs to the park in a while, the list of things I need to do outside of work like replace my brakes, do laundry and get a hair cut is piling up, and my relationship is deteriorating.  At least I’m kicking ass on this book though, right?  Wrong.  Each day there is more to do than I can ever get done so I always feel like I’m coming up short.  I realize that you have to maximize your productivity and effectiveness by focusing on tasks that give you the highest return but the truth is just about everything I’ve been doing has a low return.  It’s a low return game until that one spark lights a fire.

Speaking of return, I get the most frustrated when I think in terms of my hourly wage.  I have made less than $30 for a month of busting my butt and sacrificing.  So it probably comes out to somewhere around 25 cents an hour.  I knew it was going to be like this going into it but I’ve really been dwelling on it.  What if it never takes off?  What if I waste two, three, six months on this and I’m still waiting tables, saving $100/month, lugging around $80K in debt?

These thoughts worry me because I know that success is sabotaged by doubts like this.  But I also think it is natural for anyone to step back and re-evaluate where things are going at this point.  I’ve been thinking hard about this client, the business of social media marketing, and even entrepreneurship altogether.

I’ve learned a lot since beginning this thing in November.  It takes more time than I thought to manage a client’s social media well and you inevitably find yourself doing way more than just building a fan base and posting updates.  Not that I was naive enough to think that was all I would be doing….I am just shocked by how many small businesses need photographs, a logo in digital format, and to set a marketing budget before I can even begin to do my part.  I’m also shocked that a lot of businesses out there have serious issues that social media can not help.  Social media is the salt and pepper and they need meat and potatoes first.  Sometimes their meat and potatoes are rancid and what they really need is rebranding, new management, change their menu, change location, change their pricing strategy, etc.  Others need/want a bunch of stuff I don’t do like email campaigns, websites, SEO, writing of press releases and blog posts, logo creation, etc, etc, etc.  Bottom line is there aren’t many great small businesses out there that are prime for a little social media marketing to take them over the top….it’s just not that easy.  Handling one or two real-world clients is easily a full-time job and nobody wants to pay me $1000+/month to do it.  They don’t even want to pay $300.  Moreover, there are a lot of businesses where the business owners need to be doing it themselves because they are their brand….artists, designers, agents, etc.  Also, big national brands don’t want you playing with their brand and prefer to keep it in-house.  So that leaves me with a much smaller market, a service that’s either too expensive or too lacking, and some serious scalability problems.

I’ve thought about going back to school (briefly…).  I’ve thought about starting another business (a lot).  Before I began Digital Whale I was working on a business with two other guys.  I was the money (funny right?) and the idea and they were the tech muscle but ultimately we had to abandon it because I couldn’t cover the startup costs.  I’ve since come up with some ideas to significantly reduce those costs.  It’s still more than I have or could save in a reasonable amount of time but it’s now little enough that I could borrow it.  But then do I just abandon Digital Whale or do I pursue both until one takes off, like having two horses in the race?  Again, all the success stories I’ve read that tell you this train of thought leads to certain failure.  I can’t even do one business well and doing two not-well doesn’t make much sense.

Though, isn’t it too early to declare Digital Whale a failure anyways?  Have I really tried?  I haven’t even landed a paying client that’s a local business.  The more I think about the viability of Digital Whale the more I think I just need to evolve it.  Afterall the market for what I’m dabbling in is hot.  Businesses want it and are willing to pay a little for it.  Many though don’t have time to do it themselves or are afraid of the technology or don’t know how to harness it.  There is still opportunity there and there isn’t anyone filling the niche in this market yet.  Perhaps I need to develop the consulting side.  I always thought that I would need paying clients to point to before I could say I’m a consultant but now I don’t think it’s necessary.  When I start talking to business owners they really listen to me.  Why?  I have answers to their questions, ideas, and know more about it than they do.  The word consulting isn’t the right word either.  It implies I charge thousands of dollars.  That’s probably why nobody asks me about my consulting services after they read my flyer even though they are trying to consult me right then and there.

If I develop some presentations on social media I could offer to come in and do workshops.  Maybe an hour-long and tailored to their needs.  If I would have approached the designers with a service like that they probably would have jumped on it and I would have gotten paid to outline a strategy for them like I did.  The workshop could be anything from a tutorial of platforms to laying out a strategy to walking them through setting up their accounts to analyzing why their current efforts aren’t working.  The audience could be the owners, the managers, even the employees.

The best part is I don’t have to get balls deep into their business.  I don’t have to fix their other problems or learn the ins and outs of their business to impersonate them.  I simply give them some tools and knowledge to help them harness the full power of social media.  Essentially, I’m saving them time.  They could learn everything I’m telling them on the internet (I did) but it would take them months of reading and trial and error.

The problems:  I suck at public speaking, mad stage fright.  I also don’t have any of the equipment I would need like a projector and portable screen, an air card for my laptop so I could get internet in any building or an iPad with internet from Verizon.  I don’t even have powerpoint….What are we at now like $1500-$3000?  Yikes!  I envisioned charging about $100-$200 per hour-long presentation so that even the smallest of businesses on the tightest budgets could potentially afford it.  I’ll have to think on all that for a few days.

I guess as it sits now I might as well keep plugging away on this book.  Who knows maybe it will pay off.  I think tomorrow I will door-to-door some businesses with flyers again.  This time I’ll change consulting to workshops or demos or something and focus my pitch around that just to test the waters.  Back to work…

January Goals and February Goals

I am proud to announce that I reached all four of my monthly goals for January.  I saved $100, paid off an extra $100 of credit card debt, joined a group (dart league), and most importantly landed my first paying client!  Barely made it on the first two.  After 1st of the month bills I’ll have less than $50 to my name (sheesh).  And my paying client hasn’t paid me anything yet but he will although it’s less than $20 since we haven’t sold very many books yet.  But hey who’s counting…

My girlfriend challenged me to increase my goals for February.  I just love her tenacity!  Looking ahead through February I fear that it will be harder financially than January.  I suspect my truck needs brakes since they squeak and I can feel a coarse grind reverberate through the brake pedal that’s like a blade on a wet stone.  Can’t forget Valentine’s Day either.  I want to buy her roses to show her how much I appreciate her and I want to buy her something nice since we didn’t give gifts for Christmas.  A couple of clients would off-set those expenses.

Despite fear of failure I decided to ramp it up for February and really go for it.  This month I am going to:

  1.   Save $120
  2.   Pay down an extra $120 of debt
  3.   Land 2 paying clients
  4.   Attend a meeting for a new group
  5.   Pay off my brakes by the end of the month

Number 4 will require me to take a night off from work since most of the groups I’ve found meet at night and I have to succeed at Number 3 to make Number 5 happen.

Selling a Book Online

The book is called, “You Can’t Make This Shit Up! Corporate America” and it is now listed on amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1468192094

I have six months to prove my worth.  My basic strategy to sell this book is an alchemy of online book reviews, social media, press releases, landing pages, and a blog.

The key is book reviews.  I will search out and befriend book reviewers through social media and on websites and blogs dedicated to book reviews.  This is a numbers game so the more the merrier.  I have read up on best practices for soliciting a book review and will approach it as establishing a relationship on common ground that takes time and real conversations to cultivate.  Book reviewers are often booked months in advance so I don’t expect much sales impact from them until months 4, 5, and 6.  However, book reviews can have a high virality. The right book review in the right place could be the spark to set this whole thing off.

I will have the press release on Sunday.  I plan to splash it all over the internet.  Anywhere and everywhere I can do it for free.

For social media, I have established presences on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ for both the author and the book.  I use G+ and Twitter to find others and am going to let people find us on Facebook.  I will refrain from spamming out calls to action to buy the book with a link to amazon.  Instead I just want to connect with as many people as possible, dozens per day, establishing real relationships along the way, to build an audience that has given us permission.  I just want them to find us funny and know that he is an author with a new book out.  Then, I want to send them the free chapter which is hilarious.  If they read the free chapter they will probably buy the book.  It’s that good.

I will set up a wordpress blog and promote it on social media.  The wordpress blog will be for people to share their funny stories like the ones in the book.  We want them talking to us more than we are talking to them.  We’ll see how that goes.

I will create some funny landing pages on sites like about.com, ehow, etc, etc with click paths to the book.  This is the idea I have fleshed out the least since it will come a month down the road.

That’s the jist of it.  The details of the execution are complicated and call for individual posts.  I will get to them as time permits.  Thoughts and criticism are welcomed.

“Reschedule? Sure I’d Be Happy To…”

It was going to be a day in hell.  Work meeting at 1:30, pitch meeting at 3:00, work at 5:00, conference call with the author at 10pm.  I expected disaster since everything had to fall just right for me to be prepared and on time to everything.  If the 1:30 runs long which it usually does then I am late for the 3:00 which means I’ll be cutting it close getting to work and if my last table at work is a couple that camps out until a half hour after close I’ll be an hour late on the conference call.

The 1:30 meeting is our quarterly meeting for the restaurant where they present the new specials and policy changes that marginally affect us.  In other words a complete waste of my time except for the free food involved but I have to go if I want to keep my job.

The 3:00 was with the interior design ladies (remember them?).  I didn’t want to reschedule because I didn’t want them to think that I was unprofessional, unprepared, too busy or anything like that.

However, I was unprepared or only half prepared.  I had spent all my time on the author.  I was hoping to wake up an hour early, review what I had done a week ago, polish it up, and draw up a contract so if they like it they can sign on the spot.  I woke up two hours late!  Damnit!   I scrapped putting the contract together and just focused on my pitch.  I started to feel like it was going to be alright and I’ll probably land the job.

Just before I am about to get dressed for the 1:30 pow wow, one of the designers calls and wants to push it back to next week since her partner “had to go on vacation.”  Sounds like bullshit since nobody has to go on vacation.  Nor do they spontaneously plan and embark on a vacation within 1 week.  A red flag would’ve gone up when we set up the meeting last week that hey I am on vacation next week.  Either something awful happened, like a family death, or I got bumped for a meeting with a client.  Either way someone is a bad liar.  But what do I care?  This is best thing that could’ve happened!  Hell yeah we can reschedule for next week!  See ya Tuesday!

The 1:30 meeting was thus refreshing because I didn’t have to stress about whether my bosses tangents would run us long and it was far less stressful than the home office.  By the way, it ended at 2:30 on the dot for the first time in a long time so I would’ve made it on time to the 3:00.  Instead I use the time to prepare for my conference call with the author after work.

Work is dead, meaning slow.  I don’t get any campers or any tables of any sort at the end of the night so when I’m cut I get out of there lickity split at 9:30.  That never happens.

Turns out the author was entertaining visitors so we didn’t connect until 11pm so I got to spend some time with the girlfriend watching the Savannah episode of American Idol, which made me a little embarrassed to be living here with the seemingly high ratio of nut jobs….

The call went well.  He likes where I’m going with things and we sold our first book.  Couldn’t have been a better day.  Things just don’t fall my way like that.

It’s On

Finally, got with the author mentioned in the last post.  He liked my ideas and I absolutely love his book.  It’s funny, real funny.  Laugh out loud, still chuckling about it fifteen minutes after you read it funny.  Although we are on opposite schedules, he’s free on nights and weekends and I’m free during the day on weekdays, we have managed to have several conversations and email correspondences to work out major details but not enough time to sift through the finer details.  My strategy had to be reworked since he has to sell the book exclusively through Amazon per his publishing agreement.  No website to sell the book and track where sales are coming from.

This is a bit different from what I peddle to local businesses.  This is about sales not fan growth.  Rather than a flat monthly rate my compensation is a small cut of each book sold.  It’s more about online book reviews than facebook fans.  This is really about virality.  Can I set off a chain reaction that sells tens of thousands of books?  I know I can sell hundreds of books to old and new connections but that is hardly worth the time I will be putting into this.  He wanted me to tier my compensation based on sales targets (probably to motivate me…as if I need it!).  I couldn’t.  I can’t put numbers on it.  Wish I could but can’t.  In a low virality scenario we sell a few hundred.  In a high virality scenario we sell 10’s of thousands or a million.  Obviously, I’m shooting for the 10’s of thousands.  That’s where it’s worth it.

I can’t say much about it now until after the launch which is looking like Monday.  Going to be a lot busier now but I will post about my strategies, successes and failures as I go as often as possible.  I’ll throw the free sample chapter up too.

Still have to find the time between now and Wednesday to put together the pitch for the interior designers as well.  Oh and move out by Feb 1st.  It’s official….couldn’t be a worst time.

The New Flyer is Working

The new flyer I designed a few weeks back seems to be doing the job.  The big change I made was putting a bunch of social media logos around my giant digital whale logo hoping that it would make people realize I do more than just Facebook and Twitter.  People are drawn to the logos and ask me about the ones they don’t recognize.  “What’s Pinterest?”  “What’s Foursquare?”  It really get’s the conversation going and gives me the chance to instantly establish myself as an expert.  Some even circle the ones that interest them the most during our conversation.  Most don’t even read the copy even though it’s less than 100 words.  More affirmation that visuals are much more powerful than words, especially when it comes to first impressions.