The past few posts touched on both ‘The Why’ we stay in work situations and ‘The Action’ steps for seizing your life from those treacherous jaws of mediocrity.
So, we’ve gotten those basics under our belts, we’ve pondered the why and we’ve made our lists and dreamed. Now what?
I’m going to take a moment and talk about a few tools that can help propel you down that different path in life.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The Art of Non-Conformity
I am a big fan of Chris Guillebeau, as are many, many thousands. And here’s my story as to why.
For the past 15 years or so, I’ve lived far outside the box. Every so often I peer into the box, out of curiosity and a little fear of the unknown, but for 95% of my time, my life has been anything but conventional. I’m cool with that, I enjoy wearing my unconventional badge and I love to talk about the lifestyle and adventures. I’m a storyteller- right?
In 2008, I decided to make a go of commercial multimedia production, with the hopes of fully funding my documentary work and my vagabonding tendencies. I relocated, lined up a relationship with an ad agency, over-extended my resources, and landed flat on my face. I moved two weeks before Lehman Brothers tanked and took the whole f*cking system with them. Thanks for that. And I was not prepared, mentally or financially to attack properly when this happened- I was still in launch mode, not survival mode- problem! While I slogged through a long ass winter of poverty (those granite counter-tops and hardwood floors in my rental were of no comfort when the jobs dried up and I was living off peanuts. Try spending 3 weeks with 12 cents in your bank account and see if you don’t make some radical changes.)
So, I started to really reevaluate my goals and my dreams and returned to my core passions. I began to go online and study the emerging blogs of that year. While pursuing JD Roth’s Get Rich Slowly blog and trying to up my financial literacy (always a priority- not my area of strength) I stumbled onto an article about travel hacking. Huh? So, I clicked the link and found my Happy Place. The Art of Non-Conformity.
Seriously? There’s a whole online community based on the way I’d always lived my life. I was fully aware of the 4 Hour Work Week (I re-read it about every 6 months or so) but had never heard of this little gem. I spent 2 days reading all the article I could consume on this blog.
Hallelujah- somebody gets my world. I downloaded Chris’ free manifestos and knew that this was different. This was going to help steer me in a direction I hadn’t anticipated when I left UNC to launch my multimedia business. This was taking me back to the why- back to the basics. And it felt like I was coming home- back to my true self and my passions for my art.
I hemmed and hawed over purchasing an actual e-book from his site. I had never done that before and I was afraid of purchasing something at that price point that I could not hold in my hands and flip through first. But, I sucked it up and bought Art + Money. Loved it. If these resources had been around 10 years ago- my life would look much different. (Not that I’m not happy with my life exactly as it is unfolding- I might have accelerated my path had these resources and the Web 2.0 been around).
That’s why I love the AONC and think you should spend some time with the site and his e-books and new print book.
Yep- it doesn’t get much better than this (though Tumblr is going to give this a run for her money in simple usability). When WordPress first came on the scene, I dabbled in the platform, but it was very much a programmers/coders world and I just didn’t think that way. I speak Flash and I muddle through HTML, and it’s not pretty. But due to the beauty of open source, WordPress has evolved into a game-changer for entrepreneurs, bloggers, artists and even big corporations.
With a few easy steps, you can have a website up and running and you are officially in business. That’s just unbelievable to me. I knew I would have to really learn WordPress because there was no way I could afford a designer to help build my site when I was just starting out.
So, I built many a blog (yea, I have a few in that blogosphere graveyard) and stumbled onto this e-book that talked about the nuts and bolts of the platform. While I haven’t read it from start to finish- this comes in handy when I get stuck. Digging into WordPress. Love it- and the blog is chocked full of info as well.
If you’re building a blog- and yes, you should start there, even if it’s just to get your feet wet before you really launch your side gig/full time job replacement business- please use a host that allows you to have unlimited domains, lots of server space, uses a one-touch install option for WordPress and uses a simple to understand admin panel.
Do not use GoDaddy. Please, just don’t go there. Unless you are fluent in the ways of the web and don’t mind wasting hours looking for shit buried in your admin panel- just don’t. I actually put in my contracts for web developing clients that I will not work with GoDaddy.
I use DreamHost. Have for many years and they are awesome. They don’t bother with phone service for tech calls (though you can call them if you must) but they use an immediate email response for problems. And they’ve never let me down- and I’ve done some fascinatingly stupid shit to my web servers and domains during my development work! For 10 bucks a month, I get all the domains I want with unlimited emails and I can set up a customized wordpress site in 10 minutes or less.
It’s all about the Skins, Baby! WP Themes!
A gazillion free themes exist for use in WordPress. And thus, a great place to start. I recently helped a client set up a Woo Theme that she had installed for free and their support and usability was great.
Once you’re ready to evolve and invest a little in your blog, go to Studio Press. I’ve used their themes for years and just love them. And they’ve evolved their admin panels for friendly usability. They use a main framework (Genesis- which is what this blog is built on) and then have lots of child themes that go on-top of the framework and provide a custom look and feel to the site. I use these for my clients and they love them!
If you have the budget to hire someone (and I recommend this if you have no internet knowledge, limited time or just want to focus resources elsewhere) check out this blog post by Chris Brogan that lists some great resources for designers. In fact, spend some time with his blog- jam packed with valuable business info!
The main point if you’re going the DIY route is to get a grasp on the basics of the WP Admin panel and where your content goes (categories versus pages versus widgets and sidebars) find a theme developer with lots of premium theme options and stick with them. It’s a royal pain in the ass to learn a whole new theme structure with each new web developer. Be sure your theme of choice provides ample support through forums. I recently jumped ship from a theme I’d used for a year or more because the support answers were rubbish.
Yep, it’s inevitable these days. You need to be active on the social media if you are going to launch any kind of business. Your specific social media strategy will vary greatly based on your type of business and what your target customer needs from you.
But you need to be active on Facebook and Twitter and you need to understand how to use them properly. Do not spam, do not constantly post only your shit and do not simply retweet.
Follow leaders in your industry and follow the people following them. Seek out people asking questions related to your field and offer them answers to their problems. Talk about personal crap (not too personal though- no need to air your dirty laundry on the Twitter/FB) find people having meaningful conversations and dive in. Here’s a great article on using Twitter properly as a business.
And be sure to explore other niches related to your industry. Use www.search.twitter.com and type in terms related to your services. I am still amazed at the communities that arise based on a particular blog post and how they interact with me on Twitter! I love it! Learn what a hash tag is ( # ) and how to use it in your tweets.
Real world example- I published a blog post last month about the art of conversation and it touched on a random and meaningful encounter I engaged in with a man while sipping java at my local coffee shop. The article was retweeted by a coffee shop lover who has a blog about conversations started in coffee shops and community gathering spots. He contacted me directly about the article and we still converse about our shared interest- community gathering locations and coffee.
You may be thinking, “that’s all well and good- but that’s the virtual world.” Not really, these are real people with shared interests and I know when I travel, I will contact these virtual connections through social media and have in person conversations over real coffee one day. It is one of the main reasons social media needs to be approached as both an online AND an offline interaction.
I use both Hootesuite and Twitter to keep up with conversations. It looks something like this:
- I have 6 columns on Hootesuite . I have 5 columns for lists that I follow- divided into my main topics and they are only A-List bloggers. My lists include Lifestyle Design/Travel, Marketing/Social Media, Photography, Writing and Friends (friends and colleagues from the offline world). And one column for my mentions so I can respond quickly to people asking me questions or mentioning me.
- I scan Hootesuite periodically throughout the day for links, conversations or trends on the internet.
- Once or twice a day, usually in the evenings, I go to the main Twitter page and just scan through all the tweets in my home feed. This is everybody. I find conversations I want to participate in and add my two cents. I usually converse with people of similar interests, bloggers, travelers, photographers and usually with those who are at a similar stage in their business development. I do reach out to A-listers on occasion and have had some great conversations, but these folks have tens of thousands of people interacting with them. Boggles my mind! Some nights, if I’m watching Jon Stewart and still working, I’ll tweet about that. I had a great conversation with a fellow traveler in Minnesota about Stewart and politics one evening.
- I use Hootesuite to post most of my comments and retweets, it’s just user friendly and allows you to also send them to the other social media networks connected to the app. I connected Facebook and LinkedIn with my Hootesuite, though I prefer the UI on the actual sites as opposed to Hootesuite for these two.
Find a Twitter app you like and get to know it. I have also used Seismic and TweetDeck and just prefer Hootesuite. They allow you to track the traffic to your tweets which becomes a valuable tool once you begin to strategize. But, they are looking to start charging for their service- so I may be jumping ship on that one.
I just started using the new Twitter interface and I have to say- it may give Hootesuite a run for it’s money. Much more user friendly than the original Twitter. I’ve been testing it this week and find myself going to Hootesuite less each day.
Wow- I just realized what a total internet geek I’ve become with that last paragraph! Hilarious!!
A word about social media- you HAVE to stay on top of the trends with these platforms. It changes rapidly and you can not rely solely on one platform in your strategy. Twitter can crash and Facebook can be hacked and all of them can be sold to Google, AOL or Apple and then you’re screwed.
I also love the Tumblr. I’m not going to dive into that now, but check out my Tumblr page and start your own. Totally free and insanely simple to use!
Basically, social media and blogging had some wild sex and a Tumblr was born!
So, we’ve touched on just a few resources for The Why and The How. Now, let’s look at a few resources for The Biz.
The resources for your business will vary dramatically, so I’m just going to mention some core books and websites that have helped me along the way and are rather universal. I’m going to try and be brief- because this topic could take years to address. In fact, I’m writing a separate blog at the moment about this topic and will be launching it and a series of e-books surrounding artistic entrepreneurship over the course of the next few months.
Let’s look at some basic but invaluable books.
The E-Myth. I tackled this puppy about 6 years ago and loved it. I purchased his follow up books as well, which are more technical in actually executing the theories presented in the E-Myth.
The basic premise of the book is that you must develop a system for your business where you work ON it not IN it. And he uses the example of a lady who owns a pie shop and can’t understand why she works 18 hours a day and can’t see any tangible growth of her business. This is a vital text for your business and you should read it and UNDERSTAND it before you launch.
Rich Dad Poor Dad. Please over look the rather slick and cheesy looking covers on these books, they really are a valuable resource and compliment the first book well.
I have read several of his books over the years and particularly like Retire Young, Retire Rich and A Guide to Investing. Both of these books really made me think about business in a different, big picture sort of method. While I don’t implement all the principles and I’m not on a fast track path to being rich, the fundamental principles are very applicable to any business and the first book takes less then a couple days to read.
The Four Hour Work Week. I really don’t need to say too much here, this book is so mainstream now, its ridiculous.
But, it speaks to the value of its content. What I find fascinating is to see the actual results now of people taking his advice and implementing it within their own businesses.
The Organic Entrepreneur. I love this book! I’ve read many business books and this remains my favorite.
The book touches on the why and the how in a manner that is so compatible to the way an artist’s mind works. And she bases her path through entrepreneurship in this book on the seasons of the year. The Organic Entrepreneur is a fabulous book and I read it often.
The Fire Starter Sessions. This one blew me away!
Danielle LaPorte, from White Hot Truth published an AMAZING resource for entrepreneurs and it’s applicable to various stages in your journey. I can’t recommend this highly enough and please go here to read more about my initial reactions to working with these sessions.
Financial books- find the ones that speak to your style and be sure to implement cash flow strategies for your business as you begin to travel this path.
I enjoy reading Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog and the book is valuable as well. Again, the book is not about being filthy rich- all Monopoly money guy style- it’s about understanding your money habits and finding a financial system that works for your personality. The Naked Millionaire is also an excellent book (same author as The Organic Entrepreneur) and I just started reading Man vs. Debt’s book, Unautomate Your Finances and am liking it so far. Lots of excellent advice and strategies.
I find that, at least for me, studying various financial strategies helps me implement one that works for me. And while I still struggle with finding the perfect balance, embracing the money beast is imperative for your business endeavor.
Cash Flow is king in the business world, and if your cash flow seizes up along the way- so does your business. Believe me- I’ve been there often and know I’ll still be going there again.
I know I’ve missed some vital elements that I use often- but these are the basics. This entry could literally go on forever, but I’ll stop now.
Point is, find your resources and find the people you admire who are Crushing It (yep, there’s Gary V again) and studying what they do and why. Take away the elements that speak to you, make them your own in some fabulous unique fashion and run with it.
Side Note- some of the links in this post are affiliate links. In a recent survey on this blog, folks said they’d like to support the writings here through these links. I only link to products I’ve used and find beneficial. I’ve also established a store at Amazon that has all the books in my Art + Biz library in case you want more resources. Resources to Fire Up Your Artistic Entrepreneur.
The photos in this article are from my trip to India several years ago. There’s no significance to the topic, I just love these trips and am longing for a return journey to the Tibetan community in McLeod Ganj & Dharamsala, India. More of my documentary work can be found at http://www.crystalstreet.photoshelter.com