How Not To Be a Troll: Kill Your Entitlementality For Your Own Good

Businessman with Ball and Chain

When you are focused on what you’re here to GET, you’re never, ever going to win.

I have a private list on Twitter called “content heroes.” These people  push out great, usually free, content often in their niche. I follow them avidly and devour everything they make. There are 21 names on that list, a few of ‘em are: Brian Clark, Chris Garrett, Michael Martine, Sonia Simone, Chris Brogan, Hugh MacLeod, Nametag Scott Ginsberg, Ian Greenleigh, Jim Kukral and Dave Navaro. These dudes are my trusted filters and my daily news.

Success Leaves Clues: Figure Out Why They Are Successful

I’m grateful that our economy is so good that it supports the work of these people to the point where they can pump out stuff for free and for cheap. I’ve made money off of the free and cheap stuff. Some specific examples:

Chris Brogan’s Trust Agents: Found it too long, but it gave me a vocabulary that I didn’t have and inspired me to set a good example of doing things above board. (His Overnight Success stuff is pretty promising, too).  This has lead to me approaching clients with giant balls.

Nametag Scott’s intimidating mass of content: Scott’s showed me lots of things. Morning pages, which I do a lot.

Brian Clark’s “Authority Rules:” That’s sold clients for me. I’ve emailed that pdf and persuaded people to buy a blog or get some planning done.

Dave Navarro’s Blog: Holy crap. Talk about action items.   Probably the best “free” stuff on the entire Internet.

Everyone I follow leaves clues. I’m profoundly grateful, and feel lucky and fortunate that these dudes can profit from giving free stuff away. Because the ideas I see that I dig, I synthesize. I use as my own. As is their intent.

It didn’t used to be that way. I used to be hyper and angry about it. I used to want specific and a step by step guide to my own success. For free. I used to get angry because I hadn’t learned the mindset that makes success inevitable. I was on some lists that had 3/4 good content that I could take action on.

I Deserve More, More: I’m Entitled.

But when a dude had the audacity to try to sell me something or send me an affiliate link? Oh, hell no. That was un-fuggin-acceptable to me. Mentally, I was lost. “This dude is just trying to sell me, screw him.” I was mad about being used, being monetized. Despite the good content, the fact that there was some portion of it that was interested in making money, I was enraged. I would unsubscribe.

It was about me. How dare this dude try to monetize me. How dare they try to do something to me. Nevermind the fact that I got great content (that I wasn’t ready to act on). This sumbitch tried to sell me? How DARE HE!

Why was I mad?  Bottom line: I was broke, confused and lost.  I was pissed because the world was passing me by, I didn’t have enough to give, so I didn’t have the cash to jump on good ideas.  I was mad because I wanted the stuff that I was being sold, but $160 or more was out of reach.  My entitle mentality made things about me. Get it?

Entitlementality is cancer of the will.

OK, let’s be really, really clear.  When you are focused only on what you’re getting, how your own experience is, you’re going to fail.  You’re so limited by those ideas that it’s nearly impossible to succeed.  When you’re focused on how much you deserve, and you turn your eyes inward, you’re gonna get a close up view of your faults and flaws.  Your ego will reject them and put the blame on others.

You can’t survive with this mindset.  You are here and born to give something, not get something.  Gratitude is the chemotherapy that kills entitlementality.  Instead of being pissy about the valid efforts of good people to earn their living, why not simply be happy that you got some ideas, why not be ready to take action on the good stuff you’ve gotten?

Left untended, though this is a natural process.  You focus on yourself, we all do.  It’s a poison we swallow that is so very limiting.  What about helping others?  What happens when you give all you can to that?  I’ll tell you what: you succeed financially, especially when you let go of the self righteous “all I do is focus on others” line that people that don’t really focus on others give you.

When you kill your entitlementailty, you can finally succeed.  You will have a hard time doing anything good without accepting the fact that you’re paid in proportion to how much you’re been of service to others.  With very few exceptions, bubbles and anomalies, that’s how the world works.  Embrace that idea and up your service.  The “How” is on its way.

10 Ways I Survived My Cash Crunch As a Freelancer (And You Can, Too)

cash-crunch

It’s a dirty secret:  Freelancers and entrepreneurs, even successful ones sometimes have cash crunches.  I’ve been cash starved due to the IRS, I’m something of an expert at surviving a cash crunch.  I’ve operated on a zero cash.  It’s stressful, aggravating and survivable.  The “hard part” is in my rear view.

Yesterday on her call, Sonia Simone touched on this reality. Hit home because I’ve lived it.  So many soloprenuers hide the fact that they are flat ass broke.  And it hit home because when you’re flat ass broke and don’t have a survival plan, you focus on yourself.  That’s how you become a “sales douche”.  When you focus on you, and all you can think about is your mortgage, you’re susceptible to all the fucked up things that adult failure spiral brings.

The crucible that I’ve gone through has enhanced my work habits, has made me a better business person.  It’s even made me more honest: I know I can survive a cash crunch and I’m now more immune to the cancer of scarcity thinking.  Once I’ve got those bastards free and clear (goal is end of January for all tax liability including 2009), you’ll see my empire grow.

So, here are ten things I’ve learned, and am still learning:

  1. Stop Hiding It: People will figure it out anyway.  Manufacturing the appearance of riches, or even giving a shit about what other people think of your pocketbook was a mistake I made in 2005-2007 and it made things vastly worse for myself.  Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  2. Admit the cash crunch is your fault: I played the “victim of the IRS” card mentally for a long damn time.  I had a severe amount of Karmic Debt from life, and I deserved everything that happened to me.  It wasn’t till I embraced that idea that I started digging out.
  3. LIFO for Bills Is Your Friend: LIFO means: last in first out.  It’s the way to get ahead of a cash crunch.  When you’re in “catch up” mode, you’ve gotta pay bills based on what’s shows up today, and work backwards.  This puts you back in reality land.   You stop pissing off new people.
  4. Accounting Is Your Friend: I’m still shitty at accounting.  I’m getting better.  On my wall is a list of total debts, IRS debts, daily interest and goals.  I haven’t hit what I  wanted to, but without that I’d be further behind.  Accounting = Reality.  Embrace Reality, don’t prolong the misery.  You’ve gotta know three things:  monthly expenses (business and personal), your daily expenses (based on monthly/20) and your average daily income.  Peter Drucker says that anything you measure improves.  Measure your money.
  5. Be Frigging Frugal: Look, if you’re in debt, it’s not time to let off steam at the church of St. Arbucks.  It’s not time for a $9 appeltini.  It’s frugal time.  For selfish reasons.  Go through your last 3 months bank statements.  Look at all purchases below $15 bucks. Add those up.  Chances are, 90% of that money could have been avoided.
  6. Be Really Frigging Frugal: No holds Barred: We moved and cut expenses.  We cut cable, everything. We went all in on paying this debt monster, going down to one car, stopping the travel.   We sold possessions.  It’s not enough to be “kinda” frugal.  That’s a ruse.  Our housing cost and other costs were a nightmare.  Ego had us in a nice house we didn’t have the coin for.  Being able to move was a freeing experience.
  7. Debt Sucks, Don’t Get More. Debt is slavery. Debt sours the way you feel about the entire world.  “Priceless?” That’s bullshit. It’s never good.  It puts off  what’s inevitable, and it masks the fact that you’re currently not good at business.  When you have debt, it’s the opposite of LIFO, it obscures how you’re doing.  Kill your debt.  (My timeframe for this is April of 2010).
  8. Give More Value To Others & You’ll Be Just Fine: This is hard, but your net worth is generally a reflection of how much you’ve given minus how much you’ve consumed.  My net worth is still negative, (it’s getting better).   You figure out ways to give more to others.  Every day write down what you’re going to give.  Focus on others and God takes care of you.
  9. Account For Your Time, Too: Figure out if you’re spending your time on  productive work.  If not, fix it.  Write down an ideal schedule in order.  For me, it’s not “at 9:30 I’ll be doing this,” but it’s “this repeating task, that one, then that one.”   Make sure you’re not constantly rechecking paypal and re-adding your bills up.
  10. Get Over Anxiety: Johnny said there is no spoon.  Anxiety and scarcity makes you nuts.  When you’re nuts you focus inward, and nothing is more repulsive than a selfish flame-out.  Work for others, you’ll be fine. Money stress totally sucks. When you’re anxious about it it vibrates and people can tell.  They avoid you.  It’s hard to do, money-stress comes back sometimes, but you gotta remind yourself that you’ll be fine.  Focusing on helping others did it for me.

Anyway, I’ll trim this down to 860 words then hit publish.  You get the gist.

Big Projects For Organizing My Business:

I haven’t really blogged in a while, and it is indeed a bad sign. My wallet is getting fed, and the arrearages that I was in to about everyone from another self inflicted cash crunch are nearly over. I was in kind of a funk over that stuff, and I’m now more or less out, and on neutral footing.

What I was doing was building a machine, or series of machines to sell my stuff. Nothing is perfect yet, but the process is sort of coherent now. Units vs. volume is a big different way to sell things. Next steps? We got your next steps.

  • Create categories For Heap
  • Create Marketing Calendar
    • Blogs
    • Guest Posts
    • Push/Outbound
    • PPC
    • Testing
    • Free Stuff
  • Create daily schedule (roughly)
  • Create standards for all products
  • Create Testing Protocols

    • A/B
    • Multivariate
  • Create improvement Plan for everything I do.
  • Create content plan
    • Free
    • Paid
  • Create Flat Rate Web Jobs goals
    • PR4
    • Best Brand synonymous  with “Internet Marketing For Real Businesses”
  • Create Follow Up Sequences for Heap
    • How leads come in
    • Find what sequences will be needed.
  • Create Landing Pages & Copy
  • Create customer service Plans

F#@% The Next Level: If You Like It, Put a Zero On It!

bey

I hear people talking about “getting to the next level,” or “taking it to the next level.” I hear this all the time, on Twitter, on line and everywhere else.

But what does that even mean? What does “the next level” mean for most people, who–if they are like me–are walking a razor thin edge between prosperity and bankruptcy. What’s the “next level” then? What is the next level for someone who’s working like a dog and barely paying the bills?

What I’m really asking, is this: the “next level” implies incremental improvement. And it’s limiting. It compares you not with what you could be but with what you are. Yes, it allows for improvement. But if you only think in terms of where you’ve been, you don’t see how rich things can be, how much potential is in us, and what can get done.

So I’m saying it: F#@% the next level. Hard. And without remorse. It’s your problem, and it’s the limiting factor in your life. Being content or complacent with “just a little better,” is the reason that I haven’t become what I am going to become.

The “next level” is self congratulatory. It begets complacency when you look not at what you are about to be but what you have been. I look at my IRS debt–debt that should be gone by now–and I think “man it’s not as bad as it USED to be.”

“I’m not nearly as fat as I used to be.”

“I’m not the asshole I used to be.”

“My customer service doesn’t suck as much as it used to.”

All of this improvement is nice, but it doesn’t get to the right question: are you as good as you can be? Are you holding yourself accountable to the right standard? Are you free to improve as fast as you can?

Or is comparing yourself to yourself limiting you?

If You Like It, Put A Zero On It!

Each quarter this year was about 15% better than the last quarter for me. My business grew solidly–in fact monthly revenue is double what it was last year. I became more diverse, doing product sales (http://flatratewebjobs.com/blog-setup) as well as some consulting, as well as everything else.

Because I was getting myself out of debt and losing a few pounds (mostly in the 1st quarter), I was proud of what I was doing. Patting myself on the back. Giving myself an “attaboy”.

But I was blind and stupid and limiting myself by what I’ve already done. By only imagining being *slightly* better, I didn’t have a high enough standard.

I had–at best–shoddy customer service.

I had half hearted sales and marketing efforts because at some level I wasn’t happy with my customer experience.

Getting “one level” better at any of this would still have been bad. Part of it was the mindf@#% that comes with being in debt, and seriously, more of my mental capacity is free now that I don’t constantly think and rethink how I can pay my bills. But “one level better” would limit me to still being BAD at the things that I’m bad at. Didn’t help. Being 10x better at customer service, at accounting and other things were needed for me to be “good”.

Now, I know, I know Marcus Buckingham and play to your strengths and all that s#!%. I know, that’s where you’re supposed to go. And I agree. But, it doesn’t excuse you from acquiring baseline competence in all aspects of business, does it?

No, it doesn’t. I don’t have to be a master accountant, but baseline competence is the ticket to enter any business world.

It’s time to make everything 10x better. It’s time to start from scratch.

How good could something you make be? What goal would be ideal? Just “making a living,” or representing a standard of excellence and service so high that the world rushes to pay you?

Ten times better. Ten times more revenue. Ten times better service.

That opens the mind up a little bit. How can I get ten times better than I am to day. How Do I put a zero on it?

How do I go from the 90th to 99th percentile.

How do I go from the 99th to the 99.9th?

How do I be the best in the world?

I’m gonna focus on that in the next few posts.

How I will “put a zero on it.” on everything I do. Go from “meh” to “how do I hire that guy?”

Better, just flat better, at everything.

Redbox Proof Your Business: What NOT to Do To Customers

146958_Redbox_LKH.

Hollywood is PISSED.  They HATE Redbox146958_Redbox_LKH..  Why?  Because they have the BALLS to be customers.  They rent out movies to the customers at a buck a pop, and DARE to offer convenience to people.  Hollywood HATES that.  Warner Brothers hates Redbox so much that they even decided to sue Netflix for good measure.

If you’re in the Midwest like me, you’ve seen redboxes popping up everywhere: kiosks at seemingly every gas station, Kroger, where you can rent DVDs and Video games.  Put your credit card in, mess with a touch screen (that is badly designed), and you get a movie for a buck.  You don’t return it for a week?  No biggie, you bought it.  Simple, done.

Google does the opposite.  They built a search business so cool, and allowed people to build businesses alongside it.  Hell, they embraced it.  Embraced the innovation, embraced Internet marketers, and are thrilled to write big-ass-checks to people.

Redbox basically says: “how ’bout a movie rental, maybe a video game with that gas fill up.”  Cool.  They buy the damn movies to rent out to people, so it all works.   The studios have a big customer in Redbox.

The movie studios treat their customers badly.  Been to a movie lately?  Besides the overpriced concessions, you go in and are hypermonetized the entire time that you’re there.  From when you show up to when you leave, you’re talked at and sold to. When I was a kid, I  used to remember fondly going to the Piqua Twin Cinemas with my father, and talking before the start of movies like Ghostbusters or even The Untouchables. There was an event like silence in a partially darkened theater.

Now I gotta watch damn disrupting ads for dentists and “the coke side of life.”  It keeps me and my ADD addled self out of the theaters unless there is an event like movie.  Hollywood drives me out of being a customer because they make the experience positively horrible.  I’ll go see the Dark Knight. I’ll go to the dollar theater sometimes.  But a regular first run movie?  It’s gotta be great, or it’s gotta be Pixar.

They made the experience of being a customer so horrid, and are somehow aghast when someone does it better.  Think Blockbuster isn’t scared?  They’ve gotta be.  Go to rent a flick from Blockbuster.  Sure, sure we get good selection.  But you wait in a line a mile long that is deliberately slowed so you buy candy and magazines (at movie theater prices).  You pay $4 bucks, feel screwed over.  Redbox just gives you the damn movie.  And they are beating down Blockbuster.

So, with that said, how do you redbox proof your business?  How do you make it so that some nimble competitor can’t give you more:

  1. Be methodology neutral: if you’re in business providing widgets or knowledge, let the customer say how they want it.  Hourly, subscription fees, whatever, all on the table.  Don’t be obsessed with people doing things your way.
  2. Honor Your People:  Hollywood and Starbucks lost their way when they monetized their traffic and started selling crap to people that were there for coffee or movies.  Be nice, respect the intent of the customer.  Getting coffee isn’t permission to sell them itunes crap.
  3. Embrace Partners that Distribute For you: Hollywood should be thrilled to have someone buying their content, and should make it really easy for them to do so and make money.  So should you.  Anyone that’s a potential partner should be honored.  You should help them, high five them and invest in their success. (And even imitate them).
  4. Always get feedback, always make it easier: Blue ocean stuff here. Get customer feedback, collect data.  When are customers happy?
  5. Focus on EASY TRANSACTIONS: How easy is it for a customer to do business with you?  Focus on making it “dead simple.”   Keep the experience brief, and don’t add clutter or “tack on sales”  Be the best at say, selling coffee.  Forget CDs and stuffed animals.  Forget extended warranties.  Or at least subordinate that to selling coffee and having a quiet “third place”.

What if Hollywood had said, “Kiosks? Cool.  Let’s make some. Oh, and let’s make ‘em REALLY good.  let’s charge $2 bucks, but let’s give MORE value for $2 bucks.”

[Unrelated [Note: This is the last post for a couple of weeks here GenuineChris.Com. I'm going to do a new home page that helps people figure me out and where I fit in. I'm focusing all of my stuff on two channels, and will be building up http://FlatRateWebJobs.Com as my new business identity.  I'll have more in a bit. If anyone wants to guest post, please let me know so my 250 readers aren't left in the lurch]]

Automate To Dominate: Upcoming Projects For GenuineChris

Ok, this isn’t any “writerly” stuff or “sales big balls” stuff that I favor.  This is me, putting my head down to get caught up.  This week was a good one for me.  I probably doubled my capacity to do work, if not more so.

How?

Well, partnering?  Partly, sure.

Outsourcing?  That too.

I had a problem: selling created some work I hated.  I love blogging.  I love helping people.  I love the premise of self publishing.  I built a business on it, and I connected with friends because of it.  I believe.  I love.  I lead by example.

That said,  it’s still tedious as hell to do a blog setup.  Fantastico, wait.  Plugin, wait.  Analytics.  Wait.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Feeds, details.  Crap I’m not good at.  Server issues.  I want to talk to people dammit, not be a pale geek working on DNS issues at 4am.

So, selling was creating a problem for me: namely this: I had to do stuff I didn’t like on a regular basis.  Every sale came with $750 (good) and then massive issues: having to do a chore that I couldn’t stand.  I like selling.  I like causing blogs to get delievered, but like a petulant child, I couldn’t bring myself to eat my lima beans.

And my customers, with high hopes, they suffered.  My customers got harmed because I was not doing my job right.  Work piled up, choking out my bandwidth.  And I couldn’t do the fun things because I always had doom and dread surrounding me.  I can sell people–left and right.   I couldn’t sell with confidence because I was unable to deliver.  I knew it, it eroded my confidence, my ability to wake up with enthusiasm to sell.  It got me off kilter on my projects large and small, and burnout came in.  I was testy about this stuff, and I didn’t build the rest of my business.

Plus, every blog was reinventing the wheel.  I took in a bunch of blogs about 3 weeks ago.  I got jammed up, refunded yet more money.  I got behind on fun little projects. I got behind and surly on delivering my freelancer battleplan.

So I fixed it.  First, I took control of my GTD.  Did a good job with it.  Second, I decided that I needed to start doing things correctly. That I needed to start making this thing a business, and that I was in too many loops.  So, Johnny B. Truant, erstwhile devil that he is, said, “Hey, WordPress?  Johnson, WTF are you hemming and hawing on that.  Pay me a few bones and it’s out of your hair.”

OKAYfine.  I say, “but we gotta define what it means to “install wordpress”

We did that.  In true, analyical fashion, we have the plugins winnowed down, what the “Hard parts” are.

Now, I can sell & host blogs without dread.  I have a worldbeater behind me.  I can now focus on making them all the best.  I have the ball, and I want the ball.  Selling now doesn’t have extra tedium, and I can afford to offer more to my customers because my “headache” is gone.

So, that means:  http://smallbizblogfacts.com will have nothing but how to blog for a LOCAL business wanting REAL LIVE CUSTOMERS that swipe their AMEXES.     That’s project #1, and I’ll focus on it, cause it’s where I get new people to help.

The next one is getting “GenuineChris.Com” upgraded.  It will be my portal, my main site, a “jump in” point for people to get on my lists, and get what I do.  Not that anyone “gets” what I do.  I’m going for the big time, before I run outta time.  I’ve got eyez on me.

I can more or less define my “core” services: sales pages, Social Media Setups, Search Engine Tune Ups, bulk blog writing, auto-responder writing, blog strategy, setups of DAP.  I can create then a menu and a coherent sales process that gives people access, explains what it is, and then get good people to handle fulfillment.  This is what I want.  I am–at heart–a salesperson.  I love to help people.  It’s what I excel at.  I can create a strategy, and I can have really good people (that don’t dig the sales stuff) do the rest.  My customers are the biggest winners here.   Why didn’t I do this before?

I’ll name out my services that I want to sell, and automate where possible.

And, there’s no fixed overhead.  It’s piecemeal.  That’s the beauty.  I have good people–REALLY good people–backing me up.  (Like, world class, you would not-believe-it-if-I-told-you people).  I can now be free to sell, at velocity.

After that project will be the finalization of http://freelancerbattleplan.com.  I’m 2 weeks late.  But this time, I mean it.  I’m gooood to go with it.  Pumped, stoked, and ready.  I’m just learning too much from Teaching Sells to mess with it.

So, this week was a life changer.  Light on new sales, I got 3 big projects 100% done, leaving me with 4 more to finish.  This project, though, that I did with Johnny B Truant is going to pay major dividends, soon.   I am now free to do what I’m good at.

You will indeed here more of me this week.

Low Risk Freelancing is Any Freelancing You do.

risk-game-of-global-domination

People often tell me that I had a lot of guts to leave my job to become a freelancer.  I was risk happy.

This might be the case.  But consider the reality of the landscape I left:  I saw that the mortgage brokers, independently, at least, were dead men walking. This was in 2007.  The peak of the industry was probably late 2005.   2007 was when the carnage started.  I didn’t see it as an ‘ending’ thing.

I made more money because then, I set out to learn from every deal.  I watched the landscape change.  But I was having to improve my skills fast to just keep pace.  I was having to work harder than I wanted to to just survive. And I was working among toxic people.  Lies harm your soul.  In every way, lies hurt.  Tolerating lies in your life is like not worrying about cancer.   The lies that swirled around the industry were different–radically–than the media portrayed them, but there were lies nonetheless (note: the endproduct of lying is the same as laziness.)

I’m making a good living, slowly clawing my way out of IRS debt, but it’s not great.  And even though I have clients and stuff, I am still plagued with wanderlust.  Can I do this?

I could.  Little voices said, “quitter, quitter,” because I didn’t want to join the scores of people that left the industry to join scummy things like selling MLM or some sort of bizzaro sweep account with martian math…I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want to be a quitter.

I guess, I didn’t want to be one of those end-of-the-bar mopes that Alec Baldwin described:  “I used to be in sales, tough racket.”

For a while, I wanted to monetize my client base.  I tried with my employers at FOHF, but they lacked the give-a-shit factor that you need to have.  4 or 5 people didn’t close with them, but did close with Dan Green closed 3 of the 4 that I referred out, one with major problems, two with minimal hassle.   I wanted to stick around, sort of, and get fed off of what I had built as a loan guy.  I wanted one foot in the door there, just in case.

How I Got to be a Good Freelancer.

I had to cross the Rubicon.  I cut my ties, for the last time in May of 2008.  No loans, no loan questions, no loan drama, nothing.  That helped.  .  I was holding on to something that was hurting me.  First, I took some work, first for Tim, then for other friends, setting up WordPress blogs.  The entire time, I was trying to build a membership site.  I failed–but that was my fault.  I succeeded at selling the damn thing, but I failed at running it.   The sales portion is easy, the implementation is where challenges come in.  Story of my life.

Then, I charged 2k-3k to get people set up and trained on blogs.   But there was something amiss.   That price point is just incorrect–it’s neither cheap nor expensive.  It gets the wrong crowd.  It brings entitlementality, revision hell.

After fits and starts, I figured out Thesis.   Borne out of a need to be cheaper and reduce friction, customer service and entitlement among my customers, I created a cheap-o blogging platform.  http://guerrilla.me/thesisblogs.   I recorded a ton of tutorial videos (Screenflow is the best tutorial making software), and threw ‘em into .flv and put ‘em into wP.  And I sold blogs–that others sold for $2500–for $750.  And was profitable, with a low cost of sale and a higher value proposition.  End of story.  I was then free to sell something.

That meant that I have a way to make money any day I wake up, I can have $2500 before sundown, and it was mine.  Soon, fulfillment will not be my bottleneck.

Where Risk Is And Where It Isn’t

In 2007 when I took the plunge most time, I was a mortgage dude.  Right?  Had a good income and solid client base.  Anyway, gist is this:  I was at risk then.  Every day lenders were leaving, Barney Frank was sending regulations down the throat of a whipped and chastened industry.   I didn’t love the work.  I loved being of service to people, I loved the ego, I loved moving a million dollars around.

There was grave risk there.  Regulatory risk: in Ohio, SB 185 was such that ordinary clerical errors carried a felony with them.   That’s risk.

Most people are subject to the caprices of an inept boss or bureaucracy.  That’s risk.

Most people are in a job, capped at what they can do, make, learn and be for 40 of the 168 hours that we have in a week.  That’s risk.

Most people–like I was–are paycheck to paycheck, a misstep away from bankruptcy, a mistep away from doom. No more secure than I am, but because another name is on the check, they seem to think that it will come.  That’s risk.

Risk is siting in a job you hate, ONE MORE F#@%king  DAY for a paycheck that’s not worth it.  Taking your soul and beating it into blandness.   Making your life’s work amount to Schmidt’s .

You don’t need a fortune to leave a bad job.  You need 2 weeks survivability.  You need to do like I did: get rid of the Acura RL, the big house payment.  Get rid of ego-head.   Sell.

(For more info on how to sell, get on the list for http://freelancerbattleplan.com)

The Best Example For Affiliate Program Marketing.

istocktruth

I’ve been thinking a lot about affiliate program marketing.  I’ve read a lot of e-books, infoproducts and I’ve bought a lot of stuff lately, some because an affiliate has recommended them to me.  I’m sure that that affiliate got a commission and I’m cool with that.  I was benefited.

Let me admit something: I’ve been reluctant to promote other people’s products.  I could do what Chris does, and Promote the HELL (emphasis his) out of thesis. I believe in Thesis (a lot).    But, the bottom line is this: I don’t want to promote anything bad that someone has done.  I don’t want to be held accountable and dissipate my credibility with any member of my audience for $40-50 bucks.

I’ve had people sign up with Aweber through my affiliate link. I’ve done this because I want cache with Aweber, not because the revenue is significant.  I have, thus far, not gotten a check from them, and when I do I will donate it somewhere cool.

That is changing.

I’m going to start doing some affiliate marketing very soon.  And I’m going to do it differently.  This, I call Affiliates With Integrity.

  1. Only the best products. I’m never gonna need the $$, so I’m only going to sell what I have paid for.
  2. Nothing Comped. I won’t do an affiliate product if I’ve been comped for ANYTHING ever.
  3. Non affiliate & affiliate links from the site. Just because I don’t want people to feel like they have to buy from me.
  4. 100% guarantee for all affiliates: If you bought via my affiliate link, I will guarantee your purchase 100%.  That is how I roll. If you have ANY problems getting a refund, tell me about it, and I’ll make sure you get refunded.
  5. Only stuff I’ve bought & Used. If I haven’t paid for it, I won’t recommend it.  If it’s crap., I won’t recommend it.

I want to maintain your trust, and I want to talk a little about the good Ideas I’ve paid for.  Freelance X factor fits. (No affiliate links)

Affiliate marketing won’t ever be a significant source of revenue.  But, I want to participate in the programs and start building pages for other people’s stuff.  I want to round out my education as an internet marketer, and why not do it with good stuff?

Five People I Would Drop $200 Because They Told Me To.

  1. Nametag Scott Ginsberg- Scott has never let me down yet with recommendations of books and music.  I believe that he gives a crap about what he slings out there.  And I do believe that if he said, “Johnson, you GOTTA go buy this,” I’d be a moron not to.
  2. Michael Martine- WordPress SEO secrets was solid as hell.  He also put me in contact with How To Launch the **** out of your E-book by Dave Navaro, which was worth  every single penny that it sold for.
  3. Brian Clark- Let’s see, I’ve referred my clients to the Thesis theme, I’ve bough teverything but the Teaching Sells course that he’s sold lately.  I’ve yet to be let down.  He cares too much to putz around with a bad product.
  4. Cristina Favareau- Solid advice, solid work.  She’s never sold anything that I know of, but if she said, “hey Chris, this is $200 bucks, and I think you should have it,” I’d totally take a flier.
  5. Pamela Wier.-  Dude, nicest person on the planet.  Solid copywriter/designer.   She’s got EVERYONE’s best interest at heart.  If you want good copy, go to her.  IF she said that I needed to get this course, I’d do it.  (She’s paid for dozens of internet marketing courses & is completely realistic about it).

I want to make sure that I earn and keep trust.  I won’t ever do affiliate stuff that’s undisclosed.  I will, however, take advantage of the affiliate programs that pay well.

Charisma, Threats, Lies: Putting Away My Staff

prospero

prosperoI’ve always been fascinated Prospero.  His resolution and surrender has stuck with me since tenth grade english class.  Like Cincinattus, a man with power not needing to wield it, not needing to tempt the fates.  A man ready to leave.   Not willing to be Willie Mays and hang on a day too long.  Having the choice to just surrender has been against my character, but I understand retirement, I understand wanting peace.

I have a lot of the traits of an addict and a sociopath.  I am ruthless when I need to be, charming when I can be.  I have a wider variety of tools in my toolbox: from Tyler Dursden style breaking social norms, to flat out unexpected (and self serving) acts if generosity.  I’ve let my emotions control a lot of my moments, and I’ve allowed myself to break focus from what I can accomplish, what I can do and what I can be.

Mostly because of some sort of mid grade, quick fix narcissism that short circuits me a little bit.  People don’t admit what I admit.  I started walking the honesty path a couple years ago because my life wasn’t working.

Charisma, Lies & Threats: The Guide To Being A Sociopath

I used Charisma, Lies and Threats to get by a lot more than anyone should have. I did things that I’m not proud of.   Understand?   OK, stay with me here.  I say that in the past because that’s the aspiration.  I’m trying–hard–to move towards a life with honor, integrity and all things good.  I don’t know what they are.  I can’t handle the anxious and graceless piety of Midwestern Christians.  I can’t handle the premise that without an afterlife this life is meaningless.   This life is sweet, and precious, and I love what’s now and what’s next.

Still–without admitting that you screwed up, you can’t become the man you wanna be.  I have been a mortgage guy, a realtor.  Those industries, like it or not, have a lot of liars in there.  When you hang out with liars, their souls mingle with yours.  There were few stand up guys that would “let your yes be yes” and “no be no” in that industry.   There were few good men that I could see as a role model.  Stated income didn’t work because we’re a nation of thieves.

I mostly told the truth, but only because it was expedient.  I was willing to lie, had no compunction against it.  I was reasonably honest merely because I knew that people have acute BS detectors, and when you begin to lie, it bleeds into other areas of your life.    When you begin to misrepresent, the biggest price is losing your gown grip on reality.   When you lose your grip on reality, you create some new, alternate and unsatisfying reality that leaves you confused and anxious.  When you’re confused and anxious, you’re a bitch to your emotions.

Being willing to do outrageous things to get my way was part of my arsenal.  Not really tantrums per se, but big league threats. I’d make good on stuff people wanted to do because I know that there are few consequences to your actions, that nobody wants to do paperwork and that everyone is dependent on keeping their shitty job.  I never ran into a buzz saw, and the people I know all were astonished I hadn’t been beaten up.   I could charm my way out of loads of situations.

Honesty: Starts One Place At A Time

I’m in the midst of trying to get to the point where I am much freer.  Accurately accounting for my money has had a few effects: first, I know what I can and what I DO make pretty accurately.   Second: It encourages honesty in the other parts of my life.  I’ve been doing an OK job paying off debt. Not great, just OK.  I have always overestimated my income to be what it is on my best months.  I have had phenomenal months, and I’ve also put up bagels.  My ego dwelled on the good months, and my attitude was that the next great month was a heartbeat away.  That’s got its place, but it also bends the reality.  I would always live in last month or next month.  Rarely this month.   I’d say “I make X/year where X = 12 *(highest revenue I’ve had).   That was what I did mentally, to justify the lack of stuff in my life.   Accounting for that is better, and I’m honestly netting out more than I used to because I’m focused.

Good accounting led me to realize that I had a customer service problem.  Too much of my money was being spent on returns.  Mostly because I took jobs I felt I  “had to” or because I ‘covered up,’ mistakes.  I refunded money because I didn’t want problems later.   Or, I’d take on a crushing time debt when I had a cash crunch and sell too much and not be able to honor commitments.  My refunds led me to realize that I didn’t make people feel valued, didn’t make ‘em feel good.  Good at closing, bad followup.  That made me look around at the rest of my life.   Good new friend, bad lifelong friend.  I’m entertaining as hell, but entertaining has limits especially when you don’t care about the people you’re entertaining.  Charm wears off.  Seduction leaves people empty when the promises are unfulfilled.  Being attractive is fine, but if you don’t back up who you want to be it’s not fine.  So I realized I was a shitty friend.

And so on.  But it was all started about 4 months ago when I began to become financially honest with myself.  The  dizzying process that exists when you’re subject to the caprices of the IRS should have made me realize it, but like Boxer, I just had to “work harder.”  Accounting and bookkeeping saved my ass.

What Next:

I honestly don’t know.  I’m committed to helping people first, and trusting that I’ll be taken care of.  I’m committed to being the very best dad I can be to my kids.  I’m committed to being a good husband to my wife.  (I haven’t been, getting fussy and entitled about stuff that doesn’t matter.)  I’m committed to connecting to people here.   I’m not gonna stay a taker.  I wanna be a good son and friend.  What next?  I don’t know.  But all y’all reading this just need to know that this is the first day of some cool stuff that I’m grinding out, and I’m making it all the best I can.

Best to all of you.

This will be the last “personal blog” post I put up here.   All “personal blog” posts will  be moved to genuinechris.posterous.com The accountability on this site will increase substantially, but everything will be referenced at the posterous.

5 Ways To Crush Overhead in Your Freelance Business.

100lowoverhead

overhead, low overhead, less overhead,I abhor debt.  I said we’ve been rubes for accepting the premise that OPM was the way to go to build a business.  That we were stupid for using ‘our own,’ money.  95% of the time, using our own money is what we need to be doing.    We don’t need VC Funding.  We need sales and execution.   The debt+ life is an excuse that people use to sell more crap.  We tolerate debt, and it distorts our profitability.  The dollars we borrow aren’t really employees, they are a product of laziness.  Lazy is OK, once you earn it.

The siren’s song of an easy business is always calling: “For just $90 bucks a month, you can be insulated from THIS kind of work, and haven’t you earned it?  Wouldn’t you be stupid not to?”  That creeps in and creeps up.  Affiliate marketers get clever at selling recurring revenue products, not because it’s best for you, but because it’s best for them.   There is a constant creep up on overhead.  Everything is a promise, and nothing pays off.

Why Crush Overhead?

Keeping your overhead low is the key.  Personal and business.  Why?  Because it’s freedom.  I have low overhead, except for my big mistake with the IRS. But, I minimize what goes out.  That started when I left the mortgage business.  I cut everything and took Mark Cuban’s Advice: it’s OK to live like a Student.

As little financed as possible, and buy stuff only when its earned.  Fight monthly overhead with ferocity.  Have an extreme bias against it.  Have a bias against things that create more work, too.  More bills to manage, and a less leaking bucket.  I believe in most businesses online, overhead (not payroll) should be well under 10% of average monthly revenues.  I’m not qualified to talk about other types of business besides solo-prenuer enterprises.

Business Overhead:

  • CavTel (Internet Service) $61 (incl. taxes)
  • Aweber: $20
  • Paypal Merch. Services : $60
  • Rent: $500
  • Electric: $140
  • Skype: $2.50
  • InfusionSoft (CRM that damn well better work) $299
  • Hosting: $15/month.
  • Water:  $40
  • E-junkie: $5

Total:  $1132.50

That’s everything that I pay for.  Water is high in Westerville for whatever reason.  I have payroll that goes out that’s usually cost of sale type stuff.  That payroll is generally around 20%-30% of gross revenue.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad, it’s all 1099 stuff and easy enough to keep the books on.

My personal expenses are here:

  • Rent: $775/month (Sold houses in 2006 which was smart in retrospect)
  • Car Insurance: $51.00/month
  • Medication/Contacts/Copays: $150/month.
  • Gas: $81
  • Electric: $130
  • Health Insurance: $245/month
  • Cell Phones: $150 (both H and I have a line, some could be added to the biz but we’ll keep it here)
  • Car (is current debt to pay off in August.) $204/month
  • Food: $500/month
  • IRS: $100/month
  • Internet: $34/month

Total: $2420/month.

Business and Personal Total: $3552

Now, I know that there are other expenses here,  but this is the ‘bare minimum’ for keeping the lights on and life going.  This isn’t debt service: I have $400 in student loan payments that need to get paid each month, and I have my IRS bill to contend with ($100).  But that’s debt–different from overhead.  The car payment also could be excluded, but it’s left in there for the sake of argument right now.

My office is within walking distance of my house.  It is negotiable–it keeps me from being a bad dad, but it doesn’t have to exist–it adds about $700 to the expenses, all told.   Doable, compared to many.  Infusionsoft is an experiment. I’m not committed to it–it’s 27% or whatever of my overhead.

Now, let’s recall: I’m $35,000 in the hole to the IRS at the moment.  That’s a ton of money.  That debt WILL be 100% gone by 31 January 2010.  Get it?  Good.

5 Steps For Cutting Overhead:

  1. Druckerize: Write it down, post it publicly.  It improves if it gets measured.  Be 100% honest about it.  Put it on a wall in front of you.
  2. Systematize.  I learned recently that file folders kicked more ass than basecamp.  Find low tech systems and don’t be in love with the high tech pseudo automation.
  3. Share: I don’t know if it’s permissible, but most times, a couple of freelancers could share an account with each other; most businesses run small enough that an aweber or hosting account could be split a couple of ways…saving bucks. (I will be renting my office out to an appropriate tenant shortly)
  4. Cancel: If you have done #1 and posted everything publicly, you’ve got the ability to cancel non performing things.  Don’t hesitate to charge back if the process is too opaque.
  5. Obsess. Every day I wake up I have to earn $150 or I don’t survive.  I need that number to get smaller both in terms of automatic recurring revenue and in terms of expenses.  IF you don’t obsess a little over the bottom line (like Jamie Dimon does), you’re gonna bleed out fast.

So this puts a long term goal of (a) cutting the hell out of overhead.  and (B) covering it with recurring revenue right now.

So we have some other link outs to give:

Jason And Mark Talk about Startups.

Debt: Making Good Men Bitches Since Time Immemorial

tax debt, tax issues, taxes,

For those of you that know me, you know that I’ve owed the IRS for some time.  It’s been a grind for me the entire time.   Monday, I got IRS Letter 2850 sent to me.  Excerpted below (click to embiggen)

tax debt, tax issues, taxes,

My principal balance is under $25,000 which is the IRS’s apparent Magic Number for not making you endlessly fill out form 433a. I don’t know, I’m not a Tax Attorney, not like my friend Phil Hodgen. (Note: preceding link was gratuitous and contains deliberate anchor text.)    This is down from over $93,000 in actual tax plus the juice that I ignored for a year:

IRS-Redux

Now, no doubt that there were some disproportionate consequences for my actions, but bottom line, 99% of this was my fault.  Or, 100% of it was my fault, really, but the consequences that come from being in debt to the IRS are pretty friggin’ severe.  I’m down to ~$35k, all in, no criminal investigations, no perpetual re negotiations, no more levies should hit me.   I’ll pay this off by next tax season, and I’ll be and stay ahead of my taxes.

I’m sharing this because this whole taste has soured me against finance.  I don’t want to be in debt–even if it costs me.  It adds a level of complexity and ‘bitchery’ to my life.  Debt saps my energy and it makes it harder for me to keep my promises.  I’m not doing it anymore.  I’m no man’s bitch.  I have to get out as soon as I can conceivably do it…and never look back.

Here’s why:  I had a great month in July.  But it just caught me up.  I didn’t get ahead, and I’m still waiting for my PPC bill to hit me so I can know how much I have (Google & Yahoo have never been accurate with their statements, have always been off).   I’m still surfing the payables. I will be till this thing is put to rest.  And when it is, I’ll turn the after burners on, get a little scratch up before I make another move.

Having this makes me work less hard.  I understand the conservative argument: it’s futile sometimes to keep grinding out work.  It’s futile to have to work & have all your money go to taxes.  It sucks to look at your family and not be able to do the things you want because you effed up your 20′s.  It sucks to pull in six figures and live like college students.  (Though, as usual Mark Cuban is rockingly right).  Paying a tax I don’t fully believe in kind of sucks.

Debt Slavery isn’t a lie.  I’m not stuck on consumer debt, but I screwed up.  I always thought that the checkerboard would arrange itself so I’d have one massive triple jump and be able pay everything off.  I thought I’d earn enough to swiftly and permanently punch my way out of this thing.  The way I expected things to roll was that I’d be able to pay it all off at once.  Reality doesn’t work like that.  I’m not gonna hold a winning track ticket and suddenly pay everything off.  Gotta chunk it down a little at a time, grind it till the interest stops being most of my income, and do the Debt Snowball thing.

So, a commitment:  I’ll update this about once a month.  Eventually I’ll do the google docs goal tracking thing, but I’ve got other fish to fry, auto responders to write, blogs to sell and a course to design.  Serving others at the highest level I know how is the way to punch through this wall.

Do you bring Peace or Drama into People’s Lives?

tragedy-comedy

My life is good.  I have a few dear friends, and a large number of acquaintances.  I’ve been good, all my life, at staying in touch loosely with people.  The hard drive of my brain is written with bits and pieces from different people from different summers, winters, falls and springs.

I remember details, I remember conversations.  I remember when I impressed people and when they impressed me.

I also learned something, going through an exercise with Infusionsoft–bringing in all the contacts that I have met in my whole life.  It honestly was one of the most significant things to have happened to me recently.   Because I love people (they don’t know it, more on that in a minute) I remember everything.  Because I’ve been a computer geek all my life, I keep track of everyone.  A little bit.  Both in my FB stalkerish ways, and on purpose.

I have yearbooks, I have lists of addresses dating back from my 1997 YAHOO! account.   I have kept the light on for friends and maintained email addresses just in case I get a forward from someone I haven’t heard of in years.

But the truth?  It’s a big deal.  Not shocking to those who know me.

I am a fighter.  Wired that way.  How can I prod, how can I press.  The chess player in me figures people out, sizes them up.  I don’t have that issue where I think of the perfect insult…ten minutes late.  It just rolls out of my mouth, because I arm myself beforehand with what to say.

I want to win, and beat people, and force my will.  Every victory is a Pyrrhic victory.  This wears people out.  Someone does something, makes a some mistake, and I get after it with vigor and venom.

This takes its toll.  I might be right in the moment, but I don’t honor people when I lash out.  I fill a leaky bucket when I cause fights.  I make even my close friends wary of me.  Nervous around me because they’ve seen me follow though on getting after people.  Dressing them down, and worse. I’m not as easily angered as I used to be.  I have mellowed.  I save my energy for fewer, more intense battles.  I don’t bluff, I’m willing, honestly, to do what it takes to get you to acquiesce to me.

That makes for a tough & empty life.  It also means that I’m stuck being a warrior and not a general.  By fighting every time, I wear myself out.

But still.   How can you trust anyone that doesn’t play by the same set of rules, and has already pondered what to do to bring you down?   How can you trust someone that brings a storm-cloud of drama?

By ‘not taking any shit from anyone,’ I am tilting at windmills, spending energy all the time on what people are insecure about, and not doing what it takes to be right, healthy.

It’s a distraction.  I hinted at it in my book.  I knew it intellectually for years, but going through all of my contacts was a painful experience.  There are people I don’t want to hear from because they are jerks.  There are people that don’t want to hear from me because I’ve been sociopathically unconcerned with collateral damage my whole life.  I want to get my way, and I’m willing to bleed for it.

Again, it’s a distraction.  Wining and fighting and spending my energy on nothingbattles is a trick of the devil.   Energy should be spent moving forward.  When people disappoint me (They will) honor ‘em anyway.  Have understanding, have compassion.  Be kind first.  That will build trust.

Even as I write this, the lesson isn’t totally learned.  My ego is injecting thoughts into my head like this: “people will read this and take advantage of you.”   or “well, you can still fight, just do it less often.”

Nah.  It’s time to have a different ethos.  I don’t need to fight, not on stuff that doesn’t matter.

I can bring peace or drama.  Which is better?

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/franglais/

Keeping What You Reep

IRS goofiness

IRS goofiness, Abolish The IRS, IRS is EVILI don’t hide the fact that I’ve been knocked around by the IRS.  It’s pretty obvious that those morons have dug into me.  The dynamic blows: when I call, I view them as callow, shallow and parasitic opportunists that are too cowardly to make a buck so they hurt, enslave, and steal from others, anything to justify their existence.  They view me as a tax cheat, unwilling to wait my turn to reap the benefits of work, and stealing money from welfare babies.

The truth is probably a little of both or something.

But, the real challenge of running around this way, the real bummer of everything I’m trying to do is that–since this became acute at the end of 2006, it’s been damn near impossible to retain money.   They’ve levied multiple accounts while I was, in good faith, negotiating with them.  The decisions I make have to be based on a shorter than normal horizon because they can suffocate me by taking what I do earn.

It’s gotten better since I shored up my accounting and since I got everything (more or less) correctly filed.   I’ve learned that I can take a pounding and keep a marriage (more or less) together.  I learned that I can be a good dad and not snap at my kids despite some fierce stress.

But, it’s frustrating as hell working as hard as I have learned to and not build wealth.  I’m $85,000 in debt, today, and that’s half the amount it was.  I’m chunking out money every single month and it’s exhausting to run to beat the devil.  On my board sits the 5 major debts that I have (student loan, IRS, car, student loans for H & other).

Not having a reserve means you are on a rat race system, accumulating time debt and not able to do what you want to do.   Still, since we cut expenses by downsizing, we’ve got the wiggle room to move, because we don’t have any weeks that cost more than $800 bucks.  We can beat this thing back $300 at a time, and we are.   The interest each month is less.

If I didn’t have bizarre confidence in my skills, I would have caved a long time ago.  I know that I will beat this thing, and build something.  $35 dollars at a time, $200 dollars a week.  All it takes.

Oh, yeah.

You should all go to http://guerrilla.me/thesisblogs and tell me what to do to make that video better.  And, buy a couple blogs.

Photo Credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/chasingfun/