Hilary Parker

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

A great reminder… Work how you work best, not the ways you think you should be working

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm
Get Real

How to Get Creative: Stop Trying

Creativity can come out of nowhere. The trick is to sense it—and ride it to the end.

By Jason Fried |  @JasonFried   | From the July/August 2011 issue of Inc. magazine

Laurent Cilluffo

A few weeks ago, I was on fire. I was working on some designs for a prototype of a new software product, and the ideas were flowing as they hadn’t in months. Every day, I felt as if I were accomplishing two or three days’ worth of work. I was in the zone, and it felt fantastic.

It lasted about three weeks. And then I found myself back at my old pace. Instead of being superproductive, I was sort-of productive. Some days, I felt as if I barely accomplished anything.

So what was wrong? Nothing at all.

I believe it’s perfectly fine to spend some of your time, maybe even a lot of your time, not firing on all cylinders. Just like full employment isn’t necessarily good for an economy, full capacity isn’t always great for your mind.

This will be anathema to the multitudes who worship at the altars of Motivation and its close relation, Productivity. Indeed, when I meet with ambitious young entrepreneurs, I am invariably asked, “How can I get more done in fewer hours? What can I do to jump-start my creativity? How can I keep my edge?”

Here are the three answers I can offer: 1. You can’t. 2. Stop trying so hard—if it feels like work, something’s wrong. 3. Do less stuff.

Motivation, productivity, efficiency—these things are not constants. In my experience, they come in waves. They ebb and flow, and there’s no sense in fighting it. The key is to recognize a productivity surge when it appears, so you can roll with it.

I think about work the same way I think about the weather. Sometimes it’s snowy or rainy or foggy at work. When that happens, I stay “inside”—and take care of the busy work, the boring stuff, the small things that need to get done. But when things warm up, it’s time to head “outside,” to get creative, focus on the interesting problems, and ride the wave of creativity as long as it lasts. It may be days, weeks, even months.

This doesn’t apply only to those who are in charge. If you manage people, it’s important to remember that your employees and colleagues are human, too. They won’t always be motivated to do what you’d like them to do when you want them to do it. Their creativity will ebb and flow, just like yours.

This, of course, is a source of frustration for many managers, who continue to believe that if they change this or tinker with that, they’ll be able to squeeze more of the good stuff out of their people. But you can artificially motivate someone for only so long. It’s nearly impossible to fight the natural rhythm of motivation and productivity. You’re better off recognizing that than waging war against reality.

Of course, that does not mean you should simply sit back and do nothing. When I detect that an ordinarily creative employee hasn’t been in the flow for a while, I will ask him or her about it, try to get the issue out in the open. In some cases, it turns out that he or she is simply not interested in his or her current project. Other times, there are external issues—such as a personal crisis—that cause motivation to flag.

If it’s something I can help with, I often suggest shifting to another part of the project that’s more in line with his or her motivations. If it’s something beyond my control, I just let it work its way out of the employee’s system. If it becomes a long-term issue, then there’s a problem that needs to be addressed by other means. In fact, we recently instituted 30-day paid sabbaticals for every three years worked. This is in addition to standard vacation time. So far, one person has taken us up on it. No one was particularly surprised when he returned to work more motivated—and productive—than ever.

Jason Fried is co-founder of 37signals, a Chicago-based software firm, and co-author of the book Rework, which was published last March.

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My latest blog for client Solvate.com (and a really good argument for hiring me… hint, hint)

In Uncategorized on July 27, 2011 at 9:26 am

 

Sticker Shock? Try Value Shock

When my non-freelance friends ask me about how my business is going, they’re always curious about my hourly rate. Some are too polite to bring it up. Others ask blatantly and then say things like, “Wow, wouldn’t it be nice if I earned that much an hour!”

Yes, it would be nice — if I earned that rate for the roughly 60 hours of work I do every week. But that’s not how freelancing works. Freelancing is different than traditional jobs. I don’t get to charge each of my working hours to a client. Instead, I do a ton of keeping up-to-date on trends in my industry and then put that knowledge to work when a client calls. I also have billing and prospecting to do, not to mention banking, paperwork, shopping for supplies, networking… The list goes on. Then there’s the pro bono work I do, which is really important to me but not something I get to bill for, either. And I’m not sure how most freelancers do it, but I usually don’t charge for quick client e-mails, either… And just managing my inbox could be a full-time job.

I’ve had a few people express sticker shock at my hourly rate — but they were surprised by the bang-for-their-buck value of my work. In fact, I recently had to raise my rate with one of my Solvate clients because of new demands on my time, and she said, “You tell me what you need, and I’ll pay it.” That’s because she knows what a bargain it is to hire Solvate talent. We bring our insight, experience and can-do spirit to the table each and every time.

So the next time you’re browsing our Solvate talent profiles, remember all the hours of preparation that go into that rate — and smile, knowing you’re getting a great value.

I so need an office.

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Just got back from taking my daughters to Bloomington, Indiana, for a week to kick it with my old besties from high school and their kids. Wow, what an experience it was to see our kids interacting. At one point, we had 11 kids at one table, noshing, with us parents running to and fro, fetching sippy cups or hot dog buns “NO KETCHUP!” or whatnot and I looked around, bemused. Weren’t we just those kids?

But I digress. What I’m here to tell you is that while I squeezed in a few hours of work every day, and while I loved having so much downtime with my girls, I totally missed digging into the writing I normally get to do. And I’ve got a mountain of it here, just waiting for me! It’s totally exciting.

And then I came home to my office. 😦 Having wee Tess back in November meant converting my office to the nursery, so I’ve been working from… yep… bed. It makes “strategic regrouping sessions” (i.e., my mid-day naps) quite convenient, but it’s hell on a sister’s back.

So it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll need to set up an actual office in the near future. I like this one:

(Relax, it’s not a G6. It’s a stretch SUV!)

Just kidding. But it did remind me of the guy in 2A on this morning’s flight into Denver who said that after his son was born, he worked standing up in his garage off his tailgate.

Anyway, it’s great to be back.

And look at all I missed! Apple’s filed a patent for a keyless keyboard?

http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-keyboard-2011-7?op=1

If Apple really wanted to be bad ass, it would also make it blank. Can you tell I just loved that campaign?

OK, time to catch up on some seriously fun work now.

Congrats to Bullpen Communications Client Normal Modes!

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2011 at 3:16 pm

A big “woot!” goes out to Normal Modes, an awesome user experience (UX) consulting firm based in Houston, for landing the cover of an industry magazine. You’ll have to wait until September to know which one, but everyone is thrilled — myself especially, as working with these guys is super cool. All I did was hold the football while they kicked the goal, but I am a very proud football holder today!

Great new infographic on freelancing thanks to my boys at Freshbooks

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

The Ninja Freelancer (wrote this for my awesome client, Solvate.com)

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2011 at 10:19 am
By Hilary, July 13th, 2011

The Ninja Freelancer

Several of my clients were new to working with freelancers — and the Solvate model — when they first hired me. They had a rough idea what they needed, but no idea how to get there. They also had another thing in common: They were worried about keeping their costs down. Don’t worry, I told them. We freelancers strike like a team of ninjas: We’re quick, efficient and extremely results-driven. (Wait… Is “team” even the right term for more than one ninja?)

Here are three facts you should know when considering hiring a Solvate freelancer:

1. Hiring a freelancer allows you to choose exactly the right tool for the job.
Of course, I just called myself a “tool.” But I’m OK with that as long as you get my point: Don’t hire a staffer who’s got only some or even most of the qualifications and experience you’re looking for. That’s settling — and it comes with additional costs in terms of time spent managing and training that person… not to mention paying his or her benefits. Instead, reach out to the screened and fabulous Solvate network of professional freelancers and have your pick of top talent with exactly the skills you need.

2. You get better work from an hourly freelancer than you do from most salaried employees.
Why? Because we, too, are running a business, and we want you to love our services, hire us again and recommend us to your friends and colleagues. Not to lean too hard on the ninja metaphor, but did you ever see a ninja lolling around at the water cooler rather than getting his work done?

3. We care about your bottom line.
When your business does well, we stand to get more work. But more importantly, a freelancer is only as good as his or her portfolio, so we’re very careful to put only our best work out there. That’s why we’ll refer you to a fellow freelancer if we’re not a great fit for your project or point out potential roadblocks that we’ve experienced while working on previous projects.

These three facts are why the formal work model of offices, salaries and titles is slowly disintegrating. Freelancing ninjas are right for the job, a great bang-for-your-buck investment and always have your back.

Ready to find your freelance ninja? Start your search today, or request to work with Hilary directly here.

Jobless recovery or entrepreneurial surge?

In Uncategorized on July 13, 2011 at 9:28 am

 

Double-dip recession. Housing bubble redux. “Real” unemployment figures at 15 percent.

These recent headlines are enough to make many Americans lose their schmidt.

But I’ve had the good fortune both to work as an entrepreneur and to work with entrepreneurs. And I’ve got to tell you, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. There’s a whole section of the American workforce that’s pursuing their dreams and doing what they love.

Some of them couldn’t imagine leaving the safety of their well-paying job in order to start their own venture —until they got downsized. Others got tired of their employer’s cost-cutting practices — which left them doing the work of two employees — and thought, “Hell, if I’m going to work this hard, I’m going to work for me.” Others hit upon a way to make some income while job searching just out of college and ended up selling their start-up for serious money.

No matter how they got there, they have something in common: They’re not going back. They’re having way too much fun doing what they love to trade it all in for a “regular” job.

It’s also an exciting time to be a venture capitalist. VCs have more unique investment opportunities than at any other time in recent history, and plenty of rewarding work to be done helping guide first-time entrepreneurs.

Watch this blog for future profiles of a few of my entrepreneurial clients. But be warned — their enthusiasm is catching!

Keywords: Thought leadership

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Way before Google’s Panda update, the Internet citizenry had become disgusted with keyword-heavy crap floating like dolphin-killing plastic six-pack soda rings in our ocean. Panda means your Google search results are cleaner (whoopee!) but it does nothing to help the fact that Craigslist’s gig postings are full of people hiring writers to crank out more keyword-heavy crap. Only this time, most of them are for blogs.

What ever happened to the Internet being a source of good? Of light? Of, at the very least, information that wasn’t deliberately constructed to make its reader act in a certain way?

I mean, any monkey with a keyboard (especially my favorite wicked cool one) can write a blog. What our ocean needs now is insight and information sharing. That’s why I’m so glad to see more and more companies and organizations embracing the concept of thought leadership online.

Thought leadership isn’t new; the term, coined in 1994 by Booz, Allen & Hamilton’s Joel Kurtzman, referred to those business leaders who were a few steps ahead of everyone else. Today, in relation to the Internet, the term is a kind of brass ring that groups hope to seize. It’s a way of graduating at the top of your class… of attaining keynote speaker status. Thought leadership means your company gets more business, your nonprofit gets more campaign contributions, your Twitter account gets more retweets.

It’s the Internet’s way of saying, “These people don’t eff around. They know their stuff, they’re here to share their ideas and they’re open to interaction.” And those last two points are crucial: The days when our online presence was nothing more than a highly-controlled, one-way conversation are over. If you’re a company, you’ve got to embrace the fact that your customers own your brand just as much as you do (and probably more so). If you’re an association, you’ve got to let someone other than the president or the VP of public relations “speak” with your members online. And if you think being stingy with information is going to get you the brass ring, think again. You’ve got to go out and be generous with what you know. Sure, some information is proprietary, and some of it is members-only, but if your site is nothing more than an electronic brochure, no one will visit it more than once.

So recycle your plastic six-pack soda rings, grab your best ideas and put them out there. Only those bold enough to share what they know will be considered the category leaders in this next phase of Internet development.

Fabulous new client, Dillon Road, looking for Image Consultants

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 11:05 am

Happy Friday!

I used to start my Fridays with “TGIF”-related thoughts, but these days, I’m fortunate enough to love what I do so much that it’s more like “TGIM.” (Of course, it may have something to do with the fact that herding my howler monkey daughters all weekend leaves me looking forward to the relative peace and quiet a Monday brings.)

Worked like wildfire yesterday with an awesome new client, Dillon Road, a custom men’s wear company that offers custom-tailored, gorgeous, super-high-quality dress shirts to its clients. They use a 10-point measuring system, and then the shirts are cut and sewn just for the customer by a single seamstress. Even better, they do it when and where the client wants. That’s right, Dillon Road “Image Consultants” meet their clients at the office or wherever it’s most convenient. You can’t find service like that anymore — and that’s why I can’t wait to watch the company take off! It also doesn’t hurt that it’s been founded by two remarkably talented entrepreneurs with fantastic track records. These guys know how to make things happen. Dillon Road plans to offer additional products in the future, so stay tuned.

I’m posting it so that you have a chance to become a client and because they’re looking for Image Consultants. Looking to get in early on the next big thing? See if you’ve got what it takes to become an “IC.”

For the iPad, Books That Respond to a Child’s Touch – NYTimes.com

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 4:14 am

I’m an unapologetic iPad parent. These books are amazing!