Categories
People

The Currency of Social Value

When we say the word currency most think of money, foreign exchange, ice grills or the $ sign in Ke$ha’s name. But currency is simply a medium of exchange. Coins, notes and plastic are just one form.

Time, mobility and authority are a few other forms of currency. But today I want to talk about a currency called social value.

Social value is an interesting concept – most people know it exists but few have quantified or qualified it.

Social value is what gets you into a night club, it’s what lets you dodge a ticket with the police, it’s what attracts a large crowd to your party and it’s what gets you the girl.

Social value is not only useful in social situations it also helps greatly in the world of business.

What is Social Value?

Social value can come in many forms and different people will value different forms. Below are a few:

Offering Positive Emotions by Being:

  • Fun
  • Interesting
  • Engaging
  • Exciting
  • A good listener
  • Empathetic

Offering Physical Stimulation by Having:

  • Contacts
  • Knowledge of interesting places
  • Knowledge of interesting activities

Offering Vicarious Status Through:

  • Fame
  • Power
  • Education
  • Good looks
  • Belonging to a certain ‘class’

By now you probably agree that at least a few of these can bring influence at some level. But notice none of them are material? No yachts, platinum credit cards or diamond rings – things associated with the currency of money.

So what do you do with social value?

Social value can be traded like any other currency. It can be traded for different forms of social value, for time, money, authority etc…

Examples:

If you have certain contacts that can get you into a cool party, you could ‘trade’ access to that party for the time of someone who brings interest and humour to the night.

Or if you have fame or power, you could trade that for time by having others complete menial tasks in exchange for ‘being in your presence’.

How does that Help in Business?

Social value is too big of a topic to break down in a single post but here are two examples of business use.

Situation 1: You want someone’s time

If you want someone’s time (a form of currency), you will need some form of currency to trade. Of course you could forcefully ‘take’ someone’s time by cornering them in a meeting room and chewing their ear off, but more than likely this won’t end productively.

Money will work if you want to buy something and they are providing a good or service. Authority will also work but only with people who report into to you.

But what if you are trying to sell something, gain advice or want free media exposure? Offering social value may be your only option. If you can display to the person you will be funny, interesting and a good listener who will implement the advice given – chances of booking that meeting are higher.

Situation 2: You want someone’s money

I want you to think like a middle manager in a Fortune 500 company. You have a $1 million pa budget, small change for a fortune 500. With your budget you need to purchase goods, say software and office supplies. Both software and office supplies can be obtained through many resellers, all selling the exact same product for very similar if not identical prices. So why would you choose one supplier over another? You’re not even spending your own money.

The answer is: whoever gives the most social value

The salesman who takes you out for drinks and shows you a good time. Who brings you to events and introduces you to new, useful contacts. The salesman who makes you laugh or always has the latest on your favourite sports team. That’s who you’ll buy from.

So what do I do Now?

Social value is something you should always have in mind. Are you taking more from an interaction than you’re giving? If so, you may be pissing someone off.

If you call someone to ask for help understand you’re taking a currency off them (time) and be sure to try and give some form of currency back, either now or in the future. This will ensure a healthy relationship.

What about Friends?

Glad you asked.

The currency ‘exchange’ changes greatly with close friends. Through spending time with someone and building shared experiences the exchange starts happening over longer periods of time, years instead of minutes. This is a good thing don’t worry. Please don’t stop doing favours for your friends because it’s not a fair trade.

That being said, it’s still something to keep in mind. Large inequalities in currency exchange have been the downfall of many relationships.

Pay it Forward

I learned this term the other day from reading Colin Wrights book: Networking Awesomely. Paying it forward is offering value without seeking value in return. If you’re always out giving any form of value (including social), chances are you will receive some back somehow somewhere. Colin goes into depth on this subject talking about how to give value without seeking return but at the same time not being taken advantage of.

This was a brief overview of social value. Social value is used in every relationship from romantic, family, friends & business. It’s used everyday by everybody. It’s not something that one should try and manipulate but understating its value (!) and being aware of how you interact with the world may come in useful down the line.

Have you experienced the value of social value?

Share!

Categories
Technology

Emailing Awesomely – The Definitive Guide to Email Structure

Email is, and has been for some time an important form of communication. There are lots of tips out there on how to write emails for achieving specific outcomes. There was a great post recently on how to contact market leaders and there are many blogs on how to use email as an effective sales tool. But what about for those circumstances that are too ad-hoc, that you may not see direct value from or just don’t seem important? How do you construct your emails then? Do you have a set format you follow? Do you even need to worry about how you construct them? I think yes.

I feel every single piece of communication I have with anyone is important. Unless they are friends of more than a few years you really should be following a ‘standard’ email format for EVERY email. This is not just with business either, but with every contact you make. Whether you are talking to your accountant, looking to rent an apartment or buying a fish you should follow your standard format. Your standard email format will vary depending on who you are, what you do and what kind of first impression you’re trying to give off, in other words, your identity.

There are a few reasons I recommend having a structure to how you write your emails.

  • It gives you a fall back format if you’re unsure how to handle that particular kind of email
  • It makes your email writing quicker as once you get the hang of it, you wont have to think about how to structure your email before you start
  • And most importantly: It gives the reader an idea of what kind of person you are

Letting people know your identity, what you do and how you can help is super important. You NEVER know when someone you speak with could open up a new opportunity for you. The guy selling the fish could be your next client or boss.

You are definitely going to write many more emails (or waves) in your life, so its fair to say that writing a good email is a necessary skill and one you should take care of – if you haven’t already.

You may also be interested in this: Top Chrome Extensions for Email Optimization

What is a Good Email?

In my day I’ve had many an email discussion with people from all walks of life. Working as a recruiter, and now as an Entrepreneur means I’ve made first contact with people from the strange to the successful. I’ve had conversations with students, scholars and salesmen with clerks, caterers and CEOs and with bankers, builders and beauticians. Out of all the types of people I’ve had email conversations with, there are few that project a professional, educated and articulate image in their writing. It’s not because they’re uneducated or can’t articulate their thoughts, it’s because they don’t put in the effort or don’t think it’s important.

As a high level rule, bankers and salesmen are the best email writers. And they should be, they get trained on how to write an email. CEOs are fairly hit or miss, as are most senior managers in large non-white collar industries. Everyone else, well, they usually suck. This is good news for you tho because it makes it easy to stand out from the pack.

A good email has many variables including your identity, who you’re contacting and why you’re contacting them. But there is a constant that flows with all well written emails and that is structure. How you structure an email says lots about your personality and thus should be taken into consideration with EVERY email you write. Not just first contact.

How to structure a good email?

Below is the general structure for a well written email. I will explain in detail below.

  • Greeting
  • Pleasantry
  • How you got their details, call back and reason for email
  • Body Topic 1
    • Situation
    • Benefits
    • Call to Action
  • Body Topic 2
    • Situation
    • Benefits
    • Call to Action
  • Body Topic n
    • Situation
    • Benefits
    • Call to Action
  • Closing line
  • Signature

Greeting

The greeting is simple. If you know their name “Hi NAME,” or “Dear NAME,” will suffice. If you don’t know their name (in the instance of contacting some businesses or a seller on craigslist open with a simple “Hello,”

Pleasantry

You should ALWAYS follow with a pleasantry after your greeting. EVERYTIME without fail. Ingrain this into your fingers so that you naturally spit it out with each email you write. There is no reason ever why your email shouldn’t have a pleasantry. Even if you are criticising someone (which you shouldn’t do over email anyways) you should still have a pleasantry to give them the sandwich effect. You will never have anything to lose by adding in a pleasantry, you will make people more inclined to read the rest of your email, you will soften criticism, and will hit the positive emotions of a few. Most will simply ignore it, but for two seconds if your time, its definitely worth it.

Pleasantries can include the following:

  • I hope you’re well
  • I hope all is well
  • I hope the day/week is treating you well
  • I hope all is well since we last spoke

Once a conversation has started:

  • Thanks for that
  • Thanks for getting back to me
  • Thanks for your response
  • Thanks for your quick response

This is also the line where you can start to display some of your personality and identity. You can add in your super-awesome-fun-exclamation-mark-loving personality or your polished articulate self.

  • I’m super excited you got back to me, thanks!!!

or

  • Thank you kindly for your prompt response, it is most appreciated.

How You Got their Contact Details, Call Back and Reason for the Email

This portion of the email will vary depending on the purpose of the email and how you know the person. Use your common sense to determine what to put here but here are a few points that should cover most circumstances.

How you got their contact details

This is only necessary at the start of a conversation. But adding in a line such as “I found your details on xyz website or social media platform” gives the reader a sense of where you are coming from – this is important for first contact.

Call Back Content

If you got their contact details at a networking event, party or some other scenario where you had an interaction of some sort, built some rapport and made plans to stay in contact – this is a great place to add in what I call call back content. If you spoke about a sporting event, a ski trip, kids, whatever – add a few lines in this portion of the email. This will firstly help them to remember who you are and further built rapport. It will also give them some content to bounce off making it easier and more enjoyable for them to respond.

Reason for Email

A reason for the email should be included in every new conversation, even if you’ve spoken to the person before.

  • I wanted your opinion on xyz
  • I have a proposition/opportunity I think you may be interested in
  • I have a few things I think we should catch up about
  • I have an update on xyz project or report
  • I have some news I think you should hear

This should be brief as you will explain it further, but should give the reader an idea about what they’re in for. This is important when contacting busy people. Also, if the email has multiple topics (discussed below) outline them here.

“I wanted to give you an updated on xyz project and see if you were available to catch up with George on Tuesday”.

You may also be interested in this: Process Street the Ultimate Business Productivity Tool

Body

The body should be broken into three parts.

  • Situation
  • Benefits
  • Call to Action

You need to repeat these three parts for every topic in your email.

Situation

This is what is happening, the reason for the email in more detail and what needs to be done (basically what most people write in a normal email).

“I’ve just received the report back from John and we need you to look over it. It shouldn’t take too long, just need you to check the final figures and make sure the portions that relate to your team are worded correctly. We need it back by lunch tomorrow”

Benefits

The father of self help Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People states the only way to make someone do something is to make them want to do it. Unless we are communicating with friends, chances are we want something out of every email we send. The way you make people want to do something, is by explaining the benefits. You can always find a benefit for why someone should do something.

In the above example “I’m sorry for the short timeframe, but BOSS MAN is coming down hard on me to get this finished and your section is the last one we need.” – The benefit here is that he will either avoid getting in trouble by BOSS MAN if he does this on time, or he will get emotional gratification for getting you out of trouble with the boss.

Most interactions will have some kind of mutual benefit. If you’re trying to get a job, buy, sell or share something, chances are you have some type of value to offer. If you’re really stuck for a benefit you can always “owe them one” or “buy them a beer”.

Don’t forget to highlight the benefit.

Call to Action

Once you’ve told them what needs to be done, and what they’re getting out of it, you need to put in a specific call to action or next step.

In the above example: “Please confirm via email that you will be able to complete this for me by lunch tomorrow. If I haven’t heard from you by 4pm today, I will give you a call.”

Here are some other examples:

  • Please contact John on this number at this time
  • Please send this report here on this date
  • I will call you at 4pm on Monday to come see the fish
  • Please start this as soon as possible, I will call you on Tuesday at Lunch to see how things are progressing

This step assigns accountability, adds a timeframe and a specific follow up action to get things moving straight away without additional emails back and forth.

Remember: rinse and repeat these three steps for each topic in your email.

Closing Line

This is a simple line, almost a second pleasantry. Something like:

  • Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or issues
  • I will follow up shortly to check your thoughts
  • Thanks so much for helping me out with this
  • I look forward to your response

Signature

Finish off with your signature. This will include some kind of a:

  • Regards
  • Kind Regards
  • Thanks
  • Cheers

Plus your name and additional contact information such as phone number, website, social media profile etc.

Check out Wisestamp – an awesome free Firefox Plug-in that adds HTML signatures to any web email client such as Gmail. It includes integration and cool little icons for blogs and social media profiles.

Adding this information is important because if you’ve made a good impression in your email and sparked some curiosity it allows people to go off and find out more about you.

Conclusion

This may seem like lots to integrate into every email you write, but as I mentioned, having a structure for your emails will actually increase the speed you write them once the structure is internalised. Having this kind of structure will also give people a strong first impression. Not only that you are kind, formal, structured, put in effort and courteous – but the body will be a relief for people who deal with large volumes of emails as it is telling them exactly what needs to be done. There is nothing more annoying than receiving an email that you need to respond to asking for more information before you can action it.

I hope this helps you build an email structure – personalised to your own identity – that will lead to rewards in the future. Remember, some people will not remember when you write an email well, but they will certainly remember when you write on badly. So make it a habit to write awesome emails!

Categories
People

Networking Awesomely Review

The other day I read a book by Colin Wright called Networking Awesomely. Colin lives a truly abstract lifestyle as a location independent professional, moving to a new country every 4 months as he runs his design studio remotely. The country he moves to is decided by the readers on his blog Exile Lifestyle. In this book, Colin talks about the lessons he has learned about networking and meeting new people as he travels the world.

Review

Networking Awesomely is a guide to networking in the new world. It encompasses old school networking strategies, new school technology and a touch of awesomeness. A book perfect for both newcomers and veterans alike Colin philosophises, deconstructs and simplifies networking from every angle. A strong message to rethink the boundaries between your lifestyle, friends, business colleagues and even sexual partners – this is a book not just on networking but on life. For the more experienced you will receive at the very least a number of handy tips to network in common (and some uncommon) situations plus a refresher on many of the important life lessons once learned.

Colin incorporates lifestyle design, social dynamics, the concept of value, frames of reference and more to help build confidence, attractiveness and social skills – turning you into a natural networking machine. But don’t let the big words scare you as Networking Awesomely simplifies the lot making it an easy read for all. With stories, humour and a cheeky attitude it will be tough to put this down once you start. This book wont leave you dreaming about what could be either. Colin delivers many “do it now” tips including advice on fashion, social networking shortcuts, email scripts and business card design to get you networking awesomely right away.

Another interesting aspect to the book is the input from other bloggers. Not only is this empirical evidence of Colin’s ability to network but gives extra spice to the material. You will hear from many new world networkers about their approach, thoughts and successes from networking.

We all (should) know networking delivers exceptional value in all areas of life. A small investment to improve this skill is a no-brainer. It only takes one person to change your life. Buy it now!

You can check out the book here.

Categories
Technology

Tools to Build you a New Life

I came across a post about a week or so ago by Rob at http://thelifedesignproject.com. Its an excellent collection of all the resources he’s found since starting his Lifestyle Design journey. The list includes books, blogs, and tools both functional and research based.

There are heaps tools way to many in my opinion to hit at once so I wanted to highlight a few that I like most and add in a few I use that he didn’t mention.

My Favourites:

Evernote: This tool is amazing. It allows you to manually enter notes from your PC, iPhone, Blackbery or Web Browser in voice, photo or text. It then syncs all your devices together and stores them on the web. You can search, tag, group and do a whole bunch of stuff. There is a plugin for Firefox so you can dump straight from web pages, great of off-line reading. It also has image scanning capabilities to scan text from photos of business cards or receipts. You get a free 40mb upload per month, which is loads if you mostly use text but can fill up quickly if uploading high-res images or voice.

The Google Suite: I’m not going to go through all the Google tools, but if your not using them, use a fool! Gmail, Docs, Analytics, Adwords, Calendar, Apps, Webmaster Tools, Reader, Picassa etc… I’m sure there are plenty of resources on how to make the most of these tools. They will save you loads of time and stress. Check em out.

The Four Hour Work Week: This book simply kicks ass.

Elance/oDesk: Outsourcing sites. Ebay’s for services. I haven’t tried oDesk, but I hear good things.

My Additions:

Dropbox: Dropbox is an application that creates a folder on your computer where you can save any kind of file. It then automatically syncs everything in that folder to the web, giving you a real-time backup of your files. You can access these from any web browser or from your iPhone. This app really gives me peace of mind and the great thing about it is once its installed, you don’t have to do anything! Its just like using your documents folder. plus you get 2 GB of storage for free!

Shopify: I currently run my online store using Shopify. Its a great site, really (relatively) simple to use and removes the most difficult and technical aspects (besides finding customers!) of running an online store. It has great support, loads of marking help, integration with many apps and tools such as Google Website Optimiser and Google Product Search.

LinkedIn: I talk about LinkedIn here and here. Its a great tool for personal branding, networking and marketing.

Amazon Kindle: This thing is awesome. Its an eBook reader. It allows you to store 1500 books and download new books from Amazon in over 100 countries. Bookmark, highlight and take notes, its a library in 6″. And its really easy to read. I don’t like reading books on a computer, but this is like a normal book. You can also read pdf’s and word docs on it. There is lots of hype around the iPad becoming a Kindle killer, but the iPad has 10 hours batter life and the Kindle has 7 days. Hard to compete if you want to use it to read books and not watch YouTube videos.

What are your favourite tools?

Categories
Business

How to Take a Phone Message… The Abstract Way

I’m assuming some people reading this are going to be like “wtf? does he think I’m an idiot and don’t know how to take a phone message?” but you would be surprised how many people absolutely suck at taking phone messages. Coming from an industry where the phone is king it’s amazing how many people in my office couldn’t take a decent phone message…. And seriously, it’s not that hard but it’s such an important skill to have and an effective message can make or break a deal.

There are 3 elements to a message:

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Reason for call

These elements are non-negotiable. If you want to add additional elements to the message, feel free, but the BARE minimum should be the above 3 points.

Name:

The persons full name, with spelling. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE SPELLING of both names! To make sure you have spelt it correctly, repeat the spelling back to them or ask them to spell it for you then repeat the spelling to confirm it is correct. This is so important and there are few things more annoying than “please call Dave on 111-222-3333”.

Contact information:

Phone number and company (or relationship to the person they are calling, friend, sister etc..). Again, make sure you repeat the phone number. You could also consider taking a secondary number (land line) and an email address.

Reason for call:

This is the big one that people usually let slide. But it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make knowing why someone is calling. If someone has started working for me and one week later resigns, and I get a call from my client saying that the person I placed has just resigned, I sure as hell want to know about it before I pick up the phone and call them back. The reason for the call gives the person who has to return the call a chance to prepare before they pick up the phone. A chance to call other people first and find out what is happening so you are not walking into a bear trap!

Delivery:

There are a number of ways to deliver a message. In my experience, the two most common are hand written and email. But I can envision social media could be a pretty good way to take messages also. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn could all be used.

My messages are always taken in email. As soon as I pick up someone else’s call, I open a new email and make the subject line “message”.

I then structure it with the above 3 points. Below is an example.

There are a few of short cuts I use, but before you start using them make sure the people you are taking messages for know what they mean. I think these are made up, I’m not sure. But you can make short cuts for certain functions that relate to your job. Off the top of my head here are a few:

RYC = Returning your call

PCB = Please call back

JE = Job Enquiry

MC = Marketing Call

Inv = Invoice related

You get the picture…

The benefits of email (besides saving the environment) is that its highly visible, instant, doesn’t get lost and is traceable. If you write your message on a post-it note or loose piece of paper then 2 hours later the person you took the message for comes up and says – why didn’t you give me that message? There isn’t much you can say in your defense.

Sorry if I hurt anyone’s intelligence with this post.

What’s the most annoying message you have ever received?

Categories
People Technology

The Definitive Guide to LinkedIn Recommendations

LinkedIn is the biggest business social network in the world. It allows you to post up a snapshot of your career and connect with relevant professionals plus a whole bunch of other cool stuff. If you don’t have an account, you should get one today.

There are many different ways LinkedIn can be used to further your business or career. This post focuses on recommendations.

What are LinkedIn Recommendations?

LinkedIn has a recommendation system that allows someone to send you a recommendation and have it displayed on your profile to the public world. This system is great and can be used in the same manner as either a reference check or a testimonial only better.

The reason this system is better than traditional testimonials plastered over your website or a letter from a former boss is the reference is connected to that person’s profile. So whoever is interested in your recommendations can track them back instantly and see who recommended you and how respectable they are.

Another great thing about LinkedIn recommendations (as with other benefits of LinkedIn) is that they will last your whole life. A little work now will go a long way later.

What about Fake Recommendations?

When I talk to people about LinkedIn recommendations, a constant response I get is “don’t people just make them up or get their buddies to recommend them? How valuable are they really?”. To this I answer, “yes, they probably do”.

Here’s the catch. The recommendation system of LinkedIn reconciles itself. If I recommend you, it is displayed on my profile that I recommended you. If I’m trying to build my personal brand and you’re a total douche bag, I’m not going to recommend you.  Yes, some people may get recommendations that are illegitimate, but you can usually sus them out. Here are some situations that may raise suspicion:

– 5 people in similar positions, all recommended by the other 4.

– Recommendations from people with inactive or incomplete profiles.

– All recommendations on the same or close dates

If you have recommendations from over 20 people, most who work in respectable jobs and who have something to loose from a negative personal brand, chances are they are going to be legitimate recommendations. Even if all those 20 people are your friends, you still must be a decent person to have 20 respectable people like you enough as friends to recommend you. And in that alone I believe there is merit.

Now if you can get recommendations from super valuable people, even better. How do you think traceable recommendations from Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Donald Trump would look?

P.S. If anybody knows them, tell them to hit me up!

How do I Get People to Recommend Me?

There are two key ways I have gotten recommendations.

The first, is basically working with the buddy system I talked about above. These are people I had a good working relationship with at some point and asked them if we could swap recommendations. I knew I was good at my job, I also knew they were good at theirs so it was mutually beneficial to swap recommendations.  A cheeky message of “write me a recommendation and ill write you one back” is easy to do and is win-win. But remember, you’re putting your personal brand on the line, so don’t ask people who you genuinely don’t think are good at whatever they do.

The second way, and the more effective way is to ask someone for a recommendation as soon as you deliver some sort of value to them. For example, if you are a designer or freelancer and you deliver a good project to a client and they are happy with it, ask them for a recommendation. Make sure you do this straight after you deliver the work as it will still be fresh in their mind.

For me, I was a head-hunter, so every time I placed someone in a job or found a client their perfect candidate, I would ask for a recommendation. You won’t get them every time you ask, but if you have done a good job, and they are happy, it’s not a big favour to ask.

Here is the structure I use to build my connections and ask for recommendations.

When I first interacted with someone new for work, whether on the phone, in person or via email I would send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

(Quick tip: you can send a message to someone with a free account by sending them an invitation with a short note attached. This saves you from having to pay to upgrade your account to send ‘inmails’ to people who you are not connected with)

“Hi xxx

It was great meeting you / speaking with you today.

I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Look forward to working with you in the future.

Regards,

Vinay”

Keep it simple, and non-specific. But making sure you have everyone you’re working with on your network, the ones you do add value to are already there so asking for the recommendation down the line easier.

Once you have delivered value of some sort, bring up a recommendation in a meeting. Here is an example of a conversation I’ve had after delivering value:

XYZ: Vinay, I just want to say thanks for finding me this job. It’s working out really well.

Me: No problems, XYZ, glad to hear you’re happy there. I want you to make sure you call me if there are any problems or if there is anything I can do to help.

XYZ: Ok no problems, I will talk to you soon.

Me: Oh, XYZ, there is one thing I thought of just before you go

XYZ: Oh what’s that?

Me: Well… I’ve done a pretty good job helping you out right?

XYZ: Yes of course!

Me: Well I was wondering if you could do me a small favour. It will only take a few minutes.

XYZ: Sure

Me: I was wondering if you could write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. We are already connected and it would really mean a lot.

XYZ: Sure Vinay, no problems. Give me a few days and I will send one out.

Give them 1-2 days to write the recommendation. If they haven’t done it after 2 days, go into your LinkedIn account, into recommendations and send them a “request for recommendation” message. A default template will come up, just use that. If they still don’t do it after a few days, you will need to use your judgement to decide how much you will chase them. If they are a super busy important high value person, probably best to give them a significant amount of time. Like I said, use your judgement.

The “request for recommendation” message will stay highlighted in their account until they action it. I have had recommendations come through months after I sent the message, so it really is a case by case basis.

So I have recommendations, now what?

Recommendations are the most powerful tool LinkedIn has to offer if you chose to use your profile for sales pitches or as your central web profile. One you have obtained recommendations from respectable people, your profile becomes a powerful tool to give people a positive first impression of you. This is useful for job interviews, sales pitches basically any-time you meet a stranger you want to get something out of.

As an example, I recently applied and was accepted to attend TEDxBKK. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend due to a last minute schedule change, but in the application process they asked for an online profile that would teach them something more about me. This was before I had my blog up and running so I used my LinkedIn profile. I’m almost certain this is what got me the invite to the oversubscribed event.

So what are you waiting for? Recommend me for my recommendation to get recommendations!

Categories
Business

4 Tips to Not Get Screwed on Elance

For those who don’t know, elance.com is a site where people can sell their services. Basically like an ebay for services instead of goods.

The way it works is you can post a job for anything from web design, data entry, marketing, ghost writing to virtual assistance and relevant service providers can pitch for your work. You then select the provider who you think best fits your request and they start working away.

Funds are placed in an escrow holding service and released once you mark the work as satisfactory.

Anything that can be done remotely can be organised over elance.

The key benefit of this system is the ability to take advantage of currency differences. You can pay someone market rates in India or Eastern Europe and have it come to a fraction of the cost in a western country.

But using this service to complete tasks does not come without complications.

I’ve done a few projects on elance now, some better than others.

Here are a few tips from my fails:

1. DON’T BE A PUSHOVER LITTLE BITCH

Seriously, this is important.

Treat your freelancer like your boss treats you – there is a job to do, no exceptions.

For people with no management experience, this can be tricky. I learned quickly as I saw a project expand from 2 weeks to 2 months! Setting rules is important as discussed below, but enforcing rules is equally if not more important.

Don’t listen to excuses like “the work was harder than we thought” or “you had too many change requests”. They shouldn’t have bid if the work was too hard. If they think your change requests are going to push out milestones, they need to request milestone changes. If they don’t, tough luck. You’re not the expert they are.

2. Make rules

Make rules for everything. How, when and in what format you want the work delivered.

Ask for periodic updates and set deliverable dates. Tell them if things are not up to your expectations you will pull the project or have them restart.

Be specific in your rules. If for example you’re having a website done, tell them if you want the site up and running on your host or if you just want the files sent. Tell them if you want social media integration, testing or support.

These should all be laid out before the job is accepted.

3. Punish rule breakers

Set penalties for rules being broken.

As an example a 5% penalty for every milestone not met.

That means, if they update you in 4 days instead of 3, hit them with a 5% penalty. Make sure you do this the FIRST time they miss a milestone. This will discontinue a pattern of abuse. Again, don’t be a pushover little bitch. Highlight punishments clearly in the rules before the project starts.

4. Don’t give feedback until you are completely happy.

This means that everything is up and running and you have tested everything. Don’t get conned into providing feedback after you see the site working well on their host, or you have a general brand theme without all items complete.

Elance workers like eBay sellers live for feedback. And once you leave feedback, you can’t change it. Many suppliers would prefer a 5 star review and 50% of the money over 100% cash and a 3 star review.

The verdict?

There is no doubt elance can provide quality work for cheap over a secure and reliable platform.

But if you let people screw you, they probably will.

The success of the project still rests on the project manager – you!

Categories
Technology

Why LinkedIn is Awesome and you Need an Account Today!

It only takes one person to change your life.

Plenty of people dont see the value of LinkedIn. They Say its crap and they never use it because they cant post photos of last weekends dress up party where they attended as a “tranny in custody”.

LinkedIn has many benefits, and yes, it’s true it may be more useful for certain professions such as sales, recruitment and entrepreneurs. But there is one undeniable benefit that should make it mandatory for everyone with even a smidgen of ambition: Networking.

I know that sounds dumb. After all it’s a networking tool. But many – especially 20 something’s – don’t see the potential.

Think of LinkedIn like a retirement fund. The earlier you start the more valuable it becomes.

Take a hypothetical case study:

You’re 21 and in your first job. In your department, there are 15 people you interact with on a regular basis.

You open your account and connect with those 15 people.

Legend:

  • Blue men = Connections
  • Red man = You

During your time at this company (average 2-5 years) the people you work with start to move on to different companies – presumably in a similar industry. After a few years, your network will look like this:

Now you have contacts in 8 different companies (including yours) that you can use as referees, for market information or to help you get a job in their new company (more on how to use your connections in the future).

Pre-LinkedIn you may have stayed in touch with a few colleagues, but inevitably some would drop off your radar and become unreachable.

After 4-5 years you decide to move on.

You take a job at Company I and start working with 15 shiny new colleagues who join your network.

As the years move on these people leave and join new companies. While that is happening, colleagues from Company A are still moving about.

Suddenly, you have contacts in 17 companies. Remember, these are people you have worked with and know on a personal level. Even if you don’t speak with them for a couple of years, it’s easy to reinitiate contact. You will have their email and the company they work for. You can easily call reception and get transferred.

Trying to track all these people without LinkedIn is starting to become difficult, even for the most socially proficient individuals.

Then, as time moves on, you take your third job.

Another 15 shiny new connections join your network.

During this time, your previous colleagues continue to move in their careers, taking promotions and joining companies you may have never heard of.

Here’s where it becomes messy.

Are you really going to bother to track movements of all of your past colleagues? I know I wouldn’t, even with the knowledge I have. LinkedIn does it all for you.

The best part? Using it in a simplistic capacity like this is about 5 hours per year of work.

Adding new colleagues to your network and updating your profile with promotions and job changes. That’s all. 5 hours per year for a lifetime network. You’d be a fool not to…

Now consider adding your friends, peers from university, 50 colleagues per company and you change companies every 3 years for 30 years.

The numbers start to inflate. People change countries and industries. You build yourself a global network. Happy days.

Remember, just because you are not ‘using’ it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and the longer you wait, the more likely those early connections will slip through the cracks.

So what are you waiting for? Join today! And while you’re at it, add me as a connection.

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