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Today I published a post called 50 Things I Learned from Starting, Running, and Quitting Living for Monday. Well, I got a lot of questions like, “What was Living for Monday?” So, this post is one we recently published as we geared up to launch the new Living for Monday before we realized we did not have the access to capital we believed we had to fuel the model.

I have not made any changes to the post from when it was published at Livingformonday.com.

What?! What happened to Livingformonday.com? Is this even the same company? I’m melting, I’m melting!

Welcome home, you community-craving, growth-seeking, impact-driven young professionals. We’ve finally built the thing you’ve been asking for.

I want to do a couple of things in this post:

  1. Give you a brief history of why Living for Monday exists and how we got to where we are today
  2. Tell you where the ideas for our training + community model came from
  3. Give you a tour around the new site
  4. Whet your appetite for what’s to come this week and in the next several months

 Living for Monday: A Brief History

  • August 2011: Barrett resigns from his position as a staff consultant in EY’s Performance Improvement practice. After becoming disenchanted with management consulting as a body of work and lifestyle, Barrett went in search of more meaning in his work.
  • September 2011: Barrett spends a month in the mountains with his dog, his bookshelf, and groceries. He uses the time for introspection, reading the entire Bible for the first time, and setting the initial vision for Living for Monday.
  • October 2011 – May 2012: Barrett creates an initial career search curriculum entitled Career Kickstarter. He tests the curriculum through one on one coaching with six college students.
  • May 2012 – December 2012: Barrett goes back to the drawing board after realizing that students needed much more than self-awareness and self-discovery training. He adds tactical information like resume building, cover letter writing, networking, interviewing, and negotiating to the Career Kickstarter written curriculum. He works with a team of interns to turn the curriculum into a 250 page ebook and 90-module video course with supplementary exercises and worksheets.
  • January 2013: We use $10,000 of friends and family money to fund the new Livingformonday.com, designed by Shatterboxx. We also launch CareerKickstarter.com, where we made the ebook and video course available for sale.
  • March 2013 – May 2013: Living for Monday partners with the University of Georgia Terry College of Business to run a Career Kickstarter pilot program with 50 students. 42 students sign up and 28 complete the 12 week career search program. Of those that finish, 90% landed jobs with which they were highly satisfied, beating the all-student average placement rate by 10%+.
  • May 2013, Pt. 1: We realize students are a bad target audience due to their lack of willingness and ability to pay for Career Kickstarter, even if they know and appreciate the value. Similarly, we find that university career centers are even worse customers. They are understaffed, underfunded, and stuck in the educational-industrial complex that serves their bottom line before serving students. We abandon Career Kickstarter as the core of our business model. Time to pivot.
  • May 2013, Pt. 2: It’s pivot or die time at Living for Monday. Barrett goes in search of a family and friends round of fundraising to fuel two years of base-level operating expenses for two full time employees (one of whom is me). Barrett successfully recruits Josh to join the Living for Monday team.
  • May 2013 – October 2013: The Living for Monday wilderness period. Funded, but lacking a vision for our next move, we fall back on Barrett’s consulting roots and Josh’s web development experience. Barrett becomes curator of Atlanta Global Shapers, travels to Portland and Geneva on business, and interns for Seth Godin. All of the experiences combine with the Career Kickstarter failure to form a new direction for the business.
  • October 2013 – March 2014: The new Living for Monday is born. Josh and Barrett create a shared vision for the future of the company. Starting with a broad vision that lacked focus, we eventually narrow to a focused, inspired, and creative training + community model for young professionals. Which brings us to today.

The New Living for Monday Model: Training + Community for Ambitious, Creative, and Generous Young Professionals

The new Living for Monday model reflects every experience I’ve had over the past three years.

Lesson #1: Businesses are doing a terrible job of investing in their young professionals, losing out on a massive opportunity to build great culture

At Ernst & Young, I learned what it’s like to do work that has little significance related to my personal beliefs, values, and interests. I was very good at management consulting and I could be making alot more money if I were still in the industry. But the work simply wasn’t important — to the extent I was motivated, it was entirely because of external factors like money, prestige, and appearances.

Further, I learned that businesses (on average) do a terrible job of investing in the development of their people — and EY is part of an industry that supposedly invests heavily in people. Businesses tend to invest most heavily in people who have been there for a long time, have proven that they are high performers and have reached a certain level of the organization (typically middle management). Because of this trend, young professionals receive very little training early in their careers, despite the fact that so much research shows that the first ten years at work make up the period in which we grow most as individuals and professionals.

Lesson #2: Universities, career centers, and therefore students are sometimes clueless about the world of work

In building Career Kickstarter and working with universities, I realized just how out of touch campus life can be from the world of work. Of course there are exceptions, but in general it seems like a lost cause. Students sit in class with out of touch professors teaching business lessons that were applicable 15 years ago. Students leave college, on average, with degrees that mean very little when it comes to their ability to deliver on their roles and responsibilities at work.

Students are exposed to relatively few opportunities in the world of work through the institutions where they learn. Big business makes big donations, and they get a disproportionate amount of attention from universities and their students. Every student in business school thinks they need to go to work for a Fortune 500, a big four accounting firm, an “A-list” agency, or a prestigious bank or consultancy. Some students thrive in those environments upon graduation, but most simply become disillusioned with what it means to work and feel duped by the system.

Lesson #3: Young Professionals in Their First 10 Years at Work are Optimistic, Inspired, Open-Minded, and Curious

The Atlanta Global Shapers have shown me a new world of possibility. The same goes for the Living for Monday contributors, the talented entrepreneurs at Atlanta Tech Village, and the inspiring people I’ve met at World Domination Summit. Despite the lack of practical training and personal development being delivered by business and educational institutions, young pros are remarkably resilient.

I’ve become intensely passionate about the potential of our first 10 years at work. Our first ten years represent the greatest years of change, salary growth, movement between jobs/organizations, and positioning for the legacy we will leave in our careers. The top 50% of Millennial young professionals realize this and they’re eager to build new skills and habits that will give them the freedom to pursue their goals. They’re also incredibly passionate about building communities of like-minded young pros who are ambitious, generous, and creative.

Lesson #4: Krypton, CreativeLive, Lynda, Fizzle, and Saddleback Church all provide valuable inputs to our new model

Working with Seth Godin and our talented team on the Krypton project was incredibly inspiring. Perhaps more importantly, it showed me the possibility of what we could build on the web. Much of the new Living for Monday design comes from our work on that project. Similarly, the idea of combining online learning with offline community comes directly from the Krypton model.

CreativeLive has shown me what is possible for making learning accessible to anyone while still building a profitable business model. Our free livestreaming of all of our content is inspired by CreativeLive. The same goes for the production quality and in-studio audience for all of our workshops, for which we’ve partnered up with the great team at Friendly Human.

We’ve learned a ton from Lynda.com. They have a massive library of valuable training content. On the one hand, their library is so large and lacks curation such that it makes the experience for a new learner incredibly intimidating and confusing. A 2013 Forbes article showed that the $100M company is moving towards more curated, in-house content over contracts with experts to produce new courses. Our monthly subscription model and our in-house content production is inspired by Lynda.

Fizzle.co has one of the most inspiring communities of which I’ve ever been a part. “Fizzlers” as we call each other, are incredibly passionate about helping each other succeed. They love spending time together and heavily invest in one another’s success. Our mastermind groups, community events, and online forums are all inspired by building a powerful community similar to Fizzle.

Finally, Rick Warren and Saddleback church provided inspiration for the way we want to grow our community. As a company, we want to provide the most inspiring and creative workshops for young professionals in the world. We want to be the most relevant and relatable source of un-training for young pros. While people will come to us for content, we know that our sustained growth as a community will rely on the people who make it up. We can only create content, structure, and branding that supports the kind of community we want. It will be up to you to build it, which is exactly why Warren made small groups the centerpiece of Saddleback church. People who don’t join a mastermind group will be asked to leave the Living for Monday community. We’d rather have great community than more money, plain and simple.

The Collective Lessons

Collectively, all of these lessons and experiences have added up to the model we’ve built for the new Living for Monday. We’ll share in more depth about different aspects of the model over the coming days, but that’s plenty for now.

 

A Tour of The New LivingforMonday.com

Our overall strategy for the new LivingforMonday.com was to cut it down to the absolute essentials. The old site was busy, old, not responsive, and built around the blog as the centerpiece. The new site is responsive, flat, elegant (we think), reflects the brand we want to build, and is focused on our workshops (the centerpiece of our new model).

The New Homepage

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I know I’m biased, but I love this homepage. It’s elegant, simple, and speaks to the core of what we do. We’re here to help you become great at what you do so you can make an impact through your work. We want to give you the freedom to pursue your career goals by giving you the tools to succeed.

The How it Works section is as simple as we could make the new model. Our livestreamed online workshops are free so that you can try us out without taking any risks or spending any money. Becoming a member means you become a true member of the community, including access to all of our live events plus the workshop archives. Reaping the rewards means we’re going to help you turn your training + community into the opportunities you dream of.

Underneath How it Works is an Upcoming Workshops section that shows you the next four upcoming workshops. You can click through to sign up and create an account for free.

Blog

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We completely redesigned the blog experience. The entire blog is built on a responsive card system focused on the reading experience. We wanted to give you access to the content you want most in a format that creates a delightful reading experience, regardless of device. This was a big step in the right direction.

We have 15+ contributing editors here in Atlanta who have been hard at work creating valuable content. We’re calling the blog: Pro: A weblog for young professionals by young professionals on what it takes to be great in your first ten years at work. We’ll be quickly expanding to include contributing editors in four other cities as soon as possible. If you’re interested, contact us.

Watch For Free

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This is the core of what we do. Inspiring and creative workshops to help you make an impact through your work. We’ll start off by producing two 90 minute workshops per month. The faster our community grows, the faster we’ll be able to hire course designers. My goal is to be producing one course per week as soon as possible.

Workshops are 90 minutes long, and we shoot them on location in the Friendly Human studio at Atlanta Tech Village. 20 Living for Monday members get to join us as members of the in-studio audience at no extra cost. Each course is livestreamed over the lunch hour (EST). You don’t have to leave the office and you can watch while you eat.

If you watch live, every course is free. If you want to access the course later, it will be available to our paid members in our workshop library.

Workshop Signup

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When you click on any workshop from the homepage, workshop calendar, or become a member page, you’ll be directed to the workshop sign up page. Each one has the workshop title, date and time we’ll be livestreaming, and a brief description of what you can expect from the workshop.

When you click on sign up, you’ll b asked to sign in or create an account. Creating an account is free, and it allows us to send you a reminder about the upcoming workshops. You’re also able to build a profile and view all of your upcoming workshops. When you become a paid member, your profile will become a training portfolio and you’ll be able to share it with your employer.

Become a Member

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This is where we make money. Once you’ve attended a live workshop or two, we want you to join the community. Becoming a member means you get access to the in-studio audience, monthly community events (Atlanta only at the moment), and every other week virtual office hours with the Living for Monday team.

Most importantly, becoming a member means you’ll get to join one of our mastermind groups. They consist of 8-10 Living for Monday members in the same city who share similar career interests or goals. They are your support group and your source of accountability for reaching your goals. Every group is supported by a Living for Monday community manager on our team.

Finally, members get sneak peeks at our growth plans. If you know me (or Josh), you know that we have much grander plans than what you can currently see at Living for Monday. Feedback from our members will determine which new offerings we create first.

Contact Us

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If you need us for anything, you can always reach us here. We also provide our real life emails in case you don’t want to use the form. If you have an idea for a course, are having trouble with the site, want to learn more about us, or just have a question you want to chat about, this is how you should get in touch.

Login

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When you sign up for an upcoming workshop, you’ll create an account. When you become a member, your free account will upgrade to a paid account, along with the accompanying benefits. Creating an account gives you one-click workshop sign up and you’ll be able to see all of your upcoming courses on your account page. If you’re a paid member, you’ll see your past courses, which will help you prove your training to a boss or potential employer.

What to Expect in the Next Few Months

The most important thing I want to communicate in this post is this: we’re all in on this thing.

We believe in the training and community model we’re building. The only thing we believe in more are the ambitious, creative, and generous young professionals who make up the community. Everything we do from here on out is to serve young pros in the first ten years of your career. Period. No questions asked.

We have enough funding to last us til the end of the year. By then, we need to have 1,000 members of our community to continue to operate. Once we hit that number, we’ll be off to the races together. I think we can do it within six months and we hope you’ll help us make it happen. We built the business model on two things:

  1. Having 1,000 true fans — 1,000 young pros who are all in on our mission of changing the way the world thinks about work. 1,000 people who believe in living for Monday and making an impact through our work.
  2. Building the most inspiring and creative un-training in the world at a cost that’s affordable to any young professional.

So that’s what we’re doing. We hope you’ll join us.

 

The next few posts will be a series to tell you more about the new Living for Monday. Here are the posts you can expect:

Next week (March 17 – 21, 2014), we’ll have the first articles from our Atlanta contributing editors. We’ll post an article a day and I think you’re going to be very pleased with what these talented people have to offer. Soon after, we’ll invite contributing editors from New York, Chicago, Austin, and Boulder-Denver to join our editorial team. If you’re in one of those cities and interested in writing for us, let me know.

We’ll livestream our first course on April 14th and one every two weeks after that. As our membership grows, we’ll grow our team in lockstep with a goal of producing one course per week by the start of 2015.

Here we go. It’s a whole new world at Living for Monday. We’re building it for you, the ambitious, generous, and creative young professional. We’re building it together. We’re all in. It might not work, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.

 

So there it was. Here are a few links to posts I have republished here simply for context about what Living for Monday was:

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If you’re plugged into the Atlanta startup community, then you’ve seen the lively conversation around Michael Tavani’s B2C startup efforts. I think it’s a noble movement and one that I hope to help succeed. If you want to get involved, sign up here.

Being aware of the conversation has had me thinking more deeply about WHY the conversation is happening and what is driving Tavani to take such quick action on the topic. So let’s explore some of the surrounding circumstances and potential motivations for B2C attention in Atlanta as a way of continuing the conversation.

  • The Scoutmob brand and positioning is now squarely centered on Shoppe as the core business model. The homepage is Shoppe, not local deals, and the transition will continue to take place as time goes on. A startup’s homepage is telling of their priorities because it is their main real estate.
  • Scoutmob just went through a round of layoffs — apparently of some key contributors that have helped build the brand into what it is today. That’s a shitty thing to go through for any company and no doubt it’s been a painful process internally for Scoutmob. The reality is that without an existing sustainable business model or enough funding to continue operations as they are, expenses have to be cut to continue operating. If the two options are death by failure or pain by layoffs, any responsible founder will choose the latter, even if it sucks to experience. This will give Scoutmob the chance to hit the reset button and continue building on their new model.
  • A maker space similar to Atlanta Tech Village, but for artists, makers, creators, and product pushers would help Scoutmob with it’s pivot towards their Shoppe business model. Successful establishment of this kind of space (most recent updates say in Ponce City Market) would mean a sort of vertical integration for Scoutmob. There is great value in vertical integration, if you can pull it off in a way that’s not offensive.
  • A bigger B2C startup movement in the city makes gains possible for everyone involved. As Lance recently pointed out, density, both on a micro and macro level across the city, creates momentum. Or, the more B2C startups there are in the city, the more likely each B2C startup is to gain traction… And the more likely they are to land investments. Just as Atlanta has to occupy space in the minds of VCs out west in order to start attracting investor interest, it makes sense to apply the same logic one level down the hierarchy. Atlanta as startup scene –> Atlanta as B2B Startup scene AND –> Atlanta as B2C startup scene.

So here’s the point I’m getting at… If you take each of these points above as independent pieces of information, they represent a hodge podge of happenings in the Atlanta startup scene with little significance on the macro level. If you take them as one orchestrated whole, being fueled by a single entrepreneur and the people surrounding him, you see a different picture.

Michael Tavani and Scoutmob are in a tough place right now. They’ve built a powerhouse brand, but lack a business model to match. They’ve made a pivot toward Shoppe that looks promising, but the jury is still out on whether it will be a sustainable model. They’ve tried to raise funds to support the move and I’m not sure how successful they’ve been.

Regardless of funding, they decided that the most prudent move is to lay off a portion of the team in order to keep the brand alive as they try to resuscitate the business model to support what will hopefully one day become a much larger, thriving team. Perhaps they’ll make a move similar to Claire in house of cards and decide to bring on fresh blood with new ideas and skills to drive the current pivot.

Shoppe relies on makers in order to make money. The Atlanta maker scene has no centralized identity  — you can look to events like Root City Market as great attempts to make it happen — so sourcing talent and goods is harder than it could be if there were a centralized place for makers and creatives to gather. Tavani wants to make that happen, whether at Ponce City Market or the Flatiron building or wherever else. Yes, location matters, but the bigger picture is about the strategic value to Scoutmob of a central maker station because that would mean Scoutmob could become Atlanta’s version of Shopify or Etsy for those makers. That will require local loyalty, which is much more likely to happen if Tavani is at the center of the movement to bring the makers together — much like David Cummings has built massive relationship capital by being at the center of the tech crowd coming together.

Finally, if Tavani can use his B2C gathering and anything else he can dream up to spur more B2C startups in the city, then he can increase the density of said startups, thereby increasing the B2C brand of Atlanta. A strong B2C brand is more likely to attract big B2C capital, which can only mean good things for Scoutmob… so long as they can stay in the game long enough to see the fruits of Tavani’s labor.

Lest I attract the trolls from the depths of the Atlanta internet and startup scene, let me be clear about something: Michael Tavani is a fellow Georgia Bulldawg and I love that he has built such a powerful brand. I want to do everything I can to support him as he makes big moves. Scoutmob is a brand I love and use regularly. I will continue to spend money with them if for no other reason than to root for their success. This article is simply a means for exploring the landscape of an interesting movement happening in Atlanta.

I would love nothing more than to continue the conversation in the comments.

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These past couple of days I’ve spent most of my time thinking through the sales page for our new product at Living for Monday, which will serve as the core of our business model. It was a big project on my to-do list, and it made my brain hurt when I thought about it as a whole.

Usually when my brain starts hurting in response to thinking through a project, it’s because I don’t have a good understanding of the steps to completion OR I don’t have the skills/knowledge/expertise necessary to complete certain steps.

In this case, when I sat down to start writing copy, I realized that I hadn’t done enough thinking about the people who would be reading the page. Instead of pressing forward, I took some time to whiteboard my thoughts on our four different user personas. Here are some of the questions I asked myself as I did the exercise:

  • What is she feeling on her best day at work?
  • What is he feeling on his worst day at work?
  • What does she do day-to-day?
  • How does he think about what he wants from work?
  • What questions are they asking about their careers?

Here’s what the whiteboard looked like at the end of the exercise (Yes, there is foul language in a couple of places. It was a personal exercise, please forgive me):

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I based this exercise on four key personas that we’re serving with our new product offering (this is some of the copy that will appear on our new sales page):

  1. The Fortune 500 Mover and Shaker — you found a job at a household brand name, and you’re proud of. Now you’re trying to find your way through the maze that is a massive organization. We know what it’s like and we’re here to help.

  2. The Professional Services Pro — Accountants, consultants, and bankers, oh my. The world of professional services can be political, competitive, and stressful. We build courses to help you handle it with generosity, gratitude, and growth.

  3. The Agency Life Addict — Account managers and junior designers know that agency life can be downright crazy, and that’s why they love it, and hate it. Our courses will help you manage your career while building the lifestyle you want as well.

  4. The Startup Enthusiast — Startups are all the buzz these days. Salespeople, developers, and generalists know that startup life can be uncertain, but exciting. We’ll help you use your late nights and ambiguous responsibilities to your advantage.

Thinking about specific people in each of these roles allowed me to get into their mindset and thought process much more than I would have if I had gone straight into writing copy. I probably didn’t get everything right, but we’ll be able to leverage this initial process to conduct user interviews as we gather feedback about the product from our target audience.

I missed some key elements of a truly great persona exercise — I didn’t have pictures of the people or names for them. I didn’t fuel my insights with trends from multiple conversations with real people who represent each persona. Finally, I did not validate these insights with objective opinions from mentors, colleagues, or third-party observers.

Have you ever conducted a user persona exercise? What did you learn from it? Was it helpful? Did you make any assumptions that you ended up proving wrong?

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I had a thought this morning, and I’m not sure exactly where it came from. Here it is in tweet form:

When it comes to building community, I think this has to be at the essence of it.

It applies in countless settings, but here are three that help elaborate on the point I’m making.

When we were still in the hunter/gatherer stage of societal development (and some small pockets of the world still are), this theory of community building made sense. The more I help a fellow hunter increase his strength and become a better archer or spear thrower, the more likely we are to eat well tonight, tomorrow, and in the foreseeable future. The more I am able to teach my fellow gatherers to identify what is edible, what is not, what will kill us, and what will provide us with the most nutrition, the more likely we are all to stay healthy and happy.

For sports teams, the concept perhaps applies to an even greater degree, and yet it is ignored by so many athletes from pros to amateurs. You see it repeatedly, especially with the “superstar effect” whereby a person thinks they’re so good they don’t owe anything to anyone. Rather than build their teammates up, the superstar often tears his teammates down as a way of showing his superiority.

The alternative, of course, is clear. Look at a QB like Peyton Manning and the effect he has had on Knowshon Moreno’s career. He has helped Moreno revive a sputtering early career, likely setting him up for a sizeable future contract despite the fact that many teams had already written Moreno off before Peyton came to town. In helping Knowshon become an important part of the Bronco’s offense, Peyton became stronger and it contributed to his record setting passing season. The same applies to many athletes who chose to make their teammates stronger with the belief that it makes everyone better.

Finally, the same applies to startup and business teams. One of the great tragedies in business is when a key leader fails to see the value of employee training and development. At the same time, colleges and universities have fallen further and further behind in the value they provide to students as the industrial education system becomes more irrelevant by the day. I love this quote, which represents the two fundamental attitudes many business people have about training and development:

Invest in People

Photo from Behappy.me, where you can buy it in print, on canvas, and more.

The alternative to the fear-based, limited-pie-size mentality is one of abundance. “What happens if we don’t and they stay,” is the embodiment of the belief that when I help you get better, I get better. It relates back to the idea that the best way to learn is to teach. When every person in an organization or community believes that it is a fundamental part of their job to make the people around them better, it makes everyone better.

I choose to be part of communities that believe this:

“If you grow stronger, don’t I also grow stronger? If you become better, don’t we all become better?”

 

What do you think? Where have you seen this in action? Are you part of any communities that have this kind of mentality? Do any communities come to mind that take a different approach but are still successful?

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Most customer loyalty programs are built around the idea that if you hand me a card with 10 spots for a punch hole on it, I’m more likely to come back. The really savvy business owners tell their cashiers/baristas/bartenders/whatevers that if they give two punches to the card on a customers’ first visit, they’re significantly more likely to come back. It’s a jedi mind trick that just happens to work quite well.

The whole system is built around gamification, with companies like Starbucks driving more and more towards an endorphin-fueled, gamified experience for their loyalty program. 10 drinks… Free food! 30 drinks… Gold card member! But keep coming back or we’ll take your gold card away. Muahahahaha.

At some point you show up and your card is punched the 10th (or 12th or 20th or whatever) time and you get a free thing-a-ma-jig. Congratulations, you’ve won a free prize! But here’s the question, when you walk away from the experience, are you more loyal? Perhaps, but more likely you are a member of the loyalty program for the coffee shop down the street as well, and your card there is on its 8th punch… two more to go!

Now contrast this with the stories we hear pop up from time to time. You’ve seen the headlines or status updates. “Starbucks manager decides to give free coffee to every customer for the first half of the day on April 18th,” (a date of absolutely no significance). “My favorite restaurant just gave me free dessert for no reason at all! That’s awesome!”

My friend recently had a similar experience. She happened to book a flight for the wrong date and she didn’t realize it until the day before she was to fly out. The flight she had booked used the same call number as her intended flight and she had been confused in her rush of excitement to book the ticket. She called the airline and asked if they could switch the date of her flight to 24 hours later when the rest of her travel group would be flying out as well.

Two associates with no decision making power did everything they could to stay out of trouble by saying, “I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do. The flight change + rate differential will cost you $900.”

She asked for a manager. She shared her story with the manager. “I’m headed on a mission trip with a group of people that want to do good in South America. I’ve done everything in my control to budget for this trip, but I have absolutely no wiggle room. I would have to forego the trip if I truly have to pay the $900 fee to change flights.”

The manager, unlike her disempowered associates, had the decision making power to build a truly valuable and customized loyalty program for my friend. It took just ten words, “Ok ma’am. I’ve changed your flight. The fee is waived.”

Which type of customer loyalty are you building?

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I’ve had a recent experience that highlighted how important it is to focus on customer priorities as opposed to our own.

When we focus on our own priorities, it makes the customer experience painful. Some customers will deal with it, but many more will leave. Focusing on yourself means that you structure timelines according to what is convenient to you. It means that you create messaging that talks about you instead of talking about and to your customer. A focus on you neglects the fact that there is a real person, with real challenges and opportunities sitting on the other side of your process. The process has a thin veil over it that does a poor job of masking your agenda and priorities, making the customer feel like a pawn in your game.

Flip the script and consider what it means to have a truly customer-focused mentality in all that you do. The messaging on your website is directed at the goals, challenges, and questions of your customer. They arrive on your homepage and think, “Ah, this feels like home. They know me.” Your timeline for the project or presentation or training you want to get to the finish line could come completely from asking the right questions about your customer’s commitments and priorities right now, making them feel like a participant in the process. Your milestones and checkpoints along the way could be built collaboratively so your customer feels engaged rather than like they’re being put in a maze with a predetermined outcome.

Being you-focused or customer-focused is a choice. It’s a choice that reflects your business philosophy, the way you treat customers, how you’ll behave in moments of conflict or stress… The list goes on, but in short this choice reflects on everything a potential customer needs to know about you. From a customer standpoint, it feels good to be an engaged participant in the process. In fact, it makes me want to work harder to pay you and create a stronger partnership.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. The more you focus on you, the more I consider the possibility of looking out exclusively for myself. If that means finding someone to replace you, oh well, it doesn’t affect me.

Make a choice, but recognize how that will affect your business/event/nonprofit in the future.

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I got an email recently that asked me how to price a potential freelance project. The question was specifically related to social media work, but I think my answer applies to many different freelancing explanations.
For context, here was the email I received:
Okay, so below are the things my contact had requested me to do over the weekend. Their overall goal that they’re involving me in is the company’s social media marketing
1. Research the company that they are helping
2. They want Twitter and Facebook content creation and release for at least a month.
3. They’re looking into articles to float around the blogospher. They want me to a 4 week editorial calendar
So by Sunday I will be sending them a PPT presentation of how I propose to get the company’s product introduced to the market via Twitter and FB; I will advise them on how often to post and how to track engagement using FB’s analytics tools.
So my pricing concern is actually two-fold. How do I price the proposal and then how do I price the services I’m proposing once they approve it?
Let’s ignore the specifics in favor of general strategy for pricing for a project like this.
Before we get started, here are a couple of things to consider:
For perspective, a person who makes $50,000 a year in salary makes $25/hr assuming a 50 week year and 40 hour work week. A person who makes $100,000 in salary makes $50/hr. Any freelancer should charge more per hour than the equivalent they would make in a salaried position. The reason is that a freelancer will almost certainly work less then 40 paid hours per week. You have to make up for the lost time spent on operations, marketing, building relationships, selling, and everything else a freelancer does outside of the paid work.
I would highly recommend you read this article before you get started with any kind of freelancing. It is mind-shifting when it comes to seeking and accepting work, pricing, and managing clients.
On the topic of pricing, you basically have three options here, which are numbered below.
  1. You can create the proposal as a project, including a timeline through the end of the first month. You’ll want to estimate how much time the entire “project” will take you to complete — don’t share this with the client, just know it for yourself. Multiply the estimated hours by what you want to be making per hour for this kind of work. That is your project price. If they want to pay less, your job is to negotiate by saying that you are happy to cut back on some of the services provided in exchange for less money. That way you are not diminishing your value, but rather trading less work for less money.
  2. You can establish the relationship as an initial project + monthly retainer. In other words, you can structure your proposal for an ongoing work arrangement that extends beyond the first month. In this case, you would establish a fee for the first month of work — the initial research and strategy work — which you would price like a mini-project per #1 above. Then, you would propose a monthly fee for a specific set of responsibilities in months 2 to infinity.
  3. Charge hourly. This is the simplest way to charge, but it also limits your ability to learn and creates poor incentives. I hate charging hourly, but it is definitely the most comfortable way to get started. Decide what you think your hourly rate would be, track your hours, and bill the client every week, two weeks, or month according to your agreement.
A few things to consider when deciding between pricing strategies:
  • If you price this as a project, make sure you are very clear about the timeline, expectations from the client (what they have to do to make the project successful), deliverables, and responsibilities. Your deliverable should be concrete, agreed upon, and tied to deadlines. Your payment should be tied to the completion of those deliverables. This is how you provide value without charging an hourly rate.
  • You can use the project pricing and still propose and ongoing monthly retainer. The best method for this is to propose the initial project and then have a final slide of your proposal that paints the picture of what an ongoing monthly partnership would look like (benefits, responsibilities, cost, etc)
  • Only charge hourly if you can’t do anything else. Hourly sucks for you because you have to track and justify every hour you spend. Additionally, if you want to make more money, you have to work more hours. Hourly sucks for the client because they just want their problems solved in as little time as possible, they really want outcomes not just hours worked, and they have to scrutinize every hour you spend. Additionally, it’s harder for the client to predict what they project will cost, which is just stupid for everyone involved.
  • The opposite is true of project pricing — the less time you take to complete the deliverables with excellence, the more money you make per hour — your incentive is to efficiently delight your customers so you maximize your return on time invested. This makes the client happy while making you more money. It’s also much less stressful for both parties.

What did I miss? What would you have suggested in response to this email? Do you have another pricing strategy that has worked well for you in the past?

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