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Should I Have Gone Freelance?

The last post I wrote on here was all about my the imminent jump to freelance life. Since then I made a pact with myself that I'd try to document what it's been like to jump into freelancing- all in way that was quick and honest. None of this instagram #freelancelife bullshit but something which mapped the upped as well as the downs in working for myself.

Disclaimer: I have previously been a freelancer, having had a taster experience of it a couple of years back. That experience definitely made this transition less bumpy.

So, how has freelance life been?

In short, bloody amazing.

Don't get me wrong there have been a few tough points but overall everything's got off to an amazing start. The biggest and best thing (though it won't surprise you) is the flexibility that it's offered me. Working when I want - and don't get me wrong there's been plenty of work - has meant a whole lot more energy. That energy's been transferred into more time with friends, more time to exercise and more time to learn new things. It's a win-win scenario for both me and my clients. (Seriously, within the first couple of weeks I ran my best run and had the best workout I've had in absolutely months).

The downsides have been the deadlines and the self-management of it all. There were definitely a few periods of feeling overwhelmed. Thankfully, there's Excel and keeping everything logged on spreadsheets helps keep a more balanced view of the universe. 

I'm also strongly of the opinion that during this honeymoon period everything can appear more rosy than the reality so we shall wait and see what next month brings before making any firm decisions.

If you have any questions about making the jump into freelance life then just ask. Here's to Month 2!

Rise & Shine

Rise & Shine

Some of you will have no doubt have heard the news that I’m splitting my role at Optix, saying goodbye to some great clients and even greater friends as I move both into a new remote based strategic role as well as a new period of self-employment.

Even more of you no doubt won’t have the faintest clue of who I am. Either way I wanted to add something on here to explain the choice – of why anyone in a decent, fulfilling job wants to change all this and take the risk of becoming self-employed.

The Shorter Story – The last few years I feel as though I've been sleepwalking through life, happily complacent at how things were going and through subsequent nudges, there's been a wake up call to realise how different things can be.

The Longer Story – Is best summed up in 3 main lessons that I keep coming back to time and again that I can't ignore any longer...

Time is Finite

I know - we’re starting deep. Time is precious and mortality is inevitable. Spending year in year out working from 9-5 in the hope after decades of labour I can finally kick back, retire and pursue all those things I want from life is not an option; and that's assuming I make it to retirement.

Two books encapsulate this far better than I can. Tim Ferris’ ‘4 Hour Work Week’ and his chapter in particular on fear setting helps put life very much into perspective. Plus, Ryan Holiday's 'The Daily Stoic' is a remarkable way of keeping things grounded. If you’ve already read either of them then you’ll know what I mean.

Instead, now marks a point where I want to take the first steps into pursuing my own projects and passions with the firm goal of generating a passive income to spend more time living and less time working.

It’s 2017

For all the fake news we’re living in an incredible era; one that’s richer, more diverse and more connected than at any point in human history. A laptop and Wi-Fi are what I need to work my craft – from anywhere at any time. So why am I spending so much of my precious time in the same office, for the same hours each day?

This type digital transformation is at it’s core thrilling, terrifying and awe-inspiring all at the same time. Things are changing rapidly and we collectively have no idea how it’ll pan out. To see how this meaningfully affects how we all work, look at Simon Swan's work tying things together with his article on ‘The Evolutionary Breakthroughs in Human Collaboration’.

Fear is relative

The last few months of planning this have been entirely calm; I mean weirdly calm. I’m still expecting my unconscious 2am voice will scream ‘WHAT THE F**K AM I DOING!?’ but it hasn’t happened – not yet anyway.

‘Going at it alone’ seems to be by collective opinion a scary thing to do and although it was daunting to start with the whole thing is actually now damn exciting. I’ve done the maths. I’ve weighed up the risks. I’ve got a fall back plan. And you know what? Could I see myself doing what I’m doing day in day out for the next 5 years? No sir. So change has to happen and the potential rewards far outweigh the risks.

So, what now?

A shift, a change and a gradual step into what, clichéd though it might be, is a new chapter. The plan is to honestly document how this pans out for all the good and bad, and everything in between so you can keep up to date via my website – www.danieljameswhite.co.uk

Think what I’m doing is lunacy? Or are you begrudgingly jealous? Send all thoughts, opinions, questions and comments my way.

Onto the good stuff...

I can finally reveal what I've been planning behind the scenes on a whole host of fantastic projects that are about to take off.

A Role Upgrade-

Although it means saying goodbye to some clients who I've worked with for over 2 years I'm moving into a strategic role at Optix covering some seriously cool digital strategies and projects. The role will also be remote, so whilst I'm not going to be a digital nomad just yet, watch this space.

A New Role -

I'm also going to be working long term colleague and friend Ben Corbally of Full Storyas his Head of Digital. I can’t say any more on the projects we're working on due to the fun times confidentiality agreements bring, but they’re going to be good.

A New Business –

For all the SEO, the PPC, the UX and many other acronyms that go with digital marketing one item is repeatedly ignored – the copy. Just because you type doesn’t mean you can write. So, my business partner, Jamie Harper and I launching The Way With Words, a new service designed to instil into business the in’s and out’s of how they should communicate to their customers. We call these verbal identity guidelines, and more will be spoken of them in the coming months. 

Gym Marketing –

For those in the know I like the gym, particularly deadlifting. To that end, I'm tying two passions together and will be marketing Performance Training Academy – an online portal to qualify as a personal trainer. It’s already been great fun developing a brand new site to growing the content, SEO, PPC, even shooting the photography.

Interested in Working Together?

With all that said, there's still time left over each week for me to work on additional projects so if you think we'd be a good fit, then message me and we'll take things from there.

Here goes nothing. 

(In the interests of SEO this article was originally published on my LinkedIn account first here and here).

The Best Digital Marketing Books in 2017

The Best Digital Marketing Books in 2017

The following books have nothing to do with digital marketing, yet at the same time have everything to do with digital marketing. Behavioural psychology, the dynamics of crowds, the evolution of language. People and places far removed from your own universe to encourage creativity and engage the mind. Wow, that's deep. Read these:

WHAT I'M CURRENTLY READING:

Contagious: How to Build word of Mouth in the Digital Age, by Jonah Berger. Where Made to Stick by Dan & Chip Heath took the next step from Malcolm Gladwell's 'Tipping Point' in learning how making things stick, Contagious looks at how things actually spread.  All three should be read in conjunction with one another.

Influence: The Psycology of Persuasion by Robert. B Cialdini. Running through various examples of how to well, persuade people.

WHAT'S UP NEXT:

Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth about Success by Matthew Syed

WHAT I'VE READ:

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live anywhere and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss. A step by step formula for being able to enjoy life in the here and now instead of waiting until retirement to finally put your plans into action. READ IT.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Some of it is downright obvious. Some of it is downright amazing. Written back in 1936 the lessons it gives on effectively communicating and understanding other people still apply. READ IT.

ZERO to ONE by Peter Thiel. The Co-founder of Paypal opens up about how to come up with groundbreaking ideas (going from zero to one) not just rehashing current ideas (going from zero to zero). Fascinating read, but more targeted towards senior leadership than anything else. READ IT.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. If you're reading this list you'll see that I'm a big fan of this guy, but the Tipping Point is by far his best work. Written before the rise of the web, the book is a thesis in how to spread messages and make things go viral. So good I read it twice. READ IT.

David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. An awesome insight into how underdogs disadvantages can lead to their biggest opportunities. READ IT.

The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters. In your brain you have a Chimp, a Human and a Computer. Once you accept the multiple analogies this is one of the easiest to understand and practical books I've read in understanding how the human mind functions. READ IT.

The Story of Writing; Alphabets, Heiroglyphics and Pictograms by Andrew Robinson. Modern English is a drop in the ocean of the languages, scripts and methods of communication the world has used since we started recording life. With some cool images and explanations it's great to dip in and out of. READ IT.

What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. The last one to tick-off from one my favourite author. It's a collection of his works seeing things from different peoples perspectives. You can read Million Dollor Murray here for free. READ IT.

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell. The main focus was the environments we inhabit and how they impact our success. From the month you were born, to the decade that month falls in can all impact on your future potential. A pretty good read. READ IT.

Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck, by Chip & Dan Heath. Expanding on the ideas of the Tipping Point, the brothers Heath dive into what makes ideas actually, well stick. With a complete recipe for making your ideas more memorable it's a damn good read. READ IT.

3 Steps to Digital Strategy Success

3 Steps to Digital Strategy Success

I've been writing a digital strategy recently - a big one. I've been writing these digital strategies for over 2 years now and each time they seem to get bigger and better.

It's got me thinking though about how you approach some as massive as a digital strategy if you've never approached one before. 

Before I started on my first strategy, I felt baffled. Truly and utterly baffled. What is a strategy? Why do you even need one? What needs to be included? How's it structured? Then finally how the hell should it be presented?

So I would offer these words of advice. If you have a content marketing strategy, social media strategy, or hell, a complete overarching digital strategy for an enterprise level client then read on...

What a Digital Strategy Needs to Include...

I'm reading a lot at the moment about goal planning. From career goals, gym goals or overall life goals there's three critical items you need:

  1. Agreement on where do you want to be. Insert the core goals ranging from world domination to more Twitter followers. 
  2. An understanding of where are you now. Assess everything about you or your present business situation. . 
  3. A plan of how you're going to get there. Add in your marketing skills for how to you're going to make Point 1 happen.

So, include these elements and work it into a narrative. If you're creating a written strategy start with Point 2, then add in your destination (Point 1) and fill in the details with Point 3. Steve Peter's book - The Chimp Paradox explains this far better than me, so buy it here.

How a Digital Strategy Needs to be Structured...

It's up to your perception of the client. Are they going to read a 50 page document? Really?

If the answers no then consider PowerPoint presentations as a way of communicating your plan. I've done both and both work. If there's multiple people you need to impress though a detailed written doc PLUS a top level presentation covers all bases. I'm thinking about making the next one into a video but that'll have to wait for another day.

How a Digital Strategy Needs to be Presented...

Let's be clear here. You need to present it. When we're putting together a strategy we spend a lot of time talking to all the different people that make up a business. And when the job is done we invite them back and present it to both them and the key stakeholders. Reasons for this include:

  • To answer common questions
  • Explain it in a way non-marketing people will understand 
  • To make people feel appreciated for their contribution
  • See the people and personality that have gone into making it

The reason being for all of this...

TO GET BUY-IN

There is no point if your strategy's new home is the filing cabinet. Whatever you create should have an impact and create change. Often they don't, and it's something which I'm still working on. For the meantime though engaging and communicating with the very people that it's going to impact means it has potential to flourish. 

Without going into specifics that's about it. So make a roadmap and stick to it. Tweet me with questions @danwht

3 BrightonSEO Content Marketing Takeaways

3 BrightonSEO Content Marketing Takeaways

BrightonSEO was back for September 2016 and boy oh boy was it a good one. A new larger venue meant more people (rumours of 3.5k) and more talks (60+). This was my 3rd visit to the event and content marketing was one at the forefront of many of the talks. So here was 3 of the best:

1) Simon Bennison: How to put a price on digital content

Who is he? Head of Content Marketing at Caliber

Why watch it? 

  • Tangible advice on the actual spend businesses put towards content marketing is virtually nothing but it delivers most of the results
  • How to actually calculate those numbers
  • It was funny, refreshing and has a lot more personality than some of the other talks.

2) Paddy Moogan: Sustainable Content Marketing

Who is he? Co-founder of Aira

Why watch it?

  • Paddy is a legend in the world of digital offering insightful, honest advice (see his link building book to see what I mean)
  • For everyone's sake create a content calendar that you can tie your marketing around/
  • Recycle what goes into making content (structures/processes/code) for future use saving time, money and energy 

3) Mark Leech & Richard Marriot: Content Marketing Strategy Training

Who are they? Mark is the Operations Director and Richard is the Head of Business Development at Zazzle Media

Why listen to them?

Strictly speaking their talk wasn't at BrightonSEO, but through the content marketing training course I attended the day before. In one word their workshop was awesome. 

  • They have an awful lot of practice in developing complete creative content campaigns for the likes of AO.com, Superdry and the Money Advice Service.
  • This covered persona development, big idea planning. scheduling, distribution and project planning - all within 6 hours.
  • Is there a presentation for this? No, but they do have a handy Audience-centric content strategy toolkit right here.

Attending BrightonSEO is invaluable for us. Learning new ideas and meeting new people is critical for us to stay ahead in an industry which changes ridiculously fast. So, it's on with writing up my notes and implementing what I've learnt. 

 

How to Maintain Client Satisfaction

How to Maintain Client Satisfaction

I was talking with a friend recently. We were having a drink and talking about digital marketing, clients and life in general when he said that he thought his work spoke for itself in keeping his clients satisfied.

I disagreed. Big time.

There are so many elements which keep a client satisfied. Great work is just one of them, but to be honest, only a small one.

I've been in client facing digital marketing roles for 6+ years now, and I will hold my hands up and say I don't know it all by a long way, there are definitely a few key elements you can do beyond your great work to keep your clients satisfied. Here they are:

Be interested. Be interesting

The old adage that people buy from people is still so true. Make the time to actually get to know your clients. Their likes and dislikes, what their kids are up to, what they have planned for the weekend. Did they see that YouTube video?

When a client phones me I will genuinely try to talk to them about anything BUT marketing for the first few minutes. This isn't some insincere attempt to sniff out another sale, but a meaningful way of getting to know someone. Things we've discussed:

  • The best ever biscuits
  • Whether Justin Bieber is really good office music 
  • The merits of Gerry Anderson's 'Thunderbirds'
  • Gluten Intolerances

Likewise, tell them about yourself if you client is interested. It's not for everyone, but if it's right I regularly keep people updated with what's going on in my world.

be responsive

Although there's a communication process, sometimes clients just need you. In my mind it doesn't matter if it's major (i.e their website's fallen over) or minor (they've forgotten what their Facebook login is), if they contact me then it's important to them. 

If time is of the essence I try to respond in minutes, not hours and normally over the phone. That way they can see someone is on the case. But there's limits. Meetings and general out of the office activities mean there are times when I can't solve their problems, but I'll at least communicate to them when I can help them (or if there's someone else on hand who can help).

Set their expectations at the very beginning for how, and how often you communicate. Otherwise, you'll leave people expecting things you can't deliver. Keeps retention and makes life working with one another more enjoyable.

BE HONEST

I don't know everything about a lot of things, but if I don't know I'll say.

Providing a woolly answer or downright lying causes problems down the line by knocking your credibility.

I think clients appreciate that we can't know everything all the time. But you know what? We'll look into it, call in other people and fill in the knowledge gaps to help out.

show your working

An explanation for a piece of work should always be given when work gets delivered. Explaining the thinking, the process, the very actions that you went through to deliver what you've done genuinely helps to keep clients happy.

Clients can see the sheer effort you've put in which is good, but it also shows someone you've gone through a sound process in coming to your decisions. Why have you picked those keywords? Why did you do a blog post on that item? 

Think about how you communicate this to. A few lines in an email might not cut it. Schedule time to talk through a piece of work on the phone, or even better have a face to face catch up which can often tease questions from clients which wouldn't have been asked previously.

don't let them know about one another

This I think might be the controversial one - I keep quiet about my other clients when I'm with a client.

Cheesy as it may sound I want them to feel like I'm their only there for them. They have my undivided time and attention and want me. Not me for a few hours, whilst I'm thinly spread juggling the accounts of all these 'other' people. 

Now, don't get me wrong, if there's a business reason 2 clients should talk, or we've done something particularly relevant with 1 client that that's worth showing to another, then the clients are mentioned. But I will never say 'oh, sorry I can't make that meeting because I'm seeing X' or 'I can only get this over to you on Friday because I'm working on a big presentation for Y'. 

Make your clients feel like they're the only people who have you and your time. 

HAVE PATIENCE

Some clients are just quicker at getting it than others. It's our job to educate them as well as communicate. But have patience and empathy that your client has their own pressures / demands / clients / kids to all deal with.

If they don't respond don't get mad. If they need an extra 5 minutes to run through an example make the time. At the start of a new retainer with a client, their boss wanted change after change for an email campaign. It resulted in 15 calls over 90 minutes going back and forth. It wasn't the most fun I've ever had, but it showed them what kind of agency Optix is and put the relationship in a damn good position and over 18 months later we are still working together.

Do you think you'd last as long if you didn't have any of these but still produced great work?

3 Logo Design Tools

3 Logo Design Tools

It's going to be a quick post this. Things are busy and time is tight. But recently I've come across a fair number of people just starting out with their own businesses. With a necessity of doing everything on a shoestring, a question I'm often asked where can I get a logo made?

Here's 3 solutions*

Hipster Logo Generator

If you need something sleek and monochrome then look no further. Hipster Logo Generator is neat, quick and has a whole host of functionality built in. Perfect if your next business venture is an artisnal burger bar.

Make your logo here.

Squarespace Logo

Staying with the minimalist theme, Squarespace Logo offers simple text and a bewildering array of symbols and shapes to create a logo. This isn't the place to come if you're looking for colour, but at only $10 a logo (or free for Squarespace customers) it's well worth exploring.

Make your logo here.

Fiverr

Let other people do the hard work for you. Fiverr is an awesome place where alongside logo design you can commission people from across the globe to carry out all sorts of creative services; and you guessed it - starting from as little as $5. There's colour. There's creativity. It's just about finding the right person.

Make your logo here. 

Top Tip:

If your new to digital images, then make sure whatever logo you have completed is sent to you in a range of formats including an SVG file. This type of file means your logo will look good regardless of whether your printing it on a billboard of a postage stamp - it means the quality won't be altered.

Show me what you've designed. Tweet me @danwht

*Note, these should only be used if you have an eye for design. To make your business stand out I'd highly recommend you save up and commission an experienced designer who can create something remarkable. After all, your logo is going to be with you for the duration of your business.