You never do.
Instead, you get paid what other people think you’re worth.
That’s an empathic flip that makes it all make sense.
Instead of feeling undervalued or disrespected, you can focus on creating a reputation and a work product that others believe is worth more.
Because people don’t make buying decisions based on what’s good for you–they act based on what they see, need and believe.
Yes, we frequently sell ourselves too short. We don’t ask for compensation commensurate with the value we create. It’s a form of hiding. But the most common form of this hiding is not merely lowering the price. No, the mistake we make is in not telling stories that create more value, in not doing the hard work of building something unique and worth seeking out.
This is another way to talk about marketing. And modern marketing is done with the people we seek to serve, not at them. It’s based on the idea that if the customer knew what you know, and believed what you believe, they’d want to work with you. On the principle that long-term trust is worth far more than any single transaction every could be.
[Today’s the last best day to sign up for the current session of The Marketing Seminar. It started yesterday. I hope you’ll check it out.]
When confronted with too many good options, it’s easy to get paralyzed. The complaint is that we don’t know what to do next, because we’re pulled in many good directions–and doing one thing with focus means not doing something else.
This is a common way to get stuck. After all, if you’re at this crossroads, where more consideration means more possibility, while more action merely means walking away from a potentially better choice, it’s easy to settle for the apparently safe path, which is more study.
No one can blame you for careful consideration. More careful consideration seems to insulate you from the criticism that follows taking action.
But getting stuck helps no one.
Here’s an alternative:
Write up a one-pager on each of the five best alternatives you are considering. Use the document to sell each idea as hard as you can, highlighting the benefits for you and those you seek to serve.
Then, hand the proposals to your trusted advisors. They vote (without you in the room) and you commit to doing whatever it is they choose. Not thinking about it, but doing it.
Merely agreeing to this scenario is usually enough incentive to pick on your own and get to work.
We do this in two ways:
The first is refusing to be clear and precise about what the mission is. Avoiding specifics about what we hope to accomplish and for whom. Being vague about success and (thus about failure).
After all, if no one knows exactly what the mission is, it’s hard feel like a failure if it doesn’t succeed.
The second is even more insidious. We degrade the urgency of the mission. We become diffuse. We get distracted. Anything to avoid planting a stake and saying, "I made this."
It’s possible to spend 7 hours and 52 minutes out of an eight-hour day in doing nothing but hiding from the mission. And it’s exhausting.
It’s not unusual for something to be positioned as the high performance alternative. The car that can go 0 to 60 in three seconds, the corkscrew that’s five times faster, the punch press that’s incredibly efficient…
The thing is, though, that the high performance vs. low performance debate misses something. High at what?
That corkscrew that’s optimized for speed is more expensive, more difficult to operate and requires more maintenance.
That car that goes so fast is also more difficult to drive, harder to park and generally a pain in the neck to live with.
You may find that a low-performance alternative is exactly what you need to actually get your work done. Which is the highest performance you can hope for.
Of course, you have one. We all do. A theory about everything.
You’re waiting for 7:20 train into the city. Your theory is that every day, the train comes and brings you to work. Today, the train doesn’t come. That’s because it’s Sunday, and the train doesn’t run on the same schedule. Oh. So you’ve learned something, and now you have a new theory, which is that the train comes at 7:20 on weekdays only. And you’ll keep working with that theory, and most of the time, it’ll help you get what you want.
And you have a theory that putting a card into the ATM delivers money.
And you have a theory that smiling at a stranger increases the chances that you’ll have a good interaction.
And on and on.
Many theories, proposals about what might work in the future.
We can fall into a few traps with our theories about humans:
[PS The Marketing Seminar is accepting new signups right now.]
The creation of worthwhile work is a duet. The creator has to do her part, but so does the customer.
One of the best airport restaurants I’ve ever encountered breaks my first rule of airport eating. The sushi bar at gate 30 of Narita airport is a special place (though I wish they didn’t serve tuna).
The rice is extraordinary. The nori is crisp. The service is efficient but friendly. They have wonderful vegan rolls, flavorful shiso, and yes, it’s hard to believe but true: real wasabi, grated to order. My guess is that the very best sushi restaurant in your town doesn’t serve real wasabi. But I digress.
When I was there a few months ago, I apologized to the entire staff. I apologized to them on behalf of every traveler (many, if not most, from my country) that was dredging this extraordinary product in soy sauce, bathing it from top to bottom in the style created to mask the flavor of generations-worth of mediocre, lazily-created sushi. The Japanese equivalent of putting ketchup on your food in a fine restaurant.
I could only imagine how much it hurt for the caring artisans to watch their creation get wrecked by diners too oblivious to see what had been created for them.
And one day, I’m guessing, a new layer of management will wonder why they even bother. So they’ll cut a few corners and few will notice. The race to the bottom.
Every once in awhile, someone steps up and makes something better. Much better. When it happens, it’s up to us to stand up and notice it. Which means buying it and consuming it with the very same care that it was created with.
Movies, writing, sushi, safety ladders, high-powered magnets, saxophones… it doesn’t matter. Every creator that desires to fly higher needs an audience willing to cheer them on and go for the ride as well. That’s our part of the deal.
One thing that’s often taught in amateur internet marketing school is the idea of keyword stuffing.
List every possible thing that someone might want you to do on your website, so if they type that in, they’ll find you.
It’s an echo of something that freelancers and small businesses have been doing forever, "what do you need?" as an answer to the question, "what do you do?"
I was at the vet a few years ago, and he was busy trying to fix a rabbit. He’s a good vet, but how many rabbits does he actually get to treat? I think everyone would have been happier if he had announced that the client should have taken her pet to a rabbit specialist.
You might be as well.
Good referrals are smarter than mediocre, distracting work.
Own your work. No need to do someone else’s.
The fourth session of The Marketing Seminar is open for enrollment today.
No shortcuts, no magic spells, no secrets. Merely an effective, day by day approach to making a difference in the new year. A community of leaders, freelancers, managers and entrepreneurs intent on doing marketing that works. Modern marketing.
Look for the purple circle to earn a significant discount that peaks today.
TMS works, because peer learning works. Be part of a community that’s doing work we’re proud of.
I hope you can join us.
Most of us have two speeds.
There’s the grind, the day after day, a marathon, work work work.
And there’s the recovery, the sleep in, Netflix and chill zombie state that we compartmentalize into a day like today.
But what about sprints?
Not sprints because the boss or the client insists.
Sprints that we take on merely because they energize us and remind us of how much we can do when we get out of our own way. Sprints that build our capacity. Sprints to embolden us.
The best way to improve your marathon is to learn to sprint now and then.
Maybe you can’t sustain a sprint for a day.
But what about this afternoon? What could you learn or build or teach or contribute? What can you ship?