Monday Spark: The pleasure of doing something really badly…courtesy of the Z-Eleven.

doing something badlyA couple of weeks ago I wrote about our culture’s obsession with being the best…being a winner at all costs.

My message was that you don’t need to be the best in order to be successful in your work as a freelancer.

This week I want to talk about the extraordinary pleasure that can be found in doing something really, really badly.

To explain what I mean by that, I need to take you back to 1965 when, as a shy and socially awkward 8-year old, I was sent off to an English boarding school.

And yes, private boarding schools in England back then were not so very far from the stereotypes that might be popping into your mind right now. In a word, it was quite tough.

Academic performance was a big part of our lives, and our abilities were tested on a frequent basis. You soon learned whether you were one of the brainy kids, or one of the “thick” kids.

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Every aspect of your freelance business is about marketing. At least, it should be.

get clients freelancerI have coached a lot of freelancers, and I often hear the same question, “How can I get more clients?”

When they ask this question, many freelancers are hoping I can provide a simple answer. They want me to provide the “secret” to marketing a freelance business.

To put it a little less kindly, many are looking for the easy button. “Nick, please just tell me which button to press so I can quickly get more clients.”

Then I tell them the truth….that there is no easy button.

I also tell them that even after 30 years as a freelancer, I am still marketing my services and products. I’m marketing myself every day. Marketing isn’t just something you do three or four times a year.

Next they might ask me what my best marketing tactics are. Cold calls? Direct mail? Event marketing? Content marketing? Video marketing?

Well, one or more of the above might be part of one’s marketing mix. But that’s just a small part of what marketing a freelance business is all about.

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Monday Spark: Try something new for 30 days. [VIDEO]

new for 30 days calendarThis is Matt Cutts’ idea, as you’ll see from the video below.

He talks for only a few minutes, because it doesn’t take long to share his simple but powerful idea.

Matt changed his life by giving himself a series of 30-day challenges. He went without sugar for 30 days. He cycled to work for 30 days. He wrote a novel in 30 days.

The idea is powerful, because he’s not trying to force himself to do something new for every day of the rest of his life. He is talking about just 30 days. That’s a much less threatening idea.

One of the things he described really stuck with me. He showed a picture he had taken during his 30-day challenge to take a photo every day. He made the point that he remembered exactly where he took that photo, and goes on to say that by doing these challenges he now has far more vivid memories of how each month passes.

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Take the stress out of SEO by focusing on the long tail.

long tail seoLike many people, I have spent the last couple of years furiously trying to figure out what Google is up to.

Over that period, some of my websites have seen an increase in search engine traffic while others have seen a decline. And no, I haven’t always been able to figure out exactly why each increase or decrease has taken place.

It used to be relatively easy to figure out what Google was looking for. Not any more.

The Panda and Penguin updates in particular had a huge impact on people who thought they knew what Google wanted.

Yes, many sites that deserved to be impacted saw their listings drop off page one.

But there were many false-positives too. People who had worked hard to play by Google’s rules suddenly saw their traffic drop significantly. It was toughest of all on those people who really couldn’t see where they might have gone wrong.

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Monday Spark: It’s OK not to be the best at what you do.

don't have to be the winnerIn our culture we are under a lot of pressure to be the best. When we sit exams, go to job interviews, have job reviews, come up for promotion…and so on.

We also live in a culture that is obsessed with competition, and seeing who comes out on top.

Who is going to win the Superbowl? Who is the best golfer in the world? Who is the best supermodel? Who has the best garden on your street? Whose kid did best in the school play?

In other words, we are under pressure to be winners. If we are not winners, well, we are losers. And in North American culture, nothing is worse than being a loser.

As a freelancer, you need to distance yourself from this cultural narrative.

If you stress about not being the best, or not being a winner, then you’ll undermine your self-confidence.

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Your home page is the shop window to your website.

home page as shop windowWhether you are a freelancer, consultant, coach or any other kind of service provider, you’ll never close the sale on your website’s home page.

The purpose of your home page is not to make the sale. Its purpose is to hook and engage your first-time visitor.

You need to write and design a home page that makes your visitor feel…

“Yes, I’m in the right place, and the 20 words I have read so far make me feel confident enough to check out some other pages on this site.”

If you can’t quite see that in your mind’s eye, let’s look at the shop window analogy.

As you are hurrying down the sidewalk, on the way somewhere else, you find yourself in front of the shop window of a clothing store.

Something about the display hooks you and makes you stop, even if you are in a hurry to be elsewhere.

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