How to REALLY Support the Work of Someone You Respect

There is so much noise out there. Tweets, status updates, emails, blog posts, comments, pins, and the like. So I have been considering how I ensure I can help out those I respect and admire. That, if a colleague or friend has a new book out, a great newsletter, a new product or course: how can I REALLY help spread the word? My conclusion:


And I think this related to the offline world in this way:


Yes, a Tweet is nice. A bumper sticker is nice. They are very much appreciated. But do they take ENOUGH action? Do they focus on having a powerful intended effect? Or, do they sometimes come off as a well-meaning token effort? I want my support to be measured in action. In results, not intentions.

So today, I want to review different ways that I can promote the work of someone I respect in a world that is full of a very low signal to noise ratio.

To frame the conversation, here are some examples of some folks I respect, whose message or services I would like to spread:

There are so many others I could add to this list!

How do you spread the word about books you love? Services that have wowed you? Articles that made you rethink something important? How do you promote the people BEHIND these creations in a consistent and meaningful way?

So this is what I have come up with so far in terms or actions I can take:

Really empathize with what their goals are and what they need to achieve them. That if I know someone has a fledgling business, I know how tenuous that can be, how every little “win” can just make their day. So how can I deliver two more days like that this month for them? Or four days!?

Sometimes, when speaking about the creative arts and ventures built upon passion, we don’t talk about money enough. That a writer needs to support their family. That an entrepreneur has lots of risk and overhead, and even sleepless nights. That financial support means that they can sleep better, support their family, and make positive proactive decisions to grow in a meaningful way. That yes, growing someone’s revenue streams can increase their ability to create art or great writing. That it may allow them to take MORE creative risks.

So when I empathize with a writer who has a new book out; a colleague who offers services; or a journalist reporting on something, I want to really analyze the resources they need to support their work. That a writer needs sales, not just “exposure.” They need momentum. They need a team out there working on their behalf.

It is not enough to just say “Congratulations on your new book Christina!” on Twitter. I need to make the ‘ask,’ actually encouraging people to buy her book, watch the trailer, attend a reading, or subscribe to her newsletter. I need to provide the context, ensuring people know WHY they may like this book.

This is hard. As a business owner, I am super sensitive about the distinction of sharing my passion for what I do working with writers, and anything that has a price tag on it. People react differently when a price tag is involved. And I think sometimes we shy away from the “ask” because we expend less social capital. There is a difference in me saying these two things on Twitter:

  • Loved Christina Rosalie’s new book A Field Guide to Now. Thanks @Christina_write!
  • If you want to lead a more meaningful creative life, check out A Field Guide to Now by @Christina_write. Check it out

I want to be more mindful to ensure my mentions allow people to take an ACTION.

I don’t want to pat myself on the back for sending a single Tweet supporting Christina or Jane or someone else I respect. Because if I send that Tweet at 4pm on a Tuesday, maybe only a tiny percentage of my followers actually see it. Maybe the single Tweet doesn’t communicate the passion I feel about this person and their work. I need to think strategically about how I can spread their message and promote their work consistently over time.

For example: how can I share the news about someone’s book consistently over time without saying the same thing again and again? Some ideas:

  • Interview him or her
  • Post an excerpt
  • Review it on Amazon and Goodreads
  • See if I can help host a book tour date in NJ or NY
  • Share his or her book trailer on Facebook
  • Tweet about him often, but use different Tweets each time. Some overtly endorsing the book, other times sharing a great quote from it, or promoting his or her own blog posts or Tweets. Be mindful to not to be promotional, but meaningful.
  • Think of who else has an audience that would appreciate this book. Reach out to them via email and encourage them to interview with author, or host part of their blog tour, etc.
  • Buy books and send them to those I know who would appreciate it, especially if those people may connect with others who would like it.
  • Are there organizations that I am involved with who would want to partner with this author or even consider bulk sales? Reach out to them.

Realistically, in a single month, I could spread the word in 5 different ways, 20 different times.

I don’t want to assume that I know someone’s goals, and what they value most in their career. Maybe they are more focused on getting blog subscribers, or spreading the word about an appearance, or a blog tour, or selling a book. Reach out and ASK THEM what matters most. Don’t do this get credit for spreading the word, do so to ensure that my efforts are laser targeted on what matters most. Again: this is about effect, not intention.

As I was writing this post, I saw a similar one from Nilofer that explores this same topic in a slightly different way: How To Support An Author. Well worth the read.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how to support those you respect.


How Web Analytics Can Help You Develop Your Author Platform

Today I shared a guest post on Joel Friedlander’s discussing three ways that analytics can help you develop your author platform. The post addresses a couple challenges many writers are faced with:

  • Not knowing enough about who their audience is.
  • Not having enough time to do everything they want to develop their author platform.

And looks at tools that can help you find out:

  • Who is engaging with you.
  • Where they are coming from.
  • What they are interested in.

Please head over to Joel’s site to check out the post.

When To Hire a Professional to Help You Push Your Career Forward

When do you hire a professional to help you move your career forward? Sometimes this might be paying for a specific thing (such as a website); othertimes, it may be hiring expert advisors to help you move past a barrier and develop a strategy via training or consulting.

I have recently been addressing this topic for myself, as I have been outlining in the previous two blog posts of this series:

Today, I want to discuss the decision-making that goes into when and how to go about hiring a professional to assist you.

Deciding You Need Help

The hardest part of achieving a goal is starting. The second hardest part is to not stop, to keep going. Deciding that you need assistance is not a sign of weakness, it is often admission of reality: that you can’t do it all.  Sure, you can get by all by yourself, a jack of all trades; but sometimes having is help the difference between success and continuing to run on that hamster wheel.

Hiring someone can provide expertise that you simply don’t have. Yes, you could read a book. But that is not the same as years of real-world experience, truly executing, not just learning theory.

Hiring someone can also save you time. Likely, you are juggling many things with few resources. Putting someone on your team to tackle a specific task means it frees you up to do other things, and pushes you forward more quickly.

For me, I built We Grow Media for nearly two years before I made many investments in hiring others. I wanted to make sure it was stable in terms of cash flow, but I also wanted to really learn more about who I served and how I served them. In the beginning, you make assumptions. I wanted to be SURE that whatever I invested in was exactly the right thing to encourage further growth.

Who To Hire

There are so many people out there who offer professional services. You need to find someone you trust and who will get the job done. I tend to break this out into two parts:

    1. Ensuring it’s someone I connect with. So I get a recommendation from a friend, or have a phone chat with someone I am considering hiring first. Or maybe I follow them on social media to get a sense of their work style and personality.
    2. Don’t just assume someone can deliver the goods – where possible look for real proof that they can execute on what they promise. Maybe this is experiencing the results of their work or it could be social proof – talking to their past customers.

Personally, I like hiring those who are building a small business, people who I can partner with and help them move towards their goals just by doing business with them.

Do your research on their background. Reach out to others who have worked with them. Look for a long track record. Go with your gut too – those who feel right.

Scary Legal Agreements

When possible, get an agreement that clearly states parameters, timeframes, process, deliverables, fees, etc. I used to be scared of this stuff – there is something about signing your name to a contract that can make people uncomfortable. But I have found that it sets proper expectations and protects people on both sides. Making too many assumptions will lead to serious problems down the road. You don’t want two people’s memories differing about what was agreed upon. Put it in writing – that way you have a paper trail and proper expectations.

Did I hire a lawyer for most of this stuff? Nope! There are loads of free guidelines and agreements online. Use those as a starting point – but keep it simple. I don’t like agreements that are more than a single page. I have also spoken to friends who have done this stuff before, which gave me lots of wisdom from those I trust.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate agreements. READ THEM! Fred Wilson, a very successful venture capitalist, has written in the past that no clause is “standard” in a legal agreement. (I can’t find the link to his great story on this, sorry!) If something doesn’t feel right, address it. Don’t be afraid to have a clause removed or modified. It’s better to address issues up front to move past them, than to let the fear linger in the back of your mind, and threaten to affect the relationship down the road.

I look for long-term partnerships, even if an agreement only addresses the short term. The idea is to build a relationship and resources that grow over time.

Focus on Communication & Relationships, Not Just Stuff

A big focus for me is working with those who work WITH me, not just do something FOR me. There is a value in the working relationship, in having conversations, not just sending email.

Some people put barriers to connecting – to me this is a warning sign. Examples: there is a form you need to fill out before you chat; you can’t find an email address; they try to keep things ONLY on email, never on the phone. I don’t mean these are “red flags” in terms of them not doing great work, I mean in terms of whether they align to the method in which I like to work. You have to consider how you work best with others, and keep that primary in your mind as you consider who to hire on a professional basis. Communication is critical – if those channels aren’t open, you will receive less value regardless of the other person’s skillset.

Consider how you are building relationships for the long-term, how you can find new ways to work together, to provide resources, and to assist in other ways of helping each other succeed.

The people I have hired recently are those I would openly recommend to others. Not because I get some kind of affiliate commission (I don’t), but because I want their business to grow, and have others benefit from their expertise.

As I detailed in my website redesign process, I would gladly recommend Ben and KJ from Spruce Solutions if you need work done on your website. Likewise, if you live in the New Jersey area, and need a great photographer, consider reaching out to Meridith Bailin Hull. I really enjoyed working with her, and loved the photos she created.

What About the Money!?

If money weren’t an issue, of COURSE each of us would hire people all the time, and always only the BEST of the best. But money is an issue  – we have limited resources to work with, and want to ensure that every dime that we spend somehow repays us down the road with a quarter.

Pay people to help achieve goals that truly move your career forward. Maybe it’s a “thing,” such as a website. But maybe it isn’t – maybe it’s a service or expertise that helps you develop a strategy or move past a barrier. If you walk away from the experience much closer to achieving your career goals, then it is likely money well spent. So: define your goals clearly before you consider what you are hiring people for.

Work in phases when you can. It’s tempting to say that you will hire an agency to build your career from the ground up. They make promises, and send you a huge bill for the service. But… why not step through the process in phases. One thing at a time – one investment of your resources at a time. You learn things in the middle of a process that you never could have imagined at the outset.

Don’t always think that the most expensive option is always the best. Sometimes the most expensive option is only that: the most expensive, not the most EFFECTIVE.

Likewise, don’t always think that the biggest player – the most prominent name in a field is the person you need to hire. Some big names leverage their skills and experience across so many different projects that you get a mere sliver of what they are capable of, especially at the price you can afford. Sometimes hiring an upstart provides 100% of their resources – they NEED for you to succeed in order to further their own career.

When You Can’t Afford Something: Negotiate

When needed: negotiate. I am always SHOCKED that people are too sheepish to do this. That someone will send them an estimate for a project of $5,000 and even though they could afford $3,500, they end up just saying: “No, sorry, I can’t afford $5,000,” and walk away. Work with people to come to a price that works for each of you.

Measure the investment against how much it would cost you to do it yourself. Could you do it yourself? If so, how much time and resources would it take? I could have redesigned my own website. BUT – it would not have turned out nearly as nice at what Ben and KJ provided me, and it would have eaten up TONS of my time – time better spent on other projects that deliver more long-term value to my business.

Don’t Disregard the Emotional Benefit of Working With an Expert

Most people don’t pursue their dream in life. They will tell you it is because of some barrier such as time or money. But often it is fear – it is lonely to take a risk to build something that no one else expected of you. It’s too easy to just do what you have always done.

Hiring a professional can be the key thing that pushes you forward to attacking and achieving your dreams and goals. It builds momentum. It means that there is someone in the world 100% focused on making this happen for you. Imagine that. It’s HUGE. Most of us spend our days surrounded by people trying to ensure things don’t change. That you remain as you are, in your station. But when you hire someone, they wake up in the morning focused on helping you achieve.  Are you paying them? Sure – of course. It doesn’t come cheap. But then, if it’s the difference between you becoming what you want to be, and not, well, maybe it’s worth it.


The Value of Iteration, Testing & Data in Creating Profitable Digital Products

Are you looking for a way to guarantee increased audience size, engagement and revenue around your digital products? In this guest post for Emedia Vitals, I share a methodology for doing just that, comprising of these steps:

  1. Create a process of iteration
    When you find something that works, instead of just copying it and subjecting your audience to more of it, why not optimize what you are already doing?
  2. Always be testing
    Use A/B and multivariate testing to constantly improve your products and services. Test everything: headlines, segments of your list, ways of promoting it, images, different layouts and colors, etc.
  3. Use the data quickly
    The trick is to use data in a way that drives decisions. When you look at metrics, you should be able to define a single action you can take based on what the data tells you.

Click here to read the entire article on

Risk and Reward: Giving Up Safety To Find Opportunity

Today I want to talk about risk. Taking an action that strips away the security net that we surround ourselves with. Knowingly or not, we all take steps to protect our financial well-being, our emotional well-being, our sense of self, and/or our place in this world.

Rebooting Your Life
In 2010, I threw security out the window. At least, security as many traditionally define it: a stable job and income. In the midst of the biggest recession of my lifetime, I left my job of 10 years, and didn’t apply for another. I actually turned down at least four unsolicited job offers from people I really respect. (that felt bizarre, and I was deeply honored by their interest.) That same year, my wife and I had our first child, a little boy. This year, my wife quit her job as an art teacher. She gave up amazing health benefits that were essentially free, as well as tenure at a job she enjoyed. I started a company, serving publishers and writers.

And yet, after having taking each of these steps that seemingly expose me to financial ruin, I have never been happier, felt more successful, or confronted with so much opportunity.

I enjoyed my corporate job – I liked what I did, the people I worked with, and the opportunities it provided. But deep down, I was often worried. There were always rumors about potential layoffs, reorganizations, and shifts in the corporate structure that would result in me losing my job. This was by no means unique to the company I worked for, friends at other companies expressed the same common themes that ran through their corporate life. By one colleague’s count, I had “survived” more than 20 rounds of layoffs over the years.

But now, without a “stable” job, with my wife not working, with another ‘mouth to feed,’ I have never slept better. I have never felt more helpful to others, more confident in my career. And I have never been presented with so many amazing opportunities.

Choosing a Path
It is interesting to consider career paths. In the corporate world, it would have been a slow movement up the corporate ladder. From Director to Senior Director to Junior Vice President to Vice President to Senior Vice President to President. On the surface, that embodies everything about the American Dream: opportunity.


So many executives I met at various companies over the years seemed unhappy in some ways. Yes, they appreciated their roles and the power and financial security that came with it. But their jobs had long since morphed from their true passion. The hours were brutal. They traveled often, spending great deals of time away from their families. The older they got, the more locked in they became. I could always sense the great unspoken fear of corporate America: “getting laid off at age 53.”

You can fill in any age to that phrase – but it implies that you are old enough to have achieved a nice salary, resume, and the wisdom of experience. But that if you are laid off at age 53 (or maybe it is 63 – I don’t really know), and have to find a similar job, you run the risk of being “overqualified” with a salary requirement that is beyond the range of what other companies want to pay.

The result of this scenario can be an aversion to risk: making decisions in your career that are survivalistic and protective, not expansive and innovative. It’s hard to take the risks to follow your true passion when you are too locked in to a certain path. When that path is surrounded by scary monsters, encouraging you to not take half a step off of it, lest your foot gets bitten off.

The Great Second Act
Steve Jobs’ career validates the dreams of so many mid-career managers. That they may feel they have hit a slump in their 30s or 40s, but that there can be a great second act where their best and most innovative work is still ahead of them. Frank Lloyd Wright’s career had an equally brilliant second act, as have some bands such as U2. Yes, it can be done.

But it’s hard. It’s risky. In the Steve Jobs bio, the ability to have a great second act was that “lasting companies know how to reinvent themselves… You’ve got to be like a butterfly and have a metamorphosis.” That is harder than it sounds.

Bono described reinventing U2 in 1990 as the following:

“You have to reject one expression of the band first, before you get to the next expression. And in between you have nothing. You have to risk it all.”

That middle phrase is the part that is often overlooked: “In between, you have nothing.”

I firmly believe that people get wiser and filled with more potential as they get older. Which is why I end up working with so many people who are trying to grow their impact and legacy through writing and publishing. It is incredibly inspiring to me.

The Myth of Being Your Own Boss
Being an entrepreneur means you are always standing on the precipice of success and failure. The most subtle change in the wind can dramatically shift your footing. Every decision is yours, and every resource you expend in both time and money comes from your own pocket. There is rarely a clear path. You have to analyze as best you can, then go on gut instinct. Risk is inherent in nearly everything you do.

Instead of one boss, the entrepreneur has many bosses. Every client or customer or student is a different boss. A relationship that has to be appreciated and respected.

And I love that. For my experience as an entrepreneur, it challenges me to become better at providing value to others, and to understand how I can do more to grow my impact and legacy.

But I often hear of people describing this as “being your own boss,” implying that you are no longer beholden to others. I feel like the opposite is true though, that I rely much more on others. And that it is truly a wonderful thing. In our culture, I think we need to become MORE connected to each other, not less.

Exponential Return on Investment
Yes, there is and will continue to be, great risk in what I am doing. Every year will be different as my business grows, waxes, wanes. I will experience what Seth Godin calls “The Dip.” There will be great challenges, often at unexpected time.

But, in this process, I am building skills. I am building wonderful connections with incredible people. I am pushing myself hard to provide as much value to others as I can.

Yes, a “regular” job has greater safety, and some really nice benefits. I would never begrudge anyone that. It is a deeply personal choice. But in that safety is often a diminished sense of opportunity, that there is a positive return on investment, but perhaps not an exponential return on investment. What you work on, who you work with, the outcomes of that work, such as salary, will likely grow slowly over the years. With risk of entrepreneurship does come the potential for unexpected and huge positive outcomes.

You Will Die. Build Your Legacy Today
Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s true. Regardless of what you feel happens once we pass on from this world, now is your time to build a legacy in this specific time and place. Only you can determine what that legacy will be. Some of the most amazing legacies are not defined by entrepreneurship at all: being a wonderful mother, a loyal employee, a giving member of the community. I love those.

Sometimes we are so fearful of the bad things that can happen if we take a risk, that we forget there could be positive outcomes. So we put off important goals time and time again. We live for the obligations of the present, and fear for the future. But…

If there is a creative dream in the back of your mind, but life’s pressures keep you from pursuing it, consider doing them in 2012. Give your dreams a chance, instead of constantly fighting to keep them down. I can’t guarantee safety, no one can. But if your goal is to have an impact on the world in a way you have not yet realized; if you hope to be remembered for things you have not yet done, then now is the time to start down that path.