How to Deal with Adversity


Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-air

In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground where I spent most of my days
Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all shooting some b-ball outside of the school
When a couple of guys, they were up to no good
Started making trouble in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight and my mom got scared
And said “You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-air”

Adversity. It’s just a fancy word for “shit hitting the fan.” But no matter who you are, you will face adversity in life. It sucks. I’ve faced my share of adversity during my life (specific examples to be shared at later dates). But regardless of what the specific adversity you run into, I’ve found a formula that can teach you how to deal with adversity.

Before I begin, let’s be clear, this is the formula that I’ve found to be successful. I’m sure there’s a bit of Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief mixed in here, but that’s not the basis of my advice. Mine is more one part emotional, one part pragmatic.

Step 1: Accept The Depression

Eeyore

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Depression doesn’t have to be a nasty word. We all feel depressed at times and that’s ok. When you deal with adversity you’re going to feel sad. Allow yourself feel sad! Mourn your loss and give yourself time to process what just happened.

How long you feel depressed will be contingent on the severity of your adversity. Losing your job vs. losing a client will require different mourning periods. For some small bouts of adversity, I allow myself a night off from work. For bigger events, I might give myself 72 hours. That’s me. It could be longer/shorter for you. The point being is, accept your sadness, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Step 2: Process The Situation

Image Courtesy of Tomas Sobek via Flickr

Image Courtesy of Tomas Sobek via Flickr*

While you accept the depression and take some time off, start to process the situation at hand. At first you’re going to feel shock and numbness. My first reaction is to brush it off and try to figure out what to do. But the reality is, this is probably the worst thing I could do.

When I take time off, I try and do non-work related activities that don’t require me to think about anything related to what just happened. I often lose myself in movies or books. By escaping mentally, I’m calming down my emotions, which will allow me to be more rational later on. DO NOT under any circumstances make any important decisions during this time. Your judgment is clouded. Spend this time bringing yourself back to normal.

*Bonus tip: Do something that makes you feel like you’re in control. When things in my life seem out of control, I clean. I hate cleaning, but when I clean, I feel in control. I feel like order is being created. Scrubbing dirty dishes and vacuuming really clears my mind.

Step 3: Make a List

To-Do-ListI love making lists. I do this on a daily basis. But the list I make after a big set back is a little different than my day-to-day list. I simply write down things I need to do or want to do. There’s no order or level of importance. And it doesn’t have to be work related either. If you have to take out the garbage or buy apples, put that down on your list.

Making a list helps me decrease the clutter in my mind. Getting it all down on paper eases the temporary mental burden. You’ll start to feel more relaxed and one step closer to getting back on the horse.

Step 4: Devise a Plan

Image Courtesy of Ecotrust Canada via Flickr

Image Courtesy of Ecotrust Canada via Flickr**

Now that you’ve calmed yourself, processed the situation, and written down things you need to do, start creating a plan. What’s your strategy to overcome your adversity? On your To-Do list, what needs to be taken care of now and what is going to take longer than 30 seconds to complete?

The reason why I add simple things like “Buy milk” on my to-do list is because it’s an easy win. Get milk and cross it off your list. It feels good. Crossing a few of these tasks off your list will help you get the blood flowing and allow you to really conquer the bigger issues. And that’s what this 4-Step process is about…getting you mentally prepared to overcome the recent adversity.

Use this plan as a loose blueprint. Everyone is different. Your problems will vary is severity as will the variables surrounding your situation. But I’ve overcome firings, eviction notices, legal notices, breakups, and much more with this plan. This isn’t something I read in a psychology book that I’m regurgitating back to you. This is exactly what I do when I face adversity.

If you’re dealing with some type of adversity, feel free to reach out to me. My email is jesse at prepare dot io. While I can’t solve all your problems, I can lend an empathetic ear and offer some advice. You’re never alone in this world.

*Tomas Sobek Flickr

**Ecotrust Canada Flickr



A Look Back: 10 Years on Facebook


*My college roommates that huddled around a Dell computer, first discovering Facebook.

My college roommates that huddled around a Dell computer, first discovering Facebook.

If you’ve logged into Facebook the past few days, you’ve probably seen a plethora of Look Back videos in your Timeline. These fun snap shots of your time on Facebook are a fun way to look back at some of your best Facebook moments. But for me, some of my memorable moments on Facebook can’t be quantified by the number of likes a post received. Instead, the stories that stick out in my mind illustrate how far the product has come since I joined.

I joined Facebook when I was a junior in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and we were still using AIM on our black Dell desktops. I recall learning about Facebook weeks before I ultimately signed up. My friend Meghan Korol had a Facebook widget in your AIM profile. I distinctly remember seeing it, wondering what it was, but also thinking it looked really dumb.

joined-facebook

The date I first joined Facebook.

I forget how it exactly happened, but all my roommates on Doty Street in Madison, WI gathered around our roommate Cubby’s computer. He too was friends with Meghan and had clicked on her Facebook widget and we were all suddenly engrossed with the site. We kept saying how dumb this was and why would anyone be on it? Yet we continued to click around and looking for our friends’ profiles. This went on for at least an hour. After we finally pried ourselves away from the computer, we all dispersed to our separate rooms to create an account and continue our stalking.

Looking back, it’s remarkable how early I was on Facebook. I joined on December 1st, 2004 and it was that month that Facebook officially passed one million users.  Out of the more than one billion people who use Facebook today, I was one of the first million! The University of Wisconsin-Madison was one in the wave of major schools that Facebook was open to after the Ivy League schools. I remember my friends at smaller schools feeling left out that they couldn’t get this Facebook thing that everyone else had.  It’s weird thinking that I was on Facebook before every college student had access to it.

first-facebook-wall-post

The first wall post I received. You can see the sentiment around joining Facebook at the time. The photo being referenced was a marketing photo I took for the small liberal arts college I went to my freshman year before transferring to Madison.

One of the features that I most loved about Facebook in this era was the public class schedule. You could enter in what classes you were enrolled in and see how was in your classes. I loved this because I took this to my advantage during final exams. I would look up students in my class and go to Helen C (the major library on campus) and actively look for students in my class. I would “bump” into them and do the whole, “Aren’t you in my X class? Are you studying for the exam? Do you mind if I jump in on your study session?” routine. This feature was deleted years later, but to me, it’s one of those features that reminds me of Facebook’s early collegiate beginnings. It’s a feature that many have either forgotten or were never privy to.

In 2005 I had moved to another house with my roommates and Facebook was becoming more ubiquitous on campus. So much so, that I felt comfortable using Facebook to invite people to my house for a kegger. I bought a keg and told everyone in advance on Facebook that I was having a party. That’s the only way I “marketed” my party.  Exactly two people showed up to that sad, sad party. I had overestimated how many people checked Facebook daily for messages.

Little known fact, I requested to be Mark Zuckerberg's friend in the early days. He declined my friendship. It still hurts.

Little known fact, I requested to be Mark Zuckerberg’s friend in the early days. He declined my friendship. It still hurts.

Fast forward to 2014, when everyone has Facebook. (I should mention that when Facebook made the announcement that anyone could sign up for Facebook, no longer needing a .edu email address, I personally felt the loss of exclusivity that Facebook had given me.) I recently threw a party for my friends here in LA. Like my party back in 2005, I only used Facebook to invite people to the party. But unlike my party in 2005, present day Facebook blew up my invite list. The party got so big that I had to get a larger venue and I ended up throwing one hell of a party. Same strategy, 9 years apart, two very different outcomes.

I have dozens of stories like these about my use of Facebook over the years, but these stories stand out in my mind. I can’t believe that Facebook is ten and I’ve been on it for more than nine years.  Happy birthday to Facebook. You’ve done a lot for me in my life. I would have never imagined that huddling around Cubby’s computer 9 years ago would change my life.

*BTW Trying to find a digital photo from our 2004 college house is damn near impossible. We still used disposable cameras and no one scanned and uploaded photos for Facebook. 



How Do I Get Traffic To My Site? Part I


405-traffic

*This is Part I in a series about how to increase your website’s traffic. 

Have you ever heard of the 405 in Los Angeles? It’s our main freeway and it’s ALWAYS busy. There is bumper to bumper traffic at all times of the day. If you’re lucky enough to go 30 miles an hour, you feel like you’re flying. Now if there was only a way that you could divert this maddening traffic into web traffic, you’d be golden! Alas, we live in the real world and that means we have to suffer through too much traffic on the 405 and too little traffic to our websites.

While there is nothing I can do to help you with your daily commute, I can help you answer the age-old question, “How do I get traffic to my site?”  Let me give you this caveat before diving into the different tactics…it’s hard. Building website traffic is time consuming and never as easy as it sounds on paper. That’s why I’m breaking this topic up into several parts. Today we’re gong to start with determining what type of content you should be creating.

thinking-man

Make your audience think.

You can’t polish a turd, nor can you get people to come read crap content. You have to create high quality content that interests people. Your content has to be relevant, thought provoking, entertaining, informative, and fresh. Regurgitating a top ten list that Buzzfeed published a day before is not going to get you people to your site.

An exercise you should think about before creating content is brainstorm what your target audience would be interested in. You need to know what kind of content to create before you start to brainstorm all the different types of content to create.

Believe it or not, you’ll probably have the flexibility with what you write about. Take the Buffer blog. It started out as a blog about Twitter and helping people be more effective on Twitter since that’s what their product originally did. But their blog exploded in traffic once they expanded to topics beyond Twitter. Today they write about things like Facebook, Twitter, productivity, writing, and customer service. While their product is focused on publishing social media content, they’re helping solve problems that their customers have, outside of their product solution.

MadScientist

Experiment to see what content works with your audience.

One thing I found with this blog was that readers were really attracted to my posts about entrepreneurship and client services. I originally thought that I’d only write about how to blog better, but that’s not the case. Some of the most successful posts have been the ones like, “How to Read People” and “How to Write a Proposal That Will Land the Client.” That’s because many readers of this blog are freelancers who are trying to build their businesses. Reading people and improving their proposals is much more valuable content to them than reading another post on the new Facebook algorithm.

You should also know that your first hypothesis will probably be wrong. Just start creating content and see what works with your audience. Even if it’s just a like or two per post, you’ll start to understand what people really want from you. But you have to start by creating any kind of content.

If you can’t figure out what kind of content is valuable to your audience, you’re never going to build regular traffic. You can create all the ebooks you want and post a million times on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get meaningful traffic. Start your quest for traffic by giving your readers a reason to read your content.

 

 



Be Excellent To One Another


Be Kind

Life as an entrepreneur can be incredibly lonely.  The odds are stacked against you and no one really knows what you’re going through internally. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic and I’m not the only one writing about it. As a solo founder, life can be especially lonely.

But the point of this post isn’t to talk about loneliness. Rather, it’s meant to remind you that underneath the brave face you see from people, lies another untold story. This lesson isn’t limited to entrepreneurs. It affects everyone in society.

It was pointed out to me the other day that I’m very quick to judge. I rationalize this with Malcolm Gladwell’s theory in his book “Blink.” Often our snap decisions prove to be correct, rather than those rooted in in-depth research. And I have found more often than not, my instincts are correct.

Making snap judgements of people, especially strangers, is dangerous. You never know what’s going on in their lives. Entrepreneurs will put on a brave face for their team, their friends and family, even investors, but you never know what they’re actually struggling with.

My suggestion to everyone, myself included, is to be excellent to one another. Not only will it make the world a better place, but it can make a real impact in someone’s life. I have a mental Rolodex of people who said something as simple as, “How’s your day?” to me when I was feeling like shit. That simple question, and briefly talking about what I was going through (without going into too much detail) let out just enough pressure to make me feel well enough to move on.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”



5 Movies Every Entrepreneur Must Watch


“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.” – Million Dollar Baby

I know entrepreneurs don’t have a lot of free time. But, everyone should make time to relax and watch a movie from time to time. And if you’re going to take the time to watch a movie, I would suggest watching a movie that pumps you up and gets you excited about building your company. (We all need a shot of energy from time to time.) These are five movies that I think every entrepreneur should watch at some point. Their common thread? Risk, perseverance, confidence, and hard work. Qualities all entrepreneurs need to succeed.

1. Million Dollar Baby

This movie is fantastic! Hilary Swank’s character is superb. She’s told she’s too old and not talented by the man she wants to train her. But she persists and convinces him to train her. She sacrifices and does what it takes to get the job done. If this movie doesn’t pump you up, maybe you should move to corporate world.

YouTube Preview Image

2. Shawshank Redemption

Another classic movie. Who doesn’t love this movie? I love this movie because Andy Dufresne is one calculated individual. He does things his way, has a plan, and sticks to it. He never gave up and was patient enough to reap the rewards of his patience and hard work.

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3. Pursuit of Happyness

One of my favorite Will Smith movies. Will Smith’s character is a single dad, broke, and goes homeless. Instead of whining, he talks his way into an unpaid internship, even though he’s a grown man. He busts his hump to get the job he wants. “Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me.”

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4. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 

I can feel the vitriol bubbling at your lips. I bet you are astonished and upset that Justin Bieber, the poppy prima donna, is on this list. Well, he is. Forget how you might feel about his music, he’s a 16 year old kid ruling the charts (or was when the movie was being made). That’s not by mistake.

The kid worked his ass off to get to where he is today. Truth. He sang on the streets, he toured water parks for 10 people, he did what he needed to in order to get noticed. When his shot came around, he took it and the rest is history.

When you watch this movie, you’re going to feel like shit if you’re not working as hard as this 16 year old kid. No excuse.

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5. Something Ventured

This is by far my favorite documentary of all time. The filmmakers do a brilliant job of combining interviews, with old footage, and emotional music to tell the story of Silicon Valley and its first venture capitalists. You’re not just watching people interviewed like most documentaries, you can feel the story of Silicon Valley evolve. I’ve watched this three times and probably will another three times (at least).

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Honorable Mention:

Pirates of Silicon Valley

The Social Network 

What did I miss? What movies would you add to this list?

 



What’s The Difference Between a Client and a Project?


First of all, THANK YOU to everyone who has signed up for Prepare.io and tried it out. Your feedback is really exciting and I’m working on prioritizing new features and functions.

One thing that I’m hearing repeatedly is that the product as a whole is a bit confusing to a first time user. This is something we are working on right now. In a few days we should have a new onboarding process ready. But one thing I’d like to address is the difference between a Client and a Project.

A Client

A client is just like what it sounds like. It’s your client. For example, if you signed Honda as your client, then that’s your client account. I wanted to make this as straight forward as possible.

When you add a client, you can include pertinent information to the account for you to reference in the future. You can add information like:

- Client Name

- Address

- Email Address (Like the main email address that the company shares with the public)

- Phone Number (Main, public number)

- Monthly Retainer

- Who the point of contact is on their team

- What people are on the team

Prepareio-Example-Client-A-Info

A Project

A project is a subset of a client. One client can have one project, or they can have multiple projects going on. How many projects you have depends on how you want to manage your work and your team. The ability to create multiple projects was meant to give you and your team flexibility, depending on your work flow and team structure.

A project is one calendar – what content you want to plan on it is up to you. Some people might want to have one project per client. Others might have to split up projects within the client. Let’s walk through a few potential scenarios.

So according to our first example, your client is Honda. But you are working on content for both the Civic and the Accord. So instead of planning content for both brands on one project, you split them up between two projects. One client, two projects.

Prepareio-2 Projects-1 Client

Let’s use Honda for another scenario. But this time you only have the Honda Civic as a client. You plan on creating regular content via the Honda Civic blog but you’re also going to post on several different social media channels. You prefer to keep your blog content and long-form editorial team on the Honda Civic Blog project. Then you have a separate project for the social media team who deals with channels like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Again, one client, but two different projects.

I know at first glance, clients and projects seems a bit confusing. But I was really trying to give you, the user, as much flexibility as possible by splitting these up. If you have follow up questions about clients and projects, feel free to email directly. jesse (at) prepare (dot) io.

Thanks,

Jesse



Content and Commerce Belong Together


In our second video blog, Jesse Bouman discusses his views on the relationship between content and commerce.

There are more and more commerce companies popping up. Many of them sell the same things. So how can they differentiate themselves from their competitors? Content. By building an audience through content, commerce companies can build trust and loyalty. Which will lead to repeat business.

In this video, Jesse discusses how companies can create great content for its audience. Watch and find out the two steps he wants viewers to take to start creating their company’s content.



Prepare.io’s Onboarding Process


Prepare.io beta invites are slowly going out to marketers each day. And as I get Prepare.io in the hands of more beta testers, one of the most overwhelming pieces of feedback I’m getting is that no one knows what to do when they sign up. This is entirely my fault. A detail that I should not have overlooked.

This is actually a valuable lesson that others can learn from. I’ve been working on this product for so long, I’ve become too close to it. I know exactly what it’s supposed to do, but I forget that this isn’t the case for new users. This is why I completely overlooked an onboarding process.

I am currently in the process of creating an onboarding process for new users as well as Zendesk tutorials for more detailed information. I will keep you up to date on my progress. I hope to have this live within a week.

I apologize for the difficulty this brought upon some people, but I truly appreciate your feedback. Taking the time to beta test a product is not insignificant and I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy day to try Prepare.io out. Please feel free to email me any other questions you have about Prepare.io. Jesse (at) prepare (d0t) io.

- Jesse



Prepare.io Is Live!


When I was working with one of my first independent clients, I manually created an editorial calendar. It was a PDF document. The client really liked seeing their month of content planned out. However it was really inefficient to recreate this calendar and for all my clients. Emailing it back and forth proved to be confusing.  I turned to Google Calendar after that. But I ran into problems with clients not using Google products and were unable (or unwilling) to access the calendar. That’s when I started brainstorming the product that would become known as Prepare.io.

More than a year ago I started production on Prepare.io. I had never built a software product before. This was my first time mapping out a product, wireframing it, and sending it out to programmers. It was a much longer and more difficult process than I had previously thought (rookie mistake). I’ll go into this process in detail later. For now, I want to focus on the finished product: Prepare.io.

I am very proud to announce that Prepare.io is now live. We are ready to get feedback from beta testers. If you are looking for a great editorial calendar product for your marketing team, please check out Prepare.io. Feel free to email me, Jesse Bouman, at jesse@prepare.io with any feedback. Whether it’s good or bad, I want to hear it. Let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. What features do you want to see?

Thank you to everyone who supported me on this journey thus far. We have just begun, but I’m very excited for what’s in store for Prepare.io.

*These videos are a work in progress. I plan on making more; I expect the quality of these videos to improve over time. It’s ok to laugh at this one :) 

 



How To Set Up Your Business Entity


When I started my first company, I had little money and no idea what I was doing. So when it came to incorporating my company, I had no idea where to start. Naturally, I asked around and learned about LegalZoom and BizFilings. These are two companies that will fill out your business filings for a fee. I opted for BizFilings. But it cost me $450, which really hurt me financially at the time. Prepare.io is my second company and I set up this company by myself and saved myself some money. Let me walk you through how to set up your business for a fraction of the cost.

*Note, my experience is with the state of California. I am not sure how other states operate, but I imagine they are similar my experience with California. 

Using BizFilings

bizfilings-screenshot

As aforementioned, I used BizFilings to set up my first company. I decided to set up an LLC over an S-Corp or C-Corp. The reason being it’s a very easy set up, not a lot of yearly maintenance with taxes (e.g. no quarterly taxes), and it provided me insurance. (An LLC separates your personal and professional assets). I’m not sure what different states charge for an LLC, but California charges $800 a year (fun fact, they do not take credit card, so you need this cash).

The reason why I chose to use a site like BizFilings is because I was scared. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t want to mess things up when I incorporated. It was much easier for me to fill out my information, pay $450 and get my business set up within a week. In days I got a package with all my information, including state paper work and federal EIN. From there it was really easy for me to set up my company and get a bank account. I don’t regret setting up my first company this way, but it did cost me money that I didn’t really have.

An LLC Only Costs $70

In the state of California, it only takes $70 to set up your company. It’s the filing fee. That’s it. All you have to do it fill out a one page form that takes five minutes. That’s it. An extra $5 gets you a certified copy of your filed document. Send it in the mail and with a check. You’ll get your paperwork back within two weeks. From there, you have to send in your $800 yearly tax.

Get Your EIN

IRS_Building_Wide

When I got my paperwork from BizFilings I got everything in one easy to comprehend package. Which is why people are willing to pay for the service. But when I sent in my own state paperwork, I didn’t get an EIN. What I didn’t know when I created my LLC on my own, is that your EIN is a separate set up than your state.

Your federal employer identification number (EIN) is a number that identifies your company for tax purposes. It’s actually really easy to get. All you have to go to the IRS site and apply. From there, you just have to fill out a simple form online.  It should take you five minutes. From there, it will take 30 seconds for approval. Boom. Done. You have  your EIN. Now you can open a bank account.

When you’re starting your business, money is going to be tight. You’re going to be scared (the good kind) and overwhelmed. It’s understandable that you would use a company to set up your company’s legal entity. Or use a lawyer (but that’s going to cost you at least $1,000). You don’t need to waste your money. Setting up a business entity with the state and federal government is not that complicated. If you’re smart enough to start your own business, you’re smart enough to set it up.