LinkedIn

Giving Unwanted Advice

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing 16 Comments

Wilfully blindWe are a suspicious society.

We are trained to distrust people’s intentions.

Some fifteen years ago, my friend was driving me home at night. The United States was still new to me, and I had a lot of cultural adjusting to do.

At one point during our dark drive I spotted someone with car trouble by the side of the road. The hood of her Honda was up, and she seemed distressed. To my surprise, my friend drove right past her without blinking an eye.

“Are you crazy,?” I cried indignantly. “Why didn’t you stop to help the poor woman?”

“That’s a very bad idea,” my friend said. “For one, she might think that we’re coming to molest her. Two: Her friends could be waiting in the wings to mug us. Why don’t you take my phone and let the police know what’s going on. They’ll handle it.”

“Whatever happened to being a good Samaritan?” I asked.

“Forget that,” said my friend. “You can’t trust anyone anymore. This is America. People have guns, and they are not afraid to use them.”

I was flabbergasted. In the Netherlands where I came from, not helping someone in need could be interpreted as criminal negligence. In the USA it apparently was a liability. 

But America has more trust issues.

FLYER OR FIVER

A few years ago, Kyle MacDonald conducted a social experiment. He took to the streets with a stack of flyers and five-dollar bills. Much to his surprise, it was easier to hand out flyers than fivers. People didn’t seem to want his money because they believed Kyle had ulterior motives. After all, there’s no such thing as a free ride, right?

Suspicions about the true intentions of strangers are nothing new, by the way. Telling the story of the famous Trojan horse, the classic author Virgil coined the phrase Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, often translated as Beware of Greeks bearing gifts. What he meant to say was this:

Do not trust an opponent who offers to do something nice for you.

As you can see, I just added another element to the mix. That of an opponent. That’s because those who assume the worst, often see people they don’t know as adversaries, competitors, or as folks they should be afraid of.

I guess it takes one, to know one.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some pretty scary individuals out there, ready to scam our grandparents, abduct our kids, and steal our identities. Radicalized, brainwashed fanatics will kill themselves and many others to glorify their G-d. We need to be vigilant, but we also need to put things into perspective.

THANK GOODNESS

Just because something bad might happen, doesn’t mean it will. Most of the time it doesn’t. Random acts of kindness are performed every day. There are still genuinely kind and trustworthy people in this world, who wish to help their fellow human beings out, no strings attached.

The voice-over community I am a part of, is blessed with countless supportive Samaritans who are ready to assist you, whether you’re a veteran or a newcomer. They recommend colleagues to clients, and people get hired because of it every day.

They critique each other’s demos and websites for free, they answer questions about rates, and they put their two cents in when asked about what audio equipment to buy. Just spend some time on Facebook and LinkedIn; read a few blogs, and you’ll pick up golden nuggets at no cost whatsoever.

Yet, I found out that free advice is not always welcomed and appreciated. Sometimes, it is treated with utmost suspicion. 

NO CRITICISM ALLOWED

The moderator of a particular voice-over Facebook group (which shall remain unnamed) made it clear that no one was allowed to be “negative” about cheap sites like Fiverr.com and VoiceBunny. “Everyone has to start somewhere,” was his reasoning, and “we should not discourage talent to sell their services on those types of websites.”

I am not going to repeat myself by telling you where I stand in terms of those sites. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know exactly how I feel. Here’s the thing, though. I sometimes see it as my mission to educate clients and colleagues. After all, I’ve been around the block a few times, and I have this strange illusion that some of my insights might be helpful. Especially to those who are just starting out.

So, when a member of this particular Facebook group made some comments about Fiverr, I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut. As it turned out, I wasn’t the only one. Soon, other experienced colleagues chimed in with valuable advice which was… not appreciated at all. It didn’t take long before the name calling began.

We were accused of being old school, pretentious know-it-alls who did not understand where beginners were coming from. Perhaps we felt threatened by young talent? Is that why we told people to stay away from the bargain basement? 

TALKING TO A WALL

No matter how hard we tried to inject some logic and common sense into the discussion, people kept on questioning our motives. They thought we just wanted to impress, or perhaps get some coaching clients out of the exchange.

Then the moderator (who took part in the back-and-forth) had had enough. With the click of a mouse, he removed the entire thread. That’s when I decided to remove myself from the group.

When the mind is closed, it is futile to teach a new dog new tricks. 

Yet, I cannot put all the blame on the inexperienced, skeptical members of this group. When people regard you as an uninvited guest, it’s often better to stay under the radar, and I didn’t.

In my view, people are more open to advice from those they know and trust. I did not really know the people I was talking to, and they clearly didn’t trust me. There was no rapport, and that was mistake number one.

EXPOSING IGNORANCE

Secondly, people don’t like it when their ignorance is publicly exposed. They feel humiliated, and become defensive. Perhaps I had advocated my point of view as THE truth, which is never a good thing. Many roads lead to Rome. Some are just a bit longer than others. People need to learn from their mistakes, so, who am I to deny them a significant aha moment?

Opinions can be discarded. Life experience is harder to refute. 

Instead of blasting the group with my “wisdom,” I should have asked: “May I give a suggestion?” That usually removes resistance. I could also have presented them with several perspectives. People like to be in charge, and they want to make their own choices.

Third, when people make an investment (e.g. in my services as a coach), they tend to be more invested in what is offered. For instance, I can tell one person something, and they respond with “Whatever.” I can say the same thing to a student, and they tell me it’s the best suggestion they’ve ever gotten.

The last piece of advice I would give myself is this: 

Don’t waste your time giving eye-openers to people who are willfully blind.

When a horse isn’t thirsty, you can’t get it to drink.

Please don’t ask me why the horse isn’t thirsty, but I have my suspicions…

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Be sweet Please retweet.. 

photo credit: Day 5, Ape Can’t Trust Man via photopin (license)


The Secret Ingredients In My Social Media Sauce

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Internet, Promotion, Social Media 21 Comments

Last week I talked about the importance of tailoring your proposal or demo to the needs of the client.

This week I’m taking it one step further. I will show you how you can apply the principle of personalization and customization to your social media presence.

In a moment, I’ll share some cool new tools you can use to spread the news about your business more efficiently and effectively. The end result: more fans for your Facebook page. A better search engine ranking. More hits for your website. Increased business.

Interested?

MISTER SOCIAL

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I spend a lot of online time “socializing.” I blog, I tweet, I pin, I comment and I participate in discussions for at least an hour a day, if not more.

Now, level with me for a moment because I want your honest opinion.

Am I wasting my time on a magnificent distraction or could this be beneficial for my business?

While you think about that, I’ll tell you how I see it.

Social Media are tools. Tools aren’t inherently good or bad. It depends on how they are used, by whom, to what end and what the ultimate return on investment is.

Professionally speaking, I don’t go online to play games, to save souls or to share what I’m making for dinner. Social Media are part of my “undercover” marketing strategy. If you’ve read my recent article on undercover marketing, you know what I mean by that:

Any activity that helps you find clients and helps clients find you

Here’s my golden rule: You want to spend most of your marketing time and money where your market is. In my case, that’s online.

If you’re in the same boat, it’s wise to:

  • have many ways to be found and drive traffic to your website
  • share and promote compelling content and services
  • create opportunities for clients to get to know you and interact with you

WHY JOIN THE MASSES?

At this point you might say: “I already have a website. Why should I join Google+, Pinterest and Twitter? I have enough on my plate.”

First off, counting on your website to bring in business is a very passive approach. You’re asking the world to come to you and the world is lazy and doesn’t know where to find you. If you don’t make any noise, no one will hear you.

Secondly, most websites aren’t very social. They offer static content and very little opportunity for interaction (more about sites in: Why Your Website Stinks). Search engines hate that, and so do your clients and fans.

Places like Facebook and LinkedIn on the other hand, are buzzing with activity and offer amazing opportunities to proactively build a network, strike up a conversation and -eventually- take people to your store. 

Remember: the purpose of this strategy is not to sell anything. You’re just building relationships. Facebook friends might become clients. Clients become fans. And eventually, your fans will do some of the marketing for you.

Here’s what I really like about Social Media: most of these platforms are (still) FREE! All you need to invest is a bit of time, energy and creativity. The returns could be tremendous.

There’s just one caveat. It’s easy to personalize your own website. It’s a bit more challenging to give generic sites such as Twitter and Facebook a personal and professional touch. In order to do that, let’s take one step back.

DESIGN YOUR IMAGE

First you have to create an overall look for your business in general and your website in particular; something that’s instantaneously recognizable. In my case it’s the color scheme of orange and dark gray, as well as the picture of me with the orange tulips. 

Then you consistently use your look across multiple platforms. 

Nethervoice Gravatar

 

One way of doing that is by creating a Gravatar. That’s short for Globally Recognized Avatar. A Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site. It appears beside your name when you do things like comment on a blog.

Using a Gravatar reinforces your image, it creates a connection with the reader and it increases your credibility.

Content spammers usually don’t use Gravatars, so, having one identifies you as a genuine, trustworthy contributor. Besides, it makes you look much more personable.

Or would you rather have a Mystery Man picture next to your comment?  

So, how do you create a Gravatar? Click on this link and follow the instructions. It’s quick and it’s easy.

TWITTER

Whenever you go online, this image of me and my orange tulips will pop up. Once people make it to my website (the ultimate goal) they get a feeling of familiarity because they’ve seen it before.

Let’s look at my Twitter profile:

There are two other things I did to customize this profile. I added a hyperlink to my 160 character bio. It leads to one of my demos. Now, my over 2200 Twitter followers can hear what I sound like, and all it takes is one click.

Here’s the second part. Normally, the full link to that demo would look like this:

http://soundcloud.com/paul-strikwerda/paul_strikwerda-international

It wouldn’t fit into my bio, but luckily SoundCloud can give you an abbreviated version that looks like this: http://snd.sc/KyX8oJ. You could also use a service like tiny url or bit.ly to shorten your links. Before you do that, there’s something you should know.

Internet users have become increasingly suspicious of these shortlinks because you can’t really tell where they originate from. With so much harmful and useless crap floating around in cyberspace, people are more inclined to click on links they can identify and trust. 

So, how did I create a shortlink to one of my SoundCloud files that incorporates the url of my website and looks like this?

http://www.nethervoice.com/5oy3

I used a WordPress plugin called Pretty Link. Once installed, it will appear on your dashboard and allow you to generate shortlinks for all kinds of online content. This is what the window of the Pretty Link admin area looks like. It’s pretty self-explanatory. 

SOUNDCLOUD & PINTEREST

As you can see, I am visually and virtually connecting some of the content sharing sites people can find me on: Twitter, SoundCloud and Nethervoice. That way, they can cross-pollinate. It’s all about the sum of the parts.

If you’re not terribly familiar with SoundCloud, it’s kind of a YouTube for audio recordings.

All the embedded demos on this site are stored in SoundCloud. As you can see, the audio tracks are depicted as waveforms and listeners can easily download, distribute and comment. 

You can also use SoundCloud to upload demos to your Facebook page by creating a BandPage. You don’t have to have a band to do that.

It gets even better. Recently, SoundCloud introduced a new feature that makes it possible to “pin” your audio to your Pinterest boards.

Pinterest is one of the fastest growing content sharing sites, allowing you to create and manage image collections. Each collection has it own pinboard and here’s a screenshot of a few my boards:

When you click on a particular board, all the images on that board are displayed. Individual images can be “re-pinned,” liked on Facebook, emailed, embedded and shared on Twitter. But here’s the real magic: once you click on a particular photo, it becomes a link and you are taken to the site the photo is taken from. You can promote blog content by pinning it, YouTube videos as well as your SoundCloud demos. 

Why is all of this relevant? Pinterest is popular and is said to drive more traffic to websites than Twitter.

HubSpot recently published “How to use Pinterest for Business” which will tell you everything you need to know about this exploding content sharing service.

So, are you ready to become a social butterfly, or do you still have reservations?

What have you done to spice up your social media profiles and increase your reach? Share your tips below and be sure to add a link to your website.

I have lots more tricks up my sleeve, and next time I’ll take you behind the scenes of this blog!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice


Why Pay to Plays will Implode

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Internet, Journalism & Media, Money Matters, Pay-to-Play 58 Comments

Read this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

Making Money In Your PJs cover


Are You Taking Kickbacks?

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Money Matters 32 Comments

On August 1, 2007, serial entrepreneur and Boston-based tax accountant Lewis Weinstein quietly launched the beta version of ReferralKey, an on-line referral management system.

Some called it “LinkedIn on steroids.” Others feel it’s just another version of the traditional inbound marketing strategy.

How does it work?

Once you create a ReferralKey online profile showcasing your amazing accomplishments, you can invite others to join your network and start exchanging leads. Does the following viral email look familiar?

Are you taking on new clients?

If you’re taking on new clients, I’d like to include you in my private referral network to send you business leads through Referral Key. Please accept my invitation below. Thanks!

Best,

Person’s Name
Name of Their Company
City, State

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was one problem. It didn’t take off. Weinstein told the Boston Globe that professionals using the site felt it just wasn’t helping them generate enough new business. Weinstein: “The common response was, ‘I thought you were gonna send me referrals.”

A wait-and-see approach never works and Weinstein discovered that something essential was missing from his system; something that drives all human behavior: an incentive.

TAKING THE BAIT

You see, the average ReferalKey member wasn’t just going to refer a colleague or a friend on the basis of his or her merits or the existing relationship. Before they were willing to make a recommendation, they needed one question answered:

“What’s in it for me?”

Weinstein’s answer:

Cash, Omaha Steaks, L.L.Bean or Callaway Golf gift cards.

ReferralKey was relaunched in April 2010, based on the following principle:

“Grow your business by offering rewards to other people who send you successful referrals.”

This winning idea turned boring, unresponsive professionals into bounty hunters, ready to stake their claim and claim their steak. I just received an email from a colleague offering me 10% of whatever she will make, if she lands a job based on my referral.

RefferalKey even lets you track referrals to “ensure your relationships are reciprocal.” Yes, my friend, if you rub my back, I’ll rub yours and just so you know, I do keep score!

Do you like it so far? If you’re having any doubts, you’re not alone.

Chris Reimer is Vice President of Social Media at brand developer Falk Harrison. He writes in his blog:

“The first time I got an email with the subject line “Are you taking on new clients?” Holy crap, I was excited! You bet I’m taking clients! (what a hook). Ten seconds later, I felt the shame of spam, deflated, and just a little pissed. After receiving 100 of these emails? No one likes spam.”

Kathryn Delany is a web designer and Search Engine Optimization and Marketing Specialist. She writes:

“I have been sucked into the vortex of the Referral Key saga. I usually am very cautious about these emails. However, the initial invitation came from a long trusted colleague so I signed up. Sadly I followed the instructions on importing my LinkedIn Contacts, little suspecting that this site hijacks the list before you can choose who you would like to invite to your circle. As it ‘imports’ your contacts it automatically sends out the invitation to everyone on it!”

Chris Reimer concludes:

“Stop joining services that blast out marketing messages Uzi-style as ReferralKey.com does. The bad taste you are leaving in people’s mouths is not worth it.”

A MORAL MAZE

Apart from receiving downright annoying emails, I have a more moral objection. There is a good reason why professionals like lawyers, realtors, accountants and therapists have adopted codes of conduct, specifically prohibiting them from taking payment for referrals. It is considered to be unethical.

Look at the definition of bribery:

“An act implying money or gift given that alters the behavior of the recipient”

RefferalKey says it is based on “trusted relationships,” but if you’re meeting a need with greed, what does that really say about your definition of “trust” and “relationship”?

Do you really think you can buy my opinion and influence my behavior by offering me a bounty? Is that how you think I operate? I almost feel insulted!

YOUR TRUE MOTIVES

If I were motivated by money, I probably wouldn’t even be in the voice-over business. Take it from me: You will never do your best work for the love of money. You do your best work when you hold yourself up to standards no one else can or will match. Your best work is always a labor of love and never the result of greed.

Here’s my bottom line: a referral needs to be earned, not bought.

I owe a huge part of my business success to referrals, and I am frequently asked to recommend colleagues. For those recommendations I get paid big time.

Before I tell you what I receive in return, you should know that I take my referrals very seriously. The fact that I will recommended a certain person, reveals as much about me as it does about the person in question.

One can usually judge someone by the company he or she keeps. When you pass the name of a colleague on to someone else, you put your reputation on the line. So, how do you go about it?

When you’re thinking of recommending someone, ask yourself the following question:

How do I know that someone else is good at their work?

Here are your options:

  1. See – I need visual evidence (e.g. I need to watch them do their work)
  2. Hear – I need to hear them (e.g. listen to their demo)
  3. Read – I need to read about them (e.g. a review, a report, a website)
  4. Do – I have to work with them to get a feel for how good they are

In certain circles, the answer to the question “How do I know that someone else is good at their work?” is called a “Convincer Strategy,” and most people come up with more than one answer.

The next question is:

How often does a person have to demonstrate that they’re good at what they do, before I am convinced?

  1. A number of times – e.g. Three or four times
  2. Automatic – I always give someone the benefit of the doubt
  3. Consistent – I’m never really convinced
  4. Period of time – It usually takes e.g. a week, a month… before I can tell if someone’s really good

The last thing you need to be aware of is your frame of reference:

  1. Internal – No matter what anyone says about her, only I can tell whether or not she’s any good
  2. External – A source I trust recommended her, and that’s good enough for me
It’s very common for people to have an internal frame of reference with an external check, or the other way around. If your frame of reference is completely internal, no one will ever be able to convince you of anything. If it’s completely external, your opinion will be totally dependent on what others have to say.

Whether we realize it or not, all of us have different ways of convincing ourselves. If my frame of reference is pretty much internal and a person needs to consistently demonstrate to me that he’s any good by working one-on-one with me, systems like RefferalKey are useless.

It will only work for people with a more external frame of reference who are convinced by reading about someone, and based on that, give the person the benefit of the doubt. How big of a group is that?

QUALITY REFERRALS

Should you decide to give RefferalKey a try, ask yourself how well you know the contacts you’re about to invite and how well they know you. In other words: what is the quality and the depth of the referrals this system generates? Is it worth the risk of pissing people off with automated impersonal email messages?

Referring people can be very rewarding. It’s an essential part of being in business and staying in business, as long as you do it for the right reasons. If you landed a gig as a result of my recommendation, I demand that you pay me back by doing the best job you could possibly do. As one of my teachers used to say:

“If you look good, I look good, so you better make me look good!”

Secondly, don’t send me any money or vouchers for Omaha Steaks. You booked the job because you’re the best and you deserve it. I don’t take any credit (or cash) for that.

Take your 10% and give it to a worthy cause. Pay it forward.

That’s the key to referrals!

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

PS Please refer someone else to this blog by retweeting and “liking” it on Facebook.


8 Things I Hate About You

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Internet, Social Media 80 Comments

It’s one of those mornings. I just put on my grumpy pants and I’m not in the mood to write a brilliant article.

I just need to vent about social media.

The non-event that triggered the outburst you’re about to enjoy, is at the top of my list:

1. Robotic requests to connect, befriend, recommend or refer.

You know what I am talking about. Automated messages such as:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”.
“You are a person I trust…”

Give me a break! Do I know you? Have we

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

Making Money In Your PJs cover


Cold Calling is Dead

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Journalism & Media, Promotion 41 Comments

DodoIs there a cure for the common cold call, or should we just let it rest in peace?

Before you start reading, let’s do a quick experiment. In a moment I am going to list four things.

As soon as you see number one, simply label your very first response as either positive or negative and move on to the next word.

Are you ready? Here we go:

– Telemarketing

– Cold calling

– Do-Not-Call Registry

– Networking

So, what’s your score?

Do you think your reaction is unique or universal?

Read the rest of this story in my new book. Click on the cover to access the website and get a sneak peek. Use the buttons to buy the book.

Making Money In Your PJs cover