Thursday, September 5, 2013

Calling All Young Entrepreneurs: Apply Now for a 99U Pop-Up School Scholarship!

Do you have a killer start-up idea? Are you ready to ramp up your idea execution skills so that you can get moving on it? In partnership with the Samsung Accelerator, we’re seeking to identify the next wave of young entrepreneurs and equip them with the skills they need to succeed at the 99U Pop-Up School, this Sept 18-20th in New York. What we’re looking for: We’re seeking 25 emerging entrepreneurs with great ideas and a passion for action to be part of our 99U “Class of 2013.” What the winners will get: One complimentary all-access pass to the 99U Pop-Up School on Sept 18-20, 2013. The program will include talks from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal, Start With Why author Simon Sinek, Behance co-founder Scott Belsky, entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk, former Apple marketing exec Allison Johnson, and many more. Learn more. Opportunity to lead small sessions at the Pop-Up School. As part of the programming, we’re organizing an “unconference” inside of the Pop-Up School to facilitate advice exchange between attendees. Winners will have an opportunity to lead discussions here and share their personal insights. Invitation to a private cocktail event at the Samsung Accelerator in New York. Winners will meet and connect with Samsung executives and intrapreneurs building products for Samsung devices.

Steve Blank and The Two-Way Coffee Meeting

The advice-seeking coffee or lunch is standard fare in most business communities. It usually goes something like this: you email someone you admire and ask if you can chat. Sometimes you are ignored. When you’re lucky, your role models will say yes, and you now have someone you respect in your corner. Entrepreneur Steve Blank gets these requests all the time, and he has advice for those seeking his (and other busy folks’) time: The meeting requests that now jump to the top of my list are the few, very smart entrepreneurs who say, “I’d like to have coffee to bounce an idea off of you and in exchange I’ll tell you all about what we learned about xx.” This offer of teaching me something changes the agenda of the meeting from a one-way, you’re learning from me, to a two-way, we’re learning from each other. Include how you’ll help the other party in the meeting request. Not only can you offer them value, but it serves as yet another sounding board for your ideas. Brilliant.

Amateurs Get Angry With Clients. Professionals Educate Them.

As most experienced freelancers know, sometimes we have to fire our clients, for their benefit and ours. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I used to think dealing with frustrating clients was just part of being a creative. But then I realized while, yes, there are frustrating parts of any relationship, frustration should be the exception rather than the rule. There are certainly times when we want to turn into the freelance version of Donald Trump, screaming “You’re Fired!” at everyone we disagree with. But the truth is, we deserve the clients we get. Bad clients aren’t the result of some cosmic force working against us, they’re more likely the result of our own actions. Frustrating clients are the result of some misstep we’ve made along the way. To do our best work and work with the best people, we need to be diligent in our relationship with our clients. Here’s how: Have the guts to say “no.” If it doesn’t seem like a good project for you, walk away before money is involved. Is that the type of project you want to be known for? Like attracts like, so if you’re filling your portfolio with work you aren’t interested in, all you’re doing is setting yourself up for more of the same (Jason Santa Maria gave a great Creative Mornings talk about the power and value of saying no to work). It can be scary, but think past just this one client. Walk away before money is involved. Clearly communicate your values to the world. The easiest way to do this is to blog regularly on the same website that your portfolio is on. Write honestly about the work you do. This immediately shows potential clients if their goals and values match up with yours and saves time discovering later that you and your client are out of sync. Educate your clients. Chances are, we’ve been part of more projects involving our craft than the person that hired us. We have a great opportunity to teach our clients what we’ve learned from all that experience. If a client disagrees with something you know to be right, don’t get bent out of shape. Instead, go into research mode. Show them using examples why what they want doesn’t work for your project. If they can turn around and clearly illustrate why their suggestion will work, you can concede (and learn something in the process). If they can’t you’ve squashed an issue while educating your client for (hopefully) many projects to come. Consider it an “investment” in a resource that you need for your career to be successful. Interrogate potential clients. What are their tastes in design? Does that match the work you’re interested in doing? There’s no point taking on a client that loves flashy bells and whistles if you like doing subtle minimal designs. Screening clients lets you pick the ones that are better to work with and provide you with the type of work you’re actually keen on doing more of. Be clear on the project’s goals. That way if there are disagreements, it’s not a matter of what they want versus what you want, which is highly subjective, it’s more a matter of what accomplishes the goals of the project in the best way. Put these goals in writing and refer back to the document when necessary. *** It’s hard to say no to clients (and their money), especially when you first start out. But like any other creative endeavor, focus on quality early and your career will get exponentially easier. After all, good clients lead to us good work, which leads to us being more happy and fulfilled (and less complaining to our peers about how our clients keep making bad decisions). Creating a body of work you’re happy with can take a lifetime. We are responsible for the work we put into the world, so why not make that work great?

A Tour of TaskRabbit’s Offices

Whether it’s an open floor plan or more traditional set up, it’s always fascinating to see where creatives are getting work done. OPEN Forum has a peek inside of the offices of TaskRabbit, which is complete with “puzzle tables” and is full of “TaskRabbit green.” To see the entire tour, check out the story on OPEN Forum, this month’s sponsor of Workbook.

Get Schooled on Making Ideas Happen with 99U

One of the core beliefs that animates everything we do at 99U is: “Learning is a lifelong project.” To that end, we’re launching an incredible new event next month: The first 99U Pop-Up School, which will take place this September 18-20th here in New York. Just in time for back to school, we’re curating a killer program around three skill sets that should be in every creative’s arsenal: career development, entrepreneurship, and brand + digital strategy. Each day will feature an incredible lineup of talks & master classes from folks like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, Behance’s own Scott Belsky, Facebook designer Ben Barry, bestselling author & entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, and former Apple VP Marketing Allison Johnson, among others. But it’s not all about the speakers. We’re also building out an interactive space called the Playground to get hands-on with the learning process. It will feature a hand-crafted lineup of mentorship sessions, skill-building booths, and interactive workshops with creative partners like R/GA, Tattly, Red Antler, XFund, and many more.

Losing Motivation? Write Yourself Fan Mail. Really.

Sometimes we’re lacking the motivation to meet a deadline and put the finishing touches on the project, crushed by the potential of failing. Even worse, we release work we know isn’t our best. Bestselling author and internet marketer Seth Godin writes about the remedy to this problem: Will your book get a great testimonial? Write it out. Will your talk move someone in the audience to change and to let you know about it? What did they say? Will this new product gain shelf space at the local market? Take a picture. Writing yourself fan mail in advance and picturing the change you’ve announced you’re trying to make is an effective way to push yourself to build something that actually generates that action. One reason this is difficult is that we’ve got a false humility that pushes us to avoid it. The other is that when we’re confronted with this possible success, we have to confront the fact that our current plan just isn’t that good (yet), that this site or that menu item really isn’t as good as we need it to be. If you expect rejection, it’s a lot easier to ship lousy stuff. Said that way, it’s clear that this is a ridiculous strategy. Better to make it great now rather than mourn failure later. Prepare for the possibility failure and rejection, but don’t expect it. Writing this “fan mail” out will help you envision what success will look and feel like, and will motivate you to put more into your art.

How To Make Your Next Vacation Count

When we picture our next break from work, we think we’ll spend our time unplugged and slowly refreshing from our day-to-day. But sometimes, the stress of missing work or planning the perfect itinerary can leave us more stressed than when we started. Sometimes we need a vacation from our vacation. In fact, studies show that having a stressful trip is worse than not taking one at all. So the question is: What are we doing wrong? And how did we get to a point where vacation is so stressful, anyway? The United States is the only advanced, developed country in the world that does not have legally mandated paid vacations— a stark contrast to its European peers where workers get 20 to 30 or more paid days off a year. Among U.S. workers who are offered paid leave, the average vacation taken is only about 9 days a year. That means that we’re spending less than 4 percent of our total annual working hours on vacation. That puts a lot of pressure on those breaks to really deliver, which is probably why we tend to use vacations as both personal reward and recovery periods. For many of us, that means planning adventure-oriented vacations, where we travel great distances, create jam-packed itineraries, or occasionally engage in some sort of intense physical challenge. The result is often a vacation that is wildly fun, but not at all restful. So how can we retool our approach to vacations to ensure we emerge refreshed, rather than just re-stressed? We combed through the research to source key tips on the most important factors. That means that we’re spending less than 4 percent of our total annual working hours on vacation. Take a vacation every 3-6 months. According to a recent study from Radboud University in the Netherlands, the ideal amount of vacation time to achieve lasting results is 21 days, and you need a minimum of 8 full days off before you even begin to retain recovery effects. For most of us, a three-week vacation sounds great but is hardly realistic. And, in fact, taking one, long vacation a year isn’t healthy either. The study suggests that if you can’t take 3 or more weeks off every 6 to 8 months, it’s better to take multiple, shorter breaks throughout the year. Other studies have shown that the anticipation alone can help alleviate stress beforehand, so book in advance when you can. Make a flexible itinerary a priority. The same study from Radboud University found that effective vacations give you the choice and freedom to choose what you want to do. That means two things: Try to avoid structuring your vacation around an unbreakable schedule, and plan on going somewhere that has multiple options to pick from depending on the weather, your level of energy, or your budget. Incorporate physical activity, but keep it easy. Research has shown that the longest lasting recovery effects are achieved through activities that are not strenuous or stressful; activities like swimming, snorkeling, golf, or walking can yield positive payoffs for weeks afterwards. As energy expert Tony Schwartz advises, “The most basic aim of a vacation ought to be restoration – physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. For me, that usually means not trying to do much. For you, it may mean travel and adventure, some form of physical challenge, an opportunity to learn something new or some blend of all three. The key is to choose something you find truly renewing. At a minimum, that usually requires ‘changing channels’ – not doing whatever you have been doing.” Try to avoid structuring your vacation around an unbreakable schedule. Don’t ignore the impact of jet lag. Wherever you choose to go, remember that the journey there can add stress, too. Researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam found that long-haul air travel can cause major stress hikes, especially in the form of jet lag, which eats into your recovery time for up to three days once you’ve landed. A number of studies have identified the main causes of jet lag, as well as some tools you can use to fight it: Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol before or during the flight. If you’re switching time zones, eat at a normal meal time for the zone you’re flying into, even if you’re not hungry. When planning your journey, keep in mind that it’s easier to fly west than east, as it’s closer to your natural rhythms to go to bed later (when it’s still dark out) rather than earlier (when it’s light). If you’re only staying for three days or less though, stick to your schedule from back home. Keep your work at a comfortable distance. Leaving your work behind allows you to get into a different perspective and mindset that may make way for new ideas. And while most of us are booking the vacation to get away from work in the first place, for some people that can cause even more stress. In short, how much you should disconnect from email and other work communication is a matter of personal preference and comfort. Scott Belsky, Head of Behance, found that cutting off work completely was ultimately unrealistic. “The truth is that the burdens of leadership don’t take vacation, and the best way to enjoy yourself is to surrender to the need to check in, with restraint,” he said. On a recent vacation, he decided to dedicate forty-five minutes in the morning and in the evening. “With the forty-five minute check-ins, I was able to make sure I wasn’t a bottleneck for anyone on my team, and I was able to let myself rest knowing that everything was okay. Nothing distracts you more on vacation than not knowing that all is okay at home.” Another tip is to make your “out of office” email reply say that you’re coming back one day later than you actually are. That way you have a day to cull, organize, and reply at your own leisure without feeling overwhelmed on your first day back. Take it one step farther and break old habits. For the overachievers, who want to return not only recovered but a step ahead in personal progress, vacations are a prime time to form new habits or break old ones. A new environment means a clean slate of all the cues that trigger ingrained habits, and that means room for you to form new ones. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, explained why in an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross: “If you want to quit smoking, you should stop smoking while you’re on a vacation — because all your old cues and all your old rewards aren’t there anymore. So you have this ability to form a new pattern and hopefully be able to carry it over into your life.”