When You Don’t Have an Audience

The best thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

The worst thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

It’s funny, eh? We’re always nervous to start something. Hitting Publish is hard.

What will they say? It’s not good enough. I’m good enough. Oh heck this is how everyone finds out I’m crazy and ~not~ in a cute way. This is how I get voted off the island that is the Internet. 

Then it’s live aaaaaaaaand

Crickets.

More often than not, no one cares because no one’s watching.

Then! Then we get mad.

I put in all this work and for what! Got like 3.5 impressions on Twitter and no clicks. What the heck dude? I was joking when I said I was terrible. This is good the people need to see it and tell me I’m brilliant! TELL ME I’M BRILLIANT, SUSAN.

……………..

Point is: when we start, the stakes are low.

A heck of a lot lower than your brain (*cough* Resistance *cough*) is leading you to believe.

And we should take advantage of that while we can.


Taken at the Leslieville street festival in Toronto summer. 

The Gap Between Amateur and Professional

It’s easy to write about fear.

Have you ever noticed that?

Whenever I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging [Narrator: she was always taking a hiatus from blogging] the easiest way for me to get back into it is to write about a) how hard it is to get started and b) the importance of starting. Of starting right now, with what you have, and where you are.

I do this whole… motivational-platitude-soapbox thing. It feels good. It feels good to ship something even if it wasn’t one of the hundreds of half-baked posts sitting (OK, rotting) in my Dynalist.

I pat myself on the back because I feel like things have changed. I’ve changed.

I’m now going to be a Blogger. Or a YouTuber. Or a Captial-Something. I’m convinced, in those moments after clicking “Publish”, that I’ve conquered Resistance once and for all.

It’s going to be so much easier to show up the next time. Right!? Right? …You Guys?

[Narrator: Wrong.]

As it turns out, the devil isn’t in starting. The devil is in continuously showing up.

Anyone can show up once. Continuing to show up when you say you will?

Therein lies the tricky bit.

Therein lies the gap between amateur and professional.


Taken just outside of Moderna Museet on my trip Stockholm last Spring. Nothing like a good get back on the bike/in the saddle metaphor for September, yes?

Creative in Work vs Creative in Business

What the hell does it mean to be “a creative”?

Let’s just start there.

Creative small business owner. Creative entrepreneur…

We throw these terms around a lot, but something about it has never sat right with me. Honestly, I’ve always found the term creative entrepreneur a little cringy.

I think I’ve finally figured out why.

Being creative in your work and creative in your business are two totally different things, and one doesn’t imply the other.

Creativity, to me, means you’re doing something that might not work. It’s not proven. There’s no guarantee. You’re doing something in a way that it hasn’t been done before.

So you can be creative in your work—you can be a photographer or a web designer or a ceramic artist—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re creative in your approach to business. Your Instagram feed could be mistaken for another wedding photographers, or you could be mirroring someone else’s marketing, pricing, or social media tactics. You’re using a proven model that you’ve seen elsewhere. You’re following the rules.

On the flip, you could have what’s not considered a creative profession—you could be an accountant or a lawyer or a financial planner—but be creative in your approach to business. You don’t look and sound and feel like every other accountant. You’re using social media in an unexpected way, or you’ve created a new business model. You’re not doing what people expect someone with your job title to do. You’re changing the game.

When we look at creativity in this way, we can see that it’s a lot broader than painter=creative.

Creativity is an approach. It’s a posture. One you can apply to your work, your business, and of course, your life.

This is why being creative can feel so lonely. Because we look around and don’t see examples of the thing we want to build. There’s no one building the business, or life, or career that we want for ourselves. No roadmap we can follow. There’s no blog post we can read, podcast we can listen to, or course we can buy that will tell us exactly what we need to do.

They can help! Sure. But ultimately, it’s on us. Only we’ve got those answers. That’s what makes being creative equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Here’s the thing though…

We’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

One more time for the people in the back—we’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

We all have to deal with the stuff that circles around building a creative life and business—the money, sales, health, systems, planning, and boundaries stuff. Our solutions to these problems are different, but our problems are shared.

So, in that way, we really aren’t alone.

There’s solidarity in the process.

We just have to get better at talking about it.


P.S. I recorded a 5-minute video chatting this through before writing it down. So if that’s more your style, you can watch the video here.

Photo taken on my trip to Prince Edward County earlier this month.

Currently #9: Books to change your relationship with money, introducing yourself, and my favourite productivity app

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Worry Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons

SO GOOD.

I recently finished Worry Free Money, and yes, it’s just as good as everyone’s saying it is. It’s got me thinking about changes I want to make to my cash flow and how (or more importantly, why) I spend money.

I also love Shannon’s approach to financial planning, and found reading this inspiring for my own work.

“It’s never about what I think people can do, it’s about what they can do, And more importantly, what they will do.”

Yes! Thank you, Shannon.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

You guys. This is such a powerful read.

You know when someone puts words to something you’ve been wrestling with for years, and then all of a sudden you feel free? That’s this book for me. It’s the solidarity I’ve been searching for.

And, of course, it’s left me rethinking my own consumption and spending.

“Who are you buying this for: the person you are, or the person you want to be?”

Yup. It’s good.

I’M watching…

The Perfect Intro, a talk by Clay Hebert

I can’t think a worse nightmare than walking into a room full of people ready to ask, “So, what do you do?”

Kidding. (Sort of…)

I’ve always been terrible at explaining what I do. Even amongst my own family it’s a question I dread. When you’re a freelancer with multiple projects and types of work on the go, how do you explain it all without sounding scattered? How do you wrap it all up neatly in a bow?

Well, my problem probably lied in the fact that I felt like I had to explain it all. You don’t. Clay has some awesome tips on this.

I’M listening to…

Um, did you know that The Wall Street Journal produces seriously good podcasts?

I’ve been listening to Secrets of Wealthy Women and The Future of Everything. My favourite episodes have been Dottie Herman: The Secret to Real Estate Risk-Taking and The Rise of Experiential Retail.

I love how each episode of The Future of Everything podcast will tackle one topic but interview multiple people on it (similar in style to Freakonomics Radio), providing multiple different contexts. That retail episode is really, seriously interesting.

I’M loving…

Dynalist! Oh my goodness, Dynalist.

The last 3 months or so has been a serious experiment in planning, scheduling, and timing. I’ve been testing out routines and systems to figure out what helps me be most effective and present, and this little app has been a game changer.

It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a list making, to-do type app. Clean, simple, easy. It’s replaced Todoist and now between Dynalist, Google Calendar, and Evernote I’ve got a system I’m in love with.

Yes, it’s love.

oh, that’s good…

Learning is Never Cumulative

The head coach at my crossfit gym has been covering the walls in quotes and man, I love this one.

Also, try slacking off on a WOD when Bruce Lee is staring back at you ;).


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!

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Hey! That was my idea

“I thought of that years ago.”

“I was going to do that.”

Have you ever noticed how possessive we can be of our ideas? How we’ll feel robbed when someone else acts on them?

Why the heck are we like this?!

I guess it has to do with the fact that we call them our ideas. As though they belong to us and no one else could have thought of them.

However we probably came up with the idea for the thing (product, business, song, painting, book, etc…) because we felt the world needed it—a solution to a problem or something to fill a need people have—and if that’s the case shouldn’t we be happy that it’s out there improving people’s lives, even if we weren’t the ones to make it happen? Shouldn’t we take it as a signal that the market’s ready for more of whatever the thing is?

Why instead do we feel all kinds of resentful and jealous?

I mean, we can’t do it all. We can’t act on every idea we get. We have to intentionally choose which thing we’re going to work on right now. That means letting some of our ideas go and that’s OK. Someone else will have the idea and run with it (because no, our ideas aren’t unique), maybe even doing a better job with it than we could’ve. Or maybe we’ll come back to it down the line…

Who knows!

Point is, we need to let go of some ideas (and not feel so damn guilty about it) so we can put all our energy towards the ones that matter the most to us right now.

The whole, “you can do anything once you stop trying to do everything” platitude.

A little New-Year-newfound-desire-to-do-all-the-things thought for you…


Why yes this little riff was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on ideas in Big Magic.

Photo taken at The Met this past fall in during a day of gallery wandering in Manhattan. Because museums and galleries are a breeding ground for, “Hey! That was my idea.”

Currently #8: Becoming a CFP(?), Freakonomics Radio, & reclaiming my time

You didn’t ask, I answered.


I’M READING…

Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau

Despite my deep aversion to the word hustle (especially when preceded by the word side) here I am, reading Side Hustle. I just finished The $100 Startup by him and I’m reading these books not so much for my own projects, but because I’m always interested in what marketing/business/financial advice small business owners are finding useful.

How are we talking about this stuff? What’s resonating? What’s not? That’s what I’m interested in.

I’M watching…

Not much of anything, actually. I canceled my Netflix subscription and I haven’t been watching much on YouTube recently.

Sacrilege, I know. But, *points to image below* I’m reclaiming my time and I’m much happier for it.

I’M listening to…

These Shoes Are Killing Me on Freakonomics Radio

Who the heck knew I’d find genuine joy in listening to a podcast about feet? Not I, that’s for sure.

Around the 10 minute mark they talk about how men are seen as rational and practical and how that’s reflected in their shoes (plain, sensible) and how women are seen as irrational and frivolous and how that’s reflected in theirs (heels, decorative, impractical, etc.)

They talk about how sneakers—which many people think of as casual and cheap—started out as an object of luxury. Tennis shoes represented privilege and wealth because having them meant A) you could afford more than one pair of shoes and B) you had the time to spend on leisurely things like a game of tennis.

And then they get into “how fascism democratized the sneaker”…

I know. So interesting.

The Stupidest Thing You Can Do With Your Money was a great episode, too, if you haven’t heard it yet. They interviewed Barry Ritholtz about investment fees and as you’d imagine, he leaves you with lots to think about.

oh, that’s good…

Reclaiming My Time

A particularly timely (see what I did there!) desk sign I saw at Bulletin when I was in New York City last month.

The last quarter of 2017 I’ve been experimenting with planning and scheduling so that I spend more time on the things that matter to me (see above: canceling Netflix). I want to be more effective with my time. Not productive, effective. 

And so far, so good.

I’m becoming a financial planner… ?

After a weekend spent with some of my favourite humans (who happen to be financial planners) talking about the change we’d like to see in the finance industry, I’m seriously thinking about completing my CFP and working as a planner.

I realized I had some weird and wrong ideas about what it would mean to be a planner and that I was letting fear get the better of me. I don’t see myself working as a financial planner full-time, but I’d like to layer that into the other work I enjoy doing with small businesses and entrepreneurs. (That’s one of the wrong assumptions I had—that if I was a planner I wouldn’t be able to pursue the other work I’m interested in.)

I have my FPSC Level 1 so next up it’s the Capstone, doing some paraplanning work, and a few specialized courses.

More on that as it unfolds… I’m excited about 2018!


What have you come across lately that’s stuck with you? Articles, interviews, a really great ad… Comment or Tweet me!

Are you selling the wrong thing?

“NO PHOTOS.”

That’s what the sign said in front of this man’s booth at the Chelsea Market. He was selling shirts with fun quirky patterns on them. You know, the kind of locally-made-limited-run thing you’d expect to see for sale at an art market.

When I see a sign like this my reaction is always…

What are you scared of?

Are you scared that someone’s going to steal your idea? That someone is going to copy you?

If all it would take for you to lose customers is someone showing up and making what you make, but cheaper, you’re doing it wrong. You’re selling the wrong thing.

You’re selling what you make instead of why you make it.

You’re selling what you do instead of why you do it.

Doing that means you’re asking to be treated like a commodity. You’re asking to be compared on price.

If you’re doing it right, people aren’t buying shirts from you they’re buying why you make shirts. The shirt is just a souvenir. Tangible proof that they were there, a signal to others that “Hey, this is what I believe in.”

The shirt isn’t the product, the way I felt when I bought it is.

That’s what I’m buying.

If your customer would buy from someone else because it looks like the same shirt but it’s cheaper, then you’re in the business of selling shirts. You don’t want to be in that business because there’s no loyalty and because nobody needs another shirt. We’ve got to think in terms of wants. 

You’re selling an experience. A promise. 

That’s what a brand is.

What does your brand stand for? What’s the promise you’re making? What does it say about me when I wear your shirt or have your logo on my website? What do I tell myself about it? What do I tell my friends?

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a product like shirts or a service like a website or a financial plan, you’re selling a story. That’s what I’m paying a premium for. I’m coming to you and buying your product or your service because this is the story I want to tell myself. 

No one can steal that.


Photo from my recent trip to NYC, taken at the Mociun Home store in Brooklyn. (Ceramics are my true weakness…)

You’re not spending $50 on any of these mugs because you need a mug (if you needed a mug you’d go to IKEA) you’re buying the way it makes you feel every time you take it off the shelf. You’re buying the story you get to tell your friends when they ask about it.

So, what story are you selling? 

A marketing primer for financial planners

You’re a financial planner.

How do you get clients? How do you get people to see the value in what you do and choose you over other options, including the option of doing nothing at all?

More specifically, how do you get the right clients? You know, the ones that don’t make you want to gouge your eyeballs out with a spoon when you’re on a call with them.

I got to see Seth Godin speak at the Smart Hustle Small Business Conference in New York City last week and someone in the audience, a financial planner, asked just that. His question was along the lines of, “How do I get noticed and get people to choose me?”

In other words, how do I get people to give me their money?

Between Seth’s response, the concepts I learned taking his Marketing Seminar (10/10 would recommend), and my own experience working in the financial industry here’s a few things financial planners should consider when thinking about marketing.

Yes, this is marketing. And yes, you have to do it yourself.

You can’t opt out because how you do business is your marketing. And you can’t outsource it because no one cares about your business as much as you do.

Familiarity is not the same as trust.

Just because people know you doesn’t mean they trust you. You can be familiar because you’re active on Twitter or host events or because you’re known as “Rhonda, the finance woman!” at parent events at your kid’s school… but that doesn’t mean people trust you. They might know what you do (familiarity) but not how or more importantly why you do it (trust).

Getting in front of people so they know you exist is only part of it. For someone to work with you they’ve got to trust you.

Being specific helps build trust.

How do I tell you apart from all the other financial planners?

You have to give me a clue. Something that shows me, “Oh, she’s the financial planner for people like me.” I need to be able to figure that out quickly and I can’t do that if you look and sound like every other financial planner.

You have to resist the urge to play it safe because safe equals generic, and generic equals ignored. Be clear about who you are and are not for. If you’re “a solution for everyone” you’re a solution for no one.

Share specific, detailed stories that your client can see themselves in. Stories that act as mirror… “I work with families going through exactly this moment who believe this” kind of stories.

If you tell a potential client a story that sounds exactly like the one they tell themselves every day, guess who trusts you now?

You must create tension.

Tension is created when I realize I have a problem and that you’re the one who can solve it. Tension is why we go from interested to paying client.

We pay for solutions.

How do you create tension? Bring to someone’s attention a problem they’ve been burying. A great example Seth gave was picking up a Berne Brown book… “I didn’t know I had a shame problem until I read the cover. The answer is inside so I’m going to buy it.”

Once we know we have a problem we’re dissatisfied until we get the answer (that’s tension) and the answer should cost money (that’s a business).

Those free intro calls with prospective clients? They’re great as long as they create tension. If you solve someone’s problem on that first call—and don’t bring up other problems you can solve—they’re not going to become a client because they’ve already solved their problem. They’ve already relieved the tension.

Change what people know, not what they believe.

You can change what people believe or you can change what they know.

It’s much easier to find people who believe what you believe and change what they know. Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about how to show people they have a problem you can solve.

What do they currently believe about money or financial planners? And what do they currently know about those things? If someone doesn’t think they have a fee problem then that’s not going to be a selling point for them. You’ve got to show them why they have a fee problem (change what they know) while connecting with them on something they believe in i.e. “my kid deserves to graduate from university debt free” or “I don’t trust banks”.

And finally…

They are not wrong.

Sure, if they knew what you knew and believed what you believed then they’d do what you’d do. They’d open retirement accounts and save diligently and become properly insured and hire a planner.

But they don’t.

And furthermore, they are not wrong for that. 

Everyone does the right thing based on what they know and what they believe at the time. That’s why it’s so important to start with where people are, because nobody likes to be told that “they’re doing it wrong”. It puts them on the defensive and makes them much less likely to trust you.

And yes, showing people they have a problem is different than telling them they’re wrong.


Another reminder that these concepts come from things I’ve learned through Seth Godin. I’m not this smart… *winks*. This is simply my interpretation and expansion of those concepts and how I think they apply to financial planners.

Well, any business, really.

And here’s a photo from that trip to New York. A reminder to always look up. 

Budgets, buckets, and home equity according to Thaler

Welp, I’ve officially gone down the rabbit hole that is behavioural economics. Because I’m consumed by this ‘How do people money?’ question.

How do people feel about, think about, and spend their money?

I’m reading Thaler’s Misbehaving thanks to some great Twitter recommendations and I just got through section two on Mental Accounting, which was all kinds of up my street. Acquisition versus transaction utility, sunk costs and payment depreciation… you know, the good stuff.

But oddly enough it was a paragraph on home equity in Chapter 8: Buckets and Budgets that’s stuck with me the most.

He talks about how home equity lines of credit came to be a thing (that’s HELOC for short) and how they completely changed the way Americans do money.

(Yes, I’m fully aware this is old news to most people but you have to remember that I’m a snowflake millennial who’s just coming around to the idea that a) the world existed before 1990 and b) said world might be worth learning about.)

So here’s the deal on HELOCs in the US according to Thaler…

– Until the 1980s home equity was sacred. Like your retirement accounts. You didn’t touch those buckets. That was money for future you, not present day you.

– This meant that in the early 80s people over 60 had very little mortgage debt. Paying off your mortgage—as quick as possible—was what you did.

– Then came Regan. Good ol’ Ronald and his tax reforms. Before 1986 all interest paid (on auto loans, credit cards, etc.) was tax deductible. After 1986 only mortgage interest was tax deductible.

– Hmmm. So now that mortgage interest was the only kind of interest that’s deductible, there was an economic incentive for banks to create something that lets you borrow money in a tax-deductible way. Because people love a deduction, right? Enter the HELOC.

– Want a new car? Finance it using a HELOC, not an auto loan, because you’ll get the deduction. Have credit card debt? Take equity out of your house to pay it off. And so on…

– On top of this interest rates kept getting lower and mortgage brokers became a thing, which encouraged more and more people to refinance.

What did all of this do?

“The change eroded the social norm that home equity was sacrosanct.” 

Home equity was no longer the ‘safe’ mental account it once was. It was no longer a bucket for future you, like your retirement accounts, that you didn’t touch. It was for spending and spending today.

“During the housing boom in the early 2000s, homeowners spent the gain they had accrued on paper in home equity as readily as they would a lottery windfall.”

And then he says this...

“The fall in stock prices did not impact spending as much as the fall in home prices.”

Since people still had retirement accounts as this bucket you didn’t touch, stocks taking a dip in your 401(k) didn’t change how much you were going to spend on furniture that year. Your 401(k) was still mentally filled under ‘money for future you’.

But your home? That was now a bucket of money for present you. And when people could no longer take money out of their homes to finance new cars because house values had fallen so much and/or they were underwater on their mortgage, well, you know what happened. Things went downhill fast.

Enter the 2008 financial crisis.

Here’s what’s so interesting about this to me…

How do we go from, “Here’s a sacred thing we don’t touch” to, “Burn it to the ground.” 

How do these shifts happen?

What’s going on with culture, with education, with how ideas spread… What’s all the stuff circling around a change in behaviour that facilitates it? What’s the narrative around it?

The marketing bit. Because marketing isn’t just advertising, it’s the story we tell others and ourselves.

How did we change the story?

That’s what’s super interesting. That’s what we’ve got to dig into. When we look back and when we look around at what’s happening today…

What’s the story being sold to us and what’s the story we’re selling to ourselves?

Because if there’s one thing we can count on in this world, it’s that history repeats itself.


Oh look, a house. Because home equity. Points for originality, yes? Taken near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. 

P.S. Read this NY Times article from 2008 on bank advertising leading up to the crash. Ya. History definitely repeats itself.

2017 was the year you… What?

PSA: It’s September.

Meaning there are four more months of 2017.

Yep, four. That’s it.

I’m not bringing this up to guilt trip you into feeling like you haven’t done enough this year, because if you’re anything like me you’ve got that more than covered.

I bring it up because September feels like a good time to check in with, you know, life.

With how you’re spending your time and your money. With where you want to go and where you currently find yourself.

When you look back on 2017… what are you going to think of?

The year you did what? The year you learned what? The year you changed what?

Four months is actually a lot of time. Plenty of time to build a new habit or break an old one.

Bit by bit. Day by day. What could you do?


View from the dock my pale butt was parked on this Labour Day weekend. It was lovely.