The Sunday Business Post interviewed me ages back about working for myself. The piece went out on Sunday where I as Damien Mulley and as Damien Mulvey answered the questions.
The more verbose version via an email interview is here:
Why have you chosen to do project work instead of having a traditional job?
I don’t play well with others in the longterm. I’ve worked in very structured company environments and I just didn’t fully fit. Many are very comfortable with working under structures like this but not me. I found that every now and then I zigged when the company zagged.
What kind of project work do you do?
Several organisations hire me to train their members or member companies and lot of it is on digital marketing which changes a lot so these are regular gigs but not guaranteed. Companies also approach me to evaluate and fix their digital marketing for them. Sometimes there is no need for me to come in as the people in there are better than me but those that pay the bills don’t see it. These gigs keep me going over the year and in between I run events like the Social Media Awards, SME Awards and Web Awards.
vHow do you find clients?
It’s all inbound. I’ve never sought work from a company. Despite my crankiness and bad language on Twitter, I still get calls and emails to come in and do some work for companies. Word of mouth and doing a good job gets me future work.
Do you intend to stay doing project work, or would you like to have a traditional job?
When you have months where you are in minus figures you sometimes think about that regular job with regular pay but the vast majority of the time, no. I’ve been blooded with the taste of freedom, no going back to the world of fake plastic trees and Chandler Bing fake laughs. In addition the project work pays the bills and also bankrolls me doing other fun things that a regular employer wouldn’t sign off on. I had comic books made instead of business cards, I did events that never made a dime but tested things out and informed me as well as the audience. With project work I get to be honest with companies and lose business as a result sometimes. I’d never be afforded that luxury in a traditional job.
Do you think you do more or less work than someone in a traditional job?
I’m on well below minimum wage. I envy those that work for themselves and take weekends off. 80 hours a week isn’t unusual but I’m happy to do that. This is a time management issue and if I had the time I’d work on it. The clients always get their work on time and on budget though.
What are the biggest risks with project work?
Cash flow is my biggest risk. I’ve had to chase some companies for over 6 months for even small amounts. I had one media company find fault with an invoice 3 months after issue saying I undercharged them by 1 cent so we had to start the process again. I never wanted to become the sour one waving a contract before doing anything but that’d what happens now and I get paid faster. Progress, ironically is a risk as these days you can become irrelevant if you don’t adapt. Illness and getting a bad reputation are other risks.
How do you manage your taxes?
I have a patient and forgiving accountant called Derek Madden. The Magician I call him. I’m terrible with finances so his company does the most of the heavy lifting. It’s the main advice I give to new businesses: Get a good accountant to do as much as you can afford and the time saved will be worth more than what you give the accountant.
Do you think that the tax system is fair?
Has anyone ever answered yes? There are some issues with the way I pay myself and what I get taxed. Some good examples of how if I paid an employee a certain salary, they’d get a better rate than me. I’m okay with how the system works though but again The Magician helps me navigate it. There are good supports especially from Local Enterprise Offices, people who have leeway and know your business personally. There’s currently funding for getting your web offering up to speed, every business should be looking at this. The world can be our client based not our suburb.
Awesome! Mac icon Goddess Susan Kare’s original artwork for the Windows 3.0 Solitaire game on physical playing cards.
So iAd Producer exists for making those rarely seen iAds but it’s also great for prototyping apps @lindadong’s guide.
Listened to a BBC documentary on Anger the other day. It’s superb. They mentioned Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone. Didn’t realise how vitriolic it is until they pointed it out. Such a fuck you to an uppity woman. I love it more.
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging your next meal
Want to do a big event? Do a small one first and iterate on it.
Want to bring out a suite of business services? Start with one service and iterate.
Want to make an app? Why not start with a simple website and iterate into an app.
Everything I do today with my business is because of smaller things I’ve done in the past. Sometimes tiny individual things that then build and attach to each other until you get something like the Sockies that saw 650 people turn up in the RDS Concert Hall.
This year at the SME Awards, most of the crowd never had been to the other awards shows we did and were expecting something entirely more formal. When the sweets started to be fired at their heads by Rick O’Shea, they realised this was not the usual awards show. We started giving out sweets years back at our events as a “fuck you” to more formal events and in a way as a bribe for the crowd to like us. We learned that this also really makes a crowd relax and we don’t have the budget to pump relaxing gases out of the air ducts.
Startups iterate. The youngfella that started Snapchat might have been green when he started but years later and many iterations of Snapchat later, we have a billion dollar company. You can be sure he has people around him that have a wealth of experience too.
David Hieatt and Hiut Denim have a mantra of “Do One Thing Well” and boy do they. http://hiutdenim.co.uk/ Companies should work on something and do it well. Be comfortable with all the elements that ensures it’s done well and then maybe expand out or up.
When I first discovered the web in 95/96, there was Geocities. I started making my own awful websites back then based on copying the code from other shitty Geocities sites and amending them. You can learn a programming language by going through a text book with code snippets and do academically well but going through code made by others and seeing a subtle philosophy in code can be far more valuable. The dirty hacks in code that make it do what the textbooks say can’t be done or should not be done.
Take something, make changes and improvements and eventually what you’ll have is something entirely different to what you started with.
I watched an interview with Eric Clapton years ago (can’t find the link) and he went through blues song after blues song and showed how he picked bits a la carte from the songs and made his own songs from them. Legendary Clapton songs.
Layla’s famous guitar riff is from this song by Albert King called “As The Years Go Passing By”, it’s a sped up version of a riff in this track, it’s hard to spot without being told. https://youtu.be/nFvaC0GqV0c Clapton points it out here.
Bruce Springsteen’s keynote at SXSW a few years back was an excellent piece on influences and iterations. In this clip he talks about The Animals being a massive influence. Commenting on their song “We gotta get out of this place” “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. That’s “Born To Run,” ”Born in the USA,” everything I’ve done for the past 40 years.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVSoilSuXO4
Apple is all about iterations
Apple learned from what they did in the Mac. Good UI, good hardware, they make the iPod. Learn from the iMac and the iPod, make the iPhone. Take some of these learnings for the Macbook Air. Make the iPod Touch a testing ground for iPhone stuff. The iPad is an iteration of the iPhone and other product elements. They also iterated on products made by others but did them better.
The Apple Watch while a different form factor is an iteration of all the elements up to now. Chips, software, glass. Apple is not afraid too to cannibalise their own successful products. The iPod is becoming a product no longer in demand as the iPhone does it all. Same possible for the iPad with the bigger iPhones. The Apple Watch will eventually kill the iPhone and Apple will have no problem with that.
And remember, people always say the 3rd version of an Apple product is the one where everything is just right. That’s because Apple gets stuff out, learns from real world use and actual mass production and then … iterates.
Swallowed a spider to catch the fly, swallowed a bird to catch the spider…
Mulley Comms is all about iterations. The company started with me being asked to give tech talks and I’d mention Google Docs, Google Alerts to see who talked about your company online, using blogging software to run your website and way back then I’d mention this social network called Facebook that had 8000 users in Ireland who were college students.
From these tech talks, a few brave organisations asked me to come in and give training on blogging. The first few scared the shit out of me. I’d never done something as formal as these. From those, I covered other elements and as digital and social became more used expanded out the training offerings.
Take what I do, add something new to it. Run with it, perfect it. I don’t cover blogging as much now given social networks are also popular for businesses to use for marketing. My Lead Generation workshops are bits from other talks, split into new areas.
Social Media Crisis Comms workshop is based on other elements and other talks. I’ll probably be doing training on Snapchat in a few years.
Mulley Comms Events
The SME Awards is the latest awards show that I run. The SME Awards came from the Web Awards and the Social Media Awards. I noticed a big increase in the number of SMEs entering these awards and looked at what other business shows were offering and brought out a better, cheaper and fairer offering. The SMEs would not happen without the Sockies, which would not have happened without the Webs.
The Web Awards came about from my frustration at the “sponsors win prizes” awards shows that are so common in Ireland. Sponsor a category, you win in another. These sponsor win prizes events also charged a pretty sharp sum to enter them. Not everyone that has a great site can afford more money to enter these shows. So the Web Awards were started. While the Web Awards will have 600 people at it this year, it started small enough. The Sockies had 650 this year. Next year the Web Awards will be split into two events
The Webs of course were able to be smoothly run from the experience (sometimes very negative experience) of running the Irish Blog Awards. The Blog Awards were nice and comfortably small when they started off with around 100 people. Towards the end we were seeing 450 people turn up. Nobody in their various clones of the Blog Awards every matched that and good luck trying to make money from passionate amateurs!
Dealing with people, dealing with judging, dealing with venues, dealing with estimating numbers was all learned from the blog awards. When I started it, I’d never considered a Web Awards or Sockies or SME Awards. Now from the SME Awards and Sockies, there are about 5 additional events I want to do per year.
A huge value of starting small and iterating up or out is it’s easy. The barrier to entry on doing something small isn’t that difficult. If I wanted to do a big ballsy Sockies from the start I wouldn’t know what to do and I wouldn’t have gotten the audience.
The same thing works in procrastination which I’ve blogged about before (Google it. not bothering to link). Chop a task into smaller pieces and get the smallest done. That stimulates the brain in nice ways and pushes you to tackle bigger bits.
Want to do a big event?
Do a small one first and iterate on it. Why not do a free event. Rent a room upstairs in a bar with the condition people will come along and buy drinks. Have someone speak at it for 30 minutes, maybe it’s you. Invite 100 people to it but your objective secretly is to get 20 to come along. 20 is good if that many turn up. Use Eventbrite to ticket the event which is free to use for free events too. Eventbrite also allows you to export the details of those that booked a ticket so you can follow up with them for other events. The dozens of free talks I did were the things that iterated into becoming the Measurement.ie conference.
Want to bring out a suite of business services?
Start with one service and iterate. Bring out a service and start selling that service. Get real clients, paying ones. Learn about the right pricing for it, how to support it, what parts of it piss you off or your clients. What can be removed from it to make it more profitable or more efficient from people. From there you might start to see other areas aligned to this offering that clients might avail of.
Want to make an app?
Why not start with a simple website and iterate into an app. Buy a domain, get cheap hosting, use Wordpress to run it. Learn SEO and a little bit of HTML. Have an offering that is given once people hand over some contact details or join a mailing list. Learn to deal with the public, talk to them about what interests them, what they’d pay for.
Learn how to work with developers and refine your design language so you can efficiently tell them what you’d need. Then maybe work on that app.
This post is an iteration
This post is all about iterations. It started with an idea of iterations. Remembering what Bruce Springsteen said at SXSW was the first thing written down. Then the backstory of the Web Awards, then Mulley Comms. The bits at the top were nearly the last things done. Iterations!
Tiny iterates to small that iterates to medium that iterates to …
I wrote a blog post called Iterations, it’s going live on this blog tomorrow but people are getting it via DM tonight.
Twitter DM character limit change
Over the past few days for many of us on Twitter, the 140 character limit for DMs (private messages) has been replaced with a 10,000 character limit. That’s about 1500 to 1800 words. A good but short blog post.
For brands, this removing of the brevity limit might turn into a pain in the hole as a customer asks the most long winded questions ever whereas before they had 140 characters so brevity worked in your favour. I liked Twitter for that as I get emails from some people that are 4-5 paragraphs long and don’t need more than a “Yes” or “No” reply. Not now!
Reading a long DM is actually nice and easy too.
Still, I think there are many uses for these loosening of restrictions
It might be a perfect bounce back for customers as you can DM them a few pages from the manual that they’ve not read and that keeps them occupied for a while.
It’s a very handy way for an analyst to send on a briefing doc to the media. Slightly faster than email and keeps the buzz going on Twitter.
Authors can release short stories or a preview of their new book in the form of a chapter sample.
For those on crappy connections, you could request a pared down copy of a webpage from a Twitter account. Like the old Email2FTP services.
You could with a little work run a training course to people via DM. SEO Nick runs an SEO course via email. One part per day. Buffer is currently doing the same with an email a day on social media strategy. DMs could offer the same.
And with a bit of scripting this could turn into a handy service for organisations to distribute information privately to people. See below:
man FTP – gives you the page(s) on using FTP for example.
There have been lots of comparisons to various web services now just doing a version of various Unix commands. You could do the same with Twitter and long DMs. Ask the Twitter account of a company/org for certain things and get a few pages of notes back. Think now about organisations like Samaritans or Spunout or other organisations around issues that still carry a stigma like family planning issues, mental health or eating disorders.
I know a few organisations on Facebook do not get interactions or even subscribers because people are afraid friends or family will see their interactions. It can easily be programmed now for someone to send a private message to these organisations, without following them and ask information from them. A manual of commands could even be sent on the first DM to the organisation.
So maybe you DM (private message) Spunout with the word “Help” and they send you back all the commands that allow you to get information. From there you pick a topic.
d Spunout depressed, d Spunout cutting, d Spunout threesomes
Commercially this can apply to a company too. You could DM Eircom with speed and your account number for support or information. The commands could reflect the tree that you get when you ring a support line.
I’ve already noticed that DMs are now paragraph in size with some people and surprisingly this can make conversations more efficient not less so.
FOI’d Visit Dublin which is part of Fáilte Ireland. Remember that Loving Dublin thing in the Bord Gais Energy Theatre? Did you know they got €5k ex VAT from Failte Ireland as it encouraged people from the UK to travel to Ireland? Now you do. The money was to help in “Repositioning Dublin as a cool, contemporary, edgy city break destination”
Good news too. They expect 10k people (lots from the UK) in 2015 and 15k in 2016. Hmm, people from the UK coming over in 2016. Great!
(Click to enlarge etc.)
I asked Failte Ireland too if “communications between Fáilte Ireland and employees of LovinDublin on content/editorial decisions of
LovinDublin” and they said they didn’t contact them with any issues about their content. Maybe people from the UK will Love content like this? It’s “edgy” alright.
Boom, 110 SMEs have entered the Blacknight SME Awards. Really happy with that. In 3 years we’ll probably see 400+ SMEs enter and once again our main issue is we can’t find a venue that will hold all the finalists.
What is a “full-stack” startup? Startups that control all aspects of their product, like Apple. Compare this to replying on key parts made by others. Microsoft makes the software but needs to work with Intel and others for hardware. This can be very limiting.
Jim blogs about how he runs his events. Banter is a superb cultural series at this stage. Free to attend with an amazing amount of guests who are asked proper questions by Jim and the audience.
Constraints are good, really good. Legendary Apple designer Susan Kare shares two nuggets of advice.
Freebooting. Stealing content and using it as your own. Mostly without attribution. Those “Lad” Facebook Pages are a great example. Though you see it on Twitter wholesale too. Your tweet “quoted” instead of Retweeted so the freebooter gets the credit.
Telepathy. A comms app for iPhone, iPad without the need for a mobile network or Internet connection. So when they shut down our phone networks when we rise up, they can’t stop the comms.
That new Bjórk album, was expecting to end up in a dark hole with my mascara running because of the sadness. It’s some album but I think I need to listen to it lots or read the lyrics sheet that came with it.
And I just wanted to get that headline out before anyone else.