Seth Godin: freelancing and the hard work of being an entrepreneur

Freelancers get paid when they work. Using our own fingers, our own skills, we do the work. So when I’m making a podcast, it’s me. When I’m writing, it’s me. When I’m giving a speech, it’s me. We get paid when we work and that’s the only time we get paid.

Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, build something bigger than themselves, they build assets. If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re busy hiring the most easily available, best qualified and cheapest person to do every job… it means you’re hiring yourself. And if you’re hiring yourself to do all the jobs, there’s one job you’re not doing, and that’s the job of the CEO. Of the person who figures out how to build something bigger than yourself.

So the hard work of being an entrepreneur is hiring someone to do every single job that can be done by someone who’s not you. It’s a totally different way of being in the world.


Seth Godin – Akimbo: Math Class is Hard

See also: The Akimbo Workshops: Freelancer or Entrepreneur?
The Freelancer’s Workshop
The Bootstrapper’s Workshop

Cohort

Seth Godin talks quite a lot about cohorts: “The people who get you. The ones who have been through it with you. Who see you.” An emphasis on peer-relationships is one of the defining features of his highly rated and very-low-drop-out-rated online workshops.

He’s got me thinking again about the value of a group of people doing similar work, with similar levels of experience. These are people – ‘fellow travellers‘ – who can relate to your struggles, share what they know, encourage you to keep going, push you to get put there and do better work. By turns they might be sounding-boards, collaborators, mentors, sympathetic ears, or champions of your work.

Where’s your cohort?

It’s relatively easy to find them among peers when your training for something – in school, on a course (although I’m agnostic about finding them on an online course), in your time in the army (!), or in the trenches doing your job. When I was teaching, colleagues at about the same stage of their careers were definitely my cohort.

But having a good cohort becomes harder if you move around, or as you start to manage and lead – by default there will be fewer ‘people like us’ around, and there are fewer natural opportunities to meet. Maintaining a cohort becomes something that you need to do deliberately by seeking people out and having conversations, by asking questions, looking for opinions and advice, and sharing resources with people who find them helpful.

Five Questions and – slowly – the Driverless Crocodile podcast are a way of doing this.

That saying (wherever it’s from) might be right: “… if you want to go far, go together.” Find friends for your work.

The Daily

If you haven’t, go and read Seth Godin’s posts here and here.

It sounds hard, but daily turns out to be easier than weekly or fortnightly. If you do it daily, you don’t miss.

Daily writing. Daily exercise. Daily prayer or meditation. Daily time with the right people.

Daily accumulates by a magnitude. Low bars and high cycle-speeds will see you on your way far more effectively than the fits and starts of enthusiasm, and one day you’ll find yourself, if not at the top of a mountain, then at least on a small hill with a breeze and a half-decent view.

Fellow travellers: Seth Godin and Brian Koppelman on mentors

Seth Godin and Brian Koppelman have had a great series of conversations on Brian’s The Moment podcast. Here’s a little something on the subject of mentors and feedback:

Seth Godin: The memo is only four sentences long. That’s all I needed. That a fellow traveller who knows how to do the craft of giving me feedback gave me those key lines, that’s the kind of notes that I need…

Brian Koppelman: Fellow traveller is a great expression and a great way to think about who you should enlist in your journey. And a fellow traveler doesn’t mean someone who’s already in Wyoming if you’ve starting out in New York. A fellow traveller is someone somewhere along the path that you’re going, somewhere close to where you are. Perhaps they’ve made the trip before.

SG: The whole mentor thing is way overrated… First of all, the math of it doesn’t scale, because the number of people who are successful who can mentor the number of people who need to be mentored doesn’t work.

Number two is, it’s usually an uneven exchange, in the sense that you’re asking someone who is busy and leveraged to stop that and start doing something else with you.

But the real reason is that people who are successful are almost never good at actually coaching people who aren’t successful yet. It’s a totally different skill set…

The Moment, 1st January 2019

This touches on and unpacks my motivation for writing Ordinary People. Good Work. and adds a some extra ideas into the mix. Find fellow travellers.* Start talking.

*WordPress wants me to spell it one a single L.

Dreaming by day: Kevin Kelly on realists and fantasists

I one-hundred-percent agree with the idea that to be human is to be ‘tensioned’, to be in conflict in some ways between two conflicting ideas at the same time, and it’s not just between our expectations and what we want for certainty, but other things, like when you’re making something new you have to be both a realist and a fantasist, you have to do something that will ship but also will reach for the stars and be impossible at the same time, and that’s part of the tension of being creative.

Kevin Kelly – Cool Tools Podcast, Ep013 with Seth Godin

This feels like a KK version of the old T.E. Lawrence quote, which incidentally was very nearly the first post of DriverlessCroc:

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible. This I did.

T.E. Lawrence – Seven Pillars of Wisdom

May we dream by day.

In the way of it

For my youngest son, putting on his shoes is a BIG JOB. Catch him in the right mood, and he’ll get it done. But if there’s the slightest distraction in his path or in his mind, if he’s upset about something, if there’s an excuse, he’ll take forever to put them on, stropping all the way.

You are probably something of a professional when it comes to putting on your shoes.
Which things are you avoiding, putting off, getting distracted from?

Things get easier if you do them all the time. You know what to do, how to do it, where to find what you need to do it – and perhaps most importantly, that you can and will do it.

What’s your daily?

When you’re in the way of doing something you’ve develop the practical, mental and emotional muscle memory that makes it easy for you to get it done, which is not necessarily the same as it being easy to do.

When you’re in the way of something, you also have far more bandwidth to apply elsewhere. We often spend this bandwidth on other things (continuing a conversation, watching or listening to something), which is fine… but for important jobs, we can use that bandwidth to find ways to do them even better.

This is how to become a professional.

How tools spread

How do tools – ideas and understandings, practices, and real physical tools – get to the people who need them?

Some tools may only need to be seen to by copied and spread. A tool will spread if it is:

  • Visible – people need to see it (or hear, or read about it)
  • Beneficial – people need to see that the tool brings benefits too
  • Acceptable – isn’t in some way taboo*
  • Doable – simple enough to understand and apply
  • Accessible – people can get hold of what they need to start using it
  • Affordable – in terms of the physical, mental and emotional resources** and time needed to learn or use the tool

Further reading:

*Taboos may prevent one or both of the first two from happening
**”Can I afford the social or emotional costs of using this tool? Is it worth it?”
***The copyright section of which reads as follows:

You have permission to post this, email this, print this and pass it along for free to anyone you like, as long as you make no changes or edits to its contents or digital format. In fact, I’d love it if you’d make lots and lots of copies. The right to bind this and sell it as a book, however, is strictly reserved.

DriverlessSpecodile (The DC Podcast Spec)

This is an attempt at speccing the DC podcast using questions from Seth Godin’s This is Marketing.

1. Audience: Who do I seek to serve?

What is the world view of the audience you’re seeking to reach? 

The Driverless Crocodile podcast is for people who believe that the world can be better – in big ways or small – and they have a responsibility to do or make something to make it so… and want to. It’s for people who believe that tools and ways of understanding help.

I will focus on people who want to hear and read about ideas and tools to help them make change happen (build the future), and to learn from other people who are doing similar work – people not necessarily much further along in the journey than they are.

What are they afraid of?

Probably, like me, they’re afraid of not making a positive difference, not being able to gather people to their vision, or not being able to find a sustainable funding model for the work that they do. They might be afraid of what will happen if people like them don’t take action to change our trajectory.

2. Purpose: What change do I seek to make?

What change are you seeking to make? 

I’m seeking to make more positive change happen then otherwise might be the case. I hope to do this by:

  1. Sharing a vision of the world as it is and of the possible (the Steve Jobs thing) so that people believe they can cause change (“if these people did it, I can”)
  2. Articulating values that they probably already have – to strengthen values by talking about them, justifying them and possibly challenging them.
  3. To share tools, strategies, models that people will find useful and be able to apply, equipping them to build a better future.
  4. Start conversations and connect people who share this vision and values.

What story will you tell? Is it true? 

I promise that engaging with what I make will help you… turn the idea or desire for change that you’re mulling over into something real – or eliminate it as a possibility after trying it out.

How will it change their status?

My audience might be on their way to losing some types of status (wealth, position) on their way to gaining another kind – they may come to measure their own status in terms of vision, self-respect because they can make things happen and get more done, status from people who share their worldview and aims because of their contribution.

3. Mechanism and Ecosystem: How will it work?

How will people hear about it?

  • Existing readers of DC
  • Word of mouth – me to some friends, them to their friends (if it’s worth spreading)
  • Guests telling their friends – and then onto word of mouth
  • Perhaps some will share on facebook

What happens when people use it?

They listen in their podcast app or online… I need to look into the best way to share it.

How will they tell others?

Wherever they meet and talk about things with their friends

Where’s the network effect?

Hopefully though guests recommending other guests.

Where does the money come from? Where does it go?

My money, my time, to do this. Anything else (amazon links, sponsorship) is an unlikely bonus.

What asset are you building?

An ‘evergreen’ web of writing, links and recommendations that I would have loved someone to introduce me to 15 or 20 years ago.

4. Impact: How will we know if it’s working?

Are you proud of it?

That’s a good first check.

What change do you hope to see?

See above.

Where do we go next?

If it works, and it gets easy – up the tempo, find more interesting guests.

Complementary goods

Basically this means that since the demand of one good is linked to the demand for another good, if a higher quantity is demanded of one good, a higher quantity will also be demanded of the other, and if a lower quantity is demanded of one good, a lower quantity will be demanded of the other.

Wikipedia – Complementary Good

The more your work helps others to do theirs – the more your success adds to theirs – the more you’ll find that people want to work with you, and cheer you on.

Can you find ways of being so generous and useful to your customers – even to your ‘competitors’ – that their success is a win for you, and vice-versa?

You might become an indispensable part of someone else’s product, or the add on that people buy to complete or enrich their purchase.

It’s a good thing for them to miss you if you’re gone – it’s transformative when they can’t imagine doing it without you.

The butter to their bread

You make everything a little bit better and people include you without thinking. When they do forget you, they find that their sandwiches go soggy, and everything falls apart.

The cream in their coffee

There are other ways to do the job, but you hit the spot. Your presence turns something good-but-no-frills into something safe but luxurious.

The chilli to their gorengan

You’re not for everyone, but you are transformative. You the add the spice and interest that turns a greasy little something into a pick-me-up with a lasting glow.

The rubber to their sole.

They may think they’re hitting the road, but it’s you making what they do stick. You’re the interface that gives them traction.

What is that’ll make them sing about you?