(last edited on April 29, 2014 at 1:28 am)
I stumbled upon Peter Flaschner‘s post regarded his one-year blog anniversary over on Almost Cool. I had just celebrated my own anniversary, so I was curious about Peter’s experience.
It’s an inspiring tale of losing everything and starting from scratch to build a burgeoning design practice, of connecting with new people, and doing what you are meant to do. He has this cool list of repeatable steps that has contributed to his amazing year:
- find a subject you care passionately about (really, wildly passionate)
- learn everything you can about it
- find a way to apply your passion to a narrow field. For example, rather than saying “I’m a web designer”, I said “I’m a blog designer”. While in theory this shrinks the pool of potential clients by a huge margin, the reality is that my market is global. There may be only a tiny percentage of people looking for blog design, but it’s a tiny percentage of a HUGE number. Make it your business to become the default go to person in your field. (here’s a secret that they don’t usually tell you: you can be an expert in more than one field)
- network, network, network. Use email, IM and skype to connect with people. I’ve met the most amazing people this year. Most of whom I’ve never “met”.
- above all, be honest and forthright
- treat your clients, suppliers, and everyone you meet as well as you can
- work your ass off. I work a stupid number of hours per week. But I’m doing something I love. So most of the time it doesn’t actually feel like work.
Just awesome. So true.
I was particularly struck by his advice on “applying passion to a narrow field”. I’ll have to think about what field(s) that could be. I recently figured out what I was passionate about, but haven’t been able to come up with a nice easy-to-understand niche.
On a side note: I’ve been stumbling upon lots of interesting blogs from Canada lately, particularly from the Toronto and Vancouver areas. What’s going on up there? How can I get some of that down here in New Hampshire?
With regards to finding a niche, I’ve been thinking about this as well. I was thinking about helping people with blogs as well but it just didn’t seem to cover all the bases of what I was passionate about. Then I realized that culture was a strong underlying current that I kept repeating over and over and maybe that was my niche. Still, while I can look at a company’s website and just tell what kind of culture they may have, how do you approach them into getting them to change their culture? They are only going to want your help IF they want to change their business culture on their own. Still most of the time, I’m sure most companies would just look at me and laugh. And yet I still feel quite strongly about it because I’m already seeing companies making this cultural leap which I believe will cause a huge paradigm shift in our society over time. So I guess for me, how to approach this niche is the biggest problem I’m having. As always, I think I’m too far ahead of the times for people to be actually interested in this sort of help right now.
As for Vancouver, well it is almost like a Silicon Valley North in a sense. There are a lot of excellent startups that took off from here (i.e. Flickr) and more are on the way. Also a lot of companies have big offices up here as well (i.e. Business Objects, EA, Radical, etc) because people like the laid back lifestyle and natural beauty that Vancouver can offer their employees. I mean it takes me 5 minutes to walk to the beach and 15 minutes to walk to the woods. By vehicle, it only takes about an hour (at most) to get to the mountains overlooking the city and maybe 3 or 4 hours to get to a good campground. Of course this makes it a mecca for outdoor sports as well.
And hey, if you’re ever in town, I’ll even let you take me out for dinner. :P Haha, actually that’s another amazing thing about the city. The food! Oh my god, you would not believe how good and cheap it is. You can go to a top notch restaurant and pay $15 to $20 CDN for an excellent dinner that would easily cost you anywhere from $30 to $50 US or more down in the States! For casual fare (i.e. wraps, soups, etc), you can even find great places that you can get stuffed at for only $6 CDN.
How to find a niche.
I study Interaction Design at SFU (a Vancouver area university) and in one of the core courses we’ve been considering just that.
Although, with a slightly different vernacular. We’ve ingested books like Post-capitalism, Defining Markets Defining Moments, Boom Bust and Echo (200), and finally Subculture: The Meaning of Style. All with the goal of understanding how to operate as effectively as possible in a knowledge economy.
The suggestion is to operate closer to the individual. If you consider a scale where groups of people can be defined at the National, Demographic, Cohort, Subcultural and Individual level many organizations focus on the Demographic, sometimes Cohort level. While this may yield larger markets, that isn’t always the best way to go.
The steps you describe Peter Flaschner taking are a good set of operational notes to what I (and my team through this course) have come to realize is (if I can be brash) the best way to operate in a knowledge economy.
Find a subculture, integrate yourself with the subculture, and gain trust through dialogue (literally and through responsive design offerings). As the subculture becomes integrated into the ideology (in the Stuart Hall sense of the word) of the mass culture you will be seen as a member of that subculture, and will have the credibility to become a market leader as more people want to buy into that subculture.
Burton is a good example of this.
Cheskin tries to operate like this (switch subculture for microtrend).
Oh, and I second what Nollind Whachell says about Vancouver dinning. Stepho’s on Davie or Anton’s on Hastings (technically Burnaby at that point) are good places for quality and quantity on a student budget.
Wow, great comments. Culture is an interesting phenomena, particularly active culture making. Rather than find a culture, why not build your own? A strong personal belief system, broadcast…does that become a culture-making force? What is the relationship between “cult” and “culture”? I’m looking at the web and seeing all these self-actualized people attracting each other and doing cool things.
Vancouver sounds amazing. I’ve heard that the sushi out there is incredible. I’ll certainly have to visit one of these days!