Working Out What I Want To Do

Today I am spending some time to rewrite my biographical information for the blog. What for, you ask? The blog is a major piece of my “find more work” strategy, but there are two kinds of work: the stuff I do now to pay the bill, and the stuff I’d like to do. In my dreams it would look something like this:

"Who Am I?"credit: paper texture from pandoraicons

There are many possibilities, and more than a little confusion. Let’s break it down!

When I say “The Blog”, this is really my code word for “the thing that will help me achieve the self-sustaining, independent means to live an interesting life”. The blog is where I share the useful and entertaining aspects of myself with the world. From experience, I know that a certain percentage of visitors—perhaps one person in a thousand—are intrigued-enough by what I’ve put online to take followup action. For example, they download a form, share it as a link, or email me to tell me what they thought of it. Furthermore, I guestimate that 1% of those people can imagine me doing some paid work on their behalf, which would help me fund the dream. Numberwise, that 1% of 1% of 1% works out to one person in ten thousand. With my current levels of traffic, that works out to 3-5 people really attuned people every month. COOL!

It all starts to fall apart, though, when said people try to figure out what it is I actually do. Although I write a lot about what I’m doing, it’s not all in one place. Compounding the problem is the “eclectic” range of services that I hint at but do not advertise. The work I get now is primarily through networks of past collaborators, and the nature of the work is in the field of interactive development. Occasionally, I get involved web site development, animation, and/or graphic design. However, this is not where I ultimately see myself being. I’d like to instead be an original content creator, authoring bon mots that inspire and inform people in the art of finding their best self. This is the journey that I’ve been on for the past several years, and it’s the kind of cause that I think will make me feel the most “useful”; I’m amplifying what signal I have, and am putting it out there so others can pass it along.

So the conundrum I’m facing, which I hope to solve with some targeted writing, is this:

how do I attract the right clients and work partners for the service work I do, while staying primarily on the path of becoming a full-time content creator?

Let me break this down bit-by-bit.

1. Who are the Right Clients and Work Partners?

Over the years I’ve come to accept that there are certain ways I like to work:

  • I like talking to people face-to-face
  • I like writing about what I do

I’d say my ideal clients are inquisitive conversationalists at heart, and are well-grounded in the realities of creative development. It’s a pleasure to work with such people; I’d like to attract more people like this to the business.

Writing is a huge part of my creative process, and some people may be surprised at how much it’s part of my development process. I keep copious development notes in the form of a running journal of the problems I’m solving, annotated with the solutions I’ve found along the way. The process of writing keeps my head clear and my mind focused, and the resulting notes allow me to reconstruct the chain of reasoning that led to a particular solution. This comes in handy if I need to revisit a project years after delivery.

When it comes to finding work partners, the criteria I apply to the ideal client also apply. However, I’d also add the ability to synthesize original works from core principles to the mix. At minimum, the developers I work with need to know their data structures and algorithms, and have some standard of code to which they hold themselves. Designers need to have a solid foundation for composition and color, with an eye for detail and association. In both cases, they should know what they’re doing (or trying to test) before they take action. They should also open to the new idea that was accidentally stumbled-upon, and above all they should love to ask why. Not only are they actively working to build their knowledge base of practical examples, they’re excited to show you why based on the fruits of their own research.

2. What Do I Do?

This is a question that often catches me off-guard, because of the dichotomy between what I do and what I would like to do; it often feels like I can not give a simple answer that is truthful. But in retrospect, that’s a somewhat silly reason not to just list what I’ve DONE, without the apologist commentary:

  • I am an interactive computer graphics developer, specializing in kiosk / tradeshow / museum design and development. I function as creative director and system architect, often working with teams of other specialists. I sometimes take the role of lead developer or designer, and at other times provide overall development and oversight. For small projects, I can handle the entire production from: concept development, copywriting, visual design, user interface design, programming, graphic asset production, deployment, and project communications. However, I prefer to partner with content specialists and seasoned project managers so I can focus on key areas of design and communication.

  • I develop websites for entrepreneurs/small businesses that want direct control over a simple Internet presence. I show my clients how to purchase a domain name and select a hosting plan based on their needs. If needed, I develop the most economical and effective solution I can find using off-the-shelf software and pre-designed templates. Along the way, I try to demystify the inner workings of the Internet and online producers of printed collateral. To qualify as a client, you must be a single proprietor/married partners/artist/ entrepreneur with simple marketing needs and a budget of at least $250. You must also be willing to put in the hard work of defining yourself and your niche under my guidance.

  • I provide intermediate-level development assistance for WordPress-based websites. If you need some help figuring out how to add a feature, modify a plugin, or adjust some visual aspect of your template, I can probably help. Please note: I do NOT do PHP application development, Javascript programming, or e-commerce cart integration.

3. What Would I LIKE to Do?

While I can write code and design pretty diagrams, what I really like doing is the hunt for new and exciting insights. The more esoteric, multi-disciplinary and FANTASTICALLY useful the insight is, the more EXCITED I get! This quirk of mine manifests in different ways: For example, I enjoy debugging computer software, a task that demoralizes many programmers. I’m also a very good sounding board and pattern-finder, constantly making bizarre-but-true analogies. You’ll find I’m pretty good at distilling a lot of information down to a set of essential insights. I could do this all day if I had a way of making a living from it, but I have to first prove that this is a service worth paying for.

  • While I provide lots of free productivity forms and other design nuggets, I’m missing a framework for understanding those forms in context to some kind of greater offering. I do not want to call myself a productivity expert, as I am not. However, I am credible as a productivity enthusiast because people can actually see all the forms I’ve been making. It’s a wacky niche.

  • I write a lot about my own personal journey (example: this post), and some people have found value in my words. I know this because I’ve gotten the emails. I occasionally get requests to consider consolidate the blog posts into some kind of book, but I have held back because I don’t know what kind of book it would be. I certainly don’t want it to be dry and boring! I also wonder what possible guarantee I could make regarding the utility of such a book. However, it just occurred to me that starting a book project by doubting its utility is exactly the wrong way to start. I should write the book that comes from the material, and let that speak for itself.

  • The world is filled with a lot of amazing people and wonderful things, and I want to experience more! I want to take pictures, relate inspiring stories, and connect people with what they didn’t even know they needed. I want to promote things that I believe add awesome value to my world, and perhaps to yours too. Having the means to travel on my own dime and be a curator of my own interests in the service of people who like the same kind of things is the dream. I’m also pretty shy, but if I imagine myself as a “host” of these experiences (i.e. I’m passing along the information to a willing audience) my comfort zone is expanded. To get moving down this path, I now believe that the expression of wonderful things, as I see them, is probably most important thing I can do. The regular generation of this type of content creates an engine of opportunity. If you write something or share something that’s really inspiring, it has a way of attracting the same energy back. While that may sound mystical, it really is just common sense: like attracts like, especially in Golden Age of Internet Search.

  • I enjoy talking to people about their dreams and aspirations, as it’s a topic that’s close to my own heart. I’m a very patient listener, capable of absorbing a ton of emotionally-charged information while maintaining a sympathetic-yet-objective perspective. Combined with my natural tendency to distill insights and make tools, I could see my temperament as the foundation of an interesting consulting practice. The post header image, incidentally, is from something I posted in a recent Wave with Colleen™ thread in our experiment; it’s 1 part Tinker, 1 part Bard, and 1 part Inventor.

What DON’T I Offer?

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p>Colleen gave me a piece of advice in The Wave, when I was toying with the idea of dropping design from my list of service offerings. While I like design, it has to be in the strategic context of doing something much more epic. Generally, this isn’t the case when I’m doing design as an individual service. For one thing, it’s difficult to charge for it. Secondly, design like this isn’t my strength. I use design as a communication tool, and I like to be clear on what is being communicated. The worst part of design for me is being given the task of “making something that the client likes”, without much direction. I can do what I like, but there’s a 50/50 chance that the client doesn’t. Perhaps I should just be less-shy about charging for the time it takes to work through these kinds of projects, but as I have an almost pathological desire to see people happy, it can be really rough on me.

Colleen suggested that I just take it off the “public menu”; design then becomes one of the things I do as the need comes up, in the context of that larger epic project. That’s the kind of design I enjoy doing for myself.

On a side note: I think I used to list a lot of things I did because it was a way of boosting my self-esteem: Look! I can do all kinds of stuff! This really isn’t necessary now…I’m old and I’ve done stuff. It’s now up to me now to show and tell what I’ve been doing, and frame it all in the context of what I’d like to do next.

Wrapping it All Up

The ultimate goal of this exercise, having written all that stuff above, is to make the blog easier to figure out.

Part of that is just helping people understand who is behind all this stuff, and how that fits in with their own world view. This is important to me because…uh, there might not be a rational reason for this other than it’s what I do when I visit other people’s blogs.

There’s also a not-so-secret message I’m hiding in my overall signal: I’m a person that believes in possibility, inspiration, empowerment, and the ability to make stuff. By boosting the signal, I will perhaps also boost the “1% of 1% of 1%” response rate by one or two more every month. While the number may seem small, you have to remember that making a connection with someone that is in-tune with you has much more potential for awesomeness than a connection with a less-engaged person.

Well, I spent about six hours working on this writeup and post. But I think I have a better idea of what I need to do next.