Despite the fact that Apple has now sold more than 67 million iPads since its release two years ago, despite the fact that even the old iPad 2 is crushing Kindle Fire and despite the fact that sales of the tablet are still rising (they’re up 150 percent since last year) Apple’s iPad has many failings. This is what’s wrong with the world’s leading tablet computer.
The Screen Isn’t All That
The new iPad’s biggest sales point — the only real positive difference to affect the user, in fact — is its “Retina” screen. Those 3.1 million pixels on a 2048 x 1536 resolution, giving four times the number of pixels in an iPad 2 and a million more pixels than an HDTV can’t be bad, can they? After all, more has got to be better.
Mark Cuban has an unusual way of screening his calls. The entrepreneur, who sold his social marketing firm Flowtown to Demandforce last year, charges $10,000 for an hour’s chat. On the other hand, you can pay just $4.17 per minute and call top Silicon Valley venture capitalist (and “nose-picker extraordinaire”) Dave McClure. Both donate their fees to charity and both dispense their advice and the benefit of their experience through Clarity, a service created by Mark Cuban that allows experts to sell their knowledge.
The service isn’t unique. There are now lots of different ways for people who need specialist information and advice to pick up the knowledge they need from successful types with experience. They also allow experts — and often anyone who wants to call themselves an expert — to make a little extra money sharing their knowledge. Here’s a rundown of some of the different ways you can learn from the best or teach the rest.
The biggest challenge in selling freelance services isn’t finding potential new clients. And it isn’t choosing the works to show in your portfolio. It’s creating trust, the tipping point where the questions about your ability transform into a belief that you can do the job. That’s what every sales process does to a prospect: it allows them to trust that you can create the product they need, at a schedule that roughly suits them and according to the budget you’ve agreed.
But trust works both ways. Just as a client who’s just handed over a deposit to a freelancer needs to feel that that sum they’re paying will translate into a product they can use, so the freelancer needs to believe that the deposit they receive won’t be the last payment that comes their way. We need to trust the client to accept good work and pay for it.
With several projects now topping a million dollars in pledges, Kickstarter strategies are becoming clearer.
Between the evening of February 8, 2012 and the evening of February 9, 2012 Kickstarter had the craziest 24 hours it had seen in its three-year history. On Wednesday, at 6.54 pm, Elevation Dock, a concept for an iPhone stand from design and manufacturing firm ElevationLab, passed TikTok to become the largest project in Kickstarter history by winning $942,579 in pledges. The company had asked for $75,000. At around 2 pm the following day, it became the first million dollar Kickstarter project. It would go on to make $1,464,706. Four hours later, game maker Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Adventure became the second Kickstarter project to pass a million dollars — reaching the milestone less than a day after launching. It went on to earn $3,336,371.
Those are huge successes for two very different projects, and they’re not alone. The open-source funding service has provided the means for projects as varied as comic books and gardening gear to find the money they need to go into production. So what does it take to turn a concept not just into a success on Kickstarter, but into a blockbuster that gives you all you dreamed of and more? What lessons can we learn from the some of the site’s biggest success stories?
Freelancers are usually passionate about their work but freelance crossword constructors have managed to turn their passion into their work.
Will Shortz has a unique degree. The editor of the New York Times crossword page is the only person in the United States with a bachelor’s degree in enigmatology — the study of puzzles. It was a course that he was able to put together himself using the Individualized Major Program at Indiana University where he wrote his thesis on “The History of American Word Puzzles Before 1860.” In addition to creating clues and editing submissions every day for the world’s most famous crossword puzzle, he has also been the editor of Games Magazine, and is now the founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. He’s one of the few people who have managed to build a career out of an activity usually done for fun.
But he’s not unique, and the ability to make money doing what you love, even from home, isn’t restricted to an editor at a national newspaper. Shortz himself doesn’t produce the puzzles published in the Times, relying instead on the 75-100 submissions that flow into the newspaper each week from crossword enthusiasts. He’ll pick crosswords from about 100 freelance contributors each year.
You want leads, clients and companies to know about your biggest achievements. Geekli.st gives you a place to brag.
Out of all the thousands of tasks you’ve completed and from all the jobs you’ve been hired to do over the course of your career, there’s probably no more than a handful that really stick out. They’re your biggest successes: the site design that won an award, the app that made the App Store lists, the blog post that went viral or the script now sitting on millions of computers. They’re the accomplishments that act as your introduction at dinner parties and they’re the benchmarks against which you measure each new job you complete. They’re also the highlights of your resume — the real reason that any employer will give you a job or any client hire your freelance services.
Does the iPad’s mobility mean that GTD can really get things done?
David Allen’s Getting Things Done productivity system has always felt as though it added work rather than saved time. The complex system of multiple folders, workflow and priority setting has long appealed to geeks and nerds with a knack for organization. For more typical freelancers, though, the kind of people who tend to make do with whiteboard lists, flagged emails and missed deadlines, GTD always seemed too fiddly and too time-consuming to become a part of a fast-moving day. The popularity of the iPad, though, might just have changed all that. With 85 percent of US tablet owners playing with their devices as the same time as they watch television and 30 percent of all iPad time spent in front of the box, it’s now possible — even easy — for iPad owners to turn their evening relaxation into a productive hour organizing their work and preparing for the next day.
Freelancers can struggle to succeed and struggle with success. Help is at hand.
Freelancers tend to work alone. We sit in our home offices, Skype occasionally with clients and rely on social media for contact with the outside world during work hours. If we’re lucky enough to live close to a co-working space, we might get to meet other freelancers occasionally but for the most part, freelancing is a lonely profession. That doesn’t just mean there’s no one to gossip with; it also means that there’s no one to turn to for help.
There’s nowhere to turn for creative ideas. There’s nowhere to turn for technical assistance. And, no less importantly, there’s nowhere to turn when the business hits a wall.
That’s the service that Jenny Shih is attempting to provide. Shih describes herself as “a coach and consultant for right-brained, creative entrepreneurs.” Her clients, she says, are “solopreneurs,” “idea factories” who are struggling to implement their ideas by themselves. Her background is in high-tech engineering where she managed multi-million dollar projects across four continents with teams made up of hundreds of staff. While other managers were putting in the kind of sixty-plus hour weeks typical of high tech companies, though, Shih was able to apply time management strategies, efficient processes and delegation so that her week’s work was done in forty hours or less. Read the rest…
Publishing your own book might be a useful way to show off your skills but making sales is difficult. Libboo might be able to help.
It’s not just freelance writers who dream about become admired authors. For any freelancer, a book laying out their ideas, their approach and their philosophy can function as a business card that shows off their expertise. When the book is sold it generates revenue. When it’s shared, it spreads the freelancer’s brand. But writing a book is hard. It takes time. And the real work begins when it’s published. In order for the book to have an effect, it has to be promoted and sold, discussed and read.
For authors working with traditional publishers, that work is done by a professional team. Editors pore over the text looking for errors and improvements. Fact checkers make sure claims are accurate. Illustrators add the drawings. And professional public relations staff ensure that copies reach reviewers, and journalists discuss the book’s content. When self-publishers have to do all of that work themselves, it’s no surprise that they struggle to make sales — especially if they’re also trying to run a freelance business at the same time.
Loft Resumes uses graphic design to give the traditional resume a makeover.
We’ve seen a few creative approaches to jobseeking over the last few years. We’ve seen video resumes that go above and beyond and we’ve read about Alec Brownstein who landed a job at an advertising firm after running search ads that targeted his favorite creative directors. But for most jobseekers, the tools of the trade remain pretty simple: a cover letter and a black-and-white resume listing their skills, education and experience. They might play with the fonts a bit, and they might use the layout to make the most important elements stand out and easy to read, but for the most part, a resume has always been a pretty simple tool.
Docracy applies crowdsourcing to legal documents and produces a resource that just might help freelancers cut their legal costs.
Freelancers of every type receive legal documents all the time. We’re asked to sign non-disclosure agreements when we take on new clients. We’re given contracts that specify timelines and deliverables. And we’re asked to put our names on agreements that state exactly who owns the rights to the work we’ve created.
Most of those contracts are fine and standard, and few are worth giving to a lawyer before we put pen to paper. That’s especially true for freelancers and new businesses working on shoestring budgets and keen to avoid the giant costs of a lawyer’s legal fees every time they close a small deal. The result is that we often sign contracts with a slightly queasy feeling and a sense that we could be agreeing to something we might not like and taking on an obligation that could cost us a great deal in the future.
Handicrafters know they can sell on Etsy and designers can always turn to Zazzle, but there are plenty more ways for people to turn just about any passion into a profit.
Store sites and affiliate programs, eBay and Craigslist have all made a love of an activity into a potential moneyspinner. But what if you’re not into knitting handmade covers for iPads and you don’t want put your art up for auction in the world’s biggest garage sale? Here are five surprising ways in which passions are being turned into cash.
1. Share Your Designs
You might not be using ConceptShare, but your dream clients are — and they’ll expect you to know it.
When the creatives in Mad Men need to present their designs, they pin them on a board and let the client point to the bits that are wrong. That’s not so easy when you’re a freelancer working in a different office, in a different time zone, perhaps in a different country. Instead of standing by a desk while the client tells you what he or she thinks, you’ll email across your work and the client then has to figure out how to make his or her changes understood. A lot will be lost in the transmission. Read the rest…
Freelancers usually work alone, in home offices free of distractions, noises, colleagues and bosses. That should allow us to work at our best, in environments that we’ve created. In fact though, if we really want to improve our productivity, the best strategy might be to gather a bunch of people in a room and work alongside them.
That’s one of the principles of co-working — spaces which allow freelancers and others to share the kind of open plan office that employees usually try so hard to avoid. Although sitting at a large desk with a dozen other people should always do wonders for a lone freelancer’s social life, that co-working can actually improve productivity is a bit more surprising. According to one survey reported last year, 93 percent of co-workers said that the practice had increased their social circle and 88 percent said it had reduced their feelings of isolation. An incredible 76 percent of co-workers though also said that joining a co-working space actually improved their work output. Read the rest…
According to one report the number of unemployed Americans who tried to raise a start-up last year was the lowest in more than 25 years. In 2011 just 3.3 percent of Americans without a job started their own businesses, a fall from 4.7% the year before. In 1989 more than one in five saw themselves as entrepreneurs in the making. The reason for that decline may be that building a business from scratch is harder than ever, and demands a broader knowledge of skills that range from incorporation and hiring staff, to pitching to VCs and planning social media operations. One startup is trying to make the process easier with step-by-step “plays” that guide would-be entrepreneurs through each stage of business-building.
Startup Plays comes from Scott Annan, an entrepreneur and CEO of Mercury Grove, a software company that specializes in collaboration software. Entrepreneurs, says Annan, usually know what they need to do in order to create the business they want, but can find it difficult to focus and execute at the level they need. They’re strong in some areas but spend a lot of time trying to figure out all of the other tasks that owners of new businesses are expected to do themselves. Read the rest…
Readers looking for a book know they can turn to Amazon. Shoppers looking for… well, anything, can turn to eBay. But what if you’re looking for a Web designer or a caterer? Or a wedding planner or a house cleaner? What if you’re looking for the kinds of local services that tend to be supplied by freelancers but which aren’t available from outlets like Amazon or eBay, and you want to make a hire now, as easily as any other online purchase? Today those buyers can turn to Thumbtack — and freelancers can advertise their services in one location at a site aimed directly at the clients they’re used to serving.
Thumbtack lists 230,000 suppliers, about 70 percent of which are home improvement professionals such as carpenters, electricians and cleaners, and event service suppliers such as disk jockeys and wedding planners. The remaining 30 percent of freelancers though cover a broad range of categories, from Web designers to auto services and hot dog trucks. About 3,000 new freelancers and small businesses join every week.
Dribbble is a strange site. It’s not just that it calls itself “Twitter for designers” and restricts posts to screenshots of no more than 400 x 300 pixels. It’s not even that the site then manages to arbitrarily impose basketball vocabulary onto its activities, so that posts are called “shots,” members may be “players,” “spectators” or “prospects,” and replies are called “rebounds.” And it’s not even that the site has a selective membership, with Pro accounts only available to players, and playership only available on an invitation basis. It’s that the site is remarkably effective. Designers win valuable feedback, the commendation of their peers and a chance to see what others are doing. And they pick up jobs. Lots of jobs.
Despite having only around 87,000 members of which just 15,000 are active players, Dribbble has established a reputation among designers as the place to be. Invitations are hotly sought after and there’s stiff competition for the views, comments and fans that help designs to win exposure. The site works by allowing players to upload small shots of their work in progress. Uploads are limited to 24 each month and no more than five per day (to avoid “ball hogging”). Spectators can then follow the designers and projects they find interesting, organize their favorite shots into buckets, become a prospect by indicating that they’d like to be invited to play and, most importantly, they can also scout for talent and contact members about work opportunities.
iPad screenshot of OnLive.
An iPad owned by a freelancer has just saved blushes at the BBC. When broadcast lines went down in Dubai, where its Test Match Special radio program is covering a series of five-day cricket matches between England and Pakistan, producer Adam Mountford reached for the iPad of freelance correspondent — and tech-lover — Jonathan Agnew. As a team of engineers battled to reconnect the wires, the BBC’s team of commentators passed the tablet between them, delivering ball-by-ball commentary through the iPad’s Skype app. Few freelance uses of the iPad are that dramatic, but with a little thought and a bit of planning it is possible to overcome the tablet’s limited storage and turn it into any freelancer’s mobile workstation. Here’s how to do it:
- Fill Your Desk