A simple (ot easy) way to make money in a way that’s good for your soul

The simple explanation:

Step 1: find something you enjoy doing/a problem you have in your life

Step 2: connect to/create a community that relates to your activity/issue

Step 3: document your progress from journeyman to expert

Step 4: create a presence in your community

Step 5: create a product

Step 6: market to your niche community and sell your product

 

Let’s take yoga for example. My sister enjoys yoga, she loves it. In fact she recently spent six weeks in India acquiring accreditation to be able to teach it. However yoga is a saturated market, with well-established teachers, various styles as well as thousands of hours of dvd’s and YouTube content and walkthroughs etc. What isn’t a saturated market is yoga for people whose life is complicated via stressful workloads, balancing social and romantic lives and family planning in their 20’s and 30’s. This is a surprisingly large market that not only is my sister positioned within, but all of her friends are as well. If my sister decides to have a family she could then enter the market of yoga for pregnant and child-rearing women. We now live in the world of the long-tail, it pays better to cater to increasingly niche markets compared to the masses. So with that in mind how would she approach step 1 and 2?

Her activity is yoga. She has a passion and love for it and engages in it every day, willingly too. She doesn’t even consider it work. So this is step one solved. For step two she has three choices, she can:

  1. Choose location independence and use YouTube videos, live streaming on platforms such as twitch or periscope, personal coaching sessions for her exclusive market of young professionals struggling to get that work/life balance.
  2. Choose to tap her social network and run boot camps and classes. Friends, friends of friends and family will arise early and start their day in the best way possible through gentle exercise and social connection.
  3. Both!

I would personally recommend doing the second and then when she has a solid clientele base, branch out into the first option. It’s her choice however.

When creating/connecting to a community it is absolutely necessary to harness the infinite power of social media. The breadth and depth of social media is unfathomable, it’s changed the world in breathtaking, irreversible ways – for better or for worse. She will NEED to create a presence on Instagram and Facebook. Twitter could be useful but not so much as the other two. She will need a personalised website. It wouldn’t hurt to be listed as a business on google and be on LinkedIn. She could post ads on craigslist, gumtree and meetup. She could join forums and micro communities centred in her area. These are not hard to find. There are so many ways to join micro-communities and build a network of potential clients as well as a network from which she can source invaluable information.

In conjunction with her personal website, I strongly advise keeping a blog. I might be biased because I am a writer, but I believe the most important and most overlooked step is step number 3, documenting the journey. This step has three benefits. The first being the whole world enjoys seeing the process of progress from novice to expert, the second being it will allow Rebecca to keep an eye on the bigger picture. How far she’s come, how far she has to go to reach her goals, her progress, her pitfalls etc. The third being documentation will further immerse her in her journey, a little more dedication and motivation if she needs it to keep on track.

With her blog as a testament to your expertise, she can place herself as an authority on the subject in her community. Rebecca will also have word of mouth and friends to vouch for her. When she has created a presences, anywhere from 3 months to 6 years, she can then think to market a product. In Rebecca’s case, I believe she should start with small, free lessons around holidays marketed toward a specific goal; ‘end of financial year stress relief,’ ‘summer body blitz,’ or even classes for people in white collar jobs, ‘wrist and carpal tunnel workshops,’ ‘opening hips and lower back’ and things like that. After leading a few of those classes and receiving feedback, she could charge for classes. This would be a relatively quick process, she could do this after 3 months. She could then transition these classes into videos that she could market and sell once she’s become more of a presence in her community. Videos, coaching sessions etc.

Voila, she’s taken a core passion of hers, put work into marketing and getting her name out, and now she is able to make decent money out of a hobby.

NOTE: this is simple, not easy. The process will take, on average, 3-5 years and will require around about 400 hours work outside your core activity. Marketing and advertising, maintaining social media, creating meet-ups, dealing with accounts and other stresses etc. The upside of this is that it probably won’t feel that much like work. You are doing something for you, and you will be a kid again, kicking the ball against the wall for hours and hours on end, everyone staring at you wondering how you’re not bored yet. What’s more is that you will genuinely be uplifted that you’re providing a service that directly benefits people. Something you created is positively affecting other people and that is one of the, if not the most rewarding thing in this world.

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The Attention Economy

In this podcast I discuss how in the future and even now it is our attention that is being sold. There is an abundance of information and our ability to focus on that information is the scarce resource. Corporations, media franchises, small businesses and individuals compete for our attention. The abundance of click-bait articles, sensationalised stories and flashing ad banners is testament to this fact.

Being able to control our attention and dictate where our focus lies will become an invaluable tool. We are tested every day by outrage circuses, puppies and kittens, delicious foods, things we’d rather be doing and places we’d rather be.

What’s in a Brand?

Capitalism is a foul amoral creature. On one hand it rewards ingenuity, co-operation and a certain empathy needed to appeal to people to buy your products. On the other hand it rewards slave labour, wanton destruction of the environment and disgusting business practices such as planned obsolescence. It seems like an arms race, for every new regulation that is made (standard minimum wage) a new shady business practice is created (outsource production to underdeveloped countries were labour is cheap).

Take Apple for instance. They came under a lot of scrutiny because the image of their brand – globally conscious, user friendly, simple and easy to use – came into direct conflict with their business practices. They outsourced the production to Foxconn, a company in China who runs factories with appalling conditions. I cannot stress how atrocious these conditions were. 12 hour shifts of back breaking work without a break or being able to sit down, working with constant toxic fumes, no talking, no socialising just work. In 2010 18 workers attempted suicide, 14 succeeded. These 14 workers were deemed to have previous mental issues before coming to work for Foxconn and this is why they eventually committed suicide. Foxconn’s response? Put up safety-nets so people couldn’t commit suicide anymore.

When this story broke, people’s outrage went up, their indignation went up, yet Apple’s profits went up. Which, in all fairness, is what I expected. We’re so disconnected from the suffering of people it would probably take a trip to Chengdu to see these appalling factories for ourselves before we would boycott Apple products. There is too much incentive to buy a cheap iPhone and enjoy your shiny new product than there is to effect any meaningful change. It’s much easier to tweet from your iPad that you’re disgusted with Apple and continue to use it than there is to sell your iPad, or better yet give it to a less privileged person and demand that Apple ensure it cares about the way their products are made.

Nevertheless, people protested and Apple responded. They issued statements that they would launch a formal investigation into the situation and ensure that Foxconn treat its workers better. Did it work? A little, but not enough. It took 14 people dying before the issue was even talked about. No one bothered to ask. But that’s capitalism. It’s a beautiful yet treacherous thing. I sit here with my subway salad, the plastic container probably comes from China, the tomatoes from Pakistan, the lettuce from Queensland, the chicken (if it even is chicken) from Peru. Spinach from South Africa, Carrot from New Zealand, plastic fork from India. I can’t even begin to imagine the face of the person who hand-picked the tomatoes, or shaped the plastic container into the modern work of art that it is. And to be honest, is it bad that I don’t really care to? Until I find out that a 2 year old was forced into doing it and his parents were tortured if he didn’t work fast enough I probably won’t end up caring. Does this disconnect from the things we buy and the food we eat a bad thing? I’ll think about it while I eat my salad.

References:

‘The Labor Question in China: Apple and Beyond  R Litzinger, 2013

“The truth of the Apple IPad behind Foxconn’s lies”  SACOM 2005 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3YFGixp9Jw

War, Peace and the Telegraph

We have truly transcended time and space. You could be reading this from anywhere at any time. It’s really hard to conceive what life was like before the advent of the internet, before the advent of the telegraph even – the first technology that enabled us to transcend time and space. Things would’ve been PAINFULLY slow. I would have no idea how my favourite basketball team was doing (Golden State Warriors). I’d have no idea when my favourite artist was touring (Danny Brown). I wouldn’t be able to organise things in advance with my friends, who’d almost certainly not be my friends (everything would be influenced by how close it is to me) I wouldn’t be playing basketball, I wouldn’t be on here writing this and what a tragedy that would be.

It’s hard to understand how much the world changed with the invention of the telegraph in the 1830’s-40’s. Being able to message London from Washington and receive an immediate response was groundbreaking. As Tom Standage says ‘the general public became participants in a continually unfolding world drama’. It’s hard just to realise how much the world changed, how much the world was opened by instantaneous communication; Domestic and international affairs, news, military combat, politics, social life – everything became much more inclusive once people were no longer restricted to geography. Having access to the telegraph was a great benefit compared to those who didn’t have access.

Of course the telegraph ran into some issues. When Britain went to war in the Crimea, they announced in London the amount of ships and troops that were to be deployed. The London Times, looking to capitalise on the public interest of the war faithfully reproduced the exact numbers and nature of British planning, letting the British public know but having the unfortunate secondary symptom of informing the Russian enemy. It took a while to get used to, the fact that information was spreading so quickly and easily. Before the telegraph information only travelled as fast as ships could said, but after the telegraph… A different story was told altogether.

Battle of Crimea, 1853-6

But people were quickly to adapt to this new technology as shown in a Franco-Anglo skirmish in North Africa in 1898. Forces led by British Commander Lord Kitchener came into hostile contact with French forces led by Major Marchand in Sudan. Kitchener had access to telegraph via British laid cable, one that went through Africa then via France into London, and one that went from Sudan then to Egypt and then straight to England. Kitchener cunningly sent a telegram straight to Britain detailing the extent of the situation, comparable forces, no clear sign of victory or defeat, but then sent another one via France detailing that Marchand’s forces were lacking morale and nearly out of supplies and water. The French, only able to go on Kitchener’s information, quickly withdrew, no blood was spilled and it was a victory for Britain.

References:

‘War and Peace in the global village’ T Standage, 1999

‘Fashoda Incident of 1898’ D Bates, 1984

How I Feel About Selfies

Image taken from Business Insider A while ago, Justin Bieber (JB) was criticised for a comment he left in the Anne Frank House guest book which read ‘Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would’ve been a belieber.’ For which, not surprisingly, he suffered a lot of ridicule. There’s every chance that Anne would’ve been a belieber. She was a teenage girl aged 13-15 at the time she wrote in her diary. The contents of which shows her to be an ordinary adolescent living in an extraordinary time; her relationship with her parents, her worries, her love life, her dreams of becoming an actress. So correct me if I’m wrong, but the majority of JB fans are ordinary teenage girls. So it’s not the accuracy of the statement that caused the outrage.

What I found particularly distasteful about this was that JB went to a place that is so much more significant culturally and historically than he is, yet he still made it about himself with the phrase ‘Hopefully she would’ve been a belieber’. It’s so narcissistic that it’s gone from detestable to pitiable. I start to feel sorry for him that someone could be so delusional, but I doubt he spends any time reflecting on this between counting his millions and having his pick of literally any girl in the world, so the pity is fairly fleeting.

Let’s not mince words about what’s going on here. He is so wrapped up in his own world, his own self-image, that he couldn’t even take the time to appreciate the struggles of anyone else. There was a world of tragedy and beauty around him, a mixture of immense pain and suffering with the triumph of joy and hope. Yet JB, in his omnipotence, reduces everything around him to supporting members and background scenery in the movie that is his life. He is front and centre, he is the star, he is the main attraction. That’s what I think about selfies. Whenever anyone takes a selfie, they are basically writing ‘I hope she would’ve been a belieber.’ Anytime someone posts a photo of themselves with food or in front of scenery they are reducing the food and scenery to props in their life movie. Look at me, look at the cool shit I’m doing, do you like me yet? Are you jealous of my life yet? That’s what I hear every time I look at a selfie.

Saltz’ wrote an article defending the selfie which itself was inherently narcissistic. In it, he likens himself to Van Gogh, the famed painter, because they both created selfies, Van Gogh with paint, Saltz with a camera. Aside from the fact that Van Gogh was mentally usntable and killed himself and thus not the best example, the context in which Gogh created his paintings is wildly different from the context in which Saltz takes selfies. Who does that? Compares themselves to a world famous painter as if they are somehow similar? Someone who takes selfies, that’s who.

But hey take all this with a grain of salt. Despite my devastating good looks I’m not particularly photogenic. If I could take a decent selfie, maybe I’d have a different opinion.

References:

Saltz, J 2014, “Art at Arm’s Length: A History of the Selfie” – http://www.vulture.com/2014/01/history-of-the-selfie.html

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/apr/14/justin-bieber-anne-frank-belieber

Public and Private Spaces

Public and private spaces are difficult to define. Especially with the onslaught of technology the boundaries of public and private spaces are constantly shifting. With the creation of virtual space, occupied by an online identities on social media, defining what is public and what is private can become exceedingly difficult.  Burkell et al. (2014) describe how Facebook is a platform with a chosen audience of friends and family and a chosen amount of personal information available and is thus largely private in nature. However, Facebook postings are admissible in a court of law. Along with this, they argue that most people post with the world as their intended audience providing more evidence that Facebook is actually a public space.

With social media being considering a space more public than private, our ever increasing use of technology blurs the boundaries between public and private space. When we are able to tweet our every action, update our whereabouts on Facebook, instagram the foods we are eating, we become minor celebrities in our own world and a cost of being a celebrity is having a lack of private space. I see so many people living life on their phones doing this; showing the world what an awesome life they’re living. It’s becoming tragic. One person will check their phone and then like dominoes the rest of the group will inevitably pull their phone out for a quick fix. It’s become the yawn of our generation.

The world. Today

There is the argument that it is good, the dissolution of the private space allows you to stay connected with your friends and family, allows you to know what people are doing and what people are up to, provides you with information concerning the people you care about. But I don’t think it is good, most people, myself included, would be better off without it. It will be interesting to see whether the public and private space will completely integrate into a massive grey area where everyone will have to constantly put on their ‘game face’ and act as if they are being recorded or whether or not we’ll see a surge of people reclaiming their private space, disconnecting from the matrix and living a less technologically dependent lifestyle.

This is a fascinating area of study, continuing on from last post, discussing the changing dynamic of how people interact through space and time.

Transmedia

God damn we live in an exciting revolutionary age. Things are moving quickly and expansively. Case in point: Transmedia storytelling. Jenkins gives this definition: ‘Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience’. He goes onto say that each medium provides its own unique contribution to the ‘entertainment experience’. He also says that there is no one single source that one can turn to gain all the information needed to understand all the elements of the story. I disagree with this statement; I believe that true transmedia storytelling provides the fundamental points of the story through one medium, but leaves certain elements that need to be explained and expanded upon to provide a more complete and fulfilling experience

Take the TV show Game of Thrones (GoT), it’s no longer enough to have just the TV show. We now have the TV show, books (it must be said these came first), novellas, forums and video games. This is discounting user generated content such as memes, online discussions, cosplay and fanfiction. There is a GoT universe that users can immerse themselves into, where they are as much of the production team as the marketing team themselves in the sense that they help market and shape the GoT universe. The line between marketing and product has effectively been blurred as the user – turned produser – becomes a part of the production process.

I can only see this trend furthering in the future and it makes me excited. As technology advances, 3D printing becomes cheaper and sustainable, virtual reality becomes a common household appliance, ‘Smart’ TV’s become increasingly interactive and 3D technology becomes a lot more efficient; the potential for transmedia storytelling to harness all of these technologies and the products that will be created… the possibilities are breath-taking. All it takes is one brilliant idea to revolutionise the way media is manufactured and delivered.