5 Habits Of Highly Ineffective Networkers

Are you considering removing yourself from the office, or possibly traveling for an extended period of time to some great destinations?

If you answered yes to either of the questions above, and if you are not independently wealthy, then you had better learn how to network with other people effectively.

If you’re leaving a structured employment situation, how are you going to support yourself whilst on your round the world adventure?

What if you turn up in Hong Kong and need to work?

Meeting other like-minded people and collaborating with them can have untold, and unforeseen, benefits.

As you begin your new journey, remember that networking is a great way to:

  • promote projects
  • find freelance work
  • seek input and travel advice
  • barter for technical assistance
  • work with others for mutual gain
  • assist other people

One of my golden rules of networking is to “bring more to the table” when interacting with others.

Additionally, networking does not always have to be about trying to attain something, it can also be a great way to assist people who might need your help.

What happened?

I used to consider myself a rather competent networker — especially considering that I have been doing it from one tropical island or another for the past twelve years.

Truly, you should try networking from a seven by three mile island in the Caribbean and trying to get people to take you seriously!

Recently, there have been quite a few quality posts in the blogoshpere on how to network successfully. So, as opposed to telling you what to do and how to do it, I am going to instruct you in WHAT NOT TO DO and

I am going to use myself as a case study.

You see, I have an idea for an eBook that I would like to create. It’s not just an ebook but it will be a freely downloadable manual which will be distributed to humanitarian organizations as a “how to” book to teach them how they can utilize blogging and social media to help raise funds and awareness.

The ebook seems like a very Zen project and one that I am quite excited to pursue. However, because I have never attempted a project like this I decided to email some people seeking constructive input, and thus began my lesson in ineffective networking.

What did I do wrong?

While searching for assistance last week I emailed a highly respected, and highly ranked (on Technorati) blogger for advice.

This person has always been amazingly kind to me in terms of providing information and has even given me some guidance for my small business.

Of course, I thought, this is a great cause that I am going to work on, certainly I can get some assistance.

Without a second thought, I jotted an email and hit send just waiting for the response to come back, which would help to give me some initial direction.

Strangely enough, a day went by and I heard nothing, then another, and another. Certainly, something was wrong because this person always emails back quickly.

Upon reflection, I realized that I had broken some unwritten networking rules and I should have known better. In fact, I do know better, but I was excited about the project and I made some assumptions (not wise).

Networking faux pas

Many people who are interested in freelancing, or leaving the corporate world, have quickly become fans of NorthxEast.

So, I want you to learn from my recent mistakes because when networking is done correctly I have found that people really are willing to help.

Without getting into specifics, here is what I did wrong:

1. The email was too long – The email I sent was well written but it was probably a little too long. I should have started with short pleasantries and then gotten straight to the matter at hand.

2. I hit the send button too quickly – This person has corresponded with me in the past so I thought I thought I could email seeking some input. In hindsight maybe I should have drafted a blog post and sent the person the link. If they were interested in assisting that would have given them the opportunity to contact me.

3. I did not clearly define my goals for the interaction – In my mind the project makes perfect sense and has tremendous value. But, of course, I am intimately familiar with what I am trying to achieve and I have actively worked in humanitarian development for the past ten years. Next time I will more clearly define what my goals are as bullet points and express mutual benefits.

4. I didn’t offer anything in return – Recently, I have taken to offering my weekly interview guests the opportunity to have me write a post on a humanitarian organization or cause. Effectively, giving them something in return for the time that they take to answer my questions. Nevertheless, with this recent email I didn’t offer anything of substance in return. Next time the interaction will not just be about me “taking.”

5. I didn’t know when to call in a middleman or mediator – This probably would have been a good time to call in a favor or two and have someone closer to this person forward along my request for input and assistance. If you are trying to network with someone there is nothing wrong with having someone else make an introduction for you.

If you need to connect with someone for assistance, for a collaborative idea, or even just to say hello, please learn from my mistakes.

Next time I will pay more attention to detail and I will not be so eager. Instead, I will stick by my golden rule and continue to bring more to the table when networking

Have you had any networking mishaps? How did you improve upon your mistakes?


15 Reasons to Get Connected and Work Online

I thought it would be worth going over the key reasons why I believe working through the web is something worth doing.

If you’re already doing web work, you might resonate with these points.

If you’re thinking about becoming a full-time, part-time or casual web worker, this post should help introduce you to why myself and others are passionate about this way of working (and living).

1. Communicate in your own time.

In traditional jobs, the phone can be a constant interruption. When working online, you choose when and how to communicate.

2. Unclutter your work life.

Paper, forms, binders, pens, plastic sleeves, more paper… it’s enough to drive you crazy (and certainly enough to thwart your efforts at an organized life).

Working online allows you to make the transition to a paperless office — or even a paperless life.

3. Work should feel like living.

Work-life balance can be a troubling idea. Does it mean that when you’re working, you’re not living?

Working online allows you to structure your work around important events and actions in your life — rather than positioning work as an obstruction to those things.

4. Work only the hours you need to get the job done.

Traditional working days are structured around hours, online working days are structured around tasks.

Complete your set tasks more quickly and you’re rewarded with a shorter working day, rather than more work to do!

5. Work for employers and clients anywhere in the world.

Where you live is no longer the primary arbiter of where you work. Through working online, you can work for clients or employers interstate or internationally.

Once you remove geographical requirements, the pool of available jobs becomes much larger. You can also live where you want, rather than where you work.

6. Be more autonomous.

While you may have a boss overseeing your work online, they’re usually not in a position to stand over you as you work.

7. Kill the commute.

All your traveling is done through wires and connections — unless you want to go the park, your local cafe, or somewhere else entirely.

Save on petrol and free up more time. If you spend two hours a day commuting, that’s two hours a day you now have back.

8. Take advantage of technology to make you more productive.

There are thousands of helpful people out there developing software, apps and other technology to help you complete tasks faster online.

Working through the web allows you to take advantage of that.

9. Create your own workspace.

Forget the cubicle, or the stuffy office. Work from your bedroom, your home office or your garden. Pick a new workplace every week.

Play music, decorate it how you want, arrange things to your liking. You’ll have the freedom to create a workspace which fully unleashes your creativity.

10. Build a digital office.

Achieve ultimate mobility be simplifying the externalities of your work life. Handling your work digitally allows for simpler workspaces and light-weight travel.

11. Work anywhere there’s an internet connection.

If the requirements of your work are just a laptop and an internet connection, you’re no longer bound to one place.

Carry out your work anywhere: from the local library, to your neighboring state, to South America. It might sound dreamy, but it is possible.

12. No enforced geographical separation from your home and family (unless you want it!).

Even if you have private time when you’re working, your family may simply appreciate the feeling that you are ‘around’ rather than in a separate place.

Some of you might also find it refreshing to take a lunch-break with your kids, or your spouse, instead of your boss and co-workers.

When you feel the need to truly have some ‘alone time’ you can commute to another location. In essence, work time no longer needs to be rigidly separated from work and family time.

13. Avoid office politics.

Gossip, bad relationships with co-workers and nasty bosses can all be powerful causes of work-stress.

While web work does have stresses of its own, it does largely avoid the issue of office politics.

14. Do your job how you want.

As web work is task focused, it generally doesn’t matter how you complete a task, as long as you get it done.

You have the freedom to complete tasks following processes that work best for you, rather than your employer.

15. Be at the forefront of a movement.

The phenomenon of working online is a new movement populated by remarkable and tech-savvy individuals. Expect friends and family to be fascinated (and a little mystified) by what you do.

How to Talk to Bloggers

The ability to talk with a network of bloggers — and maybe even some high profile ones — is an incredible boon for any blogger.

Dialogues with other bloggers can result in good advice, answered questions, links, opportunities and some very interesting conversations.

Unfortunately, many bloggers have a habit of approaching relationship building with other bloggers in entirely the wrong way.

In this post, I want to share everything I’ve learned about talking to bloggers, whether they’re Brian Clark or one of your most loyal reader.

Be intriguing. Bloggers will be much more likely to talk to you if they believe you have something interesting to say. What aspect of you or your blog would be of specific interest to them? There are a few things bloggers enjoy hearing about:

  • Successes you’ve had as a result of practicing what they preach.
  • Interesting conversations you’ve had about them with others.
  • An unusual time/place where the blogger’s name came up (for example, at a conference you attended, or unexpectedly through a family member).
  • A short anecdote relevant to something they’ve written recently.

If you’re not sure you have anything to offer the blogger you’d like to talk to, then you can try being intriguing.

Be useful. Perhaps the most powerful way to connect with a blogger, proving useful to them means that in some small way, they owe you one.

Here are some different ways you can make yourself of use to other bloggers:

  1. Watch over the blog. Let the blogger know when you see factual mistakes, spam comments or broken links appearing on the blog. Bloggers are always eager to correct this stuff and often rely on readers to let them know when a problem has arisen. As long as you avoid sounding like you’re chastizing the blogger, they’re likely to be quite thankful to you.
  2. Correct design flaws. Bloggers are not always code gurus. Design elements can display incorrectly or not display at all — or look funny in certain browsers. If you have some skill with HTML/CSS you can point out any issues and, most importantly, suggest an easy to implement a solution. Providing a solution is the icing on the cake — the thing that will truly put you in the blogger’s good books.
  3. Spread their ideas. If you’ve written a post sharing some of the blogger’s ideas, make sure to email them about it. This method helped attract Seth Godin to my blog (he even left a comment, which I don’t think he does often. Too busy kicking-butt, I guess.)
  4. Leverage your skills. If you really want to get on a blogger’s radar, use your skills. If you’re a Photoshop ninja, offer to design them a new logo, or to customize some graphics on their site. If you’re a fitness fanatic, offer to consult with them about an exercise plan. Put a twist on your skills, make them useful, and offer them for free.
  5. Write guest-posts. Bloggers like guest-posters, because a guest-post means they don’t have to worry about writing content for a day. Saving a blogger one or two hours is always very much appreciated. If your post is just as popular as something they wrote would be (or even more so) you will be especially appreciated.

Develop name-recognition. Pitching to bloggers who don’t recognize your name is a little like cold-calling. Once you develop a pattern of regularly commenting on their blog and have linked to an article they’ve written once or twice, the blogger will start to recognize your name.

Bloggers really prize engaged readers and are likely to have a lot more time for your communication efforts.

Earn their favor. The amount of traffic you have the potential to send the blogger will influence their eagerness to correspond with you.

By submitting their posts to Digg with good titles and descriptions, or by discovering their work on StumbleUpon, the blogger will start to recognize your ability to send them traffic.

Be brief. One of the single biggest mistakes you can make in talking to bloggers is to send long emails. If the blogger you want to talk to is widely read, you can guarantee that they get dozens of emails every day.

Long emails require a time sacrifice that bloggers are unlikely to make. If you can’t make your email any shorter while still covering everything you need, break it into points and send just the most important one.

Once you get a response, send the second, and so on. Busy bloggers prefer back-and-forth short emails over elephant-sized exchanges.

Be clear. If you’re offering something to the blogger, explain what it is. If you’re asking for something, explain what it is.

If a blogger can’t determine what kind of action you want them to take as a result of you’re email, they’re unlikely to take any action at all (and will probably file it for a ‘later’ that never comes.)

If you find yourself having to preamble and qualify everything you say, it usually indicates that you’re asking for more than you should.

Don’t be difficult. View your proposed correspondence from the perspective of the blogger. Would your question take longer than a few minutes to answer properly?

If your answer is yes, you should think of an easier question, or break your question down into smaller parts. You might really want to know what would be required to make $5,000 a month from your blog, but is that a question a blogger could answer in a few minutes or less? If your correspondence is too difficult, you can expect it to be ignored.

Don’t take more than you give. For a blogger to be eager to talk with you they need to feel that it’s an equal relationship.

If you’re constantly asking for links, attention, time and advice and not offering your skills in return, your dialog with the other blogger won’t last very long.

A good golden rule to follow: only ask for something when the blogger stands to benefit from what you’re proposing, or if they owe you a favor.

Don’t take advantage of your connection. Once you’ve started an amicable dialog with a blogger, it can be all-too-easy to wear out your welcome by being too eager and monopolizing their attention.

There’s no reason to email a blogger more than once a week, unless you’re resolving something. If your correspondence turns to clutter you’ll find they respond to your emails less and less.

Be memorable. Ideally, you want bloggers to enjoy talking with you, and to open your emails ahead of others in their inbox (maybe even look forward to them).

Make every message you send memorable in some way and always cut out the fluff.

Be friendly without fake flattery. If you’re talking to a blogger far more popular than you, it’s easy to start talking to them like you’re not worthy of their time.

If you put yourself across that way, some of that viewpoint may rub off on the blogger!

If you give as much as you take, you have no reason to act as if they’re doing you a favor.

Why Opportunities are So Important & 12 Places to Find Them

Bloggers who are looking to increase the traffic to their blog should start thinking not in terms of links but in terms of opportunities.

Because it’s opportunities, more than anything else, that are going to get you that traffic in the long run.

What do I mean by opportunities?

There are so many, and I list some of them below, but basically I mean opportunities to collaborate with others, to grow your blog, to attract new readers, to create a brand, to reach a new audience, to help others, to network.

The problem is that many times we don’t recognize an opportunity when it comes along.

Someone might email us about a link exchange, but because we have a policy not to do link exchanges, we pass on the opportunity. Should we do link exchanges, then?

Not necessarily — but someone emailing you is an opportunity to make a friend, to work with another blogger, to gain a reader. Seize it if you can, by being friendly to the person, by suggesting an alternative, by finding other ways you can help each other out.

Sometimes we feel like we don’t have time to take advantage of opportunities, that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. And that’s true — sometimes we have to turn opportunities down, regretfully.

But instead of outright turning them down, see if they can be put off until you have more time to re-evaluate your commitments.

Let me give you a great example: when I first started Zen Habits, I emailed a bunch of high-profile bloggers to ask them to do a short interview with me — I would email them a few questions and print their answers on my blog.

Many turned me down outright, a few accepted. One of my favorite responses was by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger: he honestly told me he was busy with a conference for the next month or two, but said maybe afterwards he would have time. I wrote back to him two months later, and he accepted!

The lesson here is that Darren didn’t reject the opportunity to be interviewed, even though his site doesn’t need the extra publicity from a small blog like mine was then.

He didn’t have the time to do the interview then, but he asked for me to check back with him — and then he took advantage of the opportunity to be interviewed when he had more time. Perfect way to capitalize on opportunities when you don’t have much time!

The key here is to look at everything and ask yourself, “What’s the opportunity here?

How can I use this to my advantage, to grow my blog and my brand and network with others?” And then, if you can, seize it.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Great posts.

One of the most important opportunities, of course, is the post you write every day. How powerful are the ideas for your posts? How useful are the posts? How readable are they? How good are the headlines?

Take care to use every post as an opportunity to serve your readers and write content that will make your blog take off.

2. Social bookmarking.

One of the best ways to get some surges in traffic, the social bookmarking sites such as Digg, Delicious, Reddit, et al, can be difficult mistresses to keep.

Most of your posts won’t make it there, but sometimes you’ll write one so awesome that bigger sites will link to it and send you some traffic, and that’s an opportunity to get in on the social bookmarking traffic. Seize that opportunity!

3. Guest posts.

If other blogs ask you to write a guest post, do not let that opportunity go! Make the most of it and write the best guest post you possibly can.

And if you aren’t asked to write a guest post, make your own opportunities and contact other bloggers to see if they’d be interested. It’s a great opportunity to reach new audiences and build your brand.

4. Blog networks.

Here’s another opportunity you can help create: contact blog networks, the ones that are just good blogs that are affiliated with each other, and see if they’ll let you join.

Be sure to only join those with quality blogs, but if you can join a good network or two, that’s an amazing opportunity to use the power of a group to boost the traffic of all of your blogs, and to work with some great people.

5. Help others.

If you see an opportunity to help another blogger — perhaps by giving them free services, or promoting their best posts on the social bookmarking sites — take it.

Helping other bloggers succeed is a great way to help yourself succeed. Their success will come back to you in the long run.

6. Reader comments.

When a reader comments on your site, this is a golden opportunity to interact with a potential long-term reader that you shouldn’t let pass you by.

Now, depending on the number of comments you get, you may not be able to respond to every single one, but if you only get a few, you should cherish each one and interact with them positively. Encourage them to continue to participate in your growing community.

7. Reader emails.
The same applies to each time a reader emails you. Sure, this is extra work, but think of each one as an opportunity to help someone, and to win a life-long reader in the process. This is how long-term readership is built — with genuine interaction.

8. Interviews.

When I was first contacted about doing an interview, I was a bit hesitant, because I’m not someone who naturally likes to share personal stuff. But I did it anyway, even if I’m a little shy.

And I think it was a great opportunity, and I don’t regret it a bit. If someone wants to interview you, unless it’s a horrible, horrible website, don’t turn it down! Be flattered, and humbled by this request. It’s also a great way to reach a new audience and build your brand.

Similarly, reach out to other bloggers and offer to interview them, if you find them fascinating.

9. Carnivals.

There are dozens of blog carnivals out there, on almost any conceivable topic. Most blogs don’t participate, because they are too busy to submit stuff every week.

But guess what? You get lots of links with each carnival, and you reach lots of new readers. Seize this opportunity whenever you can.

10. Link exchanges.

From time to time, other bloggers might contact you about doing a link exchange. Now, your policy might be different, but mine is not to do such exchanges, only because I don’t see the value they add to my readers.

However, don’t just reject the blogger’s offer and move on! Seize the opportunity to network, and to help out another blogger, and to build a relationship. Suggest other ways to help each other out and collaborate. Some of my best blogging friends were built this way.

11. Article submissions.

There are lots of good websites that will accept article submissions and print them. You get credit and a link back to your blog.

It’s a lot of hassle submitting your best stuff to these sites, but it’s worth the time. It’s another great opportunity, yet again, to reach new audiences and to build your brand.

12. Sponsored products.

I get a lot of emails from people with new web products or books or other such things that they’d like me to review or promote.

Now, I don’t do those kinds of reviews, and I don’t promote products. However, this is a great opportunity to offer advertising at a low rate to these companies, and even if they don’t take you up on your offer, at least stay in contact with them and build a relationship that could pay off in the long term.

10 Simple and Effective Ways to Let People Know They Matter

Do you let people know that they matter?

I am not usually prone to post about such topics but recently I was the recipient of an amazingly thoughtful gift that while not expensive, really made me feel like someone cared – “that I mattered.”

The Gift

the gift that inspired this post!

Then I realized, do we spend enough time letting people, even strangers, know that they matter? Kindness is FREE, it doesn’t cost a penny.

Well, being a firm believer in the saying, “it starts with one person to make the change” here are ten simple ways to show people that they matter as we head into the New Year.

This is the list that I have come up with so far as I strive to be a better person in 2008:

Smiles cost absolutely nothing and there is a good chance you might just brighten someone’s day and change their whole outlook.

*Do a random act of kindness
I am constantly amazed at how many people will not even hold the door open for folks entering the same building. A random act of kindness does not have to be a huge gesture, but even letting someone cross the street, or giving way to an oncoming car, can have an impact.

Listening is a great way to let people know that they matter. If someone comes to you seeking your input on an issue, don’t dismiss them and hope that they will go bother someone else. Have a little patience and take the time to truly listen.

*Help someone who is less fortunate than you.
The people of the world are more productive and wealthy than ever before. However, there are an amazing amount of global citizens who are having a very difficult time trying to survive from day to day. If you have the chance, even if it is in your hometown, go ahead and help a person (or family) who might not have as much as you.

*Give someone a chance
I know it is a big step but if you know of an individual, or even have an acquaintance, that has been trying to become your friend, or get to know you better, then go ahead and give them a chance. You never know, they might become your best friend.

*Assist a neighbor
In this day and age, at least in the U.S. many of us don’t even know our neighbors. I wonder if this is true for all of the world? Next time you see your neighbor, especially if they are a senior citizen, give them a hand or offer to carry in their groceries.

*Respond to an email
With respect to the interview series that I am currently running, I have to send many emails, whether it is an initial inquiry or a follow up to determine if someone will participate. If you receive emails (from anyone) take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to reply. Or, better yet, send an unsolicited email to an old friend, or someone who posted something that made you think, or smile.

*Don’t be judgmental
I realize that this can be difficult at times, and we all have preconceived notions when dealing with people, however, make an effort not to judge the people that you come into contact with and I am sure many will appreciate your efforts.

*Give a simple gift
Without a doubt, the best gifts are free. To let someone know that they matter try giving a simple gift (a note, a picture, etc).

*Be nice
I cannot quantify this with any scientific proof, but I would have to believe that it takes far less energy to be nice to people than it does to be mean or angry towards them. So, the next time you have the opportunity be nice to someone and I am sure it will come back to you many times over.

What are your suggestions to let someone know that they matter?