Musiciens romands: 5 ateliers de développement de carrière en 2016 [fr]

[en] A 5-evening series of career development workshops specially designed for local musicians with my friend Elisabeth Stoudmann.

Quelles clés pour continuer à faire de la musique avec plaisir et en vivre autant que possible?

Cet automne, on vous propose d’apprendre à tirer profit de la transformation de l’industrie musicale cette dernière décennie.

mains cadrées

Je commence par le plus important:

Ce printemps me reprend l’envie d’organiser des workshops. Je sais qu’Elisabeth est parfois sollicitée par les artistes qu’elle côtoie dans le cadre de son travail, et je me dis qu’il y aurait peut-être là l’opportunité de faire quelque chose ensemble.

Quelques discussions plus tard, c’est en route: nous organisons 5 ateliers en soirée pour les musiciens de notre région. En alliant nos domaines d’expertise respectifs, on met sur pied un programme de développement de carrière sur deux axes qui se rejoignent magnifiquement:

  • les spécificités du “business musical” romand en 2016
  • le rôle que les outils numériques jouent dans la “nouvelle manière” de mener une carrière musicale.

Au risque d’aller à contre-courant de ce qu’on devrait faire avec une formation sur ce thème, on veut rester résolument terre-à-terre et réalistes par rapport aux perspectives de vivre de sa musique dans nos contrées. On ne fera pas miroiter les promesses du succès interplanétaire. On s’intéressera plutôt à comment monter quelque chose de solide, même si c’est moins glamour, en s’appuyant sur la force des relations qui nous entourent, la distribution amplifiée que permet le numérique, et les nouvelles opportunités de monétisation.

Je sens que je m’envole dans des propos un peu stratosphériques, alors revenons sur terre sans attendre avec le programme de ces cinq soirées. C’est bien sûr idéal de suivre les 5, mais c’est aussi possible de se servir à la carte.

04.10: les mythes du music business

L’ancien modèle du music business perdure mais d’autres approches sont possibles, prenant souvent appui sur des outils numériques. Grâce à ce premier atelier, vous saurez à quoi vous en tenir.

Est-ce qu’un agent m’est utile? Dois-je faire une newsletter? Et les subventions? Comment est-ce que je me présente en ligne?

18.10: les nouvelles pistes

Gagner sa vie en vendant des CDs, c’est révolu. Si l’on n’est pas une superstar, comment vivre de sa musique? On parlera crowdfunding, médiation musicale, home concerts… Malgré la “crise” de la profession musicale, il y a des tas d’opportunités excitantes à développer.

01.11: clarifier son objectif de carrière

Parmi les diverses possibilités de concilier création artistique et nécessité de gagner sa vie, il faut faire des choix. Il existe des méthodes très concrètes pour clarifier ses objectifs et les atteindre. Notre intervenant Jean-Christophe Aubry, coach en performance, vous guidera pour apprendre ces techniques et les appliquer à votre carrière.

15.11: comment se rendre visible en ligne (I)

Une présence en ligne peut se gérer de façon naturelle et devenir un prolongement de la salle de concert, un espace où être en lien avec son public. Apprenez comment fonctionnent les relations et communautés en ligne, et comment vous pouvez utiliser ces outils pour que votre musique touche plus de monde.

29.11: comment se rendre visible en ligne (II)

Concrètement, je fais quoi? Cette session permettra de mettre en pratique les principes abordés dans l’atelier précédent. Il vous donnera du temps pour travailler sur votre clavier, avec notre soutien: évaluer la pertinence de l’utilisation de telle ou telle plate-forme dans votre situation, ouvrir des comptes, obtenir un retour sur votre présence existante… et poser toutes les questions que vous voulez!

On a aussi fait un magnifique flyer que vous pouvez télécharger, envoyer à vos amis, ou admirer ci-dessous en modèle réduit:

flyer musiciens_p1
flyer musiciens_p2

Vous avez des questions, vous êtes pas sûrs si c’est pour vous ou pas, ou vous voulez simplement un contact avant de vous inscrire? N’hésitez pas à nous envoyer un message ou un mail (ou même nous lancer un coup de fil!), soit à Elisabeth, soit à moi.

On se voit le 13 septembre à la Datcha?

Avoir une présence en ligne, c’est du “Personal Branding”? [en]

Des fois quand on n’écrit pas, c’est qu’on a trop à écrire. C’est mon cas juste maintenant. Il faut bien commencer quelque part, alors je vais rebondir sur une intéressante discussion téléphonique que j’ai eue il y a peu avec un ami au sujet de la présence en ligne et du “personal branding”.

Je dois vous avouer que je n’ai jamais aimé ce terme. “Branding”, ça nous renvoie à la marque, au marketing. Et je ne me vois pas comme une marque: je suis une personne. (“Je ne suis pas un numéro!…”)

Staring into the fire

“Branding” ou “marketing”, ça nous renvoie aussi à quelque chose de construit. Sur quoi vais-je communiquer? Comment est-ce que je veux être perçu? Quel est mon message? A moins d’être un naturel du marketing ou d’aimer ça, c’est pas marrant à faire. C’est du travail. (Et ne nous voilons pas la face, la plupart des gens qui ne travaillent pas déjà dans le marketing ou la vente n’aiment pas particulièrement ça.)

Quand je parle avec mon entourage de présence en ligne, ce que j’entends  le plus souvent c’est “ça prend un de ces temps!” Et c’est vrai. Mais ça prend à mon avis d’autant plus de temps qu’on construit activement sa présence en ligne. Ou d’énergie. Parce que généralement, quand on dit “ça prend du temps”, ce qu’on veut surtout dire c’est “faut y mettre de l’énergie et c’est barbant”. Quand on a du plaisir, on ne voit pas passer les heures.

Si on approche sa présence personnelle en ligne non pas comme un exercice en communication, mais avant tout comme “être soi” dans un espace social, ça change la donne. Certes, ça peut rester du “travail” comme l’est aller à une soirée networking, mais c’est du travail d’être plutôt que de faire.

Cette façon de voir les choses ne signifie pas pour autant qu’on abandonne tout filtre, toute stratégie.

En tant que personne, on présente naturellement des visages un peu différents selon les contextes dans lesquels on se trouve. Ça reste valable en ligne, avec la difficulté ajoutée que dans les espaces numériques, les contextes s’effondrent les uns sur les autres. Cela nous amène soit à présenter une facette de nous très standardisée et un peu lisse, soit à faire le choix “d’assumer” un peu plus publiquement certaines parts de nous. La deuxième option est celle qui rapporte le plus de fruits, et il y a beaucoup à en dire (futurs billets en gestation).

En tant que professionnel, on a probablement (au moins) quelques connaissances en communication ou en marketing. Les exploiter n’est pas nécessairement antithétique avec une présence en ligne authentique. Mais il faut le faire à bon escient. Si l’ensemble de notre présence devient une “opération marketing”, la personne que l’on est disparaît derrière. Et notre personnalité est la meilleure clé que l’on ait pour entrer en relation avec autrui. Ce serait donc dommage de l’oblitérer…

Ceci nous amène à la raison d’être d’une présence personnelle en ligne: faire vivre notre réseau. Ce qu’il y a derrière tout ça, c’est en effet le réseau: les gens qu’on connaît, les gens qui nous connaissent, qu’on peut toucher, ce qu’on fait pour eux, ce qu’ils font pour nous, qui ils connaissent à leur tour. L’enjeu, c’est cette toile de personnes au milieu de laquelle on se trouve.

Notre réseau, c’est notre filet de sécurité. Oui, oui, nos compétences aussi, mais comme on le dit depuis un moment, c’est qui on connaît qui est crucial. On peut avoir les meilleures compétences de la terre, si on vit dans une bulle, ça ne nous amènera nulle part.

Avoir une présence personnelle en ligne, c’est pour moi tout simplement une extension de notre être social. En tant qu’être humain, on est un animal social, et ça se manifeste dans notre vie hors ligne et notre vie en ligne (tiens, il y a des choses à dire aussi sur cette distinction “hors ligne/en ligne”).

Ça vous parle? Si vous avez une présence personnelle en ligne, comment la vivez-vous? Et si vous n’en avez pas, qu’est-ce qui vous retient?

This is How it Happens [en]

[fr] Comment on se retrouve à ne pas bloguer. Un nième article sur la question, avec des éléments nouveaux, bien sûr!

A week goes by, and then another. Things happen. Thoughts are thought, deeds are done, ideas are adopted and then cast away. The backlog builds up.

Many years ago, when a large part of my work was giving talks about “blogs” and “the social web”, I would explain how blogs did something quite special, compared to (then) more familiar forms of offline publication: they connected the reader to the author.

panorama

In a hypertext environment, where anybody can reference my writing and comment upon it (even more so when blogs started having comments built in — yup, it wasn’t always the case), the person reading you suddenly has a voice and an existence too. Writing is not sending out messages into the void anymore. It is the beginning of a conversation, of an exchange. And that kind of interaction brings people closer, creates relationships, and even some sort of intimacy. Think “pen pals”. An opportunity for creating rapport.

Social tools do this, not just blogs. When Twitter started becoming popular, we talked about ambient intimacy, for example. The rise of social media and its “massification” meant that this kind of privileged relationship was no more the exclusivity of bloggers and their readers. Everybody online was doing it, in the end. Is.

My blog used to be the place I went, because I had no other, to share things with my tribe online. Thoughts, events, stuff.

Then Twitter came along. And Facebook. Now, my “go to” space is Facebook. But things drown, on Facebook. And as “everyone” is on Facebook, this sense of “special connection” I had with my readers in the early blogging days is gone. But I keep on blogging, because I want my writing to stick around. And more and more, I’m realising, the place where I feel this “special connection” is present is in my newsletters. I actually sent out an “intermittent newsletter” the other day, believe it or not.

So this is how it happens. My urge to publish is satisfied by sharing things on Facebook or having conversations on Slack (previously: IRC), the sense of connection to my readers has moved away from here (most people will comment on a blog post in… Facebook, see?), and time always goes by faster than we think it will. (Oh, regarding the “urge to write” thing: I just remembered that I’d experienced this before, when I invited my readers to vote on what I would write about. Remember? Once I’d written the headline, and the heat of the moment had cooled off, I didn’t feel excited about writing the post anymore.)

The things to say pile up, the barrier to writing goes up, the number of posts goes down.

I have a few brewing right now. I’m hoping these few days at the chalet will provide me with a little space to write. (Oh, you want to know what’s coming? Something about Pokémon GO and Ingress and my analysis of their respective community dynamics. And stuff about the rift in public discourse about political or scientific topics — filter bubble, yes, but more than that: also a shift in the role of the media.)

That’ll be it for now. Want to feel special? Sign up for my intermittent newsletter.

Quick Notice [en]

[Fixed!] My server is not happy after an upgrade it digested badly. Permalinks are broken. I have temporarily reinstated “ugly” permalinks. Use the search box for the title of the article you are looking for. Should be fixed soon, hopefully!

Pete Blackshaw: Disrupting a 150-Year-Old Swiss Company in a Digital World (Swiss Marketing Vaud) [en]

Rough notes of Pete’s talk. Any mistakes my own. Double-check if something seems weird!

Can a 150-year-old company act like a startup? Pete thinks so.

Today: Not work/life balance, but advantage. Managing tension as a success criteria for leadership. Trifecta: internal/external innovation, and open innovation.

In the digital space so much of what we do in our personal lives has unique value for what we’re doing on the professional front. Pete is an active content creator. Snapchat, YouTube, facebook… Learning valuable lessons for business while using these tools personally.

“Trust your inner consumer.” Remedy for too many numbers thrown at you.

Learned: a photo with a swiss icon on it, 100 likes, add a kid, add 100 likes, add a dog… You learn a lot by testing stuff in your personal life.

img_5608

First real business: undegrad at University of California Santa Cruz, designed logo, was super popular and helped him travel to Europe etc. Then got a call that a director wanted to use the T-shirt in a film. Tarantino! Travolta!

Suddenly swamped by media queries (1st-year business student wondering if he was going to flunk). Created a website: slugweb.com “World Famous Slugwear” — right around when Mosaic came out.

Other big epiphany: at P&G (“never be afraid to write the memo”), understood the internet is fundamentally about feedback loops. Feedback is currency for relationship marketing. There are very predictable talk drivers that get people to talk positively or negatively about companies. Fast food: biggest negative talk driver = hygiene. Retail: training of employees. Wireless: money.

Passion around social media, feedback loops, talk drivers. What makes people talk positively or negatively about Nestle? The internet is a world of debits and credits. The most important thing is nurturing brand credibility.

Personal: loves creating media, even if a bit goofy. Leading by example! Has vowed (not hard) to create a video every time he does a family outing.

Shows us short video of visiting Nestle’s Nest with the kids. MyAlptitude.com

Pete thinks his personal media production stresses out people at Nestle a lot! Cranking out videos in less than a day… Can reference his personal experience when he’s told “ah no, it’s going to cost way more, take more time…”

Managing tension. Digital discussions often get way too technical. Tensions in the digital space: Digital Dualisms (google them).

Big one: integration vs. stimulation (standalone or integrated with everything?) Answer: yes and yes, all depends on context. Example: Nestle’s “Brand Building the Nestle Way” (pre-digital truths/principals) => has been able to move reasonably fast in Nestle by referencing these principles.

Ultimately everything is going to be digital (go for the CMO jobs, not the digital jobs).

Another good one: ROI vs. intuition. /steph-note: oh yeah/ — we need data to justify big investments but we can leverage intuition in the digital space (cf. work-life advantage => leaps of faith). Good leaders understand that tension and balance it, know when to use numbers and when to use intuition.

Another: Formal vs. informal power. Large companies can be very hierarchical, rules of admission, protocols. Digital space empowering “lower levels” in the company. Challenge for the organisation but also opportunity! Try and play both sides. The digital space has really opened up the informal power area.

Enabler vs Gatekeeper: as leaders we have to drive compliance, enforce privacy, etc. Non-negotiables. But if you’re trying to make an organisation more like a startup, you have to be an enabler.

To get ahead in the digital space you need to test like crazy, but also need to know when to stop.

Collaboration vs. Chaos. Careful!

OK, Nestle now. Focus on the innovation side. What are we trying to accomplish.

Declare ambition to lead, even if it seems unattainable initially.

powered by data, automation, (missed third) => simplified roadmap.

If you declare an ambition to be a leader, vendors run twice as fast towards you. Tested a bunch of new ad formats (facebook, instagram, etc) — be the first to test, even if we don’t know if it is going to work.

The ad formats are changing constantly. Use metrics to guide your work, but you can’t rest on your laurels (startuppy!)

Personalised Consumer Experiences (PCE). Pete doesn’t like the term CRM (yesterday’s legacy). Trying to build smart discipline in this area. Earned media as much as paid media. Massive opportunity to find more buyers via digital channels. More spend per buyer, too, but most of all, more media per buyer. That will lower the cost of marketing, because earned media is much more effective.

Innovation trifecta.

1) Internal innovation. Here’s the story. To move a large organisation you need points of innovation that stimulate or maybe scare management (constructive paranoia!). In the Valley, you quickly feel restless. They’re moving too fast! Healthy tension. Inspired by the idea of a hackathon. What if we created a programme where we invited some of our best talent to park themselves for 8 months in a startup-type environment? Digital Acceleration Team. shows video of one of the classes

Worked great! Was an experiment, didn’t know where it would go. We generally underestimate the power of organisational virality.

Fast problem-solving. Kitchens.

Have now reverse-mentored over 100 executives.

2) External innovation. The environment is also moving fast! Have a Silicon Valley innovation outpost (not the only ones to do this). Swiss employee heading to the US, lots of relationships with startups, VCs, innovators over there. Trying to be close to innovation hubs. Nutrition and food solutions, enhanced brand experiences, everywhere commerce. A lot will fail but that doesn’t matter.

Example: app MyGerber/OVIA; Milo’s Bold “Service” Layer — tracker.

How do you add value on top of the physical layer?

3) July, normally, will unveil an open innovation platform (Henri). Pressure on Nestle too to meet expectations of small companies which might take part! Platform with projects, timeline, profiles… very entrepreneurial-friendly. Will see what clicks and what doesn’t with the community. Creating a digital context for businesses, entrepreneurs, etc, to have access. Not just physical space like in Silicon Valley.

Connecting the dots: the reciprocity advantage. People’s incentive to share is they know they’ll get advantages out of it. Nestle is a decentralised network, challenge and advantage. Leadership framework, works with digital.

Internal social network (chatter). Internal mastery drives external mastery. If you can get to your employees (attention span of a flea, stressed out, super tough audience!) then you’re ready. Pete posts a lot of content in there. You learn a lot! Hires people who share. Everyone in the team has to post updates before the weekly meeting. Getting “social” inside the company!

It’s not about flipping on a switch. You need to be a strong leader. steph-note: like I say, throwing social tools at people won’t make them use them

Other example. Trying to get websites more mobile-friendly. Sending memos has limits. So the DAT team created a show called “Mobile or Not” and stuck it on the intranet. steph-note: I understood “Mobile or Die”, better, no?

Social media is a huge motivator, so use it inside too! Mobile score card online. CMO’s calling Pete begging him not to feature them in Mobile or Not.

Final advice:

  • keep things really simple
  • the old still informs the new (Read Aristotle’s Rethoric! Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins) — get people to see they already know this new stuff we’re bringing to them.

Shrink, Serve, Share, Simplify — essential in the digital world.

Post-talk comments.

At some point digital just becomes part of the whole organisation.

How do you use digital to make everything stronger? (including TV) General rule: advertising follows attention. Attention has leap-frogged online, so we need to follow the consumer there.

Competitive threats? Pete thinks about competition very differently now — small companies rather than the big Kraft, Unilever one thinks of first. Could be partners, but also competition.

Need to become really good at mapping the consumer journey. Need to de-silo. Marketing, sales, brand, e-commerce. Take a shopper-centric view across all of this.

How do you get senior leadership on board? Pete finds the top often really gets it, the young people eat it for breakfast, and the barriers are usually in the middle management. Not because they don’t get it, but because the incentives aren’t there. Pete first got the management to take what seemed like a reasonable bite of the apple, and when there was success, built it out. Competitive data valuable. Memos… (they’re making news and we’re not). We’re beyond the digital tipping point, so there is a real competitive disadvantage to not have a plan/strategy released internally.

Moments: Facebook effacera-t-il vos photos le 7 juillet? [fr]

[en] Archive of my weekly French-language "technology advice column".

Ma newsletter hebdomadaire “Demande à Steph” est archivée ici pour la postérité. Chaque semaine, un tuyau ou une explication touchant à la technologie numérique, ou une réponse à vos questions! Inscrivez-vous pour recevoir directement la prochaine édition. Voici l’archive originale.

Note: cette semaine, vu le caractère “actu” du sujet, je la reproduis ici immédiatement, mais normalement je fais ça avec beaucoup de retard!

Je vous rassure tout de suite, malgré les titres alarmistes que vous avez peut-être vus, Facebook ne va pas effacer toutes vos photos le 7 juillet si vous n’installez pas l’application Moments (ils n’ont pas le droit, c’est le jour de mon anniversaire!)

Voici ce qui se passe:

  • En 2012, Facebook ajoute un service de synchronisation automatique pour les photos de votre smartphone.
  • Vous l’avez peut-être activé à l’époque — l’idée étant que si les photos étaient déjà “dans Facebook” ce serait plus simple de les partager. Beaucoup de personnes l’ont activé et oublié. (Moi pas, je viens de vérifier.)
  • Les photos synchronisées ne sont pas publiques, elles sont dans un album nommé “Synced” ou “Synced from Phone” (en anglais).
  • Fin 2015, Facebook a tranquillement désactivé cette option de synchronisation, somme toute un peu désuète (on poste maintenant facilement les photos depuis son téléphone directement, cette espèce de “pré-publication” est inutile).
  • Les photos qui seront effacées le 7 juillet si vous n’utilisez pas encore Moments sont ces éventuelles photos synchronisées — en aucun cas les photos que vous avez partagées vous- même sur Facebook.

Si vous êtes concerné, vous recevrez (ou avez reçu) de Facebook une notification et un e-mail à ce sujet. Sinon, dormez tranquille.

Bon alors, c’est quoi cette application que Facebook veut nous “forcer” à utiliser? J’avoue que je n’en avais pas vraiment entendu parler, donc j’ai creusé (et installé) pour vous. C’est plutôt sympa, en fait.

Moments vient résoudre le problème de l’album collectif lors d’événements ou d’activités sociales. Dans une newsletter précédente, je vous ai montré comment utiliser Google Photos pour faire ça. Mais avouons-le, plus de personnes utilisent déjà activement Facebook que Google Photos, donc c’est un poil laborieux. C’est le même principe que les Albums Partagés iCloud, si vous baignez dans un environnement Apple.

Que fait exactement cette application? Un peu comme The Roll, dont je vous ai parlé il y a peu, Moments va d’abord guigner dans vos photos. L’application vous propose ensuite des albums que vous pouvez modifier (très similaire à l’Assistant de Google Photos, là). Jusqu’ici, tout est privé, rien ne quitte votre téléphone.

Vous pouvez ensuite choisir de partager un de ces albums (appelés “Moments”) avec des amis. Par exemple, Moments a bien détecté et regroupé mes photos de la récente Fête des Voisins. Du coup, j’ai partagé cet album avec les voisins et voisines avec qui je suis connectée sur Facebook. Ils pourront y ajouter leurs photos.

Toutes ces photos restent dans l’application Moments et ne vont pas se mélanger avec les photos que vous partagez (plus largement) sur Facebook. On est vraiment dans le partage privé.

Moralité de cette histoire: ne vous en faites pas pour vos photos, et essayez Moments!

Addendum post-envoi (oui, les newsletters c’est bien, mais quand c’est parti, c’est parti): le problème avec notre méthode habituelle de “nous envoyer parmi” nos photos lors de rencontres, c’est qu’on se retrouve avec des photos d’autres personnes dans notre pellicule. Les vrais albums partagés évitent ce problème.

Isolation, Shame, and Guilt. And Grief. [en]

[fr] Réflexions sur la honte, la culpabilité, l'isolement et le deuil. La honte nous isole et nous laisse seuls avec nos peines et nos problèmes, nous privant de l'apport extérieur qui est souvent la clé pour avancer.

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the professional turning-point I’m at. What allowed me to write it (and by doing that, become “unstuck” about it) was that in the course of my phone call with Deb, I realised that the situation I was in was not my fault. This freed me of the guilt and shame I was feeling, which allowed me to break my isolation. On a different scale, this is very similar to what I went through regarding childlessness.

So, a few words on how I see this relationship between guilt, shame, and isolation (and grief, too, actually).

Threatening storm and lonely tree

I’m sure I’ve talked about this before (but where, oh where): in today’s world, we are in charge of our lives. Overall, I think it is a good thing. What happens to us is our doing. We are not hapless puppets in the hands of God or Destiny.

But it is not the whole truth. There are forces in this world that are bigger than us, and to deny it is to give ourselves more power over the world, others, and ourselves than we actually have. Accidents happen, and there isn’t always somebody to blame. This is also where the difference between “things I can change, and things I can’t” comes in. The things we can’t change can be part of who we are, but they can also be bigger than us as individuals: social, political, economic contexts and the like.

Some people think they are more powerless than they are. Others feel responsible for things that are out of their reach. For the former, recognising that they are responsible for things and make choices they were blind to can be empowering. For the latter (I count myself among them), it is the opposite: feeling responsible for things you are powerless against is guilt-inducing.

Unhealthy guilt is something else again.  This occurs when we establish unreasonably high standards for ourselves with the result that we feel guilty at absolutely understandable failure to maintain these standard.  This kind of guilt is rooted in low self-esteem and can also involve a form of distorted self-importance where we assume that anything that happens is our responsibility; it may come down hard on anything perceived as a mistake in our lives and has the added anti-benefit of often applying to other people too, so that we expect too much from family and colleagues as well as ourselves.

Source (emphasis mine)

Failing at something you believe should be in your control to succeed at. This is what it’s about. Failing to find a partner. Failing to conceive a child. Failing to sustain your business.

Guilt and her sister shame step in, and with them, isolation. Shame shuts you up.

So, discovering that the dating field may very well be stacked against you, that being single doesn’t have to be your fault or a sign that you’re broken, that 1 in 4 women of your age group do not have children (not by choice for 90% of them), that other pioneering freelancers in your line of work are facing an increasingly competitive and specialised market requiring them to adjust their positioning and sales strategy, well, it kind of shifts the picture from “gosh, I’m failing everywhere” to “oh, maybe I’m not actually doing anything deeply wrong after all”.

Now, “not my fault” does not imply giving up all agency. We remain responsible of our lives — of what we do with what is given to us. I may not be able to make my ovaries any younger, but I could think about whether I want to adopt (I don’t). I can think about how involved I want to get in finding a partner (move? go through a matchmaking agency?) or if I’m actually happy enough on my own to take my chances with the opportunities life (and Tinder) might throw at me. I cannot change the market I work in, but I can work on my sales and marketing skills to make sure I communicate efficiently to my clients what value I can bring them (not my strong suit so far).

Solutions to challenging situations rarely appear spontaneously in the vacuum of isolation. They require interacting with other human beings. Often, the first step out of the isolation shame and guilt bring about is opening up to a friend. And another. And another.

Blogging and Facebook are optional 😉

A word about being “out”, however. When shame and guilt wrap themselves around something, there is often some kind of loss at stake. Even when it is something the do with our professional lives: it can be the loss of a job, of a career, or even of face, in a way, when something we believed in doesn’t work out the way we hoped.

We deal with loss through grief. Grieving requires company. And company doesn’t come knocking when you lock yourself up.

The Danger of Backup Plans. And Choice. [en]

[fr] Avoir un plan B nous rassure, mais nous empêche aussi souvent de mettre autant d'énergie qu'il le faudrait dans notre plan A. Parfois, ne pas avoir le choix est une bonne chose.

Being rather pessimistic by nature and risk-averse, I love my backup plans. I really like knowing what I’ll do “if something goes wrong”.

The only way to go is forward.
No plan B here!
Photo by Anita Bora, taken on one of our hikes a couple of years ago.

These last ten years as a self-employed professional are no exception. In the back of my mind I’ve always “known” that, if things go awry:

  • I have savings I can dip into
  • I can borrow money
  • I can always “find a job”
  • maybe I’ll shack up with somebody who has a stable situation and there won’t be so much pressure on my income anymore.

I have always had the nagging feeling that these backup plans kept me from giving my fullest to the current one, the one I was actually living. Why struggle and work like crazy when it might not be necessary?

Like our modern western world, I like the idea that we are responsible, that the way we lead our life is through choices. We always have a choice. I’ve been brought up to believe that we always choose, even when we think we don’t. I don’t think it was drilled into me on purpose — it just reflects the ambient beliefs of our time. If you say you don’t have a choice, you’re in some ways painting yourself as a hapless victim with less agency than you actually have.

But reality is more complex than that, as all we women of the 60s and 70s who ended up not having children due to the circumstances of life rather than our desire not to have any very well know. (I hope.) Not everything that happens to you is a choice.

Looking at the future (and present) rather than the past, absence of choice can actually be a good thing. Absence of a plan B. A series of recent discussions brought that to light for me: professionally, there isn’t really a plan B for me. In the long run, I need to stay self-employed (more about this in another post at some point). And so I have to make my business more successful than in the past (not just by wishful thinking, there is a lot of work to be done, actually — more about that in another post).

Saying “I have to do this” is, again, something I’ve been taught to avoid. Because it makes one powerless to have to do something, rather than want, choose, decide. But an episode of the podcast Hidden Brain presents research that points to another phenomenon: if we have a fallback plan, our motivation or drive to make our main plan succeed diminishes.

Not having a choice can actually be an advantage!

This might be one reason I like action/thriller movies, in which characters very often have no choice but to do what they are doing. Trying to stay alive or save the world definitely gives one a sense of purpose, something I sometimes feel I am lacking in my life.

There could also be a link to my love of physical activities like skiing, sailing, judo, kitesurfing, and even cycling and driving: when you’re moving or in action, you have to do what you have to do, or you can hurt or even kill yourself. In that moment, there is no backup plan. Come to think of it, that is true of public speaking too, though there is of course no physical danger there.

Being a Digital Freelancer in the Era of Context Collapse [en]

[fr] Réflexions sur ma carrière et les enjeux du marché d'aujourd'hui pour les "pionniers des médias sociaux", avec en toile de fond l'effondrement de nos contextes d'être et de communication dans le monde en ligne (Facebook, bonjour).

Contexte collapse. It’s crept up on me. It used to be semi-overlapping publics, or more precisely, they point to two different faces of the same thing.

Semi-overlapping publics remind us that we do not all see quite the same public. This was the “new” thing Twitter brought compared to our old IRC channels. Now it’s trivial, obvious even, to point it out.

Walking Alone

Context collapse points to the fact that the natural boundaries in our lives have broken down. I was aware of this going on, and it never really troubled me. On the contrary: I loved (still do) the idea of bringing people from different places together, of the melting-pot, of wrecking the big, artificial and sometimes even harmful boundaries we have erected between our private and professional lives. We are whole people.

But what I’m seeing now is that contexts have collapsed to the point where it is putting a break on our desire to express ourselves. I am feeling it myself.

I just had a great catch-up call with my old friend Deb Schultz from over the Atlantic. We shared our observations on our professional lives, so similar. I’ve had other conversations with my peers lately, people who have “been around” this “online social stuff” for a long time. I went freelance 10 years ago, and as I already mentioned the “market” has changed dramatically. From medium-sized fish in a small pond, pretty much the only person in my geographical area you could call up to interview about “blogs” or ask to give a talk on the topic, I feel I am now in a really big pond full of fish of all shapes and sizes, thrashing about much more vigorously than I am.

Talking with Deb tonight, I realised how “not alone” I was in my current professional predicament. And here’s what it has to do with context collapse: I feel I have lost the spaces I used to have which were public enough to be useful, and private enough that I might feel comfortable saying “hey guys, time to send me work/clients if you have any leads”.

Facebook is full of everybody, including ex-clients, future clients, even current clients. Peers, family and friends. Context so collapsed it is flat as a pancake. I think I did well online in the early days because I am not as scared of context collapse as most people. I am comfortable talking (and being honest) about a lot of things with a lot of people. My online presence brought me visibility, which brought me a career. Contexts “just collapsed enough”.

But everybody has their limits, and, like many people, I find it hard to talk about the challenges I might face running my business with people who are paying me for said business. Because you want your clients to trust you, and believe in you, because you’re good, right, and if you’re good you cannot be anything but successful. If there is a crack in your success, it can only mean you’re not that good.

It could mean you’re not that good at self-marketing and sales, though. (That’s another — long — post.)

(And a shout-out to Robert Scoble, who was an early inspiration to me when it comes to “putting it out there”, and who has come back from Facebook to tell us where he’s at. Read his post.)

During tonight’s discussion, on the backdrop of other recent conversations with my peers, I realised there really is a whole generation of us early independent social media professionals who are facing similar issues. Our industry has matured, “social media” (or whatever you want to call this online stuff) is in every company and agency. Those who arrived later in this area of expertise are specialised: you have community managers, social media marketers, digital content specialists, etc, etc.

We early birds often have more generalist profiles. I know it’s my case. We’ve touched all this, seen it grow and take shape. And now we wonder where we fit in. Personally, I’ve been wondering for years (on and off) if there was still a market for what I do. Is there a decent business case for “Stephanie Booth freelancer”, or am I just fooling myself?

At this stage, I don’t really have the answer. One answer I do have is that there is definitely still a market for what I’ve been doing for the last 10 years when I reframe it as “digital transformation” or “digital literacy”. I’d known for a long time that describing what I did as “social media” was problematic, because it bundled me up with “marketing”, or had people thinking I was a “community manager” who would “update their Facebook page”. So, it’s been a big relief to find a way to talk about this aspect of my work that feels right.

What I don’t know yet is:

  • how do I talk about “the rest” of what I do/can do: analysing needs, challenging solutions to make sure they really solve problems, digging to identify real problems, offering solutions, coordinating, planning…?
  • do I have the “business skills” (sales, marketing) to “make it” as a freelancer when I’m not benefitting from media spotlight or being one of the only fishies in the small pond?
  • is it time to “reboot” and work as an employee for a few/many years, and if so: client-side, agency, consulting… — and am I “employable”, at 40+, having been freelance for almost my entire career?

The “safe spaces” to talk about these things are not completely gone. We have one-one conversations, if we take the trouble to plan them, like my friend and I did tonight. We have spaces like the Going Solo Slack, where a handful of us chat from time to time. And newsletters. I really believe the context collapse and fragmentation of the major social spaces like Facebook has something to do with what I sense as renewed enthusiasm for a certain type of newsletters.

Thinking Too Much [en]

[fr] J'ai un peu tendance à penser trop, et à ne pas vivre assez. Aujourd'hui, avec le côté un peu compulsif de la consommation d'infos en ligne (hello, Facebook!) je crois que je suis retombée dans ce piège.

At some point during my young life, in my mid twenties, it dawned on me that I was thinking too much for the amount of life I had racked up until then. Barely post-adolescent brains will go a bit overboard, of course, but this has happened to me a couple of times since. In my mid-thirties, for example: I had spent a lot of energy trying to figure out the world, people, relationships, myself, life, death and the like. I did study philosophy and history of religions, after all.

Green

Today, I’m wondering if I’m not thinking too much — again. But it’s taking a different shape. Although I’ve long been skeptical about all the alarm bells ringing about information overload, I have come to believe that there is something to say about our access to, and relationship with, all the information now at the tip of our fingers. And it’s clear to me that there is something compulsive in the way I go after information.

This was the case for me before the internet. I’ve always been an avid reader. I’ve always loved understanding things. I collected stamps. Then fonts, and even AD&D spells (don’t laugh). At university, I loved immersing myself in a topic, surrounded with piles of books and articles, going through them for hours and seeing a big muddled mess of ideas start to make sense. So, imagine when the internet came along. As far as my academic life goes, that was largely when I was working on my dissertation.

My compulsive search for information has served my life well when I have managed to harness it for concrete projects (write a dissertation; publish a blog post; gain expertise). I even wondered if there was a way to use it to earn money some way. But today, I feel it is leading me around in circles on Facebook, mainly. There is so much interesting stuff to read out there. I still want to understand the world, people, life, love, politics, beliefs, education, relationships, society… And I will never be done. But the internet allows me to not stop.

My tendency to “think too much, live not enough” has found an ally in the  compulsive consumption of online media.

Time to think less, and accept I can’t figure everything out.