Focus Page on Experiential Marketing [en]

[fr] Une page sur le marketing expérientiel, en anglais seulement j'en ai peur. Feedback bienvenu.

There, here we go. I’ve written up a page on [Experiential Marketing](/focus/experiential-marketing/) for my new [Focus](/focus/) section. Feedback, ideas, reactions, etc… all welcome here in the comments.

And please, don’t hesitate to be critical if you think it’s required. Just stay constructive — thanks.

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Stowe Boyd on Experiential Marketing [en]

[fr] Quelques citations (audio et texte) de Stowe Boyd sur ce qu'il appelle "experiential marketing" (marketing expérientiel en français). J'ai eu quelques discussions récentes avec des clients pour des mandats de cette nature, et je prépare une page d'explications à ce sujet pour ma section Focus (pas encore en français, désolée). Si vous êtes curieux, manifestez-vous dans les commentaires, ça me donnera probablement l'occasion de parler de tout ça en français!

I’m preparing a page on *experiential marketing* for my [Focus series](/focus/), as I’ve been in discussion about this kind of work with a couple of clients lately. It’s a term/concept coined by [Stowe Boyd]( (not to be confused with the related but different independently named experiential marketing you can read about [on wikipedia](, so I dug around in his archives to see if he had blogged anything significant about it.

I found a few quotes in blog posts, but most interesting was this ( in April 2006. Start listening just before the middle of the interview (the first half is about other stuff). Oh, and keep on listening after they’re done on the topic of experiential marketing — Stowe tells the story of why he wears a cap. 😉

It’s interesting to see how the idea evolved from the moment of this interview, just after he came up with the idea, and subsequent incarnations which he blogged about between then and now. Here are a few quotes I picked up:

> Experiential marketing — as an increasing social consciousness pervades the online marketing world, advertisers will realize that ads are becoming less effective, even when streaming and animated. One answer is what I am calling experiential marketing: individuals or groups will be solicited and directly compensated to try out products and blog or otherwise chronicle their use. With highly trusted advocates acting on behalf of the community these campaigns will become a mainstay of product marketing 2.0.

Stowe Boyd, 15.06.2006

>So, I will be posting on this “experiential marketing” project over the next few months, as I attempt to follow the advice of OpenBC’s staff and most knowledgeable users about how to achieve these aims, and I will examine everything involved: from the creation of a detailed profile, to developing a personal network, and the ins and outs of trying to use the system to accomplish real business goals. Because my goal is to spend more time in Europe, I am calling this the “More Europe” project.

>As I said, I will be candid and critical. If I think some aspect of OpenBC’s user experience is dumb, I will say so. If I start drowning in social spam, I will write about it. If I get no traction on my plan, I will chronicle that.

Stowe Boyd, 20.07.2006

> As I announced a few weeks ago, I am doing a new experiential marketing program for the folks at, one that entails me running a talk radio show. The first show was Thursday, and I had a great time interviewing Ted Rheingold of Dogster about Online Community (see /Talkshow Tomorrow: Ted Rheingold of Dogster on Online Community).

> I started using the term experiential marketing a few years ago, in a project I was doing for GoToPC, and then again last year in the “More Europe” project for OpenBC (now Xing). The premise is that true understanding of a product or service can’t be gained from a half-hour demo: it requires hours, and perhaps weeks of use.

> In this project I will be running a web-based talk show relying on the technology platform. Along with doing the show, I will be writing up my experiences with the software, recommendations for its improvement, and guidance for others trying the software.

Stowe Boyd, 14.04.2007

More details on all this when I put the Focus page online!

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Talk: Being a Blogging Consultant [en]

[fr] Notes d'une conférence que je viens de donner en Serbie sur ce qu'est le travail d'une "consultante en blogs" (notez les guillemets). Je préfère en fait me définir comme une spécialiste de l'internet vivant (celui des dialogues et des relations humaines) et de sa culture. J'interviens partout où ce genre de connaissance est utile à mes clients.

Here are some rough notes of the talk I gave at [Blogopen](, reason of [my presence in Novi Sad, Serbia]( I hope they can be useful to some. Number between square brackets refer to slide numbers (

This slideshow could not be started. Try refreshing the page or viewing it in another browser.

( embedded below).

*If you have notes of this talk or by any chance have recorded it, please leave a link in the comments.*

**update: yay! some short recording snippets. see the end of this post.**

[1] [2] Two years ago I was a teacher, and if you had told me then that I would be here in Novi Sad, talking about what it is like to be a freelance blogging consultant, you would probably have seen me make a face like this:

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 9

[3] Later on I’ll tell you about what a “blogging consultant” like me actually does, but first of all, here’s my story. I grew up with computers in the house, discovered the internet in 1998 and soon after [created a website]( I [started blogging in 2000]( and gradually built a small reputation for myself online. By the time the Swiss media discovered blogs in 2004, I’d been at it for a while. When they started looking for Swiss blogs, they found me, and the phone started ringing.

You know how it is with the media: once one journalist has written about a person or a subject, all the others follow. I started [giving interview after interview](, exciting at first, but somewhat tedious after some time. But I was lucky to have very good local media coverage, which did help people find me or hear about me.

Just before the press started to show an interest in me (and blogs), a friend of mine asked if I could explain to her how to make a website. We sat together for two hours, and I told her how the internet was made of servers, and websites were in fact files that lived on those servers, files you can make in a text editor with special markings known as HTML, with CSS to control the visual aspect. She said “wow, you’re really good at this, you should get people to pay you to do it!” I was a bit skeptical, but thought it would be cool. So just before my first appearance on TV, I created a [professional website]( (just a few pages, and if you look at it now, it’s really out-of-date — I’ll be working on it during the [“Website ‘pro’ day”]( in a bit over a week). And on that website, I made [a page]( saying something like “I’ll explain to you how to make a website, this is how much it’ll cost”.

Shortly after my TV appearance, I was contacted by a school who wanted me to come and talk about blogs to a class of teenagers. It went surprisingly well and I really enjoyed it, so I added an extra page on my professional site saying [“I give talks in schools”]( Little by little, through word of mouth mainly, I started having clients. And at one point about 18 months ago, I started having enough clients that I could consider quitting my day job (teaching).

That’s how I became a professional blogging consultant.

[4] So, what does a “blogging” consultant do? It’s not just about blogs. Actually, one of my ongoing struggles is to find a “job title” to define myself. “Blogging consultant” already existed, and people knew about blogs, so it wasn’t too bad.

[5] Blogging is more than it seems. It’s a tool, but it’s more than that. It’s also a culture, and if you’re a company or an institution, blogging is a communication strategy. We see companies and media corporations using the blog tool to publish press releases or official documentation. That’s using the tool, but they don’t get the culture, and they haven’t changed their strategy. *(You might want to see the notes on my talk [“How Blogging Brings Dialogue to Corporate Communications”]( if this topic interests you.)*

[6] One expression we hear a lot in this kind of context is “social media”. Traditional media go in one direction. Journalists write, people listen (or put their fingers in their ears). It looks like this:

Cluetrain 101 Sketch 1

With social media, on the other hand, we have a new type of media (well, *reasonably new*) where conversations take place. Communication goes both ways:

Cluetrain 101 Sketch 3

So basically, being a “blogging” consultant has a lot to do with social media. (Understanding and explaining it.)

[7] All this kind of stuff is explained in a great book that everybody should read: [The Cluetrain Manifesto]( You can [read it for free on the Internet]( or buy it as a real book if you prefer. The Cluetrain Manifesto was written in the year 2000, so quite some time ago, but it’s still spot on. It tells us how people are sick of being marketed at and talked at, and how people are already having conversations everywhere about brands, companies, and these conversations are happening on the internet. Companies, politicians, and media empires would be smart to step in and join the conversation. Anyway… read the Cluetrain Manifesto if you have any interest in what’s going on on the Internet.

[8] So, in my job, I don’t just work with blogs. In addition to blogs, sometimes solution require wikis, podcasts, or social networks. [9] Using these tools brings up values like dialogue, transparency, authenticity, and often leads to rethink strategy. [10] Finding a solution for a client can be helping them re-organise their e-mail, set up a mailing-list, or simply build a website. Maybe it requires social tools like Twitter or Dopplr, or they might even want to know about virtual worlds like Second Life.

This is clearly not just about “blogging”. It’s about this bigger world blogging is an important part of.

[11] I like to think of myself as a specialist of **the living web** and its culture. The living web is the internet of people, conversations, and relationships.

My work is anywhere people need this kind of knowledge. Who needs this kind of knowledge?

[12] Schools, politicians, companies big and small, freelancers, non-profits, media, startups, people…

[13] Here’s a little more about what it means to be a freelancer consultant in today’s world.

[14] [The Balance of the Soloist]( according to [Stowe Boyd](

> The most difficult challenge for soloists is to find a balance between the various activities that must take place to survive. I like to oversimplify these down to three:

> 1. **Doing The Work** — The heart of consulting — of whatever description — is delivering the work. A soloist has to deliver value to the client in order to make money. Most consulting-oriented people start with this capability: it’s the other two that cause problems, in general.
> 2. **Marketing and Networking** — I have already noted that I principally market myself through blogging, and that I attend conferences: those are the outward signs of a willingness, or even an obsession with networking with likeminded others. When I find out about a web product that sounds interesting (my beat), I sign up for the beta, fool with it, write a review, ask for more info, and very soon I am involved in a direct communication with the company’s management. I read other people’s blogs and comment on their ideas. When attending conferences I try to chat with both old friends and folks I have never met before. I know many consultants whose natural introversion makes such activities difficult if not impossible. But these interactions are just as critical to being a soloist as performing the work, and are likely to take up just as much time!
> 3. **Prospecting, Contracts and Cash Flow** — I am always happy to talk about money, and as a soloist it is imperative to get what you are worth, and then to collect the fees. This is a blind spot for many, and a make-it-or-break-it issue. I know a lot of folks that find it hard — even with people they know well — to ask for a project, an engagement, whatever, and to demand payment later on. It may seem obvious but many consultants only get involved with this as a necessary evil, but it’s not. It’s just as central as delivering the goods and networking.

Stowe Boyd, “Going Solo: A Few Words Of Advice”

These are the three skills the freelancer needs. Often people drawn towards freelancing are people who are good at doing something (the work) and reasonable networkers — and the third part (money) is the most difficult.

[15] **the work**

This will of course vary from person to person. Depending on your skills and abilities, you will be doing different things. For example:

– talking (like this talk I gave — speaking engagements)
– explaining — talking with clients to tell them about things they need to understand
– solving problems
– gathering information (about your client, about a subject you need to know more about)
– managing projects
– installing tools (WordPress, wikis…)
– coding HTML, CSS, or even PHP
– doing graphical design in Photoshop (I don’t do this, I’m really bad at it, so I usually tell the client he needs to have somebody else for this)
– training — it’s not that easy for “normal people” to learn how to use a blog tool… and more importantly, understand the blogging culture. Linking can be the topic of a two-hour class! (what to link, when, with what text, trackbacks, linking technique… suddenly text has two dimensions instead of one, so it changes writing style…)
– “cluetrain 101” — explaining the basics of what the internet is changing to the way we communicate
– experiential marketing (I’ll blog more about this later) — where you use a client’s product and blog about it
– blogging for a client (even though it’s not something I believe in, and I don’t do it — some people might)

[16] **Marketing**

– blog, blog, blog. And blog more. Demonstrate your expertise. Look at how [Thomas Mahon]( used his blog to demonstrate his expertise at being a high-class tailor. Blog about what you know and what you’re doing.
– be a good connected net citizen. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, twitter, IM… be out there
– talk around you offline
– go to events — try to speak! send in proposals! [Barcamps]( are a great place to start because anybody can talk. Get somebody to film you and put it online. If you’re not speaking, [publish live notes of the talks on your blog (live-blog)]( People who weren’t there or didn’t take notes might appreciate yours.
– in short, take care of your social capital ([whuffie]( — your social connections
– if you’re lucky enough to have journalists call you — be nice with them. I would probably not be here today if it hadn’t been for the local press in Switzerland.

[17] **Cash**

Often a difficult point, as I mentioned.

– how do you actually get to the point where you close a deal?
– contracts
– you’re worth more than you think! Have friends help you keep that in mind before you negotiate with clients.
– will you be paid per day, per project?
– how much? fixing the right price can be tough — I haven’t completely figured out pricing yet.
– when do you ask for money, when do you not ask? Sometimes it’s [not that obvious](

In addition to this, going freelance might mean you have to think about:

– insurance
– taxes
– laws
– accounting
– invoicing

And also… balancing your personal and professional life. All this “taking care of your social capital” does tend to blend the two — in a good way, often, but also in a way that makes taking days off or going on a real holiday very difficult. Pay attention to that.

[18]-[23] So, looking back… After my initial “no way!” reaction to the idea of being a “blogging consultant” two years ago, even though I went through phases like this

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 2

and this

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 12

and this

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 11

and even

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 3

overall… I’m pretty happy about my life as a blogging consultant:

Expressions (Stephanie Booth) 14

*note: I took all the rather cheesy “emotion” photos myself the morning before the talk, because I didn’t have the time and resources to go hunting for good “emotional faces” stock photography… I hope you’ll forgive me!*

You can find [more stuff about consulting in my links](

Thanks to everybody who attended my talk and gave me kind feedback. Many Serbian bloggers also mentioned my talk in their blog posts, but I’m afraid I can’t understand any of it! [Here are the links](, though:

– [Borska internet organizacija | BITNO na BlogOpen-u / 2](
– [Blogopen utisci](
– [BlogOpen & Novi Sad – dan posle | O zivotu, Vaseljeni i svemu ostalom](
– [BlogOpen – Elektro kuhinja –](
– [» Blog Archive » Susret na Blog Open-u](
– [Nemanja Srećković » Blog Archive » Utisci sa BlogOpen-a 2007](
– [BlogOpen Review](
– [Uh kakva subota! at Samo malo](
– [BlogOpen u Novom Sadu – total report | Webmasterov blog](
– [BlogOpen utisci | Dragan Varagic Weblog](
– [BlogOpen weekend](
– [Blog Open…i kako ga pregurati](

As far as I can tell, some posts simply mention me. But if there’s anything said worth to be translated or paraphrased, feel free to do so in the comments! (Just tell me what link it’s about…)


Thanks a lot to [darko156]( who filmed two short video sequences and uploaded them to YouTube. Here they are. The first video is slides [4]-[7] (what exactly a blogging consultant is, social media, The Cluetrain Manifesto):

The second is slides [7]-[10] (Cluetrain, social media tools and values — dialogue, transparency, authenticity, strategy…):

Curious about [what I was waving in my right hand](

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Une journée pour bosser sur nos sites "pro": Website Pro Day [fr]

Si vous êtes un peu comme moi (consultant/indépendant dans le domaine du web) vous avez probablement quelque part un [site professionnel]( qui erre, l’âme en peine, attendant depuis une année qu’on veuille bien s’occuper de lui.

Eh oui, comme on dit, c’est les cordonniers les plus mal chaussés, et les professionnels de la communication web qui ont les sites-vitrine les moins à jour. Pas pour rien qu’on recommande le blog, c’est beaucoup plus facile à entretenir, comme format.

Donc, mon pauvre site professionnel a bien de la peine, depuis un moment déjà. Il n’est vraiment plus à jour. Je fais des tas de choses qui ne sont pas annoncées sur le site, et franchement, ce qui y est aurait besoin d’un bon coup de peinture pour le remettre au goût du jour. Me “vendre” n’a jamais été mon point fort, et ça commence à se voir.

Sans compter également que, côté “vitrine professionnelle”, les nombreuses années d’écriture sur Climb to the Stars ont tout de même généré quelques bons articles qui méritent d’être mis un peu en évidence, alors qu’ils sont enterrés dans [les archives et une arborescence de catégories]( à faire pâlir un bibliothécaire.

Vu également que mes activités professionnelles se développent à l’étranger, une version en anglais de ce site ne serait pas du luxe.

En résumé, y’a du boulot.

La bonne nouvelle, c’est que je ne suis pas la seule. Une remarque d'[Ollie]( sur le piètre état de [son propre site pro]( m’a donné une idée. M’inspirant de [la journée “finissons et publions nos brouillons d’articles!” mise sur pied par Chris Messina](, si nous organisions une journée pour bosser sur nos sites pros? Quand on travaille seul ou presque, structurer son temps est une des grandes difficultés. Se retrouver à plusieurs dans un but spécifique nous paraît une bonne idée pour faire avancer les choses.

Donc, le mercredi 28 novembre à Lausanne, Ollie et moi nous serrerons les coudes pour offrir un sérieux lifting à nos sites respectifs. Si vous êtes dans une situation similaire à la nôtre, c’est avec plaisir que nous vous invitons à vous joindre à nous! L’invitation est [sur Facebook]( (si vous êtes un indépendant du web, vous y êtes certainement déjà!):

Facebook | Website Pro Day à Lausanne

> Cette journée de travail (d’étude, enfin) sera consacrée à la remise en forme de sites professionnels trop négligés d’indépendants du web.

> On passe tellement de temps à se soucier des sites de nos clients que les nôtres en pâtissent! Il est temps de prendre le taureau par les cornes et de consacrer une journée à polir notre propre présence online.

> Concrètement: on se retrouve dans un lieu adéquat (wifi, calme, vivres) et on bosse chacun sur son site, avec son laptop et son matériel. A plusieurs, c’est plus motivant!

> Attention: ceci n’est pas un atelier où on débarque pour se faire “coacher” ou pour apprendre quelque chose. C’est chacun pour soi, chacun son truc (même si entre collegues, un peu de feedback ou de dépannage peut aider). On est entre pairs, quoi.

> Si vous voulez être des nôtres, envoyez-moi un petit mot!

> Si vous avez un lieu à proposer sur Lausanne, faites signe aussi.

J’ai choisi le perroquet plein de couleurs pour illustrer l’invitation, parce que c’est l’occasion de nous mettre en avant sous notre meilleur jour!

Si l’idée vous interpelle mais que vous n’êtes pas sur Lausanne… pas de souci! Organisez un événement similaire dans votre ville 🙂

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Opérations médiatiques: marre [fr]

[en] Sick and tired of being asked to do stuff for free particularly when it's a media stunt. I rant about two recent situations where I've been contacted for "unpaid work" which is obviously going to benefit "the client" more than me.

Deux opérations médiatiques auxquelles j’ai été conviée de participer me laissent songeuse — et un peu inconfortable. Laissez-moi d’abord vous en dire quelques mots, puis on verra où part ce billet (j’avoue ne pas très bien le savoir moi-même).

**La première, “Tapis rouge pour les APEMS”**, a eu lieu pour moi hier (il y a aussi un [vernissage de l’expo ce soir]( à Lausanne, mais vu mon état, je n’y serai pas). D’après ce que j’ai compris, il s’agit d’un événement monté par [l’agence Plates-Bandes]( pour faire mieux connaître [les APEMS]( Les APEMS sont une structure d’accueil lausannoise pour les enfants de première à quatrième primaire, avant et après l’école ainsi que durant la pause de midi. L’événement comporte deux volets: une exposition à l’hôtel de ville (un APEMS éphémère y est recréé) et la visite de personnalités de la région dans les différents APEMS durant la journée, sous forme “d’invités suprise” pour les enfants (“Devine qui vient aujourd’hui?”).

Voici l’essentiel de l’invitation que j’ai reçue par e-mail il y a quelques mois:

> “Devine qui vient aujourd’hui” invitent 20 personnalités de la région à venir
passer un moment (soit le petit déjeuner, soit le repas de midi, soit le
temps de jouer ou les quatre heures), avec les enfants, dans un des 20 APEMS
de Lausanne. Cette action sera fortement médiatisée.

> Votre nom est ressorti dans les invités souhaités par les enfants ou les
professionnels des APEMS et nous aurions grand plaisir à vous associer à
cette journée.

Hier midi, je suis donc allée dîner à l’APEMS de Pierrefleur. C’était une expérience assez perplexante. J’avoue que je ne savais pas trop ce que je faisais là (les indications que j’avais reçues disaient simplement qu’il suffisait que je m’y rende, l’idée étant que je passe un moment là-bas avec les enfants) — et pour tout dire, le personnel de l’APEMS ne semblait pas avoir reçu beaucoup plus d’informations que moi à ce sujet.

Dans un premier temps, j’ai eu une conversation tout à fait sympathique avec la responsable de l’APEMS (après avoir été chaleureusement accueillie). Nous avons parlé de nos parcours respectifs, du fonctionnement de l’APEMS, de [ce que je faisais professionnellement]( “Le site n’est plus trop à jour, mais c’est un début.”).

Au fur et à mesure que les enfants arrivaient et que le temps passait, mes doutes quant au choix de ma petite personne comme “invitée surprise” pour ces enfants grandissaient. Ils n’ont jamais entendu parler de moi, et c’est bien normal. Je ne travaille pas avec leur tranche d’âge (ils ne chattent pas, ne bloguent pas, vont peut-être sur Internet, mais franchement, ce que j’ai à leur raconter à ce sujet ne les intéresse sans doute guère). Les trois garçons de quatrième année avec qui j’ai partagé une table de repas ont parlé entre eux des jeux vidéos et films qu’ils appréciaient (“Le silence des agneaux”, à neuf ans, avec bénédiction parentale?!). J’avoue que cette partie de l’expérience avait pour moi un désagréable goût de flash-back, me renvoyant à quelques traumatismes scolaires de cette époque (mais bon, ça, c’est mes histoires, hein).

D’une opération annoncée comme “fortement médiatisée”, on est passé à “la presse a été prévenue, peut-être qu’ils viendront” et finalement à “ben non, sont pas venus”.

Je ne suis pas certaine de saisir les tenants et aboutissants de cette opération médiatique, mais j’avoue qu’elle me laisse avec la relativement désagréable impression d’être allée faire acte de présence (et un peu tapisserie) dans une APEMS afin que mon nom puisse figurer sur une liste transmise aux médias pour un coup de pub, accompagnée d’autres noms plus ou moins connus de la région.

Déformation professionnelle oblige: m’est avis qu’un bon site web, bien référencé et vivant, présentant les APEMS et leurs activités (il existe peut-être mais j’ai été [incapable de le trouver]( serait déjà un bon moyen de rendre cette structure d’accueil plus visible. (Là, je parie, ça va faire le coup classique, comme d’habitude: cet article va se retrouver sur la première page de Google pour le mot-clé “APEMS” d’ici peu.)

Voilà donc pour ma première “opération médiatique”.

**La seconde, c’est “Le Temps des femmes”.** Le journal [Le Temps]( fête ses 10 ans en début d’année prochaine, et s’offre (et offre à ses lecteurs) un numéro spécial entièrement rédigé par des femmes influentes dans divers domaines en Suisse Romande. Idée fort sympathique, même si je doute que ce genre d’opération fait vraiment avancer la cause des femmes (je ne peux m’empêcher de penser qu’on donne ainsi un jour de congé aux hommes en offrant aux femmes le “privilège” de venir travailler). Il me semble que c’est tout bénéfice pour le journal — rien dans l’invitation n’indique que les bénéfices de ce numéro spécial seront reversés à une organisation faisant avancer la cause des femmes, par exemple (et on pourrait encore bien sûr débattre de l’utilité d’une telle action).

Mais là n’est pas vraiment la question. Mon malaise est ailleurs. Voyez-vous, le ton de l’e-mail (et de l’invitation Word à imprimer et renvoyer par fax!) est assez clair: je suis *invitée* à participer à cette journée de rédaction du numéro spécial, ainsi qu’au débat qui aura lieu le lendemain, et on espère que la proposition m’aura “séduite”. Après un rapide e-mail pour plus d’informations, je comprends que ce qu’on me propose de faire, c’est le “making-of” de la journée, en la bloguant. Du live-blogging d’événement, en somme.

Vous voyez où je veux en venir? Je me demande si Le Temps réalise qu’en m’invitant ainsi, ils sont en train de me demander de venir travailler pour eux une journée? Car oui, c’est du travail. Mettre au service d’une entreprise (ou de tout autre organisme) mon expertise dans le domaine des blogs, c’est ce que je fais pour gagner ma croûte. Bloguer, ce n’est pas juste “écrire dans un outil de blog” — je caresse l’espoir qu’un jour le monde comprenne que c’est [une compétence spécialisée qui s’apprend](

En m’invitant à venir couvrir leur événement online, Le Temps s’assure les services d’une blogueuse qui sait vraiment ce qu’elle fait (en d’autres mots, on appelle ça une “professionnelle”). Mettez aux commandes de la couverture live une personne qui sait écrire mais qui ne connaît pas aussi bien le média “blog”, et vous n’aurez pas quelque chose d’aussi bon. Ça ne viendrait à l’idée de personne de penser que “journaliste” est un métier ou une compétence qui s’improvise, alors que sans cesse, on imagine que “blogueur” est un boulot à la portée de n’importe qui. Oui, ça l’est — d’un point de vue technique. Tout comme n’importe qui peut utiliser Word ou PageMaker pour publier un journal. Comme partout, il y a des gens qui sont capables d’apprendre “sur le tas” et qui d’amateurs autodidactes, deviennent des pros. Mais ça n’est pas donné à tout le monde — et ça prend du temps. Des blogueurs francophones qui font ça depuis bientôt huit ans, vous en connaissez beaucoup?

**Je m’emporte, hein. Ben voilà, on vire au coup de gueule.** J’avoue que ces temps-ci j’en ai un peu ma claque. Ma claque qu’on sous-value mes compétences et ce qu’elles peuvent apporter, ma claque d’avoir de la peine à me “vendre” et de trouver si difficile le côté “business” de mon activité professionnelle, et ma claque aussi de ces tentatives répétées de venir me faire travailler gratuitement, sous prétexte qu’on a pas de budget (ce qui peut être vrai, mais c’est pas à moi de me serrer la ceinture à cause de ça), sous prétexte (et c’est pire) que “ça m’apportera de la visibilité” et donc que j’y gagne. Oui, messieurs-dames, la plupart de mes activités professionnelles sont “visibles”, et c’est pour cette raison que je peux me permettre de ne pas facturer le double afin de financer mon budget marketing/pub. (Je sais, je suis en train de râler, mais qu’est-ce que ça fait du bien, de temps en temps!)

Donc, bref, me voilà une nième fois devant le même problème: comment expliquer à quelqu’un qui me contacte pour une participation bénévole (que ce soit une stratégie un peu puante pour obtenir les gens à bon marché ou le résultat d’un manque de conscience honnête et peut-être pardonnable n’y change pas grand chose) que oui, volontiers, mais il faudra ramener les pépettes? Parce que je l’avoue, c’est pas une position très agréable: “ah oui, sympa votre invitation et votre projet, je participe volontiers mais faudra me payer!” Ça me rappelle furieusement cette grosse entreprise européenne qui a invité mon amie [Suw Charman]( à donner une conférence chez eux… et qui ne s’attendait pas à la payer! Elle [en parle brièvement]( dans notre podcast [Fresh Lime Soda](

Oui, j’ai conscience qu’en bloguant cette histoire Le Temps risque de lire ce billet et de laisser un commentaire qui me sauvera la vie, genre “oh mais bien sûr qu’on va vous payer, combien coûte une journée de votre temps?” — et je me rends compte que si je me sens assez libre de m’exprimer ainsi sur ma petite tribune ouverte (ce blog), les relations “clients-fournisseurs” restent très codifiées et je me verrais mal déverser ce lot d’explications dans un mail. Ce ne serait pas vraiment approprié. Je m’en tiendrai probablement à un “je viens volontiers passer une journée dans vos locaux à couvrir la journée en bloguant, cependant ceci fait partie des prestations que je facture. Qu’aviez-vous prévu de ce côté-là?” assez convenu et un peu plus léché. (Oui, ça m’emmerde vraiment que ces négociations pécuniaires soient si compliquées — je suis en plein dedans ces jours avec au moins deux autres clients.)

Bon, ben voilà, comme on dit. Essayons de finir sur une note constructive: si vous contactez un blogueur (ou une blogueuse) pour participer à un événement, ou bloguer pour vous, par exemple, gardez à l’esprit qu’il s’agit peut-être d’un service pour lequel il (ou elle) s’attend à être payé(e). Et de grâce, approchez les choses ainsi. Si vous n’êtes pas familier avec le milieu (et même si vous l’êtes un peu) il est possible que vous sous-estimiez complètement (a) le travail nécessaire à acquérir les compétences auxquelles vous faites appel et (b) ce que vous allez en retirer comme valeur en fin de compte.

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Notes From San Francisco [en]

So, roughly half-way through my five-week trip to San Francisco, what’s going on? I haven’t been blogging much lately, that’s for sure.

For once, I took some photographs from the plane. Unfortunately my camera batteries ran out just as we were coming down on San Francisco, and my spare ones were in the luggage compartment above my head. Oh, well.

Flying to San Francisco 31

I got some first-level questioning at immigration coming in. No, not the sort where they take you to a separate room, become much less friendly, and have boxes of rubber gloves on the counter. This is how it went:

– …And what is the duration of your stay?
– Five weeks.
– …And what do you do in… over in Switzerland?
– I’m a freelance… internet consultant. *OMG that sounds bad.* …I’m actually here to work on a book project. *Yeah I know I should never volunteer information.*
– What’s the book about?
– Er… teenagers and the internet.
– And…?
– Er… Well, the situation with teenagers and the internet, and what we’re doing about it in Switzerland.
– And what are you doing about it?
– Well, not enough!
– And? Come on, tell me more about it.
– Er… OK. *OMGOMG* Well, see, teenagers are really comfortable with computers and the internet, and so they’re chatting, blogging, etc. — they’re digital natives, see? — and parents, well, they’re clueless or terrified about the internet, and they don’t always understand what’s going on in their kids lives online, so basically, we have teenagers who are spending a lot of time online and sometimes getting into trouble and parents don’t know or don’t care about what they’re doing there, so we have this… chasm between generations and…
– Thank you. You can go.

The pick-up from the airport was wonderfully orchestrated and much appreciated. Being driven into town by somebody friendly rather than having to use unfamiliar public transportation really makes a difference. Thanks to all those involved (yes, it took that many people!)

Waiting on the Sidewalk

Then, through some freak breakdown of all modern forms of communication (partially documented on Twitter), I ended up waiting outside on the sidewalk for almost an hour while my kind host Tara waited for me inside her appartment. We worked it out finally, and I was introduced to my (nice and spacious) room before going to hang out at [Citizen Space]( A nice dinner out with Chris, Tara and Jimmy to end the day, and I happily collapsed in my bed at a respectable local hour. You will have taken note that I did not collapse at 4pm feeling like a zombie, thanks to having taken [melatonin]( on the plane. (It [doesn’t seem to work that well for Suw](, but it works perfectly on me, and I’m never traveling between continents without it again.)

The four next days went by in [a blur of Supernova madness]( too many people, too many sessions, food with ups and downs, parties with [cupcakes]( and others at the top of [skyscapers]( I took [lots of photographs]( and even [a video sequence that got some attention](

Supernova First Day 33

During the next week, I started settling down. Met and hung out with old friends, made new ones, unpacked my suitcases, went walking around in town, saw [Dykes on Bikes](, the [Gay Pride Parade](, and the [iPhone launch](, photographed [skyscrapers in the night](, ordered a new camera, got my MacBook (partly) repaired, and even [dropped in at Google to take notes of Suw’s talk there](

All this, actually, is documented in [my Twitter stream]( — maybe I should add a whole lot of links? — be sure to keep an eye on it if you’re interested in a more day-by-day account of what I’m doing here.

Overall, things have been good. A small bout of homesickness a few days ago, but I’m feeling better now. I need to start focusing on the things I want to get done (blogging, writing, book, writing, fixing things for clients…) — holiday over now!

Downtown San Francisco By Night 9

I’ve been thinking about my “work career” a little, too. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, but I’m not going to be doing “Blog 101” for ever — I can feel my interests shifting somewhat already. I’ve been interested in the “social tools at large” department for a long time, but unfortunately it seems to translated to “blogging” in most of the work I do, so I’d like to expand my horizons in that direction a little. I’ve had a couple of talks with people in startups recently, and I realize it’s a kind of environment I wouldn’t mind working in — at least part-time. We’ll see what happens.

I’m also realizing that there is more potential than I first thought around [the two main things I care about these days]( teenagers online and internet language issues. Hence, the book, and also a talk on the subject of languages on the internet which I’ll be giving at Google this coming Tuesday.

Also in the “work” department, two other things have been on my mind. First, the idea of opening up a coworking space in or around Lausanne ([Ollie is having the same kind of thought]( — we’re talking). Second, trying to find a solution so that I don’t have to do maintenance on my clients’ WordPress installations once all is rolling, or spend hours swimming in HTML, CSS and WordPress theme PHP template tags. Not that I don’t know how to do it or don’t enjoy it once in a while, but it’s really not the kind of work I want to spend my time doing. So, I’ve been starting to ask around for names of people who might do this kind of thing (for a reasonable fee), and even thinking of recruiting some students in Lausanne that I could coach/train so that they can do most of the work, and call me up only for major problems. So, see, I’ve been thinking.

Some people have been asking me if I was planning to move here. Indeed, 5 weeks in the city looks suspiciously like a scouting operation. Actually, traveling has an interesting side-effect for me: I tend to come back home thinking “gee, Lausanne is *such* a great place to live! I’m never moving!” Sure, I have some underlying personal issues which contribute to making me overly attached to my hometown, and I know that someday I might end up living elsewhere. But really, for the moment, I don’t think I’d want that.

And even though I’m told San Francisco is very “European” compared to the rest of the US (which I have yet to see) I can’t help seeing how “horribly American” it is. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this city and am enjoying my time here. I know that what I say can give wrong impressions (for example, people — especially Indians — read [the story of my year living in India]( and think that I hated the country; it’s not true, I really loved it, and can’t wait to go back). But I walk around San Francisco and see all the signs with rules and regulations and “stupid” warnings (like, God, the pineapple chunks I buy at Whole Foods haven’t been pasteurized and may contain harmful germs! or, don’t use the hairdryer in the bath tub!), the AT&T Park and other manifestations of what to me is “consumerism gone mad”, I hear about health care and [“you’re expected to sue” horror stories](, visa lotteries for non-renewal, the education system…

So, yes, I’m focusing on the negative. And Switzerland, even though it’s a wonderful country ;-), has its negatives too. Like many natives all over the world, I’ve developed a selective blindness to what is “wrong” in the land I come from, considering much of it “normal” as I have been brought up with it. I know that. But too much of what I see here makes my skin crawl. I’m really enjoying spending some weeks here, I love my friends, the food and the sunshine, but I don’t think I’d be happy living here.

Misty Skyscrapers in Downtown San Francisco 10

Well, this was one of these longer-than-expected posts, and it’s occupied most of my morning. My tasks for this afternoon are (in this order):

– one WordPress install for a client
– spending a little more time trying to see if there is hope for the aggravating Google Groups problem I bumped into, and if not, setting up a Yahoo! Group instead
– writing a post for []( or working on my book — whichever I most feel like.

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"Pouvez-vous nous faire un site?" — rôle du consultant [fr]

[en] I'm regularly asked by potential clients to "make a website for them". This is not something I do -- if it is the only thing expected from me -- because I think that it is often a recipe for unsatisfaction. I see myself as somebody who is mainly going to educate my clients about "the internet", and accompany them in setting up a solution for their web presence which keeps them as autonomous as possible.

This post is mainly a reproduction of a document I made for a client, explaining the difference between a "service provider" and a "consultant", and the advantages of hiring the services of a consultant, even if what you want is "a web site".

Il y a quelque temps, j’ai été contactée dans le cadre d’une appel d’offres pour un site internet. Cela m’arrive relativement régulièrement: “Nous n’avons pas de site, pouvez-vous nous en faire un?” L’attente du client, dans ce cas, est généralement la livraison d’un site clé en mains pour lequel il aura fourni un certain nombre d’informations au prestataire de services (exigeances ou souhaits concernant le graphisme, la structure du site, le contenu), avec un minimum de formation pour pouvoir s’occuper du site par la suite, ou un contrat de maintenance.

Personnellement, je n’aime pas du tout travailler comme ça. Je préfère apprendre à mes clients comment pêcher (ici: mettre en place une présence internet) que de leur donner une caisse de filets de carrelet (ici: un site internet bien emballé avec manuel d’utilisation). Même si on peut argumenter que je ne suis pas une [pure consultante](, c’est quand même le conseil et l’accompagnement qui sont au centre de ma démarche, dans une optique “comprendre et apprendre internet”. Ça convient, ou ça ne convient pas, mais c’est comme ça que je travaille en ce moment.

Suite à une première rencontre avec le client où j’ai expliqué tout ça, j’ai résumé sous forme d’un document écrit les principaux éléments de la discussion. Comme je l’ai déjà fait (voir: [Musique: bénéfices d’une bonne stratégie internet](, je reproduis ici avec quelque modifications (anonymisation en particulier) ce document.

#### Consultant ou société de services

Le rôle d’un consultant est d’accompagner le client dans une démarche (de changement ou de résolution de problème). A ce titre, il peut être appelé à fournir des services, mais ce n’est pas là son rôle premier. Il vise à ce que le client soit autonome à la fin du mandat. C’est un investissement dont les résultats resteront sensibles sur le long terme.

La société de services fournit un produit fini, souvent avec un contrat de maintenance. S’il faut apporter des modifications au produit après la fin du mandat, il faut faire à nouveau appel à la société de services (et payer en conséquence). Le client reste dans une relation de dépendance, un peu au coup par coup.

Cette distinction est certes simplificatrice. Dans le cas qui nous occupe, on peut dire que le “problème” auquel on veut remédier est la non-utilisation d’internet comme canal de communication, et que “créer un site” est la solution proposée. Mais ce n’est pas nécessairement une solution suffisante, car les attentes quant à la résolution de se problème ne sont pas juste “avoir un site”, mais à un plus haut niveau (stratégie de communication tirant parti de ce qu’internet peut offrir, peut-être une certaine autonomie par rapport à ce média généralement mal connu, également).

En l’occurrence, l’appel d’offres lancé par l’organisation concerne principalement la livraison d’un produit fini (un site internet), dont une partie du contenu et des caractéristiques ont déjà été élaborés de façon interne.

En tant que consultante, je ne livre pas de produits finis comme le font les sociétés de services, à moins que cela ne soit dans le cadre d’un mandat plus large. Le risque que le “produit fini” ainsi livré tombe à côté des attentes réelles mal identifiées est en effet trop grand. Je considère que cela ne rend pas service au client (qui court de grands risques d’être insatisfait en fin de compte), et par extension, cela ne me rend pas service non plus en tant que professionnelle.

#### Un consultant pour une démarche internet

On peut se demander — et c’est compréhensible — s’il est vraiment pertinent d’utiliser les services d’un consultant pour la mise en place d’un site internet. Ce n’est effectivement absolument pas nécessaire si tout ce que l’on désire est “un site”. Cependant, il faut être conscient qu’en abordant les choses ainsi le site en question risque fort d’être insatisfaisant, ou de le devenir dans un futur plus ou moins proche.

En effet, un site internet, au contraire d’une brochure imprimée, n’est pas véritablement un produit qui peut être “fini”. C’est un espace, un lieu d’ouverture sur l’extérieur à travers internet, et qui est en évolution permanente. Faire évoluer cet espace (ne serait-ce que pour garder à jour le contenu pour refléter l’évolution de la vie de l’organisation) demande l’acquisition de certaines compétences à l’intérieur de l’organisation.

De plus, internet n’est pas simplement “du contenu imprimé accessible par ordinateur”. C’est un média à part entière, avec ses caractéristiques propres, sa culture, ses règles, et sa technologie. C’est un média très mal connu du public non spécialisé, d’une part parce qu’il évolue très vite (rester “à jour” demande donc un investissement conséquent), et d’autre part parce qu’il est très jeune (les personnes de plus de 25-30 ans n’ont en général eu aucun contact avec ce média, même passif, durant leurs années formatrices).

Faire appel aux services d’un spécialiste de ce média lorsque l’on décide d’y faire ses premiers pas permet:

* de comprendre réellement ce qui est en jeu, et donc d’être plus en contrôle de ce que l’on va y faire, et de ne pas naviguer à l’aveugle;
* d’adapter l’utilisation de ce nouveau média à la culture spécifique de l’organisation, y compris à son degré de confort avec un outil peu connu, et donc potentiellement déstabilisant et inquiétant;
* d’avoir un interlocuteur qui peut “faire l’intermédiaire” entre l’organisation et les sociétés de services auxquelles elle ferait appel;
* d’acquérir une plus grande autonomie par rapport à ce média et une stratégie de communication en évolution.

#### Forme possible d’un mandat

Voici par exemple comment le consultant pourrait accompagner l’organisation dans le cadre de la mise en place d’un site internet:

* soutien pour la gestion du projet à l’intérieur de l’organisation
* formation technique et “culturelle” des personnes gérant le site, y contribuant, et des décideurs
* assistance technique et stratégique en cas de difficultés
* accompagnement durant la préparation, mise en place du site, et même après
* réponses aux questions
* coaching rédactionnel
* interface (“traduction”) avec les prestataires tiers
* aussi possibilité d’agir comme société/fournisseur de services (=”mettre en place le site”, avec un outil de gestion de contenu léger rendant les mises à jour possibles de façon autonome), mais pas obligatoire
* …

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Martin Roell: Getting Started in Consulting (LIFT'07) [en]

*Warning: these are my unedited notes of Martin’s workshop at [LIFT](, meaning my understanding and interpretation of what he said. They might not reflect accurately what Martin told us, and might even be outright wrong in some places. Let me know if you think I really messed up somewhere.*

#### Martin’s Story

[Martin]( came to Dresden with the idea to study business economics and start a big factory someday. In 98, the web was taking off, so he changed directions and started an internet company. After a turn or two, ended up writing project proposals for projects which would never happen, got fed up with having a boss, quit and became a consultant.


What kind of consultant? He knew stuff about the internet, he could talk… so there were probably people out there who wanted to know about the stuff he knew. Problem: didn’t really know how to start a business. Just knew he would be looking for people doing an internet project, and looking for somebody who knew more about the internet than them.

Got lucky, a previous client hired him for a full-year contract, paid in advance! (That was good, secured him for the first year. “Hey, I’m a consultant!”) Flipside: worked, surfed the internet, enjoyed the money, but didn’t learn much about building a consulting business, though he learnt quite a bit about consulting. (Got to hang around in the offices, be there to answer questions, and roughly do what he wanted…)

Getting clients is about setting up projects, and it is not the same job as “being the consultant” — which you are once you’ve *got* the client.

Last year, business was doing OK, but a bit frustrating: lots of small projects, of questionable utility (in a “change the planet” way), and feeling of being underpaid. This is what brought him to start giving seminars *about* consulting.

Warning: there is no *one true way* of doing things. *His* way.

#### Program:

– Basics: what consulting is/is not (specially in the contexte of communications, technology, internet consulting) — what does a consultant do, what does an agency do?
– Marketing yourself: how do you get people to call your phone number?
– Sales process: what you do after you pick up the phone
– Fees: different ways of getting payed (time-based fees or not?)
– Practical: how to write a proposal, marketing material needed or not
– Optional: grow your business without losing your mind or your personal self

#### What is consulting?

David Gerald M. Weinberger: “consulting is influencing people at their request” => it’s about people and relationships (that bit is sometimes hard to get for the hacker/coder/hardcore-geek crowd who gets into the consulting business)

Consulting is not about “selling your knowledge”, there is no such thing. It’s about influencing people and using your knowledge to do that.

Consultant vs. service provider. The client remains autonomous after you leave. The client’s organisation should be stronger, not weaker. (e.g. web agencies, called in to do a design or something, but from an organisational point of view, it means the client needs to contact them each time they need a website.)

Important thing for a consultant: when you leave your client, he should be able to do more than before. If your client needs you again when he needs the same thing he called you in for, you probably haven’t actually been consulting. => when negociating, keep in mind: does the client want you for consulting, or is he actually trying to get you to do something else? !==outsourcing

**Five required things to do consulting:**

– you need a client (look at the number of people doing “consulting” who don’t actually have clients)
– the client needs to have a problem, and he needs to think he has a problem (or needs something to change, or an issue, or a challenge, or an idea that something could be done to make things better…) — (thus avoiding: “hey, client, you have a problem! sure, you do!”)
– the client needs to *want to solve* the problem, not just want to complain about it
– he sees ways in which the problem can be solved (ie, he doesn’t think it’s impossible to solve) — he needs to believe that the problem *can* be solved
– the client needs to be ready to **collaborate** in the consulting process — involvement, active participation; requests like “give us a talk on blogs, give us a seminar on blogs” are perfectly fine, but selling talks like that is often not *really* consulting (Martin’s experience: sometimes when clients want to buy talks, they actually need/want something else if you dig deeper — identify the real problem, and see if the talk/workshop is really the solution to it)

*steph-note: danger in accepting to give the “talk” or “workshop” when you know it’s not the right solution, is that the client will not get what he wanted/expected/hoped out of it, and will then be dissatisfied with what you did.*

=> our job is also rejecting stuff. Clients often come with a symptom, not the real problem. (Picking the easy target, ie problem #1, often means you’re going to head straight into problem #2)

If the company has more than one problem, good sign. If the company has no problem, usually a bad sign.

=> consultant = partner for the client who works alongside him, and not service provider who gives something to the client.

#### Client relationships

Why would anybody want to work with you?

Martin learnt: people don’t work with him because he’s clever or knows a lot of stuff (always people out there who know more about your specific area of expertise than you).

What’s needed is trust between the buyer and yourself. Need to understand the mechanics of trust work. Putting pressure on the relationship (for example, when we need to tell the client he’s wrong), and releasing pressure. The client trusts you that you will change his organisation, and do so at his request.

*Steph-note: therapist for companies!*

Important: the client will not need you after you’ve left. Don’t oversee that when you make proposals to the client about how you can work together.

*Steph-note: teach them to fish, don’t give them fish.*

Not locking the client in. Also a chance to sell more, because you’re not just selling the result, but you’re teaching him competencies that he’ll be able to use next time.

In the end, you can end up doing a really high level of consultancy, where the client trusts you to help him solve difficult problems even more than your knowledge in this or that field. Looking for the source of the “problem”, don’t jump in and just solve the “surface problem”.

For Martin, it’s up to the client to start the consulting relationship, and not upto the consultant to pitch the client. (Thus, no real need for an “elevator pitch”.)

#### How do you get people to call your phone number?

“We found you on the internet.”

But how do you get there? Word of mouth, but that doesn’t work to start with. For Martin, it worked by blogging. He wrote about the stuff he was interested in, and at some point, after a lot of waiting, these topics became interesting to other people.

The blog itself doesn’t really bring people. People got worried when Martin published his number on his blog (“You won’t be able to sleep anymore!”). But no. People who are going to buy your consulting are not your blog readers, and do not read blogs. But the readers of your blog are going to recommend you to their non-blogger potential client friends. Blogging helps tremendously in creating your own ambassadors, gets you clients indirectly. You also don’t get contracts from fellow collegues. (Consultants never have “too much work” and pass it on to their friends.)

Beware: blog success is a slow project. A PDF sent to the ten right people can be worth two years of blogging. Remember that people who will decide to hire you have very little time and don’t read blogs.

Martin’s experience with his “talking about his life” Newsletter: people not signing off. Surprising how many people are actually interested in *you*.

Mainstream press coverage. Martin’s experience is that press doesn’t lead to contracts, but just to more journalists. *steph-note: I’ve had press coverage lead to contracts — but maybe not as many as one would expect.* Press coverage, though, will help a prospective client trust you (“Hey, he’s in the papers, must be serious, etc.”

Write short pieces on stuff that interests you — basics. “What is blogging?” –etc.

*Do I need a company name?*

Two schools of thought.

– Important for marketing/branding.
– One-person business with a big name… ahem. What’s the point? Deceiving, creating an image of something larger than you.
– OTOH, some large corporations will only work with other companies (won’t deal with people), so for them it makes sense to “have a company”

For Martin, names and brands do not matter very much when somebody else is contacting you. They’re contacting you because of *you*. A logo/company name won’t make people trust you more. If it works out, it’s because people trust you as a person. Martin likes breaking the expectation that you’re “a company”. Helps sort through clients too (if they’re put off by the fact he’s an individual, in a way, they failed the first test).

Don’t spend too much time thinking about your image when you’re starting a company.

Ollie: problem is that the person you’re talking to is not the person who is actually going to buy your services.

At the start: try to build from your existing network, even on the internet. Important: indicate that you are for hire! People reading Martin’s blog for four years and who have no idea what he does for a living… Don’t save money on the business cards.

Writing on the blog: try and forget what you know, and explain very basic stuff.

#### Money

Lots of things wrong for daily rates. 30 seconds of thinking under the shower can solve the huge problem. Time-based fees make the consultant and the client on the wrong thing (activity, duration) and not results.

Motivate the client to control the consultant (is he *really* spending n days on that), minimise the time spent on the project, and minimise the contact with the consultant. It also motivates the consultant to maximise duration and sometimes do more than is necessary.

Focusing on activity and not results is not good (often, you don’t know how much time this or that will take, or how many workshops it will take). Sometimes you can evaluate the number of days, but often, it’s better to agree on a fixed fee for a phase of the project.

**How do we get from person calling us up to a contract?**

The “first conversation” isn’t actually the first conversation, there is a contact before that, based on which you decide if you actually want to get into the conversation with that client or not.

After the first conversation, Martin comes up with a proposal, period. (Not “multiple conversations”). Goal of the first conversation is writing a proposal afterwards.

So, how does it work? After the first contact (phone/e-mail), Martin tries to identify what the client actually wants.

*steph-note: the idea that “other people will call you” seems hard to get for the workshop people*

Try to make a list of at least ten things of what the client might want/what the situation could be => preparation for this real “first conversation”. Important to make a conscious decision about entering (or not) the pre-sales conversation. In-person is really better. Difficult to find out who the actual buyer is on the phone.


– start building a relationship / trust with the client
– write a proposal

Not: “make a sale”

Need to find out:

– why they’re contacting us
– short/long-term project?
– who are the people involved?
– who would be the buyer/the client? (often two different people)
– what will the relationship between you and the client be like? (interviews, analysis, talk, workshop, write proposal, collaborate with their web people, sit in a room with a piece of paper, how often would you meet…?)

=> ask a lot of questions, and listen (“shut up and listen”). Don’t think too much or jump to conclusions while the client is talking. Other mistake: bring those “ready-made” solutions to the client before the “sale is made”, because often, we get it wrong. He’ll wonder how you can offer a solution after listening to him for five minutes, and start asking you questions about it. Repeat what the client said, reformulate without interpreting, to make sure you understand what’s going on correctly.

You can have a list of questions ready before you go in, particularly if it’s a “client gives presentation” kind of meeting.

Sample questions:

– who is here and why?
– why did you ask *me* to come?
– why now?
– what is the problem, what are the symptoms?
– what is working well in the organisation?
– what can be changed, what cannot?
– what would we have to do to make the problem worse?
– why do you think you need a consultant for this problem?
– what experiences have you had with consultants? (often none, sometimes yes, and it will impact the work you’ll be doing there)
– how would you know that our project (consulting work) is a success? (measures of success)
– how would you notice that the problem had disappeared?
– what would we have to do to make the project fail spectacularly?

**More about listening**

Take lots of notes, without the laptop (it creates a barrier). Maybe take a second person with you just to take notes. Ask about the bits where the client gets imprecise (“we sort of have this service provider, and we sort of like his work”) — but not too intensively, can get manipulative (NLP etc). A conversation like this is not an interview. Not applying for a job.

Would be a bad sign (?not sure) if they don’t ask any questions about you, your business, your consultancy. If you’ve “questioned” the client right, then either trust is built, or he’ll ask questions. You shouldn’t have to stand up and present yourself etc. Careful with question: “have you done this before?” — of course not… Dangerous to talk about references on other projects you’ve done, it might worry the client about “secrecy” etc. If you speak about a project you’ve done, say that you’re allowed to speak about it. If you can’t, say you’ve done this or that but you can’t talk about it.

“What do you mean with that question?”

Careful with “big references”: “I’ve worked with Apple!” — “Oh, my wife has a mac and it sucks…” (can backfire).

Don’t answer questions that are not asked. (Makes you seem overly worried about what the client thinks of you.)

Rule some salespeople like: if you say something, but the client has reservations, never respond to this kind of feedback, unless it shows up three times. True, often this kind of remarks are not really serious, but just remarks. Maybe ask, if it looks insistent: “you sound skeptical about …, should we talk about it?”.

Need to check how serious the request is (cf. five necessary things mentioned above — wants to solve the problem). Are they pitching you the situation to make you compete with others?

“What’s the next step? How do you want to continue with this?” Also a good way of getting out of “expert talk”. Keep the process in hand. “Have we answered all the questions?” — “Now we’ve talked about the problem, what do you want to do?” (maybe talk about you, focus on a sub-problem, take a break…) Very often, at the middle of the conversation you end up with a very different problem than the one the client came to you with (first problem often a part of a larger problem, which this particular project will not address).

Stupid: end the conversation without having all the information you need to make the proposal (Martin has done it a hundred of times.) Really tough to write a proposal with incomplete information. Careful when client says “OK, very interesting, send us your proposal!”

The consultant decides when the conversation is finished. Even with a checklist with all the information (some clients don’t like that, some do). Playback the conversation, in a way.


– project goals (how will we find out that we have achieved the project)
– what is the value of this project to the organisation, *steph-note: why are you doing this, what is your motivation for the project* (this is where the fees come from!) — if we do this, we’ll be able to… or if we don’t, we won’t be able to…
– how are we going to work together (relationship modalities, contact frequency…)

Different options in the proposal. Never one “take or leave” proposal. Different ways of working together, different prices. Sometimes different ways talked about in the conversation, sometimes not.

Almost never talks about fees in the conversation, besides informing that he does not bill at a daily rate, and that the proposal will include different options with different prices.

At the end of the conversation you should have a clear idea about how much you’re going to bill. Otherwise, ask the client about his budget (99% of times in Germany, they don’t, don’t know) or if there is any amount that his proposal should not exceed or go below. *steph-note: basically, the project will depend on the money available.*

In the proposal, explain why this or that option is valuable compared to others.

Now, Martin tends to only write a proposal for the first phase. Or the whole project, but with options to take only the first phase, etc. For complex projects, often the first proposal/phase will only be the analysis phase.

If it’s visible that the lowest proposal you can make is not going to fit in the client’s budget, announce that the lowest proposal is going to be X. (Between X and Y.)

Proposal: summing up of an agreement. Not a suggestion that he may want to do or not.

– basic situation
– goal
– value to organisation
– what is the consultant is going to do
– responsabilities (mine=show up on time, be nice, do what is outlined above/yours=pay, give me info and access to people/our=inform each other about relevant info, mergers, restructuration, privacy, how conflicts will be managed)
– timing (when start, when finish)
– fees (“how did you come up with that?” — no good answer, very often) and expenses, how they are going to be paid
– how do we get to a contract from here (sign on dotted line, send back to me)

About payment: full fee in advance (**never** work in a contract with payment at the end of the project… projects don’t have an “end” usually, they die). Usual in Germany: 50% upfront, and the other 50% 30 days after beginning of project.

In some companies it’s much easier to send money than get somebody to sign (paying is worth a signature — you can pay instead of signing, that’s OK).

Comment: the end of the project is not marked with the “punishment” of having to pay, for the client. At the beginning of a project, enthusiastic client, wants to spend the money, invest!

Proposal within 24 hours. Snail-mail them. Never go the project when he accepted to just send it by e-mail. In most cases, will not get something signed through the mail, and has to follow up with a call.


– what is a consultant
– conditions to be doing consulting
– marketing yourself
– use of the internet
– fees
– sales process (questions etc) — 80% closure says Martin, though you’ll lose many people you thought would be clients; helps you filter out people you don’t want to work with.

What Martin is working on:

– getting completely rid of daily rates (started a year ago, been nice and successful for the moment, paying back client if not happy, pricing seminars)
– seminars like this workshop (2-3 days for folks in sales)
– mentoring program

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Double imposition! [fr]

[en] So, it seems that my income from the consulting gig with the-company-which-will-not-yet-be-named will be taxed twice: in the US (30%) and in Switzerland. Does this sound normal to you? Any (legal) ideas for not losing half my income in taxes are welcome.

Je viens de raccrocher avec les impôts. J’appelais pour un renseignement, au sujet d’un mandat qu’on me propose aux Etats-Unis (pour un client dont certain d’entre vous ont entendu parler, mais qui ne sera pas nommé ici). En effet: où allais-je payer mes impôts? 30% aux Etats-Unis, ou bien les impôts “normaux” ici?

Réponse: puisque je vais travailler sur place, **je serai imposée deux fois** — ainsi va la convention de taxation entre les Etats-Unis et la Suisse. Bon, ils sont gentils quand même, hein, en Suisse ils ne m’imposeront que sur ce qu’il restera une fois que les Etats-Unis auront pris leur part de gâteau.

Si quelqu’un connaît un moyen (légal bien sûr!) de ne pas voir la moitié de mon revenu pour ce mandat partir en impôts, je suis preneuse.

**Mise à jour 12h40:** Après téléphone avec mon comptable, il semble que la situation soit la suivante: je paie les impôts aux Etats-Unis, puis la Suisse calculera un impôt global sur tout mon revenu à la fin de l’année, et déduira de ce que j’ai à payer ce que j’ai déjà payé (les fameux 30%) aux Etats-Unis. Donc, pas si dramatique. Au pire, la Suisse n’acceptera de déduire que ce que j’aurais payé d’impôts ici sur le même montant (donc peut-être 17%, 20%, que sais-je), et j’aurai donc payé 30% sur cette tranche (mais je ne vais pas devoir payer encore). Par contre, je devrai payer l’AVS. Ça, c’est si j’ai bien tout compris… Ah oui! Et il n’y a pas de convention de double imposition avec les Etats-Unis globalement, c’est état par état!

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Bad Sector in Memory [en]

[fr] Je recherche un billet sur lequel je n'arrive plus à mettre la main, qui disait (ou en tout cas me faisait penser) que le blogueur-consultant qui fait du "consulting gratuit" sur son blog par moment (critiquant tel ou tel service) est en fait en train d'encourager ses clients potentiels à lui donner un mandat avant qu'il ne l'ouvre en public (enfin, si son blog est assez connu), puisque son feedback sera ainsi traité en interne.

Quelqu'un voit lequel c'est?

Maybe you can help me. I read this recently but unfortunately did not file it in either my [shared reading items]( or my [ links]( It was a piece, written by a blogger who is also a consultant (I thought it was [Euan]( or [Stowe](, but I can’t find the post on either of their blogs)), which basically said that one possible (perverted?) effect of giving “free consulting” on one’s blog (like I’ve done a [couple]( of [times]( is that if your profile as a blogger is high enough, it could be an incentive for prospective clients to bring you in before you start blogging about their flaws/faults in public.

This was based on the realisation that as a blogger/consultant, one tends to not be so public about stuff the client has to improve, as the input goes to them internally and gets treated there. I’ve clearly noticed that [since I’ve been working for coComment](

So, can anybody tell me where I read this? What is my source?

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