Your Site is Boring

Not really, I don’t even know who you are yet. However, I can still give you some advice if you’re willing to read a little more. Oh good, let’s continue.

I’m no expert, but…

In all candor, I only set up my page 5 days ago. So why listen to anything I have to say? I’ll tell you why: it’s been a whirlwind 5 days, and I’ve learned a lot.

Two days after setting it up, I had 30-40 views. Then, they listed my page in their directory under the “inspirational” section. Don’t ask me why. In fact, go look at it and then tell me why, I’d love your opinion. The views took off. This morning it had recorded over 1050 unique visitors in 5 days. Subtract the first two days and you see what I mean. Why has it been a whirlwind? Because I have viewed and/or responded to every single visitor. That makes for a busy time. I clicked through so many pages in such a short time, I learned a few things that will help you.

The First Few Seconds are Crucial

If I were to read everything that everyone wrote on their pages, it would have taken me weeks. With so many pages, I had to move quickly to get through them. Some grabbed me right away, others I closed within 2-3 seconds of opening them. If you are going to use the site (and I think it’s a good idea), then at least consider the points that I will oh-so-bullet-pointedly list below.

  • Don’t use a stock image as your background. They have some great photos to choose from, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve now seen all of them multiple times, and they get old quick. Be original with your images. Photos of you or that you have taken are best, but at least use something that no one else is using. If I see the freaking ferris wheel picture one more time I’m going to do something un-nice.
  • Use a unique headline. “Something manager at somewhere” or “something major at so-and-so university” is boring. Why would I want to read further, unless I’m looking for that specifically? (chances are they’re not)
  • Don’t write your life story in your biography section. You can add tons of links, apps, and sites to your profile, so don’t spill all the beans up front. No one wants to read a page-long story on what is essentially a business card. Keep it short and sweet – make them want to find out more about you.
  • Don’t make your biography section your resume. You can add a link to your resume. There also places to add education, work history, and whatever tags you want. Again, too much to read up front loses interest. See the previous point.
  • Include some information. The opposite end of the spectrum is one that has driven me equally as nuts as having too much on the page. I’ve seen some great designs that left me cold because they had nothing but a picture and a name. Minimalism is wonderful, but you have to give folks something to get them interested.
  • Make it readable. Again, I’ve seen some pages that I thought were really good, except that I could barely read what they wrote. Make sure that your fonts are colored in a manner that doesn’t blend in with your background. It’s insufferable. Arrange the page to be easy on the eyes, not a puzzle to be deciphered. Separate your paragraphs (if you write that much) to make them readable, not one continuous stream of words.

In summary: Good photo, enough information but not too much, readable, and interesting. Look, you can tell that I’m no graphic designer by looking at this blog, but if I can make my page on follow the advice above and look decent then you have no excuse.

Below are some of the pages that I think look great. Make sure you click the Thumbs Up to compliment them. Love to hear your thoughts on all this mumbo-jumbo.

Brian Virgo, Lemuel Recopuerto, Jeremy Snooks, David Kim, Evan Wiebe, Med Bukey, Oliver Mason


Dreaming of Living the Dream

Procrastination and having too many balls in the air are my two biggest challenges. It also doesn’t help that I have trouble focusing on one thing at a time. Let’s see if I can help myself by writing this post as I think it through in real-time. Hopefully I’ll help you too.

A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man

I’m not kidding about the real-time thing. I often write as I think, a kind of James Joyce stream of consciousness thing, but a little more concise. It helps when I have a list of thoughts or titles to refer to as I mentioned in my last post, but the writing is generally spur-of-the-moment stuff. I decided that I should post something this morning so that this blog doesn’t quickly become another casualty of my try-to-do-everything-but-accomplish-nothing issues. Again I turned to my list of titles, and again found a thought that felt right immediately, the title above. At least that practice has helped.

Another reason I wanted to write a post first thing is to see if it would help get my creative juices flowing and my fingers into typing mode for the “work”ahead of me today, ie my contracted writing which allows me to eat and sleep indoors. We’ll see how it goes. Many days I find myself doing a little bit of this interrupted by a little bit of that, and by mid-day I start panicking because I haven’t really accomplished anything. Frustrating is the  mildest word I can think of to describe it.

I feel as if I am in a constant catch-22 situation, a rotation of things I want or need to do and other things that seem to creep up and steal my time. It’s a focus issue more than anything else. I schedule my calendar, but I don’t follow it. I make a task list and end up with a longer “today” list each day because everything gets pushed back. I put reminders everywhere, but the snooze button rules.

Back to the Point

In a way I am already living the dream. I do work for myself. I do  work from home. I do get to make my own schedule. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that my dreams are big. I started a company last year, and within a few months I had around 70 contractors working for me. By the end of the year it was down to me and a few others. While some of them left for other opportunities or school, and some I chose to stop using because of my standards of work, many left because I wasn’t able to manage such a large undertaking primarily by myself and they got frustrated with me.

I once did a music podcast, and I would love to start it again but I just don’t have the time right now. I wrote a tech blog. Again, gone. I have several sites that I have started for different ideas sitting idle and unpublished. My latest dream is a massive organization, similar to a non-profit, for training and empowering people to serve others, complete with a directory of opportunities online, locally, globally, etc. Will it come to fruition? I hope so, but not without focus.

Not an Island

I’m beginning to see a light at the end of my long dark tunnel. There is still quite a bit of distance between where I am and where I’m going, however. Of course, I can never reach where I want to go completely, since each destination is only a rest stop on the journey. Otherwise life would be terribly boring. So I’m beginning to reach out to others who want to share in my dreams, to collaborate for a unified goal. The connections are coming together quite nicely, actually.

One person can change the world, but they can’t do it all on their own. This is my lesson to myself today. I can only be an island in small matters, and small matters are not what I’m reaching for. The paradox of ‘dreaming of living the dream’ is apparently that I already am and should enjoy the small victories, but at the same time the dream keeps growing, and sharing it is the only way to grow it. Kind of like love.

Suffer me your thoughts. How do you stay focused? How do you employ collaboration effectively? Help a brother out. I’m happy to do the same in any way I can.

If you want to know more about me, start here. Maybe we can do something together.

Giving it a Name

Often, when I’m driving down the road, taking a shower, or just sitting on the couch, a thought will come to me in the form of a title. In my mind this title will have wrapped in it an entire series of thoughts and ideas, a mnemonic device of sorts that allows me to recall the ideas later when I can write them down.

As an example, the title of this very post is one that I jotted down while thinking about this idea a week or so ago.

The Chicken or the Egg?

I am a huge music fan, and play (at) many instruments as well as sing. Over the years I have written many songs, most of which have been lost to the wastebasket in old notebooks I have thrown away. Every time I had an idea for a song I would struggle with where to begin. Sometimes lines would come to mind and I would try to add to them later. Other times the idea would come in a title.

The fact that I rarely have finished a song I started writing can be attributed more to a lack of dogged perseverance than of anything else. I have always been a bit scatterbrained and fickle, wanting to do and try everything, but more often than not moving on to the next idea before accomplishing anything on the last.

Recently I have been wondering if this flighty characteristic has anything to do with the way I approach things.

Keep it Simple

I have been writing as a freelancer for roughly a year and a half, but only recently have I thought about the process I use to write, or if I actually use a specific process at all. This contemplation comes from two sources, I believe.

The first is using templates. As a freelancer, I do a lot of article and blog writing for clients. Most clients who outsource these pieces are looking for one thing – exposure. Online writing is different from print writing in many ways, but the primary difference is in format and visual aesthetics.

The average consumer of online writing has a short attention span and moves their mouse hand to click to the next site very quickly. In order to keep their attention, there is a fairly standard format that the majority of sites use. You’re looking at it now, in this post.

Heading-intro-subheading-short paragraphs-subheading-short paragraphs-conclusion with a call to action. Lots of white space. Word count, 400-600. It works.

Making a List, Checking it Daily

The second reason for the pondering of “how” is that I recently made a list, and it seems to be helping. A week or so ago I stopped long enough to write down (read: type on google docs) a list of titles that were floating through my head, and since then I’ve written articles from most of them.

Interestingly, I’ve been able to associate many of the titles (or variations of them) with widely varying subjects: stock trading, Christianity, social media, etc. The result of this exercise is that I have whipped through a much larger amount of writing, in a much shorter time, than ever before.

So here I am, relaying this experience in the hope that it will help others and, also, to get your opinions and thoughts. When you write, do you start with the title, or title the piece after you have written it? What is the process you use when coming up with ideas? Is it completely different from mine? Love to hear your thoughts.

(p.s. – word count at 596 before this p.s., including title. it’s habit now)