Content Marketing Lessons from the Greatest Content Marketer Who Ever Lived Friday, Feb 6 2015 

Written by Anthony Sills

Anthony Sills

Anthony Sills specializes in writing about the SMB sector, marketing, and HR/employment trends. His work can be found in blogs such as TribeHR, Copyblogger, Infusionsoft’s Big Ideas as well as American Express OPEN Forum.

Imagine this…

When he’s around 30, a man from a small town decides to turn his back on the family business and strike out on his own. He wants to follow his passion and help teach people how to live better lives.

The odds are stacked against him.

Nobody knows who he is. He has no network, no budget, and no platform.

Basically, he’s a nobody.

Well, by the time everything was said and done, this “nobody” had grown in size and influence and his message spread across the world like wildfires in California. He went from an obscure nobody struggling to promote a message, to influencing more than 2 billion people—almost a third of the global population.

I’m going to pull the curtain back on the most successful content marketer who ever lived… break down the strategy behind his success so you can use it to get people to notice you. So you can become an authority in your industry, spread your message, influence thousands, and compete online with the big boys.

Sound like a plan? Then let’s go…

The biggest content marketing problem facing marketers

Everybody online wants to attract attention. You daydream about more traffic. You fantasize about going viral.

Reality is…

…the Internet has changed how people buy.

The global economic recession and technological innovation have combined to permanently alter how buyers interact with brands.

There’s too much information and too little time. Don’t believe me?

  • Contently compiled data revealing that there are 1.6 million blogs, 140 million Tweets, 2 million videos, 5 million images, and 1.5 billion Facebook content posts/status updates/comments created every day.
  • Every 24 hours 60,000 new websites launch online.
  • A weekly edition of the New York Times includes more information than the average person in 17th Century England was liable to come across during an entire lifetime.
  • The average person produces six newspapers worth of information every day. From the beginning of the world until 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. Now we create five exabytes every 48 hours.

So what does all of this have to do with you?

Think about it…

If you want to succeed online, somehow you’re going to have to cut through the noise to get the attention of your audience.

It’s only natural that most people seek help separating the wheat from the chaff. With so many things vying for our attention, how do people decide if they’ll do business with a particular brand?

Most people use their laptop, mobile phone, or some other device to start learning about a product or service. They seek out social proof and recommendations from people they trust. Maybe that’s why 70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase. In other words, they look for information and then they go with who they know and trust.

Do you know what the biggest problem facing online marketers is?


Your marketing message is a tree falling in the forest and nobody is around to notice.

Nobody knows who you are. They’ve never heard of you or your product. And since they’ve never heard of you, they don’t trust you.

So how do you get them to notice you and earn their trust?

Easy, content marketing.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “creating or distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Pay close attention to the definition. Generic content is isn’t valuable. If the content you share is dull as dishwater you won’t engage your audience. You have to be relevant. What’s relevant? When someone is online looking for information, everything that’s not what they need at that exact moment is irrelevant.

To be effective at content marketing, you’ll have to cut through the ‘noise’ and engage with your customer.

It all comes down to this…

Why It’s Essential to Be an Online Authority


You can fast-track your online business by becoming the authority in your industry.

In today’s marketing environment you need people to know, like, and trust you to be successful. That’s much easier if you’re viewed as a trusted resource and not a relentless pitchman (There is a time for sales and it’s after you’ve established a relationship with your audience.).

How can you go from an unknown to someone viewed as an authority? How do you gain this coveted authority?

You establish authority by using content marketing. Content is the best way to get people to know, like, and trust your brand. Remember, valuable content is the foundation of content marketing and online lead generation.

One more thing about authority: Remember the young man from the small town? His name was Jesus and he’s considered the founder of the world’s largest religion. 78.5 million copies of his book are distributed globally per year.

No matter your religious views his influence is indisputable and the message he was promoting quickly spread around the world. He became an authority by using content marketing. And you can too.

Let me show you exactly how this works…

7 Ways You Can Build Online Authority like Jesus

So how can you go from an unknown to someone viewed as an authority?

1. Deliver value first…for free thumbsup

Historians and scholars estimate that Jesus gave hundreds of “keynote” speeches and performed 35 or 36 miracles during his short ministry. Aside from teaching, he was involved with healing the sick and feeding large crowds. There’s no record of him accepting any payment. If you want to build trust with your audience, give them your best content. When people get great results with your free material, it goes a long way towards strengthening your relationship.

2. Focus on the message and the audience more than yourself 

Jesus made Peter the leader of the Christian church for a reason. He was more focused on spreading his message than gaining fame. Remember it’s more about the message and solving people’s problems than it is about you. Uplift and promote other people without worrying about what they can do in return.

3. Find some disciples 

Can you imagine Jesus walking from village to village by himself trying to challenge traditional beliefs? Of course not. First, he promoted his message to a few individuals. Once he’d established influence within this small group they decided to help him reach more people. His influence within a small group grew into influence within the general society through powerful word-of-mouth exposure. Stop trying to market on your own. Instead, get people to help you spread your message.

4. Leverage the power of story and metaphor 

Jesus taught through parables and allegories. Part of what made his message compelling and memorable was that he was teaching in a way that people could relate to. Everyone’s heard the stories of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Learn from this and use stories and metaphors to make complex ideas memorable and easy to understand.

5. Demonstrate your expertise 

You can’t just proclaim yourself an authority. Others must recognize you as an expert. Share your expertise by teaching and answering questions. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else.  The great part about this tactic is that not only will people consider you an authority, but if you’re constantly answering questions and publishing content on a specific topic, eventually the search engines will recognize you as an authority too.

6. Be accessible 3036091-inline-i-4-the-next-big-thing-in-responsive-design

If you want to establish authority online, go into the marketplace and interact with the people. This will help you engage and understand your audience. That’s why Jesus went where the people were. Don’t stay cooped up in your ivory tower like the Pharisees. Instead, get to know your audience. Find out their hopes and fears.

7. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo 

Sometimes you may have to go against the establishment. Don’t be afraid because you can gain attention through controversial behavior. Your new views will demand attention.

The bottom line

Content marketing can help you cut through the clutter and connect with your customer. To solve the biggest problem facing content marketers you need to create content that stands out. When you are helpful, entertaining, authentic, and consistent, people will grant you authority status because you have helped them with their problems. You’ve demonstrated your expertise. You’ve answered their questions. You’ve been around long enough for them to trust you.

Over to you…

Question: What are you doing to establish authority in your niche?

Share this to share your insight with others. It’s completely up to you though.

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Meditation Is Even More Powerful Than We Originally Thought Friday, Dec 12 2014 


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With our stress levels creeping higher than ever before, we could all stand to reap the benefits of this mindful practice.

A recent study from Harvard University and the University of Sienna found that the powers of meditation move beyond the cultivation of self-awareness, improvement of concentration and protection of the heart and immune system — it can actually alter the physiology of the human brain. Consistent practice can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression in people who often need it most.

In the study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists selected 24 subjects who had never meditated before and guided them through an 8-week meditation course. Each participant completed a two-and-a-half hour session each week, where they learned about various components and styles of a meditation practice. Outside of the weekly session, they each meditated for 45 minutes daily.

Data gathered from the MRIs conducted before and after the meditation program, along with psychological evaluations, revealed that the subjects experienced a thickening in the part of the brain responsible for emotions and perception. Such changes strengthen the body’s physiological resilience against worry, anxiety and depression.

For the increasing number of us struggling with the overwhelming demands of our lives, reserving a little time each day to tune into ourselves might not be such a bad idea. It takes a little prioritizing in an already-busy schedule, but the proven benefits can be well worth the effort.

The 5-Second Secret to Less Awkward Online Meetings Tuesday, Nov 18 2014 

A re-post from:
Overcoming one of the biggest issues plaguing virtual get togethers is as simple as counting to five, according to one expert.
 In theory online meetings are great. They save on expensive and time-consuming travel and hold out the tantalizing promise of location independence. The only problem? In practice they can be excruciatingly awkward.

Talking to you computer screen offers none of the helpful feedback of looking out on an audience for speakers and none of the visual stimulation of watching someone up on stage for listeners. And the experience is almost worse if you try to make things interactive as a lack of visual cues means people either talk over each other or hold back out of uncertainty, leaving gaping chasms of silence.

So is the only solution getting in a car or on a plane? Sometimes. But according to online meetings expert Wayne Turmel there’s at least one simple trick that can radically improve your online meetings with essentially no effort.

One Mississippi….

On Management Issues recently Turmel, who has written books on better web meetings and coaches teams on how to improve theirs, asserts that he constantly runs into the same issue when troubleshooting for clients. “They often bemoan thelack of engagement and responsiveness from meeting or class participants,” he reports. Fixing this issue, according to Turmel is as simple as counting to five.

Leaders of online meetings often fear silent lulls excessively, according to Turmel. The inherent awkwardness of not being face to face makes normal pauses where others are absorbing information and formulating their thoughts feel like an age. Plus, potential question askers, for instance, may be simply waiting to see if someone else chimes in first. The result is speakers who barely pause and inadvertently squelch opportunities for interactive exchange.

Luckily, the solution is dead simple. Just “ask for questions or comments and wait five full seconds. It’s longer than you think, and your instinct will be to move things along. Don’t submit to the panic,” instructs Turmel. “Ask, ‘What questions do you have?’ and then silently count ‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi, five Mississippi’… Only then will you have given people a real chance to process the information, form a response, and step up to speak.”

“I have seen this simple technique radically change the dynamic in meetings,” he concludes.

Could it have similarly great effects for your online interactions? Give it a test and tell us how it goes.

What’s in a Name? Monday, Nov 17 2014 

Secrets of Crafting Memorable Brand Names
Brand naming expert David Placek reveals how he helps companies around the world select their one-of-a-kind monikers.

A Reposting of a GREAT Article!

Intel’s Pentium processor was brilliant. So was the Swiffer mop. Crafting those memorable names is all in a day’s work for David Placek, founder and president ofLexicon Branding, a Sausalito, California, firm that develops and evaluates brand names for companies around the world. He’s been at it for 32 years, and though he admits the business has gotten tougher, he never tires of working with brands.

Like many who master their craft, Placek has boiled his process down to a formula. It always starts with discussing the company’s goals and ends with a list of about 10 names that have been crafted, tested, and vetted by a small team of researchers.


I first heard about Lexicon on StartUp podcast, a show that chronicles the startup experience of Alex Blumberg as he tries to build a podcasting network. Lexicon came up with the company’s new name, Gimlet Media, and it was the one that made Blumberg finally feel official. The naming process intrigued me so much, I decided to learn what happens when a company asks Placek for help. Here’s what he said, which was nothing I would have expected.

Telegraphing an Attitude

When a client comes to Placek, he starts by asking what the company hopes to achieve. “And that’s where we’ll typically get into their beliefs and their attitudes,” he explains, “which is really important when creating a product name or when you’re creating a corporate name.”

What Placek hopes to discover, he continues, is “what roles the name has to play.” For a product, that might mean appealing to shoppers, while a corporate name is usually “multi-dimensional,” selling a product to consumers as well as investors.

Above all, Placek says, he wants to know how the name will play in the marketplace, or as he puts it, “what the future looks like from the client’s perspective.” Will it be disruptive, aggressive, or timid? This is what sets the agenda.

After gathering this info, Placek and his team begin tracking the competition to see “what territory on the map they have already occupied.” Such research also helps to “investigate the messaging around the competition” and how it’s perceived, since any hole in a strategy might be used in the client’s favor.

Of course there are times, like the case of Swiffer, when Lexicon works with companies who are developing an entirely new category. “Swiffer for Procter & Gamble wasn’t a mop, it was an emerging category of highly efficient cleaning tools,” says Placek. But he used mops and paper towels as a reference point.

Placek likens the research to putting together a landscape, or “mapping out the topography.” In knowing the competition, he says, he can brief the small creative teams who will take on the project and begin working toward his two principles:differentiation in the marketplace and “telegraphing an attitude.”

“If you’re not different, people aren’t going to take a look at you,” Placek says. “We’re all creatures of habit, we all have our own preferences.” The challenge is creating a habit for new products. If you’ve always used Johnson & Johnson sponge mops, for example, “we somehow have to do something that is different for you to conclude this [new thing] is something better,” Placek says, “and not just new, but better. We buy better around the world, even in very less industrialized countries.”

Staying Culturally Correct

Once the competitive layout is mapped, Placek begins briefing his creative teams, whose size depends on the project. But there’s a catch: “We don’t give all the same information to all the teams, because we’re after a richness” of ideas, he says. After running through several “creative cycles” internally, the teams examine the names they’ve come up with and whittle down lists using previous research with consumers across several categories. Linguists help research the names’ sound and structure.

After that, Placek has somewhere between 75 and 100 names, which go through legal clearance for trademark issues. “These days, with all the trademark clutter, we’ll put in 100 names and only get 20, argue about those, and end up with 10,” he says. “Those are the ones we take to the client and present to them, along with our rationale, which is about the creative goals, the ideal standards we set, then the legal report on those names.”

Usually, a name is selected, which will be vetted further from a language and a legal, or trademark, standpoint, he says. Rarely does a company settle on a name immediately.

Over the years, Placek has tweaked this approach to trends in the marketplace. “We live in a global world now because of the internet,” so “we added more linguists to our teams, and more of what we call a linguistic structure.” In fact, Placek has a network of linguists in 43 countries. “If we’re doing business, we care about the attitude toward that business,” he adds. If he’s working with a coffee client, he wants to know whether coffee is viewed as a luxury or a form of energy in the business’s country. “We get much more of a global perspective before we begin.”

Trademarks are also important, Placek says, noting he expanded his legal team years ago. Lexicon works with “millions of trademarks,” so it “started licensing search engines that have the right algorithms to find the right concepts; then we decided, ‘Well, let’s hire someone to do this.’ Then, along the way, we hired another person, then another. Now we have a department of people headed by a trademark attorney.”

Each year, Placek estimates, between 100 to 150,000 names are added to those databases, though he admits that number’s conservative. “We’re still staring at the same alphabet,” but when it comes to the name, “well, we want to be different and capture certain things about the company in the name, so it becomes very difficult,” he says.

Even letters must look distinctive. “Some are round and full; others are narrow and slim,” Placek offers. “For a weight-loss drug, I wouldn’t rely on big, full letters like Oand U. I’d think about slimmer letters–B rather a U; I or a T rather than an L or a U. We want to make sure that we start linguistically with something that’s lean and slim.” He adds, “getting at the cultural issues is harder.”

The Real Reason No One Wants To Link To You Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

Wondering why no one is linking to you? Julie Joyce gives you the lowdown on why your site isn’t as linkworthy as it could be.

2 New Tricks for Hiring Tech Talent Thursday, Nov 13 2014 

There’s a war for tech talent. Here’s how you can get creative about finding and training coding ninjas.

Jessica Stillman


Talk to any entrepreneur looking to hire technical talent and they’ll tell you its insanely tough out there, with companies facing a dire shortage of trained engineering and design talent.

Sure, you could always steal the competition’s talent, or look abroad for salvation. But both approaches have obvious costs. So as we’ve reported here before some businesses are trying a third way: growing their own tech talent through apprentice style programs.

Video gaming-focused media company IGN, for instance, is augmenting its traditional recruiting for the second year in a row with a “no resumes allowed” alternative. Their Code-Foo program selects participants by setting hopefuls up with online coding challenges and asking for a statement of passion about the company. Those that succeed aren’t asked to produce diplomas and sit for endless interviews. Instead, IGN brings them to a six-week training boot camp. If an individual impresses, he or she gets a job—without ever having to say a word about their work history or educational background.

So how did that work out last year? “We ended up with 30 people,” Roy Bahat, the president of IGN, told “Our guys thought we were going to hire one or two—a third of them didn’t even go to college, a third had non-technical degrees. These were not the people you would have even interviewed on the basis of their resumes. And then lo and behold, a third of them were meeting our bar and the best of them were running laps around much more ‘qualified’ candidates. We were thrilled.” Ten were hired and Bahat says, “on average they’ve worked out better than hires from a traditional hiring process. The best few are among our highest potential talent.”


Code-Foo and other training schemes outside of the academy aren’t just a good bet for smaller companies looking to recruit, but also something Bahat sees as having larger social benefits. “One of my personal passions is teaching young people coding skills because I think that it is the fastest path towards not just economically rewarding work but creatively rewarding work. It’s not as hard as people make it out to be—it’s like being an auto mechanic of the 21st century,” he said. IGN is accepting applications for Code Foo until April 30.

Meanwhile, online marketplace Etsy isn’t just trying to nurture tech talent in general, but female tech talent in particular. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Marc Hedlund, Etsy’s vice president of engineering, noticed that in his career he’s hired men by the hundreds but only a handful of women. To even out the gender balance, the company is hosting the summer 2012 session of Hacker School at its New York City headquarters and offering women who want to participate $5,000 grants to help them support themselves while they learn to be code ninjas.

“Our goal is to bring 20 women to New York to participate, and we hope this will be the first of many steps to encourage more women into engineering at Etsy and across the industry,” Hedlund commented. Which is a good thing, as so far only one woman has participated in Hacker School since its founding last year.

7 Reasons to Start Something Really Audacious Today Wednesday, Nov 12 2014 

Today is a great day to begin working on something that will make a difference. Here are just the reasons you’ve been looking for.


This quote often attributed to Goethe (a statue of him is pictured above) has always been a key inspiration: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

I know you are already busy. And the idea of starting a big new project when you are near capacity seems foolish, especially with the holidays just around the corner. But sometimes the opportunity comes and you have to capitalize now–for tomorrow may not be an option.

I made just such a commitment today with this column. Instead of writing three times a week, I have committed to at least a column per day for the next year. I intend to create better, more interesting content–yes, I know you will be the judge–and lots more of it. I understand that writing roughly 20,000 words per month may not be audacious to some, but to achieve it without sacrificing my current responsibilities or lifestyle, I must change the way I do everything in my life.

If you have been thinking of an accomplishment or challenge that you know is important, today is as good a day as any to start. Here are the seven reasons that inspired me to do it. Maybe they will inspire you as well.

1. It will advance your preferred future.

The future will happen either with your input or without. Of course you can’t control what will happen, but you can have some influence. More writing is the path that will increase my engagement with the business community and ultimately result in a better lifestyle and impact.

Start a project today that gets you closer to your life goals.

2. It will help you prioritize.

There are many things you and I both do every day that are simply not important. I am not suggesting you eliminate necessary relaxing time or entertainment. Instead, the need to do something important will allow you to edit out only those activities that do not serve you best during the day.

Start a project today that gets you motivated to reduce meaningless activity.

3. It will refine your productivity.

I am as good as anybody at procrastination or constant distraction. This big writing commitment forces me to build better work habits so I can maximize my time and not be distracted. I now have to schedule everything and make choices, which shows me I had more time than I originally believed.

Start a project today that inspires you to organize and manage time better.

4. It will improve your efficiency.

There are many things I do during the day that take longer than they should. I now analyze every process to see how I can do it better and faster. It used to take me hours to write a meaningful column. With some advance planning and better work habits, I can now create something meaningful in much less time.

Start a project today that inspires you to examine how you can give yourself more time with greater output.

5. It will give you something new to talk about.

At nearly 50, even I get tired of telling the same stories, let alone hearing them. A big project like this helps you learn new ideas and share them with your friends. This decision has started a flurry of new conversation in my circle.

Start a project today that instigates new learning and conversation among your peers.

6. It will open new and exciting doors.

I am grateful for all of you, my loyal subscribers and readers. Producing more columns motivated me to engage more with my social media and followers. Already the conversations are yielding new and interesting discussions and opportunities.

Start a project today that creates new possibilities where few existed before.

7. It will inspire others.

Since I committed to this new objective, several people have told me they have also decided to do something bold and audacious. I am of course not responsible for their achievements, but I take great satisfaction in being the seed of thought that they will take forward. Who knows how they might actually better the world!

Start a project today that inspires others to follow their dreams and take action today.

From Garbage To Gourmet: Fixing SEO Content Strategies Friday, Nov 7 2014 

on April 28, 2011 at 12:19 pm

photo of Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, Inc, a firm he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

Site Owner: I want to rank higher in the search engines!

SEO: OK, you’ll need to fix a few things…
produces a list

SEO: And you’ll need to start a content strategy. That means 10-20 pages of new content per month, minimum, plus work to promote it.

Site Owner: OKAY! I’m on it.
Site owner goes away.

Two months later:

Site Owner: SEO, you totally ripped me off. I haven’t seen any improvement in my rankings.

SEO: Did you make all the changes?

Site Owner: Yes.

SEO: Did you start work on the content?

Site Owner: Yes.

SEO: Can I see?

Site Owner shows SEO their site. It has 70 pages of new articles.

SEO: Wow, that’s great… Wait a minute. This article is only 150 words. And the author used the wrong ‘your’ five times. And this article is almost identical to these other five…

Site Owner: So?


SEO: Well, this isn’t exactly great content.

Site Owner: Hey, you told me to get new content. You didn’t say anything about great content!

Search Engines Aren’t Garbage Disposals

I suspect that most people see search engines as a sort of content garbage disposals. You feed them a random assortment of leftovers, hard-to-identify and vaguely smelly things, and the occasional rotten egg in one end, there are some grinding and crunching sounds, and you’re all set.

Well, they’re not garbage disposals.

Half of SEO is a long list of things you must do to make yourself visible, help search engines classify your content, etc..

But, in the pre- and now more importantly, post- Panda world, the other half of SEO is all about differentiating yourself from competitors with great, unique information.

You know… Marketing.

No More Garbage

You have to stop serving garbage to your visitors, and to search engines. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:

  1. Write stuff that hasn’t been written before. There are already 999,999 articles about SEO and title tags. Try something else, or a new spin on your topic.
  2. Be interesting. Put some thought into how the article is put together. Use visuals where it helps. Use humor, even.
  3. Hire quality writers to write quality stuff.
  4. Ask your visitors and customers what they’d like to read. Then write it.
  5. Follow production best practices. Use good line spacing and typography. Place subheads to organize your story and make it easier to scan. A 500-word article vomited onto the page with zero formatting makes it look like you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t deserve to rank.
  6. Brainstorm and maintain a list of headlines you can assign to writers.
  7. Assign target topics and phrases to specific pages on your site. Think through how you’ll interlink new content with those pages to build authority.
  8. Integrate content into your site. You probably won’t make much progress if you hang a bunch of lousy articles off your site like some kind of growth. Content has to be in the flow of a normal visitor’s movement through the site.

In short: think about it. Make content strategy part of your overall Internet marketing strategy and invest in it. You can’t outsource your writing to eLance for $5 per article and expect progress. Nor can you somehow automate or fake your way into the rankings. Yes, there are always the lucky few who manage it. But it’s not the norm.

But It’s Hard/Expensive/Time-Consuming!

I know, huh? If you want to gain a top ranking, you have to work for it, and invest, and really dedicate yourself to it.

But have some perspective: 20 years ago, the minimum required to reach a national audience was $250,000, a fantastic sales letter and a lot of luck. Now, you can reach a national audience with a well-coded website, one decent writer and a good idea. That’s nothing short of miraculous.

So switch your content strategy from garbage to gourmet. It’s worth the effort.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Molly Crabapple’s 14 rules for creative success in the Internet age Wednesday, Nov 5 2014 

To celebrate the release of my new book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, I’ve invited some of my favorite creators and thinkers to write about their philosophy on the arts and the Internet. Today, Molly Crabapple presents her 14 iron laws of creativity. -Cory Doctorow

Why do creative people seem so cynical when they follow standard business practices that every successful business person must follow?  Martin


I’m a visual artist and writer. What this means is that I have done most things one can do that involve making pictures (as to making words, I’m far newer). I’ve ` dicks for Playgirl. I’ve painted a six foot tall replica of my own face and carefully calligraphed things people have said to me on the Internet, then displayed it in a Tribeca gallery, as a sort of totem. I’ve live-sketched snipers in Tripoli. I’ve illustrated self-published kids books for ten dollars a page. I’ve balanced on jury-rigged scaffolding on a freezing British dawn, painting pigs on the walls of one of the world’s poshest nightclubs.

I’ve made my living as an artist for eight years, almost entirely without galleries, and until relatively recently without agents. It was a death-slog that threw me into periodic breakdowns . I’m pretty successful now. I make a good living, even in New York, have a full time assistant who gets a middle-class salary, and have a book coming out with a major publisher. I feel so lucky, and so grateful, for every bit of this.

My success would not have been possible without the internet. I’ve used every platform, from Craigslist and Suicide Girls to Livejournal, Myspace, Kickstarter, Tumblr and Twitter. I’m both sick of social media and addicted to it. What nourishes you destroys you, and all that. The internet is getting increasingly corporate and centralized, and I don’t know that the future isn’t just going back to big money platforms. I hope its not.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. The number one thing that would let more independent artists exists in America is a universal basic income. The number one thing that has a possibility of happening is single payer healthcare. This is because artists are humans who need to eat and live and get medical care, and our country punishes anyone who wants to go freelance and pursue their dream by telling them they might get cancer while uninsured, and then not be able to afford to treat it.

2. Companies are not loyal to you. Please never believe a company has your back. They are amoral by design and will discard you at a moment’s notice. Negotiate aggressively, ask other freelancers what they’re getting paid, and don’t buy into the financial negging of some suit.

3. I’ve cobbled together many different streams of income, so that if the bottom falls out of one industry, I’m not ruined. My mom worked in packaging design. When computers fundamentally changed the field, she lost all her work. I learned from this.

4. Very often people who blow up and become famous fast already have some other sort of income, either parental money, spousal money, money saved from another job, or corporate backing behind the scenes. Other times they’ve actually been working for 10 years and no one noticed until suddenly they passed some threshold. Either way, its good to take a hard look- you’ll learn from studying both types of people, and it will keep you from delusional myth-making.

5. I’ve never had a big break. I’ve just had tiny cracks in this wall of indifference until finally the wall wasn’t there any more

6. Don’t be a dick. Be nice to everyone who is also not a dick, help people who don’t have the advantages you do, and never succumb to crabs in the barrel infighting.

7. Remember that most people who try to be artists are kind of lazy. Just by busting your ass, you’re probably good enough to put yourself forward, so why not try?

8. Rejection is inevitable. Let it hit you hard for a moment, feel the hurt, and then move on.

9. Never trust some Silicon Valley douchebag who’s flush with investors’ money, but telling creators to post on their platform for free or for potential crumbs of cash. They’re just using you to build their own thing, and they’ll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.

10. Be a mercenary towards people with money. Be generous and giving to good people without it.

11. Working for free is only worth it if its with fellow artists or grassroots organizations you believe in, and only if they treat your respectfully and you get creative control.

12. Don’t ever submit to contests where you have to do new work. They’ll just waste your time, and again, only build the profile of the judges and the sponsoring company. Do not believe their lies about “exposure”. There is so much content online that just having your work posted in some massive image gallery is not exposure at all.

13. Don’t work for free for rich people. Seriously. Don’t don’t don’t. Even if you can afford to, you’re fucking over the labor market for other creators. Haggling hard for money is actually a beneficial act for other freelancers, because it is a fight against the race to the bottom that’s happening online.

14. If people love your work, treat them nice as long as they’re nice to you.

15. Be massively idealistic about your art, dream big, open your heart and let the blood pour forth. Be utterly cynical about the business around your art.


Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer living in New York. She has written for the NY Times, Vanity Fair, and VICE, and has work in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

5 things I learned from one of Portland’s most bustling startups Monday, Nov 3 2014 

Re-post from Staff Reporter-Portland Business JournalEmail  |  Twitter

Treehouse learning mission control, providing you with an overview of your current progress and total points earned at Treehouse.

Treehouse co-founder and CEO Ryan Carson spoke at the PDXedtech meetupTuesday night, and while we are pretty familiar with what the company is doing — particularly with its efforts with Code Oregon— there were still interesting takeaways.

The company is up to 75 employees, 20 of them are in its headquarters in northeast Portland, and it’s serving 91,000 students. Also, the company is profitable.

Treehouse sees itself as an online trade school. That means the company’s mission is to get students jobs.


Students are typically between 20 and 40 years old. Many are underemployed and view the Treehouse training as steps to a better job.

Carson highlighted a recent student who went from working retail in Portland to landing a job at the startup OpenSesame.

Here’s are some more pieces of knowledge that Carson dropped:

  1. Treehouse launched a beta program that aims to guarantee job placement for students who are deemed by the company to be job ready. Treehouse Careers has an online application where the company gets to know more a student and what kind of job they want. The student is then served with a dashboard with a to-do to put them on track for the job they want. Part of this process includes some written components, so Treehouse recruiting staff can determine a student’s communication abilities. There is also a project component to gauge how well a student works on a team. If everything is met and the student is deemed job ready, the company will work to place them in a job
  2. The company made headlines last year when it announced that it was removing managers from its organizational structure. There are the top level executives and then everyone else, Carson said. The move came when the company employed 50 people (it now employs 75), and it required a new way to communicate. “It was total chaos,” Carson said of the time immediately following the move. The current communications tools, mainly email didn’t work. So the company built an internal tool called Canopy, which operates like a public Gmail account that everyone can see and contribute. That way information isn’t siloed into any one person’s inbox. For its more private conversations, the team uses the messaging tool HipChat.
  3. Treehouse is closed on Fridays. The team works four, eight-hour days and all the work is able to get done. Carson said this can happen because the company has a culture of non-interruption. Conversations happen on HipChat and people can stay focused on what they do. He noted this tends to mean they have a pretty quiet office.
  4. For now the four-day work week and the no-manager policy works for the company, but Carson acknowledged that it might be that way forever.
  5. Luck has played a role in Treehouse’s development so far. Carson noted that he unknowingly built really strong network and became the center of a community of technologists with an earlier company. That company did code training workshops around the country and it was early on in the Web 2.0 movement, he noted at that point you could actually email Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and he would email back. Based on this community he was a part of, when it came time for Treehouse to raise money, he had the right contacts.

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