With the end of the coronavirus pandemic in sight, it seems that we’ll soon return to get-togethers, cocktail parties, and other social engagements. And inevitably, the conversation will turn to what everyone did with all that time at home. While we can – and should – proudly admit to binge watching those dozen seasons of “Survivor,” we may also want to join others in mentioning a book or two that we enjoyed.
So if you’re hoping to become a bit more well-read, we recommend checking out the eight new books below. They’re sure to make for fascinating conversation, and who knows? They might help you become the smartest person in the room.
1. “2030: How Today’s Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything” by Mauro F. Guillén
Wharton professor Mauro F. Guillén offers a groundbreaking analysis on the global trends shaping the future, including an analysis on how COVID-19 will amplify and accelerate each of these dramatic, often surprising changes.
2. “The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race” by Walter Isaacson
The bestselling author of “Leonardo da Vinci” and “Steve Jobs” returns with a gripping account of how Nobel Prize winner Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues launched a revolution that will allow us to cure diseases, fend off viruses, and have healthier babies.
3. “The Delusion of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups” by William J. Bernstein
Financial theorist William J. Bernstein shares stories of mass hysteria that are as revealing about human nature as they are historically significant. He observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of mass delusion, we can recognize it more readily in our own time, and avoid its frequently dire impact.
4. “The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred” by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly nontraditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions.
6. “Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality” by Frank Wilczek
Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek shares a simple yet profound exploration of reality based on the deep revelations of modern science. With an infectious sense of joy, Wilczek investigates the ideas that form our understanding of the universe, such as time, space, matter, energy, complexity, and complementarity.
7. “Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives” by Michael Heller and James Salzman
A hidden set of rules governs who owns what, explaining everything from whether you can recline your airplane seat to why HBO lets you borrow a password illegally. And in this lively and entertaining guide, two acclaimed law professors reveal how things become “mine.”
8. “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee
One of today’s top experts on social and economic policy offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone – not just for people of color.
A version of this article was published by The Next Big Idea Club, which delivers key insights from all the best new books via the Next Big Idea App, website, and podcast. To hear the audio version of this post, narrated by the author, and to enjoy more Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today.
Over the last year, many of us have felt the world spin out of control. The global pandemic has forced us to abandon familiar routines and adopt new habits for everything, from working to socializing.
But no matter what the pandemic puts us through, there’s one thing we can always control: ourselves. So if you’d like to invest some time and energy into personal growth, the seven books below are an excellent place to start.
1. “The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities into Soulful Practices” by Casper ter Kuile
In America and around the world, it’s no secret that many people are struggling to find fulfillment in traditional organized religion. But Harvard Divinity School Fellow Casper ter Kuile believes that whether you’re religious or not, you can design personal rituals for your life, rituals that add joy and meaning to everyday experiences.
2. “In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning, and Joy” by John O’Leary
With so much bad news showing up everywhere from TV to Twitter, we may find ourselves feeling burned out and jaded more often than we’d like. But internationally renowned speaker John O’Leary believes that we can adopt a different, healthier, more joyful mindset – if only we’re ready to try a new perspective.
3. “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day” by Jay Shetty
When business and media influencer Jay Shetty encourages us to “think like a monk,” he’s not referencing something he read about, or researched for a doctorate degree. He’s talking about something he lived, as he spent years in India as a monk himself. This remarkable book lays bare the most ancient, most valuable wisdom he learned along the way.
4. “Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas” by Alexi Pappas
Olympic athlete, actress, and filmmaker Alexi Pappas may seem to have it all figured out. But when she was just four years old, her mother died by suicide – and over the years, she’s had to battle demons of her own. In this candid and moving memoir, Pappas shares what she’s learned about overcoming adversity and living the life you’ve always wanted.
5. “Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are: The Science of a Better You” by Jim Davies
Your dog thinks you’re probably the best person in the world. After all, enduring your absence for even half an hour seems to stress her out. So if you want to become every bit as kind, generous, and wise as she thinks you are, you’ll want to crack open this book by cognitive scientist Jim Davies.
6. “The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers” by Eric Weiner
Wondering about how to attain true happiness, or how to become a more ethical person, or what the meaning of life could be? If so, there’s no need to start answering those questions from scratch – in fact, history’s greatest minds have already done the heavy lifting. Let Eric Weiner be your guide through their greatest insights.
7. “Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning” by Tom Vanderbilt
When we’re kids, we constantly try new hobbies, sports, and activities. And although we’re not always successful, these forays help us become stronger, more well-rounded individuals. So why do we stop trying new things in adulthood? In “Beginners,” acclaimed journalist Tom Vanderbilt contends that you’re never too old to learn something new.
A version of this article was published by The Next Big Idea Club, which delivers key insights from all the best new books via the Next Big Idea App, website, and podcast. To hear the audio version of this post, narrated by the author, and to enjoy more Book Bites, download the Next Big Idea App today.
The Next Big Idea Club is a subscription book club curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Daniel Pink, and Adam Grant. Get smarter faster with the Next Big Idea app, which offers the key insights from the best new books every day, created and narrated by bestselling authors, ad-free episodes of our popular podcast, and live zoom conversations with leading thinkers.
Editor’s note: The below article began as a Twitter thread and has been republished with permission.
Amazon’s 1997 shareholder letter provides a glimpse into the brilliance of Jeff Bezos. It’s a free MBA class in strategy and leadership. Here are four lessons from it.
Lesson 1: Choose your words wisely
The letter is 1,617 words. The word ‘customer’ occurs 25 times.
That word focuses Bezos and focuses the people that look to him for guidance. Jeff knows that while Amazon’s mission is simple, execution is nearly impossible.
To succeed, the company’s north star must be unmistakable to everyone. Everything in this letter comes back to the customer.
Lesson 2: Have conviction
Every great entrepreneur has one thing in common: Conviction.
It’s about having a deep-rooted (likely contrarian) belief in an opportunity. An opportunity that is untapped, undervalued, and unappreciated.
Jeff Bezos shows wild conviction in the early days of Amazon. He sees a tidal wave that is the Internet, and he knows that if Amazon is in the best position to surf that wave, it’d become massive.
Lesson 3: Always acknowledge trade-offs
You can’t be a clear thinker without being honest about a decision’s trade-offs. Every decision has them. Despite his confidence, Bezos saw incredible risk in Amazon’s grand plan.
Jeff observed two major risks:
1) Other large, public companies saw opportunity in the internet like he did
2) It’s a market defined by network effects. Coming in second wasn’t an option.
This meant speed and heavy investment were mandatory.
Lesson 4: Set expectations early and often
I have found that the No. 1 failure of managers is an inability to set expectations. Sometimes it’s out of fear. Other times it’s an inability to communicate. But it is crucial to building any business for the long-term.
Jeff Bezos does this masterfully. From day one, he made it crystal clear to shareholders that investing in Amazon is opt-in. If you expect business performance quarterly … don’t invest. If you expect business performance over the long-term … join the party.
Alex Lieberman is the executive chairman and cofounder of Morning Brew.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Power Broker” and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” Robert A. Caro, is known for his meticulously researched, thoroughly reported biographies.
His voluminous works are celebrated, as is his dedication to his craft: Caro and his wife Ina have outright moved their residence multiple times in service of his books, so that they could experience the world as the subjects of his books might have. Collectively, they’ve spent tens of thousands of hours poring over documents, conducting interviews, and much more – all in the service of thoroughly, accurately portraying the lives of his books’ subjects.
Which is why Caro’s latest book, “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing,” is so particularly fascinating.
In “Working,” for the first time ever, Caro details the fascinating process behind his process.
The book is tremendously useful if you’re at all interested in researching and writing non-fiction, but there’s one particularly useful piece of advice for anyone: “Interviews: silence is the weapon, silence and people’s need to fill it – as long as the person isn’t you, the interviewer,” Caro writes in a chapter titled “Tricks of the Trade.”
Caro likens his own interviewing process to those of fictional interviewers Inspector Maigret and George Smiley, at least in one distinct way: All three “have little devices they use to keep themselves from talking.” In the case of Maigret, Caro says, he cleans his pipe. And in the case of Smiley, he cleans his glasses.
Caro does something far more pedestrian: He writes reminders for himself to shut up.
“When I’m waiting for the person I’m interviewing to break a silence by giving me a piece of information I want, I write ‘SU’ (for Shut Up!) in my notebook,” Caro says. “If anyone were to ever look through my notebooks, he would find a lot of ‘SUs’ there.”
Whether you’re interviewing a subject or interviewing a job candidate, the same logic applies: Shut up! How that person responds to silence could speak volumes.
In the movie “Sliding Doors,” Gwyneth Paltrow’s character follows two parallel storylines.
If she catches a train, her life takes one path. If she doesn’t, it leads in another direction. The film shows how a small, seemingly inconsequential change can drastically alter the course of your life.
Startups have sliding door moments, too. Over the course of building your company, you face several divergent paths. Some are obvious at the time, some only become clear in hindsight.
At Bleacher Report, we faced many such decision points. Two in particular stick out.
In the early days, our approach to content moderation was lax to non-existent. While everything published to B/R needed a sports angle, we took a loose interpretation of that lens.
As a result, the site had its fair share of unsavory content. This included posts and photo galleries that objectified women in sports. They had headlines like “Hottest WAGs (wives and girlfriends) in the NHL” or “25 Hot Cheerleader Pics.”
Looking back, I’m not proud to have contributed to the already misogynistic culture of sports. We accepted these posts as part of the “authentic fan conversation” encouraged within our community. In a development that should surprise nobody, they became some of our biggest traffic drivers.
So in a regrettable move, we took it a step further by launching a standalone section for this content called “Barely Sports.” Cringeworthy, I know.
According to our logic, giving this content its own section separated it from our more sports-focused coverage. After all, we told ourselves, if Sports Illustrated had a swimsuit issue, why shouldn’t we have Barely Sports?
But we failed to recognize that by creating the section, we encouraged and legitimized more of this content. When Barely Sports launched, we got some notes from disappointed readers. And while I’d like to say that negative audience feedback was enough to sway us, the reality is a bit different. We changed our minds about Barely Sports not because of morals, but for money.
Our newly hired head of ad sales made nixing Barely Sports his first priority. To land deals with major brand advertisers, B/R needed to clean up our image. And that meant getting rid of the T&A.
Money talks. Barely Sports bit the dust.
We were all in on brand advertising as our business model. And we knew deep down that the B/R brand would be stronger if we took a more inclusive approach to sports fandom.
Around the same time, another digital sports publisher picked up traction by taking things further than we ever did. I’m talking, of course, about Barstool Sports. As B/R took a more centrist approach to covering sports fandom, Barstool leaned into the extremes. And they built an incredible business doing so.
Barstool pulled off the strategy that B/R abandoned by making two critical innovations:
Barstool avoided depending on advertising as their only business model. Instead, their DTC approach cultivated an army of hardcore fans and monetized them directly.
To buttress the brand against controversy, Barstool put the personas of their creators front and center. Rather than journalists or commentators, they branded them as outrageous characters straight out of pro wrestling storylines. If Barstool is the WWE, then Dave Portnoy is their Vince McMahon.
They played their game, we played ours.
Almost The Athletic
A bit later down the road, B/R faced another crossroads that could have altered our journey.
From early on, we viewed B/R as the sports fan’s replacement for declining local media. We talked about it in our very first fundraising pitch. With local newspapers collapsing and sports pages contracting, we planned to fill the void by empowering fans, bloggers, and up-and-coming writers to cover their teams.
But as the future we predicted played out, we saw a new opportunity: What if we hired displaced writers from local sports sections?
Many well-known beat reporters and columnists were losing their jobs and looking for new homes for their bylines. Hiring them could improve the quality of our coverage, bring some of their audience over, and boost our legitimacy. We seriously considered the idea. But after debate, we decided it wasn’t for us. Again, our business model was a major consideration.
These sports journalists were well-known in their local markets. But their name value didn’t register with the national advertisers we worked with. On top of that, our positioning in the market placed B/R as a fresh, young voice in sports. Hiring away experienced writers from the sports media establishment would dilute that story.
So instead we doubled down on hiring web-native writers who fit our mold. By establishing B/R as the place for fresh new voices in sports, we cemented our status as the place for big brands to reach younger sports fans. Of course, we weren’t the only ones to recognize the opportunity in realigning local sportswriting talent. I wasn’t surprised when a few years later, The Athletic emerged and gained momentum.
What made The Athletic’s approach to the opportunity work? It’s the business model, stupid.
Rather than advertising, they built everything around paid subscription. By quantifying the number of subscribers each new writer could bring, they knew exactly how much they could pay for talent. And their market positioning as the replacement for the local sports page was crystal clear.
It’s fun to reflect back on these moments. In an alternate timeline, Bleacher Report could have ended up more like Barstool. Or The Athletic. But, as far as we know, we only have one timeline.
Everything worked out great for Bleacher Report. So I guess you could say we made the right choices.
When startups face these big decisions, they’re often framed in the most high-stakes way possible. One path could lead to success and riches. The other to failure and ruin.
The reality is a bit more nuanced. In most cases, both paths are viable. The key is heading in the direction that makes the most sense for your mission and business model. And remembering, too, that your competitors face their own forks in the road. Depending on the choices they make, they may cease to be competitors at all.
The internet contains multitudes. Even for digital sports publications, there are many paths to success. So don’t worry about the paths not taken. Focus on the one you’re on.
Dave Nemetz is the founder of Bleacher Report and Inverse and an expert on growing audiences and building communities. He writes a weekly newsletter about building and selling startups, growing audiences, and the mindset and creative processes employed by prolific makers.
This isn’t about listing stock picks. If you’ve wondered “how much research should I be doing on a stock? What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?” this is the column for you.
Our columnist is Ryan Paisey, a veteran trader who has been in markets for nearly 20 years, and runs trader news service PriapusIQ.
“For too many players, the basic knowledge of the games we play are lacking, they are more concerned with guessing ‘up or down’ than understanding the basics which can immeasurably help improve their decision making process,” he says.
“I’m not here to tell you how to trade. I am here to share my 20 years of experience with those that have questions which only experience can answer.”
I started my business, six years ago, by accident. I had an idea for a unique wedding business, where strangers could hire me to be their bridesmaid, and decided to test that idea out by posting an ad on Craigslist. The ad drew hundreds of interested people to reach out to me and within a matter of days, I officially launched Bridesmaid for Hire.
Because I started my business so quickly, I found that in the first year I made many mistakes that cost me a lot of money and precious time. It’s been six years since then and looking back, I wish I had avoided these costly errors from the very beginning.
If you’re thinking of starting a side hustle, these are the mistakes I made that you should try to avoid.
1. Ditching a budget
When I started my business, I wasn’t sure how much money I needed to get the website up and running, to market to new clients, and to hire professionals (lawyers and accountants) along the way. During the first few months, I was charging every little thing on my personal credit card and not realizing how much I was spending.
I spent close to $500 to launch my website, pay for different software products to help with email marketing and social media, and get official branding for the company. This was all just in the first few weeks of starting the business.
Rather than just paying for things and racking up credit card debt, I wish I’d had a budget. If I could go back in time, I would first decide how much of my personal cash I wanted to loan to the business. Then, I’d create different categories for spending (marketing, software, professionals, freelance hires, etc.) and determine how much of that total cash I’d allocate per category. This would help me stretch a predetermined amount of money to pay for everything during that first year. Instead, I did things in reverse and when I needed something, I just charged it and didn’t keep track.
Set a budget before you start the business. Determine how much of your own cash you’re willing to pump into the early days of getting your idea up and running and stay meticulous about tracking your spending on a weekly basis.
2. Taking too much from my personal savings
When I first started my side hustle I was working full time and took some of my income from that job to help fund my business. Without realizing it, I was slowly draining my savings account to pay for a lot of the early expenses. Since I wasn’t earning that much yet from clients and services, I was using too much of my personal cash, too fast, to pay for things.
Rather than pulling out too much money from your personal accounts, and impacting your personal financial goals (such as saving for retirement or creating an emergency fund), it’s best to put a limit on how much of your own cash you’ll loan the business and have the intention of paying yourself back once the business makes money.
When you start a business, everything always feels urgent. What I should have done was prioritize what needed to be funded immediately and what could wait. That way, I wouldn’t have put so much of my cash into the business up front and taken on personal risk without knowing if the idea would generate income in future months.
3. Not asking for advice or mentorship
I didn’t have any friends who were entrepreneurs when I first started my company so I felt very alone in the process. When I’d ask my friends for help or ask their advice on certain situations (such as how much to charge clients or how much to spend on a logo) they wouldn’t know what to advise me.
I had to learn things the hard way by making my own mistakes, when a mentor or circle of entrepreneur friends could have helped me make better decisions with their lessons learned, industry knowledge, or just entrepreneurial experience.
Even if you’re not surrounded by people creating side hustles, find online communities or reach out and find a mentor who can be there for you to answer questions, help you avoid mistakes, and stay smart with your money.
4. Refusing to hire a virtual assistant
I started the business solo and found myself taking on too much work. I was working full-time and working on my side hustle during any free moment I had (early mornings, nights, and weekends). I could have accelerated the growth of my company, big time, by hiring a virtual assistant to help with more time-consuming tasks that didn’t need to be done by me (organizing emails, uploading blog posts, creating outreach emails, etc.). Instead, I took the time to do these smaller tasks that took hours or a half the day, when I could have been working on more important areas of the business like scaling, growth, or brainstorming ways to get new clients.
Hiring a virtual assistant would have cost around $25 an hour and that’s something I could have budgeted for knowing that if I used those “free hours” I could find ways to double or triple the growth of the business.
5. Setting my prices too low
One of the most rookie mistakes I made was when it came to figuring out how much to charge. I set my prices very low and because of that, I wasn’t profitable during the first few months when I could have been. I had many clients and was working more than 40 hours a week with this side hustle, yet my finances didn’t show success. I was undercharging for my services for two main reasons: I didn’t truly know my value and I was scared if my prices were higher I wouldn’t have any clients.
I was wrong. This was a costly mistake because I found I was providing clients with more hours of my time than they originally paid for at a very low cost. This meant I couldn’t take on new clients (because there just weren’t enough hours in the day) and it meant even though I was working hard, and working long hours, my business wasn’t making enough money to be viable.
When you notice a mistake in your pricing, make changes to how much you’re charging or your business plan. This can make or break a business early on.
Everyone starting a side hustle makes mistakes but when it comes to errors that cost time and money, it’s best to avoid those when you can. Set a clear budget, limit how much you’re pulling from personal finance, and ask for advice so you can make smart and efficient decisions along the way.
Influence – especially in the workplace – is about setting an example that inspires others to do as you do. The keyword here is, inspire. Influencing others isn’t about pressuring people to submit to your requests. Nor is it about manipulation.
So, how does a leader influence a team to work towards a vision, share their passion, and to get things done?
If you’re a sensitive high-achiever (or what I call a Sensitive Striver), then you already have the tools that other less-sensitive leaders may not. Your team will understand that you care about their values as much as your own, because of your ability to read them and to feel how they are feeling.
Your strength in empathy gives you a boost because you know what matters to your team. This creates a space of connection, understanding, and trust. With that as your foundation, your success in influencing as a leader will shine.
Leadership by influence: 4 essential aspects to increasing your influence in the workplace
Once you have a solid base of trust and connection with your team, you can strengthen your ability to influence and further your success as a leader. Here are a few key skills to increase your level of influence:
1. Be transparent
To increase your influence in the workplace, you must remain open and honest. It’s important to allow others to voice their questions and concerns and to answer them with transparency. Being honest is easy when there is good news to share, yet remaining 100% honest when the news is bad can be difficult.
The best leaders are transparent in all instances. If a question is posed that you are not prepared to answer, say, “I want to be sure to have all of the correct information before I answer that. Let me check the facts and get back to you by the end of the day.” Be sure to follow-up as soon as you can address their question. Answer with positivity and openness, and you will achieve a team committed to you and your goals.
As a Sensitive Striver, if problems do arise, your ability to communicate with empathy will be a guiding light for the rest of the team.
2. Inspire loyalty
Inspiring a sense of commitment from your team is vital to successful leadership and influence. This can be accomplished by motivating and improving the working lives of your employees. Look for and speak to their accomplishments. Understand that your success also lies in the quality of people that you help advance within the company.
If someone in your group is going above and beyond in their role, acknowledge them. The pride you take in your team’s successes not only motivates your team but inspires deep loyalty to you as their leader, which is the best use of your influence in the workplace.
3. Lead by example
Sensitive Strivers don’t fall short on determination. Lead by example by staying confident and focused on the end goal. A leader crippled by self-doubt or deterred by setbacks sets an uneasy tone and can contribute to chaos among the team. When a problem emerges (which you have most likely played out in your head), keep a steadfast and positive attitude. This is important, though difficult, especially if your reputation is on the line.
If you see yourself struggling to maintain or regain positivity, take a moment to remind yourself that you can change your mindset. Your attitude is your choice, and your team will mirror that behavior. Turning obstacles into unprecedented opportunities generates a collective calm that is nothing short of inspiring.
4. Beware the perfectionism pitfall
Sensitive Strivers tend to be perfectionists. Your impeccable attention to detail and ambition to keep going until it’s “flawless” contribute to your success. Yet, at other times, your need to do things “right” can fuel anxiety. As Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal.”
Carrying your expectation of perfection over to the team you are trying to lead will decrease your influence in the workplace and chip away at the group’s morale. To avoid fallout, stay focused on what is working, and what you can control. More likely than not, the end goal is still intact.
The ability to influence others is one of the most essential qualities a leader can have. Taking the time to learn the steps of influencing others intelligently and ethically, will improve your success as a leader, and that of the company’s.
Sensitive Strivers, you have a leg up in the world of influencing people. Your high emotional intelligence, your passion, and your drive will set you apart. You will be a leader who brings people together with a common goal and will inspire your team to get things done and done well.
I began my freelancing career while I was still a journalism undergrad and held numerous side gigs throughout my 20s and early 30s as I climbed the ladder in social media, content, and marketing roles. Finally, at 32 I decided to leave my full-time career behind to give freelance writing and marketing consulting a try.
Of course, it wasn’t – and still isn’t – always easy. I’m continuously learning how to run my business more efficiently, to set both my clients and myself up for success.
Along the way, I’ve definitely had some challenges. Here are some of the key financial lessons I’ve learned, that cost me thousands of dollars in wasted time and potential lost income,my advice for avoiding these kinds of issues altogether.
1. Not seeking out partial payment upfront for new smaller clients
Many of my initial freelance gigs were with major companies, such as Adobe, Zillow, and Target, with formal processes for handling everything from freelance contracts to the invoicing and payment process. While everything was largely on their terms (not mine), I almost never had to worry about chasing down payments.
It wasn’t until I began branching out to work with smaller companies, startups, and solopreneurs that I learned the hard way what I needed to do to ensure I’d be fairly paid.
One of the most important lessons: Whenever possible, when onboarding new, smaller clients, I ask for a 50% deposit upfront for the first project before I begin working.
I began to do this late in 2019, after I’d created a social media strategy, a content calendar, and social media posts for a startup marketing agency client who ghosted me. First, the project was put on hold. Next, my contact stopped responding to my calls and emails about the project and invoicing for the work I’d done. Then the in-house email they’d created for me stopped working. I tried various routes to track down payment, to no avail.
This may be an extreme example, but if I’d asked for a partial payment upfront I’d have $1,000 extra dollars – at least 50% pay for the work I completed.
Since then, I now ask for deposits upfront. In an initial introductory call, I say something along the lines of, “My terms for kicking off new projects with new clients include a 50% payment upfront before I begin working on the assignment.”
Now that I ask for partial payments upfront, I’m a lot less worried about getting paid and can focus on producing high-quality work.
2. Participating in multiple rounds of interviews before confirming budget and rates
When I first started freelancing, I had mixed success securing work with new clients. Some knew what they were looking for, what they were willing to pay, and that their needs and budget aligned well with my skills and compensation expectations.
For others, it seemed like I had to jump through a series of hoops – calls, test projects,, and writing proposals – before I even could find out if I was a good fit. And most times after investing this time upfront, I simply never heard back.
For one B2B startup that was looking for social media support, I went through four rounds of interviews and completed an unpaid content strategy test. In total, I probably spent six to 10 hours pursuing this client before they ultimately went with someone else who charged less.
These days whenever I get in contact with a potential new client, I thank them for their interest and ask them about their budget right away before even getting on a call. Here’s a sample reply I’ve used to save myself and potential clients time and quickly eliminate opportunities that aren’t a fit:
Thanks for reaching out and for your kind words. The opportunity to collaborate with [Company name] sounds exciting, and I’d be interested in learning more about the chance to help out with your needs. Can you share what budget you have in mind [for XYZ project] to make sure we’re in the same range?
3. Doing unpaid tests instead of paid test projects or sharing my most relevant samples
After years of freelancing, I now better recognize the value of my time, experience, and capabilities. As a result, I only pursue opportunities with clients who will accept my most relevant samples or are willing to pay me for a trial project.
Completing paid tests helps me land steady copywriting and content marketing work, and also helps me get a feel for whether the projects are a fit for my interests and skills.
Even if you’re just getting started, you can create sample work for your own website or social media. Platforms like Medium are great ways to demonstrate knowledge of a particular topic or in-demand skill and may even generate inbound leads after people see your work.
4. Not sharing the most relevant work samples
When I’m chatting with a potential new client, I try to share with them the most relevant examples of my past work. I drill down to samples that highlight my experience with a similar:
Type of company (whether a B2B business, B2C brand, nonprofit, etc.)
Size company (such as startup versus corporate)
Type of skill or service they’re looking for
For instance, if a company is a mid-size B2C brand in the wellness space looking for general marketing support, I can share samples from my time working for two healthcare startups, marketing for three health publications, and serving as the social media lead at the New York City Marathon.
The more niche a company is, the greater relevance and industry expertise they’re usually looking for.
5. Being too generic when pitching to new clients
“I’m a seasoned [freelancer offering XYZ general skills] with X years of experience who has worked for XYZ well-known [but general] companies, and I’d like to help [name of company].”
That’s an OK pitch, but with some simple tweaks it could be a lot more effective.
After all, potential clients don’t all necessarily care about the work you’ve done for just any other company, no matter how much you name drop or refer to your number of years of experience. That’s because just like any other type of customer, they don’t want to be sold on your product features.
Instead, they want to be sold on the benefits of your product – that is, the benefits of working with you as a freelancer – and be assured that you’re the best person to meet their needs. So, flip your pitch from being focused on you and your general experience, and instead center it on the company’s specific needs and how your expertise matches up.
Generic pitches similar to the one above have cost me landing paying clients, so I’ve updated my pitch to ensure I’m focusing on the specific needs of the customer, not just stating accomplishments to be impressive. Here’s what I say now:
I see that [Company] is looking for [specific type of freelancer] with an understanding of [industry niche, such as SaaS] and [specific skills, such as content strategy] I’d be happy to help with your [specific needs]!
I have worked with [well-known companies within a given niche] and have [specific skills you’re looking for]. Here are samples of my work [specific to the company, industry, niche, and skills desired].
When I was in elementary school, all of my grade cards came back with great scores and really positive comments. However, there always was the one little comment “She’s too bossy and overly talkative.”
I had a big personality and used that to my advantage from a young age. Interestingly enough, as I transitioned into high school, my grade cards began to read “She’s a great leader and has great class participation.”
I wondered if my “bossiness” and excessive talking had become more direct and efficient, or if I was just perceived differently by elementary school teachers versus high school teachers. I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is the detrimental effects that the word “bossy” can have on a young girl.
It’s discouraging to young ladies and makes them feel as if they cannot be assertive. How can girls aspire to be politicians, lawyers, and judges if we shoot down their leadership traits from the very beginning? Several women leaders in medicine spoke with me about their “bossy” experiences, and how they’ve learned to use this trait successfully throughout their careers.
1. Assertive women may have to make adjustments to earn respect
“I had to learn how to lower the tone of my voice and smile more to not come off as controlling,” said Dr. Sharon Gustowski.
Gustowski is an osteopathic doctor based in Houston, Texas who is certified in neuromusculoskeletal and osteopathic manipulative medicine.
As a young child, she was independent and assertive, which helped her to gain the respect and trust of her elders who felt comfortable leaning on her for more responsibilities. As doctor however, she felt this trait and the way she carried herself alienated her peers, because it seemed she came off as snobby and unfriendly.
To offset these perceptions, she made adjustments to her tone and mannerisms so she was more inviting. Constantly being aware of your delivery can be exhausting, but she said it felt like she had to do it to earn respect and not be ostracized.
As a current medical student, Gustowski’s account helped me understand that assertive women may have to adjust facial expressions, hand movements, volume, and tone to be heard in male certain dominated atmospheres. Without these adjustments, their colleagues may get caught up in the delivery and not the message which hinders progress, which could create strain and frustration.
2. Becoming a leader comes with growing pains
The road to becoming a good leader isn’t straight and easy. In fact, becoming a leader will probably include quite a few setbacks before successes. Dr. Candace Walkley, an internal medicine physician based in Conroe, Texas, has experienced being “bossier than her boss.”
Her assertive personality is either perceived as go getter or too assertive. Being a go-getter creates great work relationships, but being “too assertive” can create tension which can interfere with communication and expectations.
Walkley refers to her assertiveness as “the sword with two sides.” These experiences have helped her shape her leadership skills to better assess and control herself in interactions, but not without a few bumps in the road with coworkers and colleagues.
A leader is nothing without a team behind them. The best way to gain a team’s trust and get them to work hard is to listen more than one speaks. This is especially important when working in the medical field because of all the different teams and personnel that could be working one case. Without hearing what they have to say, a leader won’t be very successful.
Dr. Peggy Taylor is an OBGYN who ran her own practice for years before eventually selling it to retire. She now teaches and picks up shifts when needed.
Although considered bossy by some when opening her own practice, she said she “never wanted to be seen as really my way or the highway. I took more of a teamwork approach: I know I’m the leader and I make the final decision, but I want their input.”
Taylor says she put in the extra effort to make her employees feel respected and heard, and she listened to their suggestions and implemented them when they were appropriate.
4. Assertiveness is necessary in serious situations
As physicians, these women are not just responsible for day to day operations. They are responsible for human lives, which means, occasionally, that assertiveness is absolutely necessary.
“I try to only bring this trait out in its full glory when I’m supervising people or when a situation is clearly dangerously chaotic – where a leader must emerge for safety,” said Walkley.
Taylor also put patients at the front of the helm when it came time to be the boss. She made decisions that her staff did not always like, but at the end of the day, they benefited the patients.
There are times to be laid back, but when serious decisions have to be made about someone’s health, these bosses in medicine know how to get the job done. Gustowski learned to fully accept this duality of silliness and seriousness in the job, and when to switch back and forth. The ability to turn it on and off is powerful in a job where things can go from good to bad in the blink of an eye.
5. Good leaders care and create lasting relationships
The fun part about being a good leader is being able to create long-lasting relationships with employees. However, this only happens when employees feel like they matter and physicians care about them as people.
Women leaders in medicine may have an advantage because many are natural nurturers at home and in society, and bring that attribute to work.
Dr. Mary Manis, a family medicine doctor in Conroe, Texas, made sure to keep up with her employees by asking them about their families and personal details they shared with her. This helped her develop relationships that lasted far beyond any work situation.
Taylor kept the same staff for over 20 years because she created such a family friendly environment.
As a mom, she understood the stressors of having children and allowed employees to bring their children to work when they were not able to go to school. Small acts like these help create fulfilling, long-lasting bonds between boss and employee.
“I would’ve loved to have found a woman boss or mentor, but that never happened,” said Manis.
While she did have a great relationship with a former male mentor and boss, Manis says it was disappointing to not find a woman boss to support her during her medical career.
As a medical student myself, I’m fortunate enough to have
Manis, among many other women, as my mentors. I hope that as more women enter medicine and learn the same lessons as the women in this article, they too can find and be a mentor to other women leaders in medicine.
7. Leadership skills can emerge at any point in life
Dr. Ouida Collins, a family medicine physician in Conroe, Texas, has been an introvert her entire life. Still, she says there were times early in her medical education journey when she had to be vocal and assertive.
“What made me stand up a little more is in a couple of classes, if you were a woman or didn’t fit the characteristics of those in leadership positions, they kind of pushed you to the side,” Collins said. “I was working on a project with another guy in the group and he told me ‘you need to do this’ and that and I said, ‘no, I don’t.’ That’s not how this works. That was the beginning of the pushback.”
Women in medicine often deal with being silenced or pushed aside in such a male-dominated arena. Patients may think they are the nurse and some male counterparts don’t respect them the same way as male physicians. But, no matter how old you are or your personality type, when it’s time to speak up for what’s right, you have to.
At the end of the day, Collins always had her paperwork in order and did her job, which gave her the confidence to assert herself regardless how others reacted to her firmness. She too has learned to tailor her leadership skills and always falls back on doing what’s right for her and her patients.
Disclaimer: These views and opinions are of the individual physicians and the writer and in no way representative of their employers.