Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The "Mary" Principle

My wife works at a large public company...just about as different as you can get from my one-man show. As a result, I am always interested (in a rubber-necker-watching-a-car-crash way) to hear the daily report of what I'm missing by operating outside the strictures of a corporate office.

Last night, we were talking about good and bad managers, and the topic of the Peter Principle came up--"People are promoted to the level of their incompetence"--as did the the Paul Principle, which says that "you need to provide people with what they need to succeed."

Fair enough. As we discussed it, though, I came to the conclusion that there's another possibility. Since we've already got Peter and Paul, let's call it the Mary Principle. In my formulation, the Mary Principle dictates that there are a lot of people who simply don't aspire to climbing the corporate ladder, so they'll never reach their point of incompetence. Perhaps they're satisfied with their job, or the pay, or the benefits, or all of the above. Maybe they're not competitive, or simply don't want the added pressure, risks and expectations of whatever resides on the next rung.

The biggest danger, I imagine, would eventually be crushing boredom. Then again, I never hung around long enough on a corporate ladder to find out.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wham, bam, Boomvang

Call me immature, but I still enjoy getting mail as much as I did when I was 11, making the long walk down the driveway to grab the new issue of Sports Illustrated or Ranger Rick. As a grownup, getting a FedEx is even more of a thrill, because it usually delivers my latest splurge from Amazon.

But not always.

In December, my daughter brought an unexpected FedEx to me that had been left at our front door. Excitement turned to anguish: It was a cease and desist on using Ellipsis Communications LLC as my business name. After 9-plus years, registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission but not the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, no more three dots. Period.

Long story short, a trademark lawyer told me I had no case. The other entity had federal protection, and I did not. I immediately set to brainstorming a new name. I didn't love anything I was coming up with, when my wife suggested that I kick around some sailing and navigation terms.

The result, with a website ready to launch on or before January 31, 2009, is BoomvangSM Creative Group LLC. A boom vang (two words) is a pulley or piston system found on larger boats, attached from the base of the mast to a point on the boom, enabling you to control the shape of your mainsail. Which seems as good a metaphor as any for heading into my second decade of business as a freelance writer, editor, marketer and entrepreneur.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Discipline yourself...or we'll do it for you

Thought-provoking discussion over in the writers/editors group over at LinkedIn about self-discipline and where it comes from. Lots of interesting answers, ranging from the simple to the deeply philosophical.

My motivations have evolved over the years. When I became a freelancer, it helped that I had a stay-at-home wife, two kids in diapers and a new mortgage. We had enough savings to get by for a bit, but nothing like fear (and sometimes raw panic) to get me off my butt.

As a result, I suddenly got more out of self-employment than I'd ever experienced in the constraints of an office. Revealing? Yes. Selfish? Perhaps. Now that I've been at it for 10 years and my wife is back in the workforce, and the kids are a bit older, the work is steadier and generally more interesting. (I often say it's like earning an MBA without stepping into a classroom.) Frankly, I thrive on the deadlines paired with the desire to produce a high-quality product for longtime clients whom I enjoy and respect, and for new clients whom I want to impress and turn into long-term relationships.

The subject of this post comes from a poster that was on the wall at our kids' old elementary school.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"Mind if I plug in?"

The security lines at Sky Harbor were so slow that I didn't get a chance to eat before hopping on my flight. When I got into Las Vegas, I decided I'd grab a bite at a restaurant and check my email before heading to the Strip.

A few minutes after I booted up, a 50-ish lady comes over to me from her table, extending a white USB drive at arm's length. "Do you mind if I plug this into your USB port to charge it?" she asks. I couldn't even respond verbally, but apparently the look of utter, abject horror that crossed my face was enough of an answer.

"Yeah, that's probably not a good idea, is it? Sorry to bother you," she says, as I choked out a mumbled response to the effect of no big deal, I was about to shut down anyway.

You can draw your own conclusions about what, if anything, could be in someone's head before asking to engage in, um, let's just call it intimate USB relations with a total stranger. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, indeed.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Freelance Forecast 2009

NOTE: The 2009 surveys are closed to respondents, but please visit the links on the right side of this page to download the results of the 2009 survey or to sign up for the 2010 survey. Thanks for your interest and participation!


Are you a creative director, editor, marketing director or other executive who uses the services of creative freelancers--writers/editors/proofreaders, graphic designers, web designers, PR/marketing specialists, photographers, illustrators? Your opinions about freelancers are wanted for the Freelance Forecast 2009 survey:


Are you a part- or full-time creative freelancer? You can give your opinions at the Freelance Forecast 2009 survey for freelancers:

The goal of these surveys is to cultivate better information about what clients want from freelancers and vice versa. All respondents receive a copy of the survey results and are entered into a $100 iTunes or Staples gift card.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Much To-Do About Everything

I've always found the last few weeks of any year tend to be quiet--perhaps a few minor emergencies from existing clients, but rarely any new business. At least that's been my experience...your mileage may vary. Good time to catch up on invoicing and other items that have piled up in the inbox, maybe head to a coffee shop for some computer-free rumination and goal setting.

Then, the ball drops in NYC and editors, creative directors and marketing directors wake up to the to-do lists that have languished since the post-Thanksgiving tryptophan lull. And, in an instant, their to-do lists become *your* to-do lists.

The lesson in all this? It doesn't have to be an emergency. The successful freelancer is ready for triage in the first few weeks of January.