The Communication Hackers Blog
June 13, 2017
Diversity in the workplace is all the rage.
But what about the celebration of diversity of talents within each employee?
I believe we’re each a multi-faceted being – with a natural desire to exercise various (often seemingly unrelated) talents within our daily lives.
After more than a decade of being more or less a cubicle dweller, I’ve listened as countless numbers of my colleagues admit that they spend their evening and weekend leisure time embarking on activities completely different than their day jobs.
Why is this so common?
Perhaps we – as complex beings – are innately wired to crave a variety of experiences.
In the workplace, these outlet experience allow us to flex all our muscles, exercise many different talents, and delve into areas of interest that we might not otherwise be able to do at our day jobs.
Nothing has been quite as rewarding on my career path as my side gig (what millennials call a “side hustle”) of Communication Hackers.
Sure, I have a 9-5. And I’m eternally grateful for such a solid professional career.
But I felt like professionally (career-potential wise) I was a Ford sedan driving around stuck in second gear meanwhile having a V8 hemi under the hood.
That is… until I sucked it up and took a risk to invest my nights & weekends pursuing something more, something different, but in addition to the 9-5.
It’s not about the Benjamins.
Since starting this endeavor, I’ve learned that the benefits gained from a side hustle FAR exceed simple monetary increases and financial diversification.
Most people only talk about the increase in their checking account.
But I want you to hear about the really deep life-changing impacts that a good side hustle can bring.
So here goes.
Six benefits of having a side hustle that have nothing to do with money:
From discussions at a locally-owned coffee shop, to mind-blowing phone convos with like-minded ambitious individuals, a side hustle allows us to broaden our network of relationships. And it’s often entrepreneurial-minded professionals we might not have otherwise been able to connect with at the 9-5. How does this affect your day job? Well, as they say you never know when opportunity will knock. By having a large, diverse network outside the day job, you are bound to find ways to leverage those connections in ways you never envisioned.
2. Bigger Perspective.
Ever stand up from your cubicle (or metaphorical cube) expecting to gain a greater perspective of the world, only to find a sea of more 4-walled cubicles? Having an outside business allows you to veer into other fields, look at other perspectives, and generally just see how the rest of the business world operates. By looking at other models/practices/fields, we have a better shot at remaining current on emerging trends, evolving business models, etc. It reminds me of why I enjoy volunteering my time mentoring teenagers. As I get older, I lose sight of what’s new, what’s emerging, what’s become passé. Being around teenagers (who think and live very different than me), I get to glean from their knowledge. This is similar to how networking through a side hustle can show us a bigger picture of business than hunkering down inside our 9-5 allows.
3. Entrepreneurial Mindset.
It’s hard to be a true free-thinking entrepreneur when you’re working for someone else and processing assignments day in and day out. That “think outside the box” mentality comes when you start engaging with professional entrepreneur-types who aren’t afraid to take a risk, try something crazy, color outside the damn lines. And every entrepreneur knows that business is primarily driven by providing solutions to urgent, big problems. A problem-solving mindset…without having to go back to school to get an MBA for it. And it costs your 9-5 boss nothing. This could save you from incurring between $26K-$125K for tuition in a 2-year MBA program according to 2016 statistics from the US News & World Report. How many hours of cube life would you need to sit to pay for that??
4. Stretch Your Creative Wings.
If you work in a data processing cubicle job tirelessly typing 40+ hours per week, you might find yourself searching for a creative outlet. Choosing a fun side hustle allows you to build up your skills in your favorite creative outlet, such as starting a consulting business, house flipping, decorating cupcakes, or selling Mary Kay. Maybe your creative outlet gig is something really emotionally fulfilling such as teaming with your coder buddy to make your dream of that novel video game —you’ve been mentally crafting since you were a pimply-faced 12-year old— become a reality. If you have a creative itch that you just can’t seem to scratch at the 9-5, what I am saying rings loud and clear. Just look at funnyman Ken Jeong—a Duke-alumnus medical physician who pursued his passion for acting & comedy on the side. He’s now making bank in Hollywood after spreading his creative wings. Life is short; scratch the itch.
5. Diversify Your Skills.
Maybe your side gig isn’t necessarily a creative one. That’s cool too. Maybe it just allows you to diversify and exercise professional skills you might not be able to use at your day job. My side hustle has forced me to learn new skills in order to make progress. For example, I’ve had to become savvy with multiple social media platforms that I don’t use at my day job. To thrive in this crowded environment I spend my nights and weekends absorbing all I can about website bounce rates, WordPress programming, digital sales funneling, and the list goes on. I’m a Gen X’er. That means I spent the majority of my formative years without the internet. Business was taught to me by taking traditional, predictable, mostly risk-aversive routes. But by jumping into a side hustle both feet in and my “X” eyes wide open, I’ve quickly had to adapt to the new way of the business world. Having a strong foundation in the ways of yesteryears, but realizing that nothing operates likes it did in our parents’ time, many of us Gen X’ers have found that business is not like we were told it would be. My side hustle has taught me that this diversity of self can make or break us out there. Side hustlers adapt to making on-the-fly decisions, chasing emerging trends, and self-induced learning routines. Therefore, we carry that same initiative back to our day jobs.
This brings me to entrepreneurial sensation GaryVee’s favorite word. Hustle. As one of the most sought after public speakers alive today, Gary helps Fortune 500 companies slay the competition by making things happen. Carefully. Immediately. Simultaneously. Innovatively. In order to successfully operate a side hustle while simultaneously kicking ass at your day job, you need to learn the art of hustle. Hustle isn’t the same as the illusory concept of multitasking. Hustle doesn’t mean doing one thing half-ass while simultaneously working on another. Hustle requires us to figure out the main thing, then weigh other choices up against that main end goal and decide which to keep and which to ditch. It keeps us focused, clear, and not so likely to wander down wascally wabbit trails. As a side hustler entrepreneur, time really is money. Time is currency. A good hustler is conscious of every precious second. Every decision I make either earns me money or steals my money. It’s easy to dillydally on superfluous tasks when you’re on someone else’s dime. But the side gig runs on limited time (and budget) and so we must move quickly and with laser precision. Trim the fat, ignore the “wouldn’t it be nice if…” thoughts, and execute on what will help your business succeed. After running my own business on the side I’ve turned into a problem solver. I can no longer look at problems or gaps in my 9-5 and pessimistically murmur “someone should do something about that.” Rather, I analyze the problems I see that might be within my sphere of influence and I start formulating solutions. I’m no longer just bitching about them. This has been the most life-changing mental shift and direct benefit of the side hustle way of life.
Both is better.
I’ll close with this final thought that changed my paradigm towards success and fulfillment.
Rich people think ‘both.’ Poor people think ‘either/or’. T. Harv Eker the author of the bestselling book Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth
If you’re contemplating about diversifying your skillset with a side hustle on top your 9-5…don’t feel trapped by either/or… do both!
Help for fellow hustlers.
Running a side hustle can be a lot of work. For hacks & tips about how to juggle it all without losing your mind, be sure to follow us on social media.
To your side hustle success,
May 31, 2017
Most website content sucks.
Here’s how to make sure yours doesn’t.
A tiny goldfish might look at your web content longer than your customers.
Say what? Yes, studies show that the average reader has a shorter attention span than a standard goldfish.
We typically can focus without distraction for a mere 8 seconds; that’s one second less than Mr. Bubbles.
This means that first impressions of your business’ online presence are more important these days than ever before.
Is your content Hot or Not?
Anyone old enough to remember the #1 superficial dating site of the early 2000’s called Hot or Not? (Later reincarnated as Tinder)
Before any real content about a candidate was revealed, date seekers were simply shown the profile pic of a potential match and enticed to either click the “hot” button or the “not” button.
That split-second, shallow-minded click would determine if any additional time was spent on the hottie (or nottie).
If the first impression showed them to be a hottie, you could then read their full profile and infer character traits.
This brings us back to customers.
In a busy world, customers (and potential customers) want to see the goods up front.
They want to see if something on your site is worth their time. If it passes what I call the first “sniff test” then they will meander around on your site.
The sniff test is all they need.
Aside from user-accessibility features and site navigation strategies to garner more sustained attention, I know that site visitors are looking for good content.
What makes good content that will pass this sniff test you speak of, Laura?
My method for keeping eyes on your content is two-fold. Both are equally important.
Aesthetic design & appealing content.
Smart academics from Kent State University published this 13-page article in the Elsevier journal Information Processing and Management.
Their research explains how aesthetically-pleasing website design affects perceived credibility.
In short, they found that it is critical to present information in such a way that it does not produce a negative visceral judgment.
This snap judgment can shoo off viewers before they’ve even had a chance to engage the content at a cognitive level.
You have great content, a stellar business model, a life-changing product for customers.
Curious how to suck in an online audience and keep them poking around on your site beyond 8 seconds?
Stay with me.
Sniff test part #1: Is she pretty?
Just like with Hot or Not, your customers land on your site and before they decide if they would ever “do the tango” with your company, they want to see that you meet their basic trust criteria.
Here are a few of the typical design expectations that swarm through visitors’ heads.
Fonts matter. Did you know that fonts can create a first impression as to the personality of your business. For example, this study revealed that users found fonts like Times New Romans and Arial to be more practical, stable, and formal. Script fonts (think Comic Sans) were interpreted as youthful, casual, and modern. If you’re a banking institution with a long proud heritage, your readers are likely expecting a more serious font in your communications. On the other hand, if you are in the bubble tea business, your audience is probably anticipating a more whimsical font on your site and in your social media posts. Be sure to tailor your fonts to match the expectations of your viewers.
Colors matter. The psychology of color in marketing has been a fashionable debate for decades. Forbes neatly summarizes the feelings evoked by various colors in this article. Besides evoking emotion, colors on your site affect readability. Aim for high contrast of colors (think, light font on a dark background) to aid users in the ease of reading your text. Overall, I agree with Help Scout writer Gregory Ciotti that color affects how we view a business/brand and shouldn’t be used haphazardly.
Images matter. Perhaps nothing in design can make or break user trust quite like images. Let’s face it, when given the choice between reading walls of text or looking at a picture—we all opt for the picture. In fact, Kissmetrics reveals that on average, captions under images are read 300% more than the body copy itself. A good picture will attract your reader, and once you have their attention they are very likely to read the caption. Whether your visuals are photos, videos, infographics, or whatev—the bottom line is that your readers expect to see them. Give them nothing but words to read, decipher, interpret, and you’ll not only disappoint them, but you will surely lose their trust, their attention, and ultimately their business.
People are already hard-wired to look for these features.
Add in Instagram and Pinterest and your audience is more visually driven than ever before.
Is all this hype about form just hype?
The research doesn’t lie. Most website content sucks.
Audiences really do glance around your stuff looking for specific features before they waste additional time.
In fact, 3M (yes, the tape guys) teamed with University of Minnesota researchers to explore how visuals affect persuasiveness.
Not surprisingly, they found that presentations that used visual aids were 43% more persuasive than presentations without.
They also found that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
Here is an example:
First impressions are 94% design related. Using eye-tracking software, Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers found that visuals (logo, main image, navigation bar, etc.) played the biggest role in influencing website visitors.
So, let’s just make our content pretty and forget about quality content? Nonsense.
Keep reading to learn sniff test point #2 to ensure you hook readers with quality content.
Sniff test part #2: She’s pretty but is she smart?
Just like the saying about putting lipstick on a pig…modern audiences aren’t fooled long by pretty design alone.
Customers are looking for the complete package.
#a pretty head(line)
So how do we create quality content while being mindful of the repugnant “wall of text”??
Did you know that 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy…
but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest?
There’s a learnable craft to writing headlines, so don’t worry if you’re not a word nerd like me.
Follow influencer Neil Patel’s formula for: how to write a stunning headline.
Turn window shoppers into paying customers by creating content that answers their questions.
Anticipate their questions.
This is key to making customer converts.
#make it effortless
While you answer their questions, make sure your content is easy to read.
Make it effortless.
Sure, you want to make sure your grammar and syntax would make your high school English teacher proud.
But more importantly, your content needs to be easily understood by newbies to your site.
I believe the best way to achieve this is by using more visuals, less words.
Here’s a dirty secret – I have a degree in English composition. I like words.
But in reality, I know that 65% of the population learns visually.
Customers will scan for visuals that are easy to digest before they will engage with sentences, let alone paragraphs.
Since decoding an image is less work than decoding text, even teachers are finding that it is easier to convey complex information & concepts if they use graphic organizers instead of text alone.
Visual aids are also being stressed more and more at the post-secondary school level.
A head university professor of linguistics is even stressing the use of visual aids for technical reports and articles.
He stresses that you should consider using a graphic if:
- you are using too many words to explain something
- you are presenting trends or a lot of numerical data
- you are doing a comparison over many categories.
Does your website copy discuss a complicated process that might better be digested from a visual aid?
Could a pie chart (or some other type of chart) better convey what your 500-word flyer is trying to say?
Since we know that most people are visual learners, we can tailor the way we talk about our products or services using visuals more than dense text.
#crisp clean cotton copy
If you’re writing for the web or social media, there are many books out on the market to help you write better copy for today’s digital audience.
You could even hire a copywriter.
But if you’re like us and more keen to the DIY content creation, try subscribing to a copywriting feed like copyblogger.com for proven hacks to writing better copy.
So most website content sucks. But yours doesn’t have to.
Try my sniff test tactics out on your own website.
See if it just doesn’t keep them goldfish swimming around a bit longer.
Let me know what you think. Will you be making any changes to your website? Do you think I missed anything? Let me know by commenting below or on Facebook.
March 12, 2017
Here’s the deal—people are busy. The web is noisy.
The digital world has trained your customers to glance over written text to decide if it’s worth investing additional seconds from our lives.
Time is a limited resource.
Instead of reading from left to right, top to bottom, everyone looks for “sign posts” instead. These signal the general content and interest factor of a written piece.
But, this style of “scanning” isn’t just limited to content we view on the internet.
Scanning is now the litmus test customers subconsciously apply to all written text, including all those thoughts you’ve written to promote your business. Pass this test and you’ll get their attention for a few minutes. Fail and you’ve just wasted your time. Read More
February 1, 2017
plus it’s easy & free!!!
My last blog post briefly indicates my disdain for bulleted lists. Why do I hate them so? Let me count the ways. Slide decks containing bulleted lists are completely predictable, unimaginative. Even worse, during your talk the audience will quickly read through your list in top-to-bottom order and see each item as equally weighted—without it being obvious which items are meant to take precedence over others. But the death of your talk doesn’t stop there. After your audience has read through your bulleted list faster than you can explain each item, they zone out and stop giving you their full attention because they already know what’s coming.