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The Books that Inspired Anti-Sell

Anti-Sell alt cover - bookshelfAt the end of Anti-Sell, there’s a ‘Further Reading’ section, recommending a bunch of books that the reader can check out beyond mine. And even though it might seem like a really lazy rather ingenious copy/paste job from the book (😉), I thought it made a lot of sense to share it on here, too.

Throughout the book I’ve mentioned numerous books and resources that can help you on your Anti-Selling journey. Here’s a list, with a bit more info about each of them, plus a few more for good measure.

A quick note: None of these authors paid me a fee to be included, nor do I get a commission if you buy any of them. I recommend these books 100% wholeheartedly – because I actually really like them.*

ReWork by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

ReWork book coverReWork is probably my favourite business self-help book of all time, and a big influence on Anti-Sell. Why? Because ReWork is also quite rebellious in nature: it goes against the grain of traditional business advice but makes excellent recommendations in spite of that. It was recommended to me by a client (thank you Scott of TestLodge!) and on the first listen (I bought the audiobook), I fell in love with it. While listening to it in the car, I used to scream “YES!!!” after sentences I agreed with – which happened a lot. And probably sounded weird if I had my car window open. But there we go.

Some of its takeaways include:

  • Other people’s failures are other people’s failures, not yours. So when people talk about the survival rate of freelancers, small businesses and startups, just remember: if other people fail, that doesn’t mean you will too.
  • Plans should be called “guesses.” I remember freaking out when I had to put together a business ‘plan’ for some funding that I was seeking in the early days of freelancing (if I remember correctly, it was funding to cover my first year’s membership at my coworking space). How do I know how my business is going to do next year or the year after that? And that’s precisely the point. Call them guesses. To quote the book: “Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”
  • Everything you do is marketing. This ties in very closely to the message of the book you are currently reading. Marketing isn’t defined by adverts and promotional materials – it’s literally everything you do. Every. Single. Thing. You. Do. Every email you send is marketing. Every invoice you send is marketing. Just because you’ve won a client, it doesn’t mean that the marketing stops there for them. Every action you take can leave an impression on someone – good or bad.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there (not-in-the-book note: I actually wrote about my biggest takeaways from ReWork – including the above points plus more – on this very blog a few years ago: here’s the link). If Anti-Sell has resonated with you, and you haven’t yet read ReWork, pick up a copy. I’m sure it will resonate with you as well.

While writing this book, Fried and DHH released a new book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, which – as you can probably guess from its title – addresses the sensitive subject of work-life balance. It’s worth checking out as well.

> Buy ReWork on Amazon

The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz

The Pumpkin Plan book coverThe Pumpkin Plan is a special book to me. Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been running a small business for a while and you’ve hit a rut, there are some great tips in it. As mentioned in earlier chapters of the book, it has advice on:

  • How to go niche when it comes to targeting clients.
  • Creating your own Assessment Chart, which can be used to score clients on certain criteria, in order to help you to detect which clients are the best-fit for you (not-in-the-book note: I’ve blogged about the Assessment Chart over on State of Digital).
  • Tactics for cutting bad-fit clients in a way that won’t cause any animosity, fallout or professional embarrassment.

Mike also has another good book called Profit First, where he recommends paying yourself first before paying bills, whereas typically we do the opposite (we pay our bills and then keep what’s left over as profit, however big or small that amount may be), so it’s worth checking out what he has to say on that as well.

> Buy The Pumpkin Plan on Amazon

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Roger MozBot & the Time Machine – My MozCon 2018 Competition Submission

Roger MozBotUpdate: I actually won!!!

For years and years, it’s been a dream of mine to attend MozCon, Moz‘s annual SEO conference.

Just over a week ago, Moz published a blog post announcing that they would offer a free ticket and accommodation to MozCon 2018 for the best example of a “unique, compelling piece of content telling [them] why you want to come to MozCon.” Examples they gave included blog posts, videos, drawings, slide decks and even songs. Straight away my brain went into overdrive and had a (ridiculous) idea: what if I were to write a story…?

I checked with the Moz team if it’d be ok to do and they gave me their blessing, so I’ve written Roger MozBot & the Time Machine, a short story involving Roger – Moz’s mascot – who discovers a time machine and visits various moments in Moz’s past and (potential) future: a total of 6 different time periods.* Parts of it act as a tribute to why I’ve admired Moz so much over the years and therefore why it’d mean so much for me to finally make it to MozCon. Expect appearances from Mozzers past and present (yes, don’t you worry, Rand is featured – a lot) and a bunch of name-drops of other SEO industry folk, too.

I wanted to do it Choose Your Own Adventure-style (inspired by a speaking gig I did years ago), but a) with only a week until the deadline, I thought it’d be too complicated to pull off effectively, and b) I think CYOA might be copyrighted anyway, so I didn’t want to imitate it too closely. Either way, the way I’ve done it means that you don’t have to do all it in chronological order – i.e. you can visit different times in different orders.

* There’s actually a 7th – but it’s hidden. Consider it the story’s Easter Egg! There’s a clue buried in one of the years, and there’s no straightforward way to get to it, so you’ll have to ‘hack’ your way to find it. The first person to find it – and to tweet me a message confirming their discovery – will win the prize of… a link. From this very blog, in all of its DA 30 glory. Because I’m an SEO through and through. (Terms & rules apply.)

If anyone wants to translate the story into another language, let me know. I’d happily update this post with links to any translations.

Oh and let’s be clear: other than blogging, I am not a writer, and I don’t think I’ve ever written fiction (outside of my school days) – except for Rorschach’s SEO Journal, which hardly counts. And we all know how messy time travel stories can get… So be kind, yeah? 😜

A big thank you to my Welsh ICE buddies Jane Oriel for editing and Josh Hicks for the illustrations.

So… Let’s get started, shall we?

> Begin the adventure! <

(For the Mozzers – my name is Steve Morgan and my email is [email redacted now that the competition is over], as per the competition’s submission rules. I’ll also leave them on the final page, just to be safe.)

[Image credit – Josh Hicks]

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. The author’s views are entirely his own and may not reflect the views of Moz or the individuals mentioned.

Really F**king Simple Solutions to Spotify’s Explicit Tagging Problem

Spotify button imageThe solution(s) for this are so simple that it’s [email protected]!#ing painful.

I blogged a few years ago about how Spotify’s tagging of explicit tracks is hit-and-miss – with some tracks that are explicit not tagged as such, and vice versa – and the situation hasn’t improved much since then. As a parent with young kids who wants to play music around the house but wants to avoid subjecting them to accidental swearing, my options are a) only playing music/playlists/albums that I know from memory are 100% swearing-free, or b) simply don’t use Spotify. I don’t think Spotify would like the latter option much, especially if a lot of people followed suit.

Spotify obviously cares about catering to families – they have a Premium option aimed at families specifically (h/t to Pritesh Patel for this discovery – who’s had similar frustrations to me). So it seems counter-intuitive to me that they consider families a target audience but won’t do all that they can to make it a family-friendly offering.

There’s definitely something already in place, as some tracks are tagged as explicit. A look at The National’s Trouble Will Find Me shows that all the explicit tracks are tagged correctly (3 out of 13), which is great. But look at The National’s more recent offering – Sleep Well Beast – and nothing’s tagged, however track 3 (“Walk It Back”) contains the word “f*ck” at least 4 times. You could argue that it’s not a popular song, but it’s had nearly 4 million plays on Spotify (as I type this), so that’s not really true.

Example on Spotify of The National screenshot
Example of how it looks on Spotify – notice how “I Need My Girl” is (correctly) tagged while “Walk It Back” isn’t tagged at all

The problem with a half-hearted approach is that you assume it’s right (especially when implemented by a company of Spotify’s size and scale) so you think if something’s marked as explicit then it is, and if it isn’t then it isn’t. If there was no explicit tagging in the first place then you know you’d have to be careful – but with incorrect tagging, you risk assuming everything is tagged correctly (and getting caught out when it isn’t).

Of course that’s just one example of one track from one album by one band… so I asked some Twitter friends for more. Here’s what I got back, plus a few more I’ve found of my own accord in the past:

I appreciate that it’s unfair of me to suggest that Spotify doesn’t care. On the one hand, it could be something that they’ve completely overlooked. On the other hand, it could be the one thing keeping Spotify’s developers up all night. Who knows.

So what can be done? Here’s a few suggestions that I can think of for starters…

Leverage Spotify’s partnership with Genius further…

Spotify is already partnered with Genius (and SoundHound, I’ve just found out while researching and typing this) to be able to show lyrics while listening to a song. Presumably there is an API in place that Spotify is using, which feeds Genius’ lyrics for a song into Spotify.

Click to read more!

Q&A with James Crawford about Starting a Coworking Space within an Agency Office

It’s been a while since I did an interview on SEOno – the last one was with Emma Barnes about selling her blog (you can see all past interviews here). However I recently discovered that James Crawford (@jamescrawford) of PR Agency One had started his own coworking space within his agency’s office and – given that I’m a bit fanatical about coworking(!) – I thought it’d make for a good interview.

In addition to being a fellow State of Digital author, I met James when we were sat at the same table during a UK Search Awards event a few years back. I was chuffed that he was happy to answer my questions about how it was going with his agency’s new coworking space.


Steve Morgan: Hi James! To start things off, tell us about PR Agency One.

James Crawford photoJames Crawford: PR Agency One (pragencyone.co.uk) is an award-winning consultancy that has specialist teams focusing on communications, reputation and digital. We like to measure what we do, be that sales, brand or reputation and we believe that we have an industry leading suite of measurement tools designed to attribute even the most complex mix of marketing. Founded in 2011, the agency is currently the CIPR PR consultancy of the year and has a turnover of £1.5m.

Steve: You recently launched a coworking space within your office. What was the inspiration for this?

James: I wanted to give something back and support people who – like me back in 2011 – want to start and grow a business. Secondarily, the reason for the coworking space is ‘innovation’. By bringing in specialists in their field who are both accountable for themselves and to us, we can ensure we have the highest standard of consultant support, all under one roof. We’ve all seen agencies hire full-time staff in non-core services and often this cost-centre quickly falls behind the industry and stagnates. We wanted to avoid that and always remain at the forefront by working with with and nurturing best-of-breed experts.

Steve: How many people can you accommodate?

James: At the moment just four, but we have plans to extend the office still further.

Steve: What perks do you offer beyond the usual stuff (the desk, the coffee and the WiFi)? E.g. Do you offer meeting room use? Anything else?

James: The main perk is being around one of the UK’s fastest growing, award-winning PR agencies. As a business, the ability to knowledge share is important.

We are also looking for a particular set of skills. Ideally people with a grasp of branding, analytics and website development would be favourable. In return they will win projects from the team here as we are asked for these types of services all the time.

Apart from that we offer the usual: free coffee, water and WiFi.

Oh and did I mention our sun terrace complete with BBQ…

PR Agency One's coworking space photo
Steve: What type of ‘membership’ do you offer? Is it a pay-as-you-go/drop-in-for-the-day type arrangement, or more of an on-going monthly fee? Or both?

James: We offer a monthly £150 per-desk rental. Anything more informal than that is difficult to manage and raises issues on security and health and safety.

Click to read more!

Working Tue to Sat: Pros & Cons of an Alternative 9-to-5

“What a way to make a livin’…”

A few months ago, I changed up the days that I worked in order to try and achieve a better work-life balance. Instead of the traditional Monday to Friday, I dropped the Monday in favour of working on a Saturday. So still five days a week, but different days.

I wasn’t going to bother blogging about it (honestly because I didn’t think anyone would care, haha!), but I told Lee Sharma (@startuplee) about it and he found it really interesting. I’ve also chatted to couple of other people about it as well (including someone just the other day). This got me thinking that it might be worth writing about after all, as there’s some pretty unexpected pros and cons with the whole thing.

MOM desk Prisma image

The habits we all fall into…

I’ve discovered a weird sort of irony in that a fair few freelancers I know went into freelancing so that they could have more freedom and flexibility in their working hours… and yet they’ve gravitated towards continuing to work the traditional Monday-to-Friday 9am-to-5pm routine you get in the employment world.

And I’d done exactly the same thing.

Even though I had the option to work whenever I wanted, it still felt like a weird alien shift in mentality to work evenings and/or weekends instead of weekdays. I guess that’s how much it’s become engrained as the ‘norm’ in our society (non-office work notwithstanding). Heck, I even remember reading a blog post by Dom Hodgson (@TheHodge) – which I can’t find now sadly – where he talked about his freelancing style and that he often worked an 8pm to 4am shift, and I thought to myself how utterly weird that sounded. But hey, if that worked for him, it worked for him – we certainly shouldn’t knock it.

Click to read more!