My flat is like a greenhouse, so I’ve been working in cafés most days this week. I’m spending more but I need it. Self-care 🙂 To walk to work, be around people and have a chat with the baristas to find out what’s going on in Hastings (a slice of £610m government funding, lightning fibre broadband)⚡️
The Portfolio Collective: ‘The Domino effect is massive and contagious on the site.’
I’ve joined the Portfolio Collective, a startup by Ben Legg, a former COO of Google Europe, global technology CEO, McKinsey consultant and soldier. His mission: Helping entrepreneurs to reinvent themselves and society. There are 300,000 people in the UK with portfolio careers, and 16 million of us have a side hustle, so it’s a rapidly growing way of working. Eight months since launch and they already have 2,000 members.
I did a couple of free events, decked out my profile, and set up a virtual coffee with the co-founder. The 1-hour Focus workshop is a deep dive into ikigai – the Japanese word for happiness, i.e. your reasons for getting out of bed. Finding the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. Finding your why and discovering your strengths.
There’s a design-thinking tool called the Odyssey Plan, where you map out three alternative lives you might live over the next five years. There are multiple versions of you and it’s good to remember how fearless and open you used to be as a kid before becoming a serious grown up with a one-person career…
If I could give my younger self some advice, I’d say keep searching, there are so many opportunities to design a life you love. Be patient and don’t settle (for men or work!!) out of fear. Create your own roles and don’t be scared to wait for the right opportunity. Know that good things will come and have confidence in your worth 😍
I think the resources and service they’re providing are brilliant whatever stage you’re at with your career. We all get stuck in a rut and need a shift in perspective which comes from hearing other people’s stories. Never underestimate the power of networking: ‘The domino effect is massive and contagious on the site.’
Get signing up and introduce yourself!! They’re looking for community voices to write articles and people to interview for the podcast. Coming soon – the first book club (Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game), and new talent matching opportunities with startups looking for hires 👍 https://portfolio-collective.com/
Here’s my playlist, Iggy-inspired as I could listen to him all day. Dial it up before your next Zoom performance to get you in the mood. No one remembers much of what you say during meetings, but they will remember your funky mug, focus and energy. Let me know if it changes your Zooms.
Happy sunbathing! 😎 🏝 Nicci
Tools for thought
👨🏽💻Interesting report from Contra on the future of freelancing, with six key trends to note – we don’t want to work ourselves to death, portfolio working, charging by the project, top skills required for writers, and the mindset shift from freelancer to creator. I don’t use the term ‘freelance’ anymore as it doesn’t resonate. National Freelancers’ Day needs a rebrand: National Boss Day!
🤓Lockdown Leadership Series: Making Hybrid Work with Clare Josa (imposter syndrome specialist). How to take your virtual teams (and yourself) from surviving to thriving as we move from lockdown into hybrid working. 11 interviews and panel discussions during June. Get your free ticket and you can watch the earlier sessions on replay here.
📕Brilliant talk with Harriet Minter on her new book: Working From Home. How to plan for the year ahead and balancing soul work with survival work. Ace on money: Have two budgets, ‘ask for the highest figure you can think of without laughing’; procrastination as perfectionism (she had a 10-week deadline and spent three weeks not writing it), & using the Owned, Earned and Paid media model for your networking.
🎙Simon Sinek on Finding Your Why. Why some organisations inspire and others don’t. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Explain your purpose, cause and belief – your ikigai. Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should anyone care? It’s worth reflecting on your ‘why’ and making sure it shines through in your comms.
To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍
In my 20s, I left a journalism job in Peterborough to freelance in London. I wanted to work on women’s magazines and thought I’d be happy once I got my dream job in the big city. The reality was quite different. Precarious work on low pay was stressful. When I landed shifts on glossy titles, I didn’t enjoy working in an all-female environment that felt competitive. I wasn’t very happy but I stuck at it – living the dream, right? I’d be happy once I was sorted with a proper job and a home. Then I could relax and enjoy London for all it has to offer.
I now prioritise my happiness and realise it’s a skill we can work on. I can’t control my thoughts or the outcome of my pitches and projects, but I can control how I spend my time. Rituals and habits are the building blocks of my day. I do the Writers’ Hour with London Writer’s Salon and a walk/run. I thought having a routine and doing the same things every day would stifle my creativity but I think you can boost creativity through constraints – as long as they are the right ones that make you happy (for me, that’s working remotely and being around for Julieta, and having a studio space I love).
The challenge is to stop thinking I can be happy by being busy. Trying to do too much leads to time poverty, which means I don’t get joy from anything. So, being mindful about how I’m working and creating little moments of joy to boost my energy and bringing that to others. Yesterday, I told a friend I love her to bits and I’m happy she’s in my life. It made me feel great (and her too). I need to do this more often, as well as writing down the things I’m grateful for.
What’s the secret to happiness? After looking at thousands of studies Arthur C Brooks, author of How to Build A Life concludes enduring happiness comes from human relationships, productive work, and the transcendental elements of life.
Make a list of the attachments in your life you need to discard. Then make a plan to do just that. The fewer wants there are searching inside your brain and dividing your attention, the more peace and satisfaction will be left for what you already have.
I’m getting rid of stuff that doesn’t bring me joy.
Enjoy this issue 🙂
Tools for thought
😍Wellcome Collection’s On Happiness, a season of free events, activities and two exhibitions: Joy and Tranquility – bringing together voices from across cultural, scientific and spiritual fields to reflect on happiness. All very timely – how do we rebuild happiness for our current times?
🎞Short of the Week: Steve Cutt’s Happiness. The story of a rodent’s quest for happiness and fulfilment through the tropes and traps of modern society. The dehumanising effects of capitalism and consumer culture. Surely his best film to date 🙂 Soooo much juicy detail in the background.
🧠Ness Labs – Build a lab for your mind with neuroscience-based content and conversations. How to practice unbounded learning, self-education, a library of content, a weekly book club – expand your antilibrary. Co-working sessions and meetups with a brilliant community.
📕Sarah Hawley’s biggest project to date is Growmotely, an all-in-one global platform for remote hiring. Brilliant podcast: Conscious Culture – The Evolving Future of Work. ‘We’re just warming up so I imagine it’s going to get juicier and juicier!’ I’m also enjoying her new book: Conscious Leadership – A Journey From Ego to Heart.
Have a great weekend 🌈
The future of work is now
Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter about humans, technology and wellness. Rethinking how we live, work and play. Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️
To offset the carbon emissions of this newsletter and my online work, I plant 12 trees every month via Ecologi. I encourage you to do the same in your country – here’s a list of climate action groups 🌍
Weekly curated tools for thought and ideas to share ✍️
I signed up to 1729.com this week, the first newsletter that pays you. Daily bitcoin bounties for completing paid tasks and tutorials with $1000+ in crypto prizes every day. It’s also a platform for distributing a new free book app called The Network State.
Earn crypto, learn new skills and join a community of tech progressives. ‘That means people who are into cryptocurrencies, startup cities, mathematics, transhumanism, space travel, reversing ageing (bring it on!), and initially-crazy-seeming-but-technologically-feasible ideas,’ says the founder, Balaji – see his past work here. You can subscribe for updates and follow @oneseventwonine on Twitter.
Truth, health and wealth
Here’s how it differs from a regular newsletter or website. Firstly, it has tasks – e.g. the latest is to learn how to make a Discord bot with Replit for $100-$1000 in BTC. The first challenge posted in March was to set up a newsletter for tech progressives at your own domain to incentivise the decentralisation of media. They paid $100 BTC each for the 10 best sites. See the winners here.
Secondly, it has tutorials – bitesize learning with incentives to complete. Thirdly (love this!) a focus on digital healthand the body. Startup culture can lead to burnout as we sacrifice health for business. This is false economy ‘because missing daily workouts is a physical debt that’s even harder to pay than technical debt, and fitness is as good for cognition as it is for health.’ So you can submit a proof-of-workout to earn a little crypto. Stay fit today and contribute to age reversal tomorrow.
Fourth, it’s international and Indian to show how you build a global operation from an Indian base and expand to the rest of the world. Much as Silicon Valley started as ‘American’ and is now in the Cloud. They’ve named the project 1729 after Ramanujan, India’s greatest mathematician known for his contribution to number theory which underpins crypto. So exploring how we can use technology to help talent rise in developing countries around the world as Ramanujan did.
It’s a global talent search to invest in diverse, unreported voices around the world. Enabling anyone with an internet connection to improve their knowledge and bank account through paid microtasks. Learning, earning and burning.
I like the ethos – earning recordable crypto credentials for completing and creating tasks, open-source education, and bootstrapping talent around the world. Balaji says he uses Twitter to hire people as you get a sense of their values and potential from their online content.
Imagine if we applied this process to job boards – rather than stating your skills, education or interest, you could prove it by gaining badges or rewards for mini tasks completed on a site. So you could log in and start working immediately. There’s also a focus on quality content – the tasks require some thought, time and writing skill – raising the value of online content to be on par with design.
Finally, building a ☁️ 👋 Cloud Community – a network of tech progressives interested in exploring things like startup cities, online communities, organising economies around remote work, enforcing laws with smart contracts, and simulating architecture in VR. A global, mobile social network with ‘digital bylaws, crowdfunding capability, a track record of collective bargaining on behalf of its members, and a numerically quantifiable level of social capital’.
It’s a step up from the organic online communities like subreddits and Facebook groups forming for the last 20 years. More on that here.
It’s the most exciting media project I’ve come across lately. I love the ambition and focus on giving you content that strengthens rather than depletes you (clickbait, social media where there’s no reward for your posts, likes and shares). They’ve allocated enough money to fund a full year of daily tasks, and the goal is to build a scalable business and find individuals and companies that want to post sponsored projects for the community.
Here’s Tim Ferris’ interview with Balaji about the project. It’s by far the longest podcast I’ve listened to (almost four hours!) but worth it. A deep dive into the future of media, founding vs inheriting (‘own a media company or be owned by one), podcasting, citizen journalism vs corporate journalism, and how the media scripts human beings. ‘If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings, even in ways we don’t fully appreciate.’ His point is that once we’re equal on distribution (a decentralised media), we can speak to each other as peers.
I agree that journalism’s greatest blind spot is it draws from a limited pool of people with a similar background and class who can’t see the perspectives of people who aren’t like them, and it drives out people who don’t fit in. Is the answer radical decentralisation of media? Citizen journalism instead of corporate journalism – the notion that ‘everybody writes’ – drawing on local expertise, e.g. nurses writing about nursing, and writing as a duty rather than for-profit. But we’ll still need editors and proofreaders.
I want to build up those citizen journalists, those content creators. Second, I want to invest in a cumulative form of education, open-source education, where these folks are doing tutorials. So that people get paid for creating educational tasks others can do. Bootstrapping talent all over the world. Anywhere there’s a phone, there’s a job.
It’s the digital native solution to education.
Other ideas – if you want financial independence, you need to radically reduce your expenses. ‘Check Nomadlist or Teleport, do a spreadsheet and optimise your personal runway.’ (not easy for families to do this, but not impossible) – check out Reddit groups like r/leanfire and r/FIREUK (financial independence, retire early). Find a remote job that pays well and move to a cheaper location to stop the burn and save money over time, i.e. so you can work for a year and then take time out to pursue other things.
How we’re going back to a hunter/gatherer way of life, but with technology. Relocation and digital nomadism will be huge – taking over from traditional tourism for long-term economic migration.
The best quality of life will actually be available to the digital nomad who has a minimum number of possessions, can pick up and move stakes at any point because mobility is leveraged against a state.
New politics will form, and ways of self-governance that are network-based rather than state-based. How the virtual world dominates our lives, and the physical world comes second – something we’ve had a glimpse of over the last year with Covid, though not for everyone. Lots of emphasis on our virtual lives here, but we can’t underestimate the physical world. I understand the appeal of Miami as a startup city. We’re social beings and want to be around and work with like-minded peers.
If you’re constantly on the move as a nomad, you’ll struggle to maintain relationships and build community. And what about people getting left behind with technology?
Super interesting chat with lots of positive takeaways about building and shaping the future with a global vision, which he’s also exploring in his book. By changing the media narrative around big tech as evil and seeing technology as a force for good, we can work together across borders to solve problems. And all this work means A LOT of content creation – writing, podcasts, video so opportunities for creators everywhere to learn, earn and burn 💪
I’m excited to see where this goes – here’s to our decentralised and interconnected future.
It’s time we started funding community founders as well as company founders.
🏙 The Network State – the Start of Startup Cities. Miami demonstrates that the era of startup cities is now underway. It was the first city to buy Bitcoin and put a BTC whitepaper on Miami.gov. What mayor Suarez has done is being studied by cities around the world.
Weekly curated tools + resources for writers – thinkers, makers and builders ✍️
I set myself a goal at the beginning of the first lockdown to do 100 days of fitness and get out every day for a walk or run. I paid for the Peloton app, bought new running shoes and set my goals on Twitter. I’ve been on a gluten-free diet for a couple of years to help reduce inflammation in my body. I’ve prioritised my physical health and made exercise a daily habit, and I feel much better for it.
But I can’t say the same about my content diet. I’m not addicted to working, but I have an information addiction – a thirst for knowledge and curiosity about what I don’t know. I like learning new skills, going down internet rabbit holes, discovering online communities and parallel universes. I spend most of the day on my laptop and justify it as necessary as I run an online business and do social media and content for clients. It’s my job to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the world.
I’m happy to put the hours in as I love working for myself and building digital products that scale – working towards my end goal of financial freedom. I also love the internet and enjoy working with cool people 🙂
‘I’m just pottering in the garden’ has become ‘I’m just pottering online’. I actually said that to my sister last night 😳
The downside of knowledge work and all this scrolling is the feeling that I’m never done. The treadmill never stops. It leaves me with low-level anxiety – have I done enough research on this topic to publish it? Could I have tackled that situation in a different way? It can leave you feeling drained even though you might not have much work to show for it (internet browser history aside!) There’s also homeworkers’ bum🔻 and mouse arm syndrome – I asked Siri to scroll a website for me this morning, but she didn’t understand. And with smartphones, work is in your pocket.
The information superhighway – we’ve never been so connected, but the irony is there’s not that much information out there on how to manage all this information.
Grow a bigger brain and have better thinking
Polina Palinova wrote a brilliant piece last year on how to improve your content diet and says, ‘what you eat is who you are, what you read is who you become’. We spend a lot of time talking about food and celebrity chefs but far less about our information diet. She quotes NYT columnist David Brooks and his ‘theory of the maximum taste’ – the idea that your mind is defined by its upper limit – the best content it consumes and that exposure to genius has the power to expand your consciousness. You’ll grow a better brain and sharpen your thinking.
You’re not the average of the FIVE people you surround with. It’s way bigger than that. You’re the average of all the people who surround you. So take a look around and make sure you’re in the right surroundings – David Burkus.
So, the first step…
1/ A content audit – where and how am I consuming content?
Some digital gardening required.
Gmail inbox – I’ve spent hours pruning it, but it’s now back up to almost 3k emails
Social media feeds – Twitter, Clubhouse, LinkedIn, and YouTube are my main channels. Also: Reddit, Indie Hackers, Product Hunt
Newsletters – direct to my inbox and via Substack Reader
Podcasts/music/film – Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Netflix, iPlayer
Slack/Discord communities – many! Bookmarked on my laptop
iPhone – notifications are off, but I’m usually connected
2/ Setting goals
It’s not about doing a digital detox but having a better balance and a higher quality information diet. I want to read more long-form content, books, newsletters, podcasts and spend less time scrolling news feeds and Twitter – not a relaxing user experience.
3/ Paying attention to my habits and how I’m feeling
I walked to work in a cafe this week, had a massage at lunchtime, and bought a magazine, which gave me a lift. What I miss about newspapers is the feeling that you’re done – there’s nothing more to read until the next issue. I’ve printed out all my UX coursework to relax and read offline (all course material needs a print button). I’m also craving podcasts which I listen to when I’m walking. This tells me my information diet needs some work.
4/ Using Mailbrew
I’ve been experimenting with Mailbrew this week. Tagline: Like RSS but better. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while – Feedly is great for RSS; Substack Reader and Stoop for newsletter curation, but the UX is a bit fiddly. Mailbrew is a pleasure to use – a simple interface and easily customisable. It’s like building your own digital newspaper. I can put all my feeds in one place – calendar, RSS, newsletters, tweets from people I follow or Twitter lists – and read it as a daily digest in my inbox at 9 am. I also like how the emails are numbered, Digest #2.
I’m not the only one who’s excited about this product. David Heinemeier Hansson, the founder of Basecamp says he’s leaving Twitter to use Mailbrew. But then he’s using Twitter as a content feed more than for social interaction.
Of course, it’s an artificial construct – I can jump online at any time if I want to be social which is what ‘social’ media is for after all, but let’s see if it recreates the sense of finishing and gives me back more time and control.
Thinking about UX, I’m trying to design my day and curate my environment for better ideas and creative thinking. To be more intentional with my time and habits, and use the internet as a tool more than entertainment – hard when you’re using the same devices for both. Roll on the tiny inbox – from 🍕 to 🍉 and a sharper 🧠
A friend ditched her iPhone for a Doro flip phone – she loves the simplicity and accessibility of the design, and the satisfying snap – DONE. She said she feels more relaxed during the day. In his book Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport talks about an underground movement of executives that use dumbphones like the Doro. For the most part, in finance, i.e. hedge fund managers are moving millions of dollars in high trades every day. Hence, it helps to shield yourself from distractions of market information that could bias decisions and cost money.
Not ready to give up my iPhone, but I can see the benefits of switching between the two or using separate devices for work.
I’m also going to buy a wall planner and stick work and personal goals on it so they’re visible – something Steph Smith talked about last week which made me think. We’re great at creating to-do lists for work, but how often do we track our personal goals?
How are you going to improve your content diet this year?
🍉 How to go on an information diet(Ness Labs). This is the first time in history that humans have been exposed to such a constant flow of information and our brains can’t cope with it. Simple ways to deal with overconsumption based on the Michael Pollan Diet: ‘Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants’. For information: ‘Seek. Not too much. Mostly facts.’
📬 How to improve your content diet in 2021(The Profile). One of the biggest discoveries I’ve made in the last few years is simple but overlooked: What you eat is who you are, and what you read is who you become.
📚 The Information Diet(Clay Johnson) on the role information has played throughout history. How to stay smart, productive, and sane. He managed the online part of President Barack Obama’s first campaign for the White House.
Let’s build it. The Shift is a newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creative independents, remote working, growth, and technology. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends or on social media.
Ever heard of geriatric millennials? This Medium article explaining the term went viral last week and hit the headlines. It says kids born between 1980-85 are ‘best positioned to lead teams that will thrive in the hybrid workplace’. They spent their formative years on both sides of the analogue and digital divide, and have a crucial role in helping bridge the gap between ‘digital adaptors’ and ‘digital natives’.
There was internet outrage – we like to fight about labels. Some people had fun with it, adding #geratricmillennial to their handle and asking about discounts. Others were offended by the term and suggested a name change. Can we have a sexier name? How about Elder Millennials or Xennials? I find that a bit sad. If we don’t like the term geriatric, we need to rethink how we view older people.
Of course, labels are silly – a marketing ploy to put us in boxes and sell us stuff, but the argument she’s making is right. ‘The speed of technological adoption makes it wrong to see an entire generation (spanning almost a 20-year difference) as being the same.’ Geriatric Millennials straddle the digital-adapter-native divide and are often able to live in two worlds – they are comfortable with both communication styles.
Age plays a partial role. We’re individuals – there are ‘Millennials’ who hate Zoom and love their phones and ‘Gen Xers’ like me who don’t answer calls and prefer texting and Slack. It shows the benefits of having a diverse team – we can all learn from each other.
Anyway, great PR by Erica Dhawan, who wrote the article to promote her new book, Digital Body Language. She used a provocative term to spark conversation, identifies as a geriatric millennial and explains why they’re great.
Erica spent over 10 years investigating, researching and finding new ways to encourage collaboration and communication at work. She grew up as an immigrant in America – caught between two cultures, and says we’re all digital immigrants now. She wanted to write ‘a nuts and bolts rulebook for clear communication in the digital age. Our shiny new tools are causing issues, and most of us speak badly in this world.’
I’ve been listening to the audiobook – lots of funny stories, anecdotes and practical advice, and it’s made me think about my digital behaviour. I think I’m doing my colleagues a favour with my short and snappy emails, but maybe they’re perceived as cold and distant. I still have an urge to multitask while on Zoom. Does it look like I’ve checked out when I look down at my phone during meetings or when I turn the camera off? ‘You’re a black square in the corner…’
I had a boss who told me off via email for not responding to my colleagues’ emails. I thought about it for a bit and wrote back in my defence i.e. of course, I’ll reply, there are lots of emails flying back and forth, I can’t work out of my inbox, I wouldn’t get any work done etc. I signed off with NNR – no need to reply (one of Erica’s recommendations) which went down like a lead balloon. I got an email back saying ‘I’m not going to respond to that.’ Cultural differences 😉
Great tips on how to model digital body language for your teams, inclusive language, digital empathy, how to enhance customer experience through words, gender differences in language, and emoji as the universal language. Her top tips? We need to slow down, assume the best intentions from people, think about how we make them feel, and put ourselves in their shoes.
And a great lesson in resilience. Publishers told her the book was too niche, but its time has come – it was #3 on the WSJ Bestseller list 👏
As Seth Godin says, it’s a salve for exhausted Zoomers.
We write the talk, not talk the talk in 2021
Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture says the way you write your emails can make or break your career. The best investment you can make is to develop one overlooked skill: written communication.
What’s the greatest advice I give? Develop excellent communication skills. Both in-person and in writing, such as when using email.
An employee, even a very junior person, if they can articulately summarize a meeting, if they can put together a presentation and even emails that are really salient and to the point, they are so valued.
Even more relevant given face to face communication is on the decline, remote work on the rise, and we’re spending more time alone, staring at our screens.
Mildly terrifying to think about how traditional body language is being shaped by our digital body language. What digital behaviours will we carry over in this new hybrid world? Will we be speaking in bullet points? Avoiding eye contact and sitting two metres apart in meetings? It’s a new frontier!
A bit sad to read that unscheduled calls are perceived as intrusive and ‘as far as booking sales meetings were concerned, it seemed that the strategy with the least human interaction [setting up meetings via Calendly] delivered the most success.’ Where does this leave us? Loneliness is an epidemic and we have an empathy crisis. A YouGov poll found 30% of millennials said they always or often feel lonely, compared to 20% of Generation X and just 15% of baby boomers. It doesn’t ask why – but previous studies show social media and internet addiction play a part.
A phone call is worth a thousand emails – and it’s becoming an obsolete art! We need a new ad campaign. As Bob Hoskins said, it’s good to talk.
👋 The Zoom wave
I can’t resist the urge to wave at the end of Zoom calls – glad to see I’m not alone. ‘I have never felt the need to wave in person,’ Kennedy, 36, the chief communications and marketing officer for the city of Olathe, Kansas, said. ‘What am I doing?’ Apparently, it’s a good thing. I’m not socially inept.
Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please share it with friends.
Here’s to the new smart villages in Italy.🍷 🇮🇹 A number of towns have launched travel incentives – and will pay you to work from there.
Santa Fiora in Tuscany (the city of water and music) and Rieti in Lazio are both offering to cover up to 50% of your rent if you stay between two and six months as a remote worker.
Local rents are pretty cheap – €300-500 per month, so you could be paying around €150 a month to rent a cosy cottage or apartment in a beautiful village this summer.
Santa Fiora’s mayor, Federico Baloccchi, told CNN:
It’s not targeted at occasional touch-and-go tourists, but people who really want to experiment with our village life.
The goal is to incentivise people to move in and virtually work from here. We want Santa Fiora to become their flexible office.
It’s part of a 10-year development plan to revitalise rural areas which ‘is now more like 10 days [thanks to Covid] so we’re getting on with it.’ Phase one focuses on connectivity and tech and getting workers and firms in – to capitalise on the trend of people wanting space and moving out of urban centres.
And if you fall in love and decide to invest in tourism there, they’ll give you up to €30,000 to open a B&B, hostel or hotel.
I asked about eligibility for freelancers, age/earnings cap etc and ‘it is open to anyone in possession of a smart work job’. Pensioners welcome 😉 as long as you can show you’re working as an online consultant or indie contractor.
A great way to dip your toe in the water and test out Smart Village life.
Thailand→ Looking to overhaul its Smart Visa to allow digital nomads to remain in the Kingdom for up to four years without a work permit.
Interesting huh. Many more nations will follow suit and compete for citizens as Japanese technologist Tsugio Makimotopredicted 20 years ago – and he digs into the microelectronics and products that enable nomadism.
Can you still buy a house in Italy for €1?
Technically, yes – but the houses are put to auction where people can bid on them. Some sell for €1, the average €5,000 – & then you have to pay for the renovations (say €20,000) within three years.
Rubia Daniels was one of the first to buy a bargain-priced house in Mussomeli, Sicily, in 2019 and bought two more for her children. So far, she’s helped 20 people buy homes out there and hopes to take another group in June. She didn’t intend to buy that many houses, but ‘it’s how the people make you feel that makes you say, ok, I’ll buy three.’
Already 100 people have bought a house, what are you waiting for? – Case1euro.it
Not for the faint-hearted but a hugely rewarding project – an investment in yourself, your family, and a new business opportunity (and I’ve seen €1 houses in France and Croatia too).
London Writers’ Salon: The future of newsletters & publishing w/Substack’s Hamish McKenzie →
London Writers’ Salon spoke to Hamish McKenzie about his writing, the future of journalism and being co-founder of a tech startup, Substack.
Great brain food 🧠 Raw, revealing and honest – he’s no tech bro. Appreciate his vulnerability on his burnout at Tesla – engineers picking over his work, his confidence took a hit and it took him a while to come back. On the stresses of being a founder, which he describes as ‘psychological torture’. The Substack soap opera rolls on – their employees have had online abuse.
He comes across as someone who cares deeply about the future of writing and wants to create a thriving ecosystem for media based on a trusted relationship between reader & writer – rather than clickbait.
Substack is here to give the media ecosystem more options, not replace it.
He looked exhausted (it was 6 am in Wellington) and needs a break. I wanted to give him a big hug! So 👏 to Matt and Parul for a sensitive interview and giving him space to relax and open up. Refreshing for him to be asked about his writing journey and challenges rather than how to support everyone else’s.
On what writers can learn from startup culture
Put something out there, get feedback, tweak, adjust, don’t give up! Nothing important is ever easy or worth doing – stay focused.
It’s not self-promotion but giving yourself a promotion. Find the joy in marketing. You can’t be of service to this world if people don’t know you exist.
🔥People & Company is joining the Substack team to work on community upstart efforts for writers in its network. Spark the flame, stoke the fire, and pass the torch.
Let’s build it. The Shift is a weekly newsletter celebrating writing, good design, creativity, flexible working, growth, travel, and online communities. If you enjoy the content, please like it and share with friends. Thanks for reading!
What are they – why you need them + how they’ll help your business.
Building Backlinks to Your Site
Google has over 200 factors that determine your site ranking and number one is backlinks.
What is a backlink?
If you dabble in the world of marketing or web design, it’s a phrase you’ll hear bandied around a lot when talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). A backlink is a link from one website to another. Like a ‘vote’ for a page, it tells Google the content is valuable and useful. Backlinks are the basis of Google’s PageRank algorithm.
The more Backlinks you have, the higher you’ll rank on Google.
Link building is an art and science, creative and analytical. It involves detective work, psychology, tech tools, and relationship building. It’s good fun! And it helps you build relationships with other business owners, and establish yourself as a trusted expert in your niche, so that people come to you for content and quotes.
Quality over Quantity
Google considers the quality of the link to be more important than quantity. For example, Sky News linking to your site would be a higher quality link than your local free newspaper. However, algorithms also consider how relevant the links are. If your links are coming from unrelated sites or pages, they will be regarded as poor-quality links. So be strategic in your outreach and target sites in your niche.
Backlinks need to Grow Organically
This means you can’t go on a backlink mission paying people to link to your site! This goes against Google’s quality guidelines, and you could be penalised. Google likes to see the links occurring over time are relative and preferably come from trusted sites with high Domain Authority. (Domain Authority works on a scale of 0-100 with 40+ considered good, 60+ excellent.) The highest score is 100 – sites like Google, Facebook, and YouTube. The more authority a site has, the more it can pass on to your site via a backlink.
How do you check Domain Authority? Use Moz’ free Domain SEO Analysis Tool to see your DA, top pages, ranking, keywords and more. Ahrefs has a Domain Ranking score which looks at the quality of external backlinks to a site, a Website Authority Checker so you can see your backlink profile (free 7-day trial for $7 if you want to see all the backlinks).
Create a spreadsheet and get this information down!
The only way to increase your website authority is to get more high-quality links to your site. 👇
8 ways to get Backlinks in 2021
1. Roundup posts
Send an email to some thought leaders in your space. Tell them you’re writing a blog and would love to include their feedback on a specific question/issue and that you will reference them, their website, and social profiles. Once you’ve published the post, let them know and ask them to share it on their websites and social channels. This will generate more traffic for your site and increase reach, giving a higher probability that someone will link back to your siteMake sure you’re following them and interacting on social media first – so you’re not pitching cold!
2. Link roundups
A link roundup is a daily, weekly, or monthly blog post that curates and links to great content online. Go to Google and type in “[Your keyword]” + “roundup” and see what results come up. Once you’ve found a roundup that seems like a good fit for your brand/content, send them an email. Here’s an example of what to say:
Hi [Site owner name]
I just came across your [Roundup name] today. Great stuff.
I’m reaching out because I recently published a [Content description] that might be a good fit for the site [Your URL or blog post link here].
Either way, thanks for your time, and it would be great if you’d consider me for future roundups!
Thank you 😊
[Your first name]
[Pro email signature that links to all your profiles] so they know it’s not spam.
Remember, you are writing to a human. Personalise every email you send and gently suggest they include your linkable asset in the roundup, and if it’s a good fit, they may also share it on social.
3. Broken link building
This is a good strategy as you’re adding value to someone’s site by correcting a broken link and offering a resource. Focus on resource pages in your niche and try and find some with recent 404 errors. So, if you work in the fitness industry, Google “Fitness” + “Resource page”, “Fitness” + “Resources” or “Fitness” + “links” and see what comes up.
Add the check my links Google Chrome extension to find broken links. Then contact the site owner and let them about the broken link and that you’ve written a post on this content – feel free to use it on your resource page.
4. Loot your competitors’ backlinks
Use Moz Pro or Ahrefs Site Explorer (free trial) to research your competitors and monitor your niche. Find out where their links are coming from and start pitching to the same outlets. (FYI, podcasts are a brilliant source of quality backlinks and free therapy). Also, look for sites that list your competitors but not you and ask them nicely for a link – send them a useful resource.
5. Write testimonials for products/services you use
This can help you to earn a link from an authoritative website. If you’re using a product or service you love, send them a testimonial. They may add a link to your website without you asking.
6. Link reclamation
Try Ahrefs Content Explorer tool, Buzzsumo, SEMrush or Mention.com (all offer free trials). Google Alerts or Advanced Search is free (search using “[Your keyword]” and other nifty search strings, but it will take longer, and it’s hard to export data.
You can do the same with unlinked images, e.g. infographics or products. Use Google’s reverse image search and upload an image you think may be used online. Contact the site owner and ask them to credit you and link back.
Get into the habit of doing this quarterly – it’s good to monitor online conversations about your company. No doubt you’ll find loads of results, so prioritise the most authoritative sites.
7. Create linkable assets
Content is king! The best way to create organic backlinks is to create great content people want to link to consistently. So, blogs, videos, whitepapers, infographics, how-to guides, software, quizzes, and surveys. To help generate ideas, check out sites like Answer the Public and Google’s ‘People also ask’ to find what people are searching for information on. Then create quality content that solves their problem.
You can also pitch guest posts to blogs in your niche. Search “[Keyword]” + “guest post” or “[Keyword]” + “Write for us”, and you will find a list of sites with opportunities to pitch.
8. Become a trusted source for journalists, bloggers, and influencers
Sign up for HARO (Help a Reporter Out) – a site that connects journalists seeking expertise for their content with sources with that expertise. Sign up as a source and look out for requests alerts for your industry. Pitch helpful information and your credentials, and hopefully, they will use you again. HARO a US site but now has UK categories. Also, check out #JournoRequest on Twitter and ResponseSource for UK focused markets.
Business is about human connection. Develop authentic relationships with people in your industry and become a trusted go-to source of information and you will organically get more backlinks. It’s great to have a support network to bounce ideas around, help each other out, and collaborate on projects and campaigns.
Happy link building!
To recap, link building is the most crucial part of your marketing/SEO. Use these strategies to help you find link opportunities, grow your authority, and you will see a steady improvement in your Google PageRank over time.
Remember to keep notes to track your progress. 🤗
Which link building strategy will you try first? Please post a comment and let us know what’s working for you. No time for backlinks? Give us a call, and let’s chat!
Great insights into the future of work from Annie Auerbach, founder of Starling trends agency and author of FLEX – the Modern Woman’s Handbook; designer Thomas Heatherwick and Kevin Ellis, Chairman of PwC.
The office is evolving. It’s becoming a collaborative space for meeting and training. The strange old design briefs that banged on about workers as ‘cogs’ in the system and banged on about efficiency are disappearing. We’re now thinking of emotion as a function. If the five days on/two days off model is reversed, we’ll see more professional promiscuity, which means…
The office needs to work harder, not the people. The quality of experience will need to be higher. I love this: ‘The exciting bit – finally – the place of work needs to be a temple for the values of that organisation, not a gruntwork factory where the onus is put on the front desk.’
How do we make the office extraordinary? Like a shot in the arm delivering the company’s values? Take inspiration from religious buildings and how they engage people’s emotions and provide a nurturing environment.
Creating meeting spaces that bring teams together. Clubhouse has a town hall update every Sunday, which regularly has overflow rooms – if this was a physical space, I’d imagine something like this – the Roman amphitheatre. Togas optional 😉
No one wants to work in an ivory tower. Companies are making changes, encouraging staff to go out for lunch instead of using the staff canteen to support the ecosystem around offices and connect with the community. The flipside is with WFA, you can support your local high street and get to know business owners for half the London price.
Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, calls for flexible working to be normalised – a move that will boost employment in areas away from major cities and help turbocharge opportunities for women – who are twice as likely as men to work flexibly.
All businesses are in a war for talent. Pioneering companies understand the need to ride the wave to get the best talent by giving people choice and flexibility. Great to hear PwC plans to roll out a flexible working policy that will allow its 22,000 UK staff to split their time between home and office. We should extend flexible working to blue-collar workers as well as white-collar.
I said no to an interview for a senior editor role this week as ‘they’re looking for someone to be in the office full time.’ So they will be hiring someone who can afford to live in London or commute in easily. I said I’ve been remote working for years as a single parent with a disability living outside London. What is the point of commuting to an office five days a week? I’d be too knackered to give them my best.
And good to hear Tony Blair (with his fab new hair – Brad Pitt or Gandalf?) talking about how we can move forward by working together. Covid isn’t ending – we’re in a new world and have to prepare for it. We need to use aid to quickly vaccinate the globe so countries aren’t isolated, and improve our cloud-based genome databases.
Tech is a huge opportunity
I disagree with what he said about remote working as a problem for new starters – we don’t need to be in the same room to learn – tech makes it possible to have many mentors virtually, and we can learn faster. Sharing confidential information online can be a challenge, but we have encryption and old school phone calls!
The business and tech event is on 12 May, exploring how the pandemic has impacted women and how technology can help us set better digital boundaries. I’m looking forward to hearing from Nicola Mendelson, VP EMEA Facebook and mum of four, on her challenges; Facebook’s research on how small businesses have been affected by the pandemic, and an insider view on the future of AR/VR – Facebook’s upcoming new smart glasses.
The recurring theme at all the events I’ve been to lately is on building NEW, not building back better. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent how we live and work, so let’s not waste it. London should be shouting from the rooftops, loud & proud that it’s open for business with jobs and career opportunities for all.
Make flexible working a right from day one and build the kind of place where people want to work. Then we won’t need to talk about flex working anymore 😉
Interesting to see how things are going in Sydney – they’re a bit further along. Labor’s new policy would force companies to publicly release gender pay gap data to help close the gap.
Sector-themed events are convenient but they keep us in a box. It would be brilliant to see more cross-industry events like Creative Women, bringing people together from different sectors to network, brainstorm and help each other. More diverse experiences and perspectives can boost creativity and help with problem-solving.
Get ready for the new workplace perks. Out go gyms and free meals, in come gong baths and financial advice. It will be interesting to see how big tech companies adapt their giant campuses if more people choose to work remote.
How we can use Design Thinking to solve journalistic problems.
I’ve been to a few journalism events this week on the industry’s future and what needs to change.
NUJ Racism and the Media special meeting, Freelance Industrial Council, and the #buildbackwellDEN Spring ’21 meeting.
Common themes: Digital transformation, reinvention, diversity, resilience, burnout and mental health.
There was a backlash to the Society of Editors’ bizarre statement denying press racism in the UK. Press Gazette did a survey which shows there’s still much work to do. NUJ Black Members’ Council made a statement about what we can learn from the Meghan Markle race debate saying how the industry should have used the comments made by Meghan and Harry to start a long-overdue debate about the best way to prevent racist coverage.
Lack of diversity in newsrooms was the biggest issue flagged. It’s not so much a problem with recruitment, but retention – if the work culture isn’t diverse and welcoming, people won’t hang around. Depressing to hear stories of endemic racism in our media corporations and comments like: ‘Sometimes the only way to break out [of the box you’re put in] is to leave and come back in through another door.’
Look out for the full report on londonfreelance.org.
Do freelance rates discriminate?
We have some new data on gender, ethnicity and rates. Thanks to the #FreelancerPayGap initiative LFB has added over 1,000 Rates for the Job with info on ethnicity as well as gender. We have a gender pay gap and an ethnic pay gap. In this data set, women are getting less than men and people who don’t identify as ‘white’ are getting less than those who do.
More than 70 colleagues from across 12 time zones came to the DEN event – a 90-minute, interactive discussion on how we can build back well. It focused on three areas: PEOPLE, PROCESS and PRODUCT.
The aim is to co-create an agenda to take back to decision-makers so it’s not just a talking shop (there’s a working document).
Excellent speakers and breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas.
The Chatham House Rule means I can share information about the discussion but not identify anyone or attribute quotes. This is so people can speak freely.
– Flying the flag for freelancers. The fastest-growing sector of the industry. Will we all burn out? Is that where this is heading? Is there any research on freelancers and burnout, and where do we go?
– No more siloed working. Newsrooms and publications need to build a better relationship with freelancers and be more inclusive. Freelancers need to be paid fairly – more transparency around pay rates.
– We need a database of freelancers showing who’s available, their background and what they can do. To help speed up the commissioning process and encourage collaboration. Databases like this exist within organisations, e.g. the BBC has a portal, but there’s nothing that can be accessed by the wider industry.
– What companies are doing to prevent burnout – training people up on mental health, working on user-generated content, creating intranets about COVID as a resource for staff, and enforcing wellbeing policies.
– How Design Thinking can transform journalism. Never thought I’d hear Design Thinking, empathy and journalism in the same sentence 😉 Exciting! I’m reading a lot about Design Thinking on my UX course – here’s a nice intro.
Newsrooms need to take a more holistic approach with human-centred storytelling and understand what people need before creating a story/product. How much do you know about your readers? Involve them in the creation process.
– Soft skills vs hard skills: The importance of listening and empathy. The emphasis on hard skills in journalism is why I haven’t felt comfortable in it. It’s as though being argumentative, pushy and loud somehow makes you a better journalist. I did some subbing shifts on the nationals a few years ago – no women on the team, a hard-drinking culture and long working hours. A work culture that would exclude many.
Well done, DEN. An inspiring discussion and lots to think about. Feels like I’m heading in the right direction with the UX training – and I can see why I’m attracted to it.
I can combine my UX work with journalism to create better media products.
The vanguard is full of women and more diverse. The rearguard full of white men like me.
This mindset will continue to undermine journalism’s ability to adapt, remake, and renew itself, and the profession as a whole, especially younger journalists, will have to live with the consequences of this conservatism.
Rasmus Kleis Neilson
Go deeper 🛠
World Press Trends Outlook 2021: Digital transformation in the driver’s seat. Nearly 60% of publishers say staff will either WFH or have the option to WFH going forward. Only 5% expect to move everyone back to the office.
Content is Product and Product is Content: Why deeper alignment is the only way forward. Dmitry Shiskin on why it’s time to start treating content and product as one. They are slowly merging into one thing.
The idea that the user experience of the delivered product of most journalism is anywhere near the quality of any of other media is in many cases a delusion of grandeur. 👏
Facebook is Starting a Substack Competitor(Nieman Lab) – Facebook to pay $5 million to local journalists in news push. They’ve pledged to invest $1 billion in the news industry over the next five years. Be interesting to see what happens – Facebook has strong community groups.