Posts Tagged ‘web-based business’

A video production friend of mine (and frequent partner in Las Vegas shenanigans) made the mistake of asking “What are you working on now?” I answered, and thought I would share with you, my Legion of Fan:

  • Consumer electronics website, point-of-sale, brochures and trade show materials,
  • Real estate website,
  • Social media for a consumer testing firm,
  • Legal Services website,
  • Liquor and spirits press release and article,
  • Mental health practitioner website,
  • Residential and commercial HVAC website,
  • Social media for a home security firm,
  • Producing a video for a certain giant healthcare firm, and a
  • Financial planning website

…all at different stages of development, of course.

I then asked him, “What are YOU working on?” His reply? Editing “Party Sluts Invade Lake Havasu!!” Which is infinitely cooler than all my stuff combined and multiplied by Pi!

So, how’s YOUR two-thousand-eleventy so far?

Contact livelyexchange (at) gmail.com!

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Re-using old Baby New Years: Part of the "new austerity"

January 2011: New Year, new resolution to blog more consistently, blah blah bling bling blah.

Anyway, so far so good in the new all-freelance era of Freelance Copywriter Charleston SC (see what I did there?) The Philips stuff is less prominent but more satisfying, pound for pound, so there’s that.  The healthcare client is undergoing some personnel changes, but I am confident it will find its equilibrium.  My Charlotte web marketing client is hitting the ground running in 20-oh-11, and apparently they aren’t sick of me yet.  I’m doing a couple of web and print projects for a giant Midwestern grocery chain.  A law firm in Columbia SC needs some web copy. A Charleston realtor needs some blogging, a mental health professional needs web content, and so on. My biggest new project has been cooking along for about 4 months now – social media coordination for a marketing website. Nice steady tentpole gig, Praise Be, though the workload and the success of it is a primary reason for my lack of personal blogging lately. What, you mean I have to log out of THEIR WordPress site and log back in to MINE? That reeks of EFFORT!

So, that’s the update. I actually have several ideas for blog posts upcoming, so consider yourself warned! Talk soon!

Please contact livelyexchange (at) gmail.com

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I sat in the editor’s chair, off and on, for about 10 years. It would have taken me just about that long to come up with this: a music video comprised entirely of audio cues from Pulp Fiction. Enjoy!

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Yeah, well, now you know how I feel!

Yeah, well, now you know how I feel!

A while back I mentioned the therapeutic little ritual I perform every so often. I sit and list everything that’s going on at The Exchange, either to assure myself that things aren’t as quiet as they seem or (in the current instance) to try to get a handle on the swirl of projects at their various stages of completion. Right now I am in Swirl mode. So, come. Circle the bowl with me!

Community College web copy. I am rewriting an online course catalog. It’s a modest start, but one that promises to explode later. A nice project because, other than some brochure work for a vocational/college prep high school in Dayton, education is not a niche I have spent much time in. I like it because it speaks of opportunity, hope, growth and other aspirational wonderfulness.

Various web copy, article writing and blog projects for area realtors. Sort of the opposite of opportunity, hope and growth. It’s a nice challenge working in a “down” business. But it can be emotionally draining working with folks who are in various stages of panic about their futures (hey, I should point them to the Community College!) Also tough because they all feel the need to step up their marketing, which is good, but they don’t have any money. I want to be part of the solution, but….

Various websites for clients in:

  • Insurance/benefits/investments,
  • Custom home plans-for-purchase,
  • Home HVAC,
  • Commercial construction,
  • Forensic psychiatry,
  • Commercial cleaning, and
  • Commercial in-building wireless signal enhancement and bridging (which is a thing now, apparently.)

Like I said, a swirl. Next time, we’ll do a “Where Are They Now?” of old projects. Try not to let the anticipation ruin your Labor Day weekend…because that’s Jerry Lewis’ job!*

* Oh, snap!

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Somehow, within the span of my career, the business lunch has gone from being an indispensable part of the commercial transaction to being deader than disco.

Nostalgic? Not so much. Even at the peak of its power (think Don Draper, martinis, call girls, regret) the Client Lunch was a pain in the ass. Neither the client nor the vendor wanted to be there—it was ritual, through and through. And even if the vendor picked up the check, the client knew he would ultimately be paying for it.

As Lunch passed into memory, nobody really missed it. What replaced it was Value (for once.) Instead of packing up the entire project, driving an hour round-trip and laying out the portfolio amid the highball glasses and ashtrays, you could talk it out over the phone and actually get some work done.

So, when my client invited me to lunch to review the project, I was surprised. It had literally been years, but my curiosity got the best of me…sort of like opening a time capsule, or attending 70’s Night to Benefit AIDS Awareness or your softball team.

As I waited in the lobby and “20 Minutes Late” rolled around, the nostalgic charm began to wear off. I predicted the next milestone—the client would eventually roll in without a hint of apology.

And so he did. We were seated, and the waitress handed out the menus. Immediately he sputtered, “Damn! Look at these PRICES! THIS is why I gave up going out to lunch!”

So I ordered the side salad and water. The mindless chitchat began, and I immediately remembered the next business lunch truth: outside the project and the ensuing payment, I just don’t care about your life, dude.

An hour later, the waitress brought the check. Dude made a big gesture out of snapping up the ticket and, before the waitress could leave he said, “I’VE got this!” Then when she was safely out of earshot he said, “Yeah, so…give me seven bucks and we’re even.”

So, to recap: This business lunch Blast from the Past contained no Don Draper, martinis or call girls. However it was loaded with regret—mostly for the 90 minutes of my life I would never get back.

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The phone conference began with an introduction. “Mike, this is Dr. So-and-So. He’s a forensic psychiatrist.” I immediately thought, “Cool, a physician whose area of expertise is the interface between mental health and the law!” Unfortunately, between my brain and my tongue that changed to, “Cool! Just like Hannibal Lecter!”

After an awkward silence, the meeting proceeded without with very little cannibalism as we tried to hammer out the structure of the proposed website. The directive was simple, yet stupefying (for me, anyway): No selling. In a website promoting this gentleman’s services, there must be no selling, no marketing, no hype, no pitch, no comparisons, and no opinions. Right away, you know this site’s gonna sear your face off (and serve it with a nice Chianti.)

It’s example number one-million of a profession where simply saying what it is has been twisted into something negative: expert witness for hire. You’re a lawyer defending someone accused of…something dire. It may help to suggest that your client is not “all there.” (sorry for the legal-ese!) It may be especially helpful if it also happens to be true. So you hire a forensic psychiatrist to review the file, interview the defendant and then testify in court that the defendant is impaired in some way.

And then, as if on cue, the prosecutor will go all Perry Mason on the Doctor’s ass and hammer him with, “Why should we trust you? You’re just a witness for hire! Your website is too sales-y! And it employs flash animation on the home page, which is really weak!” Then the doc turns to the camera, does a facepalm, and moans, “I should have gone to LivelyExchange!”

That’s why it pays to hire the best, kids. And if you can’t get him, call me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put the lotion on my skin, or I get the hose again.

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A while back I stumbled across TweetingTooHard.com, a website that gives people grief for the dumb-ass things they say on Twitter. One tweet (gah! kill me!) caught my attention a few days ago, wherein some LA douche says, “The recession JUST got personal. Found out the value of the home I’m supposed to inherit next year is down by $600k!”

Nice. Unemployment is at 9.5 percent. Everybody I know is taking a pay cut, not working on Friday, and generally soiling themselves week to week wondering how long they will have a job. And for this moron it JUST got personal.

I must admit that I have been doing OK in this downturn. Unlike almost every agency or production house I have ever worked for, my eggs aren’t all in one basket.  I work for several shops that, individually, I know are scrambling every day to pay their leases and their people. But lil ol me? The balance of working for all these shops, with one up, and one down…it seems to even out. In no way is it a banner year for LivelyExchange, but it’s nobody’s banner year.

And then, as much as I hate to be one of those assbags who say “This recession just got personal!” …well, the recession just got personal. By the way, I also hate to be one of those assbags who say, “I hate to one of those assbags who say…”

Anyway, a really nice girl who I knew at the Nazi internment camp web marketing firm last year also Tunneled to Freedom and got a creative management job at a renowned local ad agency. And like a true friend, she started sending me writing gigs: a print ad and a wikipedia article. And things were looking bright. They were small gigs, and I undercharged for them, but I was relationship-building. Who knew where this might lead?

Who am I kidding? We know where this is leading! Last Friday an envelope arrived in the mail and, right away, I knew something was up. This just didn’t feel like a check.  And, by gum, it weren’t. It was a letter full of words like: “difficult decision…no longer able to operate…liquidating assets… unsecured creditors…chapter 7…” and so on. I had a morbid thought: with all of these choice keywords, this was like a perfectly optimized web article about bankruptcy!

But that’s where the laffs ended. I was officially out $170.00, my super-nice friend was out of a job, and somebody’s life work in building an advertising agency was in the crapper.

What’s the upshot in this tale? IS there one? My faith tells me there must be one. Because as much as I hated working at that Soviet gulag web marketing agency, I made solid connections. And I learned certain functions that now make up about a quarter of my income.  So, much good came of a crap situation.  I believe the same to be true in this instance.

But for right now, let me say that if you need a skilled graphic artist or creative services manager, your boy Lively can hook you up. In times like these, we Bataan death march web marketing firm survivors have to stick together. And, as we learned from the Simpsons, stickin’ together is what good waffles do!

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eat the mic. eat it!

eat the mic. eat it!

Interviewing seems to be in the air lately. Not as in “job interviews”–though I had an interesting one last week.  Instead, I am talking about the interview that gets the story for whatever print, web or video project I am working on.

It seems I am doing  one of these discovery interviews every four days or so.  So much so that the trusty Sony microcassette that I swiped fell into my bag at T*y*ta finally gave up the ghost.  I went and bought a sweet little digital number with 30 hours of storage or something.  It’s endless hours of fun scrolling through the chapters looking for that interview with, “you know, that GUY… at the PLACE….with the THING?”

As I have reported before, I have a long history with interviewing. A couple hundred thousand miles, in 100 or so hospitals, offices and nursing homes across this great land of R’s.

It seems that every one of my stories that is a) shocking, b) bizarre, or c) not as funny as I think it is… happened on an interview trip. Such as:

  • The time our cigars set off the fire alarm at the Monteleone in New Orleans.
  • The time in Ontario CA when we were forced to land Donald Rumsfeld-style in the pitch black to find the airport closed, so the night watchman unloaded the passengers 4-at-a-time in a station wagon.
  • The time I asked that nurse in New Jersey what was that interesting perfume she was wearing? She breaks down sobbing: her dead husband’s cologne. Uh, stop tape.
  • And of course, the time we killed Snowball.
Love ya, Aunt Lu!

Love ya, Aunt Lu!

In other interview news, I now have 3 different video production associates in 3 different towns are getting into the Life Stories video thing.  I think the bulk of it is to interview your older relatives and get their stories on tape before they kick. It’s a great idea. I had at least one aunt I would have loved to know more about…(see photo.)

So that’s today’s interview ramble.  The final word goes out to the fellas in the audience. Healthcare interviewing is an odd niche, but it’s a great way to meet nurses. They may not wear makeup, but they also don’t mind when you reach up, down or sideways into their shirt to pin a microphone on them.  If that’s your bag, baby.

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Are you a hyphenated professional? I always considered myself as one. Once upon a time I was a shooter-editor, then a producer-director, a manic-depressive, a writer-producer and, more recently a model-slash-actress.

Lately, though, I have have been reassessing my status. And it’s a funny feeling. My mix of business is exclusively writing these days, for web, print and video. Since the video production for my church tapered off at the beginning of the year my lights, audio gear and non-linear edit system have gone unused. I did manage to make a few bucks renting out some gear. Otherwise, it gathers dust.

So, it’s a time of transition and, as I said, it’s weird. It’s not like I saw video production as my calling or anything–though, after failing out of engineering college, it sure saved my butt. And for the next 15 years, for better or worse, video was it, man.

As for the big transition away from video and toward writing, I believe I may have stayed in one place too long. I got a little restless.  I remember writing in the ITVA newsletter:

“After shooting my 10,000th hospital bed video, I began to notice subtle but alarming changes in my personality; things like strange apocalyptic visions and voting Republican. The aneurysm was the final straw–I knew I had to shake things up, to break my routine. Nowadays, when I show a nurse demonstrating, oh I don’t know, the foot brake function of a bed, I’ll shoot the wide shot as I normally would. But when I go in for the close up, I have her wear a different color of socks. Sometimes I’ll even use a dude’s foot–or maybe his hand. Believe me, it helps relieve the stress during those long re-edit sessions. Eventually I’ll be fired, and I won’t have to shoot hospital beds any more. Talk about a change of pace!”

Yeah, so, I got out of that, tried poverty for a while and then slowly built up the writing biz.  Now, instead of stultifying sameness I have a dizzying variety of work. And I do mean dizzying. More than once I have written to Jimmy at ABC Web Design with a project update—when I really meant to write Jerry at XYZ Web Design. Oh, and Jimmy and Jerry are blood enemies. Hilarity ensued.

But overall, no complaints. Not too bad for July 3rd, my forty-(coughs, muffles voice) birthday. 

Anyway, sorry if this post is 5% more rambling and incoherent than usual. I’m off to the beach! Happy Birthday America. And me!

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What defines a “longstanding” business relationship? And, what is it before it officially becomes longstanding…is it merely standing?

Obviously, defining a long-standing relationship in the web marketing business is a subjective thing. However, a year seems quite a while… especially when you work with the speed and efficiency of Revenflo.

Previously (and repeatedly)  lauded as “hardcore Web 2.0 perpetrators who get all up in yo’ strategery and whatnot,” Revenflo is located in the Charlotte exurb of Rock Hill SC. They provide expert web solutions to midsize and small businesses of all stripes. Services include:

  • Web Team: Consultants, Designers, Developers, Writers (that’s ME!) and SEO jockeys.
  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Design, Build, Customize, Implement and maintain Open Source CMS websites.
  • Leads Management: Manage web traffic and lead generation systems.

I have to say, one of my favorite things about working with these guys is that I am always is as close to the ground floor as the project allows.  I work with a few shops that closely guard the client contact, do all of the discovery behind closed doors, then toss the raw material over the transom* and tell me to figure it out.  So, my raw info is stale and any questions I have for the client must be filtered through the shop. Time-consuming and definitely NOT value added.

Well, Revenflo doesn’t do it that way.  My Revenflo info is so fresh it’s…it’s APRIL fresh! Sometimes I just hold it up to my face and take deep breaths! But first I unplug the phone…that’s ME time.

Anyway, it just so happens that the thing that I like most about working with Revenflo (the freshness thing, pay attention) is also something that adds real value to the client.

So, it’s been a very productive year, with more projects and satisfied clients than I can count because I just woke up. But thanks for having me guys. Let’s keep adding that value-added value!

Transom: Architectural reference. Obscure? Yes. Descriptive? You bet. Particularly funny? No.

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