Bringing a semblance of order to the freelance lifestyle

I am sometimes asked how I juggle all my different projects, or how I manage to pump out a weekly newsletter so consistently. To be honest it’s often fueled by passion. Things happen because I’m excited by them. You wouldn’t catch me studying accounting with the same fervour. But there is a limit to how far passion gets me. Every so often I end up spinning too many plates at once. Recently the plates were stacking up, so I sat down and assessed where I was spending my time. It ended up being hugely valuable so I thought I’d share.

Step one: list all your projects
I’ve gone ahead and called everything in my life a “project” regardless of whether it’s personal or professional. Father time doesn’t differentiate either. Some of the projects are time spent with friends and my partner. Some are projects like this newsletter.

Step two: allocate hours to each project
I listed the hours I would ideally put into each project in a week and found to do my current commitments justice I would need 119 hours! Assuming I had around 70 hours to “spend” a week, that meant I was 70% over capacity. Knowing that was honestly liberating. I figrued, “Wow I shouldn’t feel bad that my output is sporadic. I should be amazed that I’m getting anything done.”

Step three: interegate the nature of each project
Then I classified each project with a number of tags:

1)

Must Do (a non-negotiable part of my week)
vs
Can Do (anything I can ‘pause’ if need be)

2)

Finite (a project with a foreseeable end e.g. a zine I want to publish)
vs
Ongoing Primary (an ongoing project that demands a large number of hours, e.g. FTRGZM)
vs
Ongoing Maintenance (a project that is a constant but can run on a flexible number of hours—weirdly, I found that friendships fall into that category for me)

You can see I used different icons for each. Most things can only be one of the 1) tags and one of the 2) tags. The exception was that some projects felt like Ongoing or Finite, depending on what perspective I took.

Step four: start prioritising
This wasn’t necessarily about how much passion I had for a project. E.g. my friendships and relationships are fairly low on the numeric list. It’s more about how much time the project needs and what the project’s level of urgency is.

Step five: allocate your finite time
I then started playing around with how many of my 70 weekly hours I’d feel comfortable allocating to each project.

I quickly learned that even with 70 hours, I spread myself thin relatively quickly. There’s only so many projects that you can allocate serious volumes of time to each week. Once you see that you realise that having much more than two big projects on at a time becomes impractical.

This part of the process becomes about negotiation. For example, could you stretch eight hours of friendship time across two weeks?

Another negotiation that you can do is accepting that you are strategically overloading yourself. For example I just couldn’t get myself to pause certain projects, so I accepted that once a week I’d have to “work overtime”, that is work well into an evening to get things done. We are usually all forced to do this in our work life anyway. We often accept it without considering the consequences, or even noticing that overload is being inflicted upon us. Not good. It felt much better to make these decisions consciously as part of a bargain I struck with myself.

Step six: what will you sacrifice?

This was the toughest part. I had to concede that I just didn’t have the capacity to write a comic script at this point in time. I also didn’t have the capacity to do any political economy reading for the foreseeable future. So, sadly I had to park both.

Again though, doing this consciously with a realistic rationale felt a lot better than having an ongoing sense of guilt for neglecting them. I had a few projects that were tagged as “finite”. Once those wrapped up I’d be able to get back to comics and politics.

I ended up with a plan that put me at 79 hours/week. Bear in mind that I was also counting things like “gym” and “art” here. I don’t want to pretend that I work 79 hours a week. I don’t want to pretend it’s only four hours either ;)

Step seven: create a weekly schedule

Finally, I took the knowledge of how much time I could spend and overlaid it with the natural rhythms of my regular week. I have two non-negotiable deadlines: FTRGZM and my meetings with Stop Adani Sydney—an activist group I’m part of. I also knew that because my partner and friends are bound by different patterns than I am, they’d often only be free on the weekend. I used these facts to start putting a rough framework on my week. One interesting implication that came from the process was that in a way Tuesday is my Sunday because that’s the day FTRGZM is sent. Another was to allocate the bulk of my FTRGZM writing time and Stop Adani time to the two days prior to my weekly deadlines.

Step eight: use all of this to inform your weekly and daily planning

Wall Calendar.png

Now I have a small diary that I physically populate based around the above wall chart. I find that for me personally a manual process forces me to focus. The physical restrictions of the page remind me that I can’t just magically create more time in any given day.

All of this probably sounds dry, especially for the more free spirited, creative types. The interesting thing is that the impulse to do this actually came from my creative processes, rather than a love of rigour.
I wanted to make sure that I have enough time to play and create in a meaningful way. So in a way the ends justify the means.

The entire exercise took me about a day but was well worth it. If you haven’t done something like this in a while or maybe even ever, I’d highly recommend you give it a crack.

Using social media listening to quantify sponsorship value

Something weird happens with brands when they decide to do sponsorships. Marketers who are usually very careful about how and where they spend their money suddenly start making gut calls.

Brand managers tend to ignore red flags like small audience pools or poor brand alignment if they are a fan of the sport in question. That's really the only way I can explain why Columbia Pictures decided to sponsor Atlético Madrid back in 2003.

 
Yup. Hitch came out almost 15 years ago. You are old.

Yup. Hitch came out almost 15 years ago. You are old.

 

On the flip side, it's easy to be blind to the potential of something because it's outside of your own personal interests. Christine Aguilar over at Talkwalker published some data on the Formula 1 last week that reminded me of how limiting my own social bubble can sometimes be.
I was surprised to see that the Melbourne Grand Prix generated over 1 Million mentions on social. Clearly I'm not a car guy.

 
0341d1f4-2417-40a9-9353-55de8a1c4eb8.png
 

Like with any data It's important to go deep and really understand what it's saying before jumping to conclusions though. For example, 97% of the race day mentions originated from outside of Australia. That means a sponsorship probably isn't the best opportunity for a local brand but could be great for an international one that's looking for a prestige alignment.

 
Some top line data on the fans. Not surprised to see the male skew.

Some top line data on the fans. Not surprised to see the male skew.

 

To know for sure you'd want to pull together data from a bunch of sources but there's something comforting about being able fall back on some quick numbers instead of having to have a gut-off with your clients.

~Read the full Talkwalker blog post here.~

Ad campaigns that pass the "I like it" test

In the spirit of celebrating stuff that is pretty good, here's some ads that might not make any award shows but are still tight.

This ANZ pre-roll
Everyone hates pre-rolls: those six second ads that run right before an online video starts playing. People hate making them, people hate watching them. So often they just end up being nonsensical cut downs of the TV ad. When they are good it's usually because someone has taken the time to think about how to do something clever with the medium.

The ANZ Bank has been running a bunch of pre-rolls that involve Dylan Alcott slowly being approached by a variety of apex predators. Sharks and big cats stalk towards him while he BEGS you to press the skip button. There's no stats but we can all guess that the audience's innate Schadenfreude kept most from "saving" Dylan by skipping. This is more than a cheap trick to game Google ad stats though—it also demands the viewers attention in an interesting way. The strong blue ANZ branding does the rest.

 
I didn't manage to get a screenshot of the pre-roll but here's the instastories version.

I didn't manage to get a screenshot of the pre-roll but here's the instastories version.

 

Sidenote: you might be wondering who Dylan Alcott is and why he's in a wheelchair. Well he's ANZ's current big ambassador—a Paralympian and motivational speaker. ANZ took the unusual route of not making his disability the center of the ad campaign. Instead, he's used like any other talent would be. Banks have their own issues, but it's refreshing to see marketers consciously wield their social influence.

Remedy Kombucha boxing clever
God dammit I confess. I fricking love Kombucha. Where do I hand in my punk card? We've seen a few challenger brands embrace their edgy side. And Remedy definitely fits that mould by telling sugar to "get FRUCT".

 
Kombuch1.png
 

Yeaaaah maybe KFC already did the F word better with "Bucket. Why not?" but there are two different strategies at play. KFC is trying to convince people to "live a little" by eating the sort of greasy food that has really fallen out of fashion. Whereas Remedy are showing off their unique selling proposition vs sugary soft drinks in a bold way.

Remedy have slowly but surely been building a cheeky brand image that goes beyond just wellness. Last year they did a sponsored piece with youth/millennial publication Pedestrian, which poked fun at the kinds of people who typically drink the beverage.

"...it has like no sugar and heaps of beneficial orgasms in it."

"...it has like no sugar and heaps of beneficial orgasms in it."

Dolce & Gabbana partnering with Emilia Clarke isn't even terrible

Here's why this is a good execution of a pretty standard marketing approach. Haute couture makes a large chunk of its money from accessories and perfume—not from show pieces. Even a relatively poor worker can be hoodwinked into dropping a few hundred bucks on a bottle of perfume. Ninethousand dollar dresses? Not so much. And what is more appealing to poor workers than Game of Thrones right now?

 
dolche.jpg
 

Everyone and their dog recognises Khaleesi and her blonde wig! According to D&G, The Only One is their "new floral fragrance that captures the essence of sophisticated and hypnotizing femininity." Say what you will... Clarke's Daenerys 100% embodies those qualities in today's pop culture.

Then you have the issue that D&G probably couldn't make any sort of reference to Game of Thrones whatsoever. That's the big challenge here. How do we leverage Daenerys without saying anything about queens and dragons? D&G just kept it simple. They made sure that brunette Emilia went with her signature blonde hair and they wrote "The Only One" on the poster. You don't really have to say anything else.

I found the ad where Emilia Clarke sings a little more cringe.

dolce2.jpg

But that's the point. It doesn't matter. It's not for me.

dolce fan.png

Sidenote: seeing as, we're talking about D&G it would be remiss to not mention their recent China racism controversy. Quoting Vox:

"The Dolce & Gabbana trouble began with a series of Instagram ad campaigns released this week in which a female Chinese model attempts to eat various Italian dishes with chopsticks. In one involving cannoli, the male narrator asks in Mandarin, “Is it too huge for you?”

Gross. At least this time they stuck to a fictional white savior...

 
daeny white.png
 

Inside the bowls of the world's greatest archive

"The internet is an enormous, ethereal place in a constant state of rot."
That's how Zachary Crockett of The Hustle starts his article on the Wayback Machine.

I remembered the Wayback Machine recently because -as always- it came in handy. I asked The League of Community Managers (a Facebook group) if they had any free examples of GDPR compliant T&C's. A helpful contributor pointed out that I could jump into my own emails and look at the torrent of compliance letters that businesses sent when GDPR kicked in. And if the pages had 404'd, I could just check the Wayback Machine to find the originals.

The Wayback Machine, you see, is a massive archive of the internet. You can type in any website and chances are you'll be able to see what it looked like during different eras (as far back as 1996).

Here's Google in 1998

old google.png

MySpace in 2004...

Some images are missing but you get the gist.

Some images are missing but you get the gist.

...and New Grounds in 2001

 
Love the "do you hate Osama Bin Laden?" game and movie recommendations. Proto-clickbait.

Love the "do you hate Osama Bin Laden?" game and movie recommendations. Proto-clickbait.

 

The archive contains 40 petabytes -40 million gigabytes- of data. Now they don't archive everything... The internet grows at a rate of 70 terabytes -about 9 of the Internet Archives’ hard drives- per second. But the archive is still extensive.

As Crockett points out, there are ethical questions when you don't archive everything. While the archiving is mainly done by bots, humans decide when the bots should stop a "hop" and move onto another site. Do they have any biases?

The other question is, do you let people request that their page isn't archived? And do you retroactively delete things upon request? In the past, the Internet Archive (the NFP body that owns the Wayback Machine and other archives) would always comply. But according to The Hustle they have recently become more reluctant to delete anything. In the era of "post-truth" this NFP is increasingly aware of the danger of censorship and manipulation of the public dialogue. In fact they announced a plan to create a back up archive in Canada just in case things go south in the US.

~Read more in The Hustle's article~

Intangible Goods is snack-sized psychology for a good cause

Recently I had the pleasure of writing an article on bravery for my friends Liz and Mark over at Intangible Goods. The two artists and advertising veterans started "Intangie" as an art installation for Art & About Sydney. They researched which emotional states people were missing the most in their daily lives. Then they created a vending machine that dispensed advice on how to get more of each.

 
The Intangible Goods vending machine doing its thing in Martin Place.

The Intangible Goods vending machine doing its thing in Martin Place.

 

The (psychologist approved) advice was "dispensed" in packs that resemble chip and cookie wrappers. Many a hungry customer probably felt better about not getting an actual cookie, because they knew part of the profits go to charity.

The art project was such a big success that you can now also purchase the online, where it's evolved into a larger project to destigmatise mental health.

It's also been successful enough to attract some... Admirers. Check out this unaffiliated "Instant Karma Machine". That The Event Space created for the real estate group Mirvac.

 
They do say imitation is the highest form of flattery!

They do say imitation is the highest form of flattery!

 

Yowzah.

Anyway let's be real. Most of us don't -only- want to do advertising. It's probably true of other professions as well but no kid says "when I grow up I want to be an account man at Ogilvy!" So It's satisfying to see two Creatives who paid their dues in advertising graduate to a more artistic and cause based project. A big inspiration to anyone who wants to use their creative super powers for good!

 
bravery intangible goods.png
 

Let's talk about trust baby

The Edelman Trust Barometer reports on how the public’s trust in a variety of institutions is faring. This is necessary reading if you have any interest in the nuanced and confusing world of public confidence. Edelman's clients always pay close attention, and you can often see the ripple effect of the report’s findings in how organisations position themselves over the next 12-18 months. Some of this year's findings:

 
trust inequality.png
 
 
1 in 5 Edelman.png
 
 
reliable sources.png
 

Oof!

It is definitely a publicity driving yearly IP event for Edelman. But nonetheless I always find the report fascinating. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to position a client’s brand for the year, or whether you’re trying to get a handle on how the powers that be view public opinion - there’s something here for you.

~Read the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer here~