Why my genius business idea was not as brilliant as first thought
I launched my web design company almost exactly two weeks ago. I had been working on the web page to showcase it for several weeks before in my spare time, but I finally announced it to the world (i.e. Facebook) just two weeks ago.
There is always a fear that comes before announcing a new venture. It’s the main reason we don’t do it as often as we should. What if people criticize it? What if it fails?
But I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support I received from friends, family, and even people I didn’t know so well. I am grateful to all of them – at pivotal moments like these, every bit of support makes a big difference.
The Genius Idea
The vision behind my company is to systematize creativity. To do it in the most efficient way possible, thus saving time and money for the both the creator and the client. This is based on my own biggest strengths – a creative approach to life with an analytical examination of all processes and systems.
So I had developed a concept called “The 1 Hour Website.” The idea was to build websites as quickly as efficiently as it would take you to order a hamburger – to systematize the process, fix the cost, and grow the business based on an economy of scale. Genius idea, right? I thought so too.
I had originally set the price of a one hour website at $500. This is a very good price to pay for a professional website to be built for you. But quickly, several issues became apparent:
The Price is Wrong
People don’t want to pay $500 for an hour. For anything. No matter what you offer them, there is virtually no service that the average person will pay that much for. Especially not the small business owners, service providers, and non-profit ventures that I was motivated to empower and cater to.
So created a survey and posted it online. First off, once again, I was pleasantly surprised when close to 30 people filled it out anonymously, and I am grateful to all those who did. I asked people to take a look at a website that I’d built and tell me how much they’d be willing to pay for it.
In retrospect, I realize there were two issues with this approach. First, the website I had them go to had already been “modified” by the client, and not in a good way. Part of the benefit of the platform we use to build sites is that it is very easy for the client to modify themselves. This is good when they need to update their email or their prices. It is not as good when they take a stab at “design” and try to encapsulate a nouveau all-caps look.
So the site was not at its best when the survey takers visited it.
Couple that with a more fundamental mistake – the very concept of asking people in advance how much they’d theoretically pay for something. The issue goes both ways: either they underestimate the effort and skill involved and underprice it, or quote a higher price to make you feel good but never come through when they actually need to pay it.
The survey results did not bode well for me: the average survey taker was only willing to pay about $300 for a similar site. And several friends who seemed interested in my services voiced similar concerns.
As a result, I lowered my price further.
I tried unbundling my service so that for $300 you’d get a basic website, and maybe would pay some more for more advanced features and functionality.
By this point my service had hit the rock-bottom of the food chain (design services using similar platforms start their most basic package at $1000). And as I continued interacting with potential clients and networking with other businesses, I realized that I had made a few critical mistakes.
The Price is Still Wrong (or: lessons learned)
Here then, after that very long introduction, is what I learned from the experience. I refer specifically to web design, but a lot of these insights can be applied to any service-related business.
People don’t want their website built in an hour – people are OK with buying a hamburger for $5. But a website is something that is much closer to people’s hearts. Closer, probably, than they actually realize. It represents their values, the cause or business that they worked so hard to build. It’s their digital business card, on display for the entire world to see (and most people who build a site imagine all of the internet coming to visit it as soon as it’s launched.)
So offering to build them a site in an hour is like offering them a 3 minute psychological consultation. Even if it were possible, people want the things that are important to them to be given, well, more importance.
Interestingly, in the survey I sent out, most people indicated that having a site built in one hour would neither detract nor add to the amount they’d be willing to pay. It just wasn’t a factor in the value we need to deliver to be a successful business.
I can’t build a website in one hour – don’t get me wrong. I can, technically, build a website in one hour. It’s a pretty cool skill, and I wouldn’t have promised it if I wasn’t capable of it. But I did not factor in the process of working with other people.
Even after closing with a client (next point), they often don’t have the clarity or focus to knock everything out in an hour. And frankly, because of the previous point, they are probably not interested in doing so. They want it to be a process, and they want to be involved.
The price doesn’t cover basic business costs – I knew this principle intellectually, but it was eye-opening to experience it firs hand. For every client I close with, there will be four that I don’t. The price may not work for them, they may need features I don’t provide, or they may find someone with a better haircut.
But each of those potential clients cost me time, which becomes part of the cost of running the business. Realize this: when you purchase from a business, you’re not just paying for their time and effort and their electric bill. You’re paying for all the client’s they don’t have. Those are also part of the business.
And the clients who do close with me? They take even more time to make the decision, before we even get to the actual “1 Hour Website” building phase. Closing a business deal that is more complex and expensive than buying a cup of coffee will always take more time; it takes time to develop trust and consult with your partners (how come every business seems to have so many stakeholders?), and that cost also needs to be factored in.
Ultimately, I needed to raise my prices just to justify running the business – even if no one comes to me as a result, that is still my only viable option.
My actual customers can pay more – when I launched, there were many interested friends and survey takers who told me I was charging too much, which is why I lowered my prices.
But when I examined the clients who actually came through and with whom I’m in serious discussion with (remember, these things take time), I noticed something interesting. They were happy with my prices.
Even if they were a small business, they had a budget to build a site. They were actively looking for someone to build it for them (enough to mention it to other people who referred them to me). They understood the value that a site could give them, how quickly it could pay for itself if it brought in more clients.
In our survey, only a few people said they’d be willing to pay a higher price for my site. But I noticed an interesting correlation: these people were also more likely to rate our websites as more attractive. The conclusion? It’s this smaller percentage that represent our ideal customers – people who value what we can provide and have the resources to pay for it without haggling.
I’d be very happy if 1 in 5 potential customers proved to be a client like that.
People don’t want to buy too cheap – I had bent over backwards to accommodate people with my prices. And then, the feedback I got from my more serious clients and co-business owners was “how can you be so cheap?” There was something fishy about it. It didn’t convey value. It didn’t make them feel good about their purchase, or confident in the person they’d be working with.
I’ve done a lot of online research, and it seems that pricing yourself too low can be at least as destructive as going too high. After raising my prices, it’s interesting that even I feel more confident in the service I provide. I’ve conveyed value… to myself.
I should never price myself by the hour
This is the most fundamental, and the most universal. I knew the idea intellectually, but I’m grateful to Akiva Ben Ezra of SEOKings who helped me work through this emotionally.
Pricing yourself by the hour distracts from the value you are providing. It becomes a technical commodity, not a service that could potentially bring huge profits to a business. People will instinctively judge you based on their own (inaccurate) assessments of how much time it should take.
I know a great graphic artist who produces excellent work at an incredibly affordable hourly price. Yet every month he needs to argue with his primary freelance client about whether the design should have taken as long as it did – a client who has no clue how long these things actually take.
In reality, we should be pricing ourselves based on the value we give customers. How much money will this website be making you in the long run? The theory here would have a real estate listing site be a lot more expensive than a non-profit website, but there are other considerations, like the amount of work required and general market prices which serve to equalize rates.
We often price our work by hour because we are afraid of projects that drag out. There are two solutions for this: quantify the amount of revisions included in your initial per-project rate. Most graphic artists designing a logo, for example, provide an initial design and two follow-up revisions. Following that, they charge an additional sum per revision.
Second, add a buffer to the price you quote. Calculate how much time it should take, multiply it by your hourly rate, and then add another 50 to 100% to that sum. This will allow you to make more from the clients who are quickly satisfied, and at least break even with more difficult clients. Always convey the value you are giving to your clients, and at the very least, add some buffer time to your per-project price quote.
I don’t want to be looking at my watch worried about how much time it’s taking (the initial fee promises a working website and is not actually linked to a time), and I don’t want my clients looking at their watch either worried about how much it’s gonna cost them (follow-up services are charged by the hour).
I updated my prices to better reflect the value I’m giving my customers. I give my webdesign clients marketing strategy, copywriting, design and coding; why bunch all of that into a time constraint? I renamed my service The Four Phase Website, to better reflect the different aspects that go into building it, much more than just design and coding.
I still believe that I can systematize creativity, but I will let that be an underlying value behind any service product I create. I don’t mention time outright: let me be as efficient as I can behind the scenes. I’ll save myself money and deliver an amazing product quickly and painlessly. But the only time-related discussion we need to have is when you need your website by.
The biggest benefit I see from launching and running a business is the experience it gives me. And businesses of every size struggle a lot with pricing. So I’m glad that I’ve been able to learn so quickly from my own experience, and have the flexibility to change my strategy on the go.
Someone recently drew my attention to a new platform called Branded.me, and I decided to take a look.
Branded.me is an automated website generator that draws the information from your LinkedIn profile and puts it into a customized website of your own. In other words, it serves as a standalone, glorified LinkedIn platform, which you can link to a custom domain for $7 a month, or use for free as a subdomain of branded.me.
Automation is the next trend in online platforms, like the Tailor Brands logo generator I recently reviewed. However, a service that connects to your LinkedIn account and creates a custom site from your profile information is not new.
Vizify was a platform that did just this – since 2011 - and in a very creative and visual way. They seem to have been purchased by Yahoo and shut down, the logic behind which escapes me. Another platform, Re.Vu, still does this, also with interesting visuals.
Some additional sites that let you create this type of “nameplate sites” or “personal landing pages” are the super-popular about.me, and the oh-so-similar flavors.me. These sites are great for job seekers who want to have a great-looking virtual calling card and resume, but don’t provide enough features to create a fully functioning site.
Branded.me is now the newest arrival at this party, and with only three themes to currently choose from, it doesn’t seem to have much to offer in terms of uniqueness. I’m also not crazy about some of the ways in which they display the profile information on the site (their site, on the other hand, looks great).
But the world is a big enough place that multiple platforms can exist with similar services, it will probably come down to how well they market themselves.
I recently had the pleasure of conducting a four part business development workshop series for Connect Jerusalem. Connect Jerusalem is a a joint program of Tzeirim Bamerkaz (Center for Young Adults in Jerusalem) and the Jerusalem Municipality, with the support of the Absorption Ministry and Joint Israel.
The purpose of the program is to help young Olim (new immigrants) integrate and establish themselves professionally in Israel, empowering them to become a strong creative force in Jerusalem.
We wanted to help people transform an entrepreneurial idea into a tangible reality as quickly as possible – by creating a fully-functioning digital presence with which they could market their business and service online.
Together with the program's director, Ronit Cohen-Gluzburg, I established early on that we wanted the workshop would be super-practical. We wanted people to walk away with something tangible that they had done, not some more abstract information that they would need to apply on their own.
We wanted the hours spent at the workshop to be spent not just learning new ideas, but actually applying them. We all know how much fear and procrastination can hold us back from doing what we already know we should.
The workshop would provide a structured environment for people to actually do the work. It would provide a supportive environment for people to get feedback on their work, and to practice what Seth Godin calls Shipping – the scary, vulnerable process of actually pressing “send” and sharing what you’ve done with the world.
The curriculum we came up with was ambitious. I believe that by using the 80/20 principle and focusing on the most important aspects of each part of the marketing process, it is possible to achieve a lot of success with relatively little effort. Stated differently, just because something is an integral component of your business success, doesn’t mean it is complicated or takes a lot of time, money, or effort to implement.
The group had around 10 participants who signed up and actually attended the four three-hour sessions. Below is an overview of what they learned, and some examples of work that was created in the session.
Week #1: Create a Business Plan
The first week was the most abstract.
Participants were given a worksheet and instructed to fill it out as a group. Right away, we were combating the inertia that often prevents people from answering basic questions about their business, even when they are told what questions they need to ask.
The worksheet helped the participants identify the goals for their business, as well as think more broadly about what success would look like. It also helped them identify their ideal client, which would help keep them focused during later meetings when more practical marketing steps would be taken.
To quote Yisroel, one of the participants:
I was amazed by how empowering it is to focus on my dream before concentrating on details, and I’ve subsequently returned to my dream many times to gather strength and clarity.
As a result of this same exercise, Yisroel was also able to identify a real-life ideal customer and successfully network with them.
Week #2: Create a Digital Product
In the second meeting, participants were encouraged to create a short video presenting their business or sharing a piece of helpful information. This allowed them to demonstrate their expertise in an area, while getting comfortable enough to share it with others.
To quote Yisroel again:
We overcame our inertia about moving forward by being recorded pitching our product. I rehearsed for almost the full 2 hours, then presented before the camera. I also benefitted immensely from the professional photos--those may have cost the amount of the workshop!
Connect Jerusalem brought in a volunteer photographer who took videos of the participants. The following final videos were created by the participants using the footage:
Week #3: Create a Website
This session alone was worth attending the entire course for, participants effectively received hundreds of dollars in resources and mentorship and walked away from the end of the meeting with a functional website.
Having a personal website serves as a “digital calling card” in the internet age, and participants were encouraged to add relevant information about their business(created in week #1), while uploading their newly created videos (week #2) to the site.
Below are some examples of the websites created during a single 3-hour session (click an image to enlarge it):
Week #4: Marketing
The purpose of the final meeting was to actually publicize the work that had been created in the first three sessions. Participants learned tips for real-world networking, social media marketing, and, in particular, email marketing.
Participants were walked through the steps of setting up an account and creating their first business-email, which would allow them to send emails to many recipients at once and monitor the results. Here is a link to a sample email that Yisroel created and sent out.
Overall, the course was received very positively. Particpants got a lot of practical information, and were pushed to actually create their dreams. They learned from doing, not just listening, and benefited from each other’s feedback.
Here is some more feedback we received from the course:
Thank you for the wonderful course. There was a lot to learn for me even though I had studied marketing previously. Lots of marketing insights and especislly technical issues were of great importance to me (how to arrange shopping and paiment page, compose and send e-mails).
I enjoyed the workshop. I learned about some very important and simple tools for growing a business.
What I Learned
There were a couple practical things I learned from the experience of teaching the course.
1. You can do a lot in 12 hours
Just as I suspected, participants with a basic amount of computer-savvy were able to make a tremendous amount of progress in a very short amount of time. It was rewarding to see the 80/20 hypothesis play out in other people’s lives, and helped reinforce within me the validity of this approach.
2. It all comes down to you
Even in a course geared towards practical application of ideas, there were still people who were more successful than others. I found that those with the highest amount of personal motivation and the clearest vision, were able to get the most from the meetings.
Others who were not as sure about what they wanted to gain from the workshop (“I've got a bunch of different ideas I’m considering right now”), or who didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about coming, got less from the meetings, and produced less impressive results.
You can lead a person to hundreds of dollars’ worth of practical information and mentorship, but you can’t make him or her drink.
3. We needed to market ourselves better
There are hundreds of people in every city with big dreams and little resources. How many entrepreneurs and small business should have been interested in this type of practical, super-subsidized program? Dozens at least. And yet the workshop ran with just a small, core group of around 10 participants.
This means that we did not do a good enough job letting people know about the program, and explaining the many benefits of participating. There are physical limitations to the marketing process which we might not be able to overcome (like limited social network or financial resources), but I believe we could have done a better job explaining to people what they would be getting from the program and how they would benefit from it.
That said, there will always be people who will see the offer and fail to act (see lesson #2) – fear of success can be as strong as the fear of failure – or they may not have had the time.
Either way, the most important lesson I tried imparting upon the participants was “It’s better to do ‘good-enough’ than not at all.” And that is exactly what we did.
I have long been a proponent of doing over planning: In today’s digital world, creating a working prototype of your idea can take hours instead of years.
I don’t understand how startups that are developing simple concepts still take years to create a functional product. In a similar vein, many entrepreneurs spend months simply planning their ventures instead of putting it into practice.
I am opposed to planning because it is divorced from reality – five minutes into your implementation you find things have changed radically, and you find yourself needing to improvise anyway.
My approach, which I try to live by personally, is “do first, and ask questions later”.
Here are two real examples from my own personal experience of startups that can be started with a a couple hundred dollars and a few days of work. The first is negative, an example of someone not doing what I recommended. The second has a happy ending.
"Do first, ask questions later"
A couple weeks ago, after leaving work, I got a message from my boss that he needed a creative tagline for a Passover ad that we were running in a Jewish magazine promoting Aliyah, immigration to Israel.
I gave it a moment’s thought and put down pretty much the first thing that came to my head “It no longer takes 40 years to get to the promised land”. I sent it to him, with the feeling that he would surely respond that that concept was totally cliché and had been used like, a thousand times in past Nefesh B’Nefesh ads, and couldn’t I think of anything more original?
The slogan was turned into the following ad and Facebook creatives:
Granted, the creative director who produced them told me that a similar concept had been used in the past by El Al airlines. We couldn’t find reference to that campaign online, and anyway, I’m complimented to have hit upon a concept used to promote the a multi-million dollar company.
I learned a couple things from this campaign.
First, never discount an idea – often, your inner voice is a lot more critical than other people’s voices.
Second, you never know how quickly a good idea will come to you. Even a few seconds of thought might produce a winning idea – one that often stands out as the best even after you brainstorm a hundred other concepts.
It no longer takes 40 years to come up with a good campaign.
In fact, it never did.
In the course of my internet travels, the following genius service was brought to my attention.
TailorBrands is an Israeli startup that automatically generates a logo for you. That’s right. By simply asking a series of questions, it’s able to create a variety of different logos for you to choose from, which you can further customize with colors and stuff.
You are then offered different logo packages at a fee, starting at just $25 for a black and white version of your new logo, and moving up to around $99 to get more customization and to have your logo applied to stationary and to Facebook banners.
Although I fear the platform has a finite number of designs which it then applies to your company title, the platform seems to still have enough variation built in that you should be able to walk away with a decent looking logo.
So although it’s definitely not the same as a custom-designed logo, it is still a great way for new businesses and startups to hit the ground running without paying the hundreds of dollars a custom logo requires.
Below is are two logos I generated in under five minutes for the webdesign company I am founding. Although I probably won't use it, because I am picky and have the Photoshop skills to create my own logo, it is still objectively a very nice and elegant option.
I've also included the sample design packages that they offer on their site, so you can see what you get when you pay for their premium services.
Here is an example of another creative campaign I did with Nefesh B’Nefesh.
The theme we wanted to convey was you can “Make yourself at home” in Israel. Hillel Hurwitz, our excellent marketing director, developed the concept of a couch placed outdoors with people doing their thing, feeling relaxed and at home in the countries parks, streets, and marketplaces.
The inspiration behind the shoot was the iconic scene from the opening credits of Friends, where they are all crowded together on once couch. The original sequence also had the six actors inside a fountain, we went more conservative and had four people in front of it.
On my quest for the perfect time-tracking tool, I encountered a lot of heartache.
Tracking your time is a necessary evil of most freelancers, as well as many employees. Yet most platforms are tedious and hard to use, and I was ready to rip my hair out.
Until I found Toggl.
Toggl is an Estonian startup that simplified time tracking to just two clicks, making it as painless as humanly possible. It is a free online platform (and smartphone app) with the option of paying for premium features.
Some workplaces insist on using chunkier software because they integrate with their accounting platforms. I’m not sure about Toggl’s integration, because I use it only for personal use, but for that it is great.
Feeling grateful towards Toggl for simplifying something I hate doing, I emailed them offering my copywriting services free, to help give them a more fun, informal feel that I think fits with their brand – an approach executed beautifully be the chat application, Slack.
A representative from Toggl replied that they were in the process of redoing their copywriting in house, and that, although they appreciated the offer, they would not be taking me up on it. (and indeed, several weeks later they launched a completely updated website)
And then an amazing thing happened.
They asked for my mailing address. I gave it to them, and a couple of weeks later a package arrived in the mail with a cool multi-purpose branded scarf, a ton of stickers with the Toggl logo, and a letter of gratitude thanking me for helping them reach close to a million users (I wasn’t actually so instrumental) personally signed by the CEO (or at least by someone).
I was so excited and complimented! Toggl, sending little ol’ me a package? Wow! I am now a fan for life.
Toggl’s marketing strategy demonstrates the power of identifying your existing fans and showing your appreciation for their support and recognition of their efforts. These “true fans” then go out and do the best marketing strategy possible – word-of-mouth recommendations.
All it takes is the focus, the investment and the execution (and I doubt the merch they sent me actually cost them too much), and you can turn your supporters into raving fans.
That at least, is what happened to me.
I have had the privilege of producing several documentaries of various lengths.
Here are several tips to produce a short film that revolving around interviews to make its point – a popular and time-honored way to make a point on film in a more affordable way. All films production takes time and usually financial investment, but filming regular people can make for a compelling film without having to resort to more expensive graphics and actors.
I’ll be focusing on the production and content side of things over the technicalities of filming and editing.
The success of a film usually lies in the amount of preparation that is done before hand. If you do your homework in advance, you can save hours of heartache later, and get a better film out of it as well.
1. Identify your goal and subject
What is the goal of your film? Is it to show how effective your organization is? Is it to demonstrate the importance of a specific cause? Write down the main concept of the film, and then identify three points that will illustrate this goal.
For example, your points could be: 1. Cats do not get the rights they deserve, but 2. Cats are actually important for the survival of the human race, which therefore means that 3. Our important work to promote cat rights is actually beneficial to all of society.
2. Write a list of interview questions
Write a list of questions that will prompt your interviewees to give you the answers you want. You can be pretty suggestive with your questions – this is not a democracy, you have a specific agenda you are trying to push. If you want people to talk about how much you’ve helped cats, don’t ask “Has Crazed4Cats helped felines?”, rather, ask “In what way has Crazed4Cats helped?” Imply the message in the question itself.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions that don’t directly relate to your topic, or to ask the same question again in a different way. Every time a person responds you will have additional material to work with, and a couple extra minutes during an interview can result in a great quote to use later on – you never know what response you will get to which question.
3. Find your interviewees
This is pretty straightforward – identify people who have positive views about your film’s topic. Generally, you won't want people to criticize you in a film that you have made.
It can help to have a balance between experts, beneficiaries, and those who are actually doing the work. This will provide multiple perspectives on the topic while still making the same specific point.
I strongly suggest selecting your interviewees based on how articulate they are. More important than how they look, or even how much of an expert they are, the success of your film will depend on how well they make their point.
From my experience, it’s very hard to coach people to give you an answer in the way you want it if they don’t do it naturally – in other words, people either have it or they don’t, and I highly recommend screening them in advance, either by creating a demo reel for you or by showing you other videos they have been in. Do not make your decision based on how articulate they are in writing or even verbally, being on camera is a whole other ball game.
If you don’t screen your people in advance, know ye that you are playing Russian roulette with your time and resources – some people will be great, others will be awful.
Consider sending your interviewees the list of questions in advance – this will allow them to better prepare for their interview and might result in a better answer, but could also lead to the response sounding more canned and less candid.
4. Find a crew
Assuming you are a non-technical individual, you’ll need other people to set up the cameras (and lights, if needed) and do the actual filming for you. Even if you do know how to operate a camera, it’s best to have someone else on set to keep an eye on it while you focus on the interview (more on that later).
There should be no shortage of local film crews to film for you. If you are on a tight budget, consider finding a film school student – some of these people are very talented and much more affordable.
As always, a large number of service providers are terrible, so review their past projects before you sign with them. If you don’t know what to look for, ask a more savvy or artistic friend to have a look at their portfolio and give you their opinion – and remember, how much they are charging is not an indicator of how good or bad they actually are.
If you are not going to be doing the editing yourself, see if your film crew provides package deals – but again, make sure they are good, filming and editing are two different fields and excellence in one does not imply competence in the other.
Nefesh B’Nefesh is an organization that promotes immigration of North American Jews to Israel, and helps them navigate the bureaucracy of becoming a citizen.
Part of their efforts include reaching out to Anglos currently living in Israel (of which there are many), and encouraging them to switch from residing here as tourists on a visa, and become legal citizens of the country.
The challenge is that many people living in Israel don’t see a big difference between living here on a visa (which they do for a variety of reasons) and becoming full-fledged citizens. As part of our brainstorming campaign, our marketing team developed the concept of “Making it Official” – that they key benefit of becoming a citizen is that it positively cements your identity as a bona-fide Israeli.
The idea we came up with was to identify key moments that identify a person as no longer being a tourist, and being familiar enough with Israel’s culture and language, that indicate that a person is ready to go “all the way”. I brainstormed key social cues and phrases that are inherent to life in Israel, and these were turned into visuals for print and digital campaigns by the excellent team at verticalloop.
We even decided to transliterate the phrase “Officially Israeli” - which was the to be stamped on all the creative - into Hebrew, as a hat tip to Anglos who had been here long enough to read the Hebrew, and who would appreciate that transliterating English into Hebrew is a common quirk in Israel society.
I’ve included some examples of banner ads we created for the campaign, which serves both as an example of the importance of understand the cultural attributes of your target audience, as well as the creative benefits that this knowledge can provide you.
As you know, I am a big believer in time-saving technological hacks. And probably one of the most mind blowing of them all is Skyscanner, the travel app I discovered below.
We all dream of traveling to faraway places and seeing faraway things, but usually one of the biggest enemies is price. Airfare is so expensive, right?
With Skyscanner, your ticket will probably become the cheapest part of your vacation. It searches your specific travel destination for the cheapest flight it can find over the next several weeks. Because face it, whenever you can, you’ll structure your flight around the cheapest ticket you can find.
But that’s not even the best part.
One of the most frustrating things about most travel apps is that you have to pick a specific country and city that you want to fly to, and then you get the cheapest flights to that one location. In reality, we all know that when you travel for fun, it’s much more about getting away from here, then going to a specific there.
Enter Skyscanner’s everywhere feature. It shows you all the countries you can go to, ranked from cheapest to most expensive, and the results are simply mind-blowing. Looking at it from my current location in Israel: Italy for $58? Switzerland for $60? (Note: all prices are one way) That’s practically a bus fair!
My wife and I used the app to find tickets to Italy, paying around $200 for both of us, round trip. We actually found that the price of a train between cities in Italy was actually a lot more expensive.
This latest project was concieved by Nefesh B'Nefesh as a way of helping college educators increase awareness about Israel and moving to the country.
We wanted to create a poster that was nice enough to hang on the wall, but would still deliver information. The result is the following poster, written by me and designed by Avi Levine and Sarah Goldrich.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to the different components required to build an effective business. What are the key functions required in every business, and who are the people who are best suited for each role?
As much as it would be nice to be awesome at everything, there are always some things that we are good at, and others that we are not. It is very insightful to recognize what you are good at and enjoy doing and identify what you should delegate to other people because they are better at it or enjoy it more.
To help concretize things, I’ve identified the stereotypical Myers-Briggs traits that would typically characterize each role. I believe that at the nucleus of every successful business there are three key roles that need be filled, as follows:
The Strategist is charged with making the tactical decisions that will help the venture accomplish its goals and vision. This includes analyzing successes, opportunities and failures; as well as allocating resources and developing marketing strategies. The Strategist may or may not be the visionary behind the venture, but they are effectively charged with steering the metaphorical ship towards its goal.
There are lots of productivity strategies out there.
In fact, some people spend so much time collecting productivity tips that they have very little time to actually be productive. It lessens the guilt of procrastination – If I’m reading about curbing procrastination, I’m not procrastinating!
I try not to spend too much time collecting these tips. I also try to distinguish between pretty useless tips, as well as those that are pretty self-evident, and those that are actually insightful.
The following are insights I have learned over the years and successfully applied to my life, helping me work much faster than the average person (when I stop procrastinating enough to actually do so).
Learn to type. This should be a no-brainer. You can learn to type with multiple online programs, and the great thing is that over time your typing will naturally get faster – while hunting and pecking will always be more cumbersome for multiple reasons.
Learn keyboard shortcuts. Closely related to typing, the principle here is that your fingers can work a lot faster than your mouse curser can. It’s worth taking a couple minutes to learn the key shortcuts for the programs you use a lot. You gain not only the time saved between actions; you also retain a consistent streak when you batch items together (see below).
The 80/20 Principle. This is a game changer. I wrote an entire article on this topic, but in a nutshell, this principle suggests that only 20 percent of what you are doing is resulting in 80 percent of your successes. Find out what those are, and stop doing everything else. Don’t be busy for business sake, and don’t assume other people are being efficient – figure out what works and focus solely on that. You’ll find yourself with a ton of spare time.
The 80/20 principle, also called Pareto’s principle, is a life-changing idea that states that 80% of your profits come from 20% of your efforts.
It states that if you were to examine your ventures more closely, you’d find that there are customers who are a lot more valuable than others, and that some of the products or services you are selling are making you a lot more money than their counterparts.
This is true about the negative as well - 80% of your grief stems from 20% of the activities and interactions you have on a daily basis.
The application of this principle is simple and yet profoundly effective- first, identify the areas of your life that are the most profitable, as well as those aspects that are most expensive and/or painful to you.
Once you’ve found these areas, the 80/20 principle suggest that you will most likely find that they stem from just a small percentage of your efforts - a few key actions give you the most profit, and a few others give you most of your pain. It is then your task to do more of that small amount which is effective and minimize as much as possible the elements that do not serve you.
If you find that you have just a few profitable products, don’t give them equal attention -focus most of your efforts on selling those few products. at the same time, consider dropping those things that are not profitable to you in the same way. And when it comes to those negative dimensions of your life - find ways to minimize the 20% that is giving you the 80% of grief in your life or business.
The details of the rule
It is important to understand a few key principles in the 80/20 rule.
First of all, although 80 and 20 add up to 100, the 80 and the 20 are not measuring one dimension of your business - the 20 represents one factor and the 80 represents a different one.
For example, 20% might represent a certain marketing tactic, while 80% represents the total profit to your business. The 20/80 principle is about finding skewed relationships between different factors.
Second, because you are measuring two different elements, and because this entire principle is an approximate statistical rule, the numbers don’t have to add up to an exact 100; You might find it’s actually 17% of your salesmen are bringing in 79% of your sales.
The important thing to realize here is that not all aspects of your venture are equally effective - most of your gains come from a few key activities, and most of your pain comes from a few more. Thus, if you increase these positives and decrease the negatives, you will have a disproportionately large effect on your success and well-being.
Those 20% of your most effective salesmen represent 80% of your profits - a 1:5 ratio of effectiveness. That means that finding just one more effective sales person like them, or finding ways to increase their effectiveness, will have a positive effect on your business at the same disproportionate 1:5 scale.
You might also find that:
The 80/20 principle is a statistical hypothesis that very often proves to be true. Work backwards: take your total profits from your business - let’s say they are 100 million a year. The 80/20 principle suggests that you will probably find a cause that accounts for 80 million of your profits - and that cause is probably only 20% of some larger whole - 20% of your customers, 20% of your products, 20% of your business calendar, etc.
To apply the 80/20 principle to your life and business, break things down by segment and look for disproportionate relationships - analyze your most effective customers, sales tactics, times of sale, type of product, and anything else that comes to mind.
Once you find the disproportionate elements in every dimension of your life and business, purposely neglect the trivial 80%, and focus on the 20 that really matters.
Who would have thought that Shalom Shore would star in a shampoo commercial? Ok, fine, I did. Because I made the ad.
A couple months ago I was filmed as a primary character in a documentary film. As part of the b-roll shots (the scenes you see that don't involve people directly talking on screen), I found myself wading in a pool of water, wearing a leather jacket under a waterfall.
So I decided to repurpose the footage from my own needs, and made this parody shampoo ad. Another thing crossed off my bucket list.
This creative live-action film involved a lot of work on the filmmaker's part, with much creativity, flexibility, and choreography throughout. I wrote the second half of the promo, which featured kinetic typography, starting around 1:00.
The challenge was consolidating the multiple programs the organization had running into three broad categories - which was essential for fundraising and promotional purposes.
To learn more about Jerusalem U, click here. To contact the film's creator, click here.
The Mug of Destiny, aka, the Mug of Pretentiousness or the Cup of Crass, is a must for the desk of any copywriter, accountant, or bass fisherman.
Engraved with endearing imagery of fish in the finest form – sharp toothed, rough scaled, and brown – and expressed in their fullest relief via artistic mastery; this mug is sure to make even the dreariest of offices crackle with the scent of adventure.
Able to hold up to two cups of water and thermetically sealed to preserve both coldness/hotness, the mug also features a lockable top that reduces spillage to a minimum, even if it doesn’t cut it out completely. It is also both rugged and durable, and will not crack unless it is dropped repeatedly or hit really hard with a blunt or sharp object.
The Mug of Pretentiousness is so much more than a cup. It is a status symbol. An icon. A beacon of inspiration. It makes men shudder and women quiver at the image of adventure and scallywagery on high seas.
As the proud owner of the Mug of Destiny, you will be the talk of the town with the gentlefolk wondering whence you come from, where you are headed, and if hunting woolly mammoths is on your daily to do list.
A film I created, just for fun.
My first chance to put my newly found cartoon skills to good use, comes as a response to the Ice Bucket Challenge.
I've since learned that you can add clothing to your characters, but for now let's assume that she's going for the lab technician look.
The information in this article was taught to me by the excellent Daniel Nisman, an independent journalist and political commentator on the Middle East, and founder of Levantine Group, a geopolitical risk and research consultancy.
So you want to be seen. To be heard. To be acknowledge for the genius that you most certainly are.
The most traditional way to do this is by posting content to your own blog.
The second most common way is to publish press releases and hope someone picks them up and writes an article about you.
And the less common, but often more effective approach is to write an op-ed for a newspaper.
Why write op-eds in the first place?
An op-ed, short for “opinion editorial” is the part of newspaper that is open to the public to express their own opinion instead, of the paper’s unbiased *cough* journalistic view on a matter.
There are several key benefits to writing an op-ed:
70 years ago, Dale Carnegie made waves with his book on winning friends and influencing people - despite the misleading title of "How to win friends and influence people".
As humanity continues to devolve, this book, updated for the needs of the modern generation, helps people retain a semblance of that one thing that makes us human – coherent communication.
Book topics include:
Share if this made you #rofl!
As part of their "Build a Brighter Future" campaign, Uniliver, makers of pretty much everything, put out a call for video and print concepts that imply investing in our children to create a brighter future.
Below are my concepts for this campaign, executed by the wonderful animator, Nadav Nachmany, of Samurai Jew fame.
Some campaigns are too good to pass up on.
Some products are too good to pass up on.
And some products are too good to pass up a good campaign on.
Ok, that wasn't English.
This is one of those times.
Would you like me to write for you?
Other sites I have contributed to:
(click logos to view posts)