Josh Monen

A Daily Blog To "Show My Work"

Month: March 2017 (page 1 of 7)

Some Practical Thoughts on Helping Others While Still Making A Living

One of my mentors once told me, “Don’t make money the primary focus. Instead focus on how you can help others succeed. If you do that, the money will come.”

On the surface that advice seems simple enough, right?

All you have to do is smile, be a nice person and help others out.

But if we’re honest, at least if I’m honest, it’s hard to do.

I consider myself a generous person. I really do enjoy helping others.

But I also know myself. I know how much time I spend thinking about how to improve my life, my business and my circumstances.

I also know how little time I spend thinking about how to help others without expecting anything in return.

Sometimes I think, “After I have $5 million in the bank I’ll be free to help others without expecting anything in return but for now I need to focus on making money.”

But I fear I’m simply rationalizing my selfishness.

Plus, what if the path to $5 million in the bank is paved by the same selfless attitude I’m delaying until I can “afford” to be generous.

“Well, you can’t work for free Josh.”

Yes, I know.

I have a wife and three kids (all under the age of six). So I know I can’t “donate” my services to people all day. You probably can’t either.

So my thought for today is this: how do we charge what we’re “worth” while still cultivating a generous attitude?

How do we provide for our families and still help others in need?

Here are some ideas:

1) Go the extra mile: Even if someone is paying you money to do work for them you can still go the extra mile. You can stop watching the clock and stop worrying about your “hourly rate” and instead shift your focus to adding as much value as you can to your client or partner. Being “generous” isn’t just about giving things away for free. It’s also about giving 100% when someone pays you to.

2) Mentor/Coach others: I’m grateful for the mentors and coaches I’ve had, and have, in my life. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I think about that it makes me want to coach and mentor others more. Right now I’m coaching my sister-in-law about how to break into freelance writing and I’ve really enjoyed it. I don’t always feel like I’m very good at it but I hope I’m helping.

3) Serve in your gifting: I used to serve in a lot of different roles before. I would volunteer to open up and make coffee at AA meetings. I would help with the Youth Group at church. I would volunteer to speak at the prison. If there was a need I was there!

But not these days. Now that I have a wife, kids and a business to run I am very selective about where I serve and spend my time. Now, I try to only serve in areas where I feel gifted. This allows me to not “burn out.”

For example, I don’t do a lot of things at church anymore because I feel like my “ministry” is more focused outside the four walls of the church.

So what about you? Where is your “ministry?” It doesn’t have to look a certain way or conform to any one model. Just do something that you enjoy that also helps others. It’s really that simple. Don’t complicate it.

How To Structure a Private 2-Day Deep Work RV Retreat

Isn’t it amazing how much work you can get done when you’re focused and “in the the zone?”

It’s equally amazing how little you can do when you’re constantly distracted.

I’ll spare you the “did you know multitasking is a myth?” talk that you’ve probably heard repeated a million times by every self-help and productivity guru out there!

(Don’t you get sick of hearing about that?!)

I don’t know about you but I’d rather learn about what IS possible to do (deep work) versus what’s impossible (multitasking).

So in the spirit of “I’m sick of hearing about multi-tasking” I want to share a practical tip on how you can focus on an important project and get it done in record time.

I call it the: “Private 2-Day Deep Work RV Retreat.” (don’t worry, I’ll come up with a sexier name later but I’m not worried about that now).

Here’s what it is:

Drive an RV (you can rent one here) to a nearby campground and spend 2 entire days in deep work mode by yourself.

Since most campgrounds have an afternoon check in time you could leave after lunch on Friday and return Sunday afternoon. This would give you Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday morning to concentrate on whatever deep work project you want to get done.

I got this idea from two different sources.

The first was when I was reading about the Discipline of Study in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline. In it Foster suggests taking a 2–3 day private retreat to study the Bible and other important spiritual books.

As I read that I remembered something I read in Deep Work by Cal Newport. Newport shared a story about J.K. Rowling’s “Grand Gesture” strategy where she would go to a luxurious hotel near Edinburgh Castle and focus on her writing.

Newport explains why this strategy is effective:

“By leveraging a radical change to your normal environment, coupled perhaps with a significant investment of effort or money, all dedicated toward supporting a deep work task, you increase the perceived importance of the task. This boost in importance reduces your mind’s instinct to procrastinate and delivers an injection of motivation and energy.”

In other words, when you go out of your way to do deep work you’ll be motivated to get it done.

So that’s my thought of the day for you. Go find an RV or a “luxurious hotel near Edinburgh Castle” (If it’s not near Edinburgh Castle don’t bother) and go deep!

I plan on taking one of these trips soon so of course I’ll blog about that to let you know how it goes.

How to Explain What You Do if You’re a Copywriter

“One of the first questions that new acquaintances ask one another is ”What do you do?“ or ”What field are you in?“ You need to be able to answer that question with no more than about 20 seconds of description. What is more, you need to answer that question in a way that sounds absolutely fascinating and that almost compels your interlocutor to ask further questions.”

– From Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

I’ll take this challenge.

I need to actually. Because last weekend my brother, Ben, came over for my daughters’ birthday party (they are 3 days apart so we celebrate them together).

As we were sitting at the table talking, he told me a story about one of his friends who had asked what I did for a living. Ben laughed and said, “You know, I have no idea what you do…” and continued on with his story.

I just laughed because I’m used to the fact that most people, including my friends and family, don’t really know what I do for a living.

I usually just shrug it off and think, ‘They don’t get it because they’re not entrepreneurs. They only understand what it’s like to work for someone else.’

But that’s letting myself off the hook too easily, don’t you think?

After reading Rabbi Lapin’s admonition this morning I’m inspired to revisit this and figure out a good 20-second answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

I’ve actually thought about this before. You see, I went into business for myself six years ago. And since then I’ve played with a few different ways to describe what I do.

For example, when I first became a freelance copywriter in 2011 I would say:

“I’m a writer.”

But that would naturally lead to the next question: “Oh so what type of writing do you do? Have you written a book?”

Then I’d have to explain that no I’m not that type of writer.

“No I don’t write novels. I’m a direct response copywriter and I help businesses persuade people to take action using writing (now that I think about it, it would have been helpful to offer that bit of detail versus just saying ”I’m a writer” like some mysterious weirdo).

So then I started saying:

“I’m a copywriter.”

The only problem with that answer is half the people I told this too assumed I was a “copyrighter” (no, that’s not a real word or job). I would end up in the weirdest conversations and be forced to interrupt the person and explain I’m not actually in the business of helping people with copyright infringement or trademark issues.

“No, I’m actually a commercial freelance writer. I copy-WRITER not a copyRIGHTER.”

Eventually I got tired of this and simply told people:

“I’m in marketing.”

Yes, pretty dull. But at least I didn’t have to talk about trademarks, patents and or novels anymore!

But I think it’s time to give this some thought and come up with a decent answer. While I’m at it I figured I’d write this post and share some some thought provoking answers to help other copywriters come up with a good answer.

So here we go…

Here are the questions/tips to help you come up with your own answer:

1) Have you worked with any famous or interesting clients? Then mention them. I’ve written copy for Daymond John from Shark Tank and a couple bestselling authors.

2) Mention something about persuasion or psychology. People usually find this interesting.

3) Mention something about how you help produce results. I love how Eugene Schwartz does this in the Introduction to his book Breakthrough Advertising. He writes:

“I am a mail order copywriter who makes his living by producing results – in carefully-measured dollars of profit – from the written word. My income – my standard of living – depends bluntly and directly upon my ability to sell… I sell or do not sell, on the basis of one tool alone – my ad.”

Speaking of profit, you should probably mention something about money in your answer too.

4) Give examples of the type of projects you do. I’ll use my Daymond John example. “Daymond had this monthly webinar training called ”Shark Chat” that he would sell to people who found him online and joined his email list. My job was to write the emails and the content o the website that sold the course. So I read Daymond’s books and would listen to how he talked on Shark Tank until I felt I had a good grasp on his voice. Then I wrote the copy.

Hopefully that helps. Oh, and my new answer? Here you go:

“So Josh, what do you do?”

“I’m a freelance copywriter who helps successful entrepreneurs, like Daymond John from Shark Tank, and big companies, like American Express, craft compelling copy that gets people to buy. I write things like sales letters, emails and website pages that help make my clients a lot of money.”

P.S. I just re-read my answer and I already don’t like it! I see myself updating this blog post in the not too distant future! Ugh… Why am I trying to teach this when I haven’t figured it out myself? Bad blogger. You need to take a time out and sit in the corner and think about what you didn’t do.

Why We Need to Schedule Time to Think

Yesterday I overdid it.

I pushed myself too hard and felt burnt out at the end of the day. Here’s a log of exactly what I did:

8:30 – Got up late (up with sick kids)
9:00 – Morning ritual (read and wrote)
10:21 – Breakfast
10:30 – Email
10:45 – Focus Session #1: reviewed client feedback I got on a sales page I wrote.
11:45 – Focus Session #2: sales page revisions.
12:45 – Lacie asked if I could watch kids at lunch so she could go to the doctor.
12:50 – Focus Session#3: sales page revisions.
1:25 – Lunch (chicken caesar salad + greek yogurt).
2:23 – Lily napped & Emma played… so did more work on the sales page.
3:23 – Lacie got back… took a break.
3:38 – Sent proposal to potential new partner in the UK about rev. share deal.
5:03 – Took short break (felt stressed as I rushed to make my green smoothie).
5:28 – Reviewed background for new website copy job for Israeli ad agency.
6:26 – Finished revising sales page and emailed to client!
7:11 – Dinner break! Chic-Fil-A! 😃
7:46 – Checked Email
7:50 – Sent 2 follow up emails regarding open deals in my pipeline.
8:30 – Planned tomorrow and finally stopped working! 

My days don’t usually look like this, honestly.

Normally I wake up around 6:00 a.m., start work around 8:00 and quit around 5:00 p.m. And I usually take more breaks. 

But I felt like I had a lot to do yesterday (Monday) so I wanted to make some good progress to start my week off right.

But I realize working like this is not smart. I ended up in a bad mood and noticed I was easily agitated by things my wife and kids did.

And by the time I ended up trying to relax and watch Sherlock with my wife at 9:00 p.m. I felt so fried that I didn’t really even enjoy the show. My brain was still spinning from all the frantic activity I did.

As I reflected on this it reminded me of something I read in the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

McKeown shares a story of how Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s CEO, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day (he divides them into 30-minute blocks). McKeown writes:

“It is a simple practice he developed when back-to-back meetings left him with little time to process what was going on around him. At first it felt like an indulgence, a waste of time. But eventually he found it to be his single most valuable productivity tool.”

When I first read that last year I thought, ’Really? The “single single most valuable productivity tool?” I was skeptical. 

But now I get it. I see the wisdom in it. And I plan to start doing some of this myself. 

In fact, today I scheduled two 30-minute “buffer” blocks. And they helped a lot. Maybe I’ll get to the point where I block out 2 hours of time but it’s a start.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Essentialism:

“Here’s another paradox for you: the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule…And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.”

Saying No To Your Own Good Ideas

It’s important we learn to say no to others so that we don’t spread ourselves too thin.

If we don’t then we get sucked into other people’s agendas.

I’ve gotten pretty good at this over the years. I used to say yes to every request, invite or need that came my way. But then I got mentored by someone who taught me the value of being able to say “thanks but no thanks.”

It freed me up big time. I took control of my time and my life and it was great!

But here’s my struggle these days: I’m good at saying no to others but bad at saying no to myself. Especially when it comes to new ideas, projects or business ventures.

For example, my first year as a full-time freelance copywriter I had the bright idea of starting my town’s first hyperlocal media website, The Battle Ground Buzz.

It was great. I developed relationships with the Mayor, the City Council, business and civic leaders… and I also wasted a ton of time I should have spent on copywriting. And my income suffered. 🙁

If it wasn’t for my wife I may have spent another couple years as the Editor of the Buzz and gone completely broke. But she reminded me that while people are willing to pay me good money to write copy the Buzz, on the other hand, has generated approx. $0 for us.

Good point Babe. So I focused on copywriting again.

The Buzz was an extreme example of my struggle to say no to myself. But smaller projects and ideas still slip through the cracks and derail me slightly.

So I have to constantly filter these ideas out and ask if it’s the right time for this “good idea” or not.

For example, right now I feel excited to really start coaching other aspiring freelance copywriters. I’m coaching my sister-in-law right now and I got an email from a guy in Singapore last week who asked me to mentor him.

So my mind immediately starts thinking about the future of what this could turn into and how I need to create content and courses for freelancers… and just like that “boom” I’m off to the races!

Here’s the only problem: it’s not the right time to create a course for freelance copywriters. I’m already booked solid with copywriting work and I’m also building a new platform for financial advisors with a partner.

I need to focus on this new business I’m launching before starting ANYTHING else!

But it’s hard to say no to what I think are “good ideas.” So that’s why I trick myself and just say “not right now.”

If you struggle with this then try it out. Just tell yourself, “Not right now, maybe later.”

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