I’ll admit it. I have a soft spot for Thanksgiving.
First, because it’s an excuse for me to bake for three days. (If you need a last-minute recipe for the world’s best chocolate cream pie, I’ve got you covered.)
And second, because it reminds me to quit grumbling and start noticing all of the amazing stuff I’ve got in my life.
Here’s my list of 10 things I would humbly recommend you add to your own “gratitude list” this year. They’ve done great things for my business and I think they’ll do great things for yours.
1. The crummy economy
I know, this seems weird. I’m not discounting the very serious and significant problems this has created for millions of people. One of whom might well be you.
But in cracking open the existing systems and shaking them like an ant farm, the horrible economy has also created some amazing opportunities.
If you think of the big companies as dinosaurs who’ve just been hit between the eyes with a gigantic meteor, remember that you’re the smart, agile, adaptable monkey who’s going to inherit the earth.
Frankly, the economy is going to suck for awhile no matter how you feel about it. So you might as well look for the angles that can benefit you.
2. The social web
Brian’s not a fan of this term, since of course everything about the web has always been social. It was built by humans, after all.
But there’s no question that a revolution in communication technology lets you be social with more people, more easily, over incredible geographic and cultural distances, with less friction than ever before.
Which means you can get the word out about what you do for hardly any money, with no special technical ability, to tens of thousands or even millions of people.
And that’s just cool.
3. The quality of free information
Stewart Brand didn’t just say “information wants to be free.” He also said, “information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable.”
What this boils down to is that a lot of smart people have put together great tips, techniques, and help for you to do just about anything. Very often, they start by selling that information at a hefty price tag, to those for whom it’s most valuable.
Then some time goes by, they keep developing their stuff, and they “move the free line” by giving away tremendously valuable information for free.
Yes, the free goodies take time to sift through. Yes, there’s a whole lot of junk.
But if you’re bootstrapping your project, you can spend a little more time and energy and find the answers you want.
Because the current ethos is “give away incredibly valuable stuff for free to build trust and rapport,” you can benefit from that.
You have to choose wisely, of course. Don’t spend your time watching or reading anything from people you don’t respect or relate to. But if you stick with the people your gut tells you are right for you, you can learn amazing things without spending a dime.
4. The quality of paid information
Because there’s so much excellent free material out there, it means that for people who are creating paid information products (membership sites, ebooks, home study courses, etc.), their stuff has to be top notch.
So when you find yourself crossing that line where you’ve got some spare money but not much spare time, you have increasingly excellent opportunities to educate yourself online.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning to fly fish, climb the corporate ladder, design gardens, potty train your kid, be a happier person, or even (yes) market your business online, there are terrific resources that will teach you to do that for a very reasonable fee. And you can access these courses from virtually anywhere on earth.
5. Twitter search
Companies have taken hundreds of millions of dollars in VC funding to build tools that “listen in” to the conversations buzzing around the Internet.
That’s fine, but you can do an amazing job of this for free by signing up for a Twitter account.
Too many people think Twitter is mostly about telling people what kind of sandwich they’re having for lunch today. But for smart business people, Twitter is mostly about listening.
Search Twitter for the kinds of phrases your customers tend to talk about. Maybe it’s low-carb dessert recipes or finding a karate school for their kids.
You’ll find out what they’re saying, what kind of language they use to talk about it, what bugs them and what delights them.
These are staggeringly useful things to know when you’re trying to market a product or service. And you can get it by spending maybe 6 or 7 minutes a day, for free.
6. Connections with incredible people
Whatever it is you like to blog or write about, there are amazingly cool people who like to blog and write about that, too.
They’re posting wonderful articles and interesting perspectives and asking fascinating questions. And you can get to know them just by writing about their stuff (with a link, of course), posting reasonably intelligent comments on their blog, and following them on Twitter.
The smart, funny, snarky, interesting, kind, and entirely wonderful people I’ve met by blogging have blown me away. And I’m always finding new folks. (That was true before I started writing for a “big blog,” by the way. In fact, it’s how I started writing for a big blog.)
Aweber (www.aweber.com) is my email newsletter management tool. They do a great job getting mail into in-boxes (mostly because they hate spammers even worse than you do). They have useful tools, a fantastic how-to blog, an easy-to-understand interface, and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
A great email autoresponder sequence is my single favorite marketing tool (above a blog, even), and Aweber is the tool I think is best for the job.
37Signals is another company I think is terrific, and I would be toast without their Backpack product.
Backpack keeps everything I do in one spot. Half-written blog posts, GTD lists, my calendar, reference notes for client projects, wild-hair ideas for new ventures, gardening plans, checklists for things I’m building, even backups of the million ebooks and audio education products I buy.
For me, they have the exact right combination of flexibility and simplicity, at an excellent price. If it doesn’t fit into my Backpack, I can probably live without it.
9. My copywriting library
A lot of those “secrets of the internet money-getting zillionaires” came from books you can buy for $12 on Amazon.
You can’t make money unless you can persuade someone to pay attention to what you’ve got, and then build a case for its value. That’s copywriting. (It’s even copywriting if you’re doing it with video.)
Classics like Scientific Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods are joined by newer giants like Robert Cialdini’s Influence and Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, and a handful of great web-based references like Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullets.
Learning to write great persuasive copy is mostly a matter of studying the techniques (which don’t change much, because human nature doesn’t change) and then trying them out. There’s no “push button” service that will magically do it for you. But the truth is, it’s well within your ability. You just have to get out there and start trying it.
10. The Third Tribe
This was an idea that bubbled up on Copyblogger back in February, after we were asked the question “Whose side are you on?”
Brian and I talked about this question quite a bit, and realized that we definitely weren’t on the strict yellow-highlighter-squeeze-page side. But we weren’t on the “blog for 20 years before you dare to ask anyone for the sale” side either.
So we made up a third side.
Actually, it had been there all along, going back four years to when Brian first created this blog. But once you have a label, you find that you start to articulate what you’re doing more clearly.
That led directly to the brand-new Copyblogger email newsletter, which kicks off with a 20-part course on how to be an ethical, non-sleazy, relationship-based kumbaya blogger and still make a very nice living. If that sounds like something that would interest you, you can learn more about the newsletter here.
What’s on your list?
What are you grateful for this year? What do you think other readers would be grateful for if they knew more about it? Let us know in the comments.