Blake Snow

content expert, executive adviser, bodacious writer-for-hire

As seen on CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, Wired, Yahoo!, BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal
It looks like you're new. Click here to learn more.

Tagged business

How I made a living last year

As an independent contractor, I get asked a lot on how I make a living. The easiest answer is “I work from home.” If that doesn’t satisfy the interviewer, however, I’ll usually say “I’m a writer,” which is only partly true.

In many ways, I’m a jack of all trades. Writing and developing content for others is my forte. But I also enjoy critiquing software and games, moonlighting in online advertising, content marketing, and one-off projects that present a unique but hard-to-screw up challenge.

That said, I never over promise. I’m quick to tell a potential client or existing client “I don’t do that” when asked about other disciplines and send them on their way—mostly because I do crappy work when I’m not passionate about it. That and I refuse to engage in work I don’t like doing, regardless of how well it pays.

(Seriously, doing stuff you don’t enjoy solely for money or status is the epitome of living a lie. I realize some people have no choice in the short-term and often have to take one for the team to make ends me. But EVERYONE has a choice in the long term. It just takes planning, sacrifice, and guts.)

Anways, long story short, here’s how I became a thousandaire last year: Continue reading…

Reason no. 629 I love Amazon

“There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp.”—Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of the Seattle-based Amazon.com, now going on seven consecutive years as my favorite website.

The secret to life is working to death, experts say

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

PROVO, Ut. — Want to get ahead in this world? Work lots of extra hours — even nights and weekends — experts say, and it will all be worth your while.

“It’s easy to forget what’s most important in life,” says Bill Loney, a certified life coach who hasn’t quite made it in life yet. “Family, friends, and social activities that can often inspire and enrich the life of an individual… these are all distractions in getting more work done,” he adds.

Emma Royds, who hasn’t stopped looking at her smartphone every five minutes for three straight years, councils that most people actually die wishing they had spent more time — not less — working. “People never regret working too much,” she says. “My neighbor opted to do adventurous, social, and fitness-related activities with family and friends in his spare time.

“Now 80, he told me recently he really wishes he would have spent more time on TPS cover sheets, obsessively trying to turn his company into the next big thing, and reading email during every waking hour of his life. It’s kind of sad, really.” Continue reading…

Why eBay auctions are no longer popular

ebay sniperToday, auctions represent only 31% of all Ebay sales. A decade ago, Ebay was suppose to change the way everything was bought and sold. That didn’t happen. A new article in Wired tells why:

To begin with, the experience of auctions changed over time, generally in ways that made them less appealing to both buyers and sellers. Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor, which consults for ecommerce companies, points to the advent of sniping—the practice of placing winning bids at the last second—as something that has alienated ordinary shoppers…

Bargains, too, have become less common, as the market matured and people on both sides of the transaction became savvier…

Really, though, the biggest factor in the decline of the auction may simply be that the novelty of bidding wore off. “The Internet stopped being a source of wonder and became a place to do certain kinds of business,” Koehn says. “Once that happens, you start to think about things like ‘Does it make sense to spend this much time on an auction when I might not even get the item in the end?’” In econospeak, the hedonic benefits of bidding on eBay diminished.

In my opinion, I think the information age has simply normalized pricing. By that I mean you can save a buck or two on ebay, but you really have to work for it… and wait for it. Why not “buy it now” for a few bucks more elsewhere?

Could shoe makers sell more using regular color names?

adidas-goletto-2

See those three stripes? They’re called “diva,” not pink, according to Adidas. And the white you see is “running white,” as opposed to idle white. I know because that’s what the box on my kitchen counter says. (They’re not for me, mind you, but the little soccer player I father.)

Adidas isn’t the first shoe manufacturer to use confusing names. I’ve seen red called “fire” on Nikes and blue called “ice” on Reeboks.

The silliness makes me wonder: Could shoe manufacturers sell more shoes by using color names people understand? Granted, people don’t shop by shoe boxes; they shop by display. But I imagine some prospective buyers have crossed an unsuspecting color and decided to pass on it. I know for a fact that ambiguity always hurts your chances.

That said, is there any proof that unconventional (or idiotic) color naming boosts sales? I doubt it.

Either way, at least Adidas got the hueless color right when describing the above shoes. They call it “black.”

Globalization + latency = boom for localization

Insightful article by Wired on bucking offshoring manufacturing in favor of higher yield American manufacturing:

Today, a year since Krywko’s decision to go against the offshoring tide, Sleek Audio has a full-scale manufacturing operation that can be reached via a 15-minute car ride rather than a 24-hour flight. Each earphone costs roughly 50 percent more to produce in Florida than in China. But Krywko is more than happy to pay the premium to know that botched orders and shipping delays won’t ruin his company. And so far, the gambit appears to be paying off: Based on enthusiastic customer response, Sleek Audio is now projecting 2011 to be its most profitable year ever.

Globalization has been great. But thanks to latency, localization is thriving once more. It’s like the best of both worlds now.

Smart comment on falling home prices

As seen on Yahoo News: “The most obvious way out of this mess is for bankers and developers to build or convert existing units into affordable studio apartments for the masses… Those kind of units created an on ramp to home ownership in the late 50s and early 60s. Instead, residential insiders are waiting for the country to be forced into some big public jobs initiative in hopes that property values can be propped up to levels that won’t massively threaten equity. They’re waiting for somebody to save them from the market instead of responding to it. Somebody’s got to take initiative. Will it be industry or government?”

Seriously, how can this thing cost only $2.15?

HDMI cable cost only $2.15

I needed an extra HDMI cable for my living room. So I turned to where I always go for such things: Amazon.com.

When I found one for $2.15 with free shipping, I was skeptical. But the 4.5 star average user rating quickly quieted any concerns. After all, the item has been favorably reviewed a whopping 3,231 times on Amazon.

So I bought it.

The fairly advanced cable arrived today, after only a few days. The craftsmanship is middle grade. It works fine. It suits my needs, if not exceeds them given the ridiculously low price. So how the crap can someone make money selling this thing for only $2.15 with free shipping?

It can’t just be volume. It can’t just be cheap foreign labor.

In other words, if this little guy isn’t proof that the Chinese artificially deflate their currency, despite their booming economy, I don’t know what is. Booming economies, after all, have trusted currency. Trusted currency results in higher trading prices (i.e. historically high prices for Dollar and Pounds when compared to the rest of the world).

What’s a reasonable consumer to do when the global economy doesn’t play by the rules?

In China’s defense, the U.S. just printed 6 billion notes, which isn’t exactly playing by the rules. But at least our currency is rightfully trading at market prices. The Chinese’s, on the other hand, is still bottom of the barrel, even though its economy is similar in size and trusted almost as much as the American economy.

Something’s fishy, no?

20 business cliches that make you sound stupid

facepalmI went to lunch today with an old business school buddy. We always have a good time making fun of brainless ideas while trying to make a honest buck. Today, we ridiculed some of the following business cliches, which are beyond stale and should never be used; otherwise you’ll sound like everyone else and influence few:
Continue reading…

Why you should never overhaul a working website

g-logoEvery website should be updated regularly. Search engines like it. Readers like it. Your bottom line will like it.

But if you operate a working, established, or otherwise popular website (say at least 2,000 visitors per day), I would never recommend a major visual or mechanical overhaul. It pisses people off. And when that happens, loyal visitors flock to alternatives in mass exodus, as Digg users have done this month.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If your website has a monopoly on information, you can do whatever you want, and readers will keep coming back. And if your website isn’t “working, established, or popular” to begin with, you only stand to gain from a major overhaul, provided it’s done by someone who knows what they’re doing (aka no flash, proper xhtml/css coding, a regular content plan, and most importantly, good usability).

What can you do then to improve or refresh established websites? My advice is to make subtle changes to your design and monitor your visitor’s behavior. If the change has no significant effect, or better, a measurable improvement, keep the change. If the change is off-puting to visitors, revert to the the previous version immediately and re-evaluate both your desire for change and your strategy.

I know this holds true on the few “popular” websites I publish. And if Digg is any indication, I know it holds true for mega websites as well.

May all your redesigns be well-received.