A session of freewriting where I rant about things that are at the top of my head. Specially about writing, people and more.
I haven’t written in a while. Except for PowerPoint presentations, emails and occasional tweets. Heck, I am not even writing stinkers to my beloved. At least with those I would get the creativeness out of the way. I’ve forgotten the joy that I felt when I wrote. I miss it. Each time I said a smart thing or created an amazing alliteration or planted an easter egg (or a 💣) or shuffled a word or two to make the text look better, I would love the feeling and I would clap at myself. You know, how Chris did for himself?
Most times I wrote in the past, I would write about inane things that no one else in the world would care about. It could be about places I’ve been to, things I did or even my love for Diet Coke (which I haven’t had in more than 3 months). See this.
Often I would write about things clouding my head. I will get into freewriting and then before publishing, redact a few things (and copy-paste those onto Roam or whatever notetaking app I was using at the time). I would take all the topics that I am thinking about and then write a note about each. Often the act of writing would give me some clarity. I am the kind that thinks while talking or writing. I can’t deep-think in my head. These freewriting sessions have given me a lot of clarity on a lot of things that I have been struggling to find an answer to. May be that’s what I’d do today?
So, I like the idea of a project-first life. The day-to-day rigmarole is not for me. A project life is where you are immersed in a project with your 100%. While you are on it, you dont have the time to think of anything else. It’s like flying a plane or operating a medical emergency. At a time, you can fly one plane (or operate on one person) and while you do that, you need to be there with your 100% attention. And you get a break after you are done with that project and you get onto the next one. This is because I spent my formative years as an event manager. I would do high-intensity corporate events and would have no time to think or work or read or distract myself with things, I would do the event and then come back to the next one. And in the middle, get ample breaks to recuperate, think, dream, chase hobbies etc.
In fact, I think, life as an event manager was good. I want to get back to it. ISTG I do. But I am not sure how. There is no way I’d get to make a billion dollars with it. And at this time there’s nothing else I want more than a billion dollars. In cash or equivalents. Not in valuation.
So that. Come to think of it, what I do right now (communication / marketing etc) doesn’t give me a shot at a billion either. Truth be told, my current occupation happened because of COVID-19. I was lucky that I could speak well and understood marketing. I was lucky that I had access to people that gave me work. I was lucky that I could create opportunities. I was lucky that people agreed to work with me and help me build C4E. I am lucky that these people now care for C4E and do it more than I do; to the point that I am no longer required.
All of this happened as an outcome of lucky accidents. Nothing was deliberate. I flowed with time. And that served me ok to the point that we are a good business with good people and ok work.
And this is what makes me think – if I could be deliberate with things and move things in a certain manner, we would probably be a great business with great people and great work. And that’s what I need to move towards.
The other day, Sonali told me something cool. She said the number one writing advice that Neil Gaiman gives to others is, “finish things”.
And that I think is what ails me. Not just with writing but with everything. I am great at ideating, thinking, staring. I am able to put in the resources needed to get things off the ground. But I lose interest soon after and I move on to the next one. Aditya Sir diagnosed it and told me that once I solve a problem in my head, I assume that I have solved it – without putting pen to paper or without making the actual effort to solve it. Which is so true! I mean I dont see the sense in solving it once I know how to solve it. The entire idea is to challenge your brains. And will. And may be the ability to finish? Lol!
The thing is, if I were to die tomorrow, the epitaph would say, “Here lies a man who started a thousand projects but didn’t finish even a single one”. Maybe I need someone to execute ideas. Right now, I have partners who work with me on ideas and that is great (someone co-owns those ideas along with me and allows me to co-parent and help do better with the idea) but I think we need an execution team. A set of people that know what Like a SWAT team that just goes and executes. Long ago I knew of a billionaire who had a team whose only job was to execute things – from planning his birthday party to setting up multi-million dollar manufacturing plants to fixing things that typically look impossible to outsiders.
So as a writer, I need to finish more things. Book 2, short film, 90-90-1, 1000 x 1000 – there are at least a hundred writing projects that I can work on but I don’t. No, the ink has not dried. No, the fun I had with writing hasn’t stopped fun-ning.
And as an entrepreneur, get a crack team of sorts to get those things done. The question is, why would the crack team work with me? What can I offer them? I am not the mad genius that attracts others. I am not that bad boy man that the world finds enamouring. I dont have the charisma that moves the mountains. I dont have the panache that gets young people to want to drop everything and follow you off the cliff! I am just another middle-aged man, past his prime, wanting to change the world. So that’s what I need to think about. Any ideas?
The sum total of whatever I’ve written above is two things – shipping and people. And while I may be okay with the second one, I need action on the first one. And that, ladies and gents is my thing for the day – the quart of writing, projects-first work, an execution team and people.
What if you bring attitude of gratitude at work and bring gratefulness to each piece you work on?
Lemme start with some context.
From the outside, we at C4E look like a marketing, brand and communication services company. Of course, we are more but we look and feel like a service company. And truth be told, we make a lot of money from that. And this means that we lean on businesses to give us work. Work that allows us to put our skills to use, vibe (in AK’s words), monetise our skills and live a good life off that money we make.
PS: We want to not get stuck here and be out of this loop (of chasing client work, delivering on that work and then waiting for money to hit our banks) at some point. Plus, in the words of Steve, we are here to make a dent at scale. Marketing / communication / branding may not be the best way to do so. So, we want to get to a place where we do what we like to (vibe, plant bombs and make dents) and have access to patrons that allow us to live the life we want to. PS: This may be construed for FU money (which I may not agree with in this context. And why I don’t agree is a different post for a different day).
Ok, I digressed.
So, as a marketing services company and in the day and age of Dall-E, Midjourney, chatGPT, freelancer.com and all the other such things, we have to work very hard to get work. Plus, we charge a premium compared to companies our scale / size. And we work in a certain manner – we choose who we work with, we mostly work on our terms, and we are VERY big on ensuring our culture / cult is above everything else. After all, life is short and we better live it the way we want to!
This means that for each project we get, we need to bring our A Game. And while we deliver on what we commit, we at C4E MUST operate from a place of gratitude. We HAVE to be grateful that we get the opportunity to work on the business that our clients trust us with.
Contrast this with how most other professionals think and operate (at least the ones I meet). They tend to think that work is essentially a business transaction.
A client has a job to be done. They have certain expectations / budgets. You have a skill to offer. You ask for a certain price for your skill / time / experience. Each of you agrees on a fair value of the transaction.
They give work and offer money. You deliver and take money. And everyone goes home happy.
However, I don’t agree with this.
The thing is, we are in a buyer’s market. This means that the customer is indeed the King and the Queen and everything else. And they have a million options to choose from. And they now have tools to lean on and not even hire a marketing setup for support.
So, when you get work and you take it for granted and you shit on the clients (and call them dumb for wanting to increase the size of their logo, laugh at them not knowing the next cool creator, cringe at their seeking approvals from entire top leadership et al), you do them and your work and the opportunity a disservice.
What if you approach it with gratitude? And empathy. And attempt at arriving at a solution that nudges their brand and agenda forward. And you’d magically see the quality of work, interactions, and satisfaction go up!
No, this is not mystic, manifestation mumbo-jumbo and all that. This is as straightforward as it gets. You love something enough to feel grateful about it being in your life and your love for that fills you! Think of your loved ones. Isn’t your love for them rooted in gratitude? Aren’t you grateful that you have them in your life? Of course, you may not love the skill you’re able to monetise but you can for sure love the money, opportunity and freedom it gives you!
What if we apply similar thinking to our work? What if for each piece of work, you work on, you feel close to it, you feel engaged with it, and you feel it as a part of your life!
That, ladies and gents is the thought blurb for the day.
Lemme know what you think.
PS: Thanks to AK, CM, and V for the comments, thoughts and edits. Thanks to Parry, AC, Anand, Arpit, Moksha, Kushagra and others for reading and sharing inputs.
PPS: I could’ve added more nuance to this and could’ve talked about the following…
Work-life balance / work-life harmony
Live to work vs work to live
Meaning of life in the large scheme of things
Balance (I dont have a lot of things in life apart from work)
Notes, thoughts and musings after I read the Steve Jobs archive. And how I apply what I read to C4E.
So, they released the Steve Jobs archive a few days ago and I’ve spent the last few days reading it. And I have been taking notes in terms of the kind of company I want to build at C4E. We are today a communications collective. Tomorrow we could be something else. But the ethos and values and the very fabric of the company has to be in place! Of course, it will evolve but the entire evolution also needs a genesis. And thus this effort on reading and taking notes.
While the actual notes I took remain alive in the email archives of people at C4E, what I share here is a slightly redacted version. Removed names, specific incidents and all that.
This is part 1 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bangkok. Have fixed typos, grammar and redacted a few things. Have added underlines, bold text and other formatting things.
Hello hello. This is your captain speaking. Lol. I was trying to sound like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 4.
This will be a long email. Bear with me. Havent written a long one in a while. So I may be rusty. And there will be multiple threads.
ONE. WHY ARE WE HERE?
Here – earth. Here – with each other. Here – at C4E.
The answer to me is clear. In my head and in my heart. We are here to ensure that we have the time of our lives. And no, not in the hedonistic revelry drunken stupor manner. But in the way we learn, grow, expand our potentials and more.
I hope this is known to each of you. If not clear already. And if any of you is here for anything but this, then you are in the wrong place and I have set the wrong expectations. So, if you are here for money, for building your resume, for a chill workplace, please revisit your decision. Sorry if I sound harsh but as we scale it will be incredibly tough to keep pace. Oh, and this is a good time to do so. I will put ourselves on a very fast-track path to growth and I will demand a lot. And of course, I will take care of all of us.
Thing is, we are a community of high-functioning individuals, each accountable to everyone else, with infinite trust in each other. “We” comes before “I”. Always. And I really think a lot about that para from Will Smith’s book that talks about his love language being the one of growth and abundance and progress and action and collective. That is exactly my love language. And since all of you are fairly young (including P and P), I’d advocate you all to have the same. Keyword is advocate. Not mandate. Cool?
Coming back to learning, growing, expanding potential and all that, this can only happen if we are one with each other. This oneness is a very vague concept. And it’s impossible to get in that space – we live in different places, our lives are different, our tastes are different and so on and so forth. But since we are one in our mission (to live the best version of our lives and not make work our cages) and vision (make a dent in the universe in our own way), there is some degree of one-ness that we can achieve. And we must try harder each day to be there. We are in what Steve described Reed College as…
I have stopped counting the number of times other people tell us that we vibe well with each other and we operate well as a team. So that’s a good place. We need to find our Mahabharata that ensures that we are financially free. And then life can be so much more enriching and beautiful.
Oh, I hope you understand what we do right now is only to make ends meet and survive? We don’t have the ambition to be just a creative services company. We can sure be a creative products company where we make our things and sell but we don’t want to rent our time to write copy and design things or project manage. It’s a matter of time before we stop what we are doing (even if it will scale in the next few months). We really need money to experiment. Fuel, you know.
Also see this…
Ok, so on the flight I read Steve Jobs book. And I cried. For two reasons.
A, The guy is brilliant and I never had the chance to see him. And I will never be like him and I will never have the impact that he’s had on the world. Second, a lot of things he talks about, well, have knowingly or unknowingly inspired me do to do things.
B, You know how each time we find something incredible about running a business, I realise that we already have something similar. This means only one thing. That we are destined to do well. If not as a business, as a team. And individually for sure.
C, He literally predicted AI!
D. Who do you work for?
Even though Steve says this..
My answer is different.
You don’t work for SG. You don’t work for C4E. You don’t work for anyone else. You only work for yourself. And that is extremely important. If you think you work for SG / C4E / Anyone else, you are wrong. You work for yourself. And thus you need to make this place, make all of us the best set of people to work with. And be around!
THREE. GROWTH SESSIONS
I want to change the format. Each alternate week, we would get a guest to talk to us about what they do. Starting next week. C, ask me about it. And we’d write a blogpost on it.
We HAVE to be a virtual California. Experimenting. Planting bombs. Open. Inviting. Creating new possibilities. Again, planting bombs.
FIVE. PEOPLE / HIRING PODCAST
Here is what I want to do.
Record a live podcast. With all of you in live audience (on Zoom). And I will invite AD to interview me on building teams. And each time I say something that you think I am faffing or we don’t do, PLEASE interrupt. C – ask everyone for their calendar. Including AD. Lets try to do this on Sunday the 23rd. I want Poo to be around as well so see timezones.
Oh, here’s Steve…
Just had regular coke on the flight. Love the taste!
You must read this exchange between Steve and Andy (Intel guy).
Funny that we face this in our lives these days. Where people want to be paid for their time and do not understand that in the long-term this shortsightedness of charging for time and expertise from friends is a bad idea.
NINE. Similarity with C4E. Bored of using caps
TEN: MISTAKES AND REGRETS
What AI is doing is what computers did. Made people do more things. You did not have to learn programming to use a comp. With AI, you don’t have to learn art.
12. ON WORK-LIFE BALANCE. I did type in caps. Lol
You know my stand on it. You don’t have to agree with it. But Steve agrees with me 😀
Also read his thoughts on why you ought to NOT have a “career”. Also see this TED talk by Larry Smith.
13. On contracts and why I don’t generally trust paperwork (but will increasingly rely on documentation)
I want you to see the highlighted part only. Rest is context.
Also see the last pars on the right hand side. “I sort of feel like I work for most of these people because they’re the ones that are doing all the brilliant work.”
Who does this sound like? 😀
14. SoG to CoG. F*@K!
From Shoulders of Giants to in Company of Giants!
This never ever occurred to me till I read this page. Its incredible. Amongst you I am in the company of giants. Each of you is a giant in your own right even if you are all but 18. The page is about a book called Company of Giants where Steve gave an interview. He never used the word Company of Giants per se in it but it sparked an epiphany and this is what I am writing on. So, two things.
1/ We’ve always imagined that we are on the shoulders of giants. This comes from my core belief that I am not a giant and I have a lot to do. But I also miss the point that I could be a giant to some for sure. You know, the ones that are yet to get as old as me. So at least I can qualify as a giant. And this is true for each of you. You may be young but you can do teach a lot of things to a lot of people and they can benefit from your experience. And that’s amazing. So, we are essentially all giants with the awareness that we can and must grow more. No?
So, we are essentially giants on the shoulders of other giants.
And no, being a giant does not mean we stop learning, we stop trying, we stop doing more things. Or doesn’t mean that we become arrogant, know it alls. We can’t be that. There is no way you know it all. Need to ensure that doesn’t change. Also see this…
What do you think is the most important part of this email? Reply to me. And only to me. I will know if you’ve tolerated this email 😉
2/ Now that I have learnt that we could be giants, we need to do more from there on. With giantdom comes giant responsibility. To remain a giant that others in your company respect. So hold yourself to a higher standard. Do more than what you would otherwise do. There is no right way to talk about more but I hope you understand.
3/ Bonus. As giants, we HAVE to be very very very very very… cant stress enough about who we allow to be in our company. We have to continue to get absolutely the best to work alongside us. We have to be that exclusive group that is incredibly tough to get in. And once someone is in, they remain for life. Even if they stop working for us. Our gatekeeping is not for work. It’s for life. And while we will have people falling through the crevices of life (see my last few tweets before take off), we need to continue to take care of them (and theirs – the people that they love). More on this some other day. But the point being, lets be choosy. There is no way we will not have absolutely the best around us.
Also, in the same chapter, I need to up my game in the threatening department. No?
Ok, that’s it! I need to turn off the laptop.
The book is still half-read. My reading speed is slow :d
Rest of the email when I take the flight from BKK to India. But in the meanwhile, do read this and think and reflect.
Love you all,
PS: Now you know why am dangerous on a plane. And what I am capable of without internet.
This is part 2 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bangalore.
I thought I had sent this email once I landed in Bangalore but it never went. I opened my notes for the third part of the email and I realised I hadn’t sent it. So here it is. A lot of book is still left. Let’s see what I cover on this flight (UK866 to Bom).
Ok, captain is back. Lol. No captain. Your chaperone is back. The one that doesnt speak to Prak well. So onto the next part of the book.
15/ Steve’s Job
Steve Jobs’ job was – “number one, recruit; number two, set an overall direction; and number three, inspire and cajole and persuade.”
I think I will spend more and more time on the first one.
The second I dont know how to do.
Third I dont do at all – I am capable of and I will increasingly start doing. While I will do this for things that I control a tad more (DD and not P3), you will see me doing a lot more of this. At no point we mean that we will not retain our independence but I hope you get the drift.
He said, “It is always a team of people, and the chemistry between that team of people, that makes great results”
Well. If I said that I’ve been saying this exact thing for a long time now, will you believe me? Lol!
17/ Steve’s Values
Though this has not been articulated in as much detail and I may be wrong but this is it…
“Life is short; don’t waste it. Tell the truth. Technology should enhance human creativity. Process matters. Beauty matters. Details matter. The world we know is a human creation—and we can push it forward.”
This is Steve. I dont know what my values are TBH. Except that I like to be independent and free. I like the idea of enabling people. But I am not sure if that is my value. I think I need to action this and discover my values. Let’s see when I do that and what those values would be. You people know me from unclose. Lemme know what you think my values are.
You know, when he died, I remember clearly. It was morning our time. I was sleeping. My ex called me said if I had seen news. And I asked what happened. She said Steve had passed. And I remember I cried. F*#k as I write this, I have lump in my throat and my eyes have welled. The point is, I am emotional. Not about my family or friends or you. But about Steve. A stranger that was a monster. Cos that is what I have pegged my entire life to. And you can probably see my attempts to ape him. Attempts to be a fanboy of what he created. I dont know why am writing this but it just came.
No, I dont want people to cry when I die. And I know I will die in anonymity. Once I am old, I will fade away to some obscure jungle. I dont want no one to see me as frail and all that. My memory has to be that of a person in control. Ok digressing. Lol.
So Steve. When he died, one of the eulogies said that the greatest contribution of the man and the greatest irony is that the news of a person’s death was consumed by millions around the world on the very device he helped create. Now that’s impact. What a f**king guy!
4/ Giving a shit about?
Steven P Jobs (guess what’s P? And see a TED talk where Larry something is talking about how you’d fail to have a career like Steven P) gave a shit about Apple and he ensured that he had to do whatever he could to ensure that it does well. I give a shit about each of you here, even though I may not agree to anyone. And I hope each of you gives a shit about each other. And that means we need to ensure we do whatever it takes to help each other run our lives better.
18/ “A More Entrepreneurial Apple”
This talks about what he announced to people
So, inspired from this part. I will work on stock options for all of us. Even SJ, AK and V. I dont know the shape but we will work on this. I know you know that all of us get compensated when we have the money but I want more participation in rewards for all of you. Myra’s part remains unchanged. Whatever stock comes in, comes from my part. Will work on this.
TBH I dont like to cede control over how I run. May be that’s why we are still small and all? That I have not been able to give control?
Oh, we need “all hands on deck” for the next few months. More on this later.
19/ On deciding to not sell Apple
Steve loved to walk. I love to talk at cafes. The point is, f2f. In person. Not over camera. For starters, C, I need you in Bom. Lets accelerate.
Wait walk was not the point. The point was, he believed that despite the shit that people did, he wanted to do things. Not for people. But for what he believed. In our case we are WAAAY better. There’s nothing wrong in what we do or who we are. Just that we need to ensure that we dont get this complacent.
I hope none of you have stopped challenging me. This is also the reason why I ran that 2 question survey. I may be stubborn and have a lot of preconceived notions about things but I really enjoy the banter and questions that people ask me. I am not as patient as Steve is. Once I know someone is not getting the intent with which I am talking, I give up. That intent is the starting point. The details is something I am ok to let go. I hope I am making sense here.
Here’s a thing that I will add to my weekly review. What notion of mine was challenged by the team this week?
His entire third act is about focus. And I think I need to bring that in my life. And in the lives of all of us. Let’s see how. Any thoughts?
22/ Brand C4E
If Steven can be concerned about complacency for Apple’s brand, we HAVE to be VERY mindful.
Sorry if I am harsh but this obsessiveness over brand, especially our own, needs to be there. For clients, they are happy with good being done better than their existing standards. We need to outrank our own standards each time.
Ready Fire Aim is great. Planing bombs is excellent. But do we want to plant a bomb in our own home? Do we want to open fire in our own backyard?
23/ C4E’s core belief
He says, “But Apple is about something more than that. Apple, at the core—its core value—is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe.”
What is our core belief?
I think it would be similar. That people want to live their best lives and while they do so, they want to do meaningful work. And once work has meaning, people do magic.
No it’s not as sharp as Apple’s. But we will find that out. We will craft it. But till the time we get there, we need to be obsessive about rallying as well as we can.
24/ Here’s to the crazy ones…
Here’s an experiment. I used to remember the lines verbatim. I am going to type those without seeing the lines.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The misfits. The troublemakers. The rounds pegs in square holes. The ones that have no respect for the status quo. You can laugh at them, disagree with them, vilify them or ridicule them. But there’s one thing you can never do. You can’t ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Cos the ones that are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, actually do.
And here’s the actual one.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
I need to do this pronto. The forest that we remind ourselves from time to time.
I can NOT stress enough that we need design chops. We’ve been trying hard to find someone but I dont have the money to compensate. More than the money I dont have anyone that sees like the way I do. There’s V but she’s in Kol. Need someone to handhold me and help me with design. There is so much we can do if we can pull this design thingy!
Each product we make, each thing we sell has to be design first. And no, not quirky design that pleases us and our evolved sensibility but what we can share with the world that the world accepts. You know how high fashion is good and all but in the end people go to basic H&M and Zara and Bata and all. That. We may have our own quirks and likes and all but in the end there has to be a commercial angle to design.
What gap are we bridging? Apple bridged this gap…
What bridge are we building? Who are we enabling? Apple enabled following..
Remember, we are as good as our last delivery.
Ok, taking off. More later.
This is part 3 that I read / thought / wrote on a flight to Bombay.
Part 3 of the epic Steve Jobs book thingy. Before anything, question. Do you think we should make this open source? As in publish this on C4E blog? Or will it become way too self indulgent? Batao batao. Tell tell.
Ok coming to the book.
29/ Golden Age.
He says, “Our real Golden Age is being fueled by the maturing of our people.” When we get to golden age of C4E, it will be brought about by EACH of you becoming giants. I dont like words like mature etc. But growth. I hope you understand.
He also talks about more and more people coming from behind them. That’s what we need to start. While we will add more people, we need all of us to get the next generation ready. And no, not in terms of age but in terms of how well they understand who we are.
30/ On optimism
I think it’s incredibly useful to be optimistic in life. This quote reminded me of this – “One of my favorite quotes from him is where he says that optimism is the essential ingredient for innovation.”
You know, how I say, I am glass half-full person and how I say it will happen with time. All of us need to be that. Optimistic. But at the same time paranoid. Should never rest on the laurels of the past. Must always want to do more.
31/ Three things.
Steve on Bob Noyce (intel) – “His job was to, number one, recruit; number two, set an overall direction; and number three, you know, inspire and cajole and persuade.”
I think I am on to this already. I have yet to work on the direction part. I dont know how to cajole / persuade or whatever. But I think I know this mantra. I need to do better. What do you people think?
32/ Buy people lunches.
Each of you can use this ruse. You are young. Send those cold emails. Buy people lunches.
Also, as I read this chapter, I am inspired to see all that happens in SV. I think I really missed that :(. I think all of us must be at the epicentre of action. Am lucky to be at Mumbai. I have failed at making a network in Bangalore. I would kill to be 20 year old in US / San Francisco. Sigh. See this next para. I couldn’t even comprehend it! I mean it’s so deep. The entire thing about tricks being there for one-time performance and the loss of novelty. Uff. How dare they have such writing prowess and clarity? Prak help me write like that!
33/ Why Apple Stores are at places like BKC and Saket?
34/ On people and hiring.
This is THE most important distinction that we need to make when we hire. This entire page should be crammed up like you would do to a poem you love!
Also I am noticing that Steve’s thoughts in the later years are lot more “practical”. I mean see the progression from the three emails I’ve sent you ;P
35/ Management by Values.
Thing is am finding the same piece of advice over and over again. Or I am merely reading the same things over and over again. Look at this line – “He called it management by values. What that means is you find people that want the same things you want, and then just get the hell out of their way.”
I mean come on! Thank C4E. We want ethos. We want alignment on culture book. We want people that want same things like us. And then I am saying I need to get out of the way!!
36/ Why I am BIIIIIIG on even the subtle signs of creeks coming up in our culture / communication etc.
Read the following para.
For context, he talks about how a tiny word in the way management thought at Apple made Apple into a bad place from great. And he spotted it as soon as he was back. And now he’s talking about that subtlety is not really to be ignored. Plus he’s talking about alignment on why / values / rason d etie (whatever that word is).
And the matra part that got clipped in the image above – he says, “And that’s one of my mantras around Apple and Pixar: that recruiting is the most important thing that you do. Finding the right people—that’s half the battle.”
37/ Not sure of what I think of this. Opinion?
“a teacher is someone who stands with you in the dark and holds their flashlight just long enough for you to find your own flashlight.”
This is the best damn definition of teacher I have ever seen!
Remember my fascination with the sense of urgency and yet my inability to push it? I got reminded of that again with this quote – “what can be left to later, usually is — and then, alas, it’s too late.”
You will see me pushing for a lot more things to be done faster. Please be warned. And this passing of Sid Rao (even though I did not know him personally) has been hard on me. I looked upto him and he was my age.
40/ PLAN TO MEET PEOPLE
I read this and had goosebumps. This is where he’s talking about meeting his future wife. No, am not sure if he was a great husband, but this para spoke to me!
The point is, you can NOT plant to meet the people that will change your life – I did not plan to meet R, S, R Sir, any of you and yet once I met, I knew each of these would play a role in my life and I recognised and I went ahead and literally begged and did whatever I could to be in their life and be of service to them. I am sure I have missed having the clarity of mind on a lot of people. But I increasingly try to evaluate each person as one of the two – a, someone who I can give some input and may be help shape their lives and b, can that person be impactful in my life?
And when I see that my answer is yes to the above question, I put in the effort to be their friend and show them my love / affection / attention. I speak in the love language of having everyone make money together etc etc.
You know all those ABC kids that I was spending time with? Those SoG kids? I really think I could add a lot to D, S, S, A, A, N, N, V, AK etc. And each of you knows amount of effort (time, money, energy, personal equity) I put in to earn their respect etc. But I failed, except maybe with AK. Or a bit with V. The point is not my failure. The point is, I need to get more convincing in my communication. And more importantly, when I spot a giant that I could stand on the shoulder of, I need to drop everything and persuade them to start liking me. Ajeet Sir is one (C met him the other day). I do so so so so much for him. And yet he refuses to accept me. I am willing to submit to him. But no. He won’t accept me.
Similarly, each of you needs to find YOUR people that will change your life. I hope all of us can change of each of us. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE go forth and find more people. And if your interactions allow you to recognise that they can change your life, PLEASE do whatever it takes to stick to them. C – A could be for you. AC – P could be for you.
41/ Why I invest in C4E / SoG / etc
I did not invest in a house, a car or anything. Heck, [REDACTED]. Why? Think and tell me.
And no, not trying to [REDACTED]. It’s a fact. Stating like a fact. And hoping for a straight answer, like you would respond to a non-emotional, rational, facts-first question.
Fun fact – I did not know that Steve wrote the Stanford speech himself. I assumed someone would’ve written for him, the way most people get their things done. And he took 6 months!! FCUK!!
42/ The missing BEST thing from the actual speech!!!
I dont know why Steve did not include this in his speech. This is THE BEST DAMN advice I’ve EVER read ANYWHERE. NOT KIDDING. READ!
LIFE AS A STORY IN THE MAKING! FUAAAK!
What makes your heart sing? F#$K!
And you know what, I am so so so so lucky that I think 18 years of my story is amazing so far. I have 10 more years to go till am 50. Am going to make the next 10 the best song that the heart knows. Come sing with me. Tell me your song. Let’s make a symphony of our song. I am sure there could be a case of Miley Spears or whatever that lady AK is fan of and Lucky Ali and Eminem and a dog barking coming together to create music!
Ok that’s about it from this flight. There is one more part coming in. I will send it this week and then we can chat. Till then, over and out.
This is part 4 that I read / thought / wrote at a Starbucks.
So, I had to get over with this. The book is almost done and needs just an hour more. And right now am parked at a Starbucks and I have time till 12. So, I thought, why not?
I do have a flight on Friday (to Goa :D) and I could have used that time. But no, too far.
This is a quote from Bill Gates about Steve Jobs when Jobs was sitting right next to him. I dont know what you see. But I see charm. And all of us need to learn that!
44/ The kind of things we want to use ourselves.
THIS IS EXACTLY what I have been trying to do with C4E. And all of you. I know modern work is broken. I don’t know if I can fix it for large sets of people. But I can fix it for myself and the ones around me. And that’s what I am onto.
I want to build a structure where I can thrive and feel free and do things that I want to. Of course, I want to make money and enjoy the richness that life has to offer. Of course, we have to work incredibly hard, harder than the average Joe and Jane and Them next door. But it has to be at my own term. With the confidence that life could be full of people where we talk to each other with respect and start and end at that.
I hope each of you sees this. And each of you wants to build this place into a kind of place that you’d like to welcome your friends and family into!
45/ Look at the future. Not past.
In hindi we say, jo beet gayi so baat gayi.
Each of us – whatever has happened in the past need to learn from that and move on. Don’t let it linger. Think what can you do next. Life is what’s happening to you now and what will happen to you in the future.
46/ Sic Transit Gloria
47/ As good as the last thing
I know I have shared this already (point 28) but I thought I will share it again. See and internalise.
48/ Shoulder of giants
These are indeed very simple words but very very deep. That’s the point of it. Things are simple. We read them at a superficial level. And then we forget about those. However, to appreciate them really well, like REALLY well, you need to be clear in the head. This is what Steve was probably going for. I cant say I understand and I get what he was on but this is very very useful to read.
49/ One more thing
I don’t know how many of you know the “one more thing” thing but read about it (here).
Let’s POKE life. We’ve done that a lot already. Can we do more? Can we change it for better? Life is a gift and our gift has come with considerable privilege. Each of us acknowledges it and knows about it. Why would we then not chase a higher-order thingy? C4E and communication and all that will happen. But can there be more? Can we all uplift self and others?
On this Thursday’s growth session, I will talk about this.
PS: These Thursday sessions are where we at C4E do an open-house conversation of sorts where we invite someone to speak about an idea / thought that is worth knowing. If you’d like an invite, please write to us at @c4ein.
A braindump on how I think about life and work and what I am building at C4E.
Here’s a brain dump on how I think about C4E and who we are and what we do and where we want to be.
This is a brain dump.
This is how I think today. Now. 22 Mar. 19:51 PM.
Could change / evolve with time.
Not seen by anyone else yet.
So, among other things, I want to establish C4E as  a great business to  do great business with.
And a  collective of businesses, each with the same ethos, each a part of the cult, each tapping into the same resource pool. Each with an intent to be larger than C4E!
So three things.
 Great business – C4E has the greatest people.
 Do great business with – C4E does great work, if not the greatest.
 A collective.
Lemme talk about each of these.
Before I take up these things, have to repeat what Naval Ravikant says: “Play long-term games with long-term people.”
We MUST be long-term people for each other at C4E. And for our clients. And we MUST play long-term games.
 Great business – is one that is made of great PEOPLE.
Where people trust, value, and respect each other. Where each person is treated like a person. And not like an object / a thing / OHR ID. The #culture must speak for itself.
At C4E each person MUST chase their respective bliss. Each with an opportunity to do great work in a safe space. Each paid as much as they’d like to be. Or enough to afford the lifestyle of the top 1%. Each with the freedom to work how they want, when they want, on what they want.
Each is a part owner. Each with their skin in the game. Each with ability to live their life the way they want to. Or as we call this in our culture book, each with the ability to choose their own adventure.
At C4E, each person must tap-dance to “work” each day. Each person must “want” to work harder than anyone else. Not because they are expected to. But because they want to. And of course, work smart. More importantly, each has a lot of fun while they work.
So, people first. ALWAYS.
If people at C4E are engaged, they are in the zone, they are inspired to do great things, we as a business would do well. Even if the times are hard and projects are tough.
You know #c4eCult
 Do great business with.
This is simple. We at C4E HAVE to a great business to work with (if not the greatest). While this great / greatness is tough to measure, I believe that a good metric could be…
number of heated conversations
While we may not be good / best / brilliant at what we do, HAVE to be the MOST relentless, resourceful, flexible, polite, honest, straightforward, hardworking, smart-working, jugaadu team.
PS: EACH word here has been used after a LOT of thought (which is unlike me).
And while we do all of the above, we HAVE to be the team that stands by clients through thick or thin. You know, like, friends in need. We want to be around our clients come hell or high water. Our clients often find us standing two steps behind. If not next to them.
We are your wartime consigliere. We are the ones that you can lean on. We will hold your flag high. We will give it all we have. In the words of Will Smith, we are not afraid to die on the treadmill. We will NOT be outworked. Especially when you need us.
PS: we are VERY VERY selective about whom we work with. Even though we are small and it’s tough to survive on a day-to-day basis, we are sure about not saying yes to anyone whom we dont get the right vibes from!
So that. Happy people. Better work. It’s that simple.
 A collective.
I am VERY very sure about this. C4E may look like a marketing / communications agency right now, we are MUCH MUCH more than that. We are like a group of superheroes. A collective of people with the grandest brains, unbridled ambition and keeda to do more.
Always buzzing with energy, ideas and all that. Always willing to fire before we take aim. Always wanting to do more.
Each person at C4E HAS to be special. Each has to build a thriving business with C4E as its incubator. Each must use C4E as a sandbox. Each must take energy from each other and catapult each other higher than what each could individually do!
Right now, some of these that I can talk about are Purple Pencil Project, The Red Sparrow, The Podium, Decoding Draupadi, Titan CS, LHV and others. Right now, C4E is bigger than the sum of these. Some day, each of these HAS to be bigger than the whole of C4E. See this tweet by Elon Musk.
C4E has to be a great business to do great business with. And we are a group of tightly-knit, exceptional people, giving our best shot at solving tough problems. And while we do that, we are trying to chase our respective bliss!
If you think you want to be a part of this, come join us! We are really good people to work with!
A comprehensive guide to how to start your freelancing career in 2023 and live life as a creative freelancer on your own terms.
In 2015, I quit my job as a digital strategy planner with a leading social media and digital marketing agency. I started freelancing and at the time I barely scraped through. Fast forward to 2022, “I” now bill almost 10 lakhs a month (on average – some months less and some months more) and I am more than ok! In this guide to start freelancing, I talk about how I did it and how you can too.
PS: the “I” is a small team that works together to deliver on the work I bring in. And the 10 lakh I talk about is what we bill as a team. We operate as The C4E Collective.
PPS: Again, 10 lakhs is the average. Some months, we do more, and some we do less. In all fairness and honesty, in the best month, we billed about 22 lakhs, and in the worst, we billed 4.
So, here’s a guide to how I broke into freelancing and how you can do too.
Lemme start with some background.
I think believe I am destiny’s child.
I have been extremely lucky and I am grateful that I am where I am. A lot of things (that were mostly out of my control) had to happen to give me this life I have. And I manufactured a handful of things to augment the ones that were out of my control. And I need to work VERY hard on building blind faith in my self (something I lack).
In this longish piece, I want to share what I did and maybe you can pick some lessons from here!
So, if I am at a 10 lakh a month number, it is because of all the people I’ve met and the opportunities I’ve created. The keyword here is created. Unlike popular belief, I do not believe in waiting for things to happen. I seek them. I try and create them. I put myself out there, in rooms where there are odds that I would meet people better than me. Once I am in there, I am ok to make a fool of myself. I am ok to be laughed at. I am ok to raise my hand when no one else is daring to. And I believe in playing long-term games and doing it for the long term.
PS: Long-term is anything more than 5 years. I’d want to push it to 10. But 5 I think it is for the time being.
Before we start, please note that this is NOT a list of freelancing hacks for writing or for anything else. For the simple reason – I don’t know if they exist. Rather, this is a list of things that worked for me and these may or may not work for others. However, there are lessons you can pick from what I believe in and what I did and you can adapt these to your situation. And yes, like all “advice” this is not one-size-fits-all. Please tread with caution.
Lesson 0. Freelancing is a (VERY) long-term game.
Let’s start at ground zero. Freelancing is a long-term game you play with long-term people.
Today, each opportunity that knocks at my door is a result of a relationship that I “created” years ago and then took the effort to nurture it. I allowed them to compound.
Here’s some data. My most recent client is someone I know for almost 2 years (thanks to a podcast that I produce). The second most recent client is someone I walked up to randomly at a WeWork (in 2018), and became friends with. So, 5 years. The third most recent client came via someone I know since 2013. And all the other clients came through relationships built prior to that!
Update: Since writing this post for the first time and publishing it, I’ve cracked three more clients. One I’ve known for 5+ years. The other for 7+ years. The third taught me at MDI (16 years ago). So, the point has been reinforced.
So, please get this tattooed on your forehead that as a freelancer, you will have to play a VERY long-term game. The one that will probably last you for the rest of your life. And thus each thing you do, you need to think from that lens.
Oh, and starting point of this game?
Relationships. With friends. Acquaintances. Strangers. Loose Connections. And everyone else in between.
Lemme talk more about this in the next step.
Lesson 1 – Build Relationships irrespective of your intent to start a freelancing career
If I could teach the world how to build relationships, we would have reached Moon Mars by now. And to teach this to an aspiring freelancer would be even more difficult. Allow me to try.
First things first. I define a “relationship” as a thing that makes you want to spend your time with another person. And vice versa.
So, how do you “build” this want? How do you manufacture it?
Well, to get other people to spend time with you, you could start by becoming interesting, likeable, approachable, dependable and all that. The tough part is that each of these words is subjective and there is no tangible definition per se.
However, while the definitions of subjective things vary, there is indeed something tangible that you can offer to others.
You could add value to others. To them as people. To their businesses. To their lives. Value is tangible. Could be small, big, large or whatever. But most people know it when they see the value.
And on the other side, when you meet others, you need to have patience, listening ability, zero judgements, an open mind, empathy and willingness to offer value (even if they are the ones pitching to you). You need to gift others your attention without expecting anything.
No, it’s not easy; we all struggle with ‘no expectations’ on various levels.
What has worked for me is that I have offered value (hopefully immense) without asking (or even expecting) anything in return.
Lemme give an example. A friend needed someone to talk to her boyfriend and show him opportunities in the digital marketing space. I thought I could give gyaan. I did that. That person got placed at some agency. And then he gave me a project to work on! Simple and effective!
Thing is, when you offer value without expecting anything in return, the people on the other side start to see you as one of “them”. And not a third party that they’ve engaged for a “project”. And once you are “one of them”, you earn a seat at the table. Where both (access and rewards) are higher.
PS: Of all the strangers that you’d offer value for free and without expecting anything in return, there are bound to be a few that would take you for a ride. You would invest time, energy and everything and you would get nothing. And that’s ok. Really. We pay taxes. There is leakage. You accidentally spill your coffee. This is how life is. Just that each time you are taken for a ride, identify the red flags and next time, avoid similar situations. So start with an expectation that once in a while you’d be left on the losing side.
Lesson 1.2 – Don’t wait for these relationships to happen, create them.
Thanks to Karan Johar and Walt Disney and others like that, we assume that a “connection” will “click”. You’d be roaming around in a park and in your lap would fall the handkerchief laptop of a gorgeous woman client and as you give that back to her, you would exchange numbers and she would give you a lot of love freelance work.
Lemme pop your bubble. No. It doesn’t work like that. Not even for romance.
If you read Neil Strauss or Kevin Mitnick or have seen Anurag Kashyap films, you know you’d have to plant some goons to tease the woman of your dreams and show your heroics to save her.
Same with freelancing.
You need to plant things that will create opportunities for you to come across as a hero that the client can not live with!
So, in one line, you need to create these relationships. You need to walk into rooms you are not invited in and try and locate people you want to learn from, collaborate with, or simply keep around. You need to be intentional and deliberate about it!
Lemme give an example. I was working out of a WeWork in 2018 or something. I took the floating desk because it was cheaper. While I sat there, I overheard this man talking about marketing and branding to someone else on the phone. While he spoke, he made a lot of sense. So, I decided to walk up to him. And introduced myself. He was kind enough to reciprocate. And this started my friendship with Aditya Save, who has helped me get work, helped me find people for my team and has taken my input for his work!
So yeah. That.
Create relationships. Be deliberate about it. And put in the work required to create relationships.
Oh, here are some actionable ideas…
Join groups where interesting people hang out. I am a member of a few others. Lemme know and I will get you added. Needless to say, I am part of scores of Whatsapp groups, each discussing a wide range of ideas and each on mute ;). Here’s a plug – I run a WA group where I send gyaan on marketing. Join Marketing 101 if you want to.
Go to meetups. LinkedIn is rife with opportunities to do so.
Take memberships (if you can afford it) at places like WeWork, Soho House et al that have a curated selection of members.
Engage with tweets and messages from interesting people on social platforms. Without getting creepy. Start with me or Aditya!
Lesson 2 – Be reliable when freelancing.
In my experience, people dont want to work with “the absolute best” or the “greatest in the world”.
They want to work with reliable people. They want to pay and get work done. They dont care about a Picasso or a Mario Puzo when they want a piece of art created. They want it to deliver enough to solve a business problem. As a “creative” individual, you can continue to chase perfection. Or show progress. To the world. And while you do so, be dependable.
I mean think about it. You want to go from point A to B. Would you wait for the “right” car to come in or you’d hop into the next one?
More often than not, people do not care for you being exceptionally good at one thing (I know this sounds counter-intuitive to common wisdom where they want you to the world-class at one thing). People care about paying and getting work done on pre-decided timelines.
So, be reliable.
Lesson 3 – Start Small.
You cannot start freelancing expecting a gig worth a lakh a month. You build up to it, in terms of both skills and confidence and ability to deliver and ability to demand money.
We’ve engaged a designer that billed us 500 bucks for a FB post a few months ago. And today, he pays his house EMI from what he bills us!
If back then he said he would only pick up work worth 1 lakh, he wouldn’t have moved towards financial independence. At least not with us.
Lesson? Never hold out for the biggest fish. Start small, but keep at it.
The keyword is, keep at it. And dont say no. And offer value. More than what you thought you could.
Lesson 4 – Spread yourself wide! It is a freelancer’s paradise
Again, counter-intuitive to what common wisdom is. But has worked for me like a charm. Read on.
I cannot stress enough that everything that’s come to me has come to me because I widened my interests and attention. Just by doing this one thing, I’ve met a LOT of people from a LOT of backgrounds that knew a LOT about a LOT of things.
Each interaction allowed me to pick up more things that I can talk about and can eventually work on. Each interaction made me a tad more interesting for the others to talk to. Each interaction gave me a higher chance to be in rooms that I would otherwise not be welcome in.
The same reflected in the kind of work I was doing. When I started freelancing, I worked as a marketing consultant for a startup. And I did brand strategy for an agency. And I did an event production for another agency.
No, I am / was not “the best” at any of these three. I was merely dependable. See lesson 2 above.
When the COVID-19 lockdown happened, my biggest source of revenue (events management) came to a standstill. However, my ability to deliver brand strategy and marketing consulting allowed me to survive. And then I expanded from there on.
Today, I do the following – ad-films production, marketing consulting, digital brand planning, ghostwriting, podcasting, content, investing and more! This spread has allowed me to bill 20+ lakhs in a couple of months). And no, I am not great at any of these. I am not even good. I am just dependable.
And oh, I started small and upskilled and ensured that I delivered more than what I promised.
The point is, go out there. And expand yourself thin. Always be on the lookout for experiences of different kinds, and you will meet people from different industries, with different dreams, and very different lives. And rather than trying to fit them into the mould that you’ve created for yourself, be open and accepting.
Lesson 5 – Overdeliver. Even as a freelancer and while freelancing.
This one’s quite simple: Say you’re asked to write just a blog post. But when it comes to delivering, you send in a series of tweets along with that blog post, to help get traffic to that post. Or, you share those five insights you had while writing that piece.
Your clients will see it. They will remember you for going above and beyond. And they would see that you are the kinds to deliver more value than what you are paid for.
Result? You are perceived as someone who delivers value. Top it up by being dependable. And then top it up by being the one that does not expect a lot. Why would people not work with you? Why would you not scale? Why would you not reach the 10 lakh a month number?
Quite simple. And effective.
Lesson 6 – Make yourself discoverable as a freelancer.
Jo dikhta hai, wo bikta hai. Location. Location. Location. The baby that cries the loudest gets fed first.
There are numerous parables like that. Each makes the same point. Be out there. Be discoverable.
You’d start attracting opportunities the second you begin putting yourself out there. You invite people to discover you. And then you back it up with overdelivering. And you invest in long-term relationships. And you become a dependable person.
How is it that you will not build a solid network that gives you work? P.S.: You may want to read this post on networking.
In the words of Daniya and Chandni (am making them discoverable by adding them here), “Think of it like this: It starts with you seeking opportunities and ends with people discovering you. What happens in between is all the things we spoke about – relationships, offering value, and reliability.”
And how do you do it? Newsletters, videos, blogs, Twitter – just about anything that aligns with your voice. Go out. Show up. Showcase what you’ve done. Talk about your work.
Wait. What do you think this blog post is? Why did I spend 15 45 days writing this? Why do you think I am ranting on Twitter all the time? Why do I overshare?
PS: I have to admit that despite doing all of the above, I remain VERY poor with my visibility and my distribution. Even though I write a lot, I need to work on this and I am constantly in search of amplifying this. And here is a post I wrote on how to build a writing habit.
Lesson 7 – Collaborate with other freelancers and freelancing platforms.
You know how a single twig breaks easily, but the second you pick a bundle, they’re invincible? That.
That’s how you should view those on a similar path as you.
Together, you learn and attract more. Ditch that greed (of doing things by yourself and keeping the entire pie for yourself) and find people who want to grow with you. Ditch that insecurity that if you share your connections, others will close those deals ahead of you. Ditch that fear that the client will find someone else who’s better.
And in case you need to find a place to start with, start with me. I’d love to. I am a tweet away.
Once you have one or two connections, go seek more. Join networks. Go to meetups. Tweet at random people. Ask for help. “Hire” people to work with. The “I” I talked about at the beginning of this post are actually my collaborators. It is humanly impossible to make 10 lakhs a month as a freelancer if you are on your own. You need collaborators. You need to pick work and allocate time and divide responsibilities and remuneration. The 10 lakhs we make is divided between the 6-7 of us and as a collective, we are better off than we would be if we did not collaborate.
This collab also allows us to present ourselves as a “large” company and pick larger projects (in value / impact / showcase) that an individual would never ever get considered for.
From here on, as a collective, we may go become a large company. Or will remain a bunch of freelancers working together. No one knows (I dont know what the future holds and I will not lose sleep over it). But what I know today (as of writing – 11 Dec 2022) is, that I am having a ball (with obvious ups and downs) and I am extremely grateful for that.
I am digressing. The point is, partner with more people. Do larger capers 🙂 Start with me, if you want more partners. I am a tweet away.
Lesson 8 – Be the “easiest” freelancer to work with.
I can bet that you have that friend that is incredibly difficult to please. You could go to the best restaurant to eat at, on a day that’s going really well and this person will spot a problem.
At work, you would have that colleague that would ask a thousand questions even before lifting a finger and you would know that most of those questions are a way to deflect work assigned to him. You know, passing the buck. Or the pillow. Or as I call it, playing football and pushing the ball to the next person.
There are people that you want to avoid even though they deliver great work. No?
So, thought experiment. Switch places.
If you are that person that is incredibly difficult to work with, do you think people will come to you for work? Will they recommend you? Will they ask you to do things?
If your answer is, “oh, I am the best. If not work with me, where would they go?”, then you’ve lost the plot and wasted all the time reading all these tips to start your freelancing career in 2023.
Thing is, clients are people. And they seek other people that are easy to work with. They like the idea of being easy to work with. They love their peace of mind.
It’s really simple. When you’re stuck in circles, who do you turn to? When you need something solved proto, where do you go? When you want someone to get you out of the soup without asking too many questions, who do you think of?
Be that person. For others. For clients. People Clients are looking for just that.
So, while you’re being reliable, also be easy to talk to and easy to work with. And see work coming your way.
Lesson 9 – Be a freelancer that people can trust.
As I grow, I often find myself working closely with companies that often compete. As I write this, I work for 4 different advertising agencies. And each competes with the other on a day-to-day basis. And while the scope of work I take on for them might vary, I am essentially working for companies in the same business.
Thus, discretion becomes important. And it becomes tough for me to earn their trust. And while I have not been able to find a solution to this, I start with full disclosure. And transparency.
If I am working for competing companies, I disclose that to all them. And I’ve seen that if you volunteer information without others asking for that, people tend to trust you a tad more.
Again, trust is something that you need to earn. With time. The longer you work with / work on something / someone, the deeper the trust. While a post on trust would be another 5000 words, if I were to highlight a few points that help build trust, these would be…
A/ Everything that I have listed in the 8 lessons above. I will repeat some in this list.
B/ Radical honesty. There is nothing better than this.
C/ Keeping word. On your promises. On your delivery. Your Zubaan must have a keemat. Thank you, Rajesh Sir for teaching me this lesson.
D/ Be consistent. I suck at this, to be honest. But I am working on this.
PS: B, C and D are about being the most reliable person ever. Also, scroll up to see lesson 2.
That’s it. I am sure there are more things you can do to build trust but these 4 will cover most of those. And in fact, all the lessons I’ve listed would cover them all.
In the end…
Guess this is about it.
These are the 9 things that have allowed me to build a freelancing career. Trust me when I say this that if I have been able to build one for myself, I am sure you can too.
Also, do lemme know if this was useful. And do tell me what else would you want to read about if you are starting out as a freelancer in 2023. Finally, if you have any specific questions, I am happy to talk. The best way to reach me is on Twitter. I am a tweet away.
A Few Disclaimers
This post is essentially a list of things that have worked for me. These may or may not work for you. This is a summary of my experience only the results may vary 😉
For context, I hold an MBA from MDI and have about 16 years of experience post that.
Thank you Samriddh, Hemant, Sanhita for reading early drafts and helping me improve this with specific inputs. These names are not in any order.
There are more things that I can write about. In fact, I am thinking I will do a live session to help people break into freelancing. Would you want to learn from me? DM me on twitter and lemme know.
If not on a live session, I think in the subsequent posts, I can write about the following: how to crack the first client, how to build the network, how to price your work etc etc. But I think that’s a different topic for a different day. Do let me know what would you want to read.
A longish conversation with self on things that I need to more of if I want to reach where I want to.
6:56. Woke up a few minutes ago. The minds blank. Lemme fill in some words and see the direction this narrative takes. Yesterday was a long long day. I did not get time to even see the watch till about 2. And no, I could not do the Surya Namaskars. Neither could I do meditation. No, I did not write on the Roshan story. I did manage 10K steps though. So that’s the only win I have.
The other thing that I have to log is that even though I have been eating clean for more than two weeks now (except that lone mousse that I eat every day, I have not eaten anything from outside), I feel bloated all the time. I think it’s all the soda that I drink. Need to stop for a week and see how I feel.
Mind’s still blank. Lemme pour more. A million things are open at my end. Both at work and at passion projects. And at things that are important for me. Funnily, I am not slacking. I am actually at it. I am not wasting my time with random content. I am not immersed in reading that much that I lose time. I am no longer active on Twitter. Neither am I just staring at the ceiling! I am just procrastinating on random things for no reason. I have never been this. I mean I say no if I don’t want to work on things but I don’t procrastinate. Plus, the time has never been this important. Each minute is accounted for. Plus there’s no travel anyway. So, I don’t know where the time’s going. I even tried tracking it on all the million sheets I maintain. I know that I did “time pass” but I don’t know where the other time’s going. Even this weekend came and went away in a blink!
I think these are the reasons.
a/ I am part of way too many meetings. What this does is that I get the illusion of working but no real work happens. I don’t create anything. I don’t get my name out. I don’t build my brand. I don’t plant seeds. Which is ok for most people. But not for me. I have this need to be out there. I need to attract opportunities. I need to do a lot more. And a lot more will happen when I ship things.
So may be, Monday onward, I will reduce the meetings I am a part of. I will rely on emails wherever possible.
b/ I work on way too many things. Which I have made peace with. What I don’t do and should do is, not switch tasks often. Look at this post for example. I started on this at 6:56. It’s 8:02. In this hour, I have worked on this post, tweaked the Wordpres theme on one of the passion projects that I want to work on, checked email, reviewed a client presentation, researched the meaning of Kun Faya Kun (the right way to refer to it is Kun Fayakun – if you are curious, read this), played a game of chess (I won!), thought about how I ought to create and not waste time, filled 5 liters of water in some 8 water bottles (reused bottles of soda, water, etc) around my house.
Even within this post, I have gone back and forth between various sections. Which I think is ok. That’s my style. Most other writers will probably start with a list of things they want to cover and then they would fill in those. I do the same for work related writing. This is a freeflow text. So that.
The point is, I shuttle between way too many things too many times. I need to engage in one thing at a time. I can’t stop multitasking. The tweak I can add is the one around serialtasking (#note2self – must write an SoG on serialtasking). In its purest form, Cal Newport calls this Deep Work.
c/ I am not a doer per se. I am more of a manager. I need people to do things for me. Most work I get paid for, I am an individual contributor. Most passion projects, I am the sole worker. I do have someone that helps me but I need to find a replacement. I am unable to do so.
I know that I can think of a million things but I need others to do those. In a typical corporate structure, this is possible. Easy to find resources that help you. Easy to delegate. Easy to take feedback and inputs. In the structure I run (everyone owns, runs, manages things), it is difficult. Different people have different levels of motivation. They have different outlooks on life than I. They need more security. They need more structure. I am ok with ambiguity. I like the idea of chasing the unknown. I like taking things from 0 to 1 (thinking of possibilities etc). I need people that can take things from 1 to 100.
So action points are…
Find a great team. Now that I can pay a bit. The challenge would be to compete with the insane amount of money that these new-age startups are throwing at young people.
Stop attending meetings. Start using that time to do things. Implement maker-manager.
Stop switching. In one line, stop multitasking. Lol.
The next thing I need to think about is my website. I need to create content that attracts the right kind of people and opportunities. What are these? Here we go…
It’s clear to me that I cant do one thing. I will always be on hundred projects at the same time. If I were to draw a structure, I think a pyramid would look like this…
Top – Enable others, make them successful and participate in the wealth they create.
Layer 1 – These people, these others must come from three disciplines that I want to create impact at – startups, films, education. I have made progress with films. And in some way with startups. I will get onto education at some point in time in life.
Next layer – Get better at these disciplines by talking to more people, attracting more opportunities, doing more, showing the proof of work, delivering impact, becoming an “expert” etc.
Next layer – As an individual, do things I like – writing, photography, talking to people, travel, clean my desk, drink water etc etc. With people I like – strangers, friends, coworkers, family.
The base layer – Become atamnirbhar. AKA financially independent fast. By making money from things like brand consulting, marketing, content, events, etc.
I guess that sums my approach to life well. Sounds very similar to Elon’s masterplan. Wait. Even I wrote a masterplan a few years ago when I was starting C4E.
Lemme reproduce those slides here…
And, in terms of tangible actions, I wanted to do the following…
Lemme know if you want access to the entire deck.
Needless to say, I am far far away from these. I did make early moves but I have proven to be a disappointment to myself. But, the thing is, I have not given up on myself. I will never do so.
Wait. I was talking about my website. How did I land on to this self-pity piece?
The point is, I need to work on my website that gets me connected to more opportunities.
Nothing is next. It’s 8:45 and I need to get going with the day. Before that, must log that these days, Kun Faya Kun is my default music for each morning as I wake up. This version. And when I sleep. At that time, I listen to this version. I also must log that I hate this block-structure that WordPress has. It’s not friendly for writers at all. To developers, it may be.