Creating from the bleeding edge

Johann was a cookie virtuoso.

His cookie emporium was famous across town, most especially for his Single Chocolate, Double Chocolate, Triple Chocolate, Quadruple Chocolate, Quintuple Chocolate and Sextuple Chocolate miracles.

His ingredients were impeccable, his equipment custom-designed and his staff were his favourite family members. Everything was safe and secure in Johann’s business.

And then, Johann awoke one morning, blasted with an obscene inspiration.

He wanted to make a rice cookie.

Not a cookie with rice flour, that had been done. Not a cookie with rice puffs, which was shameful and populist. No, a cookie with grains of rice in it. In a fearful, excited daze he walked into his kitchens.

Two hours later, he summoned Annoushka, his cheerful plump wife. She found three trays of cookies thrown out in the rubbish, one tray on the bench, and a manically grinning husband.

”Try this, my plum,” he said. Accustomed to being the bakery’s taste tester, she obediently picked up a small pale cookie and took a toothy bite. She paused. Her eyebrows creased together. She chewed thoughtfully. She ran her tongue around her mouth. She sucked her teeth. And then she said,

”I have never eaten anything like that before.”

“The texture is crunchy and smooth at once. It isn’t sweet, it isn’t savoury. It’s not dense or moist. It is… different.”

Johann smiled and then his smile fell. ”Yes, it’s very different. But I don’t think we can sell it.”

”Why not?” said Annoushka, while tentatively eyeing off another cookie.

”Because, my plum, it does not have chocolate or pecans or raisins or fruit pieces or cashews or any of the things people expect from a cookie. It doesn’t even have sugar in it! Only rice. And who would buy a rice cookie?”

Annoushka disagreed. And since Annoushka was in charge of marketing and retail strategy, Annoushka got her way.

Johann had a sleepless anxious night after Annoushka put a large ad in the paper.

It said, ”We bet you’ve never had a cookie like this before. Come try our astonishing Ricecapade Cookie. You’ll be amazed.”

Johann was distraught. He moaned, ”No-one will buy them, everyone will think we have gone mad, and Jormqvist across town will gain all our business and he will laugh in his damned beard at us. What have you done, my plum? Why did we have to tell everyone that we have lost all sense? We could have just made the cookies and hidden them up the back or something!”

Annoushka, used to life with a cookie virtuoso, ignored him and rolled over to get enough sleep. She knew tomorrow would be a busy day.

And she was right.

That night, exhausted and happy, Johann said, ”That was… gob-smacking. Did you see how Jormqvist turned up to gloat but he couldn’t even get to the counter? Ha! You are brilliant, my plum.”

Annoushka smiled. ”I am. And so are you.”

They embraced for a long, long moment and then Johann said, ”There is something I do not understand, my plum. Today we made triple our normal sales. Some of them were from those who came to try our Ricecapade cookie and bought it. But many of those sales seemed to come from people who never even looked at the rice cookie, but just bought a Quintuple Chocolate pack. Why so?”

Annoushka replied, ”Creating something unusual, daring, innovative or bold will get you attention. But the attention often wanders from what you created to who created it, and what else you’ve made. Some people may buy the unusual, daring, innovative or bold offering. But more people will likely buy the older, safer, more predictable one.”

”So once you get their attention, they still buy what they want to buy?”

”Yes, my dear. Cookie innovators will buy the new and untested recipes, and more people will go for the predictable Quintuple Chocolate. But neither group would be paying attention if you hadn’t created the innovative thing.”

”You’re a genius, my plum.”

”You already said so. Now come to bed.”

When was the last time you created something from the bleeding edge?

For me, it was last week: while somewhat sleep-deprived I wrote a sales page that made me squirmy and uncomfortable. The first line in it is Being stuck in your business is like a permanent case of blue balls.

I implored my brain to come up with a metaphor that was less intense and weird, and my brain refused to comply.

I went to my inner circle, including my just-graduated Pilot Light group, to get their feedback, and they told me it was awesome and hilarious and they would probably buy it.

And so, despite feeling jumbly and wrong about it, I hit Publish and told my wonderful Rise and Shine newsletter subscribers about the new offering and the process behind it.

To my complete lack of surprise, I got interest. One sale of the new Delogjamification service, to someone who loved the process of getting unstuck being handled in a light way, and conversations about other services, like Goddamn Radiant – a service I have been offering for a year-and-and-half without ever updating the sales page. (Although I will, soon.)

This has been the pattern every single time I have pushed my creative boundaries.

First, I freak out.
Then, I do it anyway.
And lastly, I get interest… most of it in something other than the new and scary thing.

I do not think this is a me-specific pattern.

But I want to know. So come to the comments and tell me:

When was the last time you created something that made you a bit nervous?
And what happened when you did?


Webinar: 27 Minutes to Seriously Better Domain Names

Baby Wearing Large Headphones Listening To Music
Why have I never done a webinar before? I was designed for webinars. Talking to lots of people at once? HELL YEAH.

So I’m joining the experiment a bit late, with a teeny bang.

27 Minutes to Seriously Better Domain Names.

I spent a half hour – minus a couple of minutes for saying howdy and arguing with buttons – unloading as much of the wisdom as I could fit in about how to choose an awesometacular domain name for your website.

The Kickass Naming Service has been one of my mainstays for two years, and in that time I have refined the hell out of my guidelines on what constitutes a great domain name and how you can create one for yourself.

Here’s the recording! I’m a wee bit nervous (you can’t tell, apparently), but I still squeezle in lots and lots of info about what’s important in choosing a domain name.

Audio MP3

Or download it here.

Any questions that remain?


Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography


7 things that every client tells me they want in THEIR clients

Who Am I ?

It’s one of my standard questions: Tell me about your ideal clients. What qualities do they have?

And the answers are always the same, to start with.

  • They’re smart.
  • They’re funny.
  • They’re women. (Or entrepreneurs. Or middle-aged.)
  • They’re willing to do the work.
  • They don’t argue about the prices.
  • They turn up on time.
  • They’re not, you know, broken.

Most clients will tell me every single one of these more or less verbatim, and then get to the end and say, “They sound like… everyone. Don’t they.”

I don’t even need to say yes. Instead I say, “Well, let’s dig a little deeper, so they start sounding specific.”

And so. And so.

They’re smart.

What kind of smart? Book smart, street smart, mamma-dint-raise-no-fools-smart? Emotionally, kinesthetically? Is smart a shorthand for wise, witty, practical, common-sensical, educated or something completely different?

And when you know that: what does their smart mean for them, and how they interact with the world?

And when you know that: what does that mean for you?

Practical example: describe the style of article you’d write for these different flavours of smart:

  • reads encyclopaedia for fun
  • solves Agatha Christies in the first two chapters
  • always knows when you’re feeling edgy
  • can fix anything, even without duct tape
  • never without a witty retort
  • constantly self-aware and self-correcting

Ah. Smart now means something.

They’re funny.

Again, what kind of funny? Smart and sarcastic? Sweet and silly? Pun-tacular? The humour that flows from an understanding of just how ridiculous the world we live in is?

And when you know that: what does their sense of humour say about them and how they see the world?

And when you know that: what does that mean for you?

Practical example: describe the tone you’d use in your newsletter for these different flavours of funny:

  • absurdism
  • gently amused
  • hard-edged mockery
  • satire
  • observational humour
  • word nerdery

Again, they’re very, very different.

They’re women.

Why do they have to be women?

90% or more of the time with my clients it turns out that “women” (or most of the other demographic-y information) is, like funny and smart, trying to be a shorthand for some other, necessary quality.


  • empathy
  • willingness to change
  • communication skills
  • lovingness
  • self-awareness
  • undergoing a dramatic life change

So, does it actually have to be middle-aged women entrepreneurs in North America? Or are you trying to say something else?

They’re willing to do the work.

This one falls into the “Duh” category. (But don’t beat yourself up. Everyone says it.)

Of course you want people who value the work you’re doing and won’t just leave it on the metaphorical shelf behind the Boggle set.

This is a sign that you’re ready to leave behind the dabblers and the dilettantes to embrace those who are ready to truly ROCK IT THE FUCK OUT.

So how do you know? What do your clients do (or NOT do) to indicate their willingness to get down and dirty and embrace the transformation you’re creating?

How do you create the situation where they display that willingness?

For makers of physical thingies: your flavour of this tends to manifest in statements like, “They deeply care about handmade/quality/the craft.” Otherwise it is exactly the same.

They don’t argue about the prices./They turn up on time.

Similar, but related. This is about them respecting you and the work.

The question is: why do they respect you and your work? What about the work, and how you deliver it, is worthy of respect?

I mean, you (as a human being) are innately awesome. This is not up for discussion.

But what is it about what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it, that makes them think your prices are amazing?

Why do they value your work and time so highly?

They’re not, you know, broken.

You’re not here to fix your clients. They bring a basic level of self-awareness, self-esteem, financial capacity and creativity to the work.

The funny thing is that those standards are different for everyone. Your “have enough money” is someone else’s “broke as fuck”. (And someone different’s “bajillionaire”.)

So what do your standards look like?

And how do you communicate them: in your offerings, your word choice, your pricing, your assumptions, your barriers, your boundaries?

There are a few other patterns, but you get the idea.

Most client-demographic questions suck a giant pile of ass, because they never go under the hood and say, Why does this matter?

It’s the level underneath the superficial where the connection happens, where you find your Hells Yes I Am! identity.

It is always awesome to ask yourself this about any of the ways you’ve identified your right clients. Often, the “Because…” is more valuable, meaningful and special than the quality above it.

If so, skip the superficial and get right down to the meat.

Nom nom nom.

Did you know the newsletter is back and even betterer than before? If you haven’t signed up for Rise and Shine, you are totes missing out. (It’s that big box below here. See?)

Creative Commons License photo credit: AhmadHammoud