Top Chrome Extensions for Web Development

Here are the must-have Chrome extensions our team of web developers use on the daily:

Pesticide

Pesticide outlines every element on your webpage. By applying this extension, you can clearly see the layout and placement on your current page.

uBlock Origin

uBlock is a content blocker used particularly for CPU and memory efficiency. This is the best tool for enforcing your own content filters.

Yet Another Lorem Ipsum Generator

This extension inserts dummy text onto your page, so you can easily test and view your website with placeholder data. Inserts include: paragraphs of variable length, titles, dates, email addresses, internet addresses

WhatFont

This extension allows you to identify and inspect web fonts, as well as the services used for serving them. It’s easy to use, small, and doesn’t use many resources.

ColorZilla

ColorZilla can give you a color reading from anywhere on your browser. It allows users to easily access, adjust, and paste this color into another program.

Dimensions

This extension is great for measuring the distance between elements on any site. You can easily measure anything in the page using your mouse.

Lightshot

Lightshot allows you to take a customizable screenshot from your browser and upload it to your server. Simple, easy, and lightweight!

Web Developer Checklist

This extension runs you through best practices that should be checked off and completed before publishing your site. It provides an organized checklist, so you can identify any problem areas before publication.

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What are words for? When no one listens, it’s no use talking at all

Back in the ’80s, long before we started thinking about search engines, this song made some sense. I remember thinking about it occasionally during my first full-time writing job, which didn’t pay squat but did allow some unique insight into what words worked and which did not.

Today we get curiously similar insight from analytics — whether you are using Google or some other app — and what we’re often looking for are long-tail keywords. Now there’s a lot to be said for setting up your website for traditional organic keyword results — and this does pay big dividends — but you really don’t get a good look at your long-tail keywords results until your site is up and those results are rolling into analytics.

I believe that successful results for small-business websites come from continual work on the wording inside the site. I don’t think you have to do it on a daily basis, but you should put aside a couple hours a week looking at your analytics results and tweaking the words accordingly.

I guarantee what you find will be interesting. Recently I set up a site for a construction company that did work throughout most of the northern Colorado Front Range, and I found that 70 percent of the web traffic was coming in sideways — not to the home page, but to posts I had set up using location (cities mostly) and treatment in the titles.

(I would like to prove that this approach works well in the ever changing landscape of search engines, but somehow Google determined that I was not going to be privy to how that actually works.)

Using a traditional WordPress approach — arranging posts into categories and using that for display — works well for this type of approach because you do have titles and descriptions for every post. However, the words you use for this type of long-tail approach don’t have to be seen by the user to work.

Title tags and meta description tags are seen in search results, but there are many other places to place and play with your long-tail keywords. Photo titles and descriptions and other meta tags work equally well, and of course you can always play a little with the copy that is seen, and changing copy on a website on a weekly basis is a very good practice for improving your search engine results.

Back to the past, that newspaper in Lyons, Colorado was right next to the “downtown” cafe, where we would pick up free coffee and discounted meals. I laid out the paper and would watch as people read the weekly — I’d know exactly what they were skipping by, chuckling at, or were angered by.

Curiously, you can also see much of that information in analytics. If the potential customer came in on a page you intentionally set up with a long-tail keyword, such as a temporary landing page, you can set up your account to see how far they went and if they actually purchased something. We’ll get into how to do that with Google Analytics a bit later.

So what are words for? Well today I guess they are important even if it doesn’t appear that anyone is listening.

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Corporate Creativity vs. Cultural Appropriation

Whenever I start a new job, I have one consistent fear: that my employer will find out all the things I enjoy and/or that I’m good at. Doesn’t matter if it’s my writing or my drawing, my music or my award-winning haircut, there’s always one reaction when an employer discovers some hidden skill — how can we make money off this employee’s skill or hobby?

It’s a challenge for any employer to not reduce their employees to mere resource figures, but that doesn’t make it any less degrading. It’s understandable that an employer wants to utilize their employees’ skills, but there’s a fine line between putting your creativity to work in a corporate setting and allowing an employer to exploit your culture and even your hobbies.

According to Wikipedia – Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an element or elements of one culture or identity by members of another culture or identity. This can be controversial when members of a dominant culture appropriate from disadvantaged minority cultures.

Last time I wrote, I discussed the challenges facing an artist surviving in the corporate world. Since that time, I’ve had a little time to reflect, and while I still stand by that article and the simple steps outlined to survive — I wonder if maybe survival isn’t enough?

The relentless march of capitalism has been crushing people’s spirits and cultures for decades in pursuit of the mighty dollar — so why should my culture be any different?

For any of this to make sense, I have to take a step back and explain — my native-born culture is the mixed blend of Midwestern milquetoast bland with a splash of Southern down-home deep-fried nothing. This isn’t to say that those cultures in and of themselves are boring – but the little bits of culture that dripped down to me were so watered down that I couldn’t even pretend to care.

So I did what all the other bland white kids at my school did — dug hard into pop culture. When I was engulfed in the lore of Star Wars, the depth of my first Pokemon journey, or seven chapters deep into my first read of Watchmen, I was engaged with other people who loved the same things, even if I might not have known it at the time.

But over the years, we all grew up loving the same stories and myths, feeling the same elation and defeat, developing a common series of ethics, languages, and relationships around a culture of movies, books, and video games.

We learned the same lessons: be yourself, always do what’s right, try your hardest, and protect the innocent. These basic lessons imprinted something in us all — and clearly it’s a culture that’s here to stay.

In 2016, San Diego Comic Con drew in an estimated 130k attendees from all over the globe — it netted the nonprofit organization over $20 million in ticket sales, and dumped an estimated $135 million into the local economy — in a weekend.

The members of this culture extend beyond race or generation or upbringing because it’s based on a love for the stories that united us in the first place. And the culture is a force — not unlike a storm — unstoppable, unpredictable, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but they’re not going anywhere.

So when I refer to cultural appropriation, this is the only culture I am qualified to comment on. I have read far more qualified views on corporate culture appropriation, and would simply refer you here for Cresta E. Cavanaugh’s incredible take on the subject.

Per the above article:

Pornographic Cultural Appropriation (PCA): an explicit mimicking of a sub-culture by an in-power majority intended to display or enhance one’s coolness, desirability, connectedness, or worthiness rather than a genuine desire to empathize with a subculture’s journey as an outsider; unintentional ridicule of someone’s culture via emulation.

Cresta’s definition here is spot on and, at the risk of some level of appropriation myself, I feel it applies equally to the appropriation of pop culture. After a decade in corporate offices, I’ve seen misused memes taped to the water cooler, attended company-sponsored film events and “happy hours” in a tie, and been drawn into conversations over my “nerdiness” with employers and colleagues so often that I wonder if they’ve noticed a person still in there — not just a culturally hip dude with killer hair.

Does this mean companies should stop trying to engage us? Of course not! We desperately want to find some common ground to relate to our employers and colleagues — and attempting to speak our language is usually awesome, if for nothing else than a shared chuckle to get the conversation started.

But it’s worth examining why you’re trying – are you trying to get me and my skills in your pocket? Are you trying to manipulate me by emulating my culture? Are you genuinely interested in me and who I am?

It’s impossible to tell from this angle. Only you can know your true intentions — if you’re helping or just using my culture.

I am currently engaged in an art project for my company — one that engages all of my artistic skills and the lessons I’ve learned. Like all art projects, it demands a bit of my heart and soul. As someone who grew up in the era of grunge and post-punk, I am extremely wary of “selling out” my skills.

If one of my past employers had asked me to undertake this level of emotional and artistic complexity, I would have laughed. Even now, I know there are very few companies I respect enough to allow them to utilize me like this.

But I know my employer. I know his heart, his company, his intentions. Everything boils down to these ideas for me, artistically. Intent is everything when it comes to creativity — when I see my culture being used by a company, it feels disingenuous, false, and insulting.

For the first time, I feel like a company has asked me for my skills, because they genuinely share a passion for the same culture, and because there is opportunity for true mutual success. It is a rare sentiment from any company to its employees.

But perhaps if we keep trying to bridge the gap between employer and employee, some of the artists wouldn’t struggle just to survive — they might even start to prosper.

Photo by Van Dos Santos from Pexels
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Social Media Marketing and Ethics: Where do we draw the line?

The digital space has challenged ethics in our society. For advertisers and marketers, the battle between right and wrong has put a stigma on our industry since its very beginnings.

Propaganda during war. Selling cigarettes to women by appealing to their desire to be skinny. E-cigs to teenagers to make them feel cool. Influencing elections and challenging the concept of democracy. Listening to conversations through our devices.

An industry with so much power, so much influence on society, is destined to be challenged. The law only goes so far. It’s ethics and morals that have to stop us from digging too deep, creating chaos, and destroying the future of our industry for good.

The online world continues to open new doors for advertisers and marketers, allowing us to be more efficient and cross more personal boundaries. And it’s all thanks to that not-so-little thing called data.

Data is a controversial topic. Data is money and it’s blurring the line between right and wrong in the marketing industry. We’ve never had so much information about consumers at our fingertips and so little regulation holding us back from using it.

If you’re an advertiser, you make money to successfully sell your brand, product, or service to consumers by placing your ad in the right location at the right time. Say you’re selling organic, all-natural laundry detergent. As stereotypical and anti-feminist as it sounds your target audience is women. Most likely moms ages 30-45 with two or more children, educated, household income of $100K+, living in a suburb, and mostly shopping at Whole Foods or some local grocer. Is it stereotyping, or is it being realistic?
A college student isn’t going to buy some special laundry soap that’s $10 more expensive because it’s got “organic” and “all-natural” printed on a bottle that looks like it came directly from the compost. Half the dads I know can’t even do a load of laundry without turning your white shirt grey.

The mom audience it is. But, you can’t advertise your special laundry detergent when your audience is 2 glasses of wine deep after finally putting the kids to sleep. Give her a break for God’s sake! Your ad needs to be placed when she’s thinking about her grocery list and making her everyday errands, not when she’s about to dig through her secret weed stash in the kitchen drawer.

Ad placement matters…a lot. And social media has everything advertisers need to get their ad placed at just the right moment to just the right person. Why spend a ton of money to place your ad in front of thousands of consumers, less than 20% of which make up your intended audience, and not even half of that 20% at the right time when they actually might stop to consider your product? Advertising on social media allows you to pinpoint these factors more accurately and only pay for your ad when it’s actually placed in front of said user. Much more efficient, right?!

But this new method of marketing can get out of hand real quick. It uses consumer data that’s been added to, revised, and stored for as long as you can remember. It knows you. It can predict your behavior before your brain even begins processing the behavior. It doesn’t see ethical versus unethical. It only sees correct versus incorrect.

Now, in the case of that organic, all-natural laundry detergent, it’s difficult to do serious damage to your ethical reputation or to the goodness of society by targeting some social media ads to moms during their midday errands. But change your product to laxatives and audience to teenage girls or muscle enhancer to young men. Change your product to guns, sex shows, political policies, political candidates. Then things get dangerous.

In essence, advertisers target the most vulnerable group of consumers. What makes them vulnerable is the fact that they’re most likely to be persuaded by the ad and end up doing what the ad tells them to do. But where do we draw the line? At what point do consumers crack? When is what we consider advertising, considered manipulating?

Social media allows the marketing industry to bloom. It’s changed traditional ways and become more effective than ever before. But we’re still following the same regulations and guidelines put in place when print ads were hot off the press and Don Draper was smoking a pack of cigs a day. Our morals are being challenged and ethics tested on a trial-and-error basis. User data is growing exponentially with little to nothing holding its use back.

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Seeing Red Flags Before It’s Too Late

When you work in a project-based service industry, as we do, nothing is more exciting than the briefing for a shiny new project. Like opening the door to that new car smell, only sweeter — or an untouched snowfall… pristine, pure, unmarred by human interaction.

Then the project starts and reality hits. Before you know it, the shine has worn off faster than the fruity flavor of a cheap stick of bubblegum and you find yourself yearning for the sign-off so that you can move on to the next exciting new venture.

Why does the excitement of a new project wear off so quickly? What if there were ways to see all the potential roadblocks that rob you of that joy and hijack your glorious new project and turn it into a death march?

OK, so not all projects are this way. But it happens, and more than it should. Just this morning, I was reviewing a new project with one of our agency partners, and the client’s site was bad. I don’t just mean bad, I mean BAAADDDDD. Like, it was bad in 1996 and it hasn’t changed since. Not exaggerating. My first thought was how great that the bar is so low, literally anything we do is going to be an improvement. Nowhere to go but up! But then our agency partner quickly reminded me that this is a potential problem, because not only is it bad and way out of date, but it’s that way because the client likes it and doesn’t see the need to change. We could come up with the most beautiful, modern, high-functioning site their industry has ever seen, but such a drastic change could freak the client out. Then we could find ourselves treading water, getting sucked back into the Dreamweaver-based world of tables and repeating background tiles. And that wouldn’t be a win for anybody.

A low bar is good for us as a service provider, but the bar could be so low that we trip over it.

Now of course we’ll do everything we can to gently bring the client into the modern age and ultimately we’ll be sure that everyone is happy with the final product. But identifying NOW the potential conflict over design aesthetic is far better than getting blindsided in the first creative presentation.

Here are a few things that we do to try to catch these pitfalls before they happen, and avoid the cycle of burnout that projects can potentially come with.

  1. Listen to the client. In pitch meetings, in conversations, in brainstorms, wherever… listen to what they say, and pick up on the cues of things they aren’t saying. Sometimes the best information doesn’t come out of direct questioning, but sidebars and chit-chat. Problems don’t usually come out of nowhere, they fester.
  2. Over Communicate. Don’t just take your work brief and retreat into the cave and come back with a big revelation. (I refuse to use the word “reveal” as a noun, sorry/not sorry) The more you can make things an iterative, collaborative process, the more opportunity you have to see things going off the rails.
  3. Be prepared to adjust. The client hires you to be an expert, and it sucks when your expert opinion is shot down. But in the end, you’re providing a service to the client, with the end goal of meeting their business objectives. Be willing to adjust your thinking to align with the client.

In the end, sometimes it does just turn into a final crawl to the finish line, and that can’t always be avoided. But usually, just by keeping your eyes and ears open to what the client says early on, you can identify problems ahead of time and create a roadmap to work your way around them, resulting in a final phase of a project that makes everyone happy. Web projects don’t have to be painful, and it’s up to us as the vendor to guide the project to a smooth landing.

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The Year of Living Small

I am utterly convinced I cannot commit armed robbery in this town.

Case in point: After the first Covid lockdown I went to the coffee shop I had not visited in months, wearing a mask, sun glasses and a baseball hat pulled low. “Hello Jeff,” one of the owners yells as soon as I walk in the door.

Yes, and it’s the same at the gym, the local convenience store … and, well, the liquor store.

This is just one of many interesting things I have discovered during the last year of living small. I know, a great deal of you think because most of us at Overtime Media work at home, it hasn’t been a big change for us, but we miss leaving the house to work at the libraries, the coffee shops, and those late afternoon meetings at the local bar.

But perhaps it wasn’t a totally wasted year of living very local. For instance, I now know the names of all the kids in a two-block area, along with the dogs. I’m working on the parents.

Speaking of dogs, I’m guessing at least half of the dogs around here are labradoodles; most of them blond, with the poodle upgrade. I wrote them a little ditty, which starts “I’m a labradoodle dandy, a labradoodle do or die.” My apologies to George M. Cohen and to the neighbors who don’t find this as amusing as I do.

I now know the postman’s name, as well, and the fact he has two kids, one in college and one in high school. I know the names of my next-door neighbor’s extended family and the fact that one of their grandchildren is mad about playing Frisbee, at least he was until he got that hover board for Christmas.

Of my neighbors in this two-block area, there are three guitarists (including myself) a bass player, a professional pianist (who gives outdoor concerts for the neighborhoods) and my close neighbor who played drums in a professional rock band in the ’70s. Unfortunately the record label brought in a session player for drums in their one recording – incidentally the same thing happened to Ringo Starr for the Beatles first UK release.

I now know that it’s 1,285 steps to the golf course (more when it’s cold) from my home and back, going the long way back. Figuring I should get 10,000 steps on any given day I should do this eight times a day. I do not.

Speaking of the golf course, they absolutely do not allow people to walk around the course when it’s closed. Got caught doing it one snowy day by some idiot gunning his cart and cutting ruts in the dirt golf path that borders the western most part of the course.

“That will be $62,” he yells at the two of us.

“The course is closed,” I noted.

“It’s trespassing is what it is,” he insists. So I give up and walk back the way I came in.

I’ve also discovered I dislike one of my next-door neighbors even more than I thought before spending all day around his constantly barking and growling dogs. In fact it’s a good thing I don’t believe in handguns, because I swear…

Perhaps it’s time for my local discoveries to end. Bring on that vaccine, please, please…

 

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
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Connecting With Your Remote Team

Somewhere around the spring of 2020, in the span of just a couple months, thousands of managers, supervisors, team leaders, and CEOs suddenly became experts on managing remote teams. There were blog posts, LinkedIn posts, Facebook posts, and probably more than a few Tik-Tok videos declaring the latest tips and tricks for the newly-minted “WFH” crowd.

For many, remote work is not a novel addition to the professional landscape, in the words of the Mandalorian… “This is the way”. It’s all we’ve known, for years. For me, during my years as a freelancer, I bounced in and out of home office, co-working spaces, and permanent offices. When I grew into a full-fledged agency, we got office space close to home, but that was short lived. As a remote employee of an East Coast based company, I kept an office for a while but ultimately transitioned back to fully working from home (or the nearest coffee shop), then just as I transitioned back into agency life and started looking at office space, COVID-19 came in like a wrecking ball. The good news is, it was an easy step to go remote because we really just had to STAY remote.

With all this experience on our side, how does OT handle remote working, and the challenges that come with it?

  1. We take the extra time to connect individually. Whether you’re in the same town or across the world, you have to make it a part of your normal routine to connect with your team personally. That means going above and beyond the normal work day… don’t make every interaction about a project update. What we’re trying to do is make up for the lost “passing time”… the times you run into each other in the office kitchen and chat about recent sporting events, the times you stop by someone’s office to ask how their kid is doing in school, and so on. There are so many small interactions that shape the entirety of our workplace relationships and when those are missing you have to seek them out.
  2. We take the extra time to connect as a team. This requires a willingness to let go of some preconceived notions you might have about “work time” and “leisure time”. Of course you have to maintain your productivity, and meetings should accomplish the objectives set forth in the agenda (you are putting an objective in your meeting agendas, right? And not just meeting for the sake of meeting? Good!). But when the objective is accomplished, go ahead and let the conversation take a turn towards the silly for 10 minutes and yammer about the weather, or whatever, and don’t feel like you’re wasting time. Connecting with each other pays dividends down the road in a team environment.
  3. We take the time to create in-person connection, where possible. This one is tough, both for safety reasons and for practical reasons. Of course we aren’t advocating that you do anything that you feel uncomfortable with, or makes the team feel unsafe. For our team, we’ve done a few “Mask-and-Meet” events, where we pick a nice weather day, and gather at a local establishment that provides outdoor seating. This isn’t going to be realistic for everyone, and may just have to be on the “we’ll do this later” list. This is also, of course, problematic when you have team in different locations. We don’t have a magic bullet for this… if finances allow it, bringing the entire global team together once a year is a nice idea. It’s also potentially very cost-prohibitive. For our part, OT has chosen a few anchor locations and tried to build local teams. As nice as it is to have people in many different locations, we’ve tried to build smaller teams within the larger unit — we have 2 team members in Costa Rica, and 3 in India, along with our 7 in the Denver area. That does leave a few scattered folks in different locations, which is unavoidable, but the small-team model has helped create some more internal cohesion even when we can’t get the whole team together.

Overall, there isn’t anything groundbreaking here. It’s just a matter of understanding the challenges and potential for personal isolation, and taking specific steps to work against those things. Just like anything else, it’s about intentionality, and doing specific things to help our team feel connected to one another. One thing I can say for my team here at Overtime is that I’ve never had a team that was better connected remotely than this one. Part if it is hiring the right people, that’s true, but a bigger part of it is making personal connections a priority. So while we welcome the coming days when we can work in person more consistently, OT will always be a flexible, distributed workforce that has a blast together, regardless of location.

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Why my mom falls for Facebook ads

We’ve all gotten those tempting ads on Facebook or Instagram that make us stop scrolling and think about how much money is in our bank account. We’ve also gotten those ads that make us think “did my phone really just listen to my conversation?” Social media ads continue to get smarter, constantly upgrading to feature new and improved ways for marketers to reach the right people, at the right time and with the right message. And they actually work.

Today, businesses must have a social media presence. Period. Your audience is on social media and will continue using social media until the day they die. Millennials are in the real world now, making real money, calling the shots, starting families and contributing to the marketplace. They continue to make up more and more of your consumer base. And…they’ve grown up with the online world growing right beside them. They were the first Instagram users, the ones who made Facebook grow into the chaotic network it is today and the ones who built LinkedIn during their unpaid internship days. Then there’s Gen Z. They’ve grown up with iPads instead of binkies and learned how to unlock mom’s iPhone before they could walk. They post a ridiculous amount of TikToks a day and would be viral if the platform didn’t switch their accounts to private. Social media is not going away. Now is the time to leverage your business, reach your audiences and get on that hashtag grind.

Facebook, in particular, has become the go-to platform for businesses to advertise their product or service. FB ads are cost effective and extremely targeted. You can target audiences using more than just demographics and basic information, but also behaviors and interests. FB can even target ads to users that previously visited a specific URL. The platform allows marketers to send different messages to different types of audiences, which, when done correctly, will deepen the user’s connection to your brand and make them more inclined to purchase. Facebook ads are extremely effective and allow brands to reach real, potential buyers among the clutter of content, fake news and Gen Z TikTok videos.

Social media advertising has changed the game for marketers. It’s a whole new way of reaching potential customers, engaging audiences and telling a brand’s story. It’s a whole new level of temptation for users. And sometimes even the most seasoned users, about two glasses of wine deep into their evening, will fall for a social media ad.

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Want some good marketing data? Look to your website.

Few, if any, business owners invest in a website without expecting some return on their investment, whether those are online sales, client contacts or even just brand recognition.

So it’s rather remarkable that a great many of those same business don’t take greater advantage of using the data their website can provide them about their future marketing efforts. Many do look at rudimentary data about the number of visits or the number of visits generated by online advertising or what search terms are generating organic search results, but those are just the tip of the iceberg of the usable data the website can generate.

Enter Google Analytics. There are other analytic tools, ranging from rather simple to robust, but Google Analytics is free, its training courses are easy to follow and, well, who knows more about search?

Let’s start with your bounce rate.

The bounce rate, in its most simple terms, measures how many people might leave the site after looking at only one page. But comparing that rate to multiple pages could tell you a great deal about what content your visitors find engaging and what content they don’t.

In Analytics it’s easy to set up a dashboard that reveals this data, so you don’t have to constantly be making the comparison yourself.

The new version of Analytics also allows you to exclude certain actions by the user so that the page is not counted as bounced. That might include interacting with a menu, a video or scrolling down the page.

In essence, Analytics allows you to easily exclude certain user actions, called events, from the bounce rate, giving you a clearer vision of the overall success of your content.

A/B testing.

A simple A/B test might include an advertising campaign conducted on two separate social media channels, say Facebook and Instagram. Let’s say you used the same content on those ads.

So a simple test might just measure how many visitors visited the landing page from those two sites, but that probably doesn’t tell the entire picture. Analytics can also track individual users to the end of that visit, to see, for instance if they actually bought a product. That allows you to fine tune your messaging.

We also know that the visitors from Facebook and Instagram could have very different demographics – principally age. So our copy probably isn’t exactly a right fit for one or other of these platforms.

How can we tell what copy works for what audiences?

Enter Advertising Features.

A new addition to Analytics is Advertising Features, which does require audience notification that your site does take advantage of Google advertising cookies. Of importance to almost any business owner is the access to Google data concerning the visitor’s demographic and their personal interests information.

That information can be used to create audience segments. While you might, or might not, use this information to address copy of your entire site, you might change the content for certain ads or a remarketing effort.

We’ll be addressing other aspects of displaying and using the data from your website in weeks to come. In the meantime you might want to explore how easy Analytics can be to use, or contact a local contractor to help you set up how you view that data.

 

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Surviving The Corporate World as an Artist

If you’re anything like me, you’re in your mid-30’s, struggling to make rent and you can’t figure out where you left your stupid wallet, let alone your childhood…

But fear not! You’ve finally accepted something intrinsic about yourself – you are an artist! You have a strong need to express your creative side, something you can’t fight or repress – at least not without sacrificing your happiness and sanity.

Now, while most of my managers in the past have politely informed me that the symptoms of “creativity” are counterproductive, distracting, or even hurtful to the company and corporate world, I would argue that nothing could be further from the truth.

Over the course of my next few blogs, I’ll be exploring what it takes to survive the corporate world while maintaining your own well being. There’s nothing quite as soul-crushing as fluorescent light bulbs, cubicle walls and hovering micro-managers.

Well, except maybe for trying to survive solely on your art income – which feels like a staggeringly monumental task.

The corporate world feels to me like a way to crush true creativity in the name of the almighty dollar. It offends me to my core, not just my principles as an artist, but as a person. However, it’s the necessary evil that’s here to stay, and we’ve all got to make friends with the beast in some form or another.

So here’s how I’m doing it.

Step 1 – Know Thyself

This is the first – and easily the hardest – step in just about any truly fulfilling venture. Taking the time to learn what makes you happy, what makes you angry, what you can and can’t make your peace with or even ignore…

You’ve made huge leaps in this category already, just by admitting you’re a creative soul – that alone will help you on your way. Even if you’re not, I can offer no better advice than was found inscribed on The Temple of Apollo at Delphi – γνῶθι σεαυτόν – know thyself.

Artistically, this will mean not just knowing that you’re a creative, or even what you want to create, but what you want from your creative output.

Fame? Fortune? Personal gratification? To create for creativity’s sake?

These answers, and any others you might find, are perfectly acceptable. But you must take the time to know yourself and know what you want. If you don’t, there’s no chance of actually making yourself happy when you have no idea what brings you joy.

Practical steps

  • Meditate – find quiet time to center yourself, and ask yourself the hard questions.
    “Who are you, and what do YOU want?” -Uncle Iroh
  • Take notes – it’s easy to find yourself in the quiet moments, it’s hard when life gets loud. Keep track of the answers you find.
    “When you think you are at your limit; remember why you clench your fist – where you came from… your origin. That’ll bring you just a little past your limit.” -Nana Shimura
  • Keep creating – there’s nothing more telling of what you are inside than what you create. As an artist, it’s your most dangerous tool.
    “It is easy to write. Just sit down at your typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway

Step 2 – Get a Job!

Alright, this seems like the same advice you’ve been hearing from the older generations for your whole life, the mantra of the baby boomers, the consistent berating barrage of degradation that implies what you do isn’t a “real job.”

But hear me out.

Your creative work is your own, no matter what you decide to do with it after. If you sell it, great! If you keep it, awesome! If you utilize your creative skills with an employer who understands what you’re capable of? Amazing!

While it sounds far-fetched, the truth is that many managers appreciate their employees’ creative talent. While there are always going to be bad managers, bad employers, and low-creativity jobs, that doesn’t mean you’re reduced exclusively to them.

Yes, maybe your sci-fi novella doesn’t look good on the average resume – then make your resume above average. Maybe your ability to blow glass or draw cats or play ukulele isn’t beneficial to your current job… so keep looking!

The skills you have dedicated time to honing and sharpening are valuable. Full stop.

While keeping in mind that you don’t ever have to give your creativity to an employer you don’t want to, explore your options. If your current employer isn’t willing to utilize the creative skills you want to offer, then see step 3.

Practical steps

  • Make a list – this is just for your eyes. Make a truly honest list of what you want from your art – why you do what you do.
    “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” -Carl Jung
  • Research employers – it seems simple advice, but it’s beyond invaluable to know the people who are offering money for you and your time – and why.
    “Her father had always said that a man could be fairly judged by the quality of his allies and that of his enemies.” -Jim Butcher
  • Hone your resume – utilize your skills to sell yourself. It gives your employer a chance to know who they’re getting, and what you’re capable of.
    “The worst financial transaction you will ever make is selling yourself short.” -Greg Gilbert

Step 3 – Never Settle

There’s a certain restlessness that exists in creative people. They are never content, never satisfied (especially by their own work), and see the world for what it could be, rather than what it is. It’s that sort of artistic drive that you must harness.

The idea of “settling” for a career or employer is something that’s always bothered me. Every job I’ve taken that I knew was beneath me, every skill I’ve set aside to make a paycheck, every manager and teacher who yelled at me for doodling on my notebooks… they all taught me something I desperately needed to know;

Settling is a state of mind, not an act.

When an artist knows themselves, knows what they want, what they’re willing to accept and what they’re willing to offer, then they will never settle. They will never give up the internal struggle to create, the need for their personal freedom, the drive that pushes them forward.

Settling for an employer is a long-term comfort, where an artist drops into a rhythm and lets their skills die out. Even an artist who practices as a hobby or their own sanity hasn’t settled – but one who has given up and let those skills deteriorate can no longer be called an artist.

Let that discomfort and desire for better guide you. It can show you even more about yourself, your art, and even open doors you didn’t know existed.

Keep pushing, keep searching. Wander eternal, if you must. But never settle for someone else’s dream – yours are valid, and the world needs them.

Practical steps

  • Keep creating – the worst thing you can do is let your skills fade. Even if it’s just for your own personal joy, never stop the artistic flow.
    “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” -Dieter F. Ucktdorf
  • Open up communication – talk to the people in your life about ways to utilize your skills – employers, family, friends, anyone who knows you.
    “I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • Keep searching – remember that artistic drive? Let that push you to search – for new jobs, new opportunities, new artistic outputs.
    “Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else; it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being… There are NO limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.” –Bruce Lee

This corporate game is not easy to survive, and it’s particularly ruthless on creatives. This is why I think it’s all the more imperative to keep supporting each other – otherwise, we all drown and we’re left in a very boring dystopia.

Photo by Noelle Otto from Pexels
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