It’s about more than fancy fonts and clever logos

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Credit: MicrovOne/iStock/Getty Images Plus

While the online space and social media have ushered in access to knowledge previously locked away in library stacks, continuing education classes, and on microfiche, they’ve also opened the door to scam artists and faux marketers who hock five-figure online courses and master classes riddled with inaccuracies.

Business coaches peddle their wares while they have zero experience beyond building an Instagram presence. I’m not knocking anyone’s hustle, but I’m questioning how factors of luck and opportunity (in addition to hard work, of course) can translate to the complexities of small businesses and corporations. …

Getting sued isn’t sexy.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // antianti

If you thought I was an aggressive bitch in 2020, wait until 2021. People who’ve read my essays for a minute know how often my work gets stolen and republished online. From scam websites in Russia to small business non-profits and even friends, people seem to think my hard work is theirs for the taking. And while rookie “viral” writers believe theft is the sincerest form of flattery, it, in fact, is not. No, my friends. Shameless copyright abuse threatens my brand but also my income, and I’m finally doing something about it.

Because no one messes with my money.

For the first fifteen years of my career, I was coddled by in-house counsel. Lawyers helped me negotiate contracts, they filed trademark applications, registered for copyrights, and sent the kind of strongly-worded letters that made you shake in your little pantalones. When I went out on my own in 2013, it took me a few years (read: seven) to realize I’m not a lawyer. I can’t even play Perry Mason on TV. I’ve no business redlining contracts and getting on the phone with attorneys without advisement. …

How to create opportunities where none exist

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // JenkoAtaman

Many people are successful not because they’re talented, but because they’re connected. Maybe they cozied up to the “right” people. Perhaps they formed a syndicate of strivers because there’s strength in numbers. Or possibly it’s because they’re conventionally attractive: white, young, thin, and upwardly mobile with minor exceptions. And while a lot of people talk big about how woke they are, they secretly want to be near pretty people.

Being connected is mythical in the way it kicks down doors that were once bolted shut. Invitations become an inbox tsunami. Everyone’s wielding knives, primed for a piece of you. They publish you because your name means something. They invite you to speak because your numbers mean something. They collaborate with you because partnering with you means something. People who trampled all over your face now want to know you because they believe proximity will shower them with your sheen. …

Focus on multi-faceted fulfillment when single-engine passion flares out.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // JenkoAtaman

I’ve never had a “dream” job, and I’m not even sure it exists for me. On my last days in the office, I wept not only for what was lost — the blueberry oatmeal on Fifth Avenue, coworkers that didn’t incite rage, the piles of free books and the my proximity to them — but also the relief that came from abandoning feelings of crippling self-doubt and abject terror. Baggage carried from working for a narcissistic sociopath.

I’ve held jobs where I’ve cried and others where I’ve thrived. But no one pursuit sustained me or made me feel whole. Rather, I thought of my jobs as an aspect of my life and the real work was determining how they harmonized with the other parts of me. …

I’m not talking about eBooks & courses.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Jacob Lund

If you keep peddling your services without turning them into products, you’ll never make any money, a mentor once told me. Ours was a service-based digital agency where we spent endless hours on the care and feeding of our clients social media channels and websites. Held their hand through rage blackouts when Facebook crashed after we launched that blemish stick giveaway. Talked them down from the ledge when customers dumped their complaints on their socials for the world to see. There was a lot of coddling, and coddling cost money. …

Spoiler: Education, diversification, & support

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Jacob Lund

I’ve spent this year in crippling fear and self-doubt and it’s only recently that I’ve finally woken up. Before the continued trash fire that is the Bubonic Orange and the virus that makes people flee when I have an allergy sneeze in the streets, I had two months of bliss. From launching a three-day brand development workshop to booking out projects for months, I felt the last few years of financial unrest were behind me.

If only I could’ve seen the car crash that lie ahead of me when I slid the keys into the ignition. Instead, I rose from the wreck like a zombie mannequin statue. …

Even if that plan means screaming into pillows

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Jelena

For the past few weeks, I’ve been catatonic. In between client meetings, court hearings, and doctor appointments, I lay supine on my couch in abject terror. Will the Bubonic Orange remain in the whitest of houses? What will become of my work, life, and the two hundred gray hairs that seemed to have mysteriously sprouted out of my head? When will there be a vaccine? When will I be a normal person and write marketing articles with aplomb again? …

We live in a “coddle & entertain me” culture.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // deagreez

When I was small, I watched my mother move. Hot plates stacked on her arm, she navigated tight turns and large tables filled with men and their sticky hands. At the counter, I performed surgery on a blueberry muffin. I had to eat things in a certain way, in a certain order, and I always saved the top, the crunchiest bit for last. I picked my plate clean while my mother counted and stacked her tips, her eyes fixed on the bills. …

Who will take care of my cat when I die?

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Aleksandr Kondratov

I’m worried something’s wrong with my heart. And I’m not talking about chambers bursting open, allowing all the love to flutter in — no, I think there’s something wrong with the organ in my chest. My first instinct is to make pretty poetry because I stack words like bricks, always erecting a fortress between me, the world, and everyone in it. But there’s no poetry in the business of feet. Only a persistent ache that makes me feel like something’s off.

Over the past six months, I’ve noticed how my feet will ache for long periods of time and get better when I rest to resume the cycle all over again. I walk a lot so I ache, but I’m a walker, a hiker, a climber of rocks, so this shouldn’t be front-page news. …

Twenty years later, I’ve returned a different woman.

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Licensed from Adobe Stock // Yuriy Shevtsov

There goes my pop careening down the aisles of a T.J. Maxx, clutching a pair of silver stilettos in one hand and a delicate pair of heels adorned with silk butterflies in the other. They have Prada! Dolce & Gabbana! He was fresh out of the shower, but he had bits of hay in his hair from the thoroughbreds he groomed and loved. My pop broke Triple Crown babies for million-dollar trainers. But there he was, beaming. Expensive heels in calloused hands.

On the weekends, we watched Video Fashion Weekly and pored through the latest issues of InStyle and Elle. Market research, I said. He nodded, schooled himself on cheetah prints and the business of finery. My pop considered The Gap the height of sartorial sophistication, caring for his meager collection of flannels and button-downs like small children. …

About

Felicia C. Sullivan

Marketing Exec/Author. I build brands & tell stories. Work in Human Parts, OneZero, Forge & Marker. Hire me: t.ly/bEnd7 Branding & Freelancing eBooks t.ly/ZP5v

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