A couple of months ago, someone I knew through connections reached out to me for some advice on taking his business to the next level. We met up for coffee and I brainstormed some ideas that seemed obvious for me, but not to him apparently. I consider my brain a complete database of the digital space of Austria – be it media and journalism, marketing and advertising or tech and startup, I know pretty much every big and tiny player and am happy to share that knowledge. After wrapping up our coffee talk, I realized that I could probably charge easily €100 for a consulting session like this. Instead, I paid for my own coffee.
Last weekend I woke up to the news that he actually launched a product that I suggested him. Admittedly, I don’t know any details and this could be totally unrelated to the advice I had given, still I felt pretty bummed throughout my breakfast. Though I am very well aware there’s only one to blame here: my naivity.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m all up for giving free advice and sharing my experience. I consider Karma to be my religion and sometimes reach out for unpaid advice myself (and try to “pay back” in other ways). But since I am self-employed now and living in one of the most expensive cities on earth, I realize I need to make a change. Turns out, Karma doesn’t pay my rent – at least not for the next months.
To be honest, I find the shift to getting paid for consulting really tough. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to unsolicitedly share some insights and inspirations with a former employer until I realized (soon enough, thankfully) that I would be giving away advice that would be well worth a couple of hundred (or even thousand) Euros. The very fact that I considered doing this without being asked for it makes me realize that my entrepreneur brain isn’t quite where it’s supposed to be yet. Ever since I quit my day job as managing editor and moved to San Francisco, more and more people are reaching out to me. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to properly monetize my assets. I find this even harder because my skills are somewhat soft, meaning I don’t build anything with instant gratification (unless I’m writing articles which then you can absorb through the letters).
So, apparently I don’t have an answer to the question in the headline. What’s comforting is that almost all of my friends who started their own business made similar experiences. What I do know is that next time I share my advice with someone, I won’t pay for my own coffee.
Has this happened to you? Would love to read your experiences!
Update: my entrepreneur’s brain tells me this is a good opportunity to promote my business. Hire me!
I was truly shocked when I heard the news about the Boston attack. I was on a conference call with some friends while it happened and jumped in on the news a bit late – late in terms of social media time. While I do appreciate real time information on the web, I got pretty frustrated by some of the comments made by German speaking Twitter people. The tenor was very negative and anti-America, also bashing media. There’s a lot of hate towards the United States, and since I am a current (and proud) resident of this country now, I wanted to share my thoughts on this.
Yes, tragedy happens every day. Yes, bombs explode every day in Iraq. In the Bay Area, one person was fatally hit by Caltrain today. In my neighborhood, a man got shot this weekend. But does that mean a nation is not supposed to be in shock about an attack at a public event? Sure, the media is getting crazy about things and I’ve seen images today that I wish I hadn’t seen. I don’t know why a lot of Germans and Austrians give the US so much crap for calling it the biggest tragedy since 9/11. Seriously, if we are not supposed to be publicly shocked and devastated about the event, how else should we react? Shrug our shoulders and be like, “Oh well, dozens of people died in Iraq. We got it so much better. Let’s go back to work.”
Also, if you’ve never lived here, you may have never experienced one of the greatest gifts of US citizens: community support. People here care about each other, and if someone attacks the country, pretty much the whole population feels affected and is sending out their prayers. You have to realize that 315 million individuals live in the US. Given that most of them talk about the marathon attack today and in the next few days, that’s quite an amplifier.
Lastly, here’s the point that struck me the most today: The US is one big nation. And if the incident in Boston turns out to be a terrorist attack, pretty much all of the 315 million people living here are affected. I found myself wondering what will happen if this really turns out to be a huge thing. I actually don’t think it will and I’m not freaked out or anything. But no one knows which turn this event will take. To all the smartypants on Twitter, have you ever experienced heightened alert in your country? And if so, were you like “Well, whatever, xx people died in Iraq today.” Plus your country most probably is not stretched over a whole contintent.
I lived in San Francisco when London was bombed in 2005. Although I do remember how the news shocked pretty much all of the Western world, I didn’t feel nearly as affected as I do today. It just feels different if you are a resident of the attacked nation. That’s another point to think about, smartypants. Incidents like the one happened today are a very sensitive subject. And it’s definitely not the right time and place to tell a nation how they are supposed to not react.
My thoughts go out to all runners and families affected by this. And I have a lot of love for all the helpers at the scene. When I saw parts of the footage (I only watched about a minute), I was amazed by how quickly people reacted just seconds after the explosion. Talk about community support.
I’ve been to the LA area a couple of times now (probably five times in the last eight years, lost track) and for some reason, it’s always a mind-boggling experience. Because I am a writer, I have to absorb all these impressions and spit them out on paper (or on the blog, that is). I actually should be working but I need to get this out of my fingers before I can write on something else.
Where do I start? Crossing Borders.
Last time I visited LA, which was in November, I flew in from San Francisco and basically drove straight to the Universal Amphitheater to see a concert. I felt culture-shocked to say the least. People were not using Square at the coffeeshop. People were not constantly checking their phones. People were eating crap fast food. That was when I realized that San Francisco is not the real world, it’s a bubble. Today I took the I5 down to LA (in a Toyota Prius, I should mention, for no specific reason) and realized that the real world actually starts right when you’ve left the Bay Area. I stopped at some Starbucks and I rarely ever go to Starbucks in SF anymore because there are so many other options. But I know I always can get green juice and some decent vegetarian snack. Well, not at this location. Apparently, the Evolution Fresh juices are not really available outside the Bay. Also, the only vegetarian snack they had was egg sandwich, which is not vegetarian in my book.
I used to think, “nobody ever listens to the radio anymore”. Wrong. If you spend most of your life in your car (as in: you live in LA), you begin to appreciate the radio. And I happen to love the SoCal radio stations. Weirdly, whenever I’m here I hear the same songs (even on different radio stations). Here are some of the the classics.
Puff Daddy – I’ll be missing you
Adele – Rumor has it (this is really random, I think it has never been a single)
The full discography of the Red Hot Chili Peppers
The full discography of No Doubt
Dave Matthews Band – Crash into me
Bush – Swallowed
I bet all of these songs are played at least once per day somewhere on SoCal radio.
Ah, real estate, my favorite topic. At this point I should mention that I think the Los Angeles area is really beautiful. While I feel like the downtown area is just a huge highway surrounded by chain restaurants, living there must be awesome. There are lots of apartment complexes (sitting in one as I type this), a lot of them have pretty lawns (something I rarely see in SF) and nice gardens, you’ll probably even have a pool. And you’ll be living in your own 2 bedroom, compared to sharing a tiny apartment with six roomies in the bay. Usually I stay somewhere by the beach when I visit SoCal – Redondo Beach, Long Beach, Venice Beach, Santa Monica. I love staring at the ocean and zoning out. Also, Venice and Santa Monica have the hipster vibe I’m used to in SF. Today I’m actually staying in North Hollywood, which may be the reason I feel so overwhelmed.
Ugh. The City Life.
The very reason why I whole-heartedly dislike Los Angeles is the fact that it’s not walkable. To be perfectly honest, SF is probably the only walkable city on the west coast. But I’m genuinely annoyed by being dependent on a car. I have taken public transport in LA before, but it’s just too much of a hassle. And again, if you live in LA, you pretty much spend most of your time in your car. Also, never in my life will I understand why you need an SUV in this city. A compact car would totally be sufficient. The car-dependence further results in the fact that crosswalks are rare. The upside is that you will never ever run over a pedestrian, because there just aren’t any.
It’s only fair to say that people here are awesome, super friendly and open. I guess the sunshine warms their souls. It’s funny though how everyone asks you what car you drive and what your fiance does for a living while in SF you’re asked what projects you have been recently working on.
I must admit that SF spoiled me. Most restaurants and coffee places sell artisanal products (which basically means homemade). LA people wouldn’t even know how to spell artisanal (actually, no one outside the Bay area has ever heard that word). The restaurants just don’t seem to be appealing, at least not to me. I’m sure there are lots of awesome places out there, but just the fact that I actually have to take my car there will keep me from accidentally stumbling upon a great place (I discovered most of my fave places in SF by just walking by).
Another observation I’ve made is that Wifi isn’t as widely available as it is in the SF area. Plus people don’t hang out with their MacBooks in coffeeshops. I truly assume that this is because LA people live in real houses or nice big apartments and don’t need to escape their 2×2 ft rooms.
Another reality check just hit me at the department store: I got as many free plastic bags as I wanted. In San Francisco, free plastic bags have been banned for a while now. Totally forgot that this was an SF thing. Welcome to the future.
Ugh. What should I say. I was at this juice bar today, surrounded by beautiful women in their beautiful gym clothes with their beautiful noses. This is how it made me feel.
Which brings me to my conclusion. LA is surreal. Some of it I love, lots of it I hate. Still, I feel a weird attraction to the city (due to the affordable rents maybe) and I enjoy driving down Sunset Boulevard listening to some 90s rock, looking at all the lush green lawns and pretty houses. Also, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to know that I may be only a few blocks away from some of my favorite celebrities. It is so amazing how different San Francisco and Los Angeles are. The only thing they have in common is the fact that they are located in the same state. Whenever I’m here, I try to picture myself living in some LA neighborhood. I could get a hip place in Venice for cheap. Then again, I’d have to get a vehicle that reflects my socio-economic status. In my case that would be at least a Ford Mustang. Kidding. But I would get a Mustang.
This opening scene of LA Story pretty much sums it up. If you haven’t seen the whole movie, go see it. I always have that song in my ear when I come here.
Long story short: I figured that with all that’s going on in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, I just couldn’t spend my time sitting at a desk doing my 9 to 5 (or 7) job anymore. There’s just so much going on there. In November, I finally realized who I really am: A writer who wants to tell stories. A journalist who wants to inform readers about awesome stuff that’s happening (and the not so awesome, too). A business mind who wants to create and build beautiful journalistic products (I do believe that high quality content can make money).
So that’s basically what I told my boss when I came back to work after my vacation and made a huge decision. I’m giving up my full-time position at Werbeplanung.at and will be working for them as a Silicon Valley correspondent starting in March. Yesterday, I received the US journalist visa, it’s all official!
Besides writing for Werbeplanung.at, I am also in talks with other media outlets. My main objective is to bring Silicon Valley closer to Europe. And I’m not talking about fancy-schmancy apps and stuff, but real business. There’s so much more than Facebook, Google and a zillion app startups over there. And I will deliver you the news. I will also work on other projects and my own ideas. (If you are interested or want to hire me for freelance work, let me know!)
I’ve been wanting this for more than seven years, and now I’m actually doing it. When I visited San Francisco last November, I actually didn’t plan on moving there. I honestly was convinced that I didn’t want to live there anymore. And quite frankly, when I check apartment listings, I get sick in my stomach and wonder why I’m doing this to myself. I’m giving up a lot and am very well aware that I will have to work really hard in the next months. It’s going to be tough. My current plan is to stay at least till the end of the year. I don’t want to plan too much ahead. Let’s see how things work out. I tell people I’ll come back when I’m broke – or super rich.
Anyway, thanks to whoever reads this for taking the time to read about my dream. If we haven’t seen each other (if at all) in a long time and you want to meet up before I leave, let me know! Let me know what you guys think of my plans. Am I crazy? Am very grateful for any advice, be it relocating, freelancing, jobs or whatver).
I met Sean seven years ago at a bus stop. More specifically, we were neighbors on Treasure Island, an artificial island between San Francisco and the East Bay. The area is abandoned, apparently not really healthy and mostly dead land. Besides cheap rent, TI has one major asset: it’s skyline view of the city, which is beyond priceless. If you’d ask me what it is that draws me to the city so much, I couldn’t tell you. Though whenever I stand at the waterfront on TI looking over to San Francisco, I literally hear the city calling my name while my heart skips a beat.
While my roommates have all left Treasure Island years ago, Sean just moved back here recently after living in Oakland for some time. On my last day here I took a trip over there to visit him. At a first glance, not much has changed. Most of the island is still dead land and Sean lives in a bachelor pad with his bandmates, strumming acoustic versions of punk songs on his guitar like he used to back then.
However, a whole lot has changed. We walked over to our old places to see what is going on there now. The unit I used to live in seems to be unoccupied. I took a peek through the window and saw our kitchen empty. My heart hurt a little when I reminisced about the fun times my roommates and I had back then. It once was a warm, lively place. Today our kitchen is dark and cold. I couldn’t get the image of our empty unit out of my mind all day through. I now see it as a metaphor of an era that has ended a long time ago and a hint to the beginning of something new. Sean’s former unit on the other hand is occupied and seemed very lively when we passed it. Another new tenant of the neighborhood is the rather hideous statue of a naked lady, that is apparently promoting a Yoga studio.
In recent years, TI has become a rather popular wedding location. So sure enough we passed a wedding ceremony on our stroll around the island. Despite the wind and rain, the couple posed for wedding pictures in front of the city skyline under a tiny umbrella. Watching them made me feel bittersweet inside. The scenery eventually led us to a conversation about love, marriage, careers and life in general. Both Sean’s and my life haven’t exactly gone as planned in the last few years. Though standing there, chatting with him while waiting for the bus back to the city made me feel like no time has passed.
I left Sean at the bus stop today. When I got on the bus, I took a hard swallow and felt like crying for a second. Maybe because of leaving him and the city behind, maybe even because of the ugly statue or just because I felt bad for the freezing bride in the rain.