Looking for Adrian Hoppel Websites?

As of January 1, 2015 Adrian Hoppel Websites changed to Gift Economy Websites. I wrote about the reasons why, and I am happy to report that are alive and kicking.

I am going to use this space for some personal work, mostly writing that I do when I am not working on a website. You are more then welcome to stay!

If you’d like to jump right to our web design shop, click here.

 

The Last Blog Post Ever from Adrian Hoppel Websites

Happy New Year!

I have a bit of news I want to share with you about website projects, my business, and working in the Gift Economy.

This past year was filled with success, failure, amazement, disappointment, and learning.

One year ago today, things were very different for me: I was working alone and had completed just over two dozen websites in 2013, and I was preparing a blog post that would unexpectedly go viral across the globe. Before I knew what was happening, I was written up in Huffington Post, was interviewed on live TV, and was doing radio interviews on NPR and with podcasts around the globe.

The result of all of this exposure was a massive influx of people with website projects asking me for help.

To be perfectly honest: I did not do a very good job of handling this. While on the surface many people would assume that too much business is a good problem to have, as most of you are small business owners and professionals, I am sure you can appreciate the trouble that comes with going from a comfortable 2-3 clients a month to 150+ people, overnight, who all want help right away.

I learned two important things about myself: I am not good at saying no; I am terrible at multitasking. This combination can be quite disastrous.

Many of you reached out to me months and months ago to discuss your project, and I confidently assured you that I could handle it, and that I could finish the work in a timely manner.

I am very sorry about setting expectations like that, because I finished no project in a timely manner (every project was late this past year), and many of you are still waiting for your project to be completed, and some of you tired of waiting and cancelled your project.

I understand your frustrations, and believe me, my team shares them, as do I. We need to do a better job, and that’s what this email is about.

Let me be frank: I work in a gift economy, which is a huge benefit to me, but it is also a huge benefit to you. A gift economy is based on trust and service; you trust me with your projects, and I offer my services to you with trust that you will support my work. It is not based on deadlines, contracts, deposits, refunds, conference calls, frustration, and anxiety.

I have never worked harder or longer in my life than this past year. Since late January 2014, with the exception of a week or two in July, and the last week here in December, I have worked some or all of 7 days a week, often till well past midnight.

Not surprisingly, I have never been as unhealthy as I am right now. I am in the worst physical shape of my life, my exercise routines evaporated sometime last June, I am constantly fatigued and stressed, my eyesight is worsening, my body is stiff, and I have not spent nearly enough time with my family. I am a walking depression time bomb.

I did not launch this business to work this way. In fact, I launched this business specifically so that I would *not* have to work this way. No one should have to work this way.

So what happened? Three things, mainly:

1. Clearly, I took on too much work, agreed to too many projects, set too many expectations.

2. I tried to grow this business into a larger company (including all of the recruiting, training, bookkeeping, and customer support) while being the primary worker on the projects, and quickly spread myself too thin.

3. I continued to be a global voice on the Gift Economy while trying to run a gift economy business at the same time; there is not enough of me to do both of these things well at the same time.

I tried to do all of the things. I did my best. I failed almost as much as I succeeded. I am disappointed, for those I disappointed, I am very sorry.

Believe it or not, I cherish this past year, because it has truly been an amazing learning experience. Trying to figure out how to do this “on the fly” has been a wonderful challenge. I learned a lot of things about how to run a business, and a rapidly growing business, in a gift economy. More to the point, I learned how *not* to do it as well.

I am ready to apply those lessons learned.

So here is what is going to happen in 2015:

1. Effective January 1, 2015, I am changing the name of this business from Adrian Hoppel Websites to Gift Economy Websites. I want to pull my name out of the focus of our relationship, and clearly remind myself — and you! — that we ARE working a Gift Economy, and that is VERY different from any other way of working together. This is not about me, it is about the work I agree to do for you, and about you supporting me for that work. There will be a new website and new email addresses. A visceral “fresh start”. This changeover is going to take part of each day for the first 2 weeks of the year, so we won’t be going 100% until mid-month.

2. I will not be writing any new blog posts, doing any interviews, or holding any talks/discussions about the Gift Economy until all of the remaining projects from 2014 are completed, and we are all caught up. If you are waiting for your project to be completed, that is all I will be working on until further notice.

3. I will not be taking on any new clients until all of the remaining projects from 2014 are completed, and we are all caught up. If you are waiting for your project to be completed, that is all I will be working on until further notice.

4. I will not be working on the weekends, or past dinnertime, unless there is an emergency with one of your websites. I will keep a healthy focus on myself and my family. Regular business hours; no more, no less.

5. I will continue to do my very best work for each of my clients, but I will not be setting any unrealistic deadlines. In fact, I plan to avoid deadlines whenever possible. I will work to complete your project as quickly as I can. I am dedicated to the work I do. However, I can only do so much. Please be patient and understand and believe me when I say I am doing the best that I can, and I am trying to help as many people as I can.

6. I am launching several new platforms for project management, billing, and customer support that will streamline some of these processes and free up my time to focus on building your websites.

7. I will be moving all billing for domain registration and hosting to a January through December cycle, instead of the month when your website launched. I will be prorating all bills for 2015 to account the months you already paid for, or are due as part of your “free first year”. Those of you with active websites will be receiving a prorated bill; look for those by mid month at the latest. This will help remove the headache of handling monthly billing, and also help to manage some of our operating costs.

This is going to be a different year; I intend for it to be more focused and more productive…and a lot more healthy.

I am a web designer. I love what I do. Indeed, I am passionate about it, and I want to help you and as many people as I can.

I work exclusively in a Gift Economy. I love working this way, and I am equally passionate about it, and I want to use it to help you and as many people as I can.

Thank you for being on this journey with me, even if you decided along the way that it was not for you. I am better for knowing you.

For those that are waiting for your projects to be completed, I am committed to you and your project and to doing the best work of my life with you this year, but doing it in a way that fair and honest for both of us.

I wish you a very happy, healthy, and productive New Year. Let’s make 2015 something truly special.

– A

Adrian Hoppel
Founder, Adrian Hoppel Websites / Gift Economy Websites

The Biggest Lie You’ve Ever Been Told about Blogging

If we’ve spoken about developing a website, then you’ve probably heard me wax on about the magic of blogging with regard to its ability to help your website attract new customers and climb search engine rankings.

Hopefully, you heard the other part of what I said about blogging: how it is an incredible amount of work, that it requires dedication and discipline, and that it may not always be the best option for everyone.

Blogging

Margie Clayman, the director of marketing at Clayman and Associates, dives into the issue with a great blog post today titled Bad Advice Time: Do Content Marketing Because It’s Cheap. As Margie points out, content marketing can be effective, but to suggest it is easy or, more importantly, less expensive than other types of marketing is just flat out false.

The saying “time is money” comes into play here, and even if you are not focused on money per say, there is still no question that time is the fundamental medium of exchange. From Gift Economies to TimeBanking to Wall Street, whatever you do, and whatever your gift is, time is the greatest limiting factor to you doing even more of it.

And the time you need to put into doing content marketing effectively is significant.

To do content marketing well, you need to invest a LOT of time, and let’s face it, time is still money in the business world. Not only do you need to come up with at least 52 post ideas, you need to sit down to write those posts. Then you need to promote those posts, because as we discussed last week, people are not just going to magically appear to read what you have written. If you get comments on your blog posts, you need to monitor those, if not respond to them. From there, you need to take time to make sure you monitor conversions from readers and commenters (these words are NOT synonymous with customers) to sales.

— Margie Clayman

Is it worth it to you? Perhaps! Is is the best way for you to spend your time building your business? Maybe! But you have to honestly assess if the hours you need to spend each month, or preferably each week, to really blog well is the best use of your time and resources. Sometimes is certainly is, but sometimes it makes more sense to step back and let a professional marketer do what they do so that you can spend more time doing what you do.

Either way, don’t ever let anyone tell you blogging is easy or content marketing is cheap.

– A

PS — if you want smart, honest, real-world marketing tips and advice, sprinkled with wit and some mid-western practicality, I highly recommend you subscribe to Margie’s agency blog here (on the right-hand side, where it says “Subscribe to our blog by email). Do it.

Why You Shouldn’t Make Stuff Because You Want to Make Money

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.00.50 AMI am a big fan of John Green. I love the way he answers questions and explains things. It is always a bit frantic and high energy, but it is often brilliant and spot on.

In this video someone just sent me from a few years ago, John gets into the importance of the internet, making, and gifting.

I think it is pretty special.

  • At :55  John discusses why he loves the internet, which I agree with.
  • At 1:42 is the amazing Gary Busey Family Portrait.
  • At 2:08 is the sweet spot, where John breaks it down like this:

Every single day, I get emails from aspiring writers asking my advice about how to become a writer, and here is the only advice I can give: Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts.

Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t — and if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything — because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.


That is it right there, folks. If you get that, if you agree with that, if you can internalize THAT, then you are doing it right.

– A

This Is What It Looks Like When You Realize How Toxic Your Job Is and You Do Something About It

Deciding to Offer Web Design in a Gift Economy Changed My Life. Here’s How.

Gift EconomyLast weekend, someone who is very important to me wrote something kind about me on Facebook, and since then many people have tried to get in touch with me.

Like, a lot of people. From everywhere.

The person was author and speaker Charles Eisenstein, and the kind words he wrote about me had to do with the website I designed for him.

Here is what Charles wrote:

The fact that people have reached out to me from around the world, seeking help with their website projects, simply because of these words, is a great example of not only the power of social media, but the magic of working in a Gift Economy.

Let Me Explain.

I’ve built websites for people for about 13 years now, the first 11 of which were done in the typical “here is my quote, I need this amount in deposit, and at the end, here is my bill” type of model. It is the same model most people experience in the business world, and it is composed of two totally opposing forces: the seller attempting to take as much money as possible while giving as little of the product as possible, and the buyer attempting to take as much of the product as possible while giving as little money as possible.

People have described this model to me in a  variety of apathetic, shoulder-shrugging ways, like “That’s the way it works.” or “That is the American way.” or “It’s a dog eat dog world, what did you expect?”

I don’t know…what did YOU expect? What did you expect when you were a kid? What did you expect before the “realities of life” taught you otherwise?

I always expected something different. It’s why I struggled so much on the inside in my earlier careers, despite achieving significant professional success. I talk about when I reached the tipping point in this blog post, but the point is, I could not continue to work that way.

This past weekend, I received many requests from people who felt like they could not continue to work that way either, and they wanted to know how to work like I am.

So, How Do You Do It?

In 2011, I read Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, because a dear friend told me I must. At that time, I was already almost a year off the corporate treadmill, but I did not know exactly where I was going. The ideas in the book blew my mind. The concept of a Gift Economy was immediately compelling to me, but I was terrified that it would fail or that people would just take advantage of me.

Despite many reservations, I decided to put up a website describing my willingness to build websites for people in a Gift Economy — basically that if we decided to work together, that I would build you a website as a gift, and after I was done, I would give it to you. Then you would consider what the finished project was worth to you and choose something fair to gift back to me. There would be no contracts, no negotiating, no pressure.

And, in contrast to the traditional model where all the risk is on the buyer, the way I was set up, all the risk would be on me. There was every chance that I could build you a website and you could just say “Thanks!” and never gift me anything at all in return.

So, I did not advertise, or tell many people outside of my Facebook friends about this project. I was worried that people would scam me and have me build a website for them and then never offer anything back as a gift. Also, I thought I would do maybe 1 or 2 websites a year like this. I was actually pretty sure the thing would end in disaster.

I Was Very Wrong.

First of all, the project went from an experiment to a full-time job in just a matter of months,  totally driven by word of mouth, and soon I had a constant stream of clients. I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift.

Secondly, every single client has supported me in whole.

Every. Single. One.

Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model, which was based on negotiation and the lowest bid wins, instead of the Gift model which is based on mutual respect and fairness.

Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.

Is this Gift Economy project of mine enough to support a family? It became so after about 6-9 months, which I think is good for any new  business. However, the project could have gotten that strong that much sooner if I was not so worried and skeptical in the beginning.

For me, I had 2-3 champions that I knew already on Facebook who really bought into what I was doing, gave me work, and promoted me to other people, and that got the ball rolling. This was really they key to getting things off the ground.

But the reason it spread so fast is because, as I alluded to above, the Gift Economy changes the entire business relationship. Instead of a situation where the client is skeptical and fears getting ripped off because they don’t understand web design and yet are being asked for a 50% deposit up front, causing the client to argue for the lowest possible bid to lower their risk, the Gift Economy places all the risk on me. I built many of my websites this year without any deposit at all, and when I was finished I turned the entire site over to the client 100%. Always, and without any strings attached.

Working this way was so revolutionary to so many people, that when friends of theirs said “I need a new website” they would refer me with “you have to call Adrian, he is great and you can totally trust him.” I don’t know that I am great, but I try really hard to get everything right; I do know, however, that you can trust me 100%, and that when we are finished, you will be more than satisfied.

Trust became the medium of exchange, not HTML, not money. Helping each other became the purpose, not profits or returns on investments. Establishing a community who believed in me and what I was doing became the goal, without worry over profit margins, because eventually I received the most important gift of all: a true faith in people to be honest, fair, generous, and supportive.

So, I guess, the basic lesson I learned is for a gift-based business to thrive, it needs a community around it to help it grow, but the community does not need much to get going. People are desperate for a New Story or a new way to do business, something not so toxic, something fulfilling. All you have to do is take the leap and believe people will be there to catch you. And they will. And then, the more you give, the more you just let go and give away, the more will come back to you.

That was my experience, anyway.

Here, Charles says it better than I do:

If you are interested in working this way, I would urge you to give it a shot, but there is no need to quit your regular job right away. Read Charles’ books. Test it out like I did, but don’t be surprised if it becomes so big that you have no time for anything else, because that is what happened to me!

Hope this is helpful, and would love to chat more. Let me know if you have any questions I did not cover.

Oh, before I forget: Happy New Year!

— A

Take Two Chills And Post Me in The Morning: When Technology Fails

Flynn Could Have Fixed It

So for part of this past Tuesday and all of Wednesday, my primary personal email was down at the server level; I love you Apple but COME ON!

Perhaps because of that, I was unable to post directly to Facebook. I could comment, message, share, and post from other websites, but I could not do the most basic function of Facebook: tell you what’s on my mind.

This inconvenience really disrupted my day, even though I don’t really use either service for my professional work.

Well, on a good day, I can rationalize fairly eloquently on the many ways the time I spend on Facebook actually does help my professional work, but this is not one of those days.

See, while everything was down, several times throughout the day, often in the same hour, I would check both my email and Facebook, and pound the desk when they wouldn’t work. And I got increasingly frustrated.

During much of my personal Great Outage, I was tense and anxious, arguing with people I don’t normally argue with, getting annoyed…I was generally crabby. Significantly more crabby than usual, too.

I wasn’t so upset that my email and Facebook were not working — I am not THAT addicted — as much as that I could not do anything to fix them.

I realize I AM rather addicted to that particular need, the need to be a competent geek, and probably not in a healthy way. I really need to be able to control and fix basic tech stuff like that, actually. Like, I NEED to, and I can’t stand it when something on the computer is not working and I am unable to resolve it myself. I knew both issues were (probably) out of my control, but I felt like there had to be something, some kind of reboot sequence, some sort of setting change, some work-around that I could craft that would get everything online again.

When I woke up today, everything was working just fine. The world was spinning just a little more true, the sun was shining just a little bit brighter.

Sometimes you just need to walk away and let things resolve themselves. In computers, and life.

I am not Kevin Flynn, even if I like to pretend so.

If you want to subscribe to my rantings on Facebook, providing everything there is working, you can right here.