Category Archives: How-to


eg. if a blogpost involved 2 other writers + design, and had a hard deadline, how do you reconcile the timeline?

first I try to come up with something that will let me ship it passably even if say all 3 of them mysteriously disappeared

next I give them a deadline that is a few days earlier than the actual deadline

and I check in on them every day to see how progress is going, and offer help/suggestions

and at a meta level I try to avoid having blogposts with hard deadlines that are contingent on other people’s input to begin with, ie I collect all of the inputs I can ahead of time if possible, and build up a queue of passable content in the interim

despite all of this there will always be some things that miss the planned deadline, because we tend to have ambitious deadlines to begin with

how’s that worked out so far?

about as well as it can, I think. the bottleneck is my own inefficiency

Asking For A Raise

A friend messaged me earlier to say that he was chatting with his HR about asking for a raise. “He said I should just ask, because the worse I can be told is ‘no’. I think I deserve a raise, given my new job scope. But sometimes I still have imposter syndrome.”

Ideally, an organization should have a regular scheduled process for addressing this – like a quarterly or bi-annual performance review. At a high-tempo workplace like a startup, an annual review is probably too infrequent.

Compensation shouldn’t be about feelings – it should be about the amount of value that you’re adding to your organization.

If you normally only have an annual review (as my friend does), you should probably request a meeting about 3 months into a new role.

“I don’t know how to ask for it. I guess I’ll ask as tactfully as I can, and the worst the can say is no.”

I think this is actually setting yourself up for failure. If you ask “Um, can I have a raise please?”, it’s very easy to say no to that. Your manager might sense that you’re not very sure of yourself, and that you’ll accept no for answer. It might seem like you’re already kind of defeated inside. Perhaps they’ll buy you a drink and say nice things, which is touching, but it doesn’t improve your position.

You want to make it easy for them to say yes. You want them to think to themselves, “Wow, this person is focused and committed to improving herself. She’s clear about how she measures her progress, and she’s going to keep growing and levelling up as a contributor. I can say yes and earn her ‘loyalty’, or I can say no and she’ll probably end up moving to somewhere else that appreciates her better.”

Networking Advice For Self-Conscious Noobs

A younger friend – she’s a History major – posted on Facebook that she was frustrated with her experience at career fairs.

I left a comment saying “the trick is to avoid career fairs altogether. All the cool and interesting jobs get snapped up long before job descriptions get written.”

Someone else commented that most of the companies at a career fair are there out of obligation and not for actual recruitment. The best use of the career fair, he said, is just to look up the companies present, then submit your application directly to the company online.

I replied: Yes – and a step beyond that  is…

  1. look up people working in the company,
  2. ask them out for coffee, then
  3. have them refer you to whoever’s hiring for whatever role you’re interested in.

Because people are always more interested in referrals from their peers than in CVs from strangers. You improve your response rate probably 10x-100x by getting a referral.

Another friend messaged me about the above comment.

Here’s how that conversation went:

>> can you tell me a bit more about how that goes? hahaha ick job hunting woes

Well, where do you want to work? You should start by putting together a list of specific companies you think you’d like to work for.

If you like, you could then add a bunch of people from that company on LinkedIn. (I’ve found that people are quite willing to add strangers on LinkedIn.) That way, when you eventually talk to someone from the company, and they look you up on LinkedIn, it’ll look like you already know a bunch of people in their company.

I have a bunch of people on my LinkedIn who I don’t know personally – but I think of it as having the option of getting to know them personally later on. I can now message them over LinkedIn to introduce myself, for example.

You can also do this over Twitter, if they’re on Twitter. It’s a very peripheral way of building relationships, but it does work.

>> My main fear/gripe is that it sounds too informal or like a date(?!) and i wouldnt know what to say while having coffee

The thing with that is to manage expectations as early as possible. Say you’re curious to learn more about the industry, and that you’re looking for a couple of specific pointers. Say you want to ask them about their experiences. Don’t be vague.

>> do you have tips on things i should/ shouldnt say? eg like dont even ask for job openings

Offer to buy the coffee, obviously.

Definitely don’t ask about a job in the message itself. People are interested in interesting conversation with interesting people, but they’re less interested in being used merely as a stepping stone for a job.

You can ask about jobs midway in the conversation, or towards the end, depending on how it goes.

You want them to get the impression that you’re smart and have initiative.

Ask them about what challenges their company is facing, what do most people not know, etc. People are always eager to talk about the the things they can’t quite say in public.

Once they’ve gotten comfortable with you, like you, see that you’re thoughtful and smart, you can ask about a job.

>> is there anything i strictly shouldnt do or say? and also do you think 30 min is a good time or too long?

I would just say “quick coffee”, which is generally assumed I think to be about 15-20 minutes. And if the conversation is good they can stick around. Or if they need to, they have the freedom to say they need to get back to work. Then you can ask to email them.

>> how would you work the whole getting them to refer you to HR thing into the conversation (like assuming its going well)

You don’t need to be like, “yo can you hook me up with John Smith from HR”. You want to let them make the decision themselves.

Ask something along the lines of, “Do you know anybody I can talk to about getting my foot in the door, maybe an internship or a starting role”.

>> oh! one more… should you buy the coffee before hand or is it okay to just pay for it at the shop tgt

Well, you’d want to get there before them. Then when they get there, you stand up smile shake hand say hi, then just ask them what they’d like. “Coffee? Tea?”.

And if they make a show of taking out their wallet or whatever you say, “No, no, it’s my treat!” It’s a small thing, but it should trigger some reciprocal, “I should do her a favor in return” feelings.

It’ll also be good if you have a mutual friend who can introduce you to the first person. Same principle. If you have a friend who works in the company, chat with them first. So it all starts with knowing which companies you’re interested in, then talking to your existing network to see if anybody knows anyone.

Generally I find that it’s better to do this sort of thing 1-1 (asking people over IM) rather than broadcasting it over Facebook or Twitter – unless you’re so talented that your friends will be fighting amongst themselves to refer you to their colleague(s).

How to think about traffic


How do you get more blog traffic?

First you need to publish content. When you’re at 0, you can pretty much publish whatever you like. You need to get into the habit/process of being able to publish things, so don’t obsess too much about publishing the right thing. If you’re new, you don’t yet know what “good” or “correct” is, so there’s no point trying to overthink that. It’s something you’ll figure out with output. So publish as much as you can.

Answer specific questions. I think it’s a good idea to write content that answers specific questions that people have. People often type in questions directly into their search bars – I do the same myself. I think, in order to stay motivated and focused, it helps to work backwards from questions that you’re actually sincerely interested in. (I’ve had a lot of fun curating a list of curiosities on this blog, for myself.) People are always starving to hear from other people who are genuinely interested in things.

Work backwards from your end-goal. What is the point of your blog? In ReferralCandy‘s case, the point is to help educate and inform people about referral marketing. We want intelligent, well-informed retailers with great products to achieve tremendous success through their referral campaigns, delighting their existing customers and getting lots of new ones in the process. So our blog needs to do a few different things. It needs to help retailers understand how and why referral marketing works, how businesses can use it, and so on.

Distribute your content. Once you’ve made something decent, it’s worth talking to other people to see what they think about it. Before you can do that, you’re usually going to have to contribute something first. (Ah, reciprocity.) Leave some thoughtful comments on quality content that you find elsewhere, share it yourself on Twitter. Email these people and ask them what’s up.


How to develop an online writing career

> Anyone who writes often for marketing/advertising/a business/your personal blog, please share what you do and what your writing habits are!

I’ve had a few different phases to my writing.

  1. I started out as a writer with a personal blog, blogging about daily life and random thoughts. (I’ve since archived this.)
  2. I got a lot of responses on my writing about local politics and social issues, so I did more of that.
  3. I got headhunted to join a tech startup because the founder enjoyed my writing, and needed somebody to head up the blog.
  4. I weaned off my local political writing and focused my time learning to do business goal-driven content marketing. Lots of trial and error, lots of learning.
  5. I used to write heavily on Quora, which boosted my craftsmanship as well as my self-esteem.
  6. I have a personal writing project on the side, where I’m working on writing 1,000 sets of 1,000 words, for fun.
  7. I’ve sometimes posted some things on Medium when it felt appropriate. I’ve had two particular posts go pretty viral– one about Mean Girls, and one about How To Bullshit Everybody.

Prescriptive advice?

  • Write as much as you possibly can.
  • Write about as many different things as you possibly can.
  • Pursue what is strange, funny, weird, interesting. That’s where the good stuff is.
  • Be willing to ship stuff that’s imperfect. If you’re worried about damaging your reputation, publish under a pseudonym, or ask a trusted friend to give you negative feedback.

How to be a world-class marketer

Answering a question posed to me in person.

The question about world-class is an interesting one to ponder.

To use a sports analogy, if you’re a “pretty good” athlete, you’ve probably got a better shot at winning the 400m hurdles gold than the 100m gold, because the 100m is that much more competitive.

So to get world-class at something, you want to narrow down your skillset into something highly specific and highly in demand. (To get cheesy about it, you’re world-class at being YOU, because you’re the only you there is. But you want to be world-class at something beyond that.)

In my case, I can pretty confidently say that I’m a pretty good content marketing lead. I know how to start a company blog from scratch, come up with an editorial direction, write and publish posts, do distribution, SEO, keyword research, get more traffic, manage other writers, set up lead capture, and flesh out an email drip campaign.

I wasn’t born knowing how to do all those things, though. I started out as a writer, which I developed on my own in my spare time. After getting hired, I was tasked with writing and publishing posts, and basically doing everything I could to grow the blog. So it’s a piecemeal, progressive process.