Most Marketing Books are Crap

Most marketing books are crap, and broadly speaking, most business books suck too.

Listen to this post read by Mason Pelt.

These books are mostly written by people selling consulting, or worse, some productized service. While I’m critical of most business books, I’m focusing this beating on marketing books only.

Out of a sampling of books on marketing; it’s common to see a 180-page book, spending 30 pages sharing the qualifications of the authors, and 150 pages of generic or recycled concepts, perhaps with some rebranding. Most of these books tell you how major companies over the last 50 years, became major companies, using the tactics the book’s author just happens to be an expert on.

I’m not saying Ogilvy on Advertising isn’t worth reading, because David Ogilvy founded an ad agency. His expertise is what makes the book worth the time to read it, but if you read his book, you can probably skip most of the clones.

Marketing books are typically written for three audiences

Most marketing books are written with three audiences in mind. The first two are people who work at large brands and large agencies, with well-funded clients who hire consultants. Basically the type of companies that make up most examples in any marketing book.

The third audience segment is dumb people, who think their startup idea follows the same rules as a spattering of carefully selected examples. Dumb people may never buy consulting, but they can buy books, and attend conferences. Dumb people also don’t ask for context, like, what players were in the market if the strategy failed for other companies, or how the overall economy was doing at the time a strategy worked once in my photographer days, a marketing person hired me for an event, let’s call it a graduation. They asked me to take photos with my phone; Why? Because they heard the head of social at Chili’s Grill & Bar say photos taken on a phone at restaurants received more engagement on Instagram than studio images. Either, those scenarios are identical; or some dumb folks are buying marketing books and attending conferences.

History is written by the winners, same with marketing books

The strategies in marketing books work almost 100% of the time, on paper. That’s because no one writes about the failures. I’ve spent my working life at agencies and martech companies, and you know what every client I’ve worked with has in common? First, they don’t let you write about their worst failures. Second, nothing is a failure if you toss a pile of money at it and put on rose-colored glasses.

Are five million impressions on social media worth anything? No, but if you spend about $500,000 you can get five million impressions. Take the impressions, some screenshots showing positive comments (negative comments are ignored), a few charts, something showing industry trends, a pulled quote from a Gartner Analyst and boom! That is a nice looking case study!

If you take 30 thin case studies like the one above, cherry pick the ones that have a similar thread, put them together with some snark, and a little analysis and bam. You have a marketing book, it may not be a bestseller, but maybe it will get you a consulting or speaking gig!

Some of the best marketing books aren’t about marketing

I’m not saying all marketing books are bad, and I started an ad agency, so it should be clear, I’m not attacking marketing consultants. But many of the best marketing books aren’t written about marketing. Any book covering flaws in an industry, or highlighting innate human behavior can be a marketing book.

Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky is not about marketing, it is an exposé highlighting many of the flaws in media outlets. The kind of flaws in the design of news that could be a savvy PR person’s dream. Ryan Holiday, a one-time savvy PR person highlights the exploitation of those and more modern problems in his book Trust Me, I’m Lying.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie is about being a good human. Social Engineering by Christopher Hadnagy is an entertaining book about how not to be a victim of social engineering. Neither of these are about marketing, and both will teach you more about marketing than most books that advertise themselves to be on the topic.

I could probably keep naming books, but you get the point. There are a lot of bad marketing books and a lot of good marketing books not about marketing. If you’re looking for marketing books my fellow SiliconANGLE alum, Brandon Mendelson, listed his favorites a few years ago.

Why do bad marketing books sell?

From what I’ve gathered most people who read marketing books aren’t well-versed marketers, they are trying to learn, often quickly about, marketing. I jokingly called them “dumb people” before, but they are self-educators, so am I, that’s awesome, That said, in the very early stages of self-education you don’t have the information to understand what is good or bad advice.

When I see a book that says you have to invent “…a whole new game-defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time.” I think well darn; this is going to be an irritating read, I’ve probably read this before, will this just waste my time.

However, if one of the first marketing books you read, says the key to success is defining an entirely new product category; like Facebook, Google, SalesForce, Netflix, Uber, and many more. Why would you question it? Bing, is a failure for Microsoft because it’s not a category-defining company.

You want your start up’s marketing to be a success, defining a new category that the world has never seen before. You don’t want to be a flop like Bing, a company that in 2017 earned 3.2 Billion in revenue (1.3 billion in profit) holding 18% of the search market share in the US. Your startups must succeed, and that means you must define a category.

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Why is Self-improvement Bad When it’s Biohacking?

After looking at The Atlantic’s take on Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey’s fasting; I’m getting tired of the way some publications stand against well… self-improvement. I realize some of the Silicon Valley bros make it an easy target. But “biohacking” is self-improvement, backed by science. Sometimes biohacking is also pseudoscience, and other times just crazy measures that are nearly sci-fi, please make fun of those.

Without getting into any extreme bio hacks, in the last few years, I’ve improved my ability to deal with stress, my sleep, and my temper is much more in check. By every metric I can think of I am a more functional person, having “hacked” myself.

I fast 72 consecutive hours each quarter, and 6 out of 7 days, I eat within a 9-hour window. I take nootropics, I meditate, use a therapy lamp, and many weeks I eat under 30 grams of sugar. I’ll cycle diets, aka what I eat, based on my physical activity, and I feel better.

Each of these “bio hacks” from sauna to ice baths, every supplement I take, and every diet I use has research backing it; Mostly NIH funded research. I’m not some crazy person who has decided that I will draw magnetic resonance energy from the spirit world. I’m also not using CRISPER to test altering my DNA. I’m a self-experimenter, a pretty careful one at that.


The Dunning–Kruger effect is, basically, knowing so little that you think you know everything. I’ve been accused of this when it comes to my own health. I don’t think it’s valid for four reasons.

  1. I’m not doing anything that isn’t known to be safe or at the least low risk. Most people who are called biohackers aren’t Tristan Roberts trying experimental gene therapy to treat HIV. Most people are just using diet and supplementation to be a little better.
  2. We all feed ourselves and we also know subjectively how we feel. By 6 years old most people know chocolate cake isn’t as good for you as broccoli. I feel better on a diet with no sugar, my joints don’t hurt etc…
  3. I can measure results objectively. When I meditate and my blood pressure and heart rate drop, that’s not just a feeling. I can also measure sleep patterns and I can take executive functions tests.
  4. A wealth of information exists about the topics of health. A lot of that information is politically influenced, (see: You should eat a low-fat diet and coconut oil is bad for you). And many safe things may not work for you, but that is why self-testing is helpful. After reading several different reports and studies, you’ll have a pretty good idea what is likely to be harmful. Avoid harmful things, and try some of the safe options to see what works for you.

You can’t learn everything in an hour

Scott Addams, the creator of Dilbert, once said that he could understand any topic with an hour of conversation with an expert. That sounds crazy. But is it crazy to say that spending about 20 hours a week researching a topic for nearly two years could give you some measure of understanding?

This isn’t some labor theory of value based claim. But I’ve spent around 2,000 hours reading research papers, textbooks, and listening to lectures from doctors, phycologists and medical researchers. I’m not claiming to be an all-knowing expert, but I strongly dislike the idea that outside of the ivory tower of traditional education and certification everyone is wrong.

I’ve met people with degrees in nutrition, who were very happy to argue, incorrectly, about what amino acids make a protein. After literally showing that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics disagreed, I was told they had a nutrition degree (You know who you are RW)… I don’t care about degrees, I care about reality.

I won’t site a degree, because I have no credibility, that’s why I cite studies. I’m not going to make a claim that because I’m an outsider, I’m somehow more credible than the establishment, I don’t think that, again, that is why I cite studies. I’d rather watch a non-mathematician who shows their work, than a mathematician who relies on credentials and may not be getting the correct answer.

Am I someone with an eating disorder, pushing unhealthy habits?

Do I try to get other people to get with the program? Yeah, sometimes I do. I can only get so many calls from depressed or anxiety riddled friends before I start suggesting they try something that helped me. I’ve sent dozens of people to the Amen Clinics Brain Health Assessment, sent out bottles of Theanine & Bacopa Monnieri, and Sam Harris & Tara Brach’s guided meditations are among the links I share most.

If I suggest something, I’m not suggesting it with a cape of credibility. I’m giving a mix of personal experience, and links to research. I’m also just suggesting others try something and track their own results. Even if all they have is a placebo, the placebo effect has real power.

If you view suggesting someone should work out and change their diet because they wake up every day feeling like getting out of bed is a fight for their life, I think you have a problem. And if someone can manage their anxiety disorder and cut back on the times they would normally pop a Xanax by taking Ashwagandha, or meditating that seems like a good thing. If other people become more productive at work or in any aspect of life, that also seems like a good thing.

One last note

As my Push ROI business partner Jon Norwood is fond of saying. “You should hire a doctor to treat your cancer. Not put yourself through medical school so you can treat it yourself.”

I encourage everyone to try things that are safe or at least know the risks. But take responsibility for the 99% of your health that isn’t in a doctor’s office or behind the pharmacy counter. And don’t disregard modern medicine, I’m fairly sure members of the modern medical community conduct the studies I read.

If you are prescribed an SSRI or Benzodiazepines please don’t flush them, because you read a blog post saying you can take 5HTP or Theanine. Please talk to your doctor.

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Moonwalking with Einstein, Book Review

Moonwalking with Einstein is a delightful read offering a solid overview of memory techniques. I normally finish a book before recommending it, but the day I started reading I’d told at least six people to check it out. A few days later when I finished I considered it one of the best pieces of participatory journalism I’ve read. By the end, I was neither tired of the book nor sad it was over.

Author Joshua Foer managed to pique my interest for the three days I spent reading and ended exactly when it came time. Foer takes you on a journey from his covering the US memory championships as a reporter in 2005, to becoming the US memory champion, competing for a world title in 2006. He gives an overview of several techniques to improve memory and dives into some fascinating medical literature. Among my favorite parts of the book was an interview with EP, an amnesiac with short term memory comparable to that of a goldfish and no long term memories since the 1950s.

If unfamiliar with techniques like the memory palace and mnemonic devices the book may give you a good place to start learning more. If you’re someone who has some, or even expert familiarity with memory techniques this book is still so well written and interesting as to be an enjoyable read.

Memory techniques?

I had some exposure to the methods described in this book, from an elementary school phonics program called PACE (Processing And Cognitive Enhancement). For many of the same reasons that at 8 or 9-years-old I didn’t keep memorizing everything by storing it in palaces, I’m probably not going to start now. As a kid, I memorized all the US Presidents by visualizing a woman, with feet made of atoms watching a smiling sun wearing a chefs hat, who was BBQing a smaller angry sun. Watching son = Washington, atoms = Adams, chef sun = Jefferson, angry sun = Madison, and so on.

Side note: While it’s not quite the same memory device I learned with, this video shows the US Presidents using mental images.

Those mental images were helpful in a way, but they also gave me extra contextless information that as an adult has no use. I still remember most of the presidents in order, but any application that would require my knowing the order of presidents would likely also require that I know some historical context, and would merit a quick glance online to fact check. As an adult, you’re not often asked who was the President between Grover Cleveland’s two terms (Benjamin Harrison).

Memorization of facts without context doesn’t really matter. Knowing the order of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower don’t help you understand history. Knowing order doesn’t tell you the economic policies of Hoover and Roosevelt, and how they played into the great depression. The order doesn’t tell you about internment camps, or when Eisenhower hired historian’s to dispute the book Other Losses.

Did writing burn down the memory palace?

Much of what is covered in the book to improve memory seem like gimmicks. Even if they are actually ancient tools. The Method of loci aka the memory palace is described in the ad Herennium, a Latin text from late 80s BC. Even with that history, memory tricks feel like sideshow tricks today.

Socrates in his day disliked writing believing it would make humanity forgetful. I bet Socrates would be shocked by a modern library, and couldn’t fathom our world with cell phones and search engines. I remembered Harrison (a sun with chest hair) was the 23rd President with Cleveland’s (a big cleaver cutting a landmass) terms both before and after, but I did look that up to be sure. That was also me, as an adult, creating a reason to remember the order of US presidents.

The 4-minute mile for memory contests

Even with some knowledge of the core memory techniques, I had no knowledge of The World Memory Championships.

The World Memory Championships were and are fascinating, but it is hard to wrap my mind around what the 13 years since Moonwalking with Einstein was written have done to the world records. In 2006 the fastest time to memorize a shuffled deck of cards was 32 seconds, held by Ben Pridmore. That record is now 13.96 seconds set by Zou Lujian in 2017.

Somehow I don’t think that the speed card world record of just under 14 seconds will ever be thought of as Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile for memory contests. While it’s pretty safe to say the limit of 13.96 seconds to memorize the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards is in your head, unlike the 4-minute mile it’s probably not going to become any sort of a standard among professional competitors.

Learning How To Learn

I am skeptical of how much value memorization methods will add to my life but it’s still a topic of interest. I think we all want a way to learn things faster and better (I’m also one to pursue stupid human tricks).  While I was reading Moonwalking with Einstein I also took a free class on Coursera called Learning how to Learn, I highly recommend it.

The class, taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, gives a lot of insight into the human brain and ways to improve your own performance. If you’re going to take the class don’t skip the optional interviews. The interviews with Benny Lewis, Nelson Dellis, Scott Young & Daphne Gray-Grant stick out in mind, but every interview is worth the extra time.

Learning how to Learn is based largely on Oakley’s A Mind for Numbers, a book that I plan on reading soon. If you’re also interested in improving memory and other mental performance, here are some other books I intend to check out. These come recommended by Ron White, the 2009 & 2010 US Memory Champion. His YouTube Channel is worth checking out, but in one video he recommends:

  • Mega Memory by Kevin Trudeau
  • The Memory Book by Harry Lorrayne
  • Quantum Memory by Dominic Obrien
  • Maximize Your Memory by Ramon Campayo
  • Math Magic by Scott Flansburg

While I’ve yet to read any of these books, since Math Magic has been on my reading list for some time, and Ron White says It’s “a great book if you want to know how to multiply 782 times 25 in your head…” I’m looking forward to it.

Header Image by Electric and Musical Industries Limited

What I Learned Failing Three Side Hustles Last Year

Last year I started a few projects outside of my day to day at Push ROI. I wanted side hustles, the kind of small business I could actively help grow, but also that didn’t require funding more than I could bootstrap. Some of those failed pretty epically, for reasons I was sure, were in no way my fault.

I made the mistake of complaining to a mentor, under the guise of seeking advice. After breaking down how my partner in one side hustle let a motorcycle (intended to be repaired and resold) get stolen just weeks after its purchase. While another venture ran many months behind schedule because a different person greatly exaggerated their abilities and work ethic.

I told him how a company I teamed up with on an analytics tool stopped responding to any communication, after failing to meet several deadlines. Leaving me to find an alternative at the 11th hour, to avoid a contract breach.

Don’t ask for advice if you want sympathy

I expected some degree of sympathy, maybe a story of how the same kinds of things had happened to him in the past. Instead, he asked me…

“How many of your business partners announced themselves to you as unreliable before you started working with them?

Honestly, in all but one case, I had reason to believe that my chosen partners were not reliable. I had ignored obvious signs, for bad business reasons. In one case I wanted to help a friend, in another, the opportunity cost seemed low and the time just seemed right, of the three projects I had just complained about, two involved people I viewed as only slightly more reliable than a meth smoking toddler.

The third project still felt like a blind side. An acquaintance of mine ran a VC funded startup, and we were licensing the use of their existing technology. It required their development team to make a few changes that we’d all discussed and agreed on, but it should have gone smoothly.

His next question…

“How many of these businesses would you have attempted without personally knowing the people you were working with?”

It was just one, the technology project. The other business just seemed like opportunities because I know the right people. He had an unamused look, but was laughing when he said:

“Such amazing opportunities, that you could work with people you just described as unreliable.”

He asked one more question:

“Of these problems you experienced how many of them could have been avoided with different actions on your part even with the same partners?”

That wasn’t something I liked thinking about. Actually, in all three cases, I should have acted differently. When it became clear things were running off the rails, friend or not I needed to have a do your part or get replaced conversation. When risks I wasn’t comfortable with were being taken I should have said no.

Since I was the one putting money in any of these projects, I was the only one with a possible downside as opposed to just a lack of upside. It was my job to protect my investment, and this is more true than usual because I was working with people I already knew weren’t reliable. And regardless of the people I was working with I should have had backup plans if someone couldn’t deliver on their end.

After all, when something intended to be repaired and sold, was stolen; for my partner, it meant he wouldn’t make money, but I lost money. His recklessness and unwillingness to tell me he needed help were almost as responsible for the theft as the thieves. But I knew he was being reckless, I knew he was unreliable, making my inaction a contributing factor in the ordeal.

On reflection, even the technology licensing from a real, functional company with funding and customers should have been handled differently. I was very Laissez-faire about everything because the upside was clear. But the agreement should have been contracted in a way were the other parties failed to deliver on deadline had an actual cost; let’s say covering the fee of hiring a contractor who could complete the project on deadline. That would have been very reasonable, even standard for this type of deal.

The Takeaways from Last Year

Never work with people simply because you know them.

That is something I should have learned from past partnerships when I’d work with someone I knew because of the nine things I needed a partner to do they could help with four. Historically, I started seeing better results form every business relationship when I found people to fill a role, instead of seeing who I knew who could be a round peg shoved into a square hole.

Partners should share in failure and success.

With each project the others I worked with could have made money and didn’t. I was the one who had the ability to lose money, meaning quite literally the buck stopped with me. But if I were managing an investment fund, and I’d made the same type of investments with other people’s money, it would be highly reasonable to assume I’d be getting sued.

If someone isn’t a true partner, make them a freelancer.

In all three projects, it would have proven far cheaper to just pay my “partners” a rate to complete tasks. That way even if the people I knew weren’t reliable, screwed up in a predictable manner, I would just stop paying them. It seems people are more motivated by even small loss than by the possibility of reasonably predictable rewards.

Header Image by jima

I’m Leaving Facebook, for Now, I’m Not Asking Anyone to are

Last year in October I stopped posting to my own Facebook timeline, publicly or otherwise. That was about a year after I uninstalled the Facebook app from my phone. Both of these decisions felt freeing, they made me happier and almost literally gave me more hours in my day. I kept lurking on Facebook, in part to see what friends were doing, to follow news and for groups, for me, that wasn’t a great decision.

Even without posting, Facebook was still taking a lot of my time, and I didn’t feel I was getting much from it. At the beginning of social media, I could see amazing value in the ability to meet people and maintain connections. But in the years since I’ve found that social media in general and Facebook specifically have detracted from my life. Groups that should have been places for discussions turned out to be hotbeds of angry comments, and ad hominem attacks. That I just couldn’t seem to avoid getting sucked into.

One of the most positive changes I made in my life a few years ago was to start mindfulness meditation. What I realized is most of the thoughts that pull me out of a state of mindfulness were random, sometimes years old, arguments with often anonymous people, from Facebook groups and comments sections of friends, news sites, etc. The time spent arguing with anonymous people would have been better spent reading books, literally any books. Imagine if I’d taken classes online or learned a language?

Since messenger is one of my primary sources of communication, I’m keeping that around. I will also still keep my Facebook profile around for the time being. But I’m going to use it less. Even with the changes to how I use Facebook, last week I still wasted 9 hours on the site, according to the app Rescue Time.

I’m not asking anyone to follow me off Facebook or even to care what I’m doing. But if you have a mind to, it may be worth evaluating your use of the platform and resulting emotional state because I think, for most people, Facebook rates high on time spent and low on the value received.

My Concept of Ownership in Business

This post was originally published on on July 30, 2015, this post was deleted by on or after June 26, 2018. I was not told that this and several other posts I contributed were removed or given any reason why. No one at has had any contact with me since the acquisition by MVF. I am backdating this post to July 30, 2015, and publishing on my own blog on January 26, 2019.

To me ownership is the single most important concept in business and, although equity is important, I’m not talking about actual shares or percentages of a company. I’m talking about empowering employees, partners, and coworkers to be able to make decisions. Ownership equates to control. If you want those you work with to ever be more than drones following a process you have to give them the freedom to make decisions and the freedom to fail (Remember, it’s 99 ways how not to make a lightbulb.).

It’s like this: I used to walk my childhood dog twice daily and twice daily we would walk past a Dalmatian in a small fenced in yard. I always wanted to walk my neighbor’s dog who I watched get fatter and more unhappy each day, but I never did. Why? Not my dog. Would it have been a favor to the dog’s owners if I came over every day and walked their dog? Yes. Did I have the right to open the gate and take the dog for a walk? No.

Back to Running a Business

You have to clearly define responsibilities and authority (aka ownership). If your employees don’t know what they are supposed to do, they have been set up for failure. But you probably don’t know everything that needs to be done. If someone is tasked with helping you build a company, they should know the areas they control and where they need approval.

There are many mature companies run entirely by processes created by the corporate leadership. Everyone following the same process lets me order the same drink at any Starbucks at any time and I know it will taste the same. But, when you’re starting, you have to build the checklists and processes. Additionally, many businesses will never be able to run on process entirely–especially in creative fields.

In the beginning, you have to establish the processes that work and find how to scale them. When my grandparents started a barbeque restaurant, they had to come up with a signature BBQ sauce. This sauce was a result of trial and error. Only after tasting different blends of the sauce and settling on a recipe could the making of the sauce be turned into a process. That process has resulted in a consistent taste for nearly 40 years.

Can Your Employees Walk the Dog?

The last thing you want is someone sitting on their hands unsure if they are allowed to step up. Does everyone you work with know their job? In your company, are people allowed to just pick up any task that needs to be done or are they afraid of overstepping boundaries?

If you want to bring out the best in people and quickly identify the lazy make sure everyone knows they have the freedom to step up and take ownership of a project. Just as importantly, make sure that employees efforts are recognized and rewarded.

It wasn’t long ago I was working for a company where I was able to do my entire full time (contract called it 45 hours a week) job in 15 hours a week. When I first started, I was driven and motivated. I would end up working 60 – 80 hours a week trying to go as far above and beyond as I could. When it became clear that my performance wouldn’t affect how much I earned or my progression up the corporate ladder, I found myself depressed and wound up doing my job in 15 hours a week. I didn’t shirk my responsibilities, but I wasn’t walking other people’s dogs. I was just there to do my job and nothing more. It wasn’t long after that I and several other employees, including my boss, left to pursue other work.


Make those around you owners. Compensate them fairly for the work they do. And, while we are at it, build tasks into processes that can be further developed and improved.

A Simple Fix For Why Your Facebook Ads Aren’t Being Served

You wanted to run Facebook ads so you set up a new Facebook ads account, added a payment method, installed tracking pixels for every conversion goal on your website.  Heck, you went all out, did your research, and installed a remarketing pixel installed on your site, uploaded custom audiences, and spent two weeks building creative that both followed Facebook’s 20% text rule and made everyone on your team happy you finally launch your campaigns. Shortly after you get the notification that your ads have been approved!

But… Somethings not working

You check back a few days later only to see that your ad hasn’t spend any money and hasn’t been shown to anyone. So you look over Facebook’s troubleshooting guide and find you have done everything correctly.  The ads, ad sets and campaigns are all turned on, your audience is not too broad for your budget and you even have a high relevance score. The ads just aren’t working. Whether you have a six letter masters in analytics you’ve done enough of your homework to know that you need at least 10,000 impressions for statistically relevant data, you find yourself stuck. With no impressions and no spend… What can you do?

I’ve had this happen four times recently on new accounts.  Always with the same answer. The Billing Threshold was set to $25

In February 2014 Facebook rolled out billing thresholds and in a blog post explained:

“Billing thresholds are set based on how much you’ve paid in the past. For example, if you are a first-time advertiser on Facebook, you will be billed once you reach $25 or if you reach the end of the month. After that first payment, you’ll be billed in $25 increments or when you reach the end of the month.:”

All accounts start with an initial threshold will start at $25 and increase with each successful payment to $50, $250, $500 and $750 USD. If you were running only boosting posts a few dollars at a time this likely won’t affect your ads serving.  :

Facebook (to my knowledge) has never listed billing thresholds as a reason your ads won’t run. However in the last two months I’ve helped four people launch new ads accounts and immediately tried to start spending $200 or more a day.

Every single time the ads would not serve with a $25 billing threshold. Every single time when we manually increased the billing threshold to the maximum $750 allowed for new account the Facebook ads began serving within hours. Clearly four times is a lot less than the 10,000 cases it takes for statistical significance, but I can notice the beginnings of a trend when I see one.

Updated 2016. Facebook has limitations on increasing the billing threshold on new accounts in an Business Manager. I’ve reached out for comment.

Please Steal My Scope of Work. I Want You to Have it.

I started freelancing at the ripe old age of 13. I knew nothing about running a business, had no idea how to pitch or bid a project, and my knowledge of contract law was lacking to say the least. But that was all fine. I was just happy to have any work from people who were willing to pay me. But, after a few projects with massive scope creep, and, more than a few times, when I did work and I didn’t get paid, I started figuring some things out. I got better at choosing clients and started researching contract law.

It took me almost 7 years of freelancing, two jobs with ad agencies, countless hours of watching law classes on iTunes U, and, most importantly, a fair amount of failed projects and lost income. Because of that, I want you to have my scope of work. Please take it. I hope this template can help you.

Free Scope of Work and Master Service Agreement Template

This file includes:

  • An SOW Scope of Work Template
  • An MSA Master Service Agreement Template

Please customize to your own needs.


Why I Only Use a Scope of Work With a Standard MSA.

A contract is nothing more than a set of promises and can be written or oral unless the contract is required to be written by law. Written and verbal are equally binding in theory, but not in practice. The main problem with verbal contracts is a lack of clear understanding of what is being agreed upon. Clear understanding creates happy clients. A happy client means you get paid.

For example: If someone says, “I will finish a website for you,” what does finish mean? …code the site, FTP the website to the server, or write all the content for the website? Do the vendor and the client have the same meaning for the word “finish?” If not, this means not only is the verbal agreement useless, but both you and your client will become frustrated when working together.

Not having a clear understanding of my role led to my most frustrating experiences as a freelancer, and was at least in part responsible for each time I went unpaid. For the work I was doing, long-form contracts are more trouble than they were worth. All I needed was to set a clear understanding between me and my client of what I was doing, how long it was going to take, what I needed from them, and how much and when I expected to be paid. Most importantly, I needed to have that in writing, because verbal contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on, or something like that.

The MSA includes a few key things, and could be much shorter. I have to a lot of terms that where required for a spesific client. The terms for termnation, jerestiction of litgation, non employee agrement, late payment fees, reemburcment of project related expencie are however all the normal things.

I’ve used this to avoid having a lot of despariet contracts with unfimilure restrestions. For example, I hate NDAs. So this contract has a basic, mutual NDA. Why? To stops people from asking me to sign whatever document they found or where handed.

Since all I needed was a scope of work and a basic service agreement that is all I use. As a matter of fact, most of the time I don’t even make proposals. Instead, I will sit with the prospective clients and identify a list of goals and requirements for each of us. I then write up the cost and timeline and send a ready-to-sign SoW.  It’s faster than a proposal and, in my mind, much better.

Let me know if this helps, and what other resources you have found to help the down-trodden, work-a-day freelancer.

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