… had my oil changed.


I love the feeling of driving out of the mechanic’s parking lot after an oil change. It’s like, for that moment, everything about the car has been set back to “perfect.”

Of course, it’s an illusion. All they did was change the oil and replace the filter; they didn’t look at the rest of the car and who knows what else may need work.

But illusions matter to humans, especially when it comes to marketing, a discipline that has never been about describing reality.

What illusions are you putting out there?

Was your web site professionally designed… creating the illusion that you and the work you do is similarly top shelf? Or does it look like your 12-year-old nephew put it together?

Are you using a “real” email domain (name@company.com)… creating the illusion that you are in it for the long haul? Or are you using a Gmail or Yahoo account to do business, suggesting that you were laid off yesterday and are just dabbling?

Do you have several hundred connections and a professional photo on LinkedIn… creating the illusion that you are a player? Or do you have five connections and a picture with someone’s hand draped over your shoulder and the rest of them cropped out?

Do you have to be smart, capable, credentialed, and experienced to succeed as an independent professional? Absolutely.

But if you look like you’re none of those things, you may never get the chance to show me.


… sat inside a Starbucks.


For the first time in well over a year, I was back at my favorite “not home, not office” spot, meeting an old client for coffee.

Interesting how something that I would hardly have noticed pre-pandemic, gave me such a thrill.

It reminded me, too, that when you run a business, and are constantly chasing the next client, more money, the new idea, etc., that you can get caught in the trap of thinking that tomorrow, you will finally get to where you’re going.

Today, I am remembering that when you work for yourself, you’re already there.


… almost ignored a new client.


Yesterday, I spoke with a prospective client about working together. This morning, he sent me an email saying he wanted to go ahead.

I read it quickly and moved on to something else.

Just now, I thought, “Wait a second, what happened to that email?”

I found it in my trash.

The point is, it’s easy to send an email – with a proposal, a request, a greeting, or whatever – and when there’s no reply, start making up stories about why the other person is ignoring us.

Sometimes the email never arrived. Other times, the bonehead on the receiving end threw it in the trash.

When it comes to email, it’s a miracle it works at all. I always double back if what I send goes unanswered.

(I shudder to think how many potential clients I’ve accidentally trashed over the years.)


… received an email from Kelly Rourke.


I know, I’ve never heard of her/him either.

Turns out Kelly works for The Hanover Theatre, a venue in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts that we have been to several times.

But since the “From” field only said “Kelly Rourke,” I nearly deleted it (I opened it because I thought it was from somebody else with a similar name that I do know).

The “From” field in an email is the primary way in which people decide whether or not they know you.

While I commend Kelly for keeping things personal, it’s always important to fill that field with whatever is most recognizable.

In my case, I use both my name and my company name: Michael Katz | Blue Penguin.

If they don’t open it, the value of what’s inside is irrelevant.


… had a coaching call.


It was with a terrific client who treats me well and pays me well.

Sometimes, people who are new to working for themselves ask, “How do I, too, find terrific clients who pay me well?”

Here’s the secret: Stop working for lousy clients who don’t.

I know, it’s easier said than done.

But “someday” is never going to get here on its own.

You don’t lose the bad ones when you finally get enough of the good ones.

You get enough of the good ones when you finally get rid of the bad ones.