On any given day, I get dozens of emails in my inbox, typically from clients or potential clients, sometimes from friends, and, of course, a handful of messages that are subscriptions and spam. Most of the time, managing email is the activity on my daily to-do list I dread the most. But on occasion, I’ll get a message in my inbox that completely makes my day. This past March, I got one of these exciting emails from the handsome and talented men of the alternative rock band Amsterdam Station, announcing the upcoming release of their first full-length album. In preparation for this monumental event, the band enlisted me for a collaborative partnership.
We started with styling the band for a photoshoot for the album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” The band and I jumped on a live video call on a Sunday night during one of their weekly rehearsals to discuss the inspiration behind the album and some of their style influences. As the title of the album indicates, the central theme focuses on the forces of nature, specifically the river as a source of cleansing, forward motion, and the cycle of life and death. In addition to embodying the energy of the outdoors and capturing the tones of the earth, the band wanted to stay true to their minimalist style approach that mirrors other alternative rock bands, like The Killers, Mute Math, and Dead Weather. Over the course of the next month, we worked to compose individual looks for each of the band members that reflected the concept for the album and stayed true to each of their individual styles. Then, on an unseasonably cold and windy Saturday morning in April, the band convened at the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Georgia for the shoot.
For the next several weeks, the band worked tirelessly to complete the album. At the end of their long and arduous journey, I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive preview of the tracks and learn more about the creative process that went into composing the album.
AOC BLOG GIRL: How did you come up with the name for the album?
AMSTERDAM STATION: The album title first originated from the song “The Sound”. This song has been in our writing room for about two years and was the first song written for the new album. This song demonstrates a key change for our band and the maturity of our writing, with haunting harmonies and a tip-of-the-hat to great southern literature and iconic murder ballads. The River has been an archetype throughout history as a place for the soul and the body to be cleansed, a place to offer up the horrors that haunt our minds, and a place to break free from the demons that bind.
The sequence of the wording is important too. The River. The Sound. The Wake. It equates to the place, the event, and the aftermath. A wake is the tracking of waves after movement cuts through the water. When you approach a river, you bear witness to its constant state of change, and, in the wake of the aftermath, a future that is flux, pushing and pulling against an ever changing present. It’s never the same river. With every action or event, there may be admission and regret, but there is never an undoing. If you come to the river heavy with burden, so much so that it consumes you to the core, then you shall sink and bear witness to the bed you’ve made. But, if you allow yourself to purge, grow and persevere, your life becomes buoyant again, and so you float on.
AOC BLOG GIRL: Describe the creative process that went into conceptualizing one of the songs on the album.
AMSTERDAM STATION: In the song Florence, the idea is that the woman (Florence) is having a conversation with God during her last waking hours. Greg (Vocalist/Bassist/Guitarist) wrote this song while his Grandmother was in terminal hospice care last year. She was at a point in her life where her COPD had rendered her unable to catch her breath, even doing the simplest tasks. Once in hospice, she was surrounded by family, reminiscing and telling stories, all while tethered to a wall by an oxygen container and confined to a bed and a body that was merely a shell of herself. Her soul was still vibrant, but her body had run its course, and she died peacefully in her sleep. She had given their family some scares in years past, but during her final moments, she seemed content, accepting and at ease. This song is a tribute to her and a hope that she’s living in peace with her maker.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one signature quality that defines the album as a whole, lyrically, musically, or otherwise?
AMSTERDAM STATION: The signature quality of the album is probably the flow of the songs throughout the album. Like a River, it’s dynamic and constantly changing. Every time you listen cover to cover, it might bring you to a new or changing place in your life. It is a roller coaster of emotions, with constant peaks and troughs, instead of remaining static in one music style or feeling. It mimics real life, instead of the cookie-cutter lives we see ourselves adapting to from time to time.
AOC BLOG GIRL: What’s one thing you’ve learned in producing your first full-length album that you’d like to share with aspiring artists?
AMSTERDAM STATION: However long you believe the album is going to take, double it. In the world of DIY recording these days, you need the extra time to learn and better yourself and to allow for the magic of the studio to rub off on the tracks. Sometimes the last minute changes you make in the studio can really be what MAKE a song have that extra sparkle or resonance. Having more time decreases the stress for the artists and the pressure on the creative process.
Amsterdam Station is releasing their first full length album, “The River. The Sound. The Wake.” this Friday, July 1. Visit their website for details on how to purchase the album, upcoming tour dates, and more! If you’re in the Atlanta area, join the band at Smith’s Olde Bar for their album release party tomorrow night!
The Freelancers Union Spark events often address topics specific to self-employed life, but this month’s subject centered on a practice that’s key to any successful business: creating a client pipeline with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. In the daily hustle of submitting deliverables to clients, it’s easy to lose track of the backbone of your business. When no one is paying you to sit down for a few hours each week and work on bookkeeping, site updates, or contract revisions, these tasks can quickly fall to the bottom of the never-ending to-do list. What you have to remember is the long-term impact of putting time and energy into your business. By starting with a CRM system, you can begin to develop a valuable way track your clients from initial contact to signed contract and beyond.
STEP 1: Craft a form to record your leads. Include basic information like name, contact information, lead source, and services requested.
LONG-TERM IMPACT: No matter what information you choose to include, the most important piece of data is the lead source. By identifying where your leads come from (particularly leads that become clients), you can learn which channels are best to invest your time, energy, and resources in order to gain business.
Step 2: Qualify your leads by establishing a set of basic questions to ask each potential client. For example: What’s the timeline for the project? What are the deliverables? What’s the budget? To streamline this process, consider creating a form email you can send to your leads after first contact is made. You may also want to make this step part of your CRM system – add a section to track client communication, record their answers to your questions, and prepare for following up. (Fun Fact: 90% of sales are lost when no second contact is made!)
LONG-TERM IMPACT: The answers to your individualized set of basic questions should begin to inform you if your potential client is going to be a good fit. For example: Does the timeline for this project fit into your current workload? Can the requested deliverables be completed within the given timeline? Does the budget align with your rates?
Step 3: Have your process down pat by preparing for every possible outcome. If the answers to your basic questions aren’t quite ideal, don’t rule out this potential client just yet! Know how to address some of the most common client issues before they arise. For instance, what’s your policy when a potential client requests a tight turnaround? Do you add a rush fee? What if you typically require a certain percentage of a project fee upfront, and a client requests to pay in a lump sum at completion? How do you handle clients who don’t have a clear vision for their project and want your input?
LONG-TERM IMPACT: When you have your policies in place and know how to answer tough questions from clients, you’re not only protecting yourself and your client relationships but also putting yourself one step closer to building a successful business. Addressing issues on a case-by-case basis can get murky – it’s easy for emotions to get involved and cloud your decision-making abilities. Standing firm in your businesses practices will pay off in the long run!
Step 4: It’s the moment of truth: is your lead signing a contract or taking the project elsewhere? Either way, you can add the results to your CRM system. After you score a new client, continue to track the progress of the project to completion. If your lead didn’t work out, remember that you can always gain something from a loss. Go back through the pipeline and identify where you and the lead diverged.
LONG-TERM IMPACT: Once you sign a client, it’s important to continue to track the progress of the project to completion because it will help you if you work with that client on future projects. It also gives you the opportunity to create a case study for the project that could be useful to future clients looking for similar work. Taking a little time to assess why a particular project didn’t work out is equally important. It could help you refine your process, policies, or pricing and improve your pipeline for future opportunities.
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Freelancers Union Spark events take place monthly in twenty cities around the country. Visit the Freelancers Union site to find out about a Spark event near you. Next month’s event is a freelancers tax workshop – you won’t want to miss it! If you’re in the NYC area, stop by the Manhattan Spark, and say hello! I’ll be there co-leading! For more information about Freelancers Union or Spark events, feel free to tweet me @AOCBlogGirl – I’d be happy to answer your questions.
Nothing will rally a group of freelancers living in New York City like the promise of drink specials. The August Freelancers Spark event took a departure from the typical topic-driven meetups and simply offered an opportunity for freelancers to mingle and network over wallet-friendly cocktails. To get the conversation started, we were handed a classic BINGO board upon arrival.
The mission: find fellow freelancers with the given qualities and write their name in the corresponding spot on the board. Get five in a row, and win Freelancers Union swag, either The Freelancer’s Bible or a fun tote.
The most difficult items to match on the board included….
- Has achieved inbox zero,
- Gets dressed everyday (sweats don’t count), and
- Enjoys working on the weekend
I quickly became known as the freelancer who “handwrites their to-do list.” Yes, I still use a physical planner in tandem with Google Calendar to build my schedule, write notes, and track my to-do lists. In extreme cases, I even write outlines or excerpts for pieces in a notebook then retype and edit them on my computer. Somehow, creatively, my brain still works best that way, and although it’s much more inefficient, I write something by hand on a daily basis. Next time you’re in a creative rut, give it a try – it might work for you too.
The Freelancers Union Spark Happy Hour was a purely fun Spark event (even though I didn’t win bingo or any swag). However, most Spark events centralize around a specific topic relevant to freelancers (and bloggers too – Freelancers Union has a ton of applicable information for my fellow bloggers as well!). September’s Spark will focus on how to hook clients with an authentic story (for obvious reasons, I’m pretty excited for this one). Spark events go down once a month in 18 cities around the country. Visit the Freelancers Union site to find yours. Plus, if there’s not a Spark in your city, you can apply to be a Spark leader and bring these awesome events to your neighborhood.
Happy New Year! As if you needed another reason to be pumped this January, I’ve got 5 of them: 5 things to look forward to in 2015! Cheers!
1. Erica Bryan’s NEW Video + First Show of the Year
Yesterday my girl Erica Bryan released a brand NEW music video, a cover of Bad Suns’ Cardiac Arrest like you’ve never heard it before. Start the New Year with NEW music! Watch the latest video from Erica Bryan on her YouTube channel now! AND catch Erica in Atlanta later this month for her first show of 2015. She’ll be opening for Old Dominion at Smith’s Olde Bar on January 21, plus she’s got something special in store for the first ten to arrive – FREE beer anyone?
2. Laurel Hill Hair Accessories
I’m absolutely obsessed with the jewelry of Athens-born, California-based designer Laurel Hill. I cannot wait til she releases her 2015 collection, which includes a NEW line of hair accessories! Stay tuned to her website and Facebook page this month for more details!
3. GIRLS, HBO
It goes without saying I marked my calendar months ago when they set the official premiere date of HBO’s GIRLS Season 4. I cannot wait to see what my fellow writer Lena Dunham has worked up for this season’s script!
4. Blog Conferences
This one is for all my bloggers out there. Fellow blogger Hillary Dixon of Style in a Small Town was awesome enough to share this comprehensive blog conference directory for 2015. I’m paying it forward and passing it along to all of you! No matter where you live… whether you’re a veteran blogger or just entertaining the idea of starting a blog in the New Year… this list is worth checking out!
5. NYFW F/W 2015
Last but certainly not least, NYFW F/W 2015. I’m always in eager anticipation of fashion week and the amazing energy it brings to the fashion community. However, this year I can’t even put into words how ecstatic I am to have the thrill of experiencing fashion week while living in New York City. I have no idea what type of opportunities I may or may not have to get involved come February, but the simple notion of being in the city and buzzing off the NYFW energy will be enough for me!
I had the pleasure of styling singer/songwriter Erica Bryan AGAIN for her recent concert in Atlanta. This time, Erica and I wanted YOU to be involved in the styling process. So, we complied two distinct looks reflecting Erica’s style and the aesthetic of the show, then we launched a Viewer Vote for you to weigh in on which look she would rock at the performance.
For this show, Erica opened for the alternative rock band Amsterdam Station. While Erica performed some of her country/folk classics (like her single This House is Haunted), overall, her set incorporated an indie vibe with covers of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, Avicii’s Wake Me Up, and Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning. So, as we complied both looks, we strayed slightly from Erica’s typical country/folk aesthetic. We started by selecting the denim dress with stud detailing and patterned romper as the key pieces for the two ensembles. Then, each outfit was completed with some staples from Erica’s closet: western style booties and belt for the Dreaming in Denim look and wedges and fedora for the Rompin Around look. Jewelry was the finishing touch to add a little edge to each ensemble. Erica and I worked with the Chicago-based jewelry brand Must Love Sparkle to accessorize both outfits. The rest was up to you to determine the Fan Favorite Look! And the winner was…
What’s next for Erica Bryan??
She’s a guest blogger for Beaver Dam USA…
She’s part of the Nashville Songwriters Association International Top 40 List – go VOTE for her single This House is Haunted NOW to keep her on top…
AND She’s debuting her music video for This House is Haunted next Wednesday, August 13 – watch the teaser here!!
Romper: Jessica Simpson
Jewelry: Must Love Sparkle
Fedora: Her Own
Wedges: Her own
Romper: Blaque Label
Two Finger Ring: Must Love Sparkle
Earrings: Jocelyn Negron Collection
Necklace: Wouters & Hendrix
Photographed by Alyson Jarvis of Alyson Jarvis Photography