I had a timeline all worked out, and it involved me being unemployed right now. I was going to take a few weeks off to sit down, reorganize how I want to approach my work, identify the kinds of contracts I’m looking for, redo my web presence, and then begin The Search for New Clients.

Instead, I’m not even done with my old contract yet, I haven’t asked anyone for new work, and I already have seven clients. Hi. Okay.

Here’s the thing.  The kinds of clients I’m interested in (and, magically, the ones that I’m attracting) are creative individuals and organizations who are doing cool and meaningful things in the world, and who need a stronger web presence to reflect that.  That may sound like “everyone,” but it’s not.  It’s a very specific type.  Clients of this sort tend to already have an interesting public personality, or an established “voice” that they want to make more public. They come equipped with the professional motivation to update their web content without my help.  They learn quickly. They need periodic guidance and technical assistance to setup, rejuvenate, and maintain certain things.  And as a general rule, they don’t have a lot of money to burn, but they can afford to spend some here and there because this help is very important to them.

The challenge, apparently, is not finding these clients.

The challenge, already, is keeping track of them all and coming up with the right agreements.  Let’s be honest: having a dozen small contracts is not the work equivalent of having one large contract, even if they add up to the same number of billable hours.  And when every hour is carefully budgeted, “what I think we should spend time on” is much less important than “what they need to move forward on.”

I’m waist-deep in reorganizing.

If you’re working with a similar client base, now’s a good time to get in touch with me. We have notes and resources to share…

We, the people who spend most of our waking moments immersed in Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google, smart phones, and email, despite overwhelming evidence that we’re so good at this stuff we’re over it already, are still trying to figure out how the Internet works.

We are explorative, experimental, creative, excited, and highly judgmental of how everyone else is doing it. We universally agree that spammers and trolls are lame, and we believe we know how everything should be done better, despite the fact that our rules and tools change every day.

Me being no exception to this trend, I hereby proclaim my manifesto of how everyone should use the internet without sucking.

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I believe that all web-based interactions operate on the same principles as in-person interactions.

I believe in social karma. I believe that all people deserve to be respected and treated with kindness, and that whenever you choose not to do this, you set yourself up to suffer consequences, whether directly or indirectly. I don’t care how much they pissed you off. You still have the choice to be nice. (“Smile from the wrists down.” –@Gwenners)

I believe in social capital. I believe that if you have something to sell or promote, your existing relationship to a community determines your ability to get what you want when you ask for favors or put things in front of people. I believe that if you want your community to support you, you need to first support your community.

I believe that your web presence is an extension of your offline presence, and that the sum of all your parts make up you as a complex human being. I believe it’s okay to represent different personas online as long as you can face the fact that they’re all parts of you.

I believe that too many people put ads on their blogs expecting to eventually earn good money from them, and are disappointed. I believe that using your blog to build community and attract or maintain clients, customers, support, and exposure is often a much more realistic and higher-yield endeavor.

I believe that the best opportunities never make it to Craigslist. They go to friends and to friends of friends.

I believe that in order to get followed, read, or subscribed to, you need to first be worth following, reading, or subscribing to. If you look at your web presence from an outsider’s perspective and aren’t excited about what you see, chances are you have more work to do.

I believe that people are here for themselves. They care about you to the extent that you have an impact on them. Even in their most generous moments, it always comes back to them somehow. I believe you should look for how, and feed that.

I believe that “opt in” only counts if they really want it and it continues to benefit them. If you stopped sending your regular newsletter/posts/updates/etc, would your network be disappointed? Or would they not notice? Or would they be relieved? I believe you already know the answer to this question.

I believe you can make money on the Internet with just as much social manipulation and sleaze as you can use in person. I believe you know the difference between benefiting the people around you and exploiting their weaknesses. I believe you understand that, in terms of long-term strategy and overall quality of life, the latter approach has severe drawbacks.

I believe you cannot escape the practical importance of personal ethics by doing business on the Internet, even if you attempt to be anonymous.

I believe that creating meaningless clutter, promoting low-quality products, or talking about things you don’t actually care about on the Internet is littering, and that it affects both your social karma and your social capital, even if you don’t tell your friends about it.

I believe that if you’re blaming the Internet for your problems, you’re not looking at your problems hard enough.

I believe that if you’re starting to hate the internet, it’s time to turn it off and go outside.

I believe that social media only works well when people genuinely care about what they’re talking about.

I believe that if you’re excited about something, you have a responsibility to both yourself and to your extended communities to explore that and express it (in a way that respects both you and them).

I believe excitement is the best indicator of what’s worth sharing.

I believe that if you’re not excited about anything right now, you should seriously consider fixing that.

I believe that showing off is usually okay because a lot of people get excited about watching. I believe that watching is usually okay because a lot of people get excited about showing off.

I believe we have more success to gain from being honest, open, and sincere online than we do from acting like the kind of person we think will be most successful.

I believe that when try to make others feel more comfortable by ignoring what motivates us, we deplete ourselves, and by extension, we damage our relationships.

I believe we benefit ourselves best and most sustainably if we are continually benefiting others.

I believe that sucking at the Internet is both voluntary and optional.

I believe the Internet is awesome, and that it is worth getting excited about.

I believe that we are awesome. And we are worth getting excited about.

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I believe a lot of other things, too. But I’ll stop here. For now. Until I get excited again.

(What do you believe?)