This post is part of a ten-part series on preparing to run for local office. For the rest of the series, check out the links in the introductory post.
Campaigning on Facebook from the comfort of your living room won't get you elected.
Any time I ask a candidate if he's willing to put in the hard work it takes to get elected, he says yes. Many of the candidates I talk to are able to follow through on that commitment. So I think some perspective is in order about what "hard work" means for a political candidate.
Candidates have two jobs in a campaign: raise money and talk to voters. The maxim is true for Presidential candidates and it's true for city council candidates.
What does this look like over the course of a political campaign? It means spending 2-3 hours going door to door about three times a week. It means spending 2 hours a day - three times a week - making phone calls asking for campaign donations.
That's why running for office is hard work. It's a commitment to spend six months missing football and television shows, turning down invitations and sacrificing family time.
If you truly want to make a difference in your community, it's a sacrifice worth making. And the good news is if you win, the next campaign will be a lot easier.
There aren't any tips or tricks I can offer to make running for office easier. You'll have to decide whether you and your family are up to the challenge for six months.
But I can help you with the time-related questions you'll need to answer before deciding whether to run:
1. Can you knock on 10,000 doors? 10,000 doors may sound like a high number. It's also the number I often hear from candidates challenging incumbents who end up winning. They make doorbelling a way of life for six months. Every day after work, they head to a neighborhood and start talking to voters.
2. Can you devote at least six hours a week to making fundraising phone calls? This is a conservative estimate - at least early on. Political insiders and lobbyists donate to candidates that can win. They determine how likely you are to win by how much money you raise on your own. Former Congressional candidate Elizabeth Jensen illustrates how consuming fundraising is for a first-time candidate.
3. Can you afford to run? Running for office will cost you money. You should consider starting your fundraising by contributing to your own candidacy. Over the course of the campaign you'll have to use vacation time if you work for someone else. If you're self-employed, your business may suffer from the lack of time you'll have to attend to it.
4. Can you manage your time? I suggest setting a weekly meeting with your spouse to plan out the week. Which nights will you be making calls? Which nights will you be going door to door? Which night is reserved for family time? Planning this out ahead of time makes it easier to follow through.
It may sound daunting, but it's also rewarding. By the end of the campaign, you'll know your community inside and out. You'll make a lot of new friends and business contacts. And with a lot of hard work and a little luck, you will get to do what made it all worth the effort - change your community in a way that matters to you.
If you would like to get more campaign tips, you can check out "Running for Office" magazine, subscribe to the blog or connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn. You can also get an campaign tips emailed to you once a week by signing up to to the right of this post.