I feel worn out after binging on internet marketing blogs this past week.
I was reading them because I want to grow my audience and the interest in my work here at PieceWorx. Sometimes I find myself putting in countless hours of writing and getting less return than I hope for.
Do I need to become an internet marketer to be a successful writer? Even publishing companies are favoring those writers who have large online followings.
Do I have to become good at everything and appeal to all sorts of people in order to become successful? It's not enough to simply do what I do well, there has to be more to the equation right? Or is this type of thinking completely wrong?!
Being My Own Business Coach
Driving to work this week I was thinking about how to promote my work and get more people involved.
As usual, I was having a conversation with myself and I found myself pretending to be my own business coach.
This technique turned out to be surprisingly effective for me. Probably not as effective as an actual good business coach, but a lot more effective (and cost effective) than a bad one.
Turns out I have a lot of good advice to offer myself.
During our conversation I found myself saying, "Look, if nobody cares about what I do, I'd still be doing it. I create writing software and I write. It's just what I do. It's my crack cocaine. It's weird, but it's me. It's what I do to escape from everything else."
Selling Your Soul
I've gone through many cycles in which I try to find a new way to generate some income with my addiction. I read all the internet blogs on marketing tricks and techniques. In the end, it doesn't work and I get discouraged and tired of trying to be popular.
I hate writing when I'm thinking about pleasing someone else. Sure, I want that affirmation. I want that attention. But I hate trying to earn it when I'm not being myself.
I'm trading one monster for another.
I want my work to be appreciated. I want to grow and develop into someone who makes a difference and has an impact.
But sometimes I feel like I'm prostituting myself to anyone who will offer me a few minutes of their time. Instead of sexy outfits, it's formulaic, titillating headlines. Instead of the red light district, it's the halls of facebook, twitter, google+, instagram, pinterest where any willing john or jane will do so long as they'll increment my page count, click an ad, or like a post.
What I Learned From My Internal Business Coach
Naturally, my internal business coach had something to say about this.
"It doesn't have to be that way," he said. "Yes, a lot of people out there make quick money from cheesy ebooks and teaser headlines. But the only way to make real money over the long term is to provide value, to make other people's lives better in some way, to solve a problem."
That sounded great, but I still had a question, "Am I not doing that now? My articles are helpful aren't they? My software is awesome (in my humble opinion), right?"
"Yes," he said. "You are. It is."
"Then why aren't people knocking down the internet to follow me and use my software?"
"Does it matter?" he said. "You said before that you'd still be writing and creating software. Why do you care about a following?"
"Well, I want to make a living doing what I love, and doing it the way I want to do it."
"Hmm... Maybe that's your problem."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"How can you hit something you're not aiming at?"
"Look. You seem to want a lot of things. You want appreciation, income, a following, to do what you love, to help people, to provide value, to write, to code, to blog. Which is it? Which one are you aiming for?"
"Yeah," I said. "I see what you're saying, I do want all those things, but I'm still confused."
"Alright, since I mentioned aiming before, let's use a hunting analogy. Imagine you have a rifle to your shoulder and across the field is a group of ten deer. What's your goal?"
(Sorry to all the Bambi lovers out there, but I'm from Missouri and we have deer season here. I write what I know. For the record, no deer were harmed in the production of this blog post.)
"To get a deer?" I said, unsure if that's what he was getting at.
"Maybe. Here's what you sound like to me. 'I want that deer, and that one and that one. I want one to be automatically dressed and processed so I can have venison for dinner tonight. I want them all in a zoo. I want them to run free. I want to take them all out in one shot and give some to my friends. I want...' Do you see my point?"
"OK," I said. "You're saying that I want several competing things that can't all be had at the same time. They are mutually exclusive."
"Yes, closer. What do you think an experienced hunter would do in the same situation?"
"Well, I guess he'd take aim on one deer, drop it, then try for another one if they haven't already disappeared. Then collect his deer and take it home."
"Good," replied my internal business coach. "What's the difference between that and my rendition?"
"The experienced hunter had one clear goal at a time. He initially aimed at a single deer."
"You're saying I should aim at one thing and put all of my focus on that?" I sighed.
"Right again," he said. "Drum roll, please. And what is that one thing?"
"But if I focus on just on thing, then I'll have to give up all the others," I complained.
My internal business coach was growing impatient. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Don't bite off more than you can chew."
"Great. A business coach who quotes cliches." Not surprising, though.
"You're not the first to encounter this problem, Steve. But it's not as bad as you think. It's not really a matter of giving up everything else so you can have just one thing. It's more about taking it one piece at a time so that you can have everything. Eventually."
"The experienced hunter is willing to take home one deer. He knows that if he carelessly tries to get all ten deer at once that he'll very likely end up with nothing. He accepts that sustaining his family on venison involves the continuation of hunting. But over time his skills improve and that's enough. He didn't start out getting even one deer. He had to figure that out. Each time you succeed at one thing you are building a foundation of success that promotes future success."
"Alright, you're saying I should pick one thing and keep doing it because succeeding at that one thing contributes to a foundation of success upon which future things can be built. I get it. But I really hate internet marketing. It feels so cheap."
"Then why are you worrying about marketing yourself? If you're not an expert marketer then maybe you'll have to try something else, but don't waste your time on something you're not inspired to do. Find a way to bring value to people's lives, a way that you enjoy. And keep doing it. Put it out there in the world. If you're a novelist, you don't have to be a great blogger to promote yourself. You can be, but it's not a requirement. It's just one way. Maybe you do something like Dickens did and publish your novel on the web, one new chapter each week. Get creative, but do it while keeping your one target in your sights."
"Makes sense, I guess. If I'm focused on trying to become a great internet marketer, then I'm not focused on becoming a great novelist or blogger."
"Bingo. It's the magical power of focus. It may seem counter-intuitive, but doing one thing well will bring you more attention and interest than doing many things, even if you think you have to do those things to get noticed.
"It's the reason spears and nails are sharpened at the point. More force focused on a smaller area creates a greater impact!"