Walking the “Sellout Line”

You hit “post” on a blog post that you think is terrible and trite and go to sleep. The next day, it has thousands of visitors and is being passed around.

“The people” are now clamoring for more work from you like this. 

Is this a problem? Is something wrong with you? Is something wrong with “them”? You hated the thing and almost didn’t publish it, but it turns out to resonate.

Who knows? I certainly don’t. But I do know that this is the basis of “being a sellout.”

The basis is this, you are not the consumer of your work. Therefore, if you do not resonate with your work, but the consumer does, then you have a choice. Choose the consumer? Sellout. Choose yourself? Pure creative.

There are pros and cons to each. And it’s not black and white. There are grey areas for sure.

In creative work, you will always face the tug of these two forces. Your creative vision and the vision of the consumer. The farther you go towards the consumer, the more you will feel like a sellout. But are you really? Or is this just a case of limited perspective?

I honestly don’t know. My intention is to relieve some pressure from anyone who feels like a sellout or who struggles with this fine line the way I have. It’s a very fine line, as I alluded to in the title.

If your creativity is to be consumed by others, then you will ultimately have to consider the needs of your audience over your own.

If you don’t, no big deal, you just won’t have an audience. So you’ll be talking to yourself. Maybe that works for you, I don’t know.

 

Lower Your Expectations of Your Creative Work

Expectations are the bully pointing out your flaws as you walk into the gym. They’re the nag telling you to quit because “You’re probably not going to measure up anyway.”

Expectations help give you a foundation for what you are trying to accomplish in linear, non-creative work, like building a house or cooking a meal. However, for creative work, expectations can be a liability.

When I sat down to write this, I asked myself what I most needed a refresher on right now. I had a few ideas, and they seemed pretty grand, and I noticed fear inside myself keeping me from doing it. Then I remembered the power of lowering my expectations. It’s very freeing. Like taking off your swimsuit underwater when nobody is looking (not that I would know).

The counterpoint, of course, would be that without knowing where you are going, you will surely get there… nowhere. But I find that not to be the case with creative tasks like writing. It’s almost like they take shape as you write. As though there was a final outcome predestined and all you have to do is show up to punch the keys.

It’s quite a fun experience to write something and see yourself creating without really knowing where it’s coming from.

Give yourself permission to be an amateur, a novice, a beginner. It’s only in this state that we learn. The expert learns nothing and fades into irrelevance.

The first site I built, I had no expectations. The only expectation was that I would build a site. It ended up being a humor site dedicated to videos. But that’s not what I set out to build. It was great. Afterward, I had trouble replicating that success, because I had expectations. I had created something viral, how would I do it again? It really jammed me up. Now when I start something, I have to remember that not everything I do has to be for a particular outcome. I try to get more in tune with the work itself and wanting to do it for its sake.

It’s easier to be authentic when you don’t have expectations. When you let go of your expectations, then you can explore things you might not have otherwise.

Hope, on the other hand, is a softer guide. I can have hope for a work, without having an expectation. For instance, my hope for this article is that it’s helpful. If not to anyone else, but to me. When I forget and get wrapped around the axle with expectations, I hope I remember to return here and get back to lowering my expectations.

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Method: Getting Your First Customer

 

The most important thing in business is to get your first customer. 

Here we will discuss a simple way to do this.

If independence, not riches, is your first goal (the riches can come later), then this method is for you.

If you’re looking to be the next startup whiz kid, you may need to keep looking. 

In this article, I describe a simple (not easy) method for getting customer #1.

This business’s purpose is to feed you. That’s my assumption. So I based all my advice on that. My figuring is that if it feeds you, you can then move on to bigger and better things.

SO HERE WE GO: 

  1. Make your idea specific
  2. Clarify for yourself what the idea should do for YOU.
  3. Create a simple offer – AKA, what are you selling?

For the people who ask “WHY?”, here’s why:

  1. Vague things don’t sell. If people can’t understand it, they can’t buy it, nor can they refer you (this is huge! You need referrals to survive).
  2. Should this idea make you rich? Fulfill your desire to be independent? Let you run a website? If you don’t know what it’s doing for you, you will not be able to make good decisions about how to modify it.
  3. If you don’t create a clear offer to sell a service or product and deliver it, then you can never really get a customer. Customers BUY. I see too many people working with “customers” who haven’t paid them anything and never will. It’s easy to get people’s business, it’s HARD to get their MONEY.

It’s easy to get people’s business, it’s HARD to get their MONEY. 

THEN ASK PEOPLE TO BUY IT: 

  1. Go to your target market and offer them the offer
  2. Listen to their feedback and adapt your idea, always keeping in mind what it must to for you to be successful.
  3. Adjust the offer and keep moving.

People can’t buy something you haven’t offered them.

SPOILER ALERT:  Someone will say YES.

Once you get the first customer, YOUR FOCUS MUST BE ON SERVICE. You will learn so much from this first customer. Keep in mind you may lose them. Don’t let it crush you. It’s not about their money, it’s about your learning.

Not until you get a few of them can you really understand the similarities between them and what your business really should be.

I’ll say it a different way:

Ingredients for success:

  1. A specific idea (If you can’t answer “WHO” it’s for, then it’s not specific enough)
  2. A plan B
  3. An offer (Price, Benefit, Commitment)
  4. Action and refinement.

This method does three things: 

  1. Keeps you from analysis paralysis.
  2. Tests whether your market will buy your product/service before you spend tons of time building something.
  3. Keeps you adaptable, so that you can keep going if your Plan A is wrong (it probably will be at least slightly wrong).

Things you don’t need at first: 

  1. A website (unless it’s a super simple 1 page kick out from something like WIX or square space… it better not take you more than an hour to make)
  2. Business cards.
  3. A product (You need a CAPABILITY… but not necessarily a finished product, there’s a difference that can be elaborated on later)
  4. Patents
  5. Copyrights
  6. Incorporation

That’s it. This can be built on more, but this is my rough thoughts for a Friday afternoon. 

Get out there and get after it!

 

 

Good Advice Sounds Harsh to the Ear

“You just need to do your homework.”

Didn’t you hate that advice when you were a kid?

But, it was true. All you needed to do to get better grades, was do your homework.

That simple act, will give you the right habits to succeed.

As an adult, when you are struggling with something and someone gives you advice that feels annoying, ask yourself this question:

“What if they are right?”

As if, what if they are right, then what would I do?

Basically, instead of spending a ton of time trying to figure out if they are right or not, how would you apply their advice?

So here is mine about pursuing a business idea:

“Work on it a little each day, and let it change.”

If that sounds weird, annoying, or too easy, why don’t you try giving it a shot and see what happens?

What have you got to lose?