I recently had one of the weirdest emotional moments.
In the span of one month, I felt the high of doing $10,000 in a single week just six weeks after launching my company Craftsman Creative, quickly followed by the low of getting furloughed for the summer from the TV show I was a senior producer on.
Recently, though, I had a moment of such extreme clarity that it just overwhelmed me.
I was simultaneously excited and completely terrified…
When you own your own business – as an artist, a creative, a startup, a freelancer – in the early months you’re really doing everything.
You’re not just the CEO, but the Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technical Officer, VP of Sales, Content Manager, and the face of the company, the one who has every single interaction with every single person your company comes in contact with.
I have been studying and learning about generating awareness for my company for the last few months. I realized early on that my audience wasn’t large enough to generate the kind of revenue I was aiming for with this new business.
I started doing whatever I could. I added partnerships (a HUGE win), took a dive into Facebook ads, Google ads, SEO, content marketing, and more.
Leading up to this breakthrough yesterday, it seemed like I was putting in all of this work with very little results to show for it.
That feeling is just terrible. It can eat at you and cause you to quit before things start to work.
I’m a firm believer that there aren’t any shortcuts in creative industries. Audiences, revenue, traffic, sales – everything takes time.
If we’re not continually putting in the work for a long enough period of time, we could give up before it starts working.
I could see, yesterday, the incredible amount of things that a company has to do in order to be successful. The difference between those companies and mine is that they have people to help with every single one of those jobs, whereas I’m responsible not just for the work, but the results of every single one…
Marketing, clients, sales, product, finances, growth, partnerships, etc – any two of those jobs would be enough to need another employee to hand off part of the work.
We solo-creatives don’t have that option.
This is especially hard when every part of our business is on the left side of “this is pointless” from that image.
That’s what it feels like to be doing all the work and not yet seeing the results.
The overwhelming feeling yesterday came from the clarity of seeing everything that still needed to be done while at the same time seeing the signs of success for the things I’d been doing for the last six months.
the email list has been growing day over day, independent of me publishing or sharing a link to sign up.
sales of the courses are occurring more per week than 4 months ago
partnerships are easier to create since I have more clout now than when I started back in April.
I’m not saying it’s all a breeze from here on out, but it’s nice to finally get a sign that things are headed in the right direction, rather than the feeling like “I’m working so hard, but for what?”
Two important takeaways:
Don’t avoid doing the important things you need to do in your business. Your business won’t grow on it’s own in the early months (maybe even years) without action on your part. No one else is going to do it for you.
Don’t give up. Most things work if you do the work. If you work on your marketing, improving your product or service, get better at sales calls, improve your website, create a budget – these things can take time to go from being a constraint to a strength in your business. Don’t give up before things start working. Keep going.
What’s one thing you can do today to improve your business?
If you need help answering that question you can work with me on getting your business to the next level.
The difference between someone with a lot of followers and not much money, and someone with a lot of revenue but fewer followers comes down to the way they each use their content.Use this content strategy to reach the goals in your business faster.
This post is part of the 60 Day Project – one post a day to help you prepare your business for success in 2021. Subscribe using the button below to get new posts sent straight to your email.
Today I want to share basically everything I know about creating content with a purpose.
What’s that purpose? To reach the specific goals we have for our business.
Whether your goal is more sales, more freedom, more control, more followers, it doesn’t matter. Content marketing is a free way to get the outcomes you want for your business and your life.
The common story that I come across is a creative or artist who has spent years building up their social media following, with nothing tangible to show for it.
10,000 or even 100,000 followers on a social platform has no inherent meaning other than people are interested in what you post.
The number itself doesn’t equal sales, or revenue, or freedom, or any of those things.
So the disconnect between followers and results is where we need to put our focus today.
How do we use content to get the results we want in our business?
Let’s dive in:
Creating Content With A Purpose
Most creatives approach social media with the idea that they need to post as much as possible, get more followers, and somehow the results take care of themselves.
I have rarely seen this to be true. Every so often there’s an outlier that creates a new social profile or YouTube channel or blog and it becomes a massive hit and they can start to monetize off of all of the awareness they’re getting.
We can’t build a system around outliers. Rather, we have to look at what works across industries and people who have figured out how to turn content into results.
Years ago, I was taught the 4 Cs from Jeffrey and Daniel Harmon, collectively known as the Harmon Brothers.
This is a team that has made a business out of creating content that gets results for their clients. Just look at their home page.
Here’s the 4 Cs they taught me and my business partner years ago:
Call to Action
Let’s walk through them one by one, because it’s likely that you’re doing one or two of these quite well, and just need to add the rest to get the results you’re after.
When we talk about content, we’re not only referring to the video, image, tweet, or post. The content refers to everything – your title, your thumbnail, your hashtags, your profile.
What I’ve found to be most important when it comes to content is to make it as “native” to the platform as possible.
The most recent example of this in 2020 is the recent battle between TikTok and Instagram Reels. You see plenty of people trying to copy/paste their tiktoks over to Instagram, but Instagram isn’t promoting those as much as their native version (*cough* copy *cough*) of that short-form content.
Similarly, if you post a YouTube video to Facebook, it will get much less distribution from the platform than a native video you upload directly to Facebook.
One of the videos I produced has over 18 million views on YouTube:
But when they added the video to Facebook, they uploaded it natively and it added another 340 thousand views:
The same thing goes for blog posts. Whenever I paste the content of a blog post into a new Facebook post, rather than just linking to the post on my site, there are 10x the views.
The platforms want to keep people on their platforms. The more you can post natively, the more they will share your content with your audience.
You’ve got to give the platforms what they want – native content.
Collaboration & Cross Promotion
The size of your audience is what it is at any given moment. When you’ve got a big piece of content that you’re going to publish – a new album, a sale on your products, etc – you’re limited in your reach.
The fastest way to exponentially reach more people is through collaboration and cross promotion.
I’ve used this principle over the last month to grow my newsletter faster than I have been over the summer. I started reaching out to other newsletter publishers with a similar audience to mine and asking if we could each promote the other’s newsletter to our audiences.
The results speak for themselves:
Some other ways people use this principle are in collaborations on YouTube – inviting another channel of a similar size or greater than you to be in a video on your channel.
Podcasts are built on this principle – you invite a guest on to be interviewed and get their audience to consume your content when the guest shares it with them.
Instagram giveaways often include products or services from multiple vendors, and they all benefit from each other posting and requiring that you follow all of the accounts in order to be eligible.
Who else out there has an audience of the people you’re trying to reach and how can you work with them to collaborate or cross promote each other’s work?
I remember years and years ago when Devin Graham (aka DevinSupertramp) spoke to a bunch of us YouTubers here in Utah at a meetup. One of the things he mentioned that has stuck with me is the concept of consistency.
It was around the same time we had this chat with the Harmon brothers, and so it was really reinforced over a short period of time.
If you have an online following, you need to be consistent with how you release your content.
Whether it’s once a month, or once a week, or four times a day, the consistency is key.
People want to know that if they follow you or subscribe that they know what they’re getting into.
Whether it’s explicit – “new episodes every Tuesday!” – or not, decide on a publishing schedule and stick to it. You can scale it up or down over time – look at this 60 Days Project for an example of scaling it up – but be clear with your audience and bring them on the journey with you.
How many of you have a favorite podcast that you listen to on the same day every week? That’s the power of consistency. They associate an entire day with your content.
Oh, and before I forget my own call to action – I’ve added a “work with me” page on the site, so that you can easily take the next step, if you enjoy posts like this one and want to take things to the next level with your business.
I consider myself a person of faith. I was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), and still am very active in my church.
I served for two years as a missionary in Washington D.C. – I paid my own way to live in the D.C. area and preach the gospel and serve as many people as I could in that time period.
In the past, faith was akin to “blind obedience”, or “doing it for spiritual reasons”.
But now, after the experiences of the last few years, I define it this way:
Faith = Belief + Action
In a spiritual sense, this could mean that we live our lives in a way that aligns with the things we believe in – that there is a God, whose Son came to earth to atone for our sins, and if we live righteously we will be blessed in eternity.
That belief in God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ determines the actions I take on a daily basis.
Applying Faith To A Creative Business
So how to apply that to our work lives.
First, it helps to know what you believe in. A few examples:
If I work hard, I’ll be rewarded
If I put the needs of others first, the money will follow
If I am honest in my dealings with others, I’ll attract honest partners
More money isn’t inherently better, it’s merely a tool that I can utilize to do more good.
Mastering my mindset is an important key to success as a creative business owner
Having those beliefs alone doesn’t lead to any results. I can believe all day that “if I watch enough shows on Netflix, I’ll one day be asked to create my own show for the platform and work with the best actors and make millions of dollars”.
The beliefs have to be based in some sort of reality, but also need to be matched with equivalent action.
Having that sense of alignment, where our actions support our beliefs, leads to those beliefs being reinforced and realized over time.
I’ve found that to be true in my own career. By checking in regularly to make sure that my actions are supporting and reinforcing my beliefs, I find that the “blessings” come.
How to implement this principle:
List out the things you believe to be true in business.
For each one, ask what set of actions would support that belief (or what inaction would cost you).
Check in regularly with your actions and your beliefs to make sure that they are in alignment. Be grateful for the moments when your beliefs are reinforced in different ways, and when things aren’t working out, use your FAITH as a guide to what it is you want in your creative life and take action to make it real.
Seems weird to talk about data and analytics this early on in the process of this 60 Days Project, but here we are.
(Because it’s important).
How do you measure the success of your creative projects? There’s no one right or wrong way, but I would argue that not measuring is a quick path to feeling like a failure, lacking control over the outcomes, and ultimately giving up.
There are a few ways you could measure the success of a creative project:
Did it get finished and sent out into the world? (Launched, published, released, etc.)
Did it make a certain amount of money?
Did it reach a certain amount of people?
Did it make you feel good?
Some of these are more “hard number” measurements, while others – “feel good” – are much more subjective.
One of the first things I did when I set up this 60 Days Project was lay out the things I wanted to accomplish with it, and then set up ways to track and verify if those things happened.
Here’s what it looks like for this project:
10,000 visitors to the website by December 31, 2020
1,000 email signups
1 post per day, no excuses
Now, the last one is pretty simple to track. Did I write something? Did I hit “Publish”?
How to track email signups and site visitors, though?
Well, for that, I had to do a little bit of technical stuff. You know, the part that most creatives shy away from because they “don’t know how”. What follows is the simple & painless process I used to ensure that I can measure how this project is going:
Tracking Website Visitors
I set the website up using WordPress. That way I can track visitors to the site in one of a few ways: using their built-in tool, Jetpack, or connecting it with Google Analytics. I chose the latter since I already use GA for my other websites.
It will show me – not 100% accurately but good enough – how many people are visiting the site each day/week/month during this project.
I know that I need to average ~167 people per day to the site in order to hit that goal, so that will help me focus my efforts on things that get people to the site.
Tracking Email Signups
For the email side, rather than using any built-in forms that come standard with the WordPress theme I’m using, I connected my ConvertKit account and created a few new forms to collect emails on the site. (If you look around, there’s one in the sidebar, one at the bottom of the post, and one right here:
These all capture emails and put them under the same “tag”, specifically, “Subscribed – 60 Day Project”.
That way when I publish new posts, I can send them directly to the people who asked to get them.
I know that I need about 16 signups per day to the email list, so I can track that inside my ConvertKit account – which is how I choose to track it – or I could set up a “Goal” in Google Analytics to track that as well, though that requires a bit more setup.
Isn’t This A Ton Of Extra Work?
Not really. The whole idea with this is you take a few hours at the beginning of a project to set up your goals and how you’re going to measure them.
Then, ensure that you have a way to track them on a regular basis. Whether that’s just using the insights on your social media app, or a more robust tool like Google Analytics, it’s essential that you can quickly see if your efforts are working or not.
You don’t want to get to the end of a project only to realize you’re not anywhere close to hitting your goal.
So, with two months left in the year, take a few minutes today to set up some way to track your data and see how you’re doing at working towards reaching your goals.
Want to learn how to create a project from scratch in the next 90 days? I put together a course JUST for that purpose. It’s called Make Something, and walks you through the rest of the process I use for creating successful creative projects.
(Use the code Craftsman for $50 off the price of the course)
I usually write about some strategy that I implemented and how it succeeded or failed, or some lesson I learned throughout the week.
This week, however, is a bit more introspective…
The Importance Of Joy
What is your work for?
Is it to make money? For fame? Influence?
I’d suggest that any of those external, monetary, or “vanity” type measurements fall short to give us what we really are after: Joy.
I define joy as a combination of happiness and fulfillment.
It’s happiness squared. A deeper, more visceral feeling.The more JOY we can experience in our life, the better our life will be
There were two very specific moments of JOY for me recently:
The other night, I was taking out the trash and caught the sunset.
Now, sunset pictures from a phone never really do it justice. But in that moment, I stopped, and took a deep breath, and realized how good it felt to be outside, in perfect weather, catching this fleeting moment that will never ever exist in the same way.
I couldn’t help but smile, and feel a deep sense of gratitude and joy.
A Soccer Game
The second time was watching my son play in his soccer game. They’d had an incredible, undefeated season, and in the next half of the season they’re going to move up a tier in their division because they’re “too good”.
(Their average score for the season was 8-1)
Hearing the coach say this, and seeing how hard my son and his team had worked, made the game that much more exciting to watch.
And then, in the second half, my son scored a goal.
He’s not much of a goal scorer. He’s much more suited to the midfield positions where the strengths are in seeing the field, making the passes, and getting the ball to the forwards who have much better footwork and confidence in shooting.
But the cross came. My son was in perfect position. He connected with the ball perfectly and placed it into the upper left corner of the goal.
The keeper never had a chance.
It was a perfect moment, followed by one of the most pure moments of celebration I’d seen from him. The team cheered – he rarely scores, so it was a big deal for everyone.
Now – what’s missing in these two moments?
Neither of them are about business…
The two most joyous moments of my life in the last two weeks had nothing to do with revenue, marketing, sales, clients, products, or the like.
I take a lot of pride in my work. But it’s not my greatest source of joy.
With that realization, I had to reflect on what my business was actually for.
Yes, I want to reach as many people as possible. Yes, I want to provide a good life for my family and me.
But if I chose to spend more time in my business, optimizing for reach or revenue, I’d miss out completely on these moments of joy.
If you work until late into the night, you’ll miss the sunsets.
Working on weekends, and you’ll miss the games.
Life isn’t about building the biggest best business and getting results.
Life isn’t life without these moments of joy.
So, I asked myself, how can I structure my life to create more of these moments?
Again, not what I was expecting to take away from this week.
Where Does Your Joy Come From?
Does your deepest moments of joy, happiness, gratitude, fulfillment come from your work? Your family? Being outdoors? Working out?
Whatever it is, the more that you can structure your life around having these moments on a daily basis, the better your quality of life.
What’s one thing that brings you an insane amount of joy? Can you make room for that to happen today? This week?
Without a sense of joy and gratitude in our lives on a regular basis, it’s near impossible to share those emotions with others in your work.
Bring more joy into your lives, and you can then share more with those you seek to serve with your business.