I remember consulting with a career coach in my twenties.
She kept me busy for weeks, drafting pages of notes about my past and present life experiences, my skills, my passions, my dreams. Before long, we’d constructed an enormous two-column list of my strengths and interests.
She assured me that my future waited behind some perfect combination from the two columns.
Several months later, no better off than before, I realized I’d crafted little more than an inventory of my experiences and values.
Over the years, I’d pull out the list when I felt stuck or disillusioned with my job. Stumbling upon the list a decade later, I realized it contained a major flaw: the list needed a third column.
Like many people feeling down, drained, or desperate, I thought this career coach was my magic bullet, my golden ticket to advanced progress.
I didn’t have the time, the energy, or the inclination to start from zero, building a new career from scratch. After all, that could take years, perhaps a decade or more.
Instead, I wanted to believe that the perfect career waited behind following my bliss. I’d become enamored with the following philosophies:
- Build it, and they’ll come.
- Just do it.
- Do what you love, and the money will follow.
For years, I wasted time, money, and energy on these “jump off a cliff, and your parachute will appear” daydreams.
Later, feeling beaten down and disillusioned, I realized I’d fallen victim to one of the oldest scams in history: the no work required/anything is possible with enough faith bullshit that sells an obscene number of books, courses, retreats, and seminars to tired and disillusioned folks like me.
The Secret, anyone?
Why can some people follow their bliss and achieve monstrous success while others put everything on the line and fail?Why can some people follow their bliss and achieve monstrous success while others put everything on the line and fail? Click To Tweet
The answer comes down to a simple concept: demand.
That missing third column must somehow assess demand.
The world is full of wannabe writers, rock stars, and actors. And some of them have enormous talent.
But there’s little demand for their talents.
For every success story, thousands are waiting tables, pouring drinks, pumping gas, stocking shelves, waiting for their big break.
Those rags to riches, overnight success stories omit important details. Some arrived through blind luck, perfect timing, or friends and family connections. Some were simply early adopters of a surging trend.
The sad truth is that anyone can quit their job and follow their heart straight into homelessness or bankruptcy. Neither look like bliss to me.
So, what can a person do when supply exceeds demand?
Or a better question…
What can a person do to increase demand for his products or services?
Three things come to mind, and they’re equally important: getting real, getting help, and getting the word out.
The order is key.
Jumping head first into marketing (getting the word out) without radical honesty would be ineffective and disappointing.
Let’s take a closer look.
Getting Real About Your Creative Goals: Time for Radical Honesty
If you want to write the next blockbuster novel, you’d better assess your current skill set:
- How well do you understand narrative arcs, character arcs, and classic story structure?
- What do you know about your genre?
- How well do you understand writing mechanics: grammar, punctuation, and style?
Perhaps you could benefit from a writing class to help organize your ideas. You may need a brush up course in grammar and punctuation.
Do you know how to fix a comma splice?
If, however, you’re certain you have the skills, it’s time to ask yourself how well you understand the market.
- What’s trending in publishing?
- What genres are thriving?
- What genres are flat?
- Will you publish your own book or seek a traditional publisher?
- How will you get your book to the marketplace?
- Have you established an author platform?
Once you get a pass on your skills and the market, consider your temperament.
- How well do you cope with rejection?
- Can you take criticism?
- Are you comfortable with uncertainty?
- How well do you manage your time?
- How much patience do you have for extensive editing and revision?
Writing, or any other creative endeavor, requires flexibility and resilience. Furthermore, make sure you can handle the financial highs and lows as well as the dry spells–when you’ll find yourself searching for your next paying gig or project.
Getting Help: Finding a Mentor
Once you’re certain you have the drive and the required skills, it’s time to look for help.
The fastest way to find success is to model the actions and attitudes of the most successful people in your field.
You’re going to need these role models and mentors to help you navigate the process.
And these role models don’t have to be sitting across from you at your local coffee shop, either. You can learn from their example, from their words and their strategies, their actions, their social media moves.
Today, it’s easier than ever to find the right match for your specific need. Check out courses at your local community college or university. Join a local writer’s group. Take an online course. By a few books, or spend a weekend at the library.
When you find a reliable mentor, model their behavior; find out how they moved from point A to B.
The important thing is finding trusted sources to help you improve your work and learn the ropes.
Getting help involves networking. Find other writers, other bloggers other creatives, and open a dialogue. Join forums and social media communities. Find out where your peers go to share their ideas, their struggles, their success strategies.
It’s rare when a person makes it alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new connections within your field.
After modeling and networking, it’s time to find influencers, the go to gurus in your industry. Read their blog posts, and comment on the key points. Retweet or re-share their social media updates. Demonstrate interest in their work, and over time, they’ll be receptive to your posts, to your social shares.
Marketing & Self-Promotion: Learning the Hustle
Once you’ve assessed your skills and secured a reliable mentor, it’s time to spread the word about your work.
If you’re new to marketing, self-promotion can feel strange and uncomfortable. These feelings are normal; however, it’s important not to let them dissuade you from the important task ahead.
Realize that self-promotion is key to moving forward. Without brand recognition or an already-successful catalog, marketing can bridge the gap between low demand and high supply.
In short, self-promotion will help you stand out among the crowd.
Once you’ve committed to marketing yourself and your work, you’ll need to learn about the digital marketing sphere. Rather than rushing out and spamming the networks with your articles and products, you’ll need to establish credibility.
Build up your social accounts. Share high-quality updates. Study SEO techniques, email marketing, and guest posting.
Over time, when you become a trusted source for quality information, the demand for your products will rise. By this time, you’ll have an army of engaged followers, ready and willing to invest in your message.
Now, it’s your turn.
What’s your secret to success?
What special ingredient or raw material is essential to making progress in the digital realm?
Tell us about it in the comments section below.
To your success,