Today’s guest post is from Declan Wilson – an aspiring creative with a full-time job on the side. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA with his one wife, two cats, and one baby. You can find his writings over at millennialtype.com or his podcast at mybestfriendtherhino.com.
As creatives, we struggle with validation. We crave it (though we don’t admit it) and need it to survive. But in our search for validation, we often ignore the support provided by those closest to us. And in doing so, we lose hope of reaching the world and forget about changing those already in our range.
Every day I’m bombarded with pitches to grow my email list: “How to get your first 10,000 subscribers” or “Grow your email list by 1,000 in the next 48 hours” or “Increase your opt-in rate by 657%.”
I’ve signed up for all the webinars, downloaded every free “eBook,” listened to all the podcasts hoping to unlock the secret to growing my clout by leaps and bounds.
I’ve even studied the source codes of the titans in the industry (completely legal and easy to do) in the hopes of finding the tiniest crack for me to peer into.
But in the end, I’m left with the insecure feeling about the size of my email list.
Here it is, you ready?
Compared to the titans of the creative world, I’m a nobody. Or that’s what I thought until I received some much-needed advice from my favorite band of hand puppets.
One late night, after my 5-month-old son finally went to bed, I found myself with a few precious creative hours to myself.
To psyche myself up (a.k.a. distract myself from doing actual work) I watched some old videos of The Muppets. Yes, The Muppets.
In the tribute, the cast sing Just One Person (originally from Peanuts), a song about needing only one person to believe in you before you, “will start to see what everyone sees in you, and maybe even you can believe in you too.”
Dang those puppets.
All along, as I put my energy towards growing my email list, I neglected the audience who already believed in me.
Bigger Ain’t Always Better
I understand the nuances needed to survive as a creative – one of which is building a platform. But in this “Bigger is Always Better” world we live in, I chased validation from others I don’t know, instead of seeking to serve the audience I already had.
“Your post gave me great encouragement and food for thought.”
“This is seriously great stuff.”
“You have inspired me to think about my own blog, and how much I want to start writing again.”
The above affirmations are a few examples I received from my audience this year. Instead of harnessing their power, I brushed them off and sulked at my measly list size.
Don’t make the same mistake.
Having a smaller audience teaches you to serve. It helps you to get to know the individual members on a personal level. With a smaller audience, you can afford to respond to any communication they throw your way.
Think how overwhelming it would be to stand up on stage in front of 10,000 people without ever having public speaking experience. Now imagine how less frightening it would be with a series of smaller speaking engagements beforehand.
Starting small helps you in the long run. Starting with just one person is all you need.
From Validation to Service Minded
If you are a creative like me or have any following, let’s map out our New Year’s resolution, shall we?
Serve your existing audience first (no matter how small) before attracting new members.
Reach out to them in ways that make them feel special and appreciated. Know that these readers are your early adopters of your ideas, your mission, your brand. Make sure they know how important they are to you.
So, going into 2016, make an effort to do the following:
● Send out personalized thank you emails to your readers.
● Ask your readers for their input, conduct a survey, learn from them.
● Surprise your readers with random acts of kindness (give things away for free, mention them in a blog post, ask to collaborate on their projects.)
● Respect your reader’s inbox. Don’t seek to be a flash in the pan, don’t chase trends, don’t employ clickbait tactics. Publish your best content and always ask yourself, will this serve my readers?
Notice, none of these suggestions are focused on growth, but rather service. I believe growth will come naturally as I take care of what I already have.
I wish I could end this article with some incredible success story like, “After serving my audience I grew my list to 9,000 readers!” But that would go against the purpose of this post.
Instead, let’s work to serve those who already believe in us, and when insecurity creeps in, reflect on this sage advice from my favorite Muppet, Swedish Chef:
“Børk, Børk, Børk.”