I thought I was smart. I was sending messages to dozens of websites and asked them if I could write for them.
I thought I could tap into their already existing audience. To write on their sites and basically piggyback and sort of “steal” their audience to build my own.
And not surprisingly most of them said no. Some of them said yes. But they only said yes under the condition that I write about the stuff they want me to write about.
To me that sounded a lot like a job. With the only difference that I didn't get paid to write the stuff they wanted me to write. Now that sounded even worse than a job....
That's why I decided to just start my own blog. Technically it wasn't really a blog. I just posted my updates right inside of Facebook. Back then I didn't really know how to start a blog or a website or anything. I didn't have a clue about anything.
So that's what I did for a couple of months. Until I was getting enough traction and was confident enough that the benefits of having a blog, a website and my own outlet would be bigger than the time and effort it would cost me to figure out how to set it all up.
And now a couple of years later I've written close to 1000 blog posts. Shot hundreds of videos. Did dozens of talks. A podcast. A few online courses. And a lot of other stuff that was consumed by more than 3 million people worldwide....
[Related: How To Go From Nobody To Somebody]
# YOU NEED A PLATFORM
No matter what type of content you produce, you need to start working on building your own platform. And Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Medium, YouTube or whatever isn't your platform. It's someone else's platform. You don't own Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Instagram, Pinterest, iTunes, Google or the likes.
Large corporations and for profit companies own all of these platforms. And what that basically means is that you have zero control over the customer relationship. And this means that the platform owners can do whatever they want to.
They can introduce a new algorithm that dramatically decreases your reach over night. They can ban you from posting. They can kick you off the platform and tons of other things.
Now you might say that this isn't fair. But guess what? Life isn't fair. And the owner of any good, service, product or whatnot can do whatever she wants to do with that product. So if they decide to decrease your reach, then you can't do anything about it.
The only thing you can do is to start spreading your risk. To be on as many platforms as possible. To shift your audience from one platform to the next BEFORE that one platform stops working. So that you won't have to start all over again if that one platform stops working.
And the truth is that sooner or later every platform that allows you to reach people for free will stop working. At fist organic reach goes down. Then it goes down some more. And then some more. Until the only way to reach people is through paid ads.
That's neither bad or good. It's just the nature of platforms. Because the only way these platforms can survive is by making money. An the way they make money is by getting people to pay for reach.
This has been the case for decades. Just think about TV channels. Or radio channels. The only way TV and radio channels survive is through ads. By getting brands and companies to pay for ads to reach possible customers.
And the more crowded a platform gets the faster this will happen. This happened on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google and will happen on every new platform out there. So you better get ready for it, spread your risk and be everywhere.
Another way to spread your risk is to build an email list. Email is the only platform that isn't owned by any corporation as of right now. Even though Google owns pretty much 90% of all inboxes. That's why only relying on email might be a mistake, too.
Simply because Google is now so powerful with Gmail that they can do whatever they want. And they do whatever they want. Just like they do whatever they want with their search engine. Gmail also started putting tons of emails into people's spam folders not too long ago. Even though people subscribed to these newsletters. I've seen this happen over and over again.
So the only way to really build your own platform is to spread your risk across multiple platforms and be active pretty much everywhere and shift your audience from one platform to the next.
So how can you be everywhere without creating yourself to death?
Being everywhere is actually pretty simple. All you need is one base piece of content. And then you recycle, edit and adapt that piece of content to each and every platform out there. So let's say you just wrote a blog post. Then take your phone oot a video of yourself basically saying what you just wrote.
You already wrote that piece once and probably edited it a hundred times so you'd be able to pretty much say the content without any support. Of course the content won't be exactly the same. But similar. Maybe you'll add an example or two. And once you've recorded that video, you can upload it to YouTube. Or post it inside your blog post. Or inside your Medium post.
Some people might prefer video over written content. So now you offer both. Plus, you're also going to start building your audience on YouTube at the same time. If you keep doing this and every time you write a blog post you also turn it into a video, then you'll build your audience on two platform at the same time. On YouTube and your blog or Medium.
So what you could do next is to take something out of your post and turn it into a tweet. If you have a little bit more time you could even create a picture with Canva or Pablo by Buffer and make a picture out of that quote. If you're too lazy to do it you could just write that quote down on a piece of paper and post it on Twitter.
You could even use that picture, add your name to that picture and upload it to Instagram. And if your post isn't too long you could also post the text below the picture on Instagram. So people will not just take a look at your picture but they'll also start consuming your stuff on Instagram.
Oh and by the way, while you've already created that YouTube video you could even make a podcast out of it. All you'd have to do is to get Microsoft Movie Maker (the easiest way), extract the audio and then upload it to a podcast hosting service such as Libsyn and then syndicate it on iTunes.
And BOOOOM! You've just created a video show, an Instagram post, a tweet, a podcast and a Medium post out of one single base piece of content. It really isn't that hard or that much work. I've personally done all of these things in the past. And I'm still doing many of these things...
# HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS
Good question. A lot of people say that all you have to do is to show up. Maybe it worked a while ago. But today it's just too crowded and no one will magically find out about you. This topic is so complex and I can't possibly put it all in one post. So I've put all of my best advice into one of the most complete pieces of work that has ever been done before. You can check it out here.
# WHAT'S YOUR STORY?
So this might be one of the most important things. One of the things that most people tend to forget. Or ignore. Because it's tough to answer. Most people forget to tell their readers, viewers and listeners who they actually really are. And why they should even listen to them.
And I'm not talking about telling people your life story in a single post. Even though that's also a good start. What I mean is that people should have a way to find out more about you. Your story. Your values. And what you stand for. Something like an About Me page on your website. That's the easiest thing to do. Which unfortunately most platforms don't really have.
Do you know what's the thing that gets clicked on the most on my blog (not Medium but on my actual blog)? Right, it's the About Me section...
But an About Me section on your blog or website is just the beginning and the easiest part of it all. The really hard part is to figure out a way so that people can find out more about you. So let's say you write a story that a few people found very interesting. Now they want to find out more about you. What you've done in the past. What projects you did in the past. What you stand for. And yes, also what your story is.
And the only place you can usually do this is your own website. If you don't have your own website with more information that goes deeper than your blog posts, it's like you're not giving people the chance to find out more about you.
And if they can't find out more about you, it's hard to build up any sort of relationship or to become a fan. It's hard to build your tribe when your tribe doesn't really know who you are or why they should even listen to you...
It's just like any other type of relationship. You have to tell people more about yourself. You have to open up and let them into your world. You have to tell them your darkest secrets. You have to be vulnerable. You have to put away your mask. And unveil your true self. Especially when you haven't done anything spectacular or remarkable in your life yet and no one knows who you are....
People want to know more about you. So give them the chance to know more about you. Give them what they need. Treat your audience and your tribe like you would treat your family. Or your best friends. Tell them everything they need to know about you. And more.
Here's the thing...
People are looking for leaders. They want to be lead. So lead by example. Lead by being a real human being. By letting people know about your weaknesses, your darkest moments, your shortcomings and everything else. Be your true authentic self. By not hiding under a mask...
# HOW TO PIGGYBACK PROPERLY
When I was getting started and tried to piggyback on other people's audiences a couple of years ago I didn't really understand the concept. But at the end of the day it's pretty simple. There are only two ways you'll ever be able to (repeatedly) piggyback on other people's audiences to build your own audience. If that's what you want....
The first one is to have an audience yourself. Because if you have an audience that means you have a reputation. And every website wants to publish content from someone with a reputation and an audience.
Because it will not only increase the websites reputation, as they can now use famous content creator xzy for their pitch when they try to find new writers but they might even get a chance to tap content creator xzy's audience as well.
And if you don't have an audience and don't have a reputation, then it's a deal that would only benefit one side of the deal. And that's always a deal that's never going to happen.
The second way to piggyback on other people's audiences is to provide really, really, really good stuff. And the only way to be able to provide really, really, really good content is to master your craft. And the only way to master your craft is by doing it over and over and over again.
Which brings me to the next point....
# MASTER YOUR CRAFT
The only way to build your tribe is to invest time. Time and energy. Time and energy to become better at your craft. No matter what it is that you're creating. If you're not doing it over and over again, then you won't get better at it. And when you don't get better then no one is going to consume your stuff.
No one wants to consume or tell their friends about mediocre stuff. And if no one is interested in consuming your work because it's mediocre, then you won't be able to build your tribe. And no one will be interested in publishing your work and giving you exposure to their audience. It's that simple. If your stuff sucks and you don't put in the work to suck less, then you can wait your whole life away.
So here's the thing...
If your stuff isn't any good, then pitching your stuff to any big website or publication is a waste of time. Not only this. But it will also discourage you because you'll constantly get rejected. But you should be focusing on getting better. And not on getting exposure while your stuff still sucks.
You think no one does this? You'd be surprised how many emails and messages I get from people who want to contribute to my publication Thought Pills on Medium. And 99% of the stuff is mediocre. At best. Not to mention the fact that it's not open to the public and I'm the only one writing in that publication...
Again: Focusing on getting featured on a big site or publication is the wrong thing to focus on. Especially when you're just getting started. The right thing to do is to invest your time and resources into getting better at your craft. For how long?
Until big outlets ask you if they can use some of your material...
[Related: I wrote a book called 121 Unusual Tips to being a better Writer. It will help you to become a better content creator. You can download it for free here. P.S. The strategies, techniques, tools and tips can be applied to any type of content (written, audio, video, etc.).]
# WHAT'S YOUR WHY?
Why do you even want to create content or an audience? What is your overall why? I know this is essential. It's so essential that no one really does it. Most people just blast out stuff without really thinking about their overall why.
If you don't have an overall theme you'll just blast out whatever comes to mind. And if you don't have an overall theme then it'll be confusing for your audience to figure out what you really stand for. If you don't position yourself by properly defining your why, then all you're going to do is to confuse people.
One thing that might help here is to ask yourself what you want to stand for. And once you've defined that, then execute on it. And nothing else. Once people know what you stand for, once people have a word or two in their heads when they hear your name then you've done a good job.
What do you want to stand for?
# STORIES WORTH TELLING
If all you do is to write listicles with the same stuff in it just like everybody else, then it's going to be pretty damn hard to stand out and to build your tribe. Because how can you stand out when you do what everybody else is doing and saying?
Right, you just can't. The only way to stand out is to tell your story. Based on your own experiences. But it has to be interesting enough for people to read. So what's interesting?
Think about what you find interesting to read, watch or listen to. And then take a look at how they do it. Take a look at how they got started. Take a look at what kind of stories they tell. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just look at what kind of stuff you find interesting.
But don't get me wrong here. Listicles can be good. If you spice them up with your own personal story. Based on the things you've personally experienced.
Without any personal experiences and stories it's going to be the same stuff that everybody else is writing and saying. And people don't like to follow the crowd. People like to follow real people. Real people with real stories.
So you want to become a good storyteller?
Go out there and experience stories worth talking about. And then talk about these stories. Write about these stories. That's how you become a good storyteller. By doing and experiencing things worth talking about. Not by sitting at home in front of your laptop all day thinking about the stuff you could write about...
# BE CONSISTENT
If you're not consistent then all of this is useless. Because most platforms out there are limited in reach. Even email is limited. And not everybody will see or read all of your stuff. Maybe someone might see and actually consume one out of 5 of your pieces. This can have many different reasons...
Platforms naturally limit their reach. So maybe your followers and fans might just see 1 out of 5 of your updates. Another reason might be that people are just too busy to read, watch or listen to your stuff every single time. Or they might not be interested in that particular piece. And millions of other reasons.
So if every fan or follower just sees 1 out of every 5 updates and you just post one update a week then it might take up to 5 weeks until someone might actually really consume another one of your pieces.
And 5 weeks is a hell lot of time. 5 weeks in internet time is like an entire year in real time. So that one person who was about to become a fan has now totally forgotten that you even exist...
# HAVE A SCHEDULE
Whatever yo do, you should have a schedule. You should have specific days that you publish your content. And you should by all means stick to it. Not only will this get people excited about your stuff but it will also take away a lot of hassle.
Once you publicly state when you're going to publish your content and plan to really stick to it, then you just have to deliver. No matter what. No matter how busy you are that day. No matter whether or not you have good ideas. No matter what. After all you've just publicly made that commitment.
And making a commitment in public and breaking it is a really hard thing to do. At least for me.
So you'd have to produce stuff. No questions asked. And that really is the only way to overcome fear, doubt and all sorts of other insecurities that we all have. Including me. Especially me.
So here's the thing...
When you say you're going to produce one piece of content once a week without specifying anything, then there are so many roadblocks that will distract you from what's really important. So many roadblocks distracting you from creating and shipping your work.
So in the end you won't create and ship anymore. I've seen this happen over and over again. Sooner or later. Rather sooner than later
Here are a few of the roadblocks you'll encounter when you don't specify what days or how often you're going to ship your work. You'll constantly ask yourself...
Which day is the best day to create something? When will I have enough time? What time of the day should I publish? Will people like it? Is it good enough? And on and on and on.
But when you schedule it, let's say every Tuesday and Thursday or every day. then all of these questions don't matter anymore. And they won't tax your brain's bandwidth anymore. And instead all you have to focus on is to create and ship your work.
Don't think this works? You don't have to. But it worked for me...
About two years ago I decided to write and publish one article every single day. At first I wanted to write one article for the next 7 days. That turned into 30 days. And now I've been putting out one piece for more than two years already. And all I have to focus on is to create and ship one piece every single day. All the other stuff disappears.
Do you have to ship that often?
No, of course not.
Do you have to build your audience?
I don't know.
Is your message worth hearing or reading?
Are your ideas worth spreading?
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