There are a lot of people out there who will tell you not to compare yourself to others and sometimes you feel like they are telling themselves this as much as they are you (which is fine, we all need to take our own advice... I know I do). When Tara Swiger says it, you can tell she's already happy with herself and her business. Like she's reached maker zen.
Which is why when I read a recent newsletter of hers I asked her if she could spread her calming wisdom over on our blog. She graciously agreed. Tara runs a vibrant community and helps makers over at taraswiger.com. She's also done some really spot on CreativeLive courses on marketing. Enjoy her wisdom!
If you're building a business, you need people. People who like your products, people who buy, people who read or follow or retweet. You absolutely need people to know what you're doing. You need an audience. We measure the size of your audience by looking at things like follower counts, web traffic, etc. When you start looking at your numbers, and turning your attention to growing your audience, it's very easy to lose perspective and to focus too much on the audience, and forget all about the purpose of building an audience (to make sales!).
And at the same time, you're reading other sites. You're a reader and fan of Internet businesses and blogs, and you want to figure out how they're doing it. You see others talking about their big numbers, their readers, or you see how many zillions of Twitter followers they have.
This leads, naturally, to a lot of comparison (What are they doing? What am I NOT doing?!) and that leads to some misconceptions. Misconceptions not just about the individual you're reading (which is inevitable!), but misconceptions about what it must be like to have an audience, especially a big one.
I come across these misconceptions all the time when I talk to makers who are working to grow their audience. These fallacies are sneaky because they present themselves as facts, and these "facts" distort reality and practicality, which lead you to make mistakes as you build your own thing.
I want to break down some of these myths, so that, instead of focusing on the size of your audience, you can shift your focus to making your business profitable and serving the audience you do have. (Which is the surest way to grow your audience - a happy customer talks about you!)
Here are some of the myths and misconceptions about what it's like to have a big audience:
1. A big audience = more money.
Not necessarily. Not unless you are selling that audience what they want to buy. For example, if you create amazing free content that Pinterest loves ... but it's aimed at other crafters (and you sell finished goods), well that's not going to increase sales.
You won't believe how many makers have this problem, so please remember: Your free content (blog, newsletter, podcast, whatever) has to be aimed at the buyer of what you sell!
2. Anyone who has it together online must have a giant audience.
For example, I have, by comparison to many of my peers, a super small audience. When I quit my day job, my yarn company just had over 300 subscribers to the email list. And this is where 80% of my sales came from. (These sales more than replaced my day job salary.)
Currently, traffic to my site is about 1/10 of most of the other people who do what I do. And yet, this little business is paying 100% of the bills for my family.
Remember what I said above: a bigger audience doesn't mean more money and a profitable business doesn't require a big audience.
3. At a certain point, you'll be happy with your business.
I want to let you in on a secret: you can be happy with your business as soon as you decide to be. Seriously.
If you wait to have X sales or Y subscribers to be happy ... you won't be happy when you get there, you'll be on to the next big number goal.
And that's good and natural, that's part of growth. (I'm a huge fan of goal-setting!)
But you don't have to wait until you reach that goal to build a business you like, and to like the business you have. You can decide right now to enjoy the work of where you are. You can decide not to sacrifice what matters most to you, at the altar of growth and numbers.
I've met miserable people who have giant audiences and national press. I have met adventurous makers who have tiny audiences and are enjoying the process. There's no outside metric (money, sales, pant size) that's going to make you truly happier.
There's a big difference between being happy about your business growth and being happy in your life.
Life happens no matter how big your audience is and no matter how many people love your work. As long as you're waiting for your business to satisfy you, you're going to feel unsatisfied. And that unsatisfied, grasping feeling? It comes across to your audience. It affects your productivity.
Take a minute to recognize the assumptions and myths you’ve been believing about what it means to have a big audience. Check your goals and your actions: Are you taking your business in the direction you want? Or are you doing things you think people have to do to be “bigger”?
Don't let these misconceptions cloud your judgement and impact your decisions. Decide to love your business (and, well, yourself!) where you are. (And if you can’t, change something.)
Be grateful for every single customer and subscriber, and work hard to delight them.
Wanting a bigger audience isn’t a bad goal, but it’s not the only way to measure growth. Be sure you focus and measure the things that most matter to you and a business you’ll actually enjoy working in.
PS. Want to build your audience and work towards your goals with a community of fellow creative biz smarties? Sign up here to learn more.
What's holding you back from being happy about your business right now? Share with us in the comments!