I’ve spent much of the last nine years of my life working for myself in several avenues.
I’ve run two fairly highly-trafficked blogs that make money and employ several people; a successful graphic art business; a successful consultancy business, built an online social media following to over 120,000 people, and have self published several books that have sold (I’m not in the big leagues – yet – but they do sell).
As such, I’ve had to be extremely conscious about how to stay attractive to potential clients, customers, readers, and followers as a matter of survival. If I can’t bring people into my sphere and persuade them to follow me, use my services and buy from me, I would have to find employment elsewhere, or worse.
As a serial ‘entrepreneur’, self-starter and general lone wolf about town, I shudder to think.
The ‘art’ of swaying people to believe in you, trust you, throw money at you and want to be associated with you is, for me, a fascinating ingredient of what I have been doing and what has kept me going, more than anything.
Much of my progress has been characterised by learning from various errors, accepting the feedback, and moving forward.
There is no better environment for learning about what makes you attractive to others from a selling point of view, than having to take responsibility for your own results as a freelancer and business owner. And I’ve been a pretty awful freelancer for the most part. It’s just that success tends to cover over the errors of bad judgement and passivity that get left in its wake.
I also know that I’m still in the very early stages in my adventure to grow a loyal audience and continue to build my empire.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about attracting people to your brand, your product, your skill, your service – it is found embodied in the following quote:
“He found something that he wanted, had always wanted and always would want — not to be admired, as he had feared; not to be loved, as he had made himself believe; but to be necessary to people, to be indispensable.”
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
The essence of what he’s saying is that even though we think we want it, we do not need admiration in the long term.
It’s not about how impressive you are that truly sways and keeps people near you.
Your real value to people lies in your necessity to them. Good presentation is important, but you won’t secure a trusting loyal fan if you don’t ultimately serve as a means to improving their lives.
I have a lot of clients who provide creative services like graphic design, illustration and photography. Many of them have an online portfolio with an ‘about’ or bio page which explains who they are and what they do for readers of their site.
Most people I work with have bio pages that describe themselves – fine – but most lack a crucial element, and that is to demonstrate how they can be truly useful to the potential client or follower.
People say things like they love drinking tea, or that they love walks on the beach and travelling. I love this; I’m like this; I have won this; I want to do this.
It’s good to get some personality and credibility into your presentation to an extent, but too often it stops there.
The same applies to when people reach out cold to new prospects in order to land new client work. Rather than what most people do – pitching immediately and trying to impress people with images of your product or convoluted chat, results will come through demonstrating how useful you can be to someone.
I’ve been guilty of trying to impress as large an audience as possible (greed) at the expense of being useful to a specific group (intelligent and effective).
The real wins in what I’ve done to date, however, have been when I’ve been able to directly improve someone’s life in some way.
The added beauty of this perspective is that it forces you to think about who exactly you can help and makes you very conscious about who your work is focused towards.
This applies to the content of the articles and books I’ve written, the way I’ve spoken to potential new illustration clients, how I’ve persuaded people to work with me as a coach, and in how I’ve grown an online following.
When you can appeal to the real self-interest of others, and you can show that you can fix their problems and address their needs rather than getting hung up on trying to impress, you have won.
I just started sharing sound bites about marketing etc, on Anchor.fm – follow me there by searching: ‘Alex Mathers’.