Lessons from Amanda Palmer, and How I Stopped Being Real
I’d never even heard of Amanda Palmer until a week or two back, when one of my friends posted a photo announcing her (Amanda’s, not her own) pregnancy. I checked out the link as I was wondering why it was such a big deal that this chick was pregnant. I couldn’t really figure out the answer to that from the link though.
A few days later I saw one of my ex-mentors, whose Facebook wall I was stalking a little while lying awake late one night, post a link to Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk. I didn’t watch it, but I guess the whole ‘who is Amanda Palmer, and why am I seeing her mentioned everywhere’ seed had been planted.
So when Tim Ferriss – who I adore and pretty much take as awesome anything he recommends! – sent out an email yesterday linking to Amanda’s new book, and it was right before I embarked on a 30 hour flying trip with the kids, I downloaded it- and proceeded to read nearly the entire thing on the first leg of my flight yesterday. (The subsequent delay, missed connection to the next flight, being left to wander Beijing airport in the middle of the night with 2 kids, carry-on, no stroller, no husband, and no-one interested in helping me until eventually I got given a flight 3 days later can be a story for another day!)
Amanda’s book is The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help and it’s a darn good read in that it perfectly blends her own interesting story of self-created rock fame with lessons around asking, receiving, and giving.
And it’s really got me thinking, probably more so than any book I’ve read in a long while, about my business, how I’m running it, what I’m trying to achieve, what I used to do, and what I really want to do.
In short: Amanda has reminded me what it means to be an artist who is there for the love of the art, rather than to ‘build a business’.
And to be perfectly honest, I’m not even sure where I’m going with this post. I don’t really write review posts, so it’s not that. And it’s not a rant today, or even a lesson. I guess I just want to try and honestly share some thoughts I’m having about my business, the state of the internet today, and what I really want to BE vs avoid being moving forward.
Reading the book made me realise: in many ways, as much as I constantly seek to be real, authentic, truthful, I think I’ve forgotten about the art.
I think that (try as I might not to) I DO try too hard to BE real, to be authentic, to be aligned. I ask myself things like ‘what would be a real post to write?’, or ‘what would people want to read’, or ‘what would get some viral action?’, or ‘what feels ALIGNED for me today’.
And I do think I do a better than average job (if I do say so!) of being real in my writing.
But I also think that if you have to ASK yourself if you’re being real? You’re not being real.
And if you have to ask yourself if you’re being aligned, or authentic? Same deal, right?
When I started blogging, I had no knowledge of online business and I wasn’t even really looking for it. I did see that ‘going online’ could help my offline personal training business, but that was about as far as I thought in terms of what to DO online. So in terms of what I DID do, I just wrote about what I wanted to write about, and also thought would be useful to my clients and slowly growing subscriber list.
So I WAS thinking about ‘what people would want’, but here’s the difference I’ve only just clued in on:
I was TRULY thinking about what would people want to read.
As opposed to asking myself ‘what would people want to read that would also grow my business and ultimately make me money’
Pretty interesting distinction!
Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of stuck again, in what I’m doing.
This happens every 6 months or so, and it’s usually coupled with a dip in my income that keeps going down, down, down for a while and then goes UP to a new level.
At the end of last year I was consistently doing over 100k a month, after having hit the 70-80k mark many times over.
Pretty awesome considering at the start of last year I had a month of 16k, which (I know it still sounds pretty great and I do acknowledge it!) is actually nowhere near enough to sustain my business expenses and even basic living costs. The cost of running my biz (and of course I could scale this back if I let go of some key support, but I don’t want to and choose not to) is about 25k a month, give or take.
Anyway, since 2015 has begun my income has dropped month by month, and March, which just ended, was the lowest month I’ve had in a LONG while. I still clocked in over 30k, which is awesome, but a huge difference to 100k right?
It’s a bit scary to write that… I’m thinking some people will be annoyed at me implying 30k is a ‘low or slow’ month (which it definitely is based on what I’ve come to EXPECT and also admittedly see as normal!) … and then there’s the fraud fear of ‘how can I have a book out there about getting to 100k a month when I’m currently down from that?!’
The truth is I have no doubts that I’ll hit the 100k mark again, and soon.
I’d be surprised – just based on the history of my biz and the way things seem to go – if I’m not doing over 250k a month by the end of 2015.
But right now, I’m realising – that’s the last thing I need to be worrying about MAKING happen.
Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure about making MONEY, it’s that everytime I start focusing on getting to the next level money slows DOWN. Not, I think, because having a money goal is a bad thing, but because the questions I’m asking and therefore the way I’m doing things is different – maybe a few degrees, sometimes a lot more – than what I would be doing, and how I would be doing, if it were purely for the love and the giving of it.
But this feels like a needed post, a rambly one. I’m trying NOT to try with what I write 🙂
I want to get back to writing for the writing … even though I thought that I was.
I want to get back to truly GIVING … and I thought I was doing that as well, but now I see it was TRYING to give the RIGHT thing.
I want to just let it all hang OUT … have it be fun … have the focus be on what I want to do and what would be cool and what YOU would think is cool and fun as well.
I want to get back to having a true relationship with you and my other subscribers, to have a community that is really a COMMUNITY not one that is about ‘me the entrepreneur actively trying to build a community’.
Maybe I’m over-thinking things, but I don’t think so …
The way I used to blog, and do social media, the relationship with those in my community really felt like it was about genuine care, affection, and interest. It was like I had a big group of online friends who then sometimes bought stuff from me. When I first started selling stuff online – and it worked pretty well from the get go when I did – I really just ASKED what people wanted, said cool, and went with it. Knocked it on out and then sent out a ‘hey guys, I did it and here it is if you want it!’ kind of message.
It was actually really easy … and sales came effortlessly because I was straight up just doing what people asked for based on the ongoing conversation’s we were having every day.
After a while of this, my community grew to the point where I really just couldn’t keep up anymore, with the emails, and I was starting to feel a little barraged and tired. I knew I needed help, so I took on a PA to do emails. A year or so later I learned from a mentor about ‘boundaries’ and not being accessible to everyone. I followed her advice as I could see logically that even though it felt sad to no longer be able to connect with everyone individually, it wasn’t going to be possible if I wanted to grow my business and I DID.
That was the first mistake.
Over the next 1-2 years – this was late 2012 onwards; I started blogging in 2007 just to give you the history, started selling stuff a LITTLE in 2008, started making really GREAT money in 2011 when I actively got into ‘launching’ and creating based on those community conversations, was doing over 30k a month in mostly $99 and under products by end 2012 – anyway, over the 2012 – 2013 period I consciously set out to Become an Internet Marketer and Make Lots of Money Online.
I avidly learned, followed, implemented my little heart out anything and everything I could relevant to how to Build an Online Business, modeling myself mainly after those who I particularly aspired to in some ways be like.
That was the second mistake.
It came to a head in 2013 when, in the midst of my second pregnancy, which was very complicated and required me to essentially live in constant ‘what if’ fear, hospitalised from 20 weeks on, I realised I hated my business.
I was selling stuff in a way that felt forced, it was stuff that I didn’t deeply care about, and a good enough percentage of the people I was selling it to were people I was SELLING TO as opposed to members of a loving and supportive and giving COMMUNITY.
I’d hit over 70k in my best month in 2013, so I could definitely see that this shit WORKED, but yet despite making more money I had LESS, no matter how hard I tried to track it and hold onto it. It slipped through my fingers.
My business had become all about the business.
And that was the greatest mistake.
The art that had fed my soul and grown not only a brand but a net of people who loved not only me, and I them, but also each OTHER, was gone.
I threw it all in, walked away from the money, ended up over 100k in debt as a result, and nearly went bankrupt. Short version 🙂
In 2014, I rebuilt, and it was good.
It was aligned.
And it was true.
And it worked.
It was fun, interesting, exciting and easy again. I started to make a LOT more money -fast. I built a whole new community, a TRUE community; one in which the relationships went both ways. It was about give and GIVE.
I wrote a lot of fairly angsty, aggressive, controversial posts about the lessons I learned and what it was REALLY like to be an entrepreneur and I was blown away at the response these got. So I kept writing them – they were flowing out after all!
But somewhere along the way, without really noticing it, I started THINKING ABOUT how to be ‘out there’ and ‘real’ and ‘in your face’. I made it my persona – and really it IS part of who I am – and became all about that, not realising that being THAT full on was just where I was at then; it’s not who I ALWAYS am or have to be.
I was also so badly burned by the way I ‘broke’ my business back in 2013 that I became very very conscious of being authentic, real, and aligned. Again, not realising the folly in actively TRYING to make sure I was authentic, real, and aligned!
Now … once again I feel the need to strip back. I am aware that the changes to my income these past few months are a GOOD thing, a necessary flag to remind me: something’s not quite right. Something needs to change.
It’s not a big change, like last time. This time around – I’ve been being me, just not ‘completely’. I’ve built the right community, I just haven’t really ALLOWED it to be a community in the true sense I want, over the past 6 months. All of the stuff I’m selling is stuff I want to be selling. So that’s good. I don’t have to start from fresh again – my past lessons have definitely served me!
But I do think that in business there will REPEATEDLY come a time when renewal is needed. Out with the old and in with the new. For me right now the ‘old’ I want to once again be rid of is anything that has to do with trying to Run an Online Business and Make More Money While Reaching More People.
I sometimes think that for us truly creative entrepreneurs – the ARTISTS – it just doesn’t work, trying to build a business.
You have to make love – well, art – not money.
And then the money comes, but also the true fulfilment.
What do I want?
I want to have a real community.
I want us to all care about each other, and to have that care both ways.
I want to really KNOW you.
I want to write as though I’m writing to a friend, TALKING to my friends, not talking AT people who I think need to hear a lesson. With friends there are sometimes lessons, when asked for, and sometimes there’s just talking. And there’s also honesty both ways.
So I want to share what I’m doing in my business, what’s working or not, what I’m planning or not, and have you get involved, give me feedback, rather than just present it as a done deal.
I want my art to be like a JOINT collaboration.
I want to just hang out and have fun, talk and have a good time, not try to ‘teach’.
I want it be real because it IS, not because I know that being real is important.
I want to be aggresive and ranty if that’s what’s on my heart, but also be whatever and whoever I am that day if I’m not.
I want to share more about my life … not just impart inspiration and butt-kicking. Friends don’t just kick each other’s butts, after all 😉
I also want to know more about your life, and your business, and continue helping where I can.
I want to have your input when I create new programs and ideas, know that I’m doing it because it is needed and wanted because you TOLD me not because I decided.
I want to write everyday, because that’s what I do. But I want to write without judgement, without ‘will this work’, without ‘do I care’. I just want to WRITE.
I want to do regular free live calls but have it be like a hangout not a sermon, not a ‘topic’.
I want to have a huge and fun and lively and engaged platform, to know that when I go places we can meet up in real life and just hang out and have FUN.
I want to really know you.
I want you to really know me.
I just want to make art, and share it with those who want it.
Maybe I’m being naive here.
Be friends – ‘actual’ friends – with your LIST? Some people would poo poo the idea. Think it’s a ploy, or not possible.
But that’s business talking, not art.
Maybe nobody wants to know more about ME, and they just want the lessons!
But secretly I don’t think that’s true.
I don’t know. I feel like a new foal taking it’s first steps. Tentative in my words, trying not to try, trying to be real without trying to be real 🙂
Thank you Amanda Palmer.
Life is Now. Press Play.
PS. Looking for a tribe where you can actually be YOU and be EMBRACED for doing biz however the hell you please, plus have it actually WORK? Then you simply must become a #richchick today, in the ‘net’s HOTTEST online hangout for kickass women entrepreneurs who want to make MORE money online, faster, and totally on their terms!
https://katloterzo.com/richchickbizmastermind/ – Find your Tribe. Fuck the Rules. Embrace being YOU! Join today and trial your first month at half off! x