“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”
I think about this all the time, and was reminded of it again today because of a pair of purple panties.
But getting to that point of being “the only one” isn’t easy. It’s not safe.
Has it occurred to you that “formula for success” is an oxymoron?
If it’s formulaic, anyone can replicate the results. What you get, then, is… perfectly normal.
I’m not saying don’t have systems or don’t follow a plan. Not even all formulas are bad.
I’m saying that as a single-person business (which, likely, you are) don’t be a commodity. The commoditization of the creative continues to roll forward inexorably. Commoditization is profitable if you’re at the apex of that pyramid, but that’s not the kind of person I speak to.
Some fields are highly commoditized, but you can still stand out, like web design. Other areas are not highly commoditized… yet, like career & career change/work-life balance specialists. You’ll find a lot of variety in approaches, methods and outcomes there, where the end product is not a thing, but a life.
And by the way, I’m not writing this like I have all the answers. I’m writing this to see what I think, myself. Because this is important. Meaning-of-life kind of important.
How do you become the only one who does what you do?
Is there a formula for that that isn’t an oxymoron?
Maybe all we really have are clues.
You Can’t Not Do It
This seems like kind of a biggie. People are so awesome at self-sabotage it’s just retardulous. There are days when I really fucking hate marketing and if one more shiny new social media thing flits in front of my face, I’m going to stab out my eyes with white-hot rusty iron pokers soaked in acid and cursed by a warlock.
But then I can’t see any marketing effort and not intuitively start breaking it down in my mind. I’m like that kid in Sixth Sense, only “I see marketing…” I can’t shut it out.
I did this even when nobody paid me. I watched television shows about commercials (which had their own commercials–how’s that for “meta?”). When I go shopping, I don’t see a product on a shelf, I see packaging & marketing. I see merchandising and display design.
I can’t not do this stuff.
What about you? Would you do what you do for free? Were you, already?
It Doesn’t Seem Like Work
You know how I know when I shouldn’t be doing something? When it feels like work. If it feels like work, I’m not meant to do it. If you present me with blog & business ideas, it is nothing for me to look at them and instantly come up with a holistic information marketing strategy for you. Or to look over a blog and see several key ways to improve its client-attraction and conversion qualities immediately.
And yet, I do it all the time, so, ironically, I get lots of practice at it, too. But it never feels like I’m practicing or working. I mean, I’m not running drills or anything. A great painter does not “feel” the work he’s pouring into his art, he just does it. He feels like a conduit, a channel. Not like a laborer. Accomplishment without strife.
Does what you do feel like this to you? Does it even feel like work? If it does, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re like most of us, though, chances are there are aspects to your work which feel effortless and others which are a burden. Those are the parts you have told yourself you’re “supposed” to do. And I don’t mean like paperwork or bookkeeping, I mean the services or products you offer.
You Don’t Know What to Call It
I don’t mean to say there isn’t a name for what you do. It could be there is, but you didn’t know what it was at first. For example, it might take a while for someone to realize that, for them, it’s not illustration so much as it is concept art. Maybe an illustrator was doing other kinds of illustration for money and not really feeling like it was an effortless fit: his work always felt like work. But concept art was like entering a dream state: it didn’t feel like work at all. One day he finds out concept art is something people pay for. Now he knows what to call it and he’s home.
In some cases we may use normal labels to move through society without too much awkwardness and friction (which really wears you down after a while). For example, Hugh McLeod can call himself a cartoonist. Except it’s obvious he’s much more than that.
In my case, other people call themselves blog consultants. The reason I use that term is because I don’t know what else to call it. Consulting was the best term I could find at the time I needed one. When you’re a Renaissance Person 2.0 or a Multipotentialite, consulting can be a great way to describe what you do so that other people understand it somewhat.
And don’t call it something unusual when it really is something quite common. If you tell me you’re a “web experience facilitator” I’m probably going to laugh to myself and think: “OK, there, Mr. Web Designer, whatever.” I tried to do this myself a couple years ago by creating the term gateway blogging to describe lead generation through blogging. I invented names for its components and everything and it was going to be a training program. Problem was, all this stuff had already been created and named by others and I was just making unnecessary work. So I scrapped it and I teach my clients these principles using the language of the familiar.
If somebody asks you what you do or what your site about, you can’t fail to have a quick and intriguing answer. You have to call it something.
Three is a good number. I can’t think of any more ways to become the “only one.” But if you can, I’d love to hear your ideas. You guys never fail to surprise and delight me.
P.S. – You might notice I’ve dropped the “open discussion” wording, which is how all Thursday posts used to be. Why? Because every post is a chance for discussion and I don’t want to just tack those two words on when not much else about the posts was different in any meaningful or practical way. Every day is open discussion day.