Last Friday night I had the opportunity to host Chris Guillebeau’s book tour stop at Atlanta’s General Assembly. His fourth book is Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do.
For anyone wanting to step out and find their own path to making a living that matters, Chris is a must-read author and blogger. His books include:
• The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
• The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
• The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life
Chris’ personal story and books are inspiring, and how we met is a great example of the magic of reaching out and showing up. Way before this latest book, Chris helped me dramatically expand my customer base and helped me see how much we benefit by consistently committing to the work we were meant to do. When you do that, big things can happen.
In 2009, I had been following Chris learning from his strategies to grow your business by blogging. I also loved his quest to visit all of the countries in the world by the time he was 35 (he accomplished that goal a couple of years ago). I met Chris on Twitter when I reached out to him and offered to host his Atlanta book signing for his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity.
Following Chris and others, I saw the power we had to attract and build a community and reputation by freely sharing ourselves and our expertise online. I was fascinated that we now had new, mostly free tools, like WordPress and social media to have our voices heard. I was 55 when I put together my passion with my developing expertise to develop a business and build an online community that fed it.
I had been a serial entrepreneur with experiences as a clinical psychologist, running a software company and developing lofts in Atlanta. I had sold my software company and let my psychology license go so I couldn’t fall back on sitting inside every day with people who could only be clients and never be friends. While I loved developing property, when I saw real estate tanking I got serious about selling my extra inventory.
What I did next was the spark to what became the work I was born to do. When I Googled my real estate business name, what came up was my dog’s blog on Dogster. My business name was listed 40th, where no one would find it. When I dug into this situation a bit deeper, I discovered Dogster was a content management website that tied in with social media.
I was mesmerized by this peek into online marketing, and dove in. I taught myself WordPress, changed my website and my business website began to do what it was supposed to: sell my buildings. While I tried to figure out what to do next, I spent a lot of my extra time in my friend’s coffee shop chatting with friends and family about their businesses and how they could grow them with online marketing. Other people would overhear me and asked me to help them too.
So finally I did and found myself in business doing the work I was meant to do: combining psychology, technology and design to make amazing websites for small businesses that worked to attract and covert visitors into clients.
I not only helped other people grown their businesses but I walked the walk and used what I had learned from people like Chris, to begin to position my boutique website agency New Tricks for success.
Commit to the Work
In 2009, at that first book signing at my house, I asked Chris for some advice about growing my email list. At that point I had 300 people on my email list. I had been rather random about when I would post, and I sent out the content through an automated RSS feed newsletter. It wasn’t effective because I was not careful about what I was posting and people would get a hodgepodge of information from me, some relevant and some definitely not.
Chris suggested that I needed to make a real commitment to my readers. And Chris knows commitment. His goal is to write 300,000 words a year. “Adopt a publishing schedule even if no one else is reading,” he advises to people who want to start blogging. “For more than five years, I’ve published a post every Monday and Thursday. No exceptions! It’s not a heavy schedule, and not every post is especially in-depth, but the discipline greatly helps…. Be helpful and useful. If you can serve people, they’ll remember.”
So I took his advice and made that newsletter a priority. For over six years, I have written at least one blog post a week and send it out to my list, religiously, every Wednesday morning.
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This new discipline led to greater relevance. I started out writing safe little tutorials using an academic tone that I learned in grad school. Over time, I noticed that for my clients and readers, there was a big gap in knowing what to do and doing what you know. I would be frustrated with people not doing the small things that would lead to big business successes.
So I ditched the safe tutorials and started being real. I started talking to my subscribers about mistakes I had made and how I felt. I eventually found my voice and began to talk about how my readers could overcome their fears and hang-ups about getting themselves out there online. I got very direct about pointing out the habits stifling their business growth.
Chris’ success inspired me, too. I watched as his empire grew to include more books and really spectacular events like the World Domination Summit in Portland, which I have attended three times.
What I learned from Chris, what I took to heart and why I have showed up all these years, is the magic of reaching out. Technology gives us an extraordinary opportunity to connect with people everywhere if we are able to get out of our shells to ask the questions we need to ask.
Just the fact that we met because he asked for help on Twitter and I took him up on it is an example of this magic.
Then there is the the magic of showing up to the work we were meant to do. We all have judgments, fears and insecurities when showing up online. Chris played a part in helping me realize I had been invited into people’s inbox and had to take that privilege seriously and his work is about encouraging us to take the seemingly riskier choices that lead to living the life you were meant to live.
His encouragement helped me multiply my connections, so I can help more people put themselves out there online growing their reputations and communities. When my clients demonstrate their authentic values and expertise, their website visitors become customers.
Chris brings a message of possibility. That is why I started following him and why I am happy to support him now. Results speak louder than any advice. Thanks Chris!
Also a huge thanks to Shelby Rae for the beautiful photographs!