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Do What You Love (And Get Paid for It): The Missing Link

In: Online Marketing

So last week you met Paolo.

You're welcome.

If you didn't meet Paolo last week, you need to read that before you read this. If you don't, you run the risk of having me track you down and fling spicy Peruvian chicken sauce in your eye. Yes, it exists—I'm dipping my bread in it as I write this.

Anyway, if you met Paolo, you already know that he & I exchanged messages, that he's a “goddamn solo performer,” and that I thought his art was brilliant.

So last week, I used Paolo as an example and discussed the basic outline for taking something you love and turning it into a thriving online business. Seriously, go read the post.

Spicy Peruvian chicken sauce!

Anyway, this week, I promised to write Paolo Part II, and delve a little deeper into specific ways that he can build a digital business around solo performance—and what the hell this means for the rest of you.

Luckily, I'm awesome at keeping promises.

So let's get our business on, shall we?

First thing's first: A common misconception. The way you make money online by doing what you love isn't just by doing what you love.


Confusing, right?

Go on, raise that eyebrow.

Au contraire, the way you make money by doing what you love, is by doing what you love…AND by doing one other thing, too.

That one other thing, ladies and gentlemen, is teaching.

A large percentage of people fail to get their footing online because they don't recognize this VIP—very important part.

What it boils down to is this:

You cannot just hop online, create a website that displays your stuff (whether that's your paintings, or your writing, or your photography, or your jewelry, or your homemade fresh mint leave candles, or your hand-stamped leather dog collars—or, in Paolo's case, videos of him solo performing) cross your fingers, and hope with all your might that somehow, someway, either enough sales will trickle through, or somehow, someway, you'll be discovered by the world at large as the next best thing since Bathfitter.

(Then again, I guess that wouldn't be too hard to accomplish.)

Nuh uh. Not gonna happen.

The thing with the web is that people aren't just going to come to your site (and then buy your stuff or pay you to do something) because you're cool.


They're going to come to your site (and then buy your stuff or pay you to do something) because it benefits them in some way.  Double underline, bold, italic, caps lock—BECAUSE IT BENEFITS THEM IN SOME WAY.

This relates to both what Danielle & Farnoosh have said in the past about being useful to others.

And as I've said, we're a bunch of selfish assholes, and we want to know what's in it for us. NOW.

Which means you've got to give them something. Something they don't have to pay for. Selflessly. Otherwise known as–gulp–a gift.

But what can you possibly give them? (You know, that doesn't put you out of business.)

What you give them is a little something called know—ledge.

Yes, I wanted that dash in there.

The way that you get people to come to your site (and ultimately buy your stuff or pay you to do something) is by giving them knowledge first. In others words, by TEACHING them something.

If you have no idea how to teach anything related to YOUR THING, then you've got to go curl up in a corner somewhere with a pair of sweats, a trusty dusty 3 subject notebook and a nice tall glass of pinot—and not come out until you've got something to work with. Or, until you need a refill.

This is key.  Clutch.  Crucial.  Critical.  VIP–very important part.

The point is this: You can't just talk. You've got to teach if you want to garner attention online.

None of this, “Well today I made this, and then this happened, and then it affected me this way, and now I just don't know—Oh, and by the way!   Two for one sale on my new psychedelic earrings designed to hypnotize any man into loving you! Sure to be a hit with the fam this Christmas.”

Save it for your diary—this is business, man. And if you want to do business online, you've got to step up your game, and give people something more than whimsical musings & a play-by-play of a day in the life.

That doesn't benefit anyone except your mom, who actually wants to know.

You've got to give visitors to your site something they want—which, if they're on your site in the first place, it's likely they're looking for information related to YOUR THING. So you've got to give it to them. You've got to give it to them in the form of teaching.

What does teaching accomplish? A couple of things:

-Gives people a reason to give a shit.

-Encourages those people to come back again. And again. And again.

-Establishes you as the go-to guy or girl on YOUR THING.   I think that sounds a lot like being an authority, don't you?

-Primes people over time to take the next step and buy what you have to sell, whether it's a physical product, a digital product, or your expertise.  Bingo.

The goal is for you to provide enough information, inspiration, and, ideally, entertainment, to get people wanting more. Then, once they want more, you have it ready and waiting for them—in the form of a product that they pay for. (This can be your physical art, digital goods, or your services.)  The point is not to connive them into buying something–the point is to be useful, give them what they want, and, ultimately, drive them to WANT more.  It's not about forcing anything.  That would be rape-ish and, therefore, obviously bad for business.

So getting back to Paolo. If you were an average solo performer who had an average website that didn't attract anyone and really just served to stroke your own ego, you'd have a site that looked something like this:

Post #1: Don't miss me performing tonight at Big Rick's club tonight in X city! On stage at 9pm sharp. No cover!

Post #2: Last night's show was awesome. We had a full house of people. It felt so great to really engage the audience. Everyone seemed to really have a good time. Can't wait to be back in X city. Rock on, X!

Post #3: A Day in the Life of Me. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #4: {Insert Name}: The New Performance I'm Writing. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #5: Why I Think Solo Performing is My Perfect Gig. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #6: Don't miss me performing tonight at Wacky Wanda's club tonight in X city! On stage at 7pm sharp. Cover charge $10. Don't miss it!

Post #7: My Life Before Solo Performance. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #8: The First Time I Stumbled Across Solo Performance. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #9: Why My Life Just Isn't Fair Sometimes. Proceed to explain. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Post #10: Posts resume. Publish plea for work. Go into excessive detail about yourself.

Are we seeing a common denominator here? The average Paolo (sorry, Joe, you've been replaced) who runs the average website that doesn't attract anyone and serves just to stroke his own ego, keeps the focus on himself.

Him. Him. Him. Him. Him.

There's a bunch of “I's” and “My's” sprinkled throughout nearly everyone of those posts.

Which is fine if you're a celebrity and people care.  Not fine if you are working toward developing an online business out of your passion.


…When we visit a site, we immediately want to know what's in it for us.

And in this case, apparently not a lot. Not if it's all about him.

(Note: The examples above are purely fictitious and do not reflect anything that Paolo actually has written on his site. They're purely examples that I've made up that reflect the “me-syndrome” that many of us have when we're first getting started.)

However, if the Paolo's of the world could learn to tilt their perspectives a little bit more toward us, and teach instead of talk, then they're giving us something that we want: Knowledge. After all, that's why we went searching for this information in the first place.

The content would look a little bit more like:

Post #1: Should You Become a Solo Performer? Find Out Now.

Post #2: The Difference Between Solo Performers and Comedians: Which One Are You?

Post #3: 5 Ways to Really Engage Your Audience

Post #4: Mess Up Your Lines? What To Do When It Happens (It Will)

Post #5: Ever Have the Audience Boo? How to Handle A Difficult Crowd

Post #6: Lining Up Your First Gig—Who, Where & How

Post #7: Lacking Inspiration for Your Latest Performance? Let Me Help You With That.

Post #8: How to Go From Performing for Free to Performing for a Fee. (It's Easier Than You Think.)

Post #9: The Benefits of Performing In Front of a Small Audience

Post #10: 10 Tips That Can Help You Improve Your Solo Performance Today

What's the common denominator here?

Us. Us. Us. Us. Us.

And that's the way–uh huh, uh huh–I like it!  Uh huh, uh huh.

See how we flipped the switch and started teaching our craft, rather than just talking about it?

What do you think I'm doing right now in this post? Why do you think I wrote it this way?

More importantly, why do you think you're reading it?

Teaching gives people a reason to give a shit about what you have to say.  And you need them to give a shit about what you have to say, if you want to become a digital entrepreneur and do what you love.

This is the only way you'll get their attention long enough to gain their trust, and, ultimately, have them wanting more. (Your for-sale art.)

Granted, it isn't all about the money.   But if you expect to make a living off of it, money has to be a factor.  Period.

By Paolo teaching others about solo performance, he accomplishes two important things:

-Positions himself as an expert, which will help him to build credibility and, consequently, get more exposure and get more gigs (allowing him to do more of what he loves and get paid for it)

-Allows for a second source of income by offering to teach others more in-depth (through a product he eventually creates, like an eBook, audio download, e-course, paid newsletter, etc.) which will free up more of his time to do more of what he loves.

Between the two of them, before you know it, you're making a living doing what you love. Doing YOUR THING. You've just got to learn how to combine it with teaching—that's the key.

But What If You Don't Have Enough Experience to Teach Anyone Anything?

Lies, all lies.

If you've done what you love more than twice in your life, you've got more experience than someone just starting out. It's kind of like having your first kiss—you knew way more about how the logistics of lips and noses worked after you tried it once. Far more than someone who had never kissed anyone would. And don't you remember being in that place? Wondering what it's like to kiss a boy or a girl? You would definitely appreciate the perspective of someone who has already had their first kiss. You might even pay for it. 😉

Out of all of the excuses I've heard as to why people don't pursue this path (even though they want to), it's beause they don't think they're “expert enough.”

You've GOT to DROP that act and FAST.

Have some confidence.

You know way more about your thing than other people do.  That's why it's YOUR THING.

That said, make sure you aren't full of it, you're not lying, and you're not stealing people's money and you'll be just fine.

The last question you might be asking yourself is, “Well, what constitutes knowledge? Do I have to teach something hard and fast, or can it be more philosophy-based?”

Well, it depends.  (Doesn't it always? That's such an annoying answer, I know.)

Philosophizing can be tricky, because in a way, it's a form of teaching.   But in another way, it doesn't leave the reader with much practical know-how.

But there is one instance—and only one—when philosophy-based teaching can be very effective: It's when you're addressing a widespread pain, concern or fear of your audience. Note that the pain, concern or fear doesn't have to be directly related to solo-performance, for example, but could be a related pain, concern, or fear that the typical reader is likely to experience in addition. (Figuring out what that is is a part of knowing who your audience is.)

A great example of this was brought to my attention just yesterday, while consulting with a client on her up-and-coming digital business.

She directed me to an idol of hers whose website focuses on two things: interior design AND finding fulfillment & happiness.

With the interior design side of things, she teaches practical know-how. In the fulfillment & happiness department, she teaches her philosophies.

Why is this a smart business move?

Because she knew her audience well-enough to know that if they were interested in making their homes look nicer, it's probably because they wanted to feel better—about themselves & about their environment. And if they wanted to feel better (their concern or pain), then they'd probably also be interested in what she had to say regarding her philosophies on happiness & fulfillment.  She saw the overlap, found the right angle, and it allowed her to expand what she teaches from just interior design, to other things that interested her as well—and that served her audience.

Her philosophy-based teaching on fulfillment & happiness serves another purpose, too, and that's in the potential to broaden her audience beyond the interior design crowd, drawing the seeking-happiness crowd in, and then saying, “Oh, by the way, I also do this over here, too.” Because the reverse works just as well—new visitors interested in being happier might think to themselves, “You know, my home could be more {fill in the blank}.  Maybe if it were,  I'd be happier.  Let me buy this book she has for sale on interior design.”

Aaaaaaand…you just got yourself a sale.

Philosophy-based teaching can work, too, if it addresses the right pains, concerns or fears, with the right group of people.  In other words, if it's USEFUL.

What do you think—is that enough for today? I feel like I should be out of breath after writing this thing. Though if I were to get out of breath from just typing on the keyboard, then that's a sign I really need to get my ass to the gym.

And that would probably also mean no more spicy Peruvian chicken sauce.

And we can't have that, now can we?


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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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