But the truth is you don’t see all that you’re capable of until your plate has expanded, and you’ve been pushed beyond whatever arbitrary limitations you’ve set in place for yourself.
I’m taking a yearlong, intensive leadership program right now (technically, it’s two years), and within this program what I’ve been seeing is that you can be in multiple daily calls and meetings, weekly training sessions and coaching calls, work on three or four businesses simultaneously, make music, blog daily, and take on freelancing work, with time left over for sleep, exercise, meditation, and a social life.
Because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, and I probably haven’t even hit on all the things I’ve been up to.
It sounds like a burnout routine, and at first, I thought that’s exactly what it would end up being. And what I’m starting to see now is that once your plate has expanded, you find yourself able to take on more.
Having just one business or one job gets awfully boring after a while, because you get so good at it, and so efficient at it, that you find yourself needing something more to fill the cracks.
So, I value 45- to 60-minute time blocks as I never have before. In that time, I could write an article or a few pages for my latest book, record a song, put together a product review, or work on any area where I want to ensure forward momentum. And I only need one time block like that per week to keep all those plates spinning.
What you’re reading now? It probably only took me 20 minutes to write.
And the ugly truth? I often don’t even get up until about 9 AM and start my day until 10 AM.
Chances are you don’t know just how effective you could be. Because you haven’t had a reason to be.
If you want to expand your plate, put yourself in a position where you’ve got to figure out how to keep multiple plates spinning. It will probably feel uncomfortable and awkward at first, but if you lean into it, you’ll figure it out.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.
But I don’t know of one artist who doesn’t need to promote their works, even if it’s just starting a mass movement among fans.
Content marketing is largely considered the “modern” way in the business world and it can be incredibly effective. But why is that? And can it work for creatives too?
How You View Content Marketing Shapes Everything
It has been my observation that some creatives don’t even like the term “content” let alone “marketing.”
If that’s where you get stuck, then rest assured no progress will be made, and you will not effort to understand content marketing let alone recognize its benefits, utilize, and profit from it (“profit” being another term that could leave a creative feeling uncomfortable). Perhaps it would be best to pursue other channels.
To tackle this mindset issue, though, it’s important to understand a few things:
Important ideas, through the ages, have been shared in the written word. If it was written before the printing press, and it has survived, it was clearly an idea worth keeping and spreading. Although I do not take it for granted that your content marketing efforts will land in the domain of blog posts, articles, or more generally the written word, the point is that content marketing is the sharing of ideas and knowledge.
Content marketing isn’t new. If you’ve ever engaged with a piece of direct mail, a newsletter, a magazine, or otherwise, you were the willing participant in content marketing, which predates the internet.
Content marketing is honest. It begins with relating to your target audience. Sharing about yourself, building rapport and trust. Talking about things that matter to your customer. Sharing valuable information that benefits their lives. Then, and only then, do you ask for their contact information, and eventually, the sale.
There are more points I could offer to convince you, but both you and I know you will not be sold on anything you don’t have an open mind about.
So, I leave the rest in your capable hands, to do your research and to come up with your own conclusions.
What can Content Marketing do for Me?
People sometimes ask how it is that I drive traffic to Music Entrepreneur HQ or sell my books. And though some find it hard to believe, most of it was built on the back of content marketing in the form of blog posts, infographics, podcast episodes, and videos.
I’ve experimented with advertising, sure, and have done my share of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work too. Although, let’s be honest – much of SEO is predicated on the publishing of fresh content.
If this is still a little abstract for you, then have a look at how Music Entrepreneur HQ has done traffic wise in the last 30 days or so:
Sure, there was a rather obvious dip during the holiday season, but most days the traffic holds at 300+ visits per day, and even exceeds 400 some days. And this is largely based on work already done, not on the back of fresh content. Generally, I only publish once per week on Music Entrepreneur HQ these days.
If you don’t understand what 400 visits per day (or even just 200 visits per day) could do for you and your art, then I’m not sure I can help.
Why Content Marketing?
I saw others succeed with it. So, I thought to myself – “why not me?”
In 2007, I learned that Steve Pavlina had built an entire income on the back of blogging (no advertising). And in ensuing years, I learned about the likes of Darren Rowse, Pat Flynn, James Schramko, and many others who’d done amazing things with content.
I think what cemented it all for me was my reading of Content Inc. (affiliate link) by Joe Pulizzi, which still stands as one of my favorite business books. I was already knee deep into content marketing when I had read the book, but reading it made me present to the fact that the opportunity was even greater than I first thought it was.
Now, there are plenty of extraordinary claims about content marketing if you go looking for them. But I wouldn’t get too caught up in those, unless they offer actionable tips to help you improve your content. Generally, there are no shortcuts to success.
But if you stay consistent, continually improve, and publish on a set schedule, you will see results in six to 12 months.
This is exactly what many creatives don’t do, as they start and stop, and sometimes stop altogether after publishing once or twice.
It’s rare that anything works as rapidly as we wish it would, and if not done in a strategic way, content marketing will a) not work, b) attract the wrong audience, c) not build an audience whatsoever, d) disappoint people who started following you, e) not make you any money, or f) some or all the above.
Trust me, I know. I have made most mistakes you could name.
How to Make Content Marketing Work for You
You share your work, and people become interested in it. And that builds an audience. That’s the essence of content marketing.
If people don’t know who you are or what you do, it makes it much harder to gain them as subscribers or customers.
And that’s the “why” of content marketing, which is more important than the “how.”
But in this section, I offer some tips on how to execute.
Talk About What Your Audience is Interested in
If I’m starting to sound like a broken record, then remember that reinforcement comes through repetition.
Learn as much as you can about your audience. Keep notes on them. And be sure to talk about them as well as their interests in your content.
And be sure to share about yourself. Each insignificant detail matters (e.g., “I’m married and have two kids,” or “I was in the Girl Scouts”) as there will always be someone in your audience who can relate to it.
If you have been reading my works for any length of time, then you will know that I am fluent in Japanese, as I grew up in Japan!
Pick a Channel & Stick with it
I plan to elaborate on this in a future blog post, but the key here is to choose from blogging, podcasting, or video and stick with one channel until you find success. Branching out is unnecessary, and marketer Russell Brunson even says you can make up to seven-figures by focusing on publishing to one channel. Which is probably more than most creatives even aspire to.
If you’re going to blog, Medium is the best place to be.
And if you’re going to run with video, you might assume YouTube is the best place to be, but you might try a platform like Facebook or LinkedIn instead, where video tends to stand out a little more. And you can always distribute or syndicate your content across multiple sites using a tool like Repurpose (affiliate link).
(By the way, any content you create should be backed up to your hard drive. You never know when these platforms could change or disappear completely, and I don’t advise building entirely on rented land.)
Based on my experience, I can only recommend blogging or video though. Podcasting tends to be an uphill climb to the tune of at least five years. I have been podcasting for over 11 years and haven’t even come close to my listenership goals (might be time to take my own advice and leave the “loser” behind).
Use Noah Kagan’s Law of 100 to determine whether you enjoy and get results from your chosen channel. Or, if you’re more daring, try publishing daily for a full year and see where it takes you.
I’m not asking you to be a robot or to do this perfectly. I’m just asking you to be consistent. Because content marketing, by definition, is the ongoing creation and publishing of valuable content.
The more and longer you do content marketing, the more useful data you will have ready at your fingertips.
You’ll write pieces that you think should do well, that end up bombing.
And you’ll write pieces that you think are obvious nonsense but end up exploding.
The trick is to keep improving. Practice Kaizen – gradual improvement.
Keep an eye on the stats and figure out what’s working. Do more of it. And try to do less of what isn’t working.
Sometimes you will create simply because you feel like creating. Trust me, with thousands of pieces published online, I’ve been there.
But as I said, strategy is par for the course. Content marketing doesn’t work without strategy. Find and use whatever feedback mechanisms necessary to keep iterating and adjusting course, as necessary.
Don’t Worry About Search Engine Traffic
Don’t buy too heavily into tails of ranking in search and winning the instant traffic lottery. Yes, this is still possible, but unless you’re paying $99 monthly for a tool like Ahrefs, doing your keyword research and have a backlinking strategy, I can almost assuredly say this is a race to the bottom. Because SEO is a skill like anything else, and it’s tough to learn while you’re still learning how to create great content, which should be your initial focus.
In time, you will get search engine traffic. There are a variety of reasons why this is true, including the fact that you will begin to rank higher for your name, your projects, your poems or lyrics, your photos, or otherwise. In short, this goes a long way towards exposing why coining your own terms is a good idea.
And you will also be able to tap into organic sources of traffic like social media. To me, social media is mostly pointless without a content strategy though. Because otherwise, what do you have to share?
As you grow your email list, you’ll also be able to share your content with your subscribers and continue to build a relationship with them.
So, again, traffic will build with a lot of patience and tenacity. And it will come from various sources. But don’t count on it. Don’t write for search engines. Just make things that are interesting to you and your audience.
Have Fun with it
Content marketing, as with anything else, can become a bit of a grind given time. So, if you’re not having fun with it, it probably isn’t worth doing.
As an artist, you know as well as I do that people sniff you out if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing. Why stick to anything you don’t have much enthusiasm for?
It seems to fly in the face of strategy, but this is mostly how I decide in what to engage in. Will I make a video about my blog posts? Only if I think it’s going to be fun!
Get used to thinking long-term because instant gratification with content marketing is rare. Focus on having fun, and the journey will prove more rewarding and you’ll stick with it for longer too. And it takes sticking with it to see any results.
Content Marketing, Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, content marketing doesn’t work all that differently for creatives than it does for anyone else.
What’s important to understand is its purpose. If you are unclear as to why you would do it to begin with, then there is no point in starting.
Content marketing adds value to your audience. And people who like what you’ve shared are more likely to become an email subscriber. An email subscriber is more likely to become a buyer. That’s what’s at the core of it.
Do you use content marketing to build awareness for your art? How have you utilized content marketing to benefit you?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
The Indie YYC’s mission is to inspire artists in pursuit of independent creativity, independent thought, and independent life.
And the reason I publish daily on my personal blog is because my mission is to inspire creatives and creators.
Do you notice a running theme?
I am under no delusion that I can inspire anyone without being inspirational. Which is why publishing daily has become even more important to me. Developing the habit, showing up, and doing the work is what turns a snowball into an avalanche. It’s also what distinguishes a pro from an amateur.
I will continue to work on many things – music, books, courses, businesses, communities, and more. I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into these projects, which I believe are all worthy of an audience.
No matter what I end up doing, I will always need an audience. It doesn’t need to be large. It just needs to be engaged.
So far, though I have had some minor successes, I have not built a large audience on any platform. But looking at all the things I’ve done so far, blogging has proven the most effective activity for building an audience of any I’ve tried.
3. Build Awareness for My Projects
I have a page dedicated to my projects, which I reference often in my blog posts.
Not all projects are tied to money, and as I’ve already shared, inspiration is at the core of all of them.
But it also goes without saying that if there’s no money, there’s no mission. Projects need to be at least self-sustaining to be workable, though I typically give them plenty of time, attention, and nurturing to get to that point.
4. Develop Content
It may seem as though publishing is the final step in any creative effort, but the reality is that whatever you end up publishing could end up being the first iteration of many to come.
Musicians will publish music, only to have it remastered and re-released again later. Sometimes, they will publish live, acoustic, or even revised versions of the same music.
People vote with their attention, and you never know when you might strike a chord with an idea that’s worth pursuing further. Publishing daily gives you an opportunity to see what might have some resonance sooner rather than later.
5. Develop Product
Whether it’s blog posts, eBooks, books, podcast episodes, audiobooks, presentations, courses, or otherwise, writing is typically at the foundation of all things I develop. Some of the content is unscripted but much of it has been thought through in advance.
The things I publish could form the foundation for the products I later deliver, and in some cases, are little snippets of the product in finished form.
Most recently, I completed a series on life transitions in 16 days. This could easily be turned into a book, eBook, audiobook, or otherwise. I’m looking into this possibility.
Many years ago, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger launched an eBook called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. All the content is on his blog, available for free. But there’s something about bundling up all that content that appealed to buyers. This has been an enduring and successful product for Rowse.
Blogging is going to appear like spinning wheels to some. The way I see it, the more strategic and intentional I can get with it, the more opportunities I can ultimately create for myself.
6. Document My Journey
I come from a family of teachers. My dad was a teacher. My mom was a teacher. My sister has taught at different times in her life. Many of my aunts and uncles are teachers.
It’s quite easy for me to go into “teaching mode,” even in my publishing efforts. But that isn’t my intention with the blog.
More than anything, I intend to document and share my journey. Because I haven’t “arrived” by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t expect everything I’ve published to this point has been brilliant either (hopefully, it’s getting better).
I’m off to a good start, but in many ways, I’m just getting started.
God willing, one day (hopefully soon), my blog will prove useful to others.
I have documented my journey through good times and bad times, through trials and tribulations, through twists and turns, surprises and shocks.
I do not plan for legacy. But if what I’ve documented proves useful to just one person many generations from now, I’ll be elated.
8. Develop a Valuable Skill
Communication is an incredibly valuable skill, and in these fast-paced, microwave, social media drenched times, it’s becoming more of a lost art by the day.
No matter how popular videos or podcasts or presentations become, the written word will continue to touch, move, and inspire people. It allows people to tap into their imagination, which is more powerful than most realize.
So, let’s keep this in perspective. My first love was arts and crafts. As a child, I loved drawing, painting, crafting… basically anything to do with creating.
Since I grew up in Japan, when I returned to Canada as a teen, writing in English was not one of my strengths. But I started to take interest in it because I began building websites.
Before I knew it, I was obsessing over vocabulary, spending time in Reader’s Digest, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and other sources.
It was also around that time that I began taking a stronger interest in music, which basically replaced my drawing, painting, crafting, and so forth.
But writing stuck with me through the years, and so did music and building websites.
Some people call me a writer. That’s not quite true. I am just as much an artist, musician, web designer, podcaster, presenter, teacher, and more.
But I can’t deny that writing brings me joy, even if it’s a lot like having homework every day for the rest of your life.
10. Organize My Thoughts
How do you know how you think about a specific subject? How much do you really know about it?
Here’s a good way to find out – write about it!
It has been my experience, as well as the experience of some of my friends, that we know way more about our areas of study than we realized. But it was only through blogging, writing, and content creation that this became apparent.
If you want to collect your thoughts on anything, try writing!
11. Generate & Explore Ideas
I often spend time thinking out loud. I’m sure, at times, it seems as though I have no clue what I’m talking about (which is probably true), though at other times, I hit on something that matters to others.
At the foundation of most projects and products is an idea that resonates, and by publishing daily, I get to see what you are searching for and are interested In, both in the short term and the longer term.
12. Reinforce My learning
I’ve often shared about things I’ve been learning as I continue to live out my mission. But it’s human to forget some of what you learned.
By documenting my journey, I get to look back on the things I’ve learned. I get to execute on the ideas I’ve documented and shared. I can re-presence myself to things I may have otherwise forgotten about completely.
13. There Will Always be Something to Write About
Every few years, speaker Mitch Joel announces the death of blogging. I get what he means. You can’t publish a few sentences on LiveJournal and expect 10 thoughtful comments on it anymore.
But blogging, or at least content marketing, isn’t dead. The written word still drives more traffic than multimedia content like podcasts. And depending on where you’re putting your focus, it gets more traffic long term than YouTube videos too.
You can do well on any channel. But I’ve been podcasting for over 11 years and I have never seen more than about 3,300 downloads per month. I have been publishing videos on YouTube since 2009, and I do not have a single video with over 85,000 views, or a channel that has crossed the threshold of 200 subscribers.
Now, it’s important to realize that when you make videos, the video is the product. When you blog, the blog is just the content. The product is something else.
Either way, there will always be something to write about. Just look at what unfolded in 2020. Whether it’s current events, technology, or otherwise, someone somewhere will always want to be inspired, informed, or entertained.
Over the years, your blog becomes your portfolio. And every creative and creator should have a portfolio. Not to be hired, though that could be a happy byproduct of logging your work.
Your portfolio is an extension of self. It shows who you are, where you came from, where you are now, and what you’ve done. And few things could be more human than that.
I know about all the products I’ve made that I currently support. But I’ve forgotten about the many legacy products I longer do anything with.
My blog helps me keep track of all those things, and it becomes my voice in the world.
15. Stay Sharp
A creative can become complacent at any level. I say “level” here as though there are places to get to, which is only true if there is something you aspire to. If your art or your projects make you happy, and that is enough, then that is enough.
But every day we have a choice. We can show up and do the work, or we can sit on our laurels.
No matter how much you think you’ve accomplished, no matter how much of a contribution you think you’ve made, no matter how tired you are from working on that last project, there is always something more to give within you. The creative spirit never dies.
If you want to stay sharp, show up and do the work, even when you don’t feel like it.
16. Be Generous & Give Back
It’s easy to think that anyone who publishes daily or blogs all the time has an ulterior motive. But you can dig into my archives and mine for gems at any time. Everything there will remain free, forever.
I don’t have ulterior motives. My motives are quite clear, and you can read all about them in this post.
No one in their right mind would put this much effort into blogging if there wasn’t a generous spirit behind it.
Generally, I don’t interrupt my posts to do product pitches anymore. I will passively mention my books, courses, and anything else I’m working on, but you generally won’t hear me say, “hire me for your next writing project NOW!”
See, I can’t convince you to do what isn’t of any interest to you to begin with.
Sharing is generous. Especially when you share freely, openly, and candidly about what you’re learning and what you’re doing.
People notice when you write about them, even high-profile people.
Now, when I mention an entrepreneur, a YouTube personality, a Forbes contributor, and the like, rarely if ever do I hear from them.
But I often do hear from people who are grateful for the PR and exposure, people in the same industry, or content creators who aren’t as well-known.
You can create many connections by blogging, and you can double and even triple your results by leaving thoughtful and insightful comments on other people’s social media posts.
I’ve booked many a podcast interview by interacting with others on social media.
Today, I know people all over the world – Canada, U.S., U.K., Japan, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
Blogging can broaden your world in a big way.
18. Promote My Friends
I have been very intentional in sharing about my friends (fellow creatives and creators) in blog posts, podcast episodes, books, and more. I even did this in my latest podcast episode.
I don’t know how much they benefit from my mentioning them. But even if it results in one new follower or fan for them, I think it’s worth it.
This is a part of my ongoing efforts to be generous, supportive, and inspirational.
19. Share The Love
Whether it’s mentors, coaches, my Dream 100 or otherwise, I get to honor all the great people that have shown me the way by showing up daily. I get to give away credit and put a spotlight on those who have been beyond generous to me. And I get to pay that forward too.
20. For My Future Self
Today, I might hate sitting down to write (I don’t – but occasionally, such as when I’m not feeling my best, it’s not a walk in the park). But I know my future self will thank me if I stay consistent and keep doing the work.
I have not reached the level author Derek Sivers is at. He says he does everything in service of his future self. Wow.
But I know I will thank myself later for the effort I’m putting in now. That makes it worth doing.
21. Build Trust & Credibility
I’m aware that many entrepreneurs use various psychological tactics to sell. And that’s their way. My way is to build long-term trust and credibility with my audience.
I know that my way takes longer. But that’s okay because I know it leads to better long-term results.
22. Build Authority
With regards to Music Entrepreneur HQ, I’ve had several people tell me “your presence in this space is hard to ignore.”
That tells me I’ve been able to dominate a niche and build authority in it. And because of that authority, when anyone needs anything as applied to modern music entrepreneurship, they’re going to come to me first.
23. Generate Traffic
Blogging helps you build traffic to your website. You’ve probably heard that before.
But as with anything else, it will do nothing for you if you don’t stick with it.
My goal is to generate a large amount of targeted, engaged traffic over the long haul.
24. Grow Social Media Following
Because of the goings on in 2020, I could see myself ditching Facebook and Twitter completely. I might even minimize my use of YouTube.
But I will continue to leverage different platforms like Medium, and to that extent, I will always be looking to build my following.
Again, a targeted and engaged following is more valuable to me than an artificial one, which is why I’m not relying on being a flash in the pan.
25. Marketing & Promotion
As I’ve already shared, I concentrate on this less, because I know it’s a long-term byproduct of the short bursts of effort that go into blogging.
But there’s no beating around the bush with this. Whether you call it building a following or sharing your works, ultimately marketing and promotion is at the heart of it. It’s just the terminology that may not sit well with some.
26. Generate Money on Medium
I’ve made it clear that I would like to up my Medium game, and I have been doing exactly that over the course of the last five months or so.
(I’ve been experimenting with the platform for much longer than that, but I’ve been taking it more seriously here in 2020.)
My efforts are starting to pay off, as I’ve effectively tripled my income from Medium, but right now that doesn’t amount to more than a cup of coffee.
Still, I’m constantly exploring and trying different things, and there are new platforms popping up all the time. Medium is just one among many now.
27. Take Advantage of New Opportunities
Medium is just one opportunity. Apparently, Quora has a partner program too.
I’ve been messing around with Tumblr, Blogger, and HubPages for years.
I’m also a little curious of News Break, Weebly, Ghost, and so forth.
And I’ve experimented with many others over the years, like InfoBarrel.
So long as I’m writing, there will always be new opportunities, and I will always be able to take advantage of them fast.
28. Make Money from Self-Publishing
A great deal of effort goes into everything I write. This post, for example, is about 3,200 words in length.
Tell most people to sit at their desk and write 3,200 words, and their eyes will glaze over.
I like to leverage my writing wherever and whenever possible. Syndication and distribution is just the beginning.
Content can also become eBooks, books, audiobooks, courses, presentations, and a great deal more.
Inspiration and generosity are at the foundation of what I do, but I believe in being shrewd about repurposing and leveraging the things I’ve created, too.
29. Create an Income from Writing
I have been making a healthy income from writing in different capacities since 2016.
But it certainly can’t hurt to maintain a presence online. My services may not be for everyone, but there will always be those who want it. And if I keep writing, those people will find me. I have a lean stable of high paying clients, so generally, I don’t need to go looking for more work. I can let it come to me.
If you want to see examples of my writing, all you need to do is go through the blog archives.
30. Repurpose & Monetize
I’ve hinted at this already, but so long as you’ve got content, there will always be new opportunities to repurpose and monetize it.
Monetization is secondary to all other things mentioned here, but as I said, I believe in being shrewd when it comes to exploiting copyrights. I feel it is the responsible thing to do as a creative or creator.
31. Sell Services & Products
I’ve mentioned some of my services and products throughout this post in passing. But you won’t find a single sales pitch.
It’s a dead horse now, but as I’ve said, leveraging your works is the responsible thing to do as a creative or creator.