David Heinemeier Hansson writing for the Basecamp blog:

You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force.

I love that last line. Which is why I emphasized it.

Coming back to yesterday’s link about the Warren Buffett documentary, one of the things Buffett said was that he enjoyed spending time to just sit and think:

Many people would see [sitting and thinking] as totally unproductive. But many of my best business solutions and money-problem answers have come from periods of just sitting and thinking.”*  Some folks do need to be told to get off their butts and get moving. But some folks need to be told the opposite — to take a break, to sit down, go take a walk or go to bed. I have to tell myself the latter almost every day, because I’m an “all-in” sort of person and so my tendancy can be to work all the time.

Creativity, progress, inspiration, and impact are things which require action as well as inaction. Give yourself time to think and rest, as well as time to do to work.

Let’s bury the hustle

An excellent list of things to consider and think about and nod your head in agreement of. I haven’t even seen the documentary yet, but it sounds excellent.

You can watch the whole documentary on YouTube here.

Here are a couple of excerpts from Bourke’s list that especially stuck out to me.

15. On Focus:

One time Warren was at Bill’s house for dinner and Bills dad asked them to write down on a piece of paper what was one word to describe their success.

“Focus.”

They both wrote down the exact same word.

Amen to that.

5. On Investing:

[Buffett] learned the two rules of investing from the same Benjamin Graham mentioned above.


  1. Never lose money.
  2. Never forget rule number one.


These two rules can be applied to many aspects outside of investing. Set the system up so you always win. Whatever your goals may be, alter the first rule to suit you.

Nearly seven years ago I started writing full-time. And since that time I’ve created a handful of other websites and products. My rule has always been to spend less on the creation of the product than what I was confident I could earn back. As a result, everything I’ve ever done has been profitable. The investments I’ve made back into my business have been the best investments I’ve made.

Points 7, 8, 9, and 13 are also brilliant.

(Thanks Mike, and Dan, and Jason)

21 Things Daniel Bourke Learned From Watching ‘Becoming Warren Buffett’

Ideas That Don’t Let Go

This is an episode of Sean McCabe’s video show where Sean expounds on something I discussed when I spoke at the Circles conference a while ago:

Listen to the ideas that don’t let go.

You have ideas. The frustrating part is usuaally having more ideas than time.

That’s why you have be okay with letting most of your ideas go. But sometimes an idea doesn’t let go. So maybe you should listen to it, and that’s the one you act on.

Ideas That Don’t Let Go

Kevin Kelly (3+ years ago), and it is still just as timely and relevant:

Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet. There has never been a better time in the whole history of the world to invent something. There has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute.

You Are Not Late

The Simple Structure to Attaining Your Goals

Pre-S #1: The past few Fridays I’ve been writing about goal setting. You can catch up on past articles here, here, and here.

Pre-S #2: Plan Your Year is now available. Check it out here.


Today I want to share with you a simple-yet-powerful structure for attaining your goals.

And what’s special about this little process is that it’s free from any particular productivity system, app, or methodology.

It’s as simple as this:

  1. Define an outcome you’d like to see happen.
  2. Think of one thing you can do to make progress toward that outcome.
  3. Do that one thing.
  4. Repeat steps 2 & 3.

That’s it. You’re looking at the fundamental formula for planning and accomplishing.

Here’s why this little process works so well:

You’re taking one big thing, and breaking it down into something small and simple that you can do today in incremental steps.

You’re taking a goal, and your then moving on to focus on the system that will get you there.

Contrast that against something that is more common: coming up with an idea or a goal, and then instantly thinking of all the big hurdles and “unknowns” related to that goal, and then quitting before you even get started.

How to Eat an Elephant

You’ve no doubt heard the adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

It’s important to focus primarily on steps 2 and 3 — identify the one thing you can do to make progress and then go do it.

But instead, many people focus mostly on step #1 — the goal itself. I’m all for having clear goals, but staring deeply into the eyes of those goals will not make them come about. You’ve got to take action.

If you remember from last week we talked about the two camps of goal setting, and why it’s so important to focus on the system that keeps you moving and taking action.

When you’ve identified one single action and one single result, then the focus is no longer on managing your tasks — the focus is now on doing them.

There’s nothing wrong with systems and methodologies. In fact, once you have the wisdom and the skills to identify the most important thing to do next, then you can use any system or methodology you want. Use whatever makes sense for your personality type and your work environment.

Once you have the wherewithal to define what meaningful productivity looks like for you, then your productivity tools become a slave to your priorities, not the other way around.


Next we’re going to talk about how to lower the barrier of entry to your goals so you can finally get started on them. It’s a little something I like to call “activation energy”.

And in the meantime, you may be interested in my brand-new workbook: Plan Your Year. It’s simple and will help you get a clear, birds eye view of your year so you can focus on what is most important.

The Simple Structure to Attaining Your Goals

Speaking of reading more, Srinivas Rao has some practical advice on how to synthesize what you read and have that information impact your life. If you’re feeling creatively dry — or if your creative output has been lacking of late — getting into a regimen of taking action on what you read is a great way to start improving your output.

Herbert Spencer said that “the great aim of knowledge is not education but action.” The things we learn should impact how we spend our time, what our behavior is, the things we create, and more.

But, gosh, it sure is time consuming to bridge that gap between reading and applying.

There is no such thing as an “easy” or “convenient” way to capture ideas, remember them, and take action on them. Highlighting something in Instapaper feels nice, but it’s only the first — and easiest — step.

If I do say so myself, I have a pretty neat system for how I read books, organize the bits of inspiration, and then digitize and categorize it. (See also how I use Ulysses, which is the app that serves as the backbone to the organization of my book notes.)

All this effort takes time and energy. But, guess what? That’s the point. Immersion, study, synthesization, and application are work. And they are worthwhile work.

Rao’s final point is the key takeaway here, and possibly the biggest stumbling block:

Implement What you Read, but Start Small: One of the major reasons people fail to implement what they read into their lives is they bite off more than they can chew. They read some book and attempt a massive overhaul of their life. Because this isn’t sustainable, they usually find themselves right back where they started. They assume the ideas in the book don’t work and start looking for the next book to read

When I start a book, I am only looking for one good idea (maybe two at the most). Not because I have a low bar of expectation for the book, but because I only have the capacity to grasp and act on one new idea at a time.

For example, earlier this year I read Profit First. And it was jam packed with great ideas that I wanted to do right away for my business finances. But I started with just one: setting aside 1% of gross revenue as “profit” every single month. 1% is practically a rounding error, so it’s mostly just about getting into the habit. And starting next month, we’re increasing that amount to 5% plus implementing some more of the alternate accounting methods.

How to Remember and Take Action on What you Read

I loved this article by Ramit Sethi. I’ve been working for myself for nearly 7 years now, and it’s always a challenge to make sure I’m spending my time on the most-important things, and not doing stuff just because I can.

There are three roles in which I am always trying to find the things that only I can do: (1) as the owner of my business; (2) as a dad; and (3) as a husband.

In these areas, there are things that only I can offer and do, and which I️ do best. I love finding ways to focus on those areas.

Without a doubt, the biggest thing I’ve done to buy back my time was to hire a full-time production assistant: Isaac. I hired Isaac two years ago, and by delegating to him I got back about 50+ hours of my life every week.

Isaac works only 35-40 hours, but I got back more than that because I was working far less efficiently than he does.

Something else that has been helpful for me was hiring a bookkeeper.

I used to spend roughly 4 hours per week — every Sunday afternoon — on my books. Now I have all day Sunday to spend with my boys, help my wife around the house, and more.

What’s funny though, is that it was easier for me to hire Isaac than it was for me to hire Joy, my bookkeeper. Joy is not full-time, and the books are something that I could still do without too much stress or time. And so it didn’t seem as obvious to me that it was something I should have been delegating.

How to Use Money to Buy Back Your Time

Delegating or Controlling

As your business grows, there are two options for how you’ll lead and how you’ll spend your time:

  • Become a master controller.
  • Become a master delegator.

Both come with risks and rewards.

If you control everything, you risk wasting your time. By having a hand in everything, you’re not able to focus on what only you can do and what you do best. You’re doing it all and spreading thin.

But, as the master controller, you will be able to make sure mistakes are never made and that everything is up to your personal standards. The members of your team will be interchangeable and dispensable, because each one works as a cog to do the tasks you assign.

If you delegate, you risk giving a job to someone who can’t do it as well as you. And over time, the members of your team will become critical assets who are not easily replaced.

When you delegate, you may be surprised to find that when someone else does the job, they do it even better than you would have. And now, thanks to them, you have time and energy to focus on the things which you do best.

. . .

I used to think that in business politics, knowledge was power. I felt powerful and important if I knew what everyone was doing all the time, and if I was the one with all the answers.

But I now believe trust is better than knowledge when it comes to business culture and business politics.

I choose to trust that the people I work with are capable. And they trust me to empower them and get out of their way.

It doesn’t always feel like it in the moment, but growing a business that delegates and trusts is far less risky than it seems.

Delegating or Controlling

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

There will be some people who strongly dislike it.

I’ve always felt that great design is polarizing. There will be some who love it and others who hate it.

For example, I recently received a request for a refund of the Focus Course from a fellow stating that the content was “inane, generic, bland and full of nothing but buzzwords.”

Negative and vile feedback like that used to really throw me for a loop. I’d worry, What if they’re right? What if I’m selling snake oil I and don’t even realize it?

There is a difference between constructive feedback and angry feedback. If the former, I’m all ears. I am happy to learn from genuinely unsatisfied customers who tell me they were expecting one thing but got another. That is a great way for me to improve my marketing, products, and more.

But angry feedback just comes from angry people. They feel entitled to something and they want you to know just how angry they are. Angry, hyper-negative feedback is not a reflection of you nor of your products. It is a reflection of the person giving the feedback.

And so, in times like that, I choose to politely refund their money, delete their email, and go about my day creating new things and working toward what’s next.

(As a side note, I’d rather get negative feedback than no feedback at all. Perhaps the worst response to a product would be indifference.)

It’s not easy to make something and put it out there.

Another way to tell you’ve created something worthwhile, is to look at the people who are talking about it, sharing it, and using it.

Look around at the people who are gladly doing business with you. Are they people you respect? If so, then you’re doing it right.

Sometimes it’s hard to get a clear picture of the work you’re doing. You’re so immersed in the product and the message that you can’t easily step back and see it all with fresh eyes.

But if there are people who you find awesome, and they are happy to be around your work and they actively seek you out, then you are on the right track. You’re serving the right people doing something worthwhile. Good job.

How to Tell You’ve Created Something Worthwhile

Your Content Strategy and Your Business Goals (Part 3)

As a business, or as a “brand”, your biggest challenge is overcoming obscurity.

In his book, The 10x Rule, Grant Cardone writes that as he was trying to get his business off the ground, he was working extremely hard to gain initial traction. His problem, he writes, “wasn’t competition; it was obscurity”. No one even knew who he was.

“Since most people don’t know you or your product or service,” writes Cardone, “the only way to burst through obscurity is by taking massive action.”

Content is the price of admission for relevance.[1]

If you want to burst through obscurity, you need to show your work.

As many of you know, it was in 2011 that I quit my job to begin writing my blog for a living. At the time my content strategy was simply this: “write stuff that didn’t suck.”

And my business goals were about the same: “be profitable.”

Which means my overall plan was to simply to write as well as I could and hope that it generated enough traffic to earn a living through sponsorships and memberships.

The “simplicity” of that whole setup is actually why I think things worked.

Long-time readers will remember that most of my writing centered around Apple, tech, and design. And while these topics are what first drew people in to my website, those who stuck around to become readers and members are those who also connected with me, Shawn, as the writer.

Don’t discount the importance of putting passion and personality into your work. Let who you are show through.

Back in 2011, in the first article I published as a “full-time blogger” I quoted Anatole France: “a tale without love is like beef without mustard: insipid.”

So too is a blog writing without personality.

If you happen to be good with words then congratulations. Dispassionate beautiful prose, however, is still dispassionate.

When you think about content strategy, think less about your skill and more about emotion, honesty, truth, and passion. These are the backbones of writing. And these are the very things that can be the hardest to put into our writing.

* * *

In today’s article I’ve got three things I want to cover:

First of all, I want to briefly unpack what it means to have a content strategy that serves your business goals (and why that is so important).

Secondly, I’m going to share a few unordered bulletpoints about my own experience with content strategy, writing, and business.

And finally, I’ve listed out some questions you can ask yourself that will help you figure this stuff out for yourself.

First, let’s briefly unpack what it means to have a content strategy that serves your business goals…

That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down.

As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, “Content Strategy” is not a dirty term.

Content: What you create.

Strategy: Your plan of action.

In other words: how will you use your creative work (your content) to move you toward your goals?

Answer that question and boom, you’ve got yourself a content strategy.

You want your content strategy to serve your business goals because otherwise the work you’re putting out there is just a hobby. There’s nothing wrong with a creative hobby, but if you’re trying to earn an income from it then you need to start thinking differently. You need to become a bit more intentional.

You want the work you do align with the big goals and values you have as a business. But also, each piece of content you put out there should help move people along in their customer journey (which is why email can be so powerful, by the way).

In order for that to happen, it kinda helps to know what your business goals are, what your business values are, and what your customer journey looks like.

At the end of this article I’ve listed a few simple questions that can help you consider your business goals.

A few unordered bulletpoints about my own experience with content strategy and writing

As you know, I’ve been writing full-time since early 2011. Here are a few few things that have proven to be immensly valuable to me as a writer who is also trying to grow his business.

  • It helps tremendously to have a customer “avatar”. If you’re a writer, this is not unlike your ideal reader. Who is it you’re trying to connect with and to help? Unless you’re Coke, you can’t make something for every single person on the planet. And even if you are Coke, there will still be folks who prefer Pepsi, or who just flat out don’t drink soda.

  • In addition to knowing who our ideal customer is, it helps to know what their journey is. What are the things they need to know, the mindsets they need to understand, and the actions they need to take?

  • Don’t give in to scarcity mindset. Don’t fear that one person having success means you now have to see failure. It’s not a zero-sum game in the market, nor is it a zero-sum game with your own work.

  • What’s awesome about growing a business with content marketing is that, over time, you can build the business you want to exist. You can attract the audience, customer base, and even employees who by conveying your values and goals through the content you create. How you share ideas, the way you promote products, your attitude toward your customers, etc.

  • Watch out for the spiderweb mess of “Content Strategy Tactical Overload”. Off the top of your head I bet you could easily list a few dozen things people say you absolutely MUST DO if you want to WIN BIG in content marketing. Ugh. I’ve been in that spot, where I try to implement multiple things all simultaneously, and it’s exhausting. There’s just no way I can focus on more than just one thing at a time. It is far more efficient and effective to do just one thing and to do it well before moving on to the next.

  • When people sign up for my email list, one of the first emails they get is me asking them about what’s challenging them right now. For example, when I was working on The Focus Course, as people signed up to get on the waiting list, I’d reply back and ask them about what their biggest challenge is related to focus. And I got tons and tons of replies. Those replies helped direct the content I created for the course itself. My point being: if you can pay attention to what resonates with your readership and also pay attention to what they are saying, then you can be all the more helpful and relevant to them.

For even more, see this list of 50 things I’ve learned about publishing a weblog.

Lastly, here are some questions you can ask yourself that will help you figure this stuff out for yourself

  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your business right now?

  • What is your current business model? (Who do you sell to, how do you make money?)

  • What is your ideal business model? (Who do you want to sell to? How do you want to make money?)

  • In an ideal scenario, what does your business look like in 12 months from now? In 5 years?

  • If all other things were to remain the same, what one thing, if changed, would have the most significant impact on your business?

  • What are your business goals?

  • What values is your business based on?

  • Do you want to develop long-term or short-term customer relationships?

  • Do you have a customer journey? (Where should someone start? What are the best next steps for them to take to get from where they are now to where they want to be?)

* * *

There is quite a lot to digest here. The reason I moved through it all so quickly is because I wanted to give you the high-level view and something to think about for the next few days.

However, I want your key takeaway to be this:

Focus on consistency and honesty.

The internet thrives on patterns and regularity; showing up every day lets people know they can rely on you to be there.

Secondly, consistently showing up to do the work will help you grow in your skills. As your talent improves, so too will your ability to turn your work from a hobby into something more.

And honesty, as I shared about at the very beginning, is the most important element for building an audience that trusts you. Being honest and sticking to your guns is how you earn the respect and long-term attention of your readership.

Your Content Strategy and Your Business Goals (Part 3)

The Welcome Email (Part 2)

A dog photo by Andrew Branch

Let’s say you’ve created an incredible method for potty training dogs.

You know there are folks out there with dogs that are not potty trained.

And you’re trying to share your ideas and approach to doggy potty training. Because you genuinely care about animals just as much as their owners. You know that doggy potty training is one of the most frustrating aspects of new pet ownership and your methods are so great you’re hungry to share them with others.

Imagine two scenarios for telling someone about your doggy potty training ideas…

  1. In the first scenario, you’re hanging out on a busy street corner. And you’re talking out loud to anyone and everyone who walks by, hoping that someone in the crowd happens to have a dog that needs to be trained.

  2. In the second scenario, you’re at home and you get a call from a someone. They’re a friend of a friend, and they just bought dog. They would love to meet with you and learn what you know about doggy potty training.

Which of those two scenarios are you most likely to have an impact?

The second one, of course. There are a few reasons as to why:

First off, the person reached out to you and initiated the relationship. Which means they are the ones interested in the topic and they are asking you for help.

Secondly, you have their full attention because it’s a one-on-one conversation.

If you remember from last week, the whole aim of your content strategy should be to (a) provide value at all times; (b) be relevant to your reader; and (c) support your business goals.

You are far more likely to provide value and be relevant if the person you are communicating with is paying attention.

What we love about the first scenario is that it inflates the numbers. We can say things like “3,000 heard me talking about doggy potty training today.”

Which sounds so much cooler than “I met with one person and spoke to them about doggy potty training.”

It is tempting to spend all our energy on reaching the most amount of people. To focus on mass, shotgun-style messaging. Rather than to focus on individualized, personalized, relevant messaging.

(Side note, you can read more in my article on relevancy over recency.)

But here’s what’s awesome about using email to communicate your message:

With email, you can be relevant and personalized at scale.

What does that mean? Let me explain how how I do it using an email welcome series…

The “Email Welcome Series” has become one of my favorite ways to communicate with people.

When someone signs up for your email list, or when they buy something from you, or when they register for something, that is the moment they are most paying attention…

  • That is when they are the most interested in you, your topic, and/or your product or service. You know this without a doubt because they have just demonstrated as much by signing up for something or purchasing.

  • Therefore, this is when they are the most likely to read any email(s) you send them because they are paying attention. They are interested right now.

Here is how I used to do my email welcome series:

After someone would subscribe to my newsletter list or purchases my book, I would send them a “welcome” email or a “thank you” email and that was it.

At least I was sending them something, which is a step above sending nothing at all. But there is a massive opportunity to do better.

What if your email welcome series contained 5 or 10 messages (or more) that were sent out in a series, instead of just a single, standard-issue auto-responder?

What if those 5 – 10 emails contained your most important ideas, your favorite resources, some personal stories, some “quick wins”, and more?

What an incredible opportunity you would have to help people make progress. To be extremely relevant and to have impact.

Like we talked about earlier: when someone asks you for help and is giving you their full attention, that is when you have the greatest opportunity to provide value. This is exactly what the “email welcome series” is — it’s like having a one-on-one conversation at scale.


Here is a little bit of context:

The current industry average open rate for an email newsletter is around 25%. Personally, I think that is terrible. If you’ve got an email newsletter with a 25% open rate, you may be right in line with the industry average, but it also means 3 out of 4 people aren’t interested in what you’re sending. Ouch.

(For the 3 email newsletters I run, our open rates average 55%.)

But…

For most “confirmation” emails (the first email someone gets after they’ve signed up for a list or purchased something), the open rate is more like 75%.

That first email is the one that will be read more than any other email you send.

With that in mind, I recommend you take the chance to send an awesome email (more on that in a minute).

Secondly, did you know that you can keep up that momentum?

Yep. Instead of a single welcome email, you can have a series of welcome emails and carry the momentum through.

You do this through storytelling, quick wins, and unbridled generosity. Here’s a look at the welcome series we send folks after they buy the Time Management class:

time-management-email-stats

That 8-part email series has an average open rate of 74%. (Which is 1.5x better than our standard weekly email newsletter.)

Here’s a different (4-part) email series I sent to folks after they had signed up for an email list expressing interest in a new class I had been working on last fall.

elements-of-focus-email-stats

That 4-part series had an average open rate of 75%. And do you see how the open rate starts going back up after the first email? How many email sequences do you know of where the open rate goes UP as the series progresses?

* * *

Here are a few reasons why your email welcome series is so powerful…

You have their attention now more than ever

If you’re passionate about what it is you have to say, you have an obligation to communicate it.

And the best time to communicate it is during the moment when they are the most engaged — when you have their attention.

You can provide additional value in the topic they’re most interested in

How many ebooks have you downloaded only for them to sit in a “to-read” folder within your computer? A lot, right? I have an ebook I give away to folks right here. And after you sign up to get the book, I have a series of emails I send over the next few days that are short and to the point. I know chances are good that whomever signed up for my book hasn’t read it yet, but that they are reading their email.

I do something similar with my class on Time Management. After people sign up for the class, they get a “bonus” series of emails. I give book recommendations, tell stories, and offer quick wins related to Time Management.

You can transition to the next topic and teach them more

Suppose you have two products you sell: one is a book of recipes for healthier cooking at home and the other is book teaching the practicals of meal prep and being organized in the kitchen.

After someone buys your recipe book, you could send them a handful of emails that highlight a few of your favorite recipes in the book, plus perhaps a few new ones that aren’t yet in the book. Then, a week later, you could begin to change topics from the what of cooking over to the how of cooking.

Begin sharing some tips and stories and suggestions about being organized in the kitchen, and then take the opportunity to sell your second book.

Because your email welcome series is fully automated, you can have all of this happening on in the background. Which means that the right person is getting the right email at the right time. This is known as putting relevancy over recency (which I’ll get to in just a minute).

You can build a relationship

This is the whole point right here. Use your emails to tell stories, be personal, and have fun. Because you’re playing the long game with your business, the best thing you can do is build customers for life. And one of the best ways to do that is to give, give, give, and give some more. (See this article and scroll down to the bullet point about understanding the rule of reciprocity.)

Derek Sivers, from his book, Anything You Want:

Never forget that everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision — even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone — according to what’s best for your customers. […]

It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.

When someone buys something from you, or signs up for your list, you have a massive opportunity to surprise and delight that new customer or subscriber.

* * *

By valuing relevancy over recency, you can:

  • Help your audience get a deeper understanding of the content
  • Establish trust in the relationship
  • Make them feel like they’re part of something bigger than just a one-off product or download
  • Surprise, delight, and serve them

Last week I said you shouldn’t be focusing on your metrics too much. But that they were still important. Here’s why…

If your open rates, conversion rates, and sales are all doing well it means you’re actually providing value. It means you are effectively communicating with people. It means you have earned their attention and trust.

In the next article I’ll share about how this all fits into your business goals.

The Welcome Email (Part 2)

Speaking of Jeff Sheldon, here’s another fantastic post he wrote just recently.

Jeff has become a good friend, and it has been exhilarating watching him push the Ugmonk brand to the next level the past couple of years. Not only has his skill for product design improved, but the way in which he presents and sells his work has simplified. That alone is a magnificent feat!

As I find myself in a similar situation with The Focus Course brand — seeking to improve how we present and sell our products — keeping things simple and avoiding complexity has proven to be a huge challenge and an uphill battle. Things just naturally want to become more complex than they need to be.

Posts like this one from Jeff that share some of the behind-the-scenes lessons and mindsets related to business development are so helpful and encouraging.

8 Things Jeff Sheldon Has Learned from 8 Years of Ugmonk

Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)

First things first…

“Content Strategy” is not a dirty term.

Sure, it carries with it some corporatespeak baggage, but let’s look past that. Let’s look at what the term actually means and why it’s so important for you to have some thoughts of your own on this issue.

Content: What you create.

Strategy: Your plan of action.

In other words, how will you use your creative work (your content) to move you toward your goals? Answer that question and boom, you’ve got yourself a content strategy.

Now, for many folks, they don’t want or need a content strategy. For them, there is no goal beyond just doing the work. The art in and of itself is the goal. And that’s great! I love it. That’s how I am with my photography — it’s a creative outlet and that’s the extent of it. Thus, there is no content strategy with my photography.

But with my writing, it’s different…

I write for a living.

Thus, my writing serves a goal beyond the art of prose and beyond the joy of doing the work.

I write to teach and to sell. These are my two goals.

And in order to do that, there needs to be a strategy for my content; a goal for my writing.

When thinking about your content strategy, it can be easy to get caught up in the metrics of sales, conversions, etc. Now, yes, those things matter, and I’ll explain why in a bit. But I hope they aren’t your driving force behind your creative work.

First and foremost: your content strategy should be focused on serving your audience.

Does your content strategy have only the best in mind for your audience?

Consider if your content strategy does the following…?

  1. Does it provide value at all times…?
  2. Is it relevant at the readers’ time of need…?
  3. Does it serve your business goals…?

Your content strategy can’t serve your business goals if you don’t know what those goals are. What type of business are you trying to build? What level of income do you need to sustain your creative pursuits? Where do you want to be in 5 years time? How is your content strategy moving you in that direction?

As you build a better content marketing strategy, it’s important to balance what works and what feels right for your brand and your voice.

For me, my goal is to build a creative business based on long-term relationship equity. So while there are many email tactics out there that may work, not all of them are things I personally want to do. I want to incorporate what feels right for my brand and my voice.

In order to do build a creative business based on long-term relational equity, it requires trust.

Trust that is built on feedback loops, delivering on my promises, serving others, pursuing generosity, and more. (See my notes here about taking your personal project full-time.)

I avoid selfishness and tricks. I don’t try to squeeze out short-term profits that end up hurting the long-term quality of my brand and voice.

Now, this doesn’t mean selling is bad. The problems only arise when we become indifferent toward our readership, stop caring about providing value, and instead just become greedy for the sale.

* * *

Simply put, if you’re struggling to provide value at every single interaction, then (a) you’re not trying hard enough or (b) you’re over thinking it.

It’s more simple to provide value than you may think.

A valuable interaction can be a helpful tip, an interesting or entertaining story, a tutorial, an educational case study, a behind-the-scenes look at something cool, and more.

Focus on providing value at all times. If that is your goal, then you’ll come out ahead.

In the next article, I dive into the second aspect, which is being relevant to the readers. Click here to read about how I now do this using email automation in my article.

Thoughts on Content Strategy (Part 1)