This is a story about me. Where I am and where I’m going. These are my confessions.
Yep, I’m Successful
Before you light into me or secretly call me an arrogant cow, let me tell you that I define what my success looks like and it may not look a thing like yours. When I say “success,” what that means to me is that I’m achieving the primary goals I set for myself:
- I have freedom of schedule that let’s me say “Yes” to doing things an 8-5 job wouldn’t allow.
- I do what I love.
My success has nothing to do with the car I drive, the clothes I wear, or the money in my bank. Do I make money? Yes. Do I like making money? Hell yes! But that’s not my definition of success – it’s a by-product.
So, if you want to know the secret of success, it’s setting the bar really low for yourself. I’m kidding. But whatever you do, don’t let someone else define what your success looks likes.
I’m in the last months of my 30’s and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
I’m Having a Hard Time Nailing Down My Target Audience
I’m reading my way (slowly) through Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. To get the most out of it, I’m working through every exercise to figure out things like who are the ideal clients that excite and inspire me and how do I create demand that will draw in those ideal clients?
I’ve narrowed down my focus to projects that meet these requirements:
- I’m a partner in my client’s success and not just a developer who can execute a set of requirements (I’m a consultant, not a freelance developer).
- I’m solving real business problems that either save people time or make people money (I’m helping drive their definition of success).
- I like and can build an ongoing relationship with the customers I serve (I enjoy working with people and they enjoy working with me).
So, those are the types of projects I want, but it doesn’t go far enough to describe my ideal client. Is it local universities? A brick-and-mortar retailer? Another consultant like me?
I don’t know.
The Audience I’ve Built Isn’t the Client I’ve Targeted (in the past)
I’ve blogged (semi-regularly) for three years with tutorials and business learnings. I’ve answered questions in support forums. I run a weekly Genesis Office Hours podcast. I’ve produced a couple of Lynda.com courses. I co-run a local meetup. I speak and teach at WordCamps.
I don’t mean those as brags, but to point out a trend (that’s taken me awhile to realize): I regularly produce content for an audience that’s never been my target. I love doing it – it energizes me, it gives me credibility in the community, and frankly, I like helping people learn. But (and everyone I know has a big but), does it make good business sense to spend so much energy creating resources for people who will ultimately never hire me?
I don’t know.
I’m Unsure Which Direction to Go
In pondering my target client versus the audience I’ve invested heavily in… Do I shift my content to attract the (as yet unnamed) ideal client? Or do I shift my service offerings to an already waiting audience? The former maintains a focus toward consulting and developing, while the latter leans toward consulting and teaching. Which way do I go (or do I pursue both)?
I don’t know.
Oh the Places I’ll (Hopefully, Even Though Hope is Not a Strategy) Go
When I graduated from TCU, my sister gave me a copy of Dr Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! She left an inscription inside the cover encouraging me that I could go anywhere, do anything. It’s a sweet thing for someone else to have confidence in you when you’re not feeling terribly confident.
I fully realize that having the option to make a career choice is a first world problem, and a privileged one at that. Even still, I can relate to Dr. Seuss’s musings:
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
And IF you go in, should turn left or right…
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find,
for a mind -maker-upper to make up his mind.
I’ve always found the end of the year to be a good time for retrospection, so that’s part of what I’m doing in this post. The other part is just to get my thoughts down and say out loud that I do not, in fact, have it all together.
I’m a work in progress. I’m betting you are, too.
p.s. If you have the answers I seek, leave them in a comment below and I’ll name a star after you.