Carrie Driving Somewhere

Confessions of a Successful Person

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.

My Confessions

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

Oh, the Places You'll Go! book coverWhen 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.

39 thoughts on “Confessions of a Successful Person”

  1. Right there with you my friend:-) “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

    For what it’s worth, you have an amazing amount of talent in many areas…it’s going to be hard to figure out how to nail down what you want to one thing…

    Ultimately our purpose in life does not come from our work; but our Creator…

  2. This does not answer the question, but I read it on FB right after reading your post – profound:

    “Actually, one decides one’s life by responding to a word that is not well defined, easily explicable, safely accounted for. One decides to love in the face of an unaccountable void, and from the void comes an unaccountable truth.” –Thomas Merton

  3. Great post Carrie! I can so relate to what you’re going through here – trying to find your ideal client. I’ve done the Book Yourself Solid work and every time I got to those ‘ideal client’ questions I was stumped. So I just muddled through and did the best I could.

    What I’m finding out is that my audience is choosing me, not the other way around. I created a couple of websites for foodies and they keep telling each other in their community about how great I am so I keep getting more foodie clients! Go figure.

    I would not pick foodies as my ideal client, but since they are choosing me, I will embrace it.

    And thanks for all you do for the WordPress community, you are very much appreciated by this audience! 🙂

  4. Oh, what a perfect post! I loved every minute of it and it made me smile from ear to ear. I wrote about this topic last week, about not having it all figured out. I’m at the point now where I am just following what makes me happiest, throwing the “traditional” business rules to the wind and seeing where I land. Again, thank you, this was a truly excellent post and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jessica 🙂

  5. This is a fantastic post.

    While you may not be speaking directly to business owners, I completely agree with Doug that it is still very valuable in getting you new business.

    Some questions any potential business owner would have when shopping for a developer are:

    1. Does this person know what they’re doing?
    2. Would I like working with this person?

    Your expertise and personality shine through when you’re helping other developers, and the content you produce certainly answers those questions.

    At the end of the day, you just want to love what you do. It would be a mistake to stop doing anything you enjoy only because someone else suggested it wasn’t the best way to market yourself.

    1. I had built a StudioPress site over three years, but picked Carrie out to help me after reading her profile on the StudioPress Showcase. Then I saw work she had done for other business owners which led to a phone call.

      She had me at “Howdy”.

      1. Ditto! I first contacted Carrie because of how she talked about things and the perspective on her posts. Now a little over a year later, I’ve started a new career path with Genesis and WordPress. All from reading her About Me page.

  6. You know how your blog has helped you.

    Now that you have an established (albeit non-paying) audience, I would consider stepping back from tutorials. This is what gave you Lynda and built your WordCamp platform. It’s how we got to know you, and I’m sure your clients have quietly browsed your content before reaching out and contacting you.

    But just how many tutorials can you stand to write? I love them. I just wonder if this space can be used for something else. You are a good writer. I’d love to see content from you that’s more on the theoretical side of things. There’s a lot to discuss on that side of the web moon. Maybe it could someday even lead to a book deal.

    You do love the techie nuts and bolts stuff. And I think you would miss it. I’d just consider narrowing your focus. I’m wondering if there’s something you can do that puts you in front of people, since that’s one of your natural talents, but in a somewhat different capacity that’s more aligned with your ideal client and audience.

    I’m brainstorming for you, throwing words out there with the hope a wee little switch will flip and freshen up your thoughts on what’s next. Questions to consider:

    Would you miss blogging and browsing the comments?
    When you’re at WordCamp or meeting with your local group, what kinds of discussions engage you the most?
    Why do you attend WordCamp? What does it do for you? I know this seems obvious, but I doubt you go to compare notes on how to tweak short codes and widgets.

    There’s just something more in this for you than the usual stuff. Clarifying what it is may take you all of next year as you ease out of one phase and move into another. Just keep us in the loop. I enjoyed reading this post, Carrie.

  7. First, thanks for being you and for saying this out loud.

    I appreciate it from the other side of the fence … I’m one that consumes all the information you and others put out there for the community (and yes, I try to give back as well). But I’ve often wondered … and actually asked Kiko the question at Prestige conference, “Why are you and others so giving and to what end? What’s in it for you, what are you gaining and how is helping me helping your business?”

    I’m not sure I got a definitive answer (there were many other questions and some beer involved), maybe there is no good answer. Or more likely, the answer is different for all.

    One thought is that we, the consumers, are (or could be) your referral partners. Say someone comes to me for an XYZ website and I think I’d be biting off more than I can chew. I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest you for the job. So you could be creating your own sales force via your audience. It’s the least we could do to pay you back for supporting us.

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