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 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. If it’s too daunting to answer the question of where you want to go, perhaps try incrementally answering where you don’t want to be. What, if anything, is dissatisfying about your work or your position right now? Among those answers, what is most contributing to your dissatisfaction? Are you able to work on just that and backburner the loftier goals for the moment?

    After addressing item number one, walk through that Q&A again and work on second in line. I wonder if you’d them find yourself having arrived at the place you wanted to be, even though you didn’t know you wanted to be there—kind of like the cliche “not all who wander are lost,” as long as you’re wandering in a direction you want to wander in.

  2. I only recently started reading your blog. I do what you do, just not with Genesis. While I would never have any reason to hire you, I sure as hell will promote you and offer you as an alternative if I am unable to do something or am overbooked.

    You don’t know me, I don’t know you (at least not personally) but posts like this is why I would recommend you to my own clients. When you said that money is just a by-product it just reinforced with me the type of person you are.

    I don’t have the answers to your questions because I have exactly the same questions. When I read the section about your target audience, I freaked out. You answered exactly how I would. I don’t want to be an employee. I don’t want to just develop something and move on. I want to be a part of something.

    I didn’t know you had a podcast either, so I’ve got a lot to listen up on, thank you for linking that. I don’t know anything about Genesis and I’ve always wanted to, so hopefully this is my chance to learn something from someone with so much knowledge.

    I know that we might not be your target audience, as you can see from the comments, we all sincerely appreciate you and the information you selflessly put out there. Thank you for posts like this and I look forward to more of them in the future.

  3. Another great post Carrie. Thank you for your honesty.

    I really feel for your situation, mainly because I’ve approached my own (half-baked attempts at) blogging from the opposite angle. I’ve actively tried to write, tweet and share articles that would be useful to my target audience: small and medium-sized businesses who want to improve their web offering.

    But recently I’ve started to ask the exact question that you did; are these the kind of people who read blogs? Are they on Twitter? I think almost certainly not. However, I do agree with Doug and other commenters that all the blogging and related work you do showcases your knowledge and personality. I hope – in time – mine will do likewise. Meanwhile I’ll continue to try and learn from people like you! 😉

  4. Hi Carrie,
    I just loved your post
    I think, the same way about standing out with your goals. I also feel energized, while teaching people what I know. That is a great way, you are choosing in your life.
    Though, I don’t agree about the ” I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”. I think, that you know, and doing it already.
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Just listened to GOH #27 and you were discussing Business Books to read. How about A Year Without Pants – Scott Berkan. It was very interesting to me as an IT project manager (for a Sports Retailer) for the last few years. How do you manage remote projects and people? This book is about WordPress which is “your world”. I do enjoy the Podcasts!

  6. I am trying to work out some of the same things you bring up in this post. I don’t do a lot of client work anymore, and my own blog is a range of topics (and also sorely neglected).

    Both are things I plan to fix in 2015, so I began analyzing some of the blogs of successful people I respect and whose work I admire. An exercise in “what are they doing” and “what can I learn from them”.

    Which is exactly why I came back to your blog! Found it comforting from your post, and several other commenters, that I’m not the only one facing a similar challenge.

    I don’t have an answer for what I’m going to do… yet. And I certainly don’t have YOUR answer, so no star for me 🙁 I will say that even if your blog doesn’t target your specific audience, I think the content you’ve created (here, the classes, and especially GOH) has really established your reputation as a go-to person when it comes to Genesis.

    Now I’m going through the process of creating a “content strategy” for my blog now (which seems about ten times harder to do for myself than for a client!).

  7. Hello Carrie!

    I know this is an old post, but I was reading through your Business & Freelancing posts and saw this… so here we are.

    Self evaluation is always difficult – I struggle with it myself – but I think a few things about you & your work are easily apparent:

    1. You clearly know your stuff / are well respected in the industry, etc.
    2. You do great work, and produce tons of content
    3. You are compelled to teach / help others – you just can’t help it 🙂

    So, this leads me to:

    1. Teach more courses! Not just on, but maybe start your own video tutorial library? You already have the audience for it – heck, I’d rather take courses straight from Carrie Dils than This could lead to a serious ‘Carrie Dils Community’ situation. I like this idea already.
    2. Look at the audience you’ve built – what else do they need?
    3. Office Hours podcast – increase sponsorship prices, for sure.
    4. Look at the audience you want – what do they need?

    I think the main thing to realize is that you are a natural teacher – I’m married to a grade school teacher, I can spot one a mile away 😉

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Timothy,

      Wow. Thanks so much for the kind words. Have to admit this made me laugh:

      This could lead to a serious ‘Carrie Dils Community’ situation

      That could be scary? 🙂

      Along the lines of what you’re suggesting, I’ve got a new project in the (very early) works:

      Any particular topics you’d like to see more on?


  8. Hi Carrie!

    I think for anyone learning about WP, or web design, or starting their own WP consulting / web design business, there are a few major stumbling blocks that you could cover:

    1. Technical skills, of course – maybe a 3-5 part course, from Beginner to Advanced, like your course?

    2. Process / Workflow – this is massively helpful (see Rafal Tomal’s ebook on Design – maybe you could be the Development equivalent?)

    3. Case study / full project – nothing better than seeing the real thing in action

    This is just a starting point, I’m just throwing ideas out there.

    Also, thanks for the link! I’ll check it out.


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