Invest in people and experiences

Too often, to push our work forward, we consider investing in tools and resources. Maybe it’s an application, a new piece of equipment, or a learning resource such as an online course.

Today, I want to encourage you to instead invest in experiences and other people.

I started the thread of this conversation last week, and today I want to share three examples of what I mean. Each of these things are experiences I was a part of this week:

The Value of Attending a Conference

This past weekend I spoke at and attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City.

Here is a line of authors waiting to pitch literary agents.

In the modern age, where we have mail, email, social media, and phones, there is still something irreplaceable about being face to face with someone who can launch your dream as a writer.

Here is Writer’s Digest Publisher Phil Sexton in the hallway after he ran a workshop:

Likewise, Phil has an email address, he has posted many articles online. But there is a huge distinction between a Tweet, and having Phil look in your eyes for a moment, listening intently to your question.

Here is keynote speaker Kwame Alexander, who was A-MAZ-ING:

I mean, you can click on this link and watch a YouTube video of Kwame speaking from last year. Is it the same? No. To hear Kwame tell his stories in person; to laugh with him; to have him ask his wife to stand up on the room, so we can applaud her — all of this takes on a special meaning when done in-person.

I spoke on a panel about marketing, here was the audience filling up the room:

I have written a blog for about a decade, have shared tens of thousands of Tweets, taught dozens of webinars, courses, and workshops online. But there is a difference between that, and hearing me and the other panelists speak in person.

Why I Hire People, Instead of Outsourcing to a Virtual Assistant

I was talking with a client the other day, and she asked me about my team. I said, “What would you like to know?” She asked if I knew them, which was code for: “Are you merely outsourcing work to people overseas? Are you using workers as a commodity, or are they truly names and faces who are a daily part of your business?”

The latter is true, and this week my team grew quite a bit. I just hired two new people, and this week they already did so much to help me push my creative work forward. This is the team right now:

HongTran250Hong Tran came on board this week. She is already rewiring my head and creating entirely new processes around my writing. So far, we are identifying a new workflow that will help me better manage my blog, newsletter, articles, and book projects. And it’s only been two days!

BetsyBrockett250Betsy Brockett joined the team this week as well. I asked her to do an audit of the WeGrowMedia branding and a few hours later she delivered what was essentially an analyst’s report on what is working, what isn’t and her recommendations. It was like magic.


DianeKrause250Diane Krause has been with me for years now, and I call her my “business therapist.” She is instrumental in strategy work, plus the nuts and bolts of editing and publishing.


CarmenKern250Carmen Kern has done some incredible work for me and my clients this year, focused on graphic design and website development. She is also a writer and photographer, and her keen eye has made everything we do better.

It’s worth noting that each of these people work virtually. I’m in New Jersey, with the rest of the team in Texas, Pennsylvania, California, and Arizona.

There has been so much talk in the past few years about outsourcing work overseas, hiring a virtual assistant through an intermediary, or using services such as 99designs to get people to bid on projects for you. While all of these strategies are 100% fine, I find that my life is richer for working with people consistently and developing collaborative relationships.

Why We Go to Museums

While in the city last weekend, my family and I snuck away to visit the Guggenheim. With so much art available online or in books, why take the subway all the way up town to visit a museum? This is why:


That is my son experiencing the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright while viewing the work of László Moholy-Nagy, plus the Guggenheim’s permanent collection. Here he is with a Cézanne:

Do I know what kind of mark this experience will leave on my son? No. That will only be realized years later. Did it leave a mark in a way that a website cannot? Absolutely.

The Cost of Experiences

Let’s face it: experiences tend to cost more. You may be reading about the three examples above and be saying: “Dan, I can’t spend the money to travel to NYC for a conference; I can’t afford payroll for staff; the admission price for my family to a museum is too expensive.

I get it. Yet, I still think you can create meaningful experiences with real people on a reasonable budget. For the three experiences above, this is how I was able to make it work:

  • For the Writer’s Digest Conference: as a speaker, I was given free admission to the event. This is what I have done for dozens of events.
  • By hiring interns at 5-10 hours a week, I set an expectation that this is intern-level payment. I am 100% up front about that.

    And while the pay is essential, what I am often told is that it is a secondary reason. People who apply to work with me often say that their primary goal is not the direct payment, but rather to learn how to develop a business of their own, and to do collaborative work with creative people. In other words, they are looking at this as investment beyond just the hourly rate they are paid.

    I will say that I work extra hard to ensure that I am serving the personal and professional needs of my staff. Diane, Carmen, Betsy, and Hong all have their own goals. I want to help them with those as much as possible.

  • For getting into the Guggenheim, my local library has a program where you can get free museum passes! Our admission would have cost us $50, but instead we got in for free. Aren’t libraries amazing?

What is one experience, or one person, that you can invest in to push your creative work forward?