This week I’m celebrating the 11 year anniversary of my business, WeGrowMedia. Every day, I sit in this studio and work with writers and creators. It’s basically a dream come true.
Today I want to reflect what has (and hasn’t) changed for writers in a decade, my journey, what I wish I knew when I started, and what I’m thinking about for the future. Let’s dig in…
What Has Changed for Writers & Creators in a Decade
The work I do is inherently about helping people get clarity on how to effectively share what they create. It’s funny, some of that work hasn’t changed in a decade+, and some of it has.
Back in 2010, we didn’t have “the creator economy” as we have it today, social media had not yet been embraced by everyone as a normal means of communication and marketing; self-publishing was not quite as accepted as it is today; there were fewer resources to help writers and creators on their path to creating, publishing and sharing.
How do I measure progress for how things have changed? Like this: can someone who feels isolated in some way, find a viable path to writing, publishing, and sharing their novel, memoir, or work of nonfiction? This person could live in a family where creative work is eschewed, who doesn’t know anyone else who creates in their entire community, who feels crushed under the weight of responsibility in their everyday life, whose identity has always been defined by others, who never felt they had a sense of permission to create.
Can this person find a path to claim their idea. To pursue it. To connect with others who can share advice and support. Can they learn what they need to to realize that work, to find a strategy to publishing it how they see fit, and actually have it connect with a reader? To have a moment where they actually engage with someone who was moved by their work.
That is how I measure progress. Why do I say this? Not only because it is the heart of what drives my love for this work, but because I know that as a writer or creator, even amidst this progress, you face very real challenges in how you create and share.
Perhaps you feel the marketplace is oversaturated. Or you are drowning in all of the advice you receive in podcasts, blogs, articles, courses, videos, webinars, and conferences. Or you feel what you are creating is somehow “off trend.” Or you worry that since you are an introvert, you can’t share. The list goes on, and every one of these concerns is valid and serious.
As I spend my days working with writers, I can’t help but feel there is more opportunity to create and share now than there has ever been before. Is the marketplace for this perfect? Nope. Are there serious challenges? Yep. Will that continue to change — to ebb and flow — for each one of us? Likely.
If you are a writer or creator wondering if you should keep going, I offer this advice from what I have experienced in the last 11 years:
Those who find success connect the deeper clarity for why they are creating, and with who they hope it connects with. Writing, publishing, and sharing your book is an amazing way to do that. It expands your voice, it connects you to like-minded creators, and helps you grow in new ways.
Each person’s creative journey is different. I grew up as the art kid, and learned this very early on. But to this day I interview writers and creators on my podcast (new season coming soon!), and am reminded of it constantly.
The question is: will you bother to go on the journey at all?
My Journey So Far
As I look back at 11 years of WeGrowMedia, I can’t help but be surprised by it all. I sit in a room all day by myself, and somehow, am able to support my family. I don’t see anyone in person. I don’t work as part of a larger organization. It’s largely just me, a phone, and an internet connection. And through that I connect with inspiring writers and creators every day, and we do the work of what it means to share what matters.
Isn’t that amazing? It is to me. I feel incredibly grateful for it.
11 years running a business full time has sometimes felt more like running 10,000 experiments in back-to-back succession. So many small decisions each day, like:
- “Should I do a webinar on this?”
- “Should I do an in-person event?”
- “Do I double down on one aspect of my business or another?”
- “Should I focus more on topic A or Topic B?”
Time and time again, I tried to use clarity as my guide, focusing on the writers and creators I serve, and what would help them make the most progress.
But in the last couple years, I did something very different, and I wish I had learned this lesson earlier. I focused on just one thing. I stopped offering courses, even those that I had recently developed. I ended the Mastermind group that I ran for years. Instead, I decided to focus on just one thing: The consulting work I do working directly with writers. I asked myself: how I can radically improve this process to serve my clients even better?
At the time I asked this, I had already been earning a living from this for many years, and had great feedback from clients. But I reached out to a lot of past clients to ask about their process of working with me. I heard so much feedback, and took every bit of it to heart. I challenged myself: could I help people even more? Where were the weak spots that I could strengthen? Is there a better way to provide resources and ensure they make progress quicker?
I tore the system down to it’s core and then built it back up again. It ended up being a radical shift in how my consulting process works.
I’ve gotten clearer about the work I do that I love the most and makes the biggest shift for those I collaborate with; I’ve develop a new system for how I work with people that focuses more on immediate action and results; I’ve invested in a new system in my studio to help my clients through video so they can watch me do the work we are discussing.
The results have been incredible.
I have a list of improvements to make still, and each week I add to that list. In my plans, some of them will be improvements that happen next month. But I’m also planning for ten years from now.
For the structure of my business, I’ve kept it simple and I think that has been a good move on many ways. I remember years ago I went to a barber in the town I used to live in. He was young, in his 30s, and told me that the building owner offered him the storefronts to the left or right of him to expand. His business had been doing well, and he added more hairdressers to his staff.
He declined the offer. I was incredulous: “Why?!” I asked. Something in me at the time felt that you always want to seek potential. Always grow. And here was a limited time offer, his one chance to expand. He explained that he was carving out a nice living with what he had now. But expansion meant more upfront cost in construction, more overhead in rent, utilities, the services he offered, plus the possibility of hiring new staff for the larger space. He concluded it opened him to too much risk.
I’ve seen this play out again and again with small businesses where I live. The plumbing supply store shoved into this little property, and then the lot next door goes for sale. Do they buy it? No. Because doing so disrupts the business model they spent decades working on. It offers too many unknown factors of what could go wrong.
Years ago, my brother was working as manager at big box retailer. We were having lunch one day, and he talked about a possible promotion that had opened up. “I’m not applying for it,” he said. It was a better title, more prestige, and more money. Again, I was incredulous. “Why not?!”
He explained, “It’s twice the amount of responsibility and work, for about 8% more money.” He described how his daily life would change dramatically with the more prestigious role, not only having to manage a large staff and one store as he did now, but now traveling between a region of stores, and being responsible for all of them in some way. It would take him away from his family and likely increase his stress levels exponentially.
It made total sense to me once he explained it that way.
Something I have been thinking about a lot this year is myself at age 58, ten years from now. That thought experiment has had me making a lot of changes to attend to my mental health, to change how I eat, to establish a more solid daily fitness routine, and it is also challenging me to consider what my business can look like in ten years. When my kids will be… oh gosh this is hard to write… ages 21 and 14. How can I best set myself up to support writers and creators then? How can my work become something both new, and also a consistent part of my lifelong journey?
All I can say is, I’m working on it. Thank you for being here with me these last 11 years. It just means the world to me.