I don’t mean body snatchers or Capgras-style imposters – I mean real honest to goodness imposter syndrome candidates. People who call themselves successful, or have been called successful, but cannot line their accolades up with real business effectiveness or predetermined results. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs, consultants, and other knowledge workers who profess and opine and editorialize while lacking hard and fast numbers to back up their success.
I’m not even talking about ROI – not directly. While ROI is necessary to businesses, it’s hard for individuals not intentionally engaging in business to process, especially as a retroactive ideal.
Without predetermined, idealized scenarios for success, we’re all subject to cognitive bias in our work.
We all know people who are visibly stuck believing their failings matter less than they actually might – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we can all recognize that the potential for that behaviour in ourselves. We’re wired to act as though everything we do is successful, because working under the opposite believe is soul-crushingly banal.
We all want to be successful – and yes, it’s possible to consider some ventures successful at far lower levels of performance than others. Not everyone needs 10,000 visitors to their blog per day. Some get by with 10,000 visitors per year and don’t complain. However, don’t call the latter success if you’re shooting for the former – that way lies madness.
To avoid being an imposter, you need to set goals.
If you’re in the middle of a venture – such as building a website or planning a blog – consider whether or not you can give business-grade answers to the following questions:
- How would you (personally) make money from your work?
- At what level, either of revenue or other static metric, do you call your individual tasks successful?
- At what level, either of revenue or other static metric, do you call your individual tasks failures?
- What price would you put on what you’re building if someone asked to buy it?
- What would need to happen in order to make you stop doing the work you’re doing now?
All of these questions seem simple, on their faces.
And all of them are intensely complicated if you’re looking at them from the middle of a project, rather than the planning phase. If you’re in the middle of a venture and can’t answer any of these questions firmly, I’d suggest taking a long hard look at what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and decide whether what you’re doing is a commerce-grade venture or not. Not everything is, and not everything has to be.
There are a lot of ways to use online platforms to directly generate revenue.
Thankfully, there are a lot of tried and true methods for creating clear business success with online content creation – many of which rely almost entirely on the backing of the sexy metrics like pageviews, subscriber numbers, and publishing consistency and practices. This is where life gets a bit easier, because all you have to do is decide on a model to follow, and begin changing your course toward behaviors which support those models. Monetizing a blog, while not easy, is relatively straightforward.
A person could, for example;
- Set up a blog to make money through affiliate marketing or advertising.
- Sell products, such as ebooks or seminars, or even physical merchandise.
- Create a revenue-generating platform with the intent of selling it to a worthy buyer down the road at a further profit.
All of these are great business goals, and all of them can become long-term strategies for success. However, since some businesses rely on blogs for revenue generation not directly related to the blog itself, other varieties of success directly related to revenue could be;
- Maintaining a blog for the sake of customer service and question-and-answer rather than a static FAQ,
- Creating a blog as an SEO play to drive more traffic to your business website,
- Using a blog as a referral tool, to direct more of that traffic to a company newsletter or into a sales funnel
- Parlaying the success and social proof from the blog into a book deal for its author,
- Parlaying the success of the blog into a speaking career
… Or any of the other plethora of strategies out there people have used to directly or indirectly create firm, financial benefit for themselves or their business from the creation of online content.
So how do you know if the work you’re doing is generating real success, or satisfying your want for the illusion of success?
It’s easy to believe that publishing your blog on a schedule, answering each comment as it comes in, or growing your Twitter following and subscriber count is success. After all, putting the numbers for any of these activities on a graph and seeing them moving the right way is satisfying. In the end, however, these are signs of action, not signs of success – the same way achieving the speed limit on a freeway isn’t the same as reaching the destination you’re aimed at.
What do you think?
Image by Oliver Chesler.