I speak at a lot of conferences. It's something I added into my arsenal this year and it's going well.
I also have a weekly blog, a twice-weekly podcast, a strong social media presence, exhibit at dozens of cons a year around the country, and run a publishing company. Even with that I'm still able to attend to clients and get projects finished.
If I looked at me from five years ago, I would hyperventilate. I never thought that was possible. Like ever. I was struggling to even get a few hundred words a day written.
Yet, now I do it without a second thought. That's because I've had time to figure it all out. Everybody you respect has had years to build a following, learn how business works, figure out how to add revenue channels, and make it all seem easy. You need to quit comparing yourself to them. You'll get there if you work at it.
I see people just starting out worried because they can't do as much as me. They ask me for my secret, and it's very simple.
I didn't do it all at once.
What you are seeing is a decades-long culmination of me becoming great at one thing, then systematizing it so I can do it with the least amount of time commitment possible, then adding something else, and becoming great at that. Meanwhile, I'm cutting out stuff that doesn't work. So just like the robots in the Matrix when they destroy Zion for the fifth time I am getting exceedingly good at doing what works for me.
When I started, though, I didn't know what worked. I tried everything. I was doing things that wasted my time with no gain. I was spinning my wheels more than I was being productive. I was like a duck, kicking furiously just to stay afloat.
But that's what you do as a young creator. Like a child, you don't know the stove is hot and the dog is friendly. So you touch everything until you figure it out. Parents, like coaches) can and should guide you, but you have to be the one learning what works for you.
And just like a child, you grow over time. You learn what works and what doesn't. You learn who likes your work and who doesn't. You learn your strengths and weaknesses. Then you can double down on those and cut out the ones that don't work for you.
And that's where I see a lot of young creators going wrong. They think they can get the following with mediocre content as long as they have several dozen social media profiles. They want quantity over quality.
However, it can't happen overnight. First-time authors do become best sellers, but that's a fluke. You can't base your career on a fluke any more than you can base your life on winning the lottery.
So I recommend focusing on creating great content first. Write or draw or bake or whatever it is you do. Get great at that one thing first.
Of course, you are going to have a blog or a podcast, and social media is a key, but while you are sucky at a thing or mediocre at a thing, don't worry about not having a big audience. Don't worry that you aren't David Baldacci. Worry about being great at being a content creator.
Before you can start supercharging your audience you MUST be able to give them great content they want to see. You need to put up your work in progress because your small audience will guide you into becoming the creator that will speak to your needs, but you're not focused on audience first. You are focused on creating first. That's the key.
Before people will ask you to speak at their shows you need to have a track record of success they can Google. Before success, you need the work.
There is a process of growth that comes over time. You just get better at stuff you work really hard at improving. You can't help but get better.
Whenever I teach people how to make money on their work, my first statement is always "This is all assuming you have great content. If you don't have great content already, then you are in the wrong place."
Because great content is the barometer. Everybody has great content. Everybody from Tim Ferris down to Stephen King and to me and so on are going after audience eyeballs. We already create great content.
But if you do have great content, then it's about doing it better and quicker so you can start really building your audience.