The Introverts Guide to Platform Building
A few years ago, I attended a writers workshop with a publisher. Hanging on the presenter's every word, I was hoping to find out what kind of writing, and writer, makes the cut. However, for a writers' workshop, very little was said about writing.
Right. So becoming a published writer has little to do with writing and a lot to do with your popularity, your entrepreneurial skills, your ability to sell. While I spent many years, and a lot of dollars and hours behind the keyboard, on learning how to write stories, both long and short, for adults and children, magazine articles and blogs, it seems that I should have spent my money elsewhere. Like a degree in entrepreneurship for instance.
After the workshop, the idea of building a platform seemed impossible. Like many creative types, I'm happiest by myself, writing, drawing, painting and dreaming. For an introverted writer, being faced with the daunting task of socialising to consciously find and build a tribe of people that like our work, is probably one of our worst nightmares. It goes against our solitary, quiet nature.
However... it is also true that no one can support a secret, so we have find people and tell them about our work - whether we like it or not.
The good news is that even introverts can find a way to build their platform and survive to tell the tale.
Where everyone starts
And here we get lost in the sheer volume of platform building advice, courses, workshops, webinars, opt-ins, experts and members-only groups who all seem to know the secret to building a platform. If you ever felt like everyone else seems to know the secret to platform building except for you, then you're not alone.
But rest assured, there is no secret. Only different ways of doing the same thing. And patience.... lots of patience...
And for the introvert, the trick really is in finding the way that works best for you. The way that leaves you feeling the least icky and the most comfortable.
Why even introverts shouldn't give up on platform building
The truth is that building a platform in super important, but it's not a new idea. If you opened a brick and mortar shop, you'd still have to find your customers - whether you hollered out your specials in the village market or put a flashing neon sign outside your shop door. Now, you just have to find your customers somewhere on the web, and it's simply called building your platform.
A platform is essential if you're going to sell your writing. And it doesn't matter whether you self publish or go the traditional route. Just like a store owner has to do his own marketing and mind his own business, so do we, as writers, have to take responsibility for our business, which is selling our books.
How I did it (and still do it) And yes... I'm an introvert - an impatient one, I might add.
About six months ago, I made an important decision, and it's the one thing that's not only built my platform to that magical first 5000 peeps, but it's also the only thing that's kept me going.
I decided to be true to myself. I know, I know... that sounds like an anticlimax, so before you stop reading, here's the action plan to go with it:
- Make a cuppa of your choice.
- Sit down with some pen and paper.
- Make a list of all the things you know of - not that you'd be willing to do, everything you know of - (through all the webinars, courses, workshops, blog articles, membership groups that you've been listening to) to reach people. For instance, there's Facebook, Twitter, guest blogging, podcasting, webinars, email opt-ins, and many more ways.
- Now look over your comprehensive list and ask yourself, what would you be happy (or at least at peace with) doing to build your following. Pick only one or two. Forget about what everyone else did and what everyone says you should be doing or about that new webinar that will show you how to get your first 50 000 subscribers in one weekend. It doesn't happen that way in real life - not if you want subscribers that actually stick around. Just figure out what you would be comfortable doing very single day to reach people and talk to them about whatever it is you want to talk about.
- Craft a daily plan and stick to it. It could be as simple as a tick box for every day of the week to place your tick in once you've posted on Facebook, or whatever you're deciding to do. It could be as detailed as list of blog topics for the coming month together with who you're going to pitch to and by when. Action is key. And because you've identified the things you'd be comfortable doing, it shouldn't be hard to stick to it.
- Stick to your plan for a month or two and measure your results. If nothing happens, try something else. With every new method that you try, your confidence will grow, and you'll become more at ease with the whole business of platform building.
For me, my heart said:
So that's all I did. I wrote every single day but I committed to one guest blog post a week. I didn't think about click-bait articles, I wrote about what I thought about that week, or what I learnt about - basically what I felt passionate about at that time. I simply shared what I had in me to share, and that's still my preferred way of interacting with the world.
I also decided to start teaching online as opposed to doing in-person writing workshops. And I love every class I record, every comment I receive and every email that informs me of a new student in my classes.
2018 is the year that I commit to starting my podcast, which will be my next area of focus in terms of building a platform. It's something I feel more comfortable doing than, say, building a Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest tribe.
Platform building takes time. It just does. And there is a LOT of advice and strategies out there, which is a good thing actually, because you come to know that there is not one correct way to do it. Some people really love Facebook, others do podcasts or meet people in person through workshops and talks. Some write a book first then build their platform using the book, others do it the other way around.
The one thing that is consistent among successful platform builders is that they are wiling to try different things, measure results and change if needs be. So if something doesn't work for you, don't get discouraged. You can build a platform!
So settle in, take the pressure off yourself to build a huge following in one month, and make the commitment to do, every single day, that which you love and to find one or two ways to share it with the world. That's all. The rest will unfold naturally as you go.