In the late 1990s, I built quite a few online businesses. They were all smaller versions of bigger sites that appeared elsewhere online. Back then, whenever I saw a good idea I thought, “I could do something like that!” And that’s what I did. After a while, I had a bunch of what I call “Version 1.0” business sites. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about these sites.
I wasn’t too happy with the color schemes, logos, etc. Keep in mind, each of these sites were do-it-yourself projects. I did everything myself, from the graphic design to the content creation.
My approach to online business at the time was based upon what I learned in college. It was there that I was told, “Creativity is taking what already exists and making it a little bit different.”
That was fine on paper. But in reality, all I was doing was taking something that already existed and making another version “that wasn’t as good as the original.” Each of my sites was really a poor man’s version of (fill in the blank).
This was frustrating because as a Solopreneur at the time, I didn’t have the money, resources or additional help get the final result I was looking for. So instead of building a business that added to my bottom line, I was really just building “experience” that would come into play further down the line. During this experience, I became an SEO expert and guided my not-quite-ready for primetime websites into the top of Google’s rankings.
I invested untold hours in learning SEO and it wasn’t long before other people began approaching me for help. SEO is a totally different game today, but that’s another story for another day.
So here’s the thing. When good thing started happening, it didn’t happen in a way that I’d predicted years earlier. I many ways, didn’t choose my market. My market chose me. I began attracting people who were already established leaders and experts in their niches.
I know that goes against what most marketers teach, but it really worked out well for me.
I just did “my thing” because doing someone else’s thing didn’t work out too well for me. It probably won’t work out too well for you, either. Instead of being the next “whoever,” be the first YOU.
This reminds me of the story I heard about a singer in a famous band from the 1980s. He started out auditioning for a spot as the band’s guitar player. As the story goes, he was an average guitar player, but his vocals were so strong they decided to insert him into the role of lead singer. While he was unsure of himself at first, he never went back and the rest is history.
Maybe you see yourself as a “lead guitarist” in your business but it’s really not working out for you the way you’d hoped? Sometimes the market you’re trying to establish yourself in sees you as something else. Oftentimes people specialize in a particular area because they’re trying to follow in the footsteps of someone they admire or someone that inspires them.
The truth is, until you learn how to be comfortable with yourself and who you are as an individual, your success in the follower-mode will always be very limited. You can only follow another’s footsteps for so long until your path takes you in a unique direction and down different roads. You may be able to reproduce certain things using a paint by numbers format, but life and business is anything but painting by numbers.
Beneath it all is the fear that being yourself isn’t going to be good enough for what you’re trying to accomplish. Sooner or later, though, you’ll discover that being YOU is the most valuable commodity you have to work with.
Your life, your experiences and your ability to bring a certain type of value into your business and into the lives of the people around you – those are the very things that truly separate you from the copycats that appear one day but are gone the next.
Now, I’m not talking about what type of theme or design you have on your website. I’m not talking about your logo design or what types of headlines you use on your blog posts or landing pages.
Those are all surface things, right? I’m talking about the real you and your ability to connect with people. I’m talking about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. At the end of the day, business and life (especially small business) is a series of connections that affect individuals for better or worse. These connections make people richer or poorer – better or worse off than before the connection was made.
It all comes down to whether or not you choose to follow your own path… or follow the masses who continue to erode their uniqueness in their quest to be someone else.
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