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Building Engagement by Doing What Scares Me (Taking Business Risk)

The following post was an entry by one of our spectacular finalists in our Awesome Engagement Strategies Contest. Finalists showcased their ideas, and whoever got the most traction (i.e. comments and social shares) within five days of publication was crowned the winner. Check out this post for the complete list of Engagement Strategies Contest finalists!

tight-ropeSo, I’ve been making money online (here and there) for 5 years now – going on 6.

I started as a freelance writer, decided I didn’t like that. Then I moved into IM, and focused on product creation. While it “worked” to a degree, I never saw the amount of money that I knew I could be making. (Like a car that only gets 5 miles-per-gallon when it should get 30.)

Something was very wrong with my business and I wasn’t sure what. I took a big step back and asked myself if I was really cut out for this business entrepreneurship thing . . . The answer was yes. I loved it. I needed it like I need air, food, and my husband. But it wasn’t working the way it should.

I started the search for answers, and in the meantime bought more domains, put up more sites, made my products even better, expanded my topic base. And nothing changed. I knew the money was there to be made, but I also knew I was missing some crucial “thing.”

Then, thanks to a few marketers and bloggers, Danny Iny and his team being some of the most influential, I realized that I had no audience!

There was absolutely no engagement on my part. People weren’t finding me – and how could they? The issue wasn’t with the business plan (for the most part,) the problem lied with me – or the lack of me that there was online.

I was lost in cyberspace, and holy crap I had no idea what to do about it!

Fast forward through reading Danny’s books, being on lots of webinars, redesigning my blog, and overhauling my online image.

Now I actually have an engagement strategy! Go me!

A lot of it revolves around doing things that force me into the open, that make me a little bit (or a lot bit) vulnerable to the world, and making sure I stay unapologetic for being me.

It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t truly finished – but if I said it was perfect you’d know I was lying, and you never finish something like this. Ever. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and no engagement strategy ever survives contact with the cynical masses.

But here is my plan for right now…

1. More Epic Shit

To borrow the phrase, I have been doing my darndest to create epic shit for my blog, and I will continue to do so. I know I’m good at writing, and I love writing on topics that are of interest to me. I realized that I need to leverage that more. I need to outsource the creation of my products (since working on the nuts and bolts just sucks the life out of me) and focus more on being me – and writing about it.

Something that I really think helped me be able to do this was all the personal writing I’ve done in the past. I used a journal a lot growing up – sometimes multiple times a day, and sometimes once a month – and I still do. I have a row of journals and notebooks on my desk, ready to write in. I’ve also written a lot of fiction, which in my mind is just a demented form of journaling.

If you need to find your “voice,” I recommend using a journal. Work on your blog and your journal, and just be you – you’ll hammer it out and get more confident as time goes on. (And by the way, journals can be everything from expensive leather-bound books to spiral notepads that fit in your pocket and cost $1.)

2. Perfect my “Brand”

After looking at Mirasee, Ana Hoffman’s blog, and the sites of other marketers that I look up to, I realized that I didn’t have a brand. There was no “look” or “feel” to my site that people couldn’t find anywhere else. But I dislike having my picture on my sites in anything more than a thumbnail.

I got around this by hiring someone to capture me in a caricature. I went to my husband, my mom, and my best friend and asked them to describe me in a way that would burn my business image into the minds of people who saw it. I boiled down what they came up with to “Smart, sassy red-head who does what she wants, says what she wants, and has a wicked sense of style that’s all her own. Oh, and who is the physical embodiment of the word ‘intense.'”

Thus, my persona was nailed down. I want to point out that I didn’t “make it up.” I’ve always been like that, but for a long time I was trying to tone myself down – be more acceptable. (Acceptable to whom, I don’t know.) I finally realized that was a silly thing to do, and decided to just run with who I am. It’s better that way, and people – a lot of people – are noticing me now.

Also, I need to give a shout out to Laura Leigh Clarke’s guest post on Mirasee that discussed finding your Secret Agent Marketing Type. That post right there is one of the main things that sped me down the engagement road I’m on right now. (If you haven’t read it, do. It should be required reading for IMers.)

Perfecting your brand is something like finding your “voice.” It may take a little time. But you can ask for assistance with this. Query those closest to you – particularly those who can be honest and point out your not-so-charming traits. Distill everything until you come up with the few traits that you like most and that come up most often. For me, I loved “smart” and “stylish,” but there were a few words in there that weren’t as flattering, and they got turned into “sassy” for the sake of propriety. (“Slightly bitchy” doesn’t convert well onto a blog.)

Then package together what you come up with and see what happens. Get a few professional photos, or find someone to create a caricature that you love. (I got mine on Fiverr!) This will give you a look, and a brand that you can put everywhere.

People will love you, people will hate you – in the words of Jack Sparrow: “But you HAVE heard of me!”

3. Expanding My Reach and Mediums

I love blogging. It is so much fun, and it is in the medium I am most comfortable with: writing. But I know that in order to make 2013 truly epic, blogging for myself wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to find other things that would take my audience reach to the next level and beyond.

Guest blogging is high on my list for 2013 – I know there are a lot of eyeballs to be nabbed with guest blogging, and I’m making a list of topics and contacts.

Podcasting is another thing I’m about to launch into. More and more people are getting into listening to podcasts, and I realized that I needed to grab a slice of that. As of this writing I’m hopefully only a week or two out – still hammering out my audio, but all systems are go other than that.

Once I have an established podcast, I’m going to start interviewing experts in making money online, marketing, entrepreneurship, and success. This will not only give my listeners an amazing amount of value, but will also boost my reach even more.

Finally, I’m actually learning how to use Twitter, Wooxie, Facebook, and other social media platforms the right way.

I always tell people to try new things. New social media sites, new mediums, new everything – you never know what is going to work brilliantly for you.

4. Giving People More Options

While I know I can’t overextend myself, something else that I’m doing right now is branching out to give people a lot of different things that they can choose to read, look at, or listen to.

I’m currently running two blogs that have different but related topics, I’m about to launch a podcast, I have profiles on many social media sites, and I have a lot of products that people can buy. But I’m also adding in more freebies that people can get, more honest reviews of other people’s products, and I’ve even branched into Fiverr with some of my digital products.

That way if people don’t want to jump into my $20 product, they can see what kind of value I offer for $5. Fiverr also drives traffic to my website from my products. It’s a great little two-way street.

While providing more options takes some thinking outside the box, it is just one more way to get yourself in front of a lot of people and keep attention on yourself. Have you looked around your business lately to see what you can do to give your prospects more and better options?

5. Scheduling My Time (Bear with Me…)

Something that I have not done enough in the past, and that I think a lot of entrepreneurs don’t focus on enough, is scheduling. It is really difficult to be awesome and epic if you’re constantly running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

I fought against schedules of any kind most of my life and I have finally realized that I’m not doing myself any favors. While this may not seem like an “engagement” strategy, it really is relevant. Because how are you supposed to be a great guest blogger if you never schedule in time to write your posts? How are you supposed to use social media without getting sucked into it if you don’t write in a couple 15-minute blocks of time for it each day, and set a timer to make sure you get in, get the job done, and get out?

Epicness has to be scheduled – otherwise you’ll never get around to it. Which is why my dayplanner is my awesome engagement tool on the physical home-front.

There are a great many ways to schedule your time, and some work better for others. My dayplanner and a timer are what I use. Other people can use their phones, calendars, or simple notepads to keep themselves on track from day to day.

6. Doing What Scares the Living Hell Out of Me

And we’re ending this post with my beginning statement.

The most important part of the whole plan is doing what scares me the most. Because I discovered that I avoid things that frighten me, and I would bet money that most other marketers do too – so if I buckle down and do the scary “risky” things, I’m going to be the one getting attention.

Everything under point #3 scares me to DEATH!

For a long time I didn’t want to make videos, do webinars, think about podcasts, or anything of the “talking” sort – because I have a lisp. Not a regular lisp either. (It’s a special sort of frustrating thing for me.) So I was very self-conscious about my voice and I didn’t want anyone hearing it. I certainly didn’t want to broadcast it to the whole dang world!

But I was finally told by someone that I had a very UNIQUE voice. That person had struggled through years of having a stutter, and went on to do professional voice-overs. That put a whole new spin on it for me. Recording and speaking still scares me to death, but I’m going to do it – because I can, and because people will remember me for it.

If an engagement strategy scares me in 2013, it will be my next stop on the road to Awesome-ville. Because if it scares me it’s probably because it will make me get out of my comfort zone and get even more attention.

Keep in mind that nobody remembers you for doing the same things that every other marketer does. What made Danny Iny stand out in your mind? What about marketers like Ana Hoffman, Liz Tomey, or Robert Plank? As a matter of fact, what makes ANYONE stand out about the crowd in your mind?

What are YOU doing to stand out? Are you getting out there and doing things that are a little scary and that will get you remembered? Or are you playing it safe and keeping to the shadows? As for me, I’m through with the latter – thanks much.

It may not be the newest, shiniest, most epic strategy out there, but it’s mine – it’s do-able, changeable, and I’ve seen proof provided by Danny and others that sticking to these points will work.

One thing I’ve learned through all this is that the best engagement strategies are moldable. They have joints in them that will bend and give when certain pressure is applied. If I hit a wall in one place, I’ll bounce back and try another – this will keep me from getting stuck when something goes awry with my strategy. Which I’m sure something will, but five minutes later I’ll be back in the game.

Because that’s how epic-ness works. 😉

Lindsey Rainwater (@LindseyRD3) is a passionate internet marketer who has her own ideas about what entrepreneurs look like and how they act. She does things her way, from the way she dresses to the way she runs her business, and spends a great deal of time teaching others that being themselves is the very best way to be successful in business and in life. When she isn’t blogging at LindseyRainwater.com she’s creating new products and memberships to help people make a living on the internet. 

About Danny Iny

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the CEO and founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimagined podcast, and best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich.

25 comments

  1. Coming back to this post . . . it’s odd.

    On one hand, it seems like this was a long time ago. But on the other hand it seems like just a few weeks ago.

    So much is the same, and so, so, so much has changed. It’s interesting to see where my head was, and realize that while nothing went the way I expected it to, everything is so much better now. But if I hadn’t been doing what scared me, none of this good stuff would have happened.

    I think there is another guest post there.

    Get ready for another pitch, Megan. 😉

  2. Some posts have good information but they don’t move me. It takes good (not just competent, as Stephen King would put it) writing to move me. This was some epic shit right here. I’m fired up! I’m going to wager that even though blogging keeps your blood flowing, you still have a lucrative freelance career somewhere in the distance ahead of you, Lindsey.

    What’s more… your suggestions are actually tried and proven. My writing is improving by leaps and bounds from keeping a journal like you suggest. I use penzu.com so I can access it anytime, anywhere as long as I can be online… and its more secure. For the branding part, I took Tea Sylvestre’s “secret sauce” course and came to some of the same conclusions and plans you did. Laura’s post here on FPM also resonated with me. And thanks for the reminder about time management. I’ve run from it all my life too, so there’s hope for me yet.

    About overcoming fears.. again, nothing new in your post.. just the way you say it speaks to me in a special way. If you can overcome a lisp that you are STILL sensitive about, something tells me it won’t be long before you are inspiring hoards of raving fans to get out of their comfort zones. I feel like I’m just a few blocks behind on the same road you’re traveling.

    Thanks for letting us know where the potholes are. Thank you, Lindsey. Thank you, THANK YOU!

    1. Hi Rodney, thank you for your kind words. One reason it took me so long to respond was that when I first read your response I honestly wasn’t sure what to say – I was flattered and I’m not really used to that. 🙂

      I’ve also been busy trying to create more spic shit. 😉

      But I did want to come back and tell you how much I appreciate your comment. It really made me feel good, since “epic shit” is really the greatest compliment anyone could pay me at this point in my life.

      Not to mention you quoted Stephen King, which just makes you awesome in my book.

      Thank YOU for your comment, and I hope to see you frequently as we go down the road of success.

  3. MJyogee says:

    Lindsey, I love your post as it is very personal and you did exactly what you are talking about. You are yourself without censorship. I love it! The thing is we are meant to be in relation as human, and so much of it was lost with ”progress”, We need to go back to being genuine. That is what attract people to each other because they ca relate to that.

    In the last email I sent before reading this post, I told a friend something about my new business venture, I need to do and it scares me to death! After reading your post, I am even more certain now that I know what to do . Do it, no mater what and be who I am. Forget about what people will think or say about me. In the end, being authentic is what pays more, maybe not in the short run but long term and not only financially! Good luck with the contest!

    1. Thank you for the feedback. It is good to know that I’m making an impact on people and letting them know they’re on the right track.

      You know, there seems to be this fine line between being “professional” and “being yourself.” I used to walk that line like a tightrope, and I would fall off on the side of being “professional.” I finally started seeing that line more as a divider on a road, and I now walk to the “being myself” side of it. It’s more relaxed, more fun, and easier to not get hit by life’s semi-trucks because you can watch for them coming.

      And something that made me realize that I can be myself is this growing trend for TV people to let go of the stuffy “professional” look. Glenn Beck wears jeans and Converse on TV, and people still listen to him! I don’t care whether you LIKE the guy or not – he’s got balls for dressing like that. It makes him more human and those that do like him find that appealing.

      There’s a lot of other celebrities, TV personalities, and people who are doing that. (Lady Gaga takes it to a whole new level, but you have to admit that she too is being herself, and love her or hate her, a LOT of people respect her for how open she is about herself.)

      So yes, being genuine – as you put it – is the best way to attain long-term success. When you try to be a lie, one of two things happen. You either become very unhappy when you actually become that lie, or you forget what lie you told. Pretending is exhausting. Be yourself.

      And I think I’ve been railroaded in the contest. 🙂 But that’s ok – just being here and seeing the impact I’m making is so worth it no matter where I end up on the scoreboard.

  4. Aileen Crane says:

    When I considered this, I wondered some more: “Maybe we don’t do this enough. Or perhaps we need to do it differently.” As we explore and expand our boundaries, here are some thoughts regarding comfort zones — and how to get outside of them.

  5. Gay says:

    Wow girl thanks and isn’t it true about just being yourself so that you find your brand and your place in the blogging world. Thanks for your honesty and just listened to your first podcast, great job!
    I’m also trying to spread my wings more this year and do the “scary” stuff. Good to know I’m not alone.

    1. Thank you so much. It’s really nice to know that I’m giving people encouragement to pursue their ideas.

      Just remember to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It gets easier, and before you know it you’re running full speed, which makes your wings’ job a lot easier. 🙂

  6. You hit the nail on the head with the part about “staying unapologetic for being me.” One of the reasons I follow Danny so closely is because he doesn’t try to portray himself as something he isn’t. That seems to be the modus operandi in business and I find it to be a terrible way to go through life!

    Thank you for being so open about your struggles. I found this blog to be one of the more personal inspiring ones I’ve read!

    1. Silly me, I actually made the mistake of trying to be someone I wasn’t. It didn’t last long, but I tried to create this much more “professional” image for myself.

      It was boring! Apparently at the time I thought “professional” and “boring” were synonymous.

      I never tried to say I was a superhero when I wasn’t, but I tried to tone myself down – don’t swear, don’t be weird, don’t be offensive in any way – and I finally realized that that sucked. Because that wasn’t what was going to get attention. That wasn’t me.

      I don’t TRY to offend people, but I do fairly regularly just because I don’t lie. And I’m about as weird and sometimes creepy as you can get. But I realized that the people who like me, like me BECAUSE of those traits, not in spite of them.

      I have a lot of respect for marketers who are themselves, even if I don’t really like them personally. Because they’re being brave – and that is what people need to see. 🙂

  7. Laurie says:

    Lindsey,

    Reading your post, I wondered what the backstory and reasons behind your decision not to be freelance writer involved? The new things you are committed to doing seem a natural part of being a freelance writer nowadays. If you had to put a name to it, would you instead describe yourself as a blogger? And how would you then describe your business model?

    All questions I’m currently contemplating, so your responses would be very interesting to me.

    -Laurie

    1. Hi Laurie, I tell people that I am an internet marketer. I spend a lot of time creating and promoting my own products, and my main strategies involve inviting people to join my mailing lists and giving honest reviews on products that I affiliate for.

      I made the decision to move away from freelance writing because I think I’m something of a control freak. I like to do things my way – not to mention I’m very ADD, and so focusing on my own projects is difficult enough without trying to focus on a project that I’m not excited about.

      I also talk about this in my podcast, but basically I think it boils down to I wanted to spend my writing time writing for me instead of someone else.

      Some of my best friends are freelancers – writers, photographers, coders – and they LOVE it. But I think they look at it more as a fun challenge since they never know what their next client is going to ask for, while I always felt more like it was Russian Roulette. *laughs*

      I think freelancing was the best start I could have gotten since I learned so much, but it just wasn’t a good long-term business model.

      So now I call myself an internet marketer, and I’m always thinking up new products and memberships. For some reason I don’t identify myself as a “blogger” even though I love blogging and do it daily (except last week, and I was going crazy because I wasn’t blogging). But blogging and podcasting are now my main two methods of interacting with the world.

      Sorry about the long answer, but I hope that helps. You just need to be comfortable with your business. I was a great writer, but not a good freelancer, and it wasn’t because I didn’t know how to do the work or get a decent wage – it was simply that I wasn’t comfortable and wasn’t enjoying myself. Now I am.

      Doing what scares you is good. Doing what makes you uncomfortable is obviously a waste of time. 🙂

      1. Thanks for the in-depth reply, Lindsey! I find that understanding how others with ancillary businesses got started and where they are at now to be very helpful.

        I guess I am one of those that looks at freelancing as a fun challenge, but I’m always looking to expand my options. Thanks!

        1. One thing you might consider (I’ve considered it myself, but haven’t made time for it) is to create a product, membership site, or coaching program that teaches people how to be good freelancers.

          If you are or become a successful freelancer, and you’re thinking about branching out into more of your own projects, teaching other freelancers is something I always thought would be brilliant. Most of us stumble around and run into things until we find a light and figure out how to freelance. If you could guide people to their own freelance success you’d be their hero.

          Not to mention you wouldn’t have to leave freelancing behind, and you could decide if you even like having your own projects.

          Sorry, random idea that I felt the need to toss out there. 🙂

  8. Margaret Fisher says:

    Hi Lindsey,

    I loved this because it is exactly how I started and what I’m doing this year! The way you describe yourself is awesome. As a fellow redhead, I can’t even count the times I’ve been called sassy or bitchy and don’t care because it fits.

    I’ll be listening to the podcast and looking forward to future posts!

    1. It does seem to fit. I’ll admit that I *cough* ENHANCE my red hair, but it’s coppery naturally and I’ve been told my many that I’m a redhead in heart and action no matter what my hair looks like.

      I use it as a warning now. Red hair = engage at thine own risk. 😉

      Thanks for the encouragement. I look forward to seeing you around.

  9. Mike Kawula says:

    Lindsey,
    Great post and like the action steps. Checked out your site and listened to your first Podcast. Great first Podcast, did you do it all yourself or outsource? I wish you the best of luck and enjoy being your own BOSS!

    1. Thank you so much Mike. I was hoping the action steps would prove useful for readers. 🙂

      And I’m glad you liked the podcast. I did the whole thing myself – no outsourcing. Podcasts are so easy that there’s no point to outsourcing, in my opinion. 😉

  10. Michel Leedy says:

    Lindsey Rainwater… You are brilliant and I love this story!!!

    In addition to looking forward to reading your backlogs & future posts, but after this response has been sent, I’ll be following you on twitter as well!

    Long story short; I’m new (1 month) to network marketing/social media and absorbing as much as possible as quickly as my brain will allow and I will be re-reading and dissecting the above as soon as I get home from work tonight (ie: I’m in the process of ‘finding my voice’ and ‘doing what scares the living hell out of me’ as well)!!

    To close: ‘Slightly Bitchy’ (In my opinion) is completely acceptable, as long as it’s a fact… and thank you for the inspiration!!

    The best of luck to you in 2013!!!!

    To be continued…

    I’m Michael Leedy

    PS: I filled in my website on your form, as it’s literally being nuzzled into it’s new home on the web as I write these words, but at this point (1/4/13 at 7:30pm) it’s still on there.

    1. Thank you Michael – one of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to find a couple things and focus. I bounced a lot when I was learning to run an online business, but it was partially because I wanted to see how many methods actually worked. Not something I would recommend to others! 😀

      So find a business model and stick with it – and I would say start with building engagement and go from there. I waited to engage people and now I know I did it backwards.

      And be yourself – always. It’s more fun that way. 🙂

  11. Harish says:

    Hi Lindsey!
    Thanks for a great post! I enjoyed reading it!
    I really like all the engagement strategies that you outlined in your post.
    I also like the “doing what scares you” part of your post because I believe that staying in the comfort zone is the number one nemesis to producing epic stuff, creating a unique voice and connecting with others.
    I know the feeling because I have been there before and this much I know that the comfort zone will be haunting my creativity for a long long time in the future. I think the key is to be all right staying with the discomfort that being out of the comfort zone so invariably provides. And this is where a lot of people throw in the towel and give up.
    But from my experience with science research, I can say for sure that being all right with failure and staying out of the comfort zone can be learned. It is a muscle waiting to be flexed.
    In science research, people fail so repeatedly and consistently that only the ones that train themselves to be all right with the uncertainty and discomfort have any measure of success. The cliched tale about Edison’s reply that he attempted different ways of trying something out and did not fail thousands of time while creating the workable light bulb is actually very true and possible in a science setting. The only issue is that the realization of that story is an experiential one and cannot be intellectualized. While it makes for good reading, I believe that actual failures and repeated attempts at something different while staying in the discomfort zone is what really brings in the results. The key for me was to learn that every attempt brought me closer to the answers that i was seeking and that no idea was a foolish one to pursue.

    Thanks again for your post!
    Harish

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Harish. 🙂

      I like the way you compared it to a muscle. That’s exactly it. Stepping outside your comfort zone is hardest the first time. After that it becomes a little more routine until it’s almost habit.

      I’m turning doing what scares me into a hobby! *laughs*

  12. Carmelo says:

    Hey Lindsey! Good for you in moving in new directions and challenging yourself! Where would we all be if we never learned to walk and talk? (Although I’m sure there are people who wish I’D never learned!;-))

    I like your voice and personality in your podcast. You shouldn’t worry about that. Keep up the great work and I wish you all the best. Thanks for your ideas too!

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I have a tendency to be very self-conscious about my voice, but I’ve been getting a lot of very kind and encouraging comments from people regarding my podcast.

      Now, image if I had caved and given in to that fear? I wouldn’t have made it, and I’d be missing out on the fun of people enjoying the podcast.

      So thank you so much for that!

      1. Carmelo says:

        Fear can be seen as an invitation, can’t it? It’s a door to discovery. If we choose to open it we might find all kinds of goodies. You didn’t run the other way. Good! I’ve found that fun things can be scary.

        Yet, I’d go on to say if it doesn’t turn out to be fun … but just scary? Forget about it. Even though it might get you noticed, is it worth it? I don’t think so. Would you agree?

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