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Welcome to episode 120 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork talks with Dorie Clark about her new book, Entrepreneurial You.
Last week on the podcast, Bjork interviewed Brian Gardner from StudioPress about building his business, dealing with competition, and practicing minimalism. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.
Becoming an entrepreneur and working on your side gig can be tough, but by understanding and applying a few different strategies, you can build the business you dream of.
Dorie’s new book Entrepreneurial You is a “blueprint for professional independence.” In it, she talks about just how important it is to have a strong brand when you’re building a business, how to become an expert and be trusted, and how that can help you sell your products and services. This podcast episode dives deep into the principles Dorie teaches in her book and shows you how you can take action on developing your business today.
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Bjork Ostrom: In this episode, we talk to Dorie Clark, the author of Entrepreneurial You. We’re going to be talking about building a portfolio of revenue streams, traditional and online, so that you, yes, you the listener, can liberate yourself financially and shape your own career destiny.
Hey there, hey there, hey there. It is Bjork Ostrom and you are listening to the Food Blogger Pro podcast. When I do that little intro to the intro … There’s kind of multiple intros here. There’s the little snippet intro and then there’s the longer intro here. That first little snippet that I showed was actually part of the description for Dorie Clark’s book Entrepreneurial You. Not only is this going to be a perfect conversation for you, the Food Blogger Pro podcast listener, but Dorie actually interviewed me as she was writing Entrepreneurial You.
When I opened it up and I was looking through it, preparing for the podcast, it was really fun to see Pinch of Yum and Food Blogger Pro and Lindsay and I mentioned in the book. This book is a perfect conversation piece for this podcast, and it’s a perfect read for you, the person that listens to this podcast, because she dives really deep and shares stories and examples of consultants and coaches and podcasters and bloggers and online marketers about how they have built their businesses. She also talks about her story as well. We’re going to cover all of those things in today’s interview. Really excited to welcome Dorie Clark on the podcast to talk about what it means to be entrepreneurial and how you, the listener, can be entrepreneurial as you look to build your business and to shape your own career destiny.
Let’s go ahead and jump in. Dorie, welcome to the podcast.
Dorie Clark: Bjork, I’m so glad to be talking with you again. Thanks for having me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, you bet. When I was reading through your book, I just thought this is the perfect book for our audience. I’m really excited to talk about it today, but also for them to pick it up, which I know that you shouldn’t lead off a podcast interview promoting the book before you even talk about it, but it’s so perfect for our audience. I just want to say that right off the bat.
One of the first things you say in the book, you say this, “It’s the dirty secret of today’s entrepreneurial economy, being excellent and even being well-known and respected in your field just isn’t enough.” Can we talk about why that is, and then we’ll jump into some other things after that?
Dorie Clark: We can, indeed. This is one of the really big fundamental challenges. I’ve written now three books. Entrepreneurial You is my third one. I feel like this is the book that really had to get written, because my first one, Reinventing You, was about personal branding. It was about how to reinvent yourself into the career that you want. My second one, Stand Out, was about how to become a recognized expert in your field.
What I came to realize in the course of researching both of those topics, which I think are really important and really critical, is that even when people reached a level of success that other people would look at and say, “Oh, wow, they must be doing great. They must be amazing,” oftentimes those people were still struggling because it is a very different art, learning how to be good at something versus how to make money being good at something. I wanted to just try to crack that open and crack the code of it, because since we are in such an entrepreneurial economy these days, things have changed.
There’s an Internet theorist I interviewed in the book named Doc Searls, and I love the way he expressed it. He said, “It used to be that people would get paid for doing something. You’d make money from something. For instance, you’re a journalist, you get paid for writing your articles. Pretty simple. Now, we are shifting more and more to an economy where you make money because of something, meaning you don’t get paid directly from it. You probably don’t even get paid at all, but if you are smart enough, you can monetize around it in other ways and often do far better than you could have before, but you have to know to do that.” That’s the secret, and that’s really what I wanted to get at with Entrepreneurial You.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, it’s interesting. You talked about your books. It’s kind of this trilogy, and I feel like … I think of the great trilogies that are out there like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. How many Lord of the Rings are there? Is there more than three? I should know that.
Dorie Clark: I’m not the most sci-fi-y kind of person, so I don’t know either. I think it’s three.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay.
Dorie Clark: Weren’t there three movies?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that sounds right.
Dorie Clark: Then The Hobbit was something different. I think together we’ve nailed it.
Bjork Ostrom: Okay. There’s trilogies out there, and people will debate … Star Wars isn’t a trilogy, but there’s a series. They debate about how you should read through those. Would you say for your books, should people approach those in a certain way where they read Reinventing You, read Stand Out, and then read Entrepreneurial You? What would your recommendation be for people that are working through that content? Maybe it depends on where they’re at as well.
Dorie Clark: I think it depends on where they’re at. Obviously, everybody wants to make money. This is a useful thing if you are an entrepreneur. You can certainly dive in with Entrepreneurial You. I think it’s accessible for everybody. I would say that the question to ask yourself once you’ve gotten your grounding in how to earn money, is (a) are you still in the process of trying to shift over fully into this new realm? If you are, then Reinventing You is probably a good complement. If you’re already there but you want to build your brand, build the so-called all-important platform, then Stand Out is about that. It’s about platform-building. It’s about really getting known so that your name can be on the top of people’s tongues.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes, for sure. I would actually like to talk through each one of those and then finally coming to Entrepreneurial You. I would like to talk through each one of those as it relates to your story, because in some ways, do you feel like your personal entrepreneurial story ties into these books as you wrote them?
Dorie Clark: Oh, for sure. In fact, deliberately, particularly for Stand Out and for Entrepreneurial You, I wrote the books explicitly as a learning mechanism for myself. I wanted to learn this stuff, and my original training, my first job was as a journalist. I learned the way that I know how to learn, which is, all right, let me find an excuse to talk to 50-plus of the smartest people in the world doing this. Then I will synthesize it, assimilate it for myself and share it with other people.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I feel the same way with the podcast sometimes where I feel like it’s me getting to do an hour of consulting and then share that publicly.
Dorie Clark: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: It seems like the same can be true here, where you have 50 conversations with really influential or educated people in a certain topic that informs, in your case, something that you were going through. Take us back to where you were. You were a journalist and you said, “Hey, I want to reinvent myself. I want to go through the process of changing my career a little bit.” What was the reason for wanting to start moving in that direction to reinvent yourself?
Dorie Clark: Well, you have the story partially right, I guess, which is that I was a journalist. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to reinvent myself. It was that I was forced to reinvent myself.
Bjork Ostrom: Didn’t have a choice.
Dorie Clark: I did not. A lot of people, unfortunately, find themselves in that situation. I had the luck, let’s put it in air quotes, of being one of the earliest wave of journalists to get laid off. I lost my job in 2001 and discovered that, to my surprise, there were not really other journalism jobs available, and the situation only got worse as time progressed, so I needed to shift out of that field. That really began my reinvention. Otherwise, I probably would have stayed in journalism. I liked doing it and thought it was a good career for me.
In the course of doing this reinvention, I definitely had to learn entrepreneurial skills. I had to be kind of scrappy and figuring out how I was going to support myself, initially just as a freelance journalist. That mentality actually served me really well, because when you are in a situation where you are not going to get paid at all unless you can convince someone to buy what you are selling, in this case an article, you get really good at getting close to your customer and learning what is of keen interest to them. That is exactly what we need to do as entrepreneurs.
It took me a little while to shift full-time into entrepreneurship. After I left journalism, I worked in politics for a while and was a spokesperson first on a gubernatorial campaign and then on a presidential campaign, and I ran a non-profit for a couple years. Working in the non-profit, I realized, oh, running a non-profit is exactly the same thing as running a business. You come out of a non-profit background, too, right?
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, absolutely.
Dorie Clark: I realized like, oh, this is super transferable. I thought, well, I could do this for myself. I plotted my exit, and in 2006 ended up launching my own business. The first book, Reinventing You, was kind of inspired by my career transition and then learning from other people about how to do it well, because in that case, I kind of fumbled through my transition, and so writing Reinventing You was a little bit of a way for me to write the book that I wished I had had access to at the time. Then Stand Out and Entrepreneurial You were perhaps a little bit more real-time learning for me.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. When you look back at that, that transition that you made, what were the biggest takeaways that you would give to somebody who’s interested in, in this case, probably transitioning into an entrepreneurial career, but also just making that transition into something, the tagline for the book, Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, somebody who’s imagining a different future? What would your advice be to them to start to make that imagined future realized?
Dorie Clark: Well, one of my favorite stories from Reinventing You is actually about a woman named Patricia Fripp. She started her career, of all things, as a hairdresser, and she discovered that she loved public speaking and wanted to become a professional speaker. I think that so often, the story that we tell ourselves culturally about entrepreneurship is that it’s this all-or-nothing thing, that the only brave thing is to just dive into it and take a risk. Of course, people who are in entrepreneurship realize that, in fact, it’s in many ways the converse.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Dorie Clark: Your job is mitigating risk.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Dorie Clark: What I love about Patricia Fripp, she had a 10-year lease on her hair salon, and she said, “You now what? That’s my runway.” She plotted methodically that over this period she would work to get more and more speaking engagements. Early on, she would reinvest anything she earned into just getting better at her craft. She would pay for lessons. She would pay for really good videos and marketing collateral, all the things she needed, and she built up her business systematically and just working toward it. By the time that 10 years was up, she shut down her hair salon and did not look back, because she had more than replaced her income from public speaking.
Now it’s not to say you have to have 10 years of doing it. It’s kind of an extreme example, but what I love about it is it’s methodical, precision. You do not need to rush into this. In fact, what I encourage people to do is to bide their time. Start today, but start today in a small way that you can build and test. Even if you want to go full-time into entrepreneurship, that’s a great thing to do.
This is contrary to what I did. I sort of did the, oh, let’s dive into it kind of thing, which in retrospect is a little silly, but I think people can nurture things more effectively now on the side. Then, once you see it’s working, once you have proof of concept, that’s when you can double down. That’s when you can really go into it, and if you want to leave your day job, do it, but I wouldn’t just rush into it. I think that more people could explore on the side.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes. Yes, I agree 100%. I think of a interview that I did recently with Brian Clark, who did … Excuse me, think of a interview I did with Brian Gardner, who is the founder of StudioPress, which is a theme that people use for … They have a theme called Genesis. The line that he used was he got to the point where he felt like it would be irresponsible financially to not quit his job.
Dorie Clark: Ah, uh-huh.
Bjork Ostrom: I thought that was such a interesting inflection point, and it reflects, I think, some of the beliefs that we have as well, which is this phrase that I use sometimes, which is, build a bridge, don’t burn your boats. I think so often, like you said, the mentality with entrepreneurship is, build the boats. You don’t have any chance to go back. You have to do this. Instead, think about how can I build a bridge so I have this path, so I know where I’m going, so I’m not nervous about being left behind and not having a way out of here. That was our story, is we slowly made our transition over three or four years as opposed to drastically making the change.
Dorie Clark: Totally.
Bjork Ostrom: You have this process of starting to reinvent yourself. You know that you’re going to look at things a little bit differently. You want to start to build a different future. At that point, are you realizing, hey, one of the ways to do this is to become an authority, to become somebody who is respected and has some type of recognition in a certain area and that’s where Stand Out came out from?
Dorie Clark: That’s exactly right. I think that most people who join the ranks of entrepreneurship come to realize pretty fast that one of the biggest challenges is differentiating yourself in the marketplace. The minute you leap in, it’s like, oh, no, everyone’s a marketing consultant.
Bjork Ostrom: Yes.
Dorie Clark: What do I do? Everyone’s a web designer. It becomes hard because, of course, your clients are not going to help you. Your clients are going to be, “So, what’s different about you? Oh, well, the other guy says he can do it for 50 bucks. Why are you charging more?”
There’s always this downward pressure, this commoditization, and if you’re going to be successful, you have to find a way to fight back against that. Otherwise, you are going to run a low-margin business that’s going to strain you and run you into the ground. The only way to really thrive over time is to build a loyal customer base and to get the kind of market positioning you need so that there is a group of people out there that say, “Oh, I don’t care what it costs. I need Bjork,” so they go do that.
I became really obsessed with the question of figuring that out, like, well, okay, how do you establish that premium positioning? How do you get to be known as among the best in your field? For Stand Out, I interviewed 50-plus really interesting thought leaders. In the business world it was people like Tom Peters and David Allen and Seth Godin and Robert Cialdini, but people from all over a variety of different fields, to try to understand and reverse engineer the process by which they came to be known, because that’s what we all need to do to a greater or lesser extent, depending on our marketplace. If you’re really going to thrive, you need to be sought out by your client. You can’t be knocking on doors and begging your whole career.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. What were two to three or one to two or maybe the most important, whatever comes to mind, for when you were having those conversations with these really significant influencers or these authorities? Was there commonalities that you saw across the board or things where you could point to and say, “This is something pretty consistent that all of these people prioritize and they really make a point of doing”?
Dorie Clark: Well, ultimately, as a result of writing Stand Out, I came to realize that there is essentially a formula to becoming a recognized expert. I ultimately developed an online course to teach people this and sort of built out the methodology. The basic idea of this is that in order to become a recognized expert, there are three levers that you need to push. These are the essential components, and they are content creation, social proof, and network.
What I mean by all of this, first, content creation is essential. This is pretty obvious once you state it, but yet, a lot of people don’t do it, or they don’t intuit it. If you do not share your ideas publicly, no one will know what your ideas are, and they will not know if they’re any good.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. Right? Yeah.
Dorie Clark: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: But it’s a good reminder.
Dorie Clark: Yeah. So many people are just like, “Well, why haven’t I been discovered?” It’s like, you know what? You’re not making yourself discoverable. Whatever it is. It could be a blog, it could be a podcast, it could be speeches. You have to share your ideas through content creation.
Number two, social proof. This is fundamentally about credibility. Why should people listen to you? What is it about you that you are conveying that tells people in a busy world, oh, I need to pay attention to her? A fast way to attain social proof is just think of it as what affiliations can you attach to yourself? It could be an affiliation of being an officer in a professional association. It could be that you are blogging for a prominent publication. It could be that you have consulted for blue chip companies that people have heard of, whatever it is. You want this sort of seal of approval so that people say, “Oh, well, if she’s good enough for Google, then she’s good enough for me,” or whatever the case may be.
Then third and finally, of course, is your network. Your network works in multiple ways. One, of course, is that you’re known by the company that you keep. Two, is that the people around you can serve as these early ambassadors. If you have a good idea and you have a strong network, these are the people that can kind of pump it out to the world. Also, there’s kind of the negative sort of mirror image, which is that if you are purporting to be a recognized expert in your field and other people who are known in your field have no idea who you are, that’s a problem. That’s a credibility problem. You need to find a way to break into that network. If you can move those three levers, that is how you can become a recognized expert.
Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. I think a lot of times, people, at least that listen to this podcast, myself included, think of content creation. We’re content creators primarily through blog posts but also videos, people that maybe have a podcast or a YouTube channel, but I think those other pieces, social proof and then also network I think is really, really important. We’ve realized that more and more as we’ve continued to build our little corner of the Internet, that network is a really important piece. Do you have any advice for people that are in the early stages how they can start to network or get connected with other people that are doing similar things that can help kind of beef up or amplify what they’re doing?
Dorie Clark: Well, when it comes to building a network, actually one of the case studies that I shared in Stand Out was from a mutual friend that we were just discussing, John Corcoran. What I loved about John’s story is that he really used … I think this is probably something that you do as well. He used podcasting as his way of building a network. Especially if you are not in an urban area, let’s say, and you’re not exactly tripping over people, you have to manufacture ways to get to know them. We all know that there’s a hundred people that are saying, “Hey, Mr. Famous Person, can I pick your brain?”
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Dorie Clark: It’s just, no, that is not the way to do it. You’re not going to get in like that. If you can, as we say … It’s become hackneyed, so we’ll put air quotes on it, you can lead with value. If you can find a way to get time with someone in such a way that they perceive it that you are benefiting them rather than the reverse, rather than you taking from them, that is a really good way to do it. I profiled John’s efforts with his podcast of building a robust network.
I think things like that, writing … In my case, I spent about three and a half years blogging very regularly for Forbes, and almost every single one of those articles was an interview with someone. If you can come in and say, “Well, hey, do you want to be interviewed for Forbes?” odds are they’re going to say, “Yes.” It doesn’t even have to be Forbes. It can be your local newspaper or your professional association blog or whatever. It makes people far more likely to agree. In some of those cases, the relationship didn’t go anywhere. That was the only time I ever talked to them, but at least they kind of know who I am. In some cases, it actually turned into really good friendships and professional collaborations.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great. I think it’s the difference between food analogies as much as possible for us.
Dorie Clark: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: The difference between moving into a neighborhood and knocking on your neighbor’s door and being like, “Do you have any cookies for me?” versus, “Here are some cookies for you.” Offering something instead of asking for something, especially in those first few interactions that you have with somebody. It’s stuff that transfers over into normal life behavior and friendships and relationships. I think it’s something that people think about a lot. How do I network? How do I get connected? I think it’s great. Like you said, lead with value and be … Offer something as opposed to try and get something out of it.
Dorie Clark: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: You go through this process, people start to learn how to stand out. They establish themselves. Maybe they have kind of a brand that they’re starting to develop. Then there’s this issue of making that into a career, into a job, which then involves creating an income from it. It sounds like the … We look at the trilogy. I confirmed The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy.
Dorie Clark: Oh, nice.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, so three different parts. If we look at the Reinventing, Stand Out, Entrepreneurial You trilogy, this last piece of the puzzle is really taking those pieces that people learn as they reinvent themselves, as they start to understand how to stand out, and then creating an income around that. Can you talk about what this was like for you as you started to make this transition and start to, in your own career, start to understand, oh, I can see some of the pieces, the levers for the entrepreneur side of things that I need to start shifting and adjusting?
Dorie Clark: Yeah, absolutely. For me, really the key moment came when I started to focus on the idea of multiple income streams. The reason that this was critical for me … I started my business in 2006. I did marketing strategy consulting. For years, for, let’s say, four or five years, that was all I did. I would do marketing plans for people, maybe a social media plan for a company, that kind of thing. I felt diversified at the time because I had a number of different clients, so that was good. If one client dropped off, I wasn’t going to be totally in trouble, but I was basically doing the same thing for everybody.
At a certain point, I realized, you know what? I need to try to diversify. That will give me an opportunity to make more money in different ways, but also it is the ultimate hedge. I started deliberately cultivating that. You can’t pile on multiple revenue streams all the time. It’s not like you can suddenly say, “Oh, I did one thing and now I’m going to do seven things starting tomorrow.” Over time, I consciously sought to cultivate. In 2010, 2011, I really focused on trying to start teaching at business schools. That was one income stream that I was interested in and wanted to develop. I did a lot of networking to try to … Can I get myself in front of the right people? I ultimately was able to do that, so that was one.
Then simultaneously … I’d been blogging all for free, but eventually that led to a book contract for Reinventing You. Starting in 2011, that was when I signed the contract, and then in 2013, it finally came out. Writing books became another income stream. Now simultaneous to that, once you start writing books, you begin to become a little bit more credible of a paid public speaker. From the beginning, I’d been giving free talks as a way of promoting my business, but nobody was ever interested in giving money. Once I had a book, I was seen as more of an expert, and so I was able to actually start getting money for the talks, so that came in.
Now, we’ve got four income streams online, but, again, not overnight. That’s seven years into my business. Since then, I’ve been working on adding a new revenue stream every year or two, so I’m now up to eight. It’s not something that just happens. You have to really consciously plan out and say, “Okay, I’m going to develop my business in this area.”
Bjork Ostrom: Do you have an idea, you’re at eight right now, can you look out and say, “I know that I want to do 13 of these. I know what the next ones are going to be, or do those organically rise up and present themselves and you say, ”Oh, this looks like a good opportunity"? Question said differently, how do you know what to focus on first when you’re starting to build up those multiple streams of income?
Dorie Clark: I think that some opportunities certainly arise organically and some are a little bit more strategic. As you are developing your strategy, I would say the best question to ask is, what income stream can I pursue that will accomplish multiple things at once? Meaning for me, the reason that the first income stream that I pursued was business school teaching. That might not be, obviously, the right answer for some people, but I think the underlying principle translates, which is that early in my career, I needed more money. Business school teaching is okay in terms of pay. It’s not the most lucrative thing, but it’s decent.
Even more than that, I thought, okay, what could get me money plus credibility? That was the first thing that I wanted to do, because I realized it would make everything else downstream easier. Yes, it was an income stream, but it was also social proof. If you want to get that book contract, if you want to get more coaching clients or consulting clients, having a business school affiliation is really useful in that regard. That became the first one, and, indeed, it did make it easier when it came time for me to sign a book contract, because I had that credibility in my back pocket.
Bjork Ostrom: Right. Was that at the time with Duke? You’re currently a professor at Duke Business School, is that right?
Dorie Clark: Yes, that’s right. Duke was not the first one that I started teaching for, although it came about relatively soon. I think I signed the contract with them in 2012, but I did have other engagements with … I’ve taught in a paid capacity for a lot of different business schools, probably six or seven in the U.S., Babson, Kenan-Flagler at UNC. I’ve taught for Smith Executive Education. I’ve done stuff overseas, IE Business School in Spain, in Paris. I experimented with working for a lot of places, and then ultimately, Duke became the best arrangement for my needs, so that’s the one that I focused on.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. It’s interesting even … I felt that as I was researching for the interview and I’m looking at your site and it’s like, wow, Harvard Business Review. You have all these articles in Harvard Business Review. You’re a professor at Duke. You’ve written these three books. It’s a really concrete example of me consuming your content and your brand and that social proof working really well. I knew it and I was familiar with who you are, but then as I dig further into it, it’s like, oh, yeah. Then, to hear you talk about being intentional with that, it really paints the picture well and gives an idea of what that looks like.
Related to the multiple income streams, it’s something that we think about a lot and we talk a decent amount about on this podcast. Back on Episode Number 97, I talked about this thing that I call the egg carton method, again, food analogies, right? In drawing the analogy that creating an income is kind of like putting an egg in the egg carton, and with a blog, it’s a little bit of a different take, but with a blog or a website or a social media presence, you’re able to relatively quickly get to a decent amount of income if you break it down into little pieces.
The only thing you’re doing isn’t creating ads from your blog, but also you have affiliate marketing that’s a piece of it. You’re also doing some speaking perhaps in certain capacity, and you’re filling up that egg carton. Each one of those is able to play a part in contributing to the income that you’re getting from your business or your brand or whatever you’d want to call it that you’re building online. I really like what you have to say about that.
Dorie Clark: Thank you. Yeah, it’s very much in line with what you’re talking about.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things that you talk about in the book is you kind of break down different entrepreneurial case studies, and you talk about people that you interviewed and interacted with and the ways that they have built an income online. Did you see any similarities in terms of who those people were, how they worked, and how they created an income?
Dorie Clark: Well, I think that when it comes to developing your online business and having similarities, there’s definitely some key underlying principles. I think one of the things that struck me so much, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, Bjorn, is actually just hearing at a very basic level the extreme value of consistency. Now it sounds so basic in some ways, oh, yeah, be consistent, blah blah blah.
What I heard in the interviews was actually a disproportionate benefit. For instance, I interviewed a gentleman named James Clear, who is a popular blogger. He has an enormous e-mail list. It’s now in the range of about 400,000 e-mail subscribers. When I asked him to what did he attribute his success, he said literally, “It’s just to consistency. That is the determinative factor.” He decided in late 2012 that he was going to blog twice a week, and Tuesdays and Thursdays, I believe, and that is what he did for a period of years. He said when I interviewed him that there was a guy around the same time as he was writing that he really admired. This guy was great, really high-quality pieces, had a lot more followers than James did and is someone he kind of looked up to.
Now, four-ish years later, James has just eclipsed him, and he says, “It is not about quality at all. This guy is really good. It is about consistency.” Part of it is that the audience comes to expect things and they get excited about them, et cetera. Part of it also is just the discipline, the forcing yourself to create regularly, because you know that just in terms of the law of averages, some of your pieces are going to be average, some are going to be eh, and some are going to be great. If you’re only producing content irregularly, you’re not creating content that is really amazing on that frequent of a basis, because it is sort of a numbers game. You have to get in the habit of doing it. You need to give yourself the opportunity on a regular basis to try to create something great. He’s a huge advocate of that.
Antonio Centeno, who I believe you know as well-
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Dorie Clark: … who is included in the book, he runs a video blog, a vlog, called Real Men Real Style. When he looks back on the success of his blog, which now is enormous, he says that a critical mistake that he felt that he made was that he did daily video blogging for about 200 episodes and had gotten good head of steam, good momentum, and then he kind of slacked off. He had gone from daily down to once every two weeks or something like that for a period of time. He realizes retrospectively … After a while, he got back on it and did it daily, but he realizes that that was a critical error and he believes that his following would be double the size that it is now if he had kept up with the daily blogging and hadn’t diminished his momentum.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I feel like one of the ultimate examples I think of that is Seth Godin, who has his blog. I remember reading one of his posts where it was 10 years that he had been doing it in a row. It was somewhere in the 1,000 range of blog posts, every day for an extended period of time. Now, obviously, he’s one of the ultimate authorities on marketing, but that was built up little by little every single day over a long period of time.
I think also of The Beatles as such a good example of that, that it was a band that played hours and hours and hours and hours of music and wrote song after song after song after song, and from that were able to build this massive, incredible career, but it wasn’t from getting lucky after writing their first couple of songs. It was paying the dues over a super long period of time.
We talk about this concept of one-hit wonders, and so much of content creation can have that play into it where you have a hundred pieces of content. Two or three of those are your one-hit wonders. Everything else kind of supports that. What I heard you saying was you’re not going to get those huge successes without doing the hundred posts. You can’t have a success just doing five posts. You have to have that hundred in order to get that small percentage of really successful content.
Dorie Clark: Yeah. That’s exactly right. I think that there’s a mentality sometimes that, oh, I think I’m just going to take a lot of time and craft it so it’s amazing, and so I’m only going to make the most amazing super viral things. It’s like, no, wouldn’t it be nice if the world worked that way? No, you can’t do five posts and expect that every single one of them is going to be a massive success. No, the universe is not structured like that. You need the at-bats, and I think that consistency is what enforces that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. One of the things I want to come back to that you had talked about at the beginning of the podcast was this idea of … I almost imagined it as kind of this aura around people that they develop at a certain point. I don’t know if it would be people moving into becoming a personal brand or having influence, but it kind of sounded like building up this thing where you yourself or the brand that you’ve created around yourself is valuable. Can you talk a little bit more about that and how that applies to the Entrepreneurial You?
Dorie Clark: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. In terms of developing a personal brand, fundamentally what we’re talking about is your reputation. Are you known by other people? If so, what do they think of you? What is it that comes to mind? I think that this is so critical because in an increasingly attention-overwhelmed world, we all know we are getting pulled in a million directions. Our inboxes are overflowing. We can’t keep up with social media. You’re just scattered.
The amount of cognitive energy it takes for people to be willing to learn about someone new or something new is extraordinarily high. Let’s be honest. If you can develop a brand … This is the trick, right? It is hard to break your way into people’s consciousness, but there is a disproportionate reward for doing so, because if people have already heard of you, oh, yeah, that sounds familiar, they’re willing to pay so much more attention. They’re more interested in you. They want to talk to you. They’re intrigued by you. Why have I heard of you? Or even better, oh, I’ve heard of you. I read your blah blah blah.
That almost inevitably, if you are smart about it, leads to revenue because the sale is already made. You do not have to sell when you have a strong personal brand. Your brand has done the heavy lifting for you. What the sales process looks like is you say, “I have this thing. Are you interested?” and they say, “Oh, my god, of course.” That’s what it looks like.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense, and I think of … This is maybe a bit of a stretch, but there’s this cognitive dissonance that happens. Lindsay and I talk about this. We’re at the end of the day, we’re exhausted, and we, in the show … I don’t know if you remember those Netflix commercials where they … It was Netflix or Hulu or something like that, Amazon, but it talked about being in a show, you don’t have a show right now that you’re watching. We’re at the end of the day and we’re like, oh, there’s all these great shows that people talk about. We’re so exhausted, we don’t feel like getting to know these other characters, so we just watch a rerun of The Office.
Dorie Clark: Yes.
Bjork Ostrom: It’s because we’re familiar, we know who it is. That applies to personal brands as well, where people are familiar with somebody, they’re familiar with the brand, how they interact. It’s kind of like friendships as well. It’s so much easier to hang out with people you know, you trust, you have that relationship with. Not that you don’t want to make new friends, but when you do, it’s more work. There’s more involved with it. I can see that in some ways transferring over, where as you are getting connected to other people, as you are becoming part of somebody else’s kind of ecosystem, what that looks like is kind of becoming their friend, getting to know them, them getting to know you, getting to trust you and having that connection that you have. I love that analogy. I think that’s great.
Dorie Clark: Yeah, yeah, 100%.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. One of the things you talk about, Chapter Two of the book, you talk about the … You mentioned this a little bit earlier, but the point where you have something that you have to offer to your audience, and Chapter Two is the courage to monetize. Can you talk about why it takes courage to monetize what you have built?
Dorie Clark: Yeah. This is one of the tricky places when I talk to entrepreneurs out there. This is one of the things that is so uncomfortable for people to actually start to ask for money for what they do. Partly, it’s an informational challenge sometimes in the beginning because you’re not really sure necessarily what the going rates are, what would be appropriate, but it also is an emotional challenge because you’re asking people to pay you money for something. It can kind of feel personal in a way that it really doesn’t if you’re taking a job.
One of the stories that I actually told in my previous book, Stand Out, was about Ramit Sethi, who has the blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and I loved his story. He said that he had been blogging for free for three years before he ever created a product, just regularly sharing all this information. He finally decides, “Okay, I’m going to sell something.” What he decides to sell, it is not exactly lavish. It was a $4.99 e- book.
Bjork Ostrom: Sugar, yeah.
Dorie Clark: He was so nervous. He said that even to this day … it’s now a decade later … he has never been as nervous about launching something as he was that first thing, because, “Oh, my gosh, I’m asking people to pay for something.” He sends an e-mail. He says, “Hey, guys, I have this e-book,” and sure enough, he got hate mail. Not a lot of hate mail, obviously, but a few people are like, “You suck. You’re a sell-out. All you want is my money,” blah blah blah. They got this upset about a $5.00 e-book. It is not unjustified. That’s the first thing to know. It’s not like some crazy pathological fear. It is nerve-wracking to ask for money, and sometimes you will get blowback or you will get someone saying, “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” blah blah blah. As an entrepreneur, this is the challenge that we need to go past, is understanding just like …
Let’s continue our analogy. Just like if you have a friend or if you’re dating someone, you know what? If they’re upset with you, sometimes it’s because you did something and sometimes it’s just because they’re crazy, and you need to be able to learn the difference and to say, “Oh, my gosh, if you are completely flipping out and losing it because I was five minutes late or whatever, that’s not about me. That’s clearly your thing.” Similarly, if people respond badly to an offer that you’re making that is made in earnest and that you feel really confident that you can back up that value, that there is good stuff that you’re offering, that’s about them, not about you.
We can’t let that throw us off the trail. We can’t let that dissuade us, because the truth is, your business is not going to be sustainable if you can’t monetize it. This is the critical thing. Unless you have a trust fund, and most of us do not, we have to earn money from what we are doing. Otherwise, it will not continue. The responsible and appropriate thing is that we have to do this. For people who, because of their own baggage, are trying to say, “Oh, no. You’re not allowed to do that,” that’s something that we have to fight against, because we are in the right asking for money for what we are doing if we are providing legitimate value. If you feel good about that, then we need to empower ourselves. That is a necessary and critical part of what we’re doing.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah.
Dorie Clark: I wanted with Entrepreneurial You to open up the discussion around that.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah. I think that’s great. I was thinking about it just the other day in the context of other services that I have, or interactions that I have with other business owners and how I would never want to work with somebody, let’s say if it was somebody that mowed lawns, that did it for free, just because I know, well, that would probably last one week and then they wouldn’t show up, and they wouldn’t have a customer support person that could help if there’s an issue.
I think there is a need, and in a lot of ways, you are able to offer a better service if you ask for an appropriate exchange, dollar amount for a service or for a product, for whatever it is that you are creating. At the same time, like you said, also justifying and saying, you’re not weird if you feel weird, especially for the first time when you ask your audience or the people you interact with to purchase something or to have some type of monetary transaction.
Dorie Clark: Yeah. That’s right. For me, personally, in order to kind of get over that hurdle, one of the things that I did, again, very strategically and systematically, was with my e-mail list. For years and years and years I didn’t sell anything on my e-mail list. I didn’t make any offers. It was all just sort of like, hey, blah blah blah. Oh, I’m speaking in California. Just sort of stupid things. I started to really focus two or three years ago on building a great e-mail list, something that would be providing a lot of value to people. I really built that up to emphasize it, to make it regular, to be providing information that people needed and wanted.
One of the things that I was cognizant of was, okay, it would be a big shift to not ask for any sales and then suddenly to sell something. I realized that a good way to essentially break my audience in and to let them know, to familiarize them with the concept of buying things off my list was to start to do affiliate promotions. I began partnering with people that I really liked and believed in and felt like they were doing complementary things, and so I started to promote their stuff.
I think in some ways, that’s actually a good gateway drug because it is often easier to promote other people rather than yourself. You can say, “Oh, well, you know, I love his work and he’s so smart. Oh, his course is totally worth it.” Yes, you’re making money because of an affiliate arrangement, but it’s not like you’re complimenting yourself. You’re complimenting the other person, so it feels a little more, quote unquote, “natural.” That was a healthy entry point for me into learning how to get better at sales and also my list as well.
Bjork Ostrom: Sure. Yeah. You present that potential that this list will be used for not just informing you, what you’re up to and what you’re doing, but also things that you think could be helpful, product or service-related, for your audience, which I think that’s a great piece of advice for people that are getting into it and want to experiment with it. Talk about somebody else if it’s not initially comfortable for you to talk about yourself.
Speaking of the e-mail list, that was an interesting point that you talk about in the book was kind of making this realization as well, how valuable the email list is. Do you have two or three different tools that you could recommend for listeners, things for you personally that have been really helpful as you’ve been building your business? Maybe things that you learned from people you interviewed or things you’ve used for a long time.
Dorie Clark: Well, if we’re talking about tools specifically for list-building, I definitely have gone through a process and a development. Right now, I’m using ConvertKit for my list, and the reason for that … I’ve gone through iterations. When I first started out, I used Constant Contact because it’s cheap. If all you’re doing is sending out, hey, guys kind of e-mails that it’s fun, but eventually you need a greater level of sophistication, and so I switched to AWeber, which was really good for its purposes in the sense of being able … What I needed to do at the time was be able to send broadcast e-mails to the whole list, but also to have an autoresponder sequence to kind of welcome people into the list and give them regular content.
That was useful as I began to focus more emphasis on the list and really creating a kind of curated experience for people as they were getting to know me and accessing my information, but they were a little slow on developing tagging functionality and segmenting functionality. That’s something that they are working on and have been building and I think may even be available now.
I ended up switching over to ConvertKit because as you have greater levels of precision in terms of the audience that you want to reach, it becomes really useful to be able to keep lists and to know with more demographic certainty based on what people are clicking and reading. Oh, this person is an entrepreneur and they’re based in the Boston area and they also are really interested in Facebook ads or whatever it is, because if you are making offers to that list, you don’t want to be bombarding people who could care less about that stuff. You’re only doing it right if you’re giving people information that they care about, and so the more targeted segmenting you can do, the more likely people are going to be saying, “Oh, your list is so helpful,” as opposed to, “Your list is so spammy.” ConvertKit has been really great with that.
I also use LeadPages, which is wonderful for tracking sources and really seeing what works in terms of your marketing efforts. I’m a big fan of Sumo as well, which enables you, the app Sumo, which enables you to have these pop-ups and welcome mats on your website to gain more e-mail subscribers. Those are things I use all the time.
Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Those are great tools ConvertKit, LeadPages, Minnesota company. Shout-out for LeadPages.
Dorie Clark: Yeah.
Bjork Ostrom: And Sumo, which does some list-building tools. We’ll link to all those in the show notes. I know people always appreciate that. The last question that I always like to end with before we get to hear about where we can follow along with you and pick up the book, which I just pre-ordered before our interview, I’ll have you know.
Dorie Clark: Oh, thank you.
Bjork Ostrom: The last question that I want to ask you is for somebody that is listening to this right now, and maybe they’re in their first year, maybe they’re in their second year, but they’re not at the point yet where the engine is running at full capacity, they’re getting started. What would your advice be to them if they want to get to a point where they’re kind of living this Entrepreneurial You life?
Dorie Clark: I would say that probably the best investment that you can make in the very early stages of your business is trying to maximize social proof. What I mean by that … We were talking earlier about how do you become a recognized expert, and this is one of the categories, how do you build up credibility. The reason that this is so critical, especially early on, is that when nobody has heard of you, when you’re just starting, it is really hard to get people’s attention, whether those people are clients or they are influencers or they’re just kind of other peers and colleagues that you want to connect with. It’s a busy world.
One of the best things that you can do that will pay disproportionate benefits down the road is giving people a reason to want to meet you and to want to connect with you. If there’s something about you where people say, “Oh, that’s interesting,” then it makes it far more likely that they will take that meeting and that they will make an effort to extend themselves. It doesn’t even have to be a business thing. Maybe there’s just something unusual about you. Maybe you speak seven languages or maybe you’re a whatever, a salsa champion. Those are interesting things.
Especially in your business realm, if you can over-index on just really working your angles to start blogging for a prominent publication or something, let’s say, which was the angle that I took, or other things, starting or becoming a leader of a professional association in your area, something like that so that people say, “Oh, that’s cool. Oh, she seems really legit. I should get to know her.” That’s the best thing you could do. You need to change the power dynamic, because when you’re starting, you’re kind of the low man on the totem pole of everything, and you’ve got to flip that as fast as you can so that you can get people, if not coming to you, at least when they hear about you, saying, “Yes, I want to meet that person.” That will just help you in every single way down the road.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s great and a good piece of advice to end on, but before we officially wrap up, there’s a couple things I want to ask you about. First was you had mentioned that there is a giveaway you have for Food Blogger Pro podcast listeners. Can you talk about that?
Dorie Clark: It is true, yes. I have created a special 88-question Entrepreneurial You self-assessment, which actually walks you step by step through the process, how to create multiple revenue streams in your business and to think about how this applies to your own life. If folks are interested in getting that for free, you can go to dorieclark.com/entrepreneur and download that.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Thanks. Then the book is coming out. It will be released by the time this podcast is published, so people can buy it immediately, but can you talk about where people can find it and then where people can follow along with you online?
Dorie Clark: Yeah. Thank you, Bjork. Entrepreneurial You, yes, the official release date is October 3. You can certainly get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the smart and savvy independent bookstores. When in doubt, Amazon and Barnes & Noble should have it. Yeah, for folks who would like to learn more, I have more than 400 free articles, the product of all of that extensive content creation.
Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, for sure.
Dorie Clark: I have more than 400 free articles, things I wrote for Forbes, Harvard Business Review, et cetera. it’s all available on my website, which is dorieclark.com.
Bjork Ostrom: Awesome. Dorie, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.
Dorie Clark: Hey, thank you, Bjork. Great to talk to you.
Bjork Ostrom: You too. That’s a wrap for this interview. Another big thank you for Dorie for coming on and also for having us as a part of her book. It was such an honor to be included in that. It always feels so weird for me to see our name in print, whether it’s the blog or my name, Bjork Ostrom, because we see it online in certain instances, but there’s something about an actual book that feels so legitimate, so really fun to be a part of that. Thank you, Dorie, for coming on the podcast and also for allowing us to be part of Entrepreneurial You and to be a part of the book.
I wanted to mention something real quick. I was going to talk about purchasing the book. You can jump on Amazon. Obviously, that’s a really easy way to buy it or bookstores would carry that as well, but if you aren’t subscribed to the podcast, one of the kind of fun things that’s changed recently is if you have an iOS device on iPhone, there’s really awesome show notes that are now included in the podcast app. If you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, what you can do is you can go to the podcast app. It’s a purple app in your iPhone, and you can search Food Blogger Pro and you can subscribe there.
Once you do that, you’ll be able to see the show notes for each one of these podcasts. It’ll be really easy for you to go ahead and to click to any of the different things that we reference. A lot of times, I’ll say, hey, and we’ll include that in the show notes. For today, as an example, Entrepreneurial You, we’re going to include a link to that and if you have an iPhone and use the podcast app, it’s really easy to pull that up. You don’t have to go to the blog post where we share the podcast notes for this. You can just find it within the app itself.
I wanted to mention that, and in doing that also give a little shout-out to subscribing if you haven’t yet subscribed to the podcast. If you just listen by maybe going to Food Blogger Pro blog and streaming it there, I’d encourage you whether on an iPhone and an Android device to go into podcast app and subscribe Food Blogger Pro podcast, but also, there’s a ton of other awesome podcasts for you to listen to, even in the food and recipe blogging niche, so be sure to find those podcasts that best apply to you and the things that you’re interested in and continue to learn, because we talk about that, how important it is, that idea of 1% infinity, learning a little bit every day for a long period of time. One of the ways that I’ve been able to do that, have implemented that, is through podcasts. I hope that this can be that for you.
That’s a wrap for this week. Thanks so much for tuning in, and we’ll be back here same time, same place in seven days. Until then, make it a great week. Thanks, guys.