Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Mainstream versus Niche – 7 Reasons why Less is More

Record collection
Photo Credit: Maria Casacalenda

In 2011, I wrote a song called “F*** the Mainstream.” It did decently on YouTube and that title became somewhat of a catchphrase for me in my music “career.”

But is the mainstream really so bad? My intention in making that song wasn’t to say anything popular is bad. Far from it. I just have little patience for the lowest common denominator. Like McDonald’s burgers and Honey Boo Boo.

Bless her heart.

Most large businesses want to be mainstream. Having the potential to get money from EVERYONE is a pretty tempting notion, especially if you love money. But as a self-earner, do you need an idea to go mainstream in order to be a success? What’s your goal?

I personally have no desire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. I just care about not worrying about money. I don’t need excess.

So why bother pursuing an idea/business that is targeted toward everyone? That space is very competitive. I’d rather go after a niche market. I’m not going to make this post overly long, but here are some reasons why a niche market might be the preferred path for new self-earner.

  1. You can look for holes that need filling. Catering to the mainstream means creating a product or service that many people want or need. That’s tough. It’s easier to find a specific demographic and work toward grabbing their attentions.
  2. Niche audiences can be more loyal. Popularity on the mainstream level can easily fall into trend or gimmick territory.
  3. More money and resources are required to go mainstream. This means the pressure for success is much higher.
  4. A large audience is harder to maintain than a smaller one. You can also reinforce loyalty I noted in #2 with more direct communication with clients/users/customers/fans. This is exceedingly more costly and difficult as the audience expands into mainstream territory.
  5. You can charge a premium to niche audiences. Alright, I’ve stated many times, I am essentially anti-capitalism. That said, I’m in no way going to ignore the fact that most people don’t want to spend a lot of money on things. The ones that do are your niche market. They are the ones who want the things you can’t get anywhere. Hobbyists and collectors are a good place to start.
  6. There is ALWAYS someone bigger. There are some big boys who want that mainstream money. Why do you want to battle upstream? Like I said before, just look for a certain demographic that needs something.
  7. Your niche idea doesn’t have to stay that way. There is nothing wrong with growing a business to become mainstream. I’m not against that at all. I’m just saying, that might not be the smartest place to start.

Or just go for it. I’m not saying what’s right or wrong. I’m just a guy with an opinion. But if you really think about it, less really can be more in this case.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Use Body Language to Improve Networking (Part 1)

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Use Body Language to Improve Networking (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann
Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann

Networking and communication is HUGE, not just for those looking to be self-earners, but for EVERYONE. We wouldn’t have gotten as far as a species without them. Where would you be in life without them? Thing is,as we’ve grown smarter, we rely on words more heavily to build relationships. However, body language is an essential skill to reinforcing communication and building bonds. I’m a huge believer in this because I’ve been fairly successful at it in my personal and professional life.

I have really bad ADD. As such, I can potentially end up daydreaming as someone is talking to me.

You can imagine how that can adversely impact conversation.

Though I’m far better at keeping my ADD in check nowadays, I’ve developed a few ways of masking the fact that I stop paying attention at some point. It’s all about body language and being able to communicate as such. The thing is, unlike words alone, communicating via body language is difficult to fake. Great liars can combine false words with convincing body language. If there was body language alone or words alone, the lie would be less convincing.

But this isn’t about lying. Your body language should reflect the true intentions of your words. You don’t want to deceive here. If you do, that just shows your lack of confidence in the real you and what you have to offer as a person or business. The goal here is to bond and build trust. Do so responsibly.

On to the fun stuff.

  1. When first meeting a person, start off strong. You are somebody. You are just as much of a somebody as anyone else, despite what others think about your income, nationality, weight, gender, etc. Act as such. Stand tall, speak clearly, chin up, maintain eye contact. You are not trying to be domineering here. You simply want to show you have no fear of anything in the situation. You are equal to the person or people to whom you are speaking. You need to believe this. Get any notions out of your head about being less or greater than any other person. You’re not. Acting in this fashion will garner a mutual respect.
  2. Test mimicry. A key sign people are on the same wavelength is mimicry. I kid you not. Have you ever spoken to someone and you find yourself matching one of their behaviors? Maybe they’re following your lead. It could be as simple as scratching your nose or tapping your foot. Test this out by specifically performing a subtle action every so often. This is a great way to test if  the person to which you’re speaking is willing to follow you.
  3. The dance of mimicry. As with anything, there is a balance to the delicate dance that is mimicry. First of all, make no mistake about it, mimicry is all about who the alpha is. Who is the leader and who is the follower? Someone may not mimic you at all while others are all too willing to oblige. Building a meaningful relationship should not be founded on either of those extremes. You want a dance partner, someone who will match you. This fosters willingness to network rather than networking out of pity or fear. Or maybe not networking at all. But this still needs to be genuine. If not, people may become aware of you and themselves, subsequently impeding body language communication. So dance away! Let yourself be both the subject of mimicry as well as the mimicker. Do some purposely and others less so. Observe how you are in relationships and practice incorporating more or less mimicry for a more balanced means of communication. Do this enough and you will naturally be more balanced when communicating or networking with anyone.
  4. Other body cues. There are other ways to gauge a person and open them up to non-verbal communication. Some methods are tried-and-true while others are less so. Here are some quick tips to take with you.
  • Crossed arms may be a sign of defensiveness or insecurity. Stand or sit in a more relaxed way in order to bring their guard down. You can reinforce this by using self depricating humor (not too much though as to give the impression of being weak).
  •  Use open movements when possible. Hand something to someone with your palms up. If you speak with you hands, use less pointing motions and more movements where your hands point to the sides. Notice how doing this compels you to keep your palms up.
  • Separate nervous habits from general tendencies. General tendencies are often done regardless of the situation. Nervous habits, on the other hand, are generally in response to something. If the person is already in a nervous or submissive role, watch their reactions to what you say and do. You should alter your “dance” in order to discourage nervous habits.

I’m not about to kill you with information here. This is all about learning theory and the basic concept behind body language communication from my point of view. It’s super simple and, like any language, must be practiced in order to reach proficiency. Observe yourself as well. Does your body language match your words and intentions? What are your tendencies. Body language communication means knowing yourself just as much as you know others. Take away any biases because they’ll only color your ability to communicate.

Anyway, I think next time I’ll speak about different personalities and how body language should be tweaked accordingly. Stay tuned for more!

Previously: Lessons from a New Self-Earner: The Power of Persistence (and the Things that Inhibit It)

My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: Understanding Theory vs. Executing Steps

Coins

I recently realized my some of most popular posts are focused on earning freelance money and financial freedom. I also recently realized how many people capitalize on this by peddling their wares, claiming they have the secrets and answers to unlocking that hidden treasure. All you have to do is attend their seminar.

Or buy their book.

Or join their email list.

Some people may be legit while others only know how to make money from those who are seeking the same. The problem is, everyone claims to be an expert. It’s all quite… embarrassing.

I’m not going to be a guy that haphazardly tosses around rocks in my glass house; while everything I do online is my passion, I’m still trying to make money here. Not so much for the purposes of being rich, but so I can quickly get back to the things that matter in life for me. That being said, I’m knee-deep in this struggle of both caring and not caring about money. This means I need to figure out the best way for me to accomplish my financial goals, ideally with the following criteria.

  1. My happiness will not be affected. This is a non-negotiable for me.
  2. I can attain my goals with the least amount of work possible. Screw hard work for the sake of hard work. Seriously. This is a BS notion handed down by people who want us to keep our heads down and be a cog in the machine. This doesn’t mean there’s NO hard work. But I do mean I don’t want to work hard unnecessarily. This is where efficiency comes into play.
  3. I won’t violate my principles. No, not everyone can be bought.

Now that I put this out into the universe, I’ll leave you with this: earning money is not a skill. If you’re attempting to become financially independent and exist outside of the confines of a 9-5 job, don’t look at money-making as a skill. It’s the result of other skills. However, you can still understand the principles of making money. This is where I think many folks fall prey to the snake oil salesmen out there claiming they have the answer to earning money quickly. People are looking for steps when they need to learn the theory.

This is the difference between knowing and understanding. Sure, steps get you started, but they keep you limited. You will ALWAYS need that person who knows more. Understanding gives you the freedom to apply knowledge to multiple areas. That sounds more like freedom to me.

Anyway, if you have stuck with me thus far, I will quickly mention four areas one should understand when trying to earn money independently. Over the course of the next couple weeks, I am going to focus on  these in separate posts. I’ve struggled in these areas, but have done a good amount of research on reaching beyond my natural limitations. I do this by understanding the theory behind the following:

  1. Execution
  2. Communication
  3. Networking
  4. Persistence
  5. Collaboration
  6. Letting Go (this one is actually exceedingly important)

Anyway, I hope you all get something out of this. I’m still learning (as smart as I think I am, I don’t know if I’ll ever stop), but I believe in being open. You better damn well believe I’m looking to profit from my blog, but hopefully I can share my experience of doing so and more along the way.

Go get’em tiger.

Peace out, party people.

Tracking My Progress: Week 3 – Making Moves!

Happy Sunday! Week 3 has had a lot of ups and one or two downs. I took a big risk and declined a well-paying job because I knew it would eat all my time.

Also, I’ve been actively trying to avoid the trap of a traditional full-time job. Remember, being rich isn’t my goal. HAPPINESS is the goal. Hopefully the same goes for you.

Highlights

  • Scheduling my work has helped somewhat, but I need to start sleeping at somewhat regular hours in order for it to stick. I’m thinking about adopting more naps to see if that’ll help rather than a regular sleep session.
  • Freelance writing work has been good, but I need to keep it up this week because one of my steady gigs doesn’t have anything for me yet.
  • I have an option to convert to full-time at my part-time job next month. If that happens, any money I make from freelance writing can go into savings and building side businesses so I can eventually quit the full-time gig.

Income Results

  • Target Daily Income Goal: $100
  • Week 2 Daily Income: $60
  • Week 3 Daily Income: $68
  • Week 3 Daily Income Goal: $67
  • Week 4 Daily Income Goal: $100

Here’s the thing, I made it a dollar over my daily goal without working on Monday (Labor Day) or Tuesday (job interview). Not too shabby I’d say.So screw it; I’m going to throw caution to the wind and see if I can indeed average $100 a day this week. Realistically, I think I can average $150 per day if I really hustle, but again, this isn’t about me being rich. I just want to make my bills an after thought so I can pursue my dreams.

  • Part-time job: $47 per day minimum (sometimes I do more hours)
  • Freelance writing: $53 per day minimum

Okay, this is totally doable. Last week I actually focused on trying to make $100 a day from some of my writing jobs because that’ll allow me to work hard some days and be a lazy bum on others. Either way, I’m pretty confident about achieving this. Once I do I’m going to raise my goal so I can focus on saving and building a side business.

Bam. A little persistence and the right circumstances go a long way.

Business Building

I had a different goal for building a business when I was younger. I wanted to come up with something that would get me that Bill Gates money so I can do my Dame Dash dance on a boat with Jay-Z.

dash-pimpin

God, I was stupid in my 20’s.

Nowadays, I look at business as a way to cover my expenses which are not much. I would have no problem providing something of quality for an affordable price. If I ever grew a business to the point where I’d need employees, why would I need to make more than my expenses and the little amount I’d want to save? That money should go to the people actually doing the work.

Wait, you mean capitalism can be implemented in a fair way?

I’m working on a business idea (a product, not a service) with one of my buddies. I’ll share it when the time is right, but hopefully it will be something that also spreads a positive message.

Final Thoughts

Week 3 was a confidence booster, but I can’t get complacent. There will always be obstacles that get in my way; I can’t let myself be one of them.

Now is the time to start learning how to use my money efficiently. I’ve said time and time again that I am as anti-capitalist as it gets, but I have to play the game. For now at least. So it’s time to learn about using my money to build a business.

Peace out, party people.

Awesome Articles and Resources
This Guy Makes $100 a Day Using iWriter (A little cheap for my blood, but I’ going to use it as a backup option) 
TripleCurve (Where I make most of my content mill writing money. If you’re good they’ll put you on a number of projects)
Selling on Instagram

Working Together to Get Ahead: Why are We Content with Only a Few Winners?

african lions fighting in selous on safari in tanzania

I love competitiveness. The drive to be better than another person at something doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Right?

Funny how we teach kids about healthy competition, but we don’t practice it on a large scale. Oh humanity, you never fail to contradict.

Competition is awesome when it comes to honing skills, but it’s decidedly less awesome when we’re talking about another’s income.

Truthfully, I think capitalism is bullshit.

At least the way we use it.

BailoutBoulevard

Can a brother get a (private) student loan bailout?

I know, I know, I must be some type of un-American Commie bastard, right? Nah, not at all. I just can’t agree with a system that places so much “power” in the hands of a few at the expense of the livelihood of others.

Alas, much of the world is set in its ways so I have to do what I must to survive.

But why should I have to compete against peers? I should have zero reason to not want to see the success of those around me. I don’t care if the world sees my work; I just care if someone enjoys my work. It just so happens I’d like to make money if possible.

Though I’d be doing it for free regardless.

This extends to most things in my life. Let’s say I’m in a cooking competition…

20120808-chopped

Yes, I’m a HUGE fan of Chopped. Sue me.

Actually, don’t. I’m trying to save money. *cough* private student loan bailout *cough*

…You better believe I’m going to do my best to beat the brakes off any who dare oppose me in the kitchen. However, this mentality doesn’t apply to surviving in this cold, money-driven society. It doesn’t apply to support the art and creativity of others. Why can’t we all win? If not all, why not more of us?

One of my content mill gigs had me researching world history on a daily basis. I have never been much of a history buff until recently; nowadays I find humanity’s past infinitely interesting.

Sometimes like a train wreck. Other times like a supernova.

The periods of human civilization that speak to me most are those of artistic movements and collaboration. We have all the tools for a modern artistic revival. What’s stopping us from making a big push TOGETHER? What’s stopping us from doing so while achieving some modicum of “success”?

We all want a voice.

We all want to do what we love.

Seems to me we all have a common goal.

I don’t know if I have a very specific point here, but I can tell you this: I will collaborate with anyone. Even if I have nothing to gain. If I need to “gain” anything, I’ll do it on my own terms because I know that’s how many are bred in the US.

For better or worse.

Anyway, maybe I’m too much of an idealist, but I see no reason why we can’t show the world why creativity is as powerful as it is beautiful.

Even on the internet.

What do you say? Let’s show them together.

No pressure.

Peace out, party people.

Tracking My Progress: Week 2 – Continued Growth and Poor Time Management

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Happy Sunday! Week 2 has been pretty decent, but I need to do better. I have an extremely bad habit of procrastinating like there’s no tomorrow before finally settling into work. This leads to unnecessarily long nights and less productivity.

Screw that.

Time to train myself to do work earlier in the day, I suppose.

Improvements to Make

  • I have a lot of projects I’m juggling. I’ve gotten some friendly advice from fellow blogger, Alphonso Giam (http://thetendollarstartup.wordpress.com) to slow down and focus on fewer projects. I definitely don’t advise anyone take on the amount of projects on which I’m working. The problem is I can lose interest in something very quickly so having a number of active projects actually keeps me focused. I just need to be meticulous in the way that I manage my work time while catering to my ADD. Here’s the system I’m trying this week.
    • Sundays are dedicated to prepping blog posts and podcasts (nothing different here).
    • I’m most inspired either when I first wake up or late at night. Therefore I will be writing for my Zen Hacked book for 90 minutes each day right after I wake up. If I’m not inspired to write for Zen Hacked, I’ll write for my untitled fiction book. If neither of those can hold my attention, I’ll write a spoken word piece (maybe I’ll compile those into a book too). [6am-7:30am]
    • After writing, I will spend two hours working on daily to-do’s (unless I get a full-time job). [8am-10am]
    • I need to spend two hours a day searching for freelance gigs [10am-12pm]
    • I’m involving a collaborator for each of my projects in order to relieve my amount of solo work.
    • Going forward, evenings are reserved for paid writing work.

I came up a little short on my daily income goal for this week, but that was my own fault. I slacked off a couple days more than I should have. I won’t be making that mistake again.

Income Results

  • Target Daily Income Goal: $100
  • Week 1 Daily Income: $58
  • Week 2 Daily Income: $60
  • Week 2 Daily Income Goal: $63.8
  • Week 3 Daily Income Goal: $67

My non-income projects have been doing decently. I’ve had the steadiest week of blog traffic since I’ve started and I saw growth in both visitors and views. Thanks so much because I couldn’t do it without you!

Literally.

Project Highlights

  • andregriffiths.com: Like I said before, this week has been better in terms of traffic. The number of weekly visitors increased 44.3%. That’s pretty awesome, but not mind-blowing when you consider I’m relatively small. Still, it’s a victory and it highlights how a few tweaks can help traffic.
  • zenhacked.com: Ouch. I totally made no progress here. This is purely because of bad time management last Sunday. This won’t be an issue this week.
  • #PatersonBeautiful: This is my last new project I’m taking on and it’s purely a way for me to express a bit of creativity while showing a different side of the tow in which I was raised for much of my life. It also gets me using Instagram.
  • Dre’s Ramblings Podcast: Still going strong. I started adding an iTunes link to each of my posts. I’ll let you know how it goes!
  • Books: Progress sucked. Hence the schedule modification.

Final Thoughts

Week 2 was decent, but not where I want to be. This is going to take some discipline to maximize my efforts without feeling as if I’m burning myself out. Sundays are the biggest factor.

I have a job interview on Wednesday. If I pull this job, my strategy will be forced to change and I’ll have to scale back on the amount I’m doing. It’s not my ideal scenario, but I can make the most out of it.

Lemons into lemonade and all that jazz.

I hope someone benefits from what I’m putting together here. This post wasn’t full of a ton of tips, but I have some useful links for anyone looking to try anything I’m doing. I do, however, have one tip for bloggers: support each other. I’ve met some super friendly people in the short time I’ve been doing this and everyone has advice and experience to share. If we work together, everyone wins to some extent.

But that might just be the hippie in me speaking.

Let me know what you think! I’m always up for a discussion so drop a comment! Good luck!

Peace out, party people.

Awesome Articles and Resources
Best Times to Post on Blogs and Social Media Infographic
Nomadic Writer Scholarships
Pat Flynn’s Guide to Starting a Podcast
Best Countries to Live In 2014: Based on Health, Happiness, and Prosperity
How to Pitch a Guest Post and Make the Most out of It

My Journey Toward Financial Freedom: The Hunt for Freelance Writing Gigs

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Thus far, I’ve been less than spectacular at growing my writing career.  I went the typical route of grabbing any bottom-of-the-barrel Craigslist post on which I could get my oh-so-desperate hands.

Sorry, Craigslist, but you know it’s true.

After seeing some minor success last week, it’s time to kick this writing career into high gear. Here’s how I’m starting off:

Embracing My Strengths
I’m a self-proclaimed jack of all trades. I like dabbling in a lot of areas, but I tend to have a few strengths on which I can lean.

If only I could maintain a career writing about old episodes of The Cosby Show. #dreamjob

However, I’ve been limiting my potential by assuming I’m not good enough to blog about certain topics.

What are you doing, Andre?

What can it hurt to try? I’m just going to prioritize the types of blogs I pitch.

  1. Humor/Entertainment
  2. Technology
  3. Writing
  4. MMA
  5. Lifestyle
  6. Art/Design/Photography
  7. Food and Drink
  8. Music

Paid Guest Blogging
One of the first thing I did was sign up to an email list with beafreelanceblogger.com to get their Ultimate List of Better-Paid Blogging Gigs. I found other sources, but this one is cool because it gives a breakdown of types of blogs, pay, and content. I could just share the PDF, but that’d be stepping on someone else’s hustle. Go support the site; they have good content.

Many of these blogs still require a pitch. Just because I write something doesn’t mean it’s going to be accepted. This means I need to reach out to at least 5 sites a day. Here are some other decent resources I found. Maybe I’ll keep a running list or something.

If no one else uses it, at least I will.

Here are some other options that might work for you:

Listverse – Compose a list for $100. Must be 1500 words minimum.
PostJoint – If you’re familiar with digital marketing, SEO, social media, etc., pitch an article! You’ll get $100-$200 per post if accepted.
WritersWeekly – Wait, a blog about freelance writing? And they accept guest posts? This is a no-brainer. You’ll get $60 per 600-word article.
YourOnline – $100 an article. Read on for details.

Okay, yeah, I found a lot of sites. I’ll just compose a list and post it. I’ll shoot for this weekend.

Content Mills
Ugh… Content mills.

Most of these are a waste of time because they demand a lot of brainless writing for minimal monetary gain. There are still some good ones out there and they are key if you have a daily goal you want to meet.

Or, you know, you need to pay rent.

These are some of the better ones I started using:

TripleCurve
Scripted
Zerys

Start Networking!
Anyone who knows me personally knows I always introduce people to others. But what’s a starving writer to do when there’s no one to crack open that potential relationship.

Stop waiting! Just reach out!

Okay, to be fair, I haven’t actually started doing this myself yet, but that is what I plan on doing this week. I’m not shy, so why am i sitting on my ass when there’s a whole community of bloggers that are waiting to connect?

The thing is this: I’m not assuming anything by connecting with others. Realistically, I’m here to learn as well; I know there are others who have been at this longer than me, so if all all I get is a bit of a dialogue, I’m a happy man. Meeting new writers is always awesome.

That said, it never hurts to ask if there are opportunities. Don’t just blindly do this. I’m only going to ask about guest blogging opportunities if I’m familiar with the site’s content and I’m an active reader.

Give some of those a shot. I’ll always provide more information as I learn. Hopefully, these help you as much as they’ve helped me. I’ll also share some non-writing revenue opportunities soon.

In the meantime, it’s a new week and I’m ready to be better than I was yesterday!

Let’s do this!

Peace out, party people.