As an independent content creator, I often find myself getting super impatient. I put in hours of hard work writing an article or editing a video for my YouTube channel, and then get disappointed when it doesn’t reach the number of likes or views I’d hoped it would.
There was a time when I used to obsessively check my stats, often deleting lower-performing pieces, and re-publishing them after a while. With time, I’ve realised that obsessing over stats is futile. No matter how much effort you put into crafting the perfect piece, the audience might not resonate with it right then. As a result, all your efforts might go to waste.
Moreover, when it comes to creative pursuits, you’re bound to have more misses than hits. This is true regardless of how famous or well-loved you are.
- American rapper and record producer Kanye West has released 107 songs, out of which 18 have made it to the Billboard top 10, and only four have become number-one singles.
- Author Dan Brown produced countless music CDs and wrote 5 novels before his thriller, The Da Vinci Code, become a New York Times bestseller.
This post is about the lessons I learned in my journey of being an independent creator about why it’s important to stop being impatient. By the end of the article, you’ll realise that not expecting immediate results is indeed the most valuable skill you need to develop as a creative person.
Consistency Pays Off
No matter what skill you’re trying to master or what kind of content you’re creating, nothing can beat consistency. If you don’t get instant recognition, you might feel discouraged, thinking all your hard work is going to waste. In truth, you’re building a repertoire — a collection of all your work in one place. This can serve as your online resume, and also be the launchpad for the day your dreams finally take off.
There’s another benefit to being consistent — when you build a body of work, you’re essentially exposing your work to the public before you’re an expert. Essentially, as Nicholas Cole puts it, you’re practicing in public. Before you become a master at your craft, when you keep creating daily content and posting it online, your work can be consumed and reviewed by potentially millions of people across the globe.
By creating more, not only do you increase your chances of having that one viral piece of content, but also open yourself up to receiving feedback from the audience. Of course, not all the comments are going to be good, but if you keep an open mind, you can learn from 90% of the response. Some might be harsh, but if you’re willing to improve, you can turn every acerbic message into an opportunity for growth.
Either way, consistency always pays off.
Attention is Never More Valuable than Respect
Sure, a sudden spike in views, likes, shares or comments might serve as validation to your ego. But that shouldn’t be your prime focus. Your prime focus should be to create as much value and serve as many people as possible.
Attention never lasts long. But if you help at least one person every day, you are building your legacy.
Deliver so much value, that everyone in your network starts respecting you. Even if that means you have to give away a lot of your services for free, it doesn’t matter. As James Altucher writes in his book, Think Like A Billionaire,
“Attention adds up to nothing. Respect from the right people adds up to everything.”
Size Doesn’t Matter
I used to lament how the follower-count on my Instagram account never grew, about how it was stuck at a particular number (around 3500 followers) for several months. Then, I had a conversation with a fellow content creator who had ten times as many followers as I did. She was a lifestyle blogger, and each of her beautifully-shot pictures had thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
I wouldn’t lie. I was jealous.
But then, in the middle of the conversation, she started complaining how only 10–15 people clicked on the links she shared, and how her email list was full of subscribers, but her open rate was lower than 3%. This shocked me because I’d had days when, even with my 3500 followers, I’d had 200+ link clicks. As for my email list, my open rate averaged at around 18–25%. My numbers might be less than my fashion-influencer friend, but the ratio was enough to conclude that my audience was more engaged than hers.
This made me realise that if your audience is committed to you, you don’t really have to worry about the size. If you focus on being consistent and delivering value, you’ll slowly build a community of loyal followers who will eagerly wait for every piece of content you produce.
As an independent content creator, it’s easy to get demotivated if your work doesn’t earn you instant recognition. However, it’s important to remember that patience might be one of the most important meta-skills you learn that’s going to help you immensely during your journey. Summing up, here’s why you needn’t always seek immediate results:
- Consistency pays off. You’ll either be polishing your skills or practicing in public. Either way, you’ll get a lot of chances to share your work with an audience and get valuable feedback for improvement.
- Attention can never be more important than respect. Sure, overnight virality sounds great, but the respect earned over months and years of consistent hard-work is infinitely more valuable.
- The size of the audience does not matter. All that matters is how committed they are to consuming any product you create.
Even though most creators might have the same destination, the path they take to reach there is unique. Don’t compare yourself with others as this will only lead to disappointment. Fight your own battles and wear your scars with pride. It doesn’t matter if the piece you poured your heart and soul into failed. Create more, and one day, you’ll achieve success beyond your wildest dreams.