Paul Jarvis

The astroturf is always greener

Personal growth online seems a lot like simply going all in on anything trendy:

Working for yourself is better than someone else!
No, info products are better than client services!
No, mailing lists are better than info products!
No, webinars are better than mailing lists!
No, SaaS apps are better than webinars!
No, PaaS will destroy all SaaS and salt the earth in its path!

(Pardon me while I proceed to mix too many metaphors.)

The trend here is that we all succumb to the idea that the problem we’ve got is our delivery method. As in, the “how” of using our skills in business.

As someone who’s tried all the things (except the last one – I had to Google what comes after SaaS apps – no idea what a PaaS is), I’ve fallen into the same trap to some degree. And not the lure of easy money, but rather, the lure of something new. Obviously this has led to my product tribble problem.

Think about this. Whether it’s selling software or a service like web design, it’s essentially the same: someone’s giving you money because they want what you’ve got. Sure, volume changes, scale can change, what’s delivered changes, and payment structures change, but it’s still a trade. Your ideas, information and technology for someone else’s money. And money can be made doing pretty much anything.

And yet, we continue to leapfrog from one method to the next, thinking… hoping… that the new thing we’ve just jumped to will be much better than what we were jumping from.

Someone shouts, “ONLINE COURSES!” and we all drop what we’re doing and run headlong towards those (paying oodles for online course platforms, even courses about making online courses!).

Another person screams “WEBINARS!” and we push our online courses aside like they’re instantly total garbage and embrace everything webinar (buying fancy mics and webcams in the process).

I’m not saying any of those methods are wrong or bad either. But, not a single one of them are a guaranteed way to deliver our skills to a paying audience.

We’re smarter than this, and yet it still trips us up. We think, “maybe the reason X isn’t selling is because it’s not on trend!” And then we summarily abandon our work again and again for the shot at the next internet Gold Rush.

Maybe if we change our delivery method, we’ll be more on trend, or make more money or reach more people or be able to shoot rainbow lasers out of our finger tips that turn everything they touch into delicious jelly beans! (Maybe that last one only happens in my own mind…)

But it’s never the delivery method that takes someone over the top. Seth Godin’s mailing list runs on Feedblitz. The top podcast lives on iTunes with every single other podcast in existence. Some of the best books I’ve read have been turned into some of the worst webinars I’ve watched.

I also don’t think that what’s gone from on-trend to off-trend necessarily becomes a horrible option. I know loads of folks who work for a company and are much better off than if they worked for themselves. I also know loads of people who still do client services like web design, writing and coding. Or folks that still actually write books! They don’t want courses or software companies. They’re happy where they’re at and I’m truly stoked for them.

While we might think jumping ship to something new is better or easier, I actually think it’s much more difficult to do. First, you have to learn the delivery method and probably build something (like a course or sometimes even software). Second, you’ve now got to compete with everyone else who just dropped what they were doing to try this new trendy thing. Third, if what you were trying to sell with one delivery method wasn’t working, chances are without making it fundamentally better, it’s still not going to sell well in a different format.

I’m not saying we should all stay in our lanes either.

Personal growth happens when we take chances or try new things or see what happens when we turn everything on its head. I just think it’s worth examining why, before making a leap across a lane of traffic to the next thing. Are we jumping to a new trend of delivering what we do simply because it’s popular or new or has potential to make us easy money?

There is no legal, easy money (and even most illegal things aren’t that easy if you consider jail time or being shot or something gangster-related). There’s also no easy one thing you can change and instantly be better off. Whether it’s client work or courses or software or anything else, if what you do is done with quality, needed by the people who’ll gladly give you money for it and helpful—then you’re good. So good. Experiment, play and get uncomfortable, for sure, but sometimes the shiniest new toy in the toy store isn’t what you’d like to spend your time playing with.

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