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duffney.io


DevOps Engineer | Pluralsight Author | Speaker | Blogger | PowerShell Advocate


Create a Business from a Creative Outlet

As I’ve reset my sights over the past six to eight months, I’ve come back to the habit of writing. I’ve started to blog much more, use social media more, and engage with online communities again. Since writing the You Are an Engineer Be an Engineer post, I’ve realized I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t learning. I’ve redefined what learning means to me. It doesn’t mean reading a single blog post or a chapter on a topic and then saying I’ve learned it. It now means learning something and creating something from that learning that cements the knowledge. Often the end result is a blog post. As I started to write more, I got a little bored of the same workflow and started to blog on DEV and created an audio version of a blog post. After a few months of writing blog posts and audio clips, it registered that I had discovered a creative outlet. Discovering this creative outlet brought me to a ledge and the engagement and feedback I’ve gotten from social media has Spartan kicked me off that ledge.

I enjoy the process of writing so much that I now wake up between 4:00 am and 4:30 am and spend the first hour or so writing more or less every day. It is 4:32 am as I write this sentence.

Over Communicate and Engage on Social

Mike Pfeiffer has this way of saying a sentence of only a few words that will stick with me for months. In one such sentence he said “Over-communicate and engage on social”. At first, I resisted the idea, I had just read Digital Minimalism when he said this and it appeared to go against the recommendations in that book. After giving it some thought and putting in some safeguards to ensure I don’t get sucked in, becoming yet another cog in the attention economy, I dove in.

I’ve focused on three platforms over the past several months; Twitter, LinkedIn, and DEV. The engagement I’ve seen has been incredible. Some of my posts on LinkedIn have had 10k views. Several of my DEV posts have reached 3k views. At the time of me writing this, my Using Containers for Ansible Development post has 4.6k views and 83 reactions. This post alone resulted in more than 1k people following me on DEV. There is no doubt that Mike’s existing platform has greatly helped signal boost my content as I’ve joined CloudSkills as a Community Contributor. While the likes and view counts are a nice boost of dopamine, the real lesson is more obvious in the comments.

Inner thoughts while on social media “Be a creator not a consumer.”

Finding Purpose in Meaningful Work

Since taking Mike’s advice and over-communicating and engaging on social, I’ve received some of the most positive and uplifting feedback I’ve ever received. Some of the comments have left me completely beside myself, not knowing how to respond with something other than “thank you”. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten is a thank you for doing what I’m doing, which is simply sharing my thoughts, struggles, and how I work through that adversity. The real lesson that I’ve learned from this is I’m adding value. I’m having a real impact on people and this is deeply fulfilling. Knowing that I’ve lightened the burden someone else is carrying gives me purpose, a purpose that has redefined the other two factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction. Those other two factors are mastery and autonomy.

Over the years I’ve read several books, some of which when I look at my bookshelf cause me to pause and reflect on how profoundly they’ve influenced the person I am today. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results will be among them when I reflect back in a few years. After reading this book and using the exercises within it to focus on my ONE thing, I came to the conclusion that at the core of all my work, the thing that brings me the most joy is writing. I can’t help but chuckle at the expression I imagine would be on my mom’s face if she reads this. “You? The boy who never read an assigned book in school? The one who hated spelling and got horrible grades in every class in any way related to writing, wants to become a writer?” Yes, I do and have slowly become one over that past six years as I’ve practiced within the comfort of my blog.

theonething

Redefining autonomy, mastery, and purpose has left me asking a lot of questions; If my purpose is to share my knowledge and experience to lighten the burden people carry, what’s the best way to reach more people? If I want to reach more people, what products would I create? Is it time to move past the blog posts and experiment with podcasting, book writing, and do more video training? How would I pay for all of this? Equipment, subscriptions, and domain renewals all cost money. Not to mention the time investment. Then it hit me, this creative outlet I found is my career. It’s time to treat my career as a business, a real business.

Know What Your Premiums Are

Just as I began to formulate this in my mind, Mike said another one of those short sentences with only a few words that stuck. Here is what he said, “Know what your premiums are.” After giving this a lot of thought, there are several things I could create as a product. But only one thing that I’m really excited about. That one thing is writing a book! I’ve been really inspired by Daniel Vassallo’s story and successful ebook experiment where he made $40,000 in 16 Days from his first book.

podcast

I don’t expect to have the same results, but since he’s openly shared his story, tactics, and progress, I’m inspired to follow the path he went down. As a matter of coincidence, after listening to Writer on the Side’s podcast with Daniel, I found a course from the podcast’s author Hassan Osman titled “How to Pick a Bestselling Book Title Before Writing a Book”. This course greatly helped me frame the idea I have for the book and I think I might just have a title already.

So long story short, I’ve got my first premium product and I’ve got to execute on it. Over the next several months I’ll be doing more research on writing a book and asking authors I know for advice. I don’t want to just put out a 10 dollar ebook. I want to publish something of the highest possible quality I’m capable of producing.

Using Social Media like a Professional

With my first premium product in mind, the question then becomes, who is going to buy it? In order to buy it, people have to know about it. In order for people to know about it, I have to build an audience. Marketing, promoting, and being salesy makes me deeply uncomfortable. At the same time I know it is required if I’m going to have any success with this experiment. There has to be a way to do this while maintaining my authenticity. Borrowing a term from the book Digital Minimalism, I believe the answer lies with using social media like a professional. A phrase I often repeat to myself is “be a creator, not a consumer” when using social media, but there is much more to it.

Understanding how to build relationships is my priority when it comes to using social media. That is why I take the time to like and reply to comments people leave on my posts. Even if it’s a quick thank you, at least I’m letting them know I appreciated their comment. The more I research the topic of using social media like a professional, the more I discover it’s similarities to teaching. The way you present the information is important, using pictures helps, and catching attention with keywords all factor in.

Treating My Career as a Business

I’m still in the beginning phase of treating my career as a business. In order to keep the right perspective, I’m aiming high. That aim is within 5 years to be able to walk away from full-time employment if I want to. I don’t actually have the intention to do that, I’ll only be 35 years old and several decades from retirement. The point is to make full-time employment optional and to treat my career with the respect and attention it deserves. I lost sight of it once and I won’t let it happen again.

I read a tweet awhile back that I’ve kept repeating to myself- “If you’re not excited to say yes, then say no.” I’ll be using that phrase to guide what I invest my time in. As I set out on this journey of treating my career as a business, I’m reminded of the Warby Parker story from Adam Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. It’s a story of how Adam, the author, missed out on a huge opportunity to invest in Warby Parker because the founders refused to drop out of school or quit their jobs to focus on the business. It’s often thought that making such a drastic change is the only way to succeed when starting a business. I plan to follow in Warby Parker’s footsteps and to do both, and do both well. Will I pull it off? I have no idea but I invite you to follow me and find out.

You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and SoundCloud, where I’ll be sharing the journey.