common_advice

By Mars Dorian, Contributing {grow} Columnist

The most popular currency in the world is not the Dollar, Euro or Yen. It’s common advice.

Think about it: Everyone has it in mass, it’s prone to “inflation,” and you can pick it up about everywhere, even if you don’t want it.

I have received my share of “supa-doopa” advice throughout my digital career, especially in the beginning, when I was ultramarine green behind my ears.  I listened, and worse, implemented it all.

I thought, if experts say it, it must be true. If so many other people say the same online, then it has validation.

Ungh, Past Me, I want to shake some sense into you. A whole gallon of it.

I realized much later that most of the sound advice turned out to be detrimental to my success.

Without further ado, I want to show you the most common advice pitfalls that I fell into:

1) Just be yourself.

This sounds good … but is it really true?

Whenever I asked a so-called expert about being successful online, he told me not to worry and just be myself.

What if you’re an obnoxious, boring mofo with no redeeming qualities?

What if you have no people skills and are a pain to work with?

Should you still “just be yourself?”

Not necessarily.

At the beginning of my career, I probably lacked empathy and experienced trouble communicating with clients. A “mentor” told me that was just part of my personality, and that I should find a career style that wouldn’t involve customer communication. Man, what a load of toad turd. It wasn’t a personality trait – it turned out I just lacked the experience and had to learn how to address my customer’s needs. A few psychology books and coaching sessions later, I improved. Drastically.

I wasn’t being myself, but I worked harrrrd on becoming my best self.

If you’re young, learning, or maybe not an absolutely perfect person, maybe being yourself leads to more pain than gain. That’s why you should work on becoming your best version, and get rid of traits that you thought were part of your character.

2) Follow your passion and the money will follow.

Ah, ze timeless classic. I want get into a time machine, travel to the person who set that meme into the world and smack both of his cheeks. With a metal chair.

Why? Because it’s a deceptive feel-good lie.

Take me as an example: My passions are eating Asian food, playing video games, and drawing. But even though I did all of these things PASSIONATELY, I never had a money bag drop on my head. Instead, I had to use most valuable part of passions (drawing) and package it in a way that made it valuable to potential customers. This took compromise. I couldn’t do everything I wanted to do while working hard to meet customer needs. And even that part took me ages to figure out, as I drew unsuccessfully for years until I realized you have to be MARKETABLE, not just PASSIONATE.

Your passion, no matter how strong, is useless as a monetization strategy, if you can’t translate it into tangible value to your target audience.

3) You should do (insert current trend now)

In the beginning of my career, online experts told me I should focus on using video as my content creation tool, because it was popular at the time. Ungh. Headache alarm!

I did those videos but hated it, because I didn’t feel comfortable in front of a camera. I am an introvert, and recording myself on video feels as natural as jogging on nails.

After a couple of tries, I stopped doing them, because I got sick of twisting myself.

Just because a certain type of tool or style of content creation is “in” doesn’t mean you should implement it, especially if it goes against your natural tendencies.

4) Survey (potential) customers to learn about their needs.

I learned from an expert’s online course that I should survey your customers before you sell your products.

I then sent a couple of questions to my email list:

“Would you buy this eGuide?”

“Would you pay this X amount for it ?”

Most often, the answer would be an astounding “Yesss,” which made me jump into ze air. But when I finally shipped the products based on the eager answers, these eager people weren’t so eager any more.

It turned out that people say “yes” to all kinds of things without ever committing to their words. That’s why nowadays, I only ask people after they made a purchase and watch their actions instead, because it’s wayyy more reliable to gauge people by what they do, and not by what they say.

5) You must behave like a “real” business online.

Ungh, more common advice for the blog graveyard.

I remember one guy telling me: your site looks like Disneyland. People in the marketing/social media realm will never take you seriously.

Consequence? I changed my design, to make it look more serious, and … more bland. Seriously, most people confuse professional with corporate.

Professional means you take your business seriously and you deliver what you promise. Your site can look as crazy / edgy / unique as you want it to be, as long as that corresponds to your preferred target audience.

Conclusion

So-called common advice is often uninformed opinion regurgitated by sheep thinkers.

Most of the time, those sound wise snaps had lead me astray, because the web world is, and always will be, too specific and fast-moving for all-purpose formulas.

Which common advice pitfall did you fall into?

mars dorianMars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com/

Original illustration by the author.

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