The power and perils of the pivot


By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

The last month has been a hovertrain ride of good/bad emotions. After seven months of emotional labor, I’ve published my first sci-fi novel and released the baby to the world. Sounds like a zero-brainer, given that I’m in love with writing and storytelling, but it turned out to be a big-brainer for one reason:

I run a semi-successful blog on creatives making a living online while showcasing my digital illustration work, geared towards clients in the social media / blogging crowd. It’s been the focus of my last years, and it’s continuing to pay for the bread and beer on my table. But as much as I like the work itself, I dislike the idea of waiting for clients to discover me — I often feel like a kiddo asking his parents for permission to do something:

“Can I haz some work, plz?”
About a year ago, I worked on the side to change my biz future.

I guess I’m going through what is known as pivoting — changing your business model because of client feedback and market demands. Long story super-short, I’m switching from a creative freelancer model to an indie author model, self-publishing books while facing all the challenges and facepalms that come with the transition.

With any change comes danger and opportunity, and I want to share mine.

I’m losing clients.

pivot2Positioning is essential to attract your right clients. If they don’t know what you stand for, or why you have the credentials to help them, you’re roadkill zapped by an invisibility ray.

I’ve experienced this first-hand. My past biz consisted of mostly digital illustration work and coaching (aspiring) clients to create their own, global creative career. But with the current switch to indie publishing, that clear positioning has been watered down. One coaching client told me she thought she landed on the wrong website because of the changed design and focus. I don’t want to know how many clients I lost because they are confused about my offer.

I am alienating my blog readers.

In my last post for {grow}, I wrote about neglecting business blogging because of its diminishing value to me.

pivotFor four years, I’ve blogged twice per week, writing about blogging (cough) and sharing my experiences of being a full-time, freelancing creative. I received fan mail from around the globe thanking me for sharing my expertise and thus indirectly helping them out with their creative career.

It was good for the heart and bad for the wallet, so I mainly focused on expanding my illustration portfolio for the last two years. And with my new shift into indie publishing, the blogging confusion has reached a new level.

First I drop the blogging frequency from twice per week to only once per month (if at all) and now I even neglect the creative freelancer topics and babble about sci-fi stories and self-publishing.

What the hex ?

I’m stuck between two worlds.

pivotI’m not making enough money as an indie author to justify the amount of time I spend on writing. And yet, I don’t want my blog to look like a creative business blog when my new fiction readers want to inquire about me and scratch their heads wondering where the sci-fi author is.

Thus, I’m stuck in the twilight zone — my website is a mix between my older, creative career and an author-friendly site that showcases my storytelling and fiction. And with my passion for marketing, I know the watered-down mix is a dangerous place to be!

I’m still in the awkward stage of traversing the zone from “how to be a successful creative online” biz blogger to an illustrating, indie sci-fi author. I wish I had all the answers to making the leap, but I don’t. If you want to share some tips on making the transition more successful, I’m thankful for your advice.

Mars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at Original illustration by the author.

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  • Hey Mars,
    Thank you for sharing your dilemma. Although I can’t give you direction, it’s going to be fascinating to see what advice you do get here. Through your honesty we will all learn!
    PS: Is Mars your Sci-FI nom de plume? 🙂

  • Mars,
    Raw and honest post as always, something I appreciate and come to expect from you on Mark’s site!
    I have been in a similar pickle. I think you just have to make the decision on who you can help the most while making the amount of money you need to sustain your desired life. It’s a tricky combination…I was trying to be sales trainer, marketing idea guy, motivational man, business blogger, personal brand developer, etc.
    My realization was to pick what I was best at and what I got the most joy out of…which is why we are in business on our own…b/c we are allowed to do that!
    I picked helping people/companies take from the ground up a community idea or passion project they have in their heads and take it all the way from an idea to plan to action to post celebration party!
    But it didn’t come easy…
    Keep rocking!

  • I’m also confused. Why can’t you have two websites with separate identities, while you build your new one? I have one website for my creative work and another for a microbiz group I organize. Doing so helps with time management/focus as I am able to give complete attention to one audience once I switch costumes 😉

  • You and I are probably over-due for a Skype call. Maybe I can help. I’d like to learn why the illustration business wasn’t taking off fast enough. It sounds as though the “sales” part of asking for business is difficult for you (I feel your pain!). Maybe I can help you think through some options. Let’s talk next week?

  • Sandra Isaac

    You illustration sums up my thoughts pretty well. Do both, Market both.You website can even be designed to highlight both, as long as they are visually blending, like your illustration. You are like me in the aspect that you enjoy doing multiple tasks/jobs. I love Photography, Digital Imaging, Web Design, Social Media Marketing, +++. You can interweave your talents and keep them separate when necessary. Take Mark up on the call and get a fresh perspective on the subject. It sounds like you’re spinning around and when you stop, your going to try to hit your target. Mark can help you pin the tail where it needs to go, I’m sure of it. You already have the talent and what it takes to succeed.

  • The full name is Marius Dorian, but ‘Mars’ has become my nickname a decade before I ventured into sci-fi. It just happens to fit my new branding as well — or maybe it’s destiny ?

  • Yeah, that’s what I thought at first – to have one website for the books and one for the pure illustration. In general, I like to keep things simple, and I’ve built a lot of rank and links to my mainbase, which makes it easier to sell the new books and to have people find me. But I keep pondering it.

  • Yeah, that’s the peril of too many interests, heh. That’s why I design my covers myself — to keep the branding consistent, so both illustration and books blend in rather nicely. It’s tricky, but then again, everything worthwhile is.

  • Yes, it’s long overdue. I’ve known you for almost three years now ? Mostly through your avatar and emails 😉 Let’s connect via email about the Skype specifics.

  • Is that system best serving your audiences? They don’t care about your rank/sales strategy (unless you are a favorite who disappears from the scene).

  • I wish had pearls of wisdom to share, but I don’t. I’ve lost several clients lately and it’s making me re-think my business model. I wish you lots of luck in your pivot and hope it’s super successful for you!

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    I would totally recommend you getting onto both or either of these yahoo groups: or (yes, one is mainly romance authors, but they know their stuff. Seriously know their stuff.) I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned about the business of running my writing business from the people on these loops. Also David Gaughren’s Let’s Get Digital, Hugh Howey…and have you checked out ACX for audio…?

  • Thank you, Mandy. And much success with your business — I hope you find a way to re-think your model.

  • Thanks for mentioning the yahoo groups — I think I have never consulted Yahoo for any advice, lol.
    And yeah — I listen manically to Hugh Howey and David Gaughren’s advice. They’re helping me tons.

  • No, I mean my website has good traction through referrals and standing. If I have to start a new one, I have to begin this work from scratch.

  • Pauline Baird Jones

    Howey is going to be at the NINC conference in Oct. So excited to hear him speak in person. I’m probably old school, as in old. LOL But yahoo groups used to be go to place for info. And these loops have some indie stars in there, including Barbara Freethy, KDP’s bestselling author of all time. 🙂

  • I see. Then that task might be a good candidate for delegation. I started your book, btw, and I can’t wait to pull my husband into the story. Good job!

  • Wow do I relate! I’ve been at the crossroads of “where to from here” with my blog for months now. I’m a business/life coach for 25+ years now, but I’m also writing fiction. I shared the first two instalments on my blogsite, and got some good feedback, but I’m still pivoting. I look forward to learning of your “where to from here”. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Yeah, I think I’ll write a follow-up post one year from now on to share my experiences.

  • I’ll look forward to that. We can compare notes:)

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