traffic, tears and tenderness: lessons from 5 years of on-line hustling

Before I launched this site, I was a partner in an on-line “lifestyle media company.” I wrote about the soulful side of style. The stakes were high, we’d raised over half a million dollars to make it all fly. And thus, the site became…a content factory (insert sound of fizzling fire cracker.)

I had 15 writers working for me. More writers = more content = better search engine ranking = more eyeballs = potentially more ad clicks-throughs = money…or so one hopes. It was a creative nightmare that I let happen. I got ousted left that lil’ empire. The company folded and the site was auctioned off as a remaining asset. The new owners started running articles on cellulite cream and pregnant brides. End of story.

I learned a lot. Grateful for all of it. And when I went renegade about two years ago, I took my SEO smarts, vetted it through my artistic soul, et voila! WhiteHotTruth and more learnings…happier kind of learnings. Here are a few:

17 lessons from five years of on-line hustling, in no particular order:

  1. Stories are effectual.

When I wrote about my meeting with the Dalai Lama, I thought it would be a flop. Same for my First Spiritual Heartbreak. Yet those articles elicited some of the most heart-felt responses I’ve ever received. This is a repeating lesson for me: TELL your story, tell YOUR story, tell your STORY. And when you tell your story…

  1. Talk about how you feel.

Some people told me they pre-bought The Fire Starter Sessions just because of the admission I offered before blast-off: “launching in a few hours. hope it doesn’t suck.” The posts in which I’m most emotionally transparent or vulnerable have ended up being some of my most valued material.

If you’re doing more of the publishing data or facts thing, then the “real” story behind what you’re teaching is how you feel about what you’re teaching. The feelings are the magnetism…the white hot truth. Yep — SOUL SELLS. Transparency is all too rare and we’re all craving to relate.

  1. There’s nothing Tweeters like to tweet about more than Twitter.

Write about the Twitter itself and it WILL get re-tweeted.
Case in point: 3 Keys To Un-Branding and Why I Changed My Twitter Name

  1. Some people have way too much time on their hands.

I’ve received three paragraph explanations as to the etymology of a particular word. READ: an email about a typo. If you’re alerting me to a typo because you care and don’t want me to look like a dork, thank you! It’s energy well spent! If your alertng me to a typoh becuase your just plumm anoyed … than like, reelly?

  1. Overly sensitive types need not apply.

If you’re going public with your opinions, and especially if you want to wear your heart on your sleeve on a big stage, you better: a) know what’s driving you and be convicted in that; b) be just slightly arrogant enough to think you deserve your place on that stage; c) be tough enough to not let the turkeys get you down. The internet is a massive landscape, and the turkeys have email access. You need to learn to chuckle when they squawk.

  1. When you cry while writing an article…it only means something to you.

Just because you’re have deeply cathartic experience crafting an article, doesn’t mean it will be a transcendent piece for the reader….but it may be.

  1. Know the metrics that matter most to you.

I recently did an interview with Pace Smith for the Engaging E-Course program she’s co-creating. She asked me all these great questions about stats for The Fire Starter Sessions and my readership. Doh! I didn’t have a lick of data for her, because, I don’t really do much data. I went two months without checking my Google stats and just about fell off my chair when I found out how much my traffic had increased. Do I care? Hell yes! But I keep my eye on what matters most:

I care about email subscribers. Because I hope my stuff is sweetly useful and you’ll give me the privilege of getting into you in-box just twice a week. I care about the quality of emails that I receive – the nature of gratitude and opinions. I care a lot about how my exposure relates to weekly sales of The Fire Starter Sessions.

  1. Give yourself three to six months to find your voice.

When I started WHT, I created categories for “fashion + beauty,” “wellness + healing“, and “relationships + sex“. I’ve written maybe five articles in total that fit those categories. Within a few months of launching it was clear to me that I was most passionate about “inspiration + spirituality,” and “business + wealth“, with “creativity” making an frequent appearance.

Your true interests will surface if authenticity is your priority.

  1. Your blog could be your book. Just maybe.

Six months into WHT, I stood back and saw the outline of a book proposal. Which then morphed into TWO books. One of which is The Fire Starter Sessions, the other is my next book, tentatively called, DESIRE. Yay!

  1. When you are always intending to be of service, you will never run out of ideas, or content.

I could break this post into a series. I’d rather pack it all in. There’s always more where that came from.

  1. Change.

Things I’ve tried here:
: Burning Questions. I featured some fabulous people.
: Comments (I’d like to take the opportunity to say here, since the debate of blog comments on or off is still in the air – I think that leaving comments on until you “get big,” with the intention of shutting them off at such a time is…sleazy.)
: Posting daily. Well that just about killed me. I post about twice a week now.
: Hot Songs (I may resurrect the tunes…I kind of miss them.)
: Inspirational quotes. There are hundreds of them buried in this site. They started to feel like filler. Nixed.

  1. Schedule or no schedule? Your call

One of the reasons I adore Chris Guillebeau is that he is so damn reliable. If he doesn’t post every Monday or Thursday, you can rest assured he’s been kidnapped. Me…I post when I’m pumped. And I know there are “ideal” times of the day and days of the week to post for readability, but…I publish when I publish.

  1. People will use you and you’ll use them.

This is life. Favours, climbing, sincere friendship and fanship. It’s up to you to keep your intentions straight up and clean. Kissing ass to build traffic gets tired really fast. Genuine interest is much more sustainable.

  1. Your best stuff may not be your most “viral” stuff. Write it anyway.

 

  1. Generosity makes for a great party.

Every time.

  1. You are having an effect on people, even if you don’t know it.

People may write you months after an article went up, and tell you that your words are taped to the fridge for encouragement, or that they read your piece at a banquet to a round of applause.

One line – honesty delivered, might motivate someone to do what they’ve needed to do for years, or to be more audacious, or more gentle with themselves and the world around them.

  1. Just write it.
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