I would say that the vast majority of my weekly newsletters are about how you can live a more vibrant life, not necessarily how to build a business.
However, in order to live that best life, I know that many of you are striking out on your own to either start your own businesses or make side income. After a year of being in business, I know how hard that can be, so I want to do everything in my power to help you do that better and faster than I did.
That’s why this week I want to talk about how to cultivate your online community.
I truly believe that the first step to building a successful business is finding "your people." These are the people that resonate with your authentic self and the impact you want to make in the world. They can be your cheerleaders, your besties, your dream clients - whatever you want them to be. But if you want to attract them, you have to be intentional about how you go about it.
I started Made Vibrant and my email list, Self-Made Society, because I was interested in connecting with other creatives who had an interest in teaching themselves new things and getting better as people (hey, that's you!)
In a little over a year, I’ve grown that list to 2,200 subscribers. I’ve welcomed over 1,000 students into the Better Lettering Course in four and a half months, and I’ve cultivated an engaged audience on Instagram, growing my account by 50% in just the past month!
So... is my community growing? Yes! BUT those numbers mean nothing to me without the accompanying comments and emails saying, “I look forward to your emails and posts. They add so much positive energy to my life.” or “I just devoured your blog posts. I feel like you just get me!” Those messages tell me that I’m building the RIGHT community. One that understands what I’m trying to create and one that appreciates it.
It’s not the size of your community that counts; it’s how much your community believes in your mission.
Think of it like an archery target. It doesn’t matter how big that target is and how many circles are added to the outside - it could be 10ft across - but the name of the game is hitting the bullseye.
Similarly, it doesn’t matter how many people you add to grow your community, if they don’t hit that bullseye in terms of aligning with your mission, they aren’t going to truly appreciate the value you deliver or want to enlist your services/buy your products/consume your content.
Please know that I’m not sharing any of those numbers to say look at me! look at me! or to make you feel bad if you’re just starting out. (HELLO, I’m the girl that sent her first newsletter to two people!)
I’m sharing the numbers to show you that the approach I outline below really works. I KNOW that you can find the right people that will believe in what you’re doing. You just have to find clarity around the three pieces below and be consistent in delivering value to your audience.
In the welcome email to my email list, I ask subscribers to reply back with their biggest creative struggle. SO many of you send me messages saying that your biggest problem is that you don’t know what direction to go or what you want your creative business to look like; you just know that you want to love what you do and make money doing it.
Great news for you! Even if you don’t know WHAT your business will look like, you can still start cultivating your community TODAY. Why? Because if you build the community that aligns with your values, oftentimes they will end up telling you what they want from you. And if you listen to them, that’s how you’ll be able to develop content/products/services that bring them value. (And delivering value to an engaged audience is how you make that MONEY!)
So, let’s get to the meat of it then, shall we?
How exactly do you cultivate a community?
Here are my three steps. (Obviously they’re all "M" words because you KNOW I get down on some alliteration.)
Step 1: Your Message
This is your WHY. It’s the thing you stand for. It's the thing you believe in and what you want to share with the world. Developing clarity around your message can be tough to nail down at first, but to get started, try asking yourself these questions:
What do I wish there was more of in the world?
What have I learned from my own experiences that I want to share with others?
What lights me up and WHY does it light me up?
For Made Vibrant, I realized early on that when I’m creating things I love and working hard to improve myself, I feel like my soul is being fully expressed. Like my true colors are at their very brightest. And I wanted that feeling for other people. I wanted to help people evolve toward their brightest selves whether that’s in life, in business, or in their creative spirits. THIS is the message I want to share, and the community I want to attract is full of people that want that too (hopefully that means you!)
Please don’t forget, this message might evolve over time! But the more conviction you can bring to it when you’re starting out, the easier it will be for the right people to resonate with it and join your growing tribe.
Step 2: Your Medium
This is the HOW. It’s your instrument - the method through which you share your music (your message) with the world. If you love to write, words are your medium. If you love to tell stories through film, making movies is your medium. It could be music, or watercolor, or hand-lettering, or photography, or design. And, the cool part is, you don’t have to choose just one.
I share my message through words and art (even better if I can marry the two like with hand-lettering!) I find that my sweet spot is in the intersection of art and insight — creativity and connection. Once I identified that, it became easy to continually ask myself, "How do I use art and insight to share my message today?"
Step 3: Your Microphone
This is the WHERE. It's those specific places you can go where your message can be amplified enough that your target community can hear you. And you want the platforms you use as your microphone to marry well with your medium. If your medium is photography, maybe it's an Instagram hashtag you use to attract people who adore simple, yet beautiful photos. If you're a writer, maybe your microphone is a guest post on a blog that you know has an existing community that aligns with yours.
For me, I've discovered that Instagram is a fantastic place to marry my love of art and insight, because it's a very visual platform where I can also share little "microblogs" in my captions.
However, don't be fooled by the word "microphone." This doesn't mean shout at people or push your message all day and all night. Instead, invite others into the conversation and make sure your community knows that you want to connect with them, not talk at that. I try to respond to as many Instagram comments as I can and reply to as many email replies as I possibly can, because I want you all to know that my #1 goal is to connect.
Now, once you have these three pieces of your foundation, it’s your job to deliver CONSISTENT VALUE to the people that do raise their hands to be a part of your community. Try to climb inside the head of the person you want to bring into your tribe, and ask yourself, What can I do that would add value to their lives?
How can you share your message through a specific medium in a place that gives you a microphone where those people will hear you.
That's the name of the game, folks.
This week your challenge is to determine your message, your medium and your microphone.
If you already have a solid community that's growing, awesome! How can you brainstorm ways to bring them more value in the future?
I truly hope that these steps will help some of you out there starting out on your creative business journey! If you have ANY questions about how I was able to build the Made Vibrant audience, I hope you'll email me and ask.