In my other life, I'm someone with a small but encouraging following. You could even call it a platform, a very small one that only has two steps up to the top.
Still, there's something about knowing that your words will be read by people on the other side of the screen. Some of them will share your work. A handful will get in touch personally to tell you your words matter to them.
I'm by no means an "influencer" or a big name on the internet. But people online and in my real life often approach me to ask for tips about writing or blogging or building an online business with an actual audience.
"It's scary to start," they say. "I don't even know where to begin."
"It gets better," I tell them. "Just do the work, take baby steps. It will add up over time."
I mean these things when I say them. But now I'm here, starting a new blog with approximately four followers, and I'm faced with reality:
It's hard to start from scratch. I forgot about that.
It feels natural to send an email to hundreds of people for business. It's more daunting to sit here, in this quiet, nearly empty space, and tap out a post that only a few will read. It's more vulnerable to share your life with two people in a coffee shop than to tell carefully selected anecdotes onstage in front of a crowd.
I'm taking my own advice, and it's hard. So here, for you, are my platform-building guidelines for awkward creatives who just want to make stuff:
1. Your website should not be perfect.
If it is, you're procrastinating on the real work of sharing your art and connecting with people. Don't hide behind excuses like I did when it took me NINE MONTHS to launch this tiny little blog as an already experienced blogger.
2. Don't be everywhere.
The gurus will tell you that all the social media is important. And it can be. But not right now. Right now, you need to focus on doing the work and putting yourself out there again and again and again. Pick one place that you don't totally hate to hang out and stick with it for a while.
3. Publish a few posts quietly.
This gets you used to hitting the "publish" button without feeling like you want to vomit. It also means that visitors will have more posts to enjoy when you launch and they love you.
4. There's no good time to do this.
It doesn't matter what "this" is, there will always be a reason the timing is bad. Your full-time job is demanding, your kids are too young, you don't have enough money, your laptop is old and slow . . . there will always be something to stop you. If being creative and putting your efforts online is something you want to do, there is no better day than today.
5. Remember the people.
Don't think about numbers like pageviews and followers. Think about people's names. When you get one follower, find out who she is. Learn her name. Get to know her. Your work is about connecting with her, and anyone else who decides to follow along with what you're doing. Those people and their names matter more than any numbers.
How do you get over trying things that are new and scary?