I think I generally suck at giving advice. I think of myself as an odd person
who does things in strange ways, so anything I might tell another person I worry won’t be applicable. Or worse, decidedly unhelpful. There’s one bit of advice I enjoy giving though, because it’s so simple: just keep at it.
Specifically, I still get asked quite a bit about how I was able to gain any sort of audience over the years. Anyone looking for a fast tactic will be disappointed, but anyone okay with following a simple mantra will be rewarded. Again, just keep at it.
I am a Midwesterner, which means I am, if I may dip into cliches, extremely reticent to talk about myself, but I think this is a point completely glossed over by the “That’s fine for Ben” crowd. It’s easy to look at where I am today, with my 1,000+ liked tweet, and presume that I had a head start; in fact, I was a nobody. To be sure, I had the good fortune of going to great schools and working for great companies — I credit both without hesitation — but I certainly wasn’t a pre-established “brand” or social media dynamo: I had 368 Twitter followers, mostly former classmates that signed-up for Twitter because I taught a class about using the service, who then never touched it again.
What made the difference — what made Stratechery possible even more than WordPress, or Stripe, or Memberful, or any of the other tools that make it possible [to] build a one-person publishing business — was social media. I only needed a couple of people who were willing to tell their friends, or audience, or whatever you want to call it, and the fact they could do so with so little friction was the single-most important factor in getting from there, in 2013, to here, in 2018. Right now seems a particularly relevant time to keep the fact that everything has its good and bad parts — and that the degree of each is usually equivalent — in mind.
Beyond also being a Midwesterner, I can relate to Ben’s path to an audience. I think often people believe it’s one post or maybe a series of them that takes you from 0 to 60. But really, it’s simply going from 0 to 1 — in this case, zero to one readers — and continuing down that path. Again and again. Day after day.
I still vividly remember my early days spent blogging
, literally alone in my apartment. Some posts had just one or two readers (it’s not a joke to insert “hi mom” here, it’s the truth). Some even had none. None! Imagine the humiliation of putting yourself out there and zero people caring because zero people saw it. I know a lot of people feel this way when they start doing something with regard to content on the internet.
And so again, the advice is simply to keep at it. Even if the next post gets zero readers too. And the next one. Eventually, zero turns to one and then one to two and then you’re off to the races.