Earlier this week we came across a video that we haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Lenny Rachitsky was talking to a16z’s Sriram Krishnan and his wife Aarthi Ramamurthy. The topic? Getting started with your online presence…and why so many people shy away from it.
As you may know, we’ve talked about the number one reason people don’t build an audience. The fear of being judged and “looking bad” is an extremely powerful - albeit artificial - deterrent. So is its close friend, the fear that you don’t deserve to speak out. We know because we’ve experienced this ourselves.
For years, we held ourselves back, believing that we hadn’t accomplished enough to warrant sharing our ideas and knowledge with the world. That we weren’t “experts enough” to join the conversation and have an opinion that matters. Needless to say, this was the wrong mindset and it only hurt us.
We wish we could say that breaking out of it was an easy and straightforward process, but the reality was very different. It took us months of casual experimentation, sporadic tweets and observing others to finally change it. It was a gradual change that required learning from others and gaining confidence that not only did we have something valuable to say, but that doing so helped others.
Looking back, there were three things that helped us get started and maintain momentum. Here’s how you can implement them too:
Speak with people who’ve done it before
One of the best things you can do when you’re getting started is speaking with people who are a couple of steps ahead of you. Often, these are people you admire and want to learn from. They may seem as if they’re in a league of their own, but they were once in your position too.
Hearing their stories, trial and tribulations about building an audience and the best practices they’re developed along the way could be extremely encouraging. Chances are they struggled with all the fears you’re experiencing but got started anyway. Knowing this and hearing it directly from them can be empowering.
Not only that, but you can often get ideas about what to do, an inkling of what works and doesn’t, and even content ideas.
Focus on topics you know and understand well
Something that really helped us hit our stride when we first started creating content was gaining confidence in our knowledge of the topics we talked about. While there is no shortcut to this process, something that worked incredibly well for us has giving 1:1 advice to multiple folks. This showed us two things: that many people would have the same questions about a given topic and that they all seemed to find our advice helpful. Once we knew that this was the case, we were more comfortable sharing our thoughts in public.
This will likely work for you as well. To keep the pressure low, start by talking to friends who may need your help or advice on a specific topic. This will shorten the feedback loop and quickly show you how helpful people find your knowledge and ideas. The more you speak with people who need your help, the more you will likely find that most questions people ask you are somewhat similar.
These conversations will help you build the confidence to turn these ideas into content pieces you can put online.
Approach content like a scientist
Contrary to Sriram’s advice, we didn’t focus on being “the best us” out there. In fact, we took an approach of trial and error that was much more similar to Aarthy’s suggestion of constantly evaluating our content, tweaking and optimizing it, while also being kind to ourselves.
After every post, we would examine how it performed and try to dig into the why. Sometimes a certain tone of voice resonated more, so we would lean into that. Sometimes the language we used to share our advice did not seem compelling enough, which told us we had to make changes. We continued experimenting and refining, just like a scientist running an experiment would. This helped us learn what worked and what didn’t, what resonated the most and what advice people needed the most.
You can do this too. Content may be part art, but you can surely take a scientific approach to it, carefully examining what works and doesn’t until you find that creating awesome content has become second nature.