How the Hustle Is Killing Me (or, Why Gary Vee Looks Like He’s 50)
You know it’s been a tough start to the new year when you find yourself reading the want ads… but then you realize your specific skills and years as an entrepreneur have basically made you unemployable.
No matter how much I love my life and the flexibility of having an online business, there are days when the constant hustle starts to wear. It’s like dog years — one year in the offline world is like 7 years in the internet marketing space. Things are constantly changing. If I don’t keep on top of it, pivot before the market says to pivot, keep abreast of the latest technologies and consumer preferences and social media trends and apps and the rest, I’ll fall hopelessly behind.
When I started online in 2008-ish, blogs were the end-all, be-all. Everyone, from Pampers to Fiskars to Walmart, needed a blog to reach their customers. Podcasting was relatively unheard-of and difficult to launch, Twitter had barely hatched, and people were still nice to each other online (just kidding! Flamewars started with those darned listservs and Yahoo groups). Periscope, Instagram, Blab, Pinterest, and Snapchat were as-yet-to-be-created gleams in their founders’ eyes. Life was relatively simple. All I had to do to stand out was put out great content via my blog and maybe podcast or release videos (because those were still “cutting edge”). I’d throw in some keywords, and voila! Traffic and sales! Everything I was doing was unique, and the options were much fewer so I didn’t have to agonize over what to do. I just had to do something no one else in my industry was doing. Life was golden.
Contrast this with today’s online landscape. If you are a business owner, even a solopreneur like me, you feel a call to be everywhere. You need a Facebook personal and business page, accounts on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and LinkedIn, just for starters, and every second you’re NOT on Snapchat, Blab, Periscope, and the rest, you fear you are falling helplessly behind your competitors. It takes all your time to just keep even, let alone pull ahead.
No one blogs much anymore — and if they do, they’re not getting near the traffic they did even a year or two ago. Once-robust websites are now often reduced to the “brochure” sites we used to make fun of in 2009. And you’d better have a pretty good handle on skills from webpage design, graphics creations, copywriting, and email list management to A/B testing, funnel creation, webinar production, and customer “experience” creation, otherwise you’ll be hogtied as you try to assemble a team to help you do everything from managing your social media account(s) to creating eye-catching memes for your Instagram feed.
And all this is on top of keeping on top of whatever trends occur in your personal industry or niche, where customers are harder and harder to reach amidst the noise and fragmentation. In the past five years, I’ve seen every major print publication in my market disappear. The trade shows have dropped, the consumer shows have all but disappeared, and even though I know my audience is out there, finding my “100 true fans” is like picking the winning Powerball numbers — a stab in the dark, but with a fraction of the payoff. What used to bring in the sales now works about half as well as it used to for me, which means I work twice as hard to stay in the same place.
Whew. No wonder I feel like I’m a 100 — and Gary Vaynerchuk looks like he’s aged a decade in the past two years (photographic evidence: Gary Vee in 2013 and in 2015. I love the guy, but the hustle is wearing on him, as it is on all of us who go at 150 percent, 24/7. I want to tell him to take a few weeks off and head to Canyon Ranch).
Sure, I can use Aweber, PicMonkey, and most webinar software. Sure, I can install my own Wordpress site and add the top ten plug-ins in a matter of minutes. I know Leadpages, Thrive Content Builder, and basic HTML and my open rates top the industry average. I can record a video in one take, spin out thousands of words of valuable information on demand, and I still feel like a loser because I haven’t touched Periscope, I don’t understand Facebook retargeting, and I can’t for the life of me figure out how to install a tracking pixel on my website. If we’re not hustling, we feel not only guilty, but terrified. What are we missing? What will end up destroying us? What will be the “nail” that will end up losing us our online kingdom?
All this to say, things are tough out there for solos. I’m constantly upgrading my skills via paid classes, courses, and books, and I’m way more technologically savvy than I was in my online infancy, but it’s not enough. We small business owners either spend half our time keeping abreast of the changing technology and trends while our business and customers languish, unattended, or we shell out thousands to “experts” who may or may not really know more than we do. There are so many options to choose from, and it’s all basically a gamble.
Is it easier for employees? I say yes. Things are changing fast for all of us, but those who work for The Man/Woman have the security of knowing that this month’s paycheck is not dependent upon our ability to simultaneously compose witty and compelling sales emails, drive new traffic to our opt-in pages, and learn the intricacies of Google Hangouts. As an employee, there’s another person signing the invoices and worrying about whether Infusionsoft or Convertkit is a better investment. As an employee, we typically have more clear directives, knowing we need to focus on X, Y, or Z, not X, Y, AND Z — and A, B, and C. We go home at night, not worrying if the building will still be there when we get up in the morning (if we get to go to sleep at all).
So, anyone out there hiring?