My Blogging Revelations of 2012 + What The Online Future Will Bring You

The end is nigh…the apocalypse right in front us…
but before heaven descends upon us and lava rivers swallow our bodies,
let me uncover my 2012 revelations, predictions for 2013 and my MOST important blogging biz lessons that I have learned throughout this year.
I’m sure they will all help you with your OWN online biz journey.

Let’s start with the positive first.

What I did right :

I created more than I blogged.
There’s still this odd phenomenon in the blogosphere where people get famous for writing cool shit rather than doing it.
Something along these lines :
“I don’t know shiiiit about marketing, maybe because I have never marketed a product,
but hey, everyone’s doing a marketing blog, so maybe I should too !”

NO, you really shouldn’t.

In 2011, I too talked (writing and consulting) more than I created, and I shifted that ratio in 2013.
This year, I have done more and more design and actual branding work, creating real world
results and THEN blogged about it. Wowzee. What a concept !

2)  I focused on my mother base
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – they’re all online platforms with lots of followers
but obnoxious biznass models.

  • Instead of making my online presence rely on such a fickle outlet, I have channeled my clients and audience all back to my home base (this blog) which I self-host. (more on that later)

3) I connected with the people that matter
When I started blogging, I wanted to dominate the blogging world Rambo-style :

Get in, take no prisoners and become successful the (Han) solo way.

I don’t know what kind of illegal liquid did flood my brain back then, but that’s of course bullocks.
Your community and peer network is the LIFEBLOOD of your online biz.
Most un-successful web creatives are unsuccessful because they DON’T have a network – no peers and or raving fan customers that recommend them.
That’s why I passionately connect with digital crusaders from around the planet – to
help each other out.

Sadly, those are the only things I got right.

Now ze bad stuff…

What I fucked up :

1) Listening to the social media circus
I realized that most social media talk (99,999999999%)
is full of nonsense and clowns…REAL clowns with red noses and circus music;
dip-dee-dip-dee-doo-dee-doo-dip-doo-dee-doooo – dancing on bears and riding
unicycles.

Honestly. There’s this perception that “Social Media” is that grand, elusive force that you have to master in order to be successful with your biz. Itsy-bitsy special sauce !
Which is complete bullshit with capital BS.
It’s just a tool, like a telephone, not some magic elixir that boosts your bottom line.
It’s a way to connect with your community and customers, nothing else.
I wasted too much buying into that social media deception instead of doing what
matters – creating epic shit.

2) I failed to keep a dedicated accountability group
When you’re self-employed and you have no boss breathing down your neck,
you are the only who can kick your ass.
And you’ll almost never do it.

This year, I “suffered” through several productivity slowdowns.
Of course there are a lot of productivity apps and techniques out there that help you going,
and I even use my favorite one pomodoro, but nothing’s more powerful than teaming up with
like minded biz crusaders who MAKE SURE YOU ACT ON YOUR GOALS.
I tried it several times this year and it always failed – the group vaporized into dark, undefined matter. Bad. I have to change that.

3) I didn’t master the Doing VS. Talking mode
Although I achieved much more during this year than in the last, there was still too much talking.
Talking about stuff doesn’t make you incredibly successful – shipping out work DOES.

I have shipped my guide, my cartoons, a course, slideshare sand lots of designs, gladly sacrificing my blogging time. But it wasn’t nearly enough.
I don’t want to become known as the guy with the kick-ass posts, but rather for the KICK_ass work that I create.
2013 will see me more cranking out WORK.

4) I jumped too late on the self-publishing train.
We all know self-publishing is all the fire – especially in the epub and mobi format. But the majority of the gold rush will come to a severe slow in 2013 – at least in the most important market, the USA. The rush was HOT in the last two years, but it’s become standard now. Shit, Mars, you PDF cock-sucking sympathizer. Next year, I want to tune more into the force and sniff those trends out.

—- I can summarize all these “mistakes” in two sentences :

Focusing on the puck instead of focusing on where the puck is going (failing to see trends and
the future) and failing to create enough work that matters (thanx to self-owned distractions).

Now onto the discoveries…

MAJOR revelations and surprises I made :

Your network is your only job security. About 70% of my gigs and income came through
features and recommendations from my peers this year.
Only a third of my work came through my blog.
What a revelation !
Connecting with your peers and building a kick-ass network will not only mean you get to know
cool people from around the planet, but that you also receive a constant influx of offers, collaborations and opportunities :

  • I made over a thousand bucks through Srini’s blogcast FM interview. Not because he paid me, but because the interview proved so successful that it resulted in ebook sales, design and consulting gigs.
________________

The fastest way to get grrrrreat at something is to admit that you SUCK in the first place

I looked around what people are doing creatively in the world and wondered why some are sooo great while others created bland and amateur work, even though they hustled just as hard.
I found one reason for it – the ones who kick-ass at work are more honest with themselves when
it comes to their work evaluation. They know exactly how their current skill measures against the world, and effectively work on creeping out their lack of skill the and getting insanely better at their craft.

If you want to create work that blows people away, you have to really see how your current skill
matches up with the creme-de-la-creme of the world, INSTEAD of kidding yourself and seeing your work better than it actually is.

Only if you know how much you SUCK will you be able to create awesome shit.

________________

Seth Godin is the world’s best (book) marketer.
He has written one book called Purple Cow and has managed to best-sell the same book again and again to hundred of thousands die-hard fans, merely by switching the covers and titles ( the latest iteration being “The Icarus Deception.”)
He clearly established himself as the go-to-guy in the category brain-porn for (aspiring) entrepreneurs.
And yes, I have bought every one of his iterations because I like porn.

________________

Aim to become NOT the best, but the only one who does what you do.

This is especially true for creatives making money through the net.
I truly believe that if someone can measure your value in a specific stats, you’re TOAST.
Everyone who aims to be the number one will eventually drop to 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. place.
Now matter how good you are, there will always be someone younger, more ambitious and
crazier than you.
The goal then is not to be the best, but be the only one who does what you do :

Ze Frank
Lady Gaga
Tim Burton
Gary Vaynerchuk
J.K. Rowling
Quentin Tarantino
Yayoi Kusama

You may deride them or laugh at them, but you can’t put a definite number on them. That’s because they have no competition – they’re mavericks. There is no one like them, and there will never be anyone like them. Aim to be THAT kind of person, and add your name to the list.

________________

OWN your online presence
I have talked to biz owners and creatives who use solely Facebook, Blogger and/or other free platforms as their MAJOR online presence. Ouchieeee !
Needless to say, they all got butt-fucked this year, because of Facebook’s priority to paid content promotion and Blogger’s ability to censor and shut down every blog.

While you have to use other outlets to get traffic and attention, NEVER NEVER NEVER build your online presence foundation on a platform that’s not self-hosted. The example of Instagram trying to sell your photos without your consent just proves this. Social media platforms are fickle creatures with bad business models – they come up with obnoxious pay models that often hurt the way you build your web presence.
You will always be at their mercy, and that’s a game you can only lose.

Be self-hosted. Use e-mail list. Everything else is an optional conversion and communication tool !

I have written a guest post on Mark’s popular blog about that :
A cautionary tale: Putting your business in the hands of Facebook

________________

Action inspires more than words

Similar to what I wrote in doing vs. action.
If your goal is inspire others to do/create epic shit,
you have to do it yourself first INSTEAD of just writing about it.

  • Stefan Sagmeister didn’t teach his fellow graphic designers how to break boundaries, he inspired them by BRRREAKING them.
  • Felix Baumgartner could have written the best blog post on jumping from space, but it was his actual action that hold the earth’s breath and inspired it.

Talk is cheap. Action is priceless.

Now ze future talk.

What 2013 will bring :

Self-publishing will be wayyy bigger and slowly move into the noise era, similar
to what we experience in the blogging scene right now.
Every monkey who can hit the keyboard will publish something, and that means
clutter will be the norm. In order to stand out, you have to create a product that’s
as pro as a traditionally published one :

Unique, compelling writing + eye-grabbing cover + editing = chance of success.

( Disclaimer – this “revolution” will while SLOWLY creeping into the rest of the world.
I say rest of the world even though I’m from Europe, because people here are only SLOWLY
accepting a digital ereader over their smelly-ass paper-based reader.)

________________

In much of the Western world, mobile will the main device through which peeps will consume your site. That means that every blog design decision (email form, banner, posts etc.) must be based on how it will look on a much smaller screen. Don’t forget this !
I’m already working on my mobile-friendly redesign.

________________

The unofficial major theme in 2013 will be DISTRACTION, and the successful people will shut down anything that will disturb their creative process. Most of the apps you use are useless – they’re funky little toys that don’t serve a purpose. I personally don’t have a smartphone, because it doesn’t positively influence my life – it only distracts me from creating important work. Ultra-successful peeps like Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin know how to exclude themselves from all the social media and app world, focusing on their work and being insanely productive.

Your success will partly depend on your ability to get rid of all the digital noise in 2013 – separating what truly matters and NOT falling for shiny little things.

And last but not least…

Information won’t matter anymore, only experiences.
You job is as an online creative is not to just inform people, but to give them an experience
only YOU can give them. That used to be different just a few years ago, but with Wikipedia and so many content networks out there, pure information is a commodity.

Let me repeat that so you can burrrn it into your brain :

Information is a commodity now.

I sold my branding and marketing guide in summer 2012, and I’m still making sales because
of the way I presented it – funky designs, edgy rainbow-raped cartoons and lotz of humor.
You can probably find the information on any major marketing blog, but
you won’t get the same pleasing experience.

E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E.

Every informational content that Seth Godin, Chris Guillebeau and Danielle Laporte crank out
can be found almost everywhere. We all know everything they will ever write about, but that’s not why we check them out in the first place. We want to tap into their worlds, be part of their
experience so we can create our own.

So, worry more about HOW you present your products and services, rather than WHAT you present. Make (art)work that only you can make – I will work my face off to create a website experience in 2013 that only
Mars Dorian can offer.

  • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

    YES Mars… on all points.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Really on ALL points ? Man, the post was probably too safe ;)

      • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

        Ok… ok… self-publishing probably won’t “get noisy” quite as quickly as you wrote here… you quack! (kidding about the “quack” part)

        I think you have to figure in the attention-spans, and reading level of the majority of the population (I once found something that said the average person doesn’t read past page 18 in any book, or something like that).

        It will be tough for most people to “get around” to writing a book… even if they want to.

        Then, while easier, publishing and marketing a book to create the “noise” you mentioned… well that might take a bit longer than another 12 months… I’m thinking 2015 or so before there is enough noise to make it hard to grab some of the self-publishing “low hanging fruit.”

        • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

          Interesting, and I’m sure that’s especially true in the countries beyond North America, because ereader demand is still fairly low. But if you prediction is more accurate than mine, we’ll still have enough time to build our foundations before the hordes arrive and dominate ;)

          • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

            +1000 to building foundations before the “rest” arrive Mars :)

          • Freya

            Maybe these are exactly the people who want to avoid the noise. E-Reader demand is low because most of them still suck, technically. They still do not provide the same eye-comfort as a book, at least if you’re a heavy reader.

            You also can still be shure a book was at least proof-read and edited and a few professional eyes looked over it and gave their opinion before it was published. Something that most self-publishing people or blogwriters can’t provide. Crap is still low in non self-publishing sectors compared to self-published stuff. A lot of people are just not willing to search through a huge pile of crap to find some good stuff. And since non self-published books are often priced nearly equal in print copies and ebooks, there is no need for most people to buy e-readers. Also time is precious to people, never underestimate that. Most of them don’t buy e-readers for the same reason you don’t own a smartphone, because you’re bombarded with tons of useless crap, only wasting your precious time. Quality still matters, even if the blogosphere tries to tell you otherwise for years.

            People are just fed up with the excessive supply the online world provides.

  • http://www.SalVasquez.com/ Sal Vasquez

    Great post mars! Thanks for sharing that, I really got a lot out of it.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      awesome man, I hope you ROCK-slide into the new year !

      • http://www.SalVasquez.com/ Sal Vasquez

        Thanks man I plan on it =]

  • http://www.itarsenal.com/ Rob

    I love the reporting and the reverse 2013 engineering, seeing yourself in the future helps put you there, future planning! Good practice.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      definitely ! It always helps me see how far I have come – so that I can kick WAYYY more ass in the future !

  • Janet

    I tried accountability groups too and they always fizzle out. I need one that lasts. Maybe I need the right kind of chemistry. I think you’d be an amazing accountability partner. Just sayin. :) And yeahh I need to get on the self publishing route myself. It’s not that I didn’t see the trend.. It’s that I didn’t do anything about it. I would add that 2013 will bring on the woo. We’ll see more woo-woo being a successful biz model. :D

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Hey Janet, I have tried at least 3-4 accountability groups in the past, all of them fizzled out. I’m currently doing a small one with only ONE other person, and even that turns out to be challenging – whaaa. 2013 WILL be the year of the self-publisher for me, and I CAN NOT wait what kind of awesome sauce will happen through our actions. I hope you achieve ya own goals, Janet, that “application” video you made was sincere and genuine ! Don#t let your mind bring you down – and it’s ALLLLL in the mind.

  • http://www.businessesGROW.com/blog Mark W Schaefer

    Superb , honest post. I would not give up on the blog as a source of leads though. As your community grows, so will the business opportunities. Great working with you this year, friend.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanx Mark,
      Yes I do believe that – and I will not give up my blog at all – It is my portfolio and calling card after all ! Can’t wait what 2013 will bring us !

  • David Doolin

    I used to build houses – residential construction. Had a boss once who would periodically orbit the job site with a scowl and a “Stop talkin’ get ta work”. It didn’t matter whether you were talking or not, he just said it anyway. Real dry sense of humor that guy had. Fun times.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Wonderfully offbeat David, as expected. I never know how to response to your comments but I do it anyways.

      • David Doolin

        I have a rather elliptical sense of humor.

  • Greg

    “There’s still this odd phenomenon in the blogosphere where people get famous for writing cool shit rather than doing it.” On point. This drives me nuts. Like this – “I want to help people leave their 9-5 jobs and live an epic life, even though I am stuck in a 9-5 job I hate and have never actually done anything epic.” Really?

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Yeah, exactly. When I started out, I felt like belonging to talker’s group, and that’s why I returned to the design and illustration aspect – it’s just sooo much more valuable to do and THEN write about it, instead of writing about stuff you’re never doing.

      • David Doolin

        Couple of years ago I decided to serve myself up a heapin’ helpin’ of STFU and JFDI. I’ll be back to writing in a year or two or three, no doubt.

  • Alan

    I’ve been following you for about 2 years and gotta say your biggest kick-ass differentiator is your artwork. Consider yourself an artist first in every sense of the word.What does that mean? Well you have a great message too. How is that message art, and how is your artwork the message? No diff. That is a category of one!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanx Alan, I will redesign this website completely in early 2013 so the visual and design aspect become even more prominent – hopefully even ass-kicking. I truly believe that your greatest strength should be your grrrreatest differentiator.

  • http://twitter.com/spoonfedcred Joe Leech

    Brilliant Mars.
    Giving an experience really hit home for me. Your brand is why im reading this post, not because of the information it will provide me (which conveniently was awesome anyways).
    2013 i will work on branding. Would be handy if I could draw!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Heya Joe, forget about drawing, find your own strength and then take it up a level. It’s all about YOU bringing skills to the table that others don’t – or at least not in your market !

  • http://twitter.com/TommyDarker Tommy Darker

    Great post Mars, lots of helpful information in it. I tend to agree with most of the points you make here and I could comment on everything, but I’ll put my 2 pennies in two specific things.

    I don’t want to sound like an all-knowing prophet, but I will!

    :: 1 ::

    Experience is where modern economics are heading to. It consequently means stronger and more humanized brands.

    As I mentioned in one of my posts, before a brand had to buy an expensive 40” TV/radio spot to get exposure and stay on top of comsumers’ mind. Now things have changed, you can show your personality and what you believe in in multiple platforms, so people can empathize and relate to you. Experience is the next level of strengthening that relationship.

    The stronger way to do this is to involve your fanbase in the production procedure. There is a post-production product that you sell to your customers (consumer-end product) that is a constant battle towards cheaper and cheaper prices, and the production procedure that you can document, involve a small team of passionate fans around it and provide a more personalized experience.

    Why? Because this way you provide added value to what you do and it hasn’t been done before. It’s not just a random fact that platforms like Kickstarter kicked off!

    Smart players will play that game and will become powerful before it gets saturated and mainstream. I bet my arm on that.

    :: 2 ::

    The second thing I bet my leg on is access. The sense of ‘owning’ something digital starts fading, as the Cloud becomes inextricable part of our lives. I am a musician, and in my industry Spotify is the big game changer. Not out of pure luck. They foresaw something and had smart excecution.

    Also personalization. When everything goes digital, mass production & exposure lose ground, and if you carry your message this way probably you will get ignored in the future.

    Sending an email to a newsletter of 10.000 is not that personal. You haven’t invested time, effort or money on sending that single email. And people know. For them, they just subscribed to you, they don’t know how much effort you put to grow that list – and they don’t care. It’s all about them feeling personal. And mass messages is the norm at the moment, so sending a personal email on every important subscriber is the way to go – you provide added value again.

    To generalize what I just said, the more time, money and effort you invest in personalizing everything you do, the more outstanding job you do. Winners will get it right once again.

    ###

    That’s it from me Mars! Thanks again for your interesting insights, I hope I contributed to the discussion you started.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Hey Tommy,

      NOW THAT’S A COMMENT !

      I appreciate your voice, man, seriously !

      I truly believe that small is the new big, and that we are still living in an era where of this is possible for us – coming from Europe, we know how everyone here lags behind the States in terms of trends – a lot of people still know and believe in the industry, instead of going the digital DIY route.

      Eventually, everything we do right now will become common practice at one point, that’s why we have to keep adapting !
      I will personally kick my ass to know what’s going on – and to always see where everything is going towards to.
      But first things first – 2013 wants to get conquered ;)
      I wish you some epic holidays !

      • http://twitter.com/TommyDarker Tommy Darker

        Same to you Mars! I coudn’t agree more with your saying.

        And, for the record, I’m on the same quest: future future future! And kick-ass present. Happy holidays mate!

  • http://andrewrlong.tumblr.com/ Andrew R Long

    Mars Dorian, you continue to impress me. This is an ace post that I actually learned from, in contradistinction to many other posts I have read in similar niches lately.

    My favorite:

    “Your network is your only job security.”

    I’m taking that one to the bank.

    Stay You, Mars! I will check in on ya later.

  • http://twitter.com/BillyMurph Billy Murphy

    Well said, great post.

    “There’s still this odd phenomenon in the blogosphere where people get famous for writing cool shit rather than doing it.” – this is spot on. less than 1% of bloggers are doing things worth following.