Like everyone else on the social web, I just read Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin. It’s a big book, not so much in number of pages, but in number of ideas.
One core theme is the idea of emotional labor — bringing more human feeling and connection to your work, some essential part of yourself that can’t be automated or outsourced.
It strikes me that this gets to one of the key distinctions between different models for doing business online.
No matter how you approach business, you’ve got to decide on a topic, and probably niche that down to a viable sub-topic.
So you might be in the fitness business or the beauty business or the writing business or the business business.
One approach has us doing some keyword research within our topic, creating enough good content to rank for those keyword phrases, and then applying a revenue strategy — maybe advertising, maybe an affiliate offer, maybe an ebook.
The other approach has us creating a blog on the topic, doing a lot of soul searching to figure out our USP and/or our sub-topic, finding some readers who particularly resonate with our approach, understanding who we connect with (and being willing to scare off everyone else), and then making an offer (or series of offers) that bring in money.
The biggest difference isn’t how the revenue comes in, how our site is set up, how we approach SEO, or just where on the “long tail” our keywords are.
And contrary to what you might think, the difference isn’t in how much work we put in. Both approaches take a lot of work.
The difference is emotional labor.
The problem with paint-by-numbers
When you’re starting out, it’s tempting to look for a paint-by-numbers solution.
Something that tells you exactly where to start, what to do, and how to do it. Something that works a lot like a franchise, with a three-ring binder that explains what buttons to push.
The problem with push-button systems is that you can train a robot, or an ultra low-wage worker offshore, to push that button for you.
If the business’s genius resides in the system and not in you, what happens when someone comes along who can push the button 104% more efficiently than you can? Or who can push it at 97% of your cost?
My problem with paint-by-numbers systems isn’t that they lack creativity. My problem is that they’re risky. When you make yourself into a cog, by definition you make yourself replaceable.
Don’t be afraid to bring your best game
Emotional labor is about the part that’s outside the system.
It’s about the part that you can’t train a chimp to do. It’s about the part that wants your creativity, your strange ideas, your ADHD, your intersection of interests, your passion, your giving a damn, your hard thinking.
Simply put, it’s the love that you put into it.
You might pour a lot of emotional labor into maintaining a fantastic relationship with your readers and customers. Or you might pour that energy into making something that’s more useful, more user-friendly. Or you might pour it into developing a market position that no one’s seen before, that fills an old need in a new way.
You might pour it into “all of the above.”
Even if you’re following a system (and I think systems are tremendously useful), it’s when you get outside the system that you start to find real success.
By “success” I mean money, sure. But also satisfaction. The thrill (and terror) of saying, “Actually, I’m much too interesting and complex to be a cog. I’m a human being. Here’s how I help other human beings get what they want.”
Money can’t buy love, but can love buy money?
My favorite technique for competing in a hyper crowded niche?
Make yourself more useful or better-loved. Ideally, both.
Now you don’t have to put your personal life into your blog or business. Some people just aren’t comfortable doing that. They may want to protect their privacy, or it just may feel too awkward and embarrassing.
You get to decide. That’s why you started a business in the first place.
But if you think you might be comfortable putting a little more you into your brand, it can, frankly, be the shortest path between you and success. You don’t have to share every detail of your personal life (and please don’t tweet about the sandwich you’re having for lunch), but it’s very helpful to be a complex and individual human being.
Make a stronger connection. Care more. About your readers, about your customers, and about your own business. I don’t care if you have a four-hour work week or a hundred-hour one. I care about how much love you bring to the work when you get there.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and a co-founder of Inside the Third Tribe.
Reader Comments (53)
Shane Arthur says
appears to be the 5th Pillar!
“Now you don’t have to put your personal life into your blog or business”-
For me, it’s better to separate between business blog and personal blog. By having too much personal post on business blog it will annoy people. While having a personal blog has some advantages like we can sharing other field of interest with people. Not all people want to read about business.
Dave @ 30 Days At A Time says
Sometimes, the things that have worked for other people will work for you. Other times, for whatever reason, they won’t. In the end, everyone needs to find their own system, separating the things that work from the things that don’t.
Love can bring money until your loved one find out that you build love to bring money.
Bloggers build trust and love to bring money..So blogging going to get lost readers love.
Sherice Jacob says
Money can’t buy you love, but it can buy you a yacht and you can sail damn close to it! 🙂
Giving your biz enough tender loving care is one of the reasons why I joined the Third Tribe. Paint-by-numbers “get rich quick” schemes might work for some – but you’ll eventually outgrow it in favor of building relationships and delivering real value instead.
Sonia Simone says
@Shane, heh, I like that! Relationships are the first, but love back toward your business is something we haven’t talked about much yet.
Brian Clark says
“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a big yacht so you can drift up next to it and offer it a drink.” ~David Lee Roth
Chrystal @ Happy Mothering says
I think it depends on your niche and your personality whether you share your personal life in your blog. For me, I just don’t think I could blog without sharing who I am. I believe it’s what connects me with my readers.
Erica Mueller says
I don’t like bringing my family life into my blog. I blog about technology, using wordpress, blogging, and social networking. Family life just doesn’t fit. But, the posts where I’ve shared my stupid/blond tech moments have gotten the most traffic. It’s about putting yourself into your posts, and allowing your readers to feel like the know you. I believe this is possible, even in the most technical of niche’s.
I love this line:
..bringing more human feeling and connection to your work, some essential part of yourself that can’t be automated or outsourced.
That’s what people want to see, the content you couldn’t have outsourced.
Don’t get hung up on the “love versus business” thing. This is about incorporating “right brain to right brain” emotional connectivity with your audience. And giving your passion to be “of service” to others a voice. A Valentine bouquet to Sonia for this brilliant reminder.
Passion precedes greatness.
Passion is emotional labor. Putting your heart and soul into everything you. Saying “screw it” to competitive business practices while every sheeple warns you not to do it that way. It’s a rejection of the A + B = C business model. It’s following your intution even though you’re trying to figure out where in the hell it’ll take you.
Great insight Sonia.
Loved this post. Thank you so much.
This is great advice. I am actually working on this myself. There are a ton of self-help sites and books out there. With my site I’m concentrating on creating that personal connection, to say that I am or have been where they are and things can change for the better.
Sonia Simone says
@Paul, thanks! The post would more accurately be headlined “Is your business getting enough emotional labor,” but that’s not quite as catchy. 🙂
uzi silber says
This is a remarkable, fascinating blog. its like a pandora’s box and maze where every single doorway and passage leads to another diamond.
I think if someone is trying to make money from a blog, it’s automatically a business blog and should be treated as such.
I think personal stories on blogs are great.
A great personality over the airwaves who did this was Paul Harvey… He would talk about everything from Wall Street and the Dow Jones to politics, war, world events and everything in between.
Every one of Paul Harvey’s broadcasts were full of his personal stories that related to the topic at hand…
And through his broadcast he was able to plug different advertisers seamlessly… Kind of like a radio hyperlink…
“You know you’d want buy a Bose radio or drive a Cadillac because Paul Harvey had talked about it in his story… But certainly not because he was getting paid to advertise it.”
He was the pioneer of this form of advertising… And he was heavily criticized when it came out that he was getting paid to talk about advertisers during his stories…
Regardless Paul Harvey had millions of loyal followers…
It’s the exact same principle as blogging… If a person is comfortable telling a personal story and it’s relevant to the topic at hand… Readers are going to respond positively… Even if there’s a hyperlink or two in it.
On the other hand, if someone has a blog about MMA and does a post about how much he enjoyed the dramatic acts of Madame Butterfly… Well, I’m just guessing here… but that person might lose a reader or two…
Long time follower and reader. First time for a comment.
I believe people can tell when you put effort and thought into a blog post and the opposite is true also.
Isn’t love also another word in this context for “passion”. Being passionate about a subject is infectuous, being around passionate people is fun.
I find when I write blog posts about what I am passionate about, the writing comes easily, I always have content to write about, and most of all it is FUN.
Keep the great posts coming. Obviously, the passion shows thru in your writing!
Jason Eichacker says
What about those of us that are putting our love out there without a concrete plan yet?
I just started blogging again, mostly to help me process all the changes I’m going through. Sure, I have some designs on eventually becoming an author/speaker/consultor (in ancient Greece, “consultant” is the one seeking information) and being happier with what I do on a day-to-day basis. The greatest value in getting back to it at this point–and something that I think will keep me writing instead of stopping in a few weeks–is putting all of “me” on display. The way I think, the music I love, the things that inspire me.
I’m learning about SEO (including a new title and tagline and site host after four days) and doing my best to shape content that benefits the reader (after introducing myself). I’ve left behind the desire to be a “New Age guru” toned and want to help by being a “regular guy doing stuff”.
I guess what my rambling is asking is: “Is that loving my business (that is yet to be, though likely in the future)?”
Sonia Simone says
@Jason, I think that love/emotional labor are important, but at some point you’ll also want to get a plan in place. You need some of both, logic and love. 🙂
Jason Eichacker says
Thanks. Let’s say the plans are written more in the sand than in stone at this point. I’m more concerned with making sure I can keep writing for more than two or three months, at this point.
Dorothy Ray says
Sonia Simone, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE your thinking and writing! Copyblogger is the most intelligent (other than Seth Godin’s) blog I’ve ever seen. I read it avidly and save way too much. Thank you so much for feeding my mind.
What if it’s a really good sandwich?
On a more topical note, love is the difference between a consumer considering your product, and a consumer developing a relationship with your brand. If you want their loyalty, they have to know you have an emotional investment in their satisfaction. Otherwise, they’ll leave you as soon as the guy next door undercuts your price by 50 cents.
Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says
I’m definitely feeling the love at the moment. I think it’s a question of confidence and being able to express myself as I am without worrying what other people think.
For years we hid the fact that we were a 2-man band working from home. Now I tout it as proof of our expertise. Maybe some clients want the corporate stuffy suit experience but they’ll have to find it elsewhere. A lot of people just want down to earth, honest and sound advice and don’t care about the packaging. They’re the ones for us:)
Thanks Simone, loved reading this:)
PeterK @ Portable Hard Disk says
Happy Valentine’s Day Sonia. Thanks for the insightful post.
I know I need to put more of myself into my writing. My emotional input is definitely on the low side. Thanks for the reminder.
Gordon Rowland says
Thanks Sonia, for another sharp, thought-provoking post.
“. . . you’ve got to decide on a topic, and probably niche that down to a viable sub-topic.” Absolutely!
Lucky me. I decided on my topic – landscape design – many years ago; and a sub-topic inspired by the words of the Professor of Landscape Architecture at York University Canada, Michael Hough:
“The exotic vegetation that replaces indigenous plant communities in urbanising regions, disassociates us from the rhythms and diversity of the native landscape and a sense of the place; and we are the poorer because of it.”
Viable? I never ask myself that question because it’s a niche I’m passionate about, that brings meaning and value to my occupation. And that’s more satisfying to me than making a living by designing fashionable, over-designed, unsustainable gardens.
mary e. ulrich says
Sonia, this is one of my favorite posts. Also clicked on the links and found more great advice. Love is complicated. Blogging is complicated. You have created a crossroad piece here.
Jeff Rutowski says
Thanks for this post. It is so easy in the social media environment to get distracted. You have stay laser-focused on what’s important to you and what you have a passion for. If you don’t have passion, it shows.
I’m working to stay focused on the guerrilla marketing program and how it dovetails into my business and ultimately my business coaching products and services. It is difficult, though, because I find myself bombarded with lots “business growth” miracles. I have to constantly remind myself to DELETE.
Most of the people and businesses that I work with are very much like me–corporate America refugees. Once divorced from the corporate machine, we sometimes need help filling in the gaps that the machine provided and that we took for granted. I think that there’s a niche there.
Kathleen Sullivan says
Sonia, that was very inspiring. It makes me want to do better–to be better.
Thank you and Happy Valentine’s Day to you too. See you over at The Third Tribe.
Scotty Walker says
Happy Valentine’s Day Sonia
Heather Villa says
If you have passion for what you do, then you won’t get bored or distracted or restless. It’s easier to get up in the morning and go to your office when you love what you do. Pouring that love into everything you do will make your job (and your life) so much more satisfying.
Rinaldi Syahran says
i don’t know is my business getting enough love cause i just already do this thing. Maybe if i already run it in many years, i can feel the feeling aboutf my business.
Gordon Rowland says
@Heather, you took the words out of my mouth.
Except that, according to my doctor, I’m one of those adult ADHD types, easily distracted and often restless.
Poor old Valentine, he got his head chopped off by Claudius for marrying couples in secret (thus depriving the army of recruits).
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny says
All you need is love…it’s interesting to consider how love gets infused into our work. I’m still in my first year of blogging. I’m following a system because I want my blog to be effective. As I’ve created more blog posts, I’ve noticed my voice developing. I had an idea when I first started out what I might write about, but that evolved each week as I explored other people’s blogs and had conversations with people I’d never met.
I’m talking about the part you mentioned that you can’t train “a chimp” to do.
Writing is fun. Expressing myself in ways that connect with others keeps me creative. Money is the next hurdle. Emotional capital – love – is present – because of that, my belief is that money will find me irresistible. 🙂
Archan Mehta says
You took the words right out of my mouth. You add value every time you write to us. Thanks for your contributions.
I think you have to be able to strike a balance between the personal and the impersonal.
For example, we don’t want to read about the intimate moments in your life: we want to read a professional blog, not surf a porn site. That distinction is important, and can spell the difference between success and failure.
In addition, readers don’t want to read cut-and-dry posts/articles because that makes them yawn, roll over, and go back to sleep. We want to read blogs that make us feel wide awake, on our toes, and alert. Yes, writing should connect emotionally, but it should also inform, educate and maybe even entertain (use of humor?).
I have read too many posts written by competent professionals, but which made me feel like I was being taken for a ride. Quite frankly, I felt bored. That’s why I like to read posts which bring out the “personality” of the writer/author. Show us a bit of your quirkiness and your eccentricities. We don’t expect you to be the next Jerry Lewis or Woody Allen, but you catch the drift?
Sometimes, giving what is the best for our blog is a difficult choice. Like making a list post for a year, if all entire contents have high quality? A game, that is difficult to control!
That’s a very interesting idea – it’s really worth to think about it! If we love our work, it’s definitely easier to get it done – if that gives us more money it’s even better!
Gordon Holcomb says
If your business plan is to help people by providing information or solving a problem then you must gain their trust if you want them to take you’re advice. There is no better way yo gain some bodys trust than to open up to them. That doesn’t mean that you have to share details about your personal life but it does mean that you have to make sure they can feel your sincerity. In my opinion the way you do that is first off actually becomming interested in your readers and second being yourself.
Blogging Tips says
A great niche and unique content is important for building love in our business
Σχολή Χορού says
That was a, dedicated to love, special occasion post for valentines day … lol
Avatar Lover says
sharing is love..when we share good thing at blog that`s meant we share our love.. 😉
Steve Errey - The Confidence Guy says
Great topic Sonia.
I think love is part of it for sure, but the other part is confidence (I would say that, wouldn’t I?!). It’s hard to love someone or something unless you feel confident enough to open up those parts of yourself or take a risk – love and confidence often go hand in hand.
It also allows you to make those leaps of innovation and passion that make all the difference. When folks start out they do a then b then c, knowing they’ll end up at d. Later on they figure out that if they tweak something and do it differently they can jump straight from a to c, and d will be a whole lot better as a result.
Again, you gotta be confident enough to make those leaps.
Sourish Nath says
i started with a blog recently which showcases my blog work basically explaining the troubles users and newbie bloggers face with their wordpress self hosted blogs and giving away them few useful tips in “How To Start A Blog” queries . This post was really useful for both me and my readers .
caro snatch says
nice synopsis of mr godin’s latest nuggets for thought. let’s see if i’m onto an enterprising as well as satisfying (ad)venture that is my new album, entitled (love yourself) “til you’re no longer blinkered”
Thanh Lu says
love this…thanks for the article…
Joel Libava says
Thank you encouraging me to continue to be grouchy, and to continue being myself.
Some days, (Like today) I feel that i’m lost-without a rudder.
You helped me steer a tad. Thank you.
The Franchise King®
Sonia Simone says
@SteveE, I like that intersection, good points. There’s definitely an element of bravery/confidence in being able to really commit, really put everything you’ve got into a project. Even if it’s just the confidence that what you have is worth bringing to the table.
Kenny Silva says
Killer post, Sonia. I’ve been trying to focus on putting as much love into my business and my business relationships as possible. Not only do people appreciate that, but I feel much better about what I’m doing! Great stuff.
David Morson says
The book you have referred is really a great book with lots of ideas but your ideas are also too much awesome especially the last one, I really appreciate it.
I’ve always tried to give my customers the best service and care anywhere. For when you can’t compete with the Big Boys on price, giving some love and attention to the customer will make a difference.
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