My honest advice for a struggling creator

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Hey friends,

Quick thing before we start – in April, I’m taking part in Joe Hudson’s live online Connection Course as a student. I’m doing Joe’s in-person Groundbreakers course in October in California, and I’ve heard amazing things about the Connection Course so decided to take part in that online. If you’d like to join me, here’s a cheeky affiliate link with more info. And if you’d like to see what Joe’s vibe is all about, this is a live coaching session I did with him a few months ago that we published as a podcast episode.

Anyway, I’ll be honest – I had no idea what to write in this week’s email. So I looked at some of the replies to last week’s, and a lot of people replied saying they found the format of the email (the Q&A) and the advice really helpful. I even had a few emails along the lines of: “this is the best email I’ve ever read of yours and I’ve been a subscriber for 5 years”.

So let’s play around with that format again. Here’s the background: I’m doing a Q&A at an event with my friend Alex Ikonn (who runs the company Intelligent Change, which makes amazing productivity planners). A young woman (26yo, let’s call her Jane) in the audience asks the following question:

Jane: I’m struggling with my TikTok account. I’ve been making videos but I’m not seeing growth and it’s demotivating. I see these other girls my age blowing up with a handful of videos, but I feel like I’m doing the same thing and I’m not seeing the same results. What’s up with that?

Ali: Could I get some more context please? What’s your account about, how many followers do you have, and how often have you been uploading for how long?

J: I’ve been making videos on-and-off for about a year, and I’ve got 240 followers. I sort of make whatever content I feel like, you know like lifestyle stuff, fashion hauls, some day in the life videos, some talk-to-camera videos.

A: And who’s the target audience?

J: Err I guess girls sort-of my age, maybe a bit younger?

A: So like girls in their teens and early 20s?

J: Yep!

A: Great. So what’s the goal?

J: I just want to, you know, make videos that I want to make, and I’ve been doing it but it’s not really working, the videos don’t get many views, and I see these other girls doing similar content and they’re blowing up!

A: I see… but what’s the goal? Is the goal “to make whatever videos you want to make” or is it to “grow your TikTok following?” Or is it something else?

J: Err I guess the goal is to grow my TikTok following?

A: Okay… why is that the goal? What are you hoping having more TikTok followers will get you that you don’t already have?

J: Err I guess if I had more TikTok followers I’d be able to monetise that and maybe quit my job… or something?

A: Cool, so would it be fair to say that your goal for TikTok is to grow your following to the point that you can monetise it and maybe quit your job?

J: Yeah I guess…

A: Great. So we’ve got clarity on the goal. I have a system for thinking about this stuff, which is GPS – Goal, Plan, System. What’s the goal? Once you’ve worked that out, what’s the plan to get you to the goal? And then what’s the system that’s going to help you stick to the plan? So in this case, your goal is to grow your audience and make money from TikTok to the point that you can quit your job. But it sounds like the plan you’re following is: 1. Post inconsistently every now and then 2. Post content that you personally want to make 3. Do it for a year and hope for the best

Now, how likely do you think that particular plan is to get you to the goal of being able to quit your job with TikTok?

J: Err… yeah not very likely.

A: Great! I agree. So we’ve just done something really useful. We’ve identified that the Plan we’re following, isn’t actually likely to get us to the Goal that we say we want. Does that make sense?

J: Yeah…

A: I like this system because it really helps nail down where the problem is with whatever we’re struggling with. When you asked the question, it seemed like you were frustrated that you were posting videos on TikTok (inconsistently) but you weren’t seeing the growth you wanted. By breaking that down into Goal and Plan (we haven’t covered System yet), we’ve realised that there’s a clear mismatch between the Goal and the Plan. And that means we can either choose to change the Goal, or we can choose to change the Plan. But if we continue carrying out a Plan that isn’t actually likely to get us to our Goal, that’s a recipe for unhappiness. Tell me – is TikTok a hobby for you, or is it a business?

J: Oh it’s definitely a hobby…

A: I thought so – so here’s the other problem I sometimes see with creators. Creators often set Goals that are business goals – grow a following, make money from it. That doesn’t just happen accidentally. So they have business goals, but they actually have a hobby approach. In general, a “business” is something that focuses on adding value to others and making money from that. A “hobby” on the other hand, is something that focuses on being fun for you as its primary goal.

If you have a business goal but really the thing is just a hobby for you, you’re unlikely to reach the business goal, and you might become frustrated and unhappy as a result. With me for example – I enjoy playing the guitar and singing as a hobby. It’s fun, I do it for myself, and I occasionally post videos on Instagram of me singing. But if I had the goal of making enough money as a musician to quit my job, the plan I’m following (practice guitar once a month, and post a video on instagram every 3 months) has practically zero chance of getting me to that goal.

If something’s a hobby, it’s totally okay to keep it as a hobby and not associate business goals (ie: making lots of money) with it. If you want to set those business goals for yourself, you may want to change your plan. Because the plan you need to follow to make a living as a TikToker, or a musician, or a YouTuber, is very different than the plan you’d follow if you just want to make videos or music as a hobby.

To use an even more extreme example, I might enjoy making coffee as a hobby. But that’s very different than trying to make money from opening a coffee shop… We’ve got to make sure our goals are (a) something we actually want, and (b) that we’re willing to follow the plan that’s needed to achieve them.

J: But don’t some people blow up on TikTok accidentally? I know of a few TikTokers who were doing it as a hobby and then they blew up and were able to make a living from it.

A: Fair point. It’s definitely possible. That doesn’t mean it’s likely. For every Charli D’Amelio there are tens to hundreds of thousands of other girls dancing on TikTok in the hope of becoming famous. Ideally when it comes to our Productivity GPS, we don’t want to make Plans that rely heavily on Luck to get us to the Goal. We’d ideally like to follow a Plan that minimises the requirement of Luck to get us to the Goal.

And from having spent a lot of time with very successful creators, I can tell you that the veneer of “Oh I just stumbled into this lol, I was just making videos in my bedroom and then gosh, I don’t know what happened, suddenly I became famous” – that’s all a facade for the most part. Every creator I know who is successfully making a living from it thinks ridiculously strategically about their content and their platforms. They don’t just post whatever they feel like, on an inconsistent schedule. They’re shrewd business-people with an eye for strategy relentless execution over a period of years. Of course, in the world of creators, it pays to appear less strategic than you actually are, so that you can retain a sense of relatability to the audience. Hence the proliferation of “gosh I was just making videos in my bedroom and then I dunno what happened lol I just started making millions”, which makes people think that that’s normal. It’s really not.

At that point, the conversation moved on and someone else asked a question about how to build a business on the side while working full-time and also looking after kids. I apologised and admitted that I had no idea given that I don’t yet have kids 😛

At the risk of stating what might be obvious, I’m sharing this TikTok growth Q&A not because I suspect many readers of this newsletter are budding TikTok stars trying to make lifestyle content for an audience of teenage girls. But instead, because I suspect that you (like me) probably have areas of your life where your Goals and Plans aren’t aligned.

I’ve found over the years, that whenever I’m feeling any sense of frustration at my lack of progress in any area of life, it helps to zoom out and think “GPS” – what’s the goal, what’s the plan, and what’s the system? More specifically – What’s the goal? What’s really the goal? Why is that the goal? Okay, now what’s the Plan I’m currently following – everyone’s always following some sort of plan, whether they’re conscious of it or not. And to maximise my chances of hitting the goal, what’s the plan I need to be following? Great, now what’s the system that I can implement daily and weekly that’ll help me actually stick to the plan? Sorted.

It sounds somewhat complicated when written out like this, but it’s really quite simple when you break things down to G-P-S.

This is a core part of a live course I’m teaching soon as part of Productivity Lab, a secret new project for ambitious entrepreneurs, creators and professionals who want to double their productivity, while enjoying the journey and making friends along the way. If you’re interested in learning more, you can join the waitlist here, and I’ll email you more info in a couple of weeks 😉

Have a great week!

Ali xx

PS: One of my favourite non-profits LEEP (Lead Exposure Elimination Project) is recruiting a Program Manager for Pakistan (my home country). They’re an impact-driven non-profit that aims to eliminate childhood lead poisoning, which affects an estimated one in two children in Pakistan (and 1/3 children around the world). Click here to check out their jobs page.

🚀Brilliant – Daily Learning for a World of Doers

One of the biggest things I’ve realised since starting my business is just how important learning is. Whether that’s digging deeper into coding to make the most of a new job opportunity, or improving your data analysis skills to help your side hustle take off, making sure you’re levelling up your abilities is a must if you want to see success. And the more effectively we learn, the better our outcomes will be.

That’s why Brilliant has designed a unique approach to learning which will help you actually understand and use new concepts. Their tools have been built by experts, and can teach you all about how to use AI, data analysis, programming, and maths. Brilliant uses a ‘first principles’ approach to learning, meaning that you get a really solid understanding of how a concept works, focusing on the basic building blocks of knowledge in your chosen field. This is often what I felt was missing in school – we’d jump straight into complex science before we really understood the basics.

But with Brilliant, you can master these concepts by using hands on tools and real world examples, levelling up your problem solving skills. Instead of just focusing on the theory, you get the practice, too. This way, the ideas actually stick in your head, and you’re not left bored, confused, and uninspired. In fact, learning like this has been proven to x6 more effective than the traditional way we are told to learn, watching a video lecture.

With hands on learning tools and a unique teaching approach, you can transform your skills quickly and effectively. So, join 10 million people around the world and start your 30-day free trial today. Plus, Sunday Snippets readers get a special 20% off a premium annual subscription. https://brilliant.org/SundaySnippets/

Thanks to Brilliant for sponsoring this issue of Sunday Snippets 🙏

❤️ My Favourite Things this Week

  1. Concert Video – For the first time in years, I logged into a streaming app “just to see what’s up” lol. Ended up going on Disney+ and coming across “Lang Lang Plays Disney”, a concert where the best pianist in the world plays Disney songs at the Royal Albert Hall. It was great. Would recommend if you like amazing arrangements of Disney songs.
  2. Musician – I’m very late to the party but I’ve been on a recent binge of everything Jacob Collier. This song in particular is a total banger. Watching videos of his has inspired me to start guitar + singing lessons again lol. This is also a great heartwarming video of a guitar teacher reacting to that song.
  3. Journaling Prompt – A question I’ve been asking myself recently is: “If I could only spend 2 hours a week working on my business, what would I do that most moves the needle? And why am I not just focusing on doing that with the rest of my time too?”
  4. App – I’ve been dabbling with Toggl as a manual time tracking tool for the past couple of weeks. Love the interface, and meticulously tracking my focus hours has given me much more clarity over where my time goes, and where to direct things.

🎬 My New Videos

😣 Why Perfectionism Is Ruining Your Life – A few months ago, I interviewed Professor Thomas Curran about perfectionism. He explained what perfectionism is, why it’s problematic, and how we can work to overcome it. So in this video, I’m sharing his best insights and ideas so hopefully you get some useful tips on how to beat perfectionism.

👀Why You’re Always Distracted – 5 Myths Ruining Your Focus – How to improve focus is one of the questions I get asked most about. Whether you’re a student, creator, professional or entrepreneur, being able to focus is extremely helpful. This video is the first in a 3 part series about focus, where we’re covering the 5 main mistakes that people make. Let me know what you find useful in the comments!

✍️ Quote of the Week

“Most events in life can be categorized in one of two ways: a good time, or a good story.”

From Long Story Short – Margot Leitman. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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