6 things you NEED to know before you self-publish

Doing it bass-ackward

<nerd alert>
Did I ever tell you I saw Serenity before ever seeing a single episode of Firefly? Really, it's true. What happened to Wash hurt a lot less that first time through - I hardly knew him. You non-Firefly people wondering who Wash is, did you know you can watch every episode on Facebook now? It won't take that long, because there is only one season. Firefly people know how salty I sound saying that.
</nerd alert>

I do a lot of things all bass-ackward like that. I dive in bold in the middle, then back way off and slowly, gradually come to a fuller understanding from the beginning. And I've always thought that was weird, but when it comes to building your brand, it's actually a smart way to go.

It's like what has happened with my email list*. I dove in bold by creating a Brand Clarity Workshop, guiding entrepreneurs through making a mood board that helped them visually brainstorm their brand. It was a start, and it did help some people. And I really thought I was going to go further down that road, and develop kind of a flagship product & process taking people deeper. That isn't what happened.

*You're on the list, right? If not, go to the goodies page and get on it!

I was building a list, but I wasn't sending out any emails at all after the 5-day Brand Clarity Workshop series was done. I didn't really know where to go from there. So that's where I had to back way off and build a gradual understanding from the beginning.

I started emailing a daily list of three good things. That's it. Sometimes I'd write a little bit expanding on one or more of the things, but pretty often it was just the list. And then I started talking about branding or design in some of them, and eventually, it turned into what it is now - still a fairly intimate look into my thought processes, but really centered around the why of understanding what design is for, so that people can make smarter design decisions and not feel like a hostage when they're working with a designer.

I had to start talking in order to discover my own voice. And I had to start with something that was so small that I knew I could keep it up. When I started emailing out that list of three good things, I had already been posting them on Facebook daily for more than a year. So I knew I could do that much, and I had some ideas about where I was headed. And they were wrong. That isn't where things went at all.

If I had tried to brand this thing before I was doing it, or tried to start with something grandiose and amazing and complete (like I always want to), it would have fizzled out a long time ago, if it ever even got off the ground. It's really, really hard to design something when you don't know what it is yet. Doing the thing is how you find out what it is.

So you dive in bold by starting, and you do the thing, and you watch. People respond, you listen, and you start to understand what they're looking for and how they find it in you. And you watch your own reactions, too, so that you're not building a trap that works for everyone but you. You notice what was easy, what you liked doing, what energized you, what drained you. You develop that deeper understanding, and then you're starting to really get your sustainable brand.

And yes, you can make some of those decisions before you start, but you're guessing. Things are going to change. So you don't invest a lot (time, energy, money) into making the thing complete and polished until you know what it is. You can start bold, but the understanding is going to come gradually, and it's better that way.

Now go watch some Firefly.

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