INTRODUCTION: “If at first you don’t succeed …” is the start of a well-known maxim. How have you finished that phrase in the past, when faced with failure? One of the hardest things to do is discover how to use what seems like a completely negative outcome and find the positive aspects, applying that new knowledge to future efforts as you try and try again. One person who transformed failure into success is Adam Connell, blogging wizard and internet entrepreneur. We asked him to tell his story.
Typesy: You’ve written about how a failed record label led you to develop a successful business model in the online music industry. Can you share this story with our readers?
Back when I was in college, I was studying music technology.
My friends and I produced all sorts of crazy electronic music.
Then, one morning a friend of mine brought in some new tracks he’d been working on. They were incredible. On a par with the music Warp Records was releasing at the time.
A few days later, I heard how one of our lecturers was able to setup his own small record label.
This gave me the idea to start my own record label to help showcase other artists from my college and to keep it lean, it would simply exist online to minimize overheads.
After months of planning, looking into the legal side of things and building a website – we were ready to go live.
The problem was I missed a seriously important factor – selling music is damned hard work these days! And after launch we struggled to drive any traffic to the website, or create any buzz.
Our launch was a complete failure from a financial standpoint but the real truth is that it did something wonderful.
It pushed me to discover the power of free content.
I wanted to expose our music to more people, the other artists on my label agreed to have their music released for free to make it happen.
We had no idea how well it would work, but we wanted to try it. We had nothing to lose.
6 months later, my label had released more than 10 albums which had reached over 100,000 people.
12 months later, we hit 500,000 downloads.
To this day, we’ve released 67 albums from artists all over the world. And we’re closing in on 3 million downloads.
We closed the label a few years ago as we didn’t have the time to maintain it, but all releases are still available for download. We get around 700+ downloads each day.
I wouldn’t say it was a successful business model as the label never made any money, but with what I’ve learned in the years since, it could have done.
One of the key takeaways for me was the power of free content. Another takeaway was how effective free content can be when you understand your target audience and put that content directly in-front of them.
Above all else, the learning experience changed everything for me.
The last web design we rolled out was based on WordPress, and we used the blogging functionality to let our audience know about new releases.
So while no money was made, working on this project has been an important stepping stone that has enabled me to get to where I am today.
Typesy: How can people discover what they’re truly passionate about? Can a person be successful without drawing on that passion?
Good question and it’s a difficult one to answer.
We all find our passion in different ways, but above all else you have to put aside all fears and doubts, then go out and try new things.
The truth is that when we’re young, we need to experience more because if we don’t, we may never find something we’re passionate about, and which inspires us.
Growing up, music was a big part of my life – Everything from playing guitar in a band to creating my own electronic music, and the technical side of things.
And because my life revolved around music, I never experienced anything else.
My passion is marketing, but if I ignored everything else apart from music, I’d not be where I am today.
It’s strange when I think about it, that a combination of two events is responsible for discovering my passion for marketing.
Around the same time that I was working on my record label project, I went to a lecture at college from a guy who taught at a local university.
That lecture peaked my curiosity, and showed me what solo artists could do on the web with the right platforms.
This led me to write my final year project on music marketing, where I recorded a 2 track single and showed how bands could get their music on the likes of Spotify and iTunes.
Our single is still on Spotify actually!
And because of writing this project, I got the opportunity to work with David Lowe on his last website redesign (he wrote the catchy jingle used on the opening of every BBC News broadcast).
At the time, I didn’t realize it but all of these events were just small stepping stones that gave me the inspiration I needed to pursue my passion of marketing.
Can someone be successful without passion? Sure, it’s possible with the right motivations (or the wrong motivations, depending on how you look at it).
My advice would be to do what you love – find your passion and go for it!
That way you’ll have no regrets, you won’t look back and wish you’d done things differently.
Typesy: As you’ve noted, knowledge, skills, and being able to use the appropriate technology are needed to make the most of any opportunity. TypesyTM helps people learn how to efficiently use a keyboard interface by teaching touch typing skills, something that most people need to add to their skill set in today’s marketplace. What is another crucial skill that you recommend people learn?
Good question and the truth is there are so many valuable skills.
As a marketer, there’s one particular skill which has served me well – the ability to take a problem you’ve never faced before and find an answer even if that answer doesn’t exist.
If you can take an obstacle that you’ve never faced before and tackle it, you can do anything.
So each time you take the initiative and solve a completely new problem, you’re expanding your horizons and developing valuable skills.
What you know matters and it can unlock the doors to opportunities you may never have even considered.
As time goes on, you’ll learn faster and you’ll tackle new problems in more creative ways.
Working at a regular job, there’s usually someone who you can go to in order to get answers but when it comes to blogging and being a solopreneur, sometimes you have no choice but to figure out things for yourself.
And ultimately, that’s a great thing.
Typesy: A lot of people who have blogs didn’t necessarily start those blogs with the idea of making money from them. Is it possible to turn a personal blog into something that creates some income?
The truth is that some niches are just far more difficult to make money in than others.
It may be an overabundance of competition or there could be another factor at work, so it helps to consider this when you start your blog.
But, if it hasn’t been a consideration from the start, you can still generate some income!
Let’s say for an example, you’ve been blogging for a while and after trying to make money – you haven’t been able to.
What can you do?
You can offer what you’ve learned as a blogger, as a service.
The truth is that if you’re running your own blog and you have some readers, someone will be willing to pay you to do the same for them.
You could do freelance writing, social media management, blog management or something else.
Now, there are low quality gigs floating about the web which pay peanuts. You’re worth more.
The cool thing is that it’s possible to completely replace a full-time income or even get a full-time income by working part time hours as a freelance blogger.
A great example is Elna Cain; in 6 months she has built up a full-time income from freelance writing and works part-time hours. Elna can earn up to $250/post – incredible right?
There are job boards around the web like Problogger’s job board which list freelance jobs and next year I’m launching Jobs4Bloggers.com which aims to connect bloggers with brands who need their help.
The great thing is that more brands are investing in digital marketing, which includes everything from writing and social media to building entire websites.
And they need people who know their industry inside out – it’s a prime opportunity to leverage what you know and use it to grow your blog’s income.
Once you have a solid base of clients, you could scale up and start employing other bloggers. This will allow you to gain more control over your workload and take on even more paying clients.
Typesy: You run a popular website called Blogging Wizard, and you also reach out to people using other platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. Do you recommend that every blogger use multiple media channels, or can they concentrate solely on their blog?
If you concentrate solely on a blog, it’s going to be difficult to grow an audience.
Using platforms like Facebook and Twitter is essential to get more eye-balls on your content.
But, there’s a lot more out there than just Facebook and Twitter to consider.
You’ve also got platforms like Triberr, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other niche specific communities to consider.
Ultimately your blog is at the heart of what you do, you then need to go where your target audience hangs out online and put some impressive content in front of them.
The key to doing this is in identifying the problem(s) your audience is facing, then using the content you publish to provide a solution.
Once more people are on your blog, you then need to make sure they keep coming back – encouraging your readers to subscribe to your blog is a great way to do this.
Adam Connell is the Founder of Blogging Wizard and Marketing Director at UK Linkology. He spends his time helping others get more visibility online.
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