Are You Better Off Being Relatable (to Your Audience) Than Inspirational?
Source. Design by the author.

Yes. You can maintain a healthy audience engagement without pretending to be more successful than you (really) are.

When I started writing under my own name, I had nothing but two unsuccessful ventures and two failed job experiences under my name. Safe to say, that was nothing to brag about, preach, or inspire my audience.

It got me thinking. What do I write? What do I have to say? Why would anyone get excited about reading anything from me?

As far as I could think, I had two options:

  1. Fake it till you make it: Lie about my situation and sell generic advice porn mixed with fake anecdotes.
  2. Be authentic: Learn to solve my problems and share my experiences (both good and bad) with people who are dealing with similar issues.

It’s true. Most people tend to listen to those who are more successful than them. You are more likely to believe Elon Musk than an actual astrophysicist, engineer, or economist.

But it’s not just because of his success. It’s also about his ability to make things sound more impressive and innovative than they are. (A skill that has worked wonders on his investors.)

And that’s where most people shoot themselves in their feet.

How so? They think just because the eccentric billionaire managed to pull it off, they can do the same. But they can’t. It’s because: (A) Elon Musk isn’t a blogger, (B) they don’t have credibility.

And when you aren’t as successful as you would like to be and still want to pursue the career of a full-time blogger, establishing credibility among your audience is the one thing you want to get right.

Here’s how to do it.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Where You Are Now

Don’t you cringe when you see newbie bloggers with no clue about anything taking the higher ground, making noise, and preaching down to their audience? Why do you think they do that?

It’s not that they enjoy being annoying. It’s just that they are insecure about where they are in life. And guess what! It’s not just them.

You and I both have felt it. Even now, I often wonder, “I wish I started blogging earlier.” or, “I wish I studied the stock market from back when I was in college.”

You can call this a sort of reverse procrastination.

Here, instead of putting out tasks for our future selves, we kick our past selves for not doing more so our present selves could savor the fruits.

That’s where we are wrong. Here’s why. All these unsuccessful experiments can lay a solid foundation for something special only if we intend to build upon it.

As journalist and author David Epsitn notes in his book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World:

We learn who we are only by living, and not before.

It’s not just him. In fact, YouTuber Thomas Frank also echos the same sentiment stating:

This happens in a lot of different fields. People do some exploring when they are younger, and eventually, they hone in on a field where they start to practice, start to be consistent, but they have this base of other experiences from their past that they are able to draw upon to be more creative and more adaptable than the people who only worked in that single field since they were little kids.

If Frank’s 2.74M subscribers prove anything, that would be blogging is (certainly) one of those fields he talked about in his statement.

Conviction Is the Key

If you don’t believe in something, your audience won’t either! That’s why lying as a blogger never works well.

Sure, you can storify real-life events, merge characters, and tweak some order of events to streamline your flow. But making up sh*t just to fit the narrative is something the readers start catching onto sooner or later.

On the contrary, one of the best ways to beat your imposter syndrome and fuse more confidence in your writing is to know what you are writing about.

If you can’t explain it well, you are not ready to write about it yet. Hit the pause button. Go back to study it really well. And come back only when you can make a coherent argument if challenged.

Know Who You Are Writing For

Most aspiring bloggers never make it big, as they give up too early. It’s because they get the first thing wrong about online writing.

Being an online writer isn’t easy money. Nor is it a medium to satisfy your own artistic needs.

It’s more about what you leave your audience with. It’s more about how you make them feel.

According to studies, almost all viral content and campaigns have something in common. They all elicit strong emotions from the audience.

That’s where most people drop the ball. They don’t care about their audience enough. Scrape that! They don’t even know who their target audiences are meant to be.

So don’t do that.

Don’t write for a faceless crowd. Write for the one person who will benefit from reading your work.

Know that person. What do they fear? What are their aspirations? Now, help them rise above their fears, and achieve their dreams as you would for an old friend.

Connect, Don’t Preach

Do you like to be preached to by random strangers on the internet? No? Join the club. Nor does your audience!

Let me make it easier for you.

Delivering a suggestion without any regard for the people on the other end makes you come across as preachy. (For example, please go to Twitter.)

You can’t bring in the same smug energy and expect your audience to eat it up unless you already have a built-in audience. (In which case, you wouldn’t be here reading this article, would you?)

You have to treat your audience as your equal. How to do so? Don’t try to be an infallible God to them. Instead, be a human.

Show them your flaws.

Let them in on your mistakes.

Share your deepest regrets.

Prove that it’s okay to be imperfect. All they have to do is take a little step at a time.

As Matthew Dicks beautifully puts it in his book Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling:

Telling stories about your life lets people know they’re not alone; and it lets some of the people closest to you — like family and loved ones — see your life apart from the context of family and without the kind of revisionist hindsight we can sometimes fall into concerning the ones we love most.

Keep Learning. Keep Growing. Keep Sharing

Here’s the catch. When you try to be relatable, you must be able to walk the talk before you even put it out. So, on the plus side, you improve your life before you try to improve it for your audience base.

On the other hand, if someone else manages to not only produce better results for themselves but also put together more resonating content based on it, the audience will switch sides.

So unless you transition into another venture or diversify your earning source, you must keep leveling up according to your audience’s demand.

And if you do transition into something else, you will have a whole range of topics to explore, expanding your audience base.

Long story short, no matter what route you take, you will do fine — until you get complacent.

When you stop trying to push a false image of your success and happiness, you instantly lift a weight from your chest. The bundle of nerve you had been dealing with for so long? It just goes away on its own.

Once you learn to

  1. embrace yourself for who you are
  2. do your research
  3. find the value that can help a section of the market
  4. make it appealing
  5. and keep adapting

you can’t go much wrong.