This is a moment to look back across 2017 and ask - what have I created in those 12 months that did not exist at the start of year?
Sometimes the answer is nothing and there may be good reasons for that. Just keeping on living can consume most of our time and resources. But it can feel disappointing to look back and see nothing new.
The trouble with that feeling is it kickstarts the classic New Years Resolution syndrome - a long list of wildly ambitious plans and habits to be executed by some astonishingly disciplined and productive future version of you who will wink into existence as the new year is born. By the end of January all that optimistic motivation has been washed away by the day-to-day chores of the new year, which are exactly like all the chores from the old year.
As we seek the balance between building something new in 2018 - rising above the demands of day-to-day getting by - but setting goals that are realistic in terms of the work involved, here are my suggestions for your New Year's Resolutions in your burgeoning adventure business.
Deciding that you are going to treat your Adventure Life like a Business means that you believe you have something worth sharing. If you don’t, then saving your money, paying for your own adventures and keeping the stories and images for friends and family is a solid strategy. If you want more than that, then you need to be ready to promote your vision and your actions to a wider circle.
How to share your adventures in 2018
A. Begin or continue to build your audience
B. Take an adventure you’ve done and put it to work
C. Create a new adventure with a public face
A. Build Your Audience
Why do we care about this? Because these are the people that will:
1. Make you money directly - they’ll buy your book, support your crowdfunder, purchase tickets to your talks.
2. Make you money indirectly - they’ll support your charitable cause, they’ll reassure your publisher that you have an audience, they’ll fill the social media feeds of your adventure sponsors.
You should do three things in 2018 with an eye to your audience - and do them well and consistently right through the year.
1. Maximise the potential of your website (for bloggers) or your favourite social media platform
Right now there are too many social media feeds - the most popular feel increasingly overcrowded, impersonal and commercialised. The rest feel like echoing empty chambers. And the number of websites in the world is now beyond comprehension.
How do you make an impact?
- Pick your favourite social media platform - the one where you are most comfortable sharing and interacting.
- Make a note of how many followers you have right now. (If your choice is your blog, make a note of number of unique visitors and adapt the ideas below to suit the blog.)
- Brush up your profile - your name, your photo, your blurb. Makes sure each element reflects your adventure brand.
- Make sure that
- all your social media homes, including this one, point to your website
- or that all your other social media presences point to this, your preferred social media hub.
- Promote this one social media feed everywhere else you have an audience on the web, and then make a note in your diary to re-promote it at least once a month.
- Come up with a consistent posting strategy (at least every week for Facebook and Instagram, better close to daily. On Twitter, at least daily, better several times a day - use a scheduler, like Buffer.)
- Come up with a consistent posting strategy - so your audience knows roughly what kind of content to expect.
- Give what you want to receive! Take a little time each week (or each day) and like / comment / interact with other people’s content. Find interesting people and follow them.
- At the end of 2018 - compare your follower numbers with whatever you have now.
2. Start (or build) your email newsletter
People who have proactively signed up to your email newsletter and who then hear from you on a regular basis are your most loyal fans. You have the most direct way to reach them (into their email inboxes) and they are much more invested in hearing from you than your average social media followers.
At the very simplest, pick a free provider like TinyLetter or MailChimp, and commit to one newsletter a month. If your adventure life is to be a business, then you should have something worth sharing - it may be personal, the preparation and execution of your adventure, or the journey of writing and publishing your book. Or you may be comfortable with more neutral content - collate information in your area of interest or expertise, and intersperse personal news when you have some.
The process of researching / collating / writing content for the newsletter, and then watching your data - who opens which links and how often - will bring you many insights into your area of interest. This is knowledge you can only gain by actually doing it.
[See this blog post for more detail on why you need an email newsletter]
3. Start Using Linkedin
LinkedIn is the ‘social network’ where the money people hang out. If you are going to treat this like a business, you need to be where the money is.
- Set up or brush up your profile.
- Link it to your website and/or other social media profiles.
- Connect with everybody you meet in real life - journalists, outdoor industry people, other adventurers. You never know who will be useful in the future.
- Accept connection invites liberally (and always suggest they sign up for your newsletter and follow you on your social media of choice).
- Post content, your own and other people’s - you can reuse blog posts you’ve written already and post interesting articles you’ve shared in your newsletter.
[See this blog post about why LinkedIn matters for Adventurers]
B. Take an adventure you’ve done and put it to work
Money comes for adventure in two phases. One is money upfront. The other is money from adventures you’ve done already. That generally means selling something derived from those adventures.
- Articles, photos, video
This category includes crowdfunding to support the creation of the book or the film.
You can chase product rather than cash - leveraging what you’ve done already to get a brand ambassadorship with a brand you admire and are proud to support.
Where you are in this space will vary widely. But wherever that is, it is very easy to let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of execution. You need to think about that book some more, you aren’t ready to give that first talk, you’ve never tried to sell an article. The one thing that is sure is that your old adventure is slipping ever further into history and your opportunity to monetise it is getting smaller with each passing day.
Make this the year that you produce something concrete from that previous adventure.
The act of bringing something to life in the world will tell you a lot about how much real value it has. In your head the book is epic, the talk is transfixing, the article is life-changing. Replace the fluff of imagination with the cold hard light of reality and your product may be a lot less amazing than you’d hoped. But it will exist!
The process of both creating the product (write the book or the article, design the talk, edit the film) and bringing the product to an audience (pitch editors and film festivals, self-publish the book, find local audiences for the talk) will teach you far more than reading about it ever will.
Even if the product is disappointing and the reception is underwhelming, you will end the year with new knowledge, new experience and much deeper understanding of how the business of monetising adventure works. You will be much better prepared to do it again around your next adventure.
And you may end the year with all of that - and a great product that brings in money! The only way to know…. is to get on with doing it.
What does a specific goal look like?
- Write and self-publish a book
- Edit and release a video, try to get it into an adventure film festival
- Write a pitch for your book (normally an outline and the first two chapters) and get an agent / publisher (for a goal that is partly out of your control, decide that you must have been turned down by at least 5 different people before you give up on the idea)
- Create a talk about your adventure and give it to an audience
- If you are already doing free talks, work on getting your first paid ones
- Work on article ideas and pitch at least five editors / publications to get a story in print
- Do the equivalent with photos or with video
- Work the brand ambassador space - sign up with outdoor brand ambassador companies (like Freestak), research and pitch companies you’d like to work with, enter every competition you see for brand ambassadors.
C. Create a new adventure with a public face
An adventure that is designed to reach an audience greater than just yourself (and friends and family) is rather different from a purely personal mission. It encompasses questions from why other people will be interested, to how you’ll share the adventure as it progresses.
As with the goals above, the actual attempt to do this will teach you a lot more about how the process works than any amount of reading about other people’s adventure projects.
Try at least one of the following:
- Apply for an adventure grant (and then look at who wins - if it’s not you - and see where their project differed from yours).
- Do a crowdfunder for your adventure. It’s a great way to find out how much of an audience you actually have and how to get them engaged with your project.
- Ask for product sponsorship for your adventure (while being realistic about whether the value of the product you receive is actually worth more than the time you spent trying to get it for free).
- Ask for sponsorship money for your adventure - start local and start with people you know.
- Work on reaching an audience that is not just your friends, family, and current fans. This means persuading media - radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs, TV, podcasters, etc - that your adventure is a story worth sharing.
Monitor your progress
The world is awash with advice on goal-setting (especially at this time of year) but it basically comes down to
- Make a note of your starting point - what assets you have right now.
- Make a list of the goals you are going to pursue.
- Work out (and write down) the specific steps involved.
- Put dates to those steps (and be prepared for the timeline to extend - it always does!)
- Schedule regular times to review progress to date and refine the ongoing plan.
- Work out what kind of data you can use to measure your progress (anything from number of followers gained to number of words written).
- Keep a record of what works, what doesn’t, what you decide to change and why.
- Decide what success will look like - set both aspirational and achievable goals - where aspirational reflects that kind of goals that are not fully in your control. For example:
- Aspirational: 10,000 books sold OR a contract with a traditional publisher
- Achievable: book written, self-publishing done OR publisher pitch created, five publishers approached
At the end of 2018, look back at what you’ve tried, what you’ve learned and what you’ve achieved. Have a compelling answer to that question:
What have I created in these 12 months that did not exist at the start of year?