Though it might not be obvious, we live in a world of imperatives. These are not laws, regulations, or other legally-binding rules, but expectations made by culture. We are bound by what others believe is the right path in a given situation. They are norms that, when followed, have a record of producing success.
Perhaps the most basic imperatives involve family. When people fall in love, there is a cultural expectation of marriage. If possible, the couple should raise children and send them to school. It’s a structure that has worked for generations and for good reason. It has a record of success. Because it works, those who choose to live outside it can be suspect. How dare they challenge the imperative?
A less considered imperative involves business pursuits. Here, it is assumed that businesses exist to grow and make their owners as rich as possible. Like family, this is based on a system that has worked. Growing businesses have been an engine of wealth for generations and in the case of publicly traded companies, the organization has a duty to make decisions that benefit the shareholders. But is it required for every business? Must every business person follow this path?
The entrepreneurial imperative seems to be this: Business success is based on becoming as wealthy as possible.
The danger of any imperative is it becoming so baked-in that it escapes analysis or skepticism. It becomes assumed and therefore thoughtless. I’ve heard multiple parents say, “I never knew I had a choice.” when it came to procreating. That’s what imperatives do. They reinforce an idea to a point where it’s unquestioned.
And so it is in business. From my perspective, too many entrepreneurs assume there is only one “right” way to build a business and it’s aiming to grow quickly and become the next unicorn. It seems that anyone who doesn’t take that path isn’t a serious or respectable entrepreneur.
I believe this perspective is changing as people begin to understand the personal costs that come with this kind of entrepreneurship. Yes, building a billion-dollar business is an incredible accomplishment that deserves respect. But it’s also incredibly rare and the path to it is frequently littered with those who tried, but were left with massive debt, broken relationships, and unhappiness. The romantic notion that appeals to so many conveniently leaves out the realities.
For some, it’s worth the cost. These entrepreneurs are willing to trade it all for a shot at the big time. But is it the only way?
We need entrepreneurs who aim for the stars. But, I also want entrepreneurs to see that, despite the weight of the imperative, they have a choice. They can choose a different path with different goals and different outcomes. There are still trade-offs and it’s not easy, but there is a respectable version of entrepreneurship that’s decidedly smaller and more manageable.
Money is often seen as the only true metric of success. The person who dies with the biggest bank account is the winner, right? For some, that’s the goal, but more people are starting to discover that their success isn’t so one-dimensional.
I believe, for example, that having control of my time is an important part of success. In order to achieve that control, I may have to make sacrifices, like taking on fewer projects and/or making less money. In this way, time is a part of my calculus of success. The same is true with the success that comes with independence or location. I want to be independent and work from anywhere and to do that, I have to consider the trade-offs. What I trade in terms of income may come back to me in the form of a healthier lifestyle. Success isn’t a single note. It’s a song.
Many of us are living through changes of all kinds. Now is a time to think more critically about the entrepreneurial imperative and what assumptions you’re making about success. Money matters, but is it everything? If you can break out of the imperative, you might find that building a business that’s Big Enough is the song that’s been playing in the back of your mind for too long.
At the beginning of 2020, the internet didn’t know about a book called Big Enough. Further, my personal website, the future home of the book, had been dormant for years. To prepare for the book’s release, I designed and built leelefever.com on WordPress with a long term plan to establish it as the new home of my books and other writing.
Today, a Google search for “Big Enough” shows two links to the book on the first page of results. I’m both excited and surprised.
I’m no SEO pro, but I did a number of things to help achieve this ranking.
Links – One of my favorite methods for promoting the book is through appearances on podcasts. For the most part, podcast hosts will link to the guest’s websites when they publish the show. I also link to the podcast when I write about the interview. This has helped me earn a number of high-quality links to the Big Enough page on my website and the Amazon page.
Keyword Density – When I designed the website, selling copies of Big Enough was the motivation, so the entire site was focused on the book page. Headings, internal links, blog posts, etc. Google surely saw that my website was all about the term “big enough”. Secondarily, I focused on words likely to be used by the people I am trying to reach. These are words like entrepreneurship, business, scalability, residual income, lifestyle, happiness, etc.
Engaging Content – I created multiple videos to promote the book and embedded them on the book page for easy viewing. I also provide downloadable PDFs, pre-written tweets, and more. My goal was to keep people on the page, which shows Google that they were engaged.
Load Times – I struggled with this. When I initially designed the site, I wasn’t thinking about load times and it was frustratingly slow. A friend suggested using this GTMetrics tool to figure out what was causing the slowdown. I used ImageOptim to decrease the size of my images on the site and that made load times much faster.
Blogging – I’ve been a blogger since 2003 and it’s an important part of my professional life. I knew that the book page and my website would benefit from regular updates that focus on the book and my writing. As soon as the website went up, I blogged consistently, just as I am now. I share the blog posts on social media, often with the JetPack plug-in, which makes publishing easier, among other things.
Mobile-Friendliness – I’m not a programmer and only know the basics of html/CSS. A friend introduced me to the DIVI WordPress theme and I was blown away by the Visual Page Builder. For the first time, I had complete control over the design and didn’t have to learn how to make it responsive to screen size. DIVI did the heavy lifting.
SEO Tools – I use the RankMath WordPress plug-in to help me understand how my site’s content relates to SEO. I use it to optimize my focus keywords, content length, titles, etc.
Open Graph – You’ve probably seen how social media platforms display a little preview or “snippet” when a link is shared. That preview is also related to meta-data about the page that relates what the page is about (book vs. restaurant, for example). For the first few months, my previews looked like crap and my metadata was not accurate. My friend, Robby, suggested learning about Open Graph and optimizing the metadata and how those previews display. Now I have complete control of the previews on a post-by-post basis. This page helped me get started, but what really helped was testing the links for each platform:
Competition – I didn’t do keyword research when I chose the title “Big Enough”, and think I got lucky. The biggest competition for a top-ranking is a hilarious video that features a screaming cowboy. The song is “Big Enough” by Kirin J. Callinan.
Quality – I am a firm believer that there is no SEO trick that can replace the value of quality content. It takes time and effort, but the results are clear. My company, Common Craft, became successful because we earned traffic and rankings the old-fashioned way.
I never planned to do a book tour. Unless you’re a very well-known author, they seem like a cumbersome activity with low ROI; a vestige from a time before the internet. Now, in the COVID era, they are an impossibility. I hope to do 100% of promotions for Big Enough from the comfort and safety of home. For me, podcasts are the perfect medium.
When The Art of Explanation came out in 2012, podcasts were popular, but a shadow of what they are today. I was invited to be on dozens and came to truly enjoy the process. I’m a social person at heart and love having a good conversation. When I thought about how to promote Big Enough, podcasts were always front and center. The question became: how does an author promote themselves as a podcast guest?
The first option was personal and network connections and I am now reaching out to people I know. The introductions are relatively easy. What I needed was a simple way to let them know I’m an interesting, knowledgeable, and fun podcast guest. I wanted podcasters to visit a page on my leelefever.com site and think “I MUST have this guy on my podcast!”
So I created that page. It’s called “Lee LeFever Podcast Guest” and it’s my best shot at giving podcasters a clear picture of my experience, expertise, and more. Now, when I ask someone in my network if they can introduce me to a podcaster, I can send them this link for more information. My hope is that you, dear reader, will use it too.
If you know a podcast or podcast host who might be interested in having me on to discuss Big Enough, please let me know.
I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.