I feel I am getting slightly tan after a year of being inside.
A few months ago I started seeing new kinds of emails showing up in my inbox and new kinds of posts appearing in my Instagram feed. They weren’t frequent or everywhere, but they were noticeable. The people writing them were fellow online business entrepreneurs, leaders, influencers even. People who had gained big followings and some of whom had “made their first million” already.
These messages were a shift from what I’d seen posted and written about for years (I’ve been in the industry for 7 years, so that’s as long as I’ve been paying attention to this). These entrepreneurs were starting to discuss the “dark side” of the online business industry, specifically the niche occupied by influencers, coaches, and self-proclaimed experts. They were having candid conversations about what’s not working with how this industry markets itself: how it can be predatory, the worst kind of capitalist, and insular. I was all ears.
I’ve mentioned my interesting career arc in the Worthfull Project podcast and here and there on this blog. In short summary, I left a super traditional corporate sales job in 2014 and dove headfirst into the “belly of the beast” so to speak. I moved to LA, worked full-time for a rising star influencer and podcaster, a self-proclaimed “lifestyle entrepreneur,” and saw the inner workings of his business and his peers’. It was an incredible education and really gave me a behind the scenes look into how the superstars of the industry actually make money. Hint: it’s usually not from social media sponsorships or podcast advertising. It’s from online course sales.
Anyway, because I had been so close to the 1% of super successes, I became very interested in hearing what other people in the industry were saying about what the majority of entrepreneurs and customers experience. It really resonated. They were frankly discussing how harmful “bro marketing,” hustle sales techniques, and the “shoppable lifestyle” are to the masses. A lot of look-good hype and very few real, sustainable results to stand on.
So, it’s gotten me thinking. What kind of business do I want to evolve my little boutique media agency into? Who do I want to coach me in worthfull business practices? What kinds of role models do I see walking the walk? Thankfully, I do think I’ve been introduced to some of the best in the business. They have helped turn me onto other solid pros who are doing business right.
The common themes I’m noticing in these leaders and entrepreneurs are these:
- They all reiterate on a frequent basis how long an ethical, sustainable, solid business takes to make and grow into a success. It’s rarely less than 10 years.
- They aren’t showing off their houses, vacations, fashion and other lifestyle signals. They mostly use their platforms to teach in their area of expertise. (Shout out to the ladies who co-host the Duped podcast for pointing this out.)
- They are focused on uplifting and amplifying diverse voices in their industry. They want to shine the light on the people who aren’t in the spotlight who are doing good work versus passing the ball back and forth between the same small circle of people who look like them.
- They have learned to own their worth over the long haul. Through the dark nights of the soul, the non-glamorous years of slow growth, and their time to shine.
I’m right in the middle of educating myself on this shift happening in online business, so I’ll write a follow up when I have more to share about what I’m learning. It feels very important to be on the right side of this issue, so I’m taking my time and vetting my sources. I’m also really enthused about building my business with the best that this industry can offer and steering clear of anything that makes me or anyone else feel less than full of worth.
P.S. Some of my favorite insight on this is coming from Tarzan Kay, who is in the middle of re-orienting her business to one that does it right. Shout out to her candor and stamina through the process. It’s helpful to see a real-life example like hers.