Sharing grows your network — and can help boost your revenue.
My company, Focus Lab, has made $3,330,727.15 in revenue as a result of showing our work. How have CMSs, Dribbble and niche communities made this possible? Let me share my story.
Becoming the “ExpressionEngine Guy”
I was sitting in my cubicle reading a blog post about how to do something in ExpressionEngine (“EE”), a content management system we’ve used for years. I noticed that a few specific developers kept coming up in the blog posts, forum threads and podcast episodes. As I looked into those people further, I realized that many of them made most of their revenue through their expertise in EE.
For a few years, my co-founder Bill Kenney and I had been doing what I’ve come to consider “co-freelancing”: basically just doing small jobs together without intense focus on growing a business. Eventually I was ready to find a way to get our little company off the ground and able to support us full time. We wanted to quit our day jobs and run after this thing!
It was goal-setting time. I set three goals that I felt would help us nudge our way toward enough revenue to quit our day jobs. They were all centered around ExpressionEngine because that’s what I knew best at the time. My first goal was to become recognized as “the ExpressionEngine guy” around Savannah, Georgia. (I later realized that there was pretty much only one other EE guy in the area. Either way, a goal is a goal.) My second goal was to be recognized by name in the virtual EE community. I would measure this by how often people either pointed others to my blog posts, mentioned me in forums or talked about my work on podcasts. My final goal was to get on stage at an ExpressionEngine event and teach people something about EE (I hadn’t done any conference speaking at this point).
Over the next 12 months, I worked hard at making these things happen. And in less than a year, I had been referred to, verbatim, as “the ExpressionEngine guy” by someone in the Savannah area. I was being recognized in the EE community online and I was scheduled to speak at an EE conference. The best part is that these things all helped bring in more projects and revenue to our little business. It was a series of EE-centric projects that allowed me to finally quit my day job and start Focus Lab full time.
Sharing My Knowledge
If I had to point to one thing that helped this all happen, it would be sharing my work with others. In the EE world, this meant creating free plugins for the CMS and teaching others how to use the system. I enjoy helping other developers and I love teaching. Sharing my work also often led to great feedback and insights from others that helped me continually improve my craft. After doing this for a year and some change, Bill realized we should probably do the same on the design side of our business.
With no name for himself in the community, Bill Kenney took to Dribbble, a top platform for designers, with a goal of finding his niche — much like EE had been mine. We realized how crucial this was for the development arm of our company, so it only made sense to take the same approach on the design side.
Bill was not familiar with Dribbble but he heard it was the place to be. After finally getting an invite, he got right to work. Over the next two years it seemed like he was more active than just about anyone on the site. Between posting work, interacting with fellow designers and building friendships, he made it his second job. There was a long stretch (about a year) where his goal was to post a shot nearly every day, learning that consistency and volume were key.
“The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning in front of others.” -Austin Kleon, Show Your Work
Fast forward four years, and Bill has grown a following of 40,000 on Dribbble. It has become a lead generation machine for our business, and better yet, Bill has developed some really great friendships and experienced tons of personal growth along the way. Sharing our work has become an integral part of our culture and our process. With every new project kickoff, we discuss with our client what sharing the work could mean. We intentionally seek buy-in from them.
Sharing often leads to many things: critical feedback, a larger possibility of finding similar existing work, increased exposure, and overall growth as a person. This article isn’t about where you should share you work, or even how. And I’m not saying that sharing your work will lead to $3+ million in revenue for you. But youshould intentionally teach and learn from others.
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