You might have heard of the expression “Garbage In, Garbage Out” (GIGO).
It’s used in computer science to describe that flawed input data produces flawed output. Of course, it also applies elsewhere.
When soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo publicly rejected Coca-Cola in favor of water during the European Championship, he demonstrated this principle: to be at your best, put good things into your system (water), not bad things (sugar-laced soda).
How does this relate to being a creator? Well, GIGO teaches us that input and output are intrinsically linked. Our consumption of content and other things can’t be separated from our role as a creator.
Consumption and creation are two sides of the same coin. Here are 3 lessons creators can learn from the other side of the coin:
1. You can do things differently and still be successful
Our actions as a consumer teach us things. For instance, if you exclusively shop at Amazon (or similar big companies), you’re effectively sending yourself the message that you have to be super-big to be worthy of customers.
You’re teaching yourself that it’s not worth it to seek out creators directly, without the intermediation of bigger players.
You’re teaching yourself that convenience (and next-day shopping) is so important that it overrides other concerns.
Going on Amazon to order things is literally the least imaginative and original way of getting the things we want.
When I finally began ordering from Bookshop.org (an Amazon competitor that supports independent bookshops) this year, it taught me that small players like Bookshop can compete with big players.
That small player can do things differently.
That many customers, including myself, are willing to pay a bit more and wait a bit longer to order from a small player that we like more than a big player.
That’s a pretty important lesson for a creator.
2. People can get paid for meaningful work
This is related to the previous lesson.
As a creator, you need to believe that it’s possible to get paid for meaningful work. Otherwise, what’s the point?
By being a customer who pays people for meaningful work (whether that’s by ordering from small stores, hiring someone to help you with something, etc.), you can strengthen that belief.
For instance, I know that coaching is valuable because I have had different coaches over the years who have helped me — and I still have a coach.
When I talk to a potential client about the benefits of coaching, I can talk about positive changes my clients have made while working with me and about my own experience with this vehicle of change.
If you don’t believe something is valuable enough to invest in it (whether that’s a service or a product), why should your clients?
Consuming things from other creators and smaller businesses can also help creators overcome perfectionism. If you pay a person or small business for their work (even if it’s not 100% polished), it teaches you that getting customers is about delivering value, not perfection.
3. Insights into how platforms work and whether they are right for you
For a long time, I resisted getting a Patreon subscription or ordering on Etsy. I found it to be a hassle to sign up for a separate platform. I also didn’t particularly like that the platform takes a percentage of money that would otherwise go to the creators.
Eventually, I gave both of these a try and it taught me some valuable lessons.
A few people had suggested to me that I start my own Patreon and I found myself thinking about doing that.
Through becoming a Patreon supporter for a few content creators, I realized that that monetization model isn’t for me, at least at the moment. I noticed how much effort they put into it and how many subscribers they needed to have it be worth their time.
Ordering on Etsy also taught me a few things. I realized that the platform can be annoying for customers— for instance, I was sometimes randomly blocked, especially when using a VPN (which seems to be a common problem).
This means that in many cases, Etsy customers are forced to turn off their VPN. If they aren’t willing to do that, Etsy creators miss out on sales.
This helped me realize how much easier it was to order directly from creators. As long as they have a personal website with the same name as their Etsy store, I could easily find them and buy through their website. They don’t have to pay an Etsy fee and I don’t get hassled about my VPN. Win-win.
If I ever decided to offer something on Etsy, I would keep this experience in mind.
Creators can learn many valuable lessons from being consumers.
If you only ever lived in Rome during the height of the Roman Empire, it would probably be hard for you to believe that people were living a good life elsewhere, that there was an alternative to this über-dominant city.
Supporting other creators and small businesses is kind of like leaving Rome to discover a whole new world outside. It will teach you things you could never learn from only buying from the big players.
Just like cities don’t have to be Rome (in its prime) to be successful, entrepreneurs don’t need to dominate the marketplace to have happy customers and make a living.
Not all roads lead to Rome. But if they did, we would just create new pathways that support a different way of life.
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