There are too many creators.
Or rather, too many creators posting average content.
And you are invisible.
This is not your fault, you don’t have the strategy and systems to go beyond that.
I aim to give you a strategy and actionable tactics to change this situation.
The problem all creatives face in the modern digital era
Here is the situation you are facing: everyone can create content and post it, especially with AI tools.
You click a few buttons, write a few words and you get a full article, a Twitter thread or even create a video. (I know I did it as an experiment and it worked out well.)
This will get even easier and better with time.
And being a creator is now seen as a career by kids seeing the massive success of people like Mr Beast. Much more appealing than being stuck in a cubicle for hours doing a meaningless job.
And that’s great.
I wish society evolves to a point where people can make a decent living by doing things they enjoy. That’s why we’re both here!
But this means that the number of creators and creations will continue to grow massively.
And only a part of them will find success.
How? By finding a way to be visible and recognized as someone valuable enough to give attention (and money).
Another consequence (a bit vicious and less obvious): you are exposed to content which is more similar.
This induces a conformity bias.
“Look how she is successful doing this”, and you’ll want to do the same.
Also, you hear and read the same messages. Because the gurus have more reach. And they know that what works on social media is to repeat the same stuff 1000s times, with variations.
See Gary V. It is difficult not to see him, and he proves that producing a massive amount of content works. Even if it is not original and the value is not always high. (He’s good though)
So you will naturally start to think that you have to produce a ton of content to be successful. You have the message engraved in your head unconsciously, and you have a proof that it works.
You may become conditioned to follow the advice and take the same path. And add more noise while burning out (because you don’t have 20 people working for you).
This is not a new situation: the battle of mainstream media vs indie creators.
But it may become even worse with AI. The flow of machine-generated content is rising. The best creators will use those tools to create more and better. But I reckon that the majority won’t make the effort.
The thing is that the quality is becoming human-like. I played with the latest version (don’t need to mention the name), and I wouldn’t always write much better.
Scary for certain, exciting for others like me.
But in any case, it is there, and it will only get better. Such that you won’t be able to tell the difference with content created by a human (it is already the case, trust me).
This seems to be a dark future for creators.
Or is it? I don’t think so.
But I do believe that we have to adapt. The sooner, the better.
That’s why I decided to write this piece.
It is important.
Because only the ones who stand out will be able to reap all the rewards.
*Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own.”* – Derek Sivers
I know it may not sound fair, but it is the reality of the world.
Like Richard Feynman (Nobel Prize in Physics 1965) said: “If you don’t like it, go to some other Universe where the laws of Physics are more pleasing to you”.
The message is that you can fight reality as much as you want, it won’t change. Or not much.
Now that this is out and you are still reading, I suppose you agree that to thrive as a creative, you need to stand out.
We want to:
produce work aligned with your values, interests, and personality.
get more freedom by doing what you love for a living.
How do we do that?
I’ll show you a few ways to do it ( choose at least one or a few if possible).
But, before diving into the tactics (implementation), let’s talk strategy.
The strategy to stand out as a creative
“In your career, even more than for a brand, being safe is risky. The path to lifetime job security is to be remarkable.” ― Seth Godin, in Purple Cow.
That’s the solution. That is what I want you to focus on and put most of your time and energy into this year. And the following (it takes time).
The strategy is to dive into your uniqueness.
Otherwise, your content, and in general your work, will be another drop in the ocean. Unremarkable.
I want you to build an island with unique features that nobody can ignore. Your unique piece of land raised above the level of mediocrity.
To stand out, you must get out of your comfort zone and risk being yourself. Showing who you are and how unique your interests are. Or rather which unique combination of interests, knowledge, skills, values, experiences, and culture.
That’s the main problem most creators face: playing it safe.
You see content that you like or that gets tons of engagements on social media, and you copy to make your own version.
Since you are smart (I know you are since you are here, willing to change your life), you don’t “copy copy”. You tweak the content to make it more original.
But in most cases, it is still close to the original and guess what, people will prefer to go to the original. Not you.
Like counterfeit luxury goods. Do you want a real Vuitton bag or a copy? (assuming you can afford it)
Your goal should be, MUST be, to become the next Vuitton with your brand. Not a copy, even if it is a good one.
As a bonus, your uniqueness will make your brand un-copiable. No risk of competition.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
“I am scared to expose myself”. “What will people think? they will judge me, think that I am weird.”
(tough love mode on)
First, nobody cares about you. Most people think about themselves. And if they care about you, they won’t judge but support you.
Second, yes, people will judge. You do it too. Everybody judges others. And so what? And if they don’t support you, why should you care about what they think?
Third, this is your life. If you live it following others’ opinions, you will waste it. And you can’t play again. It’ll be over.
(tough love mode off)
You may also think that it will take too much time and effort. You’re right it will.
That’s a process, but you can see progress quickly. And if you can’t wait because you need to make money, find alternatives (freelancing, job). That’s what I am doing.
Faster is not better.
You are here for the long game.
The infinite game. The idea is never to stop because you build now a lifestyle of freedom to do what you love, on your terms.
If you make the effort and keep your focus on cultivating this uniqueness, there are immense rewards for you.
You will thrive as a creative, free to do whatever you want.
A proof that it works?
Check out Dan Koe and how he developed his unique brand around his interests with unique visuals. You recognise them immediately.
And he is growing very fast across many platforms. Impressive.
Check out also Miss Excel on TikTok.
Yes, she is teaching spreadsheet tips on TikTok! And she has a unique twist on top of her technical skills that make her stand out immediately. Her way of presenting and her personality shine.
I highly recommend you watch her interview by the excellent Jay Clouse:
There are many examples you can find on Twitter or other platforms.
So far we have discussed the strategy to stand out as a creator: using your personality, interests and every that makes you YOU.
Now, there are tactics that can help you implement the strategy.
Don’t try to use them all. Do what makes sense and resonates with you and aligns with your brand values, your skills…
As far as you follow the strategy, which tactics you use don’t really matter.
9 tactics to stand out as a creator
As we saw earlier, the strategy is to find (and develop) your uniqueness.
Let’s see a few tactics (use a few for better results).
1. Specificity (start here)
The first and most fundamental way to stand out is to dive deep into what makes you YOU.
This one is crucial. If you want to use only one tactic, it is this one. It is not easy, but it will have the biggest impact on your life (and business).
The idea is to work on knowing yourself better.
Don’t overthink this too much, it’s a life-long journey. You will find below ideas and exercises that can help you.
This is not static. You are a dynamic system in constant evolution. Hence the importance of doing this from time to time, and to cultivate self-awareness habits.
a. Find your values
Our values dictate a good part of who we are and how we make decisions.
How can you find them if you don’t already know what your values are?
I also suggest that you go to Scott Jeffrey’s website for a step-by-step guide to find them.
b. Know your personality traits
You already know your personal traits or a part of them. And I am sure you have been told a few things about yourself, even if you didn’t want!
But taking a personality test will help you be more objective.
I did this test recently, and I learned or confirmed a thing or two (I am a mediator, a diplomate, searching to bring harmony.)
Don’t dismiss traits that are not always seen as important or desirable.
I’m thinking about humour or language. Swearing (if it is how you naturally speak, be genuine), can be a differentiator. See the buzz after Mark Manson published his “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” (great book by the way).
c. Ask friends
Use your relations: ask friends, colleagues or other people you interact with to give you their honest perspective.
I asked my wife and after a moment she simply answered: “To the moon”.
She was right (obviously!): I am (non-agressively) ambitious, enthusiatic, cheering up and lifting up others. Especially with my students and my friends.
d. Find your Ikigai
Ikigai is a Japanese concept. It is often used when you want to find a sense of purpose or fulfilment in your life.
But I see it as a tool to choose your specificity.
It is the intersection of four elements: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
Here are a few steps to help you discover your ikigai:
- Reflect on what you love: Think about activities, hobbies, or causes that bring you joy and fulfillment.
- Identify your skills and talents: Consider the things that you are naturally good at and that come easily to you.
- Consider the needs of the world. Reflect on the problems and challenges that exist in the world and think about how your skills and interests could be used to address them.
- Consider the financial aspect: Reflect on the ways in which you can use your skills, interests, and passions to make a living.
e. Self-awareness habits
Make it a constant habit to observe yourself while you act, think, and communicate. Self-awareness is one of the most important ways to know yourself better.
A few helpful habits:
- Keep a journal: helps you gain insight into your own mind and emotions.
- Practice mindfulness. Meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feeling.
- Reflect on your actions: Take time to think about your actions and decisions and consider their motivations (find your why)
- Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from others and actively listen to their perspectives. Try to understand them.
- Take time to be alone: being with yourself without distractions will make deep stuff emerge. Don’t judge but listen carefully.
- Learn from your mistakes: again, don’t judge and try to understand why you did them and learn.
f. Identify your main skills
This is already a part of the ikigai concept, but I want to add something here. One way to stand out is to exploit a specific skill or combination of skills (my case).
You can choose 1 thing that is special about you and cultivate it even more. Go deeper and carve your niche.
But it can be a combination of skills. That’s what I’ve developed in my scientific career. I am not the best in any skill, but there is no other researcher with my skillset. Thus I stand out.
My mistake has been to think I needed to “niche down” and be a super expert on one thing for most of my career. I forced myself with some success, but this was not me.
I had to (painful) break this to embrace my uniqueness. This funky combination of skills and knowledge makes me irreplaceable.
This is the second most important tactic in my opinion. Cultivating greatness will act as a natural lift above online mediocrity.
Because when you see something awesome, what do you do? You share it with everyone, you talk about it.
This is called word-of-mouth marketing. It is the most powerful way to promote your work (without promoting it and feeling salesy).
It triggers instant approval and trust with the author. And trust means durable relationships and money.
For example, I stumbled months ago on an article by Michael Simmons.
Never heard about him before and never read the tiniest tweet. But I became a fan at once: his article stood out by far from other articles on Medium.
What has happened since? I enrolled for a course (at least a free one. I couldn’t follow up with the paid version for budget reasons, but I would have.). I mention him often on Twitter or here. So more people will be exposed to his writing and products.
You certainly have a good share of examples yourself.
How to achieve greatness will be the topic of a future piece. But you can already do this: practice and practice again! (I will release a course soon to help you develop mastery, stay tuned).
“By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” – Confucius
Practice is the key to stand out.
Aim to create something worth sharing. Something you would want to talk about with enthusiasm.
How do you know if it will work? You don’t, and it won’t work every time. This is a common observation of even big creators. They don’t know what will take off. But they know their fans (see below) will support everything they do.
So do your best and focus on getting better every time, and ship regularly.
By the way, if you follow that route, there is no need to post every day and follow a crazy social media schedule.
See for example Julian Shapiro: he writes very few articles in a year (1 or 2 maybe). But you can’t forget when you visit his website.
3. Run experiments
Another way of taking risks is to experiment more. Try things, get results (or not) and share. Experimenting or learning in public works well.
Be more creative to help your audience.
For example, I posted short piano tutorials on Pinterest. I made an effort to record a visual representation of the notes I was playing. Then I displayed those notes on top of the video to help beginners learn those songs more easily.
I published 9 videos. One picked up and is now at more than 1.8 million views. Insane number. And I didn’t touch this account after posting the videos 18 months ago.
Originality, geared towards better and more helpful content, pays! Don’t be afraid to try new formats or platforms to reach a wider audience.
4. Get original data
Use original data to break the flow of similar content.
This is a big one for your content. Not easy to do. There is a high barrier to getting those data, which means more uniqueness and visibility.
Find untapped sources.
Create your own data by doing experiments (see previous point)
5. Use your personality
Use what you discovered when finding your specificities, and make one or a few traits of your personality public.
For example, I am a smiling person. That’s a part of me.
But seeing the gurus making those serious faces in their profile pictures made me doubt for a moment. Should I take those serious-looking pics to succeed?
Nope, I’ll keep smiling and even process my pictures to add funky colours. Because I find it fun, and I am playful.
6. Take care of your audience
Building a community around your content is a great way to stand out.
Make an effort to respond to comments and messages, and engage with other creators in your space. Be the cheerleader or give tough love, be present in a way people will remember.
Don’t forget: we remember how someone made us feel rather than what they did.
You don’t need to be the best at your craft to attract people, if you care about them and show it every day, you’ll win.
(And if you also become really good, you’re set for life! That’s what I want to help you with.)
Use empathy as a differentiator. It is the essence of marketing.
7. Tell stories
Use personal stories, even the little daily ones. Things happen to you all day long. Use that.
If you journal, even better: you have a collection of thoughts and stories with context at your hand. Just pick one which is relevant to the point you want to make.
If not, steal. Steal from social media, Netflix, news, friends, and colleagues. There are many stories around you all the time. Life is a collection of stories.
You can invent a story as well. Don’t trick people and make it clear it is fake: “Imagine this….”
Use your past as well: if you’ve lived more than a decade (I guess you are over 10), you have stories in your memory.
Not for everybody (even if you can learn), this is an obvious way to be recognised among others.
The choice of style and colour for your visuals is unique to you. And since we are visual animals, everyone will notice you instantly.
It can become an integral part of what you do.
See the example of Sachin Ramje with his hyper-visual threads.
It is a combination of your message, design, attitude, values and mission.
You need to build a personal brand to stand out.
But not a fake, shallow version.
A deep, true (with quirks) to which people can relate and feel your authenticity to build trust in the relationship. Because the final goal is to build relationships with an audience you provide value to.
An interesting example is Kevon Cheung and his broccoli. He has developed over time a full branding around the broccoli, from design to brand vision.
Soo…it has been a long one!
We have seen that a solution is to lean into your uniqueness to build an island over the surface of mediocre creations.
It starts by knowing yourself, the Graal in philosophy and self-development. It’s a win-win since it also helps grow your business.
Don’t stress out if you feel overwhelmed. This takes time.
It will be a work in progress for years. I am still figuring it out. But it’s a fun and insightful journey.
Thanks a lot for reading!
If you found this helpful, please share it with your tribe!