Making a Personal Pivot

Ryan Battles  •   Personal Growth

Personal Pivot

A few of my friends who follow me on Twitter have noticed somewhat of a shift in my tweets lately, as well as what I’ve been pumping out of my blog (and how frequently). The truth is, I’ve been working on a personal pivot, redirecting what I am known for online and heading in a purposeful direction.

Learning from My Successes

Almost six years ago I decided to leave my job as a teacher and begin freelancing as a web designer. I traveled to Michigan and spent a few days in an in-person training program for a content-management system called ExpressionEngine. Since then I’ve read a lot of articles about ExpressionEngine, written a few articles and tutorials, spoken at a couple of conferences, and been interviewed on the ExpressionEngine podcast. I dove in, and eventually was seen as a key member of the ExpressionEngine community, receiving plenty of work because of it.

A friend of mine asked me what I was going to do if anything ever happened to ExpressionEngine, like if it fell out of demand…was I worried that I had been putting all of my eggs in one basket?

My answer to that was a resounding “No”. I didn’t see myself as putting all my eggs in ExpressionEngine, but instead as learning how to specialize and become a person of influence within a community. That community happened to be ExpressionEngine at the time, but if my direction ever changed, I could apply what I’ve learned to being a thought-leader in another subject area.

Focusing on a New Purpose

Over the past year I’ve been building a SaaS (monthly subscription) app with a friend of mine, a financial planning, time-tracking, and invoicing app for freelancers. We haven’t officially launched yet, but we are in a closed beta putting the finishing touches on the development.

While design and development come pretty naturally for my partner and me, it was the marketing piece that we had to learn a bit about in order to gain some traction once we launch. For the past six months I’ve been diving into every book, article, and podcast I can get my hands on that relates to marketing a product as a “bootstrapper”.

As it turns out, I love reading this stuff. I love reading it and I love putting it into practice. I think I’ve uncovered a new passion of mine, which is planning out a launch strategy and building a marketing plan for a product.

I’ve also discovered a community that shares this passion, and I immediately knew that I had to apply myself to becoming a known member of this community, and one day I would like to bundle together everything that I’ve been learning and help others who are new to launching a product, to start off on the right foot.

So, while I’m just getting warmed up in pivoting my online presence into this new realm (away from developer, into bootstrapping entrepreneur), I’ve come up with a strategy to follow with consistency, measuring the results along the way and making an attempt to connect with key influencers within this sphere.

On Twitter

With Twitter I am being intentional about sharing the best articles that I read throughout the week that have to do with my new subject area. I was a bit zealous with this at first, tweeting nearly eight posts a day of interesting articles, but after some feedback from friends of mine who follow my Twitter stream, I have toned down the article posting to two a day. This I automate with Buffer.

I have also discovered the power of following and conversing with key influencers within the community. I made a Twitter list of people who have spoken at or will be speaking at conferences that I one day would like to be considered for speaking at as well. I regularly check the tweets coming out of this list, for opportunities to add value to a conversation, and get to know these folks a little better. Already I’ve had a few good conversations with them, and look forward to meeting them in person when I attend a conference in the near future.

Already some of this strategy has paid off, as I’ve been able to grow my Twitter list from around 750 followers to over 1,000 in about a week just by strategically following and engaging with other bootstrappers.

On LinkedIn

I’m still trying to figure out the exact way to leverage LinkedIn for defining your personal brand, and I typically see LinkedIn as a tool for people to use when looking for jobs, or looking to hire. As an entrepreneur, I’m not looking to be hired by a new employer, but nevertheless LinkedIn is a way to connect with people on a professional level, so I have developed a small strategy here.

First of all, I’ve identified key influencers and people I admire in the bootstrapping community, and asked them for a connection after introducing myself, and expressing my desire to be connected to like-minded individuals. This has had about a 50% success rate.

I have also been posting about one interesting article a day to my LinkedIn stream. Unless someone favorites one of these posts, these never show up in a stranger’s stream, so they aren’t really ways to grow my network, but it is a way to let my network know what sorts of things I am interesting in and reading about, and already has brought a few old connections out of the woodwork to discuss this new direction together, and share experiences together.

Another obvious switch was changing my description from “Front-End Engineer” to something more appropriate for the new focus, “Software Engineer, Micropreneur & Bootstrapper”. I chose these words deliberately. Originally I had been using “Entrepreneur” and “Marketer”, but these terms are very broad, and a ton of people are using them to describe themselves. I have found “Micropreneur” and “Bootstrapper” to be just a little more specific. I kept “Software Engineer” in there because it highlights a what type of micropreneur I am.

On Facebook

I’ll be honest, I’m not giving Facebook much love right now. Personally I no longer use it to stay in touch, as my wife’s account is typically used to share photos with family, etc. However, I did decide to create a “Business Person” profile on Facebook for myself, which basically is a profile that anybody can follow, and receive updates on whatever I share a new relevant article.

Now, I don’t expect this to really see any action at all, but it was easy enough to set up and using Buffer I can send the same articles I am sharing on Twitter to the Facebook timeline with no extra work. I also use this to post links to my latest blog entries, and to my chagrin this week, I received my first “favorite” and comment on a blog post I wrote that was announced on Facebook.

I’m going to keep my eye on this tool…it might actually come in handy for reaching out to those who do use Facebook (which apparently a lot of people still do).

On My Blog

I have been a sporadic blogger for many years, but never have I stuck with it as a discipline. This is going to be the cornerstone of my pivot. I am committing to writing one blog post per week, whether I feel like it or not, and the content will focus on bootstrapping, entrepreneurship, personal branding, productivity, or anything that appeals to other bootstrappers.

Gaining a blog following is a slow process, but already I’ve received comments from new connections letting me know how much they appreciate the posts. As long as someone finds them helpful, I will keep writing, hopefully growing my audience of other like-minded individuals.

Staying True to My Core

Even though I’m making a personal pivot in regards to subject matter that I’m writing about, following, and tweeting, I still feel that it is important to stay in touch with people that I’ve built up personal relationships with over the years. For example, I’ve been to numerous conferences, training camps, and meetups, meeting hundreds of ExpressionEngine developers in-person. These people truly have become friends and continue to be the most active commenters, supporters, and twitter conversations that I have today.

I understand that some of these people might not be interested in my new content, and that’s okay. I’ve even noticed a few of them no longer follow me on Twitter. I don’t take it personally, I just know that they have a different interest in what they read.

There are a few, however, who really do like this new direction, some of them moving in this direction themselves. These people are who I count on now for the honest feedback, the encouragement when I really need it, and solid advice.

Have You Ever Made a Personal Pivot?

What about you, have you ever changed directions? Perhaps a second career path, a reboot of your unhealthy friends for some new ones? A noticeable change in how you spend your free time? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.