One Weird Way to Get a Larger Audience

When I rebooted with blogging, I learned an unexpected lesson. I wanted to narrow my topic and gain a larger audience but never expected to learn something so crucial and necessary, something that made all the difference.

Larger Audience
Photo credit: Justin Scott Campbell (Creative Commons)

What was this realization? Simple. I wasn’t nearly as good as I thought. Let me break it down for you:

  • I’ve been writing my whole life.
  • My high school English teacher told me to go into journalism.
  • In college, I was a writing tutor.
  • I’ve written magazine articles, edited books, and more.

But when I finally faced the facts, I had to realize something: I just wasn’t that good.

Can you relate?

You may be struggling. You may be frustrated. You may be thinking: Does anyone care what I have to say? Why aren’t people listening? When will I get the platform I deserve?

Of course, we don’t always say these things out loud, but we think them. Boy, do we ever think them.

The answer to your problem may not be to persevere, to simply try harder. In fact, I have an alternative option — one that goes beyond seven-step articles and marketing hype.

If you want to build a larger audience, do this one simple thing.

Get better.

When no one’s looking

The other day, my friend Edward Paz wrote a brilliant article about this topic and asked the question,

What do you do when when no one’s paying attention to you?

The answer?


This is what we do when the world is enamored with mediocrity, when everyone around us seems to be in a race to the bottom. We step back, take our time, and improve. We practice.

We turn down the self-promotion and tune out the distractions, and we work. We work very, very hard. We focus and build our craft. And guess what? We actually get better.

What we’d rather do

It’s tempting to get louder. To talk more. To try and out-shout the competition or coerce our way into influence. But rarely do these tactics work.

Instead, try a more subversive means of building your tribe: Be quiet. Hide yourself away; spend time becoming absolutely indispensable. Don’t build your own stage; let people find you.

It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn. (Tweet that, if you like.)

The problem is we’re all so paranoid about never getting discovered. Which is ridiculous. This is not the Middle Ages. We have the Internet, for crying out loud. You don’t need to wait to be discovered; you’ve already been discovered!

People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. The question is: What are you showing them?

What do you think? Do we build a larger audience by getting louder — or better? Share in the comments.

104 thoughts on “One Weird Way to Get a Larger Audience

  1. “It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn.” Lovely insight. I think of the great mystic writers. ‘The Cloud of Unknowing,’ for instance, didn’t even have a byline. There’s this whole higher economy of attention that I’m trying to get used to. The read/write web offers less friction for writing–more tribal opportunities, as you say. But there remains the time to go quietly into the dark, and allow the calculus of attention to do its thing. 
    Good word, Jeff.

  2. Very good article Jeff.  I really appreciate your candor.  If we are doing what we love, I think its easier to just be practicing and improving rather than trying to become known.  

  3. Very strange day today. Feeling like I’ve lost my bearings! Doesn’t happen often. Thought I might take the day off from writing ’cause it felt like there wasn’t anything left in my soul to write about. Then I read this and realized what could help me out is to focus on what I love when it comes to writing. I haven’t looked at my family history for a few days now. That’s where I get my material… Thanks for the reminder. My heart has been trying to pay attention to exactly this thought all morning!

  4. But I want a short cut!!  What you’re talking about here is definitely the toughest lesson to learn.  Since I started blogging seriously a few months ago, it has tested my patience like nothing else.  Our culture has mislead us to believe that hard work is not as valuable as sex appeal, so one would think that a sexy blog would catch on overnight like wild fire.  (not that mine is all that sexy, but you get my point).  It’s definitely the complete opposite.  I like that writing is so transparent.  You can’t really fake it, and no matter how much you dress it up, you either bring it or you don’t.  Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Jeff!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement today. I’m going to try and look into getting a book on helping me with my writing (even though I think I’m a good writer – always room to grow!).

  6. You’re one of the few bloggers I read who repeatedly makes me think wow when I read your posts. 

    You’re 100% right. We shouldn’t worry about not getting discovered or never being good enough–we need to focus on practice. On getting better. Period. 

    Fantastic post, Jeff. You continue to impress me with your insight. 

  7. I’m reminded of the Proverb that says, “humility comes before honor.” I feel like we’re more apt to be torn down and to fail when we prematurely exalt ourselves. We’re better off pressing deeper into wisdom and growing ourselves up and allowing others to do the “honoring” for us. 

    If that makes sense…

  8. Great post, Jeff. We need the paradigm shift that small beginnings can make a strong foundation, not a pitiful end.Our current small readership gives us the ability to experiment, to practice and to get feedback for getting better from our faithful band of readers, if we’ll only ask them to participate in our education. And of course read better blogs than ours to encourage us. You’re in my top ten. Thanks for the encouragement.

  9. I want to show people they don’t have to settle for jobs they hate or aren’t right for them just because we have a bad economy. I hope what I write inspires people to go after the work they are truly called too!

  10. Practice makes perfect…or so the imperfect have spewed once or twice.  I’m not seeking perfection (for I have that in Christ) but “better.”  And Lord willing I’ll achieve that today!

  11. Excellent post! One line that really stuck with me was “It’s better to be remarkable in the dark…”

    I’ve been writing for a long time, but have been struggling for the last 2 years or so with my writing. Tried blogging in the past and unsuccessfully maintained them. I had a short burst of creativity about a year ago and sent out a few short stories to publications but had them turned down. After that, I haven’t written much more than a paragraph.

    Unfortunately, I’m not a full-time writer, as much as I’d like to be. I’m a Psychologist for the Department of Education by day, which makes it very difficult to find time to focus on writing. So now, I’ve began the hard trek at regaining my creativity with hopes of becoming a full-time writer at somepoint.

    The problem is, I get frustrated and lose patience. Give up. Put things off. Because of my lack of creativity and production, I look for instant gratification and rushing to get noticed. Which is why that one line hit me so hard. I thank you for knocking some sense into me this morning.

  12. Dude. That empty theater is really intimidating. Glad I’m not a public speaker haha. 

    This is a good article. I’m thinking about writing an article on how to get your first thousand subscribers. It’s about 16 words long, and it goes like this:

    (1) Start a blog
    (2) Write 99 blog posts
    (3) Trash the blog.
    (4) Start a new one.
    (5) Guest blog

  13. This goes along with the manifesto…and the Christian faith.  We should be excellent at what we do, but should always check our motives for why we do it.  Is it to make much of ourselves (i.e. “tooting our own horn”) or is it to make much of Christ (i.e. “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do all to the glory of Christ”)? 

  14. That is so true Jeff! I guess sitting quiet and getting away from things to introspect and practice would make a lot of difference to way things are. 

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. This is a great post. I have been doing this. I post to my blog when something inspiring hits me. It’s intermittent but that doesn’t seem to stop people from finding it and commenting if they’re inspired. Love your post; it makes me think I’m on the right course. 


  16. My mom used to always tell me that practice makes perfect, and she was right. It’s simple, common sense advice, but it’s very effective. Thanks for the excellent advice.

  17. This is a perfect reminder for me.  I have been blogging for seven months with consistent traffic of about a hundred readers.  Every once in a while I have a “big day” of two or three hundred readers and I celebrate! I am hopeful for an eventual “break-out” day when I have the privilege of reaching thousands of people.  The fact is, I have no idea when my big day will come.  As I write, I try not to focus on creating “that” post.  Instead, I focus on sharing what I know.  Writing to the best of my ability.  Being vulnerable and honest and creative, striving to connect with people I haven’t met but long to know.  So thanks for reminding me to write consistently and well.  When the crowd is ready for me, I will be ready for them! =)

  18. Seems I need to hear this about once a week!
    I think I’m finally figuring out that you can ever “master” writing. Like learning to play guitar, you just keep improving, moving to the next level. And you’re only limited by your own practice. The onus is on me, the power is in my hands. But I gotta do the work.

    Thank you for this. 

  19. Oh. My. Goodness. You are so right. I’ve been so close to realizing this, but this post really drove the point home. It’s not really about trying harder, necessarily, but about trying. And then trying again. Maybe it’s about trying different things. Maybe it’s about trying the same thing, only differently.

    Okay, I’m rambling. Thanks for this. I needed it, for sure.

  20. Re: “Don’t build your own stage; let people find you. It’s better to be remarkable in the dark than to prematurely toot your own horn.”

    I really dig this part. I’m starting a new series on my blog dedicated to writing everything I know about my niche. I haven’t raised a big stink about it, instead, I’m just going to write, and share and let people find it/stumble upon it. The way I see it, I don’t need to convince people it’s going to be a great series and it’s going to be helpful. Instead, I’m convinced my advocates will find it, and share it as they see fit. 

    Bad strategy? Maybe. These days, I’m just more focused on doing my best to deliver value. I don’t need to talk about why it’s valuable nor should I have to try and convince anyone.

    Talk less, do more. <== That's my outlook moving forward. 

  21. Curious. When you rebooted your blog, did you change your URL, too, or did you just restart? Great post. Enjoy your insights and passion. Jon

  22. A very sobering, healthy reminder here, Jeff. It’s natural for me to want to shout louder and more often to get recognized. Sometimes the best thing we can do is shut up and improve in the shadows. 

    Bro, your blog is a little too good. I think you should slack off a bit 🙂

  23. Loved the bit on it not being the Middle Ages. Awesome. I’m in a phase of ramping up Some Wise Guy, but have a planned quieter period in November. Got a book to work on. 🙂

  24. Great post!  Our generation really needs to live this out!!!  We all need a large dose of humility and hard work in the dark, so that we can be a might force for our Lord’s Kingdom.  Love your tweet – “There is no way to your destiny that doesn’t involve brokenness.”

  25. Jeff, you make an outstanding point here.  There is a constant buzzing to be present, to post, to socialize, to engage.  What if we posted less, tweeted less, engaged less?  Would we be more in demand?  Quite possibly, but it’s very hard to turn off. 

  26. Wow, I can relate to what you’re saying! I am still starting out with blogging, and when you talk about improving yourself, I would express it as  “increasing value”. It’s all about value…

    Great post Jeff! Very inspiring.

  27. Jeff,

    I’m puzzled. When someone mentions hard work, I think of it as something very demanding, something that comes pretty darned close to punishment. That’s why I don’t take up long distance running or skiing or some other dreadful activity. In contrast, I view the honing of my writing skills as an enjoyable challenge.


  28. Great advice.  I think taking a break to redirect yourself is incredibly healthy.  I am finding that my initial dream hasn’t changed, but that I have had to be open to new ideas on how to get there. 

  29. “…the world is enamored with mediocrity” — that explains it! I’ve wasted too much time banging my head on the wall wondering why boring blogs and boring products attract fawning fans and lemming customers. It was enough to make me slow down with my posts and fabric art. I will continue to create at a quality pace (in contrast to the fast-food equivalent), but now I have the right reason to do so. Thanks, Jeff.

  30. I’ve just emerged from two years away from blogging and doing all those things I was supposed to do to gain a larger audience—but not away from writing and editing. The truth, I discovered, is that I don’t care about a large audience. I care that I’m communicating with the people who most need what I have to offer. If a large, receptive audience results from that communication, wonderful. If not, wonderful. I’m doing what I’m called to do, which in part is to help others become better writers.

    1. Marcia Ford, I love that reaching those who most need what you can give, is  your main interest! I can see that you are very comfortable with what that leads to, whether your receptive audience is large or not. I’m taking a lesson from this. Thank you.

  31. When I see the word “practice” I think “mastery” which is the crux of Jeff’s message.  George Leonard said, “those we know as masters are dedicated to the fundamentals of their calling. They are zealots of practice, connoisseurs of the small, incremental step. At the same time, these people are precisely the ones who are likely to challenge previous limits, to take risks for the sake of higher performance, and seen to become obsessive at times in that pursuit.”

  32. Thx Jeff for another great post. Every case is different. I definitely don’t want a larger audience. I do want a clear audience where I fully understand the value I bring to them. My struggle is to get people to respond to my blog, but I’m OK with that – it just means I have yet to figure out what value will be brining them when I do get it right. So, stepping back sounds like a good idea.    

  33. No problem following your advice, Jeff.  I seem to have no choice but to stay in obscurity! 🙂

    It’s true, though, what you’re saying.  Getting better is much more effective than getting louder.

  34. This is some simple but very powerful advice.  This isn’t like talking to someone face to face where in some cases people get louder and more frantic trying to be heard.  🙂  I will be sharing your post on my site.  We can all benefit from this.

  35. Another great post that I couldn’t help but read when I saw the title. I see both the pros and cons of this idea–while I’m not going to get followers immediately, I will, in the long run, be paving the way for more followers and readers. Thanks for sharing this–I’ll try to tune out the distractions and hone my craft.

    -Lucy from

  36. EXCELLENT perspective. In a spiritual sense, you sort of want to see what God can do…right? What fun is there in being able to say you did it all? Thanks for the reminder!

    1. I like your thinking Dwayne. Also, God talks (a lot) about doing things that are hidden….that’s where our true character shows itself.

  37. I’ve taken so many nothing photos of things around my desk to learn the little nuances of photography.  This can be applied to so many skills.  Lots of time practicing for no one’s benefit other than our own.  It leads to more confidence when it does count in my opinion. 

  38. I’m happy for you that you were so quickly able to find blessings in challenging circumstances. I agree with you that getting better is the key to being heard. If for no other reason, the better the quality of your voice, the quieter your audience will silence that they don’t miss your melody.

  39. “People are watching you, whether you realize it or not. The question is: What are you showing them?” — Love it jeff.. this line tells it all.. 🙂 

  40. So how do you build a larger audience? Let’s say I’m ready, and I’m good. How are people going to find me? Any more concrete ideas besides, Getting good at it? Thanks. Also, I don’t think that answering the question by pointing me into a maze of links that go to your own articles, which eventually lead me into buying your book is a very good strategy. It’s deceitful and exasperating. That’s the reason why I didn’t purchase your Tribe Writers package. I tell you this because I would like to see you do well, and because I also feel like I’m wasting my time reading your posts.

    1. You are getting useful tips. Your comments are unfounded. There isn’t anything wrong with links to other articles written by the same person. How else would you know they are there. How do you keep your archived messages fresh?

  41. Hi Jeff-It is refreshing to read about what a platform should NOT be. I recently left a job with an internet marketer who was all about herself. That lack of authenticity came through in her PLF’s- (Pre-launch content for those who don’t know) and her last product tanked as a result. Badly. Like 6 sales. Ouch. Anyway, it seems like you understand that the only way to authenticity is making it NOT ABOUT YOURSELF. Of course everyone needs to make money, and prestige is nice. But if that’s all you really care about it will eventually shine through and destroy you. I hope you are the real deal.

  42. Oops-that last post was supposed to go under “The Kind of Platform you Should be Building”…not sure what happened. Just joined-maybe I did something wrong.

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