If you’re a writer looking to build and monetize your personal platform — or you’re hoping to leave your corporate job — you will love Jon Acuff’s story.
Acuff is a New York Times bestselling author of five books and an in-demand speaker who has appeared on stage for clients such as Whirlpool, Microsoft and Comedy Central. He’s a social media influencer with more than 275,000 followers and his blog posts have been read by 4 million people.
How did he do it?
Well, if you’ve read his books, you’ve followed his story. He left his corporate job for his dream, started a business and reinvented himself a few times along the way.
Before going solo, Acuff worked his way up in an advertising career, eventually writing for brands such as The Home Depot, Staples and later landed his dream job, writing and speaking for the Dave Ramsey team. After taking the leap? He had his best financial year ever and books speaking gigs a year.
Here are his six key steps to leaving your job, creating great work and achieving solo success.
1. Just start
Acuff launched his first blog, a satire site called Stuff Christians Like,while still employed. What finally prompted him to start writing?
“My frustration level eclipse my laziness level, where I was just tired of not writing the kind of stuff I wanted to write,” he says.
So, he woke up early, wrote then went to work. After launching the blog, he sent it to about 100 friends. On day nine, he had thousands of views and friends of friends were sharing it with him, not knowing he’d wrote it. He’d hit the blog lottery. But he made it there by posting around five posts per day. He kept up that pace, which eventually led to a book deal and some free speaking gigs. One of those speaking gigs was for the Dave Ramsey team — leading to his eventual employment years later.
If you’re considering pursuing your passion, now is the time, Acuff says. There’s never been a better time in history to launch an idea or start a business.
“All the gatekeepers are gone except the hardest one, which is you,” he says. “There is no one stopping you.”
2. Be patient
Acuff warns that leaving your corporate job will take some recovery time. He says most people want to jump right in, but to get your feet under you, you need about three months for each year you were employed there.
Another mistake is rushing ideas to market. You need to “give yourself time to develop good ideas.” The longer he can sit on an idea, he says, the better.
“They are confusing the ease of getting an idea online with the need to do it that second,” he says. “So just because it’s easy to sell a class doesn’t mean you’re ready to sell a class.”
This also means you should put in the time and become an established industry leader before publishing a “business card” book.
“Develop your authority [first]. Never write a book to establish your authority,” he says. “Books are hard and they’re not for everybody. It’s not failure if you don’t write a book.”
3. Be authentic
Acuff is not a fan of the current “expert marketing” trends. For example, he explained that while people would buy it, he wouldn’t try to teach people how to grow a speaking career, because his experiences are not replicable. It’s paramount that you’re authentic, Acuff says.
“Go get more expertise, be honest about what your strengths are that you can share and sell, and be honest about what you can’t,” he says.
4. Stay flexible
Acuff is a writer who wants to write, but he knows that’s not enough today. He also creates video content, email marketing promotions and online courses.
“I’m a writer, so doing videos is new to me. And that’s taken time to get comfortable with,” he says. “I’m like everybody else, I don’t love change. I’m not like, ‘Yay, my whole model is upside down.’ I’ve really seen the impact.”
If you want to get your message out into the world, you have to adapt to different methods of sharing that message.
5. Stay hungry
Acuff started his path to New York Times bestseller with around five posts a day. Today, as an established author, he still writes four hours a day. He also spends years researching, writing and rewriting each book. His smartphone has thousands of photos and ideas for posts, tweets and instagram images. He’s studied more than 100 comedians.
“I’ll give a speech 50 times and hone it each time,” he says.
Though he’s spoken professionally for seven years, he does not consider himself an “expert” speaker.
6. Always serve
When Acuff had the idea to help people reach their goals in 30 days, he gave the program away for free for more than a year. When he is hired to speak, one of his first questions to the company’s event planner is “how can I make you look like a rock star?” He is active in his Facebook fan communities, has attended fan organized events and hosts free meetups across the country.
Though accomplished, Acuff maintains his position, writing “from the trenches” rather than as an authority. He shares openly and honestly in his writing, because he remembers what it felt like to be without support.
“I’m always trying to write to the me I used to be,” he says, “who didn’t have a community, who felt like the only weirdo who wanted to do a dream.”