#070: The ‘Rock Star’ Myth + Why You Should NOT Diversify

Today’s show is about two topics that didn’t warrant their own episodes:

  • Why you must be careful when emulating the “rock stars” in our business
  • Why you should NOT diversify too much in terms of the services you offer

I’m also going to introduce a somewhat “silent” co-host of this show (someone you might have heard a few times before). I’ll tell you about two upcoming industry events you may want to check out. And I’ll explain how you can be a part of a future episode of this podcast.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

Topic #1: The Rock Star Myth

When you think of successful entrepreneurs, whom do you think of?

  • Steve Jobs?
  • Michael Dell?
  • Richard Branson?
  • Arianna Huffington?
  • Oprah?

What do these people have in common? They’re all “extremes.” They’re not just successful, they achieved uncommon success. I’m talking about the top 0.1% in their respective fields—a serious “outlier.”

Unfortunately, many freelancers look at the extremes and automatically assume that this is the only opportunity or goal.

Extreme people tend to make the best gurus, because what they’ve accomplished is so great—or the ideas they’ve implemented are so extreme—that they have no problem establishing authority. Plus, their examples are very easy to dissect and study.

This is true in every field. Examples:

  • Clark Howard (radio personality)
  • Tim Ferriss (author of The Four-Hour Workweek)

But the problem is that these extremes also promote (often unintentionally) binary thinking—the idea that you’re either a failure or a huge success. There’s nothing in the middle.

In other words:

  • If you can’t make $500k+ a year, you haven’t “made it”
  • If you can’t earn 6 figures working 4 hours/week and traveling the world…
  • If you can’t get $8,000 for a white paper…
  • If you can’t build a small agency of writers…
  • If you haven’t developed the next BIG thing…

That’s flawed and dangerous thinking!

    • For every Steve Jobs (the extreme situation in one industry), there are thousands of other successful “points” on that same continuum between where you are and where Jobs was at the end of his life.
    • Each of these individuals followed a very personal and unique path that simply cannot be duplicated. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a specific person at that moment in time. And because you’re NOT that person and you were NOT in that specific place at that particular time, you can’t replicate it.
    • There are dozens of great opportunities coming to you every year—each of which could help you achieve amazing success. Trouble is, we don’t see them. Or we ignore them (because we have blind spots).

–Native Americans couldn’t see Columbus’ ships because they had never seen naval ships before.

–Me’en people of Ethiopia couldn’t process the two-dimensional image of a photograph because they had never seen a photograph before.

–South Pacific islanders didn’t believe that the buffalo in the horizon were buffalo. They thought they were ants because they had never before seen open spaces of that magnitude.

  • Wishing and dreaming we could be a Steve Jobs or some copywriting superstar from the 1980s blinds us further. Keeps us from seeing the REAL opportunities in front of us—the ones that we can actually capitalize on today (the ones that were meant for us!).

My advice:

  1. Define what you want—and define it in detail.
  2. Ask yourself WHY you want it. What’s really driving you? Make sure it’s not just the money.
  3. Don’t compare! That “thing” was someone else’s dream. Are you living your own dream … or someone else’s version of it?
  4. Recognize that there’s always a tradeoff! (Sorry, but it’s true!)
  5. Use the extreme examples to better see the core lesson behind the example (to see what’s possible, how they got there, what they learned)
  6. Extrapolate what the extreme person did and use that to design your plan
  7. Recognize your progress by looking back every once in a while (where were you in your business one year ago?)
  8. Try to be more mindful of what’s in front of you today. Realize and accept the fact that there are amazing opportunities all around you. You don’t have to try and replicate someone else’s huge success. Instead, find your own! And when you think of an idea or possibility, try not to dismiss it too quickly.

Topic #2: Don’t Dabble In a Lot of Things

In talking with a lot of freelance writers and copywriters, I’m also seeing a strong tendency to want to dabble in a lot of different things.


  • “I’m mainly doing websites, but I’d like to become a video sales letter specialist as well. And maybe even start an autoresponder service…”
  • “I’d like to go after small local businesses, as well as the education market, and natural health companies. Oh, and I also want to offer white paper writing services!”

When it comes to adding a new service, specialty or target market, it should be a combination of theory and practice. By that I mean a combination of things that interest you (from a conceptual standpoint) AND where you’re getting some sort of traction or interest.

Also, it’s usually best to let these things find YOU rather than you finding (or declaring) them. I’ve rarely seen a successful freelancer get that way because they designed something that materialized exactly in the way they envisioned it.

Bottom line: you’re going to pivot—and often many times. So be open and ready, because your business will evolve many times.


  • Me (I started with direct response and ended up writing content)
  • Pete Savage (from B2B copywriting to training freelancers, and back to B2B but now through his own boutique agency)
  • Casey Demchak (medical devices, authors/speakers/coaches, key message platforms)

Two Upcoming Events You Should Check Out

I’m speaking at two events in the next few months…

#1: The 2015 HOW Live Conference + Creative Business Conference is happening on May 4th through the 8th in Chicago.

I’m going to be there, and I’ll be speaking on warm email prospecting strategies. (Would love to meet you there if you decide to go!)

This is the premier freelancer and creative business events of the year. You’ll get tactical information you can immediately put to use. Plus inspiration from the brightest minds and biggest brands, timely explorations of trends and technology, and a healthy dose of camaraderie and connection with your fellow creatives.

  • GREAT place to meet potential design partners!
  • GREAT place to meet potential agency clients!

As a listener of Smarter Freelancing you can enjoy 10% off your registration when you enter discount code FREEACADEMY15 upon checkout. (There are multiple registration options to choose from.)

To learn more or to register, visit www.HowDesignLive.com.

#2: Independent Worforce Summit.
This event was just moved to July 29th and 30th (originally in March).

This one is more for those who are thinking about going solo.

I’ll be moderating a panel on how much you can charge as an independent professional. I’m also a panelist in a session on time management and work-life balance strategies.


I think it’s about time I introduced you to someone who’s been part of this show since day one. She’s definitely a behind-the-scenes kind of gal, but you can feel her presence in just about every episode.

I’m talking, of course, about my dog Roxy. Roxy is a rescue dog. She’s a scrappy, furry mutt and a very loyal companion. Unfortunately, she barks constantly! You can often hear her in the background of many episodes.

Here she is sitting on my reading chair. 😉

Invitation to Come on Show

In my recent listener survey you indicated that you wanted me to publish more free content on how to:

  • Get better clients
  • Land more profitable work
  • Create passive income

If you have something interesting to share in one of those areas, I’d love to hear from you! Especially if you have a side business or passive income stream that’s doing relatively well. I’d love to have you on the show if it makes sense.

Also, if you know of someone you think would make a great guest for the show, please let me know. I’m always open to guest ideas.

Just shoot me an email here: ed at b2blauncher dot com.