The post every content creator should read.
I recently reread Kevin Kelly’s post 1,000 True Fans. It’s a MUST READ if you’re a content creator, small business owner, or anyone trying to cultivate a fanbase or following (that makes money) of any kind. Kelly originally wrote the post in 2008 but it’s been updated over the years and talked about by the likes of Tim Ferriss and others.
The concept is simple.
To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.
Kelly says that a true fan will buy anything you produce. If you’re a band, they’ll travel across the country to see you play. If you’re a writer, they’ll read every new book or blog post you write. These are diehard fans and they’re the ones you should build your business around.
1,000 > 1,000,000
A thousand customers is a whole lot more feasible to aim for than a million fans. Millions of paying fans is not a realistic goal to shoot for, especially when you are starting out. But a thousand fans is doable.
He’s completely right. 1,000 fans IS doable. And because 1,000 true fans is doable, it’s more valuable and sustainable than 1,000,000 fans. I’d rather have 1,000 diehard fans than spend the rest of my life shooting for an unrealistic goal of competing with a major corporation’s fanbase.
Do some math and you’ll see just how valuable Kelly’s concept can be. Keep in mind that 1,000 is, as he says, not an absolute number. You could be shooting for 500 fans or 2,000 or 3,000. Either way, these more palatable numbers of diehard fans can sustain your business.
If you can earn, on average, $100 per year from each fan, then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year.
The Math Behind It
Think about that… He breaks it down further for different amounts of both fans and how much you earn per fan on average.
If you average $50 per year from each fan, you need 2,000 fans to earn $100,000 per year. But of course, you could also go the opposite direction too. If you average $200 per year from each fan, then you need only 500 fans to earn $100,000 per year.
Making a living as a content creator or small business owner is much more feasible than you’d think — so long as you have a diehard core fanbase.
Kelly says that “the big corporations, the intermediates, the commercial producers, are all under-equipped and ill suited to connect with these thousand true fans.” Big corporations can’t connect on a peer-to-peer level with fans the way a single content creator can. That’s where your value rises in relation to the big guys going after millions. You don’t need millions. You don’t want millions. You want to satisfy your 1,000 true fans.
Niche audiences are interested in what you, uniquely have to offer. They like the sound of your music, the way you write, the takes you have, or the art you create. They’re a small but mighty group. You can have a direct relationship with 1,000 true fans in a way that improves the experience on both your and the fan’s end.
I reread 1,000 True Fans because I’m personally trying to reach 1,000 fans for my own project — The Bitcoin Binge Letter.
I’m a content creator, probably like you. I write posts, make videos, engage on social and at my website with people interested in Bitcoin, cryptocurrency investing, and cryptocurrency mining. I started mining crypto last year and found the community to be energizing. Now, I aim to interact with the followers I’ve gained on a frequent basis and at a personal level. I like giving advice about the topic. I like my niche.
What’s Your Niche?
AND, can you get 1,000 true fans in that niche who will follow you and consume whatever you produce? That’s the goal.
It’s more attainable than you’d think. I’m not quite there yet but I’m on my way. My project is a side hustle that may someday turn into something more substantial. Even if it remains a side hustle though, just consider Kelly’s concept in that context.
To make $20,000 per year from a side hustle, you’d only need to earn $100 per year on average from 200 fans. Whatever your goal is, it’s probably more feasible than you’d think. Run the numbers and find out.
I’ll leave you with Kelly’s takeaway. Go ahead and read the entire essay though and it will motivate you to cultivate your fanbase.
The takeaway: 1,000 true fans is an alternative path to success other than stardom. Instead of trying to reach the narrow and unlikely peaks of platinum bestseller hits, blockbusters, and celebrity status, you can aim for direct connection with a thousand true fans.