You’ve likely heard a creative person only needs 1000 true fans to make a living. That’s 1000 people who will purchase everything this person creates.
That figure landed in my head a few months ago after a conversation with an important person in my life. I was in the middle of moving a site to a brand new platform, watching the old site do a death spiral, and dealing with a people who couldn’t reset passwords.
I hit a personal wall of frustration and mental fatigue.
This person thought I should be hand-holding and helping people with the technology to access my site. In other words, I should be helping folks reset passwords regularly and providing tech support for these folks (even though there were a very small number who can’t seem to remember or use even the instructions I constructed for them.)
Doing this was a good thing to do in this person’s opinion.
And I pointed out a simple lesson I’d learned from answering reader question from the newsletter. If I have 100 readers, I can answer their questions. If I have 9000, I can’t. Individual attention doesn’t scale on the Net. 1 to 1 works. 1 to 9000 doesn’t.
I explained this means providing tech service, constantly adjusting passwords for folks doesn’t scale any more than answering questions does. Easy to do with 100 but impossible with 1000.
I could provide tech support or I could provide great content but I couldn’t do both really well.
As I explained this, I had to take a very deep breath as that thought matured and burned itself into my consciousness.
This is why I took the Q&A to a premium membership site. I want to be able to provide individual gardening attention to readers who care enough to buy me a cup of coffee a month.
But if they refused to use modern passwords, if they continually asked me to reset their passwords because they wouldn’t even use a password manager such as 1Password, or even one of the free options, then perhaps, just perhaps it was time for both of us to rethink the relationship.
A few already have. They’ve quit the site because they can’t figure out, can’t remember or won’t use modern passwords. They see no reason why they should.
When this first happened, when I read the first angry email, I was both disappointed and upset. Now, I realize it’s inevitable and am no longer upset when somebody makes that decision.
I also note that some of those who unsubscribe don’t understand how Paypal works.
For example, I’ve had a half dozen subscribers who decided to unsubscribe but didn’t know how to do this. Instead of a) cancelling their subscription (under profile) or asking me to cancel their subscription (I can cancel individual subscriptions) they file a formal complaint with Paypal saying they’ve been unfairly charged.
This means I have to waste my time responding to the “charges of unfair withdrawal”. It also puts a negative mark on my Paypal business account.
I don’t need that kind of reader. They do more harm than good.
It’s Another Clash Of Old and New
I’ve decided this is unfortunate but an inevitable clashing of old and new values and decisions.
It would seem that a criteria for being one of the 1000 true fans of any modern creator is the willingness to deal with the technology the creator uses.
This means you can follow this blog without any technology other than a connection and a browser. But you can’t access my premium site without a great memory or a password manager of some description.
I’m sure you can think of other examples where some levels of entertainment or information are free but extended use involves payment and more technology. For example, newspapers now offer you a few article reads before they lock you out and tell you to get a subscription. And the password to that subscription introduces another layer of technology.
In yee olde days, there were readers who bought my books and those who read them at the library. One gave me an ongoing lifestyle and the other was a gift to the community. But I didn’t have to offer reading lessons or provide support to the library.
Now, there are readers who purchase memberships and ebooks and those who read for free on my websites.
To follow the print analogy, I’m not responsible for my reader’s tech issues. I can, and have, set up systems to help but I’m not their tech support person. If they want to read for free, there’s a website for that but if they want more and better content, they’ll have to pay for it.
Yes, I’ll lose readers but if they can’t or won’t work within the user or payment systems I have to use to make my living, then they’re not really one of those 1000 true fans I need now.
It was a gut wrenching decision when I finally made that decision. I can be a tech team or I can be a writer.
Now, instead of having to know where to find a library or find a bookstore, my true fans have to be computer literate enough to use sites such as Amazon or online membership and payment system.
Just another sign of changing times.