Free advice is outrageously expensive

“Just start…”

I’ve read that sentiment so many times over the past four or five years.

Like…

Just start publishing on LinkedIn. You’ve been putting it off for way too long. Just start, and you’ll figure it out as you go.

There’s some truth in there, but broadly speaking, it’s terrible advice.

It’d be like advising someone to swim across the English Channel.

“Get in the water. Just start swimming, and you’ll figure out where France is (and isn’t) as you go. The further you swim, the stronger you’ll get.”

​I recently shared my story of growing 15,000 social followers from scratch in 6 months​.

But here’s something I didn’t share.

Along the journey, I was in regular Zoom calls with some very impressive individuals.

One person was making $250k+ per year selling online courses. Another had bootstrapped an Inc5000 business. Many others had worked for some of the biggest brands on the planet.

They were all offering me free advice.

And it cost me a fortune

Or at least, the way I processed it did…

Is all advice created equal?

The visual above is from the book ​Hidden Potential by Adam Grant.​

I think about it a lot.

At best, pretty much all free advice is worthless. It’s autobiographical.

If a person doesn’t know where you’ve been, doesn’t know where you want to go, and/or has neither the experience nor expertise to help you get there, it’s worthless.

But during those six months of building an audience, that advice went from worthless to harmful.

Different advice from different people was informing every weekly decision.

One week I’m writing a thread on PowerPoint Presentations, the next I’m writing about Steve Jobs, and after that I’m writing about my own marketing storytelling process. I’m launching a visual selling cohort, then I’m selling visual storytelling to agencies at $20k a pop.

It was completely scattergun.

I was working hard and getting nowhere

I felt like a dog chasing its tail

But this pattern didn’t start with the audience-building adventure. It had been happening for years.

I’d read Alex Hormozi and want to create an irresistible offer. Then I’d read Ries and Trout and figure experts don’t offer guarantees, so I’d pull the offer. Then I’d listen to Gary Vee and realise none of the above matters. I’m just not hustling enough - I need to post 5x per day on Twitter!

All the while, I’m changing my websites, my offers, my content…

And after months of switching from tactic to tactic, I’ve got nothing to show for it.

And what’s worse, I’d look at the work I’d produced over the previous few months and think to myself, ‘of course that was never going to work.’

My head is swirling. I’m confused, frustrated, and angry with myself.

Stop jumping from one idea to the next, Liam!

Why can’t you just pick one tactic and stick to it!

I was taking in as much marketing information as possible from books, blogs, and podcasts. Trying to absorb as much value as possible. Take notes and implement.

But there was just too much, most of it conflicting.

There was no context, and the advice given is only suitable for a very specific situation and set of criteria (which match those of the author).

After the audience-building experience, I wanted to shut off all this free advice and dial down the noise.

I just wanted to put my head down, follow a plan knowing it works, and simply do the work without second guessing.

But here’s the problem with that…

You can’t close yourself off from the world

Experts pick up new ideas. Their ideas evolve. They’re attuned to what’s going on in the market and the wider world around them.

In the context of selling expertise, creating a persuasive value proposition, or creating engaging content, we need to understand alternative perspectives from our own (namely the client’s).

If we’re not out in the world, exploring fresh perspectives and ideas, we stagnate and our knowledge becomes obsolete.

Check out the pyramids. Different perspectives see different things.

But how do you strike a balance?

How do you take in new information or advice, but at the same time ​‘stay on the bus’​.

Strategy

In the context of content marketing, you figure out, upfront:

  • What you want to achieve
  • When you want to achieve it by
  • Who you’re going to serve
  • What they want from you
  • Where they want it
  • How you deliver it

Strategy is a lens through which you make every decision moving forward.

Through that lens, you can actively listen, read, and watch everything you have time for.

You take the nuggets that support your strategy and discard the rest.

With strategy, you and I no longer chase shiny objects. It’s like bowling with the guard rails up - it keeps your ball from drifting into the gutter but doesn’t stop you from moving forward.

Suddenly, we don’t have the problem of following free advice because we’re no longer receiving free advice…

We’re seeking perspectives

I don’t want free advice or opinions.

I want honest perspectives.

That’s what’s on offer, and they’re invaluable if you take them for what they are.

With a solid strategy you wholeheartedly believe in, books, podcasts, videos, and blogs (like this one) become perspective rather than opinion pieces.

You take what you need and nothing more.

And with it, you figure out exactly what to create that attracts the right kind of attention from the right kind of people.

Have you ever felt the pain of following (free) bad advice?

Email and let me know (liam@liamcurley.co.uk)

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