Before graduating from Smith College at 18 years old, Dorie Clark wanted to be a cross between George Stephanopoulos and Tony Robbins when she grew up. Given her public-facing, analytical yet motivational approach to empowering fellow entrepreneurs now, it seems that wishes come true.
Along the way, Clark has been a political reporter, a presidential campaign spokesperson, a nonprofit executive director and a marketing strategy consultant. Recently, the New York-based author published Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive.
In the book—which builds on the personal brand-building and platform development explored in her previous titles, Reinventing You and Stand Out—Clark profiles dozens of entrepreneurs and reveals the inner workings of her own career.
Her business model is fueled by eight distinct streams designed to diversify revenue and minimize risk: writing (blog posts, journalism and books); professional speaking; university teaching; executive coaching; consulting; online course instruction; affiliate marketing; and facilitating in-person "mastermind" retreats inspired by Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.
"It all coalesces in a self-reinforcing flywheel of business," says Clark.
Inevitably, given her clear-eyed intention to motivate, she also examines higher-level entrepreneurial drivers: financial liberation and the ability to shape one's own professional destiny.
How do you define the primary audience for this book?
Although it can serve as road map for aspiring business owners, it's really for established entrepreneurs who are pushing themselves too hard and want to develop multiple income streams to generate passive income. Historically, the way to become more successful is to work more and do more, but you hit a wall after a while, especially if you're doing a lot of hands-on professional services work. What else can you do to scale better?
What motivates you to share your ideas across so many platforms?
I started my own marketing strategy consulting business in 2006, and the minute you launch a business, you realize that everyone else is doing the same thing. The competition seemed infinite. I had to distinguish myself in the field, or I wasn't going to get clients. I was also highly motivated because I got laid off from my first job in journalism. That made me realize how precarious purportedly safe things can be, and that you have to build your own options and skills. No one else is going to do it for you.
So many people out there are talented and have great ideas, but they never break through to the extent that they should. That's because they don't understand how to get noticed amidst all the noise and competition. Standing out is a very different skill set than being good at what you do. You have to learn both.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs challenged by extracting and presenting their message?
I explore this in depth in my book Stand Out, but briefly, ask: What are people already coming to you for? Sometimes we imagine that we have to concoct our contribution or figure it out. Instead, see where the traction already is. In what do your friends already consider you an expert?
—Dorie Clark, author, Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive
We stress about it too much. Your niche is an emergent property: It comes only through pursuing your interests. In the course of doing that, you might realize that you think about something differently than most people do and want to explore that. Not knowing your magic hook shouldn't be a barrier to taking steps toward establishing yourself as an expert.
For entrepreneurs without your background in writing and communications, how might they develop their voice and tone?
While I believe content creation is essential for establishing your brand and getting recognized as an expert, I am very platform-agnostic. You could start with writing if that works for you. Your format could be podcast or video or live events. The classic example here is Gary Vaynerchuk. Before starting his online video series about wine more than ten years ago, he thought about blogging, because video then was so nascent. But realizing that he presents his best self through talking more than in writing, he consciously rejected that. Video became his thing, and he's had great success with it.
What about entrepreneurs with companies growing so fast it's hard to stay above water? How can they prioritize this higher-level work around cultivating thought leadership?
I'd suggest waiting until your income and revenue are fairly secure. A lot of successful professionals continue the hectic pace beyond that point and stay on the hamster wheel even after they're making a healthy six-figure income. They keep running, totally focused on sales, closing deals, and client services. They trap themselves by not investing in marketing along the way. By marketing, I don't mean buying ads. I mean marketing in the sense of long-term platform building.
Once you get above subsistence-level, you have to switch the ratio. You can grow your business incrementally with sales, but you can grow it exponentially with marketing. The problem is, it takes time, so you have to start now. It's not the first blog post that's going to get you a customer and not the 10th, either. It's the 100th blog post, because it's about repetition and trust building. It will be a much higher-level customer because you're not knocking on their door; they're knocking on yours. The power dynamic and the level to which they want you—and will pay top-dollar for your services—are much different.