Happy Career Formula with Jette Stubbs

5. Imposter Syndrome, Vulnerability and Building an Audience Online: Jon Aaron Sandler's Journey

March 10, 2021 Jette Stubbs, Jon Aaron Sandler Season 1 Episode 5
Happy Career Formula with Jette Stubbs
5. Imposter Syndrome, Vulnerability and Building an Audience Online: Jon Aaron Sandler's Journey
Show Notes Transcript

Have you ever thought to follow your passion and do what you love to do?  And then all the fears creep in: Who will pay you for this? How will you build an audience? What if people don't like what you do?  Imposter syndrome of asking, "Who am I to do this?" What if people laugh at your goals?

Jon Aaron Sandler knows those fears well. "You are too boring," the Parisian guitarist said to him on a public stage😳 after he shared his work.  It led him to family, travel, catastrophic injury, learning to walk again and reckoning with vulnerability in a new way to own and share his story to pursue his dreams.

In 2019, he had ZERO social media accounts, ZERO email list, and ZERO online presence. By 2020 during the pandemic, he had an international audience with 500,000 monthly Twitter impressions, a live virtual event attended by people across multiple continents, and a sold-out product launch. Now, that he has an audience, we'll talk about what to do next.

On the show, we'll be talking about Part 1 of Jon Aaron Sandler's journey about the good and bad of change:

  • How to approach building an audience, if you are a total newbie and want to create growth
  • How to handle trolls, online rage, including how he's turned bad situations into creating new superfans
  • How to shift from building followers and accruing "Likes" to creating genuine engagement

It's helpful because you can learn from someone who started from scratch or zero recently. Check it out so you can learn how you can make progress too. 

Jon Aaron Sandler: I put this stuff out. Why is no one looking at it? You know? 

[00:00:04] Jette Stubbs: So we've all been there trying to grow our  audience and  online following, but instead, end up feeling stuck. Feeling inauthentic, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out what to say. That was a big one for me. You end up asking yourself, why is no one responding or why isn't this working?

[00:00:22] If this sounds like you and you already tried or are currently trying to build your online following then episode is for you. You're listening to the happy career with Jette Stubbs, where we talk about how to find what you love to do and turn it into ways to make money. Even if you have no idea where to start.

[00:00:40] You don't want to seem pushy, sleazy or salesy or use any of those loud, irritating marketing tactics. You know, you hate seeing and you don't want to do yourself. So today we're talking with, to creative entrepreneur because creative entrepreneurs and those in the arts often struggle the most with finding a way to market themselves that feels authentic to who they are.

[00:01:03] And also find a way to monetize it, to make money. We're chatting with Jon Aaron Sandler, who went from never sharing his work and having no social media accounts. really starting from zero to having monthly Twitter impressions of over 500,000 launching a live event with regular attendees of about 30 to 40 people.

[00:01:24]Receiving gifts from fans from all over the world, selling out his first batch of products and building a community with members from all over the world. Actually, it's really nice to talk to somebody who's still in that process of building their audience. Because when you're talking to somebody who has millions of followers, their approach is different.

[00:01:40] They already have a fan base. So we're talking to someone who started from scratch recently and knows what's that's like. So this is an interview with the second creative entrepreneur. I'm proud to say as a former student or client of mine, who's a few steps ahead. 

[00:01:57]He already has an audience. So now he has some momentum and we're going to talk about how we built that momentum and where he's moving forward. and Jon's personal story is equally as interesting as how he has grown his audience. It started when he was performing his guitar live on a public stage for a master preacher guitarist, and the guitarist told him you are too boring and really had no business playing a song meant to have emotions because he hadn't lived enough.

[00:02:26] He hadn't experienced life enough. So Jon went on a journey to find himself and in the process, try to escape a psychiatric ward, had a one in a million knee injury that shattered his bone. Had to learn how to walk again, then put himself back into the world and along the way here to learn, to let his guard down and be vulnerable.

[00:02:48] This is part one of the conversation that we'll be having with Jon. And today we'll be covering how to approach posting on social media. If you're a total newbie and wanting to create growth, how he handles Twitter, rage and potential trolls, including turning some of them into his super fans. How does shift from building followers to creating genuine engagement.

[00:03:08] So let's get started. Welcome, Jon. 

[00:03:11] Jon Aaron Sandler: Thank you for having me on this is cool. This is very cool. 

[00:03:14] Jette Stubbs: Tell me a little bit about how it was when you were first starting and you wanted to be a writer. What did you see as your main obstacles? 

[00:03:21] Jon Aaron Sandler: it's really, it's really funny because it was zero.

[00:03:24] It was nothing. I had no Instagram. I had no Facebook. I had no Twitter. I had never read in front of a live audience. I hadn't published anything. And, it was ironic because I, you know, I was a musician for a little while. And when I was in music school, I was arguing, Oh, you got to get on YouTube. You got to get on Facebook.

[00:03:43] We need to teach people how to do this when it's first started. And then all of a sudden. I guess because nobody wanted to do that back then. And it turned mean a little bit. I would, you often see the mean parts of social media and you don't want to have to, I got a little bit freaked out and walked away from it and didn't know what to do with it.

[00:04:00] So then obviously we started working together and you were like, no, one's seeing your stuff's very good. No, one's seeing it. So what's the point, you know, and the first thing was to. Get back on Facebook, which was obviously the older platform. I started Twitter, start an Instagram, and just look for venues in Toronto, where you could get a bit of an audience and a bit of feedback and use social media to find those audiences because they were there.

[00:04:29] And so the exciting thing was. To discover almost within two or three weeks that there's a Facebook page. There was a group called stories you don't tell. And they would say, yeah, just show up, tell us your story. We'll work with you on it. And then you'll be in front of an audience in two weeks. And I was like, that was fast.

[00:04:48] We have enough, this was here the whole time. from there, it was obviously not a huge amount of social media growth right off the top. I think Instagram went up, you know, by. Hundreds. And it was that thing. People do the follow for follow thing. So it was a little, it wasn't necessarily an audience that was tremendously engaged, but at least it looked good.

[00:05:08] And there was a plan to put out a different content over a period of time. So it grew and it was okay. Didn't know what to do with Twitter. I had, within a year I managed to get 11 followers in a robot. which was great, you know, and I'd really didn't know what to do with that. And then, also to get a website, I think, as, you said, you know, what do you want to be?

[00:05:31]what did you want your website to be like, what do you want to be like as a writer who are your favorites out there who are doing things you find interesting? what would it mean for this to work and, you know, be prepared for that? And so we used, we use blue host, used the visual builder to make things go faster and quickly had a little website up, which, was, you know, lots of tears on my end, because obviously now you are putting things out there and now you could fail.

[00:05:56] And I realized for me, once things were out there even a little bit, that was the part I realized, was really hard that now I was putting things out and people could see them. And if they weren't good enough, You know, what would that mean? And I embarrassed myself, essentially. That was the big concern.

[00:06:15]but then I've got a newsletter going MailChimp again, 10 people, mostly family, one friend, and, just started sending things up and learning how the infrastructure worked, which was actually helpful to have a small audience to start that was supportive. because the, you know, that fear of embarrassment was limited really.

[00:06:33]and yeah, that's where it was within a boat, but the two or three months I did within two or three months, I'd done two to three live shows. I had all the social media up and running. I had a little website, a friend of mine who's an illustrator was illustrating for it. I had a plan for it. you know, Color schemes.

[00:06:49] What I wanted it to look like at a consistency for everything. and, ended up two or three people that really loved it. 

[00:06:56] Jette Stubbs: And how did it feel? Cause I know you say two or three people, like it's a small amount, but I remember when you got those first two or three people from like different parts of the world who were listening to you and you're like, these people are strangers and they actually like what I do.

[00:07:09] So how did that feel? Making that transition and to get your first few authentic followers? 

[00:07:16] Jon Aaron Sandler: it was very intense. It was surprisingly intense. And I think that was a good thing because I think it made me realize how important every single person is. When we see people who have millions of followers or hundreds of thousands, whatever they are, when we see the, my favorite authors who've been around for 30 years, have a big publishing company behind them.

[00:07:33]you're seeing them at the top of their careers and things have totally changed the way they interact with our audience. It has to change.  So I see the way they talk to the audience, the way they do things, which I couldn't copy because you're talking, knowing you have a million people you're talking to.

[00:07:47]and so I was like, I don't know how to talk here, because if I talk like that, it just, it sounds insane. I'm just yelling to an empty room. And then that first person, I think it was a writer from Florida actually. did a little Instagram review of my work. You know, it might've been a paragraph.

[00:08:02] It was in her story and it basically said, this is really good. It's really quick. It's way better than something like this should be something along those lines, you know, you'll laugh or cry. It was, it seemed really very sincere. And I remember seeing that and I was out in the city. I was out of my apartment and I was like, almost like a adrenaline rush.

[00:08:21] It was really. Crazy to realize, Oh, there's someone in Florida who has read my stuff, wants to tell people about it and I didn't hire them. And I don't know who they are. They're not a friend, like I have had no interaction otherwise. and I think at that point, I didn't really know what to do. I think I sent her a much too long direct message thanking her over and over again.

[00:08:41] And she was cool. She just said, no, it's cool. Don't worry about it. but that was the first thing. And it was very intense. And I think for a little bit, it was. It also was good for me because it made me realize that, okay, yeah, you need to, you need this as a job. You need to work at this.

[00:08:55] You can't just send stuff out to send stuff out. if it's one of those things you need to be working at this, fairly hard and consistently, because each time this happens is, is exciting and important. 

[00:09:06] Jette Stubbs: Okay. That's I absolutely agree with you. And I do remember how excited you were when that happened.

[00:09:12]Jon Aaron Sandler: also I, like, how do I respond? What do I do? What if I lose this one? My one fan, what have I, you know, I think, and I didn't, I hadn't, and I realized this too. I hadn't developed my social media voice, which is my social media voice. Didn't sound like when I'm talking to you now, it was very clunky, very formal.

[00:09:30] Very clearly afraid of saying anything wrong. and I think that looks a little bit, it reads a little bit odd on the other side. So I think it probably. Yeah. I came off a little bit strange initially, but I relaxed it's okay.

[00:09:45]Jette Stubbs:  I think that's so true. what you said about finding your social media voice, because if you're not on social media and you're not active, you don't really know what sounds appropriate and what sounds off.

[00:09:55] And you're not used to writing or like sending out an email, like you said, if you don't have a million followers and you don't know what they're going to say, you don't know how people are responding and you feel like. I'm just writing to nobody. Why am I doing this? So how did you overcome, I know you said that you did it, but how did you overcome those fears and how did you shift the way you think about it to make it happen?

[00:10:17]Jon Aaron Sandler: I think I the nice thing was it's mostly text and, I've got a, literature background, you know, education and stuff. And I just, I'm used to reading things a lot for a long period of time trying to figure them out. and I think what I realized was that. When ever you get a lot of people in a space, you've got a culture or you get a many cultures and it develops conventions.

[00:10:38] And as I was reading through Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, I realized these things have been around 10, 11, 12, 15 years. there is a whole way of talking that's developed and, you can read it. You can tell, you just have to be reading what people are posting quite a bit. You have to be engaging with them and seeing how they reply. There's it was really understanding, like there is a cultural, social media language specific to each, platform that you could study. Then relax into and then do your own thing with that, or talk against it.

[00:11:12]I can talk about it later, but on Twitter I'm really, I, my plan really was to do some, to have a different voice than I saw. Other guys like me having on Twitter, which was like not angry, not controversial, but aggressive, you know, not the loudspeaker in the room, taking up a bunch of space, but something else.

[00:11:32]and so that's really what it was. It was really just studying them and reading them for months and months, until, you know, I was like, Oh, okay. Yeah, this is how people are doing things here. 

[00:11:41] Jette Stubbs: how did it feel when you were first sharing your writing? Cause that's another big thing.

[00:11:45] A lot of writers like to sit in there, sit behind their laptop or stay behind a book and not actually share or put anything out there. So how did you make that shift to be like, I am going to put this out into the internet where it's going to stay forever and people can be as harsh as they like, and I can have trolls and all of that can exist.

[00:12:04] How did you manage 

[00:12:05] Jon Aaron Sandler: that? I think, you know, I see even established writers, really struggled with that and just want to disappear into a room and write. a lot of writers are don't want to engage directly with an audience. That's why they're not singers or actors or something like that. And I think that, I really sympathize or empathize with that struggle.

[00:12:22] Cause I think that was my idea that I would write the book. Someone would take it. And they would deal with everything. And I would just write the next book. And that was the, you know, the pre social media world I grew up in as a teenager. That's what you did. You got your publisher, they put you up on a stage.

[00:12:39] You wear a cordoned off like a. You know, special person and you didn't get, you know, everything was managed that was the dream and it doesn't really exist any more, unless I suppose you're very, very famous. and so I was hard to let go of really, that was the difficult thing to get into an engaging back and forth a more community idea.

[00:12:58] And so I think the way. the two ways I tried to get over that in terms of putting my writing out, the live events are really helpful in Toronto. And my, obviously you can't really do those now, but, being around other people who are also reading things to an audience and then being able to chat with them afterwards, just allowed a sense of.

[00:13:18] Okay. You're part of something here and you're, you know, you're not super special, you're just doing a thing which was important to get rid of that ego that you're super special and realize that you're more part of a community. And then I think online, I just I guess it's like a trick.

[00:13:33] I just thought just treat this, like you're in a salon, like it's 1920s, Paris, and you got a bunch of writers around and you got some people that want to support you. And you got some people that want to hear what you have to say, and you're just talking to them and you're putting your stuff out there and it's, it doesn't have to be the finished product.

[00:13:49] It's an experiment and you're putting it out. And then you're just going to put out the next one and the next one. And they're going to come back to you with what they think, and it's totally fine. You know, this is. This is how it's going to go back and forth, as a community, as opposed to I'm writing.

[00:14:03] And you're the reader I had to get rid of that idea that I'm the writer, you're the reader. And it was more like, no, we're all in this creating different things together and the, and having feedback all the time and just getting used to that. That was a good thing. 

[00:14:16] Jette Stubbs: Okay. and so talk a bit about where you are at now.

[00:14:20] Like now you have some events going on, you've got some products, I don't really know what you're doing now, to be honest. so give an update about what you've been able to accomplish, because it was like, and how long do you think it's been since you've started? Like how long has it taken you to accomplish that?

[00:14:36] Gives it like a timeline. 

[00:14:38] Jon Aaron Sandler: Yeah. So I think we're looking at almost two years. and you know, and really doing things intentionally about two years, almost coming up to the two year Mark, and it was a very slow start. You know, it was those maybe two to 10 people. It was a supportive community in Toronto.

[00:14:55] It was a couple hundred people on Instagram. And, it was a struggle sometimes because, you know, I would be writing stories that I really liked, or that some people were telling me that I liked, that they liked. And, I wouldn't really know where to put them. I couldn't see anywhere where you could submit at my kind of stuff.

[00:15:12] And so what happened, lately in March was obviously COVID hit. And I was just looking at Twitter. I started telling this story, you know, I was sitting on the couch and I was looking, I was just staring at it because something was happening, which is everybody who wasn't on Twitter had come back because they were all under lockdown.

[00:15:33] And they were used to having a community. They weren't used to Twitter fighting and they were looking for it and it started around writers and they started this thing called a hashtag writers lift. And it was essentially like, you follow me off, I'll have your back. And then we'll have a thousand followers kind of thing.

[00:15:50] So you could get an audience. You could suddenly have like followers very quickly. And I remember telling my girlfriend, I looked at her, I said, I think I can get 20 followers. And she said, I'm so proud of you. And then within a week it was 500 and then two weeks is a thousand. And then I saw someone who had 50,000 followers say.

[00:16:10] This doesn't work. I have 50,000 followers and I've sold one book. I hate this. I'm going to leave. So of course, quid pro quo. It only gets you so far, but the Twitter algorithm hadn't caught up. I think it still was. Once you got to a thousand, it was starting to show you to new people. And so building on that, I just said, okay, How many people do I really need, I need support here.

[00:16:32] I just don't need people sending me their stuff to read. And I send them my stuff to read and we don't read each other's stuff. That's not what I write. That's no good. I need people who I like their stuff and I want to read it and that there'll be supportive of me and I, how are you going to do that?

[00:16:47] And so I Within about a month having this thousand followers, I did what I called, like the man on the street approach, which was, I just pretended I was standing outside of a store and I was just trying to come up to people and say their most amazing thing you've ever seen is in this store.

[00:17:02] Like I've, you know, and just trying to entertain them almost you know, whatever. And so that, what that meant was if someone seemed people were coming up on my feed now because I had followers. If someone seemed like a nice person. And I was looking at their tweets and they were looking for community, which is to say that it wasn't just retweets of everything and it wasn't just them sending their book, but they were trying to make any comments or interact.

[00:17:23] I would find something that I could interact with a question or something they said, and I would just go so overboard with quality. I would go to their mentions and I would drop like a stop motion video, with sound that had something to do with what they were saying. Or I were to record a song with video, with my guitar.

[00:17:41] They would say I'm looking for music, anybody got any music? And I would be like, this is a specific song for you. Just, I would say if anybody wants their bio is written in the style of dr. Zeus, you know, just comment below here. You know, and then I would take two days and I would write all their bios in the style of dr.

[00:17:58] Seuss. And I would go and research well, what makes doctors, dr. Seuss now go Oh, it's a meter and it's a kind of rhyme. And you know, I would be like, this will, this is going to look no different than that. at one point, people obviously are used to being very antagonistic on Twitter. And I think I wrote, man, I'm almost at a coffee.

[00:18:16] I'm guessing I'm going to go to the Starbucks Christmas blend. Cause I had this, you know, and of course someone said a Starbucks be nice, you know, and this was a woman named call it on Twitter writer. she's a writer there. And I said, what do you use? And she's I only use instant with cinnamon.

[00:18:32] And I said, okay. And then I looked at the Starbucks and it was decaf. And I didn't want decaf. So I tweeted her back and I said, this is decaf. How do you make your instant with cinnamon? And she said, I have Nescafe and cinnamon. And so I realized I had all of these things. I had Nescafe instant in my thing.

[00:18:46] I had cinnamon. I went through the, I think I videoed how I made it. And then other people jumped in to talk about how they like instant or they like whatever. It became a like a nice thing. And then afterwards I said, everyone, this has been a journey. Thank you all. And Kala was nice to laugh at that.

[00:19:02] And now, and she was one of my first supporters. We have a really great thing. I'm sending her bookmarks, you know, free as just a thank you like in a week or something. And so it went from being a thing that was very aggressive and mean, and just through putting the energy in to really pay attention and talk to the person like a person and kind of joke around a bit, maybe a little bit of luck.

[00:19:22] There was a nicer vibe that developed, and I think people appreciated it. And those were my first 20 followers. So I got to, you know, it looks like I have 1500, I really have 20. And then I was chatting with them, different things, trying different stuff that I saw. Again, there's a culture there. I saw people, review movies, people, review books, people, a witty thing happens, or there's a viral Woody treat and people try to imitate it, all that kind of stuff with varying kind of degrees of effect.

[00:19:47] And then once I had this sort of 20 to 40. Followers that I was enjoying with. Then I realized that, you know, just by chance, like just by luck, I had taken a picture for my profile of Colin. Firth is mr. Darcy from the movie pride and prejudice or the TV show. And I'd done that. Cause my sister-in-law had been joking that I didn't look anything like him.

[00:20:06] So I took a picture and it said caught myself in the mirror and it was such a funny picture. Cause he looks miffed. Like he looks a little pissed off in it that I put it as my profile picture. And then people who also had, there was someone who had Sauron's evil eye as his profile picture.

[00:20:20] There was somebody with Charles Darwin and they had these names. I just started to talk to them as if they were those people. And it became like live theater. Like I was having. Conversations between mr. Darcy and Charles Darwin or between Soran and mr. Darcy. And then we would just start joking around a little bit and make, almost making like a live story out of it.

[00:20:42] And I would just start doing this stuff and people were really enjoying that creative part. So it went from just trying to get anybody to pay attention with a lot of these creative stuff. To getting them included in the creative process and making stuff. And then it went from that to them saying I'm having such a good time here after say two or three months, because the other thing was, I was insisting on doing things consistently.

[00:21:02] I was like, this is my job. Now I'm going to keep hours. It's nine to five. These are my Twitter hours. And I'm going to be available, checking all the time and trying to create and do things and entertain people. And then after about three or four months, someone said, I'm having such a good time.

[00:21:16] I just want to pay you. And I said, that's a great idea. So I looked again, I looked, I said, what are people doing on Twitter? Cause no one was doing Patreon. Patreon I think is for various stablish artists. And I saw some people just complain that patron wasn't really working for them. And a few people said I'm having such a good time on buy me a coffee, which I'd never heard of.

[00:21:35] So I checked it out and it's a, the advantage was you didn't have to do a membership. People could just pay you whenever they wanted to. They would buy you a coffee. that was the marketing. So I just started when I just saw Jon air Sandler, buy me a coffee and I just put it up there and within a few, and within a few days, I think I'd made, people had given about a hundred, 200 bucks, you know, and we're just like, we really like what you're doing, please keep it up.

[00:21:59] Don't go anywhere. and then, so then people started to actively contact me to do collaborations. So there's a friend of mine on Twitter. Maximillian high Mount. His wife said you're off work. You're home from COVID. you should collaborate with this guy. I think he's fun. So we started to do, he, so he TDM, he said, I want to do this.

[00:22:17] What do you want to do? And I said, what I realized with Twitter, I was like, you know, what you want to do is short stuff. Low-risk low cost with the possibility of consistently continuing a little bit of a story, you don't do a big thing. Don't do even a minute or two minute video do a 15 second video or something and just something nice and easy.

[00:22:38]that isn't going to demand a lot of attention because I realized that there's something, I saw it on Twitter as a people seem to feel a little bit frustrated when they don't get the attention, or I don't want to say they feel entitled to it, but I think they feel maybe from seeing again the, really how the really popular people run their accounts.

[00:22:56] I put this stuff out. Why is no one looking at it? You know? And I realized, okay, look, what if I pretended that everybody's attention was super precious, I'm entitled to nothing. Everything's a gift. what would that mean? It would mean is I can't ask for a lot of it. I can ask for very small amounts and if I get anything in and it has to be high quality in that, and I have to do it consistently, so people get what I'm doing and if I get anything it's a gift and I really should respond in kind and say that was a gift.

[00:23:21] Just your attention. Here's something as a thank you. And so what we started doing was, good morning to each other. So I would take some kind of fun picture of coffee. I would do, like I researched how to do. iPhone stuff, iPhone tricks, again, you know, girlfriend whose is who it goes by H on Twitter.

[00:23:38] And that's a whole other story that, is important to this. she would send me things he's this is how you, this is tick. She's like here's tick talking. Here's what it says about doing stuff on your iPhone. And I would study that and I would do these sort of slow-mo tricks to make the coffee look nice.

[00:23:51] And I would put music behind it. And I would just say, good morning, max. And I would add him. And then he would good morning me with a similar video. And we just kept doing this for quite a while. And adding things to it. And all of a sudden people started to notice and they started to call us like the bromance of writer, Twitter, you 

[00:24:06] Jette Stubbs: know, and 

[00:24:08] Jon Aaron Sandler: we became characters just like a Charles Darwin or a soar on or anything like that.

[00:24:12]and that continued for a while and I was starting to do that with other people. So that's how a bit of a, you know, a bit of a group was developing. Who had a bit of a short hand, and a bit of a sense of play and was creating stuff and having fun, started there. And then on the other side of that is, you know, I realized if I'm really.

[00:24:33] Putting myself out there, you're going to get some stuff in the DMS that are uncomfortable, 

[00:24:39] Jette Stubbs: right? 

[00:24:39] Jon Aaron Sandler: Yeah. I think everybody's familiar with that. I probably get it a lot less than you and some others, but still it was whatever. And so I realized, I should say like I'm in a relationship or something, but, my, girl was very private.

[00:24:52] She's not on Twitter publicly. And, she would say really funny things that I thought were like. You know, making fun of me a little bit. And I thought women would like that a little bit to like it, they were fun or they were just things like, you know, this, the blanket is so stinky and it's all my work, you know?

[00:25:11] And I'm just like, that's a really funny thing, you know, and some people don't feel allowed to say that it is just a funny kind of thing. So I started doing what I called H dialogues and I used H because it's, First thought of her name, but it's also in a there's this French book I was reading and he calls his partner H in it, and it just let her just worked as opposed to other letters that are taken in a way.

[00:25:32] So I started doing H dialogues where it would be H me and H. She would say something, I would say something back and she would get the last line, you know, and all of a sudden people, I just kept doing it again. It was consistency, a sense of creation, a low stakes approach, but trying to get as high quality as possible.

[00:25:49] And just any response was a gift. And over the course of weeks and weeks, people started to. C H as a character, you know, and the funniest part is people didn't think she was real. So they were like, H truth was out there like debunking, no, that's him. No, there's gotta be him now. I'll tell you why.

[00:26:07] And, you know, they were joking around with it. It wasn't serious, but it was like a funny, again, more of this sort of like almost live theater thing. And she got a bit of a fandom and I said, You know, you're also a visual artist. We have a visual art thing on Instagram. You should consider starting a Twitter.

[00:26:22] I think we could get people to go there and look at your stuff, which is really good. So she started H pretty pixels and started to put out her work and people really liked it. And what I realized from my website is that having that visual element is critical. If you're a writer, I think so anyway, and you really either should pay for it or whatever it is.

[00:26:43] Get someone who's really good. Cause it makes the whole tone of what you're doing really pop. And it really makes a difference on all the social media stuff. I'm not a visual artist, so it was so helpful to have one in-house on under lockdown. But before then I had hired a friend of mine to do stuff as well.

[00:27:00] And so once we started to put that stuff out, people started to say, okay, I'm giving you buy me a coffee stuff, but where can I get this? And I said, that's a really good question. so we, we'd started a little company, Jon and H and it has a, you know, it has a Shopify which will be live soon. I'm just dealing with the PayPal, the final little PayPal issues.

[00:27:22]but our first thing was, again, we didn't wait to have the store. I wanted to see, I think we both wanted to see whether. This would actually go. So we made an initial run of eight coffee mugs with the bromance. So the bromance became a thing. And so she did an illustration for the bromance, and clay, Jon cause the short stop motion videos I was doing had her sculptures in them, which were me.

[00:27:43] They were illustration she'd done for my stories. And then she made a sculpture and it was just, we called it clay, Jon, cause it just, you know, looked like me in a, on a, just a confused day. So we had a clay, Jon mug and a bromance mug, and they sold immediately. So eight, eight were gone immediate, like it was 150 bucks or something.

[00:28:00] And people were like, okay, where's the next batch? Like, where can I get the next ones? just like that. And, of course we didn't have the store, so we'll be selling through, buy me a coffee. And I realized by me a patron site is a little bit tricky for actually selling merchandise.

[00:28:13] That's why you have to go through a different place. and PayPal immediately said, what the hell are you doing? shut everything down. And they just, that's something other people should know is, you know, when you're using these different systems, be aware that when you start doing different things, you know, going from getting donations, because people like your work to now, you're selling merchandise.

[00:28:32] Thank you. These sites will immediately say we frozen everything. Explain yourself because we probably cause we didn't expect you to make this much money. You're a writer on Twitter. this doesn't make sense. I 

[00:28:42] Jette Stubbs: see. I see. I see. Okay. So how did you, yeah, how did you manage that? 

[00:28:49] Jon Aaron Sandler: The PayPal thing or?

[00:28:50] Oh yeah, it was just a, a real pain for two weeks of going back and forth with their messaging service and just saying. this is what I do. Just tell me, it's all legit. you know, this is what I do. Just tell me what I need to do to prove it to you. That was, you know, that was the thing. And so that particular, I think it probably different depending on the situation, but it's just good to be aware that, as things develop and grow.

[00:29:12] To be proactive and invest just before you launch those mugs or those t-shirts, if you've been doing a patron thing or if there's something else or a direct deposit or whatever, just be aware, just check all the boxes first and say, okay, is this considered a different thing now? Do they need to, do they need a tracking number?

[00:29:28] Do they need proof that something got somewhere. You know, all these little tiny logistical things. it's good to just take a day and do a bit of a bit of a sweep. W you know, so you don't spend two weeks trying to backtrack. yeah, so it proved proof of concept. The merchandise was people really interested in it.

[00:29:44] And then at the same time, obviously that's all well and good, you know, having fun on Twitter, people are supporting that. they are going to my website. I saw my numbers tick up and then. People were saying, Oh, you're also a writer. you know, I realized now that I was becoming on a Twitter person and that I wasn't necessarily talking about my writing all the time.

[00:30:05]mostly as a response to the fact that the writers who were talking about all the time, we're not really developing a community in the way that I liked. And so I didn't want to talk about it all the time. it seemed like I needed to prove that there would be a reason to go check things out.

[00:30:18] And so I wanted to highlight that, I was also a writer and I wanted also to do something where I could get people off my Twitter. I was getting a little afraid Twitter for any reason could shut me down and then I would be really lost. So I wanted a reason to have people want to join my newsletter, which was still sitting at.

[00:30:36] 38 people, mostly friends and family, and I won. And again, it was no one isn't, I'm not entitled to anybody signing up for our newsletter. So I've got to give them a thing. And so this is where this, zoom event came into play. What happened there was essentially, I saw a lot of people doing zoom events and I was watching them their Instagram lives, Facebook lives.

[00:30:56] And I felt like they, the ones I saw anyway, I'm sure there's ones that are really incredible that maybe I missed. I felt like they weren't taking advantage of communities that were already there in a way that to put it another way. I was thinking you can have a thing where everybody is just performing and they're all just performers that are on the zoom events.

[00:31:17] And maybe some people are watching them, but I said, it would be great to have an incentive and an excitement for why to go beyond just, I'm going to say something or I'm going to tell the story. And what I thought was, you know, we have this writer community on Twitter, which I think is really powerful and completely untapped and real people are now home and they're talking and they're looking for, if they're looking at community and they want to be published, they want to be connected to the public.

[00:31:41] And some are very worthy of being published. There's some really incredible voices out there. And I said, and there are established writers who are off also not going on tour. They are not going around. They're also stuck at home. and maybe they want a platform to be interacting. And the incentive for the established writers is, you get a whole, new audience.

[00:32:02] That's very passionate. And the incentive for the indie writers is they are now on a, in a place where the, with an established writer and these two things that rarely connect. and so I thought This would be a really good thing to try to do. And it exists right now. It may not exist again, everyone is in the same spot for a tiny period of time.

[00:32:21] And I had a friend of mine who I'd been talking to, I was saying this idea and he said, yeah, you should do it, man. You should just do, you should just get on, get, do use zoom, make it a coffee shop thing. just try to just do it. Don't even get worried about it. He's very encouraging. and so what I did was, I realized also.

[00:32:38] You know, a lot of people are just doing literary stuff and I wanted this to be like a party or like a dinner party or something. So people had other things to do rather than just tell stories or whatever. And so I was, for some reason, talking about making pierogies a lot. I don't know why. I think we bought a bunch as it was an easy food to make.

[00:32:54] And and people were really responding. I don't know why Paragi is more, I've tried. Ravioli's I've tried dumplings. I've tried tacos and pierogies are the thing that. Market research, get the most response. And I don't know why. I love them, but I don't know what they were, but people really were into them.

[00:33:09]and I called them a food pocket. Cause I just was like, anything works if you like dump it, bring whatever you want. But  was something that was being a bit of a running joke or running a running thing I was doing. And so I said, you know, we're going to do stories in progress. it just was a good name.

[00:33:24] And you know, what we're going to do is we're all gonna make pierogies. We're gonna have a little proggy competition. You'll get an image drawn by H will be the prize for the best looking parochial. And we're going to have writers from indie, Twitter and an established writer. They're all going to read the work.

[00:33:38] I'm going to talk to them. I'll read also my work at the end, and we'll have a nice time. We'll do it over zoom. What does everybody think? Got a really big response. And then I realized. Oh crap. I need my established writer. And 

[00:33:50] Jette Stubbs: yeah. Yeah. 

[00:33:53] Jon Aaron Sandler: I just, you know, it was just a nice assumption.

[00:33:57] So anyway, again, it comes down to don't freak yourself out, be smart, but don't freak yourself out about just putting it out there. there was a writer who, I don't know if she was even following you. I was following her. I don't know how she came up in my feed. Again, once you get to a thousand more people come up in your feed.

[00:34:14]and her name's Laurel, Brett, and she had her pin tweet was I've just released my new book, the Schrodinger girl. And it is a reviewed by the New York times. And I said that would be a greatest demonstrator to get. And we, I don't know how we chatted. I might've done my man on the street and done something interventions or whatever, same approach, just to get a bit of a real conversation going.

[00:34:37] And I went to a DMS and I said, Hey, sorry to drop in your DMS. Nothing creepy. I'm doing this event. This is what it is. I know you've launched a book. I know this isn't really a big audience, but I think we'll probably get 20 or 30 people. I think it'd be fun. What do you think? And she said, basically I am so bored.

[00:34:52] I'll do anything, whatever you want. Like I'm home. Yeah, sure. So once we had her and I could really talk about this review and it's a, it's published by a good publisher in the States and, she's based out of New York. now we've got a bit of a thing now, and the indie writers are going to have this more of this platform, which I really liked.

[00:35:13] And also I wanted to find some really great and interesting, Indies who were on Twitter writer, which was its own job, you know, that took weeks and weeks to really. Narrow it down and find people that are going to work and be part of the theme. And I had people supporting me once I put out that I wanted to do this event.

[00:35:30] I had, one, one person on Twitter who named by of se who had done the first review of one of my stories from Florida. She'd gone and read it. She'd put it on her site. She's I really love his story. And she said, ah, this is such an interesting event. I think you should look at these people.

[00:35:45] And when I looked at them, I said, you are right. you know, one or two of these one or two of these people are excellent. And I had done some, a little bit of fun, you know, work and music stuff with someone. And they had some great poems. And I said, right there, I said, you would be great too. They both agreed to it.

[00:36:02] And then the, the fourth person. Came about, because again, I was just looking, I was really trying to read people's things and she just had this lovely poem. I don't even, you know, it was just a great poem.  tweet. And I said, you've got a great poem here. Do you have anything else? And she had a little website, again, it comes to just put the stuff out there.

[00:36:20] It was a small website in one short story and the short story was great. And I, you know, just got someone with 350 followers, whatever it was. and I said, do you want to do this? And she said, okay, sure. And then she came on. So now we had our people, we had our  we me and Maximillian the bromance promoted.

[00:36:36] It, he turns out he's a tech guy from way back. He was my tech person for the events so that everything went smoothly. He's he told me, get an ethernet cord, get all this stuff, buy me a coffee supporters, gave me some money to buy equipment so that it had, whatever. And then I told H I said, We, this needs to be actually even better than people are expecting.

[00:36:57] So we, I need to have some technical things that just make this special. you know, this, I need the setup sort of library here. I have no one can see this, but I have bookshelves behind me. I need that to be the world, my Twitter world. And so what had happened was people had sent me things like I'd had a painting of, avocados.

[00:37:14] I'd posted a picture of avocados on my table. And I said, I think one is evil because one is ripened and the other isn't. And she literally painted the avocados and she said, this is like Dorian gray, we'll trap them. And she mailed it to me. So I had it framed and I put it on my shelf. I had all the clay, Jon stuff arranged, some people that send me books.

[00:37:32] I made sure the books were visible. It was like the extended Jon Aaron Sandler universe. You know, like just a sense of this. This is a community we're all coming together, which is, which was true, which I really appreciated. cause it didn't have to happen. And so set that up and then also I'd we also need new cameras.

[00:37:47] So then I had to figure out how to use the, we have two cell phones, how to make them portable cameras that you can move around. And so I researched that so that we could have a better angle so that it didn't just look like everybody's zoom event, where it's an upward angle and it's a bit awkward.

[00:38:03] And also, so that we could have an H camp because, you know, everyone was saying, is she real? Is this a real person? So we had a camera from her perspective, like David Letterman or something used to do it where she's walking around with the camera and, but never showed her face, just walking around with it, showing things, as a separate camera, just little things like that made it.

[00:38:22] Just a more special event. And then I also ran, I tested that show for a week. I did at least 20, maybe 10 or 20, test zooms with friends of mine, just to see how everything I wanted it to be like when it's so good. People don't notice. Cause it just smooth. They just had a good time. And then I recorded it.

[00:38:40] I wanted it up on YouTube, so uploaded it there. And so that would also be helpful. So that's how the event came together. And again, for my own trick, I was like, with all of these things, you know, I never want to feel like they failed. So the goal is always very modest and this goal was, it happens. And it forces me to write something because obviously with everything like Twitter or whatever, it becomes very difficult to schedule in writing.

[00:39:05] Cause that's not the thing necessarily making your money, but that's the core thing, holding everything together. I think being a good writer or having real art separates you in a lot of ways. So this will force me to write a new story. It will, legitimize a community that may not be able to see each other.

[00:39:21] I think it will really give them a sense that everybody exists and, and they can really come together and interesting way it will connect established in India in a way that I liked. And, and maybe if we get 30 people where we really did well and, hit all those marks. Super happy, you know, done, put it in on the YouTube, all ready to go.

[00:39:40] And then I was like, maybe we'll do another one in December. I was like, how could this, how could we end up doing this again? It was because I saw people doing things in the attrition rate would drop. And then all of a sudden people started asking for it. They said, when's the next one? I missed it.

[00:39:53]I'm so upset. Who's going to be on the next one. I think this person should be on the next one. Also. Can we do ravioli's next time? Where can we do empanadas? Or, you know, it became like. Oh, okay. And, yeah, and now we are on the third one.And, it's going to be really good.

[00:40:10] We've got like the Harper Collins lead read author for the fall is our guest, our main guest. Natalie's you know, wall shots who has written this book Hench. we've got a great indie writer. This guy, Jay Austin, Machino, who's launching a, first pulp sci-fi magazine, international scifi magazine, representing all sorts of people who are not often put in Saifai or aren't often re writing Sapphire or represented, also in a manuscript for his book.

[00:40:36] And we've also partnered with a non-alcoholic cocktail company, temperance cocktails. Who's releasing a special recipe. So people compare it with their pierogies. And since we're almost launching the store, the, you know, the prize for the best looking programs will be something from the store. And, we sent out, I think 35 or 40 packages of bookmarks we'd had made special for all the buy me a coffee supporters saying, just thanks.

[00:41:01] Here's your, these three bookmarks with all of H's illustrations that you like. And, They proven very popular people have framed them and sent pictures of us where they're framed in their house. And someone even took a picture of this one, a little red radish, illustration that I love. And she was on a sleeper car going to Moscow.

[00:41:20] And she took a picture of the red radish in the sleeper car bed saying I'm in Russia, in a sleeper car with, with your bookmark and just incredible, like beyond my. Wildest dreams really? yeah. And then some other things I won't go in cause they've not settled yet, but there's some other things that are really exciting that have come out of this network that has developed.

[00:41:42] And this event that has developed that hopefully I'll be able to, you know, really announce soon, which is pushing some other goals of mine forward. So it's. It's really been just, I don't know, just magic. 

[00:41:54] Jette Stubbs: I love that. You say it's like magic because I think that is how it feels when you are building authentic relationships with strangers and they're becoming your friends, your supporters, and potentially your super fans.

[00:42:07]And then you start to co-create products and co-create content with them and you're building it with them. So I think that's amazing. and so this is the end of part one, but I want to talk about some takeaways that came from this that I really want listeners to really take and pay attention to.

[00:42:29] So the first one is the focus on genuine conversations with an audience. I like Jon said, when you're first starting out, those first few connections can take a while to build. And you're really focusing on building those genuine relationships with people, because that gives you the ability to literally ask your audience what you want them to create in the future.

[00:42:52] And it's that groundwork that needs to be set to build those one-on-one relationships, and to create. A bit of a community around whatever you're doing. And it's not just about you and asking people to talk about you, but it's about sharing value with that audience and making sure that whatever you're offering, if you want them to join your email is you're offering value in return and you're offering something that they want to see and they want to be a part of, and then once they get there, you over-deliver and you surprise them with.

[00:43:22] The amount that you are offering. So when Jon did his zoom video, it wasn't just a regular zoom video with people performing. He found ways to make it creative. And if you want to think of ways to create a, one of the podcasts, I like that's great for that. His business done different differently, with Jesse Cole, I think that's the name that they think that's the right name, but it's business done differently.

[00:43:42] That's a great resource. to think about how you can approach creating unique experiences. Because as you're building a business, you are creating a brand and a brand is a promise to create a set of experiences for people. It's a promise, to like when you go to Starbucks, you know, you can create this uniquely crafted drink and you can.

[00:44:02]tweak it and, you know, you'll get a certain standard of service. So it's those expectations that you set that come with a brand and come with building a relationship with people that are key. And that's what you want to start to set. So what is the image that you want to put out there? And that's what Jon was talking about.

[00:44:16] Like when we were designing his website and we were creating consistency around his brand color, It was all about creating this consistent image about who he is and what he offers. and one of the things that he did, so that's one thing you can genuine connections, building genuine relationships, and then asking your audience what you want.

[00:44:35] Because a lot of entrepreneurs are like, Or afraid to share, or offer or sell something. But when you're asking people what they want and you create an alignment and a match between what people want to buy and what you want to sell that sweet spot is where things work best. That is where you will love what you do, and your audience will love buying from you.

[00:44:57] So you can ask people what they want and then choose out of the things that they want. The thing that you choose. That you want to sell, based on your topic or your interest, and that's a very powerful way to build an effective business. So the next thing that I want to talk about is Jon mentioned testing and experimenting.

[00:45:16] So before he went out and Built this massive website or to sell his products and built a Shopify store. He tested that his audience would actually want to buy what he's selling. He tested with a small batch of eight products and just said, Hey, does it, is anybody interested in this? And once those sold out in 24 hours and people were asking for more than he knew, yes, this is something that can work.

[00:45:39] That is incredible. It is the best way. it's a shift in mindset. That's very important for starting a business because you're shifting from success or failure to seeing it as something where you're constantly testing and experimenting and seeing what will work. And it's not a failure. It's like a first attempt in learning.

[00:45:58] And then you can shift and pivot so that you are headed in the right direction. Hey, people don't want this. Let's ask them what they do want. Let's see they, you, if you know that they have a certain problem in Jon's case, it's all about. connection and message. And that's what writing entertainment creatives are doing.

[00:46:15]you're selling connection, you're selling story-building. and it are a lot of creative think. Can I make money off of this? The fact that we all watch television, the fact, but like Netflix and chill is a thing. The fact that. we'll watch like movies and go to the theaters. This is all entertainment.

[00:46:31] So yes, if you are creative entrepreneur, you can be successful. You can grow your audience. There is audience out there for almost anything, once you are co-creating and you're listening to what that audience wants, and you are being true to yourself and finding that match. So I think that's a really important thing that I want to take out and really emphasize about what Jon said.

[00:46:51]The other thing that I want to say is reaching out to people with an established audience. So there are two main ways that Jon is going about building his audience. One of them is definitely like organic growth. he did the fall over follow, and that gave him initial traction to then start an organic growth strategy where he was reaching out and building.

[00:47:12] Authentic relationships with those people. And then based on that, the algorithms we're S we're seeing both the growth he was having in his follower account, but the genuine and grit engagement, and that led to him being seen by even more people. And then what he did is he took it another step and he reached up to people who already would have had established audiences.

[00:47:32] So published authors, he went out to them and he said, okay, This is what I'm doing, it's small, but this is the value that I can add. Would you be interested in supporting an indie author and it creates something that. Person would want to share with the audience that they're doing. Hey, I'm supporting the growth of an indie author.

[00:47:52] It creates a great image for the person. it creates a value and in times like COVID people are at home anyways. So he really capitalize on that momentum, but that doesn't mean like platform leveraging, which is going to people who have a really established audiences. And it's you're going to like their sea of an audience and taking your bucket and scooping out and saying, Hey.

[00:48:14]come join me and showing those people the value that you add that works. And that's what Jon was doing. The other two things that I want to add is that for Jon, we started with a website. We started with a website because he is focusing on writing and putting his content out there. So it was a combination of his first, platform about a year ago was Instagram.

[00:48:37] And we were focusing on him being comfortable, finding a social media voice, which is something that's really hard to do. I know I struggled with it. I find that. I'm finding out that I like podcasting, and this is the platform that I like. So it's all about finding that social media voice. He started off with Instagram.

[00:48:55] He practiced telling really concise stories that were engaging, and then he made those stories even more concise when he went to Twitter and he had to cut that word count by like a 10th. So that is something that you can use, think about how you like to communicate. So if you like to talk on the phone, then maybe you should try podcasting.

[00:49:15] If you like taking selfies or FaceTime, or video, then you should try YouTube. Like, how do you like to communicate with your loved ones? How do you like to communicate with your friends or your family? Jon's a writer. So a platform with no real focus on the visual and just a focus on the text works really well for him.

[00:49:32] But how do you like to communicate with your audience and think about that when you're choosing the platform that you're getting on for your business. And also this applies for career growth as well. So like career growth and in terms of whether you want a job or freelance. To create a freelance service or start a business.

[00:49:50] You want to be thinking of the platform that is best for you to be on so that you can engage with potential clients or potential employers. And what's the voice and the message and the brand that you want to be putting out there. The other thing to think about when building your platform is where are your dream clients hanging out?

[00:50:11] So are they listening to podcasts? Are they on YouTube? Are they on LinkedIn? Like where are your people hanging out so that you can engage with them? And that doesn't just mean online. yes, right now online is crucial during COVID, but. Once you, once we're out of COVID, you want to think about where are people hanging out offline so that you can engage with groups of people and build genuine relationships with groups of people, and then focus on those one-on-one relationships so that you can turn some of them into your super.

[00:50:41] So what Jon's doing is amazing. He starting out, it's a huge shift because you really starting from scratch. So I'm really, I'm excited to let you see the next steps that he went through. 

[00:50:53] You're listening to the happy career formula 

[00:50:56] with Jette Stubbs 

[00:50:57] where we talk about how to find what you love to do and turn it into ways to make money, whether that's a job, freelance service or a business, so you can live life on your own terms. And that includes silencing your inner critic, helping you figure out where to start and what to do next.

[00:51:16] So if you are ready to jump onto the next episode with. Jon Aaron Sandler we will talk about, how he transitioned from producing content to making products, to sell, and starting his live show. How he made that shift, both silencing the inner critic to make it happen and how he did it practically.

[00:51:37]Oh, yeah. Checkout Jon Aaron sandler.com And leave a review if you're enjoying the podcast so far, please, and thank you.  I will see you in the next episode.