Stop Striving For Perfection – Rough But Ready Works Better

There’s no point striving for perfection when a more pragmatic approach works better. 

Staying true to yourself and putting forward a personal and timely take on something that matters to your audience delivers far greater value than chasing some arbitrary level of accomplishment.

For instance, if one of your goals is to grow subscribers, the last thing you want to be doing is spending weeks polishing one perfect piece of work before you send it out into the world. Consistency, and not perfectionism, is the key to subscriber growth.   

Spending more time or throwing more money at something isn’t how you deliver that goal – knowing when your work is ready or “good enough” for release, does. 

This article is about why you shouldn’t pursue perfectionism when you’re looking to get others to come on board with you. 

Effectiveness Wins

I had a conversation last week with someone from the content team of a well-known UK retail brand. The brand had spent a lot of time creating polished video ads with an on-trend, tongue in cheek perspective only for the legal team to then pull the entire work. The time invested had been totally wasted. The brands’ main messages are normally centred on selling product, the perfect ad is about shifting goods. The brand is so focused on looking and doing everything just right.

It’s a cautionary tale about not getting so deep into producing perfection that you mislay what really counts and forget about what aligns with your audience.  

Consistency Rules

I write to you every week, there’s a clock ticking and I know the You Are The Media email needs to be ready to go out early on a Thursday morning. I have processes in place to make sure I deliver on that goal of showing up consistently in your inbox.

If I switched that goal to one where I’d be looking to come up with the perfect piece of writing, consistency – the key to building a community, would have to take a back seat.

So, rather than pursuing perfectionism, I take a practical approach that it is all about structure and a focus on the doing. It looks something like this:

1) I try to stay one week ahead of the weekly YATM email (i.e. the main article starts being written a week before the email is sent)

2) There is a familiar format to every article i) what it’s about, ii) how it relates to me and iii) how it relates to you

3) The majority of the writing time is now blocked out within one day

4) The weekly email is set up on Wednesday, the day before the send

Imperfections Permitted

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using video at the end of the email to summarise the main topic. This video is also posted on the YATM Facebook Group, as well as on LinkedIn.

I head to my beach hut with a tripod that I bought for £20, talk into the phone and then edit by taking off the beginning and end of me reaching to press start and stop. The video has me condensing the main points from the email article into a minute or so – a process that take around 25 minutes in total. Having the beach as a backdrop helps although with the sun behind me it bleaches out the sky and I don’t have the benefit of post-production. 

Let’s just say that the video is far from perfect. However, despite its rough and ready look it has become the most clicked part of the weekly email. 

This means it works. It’s even been referred to as Highlights From The Hut (thanks Lee Taylor from Steele Raymond!).

Focus On What Really Matters

What I’m trying to draw attention to here is that once you set perfectionism aside and get comfortable with your work being a bit rough around the edges, you free yourself. 

My video is about the message I’m trying to convey. I try to deliver that with heart, not with the goal of looking immaculate. Getting hung up on pre- and post-prodution or showcasing a life lived through a Juno filter, interferes with being relatable and would, in my case, add little of value to the end product. 

Adopting a pragmatic approach that’s appropriate for the message and the medium, and works for your audience helps you build momentum in the now, rather than in some ideal future. 

It’s something that one of our YATM 2019 Conference speakers, Janet Murray, is doing: playing to her strengths through her early adoption of LinkedIn Live videos.

It’s not about pristine production, albeit I must say, in Janet’s case, great sound and backdrop, but about sharing a message and what someone can adopt their side. When you have something to say that is relatable to others, you don’t have to worry about pre-production or living your life in a Juno filter.

Click to watch Janet

In a similar way, Gordon Fong is also documenting the now. He’s sharing his perspective on his hosting business, Datacenta Hosting, moving to Dorset Innovation Park, a more rural setting. In exploring, quite informally, the differences between working in urban and rural areas, and sharing his relocation plans, he’s forging new connections, helping build a community around him, championing others and enabling collaboration. 

What Can You Do?

Accept that you may never become the genius that you want people to see. But never let that stop you from being able to create, share and achieve your goals.

If you have an idea, jump in now. Here’s what you need to take on board to show up and deliver when you live in the moment:

Spec out what you need to make a start.

Identify who you’re creating for, find the medium you feel most comfortable with (i.e. don’t try to be everywhere at once) and begin. Be prepared to find a trade off – something in your life that has to stop in order for you to do this. (click here to read the article on why you need to find a trade off)

Reveal your personality. Be vocal about your perspective.

It’s a well-known fact that the more personal something is, the more universally it resonates (a good example is when I deleted my email database last month). Don’t hold back on showing what you think about an issue or idea. 

Embrace the ‘good enough’ and roll with it.

As I mentioned earlier, the quality of my video production leaves something to be desired but my videos still deliver on my goals. So embrace imperfections and recognise that it’s the message that matters. See, you’re already in a far happier place!

Create and distribute.

Most people are happy to create and put their energy into producing the work. But you also have to know when you’ve gone as far as you can and when your work is ready and good to go. 

Share – go heavy on distributing and promoting.

Sharing your work is as important as creating it in the first place, and essential if you’re looking to build an audience. So distribute, promote and get others on board to shout about it. 

Repeat.

When you’ve said what needs to be said, shared and interacted – let go – move onto the next topic and repeat the whole process. Get people coming to you, because yours is a great place to be. 

Let’s Round Up

Having your own platform, be it email newsletter, video, podcast or blog, presents the perfect opportunity for a small business to build an audience and steal a march on big brands that are less agile and can be more constrained by directives.  

But the blog article that’s going through its 15th-and-still-counting revision or the new email newsletter that can’t quite figure out that ultimate must-click title: they’re the ones that fail to launch and so miss out. 

Over-thinking and striving to create something perfect slows you down whereas the momentum created by showing up regularly not only builds your audience but also helps you hone your skills, making you more comfortable (and better at) getting your message out there.

So ditch perfectionism – create good enough and roll with ready.

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