Somewhere between Istanbul and Oslo.
©2018 CEDRIC VICTOR. All Rights Reserved.
As some of you are outside the United States reading this, a State of the Union address is delivered by the President and “reflects on the health of the nation.” It simultaneously outlines an agenda for the year ahead. So I've written my own to start the year. Not at all because I consider myself “presidential”, but because it feels better than writing a “report.” And also because it just feels right to start the year by giving my “nation”—the people I serve—an idea of where things might go in 2018. Here's a quick-ish summary of what worked, what didn't and a couple of other things that occurred to me in 2017.
WHAT WENT WELL IN 2017
LAUNCHING SPECIALORBITS 2.0
SpecialOrbits saw the (re)launch of the website in May 2017, with a very broad set of goals. In the months prior, I forced myself to make some decisions about my own role in this project (since I can "do everything" if needed) and what exactly I would actually be doing strategically and on a day today basis to serve “my audience”. The newer website was launched with a few new content areas: JOURNAL, 2MinutePICTURES and BOOKSHELF. But of course, not all children got the same, or anywhere near adequate attention as the months rolled by. More on that later.
DEFINING THE AUDIENCE
This audience at the time of the relaunch was a little more than a fiction, by any reasonable marketing standards. More accurately, it was just an aggregation of customers who have regularly bought from the store since its inception. There was no real usable pattern among them (understandable when the pool is limited, or not enough metrics are collected). So I spent some time working with what I did have, and making some decisions about the kind of people I’d like to attract, people with whom I'd feel comfortable in conversation. That first set of audience profiles became a combination of informal interviewing with customers and friends, combined with gut instinct.
The results were simple: it just turns out I most enjoy talking with, making for, learning from, and selling to people who are a lot like me: introverts who see and need creative practices as way to escape the demands of this hasty, modern life. Many do have a professional career in creative work (design, advertising, international policy, etc.), but there's no requirement about it. No bankable age range or gender split either.
The simple logic made it even more motivating to begin building a community and platform so we can trade stories around the campfire.
I like writing, it is the most direct and unambiguous way for me to communicate, especially when I remember to conjure up the discipline for being clear and articulate. And because I like it, I was better able to keep my promise of publishing a new piece every week, of 1000 words or more.
My plan for 2018 is to get more specific with the content, and to cover more of the ideas about which I have received feedback. Self-care for the introverted is at the top of that list with art practices for outsider personalities as a close second. More on that as it develops.
Revenue goals for SPECIALORBITS were very modest for 2017. I consistently switched between corporate/client work, freelancing as an art director, and shipping out a comfortable regularity of orders that came in despite zero advertising or promotion. That last part was deliberate: I had decided to focus on developing the content part of the platform for 2017, and marketing/selling would have to take a backseat. I gave my patience a yearlong workout to (hopefully) gain the necessary clarity about the audience and content, for which I could then develop material in 2018.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK IN 2017
(or needs fixing)
The downside about getting more clarity about the platform is that, as the only person making this stuff, I used the one channel I was most comfortable with to do it: writing. Suffice to say that in 2017 the JOURNAL was treated as my most favorite child, by a wide margin. I managed to get a good amount of reading done but none of it made it to the BOOKSHELF. There are also a few artists that I spoke with that should be up there in 2MinutePICTURES, my apologies to them (you know who you are). That is slated for change in 2018.
TIME + PRIORITY
Frankly, there were moments when 2017 felt like a drive-by, and it escaped before I could give it any kind of color. In other words, 2017 exposed through the volume of things I had to address the gaps in my ability to make decisions and prioritize. Copy that. In 2018, I'm in better shape—and more clear—about the things I have to prioritize. I plan to get more done before I run out of year.
Entrepreneurs know: there’s just no way to start from scratch and get it right the first time. I realized early on that my decision to start publishing my ideas as a way to develop an audience would mean that I would stumble around a bit until a pattern emerged. I'd have to try a few things, manage my time, and maintain quality control as I go. I'd also have to do it in full public view so I could solicit feedback.
In 2018, I plan to bring more cohesion to everything while keeping things interesting. Yes I’d like to put out a few more products, But it will have to happen in the context of my larger investigation about this “audience” thing. Full disclosure, my goal is to find my tribe of people who—if I were to plan a huge gathering—would show up to confidently feel at home with each other.
“I’m working on having more balance in my life.”
A line like that often implies that someone is working from a place of discomfort, and toward a zone of comfort. I happen to be working in the opposite direction. Not because my life has become so comfortable that I have to seek out discomfort, nothing like that at all. But I have decided that for a few things I'd like to get, I won’t be able to get them unless I turn the volume up to 11 and adjust the headset a little. I'd like to become even more accustomed to being uncomfortable. With my art making, with the design, business goals, and especially health and fitness goals. Who knows, 2018 might be the year I actually experiment with vegetarianism!
GRATITUDE FOR 2017
Some very nice things happened to me in 2017, and one of these felt just a little more remarkable: it hit me, in a very clear way, that introversion need not be synonymous with isolation. I have received some incredibly interesting emails from readers who check this work out on a weekly basis. Of course, I read ALL of the feedback. It’s such a gift to know that somebody finishes reading a JOURNAL piece and then fires up their email application to write me and tell me—patiently and with such care—what they think and how maybe I can make it better. That's just incredible to me, and what a privilege it has been to get it from those among us who have been around the block, those who know.
2017 WAS A REHEARSAL FOR A ROADMAP
SPECIALORBITS is always going to be a work in progress, it has to be for me to stay interested. I started 2018 feeling like the training wheels fell off from 2017, or maybe vanished quite naturally. I’m still figuring things out as I go and hope to maintain a high level of urgent curiosity in 2018. I will be refining the roadmap. In my back pocket I keep two ideas that I can come back to regularly:
1. It feels good so far
2. I have the rest of my life to get it right.
I'll be reporting back to you accordingly.
P.S. Follow the project on Instagram if you aren't already.