Why Creating Remarkable Work Matters

Sick of feeling like you need to crank out more and more mediocre work just to keep up? Here’s a radical idea: stop. The savviest small business owners aren’t trying to fill quotas or be everywhere online all the time. They’re focused on doing remarkable work—in their marketing, in their customer experiences, in the way they develop their products or services.

 

Full Transcript

Feeling The Pressure To Produce? Find Relief In The Remarkable

A few months back, a business owner asked me how I felt about social media schedulers.

If you’re not familiar, a social media scheduler is an app that allows you to come up with a whole bunch of posts at once and then schedule them to publish one by one in the future.

Now, if you’re a casual user of social media, you have no reason to use one of these things.

You post when you have something to say or share—and otherwise, you’re just scrolling along looking at memes, baby pictures, and rants from that uncle.

But for business owners and marketers? Well, social media schedulers promise the possibility of being everywhere online every day. Without the soul-crushing, time-consuming task of actually showing up everywhere online every day.

Social media scheduling apps are a way to pay down your content debt. Every day you believe you should be posting something to Instagram or Facebook or LinkedIn, it adds up on your content debt balance sheet. And many small business owners are deeply into the red.

Content debt is like financial debt—it weighs heavily on the decisions we make and the strategies we choose.

Imagine if your paycheck depended on what you posted to Instagram daily, the funny Reels or TikToks you’ve made, the valuable videos you upload to YouTube that are perfectly suited to what others are searching for… and your weekly newsletter, the new connections you make on LinkedIn, and the Facebook Lives for your free Facebook Group all to satisfy the demands an algorithm.

Pretty bleak, right? But that’s reality for many business owners, creators, freelancers, and artists.

So how do I feel about social media schedulers? “Not a fan,” I told this business owner.

I know that might be surprising. I’m a business owner—twice over. I’m a marketer. I’m here because of social media and content marketing. It seems like I’d want to use any tool that would help me save time and hassle to make it all happen.

But the way I see it, social media scheduling apps incentivize us to create more and more forgettable content to pay down our mounting debt.

And I’m ready to declare bankruptcy—and start fresh.

So why do so many business owners, influencers, and creators feel this pressure to be constantly posting?

Two big reasons.

Tech companies have built business models around our free labor. And marketers have built business models around training us how to do that free labor so that we can find “freedom” by building an audience and selling the audience’s attention.

We end up believing that we have to be constantly working the system to feel like we’re not working at all.

That leads to the other reason.

How is it that we end up agreeing to all of this free labor and taking on all of that content debt?

Traditional ways of working have failed us–over and over again. Our current economic and social systems have created a state of utter precarity.

Creators and business owners don’t feel the pressure to create loads of forgettable content because they see an opportunity—they feel it because they’re trying to escape the uncertainty that swirls around their bills, their careers, their families.

Crappy jobs keep getting crappier. Wages are stagnant. Benefits are nonexistent. Student loans threaten to topple even the highest achievers. Our workdays are getting longer and longer–because our work has bled into every corner of our lives.

And so a whole generation–and then some–is willing to try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps by selling themselves online through the social media marketplace.

It can feel like the choice is to keep cranking out content or end up living in the proverbial van down by the river.

Which is not the same as #vanlife. 

Now I know that it is the height of privilege to be able to talk about the demands of building an audience or a business online. And many of us do come from white, middle, and upper-middle-class families. We have degrees and plenty of experience in corporate America.

And many of us–far more than you might expect–are the people forced into making a living this way because it seems that there is no other option.

We’re going into business for ourselves to meet real needs that aren’t being met in the usual ways.

Some of these folks belong to groups who have survived labor exploitation generation after generation.

And some of them are also the moms who have been forced out of the jobs they trained for. Or the recent grads who need a side hustle to pay their student loans. Or the folks just a few years before retirement who are being unfairly aged out of their jobs.

All of us–for one reason or many–feel unstable enough to go all-in on laboring to satisfy an algorithm every day.

But it’s not working.

The pressure to create and create and create isn’t meeting individual needs in the way it’s been sold.

It’s certainly not creating stability when these platforms are constantly changing the rules on us, when one person who disagrees with us or doesn’t like our race, gender, or sexuality can come along and upend everything we’ve built with a single comment or a reported post.

No, the endless hustle is just replicating the same system that is causing us ALL to burn out. We’re constantly working, constantly producing, constantly doing something valuable just so we don’t fall behind.

We haven’t created some sort of liberated, democratized approach to earning a living–we’ve just reproduced the conditions we sought to escape.

My solution isn’t to give up on social media or to stop building businesses. I love the internet and I love doing business there.

Instead, I propose content debt forgiveness. As business owners and creatives, we forget the quotas and the optimization and the mediocrity that comes from pandering for likes and shares.

And focus on the remarkable.

If you’re not a business owner or a creator, you might be thinking: how does this impact me? Why should you care about the pressure to churn out the digital equivalent of a live, laugh, love sign on a daily basis?

Here’s why: this whole system is impacting all of the ways you interact online, too. It’s this same quantity-over-quality attitude that has business owners scrambling to be everywhere online every day that is also making your online experience, at best, decidedly mediocre.

And of course, it doesn’t stop with the online world.

Even if you’re not feeling the pressure to share something likeable every day, as Jia Tolentino writes, “you still live in the world that this internet has created, a world in which selfhood has become capitalism’s last natural resource…”

What would it look like if business owners and creatives spent more time plugging into their communities–online or offline–and less time “putting themselves out there” with market-tested messages and metric-optimized posts?

I have had a front-row seat watching business owners go head-to-head with algorithms, noise, and misinformation. It’s hard to get noticed, let alone find a new customer.

So I get why creating more, posting more, and showing up on more platforms, seems like the answer. I understand the motivation to produce more and more mediocre work to keep up with the market.

But, here’s what I know that many small business owners don’t know: some of the most successful small business owners in our community don’t care at all about social media or building an audience or even anything that looks like online marketing.

What they really care about is doing remarkable work.

And creating remarkable work helps to produce the stability we all crave.

Remarkable work creates tangible results, inspires word-of-mouth marketing, and builds fruitful relationships.

So the question I’ve been asking in various forms to the business owners I work with is: if creating remarkable experiences, results, products, or content can create the stability you’re really looking for, what’s preventing you from doing that?

And often, I hear that the main thing preventing them from taking the time and space to create remarkable things is, in fact, the endless push to churn out mediocre things.

That’s when the light bulb blinks on.

That’s when they realize that they don’t have to do it that way after all.

At this point, some of them do log off social media for good so they can focus on building their remarkable business. But plenty, like me, stick around but approach things very differently.

I no longer allow FOMO to determine how I create and communicate. I don’t crank out content just to satisfy the demands of platforms and algorithms, trying to get my malevolent social overlords to bestow a few more followers on me so that I can feel secure one more day.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve been investigating how I want to show up in public spaces online—how I want to market my businesses and share my ideas without contributing to the noise.

I’ve tried a bunch of different approaches. But where I’ve landed—for now—is to focus on creating remarkable content. For me that’s podcast episodes. Articles. Visual essays for Instagram. Curated Newsletters.

I’m focused on ideas and conversations instead of platforms or tactics or algorithms. That work takes time.

I want to put ideas out into the world that get people talking. I want to share stories that encourage others to share their own. I want to be a part of the conversation without, as my friend Sarah Avenir put it, becoming ensnared by it–trapped by the algorithm and the fads and the gimmicks.

I’m focused on remarkability instead of ubiquity.

For me, prioritizing posting less-but-better has created an incredible confluence of creative satisfaction and business results.

It would be easy to quantify the results of this approach by telling you that our audience has grown, that I see more likes and shares every day, that more people are becoming customers. And all of that is true—but those are just vanity metrics.

Here’s the real benefit: RELIEF.

When I started to share this approach with my clients and followers, they told me how relieved they were to let go of everything they thought they knew about online marketing.

They’ve told me they’ve changed the way they create and consume.

They’re giving themselves permission to linger on ideas and make them stronger.

They’re making the space to dive deep into what they’re creating and learning what remarkable means to them.

They’re enjoying the process and feeling much less stress about what they’re putting online and feeling less precarious in their day-to-day work.

And, just like me, they’re proud of what they’re putting out into the world and the impact that it’s having on people they care about.

If that means creating and sharing a little less in order to create & share better, so be it.

And when creators and small business owners are creating & sharing remarkable things, that means you get to consume more remarkable things. It means we can have a more remarkable public dialogue. Less mindless scrolling and more mindful exploration.

Your timeline doesn’t have to be a place you go when you’re bored–it can be a place you go because it inspires you. It challenges you. It opens the door to new ideas and new possibilities.

That’s the kind of internet I want to help build one remarkable brick at a time.

About Tara McMullin

Tara McMullin is a podcast host, writer, and speaker who’s been making business make sense for small business owners for over 12 years. She’s the founder of What Works, a platform connecting small business owners so they can build stronger businesses together—without the shoulds and supposed-tos. She’s also the co-founder of YellowHouse.Media, a podcast production agency. Tara brings a unique perspective to business thinking informed by her background in theology, interest in endurance training and critical theory, and strengths as an autistic creator.

Tara explores what’s working for small business owners through a feminist and sustainability-based lens in her newsletter, podcast, and Instagram. She’s a bestselling business instructor on CreativeLive and a TEDx speaker, as well as a frequent guest on top business podcasts like Being Boss, Unemployable, and The Get Paid podcast.

Tara McMullin, What Works Weekly Newsletter

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