If you've never read Kevin Kelly's piece called 1,000 True Fans, I suggest you hop on that link and read it. When you come back, you can read some of my thoughts on the issue, but I probably won't blow your mind the way Kelly will.
Ok, are you back? Good.
Here's what I think stands out in his article for the aspiring "Movement Education Professional" (more on that term below).
First of all, I don't know about you, but the long tail map is incredibly reassuring to me. I think whenever anyone is trying to run a small business, you look around and see "the big guys" and try to copy them. That's a totally unrealistic approach and going that route is totally disheartening. You can't behave like a big business at all: you don't have the same division of labor, you can't spend on advertising to build brand recognition, you can't fire an under-performing employee (what? cut off your left arm when sales tank???). You have to operate in a totally different way, but where is the model for how that's supposed to be done? Most of the people that would model for you, other successful small businesses, are too busy running their businesses!
So back to the long tail, Kelly says:
I am suggesting there is a home for creatives in between poverty and stardom. Somewhere lower than stratospheric bestsellerdom, but higher than the obscurity of the long tail. I don't know the actual true number, but I think a dedicated artist could cultivate 1,000 True Fans, and by their direct support using new technology, make an honest living.Â I'd love to hear from anyone who might have settled on such a path.
As soon as you start looking at that in-between space, so many things open up. I like to think about this space when I'm out in public. Sit on a busy street corner for 10 minutes and watch how many people go by. Do they all make a living? Do plenty of them make a comfortable living? Do you know them all? Yes. Yes. No.
So what does that mean? It means that there is so much room in between for you to serve the needs of people who can pay for your service. At Brookline Tai Chi, our database has over 10,000 names of people who have taken classes or inquired about classes at some point. You know what's amazing about that? Every 8 weeks, 30-50 brand new people come through our door to start classes!
Now, the boring conclusion to all this is: "there is a market out there for your services", but Kelly raises the stakes. It's not just a "market". There are potentially raving, hard-core fans of what you do out there. You have to go find them and you have to find ways to engage them. I wrote in more detail about the "universe" of your fans here, but on the Trainerfly blog, I just published "The Movement Education Professional's Manifesto". The Manifesto is much more in line with the idea that passion driving a craft (in this case, your movement practice), should lead to engaging other people who get similarly excited.
I think if you agree with premise of the Manifesto, about what movement means in your own life, and you've taken the leap to teach professionally, then you'll see how important it is to take another big step and start finding your 1,000 True Fans.
Photo by YourLocalDave