Are you letting the numbers deflate you?

The thing about numbers is, we give them far too much power to make us feel bad. “Only” have 100 people reading your blog? That’s like speaking to a jam-packed coffee shop or on stage at a live speaking event.

Alexandra Franzen reframes the expectations we have around blogging (and online writing) and I think it’s so spot-on that I have to chime in. You are enough. Ten people is enough. Your audience of 45 people is fan-freaking-tastic. FORTY FIVE PEOPLE! That’s a lot of people listening. [tweetable hashtag=”#story #numbers #data @sarahkpeck”]Stop letting the numbers tell you a story of inadequacy.[/tweetable]

As Theodore Roosevelt said: [tweetable hashtag=”#quotes #inspiration #joy @sarahkpeck”]Comparison is the thief of joy.[/tweetable]

People often ask me how much traffic you need before you start a business or a project. We get discouraged with low traffic, thinking that somehow we’re not “good enough” if we don’t have thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people listening in. The secret is that you don’t need 10,000 people reading you to make a sale to 30 people. (In fact, that’s a pretty low conversion rate). If you’re doing something that helps someone else, then one sale, one client, or a small classroom might be all you need.

We’re so eager to hyper-glorify the entrepreneurs who are billionaires and the writers who reach hundreds of thousands of readers that we gloss over the beautiful middle, the delicious space where you get to express yourself, connect with others, and share your work. There is nothing more beautiful than this. Delight in the expression and the sharing. Show your work. Love your audience, in all its shapes and sizes.

It’s about connection, creation, and expression—not traffic.

I made a business out of teaching 30 people at a time in workshops. I coach people one on one. I feel honored when one hundred people read an essay I wrote. I feel the same when one person reads what I’ve written. Start small. Walk into the room. Be proud.

And also, traffic isn’t all that it seems: there is an ironic downside to too much traffic. [tweetable hashtag=”#truth #business @sarahkpeck”]Too much traffic can be a downer for your growing business.[/tweetable] It costs money, and then you end up paying for people to listen to you. Some examples: when you hit 2,000 subscribers, you need to pay your mail client (if it’s MailChimp) $30 a month to keep sending your emails. When your traffic gets high enough, your web hosting might turn into $50-$100 a month. Those U-Stream videos cost $99-$999 for viewer hours, so 4,000 people watching can cost you thousands of bucks. SoundCloud lets you do 2 hours free—then you pay.

You get the picture. If you want a big audience, you might have to pay $200-$500 a month (or more) for it.

There’s something beautiful about medium-sized.

Just like Alexandra Franzen so beautifully re-frames: there’s something gorgeous about your own personal coffee shop. Cherish it.


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22 Responses to Are you letting the numbers deflate you?

  1. Kaly says:

    Thank you so much for this – when I first started writing my blog and putting my ideas out in the world I promised that I wouldn’t look at any numbers until at least 6 months in. Because it really wasn’t about anyone else but me. But then six months rolled around and I wanted to take a peak. I was really surprised – it was more than I thought. Not astronomical but enough. But ever since, I’ve been too caught up in whether they are growing, what it popular, and page views. This is a good reminder that making a real connection with the people that are coming is much more important than traffic for the sake of traffic.

  2. […] Sarah Peck had a post worth noting – that its not about the number of viewers -in fact perhaps in my case its best that readership stays small. […]

  3. Brianna says:

    All of this. A few years ago I tracked my blog stats constantly. I had Excel spreadsheets for daily, weekly, and monthly stats. I had averages and more. Then I quit. I check my stats a couple of times a week, out of sheer curiosity, but I don’t obsess. If a day is low, I just alter how much I promote stuff the next day or the next week.

  4. […] Are you letting the numbers deflate you? […]

  5. I’m a few days late in commenting here, but this is very timely for me. I literally have a draft for my blog titled “No Comments Link, No Share Buttons” for this very reason.

    As always, well said and spoken DIRECTLY at me.

    • Sarah says:

      I have a friend who says he doesn’t push “like” because he doesn’t want me to get excited about 40 likes and then disappointed the next day that there are “only” 39 likes on some idea I shared. (Or 12. Or 2.) Instead, we try to write real comments on each others’ work and reach out and email, say hi, or say thanks when we really mean it.

      We forget. The numbers can make connection seem less important, and statistics too important. Thank you for commenting and for sharing the essays—so good to connect with you lately.

      • You’re more than welcome, Sarah — and we seem to be going through a number of similar life experiences these days. I’m going to be starting a new “unfiltered” blog in the next day or two, and will pour out my heart there. Don’t be surprised if you get a number of trackbacks on your posts in the foreseeable future. ;-)

  6. Laurie says:

    Thanks to Brian for directing me to this post. The first paragraph almost brought tears of joy and pain to my eyes. It’s such a wonderful reminder. And I have read to people in a coffee shop (a long time ago) and there were less of them there than are reading my work now.

    I love this perspective. Keep sharing it.

    – Laurie

  7. Comparison says:

    […] I posted yesterday, I forgot to include links to two posts that inspired what I wrote. Thank you Sarah Kathleen Peck and Alli Worthington for you sharing your heart and for bleeding on your […]

  8. […] kindness of strangers. Old people who still joke about love and sex. The beauty of medium-sized. New friends on Twitter. Honest conversations. Handwritten words on the internet. Hitting publish. […]

  9. Henri says:

    Thanks for this, Sarah. It’s so easy to get caught in a land of numbers, where you feel like you have to constantly push for more and more and more.

    It’s not only a pattern in blogging and online business, but in life. Getting stuck in the cycle of more is easy, but ultimately we have to wake up, somehow.

    I know I’m guilty of this, and it robs me of the joy of just writing, just sharing what my heart wants to share.

  10. Ari Herzog says:

    Albert Einstein only needed one person to validate his special theory of relativity: Max Planck. Thankfully, Max liked it and the rest is history. If Max didn’t like it, who knows how life would be different.

    Point is, it matters not how many readers, followers, fans, etc, etc you have — because it only takes one person to spread your word through their mouth.

  11. […] article, Are You Letting the Numbers Deflate You, does a good job of highlighting why where we are is good enough and instead of focusing on the […]

  12. Kajal says:

    This is a great reminder to bring it back to why you choose to what you choose to do. In a world where we are constantly being told we are not good enough until we have this or have that; we get lost in that mindset. Making a constant effort to remind yourself of the why you do something is all you need, then the what or how doesn’t matter. Thanks!

  13. Joanne Viola says:

    I loved reading this post. “It’s about connection, creation, and expression—not traffic.” That about said it all for me which is why for Lent, I gave up self-promoting my posts on social media. :) I am so glad that I stopped here & read this post. Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Sarah says:

      Joanne, what an awesome experiment! (It took me a while to see this comment, apologies for the lag — but glad you’re here and love your ideas about taking a break from promotion! I think it’s healthy and I need to do that from time to time, otherwise I feel like I never stop talking. :)

  14. floyd says:

    Good call! It really only takes one heart to be changed and touched for us to have reached success.

    The greatest things in this life, love, respect, compassion, and wisdom, to name a few, can’t be calculated by a number… I wonder if the things of the most value are just so valuable that a number couldn’t begin to quantify the value…

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for being here, Floyd! Sometimes the numbers aren’t what it’s about at all. Glad you’re in the same boat as me. :)

  15. Sophie says:

    While I agree with you about numbers being given too much importance and people feeling they do not have enough readers when, if we’re all honest, having anyone reading it fantastic. I would rather have a small readership with a huge engagement than thousands of readers who never engage with me.. but I think the approach you take in regards to money is a bad choice. Sure, it costs money once you start hitting higher numbers on MailChimp, for example. But some of us don’t use our blogs as a source of income. I run a business and I blog as a hobby; I think a lot of people place too much importance on the monetary value of blogging than the value of blogging itself.

    • Sarah says:

      Sophie — love that you point this out. I am totally with you about the value of community, blogging, and writing as intrinsically valuable. Sometimes people are surprised by the amount that websites and blogs can cost, so I brought it up as a less-talked-about counterpoint. I love blogging and do it all the time—I can’t help it!

      Glad to have you here, sharing your thoughts.