How Lack of Access Impacts POC Online Businesses

In Fall of 2012 I started a personal finance blog. It was kind of terrible in the beginning. My writing sucked, the formatting was painful and my topics were random as hell. But, for some reason, I loved being in the personal finance space so I stuck with it. As time went on my content got better, my connections with other people in the space deepened and I eventually made the leap into being self-employed eventually making the transition into entrepreneurship. Running a business has been a humbling experience. I’ve made a TON of mistakes. But, there was one thing that I didn’t realize was impacting my business and brand. Access. I didn’t realize how much lack of access was impacting my bottom line until the Summer of 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests. In this episode I’ll share what I’ve done to better connect with the leaders and organizations that could grow my brand. And the unexpected spaces that increased my access and grew my income.

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Show Notes

  • One of the things that can be really frustrating about building a digital business is all the endless possibilities.
  • Then once you’ve identified your niche you start building your business.
  • Then there’s a point where you start getting noticed (hopefully) for the work that you’re doing.
  • In my case that happened on a small scale, I still have what I consider to be a small platform. As I built out courses, wrote books, spoke on panels, I was doing the work. But, I kept noticing that I didn’t know the following in certain spaces.
  • I didn’t know who to pitch to uplevel my freelance revenue. It felt like I couldn’t push past a certain amount of earnings and I was really having some difficulty figuring out who was I supposed to connect? Who was the gatekeeper?
  • I wanted to do brand collaborations but no one ever asked me to do one and to be candid, I couldn’t figure out who to even reach out to to make it happen.
  • Lack of access was showing up in my business similar to when I worked a 9-5 and felt roadblocked.
  • There were so many actions that I was taking that were paying off but ineviteably I would hit a closed door.
  • Access was an unexpected problem that I hadn’t planned for. I was my own boss, but there were people out there who make or break some parts of my business and I’m not talking about clients.

What I Did Well

Despite this realization that there were gatekeepers out there that I was unaware. I’d done some things really well to get myself into the rooms and sit at the “table” Here are a few examples and I strongly suggest that you do this too.

  • Said “yes” to participating on an awards committee. Not only did participating in this committee enable me to make deeper connections with the organization, it also gave me insight into what organizations look for when rewarding community members’ work. Being on the committee also gave me the opportunity to uplift other POC and allies who might not have had a champion for their work behind the scenes.
  • Attended in person events and talked to EVERYBODY-I think it’s very easy to stay in one’s comfort zone when attending events. I try to speed date the attendees metaphorically. It’s a great way to meet a ton of people in person quickly and then build on that initial connection online when everyone returns home. I do need to share a disclaimer, we’re in a pandemic, if you opt to attend an in-person event you are at risk for exposure to COVID.
  • I was great at fostering impactful connections with people who shouted me out. In fact, in my Media Mentions Mastery course I talk about how 50% of getting media mentions is work that you’re doing and the other 50% of getting media mentions was having other people shout you out.
  • Joining smaller communities online when extended the invitation. But, once I was a part of the community, I became a leader in the following ways:
    • Shared opportunities
    • Shouted people out
    • Made connections
    • All without expectation

What I Could Have Done Better

There were a few actions that I could have taken in order to navigate the roadblocks I was experiencing.

  • Communicate to friends and colleagues positioned in the same space the challenges I was facing and ask for guidance or ideas on what to do. During the Black Lives Matter protests I brought up the fact that I was having difficulty figuring out how to work with certain freelance clients. As a result of that revelation one of my allied friends invited me to join a closed Facebook group of high earning freelancers. These were people that I knew well and had always been helpful but they had no idea that I was having these struggles. Basically, they assumed I had the same level of access that they were experiencing. The lesson learned: people aren’t mind readers.
  • Be bolder about asking for what I wanted. I could have asked for help on Twitter, in Facebook groups etc.
  • Worked with experts who had the knowledge. I do want to say that this typically costs money and I was paying off debt while building up my business. So, I wasn’t reinvesting a lot of cash back into my business and when I was making those decisions I paid for better tools and resources that fit an immediate need.
  • Recognizing when I got a little too insular with the people that I was dealing with. There were moments when I stayed in a community or mastermind too long. Instead of recognizing that those spaces and folks had become family and that for professional growth I should connect with new communities and people.

The Most Important Tip

What I realized in looking back at the wins that I’ve experienced personally and professionally, there’s one universal truth “It’s who you know.” If you’re looking for media mentions, sponsorship connections or who to pitch for a project, other people are the key to unlocking that information. My Media Mentions Mastery course has been designed with that in mind. I’ve included a link in the show notes for more information.

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