Three Essential Practices of Successful Content Creators

Niaw de Leon
Jan 31, 2017 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Image Credits: Allie Lehman, Death to Stock Creative Community

You’re yearning to create, to put out work that will help the world by being true to your inclinations. You are craving the sense of fulfillment that comes from working on something you believe in and you want to make a living doing that. You’ve glimpsed this in fleeting moments where you can feel your true power.

But you’re stuck.

You’ve suppressed your creative potential because of your responsibilities, the demands of your job, or the need to please other people. And it’s painful as hell.

You’re burned out. And yet you hold on, because you can still feel the spark of something. It’s what got you on this tough path. It’s what made you question what you’re currently doing.

The question that dominates your existence is, how do you create content or develop products that reflect and at the same time serve people’s needs? How can you achieve creative success?

I’ve pondered that very question myself, and I’ve analyzed the work of dozens of content creation masters to find the answer. Here’s what I’ve found so far.

They Help Their Readers Solve the Riddles of Their Lives

Many of the most successful bloggers help you solve the puzzles of life. They’ve had a painful experience, a difficult challenge, or a limitation — then found a way to overcome them. So it’s like “Here, I have gone through the same struggle, I am solving it, here’s where I’ve succeeded, let me package it for you, and let me make your life better.”

Zack Arnold of Optimize Yourself overcame the crushing depression resulting from his grueling work as a video editor in Hollywood and found an interesting solution that he shares with his readers.

John Somnez of How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer, after being trapped in a job that he despised, learned how to find work that energized him. He helps Software Developers market themselves in order to do that.

Emilie Wapnick of Puttylike, after being battered by society’s message that being a person with wide interests is a bad thing, has figured out how to combine seemingly disparate interests into a single, successful business, and assembled a tribe along the way.

Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete has figured out how to implement the unique and difficult lifestyle of being a vegetarian athlete and shares tools, resources, and knowledge to his dedicated followers.

Joanna Penn of Creative Penn shares how she overcame her frustrating experience of merely dreaming about writing for many years to becoming a published author of dozens of books.

Do you see the pattern now? The best content producers and teachers have attained a skill through sheer persistence and now find the skill easy to do. They understand the hardship of the process, but they’ve also discovered the way out. They’ve solved the riddle.

Good stories contain conflict and a resolution to this conflict. We have an innate desire to consume these types of narratives, and these creators have a powerful story to tell in the form of their own lives.

Image for post
Image for post

They Focus on Their Reader

My favorite authors and creators don’t try to impress me, as a reader, with their writing skills or the size of their vocabulary.

When you imagine a person listening to you and understanding their pains and regrets, their joys, and their riddles, you stop thinking “is my writing going to be good” and start thinking “is my message going to get through”? There’s a world of difference between the two.

Ryan Holiday stresses this out in his article So You Want To Be A Writer? That’s Mistake #1:

They also don’t focus on enlarging their own image.

Best-selling author Jeff Goins advises to “show your scars (don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable)” in his article How to Build a Killer Tribe.

James Altucher, best-selling author and serial entrepreneur, is a master of this. He instantly connects because he follows his own advise to “Bleed in the first line.” Look at this article about doing 200 podcasts with his heroes. In the intro paragraph, he admits to being lazy, shy, and nervous. But then he goes on to talk about how he achieved something remarkable despite these flaws three years later.

Emilie Wapnick, founder of the multipotentialite movement, also talks about this in her article The Reason Nobody’s Hiring You (and What To Do About It):

Kalid Azad‘s Better Explained is perhaps the best place to read accessible explanations of math in the whole of the internet. You’ll notice that he’s amassed 400k monthly readers not because he’s adept at selling himself, but because he puts helpfulness as the primary motivation. Despite writing 220,000 words over a period of 10 years, he says:

They Experiment and Lead

The successful bloggers and authors come up with their own conclusions. Original ones, not regugitated wisdom. The conclusions could be the same as what other people say, but the way they came up with the conclusion ought to be original.

It doesn’t mean they don’t listen to others. It just means they try things out for themselves. They go first. In other words, they lead.

For example, Steve Pavlina tried out Polyphasic Sleep for three whole months in order for him to say that it didn’t work for him and give appropriate advice to his readers.

Ramit Sethi, best-selling author of I Will Teach You to be Rich, is notorious for rigorously testing the methods, templates, and scripts that he advocates.

Richard Feynman, while not a blogger, exemplified this principle. He is considered one of the world’s best physicists and original thinker. In the autobiographical book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, he recounts how he tested the concept of a internal sense of time by counting seconds up to a minute and then checking against a clock after he felt that he had counted a minute. He tried it while running up stairs to see if physical activity affected his counting, counted while a thick jacket to see if his body temperature affected it, lied on the bed, and finally went away with his own thoughts on the matter. He didn’t just blindly listen to what others said and repeated conventional wisdom. This kind of attitude helped him come up with groundbreaking ideas that won him the Noble Prize for Physics.

Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months fame, achieved recognition simply for his ability to get his hands dirty. In his own words here:


The most successful authors, creators, bloggers do three things:

  • They help solve a difficult problem for their readers
  • They focus on helping their reader instead of propping themselves up
  • They lead and try things out for themselves

There are other techniques that I’ve seen, such as choosing a good name, building an email list, pricing, but without the three fundamentals above, they wouldn’t have gotten very far. As a result of these principles, they’ve created not just successful blogs, websites, or books, but entire movements of people who have a shared philosophy of life.

What important principles have you discovered in the world’s most successful content? Share them in the comments below!

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store