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How to Use Story to Grow Your Side-Hustle
Our brains are hard-wired to accept stories. We resonate with story. We remember stories after a single telling. We feel stories in our bones and respond to them with emotion.
If you want to grow your side-hustle it’s time you started using the power of story to bring in more customers.
There are multiple ways we can use story to grow our business. I’ll focus on the core methods that motivate readers into action.
Stop worrying about adding so many features and benefits into your content marketing. Your customers don’t care much about your product at all. They care about the change your product creates in their lives. When we focus on story instead of some list of benefits, we lower the barrier to entry for the buyer. Our stories help make the reader feel comfortable with the person behind the business. It’s time to focus on story.
Start Building Your Origin Story
Personal stories are the best. A reader wants to see you as a flawed human, just like them. The more perfect a face you present to the world, the further away your reader gets from trusting you.
I keep a running story log in my phone.
You don’t need to lose an arm, almost die, or hot rock-bottom to collect a great story.
While those make for fantastic reading, a good story can be as simple as the way you butter your bread in the morning.
Anything can be a story. From the mundane to the fascinating.
Start your collecting by writing a quick paragraph for each of the major milestones in your life.
This collection will eventually become your origin story. Look at any popular celebrity in your niche and you already know their origin story.
This person overcame drugs. This person had a bad marriage and no parents. This person wasn’t smart enough to get into Harvard, but eventually became a professor there.
Your origin story is the best weapon you have against competition.
No one can copy the way you became you. There’s only one version of that story. No matter how many copycats there are in your marketplace, there’s only one you.
Think of yourself like a superhero. Every hero has an origin story. There’s a cape. There’s a spider bite. There’s an orphanage or a weird uncle. Maybe you can’t fly, but your special combination of what makes you-you, will be an instant trust-builder with your audience.
Collect Mundane Stories Once You’ve Exhausted All Others
Collect as many origin-level stories as you can. Not only is this a great tool for self-discovery, it’s also a painless way to build your origin story.
Once you’ve built your origin story it’s time to focus on the mundane stories in your life.
Anything, from a strange email from a troll, to the way you drive to work, to the reason you skip two buttons on your shirt, makes fantastic food for story.
Catalog every story you think is interesting.
Don’t worry about how you’ll use these, or whether a certain story has merit. The curation and the marketing use comes later.
For now, collect every personal story you have in one running log.
Later, when you’re ready to grab a story, you’ll have this big library to work from.
When I started this story collecting process I could only think of maybe ten, for my entire life.
You’ll get stuck too. Don’t worry. This is a marathon. Once you put your subconscious to work on these stories, everything becomes food for the collection.
Now I’ve got more than a hundred personal stories. All a couple paragraphs to help jog my memory on the details.
I add new ones every couple days, as my mind pulls clues from my life. Yours will come too.
Can I Repeat My Story?
We are only so interesting. Even the most-interesting people have a finite number of big events in their life.
You will repeat your origin story tens of thousands of times—with every video, article, talk, interview, book, course, or email you create.
It not only is OK to repeat your story, it’s important.
Your readers will forget your background. We don’t want them to forget anything about us. When a certain type of transformation is needed, we want our readers to remember us. And they remember us through the repeated use of our best stories.
While we might use the mundane stories a few times a year, we may re-tell our origin story daily.
No one will fault you for repeating the stories that matter. We all know we can’t change the past.
How Will Stories Grow My Side-Hustle?
Stories grow your business because they’re easy to remember and share. Not only will your stories impact the people in your niche, those people can’t help but tell others.
Your story not only insulates you from competitors, it also improves your ability to get more word of mouth advertising from the people who love what you do.
If you impacted someone’s life to the point where they are now in a better place, of course they’ll spread your story with others.
Your story becomes part of their origin story.
The more you share your story and integrate that story into your special formula or recipe, the more people will feel compelled to share your story with others. Storytelling is the ultimate word of mouth marketing tool.
You become the person who overcame this big hurdle and turned her life around. Everyone has something in their lives they want to overcome. This is why storytelling is so universal. Even if we haven’t gone through the same experience, we’ll mentally alter what happened to you and insert ourselves.
Our brains experience your story with empathy, as if your experience happened to us. That’s a strong connection with a customer. A much-stronger connection than you’d get with a flashy video of all the new features or color schemes.
Nothing Special Happened to Me. I have No Story
I felt the same way when I started collecting stories. I had a good childhood from two, married, caring parents. I never had a severe illness or lost a loved-one early.
Then I dug deeper. I unlocked a young life of being bullied, great mentors I’ve had, martial arts training, crazy antics in college, struggles with money and work as an adult, and all the mundane stuff we take for granted.
There’s an old saying that everyone has two dates and a dash on their tombstone. What’s your dash?
The dash is all the things that made you-you.
No matter how silly or small (or big) those things might feel to you. These stories are what make you human and we want to read them.
We need your vulnerability (and yes, you must have some level of vulnerability with your origin story or you haven’t gone deep enough).
Where Do I Use These Stories?
Some of the best places to use your stories are in content marketing, ads, and sales letters.
As I mentioned, we need to trust you before we buy from you. We learn to trust you when we feel you’re human, just like us. Flaws and everything.
You can scale the amount of detail in your story to reflect the medium of delivery.
Maybe your story is 30 minutes of a one-hour talk, but that turns into a single sentence in a social post.
Same story, different levels of scale.
Use these stories everywhere you post content to earn new customers.
We don’t care about your product. We care about you and what you will do for us. When we learn we can relate to your origin story, we’ll also become fans and customers.
What Makes for A Great Origin Story?
Any tale of triumph, from humble beginnings to a grand finale.
- Some form of early struggle
- A rose above the struggle
- Overcoming odds that most people can’t
- Surviving an illness
- Overcoming something bad from childhood
- Quitting a job to work in your own
- Meeting your soulmate after trying dozens of times and failing
- Developing a tough training plan for yourself and sticking to it
- Winning something no one believed you could win.
Our brains are hard-wired to recognize change in our environment. When you start your content with an incredible story of triumph (any triumph), not only do we see you as one of us, we put ourselves in your shoes.
We start to believe if you can do this thing and get these results from your life, so can we.
This core belief, where we place ourselves in your shoes, is how we sell our work with less effort.
You don’t need shiny ads or slick marketing ‘hacks.’ Your story will do all the heavy lifting. The story is part of your proof your method works.
Your story is why we trust you. You don’t have to tell us to trust you, we will by living through your story in our minds.
We’ll feel how you felt.
We’ll undertake your darkest moments by inserting our own, even if they aren’t the same as yours.
August Birch is an author, email expert, and entrepreneur from Michigan, USA. As a self-appointed guardian of writers and creators, August teaches indies how to make more work that sells and sell more work once it’s made. When he’s not writing or teaching, August carries a pocket knife and shaves his head with a safety razor.