How to Succeed Online (Even if You Aren’t a Rock Star)

image of dog in sunglasses
Yesterday on Google+, Charlotte Pierce made a very sensible remark.

By the way, does everyone have to be a hotshot, guru, or a rock star? How about just quietly excellent?

I’m with Charlotte. In fact, I’ve just about lost my patience with the parade of internet-famous quasi-celebrities.

Maybe being a rock star isn’t so awesome

Now I’m not putting down marketers with big audiences. That would just be stupid.

Lots of people with big audiences are doing very cool things. Like we’ve said 385,291 times, you want to attract that audience — the audience is where all the good things come from.

But some of the most visible “rock stars” out there are bitter, burned out, or broke.

Too often, being a “rock star” means you don’t get to evolve. You don’t get to grow. You don’t get to get smarter.

You just get to keep playing the same greatest hits that got you all that attention in the first place.

Which is okay if you’re the Rolling Stones. But kind of a bummer if you were only ever this guy.

You should be what you want to be

I totally get why people envy the “rock stars,” the ones with millions of Twitter followers or big book deals. The ones who look so shiny and unapproachable.

But I think you should worry less about them and think more about how to celebrate what you’re doing.

One thing I like a lot about my company is that I get to do the things I’m good at. The things that give me G.A.S. (that’s a good thing).

In your company — whether it’s just you or you’re on a team — you need to find that. You need a role where you can play to your strengths. That’s where the energy comes from for the long haul … and it’s always a long haul.


As I said to Charlotte, you can be a secret agent or a ninja librarian or an emperor penguin. Maybe you’re a goonie. (You can even be a rock star, but only if it makes you happy.)

But be what you’re incredibly good at. Make yourself useful to an audience you care about. And celebrate the hell out of that.

A big chunk of being successful is recognizing all the great stuff you’re already doing. The shiniest rock star is a failure if she keeps chasing meaningless goals that are always just over the horizon.

Every day I’m blown away by the talent and tenacity and vibrance of you. The person reading this. Right now.

As the end of the year is coming up, remember to celebrate all the amazing things you’ve done. Your audience, your content, your skill set, your passions, your partnerships, all of it. Take a look back at where you were at the beginning of the year, and notice all of the cool stuff you did over the past 12 months.

And celebrate that. Even if you’re not a rock star.

Because I think you’re pretty damn cool.

Flickr Creative Commons image by alan-light

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Reader Comments (58)

  1. Dorien says

    I must say, I’m pretty pleased with this post. Not because it is worldshockingly brilliant or anything, but because it comforts me.

    For a while I’ve been struggling with finding ‘my thing’. Being overly curious I find al lot of things are ‘my thing’. Which, in combination with following a lot of ‘rockstars’ (like Copyblogger or the nailpolishblogger I follow) made me unsubconciously conclude “you must chose ONE thing, and ONLY one”……and it has numbed me.

    It has numbed me to the point of thinking:
    Why bother to start a blog/site/whatever (which is why you don’t see a website when you click my name) when you are not a born rockstar?

    This post comforted me in the sense that I can be the single soul shouting in a desert and no one answers if it makes me happy. I can do more than one thing. Being a rockstar is not the GOAL, it is a possible RESULT of wanting to reach a goal.

    So thank you. This might even make me ‘do the website thing’.

    (Just saying: Copyblogger tought me A LOT in the past year and I read every post taking it all in. That’s not the case with the nailpolishgirl :) )

      • Dorien says

        Well the ‘figuring out part’ is my strength…the ‘actually do stuff’ not so much :)

        For me it is time to stop the questioning and start the answering!

        And thank you for the comment!

    • says

      The thing you have to keep in mind (and this is something that I suffer from) is that it’s okay to be passionate about something, throw your entire body and soul into it, reach a point of saturation, and then walk away and start something new.

      At my core I’m a writer, but I’m also curious about everything. Because I want to honor the gift I’ve been given, I want to become the best possible writer I can become. But outside of that, I let my curiosity lead me.

      I’ve done this with topics like web writing, poetry, theology, fiction, and music. Some people make it a business to start a blog, grow it in two years, then sell it, and move on to another topic.

      At some point you have to pick something and do it. If that paralyses you, then remind yourself you don’t have to do that topic for ever. But pick THE most interesting thing at the moment, and go. You won’t regret the effort.

  2. says

    If you really believe in yourself, then I think you’re already a rockstar. My motto is – work hard, and play (celebrate) even harder.

  3. says

    Rick Astley! Met the guy one evening when he walked through the door of my local pub in Rochdale (close to Manchester, UK). He was a Rockstar for sure in the 80s but far happier drinking Guinness in the 90s! :-)

    oh.. great post by the way Sonia πŸ˜‰

  4. says

    Wait a second, Sonia. You’re saying it’s ok to just be quietly excellent at what you do, and it’s not mandatory to be one of the “cool kids” to be successful? You mean I can just go about my business, be who I am, feel good about myself, provide valuable services and still be do well… even if I’m not “famous”? πŸ˜‰

  5. says

    Sonia – Great post! I recently started a personal blog just because I wanted to get a post out of my head about why I’m glad I’m NOT a rock star. Though for me it was more literal, I chased a music career early on.

    When we think of rock stars we usually see fame and fortune. I’ve now had the chance to meet some of my adolescent idols and the glitz and glamour has given way to the years of wear and tear that lifestyle puts on a person.

    And to your point, it’s easy to become stuck in who you were.

    On the other hand, there is one big lesson we can learn from the most successful rock stars (subject of yet another post), every time you’re on stage, whether that’s a literal stage, your blog, or somewhere else, give it your all. Give your audience a great show, whether it’s an audience of 1 or millions. Because when we’re listening, we want you to rock.

    • says

      Agree, I used to hang out online with a guy who had actually been on the cover of Rolling Stone at one point in his life. In other words, a rock star for real. He had settled into a much quieter life, and I think he’d agree that as much fun as the glory days had been, they were a small part of his real life and/or what he had to contribute to this planet.

  6. says

    Great post!

    I agree with Charlotte. I’m over the gurus, rock stars and hotshots. If you buy into the illusion, you may talk yourself out of owning your own business. Let’s face it; you don’t live with people. Someone may have it going on, on the outside, but inside, they could be a crumbling mess. And just because a person has a million Twitter followers, doesn’t mean they’re converting each and every one of them. Who’s to say they didn’t buy followers?

    My hope is that people accept their talents and use them to the best of their abilities. Stop looking in the rear view mirror. Run your own race and be happy. You don’t have to face 5 million Facebook fans to be happy.

    Finally, all that glitters is not always gold. Get over the shiny object syndrome. :)

    • says

      Or at least give yourself the flexibility of trying on different things and seeing what really gives you juice.

      It does seem that many younger people are getting this in a big way. Which makes for a complicated life, but predictability is overrated, doubly so when you’re young.

  7. Ahmad Munawar says

    Feel good message of the year! Thanks Sonia.

    People who aspire to rock star status usually get into the game for all the wrong reasons: money, fame, status, etc.

    The irony is the authentic rocks stars got into the game to play. Success was simply a product of playing well.

  8. says

    Great post, Sonia. I’m over the so called “Experts,” who jam my email box everyday with some new must open email that is supposed to make them relevant to me. I’d much rather get a weekly update from a true Authority, who may not have millions of followers, but has useful information that is pertinent to me.

    • Bob says


      I just unsubscribed to a half dozen of these “experts” because after a few months they seem so desperate for attention or traffic with their daily or more than one-a-day emails.

      Half the emails, posts and podcasts are promoting their peers work who suspiciously look like their competitors. What’s up with that? Is this their way of sharing email addresses without actually “sharing” them?

      It feels like a high school clique but with 20 and 30 somethings who like to cuss, rambling on about themselves and have a lot of inside jokes while patting themselves on the back and calling each other experts.

      Copyblogger is a refreshing find!

  9. Emily Bailey says

    Love your post for two reasons:

    #1: I totally agree. My favorite marketing professionals are those with a quiet but genuine presence. Not the ‘rock stars’ that likely played the ‘follow – unfollow game’ to build their audience (not saying that all do that, but there are quite a few that have).

    #2: You chose a pitbull for your image – my favorite :)

  10. says

    Sonia, this is what so many start-up bloggers need to hear! “But I think you should worry less about them and think more about how to celebrate what you’re doing.”

    You wrote something similar a while back in a different blog post. I appreciate these little messages. So often I see what others are doing and easily get discouraged by not looking like that rockstar. I have to remind myself that I have a special audience of my own to tap into. I enjoy seeing what others do, because it often sparks inspiration, but I have my own path to pave.

  11. says

    Marvelous article, Sonia!

    Copyblogger is where I turn every December to gain perspective on what’s happened with my content marketing and copywriting business the past twelve months and Copyblogger is where I find the right inspiration to propel my work into the next year.

    I’m going to take your advice and celebrate 2013 because it really was the year of the writer.

    2014 is going to be even better! Thanks for blazing the trail.

  12. says

    Love the article. Sometimes, articles should be just like this one. Ones that will inspire those on the journey to be great. :)

    It is a wonderful thing when you can celebrate any thing you’re good at, even if it is small.

    As they say, success is always found in the details and it is important to recognize them and move forward.

    In the world of success, it is mightily important to focus on yourself and just plain, being yourself.

    Be confident in who you are and you will sure enough build an audience who loves you for who you are.


    – Samuel

  13. says

    Love this. Being a rockstar can often constrict what we’re allowed to say too. Who needs that nonsense?

    Quietly excellent. Profound simplicity. I need to keep chewing on that one. It’s a good reminder. Sometimes it gets to be so hard to watch the “It Girl” say the exact same thing and get noticed. Gotta keep our egos in check.

  14. says

    Great points! I love how you put it “quietly excellent.” I would so rather be a person who is continually growing than a dying rock star playing the same game day in and day out. I think that’s what makes us come alive, discovering new things we find enjoyable that relate to what we are good at. Keeps our minds fresh and motivated to keep moving forward.

  15. says

    Great post, Sonia. Wandering off into the jungle with a blindfold on is far more rewarding than avoiding the goal and keeping the dream safe – when it’s safe, you can’t fail. And that’s not progress.

  16. says

    Sonia, I will definitely say that, visiting Copy Blogger website is one among the amazing things that I have done in 2013.
    By the way just landed myself into My.CopyBlogger Marketing Library, it is indeed cool.
    Great post, guess it’s time for me to celebrate :-)

  17. says

    Wow, totally inspirational for me as a one woman show.

    Love your sense of humor.

    New follower here. Sooo looking forward to see what you share next. πŸ˜‰


  18. says

    Aw, what a great post. Thanks Sonia, it’s just what I needed to hear today. Celebrating our accomplishments is something we forget to do when we’re chasing after our goals. I will read all the comments now as I so enjoy the discussion here at CopyBlogger.

  19. says

    Thanks, been blogging now for 6 months on tennis and i average around 300 views a day, want to get that up soon, but i will keep writing daily, who needs to be a rock star?

    Merry Christmas from kobe, japan.

  20. says

    Copyblogger is where I turn every December to gain perspective on what’s happened with my content marketing and copywriting business the past twelve months and Copyblogger is where I find the right inspiration to propel my work into the next year.

  21. says

    This was a great way to make the little guys and beginners like me feel great! When your trying to improve your site/business and all you have is people who already made it sometimes its hard to remember that its okay to be where your at. Every expert was once a beginner and it better to grow than not.Sometimes ( okay a lot) I forget this thanks for reminding me

  22. says

    Nice Article But
    Rockstarness is something that comes within the soul. if we feel yourself rockstar then we are a rockstar. it all about what we feel about us not what others feels about me.

  23. says

    Excellent article! I agree, the last thing I ever want to be is a rock-star or guru. I want to be an excellent social media and marketing manager who makes a difference in my customer’s business. I want to help them grow their business and really understand them. I want to be a long term partner not a short term contract. I like being selective with whom I work with, I want to be surrounded by the right people for all the right reasons.

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