I just finished rereading Hugh MacLeod's terrific short book, Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination. If you need some inspiration on following your dreams, this book is a great starting point.
Toward the end of the book, Hugh talks about his approach to marketing. If you're not familiar with his work, I can tell you that he is the worldwide leader in cartoons drawn on the backs of business cards. (It's entirely possible that he's also the only cartoonist who works in that medium, but whatever.) From this fairly obscure position, Hugh has published two bestselling books, has a very successful blog (gapingvoid.com), and sells his artwork all over the world.
Yet he gives much of his work away for free. In fact, every weekday morning, he sends out an original cartoon — his "gift to the world," as he calls it:
If enough people like the gift, it’ll build up goodwill, they’ll tell their friends, and the list will grow. The more the list grows, the more people discover the trail of breadcrumbs that leads back to the work I actually get paid for.
He does this in a way that doesn't seem like marketing, and it has proven very successful for him. Some of his followers simply enjoy his gift and do nothing more. But enough of them enjoy these gifts so much that they eventually return the favor by buying his artwork, books, or services.
You can read more about his giftlike approach to marketing in a blog post — "The three keys to social media marketing" — that tracks what he wrote in his book.
Since tonight is Christmas Eve and the fifth night of Hanukkah, many of us are thinking about gift giving. What gifts can you give to the people who might become interested in what you have to offer? Start looking at your marketing as gift giving instead of "selling."