“How do you do it?”

(I originally posted this over at Life Is Art, but I fet that it would get lost over there, with all of the arts updates, so I am reposting it here for posterity.)

Recently, someone from a very nice organization asked me for advice on how to build their own organization. They looked at what we had done with Life Is Art, PhilanthroFest and Soul Of Miami and they believed we knew some secret for making it work.

We get this question a lot, “How do you do it?” Many times it just means that people are curious how we are seemingly everywhere all the time, tirelessly networking and socializing. Sometimes people are asking how we built Life Is Art and/or Soul Of Miami up from nothing. Those two are actually related.

I thought I would share my answer to the recent inquiry, in case it might help you out, as well. It is a legitimate question and one I wish I had a better answer for.

Photo credit Charlotte Libov

However, there are no real secret tips or tricks that I can give. It is just plain old hard work. My partner and I work, no kidding, around 90 hours a week, and have done so for almost 3 years now. Up until January of this year, I had a full time “regular job”, in addition to running Life Is Art and Soul Of Miami. I am down to working my “regular job” 2 days per week, but Annette still has a full-time job.

We work, almost continuously, from the time we get up until the time we fall asleep, every day of the week. That is the only way I know of do it, if you do not have the money and connections already when you start. We did not have that. When we founded Soul Of Miami and Life Is Art, we had no money and no connections (and no clue!). All of the success, such as it is, has been built purely on hard work, determination and perseverence. Remember the old saying, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration,” by Thomas Edison? Well, I believe it is something more like 5%/95%, but maybe that is just me. People often have a hard time believing how right he is, and want to believe that there is some secret to succes. There isn’t.

Admittedly, we are experienced event producers, having done it for many years. So, we understand what needs to be done to make a successful event and how much time it is likely to take. When we started an event organization, we knew that part. That has helped a lot. But, still, starting from the bottom and working your way up is a long, slow, very hard road, but it can be trod, with persistence and passion, some good fortunate and a lot of great friends.

One of the key and large expenditures of time is networking. You have to get out there and be seen in the community, meet new people, make new friends and connections, and continue to cement the ones you already have. Almost every evening we are out after work, shaking hands and giving out business cards. It makes a huge difference. Unless you have a serious budget to advertise, this is the only good way that I know of to get your name out there. In my opinion, this is the biggest key to Life Is Art’s growth, the fact that we actually make a serious effort to get out and meet people.

As far as building a fanbase online, it is all about content and sharing. If you do not have a blog/news page on your website, get one. Update it at least three times per week. Do not just talk about yourself. Find out what other related organizations are doing, and post their news, as well. Find news related to your mission, that your constituents might be interested in, and post that. Share what other people are doing. This not only builds you content, but it builds your relationships.

Same thing with Facebook. Take your fanpage and make sure it is updated a couple time per day. Again, not just your own stuff, share the work of others. You share their work, they will likely share yours. Same works for Twitter. One thing to remember about online work is to keep it real. This is particularly true about Twitter. Don’t just tweet about your work, tweet about your life, tweet about the life of the organization, make it personal and personable. Unfortunately, we do not have time to do this for Life Is Art, but it is what Soul Of Miami is all about.

Honestly, other than that, I have no special wisdom. Really hard work and sharing is all we do. Hopefully, one day it will work out.

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