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The Inconvenient Truth

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

By Shannon Peel

“I was so busy the first part of 2020, I didn’t realize what was going on in the world. When I finally looked up from my computer screen, the world outside was empty and I was no longer too busy to notice.”

At the end of 2019, I had no idea what to do. After a long demoralizing job search, which resulted in abject failure and a broken spirit, I’d moved into the world of self-employment. However, I was fooling myself. I basically went from trying to get employers to see my value to getting business owners to see my value, all while telling them, “I have no value.”

I was not self-employed, I was unemployed, playing at business and I was out of time. I needed to look at the cold, hard, inconvenient truth.

Then on January 1st, 2020, a switch was flipped and suddenly, I had paying clients with more paying work waiting in the wings. Things were going to be OK. I wouldn’t have to move back in with my parents. Phew!

In February, I was too busy to read the news so, I didn’t fully comprehend what was coming down the pipeline. I was too distracted by work to listen to the warnings. I was too focused to care. Things had finally turned around for me and I didn’t want any doom and gloom raining on my parade, so I ignored it.

Then the work waiting in the wings, disappeared. For the first two months of 2020, they had called me every day, excited to let me know where they were on the project, and now, I couldn’t get them to answer the phone. I was suddenly off the team and I had no idea why.

Moving back in with my parents was becoming a reality.

The Problem

Businesses need my services. However, most muddle their way through with a DIY approach or hire larger agencies with track records. The competition in my field is overwhelming. The remote digital nature of the job means I have access to global markets, however, so do businesses and they can hire a guy in India for a lot less than I charge. Hell, everyone is a marketer these days and with the tools available, who needs me to do the work for them?

I do good work. In fact, I know I deliver exceptional work within a short period of time. I am the kind of person who picks up the ball and runs with it to get the job done. I complete what I start. I take action. I push projects forward. I know I work harder than most people and I have a variety of skills to complete projects others cannot complete without a team of people. I know I am unique because of my vast skill set, my varied experience, my ability to understand complex problems and bring them to simplified solutions. I’m full of potential, but I’m too old to have potential – At my age, I need to have results and a reputation, not potential.

If I was going to stay an independent adult, I had to take stock of my life, my skills, my talents, and my opportunities. I had to make a change and fast. The good news, during my long stint trying to find a J O B, I had a list. I had all the information. All I had to do was remove what didn’t work and what didn’t work, was my own sense of value.

Most of the time, I didn’t charge people for my work because I wanted to help someone I knew and didn’t feel comfortable charging them for my help, even if it was a business relationship. When I did charge for my time, I didn’t invoice for everything I did. I did more than originally agreed upon, at the agreed upon rate.

Doing more than is expected of me. Expanding my skill set. Providing extra value. Delivering a quality product. Helping others, giving to others, supporting others, is a huge part of who I am. I can’t change who I am at my core, so I have to figure out how to make money despite myself.

I had to stop looking for work once and for all. I needed to figure out how to create a faceless transactional product and find repeat customers willing to pay up front for the deliverables I produced.

Since, what I do is highly customized and dependent on the brand I create for, how could I create something generic enough to tell any business’ story? And would they pay for it? Or should I start packing to move in with my parents?

The First Step

The first step began in September 2019, when I decided to take control of projects to ensure my work was seen and I could measure the results to show my value in the marketplace. I created the APeeling magazine to promote a book I’d helped someone write and added other people’s stories to it. Over the next few issues, I asked others to contribute articles in exchange for exposure through social media.

The magazine has grown from 250 readers a month to over 1500 readers a month in 5 issues and businesses have started to ask me how much to advertise in the magazine. My pivot from service based to product based had already started when the pandemic closed the city down.

During the first part of the shut down, I doubled down on my own social media by engaging with other people, finding those who had a story to tell, and offering them free promotion in APeeling.

As a result, the May issue of APeeling became the largest issue yet with 88 pages and 10 contributors from around the world. Readership is also on track to grow beyond my last record of 1511. I have a project I can proudly point to and confidently give a measurable result. I just might not have to move in with my parents.

The Second Step

In January, I started consistently working with two businesses, on a long-term basis, to develop their brands and tell their stories to their ideal audiences through social media. Since I always do more than is asked of me, I was able to show them what else I could do and their reactions to my work has been positive, which helped me see my value. As I gain confidence and produce results, I gain the reputation I need to build my business.

I’ve met business people whom I have supported and they have supported me. Their words of encouragement and praise for my work has helped me to believe I have value in the marketplace, which is reflected in my work. My community is growing stronger and has taught me so much about business, life, and myself. I am fortunate to have so many cheerleaders rooting for me.

I know our value must come from within, however after years of rejection, cruel words, and unseen value, the positive affirmations from others is helping me see my value.

The Third Step

I took stock of what I had available: Two contract clients, contributors to APeeling, readers of APeeling, podcast guests, and an engaged social media community. How could I build a business on what I already had, based on what I know about myself, my skill set, and the marketplace?

I started by building a monthly subscription program with the deliverables I provide. Next, I created a content subscription option for those who want to receive either unbranded or branded content each month to help them tell their stories on social media.

I expanded my website’s e-commerce store from only selling the books I’d written to offering business related merchandise using drop shipping vendors. This gave me the ability to offer subscription members discounts on featured items every month.

I used my graphic design talents to create unique designs for print on demand drop shipping companies. These designs can be branded or remain unbranded, depending on the buyer needs. I can even customize the designs for brands based on their colours, vision, values, and mission. I now have a hybrid offering of service / subscription / products.

Now What?

I know it won’t be easy to build something of value to the marketplace. In fact, it will be downright frustrating at times. However, I know I have the talent, the skill, and the drive to move a brand from start up into a global powerhouse. I just need help.

In the near future, I have to figure out how to find the help I need to move my vision forward. I know my weaknesses. I know them very well. I’ve had long chats with them into the wee hours of the morning. My next goal is to find people whose strengths are my weaknesses and together we can build an empire.

Am I going to have to move in with my parents? Well, if I end up on my parent’s doorstep, it’s not the end of the world and I am fortunate to have them as an option to fall back on. I can’t worry about things I have no control over, events that haven’t happened, or past mistakes I made. I must focus on doing my best to build a professional quality platform to tell real stories, by real people, with real solutions to life and work because I am driven to create, support others, and tell stories.


Shannon Peel helps brands define and tell their stories to the marketplace.

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