10 Reasons Why I Spend Zero Time Thinking About A-Listers

The theme of this month’s Word Carnival is ‘what carnies want to tell the A-listers’ but the truth is that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them, especially especially not when it comes to the writing business. (Actually I find the whole idea of A-listers slightly annoying, but that’s another story.) Here’s why I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about A-listers:10 Reasons Why I Spend Zero Time Thinking About A-Listers

1. Although I’m always open to learning, I already know my business. I’ve been writing professionally for 25 years (yes, I know I don’t look old enough, but I feel it sometimes, believe me). The so-called A-listers are great at getting noticed, but I’m confident in my skills and I have a nice range of clients and writing buddies who know my worth.

2. I don’t care about getting rich quickly, really I don’t. Like everyone else, there are times when a bit more income would be welcome, but I’m not interested in learning how to hard sell the people who have subscribed to my newsletter and blog updates. In fact, the marketing movement I’m most interested in at the moment is Slow Marketing. Sure, it takes longer, but I’m building great, enduring relationships as I go.

3. Long sales pages for items of dubious value to me give me the heebie-jeebies.

4. Having 20,000 or 100,000 fans isn’t enough of a reason for me to respect someone. To paraphrase Janet Jackson’s old hit, I want to know what people have done – and done for others – lately.

5. Here on the blog, I try to provide info both for people starting out in freelancing and those who have been doing it for a while. Some people start out trying to do something new and benefit the world but then they get a bit successful and start thinking about how to milk the list. (I could be wrong, but that’s how it looks from the outside.) Last time I looked, I wasn’t a cow. πŸ™‚

6. Speaking of the list, I don’t really want to be on an A-lister’s list – and if you happen to entice me in with a freebie I want and sell too hard, I’m off like a shot. I prune my list memberships regularly because I only want to get mail from people who provide something of value, people whom I respect or those with whom I have a personal connection.

7. Hard sell techniques turn me off. Saying something is about to run out if I don’t buy now just makes me yawn. If you want to get my attention – make me curious and teach me something. Just the other day, I watched this video (which it turned out I’d seen before), followed the link to the site that created it, watched some more and then bought the author’s book. Find something I really need and I might buy – but I’m hard to convince.

8. Since I’m great at researching stuff (it goes with the job) and love to read, the convenience of having someone package something up for me doesn’t always appeal, especially if they want to charge hefty amounts. I’m not going to part with $997 unless I’m really, really sure it’s worth it (did I mention that I was hard to convince?) I work hard for my money, know a lot of stuff and know where to find out more so my ideal price point is much, much, lower.

9. I just don’t have the time. I’m too busy writing. And there’s so much stuff. And I’m too busy writing.

10. In the last seven years I’ve connected with a great network of people in the writing and blogging business whose opinions I respect and who bring real value to others. Those are my A-listers – and that’s enough for me. πŸ™‚

This post is part of the October 2012 Word Carnival, a monthly group blogging event for small business owners. The carnival is the brainchild ofΒ Tea SilvestreΒ  and you can read the rest of theΒ fabulous posts here. Don’t forget to check out all the previous collections of carnie goodness on myΒ free marketing ebooksΒ page.

Image:Β Leo Reynolds

About Sharon Hurley Hall

Sharon Hurley Hall has been mentoring writers here at Get Paid To Write Online since 2005 to help them improve and build sustainable and successful writing careers. Check me out on sharonhh.com. Feel free to connect with me online on Google+.


  1. Tea Silvestre says:

    Loved this post, Sharon! Your self-confidence is totally infectious (and deserved). Which is probably why I like hanging out with you.

    • Thanks, Tea. It took a long time to write this one (I have to thank Annie for giving me a handle on it), but I’m happy with the outcome. I like hanging out with you, too. πŸ™‚

  2. I was trying to pick my favourite point – impossible because they’re all so damn true – and came up with this line instead…”Last time I looked, I wasn’t a cow.”

    Seriously though, brilliant post! This Slow movement may be taking off πŸ™‚

  3. Superb post Sharon. You have hit the nail on the head with all 10 of these reason. It is easy to fall into the A-lister trap when first starting out. Funny thing is actually that when you really think about it everybody is offering the same sh*t just repackaged in a different way. I really, really hate the line that so many use – “This is the only time this year I can offer this at such a low price so grab it now!” Uugh, too many used car salespeople.

  4. Oh, Sharon, I wish I could give you a great big hug!

    I know this sounds trite but so what? It’s how I feel. Your post is a beautiful breath of the freshest air I’ve inhaled in a very long time. And I hope your message gets exhaled all over the web! πŸ™‚

    I’m with Sandi. I LOVE this line: “Last time I looked, I wasn’t a cow.”

  5. P.S. My apologies for hogging the comment gallery, Sharon, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed “The Power Of Words” video. Very powerful and heartwarming message. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Happy to share, Melanie. That video brings a tear to my eye every time I watch it – it’s amazing. I’ve just started the book that it relates to – it promises to be powerful too.

  6. Maureen Wielansky says:

    I just found this post on Facebook but it was divine intervention as if God said, since you won’t listen to me….. I value Humility, integrity and authenticity. I strive to always give great value. I just can’t brag about numbers because then the focus is about me and not who I can serve. Plus, who cares?

    Thank you for being so courageous because it has helped e be courageous.

    • Humility, integrity and authenticity is a great description of what drives me and what I’d like to see from the cash-cow variety of A-lister, Maureen – thanks for sharing.

  7. Like many of your readers, I am doing the happy dance here, Sharon. Love, love, love this. I am so tired of being told all the things I am doing wrong. How can anyone know what’s right for me? Do they walk in my shoes (actually, I seldom wear shoes – freelancer freedom – so they couldn’t if they wanted to). :-).

    I love #3. I hope those long sales pages (especially those of dubious value) get flushed forever.

    • Somehow I should have known you’d be with me on this, Cathy (right down to the shoes thing, in case you’re interested). No. 3 is a pet peeve, I have to admit. I very rarely read those pages. I’d also have a lot more interest if they told me up front what the price was rather than making me search for it.

  8. Not everyone seeks fame and fortune! Some of just want comfort and steady work. I will admit to reading several of the “big blogs” and finding valuable information there on occasion. I’m not sure what an A-lister is…but if you have to have fans, long (creepy) sales pages, and sell dubious products, I’d like to stay on the B-team.

    Excellent post!

    • Hi Dava, there are some people who are in the public eye who practice what they preach and deliver what they promise – I have no problem with learning from them. As for the others … I think I’ll stay with my personal A-team instead.

  9. Sharon,

    This is a really great post and definitely highlights some of the problems with the “A-list” attitude.

    Years ago I worked with a self-proclaimed A-lister who kept touting his A status. After while I got frustrated and asked him to show me the A-list. He had to admit that there isn’t (or wasn’t at that time) an actual list.

    And that’s the problem. A lot of people who proclaim themselves to be on the A team are just that–self-proclaimed. Plus, having a lot of fans/followers/etc. doesn’t really mean anything. I’ve seen ads where you can buy said fans/followers/etc., but I’ve always resisted this in favor of organic growth. (Thanks for the link to Slow Marketing.)

    Good post and great points!

    • Thanks for sharing that story, Laura. Organic growth is what it’s all about – when something can easily be gamed, then there’s less reason to trust the numbers – and that’s the case with fans and followers. When we work with clients they want to know if we can do the job and have evidence to prove it. That’s what some of the self-proclaimed experts need to show too.

    • Sharon and Laura,

      You both nailed it.

      A lot of the numbers that supposedly make an A-lister are far too easy to manipulate. I don’t respect someone who focuses their attention on those numbers — social media friends and followers, subscribers, etc. I want to see how many people they actually affect in some meaningful way.

      And I’m sorry, but anyone who claims to be an A-lister doesn’t deserve the title. The most respectable (and often most successful) people in our industry are those who don’t have to constantly toot their own horns. If you’re really that good, other people should say so — not you.

      The only thing worse than a self-proclaimed A-lister is someone who’s obviously trying to become one. They’re often even more aggressive with their tacky marketing and sales efforts that make them look more ridiculous than respectable.

  10. Holy cow I love the cow line. Also, yes, there’s no way you look like you could possibly have 25 years experience at anything except breathing, maybe, but OK, I’ll take your word for it. πŸ˜€ The bottom line is people can TELL when we’re being used, and we don’t like it. End of story. I hope some of these folks get the hint because many of them do have a lot to offer. But the world will keep on turning just fine if they don’t. I honestly think we’re on the brink of something kind of exciting in digital marketing – some kind of fork in the road, where we can become more honest, MORE aligned with integrity, and even celebrate those qualities, or … not. I know which road I’m taking. I’d rather flip burgers than peddle bullshit.

  11. I second Annie. I can’t believe the 25 years unless you started at 5! Focusing on your business is the only way to go. I especially agree with #3, 9 and 10. Great Summary Sharon.

  12. I love this post Sharon! Like Sandi, probably my favorite line is “Last time I checked, I wasn’t a cow” – too true πŸ˜‰ I think the false scarcity is what gets me the most; I understand it with some things, but when it’s a digital or virtual product/event with NO personal touch & yet, they’re using the “LIMITED SEATS! ACT NOW!!!” tactic? Blech. Leaves an awful taste in my mouth. Kudos to you for knowing what’s important to you in your business & being willing to stick to your guns.

    • Thanks, Michelle – I think that sort of tactic lacks integrity. For me, it’s important for people to trust that I mean what I say so statements like that won’t cut it.

  13. Got nudged to come read this by a good friend, and I grinned when I read the intro – and then grinned wider when I read the rest. That’s well said indeed.

  14. Sharon,

    All great points – it reminds me of the old adage that if you know your business well enough, you can quit and become your old business’s consultant (haha). I’ve always been skeptical of long-form sales pages, especially ones with grandiose promises, but when they make a good case about something in particular that I wish I knew (or provide a structure that I was lacking previously) – I’m all over it.

    A-Listers have an important part in the marketing food chain, but as the saying goes: buyer beware (and take everything with a grain of salt).

  15. yep, count me in… maybe we ought to cross fertilize our own A lists? I guess we do, come to think of it.

  16. Thanks Sharon – this came at a great time for me. I’ve just figured out (like, in the last 24 hours) where I need to change direction, but doing it does seem a little overwhelming. In these days of blogs and Twitter and landing pages, it’s easy to see people talking themselves up and feel like you’re doing everything ‘wrong’, because you didn’t make six figures in your first (or second, or third, or fourth) year of business, and because you haven’t come up with these amazing products that you can use to promise to change people’s lives for the low, low price of $395. Because that’s what the ‘successful’ people are doing, right?

    Slow Marketing – yes.

    • I guess the thing to remember, Lucy, is that just because those methods worked for the so-called gurus doesn’t mean they are right for you – you have to go with your gut on finding an approach that you feel comfortable with.

  17. All A-listers are accidental A-listers and they were simply lucky to chose the correct time to start their journey.

    They started their journey when there were very few join them and now they are enjoying it.

    • I’m not against anyone enjoying the fruits of their success, Fahad, but I am against them using sleazy marketing tactics and over-inflated pricing to convince us we can do the same.

      • Also, if you see their post you will notice that now they have no connection with their readers. They rarely reply to any comments…

  18. I love it, your post is full of great points that I totally sympathise with. But more than anything, #7 – the moment I see a hard sale I don’t want to do business with someone primarily because they would use that tactic. I think hard sale tactics generally shows a lack of respect, and a lack of real conviction in your own product, as though people are trying to trick you into doing business with them rather than gain business on the basis of their actual merits.

    It reminds me of a seminar I went to recently where they gave quite a convincing pitch for a service and at the very end threw in a very unconvincing ‘one-time-pay-now-or-never-get-this-again!’ discount. Complete with insisting everyone stand up because they would want to rush to the back of the room to sign up when they heard the price. It absolutely ruined all the hard work the speaker had done explaining what their service was worth, because suddenly I just felt like they were just after my money.

    • Right – no-one wants to be tricked, Phil, and as Jennifer Mattern mentioned above, people who are great at something don’t need to blow their own trumpet because plenty of others will do it for them.

  19. Nicole Fende says:

    I’m not a cow either! And yes I’ve unsubscribed to many a list where I felt like that’s all they viewed me as. In fact, I’m going to unsubscribe from a few more after this.

    Despite being a numbers geek, I prefer to work with people who see me as a person, not a number. You rock Sharon, and you’re on MY A-List.

  20. Wow Sharon, I think each point was so well said and I applaud you. I am so not a cow either and became so disillusioned with people that it just pushed so much doubt for me that I just withdrew from reading anyone at all. This is probably one of the 1st few I have read completely in a while and I just love the reality, truthfulness of it. THANKS Sharon you are an inspiration.

  21. That’s funny. I also don’t pay much attention to most A-listers…reason being…

    I too am not a cow πŸ™‚

  22. Hi Sharon, what I love about your post is that it gives us all permission to make good strong relationships with a handful of good folk. Those of us who haven’t already jumped off the bandwagon of multiple millions of followers who do nothing, give nothing but merely cluster can abandon this worse than useless tactic and leave the ‘a-listers’ to it. Marketing really should not be the numbers game they have turned it into. And for many your post will be a great relief to know it’s alright to do a great day’s job, treat people well and get on with it. Thank you for sharing these valuable insights and I am so delighted not to be a cow as well! In all senses of the word:)

    • Who knew you could distill the message into ‘I am not a cow’, Sandy? πŸ˜‰ Doing a good job and treating people well is not just how I do business, but the way I like to live my life.

  23. Rock on, Sharon. The first thing I thought was “25 years??? You’re totally not old enough for that!” And then I just went on nodding my head a lot. I hate hard sells. And I guarantee that if you tell me something is going to run out/expire and that I have to act now, I will act – by leaving your page and going to do something else. Long sales pages are just someone’s way of cramming an entire website onto a single page because they think we’re too stupid to click somewhere else for more information. I, too, have a very high convincing threshold and a very low price threshold. That wasn’t always the case. I certainly used to think that everyone else must know more than me so I had to buy/learn/subscribe to everything. Money spent, lesson learned: I’m not as dumb as I think, lol…. so I’m less of a sucker for a long sales page and way more into just being around good people. Love your line “not into getting rich quick”. If only we could shout that from a mountain and convince people to stop thinking that!

  24. A-freaking-MEN, Sharon! Well put. The term “A lister” is offensive to begin with because it assumes that someone’s arbitrary title is tangible, or even hanging on anything a client would want to associate with.

    I would much rather (and I do) work directly with clients to win their business and their confidence. This year I’ve doubled my income over last year by doing just that. I don’t want — nor need — to be on any list other than the clients’ lists of people to hire. πŸ™‚

    Ditto those ridiculously long, almost amateurish sales pages with multiple fonts and masses of exclamation points. I was just having a conversation with another writer about why those long-assed sales pages never get read by me. It smells way too much like a snow job.

  25. Your audience is not the masses that worship at the feet of the A-listers. They are the people of integrity who think for themselves. Although that is a much smaller percentage of the population, I believe they are the people we need to get collaborating together to create alternatives to the corruption all around us.

    • “people of integrity who think for themselves” – yes, Gail! Those are exactly the people I want to work with – and the people I respect. Most of those don’t attach labels to themselves, either, nor do they believe their own hype. πŸ˜‰

  26. My first time here, and you nailed it.
    Am getting your RSS after this comment. In fact, as I scrolled down, I thought aloud. “Will I get the comment list closed?”.
    Anyway, one of my A-lister is my buddy whose computer is humming besides mine. With all the world and without him, I would be stale.

  27. I’m going to go a different way because, well, it’s me! πŸ™‚

    I don’t hate A-listers, and to be fair, we can’t group them all into the same club. I think there’s a major difference between a Chris Brogan and a Willie Crawford, for example.

    I want to be known as an A-lister, but you know why. For everyone else, it’s because I tend to believe that influence allows people to not only make money but make a difference, and it doesn’t matter at what. The higher ranked my blogs or websites, even if I don’t visibly sell anything, the more attention I get (everyone gets; I’m just using my name for now) and the more possibilities come my way to be asked to speak or write and get paid for it. And the more opportunities I have to make a real difference in changing people’s minds, raising money for charities, etc.

    Now, having said that, I’ll add that I follow very few of the known A-listers. It’s not out of any hate for any of them, it’s just that so many of them have more guest posts these days than actual content coming from them, and I don’t think most of them are reading the articles that are coming from these guest posters because an overwhelming number of them are horrid; I wouldn’t want that stuff associated with my site.

    Okay, I’m done; time for ice cream. πŸ˜‰

    • Hey, Mitch, the whole point of this is that you can go your own way, so I’m happy to have another opinion. πŸ˜€

      I don’t hate A-listers either (hatred being a total waste of time in most cases); I just don’t have much time for self-proclaimed experts. You make a good point about the visibility that being prominent brings and the resultant effect on income, though.

      And I am definitely with you on the last point – when I visit certain blogs I’m looking for insight from the particular people who run that blog. Not that I can point fingers, but then I’m not an A-lister (as the term is commonly understood). πŸ˜‰