I publish exclusively to my popular newsletter, The Sunday Dispatches, once a week. Some of those articles appear below a few weeks later.
I don’t actually care about growth
“If this company needs to grow beyond the three of us, I’m out.” That was one of the first things I said to my ofCourseBooks cofounders when we started the company. Not because I’m afraid of success, but because “success” to me means being able to get what needs done, done without having to hire a […]
Workshop to course
I want to share a simple way to test your big ideas, like a course, with a smaller idea first.
The astroturf is always greener
Personal growth happens when we take chances or try new things or see what happens when we turn everything on its head.
Define your “need to haves” vs “want to haves”
Start small. Start with just the smallest version of your idea and a way to manually make it happen. You can automate later. You can add more to it later.
When should you start making products?
I chat with a lot of folks who want to make and sell products. Which is great—it’s fun to make things that people want. It seems that most of them fall into three camps (these aren’t like the summer camps with an underwater meeting place in the middle of the lake).
This is the exact opposite of every “grow your list” article
There are SO MANY articles about growing your email list, and really, they just spew the same tired crap about “more subscribers = more profit” and using “All The Popups”. These subscribers at all costs articles are horribly short-sighted, and worse, require a tremendous amount of growth because there’s inevitably so much churn (in the form of unsubscribes).
Absolutism can absolutely ruin your business
Business is an experiment. If it wasn’t, everyone’s businesses would be profitable all the time. And experimenting implies an outcome is unknown.
The business of creativity (part 2)
Again and again, I see this comment in various forms directed towards myself and others: huckster, fraud, snake-oil salesman, sell-out, spammer, selfish, money-grubber, etc… Or: “Where’d the guy who cared about creativity and art go? Now you just sell your shitty products!” If I can set the record straight for a minute: just because someone […]
The business of creativity (part 1)
If you are interested in having a long-term career in trading creativity for commerce, then you’ve got to figure out how you’ll get paid and how you can ensure that you getting paid will happen – consistently and bring in enough to support your life.
The advice gold rush
Write, speak, share. But think about why you’re doing those things. Is it because you want more authority for the sake of authority (or for the sake of higher speaking fees)? Or is it to help others with what you’ve actually learned?
Cracking the best-seller list
I want you to make things because you want to make things. Because they should exist in the world, but don’t yet. Because you actually, really, honestly fucking enjoy creating them. And yes, partly because you like making money and feeling accomplished (who doesn’t?), but also because your voice should be heard. Not the voice of how you reached some bullshit milestone, but the voice of you sharing what you know with the world.
I found your passion
Passion is a fickle flame that burns brightly in one moment and is snuffed out the next.
In the end, it’s not about trying to train ourselves to never get mad. That sounds like a recipe for disaster resulting in ripped shirts and green skin…
I’m giving notice
Noticing means we’re open to exploring ideas. Noticing means we’re paying attention without bias. And amazing things can happen when we do.
The audience and the outcome
If you want to create something for money, there’s an easy framework for quickly figuring out all the decisions you need to make in order to go from start to finish…
Behind the scenes of a timed online course launch
If you’re thinking about launching an online course, know that it’s not a magical gravy train ride where leprechauns in suits dump money at you from the caboose.
Dear FNAME, newsletter personalization isn’t what you think it is
Personalization is more than just adding “Hello FNAME” to the start of your emails.
Make automation great again
Leave the internet comets and teams of Cubans to big companies who suck at taking care of their customers. You can use automation to be an extension of your own unique and personal style and for the actual benefit of those coming in contact with you (even if it’s at 3am, when you’re sound asleep).
There is a war going on for your mind
What we can do is act in spite of these negative feelings. We can take those fears, those worries, those doubts and move forward anyway.
Launching is a full-contact sport
You can suit up in protective gear, you can make a game plan, you can even have a great coach. But at the end of the day, the only way to see how things will play out is to get out onto the field and play.
Happiness and gravy
I expect very little from anything I do.
Specifician to a generalist?
Should you focus on just one skill and master it 100% inside and out? And then, just outsource the other pieces you need, as you need them? Or should you become a generalist with all the skills required?
Choosing the wrong clients can mean the difference between a profitable future and wasting your time for months (or years) on work that won’t go anywhere or help you in the long run.
I think I’ve lost my mind
Do you ever get a sense of dread or feel overwhelmed when you think about your list of what you need to do within a certain amount of time?
It’s safer to be busy
When we’re busy, we just keep reacting to what’s in front of us. There’s no time for introspection or deep thinking because there’s so much on our plate.
State of the Union, 2016
I’ve spent the last few months quietly reflecting on both 2015 and what lies ahead for 2016. (I also spent a lot of time making and eating lasagne—it helps with quiet reflection, or something…)
The incurable creative virus
So far in my life I’ve been: a writer for business publications, a web designer to Valley Startups and Fortune 500s, a nature photographer, a teacher of freelancers, a touring musician (and co-owner of an indie label), a failed startup founder (twice), a podcast host, a self-published author of five bestselling books, and, for a few weeks in the early 2000s, a stock icon creator and seller (they were very pixelly–it was a trend back then).
What if we applied minimalism to our mental space?
Know your endgame before you start playing
Are you looking to make money selling things or are you looking to make the world a better place with what you make?
The 1% of a long-lasting career
Wanting a successful career is kind of myopic. Any career will have its highs and lows, times when you feel on top of the world and times when you feel like giving up.
Everything you wanted to know about creating a $300k+ online course
UPDATE: launching this course started out a side project, but turned into a source of full-time income. There’s a part one and I’ve recently launched another course. In part one I covered how I built my freelancing course, Creative Class. I talked about software, my online course setup and what was involved in creating it. It made $100k+ […]
Podcasting for freelancers
How to start a podcast for people who don’t want their lives taken over by podcasting
Whose playground are you playing in?
Existing in or building your audience in someone else’s playground should never be your primary strategy.
Does anyone remember laughter?
I get a lot of flack for my humour. Not for how bad it is, but because I use it at all. I’m supposed to be a professional!
I am my own worst enemy
There’s nothing any troll has said about me, my work or what I put out into the world that I haven’t thought to myself at least once or twice.
There’s no such thing as a big break
Achievement is never the result of a single action, it’s the build-up of all of our actions.
The Underpants Myth
There’s no coincidence that the people making the most passive income from their products also work the hardest.
Apples to elephants
No one on the Internet is living the life you think they are.
Being successful vs. being known
I know a great number of people (that you’ve obviously never heard of) that have made a fulfilling and lasting career out of being invisible makers.
Motivation < Action
Co-exist with the lack of motivation as you act on what you feel motivated to do.
Master working for yourself without crushing your soul
I became a freelancer by accident.
We have to pay attention to our work, and not just stay busy doing it
Ask yourself this: are you someone that you’d want to pay attention to?
The one thing every aspiring freelancer, college student or person with access to a time machine should know.
It’s all a balancing act.
Sometimes I hate my guts
My gut is an asshole because he cares. He doesn’t want me to make the wrong decisions, especially when I know they’re wrong and still proceed to choose them.
I could never…
One of the things I hear the most from people after reading something I wrote is “That’s all well and good for you, but I could never…”
On simplifying: pizza & complications
We like to complicate things. Product launches, service offerings, websites, pizza…
How to work a project partnership
Working for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you always got to work alone.
The surefire way to turn a profit as a freelancer
Let me spoil the whole article for you in the first sentence: if you spend less money than you make, you’ll be profitable.
Our work ego: the good, the bad, the ugly
Egos are a funny thing when we’re working for ourselves and launching our own products.
Everything you wanted to know about creating a $100k online course
UPDATE: launching this course started out a side project, but turned into a source of full-time income. Since writing this I’ve added a second part and launched another course. I’m sick of hearing from friends that their online course costs more money to run than the revenue it’s generating. Or that they have to shut […]
Content marketing isn’t the dirty word you think it is
People call me a “content marketer” often (not sure if it’s a compliment or insult), so let’s talk about how you can use the articles you write to sell the products or service you’ve got.
Why you shouldn’t take a client’s money
As a freelancer, you’re not obligated to work with anyone.
No, you shouldn’t hire me and here’s why
TRUE FACT: As a freelancer, you’re not obligated to work with anyone.
Stop consuming, start acting
We live in a world of tips & tricks, listicles and deep thoughts (in 140 characters or less). This is a world we actively perpetuate by continually showing how eager we all are to consume this type of information. It lures us in with promises of saving time, building better habits, retiring early by working less, etc…
Positioning yourself as a freelancer
You can find a freelancer labourer on Fiverr or eLance who charges just a couple bucks an hour to complete a task (from web design to copyediting 1,000 words to rapping the lyrics you write).
The complete and logical guide to winning at your own life in 19 super difficult steps
Just like every other human on the planet, I have epically awesome days and days when life just shits on my face.
Have we reached Peak Paul?
What if all my best writing is behind me? What if last week I finally said everything I had to say about … everything?
My 7-day cycle for generating content that gets read & shared by 30,000+ people/week
I write for and in a lot of places. There’s my mailing list, my website, publications that require exclusive content, and even a few where my writing is regularly syndicated. Typically, although it seems like more, I write one article per week, and I write it with my mailing list in mind. Because (last time I checked), I’m only […]
Setting Client Expectations
If both parties aren’t perfectly clear about the deliverables, process, timeline, and shared responsibilities — in writing, before there’s money on the table — you’re basically jumping out a window and hoping it’s not the 27th floor.
A world without advice
What if all advice just stopped existing?
Stop doing shit you don’t like
Consider yourself in the choices you make
Growth happens when your audience shares what you do with their own audience.
Behind the scenes of The Sunday Dispatches
I want to take you on a behind-the-scenes look at my mailing list. Transparency and all that.
Launching means giving up control
My thoughts on the crazy, stressful, awesome world of launching products.
8 out of 10 statistics are completely made up
According to a fake study done by Bloomberg, eight out of 10 small businesses will fail within the first 18 months.
Win at SEO
A few people have asked why I don’t cover SEO (Search Engine Optimization) in my books and the reason is simple—because I couldn’t give a rats ass about it.
The Step Back
As makers, creators, doers, builders, freelancers, we focus almost entirely on those things we produce. Especially in the beginning, because that’s how we’re wired.
The motivating and scary allure of expressing yourself in your work
The thing with lines in the sand is that they create division.
Survivorship Bias and Hungry, Hungry Hippos
When Tim Ferriss or Seth Godin (or insert name of successful person here) write and release a book in a new and different way, of course it’s going to do well. They’re Tim and Seth!
Common mistakes freelancers make with their business
As good as we are at making our art, freelancers miss one of the most important requirements for running a business: representing ourselves.
Focus and Control
We can pretty much succeed at anything. Conversely, we can fail at anything, too.
Marketing tools for any self-published book
Marketing your self-published book involves a lot of focused work, typically as much work as it took to write the book in the first place.
Effective marketing for introverts
I know you have something to say. You’ve been saving it up for a while now, being patient, listening, taking notes, and researching.
How to cultivate a writing routine when you run a business
How do you create consistent content that you don’t get paid to do? You have a business to run!
What do you do when the trolls come marching in?
I’ve been called a spammer, a hack, a link-baiter, a self-centered and flippant asshole, and shoddy excuse for a writer who would do better if I stopped putting articles out.
User onboarding: not just for HR and growth hackers
Are you aware of the steps it takes for a client to hire you? What’s involved on their end, and on your end?
The most useful business advice you’ll ever get from me
The Internet isn’t a meritocracy, where we can just do good work, put it on a website and hope others will find it and buy it.
What’s your social capital?
You know that person. The one that’s always on social media tweeting links to their products every few minutes. Exclamation marks abound like they’re getting paid per instance by ExclamationMarkCo.
Why I’m so negative about positivity
Let’s talk about white bears and Stay Puff Marshmallow Men.
Call me a quitter, just ask Vince Lombardi
There’s the old adage, “a quitter never wins and a winner never quits”, that tells us to slog on when something’s not working, and tough things out until they do.
You’re going to need to wear a lot of hats
Wouldn’t it be great if being a brilliant artist was all it took to earn a living?
Why your work needs both cake & icing
Marketing is icing. If there’s not a cake underneath, it’d be pretty hard for it stand up in the shape of a cake by itself. We can’t just focus on making icing. We need to also make the cake.
Attention is a gift you give to your work
I realize that I tend to write a lot about negative emotions and experiences, like criticism. Fear. Failure.
I’m no productivity expert, but I get asked about it a lot. There are four things I do to get as much as possible done.
“What do you do for a living?”
This question tends to evoke either fear and stomach knots or an eagerness that borders on fanaticism in those of us who work for ourselves in creative fields.
Find your rat people
For your creativity to support you, you need to find your 1%. Your rat people.
Sales advice from the world’s crappiest salesperson (aka: me)
Most of us creatives suck at selling. And this is probably part of the reason why we write or draw or create instead of selling cars or condos.
When you work for yourself, your boss is probably an asshole
Bosses can suck when you’re self-employed (aka: when YOU are the boss of yourself).
The Metric of More
The problem with the metric of more is that it’s dehumanizing. It’s easily the biggest problem with this new hyper-connected economy.
Do what you love
Even as someone who works for myself and makes a living off of creativity, it’s not always fun and holding hands while letting the rays of sunshine wash over my face.
How to be rich like me
People assume that if they’ve heard of you, you must be raking it in.
The common elements of good storytelling
My favourite activity while I lived in Tofino, BC was attending my artist friend, Roy Henry Vickers’ storytellings.
The importance of emotion in design
Business on the Internet is about standing out and being noticed. We want what we do online to be thought of as remarkable and worthy of continued discussion.
How to run your mailing list like a total jerk
Everybody (myself included) is always going on and on about how important it is to have a mailing list for your business. It’s the easiest way to keep in touch with your audience and it nets the highest conversions when you’re selling things. The draw to build your list’s subscribers is heard far and wide.
100% Proven Tactics
Grow your audience with little to no work!
Create an engaging blog for your product
If you’re launching a company or product, congratulations, you’re now also a content creator—or you should be.
So, I decided not to have any goals. Not a single one. Not then, not now. I still avoid them as much as possible, almost as much as I resist owning a suit and tie.
I wrote an article no one wanted
I wrote an article. No, not this one, a different one (that’d be too meta).
Self-publishing battle royale
This is what I’ve learned, having now self-published five books.
Your business doesn’t need a hollow manifesto. It needs an unwavering message and foundation for success. It needs a rallying point.
A manifesto for creative professionals
We are amplifiers. Clients need to bring their skilled craft to the table for the project to succeed.
A (fall out of) love note
Fall out of love with your inner critic immediately. Kill its voice before it kills you.
Free High-Resolution Photos
Free High-Resolution Photos
How to dominate at blogging
I was curious today what the “big guns” of Internet marketing tell their audience to do, in order to be successful. I’ve been accused of being an “Internet marketer” before, so I needed to know more about what I was supposedly peddling.
I don’t know what I’m doing
I’m going to level with you—I don’t know what I’m doing.
What I’ve learned about creating meaningful work
Working for yourself is scary stuff. When you work for someone else, it’s easy to blame failings or frustrations on the boss, the company or even the customers you’re forced to deal with.
When is the best time to create?
The dishwasher is running noisily and probably should be replaced. There are at least 3 dogs barking outside (from the sounds of it, 2 large ones and one tiny one). As well, there’s a child screaming on the street — she doesn’t want to get in the car with her parents. Dinner, a vegan “meat” loaf, is cooking and since there’s not a working timer on the oven, I’m winging it.
I don’t live up to my online self
In fact, I come up very short. Online me is a fearless, straight-shooting, awesome(ish) communicator. While nothing about that is an actual lie, it’s not always true. Just like everyone else, I illustrate certain points and let people see part but not all of me.
Fear plays you against yourself. It can’t actually do anything to you, but it makes you think that it’s the biggest, baddest bully in the playground, who’ll slap you down if you stand out enough for fear to notice you.
Do What You Say You’ll Do
What you actually do matters much more than what you say you’re going to do. Anyone can talk a big game or over-promise, but the actual follow-through is what creates lasting success.
Crisis of Confidence
Feel like a fraud? Like you’re not good enough? Like what you make isn’t as good as what other’s make?
Every Entrepreneur is an Artist
There is no map, no guarantee of success. If there was, the map would have been photocopied (or reblogged on tumblr) by now.
Do you want to know the difference between the folks who are constantly creating new things, selling their ideas as products and making money doing what they want to be doing… and everyone else? It’s easy—they put in the work required to make those things happen. They show up and work. Even (or especially) if […]
Fuck Stats, Make Art
Trying to follow a formula, script or tactic to get more traffic, sales or followers never works in the long run because it screams inauthenticity. Your goals and desires echo in everything you do, even if you think they don’t. So if you’re focused on going viral or being popular or selling something, it’ll show.
Build an Audience from Scratch
Let’s say tomorrow I had to start my business from scratch. No existing clients, no existing following. How would I build an audience? How would I attract customers?
Don’t ask for the wrong things
There are common things clients of web design ask for in every project. These aren’t always the right things to ask for or even focus on, yet they are almost always brought up. Not because it’s the best thing for a project, but because it’s what clients think they should be asking for.
Practice makes closer
Perfection is a myth, so practice can never make perfect. In fact, all that striving for perfection can actually lead you away from launching anything.
A brave new world
Too many people supervise others without making anything of their own. In a previous world, they were called managers, directors, foremen/forewomen, and critics. In this new world, that type of work isn’t required. Their best option is to move from managing to making.
You are not a large corporation
A manifesto for the self-employed. You are a unique badass who’s thrown down the shackles of cubicle life and been liberated by your own ambition to take things into your own hands. You now have tremendous power, so use it to your own benefit.
I’ve been told I get a lot done quickly. Both in terms of client work I take on, as well as the sheer number of side-projects and hobbies I’ve got on the go at any given time. Here are a few of the things I’ve figured out that work for me.
I’m asked at least once a month by potential clients if I can copy a design of a website for them that’s exactly like X [insert previous client name here] or if they can buy the design for X to use for their website. My answer (obviously “no”) is always the same with the following explanation.
Notification separation anxiety
Less means fewer distractions and more focus (hopefully). Specifically, and what I mean to say by “distractions” in this instance, is notifications.
Lessons in creativity
I’ve spent a decade and a half getting paid for creative work and running my own show (also called being a freelance designer). There’s a weird intersection of creativity, business and money, that can be hard to navigate at times. Here are a few things I’ve learned about making a sustainable living being creative.