Articles from Paul Jarvis
The Sunday Dispatches newsletter, weekly articles since 2012—written by Paul Jarvis and read by 35k+ subscribers. Get articles like the ones below before they're published by signing up:
Privacy isn’t just for those who have nefarious reasons to hide things from others, but for everyone. And when privacy is compromised, by big tech or by the government, it affects us all.
When you start a business, you need to reach profitability as quickly as possible. If you’re a company of one, you’re not relying on massive influxes of cash from investors, so every minute you spend getting set up and started is a minute when you aren’t making money.
We simply need to consider the ramifications of trading ownership for ease. Sometimes it’s worth it, but other times, it leaves us at a supreme disadvantage with no leverage to fix.
A lot of times we pay attention to things in our business that aren’t true markers of anything meaningful. Worse, we can let these false markers guide decisions in our work.
As business people or freelancers or entrepreneurs or whatever we call ourselves, I’m not sure it’s our job to be remembered though. Our legacies aren’t about us. They’re about the impact of our work. And surely helping one person or a small handful of people is completely valuable and impactful.
Trying to keep up with the Joneses is giving us anxiety and debt, and now that millions of Insta-Joneses live in our pockets, ready to be envied at the press of a button we need to work at curbing this desire to keep up. It’s a social arms race, much like a military one, where no one actually wins.
Freelancers don’t make what they’re “worth”, they make what the market will bear based on the value they provide.
We’ve traded gatekeepers for gurus, and continue to seek permission and guidance to do what we want to do with our work.
We’ve been sold the idea that notifications are always important and we should allow them to constantly distract us. I refuse to accept that, just as I refuse to text or use my phone while I’m driving. My work is as important as paying attention to the road, so I treat it the exact same way—by not allowing distractions while I’m paying attention to it.
Just like earthquakes and tsunamis, the pressure around digital security and privacy is building every single year. These huge companies continue to prove they do not care about us or our privacy. So it’s worth being prepared, even if it’s just to encapsulate the worry and stress inside a plan instead of bearing it solely inside your own mind.
It was a hackathon that led to the creation of Facebook’s “Like” button, which arguably gives us more anxiety than we need and drives detrimentally compulsive behaviour, exploiting our freedom.
Since I frequently talk about how newsletters are the most important part of my business (and generate almost all my revenue), I figured I’d explain the why and how a little more.
As Benjamin Franklin once said (probably), software users who trade privacy for functionality deserve neither.
Instead of working hard (or too hard) to achieve success, maybe we should look to what we can achieve without breaking ourselves in the process. Sure, it might be less than what we read in the news or see on social media, but maybe it’d be enough.
Throughout the whole process, I really did attempt to do things in a way that lined up with the thesis of the book. I wanted to run the whole thing using the Company of One mindset.
I think more bloggers, podcasters, and content creators in general might consider offering up their “greatest hits” on a more frequent basis. The actual benefit of the content, isn’t that it’s fresh, it’s that it’s valuable. That shouldn’t change if it was released for the first time today or eight months ago.
It’s time to start challenging the old (and even current) mental models of business, as the time of monolithic companies could be coming to an end
For the fourth year in a row, I present to you my state of the union address.
In business, there’s always this pressure about growth, that if you’re not growing, you’re not succeeding. But why? When you think about it, what is so bad about staying the same? Not taking on more responsibilities, more headaches, more time.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about known person-ness...
“Why are you building X when Y exists?”
Content marketing and blogging may be diametrically opposed to each other, but one isn’t bad and the other good. There’s just what’s right for how you want to operate and what you need your content to do for you or your audience. It’s just something to consider – does the intent of how you want to exist as a content creator online actually line up with how you’re operating? If it doesn’t, perhaps it’s time to change.
Whether it’s getting interviewed on podcasts, getting articles published by industry publications or just increasing awareness about who you are and what you do—it’s a fairly common want for folks who run their own business.
If we aren’t paying for the product, we are the product.
There are no all-night hackathons of one or jam-packed days where I sit and work for 16+ hours. There are never, ever just-under-the-wire deadline achievements.
It’s hard to think that something we believe to be correct could be wrong. It hurts our ego. But, this is precisely where truth is determined since the best measure we have for knowing something is true is consistency.
Exterior mindfulness (some call it minimalism) only works when we solve for enough.
Even if you work for yourself, you need other people to trade you their money for whatever you’re giving them
There’s a universal desire to have our ideas, opinions and work treated with respect and given significance. We want to be seen as experts and true professionals—we want what we do to have enough weight to matter.
I’d rather be happy with what I’ve got than think I’ll only be happy when I buy what I desire. Think about it: it feels better to be happy presently than hopefully happy later.
“Your price is WHAT? You work for yourself, I thought you’d be much cheaper!”
Really, this whole “working for yourself” as a freelancer or a company of one or whatever you want to call it, is so incredibly new, there are countless unknowns. Even for myself, 20 years in, I don’t know what things will be like for myself or anyone else working for themselves in another 20 years.
What are the responsibilities of a business? It’s an important question because it helps us frame how we think about running our own businesses.
I can count on zero of my fingers how many times someone’s told me about an “amazing opportunity” which actually turned into something awesome and beneficial for me or my business.
The problem is that I’d never want to inspire such an endeavor. Ever. Well, maybe, but with some huge caveats.
I’m responsible for what I put out into the world. But where our responsibility ends is when a consumer of that creation takes interpretation beyond the work through a series of assumptions.
More and more people got “online” and more sophisticated social networks emerged. Centralized and monetized networks, run by corporations with shareholders and venture capitalists wanting a good return on their investments.
Knowledge and expertise aren’t static. It’s preposterous to think any one person has all the answers… or even 1/50th of the answers. Everyone, regardless of their status as a thought leader or guru or expert, is just trying to get by in this world, just like everyone else.
Capitalism isn’t an immutable law, but simply something we collectively believe in. We collectively go to work, make money, and assume the more money generated, the better off we are—in both our businesses and our lives.
For the third year in a row (2016 , 2017), I present to you my state of the union 2018 address. Not that I think I’m a president of this mailing list, or even slightly presidential—I just enjoy the routine of summarizing the year and looking forward to the next.
To sell well, you need to do three things: Ask questions, shut up and listen, then repeat the answers back.
You can’t just spend all your time doing business, you have to spend some of your time working on your business too.
Starting with client-work is the best and most natural progression to becoming a great product maker.
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Being a pro has little to do with what you know, it has to do with how you think.
Running a business is about choices. You can choose to make less money by saying no to a project or a client or a customer that you don’t think is a good fit for you to work with. You can choose to unplug for 3 months at a time. You can pick what to work on next, and not have that work handed down.
When you work for yourself, you get to be in charge of the answer (to some extent of course—it’s hard to monetize eating chips or hammock sleeping, for example).
How can you make your own customers the stars of your business? How would your business change if they became your focus?
The best part is you can set these MailChimp automations up and almost-forget about them. You do need to check in on them from time to time to make sure they’re converting well, helping a lot and being read. But that said, they’ll still work for your business whether or not you’re sleeping or eating those delicious vegan burritos!
I’ve done quite a bit of self-publishing (70,000+ sales across four books) but I knew zero about how the traditional side worked...
People often ask me for advice on freelancing and my answer is always the same. It may come across as stupid or reductive, but it’s what’s made me stand out a designer, and now as someone who sells products.
As if courage and passion are all’s that required, and everything else is a minor detail that will eventually work itself out.
Maybe the next time you take a photo and post it you’ll question your motivations.
Some folks in society seem to have always viewed creatives who want to make money as sellouts, shills, souls auctioned off to the highest corporate bidder.
Minimalism is a mindset rather than a blind purge. If something is useful or pleasurable, you keep it. If it’s not, then you consider scrapping it.
In order to become and stay profitable, you’ve got to be lean in your expenses and you have to resist the urge to scale up expenses at the same rate that your revenue is scaling
Belief is only the first step to succeeding at something, action must follow. I honestly don’t think successful people are smarter, more driven, or possess some magic skill (from transcendental gnomes) that makes them somehow “better” than other people. I just think successful people assume they’ll succeed and then get to work proving themselves right.
Word length, grammar, typeface, first person, who cares? It’s like debating shades of white in a paint store: it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.
We all assume that motivation is required for creative work—but I think it's the opposite: creative work is required for motivation.
We read about time-saving tricks so we have more time to read about time-saving tricks. We optimize our morning routines so we can have 30 minutes longer each morning to work more. It seems like we collectively want more time simply because we want to cram more into the time we’ve got.
In this rush to “share what we know” in content marketing, we can sometimes forget that “what we know” is different than “what we’ve actually done”. Maybe the rule should be “share what you’ve done” instead?
Assuming we’re 100% right, 100% of the time is a recipe for never growing, never learning, never changing (for the better).
Simple rules for making business decisions.
There are few things that incite rage in me like seeing a motivational quote on social media. There’s a few reasons why (other than, obviously, the fact that I’m a crotchety old man in training and get mad at most things on social media).
It’s possible to make a decent amount of money from your mailing list - if you put in the work and do it properly. There’s no gravy-train that takes you to BagsofMoneyVille station. (Also, can you tell me where BagsofMoneyVille is on Google Maps please?)
There are a lot of articles out there about why ConvertKit is better than MailChimp. And while healthy competition is awesome, those articles are completely wrong in their portrayal of MailChimp.
If you don’t want to have employees, assistants, scale up or grow a company that’s bigger than you - there can still be growth involved. It’s just a different kind.
Before you start trying (or keep trying) random marketing tactics you read on industry blogs, think about why you’re doing them. Are they a part of your overall strategic plan?
Marketing is a process based on trust and empathy... not a megaphone to shout at people to BUY MY STUFF
Our world is a reflection of the choices we’ve made. So instead of complaining about how shitty it is or retweeting some hashtag on social media, there are two simple(ish) fixes: taking action and voting with our dollars.
The less we expect of others because we feel like we’re entitled to something back from them, the lighter our lives will be.
I share everything I know about combining creativity & commerce, while staying true to my style of “angry man shouts at the internet.”
Want to get freelance clients? Most people do it incorrectly. As in, most freelancers start out their business like this:
Go from zero to a fully launched WordPress course without programming, technical skills or any prior knowledge.
Cultivating an eager mailing list and a captive audience isn’t all about software, funnels, fancy tips and tricks. It’s about sending interesting and useful content to the people that need it, with consistency.
If you let your ethics and point of view into your brand, you’re going to leave money off the table.
If some part of your work isn’t… working, then you’ve got to figure out what can be changed or done differently in order to see better results.
I’m better at working than delegating work.
I want to share a simple way to test your big ideas, like a course, with a smaller idea first.
Personal growth happens when we take chances or try new things or see what happens when we turn everything on its head.
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.
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).
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).
Business is an experiment. If it wasn’t, everyone’s businesses would be profitable all the time. And experimenting implies an outcome is unknown.
Selling what you’ve made makes you brave as hell and someone who’s done more for the world than probably every asshat who’s complained about creative people making money from their “impure” art.
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.
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?
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.
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...
Noticing means we’re open to exploring ideas. Noticing means we’re paying attention without bias. And amazing things can happen when we do.
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...
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.
Personalization is more than just adding “Hello FNAME” to the start of your emails.
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).
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.
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.
I expect very little from anything I do.
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.
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?
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.
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…)
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?
Are you looking to make money selling things or are you looking to make the world a better place with what you make?
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.
Now, with over 2,200 students, it’s grossed $400k in 18 months. It’s incurred $25,806 in expenses and has taken hundreds of hours of work.
How to start a podcast for people who don’t want their lives taken over by podcasting
Existing in or building your audience in someone else’s playground should never be your primary strategy.
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!
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.
Achievement is never the result of a single action, it’s the build-up of all of our actions.
There’s no coincidence that the people making the most passive income from their products also work the hardest.
No one on the Internet is living the life you think they are.
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.
Co-exist with the lack of motivation as you act on what you feel motivated to do.
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.
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.
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…”
We like to complicate things. Product launches, service offerings, websites, pizza…
Working for yourself doesn’t necessarily mean you always got to work alone.
Let me spoil the whole article for you in the first sentence: if you spend less money than you make, you’ll be profitable.
Egos are a funny thing when we’re working for ourselves and launching our own products.
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 their course down because the ongoing fees are much higher than the price they charged members in the first place. Or that they want to create an online course, but have no idea where to start, so they stay stuck in the “oh crap, I’m really overwhelmed” stage.
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.
As a freelancer, you’re not obligated to work with anyone.
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…
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).
Just like every other human on the planet, I have epically awesome days and days when life just shits on my face.
What if all my best writing is behind me? What if last week I finally said everything I had to say about … everything?
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.
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.
What if all advice just stopped existing?
Consider yourself in the choices you make
Growth happens when your audience shares what you do with their own audience.
I want to take you on a behind-the-scenes look at my mailing list. Transparency and all that.
My thoughts on the crazy, stressful, awesome world of launching products.
According to a fake study done by Bloomberg, eight out of 10 small businesses will fail within the first 18 months.
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.
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 thing with lines in the sand is that they create division.
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!
As good as we are at making our art, freelancers miss one of the most important requirements for running a business: representing ourselves.
We can pretty much succeed at anything. Conversely, we can fail at anything, too.
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.
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 do you create consistent content that you don’t get paid to do? You have a business to run!
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.
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 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.
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.
Let’s talk about white bears and Stay Puff Marshmallow Men.
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.
Wouldn’t it be great if being a brilliant artist was all it took to earn a living?
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.
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.
Really, it comes down to this: describe what you do in the context of the people your business serves.
For your creativity to support you, you need to find your 1%. Your rat people.
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.
Bosses can suck when you’re self-employed (aka: when YOU are the boss of yourself).
The problem with the metric of more is that it’s dehumanizing. It’s easily the biggest problem with this new hyper-connected economy.
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.
People assume that if they’ve heard of you, you must be raking it in.
My favourite activity while I lived in Tofino, BC was attending my artist friend, Roy Henry Vickers’ storytellings.
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.
Grow your audience with little to no work!
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, not this one, a different one (that’d be too meta).
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.
We are amplifiers. Clients need to bring their skilled craft to the table for the project to succeed.
Fall out of love with your inner critic immediately. Kill its voice before it kills you.
Free High-Resolution Photos
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.
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.
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.
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.
Feel like a fraud? Like you’re not good enough? Like what you make isn’t as good as what other’s make?
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, commit to work, 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 […]
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 or if they can buy the design for X to use for their website. My answer is always the same with the following explanation...
Less means fewer distractions and more focus (hopefully). Specifically, and what I mean to say by “distractions” in this instance, is notifications.
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.