Creating Sustainable Businesses

Alex Hillman recently shared some great business tips via Twitter:

Service businesses are 1000x easier to start than product businesses, but they’re much harder to grow. Almost all of the successful people I know started a service business, then raised rates to reclaim time, and invested that time in growing more durable revenue streams.

Alex Hillman

Go Outside

I’ve stared at my inbox, or my laptop screen in general, trying to think, forcing myself to be creative, to fix a problem, come up with a solution, and rarely does that method work.

Before you make a big decision, walk around the block.
If it’s raining out, take the dog for a run.
End the meeting a few minutes early and go for a stroll with the team.
Instead of an afternoon snack, consider some sunshine.
The less convenient, the more it pays.

A hard habit to create, but definitely worth it.
When in doubt, go outside. Especially when it’s inconvenient.

Seth Godin

Grabbing a jacket (or running shoes) and heading outside is very less convenient, yet I know, from experience, it’s usually the right course of action.

Getting It Live

The best piece of advice my dad ever gave me was that you start learning to drive after you pass your test. To contrive that to serve my point: your software can only reach its potential when it’s live. You are not your users, so don’t pretend you know what they want/need. Give them the best thing you can make, then let them tell you how to do it better.

Jasper Tandy

I remember launching Noise Creep back in 2008. We had all these ideas at launch, that Tuesday would be one thing, and then on Thursdays we’d post another thing.

That lasted maybe two weeks.

Get your thing into the wild, ship it, publish it, make it live.

Make the Time, Take the Time

Schedule time to be around the things you enjoy, or else your schedule will get filled with everything else. That other stuff isn’t bad – it pays the bills, most likely! But you gotta put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else.

If I’m only in react mode, checking things off a to-do list all morning, into the afternoon, there’s no room for magic. No wonder. No dreaming.

The dreaming is the work. It’s where the great things bloom, and become bigger than ourselves.

Making Music Podcasts

My dude Sean Cannon laying it down, talking about music podcasts:

Four years ago, I started telling music industry friends and acquaintances that they should create high-end podcasts built around their artists/albums/labels. At the time, I got two main responses: “So you’re saying we should get our bands on Maron? Do you know him? Can you get us on there?” or “Oh yeah, (insert musician here) is really funny. I’ll have them talk to their buddies.”

I worked with Sean on my music blog from 2005-2008, where he was bascially my right hand man, and helped me really build and expand.

Then when I started Noise Creep at AOL Music, I was able to hire him as my deputy editor, which was both awesome and crazy at the same time (20+ posts a day was nuts).

But Sean went onto to work big time in radio and won a freaking Peabody award. He recently made the the Striped podcast, which is all about the White Stripes.

The thing is, there is so much more to be done with music using the medium of podcasting. Super glad Sean is one of the people leading the charge.

Stop Doing What You’re Good At

Title stolen from “7 leadership lessons over 2.5 years,” from the Signal Vs. Noise blog (wow, if you haven’t been reading that site, you should).

“Doing what you’re good at hurts the team.” Huh? He explained how when you’re the one always doing the thing that you’re good at, you create a dependency within your team. They can never be self-sustainable or perform at the highest level if you’re the one always doing the things you’re good at.

As I find myself gaining stabilty in my freelance work, I’m starting to see where I’m spending my time the most, as realizing the value of that time.

There are tasks I can do in my sleep, but that doesn’t mean I should be doing them. I use TextExpander to save time, and use a timer to make sure I’m staying productive.

But there are projects that I’ve launched that had no shortcuts. They required jumping into the void, with a spirit of “this might not work.” Or as my new favorite Star Wars characters have said, “I can do this, I can do this.”

Today I run a bit faster than I did three years ago.
I’m working on bigger projects. With bigger teams.
Getting there requires a bit of letting go of the things I’m good at.

How to Make a Podcast

Holy heck this video makes me want to start a podcast again, for the 100th time. Seriously, this looks so damn good.

I think I’m okay at building newsletters, because they’re very direct. I created the Skull Toaster email newsletter because it gave the answers to the metal trivia I posted everyday on Twitter and Instagram.

The Metal Bandcamp Gift Club newsletter gets sent out when someone has a birthday, and it links to their Bandcamp Wishlist.

Both of these newsletters serve a purpose. Want answers to metal trivia? Yes? Subscribe here. Want to help support music and labels? Yeah? Click here. Boom.

Podcasts, though, have eluded me. I did one called the Workbench Podcast with my pal Bill Meis for awhile, and Metal Minute (a sort of parody metal news show), but haven’t really done anything since.

The new 16″ MacBook Pro

My current MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017) does the job. Even with just a 128GB HD, I’ve made it work. Right now, today, I have no need for this new 16″ machine.

But in talking with a fellow Mac nerd today about this new 16″ MacBook Pro, who also is in the same boat, we sort of just agreed that this machine isn’t for us… today.

Back in 2003, when I got my first iBook – that machine blew me away, because it was fresh, and new. A whole new world, since I was coming over from the PC world.

It’s like… I haven’t needed a favorite band for awhile. When I was 10 or so, Guns N Roses released Appetite for Destruction, and that did the job. Not too many bands can have that effect over 40+ years.

So this new machine – it’s outstanding, priced right, looks amazing… someday.

Do It Yourself

The suits saw blogs as a cheap and easy means to display ads. Every site started looking the same, to keep things cheap, and the writing had to get quicker, because ad rates kept falling.

All that to say – do it yourself.

Buy a domain name, start a site on WordPress.com, and now you’ve got a site. The site is the same as any Deadspin or Gawker or any other beloved site you used to enjoy but was destroyed by the dudes in sport coats. It’s the same in that there’s a URL that anyone on the planet can access using a browser, and there’s words on a screen for them to read.

Sure, the economics have changed, but the demand has not gone away. The trick is to make something that people are willing to support with their dollars. That means “same old same old” won’t cut it.

Niche the fuck down and find an audience that lusts for what you do. Find other creative people who crave the same thing and ask them to write for your site.

HOW WILL IT MAKE MONEY is putting the cart before the horse. Make something today, when no one is looking, when you only get 35 visits a day. Do it over and over again, for a year, or two. Build a brand, gain trust.

The reason we’re in this mess is because the entire publishing platform was built on display ads that people ignore (or blog), and inflated job titles like VP OF SECONDARY DESIGN METRICS.

Remove the garbage ads (be nice to your readers), and the dead weight, and suddenly a website doesn’t need to make $45,000/minute to keep the checks from bouncing.

Build it yourself, on an independent platform (like WordPress), and own your work.