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Paul Jarvis on Productivity and Growing Your Online Business
20th May 2015 • No Sidebar • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:32:26

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As creative entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to get stuck in the learning process, and fail to push the needle by taking action.

Perpetuated by fear and criticism, the failure to launch a product can be crippling. We continually find ourselves spinning our wheels and getting stuck in a place that s completely avoidable.

It s a good thing we have pioneers and thought leaders in our space who speak encouraging words that help us take the leap of faith.

In this 32-minute episode Paul Jarvis and I discuss:

  • What he enjoys doing more … designing or writing
  • The Creative Class course that he offers
  • Saying no to certain design projects
  • Taking the consumption of knowledge to the next level
  • Launch paralysis and how to get past it
  • Being afraid of everything as a creative person
  • How we use teasers to gauge the safety in shipping
  • Responding to hate mail and other criticisms

Listen to No Sidebar below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

Paul Jarvis on Productivity and Growing Your Online Business

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, a digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Paul Jarvis: The problem with being a minimalist is the sound bounces off of everything because it’s just walls.

Brian Gardner: Hey, what’s up everyone? Welcome to the No Sidebar podcast. I am your host Brian Gardner, and I’m here to discuss the struggles around being and becoming a creative entrepreneur.

Together, we’ll identify what’s standing in the way of you building and growing your online business.

No Sidebar is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, a complete website solution for writers, designers, podcasters, and other online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Last week, I read and gave my thoughts on an article called “On Being Digital Hoarders” written by Paul Jarvis. Today, I have the privilege of talking to him and specifically about what he wrote.

By way of his own website copy, I’m going to let him introduce himself first.

“I’m Paul Jarvis. I create simple, meaningful things like bestselling books, courses, and websites for creatives and freelancers. I’ve had the pleasure of creating websites and digital marketing plans for Silicon Valley startups, pro sports athletes, Fortune 500 companies, bestselling authors, and the world’s biggest entrepreneurs.”

I’m pleased to welcome fellow designer, fellow writer, and not fellow course creator Paul Jarvis.

Paul, thank you so much for being on the show and for doing it so quickly.

Paul Jarvis: Hey, Brian. It’s my pleasure.

Brian Gardner: It’s funny, I’ve been following you for a long time, and this is how it is on the Internet, right? You follow people, you communicate with people back and forth, and once in a while, you get lucky — whether it’s on a show or in person at a conference — to meet the people who, hopefully, you inspire or, especially in this case, the people who inspire you. It’s definitely a pleasure to have you here.

Paul Jarvis: Thanks. It’s the ‘Mutual Appreciation Society.’

Brian Gardner: Before we get started with the article, give us a two-minute lowdown on who Paul Jarvis is in your mind.

Paul Jarvis: I’ve actually been struggling with this a lot lately because I’ve got a lot of balls in the air that I’m juggling. I’m having a hard time describing myself. So one, I design websites for clients. Two, I also have a podcast that I co-host with my friend Jason Zook. I also run a course for freelancers. I also write books, articles, mailing lists, and all of that.

I do a lot of things, but they all fall under the umbrella where I really like to help people and I like to feel valuable. Those are the five, six, seven maybe, ways that I’ve figured out how to do that. Specifically, right now, I just like working with freelancers because I feel like I’ve learned a bit in the almost 20 years that I have freelanced. I’m just trying to pass that information along.

I don’t know what I do, Brian. I have a really hard time with that.

Brian Gardner: You’re an artist. You’re creative, so it’s kind of ambiguous, right? We don’t actually know what we do. We just kind of do our thing and hope it helps others or helps inspire others or whatever.

What He Enjoys Doing More Designing or Writing

Brian Gardner: I think, first and foremost, you’re a designer and a writer — at least those are the two mediums that I know you as. Which of those two do you enjoy doing best, and then I’m going to follow up and ask you — because for me this is a different answer — which of those two do you think you’re better at?

Paul Jarvis: I like both. I get asked this a lot because a lot of people nowadays in our circle, you work on client work — which is, for me, web designing — until you have a breakout product. Then you can drop all of the working with clients and go focus on that product.

But, for me, I like working with clients. I actually like doing web design for other people, so I don’t think I would ever cut that out. The writing for me is more of the one to many. I’ve made products. I’ve done bestselling books and courses and all of that. I love doing those things, but I also like doing the web design stuff.

I sort of split my time 50/50 right now with some design stuff, some writing products, and some writing articles and that sort of thing. As far as what I like better, I think it’s a toss up. I don’t know. Today, I like writing better. Tomorrow, it’s possibly going to be client stuff.

I find that the more I oscillate back and forth — so a few months I’ll be doing client work, a few months I’ll be doing writing and products and that — the more I miss the thing that I’m not doing. Then I need to go back to it. The pendulum swings, and then I start doing something else. Then I miss the thing that I’m not doing anymore.

Brian Gardner: For me, it’s the same thing. Back when I first got started on the Internet, I was doing freelance design via WordPress themes for people. The whole story of where Revolution and Studio Press and all of that got started was rejected freelance design that was, in turn, turned into a product — which then ultimately took me out of doing freelance work because the product was selling so much.

Years down the road, it got to a point where, as much as I loved doing product design and themes, I also missed that interaction and just having the one-off, trying to solve one specific problem with a client.

I’ve done things like Joshua Becker’s “Becoming Minimalist” site. That was a freelance project that I just did for him. I said, “Look dude, no payment. All I want to do is just solve the problem I think you have.” He was totally open to it, and it felt good to go back to that grassroots feel of working with a client in a freelance environment. So I totally hear what you’re saying there.

Paul Jarvis: Yeah, you did Courtney’s site as well I think in the last few months.

Brian Gardner: Yeah. Thankfully, she’s, first of all, very meticulous and very organized, so it was easy to work with her.

Paul Jarvis: Nice.

Brian Gardner: She just, like Joshua said, “Hey, I’m a minimalist. Got to keep it simple” — which, of course, as you know, sometimes is harder to do because there’s such a focus on just the design or lack thereof. It’s all about the couple of choices that you make. Both Joshua and Courtney were awesome to work with.

The Creative Class Course That He Offers

Brian Gardner: So in addition to designing websites and writing your weekly newsletter, you also have a course called “The Creative Class.” Currently, you have over 800 students there. How’s that going for you?

Paul Jarvis: It’s amazing. I didn’t realize how interesting teaching would be. I didn’t realize how much I learn as the instructor. I’ve been freelancing for basically forever, almost 20 years, so I worked for myself for a very, very long time. I’m like, “OK Paul, you know some stuff. It’s probably right.” Then I validated it, and I talked to other people. I did some research and stuff, and then I started a course.

It taught me how much I don’t know and how much I still need to learn. It’s so interesting to engage with students. I actually like this, and this is why. I started out writing books, and the books sell really well. I figured, “Hmm, I think I want to try this audience interaction, engagement thing,” so I was’ like, “OK, let’s start a course.” That was kind of night and day for me.

I found that it’s so much more interesting to be able to see how people are taking the content and using it as opposed to just, “I write a book. I sell a book. Amazon sends me the number of sales every month,” and that’s pretty much it. I may get an email or two out of every couple thousand people that buy it.

Whereas, with the course, it’s interactivity with the students all the time. It helps me create new content, refine the content I have, figure out better ways to onboard new students, and that sort of thing. It’s opened up this whole can of worms for learning for me — which I’m really, really enjoying.

Brian Gardner: I think humble teachers are by far the best kind. You get people who think they know everything. They call themselves ninjas and whatever, and they say, “I know everything. Here’s my stuff. Buy it, and I’m higher than you.”

What you just said — how you learn as being a teacher — and the ability to be humble in that regard and realize you don’t know everything. Maybe there’s times where the students will teach you something, and that’s a great symbiotic relationship.

Paul Jarvis: Yeah, it definitely is. That’s kind of how I approach everything, though. I’m not a thought leader or a ninja. In all of my writing, I’m exploring topics. It’s not just like, “This is Paul’s way. Throw down the hammer.” That’s where I like to exist on the Internet is, “I’m learning, too. Here’s some stuff I’ve learned,” but I don’t know. “It’s all learning. So articulate there.

Brian Gardner: You’re a designer. You have a course. You’ve also written four bestselling books that are available on Amazon. Quite the creative renaissance man you are. I’ve thought about doing a course thing, but I don’t even know what I would write about. Maybe I have a lack of, I don’t even know what the word is, but I arguably created the premium WordPress theme space. People have asked me to write about that whole process. At this point, it’s almost been so long ago that I don’t even know that I’d have anything interesting to tell them anyhow.

Paul Jarvis: You do have a platform for courses.

Brian Gardner: See that’s the thing. I personally have a platform, but I’m still part of Copyblogger. So any energy I put forth in that regard would have to be through the company — which is something I’m completely OK with. Maybe I’m just saving it for later. I don’t know. There’s plenty of other smarter, better course-writing people in our company that I’m just going to stick to podcasting and design for now.

Saying No to Certain Design Projects

Brian Gardner: Speaking of being a renaissance man, you have a design portfolio that would make a lot of creatives like me envious — clients such as Dave Ursillo, Danielle LaPorte, Marie Forleo. Just this morning, we responded to each other back and forth on Twitter about another one you had launched for a client. I got to tell you, much like Bill Kenney over at Focus Lab, you’re one of those guys who … I love you and I hate you because when I see the work you put out I’m like, “I wish I could do that,” or “I wish I did do that.”

Paul Jarvis: I feel the same about so many other designers — even when I look at your site, dude. It’s like, “I wish I could convince my clients to do that little in such a smart way.” It’s mutual.

Brian Gardner: Thank you. As minimalist designers, sometimes I think designers over design. There are clients who need so much on their sites, and they want so much. It’s really hard for me to want to take that type of person on as a client — which, of course, is why Joshua and Courtney were so easy to work with because they’re like-minded, minimalist. They have a few things, and the focus is on one or two things — Joshua selling books, Courtney either to be hired or her courses and whatnot.

I stay away from those who have a lot of stuff going on because I don’t know that I could adequately solve their problem in a way that they would be happy with. That’s a tough thing.

Paul Jarvis: That’s what I wrote about last week, about saying no. I say no to most projects that come my way just because I feel the same. I feel like if I can’t adequately get you to your goal as a client, then it’s not worth you spending the money on me.

I’m pretty focused and determined in terms of, “Do I want to work with this client or not?” A lot of times it comes down to, “I’m not the best fit for you for whatever reason.” I think there’s probably six or seven reasons that I wrote about. I can’t remember what they are. I think it comes down to it’s OK to be picky with clients.

Brian Gardner: I agree with that. Definitely, you don’t want to take on the wrong client — for their sake and for your own sake.

Paul Jarvis: Yeah, your portfolio is a reflection of the future work you’re going to get hired to do because people look at your portfolio and say, “I want that.” If your portfolio is full of stuff you don’t want to do, then you’re in trouble because you’re just going to keep getting hired to do more of that stuff.

Brian Gardner: On your website, you even mentioned that a lot of your design projects, or if all of them, come from referrals. In that case, your portfolio definitely matters.

Taking the Consumption of Knowledge to the Next Level

Brian Gardner: Let’s talk about the article because that’s really what I wanted to discuss — as much as I love small talking with like-minded creatives. The article is called “On Being Digital Hoarders,” and I like to consider these types of things that I read ‘”rants.'”

Would you consider what you wrote a rant or was it just something that you wanted to say? You see the difference there?

Paul Jarvis: Yeah. A lot of what I write is ‘a rant, but then, it’s also a call to arms. From my end, it’s a rant, but from my audience’s end, I hope it’s a call to arms. Most of the time, with this specifically and with almost everything I write, it’s to think, “Does this resonate with you? Does this seem like something you’re unconsciously doing that you can now consciously be aware of?” I think that falls under that. Where on my end, it’s just me getting something off my chest. Let’s be honest — it’s me ranting.

Then on the audience’s side, it’s, “This is Paul’s rant, but what can I do with this?” I’m very specific about the way that I put information across on the Internet. It can’t just be rant Paul, ranting for the sake of ranting. I have Twitter for that, and that’s pretty much what I use Twitter for.

For my...