Paul Jarvis: I think a little bit, but I also think, it was funny because one of the first things my agent and book publisher asked was, “Well, what awards do you have?” Or that sort of thing. I think this actually applies to a lot of things, that we should probably think about things before we do things. John Jantsch: Yeah, and that’s a great point, because I think a lot of people just get caught up in the, “well if I start a business, that’s the goal”, right? I think a lot of times, people kind of, they start the business, and then work backwards, trying to make it work for the life that they want. So I think every business has the possibility of being a lifestyle business, in so much that you can kind of pick what you want– John Jantsch: You know, I sometimes think there’s a lot of confusion around the terms growth and scale, that people kind of see them as the same thing. One of the points I know that you make in the book and I know that you do this in your courses and a lot of the work you’ve done is that, you know, a lot of freelancers just think of themselves as just gig-workers or you know, “I’ve got some spare time to do this…” you know, it’s not really a company. Paul Jarvis: Yeah, I think they can be the same, but where they’re different is, and I know this just from experience of teaching thousands of freelancers, mostly in creative industries, is that they tend to work in their business so much that they don’t think about working on their business. Even looking back to when I did freelance work, I had some customers that were probably 13, 14 years of work, and sometimes we would go a year without working together, but because I would keep in touch with them, and because I would reach out to them often, even if there was a bit of a slow time, all I had to do was email my existing customers and say, “Hey, just checking in, see how your business is going, see if there’s anything I can help with.” Just in doing that, I could fill my client roster for a month or two. And I don’t think people appreciate that. John Jantsch: And I think a lot of people, people are getting off of this a little bit, but imagine 10, 15 years ago, nobody was really educating, you know, you were selling.
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John Jantsch: Everybody wants to scale up these days. Big topic, right? Well, in this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Paul Jarvis and we talked about, he has a nice book; Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business. Check it out.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, my guest today is Paul Jarvis. He teaches online courses, runs several software businesses and hosts a handful of podcasts from his home. He’s also the author of Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business. So Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul Jarvis: Hey, thank you very much John, I appreciate it.
John Jantsch: So your intro, I think is almost intentionally sort of small-sounding, isn’t it?
Paul Jarvis: I think a little bit, but I also think, it was funny because one of the first things my agent and book publisher asked was, “Well, what awards do you have?” Or that sort of thing. And I was like, “I don’t actually have any.” I’ve never actually tried to win an award, I don’t know what I would get an award for. So, I think some of it’s intentional, some of it’s that’s just the way that my work works.
John Jantsch: Well I guess what the point of that comment really is that, those who know you know that you’re quite accomplished in what you’ve done and I think that in some ways you’re maybe giving people hope that, “Hey, it’s okay to record a podcast from your home, you can still have success on those terms” right?
Paul Jarvis: Yeah, exactly. I’m also Canadian, so there’s a bit of a lack of hubris sometimes I think.
John Jantsch: You haven’t apologized yet, though. So, you know the big term, of course the big concept right now, is scaling. So, in some ways, people could make a case for saying you’re sort of anti-scaling.
Paul Jarvis: Yeah, that’s kind of the point, so I guess the point of the book and the point of kind of where my thinking around this idea has been is not that scaling is bad, it’s just that scaling should be thought about first. I think this actually applies to a lot of things, that we should probably think about things before we do things. For the most part, it kind of makes sense to do that. So it’s not really a book about anti-scaling, it’s more a book about considering whether it makes sense or not, because it doesn’t always make sense to scale.
John Jantsch: Yeah, and that’s a great point, because I think a lot of people just get caught up in the, “well if I start a business, that’s the goal”, right? And not necessarily “what do I want?” Is it?
Paul Jarvis: Yeah. I think a lot of times, people kind of, they start the business, and then work backwards, trying to make it work for the life that they want. And to go the opposite way, we can think about the life that we want, and then build a business that, obviously that’s profitable because that’s the point of business, but that also supports the life that we want. Like for myself, I don’t want to have to manage a team or have to work 16 hours a day to make enough money to survive. So I don’t want to build a business like that, because that doesn’t support the life that I want. And I think lifestyle business gets a bum rap, but I kinda think that every single business is a lifestyle business. Like the friends that I have that have venture-backed, Silicon Valley tech companies, they have a very specific lifestyle that their business makes them have, right? So I think every business has the possibility of being a lifestyle business, in so much that you can kind of pick what you want–
John Jantsch: You know, I sometimes think there’s a lot of confusion around the terms growth and scale, that people kind of see them as the same thing. One of the things that I’ve seen at least, is that I think scale can imply doing more with less. I think it can also imply that you’re more profitable, because you’ve developed systems of things. I think sometimes scale gets a bad rep.
Paul Jarvis: Yeah, you’re speaking my language here. I think that there’s things that are really good for scale that don’t necessarily mean growth, and I think a really good example of that is a newsletter. It takes me as much time to write an email to one person as it does to write an email to 30 thousand people. So that to me is a great example of scaling my reach for example that doesn’t require, I don’t need 30 thousand people writing one email to 30 thousand recipients. So I think scale a lot of times, if we do it properly, doesn’t have to require the growth or the expenses required for that growth.
John Jantsch: Freelancing is, I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’m sure it’s in the multi-hundreds of times percentage growth, that pretty much everybody that has a job is freelancing today, it seems like. One of the points I know that you make in the book and I know that you do this in your courses and a lot of the work you’ve done is that, you know, a lot of freelancers just think of themselves as just gig-workers or you know, “I’ve got some spare time to do this…” you know, it’s not really a company. So, how is freelancing different than a company of one?
Paul Jarvis: Yeah, I think they can be the same, but where they’re different is, and I know this just from experience of teaching thousands of freelancers, mostly in creative industries, is that they tend to work in their business so much that they don’t think about working on their business. And what I mean by that is we can get caught up in client work, and I mean if our business is doing well as a freelancer, we have a lot of client work. But if we don’t stop to think about filling the funnel a bit further down the road, then they’ll be this feast or famine thing.
If we don’t think about things like taxes or accounting, we could get into trouble at the end of the year with our governments. So, I think that there’s, and we also need to think about things like how word of mouth is working fr a business. A lot of freelancers, that’s their main source of finding new clients; it’s keeping in touch with people and keeping that network really strong. So I think that a lot of freelancers don’t treat their business like a business, and either way, it’s still a business. So, I think thinking about how to make freelancing into a business, and keep thinking about it like a business is always really, really important, because like I said, it is a business, whether you think it is or not.
John Jantsch: So is there a critical mindset shift that occurs when somebody decides, “Yeah, I’m a company.”
Paul Jarvis: Well, I think that definitely when they start to consider profit, that’s always important. I think there’s a lot of things that can be hobbies, and hobbies are great and you don’t need to worry about profit if it’s hobby. The best thing about a hobby is you don’t have to worry about the money side. But when you want something to support you, you have to start to, especially in freelancing or when you work for yourself and build solo products, I think we have to consider what enough is.
So, what would be enough to sustain this as business longterm, or even in the beginning, what would be enough to sustain this month to month. Like, “how much income do I need?” Because if we figure those things out, then we can work backwards. Say we need $5000 a month ad we wanna charge $1000. Well, can we find five clients per month to cover just those bases? And then six or more to be profitable, right? So I think we need to start to think about what enough is, like, “How many clients is enough?”, “How much profit is enough?”, “How big our audience should be is enough.”, “How much time spent on the business is enough?”.
I think a lot of times, the ‘enough’ question is probably one of the most important things, it’s probably the main reason why I wrote the book. Because we all start from zero, right? We all start a business without a backlog of clients, it’s really hard to start like that. But we all start at zero and build up. So, we all need that growth mindset to get to enough. But where a lot of us don’t think about it is, if we don’t consider what enough is and then change based on if we’ve reached enough or not. So if we have enough revenue, then maybe we don’t need to keep growing and growing and growing, we can start to optimize for that revenue instead. And so I think that’s probably one of the most important things.
John Jantsch: What are the challenges that a lot of people getting started, even if they have that plan like, “here’s where I think I wanna get”, it’s the– and I hate the term shiny object, but no question opportunities pop up, “Gosh, should I chase that? Should I chase that?” Do you or did you have a filter that allowed you to decide? Because sometimes opportunities sound great, and sometimes they’re dead ends, sometimes they just are distractions, maybe they just replace the money you were making over there. So do you have a process that you go through to say, pros, cons, how do I consider this?
Paul Jarvis: Yeah. For me the first thing mindset-wise, is I consider what the maintenance costs, because every opportunity has an associated cost, right? So I consider; if I say yes to this thing, what does that mean for a whole bunch of things, so, what does that mean for my profit? What does that mean for my existing customers? What does that mean for my happiness? And what does that mean in terms of maintaining this longterm? Like say I wanted to add another course to my roster, or add another client, or add another feature to a product. I’m going to have to then be able to sell that new feature. I’m going to have to support that new feature.
I’m gonna probably build other things around that feature to make it work better. So everything has a cost and I think if we start to think about, “What’s a reason we started this thing in the…