To members of my Slack community, this will not come as a huge surprise (if you wanna join, just click this link - it's free and we're friendly), but I'm leaving Substack.
This year I finally made the decision to invest in my brand by doing what I should have done a long time ago, hiring a brand designer. This is still very much in progress (although you can see a sample in the header of this email), but it has made me evaluate my brand and what it ultimately stands for. What my values are (I love these from Offscreen).
Thinking about what makes me, well, me and what I enjoy about running my own business has made me reconsider a couple of things. I was also reminded of this post that I wrote on May 12, 2015 - nearly eight years ago. I'm sure this is a new post for some of you, so be sure to check it out. I think it still holds up!
A recurring theme is one of growth. Here's a quote from my friend Paul Jarvis that I still think about:
“I believe freelancing is the ultimate way to take control of my life, my finances and my daily happiness. I don’t freelance as an interim step until I build a wildly successful product or a huge company. This is a long-term, long-lasting career that’s now more stable than any corporate job. I freelance because I love being a freelancer. It gives me the ability to chart my own path in life, not to mention working in my underwear (with my clients being none-the-wiser). I choose who I work with, when I work, and most importantly, when I don’t need to work.”
(Plot twist: Paul DID stop freelancing and went on to build a successful product 😆)
My business has never been about scale. Instead, I think the strength of my business has always been about me ("Ok, Elon"), not about growth. But as a society, and especially in the tech world, we're obsessed with growth.
“There’s a silly old business expression that says: “We’re going to lose a dollar on every deal, but we’ll make it up in volume.” It is also a widespread way that venture-funded businesses think about growth.”
In the words of Michael Honey:
It doesn’t scale’ is a criticism levelled at many new ideas. But how many things which are good when small get better by becoming bigger? Humans are good at family, middling at community, dysfunctional as nations, and self-destructive as a planet. What doesn’t scale is our ability to relate to each other as human beings instead of target markets — as eyeballs to monetise.
So what does any of this has to do with Substack? Substack has been great, and where it particularly stands out is with growth. Surely because it's all focused on growth, and so it's time to put my money where my mouth is and go back to building a community. I'm sure this move will make me loose subscribers but what I miss out in quantity, I'm hoping to make up for in quality - just how I run the rest of my business.
Expect more updates to come over the next weeks and months. I'll leave you with my friend Jeff Sheldon and his thoughts around his spectacular business, Ugmonk. (Go read his About-page).
We’re not growing a hockey-stick growth, but we’re growing enough. We’re building that fan base and are in it for the long haul, so I’m able to keep it really small and handle every part of the business or almost every part of the business, which does limit me on the creative side sometimes. I can’t release a hundred products every year. I can’t speak at dozens of conferences. I have to limit everything I do. (…) But I’m okay with all those things right now. I choose to keep it small, to keep it lean, to keep this business profitable where it is. (…) I’m much more focused on building that tribe of core followers that cares about what I do, than having ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or one million people that kind of like the cool shirt today, and then they totally forget about it tomorrow.”
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