Company of OneFinding “Enough” in your business.
with Paul Jarvis
Paul on Twitter
The Creative Class
Paul Jarvis has been an internet friend and digital "kindred spirit" for a few years now. I get the sense that many people feel that way.
I emailed Paul to ask him questions about his work, mostly selfish, so that I may steal some of his magic (jk) – so that we can understand better how Paul has carved his own path and built his own approach to work.
David Sherry: Hello Paul! I'm curious, who are you reading these days? Any blogs, newsletters or books come to mind?
Paul Jarvis: Hi! I don't read a whole lot of internet bits and bobs, but there are a few gooders:
Jocelyn Glei's newsletter
David Sherry: Working solo, I find that I have no one to really compare myself to when it comes to productivity or work capacity. How do you raise the bar for yourself, while working solo?
Paul Jarvis: I feel like if I was trying to continually raise the bar for myself, I'd end up at an unsustainable level of hopeful productivity. Really, if I can get a few solid hours of creativity in each day, and a few solid hours of admin work (to keep my business humming along), that's more than good enough for me.
David Sherry: Most product development books tend to be about startups and high growth companies with large teams, but you've figured out how to do product development your own way. Being that it's just you, or you and a few other's on a project, do you have a set process for how you do product discovery and development?
Paul Jarvis: Nope, every single product is totally different, so I always tackle them in different ways. That said, there are definitely constants outside of processes that I always work at doing.
First is determining if there's a demand. Running a business is hard so if I can take just a few things off of the "hard" pile and put them into the "easier, even slightly", then I'll do that. So lately I don't even start working on any products unless there are lot of folks asking for them, pre-buying, or really showing a pain that the product would fix.
Second, I try to get a first version out the door as quickly as possible. It's hard to tell how well something will do or how valuable it'll be until there are paying customers using it on a regular basis. So I work to get V1 done and launched asap. Then things can change, pivot, grow, update, add to. Launches are iterative, not singular, so getting the first out of the way is always the goal.
Finally, I try to listen and empathize. I want to know why people are buying, how they're using it and where wins are happening. That way I can build on that, expand on it if needed, and start to use their stories to sell the product (through testimonials or case studies).
David Sherry: You've made a shift into more pure software products lately, with Fathom Analytics and some other experiments I've seen. What is a recent learning from working on these products?
Paul Jarvis: Software is tough! It takes work to get something built, built right, and built in a way that builds trust with an audience. I really enjoy doing it though and with my recent focus on privacy-based tools, I think folks are really starting to realize that free software is never actually free. And they're starting to make smarter decisions around what they agree to in terms of allowing big companies to know more about them and use their data.
David Sherry: You're pretty good about taking breaks for yourself, be it from your newsletter or social media. What benefit do you see from hitting pause for a bit, that others don't see or haven't placed enough value on?
Paul Jarvis: Creativity needs space to thrive. If I don't take breaks, I don't get the space I need to create. It also feels more productive to stop working for a while, recharge, then when I do get back to work I'm refreshed and charged up, and can get things done faster. It's counter-intuitive, but for me at least, it always works like this.
David Sherry: What personal change or growth are you most proud of? Was there any specific moment where you remember your work taking a turn for the better, or an "Aha" moment?
Paul Jarvis: Determining my own "enough". I feel like enough is the antithesis of endless or unchecked growth. If I know what my own enough is, in terms of revenue, audience size... anything really, then I can work towards it until I hit it, and then work to optimize it once I do. It's freeing to think about business in this way because I don't need to compare myself to others, work more to get more (if more isn't needed) or bust my ass with growth if things are already enough to suit my needs.
The "aha" moment for this was out surfing with my buddy years ago. We were in the line-up, it was Sep or Oct, he was like, "hey buddy, I've made enough for the year, so I'm done with work and I'm going climbing til Jan". I was like, SIGN ME UP FOR THIS TOO.
David Sherry: In a few words, what is a good daily reminder to have posted on a sticky note above your laptop?
Paul Jarvis: OVERHEAD = DEATH. Which is a story from my internet friend Miranda Hixon about her dad in the 80s that I tell in Company of One. It's just such a powerful reminder that we don't need to spend more to make more, and in fact, the more we spend, the less we make.
Blog: Austin Kleon