For the past few years, all of my working schedule has revolved around five activities. In this post, I’ll go over these concepts — read, think, make, share, and monetize — and explain why I think they’re vital for any entrepreneur’s success.
It may be beneficial to know that the process I’m about to explain works a lot like an infinite step-by-step process. For example, you start with Read, then move to Think, all the way until you get to Monetize, then start back at Read and do it all over again.
Read is pretty self-explanatory. I read a lot — primarily both books and articles — to know things I probably wouldn’t have been able to figure out otherwise. I’ve already explained my book reading process in a previous post, but for articles I’m mostly looking for either 1) pieces that talk about current trends, or 2) stories/profiles that I might be able to gleam something out of. I never read current events (aka news) because most of the news cycle is useless information and if it was really that important it usually gets to my ears naturally, no newsfeed required.
I say “read”, though for my creative work in particular this is not exactly the case. Reading is definitely the best for knowledge related to keeping the business running, but for story or character ideas I can gleam stuff from art, movies, videogames, music, even just day-to-day walking outside and observing. For example, Sorry, We’re Closed is based on a single Twitter thread I saw about a person’s father committing suicide. It was totally by chance — I have no idea who the person was, nor will I likely ever encounter him again. That is the power of spontaneity.
The natural next step after reading, at least in my opinion, is thinking. I take all the info I get from books, articles, games, conversations, etc. And try to make patterns out of it. What do I think is cool? What do I think is an opportunity? How can I use a trend to my advantage? All that sort of stuff. Every morning I get out a planning notebook and write whatever strategy stuff is in my mind. Sometimes this goes nowhere, sometimes the bits and pieces get reused somewhere else, and sometimes — just sometimes — it gets made.
Making is the most time-consuming process. I am very selective with what I make because of it. Sometimes I get too excited about an idea, plan the whole thing out in a weekend, and on Monday realize it’s a waste to work on because I have X, Y, and Z to finish first. I try to avoid this, but even now it happens.
I usually try to make MVPs, whenever possible. This is particular important I think for a solo creator as it allows me to work on a bunch of stuff at once without it feeling like a drain or splitting up my attention. As I come back to things, I add a little more, and a little more, and a little more… and as I build, traction usually comes with it. If no traction comes, it gets canned, and another project takes its place.
If a post-tree is made in a blog-forest, and no sharing is around, will a reader ever read it? I would argue not. I used to be very bad with sharing because 1) I was anxious that people were going to say it was bad, and 2) I didn’t know the right forms of sharing to fit my persona. For number one, I just snapped out of it — people still say it’s bad, but at this point I’ve been doing it for five years and don’t really give a shit. Number two is a little more of a complex case.
Let me give you an example. Gurus tell you to “use social media actively” if you want hits. They told me to use Instagram. What am I gonna use Instagram for? I thought. I never make pictures. I live in a boring desert. What am I gonna do?
Well, first thing I did was turn my Instagram into an art curation platform. I had a lot of art saved that I really liked, and I could use my Instagram actively with it, so I decided to share that. Sure enough, followers began to pile in — but with two problems. First of all, the way I was acquiring pictures was not conducive to actually crediting the pictures, meaning that I had a good chance of getting into some hot water if an artist found out I was using their work without crediting them. Secondly, while the Instagram was popular, it was driving no traffic back to my site! Because my site, at this point, didn’t really have anything to do with art — it was all business and tech and that sort of stuff. So my Instagram strategy was worthless.
I decided to pivot. I got rid of all the art pictures, and instead just decided to advertise my new articles and newsletters. I made nice neat little canva designs, and scheduled out the Instagram posts with links to the relevant content.
This strategy turned out to be even worse! Now my Instagram looked as bland and dreary as a sweatshop, with the same posts (Newsletter #9, Newsletter #10, Newsletter #11…) appearing in the same pattern over and over again. Not only that, but I was actually losing followers now! None of my followers really cared too much about my website, and even the people I knew IRL began to get annoyed by my feed. It just wasn’t working.
At this point, I snapped out of the spell hexxed into me by the Social Media Mogul wizards. I realized that certain social media platforms worked for certain people. For example, Instagram is really only conducive to your platform if you are an artist or a photographer — nothing else, really. So I did what I should have done at the beginning: I deleted all my Instagram posts, and stopped there. Now I only occasionally post real photographs I made, with no real sharing or marketing intention, and — surprise! — they have better results than anything I tried in the past.
Now that we’re done with that long-winded digression, we can get to the final piece of the puzzle: monetizing. Of course, the final plan of your work should always be to make a living out of it, just because of necessity. I believe that you can never monetize too early, but you can force monetization too early. You should never have to directly market your paid content, especially if you’re just starting out. Instead, just focus on driving people to your brand, and let them buy your products on their own. People don’t come to your app just because you built it — but people will pay for your subscription just because they came to your app.
The Day in A Life of a Working Programme
To better understand what I’m talking about, let me take you through the lifecycle in full — with one of my recent posts as an example.
As I write this article, my most recently released post was Why You Might Want A Trading Account Over An IRA. Reading wise, this work was inspired a lot by writing done by Ramit Sethi, who often has interesting, contrarian takes on personal finance. In particular, he is a big proponent of having money work for you now, rather than later. Not in an epicurean, “spend to your hearts content” sort of way, but instead with the idea that when you’re old and dying you’re old and dying and when you’re young and healthy you’re young and healthy, so most of your big experiential purchases should happen now rather than later.
Thinking about this idea, I realized something: most financial advice on the internet almost completely emphasizes a 401k and IRA over a trading account. This didn’t sit well with me. A 401k/IRA being a good idea is one thing, but saying that you don’t need a trading account because all the benefits come from an IRA? Not necessarily. Pair this with some additional reading from Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money, which makes the good point that IRAs are too young for anyone to have successfully gone through the whole process anyway. In other words: financial advisors imply that you can invest in an IRA when you’re 18, and pop out at 65 a millionaire. But IRAs were only created in 1974 — 48 years ago! That means that, in order to have done when financial gurus claim, you would have had to have started your IRA within the first two years of its invention!
With this thought in mind, I went to crafting an article. I’ll save you the chore of reading about my writing process — it’s outside the scope of this blog, anyway. From there, I scheduled the post out and waited a few months until it came to it’s time to be published. I shared it to my social media, alongside HackerNews and my LinkedIn (I’m sure they got a kick out of it!). And then, of course, I made sure that my premium subscription was clearly indicated on the webpage — my monetization option of choice — just in case any of my readers were so curious.