How to Create a Fail-proof Mastermind Group

How to Create a Fail-proof Mastermind Group

We know you’ve heard it before (um, even from us) — you should join a mastermind group, also known as a group of 4-6 people who meet about every two weeks to give each other advice and hold one another accountable to big goals.

It’s kind of a no brainer, isn’t it? We all know that trying to do it all alone as an entrepreneur is a recipe for eventually giving up when the going gets tough. So to join forces with people who get what you’re doing, who you can bounce ideas off of — it’s basically a way to build an informal board of advisors into your business.

We’ve already written all about masterminds, what they are and how to find them. So for today’s conversation, we’re approaching this from a new angle.

We’re focusing on the pitfalls: why groups fizzle out before they really get off the wrong, how even groups with the best of intentions might set themselves up to fail, and how to build yours strong from the start to avoid losing steam.

Listen to this podcast episode if you want deeper insights

We get to go deeper in our episodes of the Fizzle show, sharing personal stories and more to really get these ideas taking root in you. Enjoy!

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Wrong mix of people

Having the wrong cast of characters in your group is one of the number one reasons masterminds fail.

You could be in a group of people who all like each other and would love to grab beers together, but aren’t really set up to be each other’s strategists and accountability partners.

So how can we insure we’ve got a mix of people who will gel? Coming up with a criteria for your group will set you up to select qualified members.

If you’re organizing a group, we recommend seeking people who are in a similar business stage. It’s totally cool if one of you is a food blogger, one is a personal finance podcaster, and yet another is a personal trainer.

The bigger questions is, are you roughly in the same inning of this whole thing? Is one person so far behind the rest of the group, he or she might feel too new? Or is there someone way ahead of the game who would really be more like a mentor than a peer?

Great markers for business stage are email list and revenue. If everyone in the group is in the same general neighborhood when it comes to audience size, that’s a good indication that you can help each other. There will always be some diversity in the group (which is great!) but the idea is to find peers who are just about even with you so far.

Wrong format

A mastermind group needs strong but balanced ground rules. If there’s no structure, an hour goes by really fast and you might just find yourselves “catching up” as friends. That sounds fun, but not exactly productive.

It also helps to have someone to keep the meeting on track and manage the time. This person isn’t a group dictator or even a leader as much as an *organizer* or secretary who is charged with making sure things stay mostly on track.

We’ve found that most successful groups seem to do some version of:

  • Highs & Lows: Each person in the group takes just a minute or two to share what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone as well in the time since the group last met.
  • Hot Seat: This is the real meat & potatoes of the meeting. A “hot seat” is basically a strategy session focused entirely on one person’s business. The person in the hot seat brings specific questions and roadblocks, while the rest of the group gives feedback.
  • Commitments: The meeting ends with each member committing to a very specific task he or she needs to make progress on before the group gets together again.
  • Staying connected between meetings: Most successful groups choose to say in touch between meetings so members can get quick feedback and cheer each other on. Use Facebook groups, Slack, email, etc.

No accountability

One of the primary reasons to join a mastermind group is for the accountability — aka, to help you actually make progress and do what you said you would. If weekly commitments aren’t spoken and then captured, they disappear (and you’ll likely forget.)

Mastermind Groups can accelerate your growth, but only if they fulfill their main purpose: keeping you on track.

One game-changing mastermind tip is to have the group secretary jot down a few keywords summarizing each person’s commitment. These notes should be posted to the group’s communication channel of choice for everyone to see (and therefore, making you much more likely to actually do it!)

Inconsistency

This may be the number one reason groups fail. When people start skipping meeting, or if they aren’t set up in advance, the group will quickly fizzle out.

We know there are real challenges here, such as time zone conflicts, family commitments, day jobs and more. But since inconsistency is such a mastermind killer, the group should commit to some amount of time to really go “all in”.

For example, when my podcasting mastermind group started meeting a few months ago, our organizer said, “Okay, if we’re doing this, we all have to fully commit for the next 6 months. No skipping meetings if you can help it, let’s give it our all for 6 months. Who’s in?”

As a result one of our founding members decided she needed to leave the group right at the beginning. We were sad to see her go, but it was critical that she recognize that she was not able to commit and cut ties early on. Otherwise, if this particular member had kept skipping meetings and holding up the group, it likely would have discouraged the rest of us.

So these are the big mistakes, pitfalls and missteps we see when it comes to Mastermind Groups. Have you been part of a group that didn’t quite get off the ground? What do you think went wrong? Or, if you’re in a group you love, how did you navigate these common obstacles? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Fizzle

How I Created a Top Publication on Medium & Transformed My Life in the Process (FS218)

How I Created a Top Publication on Medium & Transformed My Life in the Process (FS218)

I'm going to Tarantino this for you. Let's do a quick rewind to the height of the conflict and start there. Then we'll come back to today. Ready? Here we go…

It was the summer of 2014. There I was, a new dad, trying to keep Rory (our then one-year old girl) alive as well as my freelance copywriting business. I had a couple great clients. But most of them (which will remain unnamed to protect the innocent) were so dry and stale that, if they could be described in a flavor, would actually be a sort of anti-flavor that extinguished every flavor it touched.  

Note: this is a guest post from Jonas Ellison, one of the largest publishers on Medium.com. His story is amazing and we wanted you to hear it in his words as well as in a podcast (below). Enjoy.

My wife was in the early stages of growing her business at that time too. She’d broken off from her boss and started her own thing when Rory was two months old.

Stress levels were on high alert. Only difference was, my wife loved what she did. I was happy that I could write for a living, but found that it was starting to work against me in a creative sense. It was sucking the life out of my love for the craft.

I was tired. Tired of expending my creative gifts on other people's lame businesses. Tired of edits upon edits upon horrible edits from accountants and engineers and fucking 'serial entrepreneurs'.

I was tired (did I already say that?). Our kid had developed a habit of waking up and crying every couple hours throughout the night since day one. I’m a light sleeper and was always the first one on the scene. Between cries, I’d find myself awoken by a sense of dread. A low, humming fear that I was wasting my life getting paid crumbs while helping businesses that I despise make a ton of dough.

So I did what I always did when feeling like this. I bought a book.

Books are my pills. The pill I chose this time was How To Live? by Sarah Bakewell, a book about one of my favorite humans – Michel De Montaigne. In it, the author explains how Montaigne would write his way through life in a reflective manner, not stating how to live, but as a constant asking, "How to live?"

This thing lit a fire in me. I yearned for a body of work like Montaigne’s.

I needed my creative muchness back.

I had words inside pushing to get out. So taking the encouragement from Montaigne paired with the fact that another one of my favorite humans, Casey Neistat, had started a daily vlog, that was it.

I wanted a blog where I'd share something positive every day. Not bubblegum positive like a Ghandi or an Einstein quote. But deep positive. I wanted each day’s writing to come from my personal human experience.

I had a personal WordPress blog at the time. A mentor of mine from a couple years prior, Kamal Ravikant, told me that I needed to share my work where people could see it. He wanted me to write a book on Amazon, but I never did. However, there was this new website out called Medium.com. It was the YouTube for writers and seemed like the perfect arena.

Listen to Jonas tell his story on The Fizzle Show podcast in your podcast app if you’re already subscribed or here:

PODSC

The birth of a blogger

And so Higher Thoughts was born. The concept was simple: short-ish, daily posts written from a contemplative, meditative (albeit lighthearted) state for 30 days.

The first thing I realized is that writing on Medium (as you may know) is a dream. The wordpress editor and html and plugins and nonsense were a thing of the past. Now, I could just sit down and… Create.

The response was welcoming. It was gradual. Not gangbusters, but there was life on the planet of Medium. Much more than on my wordpress blog where my most engaged reader was my mother in law who trolled me every time I wrote a post that went against her conservative Catholic worldview. I digress…

I had a few recommends and responses here and there. At the time, my subject matter was mostly creativity with some spirituality sprinkled in there.

After 30 days, I wrote about my experience and went to bed. The next day, I woke up (after the two or three wakeup calls from Rory the night before) to a buzzing phone. Twitter (which I hardly ever used) was rocking. My email inbox was blowing up.

Apparently, my post had gone micro-viral (not Gangnam Style-viral, but more viral than I'd ever experienced). It got picked up by The Huffington Post,  The Observer, and The Daily Dot. Some of my blogging crushes reached out to me to be a contributor.

Damn… I was a blogger. This was it. It had been a suppressed desire ever since the early 2000's when I fell in love with the lifestyle-blogger concept. I didn't think it was ever possible. Making this my full-time thing was still miles away. But never had I felt a solid foothold like I did then.

Suddenly, my 30 day ending point became just the beginning.

Who am I?

Another deep influence on me was Seth Godin. I found his blog in my previous career as a golf professional. I wanted out of that industry so bad. I knew I loved writing, but I had no idea how it would be feasible to make a living doing it. Seth sent me bite-sized notes of encouragement every single day.

I found his words… Refreshing. His posts were so much more real and human than the other ‘how-to-do-this-internet-thing’ blogs I followed. I felt like Seth was just hanging out with me in a park. He spoke softly, but his words carried heft. Unlike the other bloggers who were all about shouting at me and constantly trying to win me over.

When I started this daily blog, I wanted to do things like Seth. I wanted to whisper, not yell. I wanted to write for my readers, not constantly be on the hustle for new ones. But many of my marketing cronies (now that I was in the business) advised me otherwise. Here’s a little of what they advised…

“There’s no way you can grow an audience today without clickbait headlines”.

“You can’t respond to every email/response – that’s not scaleable.”

“You should invite people with huge audiences to contribute to your publication.”


But nothing these experts suggested went along with my values. I had nothing to lose. I had no audience. I was going to experiment and try it my way.


Soon, people began thanking me for such a refreshing voice. “It doesn’t feel like you’re trying to trick me,” read one. “You’re the only one I allow in my inbox,” read another.

Day after day, the blog grew. Medium did a fantastic job of promoting my work because I was getting a lot of engagement and showing up consistently to post.

I made it a point to answer every response that came in, even if it was just a 'thank you' in a private note on Medium. I met other Mediumers (hey, if they're YouTubers, we can be Mediumers, right?) with big publications I'd contribute to. It was a fantastic platform to connect and grow on.

But I was conflicted. I kinda knew what I was all about. But my posts were still a little… Random.

Some days, I'd write about writing. Other days, I'd write about spirituality or business, or whatever was on my mind. I wanted to get a pulse from my readers about what they enjoyed reading from me.

So I threw together a quick Google Form survey and sent it out. Being a writer by trade, I was sure that they liked my posts about writing the best. However, the response I got shocked me.

My readers gave me a resounding ‘Hell-yes’ for spirituality/life stuff. Which was interesting on many levels.

Walk back further with me for a sec…

My long-time dream of spiritual writing

I had a rough upbringing like a lot of us, unfortunately. My mom passed away when I was 16 and I was raised around a lot of poverty and addiction. I was Catholic, but not really. In my late teens and early 20's, I had a head full of lingering questions about life and what this whole thing was really about.

In 2004, I watched a PBS special with a dynamic older bald dude named Wayne Dyer. I had no idea who he was at the time, but my dad spoke highly of him, so I watched.

I was blown away for 2 hours while he waxed poetically about life and Carlos Castaneda and A Course in Miracles. The whole time, he was checking off the list, one by one, about the kinds of questions buzzing around in the back of my mind. This brand of spirituality was useful – holy shit!

Wayne Dyer was my gateway drug to a whole tribe of authors in that realm. I was taken to Marianne Williamson, Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and even the old greats like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marcus Aurelius, Charles Haanel, and Robert Collier.

Eventually, I made my way to a book from a guy named Rev. Michael Beckwith called Spiritual Liberation. He gave a title to this brand of spirituality: ‘New Thought’. Beckwith is a New Thought minister and created the Agape spiritual community in LA.

Essentially, I envied these writers and thinkers who'd changed my view of the world in such a profound way. I remember reading my first Wayne Dyer book so many years ago dreaming of how cool it would be if I could do the same thing he did. If I could sit and write and share a message that uplifted people from all over the world.

When I got that survey back from my readers, it struck me. Holy shit. I was doing it…

Back to church

So there I was. A reader-approved spiritual messenger. I mean, my audience literally told me they wanted more spirituality stuff from me. It was tough to stomach at first. Who was I to share this kind of message? And how was I going to make a living doing it?

I shrugged these questions off and continued on. I embraced this new subject matter and began going to a New Thought spiritual center (much like a church, but an interfaith one that welcomed all people: Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist, etc.) in town. As I sat in the sanctuary in the midst of a sermon by a female minister behind a gay couple and an atheist sitting to my right, I realized…


“My writing had lead me to my tribe. My tribe had lead me back to myself.”
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These were my people. This is who I was meant to serve.

A few months later, I signed up for divinity school. I had no idea where this was going to take me. I had no idea if I was ever going to open a spiritual center and do this professionally someday. But I learned through my writing that this wasn't the point.

The point was to follow my soul and jump head-in when I was pulled by something greater than myself. I realized the key to great writing had little to do with the actual writing. It had to do with devoting oneself to an interesting mission. Then, the writing took care of itself.

So that’s what I did. I announced my new life path on Higher Thoughts the next day. I told my readers that I'd take them with me through the journey. I'd share with them all of my doubts, fears, wins, and insights along the way.


“My readers gave me a purpose and I returned the favor with devoting my life to this subject matter.”
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When I did this, new doors opened. A couple friends opened up a digital agency in town. They needed a copywriter and they loved my writing. So they brought me on. Their client base was incredible. Plus, I now had the security and flexibility to pursue my work with the blog and my new spiritual studies.

Pushing me to the pulpit

I’ve been writing and posting every day since I started this 30 day creative project almost two years ago now. It hasn’t always been easy.

I’ve written and posted on sick days, holidays, while travelling to Europe with my family a couple summers ago, and every day in-between. I’ve had family days where I’ve stayed up late to write after my wife and daughter had gone to bed. I’ve since developed a system that fits my life, but it’s been a challenge.

However, today, Higher Thoughts is one of the most recommended spiritual publications on Medium. I’m a Top Writer in several categories including personal development, life lessons, creativity, poetry, inspiration, and more.

I’m faced with a ton of opportunities. I now mentor fellow bloggers who want to share their positive messages in an authentic fashion on Medium. I’m developing a course around this subject matter. I have a body of work my kid will be able to read long after I’m gone. And I’m headed to the ministry – something I never dreamed possible when I started this journey.


“An authentic body of work goes much deeper than just creating an audience and ‘monetizing it’.”
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What I’ve learned is, if you put your whole life in front of a strong mission and share your journey authentically, your people will show up. And like a mighty wave, if you continue to serve them, they will carry you to your destiny. And one day you might look back, as I am now, and it will all make sense.

This is the power of your message. This is the value of an authentic body of work. These are the heights it can take you to. Not just shares and hearts and virality and monetization. But a total life transformation.

Here’s to you on your journey.


Jonas Ellison is the author of Higher Thoughts, one of the top spirituality/mindfulness publications on Medium.com. He's a spiritual practitioner and a mentor to those who want to create a presence on Medium as well. To receive his free gift to Fizzlers, an email series titled, ‘11 days to authentic audience building on Medium’ click here.


Fizzle

Tips On Using Medium as a Blogging Channel to Grow An Audience (FS217)

Jonas Ellison spent the last year growing an audience on Medium.com, and it worked… accidentally.

On the show today you’re going to hear tangible tips about Medium.com, which will help you decide if you should use this growing platform to grow an audience.

There are some new features on Medium that make both Corbett and Chase do a bit of a double take on using this platform.

Grab a cuppa and dive in for some entertaining education about the “youtube for bloggers”, Medium.com.

Enjoy!

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“Tips on using Medium as a blogging channel to grow an audience”
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Why is medium awesome?

There’s a built in audience on Medium, so there’s a chance you can grow quicker on Medium than you can on a self-hosted website. For instance, an article you write on Medium can take off and go viral just within the Medium platform itself, possibly exposing tens of thousands of people to your writing. So, the basic awesomeness of Medium here is that there’s a mechanism in place so that, if your writing is actually good, lots of people on Medium could easily find your article(s).

What are the bad things about medium?

The first thing is, you have to share your design, brand, experience with Medium. The second thing is that Medium is a VC backed BUSINESS, which means they can start charging you for who-knows-what in the future because, you know, even silicon valley businesses need to make money eventually. Third thing is that the stats are limiting; you can only see so much detail and only for a limited amount of time (though it looks like there’s support for Google Analytics for custom domains now). All this being so, the awesome parts have really helped Jonas, and he says he’d be using Medium again if he was starting all over (though his answer to what he’d change is really interesting).

A Medium Difference: Responses, textual comments, private notes instead of comments

The commenting system on Medium works differently than you may have experienced before. The end result is that there are several ways for readers to interact with your written material AND that interaction is not anonymous… real people, real accounts, for the most part, at least for now.  

Tip: Start a "publication" on medium

A publication on Medium is like a blog, a collection of stories or a collection of thoughts under the same title (and sometimes custom domain name), and you should setup a publication on Medium if you’re going to write there. This is something a lot of people don’t do and they’re missing out big-time. On Medium, you can immediately start writing under your own name. This is a great start, but eventually, you’ll want to create a ‘publication’ of your own (which only takes a few minutes to set up). This does a couple things…

One, it puts your work under a larger topic that people can get behind. For example, when a new Medium user snoops around, they might see my name and glaze right over it, not knowing who I am. But that same person might see my publication (Higher Thoughts) and realize – like a magazine at the train station – that they’re interested. I have three times the amount of followers on my publication than on my personal account.

Secondly, with a publication, you can send out a ‘letter’ to your followers (which you can’t do under your personal profile). This is a Medium post that gets emailed out to your followers (all who haven’t opted out, at least). And you Fizzlers all know how important email is.

Tip: use the “send a letter” feature to your publication followers

If you set up a publication in Medium (see tip above) you can use the “send a letter” feature and send a private email just to your publication subscribers. You open your publication and click on letter and it’s like you’re writing a medium post. It’s emailed out to all your followers, doesn’t show up in your publication. Jonas does a monthly newsletter for Higher Thoughts readers, what he’s reading that month, maybe an offer, etc. When a reader follows a publication, they’re automatically opted in for the email. However, they can opt out when they start getting emails.

This is a big deal — this means you can use your Medium publication to get directly to the inboxes of readers. Fascinating! But nobody’s going to subscribe to your publication if you’re content doesn’t hit their heads and hearts. More email tips.

Tip: embed an email subscribe form directly in your medium post

Upscribe is a tool that enables you to embed an email form directly in a Medium post. This is amazing because one of the biggest drawbacks of using Medium was that you can’t make an offer to your reader without them clicking a link to go to a different page. With this little feature you can now embed the form right there, bang! Initial plans for Ubscribe are free, and it integrates with mailchimp or convertkit or whatever you use today.

If you were starting all over again on medium, what would your plan be? First of all, what would be your goal (followers? traffic? email conversions?)? Second of all, what would your plan be?

This one you’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear. We get into a really good conversation with lots of nuance about the stuff Jonas brings up.


More from Jonas on next week’s podcast where we hear the story about how the hell he transformed from a burnt out copywriter to swinging a following of 60,000+ followers on Medium. You can check out more about Jonas’ writing at his Medium publication Higher Thoughts. Thanks for your time and expertise, Jonas!


Fizzle

How Indie Entrepreneurs Should Plan Vacations (FS216)

Travel can lead to inspiration, vision and clarity for your business. That can mean huge gains when you’re an owner-operator of a small business.

As indie-preneurs and solo-preneurs we can often be the bottleneck for our business. Our mindset can be the leading cause of atrophy or stagnation in our strategies and execution.

Play time, vacation and travel, however, can be used to “knock the barnacles off” and reset our intention and focus so we can see clearly and move with more purpose.

BUT you may not want to put everything on hold and dive right into vacation without planning it through a bit.

So, in this podcast we teach you how successful indie entrepreneurs think through and plan their vacations.

Enjoy!

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Different kinds of “Vacation”: First, let’s define our terms a bit. In the episode we talk about the following different kinds of vacation.

  • the staycation or “digital detox”
  • the shorter "do no work" vacation
  • the longer "do some work" vacation
  • sabbatical
  • living abroad
  • paternity/maternity/family leave

Many entrepreneurs have a hard time ALLOWING themselves to let go. Here’s a message from Fizzler Penny Hawes in the Member Community about this:

What is this "vacation" of which you speak?

Seriously, after owning and managing large family run equestrian centers for most of my adult life, there were no vacations. It was 7 days a week, week after week, month after month, and year after year. And even though we were grossing 6 figures, overheads were so high we were barely surviving.

Even after we sold our farm in CT and left our jobs managing a farm here in Virginia, there have always been 2 jobs or a seriously time intensive job and a side hustle.

I get a 2 hour vacation next Tuesday, courtesy of anesthesia…

This is one of my greatest "whys" – I'm sick of working 60 hour weeks where I swap hours for dollars. I'm 58 years old and scared shitless. All of that ends now.

Corbett has a great story about this. For a long time as a new blogger Corbett couldn’t step away from the computer for any significant stretch of time. Then he brought on his first employee, got that employee up to speed and immediately took 5 days away from the computer in Europe. More on that story in the episode.

(Note: that first employee of Corbett’s was Caleb Wojcik, who we just released a Founder Story interview with to Fizzle Members!)


Reset your mind about what vacation is for. Keep your mindset healthy around vacation. Try to see it as an investment in your creativity and business, as opposed to shirking your responsibilities (which always leads to guilt). A fresh brain is often an open channel for new ideas and fresh inspiration. You may feel like Steph when she says, “I work MUCH faster when I’m rested and positive (vs. ground into a pulp and fatigued!).” So, the first step is to think about vacation as a BUSINESS ASSET.

Create a pre-vacation game plan. Define projects you want done before you leave. Be intentional with what you're committed to so you can allow yourself to TRULY release when you're on vacation. As Chase says, “It’s a really big asset for my business when I can completely disengage, experience something new and then come back to my work with clear eyes and optimism. From that perspective, with fresh eyes, I can see all sorts of things in my work that I was blind to before!” It might mean working ahead, batching tasks, outsourcing, leaning on teammates — but no matter what, you gotta have a game plan for stepping away.

Note: you can use the Energizer Project Planning Method to figure out exactly what the most critical projects are before you leave.

Learn to travel simple. One of the things we most love to experience in travel is serendipity, those moments you didn’t plan for, the random, beautiful stuff you just kind of fell into. Part of making yourself open to that is lightness in travel. As Chase says, “Now, i can get more technical here: I literally carry one carry-on backpack; that’s all I allow myself. I love this for so many reasons — freedom, agility, presence — but one of my favorite side effects (and likely the reason I’m so addicted to this kind of travel) is that it equates to MENTAL states of freedom and presence. So, it’s not just ‘I don’t have a lot of stuff with me,’ it’s also ‘I’m literally thinking and behaving with more freedom,’ and that can change your damn life.”

Note: Corbett and Chase share a little moment of glee in the episode when this comes up. You can almost hear Corbett squeal in delight.

Another Note: Chase is so taken with traveling lightly that he has a whole youtube channel devoted to it. And it’s growing, too!

What have you learned about traveling as an entrepreneur? Share what you’ve learned in the comments below because we’d love to hear them!

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Today’s episode is sponsored by Aaptive: Fizzle members can get 30 days free when you go to Fizzle.co/aaptive and use the code “FIZZLE” when you signup.


Fizzle

Win a Ticket to Craft + Commerce, Convertkit’s New Conference (And See Chase’s Keynote Live)

Win a Ticket to Craft + Commerce, Convertkit’s New Conference (And See Chase’s Keynote Live)

Our very own Chase Reeves is the opening speaker for a brand new conference started by our friends at ConvertKit! The conference takes place June 23 to 25 in Boise, Idaho.

With Craft + Commerce, ConvertKit is creating a space for online entrepreneurs, bloggers, podcasters, vloggers, to learn how your craft is not only a means to earn a living online, but also a way to make a meaningful impact on your customers and do work that matters.

From the Craft + Commerce site:

The ConvertKit conference is where modern crafts(wo)men come to renew their commitment to creating great work every day. We’ve created a schedule full of opportunity to set goals, find passion in you work, learn from the best, and build long-term relationships with other online creators.

If you haven’t seen Chase talk live before, it’s a real treat, especially on a big stage like this. Chase will be joined by some other fantastic speakers, including Seth Godin, Sarah Kathleen Peck, Melyssa Griffin, (Fizzle member) Abby Lawson, James Clear and many more.

Win a Free Ticket to Craft + Commerce!

We would love to see you at the conference. One of you lucky readers is going to win a ticket (valued at $ 599) to join several hundred other likeminded independent entrepreneurs.

To win, just leave a comment below and tell us why you’d love to attend before Thursday, May 25. We’ll choose one lucky commenter at random and the winner will be emailed on Friday, May 26.

You don’t need to be a ConvertKit user to win.

If you haven’t checked out ConvertKit before, it’s a fantastic email marketing tool for professional bloggers, podcasters and course creators. Learn more about ConvertKit here »

Learn more about the Craft + Commerce conference here »


Fizzle

The Energizer Planning Method to Get Your Year Back on Track (FS215)

In this episode we walk through a process to get clarity about what projects you should focus on next.

You know the feeling… too many projects on the todo list; you bit off more than you can chew.

So we could all use a simple process to get us back on track.

We call it the Energizer Planning Method because when you go through this process you’ll have clarity and confidence about exactly what’s next… and that just happens to be very energizing.

Enjoy!

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Follow this process

We walk you through each of these in detail in the podcast, but here’s a simplified list of the steps necessary.

1. DEFINE BIG PICTURE STATE OF THE BUSINESS: We always start with the big picture view because you need to be clear on where you are before you figure out where you need to go. For us at Fizzle, we score ourselves on the following categories:

  • Revenue: how’s the revenue scenario? Growing? Shrinking? If you need help gathering metrics, checkout our episode on the 3 metrics that matter when you have to be your own CEO.
    • Value: ask yourself and your team: How are our customers doing? You could do a survey or a net promoter score survey. You could also look at hard data like average lifetime value of customers, etc.
    • Personal experience: Internally on your team or for yourself ask: How are we feeling about the work we’re doing? How’s it going? How’s it feeling?

2. MAKE A RECURRING EVENT ON YOUR CALENDAR: Schedule a reoccurring time to do this planning. You can’t be worker bee all the time OR CEO all the time! Gotta do both. You can schedule a few days alone or just a couple mornings in a row maybe. This is a perfect thing to do with your mastermind group where you help each member through this process. You want to have a RECURRING process, but you don’t want to have a PERPETUAL process.

3. BRAIN DUMP YOUR IDEAS: capture your ideas down on paper or in a tool like Trello. This is a BRAIN DUMP of your ideas. Exhaust your ideas and get them all down. It’s a good idea to keep that list of ideas all the time because you can keep track of those ideas over time throughout the year as you’re getting work done… think of it as a place to put your shiny objects over time so they don’t have to distract you 🙂

4. PRIORITIZE PROJECTS FOR IMPACT AND EFFORT: IMPACT is about how significantly this project will improve revenue, or reach, or personal interest or customer satisfaction… whatever metrics matter most to your business based on the current STATE OF THE BUSINESS (step 1). Then, EFFORT is about how much time, energy, resources is this going to take.

What you’re looking for here is high impact, low effort things you can ACTUALLY get done in a quarter (or whatever time cycle you hold yourself to for this planning). At this step you may only have 1-10 projects that end up being truly actionable for you this cycle.

5. GIVE EACH PROJECT THE SNIFF TEST & RE-PRIORITIZE PROJECTS: There’s a few steps to this one. Basically, we want to flesh out more of this project WITHOUT getting lost in the project itself. Once you’ve done these steps for EACH of the projects

  • The first thing to do is make a list of WHY this project is a good idea, why completing this is a good thing for your biz.
  • Then work the entire project backwards from the final step. For example, “launch the new course” isn’t the LAST step, right? Because then you have to promote it, fulfill the orders, answer the customer support, etc. You want to be really specific here and list out as many steps as you can. Working towards the front from the back will help you spot dependencies and blind spots.
  • With the whole project listed out like this, now you can quickly break up the project into bite sized chunks that you can tackle. THESE are the things that go on your todo list! These are the micro-tasks or sub-projects that you can hold yourself to day after day and track your progress meaningfully!

We go more in depth on this process in the podcast episode above which I highly recommend you listen to because there’s a TON of nuance about planning projects.

I mean, think about it, we all fall off the ladder, we all get distracted from steady, focused progress.

AND YET creating informed plans and executing those plans is literally what keeps our businesses alive! So, don’t be afraid of a more in-depth planning process like this because when you can create a plan you execute and stick with… you’re unstoppable.

Happy planning! Thanks for reading and listening.


Fizzle

How do You Balance Life & Business? (FS213)

Work. Side-hustle. School. Morning routine. Kids. Commute. Exercise. Meditation. Meal prep. Rest. Evaluation.

If you’re like me, you fill your days with as much “I’m supposed to do this” stuff as possible.

I’m supposed to exercise.

I’m supposed to have good ideas for my business.

I’m supposed to be diligent about executing those ideas.

I’m supposed to eat healthy.

I’m supposed to be present.

I’m supposed to make enough time for my family.

Oh yea, I’m supposed sleep well too.

It feels like A LOT, like too much, if I’m honest.

So, it was amazing to see this topic brought up on the Fizzle forums by Xenia Ferraro who asked: How do you balance your life? She adds:

“how in the world do you do it?? I always thought I was awesome at time management but I'm finding that I may be taking on too much? Spreading myself too thin? I would hate to give anything up for the time being, but am nervous I may have to.”


Swift Switching

This question is a big one. I want it all. I want the cake, I want to eat it, I want to share it with my friends, and I want it all cleaned up for me afterwards.

But most of my life isn’t with an abundance of cake and cleanup partners. If I’m honest, most of my experience is kind of swiftly switching from one task to the next, one idea to the next, one role to the next, without much time to ruminate and strategize in between.

Do you know what I mean by that? Jumping from task to task to task without consciously thinking about why I’m doing Task 1, or what the purpose of Task 2 is, etc.

Which means, when I sit down to try and think about what the next strategy for my business or life is, I’ve mostly got a surplus of confusion.

I’ve been jumping around from thing to thing so much that I’m confused about which direction I should focus on.


Lone Rangers

I’ll wager this is a common experience for us indie entrepreneurs — those of us using the tools of the internet to bootstrap businesses to support ourselves.

We are lone rangers in an endless landscape of potential… potential tasks, potential success, potential strategies, potential potential.

This is, in some ways, what we asked for — we want freedom and independence, we want to make our own rules, we want life on our own terms.

But do we have to feel the anxiety and confusion? Is that necessary to succeed, or are these energies harming us?


Let’s talk about how we balance work and life

Here’s an episode of our business podcast where we discuss this very issue. It’s in depth, honest, and if you listen to it you’re definitely going to take away something big for your entrepreneurial balance.

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“How do you balance work and life? Awesome article and podcast.”
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Show notes:

  • Ep 014 // A Stress-Free Approach to Getting What You Want with Chase Reeves — Courage and Clarity

How others answer this question

Here’s a few of the responses to Xenia’s forum thread. I share them here because it’s so helpful to hear how other indie entrepreneurs are thinking about this.

And at the bottom I’ll put a few key take-aways.

(Note: being in a community of entrepreneurs like Fizzle can change your life if you’re trying to build something you care about all by yourself. Fizzle is the best community like this out there… and it’s affordable too. Check out member benefits here. If you’re already a Fizzler you can find this thread here.)

Matt Williams:

First, I had to learn to play the long game. Without hours a day to dedicate to building a business I learned to celebrate the small wins. Over time they add up. If you get five small tasks complete per week, you'll have accomplished a lot in a year.

Second, in order to be productive with small amounts of time it helps to break down your to-do list items into the smallest possible actions you can take. Thinking about a blog post, your list might look like this:

  • pick an idea
  • outline what you want to communicate & how it should be organized
  • write out each section (this can be broken down into a task for each section)
  • edit the content for coherence & readability
  • edit for SEO
  • publish
  • market on your social media channels

With a list like this you can easily pick off one or two tasks when you do find a spare twenty minutes. Also, you get to check things off much more regularly, which helps you feel like you're actually moving.

2 excellent resources for more personal productivity:

  1. Productivity Essentials Course — probably the best guide to the essentials of personal productivity available. It’s just one of 40+ course included with Fizzle Membership.
  2. The Simple 10-Minute Daily Activity (Backed by Science) That Could Make You More Productive Forever… read more.

Suzanna Miller:

I am another one of those working parents trying to start a business in my limited free time. […] I just wrote a post about embracing slow.  It's just how it has to be for now in the reality of my life.  I'm almost at my year anniversary from when I first hatched the notion to do this, and although I am still miles away from making money, I'm miles further down the road than I was last year.  So you do what you can, and yes, it adds up.

For me, I have also had to learn and really pay attention to when my mind is in the best frame for working on the business.  When I'm tired and frazzled, no amount of forcing myself will yield a good result.  So when I need to rest, I rest.  I know that when I can hit something fresh, I come at it with enthusiasm and a positive outlook.  When I approach it when I'm tired, the negative self-talk comes out in copious amounts.


Steve St. Martin:

At the beginning I was full of excitement and would squeeze what I could in when I could. Even though I had forward movement it was slow so I made the decision to tighten up my budget and start subbing out the work.

It was easier for me to put in more time to earn extra money doing what I already know and put that money into paying people to do the work that was dragging me down. Just like in construction I just manage the people I pay in my business. 

This method got my site built, product created and kept my sanity.

More info on outsourcing:

  1. Here’s a great article for you: A Super Simple Guide to Outsourcing for Entrepreneurs

Summer Edwards:

My advice is do something that you love and that energizes you. My first blog is only now starting to pay me for 1 day a month worth of work (after 3 years!). But the learning journey of the blog lead me to launch a freelance career (which is my Minimum Viable Income (MVI), some of it is related to my old career and some is related to my first blog), and I also am starting another teacher archetype blog/business (this one has more chance of getting to MVI so I can eventually leave the freelancing for focus on full-time course creation).

If you do something that energizes you and you can't wait to work on it, it will bring you energy for the rest of your life. But you have to be realistic about what you can achieve in so little time and be willing to accept slower progress. 

Does your business excite and energize you? Not just the idea of being an indie entrepreneur, but the actual topic and work of your business? That is what need to excite and energize you for the long haul. 

More on finding what energizes you:

  1. Choosing a Topic Course — in this course you’ll learn exactly the topics and areas of interest to YOU that have business potential. (This course is also only available to Fizzle Members.)

“If you do something that energizes you and you can’t wait to work on it, it will bring you energy for the rest of your life.”
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Steve Faulkner:

This is a really interesting thread to read and some brilliant answers. I'm a single parent with shared care trying to juggle a lot of stuff and have found it really difficult to manage time.

What I am finding useful is to spend 10 mins reviewing each day in a journal. If a day felt really productive, this helps me to find out why, and more important, remember it for next time. The same goes for if I had a day that felt really unproductive.

Over time it's been a great exercise in self-awareness and time management has improved hugely. It also helped me to learn what I actually could achieve in a day, as opposed to what I thought I could achieve. Not for everyone probably, but for me it's been really beneficial. 

More info on productivity journaling:

  1. This is a big point! Learn more about a daily “productivity journaling” practice here.

Stephen Johnson:

I started my biz while working a full time job.  At the time I had two little kids at home.  The first thing for me was to pick a product that was a creative outlet for me.  It was something that I was passionate about.  Since it was a creative outlet I really wanted to spend time on it. […]

I would spend between 1.5 and 2 hours working on my business each morning before the rest of my family woke up.  I started by spending 30 mins in the morning and slowly increasing it to 2 hours.  It was hard for me to get up early, but eventually it helped me sleep better and I would fall asleep as soon as I put my head on the pillow and wake up between 4:00-4:30. 

I also practiced productive meditation and Deep Work. (if you don't know what this is read Cal Newports book Deep Work).  Since I was completely focused for 1.5-2 hours a day with no interruptions (i.e. meetings, co-workers, etc) I actually got the equivalent of 3-4 hours of work done.  

More about focus and deep work:

  1. Check out our free training on How to Journal for Vision + Motivation for Entrepreneurs to learn a simple daily journalling practice for more vision, motivation and focus.

Conclusion

My goodness I love all these different perspectives! Here’s some takeaways for you:

  1. Find the method that works FOR YOU. Each of the responses above was the preferred method for that individual person. You will be different. You have permission to find what works FOR YOU.
  2. Short and sweet journaling practices showed up more than once. These can help you see your own… well… bullshit. Learn more about short daily productivity journaling.
  3. Personal passion or enthusiasm came up a bunch of times. For an indie entrepreneur personal passion is a competitive advantage. If you don’t know where to start on this, the Choosing a Topic Course inside Fizzle is the best resource you’ll find; it’s video-based with an excellent workbook and an absolutely stunning teacher 🙂

Now, let’s keep the conversation going — how do YOU balance life when you’re working on your business?


Fizzle

CEO-ing Your Business: The 3 Metrics that Matter (FS212)

CEO-ing Your Business: The 3 Metrics that Matter (FS212)

In the kinds of very small businesses we talk about at Fizzle, with teams of fewer than 5 people, many with just one person, very little of what we do on a day-to-day is CEO-type stuff.

Most of what we do is run around wearing one of dozens of different hats. Marketing, product development, finance, team building, and on and on.

This week only! We’re offering a very special discount on Fizzle membership. Get a full year of Fizzle for the price of 7 months. Get hundreds of hours of video training, coaching, community and more, with a 7-day free trial. Get your free trial and $ 175 discount here (before May 1st) »

In a bigger business, a CEO would care about all these things, but they wouldn’t be his or her primary focus. A CEO’s main job in a bigger company should be to own the company’s vision and convince everyone possible of why they should support that vision. Customers, investors, employees, everybody.

Beyond that, a CEO is responsible for making sure the company’s efforts are driving progress toward that vision, and that the business has the resources it needs to succeed (skills, talent, money).

But again, in a tiny business, as we’ve talked about a lot recently, you have to wear a bunch of hats. You have to do the high level CEO stuff, along with a million other things.

And it’s easy to focus so much on DOING the work, that you lose sight of the bigger picture.

So, how do you know if things are going well? How do you assure your CEO self that your “worker bee” selves are doing a good job, in the precious little time you have each month to play CEO?

Why Metrics Matter

This is why metrics can matter so much. By metrics, we simply mean taking measurements of different aspects of your business and monitoring them on a regular basis.

In today’s episode of The Fizzle Show we explain how to play CEO in your business, and the metrics you should follow to keep tabs on everything.

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But first, we should also mention that the metrics that matter will change over time as your business grows.

When you’re just starting out, before you’ve built a product, you should be 100% focused on identifying a need or desire in the marketplace, and on finding evidence that the need is worth trying to fill.

Then, when you get to working on your product, you should care most about: 1) building a product quickly and cheaply (the minimum viable product concept), and 2) growing a following / building buzz.

Finally, after you’ve launched a product, that’s where many of these metrics will come in. At this stage, your job is to make sure 1) your marketing is reaching customers and converting them to customers, and that 2) your product is serving your customers, making them happy, and converting that value into revenue for your business.

Metrics and the Marketing Funnel

So, what should you measure as a business? What report should you provide your CEO self so you can know how the business is doing?

The marketing funnel gives us some excellent guidance. A marketing funnel is simply a model of the theoretical journey a customer takes from learning about your business to purchasing your product and beyond.

One excellent marketing funnel based metrics model (say that three times fast) is Dave McLure’s Product Marketing for Pirates: AARRR! presentation. Dave’s model breaks the funnel into these 5 measurements of user behavior:

  • A: Acquisition – where / what channels do users come from?
  • A: Activation – what % have a “happy” initial experience?
  • R: Retention – do they come back & re-visit over time?
  • R: Referral – do they like it enough to tell their friends?
  • R: Revenue – can you monetize any of this behavior?

Our system at Fizzle (funnel metrics)

Internally on the Fizzle team, we use a similar model, adapted for our specific business. Every month we update a spreadsheet. We do this manually and it takes maybe 90 minutes. I actually like the ritual of doing this manually because it gives me a chance to pay attention to each number.

We’re making our spreadsheet template available to you. Enter your email below and we’ll send it right to you.

Download The Simple CEO Metrics Spreadsheet

This will help you run your business intelligently and find essential insights along the way.

The 3 Metrics That Matter (if you only look at three, use these)

If I had to limit the metrics I tracked to just three, they would include some version of the following:

  • Reach (audience growth): how many people are we reaching (for content-based marketing) through our website, podcasts, social media, etc?
  • Signups (conversions): how many of the people we’re reaching are converting into paying customers?
  • Customer LTV (lifetime value): how much revenue do we earn from the average customer over his or her lifetime? For subscription businesses, this is a function of churn and price. For other businesses, it’s a factor of price and number of products sold.

The beauty of these three metrics is, they form the basis of a calculation that can tell us how much revenue we’re generating for a given timeframe. 10,000 people (reach) X 10% conversion (signups) X $ 10 (customer LTV) = 10,000 in revenue generated for that period.

To double revenue, you can focus on any one number, or on all three at once. Doubling your reach, doubling your conversion rate, or doubling your customer lifetime value would each double your revenue. Or, increase each by a smaller amount and still reach your goal.


Fizzle

The Inception of a Wildly Successful Lifestyle Business (FS210)

The Inception of a Wildly Successful Lifestyle Business (FS210)

I’d venture to say that most of us, when we think about a “successful business” we’d want to create, it will look like what is known as a lifestyle business.

These are the kinds of businesses where your business serves your life, not the other way around.

And with the tools of the internet and extremely affordable training like Fizzle’s Courses, this kind of business has become a real, viable approach to revenue earning and wealth creation.

BUT — and this is a big but here — it’s still a difficult path.

Becoming a doctor is a viable path for you as well, but we all know it ain’t easy. You don’t just “fall into” becoming a doctor.

Now, though it’s true that many people really have just “fallen into” success of many shapes and sizes online, it’s not a smart strategy to count on it.

Just like becoming a doctor or a skydiving instructor (speaking of “falling in!”), it makes sense with an online business to understand what are the elements necessary for success, what expectations are intelligent to have and how success happens.

It’s that last one we want to dive into today. How does success in lifestyle business actually happen?

What are the steps and stages? What are the red flags to watch for? What are the common mistakes and the truly important things?

So, on the show today we have two very special guests — John and Dana Shultz from Minimalist Baker.

They’re a married couple who have found enormous success running a blog about how to cook “simple, delicious recipes that require 10 ingredients or less, one bowl, or 30 minutes or less to prepare.”

John and Dana are close friends of Fizzle. In fact, they teach a course within Fizzle called Exactly How to Build a Great Food Blog.

Because they’re close friends I’m hoping we get a really juicy interview with them, full of the stuff that most people are too afraid to share.

So, please enjoy this interview with founders of a truly successful lifestyle business. It’s our hope that you’ll find amazing insight here to help you as you develop your own path to success.

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Chase: Okay so real quick, how long has Minimalist Baker been around? What are we talking here?

Dana:June of 2012 was our first month.

Chase:All right, so 14 years. That’s a long time for a business. Wait 2012 was how long ago, wait 4 years ago?

Dana:We’re all very old.

John:Coming up on 5.

Chase:Coming up on 5 years. Okay. Coming up on 5 years. Now here’s my first question for you guys. We’re going to dive right in. Are you okay with that?

John:Lets do it.

Chase:Lets do it. I want to know, when did you quit your day jobs to pursue this full time and if you can, like take me back. Was there a conversation? Was there like discussion beforehand, like should we do this or what? I want to know.

Corbett:Jokes on you they didn’t have day jobs.

John:Exactly.

Dana:We’re broke.

John:Yeah.

Chase:Go for it, John!

John:I would like it if we didn’t have any of those conversations, if we just jumped in.

Chase:Yeah, just dived in, yeah.

But what was it like really?

John:Well I feel like the first discloser that we had another site before this one. And so, there were probably 2 years leading up to Minimalist Baker. That was more of just a hobby site.

Dana:It was just a, like basically a personal blog. I talked about what we did and occasionally I would share a recipe, or heres a workout that I did. So it didn’t really have any focus. It was just like, hey this diary?

Chase:Is this blog still around?

Dana:No it’s no longer online so. Don’t … [crosstalk 00:01:18]

Chase:Stripes! I’m really liking stripes these days!

Dana:They’re like really in season. So happy!

Chase:Here’s my fuzzy socks. I want to write about my fuzzy socks.

Dana:Have you guys ever tried planks? They’re like really hard.

Chase:That’s too true! You did that! You did that!

Dana:I did! I said that!

Chase:Hey. Now hold on. I think that’s actually a big point. I don’t know. I’m also from that era where we just started about blogs. We just could start blogs and so we did. And it was like, it seemed like people were being successful, but I’m air quoting successful there by just like writing about whatever and I was like, I don’t know. I was 25 or something like that maybe. And I just started, I had a blog called Write to Mean. Which was just like, I don’t know whatever I feel like. Right? And then it was, the things that I was writing about, fatherhood, that people would really start to click on. And then I started Father Enterprise, which was like my first, Hey I have a thesis with this blog!

Is that similar to how Minimalist Bakers started? Were the recipes themselves getting more traction? Or, if not, what did lead you towards lets do an actual website about food stuff?

John:I think the first thing that happened was a number of conversations and the point in life where we were getting. Dana actually came up with the idea of Minimalist Baker, but that’s kind of the end of the story. Getting into that we [crosstalk 00:02:49]

Chase:What do you mean by, that’s the end of the story?

John:Well that’s like, well that’s the beginning of Minimalist Baker. But getting there, to the point that we started was a whole transition. Probably goes back to when I begrudgingly, not begrudgingly. I chose to go to law school. Stupidest idea ever. Just a side note for listeners, do not go to law school. Oh my God. The most expensive way to figure out you don’t want to be a lawyer. Still so much anger.

I was in law school. I knew pretty quickly I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but we were living in a town where Dana was having trouble getting a job, even though she had a good degree in journalism. At the time when newspapers were shutting down.

Chase:Really so college graduates, both of you. And then you were heading off into law school, John. And you had your degree in journalism. Okay got it. Got it. Keep going. Keep going. She had a degree in journalism [crosstalk 00:03:44]

John:Yeah. I guess it goes even back further. So there was a point in our life when we just realized we didn’t know what we were doing. Or we didn’t know why we were doing what we were doing. And part of that even goes back to when we moved to go law school, we left Portland the first time. It was a terrible ride. We were driving this U-Haul truck of stuff we got from IKEA because IKEA was a luxury compared to [crosstalk 00:04:12]

Dana:Albertson, Kansas or whatever.

Chase:You actually paid to move IKEA stuff across the country.

Dana:Yeah, which as we know is not good quality.

John:I guess that shows you where we were in life.

Chase:Yeah yeah, and by the way, I still do that. So I don’t know. We just bought IKEA lamps yesterday.

John:Oh, I’m all for IKEA.

Chase:Okay thank you! I was feeling a little bit attacked in that. So you were moving.

John:We were moving and it was just terrible. We don’t even talk about this trip very often because it still makes us sick to our stomach.

Dana:I would say that’s the trip John became a man and I lost 10 pounds. From anxiety, basically.

John:It was so bad.

Chase:So hold on, was there anything about why this trip was so difficult, that is some metaphorical way reflects on what your guys strategy or confusion about what you were doing in Minimalist Baker or anything online or career in general? Is there some sort of crossover there?

John:Yeah. I mean I think that’s kind of the joke of the IKEA stuff in the back of this truck. Driving, risking our lives to get this crappy furniture to Kansas.

Dana:Well and to elaborate, it was like the worst ice and snow storm of I don’t know, the last decade or something.

Chase:Yeah.

Dana:And so we really were risking our lives because at one point we were driving on 2 inches of ice. And then we got stranded in Wyoming for 3 days. So and we were towing our car. And we had no chains.

Chase:Nobody told you not to drive across country in January.

John:Apparently not.

Chase:I have one of those trips myself. Yeah from California through the passes and the whole. I’m like, holy crap. It’s harrowing!

John:But we definitely got to that part and we got to the end of it and were like, why did we do that.

Chase:And that was coming to Portland?

John:Going to Kansas to go to law school.

Chase:Okay. Going back to Kansas cause John has decided I’m going to be a lawyer. Still just so upset.

John:So angry.

Chase:So angry. Okay! So this is the early days of Criminalist Baker. This is the scene that Minimalist Baker starts growing out of. Tell me about the moment that you guys decide, at this time it sounds like Minimalist Baker is a thing yet. Is that correct?

John:No. Okay.

Dana:No.

Chase:When does it get like, its inception?

Dana:Well, fast forward a little bit. I had my lifestyle blog during that move and I continued to have it into Johns law school experience. And I had found a couple of side jobs, like being a barista and cleaning houses and that’s, basically we were throwing pennies at a mountain of debt. And we were also really, not happy. John decided he was going to finish law school, but knew he didn’t want to do it. So that was a huge conversation. And I was you know working on this blog that I really enjoyed even though I would get like two comments a day, or three comments there and or our traffic was really low. We weren’t monitoring it or anything. But people did start to resonate more, to answer your question, with the recipes and so that kind of, I feel like in a lot of ways guided where we went with Minimalist Baker.

And so through a series of events, we ended up moving back to our hometown of Wichita, Kansas and[crosstalk 00:07:23]

John:Well, that’s where it cuts in again with all this IKEA crap. We had this really big New Years in Wichita. And that was the like, I don’t want to be a lawyer, you don’t want to be a [crosstalk 00:07:31]

Chase:Hold on. Hold on. I got to know, where are we New Years Eve, a little apartment in Wichita?

John:To pica, Kansas.

Chase:To pica, Kansas. Mom and dads house or something? Or

John:No this is just bad, bad place. To be.

Chase:And this is like, 2011 or?

Dana:Yeah.

John:It was 2011.

Chase:And you are like, I don’t want to be a lawyer.

John:Yeah.

Chase:That sounds like a lot of feelings.

John:Yeah for sure. It’s a lot of money to be spending. [crosstalk 00:07:58]

Chase:If you had to name the feeling, what was it?

John:I don’t know if it was feeling, just like back against the wall.

Chase:Back against the wall.

John:I had no other options. I def don’t want to do this. I think I would be okay at it but I hate it.

Corbett:But then also was there some relief, like getting that out?

John:I think so.

Chase:Yeah.

Dana:Yeah we were both just not, basically the whole talk was, we don’t like anything about our life right now. And we want to change everything about or life right now. And also realizing we had just like mindlessly bought this stuff and moved here and done all these things, and we weren’t happy. And so we just decided, okay, well we need to start making better decisions and stop reacting to life. We need to stop reacting and start making a plan. And so we were like, what are the things that are going to make us happy? And so John was like, well I don’t want to be a lawyer. And we were like, we’ve never left the country. We want to travel more. And I was pretty set on just trying to make us more money, so I was like, well I’m going to get this other job or something. And he’s like, well what do you really want to do? What’s going to going to make you happy. And I was like, well I really like this blogging thing but it’s not making us any money. And so, I feel like that was actually a very pivotal moment because John was like, well what can we do right now to invest in that. And so we ended up selling all of our furniture that we bought [crosstalk 00:09:18]

Chase:The IKEA furniture?

John:The IKEA furniture. The beloved IKEA furniture. And that is the symbolic part. So then we go from having all of this crappy, I mean it wasn’t that bad, it was just like unnecessary. We had this cube system that [crosstalk 00:09:27]

Dana:We had a leather couch that John didn’t even fit on, like when he laid [crosstalk 00:09:37]

John:It hurt! It hurt to sit on. Like it wasn’t a comfortable thing.

Corbett:Oh the frugal poking.

Chase:Clutch in the moment. In the pocket, comes up with a name for IKEA furniture and absolutely nails it. If there’s such a thing as a podcast award that moment deserves it. And that man should get that tattoo.

Corbett:Frugal poker.

Chase:Okay. So this is where the metaphor of the IKEA furniture, it kind of symbolizes where you thought you were going.

John:Yeah, not only symbolizes, we actually sold our couch for about 5/6 hundred bucks. And a couple of other pieces of furniture. And we literally walked downtown to the local camera shop and bought Dana her first good digital camera. So there was like a real, yeah we didn’t have a couch but now I have this digital camera. We are really going to do this. We’re going to start moving in this direction.

Corbett:And was this for the lifestyle blog? Or

Dana:Yeah. Because Minimalist Baker was yet to come.

Corbett:Yep. And so you bought a camera because you wanted to pursue taking better food photography.

Dana:Yeah I knew my photos weren’t [crosstalk 00:10:44]

John:And photography in general.

Chase:And this is symbolic because I would say so much of this symbol of Minimalist Baker, so much of what makes it such a great site is the photography itself. Obviously coming up with all of the ideas and the recipes and all of this stuff. But it preaches so loudly through the photography itself, it almost becomes like aspirational when you see these dishes put out on the plate. Right? And so this idea that you guys sold frugal poking and got your first camera. Early days. How old were you then. Do you remember?

Dana:Like 24.

Chase:24, which is like the beginning of, I’m supposed to know where I’m going.

John:Yeah.

Chase:And you guys are going like back to square 1 in some ways, with just like a, with John asking the question, well what do you really want to do.

Dana:Right.

Chase:Right? So much of that to me sounds so relatable to so many couples, thinking things through. And just like you said, I hate so much about our life right now. There’s like nothing I love about it.

Dana:Yeah literally nothing.

Chase:You know. I don’t know. That is the scene from which Minimalist Baker, I don’t know, that seems like the backdrop where after a little while the idea of Minimalist Baker comes up. I mean these are the places where business ideas come from in our lives. I mean Corbet, when you did your travel around, you were blogging as Corbet Barr, right?

Corbett:Yeah similar. I had a little bit more of a focus. I wasn’t writing any post about planking.

Dana:Its a shame.

John:Regrettably.

Dana:I would so love to see you plank.

Corbett:But, yeah similar thing I think. It was like I knew that blogging was fun, but it felt like the direction I was headed wasn’t leading anywhere specific.

Dana:Right.

Corbett:Right.

Chase:By the way, I’m just.

John:There it is. There it is.

Chase:Pouring Corbet a little more wine berceuse he was out, and just to let you know, the scene here is Portland. And its sunny. It’s the first like sunny Friday afternoon.

Dana:I stared into the sun today and never felt happier.

John:I laid in the sun in my office like a cat, just like stretched out and stuff.

Corbett:By sunny, I’d say we’ve got about 70% cloud coverage but there’s some sun.

Dana:Yeah. I saw the sun today.

Chase:Corbet, you can take that negative attitude somewhere else.

Corbett:Its not negative, I’m just putting the context for people outside of Portland.

Chase:Okay. So. Back to this story at hand. I want to fast forward when we’re deciding to work on Minimalist Baker. Was there a conversation there? Was that like a failry easy, like, I want to put this together and see if that can go. Or was it like, I’m stopping this lifestyle blog, stopping the Dana dot biz blog and I’m doing Minimalist Baker. What was that decision like.

Dana:Wait what?

Corbett:Dana Dot Info?

Dana:That’s to come.

Well I had continued with my lifestyle blog and then we moved on to Wichita and John wrapped up law school and I had.

John:Well. I’m not to take the reigns of this. But I think it’s more for.

Dana:Well you’re a man speaking so.

Chase:Hold on Dana, tell us what you really felt.

John:Yeah yeah.

Chase:Keep going, keep going.

John:Well she was happy but

Chase:No no! This is not going to devolve into a bunch of white people feeling guilty about what some man said. Keep going keep going.

John:No I think it’s interesting because there is a point when we started Minimalist Baker and in hindsight you can look back and see all these little steps we took and it obviously makes sense. But at the time we were just trying to kind of figure out what we were doing and seeing what was next. And so Dana kept doing her personal blog at the time, and she kept getting better at photography. Kept doing more recipes. We saw those were working better. And she ended up getting offered a job in Wichita working at a health and wellness tech site. I think it was largely because she had this blog, she was just putting it out there and kind of seeing what stuck. And so that’s what brought us to Wichita and it was kind of at that point, she’s working at this website so she’s getting a little more experience there. I’ve always been kind of messing around with websites and then comes Criminalist baker.

Dana:Yeah.

Chase:Okay. Tell me more. Like tell me more about this moment, this time in your life. You know where Minimalist Baker went after this. You know how far you’ve come from there. What do you see there, in these early days that ended up being important throughout all the phases.

Corbett:Yeah like which decisions were really important at that time?

Dana:I just, I feel like we started making really unconventional decisions. Like the only thing that ever mattered in any apartment that we were ever going to live in again was, does it have good light? Because otherwise, it’s not working for me. And so like, we found this apartment that was working for us. And I found, you know, I had this job where I was also doing photography and writing and that was building into my skill set.

Corbett:And the light was because of the photos?

Dana:The photos.

Corbett:And you still take mostly natural light photos?

Dana:Like 99.9%. Only when I absolutely have to have to.

And so basically when I was working at this website, I still had my lifestyle blog and then the idea for Minimalist Baker became, I don’t know exactly where it came from. But we.

John:Well, we’ve been living more simply and intentionally. And so the minimalist part is kind of a weird part that can almost be a part of but not. Like I don’t know. We just felt like we were trying to be more intentional and think through our life. And

Dana:And also just I’m a lazy cook and so that was the whole crux of the thing. I would look at recipes online and think, oh my gosh that looks great. But I’m never going to make that. Because it’s this, and too long and too complicated and I don’t know what cardamom is.

And so it really was just, I wanted to make the blog that I would actually cook from because I didn’t think it existed. And I think that’s a really good lesson, hopefully listeners who, like we do get a lot of people asking us questions like, oh I just cannot find my niche, you know. Because everybody says you really have to find your topic and your thing that you’re an expert on. And I don’t even know if I would say that I was an expert on that yet. I just knew that I saw an opportunity and I had an extreme interest in it. And I was really really passionate about cooking. And I was getting better at photography.

And so I just told John, I have this idea for a website called Minimalist Baker. It would be only recipes and it would be just this, like ten ingredients, 30 minutes, one bowl. That would be the focus. Because as we were seeing with my previous blog, if you talk about anything into the void, no one listens. Like I’m just talking about everything, so that was one of the hugest lessons that we learned from the first blog. You cannot just shout and talk about everything, like sure I’m an interesting person. I have much more interests than just vegan cheesecake. But unless you focus then nobody cares.

John:Which was kind of hard because at the time, there were plenty, I mean, there still are, personal lifestyle bloggers that talk about everything. But they’re like, they’re almost legacy at this point.

Chase:They are! Right! They’re legacy, literally.

John:They started way before everyone else.

Chase:Name somebody who started recently and got big, talking about everything. They don’t kind of explicitly call out, here’s what I talk about. Like Corbet always says, once you call out what you are about, you now have freedom to talk about whatever you want. But because I know where to place you in my mind. I think that’s a really big point you just said, I want to restate it. I mean, you called attention to it, like that’s a really big lesson for anybody to learn. I wanted to make the cookbook that I was going to, I would cook from. Right? What is that? Tell me more about that? What was cooking to you then that there was this whole world of cookbooks of cooking teaching of cooking blogs of the Food channel. And every time it’s like someone going, okay just grab your soup strainer and the this that and the other.

Dana:And I’m like, I don’t have that.

Chase:I don’t have that thing.

Dana:I mean, as you can imagine from out backstory, we were obviously on a very very tight budget. I didn’t have, I didn’t have the resources to go out and have a high speed blender. Now, fortunately, now we can afford to have one. But like back then it was like all the things we got from our wedding, and I only had like ten spices. I was just really intimidated by anything from the Food Network, or like Ina Garten is amazing as she is, I don’t think that I could have attempted 90% of her recipes just because, not because I lack the skill. I just felt that they were too complicated.

Chase:Yeah.

Dana:And you know just way too time consuming.

Chase:Some sort of like 30 years in the kitchen as the person before you can like

Corbett:I’m curious when you were at this point, did you think about the audience and what would appeal to people, or were you purely thinking about what you wanted in a food blog?

Dana:I think it was pretty selfish in terms of the focus of the content. I would say. The only time or I guess, in capacity that we were thinking about an audience was, we’re going to tell them exactly what we’re doing here, that’s why we made the parameters. And the John, of course, built the site to be very user friendly and set up and email list and all those things so that from day 1 we could begin forming this community around this concept. But I don’t think it was ever premeditated in the way that, well there’s no good 2 ingredient pancake recipe out there, so since that’s searchable, I’ll do that. Like I didn’t, and I have listened to the episode on reverse engineering content. And I do think that’s valuable in terms of some parts of your content. Like for instance the headline, like that should grab people. But when it comes to the food we post, it really is like, and John has encouraged me in this, what actually sounds good to you. What sounds like the most fun thing that you can wake up and make today. And that’s like very very important to me and to us.

John:But we did throw those parameters on the site. So there was something like, this is what people can expect.

Chase:Okay hold on. I like where this is going and I want us to dive into this place. Can we just dogear that for a second for coming back to in a little bit. Like the content that you guys choose to make. Now what you’ve learned about what content you’ve learned to make. That reverse engineer stuff from thisoleshow dot slash 86 I believe it was.

John:Like a library.

Chase:That was a good one. It’s a really big a really really big concept, this idea, because of what to me its like the skating on, what do I want to make verses what’s already big out there. And this like where all art can choose to get popular or become consumerist bull crap, right? I don’t know. I just love that. It seems like such a powerful bridge to skate.

So, coming back to this story just shortly, lets put a bow on this story of the creation of Minimalist Baker, the inception of the early days. You’re working at this

Dana:Health website.

Chase:Health website. Photos and journalism and you’re doing more of your stuff on the side. Recipes and stuff. You come up with the Minimalist Baker idea in this season

Dana:Yes.

Chase:And you just decide, I’m going to make you, what you said was, ten ingredients, or one bowl, or things like that. Was that a constraint that you put on yourself from the start?

Dana:Yes.

Chase:From the start it was the kind of thing that I want to make for myself.

Dana:Yeah because that really is how I cook. I mean sometimes I do make a recipe and I am like oh shit that has like 12 ingredients. But, and so I try to cut it down. You don’t really need garlic powder.

John:Well we we had those conversations early on, you know she would make a recipe and she was like, well it’s 11 recipes but I really.

Dana:Ingredients.

John:Oh yeah, whatever. Ingredients. And we just did it. Which was kind of hard, it was hard to kind of like yeah they have to modify the recipe. Or,

Corbett:Well its a guideline, not a law. Right?

Dana:Right. Yeah.

Chase:Yeah.

Corbett:Or an expectation. So you came up with those three parameters or whatever, just because that’s how you cook and you were tired of recipes that were complicated, basically.

Dana:Yeah.

Corbett:And it happened to be a great hook. And you know I think that’s the thing that a lot of new bloggers, new podcasters, new YouTube channels whatever they lack. They lack a hook. They lack a way to explain what they do. And forever, you guys have always had on your about page, something to that effect. And whenever I have to explain what you guys do, either i remember it off the top of my head, or I know I can go to your about page and grab that one sentence

Chase:This happened yesterday, or the last time we recorded for the last episode.

Corbett:Yeah.

Chase:Of the show, when Steph, I was talking about Minimalist Baker, its a great idea, a great example of a niche business idea. And Steph, piped in with, well what I love about them is its always been ten ingredients, or one bowl, or ten minutes or whatever. Right? And I mean, I never read your about page.

Dana:Gee thanks.

Chase:Right? No I don’t care

John:Great great.

Chase:I collect pretty people, but I don’t read your website. But like Corbet was saying, that was just like in her. Now Corbet tell me just for a second about hook. You said people don’t come up with a hook enough these days.

Corbett:Well I mean the thing is like if someone comes to your website, you have just a split second to grab their attention, otherwise they are going to bail. And this is why anytime you publish a blog post, it’s so important to get the headline right, because the headlines job is to grab somebody’s attention for few more seconds so they’ll read the first paragraph, and so on and so forth. And when there’s a whole site that’s just unclear, muddy in terms of the focus, it’s really hard to expect people to give their time if they haven’t been prepped. And a lot of people, when we hear them give their pitch for a business, they can do okay if you give them two minutes to explain it, but you don’t have two minutes in the real world. And this is why I just love this idea, you know?

Chase:Yeah. Yeah.

Corbett:For us, with Fizzle, it was always online business training. That was our stitch, it was like none of the full, none of the BS. We’re going to give it to you straight.

Chase:For people who didn’t want to sell their soul to become entrepreneurs, to earn a living online. We’re still figuring out how to really say that, because honest online business, there’s a lot of ways that that can mean things but we always pick that angle. And you felt that was a good enough hook from the start.

Corbett:Yeah.

Chase:I mean obviously we’re here, we’re still a successful, and again, air quotes, business. But when you’re talking about lifestyle businesses, here’s the thing. When you’re doing venture backed, yadda yadda yadda, it’s very clear if you’re succeeding or not. It’s very very clear. It tends to be very very clear and very few of those actually end up succeeding. But when you’re doing lifestyle business, meaning, compared to how many are out there trying to be successful. When you are doing a lifestyle business, when you’re doing a solo entrepreneurial business, when you’re doing these kinds of things, you’re the one who defines if your successful or not. If it’s successful or not.

Corbett:I think it’s the opposite.

Chase:What do you say? Say that again.

Corbett:I think it’s really hard to tell if your succeeding as a VC backed business because there’s vanity metrics that you measure yourself against.

Chase:Got it.

Corbett:When you’re a lifestyle business, you know if people are reading and if they are buying your stuff, basically.

Chase:Yeah yeah yeah yeah. No, so I’ll clarify meaning like, you’re a success at a VC company if your keeping the story going, with your board, with your vestors, with your this that and the other. And then, seasons change, the wind changes and suddenly you’re not a success.

And like the episode we did with Nevel, where it’s just like, that changes without you wanting it to change. Without necessarily your fault

Corbett:Or you thought everything was fine and then the next day it’s not.

Chase:Whereas with the lifestyle business and this is why I will forever love this kind of business. And lifestyle business is probably not the right term because it tends to conte too much. But a solo entrepreneurship business. A by the book small business is succeeding or failing by very clear and simple metrics. And it’s not how many Twitter followers you have. And it’s not how many people are on the email list. And it’s not, you know what I mean. That’s one of the things that I hope to get to in the episodes coming up.

What were you going to say?

Corbett:Yeah and you guys have a tremendous number of followers on all kinds of platforms, Instagram and so on. And I’m sure that feels great. And other people probably measure themselves against you guys. They probably follow your Instagram feed and like, oh if I only have X hundreds of thousands of people following me. But at the end of the day, that means nothing to your business. What really matters is, you’re putting out stuff that people care about, it’s resonating with them, and they want to take it a step further and buy something form you. Buy your book, buy a course from you, advertisers, you know anything like that that really matters at the end of the day.

Chase:Okay to keep our story going here, can we go fast forward to when you like earned your first dollar for Minimalist Baker.

Dana:That would be a John question, I don’t track our.

John:We still haven’t earned a dollar.

Chase:Wait hold on.

John:It’s pretty bad.

Chase:I keep sending my email subscribers to my bank and they keep giving me money and we haven’t figured out how to actually take that bank and make it work. So when was the first sort of dollar made at Minimalist Baker?

John:I think we were actually, I remember trying to make money and being very afraid about it. That would turn people away. They wouldn’t be interested. All that stuff.

And so we did a series of three different things. We first created an e-book that we gave away for free, no email, nothing else, just like here’s an e-book. So okay, we saw, whatever, a thousand people downloaded that.

Chase:That was for free.

John:That one was for free. And so then we partnered with a group of I think 9 or 10 other food bloggers and we did, this was actually right after WDS and got charity water guy comes and talks and gets everybody excited about charity water. And so we did a collaborative e-book for, like you can download for free if you promised to go donate to charity water.

Dana:We’re very good people, is what we’re saying.

Chase:I don’t know if you can tell but we’re very morally upright and we’re really good people so.

John:Probably the best. A little bit better than other people.

Chase:Take me to the first dollar.

John:Yeah so. That was to not be afraid of not charging money and then we created a 2.99 e-book, that we.

Chase:Two dollars and 99 cents.

John:Yeah yeah. This is 2011. [inaudible 00:29:35] got crazy.

And um

Chase:There’s people with 299 dollar e-books that they’re like launching with are like I don’t know why nobody’s buying.

Dana:Yeah right?

Chase:They said I should value my work highly.

John:Yeah.

Corbett:And what was that e-book.

John:I’m trying to remember. I think it was just called 5 ingredients or less. So it was even more restrictive. Does that sounds right?

Dana:That sounds

John:It was either that or a course.

Dana:About right, it’s been awhile.

Chase:2.99 for what, 10 recipes?

Dana:Yeah it was like 10 or 15 or something.

John:10 or 20 or something.

Corbett:And reprints of things that were on the blog.

Dana:No they were new.

John:That’s was something we’ve always tried to do was keep that stuff original. So there was something special about buying it.

Corbett:So you put this together. How did you sell it.

John:Well it was PayPal and ejunkie thing.

Corbett:Okay ejunkie.

John:Just this simplest possible.

Chase:Oh man, ejunkie. When was the last time we heard that?

Dana:You’re welcome.

Chase:It was like a ball of fire. Yes. But there was like a jumping ninja guy.

Corbett:Di anything feel sleezeier than that?

Chase:Yeah.

John:No.

Chase:Seriously. Man.

John:That site still looks like it’s from, you know 98.

Chase:Yeah so for people who don’t know, this is the kind of stuff you had to do, to sell an e-book online at some point. Now it’s really really easy. You could just sign up for gumroad for free and do that thing. And you can pay what you want if you’re really uncomfortable with charging money, right? Or just use Paypal or Shopify has a digital download sort of thing. I don’t know what you would use right away besides Gumroad. It just seems like the quickest easier thing that I know about. I literally stopped learning after I realized you could just do that. But back in the day, it was like

John:It was like coded into your site. It was such a mess. I mean it wasn’t. Ejunkie was easier that most places but still a ton of work compared.

Chase:Okay, so this is our first dollar that we’re making.

John:Yep

Corbett:Do you remember that moment. Like what it felt when you hit publish and sent the email or whatever.

Dana:I don’t actually.

John:I think it was 2.99, we probably sold a couple.

Chase:At this time your traffic was like around, do you remember at all?

John:We actually remember. It was a vanity metrics. We remember the day we hit 1,000 Facebook likes more.

Dana:And John was like, babe we made it. I was like, I don’t think we did.

Chase:She’s like, don’t interrupt me when I am making a one pot pasta.

Dana:Exactly.

Chase:Okay.

Dana:I mean, to his credit, I feel like part of the reason Minimalist Baker exist, is because John kept looking at me like, you can do this.

Chase:Really?

Dana:Yeah because I would be like, honey have you seen my photos are not that great. Or my recipes are not. I don’t know, I just didn’t believe in myself and I feel like having a cheerleader is so so crucial.

Chase:Okay. Hold on.

John:Not really, I’m just like a blind entrepreneur.

Chase:Lets camp out here for a second. Hold on hold on. Pull out your little REI camp chairs. Sit down. Put your beers in the coozy. I want to hear more about this. Why do you think that was so important for you.

Dana:Well, to backtrack when I was telling you that he was in law school, and I was just like, I just need to go get a job. I’ll get 3 jobs. I’ll just go get 3 minimum wage jobs and I’ll just work all the time. It’s fine.

John:That was her solution.

Dana:And he’s like, no well what do you really want to do? I cannot tell you how many times he had to be like, sit me back down in a chair and be like, what do you really want to do? And so I feel like.

John:Which is probably just escaping from my problems.

Dana:Yeah yeah.

John:I don’t want to be an attorney. Lets not worry about me right now.

Dana:But even in the early days of Minimalist Baker, and we were looking at our traffic, and it was like growing but we weren’t, you know, making an ad revenue and we weren’t making that much money. And I was like, look I don’t want to have to live on beans and rice for the rest of our lives. Do you actually think we’re going to make this work? And I cannot tell you how many times John just looked at me with blind confidence and said, I believe in you, you can totally make this work. You are going to be awesome.

And I don’t even know if he was telling me the truth.

Corbett:But it was convincing.

Dana:It was so convincing.

John:I got her to marry me.

Dana:So I feel like when you have someone who tells you that, it just kind of puts you up on cloud 9 and you’re like, I’m making badass content. And people are going to care.

Chase:So tell me about that, because you and I are both 7 on the angiogram.

Dana:I’m either a 3 or a 7. Nobody knows.

Chase:I know.

Dana:Okay thank you.

Chase:A little bit. Not much. But but all that to say, I infer and project way too much of myself on to you. So for the point being, I’m putting your story in my movie, of my life and I’m looking at a boy who’s trying to feel secure, or valued in some way, or like enough, right. Just to feel like I am enough. And to have that cheerleader would have meant a lot, and I didn’t have that cheerleader, thanks a lot dad. But, just kidding! Just kidding. No no I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.

But I think about who are trying to do stuff right now and how much that voice in my head personally, and I’m like an accomplished, skilled person in a lot of things, and still loudest voice in the world, just is like, your stupid why are you even trying this. Nobody going to pay attention. Right? That must have been something akin to the voice that was in your head, before he started filling your head with a bunch of lies about how you are going to succeed, right? But I think of the people who are trying to think about that very same question that John gave to you. But what would you really like to do?

Dana:I think that’s the only question that really matters.

Chase:How do you mean?

Dana:Like in life?

Chase:Tell me more.

Dana:Like having someone give you the freedom to say, putting your bills aside, your whatever else aside. And of course we had the luxury of not having kids at the point, so we weren’t providing for other people.

John:We also still do not have kids.

Chase:Yeah but we do have more IKEA furniture. We can feel like kids.

Dana:But I just think that was the best gift he ever gave, what do you really want to be doing? Like and I really really thought about it. At this point of my life, I really loved taking photos and I really loved cooking, and a blog is the best way to go about that.

Chase:Now I am curious as to how much, it seems like a girl with a wish and a prayer. Right? I love taking photos and I love writing about, I love coming up with ingredients for recipes and things like that. It doesn’t seem incredibly thought out. It doesn’t seem like methodically researched. It doesn’t seem like it was just, I feel like I like this right now.

Dana:Yeah but I will say that I do, I do think that going through journalism school, it kind of changed my thought process in a way that. Basically what I took away from journalism was say what you want to say in as few words as possible and be as loud about it as you possibly can, and get to the freaking point. Because nobody cares. Nobody has time.

And so with the photos, and with the recipes, all I am really trying to do is grab peoples attention. And that’s why the photos are so punchy and vibrant. And that’s like when I describe a recipe there’s like bullet points. Because people don’t really have time. And also with the recipes, people don’t have time. Like not only do they not have time to read your blog post, and maybe I’m just, this is just like a peak into my world. Maybe some people do like reading a novel about someones day. But that’s not what our site is about and I feel that defiantly influences the way that I approach the recipes and that’s, at least in my mind, set us apart. Is like, we had this focus, I was focusing really hard on my photography and I was really driven to get people hooked and get people into the recipes and like if they just made it I knew they would like it, and then keep coming back.

Corbett:So we’ve heard like two really important part of the backbone, I think. One is this hook, in terms of the structure of how you create a recipe. The second one is what you just said, right. Which is, you get to the point. You make things punchy and important and you draw peoples attention and you get into it. The third part of it, to me, is also, how much freaking work you put into the content creation. All the recipes that you make. Tell us about what that process looks like every week, and how often do you publish, and how many times have you missed publishing? One of your deadlines.

Dana:Well we’ve never never missed a publish it line. Because that’s.

Chase:In 14 years?

Dana:Yeah we’re really old. And really damn consistent.

Corbett:But in almost 5 years, you’ve’ never missed a deadline.

Dana:Never missed a deadline.

Chase:What is this publishing schedule.

Dana:Well we used to post every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. Now we post every 3 days which, it’s basically, I mean not the same thing, but it’s almost, it’s like 1 or 2 recipes less a month.

John:But then we do other posts so it’s about the same.

Chase:How many posts a month is that?

John:About 11 or 12.

Chase:Okay.

Dana:Yeah.

Chase:All right.

Dana:And that was one of the things that John really, I feel like, in so many ways, where I was the creative voice, he was the business voice. And he did study a lot of your guys writing and Corbet’s writing about how important it is to show up and like continue saying the thing that you’re saying and not change course. And keep getting better at what you are doing. And it was so important to us to keep showing up every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It didn’t mean that every recipe was going to knock it out of the park. But I was going to try, keep trying because I want people to come to our site and like say wow I really didn’t think you could do it again, but you did it again.

Chase:Hold on what is that? Why do you want them to think that.

Dana:I don’t know. It’s probably egotistical or something. But also just the reality that at this point there’s probably a million food blogs in the world and we had to not only set our parameters, this is what we’re doing. We’re ten ingredients, thirty minutes, one bowl, but also we’re the best at that. And we’re going to keep getting better. We’re not going to get stagnant and just post the same thing. We’re going to keep moving forward and I’m going to keep becoming a batter photographer, and I’m going to keep inventing new ways to use dates, and things like that. Like I want to keep raising the bar on why we do otherwise like.

Chase:When you say dates, you’re talking about the large raisin.

Corbett:The large raisin.

Dana:It’s not a raisin. I hate raisins.

John:It’s okay.

Chase:I love dates. They’re such big raisins.

Dana:They’re so good.

Corbett:Nice cockroach sized raisins.

Chase:I really apologize, because you’re in the middle of something so good, but I had to clarify. A new way to use dates, and I was like.

Dana:It’s a fruit.

Corbett:From the middle east

Chase:Oh that is delicious. That is delicious.

Corbett:So I also love, Chase was saying before we started, we could do a whole separate episode just as how you guys work as a couple. Because it’s kind of a unique thing, but it’s really interesting, Dana you just get to focus on content. And when we ask, what was it like making your first dollar, you’re like, I don’t remember.

Dana:I don’t know because John, honestly, I haven’t looked at our blog traffic since 2012, the first month we started. Because we immediately transferred all of that stuff on his shoulders, because I was realizing, oh well if someone like that posts then I’m going to make that post again. And, oh well if someone like that post then I’m going to make that post again. And that really gets in your head. And so that’s why Johns like, you just go over there and you just do you and I’ll be over here, monitoring things, making sure.

Chase:Okay, this is really fascinating. Because a lot of people are trying to do this as one person. They’re trying to be both.

Dana:And so many people do.

Chase:Both the John and the Dana in one person. And so many people do successfully. But there is this skill to being able to do both. And in some ways Corbet and I sort inhabit those different roles as well. I want to know John from you, as you’re watching statistics, as you’re watching the analytics, as you’re watching that you and Corbet watch. And I try

Corbett:Dashboards. So many dashboards.

Chase:So many dashboards. And then you know, you’re probably in some fundamental way, I’m curious. Do you see Dana’s creative drive, almost passion, as a delicate sort of thing that you just want to keep moving? How do you picture that sort of, because I bet you can see that it’s fragile.

John:And if I was to disturb it, it would be off course?

Chase:Either you can move it off course, I bet you can see how much she can get in her own head. Or when she’s really free and just doing her thing. I bet because you guys are married, you can see how that energy works in the household in some ways.

So I’m curious throughout if you’ve seen, hey this kind of thing is working, or hey can you do. What have you learned about how you kind of guide or coach Dana?

John:Sure. I mean she’s always open if I want to bring up some idea. Like hey this might be a post that works. Or this might be something people would really find useful from your perspective. But I don’t really try to push to much. I think part of the separation was letting her kind of be pure with what she’s doing. It’s a little romanticized but I really think, if you’re really just making something good, that you really care about, that you’re putting out there, I mean we’re lucky enough to make money form it, of course, but even if we weren’t, there’s something amazing to be able to do that as a person.

So I like just kind of letting her do that, and run with that. That’s been I think part of where we’ve come from, from the beginning.

Dana:Yeah and sometimes he’ll jump in and say, wow people are really loved that sangria recipe that you made. Do you think you can simplify it? Or do you think you can make it more seasonal? Or do a white version? And I’ll be like, totally, I can do that.

Chase:Yeah so he provides new constraints that are more like invitations. For me, in the design world we used to always say, constraints are creativity. Like when I want to realize in my paternity leave, I’m like a phenomenal chef when there’s just like leftovers. Like I can put together like a bowl of whatever we had and I’ll like get the garnish out and the whole 9 years. From Lisa’s plate I’m like a little bit of salt and 3 olives on the side with some chives, and just like a dollop of yogurt. It’s just like there you go. And I care so much because I’m constrained profoundly that I know now what can i make out of this, instead of, what can I make.

What can I make out of this is so much more of an invitation. So when he says, can you make it like a white sangria, these kind of constraints in my world are invitations to more creativity. Without making it feel daunting in this sort of, oh I don’t think I can do that kind of way. So he can come up with ideas to just sort of, how can we just do that again. And shape it. I don’t know. For some reason, I think that’s brilliant.

Dana:Yeah. And it’s extremely fortunate for us too that I don’t have to worry about like, oh no, our servers down. Or what’s up with our email list. Or how can we do this. Somethings wrong. Basically any time our sites down I like tell John, hey our sites down, I’m making recipes, can you fix it?

I have the luxury of that, whereas so many of our friends are the blogger making the soup and making sure the site is running well. That’s also one of the reasons why we’ve grown quickly is because we brought our skill sets together and he manages all that stuff, keeps it going. More of the business mind, and I can just be floating off on my creative cloud.

Chase:Now, I’m curious from your prescriptive Dana, knowing like at least having a sense of what he does, the roles that he plays, what would you say in your mind, what do you think is like the hard thing about what he does.

Dana:Probably just trusting me in a lot of ways. And that’s been, I wouldn’t say a huge tension or a struggle, because honestly we have a really great marriage relationship and our working relationship is really healthy. We don’t get in each other’s way much, we’re just like, what are you working on? Great. What are you working on?

But I feel like because John has basically hitched his train to mine, he follows me wherever I go, you know. And so that’s extremely challenging I would say. I cannot imagine what that’s like, waking up being like, how does she feel today? What’s she going to do?

Because I’m like, you know.

Corbett:Hopefully you don’t go all Howard Hughes on him one day.

Dana:Yeah.

Chase:I need more milk!

Dana:Right!

Chase:[inaudible 00:47:01]

Dana:Give me red M&M’s. I only want red M&Ms.

Chase:For some reason I only remember milk from that movie.

Dana:Yeah yeah.

Chase:I don’t know what it is.

Corbett:He’s locked in a room.

Chase:That’s terrific. So you think one of the hardest things is for him to kind of go, be like hitch his wagon to the storm of your creativity and your impulses in some way.

Dana:Yeah. Basically he’s trusting my instincts every day and some of that, I would say where that has kind of come up in the past, it’s not even necessarily on the blog, it’s more like something I tweet about. He’s like, is that representing our business. And I’m like, oh man, I guess it’s not.

Chase:Yeah.

Dana:But I want to talk about something else, you know. So honestly that has really been the only place where we’ve had these conversations where I am like, stop censoring me, and he’s like but it’s for business.

It’s very childish for me to be like, no I don’t want to. I want to talk about this. And he’s like, okay but you know people are here for the food. And so.

Chase:There’s a lot that similar between you and me.

Dana:Yeah yeah.

Chase:There just is. That’s a total [inaudible 00:48:01] thing.

Dana:Like I have a million thoughts throughout the day that I can be tweeting but I don’t, and it feels like someone is just choking me.

John:Yeah I’m that someone.

Corbett:You did start your own Instagram channel a while back, so.

Dana:I did I did.

Corbett:For your own outlet.

Dana:I have that. And any time I want to share I can, I think that has been another thing he has really helped with. Like honestly, I don’t know how many emails a day we get where someone is like, hey we want to send you this free shit, can you promote it?

And John’s like, no. But I would be like, well you know. He helps guide and shape all of those things. Basically he’s just saying no.

Corbett:Just say yes and then send it to Chase.

Dana:Yeah yeah, seriously.

Corbett:He loves free shit.

Chase:I do. I’m into free stuff. The boxes of backpacks over here are a signal of that.

Now I’m curious to ask you the same question John, of all the things she does, from your perspective, what do you think is the hard thing about what she does?

John:She’s got a perfect mind. She’s got it all squared away.

Chase:Laky and then?

Corbett:You married guy?

Dana:He’s a little douche.

John:Yeah. I think for people kind of like me, it’s hard to think of something new every day. And to sticking to that deadline. I think a lot times for creative people, it is hard to say, I’m going to post Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday. I’m going to stick to that every single week. Dana’s like never given up on that. That’s gotta be daunting.

As well as like, to trust me sometimes. And I mean, we’re not perfect for sure, but there’s sometimes where I say we’re not going to do that, or I don’t think we should do that and she has to, we just have to talk through it, or kind of agree on that.

I feel like that would be hard as an artist to kind of create something and then hear, no we’re not going to completely do it that way. Or we’re going to throttle that in some way. I imagine that’s got to be difficult.

Chase:Yeah, now Corbet in closing here, because we gotta send our show out here. I don’t know, there’s just something about how they individually represent, like your words John, she’s the artist. What would you say you are?

John:The hand model.

Chase:The hand model. She’s the artist and you’re the hand model. Or whatever, the business side. The creative and business. I like how you said, what was the word you said, Dana, was it the intuition or was it your, I think it was intuition.

Dana:Yeah I think so.

Chase:So you’ve got this creative intuition that’s like, I want to make something like a salsa or a watermelon something something. I totally got stuck watching your frozen watermelon thing.

Dana:The slushie?

Chase:Yeah the slushie.

Dana:Oh I love that one.

Chase:I don’t even know how I stop watching it at this point, there’s no sound even.

But you know, you’ve got the creative in Dana and the business in John, probably to over simplify it in some ways. But Corbet, what I’m serious for you, our experience knowing so many entrepreneurs who are trying to do this by themselves, both of you. Right, and when we envision a roadmap, I love the way that we guide people through things. For instance, in stage 8 or something we’re in the growth. The way that we have this spreadsheet, that helps you figure out exactly how to look at your analytics from the past year and to do some insights on where things are going next. You can outsource your business side of you brain into spreadsheets if you know what you’re doing in some ways. All that to set the table for you to set the table on what you see in, I don’t know. What do you see?

Corbett:So one thing I’ll say, is that I think any business that has the luxury of separate creative and business departments or people operates better when each side understands the other well. And you can see the other side and why something is important. I think at Fizzle we’ve grown as you’ve started to understand the business side and I’ve started to understand the creative side more. If you’re operating just as yourself, you have to be able to compartmentalize those things, because you can make yourself crazy if you’re constantly having a battle in your mind between business and creative.

We’ve talked a little bit about in the phycology terms there’s this concept of the elephant and the rider. You know, and you cannot control the elephant, it’s the emotions, that’s the creative side. And the rider’s the intellectual side.

We’ve also talked in one of your courses about this mental framework called the CEO and the worker bee. Sometimes you gotta be the CEO and you got to do the strategy stuff, other times you just have to knuckle down and be the worker bee and get done the thing you need to get done.

I think likewise, you have to do the same thing in terms of business and creative. Sometimes you have to wear the creative hat and just let yourself be the creative person who is thinking solely about the art and the product and how it effects the users. And other times you have to be the business person but you cannot really do both at the exact same time. So if you have the luxury of having two people great, if you don’t, just compartmentalize it and try to do one role at a time.

We appologize for any innacuracies in this transcript. We are still looking for a transcript vendor that can, let us say capture our unique way of doing things 🙂

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Show Notes

Minimalist Baker | Simple Food, Simply Delicious

Minimalist Baker's Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes

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10 Excellent Niche Business Examples to Learn From (FS209)

Listen, there is a TON of competition in business today. The internet, which enables all of our personal businesses like never before, also makes it so now you compete with the entire world.

But, we have a powerful tool at our disposal: specialization, focus, narrowing our target market, aiming at a smaller business niche.

Now, if you’re already selling a bunch of product successfully — if your storehouse and bank account is full! — well then, you probably don’t need to specialize any more… it’s working, you’ve got it, well done.

But, for many of us — especially those of us who are still getting our businesses off the ground — specialization, aiming at a smaller niche, focusing on a more precise target market, can make all the difference in getting your business flying, getting found, producing revenue.

A great niche can help you:

  • get that difficult and necessary initial traction because your business is more remarkable to specific group of people.
  • resonate powerfully with visitors when they land on your website, blog, podcast, workshop, etc., because you’re “speaking their language.”
  • resonate, again! It can’t be overstated how important it is to be able to connect deeply with your target customers through your marketing materials; focusing on a more specific niche can make all the difference here.
  • come up with easy and effective marketing ideas because you know exactly who you’re making things for. This is another big one! Especially if you, like most modern businesses, will rely on internet content for finding new customers.

Basically, defining a target market and niche that’s both “specific enough” AND currently underserve in the world will help you with everything… literally.

But it’s a hard thing to get, so we need examples

We teach this process through the following methods:

  • We have a guided roadmap that takes people through every stage of small business. We start it off with a few powerful exercises in finding a topic that won’t burn you out. Then we guide you through more and more exercises to learn exactly who your customer is, what they want, how they struggle, how you can resonate with them.
  • We have an entire course on this topic called Define Your Target Market with excellent training from Chase’s many years working in agencies making websites and sales videos for high paying customers. Tons of great insights in this course.
  • As you continue through the roadmap, the concepts about audience, target market, ideal customer and niche are reinforced throughout, making the learning more and more “second nature” to you.

… and yet questions about niche, target market and ideal customers are among our most popular.

Why? Because this really and truly is a difficult thing to nail down. There’s as much art as there is science here… with a fair amount of luck necessary as well.

And that’s why we need to familiarize ourselves with examples, so we can see how others have done it and learn some things about why those niches worked.

(In case you don’t know it, we teach tens of thousands of entrepreneurs how to get their idea off the ground with a simple, guided roadmap of training alongside community and group coaching. To find out more about Fizzle Membership click here. Please note, this is not for douchebags and assholes — this is for folks who want to earn an independent living doing something they care about.)

So, let’s talk about some examples

When you’re ready, listen to this podcast episode because we share and explain several examples of niche businesses, why they work, and what you can learn from their example.

It’s better to listen on the go!    Subscribe on iTunes 

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10 Niche Business Examples:

DESIGN CUTS — TOPIC: Web design resources. AUDIENCE: Professional web/visual designers. PROBLEM: Designers want great resources and tools, but don't want to pay full price for them.

MINIMALIST BAKER — TOPIC: simple cooking. AUDIENCE: vegan and gluten free people. PROBLEM: people think it's hard to make delicious, simple vegan and gluten free foods. MB creates a lifestyle image and then provides recipes so you can live this way too. So maybe the problem REALLY is "I want to live like that, how do I do it?"

THE TINY CANAL COTTAGE — TOPIC: living well in a tiny space. AUDIENCE: modern folks interested in living more inspired lives no matter the size of our homes. PROBLEM: Living well in a tiny space! As she says: “you don’t have to live large to live beautifully.”

NERD FITNESS — TOPIC: fitness, workout, exercise, body image. AUDIENCE: nerds, gamers, people who dress up as gandalf for halloween. PROBLEM: Nerds and gamers don't think like jocks and yoga babes about fitness. They need their own way of talking about and pursuing fitness and exercise. So, this business translates fitness best practices into nerd speak. "I'm a nerd and I want to be fit, i want to touch my toes, I want to enjoy my body."

SHARED PRACTICES — TOPIC: Dental practice ownership. AUDIENCE: Recent dental school graduates. PROBLEM: New dentists want to own their own practice, but don't know how the business side of things work.

ZEN COURSES —  TOPIC: Building online courses. AUDIENCE: Entrepreneurs who want to build an online course. PROBLEM: Planning, organizing, and launching an online course that gets results is difficult and there aren't many good step-by-step guides that show you how to do it.

SISTER MOUNTAIN — TOPIC: knitting patterns, making your own clothes. AUDIENCE: people who knit, people who want to make their own clothes. PROBLEM: It would be cool to knit, but I don’t want to knit just some weird looking stuff I’ll never wear. I love the idea of making my own clothes, the pride of that. How do I make stuff I’ll actually wear?

ILLUSTRATED CHILDREN’S MINISTRY — TOPIC: “Illustrated resources for the church and the home, encouraging creativity and active engagement with faith.” AUDIENCE: people in the Christian church with kids. PROBLEM: it can be challenging to talk to your kids in ways they understand about stories of faith. Help me find activities to do with my kids that are both fun and spiritually educational.

COZY CAMA —  TOPIC: pet beds (pet happiness). AUDIENCE: Dog owners. PROBLEM: Dogs need to feel loved like part of the family. As a dog owner I want my dog to sleep in a place that comforts them by smell, makes them feel at home, and also is sustainable, eco-friendly and easy.

MOTHERBIRTH —  TOPIC: Motherhood. AUDIENCE: Women becoming mothers. PROBLEM: “Not just babies are born” is the tag line of this podcast. This speaks to the fact that you don’t become a mother in an instant, it takes time and transformation. What’s more, this has always been a thing women were assumed to do effortlessly and, hey, guess what, it’s fucking tough! That’s the problem.


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