What Paul Jarvis Can Teach Us about Building a Business
Want to make enough money in eight or nine months to last you for the rest of the year doing whatever the heck you want?
So do we. That’s why we reached out to the man who does it – Paul Jarvis.
For various reasons, there are more and more designers and developers entering the freelance economy than ever before.
At the same time, freelancing veterans are sort-of exiting it and transforming into amazing entrepreneurs by developing their very own products.
They’re working on building their personal brand by writing for major publications, designing their own courses and working on side-projects that generate passive income.
Paul is one of these unicorns, as I like to call them.
He is a maker, a writer, a teacher, a web developer and a designer.
In this interview, Paul gives us insights into his budding successes and offers advice for freelancers looking to follow in his footsteps.
I read you typically have three to four months off per year. How did you get to the point of being able to do this?
I work backwards from “enough.” So I figure out how much I need to make in a year to cover costs and savings and only work to reach that number. I find, after working for myself for 17 years now, it only takes me 8-9 months to hit it, so the rest of the time I don’t need to focus on making money.
That isn’t to say I’m sitting in my underwear and eating ice cream on the couch for those 3-4 months – I’m either travelling (and taking photos/writing) or working on my own side projects (which typically become products that are free or for sale).
I’ve always felt that time off is as important as work time – especially with creativity. It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best productivity tip is to walk away from your work for a little bit and: go for a walk, have a shower, meditate, do something else to give your brain a break and make the space it needs to get back to creating.
So you’re like all of these awesome things – a web designer, author, teacher, writer,… – where did you start? What’s your story of how you became all of these different things (and do them so well)?
I started out by being really sick as a kid and having to spend pretty much 100% of my time either in bed or in my room. It sucked, sure, but it lead me to figure out that all you really need is an imagination. So I taught myself to draw and write and figure problems out on my own.
School totally dropped the ball on me – I hated it, and it did nothing for me, and pushed me towards getting a university degree (simply because I got good grades – not because it was something I wanted to do). Luckily I came to my senses after the first year, quit, and got a job. I quit that job pretty quickly (I’m pretty good at quitting things) and started working for myself. That was in the late 90’s.
What’s the best class, book or article you’ve created? Why?
Shit, that’s a toughie. And it changes daily.
This is my favourite article currently. It was scary to publish that one, but as usual, the pieces I’m most nervous to release into the world end up resonating the best with the people who read them.
The product I’m currently most proud of is The Creative Class. I’ve put more into this than anything else I’ve ever created and I think it shows. For once, I wanted to be more tactical and process-oriented in my content, which apparently helps people take action better.
What advice do you have for a web designer or developer who wants to expand their service offerings and get more business? What are the steps they should take to reach these goals?
The first step is to stop listening to advice. Advice is a crutch and a good way to stall. Most people know what they need to do – they just aren’t motivated or are too scared to do it.
If you want more business, actively go after more business (instead of sitting at your computer, hoping someone will email you looking to hire you). Everyone knows this, not many people actually do it. Learn about who your audience is, where they spend their time and what motivates them.
The other thing is to focus on the clients you’ve got. It makes sense, right? These are people who are paying you and who pulled the trigger on hiring you. If they’re happy, they’ll tell others. If they get your best work, their business will hopefully succeed more and lead to more work.
What are your favorite marketing, freelancing or writing blogs? What or who inspires you?
I hate marketing blogs – they’re full of bad marketing advice, haha.
The people that inspire me the most are the people who’d rather be doing things and making things than talking about what they’re doing or making. Specifically? Jason Zook, Sian Richardson, Shauna Haider, Justin Jackson (to name a few).
What inspires me is when others or even myself takes action and takes control of their own lives. Personally, I’m most inspired by things that have nothing to do with marketing or the Internet, like: nature, architecture, gardening, woodworking, boxing.
If you’re interested in checking out everything Paul has to offer, here are links to his online goodies:
His Products (Some free)
- His Product Hunt of goodies he’s made
- The Creative Class: Master the pragmatic details of becoming a one-man business