Welcome to the first official issue of Starting Things! Before we get started, let’s set some ground rules. Here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks.
First, my goal is to help you keep up-to-date on what’s happening in entrepreneurship. I’ll lean more toward solo entrepreneurs, side hustles, lifestyle businesses, freelancers and bootstrappers, and won’t spend much time on startups or the VC world. The newsletter will be less “how-to” and more “here’s the macro perspective and trends and opportunities, and how they might affect you.”
Second, this newsletter is a work in progress. The sections and topics are going to evolve as I experiment and learn from you. All of this will happen in public right here.
Third, I want this to be a collaborative, reader-focused publication. Of course I’ll share my perspective and experience, but I want to hear from you so I can calibrate and adapt. I plan to have several direct reader involved segments and sections, starting with a weekly reader question and reader accomplishments. I hope you’ll participate and share your questions, feedback and opinions in several ways: by commenting after each post, by replying to any email, or by submitting a question to be featured.
Fourth, I don’t have anything to sell, other than a paid subscription to this newsletter. I’m also not accepting sponsorships or running affiliate links of any kind. That means you don’t have to worry about ulterior motives and can trust that what I say here is what I think and not what someone paid me to say, or some step in a sales funnel. If anything changes I will be clear and upfront about it, and you’ll always find a statement on my about page.
Finally, let’s talk about the publishing schedule. I intend for this to be an almost weekly newsletter, minus some time off to recharge and stay fresh. You can expect a total of ~36 issues per year. Each month you can expect 3-4 issues in your inbox, except during full month breaks in July and December.
More on Selling Fizzle + Reunion Episode!
I mentioned in last week’s welcome post that I recently sold Fizzle, the business I had been running for the past 10 years.
To celebrate the milestone and close the chapter, I got the five original hosts of the Fizzle Show together for a reunion episode. Episode 388 of The Fizzle Show features Chase, Caleb, Barrett, Steph and me, and you can catch up on what we’ve all been up to, and how each of us have changed in our opinions of entrepreneurship over the past decade.
"Hello and welcome... to the FIZZLE SHOOOOW!!!"
Here’s a little throwback art (from 2013!?) for those of you who might remember :)
Listen here, or catch it in The Fizzle Show podcast feed.
As I said before, selling Fizzle was bittersweet. I have so many amazing memories and learnings and friendships from starting and running Fizzle for a decade.
At the same time, things started to feel stale. Before Fizzle, I had never been committed to one “job” for more than four years. After the original team left to pursue various personal projects, I found it hard to stay committed and to re-commit when my motivation waned.
To be honest, my greatest fear was that Fizzle would… fizzle out. After putting so much into it, and after coaching so many entrepreneurs who became wildly successful, it felt like I had to see it through to a successful outcome. Plus, I was very interested in going through the full private sale process.
Luckily there was plenty of value left in the business. We wrote hundreds of blog posts and published hundreds of podcast episodes. The SEO value alone was enough to get conversations with potential buyers started. I had conversations with a few potential buyers and got very close with one, but we couldn’t meet at terms. This was during 2020-21 when valuations were high and times were good. The biggest sticking point during these early conversations was how the transition would work, and how I would be involved going forward. I didn’t want to commit to a long consulting agreement or earn-out. I was getting close to burnout and didn’t feel I had enough left in the tank to spend several more years on the project. Plus, I was working on other projects with much higher upside, which made the opportunity cost of a drawn-out sale not worth it.
After the initial conversations ended, I put Fizzle back on auto-pilot. I hired a couple of fantastic contractors who helped me with operations and the day-to-day so I could keep my involvement to four hours a week or less. There wasn’t any urgency to sell, and it felt like we could continue like this for quite a while. But I was still worried about the trajectory of the business without a major infusion of focus and effort.
Then, just a few months ago, a company called ZenBusiness out of Austin reached out. ZenBusiness helps launch and grow new businesses through LLC formation services, plus compliance, taxes, accounting, banking and more. Fizzle overlaps perfectly with their target audience, and the value to them was clear. Plus, they didn’t need me to be involved after the transition. Win-win. The deal was done just a couple of months after our introduction.
It feels great to have built something valuable enough to sell. Most small business owners have trouble building a business that is sellable, because independent of the owner, there isn’t much value to a buyer. I didn’t have the intention to sell from the beginning, but it was always in the back of my mind, and it all worked out in the end.
In terms of overall earnings from the lifetime of the business, the sale represents a significant portion of what I was able to keep in my pocket. If you’re building a business, it’s worth paying attention to how businesses are bought and sold, what valuations are, and what needs to be in place for you to attract buyers. This is a subject we’ll cover regularly in the newsletter, from resources to tools to trends.
Question of the Week
This week’s reader question comes from Caroline Danks of LarkOwl in reply to my welcome post last week.
I love this email so much. Thank you for sharing it.
I got so excited to start my business (six years ago now). For a long time it was what got me fired up in the morning. I couldn’t wait to start work everyday.
I built a community through a weekly newsletter and successfully created and sold online courses. I increased my day rate and didn’t have to worry about finding new clients (they just showed up).
Recently, I’ve lost the enthusiasm and the passion. I started something new, then ditched it almost immediately. I feel hampered by comparison and overwhelmed by the fast pace of things. I’ve unsubscribed from lots of entrepreneur / creator emails / podcasts.
Reading your article felt different.
What if I could take the things I love from my business and just do those?
What if things could be simpler?
What if I just stopped comparing myself to others?
Thank you for a wonderful article. Can’t wait to read more.
My birthday is also on 3 October. I turn 40!!!
Caroline, I love these questions for so many reasons.
I alluded to this recently in an email I sent just before starting this newsletter – I too had lost enthusiasm and passion for what I was doing over the past couple of years. I think a lot of people found themselves in a funk during the pandemic.
The real danger isn’t losing your enthusiasm, it’s beating yourself up for not feeling it like you used to. You can recover from a lack of enthusiasm, but if you layer shame, guilt or self-loathing on top of it, you can dig yourself into a deep hole that might take months or years to recover from.
I’m not saying you’re there, Caroline, but I do recognize some signs of existentialism swirling around you: playing the comparison game, feeling overwhelmed, giving up on sources of information that you used to enjoy or find inspirational.
Personally, I tried re-committing to my business a couple of years ago after finding myself in a funk. Almost as soon as I declared I was re-committed, I felt like I was running on empty again. The commitment wasn’t enough. There were other systemic and personal reasons why I needed a more serious solution. For me, the solution was selling my business and moving on. For you, maybe it doesn’t have to be so drastic.
I love that you posed several questions that you’ve clearly been asking yourself. What if I could take the things I love from my business and just do those? What if things could be simpler? What if I just stopped comparing myself to others?
Sometimes a mindset change is all you need to find the enthusiasm again. If you love 60% of what you do in your business, but dread 40% of it, I can see how that 40% might cause you to get stuck. Maybe “taking things you love from your business and just doing those” could be enough. Maybe simplifying things could be enough, but I suspect not.
In my experience, the comparison game is the red flag here. We all play it, and it never goes away, but when it becomes a blocking issue, there’s something deeper lurking. I’ve found that I compare myself to others most when either a) I’m starting something new, or b) my progress has stalled and I’m doubting myself. As long as things are going well, comparisons don’t bother me so much.
In your case, if the comparisons are happening because your business has stalled, I think the comparisons are a symptom, not a cause. Underneath it all, you might be feeling like a failure because your business isn’t doing well, which makes the comparisons cut so much deeper.
Or, I could be reading this all wrong. Maybe your business was going super well, but you still lost your mojo. In that case, it could be that you were hoping your business would give you something more than money. Maybe you were hoping for fame or freedom or that being self-employed would eliminate depression or self-doubt or something else you struggled with before.
Regardless of whether I’m on the right track or not, I think we need to acknowledge something. Social media is not good for our mental health, especially in the entrepreneurship world. It’s the worst kind of ”look at me” game where everyone is making their business and life look better than everyone else, which (surprise!) leaves the rest of us feeling kinda shitty about ourselves and our businesses.
I left 90% of social media behind and honestly it felt great. It didn’t cure all of my self doubt, but it did give me the headspace and time to make bigger changes, that in turn gave me the room to finally launch something new and make a longer term plan I feel great about.
As entrepreneurs, we often feel like we have to be on social media, and we have to be consuming all the hot podcasts and videos and advice out there. It’s ”free” advice, after all! But I think we should be more concerned with how that content makes us feel. Does it inspire you, energize you, make you feel hopeful and grounded? Or, does it leave you feeling empty, confused, hopeless or insecure? If it’s the latter, turn it off.
Anyway, Caroline, there are a couple of potential paths for you here: 1) maybe you can simply change your mindset and approach, and find bliss in your current business, or 2) maybe you need to do something more dramatic, like cutting off the sources of comparison, or even moving on from your current business to create space for something new.
Whatever you decide, please keep us posted.
Thanks for the question Caroline, and happy birthday!
Got a question? Ask me a question for an upcoming issue of the newsletter.
I’d love to feature positive accomplishments that have happened to readers here in upcoming issues. Let’s celebrate all your hard work 🎉
Got a milestone to share? Crossed a revenue goal? Got acquired? Won an award? Share your milestone and I’ll include it in an upcoming issue.
Links You Might Love
Top Creators of 2022 (Forbes)
Imagine, just a decade ago, the concept of an independent creator barely existed. Now here’s a list of 50 people with 1.9 billion followers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. In aggregate they made $570 million in 2021. It’s mind-blowing how quickly some people are able to grow and monetize an audience 🤯
Substack Discover (Featuring Starting Things!)
Since really getting into Substack over the past year, I’ve discovered so many amazing writers who I look forward to reading each week. One of the best places to find other great Substacks is the discover page. I’m super honored to announce that Starting Things has already made the featured list!
Best Advice Ever
The best advice ever this week comes from Ryan Delk, CEO of Primer via Twitter. This is advice he received from Chris Sacca the famous early-stage investor, now focused on climate tech:
“Add value before you ask for value” —Chris Sacca
Until next time, thanks for reading. Don’t forget, you can comment on this post. I read/reply to all and love hearing from you :)
Yep, I can feel the mojo. This is feeling like early Fizzle days for sure. Can’t wait to read more!￼
Fascinating reading, Corbett. I feel sad about Fizzle - it was so pivotal to my re-invention - but glad it delivered a positive and much-deserved outcome for you. I'm grateful to you for creating it.