What do you want your life as an unemployable to be?
Do you want to patiently create a lifestyle business as a freelancer without the pressure for massive growth? Do you want to, instead, create the next new SaaS mega-hit that puts you on the fast track for hockey-stick growth?
Which drives you more: money or purpose? How can you set up your business so that the two are inextricably linked together?
Or, details be damned, do you just want to build a business and life that gives you the freedom to pull your kids out of school for a year, sell your cars, rent out your house, and travel the world because you’ve made a nice living and have location independence with your work?
You don’t need to answer right now. But you do need to realize that all of it (and so much more) is possible with a “7-Figure Small” business and lifestyle. The specifics just depend on which path you choose to go down.
Brian and Jerod Morris explore that idea and so much more on this welcome-back-and-get-reacquainted episode of Unemployable.
This week’s rundown:
- Brian recaps his six month trip around the globe, including the most important lessons he learned on his travels. [00:34]
- What do we mean by this new idea of “7-Figure Small” and the big, bold new headline that now adorns unemployable.com? [13:30]
- We share our roadmap for the future of the Unemployable podcast [37:32]
- Then we end by discussing two articles that caught our eye this week: A growing crop of “supertemps is changing the nature of work [43:24] and Why You’re the Perfect Age to Start a Successful Company [52:39]
- A growing crop of “supertemps is changing the nature of work (Fast Company)
- Why You’re the Perfect Age to Start a Successful Company (Further)
- Follow Brian Clark on Twitter
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Jerod Morris: All right, Brian, here we are. Our first episode together of Unemployable here in the second episode of the new season. I hesitate to say, “New and improved with my voice subbed in for Robert’s, because I don’t know that that’s necessarily improved. But you and I are excited to move Unemployable forward, get rolling with the second season.
Obviously, we had the first episode with Seth last week and now our first episode together, and I’m excited about this.
Brian Clark: Absolutely, I’m excited. This is how you beat Robert — I could never have you as a guest on the show, because you had a job with me. But now you’re on your own, so I’m like, “Okay, let’s do the show.
But wait a minute, how does this work?
Jerod Morris: Like I said, I’m excited to be here, and we’re excited to be here with you listening — excited to help you make more money as a freelancer and entrepreneur and more important than that, find purpose and freedom in your work, which is what we’re going to get to here in a bit as we kind of go through this episode.
We want to talk about some new concepts, Brian, that we’re going to be working on in Unemployable, paint the picture for what will happen with the future of the show, the bigger picture for Unemployable itself.
Tell Us About Your Trip
Jerod Morris: But before we get to any of that, I want to talk about your trip because you went on a very exciting trip, a long trip, as most of the listeners know. I want to hear some of your best stories from this trip that you took with your family.
Brian Clark: I’ve been thinking about that this morning, trying to figure out which stories I would tell, but it’s hard. It’s more like an overall montage in my head now. Really I think the thing that sticks out are more higher-level changes. You can’t really travel like that (and I think this is a common experience) and not be changed somewhat. You’re still who you are, and yet your perspective changes.
I think importantly for me, I had a lot of time away from the day-to-day, the routine that we’ve been hitting hard for a long time. Depending on how far we go back, it’s been like 13 years. But even the most recent run, since we merged the companies together in 2010, that was still a solid eight years.
One thing is it was an amazing trip. A lot of people think that we went on the trip, because we sold StudioPress, but it was actually planned before that. Because of the nature of the way I’ve structured my work life, I can work from anywhere. I think that is one of the key things that a lot of people are interested in, which is being free of geography to a certain degree. Not necessarily moving around constantly — that’s hard by the way, we can talk about that in a little bit. But just being able to do your work from anywhere.
As far as the money thing goes, here’s the shocking thing: because I live in Boulder, Colorado, which is incredibly expensive and I have two kids in private school and all the lifestyle trappings, so basically we sold both of our cars. You’ve got no insurance, we rented out the house. It’s an expensive real estate market, so the mortgage is paid for and we’re actually making money off of it. No private school tuition, no cable, no utilities, just none of that.
Then you take that and then we go and live in France and Australia. We’re not living in extravagant places. In fact, we were living in tiny little apartments. As a family trip, let’s just say we’re much closer as a family whether we like it or not.
It was good. It really was. We all became much more adaptable. My kids got to see a different side of life. Let’s face it, they’ve had a fairly privileged upbringing and that’s not something my wife and I had. On one hand, we want to give them this as something that they’ll remember. And on the other hand, they had to adapt and be resilient and they needed it. Trust me.
What I’m getting at is when you look at it, I traveled the world with my family for free counting airfare, because it all basically evened out. I haven’t done the exact math, but that just was a wakeup call to me that says, “I don’t need all this stuff. I’m pretty low maintenance.
We came back to Colorado. My wife needs a car. She cannot live without a car. But I didn’t buy one. I didn’t drive for seven months. I don’t want to drive anymore. I’m happier when I don’t. That’s just a weird thing that you pick up by necessity. Boulder has great public transportation, never used it once in seven years. Now I ride the bus. I like it. I don’t know.
I just feel like there’s been these weird kind of changes that are significant. It has nothing to do with money, because money’s good because of the sale of StudioPress. The real benefit of that happening was that I got freed up immensely. Basically, I got to go on sabbatical, because my partners covered things. There was a lot less going on and I had the freedom to think and just really explore things with no pressure to monetize or no pressure to execute, just figure things out.
That to me, besides the relationship with my family and my children especially, and basically meeting fantastic people all over the world. I mean, I don’t care if it was France, New Zealand, Australia, Tokyo – everyone was so nice. Other than Tokyo and Fiji where we stayed in hotels, we really tried to live in the place we were at.
We had a little apartment and we’d go find our grocery store and the butcher. It was just amazing. It just shows you honestly that if you have your work situation, your economic situation structured the way you want, there’s a great big world out there where you can live, travel, visit, whatever you want to do. It just opens up all the possibilities.
Would You Do It Again?
Jerod Morris: Is this something that you would try and do again? Or is the reality of doing it with your family and with kids that are in school, does that make it not really realistic to do it again or to make it a regular thing?
Brian Clark: Well, I have to say teenagers are ingrates. They don’t appreciate anything. The thing that mostly happened from this wonderful trip is like, “Dad, we won’t complain anymore about school or Boulder or anything. Let’s just go back. They miss their friends. To a teenager, your social life is everything. And I’m sitting here going, “You’re in Queenstown, New Zealand. What are you complaining about?
I think that was a once in a lifetime thing, because I’m not going to be able to travel with them like that again as they progress further in high school. I think they’re okay with that. But when they get out of school, you’re probably not going to be able to find me.
Jerod Morris: You’ll be on the first plane out.
Brian Clark: Oh yeah, I’m gone. And they try to move back in the basement, I’m like, “Find me, go ahead, try.
Did Any One Specific Thing Make a Big Impact?
Jerod Morris: Before we get off that, it’s great hearing about that and hearing about some of those changes. Is there any one specific site or excursion or thing that you saw that particularly surprised you or made a big impact on you?
Brian Clark: Honestly, every place we went that we were at for more than a week. That means three months in France, two and a half months in Australia, mostly on the Gold Coast, but also Sydney and Melbourne, and then almost a month in New Zealand.
For me, being there long enough and trying to integrate yourself into life — not to be a tourist, not to be on vacation — was so enlightening in so many ways that I can’t even tell you.
I think the thing that surprised me, and it shouldn’t. You have stereotypes of French people being rude. Not at all. I mean, I don’t speak French. I was an idiot and they did their best to try to work with me. It was so nice. Problem is in Grenoble at the foot of the Alps where we lived, unlike Paris, most people don’t speak English at all. We were both just sitting there trying to struggle through it.
Australia: a lot of Australians have been on the Internet for a long time, early bloggers, all of that. I got to hook up with Darren Rowse and have a great lunch with him, which was fantastic. I saw the Merrymaker Sisters who do great health and wellness stuff, met up with them. James Rose, another guy that I met through Chris Ducker’s Philippines function.
Anyway, I saw a lot of friends in Australia. But beyond that, I kind of expected Australians to be a little abrasive, a little saucy, because a lot of people their online persona kind of comes across that way. It’s maybe just my luck and the type of people that I’ve interacted with over the last 20 years — nicest people in the world. I mean, just fantastic. They love to talk, totally friendly and outgoing, welcoming. It’s really cool.
New Zealand, not as much, but not bad. It’s kind of weird to see the two personalities generalized of course for two countries that are isolated right next to each other. Like if you were born in New Zealand, you can just move to Australia and live there if you want to. They’re that open with each other. And I met quite a few people who had come from New Zealand and were living in Australia.
It’s just… people, if you give them half a chance and you act decent to them, then they’re going to be that way right back to you.
Jerod Morris: I think I’ve told you this before. Ever since you talked about this trip, I decided and told my wife that this is something that we want to do. At what age (since I have a daughter now, she’s two and a half) would you suggest that we try to plan this? Do we want to do it before she gets to that teenage level where your kids were? Is there like a sweet spot that you think might’ve worked better?
Brian Clark: I would say 6 to 10.
Jerod Morris: 6 to 10.
Brian Clark: Because she’ll pick up a lot. She won’t be in the teenage “I don’t want to leave sullen mode.
Here’s what I would say, because we were going to do this. The original plan was to stay in France and the kids would go to school there and they would just enroll in a French school and sink or swim, which I thought was incredibly hard core. But my wife, that’s her. She’s just like, “Ah, they’ll be fine. It’ll be good for them.
The people renting our house are actually from Sweden. There’s a medical doctor, he’s a cardiologist who also has medical device expertise. He’s working in Boulder for a year and his two kids came over, the youngest of which spoke no English at all. They stuck her in a Boulder middle school and she speaks English now. Isn’t that great?
Jerod Morris: Yeah.
Brian Clark: When your daughter is in that range I would say do that if you can. Put her in a foreign school and just don’t worry about her, she’ll be fine. She’ll come out of it speaking another language and with a cultural perspective that I think is going to be incredibly valuable for the next generation of kids as they enter the workforce.
What Does 7-Figure Small Mean?
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I agree with you. Let’s transition into talking about what is coming now with Unemployable. The new podcast season has started. As we said, we’ve got lots of plans, a roadmap for where we want to take things.
I think the first thing that we should talk about is the very title of this episode. People may be wondering what exactly that means. Let’s talk about what we mean by 7-Figure Small.
Brian Clark: One thing about going away was stepping away from the week to week of Unemployable and really figuring out, “What is this about? What’s important to me? What’s my purpose here?
I know you like the line from Godin’s interview last week that said, “It’s not necessarily an audience, it’s the people you decide you’re responsible for. I love that, because that’s how I feel about it.
I’m trying to obviously build my own business, but when you have an audience, it’s not just someone you can expect to be there, hanging on your every word. It’s more like, “Okay, these are the people I’ve committed to provide value to, and you’ve got to take that seriously.
I guess as we got to the end of the year, I finally went back and started looking at some of the stats and data that we have both from the show and the newsletter and all that. And something jumped out at me. It wasn’t difficult to detect.
We had an episode last summer that was with Elaine Pofeldt. It was about a One-Person Millionaire Business or The Million-Dollar Single Person Business.
Then of course, Paul Jarvis has been on the show several times. We did a preview of his book Company of One. Company of One came out, it seems to be a great success.
It’s interesting. In both cases, they’re not really talking about a true one-person business.
Number one, there are usually partners. It could be husband and wife. It could be me and you doing Unemployable or the partners I’ve had in the other businesses. What’s usually the distinguishing characteristic is there are no employees, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a team.
You’ve got freelancers, design, writing, marketing, you’ve got your accounting. You’ve got whatever you need to get it done. You can now find another small company that you’re actually collaborating with more than hiring people to do it.
That’s obviously not the only way to do it, but I think that’s incredibly attractive to a lot of people, because it does lead to that non-geographic specific capability. It leads to a lot of growth options, which we can talk about.
I came up with the concept of 7-Figure Small, because it is a tiny business. It probably doesn’t have any employees, or it may have a couple. It’s got an ecosystem of freelancers and other businesses surrounding it that helps the thing get done. And, okay, let’s face it, also a lot of powerful technology.
That’s really where I’m looking to the near future. In which case, yes, you’re still going to need freelancers and other people in your ecosystem, but more and more we’re going to have this technology.
It’s kind of like Tony Stark. Iron Man has Jarvis, which then became Friday after Jarvis became Vision (I’m geeking out a little bit here.) He’s augmented by technology, not just the armor, but the computer system that basically does stuff for him. I’m not saying we’re going to get there in five years, but it’s going to be amazing.
I’m concerned a little about what happens to the broader job force. I think a lot of people are going to be put out of work, not evenly distributed, I think a lot of lower wage jobs. If you don’t have anything more than a high school degree, it’s going to get hard. Because if something can be replicated or mechanized or automated, then they’re not going to want to pay a human being to do it.
In the broader job market, it’s going to be the human skills like Seth talked about, the soft skills, the things that make us human that are going to be in demand. That’s what you have to start training for. In this case, I’m talking about the broader workforce.
The people who are out on their own — who isn’t like that to some degree? Because you already know that. The interesting thing to me is you have these highly capable, independent people who have already figured out how to make it out there on their own, and now they’re going to be able to be augmented by technology to do really outsized things.
Here’s the main point: it was clear that these concepts are incredibly popular among our audience and I think in the world in general. But there’s a way to go about it. There’s a way to think about it, there’s a way to start, and there’s a way to structure your processes so that you are able to create this really freedom enhancing and lucrative business.
The other thing I want to make clear is it’s not about money. Seven figures is revenue. That doesn’t mean necessarily your income.
The other thing I reflected on after seeing how popular these shows were on Unemployable was the fact that everyone seems to think of Copyblogger Media/Rainmaker Digital for the last eight years, because that’s the most recent. But before that, 2007, 2008, 2009, each of those years I launched a no-employee 7-figure business — three years in a row, three companies.
That was a period of time, Jerod, I’ve got to tell you. I haven’t really thought about that time period.
Some will say, “You had Copyblogger. Copyblogger was started in 2006.
The end of the first year of Copyblogger, Jerod, how many people do you think I had in the audience?
Jerod Morris: At the end of the first year of Copyblogger?
Brian Clark: Yeah.
Jerod Morris: Boy, like on the email list, I would say 10,000.
Brian Clark: It was 9,000, which is small compared to some of the sizes of audiences you see these days. It just goes to show that it’s not the number or the list, it’s the engagement and it’s the connection with the audience.
Those three startups were purely a function of product market fit. It was listening and paying attention to what people really needed. The people that I decided I was responsible for. I could say, “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to make this? and just feed my own ego. Odds are that would have flopped. It’s just the wrong way to go about it.
The right way to go about it is to serve that group of people that you’ve decided to be responsible for. And that’s what we did. We created three things in a row that I felt 98% sure the audience not only wanted but needed, and the rest is history.
It was also the nature of the products we had. We had an online training course for the first product. We had the first commercial WordPress design framework for the second product. And then we had copywriting and content marketing software as a service as a third product. They were just perfectly in tune with what the audience needed, but also digital and lucrative. That’s why we had these very tiny businesses.
In each case, it was me and a partner (first business) and one contractor. Second business, me and a partner, two contractors. Third business, now that I think about it, two partners, one employee. That’s because Chris Thompson was already working for Sean Jackson who became my partner.
But still, to make seven figures within a year of launching with that small a team, that’s fascinating to me. Then of course, if you know the rest of the story, we merged all those companies together. We launched another 7-figure business, then another 7-figure business. Next thing you knew, we had an 8-figure business and 65 people.
I’m so glad I went on that journey. And guess what? That’s a part of it. If you want to go from solo to CEO, then you can do it. If you don’t want to do that, if you want to maximize revenue while staying small, you can do that too. And if you just want to have a nice life with a nice income, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I got a great email from some listeners in Australia. Andy and his partner have a small business there in Western Australia. He said, “Brian, I love the show and you have some great guests, but they all have so much money and that’s not really what’s important to me. We run our own business, we have a great life and we’re very happy. And he’s right. He’s absolutely right.
What’s Really Important?
Brian Clark:When we first kicked off the show four years ago, all I talked about was what’s important: freedom, creative independence, and the big one for me is purpose.
My business before Copyblogger was a real estate brokerage. I didn’t have any employees there either, because in real estate everyone’s an independent contractor. But I was miserable, because I did not design that business well. I was great at marketing and terrible at running the business, which meant I worked really hard and I was burned out all the time.
That’s why I just walked away from it, which I do not advise to anyone — to just quit your job or to give up your business and do something else unless you can afford it. But I was that burnt out. Then I had a snowboarding accident that nearly killed me. And that’s a wakeup call and you’re just like, “Nope, I’m not going to do anything for money ever again.
My goal when I started Copyblogger — my son was just born, I had a three-year-old daughter, family to support — I was like, “Just let me be able to support my family. And then we know what happened next, because the business was designed from the beginning to not make the same mistakes I made with the real estate company.
That’s really I think the theme going forward for Unemployable — design your company and then you decide if you want to grow. Don’t box yourself in and then all of a sudden you’re like, “Man, I really want to make this into a bigger thing, because you have a sense of purpose tied to that particular business, which is a good reason to start it in the first place.
I think a lot of people make that mistake where they’re so focused on money that they don’t realize they have to live with this thing day in, day out, year after year.
Jerod Morris: You look at the new headline on the site, “Tiny Business, Remarkable Profit, Fulfilling Life, and it is. It’s really easy to get fixated on that middle phrase “Remarkable Profit.
It is important to make money. You have to be able to make money to support the lifestyle that you want. But the most important part is the “Fulfilling Life part, the example that you just described. You can make all the money in the world, but if you’re miserable, what does it matter?
That intentional design is such a key part of this. If it’s forgotten about, then you’re just setting yourself up for failure even if you “succeed based on metrics or money.
Brian Clark: Yeah. Even when we grew the business, I got to a bad point, because I started to lose sight of what I was doing in the first place. And then I was listening to people telling me, “You’ve got to take private equity. You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that. All of those were normal, sound business type things that people do. But I never designed my business to be normal or mainstream or conventional.
So, I started to get upset, because I was starting to think about what I was supposed to do instead of what I wanted to do. Like I said, I have no regrets about the path we took, because each year was new and thrilling and I was doing the kind of work that I want to do.
But there comes trappings as you grow and become a significant company up in the 8-figure range. I don’t think you’ll see me going back to that. Again, not out of regret, but just out of, “I’m back to doing 7-figure small, which, again, depends on your business model.
For some models, let’s say you’re doing manufacturing and ecommerce. Your overhead’s going to eat up a lot of that money. You need to get to that kind of revenue in order to make the kind of income you want. If you’re more of a digital person and you make seven figures, you may be keeping close to seven figures. It just depends though.
I want people to think about, “What’s the kind of work I want to do? What’s the kind of life I want to live? What’s the kind of freedom and what kind of impact do I want to have? Who do I want to take responsibility for? Again, going back to that great line from the Godin interview.
That’s the gist of it. Yes, it does have 7-figure in the name of it. Is it all about money? No. It is a conceptual mindset and framework to design your company so that you’re not boxed in.
If your ambition is to make 75 grand a year, great. What if the next year you change your mind? Not for the money, but because you see a market opportunity or you see an expansion opportunity, and all of a sudden you realize that you’ve created a little trap for yourself that you can’t grow out of. That’s not freedom either. Being limited because you used to think that’s what you wanted is not freedom either.
Freedom is an all-encompassing term. If you want to be free to work 80-hour weeks, go ahead. I don’t want to.
I just feel like people are motivated by different things. Some people think they’re motivated to have all the free time in the world and go to the movies on Wednesday and that’s great. But sometimes, you end up being motivated in a completely different way and you want to make sure that you’re not restricted by your own initial design.
How Much Does Technology Impact the Success of the One-Person Business?
Jerod Morris: Let me ask you this. You talked about your story from after Copyblogger and those three businesses, products that you launched. When you look now and you see where technology has gone in the time since then (and this is obviously a theme that we’re going to touch on a lot), how more powerful now can the one-person business or the tiny business be because of automation and AI, and just all the different technologies that are now at our disposal?
How much does that impact things now as opposed to where you were back when you launched those first few businesses?
Brian Clark: It’s night and day. I can remember in 2007, Tony Clark and I. He was literally duct taping and bubble gumming together a site that would work for our needs, because you didn’t have all the off the shelf stuff. What do we have now? Teachable and you’ve got Mighty Networks. We wanted all those components and Tony had to build them out of open source stuff, custom code, so much work.
The hard part for me… because I was on the content and teaching side of the business, that was much more difficult in my mind to come up with the right thing that people needed and the right way to teach it and the right way to market it and the right way to explain things to people. But I think that’s the human part. Tony had to do the tech part and the design part. Vital, absolutely.
These days, and again, we’re going back to Godin, it’s the human part that matters, because we’ve got this tech and it’s going to get even better, even simpler — anything you want to do.
Here’s another thing, because people will again key in on the big audience thing, but a big audience doesn’t mean you’re going to launch successful companies or products. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again, because people don’t put any thought into the audience they’re attracting, and then they don’t look specifically at what that audience wants and needs. They’re thinking about what they want to create and sell.
Who Do You Want to Serve?
Brian Clark: These days, another big fundamental change is, if you can figure out the who — and I do enjoy building an audience, because that’s not a market segment, that’s a group of real people. I feel like I can learn more from a group of real people than something that is a little more big data.
At the same time, if you can figure out who, say you have a small audience, you get to know them and you want more of them. You know what didn’t exist in 2006? Facebook’s ad technology, Twitter, social, the sophistication of Google AdWords now. You can attract anyone that you want to as long as you know who they are and you understand what they need. That’s a game changer.
The dynamic is not, “How do I build a 100,000 person audience? It’s not necessary. It’s even wasteful. And it’s not, “How do I create content every single day? Also not necessary and not useful. The most important thing you can start with is, “Who do I want to serve? Not, “Who is going to show up?
Who do I specifically want to attract and be responsible for?
Jerod Morris: Some things never change. That was true before. It’s true now and even as the technology continues to change, that ability to identify the who and connect with those people is going to continue to be as important as ever.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I saw Gary Vaynerchuk on Twitter. He throws out some stats about how many companies don’t adopt technology, specifically Internet-related, who don’t have consumer or customer first initiatives. Doing that makes you look like a genius, but really, like you just said, that’s it. That’s the thing.
If you do that, if you serve the people that you want, if you understand them and you use tools to create efficiencies and excellence, I daresay, then you’re going to succeed. How great you succeed in terms of dollars is up to you.
Audience Feedback About the Direction of Unemployable
Jerod Morris: Yep. Again, this is going to be a through line now of Unemployable, the content here on the podcast, the content that we create elsewhere. What else do you want to say about the 7-Figure Small concept today before we move on and talk about some other things?
Brian Clark: First of all, I’d love to hear what everyone out there thinks. We’re not doing this in a vacuum. I came up with this course based on the intersection between my past history and what the audience seems interested in. But I’d love to hear from people out there about what they think about this idea, and learning more about it.
If you’re subscribed to the newsletter, you can just hit reply. That literally goes right to me. It’s not a dummy email address. Sometimes I regret that, but not most of the time. If you’re not subscribed, subscribe. If you just don’t want to do that, hit me up at Twitter @Brianclark, and just give me your thoughts. Good or bad, it’s all valuable to me and it helps me guide.
I think there is enough demonstrated proof of interest in this concept. The number of no-employer million dollar plus businesses, as Elaine shared with us, keeps going up year after year. Expect that to accelerate. We’re right on the cusp of it becoming more of the norm, if you will.
I have some great figures and I’m going to start writing some of this stuff. I guess to answer your question, I’m putting together something. I don’t know what format it should be, like an ebook. It’ll be free, email course, whatever. We’ll figure that part out. But what I want to do is share some of what I think are the core concepts related to building this type of business from scratch. And then go from there and we’ll see what happens.
But I’d love to hear the feedback. Twitter @Brianclark or subscribe to the newsletter and hit reply to the first issue. I’ll take that all into account and then we’ll keep you updated on what kind of stuff.
Laying the Foundation
Brian Clark:Here’s what I want to do, Jerod, I want to create some foundational materials. As we go forward, you understand what we’re talking about. We don’t have to talk about this stuff over and over again. We’ll be able to expand and grow on it on the podcast and the newsletter, etc.
Then also, of course, as the audience grows with Unemployable, these people will kind of be indoctrinated into, “Okay, here’s what we’re about. Here are the fundamentals that we think you need to take into account as you go forward with Unemployable, and we’re going to get more sophisticated and more in depth. This will provide you with the necessary education so that you can follow along and get the most out of it.
The Roadmap for the Podcast
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I like that. And look, obviously we’re going to use the podcast to continue to further that idea. I’m really excited to be part of this podcast, Brian. I’ve obviously been a listener ever since you started, and it’s an honor to be able to be here and join you on it and serve this incredible audience.
I just wanted to give folks a roadmap of what’s to come here in this new season and beyond. We’re obviously going to continue doing interviews which have made Unemployable such a great podcast. We kicked off the new season with Seth Godin. You’ll continue to get that. Interviews with names that you know like Seth and others.
But also, we’re going to try and identify some people with stories that you may not know. Maybe a little bit off the radar, but who really have experiences and lessons and thoughts and ideas that we can all learn from. We’ll be balancing those two.
Then we’re going to add a few different types of episodes and experiment a little bit. We’ll do some current events episodes and we’ll give you an example of what that’ll be like here in a little bit.
We’re also going to do some mailbag episodes, because I think just being able to get feedback, get questions from the listeners, issues that you are facing, questions that you have and be able to address those on a regular basis is something that we both really wanted to have the opportunity to do. So we’re going to do that. Actually, we’re going to do the first mailbag episode next week.
Brian, just like you told folks, if they want to provide feedback on the 7-Figure Small concept to reply to the newsletter, same thing. If you want to submit a question for next week’s mailbag, just reply to any issue of the Unemployable newsletter.
If you aren’t subscribed to the newsletter, go to Unemployable.com, get on the newsletter, reply there and you can send us your question. We’ll put that into the queue and address as many of them next week as we can.
Then again, we’ll get on a regular schedule, having those mailbag episodes interspersed with the interviews, interspersed with just us talking about some current events and staying up to date on the trends and what’s happening out there.
We’re going to go one episode a week right now. We may expand that and go more. No promises on that yet. But for now, one episode a week and see where it goes, but try out some of these new formats and see what people like and just continue to evolve and grow.
Brian Clark: Yeah. I think to sum it up, it’s the intersection between strategy and technology with you, the human, at the center of it all. That’s a good way to express what Unemployable is about.
You’re right about the variety of guests. It’s not how much money they make that matters. It’s how fulfilling a life are they leading? Do they have a business that provides them with purpose? Do they feel fulfilled? Do they have free time? Are they able to spend time with their family?
Here’s the thing though. Again, a lot of times if you set things up, especially when you start with purpose and structure for scale, even if you never use it, you end up making a lot of money. I’m not trying to say it’s easy or downgrade it, I’m just saying there are certain people who think about things from the beginning in a way that it allows them that latitude.
I want to talk to a bunch of different interesting people. There may be people out in the audience who we’d love to get on the show.
Then, of course, thank you, Jerod, also for coming on the show, producing the show. We also have Kat Ambrose who’s joined us as a curator and an article writer. We’ve got other stuff in the works.
Unemployable is already becoming its own little, no-employee organization that has more players involved than you might expect. I ran it down for you the other day, Jerod, and you were like, “Oh! But that’s what’s cool.
I want to talk about one of the news items we have later. There are just such fascinating developments. We’re living in interesting times. It can be scary. Things are changing and they’re going to change fast and that’s going to accelerate and that can freak you out.
But I guess with Game of Thrones just coming back a couple of days ago, Little Fingers said, “Chaos is a ladder. If you keep that mindset where, “Okay, there’s change, but disruption leads to opportunity. So, instead of freaking out, “I’m going to keep my eyes open and extrapolate from this. What can I do to put myself in a better position?
That’s probably going to continue to be a thing, but I think that’s my long-term goal for Unemployable — to be there with you. We’re all facing the same thing, we’re all seeing the same things. It’s how you choose to perceive it that I think matters.
Jerod Morris: Yes. And as Jon Snow said, “Winter is coming.
Brian Clark: AI is coming.
The Rise of “Supertemps
Jerod Morris: Let’s all be ready. You alluded to one of the articles. Let’s jump into that right now. We’ll do that article first. This will kind of be a preview of what we want to do for some of these episodes where we just grab some headlines, grab some articles, and talk about them.
Brian Clark: There’s so much fascinating stuff going on. I curate for Further, we curate for Unemployable. I read constantly just to try to keep up. And there’s so much fascinating stuff. Again, I think if we can process what this means a little bit, then it can become actionable intelligence and not just a barrage of information.
Jerod Morris: The first article I want to talk about is the one from Fast Company. It’s titled A Growing Crop of “Supertemps Is Changing the Nature of Work. I’m assuming this is the one that you were alluding to just a moment ago, written by Jody Greenstone Miller.
I found this article really interesting, because it describes an emerging path where people can go from employed to unemployable. It talks about these, the term that she uses is “supertemps. A lot of times you might not think of being able to apply your skills in a corporate environment when you’re a freelancer.
But now, a lot of corporations, a lot of big companies are using these “supertemps to bring in specific areas of expertise that they need without hiring somebody, bringing this person in on a project basis to apply their expertise, to help them solve whatever problem it is. And it’s really growing. As the stat says, the number of freelancers who make more than $100,000 annually grew to 3.3 million in 2018. Up 70% from 2011 which is a big number.
Brian Clark: Yeah, and it’s amazing. It’s two sides of the coin for Unemployable types. First of all, the article refers to basically leaving traditional employment as the new American dream. It used to be the small business on Main Street, but now, it’s more like this, any of these examples.
I guess there was a life science specialist who was taking high paid consulting work sourced through an agency. You’ve got this entire infrastructure that’s building around this. We’ll talk about that in a second.
But basically, while he works on his startup with his free time — that was me in the late 90s. My freelance gig was basically as a solo attorney, but I didn’t want to practice law. It was just the only way I could make enough money in the smallest amount of time. Ironically, that’s how I learned content marketing, because you can’t get work unless you can get the clients.
Nowadays, you’ve got these platforms like Upwork, other companies where it’s not about pimping out people for pennies anymore. It’s about connecting highly educated, highly compensated people who could easily have a job but don’t want one. I mean, that’s our theme right there. And they enjoy the freedom.
There was one guy who was an MBA who was tired of doing the big firm type rainmaking all the time. He just wanted to solve problems for people. Now he works as a contractor. A service finds him the work. He’s still making over six figures and that makes him happy.
That reminds me of the question: do you necessarily have to become an entrepreneur if you start out as a freelancer? Not unless you want to. If what you enjoy is your craft, then there’s nothing wrong with that. All I would say is build some marketing systems, so that you turn away business every month and you’re never looking for it. That’s what some of these guys have– not just guys of course.
The flip side is what you mentioned, Jerod, which is people like me could hire these people. I could get someone who’s a badass — amazing credentials, experience, etc. Not that that’s always the determining factor, but someone with a high level of expertise that could help grow my business by working for me for six weeks or six days and actually be able to do that.
In the old economy, that would be impossible. Those people wouldn’t give me the time of day.
What to Look for in Order to Become a “Supertemp
Jerod Morris: Yeah. It was interesting, and we’ll link to these articles in the show notes obviously, but the author of this article gave some advice on what to look for if this is a path that you want to go down.
One is when it comes to a big company, there are obviously some big companies that are very, very slow to recognize this, to build any infrastructure to make it happen, and can actually really struggle to incorporate a freelancer of this type, just because of legacy departments and bureaucracy and all of these other things.
Some companies like Microsoft, they have this freelance toolkit. They’re actually really working to make this an integrated part of what they do, so that it’s seamless when you bring someone in like this. But it’s really something for growth companies which are flatter, which have more of the senior management having hands-on impact with strategy, less bureaucracy where you’re really seeing this.
I do think it is important for anybody who does look to try and identify these types of opportunities. You want to make sure that you’re with a company that’s ready to absorb that type of work and be able to do a good job with it, because it’s kind of a new thing. And so some companies are better at it than others right now.
Brian Clark: Yeah, and I think there are different scenarios. The kind of business and lifestyle that we not only talk about but build here, it’s kind of like a personal enterprise.
There’s either one or two or a few people maybe at the partnership level who are the principals. And then there are freelancers, writers, designers, coders. Then you’ve got agencies like PR, legal, accounting, and you’ve got this entire ecosystem (I keep coming back to that term).
Yet at the center of it is not something like a Microsoft or even a traditional 100-person small business. It really is driven by a few people who own the company, and yet all of these people are economically interdependent.
Then, on the other side of things with the larger companies it’s not going to be evenly distributed the way the future unfolds. You’ve got startups that are adopting AI that are going to disrupt old stodgy companies that have been around and profitable forever. Out of nowhere, all of a sudden, they’re in trouble, because they can’t change, because it’s too painful and expensive.
I wrote about this in my other site Further, about how AI is slower in coming than the technology would suggest. It’s because a lot of companies, it’s just too hard. It’s too disruptive to themselves.
But as we’ve heard, if you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else is going to come along, or it could be Facebook, Amazon, Google. These companies are so incredibly technologically powerful which is ridiculous. I don’t think we fully grasp what they could do industry by industry.
It’s the same thing with changing the nature of the employment arrangement or the work arrangement, if you will. Some companies just aren’t set up, like you said, to work with a lot of highly talented independent workers who prefer that. A long time ago, I don’t even know if this rings a bell with you, it used to be “consultant meant you were unemployed. “Freelancer meant you were underpaid.
In some areas like writing, I think some areas of design and coding, you still have these companies out there just trying to get the cheapest people they can, which is short-sighted to begin with. But that’s why we talk to people about not relying on platforms to get your work. To create your own marketing channels, to position yourself as someone who’s valuable, not a penny per word or 99 design type person.
There’s a variety of dynamics going on here where it really depends on what you’re trying to do. Whether someone like Upwork is going to land you with 6-figure gigs or do you really need to take that into your own hands? But we do know, I think the projections are that over half the United States workforce will be freelance by 2025. That’s ridiculous.
Jerod Morris: Wow. That is ridiculous. That’s a crazy number.
Why You Are the Perfect Age to Start a Successful Company
Jerod Morris: Last article that I want to talk about, and this one will be familiar for anybody who also subscribes to Further, Why You Are the Perfect Age to Start a Successful Company. This headline immediately caught my eye, because I’m kind of constantly afraid now as I start to get older that I’m past some age demarcation when I should have started this, that, or the other, or like I should be in a particular position.
This article was a great dose of reality. It’s funny, because the author uses that term a lot in there about the ages when a lot of successful entrepreneurs start, which I think is a lot later maybe than what people would assume, because of what we see in the media and the stories and the myths that we hear about.
I think for a lot of people listening to this, reading that article will be a good reminder that it’s not too late. And that’s an important message to remember.
Brian Clark: Yeah. Not only is it not too late, a lot of people are just getting there. You’re not quite even there yet, Jerod.
Jerod Morris: It might be too early, actually.
Brian Clark: Yeah, it might be too early. Here’s also a lesson in choosing your who, choosing who you’re going to be responsible for and advocate for.
Further started out at the beginning just like a general personal growth email newsletter, stuff that I was reading for myself. In essence, it’s a learning tool, because when you have to explain things to someone else, psychologically speaking, you will learn it better and ingrain it better yourself.
That’s how Further started off. It had certainly no ambitions to be a business and no real target audience. It was like, “Whoever shows up, I don’t care. Just listen to me, I’m happy. I need someone to talk to about this.
But then while I was gone, I chose my audience and it’s Generation X, my own generation. You’re in this generation, Jerod. You’re just a baby.
Jerod Morris: I’m right on the edge.
Brian Clark: You are. But I dragged you in, if there’s any question. So that’s just a little backstory on why I didn’t state the age in the headline, because my audience is between 38 and 53, but the average age of a successful startup founder is 45. And I think that surprises a lot of people, because that’s not the story the media serves us.
It’s another interesting thing, and this is an article I’m working on next week for Further, because Gen X gets dumped on all the time. We’re the forgotten generation, we’re ignored, we’re underappreciated, blah, blah, blah.
It’s not really true. If you look at the tech world, you’ve got the founders of Google, you’ve got the founder of Amazon, you’ve got Elon Musk. That’s just naming three big ones that are all Gen Xers. Who gets all the attention? Millennial Zuckerberg. Well, guess what? His COO, Sheryl Sandberg is the Gen Xer. She may be evil, but still, I mean, COOs, he needs her.
Anyway, I just find it’s weird that it’s distorted. We have this distortion that a startup founder is a millennial or a young person, when in fact, Gen X is the most entrepreneurial generation of the three current active ones. Millennials are hardly entrepreneurial at all, and it’s not their fault. They’re saddled with debt.
The article goes into a lot of practical reasons why when you get to around the age of 45, you’re just perfectly equipped to actually pull it off successfully. And that’s why that word “successful startup founder, not just anyone who starts something up, people who succeed.
Fear of Failure
Brian Clark: I think you saw it, but there is a whole list of reasons. You’ve got a full professional network and you’ve got a little money in the bank and you’ve got experience.
The one that really jumps out at me, which is counter to a lot of the propaganda we hear around how to start a company, we’re afraid to fail.
Jerod Morris: That one jumped out to me too. Yeah.
Brian Clark: We make smarter decisions. We’re not reckless. We’re not trying to disrupt at all costs and all this kind of stuff.
You know where all that comes from? VCs. I made kind of a snarky remark when I wrote this up. It was like, “Why do VCs only go after young people? Usually young men? And my answer was because who else can they work that hard and treat that badly? It’s not going to be us. By this time, you couldn’t tell me to do anything.
But that’s true. If you look into it a little bit more about VC culture, that’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking for people that are just going to go insane and they’ve got the youthful energy and blah, blah, blah. When you look at the success rate of a VC funded venture, it’s pretty pathetic actually. But we hear news about the successful ones. Oh, our perspective is warped.
Here’s the opposite side of the things if you are in this age group. 45 is kind of a magic number in good and bad ways. It’s also the age when you’ll find it remarkably more difficult to get a new job. Because even though it’s illegal, ageism creeps in. You won’t know that you’re discriminated against, because you won’t even get the interview. They’ll just look at your resume and figure out the math from when you went to college or whatever, and there you go.
The other thing, the data that came out that I wrote about before, which is over the age of 50, everyone’s like, “Okay, no, I can just stick it out until 65 when I retire. The retirement at 65 is becoming a pipe dream for a lot of reasons. But the number one reason that will keep you from retiring at that age is that you’ll lose your job. Not that you’ll quit, not that you’ll leave to start a company, but you’ll be fired in a layoff or early retirement that’s “voluntary but not (I’ve got my air quotes working right now). This is all illegal, but they’re how things work.
It’s just this bias against older workers, and yet we’re the ones best equipped to start companies. It just doesn’t make sense. It shows you that humans are silly.
To me, it was, “Take control of your own destiny. Do not let some baby boomer give your job to a millennial, because he thinks she’s more tech savvy, which is also not true. Gen X is just as tech savvy.
I love writing about this stuff. I really do care about my generation.
I guess there are two lessons there. There’s the content itself, which says if you’re in your 40s, you’re primed to do your own thing. If you’ve been freelancing for 10 years and you’re in your 40s, you’re ready to go probably. You’ve been out on your own. If you really want to start something more entrepreneurial, do it. The data is on your side.
Then the other thing is choose your audience and you’ve got to love them, because you’re going to have to talk to them every week.
Jerod Morris: Yep. The other thing is too, and this might be counterintuitive, but if you fear failure and if that is preventing you from getting started, that actually may be a sign that you are ready to do it.
That was the most interesting dichotomy to me, which you mentioned, that fear of failure often prevents older entrepreneurs from getting started. But it’s often what drives them to succeed once they do start.
I’ve noticed that mindset shift in myself just in the last 10 years, having a family and having a daughter and just those experiences. Before I would have been like, “Yeah, let’s start this site, let’s do this, let’s try all this different stuff. Now there’s a little more of that fear in the beginning where it’s like, “Okay, I need to be more cautious, make a better decision. But then once you actually do start, it’s like, “All right, I can’t fail. I’ve got less time now, I’ve got a family to support. This has to succeed.
It’s like if you can get over that initial hurdle of fear, you might be right in the sweet spot for what you need to actually make this work. That fear isn’t a reason to walk away. It may actually be a reason to walk forward.
How to Decide to Move Forward Despite Fear
Brian Clark: It’s a fine line. Between 2007 and I guess now, I haven’t failed with a new product. But it’s because I am afraid to fail always. All I do is when I have an idea, I put it through the most rigorous examination process ever.
Number one is, “Do I care about this enough to do it day in and day out? A lot of things just don’t pass that test, so they’re out. Because if you don’t have purpose — I won’t use the word “passion because that’s not it. I think you end up developing a passion for something once you’re doing it. But you’ve got to have a reason why you’re doing it that transcends just the petty stuff, the basic money, and whatever.
If it passes that test, then it’s feasibility. And I’m just really brutally honest about, “Is this doable? Am I thinking about this correctly? Once something actually passes all that, odds are it’s not going to fail.
I don’t think that’s bad. Some people are like, “No, just put it out there and see what happens. Yeah, you’ve got to put it out there. But that doesn’t mean you just spend your time on whatever random thought pops in your head. I think some people are like that and that’s why they repeatedly fail, because you need to give this some thought.
Starting a business is not a Sunday picnic. It’s something that’s important.
I think I agree with that sentiment completely, which is that’s what it means. It doesn’t mean that you’re paralyzed and that you won’t try. It means that’s you’re going to be prudent and you’re going to really consider whether this is the right move. If it passes the test, then you do it and odds are you’re going to succeed.
Jerod Morris: Well said, Brian. It’s good to be here for Unemployable. I’ve enjoyed this episode. I look forward to the many, many episodes that we have to come.
A quick reminder to give us your feedback on the 7-Figure Small idea and/or to submit a mailbag question. Hit reply on any Unemployable newsletter or again, go sign up for the Unemployable newsletter at unemployable.com.
We really look forward to hearing from you and we definitely look forward to moving forward here with the podcast and continuing to serve you, help you on your journey.
Brian, I look forward to talking with you again next week.
Brian Clark: Thanks, Jerod. I’m loving this already. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun this season.
Shout out to Kat for all the great writing and assistance she’s giving. We’ve got a series coming up on the podcast Software Tools for Freelancers. If you are freelancing and you’re looking to up your own efficiency and effectiveness with a little bit of aid of technology, we’ve got really carefully curated picks for just about every category that you can think of. And we’re going to start rolling those out as well.
Lots of good stuff on the podcast, lots of good stuff coming in the newsletter itself. And that’s going to escalate now that Jerod is freeing me up to write a little bit more.
Jerod Morris: Absolutely. All right, Everybody, have a great week and we’ll talk to you next week on Unemployable.
Brian Clark: Take care, Everyone.
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