I try to act in spite of those fears: a Q+A w/ Paul Jarvis

What was the first thing you did after finishing your new book “Company of One” ?  

I sent it to my editor at my publisher to start editing. Finishing the book was only one small step in the process and was probably the halfway point in the entire project. I felt great that it was finished, for sure, but knew there was still a ton of work left to do.

What’s the best part of being a freelancer?

I haven’t actually been a freelancer in about 4-5 years. I stopped working with clients when my products started taking off. When I was a freelancer, my favorite thing was being able to work with interesting people, learn about their business, and then help them by applying my expertise to their work. I’m still friends with many of my previous clients too.

And the worst part of being a freelancer?

It’s hard to turn off work mode. Because when you’re a freelancer, if you aren’t working, you aren’t making money, so it’s difficult to stop working sometimes.

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Drop out of school immediately. I wasted time finishing high school and then doing university for a little while, when neither taught me anything and just caused a whole lot of grief and frustration.

And really, no one (at least in my line of work) gives a shit about degrees or where you attended school or even if you did at all. If I had started working full-time at 16, I would have learned far more important lessons in the real world, instead of being stuck in a school that was pretty useless.

Do you set any boundaries for yourself around technology and social media? 

I wouldn’t call them boundaries, more like I just don’t care enough about technology or social media to use them a whole lot. Since both are mainly for work, I don’t use either most nights.

I do like to wind down at night and get to bed early, so I don’t use a computer after about 6 PM most days. And then I stop watching TV or streaming by about 9 PM, so I can read for an hour or two before bed. I find that routine helps me get to sleep the quickest.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

For me at least, self-doubt has never gone away. I still feel it every day, every time I take on anything new, every time things seem like they’re going right. Probably the biggest stretch of self-doubt was when I transitioned from freelancing to products.

I was at the peak of my freelancer career in terms of revenue and notoriety, but I gave it up to pursue creating products (like books, software, and courses), which at the time were completely unknown.

Regardless of self-doubt being ever present, I try to act in spite of those fears, instead of letting those fears control me.

What do creative folks get wrong when they are going into business for themselves?

What I’ve noticed is that most folks want to do something creative for a living because they don’t think it needs to be treated like a job. But if you want to get paid for creative work, it HAS to be a job.

So even if you’re doing something like art, writing, design, etc., you’ve still got to run a business. You’ve still got to focus on things like taxes, accounting, administration, sales, marketing, legal… Otherwise–and this is fine too–be creative as a hobby and worry about none of those things!

I don’t believe in being inspired or motivated, and then accomplishing something, because that’s hard to do. I like to just get to work and then be inspired and motivated by what I’ve done, instead of hoping what I can do in the future will be fulfilling from the inspiration. – Paul Jarvis

What do they get right?

If they get it right, they realize and notice a clear need from their target audience to provide a creative skill that other people are willing to pay for. If that happens, then the business side is much easier to deal with (everything is easier in business when there’s revenue).

In the blog post titled What’s the point of productivity you wrote, “A lot of the time, I’m happier when I’m less productive.” What do  you like to fill your time with when you’re not being super productive?

It depends on the day, ha. Mostly I enjoy: hiking, yoga, biking, working out at the gym, watching football with my wife, being in my garden, building things with my hands, going for long drives in the country.

Those things are productive for other reasons, like mental clarity and keeping myself as sane as possible.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

For me, my work has never been about being the biggest company, so I’ve always challenged the idea that growth is beneficial or that growth is always the byproduct of success.

It’s why I wrote Company of One. My goal with work is always to be as helpful as possible to the people who pay attention, and I don’t need 500 employees or an big, open concept office to do that.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

I love starting new projects and solving new problems. But the problem is, my business is just me, so I sometimes get stretched thin with the multiple podcasts, multiple courses, multiple software products, books, etc…

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When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I work out almost daily, which makes me feel good, look good, and it’s a great break from being in front of a screen for work all day. I like to alternate between weights at the gym and then yoga, biking or hiking on the in-between days.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Summer just finished, so I had an entire season of fresh vegetables from my garden and greenhouse. There’s really nothing better, for me, than making an entire meal from food I’ve grown.

What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Being busy. I hate being busy, because busy means I’ve not scheduled things correctly (i.e. I’ve taken on too much). Ideally, I only want to be busy a few times a year, around launches, and then calm and slow-paced for the rest of the year. It doesn’t always work out like that, but it’s what I’m always aiming for.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

Launching my upcoming book, Company of One. It’s my first traditionally published book (my previous five were self-published), so it’s been a huge learning curve to work with a publisher, an agent, a publicist, etc.

Since the book comes out January 15th, it’s pretty exciting to build up to that. I’m also excited to share the message from the book with a wide audience, that businesses don’t need to go big to be successful or durable for the long term.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Doing the actual work. I don’t believe in being inspired or motivated, and then accomplishing something, because that’s hard to do.

I like to just get to work (creativity is my full-time job) and then be inspired and motivated by what I’ve done, instead of hoping what I can do in the future will be fulfilling from the inspiration.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn? 

I am not responsible for everything and everyone. This is something I struggle with every day.

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Paul Jarvis is the author of Company of One, a book about why staying small is the next big thing in business. He’s also a minimal designer, newsletter enthusiast, and introvert. Learn more about Paul Jarvis and connect: Twitter + Website

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