Welcome to Dispatches from the Long Game, a radically transparent newsletter for entrepreneurial creators. Every now and again, I pull back the curtain and share everything—good, bad, and ugly—about how I’m building Ungated Media into a business I'll love for years, or decades, to come.
If you’re new here, my big experiment in 2021 is working in seven-week cycles, then taking the eighth week off. The goal is partly to beat burnout (which isn’t going great, tbh), but also to work in discreet chunks, where I can run self-contained experiments, and see how they go.
Anyhow, today is the first day of my third cycle. I’ve been off the grid for the last week, resting and rejuvenating, and I’m ready for action!
So this post will be a thorough recap of how my business did from from February 21st to April 11th. I’ll share my numbers, my wins, challenges, and next steps.
But first, here are some things that delighted me during the week off.
- Book: Friendly Ambitious Nerd by Visakan Veerasamy.
- Course: Linking Your Thinking by Nick Milo. I spent most of my sabbatical gleefully working through and implementing this course, and it is so freakin’ good. My PKM system is finally turning into something valuable and sustainable after years of struggling to make BASB and Zettelkasten work.
- Album: Roll The Bones X by Shakey Graves. This is a 10-year reissue of my most-listened to album ever, which makes me feel old. My favorite song is probably Business Lunch, or his cover of Springsteen’s I’m on Fire.
- Show: Billions. Holy moly, this is a solid, dark show. There are no good guys here, yet you somehow still root for them all.
- Coffee: Sermon from Verve Coffee Roasters. It’s like drinking a cup of blueberry pie.
Alrighty. Now here’s my deep dive into how the last seven weeks went in Ungated land.
- Articles published: 7 (6 free, 1 premium). The goal was 7 free, 7 premium, so definitely fell a bit short on that one 😂
- Traffic: 5.1K site views from 1.8K visitors. This is a tiny uptick from the previous update. Yet it’s still virtually identical to both December 2020, and February of 2021. To be fair, I’ve hardly promoted myself at all, and an increasing portion of this is from SEO, which pleases me.
- Total email subscribers: 221 (+62%)
- Total paid members: 60 - 56 lifetime, 4 annual (+44%)
- Churned members: 0 (still too early to tell, but I just made the membership way more valuable, so fingers crossed that churn will be super low next year!)
- New Coaching/Consulting Clients: 1 (I’m still working with the 8 from last cycle, so this is plenty enough for me)
- Net revenue: $7249 (+73%)
- Expenses: $512 (The biggest expense this time was paying for a year up front of Ghost Pro, and moving away from my much cheaper, but unreliable, self-hosted install.)
- Profit: $6737 (Not too shabby for seven weeks of work, especially given how new this business still is)
- Morale: 8/10
Wins to Celebrate
Consolidation of brands and radical simplicity
Far and away, the biggest win of this cycle was bringing Ungated and Filmmaker Freedom (my first business) closer together. I’m starting to consolidate these brands in a way that makes my online life simpler, and frees up energy to create new stuff and interact with my peeps.
My biggest move so far has been merging the Ungated community (which used to live in Circle) into Mighty Networks.
I’ve been running a community for indie filmmakers in MN for the last three years. Since it was already geared around entrepreneurship and marketing, it made sense to bring in other types of creators as well.
The whole thing has been rebranded into the Ungated Collective, and I’m freakin’ stoked about it. I wrote more about that decision in this article, but the biggest takeaway is that I now have one kick-ass community that I love instead of two mediocre ones that I feel perpetually guilty about not spending enough time in.
Also, even though Mighty Networks isn’t nearly as clean/intuitive as Circle, its built-in course functionality is really good. So now, I don’t need a third party course platform. All of my courses and community live inside Mighty Networks, as do all the membership benefits for Ungated.
I can’t stress how big of a win this was. Talk about killing multiple birds with one stone, and keeping things radically simple.
But wait, there’s more!
To take this a step further, my next project is to merge the Filmmaker Freedom and Ungated email lists together.
Like the communities, I’ve been slacking on my newsletters and email marketing because I’ve felt stretched thin. For those of you who know me, you know authentic email marketing is MY JAM. So it’s been killing me to basically ignore these lists I’ve worked so hard to build.
Once I merge them, however, I’ll have more space and energy to do what I love, which is creating an ecosystem of delightful rabbit holes to brighten up your inbox.
This also means the Ungated email list will go from 221 subscribers to somewhere around 5200 in the course of 10 minutes. Take that, growth hackers! 😂
Now, the actual merge is probably going to suck. The Filmmaker Freedom list needs some major cleanup. There are all sorts of sequences and automations and tags and custom fields and segments that I’m never going to use again. Plus, I have to figure out how to handle the overlapping subscribers and make sure they’re still segmented properly. All of this will be tedious, and not particularly fun.
And finally, before I do the merge, I’ll have to make sure the Filmmaker Freedom peeps know that the list is no longer explicitly about filmmaking, but creative entrepreneurship and marketing. So I suspect I’ll have a substantial chunk of unsubscribes when I make that announcement. But that’s ok. Because I can’t serve those people well anyway.
So yeah, that’s where I’m at. It’s been a lot of logistical, behind the scenes work. But I’m stoked for the energy if frees up.
One community instead of two. One email list instead of two. Quality over quantity. Radical simplicity.
Hired a coach, and made a year-long newsletter commitment for Citizen Within
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been woefully inconsistent with my side project, Citizen Within. Up until a few weeks ago, I’d only published a few pieces, and only when I felt like it. There was no consistency, and no commitment.
That bugs me, partly because I know Citizen Within can play a role in healing the political landscape, but also because I want it to be a case study for Ungated. I want to show how I’m using principles like NicheCraft and the Identity Theorem to build a business in a niche totally separate from the “teaching creators how to create” space.