In the pursuit of building a business around your creative pursuits, there are two crucial ingredients—consistency and time.
Consistency means showing up at regular intervals with generous work. It means making ongoing deposits into the "relationship bank" you share with fans. It means being of service, even when you don’t feel like it.
Time, of course, means letting those contributions add up. Much as financial freedom stems from compounding over decades, so does creative freedom result from months or years of consistent generosity. This is how you create true fans who will follow you anywhere.
Simple though this sounds, it’s not easy.
Confession: I suck at consistent publishing right now
I soft-launched Ungated about two months ago, in October 2020. The first month featured a flurry of new articles. I was tapping into that seemingly inexhaustible energy that comes from the early, exhilarating days of a new venture.
But this past month has been nothing short of miserable from a publishing perspective. Though I’ve been writing every day, nothing is making it onto the site. I feel paralyzed.
Part of that is the nature of long-form writing. I’m cooking up some pieces in the range of 5,000-10,000 words, and those take time and care.
But here’s the rub. Ungated is a membership publication. I’m asking members to pay for ongoing access to premium work and community. Because of that model, I have to ship consistently. There’s no other choice. If I don’t create new work frequently, I lose the attention and trust of my customers. Which is no bueno.
Despite that terrifying dynamic, when I’ve sat down to write the last few weeks, I’ve found myself caught in a death spiral of self-doubt. I’ll get 1500 words into a new draft, only to say to myself, “this is shit, and nobody’s gonna care.” Those shitty voices in my head have been winning. They’ve clogged up the pipeline, and no new work is emerging.
But it wasn't always this way.
On January 10th, 2016, I sent out the first newsletter for my old business, Filmmaker Freedom. In the four years that followed, I showed up every Sunday with something thoughtful and in-depth.
Even when life got crazy and things got in the way, I sat my ass in the chair every Sunday morning and poured my heart and soul into it.
That newsletter turned into the backbone of the business, and drove a substantial portion of my revenue. Not to mention it built rock solid relationships with my audience.
Many of the true fans I created from that are now the first members of Ungated. That’s how it works.
So why can’t I just keep it going? Why am I struggling so much with something that I’ve succeeded with in the past?
The difference between then and now comes down one thing.
The power of genuine commitment
Many of us go through life half-committed to things. Whether it’s our health, relationships, or that new business, we instinctively keep one foot in, and one foot out. Why? Because it’s safer that way. To step unconditionally into something is terrifying. It makes us vulnerable. So we keep riding the fence.
Yet something uncanny happens when you truly, deeply commit to something. When you burn the boats behind you and go “all in.”
The fear seems to dissipate. The resistance that's been holding you back seems to say, "well, I guess I won't win this battle, so carry on."
Even when the self-doubt pipes back up—and it always does—you no longer heed its call. The commitment sharpens your focus, and steels you against the many obstacles, both internal and external, trying to prevent you from doing your work.
There’s one other lovely side effect of making a real commitment; you get results. Your health improves, your relationships deepen, and your business starts getting real traction.
When you’re riding the fence, your desired outcomes always tend to stay just out of reach. Yet when you make the leap, more often than not, those outcomes tend to land in your lap.
Such is the power of true, unwavering commitment.
Back in the day, I made a commitment to send a newsletter every Sunday, even when I didn’t feel like it. With Ungated, however, I’m still sitting on the fence. I’ve been dipping my toes in the water, without diving in.
That changes today.
My publishing commitments for 2021
Now that I’m done waxing poetic on the nature of commitment, it’s time to actually do the damn thing.
Here are my current media businesses, and what I’m comitting to do with them in 2021.
Ungated (This Site)
In 2021, I’ll be releasing one new Ungated article per week, no matter what. Some weeks I’ll publish more, and from time to time I’ll drop a new “mega post.” But no matter what, I’ll be shipping at least one thoughtful, useful article per week.
The same goes for The Inside Scoop, my radically transparent newsletter for entrepreneurial creators. I’ll be sending one mini-essay per week, which you can expect on Sunday mornings.
Lastly, I’m starting a new member’s-only podcast called Ungated Insider. This will feature short, raw, honest dispatches from the front lines of my business. These won’t be super polished or anything, so I’m committing to at least one episode per week.
- One new article per week.
- One new newsletter per week.
- One new private podcast episode per week.
In addition to Ungated, I’ve got two other businesses, which are more of side projects at this point. Here’s what I’m committing to for each.
The Citizen Within
The Citizen Within is a micro-publication where I explore what it means to be a responsible citizen in a world that feels like a raging dumpster fire. It’s aimed at exploring the intersection of polarization, media, psychology, and problem solving.
Though the original plan was to publish long-form essays, I just don’t have the bandwidth for that right now. I wish I did, but trying to commit to that would undoubtedly stress me out and cannibalize my other commitments.
So instead, I’ll be sending a curated newsletter called No Easy Answers every other week. The goal is to build up the email audience first, then perhaps pivot to writing longer form stuff later on.
Even though I’m spending most of my energy on Ungated now, Filmmaker Freedom isn’t dead. Far from it. I spent far too long building relationships in that niche, and creating valuable assets, to just let it go.
So every week, I’m still going send a newsletter. But it’s going to be radically simpler than it used to be. Like The Citizen Within, it’ll be pure curation and commentary.
Sabbaticals and time off
There’s one last wrinkle I should mention. I’ll be taking more time off in 2021 than I ever have before.
In an earlier post, I shared how I’ve been prone to nasty bouts of burnout since I started my entrepreneurial journey. It’s been a monkey on my back for years, and I’m doing everything in my power to avoid repeating that fate.
So I’m implementing a process designed by Sean McCabe called Seventh Week Sabbaticals. Basically, he works in six week sprints, then takes the seventh week off.
I’ll be doing a slight variation that I picked up from Shawn Blanc, where I work in six week sprints, use the seventh week to wrap up loose ends, and take the eighth week off.
With that in mind, here’s what the publishing schedule now looks like, when you throw scheduled sabbaticals into the mix.
Every eight week work cycle will result in the following deliverables.
- 7 new articles, newsletters, and podcasts for Ungated.
- 3-4 newsletters for Citizen Within
- 7 curated newsletter for Filmmaker Freedom
So there you have it. That’s my commitment. It now lives out in public, which is freakin’ scary.
Time to get to work.
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