Depending upon how you wound up here at A Fearless Venture and this specific post, your head might be spinning right about now. Especially if you came through a link to my former website, the simpler web, which is no more.
Whether you’re wondering what the hell happened to the simpler web, or curious about someone following little more than passion and gut instinct to transform a business, or you simply couldn’t help but click a link to a post with ‘badassery’ in the title, welcome. I appreciate your interest in this journey.
The post below explains the whys and hows of what I have planned. A version of it first appeared on my personal blog when I announced my intention to essentially kill off most of my website design and consulting business.
If you’re accustomed to the style and tone of my former website/business, you may be surprised at the lack of formality and filtered language here.
As always, I strive to provide honest insight and actionable advice, but I’ve decided to do it in a style that’s truer to who I am. Shouldn’t be too gritty for most of you, but no worries if you want to jump ship. Just hit cmd/ctrl + w and we’ll all carry on, right?
If you have questions or comments about any of this, I’d love to hear them, either in the comment form below this post or by getting in touch with me directly.
Enough blather. Let’s get into how this all started, shall we?
The importance of giving a damn
Late last year, I’d reached the end of my rope with my website consulting business. Since founding it in 2009 (after more than a decade of doing roughly the same thing for corporate clients), I’d failed to find my groove when it came to a client base.
It wasn’t only money that was a problem; the majority of my projects left me struggling to sustain the passion I started with. I attracted too many of the wrong clients, and I wanted to quit.
This summer, after a long, dry spell, a spate of smaller jobs poured in from people with whom I had existing relationships. As I wrapped up the last of those projects, it dawned on me that I’d really enjoyed working with these people, and (for the most part 😀 ) on their projects.
What made the difference this time? Whatever it was, I knew if I could be more deliberate about seeking jobs that had this key attribute I’d be a happier camper instead of a whiney wanna-be quitter.
As my husband Brian and I transition to full-time RV life, it’s important that we a) have a plan in place to earn enough to support ourselves and b) don’t ruin our lives by doing work we hate for people we don’t like a lot.
The more I reflected on why my recent projects felt different from much of my past work, the more I realized that the common thread was how much my client wanted that site to work for their livelihood. They gave a damn about it, because it was their bread and butter, or would be in the future. It wasn’t just some virtual brochure they threw up on the web, then left to rot.
You’d think after running the same business for eight years…
Who pays you money and doesn’t give a damn? And why is that a problem, anyhow?
Let me answer these questions by telling you when I do my best work, then we’ll compare it with not giving a damn.
People who kick ass
I love it when a client tells me about a challenging situation, and I not only find a solution, but show her how she can maintain it herself if she wants to. Or when I do a live chat with someone, and right then and there we find and fix a problem that frustrated him for weeks.
It’s about more than feeling like a hero that saves the day (although that is nice for five minutes). It’s that I made a difference for that person, so they can get on with whatever it is that they do to make their people happy. Even if I’ve charged for what I do (I <3 free but it doesn’t buy the dog food), I feel like I’m part of their success.
I love working with other entrepreneurial types who are willing to invest in their website because they get that it’s directly related to their livelihood. When I say “invest” I mean sweat as much as money. Sometimes more.
The ones who don’t give a damn
I wish I could say that most of the people I’ve worked with cared about their websites. Personal experience would peg this aspect of business at #187 on their list, on average. Right after paying someone on Fiverr to redesign their logo for the 45th time.
I could cajole, educate and explain ’til the cows come home and it wouldn’t change a damn thing. Some people are simply the types who think a one-time website expense exempts them from ever needing to spend another dollar or minute on it.
Too often, it feels like I got paid – a lot, even – but my work was pointless. I realize that’s 100% a first world problem. However, I would like to point out that despair sucks no matter where in the world you live.I won't waste any more of my time doing things that don't matter for people who don't care. Click To Tweet
This whole Not Giving A Damn thing is a problem for me because it results in taking money to do something that doesn’t line up with what I value. Which also goes against my values. Can you see why I had an existential crisis every time I thought about my business?
I know I can’t save the world, but I don’t want to waste my time working on projects that don’t matter, for people who don’t care. Anymore 🙂
I don’t try to convince anybody that they need what I offer.
— Tracy Hurt, 30 Elephants
It’s time to stop helping people who won’t help themselves
Now, I realize we’re about to set off on an almost completely uncharted course as far as making a living goes. My husband will be closing down his shop, which has been our bread and butter almost the entire time I’ve operated my website consulting business.
That is a definite concern. But if I can figure out a way to pull it off I’d rather see less money and more grit in the people I work with.
It may have taken me ages, but I finally realized this: I only have so many hours in a day, and so many days in my life. I want what I do to make a difference. Not be a pointless waste of time.
Screw what I’m supposed to be doing
I am realigning my business to fit me. I want to serve people doing things and living life in a way I can respect. Tenacious types willing to DIY (with guidance I’ll provide for free, or damn close) so they can save their budget for times when hiring a pro is crucial. Entrepreneurial types, pro bloggers and online business owners that understand the difference and value a professional brings – even if they’re not making big enough bucks to hire one just yet.
We all know (or should know) that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and I’ve got bills to pay like most everyone else. So you might be wondering how I’ll help sustain us if I’m giving away expertise for free.
Mostly, I’ll provide expertise by investing the time to create one thing that I can use to help 20 or 100 people. For example, a tutorial on how to get business e-mail with your domain name for free, or how to move your website off of a hosting service that sucks or how to speed up a slow website.
I have a lot of ideas, but the most important one involves cutting down on the need for me to do one-on-one work at specific times. That will free me up to produce the content my audience will appreciate. And to write posts for my personal blog, Wandering Porcupine. Aaaannnd cover the bases while we’re traveling in case internet connectivity is an issue.
- I will focus all posts going forward (and back, as much as time allows) for people who use their websites or blogs to earn money online, and all the topics that entails
- My services for hire will focus on fixes & smaller projects instead of website redesign and new websites
- I will create tutorials and videos to help solve problems common to non-technical people who manage their own websites
- I will eventually offer some of this content in tiers. It will take a while to organize. I already have a lot of freely-available posts. A second tier would be subscriber-only content, but this tier would also be free. There might be a third tier for more time-intensive things, and that would require some sort of small commitment. Maybe a couple of bucks a month on Patreon or something. I do not envision setting up a paid membership site at this time.
- Instead of worrying about conflict of interest and rejecting commissions on products I recommend, going forward I will embrace affiliate programs for products I know, use, like and trust. I will never accept commissions for products or services that aren’t good for me or my audience. Affiliate commissions will to some extent subsidize the content I’ll make available for free, or nearly free.
- I’ll offer reasonably priced monthly maintenance/update/backups/security subscriptions with the option of upgrading to a higher tier that includes unlimited small tasks and tweaks. This will unburden both my clients and me from the arduous administrative time needed to arrange and bill for even small tasks, making better security and maintenance less expensive and more predictable over the long run.
Not sure yet. Yikes.
People I hope will care are those growing or building an online business or monetized blog, who are still in a place where they need to do most of the work themselves. Perhaps people who sometimes get frustrated or confused by website-related things, but who are willing to forge ahead anyway. And people who wish they had a nerdy but relatable friend who could explain things in a way that made sense and helped them conquer their little corner of the web.
From a favorite client I talked to about this change:
I’m glad you’re not going to throw in the towel and instead change your business to suit you. You have such a great ability to see what people need (despite what they might want) and find the best-matching solution, it would be such a shame if you stopped offering that to the world! Knowing I get real, honest advice from you [is] a big deal for me. And your walk through videos were soooo helpful, they are a fantastic tool to have.
— Kirsty Cleverly, Bonjour Quilts
Time to act fearless
I wish could say for certain whether the changes I am working on will bring in the revenue we need while sticking to only what’s good for both me and the people I want to help. As much as my poor hubby would wish it, data doesn’t exist to support or nix what I’m about to do.
The beautiful thing about online business is that it’s relatively easy to iterate or pivot once you see what’s working and what’s not. It’s most definitely new territory for someone who’s always focused on solving others’ website woes, but it’s about damn time I took care of my own.
I don’t lack fear about such a huge change of direction. But I do need to act as if I was fearless. You know – feel the fear and do it anyway.Better to have to fix a website than stare at your computer, too fearful to even start one. Click To Tweet
When you’re a non-technical person launching or managing an online business, fearlessness can be a liability. I’d argue that, more often, it’s asset. Yes, things can get broken. But it’s better to have to rebuild a website than to sit in front of your computer in fear of even starting.
The concept of being (or acting) fearless is especially apt at this juncture. Not just for this girl who’s changing practically everything, but also for my clients and business audience who are fearless enough to forge their own path on the web.
In fact, it’s so important that I’m changing my business’s name from the simpler web.
A Fearless Venture is what I’ve settled on. It was a struggle to find just the right name and then match it up with an available domain name. I like it, but I hope it will speak to others as much as it does me. If not, I also bought FearlessBadass.com 😀 Yeah, a bit much, but I just might get cheeky and use it for my e-mail.
Mission: I help entrepreneurial mavericks and misfits forge their own path on the web.
Vision: To become the go-to resource for ambitious entrepreneurs, bloggers and other mavericks who’ve rejected the Standard American Dream to build their business on the web.Get the know-how you need to forge your own path on the web. #WordPress #entrepreneur Click To Tweet