Simplify Audience and Business Growth with Josh Spector

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Unpopular opinion: in order to succeed as a creator, you need to do LESS.

A few signs that you’re overcomplicating the creator journey:

  • You’re posting on too many platforms
  • You’re not sure who your content is for
  • You feel overwhelmed

Being a creator doesn’t have to be difficult. Make it easy for yourself.

Josh Spector has over 50,000 subscribers for his newsletter, “For The Interested”. He also hosts the “I Want To Know podcast”, helping creative entrepreneurs to simplify audience and business growth.

In this episode of Creators on Air, Josh Spector joins us to share a less overwhelming approach to growing a newsletter and monetisation.

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Episode Transcript

Akta: Feeling overwhelmed as a creator? You might be complicating things. 

Josh: This assumption or this belief that you sort of need to be everywhere is, yes, there are opportunities on all these different platforms. But the reason you're doing it, it's essentially like saying that there's not enough people on any one of these platforms for you to succeed.

Akta: Josh Spector has over 50, 000 subscribers for his newsletter, For the Interested, and he runs the podcast, I Want to Know. He helps creative entrepreneurs to simplify audience and business growth. And that's exactly what he shared in today's episode of Creators On Air. 

Josh: I'm a big, big believer in trying to simplify things.

I think the biggest, you know, one of the biggest problems most people have is they've overcomplicated everything. And I actually think in most cases, it seems counterintuitive, but in most cases, if you do less, you will actually go further and grow faster. Right. So one example of that, uh, is I think most people are on way too many social platforms.

I recommend that people focus on one platform, maybe two. And the reason for that is when you're on all these platforms, the time you're dedicating to social media is being splintered across 4,5,6 platforms, whatever you're using. And if you take that same amount of time and focus it on 1 platform, you're actually going to grow much faster, right?

Because the truth of the matter is, to grow on any social platform, it takes a lot of time and effort. It's not just about posting content. It's about engaging it's and not just engaging with your replies, but going out and building relationships and all that, all that kind of stuff. 

It's funny because when I tell people this, the reaction I get almost all the time is relief because everybody feels overwhelmed.

They like the idea that they have permission to just focus on one thing. You know, they love to hear that. And, not only, uh, do they have that relief, but I think they also find when they do that again, you will grow faster. And one of the things that, uh, that I like to mention is this assumption or this belief that you sort of need to be everywhere is yes, there are opportunities on all these different platforms, but the reason you're doing it, it's essentially like saying that there's not enough people on any one of these platforms for you to succeed.

Right. So if you're just using Instagram and you go, Oh, but I need to be on TikTok and I need to be on Twitter and I need to be whatever. And it's like, well, you don't think there's enough people on Instagram for you to succeed, whatever it is that you're trying to do?  Let’s say you only want to work with or can work with 10 clients a year.

Like, you don't think you can find 10 clients on just Instagram? I think,  and that's just the social media perspective, but it extends to everything that I do in my belief on all this stuff, right? Simplify it all down, do less. 

You know, you see people that have, they have 300, you know, or 20 different products and it's like: If you had two products, you'd probably sell more and make more money and be more focused. So yeah, I'm a big believer in simplification. 

Akta: I love that advice and you're right. It is a relief to hear it even for me. But how do you decide what to simplify down to? What is going to move the needle forward?

Josh: So here's the way I think about it. And this is true of any content business. It's sort of  kind of where I recommend people start in general. And that is, I think you want to go through, uh, a series of questions in this order.

So the first one is: What's your goal? What are you trying to accomplish?

Why are you doing any of this stuff? Right. And the goal is not, “I want more followers”. 

I want this, you know, but like just in general:  what is it that you actually want, right? What's the life that you want? What's the business that you want? What are you trying to accomplish? 

Then the next question is: Who do you need to reach to accomplish that?

So this gets into sort of a target audience. And, you know, so, so for example, let's say that you want to, uh, you want to build the business or like for me, for example, like I want to build business, sharing what I've learned about audience and business growth, right? Well, who do I need to reach to do that? I need to reach people that want to grow their audience and business.

You know, once you have that sort of goal, the audience becomes a little obvious. And the first question is, what do you want to accomplish? 

The second question is, who do you need to reach to accomplish it? The third question is what do those people value? And this is where a lot of people go wrong because they start thinking about, well, here's what I want to teach.

And here's what I know they're thinking about themselves. But the real key question is: the people that you need to reach to accomplish what you want, what do they value? What are they looking for? 

And then the fourth question is: how can you provide that value, the thing they're looking for to them in free content, paid products, paid services, whatever, so that whole approach is designed on providing people what they're looking for?

So when you go through those four questions, what you wind up with is a very clear blueprint that now, you know, what kind of content to create, what kind of what to do on social media, how to engage with people who you want to reach and ultimately what you're gonna what you're gonna sell them.

Um, and I think that from, you know, um, When you have that now, everything becomes simpler, right? As opposed to what a lot of people are doing where they're like, Oh, I'm on social media, trying to build an audience. And they don't really even, you know, or they don't even know what they're trying to accomplish in the first place.

Right. So they're just like, you know, and the other thing I would say, the other mistake I see people make is they don't think about it that way. They just sort of pick a topic. So they go, I'm going to talk about self improvement and it's like, okay, but what, like none of that, none of that syncs with anything else.

And, that alignment is really, really important and often overlooked. 

Akta: Yeah, I feel like you've been really calling me out so far, but it's something I needed to hear.

I wanted to talk about your newsletter because I feel like that's something you're really known for. So you recently tweeted: “I used to say everyone should have a newsletter.

Now I wish I had said everyone should have a good newsletter”. So what do you think makes a good newsletter?

Josh: Uh, so the way I think about it is: you want to provide specific value to a specific audience, right? And it's interesting because I talk a lot about simplicity and I also talk a lot about specificity, right?

Lots of people are very generic. They're generic. And this goes into what I was saying about like, they pick a topic and like, okay, here's my topic. But like, what is the specific value within that topic? And who's the specific person that you're trying to reach? 

The more specific you get, the easier it becomes to create stuff because you know exactly what you're trying to help people do. The other thing is when I say this to people, a lot of times I'll, I'll get the question of like, okay, well, how do I know what value what's valuable or how do you define value? 

So my definition of value is in most cases, like 99% of cases, value is transformation.  So you want to help specific people get from point A to point B. If there's no transformation, it might be interesting, but it's probably not valuable. 

So you see this all the time where you have people writing about a topic and I'll, and I'll even use this sort of creative or creator world as an example.

You will not see in my newsletter me link to or write a piece that's generally about the state of the creator economy. Because that might be interesting information, but what's somebody going to do with that? What you're going to see from me is here's how to improve your Twitter bio to get more followers.

Here's how to create better YouTube thumbnails, things that are actionable and that are transformative and, and not just information, but information that, you know, my, when I look at everything in my newsletter and I go, if somebody reads this on an individual item level, not just the whole newsletter, if somebody reads this, is there something, what can they do with it? 

Because if they can't do anything with it, it's not, it's not valuable. It's interesting. And that transformation is really, really key. Right? So like before I use the example of people who might be like, okay, I have a newsletter about self improvement.

Well, the difference between, “I have a newsletter about self improvement” and a CEO’s transformation from executive to CEO is that, with one of those, the specificity and the transformation makes it way more valuable. 

It also makes it way easier to curate and create content. Like I know the audience, right? So the audience of you become the self improvement newsletter is one of a million self improvement newsletters.

And people are like, I don't know, maybe I'll subscribe to that. Maybe I won't. But with the “female executive who wants to become a CEO” newsletter, you don't have to sell them to any female executive that wants to become a CEO.They’re like “I am absolutely subscribing to this”. Right. And so that's the key.

And I think it's the biggest, you know, as newsletters have sort of boomed in the past few years and like everybody's starting a newsletter. The biggest thing I see is the ones that sort of struggle or just kind of feel generic. They're not focused on a transformation and they're not focused on specific value to a specific audience.

Akta: I really like how you actually defined value because I feel like as creators, we hear all the time. Yeah. That's a good vibe. Value for your audience, but you've actually given that definition, which is really helpful.

Your newsletter is really interesting because it's kind of got the same format. So it's like one paragraph long and then you share five ideas or links.

How important is it to have this familiar format for your audience? And how did you come up with yours? 

Josh: So mine definitely evolved over the years. Um, you know, it's probably changed, you know, I don't know, a handful of times over the past. I think I launched it in 2016, which is wild. So over the past, over the past seven years, but the format's pretty consistent.

And I think format is really important for a couple of reasons. I think, you know, yes, it's helpful for readers to sort of get in the flow and know what to know, what to expect, but I actually think in some ways it's more helpful for the creator because I know exactly what I'm looking for. I don't get people that are sort of just free forming, like, let me sit down and what am I going to write?

That's certainly possible, but I think it's much harder. Like, I know every week what the sections of my newsletter is, and I'm just filling in the blanks. Basically, I don't have to spend time thinking about what I am going to write about this week. You know, or what's my format going to be this week?

So I think, you know, yes, a consistent format is helpful for readers in terms of what they expect. But I really do think it's even more helpful for the creator. And it's interesting because sometimes people will ask me like, well, how have you managed to like, be so consistent and publish it every week?

And I do think that format is a part of it. You know, it would be much harder to sit down every week and go, what am I going to write about? And what, you know, yeah, so I think that definitely helps and again, it also helps when, you know, exactly what you're trying to do. The more vague your topic is, the more room there is for you to sort of go like, well, I don't know.

What do I do? You know, do I do this? Do I do that? There's another example I give which isn't related to newsletters, but I think is relevant to like, what we're talking about in terms of specificity and format. Like, if somebody gives you a blank piece of paper and says, draw something, it's actually kind of hard.

Like you have to spend some time going like, what am I going to draw? Right? Yeah. If someone hands you a piece of paper and goes, draw me a cat. You might be a terrible artist and you have no artistic ability, but you're, you're immediately starting. Yeah, like that, those constraints, those boxes that you can create for yourself in a format make things much, much easier, right?

And you can find plenty of freedom within that, right? So I always have, for example, a little intro paragraph. I have a little like my final words of the week section. I have all the freedom in the world within those sections, so I'm not boxed in. And I think that's the sweet spot, a format that makes it easy for you each week and you're not staring at the equivalent of a blank page, but within that, you still have the freedom to sort of do whatever you want.

Akta: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Justin Welsh called you one of the best curators around because you, you know, you do share links in your newsletter. What is your process for finding great content to share in your newsletter? 

Josh: Um, first of all, Justin's awesome and not just because he said that. 

Like, I don't, I really don't spend any time specifically looking for stuff, but I think I don't have to do that because I've sort of curated my info. So I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. Those newsletters go straight. They're not sitting in my inbox, cluttering everything up. They go straight to a folder within my email.

So I can dip into that folder and just go through all these awesome newsletters. Most of which have already curated other stuff. So curating those inputs makes it much easier. The same thing with Twitter. I follow tons of great people on Twitter. So when I'm going through my feed, and by the way, I don't follow nonsense on Twitter.

So when I'm going through my feed, I'm not just seeing people rage about politics and whatever else they're, they're doing. I'm seeing people talk about audience growth and business growth. The creator economy and entrepreneurship and all this stuff. 

So over the course of the week, because I'm consuming a lot of this stuff, you know, I listened to podcasts all, all, you know, all this stuff, but I've, I've sort of finally tuned the inputs whenever I come, come across something that like, Oh, that might be a good fit.

I use an app called Workflowy, a really great app. It's very simple, like a bullet point list, whatever. I literally just copy and paste the link in there. So when I go to, to actually create my newsletter, all I have to do is go to that list of stuff that I've come across in the past week or two and pick what I pick, what I want to share.

So that's sort of part of how I find stuff. The other thing I think is, doing this for a long time, having a clear understanding of my audience, the transformation I'm trying to help them make, you know, I have a very finely tuned sense of what they're going to find valuable. 

And I think that helps as well. And again, being strategic about it, knowing like this might be really interesting, but I'm not going to share it if there's nothing for them to do with it. So I know what I'm looking for. So as a result, it's very easy for me to go. And also I pay attention, you know, I've been doing this newsletter for a long time.

I know what kind of stuff people want to click and what they, you know, what they're going to value. Right. I know, like, for example, I know that basically everyone struggles with imposter syndrome. So like, I know if I share something about imposter syndrome, that's going to get a lot of clicks. Right. Like, and people are, people are gonna, you know, be interested in it.

The other thing I would say in terms of how I curate that's maybe a little different than how some people think about it. So my Sunday newsletter basically has like five main sort of curated links. And my goal is not to have people click all those links. My goal is to have every one of my subscribers find one thing, at least one thing in the newsletter that they absolutely love, because if they do that, that's all you need.

If they do that, they're going to open the next issue. Right? So with that in mind, the way I curate those five links is. I'm not looking for stuff that necessarily is going to appeal to my whole audience. I'm looking for a mix of stuff so that everyone in my audience finds something that is perfect for them.

So I'll give you an example. If I share a link about how to grow your YouTube channel. You know, probably 60 to 70 percent of my audience doesn't have a YouTube channel. So they're not going to care about that. They're not going to click it. They're not going to care. It's not relevant. But the people that have a YouTube channel, I go, Oh my God, this is the greatest thing ever.

Right. So that's for them. Yeah. Right. So then I might have another link in there. That is how to monetize your blog. Well, maybe 60 percent of my audience doesn't have a blog, but the 40 percent that does is like, Oh my God, this is amazing. Right. Then I might have a third link. That is how to, you know, how to have your most productive work day ever.

That's more broadly appealing, right? Yeah. So almost every, that's going to be relevant to almost everybody, right? There's very few people that wouldn't, that wouldn't be interested in that. So I'm very conscious about that mix. You're never going to see like, Oh, I might find five great articles about writing.

But my issue is not going to be all writing articles. So here's a Twitter tip. Here's a YouTube tip. Here's a productivity tip. You know, usually this blend of some that are a couple that are very niche, one or two that are more broad. And again, in my mind, I'm like, I don't care about them clicking every link.

I just want them to see one thing and go, Oh my God, this was awesome. I got to open it again next week. 

Akta: Yeah, I think that's a really interesting approach because I feel like a lot of people do really care about their click through rates and things like that. So do you look at metrics much or how do you use analytics as a creator?

Josh: I do look at them. Uh, I would say I look at them, I don't really chart them or anything like that, but I'll look at them anecdotally and be like, you know, what I'm really looking forward is anything particularly jump out of like, oh, that link did really well, this link didn't do well. But I also have to, I think it's also really important to look at it in context.

So my link about how to have a more productive work day is going to be relevant to a larger portion of my audience. So more of them are probably going to click it than the one about the YouTube channel. That doesn't mean that it was better. And I think people misread the data all the time. Because again, like if my goal is like, do people really love it?

I know that the YouTube channel has a smaller potential audience than the productivity one. So it doesn't mean, but I think what sometimes people do is they'll go, Oh, well, when I do the productivity one, I get more clicks, so I should do more stuff like that. And I think it's the, it's sort of the wrong, the wrong lesson, uh, to, to take away from it.

So the other thing is, so I do look at that data. You know, just generally, but there's also sort of other and I guess it's more qualitative than quantitative. But like, sometimes I'll share something and a bunch of people will reply to it. 

And that tells me something, right? That tells me that's almost as important, maybe even more important as a signal, right?

And it doesn't have to be hundreds of replies, right? I might get Five replies that are like, Oh my God, that thing, whatever, you know, most people are never going to reply. Like the majority is silent. Right. The majority is. But if normally I get, you know, I'm just making this up.

If normally I get one person who says something about a link and this link gets me five people who say something about it, that's, that's telling me something, right? So there's those other signals that I think in some ways are just as important as the raw data. 

Akta: I agree with you. And let's talk about how you actually got to, you know, 50, 000 subscribers, cause that's a huge amount.

Have you found that there were any more effective growth strategies than others? 

JoshL Yeah, I mean, it, it depends. I mean, the whole newsletter thing has changed so much in recent years, uh, with recommendation tools and spark loop and all of this stuff and they're definitely great. And I sort of tweeted about this the other day and I use them.

I like spark loop and I've done paid stuff and I've done free stuff and whatever. So that has certainly sped up my growth over the past few months or a year or whatever. That said, I think it's. Yeah. It's interesting because to have a 50, 000 subscriber newsletter now is not what it was a few years ago because of all these tools.

Like it's sort of easier and therefore I don't think that it necessarily means as much. Um, like, you know, before 50, 000 subscriber newsletters. Now, again, it's all perspective, right? 

Like, there's still not, you know, there's still not a lot, but there's a lot more than there were. Um, and to be honest, there's a lot that maybe aren't that good.

It didn't used to be like that, right? It used to be much harder, even if you were going to spend money to grow. So I've grown in a variety of different ways, right? You know, again, I've been doing this for seven years. I

've put out a lot of free content. Like, so people come through all different ways. I have spent some time in the early days doing some Facebook ads.

So I've tried sort of, you know, I've done a lot of cross promotions. I've done all sorts of different things and all of it has sort of led to subscribers. But I will say, you know, in the past few months, because of how much this sort of landscape has changed. It's a little weird. Like I'm not, I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it.

I don't, you know, I don't feel at 50, 000 subscribers that my newsletter, the day to day of anything, the business, any of it feels all that different than when I was at 25 subscribers. So that's interesting. 

And I think a lot of that is because of the new ways that subscribers are coming through. And again, I like SparkLoop. I love those guys. I think it's an amazing tool. But not just them, but these recommendations, things in general, the truth is a lot of people are opting in or signing up to pop ups. They don't necessarily know what they're signing up to.

Uh, and, and I see it sometimes, you know, I'll get replies to welcome emails. Cause I send a welcome email that asks people what they're working on and how I can help them and whatever. And I'll get replies that have nothing to do with what I do. Okay. And I'm like, this person clearly has no idea what they're signing up for, or they'll be referencing the newsletter that they actually signed up for, not realizing that they opted in and thinking their welcome email is for that.

Right. Now I'm not saying that's the majority. I've also gotten fantastic subscribers from, from spark loop and these tools. And I've gotten subscribers who've gone on to buy my skill sessions and hire me and whatever. So I'm not saying that the majority of it is bad.

So it's really weird to see a spike in subscribers one day. And then, you know, like, you know, like there might be a day where I've had days where I'll get like 800 subscribers and I'll get three replies to my welcome email. And I'm like, That's not something's off there because then I'll have other days where I get 30 subscribers and I'll get 10 replies to my welcome email.

So, like, I definitely see a difference between the types of subscribers you're getting. And I think it's, it's made me again, not skeptical because there's a lot about it. That's great. And I, you know, and I still, I still use it. But the numbers are different, right? The numbers feel a little like, you know, it's a little crazy, right?

Like when I, when I look and I go, I got 800 subscribers today. Like it doesn't feel like I, like, it's just kind of, it gets weird at times. So yeah. So I would, I would, I, I guess to go back to sort of the growth thing, what I would say is that like, I kind of think of the growth differently, right? The people that are coming to me and signing up because they saw me on a podcast.

That is a totally different version of growth than the recommendation engines. The people that are promoting me just so they can get paid, like, you know, it's a whole different thing, but with that in mind, then how do you kind of protect your list?

So it's still quite engaged. So I do clean the list on occasion for people that are like just not opening whatever one, and this is both an advantage and a disadvantage, right? So sending basically a daily email. If people don't want it, they're gonna be gone pretty quickly. So if every day they're getting an email and they're like, I don't care, they're going to go, right? 

Whereas if you send sporadically, they might sort of be around for a while. So some of it sort of, they, they self select, uh, out. Now what's interesting about that from a growth perspective, this is another thing that people don't realize, like no matter how good your newsletter is.

You're always going to have unsubscribes. And so the bigger you get, the more unsubscribes you're going to have. So every day, like I have a very engaged, very good, you know, people like my newsletter and whatever. 

But every day when I send a newsletter, 70, 75 people unsubscribe. So what that means is even to stay even though this is the thing that people don't realize when a lot of times people ask me like, well, should I go to a daily instead of a weekly or whatever?

And I, you know, I think it all depends on what you're trying to do and your audience and all of that. But 1 of the things I say is I was like, you need to be aware. That just like every time you send a weekly, you get a certain percentage of people that unsubscribe now you're going to send five or six times a week.

So, right. So if, let's say, you know, even if I have 50 people unsubscribe every time I send, and I send six times a week, I'm losing 300 subscribers a week with an amazing, like great engaged newsletter that people love. So that means even just break even. I have to add 300 subscribers a week, right?

So I think that's the other thing that's interesting is you realize as you get bigger, it's, it becomes harder and harder to grow, even though your newsletter is good, just because, and again, with the frequency of send, right? So, so that's the thing that I think a lot of times people don't see.

And by the way, like those unsubscribes don't bother me. Not that it feels great. It doesn't mean that the newsletter is not good. Like, it just means that like, they're not the right people.

Like, that's fine. Please. I don't want to keep sending you emails - if you don't want it, unsubscribe. So, so yeah, so that's, but that's a, it's a piece that a lot of people don't really think about and consider. 

Akta: I think it's good to share that perspective. Let's talk about Twitter because I feel like you're also very well known on Twitter and most of your, most of your tweets seem to perform really well. 

Do you have advice on how to write in a way that captures people's attention? That's a very simple question that could probably be like a, you know, a full semester course answer.

Josh: You know, again, I think it's very much rooted in what I said before, right? The clearer you are about specific value to a specific audience, the easier all this stuff becomes. So I think about it very much in the same way. 

You know, try to share actionable stuff. You know, one thing I don't do is I am a big believer in sort of focusing on whatever your niche is on Twitter.

I think that, you know, when you're posting about all sorts of different stuff, I don't think that that helps you. Um, so I pretty much only talk about sort of audience business growth stuff. I have lots of other interests, but you're not really going to see me talking about sports or politics or any of that other stuff.

I think it's a mistake to do that. I mean, it's fine. I shouldn't say that. It's fine. If that's how you want to use Twitter, but if you want to grow and you want to build an audience and you want to like it, I think you need to sort of stay focused on your niche. The other thing I would say is again, specifics work really well.

And I certainly sometimes post like general platitude stuff as well, but the tweets that work the best are really revealing things and they're giving the, the nitty gritty, right? The general, you know, it's funny. Like, you know, I'll see people who are like, like, you know, like here's an example, right? I'll just go back to that self improvement niche.

Right. So someone might post a tweet that's like having a great attitude is the key to having a great day. Okay, like, you know, or like, you know, if you want to succeed on social media, you need to get engagement. 

Really? Like, okay, like, much better off would be actually show people how to get engagement, right?

Here are 3 types of tweets. You can post that are going to get you more engagement. So showing people how to do things as opposed to just sort of telling them what's important or what's to do or what You know, like is always going to be way, way, way more effective. And then the other thing is again, like, like I said before, like trying, I'm always trying to simplify things.

I'm always trying to be as concise as possible. And that plays really well on Twitter, obviously as well. The big one is specifics, uh, actionable stuff, teaching things you've actually done. You know, as opposed to, and by the way, like the other thing too, is I think a lot of times people feel like, well, but I haven't accomplished that much.

I don't have a big whatever. And it's like, but that's okay. Cause you've still done more than more than some people. And I also think. Really, sometimes one of the things that's interesting is if you really narrow down your content. Right? So instead of, you know, there's a bunch of posts out there that are like how to get a thousand, you know, how to get your first thousand newsletter subscribers.

Well, maybe go write the thing about how I got one, how I got one newsletter subscriber today and literally tell the story about like, I interacted with this person, whatever it is, right. But that narrows down, right. How I made my first sale, how I made one sale versus how to, you know, have your product go viral.

Right? You know, if you wrote a tweet that was like how I got, you know, five likes on a tweet when I usually only get one, that's going to be interesting to people. But again, the narrower you go and the more specific you go tends to be more interesting.

Akta: Yeah, and I've also noticed that you share your newsletter on Twitter, but it's, you share it in such an effortless way.

So is there a way to promote things like newsletters or products on social media without it seeming like a plug? 

JoshL Yes, um, so I actually did a whole skill session about how to use social to grow your newsletter and how to use your newsletter to grow social, which is also interesting because most people don't do it that they don't think about it that way.

But so it's called the newsletter social playbook. And if you go to Josh Spector dot com slash sessions, you can get it there. But one of the big things is as far as newsletter promotion, promote the newsletter before it comes out as opposed to just after. Which is what so many people do, right? They're like, I published my newsletter today and here it is.

And that's fine. And you, you can, and probably should do both, but there's way more incentive for someone to actually subscribe before it's come out afterwards, you send them the link and they go read it and they're like, okay, that's great. And maybe they subscribe, maybe they don't, but before if you tease, like what's going to be in it and they're like, Oh, I definitely want to.

I'm going to sign up for it. So one of the things I do that's really simple to promote in advance is I will just take a screenshot of the headlines of the link, you know, like I'll write my newsletter, I'll take a screenshot and just share, you know, here's what I'm sending to people tomorrow. And if you want it.

And again, typically, hopefully if I've done a good job sort of curating and writing those headlines out of those five headlines, there should be something in there that, that people are like, Oh my God, like, I really want to see that thing. And then they're more likely to sign up. There's a big difference.

You can see why more people would sign up from that than the day after me just going, Hey, here's the newsletter. Go read it. Um, so yeah, so that's definitely a part of it. And again, going back to the simplicity of it, like Mike, okay, I can just take a screenshot and show people this is what it's going to be.

And if this interests you go sign up, right. Whereas a lot of people. And I do, I do, I promote it in various different ways, but you know, one of the things I always say is like the best way to sell a product is to actually show people the product. So when you compare that to like, here's the five things I'm sending tomorrow versus I write a newsletter for creative entrepreneurs that has blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Like, okay. Like you can do that and I do it sometimes and it works, but it's much easier to just go here's exactly what you're going to get if you sign up. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a really good system actually. Cause it is a system that you, you know, you're kind of doing the same thing each week where you're taking that screenshot and it's helped you to simplify that growth.

Akta: Are there any other systems that you've utilized in your business to simplify things and help grow things? 

Josh: Yeah, I mean, uh, there definitely are. So I'll give you one, uh, again, I don't mean to promote it, but this is where all this stuff is. I, my most recent skill session, this is super meta is called the session system, and it's basically all about the skill sessions, business model, and how people can, uh, apply what I've done to monetize their own expertise in their own niche.

Again, Josh to get it. But in that one, I go through exactly sort of how I create my skill sessions, how I promote them, how I monetize them, price them, all of that stuff. Right. And so one of the things that I show in there, and actually you can see this, I did tweet it, uh, the other day.

So you can actually see it on Twitter, the actual email. But one of the things that I do is to convert sort of free newsletter subscribers into buyers of my skill sessions. Uh, I have an automated email. A month after you subscribe to my newsletter, you get this email that says, you know, hard to believe it's been a month.

Thanks so much for your interest. I want to give you an anniversary gift. And the anniversary gift is a 50 percent discount on any one of my skill sessions. Just go here, tell me which one you want, and you know, I'll give you a discount code and whatever. It means that literally every day, whoever had subscribed 30 days ago, every day, some part of my list is getting promoted.

My skill sessions, they're getting promoted. My skill sessions in an automated way without me doing anything, they're getting it as a reward and a, like, I really appreciate your interest, right? Like here's a, here's a gift for you. Basically. They're also getting a reminder that the skill sessions exist.

Right, without me having to constantly and I do promote them all the time anyway, but like, that's an example of sort of a system that I built that ensures that, you know, it started with me thinking, how can I, how can I be regularly? I want to make sure that people that are getting my free newsletter and love it.

Know these things exist. Right. Yeah. And so how can I do that? And that's a very simple way to do that. And by the way, I also talk about this in the, in the session system, uh, presentation when people buy an individual session, they get an email that says, you know, a bonus, a surprise bonus, which is basically if you like the session you just bought and you want to upgrade to a membership.

I'll refund your original purchase, right? So that's another thing. It's an upgrade. It's basically an upgrade offer that's automated. But so you can see stringing some of these things together. So someone signs up to my free newsletter and this is all automated. I'm not doing anything. So they sign up for my free newsletter.

Actually, we'll go a step before that. They're following me on Twitter. They see that promo of, Hey, tomorrow I'm going to send these things with the screenshot. So they sign up for the free newsletter. A month later, they get this anniversary gift offer. Hey, you want any one of these sessions for 50 percent off?

They say, sure. I give them a discount code. They buy it, which by the way, like the sessions are only 50. So it's 25 with the discount. Like, it's pretty, pretty good deal. So they buy it for 25. They get an email that says, Hey, I got a surprise bonus for you. If you liked it and want to upgrade to the membership, I'll refund your money.

And that happens, like not with everybody, but you can see how that takes someone who happened to see something on Twitter to newsletter subscriber to session buyer to session member subscriber. And almost all of that is automated. Right. Like, so that's a perfect example of a system. And that's an example of like one of this sort of, in that session system, skill session, I, I talked through all of that kind of stuff and how the pieces fit together and that, you know, that's a business model.

Like the things that I just referenced there could be applied to. Any creator who's selling anything, really. Yeah, no, I think that's really interesting. 

Akta: I like how your offerings are almost linked together in that way. How did you decide, you know, what your products were going to be or, you know, what formats they were going to take?

Josh: It's evolved like anyone else. I've tried a bunch of different stuff. Like most things, they don't work. They kind of work. You iterate on them. And so. I mean, again, for me, it was always all the things I've talked about, right? 

How can I simplify this both for me and the audience, right? One of the things that I always think about, there's two things that I think I do in almost everything that I create and sell one and free stuff for that matter.

I'm always trying to think, how can I provide as much value per minute as possible? And that's sort of these skill sessions. There is no such nonsense, right? Like, I think most courses are bloated and overproduced. And they do that in part because they want you to go like, but look, you're going to get 300 hours of videos and 25 templates.

And like, they're trying to show you how valuable it is. But I think it's just overwhelming and people don't want all that. Like, to me, the goal is. How can I give people whatever the most important stuff is, the most actionable stuff is in a short a period of time as possible, right? 

My skill sessions are one hour videos and it's usually about a 45 minute presentation and then Q&A with members and that's it.

So that's their, that's their total. Commitment. I put out skill sessions once every two months. So when people become members, it's not, you're going to get bombarded with a million things and a million stuff. Like all of that is overwhelming. I'm going to cut right to the chase and I'm going to go, here's what to do.

Here's how I do it again. Like the example I was just talking about, like, I'm going to show you the emails. Like you don't need me to spend an hour talking about the theories and principles of writing sales emails. Here's the email I use for the upgrade offer. Like, take it, tweak it and make it your own, whatever, but like, here it is, like, we don't need to talk about here.

It is. Here's how I use it. Here's how it works, etc. That's how I think about a lot of this stuff. And again, it's, it's always even with the skill sessions, you know, members vote on the topics. So I don't want to create a session that people don't want. Right. So I give them three options before each one and they tell me what they want.

It's like, okay, you want to learn this? We'll do this. Right. Yeah. Like I think so many creators and so many people are guessing they're either creating what they want to create and then hoping someone wants it. Or they're just sort of guessing, right? And it's like, you don't necessarily have to do that.

The other thing I would compare it to, again, like value per minute, I, it's a membership, but there's no message board. There's no sort of community piece like that. It's a membership, but it's not a community. And the reason for that is while communities can be really valuable. And I, I belong to some myself.

The truth of the matter is they can also be a huge distraction. And you wind up spending a lot of time in the community chitchatting with people, helping people, whatever. And the truth is that time would probably be better spent working on your stuff, right? So I very purposely, even though it would make sense, decided we're not doing that.

Again, value per minute. It’s not a community. It's not a course you're going to get. Once every two months, you're going to get a thing. And I recently added to it now a monthly jam session, Q and A, which is, so one of the things I realized was a lot of my members, they may have questions. They may be working on something.

They may need help. It doesn't warrant a full skill session. Right. And I was like, well, I could once a month, come on, invite them on, ask me your question. And we just do like one on one feedback. Right. So it's, it's really added, it's really added a lot because you know, like someone will come on and they'll be like, Hey, I'm, you know, I'm working on my new sales page, like, what do you think of this? 

And I'm able to look at it and spend 10 minutes talking to them and everyone else is sort of on the call and can see the videos and all that stuff and go, Hey, you know. You should change your headline from this to that. Like that's super valuable for them. 

So it's, again, that's, but that's the North star for me is always like value per minute. Right. Like, yeah. Let's simplify all this stuff and. Yeah, it's worked well, but again, it was not that like, this is an evolution, right? 

I had a paid newsletter. I had all sorts of stuff and I continually sort of refined it until, you know, the skill session model, which now has worked really well.

Akta: Nice. I like that. I like how you simplify things and take things off your own plate because I feel like for a lot of creators, it's just so easy to get overwhelmed by trying to do everything.

Josh: And I think it's, I think just along those lines, I think the other thing that is really important to realize is your audience, whatever you want to call them, they feel just as overwhelmed as you are.

Right. So it's like they, you know, and I have, I've bought courses and I'm like, Oh my God, like. I don't have time to do this. Or, or you'll watch courses and you're like, I don't need 20 minutes of you telling me that Twitter's important or whatever it is like, like just get to the stuff. And I think sometimes the creators are hesitant to sort of shrink down their products, their services, whatever.

Because they feel like people are going to think it's not valuable. But when you realize that shrinking down is actually helping them too, like they want that, you know, I hear from people all the time, my podcast, you know, the idea of a one paragraph newsletter, people are like, is that insane?

People love it. They're like, I love, I open your newsletter every time because I know it's going to take me 10 seconds to see your one sentence and decide if I want to look at it or not. And then I can move on. Whereas there's other newsletters that are amazing and packed with value, but it's like a slog.

Like I have newsletters that are great and I'm like, I just don't wind up opening them because I don't have 15 minutes to commit to it.

Akta: I like that a lot. I feel like that's a refreshing perspective as well. Um, I'm going to end with a quick fire round. 

I'm going to ask you five questions I ask every creator that comes on air, starting with what's your favorite thing about being a creator? 

Josh: My favorite, my favorite thing about being a creator, uh, I like the freedom to sort of do what I want and sort of iterate and innovate, you know, that, that I can kind of, that all that matters is that I'm putting out stuff that my audience finds valuable.

Yeah, that's it. Right. And within that, anything goes. And I think that's really, that's really cool and fun. 

Akta: And what's something that gives you the most inspiration for what you create? 

Josh: I consume a ton of stuff. Uh, there's a Steve Jobs quote that I, I completely, uh, relate to. And he said, creativity is just connecting things.

And I find that so, but in order to do that, you have to have things to connect. So I'm always consuming stuff from all, and not just the typical creator stuff. Like, you know, right now I'm reading two books. One is Steve Martin's autobiography and the other is a book about sales.

So that's very indicative of different types of ideas and art and business and stuff that I'm putting in. And that gives me things to connect that then, you know, applies to other stuff. 

Akta: And what's a tool that helps you as a creator? 

Josh: I use Workflowy. I mentioned it before. It's really simple. I use it for everything from things like my to do list to notes, whatever.

It's literally just like. A bunch of bullet points nested within each other, uh, but I use it constantly. I'm a big fan of it and highly recommend it. The other thing is a tool called TextExpander, which is awesome. Um, that literally you just create snippets for whatever you want.

For example, when I want to offer people a free skill session, I literally can just type like free session and it pulls up the full email that I had sent before. 

Akta: What's something that helps you with your creative work life balance?

Josh: Paying attention to it, saying no, um, is really, really, really important, you know, and the more, you know, once I've gotten aware of it, you know, one of the things I do is I really won't start something new without taking something off of my plate.

So I think that's really, really helpful. It prevents you from just continually adding stuff. So yeah, I think that, that helps. And also understanding, recognizing that like, you're never going to have your, you're never going to be done. Like, you're always going to have more to do than you need to do. And I think getting comfortable with that is really important.

Like, I don't feel the drag of like, Oh my God, I have so much. Like, you're always going to have stuff on your to do list. 

Right. Like, so there is, once you realize that it's impossible to get it all done, I think you can be more comfortable with like, you know, did I get a couple important things done today?

Akta: I like that. And what's, um, one piece of overarching advice that you'd give to creators? 

Josh: The simple one is: you need to do things. I think not enough people actually do things. They talk about doing things. They think about doing things. They come up with excuses why they can't do things.

And, you know, the truth is like, there is no substitute for actually doing them. You know, one of the things is I, uh, I hate the word, like I'll see this sometimes in people's bios or whatever. The word aspiring. I'm an aspiring writer. No, you're not. Like if you write, you're a writer. Like, I think it's so self defeating, like if you want to do something or you want to be something, like do it, doesn't matter if it's successful or not, but like start doing it.

And you know, I'm amazed at how many times, you know, if you want to grow a newsletter or have a newsletter, don't spend six months researching newsletters, like start writing your newsletter. Right. 

It's just, it's just the best way you'll learn on the fly and you'll learn faster and you'll learn as you go.

So I think it's one thing that I've noticed that the people that are successful as creators or entrepreneurs or any of this stuff, like they do things. Right? And if they fail, that's fine. And they try something else, but, but then there's other people that are just always sort of talking about it.

You know, they're always forever planning or they're coming up with a million different reasons why I don't have the budget for it yet. I don't have the time for it yet. And I'm not saying some of that's not true, but just keep shrinking it till you have a version of it that you can do. Right. So yeah, that, that would be my biggest advice is like, you got to do things.

Akta: No, that's great advice. Thank you so much, Josh. It's been such a great conversation. I feel like the creative journey can be so overwhelming and you've somehow managed to simplify it. So thank you so much for that. 

Josh: Yeah. Thank you. I appreciate it. I'm trying to, it's, you know, it's funny. Like I always say, uh, you know, it's not easy.

But it's simple, right? And like, you know, and I'm not, uh, I'm not a, I'm not a smoker. So this is an oversimplification and people who are probably are going to hate this. 

But like, it's not easy to stop smoking cigarettes, but it is simple. Stop buying them and stop smoking. Right, right. Like, I'm always amazed that people are like, Oh, I'm quitting smoking, but like, you're buying cigarettes every day.

Like, are you, you know, so again, and I don't mean to diminish it. Like, I know it's hard and all this stuff is hard, right? This creator stuff is hard. Um, but on some level. It's not magic.

Like you need to create something that people find valuable enough to pay you for whatever you're doing. Right. Like it's not, I think people tend to go like, Oh, it's so complicated.

It's not that complicated. It's just not easy. Yeah. And I think we make it harder for ourselves as well. And I think that's the problem. So yeah, no, I think we need that reality check. 

Akta: So thank you so much. Yeah. Thank you. And if you are a creator and one of your revenue streams is sponsorships, check out Passionfroot.

We help you to streamline your entire workflow. I'll see you in the next one.