Founder, Musing Studio /

Becoming Calm, Again

After two years of pushing hard to grow into a large business, heavily investing (and losing) my savings along the way, early this year I scaled us back to a calm, profitable level we can sustain indefinitely. With a still mind now, I’m seeing a clear vision of how I want this business to run and grow going forward.

Connecting More

The first thing I’ve started to do is connect with more people. This has always happened naturally with our community of writers, but now I’ve started reaching outside my normal circle, to people doing digital privacy work, entrepreneurs, new writing groups, and generally anyone doing interesting things.

At this point, mentally, I’m no longer racing to some other place; I’m exactly where I need to be, and I’m settling in. So the question now is: what do I want out of every day, now that I’ve “arrived”? Do I want to spend it in my solitary home office working away at code? Pushing to “build an audience,” gain followers, get rich, and chase whatever far-off goal I can? Do I want to maintain my one-way outflow of ideas and products from up on high? Or do I want to be a part of the world around me?

I deeply know I just want to be a part of the world. Over the past several years, from travel to employment to employing others, I’ve realized this is what “living” means to me. It means getting out of my small world, out of any lonely ambitions I hold, and connecting with the world. Now I just want a life of rich, open-ended connections with good and interesting people, a connection with the natural world, and whatever I’m building on any given day.

Founder Chats

I’ve long thought about adding some kind of highly personal touch to — less to advance the business, but more to these “open-ended connections” I’m after.

So, besides the occasional outreach I’m doing, I’ve quietly started something within our own community last month: founder chats. This gives people a chance to sit down with me one-on-one, via video chat, to talk about anything — from the product to what matters to them in general.

For now, I’ve limited it to writers who have bought a 5-year plan, both since they’re dedicated users of the platform and because it limits how many people will be booking time overall. (These users will see a prompt to schedule a meeting directly in the app.)

The conversations I’ve had so far have been wonderful. I can put a voice to the most dedicated writers we have in the community, and they’ve been able to see exactly who is operating the platform they’re on — something rare in the tech world. We’ve talked about shared interests, each other’s backgrounds, families, and most-wanted features. The people I’ve talked to have enjoyed it, and I’ve gotten so much fulfillment from these stress-free chats — especially since they’re over video instead of the usual text-based email, social media message, etc.

It’s much more “hang out” than “business meeting,” and it’s a nice respite from my usual daily work. I plan to keep the invitation open for the far-foreseeable future.

Positive Cash Flow is Nice

Underneath everything — the main reason I can relax now — is the comfort knowing that the business is sustainable again. We’re cash flow-positive on subscriptions alone, and I no longer have to chase higher and higher revenue just so we can breathe. We’re small again as a team, but now we can financially sustain the service for an indefinite amount of time — which was always my goal.

Of course, we’re only at this point because so many people have trusted me and the team with their money (as customers) and creative output (as writers, photographers, and on). It’s very humbling to know they’ve taken a chance on us as a small company — and besides appreciating that every day, I intend to keep making it worth their effort, time, and money to write here.

Personally, I’ve taken small moments here and there to pause and celebrate all of this. Especially after 18 months of pushing too hard at the wrong things and failing to grow as much as we needed to in that time, it’s an enormous relief to be at this point, with positive income and a largely happy community of users.

Looking Ahead

So, what now? As for product development, is gaining a ton of collaborative capabilities (matching my own striving for collaboration?) — a big step toward more collective writing to supplement our features for individuals. Later this year, we’ll also have early ways to interact with blogs and authors via our tool — another optional social layer, for those who want it.

As for our general focus, it’s now turned entirely to what our community needs. I’m no longer chasing uncertain moonshots like in late 2019. I’m not even trying to grow our customer base excessively right now. Instead, I’m back to the basic practices that helped grow consistently throughout its early years: putting out a product that I know people want, and evolving it in parallel with their feedback.

There’s still much to do, and many things to improve. I plan to circle around to more neglected areas of the platform (like our desktop apps) in the near future, for example. But now I can do it with a clear, calm mind. What more could I hope for?

#calm #business