Your Periodic Reminder That Perfectionism Doesn’t Pay

Your periodic reminder that perfectionism doesn't pay

One of my favorite books about business is a book on writing:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

— Anne Lamott

When I think about the difference between people who love running their businesses–overtime, cash-flow crunches, warts and all–and people who worry, slog through, and ultimately start to give up…

…it’s this ability to give up on perfectionism and create a shitty first draft.

You see, great products or services rarely start off as polished, complete, or even especially spectacular.

It can be hard to remember that when you probably see other business owners launching polished, complete, spectacular, and seemingly perfect offers all around you.

What we all forget from time to time is the unpolished, incomplete, and sometimes lackluster work that goes into making something a blockbuster.

It’s that crappy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants first attempt that puts the ball in motion.

The barrier to entry for a great product is much lower than it probably seems. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, the overwhelming launch plan, or the glamorous website to be well on your way to new product success.

Most importantly, you don’t actually know whether you have the makings of a great product or service until you’ve sold it.

So the faster you can take a new offer to market the better. The sooner you make your first sale, the greater your chances are of success.

The more you learn to enjoy and embrace this part of the process, the more you’ll love your business.

Take Marie Poulin and her success with both Digital Strategy School and her software product, Doki. Before Digital Strategy School was born, Marie frequented a number of Facebook groups where other web designers hung out. She often had answers to the questions they asked about their process, clients, and general business challenges.

Eventually, it dawned on her that she could fill in a lot of gaps for the designers who were looking to take their businesses to the next level. She made a post offering help in the form of a “beta version” of a program. The response was resounding. Digital Strategy School was born based on the questions, challenges, and needs of that initial group of people who expressed interest.

Their participation formed the curriculum. Their challenges created the system.

Similarly, Doki, a software program for building and selling online courses came from real discourse with potential customers. Marie, and her co-founder Ben Borowski, heard digital business owners griping about the problems with other software platforms. They weren’t designed to meet their needs and they were hard to use.

Marie and Ben designed Doki to meet these objections first. They didn’t try to make the software do everything it would eventually need to do. It aimed to take care of the things the people they were aiming to please really cared about. Everything else was secondary.

While Marie told me that they didn’t want to release a bad MVP–minimum viable product–but they did want to focus on the basics instead of the bells & whistles. 

You can set the bar lower if you focus on the right things.

No one wants to put out a product that is truly embarrassing. And you don’t want to deal with complaints about a product that you’ve merely slapped together.

Focus on the right things–fixing problems that exist in other products, meeting the exact needs of your target customers, building a product to achieve a particular outcome–instead of trying to impress yourself or anyone else with the perfection of your product. You’ll earn more, faster.


Communicating with Comedy–Even if You’re Not Funny with David Nihill

Communicating with comedy - featuring Do You Talk Funny author David Nihill on Profit. Power. Pursuit. with Tara Gentile

“In the realm of business speaking, in the realm of conference speaking, the standard is so low, it’s ridiculous.  So if you just literally have a couple of funny images, two memes, and a video, and one funny story, you’re already going to crush it compared to 80% of the speakers out there.” — David Nihill

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Tara:  Welcome to Profit, Power, Pursuit.  I’m your host, Tara Gentile, and together with my friends at CreativeLive, we talk to powerhouse small business owners about the nitty-gritty details of running their businesses, making money, and pursuing what’s most important to them.  Each week, I deep dive with a thriving entrepreneur on topics like time management, team-building, marketing, business models, and mindset.  Our goal each week is to expose you to something new that you can immediately apply to growing your own business.

My guest this week is David Nihill.  David is the founder of Funny Bizz, a community, writer platform, and conference series helping content creators access top comedic writing talent.  He’s performed stand-up comedy at California’s leading clubs, including Cobs, the Comedy Store, the Improv, and the Punch Line, even though he strongly denies being a comedian, and is well aware most people don’t understand his accent.  He’s also the author of Do You Talk Funny, a book about incorporating humor into public speaking.  I wanted to find out more about how David turned a popular class on Udemy into a book.  We talk about why he started experimenting with comedy in the first place, the impact of student feedback on the development of his idea, and his favorite techniques for incorporating humor into any kind of business content.

David Nihill, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit.  Thank you so much for joining me today.

David:  Thank you.

Tara:  Absolutely.  So let’s start off by talking about your book, Do You Talk Funny, and its unusual starting point as a video course.  I love that you pointed this out to me, because I love the unusual genesis of products, services, and in this case, books.  So where did the idea for the video course come from initially?

David:  Yeah, it was funny, and I should probably warn your listeners out there, this is an Irish accent, it’s not some lunatic dialing in from a pub here sounding a bit confused and joining you happy people, but it was a little bit of an unusual idea.  One, to be honest, I really struggled with creating a product and then me trying to sell it and publicize it and reaching out to my friends and going, “Hey, I created a thing, and it sounds a bit nutty, it’s like around humor and business, and kind of public speaking,” and they’d be like, “Yeah, go back to getting your real job, would you, you lunatic, why did you leave in the first place?”  So I created … I put everything I’d learned over a year’s experiments, which involved me pretending to be a standup comedian to get over a fear of public speaking, which in itself, I know, does not sound like a good plan whatsoever, and it wasn’t, so obviously, I didn’t want to tell friends and family about that one. 

But I basically put everything I’d learned in a PowerPoint presentation, which became a Prezi presentation using their software, and I posted it on Udemy, and that way, at the time, Udemy were driving all traffic to people’s products on their behalf, so I didn’t have to tell anyone I even put it together.  I didn’t tell anyone I had it there.  I gave it away for free, initially, to get some good people on board and get some reaction to it, and then basically, I started selling it and getting feedback from the people who took it, and ultimately, that allowed me to test the concepts I had for a book on an audience that were actually paying to use it and interact with it and seemed to be benefiting from it, and I was kind of consciously able to iterate all the time, and get something where I’m like, okay, I like it, and people using it seem to like it, they’re willing to pay for it, and least out, when I was actually putting the book together, I kind had all the content laid out and tested already.  I mean, because originally, I hadn’t any background as a writer.  I don’t have much in the way of skills as a writer, and to add to that, I was dyslexic, which is not a winning combination for writing a book, and Dragon Dictate, my idea to dictate the book, didn’t seem to like Irish accents. So it was me, at home, screaming at the computer, going, “Goddamn, Dragon Dictate, I didn’t say that, what are you typing?”  So kind of the workaround I had to do was to put it together as a course, and then have someone actually transcribe the whole thing, and then that way, rather than starting looking at a blank page for a book, I was starting looking at a big pile of content, and it just made the whole process mentally a little bit easier.  Plus, it gave me a lot to show when I went to a publisher or I went to somebody with the idea.  I’m like here you go, I already have 7000 people enrolled in this, they seem to like it, maybe there’s a market for this.

Tara:  Brilliant.  Thank you so much for sharing that.  That’s awesome.  So you really started the video course with the book in mind, then?

David:  Yeah, 100%.  I never wanted to put together a video course.  I am totally scared of being on camera in any way, which is pretty ironic, seeing CreativeLive twisted my arm, being like come into the studio, and I think nearly one of the only reasons of doing that is because of the version I made of myself with the video course is so cringeworthy, it’s only one step up from me at home in my underpants just screaming at people on the internet.  There’s some good content in there, but the delivery leaves a lot to be questioned, because I really hate being on camera.  Actually, it used to be me not on camera whatsoever.  It was just my voice over slides, and that was the original version of it, but yeah, at one stage, the other platform got onto me, and they’re like, “This looks like a homeless person made it.  You’re going to need to upgrade it a little bit if we’re going to keep selling it.”  So I kind of got used to the interaction with people, got used to the audience, got used to be able to get active feedback, because it’s quite a tough process when you write a book, because realistically, you’re not getting feedback from a large audience on the content you have in there and to see if it resonates with people, so yeah, I got used to using it, but the idea to do it only ever was to create a book.

Tara:  Got ya.  Okay, awesome.  So let’s back up, then, to you mentioned that you were pretending to be a standup comic to get over your fear of public speaking.  Can you talk a little bit more about that and how you started experimenting with comedy and kind of including that in your career as a whole?

David:  Yeah.  Definitely.  It does not sound like the best plan.  It was definitely not the best plan.  It was rather painful in moments, and with that, I’d always been afraid of public speaking, and unfortunately, a friend of mine suffered a severe spinal cord injury, and that kind of became the catalyst for all this, because I had suggested by way of a fundraiser, because his insurance had cut him off, to do a comedy show, because I just happened to know a comedian that was a touring headline comedian.  He’d agreed to do it, and all my American friends didn’t know what my friends back in Ireland knew very well, that I was absolutely scared the life out of me anything got to do with public speaking.  I’m terrible at it, and my nickname was actually Shaking Stevens, in university in Ireland, because when I’m handed a bit of paper, I just started shaking, and I couldn’t stop it, and some way, it translated to my hips, and then my hips would start shaking as well.  I looked like I was busting out some 80s dance moves involuntarily.  So as I tell, it’s something my American friends didn’t know, but to be honest, compared to what my friend was going through after his spinal cord injury, it was something like, well, I can’t describe this fear I have as crippling anymore, which I would have.  That does not seem appropriate in anyway, so I better just get over it, and I was a big fan of a lot of the great instructors that CreativeLive have on the platform, the likes of Tim Ferris, which are looking at breaking things down using an 80/20 principle to identify the things that kind of give you the most return on your time invested in learning it, and I figured, well, surely comedians are the true masters of public speaking, if we go by Malclom Gladwell’s, like, 10,000 hours to make a master rule, like, they seem to be on stage in the most frequently, more frequently than anybody else, and in the most challenging conditions.  So it was like, all right, I’m going to try and replicate some of this to get through this charity event, and because obviously, it’s meant to be a funny charity event, there’s some pressure, to some extent, to be funny hosting it, and I did.  It went really well, and I was like you know what, I’m going to keep this going for a whole year. 

So the pretending to be a comedian part very much came when these comedy shows started tagging me on Facebook, and they’re like, “Come see David Nihill do comedy in a coffee shop for two people.”  I’m like, oh my God, my family’s going to see this and wonder why I’m not in my corporate job anymore.  Not quite ready, so, and honestly, if you don’t have much of a track record in comedy, it’s kind of difficult to get booked, so I created a whole stage name, which I didn’t think was very original, but American people seemed to like it.  Irish Dave.  I have no idea why Irish Dave would be touring doing comedy in Ireland, because it wouldn’t be the most popular name with people over there by any means, but so he had his fake Twitter followers and his fake Facebook page and profile, and I basically used that to try and get booked as many places as I could, and I kept that going for a whole year, and the course basically became kind of everything I learned along the way that I think applied to the world of business.  I think for the most part, because if you look at all the leading TED talks at the moment, every single one of them are funny, and there seems to be a pressure there for modern-day speakers to be entertainers, and they seem to be very visibly using the techniques comedians were using, even though a lot of them didn’t seem to know it.  And I guess my argument was that knowing it can save you a lot of time and give you some results pretty quickly.

Tara:  Wow.  Wow.  Can you describe one of the techniques that you learned or that you used in those early days pretending to be a standup comic that then has kind of stuck with you and gotten you results, maybe even through today?

David:  Yeah, sure.  And you know, the thing I think I had most success with was avoiding that moment, say when you’re in work, and your boss calls you into the office, and they’re like, “Hey, come in here, I’ve got a joke for you,” and your brain is like oh my God, this is going to be terrible, I need to get away from this person.  Like they’ve kind of telegraphed their intention to try and be funny, and I think when you do that as a comedian or even in a business presentation in any way, when people can really sense it’s a joke, the anticipation and the flip of expectations, the surprise, all those elements, you’re greatly reducing the chances of success, and I think one of the key things I used was basically just to take all my own stories, and I began to catalog them.  So it’s kind of … comedians have one big advantage over the rest of the world on being funny.  Kind of like where we used to keep diaries as kids, maybe some of us did, or you keep a journal, and you go back and you look at the journal a few years later, and it’s like, “Oh, on Tuesday, I was emotionally distraught.  I had ice cream, and I don’t like myself.”  Okay, this isn’t very exciting or compelling reading, and you kind of stop doing it. 

What comedians will do is nearly keep a happy journal.  Essentially, a list of funny stories or observations they have about in the world, and they continuously will go back to that.  So what I did, essentially, was I listed out all the things I’d found funny, went my own exist, and to start, like all the stories I had from my life, experiences, and as a start, I didn’t have much, but as I actively kept doing this on a smartphone, and logging it every time I heard a funny story that I could relate to, every time I thought of something embarrassing that was happening, happened to me in my life.  Tragically, if something embarrassing happened … if something embarrassing happened to you, that’s funny to other people literally all the time, as painful as it might be for you.  So there’s always kind of humor in those moments.  Learning something new, learning a new language.  And I began to log all those stories, and I just identified the funny part of those stories.  So where do my friends and family normally laugh, and then I try to cut out as many words from the story as possible.  So I only basically kept in what was necessary, and then that basically became what I used in standup comedy, and what I’ve used to this very day, not only in comedy, but also in business presentation.  So short-form stories, true to my own experience, and going out of my way to make sure to keep the funny bit til as late in the story as humanly possible, and then that way, the nice thing is nobody knows you’re trying to be funny, you’re just telling a story, and if they don’t laugh at that story, well, your story’s still a lot better than the pie chart or the presentation that somebody else had them looking at.  And I think that’s something from the world of comedy that really resonates with people, because again, it relies on story, and that’s something we’re naturally receptive to listening to.

Tara:  Yeah, wow.  That was like two minutes of pure gold as far as I’m concerned.  That was so helpful.  I mean, I do a lot of public speaking as well, and I’m always at a loss when it comes to stories, and the idea of keeping a happy journal, and the idea of, you know, not telegraphing when you’re trying to be funny.  Like, all of that, to me, is just pure gold, so thank you for that.

David:  But even, the same applies with a story.  There’s not … like when you get up and you go, “You know what, I’m going to start with a story.  Here’s a story.”  Well, then you’ve basically said I’m going to tell you something that may or may not be relevant for three or four minutes, and if you switch off, maybe you won’t miss a whole lot, but it’s not central, and what you really want to do is get people on board with the story without them knowing they’re being drawn into the story, and again, the exact same thing works with telling a story in your presentation.  Don’t telegraph that you’re about to tell a story, just tell the story, and it tends to make a big difference.

Tara:  Wow.  And I’m assuming that that goes for any type of content that you’re creating online, too.  So blogs, podcasts, even Facebook updates.

David:  Honestly, anything, and when you sound it like a happy journal, it sounds like some hippie exercise that I just followed up with doing a load of stretching, yoga, and locking myself in a hot room in Lulu Lemon pants.  Not quite what I’m … I guess I have it called funny story file, and to me, it doesn’t sound strange that way, and every time I literally see something or think of something, I go in and add to it, and I do use that for anything I ever create content-wise.  So even when I finished the book and I took all this time to lay down everything I knew, then I was like, all right, I need to go in and put some elements of story in this, what bits are funny, what bits might resonate, what bits do my friends like, and the source I was going to was that funny story file, and it’s the same thing if I’m doing an interview, it’s the same thing if I’m giving a talk, it’s the same thing if I’m writing a blog post, it’s the same thing if I’m looking for something quirky in social media, so it’s … it’s just content that means something to us, because we already found it entertaining, and just finding a way to share that with people in the shortest, most effective form.

Tara:  Oh, you make it sound so easy.  Can we talk more about the book and about how you adapted the video course?  Can you describe the approach that you use for actually taking the video course and turning it from something that was multimedia into something that was written?  What did that process look like for you?

David:  Yeah, I mean, it was probably six months of tinkering back and forward and messing around with it and getting feedback from students who were taking the course and just to say hey, what resonated, what didn’t, and the nice thing was with the course I could actually see where the drop off points were.  Like, what was too long, what was too much, what was the most popular areas that I should expand on a bit, and then to be honest, the process of translating that to written form was quite straightforward, because I paid somebody to do it, and I think it only cost me $60 or $70 to have it transcribed, so now I was looking at a couple of hundred pages of content, and it was just a way of introducing each chapter with some form of story that was relevant to what I was talking about, and that … and that took a bit of time, but not as much.  The really core part of the work was in crafting content I felt that would resonate with people, and stupidly, actually …

So the book I’ve put out, I put out one self-published, and then I went back and I worked with a publisher the second time around, and the self-published one, believe it or not, on a book about humorous storytelling, I didn’t even put my own story in there.  So I never put anything about pretending to be a boy called Irish Dave, I didn’t really describe any of the nights I was involved or the things that happened because of it.  I just simply did it as a how to, and even though it was popular, it wasn’t as popular when I consciously went back in with the editor and we said, all right, how do I wrap this information within a story, how do I use some of the things I’m actually telling people to do, and how do I really put my thinking hat on and say all right, well, this needs to be funnier, it needs to have story on it, it needs to be more engaging, and it needs to be not just giving people straight up how-to content.  And I think that’s the mistake a lot of people make these days when they’re crafting content in general, that they pretty much just get everything, all right, it’s a brain dump, conscious brain dump, and then they shape it into a readable format, and they don’t really go back and take another look at it to say, okay, how can I make this more engaging or put some of my own personality into it or put some level of emotion into it that shows people what I was going through at that point, and so I made that mistake myself, and to be honest, it took me more than a year to correct that, waiting to get the published version out.  And it was something I had listened to John Acuff say consciously, it was a really … probably one of the funniest business speakers I’ve ever seen.  A really top author and writer as well, and one I’m sure your community is familiar with, but he’d always say when he writes, he consciously goes back in at stage three or four and tries to make it a bit more engaging or entertaining, and that probably took me more time on this than anything else, but it was certainly also one of the more painful mistakes I made on the project, and quite an ironic one seeing the book was about humor and story.  It was like oh no, a humor storybook with funny on the cover, and I didn’t even take the time to make it funny.  Worst plan ever.  So I went back and fixed that, thankfully.

Tara:  Yeah, I’m really glad that you’ve pointed out, too, that the making it funny seems to come later in the process for you.  Steps three or four, or you know, after you’ve kind of outlined and laid out what the content is really going to be, because I think that’s another kind of unnecessary pressure people put on themselves is oh, okay, I’m going to do a talk, I better make it funny, or you know, what you said about stories, too.  I’m doing a talk; I guess I gotta figure out what story I’m going to lead with.  Does it always come later in the process for you?

David:  For writing, it very much can do.  I guess you have … say if you’re a comedian, or say if you’re a full-time professional comedic copywriter, and you’re starting something from scratch, you basically say, well, what do I want to say that’s your core starting point, what’s the opinion I want to get across, and then you basically try and find funny ways to say that, but you’re always starting with that core belief, that core point, or that core item you want to communicate, and then expanding on that and working with it to consciously make it funny.  Now, if you’re lucky enough, when you’re doing the talk and you have a couple of good stories already, I would just start with the good stories, and shape the talk around the stories, no matter what the story is.  If you’re like this story does not seem relevant or related to it, find a way to make that relevant or related.  Just tell the story, if you like telling it and it resonates with people, and then literally say, “I told you that story because … ” and just fill in the blank, and just find a way to transition that, because at the end of the day, if there’s no element in the story and the information you’re trying to communicate, it’s very hard for people to remember it, and that means it’s very hard for them to repeat it. 

In comedic terms, it’s nearly like going to see a really funny comedian for an hour, and then you’re dying to share it with your friends the next day, you’re like, oh man, this guy said, it was like a cat and a donkey and a grandmother and oh, you had to be there.  And like your explanation of their jokes makes no sense, because they didn’t give it in a structure, a story structure that your mind could actually remember it and process it, and that way, you’re not able to spread their message for them, which is, you know, if you’ve had a good, impactful talk, and you’ve delivered it, ideally, you want that talk to go far beyond just the people in the room in that moment, and the easiest way of doing that is forever basing it on a story.  So to answer your question, it can be both ways if you have stuff that’s already funny and great already, you can certainly start and build around that, and if you don’t, just get the core points you have across that you want to teach or communicate or you want to get out to your community, and then go back and take a bit of time and say, oh, how do I make this funny.  Like chat to your friends about it.  Just say, see if you have any stories.  Hopefully, you’ve started some form of funny story file, so you’re like, oh, I have a little great example here from this, I saw this article that I love.  So the funny story file doesn’t just have to be your own experiences.  It can be a book that you read that had something funny or quirky, or it can be a story somebody shared with you.  I mean, even the highest, best-selling books in the world, a lot of them will only sell around 15,000 copies on average to become a bestseller, so most people still haven’t even heard the coolest stories in the highest-selling books, so I mean, that’s all fair game as content for you to build in to try and enliven things a bit.

Tara:  Wow.  You are making this sound much easier than I expected it to be, so that’s pretty exciting.

David:  Thanks very much.  Well, it wasn’t easy, I tell you.

Tara:  Yeah.

David:  I was learning the hard way.  Learn in another way that doesn’t involve doing standup comedy.  Take the principles and don’t get up there with the drunk people.  I don’t want to make it sound too easy.  But to be honest, if a couple of quick improvements and a couple of quick things you do that comedians do very naturally apply to any form of content creation does, does make a big difference, and all of a sudden, especially, I mean, in the realm of business speaking, in the realm of conference speaking, the standard is so low, it’s ridiculous.  So if you just literally have a couple of funny images, two memes, and a video, and one funny story, you’re already going to crush it compared to 80% of the speakers out there.

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Tara:  So you’ve mentioned student feedback on that course a couple of times, and I want to come back to that, because I think this is something that’s … that’s really important in terms of developing a product, any kind of product, really.  Can you give an example of one piece of student feedback or something that you noticed in the way students were consuming the course that led to a specific change or a specific improvement of the book form of your message?

David:  Yeah.  So there was one thing in there that I described as briefly as I could, and I didn’t realize it took a little bit more explaining, and it was the one thing over everything that probably made the single biggest difference to me in the realm of public speaking, and it was learning a memorization technique that allowed me to turn basically my whole presentation into a bunch of small stories that I then placed in locations in a house, which sounds kind of crazy, but you basically, your mind works second best in stories and it works best in remembering geographic locations, so if you combine the two, you have something really powerful that allows you to take away the fear of going blank on stage, and that was something that I didn’t elaborate on enough, and with the feedback I was getting, most people were like this one thing is really cool.  I never heard of it, I know there’s books on it out there and stuff, but personally, I never use it, I never saw anybody use it, so when I was giving presentations, I was literally creating a mad, mildly fictional story with as much hilarity and nudity and celebrity presence as possible to help me remember it, because that’s the way the mind works, and I was literally, when I’m on stage giving a presentation, in my mind, I’m walking through my house, and I’m encountering a bunch of stories and characters that I’ve kind of fictionally placed there, and that way, if any moment, I’m trying to think back and go what’s the word here, what am I meant to say, I’m never asking myself that.  I’m asking myself where in the house am I?  Oh, I’m in the kitchen, and in the kitchen is Elvis, Tim Ferris, and Brittany Spears, they’re mildly naked, but they’re talking about celebrities and economic progression and any other topic that I might want them to be talking about in my mind, but it just reminds me to hit the key points, and that allowed me to free up my time a lot, and that level of interest came to me, or the level of need to explain that more, and it’s a big topic, so I could give you a lot more on it, obviously, but short form, that was the single biggest thing that made the biggest difference to me and seemed to make the biggest difference to the students, and I wouldn’t have been aware of that without the student feedback. 

Now, equally, some of the student feedback needs to be taken with a little pinch of salt, because somebody said, “Oh my God, I’m so disappointed with this course, I would have loved it only for it’s on public speaking.”  At this point, I had called it a public speaking course, the word public speaking was absolutely everywhere, and there was no way, or I don’t know what they … they might have been high as a kite when they were taking it, but I think 90% of the feedback that came in was really, really good and really, really constructive, and really, really helpful.  Even the negative feedback.  So if someone says something negative that at least has a level of logic to it somewhere, they’re probably correct in there in some form, and even though you might not like to read it, there’s probably something in there that allows you to improve the product you’re creating.

Tara:  Awesome.  Awesome.  So you also have a community and a conference that works to incorporate comedy into business as usual, which is called Funny Bizz.  Can you tell us a little bit about Funny Bizz?

David:  Yeah, sure.  Worst name ever, but I kind of like it, so I stuck with it.  But basically, as I was going around doing all the comedy experiments and shows, I was meeting all these comedians that had one thing in common.  Not all of them were getting famous for being funny, but they were all getting funnier along the way, and they were doing so primarily by improving one skill, and that was writing, and a lot of them had become really, really good copywriters, but they just didn’t know a way to get in touch with businesses that were looking for somebody to occasional enlighten or add some humor or up the engagement with the content they were creating.  So Funny Biz originally was very much a way to try and bring these people together and get them together with the business community that needed their skills, but also allow them to keep working on their passion, which was doing full-time comedy, and then out of that, we grew a conference, and we basically were trying to showcase everybody creating marketing content or promoting marketing content or advertising content that was humorous, and basically, how did you do it, how did you get approval to do such lunacy, because a lot of people say, oh, well, humor is risky, and then it was very much to say, well, how can the people in the room do it, too.  So yeah, the conference we had was very much to bring all those kind of changemakers together that very much believe that content could be funnier and more engaging.

Tara:  Nice.  Nice.  And kind of alongside that, you have a goal of abolishing boring content, which I love, because there’s so …

David:  Just a bit ambitious.

Tara:  Yeah, but there’s so much.  I mean, you could put a serious chink in that, I think.

David:  I could, but I’d probably have to delete a lot of my own stuff as well.  Goddammit, mine’s boring, too, I tried not to make it that way, but I failed miserably.  But it’s just, it’s trying to give people the tools to look at content they’re creating and just kind of encourage them to put the … another side of their … another hat on, and too upright another part of the brain, and to just take that extra effort to go back and go all right, how do I enlighten this up a bit.  Like, where can I get some funny images, where can I work a couple of gifts into this, where can I do something that shows my personality and put a little funny story in there?  But just any way that enlightens it up, and I think to be honest, anybody who’s advertising on mediums like Facebook or Snapchat or using Twitter, they’re in all these places where people are going to consume entertainment, then there’s a level of pressure you feel to become the entertainment, and a lot of people just didn’t know how.  They wanted it, but they just didn’t know how, so we’ve been trying to give them the access to people that could at least say hey, here’s how I do it, here’s how I do it consistently, here’s the techniques you can use, and off you go.

Tara:  Yeah.  And you know, you said something about the conference and the boring content piece makes me think about it, too, which is that comedy, I think, for a lot of people can feel risky, especially if you’re a business owner and you know, maybe you’re afraid of offending someone.  Maybe you’re afraid of just even turning people off who maybe don’t have the same sense of humor as you, or who don’t see the same connections as you.  Is there any like advice that you can give us or tips that you personally use to make your content funny but not risky, or maybe it’s to get over the idea of risk in the first place when you’re making something more humorous?

David:  Yes, I think it’s the latter you said there.  You will see somebody using humor at the moment in America who you would say his position is probably the most serious maybe in the whole world as a leader.  He has more risk for using humor if it goes wrong than anybody else, and he has one of the highest pressure jobs in the world, and he is funny, and he is called President Obama, and everything he does is funny, and there’s no risk involved when he uses humor, because he’s working with people who know what they’re doing or he understands the techniques behind it or his speechwriters know that.  So if someone at the highest, highest levels in the world at the moment showing everybody that hey, humor is a medium that I need to use to reach people, and guess what, it hasn’t been risky when I’ve been using it, it’s been well-received and well thought out.  And I think if you focus on not trying to be the kind of making a joke with a target and a witty observation and you focus on the storytelling side that it translates.  It transcends cultures.  The storytelling aspect of it makes it unrisky.  So I think … I was telling a friend, actually, yesterday that I was fundraising for this charity event, which we continued to raise money for people with spinal cord injuries, and I’m dyslexic, so I was sending out emails forever asking people to donate and buy a ticket, and of course, as you do in business, you end these emails in any way, kind regards.  Well, of course, being dyslexic, I was mixing up the g and the t, and every one of my emails that went out ended with kind retards.

Tara:  Oh, no.

David:  Which oh, I nearly died when I saw that, and to make it worse, I was spelling my own name wrong half the time, so I was calling myself Davdi, and my Indian friends are like, “Goddammit, your name is now Davdi.  You will be Davdi to me forever.”  I was like no, no, it’s just a mistake, and it even got worse when I tried to be like office cool, and I dropped the kind part, and I was just basically writing retards at the end of all these emails.  So I was mortified.  Funny, because it’s a story at my expense, it’s personal to me, and it doesn’t carry that weight with it that oh, humor might go wrong, and I think if you stick to stories rather than opinions, you can recreate that safely in any form of content you like.

Tara:  Wow.  I have to say, Michael and I were just laughing our heads off at that story, too.

David:  Yeah, thanks very much.  Painful for me, funny for you.

Tara:  And that should be a takeaway for everyone here, too.  That’s awesome.  So you have a CreativeLive class coming up.  Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect to learn there?

David:  I do, yeah.  I’m laying an egg about that one, because as I said, I don’t like to be on video, but at least I know this stuff sideways from teaching it to other people.  So part of me’s looking forward to it, and part of me probably won’t sleep between now and then, but I think it’s going to be on September 15th, and we’re going to be in studio, and I do have one really cool special guest with me, and we’re going to be tackling how to make things funny, how to add humor to all your public speaking, we’re going to be looking at a bunch of the world’s leading talks and breaking them down and teaching people comedic techniques and just train you how to boring things funnier, things that you didn’t think could be funny, to make them a bit more entertaining.  But yeah, should be fun.

Tara:  Awesome.  That sounds really, really great.  So what’s next for you and for your business?

David:  I’m going to try and … well, I’ve basically been testing behind the scenes on Funny Bizz to turn it into an actual marketplace where we’re not an agency type, so at the moment, I’m kind of the block on what’s funny and not, as we have someone sitting in the middle, and I’d really like just to put comedic copywriters in touch with businesses who need their skills.  So we’ve been working on growing that out, and we’ve done the conference now four times, so we’ll continue to do that.  It’s been super popular.  Next one’s in San Francisco next year, so I keep going with that and see how we go.  I won’t be using Dragon Dictate anymore to try and write books, I’ll tell you that for free, but yeah.  So I’ll be keeping busy.

Tara:  Awesome.  Well, that’s a great place to leave it.  David Nihill, thank you so much for joining me.  This has been a real pleasure and incredibly enlightening.

David:  Thank you very much.

Tara:  Find out more about David Nihill at or  You can also find David’s class on CreativeLive at

Next week, my guest is Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur in a variety of industries from apparel to home goods to information marketing.  Melanie and I talk about the role of digital marketing in product-based businesses, how she manages working with her spouse, and the importance of company culture, whether your company is large or small.

CreativeLive is highly curated classes from the world’s top experts.  Watch free, live video classes every day from acclaimed instructors in photography, design, audio, craft, business, and personal development.  Stream it now at 

This has been Tara Gentile.  Discover how to accelerate your earning as a small business owner with my free class, Revenue Catalyst, at

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., A CreativeLive podcast.  Download more episodes of this podcast and subscribe on iTunes.  If you appreciate this kind of in-depth content, please leave us a review or share this podcast with a friend.  It means the world to us. 

Our theme song was written by Daniel Petersen, who also edited this episode.  Our audio engineer was Kellen Shimizu.  This episode was produced by Michael Karsh.  We add a new episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. every week.  Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen to podcasts so you never miss an episode.

How to Generate Revenue (Even When You’re In a Slump)

How to Generate Revenue (even if you're in a slump)

Launching a new product isn’t likely to get you out of a slump.

Neither is having a blow-out sale.

There comes a time in every business when you need to generate revenue — fast. And it could be for any number of reasons — something didn’t play out as you had expected, unforeseen expenses, maybe you had to take some time away…

Your bank account starts looking a little lonely and you need to generate revenue quickly, and without resorting to coupons or deep discounts.

I always encourage my clients to look at their business as a money machine: it has different parts that may need to be added, greased up, or fueled, but once you get it working properly, you should be able to turn on the money machine and generate revenue any time you need to.

How do you reconfigure your business to be a money machine?  A few dos and don’ts.

1) DON’T try to launch a new product.

Launching all the time, creating products all the time (even if you’re an idea person like me!), and selling all the time is exhausting. Beyond that, it’s not building a legacy for your business. It doesn’t give your prospects something to remember your business for.

But most importantly, constantly creating new offers doesn’t set you up for making more money in the long run.

Every time you launch a new product or program, you’re only tapping into a very small segment of your potential customer base (the Early Adopters). If you stop there, other customers might trickle in over time but most people won’t even know you have that offer available.

This is a great case study on this very topic by Jeff Goins.

That just puts your business back in the position of needing to generate revenue with another new product. It’s a vicious cycle.

2) DO send a sales email about your best-selling product or service.

Instead of a vicious cycle, your business needs a system for marketing, launching, and selling your best offers over & over again. And when that system also includes products that work together to create more value for your customers and your business than they could alone, it’s a Business Model.

When your business has that kind of system in place, revenue becomes predictable and more consistent. At the very least, you know when it’s coming. Best of all, you’ll find that your offers start to generate more and more revenue each time you enter a sales cycle because your customers are expecting them, planning for them, and eager to buy them.

What’s your No. 1 seller? There are people on your list who haven’t bought this product or service and likely would, if they knew about it. Even when we think “everyone” has bought our main product, there are people you’re connected to who still don’t know it exists.

Sometimes the best way to generate new revenue is to focus on old assets. What could you craft a fresh sales cycle for?

3) DON’T wait until you have the perfect “next big thing.”

I know you: you’re sitting on a great idea. You haven’t figured out how to make the time, find the money, or craft the sales process for that new product or program you have in mind.

Pro tip: don’t.

I’m not saying don’t make the thing, I’m saying don’t make the time.  Because more time isn’t going to magically appear in your schedule.

Instead, write down everything you know about the first iteration of this product. Then write down all the reasons your best customers or most engaged audience members need it. Put those things together with a strong pitch and…

4) DO beta test a new product or service with a small group of hand-picked customers.

…present it to a select few you know will dig it.

In Quiet Power Strategy, we call this the Living Room Strategy, and it’s a simple way to test out a new idea on a few of those Early Adopters who will be thrilled to work with you. You’ll generate revenue while doing the work to create the product, instead of waiting for the product to be ready & waiting to get paid.

5) DON’T discount your prices.

It seems to me that whenever entrepreneurs need to generate revenue fast, their first thought is to discount — but really, that’s backward thinking. If you lower your prices, you actually have to sell more to make up the difference.

In addition, discounting, sales, and coupons train your customers not to buy. It tells them that if they just wait long enough, there will be a sale and they can pay less.

6) DO consider raising your prices or adding a bonus.

Instead of discounting, consider if there’s a way you can raise a price or add more value.

There are two ways you can approach raising your prices. If you’re regularly selling something that’s been on the shelf for a while, you can just raise the price to give you a revenue boost.

The other way to tackle this is by giving your customers a heads up on an impending price increase. There’s probably something sitting on your “shelf” that could use a 10–50% bump in price. Craft an email that lets people know the price is going up and they have until a certain date to get the item/program/service at a lower rate.

If you’re not ready to raise prices, you can run a promotion instead of a sale, and add a bonus to entice people to take action. Promotions are very different than sales, but they almost always motivate people nearly as much.

In almost every case, I encourage you to add value instead of subtracting from your price.

7) DO repackage and reposition.

Many times, businesses have several smaller products that can be repackaged as a bundle with more value. In fact, the repackaged product might be a more compelling offer than the individual products.

If you’re a jewelry designer, you might try to package up a necklace, bracelet, and pair of earrings. Simple, right? But the result is a greater value than the sum of its parts; it’s now a night-on-the-town kit.

If you’re a health coach, you might try to package a recipe book, coaching program, and one-off session with you. Again, simple. And again, the result is a higher value than the sum of its parts; it’s now the method, the accountability, and the day-to-day information you need to succeed all-in-one.

8) DO reach out and find a collaborator.

You can also bundle your products or services with someone else’s to increase value for both of your audiences.

For example, a yoga studio and a massage therapist could come together and create a package deal to help people de-stress.  A handbag designer could pair up with a clothing designer to do trunk shows. A copywriter could pair up with a graphic designer to offer a single price for a finished ebook.

The possibilities are practically endless if you look at what else your customer might need.

The best collaborations often start from very small joint ventures. If there’s someone in your network you’ve been dying to connect and create with, this could be the time to jump on it.

By your powers combined, you could whip up a workshop or small event that will have both of your audiences asking for more. You get the chance to test drive the partnership, your audiences get value that they couldn’t have gotten from either one of you individually, and you generate some revenue to boot.

The trick here is to keep the scope small and the expectations for each party well-defined. That benefits both of you… and your customers.

The truth is, once you get the pieces in place, your business should be able to generate revenue any time you need it.  Of course, that doesn’t matter much if the prices you charge don’t support your growth. Enter your email address below to get my FREE “Price for Growth” course:

Consistency Builds Brands, Complacency Destroys Them: Inside a Recent Experiment

Consistency propels brands. Complacency destroys them.

Photo by Jessica Hill Photography


I’ve now been offering the same business coaching program & methodology for over 3.5 years. We’ve iterated & improved the program every time we launch it. We even changed the name once.

But the program and message have remained consistent.

This spring, we had our best program launch ever. It also fell far below my expectations based on our preliminary data.

When we surveyed potential clients who had not signed up, we got the usual answers–but more than anything else, people told us they were tired of taking courses they didn’t use.

When I originally created the Quiet Power Strategy program, I had this objection in mind. I wanted to create something that wasn’t a course and was more akin to 1:1 coaching but helped you create a wider entrepreneurial network at the same time.

But that selling point had gotten lost as the program scaled, the market was flooded with courses, and our audience grew.

I wanted to remain consistent because I believe in the power of the QPS work to solve your business challenges–but I also knew it was time to change things up, to get creative.

I needed to change things up to keep our work relevant, forward-focused, and supremely useful.

So I got really specific with that core objection:

  • Why aren’t people using the courses they buy? (They’re not making time.)
  • Why aren’t people getting results? (They’re not completing the courses.)
  • Why aren’t they executing? (The course teaches but it doesn’t help them plan. It’s focused on lessons, not implementation.)
  • Why are people feeling so burnt out on learning and even their own businesses? (Courses try to solve surface level problems, not core challenges.)

Then I rebuilt our offer to combat each of these objections:

  • What if you had to make time for the program you purchased?
  • What if the format of the program made it easy to complete?
  • What if the program ended with a customized plan in your hand?
  • What if the program was designed to dig deep into the core problems of a business?

What would it look like to fulfill all of those constraints on the program?

I took my initial concept to my mastermind groups: a 2-day virtual planning retreat that took a group of clients through the process from start-to-finish, with support and coaching from me along the way.

They loved it.

We talked about how to make it even better and then I set the first experiment in motion.

Last week, we ran that experiment.

20 clients worked with me for a total of 16 hours over 2 days. We went through the entire process from start to finish. The energy, peer support, and depth of work were astonishing.

We finished Day 2 with 100% completion by our participants.

Inside the Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat

Inside our 2-day Quiet Power Strategy Virtual Planning Retreat — that’s my buddy Tanya Geisler laying down wisdom about the Impostor Complex!


The feedback has been effusive:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 12.21.20 PM

While it’s too early to know for sure, I have a feeling we’ll see more results for more members of this cohort than we’ve ever seen before.

I’m not telling you about this so that you want to join us for the next Virtual Planning Retreat–though I’ve got more on that soon.

I’m telling you this because, when things are “working,” we wait to change course until we’re forced to change course. 

We grow complacent about our strategy because it’s what always worked.

Consistency does propel brands.

But complacency can ruin brands–even if you’ve grown complacent around something great.

If you’re feeling any part of your business or life constrict around you, there’s a good chance that making a fundamental change could pump new life into the whole endeavor.

This doesn’t mean you change something on a whim, it doesn’t mean you adjust course because you’re bored, it doesn’t mean you do something different because the shiny object over there is calling to you.

Change it, intentionally, when it’s no longer serving you or your customers.

Use creative constraints to discover a new opportunity.

Engineer a new path forward.

In this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., Jennifer Lee gave us an example of necessary change, too. She’s no longer running her popular video summits and she talked about why and how she made that change. Click here to listen or read the interview.

And, if this whole 2-day virtual planning retreat idea sounds pretty cool, click here to learn more about it and sign up to get information on the next enrollment. When you do, we’ll also send you some exclusive free training opportunities.

List-Building, Discerning Priorities, and Choosing Creative Freedom with Danielle LaPorte

List-Building, Discerning Priorities, and Choosing Creative Freedom with Danielle LaPorte

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The Nitty Gritty:

  • How Danielle prioritizes her rapidly expanding business. From self-expression to impeccability to visibility.
  • Why trying different approaches to publishing helped reveal more about her own expression.
  • How Danielle is growing her team, and a look at her “blue sky” team that is working on secret side projects.

Today, we’re talking with my friend, Danielle LaPorte, creator of the Desire Map and the author of The Fire Starter Sessions, as well as the wildly popular Truthbomb series. Danielle has developed tattoos, jewelry, and day planners all to support her vision for desire-focused, awakened life. Her site,, has been deemed the best place online for kickass spirituality and was named by Forbes as one of the top 100 websites for women.

Danielle spoke passionately about her need to create art, her book’s journeys through the publishing world, and her new upcoming book, The Manifesto of Encouragement.  Listen closely for the unusual way Danielle approaches working with her team.

“Our priorities don’t fluctuate; they’re always the same. I as a human being, woman, person need to be self-expressing or else I’ll die.”
— Danielle LaPorte

Danielle LaPorte is a writer, thinker, and soul strategist. She mixes personal development with spirituality and business. Her life and ambition revolve around self-expression, which she hones as a skill.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Danielle many times. Each time, I come away with a sort of burning in my chest. Danielle fuels my ambition. Not blind ambition, but grounded, purposeful, meaningful ambition.

When I sat down for my interview with Danielle for the latest episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit., I was prepared again to burn. I was not disappointed.

First, we discussed how Danielle prioritizes her rapidly expanding business. She’s added tattoo, jewelry, and candle collections to her personal development product line over the last 2 years.

Her priorities are simple. Everything revolves around self-expression first and foremost. Then, she prioritizes impeccability. Finally, she prioritizes visibility—or grow the freaking list!

Danielle and I also talked about the many different ways she’s published her work: self-publishing, digital publishing, hybrid publishing, and traditional publishing. Each revealed a different form of self-expression she called herself to.

We also discussed how her team has grown—and the “blue sky” team she’s building to work on secret side projects. Wouldn’t you love to have one of those?!

If you’re ready for that on-purpose, grounded burn of ambition too, jump on over to iTunes to listen to this and all of the other episodes where today’s creative entrepreneurs share strategic and tactical components about how to make money, take control of their businesses and pursue what’s most important to them.