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😵‍💫 Flying solo

A framework for creative thinkers

Weekly deep dives for independent thinkers in marketing and business

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LOOK AROUND

Tech, marketing, business, and culture are all changing faster than ever.

Don’t worry, fv/pro has you covered.

This newsletter will be a weekly deep dive for marketers, creatives, founders, and anyone else interested in how all of these forces will affect all types of businesses —with specific attention paid to marketing best practices and where AI is headed.

fv/pro is here to help you advance your career by making sense of the rapid developments in these sectors with a short, insightful deep dive.

As one long time reader put it, there’s an inherent optimism baked into fv/pro.

I think the reason why is simple: there is joy in smoothing out the over-complicated, and in making the overwhelming, simple.

Long time fv/ readers know that I love the idea of progressions —a concept borrowed from fitness, actually. The idea is to break up complicated movements into smaller, more manageable pieces. It’s a powerful hack.

fv/pro is here to do just that. If you’re a busy exec, a time strapped founder, or an ambitious side hustler, get ready for actionable insights. fv/pro is designed to add value right away.

And if all this is not for you, that’s ok too. My aim is for this newsletter, and/or our sister publication fv/ to be your favorite thing in your inbox.

Read on for the first-ever issue of fv/pro. And thanks for being part of it.

How creative thinkers can build operational consistency

The end of the year is an awesome time to take a step back and zoom out.

What trends were everywhere —and which have really stood out?

One trend I’ve noticed, among creative and marketing professionals, is the rise of the solo marketing entrepreneur.

Over the past year, I’ve chatted with many friends, former clients, colleagues, and fv/ readers who have leapt into solo marketing entrepreneurship.

Some are acting on a long-standing desire. Others are doing it out of necessity.

PLOT TWIST

Many of them have taken the leap without much of a plan.

These are clever and driven people, who've built successful advertising/marketing careers at large agencies and brands, off the back of their innovative thinking, and top shelf intellect.

BUT.

Despite their obvious skills and expertise, I’ve observed a bit of tension as they take their first steps into the world of entrepreneurship.

OUTSIDE THE BOX, OR INSIDE A SYSTEM?

Creative minds —especially those who came up in advertising agencies— are wired a bit differently from most.

The creative advertising industry thrives on reinvention, and on novelty.

In a professional environment where the freshest idea wins, reinventing the wheel isn't just encouraged; it's actively rewarded.

Unfortunately, this mindset —powerful as it is when it comes to generating groundbreaking campaigns— doesn't always align with the foundational principles of a successful business operation.

The agency people in my network who have launched their own solo marketing practices tend to find themselves at a crossroads.

They’re actually caught, between their well honed instinct and skill for creating novel solutions, and the systematic rigor that running a business requires.

Sidebar: If you run your own thing, you know this all too well. Regardless, it’s worth reminding everyone reading this that it’s really, really, really difficult to build a business without ruthless consistency.

Repeat: Running a strong business is not about the strength of your idea, your well designed app, or your clever and flashy marketing (and I love clever and flashy marketing).

Running a strong business —whether you’re a music producer or a plumber— is about your repeatable systems, processes, and actions.

TRUST

The reason why is actually pretty simple. Consistency is the backbone of reliability aka trust. And trust is the single most important factor that a customer bases their choice on.

And you don’t have a business without customers.

So, whether it’s the quality or quantity of your product, or the timing or delivery or presentation of your service, or the tone and tenor of your communications, being unwaveringly consistent is what transforms good ideas into great businesses.

This bears repeating: doing the small things right, over and over, become the big wins that fuel any brand, product, or service’s success.

You may be nodding along to this. Some of you might be like, “yeah, of course.”

But here’s the rub: this consistency and repeatability fact often clashes with the creative persons’s instinct/training to constantly seek the new and not-yet-done.

In my view, many creative people have an in built disadvantage when it comes to scaling businesses because we are trained to create the new and the unique —while business are built on tried and true systems and repeatable actions.

In my experience, the most value creative people at an ad agency can add is to deliver the untried and the untested, aka the unexpected.

As a result, many creative entrepreneurs find themselves struggling to find balance, as they grapple with the need for operational consistency, while maintaining their creative training.

CREATIVES, MEET SYSTEMS. SYSTEMS, CREATIVES. (HOPE YOU GUYS GET ALONG)

A huge part of fv/pro is going to be uncovering observations, sharing my understanding of why that’s happening, then showing you what you can learn from this situation, or do to take advantage of it.

On that note, I’m pleased to share a new framework that I’m calling “THE TRIP.” It’s a good way for anyone (creative, or not) to dip their toes in the waters of daily systems —especially the intuitive and free wheeling right brained amongst us.

(If you are already a systems person, feel free to forward this to your favorite right brain.)

THE TRIP

This framework is really simple. And it starts with…

TThe clearout

Before diving into your day, take 15 minutes to jot down everything swirling in your head. Some people call this journaling, but we’re going to call this mental purge the “creative clearout.”

Your purge can be ideas, tasks, worries, or even that one weird dream about talking tacos.

The point: getting your purge on paper clears your head, setting the stage for a more focused day.

Important: The clearout isn’t what Prof. G calls “yogababble.”

It’s actually scientifically proven to work.

H • Enjoy that Headspace for a moment.

Then…

EElevate 3, with authority

Look at your clearout and identify the top 3 things that need your attention. Yes, just 3. If you’re not sure what criteria to use as you rank them, good news: it doesn’t matter.

Remember, you’re using THE TRIP to dip your toe into systems, perhaps even for the first time.

So, tackle the “Elevate 3” task with a creative’s eye. Remind yourself that productivity can be playful.

Once you’ve got those three…

TTime block like a total boss

Allocate specific chunks of time for each task.

How long should these time blocks be? It’s up to you. (Google: the Pomodoro technique for inspo). Manageable time blocks will helps keep creative (wandering) minds on track, without feeling trapped.

Pro tip: check out what happens when you Google the words “25 minute timer.”

OK, this next one is a bit of secret weapon— and a bit controversial.

RReward yourself, in your own way

In other words, literally give yourself a reward for each time blocked task you complete.

It doesn’t matter what exactly the reward is. Just incentivize yourself. “When I complete X, I’ll get Y.”

(This is a bit controversial is because the science is actually uneven on whether or not self incentivization is an effective long term strategy. By most accounts, intrinsic motivation is the goal. But, again, we’re using THE TRIP to start using systems for the first time. It’s OK.)

The idea is for your time blocked day to become this secret little road map for yourself, where completing tasks unlocks these little self-defined joys, adding motivation to some of the more cumbersome or mundane tasks on your list.

It doesn’t matter if that’s long term sustainable. We’re doing this in the here and now.

Then…

IInterrogate what worked

At the end of the day, take a moment to reflect.

What worked? What failed?

For instance, maybe you need longer time blocks. (Or shorter ones?) Maybe your clearout needed to be more detailed, more focused, or just plain longer.

Finally, on Thursday or Friday, or whenever you mark the start of your weekend, keep the introspection going as you…

PPlayback the week

End your week with a rewind. The point is to tailor your structure to suit your unique creative rhythm.

To do that, set aside some time to map out exactly what you've achieved. There may have been dead ends, and detours but there were probably some serious wins as well.

Zoom out: reviewing the week isn’t just about checking off some boxes, or even keeping tabs on what you did and what you didn’t do: it's about appreciating the overall arc of your week’s work, about understanding your patterns, and —of course— about planning your next week to be even more productive.

Well, there you have it, creative thinkers.

If you haven’t tried a system before, here’s your first.

Here’s to your creativity fueling consistency in 2024.

More: 

Understanding the power of intrinsic motivation »»

What Ben Franklin can teach you about time »»

Written by Jon Kallus. Thanks for reading.

Problem: Startups find marketing overwhelming (confusing and expensive).

Solution: I put 15 years of experience into a 50 page, step-by-step playbook that walks startup founders through how to create a clear, practical, and actionable marketing plan themselves.

If you'd like the introduction, table of contents, and first chapter of this playbook free, simply reply to this email with the word ‘playbook.’

“Jon, this thing is a gift.” — A recent playbook recipient