Sahil’s Secret To Doing More With Less
A special interview with Sahil Lavingia, Founder of Gumroad, the creator-economy leader.
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Chip Wilson once said, “You only have 40,000 days on this earth before your time’s up.”
A natural question that follows for me when I read that quote is: if I only have XX amount of days, am I chasing goals that society has pre-decided or am I chasing goals that I’m personally aligned with?
The bottom line is many of us have goals on our plate because others put them there:
Buy a big home
Go to a big school
Drive a nice car
You know the rest
What I’ve found most helpful this year is asking myself what if I could drop the societal goals that don’t matter to me to free up space to chase goals that give me life.
That exact thought led me to Sahil’s book, The Minimalist Entrepreneur: a breakdown of how he started building a simple sustainable business that didn’t need to be the next billion dollar Facebook.
This one excerpt from the first chapter caught my eye:
“Companies like mine may not grace the covers of glossy magazines or inspire Hollywood biopics, but they drive real, positive change and empower their founders, customers, and employees alike.
I know that now, but it took me years to decouple my self-worth from my net worth and to realize that I hadn’t failed.
I had succeeded.”
The moment I read this, I knew I had to invite Sahil for an interview.
Setting It Up:
Who? 👀 Sahil Lavingia is the Founder of gumroad.com, an e-commerce platform empowering creators to build sustainable creative businesses.
What? ❓ Sahil uncovers the secret to building an engaging community, how he refines his craft and why he believes #buildinginpublic can be the key to unlocking brand growth.
Sahil was swift to respond to an email about a feature on PBB and I couldn’t wait to share his thoughts with you all. Here it goes…
[Note: Sahil’s responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.]
JH: What's the best personal branding advice you've ever heard?
SL: Gumroad is going through rebranding and Karen, who is leading the project, highlighted a really crucial point:
Your brand is a promise, and you have to execute on that promise over time. And it will take time. But ultimately it is what you do that will prove your brand.
I think it's a promise that you have to deliver on over time. It highlights the sacred relationship that exists between you and your community.
JH: What’s your #1 tip for building a community around your brand?
SL: Build-in public ,and specifically, learn in public. There are a lot of people who want to build audiences but they are not comfortable sharing their progress with people.
Take those weight loss before and after pictures; what is that for you and your skill, product, or community? I do this with my drawing, my coding, and other stuff about my life - I really try to communicate the journey that I’ve been on, which inherently requires some level of vulnerability. I think it's the chasm that many creators are not able to cross (but is so necessary!).
JH: What's your process for refining your work/testing?
SL: Honestly, I just stare at the screen, I sleep over it, I just constantly tinker - I tinker more than you think would be reasonable.
(Joel: I love this.)
An interesting story is from when we were designing the Pinterest logo. Basically, the designer that was hired said that he smoked a bunch of weed and drew the P hundreds of times. What it does is - eventually you get bored of doing the same thing over and over again and it forces you to be creative. So sometimes I leverage quantity to get quality.
But a much better approach is getting feedback on your work. Either from potential customers or your friends or your mom. Basically, getting outside yourself is the key!
JH: Do you believe in building in public?
SL: 100 percent! I am actually announcing this new thing - that we’re tentatively calling weekend project weekend. It’s basically a weekend for building weekend projects. This is how I built Gumroad back in the day. My goal with this is to encourage and help other folks to do it and I’m going to be live-streaming myself doing this, for a totally new business.
I think the one reason why building in public is so important is to help the next generation get into business a bit more easily.
JH: What have you learned shipping your new book?
SL: The very specific thing is how much effort goes into audiobooks. We’ve recorded 12 hours of audio over 2 days and that’s going to get consolidated into 4 hours of audiobook.
So just how much editing is involved, I learned this with writing, but not with audio.
There is so much you never see.
We went over 40 - 50 covers to choose the final one.
JH: Special thanks to Sahil for joining us on the Personal Brand Brief this week.
📲 ACTION BYTES
Today, I want to leave you with 2 questions:
“If I could only work 2 hours per week on my business, what would I do?”
“What if I could only subtract to solve problems?”
(Via Tim Ferris)
💡RIFF OF THE DAY
21 years ago this week, the world thought the internet was a fad. What’s gonna be the next fake fad that if you made fun of now, you’d feel like you missed out 21 years later?
Thanks for reading! I try hard to make it a newsletter you look forward to each week, so if you have any suggestions about content you’d like to see or ideas that sparked, let me know.
Stay outta’ trouble and catch you next week.
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