Why Clarity is Crucial to Becoming a Successful Digital Entrepreneur

How the Authority Rainmaker conference paved the way to a six-figure line of business for one attendee …

In order to succeed in the business world, identifying and embracing your skills are crucial. Without them, you run the risk of creating a business that simply fails.

In this 26-minute episode Darrell Vesterfelt and I discuss:

  • Allison, their story and being entrepreneurs
  • What it’s like to work at home by himself
  • Ideas, ideas, and more ideas
  • What is Author Launch, and the target audience
  • Finding clarity and identifying your skills
  • The power of networking in the business world
  • Authority Rainmaker and the impact it had

The Show Notes

Why Clarity is Crucial to Becoming a Successful Digital Entrepreneur

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.

Brian Gardner: Let’s talk about our brocation that’s coming up here in December. Me, you, Joshua Becker.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Johnny boy.

Brian Gardner: Yes, Mark Chernoff for sure. Five of us for sure going, and then hopefully a few more.

Darrell Vesterfelt: I’m just going to say it out loud, I want Jeff Goins to come because he keeps talking about how he wants to come, and then he’s still non-committal about it. The gauntlet has been laid, Goins. Come for brocation.

Brian Gardner: Okay. This show is not about that. Maybe we should introduce you.

Welcome to No Sidebar. We’re having a little bit of fun today. I’m here with Allyson Vesterfelt’s husband, also known as Darrell, who really is Darrell Vesterfelt. He does have a name. He’s not just Allison’s husband.

Darrell Vesterfelt: You always do that to me, man.

Brian Gardner: I know. I’ve got to stop. I have a complex that I have to do it that way. You have your own name — it’s household. You’ve got a lot of great things to talk about, to share.

Darrell Vesterfelt: I am my own person, Brian.

Brian Gardner: Apparently, this is now the Darrell Vesterfelt show. How about that?

Anyway, welcome to No Sidebar. Everybody, this is another happy Wednesday as I always introduce the show. We are here to discuss the struggles around being (and becoming) creative entrepreneurs.

Together, we identify what stands in the way of building your business and growing it fruitfully. Today, we’re just having some fun, a little conversation. Darrell, welcome to the show.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Thanks for having me, man.

Brian Gardner: Let’s just start this thing off. I always play off the Allison thing. For those who are devout listeners to the podcast, you know who Allison is. She wrote the book Packing Light, which indirectly helped launch this whole No Sidebar movement. She was on a number of episodes early on in the season and is a very frequent contributor over at NoSidebar.com. I want Darrell to have a chance to talk about who he is, set apart from Allison.

Darrell Vesterfelt: That’s great. That’s my coming out party. I like this.

Brian Gardner: Darrell, welcome to the show. Tell us who you are, where you live, what you do, and a little bit — not too much — of what you do because we’ll get to that later. Give us the 30-second DV story.

Allison, Her and Darrell’s Story, and Being Entrepreneurs

Darrell Vesterfelt: We joke about it a lot saying that I’m Allison’s husband, but that’s really where it all started for me and a lot of respects. What I do is based primarily around the work that I did for my wife. When we met, it’s actually a fun story. We actually met on GoinsWriter.com, so we owe our marriage to Jeff Goins. I joke with him about that a lot. She wrote an article four years ago, and I read it. Then eight months later we are married.

That’s probably a story for another day because it feels that it could fill a whole episode. When we met, she was the artistic writer type and I was more of the business producer type, kind of behind the scenes. We do joke about that a lot as I am Allison’s husband, but that’s really where I started learning my job is supporting creative entrepreneurs to become entrepreneurs I guess.

I did it with her, helped her get a book contract, helped her build an online course, helped her grow her following online, and have been the behind-the-scenes guy for her and for other folks as well, which has just been really fun process. Now, I serve as a teammate to creatives and help them in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Brian Gardner: Your wife was your first client per se. Maybe not even paid in that matter, but she helped you cut your teeth I guess, right?

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. It’s actually how I tried to get my foot in the door with the conversation with her. I was really attracted to her, and I said something about helping her set up her WordPress site. That was like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been struggling with that so much. I would love your help.” I remember that I was in as far as the relationship goes when she handed me over the password to her site to help her out.

Brian Gardner: Now, that’s extremely geeky come-on sentence type of thing. Instead of “you smell good” or “your eyes are amazing,” you said, “I will help you make money and become something.” She said, instead of something romantic as, “Oh, you had me from hello,” it’s, “Here’s my password.”

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. I knew that I was in. It was like that if you jump, I jump moment. She throws her password out to this guy that she has never met before, and I receive it as the greatest love gesture in the history of our relationship.

Brian Gardner: It’s a very geeky and now very Titanic.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah.

Brian Gardner: All right, so Allison is a creative writer. Up until a few months ago, she was freelancing on her own, which means she worked at home. You were there to support her, and you were trying to identify what you wanted to do on an official level other than just support her. That means that you were also at home.

Now, I can see how creatives and non-creatives in the context of a home and a relationship could possibly be oil and water during work hours. What’s it like to be at home with someone who’s creative when you’re not necessarily wired that way?

Darrell on What It’s Like to Work at Home with His Polar Opposite

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. That’s a really interesting question, Brian. Not only are we creative and ‘non-creative,’ we’re also husband and wife. I remember early on, there were several conversations as we try to figure out the tension between high-level thinker creative and then very practical thinker entrepreneur where I would try to push her in directions, or I’d try to tell her things that she should be doing, or I’d try to reign her in a little bit — which is really hard to do for a creative person. You can really easily stifle someone’s creativity by putting hard lines and hard boundaries and things like that around.

I remember several conversations that we first had where she would stop typing, look over at me, glaring at me out of the corner of her eye, and say, “I am not your intern.” That’s fun. It was an interesting thing, man. I think as a married couple, it adds a level of complexity to it even more because we want to have a romantic and loving relationship.

Then at the same time, we have to have a professional relationship, so there’s lots of dynamics that we’ve had to work through over the years of working from home, working together, being basically on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as practicality and entrepreneurship, strategy, and then artist. Bringing those two things together is a really difficult thing, but also a really powerful thing when you can find a process.

Brian Gardner: Yeah. I painted it a little bit like this is going to be a difficult thing for you guys, but in reality, if you guys have both been wallflowers and no one was there to help ship, you may not have anything online. You know what I mean? There’s that oil and water — probably a bad analogy to be honest, but it’s more of a complementary relationship when you have someone who is and someone who isn’t and they come together. It’s actually, in this case, probably better unequally yoked.

Darrell Vesterfelt: We actually call it the artist and the producer. There are several artists and musicians and people who have amazing talent and amazing craft, but without a producer behind the scenes, their craft does not get seen by people.

Brian Gardner: Is this an opportunity? I’m interrupting you because this is an opportunity for me to drop something about Begin Again with the whole creative artist and producer. That movie is a perfect example of someone who had the talent, didn’t have the discoverability, he came in, he took her, and the rest was history.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. I agree completely. That’s a perfect image of what my relationship with Allison has been like and with several other clients has been like — where the ideas are there, the content is there. They could write for days, or they could create content or ideas for days. But it’s a matter of thinking through a strategy to get that to the people who want to hear it, or want to see it, or find it valuable. That artist-producer relationship is one metaphor that we have taken in our relationship and our working relationship together that has helped us to know which role each of us plays.

The longer that we’ve done it, the more that we begin to realize that I can just trust her. She’ll write something, and I don’t have to produce the heck out of it. As our relationship has matured and grown, we understood our roles and the boundaries. The benefit of each other, we can lean on each other in a way that we didn’t before, and I think the end product ends up being better.

Ideas, Ideas, and More Ideas

Brian Gardner: Okay. Let’s not sell you short yet. You mentioned the word ‘ideas.’ Often, we use the word ‘ideas’ and associate that with someone who’s creative, but from a business standpoint you have a ton of ideas. In the back of that, there’s creativity, just more on the entrepreneurial sense. You and I joke a lot about — every other day we’re on Skype pinging each other — “What do you think about this?” Or, “I might go get this domain name, or now I got to go get social media accounts because I’m going to brand something.”

Sometimes I think we enable each other a little bit. You have a lot more leash than I do because I have a job and a partner in a company and all that, so anything I do is just fun and personal. You have a responsibility within your marriage also to bring home some money. Let’s talk about the idea of ideas. We did a show about the whole trying to focus on too many ideas and this and that a few weeks back. But ideas, they’re everywhere. How do you know which ones might have value or potential?

Darrell Vesterfelt: That’s a great question. I don’t think you really do know — which is part of the struggle and part of the allure of ideas. It’s really, really, really fun for you to have a new idea for a few reasons, but mainly because there’s not a lot of resistance at that point. I think I own like 150 domain names, maybe not as many as you. I think that you have quite a few as well.

Brian Gardner: I’ve purged. I own maybe 20 now, if that doesn’t convict you.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Oh wow. Maybe I need to No Sidebar my domain list.

Brian Gardner: Exactly.

Darrell Vesterfelt: I think that’s really sexy to have ideas. What I’m starting to learn is ideas are actually, potentially, an obstacle for progress. That having 15 new ideas is going to stop you from finding the one idea that’s going to work. I’ve struggled with this for the last year, and just in the last six months, I started to find some clarity about which ideas to focus on, which ideas to just put into ‘idea folder.’ I actually have a basecamp project that I just call my ‘idea folder,’ and I’ll just drop ideas in there.

If I have an idea, I’ll just drop it in there. That way I don’t lose it. I can go back to it later, but it’s not soon that I have to start executing on right now. I think it’s really tricky. Ideas can be somebody’s greatest strength and their greatest weakness. Somebody who has tons and tons of ideas, it’s either somebody who is executing one or two of those really, really well or somebody who’s trying to execute 50 of them and not doing any of them.

Brian Gardner: Hey, man, you’re talking about me now.

Darrell Vesterfelt: I’m talking about myself, too. You and I both know that.

Brian Gardner: One of those ideas that you had, I was around when it formed, and it’s a brilliant domain name. I love the domain name by the way. This project that you guys have called Author Launch. Let’s talk a little bit about that. This is one of those ideas that came through and was produced and is out there. You’re working with some really great people in this. Just talk a little bit about what is Author Launch, who’s working with you, and where you want to take it.

What Is ‘Author Launch,’ and the Target Audience

Darrell Vesterfelt: Author Launch, I helped my wife get a book contract just about three years ago, and then I’ve helped about 15 other people write and produce and publish their books — either self-publishing or with the relationship of a traditional publisher. We kind of had a context of how this whole process works. We also saw a great need. When we see that, we have a little bit of expertise and then we see this great need.

We read an article in The New York Times that said that 85 percent of Americans that they surveyed said that they wanted to write a book at some point in their life but probably never would because they don’t know how. I was like ding, ding, ding, flashing lights. Ideas start popping up. So we had the idea for Author Launch, which was ‘let’s create a video course that will give somebody a process to write their book.’ Give them one small step every week for 46 week, which is about 10 1/2 months, which will help them have the idea, write, edit, and publish their book.

Darrell Vesterfelt: We started working on that last fall and launched it this January. Basically, seeing an opportunity, having an expertise to an extent. I don’t think we’re the greatest publishing experts in the world, but we are experts in helping people overcome the obstacles and overcome the excuses that will get in front of them to writing the book that they’ve always dreamed about writing.

Brian Gardner: You mentioned you don’t have the expertise. Obviously, you have some because Allison wrote a book and she published it and all that, but this is a good take home nugget for those who are listening. You don’t have to be the know-all, right? In other words, if you’re going to walk into something with the producer model or mentality, it’s okay that you don’t know everything. It’s really, really smart at that point to bring people in that have maybe more expertise or just a different point of view.

Honestly, that’s what Copyblogger Media is right now just from a company standpoint. Brian had a number of relationships with people who were doing things that he wasn’t, but he had the idea, right? The initial idea, let’s build a whole platform. I need all of these pieces. All of these people are good people and are succeeding in what they’re doing.

For you in Author Launch, you brought in a number of very reputable authors to work with you and help produce some of these training videos. Who were the people that you had with?

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. Before I say who the people were, Brian Clark and Seth Godin had a podcast about the impresario on the Rainmaker podcast. That’s exactly what you’re talking about here. Saying, “I’m not necessarily expert,” because there are some people who have 20, 30 years of expertise. They’re just brilliant at it, but I wasn’t that person. I was the Impresario. We brought in bestselling authors, two New York Times bestselling authors, Donald Miller and Crystal Paine, who runs the site MoneySavingMom.com.

Both of them have big platforms and have also written books that have hit the New York Times Best Seller list. We brought them in as experts in building and making platforms. Also, Don is known more as a writer and memoirist, whereas Crystal is maybe known by half a million people who read her blog. We brought people in like that who have different expertise.

We brought in Jeff Goins, who has worked with smaller publishers and done really well and, also, has created a platform basically from scratch so is a little more relatable than somebody like Crystal, who’s a New York Times bestselling author. We brought in Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist, who had written a self-published ebook that became a Wall Street Journal bestseller. We brought in Sarah Mae. We brought in my wife Allison, another guy named Carlos Whittaker, and another guy named Tyler Ward.

All people who just have different perspectives. They all come from a little bit different background and
the way that they approach writing. We just brought them in. We also had people like Derek Webb, who has an amazing program called NoiseTrade Books that’s an ebook promotion that can help people promote an ebook that will help them build an audience to sell their book someday. We just brought in as many people as we could that had different perspectives and different backgrounds to bring as much expertise to the table.

Again, I didn’t have 20 or 30 years of expertise, but combined between all of these people, 30 books have been published, and six of them have been bestsellers. I thought there’s a lot that people could learn from having multiple experts sitting at the table.

Brian Gardner: So in your case there’s two things and these — you even asked me maybe a month or two ago to identify, “Brian, what are my skills from the outside? What do you think I’m good at?” The two things that, for me, have always rung true, and Author Launch is a great example of these in use, was one, the idea of ideas. The skill of having ideas and being able to think things up that are underlying and brilliant and stuff like that. The other one is networking.

The Power of Networking in the Business World

Brian Gardner: You know a lot of people and you know a lot of people in high places, for lack of a better term. You would not have been able to execute Author Launch or pitch Author Launch to the people you mentioned — like Jeff and Crystal and Joshua and so on — without having those relationships in place, right? Otherwise, you’re just another guy with an idea and trying to pitch them. You have no cred and all of that.

So networking, just the act of getting to know people online and sharing like-minded ideas, and really just supporting other people’s work because you’re able to pitch them the idea and have them interested and involved, so networking. We don’t have to discuss this per se, but I just wanted to point out how important networking can be when it comes to building an online business.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. I completely agree. It goes back to the impresario mindset. It’s just connecting the right people, to the right places, but to do that, you have to have relationships. We started thinking about Author Launch in October of last year. We developed the concept in November. We filmed in December and launched in January. That’s a pretty aggressive timeline, but in reality, it’s taken us 10 years to build those relationships. It wasn’t just a matter of having this idea one day, and then going out and making it.

We actually put in the hard work of attending conferences and showing up for some of these people’s book signings and building relationships over the long term as friends. “Oh my gosh, we’ve built these relationships over the last few years, now let’s connect relationships in, let’s connect the idea in,” and the output of that is a great idea. It was a great product and something that we can turn into a business.

Brian Gardner: For those of you who are interested, AuthorLaunch.com is the website. It is a custom-designed site built on the Rainmaker Platform, which I’m very happy to have been a part of. Speaking of Rainmaker, a few months ago, actually last month in May, we went to an event called Authority Rainmaker. We put it on. I invited you and Ally. You had been there last year. This year Allison came out, which I was very happy about.

We all had our own great experiences there for different reasons. We don’t need to talk about mine, but you went in sort of confused and came out of it with an amazing amount of clarity in terms of you, your skills, what you want to do as the next step, right? The evolution of Author Launch and what else is Darrell going to do. Let’s talk about that because I think that’s really the meat of this right now.

Finding Clarity and Identifying Your Skills

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah, and that’s a good conversation to have because it has taken me a lot of time to figure out and feel comfortable in a place that I knew was congruent with who I am but also was smart in the way that I’m ‘building my business.’ We talked about how having 50 ideas can be a problem, but that was always a problem for me because having one idea, I got bored so quickly. I felt for a long time, years actually, I felt like something was wrong with me.

Everybody’s telling me, “You’ve got to focus on one thing. Just do one thing. Focus, focus, focus.” Then I would do it. I would quit everything else. “No more design projects. No more social media management. No more of this random stuff that I’m doing. I’m going to focus on this.” Then I get two months in, and I’m bored. I feel stuck and trapped, and I don’t know what to do. I thought something was wrong with me. I just think I needed to focus in a different way. I don’t need to focus on one project, but I need to focus on one process.

Authority Rainmaker and the Impact It Had

Darrell Vesterfelt: When I was at Authority, we start having conversations with people and started building these relationships. People were asking what I did, and I was telling them about Author Launch. I realized, “Wow, I’ve actually helped two other people build courses.” This is something I’m actually becoming an expert at. Actually, both of those courses had pretty good success and saw over six figures in revenue come in, in just a short amount of time. Now, we had just launched Author Launch, which was eclipsing both of those.

I’m sitting here, and I’m realizing, “Wow, people are asking me a lot about how to build courses.” That’s the new thing that everybody is wanting to get into. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t need to focus just on one project. I need to focus on a process, and I actually have a process for helping people identify an opportunity, building a curriculum, and launching a course.” The light bulb flipped on halfway through the event, and I was like, “Here it is.”

I don’t have to feel trapped by one project because I can work on multiple projects. I have to focus on one process. I’m bringing in the focus. I’m actually working, just launching an agency called Good People Digital, where I help people through the process of identifying an opportunity, identifying an audience, launching an online product. Right now, that’s course work.

Brian Gardner: You and I both know, we’re friends with, even some of the people at Authority Rainmaker that we talked with, I know so many people just because of what I do within Copyblogger. I know so many people who have such great content, an amazing audience. I always salivate for some of these people because I’ve gone in and done site designs for some of them. I’ve been behind the scenes a little bit. I’ve understood the traffic numbers and things like that. That’s part of what I need to know as I’m trying to figure out the design.

It’s staggering. The couple of hundred hits a day I get on my own blog or the few thousand I get at No Sidebar are like nothing compared to the real platforms. Some people don’t even know they have a platform, but they’ve got one. Brian and Robert have talked a lot lately over on the New Rainmaker podcast with building content and education in online and how big that’s becoming. Thankfully, I get to vicariously live this, “Hey, all these people should do X thing,” just through you by watching you take this.

You’re skilled at it. You’ve got the relationships via networking, and I definitely have no doubt you’ll be able to take these people and really thrust them into the larger sphere of revenue just based on what you bring to the table.

Darrell Vesterfelt: And it brings our conversation full circle, right? The artist and the producer. The artist — some of my clients, they have millions of people that visit their site a month. All they care about is delivering amazing content to their audience, and that’s amazing. I don’t want them to lose that. I don’t want them to lose that creator-artist mindset. As soon as they do, it starts to tarnish the purity of why they started doing what they’re doing. I think that’s the power of team.

Let’s bring the artist and the producer together. That’s the spot that I’m living in is identifying these artists who have such great opportunities to take their ideas and concepts and thoughts to a new level, and they don’t have to become somebody they’re not — which is the whole idea behind Good People. A lot of people think that, “To market my product or projects or to create more revenue, I have to change who I am or become somebody that I’m not.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. My artist or my relationships with my clients, I don’t want them to change. I want them to be exactly who they are. I bring a relationship and a skill set to the table. We patch the artist and the producer together in a relationship. Then we can have something for audiences to engage with. We’ve tied it all up in a little bow here today. We brought it all around full circle.

Brian Gardner: Yeah. Now, I’m having total Jerry Maguire flashbacks when you’re talking about the artist and the producer. Can you imagine Cuba Gooding Junior trying to be his own agent? How well would that have gone?

Darrell Vesterfelt: He sits down at the table with the Cardinals, and he’s like, “Show me the money!”

Brian Gardner: Yeah, exactly. What he needs is not Bob Sugar. He needs Jerry Maguire, who’s going to actually love and care about him, which is you in this case. You’re in it not just to make the money but because you’ve got the friendship beforehand, the relationship that was built, and out of that, can only become good things.

Darrell Vesterfelt: I think that’s what all entrepreneurs ultimately want, right? To become more of themselves and to make money doing it. I want to have a career and make money and sustain my business and my concept and my ideas, so I can provide for my family or myself — but I don’t want to become somebody else in the process. I think that’s exactly what we’re talking about.

Brian Gardner: All right. Darrell and I are like caged monkeys at the zoo where, if you go over to iTunes and leave a comment and a rating and talk about how much you enjoyed us being on the show together and talking. I really feel like Darrell’s a brother in my life, and today’s show really came naturally for me. I know that we have a lot of like-minded friends, a lot of like-minded ideas, and there’s a chance that I may bring him back maybe next week, maybe on a recurring role. It all depends.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Don’t play with my heart.

Brian Gardner: No. If people applaud for us, we’re going to perform tricks, right?

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. We will, we will.

Brian Gardner: We’ll climb ropes, do flips, eat peanuts, and do stuff like that. No Sidebar, we’re right at 30 minutes. I’m going to cut it off because that’s my promise to those who listened.

Darrell, I know you’ll be back because you won’t let me not have you back. Thank you for being on the show. Love you big time, and cannot wait to see what you do here on the next six to 12 months.

Darrell Vesterfelt: Yeah. Thanks, Brian.