🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 044

Month 11 Strategy Update, 2 interesting ways to win with content, friction, dislocation, game theory, the scientist & the lab rat

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as an entrepreneur & creator.

It’s been 44 weeks (11 months) since I went full-time.

TODAY’S TOPICS:

📈 | Month 11 strategy recap

🧱 | 2 interesting paths for winning with content

🧐 | 4 helpful creator frameworks

A reminder that the internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride 👩🏻‍🚀

MONTH 11 STRATEGY RECAP

Month 11 Stats:

Posts: 52 (43 shorts, 5 longs, 4 emails)
Views: 2.1M (1.58M IG, 54.2K YouTube, 154K Tiktok)
Audience Growth: +5,132 (net followers)
Income: $12,364 ($161K annualized run rate)

It’s time for another monthly strategy review.

My goal is to release video versions of these each month. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see the video version, check out my first video recap from Month 10.

Month 11 Reflections:

I came into this month with 3 goals:

  1. 🎥 | Get YouTube long-form to a place where I’d a) be excited to make weekly videos and b) have a world-class team doing the editing/packaging

  2. 🤝 | Launch my content community

  3. 📱 | Reinvigorate my shorts channels through experimentation with new shorts formats

Here’s how I did:

  1. | YouTube - We hit the mark for releasing 1 YouTube video/week in Month 11. I now have a world-class team in place for both editing and packaging that is turn key (let me know if you also want this and I’m happy to connect you with the right people). The videos haven’t started ripping yet, but they will

  2. 👀 | Community - launching soon ;)

  3. | Shorts - My hypothesis was that my split-screen style stopped performing well because it’s kind of hard to follow the storyline with so much on-screen movement. I bit the bullet, took the ego hit, went back to square one, and tested split-screen vs greenscreen

    1. Over the last month, I made 8 non-branded shorts. 4 were made in my classic split-screen style and 4 were made using the greenscreen cutout style

    2. Of the 4 split-screen videos, they drove 115K views/video, +425 new followers/video, ~20s avg. watch time (on IG Reels)

    3. Of the 4 greenscreen videos, they drove 210K views/video, +372 new followers/video, ~16s avg. watch time (on IG Reels)

    4. Important to note that anyone can pull any conclusion from any data (and this probably isn’t a large enough sample size). The observable takeaway is that split-screen is better for depth, watch time, and driving new followers (prob. bc it’s more 1/1), but worse for viral spreading. Greenscreen is better for viral spreading but not as memorable, drives less followers, and doesn’t retain viewers as long

    5. I will note that for my split-screens, I tried to be much more conversational in delivery, used less crazy editing, less loud music, no SFX. I will probably double down on this style for next month since it’s easier and more fun for me to make

Tactically, I’ve also noticed a significant uptick in follower growth in Month 11 compared to Month 10 (+71%) and Month 9 (+57%).

I believe this came from switching my bios to directly call out “who it’s for” vs “what I’m talking about.”

I’ve mentioned followers don’t really matter anymore for content performance, but follower growth is helpful to gauge if your content + bio combo is attracting and landing your ideal fan demographic.

I’ve mentioned this in prior Blueprint posts, but having extreme clarity on who I’m making stuff for has been a massive unlock.

I now have a master plan that I’m 100% sure will work.

Useful Learnings & Observations:

The more I play this game, the more useful nuggets I pick up that help level up my strategy. Here are a few currently on my mind:

  • 💰 | This is obvious, but brand deals as the sole revenue source isn’t durable or ideal. I’ve been using brand deals to cover team burn, but will need to diversify and add new revenue streams. More coming on that soon (I have several interesting things in the works here). I decided moving forward in these posts, I’m only going to reflect on initiatives/projects I’ve actually launched vs things I plan to do in the future

  • 🎯 | When you’re a creator/entrepreneur in the early innings, and you’re working alone, it’s extremely important to decide what step you must take next vs dwell on all the steps you could take. This is the ABZ framework I talked about in Week 36. What is the highest leverage next step to tackle right now? Just do that. Ignore everything else

  • ©️ | Playbooks are super helpful for figuring out the general blueprint, but don’t fall into the trap of fully copying others. The only way to win big in content is to be unique. It’s a much easier route to be a derivative, but that will often lead you to working on things you don’t actually like, fatiguing your spark. Ex: No one was writing an email newsletter like Blueprint. I could have copied the “Creator News // AI News” playbook but that didn’t inspire me or feel unique enough. I like this much better and now we have a cult following. Use others to inspire direction, use yourself to become exception.

Pulse Check:

In future months, you should be able to look at “pulse check” and quickly get a sense for the current state of the operation in this moment.

  • 🚀 | Content: I have 5 main content formats live (shorts, Blueprint newsletter, YouTube long-form, podcast, IG story coffee walks). In Month 11, shorts and Blueprint have been super consistent, Youtube and IG Stories are becoming consistent, and podcast has been inconsistent

  • 💰 | Monetization: Solely from brand deals. One dimensional and inconsistent

  • 👀 | Vision: I’m super stoked for where I’m at and what’s to come. As long as I stay alive, this will become massive. A remember for everyone building something…if you want it to happen, make it happen. Run through the wall.

WINNING IN CONTENT

Steve Varsano, Founder of @thejetbusiness

2 interesting paths for winning in content

I’m going to spend the next decade screaming about how important content is and why it’s a cheat code for every business.

Every so often, I come across great new blueprints for how to win with content.

Here are two that you should know about…

1. Luxury “for X” Guys

I keep seeing this guy on my TikTok feed. The account is @thejetbusiness

It’s this super well-dressed, savvy looking dad figure that sells private jets.

His name is Steve Varsano…and he is crushing.

2.1M followers on Tiktok, 846K on YouTube, 120K on IG.

His content is a combination of live sales calls, meeting with clients or walking through an interactive board that indexes all available private jets in the world.

Now why does this content format work so well?

It works because he’s showing the behind the scenes of something that is typically gated.

Let’s keep going…

Another example is vookum (2.2M on TikTok, etc.).

Vookum has a bit of a different angle…he’s a NYC kid that flips luxury watches in the NYC Diamond District and live records his trades.

He’s built an entire world of characters, phrases, and lore around his craft.

But again, the same playbook…

Take something that is previously not shown (buying/selling luxury watches) and make it accessible.

This got me thinking…is this format only applicable for buying & sell luxury goods?

Not a chance…it shows up everywhere in media.

  • Pawn Starsshows the behind the scenes of pawn shop negotiations.

  • Storage Warsshows the behind the scenes of people buying and flipping goods in abandoned storage containers.

  • Shark Tankshows the behind the scenes (although a bit exaggerated) of angel investors investing in startups.

This format works because people like getting a peek around the curtain…seeing things they don’t normally see.

If you’re trying to figure out how to use content to grow a personal brand or business, this is one of the best blueprints to use…take something people don’t normally get to see & show them.

Every business in every vertical should have a version of this.

2. Creator Expansions

Another completely different scenario…

You are reading this, understand that content/creators are going to be increasingly important in the future, want to participate in the wave, but don’t want to go all-in on being a creator yourself.

Here’s an idea for you…I call it “Creator Expansions.”

Creator Expansions are building a non-existent content channel for an existing creator that is in your zone of genius but outside of theirs.

Let me give you a couple examples.

Colin and Samir are super popular YouTubers in the creator niche.

YouTube is what they love, it’s their primary format, and they crush it there.

But because they are video first creators, they haven’t explored many other content formats.

They have adapted their videos for shorts and have a video podcast, but have completely ignored email newsletters.

So this group approached them, Smooth Media (ex-Morning Brew employees), and said, “Hey…we’ll build your email newsletter for you.”

So Smooth Media does what they’re best at (writing/operating newsletters) and gets the benefit of Colin and Samir driving tens of thousands of subscribers to grow the newsletter faster than Smooth could have on their own.

That newsletter is called Publish Press and has 100K+ subscribers.

Smooth gets to keep a piece of the ad revenue, and for Colin and Samir, it’s free money for zero extra work.

I call this Creator Expansion because it’s basically like Smooth built a guest wing onto Colin and Samir’s house and gets to keep a portion of the rent revenue.

If you have a content relevant skill, you could do this too.

Let’s explore this with another example…me.

I’m decent at newsletter writing and okay at video, but there are lots of things outside of my zone of genius…coding, design, LinkedIn, networking, etc.

Someone scrappy with a proven track record could reach out to me and offer to be my dedicated developer or LinkedIn engine.

With the right deal structure (they win when it works but it’s no cost to me for their time until then) and incremental work for me (as little as possible), this could be a way for someone to take advantage of my creator momentum without being a creator themselves.

Here’s the thing about the world…everything is on the table. Any deal can be made, you just need to get in front of the right person and make the right ask.

The trick is that most people doing this would reach out with an offer like this, “Hey, you pay me $5K per month and I’ll build unlimited software for you.”

This is not a good deal for the creator because it requires them to lay cash up front and take time to vet whether it even makes sense.

Too much friction.

A better ask, and one that works almost every time, is to permissionlessly work for the creator without pay, and participate in the upside if it works.

“Hey, I think you could use a product like this. I’m a developer and I started working on it for you. Should I keep going? If so, can I keep working on it and would it be something you’d want to launch? Would love to come up with something like this for you that could drive additional monthly revenue”

As industries grow, there are tons of opportunities to build the service/support arms as extensions for players that already have momentum.

In the creator world, this could include things like:

  • Video editing

  • Audio editing

  • Copywriting

  • Newsletter writing

  • Email sequencing

  • Paid ads

  • Software development

  • Software Design

  • Etc.

MISC. CREATOR FRAMEWORKS
4 Helpful Creator Frameworks

I love coming up with frameworks to help explain work, life, and success.

Here are a few that have been on my mind lately…

1. Friction

In physics, the Coefficient of Friction is the amount of force it takes to get a stationary object to move.

If you put a block on ice, it will have a much lower CoF than a block on rubber.

The same framework can be applied to projects in work and business.

For every task, there’s a friction line.

Based on your skill, internal willpower, and capacity for learning new things, you decide what you will and won’t do.

For example, creating short-form videos happened to be below my friction line

Even though it was a brand new skill to learn, the level of effort was not great enough to deter me from doing it daily because of my high willpower + capacity for learning new things.

On the flip side, creating long-form YouTube videos is above my friction line.

My patience and willpower is such that I could force myself to do it once or twice, but avoid doing it consistently at a high level.

Gun to my head I could force it, but the friction is very very high.

This explains why, for the first 10 months of my creator path, I didn’t make YouTube videos.

Here’s why this is helpfulwhen you have a task that you determine important and vital to the success of the mission, and it is above your line of friction, you must hire for it immediately.

If I deemed YouTube important (which I do), as soon as I realized that it was above my friction line, I should have bit the bullet and hired for it.

Instead, I procrastinated several months and delayed the compounding process.

This assessment for friction is a helpful way to look at the tasks you’ve been avoiding.

Either they aren’t actually necessary for you to complete the mission (and you should ignore them), or you should hire for them right away.

You goal is to get to a point where you spend your entire day doing things that are below your line of friction (your zone of genius).

2. Dislocations

A dislocation in a financial market is when some stressful scenario creates wide asset mispricings.

For a period, there is some arbitrage, or some delta, that can be gamed in the market.

Eventually, as efficient markets do, these dislocations close and the arbitrage goes away.

Your goal, in any business, is to find these dislocations and ruthlessly attack them before they close.

Let me share a relevant example for the creator world.

Having a large Instagram following is valuable for many reasons — it opens doors, drives traffic to owned products, helps you spread your message, etc.

Prior to 2020, it was extremely hard to grow a large Instagram following organically from scratch.

This is because social platforms were based on follower-graphs.

As a new user, there was no great way for your content to be seen by non-followers unless your existing followers shared it.

This difficulty in growing an Instagram following created a premium for having one.

That premium translated into free goods, access, money, etc. Lots of good things.

But in 2020, there was a dislocation…

Something happened that made it easier to grow an IG account…the launch of Reels (praise be TikTok).

Essentially overnight, Instagram changed their algorithm and made it super easy for smaller creators to get their content in front of millions of non-followers…through vertical video.

This meant if you created Reels consistently, you could also grow a huge following and take advantage of the embedded prestige that came with it.

And that’s the most interesting part…although it became easier to grow a large IG following, the prestige and subsequent access/money/goods that came with it didn’t diminish.

And that’s the dislocation.

If you saw this, and had the ability to make short-form videos, you should have put all of your energy during this initial 6-12 month period (and I’d argue the window is still open)

Because if you did that, it would have drastically compressed the time to unlock the benefit that was previously so hard to access.

Dislocations don’t happen often…most common is when new platforms launch for the first time.

But every so often, something massive changes and creates this temporary window to a shortcut.

Look out for these and sprint at them.

3. Game Theory

If I’ve learned one lesson in the last 11 months, it’s how important it is to be playing the right game.

Before I start this one, let me be clear…life is not all about money.

All jobs come with a variety of perks and factors that matter differently to different people.

For me, my goal was to make as much money as possible, as fast as possible, so I could buy permanent freedom and then decide how to spend the rest of my time (I also wanted to give this time freedom to my family).

Because of that, I look at most things from a wealth maximization (without sacrificing health + family) lens.

And when it comes to money, choosing the right game is critical.

I’ll explain with a quick example…

The corporate game is rigged against the employees.

At my previous job, I could have worked 100 hour weeks, been the best employee they’d ever seen, and my earning potential was capped at ~+20% of the median.

If the goal is wealth maximization, that was the wrong way to spend my time. I should never have been playing that game in the first place.

Instead, I should have played a game where I had uncapped upside mapped to skill + effort…this typically comes with owning a business (or even owning stock in the business you work for).

It’s easy for me to say this looking back now. I wish I’d had someone in my ear that understood this. I didn’t…but if you’re reading this, now you do.

Turns out, this same framework can be applied to every aspect of work.

If PTO is what you’re after, then you should be working somewhere with unlimited PTO (with a culture that doesn’t punish you for using it, in a role that won’t hold you accountable negatively if travel 10x per year) vs something with only 10 days of PTO per year.

Whatever it is you’re optimizing for, make sure you’re playing the best game to unlock it.

I spent 7 years toiling in the wrong one. Don’t do that.

Be the Scientist & the Lab Rat

With any pursuit, your goal is to decrease the amount of time between one rep and the next, maximizing the learning in between.

Scientists are people that study things. They are the ones that strategize about experiments, decide the conditions, and then observe what happens. These are the people that listen to strategy podcasts before they act.

Lab rats are people that do things. They are the ones on the front lines. These are the ready fire aim people that are taking actions over and over.

Most beginners like playing the scientist role because it lets them do the fun part…thinking.

Most doers like playing the lab rat role where they just run forward at the first thing they think of, assuming this is the best move.

I’ve found the best outcomes come from being both the scientist and the lab rat…you’re equally interested in both the strategy and the doing.

You don’t let overthinking and overstrategizing slow you down between reps, but you also don’t machine gun action without pausing to reflect on if there’s a better way to approach

Be both…the scientist and the lab rat.

WEEK 44 CONTENT

My best content from last week:

  1. 💰 | The best ways to monetize as a beginner creator: Watch

  2. 🏈 | Netflix just paid the NFL $150M to buy Christmas Day: Watch

  3. 🧐 | Companies should be doing this to get free exposure: Watch

  4. 🧑🏼‍🚀 | Blueprint 043 - Creator drop kits, GPT-4o might change education forever, Blueprint video, Zuck's new content strategy: Read