– Entrepreneur Extraordinaire. Learn from this Artist, Designer, and Catablogger.

February 28, 2007

If I had to describe John Unger in one word it would be passionate. I’ve never met John in person but I’ve enjoyed the enthusiasm that comes through in our virtual interactions. I first ran across John’s work via an article over at ProBlogger, about using a catablog to sell niche products online.

I wanted to feature John this week because he’s a great example of an entrepreneur that’s had success following his heart and passion in life. Many times entrepreneurial ideas are shot down because they don’t have enough money making potential. We all know the starving artist stereotype; they struggle to make a living off of their work. John didn’t let that stop him from finding and taking advantage of opportunities that allow him to make a good living doing what he loves.

You can read more about John’s background and accolades on his about page. I sent over a good number of lengthy questions to see what we could learn from John’s experiences and he obliged by sending back some even longer answers. Read on to delve deep into the life of an entrepreneur extraordinaire.

Being an entrepreneur can be a lot of work. On your about page you say “Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.” You run 5 different blogs in addition to creating your art. How much sleep do you get?

The first few years were pretty much 18 hour days, 7 days a week. When I’m launching a new project I usually go non-stop until it’s live. During crunch times like that, I’ll work until I pass out, get up, make coffee, and go back at it. I’m trying to find a better balance these days because I just got engaged and now have children in my life. So I take more time for family but as far as sleep goes, I still usually only manage 5-6 hours.

Do you have a system for managing your time between your different projects and interests or is it pretty much by the seat of your pants?

It’s pretty much seat of the pants but there are patterns. My daily workflow has a fairly predictable pattern: I spend the morning catching up on RSS feeds, answering emails, making phone calls and dealing with management or marketing work. Afternoons are typically spent in the studio because I like to be at my most alert when working with power tools, machinery or heavy chunks of steel. In the evening, I do more work online or focus on design, strategy etc.

As far as which project takes the forefront, that depends principally on demand and partly on what I’m most excited about at the time. If I have a major commission, such as a large mosaic mural, that will occupy a bigger part of my focus. If I’m launching a new blog or business, I’ll typically focus more on that.

Ultimately, I’m much more driven by what moves me than what pays the bills. I’ve got enough going on that the bills all do get paid, but I pour the most energy into the things that feel fresh and new to me. Generally, I’ve found that each project I fund with the proceeds of the last will eventually build it’s own momentum and begin to pay out, whether I intended it as a commercial venture or not.

A good example would be my TypePad Hacks blog. TypePad Hacks began as an attempt to get Six Apart to add features to TypePad that I thought would improve the service for small business bloggers. Most particularly, I was hoping to get them to build a storefront interface for TypePad. For me, the bottom line I was looking for was better software to use to sell my other work via my blogs.

I put about three solid months into the launch of TypePad Hacks, which I was able to fund through sales of my art. TPH is almost a year old now, and the design team at TypePad has made several of the changes I requested. In the mean time, I got busy finding ways to hack the template code of TypePad blogs in order to make many of those features available to bloggers who were willing to dig into their templates. The passion I poured into the site has paid off in many ways… I’ve made my blogs better, helped a lot of other bloggers who have then spread the word, talked with people at TypePad about working for them and developed enough of a reputation that people began hiring me to do design even though I never officially announced that I’m for hire. Work just drops out of the sky. Based on the last couple months, I’m pretty sure that the design work I’m doing because of the Hacks blog will be my most lucrative venture yet, despite the fact that I had absolutely no intention of generating income from the blog when I started it.

I guess the lesson here is that what Hugh MacLeod says about blogs is really true, “they’re a great way to make things happen indirectly.” You don’t always know where your passion and drive are going to take you, but if you’re willing to follow along and to put in the hours on quality work, the rewards will find you.

That’s it for today’s questions with John. Come back tomorrow to hear more about his entrepreneurial journey.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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