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170 – Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

170 – Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

What does it mean to run a business that’s barely visible to the outside world and how do we manage our egos along the way?
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Listen to our full episode on Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player.

Five Key Takeaways for Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

1. Have a “Core Content Stack”

Our articles, email newsletters, two launch periods (Spring and Fall), affiliates, and podcast continue to build us an audience slowly and steadily. This is a strategy that works for us because we get much more qualified subscribers who really want to put forth effort in order to grow their business intentionally. Our core content stack may be simple, but simplicity helps run a business smoothly and calmly.

2. First be visible to eventually be invisible

You may be at a different stage in business. It’s important to remember that, when you start or if you don’t have traction yet, you might really need to be visible. But if you’re also the type of person who does not want to be creating content every single day, running a calm, “invisible” business might be for you if you can go at a slower growth pace (Read: It takes longer to reach your revenue goals).

3. What do you want to be doing in your business?

It may take time to know this; it took us two years to know exactly what we wanted to be doing with WAIM to grow our audience and attract customers. You have to know what you need as opposed to what your ego is screaming to feel validated.

4. Social media can give you the illusion that you’re in control

The incentives are broken when it’s such a race to the bottom in terms of attention. We didn’t like the way that it always made us feel beholden to whatever the algorithm(s) wanted. You can replace social media with any marketing experiment that’s helping people discover who you are and what you’re selling. It doesn’t just have to be social media; it can be lots of other things, but you have to experiment and find what [actually] works.

5. Get specific to attract your audience

It is still possible to run a profitable mid-six figures business while being invisible. We would be really strategic about where our ideal audience hangs out and try to really hone in on who they are. This works for us, but no one can guarantee it will work for you.

BONUS: Know your ego triggers.

If you are someone who’s trying to make the pivot to being an “invisible” business owner, it’s just about knowing what your ego triggers are going to be. It’s also a good opportunity to swallow that pride and ego and have confidence in yourself and the business that you’re running.

Show Notes for Episode 170: Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

This week, we wanted to chat about the current state of our Wandering Aimfully (and Teachery, for that matter) business. We’ve come to realize to most people we meet or that find us, our business is kind of “invisible.” We aren’t creating much new discoverable content besides this podcast and even that exists in a bit of a vacuum. Yet, our business has never been healthier from a growth and profit standpoint!

So… what are the pros and cons of being “invisible” in a very noisy and loud online biz world? How do we manage our egos when nothing really looks that impressive from the outside looking in? And, could you start an “invisible” business tomorrow and reach your enough revenue goals?

🎙️ Other podcast episodes mentioned in this ep:

#086 – The art of making it hard (LOL)

#157 – How we built a $500,000+ affiliate program in 3 years

#140 – Are we ever going back on social media?

Full Transcript of Episode 170: Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

⬇️ You can also download the .TXT file of the transcript

Caroline: Welcome to What Is It All For? A podcast designed to help you grow your online business and pursue a spacious, satisfying life at the same time. We’re your hosts, Jason and Caroline Zook, and we run Wandering Aimfully, an unboring business coaching program. Every week, we bring you advice and conversations to return you to your most intentional self and to help you examine every aspect of your life and business by asking, What is it all for? Thanks for listening. And now let’s get into the show.

Jason: And I’m here, too. Hey, congratulations on making it to episode 170 of our podcast.

Caroline: Are you talking to me?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Oh, thank you.

Jason: To you.

Caroline: Thank you so much.

Jason: The person that I interviewed and then who interviewed me.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: We got some good feedback.

Caroline: How about that interview podcast we did?

Jason: I think it was pretty good.

Caroline: I was talking about how maybe that needs to be like a twice a year or an annual thing, different topics, obviously. That was like about kind of our childhoods a little bit and stuff.

Jason: Maybe we could really get into, like…

Caroline: Go ahead.

Jason: Our frisbee time. We had those couple of years of Frisbee where we just got so hard into Frisbee.

Caroline: Yeah. People don’t know about that.

Jason: Yeah, that was a different time. Welcome back to our podcast. It’s great to have you. We didn’t do any pramble the past two weeks, so any Life in Portugal updates because we just wanted to get in. We knew those episodes were going to be a little longer, but let’s do some Portugal updates because we have some fun things and then also maybe just some life updates. Tears of the Kingdom is really all that is.

Caroline: Why don’t you start with Tears of the Kingdom?

Jason: I get to start with Tears of the Kingdom?

Caroline: Of course.

Jason: Okay. First of all, I just have to say that Tears of the Kingdom started for me, unlike how it started for probably anybody else in the world, which was a Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom themed scavenger hunt, whereby my wife…

Caroline: Your wife.

Jason: Who is the co host of this show…

Caroline: Correct.

Jason: For my birthday, because my birthday was three days after the release, which was on May 12.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: Did a scavenger hunt in our home, where I had to go into the laundry room and sit quietly on my phone…

Caroline: For the setup.

Jason: Set up. Set everything up. Now, you did do many hours of setup before this.

Caroline: Yeah, there was some arts and crafts involved.

Jason: Research. You learned about muddlebud, you learned about fusing.

Caroline: Okay.

Jason: You learned about cooking recipes. I mean, you really learned the ins and outs of the game.

Caroline: Let me just…

Jason: You learned who Zelda was.

Caroline: I did do some research on before Tears of the Kingdom came out.

Jason: By the way, if you don’t know what this is, it’s the Nintendo Switch game, new Zelda game.

Caroline: Jason… It’s his favorite game of all time. I did do some research about what the new Zelda would entail.

Jason: Right.

Caroline: And so I took that research and then I was like, it’d be really fun to do a scavenger hunt because we’re big on birthday…

Jason: Little experiences.

Caroline: Less gifts and more experiences. Just memories. So over the years, we’ve done quite a few of these little things. And so I was like, Scavenger hunt this year, Zelda themed. Let’s go. Did some research. And then I thought ChatGPT could help.

Jason: Who we call in our house?

Caroline: Tobor.

Jason: Tobor. That’s robot backwards.

Caroline: Robot backwards.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And Tobor helped me.

Jason: You were typing away one night at like, 9:00 p.m. And I’m like, who are you pen palling with right now? You were, like, writing a long thesis statement about something and it was you chatting with Tobor.

Caroline: People are writing think pieces about the end of our civilization due to AI. And I think that that’s correct. I think we should really be interrogating these things. Meanwhile, I’m over here being like, Can you write a clue in the format of a cryptic poem about muddlebud and fusing two weapons together for my husband’s scavenger hunt? So meanwhile…

Jason: Also, I love that in some of the responses, because you showed me some of the responses, Tobor was affirming you. It was like, that was a great idea.

Caroline: Yes. This is my favorite part about Tobor is, if you’re nice to ChatGPT, ChatGPT will be nice to you. So we were actually collaborating on this. Tobor would write a clue and then I’d go, that’s perfect. Exactly what I was looking for. Can you tweak this line? Like, maybe include such and such? And Tobor be like, That’s a great idea.

Jason: Sometimes I look over you when you’re on your laptop and you’re, like, smiling at it. And I’m like, I bet she’s having a conversation with ChatGPT right now. So anyway, that was how my birthday weekend kicked off.

Caroline: So what happened?

Jason: Well, I want to go through the whole thing.

Caroline: There was one reveal moment that I forgot about. I go to get you in the laundry room because I set up…

Jason: Yeah. The big reveal. So I get to leave the laundry room. I open the door to find, as I open the door into the kingdom, is one Princess Zelda waiting for me. You were wearing, like, a dress, but with a bathing suit top over it.

Caroline: At the last second. I hadn’t planned on dressing up, but at the last second I was like, you know, take this over the top.

Jason: Cosplay.

Caroline: Just a little cosplay. A little very DIY cosplay.

Jason: Never once in our entire relationship of 13 years have we ever dressed up.

Caroline: We don’t even dress up for Halloween. And I looked around the house and so I wore blue pants, a cover up, a bathing suit top, and I attached…

Jason: Paper ears.

Caroline: Paper ears to my headband. And so anyway, it went over great.

Jason: It was great. Yeah. There were just multiple little treasure chests that I found that were made out of paper with colored pencil.

Caroline: Did I look up an origami tutorial about how to make those treasure chests? Yes, I did.

Jason: It worked out well. I ended up fusing a wooden spoon with some aluminum foil, which is great. It was just fantastic. But anyway, the game itself is absolutely wonderful. I could start a whole new podcast. I was telling you last night before bed, I think this is top ten most enjoyable, kind of like, experiences of my life is playing this game. And I think it’s worth just like I know that sounds really stupid to a lot of people.

Caroline: Fine.

Jason: But it’s worth…

Caroline: Great.

Jason: I think taking note of those things in your life where you can really… I’m so trying to just enjoy every moment of this game because I’m never going to get to play this game again. I’m never going to get to jump into this entire universe. For me, it’s why I really understand people who get so into D and D or they have game groups that have been going on for 20 years with their friends.

Caroline: If it brings you joy, that’s what life’s about, finding the things that bring you joy. And it’s a masterpiece. I mean, all of the art and the thought and the game mechanics.

Jason: It’s incredible. The music, all the different mechanics of the game. I was telling you, if anybody is listening to this and they’re on the fence, like, oh, I’m a gamer, like, I was thinking about playing it. Make sure you play Breath of the Wild first because it really is helpful to understand the game. And it will give you so much more appreciation for Tears of the Kingdom because that game is three times larger. And I was telling you, there’s really only one puzzle mechanic in the first game. In the new game, Tears of the Kingdom, there’s like five different puzzle mechanics, and it just makes it so fun. You get to build little things, get to fuse things, as I mentioned, no spoilers. And it’s just incredible.

Caroline: It also makes me happy because you’re not somebody who has a ton of things that… You don’t relax a lot is the best way I can describe it. We go to the beach and you after like 10 minutes, you’re like…

Jason: Three minutes.

Caroline: Can we throw the ball?

Jason: Frisbee. We get back into our frisbee game. Yeah.

Caroline: So you’re not great at just kind of just relaxing and doing something to turn your brain off. This is something that brings you so much joy. And so when I look over and you’re playing and you’re just like a little kid, it makes me happy for you.

Jason: I would say this is also one of those few things in life where I’m super even keeled. Like, if you look at a line of my…

Caroline: In terms of your emotional…

Jason: Excitement, I barely go up or down every day of life. And this is one where I’m up. It just unlocks, I think, a whole childhood thing that’s very fun.

Caroline: For sure.

Jason: Anyway, that’s way too much time than anybody wanted on my enjoyment of Tears of the Kingdom.

Caroline: I mean, it’s our podcast. Ain’t nobody…

Jason: That’s true.

Caroline: Going to stop you.

Jason: So the birthday weekend continued there. We went to a local hotel that’s 20 minutes down the road that’s actually been on our hotel kind of bucket list before we moved to Portugal. And the best way to describe this hotel is like uniquely special, romantic, modern.

Caroline: Magical.

Jason: Magical.

Caroline: Natural.

Jason: Yeah, it’s just so nice. I’ll put a link in the show notes because I just think it’s always fun to share places that people have never seen or heard of before, maybe. And this was just a couple of nights. We got a bogo, a buy two, get one free, which was wonderful because we’re right outside of…

Caroline: A btgo.

Jason: A btgo, different than a bidet go. We’re right outside the shoulder season. So they’re actually already… When we booked this time, they were already booked for June and July. That’s how things are in Portugal.

Caroline: Kind of worked out.

Jason: The summer is just fully booked, but like, in May, people aren’t really doing stuff. So anyway, yeah, we were there for two nights? Three nights? Now I forget.

Caroline: Three nights.

Jason: Three nights. And just such a magical hotel. They only have 14 rooms, so it’s really small and intimate.

Caroline: Every little corner of this hotel is unique and considered. And there’s just natural wood everywhere. And it’s very magical. And it’s kind of cool because it’s technically on the water, but it’s very far back, and you have these dunes in between, so you can just see the water from the hotel. But it’s not like a beachfront type of hotel that you would imagine, but so you’re kind of set far back with these foresty trees and dunes in between you and the ocean. And so you can leave your room and then go walk through the dunes to the cliffs and kind of do this little hiking trail and then take some steps all the way down to the beach, which we did. And man, just the nature. We just love nature.

Jason: Oh, totally.

Caroline: So relaxing.

Jason: What’s the one thing we did at this hotel that we’ve never done before? It’s kind of a hard question to answer, but I’m just curious if you might get there. And I’ll give you another hint. It was a repetitive task.

Caroline: The bubble bath?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: We’ve done that before.

Jason: Three days in a row?

Caroline: Well, not three days.

Jason: That’s what I’m saying.

Caroline: Three days in a row, we took a bubble bath together. And it was… I mean, you would think that maybe it would be, like super sexy, romantic. No, it was, yet again, us just like being kids playing in the bathtub together.

Jason: There was a hilarious moment where we tried to make it a bubble bath. And by the way, this tub is a huge tub. There’s a whole room dedicated to this tub.

Caroline: Basically like a hot tub.

Jason: We tried to make it a bubble bath and like, the first night, we got, like, some bubbles. The second night, we couldn’t get any bubbles and we were using the same soap. The third night, it was bubbles to the max. And I just love that it was like a Goldilocks moment where I was like…

Caroline: We never found the…

Jason: Amount of bubbles, but you know we had tons of laughs.

Caroline: So many laughs.

Jason: We were just dying. And I know again, we’re probably people who should be like, yeah, go to a hotel.

Caroline: I mean, it was romantic, but in the bathtub, it wasn’t.

Jason: It was just laughs and all kinds of silly jokes.

Caroline: Laughs. Bubble beards and…

Jason: Bubble beards.

Caroline: That’s just us, okay?

Jason: The other part that was really fun that I wanted to mention was the little garden restaurant we absolutely loved. We asked them…

Caroline: I had this vegetable sandwich, and I know that sounds… You’re like, cool, vegetable sandwich. It was the best vegetable sandwich I’ve ever had in my whole life.

Jason: Probably the only vegetable sandwich you ever had. But would you say it’s up there with, like, your top sandwiches?

Caroline: Sandwiches, yes.

Jason: That’s what I’m saying. That’s why it’s good.

Caroline: It was this…

Jason: Pesto.

Caroline: Pesto and marinated vegetables and just all the flavors.

Jason: Really good crunchy bread.

Caroline: So crunchy.

Jason: Very, very fun. Thank you so much for accompanying me on my birthday weekend and making it extra special.

Caroline: Thanks for accompanying me. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Jason: And then the last thing on our Portugal list.

Caroline: The last thing. You all have been following our friend saga.

Jason: This is the friend saga of 2023.

Caroline: We’ve been friend dating.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And we’ve enjoyed every friend date.

Jason: No duds, no duds.

Caroline: No duds in the bunch. So we’ve built out this little network of friends that feels really good. But the big news is we feel like we found, like, our…

Jason: Closest.

Caroline: Our closest new friends.

Jason: Alignment of friends.

Caroline: Yes, which feels really cool. Still early to tell, but in terms of, like, it’s the best first friend date we’ve been on.

Jason: Which is really fun and…

Caroline: Which is cool.

Jason: It was kind of one of those things where we were like, this is going to take a year or two, and if it happens at this point, it’s going to be great. Now, we don’t want to jinx it, so we’re not going to build it up too much. But, yeah, we did go to a neighborhood party as well for kind of the little development that we’re in. And that was just fun to get out and mingle and chat with some people. You get dressed up, you’re chatting. Like, everyone sees us not in jammies or in gym clothes because that’s all people really see us in.

Caroline: Yeah, we’re always… Anytime we’re out and about out of the house and people run into us, we’re in our gym clothes because we’re going to the gym. And I’m not kidding you, the amount of people who were like, oh. And I was like, okay, how bad do I look when you…? I think I just look different. It’s not bad.

Jason: Yeah, it’s just different. So anyway, yeah, life continues to be enjoyable and upcoming. We’ve got our SEF appointment with the government, so we’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Caroline: Are we going to have that…?

Jason: That’s in two weeks.

Caroline: Two weeks.

Jason: And then we have a visitor coming, so we’ll get to talk about our time with our visitor. It’s your mom.

Caroline: Maybe she’ll be on the pod.

Jason: Oh, wow. I don’t think so.

Caroline: I don’t think so. I don’t think I want that.

Jason: All right, let’s get into this episode and talking about the pros and cons of having an invisible business.

Caroline: Yes, so let’s define invisible business. So this has been a topic we’ve been talking about recently, which is just that we’re at this place with Wandering Aimfully as a business, where you suddenly realize if you go off of social media and you’re not making videos on YouTube and really the only outward content that we’re creating on a regular basis is the podcast, which is pretty insular, I would say. It’s sort of like whoever’s already a listener and then maybe you’re sharing it, but you’re not getting a ton of new listeners all the time if you’re not sharing the episodes on social, you know what I mean?

Jason: If you’re a new listener of this podcast, I would love to know how you found it.

Caroline: How in the world how did you find us?

Jason: How did you find it? Was it featured somewhere like in Spotify? I have no idea that they’re like featuring podcasts. I doubt it. But yeah, I would be really curious if you’re a brand new listener, first couple of episodes, let us know. My guess, if we get any mentions…

Caroline: Just a friend.

Jason: It’s just a friend, which, by the way, thank you for that.

Caroline: Thank you. So the point is, we’re not outwardly sharing the podcast intentionally. And then the newsletter, of course, is also very insular because a lot of people aren’t like sharing newsletters, right?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: So the the point is, and we’ve, we’ve realized this, of course, we knew that it was that Wandering Aimfully was becoming a lot more invisible, meaning you’re not kind of doing this big visibility push on social media and where people are hanging out. But it has become even more obvious to us because we’ve been meeting so many new people. And so we’ll meet people and they’ll ask us what we do and we tell them about Teachery and we tell them about Wandering Aimfully. And then after the interaction, I go, if they were to look these things up as you do, you follow up, right? And you’re like, oh, what’s their thing? Where are they on social? You kind of go and look for their… People would just be like, did the business die?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Is it dead?

Jason: Well, and what I think is really interesting too, is I was emailing a couple of people recently and they’re like, oh, where can I go to follow along with what’s going on in your life? I was like, well, our email newsletter would be the only thing because we do like a kind of Life in Portugal update. So we kind of talk about there. But that’s it.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: And so to tell someone who you either meet in person or via email to be like, jump on our email newsletter, that just feels super weird.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: Because you have to actually… They have to buy in and take a chance or something, as opposed to like, oh, go, follow us on Instagram where you can see some updates.

Caroline: Or the podcast. But of course our episodes are longer, and that also…

Jason: There’s just not like…

Caroline: You can’t just casually browse.

Jason: Yeah, there’s not a quick glimpse of what life is like.

Caroline: Which is fine, we did that intentionally. But lately, we’ve been discussing that realization and how… and we thought it would be useful in order to… We often talk about the benefits of basically running like a calm business, one that you’re not trapped on kind of the hamster wheel of content creation. And there’s so many positives to that. But for the first time, I feel like we’re experiencing some of the more negatives, which is you don’t have all this context with people when you meet them. And some of those negatives are, for better or worse, a little bit of an ego thing, too, where you just go, well, no one can see what I’ve built in my business. And so we’re not above admitting that we’re all human beings that want validation or want to be seen for the work that we do. And so we thought it’d be a fun podcast to talk about what the positives are of running an invisible business, what the negatives are of running an invisible business, how you might switch between those two modes at different stages of your business.

Jason: Yeah, and I also think there’s a good kind of caveat here that we haven’t mentioned yet, which is Wandering Aimfully as a business is making more money than it ever has before.

Caroline: Correct.

Jason: But yet, from the outside looking in, someone might look at the business and be like, you guys still doing stuff?

Caroline: You okay?

Jason: And the hilarious part is that it’s doing better than it’s ever done.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: And so I think there’s just some takeaways to share in this. And there’s some previous podcast episodes that we’ve shared that have kind of alluded to how this has happened. But one thing that we don’t have on this list that I thought would be helpful to share is kind of just like, what’s the strategy of Wandering Aimfully as a whole from a business and revenue generating perspective? Because some people listen to this might be like, Well, then how the heck do you guys make money? What is going on?

Caroline: So we have these core content engines that continue to build us an audience that is growing, but it’s a very slow and steady growth. And those things we already mentioned, which are our podcasts and our newsletter. If you’re wondering, the Discovery Channel, a lot of it is SEO. So people are coming to we have 400 plus articles over time. People are coming to our website, they’re getting on our newsletter.

Jason: But it’s not a ton of traffic. We used to have something like, I don’t know, 1,000 unique visitors to our site a day. So 30,000 visitors a month. It’s probably half that now, if not less. So it’s not a ton of traffic. However, I think we have always kind of carved off like a really good bit of potential customers from that traffic who really resonate with what we’re doing. And again, I’m going to mention a couple of different episodes, but The Art of Making It Hard, LOL was an episode that we shared, which kind of aligns with this invisible business thing where it’s like we want someone to make the leap forward themselves. Not like hit them with a pop up, hit them with an exit intent, hit them with a freebie to download. Like make it super slippery and easy for someone to sign up. Instead, it’s almost like, hey, you kind of have to do some things like go through our quiz or you have to get all the way to the bottom of a 4,000-word article to find our email newsletter form.

Caroline: It’s about intentional friction so that you get a more qualified lead.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: Which is not the norm.

Jason: Standard advice.

Caroline: Strategy, but it’s just a strategy that works for us because we do get much more qualified people and we get people who really want to put forth effort in order to grow their business intentionally. And that works for us. So a portion of our twice a year sales launches come from that audience.

Jason: Yeah. Again, to continue with the strategy, our biggest Discovery Channel is organic articles that bring traffic every day to our site and people convert to our email newsletter. In our email newsletter, we send an email every single week. We typically do series that lasts four to eight weeks around a certain topic. So whether that’s like the one we just finished, which was about enough, and just the way that enough can be thought about as a concept in money, in friendships, in confidence and content creation, that type of thing. We’ve also done series that are growing your business from zero dollars to five hundred dollars, then 500 to 1,000. That was our Grow It Gradually series. So we do all these different series, but then in the year, we do two launch periods. And for many of you this is very like… You’re like, I know, but there are people listening who don’t know because our business is invisible. And so we do two launch periods in the Spring and in the Fall. And it’s very intentional of those times of when we’re launching. And those are the times when we bring in new customers and then we have our affiliates, which are our existing members, who help promote Wandering Aimfully to their audiences. They get a commission. We have a whole podcast episode where we talk about how we’ve built an affiliate program that’s helped us build over a million dollar business just from using affiliates as the main driving engine aside from what we’re doing discovery-wise externally.

Caroline: Great.

Jason: So that is the strategy of how Wandering Aimfully exists.

Caroline: And it works extremely predictably.

Jason: Yeah, and I think the podcast is something that we’ve realized where this channel of content creation, A, it’s very easy for us to do. It doesn’t require algorithms. It doesn’t require, Oh, what’s the new feature? It’s just us having thoughts and sharing those thoughts and also trying to continue learning our skills and sharing what we’re learning, which we have a future episode where we want to talk a little bit more about that. But this podcast really does, I think, a good job because we’ve heard from people and we have the data to back it up, that someone might find us, they find our newsletter, they find our podcast, then they listen to a few episodes. And now you’ve spent like multiple hours both in reading content from us and listening to content from us where you know, Oh, these people would be good unboring coaches for me and my business. They would be helpful. I resonate with their jokes and their silliness and like what’s this frisbee years they were talking about? Like, I need to know. But then they also really appreciate like we have some good takeaways and some good lessons learned in different episodes. They’re like, okay, this is helpful. So I just think it is good to share how these things all intertwine and kind of the strategy behind them.

Caroline: Totally. So that’s a little bit about why we’re able to run an invisible business. And then it’s important to also note that I don’t know that we would have been able to do that from the beginning or maybe we could have, but it would have taken a lot longer.

Jason: A lot longer to get to our Enough number.

Caroline: Exactly. So there was a time where we were a lot more visible. We were on social, we were promoting the podcast on social. We were doing clips. This is before shorts were around, promoting clips, getting people interested in the podcast, getting people to the newsletter, writing articles a lot more frequently. We put in all of that work in order to have our marketing be more visible so that then we could get to a place where we could step back. And we’ve done an episode on this before about creating your social media off-ramp and that was really intentional. But again, now coming back to this moment where we’re in this funny place where we’re now soaking up all of the benefits of not having to be so tied up in the content machine, but also experiencing some of what you lose by not being so visible. So let’s just dive into maybe the pros.

Jason: Sure.

Caroline: What are the benefits that we experience about taking a step back and having a much more simple content strategy and therefore being a lot less visible?

Jason: Yeah, the number one for us is definitely that this feels like the dream business to run if you’re the type of person like we are, where you don’t want to be creating content every single day, your inner fuel isn’t lit up by figuring out YouTube and experimenting with shorts and you don’t want to jump on TikTok and all these things. It’s like, no, I just want business to be calm. I just want to write a newsletter. I just want to talk on a podcast. I just want to interact with our existing customer base and help them in any way that we can and deliver the monthly coaching sessions to them. And everything will shake out how it’s supposed to without me feeling like I constantly have to be throwing, like, wood into the fire to keep the fire going.

Caroline: Right. So it’s definitely, to me, what you’re saying there is the benefit is being able to get off of that hamster wheel that is never ending, which does make you feel calmer. And I think that’s the biggest benefit. But I think also what you’re saying in that is, because we are the type of people that our favorite thing to spend time on in our business is…

Jason: Tears of the Kingdom. Oh, sorry. What’s that?

Caroline: Tears of the Kingdom, obviously. Is working on the business.

Jason: Right.

Caroline: Creating products, creating things, creating training sessions. So if I’m creating content, I want it to be educational for the people that have paid me money because that’s what they paid for. There were aspects, I guess, of content creation that I did enjoy. I did enjoy the creativity, and I did like… When I was in it, I liked exploring the new features and kind of being strategic with it. But it was just so exhausting and it always took me away from the thing I really wanted to be doing.

Jason: And that’s the thing, I don’t think enough people think about this because it isn’t the sexy thing to talk about when it comes to online business advice, which is like, what do you want to be doing in your business?

Caroline: Right.

Jason: Like, truthfully, what is it that you want to be doing? Do you want to be designing brand packages for people? Do you want to be building logos? Do you want to be creating landing pages? Do you want to be setting up Pinterest strategies? What is it that you actually want to do for work? And I think for a lot of people that can’t answer that question because they can’t see what that is because all they know is, well, I got to post on Instagram, now I have to learn TikTok. I got to send out my email newsletter, I got to record a podcast, I need to be on YouTube, I have to do all these things. I don’t have any time to think about what the end result of that is.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: And I think for us, what we found, as Wandering Aimfully kind of grew in the first two years of not knowing what we wanted to do, we couldn’t have answered that question. We wouldn’t have known what we were trying to do.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: But when we got to the Unboring Coaching and we’re like, what we actually really have fun doing is teaching people things once a month in a capacity that feels like a jampacked chunk of information where we get to be silly and we get to be fun, and you get to create an amazing curriculum and I get to bring all my jokes. And just like we’re a team and we bounce off each other. And that, to me, is like, if that’s what our business does, is just that, that’s fantastic. It’s why we’ve now done 44 coaching sessions, 44 monthly coaching sessions, and we’re not burnt out by it.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: And I think that for so many people, you’re not running the business that you want to be running because you haven’t clearly defined, like, what do you want to be doing?

Caroline: What do you like to do?

Jason: And once you figure that out, and you may not know for years, which is okay, and that’s why I want to reiterate, we didn’t know for two years what we wanted to do, but we just kept trying things. If you can get to a place where you know, Wow, I just really get it up by teaching people Canva. I love the app. I want to share everything that I’m learning about all the new features. I always want to be talking about it. That’s fantastic. But you have to build a business around that that supports that and have a product that brings in revenue. And it’s why I think so many creative online business owners struggle, is because they go, well, I want to make art every day. And it’s like, that’s fantastic. I want you to be able to do that. But that’s not a business. And so a business has to be…

Caroline: It can be a business…

Jason: It can be. But I’m just saying, like, I think that you have to understand what the exchange in value is.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: Where someone goes, I’m willing to pay for this thing that you want to do, and what is that thing? And so you have to clearly define that. And so I think for us, by clearly defining that, it has made going through all the visible time in our business of saying, okay, we’re unboring coaches. Here’s videos about this, here’s, podcast episodes about this, here’s emails about this. Then we got to a place where it’s like, okay, we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

Caroline: Yeah. The coolest thing for me, I wrote this down, and you kind of touched on it, but now that we’ve gone basically a year and a half not being on social, the biggest difference that I can feel, and really, that’s what we’re talking about, right? It’s like the difference between being visible is, I think being everywhere on social media and then being invisible is kind of taking a step back from social media. That’s really what we’re talking about, visible versus invisible. But the biggest thing I’ve noticed after a year and a half of being more invisible is I have more time and space to think strategically about where I want to take the direction of our businesses because there’s something about being in the trenches of social content every day that it’s really hard to take a step back and go, let me pivot this, because you’re just bought in on what you’re doing today and what you want to talk about, and it takes so much time.

Jason: What’s the next thing that’s going to continue to get attention?

Caroline: Right. And so you focus all your energy on that, that it’s hard to zoom out to 20,000ft and be like, Where do I want to take things? And sometimes I feel like if that’s the case, you don’t know that a change needs to happen until it’s almost the hardest part. Not too late because it’s never too late to pivot, but much later than you would, where you and I have this spaciousness and this airiness around the business, where we’re having meetings that are strategic all the time now.

Jason: Absolutely.

Caroline: Because we’re not trying to create content. And so we go, okay, where do we want to steer the ship?

Jason: Yeah. And I do think for those of you listening to this, it’s like, okay, well, I can’t just get off social media because it’s the thing that drives my business. My first clapback to that would be, does it actually drive revenue for your business? Because I think a lot of people can’t attribute the time that they spend on Instagram, on TikTok to specifically driving revenue. Now, if you can, fantastic. I just want people to be able to beyond having the brand, which we talked about in the social media episode of the podcast, beyond creating your brand existence, where you’re visible, can every single day’s amount of time that you’re spending on this or week be attributed to revenue growth? Because if it can’t, then it’s worth exploring other options to try to increase that return on investment of your time. And so I think that’s just like my constant thing for people when they’re like, but I have to be on social media. That’s where everybody is. It’s like, you do not. You actually don’t. You just think you do because that’s where everybody else is.

Caroline: Yeah. And it is sort of if we really are honest with ourselves, it’s the most simple answer to the problem of where do I go to get new customers? You go, oh, let me just go where everyone is and everyone’s being visible. But if you really challenge yourself to be more creative, there are all kinds of ways that you could get new customers that don’t involve social media.

Jason: And I would argue, too, that Instagram at this point is like, how are you going to compete with anybody else? There’s just so much noise. How are you going to stand out? And I know that you could, but I just think if you know who your ideal audience is, maybe you can find a smaller place where they’re hanging out. A micro community, a different area, a subreddit, a LinkedIn group, any of these other places where you could actually show up and you have to expend less effort. But you’re putting yourself right in front of the core group of people who can buy from you that makes more sense.

Caroline: Yeah, I mean, it’s all about experimentation to understand that. But yeah, this goes back to that big blowout fight we had where we agreed with each other on the fact that it’s impossible to tie every moment you spend on social media to sales directly. So it’s not necessarily about that. It’s just about going, okay, if I’ve spent six months doing consistent content and I haven’t seen any growth in my revenue, that’s where you take a step back and you go, let me change my approach.

Jason: I just think there are a lot of people who are like, well, I don’t know if Instagram is working for my revenue, but I just need to keep doing it. It’s like, but why do you need to keep doing it? There’s got to be something that…

Caroline: We’re still kind of in the section of talking about the benefits of having a more invisible business, which is also that I think when you’re in the content machine of social media, you can kind of kid yourself into believing that you’re in control, but you’re really not.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: You’re being controlled by what the audience wants. I think you always need to pay attention to what your audience wants, obviously. But I think in a social media environment, the incentives are set up in such a way that you start sort of weighting things too much towards what the audience wants and not enough about what you want to talk about.

Jason: How many people listening to this had to start making reels and really didn’t want to make reels?

Caroline: Right.

Jason: Because they were like, Well, I’m on Instagram and that’s what’s being rewarded. So I guess I have to do these things now.

Caroline: Or even you could talk about the slippery slope of clickbait and the way that short form video has become so jump cutty. And so… it’s like we talk about all the time. I told Jason the other day, since we’re not on TikTok, but we don’t know all of this, but we consume enough content about content that I know what’s kind of going on in TikTok. But I told Jason about how people will do Street Surfer or whatever that game is, or different games they’ll put on screen so that someone’s attention stops. And I’m like, you know, the incentives are broken when it’s such a race to the bottom in terms of attention of we’re now just eking out… like we’re just breaking our brains is all we’re doing. So anyway, my whole point there is you have this illusion of control that it’s you that is deciding what you’re saying, what you’re putting out there. But I didn’t like the way that it always made me feel actually beholden to whatever the algorithm wants, we have to do. Whatever the audience resonates with more, we got to do more of that.

Jason: Yeah. And I think there’s a big thing here, too, of, like, when you’re running an invisible business, a pro is that for the most part, you’re not having to deal with anybody else’s feedback or criticism of your business. But if you’re posting content all the time, no matter what channel it is, you’re getting comments, you’re getting DMs, you’re getting some type of criticism in some way, or you’re getting none, which is almost as bad because it’s just like you’re shouting into the void.

Caroline: Right.

Jason: And it’s like this feels really empty. And I don’t think we’ve had this problem, which is a very advantageous thing to not have done, which is like we’ve always had some semblance of an audience that people have responded. But I can imagine now if you start a new Instagram account today and you just posted for like six months and no one is liking or commenting…

Caroline: It’s hard.

Jason: It’s like you’re talking into a black hole.

Caroline: But for us, obviously, that’s not us anymore because we always now are to the point in our careers where we have an audience that will kind of follow us. But I will say, speaking of another pro yeah, I mean, I got to this place where it’s not even like we would get hate comments or like stuff like that, but you would get messages. It’s not like it was none. You would get these messages that people would be so committed to misunderstanding you is the best way that I can put it. And on the one hand, I think that’s a really good opportunity for personal growth in not caring what people’s opinions of you are. I do think that is a worthy skill to develop, but on the other hand, it just really can affect your mental health in a negative way, especially if you’re highly sensitive like I am. So it’s like both things. Yes, I developed a thicker skin, and I think that’s a good thing. But at the same token, I’m just a human being, and I have feelings. And so you’d get these messages and you would just be like it would throw your whole days off. And I just didn’t like that part about it.

Jason: What I think is interesting just in that as a quick example, so our Instagram audience versus our email list, like almost the same size, 8,000 followers. I think last time I checked on Instagram, it’s probably a lot less now because I haven’t checked in a long time, but like somewhere around there and then about 10,000 email subscribers. The amount of messages I did not want to come through via comments, via direct messages on Instagram, pretty high every month. And I would say it’s not… we’re not talking about hundreds, we’re talking about like 5, 10, 20, something like that. It’s just messages like really ruffle your feathers and it’s fine. We can be better about not accepting those. But also I don’t need that crap in my life. I don’t want to do it. The amount of those from our email list, infinitesimal. Almost none. I can’t remember the last time we got an email that ruffled my feathers as a reply back to our newsletter. It does happen, but in comparing the two, it’s very wildly different. So I just think there’s something to be said for that, which also it relates to the time thing, which we’ve kind of been talking about as well. It’s like the amount of time that we get back from not being more visible, so not doing interviews, not being posting on social, not doing all this stuff. Like, we have more time and more space, which I just think is a thing that so many people kind of forget about when they’re on a constant publishing schedule or creation schedule.

Caroline: Yeah, and one thing I just remembered that isn’t on this list, but I think we did a podcast episode about it maybe a couple of months ago. Oh, I know exactly when we did. It was right after the launch when we talked about just the two days I spent on social media and how bad that affected the comparison game. And so one pro that I didn’t have written on my notes here but I wanted to mention is that by being more invisible, you give so many less fucks about what other people are doing in business and how you’re perceived in comparison to other people. Do you know what I mean? I have so much more confidence in what we’re doing as a business because I’m not in the trenches every day comparing myself to… I’m not out there in social media seeing what other people are doing.

Jason: Should I do this, should I be doing that? Oh, that looks cool, I’ll try that.

Caroline: Yeah. And so I think that’s another benefit is that you just do feel more confident about putting your head down and working on your business and in your business. But we talked about all the pros.

Jason: Yeah, let’s get in some cons because there are some cons to being an invisible business owner.

Caroline: Exactly. And that’s what I think is the more interesting thing because, if you would have asked me probably this time last year, I would have said it’s all upside. I would have said, this is the dream. You don’t have to be out there, you don’t have to be on the content creation hamster wheel, but your business is growing and it’s making more money. Like, yes, sign me up. But now this interesting thing is happening where…

Jason: You just want a little ego stroking, don’t you, Carol? Don’t you want just like a little… You want your ego, you just want it to sit in your lap.

Caroline: I mean, maybe it’s an ego stroke because I’m not someone who I would think needs that. But also, I challenge myself to be honest on this podcast about what is the actual human emotional experience I’m having. And I would be lying if I said that when we meet new people and I know that they’re going to go to a social media account that is dormant and they’re going to go, Do they even have a business?

Jason: Yeah. The nice thing is we put up the nine grid on Instagram, which is really helpful because that gives the context of why we’re not on Instagram.

Caroline: Sure.

Jason: So I think it’s different when you just have a post from two years ago.

Caroline: Yeah, my art account, like my @ckelso account on Instagram is just like, bye. There was no bye. It was just like…

Jason: Night night.

Caroline: Okay. I’m trying to actually be honest about is it an ego thing? Where I’m like, oh, I want you new person who I’m having a conversation with to engage in this conversation in such a way that you know that I’ve put in work in order to build something. That’s what really it is because the truth is people do treat you differently, whether it’s not even about how much money you make, although we know people treat you differently based on how much money they think you make. That’s just like human status thing.

Jason: How people see us being dressed every day. I don’t think they have any assumptions.

Caroline: Who are these people? But the part about it that I think I’m more picking up on is when you’re in conversation with someone, there’s a difference in the way that someone engages in that conversation based on whether they think your business is legit or not.

Jason: Yeah, I mean, this is an example that’s easy to share because it’s happened to us on multiple occasions. We’ll be talking with people about even, like, Wandering Aimfully. They’ll be like, Oh, we have this unboring business coaching. And they’re like, okay. And in their mind, it’s not sexy, right?

Caroline: Right.

Jason: But when we start to tell the story of IWearYourShirt…

Caroline: Right. Inevitably, it comes to like, oh, how’d you meet and where blah blah. And then IWearYourShirt comes up and my goodness, the change in conversation.

Jason: But the hilarious part is like that business…

Caroline: Failed.

Jason: Sucked. It failed. It was not profitable. It was really difficult. It’s not good. Wandering Aimfully, profitable, awesome. So much free time. Love it.

Caroline: Go to the beach, in the pool.

Jason: It’s so great. But it’s like the ego responds differently when someone’s like, Whoa, that business is so cool. I’m like the one we have now is a cooler one.

Caroline: You’re responding wrong.

Jason: But I do think this is just to be completely honest about it, it is one of those things, and I do believe it’s just ego driven. It’s like you want someone to acknowledge the fact that we’ve worked really hard, we’ve experimented for so many years, we’ve tried so many different things, and we finally have made it to a place where we have this profitable business that we love, our customers love. It’s a great, thriving business in a way, but it just doesn’t impress anybody. And there is just something to that where you’re like, but I just wanted to impress you.

Caroline: Yeah, and I really thought I was above that, and I think maybe I was for a while. But there’s something about the new people and wanting to make new connections and seeing the difference in how someone responds to you. But of course, then you remind yourself, right, of, like, if someone’s going to respond to you based on the perceived level of success that your business has, that’s not a good friendship to forge anyway. Of course, I know that.

Jason: What’s funny is this is where I think we have a slight difference of this, of like, the new people or the people you want to impress, I don’t give a shit about what they think.

Caroline: I don’t want to impress anyone.

Jason: I know, I know. But just like, if we’re just, like, boiling it down, like you would like to impress them. I’m just saying. You would like to impress them.

Caroline: I don’t want to impress them. It’s not about trying to be something I’m not. And I think when I hear impress, I think of like…

Jason: So what’s a different word?

Caroline: Being something that you are not.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: I want them to have the full context of…

Jason: Great.

Caroline: Our business.

Jason: So you want new people to have the full context? I don’t give a shit about what those people think. Where it ruffles my feathers is existing people in our lives who forget that we’ve done all the things that we’ve done. Oh, my new friend started a podcast. Like, we’re 170 episodes in, bro. What’s up? Come see our podcast.

Caroline: That’s where you’re a little competitive.

Jason: Yeah, because it’s like, we’ve been doing it. We’ve been in the trenches. We have done the hard work, and people will forget because we’re invisible.

Caroline: Exactly. We don’t talk about it.

Jason: Totally. And if we were posting on Instagram constantly and people could still see us, our friends, our family, whatever, then they would go like, oh, wow. They’re always doing things. They’re always coming up with new ideas. But because they don’t see it anywhere and they’re not on our newsletter, they don’t listen to our podcast. That, to me, is the difference where I feel that for sure. I’m just like, come on.

Caroline: And I think that is a con, actually, again, of going this route, is people don’t associate you with the things that you want to be associated for, because that takes reinforcement and you’re not reinforcing. So there’s been several kind of concepts or things that we’ve popularized within our community. Things like Enough, right? That’s been a value of ours since the beginning of Wandering Aimfully. And then you’ll hear on podcasts people talking about the search for enough. And by no means am I saying we invented the concept of enough.

Jason: No, but I wrote the article, my article about Enough in 2016.

Caroline: Right. And so these things. Or like a social media detox that you’ve talked about in 2014 or running a calm business or things like that.

Jason: And plenty of the other things that you have come up with that we’re not coming to light with right here.

Caroline: Right. There’s just so many that we can’t come up with them. But the point is, if we’re just, again, being really honest and transparent, that is something that’s hard to swallow your pride about that stuff because people are not going to associate you with that concept when there’s somebody who’s way more visible out there talking about that concept, right?

Jason: And again, you just got to fight the ego.

Caroline: You just have to fight the ego.

Jason: Why am I upset? We’re doing that. We have a great life.

Caroline: That’s where it comes down to the ending of this episode, which is, okay, well, what are we supposed to do with this information? And I think what we’re supposed to do with this information is recognize that there are trade offs to both approaches. And you have to know yourself and know whether it’s a time in your business where you do want/ need to be visible or are you ready to go into a more invisible place knowing what the downsides are but you think it’s worth it? So, like, for us, I list off all those cons, and I know that a lot of them are just related to ego. And so I go, I have the self-awareness to go, I can fight my own ego. That’s pretty easy, actually, for me. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, which is the point of why we’re bringing it up, is like, we’re not somehow enlightened enough that we’re immune from any of those ego things, but it’s just about going, having the mindfulness to go, oh, that’s my little ego there, and it’s okay. And I would so much rather have an invisible business at this moment in our lives that allows us to have the space to think strategically, to move to a new country, to go down to the beach in the middle of the day, to be in the pool in the middle of the day, to not be beholden to this content machine. I would so much rather have that, and I’m willing to put up with some of the downsides of that.

Jason: Yeah. And I think two other takeaways to kind of finish it out are, like you said, there are different stages. So you’re going to have to have times where maybe you do have to be on social media for the next two years to figure things out. And that just might be a necessity for your business, but…

Caroline: Exactly, because to go invisible, you need an invisible marketing engine.

Jason: Exactly. And so I would replace social media with any marketing experiment that’s helping people discover who you are and what you’re selling. It doesn’t just have to be social media. It can be lots of other things, but you have to experiment. You have to find what works. And I think the other takeaway is to realize that it’s still possible, and I believe this in my heart of hearts, to run an invisible business right now in 2023 by setting up some foundation articles, starting an email newsletter, having a podcast. You have to do some discovery things in the beginning. Like, if we were to start over tomorrow from absolute scratch and not tell anybody, so not use any existing audience, you would have to do something. You would have to do something to be discovered. But I don’t think you would have to get on all of the apps, all the social platforms, all the things. I think I would just be really strategic about where our ideal audience hangs out, and I would just be trying to really hone in, who is this person? I would continue to be like, oh, we help… Tomorrow, we couldn’t start Wandering Aimfully with like a generic, like, we help intentional business owners. Sorry, it’s not going to work. We have to find maybe it’s designers and we just have to go, We help designers specifically who work in Figma, who work with clients and they want to make digital products. We have to get that specific. And then it’s like, where are those people hanging out? Now, we need to go be there. We need to go create content there. We need to attract people by creating content that helps them. So I wanted to kind of sum up the takeaway there of, is it still possible to have an invisible business if you’re starting over? I think there’s a pathway to do it. We don’t have any real world data to show that this is the way. But I don’t think you have to be the loud, boisterous on all the social platforms, creating all of the time to be able to be successful.

Caroline: Definitely. And if you are someone who’s trying to make that pivot now, where you’re considering going off social media and maybe going into a more invisible mode, it’s just about knowing what those ego triggers are going to be so that you can go. But you know what? At the end of the day, it’s so worth it for the time I’m going to get back, for the space I’m going to get back. And yeah, it’s a good opportunity to swallow that pride and that ego and to just have confidence within yourself and the business that you’re running, and the pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion, for us, at least.

Jason: I would also say as a very last thing, if you need a little ego boost, like you’re feeling like, man, I need this. Turn on Tears of the Kingdom and go find your next shrine because it feels good.

Caroline: It does?

Jason: You find a next shrine, especially, like, a hidden one, where you got to find the crystal and move the crystal. Oh, that one feels great because you’re like, I really accomplished something here.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: All right, that’s it for this episode. Hoped you enjoyed this little chat about running an invisible business.

Caroline: And thanks for being a part of our invisible office hours. No, I’m just kidding.

Jason: That was a podcast I used to have back in the day.

Caroline: No, but thanks to all of you who can continue to listen and be a part of our community.

Jason: Because, as much as we are invisible, we can only be invisible because of folks like you.

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: Supporting us, listening to our stuff, letting us know that you like it or don’t like it.

Caroline: And really pursuing us because we’re not making it easy on you to remember that we have a podcast, but you come back here week after week, and we appreciate it so much.

Jason: That’s great. Okay, that’s it. Bye.

Caroline: Bye.

170 – Pros and Cons of An “Invisible” Business

(Big Fat Takeaway)

To go "invisible" in your business, you need an invisible marketing engine that is strategic and that works for you.


This article written by

Jason Zook

I'm all about that Cinnamon Roll life (that just seemed like a "cool" way to say I love baking and eating cinnamon rolls). Also, I co-run this WAIM thing as well as Teachery. Currently, 75ish% completion of Tears of the Kingdom 🧝‍♀️⚔️.

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