6 min read

Answering Questions

Thanks for visiting! Subscribing is free – ad free, personal-tracking free, everything-free, and it unlocks the weekend posts as well (they are usually my best stuff). Plus, I jump for joy every time I get a new subscriber... which means I've been jumping a lot lately. And, really, this is free: I have a career that gives me the time to do this out of love, and the only stuff people pay for is my book(s).

Today, I'm going to answer a few of the questions I get from time to time from subscribers. Thanks for sending them in, and if you'd like your question answered, shoot it over.

Why do you draw so many tacos? - Sarah N.

Duh. Tacos are delicious. Also, they are dead simple to draw, and I don't have that much talent.

Why the f*** did Ted show up to that zoom? - Mark D.

This is about Eat Fire, Ted, which was pretty popular.

Honestly, Mark, have you ever really skipped a meeting? Of course not. You're afraid of skipping meetings, just like everyone else who isn't in charge, because you think that there's going to be some mythical black mark on your permanent record like you might have gotten in school way back when. That's why the guy showed up to Ted's zoom, just like almost everyone else who shows up for late-night, inconvenient zooms.

Ted showed up because it was his meeting. He didn't flamethrower himself.

Are you going to draw more Smoothie War? - Phoebe F.

Really? Ok. Here you go:

teach those uppity smoothies a lesson
I'm sorry, I killed off all the smoothies. If you all really love them, I'll treat them like Star Wars where no hero ever dies, they just change form :)

What does your start-up do? Do you even have a start-up? - Wendell S.

It's a stealth start-up, which means that I don't talk about it. It's kind of like Fight Club - my clients, the people who work with me and a few friends know what we do, and that club gets a little bigger each day. There are probably a few hundred to a thousand people now who are familiar with Hopara's actual business, which isn't these posts.

Unfortunately, Wendell, you're not in that group. While I really appreciate you reading my stuff and writing in, I'm really only talking to the small group of people who would be interested in paying for Hopara's services about what we do, because discretion is a big part of the job. Our clients tend to be pretty big companies, and we generally only work with the C-suite in those companies. Hopefully, that's enough of a hint for you detectives out there.

In addition, while Hopara does pretty well today, I have no idea if that will continue. It's such an infant in the business world that I'd rather not tell everyone what we do until I'm certain that we can maintain and grow.

We are not doing anything illegal, though, since a few of you have asked if we're stealth because we're fancy drug runners or something similar. Nope. That would be massively interesting, though, and would make for a good cartoon series.

Do you really write this and work on a start-up and work on your wife's business? - Claire O.

Yup. I compartmentalize pretty well, which helps. I also use a bunch of different tools to help me out: I consolidate my many mailboxes using Mailbird, with notifications turned off. I don't have Slack on any of my devices because Slack is an awful tool that eats time and should be outlawed. Seriously. If you're in an organization that uses Slack or one of the other tools out there that's similar, try not opening it for the day and see how much calmer you feel when you're not stuck in an all-day meeting with no agenda and hundreds of other participants.

Most of the work I do is stuff that I've been doing literally for decades – running spreadsheets, research, writing, and similar things – which I've gotten down to a pretty tight process. When I'm doing something new (like learning the back-office software for my wife's business), I generally reserve an hour or two to do only that.

Basically, I timebox everything and eliminate any potential interruption, because interruptions really throw me off.

Also, there are lots of nights where I'm still working at 9 or 10 at night, so maybe I'm not that efficient, since I wake up before 6 because of the cat almost every day anyway (although today the cat let me sleep until 7, which was divine of him).

Why don't you charge money or have a Patreon? - Rob G.

Ok, here's the straight talk on the economics of this thing: there are none. Let me go through an example:

Let's say I had a thousand subscribers (that number is inaccurate), and that I wanted to earn $150,000 / year from this blog. That would mean I'd have to charge each subscriber $150 to hit my goal, and assume that they will all do it.

That's not realistic. In fact, virtually no one pays for newsletters in the big scheme of things, and when they do, it's for news or news-like content, such as stock picks. By the way, you shouldn't pay for stock picks, because that's just someone telling you the same thing they're telling thousands of other people on ValueWalk, and if the pick was any good, they'd keep it to themselves. Telling people your pick is a way to hype up the stock so that you can dump it on others.

Anyway, the best substacks (which is a lot of the paid email ecosystem) charge $5 / month, or $60 / year. I'd need to get 2,500 people to pay for my content to make that happen at that goal number of $150,000, and that means attracting about 125,000 people to this site over the course of a few months at a normal conversion rate (never mind that my actual conversion rate is much higher, because awesome subscribers like you keep forwarding my comics to friends). As a proxy, I've gotten a couple thousand visits to this website so far with minimal advertising.

125k is an extremely large number of people.  It's not impossible – I've built businesses that get millions of people visiting each month – but those all have teams, and payroll, and ads, and all sorts of other things. Building a content business takes about a million-dollar investment at a minimum. Trust me on this, I've done it a few times.

The other way to get to that number of visits is time: just write stuff every day, get indexed by Google, and get picked up by someone famous along the way. That is possible for me given that I post something every day; it's unrealistic to expect someone famous to pick me up just out of dumb luck, though. When I've run celebrity influencer businesses, there's an awful lot of outreach that goes with that.

Plus, I'd need to figure out what I'd even do for paying subscribers – they get the weekends, I guess, which is what my current subscribers get as an extra? Or some other exclusive content? That's a lot more work, and I already am pretty stretched as-is. I'm editing this post right now from the floor of my wife's CrossFit box because the sign guys are here and no one else could do it.

This is why I focus on other paths for making money: first, my actual business. And second, there's a clear strategy that's been used by people like The Oatmeal, which is selling books and merchandise. Both of those are much more up my alley – I've already written books, and I own a t-shirt press at home if people start gravitating to any individual image I make. While I don't know if I could make a cool card game like Exploding Kittens, I'm sure I could come up with something else there, too.

In order to sell a book to a major publisher and get a decent advance, I'd need to have about 50,000 subscribers to this blog. I'm a far cry from that today, but I know from experience that it's much easier to get 50,000 people to sign up for something for free than it is to get 2,500 to pay for something you made.

Thanks, all! Keep the questions coming – that was fun!

No neato stuff today.

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