What Joel Says:
A few years ago, I got tired of having an average life, working at UPS and waiting for things to happen to me, so I decided to do something about it. I made a list of all the things I used to think were impossible and then I set out to do them. Now I work on my own terms and do my best to live a life of adventure and meaning while doing the impossible.
You can follow my adventures on the Blog of Impossible Things, join the Impossible League (a small community of incredible people doing impossible things), or check out Impossible HQ – The online Headquarters for all things Impossible.
Something that has really impressed me is the frequency of his writing projects. I’ve noticed that he has a mixture of projects, and minimum commitment required. I’ve been enjoying his experiments and want to adapt them for my own projects.
You released a beautiful designed book of impossible quotes that went viral on Slideshare. Did this have any tangible benefits?
Yup. David Crandall helped me create “DO THE IMPOSSIBLE” – a collection of 50 impossible quotes from leaders, writers and artists over the centuries. It received over 100,000 views in less than a month and helped us get featured on sites like Michael Hyatt’s blog and lots more as well.
You uploaded the Impossible Manifesto onto Amazon, but had to choose the minimum price of 99 cents. Has this worked for you, and has anyone in your community shown resistance?
Not really. I still give the manifesto away for free
on my site. Amazon was more of a distribution choice than anything. I mean, I make like 30 cents off a sale of it? Amazon makes you price it at .99 unless you have some sort of special deal with them so people who want to line my pockets with quarters and nickels have no problem paying the .99 for it. The ones that don’t can grab it for free on my site. We’ll be experimenting with a few things on Amazon here in a bit.
The shirt, and league, shows how he can really grow a community. One of the reasons that it is successful is because it’s about community, rather then lining the creators pockets.
You created a couple of ‘commercials’ on the fly for potential buyers. Have you gotten any feedback about them?
We’ve gotten some good laughs from them. That’s about it. It’s more about having fun and letting the fun aspect of the brand come through than anything else. Whether or not it’s tipped anyone over the edge of buying the shirt – I really don’t know. We sell quite a few of them, and they look pretty cool – so it’s not that tough of a sell in the first place :).
The theme of the shirt empowers the community. Why do so many people get photos of themselves doing impossible things?
Well I think the shirt is incredibly comfortable and looks pretty awesome – so that definitely helps. People want to wear something that looks good and feels good (as simple as that sounds – there’s a lot of shirts out there that don’t do either). The other aspect of it is that it gives you a good excuse to go do something impossible every day. Even if people look at them funny while they’re doing it, they know they have an online community that they can share it with and who will ‘get it.’
Check out the gallery
. I also recommend checking out the Ogling Everywhere
tumblr dedicated, well, to mocking one of Joels friends. I don’t fully understand the backstory, but it’s a great example of growing a community surrounding a cause.
How important was free worldwide shipping?
It’s been cool to be able to hook my international readers up with shirts. International shipping can get pricey, so it’s nice to have it baked into the price of shipping and probably helps us in international markets (although I’ve had lots of international customers simply ask how much extra they’d have to pay in shipping simply out of habit)
How did the league evolve?
I was getting a lot of emails from people who wanted to do their own impossible things, but didn’t have any other like-minded people around them. After I got a bunch of these, I started wondering why none of these people knew about each other. I figured if they didn’t have a good place to meet, then maybe I could make one. It helped evolve things from a 1-on-1 conversation (me to them via the comments section) to a many-to-many conversation in the form of a forum.
You have a very public feedback form. Has this helped you improve the league?
I think so. The community is that – a community. I can be a leader, but if I dictate the details of every little thing, then it’s not a community – it’s a dictatorship. I love seeing people take initiatives, be a part of the league and say how they think things could be better. Because of that form, we’ve instituted a lot of new changes around the place.
From Jade: His feedback form
is a great idea of a listening post. Most people wait for emails, or for people to bring up issues in conversations. Always seek feedback directly from the community hub.
The start here page has lots of suggestions for new users. Has this led to increased engagement?
Actually, that’s still under construction :). I’m still working on it, but when it’s done, I expect it to give new members a better way to get involved from the get-go.
: This shows that you don’t need to spend a lot of time to create a compelling start here
page. You could knock up a decent one in about an hour.
Do people use the badge you created?
Actually, they do. I’m not quite sure on the stats for it, but I know I’ve seen it on quite a few member’s blogs.
You’ve created separate Facebook pages for the blog and community. Does this confuse people?
The actual pages are for the blog and HQ. It hasn’t led to any confusion as far as I know. It’s actually a longer-term play than most people think. Right now, they sort of overlap, but as things grow, they’ll continue to serve different purposes.
I’ve admired Joels community management efforts, but have often wondered how it leads to his being self employed. I soon learned that the bulk of the money came from outside of his impossible business, yet he’s continually adding income streams. I believe that this gives him the freedom to find the balance between community and profit.
How will you be evolving your brand over the next year?
I can’t tell you that – it’s a secret :). Just expect a lot of non-traditional blogging stuff. I’m going to try to launch a few things beyond the traditional scope of just a blog. This is my first full year of being self-employed and I’ll be doing some traveling as well, so I’m going to have a business and adventure focus in the upcoming months.
You’re putting a lot of effort into building this community. Does it directly lead to income?
The apparel obviously bring in some amount of income, but not massive amounts of cash. I do a lot of independent marketing consulting with some non-blog related clients which brings in the majority of my income. I’ve also released a beginner’s triathlon guide
for those in the community who want to race their first triathlon. As I spend more and more time and focus on Impossible HQ, we’ll be developing more revenue streams for it.
Are there any resources you’d recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Richard Branson’s autobiography is really good. I don’t always think people need more and more resources to get started. I think they just need to get started. It’s really easy to get trapped in entreporn and just read, read, read, and forget to do. The best entrepreneurs do, and they do it often. They make mistakes but they learn to adapt
and get better along the way. If you’re contemplating taking the leap. Just do it already.
I actually regret a lot of people I put on my annual Bloggers To Watch lists. They end up being a suck up, unreliable or just not a good person to emulate.
Joel is just awesome. He blogs for the joy, and for his community. I recommend that you look at his work and figure out ways to learn from, and work with, him. He’s kinda awesome-tastic-sauce.