My 2021 Flywheel (as a solopreneur)

When running an online business as a solopreneur, momentum is often hard to come by.

To help me build momentum in my business, without burning out, I turn to the flywheel model that Jim Collins describes in his monograph Turning the Flywheel.

I shared an earlier version of my flywheel in a previous video, and here I’d like to share the one that I’ll be pushing throughout 2021.

My business, Verbal to Visual, is educational. I teach a skilled called sketchnoting, also know as visual note-taking, and the first push of my flywheel is to engage in and complete my own sketchnoting projects.

In the first push of my flywheel I work on my own sketchnoting projects.

I use the tool of sketchnoting to process, remember, and act on the ideas I learn about in the books I read, the podcasts I listen to, and the videos that I watch.

So even though my business is about teaching the skill of sketchnoting, my flywheel begins with me being a practitioner first. This focus on my own sketchnoting allows me to maintain my personal connection to the craft that I teach.

After I’ve had that personal experience with sketchnoting, I get excited to talk about it with other people. That’s where the next push in my flywheel comes in – I facilitate conversations about sketchnoting with other lifelong learners.

In the second push of my flywheel I have conversations about sketchnoting with other lifelong learners.

Those conversations take place inside of Verbal to Visual, within the online learning environment I’ve created for us.

Every Monday I share a question, poll, or prompt about sketchnoting that gets us chatting about how best to develop and use this skill.

On Wednesday’s I host a live workshop where I share some specific ideas about one aspect of sketchnoting, and then we have a conversation about it. Others get to hop on the video and chat about their experiences, share their work, and ask questions.

Another form of conversation are the one-on-one coaching calls that I offer to all members. I enjoy those opportunities to go deep with one person about the work they’re up to and the role that sketchnoting can play in support of that work.

And at any given time, the folks that are working their way through the various courses inside Verbal to Visual can share their work and get feedback and encouragement from others.

The role of this second push in my flywheel is to help me get perspective by hearing about others’ experiences with this craft. I get outside of my own head and hear about the successes and the struggles of others who are developing and using this skill.

After those first two pushes – engaging in my own sketchnoting work, then having conversations with others – I get excited about building and delivering educational resources.

In the third push of my flywheel I build educational resources to help others develop and use their sketchnoting skills.

Teaching is my jam, and also my background before I started Verbal to Visual, and this is where I bring together my own experiences with those of the folks I’ve been chatting with to make YouTube videos about or demonstrating sketchnoting that I hope you find to be interesting. It’s also where I create the online courses that walk folks step by step through the process of building their sketchnoting skills and making interesting things with those skills.

The purpose of this third push is to deliver highly impactful learning resources in structured and efficient chunks, through well-thought-out and action-oriented video lessons.

Once I’ve completed that third push, I’m excited to put into practice what I just taught by hopping back into my own sketchnoting projects and starting the cycle again.

This flywheel is similar to the last flywheel I shared, but it’s different in a few important ways.

First of all, it’s got essentially the same core components, but in a different order. In this older version the building of resources came before the conversations, which I think makes less sense.

What the previous iteration of my flywheel looked like, at the start of 2020.

The second important difference has to do with where I’m sharing my work and where the conversations are taking place. I no longer use Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, so my social media exposure extends only to YouTube.

I also no longer have a Patreon because it made more sense to focus on one single online learning environment for folks interested in sketchnoting, and that’s what a Verbal to Visual membership is all about.

For a reasonable monthly fee, you get access to all of our complete-at-your-own-pace courses, and all of those conversations that are taking place. There you get to be part of a community of sketchnoters from all over the globe doing all sorts of interesting work.

The last bit of refinement to my flywheel has to do with how I weave these pushes into my day-to-day work. At first I approached this flywheel with an overall balance in mind, trying to spend enough time on each distinct push over the course of a week or a month.

My new experiment at the start of 2021 is to complete a full cycle of this flywheel every work day. I set aside my early a.m. work session for my own sketchnoting, which gives me a good reference for and gets me excited about the conversations that I have in the late a.m. work session, and then after lunch I swing back to work on building resources, with the two previous work sessions helping to inform that building.

This year’s experiment – map my daily work sessions to these three pushes with the goal of completing a full cycle every work day.

I like the idea of completing a full cycle each day, and the momentum that that might build. We’ll see how it goes in practice.

As a closing thought, this quote from Turning the Flywheel sums up where I think am with mine:

Keep pushing, keep improving.

Here’s to spinning flywheels, in 2021 and beyond.