Photo by James Discombe on Unsplash

When people ask me what my long-term vision is, I do not have an answer.

I know I want to look after my family and help them thrive. I want to do the work I love until I stop loving it and then find something else to do. And I want to make sure that whatever I do, I try my damndest. That’s honestly about it.

There’s no 5-year revenue goal. Studio Self doesn’t have an exit strategy. Turning 40 is 8 years away, and I have no fucking clue what that will look like. Here’s the thing — I…


You honestly do get to define what a good life and a good business looks like for you. For me, it’s staying small, launching tiny products and companies I love, working with people I respect, and above all — spending time with my family.

I have absolutely zero to prove.

You will never find me working at night or through my weekend. I will never take a meeting with a client over a meeting at daycare. I have zero interest in making millions. …


Burn down the burnout

Where did this come from? When did we all start believing that over work is the way of success, that anything less than being pushed to the edge of what is personally possible equates to not even trying?

It’s widely accepted in startups, and it’s just unhealthy. I’m going to tell you something that I know to be true. Hustle isn’t worth shit if the hustler has collapsed from exhaustion. I’ve seen that time and time again, from young founders and seasoned entrepreneurs who have bought into the hustle-as-existence mentality.

These are the folks working 12 hour days, 7 days…


Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Why: It’s mostly full of s**t.

Too many decks are overdesigned, they’re way too fancy, and all the bells and whistles are hiding a simple fact: Your content sucks.

You’ve over-indexed on sleek and flashy and you haven’t written a deck for humans.

Guess what?

There’s no award for best-designed deck in a YC cohort.

The thing is…crafting a good deck is easy.

1. Say what you’re working on.

2. Say why it matters.

3. Say it without jargon

4. Say it without artifice.

5. Don’t try and hide the skeletons.

6. Never bullshit.

It’s simplicity.

That’s the key to communicating, marketing, advertising, selling, building, making anything.

Simplicity ensures that you keep the core of your values and your product pure.

Simplicity can let the true glory of your work shine through.

No matter what you’re doing, you can learn from this.

It’s not about embracing minimalism as an…


Tiny details matter

Photo by Konsepta Studio on Unsplash

The small things matter. The way you look after the people who pay you money and the way you care about the details. We talk a lot about doing things that don’t scale, but that goes beyond just worrying about customer service. It’s about how you let the small things that nobody is ever going to notice guide and inform who you are — and what you value.

How do you speak to the person you love? How do you speak about them? …


Pay creators. Or there is no economy.

Photo by DEVN on Unsplash

People love creators.

They love the creator economy.

They love passionomics.

…until you tell them you want them to pay for your expenses or even a fee. Then they disappear pretty damn fast.

Which is your own fault for violating the golden rule — bloggers, makers, artists and writers must never try to get paid.

Once you try and get paid everyone thinks you’ve sold out. And they send you lovely messages yelling at you for it.

How dare you!

And when they read your free content they think they’re doing you a favour. And tell you that, too. …


Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.

— Anne Herbert

Here’s 10 reasons we need libraries:

  • Libraries are eco-friendly partners
  • Libraries are community hubs and homes
  • Libraries promote diversity
  • They give resources to those who have none
  • They are politically neutral (and provide neutral research) in a divided world
  • Libraries offer resources for small businesses
  • Libraries encourage the arts, from writers to painters to rappers
  • Libraries are a gathering place for teens, kids, seniors together
  • Libraries taught Steve Jobs, Hillary Clinton, Seth Godin and thousands of others
  • They store knowledge that — unlike…


Photo by Peter Gombos on Unsplash

Being wrong is one of the greatest opportunities you will ever be given to affect change, impact your own life and completely shift gears. Being wrong means that you have the opportunity to reach your next level. The problem is, when that opportunity comes along, we rarely take it.

Instead, we try to find a way to weasel out of it and somehow be right. Because being right is the only important thing. Being right matters more than anything else.

It’s not a constructive reaction, but it’s a pretty normal and unsurprising one. Nobody wants to get it wrong, nobody…


Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

Frugal innovation is about making the most out of the resources we have. Frugal innovation is about creativity that does not require much money. It taps into the brilliance of resourcefulness. Ultimately, it requires an emphasis on being able to think outside of the box.

The classic startup story is to raise millions of dollars and burn through it as fast as possible to pursue immediate, scaling growth. That approach can work. But that approach can also destroy companies, teams and founders, throwing them aside like used wrappers.

Frugal innovation is an alternative to that. It’s doing what you can…


Photo by Tech Daily on Unsplash

The smartest people in the world don’t use old paradigms to describe new ones. Maybe I’m painting with a broad brush here, but I truly believe it. That’s something I’ve come to understand, the more I meet with and talk to startup founders. I get pitch emails all the time, people who want me to write about, tweet about, or give them feedback on their startup.

So many of them try to express their ideas by mashing up old ones. It’s like “Startup for X” has become a rallying call, and a fucking annoying one at that.

But it’s just…

Joan Westenberg

Chaotic good. Award winning creative director & writer, ft. in Wired, The AFR, SF Chronicle, Junkee. founder tinyspells.xyz / thisisstudioself.com ✨ She/Her.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store