All the "stuff" | Case Study | Small biz resources
16 April 2021
Srinivas Rao is a successful writer with a self-published Wall Street Journal bestseller and two books published with Penguin Portfolio under his belt. He’s also a podcast host, blogger, and the founder and CEO of The Unmistakable Creative, a community of as his website states “creatives, misfits, and people who don’t feel like they belong anywhere else.” Srini’s mission with Unmistakable Creative is to help other creative entrepreneurs like himself achieve their ambitious creative goals. He’s done what many wish they could do, turn their creativity into a successful business, but it wasn’t easy getting here.
“Me and day jobs were like a match made in hell”
Prior to Unmistakable Creative, Srini had what he calls a “traditional day job” working in various roles with one common theme – a set work schedule with business hours i.e. a “9 to 5”. It wasn’t exactly a good match, the working hours of a professional in corporate America were in conflict with Srini’s work style, “I could get more done from 6 am to 10 am than most people got done in a week but I felt this expectation to be at my desk till 5 pm…we often penalize efficiency in corporate settings, especially back when I was still doing my corporate jobs over ten years ago.”Srini realized that he could be more productive, pursue his creative passions, and build a business without the trappings of the typical 9 to 5, and truly build a work-life that suited his way of working. So how did he get his start running a successful creative business? What’s Srini’s advice for other creative entrepreneurs?
Building a media business focused on productivity
“I have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) so organization and routine have been a lifelong struggle for me.” Due to his ADD, Srini has always prioritized creating routines and systems to organize his life, otherwise, things can quickly turn into chaos. He noticed that other artists struggled with similar challenges, as a creative, there is an overemphasis on the end result, the novel, painting, or blog post, but not enough attention is given to the process of getting there.
Teaching other creatives about productivity, organization, and process became a focus for Srini as he built The Unmistakable Creative, “we built the resources we needed ourselves and it had a double benefit of helping us create a business that was scalable as we were teaching others to relentlessly pursue their creativity and build their own processes.”
“It’s not easy building a business when you have ADD”
It wasn’t easy to transform The Unmistakable Creative from a successful novel and podcast into a media business on a trajectory to reach a million listeners per week. “It’s not easy building a business when you have ADD”, Srini joked as he explained that much of his passion for productivity has been driven by the desire to scale his business. He faced the challenge of going from solopreneur with all of the systems and processes in his brain to adding new team members. Processes started to become an imperative for success, “ as we added complexity with people, we needed to add simplicity with the process.”This wasn’t an overnight process, it was piecemeal. The pillars of the strategy for Srini were:
1. Habit formation
2. Attention management
4. Personal knowledge management
The challenge for creative entrepreneurs
“90% of creative entrepreneurs can’t get a damn thing done because of organization. I’ve wasted so much time sifting through my hard drive to find something just to get work done”.
So many creatives Srini spoke to simply lacked the frameworks required to build consistency into their work, not even strictly from a business perspective. In particular, personal knowledge management, a process of turning information into wisdom and wisdom into action is probably the single most helpful resource for creators, yet many in Srini’s community did not know where to begin. Srini has a hunch as to why so many creatives fail to build repeatability and consistency in their business – an inherent distrust of processes. “People are inherently suspicious of processes because they associate it with bureaucracy, and a lot of process makes no sense. The key is creating processes you can stick with.”
“People are inherently suspicious of processes because they associate it with bureaucracy, and a lot of process makes no sense. The key is creating processes you can stick with.”
With more and more people becoming creative entrepreneurs and creators in the passion economy, there is an increasing need for resources like Srini’s Unmistakable Creative listener tribe. Software vendors have taken notice, every day more products hit the market that addresses individuals’ productivity and knowledge management. These SaaS tools see the exploding opportunity to help micro-entrepreneurs scale their passion into full-fledged businesses. With a bigger spotlight on productivity and efficiency, automation tools have become less scary.
Nowhere is automation more impactful to Srini’s business than in personal knowledge management. He quotes a friend who said, “as content becomes more infinite, curation becomes more valuable.” If knowledge can be managed in an organized manner, you can more rapidly execute your creative work or any type of work for that matter. It’s why Srini has adopted note-taking tools like Roam Research and Notion, and content management tools like Charli. To help manage content that drives his biggest asset – creative output.
“My goal is to make myself the most useless person in the company”
Some entrepreneurs fear being made redundant, Srini on the other hand spends their days trying to figure out how to do it. “I am the owner of a factory, an idea factory, where I come up with ideas, I push that initial button on the assembly line. The only part of it that’s creative is the beginning and the rest is mechanical .”
“I am the owner of a factory, an idea factory, where I come up with ideas, I push that initial button on the assembly line. The only part of it that’s creative is the beginning and the rest is mechanical .”
He encourages other creative entrepreneurs to list all of the tasks completed at the end of the week and then categorize them into either $1000 tasks or $10 tasks. For Srini, most weeks his primary $1000 task was recording episodes for The Unmistakable Creative, the rest was the admin required to get each episode published and promoted i.e. $10 tasks. Now, this isn’t to disparage the $10 tasks, they are extremely important for running a successful business, but do you need to expend your creative energy on stuff that is a lot of ‘work about work’? The answer according to Srini is no.
So how’s it going for Srini? Pretty well but there’s always room for improvement.
Srini started off with a few common challenges:
1. Remote team communication
2. Disparate information
3. Accountability (self-directed)
4. Delegation was difficult at first
Here’s how he tackled each of these areas:
1. Remote team communications → Instead of creating conversation silos, Srini set out to create a shared consciousness within his team, an idea he picked up from podcast guest Navy Seal Chris Fussel. At first, this was Slack and now it’s a combination of Notion, Airtable, and Slack
2. Disparate information → Srini keeps his team organized by centralizing work in Notion and Airtable so anyone can continue their workflow without sending an email
3. Accountability → Not solved with a tool but with a hard look at oneself. Srini had to look at his own part in breaking the process every so often and hold himself accountable for the processes he outlined. This took self-discipline and will always be a work in progress.
4. Delegation → Find smart people you trust and delegation start to get easier. Also, don’t lose sight of the big picture only you as the CEO can articulate and bring it to life. Focus on what matters most and trust your team to deliver the rest.
His overall advice? Create simplicity with processes as early as you can and make yourself accountable to that process to set the culture. Your company should be able to run without you (most of the time).
Srini’s MVP tools for scaling a creative business? “Notion for writing, Airtable for project management, and Roam for research.”
What is Chris’s MVP feature in Charli? “The content canvas. The number of times I can’t find something I know that’s in my Google Drive. If someone asks me, I find it in Charli and send them the canvas. My accountant asked me for invoices, I used to sift through my inbox. Now I have a Charli canvas specifically for invoices.”
What do you love most about using Charli? “Charli allows me to have information at my fingertips and you know exactly where it is. It’s like a digital shoe closet or silverware drawer, you know where the spoons and forks are. People try and do that on their computer but it’s challenging because you have to set up folders and maintain that structure, and it ALWAYS decays. Charli circumvents that issue.”
What are you excited about with the future of Charli? “Public content canvas! So I can share content with Charli even faster”
If you haven’t listened to Srini’s podcast The Unmistakable Creative, check out, it’s available on all major podcasting platforms, and if you want to learn more about how to manage productivity as a creative entrepreneur check out his blog.