Virtual FieldTrip: A Conversation with Paul Jarvis

Content creators, small business owners, and makers have all had to shift our practices and orientation without much of a guide book in times of uncertainty. Why is it important for creators to define what enough is, step back, and most importantly, protect our digital footprints in the process?

For a one-of-a-kind live virtual Own Your Content FieldTrip, we chatted with designer, podcaster, and author Paul Jarvis about managing difficult times as a small business owner. In this conversation, Paul generously explored and shared what it’s like operating as a small business during the shifting landscape of sharing content on the internet, how to take up healthy digital privacy practices, and much more.


A Conversation with Paul Jarvis: Owning Your Digital Footprint and Navigating Challenging Times

Our Favorite Takeaways & Insights

You’ve been lifting up some of the voices of small business owners during the pandemic through your podcast, Call Paul. What are a few of the most salient pieces of wisdom or advice that you took from your guests about navigating this time? [9:44]

For the podcast, I was worried that it was just going to be a downer of an entire season and it ended up not being like that. Obviously, there are struggles, there are hardships and I won’t diminish that. But, there is also a sense of resilience and a sense of… “Okay, things are changing now. How can we change our business for the better, not just in terms of profit, but how can we serve our audience better? How can we serve our community better? How can our products do more for the greater good?”

I think that that’s the beauty of small businesses. Every single small business owner that I spoke with cared about the people that they serve, not just from money standpoint, but from a human standpoint. I’m a person, they’re a person. What can we do to connect in a deeper way or to help each other and to serve each other in a better way? The season actually ended up being quite a positive one which I was really pleased with it.

How can we change our business for the better, not just in terms of profit, but how can we serve our audience better? How can we serve our community better? How can our products do more for the greater good?

How do you determine your own “enough” in a moment when our barometers of success, productivity, and possibility are so in flux? [12:30]

Thinking about “enough” is important because your enough is different than mine. Enough for everybody is very different. I think social media and internet publications, a lot of the times, show one track for success for business owners or entrepreneurs, and that there’s this one version of what it looks like.

If we’re thinking about enough, we have to ask ourselves: How much is enough? How do I know when I reach it? It’s important to have that moment of introspection in general and as business owners, we need to do that. We need to not just work in our business, constantly doing the work, but we need to take a step back sometimes and think about whether the business is giving me the life I want on a daily basis and is enjoyable for me. Obviously not all of it is always going to be fun. But, the majority of the time — is this fulfilling for me? If it’s not, that’s when we feel we don’t have enough. If we do have enough, what can we change?

For businesses that feel they are doing enough, then our priorities can shift and we can focus on other things. Growth can still happen and we can still get more customers, but we can also start to think about how can we can serve the people who are already showing up and who are already paying attention to me.

Thinking about “enough” is important because your enough is different than mine.

In your newsletter, you share a number of reasons why we should care about our digital privacy, even when we feel we “have nothing to hide.” How would you describe what digital privacy means and why we should care about it? [24:53]

Digital privacy is just being aware of and protecting the information that simply you being on the internet creates and can be shared or passed around online. From the ISP level to the big tech companies, they’re collecting data on all of us. There are small ways that we can actively work to disconnect them from that data.

When I talk about digital privacy, the biggest thing that I always hear from people is, “Well, I have nothing to hide.” To that I typically say, “Would you share your social security number and credit card with me directly on the internet?” Nobody, nobody will take me up on that.

Outside of the “nothing to hide” argument, if data exists on us, it’s going to be breached. It’s not, if it’s going to be breached, it’s when it’s going to be breached. All of us have been part of some data breach. I’m sure whether you know it or not, it’s probably happened if you exist on the internet.

The biggest thing is that this information is being tracked without our consent. If there was a way to consent or for us to get paid for our data, our minds could change.

There are small ways that we can actively work to disconnect them [big tech companies] from our data.


Special Thanks to Paul Jarvis

Paul Jarvis is a designer, podcaster and author of the book Company of One (translated in 18+ languages) which explores what happens when we question growth in business. Paul is the cofounder of a simple, privacy-focused website analytics tool, called Fathom and the host of a podcast for Mailchimp called Call Paul, where he talks to small businesses about how they’re dealing with the global pandemic. Paul also writes a weekly newsletter called the Sunday Dispatches where he shares articles about working and living online with 35k subscribers.

You can soak in more of Paul’s wisdom from his in-depth Own Your Content interview and you can find more of his work on his website at pjrvs.com.


This virtual FieldTrip event was produced in partnership with WordPress.com CreativeMornings.

Morning people get 10% off their WordPress.com site at wordpress.com/creativemornings for a limited time.

You can learn more about FieldTrips by CreativeMornings on the official FieldTrips website at creativemornings.com/fieldtrips.

Facilitated and hosted by Alexa Kutler. Illustrations by Jeffrey Phillips. ‘Own Your Content’ illustration by Annica Lydenberg.

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