Tyler J. McCall
Taking a Social Media Sabbatical
Tyler J. McCall is the founder of OnlineBusinessOwner.com and host of The Online Business Show podcast. Since 2015, Tyler has helped thousands of entrepreneurs start and grow thriving online businesses they love through his digital products, virtual workshops, coaching and consulting, and in-person events.
In today’s interview, I interview him about taking a sabbatical from social media and how they helped him get clarity on his business.
Watch the video of my interview with Tyler or read the transcript below!
LinksOnlineBusinessOwner.com Tyler’s Instagram Tyler’s Twitter Deadline Funnel
Jack Born: Hey, everyone. This is Jack Born. I am the founder of Deadline Funnel, and today I have a friend of our team. So our Marketing Manager, Bailey, is friends with my guest, Tyler. So, let me introduce Tyler here real quick, and then we’ll jump into the interview. So, Tyler J. McCall is the founder of onlinebusinessowner.com. I love that domain. It’s going to be launching shortly here. We’ll get into that in a bit. He’s also the host of the Online Business Show Podcast. Since 2015, Tyler has helped thousands of entrepreneurs start and grow thriving online businesses they love through his digital products, virtual workshops, coaching and consulting, and in-person events. Before going full-time with his digital business, Tyler worked as a community and political organizer and nonprofit director. He’s based in Chicago, Illinois, where he lives with his husband, Eric. So, welcome to the call, Tyler.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, thanks for having me, Jack. I’m excited to be here.
Jack Born: Yeah. So, why don’t you tell me what you’re up to and what you’re launching in the coming days?
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, so I started my online business back in 2014, kind of part-time on the side while I was doing the nonprofit thing and then went full-time in 2015. And since then my business really grew from an agency to a coaching business to then selling digital products. That’s where I first started using Deadline Funnel in that business. And I was an Instagram guy. I taught Instagram marketing for online businesses, small businesses, artists, makers, all types of folks. And over the past few years, I’ve really kind of grown in my own business and, you know, thought about where I wanted to go. I didn’t want to always be “the Instagram guy”. So, my team and I have been working for the past couple of years on a pivot transition in our business. And we launched something in 2020 called OBA, The Online Business Association. We gave that a run for a year. It wasn’t the right thing at the right time. So, we’ve let that go. And now we’re launching a brand new business on October 25th of this year called onlinebusinessowner.com. And our goal is to create really the first fully dedicated media company in the online business space. So, trying to create something that, you know, gives online business owners a place to come for content, for resources, for community. We’re going to do that through our podcasts. We’re launching a blog next year in 2022 and our new weekly business digest. We’re really excited to be putting out a new weekly newsletter. It feels like the early 2000’s, right, with a weekly newsletter. But you know, I really see, which I think we’ll talk about today, I think a lot of founders and entrepreneurs and creators are maybe feeling a little bit jaded or burnt out on the social media game, especially after the past couple of years. And we want to find a way to get folks kind of the news they need to know about what’s happening in the industry, some motivation, maybe some deep dive on some specific topics related to online business every single week. So, we’re going to be doing that with our new weekly digest that launches on October 25th as well. So, really excited to do some new things, things that I’ve not done before, some things that are a little bit new for the online business space, and can’t wait to bring it all to life and see how it goes.
Jack Born: So, that is really exciting. Tell me a little bit more about who you’re specifically targeting as far as your audience. Are these course creators? Are these coaches, consultants? All of the above?
Tyler J. McCall: All of the above, yeah. So I like to think of online business owners, at least the folks that, you know, I tend to speak to in my community and who I really gravitate to are folks that are either selling their knowledge, their products or their services online. So, course creators and membership site owners are a big part of that. Coaches, consultants, experts, author, speakers, podcasters, those types of folks. And then we have, you know, all of these incredible, creative and professional service providers in our space from accountants to attorneys to graphic and web designers. So, those folks as well. And then, you know, a community that I’ve really been excited about working with the entirety of my entrepreneurial journey up until now are creators, makers, artists, folks that are selling handmade products on Etsy, on their own website or something like that. So, those are really the folks that we want to talk to with the new brand, with onlinebusinessowner.com. And, you know, we may have some other folks come in and join us. We may get some software folks. Come on in; hang out. The water will be nice and inviting, or even some e-commerce folks. Come on and join us. But, for starting out, we’re going to kind of focus more on folks that are selling more of their knowledge, services and products they make.
Jack Born: And is the main thing for people like that to have a community of people who are just like them, or is is the focus equally on some sort of intellectual property deliverable? Give me a better sense of what your new platform is going to deliver.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, our main goal is to be a ‘content first’ platform. So, through content we’ll be producing in our own team and then bringing in expert contributors and other folks to really deliver detailed ‘how-to’ content in the blog format, different types of breakdowns and comparisons for all the different platforms that exist for online business owners, really helping them understand the best platforms for themselves and their business. And then building out, you know, a way to get folks the information and the news and the content that’s relevant for this industry in a way that doesn’t require them to sit on Facebook and scroll for, you know, 17 minutes, you know, of every hour of every day, which it feels like sometimes, especially when everything’s happening, you know, the Facebook sky is falling and Instagram is changing and now we have to dance and point at things on the screen on TikToK. I mean, it just feels so overwhelming, right? There’s so many places.
Jack Born: I refuse to go there.
Tyler J. McCall: I know. Same! Same. But we really want to help folks kind of get what they need, get that little bit of kick in the pants they need sometimes to get back to work on their business and then go work on their business and not be distracted by all of those other things. So, that’s what we’re going to do first. Also in 2022, we’re going to be launching a marketplace online where we’ll be selling our own products and then inviting other creators to sell their products through our marketplace as well. We’ll be creating some pretty cool funnels with some Deadline Funnel help there, which we’re excited to bring that to life next year. But yeah, that’s what we’re doing. And also, hey, it’s brand new. There’s lots of ideas. I’m sure we’ll try things; they won’t work. I’m sure there’s stuff we’re totally missing. We’ll have to give that a whirl, too. But I don’t know, it’s that entrepreneurial bug, right? Once you kind of [inaudible] making new stuff.
Jack Born: So, if you’re going to be sharing information about platforms, then after this call, we should probably have a chat because I’ll give you some breaking news about something that we’ve been working on behind the scenes.
Tyler J. McCall: Please.
Jack Born: Yeah, but let me get back on track. So, you mentioned social media a few times, and before we hit record on the interview, we were talking briefly about how you took a sabbatical. So, why don’t you share that with me? Because there’s one social media platform that I’m a little bit addicted to, but I’ve done a pretty good job of staying off of places like Facebook and Instagram. So, tell me about your experience recently.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah. Well, look, my entire career up until now as an entrepreneur has been on social media. I was an Instagram marketer. It’s what I taught. Before teaching it, I had an Instagram marketing agency. Before doing that, when I worked in the nonprofit world, I was typically the youngest and most social media savvy in the room, so it kind of always fell to me to figure out how to do the Facebook and Instagram thing. So I’ve been on social media, I mean, since it was ‘a thing’ really. Like, I became an adult with social media. It’s always been a part of my life. And I was really feeling this point early in 2021 of just complete and utter burnout. And I know lots of creators and entrepreneurs talk about that, but I had kind of run into burnout before, but this was the first time, and Jack, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but where I reached the point where I was kind of so like burnt out and done that I couldn’t create. And as an entrepreneur that’s really scary because creating is kind of like what we do on a daily basis, whether creating product or creating content. We’re creating connections in our community or with our teams, whatever it may be. And I felt like that creative flame that I always had that I nurtured for so long was just completely gone. So, I was a little scared about what to do, feeling a little bit of that burnout in my business and how my business was structured. So, I knew I needed some changes there. But when I looked at kind of some of the biggest sources of frustration for me in my life, it was social media. I mean, it was feeling the pull to always create, to always share, to always be present or visible online. I felt that, but what was even worse for me was feeling a lot of judgment about myself and what I was doing in my business based on what everyone else was doing, right? I mean, we’re fortunate to be in this kind of space of online business and digital entrepreneurship, where a lot of folks are kind of building their businesses in public, which is really exciting. We get to see other people’s successes. We get to learn lessons with them. You know, sometimes folks share when things don’t go as well as they had hoped, but it kind of has the side effect, at least I find for me, and for a lot of the folks I’ve worked with over the years, of feeling that comparison about what other people are doing, where are they at, where you should be. And I was really feeling that no matter, you know, all the affirmations in the world, all the things I said about trying to focus on my business, I was feeling that comparison.
So, I said, “you know what? I need a break.” I need to, for me, my primary goal, and one thing I talk a lot about now with this idea of taking a social media sabbatical is really getting clear on your goal for why you’re doing it. For me, my main goal was to really clear out all the inputs that were coming in, all the messages coming in, so that I could just have some peace and quiet and think about what I was doing, where I was going, and what I wanted to do next.
So, I did that. I took 90 days off of social media. I deleted the apps from my phone. I had someone on my team change the password so I couldn’t even get in. I deleted the bookmarks off my computer, and I subscribed to the New York Times and read the newspaper every morning. Like that was kind of one of the changes I made. But I mean, it was really, and it may sound silly to some folks who aren’t as into the social media world as maybe I’ve been and a lot of folks that I work with, but this was one of those like kind of life-changing decisions I made that I’m grateful I did ’cause it’s really given me so much better clarity about where I’m going and also helped me better understand what I was trying to get out of all of the social media usage that I was doing, if that makes sense.
Jack Born: So, on that last point, what did you discover that you were trying to get?
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, I discovered a few things. First of all, I use social media as a major distraction. So, when I was experiencing discomfort in my life or emotionally or in relationships or a discomfort with, you know, maybe decisions I needed to make about my business, it was a very easy place to be distracted. I was using it as a place as a measuring stick for myself and my business and my success and what I was doing by looking at what other people were doing and comparing myself to where they were compared to where I was. So, I was using it as a tool for that. And the last thing is I was using it in some ways where now that I’m back on social media, I am, I actually see the benefit of using it this way. I’m a voracious news consumer. I love kind of knowing what’s happening in the world. I love the, like, breakdowns of why things are happening and the different, you know, ideas behind why things are happening. I’m a reality TV fanatic. Oh my gosh, we can talk about the real Housewives of Melbourne all day long. I don’t know if you’re a fan Jack. If not, it’s fine. We’ll get you engaged.
Jack Born: So, I live in a household with my wife and two daughters, and so there’s lots of Real Housewives of this and that going on, yeah. So, that’s sort of their McDonald’s version of like what they’re taking in. And we’re a huge fan, I’m a longtime fan of Project Runway, like-
Tyler J. McCall: Yes, oh my gosh, so good-
Jack Born: Yeah, yeah. Like we will quote Tim Gunn so many times where it’s like, it’s a “make it work” moment, you know.
Tyler J. McCall: Exactly. If you haven’t, you know, I don’t know if you know this, but Tim and Heidi left Bravo to create their own show on Amazon Prime, “Making the Cut”, and it is so good. And the thing I love about it the most is they have Amazon money. So, the production on that show is out of this world. Oh my gosh. It’s incredible. Yeah, so for me, like, so for me, Twitter is kind of, Twitter is my drug these days over Instagram or-
Jack Born: Oh my gosh, Twitter, huh. Wow.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah. I know. Again, it feels kind of old school, but-
Jack Born: No, no, no, no. I wasn’t judging you that way. It was more along the lines of, I stay off of Twitter just because it feels, can feel to me, like just kind of the land of trolls, you know?
Tyler J. McCall: It can, yeah, for sure. It totally can. Yeah, I’ve found on Twitter these days that you can really curate your content experience in a way that isn’t really possible on other platforms. I’m not becoming a Twitter strategist or anything. Those those days are behind me. But it’s, I don’t know, it’s just a really great user experience. More so than Facebook, more so than Instagram. I don’t know. We can have another conversation about Facebook’s products and their algorithm and what they’re doing these days ’cause I have lots of thoughts, but yeah. But I found my way back on social in a way that feels really good for me. And I’m using it more strategically and more purposefully, not just kind of numbly, mindlessly scrolling, which I think is how a lot of folks use it, unfortunately. And I don’t know if you see this, but I see a lot of entrepreneurs and creators who are “on social media for their business”, but if they were to really, and this a little bit of tough love, but if you were to really consider the time you’re spending on the platform, this is something I always taught when I taught Instagram marketing strategy, is that just being on the platform mindlessly consuming, even if it’s for five hours a day, isn’t helping your business. We all know that, but I think sometimes we need the logical reminder of oh, five minutes of logging on, posting, responding to a DM, commenting on some content for people that may be the ideal fit for your business or product or service, and then logging off is always going to be far more valuable than the five hours you spend scrolling through and seeing what everyone else is doing.
Jack Born: Yeah. No, so, as I mentioned, I’m pretty much not on Facebook. I mean, I have it on my phone. But every now and then, it typically happens if someone DMs me through the Messenger app, I can very easily lose several hours. And I’m like, “oh my god, what happened? I just got sucked into a time vortex.” And it’s just a good reminder for me that, you know, that’s why I don’t go in and check that stuff. So, for me, I’ve been pretty good at staying off of it. The one thing that I wish I had the ability to do is to very easily get, I actually want to see the ads that people in my space are putting out there to see what other people are doing because I feel like if they’re putting money behind it, it’s interesting to see their copy. It’s interesting to see what, you know, what possible competition or possible partnerships are doing. In the same way, YouTube, which is my one addiction, YouTube keeps offering me a trial to have no ads. I’m like, well, actually, that’s one of the reasons why I’m on YouTube is to see what ads people are putting out there. But yeah, I totally can relate to getting sucked into that time vortex. And certainly my teenage daughter and my 11 year old daughter definitely struggle with this because I can see that when they have periods of either boredom or anxiety, like the drug of choice is turning on the phone and scrolling through Instagram. And I really try to talk with them as often as possible about, you know, how do you feel after you go through, you know, Instagram? And it’s pretty, I mean, they know that it makes them feel awful, but I try to- when I see them doing it, I’m like, okay, I just want to make sure that you know you just reached for the phone. Were you feeling boredom right then? Like, I’m trying to help them make the connection between, “oh, when I feel this way, I typically start scrolling through Instagram or whatever.”
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah. And one of the things I learned, too, going into, as I was getting ready for the sabbatical, one of the things I was reading the most about, I was just googling like “social media break”, “social media sabbatical”, reading all these blog posts. And, you know, a lot of people were kind of talking about the strategy behind it. And that’s something that I think is important, especially if you’re a solopreneur, kind of you’re a one person show in your business, thinking about like, are you going to ghost your audience? Are you still going to post? How are you going to plan out content? I mean, I went 90 days without using social, but excuse me, because I had a team we still posted all summer long. We still had promotions. We had like multiple promotions during the summer. We were still making money. The cool thing was none of the content was new created, newly created content. It was all repurposed content, which is a good reminder for folks, like you have a lot of good stuff you said before. So, use that. You don’t always have to like create brand new things, but, you know, I think it’s important for people to think about. One of the things I realized going in was that I was still on my phone a lot. I was still using my phone a lot. And for me, like my goal with the sabbatical was just to get off of social. So, if I was still scrolling through like reading an article or reading a book on my phone or playing Sudoku or something like that, that was okay for me. But I think for a lot of folks are, you know, if I were to do this again, which I definitely want to, I think it is starting to think about those things. Like, what is the scrolling doing for me right now? Or how is this distracting me or numbing me out or whatever it may be? And I think even if like, look, you’re not ready to do the whole sabbatical, or if you feel like I don’t need to take a break from social, just asking those questions, like you said. I mean, it can really start to change your overall experience.
Jack Born: Yeah, so are you, it sounds like you’re contemplating doing another sabbatical. Do you have a date on the calendar, or is it just something that you’re contemplating?
Tyler J. McCall: I’m thinking about it for right now. I mean, I do a few things like with my team and my company that kind of help me like, keep those boundaries in place. For example, I have two phones. I don’t have any Slack, Facebook, Instagram on my personal iPhone, all of that’s on my work phone. So, that’s a nice boundary I have. We do a four-day –
Jack Born: Oh, interesting.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t have work email on my personal phone, anything like that. We do a four-day work week, so that helps a lot as well with creating some of those boundaries. And then lots of time off around the holidays. So, you know, pretty soon at least here, you know, with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, all of those holidays, I take a lot of time off because I spent a lot of my life going to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving and then also working on New Year’s Day because I was a membership director at a YMCA for a long time. And New Year’s Day is like an important day for the YMCA. And I’m very resentful of all the time that I had to spend working those days. So, now I don’t do it. So I think probably around the holidays, I’ll definitely will. And then one thing we decided is taking the summer off of my podcast. We did that this year. Definitely doing that next year. And I think maybe taking the summer off of social. It was just so nice June through August. I live in Chicago, so, honestly the best months of the year are June through August. It’s like the only time you have abundant sunshine and it’s not snowing. So, I kind of want that time to be sacred so I can just get out and soak up all the sun. So, when it’s like 20 below in the middle of March, it’s all worth it, I guess.
Jack Born: So, if someone doesn’t have, someone listening to this, doesn’t have their own team and maybe they’re not going to go with two phones. I mean, I think it’s a great idea, but are there other, maybe easier-to-implement tactics that you’ve learned from taking the sabbatical and now coming back and having a healthier relationship that anyone can implement?
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, for sure. So, deleting these apps off your phone when you’re not actively using them is as a great one. I know lots of folks who Friday afternoon when they log out, when they kind of clock off their business, they delete Facebook and Instagram from their phone for the weekend. I think that’s a great idea. A quick little caveat, if you’re an Instagram user and you are using things like the Instagram Drafts feature or anything like that, if you delete Instagram, you’re going to lose your drafts. So, keep that in mind. That’s one thing to do.
A simple thing that you can do just to create a really clear boundary for yourself is, I find this very helpful and I know lots of other folks do as well, is trying to limit your social media usage to your laptop or your desktop computer. And this is a really big change from just, you know, sitting on the couch scrolling. It just makes you more purposeful about why you’re doing it. Now, of course, you know, we can end up sitting at our desk all day scrolling on Facebook and that’s not the goal either, but I think making that change can be helpful.
If you are a Chrome user, the Newsfeed Eradicator tool is my favorite thing ever. It’s a free plugin for Chrome that will completely get rid of your newsfeed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and a few other platforms. So, when you log in, instead of seeing that yummy really, you know, that yummy feed that you just want to scroll and scroll and scroll, it just puts a quote up for you. So, you can’t really scroll anything. That’s very helpful as well. So, those are a few things you can try out. And then another thing I will, of course, recommend, which it feels very basic, but is just content planning content batching, and content scheduling. I think this is one of the simplest things that folks can start doing. I think when we hear content batching, we think, “oh my gosh, I have to sit down and write, you know, 16 weeks worth of posts in one afternoon.” That’s not the goal. You know, a lot of our clients, and one of our programs that we have called Follower to Fan Academy where we teach Instagram marketing, you know, they really just get into a routine of monthly looking at their data and analytics on Instagram to figure out what’s working. And then every week, maybe it’s a Friday afternoon activity, Sunday evening, Monday morning, just sitting down, coming up with their two or three posts for the week and getting that scheduled out. Facebook has finally come a very long way with their creator tools that now allow you to schedule content natively in Facebook. You can use Creator Studio to schedule content, to publish to Instagram. You don’t have to use third-party tools anymore for that. And we found a lot of success with those as well. So, those are a few things folks can start doing just to give themselves a little bit more peace of mind, a little more separation from what they’re doing on social. And I find those to be really helpful.
Jack Born: Oh, thank you for sharing that. Those are some great tips that I know that that’s going to help a lot of people. An app that I’ve used in the past with some success is the Freedom app. I believe that’s what it’s called.
Tyler J. McCall: Uh-huh.
Jack Born: Yeah, and you can set different limits on when you’re, you know, basically how much time you’re going to allow yourself to spend, and it will lock you out. Or, sometimes it’s a matter of okay, for the next hour, I want to make sure that no messages come in, you know, no DMs. I can’t be on Facebook. I can’t be on YouTube, et cetera. And it locks you out for that hour. And there’s different controls that you can set on it. Some, you know, you can get in, you know, if, or, you know, if you type in a certain password and I think there’s one setting where it’s like, if you set it up this way for the next hour, you can’t get in. Like, it’s just going to prevent you from actually getting in. It’s sort of the online version of, I forget the name of the company. I should remember it. But someone went on Shark Tank, and they got funded immediately for this idea where there’s a box that you can lock and-
Tyler J. McCall: Yes.
Jack Born: Yeah, you can put your phone in it. And so you can put your phone in it, and it’ll keep you locked out for a certain period of time. So, that’s kind of the online version of that.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, so good.
Jack Born: I got to ask, since we’re here chatting, you mentioned that you use Deadline Funnel. You’re planning on using it in the future. How did you come across Deadline Funnel, and where do you use it in your business?
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, so I started using Deadline Funnel at the recommendation of a coach that I had at the time. I was building out an evergreen sales funnel; didn’t know what I was doing. And that was the tool that was recommended. And it was so easy to set up and get started with. And so definitely used it for that. And another thing that I think this is like, this is one of those things that I feel like people just don’t think about, or they don’t realize they could use it for was, even when we were doing live launches, like setting up your funnel, your Deadline Funnel so then that way you’re not having to get up at like one in the morning to close cart for whatever you’re selling. So, one of the simplest things that we ever did using it. So, loved using it that way as well. And with the new business I’m really excited because since we’re not really running a launch-based business, we’ll launch new products, of course, but we’re just going to have a marketplace where people can kind of buy our products whenever. So, I was just chatting recently with my marketing manager about, you know, how we can build out some really cool automations and funnels, you know, offering people discounts whenever they come to product pages and doing some, you know, time-sensitive things like that, creating some product bundles and upsells and those types of things. So, we’re really excited to play around with it that way in a format, you know, that’s a little bit different than kind of the traditional “launch something, open the doors for a few days, and then close it”, and just making products available for folks whenever. So, that’s a way that we’re planning on using it for sure.
Jack Born: Awesome. Well, if there’s something that my team can do to help out in that process, definitely reach out to us. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, for sure.
Jack Born: Awesome. Well, so I want to make sure that everyone knows where they can find you. So, the site that’s launching soon is onlinebusinessowner.com. And then I would assume The Online Business Show Podcast is available wherever you, wherever someone consumes their podcasts. I’m going to add it to my list of podcasts and start checking it out immediately.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, season two launches on October 25th, and we do deep dive kind of how-to strategy episodes. And then we also do business round table episodes where we bring on a group of experts and talk about a specific business topic. And then every now and then extra special episode I’ll do is a “behind the business” episode where we do kind of this behind the scenes story of someone, how they created their business, what it looked like. We have a really great episode behind the business with Amy Porterfield. We have one with Rachel Rodgers from Hello Seven Co. So, a couple of those episodes out that we did in season one as well, which are just really good listens to kind of learn more about these online personalities that you see on the internet and kind of the story of how they got here. So, those are a few of the types of episodes we do, but yeah, new episodes out every week, starting back on October 25th.
Jack Born: And then how many shows will you have in a season?
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, our first season we did about 60 shows. So, we did a little over a year. We doubled up a bit. So, I think we’ll do about nine months of content. So, we’re going to relaunch at the end of October and then get us into like spring of 2022 with those weekly episodes. But we may be growing, may be changing it up, may be launching some new podcasts coming soon through the new business. We’ve got lots of ideas that we’re – You know, just, you know, the age-old problem of having the time and resources to bring all our ideas to life. But we’re working on those two things.
Jack Born: I hear ya. I hear ya. Always lots of ideas, that’s part of being a creative creator, so, fantastic. Well, listen, it was great talking with you. Do you want to give people any other ways to reach out to you and anything on social media? You don’t have to, but just thought I’d offer it.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, for sure. I hang out on Instagram at @TylerJMcCall. So, we have new content going up there all the time, talking about how to start and grow your own thriving online business. If you want to come hang out with me on Twitter. I mainly just kind of talk about Real Housewives and have various rants about things happening in the world. Sometimes I talk about business, too. I’m over there at @tylerjmccall as well.
Jack Born: Beautiful. Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for your time.
Tyler J. McCall: Yeah, thanks for having me.