James Clift

Founder of Durable

James Clift’s entire professional career has been in entrepreneurship.

Last year, he founded an AI website builder, Durable. They develop fully functional websites in just 30 seconds. Their mission is to leverage AI and create tools that make running a business easier than having a job. So far, they’ve built more than 2M websites and raised more than $6M in funding.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

My mornings tend to start the same most days – I wake up and look at my phone – lots of emails to check and slack messages to reply to.

Then I try to block calendar time for a solid 3 hours of focus work in the morning. I’m at my most productive earlier in the day rather than later, so it’s crucial for me to get some time set aside for developing strategy and executing that strategy.

The rest of my day is all about responding to things – lots of meetings, calls with customers or employees, and of course, emails.

On good days I slot in some exercise in the morning before I begin my work day, or a lunchtime workout if I have too much going on earlier in the day. When I make time to workout I am so much more productive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I try to execute as quickly as I can when I have an idea that I truly believe in. I’ve found that ideas have a short shelf life, you need to strike while you’re excited otherwise the moment will pass.

Start by getting a domain name, building a website and talking to your customer base. Once I have those three things locked and ready to go, it’s time to start iterating my ideas. They don’t have to be perfect or pretty. Just functional. Then from there it’s all about learning as much as you can from what you’ve put out there.

What’s one trend that excites you?

AI really excites me! I’ve built an entire company around AI because I believe it’s the most transformative tech of this generation. People don’t have to spend time working away at boring or mundane tasks anymore, with AI everyone can focus on what they’re good at.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

Exercise is one of the best things I can do for myself. I try to work out most mornings before I start my work day. Getting offline is also important to my productivity. I need to turn off the noise so that I can focus on what’s actually of value. Better still is when I can do both at once, like getting into the mountains and mountain biking.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be less stressed. I was so stressed about everything all the time when I was growing my first company.

There will always be stress and stressors, especially when you’re founding a company – but you should never be dwelling on the existential dread of it all. The “what if this doesn’t work?” doesn’t help you get ahead.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

Employment as a default option for a career isn’t the future of work. I think with the rise of AI, starting a business is going to be a lot easier and more appealing in the years to come.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Be more ambitious. What I mean by that is people are a lot better at things than they typically think they are. Self deprecation is fine, but you also have to own who you are at the end of the day.

Then, make sure that you spend time with ambitious people. When you spend time with others who have big goals and dreams it influences and inspires you. If someone else is building something, you want to build something too.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

I like to give myself a bit of a reset. Turn off my phone for a couple hours, get outside, go for a walk, exercise, call up a friend.

Giving myself the time to breathe and turn off for a while, guilt free, helps me come back to whatever problem I’m tackling with a clearer vision, or at least a more focused one.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

Start early and create as much as you possibly can. You learn so much more by getting things out there and receiving feedback, rather than developing everything in a vacuum.

Even if that product or idea doesn’t work out, I’ve never regretted pursuing anything. I’ve regretted the time, sure, but never regretted trying something new.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Spending too much time on middling traction products has been a failure of mine. Middling traction products are especially frustrating because they are working, just not easily or as quickly as a truly successful product would.

One product I had to cut loose was a virtual career fair program. We had decent traction, even some revenue coming in, but everything was a grind. We struggled to find customers, to get organic growth, even to get customers to help us with world of mouth marketing – it was all a slog. We didn’t have a product market fit.

So, I had to do a gut check. We were forcing the product, rather than discovering it as we worked. We scrapped it.

At the end of the day, however, I learned that when things work, they work fast. So, even if things are kind of working, that’s not a good enough reason to keep going.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Start a business building websites and selling domains to people who are just getting started. Everyone needs a website, and building them is a lot easier than you’d think!

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Apple Notes is an underrated piece of software. I like to use it when I have a quick idea on the fly. When it comes to deeper thinking, sometimes the less technology, the better.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Sleep is so important! I recently purchased automated blackout curtains. They’re the best! Push a button and the blackout curtains are lowered. Makes for a great night’s rest.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

I like to try to create a clarity of thinking. Being overloaded with ideas all the time doesn’t help create a more clear, cohesive vision. So, I don’t listen to a bunch of business podcasts. The kind of podcasts I enjoy are the Always Sunny podcast and the Hamish and Andy podcast. It’s important to take time for things that aren’t work related and to not take life so seriously.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

Succession. That show is so good. It is not aspirational in any way whatsoever – but the acting is great and the production of the series overall is so well done.

Key learnings:

  • Don’t take things so seriously. Life isn’t that serious. When you treat things like problems you’re excited to solve you’re able to approach issues with a healthier mindset
  • Act fast and learn faster. The best way to see if you’ve created a good product or tool is to create it and get it in front of customers. The sooner you’ve done that the sooner you’ll be approaching profitability, or worst case, moving on to your next idea.
  • Make sure to take time away from work too. When you take time off work you have a clarity of focus and can often come back with bigger, better, more focused goals. Breaks are integral to staying focused.