## Warning: This is a long post with some longer-than-usual paragraphs, and less headings than normally. This is to keep unserious people from reading. I know it looks like an intimidating read if you just glance down (DON'T!!) - but just start reading and you'll get there in a few minutes... Uh, so, anyway... If you really want to create an income online, you might find this interesting. After 5 (almost 6) years in the game, this is my perspective, and some thoughts on what I'd do if I were to start all over again.) ##
Out of all the people who want to make money doing what they love, they generally fall into two categories, and should strategize accordingly. No one-size-fits-all “follow your passion” biz plan.
- People who have an existing passion and would give anything to be able to do it full time. Creative people often fall into this category. Painters, producers, singers, writers, creators and artists of all shapes and sizes.
- People who don’t know what they want to be doing, don’t know what their passion is, only that they don’t want to be stuck doing what they’re currently doing. The majority of people fit into this category, including business opportunity seekers.
The problem with the first category is that you need an entirely different skillset to make money than to perform in your existing field of expertise.
Being able to write a book or paint a portrait or sing a song, is not the same skillset as being able to sell a book, get someone to pay for a portrait or sell out a concert.
It’s an entirely different skillset. Business skills. Marketing skills.
My advice to those people is to suck it up, start reading business and marketing books, learn how to sell, learn how to write with influence, learn how to build a tribe, etc. You have an enormous advantage over people in the second category -- because you already have something of value. You have an existing skillset that people are willing to pay money for you to use. You only need to learn how to get paid for it, which if you get your elbows in the mud and decide to learn, is both possible and reasonable. (Note that I didn’t say easy or simple. It is neither. But if you really want it, if you’re hungry, if you want the impact and influence your soul is craving, then you have the drive necessary to do what it takes, learn what it takes, and execute.)
My advice to people in the second category is to stop worrying about what your passion is. In a study conducted among people who love their jobs, it turned out that pretty much none of them started out having passion for it. Focus on developing valuable skills. Your income is proportionate to the value you bring to the world... so if you want to make more, become more valuable. The value you can provide is determined by what you can do, your abilities, your skills. Once you start gaining competency and understanding of the new craft, then you can start developing passion for it. Example: I love writing, but I didn’t always. I started learning how to write because I thought I had to (which I did). But once I started getting good at it, I also started liking it. Lesson: You generally don’t like doing things you are not good at. You won’t like something until you get good at it. So get good at something. No biz-opp or flavor-of-the-month “money-getting” tactic will ever get you to a sustainable or satisfactory level of income. More likely it will leave you with maxed out credit cards and nothing to show for it but a big pile of debt.
What I’d do starting from scratch
... assuming no skill, no talent, no money, no resources.
A lot of people ask things like “What would you do today if you were just starting out?”
And whatever I would respond would be completely redundant. They are asking what I’d do now, starting with my experience, skills and knowledge.
None of what I’d say would be relevant to them, since they don’t have the same experience, skills and knowledge. They can’t look at a problem, or an opportunity, the same way I can, make the same judgements I can, and act the same way I can.
Everyone has their own unique experiences and skills. I’m not saying my skills or experiences are in any way better, only different, and that difference would make whatever I have to say in return to such a question completely irrelevant.
That said, here’s what I’d do if I were starting from scratch, without any of the skills or experiences I’ve accumulated over the years.
1A: I would get a job. Like a day job. Having a steady income makes everything else much, much easier. You don’t have a business if you don’t have the skills to advertise profitably, and that is a skill to be learnt and mastered with a lot of practice. And advertising costs money, so having a steady supply of it is a good thing.
Type of job: Salesman. Salespeople are always in demand, and good companies actually train their employees. It’s an unglamorous job, but it gives you a place to cut your teeth. Salesmanship is everything. Copywriting is salesmanship in print. Learning how to sell is imperative.
Another type of job I would consider would be anything where I’d be in close proximity of someone who is a master of something I’d like to master. Like being an assistant who does the dirty work for an experienced copywriter.
Third, in any position in a business that’s similar to a business I’d want to run myself.
The common theme among the types of jobs I’d consider is that they all have something else I can leverage beyond a steady paycheck. Skills I can use for life, experiences that will stay with me no matter what I’m doing.
If none of the above are available, or if I didn’t have time to hunt a position down, anything would be fine. And in that case, preferrably something where at the end of the day I’m not exhausted, and leaves me enough time to hustle in my free time.
Afterthought: An almost perfect job would be as a truck driver, or any kind of long distance driving job. Freeway therapy. Long hours for thinking, pondering and plotting evil schemes.
1B: While working at my day job, I would spend my free time sharpening a highly valuable skill. In my case, most likely copywriting, marketing, etc.
In a truck driver type job, I’d spend every minute on the road listening to highly relevant CDs. Audio recordings of seminars, audio books, audio info-products.
Jim Rohn said that poor people have big TVs and rich people have big libraries. That’s true, but in some cases the rich people started out with big stacks of tapes and CDs piled up in the glove box.
I want to point out that I wouldn’t only listen to CDs, read books, and learn passively. I would be actively participating, immersed in learning the craft.
If I wanted to learn copywriting, I would begin each morning by writing out a known control (winning advertisement) by hand. Lots of reasons why this is a really good idea that I won’t go into here.
Interesting anecdote: a lot of current bestselling fiction authors started by writing out other famous authors (like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc) by hand. If I wanted to be a fiction author, I’d do the same.
If I wanted to be a screenwriter, I’d write out Academy Award winning screenplays... etc.
If I wanted to be a programmer, I don’t see a reason why the same tactic would not work with typing out good code from famous (?) programmers.
After my morning writing session, I would try to write something for myself. Perhaps for someone else’s product that I’m familiar with, or perhaps a fictional product, or something else.
I would buy the products from the big mailers, and all the leading direct response companies out there... so that, not only would I be immersing myself in the fundamentals of direct marketing, but also what the leaders are doing that’s working today. Both online and offline.
In short, I’d study everything, immerse myself in everything.
Finally, I’d reach out to people in the industry I wanted to be a part of. Ask a lot of question, ask for interviews, etc. Mark Victor Hansen (co-author of the Chicken Soup For The Soul series) said that a big part of his success was his shameless habit of asking people to do things. He’d just ask. Sometimes offer nothing in return. Knock on enough doors, and eventually some will open.
At the end of each day, I would journal about everything. About what I’ve learnt that day. Little victories. New insights. What I would have done differently. What I’ll do tomorrow. And so on.
I would treat the mastery of a new, valuable skill as a second full-time job.
I would do this for a minimum of one year.
2: After my one year of immersion and journey toward mastery, I would hang out my shingle as a freelancer.
I’d start taking on client work. Not just applicable to copywriting, but everything. If I was a “normal” writer, maybe I’d start submitting my articles to magazines, or start publishing my novels, or whatever else.
There’s a market for just about anything at just about any price point. Financial planning, accounting, programming, web design, graphic design, ghostwriting, carpentry, gardening, feng shui.
No matter what you’re doing, the fastest path to replacing a day job income is through client work.
I’d start getting clients and, most importantly, building my platform. Building my personal brand, my audience, my tribe.
3: Once I made enough money from freelancing work, enough to at least match my income from my day job... I would quit my day job...
... And thus free up a lot of extra hours previously devoted to the day job.
I would spend this time learning about marketing, if I didn’t already.
If you want to build passive income - AKA product based income - it is hopeless without marketing savvy. You need to be able to build the right product for the right audience in the right way... and then be able to advertise, at a profit, to drive a consistent flow of leads... and then have the skills to convert leads into customers... and customers into repeat customers... and be able to do it at will.
This is not something you just figure out in your spare time. You need to be studying marketing.
Now, sure, there are ways to use social media and connect with people and build your tribe and never spend a dime on advertising.
Regardless, I think you should. It’s not necessarily that you need to drive paid traffic to whatever you’re doing, it’s the skill that counts.
For example, making a Google AdWords advertisement work is a hard skill. It comes with a DEEP understanding of the street-level psychology that compels people to take action and buy.
Without that understanding, you will have a hard time communicating with your tribe, and inspire them to actually buy your shit.
So whether you’re tweeting or paying for clicks, it’s the same fundamental skillset. What makes people buy? I think you should pay for traffic, because the stakes are higher, and you’ll learn (much) faster.
So it’s not that you need to be advertising, but you should have the skills to make advertising work. Pay-per-click, for example, is an excellent way to cut your teeth in the skill of making marketing work.
In summary, while doing my client work, I would learn about marketing... and continually put my new skills to use in building and optimizing my freelancing business, while also building my own platform.
4: At this point, you essentially have a “lifestyle business” and you might want to stop here. If you want to make it more passive, that’s when we start talking more and more about working ON your business, not IN your business.
In other words, developing products and bringing them to the market.
With your new marketing skills, as well as your expertise in whatever else you’ve become an expert in, you should have enough to say to actually help people.
What you are fundamentally doing is moving away from doing things for other people, to showing them how to do it themselves.
Therefore, I would start not by making a product, but with a coaching program. Thinking in terms of a “lean startup” a coaching program is very much like a “Minimum Viable Product.” Gauge interest beforehand, no need for several months spent developing products, and so on.
I would work one-on-one with people and coach them through the process.
There’s a lot of benefits to doing it this way. First, you can develop a framework for teaching. Figure out how to say what you have to say so that people get results.
You would take people by the hand and get them real world results.
A coaching program also helps you position yourself as a highly paid expert. Coaching programs aren’t cheap.
Contrast the person who releases a $7 ebook and becomes known in the marketplace for that. Maybe he has several $7 books and other low-ticket products. He then wants to start a $5,000 coaching program. The fact that he has positioned himself, knowingly or not, as someone who consistently charges very low prices, is working against him,
Much better to start with a high ticket item. Then, even if you sell products for $1,000 it seems like a bargain.
A coaching program lets you do this. The fact that you have worked with clients, gotten results from clients, and been immersed in your skill like few others have, helps you with social proof and justifying a high price.
You don’t need very many coaching students. What you’re really looking to do is develop your teaching skills, your ability to get results from someone else.
The coaching program makes it so the next step is virtually automatic.
5: I would now start developing products.
I would have learnt the framework for teaching through working with coaching students... and once I release my product, I have an instant back end offer to extend to new customers.
The coaching program would make the creation of the product a breeze. You have several case studies to use, and stories of your own. You should have several testimonials from students showing off the results they have gotten, as well as testimonials from previous clients showing off your personal expertise.
I won’t go too much into this, like how I’d actually do it. There are too many variables to go into specifics. There’s a thousand and one ways to do it. Once you reach this point, there will probably be an obvious way that’s right for you.
6: Now it’s all about building the business. Once I know I can sell my product predictably, I would want to do two things as soon as possible...
- Write and launch a book about my topic. Instant expert credibility.
- Continuity program. Like a membership site or print newsletter.
Other than that, this fictional scenario is stretched out a bit too far to say specifically what I would do at this point. A lot of things, probably. Generally speaking, continuity is where the big bucks are. It’s the back bone of any information business. And books are not to be underestimated. And in terms of getting into media and getting publicity, a book goes a long way.
Way too stretched out now to have any possible idea what I’d do after that. So I guess that’s it.
How’s that for 6 Easy Steps To Internet Riches?
Picture is of a tree. I saved it to use for a completely different post that illustrated the differences between being lonely and being alone. It's here for no real good reason other than that I wanted to put a tree in my post. So there.