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18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES How I built a six-figure online business in a year-and-a-half Full income estimates for my independent business in 2010-2011 How I made $11,000 in 72 hours with my first product launch How to build an audience big enough to earn a living from The reality of life as a location independent “solopreneur” The simple breakthrough that can lead to rapid success BY CORBETT BARR no bosses no employees no investors no overhead no fixed location no office hours no facetime no busywork no set salary no “2 weeks of vacation” b.s. no permission required total freedom all in 18 months This is a free report written by Corbett Barr. Please share it with anyone you please under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Copyright 2010 Corbett Barr TABLE OF CONTENTS Part 1 How I created a six figure online business in 18 months (while living part-time at the beach in Mexico). Part 2 Wait, you mean I don’t have to work for someone else for 40 years, take just a few weeks of vacation a year and count down the days to retirement? Part 3 How to build an audience big enough to support yourself Part 4 How I made $11,000 in 72 hours with my first product launch PART 1 How I created a six figure online business in 18 months (while living part-time at the beach in Mexico). Introduction Full Income Estimates for 2010-2011 A Crash Course on How to Make Money Online “But I Have to Be an Expert” Bullshit But You Said You Weren’t Going to Beat Around the Bush Why Focus on Three Different Revenue Models Instead of One? And Why the Two Blogs? Getting Here (Every Situation is Different) 6 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Introduction — How I Built a: six-figure small business writing about what I love in a year-and-a-half during a monster recession from the beaches of Mexico What you’re about to read happens part time in San Francisco, part- time in Mexico, part-time while road tripping around the U.S. and Canada. I’m going to tell you exactly what I’ve done, how I’ve done it, and how you can build your own dream lifestyle fueled by a successful online business. 18 months ago, I started the blog called Free Pursuits to chronicle a six- month road trip through Mexico and share stories of amazing people liv- ing unconventional lives who my wife and I met on our trip. I had no blogging experience, little idea of how a blog could become a business, and almost no experience selling products or services online. Today I have a thriving six-figure business on my hands with no investors, employees or partners to answer to. I can operate my business from any- where in the world and take time off to travel or pursue whatever interests me at the moment. My revenue potential is limited only by my creativity and how much I decide to work. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 7 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES The best part? Much of this business was created while living on the beaches of Mexico. I sincerely love what I do for a living now, and it was all built in less than 18 months. I wrote this detailed free guide about how my business works because I believe in the power of small businesses to change the economy, our society, and most importantly individual lives. I want to show you why you don’t need anyone’s permission to be successful, and that you don’t have to live how other people expect you to. This is my story. I hope it helps you live the life you want, and to do what you love. If you like what you learn here, I would really appreciate it if you share the guide with other people or write a review on your own site. I would also love to hear your comments and feedback at my blog Free Pursuits: http://www.freepursuits.com/18-months-2-blogs-six-figures Thanks so much for your support, and best of luck with your own journey. Cheers! -Corbett WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 8 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES If you’re trying to build Full Income Estimates for 2010-2011 an online “lifestyle” business, your #1 quesytion Let’s dive in. I’m not going to beat around the bush here. If you’re trying is probably “is it really to build an online “lifestyle” business, your #1 question is probably “is it possible?” That’s likely really possible?” That’s likely followed by “how much can I make?” followed by “how much can I make?” At least that’s what was on my mind for the first 6-12 months after I de- cided to pursue being an independent lifestyle entrepreneur. Independent Lifestyle Entrepreneur: someone who builds a small, flex- ible (generally 1-person) business as a means of living a dream lifestyle in the present, without focusing on selling the business to become wealthy as the end goal. So, what does my small business look like after 18 months of creating it? I have one business built around two blogs (I’ll get into why I have two blogs later in the guide). I’ve built audiences around two topics. I then sell products and services to those audiences. This is a highly effective business model. Instead of taking the “old econo- my” approach of creating something to sell and then looking for an audi- ence, this new model starts by building an audience and then asking them what you could sell to help them in some deep and meaningful way. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 9 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Back to my specific case. I’ve been working on this business for about 18 months as I write this. The beginning was slow. In fact, I earned very little revenue during the first 12 months. That may have had something to do with living in Mexico for much of that time. Starting a business while road tripping around a for- eign country will definitely slow you down. On the other hand, it provided limitless inspiration and topics to write about. Recently though, I’m really starting to reap the benefits of all that time spent blogging and connecting with people during the first 12 months. Things have been ramping up very quickly as I have released products and really started to leverage the best techiques for earning a living online. There’s a learning curve for everyone. Just building an audience isn’t enough. You have to build an audience that comes to respect you as an authority or provider on your chosen topic to make this model work. Be- yond that, you have to learn how to produce, market and sell solutions online. Sure, the steps themselves are clear enough: 1) build audience, 2) provide tons of value to that audience on a specific topic, 3) ask audience mem- bers what you can sell to them, 4) build the product and/or service they ask for and 5) sell the product/service and start growing your bank ac- count. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 10 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES In practice though, there are a ton of nuances to learn and hurdles to overcome. Not the least of which include the mental roller coaster you’ll be on as you wonder if you’re smart enough, talented enough, dedicated enough and worthy of becoming blissfully self employed. In my case, there was plenty of struggle involved. On more than one oc- casion, I wondered what the hell I was doing, and who the hell I thought I was for pursuing such a dream. I had to talk myself off the ledge on a monthly basis for a while and just keep blogging, keep believing and keep building on the value I provided to people who were willing to listen. As you probably guessed from the title of this guide, that effort has re- sulted in a six-figure business. That is to say, I will make over $100,000 in the coming year from my business. Specific details on the exact amounts, sources and timing of that will follow. A Crash Course on How to Make Money Online So, how do you actually earn money from this model I’ve been talking about? Well, I hope you’ve figured out by now that a blog isn’t a business. A blog is simply a way to reach an audience and deliver value to it. The actual business is something else. You can build a business around a blog, but don’t expect to start blogging and magically make money. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 11 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES A business isn’t a business The business I’ve built set out to help people with two specific things. without some way of First, I help people learn to live the life they want (which I write about at Free Pursuits). Second, I help people build high-traffic websites and blogs getting people to pay you for providing some specific (and write about it at Think Traffic). value. There is significant overlap between these audiences. This enables me to sell the same products and services to both... to some degree. Think of Free Pursuits as the introductory level, and Think Traffic as the intermedi- ate level of the same journey. A business isn’t a business without some way of getting people to pay you for providing some specific value. Most businesses built around blog- ging earn money in one of the four following ways: 1) through adver- tising, 2) by selling products, 3) by selling services, or 4) through affiliate marketing. Three of those revenue models (advertising, products and services) should sound familiar to you. They’re used by all kinds of businesses, not just online businesses. The fourth, affiliate marketing, might be unfamiliar. If it is, you might want to check it out. Affiliate marketing is a powerful way to earn money online without having to create any products of your own. Affiliate marketing is a simple concept. Thousands of businesses online have products to sell and are willing to pay you a commission for referring new customers. You don’t have to build a product or support it, you just need to find people who might be interested in particular products and WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 12 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES then tell them about it. If they purchase, you get paid. How cool is that? I’m a big fan of affiliate marketing. In fact, it’s how I got started making money from my blog-based business. When you’re just starting out, de- veloping an entire product and figuring out how to sell it is daunting. With affiliate marketing, you can focus on just one piece (the marketing aspect). Then, when you start to understand how to sell things online to an inter- ested audience, you can move on to products and/or services. That’s exactly what I did. After some modest early successes with affiliate marketing, I moved on to offering services. I started my second blog Think Traffic around a very specific problem. Nearly every online entrepreneur struggles with attracting visitors to their websites at first. Think Traffic pro- vides advice on how to build a high-traffic website or blog. Then, for readers who need more hands-on help, I offer consulting servic- es. The blog is the engine that sends me a constant stream of new cus- tomers. People who contact me already know how I operate and what my expertise is because they’ve read the blog. It’s a beautiful model, and any freelancer who isn’t blogging should seriously consider starting a blog. Around the same time I was developing my consulting service packages (I highly recommend creating packages of services, because it makes peo- ple more likely to buy from you), I was also building my first product. I started by surveying my audience to find out what they might be inter- WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 13 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Think of expertise not ested in paying to learn more about. An overwhelming number told me as an absolute, but as a they’d like to take a course on affiliate marketing for beginners. And that’s exactly what I built, a course called Affiliate Marketing for Beginners, continuum. Everyone has something to teach other which walks complete newbies through the process of building a new site people about. from the ground-up that earns money by selling affiliate products. “But I Have to Be an Expert” Bullshit There’s a key point to understand here. When you’re starting out, you may worry that you’re not an expert on anything. You may fear that without being a world-class expert, you can’t possibly create a compelling product that people will by. I call bullshit on that. To understand why that’s a bullshit way of thinking, I have to tell you about a mental framework I first heard from Dave Navarro of The Launch Coach. It goes like this. Think of expertise not as an absolute (as in, I have to be the best in the world so that I can teach anyone), but as a continuum (I have more expertise than some people and therefore have something to teach those people). For many people in my audience, they didn’t need the world’s foremost authority on affiliate marketing. I’m not even close to that level, and learn- ing from a top-level expert wouldn’t help most beginners. My audience WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 14 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES I will earn an estimated simply wanted to learn the basics of affiliate marketing. They also wanted $128,154 from July, 2010 to learn it from someone they trusted because there’s so much garbage to June, 2011. out there about making money online. So it turns out that my 6-12 months of experience was plenty for creating a course aimed specifically at beginners. My audience bought the course in droves, which I’ll detail in a later chapter. How’s it going so far? Is this all helpful? I hope so. I wish you could answer back to let me know. Such is the nature of writing a static document. Let’s move on. But You Said You Weren’t Going to Beat Around the Bush Alright, let’s get back to those hard numbers I promised at the beginning. I thought a little explanation made sense before I just dropped my pants, so to speak. For the 12 months starting in July, 2010 and ending in June, 2011, I will earn an estimated $128,154. How do I know that for sure? I don’t know for sure, because it’s an esti- mate. But it’s not a complete guess because I have many signed agree- ments that will be bringing in guaranteed income. For the rest, I’m using WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 15 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES my recent earnings history to project forward. For better perspective on my estimates, consider that my business earned $14,590 last month (August, 2010) Mind you, that was a month in which I launched a product, so it’s somewhat higher than average. But you get the picture. Here’s how the total revenue for the year breaks down according to the three revenue streams I outlined above: Affiliate Marketing: $29,821 (23%) Consulting: $44,715 (35%) Product Sales: $53,618 (42%) Please don’t take any of this as bragging. I’m sharing these detailed num- bers so you can decide if this is a path worth taking, or to set some goals for your online business. If I really wanted to brag, I’d tell you about how much I earned while con- sulting to Fortune 500 companies. The independent online business I’m building is very much a longer-term strategy and a way to live the life I want. Working in cubicles on projects I didn’t care about for 40 years wasn’t part of that plan, no matter how much money was involved. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 16 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES It’s pretty damn cool to be Now, if you’re a “business” type, or if you’re running your own online paying out thousands yin business, you might be wondering “what expenses are involved in running this business?” Since I work online and sell digital products, I have very affiliate commissions to other online entrepreneurs low overhead. There are no office costs or significant travel costs (unless I and friends. want to attend a conference or something). Total expenses are negligable. There are however, some sizeable “costs of goods sold.” I mentioned af- filiate marketing earlier as a way to sell other people’s products and earn commissions. Well, there’s another huge way I use affiliate marketing in my business — paying others to sell my products. For the products I sell and will sell in the future, I offer commissions of 51% or higher to people who refer customers to me. That’s a big reason I was able to sell $11,000 of my first product in just three days. About half of my product sales have come from affiliates. That means I pay out about 25% (51% of 50%, stay with me here) of total product sales back to affiliates. My gross profit then after subtracting affiliate commis- sions paid out for the coming year will be $113,810. If you’re planning to sell a product, I highly recommend running an affili- ate program of your own. It’s actually rather simple to set up, and it can bring in a lot of sales you wouldn’t otherwise have made. Plus, it’s pretty damn cool to be paying out thousands in commissions to other online en- trepreneurs and friends who are trying to build something just like you. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 17 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Why Focus on Three Different Revenue Models Instead of One? That’s a great question. I often wonder myself how I ended up with two blogs, three revenue models, a dozen clients... It can all be a little over- whelming at times. To be honest, I plan to focus on fewer things in the future. But as I started to build this business, I simply followed the opportuni- ties as they came. Affiliate marketing was the easiest to break into. Then, I started consulting with clients on marketing. Finally, I released my first product. And now, here I am. By now you might be wondering how I split my time among all the differ- ent aspects of my work. Here’s approximately how my time is spent currently. 25% of the time I’m blogging and promoting the business. 30-50% of the time I’m consulting with clients and 15-35% of the time I’m working on my own products or affiliate marketing. The rest of the time (I hope this is adding up ;) is spent helping friends and advising startups and new entrepreneurs. Notice I didn’t list those times in terms of hours. That’s because my work weeks and days tend to vary by a lot. Some days I’m putting in 12 hours and others I’m putting in just 4 to 6. Some days I don’t work at all, and I WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 18 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Consulting is a great way occasionally take the better part of a few weeks off for a vacation or trip. to earn immediate income, I’ll talk more about my lifestyle in a coming chapter, but I may have men- but it doesn’t scale well. tioned already that I’ve spent about 9 out of the past 18 months traveling and living out of the country. I plan to continue that trend for many years, so I’m working to build my business around that plan. Consulting is a great way to earn immediate income and I really enjoy working with clients. However, it isn’t always the most conducive to taking extended time off. When I leave for a trip, the product sales and affiliate marketing I do can pretty much be on auto-pilot. With consulting clients however, I have to do some pre-planning and scheduling to make it work. Also, consulting doesn’t scale as well as the other two revenue sources. To grow a consulting business, you either have to a) work more hours, b) charge more per hour or c) hire employees to work on projects for your company. That pretty much leaves me with b) charging more per hour, which only goes so far. I’m not interested in working more hours or hiring employees. I guess this was the long way of telling you that I plan to spend more time building products and less time consulting as I scale my business. That will allow me to earn more while maintaining the flexibility to work and live where and when I want to. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 19 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES And Why the Two Blogs? To be completely honest, I tend to get bored with projects quickly or find myself frustrated that I’m not making progress as quickly as I hoped. After working on Free Pursuits for nine months or so, I started getting the feel- ing that I wanted to build a consulting business to bring in some revenue until I had enough products to support myself. I tried offering coaching services through Free Pursuits, but the relation- ships often became a little awkward. You see, Free Pursuits is (or was at least) aimed at newbies to lifestyle design. When I started coaching cli- ents, many of them were so new they didn’t know what they wanted to do to achieve their ideal lifestyles. Some of them had serious personal issues to deal with. Some of those coaching calls turned a little closer to therapy sessions than I was comfortable with. It was clear I wanted to help people more with business problems than personal problems. So, I did some more self-examination to figure out what other services I could offer. I used the time-tested criteria of finding the combination of a) something you’re good at b) something you enjoy and c) something peo- ple will pay you money to do. I realized that I love helping people build audiences for websites and WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 20 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES blogs, that I’ve been somewhat successful at it personally, and that at- tracting traffic is the thing online entrepreneurs struggle with most. Think Traffic became the vehicle through which I could offer those consult- ing services and eventually products that will help people develop follow- ings online. It turned out to be a great decision to start that site as much of my rev- enue is now coming directly from it. I decided from the beginning to make the site a case study itself, following my own advice about building busi- ness around a blog and telling my audience exactly how I’m doing it. I’ll be honest, running two blogs at once is tough, but I’m managing. I sometimes wonder/fantasize about combining the two blogs somehow but haven’t come up with a good way to do it. So for now, I continue writ- ing for two blogs almost every week. Getting Here (Every Situation is Different) There’s one serious luxury I had in getting here that would be irresponsi- ble to omit. It’s taken me 18 months to build up to this point. I mentioned before that nearly 12 of those months were spent without any significant income from the business. During those 12 months, I lived on savings I had accumulated during my WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 21 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES There’s a way to get from long stint working for other people. I’ve been self employed since 2006. here to where you want to Much of being able to support myself without having a “real job” was possible because of that cushion I worked so hard to build. be. Your job is to figure out what that is and dyedicate yourself to making it Your case might be different. You might have a day job, or you might have happen. to work part time while building your business. If I had been in a position like that, I definitely would have started building up my services business far earlier. If you have professional skills to offer, getting set up as a free- lancer might be your fastest way to break free from the regular 9 to 5. Don’t take this admission of my privileged situation and throw up your hands saying “well, he was lucky. There’s no way I could build a business like that while having a day job.” Every situation is different. People make all kinds of things happen while working a day job. And don’t underestimate your ability to take time off while building your business, no matter your financial position. I lived in Mexico deliberately to save money for much of that first year. Living is incredibly cheap in many other countries. And I have to tell you, it was a dreamy way to live — taking breaks to learn surfing, learn Spanish and explore a foreign culture all while building my future. The point is, excuses are like assholes, we all have ‘em... ok, the point is that your situation is what it is. There’s a way to get from there to where you want to be. You have to figure out what that is, dedicate yourself WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 22 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES to making it happen and work your ass of to achieve it. That part of the equation is the same for everyone. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM PART 2 Wait, you mean I don’t have to work for someone else for 40 years, take just a few weeks of vacation a year and count down the days to retirement? Quick, Let’s Figure Out How to Fix Our Economy and Society Alright, I Understand the Greater Good Thing, But What’s in it For Me? The Rise of the DIY Career The Reality of Life as a Location Independent Solopreneur 24 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Quick, Let’s Figure Out How to Fix Our Economy and Society Here’s the whole premise behind what I do. To me, there are more fulfill- ing ways to live and work than the typical 9-to-5. I want to help people who feel the same way achieve independence just as I have, but I only focus on the people who are willing to work hard. Get-rich-quick schemers need not apply. I don’t know your specific situation, so I can’t say exactly what might be right for you. However, I do know that the allure of working for yourself on something you love while having the flexibility to live and work where you want appeals to a lot of people. That’s why I started blogging in the first place. If you’ll indulge me for a moment, let me share a little of my deeper phi- losophy. Our society is in rough shape. We’ve given so much money and power to so few giant corporations that most people are left with precious little control over their own lives. Everything we’ve given up has left us with a monster recession that we may never fully recover from. Let’s take Wal-Mart as an example (because they’re easy to pick on). Wal- Mart employs something like 2,000,000 employees. The wealth that has WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 25 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES been created by the Wal-Mart dynasty has placed four of the Walton fam- ily members among the top 10 richest Americans. We’re talking about a combined wealth approaching $100 billion dollars in the hands of just 4 people. That’s not to mention all the other family mem- bers and executives that are wealthy because of Wal-Mart as well. Now, imagine a world where Wal-Mart didn’t exist, and where no other retail giant took it’s place. Imagine if those two million employees worked for 200,000 small independent companies that sold everything from cloth- ing to bikes to electronics to groceries and whatever else Wal-Mart sells. That would be an average of 10 people in each of those companies. Of those 200,000 small companies, let’s say each is owned by one person. Let’s also imagine that the total wealth held by Wal-Mart family members and executives and shareholders (roughly $200 billion dollars) was distrib- uted among those 200,000 owners and their families. That would equal one million dollars in wealth per owner. What effect do you think that would have on our society? What if own- ership was distributed much more equally? In reality, that wealth would be distributed among not just the owners, but also the employees, who would earn better pay and benefits than working for the notoriously low- paying, low-providing Wal-Mart. And what about the quality of life for all of those people, both employees WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 26 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Wouldn’t you rather and owners? Wouldn’t you rather work for or own a small family-run busi- work for or own a small ness than work for a giant faceless corporation who doesn’t give a shit about you or your quality of life? family-run business than work for a giant faceless corporation who doesn’t Wouldn’t you rather shop at a place like that? Apparently not. That is, at give a shit about you yor least for the average American. your quality of life? I’m not picking on Wal-Mart per se. There are countless other examples of places like it in the retail, banking, insurance, hospitality, health care, food service and other industries. And it’s not Wal-Mart’s fault they are so huge. They’ve just operated within the American rules and taken what they can from a society all too willing to trade their livelihoods in exchange for cheap Chinese-made junk or a less expensive checking account or what- ever. We’ve created our own “forever recession” (as Seth Godin calls it) and now we wonder when the jobs will come back. The problem is though, the jobs aren’t coming back. Ever. The rules have changed for good. What does this have to do with you or me, or this book I’m writing? May- be you care, and maybe you don’t. The point is, there are more reasons to want to work for yourself and take back control of your life than personal freedom. I believe the future of our society is at stake and that we’re all better off when smart people decide to build and patronize small busi- nesses instead of accepting society’s current defaults. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 27 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES If enough ofusbetuhe I don’t know what it will take to get people to realize that they’re acting change we wanttosee against their own best interests by shopping at places like Wal-Mart. Logic in the world,itwill probably won’t do it alone. I do know that you personally can create your own freedom now through a very small business. And if enough of us be eventuallymakea the change we want to see in the world, it will eventually make a dif- difference. ference. I’ll get off the rant box now, but I wanted you to know what drives me to help people work for themselves. It’s why I’m writing this book. Alright, I Understand the Greater Good Thing, But What’s in it For Me? I’d be lying if I said I first decided to become an entrepreneur because I wanted to change society. That’s simply not the case, no matter how high the horse I try to ride on. My situation was probably like a lot of yours. I was working to the bone week after week on projects I could care less about and had very little time to actually live my life. For the better part of five years, I flew across the country every week to consult with Fortune 500 companies on ways to improve their businesses through technology. The money was great, but I had no life to show for it. When you’re work- ing that hard with very little time off, you tend to blow the money on WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 28 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES If you’re in a situation things to make you feel better anyway. You don’t really need that much you don’t love right now, to live on when you don’t need to buy a new BMW just to make you feel superior for throwing away all those hours at work. if you’re thinking about radically changing your life, I highly suggest taking At some point, I finally had enough. My wife had had enough as well. It some time off to really was time to start thinking about more than just earning the highest salary possible. think about things. The transition wasn’t immediate. In fact, in between leaving that consult- ing firm and being blissfully self-employed today, there were a couple of other turns. I worked for another (much more caring and locally-based) consulting firm, and I started a “traditional” startup in Silicon Valley where we raised venture capital, hired employees and had a fixed office. Those were all steps in the right direction, but I still wasn’t completely sat- isfied. The startup taught me a lot, but I ended up working way too much and feeling really stressed out about pleasing my business partner, our employees and our investors. It was like having a dozen bosses in the end. So, when it became clear in 2008 that we wouldn’t be able to raise enough money to keep the entire team of our startup intact, I took the opportunity to move on. Only this time, I decided not to jump right into the next thing. All that jumping from opportunity to opportunity without taking time to think didn’t seem to be serving my best interests. If you’re in a situation you don’t love right now, if you’re thinking about WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 29 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES radically changing your life, I highly suggest taking some time off to really think about things. Weigh all of your options. Maybe you really want to be a forest ranger, or maybe you want to be a musician or an artist or a vet- erinarian. Don’t be afraid to really explore your deepest desires and give them a chance to make their case. That’s what I did in early 2009. My wife and I set off on a road trip around Mexico. It was a sabbatical, and it came at the perfect time. On that trip, we both were able to listen to ourselves in ways we never had before. The pushes and pulls of society and family and our assumed identities faded away. Out of that silence grew this journey I’ve been on for the past 18 months. I finally understood that I didn’t want to run a company with employees. I didn’t want to have investors to answer to or a co-founder to argue with. My ultimate working situation, for now at least, is to be an independent lifestyle entrepreneur. To work for myself, by myself and to have the free- dom to pursue what I want when I want. Maybe your dream is similar. I’ll assume that’s why you’re still reading. Or maybe you skipped the last part and are now wondering what the hell I’m rambling about. Let’s continue. The Rise of the DIY Career WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 30 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Relying on permission Here’s what I realized on our trip — relying on permission from other from other peopletobuild people to build your career is so last century. your careerissolast century Compensation based on facetime, employment practices that favor se- niority over competence and hard work, and distribution models based on physical media and backroom deals instead of fair artist compensation and consumer preference are all dying. I decided none of that was for me anymore. Instead, I decided to pursue a “Do-It-Yourself (DIY) career.” I knew I wanted to achieve the ultimate in flexiblity. I wanted a business I could run from anywhere, that I could scale up as needed and take time away from when I wanted to. It seemed like building an online business would be the best way to do that. As I looked into things, it became more and more apparent that blogging could be the foundation of that DIY career for me. People like Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauta, Steve Pavlina, Brian Clark and Darren Rowse were the inspiration. They all were part of a growing group of peo- ple supporting themselves through a blog-centered business. Side note: I’m not sure why I thought blogging would be such a good thing for me, personally. I hadn’t written anything longer than an email or PowerPoint presentation since college, and I didn’t particularly enjoy writ- ing. It turns out now that I love it and I think writing about things I care WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 31 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Remember, you don’t about has everything to do with that. make money from a blog, you make money from a But remember, you don’t make money from a blog, you make money from a business. Your blog happens to be a fantastic vehicle to build a business. business around, but it’s not a substitute for the actual business. I can’t say I had that part figured out when I started. Just learning how to write about things people will actually read (and hopefully share with oth- ers) takes some time. I read from the people who inspired me that if you build an audience first, you can earn a living from it later (just don’t expect advertising to be your golden goose, and choose a topic that has some commercial viability). Now that I’ve built the audience and figured out how to earn money using the blog as a platform, the whole DIY career thing is finally intact. I don’t have to rely on anyone to give me opportunities or give me permission to do something. I’m truly my own boss in the purest sense of the word. Well, my wife might say otherwise, but you get my meaning. The Reality of Life as a Location Independent Solopreneur You asked earlier “what’s in it for me,” right? Well I won’t sugar coat it. The past 18 months have been simultaneously blissful and grueling. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 32 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES If you have a family to If you think you can build a business to support yourself and provide ulti- support, you’ll have to mate freedom in a year or two while working just four hours a week, think again. I’ve said this many times before: it will take a whole lot of 60 hour work much more than a 20-something who shares workweeks to create your four hour week. For most people I don’t really an apartment in Bueynos think a 4 hour workweek is possible or even really desired. Don’t fall for Aires the hype or succumb to get-rich-quick mentality. Of course it depends on your needs as well. If you have a family to sup- port, you’ll have to work much more than a 20-something who shares an apartment in Buenos Aires. My friend and minimalist blogger Everett Bogue swears he only works two hours a day, but he falls into the young- er/single category, and he also seems to have superhuman blogging pow- ers. The rest of us have to put in a lot more effort. I mentioned that the past 18 months have been both blissful and grueling. The grueling part has been getting this business off the ground. It’s been tough, and partly that’s due to the emotional roller coaster that every entrepreneur experiences. But it’s also been more fulfilling than anything else I’ve done work-wise in my life. I can’t explain how much I love what I do now. As for the blissful part of it all, I probably don’t have to sell that part too much. 9 of the past 18 months were spent traveling, visiting friends, ex- ploring new places and learning new things. Much of that time was spent at the beach in Mexico during the winter. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 33 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Your thing might not ybe We’re headed back to Mexico this winter as well, where we’ll be enjoying living in the tropics every the sun, surfing whenever we want, hanging out with friends and swim- year. Maybe you’d like ming in the warm ocean every day. We’ll be living oceanfront, and all this costs us less than half of our cost of living in the U.S. What’s not to love? to explore more of the world. Maybe you’d like to become a vagabond. It’s not all fun and games while we’re there though. I will also be work- Maybe you’d rather stay ing most weekdays for at least four hours or so. Some days will be longer. put and just have myore Sometimes I’ll take a week off to entertain visiting friends. It really is a grand lifestyle, all made possible by the work I put into this business. time to spend with your family and friends. Your thing might not be living in the tropics every year. Maybe you’d like to explore more of the world. Maybe you’d like to become a vagabond. Maybe you’d rather stay put and just have more time to spend with your family and friends. Whatever the case, building a business around doing something you love is a fabulous way to achieve those goals. In the next section, we’ll talk about how to build an audience big enough to support yourself. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM PART 3 How to Build an Audience Big Enough to Support Yourself Size doesn’t matter as much as you might think. Be unique, different and unforgettable. Then, have a point of view and say things that really matter and help people. Ruthlessly focus your efforts on things that work, and stop spending precious time on things that don’t. Just be yourself and practice what you preach. Don’t give up. Seriously, DON’T GIVE U. Get outside help. Here’s how to get it for free. 35 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES There are lots of people Size doesn’t matter as much as you might think. out there who are creating their own realities and I was at a dinner last night with four bloggers, myself included, and each building businesses by of us earn a living entirely through our small online businesses. One of writing about topics those bloggers has a huge following and started about four years ago. But they’re passionate about. the rest of us have only modest sized audiences and started much more You don’t need a huge recently. Two of my dinner companions actually started within the last audience to make it work, year. either. There are lots of people out there who are creating their own realities and building businesses by writing about topics they’re passionate about. You don’t need a huge audience to make it work, either. Between my two blogs, I regularly attract about 35,000 unique monthly visitors. That may sound like a lot, but I personally know dozens of other people who have close to or even larger audiences. It’s certainly achiev- able, and you don’t have to aim to be the next Lifehacker or similar just to make it. Online business advice is a dime-a-dozen, but good advice is hard to come by. I’ll spare you the run-of-the-mill crap and give you the best ad- vice I can here about building the right type of audience for creating a business around. Here it is... (and if you’re looking for more advice about building an online audience, I write about how to do that every week at my blog Think Traffic) WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 36 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES The reason mostblogsfail Be unique, different and unforgettable. Then, have a is that most peopledon’t point of view and say things that really matter and write anythingworth help people. reading. There are like two billion blogs in existence or something. Most of them are about somebody’s kid or someone’s obsession with Robert Pattinson. But even when you weed those out, you still have a shit ton of blogs to compete with. And here’s the bad news. Nobody cares much about you or what you say, except your mom and sometimes your boyfriend. That is, unless you have something interesting to say or something that will help people in a mean- ingful way. The #1 reason 99% of blogs never get off the ground isn’t that the author hasn’t figured out the latest Twitter promotional strategy or how to make a killer Facebook page or how to get more search engine traffic. The reason most blogs fail is that most people don’t write anything worth reading. Don’t kid yourself on this point. Get your ego out of the way. Lock it in a closet and try to think like someone who comes to your site for the first time. The question you have to answer quickly and clearly is “why should I read your blog when there are billions of other choices out there?” If you can’t answer that with your blog, it’s time to dig deep and figure out a WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 37 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES new strategy. I’m not saying you have to be God’s most gifted writer. Everybody strug- gles with this question, and it’s something you have to answer regularly. Don’t think you can just explain your reason for being once. You have to repeat it often for all the new readers you’re attracting. If not, your audi- ence won’t grow. Study your favorite bloggers and see how they answer this question. Why do you read those blogs? What do you get from it? Worry about developing a killer unique point of view first and about pro- viding unmistakable value to your readers before you worry about how to turn the latest social network tool into a marketing platform. Content really is king. Promotion is prime minister. Oh, and did I mention how important it is to choose a topic you actually care about? You might identify what seems like a huge opportunity in the Asian collectible coin market, but will you care enough to write about it every week for 12 months or more? Focus on your passions and every- thing will be easier. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 38 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Do you really need to read Ruthlessly focus your efforts on things that work, and every Tweet that goes stop spending precious time on things that don’t. by or respond to every comment on your blog, If you could only accomplish one thing today, what would you want that to or make the 101st little be? Great, now tackle that first. That should be how you approach every tweak to your logo? Not day. really. The Internet is a giant distraction. It will gladly keep you from getting any real work done every day. You jump online to check your email and the next thing you know, you’re watching a YouTube of a chimpanzee hump- ing a frog. There’s a time and place for such hilarious videos, but you have to get the important stuff done first. If you let your inbox, Twitter or the Internet at large dictate how you spend your time, progress towards your real goals will come to a halt. That also goes for all those little things that you think are important, but really aren’t in the grand scheme of things. Do you really need to read every Tweet that goes by or respond to every comment on your blog, or make the 101st little tweak to your logo? Not really. If none of that stuff happened, but you still did your important work (like writing a blog post or creating your first product) you’d be on the right track. Put all that little stuff off and focus on the core of your business first every WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 39 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Being successful is about day. Then get to the other things if you have time. letting lots of little bad things happen in fyavor of I heard Tim Ferriss say in-person recently that being successful is about letting lots of little bad things happen (like someone getting mad at you doing relatively few really for not replying to an email) in favor of doing relatively few really impor- important things. tant things (like working on your book). There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do it all. Just be yourself and practice what you preach. I’ve learned some lessons about blogging recently that took me over a year to understand. Authenticity and personality are the secret sauce of the blog universe. Being yourself and letting your true voice shine through takes courage, skill and vigilance. It’s far easier to write like a robot, as if you’re writing a textbook or something. But that is not why people read blogs. They read blogs because of the human element. They read because they want to get the perspective of a real person, not some corporate drone. This is what’s known online as “finding your voice.” I wish it were as simple as just saying “be yourself,” because that’s essentially what you need to do. Only, it takes a lot of practice (or at least it’s taking me a lot of prac- tice) to make your true self come through in your writing. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 40 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES Existing clients called The benefits of being yourself are amazing. People really connect with me to ask why I had you when you’re open and honest and witty and funny and emotional or whatever other dimensions you possess that someone would expect from never told them I like to do the worm at partyies. a real and interesting person. Seriously, I really had that conversation. Being myself is still something I struggle with, but I’ve seen a glimmer of what happens when your real personality shines through. I wrote a post a couple of months ago called 33 Things I’ve Never Told You (or, How to Re-Introduce Yourself and Kick Your Watered-Down Self in the Ass). The response to the post was amazing. It started a little meme across the blogosphere and dozens of other bloggers wrote similar soul-baring posts on the same theme. Readers reached out to me to tell me how much they connected with the post. New clients contacted me and said they wanted to work with me because they realized we had so much in common. Existing clients called me to ask why I had never told them I like to do the worm at parties. Seri- ously, I really had that conversation. Most of all, above all the reaction I received, writing from the heart and really being myself felt deeply satisfying in a way I’ve only experienced on the most intimate occasions with friends or my wife, or when really nailing a part in acting class. Again, study the bloggers you respect most. Notice how much personality comes through in their posts. Try being yourself when you write. It’s free- WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 41 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES If you really believe in ing, satisfying and more effective than trying to be someone else. your heart of heartsy that your dream, whatever that Don’t give up. Seriously, DON’T GIVE UP . is, is worth pursuing with every fiber of your beiyng, I can’t tell you if you’re cut out for blogging, or if the site you’ve already than you shouldn’t started or are thinking about starting will lead to big things. What I can give up. tell you is that if you really believe in your heart of hearts that your dream, whatever that is, is worth pursuing with every fiber of your being, than you shouldn’t give up. There’s a huge difference between pursuing a well-worn path and hacking a path through the jungle with a half-finished map and an untrustworthy compass. In either case, you might decide to give up, but in the jungle case you’ll question whether you’re going the right way so often it might drive you crazy. That’s the difference between studying for a traditional job and being an entrepreneur. If you want to be a doctor, the path is clear. Millions of other people have already done that exact same thing. There’s no question where the path starts and where it ends. When you’re an entrepreneur, the path is different for everyone. There’s no one guiding you at every turn, telling you which classes you have to take or how many hours you have to intern for. You carve your own path and hope it will lead to a destination worth reaching. WWW.FREEPURSUITS.COM 42 18 MONTHS, 2 BLOGS, SIX FIGURES I’ve thought ab
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