“Do you sell advertising?”
“Do you do sponsored blog posts?”
“Do you take donations?”
“Do you do affiliate marketing?”
Sometimes I include an Amazon link to a book I enjoy, but I usually forget. Other than that: No.
“So…how do you make money?”
I make money the same way Winston Wolfe makes money:
I solve problems.
At least once per week, someone asks me how to make money online. Should they design an app? Write a book? Create a course?
I tell them they’re asking the wrong question. The question they should be asking is this:
“What problem can I solve that people are excited to pay me for?”
Here in 2017, starting a business is simple. All the gatekeepers have been removed. Instead of praying to the network gods to get on TV, you can start your own YouTube channel. Instead of trying to get airtime on the radio, you can start your own podcast. Instead of waiting on a Big Publisher, you can write, market, and sell your own book.
Accounting software, email delivery services, collaborative software, payment processing…all of it is relatively inexpensive and instantly accessible. You can be up and running in an hour or less.
Yep, starting a business is easier than ever. But staying in business…well, that’s another story.
5 Thoughts On Making Money
#1 – SOLVE A PROBLEM
Every successful business or product solves a problem (real or perceived) that people are motivated to exchange money for. Just think of the last few purchases you made. Here are mine:
Thing I bought: Notebook.
Problem it solved: I need a place to outline my articles.
Thing I bought: Dog food.
Problem it solved: If I don’t feed my dog it will die.
Thing I bought: Tickets to see Blade Runner 2049.
Problem it solved: I’m bored and I haven’t seen my friends in a while.
Stop thinking, “What can I sell?”. Start thinking, “What problem can I solve?”
In my business, I solve two problems for two different kinds of people:
- Consulting. I help a small number of top-tier fitness and health companies reach the right people, create better products, and make more money.
- Coaching. I help busy guys actually do all the stuff they say they want to do: get in great shape despite a busy schedule, start and grow a business, become more effective with their time, and find more balance in their life.
#2 – DON’T FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. INSTEAD, BUILD RARE AND VALUABLE SKILLS
- Most of us don’t have a career-relevant passion. Have fun trying to turn your love for football or for eating ice cream into a steady income.
- “Passion” is only a small part of what makes work fulfilling. Let’s say you do get a job involving football. Maybe it’s managing the social media account for the New England Patriots. Congrats, you’re now (kinda, sorta) doing something involving your love of football. But what if you’re paid shit money? What if you have a controlling boss? What if you have to wake up at 3AM to respond to douchebags who leave anonymous Facebook comments? Will you still love your job?
In his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, author Cal Newport makes a strong case for why following your passion is a terrible idea. Because the traits that define great work (autonomy, creativity, impact, recognition) are rare and valuable, Newport argues that you need to have rare and valuable skills to offer in return.
“Nobody offers you a fulfilling job,” he writes. “You have to earn it.”
So stop thinking, “What am I passionate about?” and start thinking, “What rare and valuable skills do I already have — or can I start building right now?”
#3 – REPEAT AFTER ME: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “PASSIVE INCOME”
Whenever someone says they want to “write a book and then just sit back and make passive income” I want to slap the holy hell out of them.
There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. Passive. Income.
If you do your job right, you’ll spend countless hours researching, creating, testing, tweaking, and spreading your message. Sure, if you create a book or an online course and put together a well-oiled automatic sells system you can “earn money while you sleep”. But getting to that point takes months (if not years) of hard work — and more than a few sleepless nights.
#4 – SELL SERVICES BEFORE PRODUCTS
In the fitness industry, a service could be a coaching program, while a product could be a 12-week workout plan. Always sell services before products. Do this for two reasons:
- You can charge a premium price for a service, which means you need fewer clients to make a living wage. When I owned my personal training studio I charged $300-$600 per month. If I got 10 clients to sign up for a year-long contract, I was suddenly making a living. But if I started by writing a book that sold for $20 — and if I kept all of it as profit, which would never happen — I’d have to sell 3,000+ just to make the same amount of money.
- You can learn lessons that will inform your product if you decide to create one later. Because I’ve been in the fitness industry for so long, I can tell which workout programs have never been tested with real people.”Oh, you want them to do 10 sets of 10 reps of eight different exercises four times per week? Good luck with that.”By starting with a service, you’ll learn the ins and outs of what working with people really means. You’ll learn their motivators, idiosyncrasies, and pains. You’ll learn how to help them make progress despite everything that’s going on in their life.
In short, you’ll learn what works…and what doesn’t. I mean, would you want to work with a business coach who never ran their own business?
#5 – ALWAYS TRY TO 10X THEIR INVESTMENT IN YOU
If someone pays me $30,000 for a project, I want my work to directly result in $300,000 of new business for them. If someone buys a $20 book, I want them to get at least $200 worth of value out of it. It doesn’t matter what the price is. What matters is how much value I can deliver.
The beautiful thing is once you can reliably solve someone’s problem and 10X their investment, getting new work is never difficult. You just show them your track record and smile.
Because at some point your experience and your connections will speak for themselves.
Here are a few great business-related resources to check out: