I love my information marketing business. I’m not a millionaire. But, my passive income business has enabled me to do a lot.
It’s given me a lot of freedom. I can work when and where I want. I am able to travel for extended periods of time. I’ve been able to take on some great consulting clients. I’ve been able to test out several other business ideas. And while most of them have failed, I’ve been able to get right back up off the ground and keep trying, rather than have to rush into a job.
I’ve had enough free time to study philosophy, which has helped me think and see the world more clearly. I’ve been able to focus more on my mental and physical health. I’ve reduced my stress, and prioritized exercise, nutrition, and sleep. These have helped me and will continue to help me avoid sickness and disease, be in a better mood, increase my productivity, and ultimately live longer.
It’s provided me with a huge amount of optionality in terms of what I can do with my life.
I’ve learned a ton from starting and growing it and I truly enjoy most of the work.
How exactly do I earn passive income? I self-publish books on Amazon and teach video courses on Udemy. I use my blog to market the books.
Building my passive income streams has required a lot of digital marketing: content marketing, list building, SEO, traffic generation, etc.
But It hasn’t been all fruit and roses. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, and learned from them. Below, I’ll share six of them so you don’t have to go through the experiences I went through, and tell you what I’m doing now instead, to get better results. If I were to start this business over again from scratch, here’s what I’d do:
1. Set your priorities and accept the consequences
What’s most important to you personally? What are you willing to make sacrifices for?
For me, it’s been personal freedom. Having control over my time and my thoughts is important to me. In order to achieve that, I’m willing to sacrifice conformity to the traditional career path, television, and more.
However, what’s important to me is different than what’s important to most other people in our culture. And that’s actually been one of my biggest challenges. I’ve only realized recently that it’s caused me a lot of stress. But, it’s not always easy.
Information marketing is not a traditional startup or small business, and it’s certainly not a traditional career. It’s a very nonconformist path. Most people don’t even understand what I do.
Nonconformity is tough to deal with due to some deeply ingrained conditioning.
It cannot be ignored. You need to acknowledge it, understand the ‘why’ it’s hard, accept it, and then decide what’s most important to you. You can either let it stress you out like it has for me, let it deter you from achieving freedom at all, or ignore it and make a more rational decision about what you want in life.
2. Keep it simple and learn by doing
In this day in age, there’s so much fluff out there about how to make money online and how to build a passive income business. It can get extremely overwhelming: affiliate marketing, e-mail autoresponders, google Ads, SEO, retargeting, blah blah blah. There’s a lot.
But, don’t worry too much about the advanced stuff. Don’t learn everything under the sun. You don’t need to know everything and it can overwhelm you.
The most essential things you need to do are create a digital product that provides value to people, and find a channel for acquiring customers. You can forget about just about anything that doesn’t contribute to one of those two things.
The rest is just be distractions. So, at some point, you need to stop learning and start doing. You’re going to learn a lot along the way.
I’ve made a crazy amount of mistakes along the way, but mistakes are inevitable. And when you make mistakes, you learn. The harsh reality is that even if you execute perfectly, it won’t always work out.
I’ve spent hours and hours on posts that barely gets any views. Other times, a post that I spend 20 minutes on blows up.
Learn as you go. Get stuff out there and see what works. You can read about new concepts and ideas all you want, but by not doing anything, you get nowhere.
3. Start early and battle through
Before I started, I thought it was going to be easy. I read a lot of blog posts about how easy it is make thousands of dollars per month in completely automated income. I thought if I just put in a little work and followed the step by step processes I’d be rich.
That wasn’t my experience at all. It took a while to see results.
I started blogging while I still had a full-time job. It took several months, maybe over a year depending on how you count, before I started seeing consistent traffic to my blog and significant amounts of money.
Over time it gets easier, but only if you stick with it. All the content you’re creating are valuable assets. The links you build will incrementally increase your traffic. But, you need to get started as soon as possible.
So many people are held back from starting, either by learning more, fear of failure, or fear of nonconformity. Once you do start, don’t let the million little hurdles along the way let you quit.
4. Write more
Writing is a core competency. I write and self-publish ebooks to make money. I write blog posts to market the ebooks.
I got into the habit of writing by just forcing myself to hit publish. I still do that when I go through slumps. I’ve also had an accountability buddy that calls me every day to make sure I’ve hit publish. I don’t want to let him down!
I don’t always publish these on my site, or share them with my email subscribers. I put them on Medium, Quora etc. I want my site and my subscribers to only get super high value stuff. The point of publishing everyday is just to get in the habit of writing, see what gets a reaction, and build up a war chest of content.
Looking back, I was a horrible writer when I first started. I’m still not a great writer. I’m probably about average at best. So, I’ve hired editors to help turn my chicken scratch into something more engaging. But, my writing has gotten better and will continue to improve.
One option is outsourcing your writing. Though, I wouldn’t recommend it from the start. Especially if the writing is your core offering. You want to be able to understand what good writing is so you don’t get crap back from your freelance writers.
The best way to learn how to write is to read and write yourself. Find someone you can model. And just start writing. It’s okay if you’re not good right now. You’ll get better over time. Like I mentioned before, learn by doing.
5. Get obsessed with helping your audience
Providing value is essential to any business. If you’re not providing value, then why would anyone pay you money?
Use customer development tactics to figure out what your audience’s problems are. Validate demand for your ideas and get feedback on your content.
Go big. Get more specific, more transparent, and more authentic. This will all develop naturally as you produce more content.
Tell stories. Humans are naturally drawn to stories. Don’t be afraid to share your personal experience and provide some takeaways from real life experiences.
Providing value to people is crucial to success in any business – passive income, software, service, or otherwise. The best way to provide value is to understand what your audience is looking for, and then become obsessed with helping them.
I learned this the hard way, after spending hours and hours on a video course on topic that people had little demand for.
6. Get personal
I used to write really dry, tactical blog posts. They provided a lot of valuable advice, but they were oh so boring.
They were logical, but they weren’t very emotional. They weren’t easy to relate to; they seemed like they were written by a robot.
Then, I was inspired by people like James Altucher.
He tells stories. He writes about a variety of topics that are quite personal that most people don’t write about, like how it feels to lose millions of dollars. He discusses the personal ups and downs of starting a business, not just how to do it. His writing is honest, personable, and relatable.
The reality is, people often make decisions and form their opinions based on emotions rather than facts. So, I try to write more about my personal experiences. Instead of just sharing facts and lessons, I talk about about how I’ve felt, mistakes I’ve made, etc.
As blogging and content marketing gets more competitive, it’s becoming more important to be unique, personal and authentic. Anyone can gives facts, but only one person has your personal experiences, and that’s you.
People admire authenticity, especially in this day where there’s so little of it in our culture.
Everyone wants to post about the positive times, the fun trips, and the happy moments in life. But, how many people write about their mistakes and failures?
One of the metrics I track now is how many emails I get in response to a given blog post. How many people were affected by it enough to send me a personal note about it?
Facts have become commoditized. But, your personal stories can never be commoditized.
7. Guest blog
I see so many blogs out there packed with great content…that no one is reading. My blog used to be one of them.
I used to work really hard on great posts, put them out my site that no one even knew existed, and it would be like I was talking to a wall. The quote, “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to a blog.
However, there are websites that have spent years and lots of money getting to a place where you could only dream of. So, instead of starting from scratch you can tap into their success.
Guest blogging is a way to do that.
Guest blogging can get in front of a large audience, build your email list, get traffic, and build your reputation. You can start with smaller sites, and work your way up to huge sites.
8. Build your email list
This has been the biggest mistake I’ve made.
When I was first getting started, I thought people were going to come to my site once and then just keep coming back. I actually thought people were going to remember me!
The truth is, when you get started, no one cares about you. In fact, no one even knows you exist. True, they may land on your article or blog and enjoy what they are reading, but they’ll most likely forget about you the next day.
Acquiring email subscribers means that you can continue the engagement. Once you have their emails, you can continue to maintain a relationship over time. You can continue to provide value, and you have an engaged audience to promote your products to.
Building an email list takes time, so you need to be patient. It’s not easy, you’ll need to plan out your sales funnel.
At times it may even take away from a paid product and mean less money in the short run. But, assuming you are smart enough to provide upsells to your audience, having an email list will increase the average customer’s lifetime value, and make it worth it in the long run.
9. Find your competitive advantage
I suck on camera and I hate video editing.
I enjoy writing and am slowly getting better at it. My YouTube videos barely get any views and I’m seeing better results through my books than my video courses.
So, test what channels and formats are going to work for you. Go where your audience is. Go where there’s not too much competition, and where your skills are. If you love talking, then don’t force yourself to write. If you hate blogging, then find another platform that fits your skillset and preference.
10. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em
I tried self hosting some books and courses but simply didn’t have a large enough email list or trusted brand to get the traffic and conversions I wanted.
However, there’s a lot of opportunity in tapping into content networks with large user bases. This is similar to guest blogging as discussed above, just with other platforms.
While platforms like Amazon and Udemy take a commission, and require you to sell your products for a lower price then you might on your own site, they help with the two hardest parts of almost any business: traffic and conversions.
The hardest part about information marketing is not creating the book or video course, it’s getting customers. And platforms like Amazon and Udemy, with their large networks of users and trusted brand, help with just that.
If you want to make money in any business, you need to be solving people’s problems. Create really valuable and personal content, then find a channel for getting traffic to it, such as guest blogging, Amazon, or Udemy. Create a sales funnel, including an email list.
Earning passive income has so many benefits. Start early and be patient. It takes a while to get traffic, build your email list, and build your reputation. But, it’s well worth it and will pay off in the long run. Best of luck!