I’m approaching the end of my third year as a creator, and I’m grateful to say I hit $100k in revenue yesterday.
So before we begin:
Writing to you is great fun.
The fact it's a business is incredible.
And today, I want to show you my creator rulebook. These are 10 ideas I've collected from the lessons and mistakes over the past 3 years. I use them to help make better decisions for the future, so hopefully they help you too.
This one’s a 7 minute read.
Let’s dive in.
A Quick Note...
I used to ignore AI.
But if you don't understand it, you will be replaced. No tool is more powerful. And I'm yet to find a better course than Rob Lennon's AI Content Reactor. He's the real deal when it comes to AI (he was using it before it was 'cool'), and this course shows you how to make content writing effortless.
If you want to improve as a writer, you need to grab this one.
Rule #1: Zoom out
I decided to quit my career the day I heard Naval Ravikant speak. There was no plan. There was no skill. I was a complete amateur entering a new arena, and I knew I was going to get my arse kicked.
I told my girlfriend something that pulled me through a whole load of shit times:
Let's give it 2 years before we judge the result.
After 12 months of painful posting, I hit 1,000 followers.
Month 18, I made my first digital dollar. I’d never worked so hard for so little - but it felt like I'd won the world.
The 2-year mark?
I hit my first ‘$10k month’. But not with $10,000. I made $24,000.
... It was wild.
Here’s the thing Reader.
The only time I hate my journey is when I want it to go faster.
And the only reason I'm here is because I refused to give up.
Outcomes are out of your control.
Timeframes are not.
Treat every goal as a 2 year experiment and focus on the process. The results will come.
Rule #2: Don’t follow the crowd, follow your curiosity
I became a dentist because it was a prestigious profession. You should be happy if you're 'rich and respected'. But that shit doesn't help you sleep at night.
I care about two things.
Freedom and fulfillment.
And the internet is your best shot to ace both.
Uniqueness is celebrated. Obsession is rewarded. Income is closely intertwined with impact. You earn based on how well you create, not just how hard you work.
But when you follow the crowd, you lose sight of the path that leads you somewhere special.
Following your genuine intellectual curiosity is a better foundation for a career than following whatever is making money right now.
June 10th 2017
I'll tell you a little secret.
3 years ago, writing wasn't my escape plan.
It wasn't even on the radar.
I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. So I spent 3 months preparing jokes that only my girlfriend, my phone, and a hairbrush-as-a-mic were blessed enough to hear (thank god for lockdown).
But the mornings I wrote would fly by. Writing left me energised, excited, and inspired. Before 2020, I'd NEVER been creative (I was the science and maths nerd). I shifted my focus soon after.
I wanted to become a writer.
I’d never been so excited to suck at a skill so much. I wasn’t obsessed (yet), but I was close. And that was crucial. The start of any pursuit is going to suck, especially online when most people make it look easy.
If you can find a skill you love regardless of external validation, you’ll have a blast when people take notice.
Because like Tiago Forte once said, "nobody can compete with you if you’re having fun."
Let curiosity be your guide.
Rule #3: Play the right games
If I knew 2 years ago what life was like today, I'd have been on a permanent high. Thankfully I had no clue, else I’d get nothing done.
But I’ll be honest.
Often, I don’t feel like that. Sometimes I’m not happy at all.
Because it’s easy to lose sight of your values and vision when followers and dollars get involved.
You’re constantly chasing. Always comparing. Never quite satisfied with your achievements.
But playing the wrong game holds you back.
Success is subjective - you get to decide what it means. Follow Buffett's advice and build an internal scorecard. Hold yourself accountable to your own standards.
For me, I want to pursue mastery and make a real impact.
I'm far from both, but they feel like great goals to commit your life too.
External metrics are just icing on the cake.
Enjoy them, but don’t binge. It only ruins the party.
Rule #4: The rule of one
A lesson I'm constantly forced to relearn:
The best results come with singular focus.
When I quit my career, I had a to-do list as long as my arm. I’d barely dented it 2 months later. The stuff I completed, I did poorly.
I was exhausted going nowhere.
So I stripped down my priorities and made great progress. But then I sold, built, and delivered a group coaching program over 3 months while 2x'ing my audience size and building the newsletter.
I'm not going to hate on intensity. I love working hard. It feels like play anyway. But the opportunity cost of being 'too busy' is staggering. The more energy you put into one priority, the better it goes.
I set a rule that I wouldn't look at any social media channels until 100,000 followers. Trust me: Focus on one platform. Build a reputation. Launch your biz. Get some wins. THEN focus on distribution. Don't make the mistake of being average everywhere.
January 3rd 2023
Set one big goal for the year. Break it into a sub-goal every 90 days, and (try to) ignore everything else. There're disproportionate rewards for the creators who excel. Go all in on what matters most.
I’ve shared more about 90 day sprints in a previous email. You can read it here.
Rule #5: Be the guide, not the guru
One of my biggest mistakes was only creating content that told people what to do. I lacked personality, storytelling, and authenticity.
Nobody paid attention.
The truth is people aren’t looking for another guru. The internet is full of experts without experience. But when you position as a guide, you get what the 'experts' lack:
Be a friend to your followers.
Rule #6: Reputation over revenue
My curiosity took me deep into the copywriting world.
If you haven’t dived into direct response, it feels a bit like Vegas. There’s a lot of money flying around, but you’ll feel like you need a good scrub after a few days.
The creator game is different.
It’s not about forcing sales or fuelling funnels. It’s about relationships. You’re dealing with people, not a number on a screen. Your audience will care about your success when you show how much you care about theirs.
You can’t measure reputation like you can revenue, but not everything that counts can be counted.
This leads us nicely to the next point.
Rule #7: Overdeliver at every opportunity
Seth Godin says the aim of marketing is to delight. I’ve tried to embrace this idea wholeheartedly. Over 25,000 people have downloaded my free courses. I send personalised videos to everyone who buys my products. I give almost everything I know away for free.
The creators who will win long-term are the ones who care more about how to help their audience than how to monetize them.
March 1st 2023
When people see how far you're willing to go to help them win, you won't need to push or persuade to make money.
You just invite them to invest.
For example, when I release my new writing product, you trust I'll build something banging.
(Which, by the way, I will. So make sure you join the 393 legends already on the waiting list by clicking this link 😏).
But value works both ways.
Poor products (free or paid) don't just cost you a customer. You’ve generated negative word of mouth. And that, my friend, is very bad for business.
January 6th 2023
Rule #8: Productize your progress
If you want to sell products, there's one limiting belief you MUST address (that's often ignored).
It's not that you need to prove your system works.
It's that you need to prove it will work for them.
It's a subtle difference with a massive impact on the result. People hate feeling like failures. It's your job to reassure them they won't be.
The best way?
Sharing the right story.
Do you relate to a 7 figure entrepreneur telling you how easy 'making muneh' is online?
Or do you relate to the (rather sexy) writer who just hit his first $100k revenue even though he was too scared to send a single DM?
The point here is that you don't need to be an expert to have something worth selling.
Selfishly solve your own problems, then selflessly share how. Create for your past self (serve your shadow). And once you’ve made some decent progress, productize it.
Bring your audience along for the ride.
This is precisely what I did for the Viral Inspiration Lab. I couldn't write, then I improved, then I shared how. Now 650+ entrepreneurial creators use a database that I've personally built for over a year now. It's 33% off for the weekend to celebrate hitting $100k, so come join us.
Rule #9: Make it effortless
The day I began to make work effortless was the day my growth catapulted.
I always thought business was about grinding to success. But it's not. That'll get you momentum, but you'll hit a ceiling fast (or burn out). You need to understand your role as an operator vs an owner.
The difficulty as a creator is that you’re both the face and backbone of your biz. If you’re bogged down in admin tasks or stuff other people can do better, it stops you creating something excellent.
And ultimately, that’s what sets you apart.
Automation, delegation, elimination, and systemisation.
Think about these 4 words constantly.
It’s not about working less, it’s about working more on what counts.
Rule #10: Act like you’re already there
This final rule has been a saving grace in my journey.
I first heard this on the podcast The Art of Online Business. It’s a bit like ‘fake it till you make it’, but with better framing (there’re enough frauds online).
Here's how it works.
If you want to become a creator, you need to work bloody hard before you see a slither of success. Ignore any marketer who tries to sell you otherwise.
But we become our own worst enemies during tough times - beating ourselves up and putting ourselves down when we don't have what we want.
The result is we make worse decisions, compounding the original problem.
Would an excellent creator really react to short-term algorithm changes?
Would an incredible entrepreneur be begging for work in the DMs?
Is admin work really your highest level of contribution?
When you act like you already have what you want, you make better choices, which create better consequences. Like James Clear says, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
Get clear on who that person is.
Define the future you're trying to build.
And get to work to make it happen.
I appreciate the irony of setting rules in a newsletter about freedom.
But not all constraints are evil. The paradox of freedom is you only achieve it with discipline.
And if these don’t work for you?
Screw ‘em. Write your own. If something goes well, do more. If it goes poorly, do less.
Because to finish with Charlie Munger, success is simple. It’s much easier to avoid stupidity than achieve brilliance - you just need to be a little bit wiser than most over a long enough timeframe.
Go kick some arse.
You'll read my first monthly business report. In Feb, I made a loss. My revenue is down almost 50%. Growth has slowed. But I'll explain why it's been my favourite month yet.
Keep writing your way to freedom,
To celebrate hitting $100k, you can grab the Viral Inspiration Lab for 33% off for this weekend only. It's the best database of Twitter content to inspire you to write better, and I still personally handpick tweets and threads every week to add more.
Plus, loads of bonuses.
Join 650+ creators using it here.
And if you've got a moment, I'd love to hear what you thought of this edition of Digital Freedom.
Send me a quick message - I reply to every email!