Welcome to the first edition of Digital Freedom's Deep Dive.
Every Friday we'll discuss one business idea to help you build more leverage, boost your revenue, and give your finger to your boss (unless you are the boss).
For round 1 I'm going to explain how much money I've made, how I've made it, and more about my decision to remove 70% of my revenue to refocus on long-term business goals.
Going forward, you’ll get a monthly revenue report documenting how the business evolves.
This one’s a 6-minute read.
Let’s dive in.
A Quick Note...
The most important skill you can learn:
Total Earnings up until Jan 31st: $89,726
I monetized on the 31st of March with the Viral Inspiration Lab. Nothing is as sweet as that first digital dollar (despite my fiasco with a chocolate flavoured Cigar – a story for another time). Here’s how it's gone since:
October was a healthy chunk of change because I launched round 1 of my group coaching program. Here's how the total revenue looks:
But when my girlfriend sent me this picture, I wasn't happy.
It didn't look like my favourite shape.
The problem is it doesn't include pre monetization. But every word adds up. So here's how my online journey actually looks:
I get a bit too excited about compounding, but we're not here to talk mental models today. I'll just say this:
Compounding is freakin' awesome.
So let's take a look at how I've made my moolah.
I'm gonna chat through each. But before we go on, there's a much sexier figure I want to show you (and I'm not talking about my legs).
You and I are here to disconnect time from money. Digital Freedom. And I don't know about you, but I didn't quit my 9-5 to spend all day hustling in the DM's.
I prefer my business model.
Create content, invite people to invest.
So each month, I'm going to show you how my business evolves into a high leveraged, freedom-first machine.
Here's how it works.
Every revenue source is grouped into how leveraged they are (how many people you reach - next week's deep dive is leverage so I explain a lot more then).
- Low leverage: 1-1 work. Ghostwriting, coaching and consulting
- Mid leverage: 1-few. Group coaching and community
- High leverage: 1-many. Or as I like to call it: the good stuff
If we run my first year through my new super-sexy visual, here's how we look:
The aim of 2023 is to hit a 90% high leverage position.
... So we're not looking too good so far.
Move numero uno was to stop all 1-1 calls. I had my last one last night. I also cancelled round 2 of my group coaching which I explain more about below. Aside from a kick in the teeth (or wallet), that should get the metre moving. I'll report back with the end of Jan revue.
But enough about me.
Actually, it's all about me. But let's chat about each revenue source and if it's right for you.
I set a rule to not sell other people’s stuff so I could build a relationship with my audience.
Well intentioned, but a bad idea.
I now know that affiliating is awesome. If you buy a product you love (note: not just one you think you can sell), it's a great win-win to share it with your audience.
The key is to be careful with selection.
First, make sure it's damn good. It’s your name on the line, and you should never sacrifice long-term reputation for short-term revenue,
Second, don’t tread on your own toes.
If you can build it, don’t affiliate for it. A personal brand has a unique advantage that your audience will prefer your version of whatever it is they've made, and 100% of the revenue is much nicer than 30%.
Here's an example.
I love copy. I get googly-eyed when someone wants to speak about persuasive writing. But unlike some (most) of Twitter, I will never pretend to be an expert. For me, copywriting is a tool, not a profession.
But my friend Chris Orzechowski makes 7 figures with email copywriting and released a $5 ebook on how to find clients.
... perfect for my copy-loving amigos.
Another example would be Rob Lennon’s AI Content Reactor. Robots don’t excite me, but his advice does.
Affilate freedom score: 4/5 - No fulfilment required. Often recurrent payments. And everyone wins (if you do it right).
I launched ‘Freedom Writers’ in April and grew it to 100 members. I thought community would be a great side hustle.
I was wrong.
You can’t side hustle people. Not if you care. They deserve your full attention. And that means you either:
- Charge a premium
- Set clear constraints
Few people have what it takes to build a thriving community. Jay Clouse is your man if you want to learn how (also a great newsletter and podcast for creators).
Community freedom score: 2/5 – Recurring revenue is great, but you’re in constant warfare with churn.
1-1 Coaching and Consulting
I doubled my revenue after quitting the community because I had time to coach and consult. The topics were writing, social media growth, and business. At first I was terrified because 'who the hell was I to charge for advice?'. But what you lack in experience you can make up for in energy.
I vowed to overdeliver at every opportunity and the coaching biz took off.
Of course, I've been hating on 1-1 work.
But I think it's incredibly good for business early on.
Because the writer who understands their audience the most, wins.
Plus, you think you know what you’re talking about until you teach it. Systems fail. Advice makes no sense. Clients have questions.
The more people you work with, the better. You avoid the mistake a lot of creators make:
Productizing untested and untaught knowledge.
If you've ever bought a product and thought 'well that was shit', this is a big reason why. People spread average ideas, which ruins the opportunity to turn followers into fans.
Now that’s bad for business.
January 31st 2023
1-1 Work freedom score: 3/5 – it isn’t leveraged, but you decide who and how many clients you have. It’s easy to control your diary. And you’ll learn 100x more than your competition.
A coaching client asked me to ghostwrite for him. The money looked great.
I hated every second.
I couldn't shake the feeling that building someone else's brand when I could build my own was a bad move.
Saying that, there're pros to ghostwriting:
Getting paid to learn is smart (skin in the game is how you win the game). And it only takes a couple of clients to give your finger to the boss and step closer to Digital Freedom.
But if you ever make more than 10k a month with direct client work I'm gonna hunt you down... and have a few stern words.
Leverage is the key to freedom. Either scale into an agency (remove yourself from the fulfilment), or put all extra time into building your brand so you can productize.
Don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel.
Ghostwriting freedom score: 2.5/5 – It’s the fastest way to break free from your 9-5, but your job is dependent on deadlines and algorithms. No bueno.
My group coaching program has been a blast – and it was the model I was going to scale hard until I realised it took me away from writing.
I charged £3k per head to six people. It was exciting, impactful, and lucrative.
It’s also intense.
Round 1 will be tough because you sell, then build. Round 2 is easier because your resources are ready. You can also build a team to shift into a more leveraged position.
I've stopped at round 1 but offered a $550/month continuity to my original clients for Discord access, 1 group call a month, and continued support with writing.
They all said yes.
Group coaching freedom score: 3.5/5 – You’re tied in for 90 days (or whatever your fulfilment is), but you only need a few cohorts a year to make some decent cash.
Digital products have fallen out of fashion in favour of cohort-based content – but I’ve never enjoyed cohorts.
And I plan to build whatever Kieran Drew circa 12 months ago would've loved - starting with my new, systems-based writing product in April.
(Awesomeness guaranteed, but I'm only selling to people who register their interest. Click here to join the 251 legends already waiting.)
So far, I only have the Viral Inspiration Lab.
It makes roughly $2-3k a month, entirely automated. Occasionally I run a sale (or a surprise bonus) and that will make $3-5k in a few hours of writing.
Digital product freedom score 4.5/5 – You need to make sure your clients are happy, but you can automate pretty much everything.
Audience building gets a lot of hate, but most people don’t realise attention is a business.
If you build it right, brands will fight to partner with you because of the relationship you build with your audience (which is why you should’ve clicked that link to join the waiting list for my new product – go on, I’ll wait).
A newsletter takes time, but it scales beautifully.
I monetized at 10k subs for $100 a slot. It’s now roughly $350.
When I was looking at how to position with more leverage, the answer was obvious:
Digital Freedom became twice a week.
Not only does it double a revenue source, but it improves my writing and helps me reach you more. To quote mega business mogel Michael Scott, that's a win-win-win.
Sponsorship freedom score: 4.5/5 – Sure, you need to write. But we need to do some work, right? Newsletters are fun as hell and ain't no Elon screwing with your engagement.
I spent the first 2 years focusing on volume. The audience-first appoach is awesome, but I believe the mistake most big creators make is they forget to do something with it.
There comes a point where chasing numbers on a screen puts you in a very un-unique position (there's no story to tell).
So yes, start with quantity.
But when you get an idea, don't be afraid to change direction.
I've now tripled my writing time for the newsletter to focus on building something banging. I'm hoping the newsletter becomes a quality product that generates enough hype through word of mouth that I only need to write the occasional listicle on Twitter (hey, I'm not perfect).
February 9th 2023
With the newsletter being my 'mecca', I'll create a products to help you win. And I'll begin to redistribute to other social platforms (finally) with the 2 years of content I've got sitting in Notion to drive traffic.
I might even take on YouTube toward the end of the year.
It would be nice to record videos where I don't need to wear spandex.
But let's finish with you.
Making money as a creator is worth every effort. But here're two tips I wish I heard when I started:
1. Momentum first, money second
In April, I charged $500 for 10 60 minute calls - a sin in money Twitter’s eyes. Now my hourly rate has peaked at $2k (by writing 2 emails).
That’s only a 10-month difference.
Too many people trip up at the first hurdle. Just get someone to give you some goddamn money and figure the rest out later.
Start small, scale fast.
2. Simplicity is the secret
It's paradoxical, but my income increases every time I remove a revenue source.
I don’t expect Jan to be too good with the new change. It’ll probably take awhile to get back to $15k/month.
But it feels great to narrow the focus.
Because the less you sell, the more you deliver.
If I had to start again, here’s what I’d do:
Build a small and simple offer (like a 4 call package) and iterate on it until it’s excellent and value-based. Then productize the knowledge in a low-ticket to create a simple funnel. Use email to build your reputation and voila, the more you write - the more you earn.
We're talking leverage baby. I'll show you how to get much more with less (including my Sniper and Shotgun method of tweet writing). If you enjoy working smart, dis one for you.
Keep writing your way to freedom,
If you’d like more help, I’ve got your back:
If you’d like more help, I’ve got your back: