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Two Lessons in Creating Passive Income – One Failure, One Success
So it’s been one year + one week since my last entry. I guess this shows that I am a horrible blogger.
I had originally planned to chronicle my journey into the creation of passive income, both successes and failures, as I experienced it, sharing lessons learned along the way. But, to be honest, I got so busy doing it that I didn’t have the time nor inclination to write about it. Yet I’ve become increasingly aware that I need an outlet to process my thoughts on what’s worked, what hasn’t, and what’s next so here I am, yet again!
I Was Drowning!
So what have I been doing for the past 372 days? A lot! After several years full of plenty of talk but little action, I can honestly say that I finally dove in to entrepreneurship with both feet. In fact, I dove in with both feet, both arms, and my torso, and was struggling to keep my head above water. I violated one of the cardinal rules I’ve heard numerous times since which is to “Focus on one thing at a time.” Instead, I began exploring a half-dozen different ventures which pulled me in too many directions and only let me dabble in each, rather than truly building one or two of them up. Here’s where I dabbled:
- Online Retail
- Premium Mobile Websites
- Web Design & Development
- Graphic Design & Marketing
- Chemistry Videos & Tutorials
I’ll write about each of these in more detail another time, but here are two lessons in creating passive income that I’ve learned.
Focus On One Thing
While most people think they’re great multi-taskers, most of us actually suck at it. Studies have repeatedly shown that your productivity, comprehension, understanding, etc. all decrease when you attempt to multi-task. Nowhere is this more true than in entrepreneurship. There aren’t enough hours in the day to devote to multiple projects, clients, employees, and ideas across multiple different businesses, especially when they’re in unrelated niches. It’s much more productive in the long run to take one idea, run with it, and see what you can make of it. Once you do this, you can then…
Focus On What Is Working
I’ve heard it said that it takes three years of full-time effort (The 1000 Day Rule) to really know if a business is going to take off. That may be true, but in my experience you can tell even sooner which ones have natural momentum and are producing results with little effort versus which ones are like pushing a boulder uphill yet producing little results. Once you’ve identified which one (or maybe two) are working it’s time to double down and cut out the others. While the first lesson was the one I was slowest to learn, this one was the hardest to learn.
It’s hard to “give up” on a business after you’ve invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in it. You try to justify keeping it afloat based on the investment you’ve already made and perhaps the minor successes you’ve had, but eventually you have to decide if the results you’re getting justifies the work you’re putting in.
If it doesn’t, then move on. Better to figure it out now than spinning your wheels for months like I did…
I’ll give you two personal examples. One business I began, Central Cog Design, was primarily involved in the creation of premium mobile websites for local businesses. It only made sense to me that with a growing number of people using the internet on their smartphones and tablets that businesses need a mobile-friendly website. In fact, Google has reported that 82% of businesses do not have a mobile-friendly website and that 61% of customers who visit a non-mobile-friendly website on their smartphone or tablet leave and often head to a competitor. So I invested time researching the mobile website market and learning about mobile website development. I invested time and money hiring a full-time web developer with experience in mobile websites. I invested more time and money in creating sample websites for 40+ local businesses. I invested time and money in hiring two different people to sell mobile websites to local businesses. After untold hours and thousands of dollars I had a fantastic portfolio with dozens of examples, a company website with several functioning examples, and zero mobile-website customers. I began to try to figure out what the issues were. Was it a marketing issue? Was it a pricing issue? Was it a sales issue? I honestly think it was primarily the latter as I didn’t have experienced salespeople attempting the selling. But regardless of the reason, the fact remained that after serious hard work and thousands of dollars invested it was producing zip in the profit column.
Compare that to another business I started, GetChemistryHelp. As a chemistry professor by day, it only made sense to begin to parlay my experience in to something I already knew about – teaching chemistry. So in January 2013 I began producing short 10-15 minute video lessons on various high school and college chemistry topics and posting them on YouTube. Each is concise, clearly laid out, and includes worked-out examples. I invested a few hundred dollars in a high-quality USB microphone for recording my narration, a Wacom tablet for working out problems on the screen, and a website. I did zero marketing, other than announcing the videos in my own courses; I just produced quality content, put it on YouTube, and began to see results.
At first my visitors were mostly my own students, but as months passed I began to get comments from people I didn’t know who were thanking me for the videos and asking me to please produce more. Those hundreds of views turned in to thousands and then tens of thousands! And it wasn’t just Americans who were watching them, I’ve currently had viewers from 168 different countries! No marketing, big results. Yet despite my success with GetChemistryHelp, I continued to pour the majority of my energy and time in to other endeavors convinced that surely they would pick up. I just needed to give them more time or effort or change this or try that. But one night on my drive home as I listened to a(nother) podcast it finally sunk in that I needed to focus on what was working. Why continue hoeing the hard ground and scattering seeds, when’s there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit to be picked? Now granted, GetChemistryHelp is still going to take plenty of work before it’s really profitable (to date I’ve only made just over $200 through YouTube ad revenue), but the market is obviously there. And more importantly, it’s getting me results with little effort. As an example, over the last several months I’ve only created a half-dozen new videos, yet I continue to get thousands upon thousands of views, hundreds of new subscribers, and comments literally every day during the school year from students thanking me for my videos. Ding ding! Lesson learned.
A Tale of Two Horses
Perhaps I could have summed up everything above by simply saying: Stop banging your head against the wall and go for the open door. If you’ve got two horses and are trying to win a race, you have to focus on the one that gives you the best odds of success. Regardless of how much blood, sweat, and tears you’ve invested, at some point you have to pull the trigger on the lame horse and focus your time and energy on the one that’s thoroughbred material. Even if he’s not quite running like a thoroughbred yet, you still need to commit your limited resources to the one that’s doing more than just eating all your hay and leaving steaming piles to show for it!
How about you? Have an endeavor that you just need to put to rest, despite the countless hours and dollars invested? Or maybe you got a project that is just naturally taking off and deserves more attention? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!
What Is the Work You Can’t Not Do?
As I talked about in a previous post, passion is one of the keys to success. You have to find that thing you love to do so much that it doesn’t even feel like work when you’re doing it. You stay up until 3:00 AM doing it then get up at 6:00 AM to do it all over again, just because you’re so passionate about it. In this TED Talk I just found on Addicted2Success, Scott Dinsmore does a great job sharing about this very subject.
Scott Dinsmore – How To Find And Do Work You Love
“What is the work you can’t not do? Discover that. Live it. Not just for you, but for everyone around you. Because that is what starts to change the world.” – Scott Dinsmore
Scott is the founder of Live Your Legend, a website I just discovered thanks to this video. I’m definitely going to spend some time poking around his site to see what he has to offer!
Why settle for ordinary when you can devote your life to something that sets you on fire!?
As I plan my personal domination of the world wide web, I love listening to passive income success stories from those who are crushing it in various niches. Not only is it inspiring, but hearing what has worked for others provides guidance for aspects of their business model I can incorporate. So in this post, I thought it might prove useful to break down a website and see exactly how they started, what they’re doing, what is working, and the lessons we can learn.
I am addicted to the Smart Passive Income podcast with Pat Flynn. Pat is killing it online, making $50k+ every month from different online ventures. His insights, information, and training are awesome, but what I really appreciate is how down to earth and humble he is while sharing it. Yesterday, I was listening to session 24 where he interviewed three different online entrepreneurs on how they’re making money online, without being in the making money online niche. I especially enjoyed the first interview with Keith Snow from Harvest Eating so I thought it would be educational to break down exactly what he’s done and what he’s doing.
Chef Keith Snow is the founder of Harvest Eating. He began with a YouTube channel, cooking up fresh, local, seasonal recipes in his kitchen. He also created a community website at http://www.harvesteating.com to go along with it where people could chat with him, ask questions, and share ideas with each other. Over time he added in various monetization strategies. First, YouTube invited him to become a YouTube Partner which entitles him to share a percentage of the advertising revenue they collect when visitors view his videos. Later, people suggested he try to sell the recipes to accompany his videos. At first he thought they were crazy, wondering why anyone would pay for a recipe when they could just watch the video of him preparing it. But he eventually gave it a shot, creating a membership section of his website where people pay $4.99 per month for access to all of his recipes and other content. (Although now the recipes are free to everyone and membership provides other benefits.) Members even get welcome kits delivered to their door that include items such as a signed, personal letter from Chef Snow, a bumper sticker, and even sample food products (more on this below). He currently has over 1,000 monthly paid subscribers.
As the years have passed, he’s continued to innovate, adding new products to Harvest Eating that will not only add value to his community, but also create marketing opportunities and additional income streams.
- Naturally, he produced a cookbook compiling the local, seasonal recipes everyone had come to love.
- He sells his own line of sauces, seasonings, and other food products. Keeping with his theme of local ingredients, he ensures that his products contain only ingredients sourced from within the United States rather than imported, as with other manufacturers. This does mean his production costs are often higher, but by selling direct from his website rather than through stores he maintains a healthy profit margin.
- In addition to his videos, he also started a podcast where he interacts with his audience, answers questions, and shares tips and advice.
- Sponsors came knocking, asking to advertise to his dedicated niche audience through his various mediums.
- He had an iPhone/iPad app developed where people can access his videos, podcasts, and recipes wherever they are. The app sells for $1.99.
- Finally, he’s even branched into TV with a show on RFD TV, as well as a Roku channel that costs $4.99/month.
All this from a guy who probably started out just loving to cook! Inspired yet?
Passive Income Strategies Used
Let’s quickly recap the various passive income strategies Chef Snow is using to build his brand, monetize it, and create passive income in the process:
- YouTube videos – As a partner, he is paid every time one of his videos is viewed. (He currently has over 5 million views.)
- Membership Website – Loyal viewers, listeners, and visitors support Harvest Eating through either a monthly, annual, or lifetime membership for access to all recipes, videos, and other site content. (He has over 1,000 paid members.)
- eCommerce – Cookbook, sauces, seasonings, and more are available for sale.
- Podcasting – Currently over 100 episodes with listeners from around the world.
- Advertising – Sponsors pay to advertise on his website, videos, and other outlets.
- Apps & Software – $1.99 iPhone/iPad app that contains access to Harvest Eating videos, podcasts, and recipes.
That’s an impressive lineup of income streams! It’s equally impressive to think how passive several of these income streams are. In the podcast, Chef Snow shares a great story about how he spent two weeks traveling around France, Switzerland & Italy with a sponsor, all while passive income continued to flow from his various endeavors. Of course all of these income streams took significant hard work upfront to develop, but the foundation has been well laid and the production of new content to keep the machine cranking requires relatively few hours per month. And perhaps best of all, Chef Snow is his own boss and gets to do what he loves, so I bet much of this hardly feels like work at all!
One other lesson to take away is that you don’t need a huge audience to generate sustainable passive income. The local, seasonal food niche is fairly small but as with most niches, it’s not the size that matters but rather their engagement. Chef Snow keeps his community engaged by reaching out through multiple avenues (video, audio, iPhone/iPad, membership site), personally interacting with them online, sending each new community member a personal welcome letter, and much more. Harvest Eating demonstrates that if you provide your audience with the great content and great value they desire, then in return they’ll provide you with the loyalty and support you desire.
I highly recommend checking out session 24 of the Smart Passive Income podcast to hear the interview in its entirety for yourself!
So what lessons can you take away from this case study? Is there one thing you’re especially intrigued by or would like to add to your website? Leave a comment below with your thoughts!
I love listening to podcasts. When I was commuting 2-3 hours per day between three jobs they were a lifesaver. Not only did they keep me entertained and awake, but I was learning so much. My car became a mobile classroom! The one downside of my current 10-15 minute commute is I have such little time to listen to podcasts! I’m such a junkie that there are times I’ll volunteer to run to the store just so I can squeeze in a few more minutes of a particularly intriguing episode.
One podcast I discovered a couple of months ago was Eventual Millionaire by Jaime Tardy. She has interviewed dozens of millionaires, picking their brains to see how they became successful and the lessons that we can learn from them. One particular episode that stuck out to me was with Scott Fox entitled “Knitting, Chickens, and Online Business – How Millionaire Scott Fox helps people build six figure online businesses”. It was fascinating to hear the crazy stories of how people turned a passion for something completely esoteric like raising chickens, remote control aircraft, and knitting into six figure businesses! I was inspired enough that I had to check out his latest book, Click Millionaires. Here are three stories from the book that stood out to me.
Interested in installing WordPress on Bluehost? This guide will walk you through the steps of signing up for a Bluehost account and setting it up to run WordPress. Let’s pretend you’ve decided to focus on creating passive income by sharing your love for crocheting blankets. (It’s OK, you can admit it.)
Step #1 – Sign Up for a Bluehost Account
Visit Bluehost and sign up for an account by clicking on the big green “Sign Up Now” button.
I promised in my last post to share a few of the baby steps I’ve taken towards creating passive income online, so here you go!
Regardless of your primary focus in creating passive income online (podcasting, videos, eBooks, other digital products, software, apps, etc.) you’ll most likely need a website to act as a hub and home for the community you’re creating. So I thought I’d share how I went about setting up my website/blog. (More on how to monetize a blog in a future post.)
My wife and I started up a part-time business a couple of months ago selling assorted items online. It’s been going fairly well and the more time & money we put in, the more money we’re making. But yesterday was insane. We (mostly my wife) spent 17 hours packing up 375 items into 54 boxes. Yes, 17 hours on packing alone. Sure, I hope to make some decent money off of the sales of these items but make no mistake about it - this is not passive income!
With most jobs, the more time you spend, the more money you make. If you need more money then you work longer hours, you work overtime, you pick up a second job, you create a side business, etc. More time = more money. Trust me, I know, because I’ve done exactly this for years. Before I moved to Fresno to accept a full-time position teaching chemistry, I was teaching part-time at a college in Sacramento. Shortly after I got married my wife got laid off, so I did what most people do when they need more money – I got another job. In my case, I got two other jobs. I went from one job working 50-70% of full-time to three jobs at three different colleges in three different cities. Combined I was working about two full-time jobs plus spending 2-3 hours commuting most every weekday. Did I make good money? Sure. Did I get to spend time with my family and pursue my passions? Heck no!
Deep breath. Here we go.
Welcome to Steps to Passive Income! This is not another “how-to” guide from some guru, but rather a “how-I-do” blog from a guy who has read and listened to a lot of those gurus, but is still trying to figure it out! Here’s a bit of my story…
For the past several years I’ve become increasingly interested in money, finances, and wealth creation. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and retirement seems to be sneaking up on me, or maybe it’s because I feel like there’s so much I still want to experience in the world but most of it takes time and/or money that I don’t have. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been able to travel a fair bit, save a little here and there, helped out family & friends, and given to ministries & causes I believe in. But there’s still a gnawing desire in my heart that wants more. Do you ever feel that inside you too? Maybe it’s when you see those amazing pictures your friend who now lives overseas keeps posting on Facebook? Perhaps it’s when you read about the guy who created a new iPhone app that rakes in tens of thousands of dollars a month, giving him complete financial freedom? Possibly it’s the stories from an old classmate that is devoting her life to a cause she believes in that seems so fulfilling? In my case, it’s all of the above and more!