So here goes. I’m embarking on this journey to create a successful lifestyle business from nothing…and you have a front row seat.
Note: This is a long post, but please read it all the way through because I am sharing EVERYTHING about the start of this journey. The subsequent updates won’t be quite as long, but there’s a ton of stuff packed into this post
Welcome, and thanks for joining me on this amazing journey!
You’ll see everything. The successes. The struggles. The failures. The strategies that worked, and the ones that didn’t. And perhaps most importantly, you’ll see all of the mental and emotional barriers that I overcome…including an epic battle with depression.
I’m not aware of anywhere else where you can see all of those things in real-time, but yet they are each so critical to success. So I feel that my journey will not only be valuable to me, but it will be super valuable to you and everyone that follows it.
It’s important for everyone to understand what my primary goal with this entire journey is. Along the way, I’ll have to break this goal down into smaller goals and specific strategies to reach each goal, but I need to get my main goal out here so we can be clear about what the desired end result it.
My goal is to have a successful lifestyle business up and running by May 1st, 2017.
What does that mean in specifically?
Let’s break that down because other than the desired date, it’s pretty abstract.
Here are the criteria that I’m after:
- Online based business (there could be some physical aspects, but they could easily be moved anywhere)
- The business doesn’t REQUIRE more than 2 hours a day to maintain or grow its revenue. I’m not looking for the fabled online business where you make millions doing nothing. That’s boring, and it’s also unrealistic. Notice I said “require” — I’m not opposed to working more, or putting those crazy 10-12 hour days in if necessary (maybe for a product launch, etc) but I do not want that to be the norm. I’d like those 12 hour days to be something that I do my choice, not by necessity.
- The business has to create enough income for me to be able to live off it. (Note: I like money, and I want to make a lot of it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. However, I feel like focusing on that right now is the wrong move because that’s a goal that’s too far off for me right now).
Now let’s look at this a different way. Why do I have this goal with these criteria? What drove me to start this journey that definitely won’t be easy?
- I’m unhappy where I am at right now. I’ll talk about this in more detail shortly, but I currently work full time, about 45-50 hours a week. I know many people work much more than that, but even then it still feels like it consumes me completely and I don’t have enough headspace for other stuff. Not just that, but it doesn’t excite me.
- I currently am not in an ideal financial situation. It’s not completely horrible, but it’s not great. My income and my expenses are roughly equal. (not good!)
- I’d like to be location independent. I’m not necessarily looking for the digital nomad lifestyle where you go live in different countries around the world for a couple of months at a time and then pack up and move again, but I’d like to be able to move anywhere at any time if I so desired.
- I’ve wanted a lifestyle business for about 10 years now, but I haven’t ever really done much about it.
Now, let’s talk about my current status. Here’s my starting point (and current limitations)…
- As mentioned above, I’m unhappy where I am right now. I feel like I have no control over my life, and that all of my time is owned by someone else. Not good.
- Again as mentioned above, I work about 45-50 hours a week. I’m usually at work from about 9 am to 6:30 pm, although that might vary by a half hour either way.
- I have 2 hours per day to work on this. I recently changed up my daily schedule to get up 2 hours earlier (at 6am) where I can immediately go and put in 2 hours of focused work here before going to work.
- I have some previous business/entrepreneurship experience (not enough, but some)
- I have marketing experience (not years and years, but some)
Again, like the smaller goals that I’ll be posting about more frequently in my status updates, I’ll also post as my strategy changes. However, here is my high-level strategy for success with my big end goal of creating a successful lifestyle business.
First off, let’s break that goal down and look at the components that are necessary for a “successful lifestyle business”. Sure, there are many different variations of that, but for me to my knowledge, these are the basic components that I’ll need at a very high level:
- An audience of people that know, like, and trust me. For me, this will be an email subscriber list. (For others, it could be your Instagram followers, or YouTube subscribers, etc). But the point here is having a group of people that follow you and are interested in what you’re talking about is a component that’s necessary
- A product that creates a ton of value that my audience is willing to pay for. This creates something that will be a vehicle for revenue, however it will be worthless without…
- A mechanism for selling that product to some of the people in my audience. OMG, he said the “S word”. That’s right, I will need to actually sell that product to the people in my audience who could benefit from it the most. This is the piece that turns my list into a real business, i.e. one that generates revenue and can sustain itself.
Really, if you think about it, those are the only three requirements. Everything else is just a means to that end, which is where we start diving into the strategy and stages that I’m going to focus on.
So here is how I’m going to approach this challenge at a really high level (these are the 3 “phases” I suppose):
- Focus primarily on creating an audience that knows, likes, and trusts me FIRST. (Hopefully you’ll be one of them!)
This will be measured by the number of email subscribers that I have, and I’d like to have at least 5,000 subscribers by the end of this journey.
- Once I have generated a good amount of subscribers, I want to shift my focus to creating a product that would create immense value for them.
It’s so tempting to start with this step in mind, but really it’s worthless (and a great way to waste time!). Starting with product or monetization strategies does more harm than good if you don’t even have an audience yet…or know who that audience will be!
- Once I have a product (or even just a product idea), I’ll launch it to my audience. Now I’ll be able to focus on generating revenue (aka making money). This will be the step that determines if this all “works” as a business.
My Current Strategy & Goals
So here’s what I’m focusing on right now. I’m not even worrying about #2 and #3 above yet so that’s not worth even mentioning.
That means #1 (create an audience) IS my focus right now, but that piece of the strategy desperately needs to be broken down into something more actionable.
Why? “Build an audience” is pretty abstract and it isn’t something you can just go out and do, especially since I’m starting from scratch here.
So let’s break it down….
What are the components of being able to generate email subscribers? What do you need in order to get a lot of people to say “Yes, I’m interested and would like to receive emails from you”?
(Wait a minute, this is a perfect time for a shameless plug! If you haven’t yet joined my email list — most of you reading this should have just joined it — join it now and you’ll help me out here, along with receiving awesome material! Ah, that was fun but back to your regularly scheduled program…)
I think these are really the only three things you need to generate email subscribers:
- A way for people can subscribe to your email list (this is just the form where people can put in their name and email).
- A compelling offer or something interesting that makes people want to join your email list.
- Traffic to places where you have that email subscribe form located.
#1 is easy, that’s just a quick technical integration.
#2 isn’t quite as easy because you have to come up with a good reason that people NEED to be on your email list, however it isn’t THAT hard. You can also give them something immediately after joining, like a free eBook, guide, or a “content upgrade”.
#3 is the hardest one on this list, in my opinion (unless you have an unlimited budget to spend on ads, but who does? And that would also be very hard to make profitable.) You need to get people to come visit your site and hopefully join your list while they are there, but where are they going to come from?
So #3 (generating traffic) is going to be my primary focus when it comes to building my audience. I figure if I can start to generate some traffic, then I should be able to figure the other 2 pieces out pretty easily.
But where is that traffic going to come from? Without spending money on ads (I’ve already tried that and spent way too much, although I will revisit this in the future for sure), I think the top three ways to generate traffic are:
- Getting listed in marketplaces or directories
- Having other people who already have an audience to link to me
Marketplace/directory listings (#1) is definitely one that I should be seeking out, but I feel that there aren’t really many listings for blogs like this. I could be wrong (and I hope I am), so maybe I’ll dedicate some time to finding listings. However, I also know that I’m more likely to get listed places if I already have a good site up and running, so I’ll put this one off for now.
SEO (#2) is one that I definitely want to excel at, but it’s not going to generate much traffic for me right now because it tends to be a slower process. So, I want to definitely do things to make sure this site ranks well in the search engines, but it’s not going to be my primary focus right now.
That leaves us with #3, “getting people who already have an audience (some people call them “influencers”) to link to me”. I think this is the best place to start, because (a) they can send a bunch of traffic instantly, especially if they include something of mine in their emails (b) links on their site will help boost my SEO rankings and (c) it’s good to know people like this in general because you can promote each other’s work over time and it helps build both people’s business in the long term.
Now, what does “getting people who already have an audience to link to me” require?
It requires a relationship with that person. These are influencers, so they already have people emailing them everyday and asking to link to them. In that situation, the way you decide who you want to actually give the time of day is the people that you already know, aka have a relationship with.
So that was quite long-winded (remember, I’m showing you everything on this journey!), but here are the specific items that I want to focus on RIGHT NOW as far as building my audience…
- Building relationships with influencers
- Generating backlinks and getting my content published on other sites
- Building traffic to this site
- Capturing email subscribers
Note: this list IS in order of importance, so building relationships with influencers is my primary focus right now.
My Short Term Goals
One thing that’s important to me is breaking down my big high level goal into small, more actionable goals that shouldn’t take too long to achieve. Otherwise, I tend to get overwhelmed by the big goal and it leads to me doing nothing.
So, here are my immediate short term goals:
200 email subscribers. This isn’t much as far as building an email list, but it’s a start, and all I need to focus on right now so I don’t feel overwhelmed.
10 relationships with influencers. Getting in touch with someone, hearing back from them, and having at least a little dialogue will count here. I will need to continue to grow these relationships over time before I ask them for anything.
After I reach each one, I will celebrate! This step often gets left out (and I am terrible at this), but it’s important to step back and celebrate the little wins.
Then, on to the next goal
So, how am I going to accomplish these first two goals?
Well, my plan is three-fold…
- Write awesome blog posts about mindset, entrepreneurship, and/or success. This does a couple things…One, it starts to develop valuable content on this site that people will want to come check out. This will help me get people to this site. (Then, once they’re on there, I’ll have email capture boxes so some of those people can join my email list)Two, it gives me context for the next two points…
- Ask influencers if I can quote them in my blog posts.
Here, I’m simply going to reach out to influencers that (a) are experts at the topic that I’m writing about and (b) I want to build a relationship with and say something like…”Hey, I’m currently writing a blog post about XYZ and I wanted to quote what you said here (mention something they’ve written and link to it). Is it OK if I mention you and link back to your original post?”All I’m looking for here is for them to say YES. Notice, I’m not reaching out asking for them to do anything for me — I’m just showing value by telling them that I want to create value for them (a mention and a backlink) and all I want is permission.It’s super easy, and all they have to do is reply back with one word, Yes or No.
However, I know that some of them will be interested in seeing the final piece. This opens the door for me to email them again once the post is completed. When I do that, there’s a good chance some of them will share it out with their audiences via social. That might help drive some initial traffic that I can convert into email subscribers.
Then, after that, it’s my responsibility to nurture and grow that relationship over time. I’ll need to think of one or two things that I can do for them in order for them to feel like they KNOW me. Then, I’ll be able to start asking for bigger things to do together.
- Get my blog posts linked as many places as possible.Once I get those blog posts published, I’ll be reaching out to as many people as I can that write about the same topic to see if they’ll want to feature it as a resource. This is what’s going to help me rank better in the search engines and grow that organic search traffic over time (which I’ll need to turn into email subscribers).
Remember, I’ll be sharing my results from all of this so you can see EXACTLY what I did, what DID work, and what DIDN’T work. I know the steps outlined above still might seem a little vague, but
My Current Status: Mindset
So we’ve looked at the business/marketing side of things, but now let’s shift gears. Mindset is my primary focus on this journey, after all, and I want to show how you can reach your goals by optimizing your mindset.
Here are a couple notes I’ve jotted down about my current “inner game” status:
I am terrified of embarking on this journey.
Yep. This is really scary to me. I think it’s mainly because I have no idea what I’m doing. You might be thinking that I have it all figured out after reading my plans above, but I really have no idea if it’ll work. And I’m worried that my plans aren’t specific enough.
I’m scared about getting this thing rolling. It’s like rolling a boulder up a hill…it’s super hard to get started in the beginning and progress is really slow, but once you get some momentum, it gets easier. (Then, once you finally get to the top of the mountain and start going downhill, it gets a LOT easier!)
So that’s the honest truth. This is really scary. I’m putting myself out there, displaying my journey for the world to see and sharing everything, when I honestly have no clue if it’s going to work.
However, I still think it’s worth doing. This reminds me of one of my favorite Elon Musk quotes, (roughly paraphrasing here) “I thought the most likely outcome for Tesla was failure, but I did it anyway because it’s worth pursuing”. (Link here, it’s at the very end.)
I’m excited about this journey
On the flip side, this is something that excites me. The potential for success, and the fact that I’m creating something out of thin air and growing it is very exciting. At this point, I’d say the fear overrides the excitement more often than not, but that’s ok.
One of the things I need to learn how to do is harness fear and use it as a driving force rather than run away from it. Sounds a bit abstract, but I know it’s something that I need to work on.
This journey is giving me a chance to do that, so I think I just need to take a deep breath and keep executing and never give up. That should be enough to start me down the path of harnessing fear and not running away from it.
I find myself struggling with depression
This is actually the inspiration for the next post that I’m going to write about here. Over the past month, I’ve found myself having being depressed more often than I have in at least 3 or 4 years. This worries me because I know how destructive depression can be.
This project is actually good and bad for it…
It’s good because it’s something that excites me, and it’s something that I really want to do.
It’s bad because I think I’m very scared of starting from nothing and then I keep freaking out on the inside and feeling like there’s no way I can get this thing off the ground.
I’d almost describe it as “living the potential failure of this project in the present”. Does that make sense? It’s like I’m imagining myself failing at this, then pretending that actually happened, then freaking out and sort of assuming that it’s impossible because of that, then getting super depressed in general.
But remember, nothing actually happened! My fears aren’t even real! But that’s a snapshot of how depression works. (However, then it actually DOES become “real” because of the depressed state I’m in…but not because of anything that really happened. That’s the nature of depression…stay tuned for my post about this.)
I’m not that great about goal setting (and goal achieving)
I believe this is one of the biggest things that makes successful people successful: the ability to set goals, stick with them, and achieve them.
How many of us actually set clear goals and focus on them longer than a day or two?
I think we all know we need to do it, and maybe even say we do it, but actually doing it is much harder. It requires hard work and accountability.
I definitely haven’t focused on goals like this, especially breaking them down into smaller goals, but I’m going to try and change that starting with this project. I’ve already come up with two small but clear goals (see above), so I will just have to remain dedicated to them!
I’m 100% committed
Here’s something that is definitely going to help me (although this commitment will be tested for sure!) and it’s perhaps one of the most important things.
I am completely committed to giving this my all and sticking with this. I changed up my daily schedule and created a new habit of working on this 2 hours a day (I talked about this above), so I’m going to keep grinding away until I get somewhere.
Are you still here?
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I know this has been a super long post, but I hope it’s been interesting for you.
Again, along my journey, I’ll be posting here frequently with status updates, notes on my changes in strategy/focus, and results of tactics that I’ve implemented.
Remember, this is real. I have no idea if this will be successful or a total failure. (Or somewhere in between.)
However, either way you are going to learn a ton from this because it’s going to be one of the most detailed living case studies ever. You’ll see everything and it’s going to be quite a crazy ride.
I’m so thankful that you’ve decided to follow my journey!
Ok, enough about me. Now, I want to meet you!
Please introduce yourself below…and any encouragement is also welcome