I've been doing this "online stuff" for the last few years.
(full time since I left the Army at the end of 2013)
In that time, I've tested a LOT of things.
- I've written and published my own books
- Launched my own infoproducts
- Published other peoples books
- Created and sold my own ecourse
- Consulted on and launched 30 books and other products / services in the past two years, including a half dozen 6-figure launches
And some didn't work:
- I started a magazine...and then shut it down after two issues (too expensive to create, not enough growth early on to keep going).
- I started a "service as a service" to help people get exposure for their book. I called it Bookblitz, and it actually worked...but after a few weeks, I analyzed sales stat, onboarding stats, cost to produce results, etc., and it became clear that I could charge about 10x more with different packaging and positioning and not too much more work, so I shut it down.
- Collaborated on several websites that went well, but we didn't hit the growth we wanted, and either phased them out or shut them down.
In this time, I've learned many important lessons.
None more important than this:
When you cut through all the bull****, there are only two ways to make money online. You must either:
- Build an audience and sell to them
- Get access Other People's Audiences and sell to them
Note: when I write "sell to them," I mean this in the broader sense of generating revenue from an audience; you could sell a product or service, or if you have a big enough audience, you could generate revenue through ads, affiliate marketing, and more.
Don't get caught up in the "sell to them" piece.
That point is trivial.
I've worked on dozens of projects, and the things we sell change.
Instead, I want you to focus on the AUDIENCE piece:
You either have an audience, or you need to pay for one.
Option 1: Build an Audience and Sell to Them
I've written about how to generate sales by building your own audience and selling to them before.
This option takes time, money, and energy.
A lot of people get into business, or writing, or art in the hope they can build an audience and live the 4-hour workweek lifestyle.
Unfortunately, most of these people throw in the towel 12 months later when they realize the online space is hyper competitive, and nothing comes easy (or free)...
While this course of action is neither free nor easy, it's by FAR the most lucrative investment you can make.
Regardless if you have an audience or not, you should build one (or grow the one you have); it will always be the safest play...
"But Tom, what if I have no audience, but I still want to make money!"
That sounds like a question someone as lazy as me would ask, so here you go:
Option 2: Get Access to Other People's Audiences and Sell to Them
The second option is to get access to Other People's Audiences, or what I call "The OPA Method."
The OPA Method generally requires more money (although there are ways to do it on a budget - see below), but less time and less energy (when done right).
There are several ways to access Other People's Audiences...
The OPA Method: How to Get Access to Other People's Audiences
In no particular order, here they are:
I've never done this, so i don't believe I can give good advice about it. But I do know people who will pay to post sponsored content on a blog, or pay to sponsor a newsletter, or pay to get on a podcast or whatever.
I'm sure it works, I just don't know how to make it work best, so I'll leave that for you to explore on your own for now.
Do you already have an audience? Tons of people with online platforms do email swaps with one another, which can help get your content in front of a new audience (and the person you're swapping with, it gets them a new audience as well).
This is especially effective for affiliate and joint venture webinars and workshops, and something I've helped coordinate for dozens of clients. This is the fastest, cheapest way to get access to Other People's Audiences, but it also means you HAVE an audience to begin with (hence, why you should build your audience even if you don't think you need to!)
Of course, if you don't HAVE an audience, then this won't work, so the next option might be up your alley...
3. Trade Your Time and Energy.
Tons of people with big names and giant platforms are looking for people to help them generate new business.
These same people are busy. Very busy. And they rarely have the time or energy to train up a new employee, especially on a speculative project...
That's where your creative hustle comes in.
If you can approach these influencers, creators, and business owners in a way that will help them generate new business (e.g. "Hey, I know you work on X. I can help you sell more of X by doing Y"), you can most likely work a deal; your sweat equity (time and energy) for a chance to access this persons list (to do a joint venture webinar, or guest post, etc.).
The key is being able to deliver on your promises, and making it painlessly easy for big name people and business to (1) notice you and (2) say yes to letting you work your magic.
(then, of course, you must work your magic)
I write about this in much more depth in my book Collaborate, but in a very general way, this is all about trading your time and energy for access to someone's very profitable name, brand, or audience.
4. Create and Host an Event.
This is both simple to understand, but difficult to get right.
What I'm proposing here is being what Seth Godin calls the "impressario."
Last March, I hosted The Authority Super Summit, and brought together 100 speakers in business, marketing, self-development, and more. I also brought together sponsors and resources, and I tied it all together in an amazing event that got rave reviews from event attendees and the speakers themselves.
I DID put money into this (I hired a writer, designer, note taker, and more), but the reality is anyone can do this on a tight budget, while still doing a professional job.
This is an advanced tactic, because, as a host, you ipso-facto become an AUTHORITY in your space, which is incredibly important if you want people to notice you.
At the end of this event, I was then able to connect again with many of our speakers, and coordinate to have them share or promote something with their audiences.
All I had to do was make sure anyone who works with me wins, and then I can win too.
Next Steps to Apply the OPA Method
There are more tactics when it comes to the OPA Method.
I share many of these tactics on this blog, in my book, and a bunch of the super secret stuff in my free newsletter (definitely subscribe if you like the juicy insider stuff).
If you find any of this useful, or have an idea that you've used that has worked, please share in the comments below!