Before my hearing got destroyed, I used to listen to a lot of podcasts.
Now I read podcast transcripts instead to save my dumbo ears from more pain. One thing drives me nuts: billionaire hero journeys. The storyline makes them out to be god-like figures for figuring out how to make money.
The typical story of a miraculous idea, rejection, near-bankruptcy, venture capital doubters, sudden surge in customers and then billion-dollar exit, puts me to sleep. I don’t care anymore.
All these unicorn dreamers sound the same. They pretend to save the world but I don’t buy most of the BS they say. Their stories sound like fake PR.
One famous billionaire startup story from Australia is sold by the media like snake oil. I know the real story from the person who pulled the strings.
Two nice people had a great idea. They pitched it to a well-known Silicon Valley investor (my guy). They had no app and no technical skills. He got the founder of one of the most popular apps in the world to join their team. That dude built the app from scratch with a few devs. As soon as investors saw that dude listed as a co-founder, they aimed their money canons at the startup. This tiny detail is left out of the founders’ hero stories.
These billionaire journeys are made out to be lessons for those of us who would like to earn passive income, or start a side hustle, or leave a 9-5 job and work for ourselves. Billionaire stories don’t teach us anything useable.
The best people to learn from are relatable and have achieved results you can actually replicate. 6-figure content creators will teach you a lot more about money and side hustles than a billionaire can.
The 21-year-old Yoda
Aaron Will dominates Twitter and he’s 21. He hasn’t even been on Twitter that long. The secret to his success is one-sentence tweets. They’re short, sharp, and most importantly, they disrupt your thinking.
Aaron’s secret weapon is his Twitter bio. Many people don’t realize that the two links allowed in your Twitter bio are how all the money is made on the platform. The same applies to Instagram.
Aaron’s main link offers a free eBook. Aaron’s second link goes to a page full of links — these links lead to his paid products.
Aaron sells his paid products through Gumroad. I love Gumroad, too, because it means you don’t need a website with eCommerce. Plus Twitter users are comfortable buying products from Gumroad (and the founder is a badass). Two observations you might want to copy from Aaron:
- His landing pages on Gumroad read more like personal essays. Traditional landing pages are full of hype and sales copy. By buying into Aaron’s story, it feels much more natural to purchase from him.
- One of his Gumroad products is a $100 consultation call. This is a cool idea I haven’t see a lot before. Some people simply want to hire an expert as soon as possible. If you’re a content creator then this is an easy way to scream “I’m open for business!” LinkedIn content creator Justin Welsh goes further. He does free consultation calls so he has direct access to prospects, rather than the usual one email and be ghosted approach many of us have experienced.
The other takeaway from Aaron is that he clearly collaborates a lot with other creators. He’s always retweeting similar accounts and they do the same for him. We grow by working together as creators.
5th grader illustrations that make complex things simple
Complex ideas freak me out. It’s why I failed the rocket scientist test.
Jack Butcher is a 6-figure illustrator. His drawings are no more sophisticated than a 5th grader’s. It’s the way he conveys an idea through an image that has caused him to gain so much attention. The guy butchers ideas writers like me share by using stick figures and simple diagrams your math teacher taught you in school.
Other than doing illustrations for clients, Jack’s main revenue stream is courses. They’re not your average Udemy $15 chargeback special though.
Jack’s courses are about odd subjects like finding opportunities on the internet, visualizing design, packaging expertise into digital products, and figuring out your specific knowledge that has value. The motto is “divorce your time from your income.” Bloody hell, mate. Now that’s powerful.
Jack, like many Youtubers, also sells merchandise that represents his minimalist beliefs. But the strangest thing he sells is a $19 pack of templates for daily schedules, journal formats, and habit tracking.
People will gladly pay for templates that save them time. Your shortcuts have value once you have a tiny audience.
The underdog minimalist illustrator
Jack Butcher is the OG of minimalist style illustrations that explain life lessons. There’s a new Jack Butcher on the block. The kid appeared in my newsfeed yesterday.
Janis Ozolins does a lot of what Jack does but he’s selling his illustrations as NFTs on OpenSea. This is the future for content creators. Blog posts will be sold as NFTs pretty soon. Web 3.0 is your best friend.
Sell 5000 copies of an eBook
Content creator Nicolas Cole recently announced he’s sold 5000 copies of his book “The Art & Business of Online Writing.”
That’s an achievable goal all of you reading this can reach. Cole has disrupted the publishing industry with the idea that you should use free social media platforms to build an audience and then sell a book — rather than set up a dumb website and pray to the google gods.
Cole also taught me that a book could be the qualifier to an online course. Books are great and they’re loaded with takeaways. But at the end of a good book we’re often left with “what’s next?” and “it’s lonely, can you help me?”
Think of books as part of a bigger revenue stream. Authors like Malcolm Gladwell aren’t doing that, and that’s why Cole is crushing it.
Borrow someone else’s name to be successful
The biggest objection I get from wannabe content creators is along the lines of “but I’m a nobody” and “there’s nothing special about me.”
The revenue stream that’s ignored far too often is what I call the curator.
Enter Eric Jorgenson. Eric doesn’t have a massive online audience. Most of his career has been spent working at a nine-person startup in Kansas.
Eric did something strange. He wrote a book about entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant as a public service, by transcribing interviews he has done and sorting through his thousands of tweets.
The origin story of the book is unknown from my research. It looks as though he wrote the book and then attempted to get Naval to endorse it. Whatever Eric did, it worked. Not only did Naval back it but he asked Tim Ferriss to write the foreword. The entire book is written in Naval’s own words. The book became a hit, launching Eric’s career.
If you’re looking for an opportunity then synthesize and curate somebody’s life into a helpful guide as a public service. Good deeds lead to making money online looking back.
Forget about hero-worshipping billionaires’ founder stories. Any schmuck can do that to try and be smart. The real lessons you can learn from and adopt to make money online are from people not that different to you.
We’re all content creators thanks to the internet. Use content creation to build a side hustle or perhaps even a business. The income streams are only limited by your creativity, as you’ve seen from the examples above.
Most of all, take something you love and create content about it. It feels effortless and it’s a lot of fun.
The content creator category is one you can join. So, why not you?