There are people who blow up online in a year.
My friend Dakota is one of them. From no audience in 2021 to $70,000 in a month in 2022/2023.
It’s easy to brush off these stories and think they’re impossible. What’s odd is when you know these people before and after their achievements, you realize they’re not that smart.
They’ve just taken the time to understand a few basic rules of the online game. You can too.
Here are the patterns of those online who get off $0.
Follow the data, not your monkey mind
I spent more years than I’d like to admit earning $0 online.
I got crucified for it by my friends and family. “You’re wasting your time. Go get a real job ya bum.”
Looking back, one of the issues was I never looked at data. I just came up with a random idea. Then I published that idea on any of the many platforms available.
It’s like walking into a room full of aircraft pilots and randomly talking about your love for bees and honey. There may be a beekeeper amongst those pilots who care, but unlikely. You’ve got to read the room.
Data is how you read the room of whatever platform you’re on.
It doesn’t mean you obsess over it. But at least pay attention to the sorts of writing people care about.
Writing tweets is one of the best ways. It lets you collect tiny chunks of data that can become essays, products, and even books.
“People don’t buy newsletter subscriptions. They just buy you.”
(A reader said this to me and I saved it.)
If your life sucks or you bottle everything up, probs, not many people will read until you bleed. They want to hear unfiltered thoughts.
Readers fall in love with your view of the world. Once they buy into how you see things, you can literally write about anything and they will read it. It’s why all the “choose a niche” mumbo jumbo is mostly garbage.
One of the most simple hacks I’ve learned is to have experiences in life so you have plenty to write about. Be interesting to have interesting stories to tell.
And whatever you do, make sure you capture the tiny notes from your observations. Save every life story, no matter how small.
This approach is what differentiates you.
No one gives a crap about you. They just want to know what you can do for them.
I felt like a bucket of cold water was thrown over my head when I learned this. It’s so damn true.
What can you do for the reader? What solutions do you have? What have you learned this week?
These questions make your writing not about you and your #amazing life. No one cares. But if your story is helpful then readers will pay attention. Make it a habit to write your content and regularly inject takeaways throughout.
It gets you in the habit of being reader-focused, instead of writer-focused like most of the bloggers out there.
Maybe you’re not obsessed enough
I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life. It’s been 9 years already.
I’ve given up everything to do it. This is my reality because I’m obsessed. There isn’t a waking moment I’m not thinking about writing. I love everything about it. Words are my compass in life.
Perhaps if you’re making $0 online it’s because you don’t really care.
You’re doing it for the money, or the fame, or the wanker author badges that mean nothing. Being a New York Times Bestseller doesn’t make you a good human. It doesn’t mean you’re happy or have helped anyone.
To truly succeed as a creator you have to love the act of creating by itself.
Email lists boost read time
Social media algorithms are the lottery.
You have to get lucky. You have to live in the hope that your work gets shared. I don’t like hope, it’s screwed with me too many times.
I wish when I had 23 email subscribers someone had told me how important email lists were. At one point I had 30,000 email subscribers and hadn’t ever sent them an email in years.
When I finally said “hey, it’s me” not one person replied.
I had to start my email list again. The thing with email lists is you can use them to shine a spotlight on your work.
Instead of waiting for traffic you can drive your own traffic.
This is a powerful force many creators don’t understand. It’s like you have a cheat code and can artificially go “yep, I’ll send 1000s of people to this article today” and 100% do it.
Sending email subscribers to your content also boosts read time because those readers already know you, so they’re more likely to click and read until the end.
The goal isn’t lifeless views, it’s high read time.
A reader who gets to the end will more likely click a CTA too.
The online game is easy once you understand timeframes
1 year to get experience.
5 years to get good.
5+ years to get a book deal with a 6-figure advance.
No one wants to hear this, of course, but it’s the truth. The timeframes don’t apply to everyone but they’re a pretty good gauge. Nothing amazing happens overnight.
Pitch your tent and get comfortable. You’re going to be doing this for a while and, that’s what makes it fulfilling. Wanting every damn goal so fast is what causes good people to give up too soon.
Don’t worry what everyone else is doing
The internet is full of people showing off their social proof.
It’s easy to see a creator had a $100K month and be angry at yourself for your lack of results. (If I’m being honest, it still happens to me.)
Switch off from all the metrics. Go deep on how they did it. What did they do to make so much money? If they don’t say then send them a DM and ask. Creators love to talk about themselves.
Give them a dopamine hit and go “yo, congrats on the $100K month. What did you sell and where did you promote it?”
Jealousy isn’t a strategy. But copying others’ success sure is.
You can trade your way to a bigger audience
Most creators go it alone. I sure did.
Then I realized the online game is just like trading Pokemon cards in high school. You can connect with other lovers of the art and trade your way up the different levels of the game.
Maybe you only have 50 email subscribers. But if you connect with other creators at the same level and trade mentions in each other’s newsletters, then suddenly you’re talking to 100, 1000, or even 10,000 email subs.
The easy mistake is to email someone with 1M subscribers and ask them for free promotion. It never works.
Be a part-time creator
The biggest lie of the online game is the one where people think they have to quit their job and go all in.
For most normies like me this is a disaster.
You’re better off getting your feet wet to see if you like this lifestyle and line of work before going butt naked into the ocean of 100-foot waves and telling your boss to go screw himself forever.
A few hours a week is enough to get a taste. That’s how I started online. I’d come home from my banking job and just dabble.
Zero pressure to make a dollar. I just did it for fun.
The one question on everyone’s lips
Let me leave you here.
Whenever I talk about the online game people’s biggest fascination is how to make money. The strategies are unsexy though, and you likely already know them — books, education, newsletters, public speaking, eCommerce, merchandise, podcasts, Youtube, etc.
None of this is new.
What’s missed is that the correct way to earn money online differs for each person. You discover it as you go. You can’t pre-plan it.
When I got started I thought I’d make money from Google Adsense ads on my personal WordPress website. That turned out to be wrong.
Fun comes first. The habit comes second. Then comes the money.
That’s everything I wish I had known all those years ago when I made $0 online and had only 23 email subscribers. Hope it helps you.