Today is the 2nd anniversary of the day I started this blog.
(Note: I’m going to share with you intimate details of my business plan here, from day one through a day many years from now. You won’t want to miss this post, even though it’s a little longer than normal.)
As I mentioned in my post about my new quest to be f*cking awesome, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching and business planning over the past couple of months.
I have to say, things are going very well. I’m doing what I love, making a very comfortable living doing it in a way I’m proud of and I have the freedom to live and work wherever I want.
Life is grand.
I suppose I could stop here and enjoy myself for years to come doing exactly what I’m doing. What’s not to love about living this charmed life that the Internet only recently made possible?
I love every minute of it. Working with smart and ambitious clients, sharing my soul with you, building businesses, connecting with awesome people and making new friends, all of it is absolutely fantastic.
But, I don’t feel like I’m done with this particular journey yet. I’m a guy who likes to work and I like a challenge. I feel like there is much more for me to do on this adventure.
During that existential examination I went through recently, I thought about my past and what I’ve accomplished over the past two years. I thought about the goals I’ve had and how they have changed over time. I thought about how fortunate I am to be in the position I’m in now. What can I say, we just returned from a 10-week winter residence in Mexico and it was the perfect place to consider all of this.
I then started setting goals for myself for the future. What do I want to be doing a year from now? Two years? Five years?
And then I thought, why not set the goals for my business high? I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the progress I’ve made so far, so I can probably surprise myself even more.
Thinking back on the milestones I’ve passed, and the milestones I’ve set for myself, seven distinct phases became clear. I call these the 7 phases of Total Internet Domination™, and I’m going to share them with you here.
These are my phases, and yours might look much different. Keep in mind, my goal is to build a lifestyle business that I retain complete control over and that provides for the life I want to live now, not some future “retirement” scenario.
I never anticipate having more than a handful of partners or contractors in this business, and I doubt I would ever have more than one or two true employees.
I’m actually technically on phase 5 of this plan. As the plan progresses, I think each phase takes longer than the last, partly because the bar is set higher and higher each time.
Alright, enough prep. You’re here for the plan.
Here is my 7-phase plan for Total Internet Domination:
Phase 1: How do I get people to visit my website?
I’m going to present each phase of the plan here as the questions I ask myself along the way. Those questions are indicative of the goals I set for each phase.
In phase 1, you’re just starting out. You have a brilliant flash of an idea for a website or online business. You spend days or months developing it.
(Side note, I’ve spent both months and days developing various web projects prior to launch over the years. When you’re just starting out, try projects that take less time to develop up front. It sucks when you spend 9 months developing something only to find out you were wrong about the brilliance of the idea.)
You launch the site, and then it hits you, how do I get anyone to visit my site and care about what I’m doing?
Congratulations, by the way. At least you made it to launch. So many people get frustrated along the way and never make it this far. You’ve already made it past average.
Your goal wasn’t just to launch though, right? You want people to visit your site and tell you how great it is, or maybe that it sucks. Either way, you want feedback so you can make it better.
For me, growing a significant audience that proved my idea for this blog was compelling (I’d say about 3k visitors per month proves that) took about three months. For you it might take just a month, or a year, it really depends on who you are and what you’ve built.
Once I attracted that initial audience, I started asking myself a new question.
Phase 2: How do I make any money from my site?
If you’re planning to build an online business, I would hope you’d ask yourself this question before building out your idea.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I actually didn’t have a clue how I would make money from a blog when I first started. Maybe that’s why it took me the better part of a year to make any money from my site(s).
At first I just thought, I’ll launch this blog and if it’s popular enough I’ll find a way to make money from it.
Luckily that turned out to be true, but I suspect if I had understood more about how to make money from a blog it wouldn’t have taken so long.
This phase is a tough one for some people. It’s one of those phases that can really make you want to give up entirely. I thought about quitting a number of times during this phase. Instead of quitting completely, I launched a bunch of new sites and projects that I tried to earn money from. Most of them failed. A couple succeeded.
I jumped on those early successes and rode them like a harley on a bumpy road. I strongly suggest you do the same. When you find something that works, chase down that lead with vigor.
My savior in this phase turned out to be affiliate marketing. I sold other people’s products and made a commission for the sale.
Once I started making some regular sales, it struck me that this crazy dream of building a lifestyle business online might just be possible. So I started thinking bigger.
Phase 3: How do I make a modest living from my site?
A modest living for me was the amount I’d have to make to pay all of my bills and stop living off of my hard-earned savings account.
For me at the time that was about $5k per month. I live in San Francisco. It’s expensive. Maybe you live somewhere else and your definition of “modest living” is much less. Maybe you have a family and it’s more. Either way, welcome to Phase 3.
Like I said, when I found a vehicle to make sales with, I pursued those avenues with everything I had. I built out several small niche affiliate sites and I started making bigger affiliate sales through my blog.
By this time, we’re about a year into my journey. I was still having thoughts of quitting, but I felt like there was a visible path to success (that modest living I mentioned earlier).
The affiliate marketing was going well for me, but I hit a plateau around $3k in income a month, a little shy of my goal.
I decided to try selling a product through my site as well to make up the difference. I took the knowledge I had gained from affiliate marketing and launched my Affiliate Marketing for Beginners course.
Boom! Phase 3 complete with the launch of my course.
“Hmm, this thing is starting to work out,” I thought. “What’s next?”
Phase 4: How do I make a comfortable living from my site?
Once you’re making a modest living, you have a choice to make. Either you can skip to Phase 5 (see below) and then come back to Phase 4, or you can go the way I did: seek comfort.
There’s income and then there’s automation. I’m after both ultimately, but at first I wanted to earn a comfortable living, even if it meant working 50 hours a week. I still love what I do, so working a lot isn’t a big deal.
Earning a modest living is great, but it still means sacrificing. I had spent the better part of a decade making a great living, being able to travel when we wanted, saving money each month and not having to count every penny in and out. I wanted to return to that place.
For me, that meant doing more of what had already been working, and adding a little extra on top.
One year ago today, I launched my second blog Think Traffic. This time around, I planned things out better from the start. I decided to add consulting work to the mix and a second product, my flagship product called Traffic School.
Once I added the consulting, the continued sales of my product plus my increasing success with affiliate marketing all added up to earning a comfortable living.
I’m actually making a little more than a comfortable living at the moment, on the heels of a sell-out launch of Traffic School a couple of weeks ago.
You might not decide to pursue so many revenue streams. There are decent arguments on both sides. If you focus on just one revenue stream that focus might lead to faster progress within that one area. By focusing on all three revenue streams, I pursued the “low-hanging fruit” in each area to grow quickly.
But like I said, all that effort has led to 50+ hour weeks. Not exactly the dream lifestyle I’m ultimately after. Yes, I spent much of that time working from fabulous locations, and yes, I’ve been able to take six weeks or more off on vacation. But it’s still a lot of working time overall.
Which brings us to the next phase, the one I’m currently in.
Phase 5: How do I focus on the right activities and automate others so I don’t have to kill myself to make a comfortable living?
Automation, systems, outsourcing, passive income – there’s a reason people spend so much time focusing on them. What good is making a comfortable living if you end up with little free time to enjoy it?
This is where I’m at now. How do I continue bringing in the income while accomplishing a couple of other things:
- I want to be able to take multiple weeks off without having to check in daily and handle housekeeping tasks. Right now when I take a vacation, I still have to check in nearly every day. I also can’t take off more than a couple of weeks in a row or else I fall behind significantly and it takes me weeks to dig from the aftermath.
- I want to work a little less during an average week, and spend more of my time focused on the activities I enjoy most and less on basic maintenance tasks.
Like I said, I’m just starting this phase and haven’t thought through how to make it all work exactly yet. I’ll go into a learning phase soon where I start to unravel all the buzzwords I mentioned earlier and start to reach out to people I know who are experts in this space.
If you have suggestions for me that will help with Phase 5, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
Once Phase 5 is complete (perhaps in the next six months), it’ll be time to move onto Phase 6.
Phase 6: How do I scale up what I’m doing to make a great living (still while not killing myself)?
For me, making a great living equates to the kind of money a doctor or lawyer or consultant might expect at mid-career. It’s the kind of money I might have been making within the next few years had I stuck around in the corporate consulting world.
How sweet is that to think about? That I could make as much as a partner at my old consulting firm does, but without all the bullshit associated with it? Without all the soul selling and sacrificing and working on mind-numbing projects making some giant corporation .01% more efficient?
Maybe phase 6 is on my horizon partly just to see if it’s possible, or to prove to myself that I’m not missing anything from that alternative life path I could have stayed on.
For you, maybe you won’t even go after phase 6. Maybe you’ll stop at phase 4 or phase 5. I can see some very compelling reasons to do that, but the way I look at it, if I’m having a good time and staying true to myself and my goals, why not keep pushing?
Phase 6 doesn’t just involve making a great living, either. To me, phase 6 is also about taking my game to another level, being recognized as a world-class expert at what I do and enjoying the privileges that status brings and walking through the doors it opens.
This plan for me is constantly in flux as I react to what I learn along the way. Money is one measure of how well I’m doing and lifestyle is another. There are others though, like how many people I’m impacting, how much respect I have for what I’m doing and how it all makes me feel.
Now let’s talk about the outer reaches of my plan for Total Internet Domination.
Phase 7: How do I become wealthy doing all of this?
While I’m on this journey and still up for a challenge, why not set my sights as high as I can? Money isn’t my primary goal or driver of happiness, but having more money while still doing what I love and keeping my hours in check surely can’t hurt, right?
Enter phase 7. Phase 7 is a rare place that only a handful of people reach.
Here’s what phase 7 looks like in my mind:
- I have complete and total freedom to work on what I want, when I want and where I want and to choose the opportunities I pursue.
- I have an incredible ability to help people with my work and to provide insane value to my customers.
- All of that value I deliver leads to massive cash flow that I can invest in further opportunities or back into my own business.
- That investment builds wealth and security that ensures I’ll be able to continue this lifestyle in perpetuity or to pursue a completely different path and open a new chapter in my life.
Phase 7 is still a little amorphous in my mind. It will become clearer as I get closer, just as the previous phases have.
One thing is clear about Phase 7. “Wealth” to me means the freedom to support yourself and your family without relying only on your business.
For now, I’m incredibly happy with where I’m at in the journey and can’t wait to tackle the next phase and sub-phase along the way.
Thanks for indulging me in this retelling of my adventure over the past two years, and happy birthday to this little blog.
Now it’s your turn, where are you at on your journey? How are your phases different from mine? What would you add or change?
Let’s hear it in the comments.
And as always, if this article has helped you think about things in a new way, I would really appreciate if you shared it with someone who might also like it.
Thanks for being awesome. Here’s to Total Internet Domination.
photo by transCam