The Challenge of Digital Marketing
Many of us got into digital marketing thinking it was going to improve our lives in major ways. You may even feel that you were ‘promised’ by internet marketing gurus that your life would suddenly be easy once you took up this line of work.
Digital marketing means working online and that in turn means working from anywhere, and without a boss. So of course, life will be easy! You can choose your own hours, you can work out of coffee shops or from beautiful locations…
And you can do it all your own way. Without someone breathing down your neck and shouting at you when you get things wrong.
What’s more, if you manage to achieve a ‘passive income’, then you’ll be earning money even while you sleep. Passive income means generating cash from a website, or a YouTube channel, or through affiliate sales. It means that even as you are resting, the seeds you sowed continue to reap their rewards.
So, you can take time off whenever you want.
And let’s not forget that during all this, you will be discussing things that matter to you. Things that you are passionate about. Things that you can’t wait to leap out of bed to start writing about.
That’s the dream of the digital marketer.
Oh, and you’re rich too. Dreamer, Meet Reality.
The question you should be asking at this point though, is that if it is that easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?
The answer is that – of course – things are actually a fair bit more complicated.
Because most people don’t wake up one day with a website getting thousands of views a day and generating solid passive income. In fact, no one manages to do that.
Instead, it takes a lot of time. Likewise, it takes a lot of time to build a massive mailing list that you can use in order to make money from affiliate marketing emails. It takes a lot of time because it simply takes that long for a site to take off in a big way or for anyone to collect that many emails.
But likewise, it also takes that long simply to learn. You’ll start off with your internet marketing not really knowing what you’re doing. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll build a brand that you’ll be embarrassed of in retrospect.
And if you’re anything like the vast majority of today’s most successful internet entrepreneurs, then you’ll probably end up scrapping your first few businesses and trying again. Trust me: I work in the industry and I know some of the biggest players very well. None of them got it right the first time. They all floundered at first with non-starter ideas and brands. That will be you. Trust me.
And this is when running a business is not easy and is not fun. This is when digital marketing is hard.
You were told you would be able to give up your job and start working from home right away. You were promised the world. Instead, you’ve done nothing but work your socks off, stay up late and give up your free time… only for nothing to happen.
And that can be crushing.
What’s more, is that many internet entrepreneurs will never quite achieve passive income anyway. I consider myself an internet marketer and yet a large portion of what I do involves working for clients.
And let me tell you: if you work for clients then you might as well work for a boss! Even the nicest client in the world is going to expect you to honour your deadlines to at least some degree. Even the best gigs around will sometimes involve writing about topics you hate, or designing sites that you don’t massively approve of.
How about all the times you don’t get paid? Or the times where you’re between clients and the money just isn’t coming in?
And when you work from home, how do you prevent yourself from going entirely mad? You know, even when everything is going well and you’re getting paid for doing work that you enjoy… how do you avoid the temptation to sit in front of the TV all day? Likewise, how do you avoid the temptation to not stop working when it gets to 5pm? How do you avoid the temptation to squeeze in just a bit more work? And a bit more? Especially if you’re getting paid by the word or by the hour.
How do you manage your finances, knowing that you’re always going to have different amounts of money coming in at different times?
Do you have what it takes to do your own taxes?
This post is here to answer all those questions for you. Because there are two types of entrepreneur. There is type A, who looks like a million bucks. They have quaffed hair or luscious locks, they are dressed in a sharp suit, they talk with authority, they go on lavish holidays… everything they say is genius and it’s clearly apparent why they are on such a high salary.
Type B though is the other kind. Type B is the kind who is always overworked, the kind who is effectively broke. The kind who is scatterbrained because they’re basically too stressed and overworked to give their everyday lives the necessary time and thought.
Type B is FAR more common. But the job of this post is to make sure you are type A and not type B. Let’s go.
Thinking About Money and Your Work-Life Balance
Let’s start this section by referencing another classic tome on this subject: The 4 Hour Workweek.
The 4 Hour Workweek is a highly successful post from an author called Tim Ferris that attempts to teach people ‘Lifestyle Design’. This is essentially the process of rearranging your lifestyle so that it works for you – rather than working for the system, it means getting the system to work for you so that you have more free time and more money as well.
The book was something of a revelation and spawned a whole movement of ‘digital nomads’ who used technology to work remotely and experience adventures across the globe as they did. Since then it has seen various new editions and sold huge numbers, but it has still mainly only been read by entrepreneurs and budding web-marketers. This is a shame seeing as the lessons it contains can be used by anyone to great effect. Read on and let’s look at some of the best financial tips you can take from it and apply to your life – even if you are happy working in an office.
Tim Ferris starts out by explaining that not all cash is made equally. Most people measure their ‘wealth’ by looking simply at the amount they make per month or per year. Tim suggests that looking at the amount you make per hour makes much more sense. In other words, if you earn $40,000 per month but work only two days a week, you are in a sense much ‘wealthier’ than someone who earns ‘$100,000’ per month working 7-7 five days a week.
The goal then shouldn’t be just to earn money, but to earn money such that it enables the lifestyle you want. You shouldn’t be in a position where you can’t just make the decision right now to go for a walk. Surely that is the very most fundamental of expressions of human freedom?
This is where so many internet marketers, SEOs and web designers go wrong. If you’re currently selling your services online, or building a business, then the temptation is to earn more by working harder. You can work longer hours and thereby bring in more cash in the short term, or build your business bigger.
But stop and think for a moment: if you are working for 12 hour days, then that means that you’re actually earning much less than you might do in a regular job. You may as well be doing a full time job and an additional part time job in the evening!
Your overall ‘income’ might be high, but your salary is very low.
Getting the System to Work for You
So, what do you do? Well of course if you’re technologically and entrepreneurially minded you can set up some kind of online business that will generate revenue for you in a very hands-off manner. That could mean creating a hit app. It could mean writing and selling an e-post. It could mean buying and selling websites for a marked-up price or even using drop-shipping so that you don’t need to do the work at all. There are countless ways you can make money passively, and by setting up a few you can leave your days working in an office for dust.
Salary vs Wealth
More to the point though, recognize that your salary and your wealth are not one and the same.
And on top of that, we shouldn’t be measuring our success by our income – which is what so many of us do.
If you work in a regular ‘job’, then you might think that the only way to become wealthier is to ask for a raise or to get a better paid job. But your ‘wealth’ is really more about your surplus cash. It’s about how much you have in the bank.
You could be earning $3 per hour but still be ‘wealthy’ if you happened to have inherited $1 Billion from a dead great aunt.
And in just the same way, you could be considered to be wealthier if you spent less. In that case, you might live in a smaller home, you might live in a country where the cost of living is lower, or you might just spend less on food and clothes. Either way, this could allow you to put aside a fair amount of cash every day and feel pretty well off…
The great thing about working online is that you do have the option of packing your things and moving to another country.
In fact many entrepreneurs end up moving off to sunny countries where they can afford lavish villas at a fraction of the cost.
Then again, you might choose to spend every single cent each month and then take out even more loans to pay for the rest. That way, you can live the ‘rich’ lifestyle and feel and look like the highly successful entrepreneur, despite having barely any cash in the bank.
It’s all up to you. It’s all about what matters to you and what’s important to you.
And that’s precisely the whole idea behind lifestyle design. It’s about knowing the lifestyle you want, calculating how much money you need to support that lifestyle and then designing your business around that.
A more specific way to do this, is to calculate a minimum amount you need to earn each day. This is what I do: I work until I earn $150. That’s a minimum that allows me to pay my bills and to put a little aside each month. I can easily afford to buy myself the gadgets I enjoy, to go out with friends and to work on my home.
But that’s me. That’s based on my outgoings, the cost of my mortgage, the cost of my hobbies and interests. You’ll have your own target and that’s what you need to shoot for.
Passion vs Reality
A lot of entrepreneurs and internet marketers will start out with a dream and a vision: with something that they really believe in and want to make into a massive success.
Maybe you have an idea for an incredible website.
Maybe you just LOVE fitness and want to blog about that for a living.
Or maybe you just get a real kick out of running a business and using technology.
Whatever the case, you know what you really want to do. But it’s not bringing in the cash. At least not yet.
So now you have two options: you focus on the thing you love, hoping that all the time you invest will one day result in it becoming a huge success. OR you work on something else that will bring in the cash and promise yourself you’ll get back to your passion project when time allows.
Neither of these things is an option.
The first option means that you’ll work on your own blog or your own mailing list and grow it. Growth will come, but it will be slow and it won’t be enough to sustain your lifestyle. Eventually, you’ll go bust and you’ll cave. Even if the site becomes successful, the break even will be so high that you wills till go bust!
Option B doesn’t work because you’ll never get around to that passion project. The website will sit there collecting dust while meanwhile you’ll do search engine optimization for clients. They’ll earn hundreds of thousands from the work you did for them but you won’t have the time to do it for yourself!
Trust me, I know about this: I used to pay writers to write for my own blog because I was too busy writing for other people’s blogs!
This essentially comes down to working ‘in’ your business instead of ‘on’ your business. The business is operating, but all you’re doing is running around chasing deadlines and working for angry clients. Meanwhile, nothing is changing and you’ve capped the amount you can earn at how much work you can do in a day.
You’ve learned to loathe your own business and you’re close to burn out! Sound familiar?
So okay: how do you go about solving this dilemma?
The answer is that you follow the steps outlined in chapter 2. That is to say that you need to identify precisely how much you need to earn in a day as a minimum. You can then chase after that target amount and then you can cut off the day there and start focusing on your own project.
Spend the morning doing the SEO, web design etc. for other clients. Or spend the morning working on your generic website that brings in money but that you have no real interest in.
Then as soon as you hit that threshold, switch and start working on those future projects.
Better yet, learn how long it takes you to do that minimum amount of work and then divide your day into blocks. Spend the first half of the day working on the busy work and then when 2pm comes, switch to your other work. The stuff you’re passionate about. The stuff that will take your business to the next level.
This is essentially what we call ‘bootstrapping’. This is how you can afford to start a small business, even if you don’t have any funding or any experience.
So many people think that they can’t afford to start a business or to become a digital marketer because it means that they’re going to need to give up their job, take out a massive loan and effective stake all of their hopes on a single idea or business.
The reality however is quite different.
The quickest and easiest way to start pursuing your dream lifestyle as a digital marketer is to start a side project or a side hustle on top of what you’re doing now:
If you run a website, provide SEO or generally work online then that shows you to be a particular kind of person who is willing to take risks, who is forward thinking and who is creative. You have taken the initiative to take advantage of the most recent technologies in order to start earning a living entirely your own, and you have used a variety of skills in order to accomplish this.
As such then, you should hopefully recognise the importance of continuing to push yourself, of continuing to take advantage of new technologies, and of developing your existing skill base further if possible. The more you learn, the more you practice and the more you experiment, the more opportunities you will create for yourself and the more successful you are eventually likely to be.
So, what’s the best way to develop yourself and to learn? Simple: take on a side project.
And even once you begin to start raking it in as an internet marketer, you still need to have more side projects on the go.
Why a Side Project?
The idea of a side project, is simply to start any project that sits outside of what you do to earn your main keep. So that means something on top of running your main blog, or providing web design for clients. This is what you will do with the extra time you’ve afforded yourself by working for yourself (even if you work 9-5 you still have lunch and a commute either end free to tinker when other people are still busy).
A side project then should allow you to take the skills you’ve learned and start developing them and making better use of them. This way you may well find you create a secondary earner that can supplement or even replace your main income, but even if that doesn’t happen you’ll still learn valuable skills and add more strings to your bow.
Good Side Projects
A good side project should be something that is somewhat related to your main ‘career’ while at the same time allowing you to expand on your skills and move into unknown territory. For a web designer then this could mean a side project that teaches you some better coding skills, or that improves your ability to create digital art. This will give you something different to do to take your mind off your main job occasionally, but will also at the same time help you to develop new skills that might just allow you to take your business to the next level.
App Development: If you run a website or do anything else that involves design and/or basic coding, then learning to develop apps is a natural extension of those skills. This is a fun and rewarding process if you like logical thinking and there’s actually a lot of money to be made here – whether you have a commercial hit, or you decide to start offering that service.
A Personal Blog: There’s a good chance that the topic you chose for your ‘primary’ blog is going to be one you thought would prove popular and one that was easy to monetise. That means there’s also a good chance unfortunately that you won’t find it particularly fascinating – which is why it’s a good idea to run a personal blog as well. And you never know, that one might just take off two giving you two steady incomes.
A YouTube Channel: YouTube is actually a surprisingly lucrative place to work, and with a few videos it’s relatively easy to gain a following and then to start generating profit from that following. This is a very fun way to make a little extra cash, but it can also add an extra dimension to an existing site or provide more channels for marketing.
How to Choose Between Multiple Website/Brand Ideas
So, you’re going to find a way to earn some money and meanwhile be working on that dream brand that will earn you a living while letting you write about things that you love.
But what if you don’t just have one idea? What if you know you want to be an entrepreneur, but you’re not quite sure what kind of brand you want?If you’re like a lot of web designers and internet entrepreneurs, then the chances are that you will have more than one website on the go and more than one idea for future sites that you think could help to make you your millions. In fact you probably also have ideas for apps, for eposts, for products and for media campaigns all of which you are sure could be the thing that finally makes you a huge success.
This won’t work either. If you have this many different things going on at once, then you won’t be able to dedicate the necessary energy to any of them. Remember, you still need to bring in cash in the meantime and that means you only have a set amount of time per day to work on your mailing list or your digital product.
That means you need to dedicate all of that time to one site, one mailing list or one product if it is going to be successful.
The problem is though, that you can’t stick to any of these ideas. And the issue is not necessarily that you’re not motivated or disciplined, it’s probably more to do with the difficulty of choosing which project to focus on and then sticking with that. If you have twenty brilliant ideas for a website then you’ll probably find that you get distracted by the next one before you finish the first one.
Part of the problem too is that building a website can take so long and has so many boring elements. You may enjoy prospect of building a successful website, you may like designing the graphics, but after hours of doing SEO and fiddling around with CSS to line everything up you can find your enthusiasm waning. And then there’s always that idea for a football site calling to you from the background.
And of course our interests have a tendency to vary and change as well. One minute we find ourselves fascinated by computer games, but then the next we’re more interested in our favourite post. We end up wanting to write about and work with the thing that interests us at the time.
So how do you overcome this problem, choose what you should be focusing on, and then stay focused on that project until you see it through to completion?
Weighing Your Options
One initial way to progress is to weigh up the different benefits of your various projects. Assuming that you hope to earn money from what you’re doing, a good way to compare your different projects is to look at how long they will take to complete/how much you enjoy them, versus how much money they are likely to make/how likely they are to succeed.
A site on football for instance might be your favourite topic, but at the same time there’s a lot of competition out there so it’s maybe less likely to succeed. A new social network on the other hand might be potentially very lucrative, but it would involve learning PHP and doing a lot of promotion. The best project then might be one in a small niche you have an interest in – it’s quite interesting, it isn’t too much of a project to take on, and it could realistically start earning you money relatively quickly.
This is especially true for those purely passive forms of income – such as selling affiliate products from a sales page and pointing some PPC at it. If this is likely to start paying out soon and it won’t need your input going forward, then you should prioritize finishing that quickly and then let it continue to roll over for you.
By looking at which project will earn you the most money the most quickly and reliably, you can decide where best to direct your efforts and spend your time and thus avoid disappointment. This then allows you to gradually spend less time on the daily grind that is necessary for steady income and to spend more time on the passion projects.
There are also a number of compromise solutions you can opt for. For instance, if you are torn between two website topics that really excite you, then the best solution might be simply to create one website on both topics. Love video games and comic posts? Then how about a site dedicated to comic post computer games?
Another option is always to sell on websites. If you are someone who loves building websites and doing the marketing to begin with, but you don’t enjoy the process of actually running and maintaining those sites, then you might prefer to simply build sites that interest you and then sell them on.
This is still always going to be hard. Most of us have multiple interests and multiple ideas. And investing all your time and effort into one website or one affiliate marketing strategy means that you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. The fear of failure can be so great, that it prevents you from ever really trying. Fluctuating between different ideas on a whim can end up being a convenient form of procrastination in that case.
And this is why you need to go for those smallest baby steps to begin with. This is why you need to focus on the types of projects that you can finish more quickly and easily.
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