Most people know me as one of the Build in Public guys. So in my style, I want to be transparent about the key business techniques that have helped me big times in the early days of the journey.
It took me 18 months to reach a $5,000 revenue month in May 2022 starting my online business from scratch. I still have a long way to go, but it is exciting to see how the business is moving forward.
(Update: in Apr 2023, I reached $12,782 revenue. Remember, one step at a time!)
Okay now, let's take a look at my revenue chart since I started in Nov 2020:
Well, you can see from the chart that it has not been easy. Every dip was me questioning my own ability to run this online business and thinking if I should throw in the towel.
Many people start their business with existing knowledge or network to tap into, so they can quickly generate revenue and grow the business. I have none of that. When I started, I have no topic (niche), no followers, no network, no knowledge about online business, no background in digital or information products, and last but not least, a baby was born 2 months after I started.
All I had was a bunch of startup failures. They helped me because I knew how to talk to potential customers, how not to dream up solutions, and how to avoid all the dead ends.
But there are some important techniques that I picked up in the last 18 months. I want to share with you the top 8 techniques here:
- Must have a spiky point of view
- Double down on side-project marketing
- Build in public
- Develop your second brain
- Make things happen
- Get on camera
- Scale the base first
- Level up on offers & copywriting
1. Must have a spiky point of view
When I started, I knew I wanted to do something different because it is the only way to stand out. I didn't know how to think about it.
Until a day when I stumbled upon Wes Kao's article, Spiky point of view: Let’s get a little controversial, then everything started to make sense.
Back then, I knew I had to angle myself to help people achieve something. And almost everyone was talking about growing an audience, making money online, getting more customers, etc. Sure, who doesn't want these things? If I put these wordings on a website, I can get 100% of people would resonate with me, right?
That's so not true.
Being broad like that or being greedy to cater to everyone is actually a weakness. It means you don't have an opinion. It means that you don't know the people you serve well enough. it means that people don't need to talk about it because everyone just agrees.
Once I learn about the spiky point of view from Wes, I now think about everything from this angle. Does my brand have a spiky point of view? Does my product have a spiky point of view? If not, then it is not good enough.
2. Double down on side-project marketing
I was very firm on spending at least 6 months building up my name and credibility. I first wrote the Build in Public Definitive Guide and then the Making Twitter Friends email course. Honestly, I didn't have a clear strategy behind the 2 projects. I just thought it was more fun to package it as a product than writing just tweets and articles.
Think about it. Blog posts are so scattered and narrow without any clear value. How often do you share a blog post with someone else? That's right, not THAT often. But if the knowledge is organized into a mini-product that has clear learning outcomes, if people can call it by a name, if you get collect testimonials, would this change the entire game of word of mouth?
Exactly! This is called side-project marketing.
If you take a look at Making Twitter Friends, 2313 people have taken it in the first 12 months! I didn't even do much marketing and people just keep telling their friends about it (see the fresh testimonials every month). This is good for us solopreneurs who don't have time to do everything.
If you want more ideas, Jade puts together a list of successful side projects here.
3. Build in public
Of course, you'd think I'm biased about this because I'm the person who talks about Build in Public all the time. But I firmly believe this is the best way to build up your business and your name from ground zero.
If you don't have money to spare to hire people or to do marketing campaigns, how can you draw attention to the things you're working on? It is extremely difficult.
But now there's a way for you to gain exposure and surround a bunch of people around your work, why wouldn't you do that? All for free?
I also notice that as I get better at listening and filtering feedback while I'm building in public, it is hard to not make money because I'm solving the problems people tell me they need help with. No user interview, focus group, or survey can be as effective as this.
If you want to get equipped with this strategy, here's a 4-day deep dive you can get.
4. Develop your second brain
There's this popular course by Tiago Forte called Building a Second Brain. The only thing I know is that it is a premium course with a big price tag. I didn't do it because I was struggling to make money and I wanted to control my cost.
Then as my creator journey goes, I figured out my own content creation system and workflow. I document a lot of things for my build in public sharing. I teach people how to break the entire workflow down into small steps so it is easier to do each step. I also take a lot of notes based on whatever ideas I have.
One week, I had to send out a newsletter but I had no idea what to write. I just went into my content library and scanned the list and I had outlines waiting for me to expand on.
This hit me - I think I just built myself a second brain. I'm not sure what the course teaches but I think this is what it means to have a system to write down ideas, document everything including thoughts, and retrieve it when I need it. I don't need to rely on my brain.
Once I form the habit of writing down all ideas and outlines even when I don't need them, I find content creation to be pretty easy. I just need to look at my notes!
5. Make things happen
I used to fantasize about sitting at the beach and enjoying the sun while my digital products sell themselves online. Money just rolls into my bank as I work freely on whatever I feel like.
This is likely the dream of a lot of early-stage creators.
But I've learned the hard truth. Being a creator can enjoy freedom and flexibility, it is just nothing as extreme as that.
I have full control over how I spend my time. I dictate what goes on my calendar. I can take a weekday and go to the park with my family. To me, this is good freedom and flexibility. But it doesn't mean "passive income".
For example, I launched my Twitter book, Find Joy in Chaos, on May 25, 2022. I had an amazing launch making $3,600 in a few weeks, but the momentum died down soon. If I don't create marketing content to talk about my book regularly, no one knows it even exists.
Also, if I don't initiate conversations to talk to people, only a handful of people know about my course. A lot of sales are actually through me taking action to make it happen.
"Passive income" is actually not that passive.
6. Get on camera
Related to the last point to "make things happen", I also fantasized about sitting behind my computer, writing content and creating products, and just interacting with most people via my keyboard. It sounds pretty good to me because I'm focusing on myself, my work, and my growth.
This works for some people for sure. They build a huge audience and sell a lot of digital products without ever showing their faces. But to me, the majority of creators don't make enough money this way.
To be successful, it is important to see me more as an entrepreneur than a creator. What's the key difference? I think there's this unspoken dream as a creator that you can make a living just creating content you love and money will come. But for an entrepreneur, you have to run a business.
A business means you have to network via calls. You also have to show up to run presentations, workshops, or webinars. You have to show up if you want people to trust you enough to pay you.
I was terrible at facilitating a group of people on live sessions when I started. Someone even told me "Kevon, your authority on live calls is so much worse than your authority in writing." And that motivated me to work on my live facilitation skills, and now I'm confident leading a group to discuss and share.
Just yesterday, a student told me how much she enjoyed our live workshops at Build in Public Mastery. I'm honestly grateful!
You have to show up online like in real life. Instead of seeing people physically, you do it via live calls.
7. Scale the base first
About 12 months since I started getting active online, I had a good grasp of the products I want to focus on and the people I want to serve. But I wasn't sure what price points I wanted to work with.
I knew that if I focus on lower price points ($10-100), I'd need to serve more people. Whereas if I focus on higher price points ($400-1,000), I can give my full attention to fewer people.
I decided to go with the latter.
Because I was confident my course could give my students a transformative experience, I increased the price point to $600 and $1,000 for 2 packages respectively after running my first few cohorts.
Looking back, I'd have done it differently by starting with products at lower price points with a less active commitment on my side. So instead of a live course, I might go with video courses. Why?
Let's say I can serve 50 people a year at $1,000 so I make $50k. At maximum, only 50 people become my "word of mouth" agents. Even if they love me, it is still 50 people.
On the other hand, if I roll out a video course at $30 and 400 people signed up, I'd be making $12k instead of $50k. Yes, it is a lot less but at maximum, I could have 400 people spreading the word of my work for me.
On the Internet, scale and word of mouth are important. So this is why I'd have gone for a bottom-up strategy. But the counter-argument is that I wouldn't have had all these live connections with my students.
Anyhow, this is just a thought and I have no regrets. I started introducing lower price points by writing my Twitter book, Find Joy in Chaos, and selling it for $9.99-29.99. Now I can still serve a lot of people who want to learn this way.
8. Level up on offers & copywriting
I was relentlessly focused on creating content and figuring out my niche and growth plans in the early days. Those were non-negotiable. They are essential to get me off the ground.
After about 12 months in, I had a great foundation going on: a large network of people who enjoy my work, increasing revenues, and a vision to keep growing. The next logical step was to work on the conversions. I knew I had to level up my ability in creating offers and writing copy.
And I was right. I read two books: $100M Offer and Copywriting Secrets (affiliate links) and they transformed me from a casual creator into a strategic entrepreneur. I started seeing how to give people what they want.
I still remember I updated my Build in Public Mastery website after reading these two books and then the next day I got a message on Twitter. It blew my mind:
If you haven't brushed up on these 2 skills, you should!
I can probably write another 8 techniques but I want to keep this sharing tight! I hope you find areas that you can level up and actively work on them!