I was speaking to a member of The Lab last week about the right time to go "all in" on your creator business (vs. continue working a full-time job). And I have a different view on this than most people in my position...
I started my creator business in 2017 – it was a struggle!
Here's my year-over-year revenue for the first 5 years:
- 2017: $29,468
- 2018: $72,713
- 2019: $54,547
- 2020: $103,007
- 2021: $149,953
The first three years were really rough. I was trying to build and monetize at the same time, which felt like walking through mud.
But this data only tells part of the story...
Things really took off in 2021. Ironically, I spent 2021 working full-time with Pat Flynn at Smart Passive Income.
And not only did my business still have a 50% revenue increase while working a full-time job, but the type of revenue I earned changed too.
At the time, I looked at my revenue as a combination of:
- Service-based revenue – Requires time and fulfillment after the sale
- Product-based revenue – Scalable digital product revenue or sponsorship of the content I'm creating
And my goal was to reduce service-based revenue and increase product-based revenue so that I could decouple my time from how I make money.
I hit the mythical six-figure mark in 2020, but 50% of my revenue was service-based revenue (group coaching). In 2021, only 2% of my revenue was service-based.
Effectively, I went from $50,000 in product-based income to $147,000 in product-based income from 2020 to 2021...WHILE I was working a full-time job!
This isn't a coincidence.
By working at SPI for a year, I learned a very valuable lesson...
The fastest way to build a creator business is to remove financial pressure from it.
My revenue grew because I was actually selling less often. It sounds counter-intuitive, so let me explain.
Strong creator businesses are built on trust. Trust takes time to build.
And you don't build trust with this abstract idea of an "audience" – you build trust with each individual person inside of that audience.
Tobi Lütke (the founder of Shopify) has this fantastic metaphor of a Trust Battery. He applies it to members of a team, but it applies to your audience as well.
We understand batteries – they're a power source. Functional batteries can be used to generate action.
Now, imagine that every individual in your audience has an internal "trust battery" that either fills or depletes based on their interactions with you. When you fulfill a promise, the battery fills. When you give to your audience without expectation, the battery fills.
When you break their trust, have a negative interaction, or get pushy when asking for a sale, you drain that battery.
The more someone's trust battery is charged, the more likely they will act quickly without much need of convincing. This is why some people will buy from you just because they know and trust you.
Once you understand this concept at an individual level, then you can extrapolate and imagine an overall trust battery representing your audience at any point in time. We'll call this your Audience Trust Battery.
When you put financial pressure on your business, you're more likely to make bad decisions:
- You accept bad sponsors
- You affiliate for a product you don't believe in
- You do cross-promos with brands you don't actually like
- You sell sub-par experiences to your audience
These are short-sighted decisions. All these decisions can drain your Audience Trust Battery.
It feels like you can't get your audience interested in doing anything – attending events, purchasing products, replying to your content, etc.
The battery is dead.
But when you don't make any requests of your audience and you're just giving, giving, giving – the battery fills up. It becomes primed and ready to power your business.
Here's where trust batteries differ from your typical lithium batteries...
Most batteries you purchase come fully charged – but not trust batteries. Actually, it's more likely that your audience comes to you with their trust battery closer to empty (sorry, but the rest of the world has an impact on the trust battery between you and your audience too).
So back to the original question of when to go all-in on your creator business...
Most people will tell you to go "all in" once you've built an audience. But not all audiences are created equal – having an audience doesn't mean that they're really listening to you yet.
I believe the best time to go "all in" is when you've created a full Audience Trust Battery.
That's a high bar, I know!
But a strong trust battery is what allows you to monetize. If you can't effectively monetize, you'll keep going back to the battery and draining it of power, making it harder and harder to refill.
So I encourage people to stick with their jobs as long as they can stand it. A job provides a steady income (which relieves financial pressure). A job typically has stronger boundaries than working for yourself (work ends at ~5pm). Taken together, this helps you make long-term decisions. It also provides more time to put towards charging your Audience Trust Battery.
Most creators focus on building the biggest audience possible thinking that they can just play a numbers game...but they do so at the expense of really charging their Audience Trust Battery.
It's far better to have a small audience with a full battery than a large audience on empty.