The most frequent question I get asked by experts is: “How can I make money now?” If you are a speaker, seminar leader, author, or coach then I know you’ve had that question as well (maybe you still do).
I always struggle to answer that question.
The reality is you can’t (legally) make a lot of money quickly in any business. Sure, we all hear of over night successes – just read a copy of Inc. or Entrepreneur and you might be tempted to think that’s normal. The reality is, that as an information expert, you can (and should) do very well over time if you are willing to do three things:
- Work hard every day at building your platform (your on-line and off-line reputation).
- Create valuable content (written, digital, spoken, video) that people want to share.
- Build a following (grow your list) of active fans who are learning and improving because of your work.
Of course, you can jump-start this process by winning an Olympic medal, climbing Everest, or writing a best seller. My guess is you aren’t reading this if that’s already in the bag.
So let’s talk about doing the work of building your success the way of mere mortals (like me).
I have successfully used all four of these strategies. And they work. With a clear, motivating goal and consistent hard work you will see success. And, more importantly you will have created a stream of income you can grow bigger every year. And that’s how you build your expert’s enterprise – one income stream at a time.
Coaching has been around since the time of Plato, Aristotle and the ancient Greeks.
“Ary, I tell you over and over:” wise Plato would admonish young Aristotle, ‘The beginning is the most important part of the work.’”
“That will be thirteen shekels.”
If you have experience that can help others, coaching is one of the quickest ways to start earning money. You don’t need a web site, large mailing list, or even an office. Certainly there are many coaches that work with their clients by phone or from a home office. I know one coach that even holds group coaching sessions to learn Spanish in a local café.
I wouldn’t worry too much about matching local rates – everyone will have more experience than you. Instead, go with a rate you are comfortable quoting. If local professional coaches are charging $150 to $185/hour, you might start at $95/hour. The sooner you get started, the faster you will learn where your real value is and what to charge. You can always raise your fees later.
How to get started: Nothing happens until you let people know your intention. When I first got into speaking I needed to train myself to say I was a speaker. People are terrible at guessing.
Even close friends are potential customers or referral agents for you. So, let them know you are a coach and you are looking for clients. Practice using this simple line: I work with [ideal client] to [what you help them do] so that [results they get]. For example: “I coach entrepreneurs to improve their sales close ratio so they can sell more and in less time.” Here’s another example: “I coach women to build their confidence so they can achieve more of what they want in business, relationships, and life.”
Organizing and hosting a public seminar is not for the faint of heart. I’ve put together a few dozen and it can be a hit-or-miss enterprise. I used to market my own schedule of professional development training seminars (time management, leadership, and conflict resolution training) and it was always crazy stressful in the final two weeks before the event. On the other hand, I have put together events (like my Expert’s Intensive and Advanced Speaker Academy) that have been successes out of the gate.
One popular strategy is to make the gate fee free, or small and sell back-of-room. Here’s how this works.
If you are relatively unknown in your market I would not charge a gate fee. You can charge some minimal amount to cover your costs, but I would keep that under $40. The goal is to get higher numbers in the room and then offer them something like a coaching package, affiliate product (you sell someone else’s product/package), self-help manual (see “Write for Kindle”, below), or more in-depth training.
A self-help manual could be as simple as a coil-bound workbook (your cost would be under $10/book). You could include an audio recording to guide them through the process (you can reproduce audio recording on good-old discs for under $3/disc with a color cover image).
There are many examples of experts who started with exactly this strategy and now own small islands in the Caribbean, like: Robert Kiyosaki, T. Harv Eker, Tony Robbins, and Jack Canfield. You may not get rich with public seminars, but you will get momentum and get invaluable insights about your market, product creation, marketing, and designing events.
How to get started: Don’t do anything until you complete (as a minimum) this free market research:
– Ask at least 20 people you know for honest feedback about this plan. Ask them what they look for when choosing a seminar to attend and what turns them off. If you have clients from previous work, asking them is even better.
– Attend at least four public seminars (personal finance, real estate, and health/weight loss are popular topics) and pay close attention to the process they use to get registrations, delivery of the seminar, and how they sell back-of-room.
– Build your back-of-room offer and products.
– Calculate your break even numbers. Get quotes from local venues for an evening room rental, add up your other costs and divide total costs by average sale price per person. So, if your fixed costs (venue rental, advertising, handouts, etc.) are $500 and your back-of-room offer is $97 then you obviously need five sales to break-even. Next, estimate the number that will attend and divide that in half – that’s a more realistic number (sorry the dose of been-there reality). Finally, calculate your close ratio. So, if 30 people attend and break-even is five, then my close ratio has to be 17% (5/30 X 100=17%).
WRITE FOR KINDLE
I’m not going to go into the changes with print-on-demand (Lightening Source and CreateSpace), instead, I want to talk about Kindle. Amazon’s Kindle program is a game changer for the expert community. You are now able to list your book as an author with minimal effort and time and, with some smart planning, start making money. Here’s how it works.
Let’s imagine you write a short, self-help book of 25,000 words (about 100 pages) on how to set goals. You have your cover designed using www.fiverr.com or www.99designs.com, or find a contractor on www.upwork.com. Similarly, you hire someone to do the layup (the design of the pages) and now you have a book.
Before Kindle, you had no way to sell you book unless you did all the selling yourself (web site, back of room, etc.), or registered for an ISBN number and used a service like www.smashwords.com to distribute the book on line, or used a marketing platform like www.ejunkie.com, or www.clickbank.com. Those options are still available, but there is a faster, better way called Kindle.
The Kindle reader (the software that allows you to read the digital books) is available free on Amazon internationally and mimics the physical Kindle tablet experience. This means Kindle books are available to anyone with an Amazon account to download on their PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone. The Kindle reader allows you to flip through pages, highlight sections, search, etc. And it syncs all my devices so I can start reading a book on my iPhone while waiting for a daughter to finish soccer practice and later, on my laptop, pick up where I left off.
And given that Amazon has over 300 million credit cards on file and allows for a one-click purchase of books, Kindle is a potent selling platform. When I moved to Kindle I sold more books in one month than I had sold in the previous two years while being listed Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.
How to get started: Like everything, the more you know, the faster you can enjoy success. Here is how I would get started:
Download the Kindle reader, buy some Kindle books, and get familiar with how to buy Kindle books and read them. Start with books about making money on Kindle, like Crush It With Kindle (John Tighe) and Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing [Amazon]. These books will explain keyword research and how to use the Amazon search engine to identify and narrow down your category opportunities.
Learn about the Kindle Select program for authors. Briefly, this allows you to earn up to 70% commission on sales, have up to five free days to promote your book every 90 days, and earn a small commission when Amazon Premium members borrow your book. Learn more about Kindle Select here. You can only list your book on Amazon and your own web site, but the Select program can translate into much higher ranking and more book sales.
Take a course and/or read books like Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott) and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King) on how to write better. I’ve yet to meet any successful authors who wasn’t constantly honing their craft. The better you write, the better your books sell, and the more money you make. It’s simple math.
Create a goal to finish your first Kindle book in 30 days. This isn’t an article on how to write a book, but any author worth their salt will tell you that without a goal and deadline your book will never get finished.
- First, keynote speakers are rarely asked how long they have been speaking. What’s more important to the event planner is your bio and topic. They want to know if you have the street cred to impress their audience, teach something relevant and valuable, and have presented in the same or similar industries.
- Secondly, your history of fees is only relevant to speaker’s bureaus. Event planners only need to know what you are charging today. This means that when you are ready you can charge substantial fees for your presentation, even though it may be your first year on a stage.
How to get started: The common advice of speak-for-free is still my favorite. In any city there are dozens of not-for-profit, local government, small business, association, and community service groups that could invite you to speak at their event. The formula is pretty simple: they get a quality presentation, you get experience, and can add their organization name to your bio, and you get a testimonial.
You should always have a retail price for your speaking services, even if you are willing to negotiate to get the experience. Always quote your full fee and let the client ask for a compromise. Many clients that claim to have no budget have honorariums or will buy product in return for your services.
When you are getting started don’t think about being listed with a speaker’s bureau. If you have three legs, speak five languages, and play the trumpet, you are a very interesting dinner guest, but not bureau ready. In addition to a minimum fee threshold (most bureaus I work with want speakers with a proven track record of charging at least $3,500), a great bio, video of you speaking, etc. you won’t be ready. Nothing beats time on stage, and the humbling experience of eating crow after a less-than-stellar performance.
I always recommend getting video testimonials (go to www.hughculver.com/hire for examples) AND written testimonials. Instead of asking for a letter (which is tough to get) record what they say after your event (or in an email) and ask permission to use that for “marketing purposes.”
There are other, more complicated ways to get started earning an income, like: becoming an affiliate selling other people’s products, in-house seminars for companies, on-line courses, charging for webinars, having your book published/self-published, back-of-room sales, membership programs, etc. I chose the ones listed in this article because I use them all and you can get started right now without a big list, on-line platform, much cost, or even much experience.
Now, there’s only one thing you have to do.
Get started now!
Photo credits: picture of cash: 401(K)2013. public seminar: virtualmusictv