How to make your first $1,000 as an expert

Updated to Business, Speaking on January 23, 2023.

You have expertise you want to sell.

Maybe you’re a retired executive, or athlete, a savvy leadership expert or you’ve published a book. There’s hundreds of variations, but the bottom line is you know people will pay for your expertise and you want to make it happen.

Welcome to the mysterious world of the expert community.

So, you go online and discover all sorts of people selling their knowledge and rocking and rolling down the road to financial freedom. Or, at least it looks that way.

You see online 5-step courses, lots of people with arms stretched wide (those are speakers), coaching packages, ebooks, retreats and books, books, books! And then there’s people who seem to be getting rich selling advertising on their site or selling other people’s products.

Boom, Pop, Pow! It looks like anyone who can say “5 step program” is making a killing.


I hate to pop your balloon of hope and joy…but I will.

After 20+ years in the game of packaging what I know so I can take home the shekels, I’ve discovered there’s only two roads to Rome:

  1. 5+ years down the road of hard knocks, bumping your head up against the walls of frustration, or
  2. get advice from someone who suffered through option (1).

I’m here to help.

The first thing to understand is that everyone in the expert business is lying.

Well, to be fair they aren’t lying intentionally—they just believe their version of how to become successful is the right one.

Someone fresh from winning the Super Bowl or floating in space might tell a wannabe speaker to go straight to the bureaus. Someone with a decade of coaching experience might tell a wannabe coach that training and certification are a waste of time. Just like someone with big success selling online courses thinks everyone should be creating online courses.

The trick, of course, is to discover what will work for you, with your experience, abilities, and attitude to make this all happen.

But, before I get to that – a big word of caution.

A word of caution

There’s something nobody seems to be talking about in the expert community. I don’t know if it’s a dirty secret whispered in cloistered corners of marketing conferences or it’s so obvious I’m the only one who thinks it’s a secret.

But here it is:

In the online expert community, the people making the most money sell products to people who want to make money online.

There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact I’ve learned most of what I know about online marketing from a host of new, young leaders in this space.

  • Pat Flynn taught me about marketing a blog and consistent, high quality content marketing.
  • John Lee Dumas taught me about podcasting.
  • Michael Stelzner taught me how a blog could be a focal point for a business empire.
  • Darren Rowse taught me about generating blog traffic.

I could go on and on with lists that include: Rick Mulready, Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, Cliff Ravenscraft, Michael Port and Russell Brunson.

These are all incredibly hard-working, smart people. I’ve bought some of their courses, gone to their events and I continue to admire their marketing savvy and soak up their insights.

And they make most, if not all, of their income by selling advice to you and me.

Nothing wrong with that. I do the same with my BOSS (Business Of Speaking School) and I’m proud that I’ve helped hundreds of speakers take the next step in their business.

But, here’s a word of caution:

Selling to hungry entrepreneurs is A LOT DIFFERENT from selling to the general public, an association, corporation or not-for-profit. 

For example, you certainly won’t read about a $1Million launch of an online course for hospital staff. Or an entrepreneur hosting a sold-out conference full of plumbers. Or 1,000 people from the general public registering for an affiliate webinar delivered by someone they’ve never hear of before who most obviously has something to sell.

All I’m saying is keep getting the advice of these bright lights – they can inspire you, educate you and teach you marketing strategies you won’t get at any college. But if your market is not entrepreneurs be aware their success is coming from selling to someone like you and not likely from the market you need to sell to.

I learned this hard lesson when I branched out from primarily delivering training to hosting public workshops. I thought that because the companies that hired me to deliver training to their staff could fill a room, so could I.

Not so. It took a lot of effort and a few years of small growth to build a new base of followers that included the entrepreneurs I was looking for.

Okay back to making your first $1,000 as an expert.

Making your first $1,000

My first taste of getting paid for my expertise

It happened for me when I was invited to deliver my first speech. The fee was exactly $1,000. It never dawned on me that is was a small fee for an audience of 1,000—I thought I’d won the lottery.

And I was nervous as hell.

I couldn’t believe that my story as a business start-up, with all its mishaps, could be turned into a speech people would pay to hear!

Was it a great speech? No way. But it was my first taste of getting paid for my expertise.

I was hooked.

That speech paved the way for a 20+ year career as a trainer, coach, speaker and now owner of a marketing company with clients in 5 countries (and counting).

It all started with my first $1,000.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. First we need to talk about how to get started.

Stick your foot out the door

No one can predict where their future income will come from – they need to stick their foot out the door.

Some things in life are already mapped out, like recipes and IKEA instructions.

Not so for making your first $1,000 as an expert.

I’ve worked with people who started by speaking in schools for $200 a pop. Others charged $59 per head for evening seminars, or $100 per hour for coaching over the phone.

Eventually, all of them shifted to other income paths. The important thing to know is all of them stuck their foot out the door and started charging something. None of them could have predicted what their future revenues would be—they needed to get started.

For over 5 years I taught marketing to new entrepreneurs for $300 a day. At the time, I had a young family, and was new to the expert industry. That steady work was just what I needed to develop my skills and to allow me to move into large training contracts and speaking income from keynotes.

If you are caught up making plans, listening to “experts” on podcasts, but the revenues still aren’t there. It’s time to stop talking and stick your foot out the door.

Talking about making money only gets you one thing – more of your own advice. It’s like lying in your sleeping bag, hearing the wind and rain on your tent trying to decide if you should snooze a little longer, put the coffee on or brave the weather.

Nothing happens until you put one foot out the door and test the weather.

Same thing with turning your expertise into money. Nothing happens until you hang up your shingle and announce that you’re ready to get paid.

Now, let’s look at the ways to get paid as an expert.

14 Ways to get paid as an expert

The following list of options comes with a caveat – all are not created equal. Some of these will be easier to get started with – just by making a few phone calls. Some are going to take time to build up to and might even need some prerequisite work, like taking courses, building a list, or getting hooked up with a affiliate.

But, all of them work.

To make it easier, I’ve ranked these from 1 – pretty easy to learn how the strategy works and get started to 5 – more of a long-term strategy that will probably have a bigger pay-off, but you will have to work up to it.

It should go without saying: making money at any of these strategies takes time and work.

  1. Coaching (1) – the #1 way to get cash flow is to deliver 1:1 coaching to people you know or can get referred to. It might not be your long-term vision, but it can put food on the table and gas in the tank.
  2. Consulting (2) – not for the faint-hearted – consulting is a commitment to your client to create results. Start small, learn the ropes, outsource the mundane tasks and you can create a significant income with just a few clients.
  3. Training (2) – I cut my teeth on training: learning curriculum design and managing a room full of employees who don’t want to be there. Not as sexy as public speaking, but with the right client training can generate predictable income and it teaches you the skills you’ll need on stage.
  4. Workbooks (2) – for many years, I’ve sold handouts/workbooks to go with my training contract. With a little effort you can design a product superior to corner-stapled, B&W copies that also makes a nice addition to the bottom line.
  5. Group coaching (2) – the next level up from coaching 1:1 is to either raise your rates or offer group coaching. The typical model is: lower fees per person, planned dates to meet, live delivery or on-line.
  6. Paid webinars (2) – with a little set-up work you can easily turn your seminar into a paid webinar and save your client travel and venue costs. You might not get full dollar, but you can do the delivery in your pyjamas.
  7. Public speaking (3+) – the holy grail of expert income, I would rate the basic skills needed to deliver a decent speech as a (3) and marketing as a (5). The good news is you can start small with local venues at small fees. I go into more detail in this post “How to make money as an expert now.”
  8. Facilitation (3) – effective facilitation is very different skill set than training – it also commands a much higher fee. Start by getting training or a mentor—learning in situ is not great for you or your client.
  9. Sell a book (4) – maybe the most complicated path on this list, but potentially also the most rewarding long-term. Avoid getting lost in the chapters until you either invest in learning the writing/publishing process or get a coach.
  10. Selling affiliate products (4) – you can start with a simple Amazon Associate account and graduate up to joint ventures with other experts. Bottom line – you need either large web site traffic or a big email list to make significant income from affiliate marketing.
  11. On-line course (5) – if you love the complications of course development, learning on-line platforms and marketing – online courses are for you. Prerequisites for success are either: 1) a client who loves you and will buy everything you create, 2) a big mailing list or 3) joint venture with other experts.
  12. Public seminars (5) – where should I start? There’s the marketing, venue rental, catering, agenda, up-selling process, staff and printed materials. Potential huge rewards always comes from upsetting to a more expensive program. I go into more detail in this post “How to make money as an expert now.”
  13. Membership programs (5) – for the very brave, start a paid membership program. Be prepared to do lots of marketing, deliver big value and to start small. Your biggest competition is free content online.
  14. Podcasting (5+) – sure you can create a podcast with basic equipment on your laptop – and that might be a great strategy for building followers – but to build a big enough listening audience to made decent advertising revenue plan loads of marketing and tough competition.

For a detailed explanation about the value of products versus hourly consulting or training fees read my post “Why $100,000 won’t make you rich.”

A list of options is great, but next you need to choose where to start and – maybe even more importantly – what to avoid.

Finding what to not work on

When I’m coaching speakers I often have to battle off their ambitious desires to do everything. They want to get on stage, write a book, start a podcast and earn (sort of) passive income from a membership group. Sometimes I feel like I’m dumping on their parade when I suggest they start small and build their revenues with just one product.

To keep it simple and so maybe you can see some logic to my thinking, let’s break down your decision of what to earn revenue from into two factors:

1) Your appetite for complication and managing projects, and

2) Your appetite for risk.

Note that neither have to do with what’s popular, if it’s passive income, or even what the gurus are doing. It’s all about your ability to stick to it.

Let’s face it:

If you don’t want to learn about microphones, post-production, posting episodes or scheduling interviews, podcasting is probably not for you.

Just like if you don’t like working with video, creating marketing campaigns or teaching through webinars it’s not going to be successful as a business plan.

In this chart I’ve mapped out all 14 money-making options against the complication/risk factors. Here’s how to use it:

Draw an intersection between where you are on the complication scale and the risk scale – everything to the left and below is where you should start. Sure, you can dip your ambitions into public seminars, but if you aren’t getting steady income from training and public speaking, I’d start there.

Use this chart to discover what you SHOULD NOT be working on.

More than finding what you should be working on, use this chart to discover what you SHOULD NOT be working on. Deciding what is not a good fit for you (despite all the claims to fame and riches you read about or hear on podcasts) is a tough choice that will serve you well.

So decide right now what is the one product you will market and commit to make your first revenue from that. If it’s coaching, great! Consulting, great! Training, great!

And now you need to do the work to make your first $1,000 and not get distracted by fancy marketing schemes or adding a second product.

Like anything worth working for, making money as an expert takes time and hard work. Maybe you didn’t want to hear that, but there’s no way to sugar coat it.

Unless you’ve got a jacket with 5 rings on it or just returned from orbit, you have to work for your meal.

That’s why you need to avoid the biggest mistake made by all experts.

The biggest mistake to avoid

Going down the wrong road.

Like the old Yoggi Berra line: “I think we’re lost…but we’re making good time!” – avoid getting on the wrong road. And here’s the clue:

You’re in your comfort zone.

It might look like this:

  • You’ve immersed yourself into writing your first book, before you’ve built any kind of reliable income.
  • You’re messing around with Google Adwords or creating Amazon Associate affiliate links on your site, instead of first creating web site traffic.
  • You’re spending hours tweaking Powerpoint slides when you should be building credibility and experience nailing down local talks.
  • You’re going to spend the next month building an online course even though you have a tiny mailing list, don’t want to do joint ventures (sell through affiliates), can’t afford to advertise and don’t get in front of big enough audiences to sell back-of-room.

You can argue that all of these are important and might even lead to revenues.

Yes, eventually all of those ideas could be successful. But, when you’re just getting your feet wet don’t jump into the middle of the pond just because you see other people doing it.

Look, it’s fine to work on fun stuff—there’s nothing wrong with learning how to write a book, build your first online course, or add followers on social media. But if any of those projects is distracting you from getting paid now that’s the wrong road.

If you want to make you first $1,000 as an expert you need to learn how to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Sending the email to introduce yourself to a potential client, asking for advice from someone who appears to have things figured out or reconnecting with an old contact. That’s the kind of uncomfortable that gets results.

You also need to be prepared to be frustrated, confused and ready to quit.

Frustrated, confused, and ready to quit

It’s part of the process —if you aren’t having moments like that I’d wonder how hard you’re trying.

But know this:

Anyone making a full-time living selling their expertise had to move through the yucky phase. It could look like this:

  • trying to explain to someone what you do for a living and realizing you’re also not quite sure.
  • on a sales call with a potential client and trying to ignore a wave of imposter syndrome washing over you.
  • staring at a blank calendar and wondering if ‘McDonald’s fry cook’ would look good on your resume.

The good news is one thing will make all the difference.

When you make that first $1,000, everything will change. Imagine how amazing it will feel to be recognized for your talent and to know you’re worthy of getting paid.

Imagine that happening every day.

And it all starts with the first thing you must do.

The first thing yoƒu must do

Search online for “making money as a speaker”, or “starting a coaching business” and you’ll get more advice than you could ever sort through. And most of it is technical: build a website, learning Facebook advertising, create a joint venture, write and ebook.

Yes, all of that is great. And eventually you might need to go down that road.

The reality is there’s one thing you need to do before you make your first $1,000 as an expert.

Paint a picture.

I’m not talking water colours—you need to paint a picture of what your life will look like in 3 years. Three years is enough time to develop your products, screw up, experiment with marketing, screw up again, build a following and create steady income.

Three years.

But don’t overdo this critical step.

Yes, you need a picture that motivates you and helps you choose the work to take on and products to create. But, stopping to perfect details won’t help. The reality isn’t ever going to ever match the vision you paint – so don’t fret too much over details.

Here are three examples:


One half my income comes from running 4 women’s retreats per year at amazing locations. The other half comes from coaching, speaking, public seminars and a membership program. I work with celebrity authors and speakers and build my following. I have a part-time assistant to help me stay sane(!) and away from the details that exhaust me.


My work is speaking, coaching and book sales. My speaking fees average $3,500. Coaching will be $150/hr. I have sold 3,000 books. I have also replaced my current employment income. I work 11 months/year.


I am earning a combined income of $100,000 from consulting and coaching working three days a week. I have an on-line course I sell to my coaching clients.

Let’s face it: there’s lots of easier ways to make money (like that fry cook job at McDonald’s). But there is something magical about taking what you have worked so hard to learn and using it to help other people.

Your expertise can save a business, get people out of a rut, inspire a team and bring teams back together again.

And it will take work to make it happen.

The world needs experts – always has. Your job is to commit, paint the picture and make that first $1,000.

For more details on how to go the next step, go to these posts:

On line course: How to create your first online course – step by step instructions
Facilitation: The secret to making any meeting, speech or presentation outstanding
Public speaking: So, you want to be a speaker…
Training: How to change the world by teaching
Becoming an authority: The Secret Ingredient to Becoming a Thought Leader
Writing: Why you need to be a writer