The other day I was at my day job and I was having lunch with one of the guys who works in the same team that I do. He’s recently discovered that I have thousands of Udemy students, that I have the content and SEO businesses and that I have this “newsletter thing” that I write and sell. During the conversation, he said to me, “Why don’t you quit working and do those things full time? You could be living the dream.”
To answer that question properly (I’ll have a stab at it in this post) would take a fair bit of time and some context. With that in mind, I gave him my standard answer, “I like my job, it’s fun, I get paid really well for it, so why not keep doing it?”
He thought I was crazy because I was giving up all kinds of free time and not having to turn up at work or whatever. Honestly, I get that on a regular basis when I have that conversation with people, but the real answer is way more complex.
Let’s start with a little bit of history that many of you know, but it’s worth repeating. The SEO and content businesses exist and are successful primarily because I did work on them full time for awhile. I also have the luxury that my wife oversees them full time to make sure they are still humming along.
In 2011, I’d been working for a company for nine years in a fairly senior role and I’d pretty much burnt myself out. I was exhausted mentally and physically and I needed a change, so I started talking to my boss and our CFO about what an exit strategy might look like. They were coming to a similar landing on their own positions within the business and we negotiated a pretty nice departure package.
In 2008 – 2009, I’d started building out small websites, ranking them in Google and selling affiliate products. These websites started to do really well and by 2010 we had people working for us overseas building and maintaining these sites in a full-time capacity. I noticed that we were very good at getting these sites ranked in Google and in creating the content, so I pivoted slightly and started offering SEO services.
That pivot went exceptionally well and was really a business of its own by the time I finished my job in early 2011.
When the departure from work started to look like it was going to be a reality, I made the call to sell the affiliate sites and focus on developing the SEO business. Finding buyers for the 600+ sites proved to be relatively easy and that injection of funds was enough runway to try this business as a full-time thing.
In March 2011 a few things happened – I created my first info product to sell, I sold the affiliate websites, I left my job and started working online full time.
Within six months the SEO business had matched and exceeded my previous employment income, but by May 2012 it became apparent things were wobbly – Google had launched their Penguin update and everyone’s SEO business went into the toilet. Some people say they did well out of it, they’re telling lies. We all got smashed, customers freaked out and stopped spending.
Our SEO business was cut in half within a month.
Normally you’d be shedding a few tears at this point, but I’d built our a nice little info product business and we’d launched our content business in March 2012. The content business was the opposite, when people pulled out of SEO spending, they began buying tons of “quality content” instead. Ultimately, we broke even on the shift.
Now, fast forward another year, it’s April 2013 and the simple truth is, having been building the online business for two years, living the internet mogul lifestyle, I pretty much got bored of it all. I was taking on strange projects and ventures to get my brain working in an effort to intellectually stimulate myself. I wasn’t passionate about the SEO business, I didn’t like the content business at all (my wife has always run that) and info products were ok, but certainly not hugely entertaining to create and market.
The other subtlety in there that I’ve spoken about before is that working that closely with your spouse, especially when you’ve got vastly different personalities is testing. Pretty much everything became about work and business and it stopped being fun entirely.
Coincidentally around that time, I started getting people calling me about jobs. In retrospect, it was like the universe was trying to give me a path, but I was hesitant to accept it because I had this idea in my head that I was a “business owner” rather than an employee.
Like most breakthroughs in life, mine came in a number of incremental things happening rather than one big epiphany.
I was talking to my mate James Schramko about my situation one time over lunch while we were eating burgers and watching the waves at North Narrabeen Surf Club. He said, “Why not treat a job like a well paid consulting gig?”
The next week I had a call from a headhunter about a particular role that I wasn’t interested in necessarily but the company showed some persistence – in fact, the CEO flew in from Hong Kong twice in the same week to convince me to take the job.
The last piece of the puzzle was that we’d made some changes to how the content business worked and it kind of extracted me from it entirely while giving my wife the freedom to run it and do the parts she was good at.
That confluence of events gave me the best scenario imaginable. I had engineered my life and business to have multiple, independent streams of income that gave me the opportunity to work on the things I enjoyed and hand off to other people the things I disliked.
So getting back to my work colleague who asked me the question about why didn’t I just work full time on the business… The answer I gave him is partially true; I enjoy what I do, it challenges me, I get paid well for it and it is a great diverse stream of income.
That’s the key element that I’ve learned in my online businesses over the years, you absolutely MUST have diverse streams of income. I’m not talking one or two channels selling the same thing, I mean you have to develop and build entirely different product and services portfolios as cornerstones of what you do.
Here’s the thing, a job can totally be part of that! That was my breakthrough back in 2013, having a job solidified my business situation because it removed risk through added financial diversity. When I decided to leave my last job on short notice in June 2015, I didn’t even think twice about it because that diversity was in place. I thought I’d take the rest of 2015 off and grow a new income stream with the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter, but instead, I ended taking a new job in October 2015. Eventually, in February 2016, I added the newsletter to the business.
My decisions aren’t for everyone. There are people that I know who’d be comfortable living in a trailer park and dumpster diving for dinner if they could never work another day in their lives and survive. I’m different, I like having a job and the income certainty it brings.
We each have to do our own thing – I talk about this a fair bit in this post from a few months back. I refer to it as “running your own race”.
That’s important and I think you have to have an abundance mindset in life and business, but you also need to adhere to some good business practices and one of those is diversify your income as much as you can.
So if you’re one of my Casual Marketers and you struggle to answer that question all the time of, “When are you going to go full time?” then I empower you today to stop worrying about that. Turn your situation into the positive that it is! You’re building something that is diverse and well suited to withstand risk, which is a great business strategy!