My business journey is simple.
I tried almost everything and failed.
But, as we all know here, failure is a blessing.
It is a data point that reveals what can be improved.
Those that don’t fail don’t succeed.
It just doesn’t make sense when you think about it… to expect success without failure when success only exists from a reference point of failure.
If you were “successful” since the day you were born (which you were in many ways) would you see it as success? Or would you see it as normal life?
You must set a new goal as a high, embrace massive failure as a low, and dance through the struggle to marry the meaningful contrast.
This brings up an important point.
Rich kids aren’t self-reliant because they didn’t teach themselves to be. Success is their normal. So much so that they don’t have new potentials to discover. Not all rich kids are depressed and socially inept, but many many are because they didn’t have a reason to cultivate a skill set to achieve a self-generated goal.
Nobody can teach you self-reliance.
Otherwise, it’s not self-reliance.
To become self-reliant in any domain, from money to relationships to health, you need the skills that bridge the gap between where you are and what you want. Most people don’t know what they want, and even more don’t see where they are as a problem.
Notice the word “need” in the paragraph above.
There are skills you need to learn to achieve self-reliance.
They aren’t optional.
I repeat. They are not optional.
The rest of this letter is not a personal method.
The skills I present are what every single successful person has to learn (or hire for) to achieve a certain level of success in business, relationships, and arguably health – even though you may not see them as health skills yet.
I failed at 7 business models.
The reason was that I didn’t have an understanding of the skills that would actually make me money.
And no, it’s not any of the modern skills like web design, email marketing, or lead generation that people tell you to learn.
We need to peel back and go to the root of what makes those skills work.
Once you understand them, truly, through practice, then you will be able to make money flow like your sink does with water.
The Evergreen Skills
I’m in the middle of building a software business and I’m lost.
Business structure, trademark lawyers, general lawyers, hiring, design stages, operating agreements, etc.
But, these are all things I can learn on the fly.
Every other business (that isn’t a one-person business) will need to learn the ropes of starting a “real” business at some point – so there are plenty of resources available online.
With a one-person business, you can set up a social media profile, create a digital product, and promote it for free (in most beginner cases).
The point is that the technical skills required to start a business are out there and available to learn.
But we aren’t here to talk about those.
Because if those were the drivers of business success, most businesses wouldn’t fail.
Marketing and sales are different.
They are evergreen skills.
They require creativity, experience, and big picture understanding of your industry to make work.
Marketing and sales are the differentiating factor between those that make money and those that don’t.
Let’s take a tech startup for example.
They have incredible developers and an idea.
They build the software, launch, and… nothing.
They don’t have an audience that trusts them. They don’t have promotions that catch the attention of their target market. They don’t solve a specific burning problem. They don’t plan to raise problem awareness over time (they don’t create their own customers through content). They don’t have any of the firepower in place that would allow them to write good content, ads, and turn viewers into customers.
Marketing and sales paired with writing and speaking is how you create value.
I’ve discussed value creation before as the single skill that built my one-person business. This letter will turn anything you do into a profitable endeavor.
To summarize the principles of marketing and sales that must be illustrated in your writing and speaking, you need:
- A desired outcome
- A burning problem that stands in the way
- A proven path to reach the outcome (unique to your experience)
- The level of awareness of the person you are targeting (how aware are they of their problem?)
- An angle to talk about that problem based on the 8 human desires
- A list of benefits and how solving the problem impacts their life
- Proof (from yourself or previous customers) that you can solve that problem
- A big idea that catches attention in the sea of internet noise
- A risk reversal or guarantee that tips them over the edge
Marketing and sales are evergreen because they are based on mechanics, human behavior, and psychology. They start in the mind as all things do.
These are all potent talking points in your content, landing pages, and anywhere else you communicate with people or customers.
You aren’t only marketing a product or service.
When you write content, you are selling your ideas.
Your content doesn’t get engagement or followers because you can’t combine components from the above list into impactful writing and speaking.
Remember how we discussed self-reliance?
The rest is on you.
Obsessively study marketing and sales, but keep the above points in mind so you can filter what is important.
The Evergreen Vessels
Most people fail to make money because they don’t understand how business works.
You need a good product (which has a host of skills involved in making) and you need people that want that product.
Let’s run through a scenario:
I want to sell a planner.
So, I experiment on myself first.
Why? Because you need experience and results. Most businesses fail because they’re trying to sell to people that have a problem they’ve never experienced.
I buy 4-5 best-selling planners on Amazon.
I buy productivity books and courses.
I drown myself in podcasts, social media accounts, and videos on productivity hacks.
I structure my days, map out my work, and put what I’ve learned to work.
By this point, I have an idea of how to improve the planner I want to sell – or do something entirely new based on what I discovered with my research.
I’ve also exposed myself to the entirety of what makes that business work.
- I’ve listened to high-performing social media content (that I can recreate to promote my planner and build a following without ads).
- I’ve purchased the planner, books, and courses from people that are making a living from them (so I can reverse engineer their marketing and web pages).
- I’ve gotten results so that I have direct experience of the problem, desired outcome, and system to get there (which composes my marketing strategy).
It’s all right in front of you but you aren’t paying attention.
If you want to make money outside of your job, you need distribution and a product.
If you want to do it as one person without the restriction of physical location, you need code and content.
Code is the back end of the internet.
Content is the front end of the internet.
Code is how you host content.
Content is how you capture attention.
You don’t need to learn how to code, because technology has advanced to the point we are at now.
What used to take 10 employees to build a membership site can now be done by 1 person who purchases software.
You can hit “post,” have one big account see that post, share it, and get hundreds of thousands of views without ever posting before.
You can build a readership that allows you to do anything you want with your life. You aren’t bound to one static niche.
All-in-all I am saying that creating content is not optional anymore.
It was a few years ago, but markets evolve.
Content is how you distribute your product.
Marketing and sales are how you create products and content that are actually valued by the market.
Those are the main skills you need to prioritize no matter what else you learn.
Marketing, sales, writing, and speaking with content as your vessel for all of the above.
If “content” doesn’t make sense to you, buy a few social media courses. Or check out 2 Hour Writer.
The Modern Career Path
I have faith in the creator economy even when most don’t see it.
I see it as nature’s way of correcting what went wrong in the Industrial Revolution.
Schooling is decentralized with content and courses.
Students can pursue their curiosity and adapt to the times fast.
8-hour workdays and wage slavery come to an end for individuals that self-educate and acquire skills to work for other creators and eventually themselves.
Here is the career path I predict for the present and future:
1) Code & Content
Code and media are permissionless leverage. They’re the leverage behind the newly rich. You can create software and media that works for you while you sleep. – Naval
Most people will have to start with either code or content.
So, you either become a programmer or a content marketer.
You can learn both, but with time, of course. (This is one of the most potent skill stacks).
The programmer can work for creators, startups, and really any modern job. They can freelance or be employed by all of the above.
The content marketer can do the exact same. Everyone has a content, marketing, sales, or any form of media team.
Most people should write content to build their public resume (or personal brand).
That is where you will find clients, jobs, and attract customers in the future.
Your personal brand is your online character.
If you choose to not learn to code, that’s perfectly fine, because modern software makes it so you don’t have to.
2) Marketing & Sales
Learn to sell, learn to build, if you can do both, you will be unstoppable. – Naval
Both paths will converge into the necessity of learning marketing and sales.
Most software companies and coders fail because they can build a product, but they can’t sell it.
The same goes for content creators.
They can build an audience with good writing, but when it comes to creating a product that people actually want, they fall short.
If you want to survive outside of a job that inevitably loses its shine and chains you to a paycheck, marketing and sales are your weapons on the entrepreneurial hunt.
3) Build Distribution
Build distribution, then build whatever you want. – Jack Butcher
Distribution is the most important concept you can understand in the digital race to riches.
Distribution methods vary in leverage.
Freelancers, agencies, local businesses, and even startups often focus on low-leverage, instantly gratifying distribution methods:
- Cold email
- Paid ads
- Direct messages
Now, these are still viable methods to acquire customers, but you are often left with nothing if you stop putting effort into them.
You are better off building long-term distribution (while mixing in the other methods to see profit quickly):
- Building an audience – like a 100,000 follower X audience.
- Promoting to your network – like having your 100,000 follower internet friend promote your work.
- Renting other’s audiences – like newsletter or youtube sponsorships to get in front of millions of interested people.
You must learn social media as a skill to tap into the global distribution channel.
As you write content and build an audience, you can still email, message, or pay for ads to start earning immediately.
For perspective, I get around 12 million impressions per month on X alone. With other platforms, it’s probably quadruple that number.
From a Google search (I don’t know how accurate this is), a low CPM is around $3 for paid ads (1000 impressions).
Every month on X (formerly Twitter) alone, I get what would cost me $36,000 a month worth of impressions.
If your content/ads are profitable – you should be able to make well over $100,000 from that each month.
4) Employable To Unemployable
There comes a point where you know you will never be employed again.
Your skills compound into knowing how to make money in any market condition.
The progression I would follow is this:
- Start learning the skills that all brands need – marketing, sales, branding, content, design, etc.
- Apply for jobs or work for a creator to get real-world experience (and earn some money). This can be freelance or employment.
- Dedicate 1 hour minimum each day to building your own thing. Write content, iterate until you are growing, and promote your offer.
- As your audience grows, start to transition into doing your own thing. Expand your product stack to target more people in your audience.
This way, you are making it near impossible to not secure your future.
If you have subpar marketing skills, a massive audience can make up for that.
If you have subpar audience-building skills, marketing and sales knowledge can make up for that.
A diversified skill stack backed by daily effort will solve most of your problems.
5) Iterative Products
Most creators fail because they treat monetization as a one-and-done type of deal.
Your products and services evolve as you do. They build off of each other. You can’t create a better product if you never launch the first.
Stagnation = death.
My web design service evolved into funnels. My funnel knowledge evolved into 3 digital products. Those digital products evolved into a community. My experience along the way created 2 more digital products. My 10+ lead magnets evolved into a planner, which is now being relaunched with my book in late September. All of the above are evolving into the software I’m building. It never ends. That’s what makes sit meaningful.
It should be obvious that if something isn’t selling, it’s a problem with you, not the market.
If you kept learning and refining your skill set, you would see the opportunity for improvement in your products.
All of this business stuff is just persistence and iteration for life.
– Dan Koe