[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here’s a lot of bollocks blowing up in the blogasphere right now, especially surrounding internet marketers, information products, and the old adage: “those that can’t do, teach”. I won’t go into specifics, suffice to say a lot of people are starting to ask questions about what “qualifies” someone as an expert who can teach others – and whether teaching people they can “quit their day job” and run a successful internet business from home is the marker of a scam artist or not.
I wanted to address this today because I’ve been reading what they’re saying and – even as a person who sells info-products – I can see their point. I don’t want to be rude or mean about it, or call anyone out, but yeah – I see their point.
A phrase used by a lot of sites these days goes: “you don’t have to be a 10 in your chosen niche to teach. Even if you’re only a 5, you can teach the 1′s and 2′s”. And a lot of the people telling us this are genuinely nice, kind and caring people. I believe you should always think people have the best of intentions until proven otherwise, and most businesses who earn money around selling info-products and services – coaching, how-to ebooks, affiliate marketing, courses, etc – genuinely want to create something that helps people. They care.
Hell, I write ebooks and I coach people, because I care.
But often these people don’t sell their product as what it is. They sell a dream. And that’s where things start to get a bit ethically wobbly.
The “Quit Your Day Job” line is something I work hard to avoid. This means any info-product or service I create will be never be as popular as it potentially could be. I don’t write info-products with the idea people can make money by following my advice. I believe there’s something more important in lfie than money – and that’s enjoying yourself.
For me, writing is the ultimate in enjoyment, especially when writing about subjects that interest me. Because I enjoy it so much, seven years ago I started doing it more, trying different types of writing, entering competitions, applying for writing jobs, trying to get my name in magazines. The extra money was nice and all, but what kept me going was the sheer joy of indulging my favorite activity.
For a lot of people, turning a passion into a business is simply a way of saving money. You can claim materials, classes, equipment, travel and a percentage of your household bills as tax deductible expenses. If you keep working at your normal job, that means you get a nice tax cheque back at the end of the financial year. My husband runs his hobby as a business – it helps his hobby pay for itself.
For others, it’s a way to add a new dimension to a passion. Many artists and artisans I know enjoy the challenge of selling their crafts on sites like Etsy or signing up for craft shows – writing descriptions, taking photographs, talking to buyers and other crafty businesspeople – all without the desire to make their business a full-time gig.
And for others, running your passion as a business opens up new opportunities. It takes you from occasional acting roles in local dramatic societies to auditioning for movies and taking part in exciting projects you’d never otherwise have undertaken. It means throwing yourself headlong into the fray and pushing yourself beyond what you believed possible.
You don’t have to be a full-timer to appreciate these advantages. And certainly some aspects of running a small business – like the tax deductions – is of greater benefit to you if you still have a job.
The truth is – most people aren’t cut out for full-time entrepreneurship – the same way most people aren’t going to be Olympic swimmers. But that’s not to say you can’t join a local swimming club to improve your technique or just enjoy splashing around in the pool. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Learning, improving, challenging yourself and having an absolute blast are attainable by everyone – not just full-time entrepreneurs.
Most businesses – and certainly most successful online businesses – focus on delivering specific products to consumers. These products are tangible – t-shirts, plumbing fittings, baby food – and the business owner must be careful to manufacture / import / create / sell the best products possible – because the reputation of the business depends on the reputation of the product.
However, what most internet business “gurus” sell is the idea that you, too, can have a personality business – a business where you yourself are the product. Being a service provider and someone with a very distinct voice, I fell into this category without realizing it.
This idea that you can make a business by essentially pulling it out you ass (pardon the term) is a popular one with many bloggers and online businesses – and has spawned what is probably an overload of life/business/creative coaches, gurus, marketing experts, social media managers, and affiliate marketers. Most of these business models are based off teaching people something. And teaching and learning are admirable and good things.
“But!” you say, “I haven’t been to teacher’s training for three years. I have nothing to teach!”
“Don’t worry,” they reply. “You’re bound to be an expert at SOMETHING. We’ll help you figure out what that is, and you can use that as a basis for your business.” And that’s how they earn their money.
And they’re right – our unique life experiences, career and education choices and passions do make us experts in certain subjects – our “niches”, if you will. But I don’t have a Phd in freelance writing or 20 years experience successfully planning celebrity weddings – so can I, ethically, do what I do? “You only have to be a 4-5 to teach the 1′s and 2′s” is the inevitable reply.
Yes, this is true. But teach them what?
I’ve written 5 novels. 10 if you count the 5 I wrote as a teenager. Each of those five novels has become increasingly close to publication, with my current effort under consideration at 2 major publishing houses.
But I have not sold a novel. I’ve not garnered a publishing contract for a single book.
I could, very easily, write an ebook on how to write a novel. And it would be filled with decent advice, because you learn a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t after you’ve written a few of the blasted things. And if you were someone who thinks “I’d like to write a novel one day,” with no real ideas about what you want to do with it once it’s finished but simply want to enjoy the act of writing it, you would probably get a lot out of such a book.
But if you were a writer who wanted to have a novel published by a traditional house, or wanted to self-publish your novel and sell millions of copies, it would be dishonest of me to sell you my ebook.
Yes, you may learn from it – you may find ideas for techniques you’d never thought of before – but it would not be right for me to sell it to you. I can tell you how to write a book, but I CAN’T tell you how to write a book of publishable quality. I can’t sell the dream, because I haven’t lived the dream myself.
And that’s what no one in this industry seems to cover – the fact that if you’re a 4 or a 5, there are certain things you haven’t experienced. And if you haven’t experienced them, you can’t then sell them as a vision of the future to your customers.
If you haven’t created a successful blog with hundreds of thousands of hits each month and a mailing list of 3000, you can’t then teach others how to do this. If you’ve had an absolute ball of a time blogging and have made a few unique connections and created a little community on your site – you can teach other people how to do THAT – but why would you want to? You’re not likely to make a lot of money, because why would people buy your product over a blogging “guru’s” book – a book that will have you making five figures from your blog in just five months.
You should do it – I think – for the sheer enjoying of teaching someone else about something you love, something you’re knowledgable about, and something they can use to bring enjoyment into their lives.
We’re all human, we all make mistakes. We all get so caught up in wondering if we could do something, we don’t stop to think if we should. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile now, but haven’t articulated it until today. I’m writing a new ebook on Freelance Writing, and I’ve been struggling with balancing my experience on the topic with preconceived notions of what makes an ebook sell.
I am not a full-time freelance writer, and that is by choice. I work a job I love for a cause I believe in, and while I’m contemplating a shift to full-time freelancing – or at least severely reduced hours at my braille job – it’s by no means decided.
However, despite not being full-time, my business is extremely successful. Every year I’ve increased my profits by at least 50%, and I now command a decent freelance rate. I have created a lifestyle I enjoy, and my husband and I live comfortably – both financially and emotionally.
I can’t sell an ebook helping people move to full-time freelancing, because I’m not one myself. I can, however, show people how to write about topics they love for magazines they read. Seeing your name in print and being recognized as an expert on a topic can be a remarkable thing, and it can also be beneficial for your business (even if you’re not a writer) – and I want people to experience that. So I’m finishing my ebook, but it won’t help you quit your day job.
None of my products or services can help you quit your day job. However, I can help you create a website people love reading, a book blurb that hooks readers, a press release that’s spiffy, a blog that makes you and your readers happy, and I can help you come up with creative marketing ideas and push forward with your projects. What you choose to do with all that is completely up to you, and I think it’s so much better that way.
You will notice a few changes on Grymm & Epic – a few tweaks to the wording on some of the pages, small changes to the newsletter, etc. I have to make sure every word I write reflects my beliefs on this in a coherent way.
Unicorns are awesome, but Cthulhu is better.
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