Kevin Kelly, who wrote one of the best books I have ever read, also wrote an influential article for bloggers and artists called “1000 True Fans.” It said a lot of things, but the one that resonated most for me: if you can cultivate 1000 true fans, they’ll spend $100 dollars on your art every year, grossing you 100K in personal income. You’ll be able to spend your time creating your art. “You make a living instead of a fortune.”
That’s what I call a damn good start.
Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, being a small business entrepreneur is often about being creative. You need to produce stuff that others find valuable.
There is a passage that Kevin doesn’t linger on, but is important for entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to think about their businesses this way:
“As your True Fans connect with each other, they will more readily increase their average spending on your works…”
This is especially true for customers who are buying your stuff to solve problems. A group of customers focused on solving the same sorts of problems could be helping each other save time, make more money, and build better businesses.
A community of people focused on solving the same sorts of problems is a product in itself.
True customer = someone who pays $1 a day for your products and services. 100 true customers = $3,000 monthly income.
When you find 100 people to sign up, you’ll make around $36,500 annually.
Since your true customers are subscribers, you’ll deal with less turnover. The pressure to produce new works of art, or intensive programatic products will drop dramatically. Instead, you’ll continually serve your community members. That type of work will naturally lead to higher value product offerings.
Instead of developing an ebook on copywriting, or doing an 8 week course on ‘how to improve your sales pages,” you’ll want to use ‘static’ products as incentives to join a private community. In some cases, this will mean taking less money up front in order to get subscribers.
A reliable cash flow and interaction with customers is exactly the type of foundation– cash, market insight, and relationships– that builds great businesses. You’ll be in a great position to launch higher value products and services. You’ll be free of the “launch” mentality that a lot of information marketers find themselves in.
If you want to find 100 true customers and make a living from them, you won’t just be building products, delivering services, or doing freelancing. Instead, you’ll be building a platform that delivers all three. Instead of saying you are “writing ebooks,” or “doing copywriting consulting,” or “doing freelance writing,” you are “building a platform that helps entrepreneurs skyrocket conversions on their money pages.”
Here’s some a basic framework for thinking about your products and services as a subscription, capable of developing “100 true customers”:
- Start a community focused on the core problems that your products and services solve. For the example of the copywriter… what is the most compelling reason people need your services? Do they need content for SEO? Do they need to improve their conversation rates on their sales pages? Let’s say that’s the case… you are going to start a community around the idea of creating super high converting sales pages.
- It costs $1 a day to join your community. Pay to play. No big deal though, because you are an amazing copywriter, and the free tips that people will pick up inside of your community will more than pay for the $1 a day thing. Plus, your sales page will be awesome.
- Give your “static” products to your members for free. Classic info products like eBooks should be given 100% free to your members, and used as a sales funnel in to your group. Essentially, your private group services as the operational backend– customer support, service, etc.
- Ning is $30 bucks a month. Launch your products from inside of a community, either something you pull together on a WordPress platform, or within Ning’s wonderful social networking environment. Don’t waste your time on features until you get 100 customers.
- Seed the community with former and current customers. If people have supported you so far, perhaps they are willing to be charter members of your new group. I’m sure they’ll show up just to see the resource lists you are pulling together.
- Offer up-front incentives for joining the community. For example, access to all of your sales page templates. This doesn’t need to be a big thing, we are only talking about a dollar a day here. Perhaps you can start with 1 or 2 that work for you, and offer them up front. Totally worth it! If you can, get on the phone with every new member or prospect. This is the best way to figure out what your higher dollar ad ons will be.
- Build out high-dollar premium products for the group. Need somebody to create video intros for your sales videos? I’ve vetted somebody and got you a discount. Need a WordPress framework? Here’s our recommended plus a tutorial with support. Need to hire somebody to write one outright for you? I’ve got my flat rate posted right here. And so on. People who make money off of a fleet of sales pages would likely be willing to pay just to have the best paid services reviewed and clearly presented by people who’ve taken the time to ensure they are the best products and services on the market.
- Focus on passive value and saving people time. If I sign up for your sales letter community, I probably want to spend less time on my sales letters. It’s important to keep that in mind because platforms like Ning and Forums encourage interaction, which can be time consuming. Ways to cultivate passive value would be to send out weekly newsletters that say stuff like, hey I’ve got phone time all next Friday, just Tungle me and I’ll shake down your website. Or perhaps you host monthly Webinars. Maybe you offer free tutorials on the best new software offerings every 3 weeks. Maybe you’ve developed a new buy-now button and you send that out to everyone to put up on their sites.
- Have a mission. Why is it that your community exists? What are you trying to improve? What am I buying in to when I join?
Whatchu think? Got any questions about how this sort of thing could get done? I think this approach to online business has tons of potential.
PS, if you want to get on my private mailing list just put your email address in to the form below: