There are many websites you could be visiting and many blogs you could be reading. So why spend your time here, on ActiveGrowth, instead of out there, where hypey content, distraction and funny cat gifs beckon?
There are 3 good reasons to be here. ActiveGrowth stands for 3 things, above all else. There are 3 things that, in my entrepreneurial journey so far, have given me an unfair advantage over my competition.
This post is about those 3 things.
Watch the video at the top of the post to get the main content. Below is a summary of the points, for reference and for those who prefer reading over watching.
Principle 1: If You Wanna Make Money, You Gotta Sell Something
In online business, perhaps more than anywhere else, the most alluring promise is “quick and easy”. We see an endless parade of books, products and marketing fads that promise a new shortcut to quick and easy results.
Building a business sounds complicated and really, why bother with all that? Isn’t it much more appealing to use [latest automation software thingy] to auto-post scraped content to [latest social media fad] all day and make money on autopilot?
Why bother with product creation, software development, bug fixes, customer support and all this complexity that real businesses have to deal with? Why bother, when you can just create a bunch of simple niche sites and earn money from AdSense clicks?
You get the idea: there’s no limit to business models that try to avoid or shortcut past all this “real business” stuff. And they’re alluring.
They’re also, for the most part, doomed to fail.
On ActiveGrowth, the first principle is a simple creed that will help you circumvent all this nonsense: the foundation of a real business is a product. The way to make an online business work is to create something people want and/or need and then sell it to them, directly.
I call this a value based business.
The antidote to get-rich-quick nonsense: create a valuable product and sell it directly to people.
The Many Faces of a “Product”
When I talk about “products” or “offers”, that can mean many things. For example:
- A digital product like an ebook.
- An information product like an online course.
- A membership or subscription service.
- Software or SaaS (software as a service).
- A service based business like a web design service.
- A coaching business.
What all these products have in common is that they are uniquely created by you and you sell them directly to your customers.
This is the crucial point. You’re not earning a bit of a kick-back from ad clicks, you’re not promoting other people’s products as an affiliate, you’re not tied up in a multi-level-marketing scheme and trying to recruit more sellers… you’re simply selling something useful to people who want it.
Screw Passive Income
One of the problems with a value based business is that it doesn’t sound much like passive income. And everybody loves the idea of passive income!
You know what? Screw passive income.
First of all, look at Pat Flynn (SmartPassiveIncome) and Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Work Week). These two guys are the icons of passive income. The very embodiments of the concept. And guess what: they both work their asses off, every day.
If that’s the reality for them, what are your chances?
On a more serious note: the real problem lies in the pursuit of passive income. If the only way you’re motivated to work is because of a promise of passive income in the future, you’re not going to make it.
When you work on your own product and with your own customers, it’s easy to find enjoyment and fulfillment in your work. You’re creating something of your own and something that has meaning to your customers. Customers you’re in direct contact with.
Working on something you care about helps you get through the inevitable hard times. It helps you get through those times when there’s lots of work, but no money yet.
If money is your only motivation, you’ll not last very long through those “no money” periods.
What it comes down to is this: the pursuit of passive income doesn’t work. For most people, it just leads to being passively broke.
The pursuit of passive income (and shortcuts to it) will lead you to being passively broke.
Principle 2: Your Personal Skills & Character Define Your Business
Building a business out of thin air is difficult, creative work. It’s an extraordinarily challenging task and to conquer it, you must become an extraordinary person.
You have to develop your own skills, mindset and character to the point where you have:
- more initiative
- a stronger drive
- better work ethic
- a more strategic and long term way of thinking
- more grit/willpower/stubbornness
- and better communication and leadership skills…
…than is ever expected of anyone in an “ordinary” employee role. That is what I mean when I say you need to become an extraordinary person.
In an employee role, you may be highly skilled and motivated, but as an entrepreneur you need a whole set of skills and character traits on top of what an excellent employee would have. Most people don’t have this and most people don’t do this.
The point here is that you cannot disconnect your character and skills from the success or failure of your business. You can’t be lazy and scatterbrained and build a company that’s highly effective and focused.
You can’t be lazy and scatterbrained and build a company that’s highly effective and focused.
Skills & Mindset
On ActiveGrowth, we don’t just post about the latest tricks, tools and marketing tactics. We also post about how to be more productive, how to think strategically and how to communicate with and manage a startup team.
More importantly, I it as part of the purpose of this site, to provide you with strategies that will help you become an entrepreneurial badass. Marketing and business know-how are not enough. Habits, skills and mindset are just as important.
Also consider this: your skills and mindset are an asset no one can take away from you. Business models change, opportunities come and go, but if you are excellent at learning new skills and you have the right work ethic and mindset, you’ll always do well.
Principle 3: Own Your Platform, Own Your Brand
This is one principle that manifests in two ways. To explain what owning your platform means, let me first illustrate the opposite:
If you’re a YouTuber, you don’t own your platform. You may be very successful on YouTube and make a lot of money from their ad-revenue sharing program, but you’ll always be dependent on YouTube. If they make a change that causes you to lose revenue, you can’t do anything about it. If they suddenly close your account without warning (happens more often than you’d think), you can’t do anything about it. You just lost your business from one moment to the next, and all you can do is complain and be upset.
If you understand why 3rd party platforms are inherently unstable, check out this post: Instagram Created a Monster
Owning your platform is the opposite of that. It’s when you host your own content, in a way no one else can interfere with. It’s making sure that you set up your business in such a way that it’s never dependent on one single 3rd party that you have no control over.
Of course, you’ll still use 3rd party tools. But you protect what you own. You can use YouTube to host your videos, but don’t send visitors to the YouTube video, send them to your own website, where you embed the video. Don’t try to grow your YouTube subscriber base, grow your own mailing list, instead.
From this follows the concept of owning your brand. The opposite of this would be something I did quite a lot in the past: I used to build small niche sites and monetize them with AdSense or affiliate links. I’d get traffic to them (sometimes a lot of traffic) via SEO. These sites made good money, but they were faceless middle-men to my visitors. A visitor would click through from a search result, spend only a brief time on my site and then (ideally) click on an ad or affiliate link.
No one ever remembered my site. And I had almost zero return traffic. When Google changed its algorithm to remove sites like mine from the results, my earnings from these sites dropped to zero and I had nothing to show for my work.
If you build a brand that people will recognize and come back to, you are no longer vulnerable like this. Even if you get banned from YouTube or lose your search traffic, you’ll have an audience of fans and people will find other ways back to your site.
As Kevin Kelly postulates in his legendary post about 1,000 True Fans, owning your brand doesn’t mean that you have to compete with Coca Cola or become a world-renowned superstar. What matters is that you connect with real people, not just anonymous traffic that passes by your site for brief moments.
Create and own your brand. Don’t be a slave to platforms you can’t control.
The Craft, The Brains, The Tech & You
In summary, the 3 principles are:
- The Craft: creating good products that people want to buy from you.
- The Brains: developing the skills and mindset that make you a highly effective entrepreneur.
- The Tech: using the right tools to build and grow your own platform.
This is what I believe to be the most effective, lowest risk and fastest approach to building a real, sustainable online business, created for long term growth.
It’s what I have focused on in my own development as an entrepreneur and I attribute my success to following these principles. If you want to learn more about this and you agree that this is the way to build a business, you’re in the right place, here on ActiveGrowth.