Here is a plan to help you create a business that expresses your soul -- and allows you to have a semi-retirement lifestyle.
What’s possible with this plan:
It depends totally on your quantity and quality of focus, and your speed of implementation. This is why I consider joyful productivity to be the foundation for authentic business growth and sustainability.
10 years allows a spacious and realistic way for most solopreneurs to realize this dream, by developing good habits bit by bit.
If you currently have a full-time job, or if you are busy caring for young children or aging parents, the first 2 years of the plan may take you longer, as you get used to creating healthy boundaries between your business and life.
As you read this post, I encourage you to see yourself taking these actions.
Do you come across any part of the plan that makes you think: "This couldn't work for me because of __________"?
If so, comment below this video. I’ll be happy to reply.
Year 1: Authentic Content Marketing
To begin, focus your efforts on building an audience of kindred spirits, people who naturally resonate with your real voice and style:
In the first two years, I also recommend working sincerely on your joyful productivity habits. This is foundational. It allows you to work with efficiency, calm focus, and a healthy balance of work, rest, and family time.
Year 2: One-to-One Services
While continuing your rhythm of authentic content marketing, now also make yourself available to your audience for 1–1 services, such as coaching, counseling, consulting, healing, mentoring, or being a freelancer.
Providing services is the quickest way to start creating a meaningful income. And, it's the best way for you to learn what really works, and what types of people you love to help through your services.
Consider the tapering strategy for getting your first clients.
If you are in no rush to build an income, and prefer to sell something more passive (that takes less of your time) then skip down to the actions in Year 4 (online course) or Year 3 (group program), then come back to offering 1-1 when you have more time to spend in your business.
Tips for 1-1:
Year 3: Group Program (maybe also a Book)
By this point, you’ll have created at least a part-time income. You might be able to quit your job, or now switch to a part-time position. If you’re a caretaker, you can now hire some help for your children or aging parents, and allow you to spend more time on your business.
In this year, while you continue your content rhythm, and your 1-1 client work, you’ll also now create a group offering that’s based on the topics of your 1–1 services.
Combining your 1-1 services with a Group Program helps you to achieve a full-time income.
A group program is a wonderful alternative to offer the people that you can’t fit into your 1-1 schedule, or, who aren’t ready to spend that kind of money with you yet. You can also offer it to your 1-1 clients who are completing their package, and are ready to move into a maintenance-mode in their work with you.
However, enrolling enough clients into a group is only possible after you've gotten traction with your marketing, which is why I recommend this for Year 3.
You might offer a group coaching program where you facilitate a call every week, along with an ongoing private Facebook group to facilitate mutual support among members, and for you to answer questions.
To see an example of how I structure this, check out the description page for my MasterHeart Business Program.
Once your group program is formed, you might want to reduce your 1–1 client load, so that you have more time for the group program.
At this point, you’ve created a lot of content, so you might also want to put together your first book… it doesn't have to be complicated! You can simply collect your existing writings into one long document. Then, organize it so there's some kind of flow, and then fill in any missing gaps. This is how I’ve been able to write 4 books!
I simply organized my best posts — that I’ve already written — into themes, and then organize them into books, and self-publish using Amazon's KDP service.
If you’d like a comprehensive plan for creating and marketing your books, take my online course: Simple Self-Publishing.
Now that you’ve been engaging with your fans for a few years, notice who shares your content, and who signs up for your services and programs. You are starting to understand who your true fans are.
Going forward, focus on making your content and offerings for your true fans -- write and speak with them in your mind and heart -- and more of them will find you!
Year 4: Online Courses
During this year, get up and running with your own online courses, which will be the foundation of your semi-retirement.
A few tips:
For years, you’ve learned deeply and widely in your field — by creating content, doing 1–1 services, and offering group programs. You have case studies that demonstrate that your modality, or process, and framework indeed works for your ideal clients.
This is why I put Online Courses into Year 4. Having the abundant experience of serving clients and seeing what works (and doesn't work) allows your online courses to be more impactful and credible. (If however you find it easier to teach instead of providing 1-1 services, perhaps due to your schedule, then it’s ok to move your course creation up to Year 2.)
What I'm referring to here is creating low-priced ($25 - $150) do-it-yourself online courses so that people can benefit from your experience and personality, without you having to be there.
One of the common blocks I hear: "I feel that I need to be there for the students in order for them to really benefit."
If you're struggling with that, consider these questions:
A low-priced, DIY online course is similar to these: It's a video series (sometimes, just audios!) that includes some written content. Students should be able to submit questions to you, but you don't have to be there immediately. It's perfectly acceptable to take a few days to respond to them. They'll be grateful for your personal response.
As we'll see later, you can eventually delegate these responses as well, as you grow a team, so that you can semi-retire.
To go deep and learn my methods, check out my online course for how to create/market your own courses.
You’ll now have several streams of income:
Reminder: As you read this post, are you coming across any internal blocks or concerns that this “couldn't work” for you? Let me know by commenting below the video. I'd be happy to hear from you.
Year 5: Scaling with Ads & Automation
(Some might say that this is where it “really” becomes a business, because your income has gotten to be much more stable and autopilot.)
Now that you have online courses, you can use Facebook/Google Ads to reach tens of thousands of additional ideal audience members.
To learn my complete strategy for doing so, study my Facebook Ads Course.
You’ll also benefit from starting to use software such as Zapier to automate recurring tasks in your business. I do this with many of the tasks, so that I can stay as a solopreneur instead of having a team, yet be able to deliver more than 15 evergreen courses ongoingly.
It’s not just “making more money” but making truly good money — from a deep sense of service to one’s ideal audience, having the income emerge from a direct connection to one’s meaningful work.
Year 6: Training Mentees
Even though I’ve been in business since 2009, and full-time income since 2010, I decided to “start over” in 2015 with an authentic and sustainable model as a self-employed person. I’m glad I did.
This 10-year plan has been forming since then. I’m currently working on the “Year 6” actions of training mentees.
When you get to this point, you’ll have hundreds (or thousands) of people taking your online courses. You’ll start getting many requests for working with you 1–1 that you are unable to accommodate. Your group program might even be full at this point (as mine has been for more than a year.)
This is where it’s important to have mentees to take over some (or all) of your 1–1 services, and/or to help you facilitate your group program so that it can expand:
Also, by this point, you may have a large enough audience such that you could create in-person gatherings (workshops / retreats / conferences / cruises) and be able to recruit enough people from your audience to make such events worthwhile. Many people try to do this too early on, and find it very difficult to fill their events.
Year 7: Hiring Your Assistant
By this point you have:
With more than enough income at this point to meet your needs, it’s time to focus on hiring and training an assistant to take over the administrative tasks, so that you can free up more time to do your highest-level work.
Important -- Before you hire, I would recommend spending a year focusing on how you can automate more of your tasks. This is currently my focus. I do most of my automation with Zapier.
If you’ve already hired by this point, this year’s focus is to create a more optimal working relationship with your assistant(s) so that it creates more time freedom for you. In fact, you might encourage your assistant to use automation software more skillfully, so that they can do the human tasks for you that bots don’t do well.
One of the best places to recruit a great assistant is your own audience of true fans. They know your work, and they love your style. There are undoubtedly some in your audience who would love to work for you.
Year 8: Larger Joint Ventures
Now that you have a sizable audience from all your efforts of consistent content over the years, and the scaling of your courses with ads, you can now collaborate with the bigger players in your industry, if you wish to.
Or, if you prefer to stay at a small scale, just skip forward to the following year’s focus: Systems Documentation.
To scale your reach, consider creating telesummits (virtual conferences), co-created courses, and cross-promotions of courses or products.
Perhaps you'll also want to co-facilitate (and do joint marketing for) in-person gatherings.
Such cross-pollination can grow the creativity of your business, and scale your reach to more ideal audiences compared to only using ads.
Your assistant can help you track these JV's (joint ventures) and all the logistics involved.
When you get to this scale, and have any questions, reach out to me. I’ve already done many JV’s (joint ventures) even before I started this 10-year plan. I’ve learned what kind of partners are best to seek, and how to do these partnerships simply and effectively.
You can get a shortcut to my learnings about JV by taking my course: Authentic Joint Ventures and Simple Collabs.
Year 9: Systems Documentation
You’re getting ready for semi-retirement.
This is the year to focus on making sure that just about everything done by your assistant(s) is documented in an organized and easy-to-consume way.
Your assistant(s) can create the training videos, written guides, and FAQ’s, so that if they need to move onto other jobs (which will inevitably happen!), your future team members can get up and running quickly, thanks to the step-by-step documentation that’s now available.
Year 10: Kaizen Forever
Congratulations — you have reached the freedom of semi-retirement!
Why “semi” instead of “full” retirement?
Mahatma Gandhi said that the dream of “wealth without work” is one of the ills of society. I don’t believe that full passive income has true integrity. There are still so many people struggling in the world that your business can help even more effectively, that it’s your opportunity (perhaps, responsibility) to continually innovate and improve your services and products.
Plus, it’s better for your physical and mental well-being to keep working, in the spirit of true service to your clients, customers, mentees, and your calling.
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “continuous improvement”.
I call it Kaizen Forever because your business can always be improved in its effectiveness of serving its customers, and always deepening the fulfillment of your mission.
If you have questions or concerns about any part of this 10-year plan, feel free to ask me by commenting below the video. I'd be happy to hear from you.
I encourage you to bookmark this page and set yourself a reminder to return every year and check-in on how your progress is going.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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