If you would love a business that expresses your soul, a business that feels like you are fulfilling your Calling or Mission, then consider this plan.
It’s the same plan I’m following to build my authentic business:
Also, depending on various factors, it doesn’t have to take 10 years...
You might be able to speed everything up, maybe as much as 4x:
It depends on your quantity and quality of focus, and your speed of implementation.
10 years, however, allows a spacious and realistic way for most solopreneurs to realize this dream.
You can do this even if you currently have a full-time income, or if you are busy caring for young children or aging parents.
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, let me know by commenting here and sharing your concerns. I'll be happy to reply there.
Year 1: Authentic Content Marketing
To begin, focus your efforts on building an audience of kindred spirits, people who naturally love your authentic content and style:
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.
Because 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 you really believe about your area of expertise.
If you are in no rush to build an income, and you prefer to sell something that is more passive/takes less of your time, you may want to start with the actions in Year 4 (online course) or Year 3 (group program), then come back to offering 1-1.
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, which means you may be able to quit your job or 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 client work, now also create a group offering, based on your 1–1 services.
Why? Because a group offering is the quickest way to a full-time income. And it's also a helpful offering for those whom you cannot fit into your 1-1 services. However, enrolling enough clients into a group is only possible after you've gotten enough traction with your marketing, which is why I recommend this for Year 3.
For example, you can offer a group coaching program where you facilitate a group call every week with a limited number of clients, along with an ongoing private Facebook group for them to support each other, and for you to answer questions.
To see an example of how I structure this, check out my group coaching program, and the orientation page.
A group program is great for your 1–1 clients who enjoy your work but are ready to move into a lesser investment way of working with you.
It’s also great for your audience members who aren’t yet ready for your 1–1 work.
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 lots of content, so you might also want to put together your first book?
It doesn't have to be complicated. You can collect your existing content into one place. Organize it so there's some kind of flow, and then fill in any missing gaps. This is how I’ve been able to — within the past 12 months — write two books:
I simply organized my best posts — that I’ve already written — into themes, and published them as books, using Amazon's self-publishing service.
Now that you’ve been engaging with your fans for a few years, notice who shares your content forward, 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, 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.
I provide an online course about how to create/market your own courses.
Some brief 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 / process / framework indeed works for your ideal clients.
This is why I put Online Courses into Year 4, instead of Year 1. Yes, you could make money faster by creating courses, but without the experience of actually serving clients, especially in a group, and seeing what works and doesn't work, your online course won't be as impactful or credible.
If you have been following this plan you now have experiential knowledge and case studies that you can put into your online courses. This allows you to help many more people, and create much more income and schedule flexibility for you.
What I'm referring to here is creating low-priced ($20-$100) 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, I invite you to answer these questions:
A low-priced, DIY online course is similar to these: It's a video series (or maybe 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.
And, as we'll see later, you can eventually delegate these responses as well, as you grow a team, so that you can semi-retire.
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 what they are by commenting here. I'd love to respond to you.
Year 5: Scaling with Ads & Automation
Some might say that this is where it “really” becomes a business.
Now that you have online courses (and maybe books), you can use Facebook Ads and Google Adwords to reach thousands (perhaps millions) of additional ideal audience members.
I myself am in “year 5” right now.
Even though I’ve been in business since 2009, and full-time income since 2010, I decided to “start over” in 2014 with a much more authentic business model. I’m glad I did.
This 10-year plan has been forming in my mind since then, and now I am taking the “year 5” action of scaling with ads and automation.
Currently, for every $100 I spend in Facebook Ads promoting my courses, I receive $200–400 of revenue, which means my return on investment is 100–300% in marketing my online courses. I am in process of learning how to scale this so that it can become a true vehicle for retirement savings. The returns would be far better than typical investment funds, and deeply meaningful too: people are directly benefitting from my knowledge and work.
I’m working on creating a replicable, reliable process of investing money in one’s own paid ads, to receive an excellent financial return on one’s own courses, so that it could truly be the best financial investment one could make.
It’s not just “making lots of money” but making truly good money — which arises 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
By this point, with hundreds (or thousands) of people taking your online courses, you’ll start getting a lot more requests for working with you 1–1 services or joining your group program, but you will only be able to serve a fraction of these potential clients.
This is where it’s important to have mentees to take over some (or all) of your 1–1 services, and to help you facilitate your group programs.
Since you’ve now been serving clients 1–1 and in groups for years, you’ve had perhaps hundreds of clients by this point. Here's what to focus on in Year 6:
Also, by this point, you will 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 soon 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.
(You may already have hired by this point, but this year’s focus is to create a working relationship with your assistant or team that really allows you freedom from the admin tasks.)
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 sizeable 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.
You might create telesummits, co-created content or courses, cross-promotions of courses or products, etc.
Perhaps you'll also want to co-facilitate (and do joint marketing for) in-person gatherings.
Such cross-pollination will grow the creativity of your business, and scale your reach to more ideal audiences than only ads can reach.
Your assistant can help you track these JV's (joint ventures) and all the logistics involved.
If you have any questions, let me know. I did many JV’s (joint ventures) before starting to follow this 10-year plan. I learned a lot about what kind of partner to seek, and how to do these partnerships simply and effectively.
Year 9: Systems Documentation
You’re getting ready for the freedom of 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, a new assistant can get up and running quickly, thanks to the step-by-step documentation.
Year 10: Kaizen Forever
Congratulations — you have reached the freedom of semi-retirement!
Why do I say “semi” instead of “full” retirement?
I believe, as 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 integrity. There are still so many people struggling, that your business can continually innovate and help more effectively.
Also, 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 here.
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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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