If you would love a business that expresses your soul -- and allows you to create a semi-retirement lifestyle -- consider this plan.
What’s possible with this plan:
Although this is called a 10 Year Plan, you might be able to speed everything up, depending on how effectively and quickly you can implement this...
If you were able to speed things up by 4x, you could then:
It depends on your quantity and quality of focus, and your speed of implementation.
However, 10 years allows a more spacious and realistic way for most solopreneurs to realize this dream.
You can do this even if you currently have a full-time job, 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 resonate with 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.
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 truly 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 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, 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.
Combining your 1-1 services with a Group Program helps you to achieve a full-time income.
A group offering is a wonderful alternative for those whom you cannot fit into your 1-1 services or aren’t ready to spend that much yet. You can also offer it to your 1-1 clients who are completing, and are ready to move into more of a maintenance-mode in their work with you.
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. (If you have tried and aren’t getting traction with group enrollments at all, you may want to skip to Year 4 first -- creating online courses.)
You might offer a group coaching program where you facilitate a call every week within the group, 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 my group coaching 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 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 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, 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. Yes, you could make money faster by creating courses, but without the experience of actually serving clients and seeing what works and doesn't work, your online course won't be as impactful or credible. (However, if you find it much easier to teach than to provide 1-1 services, whether due to your skills or time, then it’s ok to move your course creation up to Year 2.)
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, consider 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.
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 by commenting here. I'd love to hear from 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 2015 with a more authentic business model. I’m glad I did.
This 10-year plan has been forming 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 at least $140 in revenue, which means my return on investment is at least 40%, and sometimes up to 300%!
I am in process of learning how to scale this so that it has the potential to replace my 1-1 and group income, and free up additional time.
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
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/or 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 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.
(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 creates more freedom from 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 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 your ads can reach.
Your assistant can help you track these JV's (joint ventures) and all the logistics involved.
When you get to this point and have any questions, let me know. I’ve already done many JV’s (joint ventures) even before I started this 10-year plan. I’ve learned what kind of partner are best to seek, and how to do these partnerships simply and effectively.
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, due to the step-by-step documentation.
Year 10: Kaizen Forever
Congratulations — you have reached the freedom of semi-retirement!
Why “semi” instead of “full” retirement?
One of my heroes, 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 responsibility and opportunity to continually innovate.
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 here.
I encourage you to bookmark this page and set yourself a reminder to return every 6-12 months and check-in on how your progress is going. Also, I'll be updating this post once a year.
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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