How often do you see Facebook ads touting a “6-figure course” or promising to teach you how to scale to 7-figures from scratch? If your newsfeed is anything like mine, probably today – and all the time.
One of the biggest myths I’ve found in online business is that anyone can build a program or product with no audience, launch to 6-figures on their first try in a matter of weeks, and then immediately start scaling to 7-figures.
And, yes, it is possible.
It’s been done before and will likely happen again. But, so often huge parts of the process get overlooked. If you want to do any of these things without an existing audience, it’s going to cost a ton of money to do it quickly. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. And, it will likely require access to a variety of other people’s audiences based on existing connections.
The average online business owner doesn’t have this kind of capital lying around, nor do they have the existing connections. That’s why I find this myth so harmful.
Yes, harmful. AND: dangerous. Wonder why?
- It sets business owners up to fail by selling them an impossible path they can’t replicate as directed. If you only can follow half the steps–because you don’t have the required capital, connections, audience, etc,– then you’re already at a disadvantage before your even start.
- This leads to so much self hate and loathing that many business owners give up altogether before realizing there’s other, more realistic paths to take.
- Perhaps the most problematic scenario in my opinion, is that should the path somehow work, you’re generally not creating a sustainable, repeatable process, nor a foundation for long term success. So often, when all the stars align for this to happen quickly, it’s due to factors the owner can’t control. So, they’re left with a house of cards that may or may not topple at a moments notice.
Because whether this is built on a target-rich ad strategy that cost pennies when there’s no competition, or an affiliate network that produces amazing results, there’s no guarantee those conditions will happen again. Going viral during a launch could lead to dramatic sales, but isn’t a long term tactic one can count on.
Plus, we hear about the $2 million launch but the details of $1 million in affiliate commissions due, $500,000 in ad spend, and additional production costs are not mentioned. Oh, and don’t forget about team costs and recurring expenses to deliver the product or course – those are definitely not covered.
I don’t say all this to deflate you. I say it because I want to share with you a better way, a more realistic way, to build a sustainable business that will serve you and your family for years to come.
So, let’s talk about a more realistic and repeatable way to build a sustainable business without a crazy initial outlay of capital or network.
7 Steps to Sustainable Revenue
If you’re starting an online business from scratch and need to start generating revenue quickly and without a ton of overhead, start with services. Identify a problem in the marketplace you can solve, and focus on getting clients who need that.
Delivering services is generally more profitable compared to the overhead required. I started delivering services with about $50/mo in overhead and was able to pretty quickly reach 5-figure months with less than $250/mo in expenses. As I scaled my revenue, my expenses increased but by focusing on services, it is much more cost effective than building a huge apparatus to deliver relatively low cost products.
I’ve seen this work time and again with clients and colleagues in a variety of niches.
Build a Signature Service
Once you have a solid service business you know is viable, start focusing on creating a signature service. This is one where you deliver the same process, same basic outcome over and over again. This allows you to stop customizing and start systematizing your offerings. Creating a signature service can be done in any industry and is an essential step in eventually having a product or course. For help on creating your own signature service, check out Yay For Clients from Courtney Johnston. This program is amazing, effective and a crazy value for what you get.
Next up, create a productized service. This is where you focus on automating parts of your signature process to make them scalable. This can look like automated onboarding, recorded trainings to accompany your in-person work, or template deliverables to cut your personal input down. This allows you to serve more people at once and outsource some of the process to a team. Both of these are how you scale your revenue at this stage. For more on this, check out this post.
Transition to Leveraged Offerings
After you have successfully productized your service, you’ll have a lot of pieces to make your course, product, or leveraged group program. Consider starting the process with a beta offer so you can validate your content works in a different format.
Regardless of how you do it, the first iteration should be a minimum viable version intended to test your concept as a stand-alone offering. The goal here is not to make it perfect and not to spend a lot of time or money tweaking it. Instead, focus on shipping it to market so you can start getting data and feedback.
Ideally, as you work through the first three steps – service, signature service, productized service – you are also working on audience building. A service-based business typically doesn’t need the same size audience to support a product or course but if you start the process early, you’ll help book out your services and lay the foundation for a larger audience.
This will help shorten the transition between productized services and courses when you’re ready to stop all types of services. For many, this will be a gradual process where over time your revenue percentages switch from predominantly services to predominantly products/courses or programs.
As this is happening, you’ll want to focus on running your offer live multiple times. This allows you to build out your offer and truly serve your ideal clients. It also gives you time to continue building your audience of ideal customers who need your solution.
Automate and Scale
When you have a solid offer that converts well, consistently, you can start working towards automating and evergreening your sales process. As you do this, you’ll find scaling is that next step. Once you have reliable data on your customer acquisition costs, you can really start to ramp up your paid advertising to bring in more leads! Then, you can focus on incremental growth of your customers in a way that allows you to continue to deliver a superior and impactful offer.
These seven steps are going to take time but they don’t have to take years. They’re also going to require resources but you can strategically control how much you spend to ensure the business can still sustain you (and your time, if applicable) in the process.
It is entirely possible to build your online business to multiple 6-figures and even 7-figures. But, you have to focus on creating a sustainable streams of revenue and a business that has longevity if you want it to last long-term. This focus also has the added bonus of not requiring huge influxes of cash right off the bat and hopefully not the loss of your sanity or health either!