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EXECUTION What next?

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Robin Andrews

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Jun 16, 2019
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I'm in a bit of a "creative void" regarding my business at the moment, and am reflecting on how I got here and what to do next.

About two years ago I made the decision to seriously attempt to create a successful business which could eventually support me with passive income.

Prior to that, I have primarily been a tutor for maths and computing. While much of my income comes from tutoring, I wanted to get myself out of the equation as much as possible so I did a lot of reading (Millionaire Fastlane, Built to Sell, Rich Dad Poor Dad and lots more), and took on board a lot of the lessons in these books. As a result, I have so far achieved:

- A blog with going on 150 posts, with about 5k monthly users and AdSense revenue of about $15/month. My mailing list is about 350 people. Python Programming and Computer Science Blog - Compucademy
- Four video courses on LinkedIn Learning, one of which has started paying royalties. The others may or may not, depending on sales
- My tutoring is doing OK and my rate is quite good, but I want to move away from this, or at least not have it as my primary income source
- I've tried things like affiliate links with book reviews etc., but no success. Mostly I think because I don't have the traffic.

It's hard to pinpoint my exact specialism as I have such a broad experience, but one attempt would be

> A highly experienced computer programming educator with a flair for making the subject accessible and engaging.

Looking forward, I'm not feeling very optimistic about my revenue potential. For example, writing blog posts is very time consuming, with little immediate ROI. The same seems to apply to eBooks, course creation etc.

With a mailing list of just 350 people, it's unlikely that any product I create will be profitable. I know growing my list is crucial, but I have invested a lot of effort into doing this, including creating a free email course as a lead magnet, which has helped slightly, but growth is still painfully slow.

Some ideas which are ratting around my brain are:

- write a book/eBook
- make courses for Udemy
- Get a proper job as my list needs more time to grow and it seems very hard to make money without one
- give up and try something completely different as I have given this a really good shot
- take a break and celebrate my modest accomplishments so far

So, the (hopefully) million dollar question is -

> What should I do next?

Any advice much appreciated.
 

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TheKingOfMadrid

Bronze Contributor
Speedway Pass
Dec 14, 2020
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I will be super super unpopular here and suggest you get a 'real job' and leverage your current experience to dictate a nice amount of hours + pay. Once you have a big stable revenue stream coming in you can make so many more investment moves - crypto, de-fi, engraving, 3d models etc etc etc.

To be brutally honest you're stuck where millions upon millions of people are. You don't have super specialist experience or knowledge and so you've found yourself in the lie of 'hustle culture' where writing blogs or making an e-book is supposed to be your way out and in reality for most people it's a time sink for very very little ROI. All of these spaces are now absolutely capped out with people vying for the minimal margins that are left. Again, it's not that you can't make it - but can you really afford it if you don't?

Next you'll probably make the logical connection to separate from time and start agencies or build an app - both ideas that were great 5-10 years ago but again now require so much investment for the limited-potential of return.

It's worth actually running the numbers on all of this as research is finally starting to catch up - do a google scholar search and run the numbers against people who spend their 20's and 30's in a real job vs the people that spent it in the 'wantrenpenuer/hustle culture' - see what you find, that could guide you better than opinion.

From my own biased perspective people who played the corporate game properly have ended up far better off than those who stayed away and now find it increasingly difficult to even get a regular job after years of barely making the bread line.

I find people coming to me in their 30s now with a string of barely viable business failures who have 0 valuable skills. Their economic value is even lower than unskilled labor which keeps them trapped into the cycle of going for home runs.

My general advice to people now is to always give business a go first - but if it doesn't work and you're not cut out for the freelance grind then go get some real job experience, confidence and money because then you can literally pay people to create stuff for you and profit exponentially faster.

That's not a 'give up message' more like a 'go earn some dough and recharge'.

Also I recommend the book 'so good they can't ignore you'.
 

MJ DeMarco

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From what you've written, I hear someone who has started their entrepreneurial journey based on "what could I do?" or "what do I know?" or "how can I make passive income?"- not based on any market needs, imperfections, or inefficiencies.

This is a recipe for failure.

Reminds me of this post I saw at Reddit...

Screen Shot 2021-04-26 at 4.28.57 PM.png
Ugh.

You don't start a business based on a business model.
You don't start a business based on a skill, a "know how" or a passion - you start a business to fill a void, and to do something better than the other guy. Sure, you can start with a skill and try to fit something within the marketplace, but many times its like jamming a square peg into a round hole.

Right now I hear a lot of surplus value being offered, and hence, you are lost in the crowd making $15/mo on Adsense.
 

Robin Andrews

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 16, 2019
42
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UK
Hi MJ,

I appreciate your candour.

I am a little confused though. It was a while ago that I read your book, but I seem to remember that you yourself leveraged existing domain knowledge about limousines when you started your business. That same goes for they guy in "build to sell" - he took his business and radically changed the model but remained in the same industry.

I've having a hard time accepting that my wealth of experience and knowledge around education and programming are unlikely to form the basis of my successful business.

I totally get what you are saying about meeting a need, filling a gap etc. Would you recommend trying to find such a gap within my existing field of knowledge, or do you think I need to start from scratch?

One further source of confusion is that I have taken a lot of advice from John Somnez (who is the guy who recommended your book to me in a YouTube video). His basic message is that you need to produce loads of free content to build an audience, and then when you have at least 2000 fans on a mailing list, you can start doing direct response marketing for any products you create. He claims that you need to blog for a couple of years to get any traction. So that is where a lot of what I've done so far has come from.

Do you have any further advice for me please?

There may well be niches I haven't thought of around programming and education. One that springs to mind is programming activities for bright kids who aren't being challenged enough by school programming teaching (which is pretty lame in the UK where I am). There is also a big lack of integration between maths teaching and programming, which are two subjects that naturally enhance each other. I'm doubtful that these niches are likely to be very profitable though. Maybe I'm wrong?

Is my attachment to using my exiting knowledge and experience a case of the sunk costs fallacy, or do you think there is there some way I can make this work?

Any further advice much appreciated....
 

Brrr

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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Jul 28, 2019
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There may well be niches I haven't thought of around programming and education. One that springs to mind is programming activities for bright kids who aren't being challenged enough by school programming teaching (which is pretty lame in the UK where I am). There is also a big lack of integration between maths teaching and programming, which are two subjects that naturally enhance each other. I'm doubtful that these niches are likely to be very profitable though. Maybe I'm wrong?
Hey I just thought I'd pop in to your thread, I think what people are trying to say is that you need to take as much time to evaluate what the market for what you are trying to sell is as you do just putting effort into just creating something without a clear idea of who is actually going to pay for it.

Hoping that the audience you build up is going to be monetisable vs just finding a group that actually wants to pay for what you have to offer is a path that leads you to have to front enormous amounts of effort without guarantee of ever making a penny.

For example, I instinctively think the idea I quoted is a great idea. There are loads of private schools in the UK and you could create content aimed at this demographic and then market it to the schools directly, they have the money, and having a "external professional tutoring material" is something they could market to get more students and get more money. The money chain is very clear from effort to money.

All you would have to do is create a few sample lessons (maybe 3x20 mins each), edit them nicely and then approach the school's IT department or head of curriculum. Thing is, I may be wrong, but the amount of effort it would take to find that out is half a days work of filming and a few afternoons of (virtual) door knocking. You get to validate your idea very quickly and they might suggest other things that they would pay for, that's how you find your market. Figure out what people actually want and what they are willing to get their checkbook out for.

Best of luck, I wouldn't give up just yet.
 

Robin Andrews

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 16, 2019
42
13
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UK
For example, I instinctively think the idea I quoted is a great idea. There are loads of private schools in the UK and you could create content aimed at this demographic and then market it to the schools directly, they have the money, and having a "external professional tutoring material" is something they could market to get more students and get more money. The money chain is very clear from effort to money.

Thanks for the input. I originally tired to niche down into school level educational materials, but it's a really dubious market from what I could tell. For one, there is huge government funding which goes exclusively to an organisation called the National Centre for Computing Education, who provide tons of free resources. Then there is the culture of sharing among teachers, so you get posts on FB like "hey, does anyone have a complete scheme of work along with resources I can use to deliver curriculum X? (sounds like a fun curriculum) And the answer is usually "sure, have mine for free."

As a result, I opened my niche to include "anyone who wants to learn Python programming" thinking it would be a bigger pond. I agree that it lacks focus, but I'm stuck as to where to go next, as I mentioned in my OP. Probably my main rival is The Real Python, and he seems to do OK with partially dominating the Python learning space, and selling membership to a library of learning videos.

I'm thinking that if I keep growing my blog and building my reputation and mailing list, this could work for me too. I already have some social proof as a Python dude due to having some videos in the LinkedIn Learning Library.

Aside from making and selling video courses, I have enough content on my blog to probably quite easily (relatively speaking) put together a book/eBook or even just put the best content behind a paywall.

It's frustrating to be so far and yet so near, possibly, and possibly not.

Any feedback on all that please?
 

Brrr

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
Jul 28, 2019
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I think you might be possibly missing my larger point, I'm not your customer!

I'm not someone that is interested or willing to pay for anything related to Python & coding so my opinion is not the one that matters, it's the equivalent of asking an old lady on the street. It's just an opinion and it is not going to help you get closer to coming to a product that the market wants because I am not your market. My intel is not valuable to you. Maybe I have some business intuition because I wake up in the morning and have to fight to get/keep my customers but maybe I'm way off the mark.

My point is you need to figure out who your customers are and what they want. And by want, I don't mean what they say they want, but what they would be willing to pay for. It's business 101 and I get it, it's hard, but that's the point. It is your job to find your market. You going to have to try things, test things out. Paying customers are going to inform you on how to shape your product offering and business.

What I would say is:
  • Don't be discouraged. Some people find gaps in the market from working in a job for 10 years and decide to set up a business to fill a gap in that industry. Some people have bold ideas and amazing teambuilding skills and get some kind of VC backing and strike gold. Some people grind out ideas for 6 years before they find something that works. There are a myriad of different success paths, different people have different starting points, opportunities, natural talents or connections, don't look too much at what is going on outside of yourself
  • Keep trying and adjusting. You have potentially the next 40 years of being in business, it's a journey and should evolve. You just have to keep at it and keep refining what you do but also try new things if what you are doing isn't working.
  • Connect with people in your industry and doing what you are doing or who work in tangential businesses. Being around people that are doing work similar to you has ten thousand benefits and will lead to more opportunities.
Good luck, keep going.
 

Robin Andrews

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 16, 2019
42
13
17
UK
I think you might be possibly missing my larger point, I'm not your customer!

I'm not someone that is interested or willing to pay for anything related to Python & coding so my opinion is not the one that matters, it's the equivalent of asking an old lady on the street. It's just an opinion and it is not going to help you get closer to coming to a product that the market wants because I am not your market. My intel is not valuable to you. Maybe I have some business intuition because I wake up in the morning and have to fight to get/keep my customers but maybe I'm way off the mark.

My point is you need to figure out who your customers are and what they want. And by want, I don't mean what they say they want, but what they would be willing to pay for. It's business 101 and I get it, it's hard, but that's the point. It is your job to find your market. You going to have to try things, test things out. Paying customers are going to inform you on how to shape your product offering and business.

What I would say is:
  • Don't be discouraged. Some people find gaps in the market from working in a job for 10 years and decide to set up a business to fill a gap in that industry. Some people have bold ideas and amazing teambuilding skills and get some kind of VC backing and strike gold. Some people grind out ideas for 6 years before they find something that works. There are a myriad of different success paths, different people have different starting points, opportunities, natural talents or connections, don't look too much at what is going on outside of yourself
  • Keep trying and adjusting. You have potentially the next 40 years of being in business, it's a journey and should evolve. You just have to keep at it and keep refining what you do but also try new things if what you are doing isn't working.
  • Connect with people in your industry and doing what you are doing or who work in tangential businesses. Being around people that are doing work similar to you has ten thousand benefits and will lead to more opportunities.
Good luck, keep going.
I think that according to what you have written, I am basically doing "the right thing." I am constantly trying things out and seeing how well they work. E.g. new lead gen ideas, putting content on Medium, contacting people in my industry, putting products on my site, trying new content ideas etc., etc.

In a sense I'm probably doing something like what MJ is describing in his phrase "act until echo".

Perhaps an important refinement is more emphasis on market research.

There is so much advice out there. some of it conflicting. Of course we have to filter it all according to our own situation. It's useful to get feedback on a forum like this.

Good luck with your ventures too!
 

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