How to Create Automated Cash Flow and Escape the 9-5 Rat Race
There are a million ways to make a million dollars, from freelance work to a fortune 500 company. Unfortunately most of these businesses are not what we are interested in. I don’t know about you but I am not interested in doing freelance work after my full time job forever. I am also not interested in working for a fortune 500 company making hundreds of thousands of dollars (although it sounds nice!), we are not interested in working 50, 60 or even 80+ hours for someone else, for those results. Although some of this hard work and work ethic is obviously necessary to succeed, it is not necessary to continue for the rest of your life. I refer to this as front loading the work. We will work hard and bootstrap but we will systematically make things easier and autonomous. This article is not for those who want to run a business. This article is for those who want to own a business, and spend almost no time running it. The goal is simple; create an automated business for generating cash flow without taking up our time.
Most people cannot believe that a lot of the most successful companies do not answer their own phones, ship their own products or even manufacturer their product. There are companies that will work for you to do these things. Providing you with a rentable infrastructure, you just need to know where to find it.
There are call centers that have a different line for each product or service. Flextronics a Singapore based engineering firm makes the Xbox 360 and the Kodiak digital cameras. You can hire virtual assistants from anywhere in the world to complete your paperwork while you sleep.
It’s a beautiful thing! Before we start hiring virtual assistants and finding a call center for customer service, we need a product. Ahhh our beloved product. Our vehicle to escape the rat race and start working from a beach in the Caribbean…. WAITTTTT a minute! Remember front loading the work? Ok. I thought so. We have work to do.
Where do we start? Create a product right? Then we just have to market it and sell it to the masses! SUCCESS! Well it doesn’t exactly work that way. See you could go that route but creating a demand for your new product is hard. Wouldn’t it be easier to fill a demand? A problem that already exists and people are seeking solutions to? Hell yeah.
DEFINE YOUR CUSTOMERS.
Define your customers and then we will begin to think about a product. It is said that if everyone is your customer then no one is your customer. You want to niche down your product as much as possible in most cases, be specific, and be laser focused. For example a coaching course on how to pick up girls. So your market is all men? That’s too broad. How to pick up girls for 19-25 year old men in college. Now we are talking. That niche may not be profitable though, we need to find our profitable niche. Ask yourself a few questions when trying to find a profitable niche.
1) Is there a problem that you have a solution or can create a solution for?
2) Are they willing and able to pay? Do they have the willingness to pay and are they able to afford what you are selling?
3) Which social, professional groups do you belong to? What do these people need?
4) Is there trade magazines for your niche? If so, is there competition? Because this is probably a good sign contrary to popular belief that competition is bad.
You can also go into a bookstore to seek out smaller niches and just to brainstorm ideas and remember the willingness and ability to pay. This is very important. It does not mean the target market has to be rich, they just have to spend money on products. Once you have identified something that will be profitable in your mind and hopefully if your lucky, something you are interested in, it is time to begin.
Start by picking the two niches or ideas that you have found, that you are most familiar with, and have their own magazines. Call these magazines and tell them you are considering advertising, ask them to send their current rate card and to include readership numbers and back issue samples. Ideally you want a magazine with full page advertising that costs less than $5 000 and has more than 15 000 readers. Search the magazine back issues and also buy current issues and look for repeat advertisers. The more frequent they advertise, the more profitable that particular magazine is for them. Do the same with other magazines and websites. Now that you have narrowed it down to two ideas we can brainstorm an actual product with these two markets in mind.
At this stage we do not want to spend anything, just come up with product ideas that pertain to the two markets we just determined and fit into the following criteria;
The main benefit of the product should be easily understood in one sentence or phrase. It is ok to offend people or have some not like you. (My mother may disagree). But you do not want people to misunderstand you. Customers want to know why they should buy your product and/or how are you different? And they want to know fast.
It should cost the customer $49-$199. Don’t price mid range or low ball, competition in that threshold will not bat an eye at sacrificing profit margin, start a pricing war and eventually drive you both bankrupt. No thanks. Price high but you better damn well make your product worth it. This way you can charge more and keep a high end image. Higher prices also means we can sell fewer units and manage less customers. BONUS! It also attracts lower maintenance customers and higher profit margins. The goal is to get as close as 10x the markup as you can. That means if I am selling something for $100 it should not cost me more than $10.
Your product should be fully explainable in an online FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). This is to reduce customer service costs when your automation is in place. When you start out and you are bootstrapping and dealing with customer complaints always remember to write down their questions as this is going to be the beginning of your online FAQ. You will develop this by answering the phones yourself and dealing with with customer feedback.
Now product wise there are a few ways you can go. You can resell a product, License a product or Create a product.
Reselling a product is basically purchasing a product in bulk from a wholesaler at a discounted rate and reselling it. It is fast to set up but the margins are not what we need. Lets skip over that one for now.
Licensing a product means renting or leasing of an intangible asset. It is a process of creating and managing contracts between the owner of a brand and a company or individual who wants to use the brand in association with a product, for an agreed period of time, within an agreed territory. In our case you could be the licensor or the licensee. The licensor is the inventor of the product and can sell others the right to sell or use their product, usually for 3-10% of the wholesale price. The Licensee is the one manufacturing, selling or using the licensors product and for about 90-97% of the profit. Not bad but it is still a little too time intensive for what we are looking for, although a great money maker. I would like to focus on our third and most profitable option.
CREATE A PRODUCT
Creating a product is not as hard as it may sound. Although it is labour intensive at the beginning, (Front loading the work!), it can be very profitable and free up a lot of your time! It is not as hard as it seems. As a matter of fact the first product I sold, I had found a manufacturer in a matter of days, sent them a design and had a prototype several weeks later. You can leverage sights such as elance.com or alibaba.com to find manufacturers, designers, engineers, lawyers etc. Just post a job on elance and people will bid on your job, or surf alibaba for manufacturers. We wil be testing the market first of course but the next step would be the manufacturing process if you were to sell a physical product. You would also need to keep in mind set up costs, per unit costs and order minimums. This turns into a little bit of a problem now if you do not have serious cash up front for these things. Hey I never said my first product was successful! There is now a days different resources you can use to get some of this funding up front. You can use kickstarter or other crowd funding sites, angel.co or other angel investor sites or find a partner or private investor.
Forget physical products for now, maybe later on in life, as a hobby, maybe… but for now we need to focus on what we will we do to meet all our previous criteria for a product and include the market that we had chose. There is one class of product. It has a short manufacturing lead time in small quantities and can be marked up, more than 10x, even often up to 50x.
Information. Information products are low cost, quick to create and almost impossible to duplicate. You could create a course to teach people how to plumb their new home they are building. You could coach people to improve their self confidence. You could write an ebook on how to get rid of tennis elbow, (Someone actually did). You could sell How to Videos, or DVDS. The possibilities are endless and it is a huge market!
Ok great, we have two ideas in mind on an informational product and we know which magazines would benefit us the most for advertising because of our previous research. Hang on a second…. I just realized something…… I’m no expert!
You will probably be encountering a lot of psychological barriers at this time as well as through this entire process. A lot of people have dealt with these barriers their entire lives. You have to realize that this is something every person, and entrepreneur go through. You are not the only one that has that little voice in the back of your head saying; You don’t know enough about this, or your too young to be doing this or you’re not smart enough and so on. I refer to this as self talk and if you can learn to embrace this self talk and not let it affect you, then the sooner you will take action and succeed!
Listen you don’t necessarily have to have ten years experience to be an expert but you do need to know more than the purchaser. No more. You don’t have to be the best, just better than your prospective customers. Make sense? I thought so.
Expert status can also be created. The degree to which you need expert status depends on how you obtain your content. You could create it yourself by paraphrasing and combining points from several books on a topic. You can repurpose content that is in the public domain and not subject to copyright. (Example; government documents, material that predates copyright laws). You could also compensate an expert to help create content.
How to Become a Top Expert
There is a difference between being perceived as being an expert and being one. As long as you have the credibility indicators, (for example M.D. for a doctor), you will be perceived as one. This does not get you out of being one as you must create a great product still and know what you are doing, unless of course you enjoy dealing with customer complaints and returns. You do not have to spends years or decades, you can become a top expert in less than a month. Bold statement, yes, but it’s true. This is how;
- Start by joining two or three trade organizations with official sounding names. For example, HRAI – Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute for heating and cooling. Or The Ontario College of Pharmacists for Pharmacists. This can be done for free or very little money, online in a matter of minutes.
- Give one free seminar at the closest college or university. Do a one to three hour seminar on your market. Use posters to advertise. Then do the same at two well known big companies. Tell them that you have given seminars at University XYZ and are a member of the groups from step one. Emphasize that you are doing this for free and will not be selling anything, and that you are doing this strictly for public speaking experience. Record these seminars as you may want to use them later.
- Read the three top selling books on your subject and summarize each of them for yourself. This will help you speak on your subject.
- Offer to write one or two articles for a trade magazine related to your topic. Tell them what you have accomplished in previous steps as well. If they decline try at a later date or at another magazine. You could also offer to interview an expert and write the article, it is not quite as good, but better than nothing.
- Join websites such as ProfNet or PRWeb, they are websites that service journalists looking for experts to interview as it pertains to their story. It can get you local to national TV exposure.
It isn’t hard to start being perceived as an expert. I am not telling you to be someone you are not either and you do need to do your homework and supply quality information and great products to your customers. But the term expert is nebulous, and in this day in age, proof of expertise in most fields are shown with group affiliations, writing credentials and media mentions, not IQ points and PH. D.’s. We will use this to our advantage.
Testing your Product
A great way to test your product is with a landing page. A landing page is a simple website that features your product. I like to have several pages, first your main page where they can click a link to ‘’buy’’, this brings them to your pricing page. This will show the price of the product, warranty or money back guarantee, as well as a form to enter in the customers information and another link to ‘’buy’’. Once they enter their information and click to ‘’buy’’ It will lead them to a page saying our product is currently out of stock or our courses are currently closed and we will email you when they become available. This is great because you can tell how many people ‘’bought’’ your product and email them once you actually create it. There are apps you can add such as JetPack to your landing page and it will show you exactly where your customer scrolled, clicked and when they left your page. Apps such as this are a great tool if you have the little bit of extra money to use them while testing, I recommend it. It is not a must, you can test without these apps but they are good for optimization of your page.
Now we want to create advertisements to point people to our landing page. The best way to do this is with PPC (Pay per click) advertising online, using Google Adwords. To learn more about adwords you can visit google.com/onlinebusiness or just search the term adwords in google. Adwords is very extensive but there is now adwords express. Adwords express will take 90% of the work out of the original process and speed up the testing of your product. After you have created an Adwords account, you will want test your product by creating a PPC advertisement. These ads show up at the top and side of google when the keywords you have selected have been searched. You will only get charged when someone clicks on your ad. The cost per click ranges from $.05 to over a dollar depending on your keywords. For now you do not want to spend more than $500 and five days testing your product. This should give you a pretty good idea of how many people are interested. Set your daily limit to $100 and test for 5 days. If you get people clicking through to your site, and through to your sales page you may want to go ahead and create your product. If the testing fails, it could be a number of things. If not very many people clicked through to your site, it may be the wording in your ad. I like to test with several ads and see which performs the best. If you are getting people to your site but no one is ‘’buying’’ then it could be your website, pricing or a number of other variables. Test everything. It is a process tweaking your site and ads to get the perfect combination to get people through to buy but it will definitely pay off in the end.
Once you are finished testing everything from landing pages to PPC ads, you would of found what will work and what hasn’t worked and you are ready to create your product and start selling it. Make sure that you take time and make the best possible information product you can because word of mouth today more than ever can make you or break you. If you happen to end up selling one of your products to an influencer with a huge social media presence they can end up making you a lot of money if they love your product. Seeking out social media influencers is actually a great marketing strategy and is something I will write about in another article.
When your site is up and running and you start to get some sales under your belt, you will begin to receive customer feedback whether its phone calls, emails or social media. Make sure that you use that feedback whether positive or negative to optimize your product and customer service. Customer feedback is so valuable to you right now and you need to be a great listener when you are in any business for that matter. So listen to your customers and adjust accordingly! Look out for more articles from me on social media, marketing, advertising and branding! Don’t forget to let me know what your thoughts are on this article, leave a comment, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact me on facebook (fb.me/mastronardimark), Twitter (@mastronardimark), Snapchat (mastronardimark) or Instagram (markmastronardi). Have a great day and thanks for checking out my blog!