How do we actually make good money doing what we love? Dorie Clark (DorieClark.com)—coach, speaker, and author of Entrepreneurial You—knows that even when you have incredible talent and great ideas, figuring out how to get a steady flow of clients can be daunting. So she set out to write a blueprint for professional independence.
If you’ve wondered how to build your brand, monetize your experience, and extend your reach online, she’s been there, done that for both her clients and herself—adding $200,000 in personal income after applying the principles she uncovered in Entrepreneurial You.
Key Topics From This Episode:
- How to harness online marketing despite its shaky history.
- Why it’s vital to learn from failures and keep looking forward.
- How to leverage your existing work to gain new streams of income.
What motivated you to write Entrepreneurial You?
Dorie Clark: As I got to know more people in the entrepreneurial community, I would start to hear about friends and colleagues that were doing these outrageous things. One friend had a two-million-dollar launch and then another friend had a three million dollar launch.
“‘What are they doing that I’m not doing? I need to learn this right now!'”
Because I had started my career as a journalist, I decided the best way to do this was take on a book project that would teach me all of the entrepreneurial secrets. You know, the kinds of things that people have only talked about behind the closed doors of a multi-thousand dollar course.
I wanted to learn them, understand them, see what really worked and what didn’t. Try them for myself, make myself the first Guinea pig and then write a book that could hopefully create a roadmap for other professionals to learn from and help them become more successful in their own business. So that is what I did with Entrepreneurial You.
How did you begin to diversify your own revenue streams?
Dorie Clark: For a long time, I had just clung to a very traditional business model. In the sense that the work that I did was kind of traditional, fee-for-service work. Then, I built up a good business with speaking, consulting, coaching, writing books, and I even do some business school teaching.
Those are all great things, and that’s actually pretty diversified in terms of revenue streams. But I had not done online courses or other areas that were internet-leveraged. And that was the difference.
“It’s not impossible, but it’s extraordinarily hard to make multiple millions of dollars as a fee for service provider.”
You only have so much time, and people are rationally only going to pay you so much money for what you do. What you need is scale in order to be able to really dramatically increase your income.
Why did it take you so long to leverage the internet?
Dorie Clark: I had kept away from online marketing, largely because in the early days, it had a little bit of a residue of sliminess or creepiness to it. I did not want that to taint my brand.
I’m speaking to major corporations. I write for Harvard Business Review. I teach for the few good schools of business. I wanted to be a blue chip provider, not somebody that was selling you Viagra or telling you to wire money to Nigeria. I just didn’t want to be associated with that.
But what I came to realize was that I was needlessly letting the “bad apples” cloud my estimation of what the channel could offer by way of possibilities.
There were real ways that serious, honest professionals with integrity could leverage online marketing and online courses to do good things. And so I realized I needed to get with the program. I needed to learn about that and harness that. And I think that’s an area where a lot of other professionals can really stand to grow and educate themselves as well.
Tell me about some of the “good apples” that you learned from.
Dorie Clark: There were so many really smart, wise people that I talked to. There was a guy that I profiled named Danny Iny. He had done this launch for which I had been a partner and helped promote a little bit. And he brought in, I think it was 2.3 million dollars from the launch. I really wanted to understand his process.
When we discuss success in our culture and specifically how people make money, oftentimes it’s a kind of fast or surface level understanding. People chest thumping about how much money they made. I really wanted to go deep about specifics in terms of people’s business models, in terms of what they had tried before and didn’t work, what they tried and did work, so that we could get a sense of what people are actually doing.
He told me a story that I loved. It turns out that he had originally, years ago, created an online course and had been this terrible failure. Rather ironically, it was called Marketing That Works.
So it became even more ironic because he sold one copy. For six months of his life, he was building this thing for one guy.
He said, if you actually just average out how much time he spent and how much money he made, he was basically working for about six months for 17 cents an hour!
For years, he didn’t want to touch online courses. Finally, he felt that the format was too promising to give up on. But he was obsessed with making sure that he was not going to be in this situation again where one person bought it. He implemented a change, which I think really made all the difference for him and is certainly something that’s become a best practice in online course creation as well.
“Run a pilot first before launching the course fully.”
The next go around, he reached out to his audience and said, “Hey guys, I am thinking of creating a course.” Note that he had not done it yet. “Here’s what it would be. If you are interested, I’m going to do a pilot. You can get in at a discount if you sign up for it, but in exchange, I’d like your help and your feedback in telling me what you like, what you don’t, what you want to see more of, et cetera.”
That is powerful, because you get to have a quick pulse of whether people are interested at all. If zero people had signed up, he could have just walked away at that point and maybe wasted an hour or two instead of six months.
Also, it gives you a way to co-create the course so that you’re not just all in your head. You’re actually responding to what your audience is asking for. When you finally do launch it more publicly, you are going to feel a lot more confident because this thing has already been run through, it’s already been vetted by real people. You have a pretty good sense that it’s going to work in the marketplace after having gone through those steps.
How quickly can these principles bring success?
Dorie Clark: After having all of these interviews, I spent January and February of 2016 interviewing 50+, very successful, six-, seven-, eight-figure entrepreneurs.
I then set about doing two things with the rest of 2016: one was writing the book, and the other was simultaneously trying to put into practice what the book has taught me. I made myself the first guinea pig.
As part of this process, I launched a pilot of my online course, which is called Recognized Expert, and it teaches successful professionals to become recognized experts in their field. In April, I did a 40-person pilot of Recognized Expert. In September of 2016, I did a launch to my own list, and then in March of 2017, I did my first joint venture or affiliate launch for it.
“Often times, it takes multiple launches to really get up into the stratosphere.”
If we look at calendar year 2016 compared to calendar year 2015, simply and exclusively from implementing the strategies that I learned from doing the interviews and writing Entrepreneurial You, I was able to add an additional $193,000 to my bottom line.
It made a demonstrable difference in my own business.
What helped you raise your bottom line?
Dorie Clark: The biggest driver of the increase was the creation of the online course, which was something that I hadn’t done before. The Recognized Expert course started with the pilot was at $500, and the fully baked course launched at $2,000. Since then, I also did a kind of vision experiment as well—a live event, small mastermind day for people.
Those were the new areas that I added to my business. Now, I’ve been continuing to work on that and grow that in 2017 and have continued to experiment with different models.
Recognized Expert is this very extensive flagship course. It has a high price point, it has 40+ hours of material, it’s pretty substantial. This year, I also experimented with doing smaller, more targeted low dollar courses.
I launched both of those in 2017 and also experimented even more with high dollar live events including a one day business model intensive, and I have an event coming up which is going to be a two day mastermind retreat.
These are experiments, but really interesting experiments that have been adding a dollar to the bottom line.
Do we need certain credentials to be successful?
Dorie Clark: No, really, you can do it, believe me. What I will say is that some of the credentials that I have amassed are useful, but they are credentials that anyone can get. We live in a busy, frenetic world. There are a lot of things vying for people’s attention. You want to quickly give people a reason to pay attention rather than writing you off because it’s too difficult for them to evaluate whether you’re credible or not.
In Entrepreneurial You, I actually stage the chapters in a very deliberate way because there are some techniques that I don’t advise for people who are just starting out. Something like having like a large scale live event, for instance.
If you’re suddenly like, “You know what would be cool? Why don’t I get 500 people in a room and I’ll charge them $500 a piece, and that’s a lot of money.” That is a terrible idea. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to organize something like that at this point. If you want to convince a large number of people to do something, especially if it’s at a higher price point, you need to have a really large list in order to be able to build that. Otherwise, you are going to kill yourself trying to beat the bushes to get those people in a room. Work up to that once you’ve built your list.
“There are many other strategies that are 100% doable for people even with smaller list sizes.”
If you’re just starting out, start by consulting or coaching. Those are things where it doesn’t matter if you have a list of 10 people. If you have people who are interested enough and believe in you enough, or just like listening to you, then it’s perfect: you can get a coaching engagement.
How do you stay motivated as an entrepreneur?
Dorie Clark: A guy named Michael Parrish DuDell, who is most famous for having written the book that goes with the TV show Shark Tank, a few years back, he started his own consulting business. He realized something which is both smart and critical.
He realized that the stuff that he was going to be consulting on— writing and content creation and stuff—he was good at that. He had plenty of experience with it, he knew that if he could get the clients, he’d do fine. What he realized was, he had never sold anything before, so he wasn’t sure he could get the clients. That was the critical part that he knew could derail him.
He set himself a challenge.
He said, “You know what? I really want to be an entrepreneur. I really want to do this, but I need to light a fire under myself”. And so he gave himself a deadline and said, “I am going to get my first client within a month.”
“I’m going to give myself a month. I’m going to go all in. I’m going to do everything I can to beat the bushes and get a client. If I can’t manage to do it by putting all my effort in for a month, then I’m just going to give up. Because this is the skill. You’ve got to be able to sell.”
Sure enough, by putting that pressure on himself, he was actually able to land three clients for himself within the first month.
“The important part is getting started. The important part is getting that first client.”
Because then you realize what it’s like to get a client. You realize what the relationship is like, and you can go from there and refine things and get better.
But you have to start with some momentum. I think coaching or consulting is a really great early entry point.
Talk me through the big takeaways in this book.
Dorie Clark: I really tried deliberately to create a smorgasbord for people, because I know that when it comes to revenue streams, there are some things that are going to be right for some people and not for others. Right now, I have eight different income streams, but even I am not doing all the different things that are in the book.
“The concepts are not just for people who are full-time entrepreneurs.”
I actually make a case that even if you work in a day job and it’s one you love, it’s one that you never want to leave—it is still a very useful thing for you to create a side income stream for yourself. In fact, that could be not just helpful fallback or a good way to make some extra money, but also a way to surprisingly advance your career at your day job.
For instance, I profiled this guy named Lenny Achan in the book. Lenny actually started his career as a nurse. When I met him, he was the head of communications at Mount Sinai hospital, which is not at all what you would imagine a position that a nurse would logically go into.
It turns out, in his free time, just out of personal interest, he’d gotten really into smart phone apps. He decided he was going to teach himself how to create and launch some apps. So he developed a couple and put them out there for sale, and eventually his boss found out about it. Lenny’s like “Oh no, what did I do? Was there a policy? What does he think? Does he think I’m misusing company resources?”
That wasn’t it.
His boss said, “We need someone to run social media for the hospital, and I think it should be you.” He gave Lenny this position and Lenny did such a great job at it that eventually, he got more and more things added to his portfolio.
Eventually, he was running all of communications for the hospital.
But that massive opportunity and massive promotion came as a result of something that he had cooked up on nights and weekends. Never even thinking that it would necessarily apply to his day job, it gave him the unique skillset that turned out to be exactly what his organization needed.
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
Dorie Clark: Entrepreneurship can be whatever you want to make it.
If you love your day job and want to keep it, great. You can just do this little thing on the side and keep it there. But it gives you a kind of optionality that I think is really powerful.
A woman named Natalie Sisson grew up in New Zealand, and she just had a lot of wanderlust and loved travelling. She wanted to do more of it, so she launched this business called The Suitcase Entrepreneur. So she ran a blog and did online courses and things like that teaching people to be location-independent entrepreneurs.
For six years, she was on the road, living in all these different cities—Barcelona and Los Angeles and everywhere in between. She visited 70 countries, and it was amazing.
But in 2015, her father got sick and she came home to New Zealand to be with him, and about four months later he died. She said that it really woke her up to realize that she’d always been a huge fan of entrepreneurship, and she had installed the freedom that entrepreneurship allows you. But she had only been thinking of freedom in one way, which was the freedom to travel and see the world.
“She came to realize that freedom could mean a lot of things.”
When her father got sick, she realized if she had been working abroad prior to starting her business, she’d been working in England, or if she had been in a regular job she would have had two weeks’ vacation, and she maybe could have seen her father once before he died.
New Zealand is a long way, and the fact that she just had the ability to move back to be with him, and to still run her business, was extraordinarily powerful. It hammered home for her in an entirely new way what that freedom meant. The great thing about having an entrepreneurial lifestyle, whether it’s your fulltime thing or a part time thing, is that it just gives you more options about the way that you want to live your life.
Do you have a personal favorite story in the book?
Dorie Clark: It’s a story about a woman named Stephanie O’Connell. Stephanie moved to New York with a quintessentially New York dream, which is that she wanted to be a Broadway actress.
She was a singer and did theater, and when she came to New York, she did get some acting gigs but what she really quickly learned was that the city was extremely expensive. It was going to be hard to make it work. So as part of that, she started this blog called The Broke and Beautiful Life. It was her way of essentially recording her lessons learned and trying to share with other people some of the tips that she had come up with about how to save money and how to just make it work in the big city.
But after a while, she realized that she was getting a lot of positive feedback about the blog and she started thinking that maybe this could be something. So she kept exploring it more and more.
The happy part about this story is that Stephanie today is really successful. She’s turned herself into a millennial personal finance expert, and she has been on national TV. She writes regularly for US news and World Report and other publications. She’s really made it.
But I think what has been the secret to her making it is that everybody experiences this time where they are all excited about doing whatever they are doing in their entrepreneurial venture. You know them: “Oh we are going to make it big.”
The problem is that the way that they define success is like the ultimate success. Like, “Oh success means I am going to be on Oprah” or “Success means I am going to sell a million copies” or “success means I’m…”
People don’t have any way of looking at success beyond that. And so, of course, they get it six months in, they get a year in and, “Oh, Oprah hasn’t called and I have 5,000 followers not a million followers and so this sucks and I am going to quit.”
“Celebrate the small wins and develop intermediate metrics for yourself.”
So when I was asking her, “How did you persevere? How did you stay moving forward with this?” she said, “You know, I remember the time, and it was the first time that an influencer that I respected retweeted one of my posts”
Something like that is so small and yet it can be, if you really take it in fully, so significant. Someone thinks that your ideas are worth sharing.
When somebody says, “Your work is worth something,” those are the moments we have to savor, because it is a clue. It’s a glimmer that we are on the path to success and those are the things that if you really listen to them, if you really take them in, it gives you the courage and the strength to keep going, even when things take longer than you might want or wish.
How else has this book shaped you and affected you?
Dorie Clark: It wasn’t until I actually started writing the book that I realized that in many ways the works that I have done so far, this is my third book, really had formed a trilogy. I had thought of them as three separate disparate concepts but I came to realize that no, actually they’re the same thing.
“This is the entrepreneurial process and lifecycle.”
So my first book was Reinventing You, which is about how to reinvent yourself into the career or the job that you want. My second book, Stand Out, is about how to become a recognized expert in your field. And then Entrepreneurial You is about actually making a sustainable thriving living, with multiple income streams.
I have hopefully created works that enable people, from start to finish, to build up the professional life that they love and is fulfilling and meaningful to them. That’s something that I am really excited about.
How can public speaking become an income stream?
Dorie Clark: I have many recommendations and in fact in Entrepreneurial You, we have a whole chapter on how to get started as a professional speaker. I will give you some highlights.
The best way to become a speaker, ironically, is not to go straight at it in terms of, “Oh I am going to hunt down these people who book speakers.” The best way is to create a lot of content and make them want to come to you because their hackles go up, you know?
“They want to feel like they are choosing you.”
To a certain weird extent, it’s almost like you are devaluing yourself by coming to them. Even if you are great and qualified, it makes them look askance. So if you could become a content machine and create relevant content in places that they are reading and looking, that is the best.
Cold call stuff is really tough. I am not going to say it doesn’t work and in fact, I have a section in there about a guy named Grant Baldwin who actually did succeed with cold calling, but the thing to know is that it’s about a one in a hundred success rate.
So if you are a successful professional, odds are, you have better things to do with your time. I mean, if it’s like your thing in life like, “Oh my God I have to speak,” okay it can work. It’s just very, very depressing. If you want to be proactive and take some action is to research very meticulously, LinkedIn is very good for this, including specific conferences that you are interested in.
Then figure out who your connections are that have either spoken there before and can recommend you or who are somehow involved in that organization. If you can get that warm introduction and if someone else has recommended you, then that is a really good way in as well.
It is also 100% true that having a book is probably the greatest credibility tool when it comes to impressing conference bookers. If you have written a 200 page book about it, you probably know something.
How do new authors get discovered?
Dorie Clark: Sometimes people really do just search on Amazon, for instance. But much more commonly, it’s just the ways that you would be marketing your book in general. So for instance, I blog regularly for the Harvard Business Review, but the same holds true for any publication that people have heard of and that shows up on Google. If you are blogging for publications that have a decent readership and your title, your topic, your keywords are things related to the conference theme, odds are it will come up in search and it may peak their interest.
This is where search engine optimization can be really useful as well, because even if it’s a less well known publication, if you are writing really frequently and really consistently about whatever your theme is, whether it’s about reducing conflict or it’s about delegating your team or it’s about being resilient or whatever: if you are constantly writing about that, you will begin to place highly for those search terms.
Often times, people who are putting together programs, might say, “Well you know we need a speaker about resiliency.” So they do a Google search and see who comes up who has written a lot of things, in credible publications that they have heard of, and then say, “Oh well this person seems to know something. Let me check them out.” They might go to your website, or if you have a book, they’ll go look at the book, and that’s often what it takes to seal the deal.
Books are not necessarily the way, on their own, that you are going to get rich.
“Authors are the definition of people that can benefit from multiple revenue streams.”
If you have been thinking about something for a while but you haven’t taken action, maybe you give yourself a challenge and say:
“You know what? I am going to give myself a month and I am going to do something. I am going to book my first client. I’m going to launch my first podcast. I’m going to give my first speech.” And even if it is not a paid speech, whatever it is, the first step to get the momentum is how we get things going with multiple income streams.
Sometimes it really just comes down to getting some kind of movement, which then creates a force onto itself. So I hope that people will get started one way or the other.
Where can people connect with Dorie Clark Online?
I’ve got an 88 question Entrepreneurial You self-assessment that helps people think about how to apply these concepts about creating multiple income streams to their own business. So if folks would like to get that, they can download it for free at dorieclark.com.