In the first of this
two-part series on how you can turn what you know into a viable and steady
stream of income, you learned about the growing appeal of member programs
like Netflix or the online subscriber version of Consumer Reports magazine.
You also learned that a lot of people just like you are running
smaller, but highly profitable, member programs in such diverse niches as
embroidery, jazz guitar, weight lifting...even sky diving!
Probably the story that
caused the most buzz last time though was that of Ryan Lee. But then going
from teaching physical education in the Bronx to earning seven figures from
48 fitness- and sports-related member sites is bound to peak some interest.
You'll hear more about Ryan and another member program expert, Tim Kerber
shortly. If you are intrigued by the idea of a business model designed to
create a more regular flow of income, then I suggest you take a minute to get
caught up by reading Part 1 now.
In this article I want
to continue to educate you about the incredible income potential of member
programs including how starting your own member program can replace (and
very likely exceed) your current income with a steady monthly cash
To give you a better
idea of what a member program might actually "look" like, I've included
examples of a few different continuity programs including my own. Plus I
want to tell you the one step you absolutely must take prior to launching
ANY product or service - including a member program.
First, though, I need
to expose some "bad thinking" that can prevent you from
profiting from your own
knowledge and experience. It's my hope that by warding off this kind of bad
thinking now you'll be more receptive to considering member programs as a
viable way to make a living without a job.
Bad Thinking: Failing to recognize the monetary
value of what you know.
years my friend Larry has learned a lot about single
parenting two girls, transitioning from carpentry into pediatric nursing in
his fifties, and working with at-risk children in a psychiatric hospital.
He'd like to transition into something a bit more entrepreneurial, but, like
a lot of people, Larry simply takes for granted that, and I quote, "If I can
do it, anybody can."
Despite the public's insatiable need for
advice and information, far too many people remain stuck in high stress or
dead-end jobs because, like Larry, they don't realize that when it comes to
becoming a self-bosser, a little knowledge can go a long way.
A guy who does get the connection
between knowledge and self-generated income is Jeff Ball. After rising
through the ranks of Pennsylvania's human service department, the job
started taking its toll. During that time he says he was drinking heavily
and was clinically depressed. So
Jeff turned to vegetable
gardening as a stress reliever and got
started coming to Jeff
for tips, it occurred to him that someone might actually pay him for what
he'd been learning out there in the garden. Nine books, 12 how-to videos,
and numerous television appearances later, Jeff (a.k.a.
The Yardener), is living proof that if you have something worthwhile to
share, people will want to buy it.
Thinking you need to know EVERYTHING before you can begin.
Far too many people are under the misguided
assumption that they need to know 150% about a subject before they
can possibly expect anyone to pay them. (I'll
say more about "The Expert Trap" in a moment.) The truth of the matter is
that subject matter experts aren't born
they're made. Or more accurately, they are SELF-made. Take history buff Jim
When Jim retired
from his government job, he decided he wanted to draw on lessons from the
Civil War to teach leadership skills to managers. As a history major Jim had
learned a fair amount about the war, but his college days were far behind
him. So he put together a one-year self-study course that included auditing
college classes and giving tours of Civil War battle sites for free just for
When I started
planning my exit strategy from corporate America back in 1994 I, too, did my
homework. For starters, I read everything I could get my hands on about
finding your calling, marketing a small business, and managing the money
part of transitioning from having a boss to being my own boss. The other
thing I did was document my own step-by-step process of leaving a
well-paying corporate job to work for myself.
It was this
combination of taking what I was learning from others and what I was
learning from my own experience of changing course that formed the basis of
my original paid newsletter. A year later I felt confident enough to put
together a class on how to quit your job that I offered through a local
adult education program.
I learned a ton
from people like Barbara Sher and Barbara Winter. But the body of work that
is uniquely my own came from something no one else has my personal
experience. The exciting thing is I never stop learning!
Bad Thinking: Thinking you have to have "Done
In my book How
to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are: What Every
Woman (and Man) Needs to Know About Competence, the Impostor Syndrome, and
the Art of Winging It (ImpostorSyndrome.com),
I talk a lot about our misguided notions of what it means to be competent.
If you are holding back due to dream-killing perfectionism, the belief that
if someone helps you it somehow "doesn't count" in the accomplishment book,
or the Expert Trap I described above, write this down:
isn't about knowing how to do everything perfectly. Competence isn't
doing everything yourself. Competence does not mean needing to know 150% before you consider yourself remotely qualified to wear the
label: "expert." Competence means knowing how to identify the
resources it takes to get the job done.
Okay, now this is
where the whole discussion of turning your knowledge into income gets really
interesting. You see, the reality is, you don't even have to have personal
knowledge or experience in a particular field or subject area to start a
member program. It may surprise you to learn that the guy who founded
MassageBusinessUniversity.com is not a massage therapist.
His name is Todd
Brown. And before starting this particular member site (he runs several),
Todd was in the fitness field. Since he is not a practicing massage
therapist, Todd relies on a team of "faculty" with expertise in growing a
massage practice to create value-added content for his members. Todd's
expertise lies in knowing how to find out what members want and making
sure they get it.
Thinking you need to know anything before you begin.
Far too many
people fail to act on a great idea because, as they see it, "It's already
been done." Using this faulty logic you'd think that since two distinguished
psychologists, Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, had not only
discovered the Impostor Phenomenon but documented their findings in a book
that the subject would be closed, right? Wrong.
I'm not a
psychologist. Yet for the past twenty years, I've combined my own research
with my personal experience as a "recovering impostor" to put my own special
spin on the subject. To date I've earned hundreds of thousands of dollars
telling audiences "How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to
Think You Are" including upcoming gigs for Intel, the Society of Women
Engineers, and three major universities.
Let me give you
another example of the ridiculousness of this notion that someone else got
there first. Let's say you absolutely love to cook. One day you get this
brilliant idea to type up all of your secret family recipes and sell them. A
few days later your dream is totally shattered when you accidentally stumble
into a bookstore and shriek, "Oh no! Somebody already wrote a cookbook!"
Of course somebody
wrote a cookbook in fact, thousands of "somebodies" have written
cookbooks! But just like no one can teach what I teach quite the way I teach
it, no one has written YOUR cookbook. Plus, the fact that someone has
successfully paved the way with a similar product or service just confirms
that there's a market out there.
Step 1: Give Your
Members What They Want
programs always revolve around the delivery of some kind information,
instruction, or even entertainment. However, the type of information, and
even the delivery itself, can vary widely. For example, I'm a member of
master internet marketer Yanik Silver's "Underground Secret Society." For
$87.63 a month I receive a big red envelope
stuffed with marketing tips and templates and a CD with a new
before-and-after website critique.
Yanik also puts on
a big annual event where he brings in many of the top Internet
marketers. In addition to saving on the registration fee, Secret Society
members enjoy such perks as reserved seating and an upgraded break area and
the chance to network with other members at exclusive cocktail and dinner
functions. At the event I attended, there were at least 200 Secret Society
members and these represent just a fraction of overall members. You do the
My own member
program, the Fast Track Your Dream Community, is set up a little
differently. For one, the whole point is to "fast track" the whole changing
course process. So the first thing members get is a "Fast Track Kit" with
books and CDs on a range of topics from finding your calling to how to
create a step-by-step exit strategy. Members who live outside the U.S. or
who are really in a hurry, can go
download much of the material immediately.
Fast Track members
also get access to two Teleclasses a month, a series of online resource
guides, daily "inspirational nudges" and more. More importantly, though,
unlike Yanik's program which is primarily information-based, one of the
biggest reasons I started Fast Track was to foster a sense of
"community." I wanted to provide lots of tools
and information too, but it's also very much about connecting people who
share the goal of making a living without a job. By giving members an online
forum where they get input from trained coaches and
where they connect with and support fellow members,
I hoped to address the isolation that Barbara Sher famously cites as THE
Something else to
consider as you think about starting a continuity program is giving people
the first month free. Right now the first two months of membership in Fast
Track are free. After that, monthly dues are $20. Allowing people to join on
a trial basis gives them a chance to see what it's all about without having
to commit immediately.
Just make sure
members understand that after the trial membership is over that their credit
card is going to be billed. Otherwise you'll get a lot of costly charge
backs from your credit card merchant.
The retention rate
for member programs is roughly 60% after the second month. I credit
the "can-do" spirit of Fast Track members
themselves to the 87% retention rate for the Fast Track Community.
You can get a
better idea of how Yanik structured his member program at
ChangingCourse.com/recommends/secretsociety. If you want to "see" what a
member site might look like you can take a short video "tour" of the Fast
Track Community here:
ChangingCourse.com/fasttracktour-20.html or view the Quick Start
The information is a
tiny bit dated because it doesn't include some of the newer resources like
Barbara Sher's "How to Use All of Your Gifts and Passions" or the "20 Ways
to Quit Your Job" class recordings. But at least you'll get a feel for a
member program that has a lot of different elements to it.
By far the most successful programs are those in which the prospective
members themselves tell you want they want. So before you consider starting
a continuity program ask people what they want first, and then create it.
The tool I use to gather information before designing programs or
products is Survey Monkey (SurveyMonkey.com).
It's free for a basic membership, and it's very user-friendly trust me, if I can figure it out
Step 2: Get Rich Slow
In Part 1 you met Ryan
Lee and Tim Kerber. These member program experts run a very helpful member
program for membership site owners called
MembershipSiteOwner.com, of which I am a member. As you may recall, Ryan
and Tim have produced a series of short (and free) videos that include some
revenue figures from actual member sites that range from $5,000 to a
whopping $208,000 a month!
These numbers are impressive. Yet, if you've
been following Changing Course for any time now, then you know that I do not
advocate anything that even remotely smacks of "get-rich-quick."
Starting a member site, or any reputable on- or off-line business, takes time
and effort. And a member program certainly offers no fast, easy road to
riches. But I figure if you're going to work hard to grow someone else's
business, you might as well work hard to build your own.
I would not suggest you go into the
membership business necessarily expecting to be a millionaire like
But I do believe that if you are willing to put in the time and effort, that
it is entirely possible that by this time next year you could be earning
enough from your member site to quit your job or at the very least go
Step 3: Get Informed
It bears repeating: If
you have a tendency to stay stuck because of fear, then repeat after me: "I
don't have enough information right now to be afraid or excited."
When it comes to changing course, information really will set you free,
because the greater your knowledge, the greater your options and the
less risky change becomes.
Learn more about how to start a member site
and to make it profitable at
There are lots of ways to turn what you know into income. If
you've been thinking about writing a how-to book, designing and leading
workshops, teaching Teleclasses or otherwise profiting from what you already
know, you may want to consider adding a member program to the financial mix.
No matter which path you choose, it all comes down to just taking that first