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Learn from Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me…

 

A Little Knowledge Can Go a Long Way:
How to Generate a Steady Cash Flow
Using What You Already Know

Part 2 in a Two-Part Series

 

By Valerie Young

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 flow. 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.

Over the 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 hooked.

When friends 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.

Bad Thinking: 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 Anderson.

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 the experience.

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 It" yourself.

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:

Competence 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.

Bad Thinking: 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

Continuity 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 math!

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 to FastTrackHeadquarters.com and 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 dream killer.

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 Guide (FastTrackHeadquarters.com/QuickStart.pdf)

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 anybody can!

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 Ryan. 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 part-time.

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 ChangingCourse.com/recommends/membershipbootcamp

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 small step!

Learn how you can Fast Track Your Dream of working at what you love on your own terms.

Did you like this article? Read more free articles about Changing Course.

About the Author

"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.

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