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It felt like deja vu.
Two years ago I found myself in a place I didn’t think I could return to.
I was lost. I didn’t know what to do next.
The deja vu feeling appeared when I realised I was making mistakes I had made before. I was jumping from idea to idea, creating new businesses and projects only to kill them and start something new days later.
I was making beginner mistakes, which normally would be okay because as a beginner it’s good to learn from these experiences. The problem was I was no beginner. I knew better.
To make things significantly worse, this time I had the resources to spend money on my mistakes. I had capital built up from my previous online success.
With the belief that I could speed up the process by hiring help to do multiple projects at once, I dived in, paying contractors to design graphics, set up websites, write emails and create documents for me.
I spent thousands of dollars on projects that I ended up closing down due to lack of focus. It was not a good pattern.
As I have documented on this blog, the last few years were rough.
With my mother and her mother (my grandmother) passing away, and two years spent on a software startup that did not become a profitable business, I found myself starting the year 2013 ready for a change.
My experience with a tech startup showed me how amazing I have it as a blogger. Writing, podcasting, doing youtube videos, and helping others to create blogging businesses is personally gratifying, financially lucrative and truly a “lifestyle” business.
Prior to the startup, I had reached a point of burnout as an information marketer. I still enjoyed the blogging process – it wasn’t exactly hard to keep up when I only needed to publish once a week – but the idea of updating old courses, creating new courses, coaching people, and writing email sequences, did not excite me.
One silver-lining after two years spent with my startup was a renewed desire to get back into information marketing. I was excited about blogging, prepared to create training courses and coach people again.
Unfortunately, there was a problem… my confidence was gone.
While I was going through a period of burnout, starting a tech company and looking after my mother in hospital, there was a changing of the guard occurring online.
New leaders emerged in my industry and were gaining incredible amounts of exposure.
Pat Flynn rose to fame off the back of his booming podcast and seriously compelling income reports.
Derek Halpern burst onto the scene, dissecting data from psychology experiments and applying it to the world of blogging and internet marketing. He cleverly offered to review many top blogs to help them with conversion, which in turn resulted in significant exposure for his brand and blog.
Then there are people like John Lee Dumas and Lewis Howes, who thanks to podcasting have reached brand new levels of online fame (and significant money too as John’s incredible income reports show – surpassing the numbers reported by Pat).
The old guard that I “grew up with” in the blogging space, guys like Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, John Chow and Shoemoney, are all still doing well. Not to mention the internet marketers like Eben Pagan, Frank Kern, Jeff Walker, Rich Schefren, Mike Filsaime and Andy Jenkins, are also working hard creating new products and still making millions online.
To put it simply, everything got bigger and more sophisticated. There are more experts today, more people succeeding, larger audiences being reached and more money being made.
Thanks to the power of webinars as selling tools, the resurgence of podcasting in part due to the proliferation of iTunes and smartphones, the sheer volume of traffic on YouTube, the incredible segmentation abilities of Facebook advertising, the addictiveness of Pinterest and the addition of mobile applications – the opportunities are endless.
Although I did something to contribute online and continued to publish what I was doing on my blog, behind the scenes I wasn’t certain what the future held for me.
The problem was I didn’t know exactly where I fit in anymore.
People knew me as a blog trainer. I was one of the originals, the old guard, a person people used to follow and still remembered.
This was nice from a notoriety point of view. It was good that people saw me as representing something, as being good at something, but I wasn’t sure if I could still be that person.
One of the big problems was a lack of confidence in my own blogging.
My blog, EJ that you are reading right now, went through a period of slow gradual traffic decline.
By the year 2012 my traffic had halved, from around 100,000 visitors a month down to below 50,000. I didn’t get nearly as many comments as I used to on blog posts, which I believed was partly because discussions now occur on social media. Given I had somewhat neglected social media, that wasn’t a good thing either.
On top of this, I had deliberately cut most of my income sources. My courses were outdated so I pulled them from the market. I removed almost all the advertising from my site to see if that might help improve my traffic. I stopped doing affiliate marketing because I was tired of writing emails to sell other people’s products.
It’s hard to feel confident teaching others about blogging when your own blog is not exactly a shining beacon of success.
This sense of insecurity is what led me to make beginner mistakes and start looking for new opportunities.
I thought if I did enough new things, throwing money at projects, something would emerge to build on.
Of course, nothing did.
I killed all the projects before they even started because of one simple reason – my motivation was wrong.
I was doing things just because I could. I had the money and the knowledge. What I didn’t have was the heart or the desire, and I was diluting my efforts across too many things at once – a classic beginner entrepreneur mistake.
After wasting a whole bunch of money and making the same mistakes several times in different projects, I came to my senses. I realized I needed to just stop.
My blog business was still successful. Even if my traffic had halved, I still had a lot of people on my newsletter and more signing up every day.
I also had a lot to teach. Many years ago I had set aside plans to create a series of training guides, and there was plenty of demand for the courses I had closed down, Blog Mastermind and Membership Site Mastermind, which I could teach fresh.
The most important thing, however, was where my heart was. I realized that what I enjoy the most is blogging, writing, creating multi-media content, teaching others how to break free from a job and interacting with the online community I am a part of.
While all of this was going on I was testing different ideas to bring my blog traffic back up to where it was. Perhaps it was the universe telling me something or just a coincidence, but around the same point that I found some clarity about my direction, my blog traffic tipped upwards, a trend that continued.
I can never be certain of course given the nature of Google’s algorithms, but the changes I made to my blog I believe worked. Within two months my traffic was back to where it was two years ago.
I took this as a sign.
Although I felt more clarity about what I wanted to do, I still felt lacking in confidence.
You might find it hard to believe that someone who had so much success online before could find themselves lacking in confidence. I pride myself on results. I want to be able to show people tangible outcomes based on things I know and do that work. If I’m not walking my own talk, so to speak, I don’t feel confident.
If I needed money I could simply put ads back on my site and start promoting affiliate products again. However I didn’t want to return to that strategy, I felt pulled in a different direction.
It was clear that the world of blogging had changed and become crowded with many very successful people. As a result, I felt my positioning needed to be refined. I had to narrow my focus and stand for something that I was confident in.
The answer was simple…
I’ve made most of my income selling digital products. I know a considerable amount about creating and launching courses, membership sites and coaching programs. I get the most personal satisfaction as a creative person selling my ideas.
I also consider digital products and services as the best model for bloggers to adopt today, especially if you are new.
Many years ago I studied the ‘Sales Funnel‘ model for selling digital products and services. I was excited by it back then, but as I mentioned earlier, had reached a point of burn-out, so had no desire to build out a complete funnel.
In 2013 I made the decision to return to the subject of funnels. I dug up and studied my old funnel training materials and joined a new $1,000 course from Todd Brown (Todd used to work with Rich Schefren as his funnel man, and I have to say he’s really good at what he does – his course was brilliant).
I began planning a range of products I wanted to create. For the first time in a long time, I felt utterly excited by how much work was in front of me.
By mid 2014 I completed my fourth and final (for the time being) front end product, and also opened up the EJ Insider, my coaching community, which in 2016 became the Laptop Lifestyle Academy. It took me over a year to do it, but I successfully executed the first phase of the plan I put into place to build my new blogging business.
The next phase was to completely recreate my flagship courses, starting with Blog Mastermind.
I’m convinced that the best form of marketing is proven success stories. Your own success story is a great start, but when you can demonstrate others have achieved results thanks to your advice, then you have something special.
We all know the power of before and after shots. If you can show potential new clients the equivalent of a before and after case study (ideally several), that’s all you need. When you have a great product and it’s clear it works, you don’t have to do any hard selling.
With this in mind, I decided to showcase my previous graduate members as the centerpoint of my marketing campaign. However, I didn’t want to produce just short case studies solely for the purpose of promoting my products. I wanted to create valuable content that would help people in and of itself, which happened to be great case studies showing that my products worked too.
This was not hard to do. In fact, I had already done it.
I’m talking about my podcast interviews.
I’ve interviewed many people over the years, including a handful of graduates from my programs, who are great case studies. They started from zero, took my program, worked hard, made life changing money, and we then share the entire story in an interview.
Podcasts are inspiring and educational and a great way to connect with your audience. I had a few podcast case studies ready to go, but having never actually asked my graduate members to see if there were any good success stories worth sharing, I figured there could be a few more.
I’ve had literally thousands of people take my coaching programs. I started teaching in 2007. That’s a lot of years, and a lot of members.
The advantage of this is that my graduates have had time to build amazing blog businesses. Despite this, knowing that it takes hard work, great execution and a dash of luck to succeed, I was honestly worried if there were any more success stories to share!
I wrote an email and sent it to the list of people who had taken my two flagship courses in the past. I had low expectations. Maybe there were no success stories. Maybe people didn’t want to talk about them publicly on a podcast… who knows!
Within a few days I was blown away by the responses I received. Email after email came through from people writing such amazing things about the blog businesses they were running, the kind of money they were making ($20,000 a month, $30,000 – even half a million a year!) and how my courses had been the start of everything for them (and some of these people are very well known today).
I booked each person in to do a podcast interview and then began one of the best months of my life.
I can’t even begin to explain how amazingly uplifting this experience was.
I got to sit in and listen as people explained how my programs had helped them, how I had personally inspired them, how they had applied exactly what I taught — and it worked! — and how they were now living these amazing lives, earning such good money.
I then spent another couple of weeks re-listening and editing the interviews, getting them ready to publish and taking samples out as testimonials.
If you want to feel good about yourself, teach a course, get people results, then spend a few weeks listening to them explain how you changed their lives for the better. It’s powerful stuff!
It didn’t even stop there. Over the months and years since I began interviewing my graduates, more and more people surfaced as having taken part in one of my coaching courses, including some well known people like Hal Elrod, Natalie MacNeil, Jessica Nazarali and Kat Loterzo — and I interviewed them all!
Two years ago I was lost and making beginner mistakes. Then I found my direction and gained clarity about what I want to do. As I began implementing the new plan my confidence grew. Then after completing the case study interviews with my wonderful graduates, I truly found my purpose.
I’m a good teacher and I’ve been doing what I do long enough to reach the point where my subject has become second-nature. I’ve done my 10,000 hours and seen the industry evolve. My members actually get results and I’ve got many success stories to prove it.
I’ve come to realise thanks to blogging that my greatest strength as a writer is my clarity of style. I can collect and communicate ideas clearly and pass them on to people who are still learning in a way that they comprehend.
And the big one – the core motivation that drives everything I do – is how much I hate that people spend so many hours doing jobs they despise, when they have so much more to offer the world, if they just built the platform to share it.
One very powerful side-effect of going through this period of confusion as an entrepreneur is once again tasting what it is like to lack clarity about what I was doing with my business.
When you don’t have the self-esteem, the confidence, the direction and the clarity of purpose, you run the risk of floundering around, jumping from project to project, wasting time and possibly money.
Worst of all, the continued disjointed efforts lead to no results, which makes you feel even more lost, confused and tired.
It’s important for me to have felt this feeling again because it makes me a better coach. It’s a long time, over 15 years, since I first got started as an online entrepreneur and I felt these things. My beginner phase was a long time ago.
I feel rapport with all of you who are still out there trying to build your first successful business, when you are not certain what that is yet. When you don’t know what your niche is, or how you could become an expert at something (what on earth is that something!), or how exactly the process goes to create a website that generates an income.
There’s a lot to learn and a lot to do, and if you’re feelings are not positive and motivating you, you’re going to struggle.
Looking back over periods when I’ve been very successful versus periods when I have not, I now realise there is one ingredient more important than any other for success…
Clarity is your power, your center from which to draw energy from, to guide your day-to-day decisions and where you derive your vision from. Everything is born from you knowing with utmost certainty what you are doing and why you do it.
The more clarity you have, the better you perform. This is why as you grow and start to master what you focus on, your sense of purpose and confidence increases. When you have clarity, you know what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what order to do it in.
Without clarity, everything becomes confused. You make mistakes, you don’t know when to do something or what path to follow.
When you lack clarity, information just confuses you. When you have clarity, information solves problems.
I suspect people who suffer from information overload, at the heart of their problem, suffer from a lack of clarity. When you have clarity, you don’t get information overload, because you only seek out what you need right now.
It might seem so simple, but as we all know, clarity is not always easy to obtain. It takes time, practice, experience, moments of awakening, successful outcomes and failures too, to help us find our clarity.
Without it, you are lost.
I’ll end this article with a final invitation for you to join me and the rest of my small and growing coaching community, in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy.
It’s not a course, or a guide, it’s a support group, accountability club, and of course, access to me as your coach.
I can help you gain the clarity you need in order to feel the confidence that comes from knowing what you stand for and how you can serve the world.
Whether you need help with…
…whatever stage you are up to with your blogging and information marketing business, I can help.
The Laptop Lifestyle Academy is a 24-hour accessible community. It’s like a forum with social tools built in. I check in every day, offer my advice and work with the members to take steps forward towards an income producing online business.
The community is made up of people at different levels of progress. Some are still figuring out what topic to focus on, others are building their technology infrastructures like their blog and landing page, some are focusing on traffic, conversion or product creation.
The one binding ingredient is that everyone is there to help and support each other.
If you sign up now, you lock in the charter group price for the life of your membership. Here is the link –
Beyond the community interaction, I also have many resources coming to members, including 50% off my courses, access to some members-only training programs, the option to join me on all my live members-only coaching calls, plus preview interviews not released anywhere else and other special training content.
All of this is only for my Laptop Lifestyle Academy members, and I’d love to have you as one of them.
That’s it from me. I hope sharing my own experiences and insecurities of the last couple of years helps you deal with your own challenges.
Good luck with your blog.