Merry Bookmas! My annual holiday tradition

When I was a kid, Christmas was about getting presents. Hey, I think most kids are like that. As I grew older, I learned to give but the holiday remained a gift-getting holiday for almost the first two decades of my life.

Then as a college student, I had NO money. So during my freshman year (I didn’t go home for Christmas; I house-sat for someone near my college) I sent heartfelt letters to each family member. My parents still talk about those letters as being a highlight Christmas for them.

When I got married and got a job, Christmas became a gift-giving and gift-getting season again and at first there was joy in trying to find a great gift that would delight my wife. But over time, that gift-searching joy started to wane. We’d been married for a while (about a decade) and had grown weary of Christmastime spending. We were buying gifts for each other that we liked but truly didn’t need.

Like most people (I think) we buy whatever we want whenever we want it throughout the year, so Christmas became a time when we tried to give each other gifts but had very little that we actually wanted or needed. And since we don’t have children, the Christmas gift-giving had less anticipatory build-up than I think it would have had if kids were around.

We didn’t hate the season — it’s fun and it’s nice to give gifts to each other — but rather we just became aware that our “as-needed” purchasing habits eliminated most of our wishlist long before Santa tried to stuff himself down our non-existent chimney. It became harder to buy things.

But what did we like? Books. We love books… they’re like a brutal crack addiction for us. We own thousands of books and don’t really collect anything else. Our retirement goal is to sit in our awesome living room and read books.

So we started doing something book-related near Christmas: We’d choose a day (near Christmas but really dependent on our travel schedule) and on that day we’d do fun book-related stuff…

In the morning or early afternoon we go to a library and we stay there until supper. At supper, we go out to a restaurant. After supper, we go to Chapters and browse until closing, spending the money we would have spent on gifts on books instead.

This has transformed the holiday season for us and it’s become a tradition that we’ve been doing for about the past 6 years or so. It’s eliminated the pressure to find the right gift before Christmas; it dramatically reduces the amount of time we spend in stores during the insane-shopper season (we still shop to buy gifts for family but not for each other); plus, our extended family has jumped onto our tradition as well by sending us the only thing we ask for anymore: Chapters gift cards.

So this past Monday was our Christmas book day — “Merry Bookmas” as I’ve been jokingly calling it this year. We went to a library that we haven’t been to before, spent a few hours browsing their shelves and flipping through dozens of books. Then we ate at Moxies. Then we spent the evening at Chapters.

I picked up a half dozen books that I’d been wanting to read, including Jeff Walker’s Launch, Strategyzer’s Value Proposition Design, and Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. Looking forward to reading them!

As a child I was focused on the getting. Later, I struggled with giving a good gift (and I’d put up with an insane amount of crazy holiday shoppers on a quest for something that my wife didn’t really need or want). I realize now that neither of those mindsets are healthy or productive. For my wife and I, this season is now about the experience of spending time together doing something we love — reading and browsing (and occasionally buying) books. And the holiday season has become a time of anticipation again!

Merry Bookmas everyone! :)

What I’m working on this week (Dec. 29, 2014 – Jan 2, 2015)

My favorite time of the year: The end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. So much opportunity and possibility stretched out in front of me in the unwritten chapter of 2015.

This week will be somewhat unusual: I’ve got several projects that are finishing, several more that are starting, and 3 of the 5 days will be run as pretty standard days. But today (Monday) is a bit different (I’ll tell you about it in a blog post tomorrow) and January 1st I’ll probably sleep in a bit but will still work most of the day.

I have a few projects I want to wrap up before the new year starts because I want them finished and because I have several more projects starting in the new year.

Thanks to a phone call I had on Saturday morning, I’m now officially booked for at least the next year, probably longer (potentially the next 3 to 5 years. Saturday was a pretty good day.

To get more specific, here’s what I’m working on this week:

  • A training document that a client will be using to train his staff.
  • A series of case studies for a real estate investor.
  • A regional report for a real estate developer (yes, I’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks but things slowed down over Christmas).
  • The final review of a print book for a client.
  • A series of blog posts for a real estate investing client.
  • A series of blog posts for a home repair client.

Plus a couple of my own projects: I’m really close to wrapping up my second book (should hit virtual bookshelves in January) and I’m ramping up an equities site I’ve been working on.

Enjoy the last crumbs of 2014 and all the best to you and your business in 2015!

Starting a business is the intersection between a solved problem and a business model

A relative was passing through town recently and he stopped in to chat. We had a great time catching up (since we haven’t seen each other in years). Eventually, the conversation turned to business — the businesses I run and some business ideas he had.

He presented a couple of ideas and although they had merit, they were missing something. He asked for my opinion and I shared it with him but decided to write about it here as well.

He had some basic business ideas but they weren’t fully cooked. They could probably more accurately be described as topics rather than businesses. There was nothing wrong with the topics themselves but if you want a business, this is what you need:

A business is the intersection between a solved problem and a business model.

A real business has both. If it’s missing one or both, it will fail. I can’t think of a business that doesn’t have both (although some businesses like Twitter seemed to start with neither so maybe my relative had the next Twitter).

  • The solved problem: The longer I am in business, the more adamant I am that people buy solutions. Even if the problem is not immediately apparent or permanently solved, people buy solutions. Yes, even the impulse purchase of winterfresh gum is a solution. And the more important and painful the problem, the more they are willing to spend. Solving problems is the easiest way to sell something.
  • The business model: This is how the solution is offered, transacted, and delivered. It’s how the business is structured. If you’re not sure what a business model is, just start by building a sales funnel. I write a lot about business models and I write even more about sales funnels.

YOU NEED BOTH

You need to solve a problem and you need a business model. Both. If you’re missing both, you only have a vague topic.

If you have a business model but you don’t solve a problem or if you solve a problem but don’t have a business model then your business will struggle and you might sell a couple of units but you won’t sell very much.

Solve a problem and build a sales funnel around it… and that’s your business.

What I’m working on this week (Dec. 22 – 26, 2014)

Merry Christmas everyone! I almost didn’t post anything this week because, well, who does any work this week???

haha, Actually, I am doing some work this week because I’m a big believer in trying to push right through to the end instead of fading out near the end. So I’m putting in a few hours at my desk today and tomorrow but I won’t be doing a lot of client work because it’s one of those weird times when it’s hard to get in touch with people, so I’ll take projects as far as I can and then I leave them for a bit. Basically the real work will start to roll again around January 5.

Between now and the new year, I’ll move a few projects forward, plus I get to work on a few bigger projects to build my own business next year, plus I get to hang out with Janelle. So it’s all good! I really like this time of year for the amount of concentrated effort I can put into my own business. And in a few days I’ll blog about some of the cool things I’ll be working on in 2015.

Here’s what I’ll be working on during this shortened week:

  • A regional report for a real estate developer (I was working on it last week but it is a HUGE report so it’s going to be a while yet).
  • Some early-stage brainstorming on some projects that will start to roll out with a client early in the new year.
  • Case studies for a real estate investor.
  • An article for a real estate investing magazine.

I’d like to list a few other things but I think that will keep me busy enough over the next couple of days.

Ideas to generate passive income with content

Running a business — one in which you provide services to your clients — sometimes ties you to the clock: You can only perform so many services in a day and that puts a cap on your income. As a copywriter, this is a frustration I face.

Yes, you can become more efficient, yes you can raise your prices, yes you can work longer hours, yes you can outsource some of your work. I do those things and I know other people who do those things too. But if you’re THE person who delivers value as a service, you will face the simple reality that there are only 24 hours in a day and at some point you have to stop working so you can eat a carrot or watch an episode of House of Cards.

Don’t get me wrong, I love service businesses and I think if you want to start a business, you should start by offering a service. But there comes a point when you want to grow your business but you can’t squeeze more productivity into your day.

Expanding your business to create income that isn’t chained to the clock is a great way to help you make more money without having to invent a time machine. This is sometimes called passive income.

One way to create passive income is to create content that you monetize. Here are the 3 steps to do that…

1. IDENTIFY THE BURNING NEED

You’ll only attract eyeballs to your content if you give people a reason to view it. And the best reason to get someone to view your content is if you solve a pressing problem or alleviate a burning need.

I’m not going to go into more detail about that here. It will be different for everyone and if you’re not sure what your audience’s biggest problems (that you solve) are then that should be your homework.

So, I’ll assume that you know what the problem (it’s got to be a BIG problem) and how you solve it.

Okay? Let’s continue…

2. FIGURE OUT HOW YOU’LL COMMUNICATE YOUR SOLUTION

There are many ways to deliver content that earns passive income.

Here is a non-exhaustive list:

  • Print book
  • Ebook
  • Report
  • Ecourse
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Video
  • Social media post
  • Email
  • Toolkit
  • Swipe file
  • Webinars
  • Seminars
  • Podcasts

I’ve mixed offline and online content deployment channels together, and as you read this you can probably identify a handful of options I didn’t include.

3. DECIDE HOW YOU WILL MONETIZE

There aren’t that many ways, actually. Only two. Here they are at a high level:

  1. You can sell the content (actually, you’re just renting access to the information because you continue to own the information). It might include permanent access or temporary access. Examples: selling a book or ebook, selling tickets to a seminar.
  2. You can run ads or affiliate offers on or near the content so that you earn money as people view or click. Examples: An ad enabled video or an email with an affiliate link it.

You can also combine these together. I frequently write for clients who offer sold content that also has affiliate links inside of it.

For more info on monetizing your content, check out this blog post: 5 levels of content monetization.

There are many ways to put these pieces together and have them offered regularly through your sales funnel. So if you want to grow your business and start earning a bit more passive income to help bump up your income without working longer hours, start creating and deploying monetized content.

(Hey, want to see a case study of this very thing in action? Check out this passive income case study).