Be Your Own Angel – How to Make Money Happen

Let’s talk about money, baby! And where money comes from.

Whether it’s funding or acquihires, angels or convertible notes, debt or income, money is the topic we all looooove to talk about (and pretend not to care about).

Lemme be straight with you: I love me some money. And I don’t mind admitting it.

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Growing up, I lived in what should have been a firmly middle-class household, but somebody (not me) was terrible at managing money. Sure, we had a computer and internet access (yay!) but new clothes were an incredible and rare treat, car problems were financial disasters, and our power and telephone service got turned off on a semi-regular basis.

“We can’t afford” was a phrase that was ground into my brain. There were grooves. It took me a long time to get over it, and it gave me all kinds of complexes.

Today, thanks to my products, I get to enjoy the luxury of having a financial cushion big enough to buy a new car… in cash. (A fancyish new car — or 2 to 3 Toyota Yarises!) I love the sheer relief it brings to be able to wave away financial problems such as sudden repairs, unexpected bills, even the cost of same-day hotel dry-cleaning and airline upgrades… or falling in love with a one-of-a-kind piece of art on a trip. Whatever, it’s only money. No worries.

(The extra buying power is fantastic, but not worrying is the greatest luxury of all.)

The size of my cushion isn’t what gives me that relaxed attitude, though. No, I’ve known many who had greater annual incomes (personal income), with more money in the bank, who were nevertheless fearful and anxious. Always hawk-eyed, watching for the tiniest bit of excess. Nope, that cheerful, relaxed attitude isn’t about sheer volume of cash.

The root of my financial chillaxing is this simple fact:

Whatever happens to my finances, I know I can make more money whenever I want.

No shit, this is an actual fact, one I’ve proven to myself over & over through the past 4 years of product empire building. (And before that, it came in a flavor of I can get another job whenever I want, which was also a source of relief, although not nearly so empowering.)

Probably this makes me sound like a glib douchebag, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take, because sharing this shift is important to me:

Nothing makes me happier than helping other people learn this way of looking at the world. And watching them make it happen.

My hope is that you’ll read this little essay today and be inspired to figure out how you can get a little of that attitude for yourself.

A Real-Life Illustration: Hello, Last Minute Ireland!

Last year (2011), we missed out on Funconf in Dublin. This year — the last Funconf ever! — I told myself there was no way in hell I’d miss it. But, having dropped over $130,000 for a mortgage down payment just a month before, our financial cushion wasn’t as robust and hearty as I like it. And at 999€ (times two!) for the conf tickets alone, it wasn’t a tiny expense.

Funconf III  2012

My husband, Thomas, is the cautious one. “We don’t have the money,” he said. I answered him: “What are you talking about? We can make the money.”

And so we did.

We took a two-fold approach:

We made the trip happen… without dipping into our cushion.

We’re talking over $5,000 in a matter of days, dear reader. My email to the mailing list alone brought in over $2,500 of new sales.

That is the true power of assets, conceived and properly deployed. That’s the power of what I like to call True Wealth. Like a relaxed attitude about money, True Wealth isn’t about the cash: it’s a combination of knowledge, skills, process, assets… and gumption.

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Um, but Amy, you and Thomas are… special

It’s easy for me because I’m famous. Right?

First off, I really wouldn’t say I’m famous. Slightly internet famous in a few narrow circles, maybe. Thomas, my husband, is pretty damn hot in JavaScript land but without careful tending of his public image, even his star power is slightly tarnished.

Even so, I hear this a lot: “Well, you’re famous.” “If I had 10,000 Twitter followers like you do, I could do it, too.”

Bzzzt. Untrue, my friends. Lots of famous people can’t sell a damn thing. And lots of totally un-famous people sell lots. (Psst: I wrote a blog post about this very topic.)

Which brings us to my next story, about my student, Brennan Dunn.

Another Story: Brennan’s Last Minute Ireland!

Now, Brennan isn’t famous at all, by any stretch of the imagination. Under a thousand Twitter followers (and most of those are recent), triple digit RSS subscriber count, and no name recognition. What little fame he has, in fact, is brand new.

And that’s not stopping him one bit. To the contrary!

Editor’s Note: obviously this blog post is pretty old and Brennan has vastly surpassed all the numbers in here!

Brennan took my 30×500 Product Launch Class [in 2012], and he really put his blood, sweat & tears into it. His first product ever, Planscope, is making $3,200 a month now [in 2012] — and growing nearly 10% month over month.

If he can keep that rate of growth up (and he’s a marketing machine, so I know he can), Planscope will be bringing in over $120,000 a year in revenue for him when it’ll be 20 months old. That’s the power of compound growth: it seems slow, but boy does it really add up. (Planscope is even growing faster than our first app, Freckle, did!)

Obviously, as Brennan’s teacher, this makes me super proud. And it’s especially awesome when you consider that he’s only part-time on Planscope right now.

Because right now, $3,200 a month isn’t enough for him to quit consulting. So when it came to Funconf, Brennan was thinking like my husband, Thomas.

Brennan wanted to go to Funconf, too — but, after a lengthy vacation and unexpected medical bills, he found himself thinking, “We don’t have the money.”

To me, that sounded like a challenge. And call it a personality flaw, but I find it harrrrrd to resist a challenge.

So I sneak attacked him.

While we were chatting about something completely different, I dropped a subtle bomb into the conversation, talking about our plan to pay for Funconf:

Amy Hoy: the upside of having a mixture of products is we can do a sale on the infoproducts to raise some cash
Amy Hoy: which is sthg I wanted to talk to you about
Amy Hoy: you’re obviously going balls to the wall on Planscope, but have you thought about doing an infoproduct for a cash infusion?

The thing about Brennan is he never needs telling twice. He took the idea and ran with it.

Brennan realized that he had:

  1. experiences he could share & teach
  2. a process for coming up with profitable product ideas
  3. an audience (Planscope customers) to learn from & reach out to
  4. the skills to write a persuasive sales pitch
  5. the confidence to choose a value-based price
  6. the tools & techniques for launching

And so he made a bet with his wife. As he told me,

Brennan Dunn: but my bet with her was, “If I can make enough to cover the flight and ticket between now and then on something new, can I go?”
Brennan Dunn: I think she probably didn’t believe me, and ended up accepting the bet 
Brennan Dunn: because $4-5k in 2 weeks on something brand new didn’t seem very plausible to her (i.e. I’m not even close to that with planscope and it’s been like 9 months)

Mrs Dunn was right to doubt, don’t you think? It doesn’t sound very plausible, does it? Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that this was just a couple weeks before the conference itself? No way, man.

And yet.

Brennan took his assets & process & skills — items 1 through 6 — and he whipped up a pitch that’d appeal to the audience he already had (Planscope customers), based on what he’d learned from interacting with them (they have lots of problems; pricing is a big one).

He turned that pitch into a simple page to pre-sell the product: a short little ebook workbook. He called it Double Your Freelancing Rate:

Double Your Freelancing Rate in 14 Days

He gave it an ambitious, value-based price. (After we nudged him to charge more.) He promoted it to his existing audience. He tweeted. He got retweeted. He wrote one blog post about the book — then another, meta post. He contacted leaders, got interviews and links…

And that little ebook brought in $6,000 in pre-sales alone. Before he wrote it.

Ladies and gentlemen, Brennan went to Funconf. We all had a great time. And last Monday, he shipped the finished version, to rave reviews.

This Isn’t a Story about Conference Tickets

This story is about more than a trip to Dublin and a crazy conference. That’s just the way it begins.

Once you realize you can “make money happen,” once you’ve proven to yourself that it works… what else changes?

What happens when you stop thinking of money as something that happens to you, and start thinking of how you could happen to money?

Could you use this technique to quit your job, or quit consulting, months sooner? To take a sabbatical? To fund the development of a bootstrapped product, to give you runway without investment?

I’ve done all of the above.

It’s like being your own angel investor. Only there’s nobody riding your ass… and you get to maintain full control and 100% ownership.

I’ve used the Be Your Own Angel approach over & over to do the seemingly impossible. Without BYOA, we couldn’t have funded the development of Charm, or taken months off to handle Thomas’ immigration and our international move. I couldn’t have quit consulting when I did.

That’s power.

And it’s not power that’s unique to me. Brennan isn’t famous… not even among freelancer circles. He is well-equipped, dedicated, and savvy.

If you’re dedicated and savvy, you could BYOA too.

How’d Brennan get this way?

I certainly can’t claim credit for Brennan being a savvy go-getter. I also have nothing to do with his ability to teach people how to raise their freelance rates (he created a booming consultancy before I ever entered the picture).

But of this list of the experience, skills, process, & tools he used to create that windfall:

  1. experiences he could share & teach
  2. a process for coming up with profitable product ideas
  3. an audience (Planscope customers) to learn from & reach out to
  4. the skills to write a persuasive sales pitch
  5. the confidence to choose a value-based price
  6. the tools & techniques for launching

Items 2 through 6 were things he learned, built, & honed in my class, 30×500, the product launch class. Plus, as he said to me last night, “You definitely kicked my ass in the right direction.” (A thing I love to do!)

Amy Hoy: so how does it feel now to know that you have the ability to “make money happen” when you want?
Brennan Dunn: it’s liberating, and addicting
Brennan Dunn: liberating because, unlike with a “job” or even putting all my eggs into a single SaaS basket, I’m in complete control of growth.
Brennan Dunn: like, I could survey enough of the new audience to figure out what I have to offer them next (i.e. the freelance -> consultancy course)
Brennan Dunn: and deliver more value for more money, filling my pockets and filling their heads

Isn’t this the best virtuous cycle ever? If this sounds like the kind of addictive habit you’d like to craft for yourself, then 30×500 can help you, too.

30×500: Product Launch Class

30×500 is a class I’ve been teaching for over 4 years now, through various permutations. The goal is simple:

Help you learn how to think & act like Brennan in the story above. To recognize the value you bring to the table; to spot opportunities, and pounce on them; to look at the world in a different (more actionable!) way; to learn how to sell things before they’re made, to preserve your precious time; to market, to sell, to ship.

It’s true, I love the financial freedom & security that my product business gives me. I love hearing from happy Freckle customers. I love having an impact; getting to do a million different things; knowing that nobody could ever fire me, or change my work against my will.

But what I really, really love is this:

Watching my students kick ass in the 30×500 Product Launch Class. Watching them learn what I’ve learned, and experience the joy of working directly with the people whose lives they touch. Disintermediating away clients, committees, and bosses, and getting straight to the quick. Watching them feel, for the first time, the joy of realizing they can choose how much they want to earn.

And watching them get letters from their customers as they help them kick ass.

Then seeing them give the same great advice and encouragement — sometimes even better! — to their fellow alumni.

There’s nothing better.

I know that, every year, I’m helping my students launch businesses which, in toto, will multiply our own yearly revenue by ten over the long run.

I get to be a human lever for awesome. And train new human levers for awesome!

Some day, if there are enough of us, we will move the world. Even if we only move the world a little bit, for a hundred people here, a thousand people there, we’re still moving the world. Which amazes me anew every single day.

Wanna get a free 7-part taste test?

If you’d like to learn more about why the default approach to startups is broken, and how the 30×500 is so different — and more importantly, get some free steps that’ll help you get started? Drop your email in the box below for our 7-part bootstrapping guide:

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Discussion

    • Amy

      Because it’s a false economy to spend money on things you don’t want. It’s not a “deal” if you don’t love coming home.

      Reply
  1. Stephen Buckley

    Ha Ha!

    Amy you are definitely a lady after my wife’s heart, that is exactly the sort of thing she would say.

    I really appreciate your posts, this is giving me sooo much food for thought right now!

    By the way I think I found a bug in your logic for the website input, it does not seem to like http://www.techjump.co.uk (Does not recognise it as a valid URL)

    Reply

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