Are You On The Hamster Wheel of Death?

This is a guest post by Cameron Plommer from EconApps. In my quest to be extraordinary and to blog extraordinarily I’ve stopped taking any and all guest posts except the ones that JUMP out at me and I think “Wow, this needs to be shared with the world.” One thing that caught my eye was that Cameron said he’d been inspired by my recent interview with Clay Collins on evergreen content and how to be start earning passive income by creating information products. If you are still struggling to figure out the HOW of Escaping the 9 to 5 this post may help you form a solid plan which will result in $$ sooner than later via selling info products.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I want to accomplish as blogger. I started out blogging because I had so many thoughts running through my head and I just needed to get them out so I could breathe. But now that I am finding my voice, I am realizing that I can only do so much by blogging. Sure I love to write for the sake of writing, but what else can I do to leverage and scale all the effort I put into this?

One goal I have in life is to create passive streams of income. I personally think everybody should be thinking about how to do this. You never know when the economy might take a dip and you’ll be out of a job without an income. So how can I utilize my blog as a way to build my personal brand, express myself creatively and start down the path to create passive-income products?

A Blog Is A Platform

Nathan Hangen just recently released a podcast called “You Don’t Need a Blog.” What he means is that if you want to make money online or any way for that matter, you don’t need to be a blogger. His point is that people who make the most money online are not bloggers. They are internet marketers that get your email address by giving away free content, and when they have something to sell, they shoot you an email.

The point I want to emphasize is that blogging is just a tool, a platform for you to voice your ideas and philosophy. Blogging, like Nathan says, “is a great entry to the path of an entrepreneur.”

Nathan says he uses blogging as a business, networking and branding tool. It’s these activities that build your platform “in order to scale up and do bigger and better things.”

A Blog is a tool, not the end game

For an entrepreneur in-the-making, I personally take these words to heart. I have not created a product before or built a business. But I want to in the future and the sooner the better.

One way I believe I can do this is by offering my knowledge and expertise, probably in an Ebook format. For the beginning entrepreneur, this is a good way to get my feet wet while maintaining a day job. In his podcast Nathan agrees.

Ebooks are a way to start your business.

He goes on to say that they are not the end game solution as well. But for me it’s still a good start. So now I know that Ebooks might be a good way to take action, but how can I leverage the blog posts I already have and will continue to produce in a way that stays valuable over time? How do I keep my best work and effort from going to waste in my blog’s archives?

How to Leverage Your Blog’s Content

The inspiration for this post came from an interview Maren Kate did with Clay Collins. Maren Kate ask Clay, if he had to pick one way to develop his personal brand, what strategy would he pursue. Clay explained that he would want to make sure he was spending his time on the highest leverage activities possible. Essentially his answer is this: “I would only create content that has an infinite lifetime value.” It’s true that most bloggers create really well thought out content, but they are just opinion pieces that end up in the archives as Clay highlighted.

This quote really made me rethink my blogging goals:

“I think it’s really unfortunate how many bloggers could have written a book with the same amount of effort from a year of blogging. Those blog posts just end up in their archives. They are rarely read any more and it’s the new stuff that people pay attention to. A blog only seems to be relevant anymore to the extent that someone continues to post on a regular basis.”

So what’s a blogger to do? Clay’s solution is to create content that is either part of a course, package series or ebook, that will be valuable forever for the producer and consumers. Clay urges bloggers to make sure each post contributes to something large and important, that goes well beyond the scope of that post.This is the essence of creating a product that can produce passive income.

The strategy is quite simple, but very powerful for bloggers that want to take action right now to scale each post: write the table of contents for the book you are writing and make sure every single post is a chapter in that book or a sub-chapter.

To me this is profound. I never thought about this before, but it makes so much sense.

The book you write can be free to start out with – which will be my strategy just starting out – or it can be at cost. For me I will be waiting to charge so I can prove through my free content that I make quality products worth the money. But for more seasoned bloggers I see no reason why this strategy couldn’t be put into place right now to make products.

Of course this strategy forces you to think strategically about your blog. It forces you to turn your blog into a business, which is what Nathan recommends. This is obviously going to be more work than just spitting out whatever it is you feel like writing about that day. But if you want to see the long-term benefits of your blogging efforts I think doing this is worth the time and energy.

Case Studies

There are tons of examples where blog material has been re-purposed for other uses. I’ll give you two examples, but I think if you dig deeper into each book you pick up, you’ll see that the author didn’t just come up with these ideas out of the blue. They have worked on the ideas and concepts for years sometimes and the content can be found in various places.

One example is Wired Magazine’s Editor Chris Anderson. Anderson has written two popular books, “The Long Tail and “Free.” He did come up with these ideas out of nowhere. He used his blog to try out his ideas.

These passages are from Scott Belsky’s book “Making Ideas Happen“:

“Anderson uses his blog to beta test ideas that go into his books. ‘My philosophy is to give all of my ideas away for free, ideas will be improved by a community that collectively know more than I do.'”

“Using his blog, Anderson refined the concepts presented in the book based on feedback provided to him via comments and e-mails.”

The benefits of giving away your ideas is obvious: you test them on your blogs audience; good ideas will produce comments and buzz, while mediocre ideas are ignored. Anderson also makes his blog audience feel like they had some role in producing the book. They can take part ownership because of the feedback they provide to Anderson: this can only be a good thing, by creating real fans who tell their friends about the upcoming book release.

By testing his ideas in his blog, Anderson has a good sample size that responds positively to his content. This is an overall theme I found among this case study and the next: blogs are used to shape book content through testing ideas with real people.

The last example comes from the guys at 37 Signals. Their newest work, Rework is basically a manifesto of their business philosophy: stay lean, stay small, bootstrap your business, work when you want as long as you get the work done, hold minimal meetings, etc. They basically did the same thing as Chris Anderson and their book is a bestseller.

On the 37 Signals podcast, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson recently responded to a few criticisms of Rework. One complaint was if one had already read their first book and kept up on their blog, Rework doesn’t say anything new. Rework is just a retread of stuff 37 Signals has already put out.

Jason’s answer clearly validates the argument for re-purposing and re-molding blog content for a new audience.

“If you have read all of our stuff this book is probably not for you and that’s okay, because you are in the small minority that know about what we do.”

“There are so many new people being exposed to our work and this is a great place to start. This is our greatest hits compilation.”

“If you think this has all been said before you right, but now it’s said all in one place which is a lot more accessible for the average person.”

Another 37 Signals employee Matt Linderman, made this point about the value of having a physical product.

“The medium is different. You have a book, in an actually physical format where all these thoughts and ideas have been edited down as tight as we could get them. This is something that can be easily referred to and shared with someone else. It’s so much different from the transitory nature of a blog post, which just disappears into the ether. To think that everyone has access to these posts and has been reading them just seems like a very small subset.”

Simple and smart. Simple in that a book is a great way to introduce a friend to the 37 Signals philosophy. If you were really excited about 37 Signals and wanted your friends to be too, you wouldn’t tell them to look through the archives of their blog, Signals Vs. Noise. No way, instead Jason and David did it for you. This effort creates value that people will pay for. In this instance a book.

I also loves David’s answer to the complaint that there are no new ideas in Rework.

“The alternative is horrible. Should we sit down in a dark room and come up with all these wonderful ideas without sharing them, without testing them, without trying them out and seeing what the response is? That would be a shitty book.”

The Takeaway

I don’t want all my best ideas to go to waste in my blog’s archives. I don’t want to have to keep churning out content for my blog and overall personal brand to be relevant. Clay called this the “HAMSTER WHEEL OF DEATH.” When you think about it, making a strategy for your blog that is relevant to products you can sell in the future is super smart. And look, if you aren’t into selling things I totally get that. I’m a very modest guy and don’t really think I deserve someone’s hard-earned money quite yet. If you feel the same way, just repackage your related content into a free Ebook or video series. You can point at this product – as Shane Mac likes to say – in job interviews or when trying to sell your skills as a consultant.

In the end everybody is selling something. Use all that effort you put into blogging to create something that is going to have ever-lasting value (evergreen content), which will be able to serve you for the rest of your life.

BIO: After 17 years of being taught by somebody else Cameron is pumped about exploring the world of knowledge on his own terms. A consumption whore at heart he is transitioning to becoming a producer at his blog Econ Apps, where he applies the wonders of economics to life.  He is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is interested in technology, marketing, project management and entrepreneurship.