I love YouTube. I love that if I forget how to put my vacuum cleaner back together after I’ve emptied it, someone has made a video showing me how. I love that if I can’t work out how to add a Facebook pixel or I need to learn how to use a new platform or app, some digital wiz has put together a quick and easy-to-follow how-to video. I love that I can look up the trailers to films I’m thinking about seeing to help me make my decision. What I don’t love though, is the ‘it’s so easy to get rich quick’ tell-all videos.
They’re everywhere and the worst thing is that they’re not exactly scams because they’re not trying to sell you anything or involve you in any financial transaction. The aim is simply to get as many videos views as possible to surge their online presence. Who wouldn’t be tempted by the titles of their videos? By the promises? Even if we are sceptical we are often still curious. Titles such as;
‘How I make £10k per month as a copywriter’
‘How you can become a £200k life coach’
‘Make £100k in 3 months from your blog’
Are any of these things possible? Well, yes but it’s rare and they involve a lot of work and a lot of luck. Also, when these videos claim that you don’t have to be very talented at what you do then that’s simply not true. Those who do reach a stage in their careers where they start to make very good money, especially in creative and digital fields, have almost always been doing it for a long time. They have learnt many lessons, experienced many ups and downs and they have continued to learn and progress to the stage where they really know what they’re doing. Whi some reach a point where they begin really reaping the rewards. So, how are the people in the videos able to claim they are making so much money in these fields?
Well, because most of these people are not copywriters, coaches, bloggers, designers, etc. At least, not exclusively. Most are influencers and that’s how they’re making their money. From you watching their videos with those enticing headlines which give them large numbers of followers and therefore a large platform. Many go on to sell training courses or be ambassadors for products, technologies and media platforms. To be absolutely clear - this is not easy. It’s very time consuming and there is a certain amount of skill and personality involved. The problem is, if you’re a designer or a blogger or coach, etc, then these claims that others are doing it better or making more money - and worst still - that it’s easy, can really make you question yourself and it damages your confidence. Let’s take Ben. He’s an online fitness coach. He’s created a website, promoted online classes and built an online membership forum. Ben is getting paid a decent amount for three classes per week and when they’re full he’ll add more. He is spending a small amount on Facebook advertising and running the website. Ben has some social accounts is steadily building followers and posts almost every day. Yet, he keeps seeing this video where another online fitness instructor is claiming to have made 6 figures in 6 months and they seem to have started from where Ben is. Allow me to hazard a guess at what the fitness instructor in the video is doing to achieve this. Most probably he is spending hours every day on social media, gathering followers. He posts numerous times per day and a lot of thought and time goes into creating each. Probably he blogs regularly with fitness tips and advice. Maybe, due to his large social media following, he is also paid to promote various protein shakes and sports brands. He is investing hours of his time in social media and so he only runs four classes per week and they’re full and he charges more than you because people believe that his having five thousand Instagram followers make him a more qualified fitness instructor. Is this person really making 6 figures from being a fitness instructor or from being an influencer? Because Ben loves helping people achieve their fitness goals and he loves doing his classes, but he isn’t sure he wants to spend hours and hours on social media or plug products. Also, Ben may not be anywhere near as good at building a following as the guy from the video because Ben has no experience of this. Luckily for Ben, he doesn’t have to choose - because he is fictional.
But what about you? Would you rather do the job you have chosen to do and focus on building that organically in a way that fits around your life and stays true to your values? Or do you want to become an influencer 80% of the time? Do you want to make skin products or make videos on skincare? Do you want to be teaching yoga or spending 2 hours per day partaking in black-hat 'follow/unfollow' tactics on Instagram?
I’m not saying that the next time you see one of these videos to bypass it. Sometimes they contain nuggets of useful information or the odd great tip. However, please do not take them at face value. They are rarely making the income they are claiming to and if they are it’s coming from various revenue streams. Making money from selling training courses in travel blogging is not necessarily making money from being a travel blogger. So consider how much time the person in the video is spending doing what you love and how much time they are spending doing everything else.
Many of these businesses also promote working with apps and using online platforms and rarely mention working with other freelancers. If you're going to run the core part of your business - the part you love - effectively, then at some point most business owners will consider outsourcing other roles. Some of the most successful business owners I know started outsourcing as soon as they could afford to do so. The result of which usually results in steady growth.
What these videos promise is rapid growth but this relies on you taking on all the roles in your business yourself - accounting, social media, website build and maintenance, delivering your services or products, blogging, marketing, admin, sales, etc. Not only will most of us not be able to do each and every role to a professional standard, but if we do we are very likely to burn-out as the business grows and more time is required.
Those who outsource to other freelancers or small businesses usually end up extending their network too. The self-employed bubble tends to operate on a circular system where we hire each other, lend one another support, sometimes have a much-needed rant and network. Choosing to do everything yourself, as these videos promote, means you miss out on all of this.
My advice when you are tempted to rewrite your business plan to fulfil the 6 figures in 6 months promise? Go back to the reasons you set out on your self-employed venture and remember what kind of life you wanted to build from it. Then ask yourself if you are going to reach these goals by doing it their way, or your way.