The small picture below is from my Stripe account, the platform I use to collect payments in my business. The number represents total sales.
In 2018 my coaching business crossed that magic one million dollars milestone.
Back in the ‘old days’ (2007-2011), before Stripe I used a combination of Paypal and Clickbank to collect payments for sales of my teaching products. Because of this, I don’t know when I crossed the first million-dollar milestone, but I know I did because of my tax returns from back then (and it paid for the apartment, townhouse and BMW I owned in Australia too!)
Hence this revenue picture really represents crossing the two million dollar milestone from my coaching business.
Many years ago there was a brief period where I did income reports on my blog back when it was all the rage to do so. I quickly stopped though as writing specifically about money all the time felt like only a part of the picture to help other entrepreneurs.
However, in this case, I’m acknowledging this second million dollar milestone publicly because I want to demonstrate that this kind of outcome is possible using a slow and steady strategy.
I should also clarify that my business is not driven by paid ads. It’s common online to see people report millions of dollars in sales, but you never know how many millions were spent on paid ads to generate those sales.
There’s nothing wrong with paid advertising of course, it’s an incredible tool to scale quickly when you get the numbers right.
I want to be clear though that the cost of a sale for me is almost zero since I sell digital products and have done very little paid advertising over the years. Profit margin for my company has been as high as 70% some years.
The big expenses are contractors (tech, customer support, project management, etc) and travel (paying for all those AirBNBs I stay in as a digital nomad around the world, plus flights, trains, etc.)
These costs have fluctuated a lot over the years, as I’ve been through heavy growth periods expanding my team, and heavy travel years, moving around the planet for many months at a time.
Government taxes must also be factored in as I’ve been a tax payer in Australia and now Canada.
To cut a long story short, I didn’t get to keep all of those millions of dollars. I’ve certainly profited enough that my life has been very comfortable for more than a decade, thanks primarily to this one company.
I’ve also reinvested in things like property, shares, cryptocurrency, angel investing and new businesses, increasing my net worth, diversifying my income streams, and protecting my financial future.
My Approach: Slow And Steady, Keep Doing What Works
I remember when I was a teenager I thought it would be awesome to have a million dollars.
I dreamed of winning the lotto. Then later, after reading lots of business books, I dreamed of selling a business for a million dollars.
Strangely enough, neither of those outcomes ended up being my path to a million.
Instead my first and second million came from a slow and steady strategy…
If you earn $10,000 a month for long enough, you make a million dollars.
It’s not sexy, but $10,000 a month for about 8.33 years will get you to a million dollars.
That’s not exactly how I got there, since my monthly income has varied from $10,000 to $100,000 depending on what’s going on, but the principle remains the same.
It took me about five years to get to a million, and then another five years to get to the second, albeit with plenty of fluctuations along the way.
The critic in me says that’s not good enough. I didn’t make more money year after year like a driven entrepreneur should.
The laptop lifestyle digital nomad in me says thank you for earning enough to be able to do pretty much anything, yet making sure my entire life wasn’t absorbed into running a business.
I’ve never experienced burnout, but I’ve seen plenty of my peers fall prey to it, frequently because they simply must make more money this year than they made last year.
A long time ago I figured out how to make money using content to grow a small but loyal following, and then sell comprehensive digital training programs to these people.
I built a foundation online, tested a system to make money, automated the system as much as I could, then repeated what worked again and again and again.
Sure there were distractions and side gigs and ideas that went nowhere over the years, but during that entire time, the core business continued to steadfastly pour money into my bank account.
Slow and steady, repeat what works — that’s how you create a cash cow.
The Cash Cow
Although I’ve forgotten most things I learned in university, there is one term I remember well…
The Cash Cow.
A cash cow is a product that continues to sell long term. It delivers stable, predictable revenue and maintains demand for years or even decades.
In university I learned how cash cow products provide stability to large companies, giving them the reliable cash flow they need to pay employees to grow, cement brand leadership, outspend the competition, and the resources to experiment in new product categories.
Cash cows are incredibly valuable because of their dependability. When you have something people want, a means to deliver it at a profit, and a system to sell it that works, you can basically print money.
Of course nothing lasts forever, but cash cows, for all kinds of reasons, are by definition consistent. When I say it’s like printing money, that’s not hyperbole. Sure there are things you need to do to keep milking a cash cow, but it’s a process you can rely on long term.
Positioning, proprietary technology, market conditions, location, government incentives, economies of scale, capital advantages — any of these forces can be behind why a cash cow remains a cash cow.
In my case, I ended up creating a company that somewhat to my surprise, ended up being a cash cow.
Let me explain what I mean…
What Is A ‘Cash Cow’ For An Online Education Business?
I should start by stating the obvious:
The business I refer to as a cash cow, is my online education business, built off the ‘Yaro’ personal brand powered by my blog you are reading now (established in 2005).
This model has proven effective for many other people as well, including several graduates of my coaching programs, who sell products in niches as diverse as speed reading, cosmetic chemistry, drama school lessons, scrapbooking, acne treatment, multiple personality disorder, color weaving and book publishing.
I call these products cash cows because of how consistent the income is once you’ve created the content you need to make it work. When you establish the conditions necessary, you can enjoy these kinds of outcomes…
- You can run launch campaigns for your flagship course whenever you want to, selling the same course, with the same launch materials (same emails, sales page/video, launch content), earning tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each time
- You have a membership site that delivers consistent subscription revenue, new members continue to join on autopilot, and you can also do launch campaigns for your membership site for big cash infusions
- You continue to earn cash cow income from evergreen campaigns like webinar sequences and video launch sequences selling your flagship course on autopilot, again using the same content over and over again
- New people join your email list every day because of content you wrote five years ago on your blog, which gives you fresh eyeballs when you do these launches and fuels the evergreen campaigns (the key reason why you don’t need to rely on paid advertising campaigns)
The main point to highlight, which is why these products are ‘cash cow’ reliable, is how they leverage content over and over and over again.
It takes a while — usually years — to build up the necessary content infrastructure, but once you have put in the hard work, the rewards continue for years, even decades.
The problem with today’s online marketing world, is that most people spend their content creation time on ‘ghost content’, content that appears once, then quickly disappears and never makes an impact again.
Social media in particular is designed to distribute ghost content. All those Facebook posts, rants you make in groups, Instagram pictures, snaps and stories, updates to your timeline that quickly disappear never to be seen again.
If you contrast this to the content assets I have created and leveraged over the years — the blog posts that deliver long term search traffic, the emails in evergreen campaigns that continue to be sent out year after year and used in launch campaigns, the downloadable reports and evergreen webinar presentations — all of these are multi-use. You create once and extract value again and again and again. They are ASSETS.
Cash cow products exist because you create some form of asset that delivers value without requiring your hard work over and over again.
The product itself is an asset, but there must also be a reliable method for reaching customers and profiting.
For an online education business, content is our asset. That includes the product itself (a product that teaches via content) and the marketing system (the content used to reach people and build enough trust to convince them to purchase the product).
Are You Building A Decade-Long Money Making Machine?
The two most important points to take away from what I’ve explained in this article are:
- You can reach big financial milestones using a slow and steady, repeat what works methodology
- Your methodology must be based on content assets so you can enjoy cash cow results, which means stable income for you, and far less work (no more constantly creating something new for the social media machine)
There’s no reason for you to be the fastest, or the most innovative, or the hardest working or even the best at what you do.
What matters is you find an audience, solve a problem for them, and develop a cash cow process for delivering that solution at a profit.
This might come as a surprise to you, but I’ve never worked full-time on my coaching business, at least by the definition of what we call full time work – roughly 40 to 50 hour working weeks.
I’ve worked very hard, creating a ridiculous amount of content, but most of it was written or recorded during sprint sessions — two to three hours at most, sitting in cafes writing, or at home at my standup desk recording video.
Even the big assets I’ve created over the years — 20+ hour video courses, or 85-page free reports — were created over weeks and months of one or two sprint sessions per day.
Although you face a far more complex and diverse Internet today, the principles I’ve outlined in this article still apply. You can build a content-powered platform that leverages your knowledge and personality to slowly build and nurture relationships with a core group of people who stand to benefit from the help you offer – and are willing to pay for that help.
It all begins the day you decide to build your cash-cow content product.
INTRODUCING: The Cash Cow Crash Course
While writing this article I felt a pang of excitement. I really like this topic.
Creating a ‘cash cow’ product is something I think a lot of people have a desire to do. I know I can offer a unique insight into how to make it a reality given I have over a decade of experience with my own cash cow products and helping others in my online coaching programs.
I decided to sit down and map out a short course on this topic, which I recently finished recording and published to my Laptop Lifestyle Academy membership.
I’m not selling this course separately, it’s simply another fantastic resource I give to my members.
If you want this course and all the other amazing training and support that my community receives, join us in the Laptop Lifestyle Academy.
Here’s to cash cow results!