I'm going along with this idea of 10X thinking. In 2015 I was still working as a graduate assistant doing research and stuff, but it was halfway through that year that I decided to quit the job and pursue this thing. In 2015, I made $12,000 because that's what graduate students make, they have their tuition paid for. In 2016, I started to learn the methods of growth and I made $110,000 or $115,000, and in 2017 I made over a million. It's like you add a zero every year. How does that work? In the beginning, I was learning how to write viral headlines, but I didn't have the right call to action at the end of my articles. On Medium.com, you can stick calls to action at the end of your articles and send people to a website or a landing page and try to get them to opt in with a free giveaway. For the first several months I was sending people to my website and I was trying to offer them a free e-book. The problem with sending people to your website is that there are so many distractions, there are so many tabs, and there are so many options.
After I read Russell Brunson's book, Dot Com Secrets, I stopped sending people to my website and I started sending people to a landing page where they only had two options, either give me their email or leave the page. Once I made that shift, I went from getting about 1000 emails a month to getting 5,000 emails a month on the same amount of traffic for my blogs. Then I shifted from an eBook to a checklist. Rather than giving people a high-commitment offer, not everyone wants to read a full eBook, I started offering people a free checklist of the best activities to do in the morning or a cheat sheet on how to do this or that, small actionable giveaways. Once I made a shift from the eBook to the checklist, I went from 5,000 emails a month to 20,000 emails a month with the same amount of traffic. That shows a few things. It shows first off that it's not the amount of traffic that matters, although that does matter, but it's also how the giveaway is structured and where you're sending people. Don't send people to a website, send people to a landing page. Give them an actionable, simple, and easy giveaway that's compelling. Those were some of the big things I learned and then a lot of it was investing.
Once I wrote the book proposal at the beginning of 2017, I got a $220,000 book deal for my first book because I had 100,000 email subscribers at the time. Then I invested that whole book contract, all $220,000 of it, back into the business. I learned how to get a little bit of passive income, a couple thousand bucks a month or up to now 10,000 to 15,000 bucks a month passive income just on traffic from the blog. I invested my entire book deal, all 220 grand of it right back into the book. I hired Ryan Holiday again to help me write the book because I wanted to get better at writing, I hired a publicist, I joined Genius Network, and I joined several other masterminds to create this huge network to set up the conditions so that the game would win. One of the things that Cal Newport talks about is that to be so good you can't be ignored, you have to develop rare skills and abilities. The only way to do that is to get the right mentoring and education. You develop rare skills and abilities and then you develop a network that you can actually give those rare skills and abilities to.
That's one of the big things that most people mistake about investing in yourself is they think that when you invest money in a mentorship or relationship, you immediately think that you've paid them so they should start paying you back. It's all focused on reciprocity. What I’ve found is that the way to go 10Xis you invest money in a mentorship or in a mastermind and then you use your rare skills and abilities that you've developed to be an extreme giver, not a taker. You're paying money to give them stuff. I actually did that. I paid Ryan Holiday a lot of money and he's helped me a lot, but I’ve helped him potentially even more. I've helped get him tens of thousands of email subscribers on his Medium without him having to do much work and I'm happy to do it because he's the mentor I want. It's the same with people in Genius Network. When you pay people money and then you help them, they help you 10Xwhat you could ever imagine because they love you because you're a giver, not a taker. Those were some of the key things I learned.
Going back to the way that you've grown and built an audience, you talked about changing to the landing page. Before that ever happens and before you can ever get to 5,000 email subscribers in a month, you've got to have 5,000 people at least coming to a landing page where you're asking for an email address. The truth is, the vast majority of people who are ever listen to this don't have anywhere near 5,000 people coming to their website in a month. What can you share in a couple of minutes that drove that for you?
I'll go back to the beginning. I started writing online. I took this online course and the online course was from Jon Morrow. It's all about guest blogging. I don't even know if it's available anymore, but it was $197. Truth be told, I actually offer my own course now at this point. I have several hours on writing headlines and things like that, and the only way anyone can get access to those courses if they actually pre-order Willpower Doesn't Work. There's over ten hours of content. What I learned from that course was how to write compelling headlines, and compelling headlines are things that dare or pressure the person to click on it. They need to be highly emotional and interesting, but then obviously you need to provide amazing content so that people get to the bottom and they love it.
I'll give you a couple of examples. For example, I wrote an article called Want to Become a Multi-Millionaire? Do These Fifteen Things Immediately. There's a big number, there's the word multimillionaire and it's “do these things immediately.” It's immediate. There's another article, If You're Not Doing These Five Things, Your Life Is More Off Track Than You Think. There's got to be some intrigue, some emotion, and it's got to feel actionable. Whatever your audience is, it doesn't have to be related to self-improvement. You want to focus on numbers, you want to focus on emotion, and you want to focus on outcomes and outcomes people either want or they want to avoid. If you're in the weight loss category, it's like “Here are six simple steps to avoid belly fat,” or “Here's how to lose 30 pounds in 30 days.” Numbers like that actually work. The big article that blew me up and initially it was called Eight Things Every Person Should Do Before 8:00 AM. It was eight before eight. How did that happen? I took this online course in about May of 2015, and from May until the end of June, so it was about a month and a half, two months, I wrote about 50 articles and I was pitching them to a ton of places. I was writing two to three articles a day sometimes. I was learning how to write headlines and I was practicing a lot.
There are two key concepts here. One is that quantity is the path to quality. If you do a ton of stuff in a small amount of time, you start to develop some skills and some mastery. Number two is it's better to be prolific than perfect. It's better to pump stuff out even if it's not perfect. You can't be a perfectionist if you want to get good at something. You have to be willing to say something that you might regret a few years down the road if you change your mind. There’s stuff that I’ve written about and if you're a person who's constantly learning and growing, your worldview better be changing and you have to be willing to own that. I look back at some of the stuff I initially wrote and I wouldn't have written that today. It's better to be prolific than perfect and it's okay to change your mind if you're going to be continually growing. That's what happened is I wrote 50 articles in two months, one of them went viral, and then I took what I was learning and started to get better and better.
You develop rare skills and abilities, you do a lot of the work, and then you learn from your errors and you learn marketing. That's how you do it. I've coached and trained a lot of people in a lot of people will write 50 articles and they'll not get one to go viral. Again, I had a lot of pressure to succeed. There were a lot of external demands on me. I had a wife and three kids that depend on me, I had been studying again for five years. I wanted to be a writer from 2010 to 2015 so I had read thousands of books. I now had this external pressure to succeed and then I was investing in myself and I was pumping out tons of articles. If you combine all that together, eventually it kicked. It was the right place at the right time too. Medium was totally primed for someone like me to jump on and start blowing it up with self-improvement content that was different from stuff that they'd seen before. A lot of it was situational.