Ryan McLean : Slightly Unconventional

Will Your Business Grow Up To Eat You?

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iniartworksmallAre you creating a business that will grow up and eat you?

Hey guys, Ryan here from Instructions Not Included – a show about me, Ryan, as I try and make a decent living online. Today, I wanted to talk about whether or not your business is going to grow up and eat you.

There’s actually some insects and some spiders that grow up to eat their mothers. That, obviously, doesn’t sound very nice.

I say a lot of times that people’s businesses grow up and end up eating them alive. What do I mean by that? I mean that the business grows up to a point where it takes away the very thing the entrepreneur was trying to get in the first place.

Some people want to build big business, you know? Wolf of Wallstreet, million-dollar businesses, you know, maybe not that dodgy, but you know what I mean.

They want to build this large businesses and they’re happy working 80-hour weeks and doing business. They want to build the next Airbnb or Uber or something like that.

I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about people like me, who want to build a business that’s going to generate some lifestyle for them. It’s going to give them some freedom for their time. It’s going to give them some financial security.

It’s going to give them the ability to spend more time with their friends and with their family doing the things that they love, like playing Super Smash Brothers Melee or going surfing or whatever it is that you may want to do. There’s people that want that sort of lifestyle, but they build businesses that will actually take away that sort of lifestyle.

Let me use and example. I have a property blog in Australia and a common business in this industry is what I call “property marketers”. So they sell new build developments to people as “investments”.

These are generally overprice properties. I hate this part of the industry because people buy these properties that lose them money because someone’s selling it to them and pretending it’s an investment. Anyway, the moral compass and things aside, that sort of business is one where you’re doing one-on-one selling with people. You’re making a commission from the developer, so you’re making anywhere between maybe $5,000 and $40,000 for the sale of a property.

But what happens overtime as that scales and you get more and more people, because it’s so heavy one-on-one interaction, you’re making so much per individual client, then as that scales, you’ve either got more and more work to do yourself and so, that takes away from lifestyle or you decide, okay, I want to get other people to do this for me.

So you bring in sales people that you hire or “mentors” or whatever it is want to call them. You get offices and things like that. Eventually, you get to the point where your business is going well, but you need to make X amount of sales per month just to cover the expenses of your business.

You can imagine that as you have more and more staff working for you, these are staff on the ground in Australia or whatever country it may be. As you get more and more people working for you, then you’ve got to pay them and so things get expensive.

And so, you get to the point where if you were to stop, unless you’ve designed your business immaculately, you’ve got managers running it for you, if your business was to stop, you’ve got all of these overheads and expenses to pay that the business would eventually eat you alive because you’ve got all these expenses that aren’t getting paid that you’ve got to find money to pay it.

And so, you’ve created a business where it needs to keep going and it needs to keep rolling every single month and you need to keep putting work into it. Otherwise, the expenses are going to eat that business alive.

I see a lot of people start lifestyle businesses and they get to the point where they’re at this point and their business is eating them alive. Either they’re really successful, but they can’t stop or they’re not as successful as they want to be and they’ve got too many expenses.

There’s quite a few people who are in that boat. I always try to design my business different. That’s what I really want to talk about today is more my experience. Because I’m not a guru, I’m not someone who wants to tell you what to do, but I want to talk about what I did and so, maybe you can take something out of that. When I design my business, I went full time with business about 3 years ago. And at that point, I was making $500 to $1,000 per month total in revenue. Not a great deal of money, but I had some government support for a year through a program called “NEIS”.

There’s an Australian program for new businesses so I had some support from that. There was a lot of opportunities for me in the early days, even now, to make a lot of money quite quickly through methods like property marketing. I’ve got an Australian property blog that gets over 100,000 visitors a month.

If you count up all the podcast downloads, Youtube views and stuff like that, you’re probably looking 150,000-200,000 visitors, uniques, whatever you want to call it, a month. Which is quite large for an Australian property blog. It’s a very niche topic, very highly valuable traffic and stuff like that as well. People spend a lot of money on property, it’s a big industry.

Anyway, there was a lot of opportunities for me to make more money by becoming a buyer’s agent or becoming a property marketer by working one-on-one with people, whether it be through coaching or through selling them properties or helping them buy a property. I could make $6,000-$10,000 per person if I was a buyer’s agent. I could make $10,000+ if I was a property marketer. Rather than a membership site where I sell monthly memberships for $29 per month.

There was a lot opportunity to make a lot of money and I’ve got a friend who’s a buyer’s agent and he does really well for himself. And so, there was those opportunities for me. But, I always projected forward and thought, “Okay, in 5 years’ time, what’s this business going to look like? What sort of lifestyle do I want for myself? Do I want the money? Do I want the $500,000 a month or whatever it may be if I could get to that point?” and I thought, “No, I don’t.” I don’t care that much about money, which is weird to say from someone who’s got a podcast about trying to make a decent living online. But, what I care about is 2-fold.

It’s about having a positive impact in people’s lives through the work that I do. Through the businesses that I run, I want to have a positive impact on people. So I always try and be really genuine, try and be transparent, all of that sort of good stuff. That cancels out a whole bunch of money-making ideas for me on the Wolf of Wallstreet guy.

I want to have that, but then, I also want the freedom of my time. So I want to be free to spend my time on whatever it is. That might be working on my business, but it might also be spending time with my family, spending time with my friends. Me and my family have this idea that we’re going get a camper van and we’re going to travel around Australia and I’ll work from the van. And so, that’s our idea now, but 3 years ago, when I started this business, I didn’t know what we would be doing. But, I always thought in my mind, I want a business that can run without me and that doesn’t have all these crazy overhead that I need to think about. So I want a simple business.

On Property, I always came back to it because it was the one that was doing the best and had the best opportunity and I had so many options to go ahead and to make a lot of money, but they never fit inline with the lifestyle that I wanted and the business that I eventually wanted to have so I said “No” to a lot of things. It was a frustrating business for a long time because there’s no simple affiliate stuff that I can just market.

It’s not an Amazon site where I can link people through to Amazon and they purchase products, I get a commission. It’s not a site that works really well for advertising because (a) the advertising doesn’t necessarily make enough money and then, (b) the people who are paying to advertise are people that I don’t really want to associate myself with. I was kind of in a pickle there so I had to create my own products in order to sustain myself.

The product that eventually worked after many iterations, trial and error, so many different things. I’ve now got a main membership site where I sell memberships for $29 a month and I go out and I find particular types of properties that people are looking for, called “positive cash flow properties” and I share them with people. As well as a bunch of training and tools in there as well.

That is the website that I’ve got setup at the moment. I got around 150 members, so you go ahead and do the math on that. Obviously, I’ve got business expenses as well and I’ve got other websites that aren’t just On Property, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

The business that I run, I could effectively run this business now probably one day a week. I think I would need one day a week to do customer service, to do admin, to do the maintenance stuff that needs to happen on the site and the site would basically just run. Don’t get me wrong, this is not something that just happened overnight.

I spent 3 years creating content, doing a video a day, doing an episode a day, doing all this blog content, getting the video transcribed, paying all this money to get it transcribed, put it on the blog to get all this traffic. But, I’m at the point where the traffic comes in every month, thousands of people everyday because I spent years doing this.

That was always my marketing strategy to begin with. Property marketers would go out and spend money because if they can spend $1,000 and get a client who makes them $10,000, that’s worth it. But for me, the marketing I did, I wanted to do marketing now that’s going to work into the future for me. Because originally, when I was starting, I had no idea what I was going to sell.

No idea what product I was going make or affiliates or whatever it may be. I didn’t know how I was going to make money. So I thought, I would build up an audience and I would just find out how to make money from that audience, which luckily worked out for me over the last few years.

So the marketing that I have, I built up overtime so I could effectively work one day a week on this site and it could make enough. I call it “survival money”. It makes enough for us to survive, but we’re not extremely rich. This is my office.

I am in a garage. So I’m not extremely rich or anything like that. But, the business is at a point where it’s sustainable. Moving forward in my business, which I think is what I really wanted to talk about and this episode is going way longer than I expected, but I hope this is interesting to you. Moving forward, we’re looking at moving into a van.

I’ve got 3 children. We’re going to be living in a sprinter van with 5 of us in there. So, this may work. We might go and hate and last 2 weeks and come back or we may go and love it and go for a year. We don’t actually have any plans on how long we’re going to do this for. But, I need a business where I’m going to have sporadic internet, where I may not be able to get online every single day, but I still want to be able to work on my business and grow my business.

Over the last couple of months, that’s led me to make different decisions about the businesses that I run, about where I focus my time. It’s funny because something like On Property where it’s a membership site, where I kind of need to check in everyday because there’s new members coming through, old members leaving. Check in everyday to make sure everything is going all right, answer emails and things like that. That can be frustrating. When you’re looking at living on the road, that won’t necessarily work.

I don’t know what internet is going to be like, etc. I’m sure it’d be fine. But, I wanted a business where I could literally not have maintenance work for that business.

Maintenance work would be dealing with hacks, paying for your website hosting, upgrading plugins, things like that. That sort of maintenance is fine, because that’s so sporadic and you hardly need to do it. But, maintenance in terms of customer service or something, that I wanted to – not eliminate from my business because I always want On Property, but for each of the new work that I do, all the new effort I put into websites, I wanted websites that didn’t generate customer inquiries.

That may sound like rude. I don’t know if that sounds arrogant or anything like that, but I wanted a business where I feel like the best work that I do is communicating. So that might be like this episode with you guys, that might be an On Property podcast episode, that might be a product review article that I write. I feel like my best skill and what I enjoy the most is creating quality content that really helps people.

So that’s what I wanted to be spending my time and as I built my own products and membership site and things like that, my time was taking away through customer service. Yeah, you could hire virtual assistants and stuff like that, but I wanted to think, is there a business that I could create where I didn’t need a virtual assistant? I didn’t need to do customer service. Kind of over trial and error and things like that, I’m kind of in the product review market now.

I create websites, I review products, I do a really good job of it. I compare products to each other. I answer common questions about products. And I either make money through advertising that traffic through advertising to that traffic, you know, Google AdSense, things like that. Or I can make money through Amazon affiliates or eBay affiliates or different sort affiliates and things like that.

I’ve got a variety of different sites. Some are physical products that I review. Some of them are online products, like the email marketing service I use, ConvertKit. I’ve created some videos on that, how to do things with that, a review of that and I get some monthly commissions from there. So that’s one example of things.

But, what I love about these sites is that you don’t have any emails coming in. If I check my email inbox from my review sites, I don’t get any customer emails. I might get one in a month. I might get some comments on Youtube that I can choose to respond to if I want. But, it’s not customers who have paid me money directly that I need to respond to in a quick amount of time because otherwise, they’re going to get angry at me and need a refund.

I absolutely love these types of businesses because firstly, they’re really exciting for me. I never thought that I would love review products, but exploring new products, finding out what’s good, helping people make the right decision to get the best one.

That’s really fun, I really like that. As well, trying out all these different things. But, as well, of the business model where I can create this quality content that really helps people, that might help them for years to come if the products don’t change. Or, it might just help them for the next 6 months or something like that if the product’s, you know, there’s new iPhones coming out every year. Not that I review iPhones, but you know, there’s new products all the time.

This business is something that I can do on the road, reviewing products, researching products, writing articles I could do without internet access, filming videos I can do without internet access, editing I can do without internet access. And so, I try to think about – okay, my business, with the lifestyle that I want, what are the things that I need? I need work that I can do while not connect to the next, check.

I need work that doesn’t create emergency situations because I might not have access to the internet, I might not be able to deal with emergencies. Okay, check. I need work that I can continue to grow this business, but as I grow it, it doesn’t demand more from me.

And so, that’s always been great with the content that I create because it goes up on Youtube or it goes up on a podcast like iTunes or it goes up on the blog and traffic comes in, people Google, people find it, but I’m not having to interact with those people personally myself each time they come in. The more content I create, the more people can find me, but it’s not actually generating more work for me, so, check.

The business that I’m creating now is moving me towards my ultimate goal. On Property and the membership site and the survival money there is great. I can work on that one day a week and it gives me 4 days a week to work on these new businesses that require even less time if I was to start them. N

ow, I am working my ass off, don’t get me wrong. I am working an extremely long period of time. I’m doing a lot of work to create content and things like that. But, the content I’m creating will live on and will continue to make me money into the future. I’ve got websites now in total, separate from On Property I’ve made, there’s probably coming out to about 10-20% of my income is coming from these new sorts of websites. Eventually, I’d like to have that up to 50% of my income or even more than that.

The goal, I guess, eventually, is to have these new websites, separate from On Property and the membership site, create enough survival money for me in and of themselves that if I wanted to close down the membership site and not have to deal with that anymore, that is a decision that I would have. I’m not saying that I would make that decision, but it’s a decision I could make if I wanted to.

That’s my goal for my business at the moment. I encourage you to think about your business. As it scales up, what will it look like and will it eat you? Will it take away the very lifestyle that you’re trying to create for yourself? So think very specifically now about what your business will look like in 2 years, 5 years’ time. Because I made so many sacrifices and missed out on so much money in the early days where I had all these opportunities to make money.

I said, no, I don’t want to make that money because it will lead down a path that I don’t want to be down. So I made all those sacrifices and now I’ve got a business where I can work one day a week if I want and I can work on these new businesses. Now, I’m saying “no”. Again, I’m making the same decisions. I’m not going to make that decision because I want my business to end up here in the future.

I just encourage you to do the same thing. I hope you have an awesome day. Hopefully I can throw out more of these podcast episodes more frequently because it has been a while since I posted. I’m going to finish if off there. Don’t create a business that eats you alive.

If you want a lifestyle business, make the sacrifices now and design a business that in 2 years, 5 years’ time, is going to generate the lifestyle that you want.

I’m Ryan McLean, you can check me out at ryanmclean.net or you can search “Instructions Not Included” on iTunes or Youtube. And until next time, if you want instructions, go buy some furniture.

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