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How I wasted 2 years chasing the creator economy

I’ve risen from my slumber. Like Dracula from his coffin in the middle of the night. And I think I can help. First, give me a second to explain how we got here.

TLDR;

I’m returning to this newsletter, but different this time. I’m not coaching. I’m not prepping for an offer. I’m just sharing my experience building a one person creative service business. I’ll be trying to monetize making music in a way that I love.

I want to share this journey with my subscribers, because so many of you came from the Dan Koe world. (I know because of my analytics, do you have them?).

And if you’re like 90% of Dan Koe followers (proudly number two on google results for “Dan Koe Bullshit”) – you are as lost as I was three months ago.

If you don’t care about the backstory, come back next week. We’ll have a shorter, high-value newsletter. But if you care to know what happened, here you go.

The Hero’s Backstory

August 2022. 

I stumble across a man on Instagram that only know as RichWebz. He’s posting a ton about self-development, but from an angle I hadn’t heard. And one that I agree with. Desperately.

He speaks of focus.

Limiting work in progress.

High leverage activities over brute force work.

I’m hooked.

I follow him to Chris Do. He speaks of the same things.

But then I find my version of the Godfather: Dan Koe. I’ll never forget the first video of his I saw. It was a stitch.

“You’ve got to work your ass to the bone. No more Netflix. No more video games.”

Dan interjects: “I don’t work 80 hour weeks. I binge Netflix. I work 4 hours a day.”

All I hear: “High fucking leverage”.

September 2023.

I start “building in public”. I’m not sure what. I just know I need to build an audience. And teach them things I know about.

Teach people behind me.

I post platitudes. I post stories. I post about tech, leadership, jobs, careers, money. I post nature videos.

I assume different identities.

I’m not sure how this turns to money. But I do it anyway.

February 2023.

After some discipline, I finally hit 100 followers. I’m still not sure how I’m going to make money. But I do know that I need an audience.

An audience is high fucking leverage. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

Suddenly, it occurs to me.

I look at all my followers. I look at who I’m following. And I realize:

Everyone here is doing the same thing I am.

My DMs? Full of pseudo-life-coach-philosopher-health-coach-focus-creativity coaches. And I realize what’s happened.

We aren’t learning from Dan Koe. We’re trying to be him. And it’s allllllll of us. Trying to sell each other some watered down version of Dan Koe.

I realize no one here is actually building a business. That’s not shitting on anyone. I realize this, because I know that I’m certainly not building one.

And I start to post about this relentlessly.

July 3, 2023 (one year to the date of this writing, btw)

I post an article to substack called “Why 90% of Dan Koe followers never make money”. I tease this article so effectively, that by the time it drops, I’ve acquired 80 newsletter subs. On a brand new newsletter.

I follow this up with “Money Twitter is Where Creators Go To Die“. I gain another 80 newsletter subs. I’ve gained 160 subscribers in about two months, posting four articles.

This is success. This is momentum. This can be turned into my own version of Dan Koe – but better. I’ll actually help people.

The Next Six Months

And then… over the next six months, I build. A website (leverage). Courses (leverage). I run a four week webinar series that actually does what no one else in this space does: explain business and marketing in a straightforward way. I get some good reviews.

  • “I learned so much more here than courses I’ve paid for”
  • “I’m just glad you’re not full of shit”.
  • “The week one worksheet really helped me figure out what I’m trying to get done”.

I get three free coaching clients.

I try my best to help. It’s kinda helpful?

More so – I fumble my way through trying to help, and eventually break off each engagement.

There’s Something Bothering Me

I have a terrible time following through once something falls out of alignment with my values. And in this case…

While I know a lot about business (I’ve been a senior leader for 5 years now), I’m a good teacher, and I know I can make money doing this – something doesn’t feel right.

Eventually I figure it out.

There are three things:

  1. I haven’t built my own solo business. And it shows. I have one of my clients (read: friend) ask me if they should draw up a contract for their first client. This is something I hadn’t even considered. They then explain they’re used to contracts, as they currently run their own one person consultancy. The person I’m “coaching” has more one-person business experience than me.
  2. My energy. I’m not one for woo-energy-mechanics. But – I notice that any time I’m committing to helping an individual or small group, it takes everything from me. I can only do it for a few weeks before being exhausted.
  3. I simply don’t want to charge for advice that I know I could just demonstrate for people. I’m not a terribly good coach, but I am a good teacher. If I can find a way to teach at a high level, maybe then we can talk about charging.

So I do what I always do. Run some experiments.

And I learn fast.

I “launch” a podcast. I “launch” a marketing service for indie hackers. I “launch” an AI Consulting business. I “launch” a digital marketing agency. I launch….

And it’s at this point I realize what’s happening.

I’m making the same mistakes over and over.

  • Avoiding commitment.
  • Avoiding following what I want to do.
  • Allowing other people’s problems to become my mission.

So I Leave.

Because rapid cycling through 8 different ideas in 3 months isn’t a recipe for success.

And when I leave, I’m done for real this time.

No more trying to start my own business. It’s not for me.

And yet.

Here we find ourselves. With me writing again. And maybe, you reading.

So what gives?

Well. I figured out what my problems were.

And while I haven’t fully solved them, I feel I’m on my way.

I’m currently building a creative service business using my passion for making music to also make money. I’ve been laying the foundations for this over the past two months (i.e. making music). And now I’m prepping to start working the business side of music.

And I want to share three things with you:

  1. The past – and what I worked through to figure out this direction.
  2. The present – what I’m doing to build and grow a business centered around my creativity and passion. Using my 15 years of experience in technology, marketing, and product.
  3. The future – the experiments I’m running, the approaches I’m taking, and the growth that I’m seeing.

I hope that writing this helps me solidify what I’m learning. I also hope it helps demonstrate what people mean when they say buzzwords like “leverage”, “creator economy”, and “teach the person behind you”.

At the very least – I hope this helps you in some way.

No big promises, no huge declarations.

I’m just journaling the theories, testing them out in my own business, and letting you get an inside look at how you might build this yourselves… but without a layer of bullshit to make you feel like everything that works for me will work for you.

If that sounds for you, then I’ll see you next week. We’ll be talking about how building in public is a great idea for some types of people (those that have a clear af vision). And a shit one for others (sensitive creatives and coaches without a clear vision).

And we’ll talk about what to do instead.

I’d be honored to have you onboard. No hard feelings if this is where we part.

Until next week,

Josh

PS – if you want to follow along and analyze closely, you can follow me on TikTok and Instagram. You might hear some cool music and see some cool videos while you’re at it.

PPS – If you just want the solo business advice, I’m also posting again over on X. 

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