There is an old Chinese proverb that says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”.
The single biggest obstacle to your becoming successful in generating passive income streams will be just getting started. Nothing more.
Your biggest enemy won’t be technical know-how, or marketing knowledge, but procrastination. And overwhelm. You need to be ready for this and make sure it doesn’t happen to you.
You may not be a natural procrastinator, I’m not myself, but there is something about this whole online business thing that brings it out in everybody. Me included.
There is a huge amount of information available for you to consume. It’s tempting, especially when you’re filled with enthusiasm for this exciting new project, to read avidly every article you can get your hands on, buy every eBook, watch every video, attend every webinar, and sign up for every training course. You keep searching for that last little bit of knowledge to complete the jigsaw, and then you’re going to get started.
I know, because I’ve done it myself.
What happens is it becomes like a drug. You keep thinking, if I can just learn a little bit more, I’ll be ready to get started. Very soon. Any day now…
And let’s not forget, there is a huge industry out there trying very hard to sell you all these things. And they are very good at it. You’re constantly besieged by amazing time-limited, buy now, offers for the latest training that promises everything you need to know to ‘crack the code’ to online income.
Here’s the thing, you don’t need to know everything. In fact, it’s not possible to know everything, nobody does. You just have to know enough.
There’s a Swedish detective novel called Borkmann’s Point which hypothesises that there comes a point in every murder investigation, where you already have enough information to solve the case. Once you reach that point, all the effort you put into further investigation takes you further away from the solution, not closer.
Once you reach Borkmann’s Point, you need to stop looking further and concentrate on using what you have already learned.
The same thing applies to starting passive income streams. And you reach it much sooner than you think.
Once you have enough information and knowledge to start your business, acquiring any more is simply delaying you, not helping you. In fact, it’s actually hindering you, because it’s stopping you from doing the most valuable thing you can do, which is just getting started.
It’s only when you actually get started, build your site/launch your product/get your first customers or subscribers, that you really learn what you need to know and do. Until then it’s just conjecture. Nothing beats actually doing it and learning from the market as you go.
There is an old military saying that ‘battle plans rarely survive the first contact with the enemy’, or as Mike Tyson put it ‘everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’.
It’s not until you get some sort of offering out there, in front of actual people, that you learn what they really want. Everything you do up to this point is supposition and guesswork. It will almost certainly change once you have your first contact with the market, so you need to get to this point as quickly as possible.
Your business, whatever it is, doesn’t have to be perfect right at the start. It doesn’t have to be complete from the beginning. It just needs to be out there.
Imperfect and running, beats perfect but not launched yet every time.
Firstly, it will never be perfect anyway, and secondly, you won’t know what perfect is until you’ve started and seen what works in practice. Often it won’t be what you think.
It’s far better to launch quickly with a simplified, cut down version of your business, a so-called Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and start testing and optimising your idea now, than it is to spend ages creating a full version with all the bells and whistles. They may even be the wrong bells and whistles, so you want to find that out before you go to all the trouble of creating them.
When I talk about a product, I’m not necessarily talking about an actual product (although it may be one), I’m talking about whatever it is that your business does.
Create the smallest, simplest version of whatever it is that you’re going to do, and get it out there now. You can improve it later.
Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their first attempts at their business were quite shockingly bad when they look back at them. Some even describe them as cringeworthy by their current standards. But they don’t regret that because it got them to where they are now. That’s why they are successful — because they got out there and did it, even though it wasn’t very good, and it was through doing that they learned how to make it better.
It’s very easy to get sucked into spending a lot of time considering options for say, how you’re going to build your website, what design to use, which hosting service, which email provider, which tools and resources you’re going to use, and so on. And just when you’ve nearly decided, another one comes along that looks even better — it’s called shiny object syndrome and it’s a huge thief of time.
You can spend days, weeks or months doing this. Especially when it comes to graphic design choices — that one, in particular, seems to suck everybody in, especially if you appreciate good design yourself.
Well let me tell you, nobody ever bought anything because the logo was blue instead of green. Or on the right instead of the left.
Most of these choices don’t matter. Just pick something that is acceptable, reasonable, good enough, or that everybody else uses. Don’t waste time researching and making decisions about things that are probably going to make very little difference to your results.
You can always improve them later.
Basic and live is better than beautiful but not ready yet.
It’s important to have a proper plan, rather than a collection of ideas bouncing around in your head. Buy a notebook and write your plan down.
Break your plan down into tasks, put timescales on them, and work your way through them, ticking them off as you go. This way you can monitor your progress against your plan and make sure you achieve it.
Sure you may have to revise your plan as you go, there’s nothing wrong with that. But think very carefully before you do anything that either adds more tasks, or moves timelines backwards (removing tasks, or bringing timescales forwards is fine). The whole point of your plan is to get you to your destination on time. Fight tooth and nail to stop it getting further away.
I find it helpful to add some other sections to the notebook, such as:
References – sources and information that you might draw upon
Competitors – make notes about your competitors here
Ideas – make a note of any bright ideas you have before you forget them
Diary – as you build your business, write down what you did and when so you can see what effect it had
I also write down at the front exactly what my business offering is, why I’m doing it, who it’s going to serve, how I am going to reach them, and what they will get out of it. The process of putting this into words and writing it down will help you to clarify and structure your thinking. Don’t miss this step out, it’s important. In fact, do this before you do anything else.
Specifically, write down the following:
Now for the actual plan.
Start with your goal. As this is a passive income plan, your goal should be an income goal. It’s up to you what you choose, but it must be a realistic (ie achieveable) goal, and you must put a timescale on it.
If you’re not sure where to set it, then I suggest you set it at £10 (or dollars – they’re nearly the same now anyway!) per day.
Why so low? Because I want you to hit it. And I want you to get there soon.
If you can make £10 per day, every day consistently, then once you’ve done this for a while you’ll be able to scale it up to £20 a day. You just have to do more of the same thing.
Once you’re making £20 per day, every day, day in day out, you’ll be able to scale that up to £40 per day. Now you’re up to £1,200 per month which is starting to be a reasonable income. And you can keep going from there. But it all came from that £10 a day at first.
So write down your goal:
To make a profit of XXX per day/month/week by this date _________
Next, break down the things you have to do to get there into a list of separate tasks, eg:
And so on… whatever is appropriate for your business.
Put realistic timescales on each of your actions, and make sure they are in line with your target date for your income goal. If they are not, then revise accordingly.
Remember, all of this is for nothing until you reach that stage of actually getting your business live, so be relentless and ruthless in working towards that point. Everything else you can fix later, just focus on getting your business live.