You don't have to be Andrew Tate to make a sustainable living from the internet
One takeaway from witnessing the meteoric rise of Andrew Tate is that controversy and being a larger-than-life character gets attention. With the attention that is how the money is made (that could be paid sponsorship, or in Tate’s case, building an exclusive online community).
Watching this from the sidelines put me into existential dread (and if you have read any of my previous material, you will know that I am in a perpetual state of crisis).
As a member of the public, this is what the mainstream perceives as an online creator — influencers like these.
And also as a person who has aspirations of making a living online (yes, I said it), when I see influencers like this, I begin to think that being controversial to the brink of becoming de-platformed is the only way.
That’s the problem with mainstream millionaires, as we think this is the only route to success with no alternatives.
Visualising the Problem
But I want to introduce you to this graph.
I have a theory that mainstream visibility for a creator or someone in the online space far exceeds what you need to “make it” as a creative.
The ocean is a vast one. There are many, many, many creators (or what ever the job title is?) that are living comfortably with content they are creating.
And this is what I think the secret is: provide value through the authentic sharing of oneself, ideas and unique perspectives.
You won’t be an overnight success, but if you are willing to stay consistent and force yourself through the drought of engagement, then the yield of plenty will meet you at the end of the line (I hope).
How do I start?
In the beginning, I was worried about niches. What do I write about?
The solution: go for a walk without any distractions (no headphones).
Walking encourages thinking. What will likely surface are your problems and your obsessions. That’s how this newsletter came into existence.
You might think that your problems and obsessions are personal to you. And that is likely the case when you look at your local surroundings. But this is very unlikely when you look at the scale of the globe.
Maybe a decade or two (or even three) ago there was no platform to share your pain points with others around the world, but now we can — thanks to the internet.
Billions are now connected online. This means there is likely someone out there facing the same problems and having the same obsessions as you.
We are at a stage of life where you can connect with an online stranger easier than you would your physical neighbour. Sound scary but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t connect with your neighbour, I am highlighting how easy it is now to share ideas with people going through the same hurdles as you.
The solution becomes simple: write online, and share your ideas for free. There will be people who resonate with you, follow you, and soon you will start to build an audience.
Once you have started, experiment and do interesting things with your life. Your problems aren’t unique, but you will start building a unique perspective on life.
If you are doing things outside your comfort zone, you can share your findings with your audience.
I can tell you, there are not many optometrists who code, but there are many people who have a similar yearning to learn code in order to supplement their profession.
How do I start, start?
Ideas don’t have to be shared purely from writing, but I do think it’s easiest. You only need a keyboard to write (or just a phone these days). Video does involve more friction like talking or even being on camera.
Writing does offer more depth, beating short-form content or images, which requires shallowness to “win” the algorithm.
Additionally, creating videos, podcasts and even short-form content requires writing to some extent.
If you are “not a good writer” because you didn’t do well in English, I’m here to tell you not to worry.
School didn’t equip us to write on the internet, anyway.
Writing gets better with more writing and doing it online to an audience only accelerates that process — so all you need to do is start and stay consistent.
Now that we have established that writing is the preferred way to share ideas. Where does one share them?
Two platforms to get you started are Twitter and Substack.
Why these two platforms?
Unless you already have a large following (in which case, I don’t think you will be reading this newsletter), you will need discoverability, which is what Twitter’s algorithm provides.
However, Twitter isn’t enough since — at the time of writing — the content you can post is restricted to a character limit. That means you aren’t able to go in-depth with your ideas. Even with threads, it’s a crowded market, filled with noise.
To make up for this shallowness, you start cultivating an email list. The email list is far more valuable than a following on a social platform.
The email list is much more loyal because they have provided their email. And you own your email list (given you back it up) because you can lose your following on social media on the off chance you get banned.
Aside: people do still open up their emails. Even though I only have 50 subscribers, I get an open rate of about 40%-50%.
How do you make a living?
You’ve started and are now consistent.
This is the stage I am stuck at.
Now it’s time to write good content. And I guess this comes with reps, looking at your work critically using the analytics and seeing what resonates with your audience as well as yourself.
You can’t just make content for yourself because no one will read it, and you can’t just make content for your audience else your labour of love will just turn into another job. So you need to strike a balance.
Before we think about money, let’s define success. What is success?
Do you need to be a millionaire?
It’s a tough question and I guess it’s all personal.
For me, success is to earn a living with a location-independent business, that allows me to work with the people I want to work with, at times that work for me, for people I want to serve and provide value, as well as do work that energies me, is something I enjoy, and gives fulfilment.
If you had to put a monetary value on it. That would range from $1000 per month to $10,000 per month.
Remember that not all dollars are the same. A dollar earned from working a job that goes against those mentioned values is far less than earning money in a way that energises you.
Think, who is freer? The person earning $100,000 per year in a full-time job in a fixed location, who is surrounded by the hive mind of having an expensive car, mortgage, and kids. Or a person who earns $30,000 per year but is able to change their surroundings and live in a low-cost location next to like-minded people.
Writing resonates with me. Sharing my thoughts and my journey resonates with me. This work resonates with me. This is something I could do happily for the rest of my life.
It would be pretty crazy to me that my thoughts when put into words can generate an income for me (it sounds like a pipe dream now). In addition, to the fact I can do this at my own choice of time and place, online, from anywhere in the world (i.e. freedom and autonomy).
This is opposed to my lifestyle, which is being in a fixed location and time as well as taking orders from someone else.
Now, I want to bring you to the concept of 1000 true fans. If your writing resonates with enough people that you develop a very loyal following — and from the content you produce of which you give 95% away for free — you can offer a subscription for the 5% of your content that you hold close to your chest. In fact, you can just curate your best points and package this into a course — there is value in curation in that it saves time, especially with the internet being filled with SO much information.
People are willingly paying $20 for a Netflix subscription, which I don’t think provides much value other than wasting time and numbing the senses.
If you are speaking with value, then a $10 subscription per month from 1000 true fans who see the value of your content, then there is your $10,000 per month.
Coming full circle to my point about Andrew Tate. If all of the above is true and achievable, then you don’t need a huge following or controversy to earn a sustainable living from the internet. You just need good inward thinking and consistency, as well as just starting.
Don’t worry about all the other social media channels that are displaying their lavish lifestyle or showing insane levels of growth, your path is completely different.
It’s the path that goes unnoticed but is highly rewarding. So be patient and enjoy the process step by step.
I hope to meet you along that journey. Good luck and I hope this newsletter provides value to you.
Stay focused and talk soon,
Video/Podcast MrBeast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) and Lex Friedman sit down and talk about content creation. It’s great hearing MrBeast (aka Jimmy Donaldson) story and it’s inspiring if you feel outcasted for chasing your dreams.
Book “Of Boys and Men” by Richard Reeves is an excellent analysis of how boys and men are struggled due to changing economic and cultural pressures. It really opened my ideas to the issue of the “average man” in today’s society. The book doesn’t put women down but focuses on the equality of both sexes. I may do a video on this in the future.