Signals in the Noise – Issue 10 – The beginner’s guide to building a knowledge business: What I wish I knew when I started.

For two and a half years, every two weeks I sifted through over 140 blog posts and podcasts that talk about how to build successful online businesses. I found the best content, summarized it, added a bit of my commentary, and delivered it to the inboxes of entrepreneurs around the world…for free. I’m no longer writing Signals in the Noise issues (because my business partners and I are focusing on other parts of Clarity Lab), but please enjoy these archived issues. There’s a ton of useful information in them!



1. Step away from that new marketing software, please. No one needs to get hurt here.

“So, as content marketers, let’s view ourselves as problem solvers who just so happen to have content and a bunch of related technologies and tactics in our toolbox. And when we obsess over them, it’s done in the context of solving a specific problem for our buyer. In the end, don’t start with the leads you need or the views you want. Don’t start with the content types you should create. Don’t start with the flavor of the week in the marketing echo chamber or the latest buzzword or the shiniest technology. Don’t start with any of that. Start with your customers.” That’s Jay Acunzo, in one of the best pieces of marketing advice I’ve come across in a long time.

I’ve seen proof of the allure of the latest apps, or the latest marketing tactics to launch your products. The most popular posts on my site, and in my social media streams, have always been those that review software. And the most successful entrepreneurs in the online marketing space are the ones who teach people how to do what they’re doing: Marketing and making money online.

Having the latest, coolest software isn’t going to make your business successful on its own. Using that new marketing tactic that’s converting leads into customers like crazy for “everyone else” isn’t going to make you a millionaire. So, how do you build a stable business that will make your dreams a reality while you help thousands of people around the world? Focus on the desires and problems of the people in your target market, and then build products, programs, and services that help them with those problems or desires.

+ Here’s some more brilliance from Jay Acunzo: No Audience, No Problem: Run the Content Marketing Wheel to Launch & Grow.


2. Yet another good reason women should start their own businesses.

There are many reasons to start up your own business. Freedom is one of the most popular reasons cited by many entrepreneurs. Freedom to do what you want when you want. And freedom from the gender pay gap bullshit that’s happening in the tech world. Women are getting the short end of the stick in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere), and it makes me nauseous…and pissed off. Fuck that. It’s time to slam the door in Silicon Valley’s face and go start your own business. You be the boss. You make the rules. You set your income. There’s never been a better time to start. Go.

+ Why James Chartrand Wears Women’s Underpants


3. Sell what you know. Help people grow.

I’ve been in love with learning and teaching and helping people for my entire adult life. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you feel the same. Thanks to the interwebs, people like you and me can make really good money selling our knowledge and help to people online.

What do I mean by “really good”? Here’s some real world examples: I’ve seen complete beginners bring in $50,000 within their first year in business. A year after our son was born, my wife made $60,000 working 10 hours a week teaching classes on the phone. Another business I started made $94,000 in its first 11 months selling online programs. During the first year of our Art of Money business selling online programs, we made $100,000. The first membership site I created before that hit $200,000 in its first year. Last year, our Art of Money business brought in $350,000. And then there’s folks like Marie Forleo, Jeff Walker, Brendon Burchard, and Eben Pagan. When they launch an online program, they sell multiple millions of dollars of seats in their online programs…in a matter of weeks.

I’m not saying any of my income numbers to brag. I’m sharing them to be transparent and give you a sense of what’s actually possible.

There’s a ton of hard work that goes into reaching any of those levels, but selling knowledge is one of the most lucrative ways I know of to make money while at the same time helping people change their lives for the better.

The thing is, you can mess things up badly by not building the right business model. I found that out the hard way with one of my businesses. I built an unsustainable model, and it almost caused our family to have to move into my parent’s basement. And no, I’m not kidding. That was one of the most stressful periods of life I’ve ever been through.

Thankfully, there’s some great, free resources online that can help you structure your business model for a teaching business. Like this great, free webinar from my friend Craig Cannings, over at Education U. (I wish I had seen this webinar before I built that business model that wasn’t stable.)

The webinar is happening this Wed, April 22. Craig’s a total pro at this stuff. He’s built and sold over 80 online programs to thousands of people in 40 different countries. Knowing how much work goes into creating and selling ONE program online, that’s an amazing accomplishment.

Craig and his friend Michelle Schoen are going to cover the 10 most profitable business models for experts who want to sell their knowledge online. His webinars are always packed with an amazing amount of actionable information, so have something ready to take notes while you watch this webinar.


4. The pop-up is dead! Long live the pop-up!

I used to hate them. Like boiling vitriol kind of hate. When I’d go to a site and instantly see a pop-up window trying to get me to opt in to the person’s free offer, I would quickly find the “X” to close it. Then a quick left-click on my mouse with a brutish force befitting my annoyance.

But then I’d keep seeing these split test experiments that would consistently show that despite the fact that EVERYONE says they hate pop-ups, they work really, really well at growing your email list.

I’ve since relaxed around pop-ups. They don’t make me mad anymore. We have one on our Art of Money site [ } that appears when someone scrolls down towards the bottom of any page. I’ve got them on my Clarity Lab site. And yes, they do work well for growing your list. It seems I’m not alone, either. Many marketers are overcoming their fears and are learning to love the pop-up.

+ Here’s one of the best pop up apps around, and the one I use on my site: SumoMe’s List Builder.


5. Well, this is awkward.

Our email lives can, at times, be so very awkward. And the more your business is based online, the more opportunities for awkwardness you’ll have. Tim Urban, of Wait But Why?, is brilliant. And funny. Stop trying to be so productive and focused on your business for a moment, and go have a laugh.


6. Podcasting in the wild.

Storytelling in podcasts can get so very interesting if you open up the door and go outside while recording. You don’t even need to spend a ton of money to get the technology you need to do it. Here’s a great app for creating, editing, and even publishing podcasts right from your iPhone: Opinion Podcasts.

+ If you use that app, you’ll want to get a good, but inexpensive, external mic for your iPhone. Don’t try to use the internal mic on your phone. Here’s a great one from Blue Microphones.


7. Clarity for the win.

Brad Tiller, from the Unbounce blog, lays down the law: “What’s the most important ingredient of a successful landing page? Witty copy? A beautiful design? An oh-so-clickable CTA? It’s clarity — creating a page that allows anyone to quickly determine what your offer is and if it’s right for them. If someone can’t understand what you’re selling, they’re certainly not going to be interested in buying it.”

I’d say the same goes for any page on your site, not just your landing pages or sales pages. If you’re being smart about the pages on your site, each one of them will be selling something. It could be a free offer on your homepage, or signing up for your newsletter on your about page, or entering an email address for a content upgrade at the bottom of your blog posts, or selling them your online program, or coaching, or weekend workshop, or physical products.

Whenever you’re trying to get people on your site to DO SOMETHING that will eventually lead to you growing your business, you’re selling something. And in order to do that, you’ve got to be clear.


8. O designer, designer! Wherefore art thou, web designer?

At long last, the results of my beginner-intermediate web and graphic design skills have reached their expiration date. My wife and I are on the hunt for just the right web designer to replace the cute but aging design of our site. That site started as a Joomla template many years ago when I first built it. It now runs on WordPress and has some new design elements from professionals, but still…it’s time for a change. Yes, we have a bit of website shame.

But here’s the thing: it can be really difficult to find a web designer that can create the vision that you (and your branding strategist, if you have one) have in mind. If you have a big Facebook community, you can ask them, and you’ll likely get some good recommendations. But what happens when none of them are a perfect match?

Here’s some sites I’ve been using to see who’s out there in the big world of web design. Head’s up though: it could take hours and hours of time to find a few you’re drawn to. Still, using these sites where designers post their work is much faster than Googling “web designer.”



9. Killing comments.

For years, with every blog I’ve created, I’ve had the comments enabled below each post. I kept hearing, over and over, about the importance of building long-term relationships with people in your market, and I wanted to do that. Having discussions with people in the comments section of my posts always seemed like a great way to build those relationships.

After reading this post from Chris Brogan though I think the time has come to turn off comments on my site. As Chris says, I think everything will turn out fine. I get a fair amount of spam comments every day (which I have to delete manually). And honestly, I’m not sure that all the effort and time I put into responding to and helping people in the comments turns into revenue.

Helping people is great. Don’t get me wrong. I love helping people, even when I do it for free, as is the case in the help I give in blog post comment replies. But we have to draw a line as entrepreneurs. If you give away too much help for free, you won’t have a business. You’ll have a hobby.

One person doing a hobby rarely changes the world. But a thriving, popular business or non-profit that helps people have a better life in some way? That can change the world.

….Aaaaaaaand, I’m off to uncheck the “Enable comments on blog posts” box in my site’s settings.


10. Change your perspective. Change your bank balance.

How do you make more money? “You begin with yourself, not your bank account. If your self-worth is low, your value in the marketplace will always be as low. If you don’t value yourself no one else is going to value you.” That’s Brendon Burchard, New York Times #1 best-selling author, marketing trainer, and personal development speaker, on the value of valuing yourself first. Brendon believes that in order to make more money, you have to start within yourself.

From there, you turn your focus on how you can add value to the lives of the people you want to serve through your business. That’s a message you’ll see again and again as you learn more about building successful businesses. I’ve seen it play out in my own ventures as well. It seems that if I come from the perspective of “How can I serve the people in my market in a way that will make their lives better?”, I’m never short on customers or revenue.

Here’s part of the core of my own internal compass around this…the feeling that guides me in business when it comes to serving:

Give. Give when you’re tired. Give when you’re happy. Give when you’re afraid that you’re giving away your best content for free. And keep giving. Week in and week out. Show up regularly. Listen to the people you’re serving. Listen closely to what they want, and then give them that.



Holy moly! You read all the way down this far! That’s so cool. Really.

If you enjoyed this issue of Signals in the Noise, would you do me a HUGE favor and tell your peeps about it? You could say something about it in your social network of choice by clicking on one of the links below. (Extra points if you use ALL CAPS for two or three words in your post. Not the whole post, mind you. You don’t want to be that person who SHOUTS THEIR WHOLE ENTIRE POST TO ALL THEIR FRIENDS.)

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on Google+

Booyah! Thanks for sharing, if you shared. I’m sending you a big {{HUG}} for that 🙂

Enjoy your week, and here’s to you making some amazing progress on your to-do list for your business!!

Work smart. Get shit done. Change the world.

~Forest Linden
Signals in the Noise

p.s. You can find the archive of past weekly content roundups right here.

best software