I’m about to get on a plane and head out to Washington, D.C. by way of Seattle and Chicago. After a few days there, I’ll begin a longer journey to several countries in Southern Africa. Expect more about the trip later. For now, something else has come up – specifically, the small matter of the global economic recession.
Unless you live on another planet (you never know), I’m going to assume that you’ve noticed it too… and there are probably as many opinions about what’s happening with the economy as there are readers of this post. Today I want to look at one specific question:
“Is it possible to completely avoid the effects of a serious global recession?”
The motivation for thinking about this comes from the dozen different mass marketing emails I’ve received over the past couple of months with headlines of “Sitting out the Recession” and “What Recession?” The mentality behind these kinds of messages is that with enough Internet marketing savvy, you should be able to rise above the tide and remain unaffected. In other words, when it’s you versus the recession, you will win if you work hard enough.
On a certain level, of course, this is true. As we’ll see below, personal responsibility is a prerequisite to thriving in a challenging environment. But I think these kinds of headlines still miss the mark somehow. The recession is real, and it’s not only stupid people who are affected by it.
Unemployment in the U.S., for example, is currently 7.6%. Almost anyone who puts their retirement savings in the stock market, which is what we are supposed to do according to conventional wisdom, lost at least 20% of their net worth last year.
In other words, I’m glad some people are still making millions of dollars with their product launches, but it’s fair to say that for many (most) of us, our lives are different now than they were a couple of years ago. Therefore, I don’t think we can completely “sit out” the recession. Instead, I think we are forced to reevaluate what’s important and how we make fundamental decisions.
At the same time, if we want to thrive no matter what else is going on, we can’t simply blindly accept the downturn or blame it for whatever problems we have. For that reason, even though the marketing theme of the season misses the mark, the media isn’t doing much better. Earlier in the week I read this recent MSN article (hat tip to Yanik Silver – see you tomorrow, Yanik) that offers “52 Ways to Earn Extra Money during the Recession.” The list includes delivering pizza, waiting tables, and cutting grass in the summer. Among other things, you can also drive people to the airport and “sell yourself” to advertisers who will tattoo their brands on your shaved head.
Oh, and you can also DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. Hidden throughout the list are a few entrepreneurial activities, such as #8: Write an ebook. But unlike the wholehearted recommendations to become a part-time valet driver, writing an ebook comes with a warning:
“I hesitate to put this one in here because an ebook by itself usually doesn’t make money unless you’re an excellent marketer. What a great ebook can do, though, is act as a sales lead to one of your other online businesses.”
In other words, waiting tables (trading time for money) is a good idea, but creating an asset that works for you is a risky idea. You think?
For the record, I think writing an ebook, or doing anything else that allows you to earn money without being physically present, is a great idea.
I don’t think I’m an “excellent marketer,” but I’ll earn my living this year from the ebooks and related products I create. I only mention them once in a while, and I usually go out of my way to explain why not everyone should buy them. It’s effectively an anti-marketing policy, but people are still buying. (Thank you, by the way.)
I get this question a lot: “Does it really work?” It often comes in forms like this one:
I know it’s rude and somewhat offbase, but I will be upfront, do you actually make much money selling these ebooks on your site?
I’m thinking of some ideas of my own and since I know you’re a successful blogger, I wanted to see how you’ve done.
As a new reader, I have really enjoyed your site.
I told Adam I didn’t think it was a rude question at all. Most of the time, you can’t tell what’s really happening behind the scenes with bloggers or any particular web site, so I’m happy to be a case study for anyone who cares.
The answer I gave Adam is YES, it works. I will arrive at my hotel late tonight and write quick thank-you emails to people who have purchased something while I’ve been sitting in airplanes all day. It’s not magic – it’s hard work (see How to Be Awesome for an idea of the workload required to do this well) but overall, I’d rather spend my days this way than cleaning people’s houses or any of the other conventional ideas offered by MSN.
Remember, my long-term goal is to EXPAND THE PIE. (Thanks to all of you smart people who added so much to Monday’s article – I am in your debt.) I’m not getting rich at the moment – that’s not the goal for this season of life – but I’m certainly better off than I would be waiting tables.
If ebooks don’t work for you, that’s fine. The point is, this isn’t just about delivering pizza versus creating products. I believe it is reflective of a greater, incorrect mindset. In fact, while I don’t want to pretend that we as world citizens can completely avoid an economic crisis, here’s what I see as the answer for any of us as individuals:
The only way out of a recession is Personal Responsibility and Creative Thinking.
Personal Responsibility – because no one will do it for us. The government can send us an $800 check, but then what? Most of us need to earn a lot more money than $800, and we need it every month.
Creative Thinking – because what worked before won’t necessarily work now. Houses and IRA accounts no longer return an automatic 10%+ every year, for example.
I do not mean to pretend it’s easy; I just want to make sure we are looking at the problem correctly. Sure, you can go get a side job. There is safety and security in that. No one will question you.
Alternatively, this may be the perfect time to question conventional views of car-washing and table-waiting. Is working for ourselves really more risky than getting a job? If your value to an employer is so great that they can afford to pay you every month, what would your value be on your own?
Again, for those of us who are not internet marketing superheroes, it will definitely not be easy. As for me (not one of the superheroes), I can’t claim that I’m sitting out the recession. But I’m working hard against it, and I won’t go down without a fight.
What do you think about the economic recession? Are you sitting it out, fighting it, or struggling?
Feel free to share if you agree or disagree with anything in this article. See you next from the road!
Washington, D.C. Meetup Update: East Coast friends, I’ll be around for drinks and conversation Saturday night (the 21st). Time and location TBD, but please let me know if you’d like to hang out.
“Recession Special” Image by Nesster