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1,000 Days After Overnight Success

More than two years ago, I wrote a free manifesto on becoming a professional writer in less than a year. It was called 279 Days to Overnight Success, and the purpose was to outline the roadmap I had followed in crafting a new career after moving back to the U.S. from overseas and finishing grad…

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Overnight Success, Year Three

Now that the birthday is over, we’re officially heading into Year Three of World Domination. A few people said they were surprised that everything has happened so quickly. I regularly receive notes that say “I’ve been reading your blog for years.” It feels like several years to me too—but we’ve only just now crossed the…

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Business, Blogging, and Broken Windows

This is the follow-up to last week’s article on Product Launches. The series deals with the business side of blogging and social media – a topic that some will be interested in and others won’t. This article will look at site comments, scheduling, organizational structure, and taking control over where your paycheck comes from. My…

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What Makes a Community?

community

Every day I get emails from all kinds of fun people who are getting started on the journey of building an online community. Some of them want advice, and I'm happy to help wherever I can.

I always say to take my $0.02 for whatever it's worth, and ignore me if something works better for you. Also, I'm focusing here on online communities, but they share many of the same characteristics as offline ones.

In the 279 Days report, I wrote about the practical aspects of community building. We looked at RSS vs. email, how to create an e-book, and so on.

This post will look more closely at the underlying philosophy of a community. First of all, what makes a community? Definitions abound, but here's mine:

A community is a group of people united through a common struggle with the same stories.

Let's look at the definition and related features in more detail.

A group is more than two people. No man is an island, and two people can be a partnership, but you need at least three people to have community. Hopefully, over time you'll have more than three.

A common struggle unites individuals into groups and creates a sense of urgency. The struggle can't be too easy. It's good to be victorious in the end, but you have to go through some hardship along the way.

The same stories help bond the group together over time. Stories can be about anything related to the community. They can be negative, positive, or descriptive.

That's the definition - my definition, anyway. But what else does a community need?

A community needs a leader. Yes, I know we're living in a time where everyone's voice matters. I've written before about Influential Following, about how it's perfectly fine to be a follower. But once you start building a community, you become a leader.

I've been a part of organic, leaderless groups and they always share two characteristics: a) they are very small, and b) they lack a collective vision. If you want to grow or take action towards a greater goal, you need a leader. A leader can recruit other leaders, help group members assume responsibilities, and so on – but someone has to be that person.

A community needs friends AND enemies. It's easy to see why friends are needed, but defined enemies create cohesion among group members. You need a villain, a bad guy. The bad guy can be a person, group, idea, or belief.

Some might ask, why do you need an enemy? (Can't we all just get along?) It's kind of like asking what happens when nonconformity becomes the norm – what will we do then?

My response is that the idea of nonconformity becoming the norm is kind of like the idea of world peace arriving tomorrow. That would be wonderful; call me when it happens. Until then, having a defined enemy increases the strength of the community.

Here's a good example of a new online community: ManvsDebt. It's very clear what this project is all about. There's a cause, a struggle, a leader, and a villain. Adam is a good storyteller and seems committed to seeing things through. He's also moving from Indianapolis to Australia in just a few days. Good luck!

A (strong) community needs a long-term commitment. Make sure you know what you're getting into when you start something up, and how long you're willing to commit to it. A short-term commitment can produce a weak community, but a stronger group needs time to grow. The natural cycles of growth and regression are hard to shortcut.

A community needs its own language. The language can be terminology, concepts, or phrases that take on a special meaning to members of the community. Like anything else, the language can change over time, but it creates a subtle boundary between group members and outsiders. Here at AONC I write about world domination, a concept that some people "get" and others don't.

A community needs to actively (and carefully) solicit other members. A good community reaches out to like-minded individuals and invites them to become part of something bigger than themselves. The message is:

Hey! You are not alone.

Here we are. There are other people who see the world the same way you do. Come and join us.

Just as a community welcomes the right people with open arms, a strong community will also gently turn away people who aren't the best fit. This isn't rude; it's good for the community, and good for the people who don't belong.

A community built on hope is stronger than one built on fear. Some groups can survive on negativity, but I think this is a risky gamble. I recently heard a public radio interview with a guy who runs an alternative, pro-gun rights group here in the U.S. Was he mad about Obama being elected? Hardly. “This is the best thing that could have happened to us,” he said. He sounded excited about the fact that his group had someone new to hate.

I give him credit for his honesty. If you can mobilize pissed-off people into a cause, you can go far. The only thing I worry about is, "Where do you take those people?"

Personally, I would not want to lead a group of pissed-off people. They might turn against me at some point, just as they turned against something else to unite into a group in the first place.

That's why I believe a strong community has to be for something in addition to being against something. The leaders (and active group members) have to be able to lead the followers out of one place and into somewhere else.

Preaching to the Choir

One more thing (important): when growing a community, it's usually better to focus on connecting with people who are naturally predisposed to your message than to try and convince hostile people to join. Evangelism is hard; recruitment is easy.

Even so, as a community grows, the leader has to begin making choices in who she targets her communication towards. The categories overlap, but roughly speaking, you have three:

Option 1: Focus on the most vocal members. This is usually a mistake. Just as a good teacher learns to look past the hands that are always raised, a community leader should try to look beyond the most vocal and active members to make sure the other people are enjoying themselves.

Option 2: Focus on the true fans. True fans are vitally important to the long-term sustainability of the community, but I also think it's a mistake to focus exclusively on them. Since they typically represent only about 2-4% of the total group, it's good to pay attention to what everyone else thinks too.

Option 3: Focus on the silent majority. The silent majority are the people who just hang out without ever saying anything. They don't usually comment on blogs, you may never hear from them, but they care about what's happening in the group. Very much.

As important as everyone else is, I think the silent majority is extremely important. Over here, I appreciate the vocal members, I rely on the true fans, but I don't want to forget the silent majority. Sometimes they come out of hiding and I'm amazed at who they are. Wow! Look who cares about what I have to say. All this time they were there, and I had no idea.

Are you part of the silent majority here? If so, thank you for reading. I take your time and trust seriously. No pressure to do anything. Everyone else, I appreciate you too. The state of the union is strong.

Good luck with your own community building.

***

Your Turn (the not-silent group): As mentioned, take my $0.02 for what it's worth to you. When I asked for input this morning, I received 28 different definitions of “community” in the first 5 minutes. Feel free to use the comments section to share your own thoughts about what makes a community.

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Why People Hate Marketers

used-car-salesman

Hey everyone, I'm reporting live from Rarotonga in the South Pacific. It's a nice place! Details on Monday. But first, I have an important message from our sponsor.

(Yes, that would be me. There are no sponsors.)

The Important Message

The title of this post is deliberately provocative. First of all, I know that marketers are people too, and most people are marketers of one kind or another.

But when I talk about hating marketers, you probably know what kind of marketers I'm talking about. I'm talking about car salesmen marketers who play on our emotions to get our money.

Anyway, here's the deal. I'm proud to say that 279 Days is still kicking ass. It's going all over the world, literally - a Chinese and Spanish translation are both on the way from two volunteers. I've lost track of all the people who have told me about the new blogs they've started by following the model. I wish them a huge hard-working success, and I'm tremendously excited for everyone who has applied some of the lessons.

However, during the big launch week, I received an email that I found profoundly disturbing.

It's not what you're thinking - the message wasn't from a vampire. The writer wasn't criticizing me, at least not directly. He even said I was "awesome" - but instead of feeling happy, I felt sad in a way that I couldn't precisely identify... at first.

Here it is:

Chris,

I don't mean to sound silly, coy, or to pry, but why do you not have people opt-in to receive your manifesto?

You'd be building an email list of followers who'll eventually turn into customers, clients, etc.

You are sitting on a goldmine here far beyond what's being tapped now. Why not make this a monthly membership program with a call-to-action, $49 or $97 a month.

And your income will probably be 10x what you estimate for 2009 if you play your cards right...

You are doing awesomely great dude!

Where do you want to take this?

John

P.S. The value is in that list of followers. And not just on twitter but your email list which you have cleverly disguised as "small army".

Make the email opt-in obvious. Put it in the upper right like everyone else. Even if you just use it to gift ideas... But eventually you can use it to sell your stuff and the stuff of others.

Because we are all so busy with information EVERY FREAKING DAY you need a strategy to stay in touch with folks if they don't buy the first time...

I know I'm not telling you anything you don't know - but do this stuff man - do it now.

OK, I'm out...

It took me a while to figure out why I was so disturbed by John's message. As I said, it wasn't a direct criticism, and if you're not familiar with internet marketing, you might miss some of the nuance in what John is writing about. Later that night as I went for a run in the park before dinner, though, I realized why I was so troubled.

The way that John sees the world is all about manipulating people.

See, the approach outlined in John's email is defined by scarcity. According to the scarcity perspective, you all are my prospects. I'm trying to convert you to customers. If I get your money, I win. If not, either I'm doing something wrong or you suck.

Well -- that is precisely the OPPOSITE of what I believe.

As John alludes to in the end, I do know how internet marketing works. I know where you are supposed to put the email form; I know how to use scarcity to increase sales.

I just prefer to operate from a perspective of abundance. Freely give, freely receive. Why force people to join a list before reading my work? Some of them would resent that, and the commitment level of the others would be pretty weak. Why inspire people with something and then tell them that they need to pay me each month to “really” get what I have to say?

Yes, I call my network a small army - but this is not a "clever disguise." It's the real deal. I spend hours every day building relationships with people. Many of them are in India or Africa and will never give me a dime. That's OK with me.

The Money-Making Side of Things

I'm sorry to pick on John - he is far from alone in thinking this way. The problem is that this attitude runs directly counter to what I believe and why I started this project to begin with.

Ironically (or not), I actually have a pretty high conversion rate when I sell products. With the Working for Yourself guide, it's about 4-5%. If you're in marketing, you know how high that is - if not, 1% is usually a base number.

But even with a high conversion rate, that still means 95% of people don't buy. I don't view this wide majority as “prospects” who have failed to convert into customers. They are doing cool stuff, probably don't need anything I sell, and I am honored for the chance to connect with them.

That's what disturbed me so much about the message – realizing that to many people like John, building a community is all about building a cash machine.

I'm not an evangelist, and I realize that I probably can't change anyone's mind about anything. Someone asked recently, "How can you convince someone that your opinion is right?" I'll write more about this later, but there's an easy answer: you don't. If your business model relies on convincing, I think you have a uphill battle ahead of you. Instead of convincing people who are opposed to your message, spend your time finding people who are already predisposed to it.

Trust and Money

By the way, you want to know something? I think I'll do just fine without John's tactics. Here's another email I really enjoyed. This one came from Joel, in New Zealand by way of Canada. Joel had just bought something from me, and here's what he had to say:

Thanks Chris!

This is the first information product I have ever purchased. It took a step of faith to make the purchase:

A) my grandmother wasted a fortune on mail-in sweepstakes, so I've been raised to be thrifty and suspicious of being suckered by strangers. (And your pitch is the opposite of smarmy. Here I am.)

B) I've already quit the job and flown from my home in Canada to stay with family in New Zealand. There ain't no money coming in for the time being. So this expense is an investment in a new life.

I don't need to tell you that the future looks bright. It's nice to know it.

Best,
Joel

Check out Joel's second paragraph:

"It took a step of faith..."

This was a highly emotional decision for Joel. To earn $39 is relatively easy. To earn someone's trust, well, that takes some work.

"This is the first information product I have ever purchased..."

Obviously he had been pitched before. I'm not the only guy on the block. But when he read about this offer, something clicked.

Product Launch Update

Speaking of products and salesmanship in general, I'm coming out with two new products over the next month. I'm excited about them, and I know they will help many people. The first one is called the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money. After a few delays to make it better, the launch is coming up very soon. (Yikes - we have a lot to do to get ready! Time to wrap this up.)

But first, I had to talk about marketing and explain where I stand. My stance is, treat people with dignity and respect. Take the high road and give up money if necessary. In some circles, sorry to say, this is an unconventional perspective.

Then, of course, do the good kind of marketing that people don't hate at all.

This kind of marketing provides clear solutions to stated needs. According to this perspective, if you have a need I can meet, I don't need to force you to join my list (you'd join on your own); I don't need to auto-bill you each month (you'd be happy to pay).

I don't like to debate by email, and besides, I get a lot of mail. I wrote back to John, short and sweet:

Hi John,

Freely give, freely receive.

Best,

CG

John wrote me back with more things I was doing wrong. He told me to save his email address and write him in 10 years to let him know what happened. I guess the implication is that I'll be sorry then, he'll have been proved right, whatever. (Yeah, I know - at that point I just hit the archive button. Life's too short.)

No thanks, man. Who knows what will be happening in 10 years, but I suspect in some form I'll be busy keeping up with everyone else out there. Every day I hear from more great people all over the world, including plenty of places where PayPal is not accepted. Good things are on the way; the future is bright.

Most importantly, wherever you are, I'm honored that you care about what I have to say. No cash machine, auto-billing, or email opt-in required.

Thanks for reading.

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Used Car Salesman Image by TexasEagle

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Building Influence to Gain Widespread Authority

influence
This is a more advanced look at how I've been able to build the AONC site into a diverse community over the past year.

I've already written 79 pages about this subject, so this follow-up is mostly for the 50,000 people who have read that report so far. What I want to do in this article is focus on using multiple spheres of influence to create widespread, perceived authority.

One of the most important parts of developing a following is answering the “reason why” question and proving yourself to be an authority on at least one thing other people care passionately about.

From the very beginning, it's important to understand that almost all authority is perceived, not objective. What this means is that if people think you're smart or interesting, voila, you're smart or interesting. In 279 Days I wrote about this in the strategy I called “Be Bigger than you Really Are” - also known as “Fake it 'till you make it.” A big part of building influence is essentially creating the perceived authority.

Usual disclaimers: I'm not an expert (no one is) – I've made many mistakes along the way. Use what helps you and ignore the rest.

***

To kick things off, take a look at this image (click to enlarge):

aonc-authority-5

This image represents the largest traffic sources that regularly bring readers and visitors into the AONC site. I haven't broken them all out into percentages or anything quantitative, mostly because I don't worry about things like that. I'm more interested in the qualitative characteristic of having perceived authority in several areas that each help me get more readers.

THE PRINCIPLE BEHIND MULTIPLE SPHERES OF INFLUENCE

Just as you don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to, you also don't have to choose one specific topic to develop expertise in. As long as you can a) be somewhat interesting, and b) work hard over a sustained period of time, you can develop the following you need to achieve almost any goal.

This represents an effective diversification of influence, and ultimately a diversification of followers.

THE BIG PICTURE (for this site)

I write about nonconformity in Life, Work, and Travel – a topic that is admittedly quite broad, and thus it draws readers from a variety of backgrounds. I have a USP – see the great Sonia Simone for more on how that works – for each primary area of my interest.

Life – Within Life, people come to the site to read about challenging authority, finding alternative ways to set and accomplish goals, doing great things for yourself while also helping others, and standing up to vampires and other small-minded people.

The USP in this subject is what I mentioned earlier (and continue to mention frequently, because it's important): You don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to. In the image above I defined it as, “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken” - one of my favorite quotes from Oscar Wilde.

Work – Within Work, people come to the site to read about unconventional business ideas, the products, and general advice on breaking out of traditional employment. I connect with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, executives, and people who aspire to those roles.

The USP in this subject is that, for better or worse, I have been self-employed for my whole adult life. Whenever I get endorsements from business bloggers (especially someone like Seth – who is essentially a one-man Business Week, except much more interesting), I get a large group of new business-minded readers who want to know more about how that works.

Travel - Within Travel, people come to the site for the Journey to Every Country, the Frequent Flyer Challenge, general travel hacking info, trip reports, and sometimes just to connect with another world traveler.

Just as with work, when it comes to travel I'm much more of a generalist than a specialist. I don't claim to be the most widely-traveled person in the world, or a photojournalist who spends months taking pictures of villagers. Other people can do that much better than me.

TRAFFIC SOURCES

Diversifying my perceived authority has led to a diversification of traffic sources. Every day new readers come to the site from a variety of referrals. The largest ones are listed and explained below.

Blogs – By far my biggest source of traffic, readers, and good vibes comes from other bloggers who tell their own communities about the site. If you want to help, the best thing you can do is link me up. If my site was never indexed in Google, I'd still all of the traffic I needed thanks to other blogs and sites who link to me.

World Domination Manifesto – I wrote the Brief Guide to World Domination to be flagship content – something that would draw readers in and help me define my stance as a professional authority-challenger. The manifesto has been online since June 2008, but every day I still get emails from people who have discovered it for the first time. I love that!

279 Days Manifesto – The follow-up to World Domination, this report has brought in even more readers – which is ironic, since I wrote it for a more limited target market than the first one.

Twitter – The only major social network I regularly use – although feel free to add me on LinkedIn as well. I explained recently how I use Twitter – basically the goal is to add value, connect with people, deliver helpful information, and make other people look good. Say hi anytime – I'm @chrisguillebeau.

Newspaper Column – I recently started writing a travel column for the Oregonian, the largest newspaper in Oregon. My column is in the printed paper about once a month, with a few blog posts in the Travel section of their site in between. It doesn't really bring a huge amount of traffic, but being a newspaper columnist produces a certain amount of perceived authority, and I'm hoping to syndicate the column to a broader audience in the future.

Other Media – So far the site has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Times, La Presse, MSNBC, and a bunch of smaller outlets. Of course, new media authorities like Slate.com, LifeHacker, and Huffington Post are also important, and I'm grateful to them as well. I regularly build relationships with journalists, offering to help without being quoted, and trying not to be anal about whatever they want to say about me. (This process could be an entire article, so I'll save it for the future.)

Huffington Post – Speaking of syndication, the ever-insightful Gretchen Rubin told me recently, “Ubiquity is the new exclusivity” - meaning that the more places you can be with the same message, the better. I thought that advice was brilliant - and it's basically the approach I used when HuffPost asked me to start writing for them.

The gig is unpaid, and I was concerned about writing original content for them when I'm supposed to be writing a book (in addition to everything else), so I was happy when they told me I could cross-post some of the travel articles I publish here on AONC. They win because their readers get access to content they didn't have before – presumably it's good content! - and I win from the broader exposure of the HuffPost name.

(In fact, I have another, similar deal coming up this week – I had to quickly edit this article, since I originally included the source by mistake. Oops... hopefully they won't notice!)

Organic – I don't get a huge amount of organic (search engine) traffic, but it's slowly growing. The beauty of legacy content is that, over time, a few of the better articles receive good indexing in Google, and new readers every day through the archives.

Some of the Google results I see are really quite funny. Last month three people arrived when searching for “ass kicking of a lifetime.” Another person came in by searching for “take over the world while being nice.” Lots of people drop in for variations on terms like frequent flyer miles, round-the-world plane tickets, world domination, working for yourself, jobs that travel the world, and so on.

HOW TO BALANCE MULTIPLE INTERESTS

When I first started writing, one of my big concerns was about defining a core audience with the broad topics I wanted to write about. Would people “get” it? Would entrepreneurs care about international travel? Would people living in cubicle nation want to hear what I had to say about working for yourself?

The answer turned out to be a qualified yes.

I had to learn to mix it up, preempt objections, and accept that not every article relates to each reader, but those things were to be expected. It also helped when I learned to provide more details and background – how much it costs when I travel, all the details of conducting your own annual review, and so on. I was worried about writing longer posts (this one is more than 2,000 words), but it turned out that the details are what most of my readership really wanted.

At this point, I'll say that I honestly don't worry about it that much. For the most part, I write about whatever I feel like as long as I think it is interesting and centered on helping others. After one year of writing, I have a strong archive of legacy content on multiple subjects. If I head out on a long trip and write about travel for a while and someone gets tired of it, there is plenty of other content they can consume if they want.

They can also just stop reading, and I know that I can't please all of the people all of the time. The other day someone unsubscribed because “the articles are really long!” I told him he was right – if you want to read an online comic strip, there are plenty of those out there. I'm trying to attract a more thoughtful crowd.

WRAP-UP

This model is unconventional because the traditional wisdom on building an online presence (or small business) is that you should start small and expand outwards.

If your passion or business is golf, you're supposed to write only about golf. According to this theory, no one cares what golfers think about tennis, let alone politics, the state of the world, or anything related to your personal life.

Naturally, I think this belief is wrong... or if not wrong, it's clearly old-school.

The model I used to build out this project is unconventional, but it's no longer unusual. About 50% of the people I wrote about in 26 People I Highly Respect are following a similar model.

At some point I'll post a more detailed update on the reception to 279 Days, including my response to some of the limited criticisms of the report. One of the criticisms I disagree with is the idea that as more people start blogging (or whatever medium you choose), there will be less “followers” and the value of any one person's project will become diluted.

I may be wrong, but I believe the opposite: the field is wide open. One person's success does not cause another person to fail. If anything, there's never been a better time to begin an unconventional career.

In other words:

Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.

Avoid scarcity; embrace abundance.

Help others and do what you want.

That sounds good to me... how about you?

***

If you're still reading after 2,064 words, here are a couple of questions:

  • What is your perceived authority?
  • How can you leverage it to help others and create multiple spheres of influence?

Feel free to share stories, tips, or other questions in the comments.

(By the way, thanks for your patience with the delayed comment posting over the past couple of weeks while I was traveling. I'm home this week and can interact more quickly now.)

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How to Process 2,021 Emails in One Day

Welcome to the weekend edition of AONC – actually being written on Saturday morning this time so I can take most of Sunday off before traveling down to Haiti and parts of South America on Monday. Hopefully along the way I can keep clearing out the emails. The screenshot in this post is of my…

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Video Update: Motivations and $32,000

Thanks so much to everyone who is downloading, reading, and sharing feedback about my new manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success. Here’s a new video update where I discuss the motivations behind the document. Why did I publish this now? Why do we do anything? In my case, I want to a) help people create…

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Coming Wednesday, April 15: The Secret Formula for Overnight Success

overnight-success

Friends and Readers, if you've been with me for a while, you may be wondering about the sequel to the World Domination manifesto.

Blame it on ADD, the book proposal that took 11 drafts, or my habit of flying around the world, but I now have good news -- it's nearly done.

The new manifesto is called 279 Days to Overnight Success, and will launch out to the world on Wednesday, April 15.

Who It's For and Why I Wrote It

279 Days is not a mass-market publication. It's free, but it won't help everyone. Instead, it's primarily for bloggers, writers, artists, and anyone interested in social media.

Why a specific readership? Because 279 Days is a case study of AONC. I wanted to explain in full detail how I started the site last year, how it grew to a full-time career, and how other people with the same aspirations of getting paid for what they love can do something similar.

There are no affiliate links and nothing for sale in the report. Also, there is no back-end or 'hidden' agenda. The agenda is simple: I want to help more people create unconventional careers, and I want to expand my network. If you like the report, then I'll ask you to help me spread the message. That's it.

By the way, I realize that not everyone wants to support themselves through online work, so the report will also help if you just want to increase your influence. In my case, I didn't begin this site to make money -- I wanted to establish a platform for my writing and encourage the spread of unconventional ideas. It was only after I had recruited an initial following that I realized I could create additional solutions in the form of products while still continuing to write for free. My thinking is that if you can do what you love and also get paid, so much the better.

The Central Questions

I frequently meet with people who want to know "how it works" -- in other words, how do I write full-time, travel the world, and give away 90% of my work for free. I always say that the basics of how it works are right here for all to see. I write for free. I help people for free. I also create products on the side for people who want additional help with specific topics.

That's really how it works; there is no secret formula. But it's true that there is a lot of process to it.

Because people want to know the specifics, I decided to write everything down. It started out as a long blog post, but when I came to 20 pages, I decided to use a different format. In the end the report comes to 11,000 words and more than 50 pages. I'll share the mistakes I made, the things I did right, how much money I make, etc.

In other words, it is highly specific and I'm going for full transparency here. Not everyone will relate, and that's OK - but I think it will help people who have similar world takeover goals.

Here are the central questions I attempt to answer in the report:

  • How can you make money doing what you love while still being true to your core values?
  • Why do some projects succeed and others fail?
  • If you do want to establish freedom through writing, blogging, or another kind of social media, what is the best use of your time?

Breaking down the answers into a four-sentence super-condensed version, this is what 279 Days will teach you:

  • If you want to, you can create your own full-time career in social media (or otherwise greatly expand your influence)
  • It takes more than 30 days or 12 steps to do this, but you can probably do it in one or two years
  • Unless you can regularly generate enormous levels of traffic, forget about advertising
  • Instead, ask your followers what they want and find a way to give it to them

That's pretty much it... but as mentioned, there is a lot of process to it. If you don't know where to start, you'll probably make a lot of mistakes and false starts -- I know I certainly did. Some of the mistakes may be unavoidable, but I like to simplify learning processes to their most basic level. That's what I've tried to do in this report.

How Are You Doing? ("Oh... not bad")

I'm fortunate to know people from all walks of life. From a financial perspective, I know some people who are extremely successful, and others who are really struggling to make it. I'd say the range of people in my circle now goes from struggling students who make $5,000-$12,000 a year to a couple of business owners who make more than $500,000 a year.

The funny thing is that if you ask, "How are things going?" -- referring to their business or their income -- they will each give the same, non-specific answer: "Oh.... not bad." In other words, you won't know any more than before you asked.

I'm not blaming them for being vague - most of us don't like to talk openly about money, and beyond a certain point, happiness and money are not highly correlated. But even though everyone has a right to their privacy, the "It's OK" answer doesn't really help anyone else who is trying to establish a similar lifestyle or career. Making money isn't everything (far from it), but naturally any career planning resource should discuss money in an open, transparent manner. That's what I try to do in the report.

I mentioned recently that there is no competition in this business. The thousands of people who read this article today could start up thousands of new blogs tomorrow, and I would not be harmed in any way. In fact, I would probably benefit since many of them would credit me as a source of inspiration.

(In the 279 Days report, I'm going to name all my sources of inspiration and give credit where credit is due. I'll also have a follow-up post where I specifically thank more than 20 people who have been of particular help.)

Launch Plan

The report is currently in the hands of Reese Spykerman, designer extraordinaire, who is making it look awesome. As you know, Reese always does great work, but the mockups I've seen for this project are especially nice.

On Wednesday morning (9am EST / 6am PST) we'll launch it to the world. Your FREE copy will be available here for download. Oh, and if you're on my email list, you might get a sneak preview the evening before.

How You Can Help (If You Want)

The World Domination manifesto was a success because so many cool people helped to spread the word. The last time I checked, it had been downloaded by more than 100,000 120,000 people from 120 countries.

Since the audience is more targeted for this one, I don't necessarily expect the same reaction to 279 Days. But I do want it to go out in the world and help people. If you have a blog that attracts an audience of other bloggers, entrepreneurs, or artists of any kind, I'd greatly appreciate a link and a review of the report after you've read it.

Oh, and I don't expect my word to be the last on this subject. I have some strong opinions in the report, and I'm sharing my case study so that others can use what they like and improve what they can be better. You're welcome (in fact, encouraged) to share your own perspective as well.

Next, if you're active on a social network and you appreciate what I have to say, I'd appreciate an endorsement to your followers. Twitter is now the fourth-largest source of traffic to the site, and every day people join my "6 Ways" newsletter from Facebook even though I don't even have a Facebook account. The fun thing about social networking is that YOU have more influence among your friends and followers than any so-called expert does.

(This is also why the barriers to entry in new media careers are lower than ever before... but I'm getting ahead of myself. More about that on Wednesday.)

And of course, if you don't fit into those categories or if the report isn't for you, no problem. I'll continue writing my regular articles, and I'm headed out on another big trip next week where I'll be posting more international travel essays. But for now, this is my project of the quarter... and I'm really glad it's nearly done.

Thanks, guys. Sorry this one took so long, but I think you'll like it. See you Wednesday!

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