As you’ve probably noticed reading a lot of my content, I’m a GaryVee guy. He’s rough around the edges and he’s one of those characters that you start out disliking, but eventually come around on. That’s how Gary’s content was for me.
To backtrack a bit, without this becoming a diary entry of my feelings towards Gary Vaynerchuk and his many definitive positions on things, I started consuming Gary’s content in 2015. This was when I started working with corporate brands selling advertisements on my 75,000 followers Instagram account @blaze.happy.trails.
Back in the day, the engagement on IG was crazy, and as a 21 year old kid, I really saw the benefits it could have for brands. So myself and my long time business partner Kyle, were on one of our typical walks.
I love to learn from successful people and take bits and pieces of their personality, and one of my favorites was Steve Jobs – which is where I adopted the idea of his patented walks.
Like Steve, I do my best thinking when my feet are moving, and I’m outside enjoying the sun and nature around me. We went on these walks probably 4-5 times a week for 1-2 hours each, and always had intense discussions on business, spirituality, and the world. But most importantly, we talked about ideas.
We noticed that we were living in this world, which I’ll soon describe as the “passion economy”, and it had never been easier to make a great living doing something that you love. So, what did we love to do? Go on walks in nature! How could we turn this one thing we loved to do so much into a career? It’s a bit more straightforward for people that for example, love playing baseball.
If you work your ass off and you’re in the top 0.0001% of the world at your craft, you can make millions playing in the MLB. But taking walks, that was a bit different. What if, though, on these walks, we spent an extra 5 minutes trying to capture some cool pictures of the trees, water, and animals around us? We knew that there was money to be made on Instagram so we started our account and did just that.
Where Did Our Adventure Start?
We immediately started following 1,500 accounts in the first 2 days to try to get our follower number up (follow for follow, duh) and by the 3rd day we were doing great, with almost 400 followers. We really saw the potential. The other thing that happened on that 3rd day is that Instagram suspended our account for violating their terms of service and not just for a few days, but permanently. We really messed that up.
This was a huge kick in the you know what, but we didn’t give up. We just started a new account, and followed less people. Eventually, after 10-12 hour days for a few months, we had built a pretty ridiculous Instagram account. We were getting engagement of around 25% on all of our posts, numbers that can’t be duplicated now with how Instagram works. We posted a photo, and received 23,000 likes and 400 comments with only 42,000 followers.
Getting towards the point of the story, we were doing what we wanted to do. No boss, no boring cubicle. We could take our nature walks and that was us being “on the clock.” Along the way, we learned a TON about building a community, engagement, finding partnership deals and bringing value to corporate brands. At the time we didn’t even know that our account would be considered a “social media influencer” but that’s exactly what we were.
We are living in what I call the passion economy.
“The internet, is a place where you can make $54,000 a year, just talking about peanut butter.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
How the Passion Economy Affects You
I can’t stress this enough as a 24 year old who can clearly see both, how the world has worked over the last few decades, but also the INSANE disruption that the internet has caused to the norm.
So many people don’t know what they want to do when they’re 18 years old, so they take the “safe” route of going to college for 4 years.
Because it’s what their parents have been telling them is the right thing to do for years, it’s what all of their friends do, and it’s a way to kick back and enjoy 4 more years of childhood while you barely work for a degree.
1. College is Becoming the Norm – And Being Normal Ain’t Cheap
Unless your goal is to become a doctor, lawyer, or any other job that SPECIFICALLY needs that college degree to be successful, college is one of the least safe routes in my opinion.
Before you jump on me, let me elaborate on my thoughts. The average cost of a private four year college is $32,410 per year. Over the course of 4 years, that’s $129,640, not even including the cost of things like books, food, and whatever other costs you have of living life for 4 years. So let’s conservatively say that the average American racks up about $150,000 of debt (before interest) to go to college for 4 years, when you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
4.5 million people got their college degree in 2017. So you now have the same competitive “advantage” in the marketplace as 4.5 million others. I now own and operate a business with over 20 employees. How many of them do you think have a college degree?
I have no f*****g clue, because I couldn’t care less. When I hire people, I’m looking for your past experience, and if you have the skills to succeed in the role you’re trying to get. Google and Apple both just dropped college degree as a prerequisite to get a job for them.
Not to get too far off topic, but I don’t see college as a “safe” route at all.
2. What Are You Best At? Things You Are Passionate About.
You know how I think people succeed in the world? Don’t be 1 of 4.5 million. Be a top 5 expert in a SUPER specific niche. Be the tattoo artist that only tattoos Pokemon. Create a podcast debating Elon Musk’s Tesla vs. the new electric vehicles from GM. Be the world leader in streaming yourself playing Red Dead Redemption and trying to find every glitch in the game.
20 years ago, all these things would have sounded dumb, and not like something you could make any money at, let alone make a living from. To be honest, they still sound dumb. BUT THEY WORK. Nowadays, you can make millions playing video games, creating makeup tutorials or creating trick shot videos and getting partnerships with the NFL.
I was addicted to sports growing up. I played every sport I could, and always thought I’d be a professional baseball player or quarterback. Obviously that didn’t happen. Still, I remember clearly telling my mom when I was 15, that if I could be a professional quarterback, or Matthew Berry talking about fantasy football for a living, I would choose the latter.
3. Barrier to Entry is Extremely Low + You Can Work On it in Your Free Time
What’s the barrier of entry to becoming a professional sports analyst like Matthew Berry? Knowing what you’re talking about (skills) and having a following and track record (experience).
So what did I do?
In October, I started a fantasy football website, hydeandzeke.com. It cost me about $60 for a domain name and hosting, and about $700 for a designer and developer. I started writing blog posts, created a weekly podcast and started a Youtube channel for $220 worth of camera equipment, audio, green screen, and lighting.
So, for about $1,000 and a few hours a week of work, I was effectively doing my dream job since I was 15. I quickly grew the website to almost 2,000 monthly visitors and created an awesome community on YouTube. Next NFL season, I am adding a membership option to the site for $99/year for exclusive content, picks and more. While this may only make me a few thousand dollars in the first year, continuing to build the community and being consistent with high quality content could easily take our site to 10,000+ monthly visitors in just a year, with much more room to grow.
I run a successful content marketing company, so I’m not worried about making millions talking about fantasy football. But for $1,000, I was able to start my journey to a dream job. That’s what the internet gives us, opportunity to do what we love, and find others that love the same thing as us.
You wouldn’t think that someone could make millions of dollars by baking miniature versions of popular foods like roast beef, donuts and pizza, but that’s exactly what Bistro Miniature has done, and that’s the power of the internet. [Here they found 2.2 million people that wanted to see them make a mini KFC meal].
So What’s My Point?
The goal of this story, is to show people the alternative. There’s no reason in 2019, that you HAVE to hate your job. You can make money doing what you love. What’s better than that?
How To Become Part of the Passion Economy
There’s 6 things that you need to be successful in the Passion Economy:
1. Skills – Exploit the Strange Talents + Interests You Have
I’m a huge believer in going extremely deep, and skinny in a niche. Instead of casting a wide net, have a super specific niche. This cuts down on competition. For you to be successful in the Passion Economy, you need to be one of the best at your specific niches.
Fantasy football was way too broad of a market, so to stand out I started creating videos sharing lineups for Draftkings DFS. This made it so that I narrowed down a market of about 10,000 competitors to about 50. This switch made my community grow so much faster.
Whatever you choose, you need to be the best at it. Have the best skills, most unique perspective, or funniest takes on the subject and you’ll be successful. Most importantly, be yourself. In today’s world, people love authenticity.
2. Experience – There Is No Substitute for It
This is a bit atypical. What I mean by “experience” is experience in whatever you’re talking about. You don’t have to have experience recording and editing your YouTube videos, but if you’re talking about Old School Yu-Gi-Oh cards, you better know everything there is about the card game and the TV show. This is your passion, you should be able to have a conversation on the subject at the drop of the hat and sound like an expert.
Otherwise, people who join your community will definitely be able to tell that you are not well-rehearsed in the subject matter. What is important to remember is that people who participate in communities like this are very passionate about the subject matter as well. So, while you should always strive for authenticity, you need to know your stuff in order to do well.
3. A Following/Community – Build It and They Will Come
A lot of people have a skillset, or expert knowledge on a subject. So, how can you set yourself apart? By having a community of people that choose to listen to YOUR expert knowledge on a subject. You need to have your own style, and differentiating factor.
For me, a lot of people were talking about DFS on DraftKings, so to stand out, I decided to be more helpful than anybody else. I live streamed Sunday mornings and answered specific questions and gave exact names of players I liked. Most people in the community didn’t want to do this for fear of being wrong and getting yelled at, but people appreciated my candor.
It worked for me and gave me something different that other experts in the community didn’t have. Building a following on YouTube or Instagram, or having devoted readers on your website gives you a tangible asset to help you with step 4.
4. An Offer (Partnership) – It’s Time to Monetize
I wish it stopped at just talking about something you love. But your landlord won’t let you pay rent with Quarterback stats, or breaking down the fastest 40 yard dashes at the NFL combine. You need to make money. To do this, you need to have an offer that your community is interested in.
When we ran @blaze.happy.trails on Instagram, we realized that a majority of our followers were outdoorsy types that loved to hike and go camping. We partnered with hiking and camping gear companies to promote their products to our followers.
It wouldn’t have made sense to try to promote laptops to my audience, because that’ not why they visited our page. It’s very important to know what your audience is really looking for, and aligning your offer with that. If you don’t want to create your own product, team up with a company that sells great products that your followers would love.
5. Create A Website – Separate Yourself from Other Platforms
This is a given. I think everybody should have at least 1 of their own websites in 2019. It’s nice to have a bunch of followers on Instagram, but what if Instagram went away? Unlikely, but you don’t want to rely on other platforms. You also want to have your own platform that you control for your followers to find your content on.
On top of that, as we talked about earlier, websites can slowly become a great source of income over time. Imagine if you review workout supplements for example. One day, perhaps you plan to unveil your own product. You will need a place to sell it.
So, by creating a website now, and providing content for your users on it, you are essentially purchasing the virtual real estate and cultivating it for the day you unveil your product. By the time you unveil your product, you could have thousands of monthly visitors and newsletter subscribers, ready to buy it.
6. Create Custom, High Quality Content – On and Off Your Site
The most important part of the internet, personal branding, and the Passion Economy, is creating content. Trust me, I make a living from creating content for companies. I literally couldn’t be a bigger believer in this. Content is king.
Create blog posts, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, anything people in your community will find interesting and helpful. Play to your strengths. If you’re a great writer, pump out 4 articles a week on your website’s blog. If you love being on camera, post YouTube videos and use the audio for your podcast.
Living Your Dream in 2019
We live in a world where in 2019, you can do whatever you want. One of my favorite things that I heard from Gary Vee goes something like this:
“You think your great grandparents could create a side hustle? They didn’t have a phone, internet, and some were without electricity! We live in a world where you can go to your 9-5 job, come home and work 6pm – 2am on your passion! We’ve never lived in an easier time to be successful, so take advantage!”
I couldn’t be a bigger believer in this. It’s never been easier to get paid for doing what you love, and if you don’t execute on this, you have no one to blame but yourself.
There’s no better time to start than now. Take the leap, and join the Passion Economy.
If you’ve decided to take the leap after reading this article, comment below, or tweet me @PoofNewSales.
Not Sure Where to Start?
Look, most of you reading this are in your 20’s and 30’s, trying to figure out where you stand in the world, and what your calling is. Don’t rush things. Take your time. Formulate your path by asking the following questions to yourself:
Start here. If you already know what your passion is, and are not sure where to start to take the next steps, don’t worry. There are TONS of resources out there that can help you take the first steps towards making your dreams a reality. In fact, we have documented our journey, and have created some awesome resources that can help you:
If you need some more support, or maybe want to learn more about where to start, you can always contact us directly. Tweet us @PoofNewSales, or shoot us an email. Kyle and I would love to learn about how this post inspired you, what your goals are, and what successes you have had so far. Your passion runs the economy!