🧑🏼‍🚀 Blueprint 020

I made a huge mistake, the internet game, using the whole animal, my monetization strategy, gold medal content

Welcome back to Blueprint, a weekly series where I share an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes look into my journey as a full-time creator & entrepreneur.

It’s been 20 weeks since I went on my own full-time.

Today’s topics:

  • 🧮 | Week 20 recap & metrics

  • ♟️ | The internet game

  • 😫 | I made a huge mistake

  • 🦬 | Using the whole animal

  • 💰 | My monetization strategy

  • 🥇 | Gold medal content

A reminder that this internet game is not zero-sum. Everyone reading this can win at an unlimited scale. I’m writing this for the internet astronauts building their own digital worlds. If that’s you…let’s ride ✌🏼👩🏻‍🚀

WEEKLY RECAP
The Recap

Things are starting to click for me.

Output for the week was solid (4 shorts, 1 pod, 1 Blueprint, 5 snap episodes), but my biggest unlock was figuring out where/how to steer the ship moving forward.

What drove this unlock was talking to a bunch of other creators that are in the trenches with me.

And I can’t overstate how valuable this has been.

The forced repetition of explaining your vision, patching holes, trading notes, and strategically sparring with peers, is the fastest way to get clarity.

I’ll get into the weeds and tactical adjustments I’m making below, but my biggest mental reframe was this…

I’ve been playing the internet game on hard mode.

And I say “internet game” on purpose.

Because at the end of the day, that’s all this is…a game.

And just like in any game, there are easy ways to win and there are hard ways to win.

At some point in the past few months, my mentality started shifting from businessman to artist.

If I had to guess why this happened, it’d be that I started conflating art with quality (e.g., “If I’m pursuing the highest quality content, I must be pursuing art. And if I’m making something that isn’t high quality, I shouldn’t work on it. Therefore, I should focus on improving my artistic process")

I became exclusively focused on the creative process and developed foolish aversions to business strategy and monetization.

Here’s the problem with the “100% art approach” at my current stage in business…you can’t pay your rent in paint.

Art is, by nature, completely subjective. This is no right answer.

That subjectivity is what creates “starving artists.”

Playing the internet game on the “100% art path” is playing the game on hard mode.

I would like to start playing the game on easy mode.

To me, easy mode is using internet leverage and scalable monetization models to my advantage.

At some point in the future, as resources allow, I hope to spend a portion of my time on fully creative, artistic projects, where there is zero expectation for profit or measurable outcomes.

For now, I’m just not at that stage.

My current stage is making the best stuff I can, delivering as much value as possible to others, while also intentionally focusing on creating and compounding max value for myself/partners.

For me that looks like a healthy mix of art and business with the purest possible intentions.

I need to earn the right to buy the flexibility to play in the art-only path. Truth is, I’m not there yet.

Cool things I did this week:
My 3 goals for the next 12 months making content (by the end of 2024):
  1. 👁️ | Become one of one

  2. 📊 | Grow content media properties/channels from 8 (today) to 13 and max automate the system without losing any quality

  3. 💰 | Get to $100K/month revenue without sacrificing any audience trust

PLAYING AHEAD
The big mistake of playing too far ahead

Here’s a pretty big tactical error I made over the last few months. Hopefully sharing it will help you guys avoid it.

My first few weeks making content were similar to most people starting from scratch. The videos sucked. The ideas sucked. My execution sucked.

It was a suckfest…completely normal (but still brutal to endure).

But then something amazing happened…my stuff started working.

I was going viral all the time. At one point, I think I gained +75K followers in 4 weeks on both Tiktok and IG. Millions of views per month. This was before I went full-time so pre-writing Blueprint sadly.

I felt like I had the Midas touch.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing differently than everyone else.

I was just picking things that were interesting to me, telling the best/most entertaining story, posting and ghosting.

But then I did something stupid…really really stupid.

I started overthinking.

When I was most viral, my content ranged across many topics…from AI tools and Taylor Swift to Elon Musk and the NFL.

But in my head, the plan was always:

  1. Make content

  2. Grow trust with audience

  3. Sell products/services to that audience

Emphasis on “that audience.”

So as the numbers grew bigger and bigger, I started thinking harder about what products/services I could sell.

And I struggled.

It was really hard to imagine a product I could sell to an audience that followed me for both ChatGPT tips and Taylor Swift business analysis.

Then I started panicking.

WTF have I done?! I just built this huge audience across a bunch of topics that I can’t make any products/services for.

I need to niche down. I need to NICHE WAY DOWN.

“Stop everything…let’s figure out who the customer of our $10M/year business is gonna be and let’s make content for that group only.” 

I actually think if you go back and read early Blueprints I said something to this exact effect.

So that’s what I did. I started overthinking the content and tried to only pick ideas that would apply to a super specific group of people.

And guess what happened?

My videos stopped working. The attention dried up. The Tiktok money printer (making $2K/week at peak) stopped working.

I took a hot pan and put it in the freezer because I was worried what product I might make 5 years from now.

Simply put, I was playing way too far ahead.

What I realize now is that it’s extremely hard to go consistently viral with content.

If you are able to make that happen, and are driving millions of eyes per month…DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING.

Keep doing exactly what you’re doing. Grow the audience (with max trust) as much as you possibly can.

You will be able to figure out the products and businesses later. You are the niche.

And here’s the kicker…there’s a good chance the products/services you sell won’t be fully overlapping with your audience even if you want it to be.

Imagine I started a Cold Plunge company today and I made amazing health content.

Sure most of the early sales would come from my audience, but the majority would come via my relationships with other health creator affiliates (that I was able to make because I was credible via my huge following) and the branded company content (that I was able to make because of the knowledge I gained while building my own audience).

The direct follower conversion is helpful, but there are so many ways to win once you have a huge audience that trusts you, regardless of who they are.

Thinking too far ahead and breaking something that was working is a mistake.

BUFFALO BILLS
Using the whole animal

It’s a common cliche that Native Americans used all parts of the buffalo when they managed to track one down…

  • 🥩 | Food - they would obviously eat the meat and organs for nutrition

  • 👕 | Skin - they used the skin to create clothing and coats

  • 🦴 | Bones - they used the bones to create tools

  • 🛶 | Stomachs - they used the stomachs to help boil water

  • 🪰 | Tails - they even used the tails as flyswatters

And they did this because it was so rare to find one…they had no idea when the next one would come along.

I’m starting to think about great content ideas in the same way.

Today, I’m pretty inefficient when I find a compelling content story.

I’ll come across it, do research on it, and then turn it into a short-form video. But after that, I cross it off my ideas list and keep it moving.

If my video has 4 days of life before it’s buried, then that idea essentially had a 96 hour shelf life.

Feels suboptimal.

This is how I’m starting to think about things…

Let’s use the Leo Messi <> Inter Miami sports deal as an example. Here are all the ways I think I can drive value from that single idea:

  1. I research Messi deeply

  2. I make a short-form video about the deal (Reels/Tiktok/Shorts/Snap)

  3. I record and publish the act of making that video (Buildalongs - coming soon)

  4. I make a longer YouTube video about it (Cult Following series - coming soon)

  5. I write about it more in depth (Cult Following newsletter?)

  6. I write about the process of making (This Blueprint newsletter)

  7. I make a video about the process of making it (Blueprint YouTube vlogs - coming soon)

  8. I get smarter from making it and have more ammo to discuss on the wknds pod (Podcast)

Now that’s using the whole animal.

In most areas of business, ideas are the commodity and execution is rare.

In content, it’s the reverse. Great ideas are rare and execution is becoming more commoditized.

When you have a great idea, you’ve gotta find a way to squeeze every drop out of it.

MONEYBALL
My monetization strategy moving forward

Last week I wrote a super long post about how I was I framing my thinking around creator monetization, specifically agencies and why it might make sense to start one.

My thinking has evolved.

Roberto and I had a super in-depth live brainstorm about this on the upcoming wknds podcast (ep 005). Should be dropping Tuesday…can find it here.

As a reminder, these are the 3 monetization buckets that overlap most with the act of creating content:

  1. Brand Deals/Ads/Affiliates - this is getting paid by a brand to endorse their product in some or all of your content

  2. Agencies - this is providing a service/productized-service to other clients

  3. Course/Digital Products/Paid Communities - this is selling your knowledge is a scalable format

  4. Bonus (SaaS/software)

My plan moving forward it to focus on buckets 1 and 3.

The reason to wait on the agency is two-fold:

  1. It’s the most time intensive to get going, is the easiest to sacrifice brand trust, and requires a daily operator to drive

  2. The best way to frame a compelling outsourced service offer to a customer would be for me to build that offer for myself first, hone the process/team/requirements and then consider bringing it to market via an agency

The most logical order of operations would be:

  1. Make money via Brand Deals and Courses

  2. Use that money to hire and hone my own in-house team

  3. Consider if an agency makes sense to offer a similar service to others

Given that, here’s how I’m tactically planning to ramp revenue across buckets 1 & 3.

Brand Deals/Ads/Affiliates

The fastest way to ramp this is to hire a talent manager or dedicated head of sales.

The person will be responsible for 3 things:

  1. 💰 | Negotiating and packaging inbound deals from brands and partners

  2. ☎️ | Proactive outbound to potential brands to bring in new deals

  3. 🧠 | Content strategy in the trenches to help set-up opportunities across 1 & 2

This person would immediately be able to a) bring in more deals and b) increase the size of those deals.

I’m actively interviewing with talent management and still considering if the right move is to hire a talent manager vs a head of sales.

As far as I see it, the pros of a talent manager are that they have embedded networks of brands and creators that drive additive deal flow.

Also, the compensation structure is a straight percentage of all deals with zero salary.

The biggest downside of a talent manager is that they are actively managing more than one client, meaning you’re not getting 100% focus and attention.

On the flip side, the pros of an in-house Head of Sales is the dedicated attention. They are spending all of their capacity working to move the ball forward for you.

The cons are that they may need to build some of those brand relationships from scratch and will likely carry some level of salary. You also may need to manage them to some extent.

At this point, I’m just looking for the best possible fit, regardless of whether they are a talent manager or in-house head of sales.

For me, that means someone that’s extremely scrappy, has an insane bias for action, and amazing ability to zoom in and out at will. I’d also like someone who has done this before at scale.

I think there’s something huge to be built here with the right partner.

Course/Info Products/Paid Memberships

This category typically gets a bad rap online, mostly because there is a lot of snake oil being sold.

Because of that, my gut reaction was to stay away from info products until I had an offer that was 100/10 value for potential purchasers.

I don’t want to reveal too much this week, but I’m working on two things that fall into this category and are pretty exciting.

One is a completely new approach to the space and the other is the highest value thing I could offer right now.

I will walkthrough everything in detail as we roll it out, but for now, know that this will be a big part of the monetization plan moving forward.

Here are the biggest mental reframes that helped change my thinking on courses and info products:

  1. The best way to distribute knowledge is with a course that has digital leverage. For people that want to learn a skill, there is no lower barrier to entry than consuming the information from their laptop instantly

  2. The knowledge that I plan to share is going to get taught and learned one way or another. The best way to prevent people from getting scammed by snake oil salesmen would be to create a superior product and be the one that serves and helps them. I hadn’t really thought about it this way before

  3. If you can help your students drive 10x the value on top of the price of the course, then that’s a winning proposition. If a course costs $300 and you’re confident that with enough time/effort, each student could earn $3,000 from the skills you taught them, that’s a no brainer.

The combination of Brand Deals & Courses gives me the best chance to a) keep doing what I’m best at while b) delivering max value to anyone that pays me.

GOLD MEDAL CONTENT

I watched 4 YouTube videos this week that were all amazing…

  1. Chris Williamson (Modern Wisdom) 1st Vlog - Chris has an amazing podcast, known for some of the most cinematic quality sets in the world. He filmed his first behind-the-scenes vlog

  2. Ray Dalio (The Changing World Order) - Ray Dalio is one of the most successful investors of all time. He thinks China is going to dethrone America as kings of the world. This animated video is one of the best videos I’ve ever watched at explaining why

  3. George Heaton (Represent) Vlog - George Heaton is the Founder of Represent, a lifestyle brand based in the UK. His team also makes these vlogs that I love watching

  4. Brett Malinowski interviews Logan Forsyth - Logan is the brains behind the viral growth of people like Iman Gadzhi using short-form video. He deploys a technique called social SEO where they post 2K-5K pieces of content per month about you and create massive traffic to grow your personal brand. This pod was wild to listen to…he goes fully in-depth on his strategy.

VIDEOS FROM THIS WEEK

My best content from this week:

  1. 🏎️ | Tesla’s putting on a masterclass in marketing with their lifestyle goods: Watch

  2. 🤯 | I can’t believe tldraw is real: Watch

  3. 🤖 | Is Google Gemini the ChatGPT killer?: Watch

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