As a business owner and soon-to-be mother of two, I’d love to share what it’s been like to design a passive income business that has supported my family and family life over the past 10 years.
I still remember the week before I got married…
I was working hard on a client project, and suddenly I had to put in a ton of overtime to get it launched when timelines changed and a contractor backed out. It was stressful, and I vowed that I’d find a way to make my business support my life, not the other way around.
Fast forward a few years later…
My husband joined the business. Now all of our income was dependent on the business. We decided to start our family, phased out all client-facing work and moved to digital products entirely. There was a slight dip in income that year, but we re-calibrated.
Our first daughter was born!
I was able to take a few months off from work and enjoy those newborn cuddles (not to mention catch up on sleep!).
Since then, our business has continued to evolve and we’re now in a fully subscription-based business, which means that we don’t need to hustle to keep the lights on like we did before.
Now we’re expecting baby #2
I’d love to share what has worked for us and how I think that online courses and membership sites can build a passive, “perennial” income source.
Most importantly, one where you don’t need to reinvent the wheel every few months to keep the money coming in.
First, what is a “Perennial Business”?
Perennial businesses are those that grow from year to year. This doesn’t mean they don’t still have seasons however. You might design your promotions around your life events – plan a big launch or campaign before you know you need to be offline or less available.
Real world example: We created a free piece of content (30 day list building challenge) way back in 2013 and made it really great and it has brought in over 60,000 people with very little effort once everything was in place. I also planned my last big launch a few months before having our baby, so I knew we’d have a cushion while I took some time off.
Now that you know what I mean by “perennial business”, I’m sure you can see why they’re “perfect for parents”. The task now is creating one.
Here are my 8 Counterintuitive Tips for building a truly solid, passive-income based, parent-friendly business.
***NOTE*** We had Natalie on the Fizzle Show to talk in more depth on this topic. Scroll to the bottom of the article to listen in to the conversation.
Counterintuitive Tip #1:
Build A Business That Doesn’t Scale
Sometimes you have to start in a non-scalable business model to figure out what you’re great at and what people are willing to pay for. (This also helps you hone sales and marketing skills, which will come in handy later when you’re doing sales in a one-to-many model!)
When I started my business, I worked with clients one on one in both implementation and consulting roles. It was in those conversations with peers and clients that I discovered the seeds of what would become our next courses and software projects. Look for patterns, and be ready to act when they present themselves to you.
Counterintuitive Tip #2:
Giving Away Free Stuff Boosts Sales
We use this system that we’ve coined the “Login Optin™ Strategy”. If you want to sell courses, giving away a free course and putting your paid courses/membership offering next to it inside the same members area increases organic up-sells (we saw people buying our courses 1-2 days after joining the free challenge).
This “cross selling dashboard” isn’t pushy, and it does some of the selling for you… your job is to bring new people in (and make sure they benefit from what you’re offering!).
Counterintuitive Tip #3:
Price Your Courses High
I always get asked the same question about how to price courses and memberships: “Should I start low or high?”
I like starting high for courses and including more one-on-one attention at the start, to get more direct feedback and make sure people are successful with your material. Then over time, you could reduce the price as you reduce your involvement – for example you might do a hybrid course and consulting offering that’s priced in the thousands or high hundreds.
Then when you make it into a self-study course, you can lower the price. The idea here is that you’ll be able to serve more people in this way, and you should continue to build your audience to offer courses to.
Counterintuitive Tip #4:
Price Your Memberships Low
The intuitive strategy here is to follow the same logic with memberships as you would with courses. Here’s another curveball: for recurring memberships, I prefer to start low.
This way I can plan to increase the price multiple times, using those price increases as true scarcity. It also rewards people who have been with you the longest, since they can lock in the lowest prices.
The bottom line for pricing though is that you don’t need to go by what your competitors are charging: you decide the value of what you offer. Also remember that it takes almost exactly the same amount of work to sell something that’s cheap as something that’s expensive.
Counterintuitive Tip #5:
Add Scarcity to Evergreen Offerings
When you’ve got something that’s always on, it helps to design some true scarcity.
Here are 3 ways that I’ve been having success with:
- Add time-sensitive bonuses that go away after a certain amount of time.
- Offer a special price or coupon that expires after a set amount of time (this can be done through AccessAlly or things like Thrive Ultimatum).
- Increase the price on a recurring offer after a set period – this is great if you start out with a low monthly price for your minimum viable product and plan to increase it.
The idea is to give people an incentive to make a decision. When something is always available, people can put off really thinking about it. With bonuses or special pricing, it brings your courses or membership program into focus and helps people say yes or no. (Either way is fine, as long as it’s not “maybe”!)
Counterintuitive Tip #6:
Treat Even Solo Operations as “Real Businesses”
When it’s just you, it’s easy to make decisions on a whim. When I brought my husband on board, we started paying ourselves salaries through a payroll system… and that shifted my perspective.
Now we had “business money” and “personal money”, and decisions had to be made to ensure the business had enough funds. The book Profit First came later to help with this, but putting aside “business savings” helped us hire our first full-time employee and gave us the ability to step back while starting our family.
Another way to think of it is this: how much would you be paying someone else to do the work you do? If you had to step away from your business and have someone fill your shoes, you’d need to have the money set aside for them. Why not pay yourself that salary, and be prepared if you need to hire someone so you can take time off?
Counterintuitive Tip #7:
Your Passive Income Future Requires a Very Active Present
Perennial products and passive income take time to set up. Start with a minimum viable product offering, if people take you up on it (for real money!) then reinvest your time and resources to make it better, and re-launch it again or make it “always on”.
If you want “tomorrow you” to be set up with a nice recurring income source or evergreen product automation… “today you” needs to set the foundations. Don’t get bogged down in technology decisions like choosing the right CRM, membership site theme, or best LMS plugin… and don’t get stuck trying to find the perfect way of doing things, just get started and improve from there.
Counterintuitive Tip #8:
Stop Making New Things
The biggest mistake I see creatives make is to keep creating new courses and new free content, which can keep you stuck on a hamster wheel going nowhere.
Instead of having to figure out how to promote “new” things all the time, focus in on improving what you’ve already created. (Reality: some ideas are better than others, and having too many offerings can confuse people about what you’re known for.)
It takes stamina to stay focused on bettering one product and one free piece of content or funnel: I tend to get bored working on “the same thing”, but if I remember why I’m doing it (to support my family, and now also my team’s families).
I can pour my creativity back into improving what we’ve already got.
Nathalie Lussier is an award-winning entrepreneur who has been making websites since she was 12 years old. She graduated with a degree in Software Engineering and a job offer from Wall Street, but she turned down this job to start her own business right out of college.
As the founder of AccessAlly, the powerful digital course and membership solution for industry leaders, she believes that access to education can help defy stereotypes and make the world a better place, while providing a sustainable livelihood for enterprising teachers.
Nathalie has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Success Magazine, Entrepreneur, Venture Beat, and Mashable.
We also had Nathalie on the Fizzle Show to dig even deeper into this topic.
In this episode, we take this idea one step further and think about just how much and what kind of work you really need to do today. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, is there an obvious question that you see being asked that you know how to answer?
We talk to her about automation, the customer’s journey, facilitating a good experience for an audience, improving the work you have already done and why you already have everything you need.
For all of this and more, join us today!
Listen to the episode:
Subscribe to The Fizzle Show in your favorite podcast player:
Key Points From This Episode:
- A quick introduction to Nathalie and her business. [0:03:26.4]
- Switching the equation around so your business serves you. [0:08:30.7]
- Breaking things down in past, present and future. [0:13:16.2]
- Sustainable entrepreneurship and the value of service. [0:15:26.6]
- The vital lessons that we learn in trying times. [0:19:17.4]
- The expert’s dilemma and getting perspective on your own value. [0:22:40.7]
- The patterns that helped Nathalie discover her gifts in plain sight. [0:26:35.5]
- How Nathalie’s answered the questions she was encountering. [0:31:35.3]
- Moving forward with freebies towards paid services. [0:35:54.7]
- Fighting your own battles and slaying your own dragons. [0:41:02.8]
- Nathalie’s business preparation for having her baby. [0:46:51.2]
- The architecture of online business and the customer journey. [0:51:54.1]
- Stamina and dedication to bettering a single offer. [0:54:32.6]
- Post mortem, taking stock and dialing it all in for updates. [1:00:49.4]
- Honoring the work already done and doubling down. [1:04:40.7]
- You already have what you need! [1:08:01.1]
- And much more!
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
- Fizzle — https://fizzle.co/
- AccessAlly — https://accessally.com
- Nathalie Lussier — https://nathalielussier.com
- Oprah — http://www.oprah.com
- Jerry Seinfeld — http://jerryseinfeld.com
- Dan Tocchini — https://www.crunchbase.com/person/daniel-tocchini
- Schitt’s Creek — https://www.netflix.com/za/title/80036165
- Trello — https://trello.com
- Atlassian— https://www.atlassian.com
- Narnia — http://www.narnia.com
- Vitals — https://vitals.agency/
- Jim Rohn — https://www.jimrohn.com
- Nathan Barry — https://nathanbarry.com
- ConvertKit — https://convertkit.com
- Fizzle Try 5 — http://fizzle.co/try5
- Fizzle Goals Course — https://fizzle.co/courses/goals
- Fizzle Journaling Course — https://fizzle.co/courses/journal
- Drip — https://www.drip.com
- Fizzle on Twitter — https://twitter.com/fizzle
- Fizzle Defining Your Audience — https://fizzle.co/guides/defining-your-audience
- Fizzle Roadmap — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/small-business-roadmap-1-clarity
- Fizzle Just Ship It Challenge — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/join-30-day-just-ship-challenge
- Fizzle Customer Conversation Course — https://app.fizzle.co/courses/customer-conversations
- Fizzle Just Ship It Challenge — https://app.fizzle.co/just-ship-it-challenge
- Fizzle Post Mortem Workbook — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/learning-from-pain-via-post-mortems-fs295/
- Aiden Fishbein — https://vitals.agency/blog/author/aiden/
- Courage and Clarity — https://www.courageandclarity.com/
- Steph Crowder on Twitter — https://twitter.com/stephcrowder_
- Corbett Barr on Twitter — https://twitter.com/CorbettBarr
- Chase Reeves on Twitter — https://twitter.com/chase_reeves
- Chase Reeves Reviews — https://www.youtube.com/user/chasereeves
- Fizzle Sparkline — https://fizzle.co/sparkline
- Fizzle Essentials of Web Design Course — https://fizzle.co/library/essentials-of-website-design-for-business-builders
- Fizzle Website Tune Up Curse — https://fizzle.co/courses/tuneup
- Start A Blog That Matters Course — https://fizzle.co/start-a-blog-that-matters
- Fizzle 80/20 Copywriting Guide — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/writing-copy-for-web
- Fizzle Toolkit — https://fizzle.co/toolkit
- Fizzle Craft + Commerce — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/craft-commerce
- Fizzle Project Management for Entrepreneurs — https://fizzle.co/sparkline/project-management-for-entrepreneurs
- Fizzle Hosting — https://fizzle.co/hosting