I’ve thought a lot about the idea of leverage since reading Naval Ravikant’s famous Twitter thread on weath:
In it he mentions the topic of leverage a few times. I’ll share those tweets here, then get into how we can use this principle in our creative businesses:
Lets dive in!
How To Use Leverage In Your Creative Business
The idea with leverage is to use your time, your assets, your mind, whatever is at your disposal to get to a desired result faster.
You’ve likely heard of Archimedes’ comment on leverage –
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world. ”
He knew, and could prove using math, that this principle is true.
Naval gives us an updated and specific call to action – arm yourself with…leverage.
It’s one of three things he says we need in this context in the pursuit of riches, or wealth.
For us creative types, we can look at a creative freelancer for a perfect example of how to apply this principle.
Creating Leverage – From Freelancer To CEO
Nathan Barry is someone I’ve been following for a long time, nearly a decade now. He started off as a freelance designer, trading his time for dollars. In this scenario, there isn’t much leverage. In order for money to be made, Nathan had to be working.
A few years into his career, he created some digital products that he could sell – iPhone apps and ebooks.
All of a sudden, he created a little bit of leverage. These products could be sold without him being present. He could code an app, or write a book, once, and sell it many times over.
Nathan made hundreds of thousands of dollars off of his products without needing to increase the amount of time he was working. He created leverage. Now, instead of 40 hours of work for a $3,000 project, he could spend a week writing a book that could make $250,000 in sales.
From there, Nathan created a company called ConvertKit – an email service provider for creators. The initial version he built was $50/month to use. I know because I was probably one of the first hundred or so users back in 2013.
Since that time, he now serves over 30,000 creators, has a company with dozens of employees, and revenues in the millions of dollars per year. ConvertKit’s business is open for anyone to view, and you can see the kind of leverage he has created through code, people, and media.
Creating an app and a company to leverage turned his time into millions and millions of dollars.
From $3,000, to a few hundred thousand, to millions of dollars. That’s what leverage looks like in a creative business. Nathan took the same principle Naval talks about and used all three forms of leverage – capital, people, and products – to create an incredible life for him and his employees.
“Code And Media Are Permissionless”
This part of the thread is where I want to leave off today. Creating this kind of leverage doesn’t require permission from anyone.
You can create assets like photographs, music, books, apps, courses, and more and no one can stop you. There are no gate keepers, no authorities, no one in your way.
The difference between being a starving artist and creating a six- or even seven-figure business for yourself starts by understanding leverage.
What does that look like on a daily basis?
You need to devote enough time each day to creating assets that can work for you while you work on other things. Products, for example, are a great place to start.
You could spend your time – like I’ve been known to do – writing another blog post. But you can also spend an extra few minutes ensuring that the post is set up properly for SEO, so that the content can be a source of leverage for you in the long term.
You can trade the time scrolling a social feed to build an audience there instead, something that you can leverage later on.
Take some time to think about the goals you are trying to achieve for you and your business, then think in terms of leverage in order to get there quicker and more directly.
If you want help with what that looks like for your business, you can always reach out.
There are only a few ways that you can get traffic coming to a new website. You have paid traffic – using ads or affiliates to send traffic your way.
I didn’t have enough revenue or data to start pouring money into ads, but I did set up some affiliate partners. That earned me exactly 0 sales.
You can use partnerships, which I’ll talk about in a different post.
Then you have free/organic/earned traffic. This is the traffic that comes from people searching for you, seeing a link to your stuff, or coming directly to the site because they heard about it from you or someone else.
I narrowed in on the free traffic options, and realized that I had a lot of opportunity when it came to search.
I just wasn’t doing anything to let them know that I existed.
After taking a deep dive over the last month into SEO and content marketing, I want to share the approach that I’ve taken. While I don’t yet have results to share – SEO can take 6 to 8 months to start seeing results – I’ll keep you updated as things progress.
Using Content & SEO To Get More Traffic
This is a summarized version of what I’ve done over the last month to set up my site(s) for SEO success in 2021.
Step 0 – before even starting the SEO strategy – was to define a goal.
I want to get 10,000 people a month visiting my site from SEO.
With that goal in hand, I could begin, and have a way of measuring the success over the next few months. (You can see how that goal resembles the one I have for this blog, and the 60 Days Project).
Step 1 – Set Up The Site Properly
You can see how my mind works. I always go to building the infrastructure first. It’s motivated from my experience launching things too soon and being “caught with my pants down” a bit when it comes to the execution.
While some people may say “launch before you’re ready” or before you even have a product, it’s just not comfortable for me.
Here are a few steps I took to make sure my site was set up properly:
Make sure that you’re using a site that can handle SEO and blogging.
There are certain sites that are better set up to handle SEO and content. Thinkific, for example, is not. They aren’t a blogging site. They’re a white-label course platform.
In order to hack a blog together, you’d have to use custom pages, but it wouldn’t really work and is a lot of extra steps to make it look, feel, and function like a blog.
Historically I’ve used WordPress to set up my sites. This site is build on WordPress. I’ve done it enough that I was able to get up and running with proper hosting, a lightweight theme, and all of the tools and plugins that WordPress provides.
(For those interested, I use SiteGround for my hosting, and the Generate Press theme, and the most important plugin for SEO – Yoast)
The reason I chose a self-hosted blog rather than something like Medium, is that I want the traffic to come to me, not to Medium.
It’s the same reason people are moving their newsletters from Substack to their own platform, because all of their traffic was going to newsletter.substack.com.
They were losing out on all of the benefits of SEO. (Though Substack now allows you to pay for a custom domain…)
I highly recommend using WordPress or even Squarespace for your blog, that way you have the ability to add important things like keywords and metadata that we need for each post.
Two other considerations – make sure that your blog posts end up with real words in the link, rather than a random string of numbers. So daren.blog/name-of-post rather than daren.blog/11/10/2020/postid12ANRUYkfty21.
That second option gives no context as to what the post is about, whereas the first one – and every blog post on this site – is very clear as to what it’s about.
There’s a TON more that you can do, but for sake of time I’ll link to my favorite resource I found during this process, which is the free course from Growth Machine, a content agency in Austin, TX run by Nat Eliason.
Step 2 – Find Keywords For Your Site
This is arguably the hardest part, as it takes a lot of time, a lot of focus, and a tool that isn’t free.
Since I was determined to figure it out, I went with AHREFS, the industry standard tool for this kind of research.
They have a 7-day trial for $7, so I was sure to cancel the subscription before it kicked in at the hefty price of $99/month.
Since I’m not an agency, I didn’t need the full month subscription, so I just made sure to do all of my research in those seven days.
What this stage looked like was a lot of guessing, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of searching for some hidden nuggets.
I’d never done anything like this before, so initially it was a bit daunting but after a day or two of it I found it to be a lot of fun.
There are countless blog posts and youtube videos that can walk you through the process step by step, but here’s a breakdown as an overview:
Come up with high-level topics that I would want to be “ranking” for when people search for them. I asked myself the question “what can I help people with” and came up with a list from there.
I would then take each one of those terms or topics – known as “keyword prhases” – and enter them into the Keyword Explorer section of AHREFS.
There are thousands and thousands of keywords that come up, so I narrowed it down using filters. I would search for keywords that had the word I was searching for, and then narrow down the KD, or Keyword Difficulty to be less than 30, and the Volume to be greater than 500. This meant that I was only looking for keyword phrases that were potentially easy to rank for, and had enough people searching for it each month to be worth writing a post about it. Here’s a video from Nat on that process.
Go through that process for each of my high-level keywords, and write down the ones that felt like a good fit. For example, a high-level keyword I found for Craftsman Creative was artists and clients. It had a keyword difficulty of 1 and 3,000 monthly searches. I could easily think of a post about “artists and clients” that would be a great resource for those searching that topic.
Step 3 – Plan Out Your Content
With 100+ keywords in a spreadsheet, I could now sort them based on keyword difficulty, interest, and search volume. I planned out 3 months of content that way, in about an hour.
I knew the topics I was going to write on, and even organized them into groups so that one week I could write about coaching, another week about leadership, and so on.
The recommended frequency is about 2-3 posts per week. As you’ve noticed, I’m doing 7 posts a week on this site all under the same process. I’m very specifically targeting keywords with each new post, and writing a post a day will get me more posts faster, so that I can get to the results quicker.
(Remember how I said that Thinkific wasn’t set up well for blogging & SEO?)
Step 4 – Write Content With SEO In Mind
At this point it’s time to write the content. There are a few things that I check with every post to make sure that it has the best chances of “ranking” – meaning appearing on the first page of google’s search results – possible.
If your content isn’t on that front page, it’s very rare that people will find it through search. I read that 90% of the traffic goes to the links on the front page of Google. So we need to do everything right to show Google that our site best answers the question or is the right resource for that person who is searching.
Here are the main things:
Title – include the keyword phrase in the title
Headings – make sure to include it in at least one of the headings. Be sure to USE headings, not just bolded text. Ideally an H2 or H3 tag, as below that gets ignored, and the H1 tag should be reserved for the title of the blog post.
Metadata – if you’re using a tool like Yoasts SEO plugin, it will give you fields to fill in at the bottom of a post where you can add your focus keyphrase, a slugline, and a meta description. These are the most important things, but it also gives you feedback on how to improve your post, as well as a simple green/orange/red scale for how your SEO looks.
Green = good, so it’s important to spend some time making sure that you get your SEO good to go before hitting publish.
Step 5 – Promote Your Content
It will take a long time to get your content to rank if you never share it with anyone. It’s like writing and publishing a book but never putting it up for sale.
Simple things I do each time I publish a post is to share it on social media. Facebook – as much as I hate the platform and don’t even like having the app on my phone – consistently does better at getting people to my site than other platforms. I have about the same number of friends on FB as I do followers on Twitter, but I get 10x the clicks from FB.
I share new posts to my personal profile, the appropriate facebook page, and any groups that might find it helpful.
I share it to Twitter and LinkedIn as well, all using a site called Buffer. Buffer lets you write one post and schedule it across multiple platforms, saving me time.
Three other tricks I use that help – first is to tag anyone that I mentioned in the post. For this one, I’ll tag Nat Eliason on Twitter, since his resource is the one I’m linking to in this post, and he’s become “the guy” that I turn to online when I have a question about this, as he’s written extensively on the subject as well as runs an agency that does this for people. (I had a call with them last week to discuss working with them in the future…)
The other is to use a service called Quuu. Quuu lets you select posts that you’ve written and get them shared by their audience of people. I’ve only been using it for about a week, but it has doubled the number of views to my content.
The most important promotion strategy that I use though is to have an email list. I have over 1,000 people that have subscribed to get my content, and I can share any post with those that have given me permission to do so. Each week as part of my BCC newsletter, I can include links to these daily posts from the 60 Day Project and share them with those who may have missed them.
While right now I’m not getting a lot of search traffic, I can get people reading the posts and visiting the site, which signals to Google that this is a real site that real people are visiting, and depending on how many sessions are occurring over a given time period, it will help signal that I’m a site that’s ok to include in search results down the road.
Step 6 – Track Your Data
You may be wondering what my obsession is with data. Well – I have found it to be the fastest way to identify the constraints in a business and then take action in a way that gets results.
Want to grow your business? Use data to identify the constraint – in this case, traffic – and then get creative on how to turn it from a constraint into a strength.
Using a tool like the Benchmark App I created this year with my brother will help you do just that – identify the constraint and decide what to do about it.
You need to check in once a week or so on how your data is doing. Use tools like Google Analytics to see the site traffic, and you can use AHREFS or other tools to see how you’re ranking for keywords down the line.
Write down a few numbers and track the changes over time. Don’t just write a blog post and ignore it.
Had I figured this all out years ago with my other sites, I probably would have thousands of visitors a month to my content. Instead, I get an average of about 20-30 visitors a day, and nothing comes of it because I didn’t optimize those pages for SEO or for getting people to take action using a content strategy.
I’ll keep you updated as things progress, and will share the specifics for traffic and results when they start coming in.
I try really hard to not comment on the day-to-day events because a) you never have the full story within the first hour or two of events breaking, and b) that commentary is out of date within a few days.
But there’s a principle in that approach that applies to our Mindset, which is what we’re talking about this month in the newsletter.
Today I want to cover a principle that has served me well over the last few years professionally and as I’ve been building two new businesses.
The “We’ll See” Principle
I love this story that illustrates the principle perfectly:
Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.
One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Oh, what a horrible thing to happen.” The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.” He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse as a gift. Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.” And the farmer said, “We’ll see.” A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran away. Everyone in the village shook their heads and said, “What a poor fellow!” The farmer smiled and said, “We’ll see.” Eventually, the horse found his way home, and everyone again said, “What a fortunate man.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” Later in the year, the farmer’s young boy went out riding on the horse and fell and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “What a shame for the poor boy.” The farmer said, “We’ll see.” Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him. Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.” The farmer smiled again – and said “We’ll see.”
Call it Stoicism, call it perspective, call it whatever you want. This attitude, or mindset didn’t change the events. The man in the story realized, fully, that these events were out of his control and decided rather to focus on what he could control – himself.
This same mindset can be applied to every aspect of your life. Making it a global mindset – one that applies in every time, place, event, no matter what, is what will help you get through “crazy weeks” and come out ahead.
The difference between someone who makes $100,000 a year and feels content and fulfilled and grateful, and someone who makes $1,000,000 a year but is constantly chasing “more”, is mindset.
The difference between someone who overreacts at something that happened online and someone who is able to keep scrolling without engaging – mindset.
How To Start Working On Your Mindset Today
Two things that I’ve found very helpful especially when it comes to social media:
1. Put down your phone.
Have times throughout the day where you have your notifications off and can get some deep work done. Put it away before you go to bed, rather than scrolling until your eyes are too tired.
2. Don’t immediately respond.
I can’t think of a single time that I regret not posting some quippy response or jumping in to tell someone all of the many reasons I disagree. Sure, it’s hard, but in the long run, it will play out better for you if you let it go, and focus on what really matters.
I love this tweet from Justin Mikolay when it comes to social media:
Shifting your mindset when it comes to social media is a simple action with huge benefits.
What about your business?
We can’t forget about how to apply this to your business. My suggestion:Think long-term, not short-term
When it comes to how you react to the events in your business, don’t let something that happens throw you off your game for more than a few minutes.
You don’t have to become a robot and emotionally detatch from everything. It stings when a project falls through, a client doesn’t pay you, or when something you create doesn’t land with your audience in the way you hoped it would.
Rather than get upset, say “we’ll see”, and get on with the things you can control.
A year from now, the things that happened today won’t be something you even remember, let alone their effect on your business.
Your business is a cumulation of hundreds and thousands of days, events, people, projects, and actions. Don’t let a single one distract you from your goals or mess with your mindset.
PS – Again, be sure to check out the giveaway that’s running this week, and share it online for extra entries. There are prizes for those that share it, so go and enter today.
PPS – Two newsletter recommendations for you today from two people I’ve grown to really enjoy – not just their writing but following online.
I already mentioned Justin Mikolay (link to his twitter account), and his newsletter is one that I actually allow into my inbox. He does the painstaking work of culling through 3000+ top tweets of different individuals and summarizes them. I imagine it’s a lot of work, but the way he distills the info is really great.
The second recommendation this week is to follow Codie Sanchez and her newsletter Contrarian Thinking. Codie deeply understands what she calls Contrarian Arbitrage – finding opportunities where others don’t see it. She writes about investing, building wealth, and growing businesses.
In order to get what we want from our businesses, we have to know where we currently are. We have to know the truth.
Before any breakthrough can happen, we have to see things as they are – we have to know the truth.
Here’s how to get to what’s really going on in your business:
Take A Step Back To Get Perspective
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the size of a problem or situation when we’re right in the middle of it.
Practicing prayer or meditation, taking a walk, physically stepping away from the problem – all of these are ways to take a moment to get some extra perspective.
You can also bring in outside help. A friend, fellow business owner, or a coach can help you see what might be in your blindspots, or the things that you aren’t willing to see because of things like sunk cost or the emotional attachment to different parts of your business.
Even the best have coaches. Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Tony Robbins.
They all have various coaches, mentors, peers, and partners that they rely on to improve their game. That process of improvement starts from getting to the truth through feedback.
It’s important to not just see things as they are, but also not worse than they are.
Beating yourself up, getting down on yourself, or adding emotion to the situation rarely helps. It will only keep you stuck where you are until you are willing to let go and get to the truth without the emotional attachment to what the truth means.
Use Business Analytics Data Where Possible
It’s easy to say that things are going well, or that things aren’t great.
But is that the truth?
Things may be much better – or much worse – than you think they are, but you’ll never know by how much unless you are analyzing the situation with data.
A common example:
Creatives I work with often say “I’m just not good at marketing”. That limiting belief keeps them from ever trying, because they believe that any effort spend on marketing their business will only come up short.
What if, instead, they tracked their effort over two months. The only thing they did was to post more regularly. From once a week to once a day.
Over two months, that’s the difference of 60 posts rather than 8. That’s more than 7 TIMES the effort. It’s hard to think that while each post individually might not be as successful as you’d like that you would have zero results from that sort of extra focus and effort.
Even if only one new client or customer came from that effort, it would still be worth it, would it not? Because now you can take the next step which is to imagine how to make things better. How to optimize and maximize those efforts so that they’re more effective.
When you start tracking these things, you’ll see that a) you aren’t as bad as you think you are at the “business stuff”, but also b) there’s a ton of room for improvement when it comes to your business, which means it can become more resilient, profitable, and fulfilling as you start working on it in this way.
Use the data to verify what’s really going on so that you can take action based on truth, rather than your limiting beliefs.
Make Things Better Than They Are
When you know the truth, you can then start to make conscious decisions based on that truth.
It’s like trying out a new diet or workout plan without first understanding the unique truths about your body.
If you’re allergic to certain types of food, you would want to avoid those foods in your diet, right?
With this new, intimate knowledge of your business, you can create a plan to get the breakthroughs you’ve wanted for your business.
The results you want are 100% within your control. We often just get stuck believing things that aren’t true which hold us back from getting those results we really want.
Choose now to make decisions for your business based on truth, and use that new knowledge to get what you want even faster.
If you’re following along, we start with a working content strategy and check all of the boxes there when it comes to how we create our content.
But if we don’t take the next step and work on distributing that content properly, we’ll be frustrated with the results that our content gets.
Let’s quickly look at three ways to increase the distribution of your content so that not just more people see it, but more of the right people see it.
By that, I mean people who will engage with your content, and take the next step in that journey to subscribe, follow, or even become a customer or a client.
Publish To Existing Channels
Important to start with what you have, and get it working as much as possible. Most people encourage posting three to four times per day to try and reach as many people as possible.
That doesn’t mean that you should be posting calls to action or asking for things in each of these posts. But onec per day or so it totally within reason.
Look at the profiles that you follow and engage with online and see what they do. What do they post, how often, what do you click on and comment on?
Reach Out To Potential Partners
Whenever you post, are there people that you can reach out to who might be able to help you share it with their audiences? Whether it be on their profiles, or in groups or forums, who else would benefit from sharing your content?
If you’re sharing their work, it helps them look good to re-share your content with theri audience.
If you have a big launch or a piece of content you really want to get out there, you can reach out to people who have a similar audience to you to help promote it at a specific time, right as you launch.
In marketing circles this is called a “joint venture”, and often there’s a financial incentive for partners to help promote content.
These partners, or affiliates, are incentivized to share your product or company by getting a percentage of any sales that come from their referral or link.
Giveaways is another form of this – using people who you may not even know to share your work with their audiences.
Who do you know that might help you share your content with their audiences and can benefit from doing so? It’s rare that people will share your stuff without any direct reward or incentive, so think about that when you reach out and ask them to share.
Pay For Reach
There are also ways that you can pay to get more views on your content. You can boost a post on Facebook, or run a post as an ad. You can drive traffic to your work using ads on Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit – any number of platforms.
It can be expensive, but it is an option that can work, and is often used in conjunction with other strategies.
Think about how many people need to see your work in order to get the results you’re after. For example:
You sell an online course for $99. You want to make $10,000 per month from your work. In this case, you need 101 people per month to clear that threshold. One of out every 50 people that visits your website will purchase a course, so you need a little over 5,000 visitors per month to your site.
Working backwards, you can determine what your needs are, and measure what is currently working or not working.
If you’re only getting 500 visitors per month, you know that you’ve got to do something to get 10 times the traffic in order to get the sales you want for your business.
How are you going to do it? Get resourceful, work with what you have, and make sure to measure what works and what doesn’t.
It is also important to be patient – many of these distribution efforts can take months to start working. SEO, for example, can take 6-8 months to start showing signs of the work you’re doing at the beginning. Don’t give up too early.
The results in your business are completely within your control, if you take the responsibility seriously. Figure out what your business needs, and get to work.