I don’t kill people for money (I do that for free).
I’m not wanted in 17 countries.
And I don’t ride on a steel horse.
But by many standards, I’m somewhat of a mercenary.
It started a few years ago, when I cut my teeth online by playing around in the internet marketing game.
Before I’d heard of Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, or Sonia Simone . . . I’d heard of Frank Kern, Mike Filsaime, and Jason Moffatt.
My first masters — the pure marketers
I spent a lot of time hanging out on the Warrior Forum. Not with Kern and Filsaime and Moffatt, but with a bunch of their customers. We talked about how to sell dating guides and dog training ebooks, and told each other that the customer didn’t matter as long as we were making money.
Although I was doing everything they said I should, something didn’t feel right . . . especially that hole in my wallet.
I made a few dollars, but it was by creating sites I wasn’t proud of. Spamming the net with silo sites and working in niches that I had no interest in. It all started to wear on my soul.
So I started talking about what I thought was wrong with that style of Internet marketing, and was laughed out of the virtual building.
No problem, I didn’t like those guys anyway.
My second masters — the affiliate ninjas
I was on my way out the door when I bought an ebook that was described as the “best Twitter guide on the forum.” I thought it was terrible.
Considering I’d started hanging out in the social media scene and had been using Twitter for almost a year, I started thinking, “I could make something much better than that!”
So I did. And Twitter Rockstar was born.
In a matter of weeks, I sold a few thousand dollars’ worth of that course. And oddly enough, I found that if you create something that’s actually useful and as good as you can make it . . . people are more than willing to pay for it.
So I kept searching for the next “guru.” I found guys like Ed Dale and John Chow, both a little closer to what felt right for me, but not perfect.
Still, knowing good marketing when I see it, I tried to learn everything they had to say. This time, on the affiliate marketing front.
I started blogging a bit and working the affiliate scene in a different way. I still wasn’t crushing it, but I knew I was getting closer.
My third masters — the Third Tribers
Eventually, I stumbled on to guys like Brian Clark, David Risley, Chris Guillebeau, Gary Vaynerchuk, Naomi Dunford, Sonia Simone, and Jonathan Fields.
Dudes and dudettes who were killing it not just online, but in the real world. It was at this point it really started to sink in. I could make money doing something other than selling World of Warcraft leveling guides and dieting ebooks.
What a relief.
You mean I could actually make a living online, selling real products that people wanted, and would also be fun to create? Whoa! (Keanu Reeves or Joey Lawrence impression, take your pick).
So naturally, I absorbed as much as I could. I started buying stuff, reading their blogs, and studying their marketing (I always try to do what they do, not just what they say).
Great stuff . . . but I wanted more.
Becoming my own master
So here I was, a product of three masters, but a servant of none. Remember, I’m a mercenary. A heartless profiteer. And I wanted my own empire, so I set out to build one.
My thoughts went like this:
Instead of sticking to a single way of thought, why not take the best of each and make it my own? Sounds a little Third Tribe, I know. But this is a tribe of one.
For the most part, I’m anti kumbaya. I don’t blog for free (if I can help it), and I think that most bloggers are underpaid . . . so I opted to change that.
Instead of calling myself a blogger, I started calling myself a platformer. Instead of working my butt off to build a platform that I gave away for free, I worked doubly hard to build a variety of products that are worth charging for. Instead of spending all of my time with freeloaders, I started spending most of my time with customers.
What I’ve found during this process:
- Without some of those “pushy” marketing tactics that traditional internet marketers use so well, I’d be blogging for free.
- Without a little kumbaya, I’d be following the dollar instead of my passion.
- And without those Third Tribe “best of both worlds” techniques, I’d have no place to call home when I needed one. Even a mercenary likes a hot lunch and a soft pillow sometimes.
The point I’m trying to make is that there isn’t any single “right” way to do things, and that if you want to build your own digital empire, then you need to learn how to become your own master.
You need to study the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You need to get as comfortable telling people to buy your stuff as you are asking them to retweet it.
You need to be confident enough to price your products high enough to make a profit.
And you need to be brave enough to ride on your own when the mission calls for it.
I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I know enough to say that when it comes to the success of your business, you’re the one in charge. Learn the skills you need to know, and don’t be afraid to use them.
Don’t get tied to ideas, labels, or systems. Get tied to what works for you.
The way of the mercenary is a matter of survival, and in business, nothing else will do.
About the Author: Nathan Hangen teaches people how to build digital empires, helps them rock through their workday, and works with small businesses to implement digital marketing campaigns.