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    How I made my first $89,726 online (revenue breakdown)

    By Kieran Drew
    💡
    This is an edition of my old newsletter Digital Freedom.

    It's lightly edited but otherwise untouched. I've kept them on the site to show how the journey has evolved.

    I monetized on the 31st of March by releasing my first digital product, the Viral Inspiration Lab.

    Here’s how it's gone since:

    BAR CHART - MONTHLY REVENUE

    October was a healthy chunk of change — my first $20k month. This is because I launched round 1 of my group coaching program. Here's how the total revenue looks:

    But when my girlfriend Jena designed this picture, I wasn't happy. The problem is it doesn't include pre-monetization.

    Here's how things have really gone:

    TOTAL REVENUE LINE CHART ALL TIME

    Ain't nothing like the smell of compounding in the morning.

    So let's take a look at how I've made my moolah.

    TABLE OF EARNINGS

    I'm gonna chat through each. But before we go on, there's a much sexier figure I want to show you (and I'm not talking about my legs).

    See...

    You and I are here to disconnect time from money. So each month, I'm going to show you how my business evolves into a high leveraged, freedom-first machine.

    Here's how it works.

    Every revenue source is grouped into how leveraged they are (how many people you reach)

    • Low leverage: 1-1 work. Ghostwriting, coaching and consulting
    • Mid leverage: 1-few. Group coaching and community
    • High leverage: 1-many. Or as I like to call it: the good stuff

    If we run my first year through my new super-sexy visual, here's how we look:

    FREEDOM METRE
    GLADIATORS THUMB DOWN

    The aim of 2023 is to hit a 90% high leverage position.

    ... So we're not looking too good so far.

    Move numero uno was to stop all 1-1 calls. I had my last one last night. I also cancelled round 2 of my group coaching which I explain more about below. Aside from a kick in the teeth (or wallet), that should get the meter moving.

    But enough about me.

    Actually, it's all about me. But let's chat about each revenue source and if it's right for you.

    Affiliating

    I set a rule to not sell other people’s stuff so I could build a relationship with my audience.

    Well intentioned, but a bad idea.

    Affiliating is awesome. If you buy a product you love (note: not just one you think you can sell), it's a great win-win to share it with your audience.

    The key is to be careful with selection.

    First, make sure it's damn good. It’s your name on the line, and you should never sacrifice long-term reputation for short-term revenue.

    Second, don’t tread on your own toes — if you can build it, why not build it?

    100% of the revenue is much nicer than 30-50%. .

    Here's an example.

    I love copywriting. I get googly-eyed when someone wants to speak about persuasive writing. But I'll never be an expert. The skill's a tool, not a profession.

    But my friend Chris Orzechowski makes 7 figures with email copywriting and released an ebook on how to find clients.

    ... perfect for my copy-loving amigos.

    Another example would be Rob Lennon’s AI Content Reactor. Robots don’t excite me, but his advice does.

    Affiliate freedom score: 4/5 - No fulfilment required. Often recurrent payments. And everyone wins (if you do it right).

    Community

    I launched ‘Freedom Writers’ in April and grew it to 100 members. I thought community would be a great side hustle.

    I was wrong.

    You can’t side-hustle people. Not if you care. They deserve your full attention. And that means you either:

    1. Charge a premium
    2. Set clear constraints

    Few people have what it takes to build a thriving community. Jay Clouse is your man if you want to learn how (also a great newsletter and podcast for creators).

    Community freedom score: 2/5 – Recurring revenue is great, but you’re in constant warfare with churn.

    1-1 Coaching and Consulting

    I doubled my revenue after quitting the community because I had time to coach and consult. The topics were writing, social media growth, and business. At first I was terrified because 'who the hell was I to charge for advice?'. But what you lack in experience you can make up for in energy.

    I vowed to overdeliver at every opportunity and the coaching biz took off.

    Of course, I've been hating on 1-1 work.

    But I think it's incredibly good for business early on.

    Why?

    Because the writer who understands their audience the most, wins.

    What's more, you think you know your sh*t until you try teach it. Systems fail. Advice makes no sense. Clients have questions.The more people you work with, the better. You avoid the mistake a lot of creators make:

    Productizing untested and untaught knowledge.

    If you've ever bought a product and thought, 'well that was rubbish', this is why. People spread average ideas, which ruins the opportunity to turn followers into fans.

    Now that’s bad for business.

    1-1 Work freedom score: 3/5  it isn’t leveraged, but you decide who and how many clients you have. It’s easy to control your diary. And you’ll learn 100x more than your competition.

    Ghostwriting

    A coaching client asked me to ghostwrite for him and offered to paid well. I said yes. I hated it.

    I couldn't shake the feeling that building someone else's brand was a bad move. Why not just build my own?

    Saying that, there're pros to ghostwriting:

    Getting paid to learn is smart (skin in the game is how you win the game). And it only takes a couple of clients to give your finger to the boss.

    But if you ever make more than 10k a month with direct client work, I'm gonna hunt you down... and have a few stern words.

    Leverage is the key to freedom. Either scale into an agency (remove yourself from the fulfilment), or put all extra time into building your brand so you can productize.

    Don’t get stuck on the hamster wheel.

    Ghostwriting freedom score: 2.5/5 – It’s the fastest way to break free from your 9-5, but your job is dependent on deadlines and algorithms. No bueno.

    Group Coaching

    My group coaching program has been a blast – and it was the model I was going to scale hard until I realised it took me away from writing.

    I charged £3k per head to six people. It was exciting, impactful, and lucrative.

    It’s also intense.

    Round 1 will be tough because you sell, then build. Round 2 is easier because your resources are ready. You can also build a team to shift into a more leveraged position.

    I've stopped at round 1 but offered a $550/month continuity to my original clients for Discord access, 1 group call a month, and continued support with writing.

    They all said yes.

    Group coaching freedom score: 3.5/5 – You’re tied in for 90 days (or whatever your fulfilment is), but you only need a few cohorts a year to make some decent cash.

    Digital products

    Digital products have fallen out of fashion in favour of cohort-based content – but I’ve never enjoyed cohorts.

    And I plan to build whatever Kieran Drew circa 12 months ago would've loved - starting with my new, systems-based writing product in April.

    So far, I only have the Viral Inspiration Lab.

    It makes roughly $2-3k a month. Occasionally I run a sale (or a surprise bonus) and that will make $3-5k in a few hours of writing.

    Exciting stuff.

    Digital product freedom score 4.5/5 – You need to make sure your clients are happy, but you can automate pretty much everything.

    Newsletter sponsorships

    I monetized my newsletter 10k subs for $100 a slot. It’s now roughly $350.

    When I was looking at how to position with more leverage, the answer was obvious:

    Email more.

    Digital Freedom became twice a week.

    Not only does it double a revenue source, but it improves my writing and helps me reach you. To quote mega business mogel Michael Scott, that's a win-win-win.

    WIN WIN WIN

    Sponsorship freedom score: 4.5/5 – Sure, you need to write. But we need to do some work, right? Newsletters are fun as hell and ain't no Elon screwing with your engagement.

    Final note

    I spent the first 2 years focusing on volume. The audience-first approach is awesome, but I believe the mistake most big creators make is they forget to do something with it.

    There comes a point where chasing numbers on a screen puts you in a very un-unique position (there's no story to tell).

    So yes, start with quantity.

    But when you get an idea, don't be afraid to change direction.

    I've now tripled my writing time for the newsletter to focus on building something banging. I'm hoping the newsletter becomes a quality product that generates enough hype through word of mouth that I only need to write the occasional listicle on Twitter (hey, I'm not perfect).

    With the newsletter being my 'mecca', I'll create products to help you win. And I'll begin to redistribute to other social platforms (finally) with the 2 years of content I've got sitting in Notion.

    I might even take on YouTube toward the end of the year — it would be nice to record videos where I don't need to wear spandex.

    But let's finish with you.

    Making money as a creator is worth every effort. But here're two tips I wish I heard when I started:

    1. Momentum first, money second

    In April, I charged $500 for 10 60 minute calls - a sin in money Twitter’s eyes. Now my hourly rate has peaked at $2k (by writing 2 emails).

    That’s only a 10-month difference.

    Too many people trip up at the first hurdle. Just get someone to give you some goddamn money and figure the rest out later.

    Start small, scale fast.

    2. Simplicity is the secret

    It's paradoxical, but my income increases every time I remove a revenue source.

    I don’t expect Jan to be too good with the new change. It’ll probably take a while to get back to $15k/month.

    But it feels great to narrow the focus.

    Why?

    Because the less you sell, the more you deliver.

    If I had to start again, here’s what I’d do:

    Build a small and simple offer (like a 4 call package) and iterate on it until it’s excellent. Then productize the knowledge in a low-ticket to create a simple funnel. Use email to build your reputation and voila, the more you write - the more you earn.

    DF1

    Kieran Drew

    About Kieran

    Ex dentist, current writer, future Onlyfans star · Sharing what I learn about writing well, thinking clearly, and building an online business