A few months ago, I was invited to join Vistage International, an invite-only, $1500 a month support group for business owners. The lure was that unless you have a board of advisors or peers at the executive level, it can be pretty frustrating to know that you don’t have many outlets to turn to when you want actual advice or are struggling with something about your business. So a bunch of entrepreneurs from every imaginable industry (like boiler production) sign an NDA and freely talkabout the parts of their business that usually just they, and perhaps their accountants and lawyers, are privy to.
Just a few months before that first exclusive club meeting, I plopped down a little less than the cost of a month at Vistage for an online course called 30×500. It was taught by Amy Hoy, who’s behind the course, two subscription apps, an ebook and a few workshops. She’s one of those people that everyone in the Ruby community follows on Twitter – so I happened across a tweet of hers advertising the course.
My background is in lead generation and advertising, so I’ve been exposed to my fair share of “money making systems” or products that promise to help get me out of the rat race. Having worked for myself and for others in various roles, I’m not sure how free of worrying about money you can ever be, short of having an anonymous benefactor or winning the lottery. And I don’t pretend I’ll ever be asking, like old lady Grantham from Downton Abbey, “A weekend? What on earth is a weekend?” But I do think there’s an extraordinary amount of freedom in being in complete control of how your bank account is filled.
So I bit the bullet and signed up… And started getting PDFs sent to me. I’ll admit, at first I was a bit turned off by this. After all, what makes Amy’s PDFs any better than that $9.99 ebook promising the same results? As somebody regularly in charge with needing to weigh and assess purchase decisions at work, I started questioning if this was really worth it.
But the quality of the materials were beyond anything I’d come across before in other “systems”. Deeply rooted in psychology, and tearing apart the idea that so many wantrepreneurs hold that it’s all about waiting for the right idea, the course materials are a practical guide to building a product that people will actually buy. I do not recommend 30×500 if you want to create a “startup” so you can be acqui-hired by Google. But if you want to create a solid business built around the old fashioned idea that people will pay for things of value, it’s the perfect guide for you.
As the time went on, I got to know Amy and the rest of the class. And we started swapping ideas, frustrations and fears. The cost of the class, in retrospect, separated the wheat from the chaff. If it was cheap, the group would have been polluted with a lot of get-rich-quick, tell-me-exactly-what-to-do types. I don’t want to sound stuck up, but my fellow classmates aren’t amateurs. They’re successful. They’re sometimes well known (at least to me.) They know the best things in life take care and effort, and we’re all building great products together. The Winter 2011 class recently joined our alumni group, which is awash now in product launches from the prior class (my class.)
I’ve been consulting for quite a few years now, and the satisfaction of receiving payment notifications and thank you letters from customers – sometimes while I’m asleep! – is something brand new to me. I love it, and I’m having a blast making some side money with Projector while also building a product that’s helping freelancers around the world skip making the mistakes I’ve made over the years.
Look, the ROI from something like 30×500 isn’t immediate. The money I’ve made so far with Projector is peanuts compared to what up I could have made consulting. But I’m building up equity in a product that will one day give me comfortable side (or primary) income, detached from the rat race formula of “1 hour of my time = $x”, while also letting me be in complete control over how and when I get there.
The alumni list for 30×500 is now my fancy business owners group. The support I’ve gotten has been fantastic, even if it’s just a pat on the back from someone who’s seen where I’ve been and where I am now. And it’s humbling to be around a group of people who share your ideals and are sincere about wanting to help each other and themselves be awesome. The Summer 2012 class is coming up, so what are you waiting for?