Having one line of work that is your only source of income should make you feel uncomfortable. Wealthy people have a diversified portfolio of income-producing assets that reduce risk and accelerate wealth. The reality is you are not going to be able to work forever. Think of yourself as a product that can package your unique knowledge into various products that can be monetized in different channels. This is the key to realizing wealth and peace. Do not commit to anyone or any one thing otherwise you lose all of your power, freedom, and influence.
Over many years of my career, I have worked as a product manager. This mindset significantly influenced the structure and content of the framework. When you take a step back, the lifecycle of your career is no different than a product. It must be envisioned, built, marketed, and sold to a specific buyer that needs our expertise.
By thinking of yourself as a product, we can adopt many proven business and product management strategies to realize outcomes including higher compensation and brand credibility.
The most important product of your life is your career
Our knowledge is the core ingredient of our value proposition. As such, it sits at the center of any knowledge product or service you intend to monetize. Similar to financial investing, you need to think about managing your career as a portfolio of expertise that you can monetize in various forms and channels. You do not want to be dependent on one income stream. This will limit your options and constrain your freedom and financial potential.
Using the picture below, I will describe the various ways you can monetize your talent through different products and services. In other courses, I will cover the specific technologies you can use to deliver these offerings in your career portfolio.
Your goal is to package your expertise in various forms and receive compensation for the value realized by the customer. Conceptualize the wheel below as a diversified portfolio of products and services that have different rates of returns and characteristics. This is an identical mental model to financial investing.
At the center is your knowledge and expertise which is the foundation for making money and expanding options in life. Those are the crown jewels of your career. How to choose what crown jewels to develop and how to do that will be covered in parts of the framework.
Quadrant 1 – Services
Offerings in this quadrant require your active involvement to deliver the value proposition. I classify these as “services” offerings as we must be present either physically or virtually to perform our expertise for the customer to receive the value. The “customer” could be an organization or a person that has hired your expertise.
Quadrant 1 is where we typically think about our career as the primary job we are focused on. There is a time and place for that especially when you are early in your development to gain more experience. While this can be a lucrative part of your portfolio to monetize your expertise, the scale of impact, and financial returns in this quadrant are limited by your personal bandwidth. Delivering services in this quadrant can be essential to establishing credibility and social proof in your field. Starting your portfolio here can be foundational for creating new products and services in the other three quadrants that are predicated on deep expertise. The input of effort to deliver an output of income is roughly linear. We need to work hours to produce income.
“Primary job” could be where you allocate a significant part of your time. This is where you have deep expertise and can realize a predictable income. This is typically a “service” to an organization that has hired you for your expertise to perform a specific activity.
Freelance consulting is a service to organizations or people that need a problem solved by your expertise. If you work for an organization, I recommend you review the company policies for “moonlighting” to ensure you do not violate any of these. Most companies allow this as long as you are not doing work for competitors or organizations with the company has a formal business relationship.
I have freelanced over the years to gain expertise but also to create diversification and additional income. For example, I built websites for small businesses while I was an IT leader at Microsoft. In my jobs where I freelanced, I was transparent with HR regarding my company, and the primary focus was to make additional income. Being transparent enables you to absorb this as a part of your persona and not hide it. It’s highly likely that your freelance or side hustle work will benefit the company in some form. In some organizations, it’s actually encouraged to bring out the uniqueness in the talent people bring to the company.
Coaching, either one-on-one or in a group setting, is a service that again builds off your expertise to help people solve a problem. Coaching can be lucrative when the expertise is specialized and can deliver measurable outcomes. Broad and general types of coaching such as “life coaching” are not recommended. There are many people who pretend to be life coaches, but unless you are Tony Robbins, you are likely not going to experience success.
Speaking is a service where you can engage with a specific audience to share your expertise and also generate leads for the other products and services in your career portfolio.
During my career at Microsoft, I did a lot of speaking events related to career strategy and personal development. This gave me an opportunity to share my ideas, get feedback, and connect with people.
Here is a practical example. My “primary job” is as a product management leader for a software company, while my personal business offers career coaching, consulting services for people that need growing a business, and as a speaker for career strategy-related events and podcasts. This is where I started and had been for many years until I began expanding my portfolio into other product offerings in the other three quadrants.
Quadrant 2 – Active, Digital Products
Offerings in this quadrant are digital products delivered through your active engagement via the Internet. These products have an unlimited scale to reach global audiences and revenue that is not constrained by people consuming the product in person. You set the price of products in this quadrant and returns are non-linear given your effort.
The friction to envision, build and launch a product in this quadrant can be straightforward given the availability of free or low-cost technology to deliver the digital product to customers anywhere in the world.
These products can be delivered via the following channels:
- social media platforms (e.g., YouTube, Facebook Live)
- collaboration platforms (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom)
- any Internet live stream technology
Building an online community around your expertise is an effective way to deepen the connection with your audience. It also enables community members to help each other and open up monetization opportunities.
Online communities can be paid where you actively curate content in messaging forums, engage in conversations, and hold live events. Communities can also be free as a way to grow your audience and monetize with other offerings in your portfolio.
Online events may take many forms such as a virtual conference or summit.
Online workshops are an opportunity to engage your audience in a private experience to achieve a specific outcome. For example, you may offer a workshop on how to get your WordPress blog up and running with basic content.
Quadrant 3 – Passive, Digital Properties
Offerings in this quadrant generate passive income. This means that income is generated from an asset you created but you are not actively involved in the value exchange process. This is where income can scale while you sleep!
The income-generating machines in this quadrant are your digital properties (e.g., website, mobile app, podcast, YouTube channel) that deliver income through advertising and sponsorships. The companies that pay you typically control the price.
Affiliate promotion or marketing is where you as an expert or influencer recommend products and receive compensation when those products are purchased by someone that clicked the link on your property to the online store. The most well-known affiliate program is Amazon Associates.
You will likely not get rich through affiliate promotion, but the effort is low and the income is completely passive and scalable across your audience.
Ad placements represent real estate you have offered up on your digital property such as your website to advertisers that want to reach an audience. These can take the form of banner and video ads that are programmatically driven by platforms such as Google Adsense. You typically have little control over what ads are rendered on your property. Some sites have a poor user experience with ads that make it hard to consume the content.
Ad monetization is likely not worth it unless you have a sizable audience and can render ads that are tailored and valuable to your audience.
Sponsored advertising is a form of digital content monetization when advertisers want to deliver their message to the audience on your property. Examples are short advertisements delivered in podcast episodes or as blog post that features their product or service. This form of advertising enables you to control the content that is delivered to your audience. This will ensure it’s relevant to your audience and aligns with your personal brand.
Quadrant 4 – Passive, Digital Products
Offerings in this quadrant are generally ideal for making the most money since the regime is passive, the products are digital, and can be easily purchased and consumed by anyone on the Internet. What differentiates quadrant 4 from quadrant 3 is that you are in control of the price here. Also, commercial transactions can take place in online stores with a massive customer base such as Amazon.com and Apple Appstore, and iTunes. You can also earn money while you sleep.
Online courses are a fantastic way to codify your knowledge and monetize the content to a worldwide audience. Online course platforms make this technically easy. The effort is in organizing and authoring the content.
Subscriptions are a type of membership offer where you have access to the product or service for a period of time. The subscription is automatically renewed such as monthly or yearly. A subscription could be in the form of a course, live session, access to specific content on your website, etc. The possibilities are endless.
e-Books / Audio-books
An e-book is a relatively low-cost way to create and sell your written content through self-publishing services such as Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
While most podcasts are free these days, there are many paid podcast series that have a nominal fee that can scale as the audience grows.
Mobile apps are a way to package up your unique digital content and experience to serve a specific audience. While most apps are free, you can charge a small fee for unique content that is not included on your website or other channels.
Intellectual Property (IP) licensing is a form of monetizing when a person or organization licenses the access and use to a recognized process, methodology, framework, template, or other work creation. In return for paying you a fee, they can use the IP to create derivative works or apply it in their business to generate revenue. This form of monetization is when you have a creation that can be easily applied in a repeatable fashion by different customers such as a proven methodology.
The “Productize Yourself” Concept by Naval Ravikant
“Productize” and “yourself”.
“Yourself” has uniqueness.
“Productize” has leverage.
“Yourself” has accountability.
“Productize” has specific knowledge.
“Yourself” also has specific knowledge in there.
So all of these pieces, you can combine them into two words.
An excerpt from the book The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson
1 – Think of yourself as a product.
Clarify what problem you solve in simple words and the implications of that problem.
Target a specific audience who has that problem.
Weave together your specific and unique expertise to deliver a differentiated solution.
Deliver the outcomes you promise to your customer with excellence and satisfaction.
2 – Define your personal brand as an entrepreneurial portfolio.
Make it clear that you offer multiple products and services.
This will give you more power and autonomy given you have options.
Set a brand positioning that feels entrepreneurial on social media and LinkedIn.
When people ask you what you do, refer to your portfolio of products and not just “I work for <a company name> …”
3- Cultivate new income streams.
Leverage your current talent to find ways to package up your talent that can solve a problem for a specific ideal customer.
Use small test experiments to confirm there is a market and refine your offering.
Look for ways to gain experience that will deepen or expand your skillset.
Create a sense of urgency and desperation to diversify your income – you don’t control the economic forces that could crush you.
Conceal your intentions to buy time developing in multiple income streams.
Build a loyal customer base that automatically pays for your great product – a forever transaction.
4 – Do not commit to anyone.
Maintain your independence to not get locked in or manipulated by organizations.
Your power and options are limited when you put all your chips in one place.
Show the world that you have options – seduce people and organizations to pursue you.
Experiment With This
- Determine your level of risk and diversification of your income. How many income streams do I have right now? Do I have too much time and energy devoted to one income stream that if it was gone would cause havoc in my life?
- Start a blog to share your knowledge in a specific area and grow your confidence and audience. A value exchange of free knowledge for reader email contact information can be used to up-sell your audience to a paid offering in the future.
- Envision a portfolio of offerings you could create within a short time horizon to expand your options and income streams. What are the knowledge products you could create to tap into your expertise and quickly bring them to market?
- It requires time to bring a new product to market and establish credibility. What habits or schedule changes would I need to commit to monetize my expertise more broadly?
- Read Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive by Dorie Clark. This is the go-to bible for targeting your talent as a portfolio.
- Read at least Part 1 Building Wealth in the book The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson. This link also includes how you can get the PDF or ebook for FREE!
The content from this lecture was derived from concepts in the following books that are fantastic references to further your study.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson (Part 1 Building Wealth)
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene (Law 20 – Do Not Commit to Anyone)
Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More by Donald Miller (See Yourself as an Economic Product on the Open Market)