*Today’s topic is controversial (and it’s different from my usual marketing advice).*
Here’s the truth: Building an online empire is hard work. Selling a digital product requires your time AND money. (Yes, you read that right.)
In this episode, I’m challenging every single business owner who says, “It’s easy! Just follow these 5 steps!” because I want you to know the REALITY before you begin. I’m sharing my story (running a service-based business) and the behind-the-scenes reality for my most successful clients (who run digital product-based businesses), because – it’s harder than it looks.
Listen in for one of my signature pep talks – and then, share this episode with every new business owner you know!
*This message is one you need to hear, because here’s the TRUTH: You’re not failing at business if you haven’t hit 5 or 6 figures, or whatever “success” looks like for you, but you might not understand the REALITY of hard work it’ll take to get there.
As always, share your takeaways (and your own opinions on this topic) on IG stories, and tag @emilyhirsh for a shoutout.
NOTE – Listen to episode 44 to learn more about marketing a whole business vs. marketing your “one” funnel.
[1:28] The reality of building an online empire from scratch (+ my story!)
[3:29] Yes, it’s controversial, but… It takes $$ to start a business.
[6:21] “It’s easy!” and other lies people tell you
[7:46] Honestly.. it’s only getting worse.
[9”03] BUT! “You’re not failing. It’s just that, no one told you the truth.”
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Today I’m going to talk about something exciting, something I feel like is going to be a little controversial and also some real talk. I was having an interesting conversation with my best friend and business bestie, Lindsay Padilla a couple of weeks ago when I was at her house in San Diego, and we were just talking about what makes a successful business and what people don’t tell you in and why people fail. And this is an opinion I have had for a while, but I didn’t vocalize it or put it into words that made sense until we had this conversation.
But basically, it’s like the reality of building a digital product-based business, and I get really annoyed with how easy people make it seem all the time because it’s like, “Oh, autopilot, evergreen webinar, automated webinar and make money in your sleep.” It’s not that easy, right? But this is my belief in the reality of building a digital product-based business that you want to sell digital products through funnels that’s not service based and that’s your business model, right?
I obviously have a service-based business and I was able to start my company with $0 investment. I just hustled, I put my time into it, I was trading my time for hours, and my belief is basically that if you don’t have some money or capital to start your business as a digital product business that you have to, on the flip side, give your time for money. And that’s really hard to do with a digital product business, right? Because you have to spend money on ads, you have to get your name out there somehow.
But when you have a service business, you’re trading your time for money. I had a service business, I was trading my time for money, I didn’t need an investment, I didn’t need overhead. I didn’t need any capital to start my business because it was just me and I made money right away because I was getting paid by the hour. Obviously, I needed to scale and spend money, but I had a foundation. And so I think it’s unique when you can start a business with no capital, no investment. I didn’t even have savings to put into it. I needed this money to make money to live, to eat, to help our family.
And when you have like a digital product or a coaching business or something that’s not necessarily trading your time for dollars, I believe that you have to have some sort of capital and maybe people who have done it, maybe. But I think it will be really hard because you’re going to need a support with things like your marketing and building a website and all of those things that most people just can’t do. I mean, I didn’t have a website for a year in my business, but I was doing a great job for people and so I just had referrals. And you also need marketing budget because nobody knows who you are. Nobody knows what your products are. You can work relationships and sell things that way, but it’s hard to really take off.
This is just, I guess, me saying this is like the truth and that is if you are starting or trying to seriously scale a digital product business and you have zero money to invest, meaning everything that you’re making out of it, you have to like live off of and you need to … Or everything you’re putting into it and making out of that output, you need it as profit right away. It’s going to be hard for you to succeed. And I think this is probably a controversial topic because I’m basically saying it’s not true. All the people out there who teach making money in your sleep and automation and all the things that make it seem easy. Travel and make money while you are traveling the world.
I think that’s true if you’re a service business. But if you are selling digital products, you’re going to have to start somewhere, and you’re going to have some investment to start. That is the reality. What a lot of people do is they have a service business. They make money from their service business, and then they start selling digital products and they fund the digital product side of things with their service business until the digital product thing, side, takes off and is profitable and is doing well.
But nobody tells you that. People go into this thinking like, “Oh, I’ll just make a funnel.” And then it’s like, “Now what? If I spend $500 on ads, I should get a thousand back, right?” And like, no. It doesn’t happen like that, and if you’ve listened to my episode about the difference between marketing a business versus a funnel, you’re marketing a business, you’re building a business that in hopefully three, four or five years from now is insanely profitable and all the foundation and the work that you put in since day one starts really paying off in the future.
But that takes an investment, an investment of time and usually some money. It doesn’t have to be huge like a venture capitalist deal, but it takes some sort of capital to start a business, and if you don’t have that, then you have to be trading your time to make back the money. Yeah, I just think that this is a really important topic to talk about because it’s not easy. Growing a digital business is amazing, the benefits and the freedom that you get from it, but it’s not like there’s no struggle and especially with digital products.
You have to have some sort of investment to get your name out there and to grow your funnel, and once you start … Once you start spending money in your funnel, if you can put a lot of that backend, you’ll scale so much faster. I think people really struggle when they make a decision that’s crazy. Like, “I’m going to quit my job tomorrow, I’m going to go and start selling this course, and I have to feed my family off the money that I make from it this month.” You’re just setting yourself up for failure.
Instead, if you kept your job for a little while, use that to fund your digital product business, made that profitable for like six plus months, I’m talking long game, and was predictable and you had a following that you were building, and a brand and a real business foundation, and then you quit your job, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. But I just see in some of the groups I’m in and conversations I have, people have this jaded perspective of what reality is in the digital product world.
And to be honest, I think it’s only gonna get worse because I think we live in a little bit of a bubble right now where if I go to any average dinner with just people who have nine to five jobs, and I tell them what I do, they’re like, “That exists? Digital products exist? And webinars exist?” As these things grow and become more popular, more and more people are going to be like, “Oh, that sounds super easy. Let me go over there and do that.”
I think it’s just important to portray and think about your business if you’re selling digital products and you’re selling courses or coaching or a course. Yeah, courses, coaching, like anything digital, right? And honestly, e-commerce too, because that’s a whole different game. You’re putting money into the production and the creation of the product. If you’re selling those things, think of it as a real business. Think of it as like if you were to go start a real business, what are the steps that you would need, and how would you look at that? And it’s not just about this easy hobby way out, and I just think too many people are thinking about it like that, and I’m so over it.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this a little bit different episode, but I just thought it was important to share this. It’s something that’s of value of mine. It’s like talking about that growing a business is not easy, and I see so much behind the scenes of so many businesses and all that goes into like time, money and resources into growing these massive brands that people just don’t see on the front end. But I see on the back end, and I think it’s important that people know that, so you don’t feel like a failure when it doesn’t work for you in this jaded, easy, unrealistic expectation that people put out there.
You’re not failing. It’s just that that’s not reality, and if you’re growing a business, you’re in it for the long game. You’re going to constantly be putting back into this business for the future, for the long game, and until you look at it in those eyes, everything will change once you do that. If you liked this and if you like listening to this podcast, go and leave me a review, guys. I do look at those. I love to see those, and I’d love to hear your feedback about what you think about this podcast. Thanks so much, guys.