How I've Made High Six Figures Online Each Year For the Past 12 Years

23 replies
When I started out online back in 2001, I can admit... I was more of an opportunity chaser than a business builder.

Anytime a new shiny toy came along, i was first in line to check it out.

But something soon happened that literally turned the proverbial "light bulb" on.

You see, I had been in the fitness field for years, as a personal trainer.

So, needless to say, supplements were something in the fitness market that I was well aware of.

And I'd always notice that a new "latest and greatest supplement" was always being promoted and touted as the best one yet.

Like clockwork, every month or so, a new product would arrive on scene and quickly leave after a quick whirlwind of buzz.

Well, the more time I spent online with internet marketing, the more I noticed the same similarities.

Like supplements, a new "latest and greatest" product would be launched by
the "gurus" and a month later, another would take its place. There was a never ending supply.

I quickly realized that I'd go broke if I kept buying all the courses, and I also realized that there's no way I'd be able to implement everything I'd learn from all these courses.

I quickly realized that the ONLY way I was going to make it online was to do the exact same thing i had done offline, to build my personal training business.

When other trainers had a client list of 3 or 4 clients each week, I was training 40 to 50 clients that I had landed.

So, when i started my fitness business online, i did the same exact thing has i had done to build my offline fitness biz.

and it worked like a charm.

from 2001 and all the way up to today, every single year I've been online, I've made high six figures.

And that's not to brag, it's just to show you that it took a mindset change until I really was able to gain traction and start making money.

So here are my top steps that i used to build both my offline businesses as well as my online businesses (which now number well into the double digits.)

1. Find your target market.

Zero in and be as specific as you can.

Don't try to compete in weight loss, go deep and be as specific as possible.

Try to "own" a niche and be the leader. You won't be the leader in the weight loss niche unless you have a budget that can outgun Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers.

But you CAN be the leader in "abs for guys in their 40s" or something like that.

When I started online in 2001, it wasn't nearly as competitive as it is today.

Part of my success is that I still want after a pretty targeted niche: muscle building.

These days, I'd go even deeper. Maybe muscle building for guys over 40?

Either way, go after a very specific and focused niche.

Think of markets as problems. What can you help others with? How you can solve a markets problems or help them fulfill their desires?

Also, regardless of what some say, don't just "follow your passion". You've also got to make sure it's a profitable niche.

Sure, your passion may lie in teaching exercise to llamas, but chances are... it's not a profitable niche.

Think of something you're passionate about AND something that's profitable.

Enter a market where there are currently products selling well. Don't bother being a pioneer, just try to improve on an existing theme or market.

But by all means, don't just follow your passion, you MUST make
sure you're also choosing a niche where people are buying stuff.

2. Give away valuable content.

When I was a personal trainer, I'd offer a free 15 minute consult in which I'd measure peoples' body fat. This allowed me to educate the person on ways to best lose fat, etc... and I'd easily transition to my "pitch" so they'd hire me as their trainer.

When I started out online, I gave away a free report on how to get abs, how to increase their bench press, etc...

Just try to offer such valuable information, for free, so that you demonstrate your expertise AND show others that you really do care to help them.

The single biggest tip: make it so valuable, you should charge for it.

THIS will quickly separate you from the pack.

When you have people searching YOU out instead of you having to chase
people down... life gets easier (and so does making money)

Now, here's where most marketers drop the ball. They have a free report
or something valuable to give away... but can't find enough eyeballs and people to give it away to!

You need to promote your offer any way you can. Google ads, Facebook, forums, email marketing, press releases, interviews, JV's, etc...

There's no use having a valuable report if no one is going to see it.

You need to work hard at promoting your free offer... don't expect people
to find you haphazardly.

3. In return for getting the valuable report, the prospect has to give
you their email addy.

If what you have truly does seem valuable to the prospect, they WILL
give you their email.

But you have to work hard at showing that what you have is indeed valuable. Just saying "give me your email address" isn't going to work these days.

Give plenty of reasons why they should give you their email address.

But getting their email is important, because it means they're giving you
permission to stay in touch with them.

4. Here's another place where a lot of marketers drop the ball: spamming
the hell out of their list.

Please, never send out an email just for the sake of trying to sell something.

Your list will see right through it. Sure, over time... once you build up the
relationship and show the prospect you have their best interests at heart, then you can pitch something here and there.

But make sure you pile on the value first, before selling.

I personally like to offer 75% valuable info for free, and only sell 25% of the time, if that.

Even then, I'll rarely pitch something right away. Some of my lists won't receive an offer until weeks later, after I've overwhelmed them with value.

I get this is different than what the "gurus" preach, but it's worked
well for me.

No one will ever unsubscribe from your lists and give you the reason
"because you're giving away too much valuable content."

You really do want to make your emails extremely valuable, so you get
people looking for you and chasing after you, instead of you doing all the

Something interesting happens when you start piling on the value.

You go from being a pesky marketer to being a coach/mentor. You go from being a nuisance to being a welcomed guest.

If there's one thing you take away from this post, it's this: seduce and persuade your prospect, don't bash them over the head with offers.

This is the biggest thing that disgusts me with most clickbank offers. They do nothing but try to pitch sh*t to their lists.

And of course, it's why they have unsubscribe rates and refund rates through the sky.

These days, I delete almost all emails on sight from most marketers, except for a few who offer incredible value.

Why? Because I automatically associate them with sales pitches.

What are you known for with your market? A sales pitcher or value
provider. Your bank account will tell you which one you are.

One famous and very rich marketer has mastered email better than
any other marketer I've seen.

Instead of selling too much, too hard, and too often... this marketer
gives incredibly valuable information at first, before trying to pitch

Could be one reason he sells multi-millions with email?

Anyways, that's really the key to success, and why I've been able to start
out new in any market and slowly become successful over time.

It's because my first few weeks of communication with prospects is simply
offering valuable information that is good enough to charge for.

This quickly builds trust. If I help them get what they want, they'll
help me get what I want, soon enough. Not overnight, but soon.

When I become known as offering helpful information... any stuff that
I promote and charge for, it will seem so much more valuable.

But only start selling and pitching stuff (your own or as an affiliate)
AFTER you've proved your value to your list.

If you do that, all you really have to do to "sell" your list on your
stuff is mention that you have a product/service that enhances the free
info that you just gave out!

In other words... give out an amazingly useful tip, something that they
literally could use immediately to see a desired result.

Then, mention how you have a product/service that enhances what you just
gave out... and gets them seeing results even faster/better.

Anyways, this has been the secret to my success over the last 12 years,
and why I've managed to build several six figure businesses in different

I simply offer a ton of value up front, in a highly targeted market, and
try to become a leader who is trusted and liked.

THEN and only then will I ask the market to buy something... after
I've established myself as someone who wants to help first.

Try this approach, I guarantee it will not steer you wrong.
#figures #high #made #online #past #year #years
  • Profile picture of the author sme
    No one has ever unsubscribed from my lists because I was giving away too
    much valuable content.
    That's a little hard to believe. But a good post nevertheless.
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    • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
      Originally Posted by sme View Post

      That's a little hard to believe. But a good post nevertheless.
      Hey, yeah... that's sounds a little bit weird, not saying no one has ever unsubscribed. Hell, i've had plenty unsubscribe.

      Trying to say that they didn't unsubscribe because of giving away a lot of content.

      good job letting me know that, it does sound like i'm saying no one unsubscribed!

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      • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
        Shawn, it's kind of funny.

        Seth Godin wrote pretty much the same thing fifteen years ago in Permission Marketing. And now, a decade and a half later, you're saying it still works.

        Huh. How about that?

        [Well done, amigo...]
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        • Profile picture of the author Edk
          I was going to say 'I owe you one.' Possibly a touch more than that. Know that I've bookmarked this post under a label that might embarrass you if you knew what it was.

          I am at this time rigging up a blog selling a product to a segment of the weightloss market. So your post is timely, yes.

          Honing in on this post and some other points will for one thing occupy me fully and prevent me product-hopping. It'll help get me what I want.

          'All good', all of this. Thanks again.

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  • Profile picture of the author jbsmith
    Great post Shawn, especially the piece about "choose something you are passionate about AND is profitable". I see way too many people dropping the ball here - they either go with something that has been profitable for someone else but that they really don't have a passion for (and so don't put the work in to develop the amazing incentives, content, etc...) OR they haven't refined their passion and targeted it towards something that is desired and profitable.

    If you can line up your passion with a profitable idea you are more than halfway's easier to execute when you are driven by passion. Sure there's still stuff we just have to get out of the way each day, you can't be passionate about everything...but when you can summon a bigger WHY at 12 midnight after you have answered another customer question (one that you have answered 100 times before) - it makes a huge difference.

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  • Profile picture of the author Rod Cortez
    Also, regardless of what some say, don't just "follow your passion". You've also got to make sure it's a profitable niche......But by all means, don't just follow your passion, you MUST make sure you're also choosing a niche where people are buying stuff.
    AMEN to that brother! Sure, there are probably some obscure and not-so-obvious niches where people are cleaning it up. But I like to jump into markets where people are buying....then buying some more...and yet even continue to buy more.

    There are a lot of hints out there. One of the biggest ones is following where the advertising dollars are being spent. The more obvious ones are watching PPC ads based on certain keywords (you can run these through tools like MicroNiche Finder, Keyword Elite, Market Samuraii, etc.).

    You can also go to eBay, do some keyword searches and then click on specific products to see how many are being sold in a day or a week, etc.

    Guess where I got my last niche idea from? Watching 60 Minutes on television. They were doing a segment and they had an expert on there talking about the "next multi-billion dollar" market with projected growth over the next 8 to 10 years. I did some precursory research and already found a few competitors that have jumped into the frey.

    Keep your niche-dar on at all times and you'll see markets open up right before your very eyes!

    "Your personal philosophy is the greatest determining factor in how your life works out."
    - Jim Rohn
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  • Profile picture of the author chadking
    Nice post, Shawn. It's true, you have to find something that makes money, but you also have enough interest in that you won't burn out quickly.

    If you choose areas only because of $$, the endeavor will likely be short lived.
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  • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
    A few folks have asked me who the email marketer was that I was referring to.

    The email marketer I was referring to was Matt Furey.

    Actually, IS Matt Furey, since he's not dead :-)

    I modeled his approach to my own fitness list... by offering incredibly valuable stuff up front, and then weaving my "pitch" into the P.S. portion of the letter and it was amazing.

    I can tell you from personal experience, it doesn't matter if it's your own products or you're selling affiliate products... you can use this same pattern....

    Offer a ton of good content first, sell later in the email.
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  • Profile picture of the author lcombs
    I recently received an email from a prominent SEO "expert" offering his method for beating the Google Panda and/or whatever the latest "Google slap" is called.

    It is the exact same strategies I've been using since '07.
    I let one of my domains expire when I semi-retired 2 1/2 years ago.
    Just for SAG I Googled the main KW for the site.
    One of my Youtube videos promoting the site is #1.:p
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  • Profile picture of the author MKCookins
    Excellent post. I too have bookmarked it. Very well written and explained how to make money, lots of money. You need to over deliver free valuable content your readers will love and be able to use.

    Once they know like and trust you then promote products to further help them in their own goals in life.
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  • Profile picture of the author JasonBennet
    Thank you for sharing this detailed post. Basic business fundamentals will always work and it will still work many years down the road. Giving customers values with the strong desire to help them will always help in forging a good relationship with them which will greatly increase the chances of them buying the products you are recommending.
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  • Profile picture of the author Edwin Torres
    I've modeled my emails after Matt Fureys and Ben Settles. Both use the 90% value than pitch concept and it works like gangbusters.

    Super low unsubscribes (if any at all), I am averaging 10% open rates which is REALLY GOOD in the Internet marketing niche, and I'm making money.

    Couldn't have said it better myself Shawn.

    Great post :-)
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  • Profile picture of the author Anton543
    Sorry, I don't think this thread adds much. It's generalised advice like, 'try to own your niche'; 'offer useful information in emails', that's been offered many many times before. It might have been better to share your personal experiences without giving specifics so as not to attract competition. I know I might get flamed for this but I just think this thread was done to appear generous.

    No disrespect to the OP who I am sure well-intentioned, but when I read the thread title I thought this was going to be a cracker of a thread.
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  • Profile picture of the author HarrisonJ
    Yeah I agree with Anton543 and lets see a break down of those daily incomes. Thats 300 dollars every day, not many people are able to maintain that, and from the things you said I'm skeptical.
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  • Profile picture of the author alvinchua91
    talking about the part where "no one unsubscribed from my list",
    my personal experience is that after I offered my subscribers MUCH more value than I stated I will originally provide them, un-subscription rates fell by A LOT.
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  • Profile picture of the author jeffreyaman
    Congrats on your 12 year run and thanks for the advice.. Cheers
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  • Profile picture of the author jakejoh10
    This is an outstanding post, and it resonates with me because I'm in the health and fitness niche as well.

    Great motivation, and I agree that you must take action and ignore all of the "shiny objects" there to distract from the goal.

    Thanks for taking the time to share.

    If you have any fitness or nutrition related issues, head over to
    JJStrength for tips on getting fit and staying healthy.
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  • Profile picture of the author mistauzz
    Thank you for laying down your business model and process. It was a very nice read and inspirational.
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  • Profile picture of the author MovingAround
    Apologies in advanced if you mentioned this elsewhere, but what's your website or name in the muscle building niche?

    I'm a fitness enthusiast who actually looks like he works out and knows how to work out, and I can smell the bullcrap from many miles afar. I'd be interested in knowing who you are in the niche as you surely seem to have done well!

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  • Profile picture of the author TryBPO
    I started reading the thread and though, "Oh my comes the copywriting/sales pitch."

    Funny enough, each of the points I found myself nodding my head, knowing that this is exactly what we attribute our success to online.

    I understand why someone pointed out it seems a little "vague" and stands as more general advice than specific information. From a low-mid 6 figure biznass...I'll share specifics from our business:

    1. Find your target market

    Rather than targeting the "Make Money Online" niche, we dug deeper: Make Money Online > Profitable Websites > Niche AdSense Sites > Building, Buying, And Selling Niche AdSense Sites = AdSenseFlippers.

    We knew that (without spending a ton of money) we couldn't put much of a dent in the MMO world and that going VERY specific would give us an oppotunity to "own" the niche and really make an impact. We could pick up market share if we drill down...we can always expand later if we strike a chord.

    2. Give Away Valuable Content

    We share income reports, successes and failures, etc. on the blog and give it all away for free. We try our best to be specific and actionable without hyping any of the stuff that's distracting or unnecessarily expensive.

    Additionally, we spent thousands and countless hours creating our guide "Building A Niche Site Empire" and gave it away for free here, on our site, etc. We knew we COULD have made money with it, but decided we'd rather pay it forward and monetize around the additional exposure. I think that was a smart move...we've had more than 20K downloads and great reviews...

    3. Get An Email Address

    We ask for an email list for the guide, but there are some spots on our site you can get it without sharing your email. We're not aggressive in our wording for email signups, but opt-in boxes are aggressively'll find a few on every page of our site.

    We just (recently) started selling products and services around building sites. With our emails, we go into, step-by-step, exactly how to do keyword research, site setup, content publshing, etc...for free. At the end of the email, we offer our done-for-you service. Those that wan't to try it themselves choose the free, DIY route. Those that have more money than time pay us. Our audience appreciates the approach and tells us regularly.

    4. Spamming The List

    How you treat your potential customers, readers, and listeners says quite a bit about you. If you're looking for click-happy, shiny-object-syndrome buyers...that's exactly who you'll attract. If you approach your list from a pedastal, you'll attract those that worship you as a guru. (or possibly those that want to knock you down!)

    We may miss out on the click-happy buyers, but I MUCH prefer the emails and interaction with people on our list when we chat on Skype, email back and forth, etc.

    Hope that helps and provides more of the specifics you were looking for.
    Website Brokers - We can help you sell businesses making $500 to $50K per month.

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  • Profile picture of the author sethalexander
    Great post. I have to say I can agree with you on every point. Always good to reinforce things though. Bookmarked as well!
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  • Profile picture of the author zeroaffiliate
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    This is one of the reason why so many internet Marketers don't make it. They keep chasing after the shiny things till they lost track of what they are doing. Focus on one method and just work at it is what i keep telling others....
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  • Profile picture of the author troy23
    Good points in the post, but the free stuff never worked for me.
    For one topic/niche I had quite a bog list and I used to give away a free pdf and video for 52 weeks of the year.
    When it came to buying very few did actually buy.
    I'd get comments like 'I want free'.
    They'd become so used to free stuff from me.
    In the end I removed the list, but the sales still come.
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