In the last four years I’ve launched one 7-figure and two 6-figure businesses off the back of the audiences I’ve built up.

From my first day as an entrepreneur in June 2006, to July 2012, I ran my own web agency. In 2012 I decided to sell it and start an analytics dashboard startup called Informly. Along with the sale, I handed over almost every aspect of my online audience.

This included:

  • My Twitter account which had 8,000+ followers, still more than I have today.
  • My blog which had 150+ articles, and ranked #1 in Google for keywords like “Website Design”, “Web Design”, “Website Designer” and many more (I’ve never ranked for keywords like this since).
  • My agency Facebook page
  • My whole list of paying customers
  • My Disqus blog commenting login
  • All of my forum logins that I’d joined throughout the years
  • All guest posts I’d ever written
  • All backlinks I’d accumulated throughout the years (40,000+).

I also handed over my email list of a few thousand people, however I was able to keep a copy of that list as part of the deal, but with any paying customers removed (i.e. my most active recipients).

When I started Informly, I created all new accounts. I even shut down my personal Facebook account and created a brand new one.

An audience is a group of people you are able to influence with your actions.

I see social media accounts all the time with hundreds of thousands of followers, that have almost no evidence that they can influence any of them. Just look at the comments on the Instagram accounts people are growing through auto-following and it’s pretty clear that their followers are dominated by accounts that are auto-liking and auto-commenting (i.e. they aren’t actually influencing real people). But because the numbers are going up, they keep doing silly things that are not helping build their audience.

An audience is not the total number of people who are listed as your followers, but the people who will see what you post and trust you enough to act on it.

So the reach is important, and with changes in social media recently, organic reach is down considerably across most platforms, particularly if your content isn’t great. But trust is also important, and trust can’t be measured by numbers.

To illustrate the first point about reach, I posted this exact message in 5 places and counted the results after about 20 hours.

I’m doing some research for a post, please like this message if you see it.

The idea was it would test the reach (i.e. who sees it) but also my ability to influence my audience (asking them to do something).

In all of these places, my following is 100% organic, I haven’t done any auto-following or auto-commenting or buying likes or any of that rubbish. I didn’t reply to the post myself until afterward so the algorithm wasn’t swayed by my involvement.

I started telling my story

Telling my story and sharing all of my highs, as well as all of my lows, has been a big part of my journey over the past 5 years.

When I started my analytics dashboard business Informly in 2012, I decided to publish and share my monthly income reports. Back then I called them my ‘monthly reports’ on account of there being no income yet! By the time WP Curve came around and I started generating an income I was able to rebrand them as income reports.

For a lot of the time, I was told not to be as transparent and not to share income reports. People thought they drew unnecessary attention and were a bit spammy etc. But transparency is a great way to build trust and in the long run, this transparency worked in my favor.

Giving people an honest insight into my journey and thought processes has laid the groundwork for building long-term trust, the key ingredient in building an audience. Stories have universal appeal and allow others to empathize with your journey. People would often tell me they felt like I was telling a story about them, and that made me realize my story was resonating.

I’ve told my story every chance I got from media opportunities, to podcast interviews, to blog posts and 4 books – all based on a version of my story. I believe storytelling creates trust and builds an engaged audience who want to hear more.

I will write a post about storytelling soon and how to go about using storytelling in your marketing.

If one social media platform goes to shit, which often happens, my story is still out there and my audience is still attached to it.

I became a Content Machine

Content is king when it comes to building trust and growing your audience and I’ve made it my mission to create a lot of it over the past 5 years. It needs to be good content though. I like to deliver inspirational and / or educational content that reinforces what I’m about, on topics and issues that my audience are crying out for.

Although I don’t consider myself a writer, it’s where I find my ‘state of flow’, which has allowed me to be quite prolific in putting out content. I’ve been able to self-publish 4 best selling books. My second book ContentMachine, was specifically written about how to create a shitload of quality content. I’ve also put out over 600 blog posts across my WP Curve, 7 Day Startup and Black Hops sites.

I publish these regularly and let people know about them via my email list and Facebook groups. All up I’d say I’ve churned out between 700,000 – 800,000 words across all of my content outlets! If writing’s not your thing you don’t need to be as prolific as me, but whatever your volume output, keep it real and focus on genuinely adding value and influencing your audience rather than chasing cheap likes.

I spoke at a lot of events

One thing that I did which was extremely challenging was public speaking. The thought of speaking in front of a large group of people terrified me, but people wanted to hear my story so I took on my fear head on. This blog post I wrote on the subject goes into it in more detail.

This resulted in me becoming a speaker at international entrepreneurship events. I’ve spoken at events throughout Australia and traveled internationally delivering speeches for up to 600 people. I’ve recently returned from speaking at the Dynamite Circle event in Bangkok on my experience in building a 6 figure side business by self-publishing books.

The thing I value the most about speaking at events is the real connections you can make with people and the relationships you can foster away from the online vanity metrics. In my early days of public speaking a lady came up to me after I’d spoken and said something like; “Thankyou so much for this talk, you have truly changed my life”. It was a moving and validating moment.

Often the events have been put on by people I look up to and respect. By speaking at them, I’ve been able to become good friend with people like Dan Andrews, James Schramko, Darren Rowse and Chris Ducker and we’ve been able to share audience to some extent.

It’s this type of response and connection which makes me glad I overcame my reluctance for public speaking. But it’s not just about that. It’s about taking every chance you can get to really impact people. There’s no better way than face to face so don’t write it off because it’s hard to scale or because the numbers seem low, or because you are scared. Speaking to 100 people in a room could result in more legitimate connections than writing a post for 10,000 people online.

I didn’t blindly take any advice

I try to stay on top of trends but I’ve never blindly taken advice from internet marketers, or anyone for that matter. This is a trap I see way too many people fall into. In my experience, most internet marketers are good at making short term cash from launches, but very few make it out the other side with lasting 7-figure plus businesses (I do continue to follow the ones that do make it out).

At the end of the day, no one understands you and your business better than you. Simply being well known or vocal online is not a mandate for blindly following their advice.

I also haven’t been afraid to be contrarian and do the opposite of what the experts say. When I launched WP Curve as an unlimited monthly service many people said it was a bad idea. But I backed myself in and went against the grain of what many people were telling me. I’ve done the same thing with many projects and many decisions in business and I’ve used it to get a bit more attention than the average person.