In 2009, I saved the planet.
Plus I was fired from all of the various jobs I was doing and every business idea I had totally failed. I had no more opportunities left and I had nothing to lose.
I felt if I died, nobody would care. I let loose.
I started blogging and my life changed after that.
The Financial Times stopped printing my column. The Street stopped printing my articles, Forbes stopped printing them, and no book publisher would return my call.
CNBC stopped having me on as a guest. And nobody ever wanted to meet me. I felt like my career was over.
Every business idea I had turned to shit. Ideas were shitting out of my brain. I didn’t have any friends.
My books stopped selling.
Five business ideas in a row failed. I wanted people to crowdsource ad campaigns for big brands (JungleSmash). I still think that was a good idea. But divorce got in the way and crying at random points during the day stopped that idea.
A hedge fund idea blew up when I invested in Lehman Brothers the day before it declared bankruptcy.
A dating site for Twitter (140Love) went against the idea that people cheating on their wives liked to be anonymous.
I also made a dating site for smokers. That was a total failure!
I figured if people were advertising on Facebook maybe they would advertise on Twitter and I would set up an ad agency.
The Chevy Volt wanted to hire me. “Just come to Detroit!” What?
Then I started to blog and almost immediately I saved the world. I didn’t make a dime off of it.
In 2009, when I walked outside my building, the New York Stock Exchange was right in front of me and an enormous statue of George Washington was to my right. He was inaugurated the first President of these United States right at that point.
Every day depressed traders, traders looking down at their feet, traders whose hair grayed with every step, were walking into the exchange at 9:30 am when the worst months, the worst markets, of their lives would keep beating down on them.
I’m going to help them, I thought one day.
I bought three bags of chocolates. They were small chocolates. Like Hershey’s Kisses.
Chocolate boosts oxytocin. Makes you happier. Makes you more hopeful for the future.
Women get a big burst of oxytocin during labor.
Supposedly it helps them deal with the pain but I think it helps them rationalize the 18 years of hard work and suffering they are about to endure as mothers, right when they have their kid’s bloody heads going right through them.
“Here you go,” I said to every trader walking right into the stock exchange.
A woman looked up in surprise. “Chocolate,” I said. “Thanks,” she said and took it. Another guy just took it without looking up.
The guards squinted at me but giving chocolate away seems safe, although suspect.
I am not kidding when I say that day, March 9, 2009, the stock market hit bottom and began to go up and up and up to this day, almost 11 years later.
Oxytocin makes you more likely to take a risk. So you feel like raising a baby for 18 years.
Traders began taking risks again. And the market keeps going up.
But I still had no job, no opportunity, nothing. Nobody. I moved away. I wanted to be by myself. Or maybe I was really depressed and anxious. I was both.
For the first time, I had nobody to write for. So I started to blog.
If you blog, remember two things:
UNIQUE: say something nobody else has ever said
YOU: be vulnerable. Tell the truth. Tell a story.
And I’ll throw in a third thing. Study good writing. Study, read, read read, and then write.
I read every morning Raymond Carver, Cheryl Strayed, Charles Bukowski, Denis Johnson, Celine, Amy Hempel, Miranda July, Sam Pink, Hunter S. Thompson, James Frey – everyone who disguised their own autobiograpihes with a flimsy coat of fiction. Everyone who I think are the greatest writers ever.
And then I’d write.
I wrote about going broke and surviving. The first time and the fifth time and the third time.
I wrote about Yasser Arafat investing in my second company and how I lost $100,000,000 of other peoples money.
I wrote so much about suicide that if you googled “I want to die” I was the first result out of 600,000,000 possible results.
I wrote about my biggest teachers being the enormous number of women who had rejected me. I wrote about begging Bernie Madoff to invest in my hedge fund and how he rejected me.
I wrote every day. From 2010 to today I wrote every day. Over 3000 articles.
I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t have “jamesaltucher.com”.
But about five or six years earlier, someone bought me “jamesaltucher.com” for my birthday. A reader of mine from my financial articles.
I never returned his email from five years earlier so I hit reply and said, “Ok, I’ll take it. Thanks!”
He wrote back right away, “that’s the longest it’s taken anyone to reply to me!” And he still had the domaine name. Thank you!
And now I had a blog and I put my articles there.
I read Thom Jones, Matt Ridley, Charlotte Beck, Eckhart Tolle. I read Haruki Murakami, TC Boyle, Ariel Levy.
I wrote about losing two homes and how nobody should ever buy a home.
I wrote about getting kicked out of grad school and why college was a scam. I wrote about how no war in history was worth it.
I wrote about going broke, going broke, failing, losing, addiction, everything.
Yahoo Finance started asking me on and some of their videos with me would get millions of views and tens of thousands of comments. People told me, “Don’t read the comments” but I would and then I’d get depressed for a day.
“How come they keep letting this homeless guy on Yahoo Finance” is the type of comment I would get.
I wrote about how I bounced back from going broke. I wrote about the people who inspired me and why and how they changed my life.
I read Chuck Pahlaniuk. I read James Baldwin. Richard Wright. I read Ramana Maharshi and Paul Bowles and Mohammed Mrabet.
I started putting my articles on different websites. I’d write on Facebook. LinkedIn. Entrepreneur sites like TechCrunch. A yoga site: The Elephant Journal. A millenial site: Thought Catalog. A self-help site: Positively Positive. A dozen other sites.
I wanted people to feel, wherever they looked, there I’d be.
I wrote for Cracked.com, I wrote for a popular men’s site. I wrote for a popular literary site. And on and on.
I wasn’t making a dime. One investment of mine from 2007 finally came through in 2012 so I had some money to live.
I was getting on more TV shows about my different opinions. I started a podcast and it was ranked #1 in the world the week it was launched.
I self-published a book, “Choose Yourself” and it sold a lot of copies.
I promised everyone who bought that book they could get their money back if they proved to me they read the book.
In the first month I gave about 600 people their money back. 600 people out of 60,000 who had bought it that first month and people have been buying ever since.
I still wasn’t really making money. The book was ok but I had hired a book designer, a marketing company, three editors, an audio book production company, and a company to make a trailer.
I wanted to do what I called “professional self-publishing”.
But I was building an audience. I was going a Twitter Q&A once a week (which resulted a book, “Faq Me”).
And I was posting a lot on LinkedIn. In 2015, LinkedIn made me their #4 top influencer. Behind Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and I forget the other one.
My social media presence was filling out. People were enjoying and maybe even being helped by “Choose Yourself”.
I felt fulfilled.
Ramit Sethi, author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” encouraged me to start an email list. He said, “You have to do it!”
At first I got 10,000 subscribers. Then 100,000. Then many more. I put each article I wrote on the list.
I started another podcast, then another podcast.
“How do you have the time?” someone asked me on a Twitter Q&A.
I sometimes would do the podcast while driving in a car and take out my phone, call someone, and record the conversation.
Make things easy when you first start something.
I’d wake up at 5:30 am and sometimes finish my article of the day by 8am.
My articles that were the most popular I’d print up, staple together, and walk around with a very rough draft of a book.
Since each article was popular I knew the combination would be popular. I rewrote each chapter to have more information. More stories.
I had a point of view. I knew what had helped me bounce back because for 20 years I had been bouncing back.
I had an opinion about home ownership because I owned twice and lost big. I knew about college because I could see how many lives it was ruining from debt.
I went on other podcasts and that helped me build my audience. I started speaking at motivational conferences and I met a lot of people.
I’m an introvert so it’s hard for me to network one on one.
But if I’m speaking to a lot of people it’s not so bad and allows me to do “mass networking”. Just like my Twitter Q&As were mass networking. And even the blog comments area was mass networking.
Very exciting: I was getting my first death threats but also a lot of people enjoyed what I was writing and for the first time in a long time I was making new friends.
You can’t make money directly from a blog, but a blog is just the wheel and you make money from all the spokes.
SPOKE AND WHEEL: Blog is the wheel, the money opportunities are the spokes.
- Podcast. My audience from blog tranferred over to my podcast. One of my podcasts, “Question of the Day” was paying me up to $20,000 a month. And “The James Altucher Show” which didn’t have ads until episode 159 was funding my new business. I have done the absolute basic on monetizing my blog (I barely put ads on and that’s it) and can do much much more. But right now it generates about $500,000 in revenues, give or take, with minimal effort. Some of my podcasts have zero ads. Some have one. Occasionally I have two.
- Newsletters. I had 16 years experience as a professional investor and writer about investing. I wanted to write about finance again but not really for everyone. I was tired of all the comments I would get. Every spectator has an opinion. Nor did I want to start a hedge fund which would only make rich people more rich. So I charged for a newsletter about stocks. Then I created more newsletters in that business and hired analysts. I wrote about stocks, other investing strategies, etc. That business has done over $120 million in revenues since I started in 2015 and was profitable from month 2.
- Speaking. I don’t do many speaking engagements right now but I was being paid up to $30,000 per talk. I started out with $4500 a talk. And most talks I still gave (and still do) for free.
- Investment opportunities. Because I was writing a lot about my own experiences as an entrepreneur and I was writing for the popular blog, TechCrunch, I started to get opportunities to be on boards and get stock and invest a little bit of money. Time will tell how they will all do but so far so good.
- Books. This past year I got an offer to do another book from a mainstream publisher. I am more excited about this book than any book I’ve ever written. It’s what and how I’ve learned by changing careers over a dozen times, some failures, some successes, and how to quickly reach the top in any area that you want to reinvent yourself in. Why do I get a book offer? Because for years I’ve been building an audience with a blog.
- TV. I was an advisor on one TV show (“Billions”) and I’ve now pitched three other TV shows. “Billions” didn’t pay much ($30,000 for a season) and the other shows are still works in progress but we’ll see. I am able to pitch TV shows because producers can see the strong stances I take on a variety of topics and then ask me to pitch them ideas. When I wrote a blog post about throwing away all of my belongings and living in Airbnbs I got calls from about ten agents and production companies, including Steven Spielberg’s company, Amblin. We’ll see what happens!
- Merchandise. In the process of setting up a store on Amazon. I have jackets, t-shirts, glasses, etc. I don’t expect this to be a big money maker but I like the idea of having a brand that represents the ideas I share. I’m even working on a game right now. Why not?
- Patreon. I don’t have a “Patreon” for my blog or podcast BUT I am a “patron” on Patreon of all of my favorite podcasts. Kevin Kelly has the theory “all you need is 1000 TRUE fans to make a living.” Set up a page on http://Patreon.com for your podcast or blog. Give people awards depending on what tier they support you. Have tiers range from $10 to $1000. Once you get 1000 Patreon supporters I am sure you will be making a living.
- Affiliate Deals. Let’s say a friends of yours has developed a diet. You try it for six months and lose weight and feel great. Now your friend has a course he’s selling about the diet. You write about the diet, your personal experience, etc and you link to it. He gives your blog readers a discount if they use a promo code with your name on it. BOOM! Now you split the revenues with your friend 50/50. That’s an affiliate deal. I have never done this with blog or podcast but if I really believe in a product then I have no problem with this. This could be a huge win and make much more than advertisers.
- Sponsors/Advertisers. I’m not a big believer in these for a blog but have nothing against it for a podcast. I think you will spend too much time chasing advertisers.
- Subscription Community. For people passionate about the same topic you are blogging about, set up a subscription community. It can be on Facebook, for instance, and before people can join they have to Venmo the subscription price.
The blog is the center of the wheel, then you find the spokes.
Everything you love doing can be the center of the wheel. The money part comes from finding the spokes.
Ramit Sethi started a blog for young people about how to manage their finances.
He turned that into NYT bestselling book, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich”, a newsletter, a course company, and various other money-making ventures. If I were to guess, I’d say his business does about twenty to 25 million dollars a year, all because he started a blog for free.
John Lee Dumas was an early podcaster. He loved interviewing people about businesses.
But he also loved the entire field of podcasting. He loved writing about it.
He set up a Facebook community all about podcasting. Podcasters could ask questions, help each other, and feel part of the passionate community he set up.
To join the community I forget the exact cost but I think it’s $1000 and he has 1,000s of members, which means he’s made millions on it.
Step 1: Passion. Take anything you love
Step 2: Blog. Start blogging about it (or podcasting)
Step 3: Spoke & Wheel. The blog is the core of the wheel, now each spoke (the spokes listed above, is a potential money-making opportunity. Experiment with as many spokes as possible. Each experiment will teach you what works and what doesn’t. Each experiment will engage your friends. And the successful experiments will make you a lot of money.