I have nothing against people teaching people how to grow businesses as long as those people have street cred doing what they teach. In fact, I do it here. Fatstacks is all about how to plan, launch and grow niche sites, which is a business model unto itself. I sell courses on these topics and have published loads of blogs posts on this topic.
Where I get bent out of shape is when people teach how to get rich by teaching people how they teach how to get rich. This is called self-fulfillment marketing and it’s a virus in the “make money online” community. It has been for years. It’s led many people astray.
Here’s how works.
Mike works in a warehouse for $12 per hour. Hates the job. He wants out, but he needs to eat too so he can’t just quit.
He does as tens of thousands of people do every month and that is go to Google and search “how to make money online?”
He clicks into the first site which has a ton of info, videos, an email list and looks fantastic. Heck, there are income reports too. He checks out the income reports to see if this guy is legit.
The latest income report claims this blogger earned $145,715 last month. Mike checks the date. Yup, it’s the last month… not some 4-year outdated report.
Dang, Mike thinks to himself. He’s the real deal. There are revenue-proof screenshots too.
Mike signs up to the email newsletter.
He reads all the blog posts.
After 3 hours Mike has a game plan. The process is easy.
Start a blog that teaches how to make money online just like this blogger dude teaches.
Mike gets to work and pollutes the Web with yet another “get rich blogging” website that regurgitates the same nonsense and isn’t based on anything he’s ever done as a blogger.
It’s classic self-fulfillment marketing.
It’s a virus.
The thing is the difference between legit folks in the biz and the snakes is nuanced. I think also, it’s up to you whether you think someone is legit.
SEO folks are a great example
Most SEOs only do work for clients. They don’t rank their own sites. Are they legit? After all, if they’re good at SEO, why don’t they rank their own sites and make a fortune like Matt Diggity (a dude I highly respect because he’s been in the trenches ranking his own sites for years)?
However, and SEO is one of those gray areas because some of the best SEOs only do client work. They do good work and get great results. If they rank client sites, they are legit IMO. Who am I to care which sites they rank well? Maybe they like working for clients? They probably started working for clients because you get paid right away. I don’t think it matters. If an SEO can rank sites, I pay attention.
The one exception is the self-proclaimed SEO whose only site they rank is their blog that discusses SEO. This is the very parasitic behavior I’m talking about in this article. It’s self-fulfillment and I’m not remotely interested in it.
The not-so-gray areas are the folks who teach and sell junk promising to teach the very method they use to sell you the junk they sell.
They have a blog with all kinds of great content. Usually, the content is well-written and in-depth.
They have a great email newsletter that converts like crazy. I never said these folks were bad at marketing. Quite the opposite. They’re very good (which is one reason to pay attention to them I suppose).
The problem is that what they teach is how to make money teaching people how to make money. In some cases, they’ll sell you the email templates, the entire white label course – a business in a box. You just get leads and start selling.
This business model, while not technically a pyramid scheme, is similar in that there is no extrinsic value being created.
Pyramid schemes can be good or bad. The ones that focus on helping their members/distributors sell a legit product or line of products (i.e. beauty products) are legit. The ones that focus on selling the business opportunity instead of the products are problematic. It’s a nuanced, but important difference.
The same is with self-fulfillment marketers. Spotting them requires nuanced observation… but some them are blatant self-fulfillment fraudsters.
They aren’t totally useless
The good ones know how to market. While what they’re marketing is junk mostly, they do know funnels and how to set up all the stuff you need to sell online. While I would never pay them a nickel, I have paid attention to their funnels because they’re good at it. They have to be because they’re selling smoke and mirrors.
How do you spot a fraud?
If all their money is earned teaching you how they make money online, they don’t have anything worth reading or watching. If their income reports or revenue claims don’t specify this, ask them. I do and I have. If they do cannot or do not satisfy me that they actually have an external business to their “how to make money online” biz, I don’t buy anything.
When you see income reports setting tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, ask whether they make that teaching you how they make that or whether it’s based off some unrelated online biz.
Does it matter?
Yeah, it matters.
I sell courses on how to grow niche sites. I own several high-earning niche sites (unrelated to Fatstacks). I show proof. You know the revenue isn’t earned off this site because I don’t have AdSense or any ads on this site and most of my revenue is from display ads. I don’t have more than 5 Amazon affiliate links on this site either.
What they teach is one of the following:
You either buy a junk course that teaches you how to teach people to make money online… classic self-fulfillment which is nonsense.
Or, they teach methods based on theory that they’ve never done themselves. If you want to waste your money on theory, go to it. I’ll save my dollars and put them to work on my niche sites.
What if they sold their business – are they legit?
Yeah, they are. I would pay attention to folks who sold a viable online biz in the last year or two if their biz fetched big bucks (north of $250K). They know what’s involved in building up and selling a successful online biz (unless the business was a self-fulfillment marketing scam).
What if their “make money online” blog earns way more than their other online business?
This isn’t cut and dried.
If their other online biz makes $20K per month and their “make money online” blog makes $200K per month, they’re legit. After all, a $20K per month biz is a good biz. They’re worth listening to. They’re in the trenches. They just happened to very successfully leveraged that knowledge into a teaching biz.
However, if their unrelated online biz makes $3,000 per month but their “make money online” biz makes $200K per month, I’m not interested in what they have to say. $3K per month is respectable but it shows they’re focused on teaching how to teach getting rich. I doubt they have much to say.
My threshold his typically $3K per month (which is a low threshold). You can establish your own. I figure if someone can make $3K per month online independent of teaching me how to make money online, they know a thing or two about it.
What if they partner with someone who has an unrelated online biz?
I think this is legit as long as the course is decent. If the course content is based on real experience, what does it matter if that experience is from another person? This is actually a somewhat popular tactic. The real biz owner isn’t much of a marketer but has good info to sell. It makes sense to partner up with someone who knows how to sell. IMO, this is totally cool.
Who is not legit?
I’m not here to out anyone. I’ll leave it to you to figure it out – it’s not hard. Be aware that this stuff is going on.
Who is legit?
Lots of people are and they have fantastic courses. I buy their courses without batting an eye because I know they have something to teach.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.