How to Turn $3,000 into $128,000

  • January 13, 2011 by Corbett Barr

My wife and I were chatting the other day about a big new course I’m working on called Traffic School. I mentioned what the course will cost to start with, and she was surprised.

“Isn’t that expensive? Who spends that kind of money on online courses?” she asked.

For the longest time after I first started working online, I didn’t pay for any online business education. It seemed way too expensive to me, like it did to my wife the other day. I assumed I could get everything I needed from free articles.

Eventually I bought Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself (at $59 if I recall) and got a ton out of it. The course put me in the right mindset and made me realize I wasn’t crazy for trying to build a lifestyle business.

I then went on to purchase Cloud Living from Glen Allsopp and ended up creating my first consistently profitable niche-focused website (which still earns passive income today). I’ve earned over $1,100 just from that first site. Glen’s book cost me $37. Not counting my time, just from that first website I profited over $1,063 by purchasing Glen’s book. Not bad, right?

A couple of things clicked after that purchase.

First, spending money on education won’t help you if you’re not going to commit to practicing what you learn. You can’t profit just from the purchase.

Second, the cost of a product is mostly irrelevant. The thing that matters most is how much value a product delivers (i.e. how much profit you can make).

Third, there is no real monetary risk in buying any of these products. They all have pretty lengthy money-back guarantees (from 30 days to forever). If you don’t like or don’t profit from a course you buy, it’s easy to get a refund. (yes, I have asked for refunds on a few products I didn’t think were worth the investment)

Once I had those three realizations, my business finally started to take off. I purchased AffiloBlueprint from Mark Ling, joined the Third Tribe, bought Chris Guillebeau’s Empire Building Kit and a handful of other courses.

I purchased How to Launch the **** Out of Your Ebook when planning the launch of my affiliate course and went on to sell over $11k in 72 hours. I can’t say how much of the revenue was directly due to that course I bought, but there’s no question, I wouldn’t have sold nearly as much without it.

All told, I’ve bought perhaps $3,000 worth of online education over the past 12 months. Is $3,000 a lot of money? Yes, absolutely.

Is $3,000 a lot of money considering my business now regularly earns over $10k a month ($128k total this year), thanks largely to that investment? Are you kidding me? Where else can you get a 4,000% annual return on your money?

Also, keep in mind that in the majority of these education purchases I’ve made, I have also been able to earn affiliate commissions by selling copies of the products after I used them. Just by recommending the courses to friends or on my blogs, most of them have paid for themselves or even earned me a nice profit.

I can go on and on about the importance of educating yourself. Honestly I think the only two “keys to success” you can count on in life are education and hard work. Education that teaches you directly applicable skills (like marketing, writing, business-building in general) is especially important.

People spend upwards of $100k on college only to end up with a job they don’t really like, or with no job at all. A $3k investment has taught me how to create a six-figure business (in just 18 months, by the way), and I intend to take this business to half-a-million a year in the next three to five years. Yes, I’ll spend more on education but the return on that investment will continue to annihilate any return I might earn elsewhere. And this isn’t just a business, this is a business I love working on every day more than I’ve ever loved a day of working for someone else.

College may not be the right target for me to pick on because I still think college is a worthwhile experience for most people, even if it doesn’t teach you how to do what you love for a living.

Consider this instead: how much did you spend on Cable TV last year without batting an eyelash? $1,000? $1,500? You’re voting with your dollars here, and by spending money on cable TV (substitute whatever discretionary spending is keeping you from becoming educated) instead of educating yourself, you’re making a big decision. An extraordinary life might be possible by simply investing that money on learning new things instead.

But I digress.

If you’re serious about building your own business or pursuing your passion without having to earn the consent of gatekeepers, you will be faced with the same problem I faced. Once you learn to focus on value instead of cost you will finally make real progress. That is, once you focus on value AND commit to working as hard on your business as it takes.

It’s not an easy thing to learn or to remember. I still have to remind myself to ask “what value will this thing I’m purchasing bring to my life?” instead of focusing just on price.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.

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Alex Dumitru January 13, 2011 at 7:02 am

Congrats Corbett. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a few months. I’ll definitely take a look at the ebooks there.

TrafficColeman January 13, 2011 at 7:50 am

The truth is that it takes money to make money if you know it or have to pay for that education before you can go out and make thing s happen for yourself.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

Bryan Thompson January 13, 2011 at 8:23 am

Corbett, I know what you mean when you said you once didn’t like to spend anything on online education. I’m with you there often still.

But I remember Robert Kyosaki’s book “Rich Dad Poor Dad.” He says you spend your money on one of two things. It will either be assets or liabilities. It will always be one or the other. You can buy things that take away money, or you can buy things that will make you money.


David Walsh January 15, 2011 at 5:45 pm

It’s crazy how few people frame knowledge/training as an asset – glad you’re one of the ones that realizes it’s not just another expense.

Trever Clark January 13, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I’m going to pose a question to everyone here that I emailed to Corbett this morning.

Not everyone is at a point where they can spend 4 figures on online business training at the moment. I was in the initial group for “Affiliate Marketing for Beginners” and after 6 months I just started having some real success and knocking down about $500-600 a month. But I want to take things to the next level.

What is your recommendation for online business training in this vein for $100 or less? Thoughts?

Jonathan Manor January 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm

great post corbett!

Jon January 16, 2011 at 8:41 am

What’s going on with this post, Corbett? Freepursuits used to be so humble and practical, now it’s name dropping and online bragging. Is that what is going to be about?

Corbett January 16, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hey Jon, thanks for sharing your concern.

The purpose of this site is and always has been to help people live extraordinary lives without being rich or retired. For most people that means starting a small business doing something you love that supports the lifestyle you want to live. One of the ways I think I can help people accomplish that is by sharing my experience (revealing exactly how I’ve built my business) and by introducing people to resources I think could help you get further in your journey.

I’m sorry if my approach came across as bragging or name dropping. That wasn’t my intent, and I’m not exactly sure what you’re referring to in this post. The purpose of sharing financial details isn’t to brag, it’s to provide explicit details so people can make better decisions for themselves. If you look around online, you’ll see how few people share the details we all really need to know.

Perhaps I’m bolder now because I’m proud of what I have accomplished, but my hope is only that I’ll help more people by being completely open about those accomplishments.

Cheers. Let me know if I’m not understanding your point completely.

Peter T. January 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Dear Corbett,

Allmost everyone here is positive about the post. Yet you react only to Jon here!

Live up to the promise and give us your experience!

All with a smile…

Peter T.

Corbett January 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hey Peter, I completely agree. I just wanted to address Jon directly in case other people had the same questions. Thanks for the support!

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