Growing up, I loved music and had my sights set on becoming a full-time musician. I followed my dream in a practical way — working a corporate 9-to-5 as an audio engineer while growing a business as a freelance music producer for indie artists on the side.
But in 2009, at age 26, I lost my job and decided to take my production business full-time.
We still struggled to make ends meet, though. I made between $800 and $1,000 per month, while my wife earned between $500 and $1,000 per month as a photographer. On top of our freelance income, we lived off our savings and food stamps. We also became new parents. That’s when the financial pressures really started to kick in.
So later that year, I decided to start a music blog — The Recording Revolution — out of desperation to make more money. I figured that having an online presence would help me land more production clients.
It took me some time to learn how to turn it into a profitable business. But fast forward to 2022, and I’m making more money from my online businesses than I ever did as a producer.
The Recording Revolution alone grosses $40,000 per month. I also bring in $120,000 per month in gross sales through my online coaching business, which teaches clients exactly what I did to make The Recording Revolution a success.
At 38, I’ve achieved something incredible: Between my two businesses, I work only five hours per week now, and I get to spend the rest of my time with my family.
How I turned my passion into a business
I started the Recording Revolution as a blog and YouTube channel to share what I know about music and attract more clients for my production business.
At first, I posted three blogs on my website and one video on YouTube per week. I shared quick, step-by-step instructions for different recording and editing techniques, along with product reviews and interviews with musicians and producers.
In my first year on YouTube, I saw my daily views jump from about 60 views per day to 2,000 per day. As my audience grew, I saw an opportunity to monetize my content.
Initially, I made $200 to $1,000 per month through video sponsorships and ad revenue. To land these deals, I created a press kit sharing my website traffic and reader demographics, and sent it to brands that made products my audience would like. In my outreach, I offered them spots in my YouTube videos or banner ad spots on my blog.
But in 2010, I found the key to a more lucrative business: Building and launching my own digital products, like eBooks or online courses, that teach people valuable skills I picked up throughout my career.
How I make $160,000 per month in passive income
In April 2010, I created and sold my first online course, which taught customers how to use the popular recording software Pro Tools for $45.
I used a screen recording software called Screenflow to capture my computer screen and my voice as I demonstrated how Pro Tools worked.
Before recording, I wrote a basic outline of what parts of the software I wanted to share and in what order, then spent three to four hours recording and editing the content.
People recommended starting an email list to market my courses. To attract subscribers, I offered a free eBook. I had about 500 subscribers by the time I sold my first online course.
I started scaling back on my freelance production business in 2012. Today, I sell dozens of online courses and members-only online communities through The Recording Revolution. Prices range from $67 to $397.
From October 2018 to September 2019, I brought in $1 million in sales. And in 2021, after stepping away from producing day-to-day content, The Recording Revolution brought in about $40,000 per month.
My second business, which teaches people how to monetize their knowledge and passions like I did, launched in 2018. Over the last six months, I’ve generated $120,000 per month in passive income from an online course called the Automatic Income Academy, my Six-Figure Coaching Community, a high-level business coaching program called The Epic Mastermind, and affiliate commissions from a company called Kajabi.
Right now, roughly 2,800 business owners are using my coaching products. The goal is to help them grow an online business while working fewer hours.
My best tips for aspiring entrepreneurs
Starting my online side hustle — then committing to it full-time — changed my life. My original dream to be a musician has been replaced by what I’m doing now: Helping people live a more lucrative, flexible and meaningful life.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, here are my top three tips to help skyrocket your earnings:
1. Sell your skills to earn passive income.
When you’re offering a service, there are two main dials you can turn to make more money: getting more clients and raising your rates. But this can be a problem because there are only so many hours in a day to take on clients, and there is always a limit to how much you can charge in your industry.
The turning point for me was when I got the idea to turn my knowledge of audio mixing and recording into an online course. Selling digital products provided a passive income stream and allowed me to make far more money in a day — while putting in less time — than I did working as a freelancer.
2. Give people a free sample of what you can offer.
A core belief of mine is that givers prosper. My entire business is built around giving the best free educational content, even when I could charge for it. That’s why I have a blog, YouTube channel and podcast.
It seems counterintuitive, but here’s why it works: Every piece of value-rich content I put out in the world acts as a magnet to draw people in, through the power of a Google or YouTube search. It’s a way for people to discover and build trust with me.
Then, when I do sell a premium product, they are ready and willing to pay for it.
3. Build automatic systems.
Working only five hours per week helps me avoid burnout and allows me to spend more time with my family. This wouldn’t be possible without having automatic systems in place.
For example, almost all of my marketing and follow-up communications with clients happen through automatic emails.
When people find my content, they have the option to sign up for more exclusive content via email. Once we’re in contact, I have dozens of pre-written emails that automatically send. These emails offer business insights, tips and techniques, but also share which of my products they’ll benefit from the most.
Focusing on email means that I don’t spend hours on social media soliciting people in their DMs. I let content and email automation do the heavy lifting for me.
Graham Cochrane is founder of The Recording Revolution, author of “How to Get Paid for What You Know” and is a business coach to over 2,800 customers worldwide. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.