When I was five years old, my father had “a nervous breakdown” and was sent to the state mental hospital. Later, I learned that his breakdown was caused by the depression he felt when he couldn’t make a living supporting his family doing the work he loved. In his journal, he detailed the feelings of hopelessness that had begun to envelop him:
October 10th: “Oh, Christ, if I could only give my son a decent education—a college degree with a love for books, a love for people, good, solid knowledge. No guidance was given to me. I slogged and slobbered and blundered through two-thirds of my life. I can’t make a decent living and it’s killing me.”
November 8th: “Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work. Yes, it’s enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale, and sicken.”
December 24th: “Faster, faster, faster, I walk. I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family. I try, try, try, try, try. I always try and never stop.”
January 8th: “A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle-aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried. Yes, on a cold morning in January, my hope and my lifestream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.”
Six days after his January 8th entry, my father took an overdose of sleeping pills and was committed to Camarillo State Hospital. Back then, there was little real treatment. He was misdiagnosed as being psychotic, though today he would have been diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. But his real problem was his inability to make a living doing what he loved to do.
I vowed to follow my father’s dream that I would go to college, and I earned a bachelors degree in biology, a masters degree in social work, and a Ph.D. in international health. I developed a love for books (I have had fifteen books published) that focus on helping men and the families who love them. After my first book, “Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man” was published in 1983, I was dubbed The Men’s Maven by Sam Julty, one of the leaders in the emerging field of men’s health.
When my fourth book, “Male Menopause”, was published in 1997 and translated into 17 foreign languages, I became recognized as a world leader in the field and my income jumped dramatically, moving upwards towards the million-dollar mark. I was doing what I loved to do, working the hours I wanted to work, being my own boss with no employees to worry about, and making a living that allowed our family to have all that we needed and wanted.
I soon found that I longed for more free time and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could make a great living working 10 hours a week or less. The rest of the time I could devote to family, friends, and community causes I believed in—including writing articles about things I’m passionate about.
I recently read a fabulous book by Elaine Pofeldt, “The Million-Dollar One-Person Business: Make Great Money. Work The Way You Like. Have the Life You Want”. I learned that my experiences were far from unique. In her book, Pofeldt documents one of the most exciting trends in our economy—the growth of ultra-lean one-person businesses that are reaching and exceeding $1 million in revenue.
She says, “The U.S. Census Bureau found there were 35,584 “non-employer firms”—those that do not employ anyone but the owners—that brought in $1 million to $2.49 million in 2015, up 33 percent from 2011. The number of non-employer firms hitting six figures is growing, too, meaning we could soon be seeing more solo firms whose owners gain the experience to help them break the million-dollar mark.”
In her research for the book, Pofeldt found that businesses that hit the million-dollar range typically fall into six categories:
1. Informational content creation
2. Professional services and creative businesses, such as marketing firms, public speaking businesses, and consultancies
3. Personal services firms, offering expertise, such as fitness coaching
6. Real estate
I learned about a number of people who, like myself, fall within the first three categories of businesses.
Sol Orwell has a different story than most. Dabbling in web development while still in high school, he found he had a knack for building websites that were both useful and popular. He incorporated his first business while still studying computer engineering at the University of Toronto.
In his mid-20s, he opted to retire, freeing up time to do what he wanted, when he wanted. Transforming from fat to fit, he began to investigate the whys and hows behind nutrition, health, and fitness. It was this research that led to Examine.com, the culmination of thousands of hours of research into anatomy and nutrition.
What I love about Examine.com is that they are the largest database of nutrition and supplement research that offers scientifically sound, independent, and unbiased information. “Our goal from day one has always been: read the research, make sense of it, and put it online. We’re an education company that looks at the research—nothing more, nothing less.”
Meghan Telpner was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2006, an autoimmune, inflammatory bowel disease that can be life-threatening and is deemed “incurable” by conventional medicine. “I committed right then to break the rules and live on my own terms—defying what convention was telling me,” said Telpner. “I decided it was time to question what it meant to be healthy.”
She became certified in holistic nutrition and began cooking classes in the Toronto loft where she lived. In September of 2013, she launched the world’s first Culinary Nutrition Expert Certification (CNE) program online. In the Spring of 2014, she built a brand-new school, The Academy of Culinary Nutrition, home to the CNE program, and a hub for learning about culinary nutrition, wellbeing, and business for health professionals. “As of December, 2015, we have graduated nearly 1,000 students in 32 countries,” she says proudly.
Her business hit the $1 million-mark one year after she launched her online school.
Meghan told me that her primary focus was always to help people. “My intention was never about the money. I think that’s an important thing to note. I did not plan or expect for this to happen. My objective has always been how I can best serve those that seek my guidance.”
When I asked about creating products to follow up the success she had with her first book, she told me, “It’s also important to note that a million-dollar business is not the result of having books and online courses. It’s the result of being patient, persistent, ever-evolving, open to changing course, growing and engaging a community, inviting that community to share what they want or need from you, and then being smart about how you use that information to deliver.”
Backpacking around Europe, Brian Dean, a freelance writer from New York City, yearned to create a business where he could tap into his talents but wouldn’t have to hustle nonstop to make a living. Reading “The Four-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss got him inspired.
Dean learned about building search engine visibility in a blog. When he wrote a blog post about the 200 factors Google considered in ranking a site, it went viral. “I learned that everything I publish has to be that awesome,” he says.
Dean had soon created a one-man business called Backlinko, which provides training in search engine optimization and link building. He runs it, with the help of contractors, from the apartment where he lives in Berlin.
Last year, he says, the profitable four-year-old business broke $1 million in revenue, thanks to a popular course he sells called “SEO That Works”. That gives him plenty of freedom to pursue other interests, such as nutrition. (He also happens to be a registered dietitian.)
Sure, we’d all like to be bringing in $1 million a year. But the real reasons so many people are pursuing the million-dollar one-person business are things that elude most workers today:
- Control over their time.
- Enough money to enjoy it.
- Independence to live life as they want.
Elaine Pofeldt sums up what she learned from the many people she interviewed for her book: “You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to one of the categories mentioned in the book to hit seven figures. It is very possible to get to $1 million in revenue by working across a couple of categories—and I found that a number of people in the book and my subsequent coverage took this approach.”
In my own work, I’ve combined my professional work as a therapist specializing in helping men and the women who love them, with creating books, ebooks, and classes to help people find real, lasting love in their relationships and in their career and life-calling.
I enjoy hearing from people. If you liked this article, let me know. You can reach me at www.MenAlive.com. Drop me a note. If you’d like to receive more information about an upcoming training we’re offering on creating your own million-dollar one-person business, send me an email, and put “I million” in the subject line and we’ll send you more information.
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