‘I work just 5 hours a week': A 39-year-old who makes $160,000/month in passive income shares his best business advice

Graham Cochrane, Founder of The Recording Revolution, started his business in 2009 during The Great Recession.
Photo: Graham Cochrane

When starting a business, it's sometimes hard to know what to prioritize, and going at it alone can be overwhelming. But there are strategies you can use to avoid common pitfalls.

My mission is to teach people how to earn money from their passions. It's what I did: I went from living on food stamps to building two online businesses.

Today, I run a music blog, The Recording Revolution, and a entrepreneurship coaching company. I work just five hours a week from my home office and make $160,000 a month in passive income.

Here's what I tell my 3,000 clients to think about in the first 30 days of starting a business:

1. Be clear about how you want to spend your time.

Many new business owners I meet know only one thing: how much money they want to make. 

While that's a great starting point, it's incomplete. Your business should serve your life, not the other way around. So make sure it aligns with your hopes, dreams and goals.

To get clear about the type of business and life you want, ask three questions:

  1. What does a perfect day look like to you? Don't just think about your typical workday. Consider other life activities you want to fit into your day, like exercising or spending time with family.
  2. How many hours do you want to work a week? You don't have to follow the standard 40-hour workweek. Knowing exactly how many hours you want to work will help you better prioritize tasks.
  3. How important is time off? Some people don't care much about taking time off, as long as they love what they do. Others value extended time off. In order to have money flowing in when you're not working, you'll need to have some sort of passive income stream.

2. Simplify your business model.

When I started my music education business, people told me I needed to test my sales pages, throw launch parties and pre-record a bunch of ads in order to grow.

Rather than stretching myself thin doing things that didn't make sense to me, I kept it simple and focused on three things: creating weekly content for my blog and YouTube channel, growing my email list from that audience, and promoting the paid products I created to that list.

If you're just starting out, develop content around your expertise to grow an audience. It doesn't have to be perfect. You can iterate as you go and design new products based on what your customers want more of.

3. Cut out unnecessary daily tasks.

Identify what daily activities will help you earn more. Don't waste time or burn yourself out focusing on unimportant tasks.

It might feel good to get to inbox zero or change the color of the buttons on your website, especially in the early days where you want to feel like you've achieved a goal. But neither of those things will make you money.

Before you start a new task, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What's the expected outcome for doing this task? 
  2. Does it lead to more money?
  3. Can I point to a direct link between doing that task and earning income?
  4. What's the cost of doing this instead of something else? 

4. Prioritize having fun.

People can tell if you're just doing something for the money or if you actually love what you do. That authenticity will connect you deeper to your customers and it will sustain you for the long haul. 

You don't want to burn out because you spent all your time doing things that weren't meaningful to you.

I always give my students this framework when they are beginning their entrepreneur journey: Build a business around something you see yourself doing and enjoying for the next 10 years. 

Graham Cochrane is founder of The Recording Revolution and author of "How to Get Paid for What You Know." He has helped more than 3,000 people launch and improve their own businesses. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

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