I Grew a Music Hustle Into a 7-Figure Business — Here’s What I Learned

  • Graham Cochrane, 38, is an entrepreneur who sells online courses on music production.
  • Turning your business into a business and growing your YouTube channel has taught you a lot.
  • He says he learned the value of offering free content to attract more paying customers.

I never thought I would make much money as a musician, and for many years I didn’t.

In 2009, during a terrible


, I lost two jobs – one in finance when the department was dissolved and another in a software startup when it closed, right after I signed up for my first mortgage and had my first child. My wife and I finally had to go on food stamps to survive. Willing to make anything work, I decided to focus more on my musical activity.

I started doing freelance work producing music for bands and songwriters and creating content about music production on my blog. I also launched a YouTube channel, The Recording Revolution, where I taught musicians how to record music with professional sound on a budget and from a home studio.

Since then, I’ve grown my YouTube channel to over 600,000 subscribers. I post every week without fail.

For me, the best way to make money on YouTube was to create online courses and sell them

So in 2010 I launched my first product, an online course that taught viewers how to use a popular audio recording software called Pro Tools. I only earned $ 10,000 in the first year of the course, but it was a start and over the years I created more courses on music and recording. In 2018, I earned over $ 1 million in revenue from the sale of these courses.

The more I grew up, the more people started asking me questions about my business, not just about music. They wanted to know how them they could generate revenue by doing their own courses. In 2018, I decided to launch a second business to teach others how to launch their own online business based on their own areas of expertise. This involved the launch of a second YouTube channel and blog and a separate website for online courses and training products. In 2021, this second business earned more than $ 1.2 million in revenue.

Growing a secondary business in a revenue-generating business requires consistency. In the years since my company was launched, this is what I have learned about what it takes to successfully sell online courses.

Lesson # 1: Creating free content will generate more paying customers

In the business of information products and course sales, you need to reach a lot of people to win your business. Some people post ads to get customers, but I focus on offering my best content for free because, in my experience, this generates more leads that can turn into paying customers.

At first I was nervous because giving away my free “secrets” would mean that no one would buy my paid products or that I had nothing left to sell.

But the opposite happened: the more content I made available for free, the more my audience grew and the more they trusted me. People who have had good results after following the tips on my free content often send me emails saying that is what made them decide to join one of my paid programs.

Even after launching shopping courses, I continue to create free and valuable content on my blog, podcast, and YouTube channel.

My free content tends to focus on timely information nuggets while paid courses are more in-depth and involved. For example, I could teach you a specific free technique on how to make your drums sound louder and more aggressive, but I also have a paid course that teaches you everything you need to know about recording and producing great drum sounds.

Lesson # 2: More trouble is not the answer

I absolutely do despise “culture of the hustle and bustle” – in my experience, working harder is simple no the answer to earning more.

In the early years of launching my online business, I had an average of 20 to 30 business hours a week. But as my business products are online courses, once I finish a new one and the public, it can generate passive income continuously. By doing this, I have created systems that keep my business running smoothly and now allow me to work only five to ten hours a week.

For example, in each of my YouTube videos or podcast episodes I offer you exclusive free training in exchange for your email address if you want to delve deeper into my content. I use automated software to track these potential customers by email to manage the qualifying and sales process, eventually offering some of my paid digital products and making the sale for me. So if they buy, my system automatically delivers the product and takes them through a welcome process of incorporation, again by email.

In addition, I have a virtual assistant who is responsible for uploading, tagging, and sharing my weekly content. He also takes care of all the customer support emails for me, making sure to stay out of my inbox as much as possible so that I can focus on creating content, which is the best use of my time.

When you are ruthless about efficiency and effectiveness, you will have more bandwidth and time to focus on real growth.

Lesson # 3: If you are good at what you do, your knowledge will be valuable to others

When I started my business, I had a lot of self-limiting beliefs and feelings of imposter syndrome. Sometimes I fell into a negative thought that people wouldn’t think I’m good enough to learn.

But in reality, few people cared about me not having a Grammy or producing music for household names. Instead, they appreciate that my videos help them make better sound music. And as my skills and knowledge have increased, I have more value to offer my students and I can accept them later in his journey.

Here are two realities I learned that helped me overcome my feelings about imposter syndrome:

  • People don’t need you to be an expert, they need you to get results
  • Just be one step ahead of them on the journey to teach them something valuable

Lesson # 4: Design your business to serve your life, not the other way around

I don’t believe in sacrificing everything in my personal life to grow the business.

Family time is important to me, so I built my business around it from the beginning. Originally, I just decided not to work on Fridays. Back then my kids were little, so we had “Family Fun Fridays” when we went to the beach or the zoo or had a picnic in our garden.

As they get older, be sure to cut back on work every afternoon at 4pm so I can give them and my wife all my attention in the evenings and on the weekends. I also adjust my schedule as needed so I can take them to school every day, no matter what.

For new business owners, protecting this personal time might seem like making plans with friends and sticking to them or storing the laptop at a certain time every night.

I didn’t learn these lessons overnight: it took me years of trial and error, experimentation, and fighting my own fears and insecurities. And while building an online business is more feasible now than ever, it takes strategy, commitment, and constant effort to make it possible.

Graham Cochrane is a business coach and author of “How to charge for what you know.” He founded his YouTube channel and an online music business, The Recording Revolution, in 2009. Cochrane appeared on CNBC, Yahoo! and HuffPost.

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