I see it on Instagram and YouTube all the time. “Want to generate $[insert absurd amount] of passive income?” No money needed.

I mean, yah, I’d like to make $500 a day for doing nothing. Sure.

This is usually followed by a ridiculous plan, which most notably includes steps like, “Every day, go to YouTube and upload three videos you’ve recut” or some affiliate marketing nonsense.

Can we be clear about something? If you have to do regular work to obtain the income, it’s not passive, it’s just a different job.

It might be a better job than your 9-5. It might be a side hustle. But these strategies people are peaching are anything but “passive”

For what it’s worth, “Passive Income” is actually a legal term for taxes in the US, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Culturally, when we talk about “passive income,” we’re talking about some way that you can make money with little to no ongoing work.

And I’m here to tell you that it’s a myth.

A complete fabrication.

There is no scheme that predictably and reliably gives you money for doing nothing without risk to your investment.

I’ve made a fair amount of money with real estate over the past 15 years. I can assure you that is anything but passive. On rare occasions, money shows up with little work. But it takes a fair amount of stress, time, and expense to maintain that investment. If you don’t do those things, the money will most assuredly stop showing up.

The stock market is probably the closest you can get to truly passive income. You just put your money in and hopefully get a return. But that carries a significant risk of loss, you have very little control, and if you’re investing any real money, it needs to be actively managed by someone. You either have to do that yourself or pay someone else to do it.

Not to mention, both of these “passive income” strategies require cash available to invest up front. The less money you have to invest, the worse it gets.

I’ve seen it happen too many times…

Back before I got into publishing, I worked with small businesses. I mostly did marketing and web development.

I loved it. I love helping people turn their dreams into reality. If I can sit down with somebody and take an idea that they just can’t shake, something completely ridiculous, and help them turn that into real actions they can take and put it to the test—that’s the best thing. (In a lot of ways, this is still what I do, just with authors.)

Most of my clients in those days were micro-entrepreneurs, just some guy tinkering in his garage with an idea to change the world. I helped people launch IT companies, dog walking services, online stores, board games, and even once built a social media site exclusively for fat people (really).

Most of those people thought they had a million dollar early retirement idea.

None of them did.

They thought that they could launch this thing based on their idea, and they expected to retire in six months.

I later learned to screen my clients to make sure they could pay me. Many of them were so optimistic that they assumed they’d be able to pay me with the revenue they planned to generate the first week after the website launched.

What is success as a startup?

Don’t get me wrong, some of those ideas generated a lot of money. A few of them are still in business today and doing very well.

But those people didn’t get to retire early. They just got to switch jobs.

In those initial consultations, I had to explain to them that “winning” was actually the opportunity to quit their current job and instead work full-time for their own company.

For a bootstrap startup, if within one year you can quit your job as a nurse or a school teacher and instead make $60k a year managing your website or your new company, that’s major success. After all, 90% of small businesses fail in the first five years. (Fun startup business stats here.)

So I had to sit down with those clients and tell them that if they ever make a million dollars, even if their idea truly is that Shark Tank sensation, that’s a long time and a lot of work from now. The real question is, “Would you rather work for yourself as a website administrator than work your current job as a nurse?”

Reality is that you’re going to work your regular full-time job for years while you pound away at this new venture with every spare moment—nights and weekends no longer exist for you. This is your only love, your only hobby.

If everything goes exactly right, maybe in 2-3 years you can quit your full-time job, take a pay cut, and just work on this venture. Honestly, if you want to be an entrepreneur in the real world and without a rich daddy, you’ll be lucky to ever retire.

I would tell them, “Don’t pursue this venture because you think it’s an easy million dollar payday. Pursue this venture because it’s work that you would love to do.”

And this is exactly what I tell authors.

Even if you are uber-successful, being an author is real work.

Do you want to be a writer?

Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. 65 successful novels published and he still has to show up.

I think there’s a perception that writing a book is easy, and you could be a breakout success. You’ll write the book, publish it, make a million dollars, and sell the movie rights. May I tell you that virtually never happens?

If that’s your plan, just play the lottery. It’s a lot easier, and the odds are you’ll have fun.

The “win” is that you get to write for a living. “Winning” means that you get to quit your job as an IT guy or a sandwich artist and instead show up every day and do the work of being a writer.

Don’t pursue writing because you think it’s an easy way to get rich and famous.

Pursue writing because you would love to be able to get up each morning and do the work of being a writer.

Do it because you wouldn’t mind driving a ten year old car if it means you get to wake up and do the work of being a writer every day.

What is the work of being a writer?

A really good question you might be asking is, “What do writers do? What is the work of being a writer?”

Well, writers write.

You might be surprised how many aspiring writers don’t actually like to write that much. Every year, our Arche Year program helps aspiring writers complete a novel manuscript and launch their marketing platform. Despite having a 100% success rate helping writers finish a book manuscript, every year a fair percentage of those people realize that they actually hate writing. They liked it when they could do it when they felt like it—but the idea of writing every day is actually no fun for them at all.

I consider that a “win.” Now they can stop pursuing a career that they would actually hate to do. That’s a worthwhile outcome from taking the class.

Writers promote themselves.

“Passive Income” is a myth, and so are writers who don’t have to market their own work. No matter how you intend to publish—traditional, self-publishing, etc.—you need to promote yourself now and you’ll need to promote your work after it’s published.

Maybe ten years from now you’ll be in a position to pay people to do all of that stuff for you, but that would be the million dollar win. Realistically, you have to market and promote. There’s no way around it.

Writers manage their business.

As a writer, you are a startup business in every sense of the word. Just like if you wanted to start an IT company, a dog walking service, or a social media site for fat people, you have to run your business.

That means record-keeping, paying taxes, communicating with clients, and management/organization.

Writers improve themselves.

Great writers are constantly learning. At The Company, a big part of this is Spiritual Development, which never ends.

But writers need to read, to explore, to be curious. This takes real time. With all of the other things you need to do as a writer, it’s easy to forget about this.

You can write as a hobby

If you want to be a writer, I’m not here to discourage you. I’m here to help you get real about it so that you can actually make it happen.

If you’re entertaining illusions, you can’t take the right steps to make real progress towards your goal. When you have good information and a realistic perspective, you can move forward with wisdom.

But I’ve found that many people who think they want to be professional writers actually don’t. They just like to write.

And that’s OK.

There are a lot of things that I do for fun that I would hate to do as a job. Smoke meats, play guitar, garden—I like to do those things in my spare time, but I would hate it if I had to do them all the time, constantly improve, and treat them like a business. It would kill all of the fun.

The question isn’t “Would you like to be a rich and famous author?” Honestly, who wouldn’t?

The question is, “Do you want to do the work of being a writer? If you could replace your current income doing the kinds of work a professional writer does, would you absolutely love that? Would you wake up every morning excited to do that?”

Passive Income is a lie

If you’re looking for an easy way to get rich…just stop.

There’s no magical YouTube formula. There’s no million dollar idea. There’s no breakout book.

If you’re looking for a hard way to make a reasonable income doing stuff you love, then absolutely pursue your dreams! If you’re willing to do the hard work, adapt, and learn, you can absolutely quit your job in the next few years and do the work you love.

But if you’re looking for money for doing nothing, and you’re not already rich…it doesn’t exist.

Ready to become a full-time writer?

The Company’s apprenticeship is now enrolling. Apprentices jump in with both feet and do the work of being a full-time writer. At the end of the two-year program you are running full speed and ready to tackle the industry head-on.

Learn more and apply for an apprenticeship here.

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