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People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?

 
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Yesterday I saw a question on reddit that said "People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?"   I said:

On the weekends, I wrote articles and gave them away for free. Then some videos. And made some forums. I reduced my expenses.

Then the videos started to send me money, and I monetized the articles.

And then one day, my piddly income was bigger than my expenses. I was able to break away

And the I did some kickstarters, made some movie-like things, wrote a book.

Now I own a couple hundred acres and support a half dozen people. I have been free of the 9-to-5 for about 15 years.

And it all started with giving stuff away for free.




And for a few hours, I was a little internet famous.   You can see it all here.  I thought I would share some highlights ...


First question:

What kind of articles were you writing?

What's your website?



I wrote: My first article was before the internet became popular. I made a handout for a class I was teaching, for free, to about a dozen people in 1994. In 1995 the internet took off and I posted my article. It was the only one of it's kind for many years, so the search engines loved it. The article advised people how to have a better lawn with less work and zero toxins: https://richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp -- I think I cut deeply into the profits of weed and feed companies for many years.

Later I made forums at javaranch.com and then permies.com.

My big passion was about gardening, and that grew into permaculture. A few months ago somebody wanted a list of everything, so I made this: https://permies.com/w/stuff




Some lovely responses:

This is the most in-depth article I’ve ever read on lawn care. I’ve learned so much in five minutes. Thank you!



You made permies?! I love your website. Thank you so much.



You are javaranch? Awesome. It was a great resource when I was learning.



Bookmarked! This is gonna be so much help.



man your site is awesome!



Excellent information. Thanks for sharing.



Dang that article is legit! I've learned a lot from just skimming through it.



This is very good information - about getting out of the 9-5 and about lawn care. Thank you for posting



OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU. I am also a big fan of manual mowers, and now I have science to back it up.



Big fan of your website permies !!



Man, I used Javaranch a ton in the early-mid 2000s. Thanks for saving my ass at work more than once.



you made javaranch?! you literally helped me get my degree. thank you so much :)



So, yeah, it turned into a nice day. :)  Really cool to get such positive stuff on reddit of all places.  There was a lot more really nice stuff too.


There were a lot of gardening questions, and questions about my place, and people being funny and stuff ...


Back on topic.   I had this exchange:

As a writer I'm hoping something like this happens to me. Although I have no idea how to start writing articles and get exposure...



I wrote:I started off with zero exposure. I just put it up because I felt the other info was poor. And then later things I put up because there was nothing about it anywhere on the internet (like hugelkultur). And one article started off as a reddit reply, which eventually became such a big reply that it took me two full days to finish. And then, of course, the reddit peeps had moved on to other topics. So I massaged it into an article.

So it wasn't about the money. It was about the need to say a thing.



Thanks for the advice. I agree with you on the last point; the reason that I write is because there are so many things I want to say. It would just be nice if I could also get paid for it.



I wrote:I guess I'm saying write without thought about pay.

I've written thousands of things, and only a handful actually turned into coin.

But I also turned to a hundred of those things and glued them together to make a book.





There were some trolls and there were some people where I felt like they were making ample use of Cunningham's law.  And there were some where I felt like if I answered I would get stuck to a tar baby.   And several of those things were quite good starting points to talk about - just not with people that were trying to bait me.  So I thought I would copy them over here and have a go.

This one is not too bad, but I stayed out of until the end:

That's genius!



The genius isn’t the important part.

The important part was the willingness to do lots of work for free.



That’s the genius part.



The hundred people that did hard work for free and are gonna die poor anyways aren't posting



Also the timing.



The important part is doing highly monetizable work for free.

Like there are hundreds and thousands (the majority) of video editors, youtubers who never make it big.



I wrote:The important part is to do something rather than do nothing.

99% of my stuff is seen by only a handful of people.



Thats not what we are talking about. Yes doing something is better than doing nothing, its obvious, its nothing to talk about.

Doing something for the sake of doing it wont bring you lots of money.



And yet, that is exactly what happened.

I wrote the lawn care article with the idea of printing 12 copies and handing them to people that came to learn about lawn care back in 1994.   I taught that tiny workshop for free.  I wrote that with zero intent of ever seeing a penny.  And in 1995 I put it up on the internet - at the time, there was no way to make money by putting it up.   I think it wasn't until 2002 or so that I put the first adsense ad on there - and maybe added some amazon affiliate links.  

99% of all the stuff I have ever written and is available now started off with zero thought of monetization.  And this is really the root of my point that only a few people have the patience to understand.  I'm doing it because I feel the urge to present my position - primarily to help people.   Often rooted in "somebody on the internet is wrong!"

I kinda feel like it is deeply rooted in this thread:  https://permies.com/t/41892/dream-big --  but with the idea of "I wanna write this down now before I forget" or "I wanna write this down now, because there is a bigger thought driving me crazy, but I can't quite grasp the bigger thought until the smaller pieces are written down."  

Even more:  I think 99% of people want to do stuff and they don't do anything.   There is a hurdle, of sorts.   Not a physical hurdle, but they are in a routine where they don't do the thing they want to do.  Maybe they want to draw, and there is a pencil and paper just three feet away, but they never touch them.  To start drawing, they just need to start doodling.  Not for the sake of getting coin, but because they just feel like it.   So I am saying they feel like drawing ...  and there is paper and a pencil .... and they have oodles of time .... and they even know that that the next step is to spend one minute doodling ...  but they don't.   This bizarre, invisible barrier is the thing that is stopping 99% of people.  I think the more we talk about this barrier, the more people will get past it.


Now for a bit of dance with the trolls ...

that's not going to work for everyone.



It doesn't have to.  There are recipes in cookbooks on how to make chocolate cake and those are not going to work for everyone either.   The question was not for what would work for everyone, the question was directed at who pulled it off and how did you do it.  So I shared my story and maybe a few hundred people will try something similar.


For this next one, a guy posted that he had read a new thing about my book!  I said "You are super on top of my stuff! That came out like two hours ago! "  And we had a lovely conversation.  How fun!   And a troll says

Shamelessly plugging your own work and talking to yourself from an alt account



Nope.  I have no idea who that guy is.  I guess the troll did not see the reality of two people having a lovely exchange.  Instead, he saw the exchange through shit-colored glasses and ended up feeling like the world is a lot shittier than it actually is.


Why, when I search for your name does it suggest ‘Paul Wheaton scam’ in the suggested searches?



Because people tried to scam me and I wouldn't fall for it, so they threatened "fall for our scam - or else!" And what they posted is the "or else."   That's was my best guess.  

But this is actually news to me.  I've never heard of my name being associated with a scam, so I replied:

No clue. Try it and see what you find.



No response.  

So I tried to duplicate it - nothing.  Tried a couple search engines, nothing.  

So probably just a troll.


15 years ago. Keywords. This is not really doable by today’s standards. Nice try though and good work I guess.



I wrote:I didn't try doing keywords. I just shared a thing.

I have not attempted any SEO for at least ten years. I suspect it is all different now. But what I do is the same: give stuff away for free. Help people.

Everything I do is: try 100 things, 2 will work out, and you never know in advance which 2.



First off, this guy super sucks at math.   1995 was 25 years ago.  

Today, a person could create a thousand pieces of content.  And then they can share it in some way that is absolutely free.  They simply enjoy that anybody enjoys it.   And then five years into the future, something happens that says "take two hours and do qqq - and then money happens".  So they apply "qqq" tot heir thousand pieces and BOOM!  Instant coin!

I suppose if you look at my exact story, and hyper focus on just one piece, then you can say "I can't do that now - therefore I will do zero." Then zero is what you get.  



I am saying create those 1000 things and have fun with zero thought of money.  Now you have 1000 things that you did not have before.  And there is no telling if these things will ever have value in the future.   But I keep stumbling on places where I can use the things I have to maybe do something - most of the time it pays zero, but sometimes it pays a lot.  

Make the 1000 things.  And this other guy will make zero things - he will have "better" uses for that time:  beer, porn, rooting for the home team and discouraging people on the internet.

So the long and short of it is you started getting famous by being old enough to utilize the internet right when it was getting huge and were able to get lucky by posting about lawns and being the only person to do so online at the time. Thanks for the tip.



Same.




like is no one gonna address how this dude is literally a weird kind of sort of cult leader



TLDR: OP started a cult



That's me!  Putting the "cult" in permaCULTure!  

This morning at breakfast I reminded everybody that they are in a cult.  

I'm not certain, but I think if you are not physically here, you don't get to be in our cult.  You guys will need to make your own cult.


I'm glad that the trolls got downvoted a lot.  I used to hear this thing about "haters gotta hate" which sounds a bit like "just let them hate - that is what they do".  But every time I hear that I think "rapers gotta rape".  I think we choose that either of these things are not okay.   And the good ole downvote is a great way to show that.



The thread got flooded with comments about alternative schedules to "9-5" ("I work three 12 hour shifts a week!")   And there were comments about longing for 9-5.  

If nothing else, the original question, and the responses to what I shared, and even the troll stuff ...   they all give good traction to what I think we are trying to accomplish with passive income streams.  

For three months I was stuck in bed staring at the ceiling due to a spinal cord thing.   And money kept coming in.   I think that was an excellent test of passive income streams.  And the escape from the 9-5.





 
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Thank you for taking the time to share all of that here, Paul! Since I'm no longer on Reddit, I miss the good stuff too.

You made some great points and I think the people who have the doer bent will look at your actions and use it to inspire their own. Permaculture (I love the way you put the cult in it hah) and your book's focus are another example. DO this. DO something. Don't be angry and bitter.

I think a lot of people are trolls but/and a lot are just permanently trapped in victim mode. You could prove to them that pushing a button one time would make them an instant millionaire and they would insist that pushing that button was impossible for them because of their special situation.

Thankfully you're showing us all how to fashion our own buttons and push them.
 
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awesome post. I'm in the midst of escaping 9-5. Finished my house, paid off the land, paid off school, reduced my work to (4) 9hour days and my wife was able to ditch hers completely. Used the Early Retirement extreme method and lived super frugal for 5 years and dumped all monies into paying things off. Of course permies has been critical to my own reduction of work. I think without Paul and without the great community online, I wouldn't have believed such reductions would be possible.
 
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Paul- thanks for posting this.

One of my questions I have is "how did you grow/earn money, without irritating your readers with "buy this" banners, Amazon affiliate/"everything in this post is sponsored" stuff.

I feel like, but have no proof, that avoiding the offputting ad-ness of a lot of other sites has helped grow your following. I probably wouldn't be here regularly if "Buy my ebook!" Was a banner ad I had to turn off every time I open the the site, but dont mind the tiny ads at all. I havent bought anything from you but have bought something from a staff member. But then- i also have never bought off of a "Buy this thing!  Sign up for my newsletter!" Full page banner ad either.

I know you have mentioned most things you do cost money, the few that make money pay for the rest, I just feel like I dont understand how websites are less-obviously monetized can make money. Starting a small website about things that interest me is an "if I get laid off" goal but I am so off put by the way most small websites are run right now (yet, in my dream world, the website would pay for itself eventually).

Edit- maybe it's the ratio? Like 1 ad per 100 useful pieces of info, instead of 20% ads?
 
paul wheaton
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Most web sites seem to be 95% ads.  And my guess is that 95% of people have ad blockers - so there is a small bit of text and images in a sea of gray blocks.  

I don't use an ad blocker, so I don't know.  

I remember I used to get a software developers magazine called "Dr. Dobbs Journal".  About a third of the pages were ads, but they were ads for stuff that I very much wanted to know existed - and some of the things I bought because I learned about it in Dr. Dobbs.  This was advertising I appreciated.  I kinda feel like here on permies, there is a lot of commercial stuff that people are into learning about, provided it is presented the right way.  

So we do have several ads on each page, but rather than taking up 95% of the real estate, it is probably something like 5%.   And I am pretty sure that all of it points to our internal stuff - it doesn't go offsite to some super commercial site.    So, in a way, that kinda takes it from "5%" to "0.5%".  

As for "gimmie your email address for our newsletter!"  - I know that I don't like those, especially when I am on a new site and I haven't yet learned whether I like the site.   But even more, I think people are a thousand times more interested in an excellent freebie than in signing up for an unknown entity.  And people today are used to trading an email address for a freebie.  

So we have a weird mix of "just talk about permaculture" and "gotta get at least a little coin to pay the bills."  I feel pretty comfortable with the mix.  I suspect that there will be some people that insist that it is too commercial, and others that will insist that we are foolish for leaving a million dollars on the table.


 
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Your Reddit exchange falls exactly in line with my experiences.  You can have the absolute best idea in the world, and some numb-nuts will give you 10,000 reasons it won't work EVEN THOUGH IT DID.  And if you can get them to acknowledge that it did indeed work, they will give you the 10,000 reasons it won't work for them, won't work for everybody, won't work now, won't work in a given place, blah de blah fucking blah.  And they are right.  It won't work.  Neither will anything else.  For that person.  Because without doing a single thing, they've already determined that it won't work.  And then there are the people that quietly go on doing things that work.  I love your idea of doing something just because you want to do it.  Maybe you will make money at it and maybe you won't, but you won anyway, because you are doing something you wanted to do and were willing to do for free.  I love it.
 
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Catie George wrote:
I feel like, but have no proof, that avoiding the offputting ad-ness of a lot of other sites has helped grow your following. I probably wouldn't be here regularly if "Buy my ebook!" Was a banner ad I had to turn off every time I open the the site, but dont mind the tiny ads at all. I havent bought anything from you but have bought something from a staff member. But then- i also have never bought off of a "Buy this thing!  Sign up for my newsletter!" Full page banner ad either.



I've wondered about that myself. I open a web page, start reading an article, and no sooner do I finish one paragraph than the screen dims out and a popup appears, blocking the article, and asking, "Would you like to sign up for updates?" And I'm like, "I barely read one paragraph. That's not enough to know whether I'm interested in updates. Plus you just pissed me off by interrupting me." Is there any evidence to suggest that this aggressive strategy actually makes money? I would think just the opposite.
 
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For me escaping the purgatory of 9-5 happened in two ways. One was a change at work, it started in January of this year due to someone quitting. So I took over there job which is to make water for the city. My weekends are Thursday and Friday then working Saturday and Sunday. Having days off in the weeks allows me to beat the crowds.  The week seems to go by fast but the old saying "love what you do and never work a day" is true. The other way was having a house and land that is my own. The freedom to plant and build what I want is great. Seeing the rocket stove and ovens helped me view thing in a different way. It started me thinking about how to create a better place to live. That is why I like this site a lot. You can see how plans work and the errors that happen also lessons learned.

P.S.

I cut my lawn high, thanks to the Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy article. It is happy lawn that I mow about once a month.
 
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For me, the escape has been an ongoing process and not a discrete event.  There have been times when I have not held any job. There have also been times when an exceptional opportunity presented itself, and I jumped back nto the 9-5 for the short-term. Money can be useful.
 
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It's funny how some people turn the question "How did you escape the 9-5?" into other things, like "How can I become a millionaire doing absolutely nothing differently?"
 
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Thanks Paul. You've given me a lot to think about over the years.

You're right. Helping people is really the way to go. That's what my gig is all about, and I feel like it's starting to gain traction after many years of work.

What you have done is not easy, so people should understand that. It might have been second-nature for you, and it might have been enjoyable, but it is not something that a busy person can fit into their life without some discipline and sacrifice - especially a person with a family. It's not the lifestyle for everyone.

If one wants to grow something through social media, it is important to take the "helping people" philosophy into everything one does, and every product one creates. It doesn't need to be entirely selfless, though. A bit of shameless self-promotion is excusable if the product and information is honest and well intended. Quite often people are very happy to have a way to give back once they know you're all about helping.

The best thing about helping people is you can never fail. Even if your information, or product, or service doesn't become the next big thing, at least you never have to say you did it for nothing.

Thanks again for the help, Paul. This website is a wonderful resource.
 
paul wheaton
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Thanks for the support Karl!  I know you are on a very similar path.  


but it is not something that a busy person can fit into their life without some discipline and sacrifice - especially a person with a family. It's not the lifestyle for everyone.



This is perfect.   For the sake of this thread, this should be a giant font, gold in color and caked in glitter, because this is the core of it all in 20 different ways.  

First, I need to point out that while I was starting down this road, I was quite busy.  For part of it, I was working two full time jobs, and yet I continued to do it.  And i had a family.

But ...   and this is the most important thing ...  everybody is busy.   And you can use this word "busy" to relieve you of this yoke.  If it feels like a yoke at all, then don't do it.  

Some people have a gambling problem.

Some people have an alcohol problem.

Some people have a drug problem.

...   and some people have a problem where they just need to help others (in their own way) ...   and as the years pass it turns out you have helped a few million people ...  and then it "backfires" with coin or good will or good luck or something.

So I wish to make it perfectly clear:  nobody has to do this.  After all, everybody is busy.  A lot of folks that are thinking about it have families.  Or it's just not you.   There has to be a thousand perfectly valid reasons to not do this.  So don't do this.  Hell, I'll even give you a giant "get out of doing this free" card - you don't even need a reason.  You just don't wanna.  That's cool.  


The question was:  "People who have escaped the purgatory of the 9-5, how'd you do it?"    So I shared what I did.  I recognize that I am the only me.  And ...   I am glad to share this info because there are a few people around that are wired like me and they also have a problem of constantly helping people.  


If somebody is looking to escape the workee job rat race, this could work.  I know that I have created about a dozen paths to help people, but those things are largely untapped.  I have come to the conclusion that most people need a Mr. Slappy in their lives, so without the workee job rat race, they won't get food and shelter.  So we kinda gotta develop stuff for that.  


Paul's recipe for instant freedom:  my stuff has a 50% affiliate fee. connect adwords to my stuff and harvest that sweet coin.   I mean, we're talking about this in the residual income stream forum.  You could set this up in about 20 minutes.   I don't know how much more I could spoon feed a person.


 
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