Graham Cochran wanted to be a rock star. Today, the father of two girls, ages 10 and 12, is the rock star of the million-dollar, one-man business world.
He owns two seven-figure businesses in Tampa, Fla., where he lives: Recording Revolution, creating a blog and YouTube channel he created to help others learn about music production, and highly automated. GrahamCochrane.com, where he provides coaching and courses to help people develop a passive income source. She learned to set up her business in a way that allowed her to work five to six hours a week—producing content like her podcasts Graham Cochrane Show—and spends the rest of the time with his family and doing the things he enjoys, like playing music, working out in the gym, and going for long walks. On the way he wrote a book called How to get paid for what you knowReleased this spring.
The number of million-dollar, one-person businesses continues to climb with 43,012 in the revenue category breaking from $1 million to $2.49 million in 2019 (the most recent year for which census data are available), up from 41,666 in 2018. An ultra-elite 2,553 earned it $2.5 to $4.99 million in revenue, and 388 earned $5 million in revenue and beyond.
“Million-dollar, one-person business” is clearly not a scientific term. These are what the Census Bureau calls non-employer businesses — those that have no employees except the owner or owners. The vast majority of non-employer firms have one owner, but some are partnerships or have multiple owners.
The number of businesses in other high-revenue categories also increased.
Revenue of 312,422 increased from $500,000 to $499,999, up from 297,498 in 2018.
694,289 in revenue from $250,000 to $499,999, up from 668,152 in 2018.
2.2 million businesses reached revenue of $100,000 to $249,999, up from 2 million in 2018.
At the same time, the total number of non-employer firms in the country rose from 26.5 million to 27.1 million, part of an ongoing trend in which more Americans are embracing solo entrepreneurship or forming small businesses with a handful of employees. Whether this trend persists during the pandemic remains to be seen until census data for 2020 and beyond is out. The number of new businesses in America is skyrocketing. However, small businesses faced extraordinary challenges during the pandemic, and we won’t know revenue trends until the Census Bureau crunches the numbers.
Although the owners who break $1 million are, essentially, the Olympic athletes of the one-man business world, they are a great example of what one person can achieve by increasing their influence through the right strategies. Here are some who work for Graham Cochrane. I’ll be outlining a few more million-dollar, one-person businesses in August.
Lean into your area of expertise. It’s easiest to build a high-revenue business if you skip the learning curve and find a niche in an area you already know. In Cochrane’s case, while the musicians were playing in a band called Unit 5, they earned a college degree in audio engineering—building a knowledge base that would be the foundation of their future entrepreneurial career.
Be ready to experiment with your business model. After graduation, Cochrane worked in a recording studio in Virginia. “I realized that the hours were incompatible with life,” he says. He decided to go freelance and opened a small recording studio in his home while working as an audio engineer in a software company. Somehow, he found time to write and record his own music.
In 2009, he moved to Florida and started his own blog and later, his YouTube channel, so that people could see what he was teaching them to do on their computer screens. “I realized that because people wanted to know more about music production and music recording, they wanted to hire me to make their own albums,” he says. By that time, audio equipment was becoming more accessible.
Build on what is working. Looking for ways to monetize the videos and articles he was creating, Cochrane created a course about Pro Tools—which he described as Photoshop’s equivalent for music—for which he charged $45, adding it to his YouTube channel. List marketed. “That’s when I realized there was something here,” he says. “I sold five or 10 copies that week. I remember having the first sale, and it was a lightbulb moment.”
Cochrane doubled down on its blog and YouTube content. He also started more courses so he had something to sell, and a more expensive course to see if he could make more money per sale. Although friends said he was giving away a lot of content for free, he found that the more he shared, the more his business grew.
For four years, Cochrane had so much work on its plate that it hired a friend to help with email and customer service, as well as the occasional video editors and graphic designers. (Interestingly, I did an informal survey of 50 occupations I did for my book small business big money found that the four-year mark is an inflection point for seven-figure businesses. They hired their first employee on average, and also hit $1 million in revenue in four years. Why is the fourth year so important? I would love to know It deserves further and more extensive study).
Learn to love automation. Simultaneously, Cochrane also launched its own personal brand, RyanCochrane.com, and has established it on a large scale. “The great thing about this type of business, where you’re doing information products and online courses, a lot is automated,” Cochrane says. “The automation is so powerful. The content I create every week on YouTube and my podcasts has an exponential component, so people can find it on their own. It’s almost like doing marketing 24/7. Email marketing is automated. Bringing people into the ecosystem and offering them my products, it’s all happening automatically. I’m not limited by the number of hours I spend or the number of hours I serve customers. It’s mostly asynchronous.”
Be generous Today, RyanCochrane.com is a membership membership site that offers customers a new mini-course hosted on the Kajabi platform each month, and they can join a live coaching call with Cochrane. Inspired by the book by Tim Ferriss 4 hour work week, he works only five to six hours a week because his business model is too automated. “As long as I’m focused on creating regular, valuable free content to drive more leads into my email funnel, the funnel will take care of the rest,” Cochrane says. “It delivers the product, my membership keeps growing and my workload stays the same.”
But nothing in the business stays stagnant, and Cochrane says it is “ruthless” in checking its business model every six months to make sure it is operating efficiently – and that such tasks are being implemented. cutting which take a lot of time without contributing to the growth of the business. “I go through that list and say, ‘What are the 80% of the things on this list that contribute to 20% or less of the revenue in the business? he asks. “I can see a direct link between doing that task and making money.” It saves him a lot of time to do important things. “I take my kids to school and pick them up every day,” he says. Having the freedom to adopt the daily routine that really matters in your life is what business ownership is all about.
Anna Cicoli contributed research support to this story.