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Behind The Curtain: How The Rise To The Top Makes Money

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by David Garland in David's Blog

Behind The Curtain: How The Rise To The Top Makes MoneyMaybe it is being in the mediapreneurship/new media/blogging/web show/whatever-the-heck-you-want-to-call-it-business.

Maybe it is because what we all do is unconventional in some sort of way.

But, I bet this subject has come up before.

Do you ever explain to someone what you do and at some point there is that long awkward pause followed by: “So…how do you make any money at that?”

I know I have…a lot.

Now without getting into to whether that question is appropriate or not (I ask this to guests all the time, so that answers that…then again, who said I was appropriate?), I wanted to answer it right here to give you a bit of an inside glimpse to perhaps pick up some ideas for yourself as opposed to making up something like “the way I make money is through illegal panda and bunny trade.” End conversation.

A couple of quick things to keep in mind:

1. Money doesn’t drive me. Sometimes, honestly, I wish it did a little more. I’m driven by passion, meaningful work I’d do for free even if I wasn’t getting paid, excitement, freedom and fun. And of course, I enjoy making money (and making money is important), but it is never the motivation for anything I do in business.

2. There is a LOT more I could do to make even MORE money, but I don’t: Yes, I could be doing a ton of speaking gigs and consulting and all that stuff. I could be on the road a lot. I could also make a bunch of random information products and sell them. Not to say I will “never” do those things (in fact, I used to spend a lot of time consulting/speaking), but right now I don’t see the point. I love what I do every day. I’m super happy with the way The Rise To The Top makes money. I love working from home. I love spending as much time as possible with my wife. I love attending family events and having all kinds of fun away from work. I love being able to go to the gym every day. Sure, I could add more money making activities…but at what cost?


1. Show Sponsorships – I have one exclusive sponsor per quarter for the web show. Current rockin’ sponsor is HubSpot.

2. Product Sponsorships – A bit different than show sponsorships. An example is Wistia, whose video player I use on the show.

3. Affiliates – Always disclosed of course, there are affiliate links throughout the site – most notably in the RISE Recommends section and often show notes if the guest has a product or service that has an affiliate opportunity and I’m super comfy promoting. An example would be Feedblitz for email marketing/blasts and Ecamm Call Recorder for recording interviews (yes, those are both affiliate links, hah!).

4. Entertaining (aka “Not Speaking-Speaking”) – A big realization I had about a year ago or so was that I definitely did not want to be on the road often (read: much at all) to do speaking engagements. And also, stylistically, I’d much rather answer questions (from a moderator or audience) or MC/host an event as opposed to keynoting or “how-to-ing”. I’m MC/hosting a big event later this year (not sure if I can mention specifics on it yet).

Those are my buckets in 2011. That’s it.

And my happiness level? Very high. Why? Because I feel comfortable and super happy with all of the things above. I love promoting others that I really believe in (sponsors and affiliates) and taking on a few fun entertainment projects. Sure, there are all kinds of other things I could take on, but do I really want to or would I rather spend time with my family, having fun, and eating the fruits as they say? And I know if there is something I really, really, really want to take on, I can.

But…it wasn’t always this way.

I love the place I’m at now (and I’m sure it will change, evolve, etc.), but it has taken a bit to figure out the ways that I’m comfortable making money.

In the past, I would take on way too much, even if I wasn’t super pumped about it, if it had dollar signs associated with it. Not everything, of course, but if my filter right now is, say, super high, in the past it was, perhaps, medium.

And, in some cases, it was necessary to move the ship forward.


  • Consulting – Nothing wrong with consulting, but it was not something I dreamed of at night as the way that I want to make a living.
  • “How To” and Keynote Speaking – Sometimes fun, but again, just not my favorite if I had my choice.
  • Distracting Side Projects/Partnerships – Anytime I’ve taken on a “this could make money” side project, it hasn’t worked out well. Period. Why? Because, honestly, I’m not driven by money…I’m driven by passion/excitement/happiness which is why I have the saying that “money follows passion and not the other way around.”


Look at ways to make money similar to trying different foods. Some things you might try and love. Others you might hate. Some might fall in the middle. Some might be necessary to do now but not later (when you no longer “have to”). The reverse might also be true.

Trust. When it comes to promoting others (sponsorships, affiliates) make sure these are companies/products/services you feel 100% comfortable promoting. In the past, when just getting started and focusing on local sponsors, I would take pretty much everything and that was a bad idea. Trust, trust, trust.

Your tastes, ideas, and you might change over time. Keep an open mind.

Sure, money is important. But, if that is the only reason you are in business, you might be in trouble.

Your thoughts? How are you making money this year?

Image Credit: Tony.L.Wong

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