So in my goal to follow my evolving Bliss(es) and create the life I really, really want, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy looking for models and inspiration. Who’s already out there living their dreams, and how did they get there?
It’s a bit overwhelming, really, because once you start looking, a metric ton of experts and phenoms start crawling out of the woodwork, usually hawking their own magic must-buy-it-now-before-the-price-quadruples key to “multiple streams of income,” happiness and “total fulfillment.”
(Seriously. That’s verbatim from [at least] one of these so-called experts.)
Whom to trust? Who’s got the goods that will really help me, in my unique situation, and who’s just trying to squeeze me for my hard-earned cash? (Okay, I know they all want my cash, but some really do offer value in exchange for it.)
After some months of intensive research, I’ve hand-picked a number of teachers to cast my lot with (in addition to the countless others whose free blog posts and newsletters I read), so consider this post the start of an ongoing review.
Teacher #1: Chris Guillebeau
My first inspiration in this journey was Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Nonconformity. His free downloads, A Brief Guide to World Domination and 279 Days to Overnight Success are top notch in content, prose, and design (which, as a smart, literate artist-type, I really appreciate!), and I resonate with his generosity of spirit, and his un-sales-pitchy approach to marketing.
Most of all, Chris is doing exactly what I want to do: living the life he wants, doing what he loves, and making a living at it.
Not freelancing, not exchanging his time for money. No, Chris has figured out the convergence between what he loves to do, and what other people are willing to pay money for.
I’m one of the people willing to pay for products that Chris puts out. Why? Because he earned my trust with his free downloads, his blog posts, and the personality and values that come across in his work.
Plus, of course, the very fact that he’s doing it speaks volumes for his credibility.
First off, I dove right in and signed up for Chris’s $100 Business Forum, which he co-facilitates with Pam Slim of Escape from Cubicle Nation. However, this 28-day online group of 150 fledgling entrepreneurs doesn’t start until May 10, so I have no reviews of it yet. Watch for those later in the month.
Though I was sorely tempted by several of Chris’s Unconventional Guides, in my first trip through the Unconventional Guides store I reined in my covetousness and limited my purchase to this one $100 “product.” I kept a tight grip on my credit card. I would be strong. I could wait until after the $100 Business Forum before deciding on any future purchases.
Famous last words.
The Empire Building Kit
Wouldn’t you know it, savvy Chris is continually in the process of creating cool, new products, and when he announced his Empire-Building Kit, a 365-day course for building your “empire” in one year by doing one thing every day, I knew I’d been well and thoroughly hooked.
It didn’t help my pocketbook that Chris is very good at building pre-launch excitement: he teased his mailing list for weeks with details about the upcoming launch, tied it with an epic train trip across the country on (believe it or not) The Empire Builder, then opened it up at special pricing for 24 hours only. (Are you taking notes on this launch? I was!)
Naturally, I couldn’t resist. And not only that, but I confess I sprang for the top-of-the-line “Hail Caesar” version, which cost (if memory serves) almost twice the price of the the middle, “Alexander the Great” version, and about four times more than I was consciously budgeting.* Yikes!
As if that weren’t enough, I’d forgotten that the Unconventional Guides shopping cart has a sneaky tendency to offer cross-sells — special combo-offer packages at special prices if you BUY NOW.
Yes, I didn’t call Chris a clever monkey for nothing. I have much to learn from you, Master.
I’ll admit I couldn’t resist the package deal of two guides I’d been wanting, Art + Money and Working for Yourself, especially when combined with a special report, Marketing School, by none other than Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz.
(In case you haven’t heard of Naomi, she’s pretty much a god in the world of marketing and making a living as an online small business.)
Final damage: $449 for the EBK (gasp!) less 10% “secret discount,” plus $97 combo offer = $501.10.
That represents a big chunk of change to me right now, when money’s tight and business much slower than I’d like.
However, the goal is that these purchases will help my pocketbook, and my happiness, in the long run.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, I’m only 27 days into the EBK, so I can’t give a complete review, but so far I can say it’s pretty damn awesome.
What’s in it?
- 6 lengthy video interviews with folks who’ve built successful (but achievable-seeming) “lifestyle businesses,” discussing their route to success, mistakes along the way, etc.
- Transcripts of same.
- 18 PDF case studies of other “lifestyle business” owners, with a variety of businesses ranging from a dog trainer to a guy who hosts murder mystery parties.
- 9 short videos on very useful online business tips, from finding prospects, to crossells and upsells, “tools I use,” and more.
- a 43-step product launch checklist
- an interview with The Launch Coach, Dave Navarro (another teacher whose courses I’ll be reviewing in a future post)
(Note: I believe some of these items are only included in the “Hail Caesar” version, but am not sure which ones, since the EBK sales page was taken down after the initial 24-hour launch.)
Upshot: You get detailed financial information of 15+ other emperors. From Chris: “We asked everyone how much money they make and how they make it. This touches on a taboo subject (talking about money specifically) that everyone is interested in but few people address directly.”
That’s not all, though. One of the cool elements of the EBK, and one of the reasons I decided to invest in it, is that every day I get an EBK email from Chris. That’s 365 days of emails.
I’ll admit that at first I was a tad disappointed that the emails don’t always have a specific tip or actual step to do toward building my empire; sometimes it’s just a reminder of the message in yesterday’s email, or a wrap-up of the ideas covered in the previous week.
That said, I think the most important thing about the daily email concept is simply that it keeps me focused on my goals. In a way it doesn’t actually matter what’s in the email.
Don’t get me wrong — many of the emails are awesome; several have had exactly the concept or idea that I needed right then to move me forward in my thinking. Chris has clearly put a lot of thought into them, and I find many of them very worthwhile.
However, perhaps the greater value is just in the daily reminder, the daily validation that yes, I am going after this, and I have someone walking next to me on the journey for the entire year.
In addition, precisely because the EBK is set up as a year-long course, I’m not finding myself succumbing to the usual overwhelm that enormous projects like this normally stir up. I don’t feel anxious to watch every single video and read every single transcript and case study RIGHT NOW, because I know they’ll be “assigned” one by one over the course of the next several months.
Whew. What a frickin’ relief!
Seriously, this is huge. In the past couple of months I have amassed an e-library of countless e-books, special reports, mp3s and videos, and it’s doubtful whether I’ll ever manage to get through all of them.
But the EBK? I know I’ll get through it, because I’m on a year-long journey, and I’ll be assigned each of these modules eventually.
Deadlines are magical things.
Rating so far: 4 7/8 stars out of 5
(And not 5 stars only because the marketing led me to expect an actual step to do in each and every email.)
It’s early days yet, so this rating could change, but suffice it to say I highly recommend the EBK to anyone who has a dream of creating a sustainable business and “empire” of their own.
The EBK will be re-launched on May 18 for 24 hours only. I’m not sure when and if it will be on the shelves again after that, so if you’re serious about living your creative life and need some inspiration, motivation, and a partner on the journey, mark your calendar to check it out.
Full disclosure: if you use one of the links on my site to click through and buy any of Chris’s Unconventional Guide products, I will earn affiliate income. But I believe in his products and stand by them. If you buy them and don’t like them, feel free to complain to me.
And then ask for your money back from Chris, because he offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
But I seriously doubt you’ll feel the need to do that.
This post got long, so I’ll hold off on my review of Art + Money for another time. I haven’t finished it anyway. But just 13 pages in, it’s already changed my outlook in a dramatic, and positive way. And that alone is worth $39.
If you’ve gotten any of Chris’s other guides, I’d love to hear what you think.
Now it’s back to empire-building.
*Why did I spring for the Caesar version? Mostly because it’s the only version that contains behind-the-scenes views of Chris’s entire business model, something I really, really wanted to see.
Chris Guillebeau says
What a fantastic review! Thanks so much for the props. I’m honored to have earned your trust, and I’m so glad the resources are rocking your world.
Yours in World Domination,
You’re welcome, Chris, and THANK YOU for creating such great stuff and putting it out there in the world. You truly are an inspiration.
Eric Normand says
This is a very well-written, glowing review!
It has made me very curious. Do the assigned tasks give success to everyone? I don’t mean will everyone be successful. But Chris seems to be the kind of person who would say that you define your own terms of success. How has he managed to make a one-size-fits-all program for that?
I suppose I’m skeptical. I wouldn’t want to invest a year in the program and find out that it isn’t working, when I could have known had I had access to all of the steps up front.
Oh, well. Keep us posted!
.-= Eric Normand´s last blog ..Coolness envy and everyday awesomeness =-.
Thanks for your comment, Eric!
To answer your question, success is definitely not guaranteed. What the EBK offers is a daily reminder to keep going after your goals, some very useful tips for how to set those goals in the first place (ie, what factors make for a good “lifestyle business”), and suggestions for helping achieve them.
The case studies and interviews provide examples of different lifestyle businesses that have been successful, and even if none of them is a model that you’re interested in doing yourself, the principles of how these folks went about creating a business and growing it are, for the most part, applicable across the board.
Then there are several short videos with tips on selling your stuff, selling more stuff, and other very useful bits of info that any business owner can benefit from.
There’s simply a lot of info in this kit. The sales page is down until the May 18 re-launch (24 hours only!), and I don’t remember the differences between the three versions of the EBK (I believe the more expensive versions have a greater number of case studies and interviews, plus I think the 43-step product launch checklist??) But the low-end version is a pretty good deal, and so far I can say I’m definitely getting value for the (much larger amount of) money I spent. And I’ve just scratched the surface of the content.
Whether it would be worth the investment for you, I can’t say. However, if you can use a virtual “coach” to remind you, every day, to keep going after your dreams, and if you feel that an inside view of some already successful lifestyle businesses might motivate and inspire you, then I don’t think you can go wrong.
If you do decide to try it I’d love to hear your reactions to it. And in the meantime, I’ll write more reviews down the road.
Scott Webb says
Hey nice review! It’s a wonderful product for sure – i’ve got an empire building kit diary going as I move through my domination and everything. I’m determined to rock the internet. I used it for my website when leaving this comment. Check it out cuz i’d love to collaborate as well when topics come up that could confuse us or just want to talk about them.
.-= Scott Webb´s last blog ..All Out War =-.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Thanks Scott! I love that you’ve created a website diary, specifically for your EBK experience. Awesome!
Gabriel D Subba says
It was after reading this review that I bought Empire Building Kit and I have to say it is great in terms of content and actionable points.
So just wanted to thank you.
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Wow, thanks for sharing that, Gabriel! I’m really glad to hear you feel that way (especially after buying on the strength of my review! :))
Gabriel D Subba says
The 365 day emails stopped after day 84, so hoping I’ll be able to resume the series again. Have written to them and waiting for an answer. 🙂
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Hmmm… I hope you hear back soon! That’s frustrating that the emails stopped.
Hey! Thanks for this review! I was looking for something like this!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Glad it was helpful, Manuel!
Melissa, we met AFTER WDS at Powell’s bookstore! We sat next to each other. I’m going Afghanistan and I’m going to partake of Chris’s work while there. Also, how did you get into the Pam Slim $100 deal? Could you write me back?
BTW, your review? SPOT ON. WTG!
Melissa Dinwiddie says
Hey Ryan! Yes, I remember that post-WDS meeting! Glad you liked the review. 🙂
I don’t think Pam & Chris offer the $100 Biz Forum anymore. I found it in Chris’s Unconventional Guides store in 2010.
I’ll email you directly as well…
And AFGHANISTAN? Wow! That’s awesome! I’d love to hear about that trip!