How to Start A Creative Business In Two Hours a Day With Dane Maxwell

A close up of a man smiling for the camera, with Dane Maxwell

Could you start a creative business in two hours a day?

That’s how I launched Become a Writer Today. I got up early in the mornings to write, create courses and figure out what readers wanted.

I’m hardly unique.

Dane Maxwell believes one can do it.

He is the author of Start From Zero: Build Your Own Business & Experience True Freedom and the founder of several software-as-a-service businesses.

In this interview, Dane explains:

  • How to build your creative business in two hours a day
  • What to outsource if you want to increase profits fast
  • How to balance your ideas with what readers, students or clients will pay for 
  • Why he likes James Patterson’s writing routine

And lots more.

I start by asking Dane how to build a business in two hours a day.


Bryan Collins: Dane, so it's very nice to talk to you today. I've read your book, Start From Zero: Build Your Own Business and Experience True Freedom, which is I believe on sale later this month at the end of March. I know we're recording this interview on the 20th of March. Perhaps you could start by telling me about one of the key ideas in the book, which is that it's possible to build a business in just two hours a day. That's something I suppose I found particularly intriguing, but how could somebody do that?

Dane Maxwell: Well, you would do that by stop trying to be an expert at something and just focus on building two skills: sales skills and outsourcing skills. Within that, you'd want to rewire your entire orientation around sales so that you see selling as a loving, gentle, noble act. When you get real deep in your unconscious that selling can be gentle, selling can be loving, and selling can be noble, it becomes a very enjoyable process, because every single person on the planet has a dormant inner salesman or an active one.

Dane Maxwell: Children are naturally amazing at selling. Then somehow we start thinking along the way we don't know sales, but the belief blocks the natural innate ability to want to serve someone, which is the true orientation of sales. If you did sales and you got on a conversation with someone, and you could be happy no matter the outcome of that conversation, you could be happy whether they bought whatever you were selling or not. If you have that sort of unconditional happiness, you can actually really serve them where they're at and not force them into something that might not be good for them. So selling is the first. Selling is such a beautiful act when done with real beautiful intentions.

Dane Maxwell: Then after you've sold, then you outsource. If you're going to build a business in two hours a day, it requires you to take away some of the activities that would otherwise make it an eight-hour day. Most of the activities in a business are spent doing the technical aspects of that business, whether you're a neurosurgeon, a LASIK eye surgeon, a dog walker, or a plumber, most of your time is spent in business doing the technical aspects. Unfortunately, that doesn't really ever build wealth unless you're in a really, really unique situation or category.

Dane Maxwell: So first, stop trying to be an expert. Second, sell. And then third, outsource what you sold. That'll do it.

Bryan Collins: There's a couple of points there, really, that brings up. When I started my business a couple of years ago, like many people who write, I thought there was a distinction between writing and selling, and maybe selling felt a little bit sleazy. I still think that's an issue. I got over that problem eventually, but I still think that's an issue that people have when it comes to their idea. They want to get somebody else to take care of sales, or perhaps they believe their book, or the product that they're creating, or their course, is good enough to sell itself. What would you say to those people?

Dane Maxwell: If you're struggling, then you're an idiot. You're literally accepting your stupidity, if you're struggling. In order to ask a girl out, you've got to ask her; in order to dance, you have to dance; in order to be in business, you must sell. There's no way around it. There's absolutely no way around it.

Bryan Collins: One of the key strategies or tactics that you have in a book for selling, is copywriting. Is that a crucial selling skill? Or there other skills to pick up?

Dane Maxwell: Can I say something else? I did a little research on the history of selling from the 1800s to 2011, and 80% of sales material, roughly 80% of sales material that's been released is manipulative in nature. Like our entire origin, 80% of what I could see at a primary, the primary hallmarks of sales material, they're manipulative in nature.

Dane Maxwell: We've been conditioned historically, it's probably in our DNA, that selling is manipulative. In the 1800s, Chinese workers sold oil to Europeans who were making railroads. They told the Europeans that the oil would stop the pain. So they buy the oil and they put it on and it would not stop the pain, so they started calling those Chinese workers snake oil salesmen. That's where the term snake oil salesmen came from, from people literally lying about their product. If you really don't like the word sales, selling is really about alignment.

Dane Maxwell: Alignment is such a precious thing to find. That's when you align the real true desire of someone with what you have to offer. Business can be a very pleasurable place. You don't need to struggle in business, and you don't need to avoid selling either. You can embrace selling without shame, and you can rewrite historical conditioning and be one of the amazing people who doesn't even think that they're selling when they are. Because the highest level of selling is probably something like Elon Musk where he's motivating humanity to go to Mars.

Dane Maxwell: That's a pretty cool cause. If you're doing a nonprofit, your ability to motivate people to enroll in that cause, that's a sales skill. I encourage people to look at the historical conditioning in sales and then embrace that we can rewrite that conditioning. Because if selling's about alignment, the fundamental of a business, there should be no struggle in business. None. There should be none. Really.

Dane Maxwell: Here's how you can do that. If you have a very clear customer, and you have a very clear result that they want, and you have a very clear mechanism that provides the result, the customer that wants that result, you will never have to worry. I've met very few, if any, businesses that I can recall that had a very clear customer, a very clear result, and a very clear mechanism that were struggling.

Dane Maxwell: When you talk to writers and they're like, I'm writing a memoir, or I'm writing about this, I'm like, "Who's the customer for that?" Like, "Well, you know... " You're in murky water, dirty, murky water, and it's such an inspiring thing. Business can be such a place of joy and such a place of pleasure, and it can really be an act of love. It's an incredible place to find yourself, to express yourself. If you just really adhere to the basics and do those super well, you can lace your personality through the whole thing. You don't have to change who you are to sell. You just need to look at the conditioning and the beliefs around selling and find a way, like make it your own.

Dane Maxwell: You don't have to put yourself into a box and ask stupid template questions. Like are you ready to get started today? What's it going to take for you to get... ? You don't have to do any of that. You can literally be yourself and express yourself in business. More than anything, I think it's such a gift to be able to use your voice and express your voice in the business world, and express your voice in a way where people are captivated by what you have to say, and then they want to pay for what you're offering. It's just a gift when that happens. It's a beautiful harmony. To do that, you want to get a clear, very clear customer, a very clear result, and a very clear mechanism.

Dane Maxwell: That can be in the weirdest places. You could have a very clear customer as a gray African parakeet owner, a bird, and the clear result is they want that parrot to stop pooping all over their house. The clear mechanism is a parrot trainer that you found at a local parrot shop that you brought your iPhone to and recorded some video lessons for that parrot trainer to teach, and you give that pair of trainer a 20% profit split on the sales and the business, and all they have to do is teach. Now you're in business and you're not an expert. Now you can work two hours a day and just focus on selling. When you do, you're looking to talk to gray African parakeet owners about their bird. When your course gets the bird to stop pooping all over the house, you've really, really improved the world.

Dane Maxwell: Most of us are so narcissistic, we want to write about our topics, and we want to create our own ideas. To me, that's borderline narcissism, and I think business should be a call to love. I think we should be doing business to serve and, of course, we want to be doing it in aligned fields or somewhat aligned interests. We're not going to bend over backwards or anything. I really want people to know if they take anything away from this is there doesn't need to be any struggle with making money. There doesn't need to be any struggle with business. It can be a very pleasurable place if you take the time to get clear on a few things. Making an extraordinary amount of money can become quite ordinary.

Bryan Collins: That's, that's good advice, Dane. The second part of what you said about outsourcing, what would you recommend somebody outsource first? Or what are the key areas that really move the needle?

Dane Maxwell: I don't know. To tell you the truth, it totally depends on your situation.

Bryan Collins: I've outsourced things like email management,

Dane Maxwell: I know what to say. I got it.

Bryan Collins: Okay. Go for it.

Dane Maxwell: Outsource the mechanism. Outsource most of the mechanism, if you can, customer, you do that. You don't have to, you could even outsource. You could outsource that, but I'd focus on outsourcing mechanism. I'd focused on finding customers, I'd focus on talking to them about the results that they want, then I would outsource mechanism. It's a beautiful life. That's a beautiful life.

Dane Maxwell: Imagine, you sit with pregnant women, and they're in their second trimester and you're like, "How are you doing?" "Well, it's okay." It's like, "Are you under stress? Do you have nausea? How are you doing?" "Well, you know [inaudible 00:12:08]." It's like, "Is there any result that you would want to have right now? Is there any improvement you'd like to have? Like anything different about your current situation?" They might say, "Actually, I'd really like to be rid of this nausea. I really don't like this pregnancy nausea." You say, "Okay, how would you like to do that? Is there a dream solution to that?"

Dane Maxwell: Like, "Well, I'd like to take a droplet, like a droplet on my tongue or under my tongue to help with my nausea." And now you didn't have to come up with an idea. You didn't even have to come up with a product. They gave it to you. Now you go out to acupuncturists, you go to naturopathic doctors, you ask them if they can make a potion of some kind, give them 20% of the profit. You're good to go. Outsource the mechanism.

Bryan Collins: I've spent some time interviewing customers or students, of course, since I've [inaudible 00:13:09]. It's definitely worse talking to the people that you want to serve.

Dane Maxwell: It's a little scary, too, right?

Bryan Collins: Can be, yeah. Because you find out that your customers are, in my case, students want something different to what I might've wasted time creating, so that can be a little bit off-putting.

Dane Maxwell: I did that plenty of times. A customer would tell me what they want, and I'd be like, "Damn." Then I'd go out and find the mechanism expert and that'd be okay.

Bryan Collins: Yeah, that's a good idea to find a product, well, from my experience, that people are already buying and see if you can create something similar, particularly if it's an online course or something with your own spin on it. One of the other ideas in your book is about building wealth, and something you talk about [inaudible 00:13:56] seven skills backed up by data that you need to build wealth. Would you be able to elaborate on one or two of those skills?

Dane Maxwell: Which one would you like to talk about? Which one did you like the best?

Bryan Collins: I guess go, whichever one you feel resonates best with you, or would resonate with creative people, or maybe somebody who's just starting a business.

Dane Maxwell: Probably the skill of being a newbie. How can you be a newbie? Like being a newbie has an advantage. That's important. That's important. Experts like to focus on making sure they know things. Owners like to not know things. When I was starting my first business, I was like 20s, and I was helping real estate companies with recruiting real estate agents. I didn't have the foggiest clue how to do that.

Dane Maxwell: What I did is I contacted real estate companies and asked them how they were doing it. I found the best of what worked and I packaged it into a system and I was a facilitator. I was essentially a newbie. In terms of being a newbie, I would encourage people to experiment. Try and write it. If you're a writer, try and write an article about something you don't know about, and leverage others' expertise to write it, if we're talking to writers. Then as you're writing that article, consider how the same thing could work for creating a moneymaking product.

Dane Maxwell: If you wanted to make sure that everything you ever wrote for the rest of your life would be read and remembered, use the same process you would to find a killer product. For example, how to cure your pregnancy nausea in three steps. How do you get your parrot to stop pooping everywhere in one simple trick, one simple training technique. We just wrote those because we had a clear customer.

Bryan Collins: I guess every book or article should start with an idea of reader in mind. You did ask me what skills, it was the last one about how to make the biggest leaps, and you talk about how you took some quantum steps, not knowing where to spend your savings and where not to. So would be able to describe-

Dane Maxwell: Do you like that skill?

Bryan Collins: It just reminded me of maybe some of the mistakes that I've made with mindsets around money and investing when I was in my late 20s and I was out of work, and then more recently then when I started a business, and what to do with profits from the business, whether to take it as drawings, or reinvest it into business, or to do something else with it. Certainly made mistakes, but sometimes you need to make a mistake to get to the next level, so to speak. I suppose one example will be investing in the wrong types of outsourcing, [inaudible 00:17:08] an expensive mistake, but then you get somebody who is more scaled at the task and then you realize that was actually [inaudible 00:17:14] after all.

Dane Maxwell: I'm happy you like that section. The short of that section is to buy courses online. Buy courses. You don't even need to take the course. You can just buy the course and get inside the Facebook group. My girlfriend asked me how to start making a lot more money. She said, "How can I start making a lot more money?" I was like, "The way you do that is you find five women that are just crushing it and be their friend. Your brain will update so quickly to their way of thinking, you'll start making more money," the fastest way to do that.

Dane Maxwell: The people that buy courses are amazing to be around because they actively invest in themselves. They're some of the best people to be around. She happens to be in a course of women that are starting an online blogging business. I told her to go on Facebook and post, what are your sales results been so far, women? Let's hear what you've been up to. Then the women would comment about what they've done results-wise, then the most successful students in there, she would probably message and become their friend.

Dane Maxwell: Courses is great. I spent like $1500 of like four grand or something I had. Maybe some four to eight grand. It made my stomach sick to buy it, but it was such an easy purchase. I'd spend $1500 on a course and changed my life. Those courses are incredible.

Bryan Collins: So you're more interested in the community behind the course rather than necessarily the video essence or materials inside of that course?

Dane Maxwell: Oh, yeah. I think people have it asked backwards about, they buy stuff for the content. Most folks are, they're lost for a reason. It's not a tactic or technique that's holding you back, I'll tell you that much. It's not.

Bryan Collins: It's unusual to meet somebody who [inaudible 00:19:52] the courses. You describe the Google AdWords course you took with Perry Marshall, then you got to meet him.

Dane Maxwell: Yeah. I'm sorry, did you have a question there?

Bryan Collins: Just how did that come about? Because most courses that I've taken, the instructor tends to be from around the world, or maybe they're hard to reach, unless you're actually paying for one-on-one culture where you fly over and meet them. I suppose I'm curious about how you ended up getting to meet Perry Marshall. For those that don't know him, he's one of the more high profile entrepreneurs who teaches selling, Google AdWords, and so on.

Dane Maxwell: We ended up becoming somewhat friends, too. It's an incredible experience. I really trust my intuition when I buy a course. I don't really read the sales letter for the course. I'm like what's the general idea of this course? What's my intuition say? Let's do it. That's how I do. With that course, I didn't buy it to meet Perry. I bought it because I loved Google AdWords. I just loved it. I love Google AdWords.

Dane Maxwell: I was like, "Guys, Google AdWords is so incredible." I can write an ad targeted towards older people that want to find a relationship, sexy senior singles online. I could write ads for selling swimsuits. I was like, "Oh my god, I can do anything with this. I got to learn about it." I loved it and I bought it. It turned out there was an event at the end of it, so I just went to the event.

Dane Maxwell: I also spent five grand recently on another course. That course is by a gentleman named Alex Becker. That guy is just a fierce business dude. I tremble a little bit. I'll get on those Zoom calls and I'll raise my hand and get personal time with him in front of everybody. You can get access to the guy if you want.

Bryan Collins: That's a sales course or an advertising course.

Dane Maxwell: It's about how to sell courses with YouTube ads.

Bryan Collins: Very good. Very good. So something slightly different-

Dane Maxwell: You think about it, you buy a course, or if you're not very proactive about it, but I buy it, I get on the Zoom, I ping Alex, I raise my hand, I ask if I can ask a question. Talking to Alex, I've probably asked three or four questions to Alex and it's changed my life every time I have.

Bryan Collins: A lot of people who take courses actually don't engage with them, so I guess that would set you apart from some of the students.

Dane Maxwell: One of the things he told me, for example, was "Dane, quit trying to sell people your values. People don't want to buy your values."

Bryan Collins: So what do they want to buy?

Dane Maxwell: The result.

Bryan Collins: The result. They want to buy the parrot that doesn't poop.

Dane Maxwell: They want to buy the what?

Bryan Collins: The parrots that stop pooping.

Dane Maxwell: Yes. Yes. They want that result. Think about it. Poop on your floor would be nasty. The result is the holy grail, like an electric car. That's a pretty cool result.

Bryan Collins: Car that doesn't need maintenance. Something slightly different. Do you still believe with everything that's happening at the moment, and I'm sure this crisis will pass, but being an employee is riskier than being an entrepreneur?

Dane Maxwell: I didn't think you were going to ask that. I was expecting to answer something else, but I like that question. You know, I don't know it. It really depends. If you don't have any sales skills, or if you've never been to or or and had anybody do something for you; if you've never had the experience of outsourcing, and you've never sold anything, and you're an employee in this current climate, I would be reticent to... I think that might just bring up a tremendous amount of fear for someone, and that fear alone could be quite paralyzing.

Dane Maxwell: For someone like me who has taken the time to build the skills that I need, this is one of the best environments you could ever imagine. Yeah, this is one of the best environments you could ever imagine. Because, for example, if you know what you're doing, you can do so well right now. One of my friends has converted their gym to a virtual gym membership. He's signing up like 20 members a week now, and he used to only sign up four a week to his physical gym. Now he's signing 20 up. His business has literally more than four-X grown because of coronavirus.

Bryan Collins: Virtual gym. I'm in the gym and they post workouts to us using an app, but how is the virtual gym working? Is it videos, or something else?

Dane Maxwell: Group Zoom workouts.

Bryan Collins: That's fantastic. I like [inaudible 00:26:03]. That's really great.

Dane Maxwell: I'm telling you, this is a great time. If you've got some balls, this is a great time. It's a great time. Like a really, really good time. The survival brain is really creative. If you're going to die, the survival brain will do anything to not die. But if you don't have anything to trigger that survival brain, you're not going to have much creative juice from the survival brain. When you got the survival brain online, in my opinion, I think some people could do a lot of stupid things with the survival brain on, but what I'm talking about is you become infinitely resourceful. This is going to force innovation. I'm so excited to see what people make because of this situation, and build.

Dane Maxwell: I saw Jimmy Kimmel with The Late Show. He did a Late Show on Zoom and posted it to YouTube. It was cool, I watched it. I was like this is amazing. I got to see him at his house. I got to see his little girls. His wife was holding the camera. Really cool. This is a wonderful time.

Dane Maxwell: Now imagine, let's say for example, so the value of a business, this is really hard for a lot of people to wrap their head around. It's still sometimes me, maybe even often me, but the value of a business. Yeah, I definitely still struggle with this, and this is still what's true, I think is true: The value of a business is in the alignment and selling system that you have created around the product. Not the product. The product's 5%, 10%, maybe, maybe in the best case, 25%. If you have an iPhone, 25% of the value of the business.

Dane Maxwell: It's in the selling system. It's in the client alignment and selling system. It's in the first landing page they see. It's in the email autoresponder sequence they see. It's in the sales page that they see that sells the product. It's in all the customer testimonials that you have written. It's on all the advertisements that you have going around the internet to sell said product.

Dane Maxwell: If you have the parrot training thing, the parrot's thing is probably, you go to a parrot store and you say, "Hey man, do you have like a four- or five-step method to get a parrot stop pooping around the house?" The guy's like, "Yeah, absolutely." So you do it with an iPhone; he teaches it on the iPhone, and you've got maybe four 10-minute videos, and if that gets a parrot to stop pooping, someone will pay for it.

Dane Maxwell: That's only four 10-minute videos. Now you've got to write a YouTube, a video that sells it, that then goes in front of every parrot training video that people are looking at on YouTube. So you got to write that video script. You got to post it on YouTube. You got to run ads to that. You got to track the clicks from the ads to a landing page. You've got to track the landing page to the email opt-in. You got to track the email opt-in to the sales letter. You got to track the sales letter to the sale. That stuff is where the lion's share of your time is.

Dane Maxwell: Think about this, the gym owner... If you wanted to make money right now, for example, like brand new, if you wanted a brand new way to make money, you could take that gym idea and contact gym owners and ask them if they would like help turning themselves into a virtual gym and that you could help them run ads. And then you could go to Amazon and you could pick up a book on Facebook advertising. Tell him it's your first time doing this, your first client, so you won't even charge him anything, but you're going to follow proven practices to do it.

Dane Maxwell: Now you've got a client you work for, for free. You get a result with that guy, and then you charge... I had one gym owner say he paid 16 grand to put together a selling system for his gym, 16 grand. He paid $16,000 just for the selling system.

Bryan Collins: [inaudible 00:30:50] know about that idea. Finally, Dane, do you have or did you have while you're writing this book, an ideal early morning routine?

Dane Maxwell: Yeah, I definitely followed a schedule when I cranked this thing out. I follow James Patterson's writing schedule. Are you familiar with it?

Bryan Collins: If I remember, does he get up at 4:00 AM and he works with co-writers?

Dane Maxwell: No, no. I want to know that one, though. I haven't heard of that one. He wakes up at 6:00 AM, and he goes and writes right away for an hour-and-a-half, 6:00 to 7:30. Then he takes a half-hour break for breakfast with his family, 7:30 to 8:00. He's got a half hour. Not many people have breakfast for a half hour. He gets a full half hour with his family for breakfast. Then from 8:00 to 9:30 he writes for another hour-and-a-half. From 9:30 to 10:00 he spends that time with his wife, for a half an hour. Then from 10:00 to 11:30 he writes for an hour-and-a-half.

Dane Maxwell: At 11:30 he has lunch with his wife for a half an hour. Then at 12:00 he writes from 12:00 to 1:30, and then from 1:30 to 2:00 he takes a break with his wife again for a half hour. Then at 2:00, he does an hour-and-a-half of admin work and stuff from 2:00 to 3:30. That's a killer schedule.

Bryan Collins: That's about six hours of creative time.

Dane Maxwell: Six hours of pure writing and an hour-and-a-half with your family every day during the day, and you're not checking email, you're not checking phone calls until 2:00? Come on. That's a great schedule. I've got to do it again. I'm inspiring myself all over again.

Bryan Collins: That's the way to do it, all right.

Dane Maxwell: I did that, and it worked. It worked, and it was really cool, and in two weeks I wrote most of this thing, most of the book.

Bryan Collins: I was actually thinking of Dan Brown. I saw him speak a few years ago and he described getting up at 4:00 AM because there was no email. He also likes to hang from the roof on gravity [inaudible 00:00:33:04]. I don't recommend that.

Bryan Collins: Dane, where can people find out more information about you or Start from Zero?

Dane Maxwell: I'd ask people not to buy the book, but just check out the excerpt and see if they like that. If they like the excerpt, then check out the book. I'm not for everyone, as you can probably tell by the most of this interview.

Bryan Collins: That's to get the excerpt.

Dane Maxwell: Actually, if you go to, you can actually get my book completely free in video form if you prefer that.

Bryan Collins: Some people will.

Dane Maxwell: You listen to the book. We put like 17 to 25 grand into creating the book as a video course. I'm giving it away free.

Bryan Collins: That's a great idea. People like to consume information in different ways. I like your cover, as well. It's yellow and green and has big bold letters like a business book. It was great to talk to you today, Dane.

Dane Maxwell: Yeah, I hope it was valuable. Was it valuable for you?

Bryan Collins: It was indeed.

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