We chatted over email sharing remote work and nomadic lifestyle insights and, oh boy, Matt has a great taste and recommended some of the best restaurants in Lima and Playa del Carmen. Other than that, he's a thoughtful writer and creative entrepreneur.
I invited Matt to share his story and tell more about how he got started and how he makes a living as an independent creator.
Welcome the very first awesome guest in the “How Creators Make a Living” series featuring creators building unconventional careers.
Hi. I’m Matt Rudnitsky, and I’m the founder of Platypus Publishing — where I help people write books that launch or grow their businesses. I’ve been a digital nomad for most of the past 6 years (I’m 7 years out of college) and have traveled to 51 countries.
For anyone interested in self-publishing a book that doesn’t suck (unlike the majority), I wrote a 205-page guide that tells you everything you need to know: “You Are An Author: So Write Your Book Already.”
And for friends of Tomas, it's free. Just click here to grab your copy.
The Immaculate Conception
Platypus was born that one time I had a “real” (ish) job.
I was a sports blogger for a mid-tier US sports blog, SportsGrid. I made $20,000 a year, and our office was located in New York City.
After six months of living with my parents, I asked my boss for a raise. “I might be able to live on $35,000 in NYC.”
“We really appreciate your work, and agree that you deserve a raise. We can offer you a raise to $28,000. That should do.”
I yanked my phone down to my side as I felt a storm brewing. I couldn’t help it. Despite my disappointment, it wasn’t tears or anger.
In the middle of W 14th street, I burst into laughter, cackling for a good two minutes as passersby went about their days. When I calmed down, I simply “thanked” my boss for his time, and silently vowed to never work for anyone again.
It was clear you couldn’t make “real” money writing, unless you struck out on your own.
So I struck out on my own.
With no idea what to do, I figured I’d teach English in Prague as a stopgap. Have some fun, make just enough to survive. But as I was getting started, I couldn’t shake this idea of self-publishing a book on sports betting.
Gambling had become my niche at SportsGrid, and there was an underserved market. I was still writing a freelance gambling column for $12.50 an article (which took me 5-6 hours to research and write) … so I decided to test my idea.
At the top of one article, I wrote this exact message:
(ALSO: Interested in learning how to transfer from smart, dedicated fan to rational sports bettor? Email [email@example.com] with the subject “book” to get free advice on how to start betting on sports, from psychology to money management to picking winners.)
The copy is mediocre, but the point was I asked people if they’d care, instead of wasting my time on a hunch.
In three weeks, 46 people emailed me (the column was getting about ~15k unique visitors). Nothing crazy, but enough to move forward.
I wrote short, sample chapters for those 46 people and asked for feedback. The feedback was good, so I kept writing. I put my head down and wrote, studied self-publishing, and shortly after … published “Smart Sports Betting.”
I expected nothing. I did almost zero marketing. But I hit a nerve, and made $1,150.06 in my first month. Almost $15,000 to date.
I was flabbergasted, and realized I had to help others do what I did.
And that’s how Platypus Publishing was born.
The Three Phases of Business
There are three phases to building an online business.
Phase 1: Dream
My above origin story is how I got through Phase 1.
In theory, you can simply research for opportunities — but if your idea doesn’t come from scratching your own itch, you likely won’t have the fire for sustained execution.
The best businesses come from unrestrained dreaming based on real-life experiences and curiosities, later filtered into structured action.
Phase 2: Scrap
Then came the hard part: convincing people that some 23-year old beginner was worth hiring for their life’s work.
You have to be willing to knock on doors and offer free samples. You can’t send mass messages or expect people to come to you.
You have to work your ass off just to get people to talk to you.
Then you have to show them the results they’ll get by paying you … before they actually pay you.
Most people don’t have the humility to offer free samples, but it’s essential.
My first client was Trevor Kraus, now-author of “Ticketless: How Sneaking Into the Super Bowl And Everywhere Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.”
He had written an article about sneaking into the Super Bowl and mentioned he was “shopping it around to publishers.”
I knew he’d never get a publishing deal – it’s almost impossible without a huge platform – and offered to help him with editing, marketing, and publishing.
He was interested, but decided to go with a “professional” editor with 10+ years of experience.
I had zero.
I refused to take no for an answer.
I edited two chapters for free, as a sample, because the “professional” had done the same.
I’ll never forget his response: “Quite frankly, your edits were just as helpful as hers.”
And of course, I was way cheaper. I offered the first round for $450, and unlimited subsequent rounds for $1,000.
It was a horrible financial deal (the book wound up taking three freaking years), but I got equity in the book and built a case study and relationship.
I parlayed that deal into one turning an entrepreneur’s podcast into a book – the same strategy… sent him a free sample to prove myself – and then a job at Tucker Max’s Book in a Box (now called Scribe Writing), where I learned how to interview people and turn their ideas into books.
Armed with that knowledge, I set off on my own… and have gotten all of my clients from cold emails or referrals (if you’re interested in how I’ve cold-emailed my way into high-paying jobs, check out my 8-step template).
Now, I charge about 10x what I charged Trevor, as I have a 5-year track record.
Phase 3: Scale
Long term, the only way to scale is to hire people or to sell information.
My current focus is to sell my online course, Permission Publishing, by building my email list (through ads and partnerships) … but I’ve just started.
So the way I scaled my income (in an unsustainable way), was to focus on high-ticket services. Generally, high-ticket services are “done-for-you” (though they could be “done-with-you”) services for businesses who already spend significant money on things like marketing.
For example, a low-ticket service would be writing weekly emails for a brand new e-commerce startup, who might offer you $50 an email and have you on a short leash.
A high-ticket version of that would be starting, maintaining, optimizing and scaling a daily newsletter for a longstanding, 7-figure e-commerce brand, who might pay $10k per month. You know this because their Facebook ads are all over your feed (meaning: they spend big money), but they don’t seem to re-engage subscribers.
Similar service, much different value.
Value isn’t just a function of your effort, time and skill … it also depends on the recipient’s ability to capture the value you create.
There are two components to selling high-ticket services:
- Willingness to pay
- Ability to pay
Once I focused on this, my audience and offers became pretty clear.
Focus on busy entrepreneurs who are unafraid to spend $10k+ on a long-term marketing asset (a book), and do all of the work for them (like ghostwriting). In general, they should be making well into the 6 figures … probably 7+.
Notice that I didn’t focus on my own “skills” (namely,” writing”), but the specific results for a specific audience.
Most writers just look for anyone who will pay them to write. They don’t consider how much value that particular piece of writing will create.
Which is why many talented writers struggle to make a living.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Use this formula to help figure out your offering:
I help [HIGHLY-SPECIFIC AUDIENCE] solve [HIGHLY-SPECIFIC PROBLEM] and/or capture [SPECIFIC RETURN ON INVESTMENT] by receiving [MY DONE-FOR-YOU OR DONE-WITH YOU SERVICE] which produces [SPECIFIC LONG-TERM ASSET].
Whenever I talk to someone who isn’t a perfect fit, I adapt my offering. I’ve done “outline consulting” (taking someone’s vague ideas and turning them into a bulletproof, 10-15 page outline), deep editing, and 1-on-1 coaching.
Generally speaking, I charge a minimum of $100 an hour … and an average of $250. As I’m working with high-value clients, I charge high prices.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a lot, if you’re providing a lot.
(That said, I never charge “per hour.” I reverse-engineer my prices based on approximate time-of-completion, as long as it matches up with value provided. For example, I charge $30k+ for ghostwriting.)
If people balk at your prices, you haven’t demonstrated enough value, or you’re working with the wrong clients.
Now: how does this apply to your business?
The Creator’s Business Checklist
1. Audit your life.
- If you have a job: Which skills do you have that would be difficult to replace? What unique, valuable results do you create?
- If you work for yourself: What skills and results do your clients thank you for most?
2. Connect that to a market.
- What small group of people is both willing and able to pay for the results you can create?
3. Reverse-engineer a sexy package.
- What can you call the service you provide, so that it demonstrates the immense value you provide?
- How can you deliver it in a way that is most convenient and valuable to your audience?
4. Make a list of your Dream 50 clients/customers.
- Get their contact info (use services like Hunter or RocketReach).
- Create a standard outreach template.
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Talk about benefits to them.
- End with quick CTA (“are you interested?” “wanna hop on a 10-15 minute call to discuss?”).
- Personalize every message.
- Start by showing that you actually know who the person is.
- Offer a specific, genuine compliment.
5. Get on the phone and find out their problems and goals.
- Explain how you can get them the results and value they crave.
6. Offer PROOF you can do what you say.
- If you have samples and testimonials, show them.
- If you don’t, offer a free sample (don’t do the whole project, just a small one).
7. Say your prices CONFIDENTLY. You won’t feel confident at first, but focus on providing 10x the value you’re asking for.
8. If you’re struggling to do this, talk to people who have provided or paid for similar services.
- How do they describe their before/after transformation?
- Use similar words, and keep focusing on VALUE over COST.
- Your services aren’t a cost, they’re an INVESTMENT. Present them as such.
9. When you inevitably “fail,” use it as feedback. Keep refining your pitch, audience and offer.
- Test different offers and audiences until one seems lucrative.
10. Reach out to people EVERY DAY, even when you’re busy with work. You will run out eventually.
- Also connect with people who can give you referrals (offer them a commission).
11. Start building a long-term asset for inbound marketing as early as possible. For almost everyone, your best asset will be an email list.
- Start a newsletter and publish at least once a month.
- Start looking for win-win partnerships with different businesses that serve similar audiences.
12. Practice your craft, get better, and scale.
13. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions or want to brainstorm ideas.
Again, if you’ve ever thought about writing a book one day — download my 205-page guide, “You Are An Author: So Write Your Book Already” — and you’ll have everything you need to start thinking, validating and executing.