I Grew a Music Hustle Into a 7-Figure Business — Here’s What I Learned

  • Graham Cochrane, 38, is a business owner who sells online courses on music production.
  • Turning his side hustle into a business and growing his YouTube channel taught him a lot.
  • He says he learned the value of offering free content to attract more paying customers.

I never thought I’d make a ton of money as a musician, and for many years I didn’t.

In 2009, during a terrible


recession

, I lost two jobs — one in finance when the department dissolved and one at a software startup when it shuts down — right after signing up for my first mortgage and having my first child. My wife and I eventually had to go on food stamps to survive. Willing to make anything work, I decided to focus more on my music side hustle.

I started doing freelance work producing music for bands and singer-songwriters and creating content about music production on my blog. I also launched a YouTube channel, The Recording Revolution, where I taught musicians how to record professional-sounding music on a budget and from a home studio.

Since then, I’ve grown my YouTube channel to more than 600,000 subscribers. I post every week without fail.

For me, the best way to make money on YouTube was to create online courses and sell them

So in 2010 I launched my first product, an online course that taught viewers how to use a popular audio-recording software called Pro Tools. I made only $10,000 in the first year of the course, but it was a start, and over the years I created more courses on music and recording. In 2018, I hit more than $1 million in revenue from selling these courses.

The more it grew, the more people began asking me questions about my business, not just music. They wanted to know how they could build an income by making their own courses. In 2018, I decided to launch a second business teaching others how to launch their own online business based on their own areas of expertise. This involved starting a second YouTube channel and blog and a separate website of online courses and coaching products. In 2021, this second business brought in more than $1.2 million in revenue.

Growing a side hustle into an income-generating business takes consistency. In the years since launching my businesses, here’s what I’ve learned about what it takes to be successful selling courses online.

Lesson #1: Creating free content will generate more paying customers

In the business of info-products and selling courses, you need to reach a lot of people to earn their business. Some people run ads to get customers, but I focus on giving my best content away for free because in my experience this generates more leads that can turn into paying customers.

In the beginning I was nervous that giving away my “secrets” for free would mean that no one would buy my paid products or I wouldn’t have anything left to sell.

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