4 min read

Does 1,000 True Fans Still Work Today?

As I'm writing my new book, I'm revisiting the core concepts of the business models behind the Creator Economy, starting with 1,000 True Fans (arguably the most well known).

Can you still make a living from 1,000 True Fans? The short answer is yes, but the long answer is actually way more exciting!

Originally published in 2008, here's the core concepts from 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly (my emphasis added in bold):

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.

Here’s how the math works. You need to meet two criteria. First, you have to create enough each year that you can earn, on average, $100 profit from each true fan. That is easier to do in some arts and businesses than others, but it is a good creative challenge in every area because it is always easier and better to give your existing customers more, than it is to find new fans.

Second, you must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly. You get to keep all of their support, unlike the small percent of their fees you might get from a music label, publisher, studio, retailer, or other intermediate. If you keep the full $100 of each true fan, then you need only 1,000 of them to earn $100,000 per year. That’s a living for most folks."

The core concept of 1,000 True Fans explains the rise of the Creator Economy while gatekeepers have become increasingly irrelevant.

The beauty of 1,000 True Fans is in its simplicity–but that's also where it falls short.

In real life, if you can get 1,000 True Fans to buy a $100 product many of those customers will keep paying every month to keep learning from you!

In that group of 1,000 True Fans, there are also going to be a small group of customers who will gladly pay 10 times as much to learn directly from you in a mastermind or small group coaching program (like my accelerator).

In Kevin Kelly’s example of 1,000 customers paying you $100 each you make $100,000 (which is serious money), but if you can build up over time to get half that number to join a $1,000 membership site, you can add half a million dollars.

If 1% of your 1,000 customers also purchase your $10,000 Flagship Product each quarter, you’ve added another $400,000. That’s a Seven Figure School:

How to Build Your Own Seven Figure School ($1MM from 3 Products)
What if you could make a lucrative living while genuinely helping people by sharing life lessons you’ve already learned? What if you could do that while working with a small, supportive team and living anywhere in the world? Doesn’t that sound nice? I can personally assure you that

Kevin makes a good point that "for every single true fan, you might have two or three regular fans. Think of concentric circles with true fans at the center and a wider circle of regular fans around them."

With that in mind, I like to build an online education business with a low-price, high volume gateway product (like a book) so you can build a customer base with many "regular" fans and find your true fans along the way.

How to Sell More Books with Flywheel Growth
Every author I know shares the same two wishes: I wish I sold more books, and made more money from each book too! Flywheel Growth gets you both.

Of course, nobody starts at the finish line.

What I love about this model is that you can fund your lifestyle with 10 true fans if you sell your Flagship Product first:

I've seen versions of this work with totally different experts in totally different industries, so I'm excited to turn this into a repeatable process you can try yourself!