Don't Be Infatuated with Income Reports

Apparently everyone is getting rich nowadays, and getting rich quick.

And we only know this because people are more than willing to share their numbers. You’ve probably seen the posts. 

Income reports are everywhere.

I first noticed them a couple years ago when I came across Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. Since then, income reports seem to have spread like wildfire. 

This fact isn’t shocking; there’s a nosy person in all of us that loves to see numbers. We secretly enjoy getting an inside look into someone’s bank account.

But there’s something about it that doesn’t seem quite right.

A couple months ago I received an email from a newsletter subscriber, asking for my take on income reports. 

There are 3 reasons I’ve chosen to abstain from sharing my income on the internet: reporting income is a not-so unique marketing technique, it can lead to major legal problems and it has the potential to erode trust.

Don't Be Infatuated with Income Reports | Elle & Company

Income reports are a not-so-unique marketing technique

“If I can do it, you can too.”

This selling proposition is at the core of every income report, although it may not be explicitly stated.

And there is an element of truth to it. 

I’ve experienced some amount of success running an online business, and there isn’t anything special about me.

Richard Branson, Martha Stewart and Stephen Curry are successful people, but they’re still just people; they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do.

But you see, the “if I can do it, you can too” motto isn’t entirely true.

Because if it was, wouldn’t everyone be successful? If it’s so easy to get rich, why isn’t everyone making 6-figures and driving sports cars?

The truth is that a lot of success is due to hard work, experience and being in the right place at the right time. 

Pat Flynn has been running Smart Passive Income since 2008. So if you just started your business this year, Pat has a good 8 years on you. He’s probably also endured his fair share of failures before he ever became a leader in his industry.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but income reports are usually written by people who are at a level of success that has taken them years to get to. Very few people wake up one day and experience immediate success.

Which means income reporting, at its core, is a form of marketing. 

Why else would someone post their income on the internet? 

They do it to earn your trust and increase their credibility. They want you to take them seriously and they want you to believe that you can get where they are (usually by following 3 simple steps). 

And while this isn’t always a bad strategy, I think people are becoming more aware of this marketing tactic. With each new income report, they’re becoming increasingly skeptical.

Because we’re getting used to seeing people boast about 7-figure incomes. We’ve had people pitch their 6-figure strategies to us on more than one occasion. 

And on the occasion that we do take the bait and try to follow in their footsteps, we find that the promised easy strategies don’t work out quite as well. The money still isn’t flying in.

My friend Regina wrote a great post about the trend a few months ago. It’s definitely worth a read.

My point is this: You only see income reports from people who’ve been in business for years and years. And these people are using income reports as a marketing technique to prove themselves and their credibility.

I’ve found that I’m able to build trust and earn credibility in other ways apart from income reports. (I’ll get to those in a moment.)

Not to mention that I don’t want to get into any hot water because…

Income reports can lead to potential legal problems

Did you know that you can be sued by the FTC for inaccurate income reporting?

Frank Kern shares openly about his lovely experience with the FTC here.

If you aren’t being entirely honest and decide to round up a couple numbers, you can get into some serious legal trouble. 

Accounts frozen. Legal fees all over the place. 

It’s simply not worth it and more than enough reason for me to steer clear of income reports altogether.

Income reports have the potential to erode trust

I know, this may sound counterintuitive. After all, wouldn’t being completely transparent about your income make you more trustworthy?

50 years ago, people blindly trusted the media without question. But if you fast-forward to 2016, media-bias is a generally accepted notion.

Fox News is the conservative media outlet. CNN is the liberal media outlet. And everyone accepts this bias. I think there’s a real parallel here.

When Pat Flynn first started sharing income reports, people were blown away with his transparency. And I don’t question Pat’s honesty for a minute.

But since then the practice has increased, with little to no accountability. 

I could say I made $1,000,000,000 last month and if the FTC never caught me, no one would ever know I was lying.

(It was more like $1,000,000 last month.... Just kidding.)

Just like people are wising up to media bias, I think people are recognizing those that post income reports have something to gain from it.

And ultimately, I believe it raises suspicion. You could be totally honest with your income report, but because there is no way to verify your claim, it inevitably increases skepticism. 

Not to mention the way it can come off to clients, family members, etc.

Here’s what I think you should do instead.

Give your readers something that they can do and see immediate results for themselves. 

Instead of sharing how much money you make, share how you found success.

Trust is built less on words and more on actions; proving rather than claiming.

If you tell someone to do something and they experience quick results from your method, you’ll gain their trust (while also appealing to their desire for instant gratification).

Because business (and life for that matter) is all about the small victories.

If you’re going to maintain a 4.0 GPA, you have to get an A on your test.
If you’re going to reach your goal weight, you have to exercise and eat healthy.
If you’re going to finish a half marathon, you have to train and increase your endurance.

The same is true with business; you have to take certain steps in order to achieve your goals.

In other words, success is built upon mini-victories which require real action.

This is what I try to do every week in my blog posts, newsletters and Ellechat webinars

No implicit or explicit promises of income. Just helpful, actionable steps to help you gain small victories and grow your creative business.

So there you have it! My 3 main reasons for keeping my income to myself.

But as always, I would love to get your feedback. What are your thoughts on income reports?