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In Episode 22 of The Coders’ Startup, I had the pleasure of interviewing pro-entrepreneur, Pat Flynn, of The Smart Passive Income Blog and podcast. Talking with Pat for almost an hour, we got into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to start and grow your own online business, and the trials and tribulations you will encounter along the way. Keep reading to learn more about Pat’s story and his tips for you and your startup ventures.
Pat started his first online business when he was studying for the LEED exam, working as an architect. He started the blog Green Exam Academy simply as a way to organize his notes for the exam. But in 2008, after getting laid off from the firm, he turned his notes into an online business by writing an eBook around the topic. In his first month of selling the eBook, he generated about $8k in revenue right out of the gate.
After seeing so much success with this first digital product, Pat knew he had to keep the momentum going, and share his success story with others. Thus, The Smart Passive Income conglomerate was born.
Pat plugged away at Smart Passive Income for a year and half before it gained any real traction. He diligently blogged three times per week and frequently guest posted on other relevant blogs, working to form relationships with other influencers. He received a steady 1,000 visits to his site everyday, but despite his growth efforts, the number remained stagnant for quite some time.
What kept him going? Positive feedback from his readers. Pat knew he was on the right track every time he received a nice, complimentary email from a reader, which came through his inbox nearly everyday. They would share with Pat how much they appreciated his content, and told him how much they trusted his authority compared to other sites on the same topic.
Pat saw a spike in readership after being featured in an interview on a website called Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. It opened the floodgates momentarily, but then traffic hit a plateau yet again. Pat needed to get creative.
Around this time, Pat decided to create a YouTube channel. There, he posted video tutorials of just about everything online-business related — from how to create a Facebook page to doing keyword research.
Getting into this multimedia channel really started to help Pat’s business grow, so he took it a step further. In 2010, overcoming his fears of speaking into a microphone, he started the Smart Passive Income podcast. The rest, as you probably already know, is history.
Lessons from Pat
When Pat recorded his first episode of The Smart Passive Income, it took him four hours. He was so scared of his own voice that it took him three tries to get to a place where he felt okay. Eventually, he realized that he was just being hard on himself, and that because this was hard for him, it made the experience (and the result) even more valuable.
In the words of Pat — do the things that scare you. It’s when you confront your fears that amazing things happen. Feeling nervous or afraid just validates that the thing you’re working on is awesome, and that you should keep persisting, even if it feels really hard.
I find a lot of truth in the following statement: Look in the mirror, you are staring back at your own competition.
Pat agrees with this sentiment — oftentimes, we’re our own worst enemies. And we’re the ones holding ourselves back. Working to overcome your fears, whether its speaking into a microphone for a podcast, or pitching your first sale, will only help you get closer to success.
A great book on this topic, recommended by Pat, is The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. It’s literally a kick in the butt for artists and entrepreneurs of any type, and will help you overcome any self-resistance you might be experiencing.
Signs of Success
In the past few episodes of The Coders’ Startup, we’ve talked a lot about how to tell whether or not you’re on the right path — heading towards success, or headed towards failure. I asked Pat if he could give some examples of these signs, and he had some good advice for our startup community.
The number one piece of advice from Pat was to get feedback from your audience and customers. The best way to do this? Actually talk to them.
Set up a phone or Skype call and ask your customers about their experience and pain points with your product. This will help you get inside their heads and learn more about what your sales funnel is like from their perspective.
Another piece of advice (another one that we’ve also talked about a lot here at Coders’ Startup), is to test everything. Make subtle tweaks to your copy, to your homepage, to your email series — anything you can think of — and see what drives or at least changes conversion.
Pat also had a good example of a failed venture. From this experience, he shared with us ways to decide whether or not what you’re getting into is the right match.
In 2010, Pat saw a lot of his peers getting into software, particularly, developing WordPress plugins. Despite the potential for such products, Pat realized in hindsight that he forced this idea upon himself — it wasn’t an organic progression. He didn’t test the idea or try to validate it, and in the long run, wasted time and money getting into something for the wrong reasons.
Experience, as Pat says, is the best teacher of all.
Pat’s Tips for You and Your Startup
When I asked Pat for tips on how to grow a business when you’re crunched for time, his biggest takeaway was simple — wake up early. This is something a lot of smart business folks recommend. Starting your day earlier and working on your own projects before you go in and work on someone else’s (that is, if you’re working a full time job elsewhere) is much more fulfilling and can help motivate you to keep going. Even if it’s just one extra hour.
Also, be wary of the tasks that might be sucking up a lot of your time, but aren’t necessarily productive. Answering email can be one of these, as well as things like watching television. Keep track of where you spend your time, and find the areas where you can improve your productivity.
For more tips like these, make sure you check out all of Pat Flynn’s great resources on his own blog, The Smart Passive Income Blog!
image source: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/about/