I’m so happy with how the “Meet the Bloggers” interview series has been going on the blog and I’m extremely excited about today’s interview with Pat Flynn. I first heard of Pat a couple years ago, but didn’t really start reading his blog and his podcasts until the past couple of months. Let me say I really like what Pat has been doing and his blog posts and podcasts provide some great content and motivation to do better in the process!
I look forward to when our schedules sync up and we get a chance to meet with each other at an upcoming conference. In the meantime, everyone will not get a chance to learn a bit more about Patt Flynn and his awesome stories of finding success online.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
My name is Pat Flynn and I actually started blogging when I was in college. It was on the Xanga platform and I blogged about what I was doing on a daily basis – typically where I went and what I ate, but that’s about it. It was nothing more than a personal online journal that I shared with family and friends.
After college, I landed a great job in the architecture industry and used a blog to keep track of notes for an exam that I was taking. This exam, the LEED exam (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), was a crazy test that required lots of memorization, and I knew that a blogging platform, such as WordPress, would be a great way to manage the content and organize it in a way that was easy to understand and convenient to study from. I added notes to the site and studied for over a year from the site, and shared it with a couple of co-workers too. After I passed the exam in March of 2008, I had no more use for the site so I just let it sit there.
Well, in the summer of that same year I learned that I was going to get laid off from my architectural position, which was a huge blow because everything I had been working for since high school sort of just flew out the window at that point. I did try to get another position in the field but nobody in the entire United States was hiring – it was that bad. That’s when I discovered podcasts.
It was a particular podcast where I listened to a success story of someone earning an income and making a living teaching others how to pass the PM (project management) exam, and that’s when I decided to give a go at online business and blogging professionally, using the LEED exam blog that I had created as my initial platform.
Well, to my surprise, after adding an analytical tool on the site, thousands of people were already visiting the site every day. Since there was a year and a half of content on there, Google ranked a lot of my content high in the search engines, I was found by several people who shared my sites on forums and other blogs – and I had no idea this was happening until now.
To make a long story short, I ended up publishing an eBook study guide and selling it on my blog. That particular eBook grossed about $200,000 in a years time, and I’ve since added new products to my product line.
It was at that point that I created The Smart Passive Income (SPI) Blog where I share my story and build new businesses, live on the site to inspire and teach others how to do the same. Currently, the SPI Blog has over 60,000 subscribers, a podcast with over 3 million downloads and a YouTube channel with nearly 2 million views.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
SPI has a focus on entrepreneurship, in particular how to succeed with an online business that you can be proud of by serving your audience and providing massive value to them, and getting paid in return. I’ve purposely done many things differently than other people in this “make money online” space, who traditionally use aggressive marketing tactics and exaggeration to sell things to people. I use myself as a guinea pig and test various business models, sharing the exact process from scratch so that people can learn from both my wins and my failures. My #1 priority is to build a true relationship with my audience and give away as much information as possible, for free, and in turn many people in my audience have become true fans who go out of their way to pay me back, typically by choosing to go through my affiliate links.
I also use the blog as the hub of my brand, which is so much more than a blog nowadays. The podcast is actually the #1 way that people discover my brand, but I always bring people back (whether through my podcast on iTunes or my videos on YouTube) to the blog because the blog is where all the action takes place – clicks, links, recommendations, etc.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
For SPI, I currently only monetize through affiliate marketing. Again, I focus on the relationships I have with my audie
nce, as well as making sure the products I promote are products that I’ve used myself and am comfortable being connected with, because if I were to recommend a product and it doesn’t perform – sure they’ll dislike that product, but more importantly that trust with me is broken. I also go above and beyond to share as much information as I can about products that I promote that are owned and operated by other people. Clay Collins, founder of LeadBrite and creator of LeadPlayer, a video tool that I promote, told Andrew Warner in an interview that I create posts and videos that are better at explaining his products than his own tutorials. I strive for that each time I recommend something. I’m also the top affiliate for Glen Allsop’s Optin Skin plugin, which many of you perhaps use. That is thanks to the same strategies.
For GreenExamAcademy.com, my LEED exam blog, I primarily earn money through my own products, however I do have affiliate relationships with a practice exam company and make a decent amount of income from that relationship as well.
On SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, a niche site that I created live on SPI, from scratch (you can find the posts at http://www.nichesiteduel.com), currently generated between $2500 and $3000 purely on Adsense at the moment, and nearly a hundred dollars through affiliate marketing as well as a Job Board on the site.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
I wish I knew two things:
1 – That VAs (virtual assistants) existed. I remember spending 8 hours trying to figure out how to move an image from the left side of the page, to the right. it was stupid. I could have easily paid someone to do that for me instead of wasting 8 hours of my time, but I didn’t know that VAs existed, let alone where to find them. Also, I was a little too prideful and tried to figure things out on my own. Now, whenever I have an issue with something or am having trouble figuring something out, I ask someone right away.
2 – How important it is to build an email list. When I launched my eBook at GreenExamAcademy.com, for months I didn’t collect email addresses, so when I came out with a new product (an audio guide) I totally missed out on the chance to sell directly to my previous customers. It was a shame.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
To be honest, I’m not reading too many blogs these days. SocialTriggers.com by Derek Halpern and ThinkTraffic.net by Corbett Barr are my top two, but I don’t visit them every day. I typically listen to podcasts because I can educate myself while doing other things, like running or driving somewhere.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
1 – LeadPlayer – it’s my video player of choice right now. I love it because it allows me to include opt-in forms and/or a call to action right inside the video, and unlike many other players that now have that ability, LeadPlayer can serve YouTube videos on your site (i.e. free hosting for your videos) and still keep the same functions.
2 – Opt-In Skin – I don’t share this because I’m an affiliate for it. I’m an affiliate for it because it’s that good. I use it on my site (at the bottom of each of my posts, you can see it in action). It’s simple to implement as far as adding opt-in forms for your email list at any part of your site, and it gets results.
3 – Conduit.com. I use Conduit to create a nice looking mobile site for SPI, and it has the ability to build an apps for you (e.g. iPhone, Android and Windows applications) that people who visit your site on those mobile devices can download.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
Two important pieces of advice:
1 – Build relationships with other people. Real relationships. Build friendships with other bloggers in your niche, because it’s other people who will help lift you up and help your blog grow. Also build real relationships with your readers, especially when you are just starting out. You should know and care for your first hundred readers, if you can. Email them, get to know them, because when you do that you’ll start to create your first true 100 fans who will become evangelists and super fans for life, and you never know the impact that one person can have on your blog.
2 – Keep going. You’re going to be excited at first, and then maybe a few months down the road, when you’re not seeing a lot of traffic and each blog post becomes a chore, you’re going to want to give up. This is natural. What separates those who succeed and those who do not are those who keep going – so keep going. Michael Hyatt from MichaelHyatt.com once said, “Most people quit right before the inflection point.” In other words, you never know what tomorrow will bring, especially as a blogger – so keep going.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
If you want to succeed with your blog, don’t just blog. Put your brand onto multiple platforms (one at a time), such as iTunes for a podcast, or YouTube for videos. When you do that, you will reach people who you would have never reached otherwise, and you will become more authoritative at the same time. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, and yes, it’s going to take some balls, but again – these are the kinds of things that separate those who succeed and those who don’t. Those who are willing to take risks and get a little uncomfortable every once and while.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
I’d find a person who was where I wanted to be, and treat them to dinner. That 2 hour conversation will be the best education you will ever get, from a person who is at the other end of the path you know you want to follow.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
You can find me at SmartPassiveIncome.com, as well as PatFlynn.me.
Here are my social media URLs too:
Pat also recently published his first book, Let Go, which is hosted on a brand new platform for iOS called Snippet. Books on the Snippet platform include audio, video, stunning visuals as well as social media. If you’d like to read (and listen and watch) more about Pat’s story, you can check out his book Let Go at the following URL: http://patflynn.me/letgo
Thanks again Pat for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.
When Is It Too Late to Start Blogging?
Ego sometimes clings to limiting ideas. One such idea is the notion that starting a blog at some specific age proves to be futile because of it being too late. I recall hearing Gary Vaynerchuk professing how people in their early 20’s ask him if it is too late to begin a business. Do you see why ego deludes you? Fear manifests as all types of crippling beliefs holding you back. Someone clinging to fear, being 21 years old, asks if being 21 is too old for starting a business. Why? Some 21 year olds observe 14 year olds who create million dollar ventures. Or some 21 year olds see fellow 21 year olds who already became millionaires, when the limited-thinking 21 year old simply has never been an entrepreneur. Guess what? It is never late to begin blogging. It is never too late to begin blogging. I recall a 73 year old new to blogging who bought 4 of my eBooks after I wrote a guest post on Build Your Own Blog. He began blogging at 73 years old. Imagine that? Yet 21 year olds some 50 years his minor fear being 21 is too old for beginning a successful venture.
Fear makes you think silly things. Be beyond fear. Feel fear. Release fear. Move in a direction of possibilities. Move toward opportunities. Now is the time to begin blogging whether you are 21 or 101. Now is the time to begin. Seize the moment. Do you plan to be around for a bit? Blog. Begin blogging. It is never too late to start blogging because you and I sit in the perfect place at the perfect time for our individual journeys. I began blogging in my mid 30’s. 35 years old, to be exact. Being a 35 year old beginner blogger never crossed my mind as being too old because I did not cling to the fear fueling that too old, aged, limiting belief. I saw actual 12 year olds blogging during my newbie blogging days. Who cares that a kid 20 years my junior began blogging? I had 20 more years LIFE experience than he. Possessing 20 more years life experience puts you at a tremendous advantage when it comes to learning the in’s and out’s of blogging the right way. Heck; the 73 year old new blogger may have zero blogging experience but 73 years of life experience. What seems more important at that point in your life? Does knowing how to format a blog post at 73 count more than the fearlessness, serenity and peace you acquired from facing 73 years worth of fears? Dude begins blogging with the mindset of a Blogging Yoda, for all he faced and for all the experience he has. Does THAT sound like it’s too late for blogging?
The only thing I would say is to begin blogging now because blogging experience is your best ally. Do not wait on the sidelines. Even though you can begin blogging at any age, why wait until you turn 45 when you can begin blogging now, at age 40? Why hesitate? Experience benefits you tremendously. Whether you start blogging at 13 or 73, experience earned and learned from, accelerates your blogging success. But you need to see the journey through and you need to begin blogging now. Go ahead. Blog. It’s not too late!
Do you fear deleting your worn out, failing blog to start over? Buy my eBook:
A Simple Guide to Collecting Feedback from Your Blog Users
Poor feedback from your readers and customers can spread like wildfire. So sometimes it’s best to go to the route of a problem and fix it before you lose your readers or hear them discuss your site around the web.
By making it easy for people to share their feedback about your website or service you’re providing, you can find out what your site users really think, improve your work and then watch your subscribers and conversions grow.
Prevent the trouble
Before going into much detail on how to collect and address your readers’ feedback, let’s start with the most important aspect of that: Prevention.
Whether you are starting a new blog or setting up a site to promote affiliate products, you can avoid a lot of problems by monitoring your competitors or the brands you are going to advertise on your site.
Let’s say you are going to resell a hosting service, and you may even like it yourself. But have you ever thought of unhappy customers of that brand? How likely are they to accuse you of promoting a poor service? Do a quick Google search and read though the customer review to understand common problems their customers are dealing with.
Run a quick question research to get a better idea of what their customers are dealing with and whether you can answer those questions. Text Optimizer is a great tool for that as it goes right to Google to extract data around any search query. Its question research feature will give you a good idea of the type of struggles your readers may be dealing with:
Don’t ignore the numbers
An easy and simple way of honing in on the problems of your site is to keep an eye on the numbers that your blog provides you with.
Web analytics will very clearly show you what pages on your site bring in the clicks and views, and which ones drive your customers away. You will also see what is and isn’t working and what requires your attention.
Get techy with it
If web analytics isn’t giving you all the answers, think about investing in some technology that goes straight to the source and tells you what’s going on in the background of your site.
Exit-intent technology is perfect for collecting customer feedback in terms of statistics so you can see exactly how many people are leaving your site.
Alter is a great option to use here as it uses Artificial Intelligence to personalize exit-intent popups and keep your blog readers on your site.
Alter needs 1 minute to install and no time customizing it (unless you really want to play with the features). The tool will analyze your blog visitors’ behavior and learn to engage each of them in a most effective way. It is also completely free unless you have too much traffic coming in to analyze.
Survey your readers
Surveys are often the easiest way to get feedback from your readers. The fact that they can be embedded straight into your blog means that they are eye-catching and difficult to miss when positioned correctly. A quick search online can show you many different ways to create surveys that can be attached to your blog, from the simple to the majestic, depending on your budget. Here’s a good option to get you started.
The problem with surveys is that people often get bored of them halfway through and click off before completing, particularly when the questions seem to go on forever, or are too long. So keep them short and sweet. Make the questions open-ended when possible to ensure that the answers you’re getting are not only honest, but also creative. This will lead you to original insight you may never have thought of yourself – and this can be like gold dust when it comes to improving your site.
Incentivize those opinions
Having trouble getting people to complete your survey? Well then make it worth their while! The easiest way to get people to do what you want (especially if it means their taking time out of their day) is to incentivize them, make them want to do this for you.
Make sure to do this by providing them a free gift, template, or entrance in a giveaway upon their contacting you with feedback. The choice depends on you and what your website is about.
Pick an incentive that is relevant to your blog to make sure that it’s something your users will be interested in and watch the feedback coming in… Just make sure to follow through on your promise of incentives or that feedback might end up being entirely negative.
Chat your way to success
If you are looking for a far more personalized form of feedback from your users and want to make sure that they are aware of you being behind the website, you could use a live chat to have a two-way conversation. This will help get to the heart of their opinions and struggles.
Not only is live chat convenient and affordable to utilize, but it also bridges the gap between the reader and the blogger which can help form bonds and ultimately build community around your site.
This also means that if anyone is particularly angry or has a complaint, they’ll be dealing with someone polite, apologetic and enthusiastically wanting to improve their service. So you can win their hearts back. This is something an automatic email cannot always achieve.
If you’re concerned about where to put a live chat, remember to put it somewhere clear that your readers will be able to see it. There are many different forms of live chat software out there for you to choose from. Make sure the one you decide upon is simple to use and won’t intimidate anyone who plans to use it. Here are a few live chat plugins for WordPress blogs.
If you are into lead generation business, it is a good idea to use a CRM solution to collect and organize feedback as well as turn those readers into leads.
What happens after you get your feedback?
Gaining feedback on your site is only useful if you actually go ahead and do something with it! Don’t have an ego about your work and make sure to listen to what your readers are saying. They have no reason to lie to you, so if you listen to them, your business will definitely be improved, even if it stings at first to see negative feedback.
Make an effort to reach out to the people who shared feedback not only to thank them but also to ask them any more burning questions you may have – what led them to their opinion? What do they think will help improve the problems? Make them feel included in the development of your site. They could be a great (free!) resource for you to make the most of.
And finally, declare any positive feedback you get as loud and as proud as possible – highlight it on your website and social media. Show people why other people were impressed with you and why they would be too!
Do You Surround Yourself with the Wrong Type of Blogger?
Who do you hang out with blogging-wise? Who do you learn from blogging-wise? What bloggers do you seek for counsel? Who do you surround yourself with as far as blogging buddies? Blogging feels challenging sometimes. Surrounding yourself with the wrong type of blogger only increases these challenges in a major league way.
What bloggers do you connect with daily? Most bloggers struggle. Many bloggers have no idea what they are doing blogging-wise. But foolishly, the majority of bloggers surround themselves with failing, struggling bloggers. How can these bloggers teach you to overcome blogging obstacles? None of these folks knows how to overcome resistance. Guaranteed, none of these bloggers teaches you how to succeed because they only know how to struggle, fail, complain or make excuses. Stop surrounding yourself with bloggers who make excuses. Cease surrounding yourself with complaining bloggers. Quit hanging out with bloggers who fail because failures do not teach you, goad you and inspire you to succeed. Connect with successful bloggers. Learn from these pros. Follow their lead. Model your blogging campaign on their shining example. Naturally, you slowly evolve into the person influenced heavily by your blogging buddy network. Culture shapes your blogging path. Environment plays a chief role in your blogging direction. Successful bloggers surround themselves with successful bloggers. Failing bloggers who wish to succeed lose failing blogging buddies and surround themselves with successful bloggers.
Imagine you drive 4 people to your blog daily. Look at your blogger buddy network. Everyone sits in a similar boat, driving 4 to 20 people to their blogs daily. The only lesson you learn from these bloggers is how to drive 4 to 20 people to your blog daily. Do you aspire to boost your blog traffic to only 20 people daily? Of course, you have bigger dreams than that! Aim higher by socializing only with highly successful bloggers. Learn their ways. Follow their lead. Position yourself to succeed. Learn from the best by surrounding yourself only with the best bloggers. Release everybody else. Never look at this releasing process as being personal or emotionally charged. But do see your blogging freedom, success and happiness as being at stake. I released a few negative nellie blogging buddies over the years for their energetic vampire ways. Suckers need to go. So, you can replace energy vampires with people who give energy, love, support and inspiration to you. Think gain, not loss. Be honest about assessing your blogging buddy network, too. Doing so feels uncomfortable because awkwardness, guilt and other fear-filled energies arise as you assess who needs to stay, and who needs to go.
Be with uncomfortable emotions triggered during these blogger buddy pruning lessons. Your success, freedom, happiness and peace of mind is on the line! Did you ever think of it that way? Let go struggling, negative bloggers. Communicate with happy, free, successful bloggers. Allow these pros to create a positive influence around you. Sponge up their inspiration. Follow their shining example. Take their inspired lead. Learn how to free yourself through their empowerment, and un-learn the victim mentality taught to you by your departed, failing, former blogging buddies. Surround yourself only with blogging heroes. Your success is on the line. Of course, your happiness, freedom and peace of mind is on the line, too. Honestly assess who needs to go and find new, empowered, successful blogging buddies to follow, to learn from and to gain inspiration from.
Where do you find these folks? Start with successful bloggers you follow on Blogging Tips. Virtually all of these bloggers are full time pros. Network with these leaders. Help them generously. Ask for nothing. Allow friendships to take root.
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