This post was originally written for Amped Asia’s September 2014 issue.
He is one of the most renowned Internet marketers on the planet. His website Smart Passive Income has been recognized as an authority in the Internet marketing niche. Aside from running his blog, he’s also started 2 different podcasts which have both become extremely popular in a short amount of time.
What I think attracts people to Pat’s blog is the way that he gives as much free value as humanly possible. In fact, most of Pat’s income is from giving away free information and getting commission from products that he recommends. It’s been a very successful business model.
We got the opportunity to interview Mr. Flynn, who happens to be Filipino, for Amped Asia magazine’s entrepreneur issue. I assure you that you will learn a tremendous amount from this interview. Enjoy.
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How Pat Made His First 5-Figures Online
In 2008, Pat Flynn started a website called “Green Exam Academy” which taught others how to ace the LEED exam, the major exam for architecture students. Pat wrote down study tips on the website for himself, but soon found out that the site was attracting tons of visitors every month.
“I had no idea that I was getting 4-5k visitors per day without even doing anything except posting good content. People were finding it through other people sharing it on forums or through Google searches. It was a free resource that I made for my own notes, I had zero idea that people were even looking at my site.”
Pat didn’t realize that he had a potential goldmine on his hands, but after seeing how many people were visiting the site, he decided to sell an e-book course based off the content on his website. Most of the content was already found for free on his website, so Pat had no idea if it was going to sell.
“I launched it at 3AM by just putting a couple banners on my site. At the time I had no idea about launch preparation. I woke up and got zero sales and thought, oh man, this wasn’t a good idea. Then a couple hours later I got my first sale. Then after that I got another sale. By the month’s end I had made $8,000, which was several times what I had made actually being an architect.”
Pat was just laid off from his architecture job, and the timing could not have been more perfect. His first foray into online business started off with a bang, and he was ready to make even more money. For the first two years he lived off the profits of Green Exam Academy alone and made much more money than he could have as an architect. It was pretty much passive income — because he already had the systems in place and the content on his website, he didn’t really need to do anything to get the checks coming in.
“I learned that people are willing to pay for things if you provide value. I had a free website up for over a year before I started selling a product. People even told me that they bought my product after they already passed the LEED exam because they just wanted to support me and thank me for creating such a helpful resource.”
So what were the keys to Pat’s first big online success?
Give give give. That’s what Pat does and that’s how he runs every single business. He first gave out a lot of free content before he decided to charge for anything, and that strategy worked extremely well. In fact, Pat even says he didn’t have to do much with that first venture except post great content.
“People think I was an overnight success because the first e-book I sold I already made $8,000 a month. That’s definitely not true. I was churning out tons of free content on my blog day after day for a year before I saw any money at all.”
Blogging, Pat says, is a long term play. If you expect to make money with it you have to put in the long hours, build an audience, and create a brand that people can identify with. We’ll discuss those tactics in our next section with Pat.
“I wouldn’t recommend blogging if you’re trying to make money right away. It’s a long term play. All my businesses took over a year before they started to make decent money. Also I don’t make money just from writing posts. I make money by recommending products in my posts or selling a product. The blog acts more like a marketing platform.”
Green Exam Academy wasn’t the end to his entrepreneurial ventures. Pat realized that a big passion of his was to teach others how to succeed. That mentality led to his current and most successful project, Smart Passive Income, which we’ll discuss in part 2 of this article.
1) People are willing to pay for convenience if it’s good content. Pat’s website Green Exam Academy already gave out all the information for free, but he still made sales on a paid e-book because it was packaged extremely nicely and conveniently.
2) Pat provides a TON of free value with everything he does. People naturally thought that if the free product was so good, the paid product must be even better. If Pat was trying to charge right off the bat, it’s unlikely he would have seen as much success and have built such a large audience.
3) Make sure your product is great. This is hard to do because we’re so biased about our own stuff, so it’s important to get an outside perspective. Great content will get shared naturally, so if you’re not creating great content it will show because no one will care about it.
Tactics to Building a Massive Audience & then Monetizing It
After Green Exam Academy, Pat created Smart Passive Income, a blog that documented his entrepreneurial journey. One of the things that made people love his blog so much was how engaged and how transparent he was to his audience. In fact, every month Pat publishes an income report that details how much he made that month and how he made it — groundbreaking transparency that pretty much no one at the time was willing to share. It set Pat apart quite a bit, and now he’s one of the most successful entrepreneurs in this field.
Traffic is one of the most important metrics for a blog, but it’s not easy to get, especially for the newbie entrepreneur. So I asked Pat for a few tactics that he would recommend for a new blogger to increase their web traffic.
How do I get traffic to my blog?
1) Use some basic SEO tactics.
You don’t have to go crazy with SEO, but a couple things can help. For example, you can find out what people are searching for on Google and you can use this information to plan out what kind of content. I would recommend against using too many tactics actually, so just focus on making good content and that will help you get traffic.
2) Get featured on other sites where your audience already exists.
Guest posting is something that you should definitely try. if your blog talks about dog grooming you should try and do a guest post on other dog grooming websites. You’ll be able to get a link on their website and in return they get some free content that’s relevant to their audience.
3) Expand outside of just a blog. YouTube is amazing.
Provide value on YouTube and you can build a huge audience. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine after Google. I’ve also expanded into podcasting, which is a huge way that I get traffic. I created two podcasts because I realized that it was such a great way to get people on my site and engaged with my content.
4) Build a mailing list.
When combined with social media, it becomes an effective viral loop to getting you tons more traffic. Consider this — when you send out an article to your mailing list a few of those people will share it to their audience. Then some of those people who read it from those links might sign up to your mailing list. Then you rinse and repeat. This viral feedback loop helps you to increase your newsletter size — which in turn helps increase the amount of social media mentions you get.
5) Create great, EPIC content that can’t help but get shared.
Easier said than done, but this is really the #1 key that we also preached about in the last section with Pat. You MUST be creating top-notch content in order to grow your business. Great content naturally gets shared, commented, and discussed. If you’re finding that it’s not doing those things then you need to get feedback and figure out why your content is not going viral.
What are the top sources of traffic for Smart Passive Income?
The #1 way people found me was through my podcast, and because of that I started going full-force with the podcast and also started another podcast called AskPat.
The #2 way is through my YouTube account. I post video tutorials on YouTube and that helps me grab a good amount of traffic.
The #3 way is posts on other people’s websites. I post guest posts on relevant other blogs.
I’m really not too focused on SEO for now. It’s more like I do the basics and then just churn out great content.
How are you making money with Smart Passive Income?
Now I have over 40 different income streams. Most of them are through affiliate marketing. I know affiliate marketing is something that has a negative connotation in this space, but I go about it a different way. Instead of jamming products down my reader’s throats, I just tell them this is what I’ve used in the past and people are given the chance to buy if they want to. I also let them know that it’s an affiliate link and I’m completely transparent with this.
Now that I’m sort of an authority in my niche, I’m able to charge for coaching. This isn’t really passive, but it’s another income stream for me.
I also get money by selling software. One of my newest projects is this Smart Podcast Player that helps others create their own podcast. It’s the best designed podcast player that you can get on the market right now. We’re still in beta and testing it, but every time we’ve opened it up we’ve sold out immediately.
Thanks so much Pat!
You can check out more on Pat’s income reports on his website, SmartPassiveIncome.com.