Evolve Your Blog
Does it feel like you’re going around in circles with your blog? It’s easy to revolve in your blogging.
Let’s look back at my keynote presentation titled, Evolve Don’t Revolve, from ProBlogger’s Evolve event in 2017.
It highlights my journey as a blogger and areas where you can evolve your own blog and online business.
Plus, the 2017 keynote features a Q & A with Pat Flynn, who shares how he achieved success by evolving his blog, Smart Passive Income.
ProBlogger’s Evolve 2019 event in Melbourne is happening soon!
- August 10: Training Day (Beginner/Intermediate)
- Four key areas of building a successful blog
- August 10-11: Mastermind (Intermediate/Advanced)
- Spend time with other bloggers, online creators, and entrepreneurs to workshop your blog and business
Jeff Goins will present this year’s keynote titled, Finding Your Voice as a Blogger. He’s the author of Real Artists Don’t Starve.
Fellow expert bloggers, Nicole Avery, James Schramko, Kelly Exeter, and Shayne Tilley, will talk about their knowledge and experience.
For more information about Evolve 2019, go to Problogger.com/events. Don’t forget to sign-up by June 30, 2019, to get the Early Bird price.
Links and Resources for Evolve Don’t Revolve Your Blogging:
- ProBlogger Evolve Event
- Evolve: Training Day
- Evolve: Mastermind
- Jeff Goins
- Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins
- Nicole Avery of Planning with Kids
- James Schramko of SuperFastBusiness
- Kelly Exeter (writer and editor)
- Shayne Tilley of 99Designs
- Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income
- Podcast Motor
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Darren: Hey there, friends. It’s Darren Rowse from ProBlogger. Welcome to Episode 278 of the ProBlogger Podcast. The podcast is designed to help you start a blog, to build that blog, and to monetize it.
Today, I’ve got a special treat for you. It is a keynote that I gave a couple of years ago at our ProBlogger event in Melbourne. It’s titled Evolve Don’t Revolve. It’s all about how as bloggers and online entrepreneurs, it’s really easy to revolve in our blogging, to just go around in circles. I don’t know if you can relate to that of feeling going around in circles. I certainly can. There’s been so many times over my 15 years of blogging where I’ve realized I’m just treading water, I stopped growing, I stopped evolving. The call of this keynote is to look at seven different areas where you can evolve your blog and online business.
Also, a taster of what we do at our Evolve event, at our ProBlogger event, which we’ve been running it for quite a few years. We’ve got our new event coming up in August of this year on the 10th and 11th of August, again, in Melbourne. I want to tell you a little bit about that event before we get into the keynote. There’s two options for those of you who want to come to our event in Melbourne. On the 10th of August, we’ve got a training day. This is a one day event for beginners, intermediate level bloggers. It’s also probably relevant for other content creators as well.
If you head to problogger.com/events you can actually see a rundown of what we’re doing at that particular event. Largely though, it’s me. You’ll get a full day of me teaching on the four key areas of building a successful blog. I’m going to talk for about an hour about content and crafting great content for your blog. I’ll talk about evolving your engagement with your readers, how to build community on your blog, how to find new readers for your blog, and then, how to monetize your blog.
This is perfect if you are a beginner or intermediate level. If you’re just starting out, you just set up your blog, maybe with our Start a Blog course, this is brilliant to help you get the ball rolling. If you’re more intermediate, maybe you’ve been blogging for a while, you want to evolve what you’re doing, maybe from a hobby blog to a professional blog where you make money from it, or maybe you’ve had a blog that’s going a little bit dormant, a little bit stagnant, and you want to give it a refresh, then this is the perfect event for you.
You will also, in that event, hear from Jeff Goins, who we’re bringing out from Nashville, Tennessee in the States. He’s going to come out and do the keynote on finding your voice as a blogger. He’ brilliant on that particular topic and a really great teacher when it comes to writing and communicating on a blog. You’ll also hear a little bit from Nicole Avery at the end of that day as well. She’ll talk about productivity and really help you shape what you’re going to do as a result of the day.
The other option for those of you who are a little bit more intermediate and advanced is to come along to our mastermind. This is the second time we’ve held masterminds at our ProBlogger event. It’s being held this time over two days, the 10th and the 11th of August, again, in Melbourne. We’ll actually overlap with our training day. You’ll hear the same keynote from Jeff Goins at the start of the day. The rest of the two days, you’ll hear from some other people including James Schramko, who is a Sydney-based content creator and business owner. He’s brilliant on selling and helping you to grow a business. He’s brilliant on membership sites and just a really smart guy. You also get to sit around the table with Jeff and James in masterminding, myself as well on the second day. Nicole is there as well. We’ve also got Kelly Exeter, who’s brilliant on writing, editing, also design, self-publishing. And Shayne Tilley from 99Designs, who’s spoken at all of our events. He’s brilliant on creating products via blog marketing and just really helping you to shape your business.
You get the opportunity at the mastermind to sit with all of those people and also other attendees. This is where the real value comes when you sit with other bloggers, online creators, entrepreneurs, and spend a couple of days really workshoping your business. If you like to get to our event on the 10th and 11th of August this year, just head over to problogger.com/events. You can see all the details there. We do currently have an early bird offer and that ends at the end of June. You don’t have long to grab your tickets at that special rate.
All right, I’m going to get into today’s keynote. You’ll also, at the end of this keynote, hear from a familiar voice to many of you, from Pat Flynn. Pat was at our event. We fly out at least one international guest every year. This year it’s Jeff Goins, but Pat was at our event two years ago. I interviewed Pat on stage and there’s a bit of Q&A with our audience as well. As we talk particularly, again, about him and how he’s evolved his blog. Pat is just a brilliant example of someone who has done that brilliantly over the years. What he’s doing today is very different to what he started out doing. I think that’s the reason that he has had so much success.
So, settle in, maybe grab yourself a beverage or something to eat because this goes for about an hour, a bit over an hour. You might even want to break it down into two sessions; that’s totally fine as well. There’s lots of practical stuff in this. If you also want to checkout the slides, head over today to our show notes at problogger.com/podcast/278 where you’ll be able to get the slides. There are a few things in this talk where I do refer to stuff that’s on the screen including a few jokes and funny bits as well. Hope you enjoy this keynote. Then, I’ll come back at the end just to wrap things up.
I was interviewed on a radio just recently. Someone asked me that same question but they asked me to go back to the very start of my blog and said, “What has changed in your blogging since you started?” Now, I started blogging in 2002. It was a mind-blowing question to be asked because everything has changed in my blogging since 2002 except for the fact that a blog is pretty much the same thing. It’s chronologically organized information, it’s got comments usually, and it’s content, it’s useful content. That’s always been my philosophy. Fifteen years of blogging, things have changed a lot for me.
This is the first article anyone ever wrote about me. It was written in 2006. I found it the other day as a screenshot. When I read the article, I realized things have changed but also the picture. Hopefully, I looked a little less stressed than I did back then. I don’t know what it was but this photographer just seemed obsessed with me putting my hands in my head. These are the pictures he took that day. I thought I was maybe looking seriously or maybe wanted to cover up the fact that I was bald.
Anyway, things have changed for me. I now have a pose slightly differently for photos that’s partly because I’ve got an Instagram-obsessed wife and she knows you’ve got to […] this kind of stuff. Things have changed a lot and I look back on those times and think things have changed for me a lot.
This is my first blogpost. When I first published it, I didn’t look like this. I’ve started on Blogspot which became Blogger and my first theme was a free theme. There was hardly six to choose from, and it was navy blue, black, and monochrome. It was the most ugly thing that you’ve ever seen.
Then, this is my first attempt at a blog design. It’s pretty much the only time I’ve ever attempted a blog design and I realized very quickly that even after three weeks of work to get to this point that I wasn’t really very good at it. Even if you look at that post, you’ll see things have changed. I used tiny little fonts. It was peaches at all on any post that I wrote. The tools that I was using, Blogger, they were very basic. You couldn’t even have comments on Blogger when I first started. You had to install a script. There’s lots of things have changed since 2002.
The next question I was asked in the interview when I recapped some of these things was, “How did you make the change from where you were then to where you are now?” This is the most impossible question I’ve been asked because I knew that the interview only had three minutes to go. “How did you do it? How do you transition from those awkward starts that we all start with to a point where you have a business around your blog or you’re a full-time blogger, or whatever it is that is your goal?”
I completely stuffed up my answer. I’ve been stressing about how I answered that on the radio that day and I’ve been thinking about how I should’ve responded. If I have 45 minutes to answer, I probably would’ve told you what I’m about to tell you. That’s what I want to really just give my proper answer today, how do you change from those awkward starts to building a business to realizing your goals of blogging?
The first thing I wished I said was that persistence is really 90% of it. That’s not the sexiest answer. It’s not a strategic answer, but it’s true. I love this quote from Albert Einstein, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I’ve stuck with problems longer.” I think it’s probably a bit of false modesty in that from Albert Einstein, saying he’s not that smart, but I really relate to that. I look around this room and I know I’m not the best writer in this room. I’m not the best writer out there. I’m not the best marketer. I’m not the best at technology. I’m certainly not the best blog designer. I’m not the best at anything, but I really stuck at it for a long time and I think persistence has really paid off for me.
I love the story of the turquoise and the hare or the turtle and the hare. You’re going to see a few turtles today because I really relate to that turtle. Taking one small step after another. Keeping the momentum going is just so important. Really, I think 90% of any success I had has come from persistence.
What can you persist with? I’ve shared this quite a few times now in this event. Success is usually more about doing the things that you know you should be doing rather than trying to find the secret strategies, the secret sauce all the time. I say this at the front of this event because a lot of our new attendees often come going, “What’s the real secret? How are we really going to do this?” and they’re looking for that thing that’s just going to escalate things for them. Some of the strategies that you hear will escalate you forward. But really, what is going to grow you the most is doing the things you already know you should be doing and they’re the things that you probably knew when you first started your blog already.
We call these Pillars of ProBlogging and you may have heard us talking about these before. Chris Garrett, who wrote the ProBlogger book with me, came up with this in 2009. We actually based the first event on these four pillars and that’s what we’re doing again today.
The first one is content. On day one, when I wrote that first blog post, I knew that I needed to write content. We all do. This is just no brainer stuff. You look at that first blog that you set up and you see there’s no post. Instinctively, you need to create content for it unless it’s not really a blog. For me, this is obviously the key to it. Every post you write is building the asset of your blog. Every useful piece of content that you write, it’s the archives that really is the value.
A lot of bloggers do look for that viral piece of content. They just want to write one piece of content that’s going to escalate them. Occasionally, those viral pieces of content do come and they do escalate you forward. But really, it’s persisting with your content. This is one of those things you already know that you should be doing but you need to persist with it. That’s so important to do.
The second pillar is community. It’s engagement. It’s about interaction. The way we’ve been in 2002 is changing. Previous to 2000, I reckon that most people went online trying to download stuff. A lot of it is dodgy. They were satisfied to go online and get stuff, receive stuff, download stuff. That’s what I used to do. I used to go online and research the essays I was writing. I was studying at that time. I was downloading stuff.
Around 2000, and even before, but really started to escalate 2000–2002, people realized that they could interact more. The web became a much more interactive space and this is the beginnings of social media. I probably started with user boards, internet chats, and some of these older technologies, but blogging really escalated this. This is the reason I started blogging was I saw it was an interactive medium and I saw that people were really engaging.
The day I installed comments on my first blog, it took me about a week to do it. I saw my blog improving incredibly. As I improved the content I was writing, it’s that engagement. People sharing their stories, sharing their experience, disagreeing, and encouraging, those types of things have really improved the content that I was creating. I realized that my blog grew faster the more engaging it was.
Community is so important, but the thing about community is that it doesn’t just happen in one day. It takes time and it takes persistence. Every time you respond to a comment, every time you respond to an email, every time you engage with someone on social media, you’re building the asset of your blog. It’s persistence with community and engagement that is so important.
Number three pillar is traffic. Remember that first day where you realized you’ve written a piece of content and no one is reading it except for you? That feeling sometimes last for some of us for weeks. Then, someone shows up on you reblog and you realize, someone found your blog. I remember that moment very clearly. I published my first post and then, my next feeling was, “How am I going to get people to read the post?” I did what almost every blogger does. I spammed all my friends and said, “Here’s my blog.” That’s how most of us start.
Most of us realize that we can’t really sustain that approach for too long. Our friends are only going to put out with those emails for the first few days. But we’ve learnt something on that first day. We’ve learnt that we need to take responsibility for driving traffic to our blog. It’s something that we need to take initiative to.
We all have these dreams that if we just write good enough content, floods of traffic is going to come to us. But in the early days of our blog, particularly, we need to take the initiative. We need to take steps to drive traffic and that really shouldn’t go away. We should always be thinking, “How am I doing to drive traffic to my blog? Where can I be engaging? Where can I be useful? Where can I build my profile and drive some traffic back to my blog?” This is something we need to persist with.
Now, in time, word of mouth does kick in. Our readers begin to spread the word for us. But even today, 15years later, I’m still asking myself, “How can I get traffic to my blog?” In fact, just two days ago, I said to my team, “We really need to up our game in this area,” because we’ve noticed our traffic’s sliding from some of our old steady sources of traffic like Facebook. The Facebook algorithm is killing us all. At the moment, we need to be more proactive with that. We need to take some more initiative on that front. Traffic is the third pillar. This is all the stuff that we all know on the first day of our blog. We know we need content, engagement, and traffic.
The fourth pillar is another thing. If we want a profitable blog, we need to be proactive in the area of monetization. For me, this really didn’t even kick in for a year-and-a-half because I didn’t know that you could monetize a blog back in 2002; no one was really doing it. But again, I learned very quickly that even though I dreamt of a passive income straight from my blog, that I needed to do some work to get that passive income stream going in the early days. This is another area we need to persist with.
Now, this is a common theme at a ProBlogger event. If you’ve been to our events before, you know I talk a lot about putting time aside to monetize your blog. I think it was about four years ago. I put a challenge to our community and said, “Put aside 15 minutes everyday to monetize your blog in some way.” If we all put aside time to write content, we put aside time to engage with our audience, we put aside time to promote our blog, but most of us don’t put aside time on a regular daily basis to monetize our blog, at least a lot of bloggers don’t. Four years ago, I put that challenge out.
I remember, a lot of bloggers took up that challenge. Twelve months later at the next event, I was amazed at how many bloggers came up to me and said, “You know, I took the 15-minute challenge and I wrote a book this year. I wrote a book I’ve never have written. I wrote […] guide, launched a course. I launched a membership site.” I can see people in the room who actually came up to me and said, “That 15 minutes a day challenge changed my blog.” To me, it was really a great illustration of how persistence in this pillar pays off. I think this is probably one of the biggest messages I want to get across to new users. If you want a profitable blog, you need to take some initiative in this, no matter what model you used. Persistence in this area is so important.
Persist with content, engagement, traffic, monetization. It’s the accumulation of the little steps that you take in these areas that’s really is going to put you in the best position for a profitable blog. It’s not the secret strategies. It’s these four things. That’s why we designed today around these four things. We want you to persist in these areas.
Here’s a question for you, which of these four things your weakest link? Which one is the weak one for you at the moment? Where have you been putting all your energy? That’s great that you’ve been putting your energy there but where, maybe, have you been taking the foot of the accelerator this year?
For me, every year, it’s been different. Every year, I realize that there’s been times where I really haven’t put much time into my content. Or there’s been times where I really just not serve my readers and engage with them as much as I could’ve. Or like this year, maybe I got a little bit lax at driving traffic, maybe I’ve been focusing on other things, or maybe it’s been monetization.
There are times in your blog’s life cycle where you probably do need to focus more on one thing. There are other times where you need to just ask yourself again, “Where have I been missing out?” That’s one of the quickie questions I would ask you to ponder today as you think about your next steps with your blog.
Persist. Persisting is so important but it’s not enough. Often, I hear business quotes. There’s a lot of quotes about persisting. Sometimes it sounds like all you have to do is persist. Actually, it’s not. Persisting is really important but there’s something else that I think is just so important. We’ve actually chosen six speakers to speak to you today. Tomorrow, Shane is coming tomorrow for the mastermind. We’ve chosen people who I believe have persisted but they’ve done this other thing as well.
I’ve been talking about the tortoise. I actually felt really sorry for the hare growing up. I don’t know whether you did but I use to think that the hare had wasted potential. He had some qualities that had he just applied it to himself a little bit more or perhaps haven’t been so destructive, maybe he could have been a good thing. I am an empathetic kid. I was an empathetic kid. I looked for how could the hare have won the race. I actually think that there were some things that we could learn from the hare that our speakers have as a quality as well.
As I look at that first blog, I can see things have changed. I didn’t just persist to get my blogs to the point that I am today. You can see that things have changed. If I have just persisted on this blog design, I don’t think I would’ve got here. If I hadn’t persisted with tiny fonts like I did back then, I wouldn’t have got there. If I haven’t persisted with just written content, no visual content, I don’t think I would’ve gotten where I am today. Things changed and I think the lesson that we can learn from the hare is that they’re quick to change direction.
Has anyone ever tried to catch a rabbit in the wild? That’s very hard to do. It can be a little bit cruel if you do it the right way. My parents actually lived on farms for a long time. I spent a lot of time chasing all kinds of animals on those farms including rabbits and I never caught one. It wasn’t that they were just fast. It was just that they had the ability to change directions and they’re very nimble.
I love this quote from Richard Branson. “Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision, and change,” and that’s certainly been the story for me. Evolution is really important; evolving. That’s why we call this event Evolve because persistency isn’t enough. We need to evolve what we do. Persist in those pillars but evolve what we do in those pillars as well.
Why is evolving so important? It’s because everything around us right now is evolving. Has anyone noticed the space we’re engaging? It’s just changing. We could run an event every month and still not keep up with the trends in blogging and the […] space at the moment. It is changing so very fast. The challenges in front of us as bloggers at the moment, just changing all the time, and as a result we need to evolve.
One of the massive challenges that faces us at the moment is noise. Is anyone struggling with noise at the moment? There’s so much content being produced in all of the niches that we’re in. There’s tens of millions of blogs producing hundreds and millions of pieces of content. There so many different platforms now. When I started blogging, there wasn’t really many ways to create content. Now, we can do it on YouTube, on Instagram, and all these social networks. There’s different platforms in blogging, all these places producing noise. We’ve got mainstream media producing amazing amounts of content.
The Washington Post is publishing over a thousand articles a week. Some of those articles have been written by computers now. You can’t even tell the difference between the computer-written content and the human-written content. That’s just going to get escalated more and more. We’re seeing the rising bots and messenger bots. This is all the more noise and more content. We’re seeing the automation of repurposing of content.
I was talking to one blogger earlier this year about the noise and she said, “I think I’m making a lot of it myself.” I’m like, “Why? Why do you say?” She said, “I write three blog posts a week.” I’m like, “That’s certainly not much noise. You’re not really contributing.” She said, “No, you don’t understand. That’s just three posts a week. Then, this is what I do to promote those posts.” She created this checklist. I was proud of her but I was also like, “It’s your fault,” at the same time.
This is what she does for every blog post. She emails her readers twice in the first month. She puts it on Facebook, on her page twice in the first month. She puts it in the Facebook group twice in the first month. She puts it on Twitter 15 times in the first month. Then, it goes into a less frequent cycle. Then, she puts it on Pinterest in her own boards—she’s got several—and other people’s boards where she’s a group member. She puts it on her LinkedIn profile, her LinkedIn page, her LinkedIn group, in Instagram as a photo, video, and a story. Then, she puts it on Snapchats. I stumbled upon Google+ on her profile and a page in her Reddit.
Then she starts pitching other people to write more content for them that promotes her post and her goal is to write two guest post to promote her post on her blog for every post she writes. Then, she pitches influencers on different social networks. She repurposes all of her post into SlideShares and then turns them into YouTube. She creates Medium and LinkedIn post audio for SoundCloud, puts them on Facebook live. Then, she does visual graphics for all of these posts. She does a PDF version of her post which she uses as an opt-in. Then, she starts advertising it.
She does over 50 pieces of content. Some of them micro content but 50 for every post that she does. This is happening more and more. Many of you in the room, maybe you don’t have quite as advanced system as she does, but a lot of us do. If we think about it, the amount of […] time that we spent promoting our content, this is happening more and more. Mainstream media are even better at doing it than we are. This is contributing to the noise. As a result of these massive challenges facing us at the moment, how do we stand out amidst this noise? We need to evolve our approach. We need to evolve.
Another massive challenge for us at the moment is distribution. It used to be that someone will come to my blog and go, “I want more of his content. I’m going to follow him on Facebook.” Then, I would see every post that I did. Although, I would say, “I want all of these. I’m going to get his email. I’m going to subscribe to his emails or I would subscribe to his RSS feed. It used to be very neat like these yellow pipes. They want the content, they get the content.
It all changed. It has become a mess. This is again, one of the biggest challenges facing us at the moment is that people want to have content but doesn’t see our content for a variety of reasons. They’re scattered in different places. The algorithms are filtering our content in social networks. Also, our emails now are being put in folders that people never open. We’re seeing a rise in pay-to-play. We’re seeing a lot of our audience now becoming blind to the techniques that we use in marketing. It used to be that I just didn’t see the banner ads, but now I don’t think that’s a opt-in as much. They don’t see our emails as much because they don’t want that. They’re distracted a lot now, partly because of the noise as well. This is another challenge we need to evolve. We need to evolve if we want our messages to be seen.
Now these are negative things. The noise and the distribution challenges are negative, and I don’t want to depress you too much. There’s also some positive reasons we need to evolve as well. One of the positive reasons is that there’s these incredible opportunities facing us at the moment. The tools of that before us, the technologies that are opening up at the moment are amazing. It’s like no other time in history. The demand in video is a real opportunity. The demand for live video and the tools that are right in our fingertips, that enable us to go live on social media.
I don’t know if you listen to my podcast but recently I talked about a tool called Ecamm Live. It’s US$30 and it puts a TV studio on your computer. It enables you to have multi cameras, do overlays, share your screen, do these amazing things live in front of people, and interact with people. The tools are quite amazing. It’s an incredible opportunity.
In Australia, over the last six or so months, I’ve seen this rise in interest in podcasting. I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, my family and friends are now on podcasting, listening to podcast like I’ve never seen before. Vanessa, I reckon, she can choose four or five hours of podcast a day. She just constantly listening. I’m seeing my family and friends doing this. It’s really on the rise in Australia. It’s an opportunity before us at the moment.
We’re seeing the emergence of messaging bots which is something I think is escalating at the moment. There’s opportunities there. I’m seeing the growth in Facebook groups. We’re seeing a growth in all these tools that enable us to market in a more personal way as well. It’s incredible opportunities if only we are able to evolve fast enough to take them. Some of these opportunities come and go very quickly, so we need to be nimble. We need to be like the hare, being able to change directions while we also persist as well.
Persist and evolve. I actually start to think this way about the evolution of my blogs. This is the evolution of Digital Photography School which is my main blog since 2002. I did this because it’s actually been a tough week for me, for our company as well, and for my family. We had a death in the family this week. My father-in-law passed away yesterday. It’s been a tough time on that front.
Also, it’s been a tough time in our company because one of our key staff members who many of you know, resigned three weeks ago. Jasmine. Does anyone know Jasmine? Jasmine used to direct this event. It was really sad to see her go but also exciting to see her opportunities. One of the things I started to do after she resigned was to think about the evolution since she joined my company. I actually did a little bit of a timeline on how she’s been involved in changing our company. I wanted to show her what’s she done for our company. This started as the last seven years since Jasmine coming on board, then I went back earlier.
I want to show you this because it’s been constant evolution, the Digital Photography School. It really has and it started even before Digital Photography School started. It started back in 2002 when I started blogging at all. I just wanted to point out, to finish off my talk, some of the evolutions that have taken place in the last 15 years. I’ve chosen things that I think are really relevant for bloggers of different stages for you. Bear with me as I reflect on the last 15 years. It all, as I said, started in 2002 when I started blogging. I’m not going to retell that story because I’ve told it many times before. The one thing I do want to say is that I didn’t procrastinate. This is one of the only times I didn’t procrastinate in my life, pretty much, and in my business.
Someone shot me a link to a blog and within an hour or so, seeing what a blog was for the first time, I started my own. I don’t really know why I didn’t procrastinate. I probably should’ve. I had a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have started a blog back then, but I didn’t procrastinate. I started that blog and I’m so glad that I started quickly because this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that I see happening is that people try to get their blog perfect before they launched it. I’m so glad that I didn’t.
I can see that some of you are nodding to each other right now and you can relate to this. We get analysis paralysis. What I’ve learned about getting a perfect blog—there’s no such thing—any kind of ideal, perfect, blog comes through evolution. It comes through starting and realizing it’s not perfect, then fixing the mistakes. Then watching how people respond to that and then moving forward in that regard. You need to start. It just need to start. If you’re at that point where you’ve been procrastinating on starting your blog, please get it done. You’re more than welcome to come to this event if you haven’t started a blog, but if you come back next year and haven’t started, I’m going to chase you down. So start.
The next most obvious thing from an external point of view about the evolution of Digital Photography School is that it’s changed its design. I’ll talk a little bit about that. This is the first design of Digital Photography School. This is the second time I tried to design a blog; really not very good. Actually, it was free template and this is what I started. This is what many bloggers do. We start with the free templates. I’ve been blogging for four or five years by this point. I didn’t really have an excuse to start with the free template, but I did and I’m tired.
Very quickly, I decided that once I got some runs on the boards, want some readers done […] I decided I was going to change the design. So then, I moved to a premium template where I paid $40 for it. Then, I paid someone $100 to design a logo, so it’s slightly more customized. Then, I decided to bite the bullet and get someone to design a proper blog design for me.
We had sliders. Do you remember that time when sliders became the big thing? They’re still the big thing for some bloggers but we added the slider in. Then we changed colors back to some of our roots. We changed the slider a little bit more and it became even more like a magazine. This is our current design. Then, we went for a responsive design. If you haven’t gone responsive, if you haven’t designed for mobile, I really encourage you to do that because it really helped our blog a lot.
Now, we’re working on our next design. This is just a very early concept that we’re working on for the next one. This is something every two years now, we’re trying to redesign our blog just to bring freshness to it. A lot of it is really now about trying to keep up with the technology. Google really wanting you to be mobile responsive. There’s really good reasons for a good blog design as well.
This is another area. Maybe you’ve come today. Maybe it’s time for your next blogs on this. People in this room are really good on that. So, ask questions around. Who designed your blog? What have you found work well for you? Look at each other’s blog on mobile, show each other what’s work well. I really encourage you to evolve in this particular area. The thing we’ve been doing more recently with our design is not just a complete redesign but an evolution. We’re trying to change bit by bit and testing along the way. I think that’s a helpful way to go.
The next area is the technology side. I’m not a very technological kind of person but it’s so important to evolve in the tools that you use and the technologies. The first change from me really came in the early days where I moved from Blogger to where I thought it’s going to be the next big thing in blogging—Movable Type. It wasn’t really the next big thing in blogging, so we eventually moved to WordPress.
The thing I’ll say about this type of change is that I was absolutely terrified every time I made these changes. Am I going to lose my archives? Am I going to lose all my readers? Along with some of these changes, I change domains as well to get off Blogger onto my own domain, onto my own service. These types of things, many of us get petrified by these things. We’re scared by these things. These are also some of the biggest times of growth to my blog as well. Getting more control over what you can do on your blog is so important.
Some of you were probably on that stage where you’re thinking about, “Should I shift platform? Should I shift some of the tools that I’m using?” We’ve been shifting other tools recently. We’ve just recently made a shift from using AWeber as an email tool, which has served us amazingly well over the last 10 or so years. We’ve been realizing that there’s some limitations in terms of how we can personalize our communications via email with our readers. We’re shifting across to a tool called Drip. There’s plenty of other amazing tools as well that enable you to do more.
Maybe you’re at the stage now where you need to change some of the tools that you use. Maybe it’s your email tool. Maybe it’s your landing pages. Maybe it’s your shopping cart or some of those types of things. We use shopping carts on our sites and we for many years use E-junkie which is amazing. It’s $5 a month for a tool that puts a shopping cart on your site. It served us so well. But again, we’ve outgrown it and we’ve been using some of these other tools as well. Again, there’s plenty of others out there.
Just ask yourself again, over the next day also, “Are the tools that I’m using holding me back in some way?” You could be leaving money on the table particularly with something like a shopping cart, an email tool. You could be leaving a lot of money on the table if you’re selling products and using tools that really aren’t feature-rich. There are so many amazing tools right now.
These are just some of the tools we’ve tried over the last 12 months and it’s just scratching the surface. This is one of the biggest evolutions that I’ve noticed in the blogging space at the moment is there’s a whole industry around us now. 2002, you could start on Blogger and that’s about it. There was really no tools. There was a few scripts around that could enhance your tools, your platform, but now, we’re living at a time where it’s just so amazing.
The other thing I would say about tools is you could waste a lot of money. Most of these tools have a monthly fee associated with them. Maybe it’s time you cut back on some of your tools, too. You could be like me and be addicted to trying new things and I’m paying for that.
One of the other bigger evolutions for me was back in 2004. Some of the evolutions for me, really, I think we’re sparked by changing my mindset. For some of you, I suspect, this would be relevant for you. You may not need to do anything differently. Maybe you need to start thinking differently about your blog. For me, it was around the time I’m starting to monetize my blog for the first time. I started to think about maybe I could be a full-time blogger one day. I was earning a little bit of money here and there from my blog. I had AdSense on my blog by this point—I’ll talk about that in a moment—and I think I was earning about $100 a week from my blog which is pretty good. I was very proud of myself and I used to spreadsheet how last month it was $90 a week. This month it’s $100 a week. Next month, it might be $110.
I began to do these spreadsheets and charts about where things could go one day. I realized, in about five years, maybe 10, I’ll be a full-time blogger. I was very excited about that, I’m very proud about that, and I used to take the spreadsheets to Vanessa and say, “Look, love. $100 a week. And it could, one day, be full-time.” She humored me. She was appreciative of that because we were on a tight budget at that time. She was a first year lawyer doing articles and I was working part time jobs. The $100 a week actually was making a difference.
But after a few months of me charting out my spreadsheets at the end of every month, there was a particular day when she said to me, “Darren, that’s really great, but in 10 years time when you say you could be a full-time blogger, you will be 41. Most 41 year olds have a full-time job. Maybe 10 years is too far away. Maybe we need to speed this up because you can get a fulltime job today, if you wanted.” She put it very nicely and I was like, “Okay.”
We threw a variety of conversations. We decided that I needed to speed things up. We put a deadline of six months onto it. I need to be a full-time blogger in six months and that put a rocket under me. I realized, I’ve been treating my blog as a hobby that might one day be a business, one day. I decided that I need to start treating it as a business today. If you want your blog to be a business one day, treat it as a business today. This is the mindshift that I had to make and that day was the day that things escalated.
This changed everything for me. It was the day I started to ring advertisers and say, “Do you want to advertise on my blog?” I’ve never done that before. It took me out of my comfort zone. Most of them said no, but one of them said yes, and he paid me $10 a month for the ad. That wasn’t much but he paid me $10 a month for the next year so it was $120. Then, he started paying me $20 a month. Then, he started paying me $30. Now I learned how I can serve him better. I started to get other advertisers who paid me $10, then $20, then $30 a month.
That was a new income stream. That was the day that I started to think about how am I going to get more traffic to my blog. I started writing guest posts for other sites. That was the day I started to think about how am I going to get readers to come back to my blog who’ve already been there. I started to use email and try to work hard to gain more subscribers to my blog. I started to design systems and autoresponder sequences to get them back on a regular basis to drive more traffic.
That was the day I started to try new income streams at direct advertisers but also other ad networks. That was the day that changed everything. When I started to treat my blogs as a business today. Maybe you’re at that point. Maybe you’ve got this nice little income stream and you’ve been dreaming of your blog being a fulltime business one day. Maybe you need to start doing the things you know you need to do to get to that point.
The next thing I wanted to talk about is editorial. Editorial is really important. As I’ve shown you before, that first blog post was all text. Things have changed since that time. The most obvious thing I think that’s changing our content, we started to add visual content to our site. There’s a lot of other things you can do to evolve your editorial strategies. Maybe it’s the mediums you’re using. Maybe you’ve been doing written content. Maybe you need to start adding some visual. Maybe you need to start doing some video. Maybe you need to start doing some live. Maybe you need to start doing some podcasting. There’s always different mediums out there and I should think they’re all blogging.
Essentially, a podcast is a blog. Its content arranged in a chronological order, it doesn’t have comments, that’s probably the only thing that’s a bit different. YouTube-ing a video, it can all be blogging. We need to think about blogging in a new way. Blogging is not just written content. It’s so much more than that. This is one way that we can evolve our content. Maybe it’s the frequency of your content.
When I started Digital Photography School, I was doing three posts a week. I realized that one way I can get traffic is to increase the frequency of my posts. So, I went to five days a week. About six months later, I went to daily content. Now, we’re doing 14 post a week. It’s probably beyond what most bloggers can do. We’ve got a team now that’s evolved along the way, but maybe that’s one way that you can evolve your editorial strategy.
Maybe it’s the type of content you create. When I started Digital Photography School, all of our post were tutorials. It was all information. Then, I started to add in some inspirational posts. I started to tell stories. I started to do image collections. I started to get people more in touch with their heart and their love of photography. So, I added in one post a week. There’s more inspiration content. Then, I started to add in more interaction content. We started to do weekly challenges. Got our readers to take photos and then share their photos with us.
Information, inspiration, interaction became the evolution in our content. We still do a lot of the information but we found that once we start to inspire people, they started to want the information more. Got to have a reason to read the information. Then, we started to get them to interact with our content. They actually started to apply the information that we’re learning. Now, we have this flow on our week where we give them a tutorial, then, we inspire them and we show them some photos that they could take with that tutorial. Then, we get them to go online and take photos that use that information. So, they really go back to the information. They get inspired but then they start to learn. This has been an evolution in our content.
Maybe you need to think about, has all your content been the one kind of content? Maybe there’s something else that you need to add in. Maybe you’ve been telling a lot of stories. Maybe you need to start teaching something. Maybe you need to do some posts in your editorial strategy that are more interactive in some way. Maybe it’s the level of your content.
Digital Photography School was purely beginner content when I started. Now, it’s more intermediate. The site has grown up with our readers. Maybe you need to start writing different types of content. Maybe you’re writing lots of evergreen content, content that doesn’t date. We’ve been doing that for a long time. Then, we started doing a little bit more news content. We started to review cameras. This is more timely content. It doesn’t last as long but it’s a different type of content that served our readers in a different way. Maybe it’s a new category on your site.
Digital Photography School, after about two years, we added a post production section—how to edit your photos. Then, we added a gear review section. These different categories expanded the site as we went along. Maybe you need to evolve your content in some way. This is one of those pillars. Persist with it, but it doesn’t mean you have to do it the same way over and over.
Our community is another one of the pillars that you can evolve very quickly. Our community in Digital Photography School started with blog comments. That’s when people used to leave comments on blogs. Who remember those days, old-time bloggers? People used to leave comments and it used to be quite a few people. This post had 6–7 people leave a comment. Things have changed a bit. People are now engaging in different spaces, so maybe we need to evolve in that.
We started a Flickr group. That was one of the early new ways of evolving our community in terms of engagement. Probably not relevant for most blogs today because you don’t have a photography rating community, but maybe there’s another place you can set up a group, another social network. We did a forum for a time that worked very well for us. We then started to use different types of social media to engage. We ran Twitter chats for a little while. Then, we started a Facebook page which used to work pretty well. And then more recently, a Facebook group. Facebook groups is where we see most of our engagement at the moment. It’s where a lot of successful full-time bloggers that I see are really doing very well with Facebook groups at the moment.
I don’t know how long that will last. I don’t know how long Facebook will continue to promote groups. We’re already starting to see some changes in that, that Facebook already signaling that community and groups is an area where I want to see a lot more growth at the moment.
Maybe you need to evolve in your community. Maybe it’s in your traffic. There’s a variety of different ways that you can evolve in this particular area as well. We’ve got a session on this later today. Maybe you need to be starting to create a bit more guest content. Maybe you need to think about search engine optimization, learn some skills, look at the latest trends in that. Maybe you need to engage in a new social network. Maybe you need to start networking more with fellow bloggers in your niche.
For me, this is one of the key things that you can do to drive more traffic is to actually learn about who else is in your niche and to reach out to them. Then, look at win-win collaboration between them. This is probably one of the areas that we’ve seen the most growth in our blogging within our niches. Actually, getting to know your competitors and become friends with your competitors is one of the fastest ways you can grow your blog if you can find some win-win ways; a variety of things you can do there for traffic.
Then, there’s monetization. I know a lot of you are here in this conference to learn more about how to monetize your blog. This for us, has been an incredible evolution. For me, it started with AdSense and Amazon, very awkward starts and very slow starts. This is our first month of AdSense earnings. This is after I’ve been blogging for two years. I already had a really good audience by this stage. First day, we made AU$12. I was so excited. $12 a day is amazing. There, I realized, all my friends were clicking my ads like crazy to make us that and that could have gotten us kicked out of AdSense. Then, it went back—after a day I told them to stop—to about $1 a day, $1.50 a day. It wasn’t even enough to buy coffee and this is after years of building my audience. That was really very slow, depressingly slow, but it was something.
I was proud of those dollars a day, in the early days, even if that wasn’t that much. Gradually, I have a ton of crew. You can see here for the first six months, it was $1 a day. It really didn’t change. This is around the time that I started to have these mindset shift. I started to realize that if I was going to grow this income, I needed to get smart about driving more traffic and getting better at using AdSense. This is the same for any income stream that you might want to add.
Then things escalated. August 2004, we started an Olympic Games blog. That was the Athens Olympics. It was a very profitable month. Then, it went back down again. This is about driving traffic, this is about driving more engagement, getting more email subscribers, and getting better at using AdSense. It continued to grow and this is the first two years.
The reason I wanted to share with you this one because it all fell apart for a little while here. Sometimes, evolutions don’t work and unexpected things happened. We fell out of Google completely for six weeks there. We stood to this day, don’t really know why. Sometimes, it starts really slow. A lot of you probably at this phase at your income streams, don’t give up. Persist. Keep learning how to do that income stream better because you don’t know where it’s going to end up.
For us, the evolution has been going through a different type of income streams. We’ve looked at direct ad sales, affiliate promotions, other advertising networks, I wrote a book. Most of these ones here didn’t really worked that well. The book didn’t make much money, speaking didn’t make much money, consulting didn’t make much money, job board is another real slow burner. It’s actually grown for us.
Then, everything changed in 2009 when I discovered ebooks. This is our first ebook. Some of you heard me talked about it before. I procrastinated on writing this ebook for three years. I started Digital Photography School with a view that I would write an ebook in 2006. I didn’t write it until 2009. I was too busy. I didn’t know how to write an ebook. I didn’t know how to sell an ebook. I was scared. That was my real reason.
In 2009, I took my own 15 minutes a day challenge. I write my ebook 15 minutes at a time. I got up early every morning and I wrote it. It took me four months to write it, to get it ready for launch, to write the sales page, to get the emails ready to launch the thing. At eleven o’clock one night, in 2009, I’ve sent the email, petrified about how my readers would respond to this ebook. Me trying to sell them something. Most of the content on the ebook was already in the blog. I was scared that I was going to really push back hard. Nothing at all happened for 10 minutes after I sent that email. Then, I got a sale. That four months of work made me US$14.99. That’s about $18. It really wasn’t worth it at that moment. $18 for four months of work.
Then, nine minutes later, another sale came in. It became a little bit more worth it. Then, the sales started coming in every eight minutes, every seven minutes, every six minutes, and by this stage, it’s like 1:00 AM and I was like, “[…],” calculating how much I was making. Then, I started coming every two minutes. Then, every minute. Then, every thirty seconds and everything changed. I was so excited, but I wished I’ve done it three years earlier.
That often is what happens when you procrastinate. This changed everything. This was the beginning of a whole new income stream from the blog. This is all part of this evolution. That launched did really well. We sold for about 5000 copies of that other than the first week or so of that launch. More important for me is that it was actually a start of another evolution. Now, we have lots of ebooks. Over the last eight years, we’ve published a lot of ebooks, 30 or so of them. Some of them we’re done better than that done and some of them had done a lot worse, but every time we launched, we learn something about how our readers react to these products and how to market them better in different ways. Then, part of the evolution is to take courses. We’ve done six courses now. We’ve done software as well. This is all part of that evolution.
Monetization is something you’ve got to persist. You’ve got to be proactive. You can’t be passive. You need to put the work in. It does take a lot of work but evolve. The other part of our evolution with products and monetization is this is how I launched that first ebook. That first ebook, all I did to launch it was send two emails, write one blog post, and do three tweets. I had no idea what I was doing, but it worked really well and I’m glad it did.
We’ve evolved our launches slightly. Now, this is what we do. We don’t do all of these for every launch but there’s a lot of evolution in our launches. We do pre-launch stuff. We do a variety of types of blogpost during a launch. We send multiple emails over a launch and they all go to a different type of email. We do testimonial emails. Occasionally, we’ve done webinars. We’ve done a variety of different social media things and we do now stuff on our site as well. You will get all of these slides so you can have a really deep look at this later if you like.
Again, evolve. Not just your income streams, but how you use those income streams as well. I will say, whatever the evolution that I’ve shown you, every single one of them has been accompanied by fear. That’s a good sign. Fear is a signal that something important is about to happen. No important moment in your life has happened without fear. Also, it comes with excitement. You use the excitement. Don’t let the fear stop you. Learn as you evolve as well. All the evolutions bring about learning for the next evolution.
The thing I’ll say about what I’ve shown you, that timeline I’ve shown you, that was just the good stuff. All those things with good things, but then a lot of really bad things along the way as well. A lot of it I tried. There are things that I’ve tried over the years have not worked. I started two blog networks. You would’ve thought that after the first lesson that I wouldn’t start on the second one. Both of them didn’t do very well, but I learned so much during those.
I started other blogs that haven’t work for different reasons. Was anyone on […]? You would have thought that from a loader like that, that I would’ve known that was not a good social network to get on? I’ve invested hundreds of hours on […]. It’s just after Twitter came about. It’s this new thing that was going to change everything and everyone was going to be on […]. It turns out no one was on […]. It’s just me. I started writing at ProBlogger community and it was an income stream. This is a public folio, something that worked but didn’t really worked to my satisfaction. We had to stop it.
There’s been these false starts, there’s been these failures, but every time I failed, I learned something. All of these things have been formed where we’re at today as well. You will have these failures. I want to paint a picture of just try new things that will work. A lot of them won’t, but they can be as important parts of your evolution as everything else. Some of them will grow fast, some of them will grow slow.
These are my two blogs, ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I should’ve given up on Digital Photography School about here. It was just too slow. It wasn’t growing very fast at all. But today, if that graph continued, it would be 10 times bigger than ProBlogger. I’m really glad I stuck at it.
A lot of those income streams, AdSense, was really slow. I probably should’ve given up on it in early days, but I’m glad I persisted with it. You’ll have those times where things really don’t look like they’re working. Sometimes you just need to persist—evolve. You will have other things that will work really well and it will be an overnight success. Just go with the flow. Learn as you go through these things.
The last thing I want to say is that it’s really important to evolve. We all know that but a lot of us also know that feeling of revolving, going in circles. This is where most of us get stuck. There’s a variety of reasons why we get stuck, I love this bottom GIF. I had to include it. Just watch. Watch. Sorry. No child was hurt during this. I don’t really know if that would hurt.
Anyway, I would go pass that because you won’t take any things. There’s a variety of reasons why we revolve. I just want to say I go through these because I know a lot of you at this stage, procrastination is the big one. It’s been my big one. I procrastinated so much. I did a podcast on procrastination this year. If you are procrastinating, go and listen to that podcast. Don’t procrastinate. It will never be perfect before you start it. Analysis paralysis is the other one. Again, it will never be perfect before you start, so just start anyway.
The other big one that’s been a big one for me is fear. You’ve got to step forward into your fear. You’ve got to acknowledge it but don’t let it stop you. If you need to hold a hand of someone else, there’s plenty of people in the room who will go into that fear with you. Wobbly courage is the thing we’ve talked about in this event in the past. You don’t have to be brave and get rid of fear. You need to step forward knowing you’re fearful. Wobbly courage is so important.
Sometimes we revolve because we built a machine that we have to keep feeding. I talked to a number of you in this room over the last year. You’ve built the thing that’s working, but you absolutely hate it. But it’s paying your mortgage, so you have to keep feeding it. That’s a horrible place to be stuck. Maybe you need to start a passion project on the side and evolve that. Maybe you need to try and find a way to evolve what you’re doing into the thing that you do love. Maybe it’s time to sell that thing and start something new. This is one of the reasons. I felt this and I’m more than happy to talk to you if you’re in that place as well.
There are other reasons why we revolve. It’s because we built a system, we just get lazy, and we just keep doing it. This is something that I’ve done this year. I’ve realized that I’ve been doing the same thing on Facebook, my Facebook page, for three years now. It really worked well for three years and it doesn’t work well anymore. I just built the system. Earlier this year, I decided to do some more learning on Facebook. I did a course and I learned some new skills, I’m trying some new things. So, look at those systems that you built, that used to work well, and be really smart about evolving those systems.
The last one is it’s very easy to revolve and do things because everyone else is doing it. In the blogging space, most of us have done it. We all jumped onto Snapchat because everyone’s on Snapchat, but why are we on Snapchat? Are our readers on Snapchat? Is it working? Maybe Snapchat is good for your audience but we don’t need to do that because everyone else is doing it. Be harsh on the way that you spend your time. Ask, “Is this relevant for my audience? Is this relevant for me and my personality?” Rather than just getting stuck and doing whatever everyone else is doing.
This event, I encourage you to persist. I encourage you to look for the next steps on how you evolve. I encourage you to write down as you hear today, write down the things that resonate with you. Write down the possible actions that you can take. Then, at the end of the day, I encourage you to look at those things that you’ve written down. Look for the patterns in those things and then prioritize what you’re going to do. That’s really important.
My hope is that as a result of today, you’re going to get your next steps. You’re going to get some ways that you can evolve your blog. What I want you to do is to just take a moment and write down on your action list whatever/however you want to do that, what’s your thing about your weakest pillar? Content, engagement, traffic, monetization. Which of those have you been ignoring? Which one do you need to evolve? And anything else that you’ve heard that you need to apply in your own blog? Just take a moment to do that.
Then, just turn to someone next to you. If you want to just share something from that session that you want to apply or a question that you’ve got that you want to ask, an action item that you’ve written down, just for a moment, just share that with each other. It’s really important to verbalize the things that we’re learning. So, just […] for one moment.
Okay, we’re going to keep things moving; try and stay on schedule today. We’ve got another half an hour session now and we’re going to have morning tea break. One other thing, as I was thinking about evolution, as I prepare that talk, I realized that there’s some amazing stories in this room of evolution. As I was talking, I was looking at different people and thinking, “Man, your blog has really changed.” Some of the stories in this room were really great.
One of the stories that came to my mind was Pat. Someone that I came across, I reckon, back in 2009–2010, we must have connected from the first time. We did an interview. I interview Pat. It wasn’t even a podcast, I just interviewed him. I don’t even know why I interviewed him at the time. It was an audio interview and it still exists. It’s still there. We have both changed so much. The interview was bizarre. I listen to it recently. We were both very naive, fresh, and excited. Not that we’re not excited anymore, but things have changed a lot there. As I think back to 2009, your blog, Pat, I just thought it’ll be really interesting to have a bit of conversation now.
We want this session to be a chance for you to hear a little bit about Pat’s evolution. Also, I really want about 15 minutes of Q&A. If you’ve got any question for Pat or myself but mainly Pat, I will signal that in about 10 minutes time. We’re going to use two microphones here. We’ll just ask you to come up and speak your question into the microphone because the recordings for this event are going to be available to you. You’re also going to get the recordings for the Melbourne event that happens next week. When we evolve our presentations and make them better for the Melbourne people, you can actually listen in on that event as well. So, we do ask you to use the microphone.
I just thought it would be interesting, Pat. Welcome Pat, everyone.
Pat: Thank you.
Darren: Pat’s going to deliver a great closing keynote today. Pat, you have evolved what you’ve done incredibly. You want to take us back, maybe, to the early days? Maybe name a couple of the early evolutions that were really important for you in your journey?
Pat: Absolutely. First of all, thank you for having me here. I know I’m the one with the funny accent in this room. It’s funny because I remember one time watching you, you were doing a livestream before livestreams were even a thing. I remember, Darren was up there and I was just so dumbfounded. You were my idol back in the day. You’re like, “I’ll take any questions.” I typed in a question and Darren said, “Oh, Pat.” I flipped out. I couldn’t believe that you would say my name. To be here on stage today as somebody providing information to your students is just fantastic. Thank you for that.
I had a really interesting evolution as many of you know. If you know my story, I got laid off in the architecture industry. I never planned on any of this. Back in 2008 when I was told I was going to be let go, which was two months after I proposed to my wife, I just flipped out. I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was actually through a podcast—that was the early days of the podcast—I discovered one called Internet Business Mastery. I heard an interview with a man named Cornelius who is making six figures a year, helping people pass a project management exam. That was my “Aha!” lightbulb moment where then, I was like, “Hey, I’ve taken some exams in the architecture industry. Maybe I can be like this guy. I don’t even know what to do. I’m just going to start a blog and see what happens.” That’s what I did.
One thing that happened was, I started to question what I was doing. I started to question, why am I even doing this? Is this even worth it? Then, I went to the process of writing an ebook as well. Flipping out the time I posted it, seeing nothing happen, realizing that maybe I shouldn’t even be going down this road to begin with. Then at 8:40 AM the next morning, I saw a PayPal notification come in. For me, it was the highlight of my life at that time. I couldn’t believe that I had done something, posted it on the internet, and somebody paid me for it.
Ten seconds after that sale, that joy, I started to think, “This is it.” I started to freak out and get scared. What if this person sues me for some reason or asks for a refund? I had to go outside on a walk because I was just hyperventilating. Then, I came back and I saw another email from another sale. I had made a sale while I was on a walk. That just completely changed my life.
Not only that. I started to get these emails from my customers saying, “Thank you,” and they were calling me by name. “Thank you, Pat.” “Pat, thank you so much for putting this together.” That was new to me and something I never thought was possible because in the architecture world, I actually have my fingerprint on several different restaurants in the US, but nobody would ever know that. Nobody will ever thank me for any work I had done as an architect, but here it was helping people in this tiny little exams space. People we’re saying thank you and me writing essays worth of their life story. I was only helping them pass an exam.
Then, I went through a time in 2009, when the United States Green Building Council, who is the organization that puts on these exams, they came out with their own study guide. I thought, I was done. Why would people want to buy my study guide when they can get the study guide from the people who actually write the same questions? I was like, “Okay, I should start looking for another architecture job soon.” That was my highest grossing month ever. The reason was, people found that there where these guides and found mine and said, “Oh, I like yours because I can relate to you, because I know you’re somebody who’s just a few steps ahead of me.” That was the big first moment of, “Wow, this is what really works online.” It’s being yourself and putting yourself out there that nobody is like you. Therefore, that is your advantage.
I remember in 2010, I went to one of my mentors and I came to him with 20 different business ideas. He said, “You know, these are okay, but you know what’s missing out of all of them? You. You’re not in any of these. This is a review site for this. This is a tool to help people do that but you are not in any of this.” That was the time when I started my podcast to open up and let people into my life just a little bit to get to know who I was as a person. As a result of that, people became very attached to me, my message, and what I was doing.
There were other times when I wanted to give up. There was a time in 2012 when I just wanted to completely shut down the podcast because I started to see the numbers were exactly the same. I wasn’t getting any results. Then, one day, right before I was going to give up, I get this email from a guy. His name is Michal from Poland. It’s literally seven pages in link in those emails. I’m not going to read it. The subject line says, “You have changed my life. Please read this.” I was like, “Okay, I guess I’ll read it.”
As I was reading it, he’s telling me the story of how he discovered my blog and he discovered my podcast. This was at the time when he had two broken legs after the result of the snowboarding accident. Then, I was coaching him through his rehabilitation. This was going on for a year-and-a-half without me knowing it. He said that he had set a goal for himself. One thing that I talked about in one of my blog posts was setting goals that are almost impossible for yourself. He decided with two broken legs to run a marathon. I saw a picture at the bottom of his email of him crossing the finish line of the Warsaw Full Marathon, 22.6 miles, holding up a banner. It was in Polish so I didn’t know what it said until he translated it. He said, “Thank you, God. Thank you,” to his family and, “Thank you Pat Flynn.” And I was just bawling.
At the time I was reading this, there was mascara running down on my keyboard. It was just not a pretty picture. That was the point realized, there are so many people out there who we don’t even know we are affecting. That made me want to keep going. There might be a Michal for you out there who’s reading your stuff and you don’t even know their name. It wasn’t until he said, “This is what you did for me,” that I then realized that.
There have been moments like going across different kinds of platforms. I started out with a blog in 2008 and then I explored YouTube in 2009, then podcasting in 2010, but then, the big one is getting on stage. I have never ever wanted to get on stage before because I just had that fear. But I had learned through going on to YouTube and going into podcasting that, that fear is what you should actually look toward and step through like what you’re saying.
Steven Pressfiled who wrote The War of Art calls that the resistance. That thing that you feel, it could be in many forms—procrastination, self doubt, fear. That’s actually, like Darren was saying, a sign, that that’s the thing that’s important to you. There’s always something amazing on the other end of that.
I’ve grown so much in terms of the confidence that I had. Only recently have I now adopted what I called the CEO mindset. In the beginning, I was just a scrappy entrepreneur, just putting things together as they come which then, in blog form, just turns into this mess of a blog with just all these plugins and things on it. It wasn’t until I made the decision to really get smart and plan ahead in my editorial calendar, and with what I was promoting, that things started to finally fall into place. I’ve now since released courses of my own which was a huge step for me getting over the idea of actually selling something to my audience that was my own. I was always doing affiliate marketing.
I think out of all the evolutions, the biggest one came in 2009 when my son was born. There’s this thing called the baby effect. When you have a baby, nothing is more important in your life except that little creature. That forces you to really understand where’s your time being placed. Are you getting back what you’re putting with that time? I felt like everytime I would catch myself in a YouTube rabbit hole—the weird part of the internet—I was taking time away from my family, from my kids. I became super efficient at that point, keeping track of every minute, what I was doing, and was it actually something that was helping me move the needle or was it actually something that was just trying to keep me staying busy, just to have that feeling like I was staying busy?
That baby effect helped me become super efficient and helped me understand what my output was versus the input. That’s when things started to accelerate a lot, too. Also, prioritizing, helping me realize that I don’t have to do everything, that everytime I say yes to something, I’m also saying no to something else. Does that make sense? When you say yes to something, you’re also saying no to something else. I always thought about my kids when I say yes to something. What am I taking away from them? Is this worth actually doing that?
As you begin to grow, you start to get more opportunities. A lot of those opportunities are going to be very juicy; just attractive. But knowing where it is you want to go and knowing what’s important to you is going to help you make these decisions a lot easier.
Darren: Wow. You make interviewing really easy. That’s great. Do you have any questions for Pat that you want to ask? It might be about the evolution. Come at the microphones if you do and maybe just say what your name is and ask your question. There’s a microphone here. If you want to line up, more than happy just to go straight to you now.
Adele: Hi, Pat. My name’s Adele. Firstly, you’re the reason I came because I saw you last year at XY and I was very excited, and I obviously love your podcast. I’ve been to traditional financial planning where I’ve worked with people one-on-one. Just about to launch my first one-to-many model. The question that I’m struggling with is how to price it. The financial is a membership style site, it’s a weekly fee. The financial planner in me has done 50 models. The drop out rates are going to be 30% and if my marketing cost are these… I’ve done all the modeling but I’m still struggling with how to price it. Do I price it high and then drop? Or do I drop and then increase? How do you price it?
Pat: Pricing is a huge topic for sure. There’s a number of different ways to go about understanding what your price is. You could compare versus what other options are out there. Use that as a starting point. Are you offering more value than what’s already being offered? Therefore, you should be charging more. In addition to that, you should also understand what it is you’re providing and what can that give back to them in the long run to make sense as an investment to be working with you.
What I would also recommend is when you launch something, launch with a beta group. That way, you can start at a very low price to get people in and understand, “Okay, what is working and what’s not?” You can even utilize that feedback to understand, “Okay, what is the true value of what I’m offering?” to the base your price point out of. Then, of course, based on that, you’re going to have testimonials that you can use for you public launch. That’s typically the way that I would recommend launching anything. It’s a controlled environment to be able to then utilize that data, moving forward into a public launch.
Adele: Okay, thank you. Just a quick follow up. With the membership site then, what’s the drop-off rate that you expect? If people are paying a monthly web subscription, are there typical drop-off?
Pat: A typical drop-off rate, I believe depends on the industry. Three months to six months is the normal drop-off rate. There are some strategies involved with that. For example, right before the three month mark, send your juiciest best tip in email to help people realize, “Oh, I should stick around when the next billing cycle comes.” Know when that drop-off rate is going to happen and that’s only going to happen over time. Then, you can put strategies into place to make sure people remember why they should continue to pay.
That’s the thing with membership model that’s tough is you’re continually asking people to pay. You need to remind them and let them know why they need to continue to pay. It’s not like a Netflix account or sometimes you just forget. People will know that they’re paying for that and they want to make sure they’re getting something back for it.
Adele: Okay, cheers. Thank you.
Pat: Thank you.
Man: Pat, I am a current member of your Smart From Scratch course.
Pat: Thank you. Awesome.
Man: Thank you for putting that up. My question is related to that. Starting from scratch, people who are getting into this the first time, what do you find are the common struggles and what’s your advice for that?
Pat: There’s a lot of struggles at the beginning of anything that we do. How do we know what the next steps are? How do we know that we’re right for this? As I like to say, every master starts as a disaster. You’re going to have to get through that crazy disaster part in order to get and grow.
What I feel is great and the best tips that I can offer is to get inspiration from somebody who’s done it already and you are probably in the right place if you’re doing that right now because Darren is an amazing mentor to have for all of us. In addition to that, things like mastermind groups, getting together, to have people hold you accountable as well, just to be that outside perspective looking in because sometimes, we can be so deep into our own stuff that we don’t see the obvious. Sometimes, we need another person just to help put things back into perspective for us.
That’s why things like communities, whether it’s a paid community or a free community or a group and getting involved with people there. I’m preaching to the choir here because you’re coming to events. This is the perfect place to connect and meet people that I hope you like to go home and continue these relationships that you’re about to build over this weekend. That by far, is the most important thing. Then, also just realizing that failure is part of the process. It is a learning experience.
I grew up in a house where I would come home with a math test. I get a 96% on it. Then, my dad will go, “What happened to the other 4%, Pat?” I was growing up with this idea that you to be perfect all the time. In business, if you try to be perfect, you’re never going to take any action. You’re never going to be bold enough to take the action that you need that’s actually going to give you the results. Understanding that with a little bit of guidance, you have to move forward, take bold actions, realizing that you could totally fail. That’s good. You want to fail fast, almost, so you can get to those learning points much faster.
Man: Thanks, Pat.
Pat: Thank you.
Woman: Thanks, Darren, for bringing out such great speakers. I’m just to ask my imperfect question. If you had no interest in branding yourself, none whatsoever, but I have several sites, different niches, that I’m a man in many of them, but you want that authenticity that you just spoke about, how important it is, you are your best asset, as you said so, to give of yourself. How do you do that as an avatar? How do you give up your best but you don’t want to brand yourself out there for various reasons?
Pat: There’s many reasons to not necessarily put yourself out there so much. It can still be done. I think it relates to the content and the interactions that you have with your audience. You can still be personable without sharing your name. I know a number of avatars who’ve become very successful online in many different niches. Some of them, because they just don’t want to get known in that particular industry because then if they’re bossing you, they would get fired most likely. Other times, they’re not just comfortable of having other people know their names. The way that you become personable is you ask questions.
I think it was James Schramko, who’s speaking later. I just love that he once told me, “You got to stop trying to be so interesting and start getting interested.” That has changed how I’ve communicated with my audience. Not me, me, me, me. It’s more, “Hey, how can I help you? What are the problems that you’re having? What are the struggles that you’re having?” It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re somebody who is asking somebody, “What can I do for you?” that’s personable, that’s memorable, and it doesn’t matter what your name is. You can still do that.
Woman: Thank you.
Woman: This sounds very cool. Hi, can you put this down a little?
Pat: You’re good.
Woman: Hey, I’ve been blogging for about five years now. I feel like all my raving fans are already buying my product, service, and engaging my stuff, but I felt like for about a year now, I’m really struggling to expand that. I’m […] with growth. I’m wondering, are there any tips to increasing your engagement, network, traffic, and how to get other people to read, and engage with what you’re doing?
Pat: This is actually what I’ve spoke about in 2014 at ProBlogger in the Gold Coast. It was just this idea of building more raving fans. I love that you’re focused on building that because that’s really where the power is in your brand. What do you think about who your customers are going to be? Where the most interaction engagements come from? It’s not all the brand new cold traffic that you’re trying to bring in. It’s the people who’ve been a part of your brand for a while, who just absolutely love what you do.
Now, there’s many different ways to go about getting people from the bottom of the pyramid up to that top where raving fans are. One of my favorite strategies is providing small wins. I used to think that every single blog post had to be like a revolutionary huge deal, something that would just get monstrous reviews and shared all over the world. That actually stopped me from writing a lot because I thought everything had to be that big. Actually, it’s the smaller, “Here’s something you can do in five minutes that can be really helpful,” kind of articles that actually make the biggest difference.
I actually remember one of the first blogs besides yours, Darren, that I read was by a man named Ramith Sethi called iwillteachyoutoberich.com. Not rich like money, but just rich in life and fulfillment. I remember coming across his blog when I read it on and off. There was one article that said, “Here’s how you can save 20% on your cable bill in 15 minutes.” I said, “Really? Can you do that?” I read the post. It gives you the script that you use when you call your cable company to save 20%. I said, “Okay, what have I got to lose? This will either work or not. I’ll found out in 15 minutes.” I did it, it worked. I became a fan of Ramith’s for life. That small little thing worked and I saw it. I wanted more from him. What small things can you offer? Maybe even challenges and things like that to your non-raving fan is all it needs to help them realize you are somebody worth paying attention to and becoming a raving fan of.
The other important component to lead people up to that point would be getting people involved in a community and having them not just engaged with you but engaged with each other as well. It reminds me of when my wife, who’s a huge fan of the Backstreet Boys, she literally just came from Vegas to watch them. Nick Carter is like her second husband, apparently. She had mentioned that when she was there, she met a bunch of people who’d she never met before. They immediately had their stories, their history with Backstreet Boys to connect with each other. That helped just elevate the boys—her boys as she calls them—even more. Are you giving your audience an opportunity to meet, chat, and talk with each other that can help elevate your brand as well?
Darren: Cool. We’ll do these last two, nice and quick if we can. Then we’ll have some […].
Lory: Hey, my name is Lory. I follow the both of you and I attribute a lot of our success to you. Thank you very much.
Pat: Thanks, Lory.
Lory: Just a question about Facebook. I currently have a Facebook business page and got a very niche audience of dieticians. We’ve got most of the dieticians in Australia on our Facebook business page. I’m wondering about Facebook groups and if it would be worth transitioning them to a group or just keep them in the business page?
Pat: If you want community and engagement, a group is where you want people to go. What I would recommend doing actually would be to potentially serve ads to your Facebook page since you’ve worked so hard to collect those people […] contacts to get them on your email list. That way, you can essentially do whatever you want with them. I think, a group is where you want to bring people to go to get into communities.
However, I also know that Facebook is making changes too. I heard through the grapevine that they’re going to essentially somehow begin to start creating algorithms within the groups, potentially even paying to serve ads to groups. It’s just not really what I want to hear but we really have no control over that. We can only go with what we have access to at that time.
A group, I still feel, has been just amazing. I have a page as well with 180,000 contacts. A group of only 30,000, relatively speaking, is much smaller but there’s so much more activity there. It’s an amazing place, too, where your audience can help your audience. I go in there and questions were being answered without even me having to answer them. It’s a great place for networking and connections. Similar to the previous question, it’s a great place where your community can talk with each other and that helps elevate your brand, too.
Lory: Thank you.
Pat: You’re welcome.
Darren: The last one.
Man: Hey, quick question. I remember recently that someone mentioned that course you launched. It was last year or early this year. I saw on social media, someone ripped into a bit about the course calling you a scam or something. Instead of ignoring it or defending yourself, you actually offered him the course for free. I’m wondering what the result of that was? I presumed he didn’t take it up. What you’re thinking behind that was in replying that way?
Pat: One thing that I’ve learned over time is that there’s going to be haters. Haters are going to hate. Initially, back in 2009 and 2010, it really used to frazzle me. I would stop working for weeks because I was just so distraught over what that one person said. Actually, there was another time back in 2011, I think, where a person left this 2000 or 3000 word comment on my blog. It’s really nasty. Of course, I just deleted it, but then, all of my friends started emailing me saying, “Hey, who’s this guy who just left a comment on my blog?” He had copied and pasted that comment and posted it on every site that I was featured on.
I stopped working for a month because I was just like, “I can’t do this anymore. Maybe he’s right.” Then, I talked to a lot of my friends and my mastermind group. First of all, they were like, “Dude, haters? It’s a good sign. It means you’re doing something right.” I’m like, “It doesn’t feel like I’m doing something right, right now.” Then, it was another person who said, “You know, every second you spend thinking about this person is a second you’re taking away from hundreds and thousands of people who needs you. Stop. Stop.” So I stopped.
Actually, I was just very curious. I emailed him and I said, “Hey, I can’t believe you did what you did but I forgive you. Trying to come from a place of forgiving, why did you do what you do?” I wasn’t expecting a response but he did respond. He said, “Pat, I knew you’re a very popular blogger. You seem like an easy target. I just wanted traffic to my website.” I couldn’t help but just laugh a little. You thought that was a legit strategy? I was like, “You should take my course.” But I didn’t have a course at that time.
This recent course that I came out with, people will say such things and I have to know that that’s not true. I know that’s not true. I’ve helped hundreds and thousands of people. In order for me to help this person understand because I know it’s just either a miscommunication or this person is coming from something dark that happened on their end and they’re just reflecting it on to me because I’m an easy target. I just offered it to him. I didn’t hear anything back.
There have been other people who have been trolls in the past who I’ve reached out, too. I actually had conversations with them on Skype which isn’t always recommended. Then, a lot of times those people just have misunderstandings. They see somebody reporting their income online and they think immediately that they’re a bad person. Then, after getting to know me a little bit, they realize, and actually some of them are my biggest fans now, which is really cool.
That stuff can happen. It is a good sign because it means you’re doing something bold. If you’re always in the middle trying to please everybody, you’re probably not going big enough. That’s the other thing that I’ve learned.
Man: Awesome. Thanks.
Pat: Thank you.
Darren: It’s a great note to finish on. Thanks so much, Pat, for sharing. We all look forward to your closing keynote. Today, we thank Pat.
Pat: Thank you, everybody,
Darren: I hoped you enjoyed today’s podcast. It’s a bit different to normal being a keynote, but I hope that also gave you a bit of a taste for what we do at our events. Again, if you want to check out our events, we are holding it in Melbourne, Australia. For some of you, it’ll be a bit of a trip to get out. Particularly if you’re in Australia, or New Zealand, or even different parts of Asia, or you’re willing to come to Australia for a little bit of holiday, we’d love you to come to either our training day for beginners or our mastermind group on the 10th and 11th of August.
Again, you can head over to problogger.com/events and you’ll see both of the options there. Otherwise, check out the podcast show notes today where there’s a full transcription of the whole show today. Our transcriptionist is going to be working hard because there’s a lot of content in today. Again, the shownotes today at problogger.com/podcast/278.
Thanks for listening. Chat with you soon.
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