053: Pat Flynn’s Tips for Building Online Businesses That Fly

Welcome to episode 53 of the Food Blogger Pro podcast! In this episode, Bjork talks with someone most of us are probably familiar with, Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income.

Last week, Bjork talked with Megan Gilmore from Detoxinista about how she ran the most successful cookbook preorder campaign in the history of 10 Speed Press. To go back and listen that episode, click here.

Pat Flynn’s Tips for Building Online Businesses That Fly

Do I even need to introduce Pat? I mean, he’s kind of an online business celebrity. In the world of passive income, Pat has come to embody what it means to run a passive income business.

If you haven’t heard of passive income before, definitely check out Pat’s website where he talks a lot about it.

This episode doesn’t go too deep into the intricacies of what passive income is. Instead, Pat talks about what he’s done to determine whether a passive income business idea will really take off – whether or not it will fly. He talks about his two passive income business and how they continue to bring in money today after creating them years ago. He talks about how he can manage with so many things on his plate while still adhering to The One Thing that Jay Papasan talked about in this episode. In all, it’s a really incredible episode, so let’s just jump right in!

In this episode, Pat shares:

  • What he would do if he had to start over again
  • How reading a dating book helped him learn how to meet people
  • Why getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to him
  • How you can do many things while only focusing on one at a time
  • How he makes passive income with two niche websites
  • Why people don’t find success
  • How he gets real feedback from his audience
  • What you can do to see if your business idea is viable

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes or Google Play Music:


If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

Be sure to review us on iTunes!

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.


Bjork Ostrom: Welcome to episode number 53 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. Hey, everybody. This is Bjork Ostrom. You’re listening to episode number 53 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast. This is a great one to kick off what I consider the New Year of our podcast. We’ve gone through 52 episodes. This is 53 so this is number one of season two, our second year.

The reason that it’s such a great way to kick it off is because we are talking today to Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income and the many different branches under the umbrella of Smart Passive Income, everything from his YouTube channel to his website to his podcast, and then all of the little sub sites underneath it including one in the food industry, which we’re going to talk about today along with a lot of other things including how to know if what you’re working on is really working. That’s all wrapped around this idea of Will It Fly?, which is the name of Pat’s new book that he recently released. He’s been a huge inspiration for me through the years just in terms of doing business, and business online, and how to do that well. I’m really excited to share this episode with you.

Before, we jump into it, I have a favor to ask. We really want to know how we can make this podcast even better. We want to hear from you. What we did is we set up a little survey. If you can take five minutes to go and take that survey to let us know, hey, what are the things that you want to hear more of? What are the things that you’re maybe still struggling with? What are the things that maybe previously that we’ve done that you really liked? We just want to hear from you, and we want to know what we can do to make this podcast even better. We set up a little survey at foodbloggerpro.com/survey. If you go there, that will redirect you to a survey where you can let us know what your thoughts, and ideas, and feedback are all around the podcast.

What I want to do right now is jump into this interview with Pat Flynn. Without further ado, Pat, welcome to the podcast.

Pat Flynn: Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Super excited to have you on. I’ve been listening to Smart Passive Income for a really long time. It has been a huge inspiration on what we’ve done through the years. It’s an honor to have you on.

Usually what we do is we talk about origin stories at the beginning here, but I want to do something a little bit different. I would guess that a decent number of people know your origin story. Let’s say that you had to scratch everything. Right now, you have multiple podcasts. You have multiple websites, apps, a speaking career, a blog, digital products. Let’s say that something happened, something catastrophic, and it all disappeared. You woke up tomorrow morning and you didn’t have any of that. What will it look like for you to rewrite your story? Where would you start?

Pat Flynn: That’s an interesting question. Well, if I was Spider-Man, and we’re talking about the time when I got bit by a radioactive spider, if I could play it out the way that I wanted to now … It’s interesting because after speaking to so many entrepreneurs, getting to learn about a lot of other people’s businesses, I’ve gotten to know that relationships are some of the most important things that influence how well a business does. For me, the best way to build a relationship is to actually meet people in person and go to conferences. For me, it took me a long time to get comfortable with going to conferences and getting in front of people, meeting them and shaking hands. Even still, I get some sweaty palms.

I’ve always been an introvert. I was always the guy in the back of the class who never raised their hand, only speak when called upon and used the least amount of words possible. If I could rewrite my origin story, I would break out of that discomfort or at least understand the importance of going out there and reaching people. If I had the ability to, I would attend a conference with a certain crowd where I was interested in what they were doing and just really start to talk to people and get to understand how I could provide value to them in some way.

This is how people like Tim Ferriss actually got started. When he wrote the 4-Hour Workweek, nobody knew who he was. It took him actually going to conferences, meeting people, actually providing value to them first before they finally ask, “Well, Tim, what do you do?” “Well, I have this really cool book and I’m writing it.” Then, “I’m interested in that. I’d love to share that with my audience.” That’s how he got his start. That’s how he became a New York Times, Wall Street bestseller and why his book is still on the bookshelves today when we go to Barnes & Noble’s.

That’s how I’d rewrite it because when I started back in 2008 after I got laid off from the architecture world, which is my true origin story, I was very much hidden in my home after I got let go, and just tried to figure things out on my own, and didn’t want to talk to anybody, didn’t want to let anybody else touch what I was doing. It was very much just a me, me, me thing. I don’t know if that was because I’m a dude and dudes don’t ask for directions or anything when we get lost. There is some pride involve there. I’ve since learned then connections with other people, asking for help, building those relationships, that’s the foundation behind everything that I found to be success worthy.

Bjork Ostrom: I’ve mentioned just a few times in the podcast before, but one of the things I often talk about is any of the successes, true successes that we’ve had is because we’re standing on the shoulders of giants. We’ve worked with people that are really talented at what they do and have helped us move along. I think that’s a good example of why that’s so important.

I was just at a conference with Lindsay, my wife. You actually spoke there and gave a great keynote. It was awesome and a great way to,

Pat Flynn: Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: … kick off the conference, Everything Food in Salt Lake City, Utah. One of the things that we heard people asked a few times was actually related to what you just said. It was this idea of how do you connect with people? I think that for you especially, for us a little bit, especially in this niche, there’s a little bit of a shift where we can go to a conference and people will come up to us. It’s so different when you’re just getting started, and you have to approach other people. The value exchange maybe feels a little bit different. I’d love to dig into that piece a little bit and speak to the people who are in those early stages that are having that difficulty connecting with people. Do you have any advice as to what those early conversations can look like? Is it going up, and simply shaking their hand, and saying to somebody’s hand and saying like, “Hey, what do you do?” It’s such a hard thing to do.

Pat Flynn: Yeah.

Bjork Ostrom: Even if you’re five years down the road, six years down the road … What about those people that are one year down the road?

Pat Flynn: Really, it’s no different than any of us who have already found that success because we often have to create new relationships. Over time, yes, you get used to it, but you still have to go out there and be proactive. The thing is if you just sit there and wait for people to come to you, that’s not going to happen. You have to really want to do this.

There’s a few things that I have in place that helped me do it that I think can help a lot of other people, too. Social media is great to connect people, and I think that’s a quick, easy way to put the guard down a little bit and just make those quick connections so that when you meet in person, before this event that you go and see these people at that you want to potentially speak to, have coffee with or at least shake their hand, it’s not coming from nowhere. You’ve actually connected at some point in the past even if it’s online. It could be something that you could actually start the conversation with. That’s something.

The hardest part of starting conversations, well, what do you start with? Starting with something that you both have a connection with is great. That could be something that you talked about on Twitter, or Facebook at on point, or maybe just bringing up something that person had done that really resonated with you. That always works really well with me because I’m interested on how I’ve helped other people, too.

In addition to that, I also employ this thing called the five-second rule. That is if I see somebody that I want to speak to, I don’t give myself more than five seconds to psyche myself out to go up there. Now, obviously, I don’t want to be rude and interrupt people, but if there’s an opportunity and I see it, I don’t wait more than five seconds to just go out to that person and introduce myself. That, by far, has been the best thing ever.

Where it comes from actually, where I learned this is from a book called The Game by Neil Strauss, which is all about the underground world of the pickup world, which is guys picking up girls. I read this book because it was a New York Times bestseller. There’s actually some great strategies there on just networking. Of course, this book is about guys picking up girls. I’m completely and happily married. I wasn’t reading it for that reason. A lot of these strategies that they use to capture people’s attention, to be remembered is actually stuff we can use in business and in the blogging world, too.

This five-second rule is the one that’s been the most helpful for me. The more time you give yourself, the more time you’re going to give yourself to psyche yourself out. I don’t even give me more than five seconds to do that. That alone has already just made massive changes with me and my ability to actually reach out to people who I want to reach out to.

Another thing that works really well with me, I know, is that if somebody talks about something that I’m interested in even outside of the world of business, it really just makes me start to pay attention a lot quicker to who that person is. I do a lot online. On my podcast, I share a lot of facts about myself. Actually, in every episode, I share at least one random fact about me at the beginning, which has been great for connecting with people. A lot of times, people will come up to me and say, “Hey, Pat. How is your fantasy football team this week?” Immediately I know that this person has followed something that I’ve doone. That makes me want to give back to them because they’ve already proven that they’ve listened to something I’ve said. That’s another great way to capture somebody’s attention.

Finally, one tip that I think is really, really cool, if there’s somebody out there who might be an A-lister who you just absolutely love what they do, and it just seems almost impossible for you to get in front of them, here’s what you can do. You take some of their advice, or whatever they teach, or whatever they do, you do that. You crush it. Then you share your results with them. Of course, you’re very thankful for that. You can also offer yourself as an example, or a testimonial, or write up a guest post for this person because every influencer loves to share stories about how they’ve been able to influence people. If you can become this “poster child” of this person’s work, you’re going to get to build this relationship with this person, but not only that, you’re going to get a lot of traffic coming back to your site. You’re going to get introduced and almost endorsed by this person, which has happened many, many times.

There’s a guy named Bryan Harris from a website called Videofruit who’s actually made this term called the poster boy strategy to get a lot more traffic coming to your site. That is to take an influencer’s work, do it, crush it and share the results with him or her so that they will be more than happy to share you with them. Of course, I’ve been able to build a lot of relationships with people like Jeremy and Jason from Internet Business Mastery, which is the first course that I took online, by actually putting their stuff into practice, succeeding with it and sharing my results with them. Then we’re like great friends now. We help each other out. I’ve been featured on their site. It really does work.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s interesting. As you say that, I think of even the people that we’ve connected with that are members of Food Blogger Pro and they’ve gone through that. They say, “Hey, I just want to let you know X, Y, Z. This positive thing happened.” Some of those people, we’ve connected with. They’ve been on the podcast. Just what a win-win that is. It’s great for them, and it’s also a great way to connect, and a great way to showcase somebody doing something that’s working.

Pat Flynn: Totally.

Bjork Ostrom: Totally good. Cool. I want to go back and dig into your original origin story a little bit. You shared a little bit about where things started for you. Can you talk about from a high level the maybe SparkNotes’s version of what brought you to where you are today for those that aren’t familiar? I’m sure a lot of people would be. The quick overview of where you started and then where you are now.

Pat Flynn: Sure. Well, I came from the world of architecture. That’s actually what I went to school for five years at UC Berkeley. I got this amazing, almost like a dream job coming out of college interestingly enough through a connection in the marching band because I was in the marching band at Cal. It was great. I was ready to dedicate 40 years or the rest of my life to the world of architecture. I had this whole plan laid out. I was putting money in my 401(k). I had aspirations to create my own firm by the time I was 45, all these things.

Then July 17 of 2008, my boss calls me into his office. He tells me that I’m going to be let go, which was a huge blow to me. I felt like I failed. I felt like I let my parents down who paid for school. I felt like I wasn’t working hard enough. It was a pretty depressing moment for a couple of weeks there. I am very fortunate to have some amazing support behind me from my wife and from my family. The interesting thing was right before that layoff, I had actually proposed to my wife. The timing was terrible.

What happened was I actually discovered a podcast, this one that I mentioned earlier, called Internet Business Mastery with Jeremy and Jason. It was on a particular episode that they had where they interviewed a guy named Cornelius Fichtner who is talking about how he was helping people pass an exam called the PM Exam or the Project Management Exam. He was making six figures a year doing so. That was my aha moment or my light bulb moment because I had taken a really difficult exam when I was in architecture before I got let go that I felt like I knew a lot of information about. I actually helped a lot of people in my office to pass that exam. I was like, “Now, I could do what he does maybe and we’ll see what happens.”

To make a long story short, in October of 2008, I published the eBook Study Guide, which was all my best tips and information. I had a website called inthelead.com. Lead was the name of the exam. The website has since been changed to greenexamacademy.com. The cool thing is I ended up making over 200 sales in that first month for an eBook that was $19.99. In total, I had made about $8,000, which was two and a half times more than I was making as an architect by selling an eBook online which just blew my mind. I thought I was doing something illegal because I was like, “This isn’t possible, is it?” It was really happening.

The coolest part, a few things, obviously the money was great. It really showed me that this was even possible for me which just motivated me even more. I did more research, fine-tuned things, optimized them and started to make more money, started to make more sales, make more products and that sort of thing. It just steamrolled from there. Beyond that, I was getting these incredible notes of thanks from my customers who are telling me how … Because they passed this exam, they got a raise. Because they’ve passed this exam, they got a promotion. They’re just super thankful because there was no content out there that was helping them except for mine. That was cool.

The other thing is they are calling me by name. That was a huge impactful thing for me. They’re like, “Pat, thank you so much.” Pat, this. Pat, that. As an architect doing drafting, working with other clients … If I were to ask you, Bjork, who built the building that you are in right now or your home, most people don’t know who built the homes that we spent most of our times in, that we break breads with our families in unless it’s your grandfather’s own bare hands type of thing.

Here I was in this little niche of this little exam in the architecture space getting called by name and being thanked for the work that I was doing. I was like, “Man, this internet thing, this is a great way to influence people, to be able to share things and provide value to others.” That’s when I created smartpassiveincome.com because I was like, “This is blowing my mind. I didn’t even know this was possible. I wouldn’t have known unless I’d gotten laid off. I’m going to share everything with the world.”

On smartpassiveincome.com, I started sharing my income and where it was all coming from. I started sharing the strategies I was using. I started sharing what I wished I had done better and every failure along the way. I’ve began to build new businesses, and new products, and sharing every bit and piece of that journey and just, again, being very upfront with people.

I’ve become known as this leader in the authenticity, transparency space. In the world of internet marketing, it’s definitely helped me grow quite fast. In the internet marketing space, there’s a log of red flags, a lot of people who are just selling the dream, not sharing the full story, giving you parts one and two and asking you to pay for part three, that type of thing. I just give everything away for free. As a result, my income on Smart Passive Income has grown through a lot of the affiliate commissions, for the products that I recommend, coaching and that sort of thing. It’s just been an amazing journey. I’m now speaking, and writing books, and just all these stuff I never thought was possible. This is a thick CliffsNotes version. Sorry about that.

Bjork Ostrom: No, it’s good. It’s interesting.

Pat Flynn: Looking back, I’m like, man, this layoff, which was at the time the worse thing ever happened, was actually the best thing that ever happened. It enabled me to do the bold actions that were required to succeed as an entrepreneur. If I didn’t get laid off, I would have always just maybe put in half the effort, if any, to do it.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that I think is so interesting about your story, and I felt like this, too, it was one of the thoughts that I had is your speaking path, is you’re so good at what you do whether it’s writing a blog post, or doing a podcast episode, or delivering a keynote. One of the things that I would love to take some time to talk about is your process in doing that. I think part of it is naturally who you are and your intention of doing work. I’m guessing part of it is something that you’ve crafted over time as well. One thing that’s so interesting is that you do have these multiple things that you’re doing.

I recently interviewed Jay Papasan who did the foreword for Will It Fly?, your latest book. He talks about this concept of the one thing. Something that I’m so curious to hear you talk about is how you view having multiple things that you’re working on and what your process looks like in approaching multiple things: podcasts, websites, applications, blogs, keynotes. What does that look like for you day to day?

Pat Flynn: Well, it’s interesting because a lot of people see that I do a lot of these things, and they assume that I’m working on all of them at the same time. In fact, I if could add on to Jay and Garry’s book, The ONE Thing, I would actually say, “It’s one thing at a time.” The cool thing about this passive income stuff, being able to build a business that works for you after you’ve invested time upfront, is that you can create something and then have it continue work for you, and then sit back from that a little bit and work on something else. That’s what I’ve done over time.

A lot of people see that I have a podcast, a blog and SPI TV. Actually, I have multiple podcasts. Then they’re like, “How are you able to do all these at the same time?” I don’t do them all at the same time. I actually had started with my blog in 2008. My YouTube channel was introduced in mid 2009. Then in July of 2010 was my podcast. I could only move on to the next one after I felt comfortable with the other one. A lot of people see what I do and they try to do them all at the same time, and that’s where they fail because, like Jay and Gary talked about in the book, if all your energy is expended out into these different places, nothing is going to get done. They work against each other. You need them to work with each other. That can only happen if you do things one at a time.

Another big challenge for people when they try to do anything really is that there’s so many things to potentially do. How do you know which one to do first? That prioritization has become something that I’ve been able to learn and master, maybe not master because it’s always something that’s evolving, changing, adapting, but it’s something that I’ve become very conscious about and try to employ strategies to be able to figure out, well, what is that first thing that I should be working on, or what’s going to move the needle the most? A lot of that does come with experience, but a lot of it also comes from connecting with others who have already done those things, so I can understand how it will affect my business and what I do. How can I actually do these things? Do I need to actually do them myself?

Can I hire other people to do them? Which is, again, another new thing that’s, for me, just fairly recently been put on board is the team building aspect. I’ve always, like I said, try to do everything myself. Only over the last couple of years have I started to build a team to help me actually do a lot of these things that do need to happen at the same time like editing my podcast while I write a blog post episode, that sort of thing. That’s how I’ve been able to grow exponentially.

Beyond that, here’s the biggest problem for people, and this was for me, too, for a while was that, not only are there a lot of things to do, but there’s a lot of things to consume and learn about. There’s podcast episodes, blog posts, YouTube videos, books. So many great things out there that could really help us and change our lives. If you continue to only consume content, nothing is going to happen. You need to take action. That’s the big thing. How do you know what to consume? How do you know what not to consume? How do you organize all that?

Well, the way that I do it is this thing called just in time learning. I actually learned this from Jeremy from Internet Business Mastery. Just in time learning is after you figured out what your priority is, that next one thing you want to do, that first domino in that string of dominoes that’s going to happen, once you know what that first thing is, you only let yourself consume and learn about things that are going to be relevant to that next thing. If it doesn’t have to do with that, then it’s not anything that you need right now.

Here’s the tool that I use that really helps me with this and that is Evernote. There’s a lot of great blogs out there. Especially with Twitter and Facebook, we get in our feeds all the time this amazing stuff that we don’t want to miss. That fear of missing out is another big player here. It plays a big role in why a lot of people actually fail or don’t get any results.

What I do is I use a tool called Evernote, specifically Evernote Web Clipper. If I ever come across an article, or a podcast episode, or whatever that I feel would be useful for me but just is not useful for me right now, I use Evernote Web Clipper to save it into Evernote and to a specific category related to that thing so that when it’s time for me to go and learn about Pinterest, and that’s my next priority, then I can go in there and all that information is there already. I don’t have to hunt it down.

Pinterest isn’t something that I need to be focusing on right now. I need to be focusing on my next course or whatever that next domino is. That’s why I’ve been doing a lot of research, and talking, and connecting with people who are into courses and doing research on course software, and how people learn, and education, how people actually finish courses or the top 10 things that make people stop taking a course or stop going through the courses that they signed up for. These are the things that I’m interested in looking at and learning about right now because that’s relevant to the next thing that I’m actually doing. Those are the things that I have.

Bjork Ostrom: Is that a day by day process for you in terms of the prioritization, or are you looking big picture, here’s what I want to do and here’s the general goal that I want to work towards? Is it more of the five year picture that we talked about in The ONE Thing and that you mentioned in your book Will It Fly? and then build back from that? What does it look like on a day to day basis in terms of the prioritization for you?

Pat Flynn: Week by week I know going into every single day that coming week what it is that I’m going to be doing and what it is I’m going to be focusing on. It’s even broken down into, well, Monday is writing day, writing and research. Tuesday is I get on the microphone. I do interviews on other people’s shows or on my shows. Then Wednesday are my meeting days so all meetings that I have with my team, with other people. They’re scheduled for Wednesday. Thursday and Friday is clean up days. That’s how I break it down. It is something that is working backwards from that three to five year realm. That’s exactly what you should be doing because that’s where you want to go. That’s how you know what address to put into your navigation system, for example. Then you work backwards from there and go step by step, turn by turn. Even within those turns, you have to understand, well, what do you need to do today? What’s that next task? It is broken down very, very …

I used to have a physical folder system. I don’t employ this anymore because I’ve gotten comfortable with how I’ve been working. The team also takes care of a lot of these now, too, but I used to. When I was working on my own and working on multiple projects, I actually had a physical folder system. The reason it was physical folders is because it enabled my brain to really focus on one thing at a time. I had a folder for the next iPhone application I was creating, the next product that I was creating for Green Exam Academy, the next product that I was creating for Smart Passive Income or the next blog post.

Going into the week, I knew which folder I had to pull out and open up. Within that folder for that one specific project, there’s a list of things that need to be done. Within that one project, there’s that next one task that I have to do and that’s the next thing that I’m working on.

It is broken down into larger level, large scale things broken down. Even those smaller things are broken down into mini milestones, too. For me, that’s also really important because these big goals that we have that seem so far away, it can be very overwhelming. Because it’s so far away, we often don’t understand what do we do next because there’s just so many things to do. When you know what that next thing is and you break it down … Yes, you might not even know what all the steps are, but as long as you know the direction you want to go and where those blanks spaces are, well, that’s where you can then ask for help and fill in the blanks from there.

Man, it’s been so great to be able to stay focused like that. Maybe a lot more people are more disciplined than I am, but I need that system to be able to focus and just go in to the office, and sit down, and know what I’m going to be doing next. It’s just worked wonders with productivity, and schedule and stress. No longer am I sitting in front of my computer, opening up a WordPress, add a blank document and just staring at it, wondering what I’m going to write next. It’s even down to have we planned the entire year what all the blog posts are going to be, who the podcast guests are going to be. Yes, there is flexibility but at least I know …

For example, when I go into Monday and I’m writing, I open up a Google Doc that my team created for that specific blog post that we talked about three months ago that was going to be posted two months from now. I go in and it’s already something that I can think about. There’s bullet points and they’re typically from my team as well just to get me started. Never am I wasting any more time on, “What should I do next?”

Bjork Ostrom: I think breaking that down into micro goals is a huge takeaway. I think we all have these big concepts that we know that we want to move towards, but to be able to break those down, and to move forward in that way. One of the things I think that’s hard about that is taking the time to dedicate to doing that because sometimes it doesn’t feel like work, and there’s always busy work that can get done. To take that time to really plan and look ahead, I think, it isn’t easy but it’s hugely beneficial. I think that’s a really good takeaway.

Pat Flynn: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. That work that you do ahead of time, it’s not the sexy work. It’s not the thing that’s going to get you likes and hearts on Twitter. It’s the 20% of work that you do upfront before any of that stuff that you do is going to give you 80% of the results. All that planning is so necessary. Yeah, you’re absolutely right.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. One of the things I want to talk about is your experience with niche sites. I think that’s such a fascinating thing. You had two multiple niche sites, but two really prominent niche sites that you’ve talked about. One of them is in the food space, which is fun to talk about. Can you just give a quick background on what those have been and maybe a little bit about where those are at right now?

Pat Flynn: In 2010, a buddy of mine had challenged me to create a website and see who could make the first dollar, who gets the most traffic, that sort of thing. I was like, “Let’s make this public. Let’s make it educational for people who follow along.” It was going to be great and that’s why we called it Niche Site Duel.

The second time I did it, there wasn’t any other person doing it with me. The first time, it was me versus my friend, and I decided to go very scientific method to try and determine what particular niche I should get into. It was very much involving Google keywords and volume of searches for those keywords and competition related to those keywords. I ended up landing on a keyword after about a couple of weeks of research using specific tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, which isn’t available anymore. I think it’s the called Google Keyword Planner now. There’s some other paid tools that help you mine those fields a little bit faster now.

Anyway, I discovered a keyword called security guard training that was getting a lot of searches but actually not being served very well. In 73 days, I was able to create a website at about, I don’t know, 20 to 30 pieces of content on it on my own doing the research, actually calling security guard companies around every state because I’ve discovered through my research that every state in the US had a different set of requirements in order to become a security guard. To find out this information, because I’m not a security guard, I called security guard companies and I literally asked them, “Hey, what does it take to become a security guard in Delaware? What does it take to become a security guard in Texas?” They just told me, “Here’s the website that you need to register. You do this. You do this. Eight hours of training, blah blah blah.” I just posted all of that information, organized it in a way that I felt that would be the most helpful for people who are looking to become a security guard or looking for security guard training.

This site, after 73 days, got to number one in Google for security guard training. It ended up making about a couple of a thousand dollars a month through advertising. It continues to make about 1,500 to $2,000. This is five years later now, six years later now. It’s just on autopilot. I haven’t touched it over the last three years because there was only a finite amount of information that’s needed on that site.

A lot of people ask me to do this experiment again. Google has changed its ways on ranking and stuff. In 2013, I did the same thing, keyword research. I found a topic that was heavily searched for and underserved and that was food truck. Actually it was food trucks for sale was actually the keyword. There were no sites out there doing that. Then I actually did more research and found there were no sites talking really about food trucks in general, and how to start a business, how to do this. I was like, “Hey, I have some information about that because I’m a marketer.” I actually have thought about what food trucks could do to actually get better results. I was a huge fan of food trucks here in San Diego.

I built that site out. It’s called foodtruckr.com. In a similar fashion to the security guard site, it climbed to the top of Google. It’s one of the top food truck resources now, which is really cool. It also has a podcast to go along with it where I interview other food truck owners. Again, I’m not a food truck owner myself. I take the position as somebody who is looking to learn all there is about food trucks. I’m very honest about the fact that I don’t actually own a food truck, but I’m trying to learn as much as I can on that website. That makes about 800 to about $2,500 a month depending on sales. It’s very seasonal. I actually had created a couple of eBooks that are on sale there, too, that have been very successful.

Actually, I haven’t touched the site for a couple of years now. The interesting thing is I actually just connected with a company who is going to come onboard and actually begin to the add more content, actually put a eCommerce platform on top of it to sell more things and hopefully get it above the $10,000 month mark which I’m really excited about. It’ll be a lot of fun.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, incredible. One of the questions that I had with those niche sites is to hear you talk a little bit about at what point do you say I’m going to step back from this as opposed to continuing to put content into that? Obviously, let’s say with the food truck site, it’s more recent. You could have continued to work on it and build it. What’s that decision-making process like for you? This might not exactly overlap with this story, but could you also speak to the decision that people have to make? When do you stop doing what you’re doing and when do you double down and work harder?

I think a lot of people that listen to this are at that point. They’ve maybe worked really hard for six months, a year, a year and a half. They’re probably not even making a thousand dollars to $2,500. They’re maybe making a hundred or 200. They’re thinking, “Is this worth it? Should I do it?” How do you process those decisions about what you spend your time doing? You and I know the feeling of what it’s like when it tips and becomes worth it. For those people that haven’t experienced that yet, what is your advice to them?

Pat Flynn: Well, there’s a lot to that, obviously. There’s a lot of factors involved with the decision whether to move forward to something or not. For me, for example, for FoodTruckr, I decided to step back from it because I decided to make Smart Passive Income a priority. I continued to build out the site. I have a lot more resources, do a website change, change my brand a little bit, that sort of thing, which is why now I’m going back to FoodTruckr, and I have this opportunity with this other company to work forward now.

I will say that if I wasn’t Pat Flynn, and I wasn’t working on Smart Passive Income, and FoodTruckr is the thing that I started, I would continue to go with it. I would double down, triple down on it. It’s just because I feel like I’m in a unique position where I am this crash test dummy online where I am put here to experiment and try different things. That’s why moving from thing to thing so I could share all about these different things with people. For most people, I would say, once you find something that is a little bit successful, that means it can be a lot more successful, too, to work on optimizing that, optimizing conversion, that sort of thing.

Now, to your second question or second part, how do you know whether to give up or double down, it’s interesting because I know a lot of people who have quit. I feel like they quit right before the inflection point and a lot of people do, where things can begin to start to take off. The big question is how do we know if next week is when things are going to start to happen. Man, that can just kill you when you think about that question all the time.

The big question I want to ask people is do you feel like you are putting in the effort or doing the things that you need to do to give your website, your blog, your business the real chance it needs to succeed? I also know a lot of people who believe that they have something and they’ve done the work to actually make things work. They don’t and they wonder why. When I dig into their business, it’s obvious that they’re just scratching the surface. They’re not doing really what they need to do in order to make money.

They’re very much involve with a lot of the busy work related to what they’re doing and not the things that are actually going to get results because there’s a lot deeper things that are going on, especially with people that I talk to. It’s not about the fact that their website is not working or whatever, it’s the fact that they’re afraid to put themselves out there and create products that could actually sell. There’s a lot of internal mindset things that have to go along with this. I’ve dealt with those things, too.

For me, what has helped me most with helping me to understand whether I should move forward with the project or not, there’s a couple of things. One is I look internally and say, “Am I actually doing what I should be doing? If I took all fears away, am I actually putting in what I need to do to give this thing a chance?” That’s the first thing.

The second thing is I actually go and reach out to other people who I know, who I’m connected with, people in my mastermind groups. I’m in two mastermind groups actually that each meet weekly. I’m very blessed to be in groups that are involved where people are there to help. We’re all there to help each other out and hold each other accountable. Whenever I come across this thing, I go to them. I ask, “Hey, this is what I’m feeling about this. What do you guys think? Do you have anything to add? Do you really feel like I put in the effort required to actually build this thing? Is there anything I’m missing?”

A lot of times when we’re in our businesses, we’re so deep into the details and the trenches of what we’re doing that sometimes it just takes an outside opinion that somebody sees from not in the trenches to really help us refocus on what we should be refocusing on. That happens so often. It’s hard to see when you’re in it. When an outside person comes in, they’re often able to see things that we cannot. That’s the second thing I would do.

For me, also, another thing that I’m a big proponent of now is surveying, surveying your audience, not only just with survey tools like with SurveyMonkey or other ones like that where you’re getting a large quantity, or relatively speaking, a large quantity of results or responses from people for specific questions related to problems that they’re having, things that you could do better. What really is their pain that you could provide a potential solution for?

His one thing that I do that all businesses should do no matter what stage you’re at. Every month, I make an effort to speak to at least two people a week or 10 people a month typically. I try to get them on a Skype call. These are random people on my email list. They know my brand. They give me permission to actually send them more stuff. I reach out to them via email. It’s funny because when I do that, sometimes they think it’s an automated thing that they get. I’m like, “No, this is really me. I’m asking you, Jon, I’m asking you can we get on a call? This is for real.” Many times they say yes. Most of the time they do.

I get on a Skype call with them or a phone call. I ask them questions like what can I do better? What is that you’re struggling with? What do you feel is missing from what I’m doing? What do you like about what you’re doing? I always start with the other ones first because I don’t want to be like, “Hey, nice to meet you. What do you like about me?” That doesn’t go off very well.

Bjork Ostrom: Tell me three things that you enjoy about talking with me.

Pat Flynn: Right, right. You don’t want to do it that way.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s all I wanted to know.

Pat Flynn: You don’t want to do it that way. Man, these conversations that I have, they sometimes last only five minutes. A couple of them have lasted a couple of hours. Man, they just reveal so much about what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, what I could do better with things that I could actually be doing that could actually make a difference instead of the busy work that I think I’m doing that is actually not making a difference.

Man, there’s just so much gold in real conversations because you can follow up, “What did you mean by that? Well, how did you really feel when you got that email from me?” “It was obvious that it was just a canned email. I just thought you didn’t care anymore.” Man, I didn’t even know until you said it. When you hear it in your own audience’s voice, man, it really sticks with you. Then you put in the effort to validate those things because there are outliers. There are people who be like, “I didn’t like that thing that you did.” Don’t take everything one for one. Take and listen to these information, and then validate it with everybody else and see …

Bjork Ostrom: I think it’s a way to continually adjust, and refine, and get a better gut in terms of how people will respond to the things that you create. That’s one of the hard things with creating something online. Often, it’s really numbers-based. We have metrics and analytics. The metrics and analytics don’t necessarily … Sometimes they can point out where we need to go. A lot of times, they are the symptom of what we’ve done. To be able to have that conversation, I think, is so valuable in order to get a better understanding of how people react to things.

We’ve done that just a few times. We’re not as diligent as you are in doing that on a weekly basis. When we have, it’s always been really interesting to hear even how people use the site. It’s like, “You go to that page?” It’s the page that you never would have think that anybody would go to. For somebody’s user experience, that’s one of the things that they always do. I think that’s a great takeaway.

I want to shift a little bit and talk about your book, Will It Fly? The subtitle is How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money. I think so often that can happen. People can waste time and money getting started with an idea. I know that this might tie in a little bit to what we’re talking about before. How do you know the balance between learning and gathering information, and just starting, and learning on the fly? How do you combine those two things so you’re diligent in learning? Which you showcased in your niche sites that you’re very … It’s not like you just jumped in and said, “Hey, I feel like doing this.” You did a lot of research around it. How do you balance the idea of taking action with gathering information and making sure that the action you’re taking is the correct action.

Pat Flynn: Well, this is what I talk about in the book. That’s why there’s certain step by step … There’s a step by step sequence. There’s a lot of planning but then doing, taking what you learn and actually doing it. That’s why one thing at a time, just learning, learn as you go.

For me, whenever I read a book, for example, I have to do something that I learned out of that book or else I feel like I might as well not even know how to read. Why read if you’re not going to take action? I always have a learn, do, learn, do, learn do sequence. It’s similar to how I broke it down in the book. You learn something. I show you the exercise. I actually do the exercises first and then you do them. Then you learn from that. Then you do the next thing. Then you learn from that. You gather those results. Then you learn from that and you continue to do. That’s how you make progress. That’s really what it’s all about.

In terms of actually doing the right thing, I think a lot of that does involve some research upfront, like you said, the non-sexy stuff. Again, hopefully, I’ve made it a little bit more fun in the book to do where you get to see the results as you’re learning, which is kind of cool. For me, I get most of my education from doing. I also know that just doing without any reason can actually land you further away from where you want to go.

Bjork Ostrom: When you say without any reason, what do you mean by that?

Pat Flynn: Seth Godin has this famous line which is just ship. That is, in other words, to say just go. Just do it. Don’t psyche yourself out. Don’t let yourself think about it too much. Just put it out there. If you put anything out there without any regard to how it’s going to help somebody, the market that you’re getting into, what’s going in your customer’s head, you will be left in the dark because traditionally a lot of people start businesses or blogs in the way that … It’s like you have this message. You go to the rooftops and you’re like, “Hey, here’s my message or here’s my product. Buy it.” Then there’s crickets. You don’t know if it’s because your product is bad, or maybe you’re on the wrong rooftop, or maybe you used the wrong words, or maybe it’s the wrong time of day to shout at the rooftop. You don’t know.

In this book, Will It Fly?, I walk you through the process. Each part before you do, you take what you’ve learned and use that to determine what rooftop you should be yelling from, what words to say, how your product should be positioned so that you’re confident. You would know that if this doesn’t work, it’s because of this. It’s taking that guesswork out of it. I think that the guessing is where a lot of people fall short with anything. You should never have to guess with your blog, with your business or product. You shouldn’t guess. Never guess.

Bjork Ostrom: I think that’s something that so often happens, especially in the niche world, where somebody says, “Hey, I feel like this is something that I’m excited to do.” Maybe it’s something that they’re passionate about like a certain type of baking, or cooking, or maybe they have food allergies in their family, so they’re going to start a blog or a website around food allergies. In some ways, it’s a little bit of a guess in terms of what they think will actually work or what they think will be a viable business.

Let’s use that as quick case study as we’re coming to the end of the interview here and say … For somebody that’s in that position, what are some of the first things that they can start to do? Maybe it’s one thing they do once or maybe it’s something that they introduce as a routine. Maybe it could be the jumping on the call once a week or something like that. What are some of the first things that people can do to start aligning towards something that is worth their time and energy and that will help them build their business?

Pat Flynn: Mind mapping is the first thing I would do. That is a brainstorming exercise. You could do it on the computer. There are mind mapping tools that you could use out there. I love Post-It notes. Post-It notes are great because there’s only a certain amount of space you can use and it’s one idea per Post-It. What you do when you mind map this business that you have or whatever, a blog that you want to write, or book that you want to write, a blog that you want to start, you just put one idea down after another.

What happens is our brains, they do a great job of coming up with new ideas, but they don’t do a good job of organizing those ideas or creating order on the fly. What you can do is once you get all these Post-It notes and ideas down, you can begin to create order to them. You can create hierarchies. You can create groups. You begin to see this thing form in front of you.

If you can’t do that alone, that’s step one, if you can’t do that, then nothing else matters yet. You have to figure out those ideas and really refine and define what this thing is going to become. Then you could take small baby steps to then share this with small groups of people so that you can see what the reaction is like before you go to the next step and actually build up the whole thing, or write that entire book, or create the blogs.

For example, you might have some great information about some sort of food related disease out there or something. You think more people want more information about this. Potentially, you want to create a product or a blog about it. How about you go and reach out to an influencer, or you build a relationship with them first like we talked about earlier, and then offer a guest post on their site. If you can’t get anybody interested in signing up for your email list to learn more about that thing after you’ve been on somebody else’s site endorsed by somebody who’s already earned that trust of that particular audience, then there’s a problem there. Then you know that something happened along the way and that you shouldn’t even worry about the blog yet. You have to worry about what this message is and how to frame it first so that you can get people interested in it.

The cool thing about that is if it does work out, then you’re able to, even before you have a website, you could use something like lead pages just to collect an email list. Then maybe you do get a lot of interests. Maybe you get even a hundred people who have signed up and said, “Yeah, I know somebody who has this issue,” or, “I have that problem, and I want to learn more.” Well, when you then create your blog because you validated it, you’re already going to have a hundred people who are going to be reading your site straight from day one as opposed to what some people do. They put the blog out there. They’re like, “Okay, world. There it is.” It’s like three views, your mom, your roommate and then yourself or your developer.

That’s what I did with FoodTruckr. I actually reached out to food truck owners beforehand. Told them about this site that I was creating. Got an email list from people. Not everybody signed up. Some people signed up later after they saw it was there. The early adopters, the people who are interested, they signed up. On day one, we launched. I think 400 people came to the site on day one, which is really awesome. They gave it a great kick start when it started out.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. The thing I love about the idea of the Post-It notes is being able to step away from the computer. I think there’s so much value in shifting to analog and taking the time to process through how you’re organizing. I think the brain works different when you’re writing versus when you’re typing and to be able to step away and look at that which I think is good.

I know there’s online mind mapping software as well which is also very powerful, but I think as much as possible, for people like me at least that’s primary are on the computer, it’s nice to be able to step away and use their brain a little bit differently. I feel like it’s a great first step for people that are processing through and thinking what is the thing that I’m going to be able to move forward on as that first test for figuring things out and seeing what rises to the top in the process of doing that. Then to take that next step and to start to have those conversations with people in the industry or people that you trust to see if there’s actually traction around that which I think is great.

Pat Flynn: Right, right.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s cool.

Pat Flynn: I think the most successful businesses now, the business owners, they know that they have to do that. They have to go out there and talk to people. I think back in niche site days, when that was more popular, and you could gain Google, and do these things to get ranking on the top of Google without actually having to ever talk to people, those days don’t exist anymore. You have to go out there and talk to people and discover what their pains are, truly empathize with who it is that you’re serving so that you can better serve them.

Bjork Ostrom: As I’m starting to learn more about the startup world, one of the things that I’ve realized is really popular is this idea of customer development. That come from the nonprofit world. I usually think of development as raising money. In the startup world, as you know, it’s developing the customer and starting to understand who they are. So often, it’s so not techy. It’s getting a coffee at Starbucks and saying, “What are the things that you’re struggling with if you have two kids and you’re at home and you also want to stay fit?” Then people talk about it. Then you have those conversations enough and you start to see a pattern emerge. Again, it’s so not techy but it’s so helpful as people look to grow their site to really figure out what is the need that this person has, and the issue, and the problem. How can I then create something to help solve that problem? Which is entrepreneurship at its best, one of the things that, I think, that you’re so good at doing.

I want to be respectful of your time and say a huge thank you for coming on the podcast today. I want to do a plug for Will It Fly? for people to check out that book. Is there anywhere that you want to point people to in terms of where they could find that and pick that up? After they do that first round, the Post-It notes, and they want to go a little bit deeper, where can people find out about Will It Fly as well?

Pat Flynn: Well, if you want to learn more about how to do that in a more streamlined way, it’s in the book, too. There’s a whole chapter on mind mapping. Thank you again for the opportunity. Thank you for those of you who stayed here until the end to listen. I really truly appreciate it. The URL for the book, you can find it on Kindle, on paperback and even on Audible. You could just go to willitflybook.com and that will take you there.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Great. Pat, really appreciate you. Just a heartfelt person to person thank you. So much of what you’ve done has helped us move forward and to build the things that we’re building. We’re inspired from your income reports to podcast. As I’ve talked about, the nonprofit world as I travel back and forth from my job, yours was the podcast that I listen to. It just had a really big impact. Sincere thank you to you and it’s an honor to have you on the podcast. I know that it’ll make a big impact for those that listened.

Pat Flynn: Awesome. I appreciate you guys. Thank you.

Bjork Ostrom: All right. Thanks a lot, Pat. That’s a wrap for episode number 53, another really big thank you to Pat for coming on the podcast. It’s so fun to talk to you and really an honor to have you on. I’ve listened to Smart Passive Income for a really long time. If you don’t listen to the podcast, those of you that are listening to this, that would be a great one to check out and to follow along with as well.

One more reminder about that survey that we have at foodbloggerpro.com/survey. We really want to hear from you how can we make this podcast even better. If you were to fill that out, I would be very grateful. It would mean so much to us. Hopefully, that means we can produce a podcast that’s even better, that delivers more of the content that you want to hear and less of the stuff that you don’t. Thank you for checking out episode number 53. We will be back here next week, same time, same place. Until then make it a great week. Thanks, guys.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.