Last Month’s Earnings


Currently Reading

3 Online Business Case Studies Inspired by the SPI Community

3 Online Business Case Studies Inspired by the SPI Community

By Pat Flynn on

Some of my most popular content involves case studies, success stories, and progress updates from SPI readers and listeners just like you. This is a guest post from the fellas at that highlights three SPI audience members who have shared their progress within the Fizzle community. Corbett, Barrett, and Chase thought it would be great to share these here with you keep you pushing forward, and hopefully get you to take some action if you haven’t already! [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Take it away guys…

Intro: the dream of building a business you believe in

“Everything was good just two hours ago. I was a gainfully employed architect, with a great career ahead of me. Now what do I do?”

You probably already know Pat Flynn’s story. He graduated from college and went to work as an architect. The economy tanked and, eventually, the layoffs caught up to him. Even though he was a hard worker with great potential, there just wasn’t room to keep him on the team. Pat’s boss had to lay him off.

And, as Pat tells the story, getting fired turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to him. It was the event that pushed him to start his own business—a business that made $123,853.51 in a recent month.

It’s fun to fantasize about starting a business as successful as Smart Passive Income, but eventually reality sets in: starting a business is hard.

Deciding to start is courageous. It takes guts. But it turns out that getting started isn’t even the hardest part.

Figuring out and executing on what comes next, over and over is the hardest part—hitting walls, regrouping, creating a plan, executing, rinse, repeat. How exactly am I supposed to get from here to there?

That’s why at Fizzle we love sharing stories of other entrepreneurs—because hearing how other people built businesses is a powerful way for new entrepreneurs to stay motivated. It’s like surrounding yourself with people who show you what’s possible, and remind you that you’re not alone on the journey.

Big success stories are great. Pat’s story is inspiring. So is Joseph Michael’s. But the best stories come from people who are just a few steps ahead of me; the kinds of stories that show me what’s next, not what’s out of reach (for now).

So today, I want to share the stories of three entrepreneurs who came from the Smart Passive Income audience. They’re at many different business stages, in many different niches. But they all have one thing in common. Someday, just maybe, they’d like to make an independent living by building a business they believe in.

Here’s how this works

We asked all the Fizzle members who came to us from SPI a few questions:

  1. What’s your name and business name?
  2. What’s the elevator pitch for your business? Elevator pitches are a great way to understand how the entrepreneur sees her own business. Not only will you learn about the business, but you’ll learn how to pitch your own.
  3. What is your website?
  4. When did you start your business? To help us set expectations about how long it can take to make progress.
  5. What is your business archetype? Business archetypes are one way we encourage our customers to choose a business model. So often we hear, “How do I make money from my _____?” It helps to decide what kind of business you want to run in the beginning. I describe each archetype along the way.
  6. How much revenue did your business make in the last year? Because every business has to eventually make money to survive.
  7. How many unique visitors did your website have in the last year? We often assume that revenue comes from traffic to our website. It turns out that’s not always the case, as you’ll see in these case studies. Sometimes, very successful businesses have low traffic, and sometimes highly trafficked websites have low revenue.
  8. As of May 2015, how many email subscribers do you have? An email list can be one of the most valuable assets to an online business. It’s always interesting to see how traffic correlates to list size and list size to revenue.
  9. What is your entrepreneurial motivation? Some people think it’s crazy to start a business. Why did you start yours, and what keeps you motivated?
  10. How has Smart Passive Income inspired you along the way? Every entrepreneur in this post has been influenced and inspired by Pat and Smart Passive Income. I think you’ll see elements of your own experience in the experience of others.

And then after each profile, the Fizzle team put together a quick teardown of their current website, as well as some ideas for where the entrepreneur might go from here.

Three SPI-Inspired Businesses and Where They Should Go From Here

Emily Ann Peterson

  • Elevator Pitch: Emily Ann Peterson is an artist, musician, singer/songwriter, and cellist. Her concerts, music, talks, and writing center around understanding the topic of resonance, and how it can make life richer and more meaningful.
  • Website:
  • Founded: May 2007
  • Business archetype: Artist—The artist is a purist who loves the art for what it means to her. However, she recognizes the need to make a living, so she chooses to sell her paintings, photography, or sculptures directly to her customers.
  • Revenue in the last year: $30,000
  • Unique visitors in the last year: 4,594
  • Email subscribers: 158
  • Entrepreneurial motivation: It’s really hard to not be an entrepreneur as an artist. All artists must consider themselves and represent that fact through how they run their business.
  • Why Emily Ann loves SPI: I’ve only listened to Pat Flynn a little bit, but I really appreciate his willingness to “get dirty” and talk his listeners through each step of entrepreneurship. I also really love his interviews with other listeners.

Fizzle Breakdown: Emily has made a great start to building a sustainable, successful business. $30,000 is nothing to sneeze at, but the next step is to grow her income to the point she’s making a comfortable living and has the option to hire people to do what she doesn’t enjoy in the business. We’d love to see Emily grow her business to $50,000 over the next twelve months.

From what we can see on her website, it looks like Emily makes money from 1) CD sales; 2) cello lessons (online and offline); 3) benefactors. Emily can either grow her income from existing revenue sources, or launch new products/services.

We’d start by making Emily’s house concerts (currently free) pay-what-you-want. This would allow her to continue spreading the joy of her art while also opening the door for well-off concert hosts to pay her for her art, which is a great tradeoff.

We’d also consider launching “benefactor levels” of $100, $500, or $1,000 per year. Give each level a name and give those benefactors an inside look at Emily’s work and touring.

Finally, we’d have Emily write, record, and launch a new CD for download only. She should document the entire process and share it with her audience to make them feel like a part of her tribe. Set the price for $15 and aim to sell 1,000 copies.

With those strategies and maintaining what she’s done in the past year, we think Emily could have a breakout year.

Lorna Leeson of Stride for Success

  • Elevator Pitch: Audio horse riding lessons that you can download and listen to, via your phone, while riding your own horse. Five new twelve-minute lessons every week. Your own time, your own arena, your own horse. Horse riding lessons as flexible as you need them to be.
  • Website:
  • Founded: January 2014
  • Business archetype: Teacher
  • Revenue in the last year: $2,400
  • Unique visitors in the last year: 6,294
  • Email subscribers: 671
  • Entrepreneurial motivation: I’ve had an offline business for ten years now, a small riding school in South Africa. I am limited to grow that business due to location and I wanted to create something that I can a) scale and b) help other people who are location challenged to get sound horse riding instruction.
  • Why Lorna loves SPI: Pat shows the ups and downs in—what appears to be—a truthful and transparent manner. Focusing on creating more time for the important things by putting the hours in now. Smart Passive Income’s content is a good indicator as to where to invest those hours now.

Fizzle Breakdown: Lorna’s business is off to a great start, with more than 500 email subscribers and close to $2,500 in income. Hitting the 500 subscriber mark and earning money from that audience means that Lorna has two important pieces in place: her minimum viable audience and her minimum viable product. The combination of those two should get her to her minimum viable income, or the level of income necessary to pay her most basic bills.

Lorna has built her teacher archetype business with a membership site model, which means her business has the potential to make recurring revenue from customers, month after month. The pricing today is $32.95 per month.

In a membership site model, there are some metrics that matter. First is customer lifetime value (LTV), or how much money a given customer will spend at Strides for Success over time. So, if Lorna’s members stay for six months, her LTV would be $198.

To grow her business, Lorna has a few levers to pull. She needs to:

  1. increase website traffic,
  2. increase conversion to email subscribers,
  3. increase conversion to customers, and
  4. increase customer retention, which increases LTV.

Because Lorna’s business is still in the early stages, we would recommend focusing entirely on traffic for the next three–six months. Her content strategy and other marketing channels should focus entirely on finding new horseback riders wherever they already spend time online, and bringing them back to her website.

As her traffic grows, Lorna should start to focus on conversion to email subscribers and customers. Once her conversion numbers are satisfactory, she can turn her attention to increasing LTV. One way to do this might be to offer a discounted annual membership for 75 percent of the cost of twelve monthly payments or lifetime membership for three–five times the cost of an annual membership.

Lorna should be able to reach her minimum viable income within twelve–eighteen months by focusing on increasing traffic and signups.

Steve Tulowitzki of Make Coaching Matter

  • Elevator Pitch: Do you ever feel like you, or someone you love, is living by default? Does it seem like you are not calling the shots in your own life? That how life felt for me . . . and it nearly killed me. Coaching helped me see that my ego was ruling my life, and it gave me the tools and loving support I needed to wake up and take the wheel. Coaching has the power to do this for millions of human robots, if we can Make Coaching Matter. I am bringing together the best minds and personalities in the world of coaching to make our mark. We will raise awareness, understanding, desire, and enrollment in the coaching business. We will uncover demand and empower supply. We will do it in a modern, enjoyably authentic way.
  • Website:
  • Founded: February 2015
  • Business archetype: Coach—The coach unlocks the potential of individuals. He uses the tools of listening, questioning, and guiding to help his clients reach their goals. This differs from the freelancer in that he exclusively works with individual clients.
  • Revenue in the last year: $1,800
  • Unique visitors in the last year: 636
  • Email subscribers: 10
  • Entrepreneurial motivation: Two discoveries I have made since 2011 have changed my life: coaching and modern-day entrepreneurship. When I got coached, I became better. When I learned to coach, I was inspired. When I tried to expand it internally at my company, I got the message—people don’t understand coaching, and it’s not going anywhere until they do. When I discovered my first business podcast in December 2015, I realized that I could make a difference. When I heard Pat Flynn, I fell in love with the SPI Podcast. When I heard the Fizzle guys on the show, I signed up . . . I launched my blog the next day! I want everyone to have the gift of coaching, so I had to get started right away.
  • Why Steve loves SPI: Pat has showed me that it pays to be yourself. I love how he talks about his wife and kids, is vulnerable with his audience, and is clear about his mission. He does things, not knowing if or how well they will work, and he does it all for our benefit. “Let’s see what works,” is a brilliant tagline by which Pat truly lives. I, too, want to see what works in the coaching business, and SHARE IT widely and openly. I love Pat’s monthly income statement, and I plan to do that for coaching. Keeping income a secret isn’t helpful to the industry. Showing how attractive and lucrative it can be is helpful for the industry.

Fizzle Breakdown: Steve is in the very early stages of his business idea. He has his first email subscribers and has likely had two or three coaching clients to bring in $1,800 in revenue over the past year. He has also recently completed his coaching certification through The Coaches Training Institute. He has high ambitions of making a difference in the industry and being a thought leader for other coaches.

To have credibility as a leader of other coaches, we think Steve should first focus on building a thriving coaching practice of his own. It’s incredibly difficult to set rates high enough and to earn enough clients to earn a healthy living from coaching. (Hence Steve’s sentiments about the industry.)

Steve should focus on setting his rates at competitive levels for the industry. In Atlanta, GA, the average executive coaching rate is about $300 per hour (yes, really). Then, he should work up to $60,000 annual revenue, or $5,000 monthly revenue. This would be about seventeen $300 coaching sessions per month.

As Steve grows his business to a minimum viable income, he should document the entire process in order to share with others who want to do the same. As his business grows and he shares what he knows, he will gain influence in the industry. Influence is what it will take to empower other coaches to make a full time living and do truly great work with their clients.

We would recommend a sales method like Book Yourself Solid (we also have a Fizzle course on this). He’ll also need to focus on one content channel—blogging, podcasting, or video—as he grows his client base. Finally, he should be sure to get written and video testimonials from every client as he grows, which will come in handy for future marketing.

As he grows his revenue, he should invest a portion of it back into his website. Content matters a ton, but design matters just as much and is the first influence you have on potential customers. In other words, the website should give potential clients and other coaches great confidence in your abilities as a coach.

We’d love to see Steve develop a replicable system for landing new coaching clients and reach $60,000 in annual income over the next eighteen–twenty-four months.

The value of case studies

Here’s why I love case studies (and why I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these businesses, too):

  • They show what’s possible—sometimes all of the theory you hear from Pat, Fizzle, and all of the other blogs you follow can seem a bit “pie-in-the-sky” and it can be hard to understand how it translates to your business.
  • They highlight that not everyone has $200,000 launches or “niche sites”—Sure, some people can launch their first product and make a fortune. And some people can build a successful business around a very small, specific niche like food trucks. But other people just like you are building businesses that grow slowly and are more wide-ranging than a niche site.
  • They show that there are plenty of steps along the way—it’s so easy to forget that there are plenty of reasons to celebrate while building a business. There’s not just day one and then success. Case studies remind us that building a business is a process, and the point is, more than anything, to make progress week after week.

Should you start a business?

If you’ve already started a business, I hope these stories have inspired you and reminded you why you started your business to begin with.

If you’ve always thought about starting a business, then I hope these stories convince you that there is no better time than now. The only way to make progress is to get started. You can’t build a business from the sidelines.

And if you want a source of business training and community that will help you make progress week after week once you do get started, come check out Fizzle. That’s what we’re here for. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Fizzle is one of my favorite online business training programs and communities. I’m a member myself, and have contributed a couple of founder stories in their library as well. Check them out at to see what they’re all about. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Related Podcasts

Want to try your hand at affiliate marketing and deliver even more value to your podcasting audience? The Smart Podcast Player affiliate program lets you reap the benefits while you “share the wealth” of the best podcast player for power users with your fans. Learn more and sign up here.

Email address required
No thanks, I'll pass for now :)
  1. 1. Free Stuff

    You'll get instant access to free resources, including my most popular book, Ebooks the Smart Way! (Downloaded over 125,000 times!)

  2. 2. Content Tailored to You

    Over time, I'll get to learn more about you and deliver content that actually matters.

  3. 3. No Hype

    Just real content that's meant to make a difference.