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The Project That Changed Everything

My first business,, is a website designed to help building professionals pass the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) exam.

I started this site with no intention of creating a business—I just needed to study for the exam. This is the story of how I discovered passive income and turned my personal study website into a business.

The story behind

The Website

My passive income story begins in 2007, when I was employed in an architectural firm. I enjoyed my career and, in an effort to both improve my skills and my position in the company, I began studying for the LEED exam.

I needed an easy way to organize my study notes, so I bought the domain and started a blog. Each entry I made explored a topic that was likely to come up on the exam. (Note: The website is now at

The blog made it easier for me to study—I didn’t have to carry my notes with me; if I found myself with a spare moment to study, I could just pull up the website. It’s a difficult test, and typing out my notes helped me to synthesize the material. In 2008, I passed the exam and stopped updating the site. The site has done its job and I no longer needed it.

My story could have ended there, but 2008 is also the year the U.S. economy took a nosedive. Within a few months of passing the exam, I learned that I was going to be laid off. This is a longer story, one I wrote about both on my About page and in my book Let Go.

The architecture industry as a whole was hit hard by the recession, and I struggled to find another job. As my days of employment were ticking down, I started looking online for a possible solution, and that’s when I learned about passive income.

I found Internet Business Mastery with hosts Jeremy and Jason, and it changed my life. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through the Internet Business Mastery link.] Specifically, in one podcast episode they shared the story of a man who was making a 6-figure living online helping people pass the Project Management Exam.

That’s when the lightbulb went on for me.

I already had a website that had helped me (and a couple of my co-workers) pass the LEED exam. Why couldn’t I turn this site into an online business and help others too?

I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided to go for it.

I learned that

Great Content Matters

My first step in turning this blog into a business was to determine if I had any readers. I installed an analytics tool and to my astonishment, I saw that thousands of people were visiting my site on a daily basis. I was already helping others with their studies!

But how had they found me? I had to pinch myself.

It’s here that I learned the two most important elements of a niche site: (1) great content with (2) related keywords.

Apparently, I had written so much relevant content about the LEED exam (over a year’s worth of notes were available for free on the site), that Google ranked many of my posts at the top of their search results for various LEED exam-related keywords. My visitors liked what they read and shared it with others too, which helped build more traffic.

At this point, I opened up the comments on the blog and a ton of people started asking me questions about the exam. Even though I didn’t consider myself an expert (I still had to look up answers to many of my readers’ questions), I became an expert in the eyes of those who visited the site. My expertise was two-fold: I had published the notes that helped my readers to save time while studying, and with the help of that study material, I had passed the exam. I had proven that my information worked.

How the website

Makes Money

My website gave away tons of great study material for free—so how was I supposed to make money? I learned from Internet Business Mastery that people are willing to pay for convenience, and so following the model from their guest, I decided to create a study guide.

In October 2008, I published The LEED AP Exam Walkthrough, an 89-page study guide available for $19.95.

The book sold 309 copies within the first month! Combined with advertising earnings on the website, the business earned a total of $7.906.55 in October 2008, and my life was forever changed.

During the next few months, the earnings continued to grow.

I added an audio guide to my product line for people who preferred to study by listening. I also set myself up as an affiliate for a LEED practice exam company; I recommend their product on my site, earning a commission for each sale that I make.

Sales hit their peak in March 2009. Here’s the incredible part: by that point, I only needed to spend a few hours each month to keep the business running. I had purposely automated nearly every part of the business; and while I can’t completely walk away from it, I’m darn close. I spend 2–4 hours each month split-testing my conversion points, keeping up with the industry, and making sure that nothing on the site is broken.

This level of business automation is the definition of passive income, and I found it so liberating that I created Smart Passive Income to teach others how they could do the same with their own businesses.

How this

Business Model Works

For a visual representation of how this (and a passive income) business model works, please watch the video below. This will take you through what happens when visitors come to the site, and how money is earned through the model.

The reality behind

Online Businesses

You may be hesitant at first to take yourself away from your business, but the benefit to automation is that it frees up your time. I’ve used that freedom both to spend more time with my family and to focus on building my businesses.

For example, instead of worrying about shipping or order processing, I can focus my time on marketing and bringing more customers into the sales funnel. Because my payment processing is automated, I can spend time creating more products to add to the lineup.

Today—more than seven years later—this business continues to generate a strong income for me each and every month. You can see just how much in my monthly income reports.

If you’re reading this and you think “this is full of crap,” I totally understand. Before I started this business, I thought all online businesses were scams. But as I worked hard to make a valuable resource for people looking to pass the LEED exam, I came to understand that running a business solely online can be done in an ethical way, where both my customers and I benefit. I’m proud to help architects and designers grow their skills.

Success did not happen overnight. It never does. But when you do everything you can to serve an audience in need, and work hard to make that happen, good things will come back your way.

This path has not always been easy, and yes—I wanted to give up during those first few months while writing my ebook because I didn’t know if it was going to work, but I’m glad I kept going.

If you’d like a full, detailed account of just how much my mind tried to stop myself from succeeding, I recommend you check out my book, Let Go.

Let Go hardcover

Let Go

My Unexpected Path from Panic to Profits and Purpose

Let Go is the story of how I learned to embrace uncertainty and push through fear in order to build the business of my dreams.

Read Let Go

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