Today, we're bookending 2022 with an absolutely incredible Where Are They Now? session. Don't miss this one because my returning guest has accomplished something I genuinely didn't think was possible.
Jackie Bolen of ESLspeaking.org has written and published over one hundred books in her niche. What?! That's incredible!
I had to reconnect with her to learn about the systems she has in place that allow her to be so prolific. You'll hear all about that in this episode. What might surprise you is just how powerful and replicable these business basics can be.
And the beautiful thing about our Where Are They Now? series is that you can follow along with our guests right from the start of their journey. We've had Jackie on episodes 1003, 1046, 1147, and 1189. Her business evolution is incredible and a perfect example of what can happen if you apply the simple tactics we often discuss here.
In this session, we also look at what's on the horizon for Jackie. She is now in a fantastic position where her business might be ready for sale. Listen in to find out exactly how she did it!
Subscribe to my weekly newsletter, Unstuck, to get tips, tools, and my best advice for creating a thriving online business.
AP 1254: Where Are They Now? Jackie Bolen
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to episode 1254. The last episode of AskPat of the year. Which is really insane. First of all, happy New Year and I hope that you and your families are having an amazing, safe, happy, healthy holiday. I'm excited today because we are bringing back on somebody who's been on the show twice before for a final Where Are They Now? episode of the year.
This is Jackie Bolen. You might remember her from 2019 or 2020, where we talked about the fact that she had so many irons in the fire. She had an ESL business, she was writing books. She was also doing a lot of these niche websites that were all doing really amazingly, and she was having a tough time deciding which one to focus on.
And in the next time, the previous episode that she was on, we actually spoke about the decision she made from there, which was to focus fully on the ESL stuff. She was working on some potential partnerships. We are back with her to talk about where she's at now and how the business has taken an even bigger leap forward and where things are headed, how things are being more streamlined, and just generally what she's been up to.
This is so much fun because we can get an account of sort of where things were before and where she's at now, and what went well, what, what didn't go well. These are my favorite episodes and I hope this episode is one that you enjoy as well. So here she is, Jackie Bolen.
Pat Flynn: Jackie, welcome back, once again, to AskPat. Thank you so much for coming back on with me.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Pat Flynn: I think this is beautiful because this is, I think our third or maybe even fourth time having you on, and we've sort of had a, a really cool sort of timestamp on different eras of your business. And so, if you were to sum up the latest, so can't remember how long ago you were on the show, but if you were to summarize what has happened since the last time you've been on the show in, I don't know, let's say one sentence, how would you describe the transformation since the last time you were here?
Jackie Bolen: I think the biggest thing is I have two full-time employees now. Yeah. So that's, that's been a big change for sure.
Pat Flynn: That is a huge change and we'll, I'm sure we'll get into that. Why don't you give us a little bit of a reminder, especially for those who are hearing this for the first time, sort of a little bit of the background and, and a catch up on where you came from and, and how you got to where you're at today.
Jackie Bolen: So I was an e ESL teacher in South Korea for 10 years. So I had a blog and like wrote a few books when I was in Korea and yeah, then I started getting into different affiliate sites about kind of, like different topics like shoes and kitchen stuff and whatever. A few years ago, my biggest site not related to the ESL teaching, got hit by a big Google update and all my profits kind of tanked and it was, it was tough going for sure. So I kind of started to double down on the ESL teaching stuff and all the books and the websites related to that, and they started to take off and do really, really well. So yeah, so that's been my main focus over these past few years, and it was a good decision for sure.
Those other websites still exist in the world and I still make a few hundred dollars a month. But yeah, nothing compared to what the books and those ESL websites. Bring in each month.
Pat Flynn: I remember there was a time in the early 2010s when you, me and several other people were creating these like little niche websites, these authority websites that would rank and then get people to come by and buy something through affiliates.
And you know, I still have a few of those that still continue to work as well. But it's also amazing what happens when you say, you know what, I'm not even gonna focus on that. I'm gonna focus on this and what can happen in the growth that happens there. So what is, what has really been the big movers for you now that you have had the time and the focus on the ESL stuff?
What is working there right now?
Jackie Bolen: Well, I think the biggest thing is that Google is all about the EAT, expertise, authority, and trust. And so it's like, I think they take a look at the person behind the website, and if it's about a medical thing, it should be a doctor or a nurse. Or if it's a teacher, it should actually be a certified teacher who's doing these kinds of websites. Or like a CrossFit site, it should be someone who's like a CrossFit instructor, obviously. So I think the days of just picking a random topic and you know, like you can do a lot like, like a whole bunch of research, but if you don't actually know that topic inside and out, I don't think you're gonna do well. So I think the biggest thing for me is this, that I know this information and I did it for, yeah, like 10 years of my life and I've been writing about it and blogging about it for, I guess, 15 years now.
And I'm certified in it, and I have all the certifications that I need. So yeah, that's actually what's been, what's been working.
Pat Flynn: That's been great. I, I know you have books as well, and you were in the middle of publishing some books. You also, was there not a, I think the last time we chatted you had made a decision, there was like a potential partnership and I think that was about other stuff, right?
That was not about the ESL stuff and you decided to say no to that and then, and then fully invest into, into this world. Am I thinking about that correctly?
Jackie Bolen: That actually was about the ESL stuff. That was like years ago when I was not that motivated by the ESL thing anymore, and I just wanted someone else to manage it.
So we formed a partnership, but they didn't really hold up their end of the bargain. So yeah, I took that control of everything and now a hundred percent have ownership of all my, all my ESL things. And I bought out my co-author years ago on the books that we wrote together. So yeah, the control is totally mine, which is quite freeing actually not to have these other, I guess, people to have to make decisions with.
Pat Flynn: Good for you. That's, that's fantastic. And how many books at this point do you have published and where, where are they being sold, generally speaking?
Jackie Bolen: So I have more than a hundred. So if you just search my name on Amazon, you'll find them.
Pat Flynn: A hundred books?!
Jackie Bolen: Yes. A hundred. So I try to publish one every like, I don't know, two or three months or something like that, is kind of my goal.
So at least a few a year. And I also do expanded distribution. So you can find them on Apple or Kobo or Google Play or kind of anywhere you like to buy books. You can find, you can find them.
Pat Flynn: Wow. A hundred books. I don't think I've met anybody who has published that many books. So what, what happens to an author when they have this many books on a platform like Amazon or like, what are the benefits of, of going the quantity route?
I'm sure they're great, great quality as well, but that, that is a lot. Tell me a little bit about that strategy and, and like, are there that many different topics, I guess there are, right? They're not all the same book.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah, for sure. So to answer the first part, the benefit is that you can build like a very strong following.
So if someone reads one of your books and likes it and they leave a good review, then the second you release a new book, Amazon sends them an email and says like, Hey, Jackie has a new book. Check it out. And like people will see, like for example, I have books for people to prepare for like English proficiency exams, like the IELT exams.
So I have Idioms for IELT speaking, and then if someone reads that book, then I have a book, Phrasal Verbs for IELT speaking and then Colocations for IELT speaking. So there's like a whole series. So if someone enters into kind of that little world and they like one of the books, there's a whole range of other books that are not like the same but related and could also be helpful for them.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, this is great. I'm looking at your author page on Amazon right now, Jackie Bolen, B O L E N, if you wanna see it. And really good reviews on these books. And I'm also noticing that a lot of the books have kind of similar covers because you're publishing so many. Do you have like a system for, I guess, "churning" these out. Like what, what is that like?
Jackie Bolen: Yeah, for sure. So I write all the content myself. Some people I know that have as many books as I do will hire ghost writers to do it, but I've never done that. I don't really trust someone to like actually know the teaching world as well as I do.
So that's kind of my main focus. Like the majority, probably at least 50% of my time is spent actually writing the books. And now that I have two employees, one employee, she does the editing of the books and she's quite good at it. And then I have another employee who does the cover. She was a graphic designer and a former life, so she's quite good at that.
And then she also does some of the interior design, and then it all comes back to me and I do all the uploading, and then I set up the ads. I run the ads as well, so, okay. Yeah, that's kind of our system. So it's kind of streamlined and it's actually been great having two employees cause it's just like part of their jobs and I don't have to like, find people or like pay people beyond their normal salary, you know?
It's like, I just have people who can, who can do stuff like that.
Pat Flynn: So, so they, they are on payroll in, in your business. Team members.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah. Full-time. Yeah. They're two Canadians.
Pat Flynn: Cool. How was that transition? I know a lot of people sort of steer away from that, those kinds of things because of the administrative effort and all that kind of stuff.
Was it a heavy lift for you to kind of move into that direction or, or was it kind of easy and how'd you make it easy?
Jackie Bolen: Well, it was very easy because around the time when Covid was starting, the Canadian government had all kinds of money floating around for people kind of in the tech industry to hire kind of young, like underemployed people.
So I got funding basically for my first employee for about a year of her full-time salary. A hundred percent of everything, including like once-
Pat Flynn: Go Canada. Oh my gosh.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah. It was amazing. It was amazing. And she it was supposed to be like, I guess like for eight months or something like that, and it worked out so well.
So yeah. And then I got another grant from kind of a similar organization to continue on for another four months. Yeah, so that was about a year and a half ago. So she has been on my payroll, me actually paying for part of that time. But yeah, so that made it actually quite risk free and painless as far as getting my first employee goes.
It was a good trial run and I didn't actually have to like stretch to put out a ton of money. And then the second employee I hired through a Canada Summer jobs program, so they give funding for students to get jobs. So yeah, and she is great. So yeah, she's on the payroll as well since that funding ran out.
Pat Flynn: So I don't know what's available in the US that's similar comparative to that. But for anybody who might be listening who's in Canada, do you have any resources about where they might be able to go to find more information about grants like that?
Jackie Bolen: Yeah, sure. So the first one is Canada Summer Jobs. So it's, that's like a whole countrywide thing.
And then the second thing, I'm in BC so it's called Innovate BC has a bunch of grant. For hiring. People and like marketing, internet marketing, they kind of loosely include un under tech. So that's how, kind of like the, you know, online entrepreneur people can hire somebody, yeah, to do stuff like that.
Pat Flynn: Wow, that's so cool. Managing the team, I also know can be challenging. How are you learning to lead, I guess you could say cuz it's definitely a big jump to go from solopreneur and kind of doing all the work to not only handing off that work to others, but, you know, managing people and, and tell me about that transition.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah, I just basically tried to be the kind of boss that I would like to work for, so I gave them unlimited vacation and just said like, you know, if you need vacation, need a mental health day, need a sick day, like just whatever you are like going somewhere, go ahead. So far, that's worked out so well. Like they just feel free, she'll like take a day if they're moving or like just whatever they need and their family's coming into town or something like that. They haven't actually taken that many vacation days or sick days. And yeah, of course I try to like, you know, pay them on time and be very organized. Yeah. And as far as organization, I just have a ton of spreadsheets.
So basically like I, they both produce some videos, so I have videos to produce and then book covers to design, and then articles to write, articles to update. They always have something to do and I try to give them like a variety of tasks as well. I never want one of them to feel like, Ugh, , I have to make another video this week.
And then the next day another video. And another video.
Pat Flynn: Right. And it's like one task at a factory the same.
Jackie Bolen: Yeah. So they each do like a few different things and yeah, I just never, never want them to be bored of like having to do the same repetitive thing over and over again. I, I hope they're happy. Yeah, they've stayed with me now for over a year.
Pat Flynn: I mean, unlimited vacation, , I mean, obviously you don't want anybody to take advantage of such a thing, and it doesn't sound like they are, but to know that that's possible and to have, you know, some freedom when, when needed is, is great. So I think you're doing an an amazing job, and it's probably from your perspective is like as long as they're getting the work done that needs to be done, then do whatever, right?
Jackie Bolen: Yeah. They're both very competent people and so whenever I was interviewing people, I would always just say like, I'm a terrible micromanager. Like I don't wanna monitor when you take lunch breaks or like what time you even start working in the morning. I just have expectations about like a reasonable amount of work being done to like a reasonable quality each day.
And some people, I could tell when I was interviewing them, just were kind of confused by that and just like, so what time should I start working and how long is lunch? And I just thought like, these aren't my people. And then the people that were just like, yeah, I hate being micromanaged. I was just like, great, this is exactly, you are exactly the person I need.
Because I'm just not good at it. I don't want to do that. It's not how I work. I don't wanna manage other people working like that.
Pat Flynn: I like how you incorporated that into the interview process. You know, you're discovering the kind of people who would blend well with the way that you want to run your business.
And I think that's, that's absolutely smart. How are you communicating with your team for efficient work? Are you using any tools in particular for communication and, and what has worked really well for, for you guys?
Jackie Bolen: Sure. So we just use Google Docs or like Google Drive and just have a bunch of shared spreadsheets and folders and stuff like that to keep track of stuff.
And then as far as just like daily communication goes, we use WhatsApp, so I just chat on WhatsApp. Like each of them individually. And then we have a group chat called Work Things and anything relevant to all three of us, we just do that. And then we have a meeting on Zoom every couple weeks usually and just kind of talk some strategy or like what's working, what's not working.
And one of them actually lives in Vancouver, so she comes and films the videos every couple months and we go out for lunch and yeah, so that's about it. It's pretty, it's pretty informal. We don't use any fancy things really, but there's only three of us, so it's easy enough.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, I love it. I mean, that sounds, yeah, it sounds simple and you don't have to overcomplicate the, the situation.
The videos that you're talking about that this person comes in to help you film, what are these videos for and what's the, the sort of planning process around those videos?
Jackie Bolen: Sure. So I have like videos related to ESL teaching and then also learning English. So basically I do a bunch of research about my competitors and kind of I look at their videos and see what has the most views.
And then I'll take some of those ideas. And then I also check on my websites, kind of what articles are performing the best in Google, the most monthly searches, that kind of thing. Some very popular keywords. And then I'll make videos related to that. And yeah, we kind of also see like what else is working.
So for example, for Halloween we made a couple of videos like E S L Halloween vocabulary quizzes or like Halloween history. And they started doing really well, like getting thousands of views. So we kind of said like, all right, let's like double down on Thanksgiving and then we'll do Christmas and then we'll do New Year's and then we'll do St. Patrick's Day. And so like do kind of a series. So it's pretty obvious usually like what's working on YouTube and what isn't in terms of views. So we have some ideas, but then we also see kind of what takes off. And Shorts have done quite well for us as well. So we take some of the longer videos and put them into shorts and then also put those on Instagram and TikTok mostly, I guess is just kind of seeing what's working already on YouTube.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, that's great. I'm looking at your YouTube channel right now. Again, you can find Jackie at Jackie Bolen, B O L E N. And I see the holiday videos that have been performing really well, which is cool. It's always smart to sort of double down on what's, what's working. And it seems like you just have a great system here, and I see your Shorts as well.
And, you know, was there any reluctance to get into the sort of short form video platform? Because I know this is the, this is the new hot sort of thing right now is TikTok, Reels, Shorts and, and such, and it's like, many people go, Oh man, it's like another thing I have to do. Was there any reluctance to, to get into that or, or any worry and how are you making sure it's not like just taking over and, you know, taking time away from other things that you do need to do?
Jackie Bolen: Sure. So, well, like, I didn't really even know that much about Shorts and then we were having a meeting a few months ago and one of my employees, the youngest one who's like, I think she's like 23 or something like that. She said like, Oh, my friends and I only watch Shorts on YouTube. We just scroll through it.
I don't even look at like regular videos anymore. And I was like, what? What are you talking about? What do you mean? Like you are only watching Shorts? And so then that was kind of my motivation, like, okay, I need to like get into it. And then for Shorts, I don't actually film things specifically for Shorts.
I know that some people do for sure. Like they film specific TikTok videos or whatever. And then you can easily turn those into Shorts as well. My employee just kind of cuts out the longer videos. Like for example, I just did one like Top Five ESL Halloween Idioms. So it would be super easy to have five different shorts and discover one of each of those idioms, so it doesn't actually take a ton of time, I think, for her to produce those. I think they would be better if I did dedicated Shorts, but I just don't, I haven't done that yet. So it's possible, but it takes more time for sure.
Pat Flynn: One of the final questions I have, I'm curious about your workload with all, especially the, the books that you're writing and, and how much writing seems to be involved.
When are you finding the time to write or how. I, I'd love to know a little bit more about your schedule and when you're getting the time to do that. I know, you know, I've written books as well and, and just a few of them, but there, there's definitely a different feel when it comes to writing books versus blogs, and I can write a blog all day long, but a book is, is just, feels like I need a lot more time and it's a lot longer of a process.
I'd love to learn more about how you've optimized writing and, and when you get writing done in, in your day.
Jackie Bolen: Sure. So I generally get up and then we all kind of check in with each other in the morning and just see what we're doing, and then I try to write in the morning. Usually that's kind of my best time to actually get things done.
Yeah. Then I usually will like have lunch and then go do some exercise and then come back and kind of do the less difficult things like emails or my financial stuff or, yeah, doing like social media, whatever. I'm gonna do Pinterest or whatever. Yeah. So I usually will do kind of a dedicated like three or four hours in the morning and then leave the afternoon for other stuff.
Pat Flynn: So, oh, okay. So, so it is a daily sort of ritual?
Jackie Bolen: Generally, yeah. Like I've sometimes would get away from it and start writing blog articles or updating articles and stuff, but it's like the books are actually what make me the real money. I make some money from advertising and from some other, I make a bit of money from the YouTube videos, but it's like the books are actually the biggest earner, so recently I've made myself double down on it and do at least a little bit every day. So it's not that easy sometimes I'm a little bit like burnt out right now on the books, but I just had a big push and just published a bunch of them. But yeah, it's motivating to have two people.
I just usually will tell both of them, okay, I'm working on one right now, I'll be done by the end of the week for you to edit and you to make the cover, and that's actually been been good. Like telling, telling people I will be done by this date.
Pat Flynn: That's great. You get a little accountability from your own team, in fact, who are kind of waiting for you to, to, to finish something.
So for sure. Yeah. I love this. Jackie, I love that you have sort of stepped into this world and not just from the last time where it was like, yeah, I'm gonna decide to just focus on this, but you've really doubled down on what is working. You've optimized your time, you've now have a team. What's next for you?
Have a bigger team or, or just continue on on the, the path that you're on now? Tell me a little bit about what perhaps the next year might look like for you.
Jackie Bolen: I'm actually at a bit of a crossroads for that. I've just incorporated my business, which basically means in Canada you can sell your business and basically get the first million dollars tax free of capital gains.
So I've set up the structure that would allow me to sell my business quite easily. So that's maybe something, but I have to wait two years, so about another year from now until that takes effect. So that's a little bit on the horizon. I think I'm a little bit, yeah. I mean, the ESL thing has been really good and I like absolutely don't regret getting into it, but it's like in a lot of ways I feel like I've written all the books that need to be written in that area. And there's a few more kind of like little things with the edges I can do. But yeah, I've done, I've done a lot and there's a lot more competition as well. So not that that's a bad thing, but it's just like there's less potential I guess in that world. So yeah, maybe selling it.
So right now I'm focused on just making the financials very clear and like easy to understand and setting up like operating procedures and, yeah, that kind of thing, and just making it very sellable. In the next year or two.
Pat Flynn: Good for you. There, there's a book out there called Built to Sell, which is this exact thing, like setting things up in a way that your business runs with systems and standard operating procedures.
Whether you end up selling or not, it's still smart to build it in that way that it could be sold. And I think that that would make sense for you, sort of in the year or two coming with, you know, you've dedicated a lot of time and effort into this. You've said what you needed to say, and then now this will open up a lot more time and freedom to potentially work on the next thing or chill for a little bit and just most of all just have more options, which are definitely well deserved for you. So congratulations on that.
Jackie Bolen: Thank you. Thank you. I feel like I have a lot of skills to like turn, even just buy like another kind of small struggling business and turn it around and turn it into something way bigger.
Like I've been doing it for so long, I've learned so many things. It's, it's kind of more exciting for me to take something small and struggling and make it bigger and better than it is to take something already big and quite good into something slightly bigger and slightly better. So I think that's kinda where I'm at.
Pat Flynn: I love it, Jackie. Well first of all, congratulations to you and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. We'll, we'll follow along if people did wanna follow along and sort of, you know, if, do you have like a social media handle or preferred place to connect with people at?
Jackie Bolen: You can go to ESLspeaking.org and then you can find the links to all my socials there. And like YouTube comments are kind of the easiest way or the most likely that I'll respond.
I respond to all of them actually on YouTube. I don't even know what I'm saying. I respond to all the ones on YouTube. So leave a comment there and I'll definitely, I'll definitely get back to you.
Pat Flynn: Awesome. Well, thank you Jackie. This has been a great catch up. Congrats. And we'll check in again soon and see, you know, how the, how things are going in a, in a little bit.
So keep up the good work and thank you for the inspiration today.
Jackie Bolen: Sure. Thanks Pat.
Pat Flynn: Alright, I hope you enjoy that episode, the final episode of AskPat 2.0 for the year. Thank you Jackie. Again, you can find her ESLspeaking.org and you could see just, she's turning out the books. She's got a system in place like we talked about.
I really wanted to learn more about that. So I'm so thankful that she gave us a little bit more insight in how she does what she does and her team now, and all those great things that come along with this. And still staying lean though. And I, and I love that. So Jackie, congratulations to you. Can't wait to see where you're next year and the amount of books that you're coming out with and just the bigger reach that it'll have and the super fans that you're creating cuz of the content that you're creating.
I mean, ultimately you're helping people communicate with people and develop relationships and that's, that's incredible. So well done, Jackie. Appreciate you again, ESLspeaking.org.
Yeah, thank you so much for everybody here listening for you in particular, you, the listener that I'm talking to you right now for the support and for your action that you've been taking from the episodes that have really connected with you and look out because we got a lot more, Where Are They Now? episodes. In fact, we're gonna start 2023 with a bang with a bunch of back to back Where Are They Now? episodes because there are so many people we need to catch up with, who have stories to tell, who have actions that they've taken and unlocks in their lives and businesses that I wanna share with you so that you can do the same thing for yourself, and that's what this is all about.
So in the meantime, you can still head on over to AskPat.com and apply to get coaching there. We're gonna start that process again. Maybe starting again q2. But for right now, we got a lot of stories to tell, a lot of Where Are They Now? episodes coming your way, so make sure you hit subscribe so you don't miss that.
And I appreciate you. Look forward to serving you next year, and thank you again for an amazing year here on AskPat and I'll see you in the next one. Cheers. Peace out. Happy New Year and all the best.
Thanks for listening to AskPat at AskPat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is David Grabowski. Our series producer is Paul Grigoras, and our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.