About This Episode
I'm seeing a theme in the people I seem to attract—people like you, likely—and that is that they all want to serve better. They understand that you win in business by helping more people, and Stephen Pasquini's here today to find out how he can serve his audience better. He helps Physician Assistants and he is the go-to resource for that niche. He's having a little trouble on the technical side as well. How can he improve his website and content, and how does he overcome his fears and move forward? You can find Stephen online at ThePALife.com and SmartyPANCE.com.
Through our coaching session I give Stephen resources and a game plan for upgrading his membership site and content. We pinpoint some of Stephen's fears about moving forward so that he can develop content confidently. We also outline strategies for reaching out to his community and better serving his audience, and I give him some mindset exercises for thinking about the future of his business.
What You'll Learn:
Discover strategies for upgrading your website and content experience, as well as approaches for building a mindset for the future of your online business.
AskPat 1014 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: What's up everybody? Pat Flynn here and welcome to Episode 1014 of AskPat, the show where I coach somebody and you listen in and it's helpful all around because hey, we all get a win out of it. I'm excited because we've been doing this for about three months now and it's one of my favorite things to do.
Today we're talking to Stephen Pasquini, who is another person who I just am thankful for. And you'll see this as a theme throughout most of the people whom I seem to attract—just like you, most likely—and that is people who want to serve better, people who have an understanding after they start a business that you win in business by helping more people. Stephen come on today to talk about how he can serve his members better because there's a lot of things that are going on, especially on the tech side of things, that aren't necessarily allowing him to work the way that he wants to best serve his audience.
By the way, a lot of you might be asking, “Well how did Stephen get this opportunity to get coached by you, Pat? How does that even work?” Anybody can get potentially coached. If you go to AskPat.com there's a button right there in the middle of the page where you can apply. You just answer a few questions and every single week I select a new person, I record that conversation, I help that person out, and you listen in and everybody wins. So I'm stoked because today we're talking with Stephen. He has a couple websites, The PA Life and also SmartyPance.com. He helps physician assistants, so this is a new job that's sprung up recently and he's been taken hold of becoming the go-to resource for that: He is the go-to resource for that. As the go-to resource you want to have the best resources. He, as you'll be able to tell once we start talking, he knows that you can do a lot more. I coach him through that process and we'll get through it for sure. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as there always is, and my goal is to be that guiding light for everybody.
Before we get to that I just want to make sure you understand that this show is sponsored by FreshBooks, one of the best companies out there, because really what they're helping you manage is stress and getting rid of those headaches that come along with managing finances in your business, everything from the income tracking, to expenses, to all the forms you need come tax season, to understanding your P&L statements, and balance sheets, and all that stuff. Plus, with invoicing they can help you invoice to bill your client, or your customer, or maybe you're doing consulting or coaching of some kind. You can bill somebody in less than thirty seconds and it will look super professional. It will allow you to just be more likely to get paid sooner and upfront. They also help you keep track of who has yet to open those invoices too. They can also help you create project proposals—that's their biggest, latest feature where if you do any, what do they call it, RFP's, request for proposals—if you do any of those proposals they need to be looking great, and FreshBooks helps you create those so that you are more likely to get hired and get potentially paid even more.
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All right, I think we're ready. Let's get into the conversation with Stephen Pasquini from The PA Life and SmartyPance.com. Here we go.
Stephen, what's up man? Welcome to AskPat. Thank you so much for being here.
Stephen Pasquini: Pat, thank you so much for having me on the show, I'm so excited. It's an honor to meet you. Like I said, I've been listening to your podcast forever and you are pretty much the reason I think, that I've been able to have success in all my business, so I can't thank you enough.
Pat Flynn: Thank you for sharing that with everybody. You had mentioned right before we recorded that you started listening to me, how how long ago, which episode did you start on?
Stephen Pasquini: It might have been Episode . . . I'd say 10.
Pat Flynn: That's crazy.
Stephen Pasquini: I used to have a commute out to my old job and I started listening to your podcast. I really used your techniques and your advice over the years.
Pat Flynn: That's awesome.
Stephen Pasquini: I even use your theme now on my website Pat, so thank you.
Pat Flynn: Oh great. Thank you. That's awesome. That's like eight years, so you've been doing this for a while. Tell us what is it that you do and then we'll get into it.
Stephen Pasquini: Well I run a website called The PA Life and I also run another website called SmartyPance. It is a website that is dedicated to the physician assistant profession. PA's are really something new, at least in the last fifty years of the United States, and the profession has just been growing. In 2012 I was practicing medicine and I had some other online stuff that I'd been doing and I decided to really approach the PA profession and put information out there just to help people who are interested in the profession, to teach people about the profession and get them started. That's how The PA Life started. From there it just grew. I kept blogging, we started to get more and more traffic to the website and started to find new ways to serve. We published a book and then I started doing, in the last two years, board review and that's where SmartyPance came from. As PA's we have to re-certify and take a board exam and I put free questions up for a long time and used this framing model until someone wrote me one day and said, “Hey Steve, you should probably try charging for these.” I think I charged $9 when I started just to see. I couldn't believe it. I remember running around the house and saying that somebody paid me $9 for an exam.
Pat Flynn: Awesome.
Stephen Pasquini: From there I just took off and created another membership site in the last two years that has just been truly satisfying, and has been a great success too.
Pat Flynn: That's really great. Tell me about the business model and how you get paid for what you do now.
Stephen Pasquini: Yeah, thanks. The business started really with just affiliate income. I'd written articles for books, review books, other books that are recommended through the website, and products that I'd been linking back through Amazon. It was really pretty much all Amazon-affiliated income for probably the first year or so. I'd had another website that was somewhat successful too through just affiliate links as well. I was kind of used to that. I didn't really go in with the goal to monetize the website, but this is how I started it. I started the affiliate income part and then we wrote a book, then I started offering downloads to the website, so resume downloads, other downloads for essay samples, things like that. Then we started a service for doing essay review for people if they were applying to PA school and now most recently, interviews, so that is a service model, and then the membership site this last year is really where the majority of the income comes from now, from the site.
Pat Flynn: Tell me about the membership site. How much are you charging and how many people do you got in there, if you don't mind sharing?
Stephen Pasquini: No, no problem at all. I have three to four membership tiers.
Pat Flynn: Cool.
Stephen Pasquini: It's $45 for two weeks. I have a $55 three-month pass and then I offer a one-year $65 and then an upgraded version that offers this interactive patient case-based video for $95 for the year. We get, let's see, it depends on the model but it's about 10-12 signups per day through the site, so usually anywhere—
Pat Flynn: You're crushing it!
Stephen Pasquini: Yeah, it's amazing. I got to say, I never expected to get that level of signup, but we've been just growing. That's kind of the model now.
Pat Flynn: The breakdown: $45, $55, $65, right?
Stephen Pasquini: Yes.
Pat Flynn: Where are most people buying in that breakdown?
Stephen Pasquini: $65.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, it's almost like a steal at that point when you consider the other prices.
Stephen Pasquini: Exactly, I think that's how I set it up too, because I wanted more people to take that year membership and see the value in it. Then you can upgrade later on too, throughout. Some people upgrade later on too and go to the $95 level.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, awesome, I love it. Okay so where are you at? How can I help you?
Stephen Pasquini: I think I'm stuck. I've hit this point where I've been growing the business and I'm scattered over all these different services on the membership site and I just want to serve better this year. I think I'm kind of stuck for a couple things. One is the tech side. I actually think the membership model and the onboarding process is kind of clunky and I've been stuck in this old membership platform that I've had for a really long time. It's called S2Member and it was a free membership platform and I've been using it for a long time, but it's not probably the best platform to bring people on. I also am having, I guess issues with being able to upgrade. So I've been using this old version of WordPress and then I've had this old theme on the site. I think the membership experience could be better, so that would be one thing. Then on The PA Life side, just trying to figure out a way to serve everybody better and maybe learn how to hire, get some help this year. I've been doing a lot of this on my own. I have people who do the essays and stuff as well, so I guess we're learning how to invest in my business this year.
Pat Flynn: What would you say is the biggest pain point for you right now?
Stephen Pasquini: That's a good question. Probably I think the tech side. I don't know how to . . . I'd hired somebody a while back and they were great. Actually, I did it through Upwork, and then what happened was they actually ended up hacking into my Stripe account, and then taking quite a bit of money from my account.
Pat Flynn: What?
Stephen Pasquini: Yep.
Pat Flynn: Are you serious?
Stephen Pasquini: I'm serious, yeah. They hacked my membership side actually, and had been siphoning money off the site.
Pat Flynn: Oh my god.
Stephen Pasquini: I've had troubles trusting people since.
Pat Flynn: Right, don't blame you, geez. I'm sorry; that's ridiculous.
Stephen Pasquini: Oh no, it's okay. I think it's just part of doing business for a long time.
Pat Flynn: Did you report that person?
Stephen Pasquini: I did actually. Upwork has an interesting way of reporting people when things like that happen. You can report them and then they can close their accounts down, but—
Pat Flynn: I'm really upset right now to hear that kind of stuff happened. I'm sorry. So let's move on from that, but I understand where you're coming from and why you might not want to hire other people. Actually, let's do talk about hiring, because I think it's definitely something that you need to do to help you and support you. You've got this thriving business now and the reason you're stuck is because there's only so much of you that you can give, right?
The thing that I would recommend doing is starting with people you know that you trust, and asking people where you can get this help from. Upwork is a great service, I've used it before and I haven't had terrible situations like that, but I've had some bad back and forth with people there too. So starting with your network and people who you trust, who you know, who are either in a mastermind group or just even mentors or virtual mentors out there that can help you. I might even, after the call Stephen, just offer some names and stuff for you to look at. That's where I would start. For anybody else out there, that's really where you want to start because you have this trust with people and they want to help you in that way that's not just kind of a random selection. I think hiring would be really important.
For the tech stuff I think it might be also interesting to kind of . . . Have you done any research on other platforms that may be interesting? Even before you answer that question, what in what you have now is bothering you about what you have? You talked a little bit about the onboarding; what are a few things that you're just like, “man if I could just have a magic wand this would be fixed?”
Stephen Pasquini: Well I can't upgrade WordPress because my theme is kind of broken now. I'm having this big issue with when I upgrade my theme, that it slows the site down to like a minute load time. I've tried to get this fixed a lot and nobody's been able to solve the problem. That's a big problem, so that's a big problem in upgrading the site, and I'm kind of locked into this theme because all my content, the lessons and everything, are built through this learning management theme that I had gotten off of—oh what is it called, it's a theme site, a WordPress theme site? I bought it a while ago and it was really good but it's just had some troubles later on. That's a big pain point for me because all my content is built on this. I can't really get it out and I'm stuck with the upgrade model. I think that has really slowed and hampered the usability.
There's some things like being able to mark courses completed which no longer works and I get a lot of user feedback requesting that. So saving progress, things like this that are really part of a good membership site, I have not been able to do because I'm just stuck. It's hard to get out of it when you're in this WordPress theme system. That's a big pain point from the membership aspect on this one.
Pat Flynn: Do you have a community in your membership as well, a community space?
Stephen Pasquini: I have not done a Facebook group, I've haven't.
Pat Flynn: But there's no forum inside of what you have right now either?
Stephen Pasquini: No, there's not. I'd started to put BuddyPress in there and I stopped because it started slowing my site down too.
Pat Flynn: I was going to say, it's going to add even more bandwidth on top of what's going on right now if you do that.
Stephen Pasquini: It did and I have a feedback button now that I added this year, a few months ago. So that allows people to send user feedback if there's problems. That's been a good way, but I don't really have a good way besides email and then a contact form for people to really interact with it either.
Pat Flynn: That's crazy. Where I was going with that was I was just worried that you'd have to move a forum over somewhere else, which is always the hardest part about the software changes in membership sites, is you have this forum with all these threads and it's just a gold mine of information, you don't want to lose that. But you haven't even done anything like that, which is fine, yet still people are signing up which is really cool. That's another conversation in terms of what really happens when you add the community, is that potentially another price tier could be offered. I don't know, but maybe that's not even needed because it seems to be working right now. I don't want to add new things to the play. I want to fix what's on your plate right now.
Had you explored any other options for where else you might be able to host these lessons in the coursework?
Stephen Pasquini: I had looked, and I know you were using Teachable, right? [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Teachable.]
Pat Flynn: Yes.
Stephen Pasquini: I looked into that. Actually, when I was launching the site Teachable had just come out and I was kind of thinking of building on something like that. I kind of made the decision to stick in WordPress just because it's what I knew from building on The PA Life site. The way they do it are with these—it's kind of like a post but then it puts it in a “/lessons.” When you create all the lessons—and now there's over 500 lessons and they all link from each other. I think it would almost be, I don't even know, maybe impossible to switch out or I guess you could pay somebody to do it. I don't know, it might be too much to do. I don't know.
Pat Flynn: For something like Teachable, 500 lessons would be quite a lot. With whatever platform you go on it would be quite a bit. Perhaps sticking with the platform on WordPress would make sense, but likely there's a lot of other plugins for WordPress specifically that are learning management systems that are easy to use and likely would be easy for a person, yourself or hopefully somebody else, to go in and create this new course, essentially. It's going to be the same thing but it's just in a different part of the website that will be faster and will be updated. These plugins, one of them that comes to mind is Zippy Courses with Derrick Halpern. That one I've used before and it's so easy to use. It wouldn't be hard to create some sort of a video for how to transfer one lesson to another, from one to the next, then you just have somebody do that for a small fee to complete that project with perhaps some incentive along the way, “After you do the first 100 I'll release this payment and then you can finish the rest and I'll release this payment.” That way you are keeping people accountable for making sure it gets done, if you didn't want to do it yourself.
Although there could be options, and I'll get you in touch with my guy who specializes in website speed and also structure, and servers and such. There may be an easy answer Stephen, for just creating a script that would likely just copy everything over for you really easily, which would be obviously the ideal situation. He'll help you at least get things sped up and probably have some recommendations for you too.
Stephen Pasquini: Oh that would be amazing.
Pat Flynn: That's a big problem. I would just reiterate and stress how important it is for you to solve that problem. That's definitely going to be something, because this is something that's now your livelihood and your members are paying and they have expectations I think. Once you get that solved, I'm just imagining what life is like on the other end after the tech stuff is solved.
Stephen Pasquini: I felt the same way. You get so ingrained in a system. I think sometimes when you launch something you don't really know, you're kind of hoping just to get it started.
Pat Flynn: Right.
Stephen Pasquini: When I launched this site too, I really had hoped to solve that problem. As time goes on you get this WordPress creep, is what I call it.
Pat Flynn: Right. Well you did the right thing at first, which was just go and not try to make it perfect, not try to solve all the problems at first. We're at a point now where we definitely need to fix that. I would say that number one priority is the tech stuff, for sure. Then that obviously plays into the other thing, which you said was the hiring piece of it. But like I said, starting with people you know is going to be really helpful. Hopefully you can trust my recommendation with my guy to at least point you in the right direction.
Stephen Pasquini: Oh thanks Pat, yeah absolutely. It's hard because I actually still practice medicine too so I'm still a PA, and I still work twenty hours a week, and then I spend the other time with my kids and then working on the site too. I'm not really connected in a tech community either. Where I live in Santa Cruz, I've asked around but it's really hard to find that person that you can really rely on.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, so I'll definitely point you in the right direction there. Let's see, what else is bothering you, what else is challenging you right now?
Stephen Pasquini: That's a good question. Maybe it's what the main goal with everything is. I think part of the goal for starting the site was to be able to focus on providing better medicine too. I want to do some global health work. I would like to do some work in the community. Maybe it's finding out what the point as far as life, and the website, and even my job is. You know?
Pat Flynn: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stephen Pasquini: I've been working and I've struggled with going all-in on this I think, too. I've thought about it a lot this year. Maybe that's what I'm struggling with too, is whether or not to maybe go all-in on this and maybe focus on it 100 percent for a little bit. I think I'm afraid to do that.
Pat Flynn: What are you afraid of?
Stephen Pasquini: As a PA, and I run a PA site, I guess I'm afraid of abandoning my patients. I'm afraid of, I guess being a sell out too because part of what I do is promoting a profession that I actually love. I don't know, I guess I'm worried about alienating my community a bit too by that.
Pat Flynn: Is there a way that you could bring them along with you?
Stephen Pasquini: Yeah. I think I probably could; maybe I could. I think I could actually serve people. One of the best things about being online is just being able to reach out to so many more people. Not like we don't get to do it in the clinic, I love seeing our patients and I love what I do. You know this—online there's just so many more people that you can reach and affect in a positive way. I think that goes into long-terms goals, so maybe there is a way I could bring them with me and maybe just being honest about that on the site too.
Pat Flynn: Yeah, I think being authentic and honest is always the best thing. Have you had conversations with people in your audience and run some ideas by them to get some guidance from those you're serving in terms of what else you might be able to do, or what the best direction might be?
Stephen Pasquini: I haven't. You talked about that in one of the emails. I have an email sign up form and I have about 10,000 people on my email list and I hate to say it . . . I haven't used it. Maybe I'm afraid to reach out because I'm afraid of what they're going to say. I do think that's part of one reason I haven't really pushed that forward, because of that. So maybe it's just overcoming that fear, and maybe asking.
Pat Flynn: I think small wins are going to help you. I think even just a conversation here or there, or maybe just one email, and asking for perhaps what's one thing that you have really benefited from the membership and then what's thing that you feel we could do to improve, besides the website, which is something we're working on right now, and that might help give a little bit of relief to you for those who are maybe not having the best experience with it, but keeping them in there because they know you're working on it. I think by asking or even having conversations with people about what's helping them already, that way you can amplify what is working and also feel good about what you're doing. I think you're doing something amazing and you're helping so many people you might not even realize it.
Stephen Pasquini: You're absolutely right. I actually think that's a really good idea, reaching out through the email and just asking. We do interviews, so we interview students and we get a lot of feedback when we're helping with essays and stuff. We have a feedback form, but I never really ask, what's that one thing. I think that's a really good idea.
Pat Flynn: Yeah and you're going to hear it in the language of your audience and that's great because now you can relay that new language to people who might be coming in, in a way that might resonate with them perhaps a little bit more. This fear thing, this is very common so don't feel like you're just unique in that because everybody goes through that fear and resistance. I think my advice would be to see where the fear is and go to it because that's a sign that it's probably something that's really important. Because it's really important, it's a little bit scary. That's also something that can provide a lot more value to you if you were able to solve or fix that problem. Like you said, the website, super scary, but you know that on the other end of that, once you conquer that it's going to be so much more valuable and probably a lot less stressful for you. And similarly, what we just talked about, hearing feedback and pushing that a little bit because yes it's a little bit scary, but you're probably going to be opened to a lot of feedback that you didn't even know was there.
Stephen Pasquini: Pat, what do you think the best way to do it is, because I haven't really done my email much. If I want to go out and ask questions, do you think it would be okay to do that or should I preempt this? Should I start doing them more regularly and then start asking questions? I kind of have this dead email sign up form—
Pat Flynn: That's a very common thing too. Everybody talks about building an email list, but then nobody really talks about what to do with that email list. I think one thing you can do is just send an email out and just say, “Hey,” remind them of who you are, because they might not remember or they're just not used to getting those emails. Then just say, “We want to do even more to help you.” One thing you could do is just ask for, “Hey, what topics or what things are you needing help with the most? We're going to compile this information and perhaps send you back our answers for some of the most popular and most common questions that come in. That way we can provide more value to you.” That way you're kind of setting up that there may be more emails coming down the road but it's going to be useful and valuable, not sell-y. Although, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't sell in your email list. I wouldn't just not contact them ever and then hit them with an email that sells something. Obviously you want them to find value.
Along the way too, you could even ask, even directly in a followup, “By the way, of the things that you've found or discovered on the site which one was the most helpful to you and why?” I think that would give you some really cool real life user stories that would tie into that feedback. That would really, I think, motivate you and help you understand . . . probably motivate you to help get all the technical stuff figured out too.
Stephen Pasquini: Yeah, that's true.
Pat Flynn: You're doing really well Stephen. What are your next steps you think, from here?
Stephen Pasquini: I think I would love to get the info on the person that you have to get help with the site. Getting that technical barrier out of the way I think would help me build content confidently and not be afraid of just building into something that's broken. That's not a good feeling because you're building more and more and it just feels like getting that fix would be huge. Then maybe making a decision in the next few months about what to do about my regular job, and maybe dedicating a year to just working more confidently, and serving my audience better, to be honest. I was really growing and now that it's grown I just think it's gotten overwhelming and I just don't know if I have the time. Part of it's dedicating it to that.
Pat Flynn: Right. The final thing I want to leave you with is perhaps it might be wise to take some time later on to think about a year from now, in an ideal situation if you were to decide one way, what would it look like, how would life be, what would be good about it, what might be some reservations about it? Then perhaps . . . This is something I love to do.
I don't know if you read my book Will it Fly?, but I love thought experiments, putting things into context by thinking about the future decisions that I make now. Making that decision in your head and thinking about what are the consequences, repercussions, the joys that will come out of this decision I make now. Then you can really start to put into context, “Is that really where I want to go or not?” That way you're not just making decisions without actually thinking about it. I would really, again, focus on if you were to perhaps put aside your current job for now and then focus full-time, a year from now what would life be like? Then just ask yourself is that what you want and then use that as your guiding light.
Stephen Pasquini: I think that's good advice Pat, it is, thank you.
Pat Flynn: Cool. Yeah man. I will hook you up with the contact right after we hang up on the call here. For those of you listening, I don't want a 1,000 emails asking for the same contact because he's not somebody who's . . . Anyway, perhaps leave a comment on the show notes and I'll have him go there if he needs to help, and you can just talk about your situation if you have something similar to Stephen, in terms of your needing website help. Anyway, Stephen, I'll send you his information and we'll go from there. Do you mind if we maybe check up on you later on, and we can get on another call maybe and see what decisions you made and how things are going?
Stephen Pasquini: Oh that would be great. No I'd love it, please yes. Thank you.
Pat Flynn: Cool man. Hey take care. Good luck and wishing you all the best.
Stephen Pasquini: You too Pat. Thank you so, so much.
Pat Flynn: All right, I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Stephen. Again, remember you can find him at ThePALife.com or SmartyPance.com. Stephen, you're awesome, man. Can't wait to connect with you again and help you out even more in the future. It's going to be a lot of fun where you take this. Congratulations on the success you've had thus far. Really, I think it's just the tip of the iceberg here for you. So looking forward to hearing more from you later.
Make sure you stick around, those of you listening, because what I want you to do is, A, subscribe to the show because Stephen and many other people that we've interviewed in the past and coached are coming back to talk about their progress. We got more people who are coaching in the future coming up, so make sure you subscribe. If you'd like to get coaching potentially, all you have to do is go to AskPat.com, just ask right there on that page. You can get the archive of other episodes there as well.
I also want to talk about email really quick. A lot of you, I know, want to start an email list, or have yet to do so, or are looking for a tool. Well I have a great deal for you. This deal is only available through my podcasts. ConvertKit is the email service provider that I use. I've been using them since 2015, since switching over from a couple other popular ones and I'm in love with it. I use it every single day to write broadcast emails, create autoresponders. More than that, they have a lot of the advanced features that a lot of the more expensive tools have but they make it super easy to implement. It's one of my favorite tools. I'm an advisor for the company; I'm an affiliate for the company. I was able to get you a special Pat Flynn podcast deal for a forty five-day free trial. They don't offer this normally anywhere, it's just through me. Forty five-day free trial. All you have to do is go to SmartPassiveIncome.com/convertkit45 and you'll get access to that just for you guys, SmartPassiveIncome.com/converkit45, and then you're in. Check it out. If you want to get your email game strong that's where you go. [Full Disclosure: I'm a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]
I appreciate you. Make you subscribe and I'll see you guys in the next episode. Cheers. I appreciate you.
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