AskPat 32 Episode Transcript
Pat Flynn: Hey, what's up everybody? I hope you're having an awesome day. My name is Pat Flynn, and welcome to AskPat Episode 32. This is where I answer your online business and entrepreneurship questions five days a week.
And I want to give a shout out to my buddies Jeremy and Jason over at InternetBusinessMastery.com. They've just done so much for me. They are actually the people who inspired me to get into online business way back in 2008, and I owe them everything. I mean, they've done so much for me. If you want to check out their program that they have going on there, you can go to AskPat.com/ibm. That's for their Internet Business Mastery Academy. Again, Jeremy and Jason from InternetBusinessMastery.com. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
The reason I bring them up is because today's question has to do with, now what changes would I make if I had to start all over again? This is a great question from Steve. So let's actually get to the question from Steve right now.
Steve: My name is Steve, and I wanted to ask you if you had to start your online business all over again, what major steps would you take based on the experience you have so far? Thank you.
Pat Flynn: Steve, thank you so much for the question. I mean, there's a lot of great information I can share with you because there are a lot of things I would do differently. I'm not saying that I wish everything was different because I'm obviously very happy with how things turned out, and there were a lot of learning experiences that came from a lot of those failures. However, there are things I wish I had done differently and I would do if I had to start over again. The first one is, and I want to mention this, is just I wish I had just gotten started earlier, you know? The reason I got started doing online business is because I was laid off, and that was the thing that actually forced me to check out all these other options that were available. That gave me the push to do things that normally I would be uncomfortable doing, and I felt like because I was laid off and I had no other options that I had to try these new things that I probably wouldn't normally have done anyway.
So I only wish I'd gotten started earlier. There was a lot of opportunity in the niche that I got in when I first started doing online business, which was helping people pass the LEED exam in the architecture, building, and design industry. If I had started sooner, oh man, I probably could have made a lot more money, and more than that, I would have helped a lot more people grow much faster as well. So you know, I only wish I had gotten started sooner. And that comes with the advice for all of you out there who may not have a business running yet is just to keep your eyes open for those opportunities, and when those opportunities come, take the bold actions required to make them happen. If you continue to do the same thing every day, the same thing is going to happen every day. You have to try something. You have to get uncomfortable. And again, it was my lay-off that forced me to get uncomfortable. And that's really what it has to take, those big bold actions, stepping out of your comfort zone, grabbing on to those opportunities when they come at you, and of course keeping your eyes open for those opportunities as well. So that's the first thing.
Now I'm going to get into some little bit more technical stuff that I wish I had done differently. This next one, man, this really kills me because it's actually . . . I wish I had started my email lists earlier, both on GreenExamAcademy.com, which was my first business which I just talked about, and also SmartPassiveIncome.com, which is my main site now that is doing really well. But I didn't start my email list for Green Exam Academy until after I sold my ebook . . . actually, even way after that. So what happened was, I started generating a lot of traffic to the site, I was writing an ebook to help people pass this exam, and then when I sold that book, I just sort of put a banner to it on my sight that led to the sales page. I didn't have a list that I could sell to, that I could share and send a message directly to those people. “Hey, I have something that could actually provide value to you that can help you. You're here on my site. I'm already giving away free information to help you, and that can help. And you don't need this, but this might help you.” I couldn't send a message to anybody because I wasn't collecting an email list. And beyond that, in the same business, even after I sold my ebook I wasn't collecting my customer's email addresses.
Again, a huge mistake because two months later, I came out with a new product, an audiobook that I sold on top of my ebook. And a lot of people I figured, maybe, who were having trouble with the ebook or just wanted to study in a different way could get the audio book. There was no way for me to email all of my previous customers and say, “Hey, if you're having trouble with the text or you need additional information maybe on your travel, or when you're at the gym or something, here's an audio book.” I didn't have a way to send that to people. Again, huge mistake. And the audiobook did really well, sort of just showing itself up on the homepage. It would have done way better if I had an email list already that I grew from the beginning.
Now moving on to Smart Passive Income. I didn't learn my lesson yet, and again, it was still within the first six months of my career doing online business, but I didn't start an email list. I started SmartPassiveIncome.com in October 2008. I started my email list in January 2010. That's over year that I wasn't collecting email addresses, not just for the purpose of selling stuff, which I don't do in my email list actually. I use it as a relationship tool, a way to build relationships and directly give more content to people, and I missed out on a year and a half of doing that. I mean, imagine how many more fans I could have had, how much better the relationship I could have had with those people who were first on my site who would subscribe if they showed interest, and then I could have them on for longer and be there for more support for sharing and for tapping into to understand where my brand should go and the direction I should take. Huge mistake not building that email list.
So if I could go back in time to tell myself one thing, it would be, “Pat, start your email list right now.” Another . . . well, I was going to say “small” mistake, but this wasn't really a small mistake because it led to a huge headache and a lot of lawyer fees. My first business was at IntheLEED.com. You know, I had mentioned GreenExamAcademy.com earlier. That wasn't the first URL of that site. The first URL was IntheLEED.com. L-E-E-D, which was the name of that exam, Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design. And that was a trademark, which, you know, I actually built that site for myself to help keep track of notes, and I didn't originally want to turn it into a business or ever even thought about that, but then it eventually became a business. And I just didn't know better that you couldn't use a trademark in a domain name, so I got a nice cease and desist letter from the company that administers this exam.
At first, I freaked out. I thought I was getting sued. I thought I had done something really wrong, and yes, it's really wrong to do that, but I thought like the world was over. It was only after I contacted a lawyer that I understood that, no, no, you can still do what you're doing. You just need to change your domain name because you can't have that trademark there in the web address. So what ended up happening was I did a permanent 301 redirect, which is a fancy term for a thing that you do when you want to sort of switch domains to keep Google in the know as far as, okay, I'm just switching domains. Let's keep all the links used. Let's keep all the keywords and rankings all the same. So I did that for about a month, and luckily, that was just enough time because I got a cease and desist letter back a month after I created and redirected to Green Exam Academy that they were like, “No, you're still using that old domain. You gotta get rid of it forever.”
So I did. But luckily, Google had seen that I did this 301 redirect, and GreenExamAcademy.com didn't lose its rankings and traffic, so it was very lucky. But again, I would have not used that as the domain name, IntheLEED.com. So don't use trademarks in your domain name. Go to the United States Patent Trademark office to make sure you are not using a trademark in your domain. There are some companies that will let you. I mean, I think, gosh, is it Blizzard? Which does World of Warcraft? Like, they don't care. But any moment they could, and you'd be screwed. So just better safe than sorry. Don't use trademarks in your domain name.
Number four. Another big mistake was I tried to do everything myself. I had, you know, as Chris Ducker says, superman syndrome, or the curse of wanting to do everything on my own, thinking I could do everything on my own. And I tried to learn everything. I remember one time I spent, you know, six hours trying to figure out how to move and image from the left side of page to the right side of the page. So I watched all these YouTube videos, I tried to learn CSS and HTML, and I did it. And it worked, but it wasn't coded the best, and it took forever. I could have saved much more time and money if I had just either hired somebody or just asked for help, which is what I eventually did. And the person who helped me do something else was like, “Dude, who did this code on your site? Because it's terrible.” And I'm like, “I did.” And he's like, “Oh. Okay.”
So don't try to do everything yourself. I mean, it's hard. I don't know if it's because I'm a guy and you know guys, we don't like to ask for directions and stuff, and we feel pride with that. You need to get rid of that because what is going to better serve your audience? What is going to better give you the ability to do what it is that you need to do to provide information for your audience, generate more content, spend time doing the things that you know you should be spending time doing? So I've since learned the benefits of hiring help and outsourcing and that sort of thing. If you're going to do one-off projects, for instance, you just need somebody to design a website or help you record an audiobook, you can go to Elance.com or Odesk.com for things like that. Or if you're going to have repetitive tasks and things that you do in your business that you just hate doing or you don't like to do, or you know you should be spending your time elsewhere, these repetitive tasks can be handed out to part-time or half-time or full-time sort of virtual assistants. And a great resource for virtual assistants is VirtualStaffFinder.com, which is owned by my good friend Chris Ducker.
Now the last thing I would say, if I had to start all over again, what changes I would make is I would be more open to reaching out and making more connections with people. I waited about a year and a half until things started to finally happen with SmartPassiveIncome.com, for example, which I think coincides with when people started to discover me and reach out to me, and then I built a relationship from there. I remember some of the early relationships I built . . . you know, again, this is over a year after the site was built, was through like Glenn Allsopp from ViperChill. You know, we connected on social media and then later on email and Skype. And same with Darren Rowse and Yaro Starak from Entrepreneur's Journey. Again, I was very fortunate that I had written so much content and had created so much buzz and awareness about what I was doing that these big players were reaching out to me, but I think I would have done a better job of being comfortable with what I knew I had to offer and reaching out to them instead. So making more connections sooner and not being afraid of the no.
I think that's really important. Don't be afraid. What's the worst thing that can happen, not just for reaching out with anybody but with anything? With anything, that might seem a little bit uncomfortable. Like, think honestly to yourself, what is the worst that can happen? It's probably not as bad as you can think or as you're thinking. And yeah, so that's my advice. So just to recap all the things, the five things I would change: 1) I wish I would have gotten started sooner. 2) I wish I would have built an email list right from the start. 3) I wouldn't have used a trademark in my domain name. 4) I wouldn't try to do everything on my own. 5) I would have started to make more connections sooner. So, whew, that was a lot of information.
Steve, thank you so much for your question. An AskPat t-shirt is going to be sent your way. If you have a question, for those of you listening, head on over to AskPat.com. You can check out the bank of questions that are there already or ask a question using the widget on that page.
And of course, I want to mention the guys from InternetBusinessMastery.com again, Jeremy and Jason, because they really helped me when I was first starting. You know, that's the one thing I wouldn't change. I would get educated somewhere. That's your fast track. You can find out all this information about how to do online business anywhere. You can get it for free on YouTube or Google. But when you are put in a place . . . It doesn't have to be Internet Business Mastery; I'm just using them because they helped me, you know, and I'm creating my own stuff for the future as well. When you can put yourself in a place with other like-minded individuals and learn directly from those experts, things are going to happen much faster than, again, if you try to do everything on your own.
And I want to leave you with a quote today. This is from Phillip Gary Smith, and he says, “The worst outcome of not trying is never getting to fail.”
It's important to try and fail. Failing is not bad because that's how you know to not do that again. You can learn from your mistakes, pivot, and move forward. And that's all I got for you today. Thank you so much for listening to AskPat, and I'll see you in the next episode.
Jeremy and Jason are the ones who inspired me to start my online business. Their advice on how to start a business is invaluable. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]