Pat Flynn on Entrepreneurial Inspiration and His Profitable Content Strategy

In 2008, Pat Flynn was happily employed by an architectural firm. And then, like a lot of people in 2008, just like that … out of a job.

It was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Since that point, Pat has built a business that supports his family through blogging and podcasting. And he’s just getting started.

Rather than some “Master of the Universe” type, Pat shares with you that (like most of us in this industry) he was initially scared and winging it. But it wasn’t long until he had the confidence to take the next step, and then the next … all by simply putting in the work and being consistent.

Listen in to Pat’s story and the specific steps he took to go from broke and unknown to running his own new media business. This was my first conversation with Pat, and I was impressed by not only his knowledge and business savvy, but how genuine he is.

In this 42-minute episode Pat Flynn and I discuss:

  • His primary (and very simple) content strategy
  • Why getting laid off was the best thing that happened to him
  • The critical role of mindset in business (online or off)
  • The podcast that inspired him to start up
  • Why he started a second, 5 day-a-week podcast
  • How much he makes from each of his podcasts
  • The real power of a podcast-centered content strategy

Listen to Rainmaker.FM Episode No. 19 below …

The Show Notes

*Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and Internet entrepreneurs.

The Transcript

Pat Flynn on Entrepreneurial Inspiration and His Profitable Content Strategy

Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and online entrepreneurs. Find out more and take a free 14-day test drive at

Brian Clark: Hey everyone, Brian Clark. We are here again today with another episode of Rainmaker FM. Today is another one of our special interview episodes and I am very pleased to have today as a guest Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.

I was kind of ruminating with Pat before we started the interview that I’ve been aware of him forever and yet we’ve never met. We’ve never really had a chance to talk. And I decided what better way to end that dry spell than to have him on the show?

I think his story is inspirational. I think it is instructive and I think it is fascinating. I also think it is in line with the theme of these interviews of people who have successfully built audiences, but what do you do then? What’s next? And how did they get here in the first place? I think for many of you that is key. So join with me in welcoming Pat Flynn. Pat, thank you so much for being on the show.

Pat Flynn: Thanks for having me Brian. I’m super stoked to be here on Rainmaker FM. I think it’s really cool that we finally got to meet on a podcast of all places. Podcasting has been huge for me lately. We’ll get into that I’m sure, but amongst other things it’s just a fantastic way to share with people so I’m truly honored to be here. Thank you.

Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s interesting. At Copyblogger we have kind of this mantra that everything is content. So if you want to get to know someone, in my mind, why not also share it with everyone else?

Robert and I always have these conversations where we’ll reflect back and we’re like, “We should have been recording this, this is good stuff.” For example, our last show was with Jay Baer, and I’ve been friends with him forever, but rather than just getting on the phone with Jay and saying, “Hey, what are you doing, where are you going? Catch me up.” Why not make it into a podcast? And that’s exactly what we did. So again, thank you for being here.

Like I said, you’ve been in the game since about 2008 and it’s kind of ridiculous that we haven’t spoken before. I am mostly intrigued in hearing your story in your own words.

I’ve got the general gist of what happened with the layoffs that affected so many people at that time. Instead of maybe dwelling on defeat, you took that as an opportunity to do something else. Take us back and tell us what happened, how you got here, and all of that good stuff. I’m really interested in hearing how you had such a positive mindset in the face of adversity.

Who is Pat Flynn?

Pat Flynn: Sure. It definitely wasn’t always a positive mindset after getting laid off. For a couple of weeks I went into a state of depression. I just didn’t know what I was going to do. I’d spent my whole life getting ready to become an architect and I was working at a great firm in Irvine, California and all of a sudden a few months after getting promoted actually, I get called into the office and they tell me that they’re going to let me go. This is the summer of ’08.

It just killed me. I had no plan B. I thought this was a secure thing. And my first reaction was actually to call every single architecture firm in a 20 mile radius. And then to call all of my friends and all of the contractors that we’ve ever worked with and just beg and plead for a job. That’s because I was really scared. I didn’t know what else to do. I had no other life.

Luckily, I had a few months until they were actually officially going to let me go because I was a job captain. I had a few clients who I just couldn’t leave and so they wanted to transition me out slowly. During those three months with going to work every day just to make a few extra dollars here and there was what I dreaded every single day.

Why would I want to go into work? I didn’t do any work, to be honest. But I did discover podcasts at that time. And it was at that time I discovered a podcast where I heard an interview from a guy telling his story about how he was making six figures a year teaching people how to pass the Project Management exam (the PM exam).

That’s when a light bulb went on for me because I had helped myself pass an exam. It was a really difficult exam in the architecture industry called the Leed exam, which is sort of making environmentally friendly and safe buildings and things like that.

Brian Clark: Right.

Pat Flynn: To help me pass this test, I created a blog. I had followed blogs. I had started my own blog in college about what I ate for dinner and what parties I went to and things like that. That was on the Xanga platform.

Brian Clark: Everyone does one of those at least. Right?

Pat Flynn: Right? You won’t find it. It’s gone. But I knew that it was a great way to manage content. And I figured you know what, my handwriting is terrible, I do a lot of traveling, if I post my notes online, it would be a way for me to study and study at work during my lunch hour and all of this.

I spent a year just posting content on the site, study tips for me and a few of my coworkers every single day. For a year and a half I did that and I finally passed the exam in March of ’08 and I was done with it. I had no more need for it.

But when I heard this podcast episode months later, I said, “Wow, maybe I can take this site that I built for myself and a few coworkers and actually share it with the world. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I don’t know even the first step, but I do know that I’m going to need to eventually keep track of traffic.”

So I put Google Analytics on the site. Comments weren’t open. There was no need for comments, so I didn’t know anybody was on the site. I didn’t think anybody was on the site. But the next day when the analytics registered, I saw that there were like 5,000 people who visited the site the previous day from over 30 countries in the world.

It just blew my mind that people were already coming to the site to help them pass the same exam. I had no idea. I don’t even know for how long before that people were coming over. That’s when I opened up comments. People started asking questions that I actually knew the answer to. Even though I didn’t know all the answers, I became this expert over a short period of time.

I was one of the only ones actually revealing all of this information about this exam. And to make a long story short, in October of 2008 I published a study guide. It was an ebook that was delivered digitally. In that month, I had made $7,908.55.

Brian Clark: Wow.

Pat Flynn: That was from a $19.99 ebook. And this was more money than I’d ever made in my whole life and it just completely changed my life. So truly, the layoff, which sucked at first, became a huge blessing in disguise because it opened my world to this online business stuff. Initially my thoughts about online business before getting into it were like, “Man this is a scammy thing, I would never do it.”

Brian Clark: Right.

A Proven Online Business Model – Relentlessly Serving Your Audience

Pat Flynn: It was like people are just trying to suck every dollar, but here I was actually providing value for this audience. I was selling something and getting paid in return.

In addition to that, I was getting these amazing thank you letters from people who had taken the exam using my study material and passed the first time. There were paragraphs and paragraphs of thanks. And that is what showed me the business model that I continue to use today in all of my businesses.

This model is that your earnings are a byproduct of how well you serve your audience. That’s always for me the primary motive. Actually, that first month after I launched that ebook, people were like, “How did you do this? Share everything, I want to know.” And I said, “Yes okay.”

That’s when I created to share everything that had happened with that business. Ever since then I’ve just shared new businesses that I’ve created, and things that I do. It doesn’t always go right, but it’s always a lesson, and I think that’s really cool.

People have been following along on my journey. It took about a year and a half for this site to finally take off and now it’s my primary thing, and I have a podcast to go along with it. We just passed eleven million downloads.

I have a second podcast to go along with it called Ask Pat. It’s making tens of thousands of dollars a month primarily though affiliate marketing. I actually don’t sell any products of my own quite yet. The audience I’ve built and the opportunities that has provided for me from book writing to getting on stage and doing keynotes and getting paid to do that, it’s just unbelievable the path I’ve been on.

And amongst some of the content that I create, I also create new businesses publically. Like I said, it doesn’t always go right but it’s always a learning experience. That’s why I call myself the crash test dummy of online business. I’m just so blessed and happy to be that person, to show people what works and what doesn’t.

How Having “Nothing to Lose” Can Lead to Great Successes

Brian Clark: It’s amazing. I do want to talk to you in detail about podcasting, about the Ask Pat show, about affiliate marketing, and all of this because I think there’s a lot to learn there. But I do want to drill down real quick on one thing I noticed on your About page, which really resonated with me.

Of course it was harder and everyone goes through depression and angst and anxiety when something bad happens, but it resonated with me because it’s been my personal experience as well. You said getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to you.

I don’t how much you know of my story, but I had been an attorney and quit in the ’90s and that’s when I started online. I had become an entrepreneur successfully in ’99 more as a solo, but really in 2001, 2002 I had a real business and I spun off another one from it.

In 2005, I had a snowboarding accident that created a subdural hematoma. I don’t know if you know what that is, but it’s like a life threatening pool of blood in your head. Long story short, I had to have brain surgery and all of this stuff. I say that was the best thing that ever happened to me and people look at me like I’m insane.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: But it’s not that I became an entrepreneur after that. I became the entrepreneur I wanted to be instead of what I thought I was supposed to be.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: And this is a big theme in my life that your own mind really either limits or enables what you’re able to do. Did you have this switch? You created the ebook and that was really your test case, right?

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: But were you driven to do that in the first place out of desperation and then you found that this worked out for you?

Pat Flynn: Not necessarily desperation, but it was almost that I had nothing to lose at that point and I think that’s important.

Brian Clark: Nothing to lose is a beautiful place.

How Fear Can Help Drive Your Business

Pat Flynn: Absolutely. If you try and it doesn’t work, well you’re where you were started anyways, but at least you’re giving yourself a chance. That was really big for me because I think because I didn’t have a plan B, because the world of architecture wasn’t letting me back in, I took risks that I wouldn’t normally have taken.

And I always ask myself, “Wow, what would life have been like if I didn’t get laid off, would I be going down this path?” I know the answer would be “no way.” I wouldn’t have pushed myself to try these things. It was that layoff and not being able to get back into the industry that pushed me in this direction, and I’m so, so thankful for it.

It’s funny because your story and my story are very common stories when people go through these tragic moments in their life. Then these amazing things happen on the other side of it typically. Now I actually look for that fear. And whenever I see it, that is mostly a sign that I know something amazing is on the other end.

That’s why I started my podcast even though I was deathly afraid of getting on the microphone and I hate my voice. That’s why I got on video. It’s because I just knew I was nervous so I knew something amazing was going to happen if I were to conquer it. And now public speaking, which if you asked me a few years ago, I would have never said yes to getting on stage even in front of ten people.

Here I am speaking in front of thousands now and I have the opening keynote at New Media Expo next year. It’s just crazy what happens when you actually believe that you can do this stuff. Like Henry Ford says, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Brian Clark: Absolutely. I am far from the Pollyanna rah rah motivational type, but I really do try to impress on people that when bad things happen, it’s a cliché to say there’s a silver lining. There could be a gold lining if you just realize that this may be that moment where you’re supposed to go ahead and throw caution to the wind and chase your dreams.

The main thing for me with the near death experience is this is all we’ve got; this is not a dress rehearsal.

You have a great voice by the way. I don’t understand what your problem is.

Pat Flynn: Oh thank you. I think it’s the mic. The mic makes me sound a lot better. It’s a fairly expensive podcasting mic.

Brian Clark: I think everyone hates their voice because you hear it differently inside your head and it’s just not the same thing. Interesting that you mention about a fear of public speaking because I used to be a trial attorney, a young one. It’s not like I was in court all the time, but I was still deathly afraid of public speaking.

I think ironically, you said you’re keynoting in the fall. That used to be BlogWorld and that was my first speaking engagement way back when it started.

Pat Flynn: Oh, that’s cool.

Brian Clark: Me, Darren of ProBlogger, and Chris Brogan really helped get that rolling because there wasn’t such a thing as a blogging conference at that time. They invited me to speak and I was scared to death. But because I was afraid, I had to do it.

Pat Flynn: Exactly.

You Have to Make a Choice

Brian Clark: And it didn’t kill me. I can’t say I was great, but it didn’t kill me. And now despite myself, I regularly speak even though I swear every year I’m going to quit because I’d much rather do this. I’d rather be at home with the kids and not leave them and all that good stuff. But still, it’s always that which intimidates me that I have to conquer just to feel like I’m moving forward as a person.

Pat Flynn: Right. It makes me wish that I knew that this was what to do when I was in high school. I would have asked out many more girls.

Brian Clark: Well, I’m jealous that you’re only 30 years old. I went to law school and got out when I was 27. I practiced for four years unhappily and that was ’94-’98, and the beginning of the commercial web.

Every night I would go home and stare at that monitor. It was an ugly beige boxy monitor back from the ’90s and say “There’s got to be a way to make a living.” I sat there and looked and thought about it for four years because there were no conferences, there were no blogs, and there were no guides. You had to watch what other people were doing.

Finally again, it was that moment of I’m either going to live my entire life miserable holding on to my nice salary and my assistant and my private office. From the outside it looked wonderful. And of course my parents and my friends thought I was insane. You have to do something that makes you happy.

It wasn’t just law, it was being employed that bothered me. That’s because I enjoy the freedom of doing things my own way. It’s not about the amount of money I make necessarily (although that’s certainly nice), it was always “Can I make a living without answering to anyone except for my audience and my customers?” Do you feel now that you could ever go back?

Pat Flynn: No.

Brian Clark: If you got that plump architecture job, you would just laugh. Right?

Pat Flynn: Funnily enough, in March of ’09, several months had gone by since starting my online business making tens of thousands dollars a month. I got a call from my boss who had let me go from the architecture industry. He had started his own firm and he took a few people from the firm I was at. He offered me a very, very generous salary, a year’s worth of rent for free and just the best thing I could ever have asked for if you had asked me like two years earlier.

Now I mean it was the best “no” I had ever said in my entire life. And that’s the defining moment when I knew, like you, that I wasn’t going to be employable anymore at that time.

Brian Clark: I love that. That’s nice. That’s a great story. Okay, so 2008 is when Smart Passive Income started?

Pat Flynn: Yes.

Brian Clark: As a blog, much like Copyblogger, it started two years earlier as kind of a one-man show. Then here’s an interesting story that you’ll think is funny in an almost dangerously disastrous way. In 2005 when I came out of surgery and everything recovered fine, but I was never going to do anything for money except for in the way I wanted to. So my first idea, and I don’t know if you remember back at that time, but that was the beginning of the podcasting rage that was about five to ten years too early.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: Remember Adam Curry, the MTV DJ and all that? My original idea was to start a podcast instead of Copyblogger. I look back and say, “Wow, that would have been a disaster.” That’s because podcasting wasn’t ready for primetime yet. Of course my strength was as a writer and that’s ultimately why I went with it. I had the ability to teach people what we now call content marketing (I didn’t call it that obviously at the time), was really the right opportunity and thank goodness I took it.

Still, even when you shifted to podcasting in 2010, it was still early. That was as a form of content marketing, which is effectively what you do. What made you make that move?

Why Pat Flynn Started Podcasting

Pat Flynn: At that time, it hadn’t yet hit mainstream yet. There were certain industries like online business where it was starting to take off. I knew that because there was a podcast out there called Internet Business Mastery that I discovered.

Brian Clark: Yes.

Pat Flynn: Jason and Jeremy, I definitely give them credit for a lot of what has happened to me because I listen to the show every single day on the way to work and on the way back every single day. I got into a part of their program and they definitely helped me get a great start. I knew a podcast was a great way to deliver content and provide value and help people to take action, which is what I wanted to do.

It was funny because in December of 2008, I actually wrote a blog post. This was just a couple months after starting the blog saying and announcing that I was going to start a podcast. I had actually bought equipment, I did a little test audio, and I had posted it on the blog December of ’08.

I didn’t have my first episode published until July of 2010, so a year and a half later. The reason for that was because I was just scared. Like I said earlier, it took me forever to get over the fact that I had to just do it. Also at the time, it was quite technical to try and figure out. There weren’t any tutorials and it wasn’t necessarily very easy. A lot of the people who were big into podcasting were tech geeks.

Brian Clark: Yes.

Pat Flynn: It was big in the tech geek world, but not so much for people like me. I finally got some help from Cliff Ravenscraft from who helped. He was a consultant for me and he got me up and running and it has taken off since then.

Yes, it was quite early but I think that was to my advantage. I came in at the right time I think. And now it’s still the wild, wild West out there. It’s still very young and podcasting is growing insane right now. I’m so glad to be a part of it right now. My podcast has done very well and I’m just one guy in San Diego and I happen to be ranking in the Top 10 of Business and have been for the last four years.

The Critical Importance of Quality

It really evens the playing field I think especially because anyone can do it now. You’ve got to make good content though. You have to have great interviews or have great shows to stand out because now it is going to become like blogging. It is going to become saturated now so you definitely have to put your best foot forward and best voice forward as well.

Now I have my new podcast called Ask Pat, which is a five day a week podcast inspired a little bit by John Lee Dumas over at Entrepreneur on Fire who has a seven day a week podcast. I never thought that was possible, but in talking with him, he lives here in San Diego with me. He was teaching me how he was able to do seven days a week.

He basically batches everything. He records all of his interviews on Monday, and then hands them off to a VA. He or she puts them together so that they come out every single day. He is months ahead of schedule now, which is fantastic.

That was the inspiration for me to do Ask Pat, which since launching in March of this year and is approaching three million downloads now. Each episode is about ten minutes in length and I answer a voicemail question from the audience. They call in using SpeakPipe to leave me the voicemail. Then I record it and then I hand it off to my assistant who then slices and dices the show and puts it all together.

Honestly, to be able to put a whole month of Ask Pat up there probably takes four hours for the whole month. And it is amazing because now I’m doing sponsorships and getting paid through having sponsors on the show. So each episode of Ask Pat pretty much makes me around $250 on average. And then each episode of the Smart Passive Income podcast probably makes about $2000.

That alone is enough to supplement my living expenses even more. Then I have everything else on top of that too, so it’s quite amazing what the podcast has done for me. And like I said earlier, it has allowed me to get in contact with people for potential publishing deals. It has allowed me to get on stage because there’s just something about the voice that is unlike any other medium.

With podcasting specifically, people can read a blog post maybe up to 15 minutes worth. With video, our attention span is even less, it’s maybe five minutes if that. With the podcast, some of my shows are up to an hour and sometimes an hour and a half. That much of my brand in a person’s life is unlike anything else.

That’s why when I go to conferences now, people come up to me who I’ve never met before and they call me by my name. They’re like, “Pat, dude, I feel like I know you. I feel like we’re friends because you are in my life every single day.” At first, that kind of creeped me out.

Brian Clark: Yeah. It can be that way.

Pat Flynn: People were like, “Hey Pat, how is your son doing?” And I’m like, “Who are you?”

Brian Clark: Right, I know.

Pat Flynn: And then I was thought, “Wow, this actually means I’m making a true, strong connection with people, and it’s all because of the podcast.”

Ask Not What Your Audience Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for Your Audience

Brian Clark: It was interesting to watch you segue into Ask Pat. That’s kind of more of an advanced strategy because you need an audience really to have the questions in the first place. It’s also a sign that you’ve become an authority, whereas in the beginning of your podcast, it’s mainly an interview format. Is that correct?

Pat Flynn: I think it is maybe sixty percent interview, forty percent solo.

Brian Clark: When you first started, was it primarily Pat teaching or a mix or interviews?

Pat Flynn: It was a mix actually. Now I’m actually headed more into the interview space. With Ask Pat, like you were saying, it’s me answering questions.

Brian Clark: Yeah.

Pat Flynn: And like you said, in the eyes of the audience that puts me at that authoritative level. Beyond that, I think I love it more because, and people have told me this, they hear the voice of people in the audience and they can related to that. And then I come in and answer so they feel like they are not alone. I might answer their question, even though somebody else asked it for them. They feel more involved.

Brian Clark: Of course, this ask format is just exploding in popularity. You’ve got AskGaryVee, you’ve got I think…

Pat Flynn: Ask Altucher.

Brian Clark: Exactly. Right.

Pat Flynn: He actually asked me if that was okay if he could do that.

Brian Clark: Oh really?

Pat Flynn: Yeah.

Brian Clark: How nice of him.

Pat Flynn: It was awesome. He was like, “I don’t want to take this, and I know your Ask Pat was sort of the first one out there.” I was like, “Dude, do it.” Everybody is doing it now. There’s an Ask Jason, ask Dr. this, and I think it’s cool. It is definitely a great strategy and I don’t mind people adopting it as long as your name is not Pat.

Podcast Content vs. Written Content

Brian Clark: It reminds me of an early strategy. Everything comes around in new formats but in the IM world, like pre-2005 everyone had an ask thing but it was different. It wasn’t the podcasting format, which to me is a much more intimate. Like you said, you really get to know people.

My writing style comes across in a way that I think is very decisive and yet not as warm. When either I meet people in person or they listen to me in audio they’re like, “Oh, you seem much nicer.” I’m like, “Oh I’m not sure how to take that.” But you know, it’s true. It’s a different medium. It is so much more warm and personable and relatable I think.

Pat Flynn: The ask format you mentioned and how it was sort of adopted podcasting is really interesting. That’s because the “AMA’s” or ask me anythings on Reddit are always really popular. Like you said, it’s sort of just enhancing that experience through the voice here.

Brian Clark: Yes, absolutely. You’ve touched on a couple things that I want to elaborate on. In many ways, especially with podcasting as you’ve evolved now into more than one show, you’ve been a trailblazer. I’ve seen your influence. Sometimes it’s unmistakable and other times it’s as simple as someone like James saying, “Hey, I love your format, do you mind if I steal that?” And then again, you and James couldn’t be any more different. Right?

Pat Flynn: Right. Got the crazy hair.

Brian Clark: Exactly. Now, you are incredibly transparent with your sources of income. You do monthly income reports. You do create your own sites. You show how you effectively you find a niche, and you focus on satisfying the needs of that audience, and they give you money. It’s an amazing thing. I’ve seen many examples of the various niche sites that you’ve created and they are income generating.

Ironically, a big chunk of your income comes from what I call aspirational affiliate marketing. So for example, I’m Pat and I produce this site and this podcast. Now, I have this new podcast, and here are the things I use to do that.

And that turns into, because of course there are affiliate programs tied to many of those products, you make a lot of money from that. Effectively, I’m saying that people want to be like you. They want to do what you’re doing. That in itself has become a source of revenue. You kind of act like you were surprised about that when that actually took the lead in revenue.

Pat Flynn: I was because I was just sharing what I did and reporting on it. I was getting involved with other companies that I could potentially earn an income from through commissions and affiliate marketing. It just took off and I was surprised at how well it did. I knew people were going to go through those links because I was there providing value and not saying “You have to go through this,” but “Hey, this is what I use if you want to go click.”

Brian Clark: There is nothing more credible.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: You’re not selling something for the commission. They’re buying what you use. That is a credible source of marketing in my mind.

Pat Flynn: Right. And I feel like if they’re going to buy anything anyway, I might as well make sure that it’s something that I know is going to be helpful and valuable to them. Whether they choose to go through my affiliate link or not, that’s up to them. I feel like the main purpose is just helping a person achieve whatever their goals are that they want to achieve.

In the course of doing that whether it is free content or paid content or your product or somebody else’s product, whatever the case may be, you’ve got to share it. So on my resource page for example, which is my profitable page on my site, in fact about fifty percent of my revenue actually comes from that page. When people go there, they are looking for tools that are going to help them. I have used all of them and I have commented on all of them.

Some of them have videos and tutorials on how to use those things. A lot of those things don’t have an affiliate income, they’re just there to help. That is again going back to what I said earlier, your earnings become a byproduct of how helpful you are. It’s interesting because it’s IM and I’m selling these products that people want to use to do what I do. That’s something that was a little bit hard for me to understand at first. That’s because I can share the tools, but people have to put in the work.

Brian Clark: Yes.

Pat Flynn: It’s like how can I make sure people do the work? You can’t. But you can show them the path and hopefully help them and be motivated to use those tools in the right way. I’m very lucky that I have a very transparent audience with me too, who a lot of them share their success stories. I think a lot of why my brand has grown is because people do use the strategies that I share, have found success in different levels. They do share and spread the word for me too.

Brian Clark: Let’s talk for a second, and this is something I kind of brought up with you before we got on the air, about one example that is so remarkable to me of someone who has followed the Pat path. He happens to live in the same town as you and you mentioned him early, John Lee Dumas.

I follow both of you guys, and I look at John who started after you obviously, and I look at his avatar on Twitter. And I look at yours with the Smart Passive Income little bot. What is that thing, by the way, on your microphone?

Pat Flynn: It’s called a mic flag and you see it in newscasts and stuff like that.

Two Necessary Tools of Success

Brian Clark: Yeah, I love that. That’s great. So he has his for Entrepreneur on Fire. He does income reports like you. And as you mentioned afterward, he has followed your path. And yet there are two things that you’ve already mentioned are necessary, or in my mind I think also are necessary, in that you’ve got to do the work and you still have to have your own voice.

So John is someone who I think has followed your path incredibly step by step in the sense that if it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it. And yet as you pointed out, John works like a maniac. No one would ever fault him for not putting in the work. But also he has his own unique voice. When it comes down to it, no one is going to confuse you for him.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: So you both live in San Diego and you were actually the first guest on his show. Is that correct? Tell us a little bit about that.

Pat Flynn: I was actually. I met John in Las Vegas at New Media Expo and he was watching one of my presentations. This was in 2012. I did something interesting at the end of that presentation. I did a reverse Q&A where I had people come up to the mic and I would ask them questions instead of them asking me questions and John was the first to volunteer.

Later I found out that his coach at the time was Jaime Tardy from Eventual Millionaire who had suggested that he go to these conferences to talk to people and build relationships to sort of get people excited about this brand that he was going to create. He didn’t have a single follower at the time. So he came up and I asked him a bunch of questions. I gave him some advice on this brand he was going to create and he actually did it.

Then he came up to me and asked me to be a guest on his show and I said, “Yeah absolutely.” That’s because he seemed like a cool guy. I’ve just not necessarily been coaching him, and I haven’t even really been telling him what to do. He has been just following along with what I do and I feel like he has taken even beyond where I’m at.

Like I said earlier, I don’t have any products or membership sites right now. He has his own products, membership sites, and that’s reflected in his income report. He is doing extremely well with those. Beyond that, like you said, he has his own voice and he is working like mad.

He was very smart in the way that he knew that podcasting was going to be big. He knew there was a hole in the fact that a lot of people have weekly shows and there are people that were just constantly waiting for new episodes so he filled in that gap. He created a seven days a week entrepreneurial interview podcast which nobody was doing.

It was similar to what other people were doing, but it was in his own style and he filled that gap. He had his position knocked down and he’s been killing it. But I feel like there are differences between us. I have a family, two kids at home, and my “why” is them. So I spend most of my day with them. John, he is a maniac, and so he is working a lot.

Brian Clark: How old is he? Is he younger?

Pat Flynn: I believe he is younger than I am, but not by much.

Brian Clark: Sometime I think that having two children as I do and I guess you do, two as well?

Pat Flynn: I have two children, yes.

Brian Clark: Half of you wants to work less to be with them, and the other half says I better get to work because these things are expensive.

Pat Flynn: Absolutely. I’ve sort of found a good rhythm now. I actually don’t work at all during the day. I work at night when they sleep. But when I work at night, I make sure I’m the most productive efficient person I can be.

Brian Clark: Right. The after night-night time work was treasured for me for many years. It actually still is because they are nine and twelve now, but the house is chaos until I can get them to go to bed.

Pat Flynn: Oh great, so I still have that to look forward to. My kids are two and four.

Brian Clark: You’re still in the early stages. You’ve heard this a million times, but you really do have to treasure these times because they grow up so quickly. You’re like, how did that little baby girl turn into this twelve year old?

Pat Flynn: It scares the crap out of me.

Brian Clark: So John does very well with his podcasting course. Again, it’s a form of aspirational marketing. In essence, John interviews entrepreneurs, but he does it via podcast. So the natural inclination for his audience is to go “maybe I could do a podcast” and that makes perfect sense.

The Value of Producing Online Courses in Today’s Market

I happened to catch a recent episode of your show with David Siteman Garland who is heavily into the online course world. He’s a great guy, by the way. And you mentioned that this is on your radar. Talk to me a little bit about that.

Pat Flynn: It is on my radar. I have always been reluctant to having my own course just to have a course. That’s kind of what everybody does and that’s a great way to make money, especially if you can have a recurring revenue to go along with that. But I’ve always thought, I don’t want to force it on my audience. I’m doing well with the affiliate marketing and things like that. But then of course, affiliate marketing is relying on other companies.

Brian Clark: And you don’t own the customer relationship and you’re doing really well. For me it was always the same thing. The next step is not only do you have the audience relationship, but you have the customer relationship. Things exponentially happen from there.

Pat Flynn: I’m excited about that. I also feel like, and I’ve gotten good advice from other people in mastermind groups where I’m providing value on the site, but I could be enhancing the experience where I bring people through to achieve their goals. And I might be doing my audience a disservice by actually not having a course or by actually not selling something where when people pay for stuff. That’s because they’re more likely to go through and do it. That was an eye opening way to look at it.

Brian Clark: Do you get that feedback from your audience? I remember when I started Copyblogger, which was a different time and different place. The concept of talking about selling with a blog made me the devil to half the blogging world. Of course, look at where we are today. It is so commercial.

But I went a year and ten months without selling anything. And into that second year, people were concerned. They were like, “Why are you doing this, why don’t you sell something?” on one end and the other end was “Please sell me something.”

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: And that’s a great place to be. I see you in that space in spades. You’ve been delivering value for seven years now.

Pat Flynn: I feel like nothing is going to change on the front end of my site if I come out with a course.

Brian Clark: Right.

Pat Flynn: It is for people who want that enhanced experience. They’re going to have that opportunity to do that through that course, so nothing is going to change. It’s going to be enhanced.

What’s in Pat Flynn’s Future?

Brian Clark: Do you have any topical ideas you can share with us? Or are we flying under the radar right now?

Pat Flynn: There are a number of different things I could create courses about. For me right now in working with my team, which I just started to build this year, it has been amazing to work with other people to help take the brand forward. It’s just discovering what’s first. There are a lot of different angles to go. From affiliate marketing to niche sites, there are all different ways to go. It’s just a matter of picking which one’s first.

Brian Clark: It’s like the problem of having too many options. Right?

Pat Flynn: Right. I know that I just have to pick one and go.

Brian Clark: Generally you’ll get the final inclination from the audience.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: Even if you don’t ask them directly, because you never want to ask them what they’ll buy. That’s because often that won’t turn out to be true. It’s more about what their biggest problem is. What can you help solve?

Pat Flynn: Yes and there are all of these incredible strategies now that go along with selling a course. John himself has presold courses to validate the idea of creating that course. So he says, “Hey, if I get this many customers, I will create this course.” Which is a really cool, smart thing to do.

Brian Clark: In 2007, our first product was an online course and we sold it before it existed. This was way before Kickstarter or minimum viable products or anything. It was really that we needed to make sure people wanted it and we needed cash to take the next year to build it.

At the time that was regarded as insane, but it’s just smart. If you take an educated guess, you’re probably going to make some sales. If that’s enough to justify going forward, fine. If not, worst case scenario is you plead forgiveness and refund everyone’s money.

Pat Flynn: Right.

Brian Clark: Thankfully that has never happened.

Pat Flynn: So courses are big for me this coming year. I feel like if you want to truly provide value for your audience, a course is definitely the way to go. It’s the best way to get that experience through your brand and to enhance the knowledge that they have through what you know. And the way to deliver that content is a lot more organized than if it is just on the front end of a website.

Brian Clark: So our mutual friend Chris Ducker, you and he are up to something.

Pat Flynn: We are up to something.

Brian Clark: I know there is a pending announcement. This show will air maybe after that. Can you share anything with us or should we wait?

Pat Flynn: Well, I will share part of it with you. Chris Ducker and I, he is a good friend. He actually lives in the Philippines, but he travels quite a bit. Whenever he comes to San Diego we do this sort of twenty-person event where we have people pay to come and hang out with us.

Twenty people is all we can take and we do it for a whole day. We put everybody in the hot seat. We break down their businesses and build them back up and we just mastermind together. Then we have a nice dinner afterwards. It’s always really fun. It’s actually one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

Chris isn’t actually traveling to the US as much next year so we were deciding how can we continue to work together and do this sort of thing where we’re working with other entrepreneurs and everybody gets to learn from everybody else’s example? So we decided (and this is going to sound crazy to you because we already talked about my two podcasts), we’re starting a podcast together.

Brian Clark: Okay, so your free time is about to be obliterated.

Pat Flynn: You say that but actually, no. I have completely outsourced all of the production of all of my podcasts. This one will be just the same. All I have to do is hit record.

Chris and I talk on the phone every week on Skype anyway. We might as well make those conversations useful. We’re going to have people call in and share their business for sixty seconds and what they need help with. Then Chris and I are going to go back and forth for fifteen minutes, just like at these live events that we do. Hopefully this can help build, buzz, and promote something else that’s happening later in the year for us as well.

Brian Clark: If any of you out there are skeptical about the power of podcasting, look no further than Mr. Flynn because this will be number three. Excellent.

Pat Flynn: Four, actually. I don’t know if you know I have a podcast for my food truck niche theme.

Brian Clark: That’s right. I did see that. Interesting.

Pat Flynn: Which one of the shows actually got featured on the front page of iTunes.

Brian Clark: Nice. Don’t think I don’t notice every time, which is all the time, that your show is ahead of ours. Hey, we’re coming for you. We’re coming.

Pat Flynn: Bring it, Brian.

Brian Clark: I know.

Pat Flynn: I’m looking forward to it.

Brian Clark: Thank you so much for being here. This has been a treat for me just because I got all my questions answered that were haunting me about where you were and where you’re going and all that. I think more importantly that everyone out there probably has their head boiling over with ideas, which is wonderful. So thank you again.

Maybe we can do this again in the future when you’ve instituted Pat 4.0, or whatever phase you’re on right now with the online courses and all that good stuff.

Pat Flynn: Thanks so much, Brian. I appreciate it. And I just wanted to publically thank you for all the inspiration. You and Copyblogger were one of the first blogs I started following back in 2008 when I got into this world. And it was a huge inspiration for me, so thank you.

Brian Clark: Thank you so much for saying that. I appreciate it.

Pat Flynn: Of course.