Almost 7 years ago, in Dec 2008, I started this site with the aim of helping authors like me who were self-publishing.
But I discovered that you can put your words into the world and no one will notice unless you learn some marketing (sound familiar?!).
So I started learning about how to make my site stand out, how to blog successfully and how to podcast. I learned all that from Yaro Starak and today I’m thrilled to be interviewing him.
This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.
Yaro Starak is a blogger, podcaster, speaker and entrepreneur at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com. I took Yaro’s Blog Mastermind course back in 2008 and it changed my life. You can get Yaro’s Blog Profits Blueprint here.
- Yaro’s start in the blogging world and the changes his site has gone through.
- On whether content blogging and writing online are still viable.
- How long it takes to make money blogging, and why it’s important to celebrate all our little wins, figure out what keeps you motivated and keep moving forward.
- Authenticity and its effect on an audience.
- Video and its advantages for those who are not writers.
- Why practice with new mediums and technology and not judging ourselves matters.
- On bloggers branching out into book publishing, including fiction.
- On the global and local communities in blogging and internet marketing.
- Yaro’s tips for maintaining a long entrepreneurial career.
You can get Yaro’s Blog Profits Blueprint here and find him on twitter @yarostarak
Transcript of interview with Yaro Starak
Joanna Penn: Hi everyone! I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and today I’m here with Yaro Starak. Hi, Yaro!
Yaro Starak: Hi, Joanna!
Joanna Penn: Just a little introduction. Yaro is a blogger, podcaster, speaker and entrepreneur at entrepreneurs-journey.com. I took Yaro’s blog mastermind course back in 2009 and it really changed my online life. So if sounded a little bit fan girly today that will be why. It’s amazing what can happen over the years.
Yaro, to get started, you’ve been doing stuff for a long, long time but give us a sense of what the entrepreneurs journey is about right now and what your business looks like these days.
Yaro Starak: Right now, it’s still a blog that chronicles my entrepreneurial journey. That’s what it was when it started. It skews way more to blogging and information products, selling, sort of teaching, so whatever you’re a knowledge expert at, taking that knowledge and packaging it up. And basically using a blog, an email list, and selling any kind of digital product, whether it’s eBooks, online courses, membership sites and so on.
But over the years you know I’ve talked on about everything because at one point I was buying and selling websites as a strategy and right at the start I was running an editing company. And I used to have a card game website, so a lot of the early day content was writing about those initial experiences, then I went into sort of personal development. It’s the great thing about blogging, you really can go anywhere with it. You’re audience will come with you, assuming it’s interesting. So it’s a lot of fun.
Joanna Penn: On that, it’s always been your personal brand hasn’t it? You did try guest blogging for a bit, I remember, and then you stopped because it’s you that people come for, right, it’s still not a magazine site.
Yaro Starak: Yes. There was an experiment about four years ago, where the plan was to see if I can take the brand, entrepreneurs journey, bigger as a lot of blogs do. A lot of the blogs that used to be one individual, whether it’s a Mashable or a TechCrunch or Copyblogger, where it was a person, then they brought on writers and now it’s sort of become a group magazine site like you said.
I wanted to have a go at doing that and I did it. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t any better than what I was doing by myself and in terms of my personal job, I went from being a writer to more of an editor, and I really do not like that exchange at all. So I decided to stick to just making it Yaro’s brand and actually that experience just cemented how much I like being the writer. I want to be the writer. I want to be out there. I want my name. I want the ego boost of seeing my content and my words out there as opposed to owning a magazine. I’m probably more of a writer than I am a publisher nowadays.
Joanna Penn: And we’re going to come back to the writing stuff. But I want to start with blogging in general, because was it 10 years ago you started?
Yaro Starak: That’s right.
Joanna Penn: I know, isn’t that crazy? You look so young.
Yaro Starak: Like a hundred years in Internet years so…
Joanna Penn: I know but realistically you started way back in the day when it just wasn’t trendy or it was amongst real geeks, but now it’s so mainstream. And I know people listening are wondering is blogging even still the thing? I mean there wasn’t Facebook back then. There wasn’t social media. It was audio, not really podcasting.
Is text blogging and writing online still viable?
Yaro Starak: I think the simple answer to that is do we still read content on the Internet. I know I do. Even if you find a news article on Facebook or share it on Twitter, it usually goes back to a blog. I’d go on Facebook and I see articles coming from Business Insider, which essentially is a news blog. So then blogging is not going to disappear either.
What may change is the actual interaction we have on the Internet. Right now, it’s video, it’s audio, it’s text. Video is pretty much YouTube and Facebook and Periscope maybe on the apps. Audio is obviously podcasting in iTunes and then text is still pretty much blogs. And the thing I really like to emphasize to people who might be sort of questioning “Is a blog something I need? Can’t I just do social media?” or “Can’t I just podcast?” or something like that.
If you look at the content source, as in where the podcast originates from or where the content that got shared on social media comes from, it’s actually hosted on a blog.
I see the blog as kind of like the center of your universe on the Internet, and then you can use all the other platforms to spread your message and bring people back to the blog, but it all starts at the blogs.
That’s often known as the hub and spoke business model. So the hub is in the middle like a wheel and you’ve got all the spokes coming out of it. The blog is the hub and you have social media, you have podcasting, you have YouTube, you have maybe something like on mobile like Periscope and you might be doing press releases. So all those are spokes that bring traffic back to your blog and then what I do is I bring that traffic from the blog to the email list. That’s kind of like phase two, but the blog is absolutely critical.
Joanna Penn: My audience are very interested in intellectual property assets, building things that will put money in your pocket for years and I remember learning that from you about the website because I had two free blogs built on wordpress.com before doing your course.
Why is a blog or site like yours now an intellectual property asset?
Yaro Starak: It so important. It always has been. It doesn’t matter what era you go back in on the Internet, as each new platform becomes popular and everyone’s talking about Myspace and everyone’s talking about Facebook. All those platforms, you don’t own when you use them. You can have your accounts switched off. I started doing Instagram and within a month, my account just got deleted for no reason. I was like this sucks. The good thing about having your own blog and your own email list, like you said, assets that you own, no one can take them away from you like you can lose an account on an external platform.
Without the email list and without the blog to reach their audience, they would have had no way to get back in so quickly. It turned out to be a good thing because they then gained some benefits of having a new account and ended up getting extra exposure on YouTube because of that. The short answer is own your domain name, own your email list, own your blog and those things can’t be taken away from you.
Joanna Penn: Remember the day I logged on to Twitter and it disappeared. It said your account is gone.
Yaro Starak: Right.
Joanna Penn: And it freaked me out because I spent years building my Twitter audience, my Twitter audience is much bigger than my email list and my blog, and it really did kind of freak me out. On that day I remember going “Okay, you can’t rely on anyone, can you? Even if you think you play by the rules, they change the rules.”
Yaro Starak: Yes. Exactly.
Joanna Penn: All the time. Okay, so we talked a bit there about text blogging and I mean, the thing is I know, again, I remember when I first started and came to your course, I remember thinking “Text blogging is like howling into the wind.” I mean it really is. Nobody is listening to me. Nobody is interacting. I don’t know, is this worth it?
How long does it take to get traction if you want to build a platform?
Yaro Starak: I get asked that question…everyone wants a guarantee. “When will I make money from my blog? Will it be next week, next month, next year?” It’s a question I think that’s not really fair to ask just before you start anyway, because the biggest variable there is the person asking the question.
“How long are they going to do it for?” “Have they chosen a topic that is popular on the Internet and people care about?” “Do they have a sort of unique way of presenting their ideas that will catch on?” “Will they do any marketing to put there content out into the world?” You’re not just howling into the wind, you’re going onto someone else’s stage, and saying, read my words, which is how you get attention. There are all those variables.
Now in terms of a specific answer, I’ve seen people get results in terms of building an audience and getting traffic within weeks, and then I’ve heard the stories, and I’m certainly an example of, it’ll take a year or two to make an income from and certainly a full-time income.
The key as I think of any business is to not see the end goal as the sole determining factor of your success, because you’re going to be working towards the end goal for a long time.
And if you don’t feel you’re getting close enough to it, you are going to give up and I see is the number one reason why so many things fail. Certainly why blogs fail is just giving up and that usually comes down to the mindset and the self-esteem of the person behind the blog.
I’m a big fan of celebrating the little success steps that you take along the way. You know, buying a domain name, setting up your blog in the first place, creating each of your social media channels, publishing your first article, getting your first subscriber to a newsletter, and then ultimately the biggest win, making a first sale of whatever it is you sell. And that’s the sort of chronology you should go through, celebrating each of those points along the way and using that as a motivation boost. So you keep your self-esteem high. You’re excited about the process not just about the end game and that’s something you have to learn the hard way, like I certainly went through it in my early days with my businesses before I was blogging. I wanted to make money sooner rather than later. I was looking at all the examples of people making a ton of money around me that I wasn’t even close to.
It’s very easy to kind of get sort of negative…well I found it negative. Some people get inspired by other people’s results. I almost get of sort of “Oh, I wish I could do that”. So you’ve got to look for things and figure out what actually keeps you motivated. In my case, I compare myself to myself and I think that’s really important that everyone do something like that. That’s really the only barometer you should use. Celebrate the little wins and keep moving forward.
Joanna Penn: What was great is that you talked about the end goal. I was thinking then what have your end goals been because when I first met you, well you had long hair back then.
Yaro Starak: Right.
Joanna Penn: You know, the longhaired Yaro, and I think I remember you saying you just bought your first car with your blogging money.
Yaro Starak: That’s a long time ago, yes.
Joanna Penn: I know. Well, that’s the funny thing. I mean you were already a full-time blogger, and then you bought a house. And I remember listening just going “Okay, this is great.”
But we all get this comparison-itis and we’re always wonder, “Well, what is the end goal? Is there actually one?” or do you move the goal posts as you get more success?
Yaro Starak: I guess the answer is yes to everything. You always climb a mountain and see the next mountain that’s higher up in the distance.
When I started I always had a simple goal with everything I did online which was to avoid full-time employment. I didn’t want to have a job. So that was primary goal number one, never get a nine to fiver. And I achieved that with my first full-time business, that editing company.
When I started my blog, I had this basic salary income stream coming in from my business, so I treated my blog like a hobby, but that being said, I did see Darren Rowse had published a check for his blog where he’d made $15,000 in AdSense income.
I was thinking “That’d be nice.” I was starting to see a few more other bloggers pop up and then I started to see these Internet marketing guys too. Guys like Terry Dean and there was Mike Filsaime and Jeff Walker and Eben Pagan and Rich Schefren and these guys…in fact Terry Dean was one of the best examples. He explained how over a weekend he sent a couple of emails to his email list and made $90,000 and I’m going, “I’ve got to figure out how that works.” You know, I never hear bloggers talking about this whole making $90,000 from a couple of emails theme. So that’s actually when I discovered the two different worlds. There is the blogging world and there’s the Internet marketing world. It’s a bit like, in your world there’s the writing world, the author world, and then Internet marketing can be applied to that but they’re pretty much separate disciplines.
So while there’s some overlap with blogging. Back then, when I started, it wasn’t sort of done. You didn’t grow an email list from your blog. It’s kind of common knowledge today, but I was one of the first people to sort of really take those two mediums, so the Internet marketers and the bloggers and combine them, and that’s when I started to get the big results. That’s when I started to set my sights on, “Okay, I can actually turn this blog into a business.”
I think my first big milestone goal was six figures in one year, to make a hundred thousand, but really the goals were what you mentioned. I wanted a car. I wanted a house. I wanted to move out from my mother’s house. I wanted to not have debts. I didn’t want to have a job. I wanted to have complete freedom. For me, freedom was the primary goal.
Not only was I looking to make enough money, but I need to make sure it was done in a way that didn’t have me spending 12 hours a day at the computer, which I’d seen some other business owners, people who were kind of traditional entrepreneurs, and I was reading about them and following them. They work harder than employees. I didn’t want a 9 to 5. I didn’t want to get an 8 ’til 8 either, which was what entrepreneurs seemed to do running these businesses. So I had to be very careful about picking a business model that was highly leveraged and this is before a 4-Hour Workweek. I was really striving for what Tim Ferriss broke into the mainstream with his book five/six years before he wrote the book and that was a big goal for me. Every business I had, had to have highly leveraged, low time, high return and blogging delivered that.
The basic goals were first, make a living from it, then I sold off my other businesses and focused a hundred percent on blogging, get to six figures, get a car, get a house, get a life, get everything structured and set up. But once I reached that point I think I probably had a bit of a burnout phase. I think by the time I sold about a $1 million worth of products over a maybe four or five year period there from 2005 to maybe 2010. I pretty much bought everything I wanted to at the time and I was just a bit tired. At that stage, not that I was really burned out heaps, but I felt that I didn’t want to necessarily do what everyone else was doing, which was just make more money for the sake of making more money. So let’s find a new type of business.
That’s actually when I did a start up. That’s when I started playing around with the magazine model on my blog. So it’s more about finding things that you are looking forward to doing. I think once you reach a certain goal and as they say right, “Once you make a $100,000 a year, your life doesn’t change a whole lot if you make $200,000.” It’s not a big difference. It’s just getting to that six-figure level that can have a dramatic impact.
Joanna Penn: I hit that earlier this year. I was very happy to do that and that’s why one of the reasons I share openly about what I do is because of your example. And I think that authenticity is so important, isn’t it? I mean, the people remember you and they’re attracted to you and like your desire for freedom. That’s always been mine as well which is why you’re a role model.
Can you talk a bit about the importance of authenticity and any time you’ve been kind of scared about sharing honestly and how you’ve gotten over that.
Yaro Starak: It’s kind of weird. I’m an introvert, a fairly strong one. When I started blogging, people would come to me and say, “You reveal way more on your blog than you ever tell me in person. That’s kind of not right, you know. You should be open in person more so than in your writing.” And I think it’s an introvert thing maybe that we feel comfortable sitting in front of a computer and sharing these thoughts because there is some distance from the actual human beings who read them.
Joanna Penn: We are all introverts here by the way.
Yaro Starak: That might be the case. Sorry, extroverts, if you’re listening. This won’t make any sense. There’s two things at play here. There’s that natural introvertedness myself but then there’s also the medium of blogging, and we have to remember where we it came from. It’s called a web blog, a journal. It’s a place where you’re basically opening up your diary to the world. I love that. I love the fact that I could write the way I talk in my head. I didn’t have to write academically or formally or like a report. It’s just how I think about things. So that really lent itself to being open and clear. I guess as time went by I learned that that’s actually a marketing technique as well.
Authenticity builds trust. Trust leads to sales.
So it’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think that’s why a lot of blogs over the years have done incredibly well.
It’s just this amazing amount of trust that’s been built up between the readership and the author just because they’re transparent. I mean, some of the top bloggers we can think about today in my industry are as big as they are because they write income reports. They tell people exactly how they make money and what they do to make that money and that makes them very popular. I remember over the years though I’ve written like, I wrote about…I really regret this one, but a long, long time ago, I wrote about like, “Would you date a blogger?” way, way back in the early days, and I would never write that now but I was obviously feeling a little lonely at that time and I wrote this blog post.
And then my mother passed away, and I wrote about that on my blog and that’s not a business subject at all, but it was very important to me, and it’s therapy. That’s the other thing too, writing about what you’re going through and then what you’re learning and experiencing as a result and then opening up on that actually does help you come to terms with things, process it and as a result creates this connection with your audience.
I remember…I don’t know if you might remember her. There was a woman named Caroline Middlebrook. She was popular probably back when you and I first connected. She was just getting started with her blog.
It was another sort of make-money-online blog and it was good but she had this event were her traffic just spiked, and it was because she revealed that she was a lesbian and she had been cheated on by her girlfriend had hooked up with her male friend or something like that. It was very sort of soap opera dramatic style and I remember going and reading it going, “This is so off-topic for her blog,” but she got way more comments and interaction. And I’m not saying you should air your dirty laundry necessarily on you blog as a traffic technique, but there is something about being that open with your life if you’re comfortable doing that. Everyone has got their own barometer. I think it’s important to do that.
Joanna Penn: All I remember when you’re mom died and I think you spoke about it in on your audio, what we now call a podcast, you had your audio going up. And I remember thinking, “If somebody’s sick in my family, I want to be able to spend whatever time…” I think you said, “I can spend whatever time I want at the hospital,” ’cause you didn’t have to ask permission from a job…
Yaro Starak: Right.
Joanna Penn: …to go, and I remember thinking, “That’s got to be one of the definitions of living a free life,” is to go and do that for people that you love and that made a real difference. Sharing that was super important I think for a lot of your listeners. But presumably you do have a line. Do you have a line that you…
Yaro Starak: Yeah, I have a line. I’m not going to put any topless photos on my blog. Let’s put it that way.
Joanna Penn: No, no nudity. I don’t have any nudity on mine, it’s all right.
Yaro Starak: Okay. I mean, it’s the thing to do nowadays in the land of selfies and Instagram, you know.
Joanna Penn: That’s a good point, but actually, interestingly let’s talk about video because I also remember when you started doing the videos and as introverts the video is difficult because…and also being a writer, we like crafting our words rather than speaking them, right?
What is the place of multimedia in how you share and how do you get the energy, I guess, to do that kind of thing?
Yaro Starak: Video is definitely the third tool I use in terms of popularity. Writing is my one, podcasting is my two, video is three.
I don’t do as much video and you’re quite right. It’s purely because it’s not a natural fit. It takes energy. I do like it because there’s more I guess celebrity-style status from doing video. Like at the end of the day that’s how you become really famous is get yourself on TV, right? And that’s what we do today with YouTube so there’s an element of my ego just loves being on the camera in that regard, but I think I don’t mind talking. I like sharing content through video, and I think people who are not writers should gravitate to video. It’s such a better channel for people like that, and I’ve got a number of students who they shun writing and go the video panel or go the podcasting route.
For me, it was more a case of just having a presence in all formats of media. So I’ve done YouTube, mostly nowadays I share my podcast on YouTube so it’s not anything different to that, but over the years I’ve just done five-minute videos. You just open up your phone and hit record and talk an idea out. That’s the good thing about sort of being in the space of whatever your subject matter is. You can read a book, get an idea, pop your phone say, “Hey! I just learned this great idea,” upload to YouTube and you’re publishing content. The trick there is to really dedicate yourself to it. I’ve been more dedicated to regular writing and regular podcasting, but if video is your thing it can be amazing.
My friend JJ, he’s got 40 million views on YouTube. There are so many obviously amazing video stars nowadays thanks to YouTube, and Facebook is just becoming as big platform for video I think. I’m seriously looking at that for the future to maybe not to necessarily make it my main platform, but I think it’s so important to use the medium that people expect. So people are kind of starting to expect to see video on Facebook, even if it’s like what you and I are doing now, just get yourself around the camera and talk and you could say simple things like, “Hey! I’ve just written an article on this subject. Go read it.” So it still allows you to be a writer but you get to make a first connection through the video and bring people to the content that you’ve written.
It is important because nothing is more personal than what we’re doing now. It’s amazing, even though you and I are just sitting in our rooms talking to each other, and there will be people watching this just because they want to see our facial expressions and all those lots of things and that’s a bit weird but that’s the way it is.
Joanna Penn: I have people that email me say they log on to look at the video just to see what the other person looks like. And then they go back to the audio. So it’s just a human thing, isn’t it? We just want that. We just have to connect and I knew many authors, particularly older authors and particularly women, get really worried about showing their face and many authors of course write under pseudonyms so it can be quite difficult. But again I just credit you with everything, but just putting yourself out there and just being honest, that’s all you can do, isn’t it?
And there’s so many different people on the Internet, you’ll find your niche somehow.
Yaro Starak: Yeah, and it’s a self-esteem thing we have to all go through. “I’m not pretty enough for the Internet,” or “I’m too old for it,” or “I’m not a good speaker or talker.” I avoided doing any kind of oral presentation throughout my high school and university days. So that moment when I first started doing a podcast and then I first did a YouTube video, yeah, it’s pretty terrifying, but then you realize it’s actually just you sitting in a room talking so there’s no one. You actually feel a bit weird too, but it’s less weird than talking in front of a big crowd of people.
So it’s practice. That to me is the best answer to this sort of question. If you have any fear regarding all these mediums, don’t judge yourself on your first effort. It is something you practice. Think about the first time you rode a bike or didn’t ride one, you fell off a bike, you’re not going to basically make a decision on that first time you do it. You just practice, get better and then you’ll see where it takes you. That’s the important thing.
Joanna Penn: Yeah, and back on writing then, because you must have written on your blog 50 books?
Yaro Starak: No, not 50, I think there’s 4 or 5 in there, yeah.
Joanna Penn: But in the age of short Kindle eBooks.
Yaro Starak: Actually, yeah, in short Kindles there’s probably you know, 30 or 40.
Joanna Penn: Do you know how many words you’ve written?
Yaro Starak: I couldn’t tell you. I mean some of my posts have been in the 5,000 to 10,000 word length, not on average. On average they’re 2,000 to 3,000, but 10 years, and certainly in the first 4 or 5 years I was pretty close to daily and certainly weekly or bi-weekly. So not to mention you’ve got the free reports you write. There’s all the courses you create. I mean Blog Mastermind, the first version of the course that you went through, that was all written. I think I remember doing the math on that, that was about 2,000 to 3,000 thousand words…no, maybe like 4,000 to 5,000 words per lesson and there was 6 months worth of weekly lessons in that. So I had to really hustle to write all the content for the course, at the same time writing a blog, at the same time writing a newsletter.
You shouldn’t forget I mean how many emails do we write today if we’re running our own email list. I think I do probably half as much of my writing on email now as I do on my blog. So there are probably a number of books in that content too. So it’s huge but it’s what you do, it’s fun, right?
Joanna Penn: And what else would we be doing?
What is your opinion on the book publishing market and your place in it now and in the future potentially?
Yaro Starak: I’m still on the fence. I dream one day of being the published author and having the mainstream success.
When I first read Paulo Coelho’s writing, in my 21/20 years old, I was like, “This would be the kind of book I’d love to have out there.” I think that’s probably why I haven’t dived in too much proper publishing because I don’t really want to be known as a blog writer in traditional publishing sense. I do actually have a book planned probably for the year after next. That will be the one blog book because it’s just a massive credibility tool. I think there’s still nothing better than saying published author, right? So you can’t go by that, and I want to get that out there. I want to get it on shelves. I can’t wait to see that in a bookshop one day. After that though, I actually would be a bit like you maybe not doing the crazy murder stories as you do. I don’t think I have that in me.
Joanna Penn: Oh, you never know.
Yaro Starak: I’m surprised to hear that you had that in you. I certainly wouldn’t mind though diving into some other subject matter, and I’m actually blown away by Amazon and how easy it is now.
I interviewed a guy named Jordan Gray who is a relationships expert, and he started by basically leaving Vancouver, Canada with only three months’ worth of savings, pushing himself into Thailand where it’s a bit cheaper to live. No credibility, no presence around that subject and sits there over three months and writes like two Kindle books, two blog posts a day to his blog and starts getting private coaching clients. And I was looking at his books and Kindle books are 30 pages, which is basically the kind of free reports that I write.
I could see myself at 40, sitting in coffee shops and writing books as opposed to blog posts, but on purely subjects that not just to get leads, not just to build a business but to see what kind of books come out and what gets traction, and I guess be a writer, proper writer. I’m not being fair to my fellow bloggers, but it’s a different medium, and my blogging has been so entrenched in my business that I don’t know necessarily what writing for the sake of writing is like anymore.
When I started I was there, I had that place where I could just go. I’m not sure if this is my business so I’m going to write about whatever I like. Now it’s flipped completely. Every piece of writing is strategic, every piece of writing has a business goal in mind so it’s very different to sort of free-flowing certainly fiction style writing. So I’d like to dive into that a bit myself.
Joanna Penn: It is so funny because I don’t know if you’ve heard…do you listen to Tim Ferris’s show?
Yaro Starak: A little bit yeah.
Joanna Penn: He talks about writing fiction, and I think he’s got a similar thing to you. When you’ve got a reputation for a certain thing, it becomes very difficult to be somebody else, which is why I have two names. I have two brands, two websites and my fiction self is quite different but you have a very recognizable name.
Yaro Starak: What do I do, Joanna? Do I go out there and be Yaro the fictional author too or…
Joanna Penn: Well, it would be difficult. I would personally say probably not. Unless you write techno thrillers or your audience just wouldn’t necessarily crossover. As I found only about 5% of non-fiction move into fiction in whatever it is. I think it’s quite interesting.
Yaro Starak: I’m not planning on writing about dragons, but yes, I could see where you’re going.
Joanna Penn: You know what I mean, there’s quite a lot of techie guys into that type of thing. I think that branding thing is so interesting. But on that international thing, of course, you do have an odd name and you’re Canadian-Australian, right? It’s just those two, those two nationalities.
Yaro Starak: Well, in terms of where I’ve spent most of my time, but the family history is very different, but I won’t go into all the details about that.
Joanna Penn: But what again is interesting about you is you’re not based in America and you’re not in the UK. So the Canadian-Australian thing, what do you see happening outside of the U.S.? I really try and focus on this international sense because in Britain, we barely have a blogging ecosystem. In Australia there’s you and Darren Rowse and things that happen.
Do you see the shift in that technical technology stuff moving out of the U.S.? Do you see these different communities happening?
Yaro Starak: That’s a tough one. Having just landed in Canada now in Toronto, there’s no blogging community here. There’s not even an Internet marketing community of much significance. So having come from Australia where Darren fosters a fairly massive blogging community. To be fair, it’s a predominantly female community. It’s mommy bloggers and what else is there, mommy and bit of…I went to Darren’s event like 500 women it was literally, I think it was 500 maybe it’s 99.5% women. So if you’re a guy you kind of stand out. It’s an unusual experience at a conference to be like that and that’s great though because Darren has really fostered an amazing community and it’s Australia wide. It’s very integrated. There’s a lot of events and without Darren that wouldn’t exist. I think a lot of it comes down to a figurehead really taking on responsibility.
I mean he runs that event every year, makes it bigger every year. He obviously loves it too, blogging is his thing as well. When I came to Canada I looked for those icons, those figureheads just to see what’s going on. Actually in Vancouver there’s a bit of an Internet marketing scene. There’s a couple of meetups that are big, and there’s a few people like John Chow came from Vancouver. There’s a few of other people there. Toronto is more of a tech scene.
I think this is the sort of division you got, traditional tech startup, then you got more Internet marketing social media blogging crowd. They are two different crowds. I think at the end of the day, it really comes down to one, or two, or three people putting on events consistently. You have to run an event every month, or every week, or making sure that something’s going out there because a lot of events will start and sort of fizzle and that’s it. There’s no traction behind it.
And same for even one person getting a lot of press coverage. If someone goes out there and gets themselves on mainstream news, talking about they’re making money blogging, suddenly that becomes a bigger thing, like Tim Ferris is a great example. Okay yes, he’s American, but that book, The 4-Hour Workweek, would not have done so amazingly well if he didn’t hustle to get so much press coverage in a short amount of time. He did a fantastic book launch within an online business space.mThat’s a really impressive example of that. I think there’s no reason why in the UK someone can’t stand up and really go hard after something.
But I think have to look at cultural expectations too. America is a very individualistic, go-getter culture to begin with. It’s kind of accepted that people really, really want this individual success and go after it like nothing else. I mean look at Donald Trump right now running for president, that’s about as egotistical individual as you can. Australia has the tall poppy syndrome. You know you’re not meant to go out and push yourself, because as soon as you get to the top, you get cut down for being too sort of grandiose. I think the UK is probably a bit similar, it’s bit more sort of softer…
Joanna Penn: Unless you are an aristocrat, just stop it.
Yaro Starak: Right, so you know you can’t be tooting your own horn so to speak. There’s cultural aspects to this too that impact what happens and what grows, but it is interesting when you land in certain cities like for example Israel.
Israel, I’ve never actually been there but I remember looking at the stats. I believe they got the number three best tech startup scene after San Francisco and New York, right? I think that’s just the cultural thing. It’s very entrepreneurial, the Jewish culture is very entrepreneurial. So it makes sense for them to have this massive tech culture.
I think there will be pockets of cities around the world. Certain cities encourage it. I know like Singapore and Hong Kong, they make it easy for people to start businesses there. So you’re probably going to start seeing that. In Toronto I’ve got a friend of mine, Kirsten, who’s trying to get going with some regular Internet marketing meetups. We’re having the first one next week actually and if she sticks to it, there’s no reason why that can’t turn into a really big event.
I’ve secretly been thinking about next year actually, really pushing my story to mainstream press in Toronto just because I just don’t think anyone’s actually stood up and say, “Hey! I’m making money blogging.” And really try to get that story pushed far and wide. Darren did it in Australia and then once you got the leader, the leader kind of ends up eating up all the press coverage. All the journalists go back to the same person because it’s the only person they know. So if there’s a chance for someone to stand up and be the first it’s worth doing it. It’s just kind of surprising in 2015 that there aren’t more other places.
Joanna Penn: And then following on from that, you have people in your audience all around the world, and I’m really excited about Internet.org with Facebook converging and Qualcomm and everybody putting, streaming Internet to, I think it’s everywhere by like 2018 or something, isn’t it? And putting cheap cell phones in everybody’s hands. To me Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Indonesia, these are the most entrepreneurial places on the planet because they have no healthcare, no benefits, they’re just not supported. They have to make their own money. So, I mean, is that something you see coming? Like Nigerians for example, my sister-in-law is Nigerian. The Nigerians are super entrepreneurial. They are amazing and there are Nigerian bloggers coming out now, aren’t there, which is fascinating.
Do you see this demographic shift changing as well as the Internet I guess goes global?
Yaro Starak: You know over the years, Nigeria would have to be the number one I think in terms of emails I get from Nigerians who are very excited. Unfortunately there’s that sort of baggage they have to carry around from all the Nigerian scams that have been floated around over the years too. So they have to overcome that prejudice to begin with.
Technology first of all, you’ve got to get the basics of technologies and make sure that’s stable so you can actually run a business. Once that’s there, it’s all a case of the right people rising up and creating businesses. And I think like you said wherever there’s a developing area is a huge opportunity.
One of the things I often say to my students, they come to me saying, “I want to do what you’re doing, but I’m in China and I want to do it in the Chinese language,” or, “I want to do what you’re doing, but I’m in Serbia and I want to do it in Serbian,” or something like that. And obviously Africa too, and sometimes they say, “Should I just try and do it in English even though it’s not my first language or should I try and do it in both, translate it?” And I’m like, “Tremendous opportunity for you to be one of the leaders in your country in your language.” Why wouldn’t you go after that because A, the competition is not as sophisticated. B, you’ve got a chance to use what you’re learning and apply it and you’re going to get way better, quicker results because it’s not saturated. People won’t expect to see things like the basics. Like a landing page or someone who dedicates themselves to doing consistent blogging or consistent YouTubing or consistent podcasting in that country, in that language. There just won’t be that many options, so if you even do a good job, that doesn’t have to be the best job, you’re going to really stand out.
I think it’s crazy, the opportunities you can go after there and this is something that we’ve been saying I think…I remember back in ’06, ’07, someone was talking about “I’m thinking about becoming like the pay per click Google AdWords expert for Japan. I want to be the Perry Marshall of Japan.” I was like, that’s a brilliant idea. Japan’s wealthy. I doubt there’s many people who’ve stood up and say I’m a pay per click expert. If you’re watching this, and you’re in a country where there just isn’t a blogging expert, or there isn’t a self-publishing author expert or there isn’t a PPC expert or YouTube or social media and you like that platform, go after it in your country and try and be a leader. Even if you don’t have runaway success today, as the country increases their technology, standards of living increase. I mean all the basic financial means of the individuals increase, you’re going to be well-positioned to really take a lion’s share of that market and that can be amazing in a few years time.
Joanna Penn: I wanted to ask you about longevity, because like you said it’s been 10 years. You’re still going. I mean you said you mention a bit of burnout but you’re still doing this. This is I presume still what you love.
What are your tips for maintaining this long term?
Yaro Starak. Well, there’s been a cycle. I started and it was simple. It’s just I want to write. I want to experiment with blogging. It starts to work. Now I want to turn this into a business, and I learned about email marketing, and I want to start having emails where I make $10,000 from writing one email. That sounds really cool so let’s try and do that.
All those new things, very exciting and I did it. It took me probably five years to really do all of it, but I went through that whole process and did what I wanted to do. Then I kind of hit that burnout phase and I started a startup, but even when that was happening I was still writing my blog. It’s a good thing about having a blog, if you’re doing anything, you can write about it and it helps.
It helped my startup to write about my startup. In fact, all the customers we got to my startup we’re from my blog. So it’s not like it was a separate business in that regard. It was a new business model, but I was still marketing a hundred percent through my blog. It’s an amazing asset in that regard and I still liked writing. That was the key.
Now when I ended up closing down the startup with my partner in that project it was primarily because we didn’t want to be in the industry that we were finding ourselves in, and it also taught me how amazing the sort of lifestyle business information marketing blogging writing world is. It made me really appreciate that. You can sit in a cafe and write for two hours and call your day done. You’ve done enough work, that’s it. A tech startup person, they’ve got investors, they have to do 12-hour days. They have to hustle. So if you’re over 35, you’re pretty much too old to do a startup in a lot of ways because it requires too much energy and time.
Not that it can’t be done but it does require an incredible amount of dedication. It’s worse than the 9 to 5 that I was trying to avoid right at the beginning. So I got re-energized as a result of the because I went, “You know what, this is the best business model for my personality; introvert, writer, coffee shop. I want to live on my laptop. Travel when I want to, have that freedom.” So that really re-energized me. I always liked writing. It made me want to write more.
What happened though, that was probably around three years ago now, I actually created a vision. And I think this is really key to answering your question about longevity. If you see something you’re trying to achieve and the steps to get there, visions can be a bit fuzzy when you’re starting because you just don’t have much established yet and you’re not exactly sure what’s going to work.
But as things start to work, the vision starts to crystallize. So back, 2012 for me, I was actually starting almost from scratch. I had my blog and I had my email list, but I closed down all my programs. They had been closed for two years, my other training courses were closed and they were just dated. I didn’t want to sell them anymore ’cause it wasn’t fair to do so. I had this vision for a whole new series of eBooks. I wanted to write a couple of courses, a new version of Blog Mastermind, a coaching community, just seeing a proper information teaching business behind my blog and that motivated me for the next three years. Since then I’ve literally just been creating content, creating product and setting up a system, but my goal out of that was to basically first of all get everything I know how to do into content that people can buy.
So if you want to learn how to buy and sell websites, I actually did a bit of that. There’s a product for that. If you want to learn how to do blogging for money and sell your products, there’s a course for that. There’s a community if you want coaching, there’s interviews, I even have a paid podcast. You know, people can join that as well. So I executed that vision. I’m probably two-thirds of the way through it now. I’ve got another year, maybe a year and a half to go and will be done, but the grand plan of that just turning my business into…this was always the dream with the blog. Write, because writing is what you do. There’s a machine running behind the blog. So it’s what I teach actually this as well. I call it the blog sales funnel.
Essentially it means someone comes to your blog, they join your email list, and then through automation, through automatic follow-up emails, through the delivery of more blog posts, you’re actually educating, giving away free value, but ultimately selling people your products and moving people up the funnel to the people who want really, really close contact with you and are willing to spend several thousand dollars a year for that. So that’s a vision I had back three years ago, to finish that, to build a machine to run behind my blog and once that’s finished, that’s when I was going to stop and go, “Okay, jump into a new writing project, maybe a new blogging project about a different subject”, not sure to be actually honest. I kind of think about it a lot because it’s exciting to think about new projects, but the vision is important.
I see it happen too with a lot of the people I’ve coached or talked to over the years. They start with a basic goal, “I’ve got to get out of this job and I want to make enough money from my Internet business to support myself.” Some people don’t get anywhere. Some people start something that doesn’t go anywhere, and there’s a few people who just hit on the right thing for them at the right time, and it works and then suddenly they just create this huge vision. “No longer is it do I want to make 5,000 a year, I want to make 10 million a year now. I’m going to have this team, then I’m going to have a huge Instagram channel, a huge YouTube channel.” They want to do everything, suddenly.
You’ve got to balance things out, but I think for most people who’ve been in this game long time, there’s two things: it’s a passion for the core activity they do, for us bloggers it’s very much content production, and then there’s a vision for where they want to see that core activity take them. It’s those two things that pretty can much drive you to wherever you’re trying to get to.
Joanna Penn: Fantastic, and of course I modeled my idea, living on the laptop and location independence and that lifestyle blog. I want to thank you again for giving me that vision back then. And I guess also for people to be encouraged, and I know people follow me now in the same way that I follow you, and that’s kind of crazy and it’s brilliant, isn’t it, that you can help people and they can change their lives as well.
Last question: you’ve revamped as you said, Blog Mastermind which is the course I took back in 2009, and you’ve redone it for 2016. Tell people what is in that course and where they can find it.
Yaro Starak: Sure, well, the version you took was obviously a lot more green in terms of the era. 2007 was when I first started that course and to a degree back then, we could just write a blog and people would show up because there wasn’t as much competition. I closed that one down and decide to make a 2.0 version of Blog Mastermind. I had to look at where we’re at right now, got to be realistic if I want to put something out there that can get a result.
People starting today are facing way more competition so I had to sort of change the focus. First of all my focus changed. When I taught you and obviously what I was doing as well back then and a lot of your fellow students then, we were talking about advertising income, affiliate income, building a magazine kind of blog maybe and while that works still, it’s pretty challenging.
There’s some great case studies that have made million dollar blogs using that model. I personally didn’t. I stopped doing advertising, I stopped doing very many affiliate promotions, and I wanted to zero in on my teaching content. And this is not just financially better, but also there’s a lot of gratification for selling your own content, right? Authors will know this, it’s very satisfying to not just be a writer but to be paid and people are paying to read you which is pretty amazing. It’s the same thing as a course teacher. I write eBooks, I write courses, people are paying money to go through my material. That is very gratifying.
I rejigged the whole focus of Blog Mastermind to be about any person who has some kind of expertise or knowledge or experience who wants to package that knowledge into information and then sell it through the mediums of blogging and email marketing. So it’s really narrowed in on that kind of teacher-writer-speaker-expert-author kind of group of people who haven’t maybe created an online presence and want to do that, and then use this blog sales funnel model to sell their products. I rebuilt the entire course around that.
It’s also a lot shorter in the sense that when we did it first time around, it was a six-month program. Nowadays, no one has patience to wait six months to go through training so I squeezed it all into six weeks instead. Obviously you can do it quicker than that or slower than that if you want to, but most people don’t have the follow through beyond the sort of that kind of time period.
So six weeks, it’s video training, it’s audio training, it’s written training for whatever medium you like, and yeah, it’s all available in blogmastermind.com, although I like to get people the Blog Profits Blueprint as the introduction to it. So I’m sure you’ve got a link to give people for the Blog Profits Blueprint.
Joanna Penn: Yes, I’ll put that up on the screen and on the audio.
Yaro Starak: Right. So you know the Blog Profits Blueprint very well because your book has very similar name to it, your free report.
Joanna Penn: Yes, I should say I modeled the Author 2.0 Blueprint directly on Yaro’s blueprint and of course we’re allowed to model, aren’t we? That’s the whole point.
Yaro Starak: That’s the whole point. Yeah, copying I mean, I don’t think I took the phrase blueprint, but there was certainly a lot…mastermind, blueprint, all these words, that road map, they all get recycled over and over again. But yeah, I mean the Blog Profits Blueprint I also completely rewrote, so that’s the free report I give to people as a way to introduce them to this world of blogging and selling their own teaching products. I think it’s the best way to start because if you’re not sure how any of these works, you know read about it. Get a basic knowledge and see what you’re up against first and then decide whether you want to take a course like Blog Mastermind.
Joanna Penn: And just tell people your website again.
Yaro Starak: Sure well, the simplest answer is to Google my name, Yaro Y-A-R-O, again the weird name does allow me to kind of dominate the search rankings for it so that’s kind of nice, but my blog is entrepreneurs-journey.com but Google Yaro and you’ll find it as a first result.
Joanna Penn: Fantastic! Thank you so much for your time, Yaro, that was great.
Yaro Starak: Thanks, Joanna.