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Pat Flynn on Entrepreneurial Inspiration and His Profitable Content Strategy
1st December 2014 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC

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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




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