This week’s guest specializes in helping small business owners and bloggers take their businesses to the next level. He wants to assist others in creating a strategy for long-term success. He is Seth Spears, and he is a Digital Entrepreneur.
In this 34-minute episode, Seth walks you through his journey as a digital entrepreneur:
Plus, Seth answers my rapid fire questions at the end in which he reveals the productivity hack that you can implement into your routine to get more meaningful work done.
Listen to The Digital Entrepreneur below ...
Voiceover: Rainmaker.FM. You are listening to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show for folks who want to discover smarter ways to create and sell profitable digital goods and services. This podcast is a production of Digital Commerce Institute, the place to be for digital entrepreneurs. DCI features an in-depth, ongoing instructional academy, plus a live education and networking summit where entrepreneurs from across the globe meet in person. For more information, go to Rainmaker.FM/DigitalCommerce.
Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Digital Entrepreneur, the show where digital entrepreneurs share their stories and the lessons they’ve learned so that we can all be better in our online pursuits. I am your host, Jerod Morris, the VP of marketing for Rainmaker Digital, and this is episode No. 36.
This episode of The Digital Entrepreneur is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform. I will tell you more about this complete solution for digital marketing and sales later, but you can check it out and take a free spin for yourself at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.
On this week’s episode, I have a guest who’s been obsessed with quality from a young age. Seriously, he is crazy about quality. If it’s not the best, he won’t have it. He got his start in digital entrepreneurship in 2009 when he founded his own one-man digital marketing shop that has now grown into a small boutique agency of employees and contractors serving dozens of clients around the world.
He specializes in helping small business owners and bloggers who are crazy-passionate about their area of expertise take their business to the next level by creating a strategy for long-term success. He is Seth Spears, and he is a digital entrepreneur.
Seth, welcome to The Digital Entrepreneur. It’s great to have you on the show.
Seth Spears: Hey, Jerod, thanks for having me.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, for sure. This will be really good. It was great seeing you at Digital Commerce Summit. Glad you were able to make it out there.
Seth Spears: Yes, I had a great time.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, it was good. Let’s hope in here, Seth. I’ve always believed that the number one benefit of digital entrepreneurship is freedom. I think that’s what a lot of people feel that it is — the freedom to choose your projects, to chart your course, and ultimately, the freedom to change your life and your family’s life for the better. What is the biggest benefit that you have derived from being a digital entrepreneur?
Seth Spears: I would completely agree with that statement as far as freedom. Especially the time freedom. Some people, they have monetary freedom where they make a lot of money, but they don’t have any time to enjoy it. They’re a slave to their desk, their office, or wherever. They’ve got to be there 24/7. When I think of that, I think of attorneys or doctors.
They’re high paid professionals, but they’re completely reliant upon being there and doing the work, so they don’t have the time to spend with family and friends, travel, and do the things that they enjoy. So I completely agree that having that time freedom and being able to work either in an office or coffee shop or at home or traveling is definitely the biggest benefit to being a digital entrepreneur.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, there’s certainly something admirable about putting in tons of hours and doing the work, but it does kind of lead to the question “what’s it all for?” if you don’t have the time to spend it with the people that you care about most and doing the things that you love doing the most.
Seth Spears: Yeah, exactly. That’s something that I’ve thought about a lot, especially over the past six months or so because I’ve certainly put in a lot of hours over the past few years as far as just work on either my own business or the clients’, et cetera. No stranger to the hard work and putting in lots of hours. But then at the end of the day, it’s, “How much work do you actually want to do?”
You get to a certain point where you’re like, “I can continue to grow this. I can continue to push and make more and make it bigger and better, but then why? Why am I doing this? Why am I pushing so much if I’m not using either the money or the time, et cetera, to spend time with my family, do things that I enjoy, or hang out with friends?”
I think it’s all part of finding a balance there. Both of them have their time and their place because, on the flip side of that, if you just spend all your time just doing what you enjoy, well, then you’re not going to be very motivated. You’re going to be kind of lazy. That’s great and all, but at the end of the day, I think you got to have some balance. That keeps us centered and focused.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I agree. Balance is definitely the key.
Let’s go back. Take me back before you became a digital entrepreneur. What were you doing, and what was missing that lead you to want to make a change?
Seth Spears: Great question. Back in 2009, I was working for a small college in Nashville, Tennessee. I was the Assistant Director of Admissions, so basically recruiting students, handling paperwork, traveling to college fairs, and all kinds of stuff like that. I was miserable. I hated it.
When I was in college I always had this expectation that I was going to major in business. I was going to graduate. I was going to meet the girl of my dreams, get married, have kids, start my own business, and sail off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
Jerod Morris: You had it all mapped out.
Seth Spears: Yeah, except that didn’t actually happen. It’s kind of happened now, but not exactly in the timing or the way that I was hoping for or expecting it to. I graduated college, bummed around for about a year, did some nonprofit mission work and stuff, waited tables and bartended, then went to work for this college. Got married, started having kids, but I was miserable in the job that I had.
I always had entrepreneurial leanings. I always had a really strong work ethic, worked a lot, and was always doing something on the side. I dabbled in some real estate investing. I tried some little side ventures here and there, but nothing ever seemed to work.
I basically came to a point … we had a new administration at the college, and it came to a head. I said, “You know, it’s either me or them. Since they’re not going anywhere, I’m going to have to go somewhere and make a decision to do something else.”
Now on the side, I had a little side hustle going. I was doing some independent collegiate consulting for homeschool students, helping them to prepare for college. I saw it as an under-served market, so I was doing a little bit of consulting on the side for them. I was homeschooled in high school, so I understood what it took to get in to college — and also, having the administrative side working for a university, I knew what it took to get it.
I began doing that. That was fall of 2009. During that time, as I was leaving, I realized that, “Well, I’ve got to market myself to get myself out there, to get more clients, and to create content and use social media.” Then realized I need a website. “Somebody’s got to be able to find my website, so I’m going to have to learn how to rank that in the search engines, use social media to promote it, and all of that.”
It was a really steep learning curve. I have a marketing degree, but what I came to realize was that that degree was worthless because everything has changed so much. All those theories as far as product price, place, promotion, and all that stuff, it wasn’t really relevant to what I was trying to do as far as market myself and the content that I was producing.
I basically went on a journey to learn as much as I could about digital marketing. I bought some courses, and I read as many blogs, articles, and things as I could, just to really teach myself. During that process, I discovered WordPress, StudioPress and the Genesis Framework, and started teaching myself website design.
As I begin doing that, I really enjoyed it. I like the creative side. There was a really steep learning curve for me, though, trying to figure out what FTP was. I was like, “I have no idea. I don’t understand.” It’s funny to think back now. That wasn’t that long ago. It was 2009 I guess. One thing basically led to another, and I began building out my own website.
Then some family and friends were starting businesses, and they asked for some help because they knew that I was into marketing and technology. I was building a couple here or there, one for myself and some other people, so I did. Then I began to get a couple clients, asking them to help, and I was like, “Huh, this is interesting. I actually really enjoy this. I don’t even like the collegiate consulting site, so why don’t we just kind of pivot and roll it into marketing? That’s what my degree is, and I can kind of do that.”
That’s where Spears Marketing was born. That was in 2010 basically. Then began doing a lot of website design and getting into social media marketing, search engine optimization, and that whole game.
Jerod Morris: It sounds like there was never really a grand plan for Spears Marketing and where you’re at now. It was almost just like one step led to the next, and it all sounds very logical as you explain it. Did it feel like a logical progression as you were going?
Seth Spears: I’ve never thought of it like that. I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants for the most part.
Jerod Morris: It’s easy to put the pieces together in retrospect, and that’s kind of what I’m wondering. Did it feel like that as you were going through it?
Seth Spears: I don’t think so. It’s hard to take myself back there and feel the feelings as far as what I thought. I just saw an opportunity. I’ve always really enjoyed the study of economics and looking at the market and where opportunity lies. I was definitely in the right place at the right time as far as getting into WordPress and the whole digital marketing side because it was so new. It still probably is, but granted, there’s a lot more noise, traffic, and competition now.
Looking back, it does feel kind of like a natural progression, but at the time, I had to learn what I thought that I needed in order for my own business and then for clients. That’s how things really grew — working with a few clients here or there, just helping them with whatever they needed, teaching myself, and learning and growing from there.
Jerod Morris: Tell me about the milestone, or the moment, in your career as a digital entrepreneur that you’re the most proud of.
Seth Spears: Over the years, I’ve had a lot of success working with several different clients and helping them to improve their traffic and search rankings and their growth, income, and revenue. A year or so ago, I looked back at statistics, the traffic statistics for pretty much every client. And those that actually followed the recommendations that I made — and this would include a website redesign, improved content, some search engine tweaks, and things like that — I had seen, on average, about a 30 percent increase in traffic for the clients.
Jerod Morris: Wow.
Seth Spears: That made me really happy. Just seeing the improvement that the clients would make because that was directly influencing their bottom line. They’re making more money. They’re having more success, and I was really proud of that.
Jerod Morris: That had to be a moment of real pride. Is that something now that for prospective clients that you will tell them? Kind of slip in there like, “Hey, clients who follow our recommendation are seeing 30 percent increases over the ones who do not.”
Seth Spears: I wouldn’t say still because I think the game has changed so much, and there’s so much more competition. Yeah, there were things that we were doing, and still do, that cause you to see a lot of growth. At the same time, I feel like I was on the cutting edge, but everything has caught up so much.
There’s so much noise just in the online space. The competition is a lot greater. Google’s in a state of flux. Social media — just the reach that we used to be able to get on social media — it’s not the same now. Now it’s pay to play. I still think there’s huge opportunity if you’re willing to throw a lot more money at it than before.
Because I always focus on the organic side, but I’m slowly beginning to transition and realize that the paid side is probably where the biggest bang for your buck is right now — just because it’s so much more pay to play.
Jerod Morris: Which, I suppose, was always the inevitable outcome of social media.
Seth Spears: I guess. It’s unfortunate that that’s what it is, but I guess that’s just the nature of markets, you know?
Jerod Morris: Yeah. All right, we’ll take a quick break. When we come back, I’m going to ask Seth about his most humbling moment as a digital entrepreneur.
Jerod Morris: As you probably know, stitching together a website that truly gives you everything you need to demonstrate your authority, connect with your audience, and earn recurring profit isn’t easy.
You have to find good hosting, plus security and support you can trust, which is a headache. You need a patchwork of plugins that can prove to be a nightmare at the worst possible time. You need the ability to create content types, ranging from blog posts to podcasts to online courses — and what about integrated landing pages, email marketing, and marketing automation to deliver a truly adaptive content experience? These aren’t nice-to-have features anymore for the smart, profitable entrepreneur. They are necessities.
Well, you have two choices. You can piecemeal it together, pay more in total, and then cross your fingers, and hope everything plays nicely together — or you can use the Rainmaker Platform.
Rainmaker is a fully hosted, all-in-one marketing machine that gives you everything out of the box in one dashboard. You can run a successful podcast, host authority-building membership areas, and sell in-depth, module-based, revenue-generating online courses.
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All of those reasons and more are why Rainmaker.FM runs on Rainmaker and why all my personal sites do, too. Don’t just take my word for it, check out the Rainmaker Platform for yourself. Go to Rainmaker.FM/Platform, and start your free 14-day trial today.
Now, back to my interview with Seth Spears.
All right. Seth, tell me about the most humbling moment in your career as a digital entrepreneur thus far and, most importantly, what you learned from it.
Seth Spears: Probably when I realized that I took on a client — it was a good sized project — and then I had to fire them about a week into the project, realizing that it wasn’t a good fit,...