I’ve been following Yaro for a decade now. Back when I first got started, he was already successful and famous.
I remember frequenting his blog (Entrepreneurs-Journey.com) to read his latest posts and content. Eventually I enrolled in his Membership Site Master training program, and have used his teachings to launch my own membership site many years ago.
Yaro is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint and founder of Yaro.blog and podcast.
He began blogging over twelve years ago initially for fun, however as his income surpassed $10,000 a month, he decided to go all in and treat his blog as his business.
Since then Yaro used his blog to sell over $2 million dollars of his own ebooks, online courses and membership sites, and travels the world living what he calls the “Laptop Lifestyle”.
Today Yaro is a mentor to thousands of people, helping them turn their knowledge into a profitable online business using his “Blog Sales Funnel” system.
Yaro has a proven track record of results, with his “graduate bloggers” going on to make thousands of dollars – some even millions – in such diverse niches as book design, ADHD counseling, acne treatment, BMX bikes, skiing, cars, sports news, speed reading, real estate, television production and fat loss.
In this podcast episode, you’re going to learn how anyone, including you, can achieve the Laptop Lifestyle.
Yaro has also been featured in these media outlets:
[02:07] What is the Laptop Lifestyle and how anyone can achieve it
[05:11] The 3 different models on how to make a living
[12:00] Should you hire contractors or employees?
[19:22] How to hire the right people to your team
[28:09] How to start a business even if you have a 9-5 job
[34:42] 2 big problems faced by online course creators
[39:08] The logical step-by-step action plan one needs to follow to get results (without overwhelm)
[44:54] How to sell your course even if you’re not an expert
[48:08] 1 advice to people who want to build a successful online course business
“To get results, the very 1st thing one should do is to assess his current situation before taking any kind of action.”
~ Yaro Starak
Interviewer (Welly Mulia): Welcome to another episode of The BirdSend Academy podcast. This is the show for online course creators who want to build a profitable business by sharing your skills and knowledge. This is your host Welly Mulia, if you are not listening to this on our website, go to academy.birdsend.co/4 to get your show notes. This show is brought to you by BirdSend Email and Marketing Tool; the only email and marketing tool specifically created for online course creators. Get your free forever account at birdsend.co.
Today’s guest is Yaro Starak, Yaro is the author of the blog; Profit Blueprint, and founder of yaro.blog. He began over 12 years ago, initially for fun. However, as his income surpassed $10,000 a month, he decided to go all in and treat his blog as his business. Since then Yaro used his blog to sell over 2 million dollars of his own e-book online courses and membership sites and travels the world, living what he calls ‘Laptop Lifestyle’. Today, Yaro is a mentor to thousands of people, helping them turn their knowledge into profitable online business using his blog’s sales funnel system. Yaro has a proven track record of results with his graduate bloggers going on to make thousands of dollars, some even millions in such diverse niche such as book design, ADHD counseling, acne treatment, BMX bikes, skin, cars, sport news, speed reading, real estate, television production, and fat loss.
And Yaro, it’s great to have you on the show.
Interviewee (Yaro Starak): Thank you, I am happy to be here.
Welly Mulia: Okay, cool. I followed you many years ago, back in 2008, so it’s a decade now, and I remember visiting your blog, signing up to your email list and I know that you are big on the idea of the ‘laptop lifestyle’, and can you walk us through what that means?
Yaro Starak: Sure, that’s one of my favorite subjects. Like possibly yourself, I grew up at the same time as the internet sort of grew up, and I was very lucky because I did not want a 9 to 5 job, I didn’t know how to avoid a 9 to 5 job other than starting a business, that seemed like the most common way of doing it. But I had no idea what kind of business, and obviously before we had the internet, when you think of business, it could be a restaurant, selling some kind of physical product that you have a factory and you manufacture it, all those sort of things. So, thank God for the internet, because that gave the opportunity for me to explore ideas with websites, I had a car game website, I started a company about Essay Editing, which is sort of my first ‘Laptop Lifestyle’ business, and all of these projects, even as I moved forward and started my blog, my podcast and selling online courses and e-books. And right now with my most current project on email management service called Inbox Done, they are all designed to be what you call or what I call ‘Laptop Lifestyle’ businesses, where they can feel your lifestyle, you can live anywhere on the planet, you certainly don’t have any kind of set schedule… I don’t have an office, cafes around the world are my offices, you are interacting with your team, but they are all remote, my team talk to me on Slack every day, but they are in Australia, in America, I’ve got my project manager in Tonga, so that’s really an amazing thing, and again about the internet, to have this remote team. And obviously, make a living as a bare minimum, I always worked really well, and have financial freedom as well. But the first goal was always that structure of a business that doesn’t just take all your time. And I think that’s really important to point out, because I noticed entrepreneurs would end up working longer than 9 to 5 for certain types of business models, they can be networking 12 hours a day, 14 hours a day, so it is kind of ironic, they end up quitting their job to start working 14 hours a day on their own business, sometimes for less money. So, that was not my goal, I wanted that sort of 4-hour work week, made famous, before I even wrote that book, that was my goal. So everything as I said has been about that, and I am grateful, because ever since, that Essay Editing company sort of started in 2000, some business has given me that lifestyle, so it’s really now, I am going to hit 20 years in another year of living the ‘Laptop Lifestyle’, so it’s been a good ride.
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Welly Mulia: I think you are into the lifestyle business obviously with the concept of the ‘Laptop Lifestyle’, I see on your blog, you also have one of the main points that set up the ‘Laptop Lifestyle’. What would you say to people who are on the opposite? Some people who quit their jobs like you said, they are working longer hours, would you say there is anything wrong with that, because some people, like you, they are into the idea of having a lifestyle business, and the other one is like, they want to build this gigantic, big company, and probably someday sell it for a billion dollars, or maybe they don’t want to sell it, but they want to build an office with hundreds of employees. So, what is your take on people who have that kind of idea to start a business?
Yaro Starak: Right. We are really talking about three things here. There’s the normal worker, an employee or executive in a company, then you’ve got a lifestyle entrepreneur which I think I am, and you probably are too Welly, and then you’ve got a growth company or a tech-startup, not necessarily tech, but a company like you said, the kind of goal is to have a big exit or just create a massive company with lots of employees and you are the CEO, and the founder, and eventually you probably exit. For me, it is like 9 to 5 employee, I never wanted to do that, I did have some part-time jobs, and I think it’s important to say, there’s nothing wrong with having a job, it suits probably more people on this planet than any other type of employment. I don’t think if the entire planet was all entrepreneurs, we would probably be in trouble, because no-one would be doing the everyday work. And it doesn’t suit most people, most people don’t want to be in control of everything, they want a steady pay check, a role where they can really focus on, and hopefully enjoy and become an expert at, whereas entrepreneurs, we all have to do kind of different things. But I think to answer your question with 2 different types of entrepreneurship, I have wanted to do both, I still get excited about both. I think for me, it was always first, and I think most of the listeners would feel the same, first you have to make enough money to survive, so you don’t even know necessarily what your company would be, you are just going to work at that objective and it could become a lifestyle business if that’s the way it evolves, and if you build a business using a certain type of structure or business model and you make certain decisions as I did, to have a team and to have a kind of business that runs without you or could separate from you as much as possible, but has a steady cash flow, that’s kind of the lifestyle business, the first is maybe the tech-founder startup kind of business where you are going to keep working really long hours, you are going to get an office very likely, you are going to fill it with employees, you are going to make way more revenue, but you are going to spend it all on growth, you probably have investors, not necessarily, but that’s usually the way they do rapid growth. It is definitely not a lifestyle business, because you work really hard, you are very stressed, often those kind of people have a crazy story to tell once they exit, like I would never do that again, they are hopefully wealthy, sadly, the real story is a lot of these project, never make any money, sort of these rare unicorn stories we hear about.
But I am fan of both, because I think the big companies, they are the ones that make a dent in the world, the RBNBs, the Ubers, the Googles, of course I am talking tech companies here because I am in the tech field, you are in the tech field, but we should not forget about bowing, making airplanes and all the companies doing whatever it is, medical research, this is the stuff that changes the world.
Now, my little essay editing company, my blog and my email management business, none of those are making massive dents in the universe, but they each provided a great service to a select few people. And it can change the lives in a positive way to that little core customer group you have, so it can be just as personally gratifying if not globally impact as a large startup becoming a large company, so I don’t think there is anything wrong with either but you have to get clear, which one you are going after pretty quickly, because there are very different business models, you have to make very different decisions, and I went after the big model for a couple years, with the tech startup and it was terrible, I did not enjoy the prospect of kind of trying to get investor funding at the same time as trying to grow a company, and hiring was so painful, trying to find good people to work for you. So, I much prefer nice lifestyle, laptop lifestyle businesses and that’s all what I preach and teach as well, so that’s my area I want to focus on.
Welly Mulia: So, because our audience is mostly online course creators, so people who actually teach and share their knowledge. I remember you mentioned about the startup part, where you are trying to pick investors, I remember reading your blog about that; Cranky ads… Because I have been following you for so long, a decade ago, so I know about the experience that… you also wrote a blogpost about the reasons why you eventually stopped the business. So, I think it is a matter of your personal preference, like you said just now, you have to be very clear which goal you are aiming. And along the way, even if you change course, then it is fine, because sometimes like yourself, you went into the tech company, the company and then you moved back to the lifestyle business.
So, we got into lifestyle business and I know that you have been doing this for a very long time as you said, almost 20 years now. So, with regards to hiring team members, you also mentioned that everyone on your team are remote, they are working from different places, all over the world. So, can you tell us, how does that work? Are these people your permanent employees? You pay them salary, or are they independent contractors? Where it is just part-time freelance thing, or some of them are full-time? How does it work?
Yaro Starak: So, I have never had a full time employee for any company I have run, we have had founders, I have had partners and obviously worked and I guess considered employees, but from a structure point, we were co-founders. So, contractors have been and still remains the majority of the people I work with. I don’t necessarily think that’s always the smartest path, it just lent itself well to certain type of businesses. For example, for the people listening, no doubt, when you are building a business that sells your education, so, course creator, information marketer, e-book writer, and you are probably doing things like blogging and podcasting on YouTube and social media, there’s going to be certain roles that you will eventually and hopefully quickly, start to fill with other people’s help, you don’t want to be a jack of all trades, wearing all the hats. I did that myself, like possibly almost all the people listening right now, money was very tight when I was getting started with my business, so I attempted to be the person who built the website and did the customer service and did the marketing to find the customers, and did the content creation, did all the tech error, correcting, and on and on. And the end result of that was 7 years of very slow growth, like almost no money for 6 years and finally I started to make some money in the 7th year, so I started hiring people, starting with the tech person who was a remote hire.
So, today I always advice all my coaching clients, hire tech from day one, I would even recommend working a job to save up or provide some income so that you can put away maybe $500 a month towards tech, especially at the start, to build your website, your landing page, set up your email list, unless tech is your thing, which usually is not, because normally a coaching, teaching person, your thing is whatever it is you are good at and you help people with, which doesn’t usually relate to tech, it could be cooking, or fixing a sore back, or losing weight, or whatever it is.
So, you want to be spending your time on that activity, creating content, creating product, not setting up the websites and getting lost in code and uploading scripts… So, tech first, and once you start to get some sort of customer base, then customer service, I think email needs to be the first thing, those are the first two things I outsource and straightaway I get those off my plate because they are the two things that suck your time the most, doing your emails and doing your tech setup, so I have people in place, straightaway. I guess the reason why they haven’t become full-time employee is just structurally, my company hasn’t needed that kind of person in those roles, we just function well with contract work. But there are plenty of people who are doing what I do, especially as they grow I guess the next level, they have to get full-time employees, because I guess it makes more sense, they need that consistent doing a 9 to 5 level of work output, growing parts of their business, maybe it’s developing software, maybe it’s constantly working on split testing to grow your traffic or running your ad campaign or writing content every day, that makes sense at certain levels, when people kind of break free from sort of above half a million US dollars a year, that’s when people start looking at full time employees. Under that, it seems to be okay to function entirely with contractors, you can even get up to a million like a 7-figure business, and just have contractors, but most people I know go beyond that, and again, that’s a decision to make as well, because when you hire full-time employees, you have to keep giving them work in other to justify the cost of… nowadays it could be $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 or $90,000 a year depending on what role that they are doing.
So, if your company is not consistently bringing in that income, that creates a major stress point for you as an entrepreneur. I know from my point of view too, contractors, it is just more relaxed in terms of my sense of, I got to make payroll, I don’t have to think that way, so I can really kind of hire as I need, with the amount of hours that I have, and not have to worry about giving someone a full work day worth of work.
And in fact, as a founder, owner… it means you end up doing a full day’s work too, because you have to coordinate your employees, so that’s kind of against the ethos of the laptop lifestyle stuff for me. But there’s certainly a place and time for employees if you want to go to that next level.
Welly Mulia: So, your team members are independent contractors as you said? Does that mean, because you are not giving them full time work, as in, like 40 hours per week, so does that mean that they can also work for someone else? Do you have any kind of checks in place?
Yaro Starak: Yes. I think almost all of my people have been working for other people, I don’t really carefully watch what they are doing outside of the work they do for me, but I know for sure… a lot of the people I have worked with, they are kind of entrepreneurial as well, or freelancers at the very least, so maybe they are not hardcore entrepreneurs, but they like being in charge of their own freelance work, so maybe they do have their own company, and I love that, because they can have the flexibility of working as an independent contractor with me, and they have time to grow whatever other business they are working on, or take on other clients as well. And they can decide, how many hours they are going to do each week, who they want to work with, what kind of products they want to work on. With my newer company, Inbox Done, it is a little bit more structured because we take over email accounts for entrepreneurs, basically, or any kind of expert who has a lot of emails, or customer service via email, and that’s a consistent role, they have to check in everyday, it’s not 9 to 5, but we do want them to clear an inbox every day, because that’s very important to get back to people.
So, those people have a set timeframe at least in a 24-hour window to go into that work. But for example, one of my contractors lives in Hawaii, so it’s great, because whatever it is, whenever he wants to go surfing, he goes to surf, then he comes blogging, do the email job and whatever it is in the afternoon. So, I think this is maybe why I also like contractors, they have this similar ethos to me, and they want to build a life that’s in their control, not have a boss telling them when to work or what to work on, they decide how many people they work with, what they work on, and how many hours they do, and that’s freedom of a kind, and I think that’s a form of ‘laptop lifestyle’ right away, that’s very attainable. For a lot of people, freelancing is a way to get started, making money. So, I love it, I love being a person who hires freelancers, and I love the fact that we have that kind of ecosystem available nowadays with sites like Upwork, or just the fact that there is the internet and I can hire someone from Tonga, or who has chosen to live in Tonga, and we all run businesses and do what we enjoy.
Welly Mulia: Cool. So, how do you find someone to trust? Like what is the process of it, maybe you can share some tips of how you actually recruit these contractors?
Yaro Starak: Hiring; yeah. As I mentioned earlier, I hated it, I suck at it, so I attempted to do a lot of it myself for many years, and I relied on… and I still would say that most of the best people I have worked with have come from an existing connection, as opposed to posting a job on Upwork, or back in the day there was Elance and Freelancer, and some of these are still going or even just posting to Facebook sometimes, you can get someone.
But usually, the best people come from a peer endorsement, another entrepreneur who currently uses this contractor, or maybe used to hiring and recommending them as well, so that’s being the best way to find people. But, you kind of run out of resources eventually if you just do that.
So, what I did. I attempted to grow my company a few years ago, hiring more people, and I just had this run of just getting people who disappeared on me, and it was very frustrating, you probably saw me writing blogposts about it, I know I did that few years ago. And then I realized, I am not going to get better at this, because I don’t want to, and I thought, I am going to hire someone to help me hire, and that’s when I brought on Laura, my project manager, and I spent a bit of time to find here, again, through my friend referral network, in fact, my current tech person, she is friends with Laura and she recommended Laura for the role, and she turned out to be great.
So, then I told Laura, your job is to get a hiring system set up, because I want to grow my team, and I am not very good at hiring. And I said what we can do is, there’s a few people who have these systems in place for hiring, that I really admire, I want to kind of take a few of some of these ideas, but apply them, not me. For example, one of the very basic ideas was put together a recruitment page, very much a content page, it basically pitches the idea of working with me. So, we have this for my coaching business, with my online courses and so on, but it is not really as active, because that company isn’t… I am not massively growing that company, but we took the same system, to my InboxDone company too for hiring managers, we used the same principle, and it’s been pretty simple, it is kind of like an ‘About page’ in a lot of ways, where you talk about the history, what you are doing, your vision, and what it is like to work with you, and what you are looking for in terms of a shared vison from a potential contractor, team members, we prefer to call them, and paint a picture that this is an exciting opportunity than kind of a blind emailing comply here, you kind of get what you put out there. So, by putting in the effort to create this nicer application page, we got a better quality person applying to begin with.
Second thing we did, again, sort of boring idea, similar to the other online entrepreneurs, was create more of the process of vetting or basically testing before we even talk to them and that just meant creating a much more complex application form where we provide more questions, not just questions, but actually the test of ability within the application form. A great example, right now, if someone wants to apply to become an email manager for InboxDone, we actually have some emails that are kind of like dummy emails to show what kind of emails our clients might get, we ask applicants to write back to these emails as if it was part of their job, and that’s a great way to assess the core skill which is rewriting emails in this with this business. And also, it acts as a deterrent, because if someone is not really into this job, they are not going to bother to go through this long application process and to these emails, test themselves, so it is a filtering mechanism, to get the serious and best people only to apply.
And once they get through that testing and application form, then we move on to the actual, let’s do some interviews and have a conversation with you, and see what you are like, we have been talking to you over the internet, and that is a really… I guess a 3-step process to get better people, and that was all developed through Laura and myself, Laura definitely implemented it and we brought it across with InboxDone, Clair my co-founder there has been applying those same principles, and they have become a foundation actually for that business, because hiring for InboxDone is kind of like our core strength, it’s why that business works, because we are doing the job that entrepreneurs don’t like doing, which is hiring and training the person to handle your email, and that’s kind of our secret sauce, that’s why we can do what we do.
So, it’s all connected in my case, my coaching business led to that business, and those hiring practices we developed from Laura by borrowing all kinds of ideas and coming up with our own. And I thoroughly recommend them, hiring is the most important job an entrepreneur can do, once you start to get traction, if day one you are trying to get traction, your first subscribers and customers, but you will get to a point where the constraint for growth is growing a team, more than it is needing to get more customers or more audience, and that’s a great place to be, but it’s pretty stressful, especially if you are a one-man or one-woman show, trying to do all that, that’s when hiring becomes the most important role.
Welly Mulia: I am just curious, when you were putting up on your website, about what it is like to work with your company, what it is like with Yaro, do you specifically mention that this position is for independent contractors or do you just make it vague like, be on my team? Did you mention any kind of full-time or part-time arrangement?
Yaro Starak: I am not sure of the specifics, I have to go back and read, we have created individual entry for every opening of a role. What I do know is that we are bidding upfront with, this is how many hours it is going to be and this is not necessarily going to be consistent if it is not a consistent kind of role. So, expect 10 to 20 hours a week, but there’s no guarantees, you can quit anytime. So, all these statement are inferring to the fact; this is a contractor position, and I suspect they were also emphasizing on… Like I said, I have to go back and read over the copy, but I am pretty sure the word ‘contractor’ would definitely have been mentioned in each of the individual job openings on my blog, but that makes sense, because we are offering a contractor role and dynamic roles that don’t have set hours and they go up and down each week, so it’s just the nature of the position.
Welly Mulia: Got is. So Yaro, I didn’t catch this earlier, did you mention you never had a 9 to 5 job before your first business?
Yaro Starak: That’s right, I have never had a 9 to 5, I have had part-time normal jobs, like working for other people, but they were never like a full-time employee role, I have never had that kind of job, thank God.
Welly Mulia: This is interesting, because most people, when they start a business, most of them are coming from… they already have a job, and they have a family and support, and then they need to have that income with their business first before they are ready or brave enough to make the jump on quitting their job and focusing full-time on their business. So, you started entrepreneurship at a very young age of… about 20 years ago.
Yaro Starak: I was 18 years old.
Welly Mulia: Okay, that’s a very young age. How did you get started on your first business? It was Tarik card you said?
Yaro Starak: No, magic the gathering.
Welly Mulia: Yeah, I am sorry, I remember that. So, how did you have the idea of starting, as a very young kid, how did you come up with the idea of starting this business?
Yaro Starak: You made a good point, I am not a typical case study. Then, all I knew was I didn’t want a job, and I think, perhaps that’s the one thing that maybe led to me starting earlier. It wasn’t like I was a genius, business startup guy, I was successful from day one, I was far from it. But I knew that I had to avoid full-time, job, so I hustled, that’s why I had part-time job here, tried to start selling… To be honest, it wasn’t actually a car game website, my first ever income was just selling stuff on eBay, finding stuff around my house and selling all my old toys, just to see what it was like to generate some revenue, that might sound silly today, because it is so common to sell anything Craigslist, whatever your service is, but back then it was selling on the internet, your stuff, you should have a garage where you sell things, right? So, I was a little bit different, using the internet to get rid of my junk.
Then it led to a website, and again, I was just a teenager who liked playing this card game and it made sense to start a magazine on the internet, because I loved the game, I loved the idea of having a magazine, so that led to the magazine website, which led to starting a little online store, my first income was from advertising and it should be noted that the dotcom boom, the first bubble in the late 90s was happening then too, so I was constantly intimidated by Amazon starting up, eBay was starting up, Napster was happening, and then there was the pets.com, example of a company making millions of dollars in capital raising and not actually making a cent online, then it all came crashing down. I saw all that happening, I was very excited about the internet, I wasn’t making a full-time income from any of it, but I was definitely motivated, I lived with my mom for a good number of years so I didn’t have a lot of expenses, and I didn’t have kids or a wife or a family to support or all those things, so I had the luxury of that time.
Actually I have a podcast that talks about, for people who might be listening, if you all are in a full-time job, how to make the transition to full-time entrepreneurship, because it is a juggle and it is something you have to really, carefully balance and I have interviewed so many people now and I have heard so many origin stories of people who have jobs and do support families with full-time employment, yet they get up in the morning and find an extra hour in the morning to create content, product or whatever, and they work on weekends, sometimes they use their holidays, just to get everything up and running, then they maybe switch to freelancing instead of having a full-time job, then they can transition… I won’t go into all the details, like I said there is a full podcast if you want to listen to that on my show.
But I want to emphasize that it is important to understand that it is possible and I am an exception. Most people do it, when they do have a full-time job, at least some kind of job. I am not the exception in the fact that I did have two part-time jobs, so I was working 15 hours a week, 20 hours a week at my local university, in the helpdesk, providing customer support and service there, and that was my rent money and my food money. So, any kind of money that I made from that company, we were just slowly growing, my goal at the start was to just quit those two jobs, so I had to make enough money for my companies, maybe like $1,500 a month will get my rent and food money, and that was my first goal, so that was the motivation, I can’t tell you where that came from other from the fact that I didn’t want a job and the dotcom bubble was happening around me, so it was a special time in history. Again, like I said, I am thankful I was becoming an adult at the same time that the internet was becoming an adult, and that’s just luck.
Welly Mulia: So, you mentioned you were selling advertising space on your first business. Apart from that, are you getting any income from, maybe selling products or affiliate products?
Yaro Starak: Yeah, I was selling cards, so it was surprising, e-commerce technically was what I was doing, long before… today we have the [inaudible 32:20] and so many other ways to sell things online, Amazon and so forth, I was doing it old school though, I won cards, and I collected cards as a player of this game and then I started buying cards wholesale, and I literally had playing text files which was listing all of my inventories, and people would send me an email saying, I want to buy this number of this card and this number of this card, I would say, great, I would adjust my inventory playing text file manually, they would send usually money order or a check in a mail, I would get it, I would cash it, it clears, I then pack up those cards, go down to the mail box, the post office and send the cards to them, and that was my online store.
So, it’s old school, I made like almost no money, because it’s a very little margin, if I didn’t win tournaments, which meant I won free cards, I wouldn’t have made much profit, it relied on me doing that. But it was a great learning experience, that magic to get a website, even though it was not very profitable, ultimately it was very amazing for the core skill set I grew, and eventually used for every business, and I still use it today, I think about the content creating skills, the tech skills, the marketing skills, the connecting with people skills, I really got in touch with people in the community and eventually one of them bought my whole business, I sold that business. So, it was an amazing learning experience, and a foundation for my blog too, because that’s where my blog content came from eventually.
Welly Mulia: I think that’s very interesting and a wise advice, I think a lot of people see things for what they are right now, but sometimes it is just a stepping stone for other bigger things like you said, you learned all these networking skills and content creation skills, so eventually it builds up. So, I think it is a point to see not just what you are doing right now, if it is not working for you, then maybe this is a stepping stone to something bigger like what you did.
Yaro Starak: Not maybe, guarantee it is, everything is a test.
Welly Mulia: Okay Yaro. So, with tons of experience with creating online training programs, courses, what do you think is the number one problem for online course creators? What is the problem they face?
Yaro Starak: I know if you asked me that when I was considering doing a course, I would have said two things; The fact that I didn’t know whether anyone would actually pay me for the information I created, there was just self-doubt, self-belief was just not there. If you have never sold something of your own creation, it’s easy for someone who may be have been writing books their whole life to jump to a course, because it’s not much different, I wouldn’t say easy, but it’s easier.
For someone like myself, before I released my first course, I never considered myself an authority, an expert, coach, I was just this kid trying to make websites, make money and then suddenly I am going to teach people how to blog as a way to start a business, so it was a confronting idea, that’s a mindset issue, that is just simply a confidence test that you can push yourself through, and once you get some people kind of giving you that positive feedback you need, telling you, you are good at what you do, I really learn from you, then you start to get the self-belief and that was certainly what happened for me.
And the other problem which probably is way more prevalent in reality is, just how do you get customers? That’s every businesses problem, but I think most people who I see, certainly in my history coaching and teaching people, it’s not for lack of their own understanding and their ability to create a course, it’s just, how do I get customers? Because they are not good marketers, they don’t know how to find customers, they don’t know how to convert people from reading content to signing up to an email list, then going into sales page and buying your online course.
There is a 4-step process there, the same process everyone uses to sell online courses, give away content, grow a list, offer a product using a sales page or a sales video, and there you go, you sell your course. there are so many little, granular steps to get right, you have to have a traffic source that’s targeted, you have to get the copywriting in your video or your sales page and texts right. Branding, positioning, there are so many sort of soft skills there that you kind of need to push together to make it work, and even before all that, most people just don’t know how to get a subscriber, how to find someone who is interested in what you doing enough to sign up to your email list, step one, so that’s an area where there’s a lot of things to learn, and that’s why people like myself and I think you too, Welly exist, assisting people to get better results from what they do online, whether it is learning the skills of copywriting, content creation, how to write an email campaign, how does that turn into sales of a product, so those are all important things we all have to learn, I went through that, I wasn’t born a writer, I learned blogging, even when I started with my blog, I wasn’t a copywriter, I had to learn copywriting and everything just came down to doing the work to create the product and do marketing, and to get on podcast, talk about what I do, teach people, write articles every day to grow my organic search engine traffic, I talked on stage a little bit, wrote a few reports, started creating my own podcast, producing videos on YouTube, jump unto social media, it was all slow and organic, but it starts to compound, and you start to grow an audience and you release your first product and then you can get some money so you can do more things, and it just grows from there.
So, that’s kind of in a nutshell, I do think, first of all, the mindset and the belief that you can help people and second, just developing those marketing skills, the conversion skills to actually sell something… Don’t go and spend 6 months creating a course if you have no audience, because it is great to have a course, but if there is no one there to buy it… All you have done pretty much is create something you can look at, and no one else would ever see, so that’s not what you want.
Welly Mulia: Yeah. I fell into that mistake many years ago when I was just getting started, I would spend months and months creating this product, which I thought was awesome and excellent, but when I talked to the market, it turned out they didn’t want it, so I just wasted months of my time, so that’s a really good advice.
Now, there are a lot of things like you said just now with marketing and sales part, you have to do all these stuff; email marketing, copywriting, branding… For someone who is new to this, it gets very overwhelming, like you probably heard of the phrase in our industry ‘information overload’ a lot of times… So, what would you say is the structure of steps, like step one, do this, step two, do this, what would you say? Because they just can’t possibly learn all of these things all at once right? So, based on your experience, what would you say is the logical steps one need to take in order to really do what is necessary instead of being, oh, there is just so many things to do, I am just going to put it till later and then later never comes?
Yaro Starak: Yeah, that’s probably the most important question, and the hardest to answer unfortunately really. Since everyone comes at this from a different place, so I actually think the answer to this question… I can sit here and rattle off, my 4-step process from creating a successful teaching content, expert-based business, but the truth is, what you really need to do first is assess what you are bringing in to the table, and what you don’t know, because that then guides you to your actual first step. So, it is kind of like a method for a step.
You have to assess your resources, what are you capable of producing? What do you bring to the table in terms of audience or connections, relationships, products you can sell now, and then you will need to kind of learn a framework, this is why… I sell a flagship course called blog mastermind, which I have been teaching now for almost 10 years, and one of the things I tell people to do with in course is, when you first signup, go through the whole course, but do it in review mode, don’t do any action step, don’t try and complete the actual activities in the course, just go through everything because it is going to be overwhelming, just like you said, how do I cover all these things that you were talking about, to a degree.
I want you to just see the picture, you are trying to paint, from A to Z, even though most of it is just way too overwhelming to try and learn everything at once, but I want you to kind of see the map of the process you are going to work, so you can then place yourself on that map, and then you can make that decision, okay, my next step is actually this, it could just be like, I need to figure out my next topic, I don’t even know what I am trying to do for people, what problem I am trying to solve, if that’s your position on this map, you go, okay, I need to go talk to more people, to learn more about their problems, so you don’t do any online marketing at all, it just comes down to talking to people, it could be talking on Facebook, or something like that, but that could be the step.
However, if you are coming at this and you already know your expertise, like I am the best lower back pain expert, I want to start selling my information on this subject, you don’t have to choose your problem, you know what the problem is, so that’s not your first step. Your first step is going, okay, I know the map, again, identifying what I need to do, I need a domain name and a landing page, and a blog, and I need to write my first 10 articles so I can start my presence online, and that’s a different first step, because that’s choosing a domain name, it’s a branding, and naming decision, that’s a completely separate set of skills you have to learn and figure out about, and research to get it done, so it does depend, like if I start today myself, I know, because I don’t have to look at the map, I am very familiar with the map, I still have to determine my problem, to help people solve… I did this very recently with InboxDone, it’s a fairly new company, only less than 2 years old, and it’s like okay, we are going to help people do their email, how are we going to reach them? How are we going to deliver this service, and I knew from my experience, the first thing we had to do is, see if people even want this service, so let’s try and get a test customer and learn everything about the potential future business, helping this test customer, very much like a lean startup methodology.
And because I know online marketing, I didn’t have to go and teach myself, what’s a landing page, what’s an email list, all that stuff, I am beyond that on that map, but if you can’t answer that, you’ve got to learn the map, and go all the way back to those first steps. And that helps dealing with information overload, and this is the secret; you don’t do anything else, you ignore all the rest of the map, because that’s how you get overwhelmed, because you are suddenly exposed to advice on copywriting, advice on flip testing, advice on product creation, people telling you that you need to be doing Facebook ads and you need to be doing your YouTube channel and you should be blogging, why don’t you do a webinar and say, okay. It’s too much, and you don’t even know where that fits in the map, but you have to ignore that, and your only decision is, I got to make a domain name, that’s so much clearer and that’s one task, you are going to get it done, so I am a big fan of chunking down and ignoring everything else.
Welly Mulia: Okay, great advice. So, with online training programs, online courses, just now you mentioned about one of the problems that people face is about, they are not an expert, they don’t believe in themselves, they don’t believe their skills, knowledge or experience can be sold, what would you say to these people, like they say, I am not an expert at anything, so I don’t have anything of value to give to other people, so how do you actually… what would you say to someone like that?
Yaro Starak: Well, if that’s the truth, they don’t really have any kind of knowledge, like there’s the people who are actual beginners, and they shouldn’t be teaching, and there’s the people who do know something, they have lived through something, they have experience to share, they just don’t have self-belief, there is that little voice inside their head saying, I am not an expert, I don’t have a degree qualification, so no one should pay me for this, that’s different, that person needs to understand that, the internet in particular is not about having a qualification, it’s about having results, so if you have lived through an experience of fixing that lower back pain, you can go on the internet and explain what you did to fix it and immediately make an impact on other human beings, you may not call yourself an expert, but that other person who benefitted from your advice would see you as very helpful, because hopefully your advice helped them with their back as well, so that’s the difference, it’s a result.
Now, certain fields certainly do require expertise, you can’t go teaching brain surgery without having being through medical training, but if you take away say the medical and the legal profession, most other professions, or not even professions, most other areas where you solve people’s problems do not necessarily need a qualification, like you don’t have to get an NBA to start a business, you don’t have to get an engineering degree to go and build a shed in your backyard and sell those sheds online. Or sell how to make a shed online with information products.
So, like I said, it’s all about the results you’ve gotten for yourself, you’ve got for other people, sharing what you know online, that’s what YouTube is all about, I feel like you don’t have to prove this point, go on to YouTube, look at almost all the whole popular channels and ask yourself, how many of those people are official experts with some kind of qualification for what they are talking about on YouTube? Almost none of them, so it is certainly not necessary to succeed.
If on the other hand you are a true beginner, maybe you are very young and you have gone to school and you haven’t focused on anything, although most people, early teenagers, they might get into coding or they might get into some kind of science they love, or sport they love. So, often, you can still… I know when I was 18, I did not consider myself an expert and had to go through a bunch of experiences to make me someone of knowledge. That’s why when I started to blog, 7 years later, I started blogging after I was 18, it wasn’t till I was 25, I started the blog, the only reason that blog worked was because I was telling stories from all the things I did, whether they worked or they didn’t work, in the last 7 years, and that for me, the most important advice was to do something.
So, for anyone who is in that boat, I would say, go learn and do through experience, that would give you the building blocks for whatever it is you might end up helping people do in the future, but until that happens, you have to go and learn and live and deliver results to yourself and other people first, solve problems basically and then you can potentially teach those solutions in the future.
Welly Mulia: So, before you wrap up. If you can only give one advice to people who want to build a successful online course business, what would that be?
Yaro Starak: Only one? Again it is hard to know where everyone is coming at this, I do know from my experience, there are two types of people, those who are clear on their problem and what they help people with, and those who are not. So, I would say the one thing to do if you are not clear on what you help people with is, go spend some time with people, and help them to learn about their problem I think there is nothing better you can do than… let’s stick with this back example, go to talk to other people online who complain about their back, see what they are doing, what they have tried and what hasn’t worked, talk to them, it could be some Facebook group, it can be some online [inaudible 49:14] or Reddit, whatever it is, wherever the people talk about bad backs, I am not even sure, read the comments and not the person’s blog. If you do know what your problem is you help people with, and you are excited about creating a course around this area, your one most important thing I would say, is to learn the framework as I mentioned before, of what it takes to sell online, if you are new to this, there is so much free information obviously… I am one person, Welly, you are another who provide resources on learning the system, and to make it very practical, if I was to say the one most important thing to do in the system is actually to grow your email list, I know that would always be the best advice I can give people from a practical stand point, because you can make a lot of mistakes, but if you always have a list that is growing every day, you’ve got an audience that is always paying attention to you, so you can keep trying, you can launch your product and it cannot do well, you can change it, you can ask for feedback, you can interact with people, you can try different product types, different product pricing, and as long as you’ve got that steadily growing audience, it gives you options, you can start a whole new business with that as I have done many times now, some worked and some didn’t. So, it’s an amazing asset, there is no better asset, just by being such an old technology with email, relatively speaking, it is still the most powerful tool we have for marketing and starting businesses.
Welly Mulia: So, when you mentioned about the learning framework, you mentioned you have resource for that? Can you tell us where people who are listening to this can learn this framework about what you just said?
Yaro Starak: Yeah, I mean, if you are the kind of person who just wants a concise handout document, like a short report, which is also available in audio. You will know this very well Welly, my blog profit blueprint, it’s the most successful teaching resource I have ever released, over 200,000 people have gone through it, and you can find it either at BlogProfitsBlueprint.com or head to my blog; Yaro.blog, or Google ‘Yaro’, I am usually on the first or second page, and you can find the blog of Yaro and the podcast of Yaro, and the blueprint is available there as well.
Welly Mulia: Great. To, listeners, I highly recommend to check it out because I have been following Yaro like I said just now for a very long time, and the content he puts out is very solid. I am also one of his students back many years ago, with your membership site mastermind, and till this date, I still follow Yaro, reading his blog, listening to his podcast.
So, is there anything else you would like to add Yaro before we end the show?
Yaro Starak: I just want to say thanks Welly for being such a long-term reader, I love getting to talk to people who have been there since the really early days, like before cranky ads, membership mastermind, you remember me doing long hair videos, it’s changed a lot since then. I do appreciate your long term attention, and I am so glad to have played a part with your success, even a small part with my course, so just keep up the good work.
Welly Mulia: Yeah, sure. So, one more thing before I end. Because you mentioned about the membership step mastermind with your long curly hair back then. I don’t want people to be overtly… sometimes people over think. I remember you deliver lessons just via playing old emails and giving people generic passwords, so every member would have the same password…
Yaro Starak: Yeah, you got it, no one knew this, you might have figured that out. Obviously I told people in membership site mastermind, that blog mastermind; my first ever course, it was literally a word press site, with a password protected section, you can even do this by default with word press, but I had my tech person do it, and then I had created one username and one password, and every customer got a welcome, when they joined, they gave them the same username and password, but no one knew, they all thought they had the password and username, but they didn’t…
Welly Mulia: Maybe because I am into the technical side, because I have been creating all these softwares, so I probably had an advantage that other people don’t have. So, I think I suspected it was a generic password that everyone shares same password. So, wat I wanted to point out here is that, you don’t necessarily have to over-complicate things especially with tech, if you can start like what Yaro did, having a simple setup, you don’t have to create a username account for every single member, you can just start the simple way and when you get momentum and traction, you can hire people to set up the tech side for you and your system. So, it doesn’t always have to be tech-perfect from day one, that is the message I wanted to get across to you guys.
Alright Yaro, thank you again for sharing your experience, I appreciate it, and thank you to the listeners for listening.
Yaro Starak: Thanks Welly, good luck everyone.
Welly Mulia: If you are not listening to this on our website, go to academy.birdsend.co/4 to get your show notes. This show is brought to you by BirdSend Email and Marketing Tool; the only email and marketing tool specifically created for online course creators. Get your free forever account at birdsend.co.
Yaro Starak on How To Get Results Without Overwhelm
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