What you will learn
- How John got started from scratch to making almost $300,000 in just 2.5 years.
- His strategy to grow his audience from day 1
- How he decides what kind of product to create
- His #1 regret and how it can improve your business
John is a massive inspiration.
I remember discovering him on one of his first podcasts when he interviewed Rand Fishkin, he was shy, asking for advice but had an interesting concept: posting an interview every single day.
Fast forward 2.5 years, John is rocking a multi million dollar information product empire powered up by his daily podcast (over 1,000 released already).
Actually, he came up on top of our recent How to make money blogging case study above bloggers that have been doing this for many more years.
So what is his secret?
Here are just a few nuggets I got out of the interview:
- His consistency and the sheer amount of free content he has out there gives him a LOT of exposure.
- He gives a TON of free value before he asks you to make a purchase with him. His free podcasting course gives you almost 3 hours of video.
- He niched down. He did 1 thing right (interviewing entrepreneurs) and became THE authority on the topic.
If that podcast with John inspired you to start your own podcast, I suggest you check out John’s free podcasting course and listen to his interviews on Entrepreneur on fire!
Welcome to the Authority Hacker podcast, the place to learn incredibly actionable marketing tips to dominate your niche. Now your host, Gael Breton.
Gael: Hey guys, welcome to the new Authority Hacker podcast episode. We took a little break from the podcast to think about how it went, we are actually still thinking about where we want to take it to make it different, but at the same time make it efficient for business. But I really wanted to do that one podcast because about two weeks ago we released that massive analyses of the top 23 bloggers that actually document their income, and we tried to understand what makes a blog profitable and the different business models and their profitability, and a bunch of stats. So if you haven’t checked it out, I recommend you go on Authority Hacker blog and that is actually the most popular blog, so you’ll see it on your right side bar quickly. That actually went very well, we got basically thousands of visits and the traffic is still going. To give you an idea, the traffic is still doubled every day than it was before we released it, so we are definitely seeing the rewards from creating a 15,000 word blog post. And on top of that blog post, there was John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur On Fire, who has started only two and a half years ago and made $298,000 in May, that’s just so much money and I really wanted to just go and talk to him to try and understand what made him do so well so quickly. And I really like John, because he is super transparent and he is just willing to share everything and he is just going to give you everything in the podcast, I’m sure you guys are going to love it. And to be honest, I had a really big epiphany talking to him, and one epiphany I had was when I asked him how many podcast downloads he gets per month and he told me around 1 million which is impressive, but he was like, “You know, the reason I get 1 million podcast downloads is not because my episodes go super viral, the reason why is because I have been consistently doing it every day and I have over 8,000 episodes live right now.” Which means that yeah, he actually gets only a 1,000 downloads per episode, but that’s what gets him to create that massive audiences, because he has been able to do regular posting and do it daily so that speeds up the growth very quickly. So, yeah that was definitely something I learned from him but there is plenty of other things and I’ll just let you guys listen to the interview, I’m sure you are going to love it, and I’ll see you at the end.
Gael: Hey John, thank you for joining, how are you today?
John: I am on fire, prepared to ignite all of the above.
Gael: That’s amazing. And, that’s like the best answer I’ve ever had to that question.
Gael: But, I just want to put all in perspective, because we did that roundup of bloggers like two and a half weeks ago now, and you came very high in terms of earnings. But at the same time, people don’t realize how young your website is. So when did you get started with Entrepreneur On Fire actually?
John: Yes, I would say it was mid 2012 when I actually purchased the domain, but nothing really was driving any traffic to it whatsoever until September 22nd of 2012, because that’s the day that I launched the podcast. And the podcast was really my first foot in the door so to speak in this online entrepreneurship world. So, September 2012 which I think puts us in about two and a half years.
Gael: Wow, that’s very impressive, because if you compare it to like a lot of other bloggers to reach the level where you are at right now, they often take like 2 or 3 times more time. And I definitely hope to get to your point when I am at your timestamp.
John: Well, I have no doubt from what I have seen from you that that will be the case.
Gael: I’m working on that. What was your background before, did you run other online businesses like, what did you do before that?
John: It’s just my complete first step on entrepreneurship, it was like somebody stepping up to the play in the major league of baseball just closing his eyes or her eyes, and swinging and just randomly hitting a homerun, I mean a lot of luck was involved, a lot of hard work was involved, but prior to September 2012, I had nothing to do with the online entrepreneurship world. I was in corporate finance, commercial real estate, I was an officer in the US army, I was in law school, so nothing at all to do with online entrepreneurship which I think is what a lot of people do find kind of inspiring, is that there is an opportunity for some of that wants to come in, work really hard at a very specific niche. A lot of people don’t look at Entrepreneur on Fire as super niche now, but when I started all I was focused on, a 100% was a daily podcast interview with the successful entrepreneur, nothing else mattered, that was my one focus and I’ve been able to grow the empire from that one focus, but I had to start there, that was critical.
Gael: Yeah, that totally makes sense, and actually, like one of my later questions I am just going to bring it now because it makes sense- there is a lot of debate with other online marketers on whether you should start building products first, or you should build the audience first. And obviously, you build the audience first, but if you had to do it again, would you still go that way?
John: 100%. And the reason is, and I think there is two different paths here and I am not saying that either one is absolutely correct, and I am not saying you cannot find success in both ways, because I believe you can. But for me, the most preferred method by far is building that audience. And I can kind of take you through a really quick reasoning on why I believe that is a case. And it all comes back to a quote that I love by Albert Einstein, which is, “Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.” And for me, the first 32 years of my life result was all result of me trying to become a person of success and failing because of it, I was trying to make money, to get fame, to get fortune and I was failing, failing, failing. But then, when I flipped over that sentence and realized, I’m just going to deliver a value. Nothing else, free valuable and consisting content and that is the only focus that I have, that to me is going to be my new stab at this theory of just being a person of value. And because of that, over six months there was nothing, there was no revenue, there was no real sign of potential income, but there was a great way of an audience being built. And then, I could look at my audience at the six months point and I could just ask them say, “Hey, Fire nation, I’ve been providing free valuable consistent content for you, I am going to continue to do so but I do have a question for you right now- what is the number one struggle that you have?” And then I just listened. And this was an audience that knew and trusted me. So they answered, and they answered honestly and I was able to hear their pain points, their problems or obstacles, and then me, their trusted source of information and content and value was able to provide the solution and that solution then turned into products and communities like podcast’s paradise, like Webinar on Fire, like the Fire path and the fire nation that generate significant revenue for our business. But the reality is, I would have had no idea what kind of product to create because I didn’t have anybody to ask what they were struggling with, and then I wouldn’t have had anybody to offer that product to because I didn’t have an audience that knew, light and trusted me, I was a nobody; I had to take that route and that was important to me so I believe that if you are in the similar situation as me when I started which is you don’t have that credibility and authority yet, building an audience is a great way, but if you actually do kind of have an audience for any number of reasons, then you can start looking at those products a lot sooner.
Gael: Yeah, that totally makes sense, I mean but didn’t you doubt at some point, I am sure you agree with that theory on day one, but when you are still providing content and I guess you are full time on this- and you see your bank account go down slowly, and you are like, “Oh my God, should I still keep going?” How did you keep going about that?
John: That was exactly what was happening. But I just had to have different measurement sticks for success. My measurement stick for success wasn’t the fact that I was generating revenue or generating even more revenue because I wasn’t generating any, my measurement for success was the amount of listens on my podcast going up as the engagement on my website going up, and the answer to those questions was all yes and to me that was the measurement stick to success I was using and that worked out really well.
Gael: Cool. That totally makes sense. So how did you go about growing the audience actually, because when you just get started on iTunes or wherever, it’s very hard to get any kind of visibility. And you grew that pretty fast. So in a few words, how did you go about recruiting that massive audience you have today?
John: So the most important thing I did was really look at my UVD- unique value distinguisher. And I was like, “How can I bring something different to this podcasting world, there are already people out there that are interviewing entrepreneurs that are being successful doing it, what I am going to do differently?” And my big UVD was the seven days a week, nobody was even touching that, you couldn’t even find somebody doing two or three days a week, so this was going to be a big, significant difference maker for me as far as a podcast, and then number two- I was really going to make my questions evoke unique stories from my guests, so I had everyone of my guests even to this day share their worst entrepreneurial moments and the reality is, most people when they are being interviewed are only talking about their successes and what they are doing now and strategies and tips and that’s great, but that makes very repetitive interviews, so that when those interviews go live, that guest might be like, yeah well that was a great interview but I’m not going to share an identical interview with my audience, whereas when the interviews on Entrepreneur on Fire went live, I was saying, Seth Godin , Tim Ferris, Gary Vaynerchuk , you shared an amazing story, that failure moment that you shared that was deep, like I know your audience would love to hear that story, and because it was unique and because it was different, a lot of my guests and almost all of them in fact, really shared that interview they did on Entrepreneur on Fire with their audience. So just picture, every single day seven days a week, 365 days a year I have a massive, successful and inspiring entrepreneur sharing their journey on Entrepreneur on Fire with their audience, which is daily driving traffic back to my site, back to my podcast, this continuously increasing subscribers, views, listens, you name it, it’s going up.
Gael: Just out of curiosity and feel free to share it or not, but what do your numbers in terms of downloads and people coming on your site and opting in and etc, look like today?
John: You can’t ask me a question about numbers that I won’t answer, that’s one thing I pride myself on, I mean I share everything, our income reports, every single month we release them and they are in detail to the penny of all of our income and revenue generated, all of our expenses and money that we spent on any number of things, everything is just dialed into the penny, I even have my CPA, my certified account come on and verify every single thing because I want people to know not only are we sharing everything but everything is a 100% legit, like that’s very important for me to have that really epic level of trust with my readers and my listeners. So with Entrepreneur on Fire we did recently a couple of month ago we hit a pretty big milestone, but we are now consistently generating over a million listens per month of the podcast. But what is really cool is when I post, and I do often post actual stats, I show my statistics going all the way back to day 1, it’s not some hockey stick which a lot of people hear about like nothing and then a sharp incline up, it is a steady, slow, gradual growth, that just kind of compounds on top of itself. It looks like a mountain side, it’s just going up, up, up, up, like a very steady graph, and that’s what I really think people need to realize that I got to a million listens a month after about 850 interviews. So, if you are not into million listens a month yet- let me ask you are you at 850 episodes yet, and the answer is likely no, because, I actually have the most podcast episodes released of any podcast that I know in the business sector of now over a 1,000, so I really just continue t be consistent with that daily podcast episodes. So, we get over million listens per month, but again, my focus from the beginning, and still to this day is Entrepreneur on Fire the podcast, I love Entrepreneur on Fire.com, that’s our headquarters, we have a lot of great stuff there, but that is really just a headquarters for those people who want to go back and get more information about our income reports, or look at the show notes page from our guest. It’s not the focus of our business, our focus is driving people to the podcast, to the listenership and driving that up and that’s why we are consistently a top ten business podcasts in all of iTunes which we are really excited about. So our visits per month average out at about 100 000 visits per month, typically between 3,000 to 4,000 per day. We are very consistent like just yesterday, it was king of a bigger day than normal, we had 4,500 visits for the day, and the good percentage of our visitors are new visitors which I like to see, about 65%, and, I have actually been working with you on a couple cool projects to capture more of our visitors that we are having for email subscribers using different formats and forms and stuff like that which has been really successful so I want to thank you for that live. And it’s been fun, so and again yes, it’s always open range for numbers with me.
Gael: Cool. And, you sell a lot of products, Podcasters’ Paradise is one of sale products. So to consistently make good numbers for your company every month you need to keep bringing sales in, do you recruit all of them from your audience from your podcast, or do you get people from other channels as well?
John: So the best thing that we did for something like Podcasters’ Paradise which consistently generates over a $100 000 a month, and in fact when we run promotions it’s much higher than that. So we are just about to release the main income report here in early June, and we had our biggest month ever for Podcasters’ Paradise which was $400,000 in invoice total which was because of a big promotion that we did, we closed the doors to Paradise so a lot of people came in, but you can see that when you do create a large audience, you continue to serve for a very long time and then you offer them something that makes sense for them that trust is there to really make that happen, so that’s been very important for us from day one. And really the biggest and best thing that we did is something called free podcast course, and this is a 15 day 15 email course that people sign up for, it’s completely free and I take them through the entire process of creating, growing and monetizing their podcast in 15 days and there has been over 12,500 people who have gone through that course and what’s been awesome about that, is that now it’s turned into our best targeting mechanism for Podcasters’ Paradise, because people get down with that course and it’s a complete course of immense value but now there is a lot of people that do want more, and that more is Podcasters’ Paradise. So it’s been a great funnel and a great way to just continue to deliver more value to more people.
Gael: Yeah, I mean, that makes sense. A lot of people especially in the audience just keep telling me, “Why would you give all that free stuff then people don’t want to buy your product?” But we have actually realized that yeah, the more we give away, the more it works. So there is 15 lessons in the course or something and there is like 10 minutes videos so it’s basically 3 hours of video or something?
John: Yeah, that’s it, 15 video tutorials, pretty much between 5 to 20 minutes at most each and I would actually flip that sentence around, when people ask the question to me, they ask it out of naivety because they just don’t know any better, they say, “Why would people buy your stuff when you are giving away stuff for free?” My answer is, “Why would people buy your stuff if you are not giving stuff away for free?” Like if you are not proving your value, you need to be a person who is proving yourself as someone who is going to deliver high quality, high value, build up that credibility and authority first, and then you can offer something that does actually cost dollars and cents but until you have proven yourself, why should anybody part with their heart and money?
Gael: Yeah, and you do it a lot more than your competition, the competition will give like one video, two videos and then they would be like, “Please check out now.”
John: Yeah, my proudest thing about free podcast course is it’s a complete course, there is nothing that leaves you hanging, it is how to create, grow and monetize your podcast, it is all you need to launch your podcast. I have also written a book, that’s the number one ranked book in all of Amazon on podcasting, called “Podcast Launch” which I also give away to people for free that join this course and that book alone can launch your podcast, like these are all tools that I am giving people and saying, “Hey if you want more community, if you want more ongoing support, if you want more tutorials that are in depth and specific and really detailed about different things of podcasting, Podcasters’ Paradise is for you, but if you are just looking to try this thing out, to test our podcasting to see if it’s for you, this is going to get you there completely for free.”
Gael: Cool. Well, John thank you very much for joining. I just have one last question for you, which is- you do a lot of things right obviously, but I am sure you regret some things. What are they?
John: You know, there is definitely things that I’ve regretted. The entire time that I’ve been an entrepreneur, things that I’ve done and kind of regretted and usually it comes down to and this has been so similar for all of my past guests, is when I am about to agree to do something, that just doesn’t feel right with my gut or my intuition and that usually comes down to joint ventures and partnerships, entrepreneurs they are really smart people and they are hostile and they are trying to do good things, and once you build a large audience everybody wants a piece of your time, everybody wants a piece of your audience and so you get this too good to be true joint venture opportunities and sadly, they usually are too good to be true. And so many people seem to over-promise and under-deliver and so then I have a few times exposed my audience to these circumstances where I thought this is going to be a perfect fit both for me, for the person offering it and for Fire nation, I always wanted to be a win-win-win, but then unfortunately sometimes that other entrepreneur hasn’t come through and it does reflect badly on me. So, I have really made a point in 2015 to be very careful and very committed to doing some deep thinking of who I work with and the joint ventures that I undertake and I would really just kind of appeal to people that are listening now to do that from day 1, there is a great by Warren Buffet that says, “It takes a lifetime to build up a respect but a minute to ruin it all,” and that is true. So I think it’s very important to go into every situation with that mindset, with that thought process and realize that, “Hey, I need to always be putting my audience first and foremost and make sure that this is right for them, and that is how I am going to have a committed long-term valuable relationship with that audience.”
Gael: I think that makes sense, that’s how we do it in Authority Hacker as well. That’s also why we release so few podcasts but they are usually very in depth.
Gael: But I am struggling to find people I want to have on the podcast.
John: Why you rush me off, we still have 10 minutes?
Gael: Do we?
Gael: All right. So, ok I have another question then: is podcasting still easy to jump in, because I’ll be honest, I feel like you came in at a great time and I feel that now everyone has a podcast, I mean, you open iTunes now you have like Tim Ferris, you have Gary Vaynerchuk, you have Pat Flynn that’s been there for years, can you still make room for yourself doing a podcast or should people think about new ways of going about this?
John: Yeah, I’ll be straight up and looking back in hindsight, I did jump in in a very good time, no doubt. But the reality is when I jumped in everybody was saying, “O dude, you are way too late to the game, there is Pat Flynn, there is Andrew Warner, there is so and so,” and I was like, “Oh man I wish I did this two years ago,” so there is always going to be two years ago. There is a great quote that I love, it’s a Chinese proverb, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, but the second best time is today.” And that’s just the reality of life, I mean you can sit there and moan, and kind of whine and regret the fact and bemoan the fact that you didn’t launch a podcast two years ago, or four years ago or six years ago, or you can just launch a podcast and get it out there. And one thing that I really stress to people that is more important now than it was two years ago is you need to really find that UVD, what is going to be your unique value distinguisher, like what is going to make you different. And honestly, the answer to that question usually is being willing to niche down until it hurts. I mean, really just find that one topic that you think you can be best. Like, where is that podcast that’s just the best email copy podcast, where they just teach people how to write the best email sequences and infusionsoft. Like that niche find that super niche thing and don’t be like every other entrepreneur including myself thinking at the beginning that you know, “Oh no, I am going to be too niche and I’m going to have such a small audience and I’m going to leave out all these other people,” that’s the exact wrong attitude because if you try to resonate with everybody, you are going to resonate with no one, you need to start with that niche that hurts, because it’s so small, it’s so tiny and make a name for yourself, make a podcast name for yourself, start getting some momentum, and then, as those fans come, as that raving fan base start and you get that momentum, then you can start to broaden out, but you can’t do with the other way around.
Gael: Ok, but like how would you brand yourself then so that you can talk about that niche but then have the opportunity to broaden up later, so you’ve done it really well with Entrepreneur on Fire but for example, I am thinking about like Pat Flynn and Food Truckr, right, he has a podcast about food trucks but like isn’t it going to be hard for him to just brought them up and actually expand past that niche?
John: Yeah, but I mean that’s why it’s on a separate podcast, so if you ever want to move in a different direction, now he can release another podcast that is in that new direction that he wants or that new niche that he wants and cross pollinate and co mingle it with the Food Truckr podcast in the intros, in the outros, and just different opportunities and with this audience that he has, and that’s a really valuable opportunity. For instance, like I have launched 2 archive podcasts, archive 1 and archive 2 which is my episodes 100- 300, and 300-600 and the reason why you have to do that is because once you get to the 300 episodes in iTunes, that’s where your feed stops as far as you get to 302, then it only goes down to 2. You get up to 400, it only goes down to 100, it only keeps your latest 300 episodes. So I’ve had to go back and do my first 600 episodes that can no longer be found on my current feed, but now on the intros of every single one of those episodes, I am saying, “Hey, this is an archive episode, thank you for joining me, I’d love for you to check our free podcast course, it’s a completely 15 day free course how to create, grow, montage your podcast, and then go ahead and make sure you are subscribed to the actual Entrepreneur on Fire podcast to get the latest and greatest podcasts that I am releasing every single day.” So that cross pollination is a great option.
Gael: Cool. Another question I had personally, and I think that’s going to put a lot of people’s work ethic in perspective is how many hours do you work a week and how do you organize it? You went very fast, so I want to know how much work was put behind that.
John: A ton of time. And that’s another thing that I really detail out within my income reports, is just how much work I put in. Many know it, anywhere from a minimum of 60, anywhere to as high as 80 some weeks, that was just me sitting on my computer in my living room, overlooking the bay here in San Diego and just cranking out work, and working on the weekends, and just continuing to do so and it’s something that I do of choice and I will say it’s also something where in 2015 after putting in really 2 full seasons of work which will be 2013 and 2014, saying, “You know what, now that I’ve put in those seasons of work I’m going to look to take more things off my plate.” And I continue to do that in 2015 which to be honest, hasn’t so much decreased the amount of hours that I work, but it has opened up a lot more free time for me, so it’s kind of like a period where I can just on things that I want.
Gael: So you first have to grind it out for the first 2 years and 60 to 80 hours is a lot.
John: I am not saying 2 years is the magic number, you’ve got to grind it out until you have got there and then once you- I was able to sit back at the beginning of 2015 say like I am consistently generating $200 000 a month, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon, my system is in place, what can I do now to free up some time for me, and then starting to put those things in place.
Gael: And what’s your goal, what do you want to do with- let’s imagine that business is going to be running, obviously you are going to be working but you don’t need to build new systems necessarily all the time; do you have goals that go past building the company?
John: Yeah, I actually look at entrepreneurship kind of like saying avocado, when you first buy that avocado I mean, it’s probably perfect because you tested it at the store, and you just bought it as brand new, but man, if that avocado sits there it’s just going to rot. And so, for me, like it’s always about buying the new avocados, like I am always interchanging out things within free podcast course, within Podcasters’ Paradise, within my podcast with new and different things like for instance my intros on Entrepreneur on Fire are now different for anybody that has listened in the last couple of days where I am now saying, “Hey, if you want to join free podcast course just text “podcastcourse” to 33444 and you’ll opt in for free, it’s an easy way for you to opt in.” People who are on their smartphones they are opting in right now as we are speaking to that free course and that’s a cool way, and something brand new that came up but because I am not letting myself rot as an entrepreneur, and continuing to improve I am seeing that success. So, that’s been huge, Gael, and I will say now- we are coming to our tie up, so what’s the final countdown answer, or a question?
Gael: I just want to say thank you, we went over a lot in 30 minutes, usually we go a lot less in a lot more time sometimes, you definitely delivered, thank you very much for coming and I hope people learned something listening to that, that was great, thanks.
John: If they listen they learn, that’s what I can guarantee. [laugh]
Gael: Cool. Well, thank you for listening guys, and we’ll see you in the next episode.
Alright guys, so there you have it, this is the interview with John Lee Dumas and almost 300,000 per month blogger/ podcaster and that really motivates me when I talk to people like that. And I don’t know if you heard, but John has a free podcast course that you can join on free podcastcourse.com, you just go there, you get the 15 video course and you don’t necessarily have to buy his product it’s good as well, but it’s a free course that you can join and you can go a bunch of value if you want to start a podcast. I wish I went through that before we started Authority Hacker we made a bunch of mistakes, it made me bang my head on the wall a bit, sometimes, so if you are considering starting a podcast and following his footsteps then I definitely recommend you go and take the course on freepodcastcourse.com. So, that’s it for this episode, I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please don’t forget to rate us on iTunes and like us and subscribe to us and so on and I’ll talk to you in the next episode.
Thank you for listening to the Authority Hacker podcast. If you liked this episode, don’t forget to rate us on iTunes and we’ll give you a shout out in the next episode. If you want more, 100% free niche marketing tutorials and hacks, head over to authorityhacker.com.