Undercover Success Series #4 – How Josh Dunlop Turned a Hobby Into A 7 Figure Authority Site

What you will learn

  • How creating great offers propelled Expert Photography to a 7 figure business
  • Why ads can be easier to scale than content
  • How hiring the wrong people can be as costly as any other mistake
  • Why Josh has not even considered launching a second site
Josh Dunlop

In today’s episode, Mark is joined by Josh Dunlop. Josh is the Founder and CEO of Expert Photography – a photography site that helps you understand your camera and take great photos.

In the fourth episode of the Undercover Success Series, Josh tells Mark the story of Expert Photography and explains how he has grown the site into a 7 figure authority site.

How Did You Get Started With Expert Photography?

It all started for Josh when he landed his first paid gig as a photographer. He knew he wanted to be a photographer.

Marketing had always been in the family, his dad and brother were both involved in marketing. So Josh thought that he would set up a website to drum up some interest and to sell his services.

His brother helped him set up a site and Josh got started blogging about photography in the hope of attracting some clients.

However, he quickly realized how bad the photography content that as out there actually was. He thought that he could do better than that so went about trying to make the best photography content out there.

You had Never Run a Site Before, Did you Follow Any Guide or Training Program?

No. His brother helped out a bit. He got Josh started with the blog and showed him a few of the basics but Josh was more or less trying, failing and then trying again.

He was writing content 3 days per week and wasn’t even a photography expert in the beginning. In fact, a few of the original posts have now been unpublished.

In fact, it took around three and a half years before the site became an actual business. Everything changed when Josh learned how to create a proper funnel with a tripwire upsell.

Tripwire Ebook Sales Page Example
Tripwire Ebook Sales Page

Basically, Josh’s business began to take off when he learned how to create an irresistible offer.

Monetization – Is Your Method to Collect Emails from the Blog and Push Them through to Buy The digital Products?

Not really. The blog is great for Josh and it provides a lot of free traffic but it is just not as scalable in his eyes.

Josh now uses paid ads to drive traffic to his site. He sees this as much more scalable and a lot easier to do than creating content.

For Josh, he finds it a lot easier to use paid ads where he knows what he is spending and can more or less calculate what he will get back than to manage an entire content creation process.

In his mind, if you can create a high converting offer, you have cracked it.

However, Josh admits that if he had invested the money he has spent on content rather than on ads, he would be a rich man today.

When Did The Paid Traffic Pay Off?

It was a friend of Josh that really got him into FB ads. His friend, Brian Moran, showed him how to do it and Josh started to play about to find out what worked.

After some initial experimentation, Josh realised that he was more or less earning a dollar for every dollar he was spending.

This was when he introduced a proper funnel with a tripwire and it really took off from there. From the ads, he sold around $30k worth of tripwire ebooks.

From there on in, paid traffic was his number one priority.

How Many People Work For You?

Josh now has a team of people working for him – both at his base in Budapest and then a number of remote people around the world.

In-house, he has his assistant, a videographer and a community manager.

He also has a Filipino assistant that does the customer support on evenings and weekends, a FB ads guy and an Adwords guy that also doubles up as a copywriter.

Finally, there are a couple of guys that are freelance from Upwork who work on hourly rates. This includes a developer and a designer.

Josh’s first ever hire was his first assistant. Customer service was somewhat overwhelming him. Not just in terms of volume but the fact that Josh was the face of the website, if anyone was pissed off at the site, they were pissed off at him. It was personal.

This was at a time when the site still wasn’t making a lot of money, so it was hard to justify shelling out $800 per month for an assistant but he had to do it to focus on growing the site as much as for his own sanity.

So, Josh hired an assistant to take care of the support but also to take care of all of the $5 per hour work. This allowed him to focus on the things that can actually generate money.

How did the thinking change when you went from a 6 to 7 figure business?

The biggest things about becoming a seven figure business is that you have to have product depth (more products) and you can’t do everything yourself anymore.

Expert Photography Online Courses

Expert Photography Online Courses

You have to realize that there are people that can do things better than you and that you now have the money available to invest in these people.

Everything starts to cost that little bit more but you start to do every little thing better and invest in it as long as you will see a return on that investment.

For example, the videographer is just better at creating and editing videos than Josh. he can shoot the videos, send them over to the videographer. The videographer will then edit the video, clean it up, add the bells and whistles and it will just look fantastic.

Making everything that little bit higher quality makes your business look even more professional, trustworthy and is the reason that people will come back for more.

Have You Made Any Expensive Mistakes Over the Years?

The most expensive mistakes have been hiring mistakes. This year, Josh has stopped working with two employees. One was probably a $5,000 mistake and the other was probably a $10,000 mistake.

If you work for 3-6 months with someone who is not right for you, you have to pay their wages every month but you also spend time interviewing, training and managing people. It adds up to a lot of wasted time and money.

Josh would now rather spend more money on advertising and longer on recruiting to find the right person rather than hire the wrong person.

Other expensive mistakes would be tech hiccups Choosing the wrong software can be expensive.

When Most People Reach 6 or 7 Figures They Start A New Site, Have You Ever Thought About That?

No.

Josh would rather do one thing really well that do two or three things ok.

That’s why it took so long for him to create second and third digital products. He wanted things to be as close to perfect as they could be.

There are no plans to do anything else until Expert Photography gets to the mid seven figures.

Where Do You See The Site in 5 Years? Will You Still Be Running It?

No, Josh won’t still be managing the site day to day in 5 years. In fact, he has plans to hire a general manager for the site in the next 2 years or so.

Then, the site should be able to run day to day without him.

By that point, the site will have 10-15 high converting, evergreen products and they will be spending around $500k per year on advertising.

In 5 years time, who knows? That’s a long way away in the online space.

Will you always be the face of expert photography?
It’s something Josh has thought about and he has looked into the idea of bringing someone else in as the face of the brand.

Josh features in articles and videos on Expert Photogrpahy
Josh features in articles and videos on Expert Photogrpahy

The problem is that they will need an equity share to stay around. He doesn’t want to build up someone’s profile for them just to leave and create their own site.

Recently, Josh has been working with other photographers. This has been a good way of lessening the burden on him and borrowing other photographers’ expertise while still keeping it within the expert photography realm.

It something that Josh struggles with at the moment. There are people who are the absolute face of their site who could almost never sell their site. Josh isn’t quite in that situation. While he is the face of the brand, the content still stands up without him (as has been shown by the collaborations with other photographers).

What is Your Typical Day?

Josh in the office in Budapest from Monday to Friday.

Every morning, they have a standup meeting at 10am. This is a short meeting where the team discusses what they did yesterday, what their plan is for today and any problems that they are having.

Depending on the time of the year, you will usually find Josh working late and working on something important.

This could be anything from:

  • A new way to advertise
  • A new product launch
  • Developing a new product
  • Working with affiliates
  • Hiring
  • Building a new part of the member area

Josh is involved in almost all major tasks. For example, today Josh did emails, did a bit of work with an affiliate, filmed seven short videos and sent them to the videographer to edit, then he sat down for this interview with Mark.

What Was the One Thing That Made the Biggest Difference In Your Site?

Without a doubt, it was creating a funnel or a high converting offer.

To do this, you can look at other people’s offers. But Josh actually hired a copywriter to create the sales page, write emails and all the other sales content that goes into a launch.

He then used that copy as a template for his next launched. Both launches ended up being successful.

This was particularly pleasing for Josh as the content only cost around $500 in total and converted at 6% and 8.7% respectively across the two launches.

How Do You Create Info Products?

Josh admits that his latest product was dumb luck actually.

He was in San Diego last February and looking to head up to Joshua Tree. When choosing an Airbnb, he noticed one in particular where he was seduced by the photographs.

Before arriving, he dropped the guy a message to say that he was a photographer and ask if there was any nice routes he should check out on the way up to Joshua Tree where he could get nice pictures.

The landlord sent him a list of great locations and said that he was also a photographer.

When Josh got to the apartment, he found the walls adorned with stunning photography and the host mentioned that he gave workshops.

Josh decided to partner up and make a course with the host. They created the course together and then Josh promoted the course and sold it to his list.

The course did so well that Josh went back and recorded another 2 courses as well as promoting the host’s courses to his list so that he has extra business.

How Do You Structure Product Launches?

This has recently changed, Josh now structures his product launches as follows:

  • Primary email the day before launch – An email is sent out teasing something relating to the course but not actually giving away what the course is.
  • Launch email – Josh used to offer free training but this doesn’t work. Now the tone is “go to the sales page and buy it” with free training offered halfway down the page.

There are also a number of scarcity elements involved. There is a countdown timer, the list is emailed 9 times in 7 days.

The lists are also segmented intelligently. Anyone who has clicked but not purchased the course goes into a separate email sequence. They are sent an email asking if they had a problem with the cart and are given an additional 24h after the offer has closed to purchase the product.

If You Were Starting Again Today, What Would You Do Differently?

If Josh was launching the site again today, he probably wouldn’t build a content site first.

The first thing he would do would be to build a course and to run the traffic to a sales page from lead gen first to warm up the Facebook retargeting pixel.

From there, he would widen the offer to lookalike audiences through Facebook ads.

This obviously requires some capital to invest in ads from day one but in Josh’s opinion it would be the best approach for him.

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3 Comments

  1. This is a different perspective, since this guy seems to believe in paid traffic as opposed to organic search traffic. I guess everyone has their favorite when it comes to traffic source.

    Most interesting interview I ever watched – Mark came with his notes on stage and keep cross checking the questions… the camera man even gave us a sneak peek into the questions… :) Funny.

    However, I waited to hear how AH Pro affected his business, but it seems he didn’t take the course yet?

    1. Hi Geoffrey,
      Thanks for watching. Josh is an AH Pro member. These aren’t meant to be testimonials. Rather, it’s a chance to get different perspectives from different AH Pro members. Despite his silver hair, Josh is quite young and I don’t know many other people who are as successful as he is at such a young age. You can always learn something from this guy.
      Hope you enjoy the rest of the series!
      Mark

  2. Hey Gael, loving the series so far.

    Today’s episode seems to be mis-linked in iTunes. It has the correct transcript but wrong audio (it’s the previous ep). Had to come here to listen!

    Just thought I’d give you the heads up!

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