By Yaro Starak
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Leslie Samuel first came to my attention as a standout student of my Blog Mastermind 1.0 program way back in 2008. He also enrolled in my Become A Blogger video course, co-created with my friend Gideon Shalwick.
Once Gideon and I were ready to move on to other projects, we decided we didn’t want Becomeablogger.com to just disappear, so we approached Leslie as the top candidate to take over. Leslie was eager, and we began the transition process.
Today Leslie is in charge of Becomeablogger.com, but he’s done so much more than just continue to build that brand and company.
As you will hear in this entrepreneurs journey story, Leslie spent a number of years juggling all kinds of different roles, including biology teacher and university professor, affiliate marketer, coach and blogger.
He managed to start a biology blog from scratch, that generates as much as 100,000 visitors a month and at one point was bringing in $2,000 a month in advertising and product sales income. This blog grew off the back of a popular YouTube channel, so Leslie happens to be quite a pro at online video and streaming video too.
What really amazes me the most about Leslie’s story is he is yet another person who at one point in his past was working a full time job, had multiple online projects going at once, and became a new father at the same time!
Needless to say, this became an untenable situation. Eventually Leslie had to make the big decision, leaving his university teaching days behind and going online full time.
If you want to learn how he managed this transition, in particular how he earned enough money online to feel confident enough to leave his job, listen in all the way until the end of the episode.
I hope you enjoy this journey as much as I did.
YARO: Hello, this is Yaro and welcome to the Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast. Today’s guest is Leslie Samuel.
Hey, this is Yaro and thank you for joining me on today’s episode of the Entrepreneurs Journey Podcast. My guest today, Leslie, is a long time friend now and originally we connected because he was one of the best students of my Blog Mastermind Program and also later the Become A Blogger Program which he is now the man in charge of. He’s well known for the Become A Blogger website as well as the Learning With Leslie Podcast. We’re doing the regular Entrepreneurs Journey background study of how Leslie basically transformed from a professor, a teacher, having that sort of mainstream job to becoming well and truly an online entrepreneur with his blog, his podcast, he does a lot of different things.
In particular, I recommend you listen through to the end because Leslie is fantastic at creating multimedia posts based just on a podcast. He has a Pinterest infographic, he does a video, he does the podcast, he does show notes, he does a transcript and all of it is done through an assistant that’s very well trained so listen in to hear how Leslie does that and also check out his podcast to see how he presents all that amazing information. I think you’ll really get a lot out of that.
Now if you are interested in more interviews like this with Leslie I recommend you go to interviewsclub.com and sign up for the newsletter. You will receive an email every time I release a new episode like this one with Leslie. I’ll also send you a series of my very best podcast interviews. You’re going to get the cream of the crop and that’s all a hundred percent free.
Just go to interviewsclub.com and sign up there. Let’s begin the interview now with Leslie.
Hello, this is Yaro Starak and welcome to an Entrepreneurs Journey interview with a long time friend, student, he’s also mentored me just by me watching what he does. We’re actually probably competitors in terms of what we do for business today which is even fun because I love about online business because you can talk to your competitors and we’re not like we’re competitors we’re just helping each other out but primarily we’re helping you out, the listener, with I think will be a really interesting background story on the evolution of an online entrepreneur who used to be a normal person. In a sense that my guest today used to actually a university professor. So I think that’s a really interesting transition from university professor to fulltime blogger. You might know him already, my guess today is Leslie Samuel. Hello Leslie.
Leslie: Hello, I am back. I can’t believe I’m back dude. It’s been like so long, but I’m glad to be back.
Yaro: Yeah, I mean it’s funny you say back because there is a very old podcast in my archives, you can dig up where Leslie was known as The Freebie Guy which is, we’ll cover that, it’s in his story so we definitely got to go back in time and learn about that. Really just to summarize today Leslie you are the man in charge of a domain name that I used to be known for but certainly I’m not and have not been for many, many years now which is becomeablogger.com which is your main business. You make a full time income coaching, teaching people in your membership sites, you also speak at some big events like Social Media Examiner, their conference and yeah you basically you live and breathe the art and science of professional blogging, is that right?
Leslie: That is correct. This is what I do fulltime, Become A Blogger is my main gig. I stole that from you guys a while back and ran with it and I … You talk about the evolution and going from university professor and what I’m doing today, I absolutely love what I’m doing today. I loved what I was doing back then because I love teaching but to be able to do it from home or from wherever I am in the world and to be able to be more in control of what I do I just love it.
Yaro: Yeah, it’s a good point because let’s face it most people work … they put a lot of time in to becoming a university professor. It’s a career in itself just to get to that stage and for you to give that up to go online and create something brand new from scratch in some ways is a pretty big decision. I’d love to really dissect that point because I know when I saw you going through that decision to quit any kind of employment and go full time was a pretty big potentially scary decision. Also because I think you had your first child coming along at that same time, was that right?
Leslie: This was after we had our first child so it was extremely insane, we could talk about all of that but man, yeah, I don’t regret it.
Yaro: Okay Leslie, so much to talk about but let’s put things into context.
Yaro: Leslie Samuel, born and raised in …
Leslie: Saint Martin, the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. If you go there, get to visit you’re going to love it but that’s where I was born and raised until I moved to Michigan for university.
Yaro: Enrolling in a degree in?
Leslie: I started with biochemistry and then I switched to biology. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and in high school I did well in chemistry, I used to tutor people in the library and I figured hey I guess I am doing well in this chemistry stuff let me go ahead and major in that. Realized that I really didn’t care about chemistry, I started getting more interested into biology so I went in that direction.
Yaro: With the intention of what? Graduating and I guess teaching because that’s or actually doing real science and things?
Leslie: Well that actually didn’t happen until after. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I was more interested in biology than in chemistry. Initially I thought maybe I was going to be a doctor but then I got disappointed with the medical field and then eventually when I was a teacher’s assistant in one of my classes and I took one class that I really ended up loving, it was a physiology class and we were talking about the brain and how the nervous system works and I said I’m going on for a masters in neurobiology. I did that and I was planning on going on for the PhD and then becoming a university professor. That didn’t quite happen but that was what I was planning on doing.
Yaro: What happened?
Leslie: What happened was I started doing the research and I realized that I hated research and if you know anything about being a university professor research that’s just a part of the game, right? I was doing my masters in neurobiology, they sent me to Germany to do research and I was literally some days spending as many as 16 hours in a lab dissecting crickets and recording from their neurons.
Now that might sound like a ton of fun to you …
Yaro: No it doesn’t actually.
Leslie: But to me, exactly, it was not a lot of fun and I said you know what I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to just quit on the PhD, so I did my masters, I started teaching at a high school, I knew I wanted to teach and I got to teach. It was kind of like all right, I’ll settle for this.
Yaro: When you say like a school, I´m assuming back in America, not in Germany?
Leslie: Yeah, this was back in America. This was, it was actually a boarding academy so the students actually lived there. You’re their teacher, you’re their parents, you monitor them on weekends, at night. It was insane but it was what I did and I enjoyed the teaching aspect of it.
Yaro: Was that like what you thought of at the time as the start of a career?
Leslie: Yeah because I figured hey I love a teaching, yes I wanted to teach at a university but this is teaching still and it’s still teaching biology and a bunch of other stuff so maybe I’ll do this for a while. I don’t plan hey this is what I’m going to be doing in 10 years, right?
Leslie: It’s just kind of hey this makes sense for right now so let’s go ahead and do it. My wife and I both worked at that academy and yeah that’s …
Yaro: Is that where you met her?
Leslie: No, I met her while I was in college and when I was doing my masters degree that’s when we got close and then we got married right before I finished my masters but when we got married we moved to start teaching immediately basically at that academy.
Yaro: Wow, so how old were you then when that was all happening?
Leslie: This was in 2006, so that means I was 26 years old.
Yaro: Okay, so you’re in your mid 20s, time to start settling down.
Yaro: Get married, thinking about kids, both start working jobs. Was the internet involved in any of your life beyond, I don’t know, just sending emails and basic things like that back then?
Leslie: At that point, well actually I got … I remember in college I took a computer tools class and we started to learn about HTML and I absolutely loved it. I designed my own website, I was like the only one of my friends with a website and I would spend … We had to set up really simple, basic pages in that class and I created this complex website with all kinds of picture albums and all these fancy things, sharing my story, I think I even had an audio file of my group at the time doing some music. I kind of went all in on just the setting up a basic HTML website but that is as much as I was doing in terms of online until 2008.
Yaro: Okay so take us forward, so you’re teaching, you’ve got … you’re married, you’re basically living what you’d consider I guess a normal everyday working Joe kind of life. What happened next?
Leslie: 2008, January 18 that’s when I discovered this whole freebie trading stuff. The last interview we did was in 2008 or 2009 and that was the freebie trading stuff.
Yaro: Eight years ago.
Leslie: Yeah, pretty much. I learned about this way that you can make money with these freebie website that gave you like free iPad, not iPads back then but maybe a free iPod or a free TV if you complete offers, refer others and all that stuff. We don’t have to go all the way into that but that’s the first time I realized hey it’s possible to make money on this internet thing that I enjoy sending emails and networking and all that stuff on.
Yaro: Was that something you kind of discovered while like night times, weekends while still working your job you were actually actively looking for things like that?
Leslie: I stumbled on to it. You come to a sales page that’s promising all these, how much money you can make in 30 days and yada, yada, yada and I was curious. I actually tried a few things before that had all failed and I ended up losing money doing those things. It’s something that I had been interested in but I just kind of gave up on it until I found this one website and I said hey let me give it a try, I don’t have to invest a lot of money but I’m not in a situation where I have to make money so there’s no pressure, let me just try it and see what happens.
Yaro: Long story short it turned into an income stream.
Leslie: It did, I remember the first year I think I made … The two numbers stick in my mind 28,000 or 32,000 somewhere along those lines.
Yaro: Yeah, I remember in our first interview we talked about you making about, yeah, I think it was 28,000 in your first year or second year or something in freebie trading.
Leslie: Yeah, that’s my first year freebie trading, that’s when I first got into this actually making money online.
Yaro: That was still on the side of doing your day job.
Leslie: Yes, everything was on the side for a long time until 2 years ago but we´ll get there.
Yaro: Yeah it’s a long way to go still, okay. Take us forward, you’re freebie trading, were you again with this internet business thing … I’m kind of trying to look with your own motivation, you thinking okay online business could potentially be bigger than my job in my future or do I still feel like my job is going to be my future, I’m going to stay within this teaching science world, where was your head at or are you just kind of throwing things against the wall and seeing where the most money came from?
Leslie: In the back of my mind there was always this thing of eventually I could work for myself. What exactly does that look like? I have no idea. I had experimented with things before, so I didn’t really know what that was going to look like but for that time it was hey this is a great way to supplement my income, we could pay off some debt faster and we did, we could travel a little more and we did, so it was a way to make some extra money on the side at that point in time with that thing in the back of my mind like I’m pretty sure this is possible to do this fulltime, we’ll see if we get there.
Yaro: Okay, well take us forward, did you get there?
Leslie: I did. A lot happened in between. What was frustrating at the time for me was back when I was doing freebie trading I had to go out there in forums and be very active and always trying to get people to me. Now I stumbled onto a free eBook and it was somehow related to the freebie trading that I was doing, there was a bonus eBook and that was something that you created on how to start a blog. You could create a blog, put content out there and your site starts getting ranked in Google and then people started finding you. When I heard that, man that sounded so great, people actually finding me as opposed to if I don’t work today I don’t make any money, that sounded like a great concept.
That’s when I joined your blog mastermind. The first I learned from blogging had to do with blog mastermind. No, actually first … This is the actual story. I joined your email list and I remember your emails would come and every time a new email would come I would be like man let me see what Yaro has to say. I’d wake up in the morning and I’d see a bunch of emails and I’d see your name and I’d jump directly to that email. Make a long story short, you launched blog mastermind and I said to myself, I remember saying this if this is the value that I’m getting for free imagine what I’ll get if I pay this guy. I jumped into blog mastermind and that’s where I learned about blogging.
Yaro: Prior to having a blog with the freebie trading there was never, you never had your own destination content site. You always had to go to a forum, share a link and then hopefully they’ll sign up for some freebie and you’ll get a commission for that, right?
Leslie: Exactly and it went well but there were some times where things got a little rough, it got very competitive in the forums and some of the forums started dying and it just wasn’t working out the way I wanted it to work.
Yaro: When you came across, it sounds like you came across my blog Profits Blueprint, the first version, the trade report was that the first time you heard of these concepts like owning a content site, having an authority site, an asset and even starting an email list or … Because I’m trying to connect the dots why you didn’t do that with the freebie site originally, like where you at in your own education process of learning how internet marketing works.
Leslie: Yeah, that was all new for me dude, that was the first time I learned about blogging, about growing your email list. It was literally the type of thing where I would go through one lesson and it’s kind of like okay let’s go and do that and for the most part what I learned there was new to me.
Yaro: Okay, so you’re very green.
Leslie: Very green at that point.
Yaro: All right, so take us forward, I assume your first blog was about freebies though, right?
Leslie: Yes, the freebieguy.net, that was the URL and I branded myself as the freebie guy. Then what ended up happening was I started to realize that I don’t really care about freebies and I don’t want the thing that people know me about to be just freebies and there was another aspect to that. When someone comes to freebieguy.net they don’t expect to pay for anything. You are the freebie guy asking people for money, that just doesn’t make sense.
Yaro: Yeah, right.
Leslie: I started to realize that I was more excited about the blogging and the marketing and the growing … Basically I loved the stuff that you were doing and I wanted to teach more along those lines. I eventually evolved to the guy that was teaching you about freebies to the guy that was giving you free information about how to build a blog and online business and then I got rid of the name the freebie guy, I started a podcast that was called Learning With Leslie and then I changed the name of the blog to Learning With Leslie and then things went from there.
Yaro: Okay, so we can sort of timestamp this. This is probably around 2008?
Leslie: Well this is actually closer to 2010 than that.
Yaro: Right, okay so … because I can remember you took blog mastermind in my very first intake in 2007?
Leslie: No, I took it in 2008, in August of 2008 or September somewhere around that point.
Yaro: Okay because I know the next business or the next course I taught was with Gideon Shalwick Become A Blogger and you took that as well.
Yaro: That was in 2009 so I’m guessing you just were soaking up as much as you could about blogging at the time.
Leslie: Pretty much. I would do it, I was addicted man. I was like more blogging information let’s go. I was just consuming it all and then I was sharing that as I’m learning it I’m sharing it with my audience.
Yaro: This is with Learning With Leslie?
Leslie: Learning With Leslie, yes.
Yaro: Okay, so that was the domain name from the switch you made from the Freebie Guy to Learning With Leslie. I’d love to talk two things. How did Learning With Leslie go because there’s a sort of an elephant in the room I want to talk about when it comes to what you did here because a lot of people do this but they don’t pull it off, right? A lot of people start having a passion about a subject, the take a course, they buy a course about internet marketing or business or blogging, something like that and they attempt to apply it to what they’re doing and they realize the business wasn’t what they really cared about, they were just excited about running any kind of a business. They like the marketing in the business and so forth so they kind of changing their direction like what you did was to teach the stuff that you were just learning.
A lot of people do that and it’s kind of people accuse us of having a pyramid scheme, right? You just kind of make mini versions of yourself and everyone just keeps going out there and keeps selling the dream I’ll teach you how to make money by teaching how to make money is how I make money and so on, right? There’s a lot of negative almost suspicion in the world about the whole industry of teaching making money. I think it’s important to kind of point out that the quality of the advice kind of dictates the results here.
Because what you did and this we’ll hear with the rest of your story is you actually start to apply what you were learning from me and other people and getting results which then allowed you to be a teacher at the same time because you actually had result. I think that was … to me if I think back to you as one of the standout students of both those courses was your applying what you were learning and that then gave you stories to share with your own teaching, right? That became I think a big part of what you were doing at the time.
Leslie: That’s exactly it. Personally I get annoyed when I see exactly what you’re talking about, just teaching how to make money and you have no idea how to make money. I think there are ways to do it if you’re sharing your journey of building a business and people are learning from that I think that works but what I did, if we go back to those days, when I was learning with blogging and marketing and all that stuff the first thing I did was I started teaching what I knew and that time what did I know? I knew freebies. I started teaching people how to do freebie trading and as a result of that I started making more money freebie trading, I started making more money doing some of the other things that you were talking about for example affiliate marketing.
I remember back then what I did was I would set up freebie sites for people as long as they use my affiliate link to sign up for hosting. I remember the first month I did this, I sign up for Blog Mastermind in August, the end of August and then in October I made about $3,000 on an affiliate marketing campaign that I was doing for freebie traders to set up a website for them for their freebie trading as long as they use my affiliate link.
I started doing these things, getting results and then teaching what I was doing and talking about the results that came. As a result of that, when people saw that they saw the authenticity of that as opposed to hey I heard you could make money talking about making money so let me talk about make money and hopefully I’ll make money. In addition to that I went on and did another case study which is my biology blog which I’m sure we’re going to get to but it was all about showing you what I’m learning, how I implemented it and what the results were. One thing you can’t argue with is results, if I’m showing you hey this is what I did and this is how much I make you can’t then say well you can’t make money doing that because I just showed you that I did.
Yaro: Yeah, fantastic. All right, so I’d love to keep going with the story Leslie and see where the biology blog comes into this but just before I do that or maybe as part of the introduction to the biology blog I’d love to know for you the biggest takeaways from Blog Mastermind. Because for me it’s always interesting to hear how people apply what you learn because you know what it’s like, you’re teaching something and you don’t really know where people are going to go and take it away and how it’s going to change them. I’d love to know how Blog Mastermind really influenced besides that really great story of doing affiliate marketing, what else did you change about your strategy?
Leslie: You know what I love about this, I love about this what I’m going to say now is that the same things you taught back then are the same things that I’m teaching today in terms of these pillar concepts. Some of those concepts were first you’ve got to understand who your audience is then you got to create great content for them and do it regularly, you want to make sure to build an email list, that was like the biggest thing that was kind of like a revelation to me back then.
Build that email list, nurture relationships with those subscribers and then have something, have some kind of a business model behind it so that you can make some money. If you create that great content for that specific person that you’re creating it for and you nurture that relationship with them they’re going to start looking at you as a trusted expert friend and when you have something to sell they’re going to jump at it.
It’s the same process I went through with you, right? I joined your email list, loved your content, started looking for your emails and then you launched this course and I was like give me, take my money. It’s the same concept. Create great content for a specific person, get them on your email list, provide them with a ton of value and sell them stuff.
Yaro: How did that eventually lead to you starting a whole brand new blog about freebies because it sounds like you were really actually enjoying learning … Sorry not about but about biology, you were enjoying Learning With Leslie, you were enjoying teaching. It sounds like Freebie Guy you were kind of moving away from, I think you shut it down many years ago, right? I’m guessing, correct me if I’m wrong you also felt you needed another case study of your own sort of practice, right? You wanted to take what you knew about a subject and put into place your marketing skills to build another income stream. Was that right?
Leslie: Yeah, so there’s two main aspects. One is exactly what you’re saying. I wanted a case study because more case studies are … it’s just going to be more validation of what I’m teaching, all right. I said to myself okay, I am teaching people, I taught people about freebie trading and that was getting really competitive, I taught people about blogging and that was also, I mean making money online and blogging and all that stuff and that’s also very competitive. I did that and I did it, I think I did it quite successfully. For the fact that I was doing it on the side, I was making a few thousand dollars a month, that was great to me.
I thought to myself if I can apply these principles in such a competitive niche what if I were to apply those same principles for something where the other people that are doing it have no clue about this stuff, how would that translate into one of those types of niches? That’s the first part, the other part is I told you I wanted to be a university professor, I was teaching at a high school and at a certain point it was like man this stuff that I’m teaching is so basic it’s not the stuff that I really love.
It’s kind of like an outlet. I could teach exactly what I wanted to teach. I could teach neurobiology, I could talk about whatever I want and there are no regulations besides the regulations that I put on myself and that to me was an intriguing concept. I started it one as a case study but two because I wanted to talk about this topic because I’m passionate about this topic.
Yaro: Okay, so I’d love to break down this point, the step by step stuff you did since you’re starting a new site at this point you’ve got a bit more background behind you so you can kind of avoid the mistakes you made in the past. Can you tell us did you use WordPress, how did you choose the domain name, how did you plan the initial strategy of how you’re going to make money from this new business?
Leslie: All right, so this one was interesting, before I went into it I did some research. I wanted to see what was out there. I looked for biology blogs all over the place and I saw a bunch of biology blogs and I started seeing a bunch of boring websites basically. Sites that had long research articles and blah, blah, blah and stuff, as passionate as I was about biology I was bored reading those sites. I said you know what if I start a blog I want it to be different, I want to just record short videos explaining one concept at a time and making it fun.
That’s exactly what I decided to do as a strategy for growing that blog using videos primarily. Now in terms of the naming of the site I learned a little bit about keyword research and I started doing a little bit of keyword research and I saw this keyword phrase interactive biology. There were a decent number of searches and not as much competition so I said hey let me go with that. I went with interactive-biology.com, I wouldn’t have gone with that but I saw you had Entrepreneurs Journey so I said if he can do it I can do it too.
I started that, I went with WordPress from the very beginning, I started with my email list and quite frankly the start of that blog wasn’t much different from the start of the Freebie Guy because when I started the Freebie Guy it was going through Blog Mastermind, so I literally went through the exact sequence and just did it. The only difference is I did a little bit of keyword research to decide on a name.
Yaro: Basically, you took my 27 lessons in Blog Mastermind back then, took the action steps and just applied them as you built this new biology blog?
Leslie: Yes, and I’m not just saying that just because I’m talking to you and I’m on your podcast and I got to make you look good or anything of that sort.
Yaro: Well you do Leslie.
Leslie: Well yeah, I know, but literally that’s what I did. I actually think, not I think, I went back through Blog Mastermind to kind of remind myself of the steps and then I went through those steps but specifically focusing on video. You know what around this time I had gone through Become A Blogger as well and I saw what you guys were doing, especially Gideon was doing with the videos that he was creating, yes of course, that’s what I did because if you look at some of my first videos … I tell people this all the time you guys are out there in Australia and you have your, I love the accent, I literally sounded like Gideon with a Caribbean accent teaching biology. That’s pretty much how it was, I started my videos the same way.
Yaro: Of course, the irony is Gideon actually has a South African/Kiwi/Australian accent so it’s probably more South African than anything.
Leslie: Well whatever it was I sounded like him with a Caribbean accent in terms of the format until I kind of came into myself and then my format just went completely in a different direction.
Yaro: Right, yeah I do remember watching some of your early biology videos, I think you really hit your stride with that video content because you really could tell you loved making video.
Leslie: Definitely, I started out with it because I knew that for something like biology it’s much easier to show someone something than just tell them or write it out. If they can see what I’m talking about it’s going to be more effective and that ended up being the case.
Yaro: Can we put the perspective of where you were with your life because you were still working this teaching day job at this point, right? Because let’s face it video, a little bit more work is required to do video than sit at a laptop and write an article. Are you still, are you setting up a little studio at home in your basement what you’re doing at night and on weekends while you’re still working your job? Is this like 2010 I’m thinking?
Leslie: Yeah so this is coming down to the end of 2010 and really getting into 2011. 2011 is when I started making videos regularly in January of that year. How I was doing it and life was crazy back then, when I wasn’t working at my job I was working on my business, usually the part of my business that’s teaching you to blog. On Sundays what I would do is I would create as many videos as I can, sometimes that would be three videos, sometimes that would be five videos and once I’m done with those videos by that point I started learning about outsourcing and I think I started learning about that from you guys and actually some other courses that I went through as well.
By that point when I finish with them on Sundays I pass them on to my VA and she took care of everything else for the week and that was the extent of it. I knew that I couldn’t be working on my job fulltime and then Learning With Leslie fulltime and then Interactive-Biology fulltime. Interactive-Biology was a Sunday project and whatever I did on Sundays would go out for the rest of the week.
Yaro: Okay, now that’s content creation, you need to do more than just create content to get this thing going, right?
Yaro: How did you manage to fit all this in and what else did you do?
Leslie: Number one I focused on YouTube. YouTube was going to be my platform of choice since I was doing videos and I would put those videos out there and those videos just started ranking because it was great content, I was very specific with the way I titled, the titles and the descriptions and all that stuff. I kind of optimized it for YouTube SEO and I made those very engaging so when people watched the videos they would watch more videos and then YouTube started rewarding me for that and serving my videos higher up in the rankings.
In addition to that I knew I needed to do something to kind of give it a boost. What I did was I actually went to, I went on Google again and I started searching for a bunch of biology websites and blogs and I made a spreadsheet, I remember the spreadsheet had 86 different websites on there. I started at the top of the list and I just worked my way through, I contacted the site owner and I’d say hey I see you’re … Depending on the site owner I would kind of tailor it differently. Some people it would be hey I see you’re linking to biology resources on this page, would you be interested in linking to this? I tell them a little bit of what I’m doing and then some of them actually started linking to my site because they went to the site and they loved the content.
For the ones that had the most impact, I remember there was one lady who had a very popular biology blog and I went to her site and I saw she was using WordPress and I saw that she had some issues with the structure of her site and it just wasn’t laid out in a very appealing way but it was getting a ton of traffic. I reached out to her and there were a few people I did something similar too, I reached out to her and I said hey I’m a regular visitor to your site, I’ve been using some of your resources in my class and let me tell you I just love your content. Thank you so much for what you are doing.
Then I went on to say I notice you’re using WordPress and I notice that there’s a few structural issues that you’re having. I’ve been into WordPress now for the last few months and I am a WordPress pro by now, I didn’t say it like that but basically what I said was I would love to help you out. I don’t remember exactly what I proposed to help her out with but then I told her at the end by the way I do have a biology site, you can check it out here, I’m making these short videos and you could see what I’m doing.
She replied to me and she said Leslie thank you so much, I appreciate your offer, I am so busy, I wouldn’t even know how to take advantage of it but hey look I just wrote this short post and I linked to your blog. When she did that all of a sudden I just had hundreds of people visiting the blog and for me back then hundreds of people was like I just struck gold. She linked to me and then when other people saw me featured on her blog they started linking to me and then my traffic started growing. I remember first month I got like 400 people, second month it went to 800, then it went to a thousand, then it went to 2,000 and then it just kind of went up from there and it’s been great. A lot of that came from just reaching out to people, offering to provide value and then having them see the value in what I offer and promote that as well.
Yaro: Two questions, how did you know she had lots of traffic, how were you able to figure out which sites had lots of traffic to try and get in touch with the owners and have this kind of outcome?
Leslie: Yes, so I looked at the engagement on her site and I looked and I saw that people were commenting, people were sharing, people were liking and all that stuff. You could see those social proof numbers. I couldn’t say directly that this is how much traffic she had but I also analyzed her site on I think like compete.com and Alexa. A lot of sites outside of internet marketing they don’t even register on those sites and hers did and it registered at a decent number. I know those aren’t a direct reflection but they kind of give me an idea that hey this was an active site and in addition to that I would search for so many things in Google and hers would be like number one. I’m a teacher, I’m always looking for these resources to teach my biology class and I know that teachers all over the world are doing the same thing and they’re also seeing her ranked as number one.
Yaro: It’s such a funny thing, people ask how do I find the traffic sites, the high traffic sites in my industry and you just say well pretend you’re the target customer going after and how would they search Google for information and see what sites show up and that would be your answer.
Yaro: Second question from my two parter there, going back to the setup of everything, you said you’re becoming a WordPress expert but you also said you’re outsourcing. At this stage how are you actually kind of putting together everything to go with Interactive-Biology, your biology blog? Were you … I assume you built WordPress yourself, do you do your own logo, do you do your own video intro an outro and editing, do you do your own graphics for the posts in the blog, everything like that and what weren’t you doing, what things were you outsourcing?
Leslie: Yeah so at that point I finally wised up because before that I had this kind of a burnout phase where I was just doing everything and going like crazy and it just didn’t work out well and I literally quit blogging. When I came back to blogging a few months later I said if I am to do this I need to do this better and I started looking more into outsourcing. I think you spoke about outsourcing in your course and then I think you recommended some people back then, I went through their outsourcing course and I learned about outsourcing. When I started the biology blog I knew that I had to do more outsourcing.
Here’s what I did. I created the videos, I didn’t add a fancy animation, it was just I had my slides and I went through my slides, I would be drawing on my screen, this was not like a professional video production or anything of that sort. I am a terrible artist or at least back then I was much more of a terrible artist so my drawings didn’t look that good but the information was good. I would create those videos on Monday and I said that would be it, right?
I would give it to my assistant, my assistant would then transcribe the video, my assistant would create the post from the transcript, she would find some images from a stock photography site that I was using, she would make the post look good and schedule it to go live on YouTube, schedule it to go live on the blog and that’s pretty much it. The post itself I didn’t have anything to do with the post, she took care of all of that, all I did was create the content.
Yaro: Because you’re still going to a 9:00 to 5:00 day job, right?
Leslie: No, no, no, not 9:00 to 5:00 dude, this was more than 9:00 to 5:00 but yes I’m still working at my fulltime day job.
Yaro: How did you … I’m wondering about the budgeting of something like that because people listen to this they might be thinking I got to hire someone to do this stuff because I’m still working my job. Did you take some of your salary or were you taking money from Freebie Guy’s or Learning With Leslie or were you, and how much were you paying for this person?
Leslie: I love to tell people that when I started, everything that I’ve built today came from my initial $3 investment in freebie trading because literally I started with the $3, I made 70 and then I took some of that money and reinvest and I just continued reinvesting. I did not want … I actually lost some of my wedding money on an online marketing scheme. I lost a thousand dollars and we didn’t have that much money and I told myself I would never, I’m not going to go into my paycheck and jeopardize my family. Whatever I do here has to come from the business.
Learning With Leslie, the freebie trading and the money that I made there that’s what I reinvested into the biology blog to grow that blog. I knew I couldn’t hire someone here in the US because I wouldn’t afford it so I went with the Philippines, I got someone in the Philippines and I think at that point I was paying something like two something an hour and the person did …
Yaro: $2 US something an hour basically.
Leslie: Yeah exactly and the person did decent work, I provided them with a lot of training and manuals and here’s how I want things to be done because I had the experience with WordPress and what I was doing on Learning With Leslie and the Freebie Guy before that, so that was the guidance for them and I just kind of grew from there. I was spending, I wasn’t spending that much money. Maybe $200 a month at that time and my business was making more than that so it worked out fine.
Yaro: Take us forward with Interactive-Biology, did it start to make money?
Leslie: Yes it did. I remember, when did it start? I think maybe in 2012. I think I was doing it for about a full year and I thought to myself all right it’s time to make some money with this. The first thing I thought about was ads because of the nature of the content that I created and the feedback that I was getting from people all over the world like in third world countries that have no access to good education and all that stuff people were giving me all these messages of what it’s doing for them and now they have hope, they can be that doctor that they want to be or whatever the case might be.
I decided I want to find a way to make money where they would still have access to the information and I remember reaching out to my audience and saying hey I’ve been doing this, I love doing it and I will continue doing it, I’ve been thinking about ways to make money with this so that it could fund what I’m doing and beyond, what do you guys think about me turning on ads? At that point I didn’t want to do any ads, I hated ads and the response was overwhelmingly in the direction of yes please, why don’t you have ads on this, we want you to make money. You’re doing such a great job for us, please put ads. At that point I was like fine, I love ads now. I activated ads on my videos, I put ads on the site and then eventually I was …
Yaro: You mean Google AdSense?
Leslie: Yeah, Google AdSense and I was having a conversation with a friend trying to brainstorm what I could do and I decided to take the same content that I had in the videos and create a study guide for it. The monetization strategy for that blog was AdSense and the study guide that I would sell.
Yaro: Okay, so how much of that was influenced simply by … Because I know in Blog Mastermind, that version I was talking about advertizing and I’m pretty sure I was more pushing you towards products though. What was even your potential? Because you obviously knew about freebie trading which is something actually not a lot of people do know about and think about when it comes to making money, you obviously were aware of Google AdSense as a way to make money because let’s face it every blog at the time in the early days of blogging that’s how they made money but then there was this sort of new way of making money which is having an email list and selling your own digital products and services which I was certainly a big part of at the early days. Were you feeling like that was the direction you wanted to head into?
Leslie: That was the direction, I actually wanted to go more in that direction. I wanted to create a bunch of study guides and eventually products and all that stuff when I was focused on the biology blog. The AdSense I learned about AdSense because that’s what everybody was talking about and I knew that you could easily switch that on on YouTube so that’s what I did there. The plan was ultimately to go in the direction of making more of these digital products and selling them. Because when I did that study guide I remember at the peak in terms of when I was focusing on that site the peak income from AdSense on that blog was something like $2,500 and for the study guide which was something that I sold for I think about $30 at that point I think the peak I made there was about $1,000. I was making two, three plus thousand dollars a month just from that biology blog.
Yaro: You’re still running Learning With Leslie and you’re still running Freebie Guy back then in the forum and everything as well?
Leslie: Man, the forum was a part of that too, right?
Yaro: We forgot about the forum, we haven’t talked about the forum.
Leslie: I know. Learning With Leslie, the Freebie Guy, I kind of consider those along the same lines because it was just kind of like an evolution. It wasn’t The Freebie Guy and Learning With Leslie it was Freebie … Well actually it was in the beginning and then it all went to Learning With Leslie. By that point I think it was Learning With Leslie and Interactive-Biology.
Yaro: And fulltime job?
Leslie: And fulltime job of course.
Yaro: $3,000 a month coming from biology blog, how much was coming from Learning With Leslie do you remember back then?
Leslie: Yeah back then probably another 2,000 sometimes 3,000, sometimes more than that actually.
Yaro: What was that from, AdSense or?
Leslie: No, that wasn’t from AdSense. From Learning With Leslie it was affiliate marketing, primarily affiliate marketing actually because I remember …
Yaro: Like web hosting.
Leslie: Exactly I created a 7 day boot camp and people would sign up for hosting and yada, yada, yada and then there was the freebies that for a while that was still making me some money. It was freebies and affiliate marketing.
Yaro: Okay so take us forward, what happened next? You’re making full-time income, excuse me, from your …
Leslie: I’m making fulltime income some months, other months not so much, it was fluctuating but at a certain point in time you guys approached me about this Become A Blogger thing because Become A Blogger was kind of dying down, you guys weren’t focusing on it as much and you guys asked me if I’d be interested in being the main content creator for Become A Blogger and I was kind of like what, yeah, sure, heck yeah, I love Become A Blogger. I got …
Yaro: I got to ask you Leslie before you continue with that story you were busy already clearly just by hearing this story to this point. Right, Gideon and I had a great run with our Become A Blogger course and that website but we were both heading in different directions, I was heading towards my startup and Gideon was heading towards other video projects. We wanted to do something with this site and we didn’t want to just turn it off so we came to you with this plan you can take it over, we weren’t sure whether that meant as a manager or as an owner, whatever but regardless of all those things coming to you saying hey here’s a job how were you even thinking yes, I can fit that into my schedule at this point?
Leslie: I think the answer it was insanity but in addition to that my stuff was going well, it was fluctuating a lot, I had an audience, it wasn’t a huge audience, I was getting a bigger audience for the biology blog but I said at its peak it was making that amount of money but that money went down significantly even though the traffic was going up. It was kind of interesting to see that but then when you guys approached me, Become A Blogger was something I loved and I saw it as a way of potentially getting in front of a larger audience and that to me was attractive, that was appealing. Because I could do similar things to what I was already doing but now for more people.
I kind of started looking at it that way and in the beginning I thought I would do Learning With Leslie and Become A Blogger and then that kind of got too much, you’re talking about how could I be crazy enough to take on something else, well it was crazy and it became too much. Then I brought Learning With Leslie into Become A Blogger as the official podcast of Become A Blogger and then eventually it was all Become A Blogger with still the Learning With Leslie podcast.
Yaro: The Freebie Guy was sold off or just shutdown?
Leslie: Yeah by that time The Freebie Guy was gone.
Yaro: Okay, so let’s just go forward, where are we at? We’re probably only a couple of years ago now and I’m assuming you kind of start to devote all your teaching to Become A Blogger and still there was still Learning With Leslie content before that you had just switched it into Become A Blogger. What was your strategy because I know we had a lot of coaching kind of mentor strategy calls, you, me and Gideon about what to do and I guess to summarize Gideon and our side of the fence we were just slowly having less and less involvement and you were getting more and more involvement to the point where today you’re a full owner and you run the whole thing and we’re not involved anymore and we’re not even owners anymore, it’s a hundred percent yours.
What … I don’t want to, because I’m sure your thoughts kept changing as we kept having more conversations but eventually when you realized Become A Blogger is now yours or going to be yours what are you thinking the future is for your own strategy? I would love to connect this with also some of the changes going on in our industry at the time because we were seeing the rise of, around 2010, 2011, 2012 of Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Lewis Howes, James Wedmore, Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, suddenly the industry was hugely crowded with hugely successful people. In particular podcasting was going through a huge boom. How was this all influencing your own strategy and your own thoughts? You …
Leslie: Well … Yeah, go ahead.
Yaro: I was going to say you were also in Mastermind with Pat and a few other of those people, I think John was in it.
Leslie: No, it´s Pat and Mike Stelzner, Cliff Rayenscraft, Mark Mason and Ray Edwards now.
Yaro: Now but back then weren’t with Venture Millionaire?
Leslie: No I actually, I never went in that direction. In the beginning it was me, Cliff, Pat and Mark.
Yaro: Okay, anyway that was the environment so what were you thinking at that time?
Leslie: At that time, right, eventually I wanted to get into my own product and I was starting to build my own product I think when you guys approached me and it just seemed like such a good fit, this would be the product now. Now it would be everything that I do with Learning With Leslie and so on, yeah I would do some of the affiliate marketing but now I have something to offer. That was the direction I wanted to go, I wanted to go with my own product, then we did it with Become A Blogger, eventually I’m the full owner and it continued that way. I want to have my own product and eventually it became a full out membership site where you can stay a member for as long as you want to get that support and that is now the main thing that I promote.
Where Become A Blogger is concerned it was always the having the own product, that was this course that became a membership site that people can be a part of and now today that is exactly where I am. Most of what I promote now is my membership site.
Yaro: You have a membership site today, you do some private coaching, today is it one on one private?
Leslie: I do some one on one coaching, there is some group coaching that’s a part of the membership site. In addition to that I still, affiliate marketing is still a strong part of what I do, that’s still a bulk of my income and then I do … I also work with social media examiner as their head of training to make sure that the speakers that are presenting to their membership site do a good job. That’s kind of a summary of the different buckets that make up the income that is my fulltime income today because now I’m no longer teaching in a classroom, we skipped the whole becoming a university professor thing but …
Yaro: We did and also quitting fulltime work, how did you make that decision?
Leslie: Yeah, there was … I started the biology blog and I just have to throw this in there, that biology blog landed me the job as the university professor, so now I was teaching in a doctoral program, teaching the stuff that I was passionate about and then eventually I realized I was teaching at the university, as a requirement for that they were sending me to do a PhD and they were paying for it which is very cool. Doing … You could just imagine I have my biology blog that I’m still kind of tinkering with a little bit, I have Become A Blogger that I’m tinkering with as much as I can, I’m teaching as a university professor at a level that’s above my head when I started and I’m working on a PhD.
Leslie: At that point and there was a point where my mum got ill, she’s better now but she got ill and I wanted to be with her and I couldn’t and …
Yaro: What about your children?
Leslie: We had our baby, we had our first son and at a certain … I remember I came home and I said to my wife listen something has to change. I either have to quit my business or I have to quit my job and we kind of worked through that process and spoke about that for a while and I realized at my job I’m in front of 36 students and working with them and I love it. Then online I’m in front of thousands of people, working with them and I love it and I’m having a bigger impact there, which one am I going to leave? My fulltime job I could see what the ceiling is, with my business there is no ceiling, the ceiling is as high as I want to make it. I made that difficult decision to leave my dream job to build my business because I knew that that would give me more freedom, it would give me more fulfillment and I haven’t looked back since and I don’t plan on ever looking back.
Yaro: It is kind of ironic how running a business to get away from fulltime work led you to your dream job which you then quit because you wanted to run your business still, the roundabout way that happened. Snapshot for today Leslie, you already kind of talked about Become A Blogger, Interactive-Biology it’s still alive and kicking you just don’t really do anything, it’s like a passive income source, is that right?
Leslie: Yeah I don’t touch it, I haven’t really touched it. I’ve probably spent about a month on that blog in the last 5 years.
Yaro: Now is that, I’m guessing the money because AdSense would have dropped significantly but is it still kind of 500, a thousand dollars a month, would you have numbers?
Leslie: Yeah it gets between 400 and maybe up to 5 or $600 a month for that blog since I haven’t done anything. Especially on YouTube if you’re not creating any new content that income goes down significantly.
Yaro: I’m assuming though the search traffic because biology is kind of an evergreen subject matter so you probably still have a lot of posts ranking quite well.
Leslie: When I stopped creating content for the blog I was probably getting about 30,000 visitors a month and now I’m getting closer to 100,000.
Yaro: Okay, so it’s tripled in size.
Leslie: Exactly because I did nothing. It’s actually because of what you just said that content is evergreen and it’s great content. It’s not … Biology isn’t going to change much at the level that I’m teaching over the next 10 years so that information is still going to be valuable and the more people find it the more they join my email list, they more they go through my auto responder sequence, they more they share it with their friends and the more, every year the traffic is greater than the year before.
Yaro: That’s a rare story, I believe in the power of evergreen content but it’s rare to stop publishing altogether and in three or four years later you’ve got three times the traffic you used to have.
Leslie: Yeah I don’t tell people that that’s what happens because I don’t think most cases that you can expect that.
Leslie: There were a few key things that happened even in that process like once I was on Leo Laporte’s show, The Tech Guy and I mentioned it and that’s when it kind of went from 30,000 to 50,000 and then more people started mentioning it because of all the things around that and then it just continued increasing and that kind of stuff. It is an anomaly, I know that for sure but it continues to increase.
Yaro: Awesome. Before we wrap it up Leslie one more thing, today your business who’s on your team and I’d love to know in particular, people listening in right now, if you go to becomeablogger.com and check out Leslie’s blog post you’ll notice something that he does that I don’t see many other people do with their blogs which is pretty much have every type of media you could think of included in the blog post. It seems like it starts with Leslie doing a podcast, either an interview or a solo on with just Leslie then there always seems to be a picture that looks ready to go for Pinterest, then you usually get another kind of image that might work well in Pinterest, maybe two or three more images. Then you often get a full blown infographic style picture which really they take a lot of work and you also often have a slide presentation, like you put slides into SlideShare the LinkedIn social media company.
You’re making use of imagery, I guess the only thing you haven’t really gotten here is YouTube videos like you used to have but I’m always blown away by the infographics in particular because an infographic is a big job and then you’ve got a ton of other pictures to go along with it. I look at these posts and go that’s a big job to put this together every single one and you seem to pump them out regularly with every single type of media there in them. What’s the secret behind that?
Leslie: The secret is to not do it. This is what my team looks like right now, it’s three of us. It’s me, it’s my assistant that does all the beautiful stuff and then my other assistant that does the article. What it looks like is say I interview you Yaro which is coming up next week but when I finish interviewing you I now have this MP3 file that I tag and all that good stuff, I pass it on to my first assistant and she listens to it and write an article. It took me a while to get to this point because I think written content especially as a content creator is so important and if that person isn’t write on message with what you’ve built that can cause some issues but I went through a very extensive process of finding this person, of training this person, of having specific editorial guidelines for this person to follow. As a result of that she creates a post quite frankly that sounds like I wrote it.
That’s the first step. Once she finishes, once she’s done with that she passes it on to my other assistant and what she will do is she will create all of the images, she will create an infographic, she will create images that you don’t even see which is the Facebook open graph image so that when someone shares it on Facebook it looks the way it’s supposed to look. She will create a slide deck from the content, she’d like look at the headings and see what it covers and then kind of create a slide deck from that.
The key to that is number one it’s evolved over time, number two is I had her create some templates that she can go to and easily create them. We have a few different versions of that template, the only difference now will be the content that she puts in those templates and some of the images that she puts inside like the infographic and the slide decks and so on. We have this process that we go through, we keep track of everything in Trello and we have an extensive checklist that goes through different stages and it passes from me to the first assistant to the second assistant and everyone knows when they’re supposed to jump on and do the thing that they’re supposed to do.
Yaro: How’s this impacting the results, the distribution of all this content? Are you finding you’re getting Pinterest traffic where you didn’t get it before and things like that?
Leslie: Definitely. That has increased my Pinterest traffic significantly, it increased the number of shares that I get just generally speaking. Podcast episodes I find, I look at a lot of very successful podcasters and you would find that most of their content don’t get shared a lot because people are listening to it in the feed but because I have all of these resources … I use what’s that plug-in called? Whatever the plug in that I use that you can specify … Social Warfare. You can specify if someone goes to share it on Pinterest the infographic shows up or if they go to share it on Facebook the Facebook open graph image shows up and that I think has, a combination of having that stuff and making it easy to share it that has caused more people to share my content generally speaking.
Yaro: Yeah I think you’re one of the most socially engaged of the teaching people how to make money bloggers out there so it’s really cool to watch.
Leslie: One more thing, what that also does is whenever someone gets interviewed on my blog and I send them a link and say hey it’s there they’re so impressed with it that sometimes they share it just to say man just go and look at this post. You don’t even have to listen to my interview, just look at it. I think that causes people to look at you at a different level.
Yaro: Yeah, that’s a great point. Back in the day you did an interview with someone and because it was their first or second or third interview they’d share it but now they’ve done so many they don’t really share it anymore, maybe a tweet here or there but like you’ve done you make such above expectation performance with the content that they’re more excited to share it. That’s awesome.
Leslie: Just to add I just met with my assistant maybe two days ago, two or three days ago and we’re adding more to that. We’re going to have an image quote that goes along with it and an image that they can put on their blog if they want to advertise that they were on the podcast. We want to provide even more resources for them just in case they want to use it.
Yaro: Very nice. I’ve already said becomeablogger.com if you want to see this in action. Is there any other places you want to send people to Leslie?
Leslie: Yeah, they can check out my membership site which the coaching club, bloggercoaching.com. They get free coaching for 30 days and if they want to continue from there they can continue.
Yaro: Okay, awesome. becomeablogger.com and bloggercoaching.com, Leslie, awesome, glad we could complete the circle now and bring everything up to date since there’s been a lot you’ve been doing since then. I’m so glad you’ve made fulltime business like work because I remember talking to you when you were making that decision to quite basically a PhD and a professor teaching job and that was like tough call plus with the kid on the way I kind of imagine the conversations you had with your wife about that decision what it would have been like. I’m glad it’s still working and growing for you and yeah keep up the great work.
Leslie: Thank you so much, thanks for having me on here and looking forward to connecting more in the future.
Yaro: Sounds good Leslie, talk to you soon.
Leslie: Take care.
Yaro: Thanks everyone for listening in, this has been the Entrepreneurs Journey podcast. You can find the show notes and everything else to go along with this episode and all the other episodes as well by going to Entrepreneurs Journey.com and clicking the podcast tab or just Google my name, Yaro Y-A-R-O and you’ll find my blog and podcast that way.
I hope you enjoyed that interview with Leslie and you too are feeling inspired to possibly make the transition from some kind of fulltime employment to an online business. I hope you can see also how Leslie managed to combine different businesses, different income sources to reach a point where he did make enough money to be confident in quitting his job and you can see a pathway for you to do the same with whatever online projects you’re currently working on or about to start.
One last reminder if you have not done so already head to interviewsclub.com to sign up for the newsletter that goes along with this, the EJ podcast. I’ll send you an email when the latest episodes are released so you’ll always be the first to know about my new episodes plus you’ll receive a series of my very best podcast interviews from the EJ archives.
Okay, that’s it for this episode, I’m Yaro and I’ll speak to you on the next EJ podcast. Bye, bye.
About Yaro Starak
Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.