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If you are working online there is a smarter way of doing things.
You can add a variety of passive income streams to your arsenal, and make sure that you are safe.
Or at least safer than relying on one source of income, even if it is your customers.
They can disappear too!
So today I have invited Rob Cubbon onto the podcast to talk to us about his ideas and methods of expanding his passive income.
Rob is always trying new things, earning income from a variety of sources and expanding his audience at the same time.
But by having a series of passive income streams he can use, he is very comfortable. Not only that, he is also veryflexible with what he does each day.
Like me, he also works as a Web Designer, so it is not his only source of money, but it certainly helps a lot.
So I wanted to get to the bottom of Rob’s success with passive income and share his ideas with you guys.
In this podcast we talked about:
If you prefer to read the transcript, you can click on the link below…
Ashley: Hi Rob. Thanks for joining me today.
Rob: Hello Ashley.
Ashley: Certainly great to catch you after all these months on the internet.
Rob: It’s lovely to speak to you too Ashley.
Ashley: And we’re having some nice weather here in Switzerland. Are you guys doing all right in London?
Rob: It’s actually a good day today. I’ve been out and spent most of my day in the cafe, so it’s really good. It looks nice. A bit of a cold wind coming from the north there.
Ashley: Actually, yeah. I caught that when I walked out the door this morning too. It’s part of our joys of working from home. We can go out and come back in and we will work like depending on how we want to do that. That’s one of the topics we’re on today.
But before we get to that, we will just quickly hear a little bit about you. Can you tell everyone quickly what you do, how you got there and anything else you think is worth noting?
Rob: Right. Well, I will try and keep this as briefly as possible. So I’m talking from London, in the UK, and this is where I’m from. So I was very kind of directionless in my early 30s, going from office to office as a freelancer.
I was doing graphic design. I was actually only an art worker. I didn’t actually do graphic designer. I kind of took somebody else’s designs and laid them out and I was very much a Mac Photoshop and Illustrator and “design” guy and then in 2005, I started my website RobCubbon.com. 2006, I started blogging properly and that I did a blog post every week or so.
That really started things for me. I started to get work through my website in 2006. You didn’t have to be a great blogger in order to get some action on Google, I’m pleased to say. So I was very lucky in that respect and I stared to get a bit of work which I could do from home.
Because I had found work to be a very unpleasant experience for most of my life, I didn’t enjoy work. I wasn’t into it at all. I just did it to get money really.
It was quite life-changing to be able to earn money from home and quite enjoy it as well because I found that I was asked to do more interesting things and I had to liaison with the clients and I found that very interesting.
I had to do the whole job from beginning to end. It was more challenging and I just loved it in every single way. So after two years, I managed to work exclusively from home. I’m with my own clients and gradually kissed the freelance jobs goodbye, which as you probably picked up by now I didn’t really like. So I was quite pleased about that.
So that was great and then since then or since the beginning really, I’ve been – I think Tim Ferriss has a lot to answer for actually. I have been very much focused on the passive income side. Just I find it so interesting. I just love everything about it, carrying on blogging of course, going into different platforms like Udemy as we were talking about and Amazon Kindle.
So in the year since then, I have built my audience, my brand and the passive side whilst keeping my clients in the active side as well. So that’s where I’m at at the moment. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Ashley: Well, you can certainly talk about whatever you like and I think it’s all valuable information. But I mean the reason I got you on here today is because you’re one of the prominent people to me who’s doing this.
Now of course many bloggers are selling courses and some of the big guys like Amy Porterfield or Jeff Bullas or whatever. They’re all quite famous. They’ve had a big kick start due to who they are or they’ve done a very good job of promoting themselves and have a huge backing. I wouldn’t say you don’t have a big audience. I think you have quite a reasonably sized audience from what I’ve seen in some of the blogging tools which evaluate you. You’ve come up quite highly as well.
But I think what you do differently is that you’re not one of these superstars but you found a way that we can all aspire to, to make an income on the side which I think is crucial these days and accelerate your free time and give yourself more freedom to actually not have to constantly search for clients. I think that’s to me one of the really, really important things that we can get out of this call.
Rob: Yeah, that’s really great you say that Ashley because I was thinking, I am a bit of a poor man’s Pat Flynn in that I think – you’re absolutely right. I don’t have the audience at all of any of the people you mentioned.
However, I enjoy a lot of what I’ve done in the last few years and I haven’t made huge amounts of money but I’ve made a liveable amount of money similar to what I was earning before and as you say, I have the freedom to do what I want when I want.
So it’s not earth-shattering. It’s not sexy. But it suits me.
Ashley: Well, I think that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so interesting is because everyone aspires to be the next Pat Flynn and that’s great to do that. But it’s highly unachievable because we can’t all take such a huge audience out of the audience that exists. It’s probably never going to happen for most of us.
So I think that it’s better to be in some ways realistic. It’s always good to strive for things and it’s great to have that on the back burner and constantly push your audience and maybe try to meet people and leverage influences or whatever you do that’s worth doing.
But most of us are never going to get there. So while we’re trying to get there, and while we’re dreaming about getting there, we need to look at day to day life and how to actually earn money. You’ve got the two sides which is exactly what you do. You’ve got the side where you have a client and you’re getting paid more or less for the hours you work.
Then you’ve got the other side which is creating products and selling them and that sells while you’re not working. OK. You have to market that and that’s something people don’t realize and I didn’t realize when I made a course.
Yeah, and if you don’t do this passive side of things, which is again why I want to talk about it, then you’re restricted to an hourly or a packaged wage which is restricted by the number of days of the month and how many clients you can get.
If that’s all you’re ever going to earn, you’re always going to hit this ceiling and even that ceiling may not be hit all the time because you won’t always get clients. You might have a really slow period. So I think it’s absolutely crucial that we push this passive income. What has been your strategy on that from the beginning?
Rob: I’m not very good with strategies Ashley. I didn’t have a passive income strategy at all. I went hell for leather at it, tried lots of things and didn’t always see success of course as you might imagine. So I tried affiliate links or I just naturally put them in in my website and I tried selling ebooks through my website and now I’ve tried Udemy and Amazon Kindle.
I mean I’ve also tried lots of stuff that hasn’t worked like Fiverr and I’ve got nothing there. So my strategy is to fail as much as I can and as quickly as I can and then if you sort of do a splatter gun, something is going to hit and something – you will see a little bit of traction somewhere and you will notice that something wasn’t quite as big a failure as you thought it would be. Then you go for it.
That’s not much of a strategy, I’m afraid. But that’s the best I got.
Ashley: No, no. That’s totally realistic. Again, I mean many entrepreneurs will say, I mean, if you don’t fail, if you’re not trying things and I’m also doing an ad course or reading about Facebook ads and the guru in this book said the same thing.
If you just think and sit on – rest on your laurels so to speak and stick with the ads you’ve got, it’s not going to work because things keep changing. You have to keep changing and I think in our world, that’s constant. I mean you have now some – we will go into these in a minute. Some really good passive earners that are there but you’re not sitting down doing nothing.
I see every time I read your blog, you are trying and planning and trying and planning because you know that you can’t sit down and do nothing. Passive income, because I think Pat Flynn once was quoted as saying, “It’s far from passive.” You constantly have to be doing things, right? I mean you’re trying – you’re more on the book side of things at the moment I think, right?
Rob: Yeah, I really like the books and they’re not bringing in as much money as you will see for my income of course as the Udemy courses. But I just really like them and another – actually going back to what you were saying, I completely agree with everything you were saying there about having the multiple streams, not only the active streams but the passive streams as well and how that can help you financially.
But I tell you what, passive helps you build your brand and your following as well because nothing really – OK, you put a blog post out and people read it and that’s great and you do Twitter and what have you. But if you do a product that’s for sale and people buy it whether it’s a Kindle book or a Udemy course, then that helps your brand as well more than a blog post would because people kind of attach a little bit more authority and expertise to someone who has products and information products out.
So it’s a double whammy. The passive income helps your brand as well as your bank balance.
Ashley: I guess I can certainly see how that can happen because if you think OK, I will write a blog post. Maybe there are two or three key points in there that people walk away from and maybe implement and maybe they try them out and maybe it makes their lives better in whatever way.
But if you do a course and somebody goes through half or most of the course, I mean we can never guarantee they’re going to do the whole course and come out of that a better person. They’re probably going to be far more moved by the course than by a couple of blog posts, right? I mean there’s so much information on the web.
Rob: Yes, and this podcast as well. People are going to be listening to this podcast and that’s going to help your brand because it’s 40 minutes or however long of audio and although you’re not driving income from it, it is a huge, big sort of authority point against you, I think. It’s the larger bits of content as opposed to blog posts and tweets and Facebook updates.
I think they can really move your business along in greater ways than you first imagined.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s the hope from doing something like this. I mean I enjoy talking to people. As I said to Jen who’s going to be on the podcast tomorrow on the blog and we’re talking today but it’s all mixed up in terms of time and so forth, that she’s – I spoke to her on Sunday and I was saying to her, it’s actually really selfish because I ring up these people and I quiz them on things that I want to know about. But I try to stand back from it and say, “OK. Not only do I want to know about this stuff, but I’m assuming that most of what I’m going to ask I’m asking because most people would want to know the same answers.”
So I get to know you. I get my questions answered and hopefully, those questions answer hundreds of other people’s questions at the same time. Then you look really good as a result. So it’s fantastic.
Rob: Yeah, it’s another win-win.
Ashley: I mean you did some last year as well, right? I’ve listened to a couple of yours with some of the top web designers. Did you find some benefits from that as well?
Rob: Yeah, I did. I stopped it because I found it so hard to set up the interviews with web designers because I concentrated on web design. You see that’s something – that’s an example of something I started that didn’t really work. I thought I better start on web design rather than going down the social media internet marketing route just because that was a bit more different and a bit more focused and maybe that was a good idea.
It turned out it wasn’t because I couldn’t get the guests. I couldn’t find the number of people who wanted to connect to the interviews. So yeah, I mean it’s just a shame really. There’s not so many out there and the ones that are not – all of them like to be – they’re quite happy to do a text interview but they didn’t want to be interviewed for a podcast.
Yeah, so that didn’t work out. But as you say, I enjoyed it because I enjoyed talking to them and it helped me and hopefully helped a few other people as well.
Ashley: Yeah, and you get exposure too. I mean I’m also now meeting people, who are people I know but in this time I speak to them and before and after the show. We chat. I get to know them far better than I’ve gotten to know them on social media or via a couple of emails.
So by making this time, I found it has been extremely beneficial. But anyway, I’m getting off-topic. We will move on with the original conversation.
So you’ve tried all these different ways of doing passive income and again that’s something I would say we recommend. I mean I’ve tried a couple of different thing as well and not enough but I’m going to keep pushing that as time goes on.
You’ve found I would say and from what I’ve seen on your website that Udemy is your biggest winner so far.
Rob: Correct, yes, Ashley. Yeah. That has come along in the last year or so, yeah.
Ashley: I mean how many courses do you have up there now? Something like between five and seven from what I remember.
Rob: I think I’ve got nine.
Ashley: Nine. OK. I’m behind.
Rob: Yeah, quite a lot, and four are – so five are free and four are paid for.
Ashley: That’s something I spoke to you about when I was doing my course and I partially went with and partially went against your advice and I’ve recently switched back again just this week. But anyway, let’s discuss that. Your advice to me last year when I was asking you about this was that having a free smaller lead course, something that almost leads to your other course or at least establishes trust and authority, is a really good way of building up an audience for then your paid courses.
Rob: Yes. I think I’ve given that advice to a few people. So it doesn’t surprise me. I said that to you because that’s how I found traction on Udemy initially, just putting out a free course on Udemy. It has to be 30 minutes long, I think, video-wise and then you will get people going on there because people love free. You can also sell it to your list of course. Not sell it but – because you can’t sell free. But you know what I mean.
Ashley: Push it.
Rob: You push it, yeah. Thank you. And yeah, with people and all these people will hopefully – or some of them will listen to your videos and hopefully they will like you. Hopefully they will get a lot of benefit from the course and material that you have and that will fill up.
I mean after a few months, there might be 2000 people, something like that. Obviously it depends on the subjects of your course and the competition and everything else. But there will be hundreds anyway.
Rob: And you can market to those people. You can via the Udemy announcement system. You can send them an email basically. You don’t have their email address but you can send them an announcement and that announcement can say, “I’ve got a new paid for course that you might be interested in. If you’re interested in it, here’s a discount. You can have 60 percent off if you take this course now.” A lot of those people will be interested in that sort of deal.
Ashley: So have you found a lot of the traffic for the paid courses comes from that?
Rob: Yes, a lot of it comes from the free courses as well as other avenues.
Ashley: Yeah, because I mean I didn’t make – I tried that in the beginning and yeah, my problem was that I almost did a simultaneous launch of the free – although not free. If anyone is listening and thinking of doing this, if you can in some way find a way to do a beginner’s course or a leading course or something similar to your main course and prelaunch it at least by maybe a month or something, and build up an audience and some authority and even if you can go longer, it would be better having a few months.
So I think in advance but I’ve seen that now. My free course I think has 600 or 700 users because I put it to paid after a while just to see if I could get some money out of it because it was so popular but I think that was a mistake.
Yeah, because I was getting – I think the minimum price you can set is nine. I wanted to put it down to five or something but they don’t let you and so I wanted to get just a few bucks out of each person. But actually it’s pointless because the difference between free and a dollar is actually phenomenal.
Rob: Yes, it is. It is true.
Ashley: I mean I heard a study on – I think it was a book I was reading or I can’t remember where I heard it. It was saying there’s a difference between if I had a chocolate – something like Hershey’s Kiss and a Lindt chocolate and they price – the price difference between them was something like 14 cents. So one was six cents and one was 20 cents.
Then they move the price so that the Kiss was then free and the Lindt was then 14 cents. So the price difference stayed the same but one became free where before it was just cheap.
So whereas before everyone was buying the Lindt because price for quality was just way ahead, all of a sudden, when the Hershey’s Kiss became free, people stopped buying the Lindt. It switched and went from like 70-30 to 30-70.
Ashley: That’s the power of free and this is one of these psychological tests people do. So you have to also be really careful with that I find. Not giving away too much for free, not making yourself – not just creating an absolute rubbish course either because I’m getting a lot of really good reviews. I’ve got 17 or 18 reviews on my free course and everyone is really happy whereas if you’ve got 17 or 18 three star reviews where everyone is not particularly happy, you’re never going to sell anything. So I think you have to be really careful as well.
Rob: Yeah. I mean also Ashley, I wouldn’t worry about having it – both courses released simultaneously because a few months down the line, you can – you will get a few more hundred in your free course and you can just sell to them. They don’t know what has happened in the past.
Ashley: Oh, sure, sure.
Rob: The free course was out at the same time as the paid course and then they could only just be hearing about the paid course now. They would be grateful to hear about it.
So I think more importantly is just to get a free course out there because that will just get your name out there. Same with a lot of things. It’s great to get, as you say, quality free material out there. It’s just a good thing to do anyway and you can think later about how you’re going to monetize the authority and the following you have then achieved.
But it will benefit you. You may not know how but the fact that you’re putting free content that’s good out there in front of people who are consuming it, that’s going to be good full stop. You will find a way of working out why that’s good in the future.
Ashley: Yeah, that’s what I’m learning as I move through my journey in blogging and online businesses that this past mentality of not giving anything away and it’s gone. I mean you have to be careful. Obviously you can’t give everything away forever. You have to establish some services or something whereby you make money and also some other courses as we say. So you’ve got services and passive income.
But yeah, I mean I saw one just the other day, another blog. I came across through another blogger I was reading. He suggested it and I saw this guy has been around, I don’t know, since the beginning of the internet and the beginning of blogging. He has a huge following and he has a 30-day course. OK, very small units, so 30 units. It’s 30 videos or something and it’s also on Udemy. I saw it. He has it on his blog as well, for improving blogs.
That’s 30 videos he has made and he’s not making any money from it. But he’s an extremely well-established authority blogger. So yeah, what’s better, to be really, really well-known which then you can leverage in other ways or to keep everything to yourself and make people pay and then nobody likes you? So yeah, it’s a catch-22, right?
Rob: Yeah, no. I would say it’s best to just give it away. I mean as long as you’re not starving. Obviously we all need money. You’ve got to earn money. But if you are comfortable where you are, and the only way you can do it is by giving it away for free, then I would give it away for free.
I mean obviously that’s not – it’s not your life’s work but what you can give – I mean you can take a free course off Udemy. You can take free content away and then start charging for it in the future.
So in order to get yourself established and heard beneath all the other people out there, putting out great stuff for free really goes a long way. I really think so.
Ashley: Yeah, as I’ve seen from what you’re doing. I mean you’re doing quite well in terms of passive income and you’ve got – more than half of your courses or I think two-thirds at the moment are free. So I think it definitely – I mean they don’t have to be huge courses. Obviously your bigger ones are your paid courses and they require more of your time to develop and record and so forth.
But your smaller courses are reasonable units that people can consume and learn from and then they appreciate it and then follow you in whatever way that is. So what other ways have you been using to market your course?
I mean you’ve also put some of the pieces on YouTube. I’ve seen you do that before.
Rob: Yeah, I was just about to talk about YouTube there because the most – the other thing to say about my free courses is most of them – well, they’re actually all on YouTube and they all should be on YouTube because when I discovered Udemy, I’ve been on YouTube for three years or something like that. So I had a lot of stuff on there, which I could fish out on my hard drive somewhere and repackage into a Udemy course.
So actually creating the course didn’t take me anytime at all. I would advice anyone who wants to be some sort of online instructor to go pretty heavily into YouTube first because it teaches you so much about what works and what doesn’t work and it will improve your skills in video as well.
So yeah, I mean I’m big on YouTube, totally. It helps to sell the courses.
Ashley: I’ve also seen you’ve promoted some of your videos like on Triberr. I mean we both use Triberr. Maybe not everyone knows that it’s like a blogging community where everyone helps each other by tweeting or pinning or whatever. There are multiple channels that are used and everyone helps each other out in groups called tribes.
You sometimes post a piece of your content there as your post for the week or something to share. Is that another strategy you’ve been using?
Rob: Yeah. Where did you say …
Ashley: I think it was on Triberr. You’re on Triberr as well, right?
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah, that would be an automatically – a YouTube video that would have automatically come out in Triberr there.
Ashley: OK. So you’ve put your YouTube channel direct into Triberr. How do you do that?
Rob: Yeah. One of Ileane Smith’s Tribe is meant to be for YouTube and I think a lot of people have joined it and they put just their normal RSS feed. You can just get your YouTube RSS feed and put them up into Triberr and put it into – I did it with that tribe specifically because it is her video tribe and I didn’t know you could do that until Ileane pointed that out.
Ashley: She has some amazing …
Rob: She is amazing, yeah.
Ashley: Yeah. She was actually my first guest on the podcast because she’s the podcast queen. I thought, oh, she won’t refuse me an interview. She’s like, “Yes! I’m there. I’m your first person. Awesome!”
Rob: Yes, yes. I think if I was starting a podcast, I would probably ask Ileane to be my first guest as well, although I don’t know how she finds the time because she has got a job.
Ashley: Yes, yes, she does. She doesn’t really want to give it up. She actually – when did we do it? I think we also did it Sunday afternoon. A lot of the states people I grabbed, it’s quite difficult if they’re not working from home like us. Then I have to grab them on weekends or later. It’s actually – it can be really difficult. So yeah, like with Jen, she was in San Diego. That was a really huge time difference and we managed – yesterday, she just not long have gotten up and I was about to have dinner.
So it’s that kind of problem. OK. So that’s more or less Udemy. So you’ve got your free courses. You’ve got your paid courses. You’ve got promoting internally to the groups that have used your course before. You have access to those and then you’ve got your YouTube channel which has got all your free content on there either before or after the course.
I haven’t done that because I’m still really on YouTube. I really need to get on there and promote my course more.
When you put the videos on there, do you put specific links to the course then, in the description? Is that how you promote it?
Rob: Yes, and I can make them YouTube specific discounts as well. So I know they’re coming from YouTube.
Ashley: Yeah, because you can put all the different coupon codes in Udemy and track where people are coming from, right?
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Another thing – two more things I can think of for Udemy as well, of course the email list. You can get lots of sales from that of course and Kindle is very good as well. So I mean I’ve got a Kindle book that’s out on the same subject as one of my courses.
So there’s a coupon in the back of that Kindle book that does quite well because if somebody is going to read the Kindle book and quite liked it, then they would quite be interested in a four-hour long course on the same subject, going in more detail.
Ashley: Yeah, that makes sense. So kind of like again a primer and then they go, OK, I’m intrigued or I’ve learned a bit. But now let me go in depth in a long video. OK. That’s a cool idea as well.
Rob: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Ashley: So then after doing all these courses and actually that’s one last thing I have on all of my topics. The ideas for all of these courses, you just have them from your daily work things you see people need to learn and that you could teach. Is that how you come up with it or do you have a – yeah, how do you do that?
Rob: Yeah. I saw that was a question I was going to flounder with actually Ashley when you said that to me, because as you say, the course material I’ve come up with is kind of the same stuff that I’ve been coming up with in YouTube and my blog and through working from clients.
So it’s building – pretty obvious stuff really. It’s building websites, marketing websites, running a web design business and also Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign 3, sort of design packages that I’m familiar with. It has been fairly obvious what I do with them because of the YouTube stuff and the blogging stuff that I’ve done.
So there’s no great strategy I do for course creation or course topic creation. However, there is that thing that we were talking about earlier of getting someone to do something. It sounds wrong but what I mean is the course should enable the students to be able to create something by the end of it.
So this is how you build a house. This is how you build a website. This is how you master a software so you can get a job doing it. Another thing is this is how you build a website that you can sell to a client for more than $3000 or something like that. So there is a finite definite achievement at the end of the course. So that’s a really good rule for course topic creation.
Ashley: Yeah, we were discussing that before we started recording that – yeah, the difference between the course I did without thinking too much about it and what I would do again. Yeah, it’s looking at clear goals for a course and looking for what would be a motivation for a student to do a course and therefore hand over money to you given that there are tons of free content on Udemy.
Why would they pay you? Well, because at the end of it, you are going to be able to X, Y, Z.
Ashley: Yeah. So that’s a really good idea and now I mean what you’re saying is – to you it’s obvious what you’ve done. But I mean basically looking at it from an outsider, you’ve taken portions of what you’re doing for customers or even other – teaching other bloggers and people online and you’ve packaged those into again things you can achieve and want to learn as a skill. Like, you’ve got one on how to set up AWeber or MailChimp in order to create an email opt-in list and you’ve got one that I think I was doing recently about how you deal with clients and how you handle questions and how you find clients for your web design business.
These are things which – tons of questions that I have in starting my design business. I’m not used to handling that side of things because I’ve always had a company above me and yeah, you’ve just taken these things and said, “OK, I know these things. You don’t. You want to know them in order to do X. So here you go. Here’s the course.”
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. That’s something that I’ve – it’s stuff with clients. I tend to write about it quite a lot and how to run a website on business as well, that stuff that people – they quite like. I get a lot of emails about it. That’s another thing.
If you got a lot of emails about it, I tend to write and create content around questions that I get asked. So the other story of your audience will tell you what product to create. I think that’s something that Pat Flynn says or some people say.
Ashley: Yeah. Sure, because I mean if someone is bold enough, because I mean I don’t get too many emails and when you do, it’s someone who has really either got a really big issue and really needs to ask and is bold enough to ask because most of them are too shy to ask and when they think, I don’t know, we’re unapproachable or something. But actually I’m quite happy to answer an email that comes into my inbox.
But yeah, you’re right. I mean someone who writes to you has obviously got an issue and if five people write it to you, then it’s obviously a big issue with your audience. So think about how to solve that problem in a more complete way and a course is a great way to do that.
Ashley: So you’ve taken this course idea and then you’ve basically piggybacked that onto the Kindle ebook. So how does one go about doing that? I mean I’m seeing it’s really popular and as I said, I was talking to Jen on Sunday. She has How to Use Instagram for Beginners book. So I mean you can write these things. You have to put them in specific formats, all that kind of stuff. How do you go about doing that kind of stuff?
Rob: Yeah. Kindle is great. I love Kindle. It’s actually 10 times easier than you’re going to think.
Ashley: That’s great to hear.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. Basically I’ve done a video on it recently actually. It is so easy, you just have to – there are issues with format. It’s actually – OK, it’s not perfect but you can just write a Word document which most people can do and upload it to Amazon and there’s your Kindle book. I mean it is quite simple.
However, don’t let me make it out to be the paradise that it definitely isn’t. I mean Microsoft Word isn’t the most simply constructed piece of software and it chucks out hideous HTML that you – would make a grown man cry.
Ashley: So you’re using another tool to do this then.
Rob: Yes and no. I mean if you’ve just got – if your Kindle has just got paragraphs and headings, then Microsoft Word will do the job. It won’t be perfect but if you’re reading a Kindle, you don’t actually read a Kindle to see great typography at work or great images. You read a Kindle for the words. So I mean I could go on for hours about Kindle but you could just do Microsoft Word and again it’s more important that you get the subjects of the Kindle right and know your audience and know there’s demand for it and the marketing.
That’s much more important than the formatting and I’m a designer. So I should be much more into the formatting but – and I am struggling with it now because I want to be able to get – to do the perfect Kindle.
However, as with product creation in general, you getting it perfect is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to get it out there and so you can just write a Word document and give it a title and put it up there. See if it sells because it is the most amazing thing in the world, self-publishing. Ten years ago, you couldn’t do this. It’s so cool.
Ashley: So how do you convert these things into this special Kindle …
Rob: You don’t even have to do that. You can upload a doc. You go to Amazon.com and they will convert it for you. I am doing it in design with a periphery plugin and you could also do it in Scrivener which is – I think that’s just Mac only. But I think if people just want to write text, then they should start off with just a Word document.
I mean obviously there will be people who disagree with me and I will respect that because I’m not talking about doing things in the tiptop correct way. However, I’ve done it and there’s nothing wrong with the Kindle books that come out in the other end.
Ashley: The kind of price point that you or I would be targeting is not the 15-buck, 20-buck books anyway, right? So you would expect a bit more from that and to be honest, I was going to say, before I interject, I read a lot of Kindle books, which are coming from top publishers and the conversion to Kindle is often garbage. So if these guys are getting away with it, why can’t we?
Rob: Exactly, exactly. I don’t want to be a proponent for putting our garbage there. However, Kindles themselves, the formatting is not good.
Ashley: It’s just text that’s bold and the pictures don’t really work and it’s very difficult to get. Yeah, you have to look at it either as like an iPad magazine or if you want something like that, then you have to go and do something like that. If you’re trying to just sell information, I think yeah.
Rob: Yeah. The Kindles, they’re all different. You’ve got your different devices there for starters. So how are you going to get away with widows and orphans (Ed: Assume this is a publishing term)? See, you can’t. It’s flowing text. So it’s never going to be perfect for starters.
So you might as well just put things out there. You can always update them to the best formatted MOBI file in the future which I will be doing. But for the time being, I would get the content out there, number one; think about the formatting, number two.
Ashley: So it’s something to start off with if someone had an idea. I mean I have an old Twitter book sitting around if I wanted to trial it and so you create an account on Amazon. You have to create some kind of publisher account or is it an addition to your standard Amazon login?
Rob: It’s a bit of both, I think. It’s KDP.Amazon.com and then you sign in with your Amazon account.
Ashley: OK. Then you can upload it, put in some metadata or whatever. I guess the key point is probably a sexy cover picture or something, I guess.
Rob: Yeah, there are all sorts of little things that are important when it gets to that stage, the title, with keywords. There are keywords that you can add to it and metadata. There are two categories you put it in. The cover as you rightly say, the description you put the book on. So there are all those things.
Ashley: Marketing stuff.
Rob: Marketing, to get the marketing and the reviews of course as Amazon’s reviews are important, so things like that. But the best thing to do is – actually there’s a very good Facebook group that I joined called Pat’s First Kindle Book or something like that. I can give you the link later and just talk to other Kindlers and you will get – it’s quite a good idea to run the title past people and somebody would say, “Oh, that’s not very good for SEO.” You could change it to this, blah, blah, blah. That might be a bit better.
All my titles, I’ve run through this group first and the covers as well, and there probably are other Facebook groups as well that would be good for that.
Ashley: So some of the strategies I’ve read about on there, I had a friend who published actually a really nice book about meditation recently. She did it on Kindle and in real life so that was a bit more of a tough job. Her partner’s brother is an illustrator. So that was really a fancy book but I remember her discussing or at least I think it was her or someone else talking about it.
When you first publish, there’s a certain period where you can do the push and give it away for free to try and get the downloads and the reviews up in order to get it kind of noticed. Is that the strategy that’s used quite often?
Rob: Yes. Actually, I could tell you, you could write a Kindle book on the launch strategy of a Kindle book because there’s a very definite procedure you go for. Usually you put it out at 99 cents and get a few sales on the board first. Then you can – there’s a little technical point here. You have to put it into KDP Select which is different to just putting it out on Kindle and KDP Select is – needs to be only on Amazon. It can’t be on Barnes & Noble, Apple or Kobo or any of these other outlets. It has to be unique to Amazon.
Once you put that, you have it – if you decide to do that, put it on KDP Select, you can then put it for free for five days out of every 90. Those free days, you can – obviously they will go through the roof. You will have about thousands, minimum thousand downloads and that will get your name out there and it will get you on – it will get you on the sidebar in Amazon. So if somebody has read your book who has read another book, then Amazon might suggest your book as a result of that.
So that’s why free days are quite useful. Not only does it get your name out there amongst the people who have actually downloaded your book. It will also get you suggested in the Amazon algorithm or it might be in the future after that.
Ashley: Yeah. I guess there are no guarantees but I mean it’s certainly worth trying because I did similar things on Udemy. Some people have written to me and said, “Oh, you’ve made so many sales. You must be right.” Yeah, well, if only that was true.
Reality is quite different. Udemy when you sign up suggests that you promote your book heavily or your course heavily for free in order to get numbers and reviews up which I think is a standard everywhere. It’s the same as the whole book dumping thing for the New York Times best sellers. They sell their books and then they go on and buy them again from the shops, this whole kind of thing.
I mean it has been going on for probably centuries. I mean so when you see courses and you think, “Oh my god, that person has 600 students,” and whatever, well, that’s not the reality of the situation. So yeah, I mean of course as time goes on, and you become more popular, people might start paying a bit in the beginning to get your name in many things in the world including blogging. You have to get it away for free and yeah, get your name out there.
OK. So that’s really cool. So basically you go on to Amazon. You try it out. You get your marketing down. You do a bit of a launch. You get free. You get people on there. Maybe you get shown in the sidebar and then link to your video courses if you have that or even to your blog or to some affiliate. Are you allowed to put affiliate links in these Kindles as well?
Ashley: You’re not.
Rob: Actually, you – it’s a grey area. You’re not allowed …
Ashley: You don’t want to get kicked out of Kindle.
Rob: Yeah. I would say no. Let’s be on the safe side. Yeah, let’s just say no to that question although there’s a debate there.
Ashley: Yeah. I mean it’s something that I’ve noticed recently. I have been playing around with some software tools and they block you from using – or it’s actually AWeber that blocks you from using this thing for a sign-up because it’s specific double opt-in and all of these sort of stuff.
So yeah, if you want to do these kinds of tricky things, I would say what I do if I want to use an affiliate link somewhere I’m not supposed to is I put a blog post in there which is maybe a review of a product which has links in it. So I’m actually linking to a very detailed discussion of a product rather than just blatantly selling a product.
Rob: Yeah, I think it’s always better to be on the right side of the law and if these platforms can’t keep their laws simple enough for everyone to understand, that’s basically not your – that’s your problem, not their problem. So you probably got to be wiser than most because you don’t want to get chucked out from the platform.
Ashley: It seems to be the new law around the internet with Google and Facebook and whatever. I had an ad blocked the other day. I was playing around with Facebook ads and they blocked my URL and there’s nothing wrong with my URL as far as I know from all the stuff I’ve ready. But whoever’s hand is reviewing this stuff, wherever that’s being done, in bulk by random people who don’t necessarily probably know what they’re doing, decided that my ad was not satisfactory and they blocked it. There’s no going back and asking for that to be re-evaluated. It’s not going to happen.
So you basically have to be really careful these days because you can’t ring them. You can’t write to them. You can’t plead for a re-evaluation although Google does have I think – sometimes where you can get sites re-evaluated. But you don’t ever want to be in that position where you – even though it’s on Amazon or a Google or a Facebook.
Rob: Yeah. When you’re on someone else’s platform, you basically – you can’t be certain of anything, what we were talking about earlier. I mean this is why you should concentrate a lot on your site and your own list because that’s where you have the most control over your audience. You get them on your site and get them on your list and then you can play around with these platforms and they’re great and they work. But we’ve seen it so many times before, haven’t we?
People think they’re great and somebody – the rug gets pulled from underneath them and so handle with care. You might be making money every month from a platform. By the next month, it can all go. You don’t know.
Ashley: That’s why you’re diversifying, right? I was just going to touch on the last thing which you’ve done there – maybe you have something to add there, maybe not. But I will just quickly touch on that and that’s the affiliate stuff that has been doing well for you. So again, we’ve been talking about courses that are working and ebooks which are kind of piggybacking on that. Then also I see in your income reports and this is again something that Pat Flynn does insanely well on, but it’s very hard to replicate his success. But let’s just say we can all learn a few hundred bucks possibly a month. You’ve been doing quite well with the – I think it’s WPML or …
Rob: Yes! Yes, that’s WPML. That’s WordPress Multilingual. Yeah, that’s …
Ashley: Is there any reason why you think that has done well?
Rob: I’m pretty sure it’s coming from YouTube and I think I’m doing well with that because not a lot of people know about it and I just think I would probably – I think probably a certain amount of people are going to YouTube, keying in something like WordPress Multilingual. How do I get my site in another language? They come along to my video where I show them how to do it and click the link below which is an affiliate link to WPML which is an excellent plugin and if you want to make your WordPress website multilingual, you can do a lot worse than getting this plugin. It’s not very expensive
You just set it up and it’s pretty easy. You can translate the whole of your site and put up a language switch there in the header and that’s it. So yeah, it’s a result of – I did that job for a client once and I’ve done it for a few clients now. So I write about it in my blog and took me five minutes to find whether they had an affiliate scheme or not and sure enough, they do. So I put the link in and forgot about it for a few months and then all of a sudden the checks start coming in or the PayPal emails or whatever they are.
Rob: It’s not a lot of money but it’s a bit of fun.
Ashley: It only trickles in on the – maybe it pays for your hosting or whatever and this is what I do with most of the money that I earn. I don’t really go and buy a new computer based on the money. I go and pay my bills, my Buffer account and my Bluehost and whatever.
But actually what you’ve basically done there and it’s interesting to hear. I’ve been thinking of trying something similar, is you’ve done I think one of Pat Flynn’s strategies and inadvertently, it sounds like he makes most of his money from Bluehost and – what’s the other one? I forgot now but anyway, he basically makes the money off from the keyword search like Market Samurai and so forth. He does that through providing really detailed videos and then I was wondering how he was getting a link to the affiliate. I was thinking he was getting them back to his site, but if you can put links on YouTube itself, then obviously from that.
I think that’s how he does it. He either does really huge long webinars or – and then puts those on YouTube and then links to all that stuff. So basically provides huge amounts of value and then someone ends up clicking on the link.
Rob: Yeah. I remember hearing him say once that you show people how to use the product and then that – so they can see you using it and they see how to use it. They’re seeing, oh, if I buy this plugin, I will be able to do this in five or ten minutes if I just follow this video. Then you got one link in your YouTube video description. You can put as many links as you want but the first one will be visible underneath the video in YouTube. So it’s a no-brainer to click it and get the plugin. Yeah, I think that’s how he does it for Bluehost and that’s how I do it for WPML.
Ashley: Yeah, it sounds like a good strategy because I mean I’ve been sort of pushing some products on and off over the last year and yeah, had dribbles of money coming here and there, really nothing significant. I find that even if I push a product with a blog post and even a video and a blog post, thinking OK, I really, really, really endorse this product. I love it. I use it all the time. I want to show my love for it.
You get pretty much zero bites from this post. I mean I don’t think I’ve almost had a single sale. The only sales I’ve ever had from anything that I’ve pushed has come from getting to number one on Google which is part luck and part planning. But yeah, so this other strategy seems to be actually really good.
Provide useful info in a video which maybe you’re using for other purposes anyway and then maybe if you’re lucky, make some money on the side from it, if it does well.
Rob: Yeah, that’s always how I’ve done it. I mean it comes from – usually I’ve discovered how to do something well through working from a client and then I’ve found out that they’ve got an affiliate scheme and then I’ve gone and ran a blog post and done a video about it. That’s usually how it happens.
Ashley: Yeah. No, I think that’s a great idea for people. So I think we will wrap up here. We’re getting towards the 55-minute mark and people probably want to stop jogging or walking the dog or whatever they’re doing and go back home.
Rob: No, no, they should do it for 10 minutes more if they’re jogging.
Ashley: Yes, you haven’t done enough. Get on that treadmill.
Rob: Your final sprint there too.
Ashley: So just to wrap up, so we’ve got basically, yeah, Udemy and Kindle and affiliate marketing. So some great ideas for people there and I will get some links from Rob’s blog and all the post that he has written for there. We will discuss that after the call. I mean some emails and I will put all of that in the show notes and the stuff we’ve been talking about, the tools we’ve been talking about and all of the stuff that Rob has written on. He has written a lot of great material on how to do all of this stuff and we will certainly link to all of that.
Yeah, and before we wrap up, Rob, anything you’re working on at the moment, you want to quickly talk about or anything coming up?
Rob: Oh, I’m doing – yeah, nothing interesting. I’m doing a new Udemy course and a new Kindle book and I’m desperate to get the Udemy course done because it has been going for four months now and it’s just driving me mad. It’s like when you’ve nearly finished something. You can never finish it quicker and so, I’m just trying to get these products out and then maybe go on holiday or something like that.
Ashley: All right. You want to do a teaser? What’s the course or you don’t want to mention that yet?
Rob: No. The course is another – remember the Udemy course I did where I’m talking to the clients?
Ashley: Yes, that came up. I haven’t looked at it yet. Yeah, you actually did one sort of a – you know, duet with a lady, right?
Rob: Yes, yes. We don’t sing.
Ashley: That’s for the next course.
Rob: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s the accumulation of that lady’s website. So I’m building it for her live and it has just gone live. The website has gone live. So I’ve just got to do the final few videos for that and the Kindle book is about – I’m not too sure if it’s going to work or not but it’s going to be aimed at people just starting out. It’s going to be starting in your first new self-branded website. So I have no idea if that’s going to do well or not.
Ashley: Well, we have billions of people on the web, I think, that’s …
Rob: Oh, yeah, hopefully. Yeah.
Ashley: All right. So people can find you at RobCubbon.com. What’s your number one social media people should try and connect with you on if you have a preference?
Rob: Facebook or Twitter, I guess.
Ashley: I mean I will put the whole lot in the show notes. I always do that. I will grab everything from your website. But just in case anyone is wanting to connect, I mean I know I have my preferences for Twitter and Pinterest, although Pinterest is not a great place to talk to people but Twitter certainly is.
Yeah, we will put all that stuff in the show notes and yeah, thanks Rob. We’re all going to run out and become very lazy sitting in Banana Land, drinking cocktails, and living from the non-passive, passive income where you’re constantly creating new courses and let’s not make it as silly as it is because you do need to do some work. It’s not simple but it certainly helps to have a good base income there instead of relying on customers all the time.
Rob: Yeah, and it’s having fun along the way. That’s the main point but it’s good fun working from home and talking to and connecting with cool people like yourself Ashley and this is all good.
Ashley: Yeah. No, I love it. It’s great. It’s a great life. I recommend it for anyone and if you’re not doing it yet, certainly slowly work your way towards it and ask us for help. Connect with us and we will do everything we can to help you because we love it and we just want it to spread like wildfire.
So thanks Rob and have a great rest of your day.
Rob: And you Ashley. I hope to talk to you soon as well.
Ashley: No worries. I’m sure we will have another chat about something soon. There are always lots to talk about.
Rob: That’s true.
Ashley: All right. Thanks Rob.
Rob: Cheers, Ashley. Thank you.
Rob’s Passive Income Blog Posts (including Udemy and Kindle posts)
The WPML Plugin Rob mentioned (for adding multiple languages to a website)
As this podcast is just starting out, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes to help me promote it and reach more people.
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Passive income is not as passive as you might think, because things change all the time.
But if you get a little creative and try out some of the different options available, it can definitely work for you!
Create an ebook, a small video course or just promote an affiliate product. It’s all possible.
Give it a try today.
Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).
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