Nate Smith realized after 3 years that his first business wasn’t going to earn enough. So he started a second one. After going broke twice along the way, he’s built a six-figure agency.
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1) Success does not happen overnight; embrace the fact that it may take time.
2) The worst will come before the successes.
3) Spend your days in a business that you see yourself in for the long-term.
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(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
[01:01] – A decade ago, entrepreneurship was not even one of Nate’s options
[01:06] – He moved to New York to be a professional musician
[01:17] – In 2012, he became disillusioned by the music scene, and he was hitting a glass ceiling with his day job
[02:23] – He realized that in order to get the freedom that he wanted, he needed to grow his business substantially
[02:33] – Through email marketing and conversion rate optimization he found himself making $8,000 / month the following year
[02:58] – At that time, people were already asking Nate if he could provide services for what he does
[03:04] – What secured his transition was speaking at an entrepreneurial event
[03:50] – “Things do not happen overnight”
[05:22] – Nate’s area of expertise is being able to look at things from the customer’s perspective
[06:51] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: One of Nate’s first clients was Taylor Pearson. Nate had already launched his own product and had helped other people launch their products before then. Nate and Taylor built a funnel, and in some of their launches they had zero engagement. One Tuesday morning, with 0 sales, Nate was lying down thinking about what he was going to do next
[10:09] – There are a few factors in launching a product
- How much the product is
- The particular cohort that you’re launching to
- What subgroups of your list have been exposed to you
[12:01] – As long as you treat things as an experiment, the worst comes before the success
[13:34] – Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment: The type of consulting he did 6 months ago vs what he does today—he doesn’t need to deliver the services personally
[14:09] – When Nate contacted JLD last December, he had built a 6-figure agency doing his own copywriting and funnel consulting
[14:22] – It was rewarding, but it was not scalable
[14:48] – In February, Nate realized he started to hate the agency and that he needed to start building something bigger than himself
[15:37] – In Nate’s new business, he’s handing Google Adwords with his team
[16:28] – “Do you love what you’re doing?”
[17:01] – “How you spend your days is how you’re going to spend your life”
[17:35] – What is the one thing you are most FIRED up about today? “Just last month I had a client we were introducing an upsell for… and it actually converted really well!”
[19:42] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Mindset”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Only work on one thing at a time”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Taking a break in the middle of the day and dividing my work into 2 sessions”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Streak
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Built to Sell – “it focuses you not only on the how of building a business, but also the why”
[23:41] – Be receptive to the evidence that what you’re going to do is going to either succeed or fail
[23:52] – Set a time window for yourself
Nate Smith: John, I’m ready.
John Lee Dumas: Yes!
Nate Smith: I’ve got my fire-proof suit. I’ve been practicing stop, drop, and roll all week. Let’s do this.
John Lee Dumas: Nate realized, after three years, that his first business wasn’t going to earn enough, so he started a second one. And after going broke twice along the way, he’s built a six-figure agency. Nate, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro, and give us just a little glimpse of your personal life.
Nate Smith: Yeah, 100 percent. So, if you’d spoken to me a decade ago, entrepreneurship wasn’t even something that was on my radar. I’d moved to New York City to be a professional musician, and I went to music school. And it wasn’t until kind of a perfect storm hit me around about 2012. I was disillusioned with the music scene and with the possibilities of making a living but also doing creative music. At the very same time, I was realizing that I’d hit a glass ceiling at my day job, and it just so happened that around that time I started getting exposed to entrepreneurship stuff and read The 4-Hour Workweek.
So, at that time, I knew I needed to do something. Basically, I was desperate. I needed to make something happen, so the only skill I had that I thought was monetizable was my music skill. So, I started a website dedicated to drumming called The 8020 Drummer. And three short years later, I finally started earning money from that. I launched a successful info product and kind of went from zero to one. And in that month, I made around $1,000.00 from my info product, and I was like, man, I am sold. This entrepreneurship thing is for real.
But obviously, in the ensuing year, I realized that if I was going to create the life I wanted and quit my job and really get freedom, that I would need to grow that substantially more. So, through a combination of things like email marketing and conversion rate optimization and just experimenting with things like copyrighting and sales pages, in the following year, one year later, that January I had an $8,000.00 month.
So, I started talking about the stuff I was experimenting with on some entrepreneur forums, and people were already hitting me up to see if I could help them do the same thing with their product, with their funnels. But what really sealed the deal in terms of my transition was an entrepreneur event needed a speaker at the last minute, so I was like, okay, what the hey. I’ll talk. So, I told the story of how I 8X-ed my business in one year, and from then on, people were hitting me up to help them with their funnels.
And around the same time, I realized that there was gonna be a lot more growth potential in consulting and in helping people with sales funnels than there was going to be in the music info product, so I made the transition.
John Lee Dumas: So, Fire Nation, I hope you really picked up on that point that Nate said that three years later, he started to actually see a dollar from his blood, sweat, and tears over that time frame because things do not happen overnight. They come from putting in the effort, putting in the time, having that luck – and again, luck is where effort meets that opportunity – and then jumping into it when it happens.
Nate was going down one road, doing his thing, learning a lot, and then when he got to the end of that road and said, wow, I just had an $8,000.00 month and he started talking about it, he saw well, that was great and I love doing that. But a lot of people are wanting to know specifically my skill set over here. And then, he could explore that as well.
So, one thing that I see entrepreneurs struggle with so much is that you wanna see that whole staircase when the reality is you only have to see that next step because once that next step is taken, Fire Nation, you don’t even know what’s gonna uncover with that next step and that next step going forward. And if you try to see that whole staircase, you’re looking at the wrong thing. Let that journey unfold as you want it to unfold and just as it naturally unfolds doing your thing.
Now, you’ve been becoming an expert at a lot of things over the years, some things that you expected to, some things you didn’t expect to. But what would you say today you are an expert in? What’s your area of expertise?
Nate Smith: I’ve thought very, very deeply about the customer’s journey, and when I started consulting with sales funnels, I started writing a blog about it. And through my own experimentation through work I did with clients and just help I gave to other entrepreneurs and also through some coaching I did and some books I read, I’ve explored the idea of what it looks like from the customer’s perspective when someone first encounters you, how you build that trust relationship all the way down to the sale.
So, in terms of seeing the next step, I feel like, at least within my sort of narrow area of focus, I see the matrix pretty well in terms of what’s required to convince someone to trust us and then show them that we’re able to solve their problem and then get them to trust us enough to invest in our solutions.
John Lee Dumas: Yeah, I actually personally call that the funnel, Fire Nation, because to me, a definition of a funnel is the journey that your avatar, who’s that perfect listener client, customer, whoever that is, that perfect person goes on from the moment they experience you and your brand for the first time. What is that journey that you’re taking them on that’s taking them from person that just experienced you for the first time all the way through to getting tons of value from you, then to potentially having a product, a service, a community, an offer that’s right for them?
So, Nate, let’s kinda talk now about your journey as an entrepreneur because you’ve had a lot of ups and you’ve had a lot of downs over the years. And you’ve been in a lot of different fields, and you’ve done a lot of different things. But what would you say, within all of that, is your worst entrepreneurial moment to date? Tell us that story.
Nate Smith: Yeah, John Lee, you’re absolutely right. There are a bunch of close candidates competing for that worst moment. And I would say two close runners-up are realizing that your portfolio’s gonna go to zero as a consultant because all of your clients turn at once, and all of a sudden, you don’t know what you’re gonna do. And also, having taken someone’s money to help them to grow a product or launch a brand and then realizing that maybe the first thing you worked on didn’t go as planned.
John Lee Dumas: Nate, I really wanna dive deep into that story of you being hired to do something and then struggling doing that. So, let’s kind of maybe unpack that. What did that look like? How did that happen? And then, what unfolded?
Nate Smith: Sure. So, one of my first clients that hired me to help him with a launch was Taylor Pearson, who I’m not sure if you know, but he’s the author of the book, The End of Jobs. So, I had launched my own product and other people’s products successfully before then, but I think I still needed to gain a measure of humility about how long it would take and how much of a gamble it is and how much experimentation it takes to launch things.
So, we built out a funnel and eventually – I’ll spoil the end. Eventually, Taylor had a very successful product that we launched and it took us three months.
John Lee Dumas: Spoiler alert!
Nate Smith: Yeah, but in some of the ensuing launches where we were trying different strategies, we would spend two weeks building out a funnel, writing emails, getting his sales pitch ready. And then, we would fire off the launch and then crickets. And I’d have to get on the phone with him and dissect why it wasn’t working. And I remember one particular Tuesday morning because the launch runs Monday through Friday. Tuesday morning, we hadn’t made any sales, and I was literally lying on my living room floor just taking deep breaths, just thinking, “Oh, my God, what am I gonna do?”
And the answer was just continue to iterate, continue to experiment, but yeah, that is one of the sort of crucibles you have to run through, I think, to – one of the fears you have to face to become a successful consultant.
John Lee Dumas: What was the thing that turned it all around? What was that first shining light? What was the first thing that really worked that took that launch to the next level?
Nate Smith: I wish that I could point to one sort of magic bullet, but there are a few factors that go into launching a product. There’s exactly what the offer is, there’s how much you’re charging for it, there’s the particular cohort that you’re launching to – so, if you’ve got a big list, which subgroup of that list is it – what exposures have they already had to you, and then there’s the price. I don’t know if I said the price already. So, it was really just lining up those dials and finding that right combination, but there are some things you can do to give yourself more of an advantage.
So, I’m a big fan of Ryan Levesque. He developed the Ask Method, and his whole thing is about the surveys, but he, of course, wasn’t the first direct response marketer to use surveys. But I try to program in feedback at every stage if I’m doing a launch with a client. So, if we launch the first time to the first cohort, it goes reasonably well, still, we’re sending out emails to everyone who bought and everyone who didn’t buy. We’re trying to get on the phone with as many people who will get on the phone with us.
So, I think a combination of just being deliberate about, okay, these are the three or four variables we’re experimenting with. These are the possible combinations of them. But also informing the approach by actually speaking to the people who have gone through the launch. “Okay, what resonated for you with the pitch? What didn’t resonate? Which features could we strip out and you wouldn’t care? If we had to take out three-quarters of this entire product and just leave one thing but still charge the same price, what should we keep?” those sorts of questions.
John Lee Dumas: Nate, what is the one thing that you want our listeners to take away from your worst moments? What’s the one lesson that we can maybe implement into our businesses that can help us, as entrepreneurs, going forward?
Nate Smith: I would definitely say it’s that as long as you treat things as an experiment – and this has been true throughout – the worst moment very often comes right before a success. So, when it seems like things aren’t working, the temptation is to either abandon everything or to hang our heads and fret. And I think business rewards those who take a step away. Maybe a take a jog. Take a walk, but then come back and say, “Okay, what are the variables in this? What’s working? What’s not working? What can I double down on? What should I lose?” and who just keep iterating and who aren’t afraid to treat it as an experiment.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, the world rewards people who have persistence, who have tenacity. We’re not saying that are just beating their heads against the seam wall, but like Nate said, go for a walk. Go for a run. Come back and say, “Hey, what can I try that’s a little different, that’s maybe one twist to the right or one twist to the left, that’s going to maybe make all the difference in the world” because we never know. So, always keep iterating.
Now, Nate, let’s talk about one of those aha moments you’ve had. What’s one of the greatest ideas that you’ve had to date as an entrepreneur and how’d you turn it into success?
Nate Smith: One thing that I was experiencing last winter, actually, after we initially got in touch… So, when I contacted you last December, I had built this six-figure agency, and I was personally doing copyrighting and funnel consulting for a portfolio of clients. And that was really rewarding, but at the same time, I was already beginning to realize some of the shortcomings of that business model, among which was that it wasn’t scalable and that every morning it depended on me waking up in the morning and thinking deeply about these people’s businesses and personally putting pen to paper or cursor to screen and doing copyrighting.
And what I realized was that, on a Sunday night in mid-February, that I was starting to dread it. I was starting to hate it. So, I knew that I needed to – and we can speak more about this later on if you want. I knew that I needed to start to building something bigger than myself, so what I started to look at was how can I combine a superpower that I have with an expertise that’s easy to hire out? So, I’m starting with I’m gonna solve all your business problems. I’m starting with the product, with something that is easy to hire for but that I can kind of arbitrage it and bring a special slant to.
And what that ended up being was ad words management. So, in the new business I’m building now, I have a team in place who that’s their expertise, but the zero to one for me with that was getting my first client with the new business model and realizing I no longer have to personally deliver the service. And you’re gonna ask me later about my favorite book, perhaps, but that dovetails with this idea of are you building something that’s gonna continue to function even if you’re not personally running it.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, the point that I wanna bring up here is that I personally think it’s not important to decide if your business model is gonna scale or not. I don’t think it’s important for you, as an individual, to decide if your business model is scalable or not. Instead, do you love what you’re doing? Do you enjoy what you’re doing?
And for a lot of people, Nate included, he did not enjoy not having a business model that could scale, so he made that change. Maybe you do love that rolling up the sleeves, that getting into it day to day, that six-figure business because you get up every single day and you’re looking forward to solving the problems that you’re going to solve.
So, don’t just listen to somebody like Nate or myself or some other entrepreneur and say, “Oh, well, I don’t know if my business model scales. Is that bad?” No, it’s not bad if you’re loving what you’re doing because how you spend your days, Fire Nation, is how you’re going to spend your lives. The most important thing that I want you to be learning from all of these guests that we have on is that there are so many different paths, so many different journeys, so many different choices we can make. Which one resonates with you? Which one makes you get out of bed in the morning and say, “Yes, I am excited for the day today”? Follow that path. See where that path goes.
Now, Nate, what are you most excited about right now? You’ve gone through that. You’ve built up systems, automations, teams. What are you most fired up about today?
Nate Smith: It’s actually a dovetail with my worst moment because I was talking about that feeling of having taken someone’s investment in my services and not being sure I could deliver the service. And I think the flip side of that is when you actually create success for clients. So, just last month, I had a client for whom we were introducing an upsell, so he’s got a very successful info product. He’s got a membership site, and we’re thinking about, okay, how do we double your business if we have to. And one of the things is you’re charging $29.00 a month. Maybe there’s a small cohort of your audience who will pay $500.00 a month. So, we were like, you know what? What the heck. Let’s try it.
So, we wrote a funnel. We did a one-off launch of this product. We were gonna pre-sell it to see if anyone would buy. And actually, it converted really well, so the feeling of having created value for someone, winning for your clients.
And when I look at the new thing that I’m doing with the ad words management, when we successfully see someone get results, No. 1, that validates everything you’re doing and it gives you confidence and it puts a spring in your step. But No. 2, it’s difficult to overstate the effect that that has when you’re going out and selling your services to your next client. If you not only suspect, but if you know deep down that you’re going to create value for them and you’re approaching things as I’m gonna help you win in your business, and as a side effect, I’m going to get paid for it, I think that’s a great spot to be.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, when you can combine something that you enjoy doing with adding massive value to others, you’re gonna win every single time. And value bombs are coming, Fire Nation, in the lightning round, so don’t you go anywhere. After we get back from thanking our sponsors, we will be dropping those bombs.
Nate, are you ready to rock the lightning round?
Nate Smith: Yeah, let’s do it.
John Lee Dumas: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Nate Smith: Mindset, the fact that because I hadn’t seen something succeed yet firsthand, I didn’t deeply believe it was possible.
John Lee Dumas: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nate Smith: Only work on one thing at a time. Even if something you’re doing isn’t working, make sure you see it through to the point where you know for sure if it’s gonna work or not before you try something else because something that might work if you’re focusing on it singularly is almost guaranteed not to work if you’re dividing your efforts.
John Lee Dumas: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Nate Smith: Taking a break in the middle of the day and dividing my work into sort of two sessions. So, in the morning, I might send out sales campaigns or do work. Then, I’ll go to the gym or do Brazilian jujitsu, and that allows me to detach. And then, I can come back in the afternoon fresh.
John Lee Dumas: Can you recommend one Internet resource?
Nate Smith: I’m really bullish on this Chrome plug-in that’s called Streak, which allows you to do things like mail merging and seeing your entire sales pipeline at a glance. And for people who do sales where you’ve got kind of a high touch one-on-one thing with people in the inbox, being able to look at everything sort of in order is really valuable.
John Lee Dumas: Recommend one book and share why.
Nate Smith: Built to Sell. The reason Built to Sell is so powerful is because it focuses you not only on the how of building a business that’s bigger than you so that it’s gonna run without you and you’re not just a freelancer, but also the why, which is that if you’re ever going to sell your business, potential buyers will value a bespoke service business multiples less than they will a product business. So, how can you make your business more like a product.
John Lee Dumas: Love it. And John Warrillow, past guest of EO Fire. Fire Nation, you can definitely go check him out. He dropped some value bombs himself, and you must love audio, Fire Nation. You’re listening to a podcast, so you can get an audio version of this book for free over at EOFirebook.com if you haven’t’ already signed up for Audible. Sweet.
Nate, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance. Give us the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
Nate Smith: I’ve prepared a special gift, so if they go to 8020marketingguy.com/fire, I’ve been blogging about my successes and failures in marketing for a bunch of years, and I’ve put together the top five articles that I’ve ever written about my marketing successes. So, if they go to 8020marketingguy.com/fire, they can grab that.
John Lee Dumas: And what’s the parting piece of guidance?
Nate Smith: It’s not just about doggedly persisting with your head down. It’s about being receptive to the evidence that what you’re gonna do is gonna succeed or fail. Has anyone else done it successfully? And try to set a time window for yourself, maybe 90 days, and at least see something through to the end of that 90-day span before you try something else.
John Lee Dumas: Fire Nation, you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and you have been hanging out with NS and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOFire.com. Just type Nate in the search bar. His show notes page is gonna pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz: timestamps of our chats, links galore. Nate, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. And Fire Nation, 8020marketingguy.com/fire is a gift awaiting you. And Nate, for that, we salute you, brother. And we will catch you on the flip side.
Nate Smith: Thanks, John. Great to be on.
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