Yaro Starak chats about how he went from a trickle of $100 a month to earning over $1 million a year, all while keeping his desired relaxed lifestyle. Currently, Yaro continues to blog often, but his new venture is in software development and has quite a catchy name: Cranky Ads. Join us as Yaro takes us on his Aussie journey, and learn from a master.
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- Your Big Idea: Successful Entrepreneurs have One Big Idea. Follow JLD’s FREE training & you’ll discover Your Big Idea in less than an hour!
- “Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Buddha
- Yaro spent $10k to create a business. On day 1, Yaro realized that what he had created was the opposite of what he wanted. Yaro shares the importance of knowing when to walk away when it just doesn’t feel right.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Yaro got down to business and was intrigued with email marketing. He learned by studying from the best, and his AHA moment was quite an exciting revelation.
- Yaro speaks of his woes in the software development world, as well as the light at the end of the tunnel.
- Rarely do we get this kind of actionable advice in the lightening round. It’s always good, but man, this lightning round is GREAT!
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John Dumas: Hire Fire Nation and thank you for joining me for another episode of EntrepreneurOnFire.com, your daily dose of inspiration. If you enjoy this free podcast, please show your support by leaving a rating and review here at iTunes. I will make sure to give you a shout out on an upcoming showing to thank you!
John Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply thrilled to introduce my guest today, Yaro Starak. Yaro, are you prepared to ignite?
Yaro Starak: I am. Let’s do it, John.
John Dumas: Well, Yaro is coming to us from Australia. He’s been in the online industry for quite some time now. Entrepreneurs-Journey.com is his main website. It’s a great place to go for actionable info.
Yaro, why don’t you take it from here and tell us a little more about who you are and what you do?
Yaro Starak: Long story short, I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life. So I’ve managed to avoid that fulltime job, which pretty much was my goal. When I started university, I didn’t want to get a job at the end of it. I just didn’t know what else to do. So it was all about avoiding fulltime employment, and for me, it was just good timing. The Internet was starting to blossom around the same time as I was getting into it.
I’ve had a few different businesses, which we can certainly talk about which led me to blogging, which I’ve been doing for the last seven years. I became a teacher in that space too. So teaching people how to make money from blogs, information marketing membership sites, and just good old-fashioned entrepreneurship and personal development along the way as well.
John Dumas: So where is the best place for people to go to get a full gist of Yaro Starak?
Yaro Starak: I mean my main site is Entrepreneurs-Journey, my blog, which is the one I’ve been writing for almost eight years now. So it’s getting on. It always has been what it is – a chronicle of my entrepreneur’s journey. So when it began, it was telling my past. I kind of went over the things I had learned from having a card game website, a proofreading business, an English school, and anything and everything I was learning about in terms of Internet marketing at the time, and just taking what was in my head and putting into blog content.
It proved popular. I figured out I like writing, which is obviously good if you’re a blogger if you do enjoy the process. It became my main business. I eventually sold off all the websites I owned and all the businesses I had, except for the blog, and became a teacher by launching those courses that you mentioned earlier on. I’ve had three courses. One done in partner with Gideon Shalwick and the other two my own.
Presently, I’m basically running my blog and I’m doing a startup company called CrankyAds, which is an advertising management tool for bloggers. So I’ve got two partners in that project, and that, along with my blog, are my main focuses at the moment.
John Dumas: Great! Well, I look forward to hearing more about CrankyAds. So let’s transition to the first topic now, which is our success quote. Here at EntrepreneurOnFire, we start every show off with our guest’s favorite success quote. It’s kind of our way of getting the motivational ball rolling. So Yaro, what do you have for us today?
Yaro Starak: This was something that originally I was like, “Oh, I’m not sure. Nothing jumps out at me.” Then I looked at my wall and totally forgot that I have something on my wall that I look at every day. It’s just sort of it’s always there. This is actually a quote from, of all places, Buddha. It’s something I bought when I first got my own house, which I had purchased thanks to having my own business. It’s a quote that really sums up I guess my philosophy when it comes to what I’m doing, in particular for work.
So it goes like this. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you’re doing, you will be successful.” By Buddha.
John Dumas: Wow!
Yaro Starak: That’s fairly self-explanatory, I think, but obviously, not always something that people practice very well. I think a lot of people do jobs that they don’t like and they don’t know how to do the thing that makes them happy and have that be part of how they derive an income. I’ve always asked myself that question. Am I happy with what I’m doing?
It’s dictated a lot of my decisions. I’ve had opportunities presented to me to make a lot more money or make more money in certain paths that I’ve actually turned down, knowing that my happiness would not be by following those paths. I wanted to develop other parts of my life. So although it’s a simple quote, it’s really something that drives everything I do.
John Dumas: Now let me put you on the spot here for a second. Do you have a specific example recently that you had a situation where you could have gone forward in that area, but you looked at that quote or you just thought about that way of thinking and decided to take another path?
Yaro Starak: I’ve got a maybe not so recent example. It’s definitely the most prominent example I’ve got and it’s almost like turning down a million dollar opportunity, to be honest, so it’s a pretty powerful one. A few years ago, I returned from traveling around the world. It was a great trip. I was gone for eight months. I launched a couple of products while I was out there. I ended up making more money while I was traveling than I spent. Not many people can say that.
John Dumas: Right.
Yaro Starak: I considered it fantastic. My business was at I guess a peak in a lot of ways. I created a lot of content, I established a platform, I established product, I made some good money over the previous two years. So it was a good place to be in financially. Most I guess entrepreneurs would look to take the next step.
For me, one of the opportunities presented when I returned to Australia was to join forces with some basically platform salespeople or people who run live events. They have a fantastic system. They call it the ultimate business model, but it’s essentially where you run a workshop for a couple of days live, and then throughout the process, you’re sort of soft selling a $10,000.00 to $25,000.00 course, a sort of handholding program. You could convert 30% of the people in the audience into this program.
You can do the math. If they’re paying $15,000.00 to $20,000.00 each and you convert a room of 100 people and you get 30 of them to join, you could be making upwards of multiple six figures. Even they’ve done a couple million dollars in one weekend. So you do an event a weekend and big money comes your way.
They were keen to do this with me for a couple of things – blogging and I was also buying and selling websites prior to that. So they wanted to maybe focus on that model. I was keen. I actually was talking to them. We were in negotiation. We just sort of talked about what I had to do. I have to start obviously getting onstage more than I was at the time, prepare some sort of training program to justify the cost, and work with them.
None of that was horrible. Like I was looking forward to a lot of it. But for me, I came back from that trip and I was breaking up with relationships that I had while I was on that trip. To be honest, I just felt like, well, I’m not interested in building more I guess commitments in my business world. I was happy with my courses and my blog and doing my writing. I didn’t want to work on that part of my life. I wanted to work on what I felt was lacking and the part I felt unhappy about, which is more the social scene.
I didn’t have a group of friends around me who were related or relevant in terms of the same interests. I had sort of lost my high school friends over the years because they had gone on to jobs and we didn’t have as much in common and they had moved to other cities. I had a couple of friends who were doing their own thing with businesses, but as entrepreneurs, we get busy and it’s often hard to get in touch with them.
So I also wanted to be going out more and have things happening on weekends that I could look forward to. I didn’t want to just be about business. So I felt a little bit imbalanced. Although I initially said yes to this agreement to start doing this project, I came back to them about three months later and said, “You know what? This is not what I want to do. I want to focus on this other part of my life,” and that’s what I did. So I was kind of turning down probably a million dollars right here in terms of what I could have done selling from the stage, but I’m glad I did and it was an area I wanted to work on. So yes, it had a big impact on me.
John Dumas: Well, thank you for sharing that, Yaro. That was a very powerful story and really appreciated by the audience.
Let’s move into the next topic, which I’m really excited to talk about with you specifically because of how you’ve built your business, and specifically Entrepreneurs-Journey. I feel as though you’re really going to connect with this topic because at EntrepreneurOnFire, we really delve into the journey of our spotlighted entrepreneur, and in every journey of an entrepreneur, there lies failure. We’ve all been in the midst of it, we’ve learned from it, we’ve grown from it, and we’ve come out on the brighter side. Tell us about a failure that you’ve had in your journey and the events that led up to that failure.
Yaro Starak: I have one that really sticks out for me. I actually used to have trouble finding something specific for this, and while I was actually reading your questions, John, prior to this interview, I was thinking, why have I never talked about this before? It’s the most obvious I guess traditional sense of failure I’ve got in my career and it’s obvious [Laughs].
John Dumas: So this is the first time you’re speaking of this?
Yaro Starak: To answer this question this way, yes. I would’ve mentioned this before, but not to talk about failure. It’s just going over my history.
John Dumas: Right.
Yaro Starak: I realize this is a pretty obvious failure, but it taught me some important things. So basically, going back again a few years prior to what I’m doing now. Before I was a blogger, but really, I was an Internet marketer. I was running my online proofreading business. I was doing well. I had a fulltime income from that.
I was on a program here in Australia that’s sort of a government support program for entrepreneurs where you get a year’s worth of like payments to help you build up your business. I was on this program. Part of the program was mentoring as well. You get a mentor that sort of guides you. I realized this ended up not being a rule, but he made me feel like it was a rule that you had to show an increase in your earnings every quarter from your business. My business at the time – the proofreading one – was an online business that was very cyclical, and it was all about university studies. So if people weren’t writing papers for university, I wasn’t getting proofreading jobs.
So come summer here in Australia where most of my client base was, there was a huge drop in my business. So I freaked out and thought I might lose this government grant if I don’t show income. So I was being a typical entrepreneur. I looked for other ways to make money, and I started an English school. A little left field for me. It was in the real world. It wasn’t online. I was basically tutoring people. It actually kind of did well. Not too bad. I started to supplement the online income with a bit of offline income. And as, again, a typical entrepreneur, I thought, this is working. I need to ramp this up.
So I went and started looking for people I could hire to teach classes for me, get more students and get some office space so we could have a proper place rather than just sitting at the table in a cafeteria. Which I did. So it took me a few months and I got all that organized and I signed a lease for three years at $1,400.00 a month. An office space with like four classrooms and a reception area. It was near the city. It was just up a hill from the main center of Brisbane where I lived.
I started running this English school, and it did terrible. I didn’t get a lot of people in there. I ended up sitting there, using the Internet to run my online business, essentially sitting in this place with very few actual classes going on. I think I maybe had one teacher doing a few lessons a couple of hours a day, and that was it. So it wasn’t paying for itself. My online business was paying for the rent. What made it even worse was I had actually manufactured the thing I was trying to avoid the most, which was a place I had to go every day in regular hours.
So I had to attend this English school, open the doors in case students would walk in and want to potentially buy some classes. I did a lot to try and get that business going. I did some marketing and I put up posters. I looked at advertising. I built a website. It never really got anywhere. My proofreading business was doing quite well. I should’ve focused my energy on that.
So after about nine months of not really getting anywhere with that business, I shut it down, broke my lease early, which was really hard to do. I lost a few months’ worth of rent in advance, and learned a couple of really important lessons. Number one was that I like online business a whole lot more. Then number two, the idea of being somewhere, it really goes against that freedom. The thing that makes me happy is the ability to do my business where I want to do it, when I want to do it. So if it gets close to regular hours or me actually needing to be somewhere to make it happen, then I’m not happy.
So that was a perfect example of highlighting it to me. That business cost me probably – well, $10,000.00 in rent or more than that. So it was a financial hit. Thankfully, the proofreading business covered it, but it was a big lesson, and certainly, in traditional sense, that business failed.
John Dumas: Well, as an entrepreneur, we’re always striving to learn every single day from different entrepreneurs, from different businesspeople, from different experiences. Sometimes, we just have to experience things ourselves. Would that be one of these situations that you found yourself in?
Yaro Starak: Yes. It really highlighted for me the need to focus on the areas that I was enjoying. So it made me be an online entrepreneur, and I’m pretty sure, certainly for the – well, I can’t imagine ever changing. I’m not going to want to try and do offline. If I do, it’ll be for fun. Like having a restaurant with friends or something like that. It won’t be about getting mega rich from that business.
So yes, I learned a lot about myself really. I didn’t necessarily have the answer yet. Like it was still early days in terms of where I was going with my business, and my business model wasn’t great either. I had some weaknesses in it, which I learned about over the next few years, but it really did teach me that the Internet is where I want to be and that’s my future. So yes, a good important lesson.
John Dumas: Okay. So you had this failure, you learned a lot of important things about yourself, and then you moved forward from that failure. You shut down the business, shut the doors. You moved forward. You continued on in your journey. At some point, you had an idea. You had an aha moment where this light bulb came on and you really just realized that this is exactly what I want to be doing and this is how I can do it.
I’m sure there were a lot of small light bulbs that went on along the way, but can you reach back and think of one moment in particular that really this light went on and you said, “This is what I can do. This is going to be successful. This is what my audience wants”?
Yaro Starak: I do have a light bulb moment where I certainly expressed it to a person for the first time. I probably congealed over a period of time in terms of, okay, this is how things work. The memory is quite [Unintelligible – [00:14:58] for me. I was actually down visiting a person – a friend of mine from high school. He lives in Melbourne and I live in Brisbane. I was just down there and I was sitting at a café with him. He’s gone the traditional career path. He had gone into finance after graduating university.
I was sort of doing my business. This was probably after the English school. I was getting good results with the proofreading business, but it was still something not right. Like I wasn’t making six figures a year. I didn’t have to do a lot, so it was kind of boring sometimes. My desire to grow the business while I could strategically understand how to make it better, I just didn’t want to do the work. It wasn’t sort of igniting my fire, as you would say.
John Dumas: Absolutely.
Yaro Starak: Yes. So I needed to figure out other ways to do things. That’s actually where I started becoming more of an information marketer, or at least a student of information marketing, and I really started following people who were doing very simple things that are just basically building followings through email lists. Blogging was just starting out.
I noticed people were making good money by recommending products through affiliate programs and just creating their own courses or e-books and selling them to their followers, mostly through email. It was amazing, some of the early days results where you have 20,000 people on your mailing list and you send one email and you have $10,000.00, $15,000.00, $20,000.00, $35,000.00 come back to you in commissions or sales of your product. I thought, “Wow! That’s almost like criminal. It seems too easy.”
I started following all these people and what they’re doing. Basically, I think through a process of osmosis by watching what they did and taking a few courses, I just started to see what was the key to actually breaking what I felt was like a barrier. Certainly the six figure mark for me was a barrier. I wanted to make the kind of money where I could say, “You know what? I have real financial freedom here.” Not necessarily multimillionaire rich. I wasn’t thinking like that. It was for me the next step to go from an average salary from my business to that six figures mark. In fact, my kind of goal from a few years before that was to make $1,000.00 a day. That was the kind of money I was looking for, but I thought, how do you spend $1,000.00 a day? Unless you’re buying a bunch of cars or something, it’s quite difficult to spend $1,000.00 a day or you’d be traveling around the world.
John Dumas: Right.
Yaro Starak: So more than enough. That was what I was looking for, a business that could do that. I’m having this conversation and I start telling this friend of mine that I feel like I’ve finally got the keys. I actually conceptually understand the process of how people do this online. It’s simply a matter of leverage. Anyone in business knows that leverage is the answer for growing anything big. It’s all about finding a business model that allows you to leverage big numbers.
So my proofreading business had the potential for me to leverage big numbers, but because my passion wasn’t the actual business of proofreading – it was really like a labor for me to do that, and I want it to be something I enjoyed. So I knew for me that the next step forward was building up an audience in an area where I actually had interest in growing it. That’s where I started experimenting with blogging, and I then eventually started having my own email newsletter. That led to what I’ve done for the past few years and I had the biggest success I’ve had so far.
It was proof of that conversation really. I haven’t done it at the point where we had that conversation, but from that point forward, I started building my list, and I then eventually was able to send people through my newsletter and through my blog to an offer, and make all this money back in return, which was proof of the concept and it was something I enjoyed doing.
So obviously there’s quite a few years here to talk about, but that was the aha moment where I actually said verbally to a friend, “I know how people do this. They leverage access to the amount of people you can make through the Internet. You can get in touch with a lot of people if you give them value. Then an individual can actually do really well, as long they’ve got some way of leveraging the technology. In my case, I wanted to do it with email, newsletter and blogging, which is what I did.
John Dumas: Yes. For some people, it’s that first dollar that they’ve made is when they actually see that what they’re doing is a viable business. For you, it was when you saw the whole process and the reality of it happening. It just made you realize that you can press forward with that. That’s a very, very powerful knowledge to have, so I commend you for utilizing that.
We’re going to now move on to the next topic, which is your current business. What’s one thing that’s really exciting you in your business today?
Yaro Starak: Oh, you caught me at an interesting time because I’m transitioning from information marketing to software, and it’s challenging.
John Dumas: Perfect.
Yaro Starak: Yes. I can tell you what excited me right now, which is very entrepreneurial, is working with my team. There’s only two other guys at the moment, and I’ve discovered it’s really hard [Laughs]. The software business, because of the nature of development, it’s actually quite slow, and I’m not a developer. Where when I was running information business, I wrote and I could create. That’s what I still do. I’m not going to stop doing that because I do enjoy writing and that’s my job for this startup, is to continue to write.
But the product creation is software, so I don’t create the product this time. What really excites me is idea generation. So we have once a week a meeting day where we get together. We do work together and we talk about what we’re doing for the next week. We think about the future and what we’re going to do in the business. .
But the product creation is software, so I don’t create the product this time. What really excites me is idea generation. So we have once a week a meeting day where we get together. We do work together and we talk about what we’re doing for the next week. We think about the future and what we’re going to do in the business, and it’s incredibly dynamic.
Like I had this vision two years ago – well, actually, four years ago when I first had the very first idea for this business. Then two years ago, we started to turn it into reality of a software service, an advertising tool, which has completely changed as we’ve gone along because I’ve just learned about the competition. I’ve learned how hard software is to develop, how slow it can be. The bugs, the challenges of making money from it because everyone wants things for free, and there’s a lot of stuff for free. Figuring out the right business model. So the fundamentals are still similar and it’s all business.
So at the end of the day, we’re just trying to meet a need, and then finding some sort of leverage in the business model to make money from it. So that’s what we’re doing now, and we’re going through a lot of iterations.
So I’m enjoying that and that’s my current I guess new project, but on the flipside, it can be depressing too because you wish this bug wasn’t there or you wish you had this feature made, but it’s two months in development away. So the reality matching your brain, what your vision is, is actually quite frustrating to deal with because you never can actually have exactly what you want. You need like a team of 100 trained programmers in order to create this thing, and even then, not necessarily you’d get what you want.
So that’s what I do now, but I still enjoy writing, and I think for me, that will be the constant in my future as well. I’d like to have a book out there at some stage. Probably not in the topics that I write about now. I still want to write another course. I’ve got another course in me that I’d like to get out, and I probably will start doing that actually at the close of this year.
It’s a different world a little bit to a few years ago. There’s a lot more people doing information marketing. There’s a lot less people willing to cross-promote and talk to each other. Back when I sort of was in the heyday for me three or four years ago, affiliate marketing, everyone was happy to promote your stuff. A lot of people were still new so they’re buying products.
It’s a bit more saturated now. It’s hard to make sales unless you’re always finding new people you can access. So I think a lot of it now is based on really building a solid brand as an expert or even as a company, whatever it is you do, and build your own personal following.
So the rules haven’t changed. It’s just gotten a little bit I guess more mature. So it’s requiring a little extra effort, a little bit more quality, a bit more polish than what you could get away with a few years ago in terms of information marketing. Certainly in my space, in certain niches out there, it’s still the Wild West and you can come in there with a basic email newsletter and a couple of products you sell through it and do really well. So I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from following in my footsteps because there’s plenty of opportunities in other markets.
So yes, my current business is writing that blog. I’m still writing my newsletters. I’m still teaching a few courses here and there, and obviously, doing interviews like this one. Then the rest of the time is the software company. It’s a nice mix at the moment and it’s still all about freedom. Like it’s work when I want to work. I sit at cafes with my laptop and do my writing. I’m out and about. Sometimes I’m at home, mixing an exercise, cooking my own food. Building your own sort of lifestyle, that’s what it’s always been about.
John Dumas: Well, thank you for that glimpse. What is your vision for the future of your business?
Yaro Starak: It’s actually to have a software company with a really solid, happy user base. That’s certainly my vision for the software side of things. I want that book out there and I’d love that to be a mainstream sort of a hit. Something like on the scale of The 4-Hour Workweek of like Tim Ferriss or anyone in our kind of space who’s written a book that’s – Seth Godin does a lot of books. Maybe the impact that Purple Cow had in other fields. I like the way Internet people have managed to I guess become successful authors as well. Chris Guillebeau I think is another example. He’s had a few books and he runs his own event. He’s built a brand around himself.
So something along those lines. I’m not really quite as I think driven as those guys are. I just like to get the words out of my head and out to people and see whether they like it. That’s kind of like the way I work.
So as long as I can keep making good money and keep building the lifestyle I like, that’s more important to me than becoming super famous or super rich. So that will always be guiding my vision.
John Dumas: Chris Guillebeau is quite an inspiration with his The $100 Startup book and his conference, World Domination, and then he manages to visit every country in the world. So I don’t blame you for not thinking you’re quite as driven as him.
Yaro Starak: [Laughs] I’m just more laidback. Traditional Australian style I guess.
John Dumas: Okay, Yaro. We’ve now reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I’m going to provide you a series of questions, and then you’re just going to give us some mind-blowing and amazing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Yaro Starak: No pressure here, John, huh?
John Dumas: [Laughs]
Yaro Starak: “Mind-blowing.”
John Dumas: Lay it all on the line for us. So the first question – what was the number one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Yaro Starak: Well, fear. Fear is the overall concept. I think it’s the thing that holds everyone back. I had the same issue. Of course if you want to get more specific, the fear around entrepreneurship was simple. It was failure. Everyone else I had around me when I started this journey was going into jobs. They were getting entry level salaries – $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 a year. You’re 22, 21 after graduating university.
I had a website that made a few hundred dollars a month. None of this looked like it was ever going to potentially be fulltime income, so it’s hard at that point to not think you’re making a mistake. Not to mention my father, he had this sort of instinct. Like he felt like he probably should be telling me to get a real job, so every now and then he’d suggest that. He was never too pushy regarding that, but he did mention it. I think it was just fatherhood 101.
So there’s always that self-doubt, the fear that you’ll fail. The disbelief. Like, okay, this seems so far away and so slow. Unfortunately, my default response when I see other people succeed is often to go, “Oh, what am I doing wrong?” as opposed to being inspired by what they’re doing right, which is something I’ve worked on over the years to try and look at and say, “Okay. Well, what are they doing? Let’s see. Can I follow in their footsteps?” rather than go, “Ah! It’s so not fair!”
So a lot of it was just leading out to these bad mindset issues, these negative beliefs, these limiting beliefs out of my head, focusing on the day-to-day actions to get things done. In hindsight, especially after say about seven or eight years where I actually reached that six figure mark a year, or even more than the $1,000.00 a day goal that I was after, it’s amazing. It looks like a foregone conclusion in hindsight because you just kept doing something every day, but boy, when I first started, I did not believe it. It took a lot of faith in the process and a lot of picking yourself up after those, “Ah! I’m just not getting anywhere!”
Like I just did a promotion for an affiliate and I made nothing, when I spent hours writing the blog post. So things like that that really knock you back. So you got to get your mindset right. That’s the number one thing that holds everyone back. Get the mindset right, and then you can do anything.
John Dumas: What is the best business advice you ever received?
Yaro Starak: In terms of practical advice, I really got two things that made a difference to me.
John Dumas: Perfect!
Yaro Starak: One was have an email newsletter, which is advice I heard from every single information marketer I ever studied under. It’s 101 information marketing. So early days for me. There was John Reese and Jeff Walker and Frank Kern and Mike Filsaime and Ed Dale, Eben Pagan. All these information marketers. There was even a few of the really early guys like Corey Rudl and – I can’t remember the other guy’s name, but everyone.
List building. It’s just what makes money online and offline. Your contacts for your offline business are really important too. So I was a year into blogging before I added my email newsletter, and it tripled my business once I did get that part right. So huge change.
The other piece of advice was actually get my own product out the door. I received that from a few places, but it was really Andrew Grant who’s an information marketer here in Australia. He and his wife do a lot of stuff selling from the stage, for example. I was having success in my blog by then. I was certainly one of the leading Australian bloggers in terms of teaching people how to make money from blogs. Myself and Darren Rowse were sort of at the forefront then.
I didn’t have a product yet. I knew I need one, so I was writing this e-book where I had spent like eight months doing it and I only had finished two-thirds of it. It was going really slow. Then Andrew says to me, “What’s wrong with you? You’ve got this massive audience and you don’t have your own product. I’m sure you’re doing okay with advertising and affiliate income, but really, having your own product will make a huge difference.”
Then he’s doing membership sites and he was having great success with the membership sites. In particular, about teaching how to make money with niche e-books. They had hundreds of members, a great system for selling their product, lots of great feedback, and I was like, “You know what? This is crazy. I don’t want an e-book. I want a membership site. I want the recurring income. It’s as much work as an e-book. I just break the chapters down into modules for a course. Add a few interviews and so on, and I have got the same thing.”
So I gave myself a goal at that stage. I said, “You know what? I’m going to do a membership site. I’m going to make it out the door within three months. I’m going to do a launch – because I was learning about the launch process from a few people like Jeff Walker – and this is the absolute deadline it’s going to happen.” The great thing about it is I don’t have to create the entire course. I just need the first module. Oh, I’ll create the course with that first group of paying students. So all I need is the launch materials and the first module, and away you go.
And I did, and I tripled my income, and that’s actually what pushed me over to the $15,000.00 a month. So six figures a year mark. A huge change. It’s really my courses in the last sort of six or maybe five years have paid for my house, my car, investment property, that trip around the world. Everything came from that newsletter and deciding to have my own product.
John Dumas: Those were two clear pieces of advice, so thank you for sharing that in such depth. It’s really going to be a big help to the audience. We’ll move on to the third question, which is what’s something that’s working for you right now?
Yaro Starak: I still depend on something that works right now and has worked every day since Google was invented, which is search engine traffic. I know it’s a bit of a cliché. We all know it’s a massive source of traffic. It’s amazing how doing a few good things with SEO and getting just the basics right – your keywords, your title tags and so on – and then just sticking to a content schedule and to always producing – like for me, I’ve had weeks where I’ve just felt bad or I felt like at periods that my business is just not going anywhere. Then I’ve had periods where it’s going great. It doesn’t matter what’s going on. I always publish to my blog. It’s the engine that drives the vehicle. Even when I’m not sure where the vehicle is going, as long as it’s moving forward, and that only happens through content production.
So the content leads to getting traffic from search engines. It builds the audience and it’s free. It just takes time to produce. So for me, being a content publisher has helped me from the search engine optimization perspective, from getting myself framed as a thought leader, getting your relationships with other leaders in my space and even beyond.
It always blows my mind that I’m one degree of separation from Oprah Winfrey now because I know someone who knows Oprah. So those sort of contacts you can have if you build your network, and that comes from having some sort of platform on the Internet, and that’s all come from having a blog.
So I guess the answer to the question really is blogging is still working for my business right now. It always has and I hope it always will.
John Dumas: That’s so true. I had a great interview with Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz last week, and he has so many amazing things to say about SEO and everything that is going on with it and the changes that are happening, but it all comes back to content. He’s the first person to tell you that, is that unless you’re producing great content on your site that’s targeted, you’re really not building the foundation.
So it all starts with that. That’s just great advice. So thank you for sharing that as well that it’s working for you.
Yaro Starak: No problem.
John Dumas: So I’m not sure how much of a reader you are. You sound pretty busy. But we always like to recommend one business book to our audience that you’ve read in the last six months that’s really struck a chord with you. If you have to go back further, please feel free.
Yaro Starak: Oh, I wish I could the – hold on. Oh my, it’s digital. I’ve read a couple of books recently that I’ve actually really enjoyed. I love biographies, autobiographies of, in particular, people who have started Internet businesses. It’s always been something that’s interested me. Obviously, the recent Steve Jobs bio is fantastic. I recommend that, but everyone really knows about it.
The book I just recently read was from the head of Zappos. I can’t remember the name of the book. It’s by Tony Hsieh. Let me just see if I can find it for you quickly so I can get the title out. It basically explains his entrepreneurial story and I really liked his story.
John Dumas: Is it “Delivering Happiness”?
Yaro Starak: That’s it. Thank you.
John Dumas: You’re welcome.
Yaro Starak: Yes. Delivering Happiness. I read that, and I also read the story of another guy who started a couple of advertising networks and he was also on The Secret Millionaire and on Oprah and a few things. He’s an Indian. Both these guys, their books were fantastic because I’m working on advertising network. They both got their starts on advertising networks. So I was interested to hear their early days stories.
So I recommend to any person who’s starting an Internet business to read books that are by people who’ve had success with startup companies online. In particular, if you can find books on what you’re trying to do right now, or whoever the biggest players are. So if you’re in retail, try and find Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’s story. If you’re a blogger, then you should be reading other blogs, to start with obviously, but find the stories from the founders in that space. SEO, SEOmoz.
So there are so many great autobiographies and biographies, and there are so many great Internet entrepreneurs. I have been reading these books since I started on the Internet. Like I read how eBay got started, how Google got started, how Napster got started, and all those things inspired me to continue to do what I do online, and I learned the concepts of leverage. Those books showed me how these companies got big. Then from that point forward, every time I hear a story or hear about anything like current success stories like why is Pinterest doing so well, why did Instagram get bought out for so much money? You can look at them and go, “What’s the leverage? Why are they getting so big?”
There’s always something you can see like Pinterest is – obviously, if you use it, it’s ridiculously addictive if you’re interested in looking at photographs, which a lot of women between the age of 20 and 40 are. But it’s got this inbuilt viral nature with the repining function. That’s their leverage. So each user becomes a massive traffic driver to more users, to more users. So you could see the point of leverage and it’s a simple concept and I love looking at things like that.
Like “The eBay Book” which is the eBay story. You read that, and I learned about the many-to-many business model, which is something that pretty much has framed a lot of my decision-making on what kind of businesses to run. My current startup with CrankyAds is very much about coming up with a many-to-many business, which just means you can have unlimited customers and unlimited suppliers and be some sort of middleman in that transaction, which eBay is a perfect example of. That’s true leverage because you’ve got potential unlimited growth on both sides of the equation, and the bigger each side gets, the more value is for everyone involved, and you just take a little slice of everything going on.
So I love that kind of business model because you can really be large without necessarily having to be a huge team. You can even keep things simple and small, and I like simple and small.
John Dumas: That’s very exciting stuff, and thank you for booking up my reading schedule for the next four to six years there.
Yaro Starak: [Laughs] No problem.
John Dumas: This last question, Yaro, is my favorite question, but it’s kind of a tricky one. So I’ll let you have a second to kind of digest it before, if you want to answer. If you woke up tomorrow morning and you still had all the experience and knowledge that you currently have today, but your business had completely disappeared. Everything’s gone. CrankyAds, Entrepreneurs-Journey. So you had a completely clean slate, which a lot of entrepreneurs find themselves with today. What would you do?
Yaro Starak: This is an easy one for me. I never have problems answering this because it ties back into my success quote from the beginning. I’d first look at what would make me happy. So is there a subject area or an activity? Obviously, there has to be a way to derive income where we’re talking about making money and starting a business.
The great thing – and this is the thing that you can’t take away from someone – is their experience and their understanding. Things like knowing about leverage and business models, those concepts don’t disappear. Sure, you might lose your business and you might lose your list, but you know that by going online and doing things like creating content, like we talked about, builds an audience. Then you need to have an email newsletter. So put content out there, get them on to your newsletter.
Getting a product out the door quickly is a good way to make money, so very likely I would pick whatever is my most passionate subject at that point in time that I’m willing to create content about and sit down. I know that it’s going to take me 6 to 18 months before I will build up enough of an audience to really have a fulltime income from it, but I’ll be okay with that.
If I absolutely have to, I’ll get a part time job to fill the gap between that period of time, if it was taking away all my assets and I really am starting from scratch. But I will spend as much time as I can creating content, building relationships online, getting in touch with other thought leaders in my area, helping them out, so that the day when I do have my product, I can tap them on the shoulder, or even just to write a guest article to get some more exposure. Build up my following and build up my trust with those people, and then I’m back to where I was. I can start launching products in that space, do affiliate marketing. I could choose to do a software company again because I’ve got an audience. That’s the hard part, getting the audience.
So I know the model for building a content business and I know the basics, enough about SEO to get the traffic. I’m quite capable of spending my time making connections and doing the research to find the right people. Then most importantly, I am quite able to go to a café once a day and spend a couple of hours writing 1,000 to 2,000 words to publish something every day. That’s a habit that’s enjoyable to maintain, and that’s how I build the foundation of a business.
So it would actually be fun. I’ve thought about doing that myself sometimes. You know what? I just want to sell everything I’ve got right now and jump into a completely different industry, a different niche, and have the pressure to build it from scratch because when you’ve got your blog, you sort of rest on your laurels a bit. You don’t have to worry it’s there. It’s still working. It’s getting search traffic from the past. So it would be nice to maybe feel that pressure and see what it produces.
John Dumas: Thank you for being so specific with that advice, and thank you for joining us today, Yaro, because you’ve given us so much actionable advice that we as the listeners can really take and move forward with, and we’re all better for it.
Just to finish the interview off, do you have any last piece of advice for Fire Nation? Then go ahead and give us a plug for what’s going on for you right now.
Yaro Starak: Sure. The most important advice that I have found myself giving to people, especially people who were really treading water and not moving forward, is make sure you’re a producer and not just a consumer. The Internet is mostly consumers. There are a lot of producers. Obviously, there’s tons of content being created. More than you can ever hope to study in your lifetime is produced in one minute on the Internet. But still, the people who actually succeed are the producers.
So that’s the number one rule. If you’re not creating, if you’re only consuming other people’s creations, it’s very difficult to build something out of that because you’re not giving any value back. So spend some time consuming, but make sure you give back as well.
To find out what I do now, the best place to go is my blog, and the best way to remember that is my name, which is Yaro. Y-A-R-O. I’m going for the one name sort of Madonna, Oprah thing and trying to get that kind of brand built, and it’s way easier than spelling Entrepreneurs-Journey. So if you just google Yaro – Y-A-R-O – you’ll find everything that I do.
John Dumas: Awesome, Yaro. Thanks again. We appreciate your time, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Yaro Starak: Thanks, John.