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How often have you had an idea that for a project you’re passionate about, but felt like you needed to improve your resume before you dug in? We’ve all been there, but this episode is about why you should start anyways!
John Lee Dumas is currently the founder and host of Entrepreneur On Fire, an amazing podcast and resource for the community of entrepreneurs. He’s talking about his journey to build EOFire and where it’s heading in the future. You’d never guess it now, but when he got started John didn’t think he was experienced enough yet either. He just saw a void and tried to fill it.
We’re digging into what it means to learn through experience, knowing your avatar and asking your customers what they need so you can better serve them. John’s also talking about how he tries to take risks every day so he can learn to fail forward.
I hope our conversation encourages you to get outside your comfort zone!
“I fail every single day and if I don’t, I consider that a failure. All the magic happens outside your comfort zone.”
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- Follow your passion even if you won’t be the best at it right away. Embrace the experience and be open to change as you grow.
- Look for successful people in your field and study how they’ve accomplished what they have. Emulate them and then pass your knowledge forward.
- Multiple streams of income will help build a wider following and stronger community as well as revenue.
- Ask your customers what challenges they’re having and look for ways to create solutions and support them in new ways.
- Look for ways to add legitimacy and validity to what you’re telling people. Kickstarter is a great way to prove your numbers and support.
- Know who you’re selling to and what your avatar is. Having a specific avatar doesn’t limit your work, it helps you to know what you’re capable of.
- The minute you launch your product, you’re no longer the ideal customer, you’re the host and the producer.
- Get outside your comfort zone. If you never get outside your comfort zone, you’re never going to create something new and exciting.
- Be sure that people are going to put their money where their mouth is before you put all your time into it. Don’t be shy about pre-selling products.
About John: www.eofire.com
John on Twitter: twitter.com/johnleedumas
Kim Orlesky: You’re like, “Get the cap on,” and everything.
John Lee: That’s how I roll right there.
Kim Orlesky: So the people that I’m speaking to–entrepreneurs just like yourself, salespeople–we’re focusing on sales. So tell me a little bit about–I mean, when you started podcasting back in 2012, was this something that you knew you wanted to continue to expand or was it started off as a pet project that kind of evolved overtime?
John Lee: This was a sole focus. I’m actually a big believer in the side hustle. I think it’s great. And it works for a lot of people. But for me, it was just right–like I had the “aha” moment. I saw the niche, the void that needed to be filled in this world. That was a daily podcast. I knew that I wasn’t the best person to do it because I wasn’t going to be any good for a long time but I was apparently the only person that was willing to do it. So I was immediately the best in the daily podcasting sphere, and I was also the worst because I was the only. So I just stepped in and said, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to go all in, I’m going to be really bad for a decent amount of time.
Then I’m going to be pretty bad and then kind of bad and then okay and then hopefully, I’ll get to a point where I get decent at some point.” Of course, doing a daily show helps because I’m doing 30 shows a month as supposed to 4. And a lot of the people do the weekly shows. It’s just work for me, so. It was something that I went all in on with day 1. Again, I think there’s a lot of ways to skin the cat, it’s a lot of ways to find success. Mine happened to be doing the daily format, and for other people, twice a month might crush it for you.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. And I mean, you were able to grow in such a short period of time. By year 2, we’re already revenuing $2M. And even to this day, you still post all of that revenue [live?] for people to actually see. So what’s kind of the intention behind that? The full disclosure?
John Lee: Yeah. So I was super inspired by Pat Flynn. When I first getting ready my journey to launch my podcast, I was kind of looking around to see other lifestyle entrepreneurs who were creating free, valuable, and consistent content which is what I was planning on doing with podcasting with EOFire. I came across Pat Flynn which is like, “Wow. Now here’s a good guy producing free and valuable content. And he’s making quite a lot of money from it. He’s rocking it.” Like, that’s cool. That just really seemed like it was cool to me that he was doing that. It gave me hope, it gave me inspiration.
So a year into my business, when we started generating serious revenue, I was like, “Wow. Maybe I can be that for podcasters. Maybe I can be that person that inspires podcasters to start their thing because now I’m showing them what’s working so they can emulate my success. But I’m also showing them what’s not working so they can avoid my failures.” That was the essence of showing the income report so it was to kind of give people a path that was working, at least for us, but also a path that wasn’t working for us so maybe again, some of those pitfalls could be avoided and some of those successes could be emulated. We just published our 39th consecutive monthly income report. So it’s been fun.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, absolutely. Imagine, right? And you’re not just focusing on the podcasting. There’s also the multiple strings of income with the online courses. You have a lot of different products as well as your books, right, which also kind of bring you a lot of revenue. What was kind of the intention behind that? Was it just for the multiple streams or was there kind of more to it?
John Lee: No. So for me, it’s always been about engaging with my audience. [Fire Nation?] has been the audience, has been there for me, has been listening. So I’ve always wanted to reach back into that audience and to say, “What are you, my listeners, are struggling with? What are your obstacles, what are your challenges?” And they were just coming back to me with some great, great challenges and obstacles that they were having. I was saying, “How can I, as somebody that they know they can trust because they listen to my podcast, they hear my voice–how can I create the solution for some of these struggles?”
That’s how I came up with the idea for the freedom journal because so many people were saying, “John, we’re struggling when it comes to setting goals and accomplishing goals. How do your guests do it?” So the freedom journal came from that. And the whole essence of the freedom journal is to have this beautiful hardcover journal going back to the roots where you can accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days. That’s the essence of the freedom journal, that’s what you do, and that’s what really inspired me to create it. And it obviously hit a nerve with [Fire Nation?]. We launched in January of 2016 and we became the 6th most funded publishing campaign of all time on Kickstarter doing over $453,000 in just 33 days on a $39 journal. That’s significant.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah. That’s a great point as well. I noticed that you launched using Kickstarter. You had already been making quite a bit of money. What inspired you to kind of decide to go with the Kickstarter campaign as opposed to just launching it on your own?
John Lee: Yeah. The Kickstarter campaign was just cool for a couple of reasons. They just have this model that works like people trusted, they know that if they pledge to the campaign and nothing works out, they had a really easy way to go back and get refunds. So it’s a very trusted platform. It’s also independent in third party. So I love to share my numbers, but I also want people to be like, “Those are actually the real numbers.” So we bring on our CPA, and my lawyer comes on every month to add some value as well and to really [inaudible] or add validity to the income reports. But that only goes so far. So I was just like, “How can we do something really cool where it’s just like a third party source that we don’t have any access to.” So then when I say that we’ve done $453,000, all you need to do is go to kickstarter.com/freedomjournal and it’s there on their site. They don’t lie. I just really wanted to bring truth and transparency to the process. The new Kickstarter could do that.
Kim Orlesky: And it wasn’t a way to kind of test the market to see if it was going to be something that was going to be viable, right?
John Lee: Right. Because I already purchased 20,000 of that. They’re in my warehouse ready to go. So I was selling them either way. It’s just like, “What was my mode to transportation?”
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, yeah. “How many is mom going to buy?” Right? And you found a lot of clarity in terms of who you actually podcast to. You’ve gone as far as creating Jimmy the Avatar. And creating avatars is actually one of the biggest things that I promote to my clients as well. Know who you’re selling to. Where did Jimmy kind of come from, when did you kind of develop him, and do you still use him as the ideal listener for your podcast?
John Lee: Absolutely. Jimmy has been my ideal listener from day 1. I mean, the idea for the podcast came from me. I was the ideal listener pre-podcast because I wanted to create something that I needed, that I wanted to listen to. What a lot of people have to understand is that the minute that you launch your podcast, you’re no longer the avatar. As much as you want to be, you’re the host. So get into that mindset, take the way to the world to off of your shoulders, and craft who your perfect listener is. And that was Jimmy for me. That 36-year-old male with 2 kids that drives to work, that get stuck in traffic on the way home. That’s my guy. That’s who the perfect listener is. Now, of course, I’ve gotten emails from 7 to 97 year olds that listen to my show. We had 2 million listeners last month alone. But the reality is that they were all Jimmys. They were a very big variety. So just because you have a clear idea of your perfect listener doesn’t mean that you’re niching yourself down there. It just means that you actually know what your show can and should be about. And you can just follow that North star.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, right. It isn’t a lot of that variety as well. Like as you kind of–you move yourself forward. You’ve been doing this business for several years now. You’ve obviously had an epic failure that you learned a lot from, or maybe even a couple. What’s one that kind of [inaudible] your head?
John Lee: Well, #1, I fail every single day. If I don’t, I actually consider that a failure. Because so many of us live our lives in a comfort zone, and we have to just realize that all of the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. That’s where all the magic happens. So if you’re not willing to get outside of your comfort zone, make mistakes, fall on your face, fall 8 times, get up 9–you’re not going to make something special. So I fail every single day. Some of my epic failures–I could just quickly go over–#1, my failure to launch. Like I was planning to launch on August 15 of 2012, and I just [be as excused this?] the launch all the way till September 22nd of 2012. I just kept delaying, delaying, delaying because I was scared. I thought I was going to fail. I didn’t want to fail because as long as I was in prelaunch mode, I still have this chance to succeed.
Another one was Podcasters’ Paradise. I created what a lot of people haven’t heard about which is called platform which was supposed to be the service where you’re just like, “Yay! You just send me your raw mp3 files and my team will do everything else for you–literally everything.” A lot of people said they wanted that but then when it came time to buy, nobody bought. Actually, 1 person bought which was perfect because that one person was a nightmare. It made me realize what a bad business model that was. So that was like, “Light bulb! That’s not how to run a business, at least how I want to run my business.” So that failure gave me the idea of how I wanted to create Podcasters’ Paradise which just ended up being the massive success with now over 3,000 members, over $4M in revenue. Like that is a winner, but it came from a failure.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, absolutely. So kind of as to close, talking to the audience just one more time, what would be one big takeaway [inaudible] converting into sales for the first time. When you had to finally ask for that sale whether that was that sponsorship, whether that was the course or something. What did you learn about that?
John Lee: I learned that when you’re looking to sell something, you need to pre-sell it. So when I was trying to launch and actually create a successful platform, that failure that I just talked about, I didn’t pre-sell it so nobody put their money where their mouth was. A lot of people told me they wanted it, but then when it came time, they’re like, “I didn’t mean I want it. I just meant it was a really good idea that I’m sure a lot of people would want.” You need to have people put thei money where their mouth is if you’re going to spend your most viable asset, time creating something. So with Podcasters’ Paradise, I had 50 people put their money where their mouth was, prelaunch 45 days before I did any work. Sorry, before I did any work in 45 days before launch, I had people put down a down payment to Podcasters’ Paradise. It was non-refundable if Podcasters’ Paradise did in fact launch.
So I got that down payment, I said, “Okay, this is real. People are actually willing to part with their hard-earned money to become part of this “podcasting community.” It doesn’t even exist yet. So then I went and I sat and I created all the content that was needed. I spent 45 days making it happen, opening the doors. And since then, it’s been great. So pre-selling has been key. I did the same thing with the freedom journal. I said, “Listen, this is what I’m going to create. It’s going to be $39.” People were like, “Oh, awesome. I’ll buy one.” I’m like, “I’ll take $20 right now, please.” It’s going to be $40, but you can get it for half off right now. You say that you want it, prove it. Put your money where your mouth is, give me $20 before I go and spend half a year creating something. The fact that I got enough people to spend $20 on a book that wasn’t going to exist for 6 months plus made me realize that– “Wow, this is really something that people want.” And of course, [inaudible] launched, those people got the book for half the price than everybody else because they were early mover, and it was a win-win all around.
Kim Orlesky: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great tip. We talk a lot about self first, create later. [inaudible] what’s going to work in the marketplace first. I know you’re pressed for time, I want to be very appreciative of the amount of time that you’ve given me today, thank you. I do want to let you know that.
John Lee: Thank you. Virtual mentors are amazing. I have them, too.
Kim Orlesky: [no voice???]
John Lee: My pleasure. It was great chatting today.
Kim Orlesky: [no voice???]
John Lee: I see that happening. With your energy, with your fire, how could it not happen?
Kim Orlesky: [no voice???]
John Lee: Oh, thanks!
Kim Orlesky: [no voice???]
John Lee: Take care. Bye.