Today’s guest on The Membership Site Success podcast is Rob Cubbon!
Rob is a 9-5er cum online entrepreneur who really makes a killing selling his courses on Udemy.com.
Rob’s story is particularly inspiring for a number of reasons. First, Rob got started in online business in his thirties (it’s never too late!) Second, Rob talks a lot about meditation, habits and engineering a successful mindset (something often overlooked in the quest for success).
You’re not going to want to miss this episode as Rob reveals his secrets to Udemy success, and how he went from a life of excess (in the sense of overindulgence) to a life of excess passive income!
Mentioned In This Episode:
1. Free Your Thoughts – Rob’s new book on cultivating a winning mindset in business and in life.
2. Patt Flynn’s Smart Passive Income – One of Rob’s (and my) inspirations in online business.
3. Pro Blogger’s Darren Rowse – Another one of Rob’s inspirations for making a great living online.
4. The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – The seminal book that has launched more people in online business than anything else!
5. KDP – Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing Platform
6. Udemy – The online learning platform that pays you to upload and sell your courses
7. Digital Access Pass (DAP) – Rob’s preferred WordPress membership site plugin.
8. WPCurve – Unlimited WordPress support.
9. Steve Scott – Prolific Kindle author and blogger.
10. ACX – Amazon’s audiobook self-publishing platform (I personally use ACX and love it).
11. ScreenFlow – Mac screen capturing and editing tool.
12. Camtasia – PC-based screen capture and editing tool.
13. Samson GoMic – A super cheap, super portable, and incredibly high-quality condenser microphone that I personally use for recording YouTube videos, podcasts, and even music!
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Rob: I’m in the middle of the countryside here, but there seems to be a sort of truck in the distance making a noise. We’ll be okay.
Vic: Okay. Yeah. I’m not hearing it.
Rob: I’m pleased to say I’m not hearing your neighbors either.
Vic: Okay. Yeah. That’s okay. The street that I live on in Phuket, it’s kind of nicknamed “The Fighter Street” because it contains several world-renowned gyms for Muay Thai and for mixed martial arts, so we have just a lot of young, testosterone-bound, young men staying here, who need to blow off stress, maybe more than the average guy.
Rob: Well, very interesting, I guess. That’s your hobby, isn’t it? So you must be loving it.
Vic: Yeah. I don’t know, I guess I’m really thankful to be where I’m at and it was interesting too, reading your book, and I guess we can sort of jump into the interview now, midstream.
Rob: Okay. Yeah, yeah.
Vic: So you have this book called, let’s see, Free Your Thoughts. I haven’t finished it yet, but I read maybe 50%, and the really interesting thing, the really cool thing about books is that people get to learn something valuable, but you also get to share something personal about yourself and build a bit of a connection with your reader.
When I read about your past and kind of the lifestyle that you were living, it resonated with me because I was a bit of a bon vivant, if you want to call it that, as well and then I kind of got my act together and came out to Thailand. Maybe you could start kind of talking about where you were before you got into the online business game and what your life looked like and then how you transitioned into this online thing, and how you got to where you are now.
Rob: Yeah, Vic, I’d be happy to do that and well, thanks for having on and I’ve got to say that a lot of people have said the same thing to me as you just said about that book. It does seem to resonate with a lot people because I think a lot of people can identify with just basically going to work every day. I used to work in London. I used to get on the Tube, which is the London underground train, and go with it packed with commuters. It wasn’t particularly pleasant, but when I got to work, it wasn’t much better either.
I didn’t have great jobs. I didn’t really have jobs, to be honest with you. I was working freelance and I was kind of doing, in graphic design studios, I wasn’t doing design work, but I was kind of doing typesetting for print, and it wasn’t very interesting. But I didn’t know, I didn’t know there was an alternative. Of course, this is going back a bit; however, the Internet was around.
So that was me. That was where I was and I think a lot of people can identify with that and I’m just grateful — as you were talking as well before, how grateful you are — I’m incredibly grateful for what I’ve got now. I mean even if you take away the traveling, even just working for yourself, it’s just so much better. It’s just so much better for you emotionally, physically and mentally and if you enjoy the work, it’s better again. So to answer your question, I think you were saying how did I get online in the first place?
Rob: I just started blogging, actually. I started blogging. What was I going to write about? I didn’t really have much to write about, so I wrote about what I was doing at work, which was, as I said, mainly kind of technical PDFs and other sort of graphic design jobs that needed to be done and I started blogging about that in 2006. I eventually got people phoning me up, asking me to work for them. But this was work that I could do at home. I could charge more for it, I was more in control, and I set up a business; I set up a company in England. That’s how I got started.
Vic: You know, that’s really crazy. I actually recorded podcast with one of my MemberFix clients earlier today and it’s a lady by the name of Jane Copeland, who’s a very successful Momtrepreneur, I guess if you want to call it that, in Australia and when I asked her this question, she basically gave me the same exact answer. She said, “Well, I didn’t really want to know what I was going to do, so I just started blogging.”
Rob: That’s great.
Vic: She had just had a child at that point, so she knew she kind of wanted to focus on women, who are in a similar kind of situation. So, like yourself, she started writing about what she knew and eventually that lead to bigger and bigger things. So that’s really cool; just getting started, just taking action. You have a vague idea of what you want to do, but you’re just like, “Screw it. I’m going to take some kind of action towards the life I want.”
Rob: Yeah, I think that’s the answer and I think we were blogging at least about what we knew about. We weren’t doing the classic thing writing about making money online before you’re making a cent online or something like that. So yeah, I think that was a common thing. At least we know what we’re talking about and we’re on solid ground and that can help people and then you can start building an audience.
Vic: So at this point, you had your own company or your own agency doing web design, is it?
Rob: Actually, it was graphic design, but I then taught myself web design as I was getting asked to do websites, as you might imagine; it was 2007, 2008. So I started and the graphic design brought in a lot of work, I’ve got to say. It’s good to do graphic design as well as web design, just like presentations and PDFs, they’re pretty easy and so there’s a great market out there. Still is.
Vic: Okay. So how did you sort of start because I’m sure that at that point you were grateful to not have to commute and everything, but then maybe did you start to feel that, “I’ve just created a job for myself and now I need to find some more passive streams.”
Rob: Yeah, a little bit, but I wouldn’t say I was too unhappy because the clients were very nice and as I say, I was quite very enthusiastic about the fact that I had got a certain amount of freedom. However, what it was, I was really inspired by Tim Ferriss and Pat Flynn and Darren Rowse and all these people. I was on the blogosphere, there I was blogging about graphic and web design, but all the blogs I was reading were all about entrepreneurship and location independence.
The passive income thing, I just thought it was great as soon as I read those words. I’m sure it was 4-Hour Workweek that probably first introduced me to it, the concept, but I was just interested in the whole thing about blogging. So I started collecting the email addresses really, really, early. I can’t remember when to be honest with you because I just loved the whole thing of having a blog and communication and building an audience. I just eventually started with a PDF eBook on my own site.
I should also say that another great thing I used to do, and still do, is go out and meet other entrepreneurs and so I was also going to meet-ups in London, at the time. I think that helps as well because when you just get to talk to people and you hear what they’re doing, you get inspired. So I wouldn’t say I was in any way negative about working for clients. However, to introduce other passive income streams into your business is a good thing to do for anyone because clients, you know, just swapping hours for dollars, and you can’t grow another pair of hands and you can’t grow another head. So the way to duplicate yourself is to make products or get some sort of passive income going and that’s the way to scale. So it’s just sound business advice as well.
Vic: Okay, so how did you make that transition into product creation? I know you have, what, five Kindle books and a few different things happening.
Rob: The beauty of it was, there I was blogging about graphic design, web design, small businesses, marketing, and I was doing that in order to get clients, originally, and it was working. However, it also attracted a different kind of audience. It not only attracted clients, it also attracted other graphic designers or other people, who were trying to do this as well. So it had a wonderful sort of dual purpose. There I was, getting the active income work from clients, but also growing an audience of other people, who probably wouldn’t have wanted to employ me, but found my blogs and videos and whatever, my output, my content, useful in some way.
So I then found the transition extremely easy because all it was, was a case of taking the content from the blog and put it into eBooks and video courses. Also, the big question that everyone asks is, “What do I make the course about? What do I make my products on?” And I had the answers already because I heard, from blogging and people would tell me, “Oh that was good.” Some things would do better than others and you start getting emails from people saying, “What I really want to know is this…” Of course, I did the classic, in my email list, I said, “If you’ve got a question, just ask me. Drop me a line.” I even did a survey. I’ve done few surveys, just Google Docs surveys, asking people, “What sort of thing do you want to read about? What sort thing are you interested in? What sort of thing would you like to buy a product on?” It was really wonderful that the blog just basically started everything for me, Vic.
Vic: So it looks like you had all your market research coming in from the blog. Let me ask you this: were the surveys useful, actually?
Rob: Well, yeah. Of course. Some people say, you know, people don’t know what they want until you give it to them. I just remember the reason I said that is because my WordPress courses do quite well and they are building a WordPress site from scratch and getting it to look how you want it to. So because I was from a graphic design background, I’d learnt all of this CSS and stuff like that, so that was something that people wrote to me and said, “I want to be able to create a WordPress theme that looks exactly how I want it. That’s what I want.”
I wouldn’t say that was my most successful course, but they do quite well. So that was one example of how the survey worked. Yeah and I’m not saying do surveys, but I definitely get a lot of feedback from people. Every day I get emails, just people asking me and even now, this something I’ve started recently, but I really think it’s a good idea. I’m offering free 10-minute Skype chats to people. I’ve just started that and they’re coming in. So far, okay, I’d say the conversations I’ve had are fairly the same as the emails I’m getting. However, I do think that that might well turn into a quite a good idea for content ideas as well.
Vic: Okay. Interesting. So at this point you were transitioning into creating your own products and I know a big thing for you, and it’s no secret, you blog about it on your site, but a big source of your income is the Udemy platform. Can you talk about how you got started with Udemy and why you’ve sort of doubled down on it?
Rob: Yeah. It’s funny the way it happened, Vic, because you probably would have heard this story before. There I was creating eBooks and I had a YouTube channel as well because I’d been creating video tutorials as part and parcel of the blogging, and I always wanted to do memberships sites because I just thought that’s the next step.
Rob: So there I was procrastinating, as you do, in a terrible way and I just found out about Udemy through a friend of mine, who was another blogger. Okay, again this is a good idea to keep emailing your friends online. Her name is Tara Roskell and she was blogging out of graphicdesignblog.co.uk and she happened to tell me that she’d made some money on a course that she’d put up on Udemy and I thought, “Oh my God! Why don’t I just stick some stuff up there for the time being? It’s going to 10 times easier than making my own membership site and seeing what happens.” So I did that.
On Udemy, you can create free courses as well as paid courses. All I did for my free courses was bundle together a load of YouTube videos that happened to be in a sort of series, so it looked like a course, and called it a course on Udemy. I didn’t make any money, but I did get a lot of followers. The next thing I did, as I saw I was getting good feedback from that, I then made a whole new set of videos that were much, much, better because my first videos actually were pretty bad and then I put them up on Udemy as a premium course and it started to make money. Of course, I had an email list as well, so I sold it to the email list and that started making money. Of course, because it started making money, I then thought, “Well, I might as well just make a few more courses.” Then I started making a bit more money.
I’ve been there for a year and a half — two and a half years on Udemy now. Every few months, I start making more money than I used to. The platform has grown. They keep on getting more and more funding. When I started on in it, they had a million people. Now, they’ve got six million users. Of course, the downside of it is my desire to get the membership site wasn’t as great as it should’ve been and there are also other online learning platforms, as I found out, that I could put my videos on and there are other streams of income as well. So that tells you a little bit about the start of the Udemy story.
Vic: Is it exclusive if you put a course on Udemy? Are you not allowed to put it up anywhere else?
Rob: No, not at all. That’s the beauty of it. You can put it anywhere you want. Absolutely, Vic. Honestly, there’ll be people listening to this that could really help, it might help them to consider Udemy and all these other online learning platforms. You can put stuff on YouTube, Skillfeed, Skillshare, Udemy, and make money from it all — that’s incorrect. It’s not correct that you can put stuff on Udemy, but you can put stuff on Skillfeed, at least, that’s on YouTube and you can make money from it there. The stuff on Udemy, if it’s premium, it can’t be free anywhere, but that’s just pretty common sense really.
Vic: You’ve kind of got me thinking about doing a Udemy course on membership sites maybe.
Rob: Yeah. You should.
Vic: You know, a lot of people have said, “Vic, you should make a membership site about membership sites,” and I always say, “I know that sounds really cool, but if you really think about what that would like, it’d probably be really, really, boring.” So I’d probably have to do something a little bit more interesting than that. Have you found, with Udemy, that there’s a certain kind of marketing approach that is more effective? I’m sure you can put up a course and make sales organically because it’s a big platform like Amazon, but if you’re doing your own marketing, you’re collecting emails, that kind of thing, how would you make the most of it? They take, what, 20%, right?
Rob: Yeah. It does take a bit of explaining, Udemy, that’s the problem. The percentage they take, it’s very complicated. They can take 3% and they can take 75%. It depends where the student has come from.
Rob: Yeah, but you don’t really want to bother about that so much because it’s a numbers game and really, the number you want to be looking at is your profit, rather than the percentage you get off them. However, to answer your question about marketing, that’s quite important because I found that — surprise, surprise — the best ways of selling courses on Udemy is via the email list. So if you’ve got an email list, which I have, you can get sales right off the bat.
The other thing that Udemy does is discount courses a lot. So what you do is you price a course really high at, say, $99 and then you offer it to your email for quite low, maybe $15 to $19 and they lap it up and you can create the time sensitive coupons that say, “It will only be available at this price for five days,” and maybe write a couple of emails like that. Then you’ll get sales on Udemy, and then Udemy’s internal algorithm sees you as a guy who’s got a course and is selling it and maybe getting good reviews, similar to Amazon as well, and then you’ll get promoted organically within Udemy. But it is quite important to have some sort of audience as well and also multiple courses as well.
That helps because people tend to buy more than one product on Udemy, so it is good to have multiple courses there. But they are sold at a discount. So then I would advise people who are listening to this, and maybe yourself, to always hold a little bit back and sell the real, premium, great stuff on your own site, where you’re getting higher prices and you’re getting more of the profit or 100% of it. So hold your premium, premium, premium content for your own site and just put everything else on Udemy in small sort of two-hour long courses. That is the model I’m going for at the moment.
Vic: Now, have you experimented with different pricing models? Have you found that it’s more of a volume game, rather than a premium pricing approach?
Rob: Yes, that’s what I found on Udemy. Definitely. Yeah, that’s the name of the game on Udemy. I think most people probably pay between $10 to $20 for a course, not much more than that and that’s what they’re expecting. So if you’re not happy with that, then don’t go for it; it’s not right for you. But I’m certainly happy with that.
Vic: So you don’t think you could get away with selling a $200 course, for instance?
Rob: You can get away with putting a course on Udemy for $200, but you won’t get many sales at that price.
Vic: I see. I see. If you sell the free courses, do they allow you to integrate with your auto-responders, so that you can build your list via those free courses?
Rob: You can. This is a grey area. Basically, you want to brand your courses. They don’t mind you doing that. All of my courses have my logo on them sitting proud and pretty, right at the beginning and every time I a video I say, “Hello. My name is Rob from robcubbon.com.” That’s going to get you the best sign-ups anyway because if people really like your stuff, they’re going to Google you and go back to your site.
I don’t want to go into the ins and outs because Udemy does have their guidelines and I’m not too sure what they are these days, but you’ve got to brand your videos. Nobody’s going to watch your videos unless you say, “Look, I’m this guy. This is my website. I’m a successful blah, blah, blah.” Of course you’re going to say that, so of course you’re going to get people coming from Udemy to your email list.
Actually, I’m going to go onto another point here as well because you might have been talking about, “Can you sell to your customers on Udemy?” Because you can. You can sell to the customers of your premium products on Udemy. You can send them an announcement and that is, in effect, an email. It goes into their inbox and then you can sell them another course. You can cross-sell to your heart’s content on Udemy that way, but they don’t literally — I’ve got 60,000 students, they don’t literally give me 60,000 email addresses. That would be nice, but it doesn’t happen.
Vic: Ah, I see. Okay, so then in your opinion, if there was one kind of tip that you could give to people who are considering selling on Udemy or getting started with it, what would be your overarching piece of advice?
Rob: I think I would say to go into it — just definitely create multiple courses. Just the only thing that I see people getting wrong is that they put one course on there and they don’t do anything for it, to it, and it doesn’t sell. I think if you put a course on there and you direct a little bit of marketing to it, and the email list is best for that, you can also try with YouTube and Kindle, and create multiple courses. Make it a policy to put some video content on there as you go along and then you’ll see success. Don’t just put one course on there and sit back and hope for something to happen. It might do, but it’s less likely to. You’ve got to work a little bit at it, but you don’t have to work as hard on Udemy as you do on Kindle.
Vic: Or on your own platform for that matter.
Rob: Indeed. Yes.
Vic: Which you’re learning now, I’m guessing.
Rob: Yes. Yes. Well, that’s where I am at the moment and it’s been interesting. I’ve learned lots, but I’m nowhere near your stage of development, when it comes to the membership site.
Vic: So for the listeners, what we’re referring to here is the fact that you’re sort of trying your hand at hosting your own membership sites on your website via WordPress and DAP. I guess you’re on DAP now?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Vic: Are you taking the courses that were on Udemy and selling them independently or are these brand new courses?
Rob: No, that was my big mistake. When I started my membership site, I probably had eight different products, or something like that, eight different video courses. I’ve got 12 different video courses now. So that was my big mistake. What I did was, “Ah, I’ll put all my video courses on there and sell them at a monthly fee.” That was just so stupid on so many levels.
One thing is membership sites are quite difficult, at least I find they’re difficult and it would’ve been a better idea if I’d started with one product. Also, I’m going to sell to my email list and it’s just so much better if you just sell one product at a time.
Rob: It just keeps things simple.
Vic: It’s just more targeted.
Rob: Exactly. Exactly. I mean I should’ve known better, but it’s funny how stupid you are, when you’re sitting on your own, in front of your laptop sometimes. But yeah, what I should’ve done was create something special, something that’s not anywhere else and sell it. I think it’s better first to sell — for me, for my audience — I think it’s better to sell one-off, one-time-offers, a single price for a lifetime access.
I think further down the line I should go back to the monthly recurring payments model, but it just doesn’t seem right for my audience at the time. That’s the way you should do it on the membership site and also warm them up to the products. Don’t just suddenly say, “Here’s a product. Buy it.” It’s a process of warming them up. I’ve put the cart right before the horse on my membership sites.
Now I have a big, big, offer of five free courses, which you can sign-up to and that’s doing great at collecting email addresses, and then I’m going to put them through a funnel and upsell and downsell, and that’s where I’m at, at the moment. I’ve had a year of making stupid decisions, would you believe it?
Vic: I would. Because anybody who’s been online and has made a single dollar did three stupid things to earn that dollar.
Vic: You know what I mean?
Vic: Before they got it right?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Vic: But at least you have all that content, you know? That you can re-purpose and kind of arrange and sell.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly and that’s what I’m doing at the moment.
Vic: But these are all one-off sales, right? You’re not charging on a recurring basis for any of these courses.
Rob: No. I used to, but I’ve taken that product down. I could resurrect it at some stage, but at the moment, I’m not going for that because also, another thing is it’s very difficult to create a sales page or any sort of description on your website saying, “You can have this for this much and this for this much every month.” It’s just very difficult to explain.
Vic: Yeah and I guess the kinds of things that you’re selling too is you’re selling how-to courses on how to build a web design business and so on and so forth. It’s like once that content is consumed, what is the point of continuing to pay? There’s no stickiness to that kind of content, right?
Rob: Exactly. Exactly.
Vic: So pretty much the bulk of your business right now, you would say, is one-off sales, right?
Vic: Okay and do you have, in the future, plans to append a continuity of some sort, to get a continuity going somewhere in your funnel?
Rob: Yes, I definitely have. I’m not too sure what it’s going to contain. I’m really interested in a kind of “done for you” service with a very high monthly payment that might involve setting up a website and hosting and that sort of thing and a real high-end community, but I’m really not sure about the way I’m going to go with that at the moment.
Vic: Okay. Maybe we could talk about that a little bit once we get off the call because I actually tried that with membership sites and it didn’t go so well.
Rob: Yeah. Again, done-for-you services, you know, you’ve got WP Curve that are doing very well with monthly recurring fees. I just think there might be a way of using that model on a sort of WordPress, a done-for-you WordPress building and designing service, but I’m a long way off, working out how that’s going to work.
Vic: Yeah and this is kind of a worthy topic in its own right, which is product tie services. You mentioned WP Curve, I think Dan Norris who’s one of the founders of WP Curve, and you’re a member of the DC. Right, Rob? Is that how we met?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Vic: He sort of made them cool, product tie services, and everybody now, everybody’s like, “Oh, I’m the WP Curve of graphic design,” and to be honest, I’m the WP Curve of membership sites and that’s how I got started with MemberFix and it completely transformed my business because it’s like, now I’m not chasing invoices, I’m not doing the hourly thing or rarely. A lot of people think membership sites need to be information products or community. It doesn’t at all. It can be a monthly recurring service, where you sort of naturally limit the kinds of tasks you do. You make it really pointed, really concrete.
Vic: And then you offer the services and somehow throttle the usage if you can and people are doing really, really, well with that model.
Vic: It’s not easy, but it could be profitable for sure.
Rob: Yeah and utilizing outsourcing. I met somebody who was doing — this is another example of how that model can work — somebody, who’s doing podcasting done-for-you service. So they do editing, they put it up on the server, they sort out your feed, they put it on iTunes and Stitcher, and it’s monthly and you can charge quite a lot for that. I think that’s another one and you outsource it very — once you’ve got the team set up and you can rely on the team —
Vic: And the processes.
Rob: Then I think it’s a great idea. Just a lot of work to begin with, but quite interesting I’d say.
Vic: I’d like to segue now, a little bit, into the Kindle aspect. Just kind of touch on that because I know a lot of folks think about self-publishing. I’ve published a few books and I haven’t really made much money with it, but just the branding element alone was worth the price of admission for me because people see that you’re an author. You have some good reviews. You’ve written about a topic. You’re automatically perceived as an expert, but you can also make money from Kindle books. So could you talk about that aspect of your business a little bit please?
Rob: Yeah, Vic, I completely agree with you there that it’s more or less the same with me. I don’t make a lot of money. Say, like on a good month, I might make over $1,000 and that would be a good month on Kindle. You’re selling these things pretty cheap. You know, they’re $2.99 most of the time, so obviously you got to sell quite a lot before you make a lot of money. However, I do find the whole self-publishing thing just so exciting.
As you say, we are published authors. We can call ourselves bestselling authors. I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s true. I’m sure you got to the top of your category at some stage and I did as well. So you are a bestselling author and that adds kudos and authority. It’s also a brilliant lead generator or lead magnet, whatever you want to call it.
Rob: You can put a call to action to an offer at the beginning and the end of the book and it does very well in collecting email addresses. You can totally upsell from them because I used to upsell Udemy courses. I used to say it at the back of the Kindle, “I’ve done a Udemy course on this subject and if you want to watch this, watch how to do it, rather than just read how to do it, then click this link and you can get the course cheap at $19 or $24.” They used to sell very well. I say used to because, of course, I’m now pointing people to my membership site from the Kindles.
So it’s a way of getting someone to make a small purchase. Maybe it’s 99 cents or maybe it’s $2.99 and if they like you — a lot of people do — they’ll go on to make a bigger purchase, so you can get their email addresses. Also, as I’m sure you’ve found out, the free days through KDP select are absolutely amazing because you’re just putting yourself up in front thousands of people that would never find you via the blog or any of the other channels, so I just love it.
Look at people like Steve Scott. I’ve made a lot of friends who are Kindle publishers and Steve Scott, he wrote a Kindle book one day, made a bit of money from it, and he’s sat down every month since then and wrote a Kindle book and published it for about two years. He’s making over 20,000 a month on Kindle and there are a few people like that.
Vic: That’s not bad at all.
Rob: Exactly. He’s got maybe 40 books, but it doesn’t take long to write a Kindle book. I really quite enjoy writing. I don’t enjoy so much the rigmarole that goes for it, all the various things you’ve got to do. You’ve got to get the cover done, you’ve got to do the editing, get the editing done, it all takes time, but you get used to it. It’s the same with video products. Each one you make, the process gets easier the next time. So I’ve got plans for writing at least three or four more books and I’m really looking forward to writing them, at least. So I love Kindles, I love self-publishing and, as you say, maybe not for making huge quantities of money, but it’s so good in so many other ways.
Vic: Yeah and I just want to add to that, Rob. That like most things, there’s a bit of a Pareto distribution, a bit of an 80/20 thing happening. Where maybe one or two of your books will account for a disproportionate amount of your income, right?
Vic: Just like maybe one or two of your courses kick all your other courses’ asses. So it’s a bit of a numbers game there as well and the other thing I want to say is, with Kindle you have the opportunity to also publish an audio version of your book via Amazon’s audio book arm, which is called ACX.
The beauty of ACX and I’ve done this with all of my Kindle books is that you don’t have to spend anything up front because they have a whole marketplace of narrators and you do a revenue share with this narrator. Obviously, if you have money to pay upfront, you’ll probably wind up making more in the long-run, but it’s sort of like you split the risk with the narrator and even after the narrator takes his cut and Amazon takes their cut, my audio books beat my Kindle and CreateSpace books almost by 2X in terms of profits. So it’s a very worthwhile thing to do that takes no time, virtually.
Rob: All right. I should look into that.
Rob: I should look into that. Well, that’s great. Thanks for that, Vic. I want to go back to your first point though, which was really great because you said you’ll find that some of your books do better than others or even do 80/20 better than others and that’s true. But I would also say that that is great market research information because maybe the book that does really well, you and then translate into a video course. It’s so easy to make a video course after you’ve written the book because you’ve got all the sections worked out and you’ve got the linear direction of it worked out and most of the words worked out, the chapter titles, the video titles. So the two things feed into each other really quite well, I think.
Vic: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Okay, so we’ve talked about Udemy. We’ve talked about Kindle. Let me ask you what kinds of tools that you find to be indispensable in your business or kind of your most important online tools, services, apps, etc.?
Rob: Right. I was listening to one of your interviews and now I’ve got to go for ScreenFlow or Camtasia. I’m not great on tools. I always say WordPress because people don’t appreciate it enough, but if it wasn’t for WordPress I wouldn’t be here, so I should say that. I know it’s obvious. Apart from that, I really just use the basics, Google Docs, Gmail. I can’t think of anything better than that, Vic. Sorry, not a great answer.
Vic: No, it’s a good answer because you don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive stuff to make a go of it online.
Rob: No, not at all. A decent microphone, of course. Spend a bit of money on your microphone if you’re making video course, but yeah, that’s about it.
Vic: Okay. Well, I think we’re getting sort of to the end of the interview. I think we’ve covered all the major things here. Now, if you could sort of give people who are thinking about getting into the online business game or who are in it but they’re kind of struggling, they’re not really doing that well, if you could give them a bit of advice. Maybe you could talk about your previous life as a bit of a party animal. I was hoping you could touch on that because that’s just a really compelling thing to talk about.
Rob: Yeah. I find it hard to imagine, now, the way I was. The thing is, everyone else I knew was the same as me, you know. So you’d go to work — none of my friends were married — and we’d come home and we’d just drink. I think England has a bit of a bad drinking culture associated with it and we didn’t see anything wrong with that as well. I used to smoke. I used to smoke cigarettes and I thankfully managed to get over that. Then the weekends were even worse. This is every night I used to drink, but I used to drink in the weekends more than that. You’ve got free times, so this is what you do and I look back to that and I do think that was wee bit of a shame. Where I could’ve been creating things, I could’ve been trying to help people, I was miserable at the time and blaming my misery on just about anything else apart from myself, who was ultimately to blame for all of this.
Luckily, actually I started meditating. I got into this NLP and I started reading about Buddhism and just being more interested in the core essentials of life. It was the meditation that helped me give up smoking. I think that was a very big point for me because after that, I suddenly got bored of partying all the time, which essentially is rather dull after a while, and got more interested in other things, and it just went into blogging and setting up WordPress and working out how web design worked.
I loved the Internet as well. I loved the Internet since I first saw it, but it took me 10 years to set up a website because I go back a bit. I remember in 1995 when I was first aware of a website. It was 2005 before I bought my first domain and it’s shocking, really, because I was working with computers and yet it took me all this time. The reason for it was that I was literally rudderless and I didn’t have any direction in life. I didn’t have any ambition or sort of inspiration to do anything. So I’m very glad and grateful that I did find something to do and it came about through saying to myself, “I can change this. If I try hard and do the right thing, I can improve my life.”
The other thing I would say, just to anyone who wants to do something online would be to create free content and make the content as good as you can and don’t worry about giving away stuff for free because I do it all the time. And look who creates free content: Tim Ferriss —
Rob: Pat Flynn —
Vic: Yep. Eben Pagan.
Rob: Eben Pagan.
Rob: Richard Branson —
Rob: Seth Godin, they all create bags of free content every day and they’re multimillionaires.
Rob: So do the math. Free content. That’s a good start. I hope that answers your question, Vic.
Vic: How old were you, when you finally got into the online business thing?
Rob: I was really old. Yeah, just dreadful. Honestly, I can’t even work it out, I’m so old. Mid-30s. Isn’t that dreadful?
Vic: Hey, better late than never, you know.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Vic: It’s interesting the thing that you say about meditation too, now that we’re getting deep, is that the whole idea of meditation, in a sense, is to bring your consciousness to a higher level to get altitude, to borrow Eben Pagan’s term, and to gain an awareness of your habits, of your motivations. So many people around the world, and everybody is guilty of this in their day-to-day lives or in their past or even in the present in various things like fitness, of just being sort of robotic.
There’s a whole field of study called Automaticity, which basically studies the way or the ways in which humans are automatons and that we’re slaves; we’re creatures of habit. We get in the Tube every Monday morning, we go to the job, we somnambulate through the job, we go drown out the boredom with drinking, and then you just do that in a cycle and then you die. And it’s like, if there is not some kind of pattern interrupt to come in and say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. This is my life? No way. No freaking way. I’m going to change somehow. I don’t how, but I’m going to start a blog. I don’t know. ” And that begins it all, right?
Rob: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. It was something like that that happened and it’s so true and even with me, still now, it’s still true. I still somnambulate. There’s times, where I have my head down, I’m doing this and it doesn’t stop. You keep on questioning everything and really try and get away with all the fluff and get down to the basics of the present moment and keep yourself on track. Yeah. Everything you said I completely went along with that, Vic.
Vic: And that, Rob, is sort of the essence of your new book, right? Which is Free Your Thoughts. I’m going to have a link to your book in the show notes, here below the podcast recording on vicdorfman.com.
Rob: I appreciate that, Vic. That book is a little bit different from most of the other stuff I’ve done. In that it’s usually about how to start a WordPress website, how to start a web design business, etc. However, I wanted to write something about the mindset because other books has helped me so much. At the same time, I started reading a lot of books, and I still do it to this day, and just a lot of self-help stuff, NLP stuff. I’ve picked up so many good tools, I wanted to write about all that and fit it in with entrepreneurship. So that’s what that book is about.
Vic: Okay, very cool and where can people find you online? What’s the main place?
Rob: Okay. The best thing to do is to Google my name, which is Ron Cubbon, C – U – double B – O – N and I’m at robcubbon.com. So fairly difficult name to pronounce when people see it spelled out, but that’s who I am and, luckily enough, there isn’t anyone else with my name. So Google will do.
Vic: Okay. Not Rob Cubbon, the shoe salesman in Alabama?
Rob: Ah! No!
Vic: Not that one. Okay, so I’ll link to your site and to your book and also to your Twitter account because you tweet some cool things as well.
Rob: Thanks a lot, Vic.