Today’s guest on The Membership Site Success podcast is Ashley Meyers![bctt tweet=”‘I try a lot of things and I really, really believe – more than anything – just try things! I’ve really ingrained that as a part of my philosophy.’ – @ashleymeyers”]
Ashley is the founder of Selling Your Screenplay, a community that provides support, resources and services for screenwriters and aspiring screenwriters who want to…you guessed it, sell their screenplays!
Ashley entered the film industry in Los Angeles well over a decade ago, and has written, optioned and/or sold a number of screenplays. He also has production and editing credits under his belt. (Check out Ashleys IMBD profile here).
In this episode, Ashley shares his top tips from over a decade in business on how to effectively build and market a site based around a passion, and monetize it with services (as well as products). Ashley and I are in a mastermind together and one thing that always strikes me is his Herculean work ethic. So bust out some popcorn, listen up, and don’t forget to rate the podcast on iTunes (it helps me get more awesome guests on the show).
You can connect with Ashley on his Twitter, @ashleymeyers.
1. WPCurve – One of Ashley’s first websites in the films niche, monetized by Amazon Associates.
2. Amazon Associates – Amazon.com’s mighty affiliate program.
3. TheRightCast.com – Ashley’s website for actors.
4. SellingYourScreenplay.com – Ashley’s site for screenwriters and aspiring screenwriters. Offers a support, resources and services for the screenwriting community, as well as a popular podcast.
5. Ashley’s IMDB Profile – Ashley’s IMBD page, which contains his credits in the film industry. (IMDB is the LinkedIn of the film world).
6. BookLocker.com – Ashley initially used Book Locker to sell his eBook.
7. StumbleUpon – One of the most powerful, and most overlooked social networks. StumbleUpon arguably has the capability to generate viral traffic more readily than any other platform.
8. The Automatic Customer – A fantastic book by John Warrillow that breaks down and gives ample real life examples of recurring revenue businesses and how to build/maintain them.
9. Mastery by Robert Greene – By analyzing the lives of such past masters as Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonard da Vinci, as well as by interviewing nine contemporary masters, including tech guru Paul Graham and animal rights advocate Temple Grandin, Greene debunks our culture’s many myths about genius and distills the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness.
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You are listening to The Membership Site Success podcast, where you learn from success entrepreneurs how to build and run a profitable membership site, so that you too can generate recurring revenue for your business month after month. And now, here is your host, membership site expert, Vic Dorfman.
Vic: Today on The Membership site success podcast I am tickled to have my [00:00:30] friend Ashley Meyers come on and talk with us. Ashley is the owner of therightcast.com and sellingyourscreenplay.com , which is going to be the main topic of our interview today, and some of your screenplay is very interesting from a recurring revenue perspective, because what Ashley has done is, he is taking one of his passions, which is screenwriting, and he’s built a community for screenwriters and resource for screenwriters, and he’s monetized his site based around [00:01:00] services for aspiring screenwriters who want to sell on option their scripts. So, for listeners who have a passion project, whether it’s music or arts, writing, something along those lines, this is one of those episodes you’re really going to love, because, and I myself as a musician as well, is one of the reasons why I really, really wanted Ashley on is because it’s always great to get a lot of examples of people who have taken their passion [00:01:30], who have found a way to help their community and to make a nice living in the process. So this is really fun episode, Ashley is a super smart guy, and amazing businessman with a lot of hustle in his blood, so you’re going to really enjoy this episode. Make sure you leave your comments, rate this episode on iTunes and enjoy.
Vic: So the first question is, and actually I don’t think I’ve ever asked you about this, [00:02:00] even ‘though we’ve been doing the (prototize) service Mastermind for so long, but, how did you get into entrepreneurship, how did you get into business?
Ashley: Yeah, that’s good question. The long answer or the short answer? I mean, in the late 90s’ the internet boom war really on, and I was just looking for a job. And I have moved to LA, I was trying to sell screenplays, I actually sold a screenplay, opted a screen play, but things didn’t really click after [00:02:30] that, so this was by like 1999, 2000, the internet boom was on, and I set-up a web site for my screen writings, so it was actually just ashleymeyers.com and I listed a bunch of (?), and my dad had done a little bit on web, like web development at his job, so he just basically kinda held me and sad like, hey in a day you can learn HTML it’s not that complicated. and this was back as I sad in 1999,2000 so I was, it was just [00:03:00] a hard core HTML page, but I had a little templist, i had a little temp wizard that could create a little template pages and stuff for you, but it was nothing like PHP, it was not dynamic. Anyways, I set up this site, so that was my experience, I was living in LA, so there were tons of star-up companies, so I just started submitting resumes, trying to get a job, and the first job I got was in company named, i think it was in 1999, 2000 , it was called “Latitude 90”, which ended up being changed to “L90”, and it was ad-serving company, it was basically like “double click” [00:03:30], we were competitive to “double click”. And I started out in text support, which was basically, companies would send me it’s HTML, banners or job banners, and we would have to, you know, sometimes teak them to get into the ad-serving system. So that’s how I started to learn i little bit about coding, and that was all written in Perl, it was MySQL mostly, i did use some Oracle, but it was MySQL and Perl, so it was how I learned, how I got into the open-source development, was Perl and job at script HTML [00:04:00], but it was advertising company, so it was definitely an emphasis on marketing, so for my very first job I was involved in internet-marketing, but how I got into the internet business, you know, I just always was interested in doing things, so the first site I ever set up and tried to monetize was the site which is still around, soundgrapes.org, and just posted a bunch of, I somehow found the Amazon affiliate program, and basically again I was still doing a lot of [00:04:30] screenwriting, so I set soundgrapes.org, it was, we were doing similar to the Onion? , but we were also doing some videos, writing some comedies, I was writing scripts and stuff, so it was kinda like an entertainment site, portal. So I got bright idea to monetize it, and I somehow found an Amazon, this was early Amazon, it was probably before 2001, ’cause i got laid off from the L90 by 2001, they got bought up, so it was before 2001, but somewhere 1999 to 2001 period [00:05:00] I (?) in the Amazon affiliate program and I got this bright idea that, since it was a comedy site, i could create banner ads for comedy movies, like “Groundhog day”, some of the best comedy, you know, just all of the great comedy movies. So I created a little Java script, i got the Amazon affiliate code, I created a little Java script to rotate these banners in, so with every page refresh you would see a new banner ad like “Groundhog day”, “Liar liar”, just all of the great comedy movies, and [00:05:30] I sad this is a comedy site, so I’ll sell tons of these things and it just was crickets man, and went on for maybe a year and finally one of the other guys who was writing, was contributing to the thing, he wanted to buy the video, so he clicked on my ad and bought a video so I sold one sale after a year, but I was like, J, I guess the technical aspects were actually working, but nobody was buying these videos. So I learned an important lesion there. And as things were winding down [00:06:00], actually I guess that was the biggest step, as things were winding down to L90, we could tell the things were not going well, the company just was never quite profitable, so we could kinda tell the things were winding down, I started learning more and more programing and, as I said, they were using Perl, so that’s what everybody knew at that company, so I learned Perl, and I created a site called therightcast.com that’s still around, and that’s basically a site where actor can just put in key and a bunch a data from their resume, and then hit a button [00:06:30] and create a nice actor resume page. So they can just basically put themselves online, and again, this was like in 2000, so back then it was kinda novel idea, there were other places doing it, but it was kinda neat idea. And I had a lot of a actor friends like “Hey can you build me a website?”, so I was like “Well, maybe I can build this tool, that will just create website, they can do it themselves, but I’ll create a tool. ” So that’s, I was still in business, and I got that open-running and [00:07:00] just through trial and I was like, well, how can I market this thing, and I told all of my actor friends, i got them to sign up for a free account, and told them to tell their friends, but that got literally zero sales. And at some point i bumped in, this was early, early days of Google adverts, very early days of Google adverts, so I signed up again, this was probably by 2001 , so I signed up for a Google adverts account and started using Google adverts and that actually did work, back then you’re only paying like 5 cents a click [00:07:30] and I beat up some pretty competitive terms, like actor web site, or web sites for actors, it was the exact terms I wanted and I did see a positive (?), again, we are not talking like big numbers, but I got to the point where I was spending like 300 dollars a month, and I was selling service for 12 dollars a year, and that’s probably a whole another episode in pricing things, and I probably priced it too well, I just didn’t built any margin to market it, but I’ve figured [00:08:00] if I can just break even with the advertising, a lot of those actors would join for second and third year, which is true, I still had members that have been with me for like 10 years, so I figured if I just every month break even I will probably, ultimately come ahead, ’cause these actors would pay 12 dollars for a year, and then next year any of them would join, so that would basically be my profit. And I had job, I had a full time job, so it wasn’t like I was in any kind of a… so that’s what I did. [00:08:30] I got up to the point where, you know, 350,380, 320, it was somewhere in that range was how much I was spending, and I was breaking even, I was able to basically sell 250 divided by 12 dollars, that’s how many new actors I was bringing on, so I was basically breaking even. But the whole loop was there, like a comprehensive business, where I built the product, and I marketed the product, and I really didn’t up to do anything [00:09:00], I did some manual, and still to this day, do some manual, I would just look at the actors before I approve them, so you do not get crazy people uploading all kinds of wired things, it was really never that bit of a problem. And I manually approved the casting nodes, ’cause that was the other thing i realized early on, and that was that i need to build the system where these actors have casting notices, so I got that into the system as well, where I got production companies to post casting notices. [00:09:30] So that was the loops, and then I started emailing casting notices and email casting directors and producers and say hey, post your casting notices on this site, and then I also made it easy for the actors that were in my system to respond to it. But that was my beginning stages, just building that site and actually getting it, i wouldn’t say profitable, but getting it to a point where I was like in working, functioning business.
Vic: So let me ask you, were you, in the back of your mind these whole time, were you kinda thinking [00:10:00] , like i still, screenwriting is my passion and these are just kinds of stay afloat and ways to finance my dream. Because I’m sure you’re not the only one who entered online business as a means to finance doing a thing they love or maybe vivid into the thing they love, so I’m kinda curious if online business have become an end in and out itself for you [00:10:30], an interesting thing in and out itself or, in the back of your mind you were always thinking like,” Selling screenplays, that’s my call”.
Ashley: This may surprise people, but no, I don’t, one of the things that definitely inspired me was, working for L90, advertising for these web sites, I could see how these web sites were making [00:11:00], I knew how much they were making. And one of our sites was aintcoolnews.com, for a while I think we were actually doing the .onion, I think that’s how I actually heard about the .onion . Maybe we weren’t doing all of their ads, but we’re doing some of their ads. So I saw how much these sites were making, which was pretty good money back then. So i think that was part of an inspiration, just seeing that these businesses are actually working and thinking what could I do to build something similar to that. But I didn’t really look at it as something that [00:11:30], like once I got programing with Perl and stuff, and to this day I still enjoy, now as PHP, but I still enjoy programing in PHP and truthfully, writing screenplays is brutal work, man, it’s not like, I really look at screenwriting much like running a marathon, and I have run one marathon in my life, so that’s my experience with marathons, but actually running a marathon, it’s not really that much fun, what’s really fun is [00:12:00] the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment and relief you get when you are done, and that for me is a lot what screenwriting is, I enjoy the moviemaking process to some degree, but the actual screenwriting is brutal work, and truthfully if I could have a choice like spending 6 hours writing PHP code or 6 hours writing a screenplay, I would choose a PHP code, I genially look forward to the days when I am gonna do some actually programming. [00:12:30] I enjoy it, it’s fun, it’s actually fun for me, and profitable. But everyone tells me now that doing the coding has become such a commodity, you get some in the Philippines, get someone in Eastern Europe do it so much cheaper. Everyone tells me now that’s a bad decision for me to spend that time, I should be spending my time on high level decision making, but I genially enjoy it. So, did I look at this as a way of funding my real passion of screenwriting? No, I don’t think I did, [00:13:00] I think I looked at it as something I genially liked. I liked entrepreneurship, I liked starting the right cast, it was fun for me, I mean I’ve always play games like Age of Empires or Civilization 4, and I remember playing those games and thinking like the amount of brain energy I’m spending on these games, I could be putting to something useful and building the right cast was very similar, at least in my mind, it was fun for me trying to figure out [00:13:30] the adverts, get it to the point where it was profitable, and I actually had something to show for, as oppose to maybe winning a game of Civilization 4, and the enjoyment factor wasn’t that much different really, I like playing those games, but I also had great fun doing a right cast. and truthfully screenwriting is a nudge below that in the hierarchy of fun, actual screenwriting is below [00:14:00] coding and…
Vic: I noticed that about you too, because for the people listening and/or watching, Ashley and I are in Mastermind together, I’ve been there almost a year, you’ve been there longer than that, and two thing really struck me about you is, number one you are like child-like wonder about just experimenting and playing with different things and just trying new approaches, you constantly tinkering, which is a good attitude [00:14:30] because I know, a lot of times you just write to-do lists, you have all these ideas, but gotta implement all that that stuff, you’ve gotta fail fast, to use a start-up cliché. Second thing I’ve noticed about you leads into the next question I have for you is, you have, and you’ve inspired me personally when I asked you about this, this sense of hustle, you know when my “memberfix?” thing has started you told me to go beat the bushes for clients however, however the hack I got them, [00:15:00] didn’t matter as long as I got them, and then when I came to the group and started complaining, that I can’t skill this thing, you are like “I’m not convinced that you can’t scale this. ” And you told me that several times, to try again, try harder, and I did hired somebody, and kinda failed again, but you’re still telling me that you are not convinced…
Ashley: …and we had a new guy in a Mastermind this week, and you were going to you whole (?) about like “Hey, it’s a mistake, this business…” , and I interrupted you [00:15:30] and started arguing again, but it did occur to me that it’s doesn’t sound like it’s not scalable….
Vic: Ok, let’s not get off of topic, the point is where did you develop this sense of hustle, and for somebody who doesn’t have it naturally, how do you cultivate this vital quality for entrepreneurship.
Ashley: I don’t know if I have a good answer to that, and I know that I’m somewhat [00:16:00] unique in that, you know, when I first got to Hollywood I went to , UCLA has this extension classes where they are continuing education, and it’s very well regarded in screenwriting, have a lot of screenwriting classes, and I went to these classes, and there was maybe, just for the sake of simplicity, there was 20 people on the class and the screenwriter that was teaching the class was a TV writer I think, and he sad “Well why are you here?” , [00:16:30] and that was me and one other guy, but 18 out of the 20 people basically sad the same thing: I got all these great ideas, but I don’t know what to do with them, get them down on paper and turn them into a screenplay, that was 18, and then me and this one other guy said “Yeah i read a bunch of scripts, but how do I sell them?” So to answer your question, I don’t know, it seems like a lot of people that seems to be a humongous problem, I don’t really have that problem, [00:17:00] I just set out to do something and then i go do it. My parents were incredible hard workers, my mom was a school teacher, my dad worked for federal government, so it’s nothing that would really stand out to you, they’re both now retired, but still incredibly hard workers, you know, my dad he has this race car that he races and he spends enormous amount of time fixing i and pulling the motor out [00:17:30], and they both spend a lot of time on their garden. So they are just like doing things, as opposed to sitting and watching sports or something. And I think there is anything wrong with that, but both my parents are just very hard workers. I remember when I saw Joe Chowel talk once, and people kinda asking him, and he’s one of these famous online, money online guys, they say like “How much do you work?” and this and that, and his answer was “You know, I’m working all the time [00:18:00], I love doing it.” And I think there is certain amount of that, ultimately, if it’s not something you really enjoy doing, it’s gonna be tough to force yourself. I don’t have to force myself to get up and go to work, I like doing it, I look forward to it. It’s fun, I weak up early and as I get older I weak up earlier and earlier in the morning and getting out of bed sooner and sooner, but it’s not like that much of an effort, [00:18:30] I don’t have to like “huh, I gotta go and sit at a computer and work .” So I don’t know if there is any answer to that, I think maybe trying to find something that you are passionate about, so that you can look forward to it. I don’t know if I have a good answer for it.
Vic: I’ll just add to kinda round up that perspective, because I don’t share that quality and it must be nice to have [00:19:00] I think, but for me, especially getting started in online business thing it was very much an uphill battle, and I very much didn’t want to do it. But my dad told me something long time ago, and it’s a Russian saying, actually Ukrainian, he was referring to working and being a hard worker, he said “Sometimes the appetite comes with the food.” You are not hungry, the food comes on the table, you smell it, you start to enjoy it, in other words [00:19:30] you get into the think of process, and then you just get into the float state, where you can be doing anything, you can be gardening, you can be writing a screenplay, you can be working on your online business, but it’s inevitable that you have to work your butt off to get anything done, and whether if somebody is kind of a manic like you, in a good way, or they need some external motivation, i guess one way or another you have to work, you have to hustle. However you motivate yourself to do that [00:20:00], that’s your business, but you gotta find the way.
Ashley: You absolutely do ,I mean, there is too many smart people in this world, that are willing to work 12 hours a day, and to be good at something, it’s sort of a level of commitment that it takes. You have to be willing to, if you are to be good at it, unless you are incredibly talented at something, it’s gonna take hard work, so…[00:20:30]
Vic: So ok, on that note, let me ask you about your sellingyourscreenplays.com site. We’ve talked about the rightcast.com… What’s the story with sellingyourscreenplay and can you talk a little bit about history of it and how you sort of built it up, how you got the traffic and how you built the audience for that site?
Ashley: As I said, I built the rightcast and I got it to the point where I was making a little bit of money, [00:21:00] and I think at some point i cooled off the advert spent, just ’cause I kinda lost interest in it, and I continued to make let’s say 300 dollars a month without spending anything on advertising. This was after maybe 2 or 3 years, I had like enough sort of a momentum that I can turn off the advertising and continue to make money, so what I decided at that point was, it seem this basically has worked, you know, [00:21:30] to some degree, so what if I scale that and I create 10 or 20 sites that make 300 dollars a month. So I started looking around for a ways to create sites that can make 2, 3 or 4 hundred dollars a month, and I started doing that. I had a friend who had a baseball cards site, and he had like big baseball card collection and wanted to sell baseball cards online, he was a college buddy of mine, [00:22:00] so at the goodness of my heart, I built this site and very, very quickly i built that site, he had people coming to them that want to advertise on the site, and that got me thinking like, well if I can build sports oriented site, and basically they wanted to buy textlenghts, and again, the World has changed, this was probably in 2003 or 2004 or something, so the World has changed since then, but it was mostly ticked brokers wanting to put textlenghts(?) on his site for the SEO value [00:22:30]. But he had this one site with virtually no traffic and like within let’s say 3 or 4 months he was making like 500 dollars a month of this thing with this textlenghts. He had like ten advertisers or something; he was charging 50 bucks, so maybe 3, 4 or 5 hundred dollars and just completely found money for him. So I thought if I could build up a bunch of sport sites, I can do something different, so that was sort of my next project. And I just started building other [00:23:00] projects, many of them completely flopped and didn’t go anywhere, some of them made a little bit of money, some of them just I never even finished. So over the course of a few years I built a bunch of these sites and at some point, like in 2009, and I had a bunch of these sites making few hundred dollars, but at some point in 2009 I went to, i think it was an affiliate, like an affiliate marketing conference in Las Vegas, I just drove out there, and the speaker was [00:23:30] Gary Vaynerchuk,
That’s his name, and he was like the marquee speaker. I just started a blog, my mom had just retired and I just created a blog, a gardening blog for her, she retired, she wanted something to do, and now I have like a zillion posts, because she is a worker bee, she is just having zillions and zillions of posts every day. But anyway, I just set that site up, so this was like in February, maybe March of 2009 [00:24:00] , Garry Vaynerchuk was talking, he had this thing where he was like “You know, so many of you are affiliate marketers.” And essentially that’s what I was doing; most of these sites I was setting up were just kind of little bitty sites that had some sort of an affiliate component to them. And he sad “Most of you guys here are hitting singles and doubles, but you’re not going for the home run.” And I just got to thinking about that, I heard another quote, I guess Barry White does a bunch of music producing and [00:24:30] some other musician or producer or something said to him „These albums are great, but they are missing the biggest talent that you have, which you is, you are not involved in these things.” And not that I’m a biggest talent, but there is something to that, I should get involved in these businesses. And I had set up, I already bought [00:25:00] sellingyuorscreenplay.com and this was one of those fail adventures, I bought sellingyourscreenplay.com and I written an eBook and I published an eBook, so my idea was maybe I can make 2 or 3 hundred dollars a month from this eBook. And I was still screenwriting, I sold a bunch of scripts, optioned a bunch of scripts, so I thought I had enough credibility, and again I was gonna use adverts to push traffic to it. So sellingyourscreenplay was up by that time, but it was just basically a sales landing page to sell my eBook. [00:25:30] And I sold an occasional copy, maybe every 2 or 3 months I would sell a copy of this eBook, but even close to a 300 dollar mark which was what I was hoping for. S I saw Garry Vanichok? talk, I heard this quote from Berry Wisak?, you know, that’s what I should do, and really I’ll start the blog, ’cause that was the other thing, I published the eBook through booklocker, and they were telling me one of the ways we could sell more eBooks was starting a blog. [00:26:00] So that’s what sellinyourscreenplay started as, as I said, initially as a selling you screenyourscreen, but it was just a landing page for this eBook I’d ran. And the next phase of that was to start publishing, I was fairly unambitious, at this point I had a programming job in 2009, so, I was making some money of screenwriting, but my main live hood, I had a fulltime job as a programmer doing a PHP coding essentially. So in my spare time I said I’m gonna write one blog post per [00:26:30] week for a year, just 50 blog posts for a year to get it up, and that’s kinda what I did, and the idea was ” I can sell this eBook”, so I started blogging, starting to getting the thing up, and I started getting, I did all of the typical things, I commented on other people blogs, I went to read it and comment it and red their screenplay or screenwriting, sub forum and, you know, all those typical type [00:27:00] things, stumbleupon was big back in 2009, so all of this sort of a typical marketing things. I wasn’t selling any eBook, but I was getting some good feedback, people were emailing me and say : hey, I really like what are you doing…” . Basically all I was doing is explaining, up to that point I had sold maybe 2 or 3 scripts, and maybe optioned maybe 15 scripts. So i was just explaining how I’d gone about doing it. [00:27:30] And a big component of what I have done it terms of selling scripts is doing (cold, quire) letters. And that’s a whole other topic, you essentially get email adressess of production companies and you send them a cold quire letter, saying ” Hey, I’m a screenwriter and here is my long-line for my new screenplay. Would you like to read it and eventually produce it?” And I would just send these quire letters and I got better and better, because I know how to program, I got better and better at scraping sites [00:28:00] and building these lists and also pushing these things out, learning how to actually deliver hundreds and then thousands of emails. So I started with more and more success with my actual screenwriting carrier because I became more and more aggressive with (poke read) letters, and I was essentially talking about than on the blog, how was I opting stuff, how was I selling stuff, and it was resonating with people. Now, there was sort of a feeling in screenwriting industry that (cold curier) letters don’t work, I’m kinda lone wolf in this [00:28:30]. But it was working for me, and as I was explaining, I was getting feedback, so ultimately I said maybe I should sell this as a product, I should sell access to it, I created database, you know, thousands of agents and managers and producers, so maybe I should sell this as a service. So I had the blog up, I think I had it up two years when I basically created a form [00:29:00], and my idea was, I’ll get them and I’ll charge them 5 dollars a month to get them into the forum , hopping to build a forum so the screenwriters would interact. But in order for them to use my email and fax pass, I would get them into the forum, and I would personally review their carrier? letter and log line. And I thought that was enough of (ascent?) to get them in there, and then they would get this 5 dollar a month of charge. I was hoping that I can build this forum into something that actually had a value for these screenwriters. Get them in with the idea of [00:29:30] that I will get them a good notes. And they were free to cancel after a month, they could join one month, use the email and fax (bless) and then cancel, it wasn’t like I was dishonest about that. Many of them did stay, but most of them just canceled after a month or two or three months, ’cause I wasn’t really offering any value, I could never get the, I never got the forum to a point when it actually had value for screenwriters. But this email and fax (blast,bless) that I still to this day sell, that was having some value, [00:30:00] people did start to option some scripts, and I didn’t sell a lot of these, but it made the site kinda profitable all of the sudden. I wasn’t spending anything on advertising so, even if I only sold ten, five or ten of these a month, it was a 1000 or 1200 dollars a month that I was making of this thing, and all I was doing was writing one blog post per week, for the marketing. That’s basically how I got that going, and then, since then, I’ve just slowly [00:30:30] built it up, and almost two years ago to the day, I started a podcast. I mean, at this point I’ve been listening to a lot of podcast, I still listen to a lot of podcast, I love podcasting, I love listening to podcasting and I love doing my podcast. So two years ago I started a podcast and, every now or then I’ll write a blog, but I don’t really do too much blog post. [00:31:00] But, again, typical things that I’ve done to build up a podcast, and the podcast had slowly got some momentum, I’ve ruled out some additional services, I’ve ruled out a bunch of a products and services which is just completely (flot).
Vic: Let me ask you about that, how did you sort of a figured out which services, which products to rule out, did you do any kind of surveying, or list, did you interact with audience to determine, or just going by trial and error?
Ashley: Ultimately it seemed like trial and error, and again, I listen [00:31:30] to a lot of a podcast, so I hear all these people talk about customer development and survey and talking to customers. And I definitely tried that, but it just, for some reason it doesn’t seem, I’m not that successful at it, I don’t know why, maybe I don’t ask right questions, I don’t know what the deal is, but I’ve never really gotten this sort of a customer development staff to work. So ultimately what’s worth is trial and error for me, is I roll out a product [00:32:00] as quickly and easily as I can, and I see if people actually pay for it, and if they pay for it I try to scale it up, and if they not pay for it… And the classes were a big thing, I started teaching online classes, webinars, through my site, and charging for those. There were a lot of a people doing it in this industry. And would get a handful of people signing up, and when I say handful we are talking like, some classes were like one, two or three people, I wasn’t getting a ton of people signing up, so ultimately I just let it [00:32:30] a side, but I had very high hopes for it, ’cause, number one, I genially delivered a lot of value in these webinars, they are not public, so I’m free to say absolutely anything I want, I can talk about other service, I can talk about what I’ve done, things that I wouldn’t probably say on a podcast I can say here. So I had a lot of insight, I’ve sold a lot of scripts at this point, optioned a lot of scripts, so I thought I offered a lot of value in these classes. But for whatever reason I could not get a lot of people to sign up for them.[00:33:00] I just kept trying them and trying them, and probably kept trying them way too long, and I tried differrent types of classes, and got other people to come in and teach some classes, but it just ultimately didn’t work. So to answer your question, it’s been trial and error. I’m not against customer development, but for some reason just never has worked.
Vic: Ok, it’s interesting, last night I was reading this book, maybe you’re red it, it’s called ” Automatic customer” [00:33:30], and it’s sort of the The book about membership sites, more specifically about subscription-type businesses, and why they are so superior to a business that does just one-off sales, both in terms of peace of mind for the vender and also in terms of being able to resell the business, it’s much more valuable that way. And one of the things that he writes in the book is that traditionally, or what they found is that [00:34:00] business-to-business membership sites and business-to-business services are kind of the biggest winners. I guess because businesses feel like, when they buy a service for their business, they are investing, where’s if consumer buy a service they feel like it’s like discretionary spend. So my question is how do you market to this group of people, who probably don’t necessarily have much money to begin with, and how you convince them that they need [00:34:30] your services? What’s the marketing angle, how do you win thrust in this kind of a niche?
Ashley: There is two things, i though about that some as well. Number one, I think that throughout the world there is just a enormous number of people who want to write screenplays and who written screenplays, and they don’t really know anything about selling them or marketing them. So, I think that a potential market is enormous. Number two, I’m not fully convinced that this is [00:35:00] be-to-see; I mean, essentially, the screenwriter is a business, and I think that’s kind of the thing. As a screenwriter myself, I am literally incorporated, and when I sell a script or option script, it’s between producer and my company. So, I think ultimately, a lot of those screenwriters are amateurs, they are not incorporated and they are fully set up on the business side of things, but I think that this is, in some ways, [00:35:30] it is be-to-be. I mean a lot of a people, the idea is to get paid for services, and that is going to bring them money. Now, some of the people are very unrealistic of that fact, but the bottom line is that I think that there is this idea that I’m investing, I’m not just spending. It’s not entertainment, I think that, video games download and that sort of thing, I think that become more of the be-to-see play and try to convince them to spent money on a dvd or a video game or something like that, [00:36:00], it becomes totally different marketing strategy, where’s this, I think that there is an element. You are probably right, most of these people are consumers, most of these people are not gonna sell scripts, so they are more just hobbiests, but some of them will and everybody think that they are going to, so I think that’s part of it. But what is my marketing message and how I do it? What I do now, is almost entirely, [00:36:30] it’s the podcast and I have screenwriters on the podcast and I talk about that. I try to be as transparent as possible, I try to be honest as possible, and so hopefully I’ll build thrust. A lot of people email me “Hey can use your email and fax blast? This is what I do…” And I tell them no, I mean a lot of people are not good fits for email and fax blast, and I don’t have problem with telling people “no”. So I do [00:37:00] the podcast, I try to be as honest as and transparent as possible. With that said, also I’m now doing some Facebook ads, also I’m doing some email marketing, using other people email pass, where I contact other similar screenwriter services, I contact them and say hey, could I put ad in your email. Sometimes I’ll pay them cash, but sometimes we will do a trade, where i let them email my list, and they email my list [00:37:30]. So that’s basically right now the 3 forms of marketing I’m doing.
Vic: I’m going to cherry pick for bit podcast too, because, it’s kind of cliché now in online businesses “start a podcast, start a podcast, whatever you doing, drop that and start a podcast instead.” I think out of that inertia a lot of people resist starting a podcast, [00:38:00] but then a lot of people just do it. I started it because i though it was kind of a thing to do, and it’s amazing how having a podcast, even though it’s just you and the microphone and your Skype connection, somehow that has magical way of attracting some pretty high profile people. Like I saw a guests that you had in your podcast, some pretty well known people on there, really well known guys, and of course people want to tune in and see that [00:38:30] and that authority from that people transfer by osmosis to you, and adds to your credibility, so I’m just going to reiterate that whatever you guys are doing out there in internet land, if you don’t have a podcast for your product or service, it doesn’t have to be a valuable product or service per se, but just sort of a add value, get high profile people, connect with them, I mean it’s a huge, it’s a big deal man, like podcasts are really great. [00:39:00]
Ashley: I’m very bullish, I mean like, podcast now have been around for many, many years, but I still think there is going to be tremendous growth. i just remember, when I had a job and I was listening to podcast, I could, whatever was, a 20-30 minute commute back and forth, so we talk about an hour and a half or two hours a day, where I would listen to this podcasts, and I couldn’t find enough good podcast, five days a week I was doing this commute [00:39:30], I couldn’t find good podcast that i look forward to listen to, so it’s like if you can produce something that is interesting and good, there is people out there who are hungry to have something other than Mike and Mike morning show to listen to. So, I totally agree, I think it’s an excellent way, and I still think there is a lot of room in probably every niche to grow, I also think, ‘Couse I listen to a lot of podcast, there is a certain sort of celebrity in your mind that the host takes on [00:40:00] and they are like, there is certain amount of celebrity and looking up to that person, and there is thrust in hearing the voice and seeing the actual person on YouTube. It’s not just some shady guy in Russia trying to scam you out your money, you see the person, you hear the person talk, there is a lot you can get from body language and that kind of a stuff that builds thrust, and ultimately the membership sites and a lot of these products [00:40:30] and services, a lot of them revolve around thrust. Who is this guy, can I really thrust this guy with my money, and is this guy really telling the truth. And writing a blog post does not come close to interaction with a podcast, actually hearing you voice. So I’m totally with you. And exactly what you say too, just interacting with these people, I have a meeting later today, one of the guy that I have interviewed, the director that I interviewed on the podcast, I have meeting later today, I’m gonna talk to [00:41:00] him, he needs a screenwriter for a new project he is working on, so I’m talking to him, and the introduction was through podcast, so these things can really, has a big ripple effect.
Vic: Yeah, for sure. It’s all about the relationships that you call today. But, what I’ve been meaning to ask you too is, we’re talking about these services that you sort of arbitrage, the (Li) generation for your screenwriter audience [00:41:30] and help them find jobs in that kind of thing, since this is a membership sites success after all, what role does recurring revenue play in your business and to what degrees are you automated for selling your screenplay for the right cast?
Ashley: Until I would say a few months ago, the reoccurring revenue was not that great, and now I feel I’ve got it on track [00:42:00]. I rolled out script analysis service in February, and I really did, I was very busy on some other projects, and I just kinda did it as a whim, I have had some other script analysts, but they were kinda high end, so it was like a fairly expensive analysis of a script, and i didn’t really sell many of them, but I was like, I’m gonna have something lower priced, I’d get some less experience people so that they charge less to read a script, but I’ll charge less on this analysis, and I [00:42:30] rolled that out just to, really, I didn’t even think it was gonna work, but I just was like trying anything. And I was frankly a little discouraged with sellingyourscreen, but it kind of had a Plato revenue wise, and I wasn’t sure my marketing was really working, ’cause as I sad, I’ve doing the podcast at that point for a year and a half, so i rolled this thing out and the day I rolled it out I had my first sale, and I continued to have sales that first week. So all of the sudden I realized that [00:43:00] my marketing was working, that wasn’t the problem, the problem was the right product. So what I realized was, as I sad, I would have people join my membership site for a month or two, and i still do this, I still read their log line and their carrier letter in the form that they can use email and fax blast. So they would join for a couple of months, and I had recorded all these classes I had done, so you can have access to these webinar classes [00:43:30], but I wasn’t really providing value to the screenwriters that were coming to the forum, but I realized, I felt like my marketing is actually working, so what i ended up realizing was I needed to provide value to these people to join the site, so that they stick around, and number two, I get more people to join. So I started aggressively, pursuing leads, paid screenwriting leads, maybe that would be something that screenwriters would be interested in having, and there is other [00:44:00] companies out there that provide a similar service, so it wasn’t like my brilliant idea, there is numerous companies out there, there is probably half a dozen companies all the way down on craigslist, I mean craigslist have some screenwriting leads on as well. So there is tons of places that have this kind of stuff. I started, I had this big database of producers and stuff, so that was the first thing that I did, I said I’m gonna create a monthly newsletter, where the screenwriters can put their log lines in, and then I’m gonna email that newsletter to a list of producers. So I just start emailing [00:44:30] my list of producers, saying hey, would you guys be interested in accepting and taking a look at a monthly newsletter from some up and coming screenwriters, and think at this point I’m close to 260-270 producers that have signed up to receive our newsletter, and then I just started asking like hey, do you need some scripts, what kind of a sceenplays are you looking for, i have this big site of screenwriters who are hungry to get some stuff. So producers start to email me and say “Hey, I need a script like this or I need a script like that [00:45:00]. ” So that’s what i would say the main part of my monthly membership and now has been growing, since June I’m probably come close to doubling my membership, so it seems that product is something that people actually want. Because i feel like my marketing are actually in place. The thing is in every business, ultimately you provide value to your members and, [00:45:30] so, it’s like if these screenwriters feel like they are getting value, they are interfacing with producers, that has value to them, and they’ll stick around and they will tell to their friends, and the thing will just grow on it’s own. So i think that’s my focus now, just trying to think about how i can offer more value, ’cause membership, having that recurring monthly revenue is great, you don’t have to worry about it constantly, you know how much money you’re gonna have, and it’s growing, I’m getting a lot more people join every month, [00:46:00] than people that quit, so I at some point I guess it will plato. So now I’m really try to focus on what other value can i bring into the (?), what else can I do to help them, and them sell scripts.
Vic: That’s kinda interesting conceptually, because what are you doing is acting as lieu? zone between the higher-ups, or who the screenwriters, the aspiring screenwriters perceive this people to be, [00:46:30] the people to get connected with. And also the Hollywood is, that industry, the film, music industry, certain industries are very nepotism driven, you have to know the right people, and if you don’t, you can be the next Al Pacino, but if you’re not meeting the right people, not getting the right connections, it’s all for none, right? So, and the funny thing is to you, you never find this out just surveying your list, because nobody would just wright, [00:47:00] like “Hey, hook me up with hot shot producers.”. And you just sort of rolled out the product, you failed fast, or in this case you didn’t fail, you failed fast before that, and then you found something that hit, and that’s really cool, I guess there is no really substitute for just working hard and try a lot of different things in your business, but let me ask you this: since you’ve been running the site for quite a while, and the sister site, therightcast, [00:47:30] have you had some spectacular failures, have you learn some big lesions that sort of carry over into business as a whole that you could share, or even just at this particular business?
Ashley: That’s a good question, i would say, I mentioned the classes, and I’m still thinking, ’cause I like the classes…
Vic: …What do the class is teaching exactly?
Ashley: Well it is from soup to nuts, I basically started out like, coming out with a marketable concept. [00:48:00] I feel that’s one thing that I’ve done very well in my screenwriting carrier is I’ve got pretty good at writing scripts that actually have a chance in a market place. And I’d say that’s the number one problem that new screenwriters have, is they write a script about some personal journey, and self-indulgent, and that’s kind of a maybe a little bit harsh way of describing it, but they write something that has virtually no chance of ever finding [00:48:30] the market. And so that was one of my first classes for example, haw to come up with a marketable concept through my process and how you look at your concepts and gage whether they are marketable or not. I thought that was a valuable class, I still like to think, ’cause I enjoy teaching classes, I enjoy preparing for the classes, I spend a lot of time preparing the outline, but just didn’t (?). So that’s one valuable lesion…
Vic:…And I just want to point out [00:49:00] too, that you said when we just started the podcast that, when you went to that class, that you and the other guy raised your hand talking about the one aspect, but then the rest of the class went like “Hey how do I sit down and get this thing actually going?” And that’s sort what you’re teaching, so the market research would have you believe that that was the one to sell, but did it really actually sell that well?
Ashley: That’s a good point, I was thinking ‘though, as I sad, these other 18 people, they needed something more [00:49:30] fundamental, ’cause they weren’t necessarily interested, they weren’t even to a step “How do I write marketable concept?”, ’cause the people that realize you have to write a marketable concept, they’ve written a script or two, and they haven’t been able to sell them. So now they are taking a step back. Those 18 people, and I think your point is well taken, those 18 people weren’t even to the point where they understood they needed a marketable concept, they just had this idea they thought it was brilliant and they needed to figure out how to turn that [00:50:00] into a screenplay. So that’s maybe my classes fault, maybe I had to go back and look at that and offer some sort of a class to those 18 people. I’m just not sure what that would actually look like, but I don’t know, I’m starting to think about some other failures, I’ve talked about a lot of things, I launched a lot of sites and a lot of things that just did not work and it just didn’t really bothered me, I just kept trying new things.
Vic: [00:50:30] One of the reasons I wanted to have you on was just for selfish purposes to tell you the truth, because what really resonates with me about the fact that you were able to make this site successful financially, is that I know that I’m not alone in that, I got to the online business as a means to an end. Some people are in it because they genially enjoy the business and it’s fun just in and out itself, and it is, but somewhere at the back in their hand, you are thinking [00:51:00] like, man when I cash out finally, not that’s really ever gonna happen for most people, but finally I’m all set, then I’ll do that thing I was thinking about. In my case it’s songwriting, in somebody else’s case it’s acting, in somebody else’s it’s sport or chess or whatever it is, but I always think if you could add value to that community that participate in your passion, and yet find a way to make money [00:51:30], ’cause I want to say too, when I worked as a musician, and I’m sure you’ve seen this in Hollywood a lot too, is there is so many people that are working so hard, musicians and actors and artists, some of the hardest working people you’ll ever meet in your life, and they are making nothing, they are spending all day practicing, rehearsing, running to auditions, to gigs, they are making jag shit, financially speaking, and it’s like, what is it all for? It’s so that you can burn out in ten years, maybe you’ll catch a big break, [00:52:00], it’s like no, instead on depending on this establishment in the music industry and acting industry and film industry, take control, learn some business skills, learn some marketing skills, and try to turn your passion into the profit in a way that you are not selling your soul. And I thought that was really beautiful you did that, I thought it will be an inspiration to others who are kind of in the same both, is an inspiration for me for sure.
Ashley: And you have mentioned your songwriting and i totally think you should start that up sooner [00:52:30] rather than later, start a community for songwriters and you do have a lot of marketing knowledge that I know it would be valuable to singer-songwriters. So I would encourage you to start that up sooner rather than later. I red a book called “Mastery” it was the guy from Mixergy. One of the things that he really emphasized in that book was this sort of idea of taking two different [00:53:00] things that you are expert in and mixing them together for kind of a hybrid thing that only you can do, and I think that’s what I’ve kind of done. As I mentioned, I started in late 90s’ , I was doing a lot of screenwriting, but I was also in internet marketing, and ultimately my marketing of screenplays sort of became, and that’s kind of a mash-up. And as I sad, I think you’re totally in the similar position, you’ve worked as a musician so you understand problems of that world, and you’ve also worked at internet marketing [00:53:30] so I think it would be a perfect fit. There is a lot of musicians out there, there is a lot of internet marketers out there, but there is not that many people that have that combination of the two things. And that’s what I hope I’ve done with sellingyourscreenplay, I’ve tried to take a lot of my marketing knowledge and apply that to screenwriting, and I’ve applied that to marketing site sellingyourscreen, but I’ve also applied it to my own screenwriting carrier, and then i also try and tell people like, this is what I’m doing to market [00:54:00], my scripts, and that hopefully provides value.
Vic: Ok, let’s distil that to say what would be your kind of number one tip that you can offer to people who are just getting started online, whatever your background may be, but if you’re getting started online or you try to build membership site, maybe you’ve been online for a while, but you are trying to get that recurring aspect which is so much valuable, that’s the number one kind of tip that you could offer? [00:54:30]
Ashley: That’s a good question, and I don’t know if I’d say the number one piece of advice, but…I don’t know, I remember I saw, the guy Darren Rowse, the guy that does problogger.net, I saw him on one of his conferences and he has like digital photographystudio.net or something like that, he has a digital photography site that he has built up quite a good business and [00:55:00] i remember one of the piece of advice he said was, you gotta look at these thing as long term plays, and I think definitely that’s one big problem people have, and that’s what I did at sellingyourscreenplay, I’ve heard this from Darren Rowse, so I had this in my head “You gonna spend probably two years just trying to build an audience.” Whether that be for podcast or a blog, just provide value for a couple of years and that’s what I’m really doing at sellingyourscreenplay, I didn’t really try, I mean, I had some GoogleAds, [00:55:30] but I didn’t really try to monetize the site at all, I just tried to build trust, to build an audience and see what kind of a reaction you would gonna get. So i think if you are just at a beginning stages, I would say start there, start to provide value first, ’cause it’s gonna be very difficult to create a recurring membership site [00:56:00] if the value is not clear and the trust is not there. that’s really what you are ultimately selling, so I would say dig in for the long hole and start a podcast, start a blog, get into the space. And that’s, a lot of times now people want to hear, that’s gonna take a month or two. As I said, with sellingyourscreenplays is been around since 2009 and this is really the first year, 2015, so we are talking 6 years, where I am making any significant [00:56:30] money off of it.
Vic: So just hard work and hustle, there is no substitute.
Ashley: And trying a lot of things, I mean, you mentioned that earlier, that I try a lot of things and I really really believe, more than anything, just try things, I’ve really ingrained that sort of a part of my philosophy is just try things. You just don’t know, again, one of these internet conferences I went to, [00:57:00] I saw one of these, you know, super affiliate guys talking and he said, he made the point said, he was experience, one of these top super affiliates, and he was like you just don’t know what’s gonna work. And he’s been doing this for years, as like “You gotta just get out there and try stuff. “And I really believe that a top marketing people in the world, they probably have a little bit better understanding of what’s gonna work compared to amateur, [00:57:30] but the main thing that I think the lot of marketing people understand is that sort of a process of testing things quickly and interpreting those results and doing a lot of things. Most people are gonna think like they are doing it so long, so they can pick winners easier, and that’s probably a part of it, but that’s like 5 percent of it, 95 percent of it is just they understand that there is gonna be a lot of failures and they understand that you gotta get through this process of of failure as quickly as possible, [00:58:00] so you can just keep trying things. I’ve been following Frank Kern on Facebook, I liked his page so I get his ads, and he’s got a lot of different products, and a lot of different types of ads, he’s got free webinars, he’s got paid services, so that’s another tip, just look at some of these guys that are at the top of the game and see what they are doing. As I said, I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads and I’ve been looking at these guys [00:58:30] like frank Kern and I’m getting his adds on my feed now, and those guys, they know what they are doing so look at what they are doing, look at the pictures they are using. I’ve been trying to figuring out what the best pictures are, I’ve been trying to test does it make any difference. I’m not finding it’s actually making much of a difference, rotating in different pictures to my ads, and I’m honestly not finding that a picture is having a big difference on my conversion rate. But I’m looking at Frank Kern, and he just have a picture of himself sitting there and talking [00:59:00] in front of a whiteboard and I’m thinking maybe I had to get a picture of myself sitting in front of a whiteboard, so I’m gonna try that one out here.
Vic: Why not, you are the face of your business, that make sense, say “Oh, he’s the sellingyourscreenplay guy, I instantly recognize him.”
Ashley: Yeah I’m gonna give it a try.
Vic: Ok, well, you know, I’m pretty much out of questions Ashley [00:59:30], is there anything…let me ask you one last thing, I did have question…I was wondering is there anything that you’d wish that you had done differently or, i know that’s an exercising futility, what if kind of thing, but is there anything you wish you have done differently , have done earlier, that would have allow you to be successful earlier on?
Ashley: i don’t know, I mean (?) site is 2020, and so I look at the things that are successful [01:00:00], and I think why I hadn’t that earlier. But, like the thing with the leads, I’ve been thinking about that for years, I mean, and it seems like it’s working, people are enjoying, people are sticking with the site, as i said, I almost doubled my membership numbers in the last two months, but i don’t know why I didn’t try it, I honestly don’t know. So it’s like try some of these things, [01:00:30] I’ll put it to you like this: it’s not like i am sitting around watching a lot of TV and wasting time, so I’m always working on things and i guess ultimately I prioritize the things that I’m doing what i think is gonna be best. So I guess for whatever reason I mistakenly put other things ahead of things that succeeded, but as far as the process goes on, I don’t really know how you can correct that, because that is sort of a whole thing, as it just seems some things work [01:01:00] and some things don’t.
Vic: So where can people find you online?
Ashley: sellingyourscreenplay.com , that’s definitely my site that we’ve been talking about, so check that out. I’m on Twitter, it’s @AshleyMyers so you can definitely follow me on Twitter, I mean, the only thing I really use Twitter for is promoting sellingyourscreenplay so it’s not I’m giving out business tips or anything, [01:01:30] I promote my podcast, my screenwriting podcast. If you want to hear my podcast it’s sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast and you can see the different episodes, I thing about 86, 87 so in the next couple of months I’ll be hitting my 100th episode, so I’m trying to figure out what I can do to celebrate that. I have a Facebook page, I think it’s facebook.com/sellingyourscreenplay, but I’m not entirely sure what the URL is on that [01:02:00]. The Twitter is good and definitely the blog.
Vic: Well thanks for coming on Ashley, so this was really kind of off d and interesting interview and I’m really glad that you came on.
Ashley: I hope people get some value of it, but I don’t know, it’s kind of went off in all kinds of different directions but thanks for having me on, this was fun talking with you.[/content_toggle] [/wpsharely]