In this interview you will learn the easiest way to start a business, why Jason always has a side hustle and the most important thing, if you want to succeed with your SEO efforts. This is what the founder of SERPWoo discovered after analyzing billions of data points.
In this episode you will discover:
- The easiest way to start a business
- Why you should not believe in “job security”
- How to create competence in any area
- Jason’s favorite productivity tool (he tried all of them)
- The truth about productivity porn
- When to use a checklist and when you must not
- How long does it take to do meaningful work done?
- How to decide which work is right for YOU
- Why you should avoid what is “hot” right now
About Jason Brown
Jason Brown is a leading digital strategist, speaker, thinker, and 6-time SaaS entrepreneur within the digital marketing industry.He currently is the founder of SERPWoo, the industry’s leading competitive SEO research and ORM monitoring software which has helped improve digital programs for a roster of national and international brands. An innovator in the affiliate and pay per click space, Brown also helped generate over half-a-Billion dollars of revenue ( verified by the FTC ) for the affiliate marketing space by creating the most abused and copied landing page to ever be used in the industry which has helped thousands of affiliates get their start with making money online.Brown is a frequent consultant and advisor to businesses large and small, routinely helping them to obtain sizable growth with distinctions such as “Fast 50”, “Inc 500”, “Company of the Year”, getting funded by Y Combinator ( W17 ), and investments from a recurring “Shark Tank” celebrity investor. He and his family live near Louisville, Kentucky and frequently travel for speaking and consulting inquires.
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How Jason got started with entrepreneurship
Jason: I always had this little bug in me that wanted to make money. With the money I could have the things I wanted. I realized that Money was buying me options. I could work when I want and have the things, I want without asking permission.
For example, if I want to take a vacation, I don’t have to ask my boss. Later that turned into entrepreneurship as a lifestyle where I could dictate how I did things.
The real start was already in elementary school where I was trading baseball cards which I was collecting as a hobby. I traded the cards and told them to other kids in my school. Later that turned into comic books, candy, and Coke.
Past that point once I graduated high school and I started working for other people. At this point, I noticed that I could not do the things that I wanted to do. I had to report somewhere and be somewhere. I got responsibility. It’s not that responsibilities are bad, but it was not the responsibility I wanted.
By the time I got to work at the age of 16 until the age of 25 I always had this side hustle or side gigs. At some point, it just really hit me that what I did at a young age in school and what I was doing as side hustle was what I really enjoyed doing.
I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. It started out first with just liking to have money and then learning how that money could buy me options and afford me a lifestyle. After working for other people and seeing all the flaws with working as an employee, I was really embracing the entrepreneurial lifestyle.
And then, of course, things snowballed from there into success. There are a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t have success, and they are still not able to have options and lifestyle. Once I was able to get past that point that really set it off.
When did your site hustle turned into a real business and what was the moment when you quit your job?
03:05 The early site hustles where all service based. That’s probably the fastest and quickest way somebody can become an entrepreneur. Offer a service to somebody else.
The other fast way is to find a product and sell it on Amazon or sell it somewhere else and flip it. For me, at that time when I started which was all the way back in 1996, I could not really flip something on the Internet, but there was the possibility to offer web design.
From web design, I noticed there was a need for web programming. I could build the websites, but the forms were not working. They were not interactive. Then I learned how to do that. Once the sites were interactive, and I was selling them, I saw this growing need for marketing.
At that time Google was not around, but there was the Yahoo directory, there was DMOZ, and there were a bunch of other places. I figured out how to get traffic from that websites. That let me to buying click from GoTo. That’s how I got into pay per click marketing.
Then Google was rolling out being a search engine instead of for directory, and I learned SEO.
04:46 I was really in services first. Once I got my feet wet in services as an entrepreneur, I shifted to that full-time. My site hustle turned into being a product, a software as a service. I switched from having a site hustle with web design and turned into a web programmer and marketer with the software as a service being the side hustle. Today I run SerpWoo, but I still have a side hustle.
It always seems to evolve that way. The major shift that got me from being an employee to becoming an entrepreneur was that I was forced into it. It was scary to turn my business as a service provider into the main company.
I always thought I have income from my side hustle. Maybe a little bit less than my job income, or perhaps just a little bit more. But turning to entrepreneurship full time, I always had the fear that this could dry up.
At least with the job I had this recurring paycheck. It had all these benefits. What ended up happening to me, as I learned along the way that a job is no security whatsoever.
I listened to my parents and grandparents who told me to work a job for 40 years and retire. They said: There is this build in security. But I was forced into entrepreneurship multiple times. I don’t want to make it sound like I was a bad employee, but several times I was fired or laid off.
For me, it would take weeks if not months to find another job. That’s when my side hustle as a web designer would provide the income, and slowly I eased into it.
But I was constantly being forced. I remember I worked for a company for several years and built all the e-commerce websites that brought in millions of dollars per year. I was only making $28,000 a year at that time, and after the third year mark, I asked for a raise.
They told me we don’t have any money to give you. I thought that was crazy because I just helped this company in those 3 years to make over $20 million from my efforts alone, so I left.
Six months later they came back begging me to come work for them, and they were able to pay me the money that raise. This taught me that things are not always as they seem.
Afterward, I was laid off because the company was downsizing, all I got fired for something because I was stupid and young.
Two events changed my life
One was when my daughters were born. I had twin daughters, and a week later I was laid off from the company that I was working for. That really devastated me. I learned there is no security. Especially in a critical time when you just started a family.
A few months later I got a job with a great company. It was my dream job. I was doing digital marketing for an affiliate network. It was everything I ever wanted. Great pay, great benefits, I got to work from home. I was doing the work I loved.
A year and a half later some venture capital people came in, and they wanted to close down all of the remote offices. I was making this company millions of dollars with affiliate marketing. I got laid off on my birthday and, was going on vacation.
08:49 It was one of the first vacations I ever took. While I was on vacation, I had to ship back my laptop back to that company. It was a real low point for me.
I was making this company millions of dollars with affiliate marketing and asked myself: Why don’t I just take the last $1300 to my name and do this on my own?
I canceled the vacation even though I already paid for things. I invested my last $1300 into Facebook ads and started getting into affiliate marketing myself.
09:40 The first two weeks were a bit rough. By the end of the year, I made more than seven figures in profit. It really hit me. I could do this full time. I don’t have to crutch another job. That really set it off. It was a massive success.
How do you approach learning?
I’m the type of person that has to touch everything. I have to do it myself. Of course, I can read a book, read the manual or watch a YouTube video to get my feet wet. That gives me basic knowledge about the topic that I want to learn. But I have to touch it physically.
For example, we recently bought a new vehicle. The electronics on this vehicle changed massively. I was used to having a simple car with no electronics. I got into this new vehicle with the console in front with the touch screen. Of course, I can go through the manual but until I actually touch it, go through all of the options and learn them, I never will learn it myself.
11:48 When it comes to learning there was definitely not so much when I started out in 1996. It really came down to trial and error touching it, going over the thing I wanted to learn on purpose again and again and again.
That being said, it’s not enough just to do the really simple stuff. You really have to stretch out your comfort zone and push your limitations.
One example is that I’m really comfortable with PHP, MySQL, HTML, and CSS. That’s my comfort box but if I want to learn something new like object-oriented programming or something like a new programming language I have to go out of my comfort zone. I have to install it and go deep into it.
What I find that if I learned something like Ruby or the Go programming language, that makes me a better PHP programmer. I do not only get new skills but improve my old skills as well.
Get your hands dirty with something past your comfort zone. That’s a great model for any entrepreneur.
What does that mean the term “Productivity Porn” mean to you?
13:06 I fell into this trap where I was questioning “can I do better?” That mainly comes when I was not hitting certain goals and success levels.
When I started out, I thought: Well, I’m not a millionaire. I’m not driving a Lamborghini like everybody else was successful because I was reading these other blogs.
Then I started questioning myself and asked myself if I could do better. Maybe I could do more? I started looking into productivity.
I started reading the things about you should go to bed early and wake up early. The early bird gets the worm.
I heard about the Pomodoro technique, GTD (getting things done) and eat that frog and many many more.
I spent a ton of time learning and getting to know all these systems. I’m talking about years literally going through productivity systems and learning about new productivity systems.
I was putting apps on my phone. Putting apps on my desktop. I tried it all because I was looking for a magic bullet.
Of course, I was smart enough to know that there is no magic bullet. But I was just trying to find the system that I thought would work. After testing all of these apps, all of these systems I realized that all I’m doing is wasting my time. I’m not creating blog posts that could help me. I’m not creating products that could help me. I’m not pushing out any services.
I was trying to learn all these new systems. There was a lot of time taken away, trying to find out about productivity systems, trying to learn them, and trying to use them.
When they did not work, I tried to use them again because I thought maybe I did it wrong.
In the end, what I realized is:
It’s okay to be me. It’s okay doing what works for me. And what works for me, literally is just a pen and a legal pad, or a pencil and a moleskin book writing things down.
15:32 Even if it’s a piece of junk mail that I got and I’m writing on the envelope. That what’s works for me. There are certain parts of my day where I am a manager where I’m checking lists. But then there’s the part of me that wants to be creative. For example when I’m programming or writing blog posts or do other creative things that do not fit into a checklist.
What I found and I think it might be true for most people: When you are in a creative mode that hourly checklists do not work. That’s why a lot of systems fail. A lot of these systems are built for managers and for people who are a manager checklist type of person.
I love checklists, but when I start writing or programming or coding none of that is valid.
For me, it takes half a day to push out good code, a blog post or podcast or anything else that is creative.
If you walk into a system like Pomodoro or time boxing and you booked into other things that are similar to that, and it does not work it makes me frustrated. Develop your own system and not to listen to somebody else. I find out what works for me and not worry about what other people think.
What’s the best advice you could give to somebody in college who wants to start a business?
17:41 There are a lot of people who worry about what to sell. When it comes to people who talked about software as a service, it’s always “what programming language should I use?” What service do I even offer? There are a lot of questions that ask how do I do things? What is the best pick?
For the most part and a very generic answer to that: there is no right answer, that anybody could give you. You talk to somebody that sells on Amazon, they are more than likely going to tell you:
Look into e-commerce.
If you talk to someone who has a SaaS company, they will try to persuade you to do something similar where you got a recurring income off of a particular person.
If you talk to somebody, who is a web designer or a digital marketer they might advise to build a service based business.
When you ask this type of question, you are getting someone’s individual opinion. It’s hard to find someone who has done well in all of these areas that can objectively say:
Well, I’ve done this, this and that. Here is what I’m gonna tell you. Again that’s gonna be based on their success and their opinions.
19:04 When you start the business the main thing is this: don’t listen to anybody else. I know this sounds where we counter-intuitive because there are so many people that say:
Read these books by these people who are really well known, these podcasts, these TEDx talks, these forum members. I think that is good for foundation. And it’s good to be knowledgeable. On the other hand, I know that they are people who take this to the extreme and they listen to every single word a guru says.
What I just want to tell people is this: Don’t listen to anybody. Even me on this podcast. Don’t listen to me. Do what feels right for you.
I found when you listen to other people, or you listen to other people’s models or ways of doing things, you are fitting into somebody else’s box.
This ties back to Productivity porn. When something in your life that does not match well with other people’s systems, you are going to be unhappy.
20:08 If you want to listen what I have to say, you can find a couple of threads on the Fastlane forum and a couple of threads in different places, where you can read about what works for me.
That advice will probably help somebody who wants to start a new business because I found out things about my Meyers Briggs Personality type, my Enneagram type. From those systems, I was able to build out core values. The core values let to a mission statement and goals.
And with these mission statement and goals, I was able to look at what kind of business really fits me. Once I have this nailed down, I can decide if I should write a book, do another software as a service or should I be a service provider? I can look what my personality type is, and my enneagram is and how that matched my mission statement and my core values and my goals.
Now I can look at my goals, and I know that selling e-commerce does not match those goals and maybe being a service provider does not match those either. But what does match those goals is maybe writing Kindle books or running a SaaS company.
I can really narrow down what my business should be. From that point on I can start working in a more focused area and say: my goals and values are really around Kindle books. Now the question becomes what kind of Kindle books do I want to write?
If you search forums a lot of people will tell you to write fiction and romance books because that is what this hot and that is what is selling.
However, if it is hot now, it’s already too late. This market is already ruined. That is why SEO is so horrible, that is why selling on Amazon so horrible, that is why cryptocurrencies are kind of hard. There’s so much interest in them that policies had to be changed.
If I want to write Kindle books, it would be nonfiction and self-help.
If somebody asks you what topics do you want to write about, I ask: What interests you? What do you know?
Ask yourself what do you know about? You don’t have to be a guru. What do you know the average person does not know and you can add value to?
Write about that.
Even if you are not making a million dollars or have a Ph.D., you can be an authority if you know more than the next person.
If you already got a product: What’s the best way to promote it?
23:42 Probably the easiest place to promote it would be in your sphere of influence. This ties into what I just said about authority. Even if you are not the most well-known person within a particular subject you still might be an authority and you have a sphere of influence.
For somebody like you or me, this might be the Fastlane forum because we interact with people there. That’s why I would start there. You work on your sphere of influence first. Then those people want to give you feedback to be able to improve your product. There you can test your pricing. So maybe one week you have this price are you have a freemium model or a free trial that is 7 days or perhaps you change it to lifetime 3 weeks later.
That sphere of influence is definitely going to give you feedback to improve your product. They are a test group that for any split testing or theories that you have. And then if your product is really good, they will tell other people.
Even if they do not tell other people naturally, you can post your product on product hunt and go back to your sphere of influence and say: Hey I’ve got my product here. Can you all interact with product hunt and upvote it? Or can you leave comments on Reddit?
25:19 When I started building my first software as a service or even when I was providing services with web design and pay per click marketing as a service, I always went to forums first. I went where I had a sphere of influence. That got me by when I was struggling. That got me traction when my first SaaS launched. It got me traction when my last SaaS launched. And then from there it naturally grows. Other people start talking about you.
They talk about you in areas that you never ever know about. For example, with SerpWoo we do not do any pay per click marketing. We barely do any SEO at all. Our SEO is basically writing blog articles that are helpful for people.
Over the years I noticed that as SerpWoo added value to other people, these people went to conferences and talked about it. We never knew about this until we later found a slide deck on SlideShare. Then we would get these alerts and say “Hey somebody talked about us at all these conferences.” Or somebody is talking about us on Reddit. People talk on social media about us, etc..
Once you see that traction rolling that’s the perfect opportunity to invest more in SEO. Because at that point other people kind of do the work for you and they are building links to you and are talking about you.
Now you can start pushing out more targeted content. You should be pushing out content anyway, but now you can take it to the next level. Then you start doing pay per click.
If you know the concept of a flywheel. This is a point in your marketing where that flywheel is getting enough push and enough circulation that it starts going on its own. When you step up your SEO at this point and your pay per click you make it spin faster.
It’s already going on its own now. If you try to do that before the flywheel is really starting to gain momentum, it’s a lot harder. People start seeing your pay per click ad and don’t even know what that company is. They don’t know your brand. They don’t even know how to say your brand name correctly.
There is no trust yet but when the flywheel starts moving there is apparently some trust. That makes the rest of your marketing easier.
How do Forums compare to Facebook?
28:07 The shift is definitely moving to Facebook groups, Slack even Telegram for crypto traders. I had the benefit when I started out 2013, forums were still mainstream for a lot of people, especially digital marketers and people who were into certain hobbies.
As Facebook groups have gotten more popular people started migrating to Facebook groups. With digital marketers and people where frontiers are getting pushed are moving away from Facebook groups and there are going to Slack Groups and Skype channels or Telegram.
I find that forums are getting abandoned, Facebook groups are filled with spam. When I was looking at selling at Amazon, I thought I will join Amazon groups on Facebook so I can get information. I literally spent hours each day applying to groups.
There is literally thousands and thousands of Amazon groups. As I started weeding through them and looking at my newsfeed, it’s all spam.
Once you cut the spam out there is still a lot of Facebook groups, but they are abandoned. Nobody is posting there anymore. It’s hard to know where things are moving. You need to find out where your target market is hanging out. It can be anywhere from forums, but it could Slack, Skype, or somewhere else.
As the founder of an SEO-SaaS company: What’s the most important thing to be successful with SEO?
30:46 SEO changes so much. I’ve lucky enough to get a real early start in the internet age. I have seen Facebook coming into the scene and all the changes that Facebook went through. I know why a lot of the updates and algorithm changes happened.
If you’re new to this game, you can read a lot and experiment, but you will be behind because you don’t know what happened in the past and the reasons why that happened. That will help you to understand how the algorithm works today.
With SEO what’s important right now, is definitely consistency. Be consistent with everything about your SEO. Whether that is writing content and publishing it consistently, the length of these articles and the elements that they contain like multiple images and.consistency with your link building.
If you publish an article and usually the consistency with the algorithm is that you are getting X amount of links per day that needs to stay consistent. Because when there is a drop-off or there’s a spike up that’s assigned to Google that something has happened.
Maybe a website decided to remove all your links because they thought your content was spammy, perhaps the spike up this because you’ve paid another webmaster to throw thousands of links at your side. When you are not consistent that gives warning signals to Google.
The consistency also plays into starting a new website or blog. When you work on it for one year and then give up its definitely a red flag. With our findings in SerpWoo, we went through all of our data with billions and billions of data points.
One thing we found that was really interesting was that any website that was less than three years of domain age was not ranking in the top 20. Of course, there were some outliers, but we are talking about less than 1%.
For the rest of the SERPs if the domain age was less then three years it was not ranking on the top 20 of Google. This was for spammy Keywords, this was for e-commerce keywords, this was for brand keywords. Not for the brand itself but for another website.
This was for everything. If you are not consistent and want to go long-term with your website, it’s probably not gonna rank. And even if you are consistent in those first 2-3 years, you may not gonna see any success with ranking on Google unless it’s a really long tail term that probably not many people are searching for.
Maybe you rank there, but not for the stuff that really drives traffic.
Consistency across everything is definitely key.
The other thing is just content content content right now. Content will get you links. Content will build trust.
If you got analytics installed on your page, that is where Google is looking for the bounce rate per page. That’s a factor for ranking as well.
Content is essential whether it’s on Youtube or whether it’s on your own website or even if it’s a podcast. If you get people to share your content and get those links, it helps.
Is there anyone who does SEO really really well?
35:32 When I say they do it well, I mean they execute on the plan well. Maybe it’s not done with the quality or the reasoning behind it, but I think that somebody does it well with execution would be somebody like Neil Patel, was Noah Kagan with okdork.com and appsumo.com.
Brean Dean at backlinko.com does this really really well.
There is not a lot of content coming from Brain, but the content he has is really well done when it comes to depth and the questions that it answers.
If I look at somebody like Neil Patel, there’s just a ton of content that comes out. If I was to guess because I know that one person cannot do this alone, he has probably a team of writers or an agency that helps him write, guest bloggers.
He probably has 20 articles per day presented to him, and then it’s just picked out which is published at which website. I think this is what the larger companies that are executing well are doing. They are producing a ton of content. And even though it may not be on their website but they can pick the best content.
It’s not some person alone that sits there and thinks: What do I write about? Is this good enough? Is the title good enough? Can I even get this written in one day? And it repeats the next day. But again these people I executing really really well.
On the other side, some people produce great content, but it only comes out once per month or once every quarter like waitbuywhy.com.
38:27 there are 1000 ways to skin a cat. It’s just about what works best for you.
A lot of people reading this are questioning everything.
Am I productive enough? Have I picked the right business model? Do I make the right choices in life?
My mom told me to work at a job for 40 years, and my dad taught me to find a really nice girl who can cook. Think about anything that somebody has told you.
Take that information in and dissect for yourself. But when it comes to the decision-making, you really need to listen to yourself and to your gut.
Maybe your mother has told you something, perhaps your professor or somebody on a forum has told you. It does not matter.
When you are listening to other people, it’s just their opinion. Maybe that’s what somebody else has told that person and that person really does not know if it’s right at all.
You really need to make your own decision and be comfortable with that and be proud of that. Stay with the flow and have confidence with it.
The same message was answered in the post “3 daily practices to stay young” which got more than one million views on Quora. It cannot be repeated often enough.
41:20 How can people find out more about you?
The two best ways:
If they are a members of the Fastlaneforum or even if there are not they can find me under my nickname eliquid (which has nothing to do with e-cigarettes)
Or they can visit SerpWoo. Not only to find me but to read the articles about digital marketing, or you can sign up for a free account. It’s free lifetime.
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