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All right. Let’s get started.
Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, the place where about 700 entrepreneurs, I say about because I don’t know when you’re listening to this, and I don’t know if we exceeded the milestone or not yet, by the time you get to this, but 700 entrepreneurs have come on here to tell you their story, teach you what they learned, how they built their businesses, and do that so you can go out there and build yours, and hopefully come back here, and do what today’s guest is doing, share your story so others can learn from you.
All right. Here’s a question for this interview. Can a former insurance man launch a profitable business around podcasting? A term that most people I don’t think even understand. Cliff Ravenscraft does, and he is the creator of PodcastAnswerMan.com, a site that trains new and seasoned internet broadcasters, like myself. He’s also the founder of The Podcast Mastermind.
I’m going to ask him about both those sites, and I’m also going to do my best to count up all the revenue from all those products, including how much the Podcast Answer Man generated.
Cliff, thank you for doing this interview and thank you for letting me pry on behalf of my audience.
Cliff: Well, Andrew, it’s an honor to be here and to be exposed to your audience. I’ve looked forward to this ever since I knew it was a possibility, so thank you very much for the opportunity.
Andrew: Thanks. I’m looking forward to talking to you, I want to find out about all that equipment behind you, I want to find out how you built your business. The reason I want to find out about the equipment is that people are going to start to get fired up about doing their own programs like I do, like you teach others to do. They’re going to be curious about what they need, so we’ll talk about what you use and what they need.
But, first, can you make enough money to live on podcasting? What size revenue did you do last year, let’s jump right into that one.
Cliff: Last year my personal income was right around $80,000, but that’s because I chose not to pay myself as much as I could.
Cliff: But, business income was right around $146,000 last year, which is not too bad. I started in January, 2008, so I’m making some very significant headway. Average monthly income for the businesses around here is somewhere between $10,000 and $14,000 a month.
Andrew: OK. And that’s bottom line income, or revenues?
Cliff: That’s revenues, minus the overhead. Of course, then, you know, paying all the bills and stuff like that.
Andrew: What kind of expenses do you have?
Cliff: Not much, honestly.
Andrew: That’s what I figured.
Cliff: When you look at all the fancy equipment I have, you’ll see probably about two grand in some equipment. I certainly didn’t build up all that stuff overnight, but over time, I built up about $2000 worth of equipment. That was a one time expense. Then when it comes down to it, you’re looking at internet hosting for me. I’m paying $49 a month for a webhost. I do a boatload of podcasting. There was a time when I was putting out 7 to 15 podcast episodes per week, reaching a total audience of about 60,000 to 80,000 people around the world. So, my bandwidth for just delivering mp3 files is $120.00 a month. Outside of that, and by the way the average podcaster spends somewhere between 15 to 20 bucks a month for there mp3 delivery out to the world. But outside of that, it’s basically health insurance and my payroll. That’s the big thing. There’s not a lot of real monthly overhead.
Andrew: Payroll? What kind of payroll do you have?
Cliff: Payroll? I hire a CPA to take care of making sure that all the taxes go to the appropriate places and stuff like that. I send an e mail over to my CPA and say, “Hey, I want to write myself a check.” And I’m very conservative. Like I said, I underpay myself. I say, “I want to receive $3100.00 this month. I’m going to write myself a check. What’s the gross, and send me a pay stub.” Or, “Hey, I’m doing $4200.00 this month, and you know, just take care of that.”
Andrew: And they take care of that.
Andrew: All right, and when you were an insurance man what kind of revenue, or what salary were you bringing in back then?
Cliff: Back then I was making $23.50 per hour, and then I would make commissions on top of that. And I had two all expenses paid trips around the world, one with my wife and one with my entire family of five. So if you don’t consider the compensation for trips, I was making $87,000.00 a year on average, which allowed my wife and I over the course of four years… We had, early on in our marriage we had gotten into a lot of debt, just mismanagement of money, and had gotten to the place where I had tens of thousands of dollars in unsecured debt. Found out about this guy named Dave Ramsey and really got hooked on this message and on this idea of living debt free. And I was able to use my income from my insurance career to really become debt free. It took me about 3, 4 years, and paid off all that. And we’re debt free minus our mortgage, and have been ever since.
Cliff: Thank you.
Andrew: All right, just so people don’t think that this is just about dollars and cents and payroll, there’s more to it. Can you tell people that story you told me before about the trip you and your family wanted to go on? And of course guys, we’re going to go into the full story. You’re going to hear how the guy, how Cliff started, how he built up his business step by step, and even if you have no interest in podcasting, I promise you’re going to pick up at least one idea that you can bring back to your business, and maybe a little bit of inspiration that you wouldn’t have had otherwise that will fire you up and be the kind of thing that will have dramatic impact on your life, and hopefully have you come back here and do an interview with me. But Cliff, that story that you told me before, you have to share it with the audience.
Cliff: Sure, I’m getting goose bumps on my arms getting prepared to tell you the story. We’ll talk about what this means, the dark days of December, 2010 in a little bit. We’ll get to that, but this is just after the dark days of December, 2010. Things had really been taking off. The author of the book, 48 Days to the Work You Love, Dan Miller, one of my top clients, had basically sent me more business than I could every dream of, and then all of a sudden Dan’s like, “Hey, we’re going to do this No More Mondays cruise. It’s a Valentine’s cruise. I would love to invite you as a key speaker on the cruise. Can you come and talk to my community who comes on the cruise about what podcasting can do for their business?” And I’m like, “This is amazing.”
Cliff: Well, this is after the dark days of December, 2010 which were not the greatest days, and we’ll talk about that. So things were in the low end. I was like, “Man, what do I do now? How do I bounce back from where I am at this moment?” And I’m going to admit to you, I called Dan, and I said, “Dan, I know this is a Valentine’s Day cruise. Would it be really out of place if I don’t bring my wife?” And he’s like, “Cliff, honestly, yeah it would be kind of weird.” And I said, “Fair enough, I will be there, my wife will be there, and I tell you what, my entire family – I’m bringing my family of five. I don’t know how I’m going to make it happen, but I will make it happen.” He says, “All right. This is great.”
So I decided, I’m going to take my family of five on this cruise which meant, and I did all the math. To prepare for leaving, the actual 10 days that I’d be gone and then prepare for getting back and getting caught up. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do one on one coaching to pay for all of this, so I needed a way to actually cover the February and also the fallout of March income to offset and pay for this trip. We’re talking $6000 to pay for the trip itself, not to mention what we would spend while we were there, so how am I going to generate all this income. And then all of a sudden I remembered a friend of mine, Pat Flynn, from Smartpassiveincome.com. He and his friend, Tyrone, had actually created this… They did an eight week program. Well, I decided I wanted to do a five week program called Podcasting A to Z, and I would actually train twenty people how to podcast, and teach them everything they know from A all the way through Z. I’m going to give them every training tutorial I’ve ever created, and I’m going to give them unlimited access to ask me as many questions as they can possibly ask in an online discussion forum for five weeks. I’ll do kind of a webinar session, a group coaching call, that I’ll record and provide to them where they can ask questions and I can answer things in video that aren’t able to be answered there.
It’s $800 a person, twenty people, and in one week I sent that out and I made $16,000. I totally took care of everything that was needed for February and March, and I duplicated that four more times in 2011.
Andrew: That shows a lot about the audience that you had before hand. You’d built up an audience by then of people who knew what to expect from you, who trusted the quality of the work that you were going to put out there, and who were willing to pay $800 to learn from you, to do what you were doing.
Cliff: Subsequent programs were actually more than $800. So, absolutely. It was out of this world.
Andrew: Were you one of those guys who was afraid to charge your audience?
Cliff: Absolutely. In fact, I don’t know when you want to get into the first year that I was in business, but . . .
Andrew: Let’s go right back. I’m going to come back to this fear of charging the audience. I’ve had it because once you build up an audience of people you care about, it’s shocking, the people you care about who trust you, you don’t feel like you should charge them. Where, before, when I had this greeting card business, I didn’t know the audience at all. They didn’t trust me. I didn’t know them at all and I was really comfortable with charging them, running ads against them, whatever it took.
Once you get to know the audience, when you really earn the right to charge them is sometimes when you feel like you can’t do it. But, anyway, let’s go back. You decide you’re going to quit your job. Were you all ready bringing in enough revenue at that point to cover your salary when you quit your job?
Cliff: No, not at all. Not only was I not bringing in enough revenue to cover my salary. The actual little tiny bit of overhead that I had to run the pod casting stuff, that was just barely covered, and we’re talking much less expenses than what it is today because now it’s a full business. So, no.
Here’s the deal. I was working as an insurance agent. I started pod casting as a hobby about the T.V. show, Lost. I was all ready blogging about it. I put out this theory about something that I thought was out there. EntertainmentWeekly.com or EW.com picked it up and then posted a link to my blog at the time. Somebody said, “Wow, Cliff, you ought to create your own podcast devoted to Lost.” So, that’s what got me started.
I didn’t know if I wanted to podcast about Lost or technology or faith. There were so many other pod casts about all these things, so I created this podcast called Generally Speaking. In the first episode I just said, behind the microphone, “Hey, guys. My name’s Cliff Ravenscraft. You probably have no idea who I am and probably don’t care, but this is what I’m going to do. I love my technology, my faith, and I love the T.V. show, Lost. So, this is going to be me generally speaking about anything I love. I’m passionate about a lot of things.”
Then I said, “Here’s the thing; I know some of you who are Lost fans don’t want to hear about my faith. Some of you who are interested in faith could care less about this secular television show, so, I’m going to warn you, this first episode is all about Lost, and then let’s just say the second episode is about faith, so tune out. You can delete this episode.” That was a really stupid idea, by the way.
Cliff: Because the audience immediately says, “Wow, I loved everything you had to say about Lost, and I love the fact that you’re a Christian and you didn’t try to beat us over the head with a Christian point of view. You’re just a fan of the show. I would love it. I’d be willing to invest in even sending you some money if you’d buy some better equipment so you sound better, but the way you talk about Lost is better than some of the other shows that are out there. Would you do a podcast just devoted to Lost?”
Andrew: I see.
Cliff: Here’s the thing, I never thought anybody would listen to me about Lost. I mean, who am I? I’m this guy in northern Kentucky. But, hundreds of people listened to the first episode, and they all said, “I want a Lost podcast from you.” Hundreds of dollars came in saying, “Hey, go buy a new mixer. Go buy a new microphone. Improve the sound.”
Andrew: Hang on a second. I’ve heard about this and I never understand it. I never have the impulse to just go randomly send money to somebody, but many people randomly didn’t know you sent money to you to help you improve your equipment.
Cliff: Absolutely. The thing is, I believe it has to do with the way you share who you are. When people can relate to you, when people feel that you represent a part of themselves, they want to improve upon themselves, and in some ways, people will live vicariously through your success. If they can help you succeed in some small way, they feel like they’re a part of that. And that gives them a sense of satisfaction.
Andrew: What about the fact that you’re going out there, without a revenue model, without any hope to conquer the world with this new medium of podcasting, and you’re just going to share what you believe. Doesn’t that make you feel dorky?
Cliff: No, not at all.
Andrew: You don’t have any feelings that this is a little dorky thing to do, my friends are going to judge me, those people who picked on me in high school are going to judge me, those people who admire me at work are going to judge me, none of that?
Cliff: Here’s the thing. I was afraid to record the first podcast episode because of all of those things. I was really afraid of that. But the thing is, it’s not a big deal. Nobody’s ever going to find this thing, nobody’s ever going to listen to this podcast.
Andrew: Really? I mean, no one may find the girl who turned me down from high school, no one’s going to find her Facebook profile or her webpage, but I might, because I might one day in a fit of nervousness or anger towards the world, or eagerness to prove that I made it in the world, I might go hunt her down, and then I’m the one who’s listening. So the people who you least want to listen are often the ones who do. You don’t feel any of that? I don’t want to push you.
Cliff: Oh, absolutely. Here’s the thing. What’s amazing is that I put myself out there, and it felt weird, it felt awkward, but it never kept me from doing it. I had such a passion about the television show Lost. I knew thousands of people around the world did as well, because I was actually taking content from online forums, and sharing what I found. After the first episode, hundreds of people did listen, and I had a ton of positive, encouraging feedback: You have to do this, this is amazing. And to be honest with you, I’m not used to opening my e-mail inbox and having encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. It’s like, gosh, you’re great, you’re amazing.
And did I have couple of things where people had left, you know. If you want to read something terrible about me, go to iTunes, search the weekly Lost podcast of GSPN, and read some of the reviews. Those people remain anonymous, they hide behind, you know, things. People have said some horrible, terrible things about me.
Andrew: Doesn’t it hurt your feelings, or make you want to stop at that point?
Cliff: Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: So how do you keep going?
Cliff: I kept going because for every one person that would say something that would be critical and would just cut to my heart, I had one hundred people that were saying, “Wow, you’re making a positive difference in my life.” By the way, all of this, I’m still in insurance, this is just a hobby.
So, here’s where the transition came into play. I started to get people who would e-mail me. They hadn’t listened to the first episode, where I even at the time used the phrase, “By the way, I’m also a pastor.” Because I was a pastor, part-time, outside of my full-time career in insurance. But there were a couple of people after 15, 16 episodes, they didn’t go all the way to the beginning, they just started listening. And by this time, I invited my wife to join me, and she’s on the podcast with me, and I would get an e-mail saying, “I’ve been listening to your Lost podcast, and it’s like, wow, I love the way you guys interact with one another, I love the fact that sometimes you guys will just go at it, with your disagreements, but I just have this overwhelming sensation from listening to you that maybe you and your wife are Christians. Am I right?” and I would write back, “Well, yes, we are. We’re Christians. Thank you for e-mailing.” And I would ask a question back, I always opened up the conversation with those people.
And then I would get an e-mail back, almost all the time, with three or four or five pages of written out text, that just outlines what’s been going on in their life, with how they’ve either been burned by the church, or how they’re struggling in their faith, and thus, became, the minister inside of me. Where, all of a sudden, now I’m spending three, four, five hours a day responding to people in e-mail.
Thus opens up a second and a third show. One show, which is today called “Pursuing a balanced life.” and another show is called “Encouraging others through Christ.” And what happened was, I asked people saying, “I’m getting this question over and over again, can I read your e-mail? I’ll hide your name if you want. Can I read your e-mail and respond to it? That way, with the other thirty people who e-mail me the same question, can I give them a [listen] to this?” and some of them said absolutely, and use my name, please. And that’s what happened. I started taking questions, got behind a microphone, read the question, and then gave my answer. I never gave my answer as: This is what you should do. I wasn’t an advice column. It was always taking their questions and saying: This has been my experience, this has been happening in my life, this is what I’ve seen in someone else’s life.
Andrew: All right. So, let me see. I understand the dork part, and I’m also imagining in my audience’s minds that they’re thinking, I would never feel that way. Meanwhile, when i have private conversations with them and it’s time for them to launch something, whether they know it or not they’re often hesitant because they’re afraid that something is going to think they’re a dork.
Maybe they’re afraid that some hero investor of theirs is going to land on their website and see that it’s not perfect and then they’re going to look down on the person, so we all feel that, that’s why I’m pushing that question.
Andrew: Here’s another question. It took me a long time to get hundreds of people to come to my site. My audience sometimes, some of the newer guys, they’ll send me the blog that they’ve put together and everyone tells them blog in order to get traffic and they write these great blog people and they don’t get hundreds of people. How do you launch and end up with hundreds of people who are not just reading your blog post, but getting your podcast? Podcasting is still not an easy medium to embrace.
Cliff: I can explain to you exactly how that happened for me and it doesn’t happen for everybody. I’ve literally helped hundreds of people one-on-one, thousands of people through my podcasting and tutorials and stuff. So it doesn’t happen for everybody, but here’s how it happened for me. I started blogging about Lost on my personal blog and I was listening to other existing Lost podcasts.
Obviously, I found out about podcasting. I started listening to Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech, Fr. Roderick’s The Daily Breakfast and all of a sudden I’m listening to three different Lost podcasts. So I found podcasts that are about my passion, I blogged about my passions and when I blog about something I really went out of the way to create this can’t-live-without content.
If I did a blog post about the television show [?] In a Mystery, the only reason anybody posted to it is because I backed it up with side-by-side screen shots with arrows and diagrams and I really went out of the way and then here’s what I did. I was already using a social media at the time, MySpace. Crazy, Frappr Maps and all this other stuff, but anyway I would call in as a listener to other Lost podcasts, who by the way already had an existing audience of thousands of subscribers because they had been doing it since the show started.
I didn’t find out about Lost until the second season or the end of the first season. They’ve already got tens of thousands of subscribers and I’m saying, hey guys, this is Cliff Ravenscraft from the ravenscraft.org blog and I wanted to share my theory with you about this weeks’ episode. So what did I just do? I just called in and by the way, that was the only self-promotion. I just said, this is Cliff Ravenscraft from the ravenscraft.org blog and the rest of it was pure, no more self-promotion than that.
Andrew: So here’s what I’m getting from it Cliff. You are obsessed with Lost. I mean hours to go and get screen shots and put it side-by-side and I get that and another thing that I’m getting to is this was a show that a lot of people were obsessed with and when you tap into topics that the world is obsessed with, even if a small percentage of those people end up on your site, even if a trickle of this excitement ends up on your website it’s going to result in at least hundreds of people and that’s what got you started.
Let me ask about this too. $11,000 in revenue the first year. You quit your job, you go and you start, $11,000, where did the $11,000 come from? What were you selling to generate revenue?
Cliff: All right. So I started off the first year, basically I became miserable in my job as an insurance agent because I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I wanted to interacting with this online community. I said, man wouldn’t it be great if I could find some way to turn podcasting into my career, because I love this community that’s being built.
I feel like I personally am having a positive impact on the world one person at a time, or even hundreds of people at a time as they listen to these various shows, so man wouldn’t it be great? I actually share that with my audience in some of my shows. Not the Lost show, but some of the other shows that I have where it’s appropriate for me to share that and those people start emailing me saying, Cliff, it’s possible. You should read this book called “48 Days Until the Work You Love.”
You know, you can actually do work that you love and I’m like, whatever, that’s a pipe dream. So I started to listen to these people, I started to read these books. It had a major, profound impact on my life and then I decided you know what, I can do this. Actually my wife decided. She says, you’re so miserable in your job. I want my husband back.
The kids want their dad back. I want you to quit your job in insurance. I worked in a family run insurance agency and it was a little bit crazy there. I want you to do this and I support it. My wife is a stay-at-home mom. She says, if I need to go get a job we will make this happen. When you get behind a microphone Cliff you come alive and I know that this is who you’re supposed to be.
When you’re behind a microphone, when you’re sharing your stories you are where you are supposed to be in life and she says let’s do it. Thus became our career in podcasting. What happened was I had no business training. I’m very good at sales. I am very good at sales. I love to sell things.
Cliff: However, in 2008 it was a complete failure. Because, like I said, you asked earlier how much did you make? I was making $23.50 an hour plus commissions right? So I had never had anything, my entire life I had worked an hourly wage, and to think that I’m going to charge people money for me to teach them how to do something, so literally . . ..
Andrew: So right from the start you were charging people to learn how to podcast? That’s where the original 11 thousand came from?
Cliff: Fifty dollars an hour was my hourly rate to talk to me on the phone, and to be honest with you it took me forever to convince people to hire me at fifty dollars an hour. I spent most of my week trying to convince maybe thirty people to hire me and maybe one or two people did. And the problem was I didn’t believe I was worth fifty bucks and hour, and the reason why I didn’t believe I was worth fifty dollars an hour is because fifty dollars an hour is twice the amount that I made when I was in insurance. And the last year that I was insurance it was miserable. So if I’m only paid $23.50 an hour to work at a job I absolutely despise, how can I expect somebody to pay me 50 bucks an hour for doing something with you that I would honestly do for free?
Andrew: I see.
Cliff: And that was very difficult. I was trying to over sell this fifty dollars an hour, and what happened was people would get on the phone and say lets talk about how you can help me, next think you know I’ve spent 90 minutes with you, I’ve just taught you how to podcast, you don’t need to hire me. Because through the process of me convincing you that I can teach you, I’ve just taught you. Now you don’t owe me anything.
Andrew: How did you find these people who you were trying to convince to hire you?
Cliff: Most of them found me through my other podcasts. So I had created a . . . at one point . . . since 2005 I have produced more than 25 different shows, and I’m almost ready to release my 3,000th podcast episode.
Andrew: They’re listening, and you’re saying you’re trying to convince them to hire you. How are you connecting with them to make this sales pitch?
Cliff: Email, actually I had created podcast answer man, the podcast and people would email me, people would refer people to me, and then its like lets get on the phone and talk about why you should hire me. And I will tell you that I think I failed miserably because my price was too darn low, and I didn’t think that I was worth that money.
Andrew: How do you get, by the way I get referred to your website all the time, any time someone has a problem with my mic, my audio levels, they always, not always, it often comes with a link to your website. It’s, “Andrew you should go check out what this guy has”. They may not know your name, they may not even know your first name, Cliff, but they know PodcastAnswerman.com, and go check out that guys site Andrew because you need the help. Alright, you’re feeling like you’re not even worth the 50 dollars, meanwhile in retrospect you’re worth may more than 50 bucks if you’re going to help people get up and running with this. How do you get yourself to change that mindset? To go from the mindset that got you only 11 thousand to now to one that gets you over 100,000.
Cliff: A couple different things, books, and amazing advisors. Amazing trusted advisors. The first book that radically changed my mind about generating income, and being paid well to do what you love for a living, Dan Miller author of “48 Days to the Work You Love,” I had heard, you know Dave Ramsey, because of Dave Ramsey I had learned to become dept free. And Dave Ramsey’s best friend is Dan Miller. [??] was always talking about Dan Miller, “48 Days to the Work You Love,” and all these people kept talking about this book, and it radically changed my mind. And then all of a sudden when I became convinced that it’s OK to do what I love for a living and be paid for it, as soon as I became OK with that, I started to get people to hire me. And it’s kind of . . .
Andrew: Once you accepted that you were worth more, they accepted that you were worth, enough to, they accepted that you were worth more, and accepted that you were worth paying for.
Cliff: Absolutely, and as I got to that place, and then when I realized, it’s like, well if I continue to make this little bit of money I’ll never make this a business that’s profitable. I’ll never be able to pay myself. So it’s like, am I worth 95 an hour? So I raised my rates to 95 an hour. And it’s like, yes I’m worth it because I have to support my family. And my clients have to know that I have to make a profit right? I’m not just here to be a free, you know, source of information. And I was convinced I was worth 95, and people asked me, they had no problem paying 95. In fact I found that the higher my rates got, the easier it was to get people to sign on. When I went to 200 dollars an hour, or actually I went from 95 to 150. When I went to 150 it was just like crazy. It was almost like every person I talked to said, “150 an hour? Sign me up, when can I get on your schedule
Andrew: It was that human psychology, where one person, where the same person offered a low price, says no, offered a high price says yes. I’ve actually seen it too.
Cliff: I think it’s perceived value, and there are two things involved with me. Number one, was I confident? People can smell whether or not you’re confident or not. I really believe that, and if you’re not confident in yourself, it doesn’t matter how much you know, how great of a teacher you are, how much you can inspire and encourage them, and help them achieve things they could never achieve on their own. It doesn’t matter, if you don’t have confidence in yourself, they will sense that and they will run away from you as quick as possible. I have learned that, I know this to be true.
Andrew: So how do you get confidence in yourself?
Cliff: You, you surround yourself with people who have confidence in you.
Andrew: Who did you surround yourself with? Give me one person who gave you the confidence that you needed.
Cliff: I will mention his name, his name is Steven Cross. He’s been somebody who’s been a part of my community since the early days of our loss pipe gas, he runs his own internet business, and he actually creates websites for Fortune 100 companies in America. And, this guy was the most successful guy I knew at the time, and he kept saying, ‘Cliff, this is why I listen to you, it’s not just the entertainment value, but I see you struggling and the thing is you hit ever obstacle and sometimes you trip over every single one of them, but you get back up, and it inspires the crap out of me. If I can just do, what can I do, create something so I can buy it, because I want to see you succeeding. As a matter of fact, I have no doubt you’re going to succeed, but we need to actually – so he actually inspired me.
I actually had a client, one, I had a client. I had just raised my rates to $150.00 an hour, this guy’s name is Joe Lample. He’s a very successful television personality, he had done many shows on DIY, PBS, and just is an entrepreneur. He actually, also left the world of insurance to do what he loved for a living, so he had this connection to me that is like. And when I hired him, he says, I’ll never forget this, he says, ‘Cliff, here’s the thing, one day you’re going to be so busy. I’ve got this project that I’m working on, it’s probably about a two years out from right now’, he says, ‘One day you’re going to be so busy, that you’re not going to have time for me. Will you do me a favor, when you’re that busy, will you always make sure you create?’ I’m like, ‘Joe, you’re the only client I have this week. I’m telling you, I will always have time for these.’ He says, ‘You need’, he says, ‘You need to increase your rates, and you need to make sure whatever you do, whatever your rates are, when it’s time for me to launch this project, will you be there for me?’ And every single time I worked with him, he always said that, you need to raise your rates. I actually developed a good relationship with him. When I had questions, I said, ‘Joe, I’d like to reach out to you with a business idea I’m thinking about pursuing.’ And, this is going to tie into that thing, of where everybody just mentions pod casts as (?) And I said, ‘Hey, you know, I’m really struggling with revenue strings right now, and I’m thinking about just adding another offering. You know, creating websites for bloggers because I can create a WordPress blog in like, 30 minutes and actually have it designed and customized for them. And I’m thinking about offering that.’ And he says, ‘No, absolutely not.’ He says, ‘Where do you want to be in 5 years? Do something every day that gets you closer to that.’ And I’m like OK. And he says, ‘How does this get you known as the Podcast Dancer Man? You want your career to be in Podcasting, or blogging, yeah, blah, blah, blah, whatever. Podcasting, and specifically audio podcasting.’ He goes, ‘You want to get to the place you can deny every opportunity that comes your way that isn’t specifically podcasting. Do that, raise your rates, just make sure that whatever you do, when I’m ready to hire you.’
And, and just kept hearing it over again, and the more that I heard it, the more I believed it. And so I raised my rates. One day, I put out this dream. I said, ‘Guys, I have this dream, I have two big dreams. I would love to interview Leo Laporte one day.’ Which by the way, check out podcastdancerman.com/leointerview because that was a major dream come true. Matter of fact, I had a lot of dreams that I have created over the years, and last, last November, 2011, I sent out a Tweet that says, ‘Every dream, every dream/goal I’ve ever set for myself has now been achieved. I need to create bigger dreams.’ And thus the white board behind me.
Andrew: All right, let me, let me see what happened next. I want to go chronological order, to make sure I fill it up as much as possible. How about we go to what happened December, 2010. Because it seems like an exciting place to be. You quit your job, you’re doing what you love, people are sending you love notes by email. Some of them are too freaking long for me, but you love it, because you’re interacting with your tribe. Things are going well, but revenue isn’t there. Can you talk about that, in lieu of what happens at that point?
Cliff: Well, revenue was there, but the question is whether or not I wanted to do the same things in 2011 that I did in 2010.
Andrew: OK. So 2008 revenue is $11,000, 2009, it was growing, what happens with that?
Cliff: Let me give you 2008, because I can take you right through this one. I’m used to telling this in a very concise way.
Andrew: Okay, hit me.
Cliff: 2008 was miserable. I didn’t feel like I was worth it. Here’s how things worked out: we worked at [Free] so the only thing was making sure the mortgage was paid. That’s it. If we could put some food on the table, that would be really cool too.
So, here’s the situation. January, 2008, I lived off of the income that I made in my last month as an insurance agent. February, 2008, I lived off of my Christmas bonus from the year before. March, April, May, and June, four months, I lived off of my tax return from the year before.
Now, all of this money that I’m generating from teaching people, that’s just paying the overhead. It’s just paying the health insurance, but not paying any income, there’s not enough there for that. All right? So then it got to the place where I say, Well, maybe I need to open it up, and take in some other jobs.
One day, somebody asked, “Will you create a website for me?” And I’m like, “Do you want to create a podcast?” “No, no, I’m not interested in podcasting, I just need a website for my business.” And, honestly, I didn’t want the job, it’s $2500, and they said, “When can you have it done?” and I said, “I can have it done in about 10 days.” And, honestly, I could have had it done in 40 minutes, and it took about an hour of my time, and I made $2500. And that’s where this idea, Wow, maybe I should offer this. Literally, it didn’t take me any time at all to create that website, and they were thrilled. And I made $2500, it’s like, what?
At that point, I’m like, should I start taking on these other opportunities that are coming my way, because not everybody wants to create a podcast just yet. And everybody said: No. And I’m like, well, what do I do? I’m suffering here. And this time, there are probably about 10 trusted advisers that I’ve surrounded myself with. And every single one of them said, “Cliff, focus on podcasting, focus on podcasting.” And so, this is what I did, and everybody also told me this was the wrong thing to do. They said, “If you need to get a business loan, get a business loan,” but I don’t believe in debt, I will not go into debt.
I took $14,000 out of my pension account in July of 2008 and I paid $4,000 in taxes and penalty, and that gave me $10,000, and we lived the rest of the year on that $10,000, plus I was able to pay myself a total of $11,000 in small income from my business. That’s how we made it in 2008. Which, by the way, the stock market crashed after I took my money out, and I actually ended up making a lot of money compared to what happened to the rest of my retirement.
So anyway, 2008, just squeaked by. 2009, I was better, I was already at $95 an hour, and things are slowly creeping up, but then all of a sudden, I put out that stream, and this is where we get into that chronological order, I have a dream to meet Leo Laporte, which wouldn’t be realized for another two years. But the other part of that dream was that I wanted to interview Dan Miller on one of my podcasts. I want Dan Miller to know how much his book and his audio podcast radically transformed the way I think about work and money, how it’s had a positive impact, and I want to tell him that it’s true, I am living proof that you can do work you love for a living. And, so, I put that out in my podcast, I immediately got an e-mail saying, “Cliff, I can introduce you to Dan.” One week later, Dan Miller’s on my podcast.
Right after the podcast, he says, “Cliff, can we set up a thirty-minute conversation?” And, I thought he wanted to ask me some stuff about how I could help him, but it turns out Dan’s created this podcast, he has thousands of subscribers, and they’re all asking him how they can create a podcast like he has. He has no interest in teaching them. He wanted to know whether or not I was a reputable guy that he could refer. Then he says, “Can you come down to Nashville, spend a day with me, bring some equipment down, let me redo my thing here, and let’s get to know each other.” And after that, the referrals came in. I was taking on 20 new clients per week. I couldn’t keep up with it at all.
Andrew: So, his recommendation got you that kind of growth. Was he taking commission on it?
Cliff: He was not.
Andrew: He just wanted to know you were a good guy and once he knew you were a good guy, he referred everyone who wanted to create a podcast to you?
Cliff: That’s absolutely correct.
Andrew: And this was all still you doing consulting, one on one with people?
Cliff: Yes. Yeah. Just one on one with people at the time.
Andrew: And the first product you created was Podcasting A-Z, which you talked about earlier?
Cliff: No, the first podcast, the first products I created. I started out with creating webinars where people could get on to Go To Meeting with me. I had the cheap accounts so you could only have 25 people. So, I would sell for a $150 you could come and spend 2 hours with me and I’m going to teach you this topic and I wasn’t recording it. I was just doing it, and it was selling out at 25 people so that was doing pretty well. And that got me to the place where “it’s like, hey this is pretty nice”. My one on one consulting, so Dan Miller had been referring me, taking on clients left and right. And low and behold there was one day I recorded, I actually helped 4 people in two hours learn how to use Adobe Edition from scratch. I started with client 1 in the morning at nine o’clock in the morning, spent two hours, took 30 minutes off, started over with client number 2 from scratch. I taught the same thing 4 times in one day. And I’m like, I have an idea. I’m going to do webinars and teach every thing I just taught in these two hours, with these four people. I’m going to do a webinar. I’m going to go ahead and pay for Go To Webinar instead of paying for Go To Meeting, sell it for $100 a seat and, not only that, but I’m going to do this for all the things that most, people the most hire me for. I made, I. By the way, I have never believed in email lists because I don’t like to receive a ton of emails, unless it’s relational. And so I don’t like a lot of sales messages and sales pitches so I never really subscribed to anybody else’s newsletter. So I didn’t leave an email list. But I’m listening to Pat Flynne and he’s like, “Yeah, you really should do a newsletter. People would want to hear from you.” So I create a newsletter or an email list. Not a newsletter, but an email list and I would tell people, “Only sign up if you want me to announce when I have a new product or service to sell.” That’s the only, it’s shameless, self-promotion.
Cliff: That’s what you’re going to get from me and you’ll only get an email if I have something new to sell you. All right? And so I had under 200 people on my mailing list and I said “I’m going to do”. And this was ah, January 2010. And I said “I am going to create a five webinar series called “”Podcast Bootcamp”” and I’m going to teach you the five most common things people hire me. And every Saturday I’m going to do a webinar for two hours. I’m going to teach you Adobe Audition, Audacity, Social Media 101, um WordPress for Podcasts, how to configure your WordPress, how to design your WordPress with thesis. I’m going to actually take you step-by-step through that. $23,000 in 10 days with an email sent to under 200 people.
Andrew: Under 200 people?
Cliff: Under 200 people.
Andrew: All right, um that’s, that’s incredible.
Cliff: And real quick, I just wanted to say I recorded everyone of those on my computer with Screen Flow. With my high quality, HD video, I spent hours and hours preparing those and hours in post-production and I turned those into a digital product for $9.99. My products are $100 apiece on average and they’re on my site. And all of a sudden, they’re starting to sell. Dan Miller’s referring people and now all of a sudden, it’s like you could hire me one on one. Here’s my rate. Or, if you want, you can go and buy this product, this product, this product and that email would immediately generate $450. And then I, and then the best thing, uh that it was ah it was October, no November of 2010. My family and I went on um, a little Thanksgiving vacation. I did this thing, everybody’s talking about Black Friday, Black Friday. I’m like, “hmm, wonder what would happen if I gave 25% off for the weekend Black Friday thru Cyber Monday?” I’m on vacation for a few, no actually it’s for 10 days. But on the last 4 days of that 10 day vacation with my family, I do this Black Friday sale and just this Black Friday sale alone. And just announcing it on Twitter, which gets syndicated to Facebook and Linked In. I have a network of about 15, 20,000 people that follow me in all those places. That generated $11,000 in one weekend and the only thing I had to do was my wife had to do, no actually it was my VA at the time, had to go in and take all of those things from PayPal and put it into my Quick Books, thing. There was nothing else. It was just all automated.
Andrew: All right. So then what happened December 2010? Do we get to the low or do we talk about that 3 year loss? Because so far I’m seeing everything’s rosy. It’s a little at a time, but eventually it gets better and better.
Cliff: Yeah, so Dan Miller’s referred tons of clients. I’m working around the clock. I’m selling, can I tell you one more story?
Andrew: OK. Are you going to tell me about the, is the dark day tough for you to talk about? Is that why you’re avoiding it?
Cliff: No, I’m not avoiding it. I want to lead up to it. Because if I don’t tell you this one I don’t think you’re going to get the understanding of why it was a dark day.
Andrew: OK. All right, go for it.
Cliff: In 2008 things are really still bad. All right? My wife’s saying you know what, I’ll go get a job. Every month when we pay the bills either one of us or both of us have literally got tears on our face. Now we still love what we’re doing. We still believe this is the right thing and we’re going to succeed. But it was tough. She’s like I’ll go get a job. I’m like no, you won’t. I’m listening to Dave Ramsey all the time and he’s like sometimes you’ve got to just go deliver a pizza or something. Bring in some extra income.
I literally was at the place where I was thinking about I’m going to go deliver pizzas. I’m thinking if I work 15 hours a week for the month I might bring in, after taxes, maybe $350 a month. It’s better than nothing at this point because I’m having a hard time getting these people to hire me and getting the word out. I decide, finally, after a couple of months I’m going to go out and apply for this job.
The day that I was going to go out and apply for a pizza job the phone rings. I pick it up and he says hey, somebody referred me. I want to buy some equipment from you. I’m like OK. He goes the only thing is, though, my budget is really tight. I’m like oh great, it’s one of those people right? I say well, tell me what your budget is. He says $15,000. I can’t spend anything more. I’m like OK, we can do something here.
Literally we spent 25 minutes is all it took with me on the phone. And although his budget was $15,000 I told him listen, you’re not creating a radio station. You’re creating a home studio, if you duplicated everything I have. He says well, I want what you sound like. I said well, it’s $2,500. I ended up selling him $2,500 worth of equipment.
Andrew: Instead of $15,000 that you could have sold him you were selling $2,500? You don’t have the equipment in your office. You’re doing affiliate sales, right?
Cliff: No, it’s not affiliate sales. I actually had, when I first started consulting, the people that I bought my stuff through. It’s a company called Cruise Kempsey. I have no trade secrets. I could care less. It’s CruiseKempseyProAudio.com. I developed a really good relationship with this one sales guy. I’m always buying my equipment from him. He says yes, I’ll ship it out for you. Finally, after the third order he’s like look, why don’t we set you up as an official reseller for us?
Andrew: Gotcha, OK.
Cliff: I’m like what’s that? He says here’s the deal. We give you a price that we agree on for these products that you’re selling. You sell them for whatever you want. You can sell them for anything you want, as much as you want.
Andrew: Sorry, I didn’t want to divert off of this. I’m watching the time. I want to make sure to be fair with your time.
Andrew: You sell him $2,500 instead of $15,000 worth of stuff.
Cliff: I made $300 in 25 minutes on that phone.
Cliff: I just said that’s how much money I was going to make if I went out and got that pizza job. Why don’t I hire me, Cliff Ravenscraft, and pay myself. Why don’t I hire me and for 20 hours a week I will devote to trying to recreate what just happened on the phone. Thus began focusing on podcast equipment sales. I got to the place where I was making somewhere around $4,000 a month in equipment sales.
Andrew: How? How do you get people to buy equipment? Are you talking about blogging about it and then getting people to call you up so that you can sell them?
Cliff: No, this is how it is. It’s all about creating content. Today at PodcastAnswerMan.com I just released my 250th episode. That’s 250 hours of 100% free content of me answering people’s questions and sharing with them inspirational content that’s going to help them take their podcast to the next level. Absolutely for free. Happens to be on the same website that I have that has an equipment page where I talk about the equipment that I use.
They say what kind of [??]. I know I could maybe buy it cheaper but it looks like you’re selling it for about the same price. I’d rather buy it from you than buy it from somebody else. Even if you want to charge me more, I’ve had people say that. Even if you want to charge me more I’m OK with that. Because I’ve given them so much for free that they’re like I want to benefit you. You’ve never asked me for anything. Let me help you. Let me see you succeed. You’re helping me succeed, let me help you.
Andrew: Can I read a line? Yeah I’m going to. We have in our notes here, I have in my notes here, your profit and loss statement for 2010, which always makes me feel uncomfortable that people are willing to show their profit and loss statements. But I’ve got it here and I can see it’s a screen shot from QuickBooks. I’m looking at it and I see one item on here is sponsorship advertising. Another is contributions from listeners. I want to read the number. 27,000 dollars in 2010 came to you from listeners. They sent you money. For nothing. They didn’t want you to do anything, get on the phone, consult with them, send them equipment. They just wanted you to do well.
Cliff: That is correct. In fact, can you do me a favor? Your audience will die when they hear this. Go to gspn.tv/yearofprovidence. Can you type that in?
Andrew: Well, I’m worried about our bandwidth because our connection isn’t so strong.
Cliff: OK. Don’t worry about it.
Andrew: Could you repeat the URL again?
Cliff: gspn.tv/yearofprovidence. When you pull that up, it will be a screen-cap. It will actually be a scanned copy of a letter with a check for 12,000 dollars, which was one person’s contribution that someone sent to me.
Andrew: Can you type it into the chat window on Skype? I want to make sure to read it clearly to the audience.
Andrew: Then, afterwards, will you tell us what happened in 2010?
Cliff: I will.
Andrew: December 2010?
Cliff: Absolutely, I will.
Andrew: This is a share link. OK. We will find a way to include this in the interview.
Cliff: It is gspn.tv/yearofprovidence. I’ll give it to you afterward as well.
Andrew: There it is. gspn.tv/yearofprovidence. What happened?
Cliff: Here’s the thing. I’m making tons of money from equipment sales, but I’m working around the clock trying to put all of the proposals together. Dan Miller is talking about me like crazy. Dan Miller is connected to a lot of other people who have very wide spread audiences. They’ve started hiring me and they’re talking about me. I’m just having a hard time keeping up with things, so I’m creating webinars. All of a sudden, with a single webinar, I can make 6,000 dollars in a weekend. I can keep that. The only reason I ever wanted to create Podcast Dancer Man was so that I could, for free, create the content to gspn.tv. The Generally Speaking Production Network. The reason why I left my career in insurance was so I would have the time to interact with people one-on-one and to share my life with people. To entertain them, educate them, encourage them, and inspire them. I just needed Podcast Dancer Man or some other means to financially support my desire to do that. I began to make a lot of money. More money than I was making when I was selling insurance. When October hit, I found myself focusing on how can I create more money. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, it’s amazing. It’s another record month. 17,000 dollars, 27,000 dollars, 13,000 dollars, 11,000 dollars this weekend while I’m on vacation.’ I got so proud and excited that honestly it became my main focus. When it came time to take time off and be with my family I realized that’s going to really reduce how much money I make. Honestly, it got really bad. In December 2010, I realized I had lost my vision for why I was doing what I was doing. It became about the money for me. Then, I got sick.
Andrew: I don’t know what’s going on with my connection today. I’m sure it’s mine. I’m looking at your set up and clearly if it’s going to either one of our fault, it’s going to be mine.
Cliff: My virtual assistant…
Andrew: Your virtual assistant, uh-huh.
Cliff: I found out that my virtual assistant was leaving me.
Cliff: I came down with a severe sinus infection. Of course when you have a very severe sinus infection and you are a Podcaster, this is never good. I can’t do one on one coaching and consulting. I can’t even get out of bed for two weeks. It’s Christmas time. I do have some packs of income happening. A majority of my income requires that I am sitting there making the things happen. I started freaking out. All of a sudden, I can’t work for two weeks, Christmas is coming up. I’m supposed to take two weeks off for Christmas and all of this stuff. I did all of these really big things, but am I going to be able to reproduce them in 2011? Do I want to reproduce them in 2011? I don’t know. It really got to the place where, as a man of faith, I really struggled thinking, ‘Wow, how far have I come to the place where I really felt like this was what God called me to do. Now, all of a sudden, I’m just chasing after the dollar. It’s all about the money for me.’ Dan Miller’s asking me to come on this cruise. How am I going to pay for it? I can’t go on this cruise.
I’ve been out for the entire month of December. I didn’t do anything. I became depressed. I didn’t make any money in December 2010. Zero. Except for a couple digital products. And now, all of a sudden it’s January and in the middle of February, I’m supposed to go on a cruise. And I’m supposed to spend all this money to go on the cruise. How am I going to do this? And so I just became very depressed. And then, all of a sudden, I read this book called The Autobiography of George Muller. It was the story of a guy who basically never brought in any income. He trusted on God for everything and you can read all about that if you want. But anyway, it got me to the place where it was like, “You know what? I need to get to the place where I am no longer focused on the money and just trust that if I follow my passion, the money will follow. And I know that if I can get out of this place where I am sick, because when I’m sick, it’s hard to have a positive perspective. I’m just going to take some time off and I’m going to relax.” I came in, in 2011, out of that.
The very first thing I decided was that I am no longer going to charge for content on this GSPN. I am no longer going to do this. I’m giving more away for free and I’m going to just trust things will happen. And then the whole idea of Podcasting A to Z came. And that’s the big product-Podcasting A to Z. That was the big product in 2011. I’ve got a waiting list-a waiting list that would fill three of those sessions in 2012 and I’m not putting it on the calendar yet this year. Because right now, the big product for me-and I think it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever worked on-is the Podcast Mastermind.
Andrew: How is that different from all those other products that you told me you sold before? So you had this big revelation and instead of selling one product for $100.00, you sell a product for $800.00?
Andrew: So how is that different?
Cliff: What’s the question again?
Andrew: I’m dropping my card here– my notecard as I’m talking to you, and that’s the sound that people are hearing. It sounds like what you’re saying is, “Andrew, I was pulling in $6,000.00 from doing the webinar in one weekend. And I was doing this and then I was doing that. And then I had this moment where I said, ‘What am I doing this for?’ I was sick. ‘What if I can’t continue?’ and ‘If I can continue, what’s the point of continuing? Is it just to make money?'” And the way you get out of it is by saying, “I’m going to sell this more expensive product, that’s more encompassing? How does that change everything?
Cliff: The thing is-for me-I’m actually not creating just one more product, more expensive than the other products. What I’m doing is I’m actually taking the products that you could buy individually, which would cost you $1,100.00, and I’m making them all available for $800 and giving you some training. And that was Podcasting A to Z, which definitely did require that I was there and that I am the center and the “be all, end all” of all things. If I’m sick, I can’t do it. So in 2012 . . . actually it was the end of last year, I came up with this idea for the Podcast Mastermind.
Andrew: Forgive me. I just want to make sure that I understand this transition and maybe I’m overthinking it here. You go into this funk where you’re trying to figure out, “What is it all about?” And what it comes out to is it’s all about giving more stuff for free and then charging more for the products that you create?
Cliff: It’s all about giving more away for free and it’s all about charging less for more products.
Andrew: I thought that Podcasting A to Z cost $800, where your previous products were about $100.
Cliff: Okay. So the previous products, individually, are $100 a piece. There are 11 digital products.
Andrew: I see.
Cliff: So if you bought them all individually, you’d pay about $1,100. If you sign up for Podcasting A to Z, one of the many benefits of that Podcasting A to Z course, is that you get all of my digital products . . .
Andrew: Maybe I’m overthinking it but then it does feel like you had this big funk, where I thought you were going to say, “And the answer was…” I don’t know. I don’t know. I was looking for some major revelation. But, “The major revelation is bundling, Andrew. If you bundle everything into a cheaper product that contains everything from beginning to end, that’s the big saving . . .”
Cliff: No. For me-what got me out of the funk-is understanding that it’s not about the money. It is about the mission and vision that you feel like is your purpose. For me, it’s not about the money. With the exception of right around the end of 2010, it had never been about the money. And because it had never been about the money, I had gotten to the place, in 2008, where I was [inaudible] and wasn’t making anything, to the place where I was making a ton of money. And during [inaudible] nothing to something, it was never about the money. And what happened was there was a period of time.
Andrew: Uh-oh. Are we there? I think we’ve lost each other. Yeah.
Cliff: We have totally lost each other.
Andrew: There we go. Sorry Cliff. There, we were having some issues with the connection but it looks like we’re back on track.
Cliff: The idea is that it was never about the money. When it was never about the money success came. When it was about the money I became miserable.
Andrew: Let me make sure that I go through the rest of my questions here. We’re going long and I want to pack a lot into this program. What does it take to make a product that people want to buy? I’m listening to you say 6,000 in a weekend and then do even more when you create Podcasting A to Z. I’m imagining that someone in my audience is thinking to themselves I’d like to produce that kind of revenue. I have 400 people in my audience. Maybe I have zero in my audience but if Cliff got that kind of revenue with 200 I can get to 200. Now what do I do to sell them? What do you suggest that they do if they want to sell something?
Cliff: Focus. Become an expert on something. Become an expert on a niche. Preferably an expert in a niche field where you are passionate. Andrew, you can definitely tell I’m passionate about podcasting.
Andrew: About podcasting, absolutely I can tell.
Cliff: Malcolm Gladwell put out this book called Outliers. You’ve heard about the 10,000 hour principle?
Andrew: Absolutely. Passion, work at it for 10,000, but what specifically is the product? Does it need to just be a screen cast? Is that what you’re doing? Is it a screen cast plus the ability to call you? How about this, the first product someone wants to create, what should it be?
Cliff: Well, OK. Here’s the thing. What makes a product successful isn’t what type of product it is. At least for me and the people that I’ve helped find success.
Cliff: The product, really, honestly, a successful product is the result of somebody who has passion for a niche area and has built a community of other people who are sincerely passionate about that niche area as well. It also has a lot to do with how much you have done in the field of getting people to the place where they know, like, and trust you. Where you have provided so much value for them that they are sincerely looking for ways, I mean desperately looking for ways, to return the value to them. As long as the product is something that would be accessible to them and somewhat beneficial, in my philosophy, they’ll buy it. Or at least in my situation.
I could do a telephone teleseminar and I happen to know some content that I have up here in my brain that is a result of more than 10,000 hours I’ve spent in this. I could come up with a topic and say we’re going to talk about 10 ways to monetize your podcast. It’s going to be a one hour teleconference for $39. I could sell it out. At this place I could sell it out because of what I have built as this rapport with my community.
Andrew: I see. Once you have the rapport it doesn’t matter if it’s a teleseminar, if it’s a screen cast. At that point it’s whatever tool gets you to teach or whatever tool gets the solution for your customers. Maybe it’s a webinar. Maybe it’s a book.
Cliff: That’s why I’m hesitant to tell you what tool, which one to create.
Andrew: That makes sense.
Cliff: If you want to know what to create, create a rapport with your community. That’s the key…
Andrew: The way to create rapport is, from what I’m understanding from you is, admit failure. Because you’ve said it so much it seems like the people who really connected with you were the ones who saw you fail and make some bad moves along the way. They were the ones who wanted to help you. Meanwhile, I imagine, most of us want to hide the things that we’re bad at and want to hide our failures.
Cliff: It has to be genuine, absolutely. Transparency, the fact that I have shared. I mean, you would not believe some of the stuff that I’ve shared in a podcast.
Andrew: What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve shared?
Cliff: I will share with you the most embarrassing thing that I’ve shared. I’ve shared that with my biological dad, you know, who is an alcoholic, I shared once that I struggled liking and/or loving him. I shared that in a podcast.
Andrew: That you struggled even liking your own biological father.
Andrew: I see.
Cliff: Who was, he was somewhat a part of my life. My stepdad became my dad when I was five years old but my biological dad was a part of my life growing up until the teen years. Not so much at a certain period and I felt like he abandoned me. I kind of shared that, and I have this podcast called Pursuing a Balanced Life. Well over 500 episodes of it. It’s a show that I record with a recorder in my hand as I go for a walk through my neighborhood. I’m like who’s going to listen to this? Honestly, I recorded that episode and it was the first time I had actually ever really admitted it to myself. I shared it in a podcast and I’m thinking I shouldn’t put this online. This is ridiculous. I put it online and the fact is you people hear that, and you know how many other people in the world have those stories. Have those feelings and feel like I’m the only person on this earth that feels this way. And I’m such an awful person. But all of a sudden, now this guy Cliff, who I’ve come to really like and admire, and I really care a lot about. I see him experiencing success after success, yet he admits that he also struggles with this. They feel connected, they feel endeared to me.
Andrew: I’ve got to find away to tap into those parts of my life too and talk about them publicly. I’m not sure if I’m able to do that. But you’re right those are the parts that make you feel like what I’m doing is really expressing myself, it’s expressing something that’s meaningful to me. And yes, when I’m in the audience and someone does that I feel more connected to them. I need to either do that or I need to go to the Mitt Romney school or acting and learn how to act that way. Or the same thing I could say for Hilary Clinton, politicians in general, they’re really good at it. So either I have to learn have to fake that, most likely, or I have to learn how to actually come to terms with that.
Cliff: Here’s the thing, if you can’t do it naturally don’t try it.
Andrew: So I shouldn’t even bother trying to show my emotions. What if the only emotion I have internally is frustration. My internal feeling is I get frustrated by everything unless it moves, moves, moves.
Cliff: You know what, here’s the thing.
Andrew: The one time by the way that I showed emotion in this interview is when you said, and then I got this really heartfelt four page handwritten note, and I was in my hand I [??] how painful that is, and several questions later in the interview I made sure to go and say, what was wrong with that person or to lash out at that. So what if the only feelings we have are these kinds of frustration.
Cliff: Well here’s the thing. You have to take your personality and own it. And decide. There are some people I honestly believe there are some people who should never podcast. Because honestly they have no empathy, do you know what I’m saying. They have zero tolerance for peoples stupidity. You know what, those people are great bloggers. You can hide how much of jerk you are in a blog. But you get behind a microphone and you start talking, I don’t care. Give me one hour and I can listen to your podcast and I can tell by the end of the podcast whether ore not what you said was genuine. Because of the way you speak.
Andrew: I’m sorry to interrupt, but you’re really touching on something here. You’re right there were times early on where I would wake up in the middle of the night saying I can’t believe I that I, whatever. And it’s those little things that come out in between sentences that most people don’t even pick up on. Like when Noah Kagan in an interview months ago said, so Andrew what kind of revenue do you have, or what kind of whatever it was and I didn’t have answer, you know. Here I was asking people about their revenue and I didn’t have an answer when he was asking me. And it kept me up nights, and I didn’t want to broadcast it out, and I wanted to edit it out, but then once I edited it out, it’s a whole other can of worms, because then everyone else deserves to have me edit it out if I’m going to edit out for myself, otherwise I’m selfish. It’s like all man, and that’s just one night where I couldn’t fall asleep. And that happened forever. And it’s not until I just learned to shut that out and accept that everything’s going to be fine that I got comfortable talking, but man is that painful.
Cliff: Let me tell you something. You just did it. Right there. What you just said, you just did what I’ve been talking about.
Andrew: And you know what, I feel good about it. I feel like I want to edit this out, I want to know if I could delete this.
Cliff: Yes, absolutely and that feeling of I might want to edit it out will never go away. But the question is, you could edit it out. If you choose to edit it out, I believe you will loose in the end. If you choose to leave it in, you have more to gain. Although I could be wrong. I will tell you, there are definitely thousands of people who’ve check out my show. You may even say wait, am I even going to put this interview with Cliff Ravenscraft on my Mixergy network. There are going to be people that say that guy, he’s a mess. And I am a mess. What’s Andrew doing putting this guy on. And I’ll be honest with you, am I good enough to be right next to these guys, I don’t know if I am .
Andrew: Here’s the thing. I feel this insecurity. You’re expressing this insecurity. Is it possible that all those entrepreneurs who I ask questions like did you do this because you couldn’t get a date in high school. Did you do this because you wanted to impress your dad. Is it possible that when they said no, that some of them maybe were lying or lying to themselves because here’s the thing. I did these interviews not to just to highlight successful people, but to get inside their heads a little bit. To understand really what makes them who they are, and sometimes I struggle like . . . I don’t know what. I can’t even come up with a good analogy.
Cliff: One of my favorite podcast episodes I’ve done is at PodcastAnswerMan.com/why, W-H-Y, and it’s one from a period of time in my life where I was like, “Why am I recording these shows? Why am I creating the products that I’m creating? Why do I try to generate money, why do I. Is it all selfish? Is it all egotism?”
Andrew: What’s the answer?
Cliff: If you listen to that episode, you’ll find out.
Andrew: I see.
Cliff: But honestly, what I found out, I think you’ve got a good feeling for the fact that the content was what it was originally all about, creating content that inspires people. And then, all of a sudden, it became about the money for a short period of time. The question was, do I quit creating content over here at the network and just pursue helping people successfully learn how to create their own content? Because I could do that. And if I quit creating all this other stuff, I could turn this into a much bigger financial success. Or, I could help a lot more people.
But, the question is: Do I continue to do this? Should I focus on one more than the other, should I completely stop this? I believe it would be possible, it would not be easy, but it would be possible to find a way to just create content for a living, and do a Leo Laporte thing. Leo Laporte makes millions of dollars a year from creating content alone. He’s not consulting with people, he’s creating content, and he has to build an audience. Should I do that? And that’s what PodcastAnswerMan.com/why was, why do I do what I do?
And when it came down to it, I do it because I feel my mission and purpose in life is to entertain people, to educate people, to take what I’ve learned in life – not just in podcasting -but, how to become debt free, how to have a happy marriage, how to lose weight, you know, when I’m learning how to lose weight, and how to lose weight when you’ve actually gained back thirty of those pounds, you know, just, all of that stuff. I’m sharing my journey. The reason why I do what I do, entertain, encourage, educate, and inspire others.
And I want to do that through creating my own content, but I also want to change the world. I want to change the world. Steve Jobs, one of my favorite quotes that came out right after he died, was that, I just want to be the richest man in the cemetery. That’s not my goal, not to be the richest man in the cemetery. I just want to know at the end of every day, did I do something that made a difference in people’s lives? And that’s why I do what I do.
Andrew: Do you feel we did that right now?
Cliff: I think so.
Andrew: Did we, in this interview? We gave people more than an hour. Did we make a difference in their lives, or did we just chat?
Cliff: There’s no question in my mind.
Andrew: What part of what we did now would change someone’s life?
Cliff: There’s no question in my mind that this episode has had something, that it wasn’t all business, it wasn’t all the money. I didn’t give a formula. I have formulas, but it wasn’t formulas.
It was two people who were genuine, and authentic, and true about who they are sharing it, online, who have reputations to protect. If we can help people that understand that it’s more than about just your reputation, it’s about being a human being, in the brand. I think if you walk away from this interview, and you say what did Cliff Ravenscraft bring to the table, I hope that it’s “Be a human. Be somebody that people can relate to.”
What drew me to podcasting, and what I love about podcasting, is that on professional talk radio, I felt like those people were the Untouchables. They’re perfect, they know everything, they have an answer for everything, and they never mess up. When it comes to a podcast, I’m listening to somebody who’s just like me, who’s a few steps further in the journey, and they’ve got something I can learn from. And they don’t have this attitude that they have all the answers, and 9 times out of 10, with an authentic podcaster, an authentic blogger, a video guy, 9 times out of 10 you send that person an e-mail, 9 times out of 10, within either minutes, hours, or at least a week later, you will 9 times out of 10 get an e-mail response back to a question that you might send them.
Andrew: I got an e-mail from you 10 out of 10 times that I e-mailed you, with an auto-responder saying, “I can’t answer e-mail.”
Cliff: No, it doesn’t say that!
Andrew: It says, “I have to answer in priority.”
Cliff: It does, and I receive 40 to 100 plus e-mails every single day without fail.
Andrew: How do you answer those?
Cliff: I answer every single e-mail.
Andrew: You do?
Cliff: Every single e-mail.
Andrew: I didn’t even read that whole e-mail because it was more than three sentences, I couldn’t . . .
Andrew: So I should have known, you’re too good of a guy. I can’t answer it, I’m done with e-mail, I think I’m shutting down my whole e-mail.
Cliff: I’ve heard of people doing that and, you know what? That’s fine for you.
Andrew: Look at where . . . .
Cliff: I’d go back to insurance.
Andrew: How can you answer that many e-mails?
Cliff: How do I answer that many e-mails?
Cliff: It has become real easy, honestly. Text expander is one, for the Mac because it’s 40 to 100 plus e-mails, tons of them are the same exact question over and over again and it’s as simple as three keystrokes on my keyboard and, boom, you’ve got your answer. Honestly, most of the
questions are technical and stuff like that and, honestly, about 20 to 30 are relational and I prefer the relational e-mails, I really do.
Andrew: You do?
Cliff: I prefer the relational . . .
Andrew: Like the, ‘Hey, how’s it going. I saw you were wearing a shirt that . . . ‘
Cliff: No. What I’m talking about is, ‘Hey, Cliff, I listened to episode XYZ of such and such podcast and you shared this, and I want to tell you that I needed to hear that today because my mom just went into the hospital and I was dealing with this and I was really discouraged and what you shared totally transformed my mind. And I’ll tell you what, I just can’t thank you enough.’ I look for those e-mails.
Andrew: All right, what’s the e-mail address where people can send you those notes?
Cliff: firstname.lastname@example.org is easy.
Andrew: email@example.com. Guys, usually at this point I would do a quick promo for mixergypremium.com and suggest that you go and get it, but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t know what’s going on with me today, but I don’t have the patience for it. It doesn’t matter if you buy it, it doesn’t matter if you like it or not. If you want, it’s there, if not don’t. It’s all cool here. Instead, what I’m going to is tell you that you should go to check out learnhowtopod . . . Wait, we didn’t even talk about . . . well, I’ll do this. Learnhowtopodcast.com and, there you will get to really learn how to podcast. Cliff, are you collecting people’s e-mail addresses, you collecting revenue, what are you doing with that page?
Cliff: There’s no AdSense from Google.
Andrew: There’s no AdSense, yes.
Cliff: There is no e-mail opt-in form. Well, over on the right-hand side there’s an e-mail opt-in form because it’s the right hand side of my blog.
Andrew: It’s on every page, right?
Cliff: You do not have to give me your e-mail to get the fourth video. Learnhowtopodcast.com is the best tutorial I have ever created in my life, spent more than 50 hours putting it together, it is absolutely the most mission critical tutorial that everybody must have. Every podcaster should go through learnhowtopodcast.com before they launch their first show. After you’ve launched your show, if you haven’t done it, go back and see the mistakes you’ve made.
Andrew: All right, so you’re not collecting e-mail addresses, you’re not selling it, you’re just teaching them . . .
Cliff: It’s free.
Andrew: All right, anything else that I need to include in here? Oh, yeah. I promised people in the beginning the equipment. Before we get into your equipment, somebody who’s watching who says, ‘You know what? I have a passion for Dancing with the Stars. Maybe after I do Dancing with the Stars, I could end up where Cliff is,’ what’s the basic equipment you recommend that they get to just get started?
Cliff: First and foremost here’s this, iPhone, Android phone, either one, go get the Griffin iTalk application. There’s a free version or you can get the $1.99 version.
Andrew: And that’s available for both iPhone and Android? OK.
Cliff: I know it’s available for the iPhone, or there’s another free application, I’m sure, on the Android where you can record unlimited length. And you just sit here like this and record and you can do amazing recording with just that. So after you’re done watching the TV show, you prepare notes ahead of time, I would suggest, make sure that the content you’re creating is that ‘can’t live without’ content, and you want to make sure that when people are finished, my mantra is, at the end of every episode, I want somebody to think to themselves, ‘Wow, I’m glad I spent my time listening to that,’ and, preferably, ‘Wow I know somebody else who would really benefit from listening to this.’ That’s the two things I want people to think about. It doesn’t matter if they record it on this or this, as long as the continent is really good. But don’t do it on a laptop that has a fan that spins around and makes a lot of annoying noise, don’t do it using one of those old microphones that you plug into, not the USB, but into that analog connection. Is that what that’s called? Because those things make too much noise, those old microphones that your grandmother had, just too noisy, that you might have gotten free with one of your old computers, too noisy. Get you iPhone or get you Android phone instead, you’re going to have better sound from that. What else?
Well, here’s the thing, you can use the Blue Snowball microphone or the USB headset and all that other stuff. In fact, that’s how I got started. The thing is my audience really loved my content, they can’t live without it, we’d really like you to get better equipment.
Andrew: They didn’t like you’re Blue Snowball.
Cliff: No, I didn’t have a Blue Snowball.
Andrew: OK, right, when you got started
Cliff: No, I didn’t have a Blue Snowball, I had a little headset off to the side, a little [??]. The Blue Snowball is a good microphone, it costs, what, 50 bucks online. It’s not ideal.
Cliff: You’ll never hear me say that it’s a good microphone.
Andrew: No. So, what do you recommend as the next level up from using your phone?
Cliff: Next level up, if you want to go somewhere and you want to start off and actually sound good get a dynamic microphone instead of a condenser microphone. And do you research . . .
Andrew: A what microphone, a dynamic?
Cliff: Condenser microphones pick up all the noise, it’s like . . . do you hear this?
Cliff: No, because this is a dynamic microphone . . .
Andrew: It means only what’s right in front gets heard. Tell me if you can hear this, I’m going to do it on my mine.
Andrew: No, you can’t, right?
Cliff: Here’s the thing, if I had somebody in the hallway out here and I had a condenser microphone and they did this, you would hear it.
Andrew: So, condenser means from all over and the other one that we do want is called what?
Andrew: Dynamic. We want a dynamic so that we can only talk in here. It only picks up what’s coming directly at it, OK?
Cliff: The least expensive, really decent setup that I would recommend is this, a Shure SM58 dynamic microphone.
Andrew: A Shure SM58 dynamic microphone, OK.
Cliff: It’s going to run you somewhere between 99 to 109 dollars. An XLR micrphone cable, right here. And [??] somewhere between 10 to 25 bucks. A small mixer to start out with, that’s going to run you right about 50 to 90 bucks. You can start out with a really cheap Behringer 802 mixer. That’s going to cost you around 50 to 90 bucks. And then you’d want a portable digital audio recorder so you’re not recording into a computer that the software’s going to crash on and all this other hiss and pops and all this other stuff is going to be recorded. A digital solid state audio recorder. My recommendation is a Roland R-05. That’s going to set you back about 200 bucks.
Cliff: And then one cable to go out of the mixer into the recorder. That right there will give an amazing podcast.
Andrew: Why? What’s the mixer for? Why do you need a mixer?
Cliff: Well, you could go directly into the recorder, but here’s the situation, you’re ultimately going to want to do some fancy things. Like, you want to click and hit play on this . . .[audio: “Entertaining, education, and encouraging content . . . “]
Andrew: I see, so the mixer allows you to bring in other audio with your microphone.
Cliff: Yes, and not only that, but a mixer in essence what it does is instead of taking one thing and plugging it in, it can take two microphones, mix it down to one signal to send down to the recorder. So, I can actually, even with the smallest mixer like I said, the Behringer 802, you can plug in two microphones and bring in audio from your iPad, iPhone, cue up audio clips, maybe somebody’s left you a voicemail that they have questions, you can answer those. You can do a lot with a small mixer, a microphone, and a digital audio recorder.
Andrew: Let me ask you this, a lot of people complain because my audio levels are off here. So your volume will be at one level, maybe you’ll really soft and mine will be really loud, because I’m a loudmouth, or vice versa, and Joe, the editor, is going to take it and level it as much as he can. Should I be using equipment to level it so that he doesn’t have to do quite so much work? And how do I do it with video Skype?
Cliff: See, there you go, you just answered it. Video Skype, sorry, there’s not an easier way. Let’s put it this way, I’m an audio snob . . .
Andrew: You’re a what?
Cliff: An audio snob . . .
Andrew: An audio snob. Yes, yes.
Cliff: I love audio, and I love audio way more than video. Here’s the thing, I can guarantee you out of the last 2,900 podcast episodes that I’ve done, the audio level was perfect from the beginning to the end, and I’ve never done any post-production on them.
Andrew: And you never do what?
Cliff: I’ve never done any post-production on them.
Cliff: So, here’s the thing, I have a digital audio recorder and on the audio recorder it’s got the audio levels and it shows me bouncing up down what the audio levels are while I’m speaking and if I stop talking and you start talking it shows me your audio levels.
Cliff: And if yours are lower than mine, I reach over to my mixer and I turn you up, or I turn me down. And I actually do that before I hit record and as I’m recording I can easily look right over here and I can see audio level . . . So, now you say something.
Andrew: I’m going to say something right now.
Cliff: And you’re still exactly the same place where I set you earlier. And your audio levels are the same as mine. I can always . . .
Andrew: And you can do that because you’re not trying to sync it up with video, you’re just pulling in my audio and your audio into your tape recorder and you’re mixing them as they go in.
Cliff: That is exactly right. And when I hit stop, it’s perfect all the way from beginning to end.
Andrew: Yeah, I could see that. What is it, Dan Benjamin does something like that, too. But he says with video it becomes a problem.
Cliff: It is a problem with video.
Andrew: All right. Learn how to podcast dot com if you want more. If you want to podcast, frankly, the guy to go to is Cliff. I can’t even think of number two guy, it’s not like Cliff and then there’s a Pepsi somewhere that’s nipping at your heels. It’s Cliff, Cliff’s the guy to go to. And the place you go to is learn how to podcast dot com. Cliff, thanks for doing this interview.
Cliff: Andrew, thank you again, man. I appreciate the opportunity, honestly.
Andrew: Thank you, I’m glad to have you on. And thank you all for watching, and send Cliff an email saying thank you if you got anything out of this that you thought was useful. Bye.
Cliff: Bye everybody.