James Schramko Interview – Work Less, Make More

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Transcript

James R:

Hey guys, in this interview you are about to watch I’m speaking with James Schramko. If you don’t know who he is, he’s an Australian marketer who I’ve been following for, I think it’s nearly seven years now, I just looked it up and he’s been pretty bloody influential on my business, I’ve been in his Private Mastermind for quite a long time, I’ve done his High Level Mastermind as well and some of the things that he’s helped me with over the years have made really, really big changes and he’s really big on working, building your business so that you’ve got a good lifestyle around it and I think this is really important for web designers because, as you know I used to be a web designer, and I speak with a lot of you all the time, we’re overworked by just so many web designers that just, just killing themselves by doing too much work and so I think James’s philosophy is really, really to good hear, I hope you get a lot out of this interview. We’ll be talking a little bit about his new book and yeah, enjoy it. Hello James, how are you?

James S:

Good, how are you going?

James R:

Not too bad, thanks for joining me, this is pretty bloody exciting, I think first heard of you or experienced your business teachings back at Fast Web Formula 3, I don’t even know what year that was.

James S:

Yeah, that would have been, was that the one at the Sunshine Coast?

James R:

It was.

James S:

Probably five years ago if I were to guess.

James R:

Yeah, it was totally by accident, I can’t remember, I think it was Kerry Finch who was pawning off tickets to an SEO event that I went to back then and I was like, ah whatever, I would go to a live event and that kind of kicked off my obsession with live events ’cause yeah, it’s such a good, such a good atmosphere at that kind of thing.

James S:

Yeah, from memory that was quite a good one too. Carry had a hand in choosing the venue and it was a great, that was the first sort of beach side event that I did and it gave me a taste for it and then years later we moved to town mainly.

James R:

Oh yeah.

James S:

Not directly after that, but a bit later, and it sort of tied in with my surfing life, but I liked the casual vibe and it was a bit out of the way which meant that people were really committed to come to that event.

James R:

Yeah, no it was good, it was one of the first times I left my sort of internet marketing dungeon as I used to call it. This code really did change everything, so obviously however many years on, I’m in your forum now, in your product community and yeah learning from you all the time and you’ve recently just released a book, which is what I wanted to get you on to talk about today. I think the title, I actually had a little bit of a laugh, ’cause I’ve always said that you are the one sort of straightest shooting marketers on the planet, like there’s, there’s just no bull shit with you, which is awesome, and your book title, Work Less Make More, is just as to the point and it’s always been sort of a problem of mine with business books that there’s so much fluff in them and yours is completely the opposite, like every word in there in necessary, all right, I think you have done an awesome job.

Well thank you and of course I’d like to thank Kelly Exeter for letting me do that too. It’s weird to take a few decades worth of material and crunch it down into that short read, and it was also a complain of mine when I read books, often I figured hey this book’s like one page, or a few pages of bullet points fluffed up into 300 or 400 pages to look impressive on a shelf.

James R:

Yep.

James S:

And I’d read the book and summarize it back down into one or two pages, but if I were to guess people going through my book will end up with more notes than they would from an average book because I don’t think there’s much fluff, but you should say what didn’t make it into the book, I mean there was so much material and that’s good when you can just be cutting away and cutting away, and it’s just like the pure core stuff left and I think there’s plenty that I could do with another book down the track, but for starters I wanted to just get this one done and keep it really direct.

James R:

It’s funny you should mention notes actually, because I to be honest didn’t take any notes, because I found it so short that like the notes I would take were probably everything that was in the book anyway, right, so I ended up thinking it was just such a concise read that I’ll just read it again, you know I punched it out in I think an hour and a half, two hours and there’s just so much helpful stuff in one little sort of concise guide which is again, that straight down the line, no fluff, which is what we all love you for. I think we should probably get into the meat of sort of what you teach because as I discussed earlier I think web designers and digital agencies are some of the most overworked people on the planet, having met many of them, having been one for many years. It’s very easy to get into the trap of saying yes to everything, doing a lot of stuff you shouldn’t be doing and that’s why the whole concept of effective hourly rate, which is a big teaching of yours resonated with me a lot, so I guess first I’d like to hear, I guess a bit more about the HR.

James S:

Yes, effective hourly rate is just a nice way that we can measure where we’re spending our time, it’s definitely not the end all goal to break everything down to this alley right, but it is something we can measure and there’s quite a few things we can’t measure when it comes to business, but if we can measure it and it’s quite easy, we might as well start there and you can still work this out even if you have a job. So if you’re working for a software company as an employee, you could still work it out, simply the amount you’re bringing into your business minus the amount that’s going back out, divided by the number of hours that you work, so if you’re an employee you generally get a wage and you don’t have business costs, so that wage is pretty much all profit and you divide that by the number of hours you work. So most employees know that hourly wage, so if you’re at McDonald’s and you’re a teenager it might be 10 bucks or something, if you’re a website developer in your forties then you’re probably making four dollars an hour, because.

It’s frightening when people work this number out for the first time, because what we tend to be bad at is being aware of how long we spend on projects for the amount of money we’re getting and if we were to look at projects on a customer by customer basis or a type of project basis and we start using this filter, what we might find is that there are some jobs that are really profitable and other jobs where you’re actually paying the customer to get their website done or their software made and this helps you start eliminating or adjusting, so that you can bring that number back up and the sort of things that we’re gonna be seeing a lot in your area will be things like bad customer selection, or customizing every single job that you take on, or scope creep where there’s very soft boundaries and you tend to do a lot more work than what the customer paid for, and in some cases you don’t have good systems in place so you might end up doing a lot of rework purely because an assumption was made or someone went off track and no one checked in on it. So these are very typical scenarios that pop up in your realm.

James R:

Yeah totally, and you’re talking there about sort of bad clients and some like types of work that end up, you know, pulling down your effective hourly rate, and that’s the thing I hear the most, like I had a meeting with a guy, a local web designer, and he was telling me about how he did this, that, and he’s doing Facebook marketing, Google ads, and he had like two contractors that were doing sort of part time, and he was almost like a brag for him how much work he was doing, even though he had, you know, a family and kids and all this stuff, and I found that really strange, and I find that, well okay, for him it was a bit of a brag, but for a lot of people like they end up in that position and don’t enjoy it. And I think it’s just a matter, ’cause this is the next thing he went into in the book was the 80/20 rule, I think it’s very, very easy to apply that, but you took it one step further to 64:4, obviously the 80/20 applied to 80/20, and I think that’s something you can apply to both clients, the type of work you’re doing, and pretty much everything, right?

James S:

Yeah, so I picked up from Peter Drucker actually that it’s all about doing the right things. So some people love doing things right, but if they’re the wrong things it doesn’t really matter, and I often use this example when I’m talking to someone, when they say this mantra, have you ever heard this one? Just take action. That one drives me a bit crazy because if you’re in the desert and you need water and you just take action, if you just start walking, if you walk away from the watering hole instead of towards it, it doesn’t help you, you’re just gonna be exhausted and dehydrated faster, like you’ll literally die quicker. So taking the wrong action can be detrimental. So part of this idea is that not all actions are equal, not all clients are equal, not all projects are equal, not all the products that you offer within your product suite are equal. It’s nice to identify which ones are better than the others, spend more time with the good ones and take active steps to eliminate the bad ones. And regarding this friend of yours who wears the work as a badge of honor, that’s a very strong cultural thing in some markets, and I think partly it’s justification for all that effort, because if you’re gonna work so hard you wanna feel like it’s all for a reason. What’s probably missing is real ownership and responsibility for that situation. We are the people who put ourselves in the situation that we are in for the most part, I mean yes, there’s some luck, there’s some economy, there’s some politics, which country you’re born in, these things we can’t necessarily control, but we can certainly react and we can make plans to not get too caught up in it. So I did a whole chapter on compromise, I did a whole chapter on the 64:4. I did a whole chapter on the profit formula which gives you good levers that you can pull in in various parts, so it’s about five things you can tune up to help your business be more profitable. And all of these things, when you stack them together, they work in favor of you sort of being able to pull back on the number of hours you spend and they increase the yield per hour, which is what that effective value rate is.

James R:

Yeah, I think that’s really important, like pretty much, well all of it, right? So I’ve had a client in the past where I remember it was just like a two or 3,000 dollar job, and once I ran the numbers on it it came out negative. So I can’t remember who it was, I read another book or something recently where they were talking about that by doing less work you can actually make more money sometimes if you’re trimming the right clients that are actually costing you, right?

James S:

It’s true, like if you have a web service business, like I used to have, you’re actually selling time. So we used to sell custom WordPress websites for around 2,000 dollars, and we worked out that they take about 30 something hours to build on average, but there was one job that took us something like 80 hours, and I worked out that I was paying my team more in wages than the customer paid me, so I was paying for this website to be built, and putting my hand in my own pocket to build a customer’s website just doesn’t make sense. So from then on we put a new metric and that was we looked for jobs that went past 35 hours. We wanted, you know, I wanted to know instantly, like we should have alarms sort of singing at the top of their voice, we should have flashing lights saying hang on a minute, someone just went over, have we activated extra early payment from this customer? Is there a reason for this scope creep, where did we miscommunicate? Are we pandering to a crazy customer and not reining them in or setting boundaries? Because if you don’t what I found, and I’m certainly not saying they’re all like this, but generally people who are attracted to programming can get quite absorbed in their zeros and ones, and they put their headphones on and they’re doing the work, but they’re not always sort of aware of what’s going on around them or whether the business is losing money or making money, they often don’t want to get too involved in communication back and forth with a non-technical customer, they’d rather just sit down and do the work, and.

James R:

Yeah, yeah, I mean it’s the same as the designers.

James S:

Yeah. Creatives, yeah, they could be super driven by looks and designs and stuff, but not necessarily understanding what’s going on with the business. So that’s the business owner’s role.

James R:

Yeah, I think we just had a massive delay going on there for a second, but it seems to have sorted itself out. But yeah, I think there’s a lot of people on this base that don’t even track their time at all. I was that guy for quite a while and it’s very enlightening, I think, I think that was one of the first things you talked about in the book was, is start tracking your time, and that’s kind of a little reset that I do every two or three months where I track my time for maybe two or three weeks and then just go look at it, and be like okay, well I’m spending too much time on this now, I need to sort that out. So it can be a good little sort of exercise to do that for a couple of weeks just to make sure that time isn’t getting away from you or certain jobs aren’t eating up profit like exactly you talked about there. Right, so and you touched on it earlier around team and processes, so this is another massive thing that I’ve learned from you as well, is the value of processes. And I liked your little Post-it note system for finding out what you should delegate, ’cause this is a big problem for people to do their first hire which a lot of web designers are, they’re still just a freelancer. And they wanna sort of move up in the world, but they don’t know where to start in hiring that first person, it’s like what am I going to give, what tasks am I gonna give this person? ‘Cause I’ve been through the exact same thing and I was worried, you know, that I would hire someone and I’d just have nothing to give them. So what sort of advice have you got there?

James S:

Well probably they have already started it, they’re just not aware of it. Like most programmers know how to order pizza, right, instead of sauce and ingredients and cooking their own meal they can order a pizza so they can keep coding, it’s just like that, but the next stage of stuff. So you’re exactly right, being aware of what tasks are being done is the first step, and then it’s a matter of moving that from you to someone else. So for me when I was building my little agency the sort of jobs that I shouldn’t be doing in the beginning was definitely support. If you get road customers they will eat up all your available time talking about every little aspect of a job, and that’s not good for you as the designer slash coder slash project manager slash double checker slash US manager, at the same time as you know, paying your best statements and all of that, it’s not a good job for you to be doing that. So ideally you move support away from the person doing the work, you can also get help outside of the business, definitely, you know, get a bookkeeper instead of doing your own paperwork.

James R:

Oh absolutely.

James S:

Get a cleaner instead of mucking around, that or a robot vacuum cleaner like I have.

James R:

They are the best.

James S:

Hopefully he doesn’t start up anytime soon while we’re on this call because he’s got a mind of his own. I think my neighbor must have a remote ’cause he’s, you know my robot’s kind of a bit crazy. Anyway, just move, just basically take note of everything that you’re doing, you could literally write it down onto a Post-it note, whenever you do something each day just write it on the Post-it note, stack them up for a week, and at the end of the week just have a look through and then just decide well which ones would you rather never have to do again. The great thing is some of them could actually be deleted because of the 64:4, and I should just explain what that means, that only 4% of the things that you’re doing are generating you 64% of your results, so a tiny fraction of the things you do get you nearly two thirds of your outcome. So that means there’s an enormous amount of things you’re doing that are useless, like 96% of the stuff you do gets you a third of your outcome, so you could safely delete a huge percentage of your activities with no downsides whatsoever, and that of the ones that you really have to do, that are unavoidable, like booking, like customer support, like doing the actual work that you solve and working on your marketing and strategy, then just see which parts of those do you want as the business owner and which parts could you acquire and I will give you a pro tip and that is the hardest things to get other people to do are the things that you’re particularly good at, that’s probably what keeps web developers as solopreneurs, because they’re hanging on to the bit, the bit they’re really talented at. However, if you look at someone like Zuckerberg who wasn’t the best programmer, he just had the idea, and then at some point he started hiring people under him, now he still might hack around a bit, but I don’t think he does too much, I think he’s busy doing other things in his business, that’s an extreme example, but it’s a relatable example.

James R:

Yeah what’s also that like as much as I’m not a big fan of his book because it’s so much waffle in it, The E-Myth, it’s, it’s a good, it’s that exact concept where someone knows what they’re doing, so they become the technician at the beginning and it’s just they are doing all the work, I think it’s important to get out of that pretty quickly because like you were talking about before, I had a laugh when you were listing out all the roles, like the double checker, and the project manager and the developer ’cause that’s exactly what it’s like in the beginning, so getting some of those roles outsourced is I think, it’s easily some of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my business and the two top things I’ve ever done, I’m making the right hires and I’m throwing away entire parts of my business and I know that was one of the things you were talking about when I started Silver Circle, late last year you said stop, stop doing this and I stopped and even just, well it wasn’t an immediate stop, it was a gradual wind down and just the mental space it gave me, just changed everything because it was like I’m not doing this forever.

James S:

That’s it and like when your interest fades or when the market is starting to implode on itself, you know like the VHS, the beta market video cassette machines, if you were in that market and you could see that the horizon doesn’t look fantastic, it’s time to bail, let it go ’cause it has a hold on your brain space. So that’s a good reason why it’s good to clean up around your office, your environment, it’s a good reason why you should clear out old domain names and websites and any business unit that’s not functioning, if you’re hanging on to team members just because you feel sorry for them and they’re not really performing any real function maybe it’s time to face that difficult decision, but you will feel better when you drop the burden, you know, you’re getting closer to that enlightenment that Buddhists talk about where there’s nothingness, and it really is relaxing when you have less things to be concerned about, and this applies to every aspect of your life.

James R:

Yeah, I said no to a client, like an old client who needed some help with web hosting stuff just before this call actually, and I could not believe the good feeling I had right as I hit send, I was like this just feels amazing ’cause it was this really awkward problem with a crappy web host on Windows hosting, and I’m like I’m not dealing with that, like, and you know, so it’s in my contract that you work with this hosting because they’re terrible, and I was like I’m sorry we don’t have the expertise for this, like you know, past me would’ve been, said something like oh we’re trying to work it out and I would’ve spent a couple hours digging through it, but that, just saying no was, I felt so relaxed afterwards.

James S:

It gives you more power for the yes.

Whatever the next yes is you’ve got more capacity to deliver on that. It’s really exciting, and I’m constantly referring people to someone else or suggesting where their next step would be if it’s not something to do with me, that’s fine, and at the same time plenty of people are sending people to me that has a good fit for me and not for them. So you know, the world can absorb everyone’s special situation, send them off to someone who loves dealing with problems like that, it’s just not you.

James R:

Yeah, that’s it. There was, we sort of briefly touched on it before with like doing your first hire. Now what’s your opinion on hiring contract verse full time, ’cause I know a lot of people in this base sort of have their contractors they work with, I’ve recently, well not recently, a couple of years ago I switched to full time and have had a lot of, I find it a lot better when someone’s only reporting to you, you get faster response times and that kind of thing, it can just be a bit of a leap for people to make a full time hire, so I’ve read about your Infinity Project concept which I really like. So I wanna hear what your thoughts are there.

James S:

I still have some contractors, but for the most part we’re full timers in my business, it’s a bigger commitment and responsibility for me, I have to keep them excited and entertained and I have to pay them of course, and then it’s up to me to use that time wisely that I bought. So we have the Infinity Project, that’s the number one concern, if I hire someone full time, if I can’t keep them busy I’m wasting money. Well Infinity Project is something they can work on forever and never run out of stuff to do. So an example, in our case is we’re building out a publishing property in a different niche to our regular business, that in theory is no limit to how many pages or blog posts we can put on that website, and we just keep growing it bigger and bigger, and our end goal with that is to sell it, and our in between goal is to monetize that with publishing revenue. So the more we work on it, the bigger it gets, the more money it makes. So it in a way, when I sell that it should fund my entire workforce for years. So that’s one way to deal with that, but sometimes with specialist services contractors are the way to go. I generally won’t hire in someone if they’re on a super high skill level where I don’t have enough work or my business isn’t big enough or doing enough of that type of activity to justify it. So I’ll give you a couple of examples. In our business full time we’re doing all of our content, transcriptions, our images, our website development, our updating, our hosting, all that stuff’s done internally. I hire in a super pro level designer, Greg Merrilees, because he’s just, he’s an elite designer, he’s like at the top of the charts in the Western world, there’s no way I could afford him full time, maybe I could hire.

You know, some of the people on my team design and they’re okay, they’re good, but they’re not like world level. So I get help from him, but he gives us the mock up, and then my team slice it up and develop it. I have a friend who does my Facebook ads, ’cause that’s a very high skill level, someone doing that should be super specialized. If you try and do that in house with an intern or a Uni graduate you’re probably gonna spend a fair bit of money wasting campaigns, when a real expert is gonna be at super high level. I even sent my contractor to a 5,000 dollar workshop to learn more from another one of my clients, Keith Grants, so that he could work on my campaigns at a high level.

I also have Dave Wooding who does all my APIs and integrations and has been there from day one for me with all my communities, so if something breaks or there’s an update of software between our cart, forum, website or whatever, him and my webmaster check and they just make it all work again, ’cause high level programming or PHP work and API stuff it’s slightly within our scope in the team, but he just gets, he’s just so good at it, I’ve been dealing with him for a long time. And then I’ve got one contractor who I have helping me run the forum and do some administration stuff behind the scenes on a very part time, permanent part time casual basis, and he’s just like a great supporter, he helps me run my events, he helps me, he’ll always just rip me to shreds if there’s a spelling mistake or he thinks I’m going off the wrong track or I’m not doing something right he’ll just, he’ll just hold me accountable, which is cool. And that’s about it that I can think of on top of my head, but this is a couple of specialist roles. Now if you’re a small operation then you should probably just use a contractor for your bookkeeping or a contractor for your website or your contractor for design or contractor for AdWords, if you turn into a big company, like some of my other clients, Tom Breeze, he’s doing YouTube ads at a very elite level, he has in house Facebook people, he has in house designers, because he’s doing that all day every day for clients that are at a world level, so that’s the type of business he is, and they have every right to acquire those sort of talents. But for one of us, we’re just gonna pick and choose what makes sense for us until you reach a point where you feel like it just make, you know, makes sense. Now the big benefit of having your own in house people is they’re developing a brand, they’re developing that context, they’re building up intellectual property, and they can think for you and just like you. So I no longer log in to WordPress, I no longer log into my shopping cart, I no longer log in to my bookkeeping software, all I’m logging into is Slack and my forum, and that’s it, Slack to run the team and my forum to deliver my coaching services. So I’ve kept the tool set low and my team are logging into everything else, Zero, Ontraport, ThriveCart, Help Scout, that’s, so I would say I’m one layer back. And I got a little team of five just to give you pure context, it’s not a huge overhead, probably costs 100,000 dollars a year to run a team like that, so if you have a substantial business that’s a pretty low overhead to get all those things off your plate and then just focus on your special skill.

James R:

There was one thing you mentioned there that I wanted to quickly circle back to, and that with Dave Wooding where you said, you know, some of the stuff he does might be in your skillset, but he’s just, you know, he’s been doing it for years so he’s got it down, I think this is really important with hiring too especially in the development world. They say, you know, one, like let’s say you pay someone twice, a VA twice as much, you might actually get five times the output out of that person, whereas with development which is very relevant obviously in web design, it can be even stronger like one, I’ve had developers that I would easily say are 50 times as good that we’ve paid 10 times as much, right, and that, that’s really important when you’re trying to build good websites or software products like we do. Yeah, so I just wanted to sort of touch on that.

James S:

Well, you know, I want my website to be up and working at all times, it’s important for my income. The other thing about Dave and this is really sort of something that’s not obvious at first, is because he’s working with all of my top level clients he’s aggregating data and benchmarking across at least 50 websites just like mine, so I’m tapping into a knowledge base that we’re just not gonna see in our own business. If we’re in our own business we’re just gonna see our website, but if he makes an innovation on someone else’s site and it’s the same platform as mine he’ll just log in and update ours. So I’ve logged into my forum before and I’ve seen this whole new Dashboard, I’m like Dave, what’s this? He goes oh, it’s your new Dashboard. This Dashboard tells me the most popular content, it tells me my churn, my members joining, my average retention in months, it’s charting all this stuff, it’s got the top posters, and all this other stuff that someone else saw it was useful, so he just made it and then rolled it out to me. So sometimes when you access a larger machine on a casual sort of basis you’re accessing all of their IP as well. Like if you were to hire a top level accountant from Horwitz or something, you know, hopefully they’ve got like a global database of best practice that your guy is able to access.

James R:

Yeah, that’s really good, the fact that he’s pulling in stuff that he’s learning across businesses, that’s a benefit I’d not even thought of and that’s awesome. So just what we were just talking about there with, you know, contractors and hiring, I think another thing that you talk about a lot that I love is recurring revenue, and this is something that can make it really easy, well a lot easier to make that first hire. So for example, with us, when we started doing website care or website maintenance plans, if you’ve got a few of those before you make your first hire it can really smooth out that feast and famine cycle that is so prevalent among digital agencies. So yeah, give us a bit of insight into recurring revenue and why it’s so important.

James S:

Well I think now that, you know, I don’t like to starve, who does? And a lot of people are using a business model that is risky at best. The sort of risks that we often see, like they are, they get paid by one person or they let one customer become more than half their income, or even more than three quarters, I think is, or more than a quarter it starts to blip on my radar. Other things they do, they get paid one time, so they get paid and then they’re scrambling to do the work, and then they don’t do marketing, and then they need more money and they go to go look for a customer and then they start laying off people while they’re getting a customer. Then they win a job and then they gotta hire people back on, and then they’re, so basically their entire life is in stress mode.

I did a podcast on this exact topic about Kevin Rogers who’s a copywriter and they are notorious for worrying about getting a customer, and then when they get the customer they worry about delivering the job, and then they deliver the job and then they go back to worrying about a customer. So it’s a bad cycle. And then there is the, the third thing is this launch phenomenon where people sort of build up this big slingshot and then release it to the market, but it just puts a massive strain on everything, they’re paying out most of the money back to affiliates, support, the copywriter, the affiliate JV organizer, everyone else except for them, they get left a fraction of it, and then their customers got this massive support demand, they like, they need all this help right now, everyone at once, it crushes your reputation. And then you gotta do it all again. So I figured that it’s better to just get paid over and over and over again, I’m coming into now probably my six and a half, seventh year of recurring six figure months of income, unbroken, and that is because I was pretty early to go for the recurring model, ’cause I came early in the book you probably read there was this little cash flow crisis where I set a company broke ’cause I sold so much of their stuff they couldn’t deliver it, and everyone refunded, and put chargebacks, and then they didn’t send me my money for my ads that I’d already spent. So from that point on I focused on recurring, which is really just sell once, and then just look after the customer, unless their needs change or unless you drop the ball, they’ll stick around for quite some time. And over a bit of practice and fine tuning you can increase the retention period for your business. Now software as a service business are very used to this, but the enemy of subscription businesses is churn, and you have to do plenty of things to retain your customers but that becomes your focus, so you basically decide do I wanna be a hunter and go out looking for new customers all the time, and if I don’t, I starve, or would I rather be a farmer where I plant things, it’s a bit of extra work, I’ve gotta look after the crop, however, I get to stay in the same place and I keep living off my harvest as long as I look after it. And I found that that’s a great business model, the farming method, and you can still supplement it with some hunting, you know? If you want to have your, your grapes and your wine and a nice steak, then do both. So there’s elements of my business where I get paid one time but for the most part probably more than 90% of it is recurring.

James R:

I think that’s why we’re seeing a lot recently I’ve noticed quite a few people doing subscription based websites where instead of a big upfront fee they actually get them into a sort of ongoing, it obviously included maintenance and updates and changes and all that kind of stuff as well, but no upfront fee, so to the client it’s quite attractive ’cause there’s not this big cost, but then they sort of lock them in for a couple of years or whatever and it makes their revenue quite stable. I mean I think an easy thing for web designers to do is add maintenance plans which I think most people are doing now anyway to look after their existing clients, but see, it’s very easy to fall into a trap ’cause I did this of trying to add other services, right, like Facebook ads or Google ads trying to get that recurring revenue, I did that back in the day. But I think some things you still can take on, for example, SEO I think can be a really easy one for web designers to take on if they’re using a reseller such as your old business and that was kind of the model I took where it was only very minimal work for us, where all the heavy lifting was done by an external contractor that, it was just a mark up basically, so I think that can work as well.

James S:

SEO is a great example, it’s not necessarily a good idea to hire that in house unless you’re an SEO business, you know? And like you said we were the wholesale supply, but we didn’t go into the retail side, we went hiring salespeople and we weren’t doing all the difficult stuff like dealing with end user customers who aren’t sophisticated, and yes, it makes sense to add on things. So I would say look, if you don’t wanna build that unit into your business one thing you might do, and this is really simple, this is really my makeup for spending your time on this training, is just create a recommended products page on your website and put products or services that you know your customers should have or need, that you’re never going to supply yourself, that you might be able to have an affiliate arrangement for. So almost all of my customers need some kind of auto responder or CRM software, they all need some kind of hosting, so I put recommended affiliate links, most of them need a shopping cart, some of these programs have generated me fantastic income, it’s really the first business model that I did online and I continue to do it. I think I made six figures of income from affiliate marketing for around about maybe 11 years now straight.

James R:

It’s unreal.

James S:

So it’s a great, it’s great cream on top of the milk, it’s right there to get, and the first step might be to survey your customers and find out what are they already spending money on, and if you find a cluster of things they’re already all buying, then that’s surely something you could recommend to new customers as they come aboard.

James R:

Yeah, totally, I think that’s really good with hosting too ’cause a lot of hosting programs have pretty decent affiliate programs and obviously everyone with a website needs hosting, and so that’s you know, one of our big affiliate streams is through hosting, and I think it’s kind of a mistake for a lot of web designers to take on hosting as a service ’cause you don’t wanna be that person they call at two AM when the website goes down, so that’s why I’ve always been a big fan.

James S:

I’ve tried it, it’s a hard business.

James R:

Yeah.

James S:

It was pretty ambitious for someone with no technical ability in my case, but I had the customers, and it was something that I could sell, but as we said earlier in this discussion it’s good to just cut business units that aren’t suited for you. I’ve often turned off profitable income streams just because I don’t feel like it’s gonna go anywhere or I’m not the best at it, and I don’t wanna throw my hat in the ring competing with people who are in some cases gonna do a better job. So if I’m no longer the best supplier for the customer I’ll exit the market and I’ll be realistic about where I am the best.

James R:

Yeah, now that’s a good philosophy I think, it’s, gonna have to start applying that to some of my things. ‘Cause yeah, I mean you’re talking there about you’ve got someone to do your Facebook ads and all that sort of stuff, and all I’ve, I’ve been through Facebook people and not found someone that was working at a price that worked for us at the time, and at the moment I’m back doing my Facebook ads so I’m not, I need to eat some of this as well and take some of your advice on.

James S:

We’ll always ask for referrals for roles like that because you could definitely get bad suppliers within any industry and it’s often that you know, a few word of mouth referrals will get you closer to the mark, that’s been my successful strategy for finding suppliers is they often in my case they’re customers and I get to peek behind the curtains, so I have a high degree of knowledge of how they’re already performing, I’ve got, I’m lucky to have access to that sort of level of data. But in the case of where you can’t do that then I’ll definitely go for some kind of recommendation or referral as a starting point.

James R:

All right, I actually just noticed going through this sort of outline of your book how well it all flows together, like each thing flows into, and I didn’t even notice when I was reading, but now that I’m going through this Kelly’s done, is this Kelly’s doing or is this your doing?

James S:

Oh yeah, this is all Kelly. Kelly created the structure, I think that’s one of her many super skills, but the jobs that Kelly did and I’ll probably miss a few, but she was the catalyst for doing the book, she helped structure it, organize it, write it, name it, market it, she basically done most of it. Where I’ve contributed was the actual content itself, the raw content, the responses to her many, many questions, the recording of the audio transcripts, and then I spent a few hours on each chapter just making sure it was James, ’cause if you read this book it will definitely sound and feel exactly like me because I’ve rendered it all back to me. There was a lot of changes I made that were just rendering surface level changes, but the core structure, all Kelly, and she just did a remarkable job. She even like cajoled me to get this cover photo and everything, like it was, it was, it was a good, you know, it was a great effort from her and it was a, it was something I needed so that was me having the good sense to say, you know what, left up to me this book isn’t gonna happen, so I’m gonna get someone on board to help me make it happen, and in my position where I’m the one who’s usually giving the instructions and I could get away with doing nothing if I really wanted, I don’t need to do a book. It was good to have someone rein me in and set some rails for me to roll along, and it’s the same that I’ve done with my surfing, I’ve got someone to give me instruction to progress me faster, so that’s something we’ve gotta be really honest about ourselves with, you know? If it’s not happening now without support what would have to happen for it to happen? Like what change would be made? In my case for the book it’s bring someone on board to make this happen, and I still had to do plenty of work, it’s not like it just happened, it was grueling, I had to research all of the timelines and the historical part, I had to debate back and forth with my parents about history, I had to see what could be put in there, what couldn’t, to answer all the questions as I’m traveling around Europe. I spent at least 20 hours on the last version before I signed off on it, and now I’m faced with reading it for the audible, so there’s plenty of obstacles, but I’m glad I’ve gone over them.

James R:

Yeah, that’s awesome. So yeah, as I said we need, sometimes we need someone to help push us along, and I think that’s what Silver Circle was for me, right? Like that was a good time that I did Silver Circle which is your high level, I guess Mastermind slash coaching thing, and that, you know, made pretty massive changes in my business, even actually someone asked about business coaching in our Facebook group the other day, and you know, whether it’s worth it and that kind of thing, and I have a really hard time articulating sort of what the benefits are ’cause it’s kind of like, it could just be one or two little tweaks that make such huge differences, and like how do you tell someone that that’s worth, what that’s worth?

James S:

You know, that’s really the trick, I don’t know if I’ve fully solved it yet because I, in my case, my program is more general than some others, so it’s not a how to write a book course, it’s not a how to run Facebook training, I’m not a specialist at speaking from stage, even though I can do some of those things, it could be one introduction, it could be a rewiring of someone’s brain, but sometimes it’s hard for me to reflect to them the change that they’ve done. So some of the things that I do to help them, and this would probably still work for a website development work, is to take a before snapshot, to do a diagnostic of what you’re starting with and record that, and then to have regular check ins, some of the changes I’ve made over time are I now paste notes that we have on every conversation afterwards for all the one to one, so I record them all in a private section for the consumer, I have more regular check ins than I used to have, and I have prompts at each step of the way to acknowledge, well I guess we can call it gratitude, but to acknowledge progress, and some people it seems like when you have a puppy dog you don’t really notice it growing into a full size dog when you’re always seeing it, but someone who hasn’t seen it for a while is like oh my God, that’s just going.

James R:

Yeah.

James S:

You know, I’m seeing people on regular check ins, but they’re seeing themselves every day and the mirror so they don’t notice the change sometimes. And you know, the funny phenomenon that I’ve had is I get a lot of people come back afterward a little time away because they’ve been able to reflect on what the difference was and then they’ve had a connection with that’s what the source was and then they come back, so I’ve had a few times that happened, and it happens a lot in SuperFastBusiness.

Putting out a book, putting out a book reactivated a stack of past members, and I think it’s good that I can have that relationship with someone where we haven’t burnt bridges and they can basically come and use it when they need it or when it’s the right time for them, and I also accept that it’s not always gonna be the only solution or the right solution for someone at whatever stage they’re at, but for a lot of people it’s good when they need it, that’s what I’m trying to be is that, that exact solution for the right time they need it for as long as they need it. And you know, we’re all so different, that’s why my program’s customized because we’re different. It also makes it very hard for me and not as scalable, but it is leveraged, and it’s still very profitable. And you know, I’m using a lot of the principles from the book, but you know, when it’s all said and done if I have a great income, which I do, if I get to surf every day, which I do, if I’m happy and healthy and I’ve got good relationships then that’s what life is all about for me, and for anyone who’s not feeling it yet, if you just feel like you’re always working too much or not getting paid what you’re worth, or you’re stressed out, or you’re confused about what the right things are to do, then that’s who the book’s for. I wrote that book for my 15 to 22 year old kids, I’ve got four of them in that bracket, and the book was designed to give them a fast start, a primer to save them some wasted energy, and it definitely works on adults, some of my early mentors have given me praise like John Reese, Jonathan Mizel, Perry Marshall.

James R:

Nice!

James S:

It’s nice to get some of them saying yeah, I got something from it. I mean Perry Marshall wrote the 80/20 book ’cause he’s a huge fanboy of Koch who wrote the original one, and he still got a lot out of the 64:4 chapter, he said it was like the 80/20 on steroids or supercharged.

James R:

Brilliant. That’s awesome, that’s really bloody awesome. I think that’s a pretty good place to end to be honest. It’s been awesome, it’s probably gone on a little bit long even now, it’s like nearly an hour, but it was all bloody good. So where can people go to get your book?

James S:

Just go to Amazon, look for this one, ’cause there’s a couple with a similar title. Work Less Make More by James Schramko, just go to Amazon in your country.

James R:

With the awesome cover photo.

James S:

Yeah, you got no idea. The one I sent Kelly, she goes, no, you don’t look like that anymore, so I took some with my camera and lights, and she goes no, you need a professional. I’m like oh come on. So I went up to my Silver Circle clients is, has a boyfriend who is a photographer who went on a Maldives surfing trip with me, and he came around on short notice and took that photo and nailed it, and he saved me. So it worked out beautifully. You know, referral and network, it’s all in the referrals and the networks.

James R:

Totally. All right, thanks again, thanks for joining me, and talk soon.

James S:

Thanks Jimmy.

James Rose

James is the co-founder of Content Snare and Aktura Technology. Once a web designer, his new priority is to help web designers and developers regain their lives, work less and get better clients.

He does this by writing helpful posts, building software and working with web designers to deliver the complex web development that they don't normally handle.

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