Mark Samms: hello people, it’s Mark Samms here from the Renegade Affiliate Team.
Today we have a very special guest named Yaro Starak and he’s the founder of entrepreneur’s journey.com and he’s been doing online marketing since 1998 so he has a lot of experience on what it takes to actually build a real online business through publishing, publishing content and through building relationships with people online. I’m not gonna take a long time in the intro thing; I just want to get started and get some value to you guys. So Yaro, how you doing?
Yaro Starak: very well thank you for having me and a nice pronunciation of my name
Mark Samms: ah thank you, we were practising beforehand (laughs) good stuff, so the first thing I want to get people a baseline on you, when you started out, or let’s go back to just before you started out online, what were you doing before you started building your first online business, what age were you, what’s happened and then what sort of caused the transition when you felt, “I need to start taking this online business seriously”
Yaro Starak: well, I guess it’s a few years, in what you’re describing there, I was in my first year of University in 1998, and that was the first time I got an internet account I had a dial up access as part of my university’s studies. Prior to that, I didn’t really have a lot of involvement with computers, I was more a Nintendo or Sega kid growing up so we didn’t have computers in my house but when you get to university of course you get more access to computers, this is 98 so we’re still early days for the internet, dial up in Australia was the norm, you didn’t have much high speed internet access so I guess I didn’t have a business but for the first year or two, I was more a dabbler and I was playing around with reading bulletin boards, I was indulging in whatever hobbies I had in researching and reading about through the internet and just learning about it all. You know, we didn’t have Google, it was like look smart and ultra vista were the search engines and most of the content was going into news groups, that’s where I spent a lot of my time over the years, that gave me the first taste of the internet and obviously eventually I had my own website thats actually where I can say my first business or at least something that would eventually make me money was created. Ant that was about 99 I think, I think I built my first website using Geocities, it’s a free tool for hosting a website
Mark Samms: I think Yahoo were the owners of that weren’t they?
Yaro Starak: Now they are, they’ve bought Geocities. I’m sure they were a dotcom start-up and then bought up by Yahoo and made a lot of money. But for me it was just the first place I could use a basic, what you see is what you get website builder tool
Mark Samms: can I ask you, that was in 1999, so you’ve been dabbling around online from 1998 to 1999, what happened in that year that made you feel “oh actually I want a website”, what made you think there was a point of putting stuff online?
Yaro Starak: mm definitively one part was interest, a part of me always wanted to have a magazine, I’ve always been interested in magazines, and I read a lot of magazines about computer games when I was growing up, video games so that was a big passion. I don’t know but I think that when you spend enough time online you eventually I guess want something, some sort of contribution back, you don’t just want to consume content, you actually want to share what you are doing. Nowadays, everyone is doing it via Facebook and Twitter and maybe Tumbler or a tool you have a blog obviously. At the time back then, it wasn’t a case of signing up for a service like that. Geocities and a few others could get you a website set up that would be quite difficult for a non technical person to do much with it. It wasn’t easy but I was interested enough in learning how to use it and I wanted to publish content, but I wasn’t thinking business, I wasn’t thinking money and probably the main reason was that I just saw other people at the time were making websites about the subject I was interested in, which is actually card games. I played card games at the end of high school. It was called the magic gathering and I was reading a lot of terminal reports because I was a terminal player, travelling a bit around the world, playing that game. There was a website back then called the Dodo, which was a big magic global site and I basically wanted to have my own site. I thought I’d put up a little hobby site.
Mark Samms: Ah, ok so it was to do with your passion, something you were interested in, so it wasn’t an entrepreneur’s journey that happened in 1999 then?
Yaro Starak: no, it was 7 years later!
Mark Samms: oooh my confusion! Because I was wondering, it was something that you were interested in and you wanted to put up some information on that and it was in the magic arena.
Yaro Starak: Yes, have you heard of that card game?
Mark Samms: no sorry what was it again?
Yaro Starak: Magic The Gathering it’s a multiple card game
Mark Samms: no I’ve never heard of it, I’ve got a friend who is a magician, I have seen him doing some powerful tricks in front of me, he probably knows about that, I’ll ask him about it
Yaro Starak: It’s not actually like magic, it’s more like poker with dragons, that’s the kind of
Mark Samms: pooh I see, it’s like a … you know nowadays, they have Pokémon
Yaro Starak: yes close to those 2
Mark Samms: so they’ve got different powers on different cards
Yaro Starak: yes kind of the adult version of Pokémon
Mark Samms: oooh I completely get it now so you made a website that was related that industry
Yaro Starak: I basically made a magic in Brisbane website which is the city I live in and I was writing about the game, I was writing internal reports and eventually I got some other people to write content as well, had friends who played the game here and they wrote internal reports which just telling people how you did a tournament and we expanded it from Brisbane to the whole of Australia and eventually I bought myself a domain name and that’s how I became more serious so I actually bought myself a text book to teach yourself html in 24 hours, my attempt to get away from Geocities and have more control over the design of my website which was a pretty big deal for me at the time. That book was the first text book I studied. While I was at university, I didn’t study my text books very much but that one I did and it let to me having my first part time job, was maintaining websites. I was able to do a few websites so I did some website hosting, it really kicked off my entire career online, just being able to make websites, it was a pretty big deal back then, not many people could do it so
Mark Samms: cool, it’s quite a unique skill back then and everybody was talking about how important it was to be online so at least you know a little bit about html, you’re an expert I would assume
Yaro Starak: exactly, I’m not a skilled programmer I just learned the html part and anything more than tables and things like that, so I struggle. But I was really creative so that’s why enjoyed doing it, I liked tweaking the website the layout of magazines and I spent way too many hours up to 1am trying to make a pixel align in the right order on a website, it’s just crazy but it was my passion
Mark Samms: definitively! So what happened next, obviously you got the website up. Firstly, were you even thinking how you were gonna get traffic to your site, were you watching numbers and things like that? Or you’re just publishing, or were you actually looking at the statistics?
Yaro Starak: you know this was an interesting time to be having a website because remember we’re in dot.com boom land so I was
Mark Samms: it was a lot easier to get ranks and get found was it?
Yaro Starak: simpler, I’d say easier, you didn’t have to do as much perhaps because if you had the right keywords on your website and that’s it. That’s why keywords stuff came about the search engines didn’t do anything other than math word. There was 2 things happening, I was seeing the dotcom boom but I didn’t see my card game website as a big business, I saw it as a hobby. But I did see that I could potentially make money from it if I build my audience up, so I was very keen on drawing traffic which really was my training for traffic building 1on1 back in the day, I was concerned about going to another website to say we should swap links because that’s what you did back then. I joined banner exchanges. So you put my banner on your site and I put my banner on my site and we get traffic back and forth. You just have people talking about an article in news groups, if you posted it on your website so the way things happen now; we talk about it on Facebook or Twitter. So the same principles were there, I learned about gaining exposure from other websites and other places in news groups and forums and search engines came into play, there just wasn’t a good search engine yet to be honest until Google came around. So a lot of traffic came from getting links from other websites, which happened to be great for search engines eventually but not back in those days. And I did start making some money from that website. I sold some advertising on it and at a peek, I made about a $1000 a month and I also sold some advertising in a newsletter which I ran off that website as well.
Mark Samms: so that’s really good, when was the transition when you said “ok I need to create something new” something different, what was your reasons for that?
Yaro Starak: it really has a lot to do with the dotcom boom. I was constantly exposed to with these ridiculous stories of a guys selling for 2 millions, 3 millions 4 millions and they just had a website that really didn’t do much so I was amazed at how… it’s weird because I thought it seemed so close to me, I m not sure how I’m gonna go about doing this? I can build a website and all I knew it would take traffic and enough eyeballs and a good idea I mean that’s really, you needed to be making money way back then obviously. So what I wanted to do, I was losing just in the card game but I was gaining in interest in the internet so I still wanted to run my card website because I was enjoying having a business and an online website that makes some money and being of a large part of a community so I added a form for people who wanted to trade cards so it became the number 1 Australian aftermarket for buying and selling and trading these cards which was really great because I never had to do too much work to bring people to the site, they just came there. And I had volunteers moderators and people writing for the website and it became a really hands off sort of project for me and made $500 in advertising but I wanted something bigger. So actually what happened, looking at ideas, nothing was sticking, I actually had meetings with friends to see if we could come up with ideas. This was about the year 2001 and eventually the one that I ran with I was reading a print magazine for yahoo, yahoo had a print mag back then so they would release this, it was just like a general internet magazine, reading
Mark Samms: it sounds quite surprising that they had a print magazine?
Yaro Starak: I know! Back in the day, people used these offline mediums to get attention on their online media. And reading a stat in that article magazine about a guy in America who was a business student at Harvard who was living in a dorm room and he started an essay editing service which would basically edit and provide critiques of the entrance essay that they have to do to get in into university in America. Here in Australia we don’t have this entrance essay but in the States you’ve got to write a paper about yourself and he specialised in editing that. And the business took off primarily because he got a lot of coverage as well because he was a kid in a dorm room running an internet business during the dotcom boom
Mark Samms: cool that’s news worthy
Yaro Starak: exactly, so he got a lot of press coverage he hired his mum he hired family members he hired a bunch of professor at the university, he had these stories about how he had to leave in the middle of classes to take a phone call to sell ads on his website, thats sort of exciting kind of story and I was thinking that article combined with my own experience, going through my university degree and had other assignments with other students, group papers and often here in Australia, we have a lot of international students particularly coming from Asia some from the middle east as well and I often would have people, a couple of Australian an Asian maybe a Canadian or something in my group assignments and I noticed we had to write one paper together and you take the English on these groups and it would be so hard that often the international students, because their English was their second language, their English is not great so I realised, how these people getting through the university studies if their academic writing isn’t very good. So I kind of connected the dots and said we don’t have entrance papers here in Australia but we do have a lot of international students. Let’s provide an editing service specifically targeted at them. And that’s where the company Betteredit was born
Mark Samms: aaaah ok cool! So that was around 2001 right?
Yaro Starak: I actually got the domain name in 2000 so probably around that time
Mark Samms: and then it was called?
Yaro Starak: BetterEdit.com
Mark Samms: ok cool and what happened with that business I guess you just promoted that around you campus right?
Yaro Starak: well initially how it worked was I created the website since I had my website building skills and I actually partnered with my mum and her partner who my mum was good at English and her partner used to be a teacher so they both had reasonably English editing skills and as a way to test where the business worked that was a great way to do it so we went out and put posters up at 3 major universities here in my hometown and we started to get our first trickle of clients. So we were able to test the service and we did a lot of things like how to price, it was interesting, we charge by word we charged by hour so how do we do this. So we played around with ideas and while this is all happening I’m learning my internet marketing, I’m studying copywriting, Im studying how to get traffic to websites, search optimization and Google started to come into play I think about around 2002. But what actually happened was I separated myself a little bit from the business once I’d finished the website and mainly to finish my degree, I had one year left and I found I didn’t want to do anything half in half out so I focused on my degree and graduated in 2002 and went fruit picking in Tasmania for 6 weeks, I had a girlfriend back then so I was still running my card game website and it was still bringing a little bit of money, we just had this proofreading business, it was working but it wasn’t really growing because no one was trying to push it and we had a few regular clients and we actually hired our first external editor as well so I wasn’t really involved in that side of things. And I travelled for 6 weeks, I came back, I broke up with the girlfriend I was travelling with, I graduated from my degree and I had an open plate. I didn’t know exactly what to do, the only thing I knew is that I wanted to have my own business and I wasn’t sure how to get there. I didn’t want a job, I hated the idea of a full time employment, that was a definitively not gonna happen. I did keep part-time jobs that I got from the university working at the help desk because it was a great job. It allowed me to sit at a computer and work at my business and get paid $25 an hour to be there. Good job, it was 20 hours a week at most. So it wasn’t too much time. That’s when I decided I’m gonna do this proof reading business as my main project, I’ll take it on full time and see if I can make it grow. So that’s what I did.
Mark Samms: One question before you continue about BetterEdit, personally my mum, when I started my journey, all they told me was what are you doing go and get a job because they just didn’t understand what it was that I was trying to achieve and it wasn’t until obviously that I had some success they left me alone and said Mark knows what he’s doing, go and see Mark for anything related to internet marketing, but you sound like your parents were quite open minded and they worked with you because obviously you said your mum was involved in BetterEdit, they sound like they worked well with you, is that right or you just got them involved?
Yaro Starak: Yes, there is definitively a knowledge gap, they don’t understand exactly what I was doing certainly not the intricacies and the nuances involved like setting up a website is beyond their element, and they’re just not technical people. So my dad, every now and then, he’d sort of, it’s almost like he would default into father mode and he’d say: maybe you should get a job first and then start a business once you have experience in the workforce because that would make sense to me. But I felt he was saying because to him that was like “I better say this because I’m a dad and that’s what I’m supposed to do. And if you see your son sitting in front of the computer for long hours a day not doing much else, you got to worry as well. It’s hard if you can’t grasp like even the concept of what the person is doing because my dad is a social worker and mum comes from a counselling background. The difference with my mum she’s kind of gone out of different jobs even had a little business here and there. So she was always very supportive of doing your own thing idea and just supported me in general. My dad was supportive as well, would flag his concern every now and then but really no, I didn’t get any flag from my parents, I didn’t get any pressure, I didn’t get a lot of questions. They would ask me every now and then how things were going and I’d explain to them that I don’t think they really got it. They still don’t get it. I do explain it to them what I’m doing. They understand it more because they actually read my blog and it actually makes sense to them. But the whole process of making money, my dad is on my email list and always comments about my emails.
Mark Samms: that’s so cool, I get the same thing, my mother in law, she really doesn’t get what I do, she says, how do you make your money? I don’t understand! She always seem bewildered by the fact that I can be around any time of the day and not to be locked into the 9 to 5 things,
Yaro Starak: I think some people think there is some slot you can buy for a computer where the money comes out.
Mark Samms: so you decided that BetterEdit was something you wanted to focus on and started to scale up, what happened next?
Yaro Starak: well that was my attempt in starting up my dotcom business; I wanted to really build a business that was bigger. EBay was actually to blame for this in a lot of ways, because around this time I was reading a lot, I told I was studying internet marketing. So I was reading these books about the biggest internet company. So I read the book about how PayPal got started, how EBay got started, how Google started how Nabster got started so all the companies that were really in the press all the time and getting huge evaluations and what I like about the EBay stories, the company works on too many models which meant that they have people bidding and people selling and they can have as many of those two groups as they can get and they just facilitate the transaction.
Mark Samms: so it’s just a platform that allows it to happen.
Yaro Starak: yes and that’s called … with this model and I was looking to do that, I love the idea of not having to be a consultant or a service provider. Because I was seeing that in some of my friends and they were doing, building websites for people and I could do that and I was doing a little bit of that, a bit of hosting but it was me putting in some work to then deliver a service,
Mark Samms: you were selling your time for money quite a lot
Yaro Starak: exactly, so I didn’t want to do that, it’s a stop gap solution as we get started but I was looking for something that could grow without me doing a load of workload and BetterEdit follow that model. I was able to take on as many people who wanted editing and I hired contract editors so I could always bring on more editors and get more work and we split the payments with the editors and the company so I took 50% the editor took 50% and all I had to do was to get clients. So it was a good business model and I was excited about the potential because it could be big, there is a lot of student in Australia, it’s just getting the knowledge out there that we do this because people don’t go looking for it. So cut the long story short, the business got traffic from 2 places primarily. One was those posters I put up on campuses and that was something I did for 2 or 3 years. I went to all the campuses at least once every 2 weeks, because they get taken down. I also flew around because I was travelling seeing family in Canada so I put posters up in Hawaii, in Vancouver, in Toronto. I would fly to Melbourne and Sidney for a couple of events and I’d put up posters when I was in those places because why not, they’re big universities down there. I actually kind of liked it. It was nice to get out away from the computer and walk around the campus and put up posters. Not something, I could see myself doing forever because again it was work and not saleable. I did try hire someone to do it a couple of times and it worked once, didn’t work very well the second time, a bit hit and miss. I was also hired to pay someone to do that and make a margin because you find yourself putting all your money into that as well as the editors. And you have to leave a profit to have a business. And the other source of traffic was Google. By then Google was the number 1 search engine and I was doing some work to optimise for things like essays, editing and thesis editing. I was learning about internet marketing so I was narrowing my niche. I used to be an editing business for businesses as well, other students. I got rid of the business side of things and focussed only on students and thesis students. Because they are quite large, we can make between $500 and $1000 on a thesis. They were good jobs when they came in. And it just grew. Actually became my main source of income and I ended up generating a salary, somewhere between $30,000 and $50,000 profit which was great because it was low labour.
Mark Samms: was that in a year or a month?
Yaro Starak: well at a peek, I would probably make about a $100,000 in sales but I’d keep out of it because half of it goes to the editors and then there were a few others with hosting fees,
Mark Samms: and that would be in what period of time, over a year or?
Yaro Starak: yes that was over a year, it never was a huge business but it was the equivalent of what I would have got as a graduate student coming out of university at the time. I still had my card game site as well. I did sell that card game site actually.
Mark Samms: yes you sold that, am I correct in saying you sold it for $13, 000?
Yaro Starak: Yes, your assistant’s done a good job on the research there! I did, I sold it for 13,000, that was a great day actually, it taught me I could sell websites
Mark Samms: first of all, what made you sell it and where did you go to sell it, how did that occur?
Yaro Starak: yes, my proofreading business was getting started and I was definitively over the magic game, I hadn’t played at all with my cards so I had the website as a cash cowl and you know what well I’m not heading in this direction anymore or lets sell it and I can use that money to help grow BetterEdit and also to live off, I could potentially move out. I think I may have been living with my mum still. I just had the idea let’s try and sell it. Ok, how do we try and sell this website? Let’s think about how much its worth. It makes $500 a month, that’s $6000 a year. What kind of money I would be happy with? Somewhere between 2 or 3 times the yearly income would be pretty good so somewhere between 12 and 15,000 would be good. So we’ll go for $15,000 that’s a round number. So I hit up the most obvious place to find a buyer which was the stores in Australia that already sell the cards.
Mark Samms: ok, I thought you were gonna say something like Flipper
Yaro Starak: no Flipper didn’t exist; there was Sitepoint that was the original version. That was my last resort, that was available but I was more hopeful about selling it to my existing connections. So I had people who were trading cards in the form. These are the guys that are buying and selling cards everyday and it would make them for them to buy the trading cards ads and some guys, it’s funny, I contacted some store owners, there was a bit of interest here and there. The guy that eventually bought it was one of the largest traders in the forum. He was doing about $30,000 a year in trading just in my forum so for him, it made sense to take over. So we negotiated and agreed on a price. I think it might have been 13,500 I can’t remember exactly; it was a long time ago.
Mark Samms: how did that feel when you saw that into your bank account, that amount of money in one lump sum?
Yaro Starak: that was great but like most people, I wanted to see that happen every month, not once
Mark Samms: so you sold the magic card website and you still had BetterEdit
Yaro Starak: Right so BetterEdit was just on the going upstart of the process, I was just putting my time in and it grew to that point where it was a full time income for me and I was then just… this was in 2004, I find out about blogs. And something I did just prior to this, was hire my first ever assistant. Before this, I did everything. I was doing the emails guys, I was the customers guys, I was hiring the editors, I was maintaining the website, I was doing the SEO, I was getting some copywriting done by some other people. Like I contracted the copy on the actual website with a little help of some keywords research and things but really 95% of the day to day was me and it wasn’t a lot of work. I say all those things, it sounds like a lot, but really, the biggest pain in the butt was that I had to check my emails all the time. Because we had a rush service so if you had an essay that came in, that you needed back in 24 hours, I had to make sure I saw the email with the essay, I had to make sure it got to an editor and to make sure the editor was able to do it in 24 hours and get it back to the student. And we charged extra for that. It would be like 50% more for the 24 hours turn around. But it made it worthwhile. We could get a couple of hundred dollars from a paper if they needed to rush. And trust me these students would often be in a rush.
Mark Samms: me being a student, everything was last minute for me
Yaro Starak: yeah, would you be willing to spend $250 to have your paper edited?
Mark Samms: definitively, without a doubt, because obviously it’s important part of my growth
Yaro Starak: well I personally wouldn’t but the international students were often there and if they didn’t get good grades, they’re being supported by their parents a 100% and they had ample cash, especially when it came to getting better performances at university. So anything they could do to help, get better at writing papers, they would take it up. Certain people, not everyone obviously. We had a following of students every year every semester where they would use us for all their papers so for me though, having to check my email, like religiously and I didn’t have a mobile phone with access to the internet back then. It was old school mobile phone so I always had to be plugging into a net connection. If I was in Sydney for something, I had to go to an internet cafe and potentially process jobs. They often come in at 11pm and needed 24 hours later. There wasn’t enough time to organise it all.
So that was annoying so that was pretty much brought me to the point of hiring an assistant which ended up being a university friend, who was just having her first baby and she was ready to come on board on a trial basis and basically she did email. She handled all my email customer service, processing the editing jobs, working with the editors, making sure that all got organised and once she was in place in doing the job, I had very little to do. I had literally one hour of work to have a salary come into my life and as good as that sounds, it was actually pretty hard because I was lost, I didn’t know what else to do with the 23 hours left in my day, I knew I wanted to make more money but I wasn’t sure how. I wasn’t that excited about growing the editing business. I was getting tired of putting up posters but it was paying my bills so I wasn’t just gonna drop it.
But it was in 2004 that I had heard the phrase blog for the first time. And this is from a friend who told me that I should start a blog because it would help get traffic from Google to my proofreading business. So that was interesting. I didn’t know what it was. I thought what’s the difference between a blog and a website? They look the same to me, so what I actually did was to install some blogging software. I used moveable type back then not like WordPress like everyone uses now and stuck it on my proofreading business and attempt to write about proofreading to get students to come to the website which is a really boring subject. So I kind of crashed and burned. I didn’t write very often. It was a 3 months experiment at the end of 2004 that only proved to me that this is never gonna take off because I just didn’t care enough about the subject to make it work. But I did like the process of telling the story of what I’m doing with BetteEdit. Because I started to use the blog as a reflection tool. Well today, I went to put up posters, we think about doing this and just blogging about the business and that actually was a lot of fun and that triggered in me the idea, I actually like writing. I do enjoy the writing process especially about what I’m doing so I’m gonna start a blog for a hobby, I registered this crazy domain name, entrepreneurhighthings.com terrible domain because people can’t spell entrepreneur, it’s got an hyphen in it, it’s really long. The only thing that is good about it, it’s a good brand. I like the brand behind it and that concept. People will often talk about their entrepreneur’s journey. I’m telling you my entrepreneur’s journey right now in this interview and it was a hobby. So I started to take the stuff that I had done in the last 7 years. I didn’t tell you everything. At one point, I had an English school in the real world. I started a bunch of websites that sort of crashed and burned but I learned a lot. So I took all these stories like the ones I’m telling you and other things I did and put it into this blog, on entrepreneur’s journey.
Mark Samms: wow ok and what happened with entrepreneur’s journey because I know that it really took off. How did you make that happened?
Yaro Starak: Well at this stage, blogging was just starting to become something that people thought as an occupation. It was around the time when Darren House from prolonger was starting to get a little well known. It’s amazing to think about it, when Darren was… when I first started my blog; I was reading Darren’s blog. Darren had 3000 readers at that stage and now he has a 100,000 or something like that so it was really early days for him. He only started that blog maybe a year prior to me. And because of Darren and because of people I saw making a bit of money from blogging but my own background, I knew I could put ads on my blog if I grew my traffic and make a bit of money. There was all that as a potential but I still treated it as a hobby. I was making money from my proofreading business, I was writing my blog. I still have my part time job for a couple of years. I think I gave it up after about my first year blogging because I just didn’t need it anymore, it was silly. So I started building an audience which is a cool thing, I really didn’t put too much effort in, I was loving it and I was interested in it, I was reading about blogging and things about pluggins and I switch over to WordPress and I was learning about SEO and I also started to discover the world of direct response online marketing. This is when I really I had a lot of interest in following the email marketing and product launches and all the stuff that was happening around 2005-2006 2007 period there were guys like John Reese and Jeff Walker and Mike Filsaime and a lot of the internet marketers Evan Pagan Rich Jeffrey they all started doing these launches and making millions of dollars and I was reading about guys with these email lists and they just sent emails out there and have $25,000 in commission come back so it was exciting opportunity around about the dotcom crash a couple of years ago, so I really stopped creating something to get investors and then sell it for a big million payday. I was more interested in just having a cash source business that I enjoyed. I was trying to get to the stage, because obviously, you’re growing as a person and while this happens as well, and I noticed with my businesses that some were making money but I didn’t enjoy the process. Some I enjoyed the process to begin with like my card game website but the money wasn’t big enough to quit the market wasn’t large enough. So I was having a job with that one. The proof reading business, the money was good enough but I didn’t want to grow it bigger, because I just didn’t care about that market so much. With blogging, though I realise I was enjoying the writing process. I was building an audience that had significant potential. I could see it getting quite large. So that’s where I started putting all my energy and actually decided in 2007 maybe late 06 to sell the proofreading business. Which took a while? I think about 6 months later, I finally closed the deal so had a big payday. I had a 6 figure an $110,000 US came into my bank account and in Australia there was an extra 15% around that time in conversion so it gave me the money to put a deposit on my first home buy a new car and it was awesome!
Mark Samms: was that car was it a BMW?
Yaro Starak: no that was later on, I’m still driving that BMW. It was a Suzuki Swift.
Mark Samms: so that was a Suzuki. So entrepreneur journey was born basically and it was generating a good income, what sort of things were you doing to monetise, selling advertising or?
Yaro Starak: I kind of tested but I knew advertising was the first option to go with because I had done it before with my card games, so that was no brainer. I tried adsense, didn’t really work very well but I started selling a few banners here and there and I still do, thats the amazing thing, like that source of income, selling banners ads, and text links on my site. I’ve done since 2006 so that’s almost 7 years now, every month some money is coming from advertising. It’s the longest and most dependable source of income I had on blogging. Not the biggest but definitively the longest term and dependable one. The other thing I do is started playing around with affiliate marketing. It was very clear that was a great way to make some money. I was seeing the launches come and go, so I could promote my launches. So the first thing I promoted was a little e-book from Perry Marshal. It was fully boxed, an eBook plus a bunch of CDs he send you in the mail and I promoted that. The general sales after I wrote a blog post about it, got depressed, 2 days later had my first sale, got happy!
Mark Samms: excellent, I remember I got the Perry Marshall course that was my foundation into AdWords.
Yaro Starak: ah very good, it’s the definitive guide to Google AdWords.
Mark Samms: it’s an amazing book, that book helped me get my first job as a PPC agency selling advertising because I knew about the industry, enough to be able to at least talk about the intricacies of AdWords so they thought I was good enough to sell it anyway…
Yaro Starak: it’s amazing how buying a really good quality course or a book. In the real word that translate into a job almost because people know about pay per click, you read a book, you already have the skills.
Mark Samms: Yes, def it was quite amazing and I’ve done quite well with that company to be honest. I think that was one of the companies that sort of led me on to build my own business so definitively interesting journey without a doubt. Ok, so what happened next, your entrepreneur journey business is going, I understand that you started creating some information product around that
Yaro Starak: So yeah, 2007 it was a really busy year. I sold that business and settle on my first property and bought that new car and I launched my first ever training course called worldwebmastermind and that happened in the space of 3 months in the middle of 2007 so it was a crazy period of time but a lot of fun, I can’t remember a time where I was more stressed but also having some big things happening. I had a $100,000 sale I had 400 people join my course, I did the first product launch I ever done. I was sitting there sending emails, and releasing my blogprofitblueprint which ended up being a big hit still a big hit, still is a big hit, gets downloaded every day and I still get 50 people joining my newsletter everyday I think primarily to get that report again, 5 years ago I created it, so it’s been amazingly valuable. The funny thing about the product I actually spent a year from 2006 to 2007 trying to write an eBook and get it out the door, but I just couldn’t finish it. And I had some mentors here in Australia that was saying why don’t you just leverage it; you got this big audience all this content creation, you just really making money from advertising a little bit of affiliate income get your own product out the door. And I said, you know what, membership sites are the way to go. Everyone is saying that it’s better that the onetime eBook or one time course, membership site, for cursive, you get subscription income. I saw them doing it, I wanted to have a low level cost like a $15 a month course, and get it out there so I said I’ll commit to it, said 3 months and get it out the door, and did it. And as I said, I got about 400 people into the programme. But I did have a bit of trouble with it because I got quite a high refund rate, about 1/3 almost a half, for the 3 months mark and dropped out so I was concerned. I wasn’t sure why. My initial thoughts were that maybe it was too easy because I started the course with some beginner’s lessons; I had to get the beginners up to scratch. I thought maybe I had lost the more intermediate advanced because they didn’t want to wait and pay money for these beginners lessons so they quit. So I created some advanced lessons which were there to keep people in the programme if they were not beginners. And then I also realised that-this came about because I did a customer service, I think this is a really important point, if you ever have your own product out there, do you own customer service for a while because you start to understand what the customer want and what they don’t like about you’re doing. And I learned that people were leaving my course early because it had no predefined index. At the time, I was thinking maybe 12 months we would go for because that’s what everyone else was doing around me and then I learned that people who had 12 months course often had drops out after month 3 which is what I was experiencing. Well I thought this is silly, it’s not really a course if they drop out by 3 months so what I’ll do, I’ll change it. It’s not longer gonna be an open ended programme subscription site, it will be a course with a predefined finishing time so it turned from a membership site to a 6 months training programme with 6 modules that you would go through 27 lessons and people knew when they joined what they were gonna learn and when it will end and that worked really well. Because if someone said, I think I wanna quit, you could then say, you’ve only got 2 more months, you ‘ll have the whole course and you can access it in your own time. So I changed it to a 12 months open ended thing to a 6 months course and I also double the price with my second re opening of the programme and that worked great. So my retention rate was a bit closer to the normal level, 10% drop out instead of 25, 35%
Mark Samms: Can I ask where you did different things like in regards to you doubled the price, you decided to turn it into a 6 months course versus the 12 months course, did these ideas come to you just because you were involved in your customer service you understood your market place wanted or you went ahead and bought courses for yourself and the tips and advice in those courses or with your mentor told you that this what’s working in the market place at the moment and thats why you changed certain things within your marketing
Yaro Starak: you know it’s a combination of things, I was definitively seeing how other people talk programmes around that time the other courses that were coming were originally home study programmes you know with the big manuals and the cds and you just paid a 1000 buck and that was it then people switched over to a course because they didn’t want to finish an entire product then launch it. They would launch it and then create the product with the first group of students. So Rich Jeffrey had a course study launched of the back of his internet manifesto that I actually joined and that was 12 months, and that was too long. I don’t think anyone should do a 12months programme anymore, even 6 months is too long nowadays. But to be absolutely honest the main reason that I decided to switch to 6 months was I felt that was acceptable to people, it was acceptable to me, like I could see doing that because I used to do 6 months at university so a term, or a semester. And I felt I had 6 months worth of content so I could break the actual subject matter into 6 months worth of training, I didn’t want to spend the next 8 months writing a course. I just wanted to finish off at 6 months because it was a lot of work. I was running a blog writing an email newsletter. I was dealing with all the questions coming in from these 400 eventually 700 students in my programme, I had to write the lessons and stay ahead of them one week at a time because thats how I did it. I created the first month worth of content but from that point forward, I was trying to stay ahead of it. Every Friday writing a lesson and the lessons are big. I write about 3 to 5000 words. I create an audio version where I talk it out and I sometimes do a little extra video or an interview for them so I wanted to create a good product. So I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of the year doing that, it was just too much work 6 months made sense.
And the reason I doubled the price, I was charging 47 at 12 months but if I charge 97 for 6 months, I get the same amount of money that made sense. I also wanted to increase the perceived value so the reason why it was 47 to begin with, it was like a reward to the first group of students to back me. We join because this is the first time we’re doing it and that was their reward, they got the discount rate. So that’s why I changed to 97, the charging group as it’s often called in the internet marketing world. That worked well that became a cash cowl. I think I probably made 3 to 400,000 dollars from that course over the next 4 years so it was a great product.
Mark Samms: so when did you…I feel it’s a bit taboo to talk about how much you made and how much you make on a monthly basis but people just like to know and from my research here I can see that you had a year where you done about a million dollars in year, was that profit or was that turnover
Yaro Starak: no I didn’t have a million in a year, I had 2 years where I generated half a million of revenue so over a 24 months period I was in a million dollars in cash generated essentially from affiliate programmes, the 3 courses I had created and advertising on my blog and the margins are great, the only major expense in the business was affiliates and contractors. That’s where the money goes to and at the end of the day, it’s a great business, it’s about 77% profit margin so you can do the maths
Mark Samms: yes definitively so I know now that would be classed as a [---] you were blogging you were creating product and you were selling products but I understand now you’re moving more into the tech industry like you’re creating software platforms, is that right?
Yaro Starak: yes and no, I’ve actually been doing some sort of software start up for the last 18 months but I’m still also, as you’re talking to me right now, I’m working on a whole new bunch of new products for next year, because I’m taking all my courses that I talked about in this interview are no longer on the market, I took them all off the market primarily because they’re getting a bit dated, I want to revamp them, change how things work in my sales funnels so I’ve been setting up my new bunch of training material for next year, I’m still definitively an information publisher and I missed having my own product, it’s definitively the best advice I can give people, because my income dropped down 15% and then even more than that without having my own product in the market place and affiliate income is not as good as it used to be and the dollar is too strong so I missed the golden days and I’ve been spending all my time on a software start up which hasn’t been profitable, putting all the money into the development and its slow to grow, it is going there but not quickly so I’m kind of doing… but the good thing about this it’s called cranky ad and it’s an advertising management tool for currently WordPress. I use it on my own site to manage the ads, it’s proving effective but development is so hard that’s what I didn’t see coming when I started into software, it’s a very slow process and it can be a money sink if you don’t come up with a way of generating cash quickly, you will be spending a lot of cash on development. So I had partners who does development but he can’t do it full time anymore, he has to work contract jobs, so we’re going slowly, hopefully it’ll become a product that actually exist in its own self as a profitable business but next year, yet to be proven.
Mark Samms: yes no worries, that sounds really good, so that’s cranky ads. So what’s the aim of cranky ads, what does that do?
Yaro Starak: Like I said, it’s an advertising management plug in at the moment. So you run a blog it will create an advertise page on your site so you can determine how much you charge for your advertising, what shape banners you want to use, you can also sell video ads, you also sell text links so basically it allows you to manage all the display advertising on a website and people buy the ads from your site, you get a control panel where you can approve or deny the ads and you can also run your own banners in there, you can sell your own product. We’re just getting some statistic going with clicks and impressions and if we have a market place we can help you sell advertising and if you sell some ads we take a 25% cut of the revenue but if you run your own affiliate ad or you run your own internal banner or even adsense, you can use adsense as well, you get to keep a 100% of that obviously so it’s just an all around do everything for you advertisement management system we’re slowly building into more functions more statistics it’s just better looking than other sort of things.
Mark Samms: that’s your project development, you’re building it based on the need of the market place
Yaro Starak: oh yes lean start up that’s for sure
Mark Samms: ok thats really good, because we’re doing some stuff like that we can talk about that later, whilst I was thinking about as well is, you’ve got a software business that you’re building up, you’re also still, because I look at your entrepreneur journey blog and it looks like a lot of it is from guest posts, is that right?
Yaro Starak: it was last year, this year it’s been predominantly me, if you go to the blog now you see nothing but me
Mark Samms: ok you’re predominantly putting a lot of the content there now. Have you cut; are you not accepting guest posts anymore now?
Yaro Starak: no, I had a period last year where I was trying to, basically was doing an experiment with entrepreneur journey and grow into a magazine model. That was purely because it made sense; I’m personally focusing on the software start up. I want this blog to run more independently and less about me and more about general content. It didn’t work well, like the site continued to function and continued to make money and do everything well some people complained like seeing other people’s writing there, I expected that but some people loved some of the new writing as well, you get mixed results but at the end of the day, it actually became just as much work to co-ordinate a team of writers as it did to write myself and I enjoy writing a whole load more than anything than co-ordinating even when I hired some help but I had some contractors doing like the management of the writing and the chasing but at the end of the day I wasn’t paying them, the business model doesn’t function on a paid model, they were doing it for exposure so had some great content and some great people helped out but once I start chasing them up they stop contributing and I just thought, I’m just gonna go back to what it’s always been about which is my own entrepreneur journey, people liked that, I liked that the best, I enjoy writing, it means I only get one article a week as supposed to 3 when I had multiple writers but its fine.
Mark Samms: No, I understand that. So a lot of people on my list they’re very interested in how to build a profitable list and what sort of advice would you give for somebody that is just starting out online and marketing and they want to get their first 1000 people on their list but not just any, people that will actually interact and potentially purchase different recommendations they put forward. I guess there are 2 prompt questions. How do you get your first people on your list and how do you build a relationship with them so that they trust and have credibility within you
Yaro Starak: well there is a whole interview on that subject! Assuming we don’t have a budget to go and spend money. I mean you mention pay per click, you go and create a landing page buy a bunch of traffic and send it to the landing page and you know build your list that way, that’s certainly viable, its quicker it just cost money, often you waste money until you get the variable rights like the keyword is right or the copyright. I never did that, I never had the money for it. I did want to do that, I much prefer to be a content creator solo, I’m a fan of what you might have heard before the hub and spoke komodo, which is like having a website a blog which is your destination point with all your content, your personal brand, you release your podcast your videos there your articles there and then you take that content and seed it onto the internet and thats when all the social media comes into it and doing guest articles on other people websites just putting your face and your name and your content on other websites brings people back to your site and it also helps with your social rankings too, thats a big part of my blog
Mark Samms: that still works today right?
Yaro Starak: oh for sure, this is the foundation of content writing is really produce great content and get other people to share it somehow
Mark Samms: because one of the thing that I’m doing with the interviews, obviously we’re doing the interviews and I’m gonna get the interview transcribed, and then I’m gonna put the interview into a PowerPoint presentation over the audio
Yaro Starak: perfect
Mark Samms: and then I’m gonna put the audio on podcast websites actions and all the others, I’m gonna get stand alone articles of the transcription and have those linked back to the main interview website so I’m working in the right direction based on your experience.
Yaro Starak: Yes, it sounds like you’ve been overhearing about profit hax from Peter Rich
Mark Samms: I’m a profit hax convert
Yaro Starak: ah ok, well I’m good friend with Pete and obviously Rich as well yeah I’m doing the same thing. I think it’s a great way to leverage. We sit here and we do one interview and it goes to all kind of other places. Obviously you have to make sure that the content of the interview is good, but hopefully we’ve got something in here that give value to people and obviously on your website you’ve got an opt in box somewhere. Everything comes down to testing the little things. Improve the opt in box, improve your SEO get better at which site you should put the podcast onto or get a really good video person and get really good tube channels some stuff will stick some stuff wont some stuff will show off a lot on tail search phrases and will bring a trickle here and there and you do it for long enough. My site, it amazes me you know, I cannot do anything but write one article a week, I can forget about anything else and just do that and I’ll still get my 50 new subscribers a day, I still get my 2 to 3000 dollars a months in advertising and if I write one newsletter a week and make one newsletter per month, an affiliate promotion 2 or 3000 dollars from that so you can make your 10,000 grand a month of a few regular articles and a few regular newsletters once you’ve got this system in place, the asset in place, an effective website and thats how I started. I go back to the story we’ve just been through, my period of time in 05-06 and 07 which is when I built all the core foundation of the system, a blog the free report that got me a lot of traffic. I’m doing a launch that got me a lot of traffic because I had affiliates and I had a lot of people writing about me. It put my name in my brand and if you study Rich Jeffry he’ll tell you the best reason to do a launch today, it’s not as effective as it used to be, it used to be an amazing tool, still a great tool, but an even bigger reason to still use it is that it is a fantastic personal brand or business building tool because people will talk about you and I don’t know how you found me Mark but for some reason you must have heard the name Yaro and thought, there is a reason to interview this guy and chances are it’s come back because of my blog and possibly because of my report from 5 years ago
Mark Samms: and through association because I heard Rich talking about you, so it’s a number of different things. Let me call it multiple point of contact but it’s a number of different things that made me see you as an expert which you are and I was really excited to interview and when I saw we were going to do this interview, I thought yes this is going to be good
Yaro Starak: trying to cover a lot here!
Mark Samms: we’ve just hit that hour mark and obviously I want to be respectful of your time as well and an hour is a decent amount of time for people to listen to a conversation so maybe we can have you back on and we can maybe specialise or actually do a course on a specific topic later on or in a few months time
Yaro Starak: I haven’t even mentioned the topic where I was buying and selling websites
Mark Samms: so guys you definitively got to interact with the blog you definitively got to like the page, you’ve got to show us what you’ve put forward so far that you want more and we’ll try to put something together where we going into a bit more detail or a specific topic without a doubt. For people who want to know more about you, obviously, we’ve talked about your blog, do you have anywhere specific that you want them to go, give them some information now please
Yaro Starak: ok Mark, I just tell everyone to just Google my name Yaro, my blog will be the first result if you do that and I’m trying to go for the Oprah and Madonna effect here, one name, if you get that famous, easier if you just remember that
Mark Samms: so just Google Yaro (spelt out) and you’ll be able to find his blog, I assume it’s position number 1
Yaro Starak: yes it will be
Mark Samms: let me check (laughs), yeah number 1 entrepreneur-journey.com that’s his blog. You can interact with the blog posts that are relevant to you and you should get on the list without a doubt. So Yaro thank you so much for coming onto the call today, it’s been amazing and I’d love to link up with you again and we do something more specific on a more specific topic later one down the line.
Yaro Starak: my pleasure, and thank you for having me, it’s been a lot of fun
Mark Samms: No worries and I speak to you soon. Fans, this is Mark Samms from starts today and renegade affiliate team. If you like what you’ve heard today, interact on the blog, comment, like, interact with the social button and we’ll speak to you soon take care