SFN148: Building Your Own Affiliate Network & Scaling Your Course, with Caitlin Pyle
In today’s show, we’re going to talk about the evolution of both of Caitlin’s companies.
In This Interview You’ll Learn:
- 4:20 - How Caitlin turned Proofread Anywhere from a blog to a course
- 14:19 - Tips on Building Your Own Affiliate Network
- 21:58 - How to Scale Your Course
- 25:06 - On Dealing with Haters and Trolls
- 35:30 - Components of Caitlyn’s 7 Day Intro Course / Value-Added Sales Funnel
- 43:50 - How Caitlin is monetizing someone else’s genius with Transcribe Anywhere
- 47:25 - Building a business while traveling, AND getting a tax break
- Caitlin’s previous SFN episode
- Proofread Anywhere
- Transcribe Anywhere
- Caitlin’s Blog - The Work Anywhere Life
Introduction: Welcome to Starting from Nothing – The Foundation Podcast, the place where incredible entrepreneur show you how they built their business entirely from scratch, before they knew what the heck they were doing.
Frank: Welcome to another edition of the Starting from Nothing podcast, I’m your host today Frank Mocerino. We’re bringing you a special guest today, a repeat guest. The reason that we’re bringing you a repeat guest is because since we last interviewed her in May of 2015, she has grown her business massively. So what we want to do is we want to bring back on Caitlin Pyle to tell you how she’s gone from 47K in May of 2015 all the way over $680,000 in less than a year.
Caitlin was a student of the Foundation and Caitlin actually has two businesses now: her core being Proofread Anywhere and she’s growing another business now called Transcribe Anywhere and we’re going to talk about the evolution of both of those.
Caitlin: Thanks so much for having me, Frank, and happy to be back on the podcast.
Frank: Yeah. We’re really happy to have you because I think that the value that we can bring to people with today’s podcast, Caitlin, is we can see a journey that just started from nothing so we can kind of go back and explore a little bit about how do you get to those first 47 but then ultimately how did you go big, how did you scale this thing so quickly.
So what I actually want to do, what I want to start with is what were you up to a few years ago before any of this started? What were you doing with your life and where were you living?
Caitlin: So, I’ve been living in Orlando for pretty much my whole life minus a year when I was abroad in college. I was in Orlando, started working at a court reporting office about four-and-a-half years ago? No, I guess it’s more like five-and-a-half years ago because it’s been almost five years since I got fired from that job. So, back in 2009 is when I got hired there and that’s how I learned about court reporters and transcripts.
So I worked at that office for about a year-and-a-half, got fired, decided to go to personal training school which I spend a lot of money on but ended up not really liking it. I still did it for three years but because of working at the court reporting office I learned how to proofread, got a few clients, and was doing that kind of part-time on the side. I had no idea that I could actually do it for a full-time income until I realize I didn’t really like personal training and didn’t want to put in a ton of marketing money to grow my business if I didn’t really like it.
And so I started taking out more proofreading clients and before I knew it, I grew my business to between $3,000 and $5,000 a month. That was exchanging time for money which I don’t have to do so much anymore because of the business I create out of it. But I was actually doing what I’m now teaching others to do a few years ago.
Frank: Catch us up on this because I want to give people a context. When you say you had a business that was doing $3,000 to $5,000 a month proofreading, what’s that mean? What were you proofreading?
Caitlin: I was proofreading transcripts for court reporters. So if you guys have seen TV shows or movies where there’s a stenographer sitting next to the judge or in front of the judge’s bench doing -- she’s pretty much typing everything that’s said in the court room, that’s a court reporter.
What most people don’t know is that a lot of legal proceedings take place outside the courtroom and so they’re actually in law offices or even court reporting conference rooms where the court reporter is there and she’s the third party that’s typing down what each side says before the case even goes to court. So you’ve got like a deposition, if you’ve been in an accident, your insurance wants to take your testimony down to ensure that you’re not trying to commit fraud or something like that. It’s actually part of people’s policies to give these testimonies. And so court reporters are involved in that as well.
So I was actually proofreading the English -- they type in their [funny low 00:03:53] computers called steno machines and then use software to turn it into English. They edit it and make sure it’s good and then they send it to a proofreader to make sure there are no embarrassing errors in those and so that’s what I was doing.
Frank: Okay. So you’re doing it and then you’re teaching it. My question is let’s talk about that first $47,000. Actually I want to preface this by saying if you want to hear the full journey of that, you guys can go listen to the last podcast with Caitlin but we’re going to do a catch up here that way we can really get into what’s changed and how is this thing growing into almost three quarters of a million dollars in less than a year.
But catch us up, Caitlin. To get to your first $47,000, what did that actually look like for you?
Caitlin: So it started off kind of rocky because I had no idea what I was doing and I’m actually an honorary student of the Foundation because my husband was the one who enrolled and I was like, “Ah, whatever. You can do what you want.” And so I was really skeptical. I’m like, “Okay, this seems not like a pipe dream,” or anything like that but I was like, “It just seems like a lot of work,” and you just don’t know what’s going to happen.” I had limiting beliefs that I didn’t even know about.
But, through osmosis, I picked up on some ideas and he would encourage me -- because he would see me teaching people one-on-one he’s like, “Maybe you should turn this into something that can reach more people,” and I was like, “Just so much work. I’m happy making $40,000 a year.” I honestly, looking back, thought that that was all I was capable of. And so I drag my feet a little bit.
Back in November of 2014, I finally took the bait, so to speak, and I said, “Whatever. I’m going to start a blog and it’s probably not going to go anywhere but I’m going to try it.” So I bought the domain proofreadanywhere.com thinking it was just going to be a blog and then as a side thing I would offer one-on-one coaching like I was already doing. I’d put together a 30-page e-book which was abysmal in comparison to what I offer now.
This is kind of funny. If your first product didn’t totally suck and you’re not embarrassed about it, you didn’t put it out there [unclear 00:05:53] whatever they says now and I agree with that, you know? Because you don’t know what you don’t know until you try to teach it and then everybody tells you where the holes are.
So it’s quite a good thing even though I didn’t like the product later on but I had to learn WordPress and learned how to kind of put all that together. How do you get a shopping cart on your website? I don’t even know how to sell something. I didn’t even know how to create a website at all. So that’s where I started.
That was in November but then we took that product down in January because Ben, who was continuing with the Foundation at the time, he was part of the August of 2014 class and he said, “We should do online course,” and then I was like, “Oh great. I just got done writing this e-book and I’ve sold 15 …” it was 15 or 17 some copies of it and I was like, “Yeah, that’s too much work. I don’t think I can actually teach how to read by using videos and things like that. I think what we have is fine.”
And then I started thinking more about it and do more research and started seeing you could use different platforms to build online courses and you can do that on WordPress, you can own it yourself, you don’t have to pay commissions through Udemy or give them any rights or anything like that to discount your courses to $9, it’s a drop of a hat or anything like that.
So the more I kind of researched on it I was like, “Well, I can build this myself and we can expand on what we offer in the e-book and do screencap tutorial videos.” I had to figure out that it was possible first what I wanted to do. Can I plug my iPad into a computer and record what I’m doing in the screen? Yes. Okay, well, that changes everything because now I can show people one-on-one like what I do on my iPad to markup these transcripts or how to setup my app and things like that and so I got more faith.
So we shut down the e-book, kept the website up, and we had built a list of 200. I was actually a little nervous. I was like, “Oh my gosh! We’re not going to have anything to sell. People are going to go to our website and they’re not going to have anything to buy,” and I was just so worried about it. We had such a small list and there’s probably no reason to worry.
So I just got to work figuring out the new plugin that I was using to build the course and really bootstrapping it. I really had very little faith that it was going to turn into anything and so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I didn’t want to pay for Fedora or Kajabi or any of those SaaS products that you pay like $80 to $100 and something a month just to be able to build their course on it. Some of them take commissions, things like that. All I wanted to totally do it where, “Okay, one time to use the plugin and that’s it.” That way I lose money or nothing happens and nothing happens and I don’t lose very much.
So I probably spent about $500 when I finally bought like a premium theme and the plugin to build the course and something like that just because I had very little faith it’s going to turn in to anything. But we ended up launching the course in its first form, February 16th of 2015. In about a week, we’ll be at the one year course-aversary is what we’ve been calling it. (Laughs) Yeah. Yeah, that’s when we first launched [unclear 00:09:00] and started taking sales and, yeah.
Frank: So from February to May, what happened? February 2015 to May 2015, what happened with you guys when you really just did like a soft launch. You mentioned that the list was really only at 200 when you started that process, how did those first few months go for you?
Caitlin: Yeah. I had somebody email me and they’re like, “Hey, I was wondering if I could be an affiliate of your course and I think that my audience would really like it.” I was like, “Okay. Well, I guess I’ll give this a shot.” I had never really thought about using other people to market for me at that point but I figure, “Well, if she wants to market for me then I bet some other people want to market for me.”
So I started just kind of looking around for people in the work-at-home niche that were offering ways to make money from home that they didn’t have anything about proofreading. I would just reach out to them and say, “Hey, I’ve got this really cool course and I’m launching it. Do you want to help me promote it?”
I pay, at the time, it was $75 per sale on a $380 product or course. I, somehow, got people to be on board and put their faith in me that I knew what I was doing and they made money in. I want to say I had one or two people that were making money for sales. I use that information to write to other people that were in the niche that maybe were a little bit bigger bloggers that weren’t -- they had a lot of people making offers to them and so they probably wanted more social proof that it was worth their time.
And so I said, “Hey …” so and so. I wrote them and I said, “Hey, I’m looking to build my affiliate team and so and so has been promoting for just a week and they’ve already made $150.” I gave them some numbers and mentioned names of other bloggers that I’m sure they’ve heard of or seen in Pinterest or whatever and I got them onboard too. I just started slowly building a network.
I remember Dane had said, “You weren’t afraid to reach out to these bloggers that have been in business for 20 times longer than you.” I was like, “No. I mean, yeah, they could have said no but I really at that point did believe that the product that I had, the course that I had was life-changing.” I think I didn’t really let fear get in my way which is kind of ironic because it had gotten in my way so much prior to that. So we basically just grew our affiliate network and gave them tools to sell more and communicate to their audience.
We did interviews. We really feel like interview is a great way to build trust with another blogger’s audience. So you’re brand new as a blogger, you have a course that nobody has ever heard of, and a niche that nobody has ever heard of, but if this blogger interviews you and they’re like, “Hey, tell us about what you do,” and they get information of you. They’re introducing you to their audience as if you were a friend and not a salesperson whereas people talk about guest posting, blah, blah.
Well, a lot of times that can appear to a blogger’s audience like they painted off the [rings 00:11:48] to their blog or their information to some kind of salesperson whereas if the blogger interviews somebody, it just frames it totally differently and you get to piggyback on their trust that their audience has for them.
So I really feel like doing that gave us a lot of [unclear 00:12:06] so to speak and we stared compiling a press page where we included links to all the posts that we were mentioned in or that we did interviews on. So, we just spread across the internet and the work-at-home niche. Before we knew it, it kind of became the go-to reference for people who want to make money proofreading.
Frank: Awesome. I’m curious, if you had like a rough estimate of the amount of people that you reached out to versus the number of people or bloggers or communities that accepted you as affiliates, what did that look like? How successful were you at converting these potential affiliate deals to actually working with you?
Caitlin: That’s a good question and I’m surprised to look back and see that I had a pretty good conversation rate. It was probably 75% to 80% conversion. There were a few people who are probably kicking themselves that they didn’t get in sooner. I’m thinking about writing back to them and be like, “Hey, you never got back to me but I paid out like $40,000 something in affiliate commissions last year. Are you interested in possibly partnering with me?” Or they do offer really cheap paid sponsored ads that I could take part of instead and just pay him to write an article for me. I think it leads that way since they obviously aren’t interested in partnering with me. Maybe I can just pay them to write an article for me instead. So, there’s some options there but --
Yeah, there was a couple of people who were like, “Yeah, I’m really interested. I’ll just get back to you at a later time,” where they ask a bunch of questions and I answer all the questions and then I wrote back but in the meantime all of the other bloggers in the niche of work-at-home were getting onboard on making commissions. I pay out sometimes $2,000, $3,000 a month to a single affiliate sometimes depending on what kind of promoting they do. So I can imagine why they wouldn’t have wanted to say yes but, you know, life gets in the way and sometimes they’re just part-time bloggers and they just don’t care as much or whatever so [unclear 00:14:06].
I was surprised to have as many conversions as I did but I’ve got about eight to ten that are my anchor promoter, my anchor affiliates right now.
Frank: Let’s break down so people can understand, right? So people out there might have a product or a service that’s relatively new but has given some people success. Now they’re hearing your advice and thinking, “Maybe it’s a good idea that I go out there for people’s audiences my stuff would resonate with and make some sort of an offer.
So, I want to break down for the listeners, what is the anatomy of what it looks like to reach out to somebody to make them an offer like this? Do you want to show a social proof? Do you want to show how much they could potentially make? What are the core things that you include to get people interested in being a partner with you?
Caitlin: Well, you definitely have to have an established blog and that doesn’t mean you have to have a huge list or anything but you got to have some good content in your blog. So it’s not just a website where you’re just like, “Hey, sign up for my course and that’s it.” You have to be putting in effort to provide value to your audience.
You have to have some really valuable actionable blog post that you’ve been promoting on your Pinterest or promoting through GetResponse or whatever it is that you use through email marketing. And so you actually have to be attempting to create a presence for yourself, to create -- carve out an authority niche for yourself and be like a thought leader essentially in your niche. Because if you don’t do that then they’re maybe like, “This person’s just full of crap.”
You also can’t underscore or undermine the importance of writing good email and I’m really good at writing emails. I make sure that it sounds interesting. I’m essentially a good copywriter where I can make people see the obviousness that it’s a good idea to sign up to be an affiliate because you can make money. Yes, you mentioned social proof and that’s a huge part of it as well.
Even when I didn’t have anybody had made money yet I was like, “So and so is onboard, so and so is onboard.” I had people who were onboard but the first one was the hardest and so sometimes you just have to -- just send out emails and be like “I’m just starting out but I really feel like this will work and here’s why.” You’re going to make it easy for them and so with my consulting sometimes, you know, people ask me “How do I get them to say yes?” I’m like “You have to make it no-brainer. You have to give them no reason to say no.” So you got to let them know that you’re going to make it as easy as possible to create some very useful, interesting, and unique content for their blog.
So, I offered to write interviews. All they had to do is ask me questions and I’ll answer every single one of them and then obviously how you answer those questions helps as well. Because if you just answer one or two word or like one or two sentence responses then it’s not going to be useful for their audience.
So, I think that pretty much sums it up. You got to have your social proof, you got to make it a no-brainer for them and you have to show them. Make it about them and not about you helping. You want to help them create more content for their audience and provide something valuable with the potential of earning or return on it if they’re willing to work with you.
Frank: That’s awesome.
So to recap, if you guys are thinking about doing this, what Caitlin is telling us worked is she’s not just saying, “Here’s my course. Please go out and promote it or sell it to your existing audience.” She’s showing these people exactly why it would benefit both of them personally and also benefit their audience. So she’s showing these people how to create value for themselves and for their audience and she’s making it what she call a no brainer.
So if you’re thinking about this type of strategy, think about what benefit you’re going to bring to the company or the person you’re partnering with as well as the audience and what benefit you’re going to bring to them. Awesome. Awesome advice, Caitlin.
So let’s jump in to like April and May of 2015. Basically from November until April you’re kind of getting this thing up and running, you’re starting to do really well, you’re really taking a lot of action which is one of the things that I pulled out that you said earlier which is you don’t know what you don’t know until you go out there and do it.
So one of the things that I’m really noticing is that you didn’t try and figure all of this out for a period of six months and then all of a sudden say, “I’ve got it figured out. I’m going to go do it.” You just learned on the fly by taking action and learn what worked and what didn’t work, right?
So now you’ve got some months under your belt of starting to learn what works and what doesn’t work. How did you really begin to start scaling this thing? What was the switch that you flipped that started you on the path from 47K to almost three quarters of a million in the last little bit over half-a-year?
Caitlin: That’s a good question. Yeah, I totally learned on the fly. I realized that even the course that I launched I had six practice transcripts and there were some obvious holes that I would get a bunch of questions from students and I kept expanding, I kept expanding, and then I realize that’s even still not enough and so I kept expanding. I added hand-graded test. I just kept making it. I kept taking action and the action made the course get bigger and bigger and more useful to the students and I was like, “Crap! I’m going to raise my prices.”
So I raised my prices at the end of May. Yeah. So shortly after the first interview, I decided to raise the price from $380 to $479 or $497, I can’t quite remember, and I said, “If you …” and I send an email in my list which at the time was probably like 1500 or something and I said, “If you guys [unclear 00:19:51] course and X, Y, and Z, [unclear 00:19:53] guys want to hop onboard now you can then you’ll get all the future updates included and blah, blah, blah.” So I raised it that and I think I made $27,000 in a day or something.
Frank: When you raise your price.
Caitlin: When I raise my price because people knew it was a good deal, people, I think, knew that I was underselling and then -- What’s funny is I raised it $83 and less than a month later I was like, “I’m going to raise it again because I had raised it to 15 or 16 practice transcripts and I’m like, “I got to go to 50. I got to give these people 3,000 practice pages because there’s just not enough practice.” I just didn’t feel like there was enough practice to get people really prepared. I didn’t feel like the course was hard enough to weed out the people who have no business doing this and so I want to make the course more rigorous. I want to make it --
It really came down to if I make this too easy and too accessible for people then it’s going to make me look bad to the court reporting community. There are starting to be a little bit of push back from some really mean court reporters and on Facebook even. They were saying mean things about the course and how it’s crap. There’s no way that anybody can teach somebody how to proofread, blah, blah. And so I’m like, “Well, I’m going to keep raising the bar until they shut up.
And so I raised the bar and I raised the bar and I raised the bar and now I haven’t heard any bad words about myself since September. I also had to threaten a lawsuit but that’s a whole different story. (Laughs) But I kept raising the bar. Now, I focus so much on promoting the course, not even the product. I really don’t feel it’s a product, I feel it’s a course, just like a college course but --
So, for example, I don’t offer refunds. People email me and they’re like, “Well, do you offer refunds if it doesn’t work?” and I’m like, “I have so much evidence that this course works but it’s only going to work if you work and because I can’t promise that, I can’t promise that it’s going to work for you unless you can promise yourself that you’ll put in the work to make it happen.”
Yeah, I raised my prices twice. I raised it by $83 the first time and then I raised it by double the second time. The month that we doubled it -- the month before the rate went up, July 1st, and the month before we doubled it was June of 2015 and we made like $106,000 that month because people knew I was giving away my expertise and they wanted in.
Frank: Whoa! Okay, so let me just break this down for people because I think a lot of what Caitlin’s saying might initially seem counterintuitive but it sounds to me like this is the fuel to her growth.
So, number one, which makes sense, is increase the quality. And then here’s where some of those counterintuitive things come in that I think I’m seeing are really fueling the growth. So number one, increase the quality; number two, raise your price; number three, make the content or the course harder to get through so you’re creating better students and better proofreaders at the end; and then number four, which I find really interesting, no refund policy.
So, you’re pretty much all-in to providing an amazing experience that is challenging, it’s not easy, and then you’re not giving people the opportunity to get their money back. So you’re really going after a hardcore crowd who believes that this is going to work for them and it sounds like with your quality increase you’re making it work for them really well.
Caitlin: Yeah. That’s absolutely true. I make it harder but I also give them more resources and I write about mindset and productivity on the blog so I’m always trying to push people to take control over their own ability to make things happen. My motto for myself and for all my students is learning changes everything.
And so, yes, while you might be afraid that you’re not going to clients, you have to realize that you don’t know how to do the work for those clients. Once you learn how to do the work, your confidence is going to exponentially grow and we’re going to give you resources to go and find those clients. And so you have to realize you don’t know any of that yet. You got to look at the evidence. There’s a lot of students that had made it happen.
One of the questions that we get a lot is what’s the success rate of your program? I was like, “You cannot compare …” I wrote a fact post about this recently, “No, you cannot compare or base your probability for success on success of others whether it’s …”
All these people are successful, I’m going to be successful versus there’s these people who haven’t finished the course yet, “I’m proud that I can finish the course.” You are 100% responsible for your success or failure and our job is to give you education, tools, and resources to make it happen but we cannot use them for you.
Frank: Man, that’s awesome.
So, what I want to dive into is I’m curious to kind of explore as you’re really growing and scaling now in a big way. What percentage is coming in from these partners that you’ve cultivated versus what are you doing in your own, now more sophisticated, marketing and funnel building efforts.
But before we dive in to that, I want to dive back into something you mentioned very briefly which is when you were kind of just started getting started and you’re getting some crap on Facebook from other people telling you it was no good or telling you that it couldn’t be done, how did you respond to those people? Did you respond to those people?
Because, I think, it’s a really valuable lesson that people are going to experience as they scale anything which is there’s going to be a point all of a sudden where people are going to start talking nonsense or trolling you. How did you deal with that?
Caitlin: That’s another great question. You seem to be good at asking questions, Frank. (Laughs)
Frank: Thank you.
Caitlin: Yeah. Well, I can’t say that I was totally proud with how I responded initially just because I’ve never done it before, I’ve never experienced it before. I wrote some Facebook messages. I was like, “Why are you saying this? You haven’t even seen my course.” I would just ask them to say why they think my course sucks, that they’ve never seen it or taken it, you know?
I reached out to them which then that person who’s just a mean person in general would just like post something else in Facebook where going to be like, “She just attacked me via PM,” blah, blah, blah. People are just mean. A lot of it was just like, “You know what? Now I’m just going to -- I’m going to shut up and I’m going to just keep raising the bar and I’m going to quietly speak my truth. Time’s going to tell.
People are saying things like “This is just a pop up school. She’s scamming people,” blah, blah, blah. “Time will tell if you just going to have to shut it down eventually because people are going to realize that nobody is actually doing anything with this program and she’s probably writing all of her success stories herself,” blah, blah, blah. Really, really awful things.
I just kind of had to come to the conclusion that people are going to say these things but I think the real professionals are going to actually look at what people have actually seen the course and have taken the course have to say about it versus somebody who’s never seen it before.
At some point, I had to even approach an ad man of a certain Facebook group and say, “You are saying 100% false and easily disproval thing about my company, about my person and that is actually libel. You know, if you say something untrue about somebody to other people. I have every right to file a lawsuit against you so I’d really like it if you stop saying those things or you’re going to receive a letter from my attorney.” I actually don’t have an attorney.
Caitlin: (Laughs) But she hasn’t said anything since and she -- anytime somebody post something about my group, positive or negative, or my course, positive or negative, in her group she just immediately takes it down.
I know I have evidence that she’s done some not very nice things behind closed doors. Like over PM somebody will mention me or mention the course and she’ll jump right in and say it’s garbage. I know that happens but this person, this particular person, does not have a very good reputation with a lot of people and the court reporting community for being very professional.
I kind of just had to realize that there’s going to be nice people that they’re too busy doing work and being professional to come in and defend you so the mean once that are just unprofessional and obviously don’t have anything better to do are going to be the ones that speak out.
It did hurt at first and I was like, “Oh my gosh! Are they going to like …” Because you kind of start feeling like an impostor like what if these people are right? Because these people are in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s that are saying these mean things about you. They’ve been doing court reporting for 30 years and you start to wonder sometimes if there’s some kind of authority that you don’t know about that’s going to come knocking in your door and tell you to shut it down. But the reality is that’s not going to happen.
I want to ask these people, “You can knock my course all you want but you’re spending your time making somebody else look bad on Facebook. You’re not doing anything to help proofreaders but I am. So why are you saying all these mean things about me?”
You just kind of have to put yourself what you’re doing in perspective and just continue raising the bar, continue pushing yourself to be better because time ultimately will tell [unclear 00:29:08] haters that are saying mean things about you. Just continue getting better, continue helping your students get the results that they want.
I do feel like raising the bar and making the course harder works for that because it, number one, will prevent people that aren’t qualified and that aren’t willing to put in the work for me been enrolling. Then it will also prevent too many people from completing it and moving on to the marketing stuff like how to get clients. I put that stuff under lock and key.
I make them do so much stuff before they’re even allowed to learn how to get clients because if anybody can just pay $900, pay money to get in to the course, they skip everything and go straight to marketing content because they think they already know how to proofread. They don’t have to prove it in anyway then that can ultimately make me look bad.
And so I started putting some things in place to prevent that from happening. They have to go through that to proofread a transcript for us it has to be graded by hand before we even allow them access to the marketing module. So just keeping people out of marketing module has actually helped us curb people who are not supposed to be in it from getting out there and trying to get work without actually being qualified. So just raise that bar.
Frank: I love that.
I love how we tied it back into ultimately why making the course harder has done a number of things that have been positive for business, right? Number one, you’re allowing people who actually who actually go through it to show their commitment, to ultimately be more successful but now you’re also creating essentially raving clients which, moving forward, the detractors out there are never going to be able to speak as loudly as the genuine people that you’ve helped. I really love how you brought that together.
So what I’m curious about is to circle back to write. So now we were scaling this thing and what I want to breakdown a little bit is as it stands right now, how much of your revenue is coming from stuff that you’ve done with partners versus your own marketing funnel that you’ve built. Once we get into the marketing funnel part, we’ll dive into what you’re doing but give us a sense. How much of this is coming from partners versus how much of this is your own sales funnel?
Caitlin: So, another really good question.
Last year we paid, I think, between $37,000 and $40,000 in affiliate commissions and we did $574,000 in revenue. We don’t pay a ton of affiliate commission either because I don’t have any competitor. So I pay 16% commission because there’s nobody else out there offering more than that and I do a lot of work to do marketing on my own and so I’m like, “Well, you want to promote this to your audience then you’re going to have to accept what I pay you or not promote like if you want to make some money off of this.” But it turns out that conversion rate for my affiliates is pretty high and so I’m paying out a lot to a lot of my affiliates.
However, the marketing that they do and what I do and the sales funnel, everything, we have a 90-day cookie and so sometimes it’s hard -- there’s just so many different complexities to it but I’m thinking that we get the referral from the affiliate but people will follow me for months and months and months. The affiliate cookie expires but I still have that person on my list and they eventually convert but it doesn’t get tied back to an affiliate anymore because it didn’t convert in 90 days.
Caitlin: So it’s hard to say exactly how much traffic came from affiliates versus came from only me.
We’re promoting on Pinterest now a lot and we’re getting a lot of traffic from Pinterest but all my affiliates are also promoting me on Pinterest as well. If you look and you see you got person from Pinterest, Google Analytics doesn’t say exactly whether they came from one of your pins on Pinterest or one of your affiliate’s pins on Pinterest only that they came from Pinterest and whether or not they converted into your sales funnel.
There’s a lot of complexities that go into it but the numbers have indicated that the marketing that we’re doing is also very effective and I think that my content marketing has been just producing amazing, really actionable content, social proof, engaging content that is consistently sent out to our audience. We send out newsletter like every two weeks.
People just like to follow my blog. They like my Facebook page, they like the stuff I write about. I’m really straight forward. I’m a real person. I’ll answer emails when you email me. I don’t know how many times in the last -- probably even -- Just the last month I wrote emails -- somebody else that runs a business, online business, and they just never answer and that’s just not the way you run a business. If you want to grow your business, you got to answer emails, you got to be part of it and not try to automate everything to where you’re not a human anymore because I think people really like to buy from humans. (Laughs)
Caitlin: And so if you can figure out how to be more human in your business then -- and you can consistently engage with your audience personally -- I don’t think that’s too much to ask and in my case, it’s really paid off.
Frank: Man! Okay. So I like that. So be human in your business goes a long way.
From what we can guest -- so we don’t have the exact number just because tracking affiliates is a bit of a complex thing. But would it be fair to guess that the majority of the sales that are coming in are from the efforts that you are doing with your own marketing? Let’s say 80%. Does that seem roughly in the ballpark?
Caitlin: Yeah, definitely because of the 90-day cookie which is totally fair for a high ticket item like that but the honest truth is not everybody’s going to convert in 90 days. And so after that point, it’s not the affiliate’s job to convert anymore, it’s your job and so you got to continue engaging, continue promoting, continue sharing who you are and letting them get to know you and then they end up trusting you and then it’s your blog that they’re following, not this affiliate’s anymore. I mean, of course, they’re still going to follow the affiliate if that’s what they want to do but at some point it does become your job to get the conversion if they don’t make a move within that 90 days.
Frank: Cool. Okay.
So let’s talk about now the 80% because ultimately you’re crushing it on the marketing side with systems that you’ve set up for your own marketing. So I know you’re doing Pinterest, you’ve done stuff with Instagram, you’ve got a little bit of an intro course that doubles as a sales funnel. So let’s not talk about all of those, let’s talk about, as of right now, what do you feel is the highest converting method of going from nothing to lead to signing a new client?
Caitlin: Yeah. Definitely the seven-day intro course/sales funnel and I call it the Value-Added Sales Funnel because I pretty much pack this thing full of social proof, actionable tips. I’ve got a link to a blog post about how to build your website from scratch, how to grow your proofreading business, just a lot of actionable stuff they can do.
But I’m also super, super honest with them in saying, “Proofreading [unclear 00:36:13] is a niche that’s really hard to get into so here’s some stories from people who have made it happen.” So yay inspiration with their full-time jobs, with having kids, and if they’re brand new at it, they still made it happen, but this is the amount of work that goes into it.
And, of course, at the end of each of the sales funnel emails, the seven-day intro course, I’d ask them to respond and answer a question. One of the emails is about marketing and -- Oh, it was the three biggest mistakes that proofreaders make and one of them is not having training and they’re trying to proofread everything, they don’t have a niche, blah, blah.
And then I ask them the question, “Do you think it’s better to have all the information upfront so you can hit the ground running, learn from the experts, and then know exactly what you’re doing so you can have great results. Or is it better to just kind of try everything on your own first and then decide whether you want to pursue this further.” Nine times out of 10 I get the response that it’s way better to get all the information and training first before you embark on a new career path.
Basically, the sales funnel is giving them all the information about what it’s like to do proofreading for court reports is giving them social proof and it’s kind of helping them have the idea on their own that, yeah, if they really want to make this happen I can take action and I can make it happen. These are the tools that I’m going to need to make it work.
By the end they’re like, “I’m so excited about taking your course,” and they ask me their questions, the Day 7 emails, the invitation, what do you want to do with this information. Do you want to just kind of sit around and do what you were doing before or do you want to learn some skills that will make a difference in your life?
We just really groom them to make a life-changing decision. However, we also say, “It’s not for everybody. Here’s some other options if you’re not thinking this is something you want to do.” We also offer [tier 00:38:17]. We can actually purchase the course in chunks so it allows people to move away from the sticker shock aspects where it’s like, “Oh my God! It’s $900. I’ll never be able to afford that.” But if you can pay $200 for the first two modules then, yeah, you can do that.
Frank: Okay. So 7-day intro course, what we’re thinking, is the highest converting right now of your own marketing efforts and I heard some really great things that I want to pull out.
Number one, you’re giving them actionable tips and actionable information. Number two, you’ve got the social proof in there. Third, engagement which I love. So at every single step of the 7-day intro you’re asking them to engage with you, to tell you things, to ask you questions, or to give you information.
Then the other thing that I heard that’s really cool is you’re giving them some mindset. I like the way you phrase it, you’re grooming them to become this person who would be able to go through this course and then create this other kind of income or this other kind of life. So that’s awesome.
The last thing that I want to end on -- and before we do that I’m going to ask you about your Instagram contest that you did with Eagle Eye. But before we circle around to end at that, I want to understand a little bit in terms of -- Actually, no. Let’s do the Instagram. Tell me about the Instagram contest that you run and then what we’ll do is we’ll end with what’s coming up for you in the next 12 months. We’re going to see how you’re going to go from three quarters of a million off to the stratosphere.
But before we end on that, tell us about your Instagram contest and what that was like for you.
Caitlin: So, that was a little hairy. We had fun with it but we have a little eagle eye finger puppet. He’s really cute. His name is Eagle Eyes and he’s just an eagle. He’s little puppet. We started out just posting pictures of him at Machu Picchu, at the Salt Flats in Bolivia as we’re traveling South America and we just started collecting followers.
We’re still only less than a thousand followers in Instagram. However, we grew it up by 600 just when we did the contest and we said, “We’re running a scholarship contest. If you want to win, show me your eagle eyes by posting a picture of an error you found at the grocery store, or in the church bulletin, or someplace like that, and tag it with this, and then fill out the scholarship application form,” or whatever.
So it was a little bit tough to keep organize because we didn’t go with any special ads, we just use like Google forms and instructions and things like that, but it definitely increase the engagement. We ended up giving away, I think, 15 of the jumpstart so that only is 197. But because we gave those many away we’re encouraging people, “Okay, we’ll, you got the first two modules. Now you can buy the rest of them.” It kind of just [unclear 00:41:11] them a little bit by just giving away a little bit of content.
With that content, they don’t have a lot of action to take with that information because it’s very foundational, it’s very punctuation oriented. They couldn’t go out and become proofreaders in this niche without the rest of the course and it kind of like just encouraging people to take that next step by giving them the first step.
Then it just increases more awareness. We got a lot of people talking about us on Instagram and sharing. Even on our Facebook page people were saying, “I don’t want to do it on Instagram.” I’m like, “Sorry, we’re going to do it on Instagram,” you know? People are interested in it. Yeah, we’re trying to go on Instagram kind of -- we turned Eagle Eyes into a cartoon and now he says like why it’s close sometimes and things like that. So, yeah. We’re evolving in Instagram. Pinterest is my favorite social media right now.
Frank: Cool. Okay. Alright. We might have to table that into a podcast number three with Caitlin Pyle sometime in the future when you guys are over a million.
So what I would love to end with is tell us a little bit about -- Now, you’re coming up on the one year course-aversary, right? So just about a year since this thing has been launched. Tell us about what the next 12 months looks like for you. Tell us about where you’re going to be focusing and kind of 80/20-ing your energy to scale this thing. And then feel free to drop in this other thing that you’re now bringing on which is Transcribe Anywhere. But tell us about the next 12 months how you’re going to focus your energy and what this other course that you’ve added looks like.
Caitlin: Yeah. So we are taking major, major action. I’m hiring people to help me get more organize. I’ve got [unclear 00:42:55] assistant now that we’re trying to monetize more the blog post so we’re doing some more affiliate marketing within our blog post and I promote other courses sometimes.
There’s a bookkeeping course that I promote and I make affiliate income on that every month now. We write reviews for Grammarly, things like that. We wrote reviews on how to build a website and so we actually earn a little bit of income from hosting programs or hosting websites.
One of my goals is to increase affiliate income by monetizing the blog in other ways because there’s going to be a lot of people that visit the blog that they’ll never sign up for my course but they might use another resource that I can offer. So offering other resources that can help people find their fit in the work-at-home world that I can still earn some kind of income off of. So that’s a big goal.
In general, we want to get to a million. We’re on track to hit a million in the next couple of months, hopefully by July or August, at the latest September or October timeframe. So right about time we come home from South America we should be right around a million. We got about $320,000 to go (laughs) at this point. So, we’re looking forward to that. In general, just increasing our income streams.
And so one of the biggest ways that we’re doing that, what we’re really excited about is I partner with a friend of mine that I met through Proofread Anywhere. When I was starting to get in to affiliate marketing last August I found her transcription courses and I said, “These are really good.” My students started taking the courses I’m like, “Wow! This is really good content but I almost didn’t buy because the website look so bad and it look like a scam.
So I was just thinking one day and I was like, “What if I can apply what I know about growing something like Proofread Anywhere and apply it to this transcription course.” It hit me like a ton of bricks one night like I need to invest. I had some money at that point. I think we’ve done about 400K in October and that was September of last year and it just hit me like a ton of bricks. I need to email her and be like, “Hey, if I front the money to return in the time to turn this into Transcribe Anywhere …” she actually suggested that. I was surprised that she’s like, “No, let’s do Transcribe Anywhere.”
Now we have Transcribe Anywhere. I basically offered to be her marketing person and to transform it from her GoDaddy website builder website into something built on a WP engine that is made to convert, that’s made to head up for blogging. And so I’m marketing for her right now. I make 40% on the total revenue each month plus an extra 10% of the conversions come directly from my website.
So monetizing somebody else’s genius is totally possible because that’s what I’m working on right now.
Caitlin: Because transcription is such a giant niche in comparison to proofreading, we’ve been interviewing people lately on the phone, just get people on the phone for 10 minutes and then I interviewed a podcaster for 10 minutes a day just to learn how about he uses transcription. We’re able to actually turn those interviews into blog post which is kind of ironic because we’re teaching people the demand for transcription and we’re actually using it.
Frank: Ah, wow!
Caitlin: We’re using transcription for the blog and we’re doing some major, major, major authority blogging in trying to show people that we know what we’re doing and the work is out there. So we’ve got a blog post series called People Who Use Transcriptionist which sounds really straightforward but we’re interviewing podcasters, we’re interviewing online toy store owners who use transcriptionist.
Every single niche has the potential to have the use for transcription because Google is not going to find your video. Google’s going to find your text content. So can you turn your video or audio for your podcast or your tutorial video on YouTube into text? Yes, you can with the help of transcriptionist. So we’re showing people that the work is out there and that we’re the authority when it comes to learning how to get in on this work and how to create a career for yourself. Major, major, major authority blogging.
We just started doing that just the last couple of weeks but we’re expecting some huge results because we can also have our affiliates market those posts with their affiliate links attached and try and get more traffic because of, you know, “Hey, wow, I didn’t have any idea that you didn’t have to work for a big box transcription company.” I have every reason to believe that Transcript Anywhere because of the size of niche it’s in, because of the demand, and every aspect of business, online business that Transcript Anywhere will be bigger than Proofread Anywhere. So I’m super excited to see.
Frank: Whoa! Okay. Well, yeah, definitely we’ll be talking about that in podcast three sometime in the next 12 months. But overall, let’s end with this, right? So you guys have heard a little bit from Caitlin, hear in mentions, about where she’s living and where she’s going. Tell me about where have you guys lived since you started this whole thing because you’re not in Orlando where you started?
Caitlin: No, no. We were in Orlando until July of 2015 and we left and we were in Ecuador for three months. And then we hit the road transitioning. We went through Peru and Bolivia for about a month and then we were in Argentina for about a month and a half. We went home for a month after that in December just for holidays and then came back and now we’re in Santiago. We’ve been here for about a month now and then we’re taking a cruise for our five-year anniversary in March. That will take us all the way around the tip of South America to Buenos Aires and we’ll be in Bueno Aires for two months. We’ll spend a month in Uruguay and then head home. So it will be about a year since we left. And we’re getting a huge tax rate because of it too. (Laughs)
Frank: Man! I was going to end with that but so far what you’ve heard right now is scaling a business to over a million almost in revenue and traveling the world, and then what’s this last thing about a tax break?
Caitlin: Yeah. So if you spend 330 days out of 365-day period, any 365-day period you can qualify for a foreign earned income exclusion. That, essentially, will allow you to exclude -- For 2015, it was $101,800 per tax year. So Ben and I both will be able to exclude that amount of $100,800 from our taxable income spread out over the two years that we were gone. So we’re going to have to do part of it this year, part of it for this coming tax year. So that, essential, equals out to $70,000 in taxes that we will not have to pay if you pay 35% on that $200,000. You could buy a Tesla with that.
Frank: Are you going to buy a Tesla with that, Caitlin, when you get back?
Caitlin: Not when we get back but it’s on my list. I want to have a green car and that seems like a good option. Yeah, it’s on my list and I definitely think it’s possible now.
Frank: Wow! Amazing. Alright.
So you guys have heard from Caitlin Pyle, again, going from zero to $47,000. From $47,000 to $680,000 and now it seems like the moon is the next step.
So, Caitlin, thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate it and I hope to bring you back for a part three sometime when we can talk about where you’ve gone since now.
Caitlin: Yeah, thanks so much, Frank. Well, talk to you next time.
Frank: Sounds good. Thanks Caitlin. See you.
Closing: Thank you for joining us. We’ve taken this interview and created a custom action guide so you know exactly what action steps to take to grow your business. Just head over to thefoundationpodcast.com to download it for free. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.