Note: you can listen to this episode above or load it up in iTunes.

How to Turn Your Product Daydreams Into Reality

pat flynnToday’s episode is a special interview with Pat Flynn about how to turn your great ideas into real life products.

Pat Flynn is a blogger at Smart Passive Income, speaker, podcaster, author and entrepreneur, widely known for the great tips he shares about how to increase your income.

Many bloggers have great ideas for generating income but don’t end up following through due to fear, or being unsure about how to go ahead.

Pat shares his tips and answers your questions so that you can transform your product ideas into reality.

Pat has also just released his brand new book – Will it Fly.

Sidewalk chalk thought bubble over pensive girl by Hero Images on

In This Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment).

In today’s episode:

  • Why you should care about what Pat has to share
  • The roadblocks many bloggers face when it comes to monetising through products
  • How to come up with product ideas
  • How to choose which ideas to focus on
  • Exercises for developing product ideas
  • How to identify which idea will make the ‘best’ product
  • Things you should consider for choosing your first product
  • How to feel the fear and do it anyway
  • How to choose which way to develop your product, e.g. should it be an ebook? A course? Something else?
  • How to deliver your product
  • Things you should consider before building your product
  • How to create your product
  • The 3 things Pat recommends you should do first if you’re starting from zero
  • The one thing that will take you longer than anything else in making your product a reality
  • Pat’s top 5 apps/sites he uses for business
  • Pat’s top 3 podcast tips
  • The biggest change Pat plans to implement for his business in 2016

Further Reading and Resources for How to Turn Your Product Daydreams Into Reality

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Darren: Hi there and welcome to episode 85 of the ProBlogger Podcast. My name is Darren Rowse. I am really pleased to have a special guest on today’s podcast, Pat Flynn. Many of you will be familiar from his podcasts, his blog, his ebooks, and the products that he has created over the last few years. He is the blogger at, a blog where he documents his journey of building an income. He has been doing it since 2009, I think. I first interviewed Pat on ProBlogger in January of 2010 and I am going to include a link to that interview on today’s show notes. 

You can find today’s show notes at That interview is kind of a bit of a funny one. The audio is not great but it’s me and Pat talking about what we knew back in 2010 about making money blogging, and it kind of gives you a bit of an introduction to Pat and how we started out. I think it’s kind of a funny but also kind of interesting interview, so I have included it in today’s show notes. Also on today’s show notes, there’s a whole heap of links to things that Pat mentions, some of the projects that he runs, and also a link to his brand new book which we talked about in quite a bit of depth today. 

His book is called Will It Fly. It’s all about trying to work out whether that crazy idea you’ve got in your head will fly, and really that’s what we’re talking about in today’s podcast. Getting those ideas out of our heads, and testing them, and working out whether they are valid or not, and taking them to that first step, actually getting the ideas out of our head and into action. That’s what this interview is all about and we cover a whole heap of other ground along the way. I hope you enjoy it, and at the end of the interview I will be back to make a few other comments. Enjoy the interview with Pat.

Hi there, Pat! How are you going?

Pat: Oh man, it’s going well. I’m so thankful to talk to you, Darren. Every time I talk to you, it just reminds me of some of the first times that I started blogging because you were my inspiration for blogging when I first started. I remember, I don’t know if I told you the story, but you did a livestream once, I think it was on YouStreamer livestream and everybody’s asking you questions. You actually called out my name one time and it was probably at that time in my life like the highlight of my life because it was like, “Oh my gosh! Darren said my name!” Here we are now, we get to chat with each other, it’s crazy.

Darren: Yeah. It’s funny you talk about the old times because I was literally five minutes ago listening to the first interview that we ever did. I don’t know if you remember.

Pat: Oh, yeah.

Darren: It was January 2010

Pat: Oh, that’s such a long time ago.

Darren: We sounded so young, it was only five years ago but I guess you were still in your 20s and I was still in my 30s.

Pat: Also, I have had two kids since then.

Darren: Well you just had a baby literally 20 days before that interview.

Pat: Oh wow.

Darren: I think in the background you could hear a baby a time or two, or something like that. And our audio was terrible, you sound so much better today!

Pat: Yeah, now I’m old because that’s what happens when you have kids and get gray hairs and stuff. But anyway, that’s so funny! I have to listen to that because I often listen to some of my older stuff. I look at all my older blog posts, I watch some of my older videos. For a couple of reasons, once so I can just remember where I came from and cringe a little bit, and appreciate the journey, but also because it just reminds that I’ve come a long way so I’ll definitely listen to that one.

Darren: I’m going to put it in today’s show notes because it’s still online and if radars want to have a listen to how we used to do it back in the day. And that was what either of us had ever thought about podcasting, I’m sure. Please forgive us, listeners. 

Speaking of kids, I was actually in a café, and we will get on today’s topic in a moment, but I was just in a café with my 7-year-old. I take him there every Wednesday morning on the way to school for Daddy Day. Over a hot chocolate, he asks me–my kids have never asked me this—“What are you doing today, daddy?” I told him about you and I’ve heard your story told to many people before like on stage and in podcasts, and people’s eyes always light up when they hear your story, but my 7-year-old as he heard your story today, his eyes lit up.

It might have been the Back to the Future references that I put in there, but there’s something about your story. Being laid off 2008 and then creating the business that you’ve created ever since, that I think really captures the imagination of a lot of people. I wonder if just those two listeners who haven’t heard of Pat Flynn, whether you could just give us the 30-second version of your story, and most of it is in that other recording. We can point people back to that, but just give us that really quick oversight in that story.

Pat: Sure, absolutely. Thank you to everybody who is listening. 

Now, I am sort of known for which is where I call myself the crash test dummy of online business, I put myself out there and experiment in building businesses, try new things, and see what’s trending, and see if it works. A lot of times it doesn’t, but either way, it’s a lesson for everybody and that’s kind of what I’m known for now in podcasts, blog, YouTube channel and so on and so forth. 

Before that, it was after I got laid off in 2008 that I started a business helping people pass an exam in the architecture industry, which, to make long story short, I did extremely well, pretty much changed my entire life, and the course of my life, and my thoughts on online business, and entrepreneurship, and blogging and all those sorts of things. It’s just been an incredible journey. I’m so humbled and blessed to be able to connect with people like yourself and help people along the way too. Man, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Darren: One of the things I love about your story and the business that you’ve created is the way that you have evolved. You are someone who has, whilst it’s all about smart passive income and this passive word comes up again and again, you are anything but passive in the way that you continue to evolve and experiment. The idea of being a crash test dummy I think is just a brilliant way to describe you because you’ve tried new mediums, you’ve tried new sites, you’ve shipped numerous products whether they be ebooks, iPhone apps, and podcast players. You’ve done affiliate stuff, you’ve done AdSense stuff, you’ve done sponsorships, and now you’re doing a book Will It Fly which we’ll talk about in a moment. I just love the fact that you’ve continued to evolve, and create, and ship things as well.

Pat: Yeah, it’s funny because a lot of people call out the same thing. On passive income, you’re like the busiest person I know. Well, the income part is the passive part, but that allows me to then open up time to do other things. It’s not just these other products, and other businesses, and it’s cool because I’ve had businesses that have been alive for four or five years and continue after month after month without really working to help support me, but it also opens up time to spend time with the family and stuff.

I know you have young kids, I do too, my son’s five, my daughter’s three. I am just so happy because that’s completely motivating to do what I do, so that I can continue to open up time. I do go through these perks. You’ll notice this so this is kind of how a lot of businesses run today. They go through the sprints, so for a while I’ll sprint and I’ll work hard on something. My wife will know, so she knows that she’s going to be taking care of the kids a little bit longer than normal during that time, but then I’ll pull back, things are in motion. 

Even better now I have a team, which is kind of pretty recent actually and that’s been a huge discovery for me, is the amazing effect a team has had on my business and my ability to serve. Definitely passive income, but the things I’m working on now, like all of us, a lot of stuff we work on we’re not getting paid for those things. This book, it could go either way. A lot of the courses that I’ll be creating, it could go either way. I’m going to be experimenting with other sites. Once this book comes out, I’m going to be using these principles in the book to run the exact same experiment with a brand new business, totally not in the niche that I’m in, not using any of my contacts to validate a business idea, and then move forward. It’s so crazy, like this is what I do for a living and it’s awesome, and also very stressful.

Darren: I completely relate. I can be recording this. We are now busy for 12 days of the year. We do a 12 Days of Christmas campaign and it’s a sprint. Right now we are in the middle of the sprint and everything else in my life stops for these 12 days, then there’s time to rest and there’s pay off as well. What I want to do in the rest of our time today is really talk about how you get those ideas that you have into a product; whether that product be a new website, or an ebook, or something like that. 

I know a lot of our readers really do struggle with that. They have all these ideas, or they know they should create a product and a new way of monetizing their blog, but getting those ideas out of their head and actually happening is a struggle for a lot of people. 

In episode 67, for listeners, I did talk about why you should have a product to sell on your blog and why it is a really powerful thing. I don’t really want to get into that why side of things today, but really want to delve into some of the roadblocks that bloggers particularly face with getting a product up and running. I think you’ve probably got some good stuff to say on that front.

Pat: Absolutely. There are a ton of exercises, first of all I absolutely agree. Products, that’s the way to go. If it’s not your own products, it’s affiliate marketing for somebody else’s products. Products aren’t just for you to make money, it’s for you to serve your own needs too. There’s a lot of stuff out there that we can use to help serve our audiences. Affiliate marketing, your own products, absolutely. 

But if you have an idea for something, it’s hard because that idea is in your head. Our brain does a very good job of not creating that idea into something real because there’s just so many different parts of it. We might think of one part of it for a while, I know a lot of us when we have that idea we get into this really cool, almost out of body, what if this could be cool, that you start thinking about all these things. First of all, write everything down that comes across your mind. My favorite strategy is actually to mind map these things, list out all these things that’s in your head because when you list them out, when you see them, it actually starts to make a little sense. You can immediately start to either cross things off, or highlight certain things that might stand out amongst everything else.

The trick is to take all that mush that’s in our brain, which is good mush, but we have to find the things that matter in that. One of my favorite tools to use is actually a post-it note. If you have this one idea and you really want to know what it is, I think the most important thing to do is before you do anything with it, is to really define it and refine it. That can be done in many ways just simply writing, almost just like your brain throwing up on the table and idea by idea, pulling it out, everything in your brain in these post-it notes.

There is mind mapping software out there too that can help you do that. There’s one called which is my favorite, but again this is just a way to organize those thoughts in our brain. What’s really cool, and this is actually the process I use to create my book, is you’ll start to see patterns, you’ll start to see groupings, and things will start to make a little bit more sense. When you can see visually that things are starting to have a little bit of order, your brain will start to have a little bit of order too. Creating these mind maps are really important.

Then, my favorite thing to do is to take this idea that you have and see if you can explain it. We always can explain through ourselves in our head, but a lot of times we try to explain it to somebody else but we might fumble. Even before you share it with somebody else, you want to try to explain it to yourself by writing it down, write down a whole page of everything this thing is supposed to do. Once you see this transfer from your brain, your hand to paper, things start to make sense and you can begin to see what’s important and what’s not. 

The trick I like to do is take that one page that you write, just the complete summary of everything this thing does that’s in your head, this idea from post-it notes, just pep one page then try to narrow it down to one paragraph. Can you explain what this thing is? What that does is it forces you to just pick out the really important parts or things that actually matter. From that one paragraph, can you take it and actually put it into one sentence? Can you describe this idea, and the benefits of it, and who it’s for, and just one sentence. If you could do that, that actually becomes a useful tool for you when you then talk about this with other people, or when you put it on a sales page, and when you put it in a survey. 

Again, it’s just really massaging that idea into something concrete and refined. From there, this is actually something that surprised me, I actually interviewed a guy named John Saddington, an amazing serial entrepreneur, we met at a conference once. He sold multiple million-dollar businesses in all different spaces. I was curious because he has been very successful. He obviously knows something, so I said when you get an idea for something new, what’s the first thing you do? 

He told me, and it surprised me, he said, “I talk about it with as many people as I can.” I was like that’s counterintuitive because a lot of times a lot of us think we don’t want other people to know what’s going on, or we don’t want to either look stupid, or we don’t want to have somebody steal our idea or anything. He is like, “No, share it with as many people as you can that are around you, go to Starbucks, talk to a complete stranger about it.” Talk to as many people as you can and when I asked him why would you do that, he said, “Because they’re going to see it from a position that you are not, they’re going to poke holes in it, they’re going to ask you questions, you’re going to get to gauge their reaction and this product is not for you, it’s for them.” 

If you have an audience already, a great thing to do is just really pull somebody out from your email list and talk to them on Skype. I actually schedule this every month. It’s been so beneficial to my brand in all different ways. I schedule every month a couple of hours to have 5 to 10minute chats with about 10 members of my audience. It’s actually really interesting because when I reach out to them and tell them that I want to get on the phone, they think it’s like an automated thing and it’s not real. Then when they get on the phone with me, it’s really awesome. 

A, this helps make you even more real, but B, you can extract these amazing ideas from them and get actual reactions on this idea that you have and what they think about it. Again, you’re not trying to sell on anything, you’re just gauging the reaction, allowing members of your own audience—who is what you’re building this thing for—to really give you insight on if it would be good, if it would be bad, what else would make it better, and that sort of thing. 

This is something that I used during the launch of the Smart Podcast Player which is my podcast player that I use for AskPat, that then got turned into a product that is my software company now and it’s doing really well. In the beginning, I just talked about it with people. They said, oh it will be great if it did this or didn’t do this. I showed them what kind of a wireframe, because this was a software product with a design, I showed them what it would look like and how it would feel so they can give me real reactions to it. It was absolutely crucial, the process of determining what was needed and what was not.

We had some amazing ideas that we wanted to put in it that people are like I don’t think I would use that, and it saved thousands of dollars in development time, it saved me a headache, and it saved the player I think. How many times have we used software or something that looks like our tv remotes with a hundred different buttons on it, two of which we use, and the rest that are kind of just there taking up space. 

Really expanding on this idea to a point where you can talk and observe people’s reactions to it, that’s the first step really. Just that alone will open up your eyes to what else can I do, or how can I make this even better. That can continue on if you would like.

Darren: I just want to rewind slowly back, because one question I actually had yesterday from a blogger was, “I know I need a product but I can’t come out with any ideas. I know a lot of what you’re talking about is refining when you’ve got lots of them, but can you just briefly speak to those readers who are perhaps in a niche that doesn’t flow into an ebook, or a course, or something like that. Have you got any tips for that type of person, or should they just be looking for affiliate products to sell if it’s just too hard?”

Pat: The affiliate products will give you good insight on what people are offering, and potentially what people are buying. That’s a good start, but don’t consider that you only have to affiliate marketing. I would, again, try to build something up your own. Again, I wouldn’t approach it as okay what’s my ebook going to be about. Before you even know what it is, your ideas, you don’t want to approach it as an ebook. The ebook may not be the right solution, it might be a software, it might be coaching, it might be something else. You don’t know until you talk to others to understand what their problems are. 

You go into that market and you understand really what it is that they are struggling with. If you want to take it to the fullest extent, go and talk to people on that target audience. You might find different places online through forums, Facebook groups, just ask what they are struggling with. That’s the number one question you can ask whether you have an audience or not. What are you struggling with? 

I know some people who have validated and created businesses off the back of small businesses asking them what’s something that you do everyday that you just don’t like to do? I do this and that. What would you do if there is a software product that would actually do that for you in 10 minutes. “Oh, my gosh, I would pay a billion dollars for it.” “Good to know, I’ll follow up with you. I’m going to talk to a few more people, but that’s actually something I was considering creating.” Again, just really getting into the problems and the struggles. 

What’s that recurring thing you do everyday that you dislike, that’s one. What’s something that if you had a magic wand you wish could be changed right now, that’s another one. Again, you’ll observe these through conversation. When I created my other niche site which was, which is for food truck owners, I went to San Diego food truck gatherings, stayed there after hours so that I wouldn’t interrupt them during business hours, and I just started to talk to food truck owners and ask them what’s something that you wish you knew before you got started?

Then we ended up having these like 30-minute conversations. Through those conversations, I started to discover that there were actually a ton of different ideas, not just on how to get started but for example some specifics are through those conversations, I found out that a lot of food truck owners really struggle with the fact that their truck breaks down every once in a while. Most of them rent their trucks and because of that, they are not in tiptop shape. They break down for whatever reason. 

They are not mechanics, so they struggle with finding a mechanic that’s nearby. I was like okay well, what if there’s an app that you could pull it up and it would give you the address and phone number of the nearest mechanic that specializes in food trucks. “I would pay for that service right now because it would immediately pay me back.” Again, just through conversation, you naturally start to hear about these problems and pains that people are having. 

If you have an audience already, a survey is a great way. Again, that one question, what are you struggling with right now, or what’s your number one challenge related to blank. That’s going to give you a lot of information too. I recently did that with a survey that I ran to my audience in July, and that has been an eye opening experience. There’s actually a book called Ask by Ryan Levesque which is a very, very good book. If you have an audience already and you want to survey them. Even if you don’t have an audience, you could still do this. But again, you have to go out there and see what those problems are because that’s what a business is. A business or a product is a solution to a problem, and that’s where it starts.

Darren: Great. I think that will definitely help people and that’s certainly been the case for my own business and the ebooks that we’ve created, almost always started because of a conversation we’ve had with a reader who have just expressed in a new way perhaps a problem that they have, and I would position a solution for them.

Pat: Here’s a good example. I know a guy named Cole. He’s actually in the photography space.

Darren: We work with Cole.

Pat: Oh you do? Okay.

Darren: Yeah, we do.

Pat: Cole is awesome. He has a blog and he talks about photography and stuff. He actually had a guest post on his site who is somebody who was into newborn photography. He knew nothing about newborn photography, but he had this person guest post. This guest post went viral, it exploded. People were like, “Oh my gosh, I want more information about newborns. I want to do this. I want to do that.” They were getting really excited about newborn photography, and that alone was the sign that wow, this is something that could be turned into a product, so then he worked with that person who wrote that guest post. Because it was such a popular topic, when they created this ebook, this product, it sold like gangbusters.

Going into your analytics and seeing what your most popular posts are is actually a good place to start too, and then you can use that as a hypothesis, and then test that through these validation sequences. It’s very much like a scientific approach that I talk about in the book. I don’t know if you have seen the show MythBusters, Darren. When they do these experiments to try and confirm or bust a myth, or something that people said that happens, they use science to do that. Oftentimes, when it’s a very large-scale experiment that they’re trying to test, what do they do? They scale it down and they just test it in the laboratory, at like 1/18 scale or whatever, just to see what happens, so they can understand what’s going on and then take it full scale if they want to. 

That’s kind of what you want to do. You create this hypothesis of what the solution is that you’re creating, whether it’s an ebook, a course, or whatever. Again, your audience will tell you the best way to deliver them that content if you let them tell you that, and then you kind of test it. You see if these people will actually be interested. Not only that, the truest form of validation is actually getting in to pay for it, before you actually create it, that’s kind of the new thing now. 

Collecting pre-orders just to determine whether or not people are actually saying yes with their dollars, not just with their words. A lot of times, the extreme is you go to your mum and you just say, “I’m creating this, what do you think?” “Yeah, I would buy it.” Well of course she would buy it, she loves you and wants to support you, and so would your immediate friends. Would somebody in your target audience actually do, that’s where this validation process comes in. But again, I just wanted to touch on the using other factors to kind of determine where to start, because most of your audience is obviously blogging and your analytics is a great place to do that.

Darren: As bloggers, we’ve got a great advantage with our blogs, and social media to be able to test those ideas. Probably the first thing I always do when I am thinking about an idea is just to write a blog post, and to test that idea, and to socialize that as well.

Pat: Totally.

Darren: You were kind of leading us up through a bit of a process there and I interrupted you.

Pat: No, that’s a really…

Darren: Do you want to get back to that next step I guess in what you were describing?

Pat: Yeah, absolutely. The reason it’s called Will It Fly is because we are leading up to some sort of launch, and that’s a term we all hear in the blogging space, the online business space, is we launch something. The whole purpose of this is to know whether or not it’s going to continue to fly after you launch, because just the launch is one part of the process but is it actually going to take off?

One thing you want to do, and this is a great part of the research process, even before you get deep into your idea and how it fits into the market that you’re getting into, you want to understand this market. You know how they say you want to stand out of the crowd, how do you know you’re going to stand out if you don’t even know who is in the crowd or what’s there? 

I came up with this thing called creating your market map. This is going out there and actually creating spreadsheets of a whole list of your three Ps. The first P is the places, the places where people are in your space, in your niche. Different blogs, different websites, forums, communities, Facebook groups, that sort of thing, all the different places. 

The second P, the second column, the different people. That might crossover a little bit with the places but these are influencers in the space, and so you list all those out. 

The final thing is the list of the products. What are they paying for? What types of things are they buying? The cool thing about this is when you create this market map, a couple of cool things happen. One, you get this incredible bird’s eye perspective of what’s going on in the space that you’re about to enter. 

A lot of times, people who are coming up with new ideas and starting new businesses, they worry because they feel like they’re late, “Oh man, somebody’s in that space already. They’ve taken my idea, or it’s going to be hard because it’s so competitive.” You actually have an advantage coming in late because you get to create this market map and come in out of bird’s eye perspective and see what’s going on, and you can notice patterns, and see what might be missing. That’s very important. 

But also just a byproduct of this exercise is for one, you’re going to have a whole list of different places that you could either guest post on, or become a guest on, influencers that you could build a relationship with and partner with, look to see where they speak. If they speak near you, then you can reach out to them. Also, a list of the products to see what price points are being used. Are people actually buying, and also what potential products you could be an affiliate for. 

Again, this market map is not just to learn about your audience, but you can usually use this information for you moving forward. Once you start to see what’s going on in the space, then I like to go into discovering your Customer PLAN

The first part is through these conversations that you have, and now that you have a list of these places, you see who the influencers are, you see what the products are, you’ll be able to discover the first P in the plan which is the problems, so you list out those problems. It could be several problems. I remember when I did this for, there were 10 or 12 problems that I could potentially create a solution for, as opposed to one product to solve each, each of them could become their own of course.

The second part, the L is the language that they use, and this is most important. I think this is where a lot of bloggers struggle. When we describe a problem, when we are creating steps in a blog post, or creating a podcast episode, or ebooks or whatnot, we like to use our own language. That makes sense, it is the language we know. But if you speak in the language of your audience, you’re going to make an immediate connection with them just because of that language that you use. 

If you run a survey, pay attention to what words they use. If you go on Amazon, look at the three start reviews for some of the books related to your topic. They are going to give you a really honest view of how people feel about that item, but also the real language that somebody in that marketplace uses, different forms, you can look this up too. 

The language that you use, there’s a quote by Jay Abraham, it says if you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution, and it’s so true. It is why Taylor Swift is so popular, because she in her songs speaks directly to her teenage audience, because she uses the same words that they do in her songs. Like Shake it Off, shake, shake it off, whatever. I don’t want to sing on the show, but the haters are going to hate, hate, hate, all that stuff. She just is right in-tune with who her audience is, and you should be too. 

A are anecdotes, or stories. The reason this is so important is because you want to see and feel your audience, get to know them and really understand the pains that they’re going through.

You’ve probably heard this, the thing called the customer avatar, or finding out who your avatar is. That’s really important, the principles behind that exercise are true. You want to know who your audience is, and speak to them. My issue with the avatar, whenever I’ve tried to create this person, this imaginary person with the fake name, they represent my audience, it just never felt real to me, like I could go to Jimmy and ask him a question because Jimmy isn’t real. But if you see the stories, you can get really into the minds of your audience. Your customer avatar is almost created and 10Xed when you use this customer plan. We talk about the problems, the language, the anecdotes, or the stories. 

The N is the need. Based on all that, what’s the need? The need becomes your hypothesis, or your plan how to solve this specific solution. Each of those problems are going to have a different need of course, and so that’s what you test. If that aligns with your original ideas, great. But every time I run this exercise, the ideas start to change and morph a little bit because they are realizing that wow, their idea was their only own idea, they didn’t consider the market yet. Now that they are in the customer’s head, the idea starts to shift towards who it’s for, which is exactly what you want to happen.

Then, you pick one and then you kind of test it out. The validation process is a very specific process that is really cool because, again, it allows you to see if people are interested in this thing before you actually build it and put it out there. As opposed to traditionally, which is like writing an ebook or building a product, and then you run to your rooftop and shout like, “Buy my product.” Maybe it doesn’t go the way you want it to, it’s a struggle because you don’t even know what went wrong along the way. Maybe it’s the product, but maybe the product was great but it was the way you said it, or maybe it was the price, or maybe there could be a whole number of reasons. If we just go to rooftops and shout, we’re never going to know. If you break it down into different iterations and validate each little step along the way, you then get to see where the error points and then just work on that before you move forward. 

The way the validation formula works, is step one you get in front of an audience. If you have built an audience already, you are already ahead of the curve. If you have a blog, or a podcast, or built an email list for example, you’ve already skipped step one. But a lot of people start from scratch, or they have a small audience. There’s a lot of things you can do to get in front of an audience that isn’t even yours. I think the best thing, and I think you would agree, would be to have an audience of your own because you’ve earned that trust with them, you know who they are. Correct me if I’m wrong there, it takes a little bit of time to build that authority and audience on the blog, am I right?

Darren: Totally.

Pat: Getting in front of somebody else’s audience is something you could do, number one you could do target advertising if you want which means you are going to have to pay a little bit but this is the quickest and easiest way. There’s an audience on Facebook, for example, and you could target specific people to then get to reach out to them, that’s one way. But then, you could also do private advertising which is advertising on somebody else’s site, you can do guest posting, you can go on forums.

Forums and groups are probably the number one thing you could do. If you don’t have an audience yet, to find people in that audience who you could speak to. Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups are great, things like that.

There’s also this concept that I want to share with you. I think this will be very useful to your audience no matter what they’re doing because this is a great way to have an influencer really promote you and your stuff. This is what Bryan and Harris–who was recently featured on my blog­–he calls as the poster child formula. This is like every teacher uses their best students as an example, right? They are the model student, they always do their homework, they make everyone else look bad for not doing theirs. As much as you hated that kid in school, they always get talked about by the teacher, and that’s kind of who you wanted to become. 

What you do is you find an influencer who is teaching stuff related to the space that you’re in, and you do their thing. Whatever their thing they’re teaching, you do it, and you crush it. You blow their mind so much that they would be an idiot not to share your results because it was their teaching that did it.

You are a prime student, and therefore you will get so much exposure. This has happened on my site, a lot of people who have done the work to go through a lot of the concepts I talk about on Smart Passive Income. Some of them will reach out to me and be like, “Pat, it works! Look at my results.” And then what do I do? I share it on Twitter immediately, I share it on Facebook. I sometimes invite those people on as a podcast, and it’s a win for everybody.

A lot of times, Bryan has been featured on the front page of many sites because they link back to his as a prime example of somebody who is taking action. That’s a great strategy that all of us can use for just getting in front of an influential audience. And then there’s of course offline audiences, too. You don’t just have to do this offline, but after you get in front of that audience, step two, is for everybody now again, is you hyper target.

Going back to the photography stuff, for example, let’s say you had a product that was for wedding photographers, you wanted to test and see if it worked out well. As you land a guest post on Digital Photography School, great, that’s awesome! Now you’re going to get a lot of people looking at it. But is your wedding photography product perfect for everybody who is reading that site? No, so you’re going to have to hyper target. You’re going to have to have those people who are wedding photographers essentially raise their hand and say, “Oh, yeah! That’s me.” That’s the kind of group that you collect.

If you were to test your business idea, or your product with everybody in that macro-niche, it’s not going to go very well because it’s just not made for some of those people. I hope that we’re products that are specifically made for certain groups of people, for example, like a wedding photographer would have a wedding-related thing for the general photographer population.

From there, step three is you actually interact with them, you talk with them, you get to know them. You get to kind of dig into their head in terms of finding out what’s really the problem, how you might be able to solve that problem. Then, you actually share the solution. It’s done in a very honest way. 

A lot of people hear about this thing of validation, and they kind of go back to what Tim Ferriss used to talk about, which isn’t bad, it’s just a different way of doing it that I don’t prefer. In 2007, he came out with a very famous book, The 4-Hour Workweek. In that book, there was a chapter called Testing the News, which is about micro-testing. He did that validation back then. This isn’t anything new, but the way he did it was he would drive cold traffic from Google AdWords, pay for keyword visibility, and he would drive cold traffic to a landing page. 

I think the example he used was French sailor shirts. He was validating whether he can sell French sailor shirts, so completely random. He had a sales page with all the information about these sailor shirts, there in the middle of the page of course was a buy now button. Again, he hadn’t made this business yet, but it’s as if this business existed. Then, he would keep track of how many people clicked on that buy now button because that told him that yes, people are interested in it. But then, when they click on that of course, there isn’t, and so he would say, “Oh! Sorry, we’re out of stock but once more become available, we will let you know.” They would collect email addresses from there. 

That’s okay, but I like being very open, and honest, and saying for example if you interact with these people who have raised their hands and say yeah, I’m a wedding photographer. Then, “Okay, well, I’m actually creating something and this is what I’m doing with it, I just wanted to talk to you for a second if you got the time and reach out to see if this is actually something that is of interest to you.”

Again, you are not selling them anything, you’re not asking them to do anything except just comment on that thing. And then you come back to them later, this is the next step after that. You say, “I have talked to a few people, they do seem interested in it, but I want to make sure that this is actually something that is worth my time to build,” again being completely honest about it. You say, “I’m going to build this if I get 20 people,” the math and the formulas are in the book in terms of how many do you need, but just as an example, “if I get 20 people to pay me half of the cost of what it will become, get a little early bird pricing, I will then build the product.” 

You can either pre-sell it, or collect payments right there. A lot of people who do this are like just sending this much money to my PayPal address which is kind of sketchy for a little bit, but there are tools out there like Gum Road for example, where you can create a pre-sell or preorder page to validate that product. If you get a certain amount of people who do preorder, which means they have to take the action to do that thing of the preorder instead of just saying, “Oh yeah! I will buy it,” then you know. Then, all of the guesswork goes away. Then, you go and build that thing. 

The cool benefit of the people who worked with you in the beginning, these are called early adopters. Not everybody’s going to want to be involved, but the early adopters, part of the joy for them is they’re paying to not only get this thing when it comes out eventually but to help influence what it becomes. That can only benefit you because you’re talking to somebody who has actually paid you money to tell you exactly what it is that they want, which is a representation of what everybody else in that space would likely want too. That’s the validation process, and in the book there are several different examples of people who have done this across all different spaces.

There’s a guy named Joey who did this and he used a webinar as a way to get in front of his audience. Then, he hyper targeted those people and was able to pre-sell an animation, ebook, and course for tens of thousands of dollars, even before creating that product, which is insane. 

A number of other people from software, to coaching, to there was a guy who validated beef jerky, a beef jerky subscription service. In 24 hours, he was able to collect over $1000 from people who had said yes. When you create this, I want to be the first subscriber. He found that space and he works in Austin, so a lot of people there are very health conscious, they work out and stuff. That was his target audience. He went to gyms, he talked to people in offices, and was able to get $1000 even before this thing was created, even before he figured out really how he was going to do it. But you know that after he got that $1000, he was like, “Okay, I’m motivated now to go and really figure this out and fill-in the pieces in the middle.”

Darren: That’s fantastic. The great thing about early adopters is that they do give you really honest feedback as well, if you’re upfront with the fact that this is new, and they are the first people to try the product once it is released as well. I’ve seen a number of people recently who set up Facebook groups for that type of early or pre-sell group. I guess it’s a beta test group in some ways, but they also become the evangelists of it later, once they have actually seen that process that you’ve taken the product through.

Pat: Absolutely.

Darren: That becomes very powerful for you.

Pat: If you were one of the first people to use Uber, you probably would tell everybody in the world after it got so big. “I was one of the first users of that product,” and that’s exactly what happens as people become evangelists. A lot of people who have gone through the beta process of being a part of my Smart Podcast Player for example, they are some of my biggest fans, they are affiliates now, they are promoting it and they also helped me shape it into what it has become. They’ve paid me money, I am on a great end of this, but they’re also getting something that is for them in the way that they want it to.

Darren: Yeah, for sure. All right. You’re testing the ideas, you’re validating it, you’re getting some pre-sales at this point. Where to from here?

Pat: First of all, you kind of just have to get over the excitement, because a lot of people when they get those first dollars, it’s the most incredible feeling in the world. A lot of people will either then move too fast, they go all in on spending all their life savings on creating that thing. You want to go through a few more iterations after this just to make sure. But then, it’s creating that platform. Or if you had the platform already, then it’s good, then you go into that bigger launch. You’ve gone from small scale–like the Myth Busters example–you have done a small scale test, now it’s time to go big scale. Then, you can connect with these influencers that you have a relationship with or that you know based on your middle of those three Ps because you have listed them out already. 

You can find websites where you can then talk or pay for banner advertising, because you have a whole list of those already and all these other things. You can go to your list of products that you’ve created too, and see which ones you could potentially partner with, or have as a bonus or anything like that. There are so many things you can do, but I think the best thing is then you start to map out the business from there, you start to determine okay what’s the best way to reach the masses. I was able to hyper target the small group of people and do a small scale test, now it’s time to go bigger. 

A lot of people, because they have used Facebook for getting traffic to validate these, for them, it’s just let’s pump more money into Facebook and get more audience that way. For others, it’s like let’s reach out to more influencers, then you can create that sales page. A lot of people validate these products even before a sales page exists, really.

Darren: I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of my listener here a little bit. I think one of the things that some are going to be reacting to here is that this sounds a bit scary. I know fear has been a part of your journey…

Pat: Totally.

Darren: This whole selling before you have a product, what if it doesn’t work, what if I’m not good enough to actually deliver on that. Some of that fear aspect of it there, I wonder if you can talk to those who are about to stop listening now because they’re a bit scared of it. Can you give us some tips on moving forward through that fear?

Pat: Yeah, I’m so glad you mentioned that. That is a big chunk of the book obviously, because I’ve gone through it myself and people who have gone through this process. That is there. It is absolutely there, and you’re not alone. I think the first thing to realize is that you’re definitely not alone. This is a process that is going to test you, and it is for those who are really passionate, who want to help people. I think when you realize that in order to help people, you kind of have to put some of those fears aside, and that nothing terrible is going to happen when you do that, then it opens up.

That’s what opened up for me. A lot of times in the beginning, I was scared and I would ask myself this question, what’s the worst that can happen? When you think about that question, in reality it’s not always that bad as we think. When you go through this process, what’s the worst that can happen? Well, you go through this process and nobody’s interested in it. That’s actually a great thing to happen because now you know instead of you hiding behind the scenes working on a blog and creating this stuff and working forever on building this product to then put it out there, and then after all that time, realizing it.

This book is a way to help people fast forward through that process, and it’s not easy. I’m just going to be completely honest. This isn’t something that people are going to pick up, read through in one day, and then all of a sudden they’re going to have money in their bank account. No. I am just always completely honest about that, so if that’s what you’re looking for, please don’t buy the book. This book is for people who really want to know the way to make sure that what they’re doing is something that will give them the best chance to move forward and succeed. Again, another honest point of this book is this isn’t a book that’s been in creating a successful anything, it’s much more than just the idea.

The idea of course is very important, this is what this book takes care of. This idea actually is worth moving forward with. But in order to succeed, there is the execution part, there’s the mindset, there’s all this other stuff that goes along with it too. I do talk about these things in the book as well. 

I know you’re similar to me, Darren. I remember us talking at the ProBlogger event, we aren’t always jumping up and down, super excited when we’re about to go on stage for example because we’re nervous, right? We want to deliver a ton of value and that’s what everybody here who’s feeling this resistance, they want to do something great, too. 

We also know that if we don’t go on stage, we’re going to let a lot of people down. We’re not going to be impacting the people who we want to impact, and I would much rather put aside those fears or just bust through them to be able to help people than down the road either regret not doing that or knowing that somebody else could have benefited from me but I was just too scared.

Darren: I’ll link back to a podcast we did on fear a few months ago now. Fear is a sign that something important is about to happen. If you want to do something, if you want to chase something, you have to have fear alongside that. If it’s not there, maybe you’re not putting enough into it. I love that question, what’s the worst thing that can happen, but also what’s the best thing that can happen as a result of this.

Pat: Right? What if it does work? Oh my gosh!

Darren: It’s usually somewhere between those two things on what actually happens. By answering that question, what’s the worst thing that can happen, you can also come up with a contingency plan, what would you do if that happens. You can be prepared for the worst as well. That’s like the 30-second summary of the 30-minute podcast.

Pat: I love that, that’s great.

Darren: We will link to that in the show notes as well.

Pat: I used to be definitely afraid of speaking, and I still am. However, it was somebody who told me and helped me get over these fears, this is a sign that you care about this audience, this is good. I was like I didn’t get it at first exactly what you said… This person was like, “I would be more nervous if you weren’t nervous, because then it would mean that you just didn’t prepare enough, or you don’t care. You obviously care, so go out there and rock it.” This was right before I came onstage. It was really helpful actually, so helpful so that’s what I would recommend other people to think about too.

Darren: I read the introduction of your book, and I can’t wait to read the rest. One of the things I highlighted in the introduction is a paragraph, and I’ll just read it to you because I think it really is very powerful in terms of speaking about your idea, not just as the idea but as being part of the rest of your business. Here’s the book reading, I will read it to you.

NASA has never launched a mission just because it sounded like a good idea, and neither should you. There is a very specific purpose behind each and every launch, and a lot of time is spent planning and considering how each new proposed idea fits into the overall plan, purpose, and mission. Although you are not flying to the Moon or Mars, you would be putting a lot of time and effort, and potentially money, into what you’re about to do. If you discover that your business idea does not fit into your overall mission, then it’s very easy to make a decision to not move forward with it. 

I love this because I hear a lot of bloggers say, “I’ve got this cool idea, and the idea is a cool idea but it doesn’t actually fit in with the rest of their plan. I think what you’ve just written there is just brilliant. I think you’ve got to also step back from the idea and ask the question, “How does this fit in with where I’m headed with my business?” 

One of my questions I’ve got for you is, “When you’re right at the start of this journey, as many of our readers are, and thinking about your first product, are there any things you need to consider there with choosing what type of product does well?” I don’t know if you got anything to say about that.

Pat: The first part of this book is all about how this idea fits into yourself, because traditionally the validation process, everybody thinks of validation as how is this product going to work in the market. I know that there is a more important part, which is why this is part one, which is how does this business idea fit with you, and how does it fit into your life plan, how does it actually compliment your strengths, if at all.

The first three major chapters are three different exercises, or thought experiments, that you can use to help you discover what these things are and how these things might fit into place. The first one is what I like to call the airport test, and this is actually a thought experiment that the guys over at International Realty use, this is Jay Papasan and Gary Keller, author of one of my favorite books, called The One Thing.

They use this when they hire people, and this is the question. They talk to their potential hire and say, “If you and I were to see each other at the airport five years from now, and I go up to you and I say how’s life? What’s going on? You say life is amazing, life couldn’t get any better. And then I say tell me why.” What would make you say that your life is awesome and it couldn’t get any better? 

The exercise is you actually divide a piece of paper into four quadrants and you write down the top four categories of your life, whatever the four most important things of your life are important to you, for me it’s family, professional, finances, and health.

Within each of those categories, you start to write down what would make you say that life is awesome and it couldn’t get any better? You write those down. It’s not what you want to wish to happen, this is five years. You take the delirium down the road and that’s what would make life exactly what you want it to be. The interesting thing is whenever I’ve done this with people, and even when I did it myself, it makes it so easy for me to see whether or not a new direction fits with another or not. I’ve said no to a lot of amazing, potentially life changing business ideas because they just didn’t fit in that plan. 

A lot of us stress over some of those decisions. When you have it mapped out like that, it becomes very easy. This sheet of paper becomes an incredible decision tool for you. That is just one part of the process, but then of course there are some other exercises in the book that help you understand if these actually complement who you are, what you like, or not. 

I am just helping people realize this upfront. For example, there’s a lot of people out there who aren’t very keen on the idea of being the face of their brand, like putting themselves out there, getting in front of a camera, in front of millions of people, that scares them. If your idea would require somebody to do that, then it would either have to not be you, or this isn’t your idea. There are exercises to help you discover these sorts of things, but yes, it’s very important to determine this stuff upfront before, which I know I’ve seen a lot of people do this. 

They have these amazing businesses; they are successful entrepreneurs. They have tens of thousands of dollars coming in, but they are not happy. They are not happy when you dive deep because they just aren’t in line with what they are doing, they picked up low hanging fruit but that maybe isn’t the thing that they should have gone with but it was just the easiest at the time.

Darren: That’s great advice. I feel like we just scratched the surface today and I am so glad you have written a book that has the rest of it.

Pat: Thank you.

Darren: I do want to get into some reader questions, just some really quick ones, in a second. Just to finish off talking about the book, where can readers get it? What else is in it that you haven’t touched on already?

Pat: The book can be found at I’m actually doing something pretty special that I haven’t really seen anybody else do. A lot of people when they launch a book, they have bonuses that go along with it. I have what’s called a companion course. I set myself up on a platform called Teachable which allowed me to essentially create an online course to go along with this, but it’s absolutely free. Every chapter is represented in that course, and it has bonus materials for that chapter all located inside of that course. You’ll see instructions for getting access to that. 

For example the airport test, the one I just talked about, I actually played a video and showed you how to do this in that companion course. It’s not needed, but again it is free and I thought it would be kind of a cool way to enhance the experience of going through this book. This book is very much like not just you read and you learn, but you do. 

That’s been one of my pet peeves with a ton of books that I have read lately, they tell you the what, and they tell you the why, but they don’t give you the how and they don’t show you. I really want it to stand out and do it that way. That’s why I am self-publishing this book, I am not working with a traditional publisher this time around. In order to help people in the best way I can, I can’t have other people get in the way, if that makes sense. That’s, a lot more tests, a lot more step by steps to help you do the proper research for both you and your business in the market that you’re getting into.

Darren: Fantastic. I love the sound of all the exercises that you can work through. I think for me that makes a lot of sense, particularly with this type of topic. Well done on that.

Let’s get into some really quick fire questions. I’ve got like 30 of them, so we just got to do it. I am just going to pick five of the best ones and maybe we have to do a Q&A with Pat at some stage as well. Vanessa Smith says, “What activity was the biggest time commitment that was most valuable to outsource, automate, or get someone else to do?”

Pat: I’ll tell you, for the first three years of my life my podcast for example, I did it all myself. I loved it, I was good at it. It was done in the way exactly I wanted to, and I would not let anybody touch my baby. But just recently, I started outsourcing and I started small with just the show notes, I’ll have somebody do the show notes, then I started to have somebody do the editing. Now, I am at a point where all I have to do is record the episodes and just drop into Dropbox, everything else gets taken care of.

It saves me about five hours a week. It has open my time to be able to write this book, so I hope this is just a good example of how just doing a little bit of time shifting, and being smart with how you do what you do, and putting the right people into place, can help open up new opportunities to create new things, to deliver value, and also hopefully it’s the book as well, make more money too.

Darren: I’m so glad that you talked about that, because I did that at Episode 15.

Pat: Good for you, it took me some 120 episodes to realize it.

Darren: Excellent. 

“I would love Pat to update the top 5 apps that you’re going to use in 2016 for your business, or start 2016 with.”

Pat: Ah, I love this question. This is one of the most popular posts that I wrote last year. Anybody can write a post like this because everybody’s interested in what we all have in our phones, or on our desktops. Last year, it was the top 5 apps that I will be using in 2015. 2016, it’s going to be a lot of the same. Slack is a big one, I have a big team now that communicates, and we found that email is just completely lagging. Slack is more real time, almost like a chat room with different channels. You can @ reply to people similar to Twitter, so Slack is the big one. 

I’ve also been in tune with Evernote. I have always been a fan of Evernote as well. Google Drive has been a big part of the brand too because that’s now actually where I write. Evernote, I used to store stuff that I find, but Google Drive is what I use to write, and do spreadsheets, and that sort of thing. Another tool that I am using right now is Periscope. Periscope is pretty fun, and I know you’re on it too. It’s just a great way to get an immediate connection with people. A lot of people are like, “Uh, Periscope, does it actually help you?”

Darren: Yeah.

Pat: Yeah, absolutely. Oh my gosh, not only for connecting with your audience and building relationships, but literally for getting them to take action on certain things. Anything from exercises that you want them to do, to actually making purchases. Absolutely, that’s a big part of what I’m doing now. Also Co-Schedule is probably one that my team and I just got involved with, I hired a content manager very recently to help me wrap my head around, being ahead on schedule in terms of especially blog content which I fell behind on a little last year. This year, it’s going very well, we use Co-Schedule to really schedule all the team activities in and around content.

Darren: You’ve pretty much just said my top 5 as well, maybe not Google Drive, we’re not quite as into that. “If you were just starting out today and have $500 to invest in getting your business off to a great start, where would you invest it?”

Pat: I would put $10 up to set up a website with a quick little landing page, a little bit about who I am and what I potentially have to offer. Beyond that, I would spend pretty much 100% of that money to go to a conference, meet people in person who are in and around a space that I’m interested in. By far, the number one thing that has helped move the needle more than anything are the relationships that I have been able to build in this space. By going to a conference, you can meet people, you can talk to them, you can get them interested in what you’re doing and you can learn about how you might be able to fit in, and help, and provide value to them. Man, that’s really why I go to conferences. 

I love learning at conferences and going into presentations, but I am mostly in the hallways talking and trying to help people out, and in return, getting help back. With this book coming out, I have been offering and providing value for so long, I’m now at the point where I need help. I’ve been reaching out to those people that I’ve met in the halls and shook hands with and stuff, not just big names like yourself, Darren, but a lot of the people who are fans of SPI, who I’ve met in person, who I remember, who had offered help. By far, the relationships and putting yourself out there in that environment can really help you wrap your mind about what’s needed, what else, who you can be with, and who can serve you, and vice versa.

Darren: Yes, no answer. Elaine asked, “Is there still room for new podcasters?”

Pat: Yes.

Darren: Kyle asked, “Your top tip for picking yourself up after a setback?”

Pat: I have a folder, and I also have in my office on the wall thank you notes. The folder, speaking of, on Gmail, but I collect all my thank you letters and notes. I just have them in a place where when I get down, I go in there and I realize that I can make a difference. I am doing something right, I have to keep going. On my wall right behind me, I have a 5ft x 5ft board that I have tacked on all the handwritten notes that I get. I use that every single day because I struggle every single day, but I see those things and I’m motivated to move forward, and it definitely picks me up.

Darren: Great, two more. “If you could recommend one book for a budding entrepreneur for holiday reading, what would it be?”

Pat: The One Thing.

Darren: Who wrote that one?

Pat: Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Darren: Excellent. Last question, Guy asked, “What’s the one thing you wish you’ve done from the beginning?”

Pat: Speaking of one thing, the one thing I wish I’d done from the beginning was I was going to say outsource, but you kind of need to do a few things on your own first, I am not going to say that. I do wish I did that earlier. I wish I had talked to people in my audience sooner. When I started creating, my LEED Exam website, these all behind the scenes. If I had to simply talk to a few of them on the phone, which I was afraid to do, which is why I didn’t do it. I probably could have learned a lot more about what I could have done better, and probably could have created a lot more offshoot products vertically in that space.

Darren: Great. Thanks so much, Pat. You have been so generous with your time today. Everyone needs to head to, we will have the link in the show notes as well, as well as some of the other resources that you’ve mentioned today. Really do appreciate the time that you spent with us today, Pat. I’m sure there’s been a whole heap of ideas that will be validated as a result of what you’ve given us today in this book, congratulations on writing it.

Pat: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that, Darren. Thanks everybody for their time.

Darren: I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Pat. I certainly enjoyed chatting with him as I do every time we have the opportunity to catch up. Again, you can head over to to check out his brand new book. It was released today as this podcast goes live, so check it out, support him any way you can, and I am sure he would appreciate you sharing it with your own network.

Also, check him out over at and find today’s show notes at As always, I do appreciate any reviews that you can give to this particular podcast over on iTunes, or Stitcher, or wherever else you’re listening. I read all those reviews and do appreciate them as well, even read a few of them out on episodes of the podcast, so be sure to leave your name and your blog’s URL as well. I look forward to chatting with you in Episode 86 of the ProBlogger podcast.

How did you go with today’s episode?

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