21 Incredible Lessons Learned from Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income
I don’t think there’s any secret here – I’m a huge fan of Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income, and I’ve been a loyal reader of his since early 2009 (just a few months after he launched SPI).
If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you’ve seen me mention or link to Pat at least a dozen times. That’s what happens when you consistently post epic content in the way that Pat does.
Anyway, I wanted to put together a little tribute to him, by compiling some of the many valuable lessons he’s taught. I put a lot of time into curating this list, so hopefully you find these lessons useful.
There may even be a few here that he didn’t realize was was teaching…
21 Incredible Lessons I’ve Learned from Pat Flynn
(Note: Some of these may be direct quotes from Pat, while others may be paraphrases. Either way, the lessons remain the same.)
1) Finding success is all about taking action. Although this quote is from (perhaps) the shortest post that Pat has ever written, it’s a common theme among everything that Pat says and does. It’s easier said than done, but simple fact will always remain: doing something – anything – is almost always better than doing nothing, when it comes to starting a business or project.
2) Work hard now to reap the benefits later. If you’ve listened to Pat’s podcast or read his blog for any amount of time, chances are that you’ve heard him say/write this. It’s the core of smart passive income.
It’s a common misconception that passive income is “easy” or requires little to no work, because of the nature of the word “passive.”
Building a real passive income stream is actually about working hard now with the goal of earning from your collective work at some point in the future (when you don’t need to be as active).
3) Give away value for free, and you will be rewarded. It’s not easy to pick an example here, because Pat demonstrates this lesson with nearly everything he does. Perhaps one of the earlier, more comprehensive examples is the original niche site duel.
With the niche site duel, Pat basically took us step-by-step and showed us how to create a website that has now generated over $50,000 in profit. Although some of these exact methods have evolved over the years, the basic principles still apply.
At the end of the day, Pat had created an extremely valuable resource that was free to read and utilize, and he was rewarded in many ways (including affiliate income for several of the products and services used to build his niche site).
4) You don’t have to do everything yourself. Over the years, this is something Pat has showed through countless examples of projects where he has utilized outsourced help: websites, iPhone apps, etc.
You might find it interesting that this is a lesson he learned very early on, and even mentioned it in his very first official income report regarding hiring an Elance contractor to design a website for him.
5) Don’t be afraid to spend money on your business. This lesson relates closely to #4 above. We have a tendency to want to do everything ourselves, thinking that we’ll “save money.” As we all know, time = money. You may actually be “paying more” for something by doing it yourself.
By spending the money to outsource a project or task, you give yourself more time to focus on areas where you can add greater value.
6) Stories are the most powerful form of marketing. Pat regularly uses stories from his own life to demonstrate concepts, and it’s probably the main reason he earns so much affiliate income without ever appearing to be a salesman. He’s just a real person with a story – and more importantly, it’s genuine. Why wouldn’t you make a purchase through his affiliate link?
This lesson obviously extends far beyond affiliate sales. The most successful businesses of all time have penetrated the market not because of a crafty sales pitch, but because they tell a story. People remember stories, and stories inspire people to take action. Not only is Pat a smart and genuinely nice guy, but he’s a storyteller – and it works.
7) Be everywhere. In a world where many people tells us to “niche down” and “focus on dominating one channel,” Pat has done an amazing job showing how the exact opposite can actually be an effective strategy. Almost everything Pat does in some way ties back to his mantra of “be everywhere.”
You can find examples of this all over the Smart Passive Income blog, but here’s a specific place where he discusses it: 7 Ways to Be Everywhere – Building a Brand Online
8) The harder you work, the luckier you get. If you believe that luck is what makes people successful, be prepared to wait your whole life to “get lucky.” Behind every story of “luck,” you will likely find stories of people who created their own luck by working extremely hard and never giving up, despite whatever failure they encounter along the way.
I know I’ve said to people before, about Pat: “Everything he touches seems to turn to gold.” I say it in a joking way, of course, because he works extremely hard and is fully transparent about not only his successes, but his failures as well. What separates Pat from many who are less successful is that he takes his failures and uses them as fuel for future success. When you dig into it, you’ll see that luck has no part in the equation.
9) Be accessible to your audience. Although this has evolved throughout the years, Pat has shown through countless examples that being accessible to your audience can go a long way toward making your site/business/whatever successful. I remember when Pat used to reply to every single blog comment left on his blog posts. That’s no longer possible today due to the extreme popularity of his blog (and no one can blame him for this), but he still makes himself accessible.
Whether it’s through e-mail, on Twitter or Facebook, or through his new podcast Ask Pat, he is accessible. That’s a lot more than you can say about others who have achieved his level of success.
10) Transparency can help open doors. Some of Pat’s most popular posts are his income reports, where he is fully transparent about the various items that make up his monthly income (and the associated expenses). While I’m not sure Pat has ever directly acknowledged this (though I’m pretty sure the thought has entered his mind), his income reports are a big reason for his success as a blogger.
People are naturally skeptical, so when you can be fully transparent (that means being transparent about the good and the bad), you open up the doors of trust.
Building trust is one of the strongest bonds you can create with your readers/customers, so you should be doing whatever you can to make it happen. Being transparent about your business is a great way to do it, and it’s been a tremendous part of Pat’s success.
11) Always put your audience first. The more trust you build, and the more popular you become, the more power you have to get people to take action. Some use that power in a greedy way – by pushing unnecessary products, or recommending things they’ve never tried before.
Pat is acutely aware of the power he holds, and he nearly goes out of his way to make sure that he never takes advantage of his audience. People obviously appreciate this, and it’s one of the reasons that Pat is so successful when he actually does promote something he truly stands behind.
A great example of when Pat could have made a lot of money from his audience – but decided against it – was with a niche site course he created, as discussed in his March 2012 income report. Even though what he created probably would’ve been extremely helpful and well worth whatever he was planning on charging, he scrapped the project because of the way SEO was changing at the time. He didn’t want to risk putting something out that he knew could have flaws.
12) You can’t please everyone. The crazy thing about the internet is that people can say and do whatever they want, with almost complete anonymity (and without consequence, usually). What this often leads to is a vocal minority, and a silent majority.
One of the lessons that Pat has taught is that you can’t worry about pleasing everyone. While it’s important to listen to feedback, you also have to take into account that those who are most vocal in a negative way are probably the minority.
Often times, the people who are happy and satisfied don’t bother giving feedback. When you “make it big” (like Pat has), you are always going to have “haters.” Accept criticism, and evaluate it for its constructiveness, but don’t let it get you down.
13) Don’t stop working hard just because you hit your goal. When Pat got to #1 in Google with his target keyword for his security guard training niche site, he was tempted to let it sit and spend time on other things. His goal was to get to #1, and he did it, so stopping was the right move, wasn’t it? Wrong.
As Pat explains, although he hit his goal, he realized that over 55% of his search engine traffic was coming from other keywords. There was still a lot of untapped opportunity. So, he kept working at it – he hired a writer to continue building content on the site. It paid off too, as the site’s earnings continued to grow due to the additional traffic from long tail keywords.
Pat has shown us, through his random Facebook or Instagram posts, and even sometimes right on his blog, that spending time with family and friends is extremely important. Sure, you can dedicate every waking hour to your work (and some days, you may need to). But at the end of the day, what’s really important to you? Money is worthless if you don’t leave yourself enough personal time.
15) Diversification is key (but not at the expense of focus). If you look at any income report, you will find that Pat’s sources of income are highly diversified. Sure, some sources bring in a lot more than others (looking at you, BlueHost), but there’s still a lot of diversification. If any one source were to disappear, he probably wouldn’t be significantly impacted by it.
While Pat does have a lot of different projects running at any particular time, he still maintains focus on each individual project while he’s working on it. He may be at a point now (with the help of virtual assistants) where he can technically juggle multiple projects at once, but when he’s starting something new (like the Foodtruckr site, or a speech for an event), he has laser-focus on the task at hand.
16) Do something that matters. This is a point that Pat really drove home in his podcast (episode #12 about productivity). You can take this to mean a couple of different things:
First, it means do something good that will actually benefit others. This one is pretty self-explanatory.
Second, it means to do something that actually drives results. It’s easy to feel productive by simply taking meaningless action, but true productivity will bring measurable results.
17) Videos and podcasting are worth the effort. This lesson fits nicely with the “be everywhere” mantra, and Pat wrote in detail about it here. Not only has Pat found that his YouTube videos and his podcast episodes have brought a lot of new followers who otherwise hadn’t heard of him, but the audio and video media have allowed him to form a better relationship with his audience.
It makes sense. They can hear you. They can see you. It’s an additional connection that you’re creating. (Personal side note: This is really something I need to start doing one of these days…)
18) Sometimes you need to take a step back and think about the big picture – remember WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.
It’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose motivation because you lose sight of why you took on a project in the first place.
19) People want instant results. Don’t misinterpret this as “people can easily get quick results.” However, when it comes to creating eye-catching copy or headlines, hinting at “quick” or “big” results can bring about more attention (i.e. clicks and traffic).
Pat illustrated this well in a recent post, 5 “Five-Minute or Less” Blogging Tips That Yield Big Results.
The important thing is that you can actually back up your catchy headline with something real – and that’s exactly what Pat did (I highly recommend checking out that post if you haven’t already). At the time of this writing, the post has over 1,200 shares and 250+ comments, so clearly the headline (and content) achieved its intended results.
20) You don’t need to be perfect on the first (or 6th) try. The Smart Passive Income blog recently went through a complete redesign, and it looks amazing. I don’t think you can ever call a website “perfect,” but this one is pretty darn close.
The fact is, however, Pat didn’t need to be perfect on the first try. In this post, The History of Themes for The Smart Passive Income Blog, Pat shows us how the blog has gone through a total of 7 major re-designs. It’s amazing how the site has evolved, but it also acts as proof that you just need to get your site/product out there, and worry about tweaking it as you go.
There will always be adjustments needed (that’s the nature of any business), so you can’t let yourself get caught up in making something “perfect.”
21) Can’t think of a new idea? Forget “brand-new.” Think “better-new.” This was taken directly from Pat’s post about niche selection, and I think it’s important because it’s really the starting point of any new website or business. You need to start with a basic idea.
People get so caught up in creating something revolutionary, when in fact, creating something evolutionary is easier and potentially better. Don’t reinvent the wheel – simply make it better. Take something that you know is successful, and improve it. Logically, you will be successful. (Obviously, there will be other factors in play, but this is a big part of it.)
The funny thing is, I’ve probably only scratched the surface for all the lessons Pat and the Smart Passive Income blog have taught over the years. These just happen to be a collection of lessons that really resonate with me.
I really enjoyed putting this together, mainly because I like reading and analyzing what makes people successful. If you liked this, you’ll probably like my new site (shameless plug):
It’s where I publish five interviews a week with various successful bloggers and internet entrepreneurs. I’ve had a lot of fun and already have learned so much from the individuals I’ve interviewed (there are already over 30 interviews live on the site!).
Are there other lessons from Pat you can think of that I’ve left out? Please share in the comments below!
Also – I put a lot of time into this post, so if you enjoyed it and have a spare minute, I’d greatly appreciate a share on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!