Wednesday, May 16, 2018

SPI 318: Modern Mindfulness with Melissa Monte—An SPI Student and Her Successful Start

I’ve had a lot of requests for episodes like this, so we’re doing something a little different today. We’re talking to Melissa Monte, a student of my Power-Up Podcasting Fast Track Workshop. Her podcast, Mind Love, launched soon after, and she’s here to share how she created her vibrant and successful podcast from scratch.

I wanted to bring Melissa on today to talk about what she’s learned, what she has planned for the future, and how she’s progressing. It gets pretty personal too. Melissa talks about some of the darker years of her life, and how she was able to overcome them and create a whole new perspective. We go into why she decided to launch a podcast, and why podcasting specifically is helping her fulfill her life’s mission. Now that Melissa has a growing audience, I also offer some help and advice for next steps so that she can take things to the next level.

I’m so thankful that my students—and all of you on Team Flynn—are action-takers. You can truly find yourself through the actions that you take, and courses can help you do that through accountability and the tools you gain as a result. Hopefully this episode inspires you to take action as well, whether you take one of my courses or not. Let’s get started!

If you want to get started with a podcast of your own, check out my free, three-day training course, I’ll show you everything you need to know to get your podcast set up and running!

I’m so glad that I finally got out of my own head and started producing online courses. In 2016, I realized that online courses could help so many people go deeper into the processes I teach, and the results have been amazing. If you’re interested in starting your own online courses, I’d highly recommend the platform I use—it’s called Teachable. It’s such an easy tool to use, and it adds so much value to the teaching process. I made over a million dollars in online course sales in 2017 alone, and Teachable has been a critical part of that. Check it out at [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for Teachable.]

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Melissa Monte for joining me this week. Until next time!

You'll Learn

  • How Melissa conceptualized her podcast.
  • What Melissa learned through my Power-Up Podcasting Fast Track course.
  • Why Melissa landed on podcasting after several niche sites and blogs.
  • Melissa's personal journey and how podcasting is helping her fulfill her mission in life.
  • Melissa's advice for finding your happy zone.
  • The challenges that Melissa has faced with her podcast and how she's overcome them.
  • Strategies for monetizing your podcast and growing your community.
  • How your community can influence future content and products, and more!


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

SPI 317: Make Money with Your Skills—Creating Awesome with Roberto Blake

Let’s go back in time to the day after I lost my architecture job. What would you say to me? That’s the thought experiment we’re running today with Roberto Blake, creative entrepreneur and founder of Awesome Creator Academy and Create Awesome Media.

In my challenge to Roberto, he walks me through exactly what he’d suggest I do to get started building a personal brand (if it was the day after I got let go). He identifies the strategies, tactics, and mindset that any new entrepreneur should embrace, and highlights the shifting culture of modern business. Roberto has a reputation for building brands from the ground up and helping entrepreneurs make money with their creativity, and his game plans are spot-on.

This episode is powerful listening, especially if you’re at the beginning of your journey. Even if you’re not, you’re going to gain some major insight from Roberto. Put that phone in your pocket and turn the volume up—you’re going to want to listen carefully to this one.

I want to give a shout out to Nathan Barry of ConvertKit, who tweeted recently that ConvertKit has now hit $1 million in monthly recurring revenue. Huge congratulations to Nathan and the team! ConvertKit is the email service provider that I use. If you’re just building your email list and don’t have an email service provider yet, I recommend trying out ConvertKit. If you want a 45-day free trial, go to You can’t get this anywhere else. They’ll give you everything you need to get your email list up and growing, so check it out! [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]

Next week we’re talking to a student of mine who’s just finding her stride. It’s going to be a great episode, so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss out!

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Roberto Blake for joining me this week. Until next time!

You'll Learn

  • Why it's difficult for people to hold onto their creativity.
  • Why falling in love with the process of creativity is much more critical than follower numbers.
  • Tactics for getting started as a creative and building a personal brand.
  • How 30 minutes is sometimes all you need to create something of worth.
  • How the culture of business is shifting, and how to stay above the water.
  • How to prove your expertise and value in your craft and industry.
  • Why your body of work and reputation are your most important assets.
  • How Roberto would coach me if we could go back in time to the day after I was let go.
  • How Roberto plans out his content, how he balances quality and quantity, and more!


Monday, May 7, 2018

How Sam Priestley, the “Lazy Entrepreneur,” Climbed the Staircase of Success

Welcome to our second SPI community member feature! On our SPI Facebook Group, we have over 40,000 amazing entrepreneurs across all stages of business, and I wanted to start highlighting some of the amazing work the community members are doing with their businesses here on the blog.

Brendan Hufford, our Facebook Community manager, wrote this post to highlight Sam Priestley, who is a lifestyle entrepreneur who lives in London.

You can also check out Brendan and his work at Photo MBA.

And if you haven’t done so already, click here to join the Facebook Group and be a part of the community!

London entrepreneur Sam Priestley remembers the exact moment when he decided not to get a job. He was sitting at his laptop during his second year of graduate school at the University of Warwick, staring at an application he was filling out for a job at a bank. The question he was staring at wasn’t a difficult one to answer, per say, but it did have him stumped: “Why would you like to work at this bank rather than any other bank?” the question asked.

He just couldn’t face answering it. He had fifteen additional applications lined up to fill out, and each one had similar questions. It would take hours and hours of research on each bank in order to fill out the applications—all with the grand prize of a job that would require early mornings, long commutes, a boss, and dedicating most of his working hours to an industry he didn’t even understand or care about.

Most of us have been there: Trying to fake passion for an interview in an industry we don’t care about, for a job that we really don’t want. Sam just couldn’t do it. After the independence he felt in college, he decided to find another way.

“It’s one of the reasons I describe myself as the ‘lazy entrepreneur.’” He says. “I started building businesses for the sole reason that it would allow me to be lazy and avoid having to get a job. I wanted financial independence so I could be the master of my own time.”

As you might expect, things didn’t turn out that way. Over the next few years, Sam would work harder than he ever would have if he’d become a “normal” employee.

Building a Foundation

One day, Sam’s housemate came across a “cash back” website where he could open an account on a gambling website and deposit £50 and receive £100 back in cash.

What Sam learned is that the “cash back” website was essentially giving him part of their affiliate commission for signing up. But, in addition to the cash back, he would also get a free bet.

Sam learned about “matched betting,” where he could find two sites offering wildly different odds on the same sporting event, for example. No matter who won the event, he would come out with profit. This is also known as “arbing” (short for arbitrage) as it leverages an arbitrage between to two sites. The concept of arbitrage is often used in the selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset. Sam even wrote his dissertation in graduate school on finding arbitrage opportunities in betting odds.

The Staircase to Financial Freedom

The money he earned “arbing” right out of college was enough for him to live on while he was creating other companies. Over the next few years, using his initial profits, Sam started a number of other businesses and income streams.

Some of these businesses failed. But even through these failures, Priestley kept going.

Remember, the definition of “passive income” isn’t something that requires no work: It’s doing the most difficult work now to reap the benefits later. For Sam, that benefit is financial freedom and he notes four distinct phases he’s gone through on his path.

Step #1:

The first type of financial freedom he had was from matched betting. He was earning enough from a side gig that he didn’t need to get a job. He wasn’t comfortable or rich or as well off as he would have been if he’d gone the corporate route, but his needs were covered and that allowed him to take risks trying new businesses, including:

  • A car import / export business
  • A property development business in Malta
  • A face-painting business
  • A tech startup
  • A social network
  • A table tennis brand
  • A coffee shop
  • A blog

Again, some of them have failed, but that doesn’t matter, because a few of them have done really well, including arbing, his table tennis equipment company, his blog, and a tech startup. He also invests some of his earnings, which has given him even more financial freedom.

Step #2:

Next, Sam hit a level of financial freedom where he still needed income, but after outsourcing all of the logistics of his table tennis company, he only needed to work a few hours a week to maintain it. Similar to Pat’s definition for passive income, Sam put in a lot of work initially to reap the benefits later.

However, he realized quickly that once he started topping the bestseller lists on Amazon, there wasn’t much more he could do. It would take a lot more work for a relatively small improvement. He’d rather spend his time elsewhere. Sam spends just a few hours a week on the table tennis business, and puts the rest of his time focusing on newer more exciting projects. Currently, he’s working on building his craft gin brand.

He also started focusing on his hobbies and life instead. Sam took on projects he knew would make no money alongside trying to start new businesses. A great example of this is his coffee shop, The Wren, near St. Paul’s in central London which started as a nonprofit. He’s no longer involved in the coffee shop, but the business is going well.

Another thing Sam spent his time on, while living in London, is volunteering as a policeman. He did about twenty hours a month (for free) policing some of the rougher parts of East London, responding to issues ranging from gangs to domestic violence. He did it for a few reasons, but a big one was to get him out of his comfort zone and learn how to defuse conflict. Now, he spends quite a lot of time learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Step #3:

Sam’s third level of financial freedom was when he didn’t need any income anymore. In 2014, he realised he had made enough to live at his current level for many years (mainly from arbing and investments from that money). He quit a business (his tech startup) that was earning a fortune, but that he was losing love for and that wasn’t adding any value to the world. His partners thought he had gone crazy. One of them lost his temper and said to Sam, “What’s wrong with you, do you hate money now?”

No, Sam didn’t hate money, he just refused to allow it to rule over him.

When he started out as an entrepreneur, he had no responsibilities and could easily survive for a couple of “gap years” after he graduated from the university. But now, after a decade of being his own boss, he reckons that he’s quite unemployable, because he doesn’t have any traditional job experience. This is why multiple income streams and a high rate of savings (Sam saves a great deal of money each month) is extremely important to him.

Sam’s primary motivation has always been to avoid getting a job. The best way to ensure that was to save aggressively and keep his expenses low (he’d rather have an extra couple of years of freedom than a super-expensive car). Sam notes that he was “lucky because I started earning money when I was living as a student and hanging out with other students. I never had to learn to cut down my quality of living. I just continued living the same way as I did in college. My expenses slowly crept up, but much slower than my income and that money invested early on quickly started earning money by itself (another passive income stream).”

His goal is still the same now. The best thing money can buy is control of his time so he can focus on projects he’s passionate about.

Step #4:

The current level of financial freedom is the freedom to put money into the stuff he loves. His day-to-day expenses are small enough (and businesses successful enough) that he has more money than he needs. So instead, he gets to spend it on other things: causes he is passionate about supporting, investing in new business ideas, and even sponsoring budding entrepreneurs.

Sam does a great deal to support his local church. The Wren, mentioned above, was founded to support Christian lunchtime gatherings where participants talk about charity. Sam also cares a lot about helping victims of domestic abuse, homelessness, and degenerative brain diseases. He’s also focused on the concept of effective altruism where he gives his money to places that it will have the largest impact, giving to things like malaria nets and cataract surgeries in developing countries that have the highest return on investment.

A Rickety Staircase

As entrepreneurs, we often feel that we should make the jump from the first step to the last. What we forget is that this process most often looks like small incremental stair steps from one season of life to the next.

While Sam’s journey maps to slow growth over time and manageable stair steps to where he is today, it certainly wasn’t an even, or even “safe,” staircase. Climbing it felt more like a rickety New York City fire escape than the Gatsby-esque grand staircase you may be picturing.

When Sam first started his table tennis company, he started by licensing and distributing another brand (very similar to Phil Knight of Nike starting his business by importing Onitsuka brand shoes from Japan).

Also, extremely similar to Knight, Sam built it from scratch into the most popular in its niche only to have others start selling and profiting from his work. Even though he tried to protect himself with an exclusive distribution deal, his competitors were buying it abroad and selling it locally. This drove prices down and crushed his margin.

Eventually, he started again (under his own brand name and with a new supplier) and had full control, but Sam estimates that he lost roughly $200,000 and, even more valuable, a lot of time.

Another mistake Sam made was taking money from friends and family. He had a business that raised around $150,000 in the form of loans (money that was surprisingly easy to get). Friends and family queued up to give him their money because he had a track record, his idea was good, and it was for a noble cause.

Except things didn’t go quite the way he planned and the business wasn’t able to repay the loans. And it turned out that those investors couldn’t afford to lose their money.

Sam felt terrible about it and ended up paying back all the investors from his own pocket, something he couldn’t really afford to do. But that was a big lesson for him: losing his own money on a calculated gamble is one thing, but risking the money of others is entirely different.

Sam advises that if you are going to take investment money, take it from professionals who can afford to lose it and know the risk. You do not want to responsible for your great aunt’s pension.

How He Stayed Motivated

When you work for yourself, especially when you’re just getting started, you’re both the supervisor and the employee. The biggest challenge Sam has had in working for himself is mustering up the motivation to do the “worker bee” work. Remember, Sam is a self-admitted lazy person and discipline isn’t something he’s good at. His solution here is to simply outsource everything he doesn’t like and focus on what he’s best at.

Spending eighteen hours per day on your business is nothing when you’re only doing the parts that give you energy.

Here’s an example from Sam:
“For instance today I spent the afternoon at a bar designing cocktails for the launch party of our new gin brand,” says Sam. “In the morning I went through the last month, counted my earnings, and finished a write-up of how all my businesses did during the month. Then in the evening I played table tennis to test some new products we’re developing. I was up early, and I am now writing this at midnight. That is a full day, but it was also a really fun day.”

Obviously, there are some things you need to do (like tax returns), but Sam notes that you’d be surprised how much you can ignore and it not really matter. For example:

  • He barely reads his emails.
  • He has disabled his phone from ringing.
  • He doesn’t do any cold outreach or hard selling.
  • He doesn’t sell any online courses and he doesn’t have any funnels.
  • He doesn’t do webinars or live videos.
  • He keep his calendar mostly empty and avoid meetings.

Yes, his businesses would be more successful if he did all those things. But, he wagers that he would also quickly lose interest in them. Sam’s advice is to find what parts of the business you love and focus on those. He goes on to explain that if something is really difficult for you, “sign up” in a way that you can’t get out of it.

For example, check out Sam’s viral video (below) where he played table tennis every day for a year. Like Sam, you can elect to take on a paradigm (worldview) shift and simply view the difficult tasks as self improvement.

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The Value of a Community

Sam credits much of his success to Smart Passive Income, and Pat. “Smart Passive Income was probably the first blog I ever read,” says Sam. “Before Pat, I was just working everything out myself, and missing a lot. I didn’t know the first thing about SEO or online marketing. I was very tech savvy, but pretty clueless when it came to websites and getting viewership. In fact, I had a few businesses that failed solely because of that lack of knowledge. My first ecommerce site just sat there all ready to go, waiting for traffic, until we eventually shut it down.”

Inspired by Pat’s income reports, Sam started his blog in late 2014 (which also brings in revenue for him) and he followed every single guide that Pat published, word for word.

Two posts formed the basis for his initial marketing: A Detailed Look at My (Non-Aggressive) Email List Strategy and Pat’s original backlinking strategy page.

As Sam started to grow his table tennis company, he listened to Episode 144 of the SPI Podcast: Building a Million Dollar Business in 12 Months with Ryan Moran, where Moran talks about using Amazon’s Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) service. That podcast episode was huge for Sam, because he was using Amazon’s FBA service as well to sell his table tennis bats.

Amazon’s FBA is a service that allows you to store your products in the Amazon fulfillment centers, and Amazon will ship your products for you once you sell them. Sam learned a lot from that SPI Podcast episode and implemented quite a few of Moran’s suggestions. Today, Amazon’s FBA program is pretty well known and there are a lot of great resources out there. But, back then, Sam was stumbling in the dark on his own until he heard Episode 144 of the SPI Podcast.

Most recently, Sam listened to an SPI Podcast episode where Pat mentioned the income he generates from having a resources page on his website. Sam makes money from his blog, but after hearing Pat’s commentary, Sam is going to be creating a similar page on his website with resources related to his businesses.

More than any blog post, podcast episode, or YouTube video, Sam values the SPI Facebook community and encourages anybody not in the community to join.“It’s pretty much the only [group] I’ve come across that really adds value to my life.”

Sam’s plans for the rest of 2018 include continuing to work on his own brand of gin, investing in websites and online businesses (in addition to his entrepreneur grants), helping his wife set up a food-related business, and starting a podcast about money and investing. There’s nothing “lazy” about that!

Helpful Resources

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Selection of E-commerce Platforms For Non-WordPress Sites

At Tips and Tricks HQ we predominately work to produce solutions for WordPress users. Although we believe WordPress is one of the top solutions for an online business, we also understand that sometimes people need a non-WordPress solution. We have put together a list of ‘pay-per-month’ style e-commerce solutions for those people who wish to run an online business but don’t believe they will be able to handle WordPress.

There is an extensive list of e-commerce softwares available online that are ready and waiting to snatch up your online business. While a particular platform may work perfectly for one company, it is important to ensure the features are compatible with your own needs before locking yourself into a lengthy contract. Comparing rates of a number of e-commerce platforms allows you to see which company will give you the best value for money while ensuring they will provide you with the features you need.

Some companies offer free trial periods or have low costs associated to their e-commerce platform. This may sounds great although ensure you dig deeper into what features they are offering. There is no point signing up to a company if they are not supplying you with the basic features you require.


Why do People Choose a ‘Pay Per Month’ E-commerce Platform?

More and more people are choosing to sign up to an e-commerce platform opposed to hiring a web-developer to create their website. Below we have listed a few reasons why some online businesses choose this option.

  • They don’t believe they have the skills required to manage their own website
  • They do not have a large sum of money to pay a web-developer upfront
  • They believe that signing up to an e-commerce platform will save them time and money
  • E-commerce platforms require only basic web knowledge to set up and manage
  • They have heard of other companies success from using a ‘pre’ developed e-commerce platform

What You Will Need to Consider Before Choosing an E-commerce Platform


Work out a budget for your online business and research companies that can meet this budget. There is generally an e-commerce solution to meet all budgets and requirements. Weighing up the pro’s and con’s of each company will allow you to see which one will best suit your online business.

Payment Platforms and Security:

Ensure the company you choose will allow your customers to pay via your preferred payment platform. Choosing a company that accepts well known payment gateways such as ‘PayPal’ and ‘Stripe’ will lessen the chance of an abandoned cart. Using a reputable e-commerce solution is important in ensuring your customers credit card details are in safe hands.

Number of Items You Can Sell:

Finding out the maximum number of items you can sell can be beneficial in the long run. It is always important to think ahead. You may only have a handful of items now although in the future your business may grow and you may have more items than you ever thought you would. Companies such as BigCartel have a maximum limit of 300 products.

Available Addons:

If the core e-commerce platform does not have the feature you need for your business you will need to look into the addons that are available and also investigate the cost of each. Some popular addons that you may need for your company include: email tools, shipping product tools and social media tools.

Device Compatibility:

Ensure that the e-commerce solution is compatible across a range of devices. The themes that are used should be fully responsive. The majority of your customers will be searching your website from their mobile phone. The most popular e-commerce solutions such as Shopify can be viewed across all devices.

Social Media Compatibility:

Years ago no one would have considered ‘social media compatibility’ to be an important factor when deciding which e-commerce solution was right for them. In today’s society, social media is often a tool seller’s use to promote their products to large audiences. Some e-commerce solutions have direct links to popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.

SEO Benefits:

Choosing an SEO friendly e-commerce solution will better your chances of ranking towards the top of an internet search. The ability to add a blog, to use your own domain name and the ability to enable customer comments and reviews are all beneficial features in the long run. You can read more about SEO here.

Customer Service Offered by the Company:

Good customer service will allow you to set up your business simply and easily. Being able to speak to a ‘real life’ person will allow you to quickly get the answers you need to proceed to enjoy sales on your site.

Overview of Six Robust E-Commerce Platforms

E-commerce Solution

Basic Base Price  Product Limit Customer Support Can you offer Coupon Codes and Gift Cards? Can you have a Blog?  Staff Account Limit   File Storage Included with Basic Plan


$29.95 per month. BigCommerce do not charge a transaction fee. Unlimited 24/7 live agent support  Yes  Yes  Unlimited   Unlimited  No transaction fee charges.

Comprehensive list of features included in basic package.

Phone support.

Lacks free themes and has an annual sales limit for each plan.

Shopify $29.95 per month. International cards are charged at 2.9% and 30c per transaction.


 24 hour email, live chat and phone support.  Yes. You can offer coupons although offering gift cards requires an executive plan. Yes  2 Unlimited Can be used online and offline.

Allows for multiple payment options including COD.

If you don’t use ‘Shopify Payment’ you get charged an additional transaction fee.

Wix Wix offers users 500MB of storage for free. Their popular ‘Unlimited Plan’ is $12.50 per month. Unlimited  Premium support is offered with all paid plans.  No Yes 1  10 GB is includued with the ‘Unlimited Plan’  Large collection of designer templates.

Drag and drop design that allows you to easily create a website.

Once you choose a theme if you decide to swap you have to recreate your stall from scratch.

Squarespace $25.00 per month billed annually. Sqaurespace charge 3% for each transaction that takes place. Unlimited 24/7 customer support.  You can offer coupons to your customers.  Yes  1  Unlimited  No coding experience is required.

Drag and drop features.

No manual mobile editor.

BigCartel You can offer 5 products for free using BigCartel. For $29.99 per month you can sell up to 300 products. 300 (when using premium plan)  Online support. You can offer discount codes (when using the premium plan) No  1  Enough for 300 products with 5 images per product. No fees on what the customer pays.

Inventory tracking, ability to sell in person and on Facebook.

Free for up to 5 products making it useful for small businesses.

Lack of support, limited payment options and limited flexibility.

Volusion $15.00 per month is their cheapest plan. 100  Online support offered with mini plan. You can get phone support in the $35.00 plan. Yes  No  1  1 GB of bandwidth is included with the mini plan.

Offers a free trial period.

No transaction fees and has the ability to create a customer loyalty program.

Only 28 free themes.

Some coding knowledge is needed for customization.

The Best E-Commerce Platforms for an Online Business


Bigcommerce is an e-commerce platform that was born in Australia and offers solutions for small and large scale businesses. This e-commerce solution is often compared to Shopify as they offer similar features and plans. Many themes offered by this company you will need to purchase along with addons needed for specific business types.

The standard plan to use Bigcommerce starts at $29.95 which gives you unlimited file storage, unlimited staff accounts, the ability to offer coupons, gift cards and discounts. Bigcommerce does not charge transaction fees across all of their plans. Using the standard plan you can sell up to $50,000 of sales before needing to upgrade your plan. 

Features of Bigcommerce:

  • Bigcommerce allows you to use all leading payment gateways such as PayPal, Braintree and Stripe.
  • Easy to manage product inventory.
  • Using Bigcommerce you can design a store quickly and easily.
  • Bigcommerce integrates with both Apple Pay and PayPal.
  • This e-commerce solution supports a large range of different currencies.
  • Bigcommerce is PCI compliant and takes care of all security and hosting of the website.
  • This e-commerce platform allows you to buy a new domain name or use an existing domain name.
  • Shipping options to improve conversion.
  • Bigcommerce offers 24/7 chat, email and phone support for all technical issues on your website.


You can extensively customise your site if you have some coding knowledge.


Shopify is currently one of the most recognised e-commerce platforms with over 1 million active users. Shopify allows users to fully customize their sites and purchase addons from an extensive inventory if needed. Although this e-commerce platform allows users to easily design their site, Shopify is more expensive when compared to other solutions. With over 55 billions dollars of products sold through the Shopify platform, it continues to be a popular choice for small and large online businesses.

Shopify plans range from $29.00 to $299.00. The basic $29.00 plan allows you to have an unlimited number of products and an unlimited amount of storage. The basic plan does not allow you to offer gift cards and only allows 2 staff accounts. 

Features of Shopify:

  • There is 100 professional free themes to choose from.
  • User can easily customize colors and fonts across the entirety of the site. No design experience is needed.
  • Shopify supports over a hundred different payment gateways.
  • Shopify is fully responsive meaning that customers can view your website across a variety of devices.
  • Ability to add shipping and tax to your products.
  • You can choose whether or not you would like to have a blog on your website.
  • There is no limit to the amount of products you can sell.
  • Shopify allows you to have a custom domain name.
  • Each product can have multiple images attached to it.
  • Shopify is PCI compliant.
  • Shopify offers 24 hour support where you can email, live chat or phone their support lines.


You can achieve a large amount of customization if you have some coding knowledge.


BigCartel is a popular choice for small businesses. This e-commerce solution is basic although perfect for those who are inexperienced. Although this platform does not allow extensive customization, many addons provide the features needed for a range of online businesses to function. BigCartel allows room for coding although no coding is needed to use the basic functionality.

Using the free plan you can create an online store where you have access to limited themes, can have one image per item and have up to five products. For $29.99 per month, BigCartel allows you to have 300 products, upload 5 images per product, have your own domain, have inventory tracking and offer discount codes to your customers. The plans offered by BigCartel are simple and generally not appropriate for large scale companies. 

Features of BigCartel:

  • BigCartel was designed for people to sell items that they have hand crafted.
  • BigCartel offers a range of free fonts and themes that can be used to design your website.
  • Those familiar with code can tweak the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • The ability to start an online business for free is an option when using BigCartel.


BigCartel allows some customization although not as much as some other e-commerce solutions such as Shopify.


Sqaurespace is used for personal blogs and for small businesses. It’s simple and easy approach appeals to small business owners that do not need extensive customization.

For $25.00 a month you can create a website with unlimited pages and bandwidth, a free custom domain, ability to sell an unlimited amount of products and receive donations and receive 24/7 customer support. Squarespace charges 3% per transaction that occurs. 

Features of Squarespace:

  • 24/7 support
  • Templates unique to Squarespace
  • Ability to add gallery blocks anywhere on your website.
  • You can link your Sqaurespace account to a number of social media platforms.
  • Responsive designs that you can view a preview of what they will look like on a mobile device.
  • Many different blogging tools available.
  • Ability to sell an unlimited amount of products.
  • You can offer gift cards and discounts using this e-commerce platform.


Sqaurespace provides a number of templates you can use to customize your website.


Wix has recently grown in popularity due to their affordable plans from just $5.00 a month. Wix is suitable for small businesses although does not have the features needed for a large scale company.  The support is not comparable with that of companies such as Shopify.

Wix offers a free plan that gives you unlimited pages, 500 MB of storage and secure hosting. For $24.50, which is the most expensive plan, you can upgrade your plan to receive unlimited bandwidth, 20 GB of storage, free domain, no ads and customized Favicons. 

Features of Wix:

  • Wix is fully responsive and offers a range of 200 different apps to suit a range of businesses.
  • Wix gives you the ability to add a blog to your website.
  • 20 fonts can be used across the entirety of your website.
  • 1000’s of vector images are available to use on your website.
  • Wix allows you to automatically add links to photos on the social media site Instagram.


Wix has limited customization options. This platform focuses mainly on a simple and easy to use design.


Volusion is an up and coming e-commerce solution that has processed more than $28 billion and has 180,000 users. Volusion gives business owners the ability to create a unique site without needing to know any code. This e-commerce solution offers 24/7 support and good value plans making it an increasingly popular choice for new business owners.

Volusion offers a 14 day free trial period. The cheapest plan available is $15.00 a month that allows you to display 100 products and has 1GB of bandwidth. For $35.00 per month you can have up to 1000 products, receive 3GB of bandwidth and are able to receive support over the phone. 

Features of Volusion:

  • Volusion boasts unlimited products and inventory management.
  • A range of approved apps are available that allow you to create a site that suits your business needs.
  • Fully responsive themes and search tools that your customers can use to locate a specific product.
  • A free slideshow feature that allows you to promote specific products on your website.
  • You can have multiple photos and videos per product.
  • Volusion comes with a built in barcode generator.
  • Volusion comes with features such as ‘related product’, ‘inventory management’, ‘tax rate calculator’ and ‘manage returns’.
  • 24/7 online support is available.


Volusion offers a number of unique themes that can be used to customize your website.

This is a follow up article for the how do I start a blog series that we have been publishing on this site to help users get started and create a successful blog and earn an income.

A Selection of E-commerce Platforms For Non-WordPress Sites originally posted at TipsAndTricks-HQ

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

SPI 316: The Art of Scaling with Nathan Chan from Foundr

How do you take an idea and grow it into a six-figure business, a multiple six-figure business, and then scale it to a multiple seven-figure business? That’s what we’re talking about with today’s special guest: Nathan Chan, founder of Foundr Magazine.

Foundr Magazine has turned into a powerhouse brand since I last spoke with Nathan (Episode 169). So much has happened! Today, Nathan is going to dish on all that he’s done, and all that he’s had to stop doing in order to grow. I’m basically just turning the mic over to Nathan so he can give us the scoop on what he’s learned, what he’s aiming for now, how he’s building his brand, and why his mission with Foundr has increased 100x.

Stick that phone in your pocket and listen close, because this episode is stuffed with insights and powerful takeaways. That’s what Foundr is all about—helping entrepreneurs create a successful business. Nathan has a lot to share, so let’s get started!

If you want to get a free, printed copy of the Richard Branson issue of Foundr, go to (you only need to cover shipping and handling).

And speaking of freebies, if you’ve ever been interested in starting a podcast, I have a free, three-day mini course for you. It’s structured to help you get your podcast up and running without getting overwhelmed. I’ll walk you through all the steps, hand-in-hand: Check it out at

We talk a lot in this episode about scaling up and team building, and a common question I get is “how do you manage your content when you’re scaling up?” Well, I have an excellent solution for you: CoSchedule. This is the number one tool I’d recommend for content management—it’s great if you have a team or even if you’re just starting out. It helps you manage your content on WordPress, on social media, and more. There are so many useful features and automations within CoSchedule that I know will make your life easier, so check it out at [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Nathan Chan for joining me this week. Until next time!

You'll Learn

  • What Nathan's learned since we last spoke, and how he's grown Foundr so well.
  • Why Nathan is shooting high with Foundr's mission to support new entrepreneurs.
  • Why Foundr has branched into courses and what strategies it uses for them.
  • Strategies and powerful mindsets for scaling your company.
  • How Nathan built Foundr's company culture, and what he's learned in the process.
  • Who Nathan's mentors are, and why he's a member of Entrepreneur's Organization.
  • What strategy Nathan is using to scale his business, and what brands he's inspired by.
  • What critical advice Nathan has for SPI listeners.
  • How you can get a free copy of the most recent issue of Foundr, and more!


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SPI 315: How to Disrupt Yourself & Grow a Company with Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson is one of the Top 50 leading business thinkers in the world, according to Thinkers50. She’s an expert in disruptive innovation and personal disruption, and she’s here today to help us learn how to grow our businesses and understand the patterns we’re going through, especially when we’re starting something new. She’s also giving us a seven-point framework for working through essential disruption and creating change in our lives and businesses.

Whitney’s story is filled with diverse entrepreneurial adventures. She got a degree in music, and ended up in New York City. In New York she discovered Wall Street and found her way to investment banking, became an award-winning equity research analyst, and then . . . she disrupted herself. She became an entrepreneur and co-founded an investment firm specializing in disruptive innovation. It was there that she had a huge “aha!”—the theory of disruption she was applying to products and services could also be used to manage change for individuals.

Change is necessary and inevitable, especially in business. Did you know that pursuing a disruptive course increases your odds of success by six times, and your revenue potential by twenty? And actually, 70 percent of businesses end up with a strategy different than what they started with. You can begin to see why disruption is so critical. Listen closely, because Whitney is about to deliver a masterclass on disruption.

Speaking of startups and bootstrapping, a huge shout out and and congratulations to Nathan Barry of ConvertKit, who tweeted recently that ConvertKit has now hit $1 million in monthly recurring revenue. Huge congratulations to Nathan and the team! ConvertKit is the email service provider that I use, and if you want a 45-day free trial, go to You can’t get this anywhere else. They’ll give you everything you need to get your email list up and growing, so check it out! [Full Disclosure: I’m a compensated advisor and an affiliate for ConvertKit.]

Next week we’re continuing this theme of growing and scaling companies, bringing someone back to the show who hasn’t been back in a while. The trajectory this guy has been on is insane—he’s grown his company to $1 million plus! Make sure you don’t miss it—subscribe and leave a review.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Whitney Johnson for joining me this week. Until next time!

You'll Learn

  • Whitney's journey from music major to entrepreneur, investor, and innovator.
  • Why change is inevitable and necessary, and how to know when it's time to change.
  • Why persisting can be just as important as disrupting ourselves.
  • The difference between market risk and competitive risk, and which you should pursue.
  • What the example of koalas can teach us about what our strengths are.
  • Strategies for discovering your personal strengths.
  • A seven-point framework for disrupting your life and creating change.
  • How to turn your constraints to your advantage.
  • How to battle entitlement and embrace humility in business.
  • Why stepping back is critical for personal and business growth, and more!


Monday, April 23, 2018

The Million Dollar Tweet: 8 Lessons to Grow a Successful Business

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Nathan Barry is the founder of ConvertKit, and a good friend of mine. Just the other day he tweeted:

This is a huge milestone, and I want to give huge kudos to Nathan and his team for achieving it!

[Full disclosure as we dive in to this post: I am both an affiliate and an advisor for ConvertKit, and I do earn a commission if you choose to use my affiliate link (the links back to ConvertKit on this page) and stay on after the free trial. I’m proud to be an advisor, so if you have any questions about the product, please let me know!]

Now, if you don’t know what MRR is, it’s monthly recurring revenue. That means ConvertKit is now making one million dollars per month, and it took them exactly 1,902 days to get there.

After sharing this exciting tweet, Nathan followed up on Twitter with some thank-you messages for the people who helped him and ConvertKit reach this milestone. In these tweets, he talked about the eight specific lessons he learned from these folks that have helped his business grow and succeed.

In today’s post, I wanted to share those eight lessons Nathan and ConvertKit followed to reach this amazing milestone. These lessons are ones you can also take with you as you build your business, no matter what kind of business it is.

Lesson 1: Go All In

One of the people Nathan credited for the success of ConvertKit is Hiten Shah, the amazingly successful entrepreneur who’s founded companies like KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Hello Bar.

About a year and a half into ConvertKit, Nathan was at a conference in Las Vegas, where he was having dinner with Hiten and a few other people. He and Hiten were walking and talking on the way back from dinner when Hiten stopped, looked at Nathan, and said, “You know, Nathan, I’ve been thinking. You should shut down ConvertKit. You’re a year and a half in. You’re still at $2,000 a month in revenue. It hasn’t taken off, and you’re going to be successful at other things. So you should shut it down and move on.”

Nathan was stunned. But Hiten continued, “Or you can give it the time, money, and attention it deserves and build it into a real business. But right now you’re trying to run a few different side projects, and the focus isn’t working for you. So you need to either go all in, or shut it down.”

Nathan thought about this for the next few months, then finally decided that ConvertKit wasn’t going to go anywhere unless he made it go somewhere. That’s when he made the decision to go all in. At the time he had another business,, where he sold books and courses. He stopped working on, then took all his savings and put it into ConvertKit. He hired a full-time team, and started doing more direct sales. The other big thing he did was pick a niche for ConvertKit, focusing on providing email marketing for professional bloggers. (Remember, the riches are in the niches!)

From that point on, ConvertKit has only looked up. It was a lack of single-minded focus that was holding the company back from reaching its full potential, but once Nathan made the decision to focus only on ConvertKit, the sky became the limit. If you want your business to reach the next level, you need to be willing to go all in.

Lesson 2: Build a Great Product

Nathan also credits ConvertKit co-founder David Wheeler for helping ConvertKit become a great product. This is another one of the biggest reasons why ConvertKit has been so successful. You can have all the pieces in place to sell and support your product—the tactics, the strategies, the team, the influencers to promote it—but if that product isn’t great to begin with, it’s not going to be successful.

Thankfully, ConvertKit is a great product. What drew me to ConvertKit in the first place was the fact that it’s a product that just works. It’s easy to use and reliable, and most importantly, it fits into everything I’m doing in my business too. It’s why I recommend ConvertKit as an affiliate, and why I’m an advisor for the company.

So make sure, as much as anything, you build a great product.

Lesson 3: Get Feedback

Early on in the process of creating ConvertKit, Nathan sought feedback from a number of influencers on how to build the product the right way. Nathan called out two people—Ryan Delk and myself—as key influencers, people he connected with early on to get direct feedback on how to build his product the right way. Since I was already in the blogging space when Nathan reached out to me, I was able to contribute a lot of valuable feedback about what would make this product successful. And Ryan, having so much experience in the startup world, was able to do just the same.

So the big lesson here is that you cannot do this alone. And because of that fact, you need to connect with the right people who can give you honest feedback that’ll help make your product the best it can be.

Lesson 4: Be Transparent

Another key lesson Nathan has applied since the beginning is the idea of being transparent. Much like I do on Smart Passive Income with my income reports, Nathan does the exact same thing—just with a software company. He’s connected ConvertKit’s metrics to a site called Baremetrics, where anyone can track the company’s income growth, all the way back to the beginning. You can even see new customers signing up in real time.

When you do business with other people online, whether it’s with individuals or other companies, trust is a crucial factor, and there’s no better way to build that trust than to be fully upfront and transparent. That’s exactly what Nathan has done with ConvertKit.

Lesson 5: Focus on Sales

The next big lesson is that you need to really focus on sales if you want to grow. Nathan credits Darrell Vesterfelt, who he hired back when ConvertKit was starting to focus heavily on sales. By putting a lot of time, effort, and money into building an effective sales team and process, Darrell was able to bring the company from $100,000 to $500,000 in MRR.

Now, sometimes when you’re starting a business, you just don’t have the resources to do that. In that case, the most important thing is to focus your resources wisely so you can land your first big customer. This is why Nathan also thanks Joel Runyon, who was that “first big customer” for ConvertKit.

Focusing on sales also means not just finding customers, but influencers who can help bring your product to a wider audience. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I also helped push ConvertKit out there in a big way as an affiliate. I know that with my large audience and the trust I’ve built with them, if I promote a product I really believe in—like ConvertKit—it’s going to help that company grow. So, Nathan very strategically had coffee with me one day a number of years ago. He showed me the product and how great it was, and helped me actually get started with it. It became obvious to me at that point that ConvertKit was something I needed to push out to my audience too.

So, focus on sales, both by finding new customers directly and via influencers who can help you do the same.

Lesson 6: Build a Great Team

When ConvertKit started out, the company had a really small team. As Nathan has grown and scaled the company, it’s grown to thirty-four people. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the ConvertKit team well at events, and they all say nothing but amazing things about being a part of this company. They absolutely love what they do. A lot of them get to work remotely, they go on retreats, and do a lot of fun things together. And most importantly, they’ve all told me that they feel like they’re a part of the ConvertKit family.

So the big lesson is, as you’re building a team, make sure you’re also building the company for the team. Create a culture and an environment that people will love to be a part of, because that will really amplify your mission.

Lesson 7: Care About Your Customers

ConvertKit does an excellent job of educating their subscribers along the way as they’re learning to use the product so that they’ll find success with the product. But this support and care starts right after the moment of purchase—and it’s something you can do in your business too.

One thing I’ve always loved about ConvertKit is they don’t just have people sign up then forget about them after that point of purchase. In fact, right after the purchase is when the fun starts with ConvertKit. Right after you sign up, a member of the ConvertKit records and sends a custom, personalized video greeting, using an app called Bonjoro, welcoming you to ConvertKit and letting you know they’re there to support you as you’re getting started. It’s an incredible way to welcome someone to the fold and make them feel like part of the family. And it takes just thirty seconds to do.

How has creating these individualized onboarding videos helped the company’s metrics? It’s actually helped decrease churn in the company—people who don’t continue their subscription—by a whopping 16 percent.

Lesson 8: Be Grateful

Gratitude—being appreciative of the journey and how far you’ve come—is a really important factor in your success as a business owner. One thing that’s been apparent since the beginning is the fact that Nathan is grateful for his experience—for the people who he’s worked with, and most importantly, for his customers.

It’s really tough when you’re in the trenches, grinding away on your business, and easy to forget why you’re doing this in the first place. But when you remember why you started, and can appreciate the journey and the small wins that eventually lead up to bigger ones, it can make a huge difference.

I hope this post has pushed you to continue moving forward in your business, no matter where you’re at with it. Very few businesses become overnight successes, and ConvertKit under Nathan Barry definitely wasn’t one. But by applying these eight lessons, Nathan has been able to create a great company with a great team, a great product, and great customers. And so can you.

By the way, if you’re interested in checking out ConvertKit as a tool to manage your emails, here’s a demonstration below.

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Also, be sure to click here to get a 30-day free trial to ConvertKit to try it out!

Please note that I am an affiliate for ConvertKit and do earn a commission if you choose to use this link and stay on after the free trial. I’m also an advisor for the company, so if you have any questions, please let me know!