Fund your nomadic travels by creating a profitable side business. Alex Hillman shares the 30x500 method for taking you from zero to $15k in sales.
Funding is typically the biggest roadblock that precludes people from living the nomadic lifestyle. Unless you have massive savings you’ll need a fountain of income to sustain you during your travels which means either a) finding a remote-friendly job and working for someone else or b) creating a job for yourself.
Alex and his partner Amy have coached hundreds of entrepreneurs and are indirectly responsible for millions in sales having helped many folks forge a path to financial and temporal freedom. Please enjoy our conversation.
Speaker 1 – 00:00:00 – Nomad, nomad, nomad podcast.
Sean Tierney – 00:00:21 – Have you ever tried to start your own entrepreneurial venture? Then you probably know it’s about the hardest thing that you can ever do. Only a fraction of ventures started ever succeed and it can be downright excruciating learning the lessons of business through the school of hard knocks. What if there were a system, a repeatable formula from start to finish for conceiving a product and launching to an audience that wants to buy what you’re selling on Day One? Today we’re talking with Alex Hillman at 30×500, an online academy that takes you through the process from start to finish of researching your audience, developing the product, launching and making your first $15k in sales.
Sean Tierney – 00:00:56 – This conversation will come and mistakes that most entrepreneurs make certain the 30×500 for conducting the sale. Safari developing involves building a product, crafting a launch, rinsing and repeating to financial independence. If you’ve wrestled with starting your own thing you’ll enjoy this very enlightening episode. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Alex Hillman of 30×500. Nomad podcast is supported in part by Nomad Prep and online academy that teaches you everything you need to know to take your job on the road and crush it abroad. Enroll today at nomadprep.com/podcast. And get your first four days of training completely free. Nomad Prep. Take your job on the road and take on the world. Okay. Welcome Alex to the nomad podcasts. Good to have you on here.
Alex Hillman – 00:01:45 – Thanks for having me, Sean.
Sean Tierney – 00:01:47 – Cool. Alright. So you are co founder of 30×500, correct?
Alex Hillman – 00:01:52 – That’s right. A cofounder co-teacher. Uh, I work with my partner, Amy Hoy, for those who have a run into amy on various corners of the Internet as well. I’m the other half of the 30×500 duo.
Sean Tierney – 00:02:05 – Cool. And can you describe to our listeners what is 30×500?
Alex Hillman – 00:02:10 – Yeah. So I think to understand what, what it is, what it is is it’s a course, it’s a self guided course for people who have some sort of creative skill or background and want to start creating and selling products using those skills. So, uh, most of the folks who take our class or people who are already doing some sort of either freelancing consulting or have an employment situation where they’re trading their time for money, uh, whether that’s as a salary or an hourly rate or project rate doesn’t really matter. Um, but there are folks who realize that there’s sort of an upper bound of how much money you can make trading your time for money and then whether it’s for reasons of wanting to be able to travel, like the folks who are probably listening to your show or people who want to be able to spend more time with their family or just to be in more in control of what they’re working on. People see products, whether that’s software as a service or ebooks, templates, kits, uh, you know, the form factor itself is actually the last part of the process.
Alex Hillman – 00:03:09 – And we can talk a little bit about that too. Um, but the sort of genesis of, of this course was Amy and I both leaving our jobs to consult and then start other businesses that sort of feed us even when we’re not working on the clock and realized that we had lots of creative friends that just did not see the path that we had followed. Um, lots of friends who asked us lots of questions but then went and did the complete opposite or lots of people that were hopping from startup job to startup job where maybe it was exciting, but they were no longer in control of their time, but then they thought of the alternative as well, maybe I should go raise money and start my own startup. Um, and as we always joked like, well, now you’ve got two problems. Um, so, so for people who want to create a business using their creative skills, that allows them to be in control of their time, where they spend that time, what they work on a, that’s really everything that we focus on in 30×500.
Alex Hillman – 00:04:10 – And that. The last, I think really important part is that this is a, a research driven approach, so this doesn’t require you to have a good idea. It doesn’t require you to have an idea at all. In fact, it kind of systematically beats ideas out of your head and teaches you how to do applied research on an audience, choose an audience to begin with, uh, do research on them and then use all the things that you find about that audience to figure out, oh, these are the ways that I can help them and therefore these are products that I can potentially sell them.
Sean Tierney – 00:04:40 – So, so the people listening that have an idea already in their head, you’re encouraging them to kind of suspend disbelief and set that aside and go through your process to actually figure out what they truly should be building.
Alex Hillman – 00:04:52 – That’s right. And in the past we had an application process to join 30×500 because there was limited seating before we went to a sort of self guided format. And one of the things that was sort of part of that process was, you know, do you have something you’re already working on, um, how well is it working, uh, and if you were to find out today that there was an easier way to move forward and make product sales and build that business, but it required you to let go of the work you’d already done. Basically how, how deep are you in the sunk cost fallacy and are you mentally and emotionally ready to, to give up on the thing that isn’t quite working to use a system that is, and we can’t guarantee that it works, but the steps are there and if you follow them, the results speak for themselves. Are you willing to, to give up an unknown potential for sort of unknown quantity going forward?
Sean Tierney – 00:05:48 – Yeah. Awesome. Well, here’s why I’m so excited to have this conversation today. It’s to me the biggest factor holding people back from the nomadic travel thing. And that is really, this is what this podcast is all about, is helping more people transition into this lifestyle. The biggest factor from everyone that I’ve talked to, and this has been validated by remote year itself, is the finances piece of it. And one way to do that is to go get a job. We actually interviewed a guy a couple of episodes ago, Luke, who has a method for how you vet the job listing sites out there. So if that is your approach here, we address that one, but the other method that not everyone thinks about is to create your own job and to do the entrepreneurship route. And um, you know, there’s a good portion of people that I talked to. There’s a group here in Lisbon every month from remote year and you know, probably 40 new people each month and I’d say at least five or six of them are always talking about starting something. And so having a, a, a well defined framework and a system that you can approach this with steps that are repeatable is really exciting. Um, and I’ve heard nothing but good things.
Alex Hillman – 00:06:56 – I love the way you also describe entrepreneurship there, which I think is very in line with our, our approach to bootstrapping, which is create a job for yourself. Um, there’s so many ways to go about creating a business, um, but healthy, thriving business to start really with creating a job for one person and that’s the person who wants to grow that business. So it’s really a lot and a lot of ways learning about self sufficiency. And the other thing I love about what you said is that the repeatable component to it, um, this is by no means the only way to figure out what to make or to make sales. We’ve just shorter spent the last decade distilling it down into a stack of processes. The thing about these processes is not that they are the most effective, uh, in every situation, but they are the most consistently effective across the most situations.
Alex Hillman – 00:07:47 – So, uh, within, within bounds of, of the constraints that we put forward, which is, you know, you’re, you have some sort of creative skill already you’re going to be doing the work, doesn’t rely on outsourcing and that you are a so already some sort of working professional who wants to sell into some sort of business setting than these steps, these tools, these processes are extremely rare, reliable. Um, and that’s probably the most exciting thing for me to be able to share it with such a wide variety of people is that it almost doesn’t matter where you’re coming from so long as you fit those criteria I can say with confidence that if you follow these systems, these techniques that you’ll be able to go from absolutely nobody on the Internet. Knowing who you are, to having some credibility, having some trust, having some authority, and then ultimately having people who want to buy stuff from you rather than you feeling like you need to go do cold calling or customer interviews or all kinds of other things that are uncomfortable. That I think people follow a hoping that it will get them one step closer to being able to start that business.
Sean Tierney – 00:08:54 – Yeah. Well I was reading like I read through all the copy on your website and the line that stood out to me was if you want to launch the instant sales, you must start with the customer. And so you guys, it really sounds like have very centric to forget what product do you have in mind start with the customer and what their issues are. Right. Before we, I, I’m very excited to hear the gist of this course, but before we get there, can you talk about like what are the patterns that you see from experience? What are the repeated mistakes that you see a first time entrepreneurs coming into the program?
Alex Hillman – 00:09:28 – Yeah. The most common sort of pain points coming in? Well, I guess before somebody even walks in the door, one of the things that we see often are people who have tried a bunch of things before, um, whether that’s lean or some other version of validation, customer interviews. Um, you know, people maybe know about list building and they’ve tried all kinds of other techniques or, or, or approaches for building their list, um, but people are pretty burned out by the sort of plethora of marketing advice and uh, even things that call themselves research that just aren’t quite as reliable. And so, um, I think the biggest barrier people have is sort of clearing their head of all of the other noise and committing to literally the work that’s right in front of them. That’s should not be that difficult. But we see time and time again that people really have a hard time letting go of preconceived notions of expectations and of old work habits.
Alex Hillman – 00:10:30 – Um, the other thing is treating this kind of work like a job. I think we’ve got a lot of people that are coming from a professional endeavors and they’re excited about flexibility, you know, not having to show up at the office at a certain time and clock in and report to a boss. But the thing that they don’t think about is that you now need to be the boss. Um, you know, there’s that old joke, you know, I work for myself, my boss is an asshole and sometimes that structure and rigidity doesn’t, people don’t recreate that for themselves. They don’t treat the work, whether that’s the coursework that we provide our students or the actual work that has them going out and working with their audience, working with their customers, making the sales. Um, you know, if, if you don’t treat that with the rigor that you would treat, you know, employment or consultation or consultative work, basically you need to be your own client.
Alex Hillman – 00:11:25 – You need to be your own boss. And uh, we see, I think the majority of the people who really struggle are people who don’t prepare themselves to tackle this with consistency, to tackle it, you know, to basically carve out time on their calendar and protect it just like you would if you work for, for a customer or client. So, um, it’s not so much a productivity or even, you know, the, the caliber of your skills. It’s being able to stay in the mindset of helping people, of understanding who you are best suited to help and figuring out what the most valuable help you can offer is. Beyond that, it’s just being able to sit down and do the work.
Sean Tierney – 00:12:08 – Yeah. Yeah. Well I get Amy’s emails right now. I signed up for your newsletter and so it seems very much like 80 percent, like, okay, knuckled down. This isn’t gonna be sexy, but this is what we’re doing and you just need to do the work.
Alex Hillman – 00:12:21 – That’s right. That’s right.
Sean Tierney – 00:12:22 – All right, well can you take us through what is the gist of this thing? Like how does this work? I know I’ve seen like safari Sales Safari and Ebombs and these terms that you guys use, but can you just kinda like give us the gist of what this program is all about?
Alex Hillman – 00:12:35 – Totally. Totally. So step one is figuring out who, like you said, this is person centric. This is customer centric with no customer. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, there’s not really a product, it’s just a thing. There’s nothing to sell if there’s no one to sell to a. So we start with identifying who your audience is and this is another spot that people get hung up on. I think they, they’ve heard about things like niches and customer profiles and we’ve kind of done away with all of that because it’s sort of abstract the customer away from who they really are, which is an actual person on the Internet expressing pain. Um, and the other thing is, is people often want to create things for people who they aren’t necessarily best suited to create them for, um, you know, whether that’s creating a product and services for people in an industry that you don’t actually work in.
Alex Hillman – 00:13:31 – You may, for instance, you know, you may while you’re traveling around, see all kinds of hotel hotels or hostels and see all kinds of pain points. A common example of this, we see as people recognize the pain points in beauty salons. You know, booking and beauty salons seems really clumsy and clunky. Why are they using paperclips on paper binders? That doesn’t make any sense. There’s got to be a better way to do this. It’s probably with software and people who don’t belong to the audience. If you don’t belong to the audience you’re trying to sell to, you may see pains that they have. That doesn’t mean that they feel those pains as pains and it also doesn’t mean that they see those pains as the most expensive pains in their day. And so the by, by choosing an audience that you don’t belong to now, is it really easy to get distracted and misunderstand what you observe? Uh, but it also throws away every advantage that you’ve got.
Alex Hillman – 00:14:27 – The people who do the kind of work that you do, the people who speak the language that you speak, you understand the jargon, you understand the nuance, you understand the problems yourself. You don’t need to be the most expertise expert in order to help people that are just a couple of steps behind you. So we really strongly encourage people to choose audiences that they themselves belonged to in some way. Professional audiences specifically. So we started by giving you some criteria and say you’re picking an audience. This is not picking an audience to marry forever. This is not the audience that will define your business forever. This is the audience that you’re starting with. It’s a place to go look for people who fit this criteria and start observing them, which sort of takes us to the key process that everything in 30 by $500 based on which you already mentioned, which is Sales Safari, Safari’s, this process that Amy really invented and pioneered, and over the years we refined and tweaked and tuned.
Alex Hillman – 00:15:23 – Um, and it, you know, when we first started teaching this class, there was a, there was a roadmap and there was things that you had to do and one of those things was go find your audience online, look at what they’re talking about and take notes. And that sounds like a pretty specific instruction, doesn’t it? We thought so too. We were wrong. Specifically about will the, what are you looking for and what kind of notes to take. Um, and it’s worth remembering that most of the folks in our audience are probably just like the people on this podcast. They’re educated, they’re professionals, they’re people who should know how to read a forum and take notes, but what we realized is Amy and I had some specific instincts for what we were looking for and also even just actually having a structure and a framework to take those notes, made it possible for people to look at a forum and at the end of reading a forum also have a page full of notes that are full of what they see.
Alex Hillman – 00:16:25 – Um, and so that entire process over the years has been systematized, has been broken down into something and step by step and that’s what we call Sales Safari. And it’s the hardest sale. Safari is finding and understanding your audiences, pain, their problems. Um, and I think most people that are even brushed with entrepreneurship and sales and product is that the more you understand your customer’s pain, the better of a chance you have of a selling them something they actually want. Um, but even if you’re not selling something, they feel understood. It’s a massive, it’s probably the biggest opportunity to connect. Uh, so the Sales Safari process as people sort of combing through forums and discussion lists really any sort of written format is sort of ideal, but it can be other formats as well. And the reason that the recorded formats are so important is because Sales Safari is based on a ethnography and ethnography is at its heart observational research
Alex Hillman – 00:17:25 – and this is where we sort of start to see a divide from things like customer interviews and focus groups and things like that that require you to a get face to face with an individual and be, start asking them questions and then see, rely on the credibility and the quality of their answers to those questions. Um, and uh, I, it, it’s sorta like if anybody’s seen the show house md, one of the lines that, how so he says, he’s like everybody lies. It’s not because they intend to lie, it’s because they themselves are unreliable narrators of their own reality sometimes. And so rather than asking people questions, no prompting them, you know, what’s the most painful part of your day? Or do you use this tool or this process? What sucks about that? For you, when you asked that question, you’re sort of asking people in that moment to do their best, to recall the problem or the pain and then describe it as accurately as possible to you and a lot of the times the thing that is most painful is not the first thing that comes to mind for them.
Alex Hillman – 00:18:30 – So you get something that as a secondary or tertiary, just not as big of a painter’s as hair on fire of a pain. So instead Sales Safari sends you into these forums, these discussions, these places on the Internet where conversations have been recorded between people talking to each other about the challenges they have, the problems they have, the, the, you know, whether it’s a technical issue that they’re running into the errors, they’re confused about the documentation or is it a business problem? You know, I don’t understand why this client isn’t paying me or you know, my, my conversion rate is garbage. What’s going on here? Or if they’re a copywriter, you know, maybe it’s certain elements of process or how they described the like, whatever the problem is, people who share, you know, a, a place in an audience often go on the Internet to talk about those problems and being able to watch people talk about their problems in their natural habitat without them feeling like they’re being watched means you’re getting a more genuine and more natural
Alex Hillman – 00:19:34 – and in many cases a much deeper, richer understanding of what the problem is. And the reason for that is I think about it this way. How painful does something need to be in order for somebody to go on the Internet and actively post for help about it? That’s like, that’s. That’s a pretty good indication that they’re feeling that pain right now and even if by the time you get to that forum thread or whatever it is, they figured out the solution. You still have the remanence. You still have like the, the, the artifacts of somebody in pain and the fact that it’s recorded in the history of the Internet means you can come along, find it, understand it. Look for the language they use, what are the specific terms of art? You know, it’s not just, you know, clients and customers technically described the same thing, but in different contexts and for different people. And so you knowing the right words means you can use the right words to connect more deeply.
Alex Hillman – 00:20:30 – The rest of the process really hinges on everything that comes back from yourself. Safari that starts with creating what we call Ebombs, probably familiar with things like content marketing, blog posts, podcasts like this one. An Ebomb is technically in many cases a type of content, but more specifically, it’s educational content. It’s bite sized and it contains one thing that if it doesn’t have this, it’s not an Ebomb. And that’s a fixed, that’s a solution. It’s a tool, a technique, an answer, right? It’s, um, there’s a lot of great blog posts about topics, but if there’s not a thing at the end that the person reading it, he goes, okay, I know what to do now. Well, you’ve maybe put some new information in their head, but you’re not helping them take action. So Ebombs are at their core educational and action oriented and the reason that we focus on Ebombs and you get all different kinds of content, but the core of our audience building approach is ie bums as because nothing earns trust faster than teaching somebody something.
Alex Hillman – 00:21:35 – And without that a fix without that sort of action oriented. Here’s the thing to do, uh, the odds of them feeling that sense of trust, a go down. And so making sure that both of those components are included in bomb is really what makes Ebombs both a deeply trustworthy also makes them imminently sharable. The kinds of things that are more likely to spread like wildfire through community as people share them. And uh, after, after they get benefit from them. Ebomb is lead to your classic list building. But unlike most lists, which you know, you don’t know why somebody signed up for a newsletter most of the time because they want more information or more information doesn’t necessarily equate to, I want to buy something from you in the future. But people who sign up to a list based on something that already gave them value, already taught them something, they now trust the center more often.
Alex Hillman – 00:22:30 – Our lists often are converting. When you do get to the sales end of this process, um, you know, three, four, five percent, sometimes eight, nine, 10 percent list subscriber to sales, which in most mark online marketing world, people are like thrilled to break one percent, whereas real, completely normal people with completely normal sets of skills, the kinds of people that I’m sure it listening to your podcast absolutely have the ability to achieve, you know, three, four, five percent conversion rate when they launch a product, which means five percent of the people who have signed up for your list actually buy the thing. Uh, which is kind of amazing.
Sean Tierney – 00:23:09 – So can we back up one sec? So the Ebomb is the antidote to whatever problem you discovered, but how do you know what? Well, what about the Sales Safari tells you that you found a problem worthy to solve or the right type of problem?
Alex Hillman – 00:23:26 – Right? So the beauty of Ebombs is they’re relatively small and to a degree you can use that to to test. I’m creating Ebombs for one specific sort of slice or corner of a problem or a great way to see what resonates without asking, hey, does this resonate with you? Because some people will just tell you that it does because they don’t want to offend you, but seeing what actually sticks, what gets shared, what gets traffic, what gets upvoted, what gets email signups, sort of matching a pain point to an Ebomb and then putting that Ebomb on the Internet back into the place where you found the pain is a great way to close that cycle and then you sort of get that feed. You kickstart that feedback loop. That thing that I think people are really, you know, kind of craving the most as they create stuff is how do I know if anybody cares about this? Well, if you create something that’s always a problem for people who input and give it back to them literally in the place where they were talking about that problem, the odds of you closing that feedback loop go way, way up.
Alex Hillman – 00:24:27 – Now, when it comes to actually making products, which is sort of stage two of what you use safari for, what you’re looking for. There are, I guess maybe the best way to think about it are sort of clusters or constellations of related problems. So it’s not one specific problem, but over and over and over throughout your safari, you’re noticing this one particular area starts showing up more often, or people are describing the same thing in a bunch of different ways. That’s probably a clue that that’s an area where lots of pain lies. And uh, you can take that information and use that to determine, well, not only is that pain common, but it seems like it’s costing people a lot of time and money. That’s a really, really strong indicator that you have something product worthy that you’ve discovered on your safari. So a lot of times it’s not specifically that people are asking for why doesn’t this thing exist, it’s that everyone’s talking about a certain problem and even if there are existing solutions out there for some reason those solutions aren’t fitting the bill for them.
Alex Hillman – 00:25:29 – So it becomes your job to figure out, well why is that and how do I close that gap and how do I make sure that my product does address that pain or maybe even just make sure that my marketing does a better job of communicating that it addresses the pain than the otherwise, you know, similar product.
Sean Tierney – 00:25:46 – Okay. So Ebomb isn’t like an MVP, it’s not diluted version of the product you’re attempting to eventually build. It’s purely like this little fountain of leads essentially that you’re, you’re, you’re solving something, you’re putting it out there back in the habitat, like you said, I think you guys called watering holes or I’ve seen that somewhere. But um, so you’re putting these things out back out where they live, where the problem was expressed, and then these then become kind of like little fountains of people into your list. Right?
Alex Hillman – 00:26:15 – That’s right. And the are our main website, uh, sort of the brand that we do all of our work under is called stacking the bricks. And the idea behind that name is that you don’t just, you know, place a wall, you build that wall one brick at a time and if you think of your Ebombs as individual bricks of things that you can place strategically along the path, the people who were having a problem experiencing that pain can find that they find, not find you, but they find an answer that they were looking for or they find a solution that they’re actually able to put into action. And they go, Huh, I wonder what else that person has. And they keep walking down the path and they find another brick. Um, and the more bricks you have and the more you sort of stack them in line, uh, in those places where people are likely to run into them, the bigger your wall is and to beat this metaphor into the ground, the more likely they are to walk into your wall.
Alex Hillman – 00:27:12 – Um, you know, a single brick in the middle of a path. Somebody might trip over, but if you build an entire wall of bombs, the odds of somebody running into it are really in your favor. And then the other thing is, is over time as you’re creating these Ebombs, you’re kind of creating opportunities for people to binge, you know, they may discover one or two and then they go, well, hey, wait a second. It seems like every time I go look for a problem about, uh, becoming a digital nomad, I run into Sean’s posts. I wonder what else he has. Right? And then having that, having that signal of there’s something good here, I wonder if there’s more takes people on this path of, well, wait a second, there is more. And oh, there’s also a way to sign up to find out about when there will be the next thing or sign up for a multipart email course or a pdf, downloadable cheat sheet or a little kid, um, you know, a packing list or something along those lines. I was browsing through your website as well.
Alex Hillman – 00:28:11 – And, and I think those, those little fixes that maybe we take for granted, but the people that want to do the thing that we do, the people that want to get good at the thing that we’re good at, helping them succeed earns us their trust. Um, and that can cross lots of formats. It can cross a lots of watering holes, as you said before, but having them sort of built up over time means you’re not only helping the person who specifically was asking for help on the Internet in that particular point in time, but you’re also creating this evergreen resource for every new person who is looking for help with that problem. I’m sort of a natural SEO traffic strategy as well. We actually specifically don’t teach SEO because Ebombs are so good at being discovered through, uh, through sort of the natural process of the way people browse the Internet
Sean Tierney – 00:29:02 – And these, these can take any format. There’s no necessarily like recommended form factor. It could be a pdf or a course or a Webinar or anything.
Alex Hillman – 00:29:11 – Yeah. And we’ve seen so many different formats, so many different creative format to be really successful. There’s actually a step in safari that has you taking a look at what are the kinds of formats of things that people often recommend. So there’s actually a line item in your safari notes for recommendations. What are the things that people talk about as super useful over and over and over. Keeping that in your notes means that’s a really good clue for what formats people might like or not like for that matter. Um, if you happen to notice that people are always complaining about, you know, I find watching to be really slow and tedious and I’d rather it be a written resource if that’s showing up a lot and I’m talking not just like one or two times a lot. That could be a really good clue that you want to avoid video. And maybe if you’re recording things in video and podcast form, making sure that there’s a transcript that goes along with it.
Alex Hillman – 00:29:58 – So there’s all kinds of clues about the best format for your audience that show up in Safari, which again is why safari is really at the heart of every, every question and decision that you have through the entire process of building your audience, launching products, additional products, continually growing the audience, sort of like a never ending process. Every time you have a question, your first point of references. Well do I have an answer for that in my safari and if not, can I go get one?
Sean Tierney – 00:30:26 – Nice. So it sounds like that decision over the form factor is first off, you know, how does your audience want to consume this answer? But it’s maybe also a function of, well what am I good at it? If I’m particularly good on video, maybe we don’t rule it out, but maybe like you’re saying, maybe we do a video then make a transcript for it.
Alex Hillman – 00:30:46 – Yeah, Bingo. Bingo. It’s, I mean, I think you absolutely want to play to your strengths. Uh, I think about this in terms of like a venn diagram of what is the overlap between your playing to your best strengths and fitting into what your audience really values the most.
Sean Tierney – 00:31:05 – Got it. Okay. So, so let’s say we’ve got a couple of these Ebombs out there. We’re building our wall one brick at a time. What is the, at what point do we then say, okay, we’ve got enough audience or we’ve got enough know how, like what, where do we get to the product building aspect of this?
Alex Hillman – 00:31:22 – Yeah. Well, and actually this is another good point about, you know, where do people get stuck in challenge? I think people have in their minds they need some arbitrary number of subscribers in order to build a product or they need to wait for the idea to come in and whack them over the head and say it’s time. Um, that doesn’t happen. There is no magical number that is right. But there is math, right? I think that’s something that a lot of people underestimate the ability to, to set a goal and say, well, I want to make a certain amount of money and I’m comfortable making a product that I think I can sell for a certain amount of dollars. Well, you can do the arithmetic and say, if I want to make $10,000 and I, I feel pretty confident that I can create a product that I sell for, you know, $79. Well then you’ve just got some arithmetic to do to determine how many units you need to sell.
Alex Hillman – 00:32:19 – And the other thing is, is do you need to sell that $10,000? Does that need to be all at once or can that be over your first six months? Can you set a smaller goal that’s more achievable sooner? So again, remembering what I was saying before about completely reasonable estimates of conversion rate from an Ebomb-based list. Uh, you know, we’ve had people who start working on their first product within their first 300, 400, 500 subscribers because they feel pretty confident that they can make 10, 15, 20 sales and they do a so long as they’re actually following the leads, the clues that safari gives them, uh, and as well as the copywriting advice and things like that, that, that fall in the second part of our course. Um, so the best answer to your thing is as soon as really re is as you want, you can probably sooner than you’re comfortable, uh, you can start creating a product because even if your first product only sells a handful of copies, and this is a good example that we maybe should bring up more often.
Alex Hillman – 00:33:24 – The very first thing that was the part of the 30×500 stack. And that was before Amy and I started working together. She hosted a, a three hour paid conference call, essentially a with people who wanted to learn the process. You had followed to launch freckle, which was her software as a service that her and her husband Thomas started. And she sold eight or nine seats at less than $100 a seat. Uh, so we’re talking about less than a thousand dollars for those first three hours, which has a fairly successful consultant, did not pay for her time. However, it taught her, a bunch of things both about how to sell that product and that maybe the packaging of a perfectly polished, super professional, prerecorded everything isn’t what you needed in order to make sales. But even more importantly, the biggest feedback she got from the people that did buy was that was great. We want more.
Alex Hillman – 00:34:24 – So the sooner you get something that is valuable enough to charge people money for in the hands of people who already trust you, the better. Because every single time you do that, you’re going to learn more. You’re going to build more confidence. You’re going to make tweaks every single time we go through a launch, even have the exact same product. We learned something new, we make something a little bit better. And the sooner you start the process, the more chances you get at improving that process. So waiting until there is a, uh, you know, that feeling, I think sometimes people are looking for, I feel ready now and my response is always, well, how do you know what ready feels like? And if you’re, if you don’t have a concrete thing which you basically never do, then the answer is, well, what evidence is right in front of you? Do you have subscribers that trust you? Yes. Do you have a pain point that seems expensive enough that people would actually pay for a solution to? The answer is yes. Do you have the creative skills to make that thing? The answer is yes. Well then all of the evidence says you can start working on that product right now and the sooner you get that in the hands of people, the, the absolute better off you are.
Sean Tierney – 00:35:30 – And so do you advocate in the way that you mentioned lean? Do you advocate building some intermediary steps, some version, one of this thing before you actually try to sell the full deal or what’s the advice there?
Alex Hillman – 00:35:46 – So I think you can find ways to simplify and ship faster. Uh, and we actually have another product called just fucking ship. Uh, that’s a, a really brief ebook that Amy actually wrote during a 24 hour shipathon. She took a challenge from our friend Nathan Barry from convert kit and created this book that’s all around what are the sort of principles that we use to take a thing and get it out into the real world and we don’t specifically advocate for a, an MVP per se, but we do is encourage is what is the thing that gets the person to the fix now. So for instance, with, with again we like to reference our own work with, with our examples, um just fucking ship didn’t launch with lots of things including UN e-reader format, illustrations, proper copy editing and things like that. But people were still able to get value out of it.
Alex Hillman – 00:36:53 – And I think when people are looking for an MVP, they’re looking to prove to themselves that people want something. And I think what’s kind of backwards about that approaches that mindset is still all about you, not all about them. It’s proving to yourself that you’ve got the pain. Correct. And if you’ve done this safari research and you are building things that address pains that you actually see people solving, then you don’t need to do anything to prove to yourself what you need to do is be in the mindset of how do I help that person as quickly as possible with the resources I already have and while the end result of that might look something like what you’d consider an MVP, I think that the difference is the focus on the customer and their results. You can’t get them a minimum of viable result. You have to get them the result, right? And if you can get them the result faster today than you can in version two or three or 10 or whatever it is you’re gonna that’s good.
Alex Hillman – 00:37:56 – Um, but don’t lose sight of you need to deliver a complete fix. Um, that doesn’t mean all the fixes ever, but a complete fixed to a core pain. And if you do that, you have way more leeway on things like format, finish and Polish, uh, then then I think a lot of the creative perfectionist, I know would be willing to admit.
Sean Tierney – 00:38:19 – Yeah, I mean the textbooks. Example of this that always comes to mind is Steve Blank’s book the four steps to the epiphany when that came out. You know, it’s this horribly written book, like it’s riddled with typos, but the ideas were so powerful in it that I think people just, it’s fine to overlook little issues when the meat of it is actually so compelling that it helps you. Okay, cool. So we’ve now we’re onto the product development. Do you guys, is any component of this course talking about like launching and promotion or where does the course take you to.
Alex Hillman – 00:38:55 – Absolutely, yeah. We take you all the way across the finish line. So at the, at the point where you’re creating, figuring out what to create, we actually have you start with your sales pitch before you ever write a line of code, right? Atlantic of copy in a book record, a single screencasts, what we call pitch first development, which is creating your sales pitch before you even create the product. Part of that is to make sure that you have all the pieces you need to create the sales pitch because if you don’t, then the odds of you knowing whether or not that’s the right product create, aren’t, aren’t really very good. The other thing is, is you can use the pitch to define the scale and scope of the product. So as you write the pitch, you can say, you know what the format is going to be, what’s going to be included and make sure that everything that you actually need is inside, and then use that as your roadmap for actually creating the product. One thing we don’t specifically cover is the creation of the product.
Alex Hillman – 00:39:49 – We assume that your creative expertise beyond figuring out what the scope, uh, and making sure that there’s a fixed included, you have the ability to do the creating. You’ve done that for your clients. You’ve done that for your customers. You maybe even have done it for yourself in non paid paid products, so we don’t spend time on the actual production process when it comes to the product itself. But then when it comes to launch, we absolutely talk about that. And launch ends up being sort of a combination of all of the skills and tools and techniques. This is more brick stacking. Uh, everything that we do is kind of Meta where your launch process really centers again around he bumps. A lot of times people will think about the launch day, uh, the day where you tell the world my thing is done, it’s ready. You can buy it now or I’m opening for presales. You can buy it now and it’ll be ready in six weeks or two months or whatever it is a.
Alex Hillman – 00:40:43 – And we, the way we teach launches more of a, using the same wind up of Ebombs, which again, are there specifically to earn trust and credibility and building sort of like a series of Ebombs that follow a theme that is related to the pain. But the problem solves. So, uh, I can use 30×500 as an example, you know, we know that this is a product for people who want to create and sell products for sale. But there’s different kinds of people who are interested in 30×500, you know, some people are more focused on quitting a fulltime job and being independent financially. Um, some people are tired of clients and consulting, some people are interested in travel and independence or spending any more control over their time and their location.
Alex Hillman – 00:41:40 – And depending on who we want to speak to, I can choose one of those unique themes and do a series of Ebobms that are sort of interconnected each one addressing and solving, offering a fix for a pain and then slowly start sort of suggesting, hey, by the way, if this is in your wheelhouse and you’re looking for a bigger, more complete solution, I’ve got product that I think you’re going to be interested in. And as we get closer to the product, the focus on the product increases. But without losing focus on the reader, I think it’s the biggest, uh, challenge of people kinda continually run into when they start getting into sales mode as they start talking about the product because they’re excited about the product and they want people to be excited about the product.
Alex Hillman – 00:42:28 – But everything we teach about sales, copywriting and launches forces you to really stay focused on the person who is going to help a lot of customer focused language, uh, and making sure that even when you’re in the sales process, even our sales emails are meant to be helpful in some way beyond making you want to buy the product and having that sort of follow through all the way through the launch process where yes, you are going to send an email that explains how this product is going to make their life better, right? What they’re going to be able to do on the other side of buying those things are absolutely part of asking for the sale. But what we don’t do is stop helping the customer all the way through the entire launch process. Um, exactly how that’s structured. You know, people’s first time launches can sometimes be as few as three or four emails over the course of a week, maybe two more advanced launches down the road, really just use all of the same component parts.
Alex Hillman – 00:43:26 – Um, but there, there are just more of them. They cover more ground, they add more detail. Um, and one of the best things that we tell people to do is look at not just our launches, but look at the lunches, have successful 30×500 alumni get on their email list, even if you’re not going to buy their product and watch what they do because they’re, what they’re doing is consistently and repeatedly working for them. So you should steal from people who were doing things that are, that are working in that way. Um, especially when it’s, as part of the system. So a CS, so we’re taking you all the way through the finish line and then sort of within the course that the, the closer here is really not that unlike most courses where you’re like, okay, cool, now you have everything you need to do. Um, we do more sort of like a wrap up pep talk, which is nice. Now you got to keep doing that thing.
Alex Hillman – 00:44:16 – Uh, and maybe that’s one of the, the biggest lessons that people take away from 30×500 even if they decide that making and selling product isn’t what they want to do. It’s that learning to do something and then continuing to do it over and over and over, building up your own habits around it, um, are not always the same thing. So people learn how to do the thing, but then go ahead and do it again. You keep doing this far, always be Safari and continue doing Ebombing. We hear over and over and over from students that the more times they bombed, the more sales they make. Sales are directly correlated to offering things of value to your audience. When you say it that way, it makes lots of sense. Uh, but people don’t necessarily connect the dots until they see it for themselves. So, so once you get through launch, then it’s really sort of avoiding the post launch hangover. Um, you know, you did the thing you set out to do, now what the real answer is do it again. Uh, and that is the fact of business is finding a thing that works and then doing it over and over and over. What we’re trying to do is give you the tools to figure out the thing that works, um, most consistently and the least amount of time spent on things that don’t.
Sean Tierney – 00:45:31 – Yeah. Well, it also seems like if moms are truly these little nuggets and it, it, it strengthens your credibility and it draws people back to you to ask that question, well, what else does Sean have? If he’s given this great advice over here, what else does he sell? It seems like not only can you stack the bricks, but you can to use that metaphor. You can stock the walls, right? You build a one product, but if they’re all kind of revolving around you and the same theme, you just go stock another wall and that’s how you get cross sells and episodes, I would think.
Alex Hillman – 00:46:03 – That’s right. Yeah. I mean, building sort of a sort of a, a little universe of products sometimes people and actually like in a lot of ways, Amy and I, um, are guilty of not following our advice as best as we could, uh, in the fact that, you know, for a very long time there was nothing in between getting our, reading our emails, reading our articles, getting our Ebombs and then signing up for 30×500, which is a very large product both in terms of scale, scope and price. And it wasn’t until we started offering some products that were sort of in the middle tier, both in terms of scale and scope and in price. People started reaching out and saying, I’ve been hoping you were going to create something that was as good as all the other stuff, but fit a, this one fits my need today. This one fits my budget today. Uh, but we use all the same core approaches to really everything that we do.
Sean Tierney – 00:47:02 – Cool. Right. Well that seems like a good rundown. I don’t want to take up all your time. I do have a couple other questions, just kind of side tactical stuff that I, I tried to ask people, but unrelated to this, is there anything you read on an ongoing basis that, uh, you know, that you come back to like a new site or a blog or podcast that you find particularly helpful?
Alex Hillman – 00:47:25 – Um, I, that’s a really good question. I read a lot of news. We don’t pay a lot of attention to like the Meta Business News, uh, in general. Um, I have a couple of books I can recommend that I do go back to for their core ideas and I recommend quite a lot. I’m one of them is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Um, that book actually who led a lot of the biggest redesign components of 30×500 itself. Um, we actually have built in mini habit courses, uh, because again, learning all the skills is one thing. Building them as habits, so you do them continually, consistently and not just when you feel like it is super important. That book is probably been one of the most useful books in my entire life, not just business. Um, in terms of like trying to understand why we do what we do, um, I think it’s actually the tagline why we do what we do in life and business.
Alex Hillman – 00:48:25 – That book is, is phenomenal. Um, another really great read that’s kind of tangential but, but also related a is a book called Just Listen, uh, and his bio, a clinical psychologists who also happens to be a, a hostage hostage negotiation trainer for the FBI. Um, and the reason I love this book is it, it, it’s focused on, uh, conversation techniques for breaking down conflict, which isn’t really much of anything to do with what we were talking about today except that these conversation techniques are a) extraordinarily systematic and b) they’re really all about how to listen in times where it’s really hard to listen and in the context of starting a business or figuring out what you want to do and figuring out how to help people. I think it’s super important to have all kinds of different skills and techniques for listening to what the other person is actually saying.
Alex Hillman – 00:49:27 – Not just sort of reactive waiting for those keywords, those trigger words than reacting like we so often do. Um, so, so just listen is full of these techniques that while they’re applicable in, you know, a family therapy session, they’re applicable and trying to talk down a, a hostage Nigga, a hostage situation. I think they’re also really applicable in our day to day lives in terms of how do I get, how do I actually understand where somebody is so I can meet them where they are and how can we have, how can we use that to actually understand each other better. I find both of those books incredibly valuable and highly recommend them.
Sean Tierney – 00:50:06 – Awesome. I’ll link to those in the show notes for the episode. Cool. All right, well, so last question, someone’s listening. How do they engage? How do they even go forward with you guys? Is there still, is it a wait list application or how does it work with the course?
Alex Hillman – 00:50:21 – Yeah, so we opened 30×500, just a couple times a year, about four times a year right now, but we have all kinds of stuff going on throughout the year at one of the best places to get started is actually, it’s a free course that we offer called the Year of Hustle. It leads with a cheat sheet that’s sort of a lot of the stuff that we talked about today, sort of broken down into like a flow chart that you can follow to figure out what are the things that you need to do in order to get started. Um, as yearofhustle.com, you can head there, get the cheat sheet right away, and then there’s a few weeks of followup guidance and lessons and things like that. Um, you can also go to 35×500.com, uh, when we are not in launch mode, there’s a option to sign up for our waiting list. We generally let folks in our waiting lists know when we’re going to be opening up ahead of time, often offer a little bit of an early registration discount as well. Um, but, but those are two great places to start. I mentioned stackingthebricks.com is where the majority of our archive of articles is.
Alex Hillman – 00:51:20 – And we have a podcast by the same name as well since I know we’ve got podcasts listeners here, uh, you can search for stacking the bricks on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever it is that you get podcasts. Um, and then lastly, Amy and I are pretty active on Twitter. Uh, Alex Hillman on twitter. Amy Hoy on Twitter. Uh, you can shoot us a message, let us know that you heard a heard us on the show and if you’ve got something you’re working on, you’ve got questions about we love hearing about what people are doing and pointing people in the right direction.
Sean Tierney – 00:51:50 – Awesome. Cool. And actually, I just thought of one last. This is truly the last question. I know you guys don’t necessarily advocate like quitting a day job and launching into something like, is it possible to wade into this and do this on the side while you still hold down a day job or is that kind of the recommendation there?
Alex Hillman – 00:52:09 – Yeah, yeah. I’m glad you brought that up. We actually really strongly recommend that people, uh, either keep their primary source of income going while they’re building. It’s not an overnight process, uh, the, the path from shipping your first Ebomb to having your first few hundred subscribers can be as quickly as, you know, within a couple of weeks. It might also take you a couple of months depending on how consistent and diligent you are with your Sales Safari and with shipping your Ebombs. Um, but even if you’re really consistent with it, the thing that we see over and over with folks who quit their job and then live off savings is they live in this kind of mental state of, of, uh, an arbitrary deadline that they create for themselves. Um, and in a lot of ways, it’s almost as harmful as people who take outside investment and then now create an arbitrary growth goal that is now larger than it needs to be.
Alex Hillman – 00:53:02 – Um, and a lot of perfectly successful companies were unsuccessful and went out of business because they took investment and evaluation that was beyond the scope of what they were capable of reaching on their own. And that’s one of the biggest reasons we advocate for, for bootstrapping in and of itself. But I think it tracks back to your question here, which is, you know, if you quit a job and you’ve got some savings to live and you want to work on a product on the side, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. But also know that the, that sense of pressure and that deadline know how that’s going to affect you. Some people that affect really positively, a lot of people realize once they’re in it, that it gets them in panic mode every time. Things aren’t going quite the way they hoped they would. That they find themselves sort of reactive and it’s because they’ve got this sort of made up outside pressure. So maintaining your, your source of income or at least adjusting your source of income is one part of our, our device.
Alex Hillman – 00:54:01 – And in fact, for people who are still full time and thinking about their path to the, towards freedom so that they can make money however they want, and then, you know, be be a nomad, perhaps one of the most common pieces of advice we give that most people don’t take, but the ones who do generally have a lot of success with is next time you’re up for an, for a raise, use that as an opportunity to negotiate a half day or a full day off out of your five day work week. And rather than feel like you have to quit the job entirely if your employer really valid, know if you do good work and your employer likes you, they’d rather keep you for four, four and a half days out of the week. And in exchange for not taking your next financial raise. And then you have suddenly claimed for six, maybe eight hours or a full work day out of the work week to work on your own thing, your own business. And then you need to be disciplined with that time.
Alex Hillman – 00:54:55 – But, um, both Amy and I started our businesses, uh, on the side, uh, I guess mobile at multiple points, uh, when we were full time employees, we consulted into freelancing on the side when we were full time consultants and freelancers. We started our product businesses on the side. Um, and I, you know, as, as entrepreneurs, we don’t really think of ourselves as big risk takers because if you take this sort of step by step brick stacking approach, by the time you’re taking what looks like a risk to everyone else, it’s not that you’ve directed or you validated it, it’s just that there’s not a lot of risk left. You already know that it works. You just need to have more time to be able to do more of it. Um, and to be able to do it in that sort of stair stepped approach means that you can do it with a clear head and to remain focused and to do and stay focused. Most of all on the people who you’re there to help, which is your audience and your customers.
Sean Tierney – 00:55:49 – That’s great advice. So prioritize your time. They say time is your most valuable asset, so it’s like when given the choice
Alex Hillman – 00:55:55 – No, it’s something you’ll get back.
Sean Tierney – 00:55:56 – Yeah. Okay. Well Alex, thank you so much. I want to give a shout out just on record to Sean Fiorito who is the mutual connection that hooked us up? He’s, he went through your program, raved about it, did the sketching with CSS. Uh, but I actually used to work with his dad at the newspaper and in Arizona and so he was the one that connected us. And uh, it’s been great.
Alex Hillman – 00:56:15 – It’s awesome. I was flipping through the archives. I, we have a mutual friend and Andrew, Andrew Hyde as well.
Sean Tierney – 00:56:21 – Oh, cool. Well Andrew was like the super connector. He’s, he’s connected. It’s like six degrees of Andrew Hyde. Pretty much. Yeah,
Alex Hillman – 00:56:28 – It’s true. You know, the, uh, the fairly famous photo from when he was in, I think it was the New York Times with him on a floor with his 16 or 18 items spread out. I have the credit for, for taking that photo in my, my apartment here in Philadelphia. He was coming through town and he’s like, a newspaper wants to do an article about me being a minimalist. I’m going to lay out my stuff on the floor. Can you take a picture so you don’t see in that frame is me very perilously perched on my couch trying to get Andrew who’s like 6’4″ or whatever. Um, and all of his stuff in frame without crashing to the floor. So I enjoyed listening to the interview that you guys had a, uh, some months back as well. That was a lot of fun.
Sean Tierney – 00:57:09 – Cool. All right, Alex. thank you so much for your time, man. We’ll, we’ll, uh, we’ll be in touch.
Alex Hillman – 00:57:13 – You bet.
Sean Tierney – 00:57:14 – Sure.
Alex Hillman – 00:57:15 – Sounds good.
Sean Tierney – 00:57:16 – Okay. That was my conversation with Alex Hillman of 30×500. I hope you found value from that. If you’ve got questions for Alex, you can leave a written comment or a video comment underneath the episode and if you’re looking to join the next cohort, be sure that you follow the link in the show notes and go to the 30×500 website and sign up on their waiting list because they do release it, as he said, about four times a year. They do a program, so you want to get in line for the next batch if it sounds like something that you want to be involved with. Okay. Normally, I do some housekeeping and read off of the script for this next part. I’m going to deviate from the script. Uh, as I mentioned a couple episodes ago, building up to this, I am going to put a pause at this point on content production and I don’t know when the next episode is going to be. Here’s why I’m doing this. So I’ve done 14 episodes now that’s 14 consecutive episodes back to back. So 14 weeks in a row we’ve had content. Each one of those takes approximately six or seven hours each, all told from the filming of It to the production and publication and promotion.
Sean Tierney – 00:58:17 – So I’m going to put a pause on that because it’s been just me doing all that work thus far and while I really enjoy this process and I think, uh, you know, this is my passion, this is my side project and this is what I’m doing because I believe in, in just the cause at the same time, it’s also, there’s just other things that I need to do right now. So I’m going to put a pause on this effort. I’m going to turn inward and focus on some of the aspects of the course. I also do the Nomad Prep ecourse and so I’m going to start to integrate some of this content into that course and a couple other things in terms of different support for different platforms like Stitcher and I also, the biggest thing is I want to streamline the production process. A have a good friend of mine who’s very good with video. He can do this better than I can, uh, but I’m going to look at potentially integrating a patreon account if you don’t know what that is. It’s basically a way to donate a very small micro sounds, so think like $2 or $3 per episode. If you’re getting value from these episodes, then I would encourage you to think about how much value you’re getting from them.
Sean Tierney – 00:59:18 – So two, three, five, $10, whatever you, whatever you value, you feel like you derive from each episode. Consider signing up. I’m going to try to integrate the Patriot and account and I’m gonna. Use that money to actually pay for the production and so I’m going to offload some of that burden and that way I’ll be able to interview more people, increase the velocity of the episodes that I’m putting out and everybody wins. So that’s where my head’s at. Um, but yeah, other than that, I can tell you the guest that I have in mind, like always where my head is out on. This is what is going to help you either make the leap, give you the confidence to be more likely to do this. So I’ll be interviewing more nomads as people seem to appreciate the stories where I interview people who have taken the leap and been successful at this. And so there’s nothing like hearing that from straight from the source. So rest assured I will be doing more of those interviews, uh, but I also be doing the program founders as we did, so we had unsettled, we had remote year and led WiFi tribe. So I’ve got a couple more of those lined up.
Sean Tierney – 01:00:17 – And lastly, are the domain experts. So the last couple of episodes, uh, you know, we talked to Luke, we talked to Kara that we’ve talked to Bernie, the sleep specialist. So I’m looking at a, an EMT for emergency medical because I think this is an important thing to have some basics. Uh, I myself have an EMT, I’m a registered EMT from way back in the day, but I think it’s important to have some of the basic emergency medical skills because you will at some point on the road, encounter some situation where those will be useful. Um, but I also think, uh, other things, uh, more on the business front, helping you be more successful at your job productivity hacks. I would love to get David Allen. I haven’t actually made this happen yet. So knock on wood, I can’t guarantee this one. Uh, but the getting things done founder I think would be a very useful thing to have him on the show to talk about productivity. Um, and yeah, and then there’s other various products that I really think are useful for nomads.
Sean Tierney – 01:01:12 – So I’m going to start to interview more of the SAS products out there. Things like nomad list. Nomo PHOMO just, I’ve got like 20 different people lined up so there’s no shortage of guests that I think we’re going to be really compelling and be super useful. Uh, but it is again, a matter of time. Right now I’m constrained by the time that I have to produce these. And so I’m looking to hopefully create a win win here where I don’t need to necessarily make money off the podcast, but I need to not be bleeding money, paying other people to produce the episodes. So I can keep the velocity that I went to. All right. So anyways, that’s where I’m at. Thank you again. As always for listening. I don’t know when the next episode will be, but please subscribe if you’re not already, make sure that you’re subscribed to one of the podcasting platforms and I will also send a note, uh, if you’re not subscribed by any of the podcasting platforms and you can put your email in the footer of nomadpodcast.com. And I will let you know when we’re back online and releasing episodes. All right, so I’ll see you when I see you have a, an amazing time as always. It’s a great big world out there. So get out and explore it and I will see you on the road.
Speaker 1 – 01:02:18 – Nomad, nomad, nomad podcast.