A deep dive into “passive” income and online marketing

I’ve been doing a lot of research on the empire that Pat Flynn built. He discovered the potential for passive income after he realized a website he made to take notes for an architecture exam was getting a lot of traffic. He eventually started monetizing it, and still does to this day.

In all, Pat has five relatively “set it and forget it” income streams. However, his big hit is Smart Passive Income (which is additional to those), where he talks about how he does things. It seems self-perpetuating at this point. In 2014, he made $946,256.23 in revenue, and netted $731,492.60. Not bad. (Note, this is a scenario where 4.2 enabled Emoji will be my friend).

I know his revenue because he shares income reports every month. His 2014 in review is fascinating. I like Pat Flynn. I’ve been digging into his podcasts, blog posts, and philosophies. He just seems genuine, and his tactics aren’t sleazy.

Most of Pat’s income is at least adjacently WordPress related. $424,800 of that 2014 revenue came from being a Bluehost affiliate. Sit on that for a second. He also makes a WordPress plugin podcast player, makes other WordPress-centric affiliate revenue, and runs his various website properties on WordPress.

His verticals are niche, researched, and focused. The content is good too. For instance, check out Foodtruckr. The whole site’s purpose is to inform food truck entrepreneurs. The dedicated landing page for the ebook is outstanding. But most importantly, he’s sharing more than you could hope for about his strategy, execution, and results of such experiments — like this info page for Foodtruckr.

With the model he’s using, Pat could probably not do Smart Passive Income at all and live quite comfortably off of niche projects that take very little time. The model requires some upfront investment for each project, but maintenance is minimal; a couple only take him a few hours per month.

I’ve been thinking a good bit about client work versus product work versus other income streams — and how WordPress fits into them. Generally, I think the bubble WordPress community (I hate to break it to myself, but most of us are in this bubble) has little idea how big the more generic market is and how much potential there is to use WordPress to do incredibly profitable things.

“Online marketers” — at least some of them — are making fortunes with WordPress as their biggest tool. Even many of their income streams are made up of largely WordPress-centric products. Pinch of Yum is a food blog and membership site, but too they make a lot of money on hosting and WordPress product affiliate deals.

Who cares?

It’s easy to question why I’m even talking about this. But my point is not to say we should all ditch what we’re doing and try to copycat those that are kicking butt. It’s that I think we could benefit by embracing these communities more. If we spent time at marketing conferences and other arenas where these folks go, we can be educators, not just naysayers.

Also, we look pretty stupid when some of our inward-focused, tiny market products and services get crushed by these folks’, especially when many of us carry the exact skills they desire most.

Take this for what you will, but my point is: I’m paying more attention now. I want to learn more about how people are using WordPress to empower themselves to make money in a way the vast majority of the world can only dream of. I’ve too often scoffed at the entire lot of online marketers. That’s not fair. There are plenty of snake oil salesmen, sure, but there are also people with incredible stories, and I am going to start trying to find them.

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One Comment

  1. I’ve been paying attention to this for a while 😉

    And here’s the thing, there is no love for the WordPress way. We face inward and approach a lot of this “best practice” (business) stuff in a bubble. We do this because we love the software, grew up with it, and largely progressed our own careers because of it. We’ve always known it’s largely a tool to get the job done — but we’re passionate — we’re creative.

    That same low barrier (open source?) has business-savvy marketers jumping on to create products. Pair that up with large internet adoption and Matt’s mission for 50% adoption and you’ve got yourself a nice target to go after.

    But do they care? Will they attend a WordCamp or meetup? Push the community forward?

    Pat Flynn didn’t even know what WordCamps were when I interviewed him. Mr Nastor was able to entice Mark Jaquith to create VelocityPage and he hadn’t (maybe by now?) stepped foot into a WordCamp either.

    They see a business opportunity and the’ve taken it. Wether or not they recognize the strength of our reputation economy is for the future history books.

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