In February 2007, Pat Flynn was working at an architecture firm making $38,000 a year. He mulled boosting his earning power by getting an architecture license, but the process would likely take six to eight years. When he heard about getting a credential in sustainable design and environmentally friendly building called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), he decided to go for that, as no one in his department had it. The one problem? The exam was so challenging, just one-third of test-takers passed.
To make studying more fun and to increase the chances he would actually understand the material, he decided to create a blog about preparing for the exam. After all, in order to explain the subject to others, he would need to understand it himself. Having the blog allowed him to participate in other forums about the exam, and he found that the more he discussed the topic, the firmer grasp he had on it.
In March 2008, he aced the exam, was immediately promoted and began earning $60,000. But two months later, with the economy slowing down after the financial crisis, his firm began laying people off, and Flynn was informed that after his current projects were finished, he also would be out of a job.
At the same time, he couldn’t help but notice that in the LEED exam forums he had frequented, people were referring to him as an expert and directing questions his way. He began to think he might capitalize on that.
He decided to investigate how to turn his blog into something bigger, and so turned to Google Analytics to track visitors. What he saw floored him. “Little did I know it but this little website I created to help me pass this exam was generating thousands of visits a day,” he says.
In June, he put ads on his site with Google Adsense, and within the first hour, earned $1.08 with three clicks. He earned $5 the first day, $7 the second, and then eventually began pulling in $15-$30 a day. In October, he created an ebook exam study guide priced at $19.99. By month’s end, he earned $7,906.55 — more than he had ever previously earned in a month.
Now, six years, 12 websites, 100,000 email subscribers and 9.5 million podcast downloads later, Flynn, 31, has earned roughly $2.7 million dollars online with “passive income” strategies.
Flynn, who blogs at Smart Passive Income and discusses his secrets at the Smart Passive Income podcast, defines passive income as “building online businesses that take advantage of systems of automations that allow transactions, cash flow and growth without requiring a real-time presence.
We don’t have to trade our time for money one to one. Instead, we invest our time upfront, creating valuable products and experiences for people, and we reap the benefits of that time invested later,” he says, adding, “It’s not easy. I just want to make sure that’s clear.”
Although he says he’s not an expert in the subject, he’s earned $3 million in the last six years by creating authoritative and helpful websites in areas as disparate as passing a green building exam, becoming a security guard, and establishing and growing a successful food truck business.
But what he’s most well-known for is being the mastermind behind the SmartPassiveIncome blog and podcast, the latter of which just reached its 10 millionth download yesterday. Last month he shared his tips on how to make passive income. Below, he tells us about his personal journey. (He also says you can say hi to him on Twitter and he’ll say hi back.).
How he started?
I was laid off from my architecture position in 2008 and created a website to help me pass an exam in the architecture industry called the LEED exam. Little did I know it but this little website I created was generating thousands of visits a day.
As I was doing all that LEED stuff, I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I didn’t understand what the signs were for me to start a business. I’ve always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and do my own thing, but I was so into architecture, I didn’t think that would happen until another 30 or 40 years into my life.
That opportunity was always there, but I didn’t realize it until after four or five people said, “Pat, your stuff is so good, I would pay you for it.” That’s when I finally took action. I began reading as much as I could about doing business online and listening to podcasts and reaching out to people doing it already.
I connected with them and created an ebook study guide, a digital book that could help my visitors pass the LEED exam. I launched that in October of 2008, and that very first month I sold that book for $19.99. I sold it in a way where people could come to the site, purchase it and, immediately after, the book, which was simply a pdf file I had written, was directly digitally delivered through an email to them.
And as a result of that payment, it was just money into my Paypal account. That first month, I made $7,008.55. That was just life-changing for me. I was so excited I wanted to share how it all happened and what I had learned, so I created SmartPassiveIncome.com that same month.
Then, as sales grew on the LEED stuff, I had more and more to talk about and I kept sharing how much I was earning and what I was learning, such as the things that went right, and stuff that didn’t go right. A year and a half later, I started to accumulate a large following and be known as a transparent leader in the space of online business education.
I then started a YouTube Channel and my podcast. Then I wanted to experiment. I created new businesses outside of anything I was already doing, and sharing that along the way — that’s how SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com, CreateaClickableMap.com, FoodTruckr.com and other sites came about.
Recently, I started getting involved with public speaking. All the sites have kept growing and people have shared their success stories based off of my own experiments with me, and here I am today.