Interview: Stu McLaren On Making A Solid Income OnlineFiled Under Featured Stories, Interviews, Latest News
Stu McLaren Is Changing Lives
I think it was back in about 2008 when I met Stu McLaren at a local seminar here in Vancouver. There are certain people who you just know absolutely LOVE what they do and Stu is one of them.
Stu has done some amazing things not only for his family but to touch the lives of many on this planet. Please read on to see how this will help you with your online business but also inspire you to reach out to others.
I’m very blessed to have a friendship with Stu and he’s a fellow Canadian!
Ha! I found this old pic of Stu and I together in 2008
I interviewed Stu on creating membership sites because it’s definitely a way to make a consistent income online. It’s pretty solid but it does take a lot of work. I personally have owned 2 very good membership sites both sites I sold later on.
What do you think is the BEST way to make an income online?
The most important element for people to get clear on is the distinction between “easiest” and “best”.
There are many “easy” businesses that you can start online – but they may not be a right fit for you and therefore wouldn’t fall into the “best” category.
Affiliate marketing is “easy” to get started with. There’s next to no overhead or startup costs and you can start selling other people’s stuff almost immediately by posting affiliate links for products you like on a blog, to your social media accounts or in emails.
But in terms of the “best” way to make an income online, I would have to say a business that charges customers a recurring monthly fee to access “X” is the “best” kind of business.
That doesn’t necessarily mean these are the easiest types of businesses to get started or manage but it is the best because it provides a level of security for the business owner as the income is much more predictable.
It also provides you an opportunity to continually give more and more value every month to your existing customers – therefore enabling you to build a deeper and deeper relationship.
This increases brand loyalty. As long as you stay focused on serving your customer, you’ll be in a much better position long-term than a standard “one-time” transactional business.
Can you list a few ideas of membership sites to get our brains flowing?
WishListInsider.com is one that we built to demonstrate how to run a successful membership site. Our customers wanted to see examples of “what to do” so instead of just sending one-off examples, we created a membership where they could “experience” and see first hand the types of things you could do within a membership site.
HerbMentor.com is another great example of a membership site that has a thriving community of people who are passionate about a particular subject. John Gallagher (the site owner) and his team have done a great job of providing practical information alongside cultivating a genuine community where people are interacting and engaging with one another. Both are important for a successful site.
The final example I’ll share is CBIClubhouse.com which is a community dedicated to helping Children Book Authors get their books published. Notice how targeted it is not “book authors” but “Children Book Authors”. They have over 4,500+ paying members and they are continuously growing because they focus on providing tremendous value while building a community and quality relationships with their members.
Can you tell me ONE thing you see people struggle with?
Too often new membership site owners focus all their energy on “launching” a new membership rather than sustaining a membership. So they get off to a great start, get a bunch of new members, and then they start doing the “membership math” (“based on month 1, I should be making $XX,XXX by month 6 and by the end of the year I’ll be making $XXX,XXX”).
Then reality kicks in.
Month two comes and people start to cancel. So as hard as they work to get new people in, they are losing them out the back.
From day one, you want to have a plan in place for how you will maintain the interest of your existing members. What will you do between now and the end of the month to convince them to stay?
Here’s a hint: Build anticipation for your upcoming content and be sure to communicate this with your existing members. Give them something to look forward to.
What are some of the success stories you’ve seen?
We hear about all kinds of people launching new sites and having tremendous success but I think one of the most rewarding for me was when a good friend Andrew Warner (who I have a lot of respect for) was able to turn his free site into a paid site (Mixergy.com). Initially he was hesitant because he didn’t want to “scare” his audience away by charging for his content.
The problem was, if he didn’t charge for the content, he wouldn’t generate the revenue needed to scale the site up – so it would always depend on his time (very constricting). He couldn’t expand the content he was offering, provide the customer service needed for a growing audience or even improve what he was already doing because he didn’t have enough time in the day.
So something had to change.
Fast forward to today and Andrew has found a nice blend of both “free” and “paid” content.
Most of his interviews start out “free” whereby you can listen/watch them on the site for a limited period of time (I think it’s 7-10 days). Then they get moved into the “archives” which is a part of the paid membership.
But he also “biggie sized” the paid portion of the membership by providing more in depth courses on very specific subjects (he calls these “Master Classes”). He includes the class (video, audio and written transcript), summary notes, resources, templates and so much more.
Now he’s using his “free” content as a “sampler” which gives people a risk free way to see the value that he provides. This leads people into wanting more and this leads to paid signups.
Furthermore, his content has improved as well.
Because he was able to hire people to help him research his guests, edit the content, expand the content into “Master Classes” and provide a much better experience for his audience.
The thing that makes Andrew and Mixergy.com such a success is that he understands that a membership site is always a work in progress. It’s never going to be perfect. But the key is to embrace the fact that you can continually improve it, make changes and create a better experience for your members.
If you do that, they’ll reward you with their loyalty – which is what has happened for Andrew. His site is now THE place to go if you’re a startup entrepreneur.
How hard is it to get started?
Getting started is largely going to depend on your current abilities in a number of key areas.
However, the good news is, if you want to learn what it takes to be successful, then the information is readily available.
At the end of the day, there are four skill sets that you need to develop:
1) Technical – You don’t have to be a NASA engineer to build an online business but you should definitely be comfortable using WordPress, installing plugins and themes as well as using things like an autoresponder, shopping cart and webinar service. If you don’t know how to do these things, then you’ll need to hire someone who does.
2) Content – In the beginning, people will be attracted to you for your content. So you’ve got to have killer content. The key here is that it satisfies a need by providing new insights, convenience or usefulness. The best part about content is that you don’t always have to be the expert. If creating the content yourself is not your “thing”, then design your business so that you’re the one who simply pulls content together from other people (much like what Andrew Warner has done with Mixergy.com).
3) Marketing – You can have the best content in the world but if nobody knows where to get it, your business will never take off. This is THE most important skill you can develop and I recommend you be in control of this. The mistake most people make in the beginning is that they try to do everything all at once and therefore don’t get good at any one thing. There are a million and one techniques and strategies you can use online but if you want toe successful, start with one and master that. Then move on to the next.
4) Community Management – This is the skill that everyone “forgets” about. I mentioned earlier that people will first be attracted by your content. But similarly, they will remain a member not just for the content but also for the community aspect. They come for the content, but they stay for the community. So you’ve got to learn to connect with your members, connect them with each other and help them feel part of the bigger community. If you do this, you’ll have much greater long-term success.
Is it possible for someone to make enough income to replace a J-O-B?
Absolutely – I’ve done it (and so have many of our customers).
What is so attractive about a membership site in particular is that the income builds every month. So even if you can’t replace your JOB income in month 1, keep working at it because if you’re doing things properly, it’s only a matter of time as the income from the site will continue to build and build.
Can you share with us what the internet has provided you with?
Freedom and flexibility.
Many times you hear of these “4 hour workweeks” or “working at the beach” – that’s definitely NOT my reality.
I work a lot (and I enjoy it) and I do think that it’s necessary (especially in the beginning).
However, the great news is that because you only really need an internet connection, you are not restricted to work in one location. For example, my family and I just finished spending two months in Hawaii. My day would usually start at 5am and I would work until 1pm. Then we would go and spend the rest of the time seeing sites, enjoying the beach and having a good time.
You would never have that kind of flexibility if you were working a regular job. So it is possible to design your business to provide you the kind of lifestyle you want – I’m living proof.
The other thing that I’m incredibly thankful for (especially after becoming a new Dad) is the freedom to be at home with my wife and daughter. I feel privileged that both my wife and I can be part of her life growing up and that we won’t miss out on all her achievements. It’s so rewarding for me to see her first smile, crawl, or hear her first words. That’s possible because of the type of business I now have.
Can you give me 3 easy steps to putting together a membership site?
1) Get Clear On What You Will Provide
- Who will you target? What challenges do they have?
- What solution will you offer? How will you solve their problems?
- When will you deliver the content? Frequency? (daily, weekly, monthly) Format? (articles, PDF docs, videos, audios)
- How will you deliver the content? What type of membership site?
2) Get Going
- Setup your site (recommendation is to install WordPress and WishList Member)
- Start creating content (anything is better than nothing)
- Start marketing your site (start with one strategy, master it and then add more)
- Constantly try new things (nothing will be perfect in the beginning – so be “ok” with that and try new stuff all the time)
3) Take Care of Your Members
- As much as possible, be personable
- Take an interest in the well being of your members (it will be reflected in their loyalty to your site)
- Always over deliver (do this and you’ll be adding members faster than you will be losing them!)
How have you seen membership sites change the world?
Membership sites have been changing the world by changing lives.
They’ve been helping people eat better, get in better shape, and learn new skills.
They’ve been helping people build a better business and create more freedom in their lives.
Closer to home, membership sites have allowed me personally to dedicate more time to our charitable ventures (www.WorldTecherAid.org). They’ve also allowed my wife to start a brand new program reaching thousands of kids in Canada and the U.S. who in turn have helped thousands of less fortunate kids throughout Africa (www.WriteToGive.com).
At the end of the day, membership sites will only give you what you allow it to.
It does take work.
It will take a consistent effort.
But if you do it right, you will have more time freedom, a more consistent income and the opportunity to impact many, many people.
In my opinion, it’s the greatest business in the world
Some Fun Things Stu Does Due To His Freedom & Flexibility!
A nice big thank you to Stu for this interview, I’ll leave you with a video of Stu sky diving. I actually joked with him that he should get me his answers in right before he does the jump.
After the jump I said, “well now that you’re alive and all, can I get those answers?” lol! Too funny!
He’s a rebel and it was so much fun watching the sky dive.
Lastly here’s a recent shot of Stu with his beautiful family…