Our Guest Today: Elaine Pofeldt
Elaine Pofeldt writes about million-dollar, one-person businesses for Forbes online. Formerly, she was a senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine where she was twice nominated for a National Magazine Award and ran the magazine’s annual business plan competition. Her work has been published in Money, Inc., Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire; on Medium and CNBC online; and by the Economist Intelligence Unit. She earned her BA in English at Yale and is a mother of four.
Watch Our Interview
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Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, lengths and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hello there, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld Media. Why do we call media now? Well, because we’re not just a podcast anymore. We are a podcast, a YouTube channel, a documentary on Amazon Prime. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. And I have a bunch of other announcements I need to make. I’m going to try to contain myself.
But we have also launched two courses which you can find on Feisworld Media home for courses. There are a bunch of information there. There are courses we launched in May, in June 2020 and onwards. Two of the courses, what I consider signature courses I’m really proud of are one virtual systems for podcasts. And let me tell you something about this course. This one is designed for both podcasters and their TVs. So virtual systems for nearly six years I’ve learned a tremendous amount and hiring my VA rose is definitely one of the best decisions I made.
It was really hard trying to do everything on your own. If you’re an entrepreneur, a content creator like me, you probably know this. You know, creating content is one thing. Marketing them not just once, but repeatedly, continuously engaging with your community is something entirely different. And try to do that and learn the mechanism on your own is very important. And you should try to do parts of that, you know, or as much as you can.
However, realistically, as you grow as a brand, that becomes pretty much impossible, you know, and think about it this way, that your time most likely is better spent elsewhere, you know, planning for content, creating new content, engaging with your guests. So that’s why I created the course as a sister companion course. A lot of the virtual assistants today, when they work for podcasts, they often hear from their clients, podcasters. That will be great, fantastic if you have some basic editing skills.
So I launched another course called Audacity for podcasts. Again, you don’t have to be a virtual assistant. You can be a podcast or who’s just starting out to gain these skills. And if you are a virtual assistant, if you were assistant to a podcast or or someone else, I urge you to check up on the going rate to hourly rate for virtual assistants versus VCs who can edit you simply double your hourly rate. Again, I know this is not my profession.
These are the research I’ve done of work, dotcom, freelancer, dotcom in it. It didn’t surprise me, to be honest. It’s something that I’ve been thinking for a long time. You know, if my VA could do all of these things, then great. Well, for me, for Phase World, I’m very lucky to have my producer, Herman, who’s a video and audio editor, and I don’t foresee giving up that line of work to anybody else.
And my VA has done a tremendous job with social media, our content creation, content repurposing. So I kind of have that sort of, you know, a team set up to me that’s just that’s perfect. However, if you are someone who’s got a budget to hire a single person or you prefer to work with the same person who can take care of everything, then there is more power to you. Definitely check out those courses. And I’m just super excited if you’re new to this format again.
Hey, it’s Fei. And I want to take this opportunity to instead of broadcasting an hour forty five minutes of an interview conversation, I want to share with you what I’ve been up to. And if you want to follow these live stream conversations for our podcast when they actually go live, definitely check Feisworld.com for such events. You’re going to see a bunch of past and future events. The way that you can watch these live typically are all my YouTube channel under live.
If you subscribe to my channel and hit the Bell Icon on YouTube, then you get all notifications. That’s the easiest. Another way. If you are on Facebook, then go to Feisworld.com, F-e-i-s-w-o-r-l-d. Then we have a list of events and if you follow me there, then you will also be notified when I go live. I think it’s super interesting. I’ve been using a lot of these multi stream services and platforms and have a lot of learnings and checklists and ebooks.
I’m also in the process of producing and to show the world how that’s done. Now, what I said, who is our not so secret guest for today? You probably saw the title today. We have a who felt here on Feisworld. I do want to spell her last name in case you’re not in front of a computer. It is P-o-f-e-l-d-t, Pofeldt so oh one word obviously. And she was teaching me how to say it because I was getting my way through it.
Elaine is the author of The Million Dollar One Person Business Make. Money work the way you like, have the life you want. I mean, how much more compelling, what title do you need to read the book? So with that said, Elaine shared her book with me months ago before the pandemic, to be honest. And and since then, we’ve all been struggling. Right, trying to manage our time. And it occurred to me that I absolutely have to make this a priority and I do not regret it at all.
So Elaine writes about million dollar one person business for Forbes.com. Formerly, she was a senior editor at the Fortune Small Business magazine. Elaine’s work has been published in Money, Fortune Inc, Good Housekeeping and Marie Claire, among others, are Medium and CNBC Dotcom by the Economist Intelligence Unit. She earned her B.A. and in English Yale University and lives in New Jersey. And that’s where we recorded the podcast. So we’re where we recorded the livestream. Elaine also revealed that she has four children and which is just incredible that how we able to schedule this meeting.
And she also talks about briefly how during the pandemic she has demanded everybody’s schedule and she’s busier than ever. However, in the midst of all of that, she’s updating her book. The book I have in my hand, which you can see right now, was published in Twenty Eighteen. And she’s updating the book diligently. And there’s going to be another version coming out, if I remember correctly, in twenty, twenty one. But a lot of the methodologies, a lot of these interviews with these entrepreneurs, again, one to two person, you know, million dollar businesses still stand true and very much relevant.
So I enjoyed this conversation. A lot is very casual. And Elaine gave a ton of practical advice that you can follow and she gives very specific examples. You can recall so many of these details because as part of her book, she interview these folks. And they’re not just folks who run traditional companies, not just people in digital marketing, but also kind of brick and mortar businesses as well, including, you know, hairdresser. And there’s like a bridal stylist.
So a lot of these businesses, I feel like we can really lean in and get information and ideas from and to know that so much beyond our imagination is also possible. So I hope you enjoy the conversation again. This is far from Feisworld. I appreciate you so much for listening, for being here. Please consider sharing this episode with a friend, a family member, and let’s keep marching forward. And if you are content creator like me, keep on creating.
I’ll see you at the end of the episode. Hello, hello, everybody, and a very special day for me today, I am here with one of my favorite authors. I really love this book. I love the message of this book. Elaine Pofeldt, welcome to Feisworld Media and our podcast.
Thank you so much, Fei. i am so excited to be here and look at this book.
I caught my eyes and I couldn’t believe it was kind of serendipity, really, that I learned about this book. And at the same time, you reach out to me on LinkedIn and I was like, what is happening is the million dollar one person business made great money, work the way you like and have the sorry, work the way you like, have the life you want.
And this book was published in twenty eighteen. I think we’re here for a special treat because Alan has done so much more work, more interviews and just more content in the process of updating the book. So Alan, please tell us about that.
Oh sure. Well the book is going into paperback in January and so we’ve been updating the book, which has meant going back to all of the people in the book and seeing what they’re up to when really exciting things happen. This year, the Census Bureau came out with new numbers, which are two years older, of course, I mean two years newer than the ones in the book. And the number of million dollar one person businesses continue to go up in twenty eighteen, the most recent year because there’s always a two year lag.
For the first time, it broke forty thousand, which is a needle in a haystack. These are the Olympic athletes of the one person business, but it’s doubled since twenty eleven in just that short of time. And what I think has really been propelling the trend is technologies keep getting more and more inexpensive and accessible. We’re all becoming efficiency experts and becoming so smart about outsourcing, using contractors, doing the things that the people in this book do to extend what one person can do in a business.
There’s a lot of people that are becoming very proficient in things like e commerce that even if that’s not their main business, they have adjuncts to their business that give them income diversity, which helps you to build a more sustainable business. And certain things that I wrote about in the book have only grown like manufacturing. Years ago, you’d have never heard of a one person manufacturing business. But now there are more and more people in food businesses who are using packers’.
There are people who are making products like maybe they start out with a little Etsy store, like when they wrote about reforms. They’re called Nomad Lane and they were two people that wanted to become corporate refugees but hadn’t come in yet and then tested out some products on Etsy. And this one travel bag took off and then they extended that idea. And now they have this under the seat tote, which obviously people aren’t traveling as much right now. But right before the whole covid crisis struck, they became a million dollar one person business.
They’re New Yorkers, but they’re living in Bali, which is really nice. It’s been really it’s been very interesting and educational just to see how the businesses of all some of them are no longer one person businesses. By the way, I don’t view running a non employer firm with no payroll as as a religion that you have to adhere to for your whole life. But I feel like they’re a global resource that just gets not enough attention. And if we gave them even more love as a society, they could do great things, whether as a great boutique business, whereas a business that will become an employer, some of them now are at the point.
One of them was Brooklyn and I think they had raised fifty million dollars in venture capital. They morphed from a husband and wife team into a traditional startup. But the beauty of running a good one person business is you have options as opposed to scrambling from project to project. Then you’re kind of in survival mode and you can’t really be an entrepreneur of your own business and your own life.
Mhm. Yeah, that’s that’s such a good I think in summary of some of the folks that you spoke with and I love how this book is combining not just theory and practice practical advices, but also real people. And the thing is, a lot of people don’t realize is there are a lot of names you never heard of and write like these are people that are very relatable. And also there’s a section it’s called What can you do to like what are some of the ideas that you can start with?
And I just I went right to that section, actually, where everybody has hidden gifts that could be made into a business. The challenge is really thinking about do you want to actually sell certain things like you could love doing fine arts painting and not want to sell your painting just because you do it for the love of it? So it’s. Finding a place in your life where you actually want to commercialize something and and that could take a whole survey, I have some exercises in the book.
I was actually just looking back at them. And basically it’s a quiz for yourself as to what are the things that other people find interesting about you. What do they ask you to help them with? Where do you totally geek out? Right. Because we all have these subjects that we like, we read so much about and we’ll listen to podcasts. And no one else in our life is really that interested in them. But we could talk about it for six hours.
That might be something that could be made into a business, because if you think about something a lot or it could even be in your own career, maybe you have a corporate job and you think twenty four, seven about something that you work on. You have a dialog going in your brain all the time about that subject. And you’re always trying to solve problems and you have such a deep perspective that you could do something that no one else can in terms of coming up with a business.
And it doesn’t take many resources. Some of these businesses started for like one hundred dollars and some of them took more than manufacturing. Businesses usually take more because you need inventory, but most of the other ones don’t. And you could just test it out, get up and running quickly and see if you like it. And if it wasn’t exactly right, there’s so many other things you can try.
Yeah, exactly. So one advice I got from my friend Josh Green, who’s Australian, when I left my corporate job, and he said, hey, if I give it a shot because not everything has to work, though, not everything has to work. Part was so liberating that we often think that once we commit ourselves to something, sometimes even a few hours to a few days where we’re like this has to work. Right. And I think especially I know you have children as well.
I don’t. But even for me to look at, oh, this is something that I devoted my time to, I could have done something else like this. Better work, people better like it. I better be proud of it. I think we need to take ourselves away from that, especially during the initial experimentation phase and to cut ourselves some slack. Right. Not everything you do at work has to work. So definitely experiment. And that’s kind of that’s the message I got from your book as well.
And also the clearly calling out just because you become one million dollars one day, but you have to hit your six figure first. I love the message. Like build your get your one hundred thousand dollars first and see how you can scale from there as a reminder.
Oh yeah, you can definitely amplify once he get the formula right, you can always put Facebook ads against it or other things to amplify what you’re doing right. But you do have to experiment. It doesn’t cost that much money either. One example I like is Laszlo Needler. He started Tools for Wisdom planners. He was a project manager, so he’s good at time management. He likes that subject. And it’s he designed these paper to do books, but they were in a to do list.
It was more of how do you move towards your life’s biggest goal, his personal development and that sort of thing. And he tested it by printing up some early versions that he developed on Amazon. And then he saw what stuck and where he got feedback. And then in response to reader feedback, he kept perfecting it. And he also built a good clientele that way because they saw he was responsive and that was how he did it. Without spending a ton of money, he used print on demand.
Another one of the entrepreneurs who I’ve written about for Forbes, Jason Vandergrift, is he a CAD engineering design company that has contractors all over the world? He’s a million dollar man business. Still, what he does when he because he gets a lot of ideas. I think a lot of entrepreneurial people are a little and I don’t think he has ADT but but just have ideas spinning all the time. Yeah. And so he tests them out. He’ll get a thirty dollar website on GoDaddy for one month.
It creates some sort of a markup where prototype gets Facebook ads and drives them against the website to see people coming by. And if he gets no orders then he just ends it after thirty days. So that way he doesn’t put a ton of money into something. He had learned the hard way because he developed an app and he spent over twenty five thousand dollars on it. And it turned out there was a fatal flaw in terms of not understanding something about the competitive space and he had to scrap it.
So he learned how to do it more inexpensively and at very low risk. So even though they’re risk takers, yeah, you kind of risk minimize ours, too. And that’s a powerful lesson. And it’s something where I think if you’ve had a corporate background to two things that you said that’s kind of stuck with me, you are allowed to experiment, but you really don’t go in and just wing it. Right. I can’t imagine all the years I was in corporate coming in and not being prepared for a meeting.
You just don’t do it because you’ll fall flat on your face. It’s not an environment that supports. And they tend to like you to do things that have a bigger budget, right, because it’s scalable. So you don’t really have that room for the small experiments sometimes that lead up to the bigger things. It’s almost like you’ve got to have tested it before you even pitch it. And it’s hard to do the kind of things that you can do in a one person business, which is why such a creative thing, why I think it attracts so many people who are a hybrid of having business savvy but also are just very creative people.
Yeah, that’s a good point. I think as a just reminder, for people who are listening and watching, there is a large majority of my audience right now are creative fitness entrepreneurs. The fitness part is new, but it’s growing very strong because of the pandemic and speaking. I’m going to get to the how I experimented with that group of folks in a bit. But originally, all these creative entrepreneurs are focusing on content creation, whether you are writing a book or blogging or a lot of podcasts or some more recently YouTube.
I think just like your your friend who experimented something with 30 days, whether it’s a landing page for us, is about writing consistently and putting content out there and then listen to the conversations. Actually, reading and replying to the comments was such a huge part of it, because, you know, as when I have never been tested for four, I wouldn’t be surprised if I do definitely on it some sort of a spectrum here, because I’m bombarding myself with ideas day in and day out.
So has they think I might be too so excited?
I think especially as entrepreneurs and particular creative entrepreneurs, you have all these ideas flowing like 3:00 in the morning. You get up. It’s like I got to do this right now, you know, I got to be ahead of the herd. And and it’s it’s so exciting. But you could use your platform no matter how small social media or your website or YouTube. YouTube’s super powerful these days because it’s the second largest search engine in the world. And for me to TasRail content as I’m pivoting right now to live streaming and multi streaming like what we’re using, I’m teaching people how to do this, how to set up using Zoom because most people are really familiar with Zoom.
So I figure we should try this instead of OBEs. And then I look at the people actually want to learn, oh, OK. So that’s an idea I can build on. I can build a course, I can at least put together an ebook, a checklist of things, you know, helping people, like you said, preparing for a meeting or preparing for a livestream session. People eat that up. People love sort of assets and tools like that.
Oh, it’s amazing. Content creators are pretty well represented in the book in terms of the different categories. I try to cover a broad spectrum of industries, but a few examples come to mind so or well, he started examine Dotcom and he’s somebody who is he was getting into weight loss and he started reading a lot about nutrition. He realized there weren’t a lot of credible reports out there and with the different supplements and vitamins did. So he came up with an idea to hire a Ph.D. who had studied this, to write reports that he would then sell the business and evolved over time because he was selling he was sending out more like PDF reports and that sort of thing.
Now he’s created an online subscription service where every month you pay five dollars to get the latest nutritional information written by the same team of people who are an extended group of contractors and freelancers. But he’s basically a content creator, another person making Keltner in the book. She was just on another webinar with me just now. She’s a nutritionist. She’s a really great writer. She had worked in advertising before and she created Megan Keltner dot com, which is a website where she blogs about different things she’s passionate about with health and wellness.
And then she started selling products. One was a PDF version of one of her courses. It was called the three day green smoothie fest. Right. That sounds really healthy. And so it was like eleven years ago. So she sold it by email to just the people in her email list. And then she started marketing more of those types of things when it’s sold. I think she said she sold the original for ten dollars. So don’t be afraid to start small and then eventually morphed into online courses.
And then that morphed into the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, which is that which then became the million dollar engine for the business. These things don’t always happen overnight. I have had some people with e-commerce businesses where it’s a little easier to amplify what you’re doing right. You have a good product, then you just do a lot of advertising against it. That’s pretty quick. But if you’re doing a content related business, you’ve got to kind of. Figure out what people are interested in you find out what those viral things can change over time.
So it’s more, I think, of a building process. She also wrote, for instance, a couple of cookbooks which added to her brand. But this doesn’t happen in one year, writing two cookbooks, forming a cooking school. She was paid, but now the business is pretty stable. She had a baby three years ago and she’s been able to cut back on her hours, but it’s still maintaining at that level, which inspires me.
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Yeah, exactly. It’s it’s kind of this building blog that people don’t always see what’s happening behind the scenes, which is, you know, people start with that email list, something that they sell for five, ten dollars, not what we always see for those two thousand dollar. You know, follow this formula, I guarantee going to work on Instagram or, you know, grow your goat, grow your following. I think the reality is a lot of these entrepreneurs, especially the ones I interview on my podcast for years, is they have to experiment, they have to fail and they learn from their failure.
Then they build 20 30 Legian. So lead magnets to build up their audience. And most people think the only see is that one is like, how do I get to that one thing? How do I get to that video that’s going to go viral, that one blog article? And the reality is you’ve got to keep opening doors. You’ve got to just keep, you know, just keep keep knocking on doors and hopefully one day will open. But the problem is, if you don’t knock, you don’t create content.
You don’t you don’t keep up with your research, your experimentation, then nothing is going to open because there’s so much competition. Why should I come to you? So I think we need to just prepare ourselves to kind of change our mindset to think about that a little bit differently these days that you have to be in and to win it.
Oh, absolutely. And there I mean, there’s so much discipline and consistent effort that goes into every single one of these businesses. There’s an artist in New York, Iris Scott, who I’ve written about for Forbes, a million dollar one person business. He went to art school. She does finger painting. She’s very you know, her work.
Yeah, I know her work. And and it’s funny that Tim Hopper, who is the senior executive at whole by the watercolor company, you know, that they have a professional relationship. So he introduced me to her work I’ve been looking at ever since. It’s just so fascinating. Is she and your book, too? Possibly, or just like I met her after I wrote the book, but I’ve been covering her a few times and she’s spoken to some of the events that I do.
And which he talked about was she went to art school and was told, you have to price your stuff really high or it will kind of lose its snob appeal, I guess, in conventional galleries. And she’s like, I don’t really agree with that. So she started selling. She did have galleries and she is reviewing an art magazine. She’s a serious, fine artist. She also sold the paintings on Facebook for fifty dollars because she believed that everybody should be able to afford art.
And then what happened was she would sell out. She posts on Facebook that it had sold out. Yeah. And then she’d gradually raise the prices. Well, now, so if her works go for forty five thousand dollars.
Yeah, yeah, I guess not.
But she just did her own thing. She didn’t care what other people said about pricing. She, you know, she wasn’t afraid to experiment and just put herself out there. She didn’t think it was going to devalue her work. So I even encourage people to do things for free sometimes just pilot something and figure out if it will work so that you go in when you’re ready to charge for it, you feel confident that you’re offering something great because word of mouth is so important.
Once people love something, you don’t have that much marketing, especially if you’re doing creative and professional services. Types of those are actually in the twenty eighteen data. That was the biggest category one fourth of the ones that got to one million in revenue were in professional services, which kind of counteracts the whole myth that you can’t get to one million in a service business.
But the people that are doing it are using very unusual models, like I have one case study who will be in the new book. Sephora is an auditor. He does. He audits ocean shipping bills. It’s a very niche condition. He’s been in it for years. He knows it inside out. And basically he J.C. Penney’s orders. Fifty thousand shirts. Comes over, they come over on a ship and on the bill of leading the bill for the shipment, there’s a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar mistake.
He finds it. It’s a public document, he can get it on this site called Kapanga, goes to J.C. Penney and says, I discovered a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar mistake. I will tell you what it is and collect it. You have to pay me a 50 percent commission rate, giving them money. They don’t have to spend anything. So, of course, they say yes. So he’s almost at two million. He’s doing really great with that business.
But if you charge by the hour, think about that. He’s charging based on the value of what he’s providing, another entrepreneur who is a middle six figure business and told me he recently became a million dollar one person business. Jamie GAO, he’s a podcast agency. He does custom podcasts and he has his own podcast, too. And he was kind of evolving the business model. But what pushed him over the edge were several things. One was he created a package where everybody who used the agency would have a single point of contact.
It was a team of specially trained virtual assistants that point of contact. If the person say you needed an icon to promote this podcast on social media, the single point of contact would go to the graphic designer and have that made and make sure that before it was given to you, it was a good quality icon and they sort of run interference with the whole team. So the customers pay a flat fee. But it wasn’t just that they excelled at it.
So his Google rankings came up for the agency when when there were ratings of podcast’s agencies, he kept getting really high ratings and then people organically started coming to him. And interestingly, they were more profitable clients than the ones he was getting from referrals from satisfied customers, which is very counterintuitive and interesting, but it’s a lot of things happening. At the same time. They just basically going back to what you were saying, it’s a commitment to excellence and and experimenting and getting getting it right.
And then once you get it right, it totally changes everything. And another model I just want to mention for the people who are in the service businesses is if you’re really good at something and you’ve got it now, you can also just charge a very high hourly rate. There’s one or even bring in a bunch of people that do and use their services as contractors. And that’s what Chad Paczki did, he said specialized oil and gas industry consultant. He helps refineries basically blow up.
He finds the fire hazards and things like that. Is he? What he did was he had a lot of fellows that he knew from his work in corporate America who are around 60 years old and up. And we’re kind of interested in stepping back from work a little bit, but still wanted to keep their hand in it. And he built them out. Well, it’s a very important service. So so the companies that don’t want to have an explosion, don’t mind if they’re paying somebody like two hundred dollars an hour or three hundred dollars an hour.
His best paid consultant, I think, is three hundred and fifty dollars an hour and is seventy five years old. That’s amazing. So like, well the more a little more stuff. Well, you know what, they’re very valuable. The people that have a lot of experience because they know what they’re doing. And and so I encourage people to really think about the value you’re providing. Right. If the refinery does not blow up. That’s worth a lot.
Yeah. Supply demand really is that’s such a part of this equation that for me recently I realized that I have also I raised my price a couple of times in the past year because, you know, you set your price, you set something up. When I first started, consulting was one twenty five. And to me back then it just seemed like a lot of money. And I knew I was charging more than some of the other people I used to work with and I was coaching to become freelancers.
And then over time you have to ask, be reasonable, ask. And now in consulting and running my my business on my own, I look at the realistically how much time I have. I mean, we’re still talking about primarily hourly based rate. I realize I don’t have much time in my day. I have enough clients. So naturally I’m going to raise my rate. And to your point, a lot of people talk about in this book, they’re they’re operating at another level, which is it’s no longer looking at, hey, this guy that you mentioned could be looking at finding a mistake.
The mistake is worth half a million dollars or two hundred fifty thousand dollars. How could anybody do a piece of work for under a day, half a day to be getting paid a quarter of a million dollars for let’s just say? Well, it’s possible when you look at it from a value based perspective. So that is such a drastic mindshift. And I also love the fact that we talk about courses a lot. But there are also scalable income that I look at these multiple streams of incomes that you.
Talk about in this book things such as designing courses that you’re done, you sell the courses for many people do. Five hundred thousand dollars. You Rami said he went out for hiking, came home, was eighty six thousand dollars sitting in his bank account. Yeah. He actually wrote it’s all true. And he can prove to you you can like all the data. Right. He ran a prerecorded webinar when he went hiking at the end of the webinar.
For a lot of people, like we all know that they have a product you’re not obligated to buy. We after you watch a one on one hour long free webinar if you think there’s enough value. Well, he has a definitely a solid we’re talking about like over a hundred thousand people audience. So even if a tiny little fraction of the people who pay well, that’s a lot of money. So those are scalable income. And what I’ve also learned from the examples you shared is ebooks and courses, but they’re also a ton of affiliate marketing income as well, which I have learned just this year of teaching people how to use Zoom and the lighting kit like the one behind me I want to sell, definitely recommend Logitech, but there’s nowhere to be found certain products, given the pandemic is just not there.
But, you know, last month alone, Amazon sent me a check of three hundred dollars and an Amazon historically pays very little amount of money. OK, we’re talking about like two percent with the price cut and then different companies. That would also compensate me for a small percentage that’s at zero actual cost for the customers who look who purchase the product. Just such an interesting learning process all around.
Oh, it’s fascinating, I mean, it’s constantly changing, too, but especially in the pandemic, I think it’s really important to have the multiple revenue streams. Sometimes we get so busy when things are good. I think that’s where a lot of people have been with their business the last few years. Everybody’s just overbooked and working on the weekend and has no time to do R&D. But now what people have been saying is they’ve been given the gift of time because they’re not driving around or traveling as much.
And what has really saved some of these businesses is the sidelights. One example, Joey Healy is an eyebrow stylist in New York City and he started the business going to apartments on the Upper East Side. And he would to the sort of high end brow styling before the whole trend, really caught on with eyelashes and brows. And then he realized that wasn’t very efficient to be sort of walking around New York. So he rented a small place and the business was all him.
Then he trained some other people in the method and they were contractors to him. And along the way he developed an eyebrow makeup, outsourcing the manufacture to a private label company. And it wasn’t a very big part of the business, but he always had it. And so during the pandemic, certainly he had to shut his business down in New York. He’s not he’s like a level four, not a level two. So even with the hair salons opening, he can’t open.
So he said he went down and he has a very clean basement where he stores the cosmetics. And he went down there and he had quite a big inventory. And he said, this is what the business is going to be. This is going to be my job during the pandemic is selling this. He kept his publicist on retainer and she has been getting him a lot of interviews about how to do your eyebrows yourself at home during the pandemic and in all kinds of major magazines.
I think he said he was on Good Morning America. And so that has been selling really well, even though the place is closed. And another thing that he’s been doing is he created a personal styling service where people send pictures of their eyebrows to him and then he gives them a one hour consultation for charge. And in the real world, I discovered this when he joined my Instagram. He’s quite a celebrity of the world of eyebrows. And I should go see him as I’m talking about this when know he has a big following.
So it’s kind of like talking with the celebrity about your personal set of eyebrows. Right. And so it’s kind of a novelty and fun. And so that’s how he’s been keeping the business going. Is it at the same level that it’s been at when he could open the store? No, it’s not. But he’s being resilient. And now what’s probably going to happen, my guess as somebody who’s interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs, is once this gets going and the cosmetics are selling even more.
Why would he cut back on that? Then he has this other thing and the consultations he who knows if he’s going to want to keep doing that once the store is open. But he has that option now. And it’s something that he could potentially scale to something bigger, like a live event or that sort of thing. Another person whose business was hit very hard, I wrote about her for Forbes, at least Oshiro. I met her after I wrote the book.
She’s an event planner who does live events. Yeah, everything dried up overnight. Yeah. So the first thing she did was make sure all of her existing clients were well taken care of, looked at all their contracts, made sure that if they had to cancel, that was all taken care of to maintain the good business relationships. But then she thought, well, it will take in their meetings on to Zoom it. How do I how do I make them?
Sorry, my stomach is rumbling. Hopefully that didn’t take out. But anyhow, she started having engaging celebrities who were home during the pandemic to appear on the quarterly boring corporate Zoom call meetings that everybody was having and really live in them up. And now she’s graduated into doing experiences like having a celebrity chef entertain a corporate group, which she’s getting really creative with all these different ideas. And she’s she’s so busy. She did like four of them in one day the other day when I talked to her.
Wow. This is something he felt like it was a long overdue thing to learn how to do virtual meetings. And now this was an opportunity.
Yeah, exactly. So it’s interesting, the entrepreneurs and you don’t need entrepreneur as part of your title or party LinkedIn profile, but if you could see through certain opportunities, at least just give them a shot. I interviewed a gentleman very recently. Jeffrey said something along the same line amount, Madoff, Jeffrey Madoff said entrepreneurs. It’s not about all. Why do these people get so lucky? Why do they all of a sudden encounter all these opportunities is because they’re really good at observing and identifying these opportunities and take advantage of them.
So. Definitely, you know, I welcome you to maybe give some tips and advice to in general through conversations you’ve had on what can people do? We’re talking about people maybe with full time jobs, people who may be parents who are living with their kids in the house all the time. Now, how do they find time or how do they find another way to pivot, you know, to really build these multiple streams of income, even if it’s just like a second or third income on top of their three full time job?
Like what can I how can they even think about these things?
Well, that’s that’s a really good question. A lot of it is goes back to commitment. Right. Like if you say I’m going to work out, but you don’t make time for it, you’ll never do it. So you have to really schedule time into your calendar. That’s when I see people doing it. I mean, I spend the whole day on something. But even if you spend 30 minutes twice a week working on a business idea and you work in the same focused way, you would do it at a job, you get a lot done at the end of the year.
If you put fifty two hours into any business, you’re like today I’m going to start putting up the website or I’m going to build out a LinkedIn page for this business or I’m going to research this, I’m going to make this phone call. You can get a lot done, but you do have to put it into your calendar. I think it helps to have an accountability partner, too, because a lot of us in our daily lives, I’m exposed to a lot of entrepreneurs.
And you are, too, but not particularly in my circle of friends. It’s more people that I’ve become friends through my work. Right. Right. People that I know in my town or at my yoga studio or whatever. They may not be entrepreneurs. So you need to try to find some people. Maybe, I guess everything is virtual now. So maybe an online meetup or there’s a lot of online communities for entrepreneurs. You need to be around people like that who kind of get this whole crazy thing that we’re doing, which is making something out of nothing, really creating value and who like experimenting and being creative.
So you don’t feel so isolated doing something that other people might consider very high risk. I’m always amazed because I’m surrounded by so many people. I think entrepreneurship is good when I run across someone who’s like, wow, that’s so risky. I’m like, well, yes, it is. You know, doing something is risky, isn’t it? I think to me, not doing something, not taking that stuff, staying behind, that that’s really risky.
Why isn’t a corporate jobs are pretty risky too, right? I mean, the whole economy is kind of shaky to begin with. And then with all the stuff that goes on in corporate America, for instance, age discrimination, just one one that affects a lot of people. Right. It’s not something you can really do for a lifetime in many fields, like try being a 50 year old in tech and see how that I mean, it’s just not it’s not a long term career path.
So if you’re in a job and you’re like, you know what? This has been a great run. I actually like working corporate, but maybe it’s not going to work out for the long term. Now would be a really good time to to use some of the spare time. You’re not commuting. You start thinking about, well, what would I like to do? And an experiment, maybe sell one small product on Amazon or it depends on what your areas of interest are also talking to people in that field.
Now, if you’re shy, because I always think a lot of people who are good, good entrepreneurs are actually introverts, it’s kind of a myth that they’re all these crazy extrovert, they’re all different personalities. You can listen to podcasts with entrepreneurs. There are so many good ones and just hear the voices of entrepreneurs and hear what their challenges are and how they’re solving things, because it’s there’s no cookie cutter. Sometimes when people buy the book to like I want the five easy steps to starting a business.
And it’s there’s no five easy steps. It’s different for each person because you bring different resources to the table, different past work experiences, different capabilities, a different personality, different lifestyle preferences. So you got to figure it out for yourself, but you can kind of pick up the way that entrepreneurs think by being around them and kind of break out of some of the ways you learn in school in corporate America, which can be very non entrepreneurial and more geared toward supporting these big systems and conforming to big systems that are designed to be scalable, which have their place and create a lot of jobs.
But in terms of personal expression and acting on your own ideas, they’re not always the best place to do it.
I’m so glad you brought up this previous job experience your employers. It’s very true that we all have to look inside ourselves and look at not just our resume, but actually sit down and write things out on, you know, this is what we did. This is what we were good at. And you can look at the testimonials. I even personally collect some of the emails from my previous jobs in particular on when people commented on this. Project went so well because or you help me out with this, you said this this was really helpful.
So when I look at my career in 12 years as a project manager, I don’t just see myself as a completely disposable project manager. And that’s step one. And a lot of people say, yes, you can still as a freelancer when you leave your corporate job, you can get hired by your employer. But I challenge people to say, well, there’s so much more. You can now approach companies you always want to work with as a freelance or consultant.
And beyond that. And people say that dry, that dries up, too. That’s true. But this is where content creation becomes super powerful, that you can give your own word of advice. You can write about project management or for me to talk about Zoom, I never in a million years thought my Zoom videos will take off on YouTube never, ever, because I thought it was so silly to do to introduce the basics. But then I found my niche of talking to fitness entrepreneurs to use Zoom for dance and fitness instructions, which is totally not what it was designed for, with lots of glitches and issues.
And together as a community, we’ve been tackling that. And this is subscriber’s just keep on growing and all that jazz. And what people don’t realize is now you’re talking about it. People want to hire you. People reach out to me to say, I know it’s OK for you to talk to you. How much do you charge? And I’m thinking about the pandemic. I need to discount people like I don’t care. I need this solved in my time is worth so much more.
You show me. And are people even telling me that it took them weeks of trying to figure this out on their own and took a 20 minute phone call with me to solve for they’re like, oh, that was why did I do this? So I know it’s fascinating. I was so excited to talk to you about this because I was like YouTube things happening all at once to me while I’m reading the book and product companies trying to to partner with me, a lot of company reach out trying to sponsor the videos, including the ones I’m actually using like stream soup.
So, you know, beyond excitement. So thanks to you and all the entrepreneurs I was able to really learn from, that is so great to hear. And you’re doing something for that is really critical to building a six figure business and beyond, which is really paying attention to where the needs are. Right. When you’re solving some of these problems in twenty minutes that they’ve been spending weeks of agony on. Yeah, that’s incredibly valuable. But that took some thinking on your part as to what you should offer as a service that would actually help people.
And there are a lot of new opportunities right now in the pandemic. There’s so many I mean, when you see if you just go through a mental inventory of what you yourself are experiencing, like I in my own house, I have four children ages 10 through 16 who have been online school. Right. Well, my husband and I are both working full time in the house. And the little children I my heart goes out to people have very small children who are working from home and don’t they can’t bring a babysitter in.
Yeah. You know, it’s really stressful just thinking about that alone. There’s probably 50 business opportunities in solving all those problems. One of the entrepreneurs in the book, Rachel Charlie Lipski, runs something called the Babysitting Company. And the main thing it does is provide babysitting and sports events like the Yankees play like to the families of the Yankees. Maybe the the the wife of one of the players wants to watch the game so the kids have this high end child care on site.
She also does it at hotels. Well, now, people weren’t really using their babysitters, so she had this kind of pandemic program where the families that wanted to have a nanny had to commit to twenty hours a week so the nannies weren’t going in and out of people’s houses and infecting people. And then she added virtual babysitting. So like, say, I had to be on a Zoom call and I have a two year old. Yeah, they can actually be in the background.
And this would be like maybe bringing toy food to the person on the other side of the screen or singing a song or something like that. And it was for forty five minutes. So it’s not like all day stuff. And now she’s rolling out corporate child care because I noticed today I was actually late for something because for the first time there was traffic because some of the companies around here opened. And I’ve been so used to having no traffic in New Jersey, which is very unusual historically.
But think about that, bringing people back who don’t have babysitters. And so a lot of companies are going to need on site child care. So she really thought very hard about where the pain points and where can she address them, because, I mean, she could start doing, you know, try to do virtual events like Elisa. Sure. But that’s not her thing. She’s an event planner. She wouldn’t think in terms of your sphere of influence, like where can you bring the goods that would really help people out?
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So that reminds me of, like, these people thinking so creatively. My. My friend and client Steven Shapiro says, you know, not just think outside the box, but find a better box. And, you know, he uses the metaphor to to, I think, really trying to think through there people who say I’m a platform speaker, this is what I do and I trust me. I get it. I love Zoom.
I love Danz. It’s not the same dancing to Zoom, but for my own health reasons, I love experimenting and I bring my mind to observe them with my instructor. I imagine all of that and it’s necessary. But some people just say that I won’t do this, I’m not going to join in. This is not for me. So I think, you know, the the you know, Carol Dweck says that that’s the kind of a very fixed mindset versus the growth mindset.
And yes. And then being in the community really helps. And I think what your your book is really very 360 is just will do this. This will work. But you also have to surround yourself with a community of people who are like minded thinkers who may unfortunately may not be family and friends to say you should get married, you should keep your full time job, you know, like keep your business at heart. But yeah, I mean I mean, what I always encourage people who are in that situation to do, by the way, is don’t alienate them.
You’d be an ambassador for entrepreneurship. Right, because you probably haven’t been educated about it and that’s where they’re afraid you’re doing it. But if they see you consistently chipping away at it and you’re serious, it’s amazing how persuasive that is. When you you do something and it starts bringing results, all of a sudden they realize there is something to it and they’ll become more supportive. If you just talk about an idea and never do it, then you kind of lose support.
So that’s why what you’re talking about failure of finding a way to do it in whatever crazy schedule you have, because everybody has so many demands on their time today. In a way, we’re more busy than ever. I mean, some days I mean, so many Zoom calls to tween my my kids karate listen on Zoom and everything else like that, you have to remember you’re like, oh my goodness, it’s even more overwhelming than it ever has been.
But you can still plan ahead. If you really look at your week’s schedule, there are pockets of time where you can you can chip away and and and maybe some of that time is spent on community where maybe you find if you’re going for more walks and things like that because your gym is close, like maybe that’s a time you can listen to audible books or write podcast. I do that a lot is that there’s an entrepreneur named Denise Duffield. Thomas, who she’s from Australia.
She’s she’s very funny. Her book is called Get Rich Lucky. I don’t want to be I don’t know if I could say it on a podcast. So she’s so funny. And sometimes when I’ve had bad periods, you know, like we’re like stuck on something in my business, on my walk, I listen to our podcast and it kind of gets me into a lighter frame of mind about business. And I’m like, it’s all right if I don’t solve this today.
And if he finds anybody, it doesn’t have to be her who motivates you. I can really help a lot and just take you out of your own head because we’re talking about one person businesses. Right? You might be alone a lot of the time. Even if your family’s in the house right now, they’re doing their thing right. Kind of a look at the business.
Exactly. And, you know, you mentioned kind of the spaces that you’re in, the conversation you choose to have. And one area you brought up earlier on and was like, how do I integrate this? Which is kind of, you know, not as lighthearted as the current racial justice injustice situations that we’re in. And you’ve taken the responsibility and you’ve decided to spend more time incorporating and updating your content to make it more relevant to speak to that audience.
Could you maybe share some of the insights with us at those part of the cast?
So I’m still updating it, actually, because this just happened like at the time we’re recording this. It was only like the last two to three weeks. So what happened was with covid, I went back and went to many of the entrepreneurs to see how they have revised their business. And now I’ve been going back to the entrepreneurs again to see how they’re updating their business to reflect all the news that’s coming. So will be more on that. One of the things about my book is it’s kind of a living book.
So a lot of times I report on things on Forbes or for other places that I incorporate into the thinking of the book, or I have a new book coming out to a tiny business, big money for W.W. Norton that’s going to come out in twenty, twenty two. That looks at business. Is that next stage that have like an admin or a little bit bigger than the one person business. And one of the interesting things that I wrote about recently, Raymond Ray, who you might know from entrepreneurship circles, he runs the Smart Hustle conferences when every.
Started happening in the news. He did a very heartfelt video, he’s a black man and he talked about his life experiences and then he started the Black Education Fund, which funds entrepreneurship, education and personal finance, education for the black community. And so I wrote about that and what he’s doing. It’s very innovative. He’s of every 30 days he’s changing the charity that it benefits and he’s using Facebook fund raisers for people that want to do a fundraiser.
I thought it was very valuable information. It basically people donate directly to the charity through his Facebook page. So he promotes it and uses his influence or ship to spread the word. But then he doesn’t have to be organized as a nonprofit, which are all the things that would be a roadblock to somebody getting organized that could take weeks when this is an urgent, immediate problem and he wanted to act quickly. So so I found that very interesting and there will be more to come.
But I just actually just started that. We were chatting about it before the show. And it’s it’s a very important time, I think, for everybody to be really thinking about what is my branding, what is my outreach, how do I bring more diversity and inclusion even into my one person business? We think of that as a corporate goal, but everybody can. We all use contractors and outsource services and there’s always opportunities. So it’s going to be a pretty exciting time, I think, based on what I’m hearing in the entrepreneurial community for sure.
And I’m so glad that you’re able to talk to even more people incorporating their stories. And that is so powerful that that’s why I love the forum and the format of podcasting that I don’t need to. And I certainly don’t have all the answers to everything. And this is my specialty. But I can talk to other people, whether it’s in medicine or something completely unrelated to what I’m doing and see how they kind of shine through their ideas that they’ve been working on.
Like you said, chipping away little by little. And I love that you’re putting people of color and and just people who are doing amazing things for the black community and then just to kind of help them thrive. And I definitely have been thinking a lot about my work, who I work with and creatively how we can kind of level up and help each other stand out more so.
Well, one thing one thing that I think is kind of interesting that people don’t always know, the women and people of color are overrepresented statistically among one person businesses. According to the Fed, they call it non employer businesses. But that’s basically a one person. Maybe it’s a partnership. And so one of the simplest ways to help is really to do more business with non employer firms. Like if you can hire a freelancer, you really helping those communities.
And we also find that older people and people with disabilities are more heavily represented to you, really helping a lot of people who have been discriminated against in the traditional workplace. I’m trying to raise awareness of this because I feel like if we gave the same kind of support and nurturing as as the whole business world as, say, you have somebody who goes out and raises capital in Silicon Valley, rate their business, maybe doesn’t have all the formal structures in place yet because they don’t know, maybe nobody they know is an entrepreneur.
The VC fund is going to whip that business into shape pretty quickly and help them put the bookkeeping in place and help them put all the processes that they can grow and scale and make sure they have enough funding in their bank account. Those things are really not done for the one person business. But imagine if they were because I’m seeing with this book, some of them turned into skin labs or startups at least, that have the potential to scale up just on the owners resources.
Exactly. One of them could probably do it. I think if they had the right access to capital, they have the right banking relationship, they had the right support system, because a lot of those things are sort of secondary in people’s minds as a business. But we saw with the coded crisis rate, who got the funding, what was the bigger businesses? But among the smaller ones, because they reported on this quite a bit once it had all their books in order, because how are they going to know how much you really make if you’re not using a business bank account, you’re mixing your personal and business money together, which a lot of people do because they’re just starting out and they don’t have the money to set up everything separately at first.
But, you know, the people have a business credit card that have built business credit, that have a business banking relationship, had an edge. And I thought one of the most important things that could be done right now is to help more of the non employer businesses formalize themselves a little bit. Even if I’m a creative, I don’t like doing my book. Keeping a higher bench to do my bookkeeping because I just won’t get to it, I’m always behind on it, et cetera, but if we could get more support to the businesses that need it, a lot of them have tremendous potential and they could do just as well as businesses that get nurtured in Silicon Valley without having to go to the VC route because they might not be that business.
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about a lot. And I really invite anybody to contact me if they have ideas on that, because I think that could be very important in terms of bringing money to people that can have a lot of influence in terms of income, allowing those business owners to really give back to the community and do just that on so many fronts. And so ignore it right now, even the non employer business, I am a geek about this subject, as you know.
But I think it’s a good point for this is you’re about a banks or otherwise. But I also think that because I was in that very situation two years ago to help my mom set up her business in the US and then it became very urgent that I needed to set up my business as of January 1st, 2016. And the work started, of course, in late twenty fifteen. And I was very lucky because I’m connected to lawyers and accountants that I had access to on the call.
Literally one phone call I think, which was the few minutes my friend Vongole said, go to this website, the form of five. I just like scribbling away. And then I put that article together is called How to Set Up Your LLC, set up your company in Three Simple Steps. And that became the most read article on my website because people assumed that you spent a lot of money, a lot of time, make a ton of mistakes and all this hassle and not have your own company.
But actually, if you just follow the same few steps. But I agree with you, that doesn’t answer the issue that you raised because there’s also other considerations. Right, accounting. But I think from my point of view, there’s something that I could do to say this is how you get started. And I think what you know, what you’re talking about is like, OK, after you reach a certain point, you know how you scale, like now you need the bigger support that maybe the even more professional set up to understand how you scale from there and also build sustainability.
Right. Because if you like, the people that I know that were really struggling and didn’t get up funding and didn’t get the idea, I mean, we’re in very uncertain times right now. So what I have learned from working with a lot of middle market companies, I’m a ghostwriter also is all of the leaders of those companies are saying the same thing. You need cash in your bank account right now. Cash gives you an ability to maneuver. So even if you’re a one person business, you need cash.
And the SBA loans are less than four percent interest. That’s not a lot of money to just have the assurance that if there’s some weird blip on the radar screen that we can’t predict that you’ll have money in the bank and you’re not operating from a mindset of scarcity and panic and you can write it out. You can always not use the money and pay it back. But that’s how they think. And so I feel just in my own business, I’ve tried to apply that to my business.
And I see a lot of these entrepreneurs thinking that way, like Joey Healy, the eyebrow stylist. One of the first things he did in March, he said, was he had existing overhead. That didn’t go away yet. And so he did a sale. It was like a 15 percent discount, but he raised a lot of cash that way for the business that gave him a little more maneuverability to get through the crisis. So anything you can do to formalize and show how much money the business really makes, it’s also good for the entrepreneur because those of us who are creators, sometimes if you ask me how much money my business made last month, I would have to look it up right now because I’ve been busy with other things.
We tend to get caught up in the project. But if you have someone in the background who is always keeping it up to date, my books are up to date. I have a bookkeeper who does them every month and you can just look it up and kind of realign and say, OK, wait a minute, it’s down a little bit because of covid. But I have these dormant projects. Maybe I can step on the gas with them or maybe I need to do a little more social media or do more networking or whatever it is, but to keep your revenue at a certain level so you can navigate whatever is ahead and take advantage of opportunities to that’s the other side of it is like with no money in your bank account, you could do things on a shoestring, but you need a little bit of money to do exactly that.
Part of education and the constant that discipline you set to monitoring how you’re doing as a business cannot be overlooked. And I never used to do this, but when I worked full time. But now I block out, you know, basically a couple of hours on either Saturday or Sunday every week to look at to kind of rebalance not just my my check account checking account, but also just how my business is doing and my lining up the right phone call.
So you really need the space to think things through. And there are weeks where things are going really. Well, the whole exercise could take 15 minutes, but to know that that’s something that you should do is really important. Like you said, if there’s a if there’s help, if there are people you can trust and understand that structure and properly trained to work with entrepreneurs and solo partners and even more power to us, I feel like, yeah, that that part is definitely lacking.
There’s the small, the basically all focused, targeted and large small business year when people say small business like ten to one hundred million and medium and large sized business, but the the solo partner landscape can be looked at deaf and be helped and served.
There is a lot more that can be done. Some of the businesses use the small business development centers to do some of this stuff. Another group that does a lot of help with this is the Urban League. They actually operate some small business development centers. So it depends on where you live. But there are a lot of free resources to help you formalize and stuff that we do find boring sometimes. But it’s so, so important if you really want the business to be a way that you make a living to do all this stuff.
Right. And and I see a lot of these entrepreneurs they’re very smart about is it an LLC, is it an LLC that pays taxes as an escort or, you know, they take the time to learn this stuff so that they can keep on living whatever their dream happens to be.
Yeah, I love this so much. And thank you so much, Elaine. I know I took more time and again than booked and I could talk to you all day because this was on. This episode of the first rural podcast is brought to you by Fay’s World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand.
These were a podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta Leon transcript editor Allena Almodóvar. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World. Thank you so much for listening.
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