Joanna Penn: I Will Teach You to Make a Living as an Author and Creative Entrepreneur (#221)
Our Guest Today: Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn helps authors make a living writing through her bestselling books, courses and podcast. She’s an award-winning entrepreneur, international professional speaker and also writes bestselling thrillers and dark fantasy novels.
Watch Our Interview
Joanna Penn I Will Teach You to Make a Living as an Author and Creative Entrepreneur.m4a – Powered by Happy Scribe
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 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 non-interview based miniseries releasing throughout.
The year to help deep dive into topics such as freelancing marketing, even indie.
Filmmaking that will benefit creators like you.
Show notes, links and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now on to the show.
Hey guys, this is Fei Wu and you’re listening to the Face World podcast. Have you heard of that advice when someone tells you that the best way to find your path to success is.
To find someone else who’s already on.
That path and learn as much as you can from that person? That’s exactly why I invited the guest today. Her name is Joanna Penn. To face world.
I feel like I’m speaking to a.
Better version of myself. This is without talking down on me, but to lift me up and visualize so many more opportunities for me and for Phase World. As a full time writer and entrepreneur, Joanna has written 30 books. Yes, 30. Many of them have gone beyond the paper version, but also as ebooks, audiobooks and even in different languages. Soon you will learn from her that this is called a scalable income, where Joanna has multiple sources of incomes from her books alone. In addition, she runs several very successful affiliate programs that attribute to her multisixfigure income as a writer. But none of this success came overnight. Sorry listeners. Joanna has been podcasting for over ten years. She just celebrated her 10th anniversary and launched a new show called Books and Travel. I’m totally binge listening to that whole series right now and I love how she sets things up and speak from her heart and it’s really easy to follow and very heartwarming.
You may be wondering for a few.
Seconds now as I was speaking, that she published and launched 30 books. Joanna is a pro at this point, but she helps me and you understand the best way to plan for your writing routine and quickly launch your first book of high quality. She also explains a helpful approach to launch your first book and how not to get too emotionally attached to it. Remember, after your first book, there may be many more you want to write and for me, that’s super liberating to hear. After hanging up a call with Joanna, I felt extremely motivated. While waiting for my next appointment, I rolled down more than a dozen software websites I love using as a freelancer and for Faceroll services. Why not share them with the world and create helpful tutorials for freelancers just like me, hold me to it. There’s so many gems in this episode. I start taking notes while the recording was still on because I just couldn’t help it. Joanna does not waste a second of your time and goes deep into her creative journey and how she consistently delivers content on her website, which now has over 8000 visitors per month.
That amount of traffic to high quality content, plus affiliate program that’s ready to scale. Joanna is living a life that many people see as too good to be true, but it is achievable if you put yourself to do the work. Joanna says it’s not about being in a flow state or feeling most optimal when you do your work, you just have to show up and keep showing up for it. It was late for Joanna during our recording around 07:00 p.m., and I woke up that day with a sore throat, but we did it anyway. So much of our work, in fact, is delivered under circumstances that’s way less than ideal. But this is one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. Whether you’re a writer, a freelancer, or someone who’s curious about what an independent creator’s life is like and how you could potentially reach your own, this is the conversation you absolutely cannot miss out on. Both Joanne and I are heading to Podcast Movement in Orlando, Florida this year in August and get to meet each other in person for the first time.
I can’t wait for that to happen.
And to share my experience from Podcast Movement with you guys. This is our first event after running the show for nearly five years. Without further ado, please welcome the one and only Joanna Penn to the Faith Feisworld podcast.
Joanna, welcome to the show. I am super thrilled that you’re here.
Thanks so much for having me, Fei. It’s great to be on the show.
I love your voice. I’ve been listening to your show and I remember asking you if you’ve been a show host or work at a radio station before, and you said no.
But I’ve been doing podcasting now for ten years. And it’s kind of crazy because you remember in the early days when you were just so I was certainly very hesitant and didn’t know what I was doing. But ten years on, I’ve got quite a lot of practice now, so I think you just get more confident over time and with practice, I can’t agree.
With that more because it still hurts a little bit when I go back to listen to the first few episodes. But then I realized there’s that progression. You have to be there. You must have done that before you get to where you are right now, right?
Oh, yeah. And I think I mean, this has to be one of the number one tips for being an entrepreneur in whatever niche is. You have to get started before you know what you’re doing, because if you wait until you know everything about a situation, you’re just going to be way too late. So I would say, like, as soon as you get like, I just decided to write and I started Podcasting 2009, before it was called podcasting. I mean, it was downloadable audio at the time and I just used a speakerphone, if people remember that, like a proper phone that was plugged into the wall on speaker and I held a recorder next to the phone and recorded the interview that way. So the sound quality was terrible. But I got started and obviously the technology has changed so much and the industry has changed so much, and the same with publishing, which is my main business. But, yeah, just get started where you are and learn along the way.
What are your thoughts in terms of trends that you have seen over the course of ten years? I agree with you because even for someone like myself, who’s been doing this for nearly five years, I am seen to be not a dinosaur, but someone who’s quite experienced in the industry. Like, what have you seen and heard?
Well, it’s really interesting. I mean, the first big one is obviously monetization. What is so surprising to me now is people email me and say, oh, I want to start a podcast and I want to make money on day one. How do I do that? It’s the same as someone saying, oh, I want to leave my job and become a writer tomorrow, or like, you’ve done this documentary, I want to leave my job and make money with a documentary next week. The amount of work that goes into a lot of these things, the amount of work that it takes to build up an audience over time. So to me, that the big focus on monetization is important because as you know, we both know, many of the listeners will know how much work it is to do a podcast. But I still believe that it should not be your primary reason to do a podcast, because I don’t believe the money will be worth it for a good amount of time. For most people, even in a big niche, you still have to attract an audience and there are more and more podcasts. So I think probably the big thing is, yes, you can absolutely monetize a podcast, a blog, whatever you want to turn into a business, but it’s going to take some time.
So it’s much better to start with something you’re passionate about, that you can be consistent with for years and that you enjoy for its own sake. So, for example, this year, on my 10th anniversary, I started a second podcast.
Which is, of course.
Books and travel. And I’m just loving it because I get to talk to people about where they’re traveling to and what places inspire their books and I’m just loving that. And at the moment, I have written a business plan for it, but it’s got from probably a two year to three year business plan in terms of making any money over and above selling my own books and products. So that would be one trend, is this sort of real focus on monetization? And then I think probably the other trend is to really interestingly is the seasonal a seasonal thing or a self contained podcast? It used to be that all podcasts were more like blogs, which is they went on and on and on and on, which mine has and yours has as well. But other people now are creating these self contained maybe ten episodes on a topic. The type of thing that we used to create mini websites around people are now doing that with podcasts. And I love this. This is something I want to do is kind of create selfcontained podcasts on a project because I don’t know about your behavior, but I now if I want to learn about something, I will go on my podcast app when I use Apple and I will just keyword search for a topic or a person that I like.
We’ve talked about Kaifu Lee, Chinese AI researcher, and I put his name in and then I just listened to the things that come up around his name. And so in this way, the behavior around podcasting is changing and the behavior around listening. So it is just such an interesting time.
Oh, I’m just excited as you are. And speaking of which, before we started the show, we talked about us going to podcast movement together and I very much look forward to, like you said, not just what we’re doing, but what is everybody else doing like the world of podcasters are doing from all over the place. And it’s so exciting. Every time I talk to a creator like yourself, I’m like taking notes furiously. It’s just there’s so much goodness to absorb and I’m literally having these conversations like I’m a little girl in the candy shop, I just have enough of it.
Yeah, and it’s funny because I’m a writer first, but over the last ten years I’ve been to lots of writing conferences, I’ve never been to a podcast conference. So what’s also interesting is I still use a lot of the same technology that I used ten years ago. So I do use Amazon S Three for hosting, for example. I still use a similar Mic Blue, yeti I still use the same plugins. So I’m really interested to see, well, how can I take my own podcast to another level? And that’s probably another tip for people, is getting outside your niche. And podcasting is great because there will be people there in every niche that have nothing to do with writing or podcasting or artists or creative people, and I’m just super excited to learn from them as well. And so getting out of your niche is sometimes a really good idea.
I love that message because you brought up, I think, in one of the previous questions when you said, even though you know the world, I mean, every time you look on Google these days, like you said, Monetization, in order to do that, the only way to do that is to find your niche. And I think that’s what’s holding a lot of people back, because once you work that full time job, you got a family of three kids and your partner to take care of, and all of a sudden you’re like, what is my niche? And you sometimes look to exclusively what you have done in your career. And often for a lot of people, unfortunately, it’s not really what they’ve been loving or enjoying. So how you as an expert in doing so, have you stumbled upon you in the realm of writing there early on, or how would you encourage other people to kind of find their path, their niche, before getting started?
Yeah, well, that before getting started is the difficult thing, because what I would say is it’s a bit like skiing downhill. And if you’re a skier like me, you do not point your skis downhill and go in a straight line. I mean, most people, that’s not how you ski. You have to zigzag and you have to get moving before you can change direction. So what I would say is just relax, people. I mean, if you haven’t started, you almost have to start before you find your niche. So, for example, my first book was around Career Change, and my first website was Around Career Change. It was aimed at corporate people looking to change their job, which was my situation, which is what we often do, right? We write the book, we need to read ourselves. We start the podcast, we need ourselves. And so that was my first website. And then my second website was and my second blog was around learning about money, because, you know, I come from a more working class background, didn’t have any financial education. And then I discovered rich dad, poor dad. And I was like, whoa. This is amazing.
And this was in 2007, and I was like, Well, I’m going to blog about this. And I rapidly discovered that neither of these niches were things I wanted to write about. Sure, I changed my career. Sure, I’m interested in money, but I do not want to be in those niches. But in the process of writing my first book Around Career Change, I really discovered that I loved writing, but also I loved publishing. And then I wanted to talk about my book marketing experiences. So my third website was Thecreativepen.com, which now has been the backbone of my business for ten years. So that’s really important. And then what I would say to people is, with my fiction side, I write Drillers under JF pen, and for years I have tried to work out my niche for fiction, because fiction, I’m right all over the shop, but it was this year. So it’s taken me eight years to work out that I wanted to do something around books and travel. Because travel is the thing that underpins all my fiction, its sense of place. So I just want to encourage people around niche. You will not get it right first time.
I really believe that. I think anyone who gets it right first time is just locking in. I mean, even before that, I had a scuba diving company, I did a property investment in Australia. I have tried all kinds of things over time. Plus my day job. I used to implement financial services, set financial service software into companies. So it’s like, you have to try things and see if it’s sustainable if you can’t. Like podcasts. I say to people, thanks for inviting me on your show, but I probably won’t be on your show unless you have at least 30 episodes. Because I think if you have 30 episodes of a podcast, then you’re going to stick it out. I’m sure you probably agree, right?
Yeah, absolutely. I can’t believe I feel like I have to pinch myself to realize 200 episodes. And I must say, there were times that when I’m recording intros, I usually do intros separately at like, two or three in the morning when I had a full time job and I was close to, like, crying about it, like, why am I doing this? Am I really, you know, what’s the future of this? But then, in retrospect, I realized that I was on a path I wasn’t aware of. And I feel like just by hearing you saying that you’re not going to find your niche when you start out, it’s like you’re my long lost sister or the sister I never had, because and it’s so touching for me to hear, I feel like the reason why your writing really resonates with me all over on the creativepen peel. N.com. It’s so resonating. And I’m sure has resonated already with so many other people, clearly is because you speak the truth. My personal struggle to be very transparent, I think a lot of my listeners know that as well, is I didn’t really know what my niche was, and I thought it was just me at the very beginning because I was interested in talking to so many different people.
You know, people from Cirque du Soleil at National Circus School, but as well as doctors, you know, cancer doctors, palliative care doctors. And I was like while I was having fun joanna. Joanna. I was thinking like, oh, man, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I find my niche? And then I feel like after talking to you even more recently, I realized what it was, which is just really interesting. People who are having so much values teaching me so much about life over this course, and it’s just something that money can buy, and it’s an unbelievable journey that they put me on.
Yeah, well, I think having a look at your obviously I came to you and I wanted to talk about China and things like that. And I feel like a lot of what you do, you’re talking to interesting people, but I think what you said about it being about you, like, is it just me that is really important. And I actually think this is something that a lot of people I mean, yes, there are these amazingly high production shows run by big corporates, right, which are incredible, but they’re not personal. They’re a business brand, whereas your brand and my brand, this is us. And you’re asking the questions that you are interested in. And I think that the interest in creativity, in culture, pervades your work as it pervades mine. And that’s really important for people listening. And something I only really discovered a few years in, I used to only do interviews that I thought would be useful and I didn’t ever talk about myself. And it was probably a year four when someone emailed me and said, hey, just wondering, we’d love to know more about you. Yes, and that’s when I started doing an introduction.
And now people will email me and say I only listen to the introduction every week, and then occasionally I’ll listen to the interview because I come back to hear what’s going on in your life. So this is another thing to encourage you to encourage people listening, is people connect with people and they have a relationship with you, the host, more than they have a relationship with the guests. So right now, people listening, they know you much better than they know me, and they get to know me a little bit if they hang around and listen to us have a chat. Right, but they know you. Like, I just listened to you, your episode when you came back from China with your mum and her art exhibition, and I know so much more about you now than I did even like half an hour ago. I was just like, oh, that looks interesting. I was just listening in. And this is the thing, if we share what part of our life, then you’re inviting people in. And I think that the way to build an authentic business that you love is to be true to yourself.
And of course, you can change over time. What’s great about Phase World and about the creative pen is we can put whatever we want into those buckets. So as you change, you can change your show. As I change, I change my show as well. And hey, I’ve got episodes on writing about death and dying in the same way that you’ve had palliative care people, and we can do all of those things under a bigger brand. So that would be another tip for people. Be very careful about niching down so much that you Henry yourself in. So for example, I have friends who started shows with the words self publishing in the title. Now, self publishing as a phrase was a kind of nasty word about ten years ago, and then became quite trendy about five years ago. And now, to me, self publishing is publishing. I mean, it’s all just publishing. So things change and words change. So just be careful to create a big enough bucket for your brand that you can change over time.
You can’t really see me right now, but I am literally bouncing on my chair, trying not to make too much noise, because once you’re in the space so much and so much of what you see on Google, at least the first couple of pages are people saying, like, almost the opposite of what we’re talking about. And we know that that doesn’t work. It frustrates me that so many people come to me and say, I don’t know what my passion is. I don’t know. And I have a family, I must be responsible for all of them. But what I’m hearing right now is we have a responsibility to ourselves, and we need to find a way to step into ourselves instead of looking outside. And there’s so much joy, even though people can see you right now, but there’s so much joy in your voice. And I noticed that just by listening to your show from intro all the way through that you’re having so much fun doing this. And that’s what I love.
Well, that’s another good tip, is, you know, what I mentioned. You can’t just do this for the money, you have to do this for loving the topic. I mean, like the creative pen. We’re recording mid year, almost August 2019, and I’m already scheduled out seven months of content on my site. And it’s been like that for years because I have so much I want to share and so many people I want to talk to about so many interesting things that it just keeps on going. And it’s so funny because, yeah, I do love what I do, but it is hard. So if you’re working a day job, you know, people listening. I did that for five years. Did the side hustle thing. Well, in fact, much longer than that. So I pretty much, like I said, I tried a scuba diving company. I tried all these different things in my late 20s, early thirty, s. I kept leaving my job, starting something else, going back to my job, and that kind of happened over and over again. So I failed in inverted commas a lot to find the thing I wanted to do. And actually, it was probably the timing works very well, or the timing was because of the technology.
But 2007 is when the iPhone arrived, the Kindle arrived, so things really changed. I mean, social media, Twitter, Facebook, web 20 as it was known back then, not really anymore, but I think this is the thing. I mean, if you’re working that day job. I only left my job in 2011. So I did my first five years of the creative pen business while working a consulting job. So I would get up at 05:00 A.m., I would write before work. And so many of my journals are books I read. You know, I went to a lot of conferences, I listened to a lot of audiobooks, listened to a lot of Tony Robbins Great American Self Help. I listened to, as I said back then, they weren’t known as podcasts, but I downloaded a lot of audio. I found a role model as well, a guy called Yarostarak who was an Australian an Australiancanadian blogger. And when I found him, I really saw what was possible. So this would be another tip for people. Find role models who are making a living in the way that you want to. And that’s not just about like, the products they have, it’s about the lifestyle they live.
And what I loved about Yarrow is his mum was dying at the time and he was able to be by her side and still make a living. And I thought, that is what I want to do. I want to be able to be with my family and not have to miss out on things because I have to be at my day job. So that would be another tip. Find someone who’s making money and has a life that you would like to live and then see how they did it.
Hey, it’s Faye. I’m back here. Today on the show we chat with the incredible Joanna Penn, who started her podcast before it was called a podcast, but audio downloads today. She runs a multisixfigure business without the need for much consulting or hustle on the side to get it done. And she’s living a life with location and financial freedom. Can’t wait to hear your feedback. And now back to the show.
Oh, wow. That message resonates so well with me. I agree. I just had this very conversation with a colleague of mine about not chasing after he’s still working full time with a family, but not chasing after a certain dollar amount, not chasing after a title you want to be co CFO, but the lifestyle that you want. And I remember exactly like you said, but my sort of a quote unquote role model was watching a young woman about the age of 30 walking to a yoga studio at 930 in the morning. And it just it broke me and it builds me up once again because that, at the time, was my favorite thing to do and there’s no way, no chance for me to do it. So for me to hear that story from Yaris, it’s incredible. And by the way, how do you spell his last name?
So I know that stark, but if you just Google Yarrow, Y-A-R-O he pretty much is the only one who comes.
Up, he’s like a set of Google.
Okay, yeah, he is. He’s the yarrow of Google. But it’s funny because I totally agree with you on the yoga and in fact I go to yoga in the sort of mid morning sloth as well on a Monday morning. 9th I go to yoga. So it’s similar but it’s so interesting, isn’t it? Recently I just had laser eye surgery which was a big life adjustment that I needed to have done for various reasons. But it meant they said, oh yeah, you can technically go back to work after a certain number of days. But I’m having a very different time, different experience to what I expected and so I feel very grateful again that and it’s not like a health issue but it’s recovery from something and I’m having a lot more time away from my computer than I am used to. So it’s really fascinating to be able to do that. And also I love traveling. I know you travel a lot too and being able to make money whilst you’re doing other things and I mean, I think we’re going to talk about the idea of scalable, the fact that it’s not about your time.
These are sort of principles that can free you from the day job mentality. But I know it’s a big shift for people.
Let’s talk about that for sure. Right before I run back home for this recording, I was at Wegmans which is a grocery store right here and I was waiting in line. I felt so anxious like people get out of the way. I need to learn more about scalable business. So I’m glad we’re on to this topic now. So please lead us into it. Like what is scalable business? And by the way, what’s the difference between scalable business versus scalable income versus passive income?
Yeah. Okay. So one, I don’t believe there is any passive income. You really have to manage money in general but the difference between time based and scalable income so basically time based income is what most people have around their day job. So you work a certain number of hours and you get paid a certain amount and there’s a cap on that amount. Even if you’re pretty high up in a company there’s still usually a cap on the amount of money you will be paid for your time. And another version I think and I know you know Tess Golden, he’s been on your show, he talks about freelancers, same thing, freelance work or being a professional speaker or anyone who sells their time for money. You only do that once. You can only sell that time once. Whereas scalable income and again, I learned this from Yarrow back in the day and the moment the penny dropped, for me it made all the difference. So think about a book. So I’ve got about 30 books now. I’ve been writing a lot of books over the. Last few years, each book. So I spend a certain amount of time writing a book and then I can sell that book as many times as I like.
I can license that book in other languages. So I’ve got a book in South Kogan, for example, that I license to a publisher in South Korea. At the moment, I’m just getting some books translated into German. So that’s another language. I can do them tomorrow. In fact, as we talk, I’ve got another novel coming out and it’s coming out in ebook format, paperback, hardback, large print. And also will be coming out in audiobooks. So that’s five different formats. And then if you multiply that by the number of countries so I have actually sold books in 86 countries around the world. If you think even just about the 30 books multiplied by formats, multiplied by languages, multiplied by countries, it’s just a crazy amount of scalable income. And then you think about something like affiliate income, which is commission on selling other people’s products or promoting other people’s products. So, for example, I use Vellum software to do my books to create my ebooks with. It’s a fantastic software. So I have a tutorial about that on my website. And it’s a free tutorial. It’s on YouTube. So you can go and you can learn how to use the software.
And of course, if you use my link, I will get some commission. So that, again, is scalable. It took me an hour and a half to make a video. And then that goes on the website and that keeps on giving me money every month. And it’s authentic because I use the tool. It’s useful to my audience. It fits with what they need. They need to make a book. And it gives me scalable income. So this is what I want people to think right now. Okay, my challenge right now to you think about how much of your income is time based and how much is scalable and what would you like it to be. So back in 2011, when I left my job, most of my income was time based. And then my goal was to make it scalable. And right now, it is about 95% scalable. I don’t do consulting. I do very little speaking. I don’t do freelance writing. So everything I do is about building assets that create income for me for the long term. And that’s basically how I create my businesses. Everything is working towards creating more assets. And for that, I can credit Kiyosaki and Rich Dan border back in the day.
Yes, that’s a great book and it’s really groundbreaking at the time. And still a lot of it is applicable to what we can learn even today. I think that’s the value of a lot of your writing, I noticed on your website, and I find myself to be kind of in a spiral, just keeps it keeps on giving. And when there are a lot of internal links. I was like, yes, I don’t know that. Oh, what does that mean? Let me keep clicking into like deep linking into all these areas. And it’s so well organized and like we talked about, that takes time and practice. I also want to let the listeners know, which I will also include as part of the show notes and resources on feisworld.com that you dare, just like Pat Flynn. Actually, I realize that you actually publish your income and there are detailed articles on how you break them down, like Scalable 95% Scalable, but from what? And then you break down all the categories.
Yeah, well, I don’t quite do it like Pat, first of all, his income is huge compared to mine. I mean, I do make multisix figures, so I make a very good income. But I think he makes multiseven figures at this point. And I’m very English. I kind of give people hints so they can calculate the amount, but I don’t actually put a dollar amount right.
I’m good at math, I’m Chinese, so.
It was very you can totally work it out. But it’s funny because I break down the book sales because most of my audience are authors. And so it’s interesting to people how things break down in terms of book sales. And I put them everything’s on the creativepen.com timeline if people are interested, which goes from the very beginnings. But very interestingly for you and your audience, I hope, is that in the last year it used to be that the US was my biggest book sales. I think it was over somewhere like 65% of my income from books was in the US. And this year it has shifted quite dramatically into the sort of 30th percent, which means that digital sales are taking off in other countries much more than they were, particularly Germany, which is why I’m moving into self publishing in German. So this is very interesting. So I think partly I do this annual breakdown because I’m one of those people who doesn’t look at their book sales every day. I look at the money, but I don’t look at all the metrics. I just get on with creating stuff because that’s what I enjoy.
But once a year I look at all these metrics and you can really learn a lot from those. So, yeah, it’s an interesting thing. But yeah, I would say that affiliate income for me is bigger than book sales now because the website has multimillions of words on and this is another tip, actually, if people are doing a podcast, do transcripts because you’ve got SEO content that will bring in search engine traffic. I think we’re almost at a tipping point where they’re going to start indexing audio, but at the moment more people will find you through search. So doing a transcript is really good. And I now use trench.com trint.com, which is AI transcription, and it’s very good. So, yeah, that makes a huge difference to me. I mean, I’ve got what, 430 episodes or something? All of which have not all of them probably the last nine years have transcripts on. So there’s a little tip too.
Oh, that’s an incredible tip. I’m going to share with my mastermind group immediately. And the Trent.com AI. By the way, how much does it cost, if you recall the details? And do you just publish straight up or do you hire like a virtual assistant to kind of help you clean it up?
Well, it’s much cheaper than a human. I can’t remember the exact rate, but it’s very, very good. I’ve been using human transcribers for years and this is excellent. But I then do have my virtual assistant cleans it up and also puts it on the podcast. I mean, obviously different voices, spellings of things. There are things that you need someone to clean up but it is very good. And also it’s by a group of journalists who use it for their interviews that they do. And so there is a workflow for podcasters tutorial within Trent.com so you can see how to use it. It’s a very good tool. I mean, this is the exciting world we’re in, right? This sort of emergence of tools where you’re just keeps getting cheaper and easier.
To do this stuff. Absolutely. I’m on their website right now. I couldn’t help it. So pay as you go is $15 an hour and then it gets cheaper. We have a basic subscription like $40 a month for 3 hours or $120 a month for 10 hours. Wow.
Yeah. And that cuts to compare to around a dollar a minute, say $60 for an hour. Or you can get it like $45 for an hour, but it’s a lot cheaper, basically.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to compare this with the service I like very much is Sonic AI. And that one is really kind of interesting too. So this is awesome. Okay, so you actually just answer one of my questions in terms of proportionally. Where do you see as a bigger bucket of scalable income? It sounds like affiliate program and some people are thinking, wow, join them is making it sound so easy. And I’m sitting here thinking, wow, I use all, I use fresh books, I use I can name maybe a dozen software I love and use regularly and I haven’t recorded any video. It’s shame, you know.
Great. Well, I tell you what, I think that tutorials are great because you use these tools and there are a lot of scammyucky affiliate things going on out there. So I almost don’t like using the term affiliate marketing. But as long as you’re it’s absolutely brilliant if you are doing it in a way that is authentic. You are sharing tools that you use and you are giving your audience what they need. They need help. So for example, I have another tutorial on how to build your own author website and that tutorial gets used every single day. And then how to set up your email list. And all of these things are things that people need. And I mean, I’m not going to set up your email list or your website for you, but I can help you with a video. So I think when you’re considering affiliate income, really think about what are the things that I use. Most of these companies now have affiliate programs that you can join. What I would say is on this bucket of it is a good income stream. But and the big but is you need traffic. My website is ten years old.
It gets 8000 uniques a month. So that’s how I can make good money with affiliates. But what I would say also is fiction books and nonfiction. To a point, fiction is very evergreen, which makes it amazing. So to me, the economics of a novel, it’s not going to make as much as my affiliate income this month, but over my lifetime, and I’m 45 and copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the author. So if you think about the lifetime value of a novel, to me, that’s actually going to be much bigger than my affiliate video on Vellum. But you need both. So I see scalable income can be income for now, but it can also be building these longer term assets for the future. So I’m writing more and more evergreen books that I know I can continue to sell into the future even if things change. So those are some tips. So it’s always thinking, well, what can I do right now? And maybe right now you just have to do your day job. But what you can also think is, okay, so where do I want to be in five years? What do I need to start building so that I will have that in five years’time?
And that’s why I started Booksandtravel Page this year, because the Creative Pen, I’m very experienced now in the publishing industry. And as much as I love talking to people about publishing, I need to talk about some other things. I want to talk about travel. So I’m like, I don’t know if I will continue my Creative Pen podcast for another ten years. I mean, I can’t even think that far. But I know that if I build another site around a passion I know is the basis of my life, which is traveling and reading, that will be a good idea. So always be thinking about these different time frames.
I’m absorbing. I’m like a little sponge right now, and I’m taking notes on halfway through is like, why am I taking notes?
This is all recorded, so it’s good to take notes.
Yes, it’s so exciting for me. And to be honest, I think it’s going to be so exciting for people who are listening to this on the train, on their long commute to work. And I have to ask because you should rather number 30 books. And as you know, I’m working on one of my own. It’s going to be my first one. I’m so baby.
The most important book is the first book because most people start a book and never finish it. So if you can finish that book and get that into the world and you get the bug, you’ll have 30 books before you know it.
I will count on me. Because I think just by hearing a number 30 and looking at my own behavior of kind of dwelling, I really was dwelling on the chapters, the book title, and why this has to really hit the ground running and why it might not work on the other ones. Like, you know what, this doesn’t have to be the one and only. I can write other books too.
So yes, and that actually is going to free you up so much. I know way too many people who are almost so in love with that first book that they are so attached to it, so emotionally involved with it, and putting so much pressure on themselves, especially when you have an audience like you do. If you don’t have an audience and no one knows who you are, it’s actually much easier to put a book out. But once you have an audience, it’s like, oh, this has to be amazing. It has to launch it, it has to hit the bestseller list and all this stuff. But it’s just not true. It’s much better. I think of the creative process as a bit like a pipe. And what you’ve got with that first book is your pipe is blocked up with this first book. And you have to get that first book out. But as soon as you move that first book into the world, you’re going to have all this other stuff that just arrives and you’re like, oh, I could write a book on that now. I could do that. And the act of putting that book in the world will free you to write more.
And the truth is, publishing is easy. Now. The difficult thing is writing and marketing, but those are also the rewarding parts as well. So, yeah, you have to get your book in the world. So are you committing to a date at all?
I love it. I was already.
Hey, it’s Faye. I’m back here. Today on the show, we chat with the incredible Joanna Penn, who started her podcast before it was called a podcast, but audio downloads today. She runs a multisixfigure business without the need for much consulting or hustle on the side to get it done. And she’s living a life with location and financial freedom. Can’t wait to hear your feedback. And now back to the show.
Yes, I would like to get the draft. And that’s my next question for your writing process because I have Scrivener and I read your article on Scrivener I know that you are recommending. This is a wonderful course on how to optimize it. So I set it up and I have my word count roughly 60,000 words, and then broken it down to end of October. And I already feel behind, but I’m going to play some catch up. But that’s kind of I want to get the first draft out by end of October. And I’m to be honest, I’m like scratching my head a little bit. Like, okay, what’s next? I work with an editor. And how long does that take? So what are your thoughts?
Okay, so to me, the first draft is something that you could print out, and it reads end to end, as in it is complete, as in there’s nothing that says insert chapter here or insert quote or whatever. So that to me, is a first draft. It has to be complete end to end. And you’re right, that is a very important milestone, and that’s definitely the thing to aim for after that’s done. My own process is, yes, I write in Scrivener, which is fantastic, and then I do actually print it out. So I print it out, hard copy, and I then usually put it in a little folder on my desk and leave it for at least a week, probably more would be good with your first book. And then I will do self editing. So this is a hugely important part of the process, and how long it takes will depend on what happens, basically, because basically you are reading that through end to end, as if you are your target market. And I scribble over it. I don’t know how people do it on a computer, but basically I scribble all over it. I’m moving things around.
If it’s nonfiction, I might think, oh, I need a quote here, or I need another chapter, or I need to explain this or that’s repetitive, or maybe I need to rejig the whole order of things with a novel. I need to flesh out this character, or I need to do this bit. But it’s very much a structural edit. It’s not necessarily detailed line editing. So once I’ve done that, I will go back to Scrivener and I’ll type up everything I’ve done so that Scrivener is the master. And that is now where I am now. Depending on how major that edit was, I may well then print it out again and repeat that process and certainly again with your first book. That might be a good idea. And then if you feel like you really, really are struggling, then yes, engaging a structural editor or a content editor can really help that. Someone who will give you a report on your book, they’ll read the book, they’ll give you a twelve to 15 page report, but it will not be line edits. So only move into line edits, which are the kind of classic red pen.
When you have done everything you can to make that book the best it can be on your own because your editor will obviously cost money. And obviously, if you want a traditional publisher, you can submit to agents at that stage. Once you’ve got many people do it before they get an editor. But nowadays, to make it the best it can be, often people do get an editor, and then if you’re taking it forward to publication, you’ll get the edits back, you’ll update the manuscript again, and then I use a proofreader before publication so that someone to fix the final typos. But essentially the first draft is I say it’s about Michelangelo’s David. Hopefully everyone can picture him in their heads. You’re creating a David. But first you have to create the block of marble. And your first draft is your block of marble. And then your editing process is the chiseling and hacking in parts and then polishing. So that process of taking the block of marble to a finished statue is your editing process. Does that make sense?
It makes perfect sense, and I think sounds like it’s something that people would get better at. And a lot of people hear these steps and they’re thinking in terms of years, not months. But you just announced that you have 30 books with one new one coming out. So I tried to do the math in my head. Did you get better and faster over time these days, as a very experienced writer, how long does it take? Well, depending on the length of the book or the genre, does it take for you to go from draft or first word cursor on a blank page to finished product?
Yeah. Well, as you say, it totally depends on so many things. But if I’m writing in an established series so the last arcane book I did, which was called Bally of Grey Bones, often I’ll think about my fiction for quite a while. I’ll do trips to do research, that type of thing. So that is still part of the writing process. But that can often you think about that for a while, but then when I’m ready to sit down for a novel or nonfiction really is, I will in my calendar, I will schedule time for it. So, for example, I will block out. And normally for me, it’s sort of 07:00 A.m. Till 09:30 a.m. When I go to yoga. So for two and a half hours there, I will go to a cafe and I will write. And that’s all I will do in that time. And then I might also go to a coworking space and I do dictation. So I’ll hire a room and I’ll dictate for a couple of hours. So I tend to get that first draft done in, let’s say, a month to six weeks for a 600 word book.
And then I’ll rest it and then I’ll do my edits. But the difference really is that, I mean, my first novel took around 16 months. So what I would say is that once you know what you’re doing, your first draft is much cleaner. So when I finish that novel, I know that it doesn’t need a lot of work because I know what I’m doing. And that’s why it’s kind of annoying in a way. But it’s true with everything and it’s true with podcasting. We know what we’re doing that we didn’t at first. Same with novels or books in general, nonfiction, whatever. The first time you do anything, there’s a learning curve and it will be the most expensive in terms of editing as well. So you have to this is why I think if you can get through that process of the first book and you enjoy it enough to try again, you will get the benefits of what you learned. And if you do selfpublish, then again, it’s another process that you learn and you just repeat that process next time. And there’s lots of tools that can help you. And of course, on my site there’s lots of stuff for free if people want to check that out.
But yeah, hopefully that helps.
Yeah, absolutely. And then you mentioned dictation. I was like, oh, I got to really ask a question. What is the tool that you love using and how do you train yourself to speak clearly, which clearly you do? So what is that dictation process like?
Well, I used to use Dragon software, which has been the market leader for years, but now speech to text is huge. So any device that you have will have a speech to text thing and even just Google Docs or your phone. Or if you’re used to using Sri or Alexa or Google Assistant, you are getting used to what dictation is. If you’re a speaker, then you could just perform your work and get it transcribed. I used to use Dragon and now I’m just using Trent because I just might as well, basically because I don’t dictate and watch the screen, which is what many people do. With Dragon, I just dictate into an MP3 recorder and then I just upload the MP3. So it’s a very fast way of writing. I mean, you can tell I speak quite fast, so you can get 50 00 60 00 words done in an hour, whereas you could probably only type 1000. So it’s a very good way to get a first draft down. Particularly. The best way, though, is to write some bullet points first. So know what you’re going to say before you say it. That’s number one rule, dictation.
But again, I’ve got lots of stuff on that, on the website if you’re interested there. But if you can get used to it, it can be a way to really speed yourself up, for sure.
I can’t wait to read that article. And the bullet point approach really helps. And do you find yourself having a lot to say about each chapter? Is it because you sort of how do you prepare yourself for that state? I think it’s kind of a state to kind of flow state that you’re in in order to have the content be so highquality, the transcription works right away. What is that thinking process for you?
I would say no, it doesn’t have to be a certain state. I would say that you and I approaching this meeting. I mean, it’s the evening. It’s the early evening for me. I’m quite tired, but I’m bringing my energy to you because I booked this slot and we’re having a conversation. So I’m bringing it. And it’s the same for me with writing. I have a writing meeting in my calendar and I turn up and I bring it even if I don’t feel like it. So I think out of the last ten years, my flow states have been tiny, minimal, barely existed. I kind of don’t really know what that is.
I love it. As you know, I woke up with a sore throat. I’m like, no, I am now rescheduling this.
Yeah, you’re bringing it. And I think this has to be the attitude. I love writing. You can tell I love what I do. But this is still my job and I don’t have external contracts. I am motivated by my own creativity. So I set a meeting with myself and I go do it. So there’s no excuses. People know, oh, I just wasn’t in the mood. It’s like, no, you’ve made that. If you make that meeting with yourself and you’re going to write or you’re going to dictate, then just do it. And as soon as you start, it’s a bit like going for a run or going to the gym sometimes or going to work. Like in your day job, you might not want to go, but once you go, you’re going to get stuff done. That would be my attitude in general, to writing books or any of this is put it in your diary. This is the secret. This is my ultimate secret is you schedule your time and then you turn up for that appointment and you do the work.
I know. And that’s how I finally made the gym work for me, because I had so many excuses to make money and not go to the gym. And my body was giving me all the signals of this is not who you are and you’re not functioning at your best. So literally, I have 2 hours block to go to the gym has transformed my life since two years ago when I started doing that. Agree completely. I want to make this my last question. I’m going to have to see and if there’s anything else we want to talk about, because this is so good. I want to send this to my producer in some minutes to a transcription, like right away. This afternoon?
It’s going to be fantastic. So we heard that 800,000 visitors or unique visitors is a whole lot. And I wonder how we have great content on the website, high quality, deep linking? Has it always been organic or what is your approach in general when it comes to marketing your content, your website, your affiliate programs and products to the right people?
Well, look, to be honest, it has just been consistency and high quality for years. And I did it all myself for the first five years. And then I started working with virtual assistants. And now I have a podcast producer, I have designers, I have editors, I have a whole team now. But at the beginning, I did it all myself. And so I would, for example, write really big show notes for those early podcast episodes. For now, I run everything on Google Docs, and as I said, I plan my content out quite far in advance, and I might batch my content creation or interview, that type of thing. My virtual assistant manages guest post, so I do have guest posts now, but a lot of the content on the creative pen has either been are either chapters of my books or I turn the chapters into books. So repurposing content is another thing, but it really just comes down to I found my niche, which was writing books and then talking about writing and publishing and book marketing, and just everything I do is related to that, naturally. And then adding content three to five times a week, which I know is a lot, and it’s not necessary to do that much, but I have so much to share.
Again, what I would say to people, consistency makes so much difference. And I know patience is annoying. I mean, those first few years, it was like howling into the wind, really. I was talking about selfpublishing at a time when it was really frowned upon. You were considered to be an outcast if you self published back in 2008 when I was doing it, and then things changed. So then that was just about being true to myself and about what I wanted to do and being independent. And now, of course, independence. You wonderful millennials have made independent creators a trendy thing. So I was a bit early, but I think the main thing is, yeah, I know it’s tough, but be true to yourself and think long term. Think, okay, where could I be in ten years time? If I take this action today, where will I end up in ten years time? So with your book, for example yeah, to get that first draft, it’s tough, but the tip specifically for you right now and for anyone listening, if you have a deadline, so say, October 31 or whatever is, go schedule in your calendar all the time that you need.
So if you’re going to write 10 words per hour and you need 60 sessions, then you schedule 60 sessions in your diary. And that’s how you achieve that. Goal, and if you struggle, you’re like, okay, well, if I do that, where will that put me in ten years? Will that take me closer to a goal that I want to achieve? And that’s basically what I did with my website and with my writing. And ten years on, here I am. Who knows where I’ll be in yes, I can.
I mean, I’m definitely going to be part of that journey because I absolutely love your work, and I hope this will make you proud. The only other person who will make me just keep on reading and be completely obsessed with content is Seth Golden.
Oh, I’m thrilled about that because I love Seth.
Seth is just wonderful, absolutely wonderful. And the only other woman I can think of is Krista Tibet from on.
Oh, I love her too. You’re right. We’re just sisters from another mister, whatever they say.
Unbelievable. I interviewed Krista within the first year of my show. Inside, I was giggling, out of control. I was so nervous and so grateful to have hearing her voice. And I feel the same way about the way that you’re working on your business. I feel like it’s, in a way, very similar to what staff and Kris are doing. So I absolutely love you for it. So thank you so much.
It’s so good to share with your audience, and we really are living in the best time, I think. I mean, I know sometimes things can seem quite dark in a political sense, but there’s another side to what’s going on in the world, and it’s super exciting, and it’s a brilliant community and there’s so much opportunity. So, yeah, very fantastic time to be a creator.
What a great way to end this. So, Joanne, if people want to read more about you and buy your books or do your courses, what’s the best way to kind of get in touch and learn more about you? Sure.
Well, listening to podcasts, you could check me out. The Creative Penn Podcast Pen with Ann or Books and Travel podcast is my other one, and thecreativepen.com is where everything is. So come on over if you want to know more about writing or publishing or book marketing and any questions, I’m at the Creative Pen with Ann on Twitter.
This episode of the Phase World Podcast is brought to you by Feisworld, 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.
Our chief editor and producer, Herman Sebias.
Associate Producer Adam Laffert. Social Media and Content Manager rose To Leon transcript Editor Alina Afmidova And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Phase World. Thank you so much for listening.
- Joanna Penn’s main website – thecreativepenn.com has over 800,000 unique visitors each month
- She is from the UK and she currently lives in London
- She posted her first blog post on TheCreativePenn.com on December 3rd, 2008
- She runs a 6-figure business today. (She hit 6-figure for the first time in 2015 and her husband joined the business shortly after)
- Joanna has been podcasting for over 10 years before it was called podcasting (but downloadable audios)
- She has two podcasts – The Creative Penn Podcast and her new podcast called Books and Travel
- She’s on Patreon and has nearly 700 patrons (as of October 2019)
Joanna and I at Podcast Movement in Orlando, Florida, August 2019
In this episode, we talk about:
- How Joanna got started
- How you can begin doing your creative work (writing, podcasting, filmmaking, whatever it may be)
- Why it’s important to start a business you’re passionate about and you can be consistent
- The truth about finding your niche
- Why your listeners want to learn more about you
- What to avoid as a creator (hint: create a big bucket for your brand so you can change over time)
- How Joanna created “scalable income” and what these income streams are (her incomes is currently 95% scalable)
Find role models who are making a living in the way that you want to. And that’s not just about like the products they have. It’s about the lifestyle they live.
Find someone who’s making money and has a life that you would like to live and then see how they did it.
The idea of scalable, the fact that it’s not about your time. These are sort of principles that can free you from the day job mentality.
- Tony Robbins
- Yaro Starak
- Robert Kiyosaki
Word Cloud, Keywords and Insights From Podintelligence
What is PodIntelligence?
PodIntelligence is an AI-driven, plus human-supported service to help podcasters, webinar hosts and filmmakers create high quality micro-content that drives macro impact. PodIntelligence turns any number of long-form audio and video into word clouds, keyword and topic driven MP3 and MP4 clips that can be easily analyzed and shared on multiple platforms. Learn more: https://www.podintelligence.com/
- The Creative Penn milestones and timeline: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/timeline
- Joanna’s YouTube video on how to create your author website in under 30 mins.
- Trint.com (what Joanna previously used for AI transcription, now she uses Descript – what a fast changing industry! I also love using Descript and created a tutorial here)