Buying Back Your Time

Working Sessions – Episode 25 – Updates + Hiring Framework ---IVY (1)

[00:00:00] James Sowers (Castaway): Well, hey John. Welcome back to another working session, man. I'm excited to dig in and get some personal and professional updates, but before we do that, let's do our icebreaker. It's become tradition around here, and I think you kind of brought this one to the table, so maybe you want to introduce it. I know generally or broadly, it's about a hiring framework popularized by Dan Martel and his new book, buy Back Your Time.

[00:00:22] So why was this top of mind for you? Why did it come to the table? Yeah,

[00:00:26] John Doherty (EditorNinja): and I, I think this is gonna be some of my update today, kind of what we're talking about. Cause it's top of mind for me as Editor Ninja is growing. But yeah, I mean basically as businesses grow, the question is, okay then how do we hire, I see a lot of bootstrappers that are certified of hiring, so they never do it and they never grow, right?

[00:00:42] They never get beyond that. Like indie side hustle, two K a month, you know, sort of project. But I was telling you before we even started, I've hired for over 50 roles. So I don't directly manage 50 people, but I've hired between full-time people, part-time people. Contractors, freelancers and agencies over 50 in the last five to six years between Credo and Editor Ninja.

[00:01:01] So I've done a lot of hiring and actually my friend Michael Bbe told me, he was like, I feel like hiring is your superpower, which I had never really thought of, but I've learned most of my hiring practices through Dan. Cause I was in his SAS Academy for three years. He's talked about all the stuff he has in his book by back your time in SAS Academy.

[00:01:18] And so it wasn't all like together. I've been reading the book and. I've been studying the book. I don't know. I think last time I talked about, um, I'm not reading this year I'm studying, so I'm gonna get through fewer books, but I'm gonna go in depth on them and learn and apply it. So first of all, how many people have you hired in the last like, I don't know, three years?

[00:01:34] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, not many, honestly, because I gravitate toward organizations that are flatter and smaller. I think once a company gets to 50 or somewhere between 50 and a hundred employees, I start to get itchy. Like when I don't know everybody by name and I don't like know their family and their favorite color when their birthday is.

[00:01:49] That's when I'm like, eh, I just kind of feel like a cog in the wheel. It's time for me to go, right? Mm-hmm. Yeah. So maybe half a dozen or something like that. And then here at the good, I just had my first experience where I'm managing a manager and helping them grow into more of a managerial role, which has been a unique experience.

[00:02:03] So decidedly less experienced than you have hiring, but still familiar with the territory somewhat. Sure.

[00:02:09] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Gotcha. This'll be fun. James. What's my favorite color? Ooh.

[00:02:13] James Sowers (Castaway): Well, let's see. The walls behind you are blue, so I'm gonna go with blue. I'm gonna go nice. Royal blue. Ooh, good one. You got it. You got, it's either, either or black.

[00:02:18] I was gonna say, it's either that or black, cuz you wear a lot of black, so I'm like, yeah, I wear a lot of black use a Steve Jobs kinda model. I like wearing black

[00:02:24] John Doherty (EditorNinja): cuz it's easy, but blue is my favorite color. Yes. And I'm gonna say your is either gray or dark red cuz you usually wear a lot of gray, but you have dark

[00:02:30] James Sowers (Castaway): red there behind you.

[00:02:31] So yeah, it's interesting. Mine's actually blue, but I don't wear a lot of blue because my eyes are blue and. I get like washed out. My wife's like, Hey, ah. You know, it's just too much. So yeah, I don't wear a lot of blue unless it's dark Navy, but it's my favorite color. That's all. My favorite sports teams are blue.

[00:02:45] Like I went to Penn State, they're blue and white. I like the Dallas Cowboys. They're blue and white, so I just kind of naturally pick that up. But yeah, gray is a close second. Gray goes with everything. Yeah, blue and gray go together. Well does It's kinda a thing. Yeah. Does. We're both wearing

[00:02:56] John Doherty (EditorNinja): gray hats.

[00:02:57] Yeah. Just like the monotone is great. Yeah. All right, so that fun aside. Now we know each other better. You're welcome everybody. James

[00:03:03] James Sowers (Castaway): and I becoming friends. That's a true, no. You got his favorite color.

[00:03:06] John Doherty (EditorNinja): That's right. Yeah. What's your favorite color? Maybe next time we'll do something like that, but yeah, so I love the way Dan talks about it in his book, because usually when I thought about hiring in the past, before I learned about hiring from Dan, I always thought about it as like, what am I good at?

[00:03:20] So, Don't hand off the things you're good at, but what Dan talks about is he does it on a energy and money kind of axis, where something that doesn't move the needle at all, just eliminate it, right? Because, no reason to like get someone else to do something that doesn't need to be done at all. So just eliminate it.

[00:03:36] The delegation quadrant. So like bottom left of a two by two quadrant is delegate. So these are things that don't bring you energy and they don't make your business much money, but they have to be done. So like sending of invoices and that sort of stuff. You need to send invoices cuz that's how you get money, right?

[00:03:49] If you invoice, but you don't have to be the one sending it, someone else can send that. You can establish a process and they can send it cuz the act of sending it. Is low money, right? It costs little as well. If it's a high value to the business, but it doesn't bring you energy, that's replace. So this could be things that you're good at.

[00:04:05] And I've actually realized that I'm good at marketing, but it doesn't really bring me energy, but it makes the business money. So I need to replace myself in that. And then the bottom, right? So it's high energy, low value. That's like hobbies and side projects and that sort of stuff. It's like stuff that gives you energy and keeps you going, right?

[00:04:22] Gives you energy to work on the main thing. And then top right is production. So this is high value to the business. And it brings you energy and you love doing it. Right? So for me it's like partnership calls and networking, and even honestly, sales calls. But I don't like the pre-work and the postal work to like follow up and that sort of stuff.

[00:04:39] So I need to replace myself in that with an sdr, but I also wanna be on sales calls for the foreseeable future. Right? So that's been really helpful for me. And then he has kind of a ladder where you start with delegating and it's a VA or an ea, virtual assistant, executive assistant, which I'm currently actively hiring.

[00:04:54] Then once you've kind of done a time audit to basically say, these are all the things that I'm doing that I could. Delegate to an EA and teach 'em how to do. Then the next level is replace. So then you replace yourself in these big important things that you might be good at, but they're really important to the business, but they don't bring you energy.

[00:05:08] So then you hire for that, and then it kind of goes up from there. And basically the goal is like you're not fully buying back your time like all at once. It's a constant process where like start with an EA or VA and then that buys you back 20% of your time and then you take that 20% of your time and you put it into things that are higher value.

[00:05:25] And so I'll put it in marketing and sales and partnerships and that sort of stuff. And then once that really keeps growing and it's getting to the point where like, I need help on that too, then I hire someone in a role to buy back stuff. You know, cuz revenue has grown and I can afford to do that. And this is all predicated around what he calls your buyback rate.

[00:05:41] How much do you make per year? Divide that by 2000 working hours a year-ish, and then that's 50 weeks, a year at 40 hours, and then he says 25% of that is your buyback. For me right now, if I do 25%, it's like I can hire a super junior VA in the Philippines. By myself, not through a service. So like I went to like 30, 35% with, so it's a little bit of an investment, but it should get me back a lot of my time, 20, 25, 30% that I can then put into higher leverage activities and should pretty quickly make what I'm paying them, you know, 25% of my hourly.

[00:06:14] So anyways, that's kind

[00:06:16] James Sowers (Castaway): of the idea there. There are a lot of interesting threads in there, and that could probably be a whole episode because I'm already thinking about three different models, three different ways that I would want to take that. But I wanna start with that Matthew did. Cause I think that's the most tactical next step.

[00:06:27] Like, can I even afford to hire somebody? Let's put the whole idea of hiring and what, for aside, like. Am I even in a position to do that? Because I think a lot of people, influencers or whatever thought leaders, they're like, oh, if you wanna scale your business, you gotta hire right away. You gotta delegate and outsource all the stuff that's low value and you just need to focus on filling the funnel, man.

[00:06:44] And it's like, well, if you don't have product market fit, that's not gonna help you. If you don't have an offer that people actually want, that's not gonna help you. So you can't. Hire right out of the gate because hiring is effectively a bet that you're making on yourself. That if I pay somebody to take this off my plate, all the other stuff I fill that time with is going to generate even more.

[00:07:01] And if you don't have a lot of confidence in that happening, it's probably not the right time to hire. So to go back to your math, Just to keep the numbers simple. And I'm cheating. I had a calculator over here, but let's say we got a hundred grand a year in annual revenue, right? And you're saying divide that by 2000 hours.

[00:07:14] Cause that's roughly the working hours in a year for 50

[00:07:16] John Doherty (EditorNinja): weeks. Well, so it's not even the revenue, it's what you pay yourself. Oh, I see. Okay. So like, yeah. So say you pay yourself a hundred grand. There we go. And then, yeah, so now go with it. Yeah.

[00:07:25] James Sowers (Castaway): So you pay yourself a hundred grand, you divide it by 2000 hours, you get 50.

[00:07:28] So you're saying 25 to 30% of that number is your buyback rate. So let's just call it 30%. That ends up being $15 an hour. So if you can hire somebody at $15 an hour to take stuff off your plate, generally Dan's assertion there is, that's a reasonably smart investment, presuming that you don't just take that extra time off and coast, you invest it in higher value activities.

[00:07:48] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Well, and this is the thing, and honestly, this is what I did at Credo for quite a while, and I fixed that there. But I would hire someone to do something that was high leverage that I hated doing, and then I'd work on lower value stuff. Mm-hmm. And that doesn't make any sense, right? Yeah. Like hire someone to do lower value stuff and then hire somebody to do the higher value stuff.

[00:08:04] But also now you have to have an idea of what is gonna be higher value. Yeah. What's actually gonna move the needle, right? So that's really the key there is like, are you actually taking that new time that you have and using it to expedite the business growing.

[00:08:17] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, because I think a lot of people fall into that trap.

[00:08:19] They get a VA right away because it's relatively cheap and everybody's telling them to do it, so why wouldn't they do it? But they don't know where they're gonna invest that time, or they don't reliably know what kind of investments are going to, in fact pay off because they're too early in the process.

[00:08:32] They don't have that established yet. So yeah, I think you gotta be at least mid-stage or like some kind of traction before you start doing that, I think. Yeah, for the most part. Unless you're purely outsourcing, invoicing. Yeah. Well, and

[00:08:44] John Doherty (EditorNinja): I think that's where you start is where you outsource invoicing, and.

[00:08:46] Stuff like that, like basic customer support, maybe I'm gonna have my VA manage my email inbox and my calendar at Editor Ninja. Mm-hmm. My ea ACC credo does that too. So that's big. And Dan, Dan actually says that's the first thing you should have them do. Cuz that right there buys you back a ton of time.

[00:09:00] Right? Yeah. So like I check Credo email a couple times a day. I mean, I live in Editor Ninja email right now, but I'm getting people to do the stuff that I'm keeping an eye on there between BA and managing editor and that sort of stuff. But, I think actually the mistake a lot of people make when they're, they're not super experienced hiring and usually it's like developer focused, dev focused, bootstrap founders are the ones I hear this mostly from.

[00:09:22] But you really have to have an idea of what a business fully demands. Not like what are the tasks I'm gonna work on, but what are the roles I'm gonna take on? Cuz Dan talks about that, where he's like, you have to delegate the role. You don't just delegate tasks, you delegate the role, and they become responsible for that.

[00:09:34] So, you know, there's basically like six parts to a business, right? We're kind of getting into business philosophy here, but you have admin, you have marketing admin. Say I'm counting on my fingers for everyone listening, sales, marketing, product delivery. I think there's something else. So like right now I'm kind of doing most of those.

[00:09:53] I'm delegating or replacing myself in delivery. Working to do that over time. With the admin, I'm gonna delegate that to a va, right? And then comes marketing and sales. And so basically it's like, all right, I'm no longer doing admin stuff. If I'm doing like five things, let's say it's like each one's like 15 to 20% of my time, right?

[00:10:11] So with each key hire, I even like part-time I'm buying back. 15, 20% of my time. That's great. So I can take that and now I move into another role. It's like, all right, my role is no longer admin, plus sales, plus marketing, plus delivery, plus all of that. I've now bought back my time in admin and delivery, and I'm maybe doing like two to 5% of my time to those, just like working with the person that's responsible for it.

[00:10:31] But now I've got three roles. I can put 30 to 40% of my time into each one of those, you know, so it's not about the individual tasks and knowing which channels should I invest in SEO or content or whatever. It's just I have more time to do marketing now and figure out what that looks like. Or should I do outbound?

[00:10:47] Should I do inbound? Should I have an sdr? Should I do a qualification call? And then it's like whatever's in sales doesn't matter. You have more time for sales. And that's what it comes down to, cuz you can figure those things out if you're

[00:10:56] James Sowers (Castaway): smart. Right. Yeah, I agree. And I think that what's helpful for me, and I always go back to like the EOS framework, which I probably said before, like I'm not a super fan, but there are a lot of really great parts that can be a creatively applied to any business pretty much.

[00:11:08] And I think one of those is this idea of the accountability chart. It's basically an org chart that you're familiar with, but what you do is you say like, Hey, okay, so in three years I want Castaway to be a half million dollar business. What seats do I need on that chart? Yeah. Or what seats do I need on the bus?

[00:11:22] The proverbial bus to get there. And you put a title in there first, and when you first start out, your names in each of those seats. It's James. James. James. James James. He's Operation Lead. He's the sales lead, he's the marketing lead. And then you can kind of build a plan where it's like, okay, what would I hire first?

[00:11:37] Right? And so maybe I would say, I'm not the best person to be on the fulfillment side. So when I hit some kind of revenue or profitability milestone, I'm going to hire an operations leader and then I'm gonna take my name off that one seat and then what happens next? It's like, okay, well then I don't wanna do marketing.

[00:11:53] I want to have a marketing manager for that, and I just wanna be the closer. So then you get this systematic like stair-step approach where it's like, Okay. When we are on a quarter million dollar run rate, then I can hire an operations leader or some kind of project manager to take that over. And then when we get to 375,000, I can bring in a marketing manager part-time and you start to like build a backwards plan.

[00:12:10] And I think that's probably the right framework and I think that's probably what Dan's advocating for, is like you whittle away at your own responsibilities until you're left with mm-hmm. Ideally what you're not only good at, but also his highest value for the business and for many professional services firms.

[00:12:23] I think that's the sales role because you're the founder, sales leader, all at the same time. And that's kind of the last thing that somebody gives up before they go into true visionary. Like I'm just the face of the brand out there. Speaking at conferences, being on podcasts. Yeah, just trying to, yeah, build my personal brand and drive leads so, Well, and I would say professional

[00:12:39] John Doherty (EditorNinja): services actually a big one that most founders won't hand off that they need to hand off early.

[00:12:43] That I took a long time for me to do it at Credo, and I'm doing it earlier at Editor Ninja is delivery. So like once someone is sold in, then how are they onboarded? Who are they introduced to? What do their first like couple days look like? That sort of stuff. Because most agency owners, most service business owners start doing the thing.

[00:13:01] They start building an agency because around the thing that they are good at. You know, and so they're like, well, I've always done this for like my own clients, so you know, I'm just gonna keep on doing it. When actually they'd be much better off. Like, all right, they're sold in, you set their expectations through the sales process and now boom, here's your account manager, right?

[00:13:17] And here's what set the expectations for the couple weeks look like and that kind of thing. And so some, but then someone else is responsible for delivery and retention and that sort of stuff. And flagging up to you as sales when someone could be upgraded cause they're asking for more things like that sort of stuff.

[00:13:29] I think that's one that actually. A lot of us need to hand off earlier in the process so then we can focus on those. I mean, I've worked in January, it's February 2nd now, but in January I worked 10 days between travel and all of that. And spoiler alert for everyone listening, this is gonna be part of my update.

[00:13:45] Editor Ninja doubled month on month from December to January, and I worked halftime and I didn't build any new products. Yeah, we were figuring out the editing for AI generated content offering, but I didn't build any new product. I didn't build any new processes, that kind of thing. I focused on sales, marketing, and delivery.

[00:14:00] And delivery was hiring new editors to deliver a service. So that's it. That's it. And business doubled, right? So like, okay, that's what I need to be focused on, because apparently I'm pretty good at that, you know? So,

[00:14:11] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, I think that's really important, especially for earlier brands like ours because, and I'll admit, I ran into trouble with that.

[00:14:18] I got precious about it and I was like, this is my thing. I'm basically a solo consultancy with a supportive team. I sold the work on the front end. I made all those promises, so I wanna make sure they get a great client experience. But when you get spread thin, like. Somebody gets sick in your family or something like that and you're the only one doing fulfillment, and you miss those important touch points, then that reflects negatively on you and you get into this guilt cycle and it's really rough.

[00:14:42] Whereas like if you delegate that or you get some help with that early one, they're probably gonna execute more consistently because that's their only job. They're not trying to wear multiple hats at the same time. But two, you feel a little bit less guilt. Like if something does go wrong, you have a little bit of space there to be like, Hey, I'm sorry, I'm gonna talk to the team about that.

[00:15:00] That's certainly not the experience we aim for, but it's not as much of a reflection of you because you've kind of handed that off. So there's some education and some retraining that has to happen there. And some tough conversations sometimes, but when you're carrying all that weight, like you carry enough weight as a founder.

[00:15:13] So when you're carrying the weight of like, oh, I gotta fill the pipeline, I gotta close these leads, I gotta deliver an outstanding customer experience every time, and that's all one person. I don't think you can be truly efficient and effective in all three areas if you're trying to do all three full-time.

[00:15:27] So I think that's an astute point. Like the earlier that you can get help with fulfillment, the better. Yeah.

[00:15:33] John Doherty (EditorNinja): And just one other key thing with Dan's framework. One thing I love, Dan said, and he, he did the PG 13 version in the book where he said another person doing something 80% as well as you do is a hundred percent freaking awesome.

[00:15:44] Mm-hmm. Right? You can't expect if you're super talented, right? Which, We are, and a lot of people listening to this, I'm sure are, you can do a lot of things and so you shouldn't necessarily expect someone to do it as well as you do. But if you're putting, I mean, it's math, I, I'm loving math and business these days, but if you're putting 20% of your time into something and doing it at a 100 level top level, if someone puts 80% of their time into it and they do it at 80% of your level, they're doing a ton more.

[00:16:11] There's a ton more activity there. And if it's a high value thing, it's gonna move the needle. So it's not about them being as good or doing it in exactly the same way as you do. I think this is where a lot of founders get hung up cause they're trying to hire someone better than them. And if that works out great, but really it's about, okay, I'm putting 20% of my time into this.

[00:16:28] This person put 80% of their time into this and they're 80% as good as I am. But that means that, you know, basically getting, like it would be as if I'm putting 65, 70% of my time into it. Right? So basically three x what I'm putting into it, even though they're only 80% is good. Right? That's a big win right there, you know?

[00:16:44] James Sowers (Castaway): It's a big win. And it's even more than that because you get your 20% back to do something else, right? So the value's even more, right? Right. So you're getting 50% additional output from them, but you also get your 20% back to invest somewhere else. So you get whatever upside is generated from that as well.

[00:16:56] And as

[00:16:57] John Doherty (EditorNinja): a founder, hopefully, like ideally, the goal is you then can put that 20% that like maybe it's high value, but it doesn't bring you energy. Now you can put it into the stuff that brings you energy and is high value, right? Yeah. So how much even better is that gonna be for your business, right? That's how the flywheel spins.

[00:17:12] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah. Yeah. Totally agree. Awesome, man. Well that was a great icebreaker topic. Like I said, I think we could do like a dedicated episode, a bonus episode on all the things related to hiring and delegation. Yeah. Cause there's so much more there. We should get Dan on the show. Oh yeah. If Dan would come on, I'm sure that would draw some ears to the podcast.

[00:17:28] I'll ping them. Yeah.

[00:17:29] John Doherty (EditorNinja): So what's going on with me? I mean, I already kind of dropped a few of the bombs, but you know, man, it's early February. I've realized that February is kind of the start of my year. Mm-hmm. Because stuff gets pushed from December into January and then like I was traveling a bit, you know, had a few trips.

[00:17:43] Now I'm like, I'm back. Like I don't have another flight for two months. But I mean, we just took possession of our new house and so we're gonna be moving in there. We're doing some renovations and such, so like life is full as my friend Cherry Walling likes to say life is full, but it's full of good stuff.

[00:17:57] So on the editor Ninja side? Yeah, so I'm exciting updates. I'm still hiring a va. I basically interviewed six different companies, kind of half. Staffing VAs in the Philippines and half in other countries. I'm trying out two. One that does VAs in the Philippines and one that does 'em in El Salvador. The El Salvador company can also staff developers and designers and that sort of stuff, so that's interesting to me.

[00:18:19] So I'm gonna test them both out for like a month and see which one works better and make a call about which direction to go. So I'm excited about that. That's my delegation quadrant. And yeah, volume is scaling up and we launched our editing for ai, created content service yesterday. Am I like, Bento chat on my site and my calendar for people scheduling sales calls has just like blown up.

[00:18:40] I'm like,

[00:18:40] James Sowers (Castaway): oh boy.

[00:18:41] John Doherty (EditorNinja): All right. We tapped a river of demand. I think it's the first such service on the internet, I'm pretty sure. So like it's exciting to be on the leading edge. I'm never on the leading edge. I'm always. Kind of suspicious and whatever, but this one I was like, we have to get in front of this.

[00:18:55] And so I think we're the first service on the internet to be doing it, and I had some big unlocks around what it would look like when I was in Costa Rica, so That's great. Yeah, so just like a lot of hiring and then launching that service and shipped the price change as well. So I kind of carved out, like you looked at it before I put it live, but kind of raise the base price for copy editing and proofreading a bit.

[00:19:14] 15, 20%, something like that. But then add it on a higher level, which includes the AI content updating and developmental editing and that sort of stuff. And then a really high end, full high touch level. Literally give us a piece of content and we just do it for you. We take care of everything for you. So excited to see how those do.

[00:19:30] I'm grandfathering in existing customers as well for at least the next 12 months, and also layered in an annual option. Which you basically pay for 10 months, so get two months free is basically what it is on that pricing. So starting having those sales calls this afternoon. So we'll see how it goes.

[00:19:45] It'll be besting to see, but I'm really excited about it. And yeah. And then like the last big win, I mean, I said it already, but we did. Over 15,000 in revenue in January. I don't like talking about revenue, but it's kind of big to like double month on month. So like I'm good with that for sure. And yeah, we're doing 150 to 200,000 words a month right now.

[00:20:02] Um, looking to scale that up pretty quick and closed a big like SEO content updating project that we did a pilot for back in December, which I talked about. And then, They signed on for a bigger project, so I hired an SEO editor. I spent a bunch of time kind of vetting editors, which made me realize I need someone else to do that because like me doing that, just, it's not a good use of my time to be honest with you.

[00:20:22] Like someone else can run that process and should be running that process. So, yeah, I made some mistakes too. Like, for example, when we did the pilot, I did the editing, right? Cause I'm, I'm a good writer, I'm a good editor. I know seo. So like, I did the first 12 documents and then was like, all right, I'm gonna hire someone to scale this.

[00:20:37] And so I did. And then realize if they're a writer, they're not an editor, they're a writer, and they're a writing still needs editing. And I didn't price in editing, so I'm like, oh, the irony. So we'll have a little bit of margin in that one, but it's a good chance to learn and you know, kind of establish this like service as well.

[00:20:54] So anyways, yeah, it's like, you know, it's the mistakes that you make, but it is what it is. Yeah. That's what's going on with me. What's going on with you? And then maybe we can dig into something specific for one

[00:21:03] James Sowers (Castaway): of us. Yeah, I was gonna say, I was gonna talk about the AR writer one man that feels like, oh yeah, we can talk about that.

[00:21:09] One of those ideas where you need to have a recorded sales demo or pitch and the like autoresponder. You complete the form immediately. You get an email with like, Hey, you wanna watch this? It's 10 minutes. Here's kind of the high level concepts. If you still want to call, let's schedule that. Scale yourself that way, cuz I don't know, I can't imagine taking 10 calls a day around that when you're missing the same thing over and over again.

[00:21:28] Right. Totally. Well,

[00:21:30] John Doherty (EditorNinja): I'm, I'm gonna create a specific video for that page, kind of explaining what it is and you know, what to expect and like that sort of stuff and how we think about it. Really, it's just so we attract the right people, right? Not the people that are like, oh, what's it gonna cost to do 500 documents a month?

[00:21:45] Right? It's like, no, what about 50? But yeah, I actually took that lesson from, so everyone listening to this, go to the MicroComp YouTube channel. And come to MicroCon in Denver in April. It's gonna be awesome. But go to the MicroCon YouTube channel, look up April Dun Ford's talk from last year. It's all about like sales and selling the value.

[00:22:05] And she flips the sales script. So it's not like figure out what they need and then tell them what you can do, but actually tell them what you do and why you do it. And give 'em the upfront and how you think about the thing that they're contacting you about. And then let the self select into whether that fits with them or not.

[00:22:20] Yeah. So I'm gonna do the new video in that sort of whatever framework. Yeah. But yeah, and I like the idea of the longer talking head video. You know, just really explaining it more in depth so when they get on, cause I've been thinking about like, I'm doing these 30, 45 minute calls and yeah, I'm saying the same things time and time again.

[00:22:35] And some of them I'm like, Shouldn't have even like been on this call cause they're just not qualified. Right. I don't really wanna do two calls, a 15 minute qualifying call, and then a 30 minute demo. Maybe that 10 minute video could be like that quote unquote qualifying call. Right, right. Then if they're a good fit, then schedule a demo.

[00:22:52] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, I don't know. And you said you're on the cutting edge of that. It's like I'd almost be putting a bunch of ad dollars behind that landing page pretty quickly, cuz I bet it won't be too long before you have at least a couple other players in that space. It's like, yeah, if you're the first person showing up on LinkedIn or Facebook for editing services for AI driven content or something like that.

[00:23:08] Mm-hmm. I think you could probably capture a lot of value that way or, Once you have that recorded sales demo, I might be pitching that to some of the communities and newsletters and out there and be like, Hey, if you like this, I'd be happy to do a private workshop or something for your audience. Mm-hmm.

[00:23:21] And kind of teach them about this. Right. This is the sales pitch, but I can teach philosophy, I can teach some of the strategy and tactics, the tools we use, whatever makes sense. I might be trying to do that too. I know you don't have a bunch of free time, but like I think that could be effective to test for like two or three.

[00:23:34] Kind of private workshops about, Hey, everybody's talking about AI content. Everybody's talking about how to make it right, but nobody's talking about how to make it publish worthy or how to get the most out of it in terms of performance. They're just talking about how to write the correct prompts and how to structure your articles and you know which tools you should be using.

[00:23:49] But it's like nobody's focused on the backend and that's their way Excel.

[00:23:53] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Which isn't wrong, but it's, it's two steps of the whole 10 required to get it published worthy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Totally. No, I think you're right. And yeah, and I've had people that are like, you gotta put some PR behind this. You know?

[00:24:03] Yeah. I can put some Google Ads money into it. Yeah. I'm excited. I'm excited. I really think it could be like a game changer for us.

[00:24:09] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, that's exciting man. And congrats on the revenue milestone. That's a big number, especially considering like, you know, we were both pretty damn close to zero when we started the show.

[00:24:18] Like a year ago or whatever it was. Yeah, like a thousand, 2000. Yeah. You get there someday, right? So that's cool. Let's see, on my side of things, updates a little light. I probably should have gone first then, but I'm hiring two. I'm hiring three. Different roles. We're doing a writer and audio editor and more video editors, and I get like a hundred plus applications in the first 48 hours for all these, and it's just so hard to, you know, writing's easier.

[00:24:43] I can read their different pieces and I can tell which writer I think is a better fit or whatever. They have more direct experience when it comes to like audio editing. That's just not my wheelhouse. And it's like they all sound the same to me. You know, they have these before and after clips of podcast episodes and it's like, sure, that one sounds a little smoother.

[00:24:58] Or you removed all the peaks and valleys outta the audio and you took out all the zas and likes. That's great. But all hundred of those audio editors sound roughly the same to me, so it's really hard to. Find the right person, quote unquote, and to not bring any bias to the table. Like I try really hard not to look at names or anything like that.

[00:25:15] So that's been a challenge for me is like those, some of those roles are, well, one, going through that many applications and trying to give everybody a fair shake, but two, you know, discerning who is the top 1% in something that is. Fairly commoditized in terms of like the quality of service, at least to a layman like me.

[00:25:30] I'm sure audio engineers out there could tell, you know, one person's way better than the other. But to your point earlier, like I'm probably not the right person to be doing that hiring for much longer, and there probably is somebody better suited at doing that than I am. So, let's see. That's for Castaway.

[00:25:42] Yeah. Two other things on Castaway. One, I'm getting more opportunities come in for like affiliate or referral relationships, which is exciting cuz that's like business. You don't necessarily have to go out and earn it's folks who kind of wanna promote the service. So hopefully I'll have more updates there about how that's being structured and what those relationships look like.

[00:25:57] But it's good to see some of those complimentary services come in organically. I'm getting

[00:26:01] John Doherty (EditorNinja): those too, by the way. Oh, awesome. I haven't mentioned that, but I'm getting those too. So in the future we should talk about that. Cause I, I'm not ready to talk about any of 'em publicly, but I'm getting those also.

[00:26:10] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, that's cool. And I think that's just a byproduct of working in public in some ways and putting yourself out there and like awareness marketing type stuff is. The right people will find you and they'll say, Hey, I don't wanna do this myself. It looks hard, it looks difficult. It's a little bit outside of my wheelhouse, but I'd love to have an additional revenue stream by sending them some business.

[00:26:27] So let me reach out and see what they can do. You know? So, yeah, that's pretty cool. And then the last thing on the Castaway side is I'm trying to find like a competitive moat or point of differentiation. I don't know what that is for us yet Very clearly. Now, on the one hand I'm like, okay, well maybe it's just that we're comprehensive, right?

[00:26:42] And we do everything that you should be doing to grow your show. We repurpose it into every kind of asset that we can think of. But then I'm like, as I add on this a la carte or on-demand service offering where you can just buy one component of that, I don't know that that rings true. Right. And maybe that's value proposition for the subscription, but.

[00:26:56] For the business at large. I'm not sure what that is. And what do we do better than anybody else? When you talk about converting a blog post or a podcast episode to a blog post, there are standalone services that just offer that, and I'm sure they do a really great job. When you talk about converting a podcast episode to short clips for social media, there are a lot of people that are doing that right now.

[00:27:14] A lot of independent freelancers that are doing that right now, and they all kind of look the same. So I'm trying to figure out like what is our. Competitive differentiation, what do we do that's better or different than everybody else? And I have some thoughts about that, but I think at night, you know, not really actively working, but still thinking about the business.

[00:27:30] Cuz we all do that. That's what I'm thinking about is like what makes us different. And it's one thing to be an active participant in the market. I really don't want to compete apples to apples with anybody though. I want it to be like, there's a clear delineation where if you want this type of repurposing, this specific style or category or asset, Type, then you need to go work with Castaway.

[00:27:50] And that's what I'm trying to get at. So I dunno, maybe I'll keep massaging that and have some clarity soon. But those are the big bucket items. Go ahead. Can I ask some

[00:27:56] John Doherty (EditorNinja): questions there? Yeah. What if it's a who you do it for, and so therefore like the level of service that you provide and quality rather than a, like what are the services you offer, right?

[00:28:07] Yeah. Like downmarket. Upmarket. You can do it. If you can do it like cut rate, right? Then overseas talent, whatever. Or we're high quality, right? We're for the people that have been doing a podcast, a hundred plus episodes under their belt and they're doing some sponsorships and that kind of thing, and they wanna drive more ad revenue and like they're thinking about it as like either a channel for their business or it is their business, right?

[00:28:27] Like take an angle like that as opposed to some service, you know, because like the service is kind of commoditized.

[00:28:34] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, and we have some AI tools kind of coming to eat our lunch. There are some AI tools that are starting to come out to like summarize audio or video and stuff like that and create show notes.

[00:28:42] And so it's probably only a matter of time until those can't hold a candle to human output yet. But for budget conscious people, they're gonna say, that's good enough, right? I just want it out there. So that's something I'm thinking about too. And I think your angle of, maybe it's not what you do, but it's what you do for who you serve.

[00:28:57] I've definitely gone down that route. Thought about focusing just on people who, for lack of a better term, Make their money off of intellectual property. So agency owners or independent consultants, business coaches, people who have six, seven figure businesses. And primarily what they sell is their intelligence and their experience and their stories.

[00:29:15] And they have a podcast as a way to do that. And they know that the podcast drives. Clients, they just don't know exactly how they can ramp that up. We can come in there and pour some fuel on that fire. I think that might be one. The other angle I've thought about is we only serve, and I wouldn't put this on the marketing site as copy, but I would say something like, Hey, we only serve podcasts that have at least a hundred episodes and are actively collecting sponsor dollars or something like that.

[00:29:38] And it's like, okay, if you have an obligation to a sponsor who's paying you 10 grand. Per quarter or something and you need to get more downloads, listens, engagement with their ads, we can help you ramp those numbers up by helping out with distribution and taking that off your plate so that you can either go sell more sponsors or so that those numbers go up and you can raise your rates.

[00:29:56] I thought about that too. That might be a good one, but that's a little bit harder to filter for, uh, unless you have it on like an intake form or something like that. Before you book this discovery call with me, do you agree that you have like sponsorship revenue of at least whatever, and it's like, that feels a little

[00:30:07] John Doherty (EditorNinja): petty, but yeah.

[00:30:09] Yeah, and putting it on the forum probably isn't the right place to do it. But you could do it in like a, who are we a great fit for? Uh, I'm trying to do this through our copy where it's like we're a great fit for, you know, agencies producing, marketing content. You know, at least 20 to 40, you know, documents a month, right.

[00:30:27] And up cuz like some of this, like three, four documents a month. Just do single documents, you know, like subscription's not a fit for them. And the goal is, of course, hopefully they grow, like we do a great job and then hopefully they grow and then they come on with a subscription. But like, I don't wanna talk to someone that they're like, yeah, I'm not doing anything right now and I might do two a month.

[00:30:45] Right. It's like, that's honestly kind of a waste of my time to get on a phone call. My copy should keep them from getting on a phone call. It should only attract the right people. So, yeah. So I mean, you could do something like that where it's like, who uses Castaway or who is Castaway a great fit for, you know?

[00:31:00] Yeah. And then do some sort of, Creators thinking about their podcast as a businesses, thinking about their podcast as a marketing channel, like whatever that is. And then you can sprinkle in, you know, it's marketing channel, so you need to invest in it. It's literally part of your business. You're selling subscriptions, so you need to grow it so you can sell more subscriptions.

[00:31:14] Yeah. You know, that kind

[00:31:16] James Sowers (Castaway): of thing. I always think those layouts where it's like, yeah,

[00:31:18] John Doherty (EditorNinja): I'm a creator. It's a marketing channel, whatever, and segment people that way.

[00:31:22] James Sowers (Castaway): I've seen 'em presented to as like a table with a 50 50 layout, and it's like castaway is right for you. If you publish consistently every week, you've never missed an appointment.

[00:31:30] You have at least 5,000 downloads per month or whatever you're currently collecting sponsorship revenue for your show. You can directly tie new clients to your podcast as a lead source or something like that. It is not for you in in the right hand column if you know you publish intermittently and you can't get people to show up to record episodes, whatever, like Mm.

[00:31:47] You just do the antithesis of all the good stuff and it's like, Yeah, if you aren't nodding your head to most of the stuff on the left, probably not a great fit for us. Right? And one of those might be you stay out ahead of your publishing schedule. We don't work well, if you wanna record on Monday, published by Friday and have us do all our stuff in between, there's too many assets being passed around and there's too much effort being put into making them great.

[00:32:07] We work best if you are already three or four episodes out and we get that episode that's not due for a month early, and we start working on that. If that's not your situation, then maybe you're not a great client for us. So, yeah, totally. I could definitely be like this, not that kind of structure.

[00:32:20] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Yeah.

[00:32:21] Well, and you can talk about things like, so with, for us, it's, we're best for companies that they have a director of market, so agencies that are like producing a bunch of content. So they have like a strong production process. And some are responsible for like production. That's not like the founder that's currently doing the editing.

[00:32:36] They're too early for us. We want ones that they're, it's like minimum, like it's a content agency that's minimum five people, more like 10 people, and they have a production process or marketing teams that have a director of marketing. Or a director of content is even more ideal because they also get the process.

[00:32:51] They're not like me where I'm like writing and then I publish and then I'm like, ah, I should send this to an editor. Right. I still do that and I own a freaking editing company. Right. Yeah. So you can talk about that and like drop like certain titles and such that you know your best customers have. Right.

[00:33:07] They have a podcast production, they have a schedule, or you know, so they have at least a hundred episodes. Something like that, that just like lets people say like, oh yeah, that's me, right? Or like, oh yeah, I'm a director of marketing and we run a podcast and it's one of our main channels. Right? That's who you want, not the like, Hobbyists.

[00:33:22] You know, I have a podcast on Anchor fm.

[00:33:25] James Sowers (Castaway): Yeah, I might just go all in on, cuz I built Castaway to solve my own problem. I was that director of marketing, the marketing team of one with fractional support who we wanted to launch a show. And I knew that I couldn't hire a marketing manager to own that. So I had to put together this a team of skilled positions and figure it out.

[00:33:41] And then once I did, I productized that and I'd start to sell to other people. So I might just say, Are you a busy director of marketing at a small agency and you need to solve this problem? I. I did it for myself and I can do it for you too. That might be all that's needed, you know? And just start there as like a positioning exercise, I guess, cuz yeah, you're speaking very clearly to one person there and they know if that's them or not.

[00:34:02] Whereas like, yes, it's not talking to anybody. It's like, are you the marketing director whose boss says We need to start a new show. Call me when you're in twenty five, fifty episodes cuz I need to make sure you're gonna stick to this. I'm not here to help you launch a show and come up with the idea and find the guests and all that.

[00:34:16] That's not what I do. When you're already off and running. Yes. And you've kind of figured it out, but you wanna go back to your real job. That's where you can hand things to castaway and we keep the wheels turning.

[00:34:24] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Yep. Yep. Exactly. Yep. I

[00:34:26] James Sowers (Castaway): agree. Cool, man. Well, the productize and scale updates are super simple.

[00:34:29] I think I talked about this last time. I'm moving the website from WordPress Power to Ghost, and that's primarily because I found a theme with a built-in feature for a sortable directory, and I'm gonna have a directory of. Productized serve as businesses, including Castaway and Editor Ninja that people can search.

[00:34:45] So I'm hoping that will rank really well in search results where it's like Editor Ninja Review or something like that. And then the thought is you set up affiliate relationships with each of those people and you get some kind of a cut for all the traffic that you send in their way that converts.

[00:34:57] Mm-hmm. And then there's also gonna be like a sortable directory of founder interviews. So what does John Doherty say about his experience starting a productized business? You read about 10 of those founder interviews, it starts to sound pretty good. Then you go sign up for the productized course. So you try to do it yourself.

[00:35:10] So that's kind of the thought there. That's almost done. It's kind of in the last mile. And then the last point on productizing scales, I'm still doing some of the coaching engagements I talked about last time. And that stuff is super rewarding, man. And maybe to bring this conversation full circle is like, I would put that in the bucket of, I really enjoy doing it.

[00:35:24] I feel like I'm pretty good at it, but it's probably not the highest value place to spend my time right now for the price point and everything. And it's kind of like, Way over here compared to what productize and scale and Castaway really are. It's not a Castaway subscription. It's not selling another productized course.

[00:35:42] It's not anything like that. It is kind of a standalone thing where you could build an entire coaching practice. So although it's very rewarding and it pays pretty well, it's like, is that really where I need to be spending my time? That's one of those like existential crises I'm having right now.

[00:35:55] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Yeah.

[00:35:55] Are you still planning to update the course?

[00:35:57] James Sowers (Castaway): Yes. Yes. So I think one of the next courses I wanna launch is sales fundamentals for founders. So like for non salespeople, oh, I don't need to teach you like a specific sales playbook. You probably don't care to use spin selling or something like that. I just wanna make people more comfortable in a sales conversation who don't from a sales background.

[00:36:14] So it's like the blocking and tackling of sales. Mm. And I was like, I feel like everybody needs that because everybody that starts a productized service business needs to sell. And so, mm-hmm. I know of a course that already existed. And it hasn't been touched for a while. So I reached out to the person who made it and I was like, Hey, can I either buy this course content from you or license it from you?

[00:36:32] Or can I just add it to my directory and sell it and keep 10% of whatever I sell and you get the other 90, you don't have to do any work. And he was like, ah, I sold it last year and the person who bought it from me is, hasn't done anything with it. So you could try to get it from them, but it's probably long shot.

[00:36:46] So I was like, ah, I was that close. Got it. To adding another course to the library. But yeah, to answer your question, I am gonna still do the update, but I thought I might. Very quickly expand the course library and not have to put in a bunch of extra work, but it looks like I'll have to end up making that one myself anyway.

[00:37:00] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Gotcha. Gotcha. Interesting. Yeah. Funny how that works out, but yeah. That's awesome. That's awesome. Yeah, it feels like increasingly, I mean, just kind of as we both kind of punch up the value level, it's like if someone is not willing. To pay like a mint for mm-hmm. My time. They're not getting it right. Like when I'm consulting on seo, it's like $5,000 a day, right?

[00:37:24] It's not that for editing, right? So like different businesses are different things, but like, you know, man, I'm not gonna do a full day workshop for less than like a thousand dollars. Right, and I'm gonna have to have a specific, this is what I'm gonna use that a thousand dollars for. It's like what I used to do with consulting when I was getting credo off the ground, it was like, I'm gonna do this, you know, so I can save up money to not have to do consulting so I can work on Credo.

[00:37:46] And that was the whole reason why. And like, you know, pay my half of our bills. But that was the whole reason why I did that. So same thing for this. So for you, maybe it's like I will do three of these workshops. I won't do it for less than $5,000, and those $5,000 are gonna go to a video editor, or three of those five are gonna go to a video editor to edit the new course, the redone course or something like that.

[00:38:08] You know, like, think about it strategically and then over time then we just work on stuff that it's like, it's outside of our time and it grows, like outside of our time, outside of us having to put time into it to like make it right, because otherwise we're just consultants. Otherwise it's like, all right, someone paid me.

[00:38:23] You know? You're always stoked when you sign a like, all right, sweet 5K month retainer, and then you're like, shoot, I have to deliver that now. Right? It's like the, oh no. Right? Like, let's not do that. That's not what we're building

[00:38:32] James Sowers (Castaway): here. Yeah. Yeah. I think the story I told myself was like, oh, this will get me closer to my customers because people who buy the course will sign up for coaching and then I can get feedback on the course and I can learn more about needs and that'll gimme seeds for new courses and all this stuff.

[00:38:46] And I think it was just like, oh. And also I spent all this money to acquire, productize and scale. So if I can do coaching and sell a bunch of that right outta the gate, I recouped that investment a little bit faster and. Thinking more and more now that it's just not something that's gonna stick long-term.

[00:38:57] As much as I like it, it's just, yeah, it feels like it's time and energy's better spent somewhere else. So wish

[00:39:02] John Doherty (EditorNinja): that could be a reason. I mean like making back that investment faster, whatever, like Sure. That could be a reason to do four of them, right? Yeah. And then you're like, sweet. Made back 50% of what I paid and I learned a lot and now I'm not doing it anymore.

[00:39:14] Right. And I think what a lot of people get wrong. When they start doing this kind of thing, they don't launch. Like I give you big credit for actually doing it and selling it. I think what a lot of people get wrong, they don't actually put it in the market because they're like, well what if I don't wanna deliver this long term?

[00:39:29] Simple answer. You stop and you stop letting people pay you. Right? Like also don't commit to a 12 month thing if you're not sure. Commit to three months. Right. And you can quit after three months if you want to, but you can always stop. We always have agency to stop doing something, you know? Yeah. Like just cuz we launched AI editing doesn't mean we have to keep doing it.

[00:39:45] We are, but you can stop and you can just like cancel the payments and you're done. You know? Yeah. It literally is that

[00:39:52] James Sowers (Castaway): easy. That's the beauty of owning your own business. When you're an employee, you can't always do that. You need some kind of approval or something like that. But I just told that to one of my coaching clients that he was like, Hey, should I test like a free trial or should I test an upfront audit and then try to use that to upsell into my subscription?

[00:40:08] And I was like, Why not both? You could have a free volcano close dose. Yeah. Yep. You could have a free episode on your whatever primary navigation as the CTA button, and then you could do Facebook ads that drive to the audit and you could run it that way. Or you could AB test and segment and send 50% of your traffic to this CTA in 50% of the other, and then measure that after 30 or 60 days and cut the one that's not working, or just save it for later and revisit it.

[00:40:31] People do that all the time. People literally run a Facebook ad campaign. Until the ROI is almost zero, they'll turn it off, not touch it for six months, turn the exact same campaign back on, and it kills. Like there isn't a whole lot of rhyme or reason to this. They're like, yeah. To your point. Mm-hmm. If you're not going to do that, then why be in business for yourself?

[00:40:48] If you're not gonna take advantage of some of that autonomy and that ownership, then it's, yep. What are we doing here? You know? Totally. Totally. Cool, man. Maybe that's a good place to wrap it then, since we're coming up against time. You know, it's always, we can get folks. Listening at Working Sessions out fm there is Ask Me Anything Link there in the primary navigation where you can submit something for our icebreaker.

[00:41:07] And yeah, I guess until next time, we'll see you on the next working session.

[00:41:11] John Doherty (EditorNinja): Sounds good. See y'all later. Nice.

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