Building an Online Business from Scratch: A Listener Success Story

“If you’re bored walking up the hill, try running up it.”

That was what this week’s guest William Wadsworth of told me when I asked him about how he got his side hustle off the ground.

Four years ago, William was working full-time in a corporate job, but he wanted to build his own dream, not someone else’s.

Finding it difficult to balance a full-time job and his side hustle, William left his job and took on some part-time tutoring so he could spend more time on his business.

Today, William earns thousands of dollars a month doing what he loves — writing, podcasting, and coaching people about memory psychology, learning science, and how to study smarter.

Tune in to The Side Hustle Show interview to hear:

  • why William decided to leave his job and go all-in on his business
  • how he’s gone from doing one-on-one tutoring to having multiple income streams
  • how he’s grown his blog, podcast, and coaching clientele

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The Idea to Start

“I did always have this little bit of an entrepreneurial bug, and the other thing in the back of my mind was that I always had this thing about helping kids study smarter for their exams,” William told me.

William has a background in psychology and what he is really interested in is the “how” part of studying.

There are huge opportunities to study faster and learn more if someone studies in the correct way, William explained.

However, most students don’t know how to study in the correct way to get these gains. William said he didn’t know this himself when he was a student and only learned how later in life.

William said he had two driving forces:

  • “An entrepreneurial bug; to build my own dream and not someone else’s”
  • The desire to share his knowledge and help students study smarter

Both of these clicked into place for William when he started hearing about people building successful businesses online through blogging, podcasting, and coaching.

Taking the First Steps

The first thing William did was embark on a marathon writing session. He ended up writing an entire book called Outsmart Your Exams in one weekend.

William self-published his book and listed it on Amazon under their KDP program. It didn’t get much traction at first, although it’s sold well to date.

Towards the end of 2018, William started his website and started writing articles.

William admits, however, that it was “difficult to make substantial progress on becoming a blogger, podcaster, coach, speaker, alongside a demanding corporate job.”

So, in January 2019, William decided to leave his $100k a year job and work part-time doing tutoring.

This freed up more time for William to spend working on his business. “If you’re bored walking up the hill, try running up it,” William told me.

William did say that although this was a gamble, he had around $30,000 cash in savings if the tutoring work didn’t cover his bills.

He also knew that he could always go back to working a corporate job if things didn’t work out. But to find out if his business would work, William knew he had to dedicate more time to it.

Gaining Initial Traction and Reddit Success

“It is really slow at first, and I was at ground zero in terms of my skills,” William told me, looking back at when he started his site.

William said he tried loads of things he’d seen or heard marketers recommending to get some initial traction for a new site.

He started sharing posts on social media, performing outreach to connect with other bloggers, and guest posting.

But what really worked early on for William was posting on Reddit.

William credited Brian Swichkow, who appeared back on episode 155, for the idea of posting on Reddit.

William chose subreddits targeted at his niche, like study motivation, and would post in those groups every week or so when he published new content.

He would write a blog post around a topic that he knew would be valuable to the Reddit community in those subreddits, and would also create an infographic to help illustrate his key points.

William would also include a link back to his site at the end of his posts. If someone wanted to learn more, they could click through to his site.

It’s important to offer value when posting on Reddit, William explained.

If you come across as someone who is just trying to drive clicks to their site, your posts will get downvoted and you risk getting banned from the subreddit.

If his Reddit posts performed well, William said he would get 200-300 visits. This added up when he would post a few times a month.

Some other methods William used to grow his blog were:

Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is an online service journalists use to find sources and information for articles they’re working on.

In return for giving a journalist some information and helping them out, you often get a backlink when the article is published.

William said this helped grow his domain authority and improve his SEO.

Keyword Research

William uses KeywordsEverywhere, a Chrome extension that provides search volume and related keywords within the search results page to find keywords to target.

He looks for keywords around topics he wanted to write about and tries to find keywords with high volume and a low difficulty score according to KeywordsEverywhere.

Content Publishing Schedule Today

“I’m less and less hands-on with blog content now because I outsource a lot of it,” William told me.

William has been working with a writer for about 12 months now, and she works for him about three days a week.

William gives his writer a keyword, and she’ll research the topics and write the article from scratch.

She also turns his podcast episodes into blog posts, adds images, and does some other tasks for his site.

As for a publishing schedule, William said he doesn’t have one.

Some weeks William will publish several articles. At other times, weeks will pass without publishing anything.

Content Marketing and Promotion

“We’re pretty lazy,” William told me, talking about how much effort bloggers, in general, put into promoting content.

William admits that he doesn’t always share his new posts on his social media channels, or even to his email list.

But William added that he thinks the time it takes to find all the correct hashtags, share posts across different platforms, write to his subscribers, etc, is better spent just working on new content.

William does well from organic search and his SEO efforts. He said he’s proud of every piece of content he produces and doesn’t see the need to promote his content now his site is established.

Starting a Podcast

About three months after starting the blog, William started The Exam Study Expert Podcast.

His show is a mixture of solo episodes and interviews. William’s guests tend to be scientists, researchers, and other experts in the learning and study space.

For a long time, William did all of the show production himself. Recently, however, he’s started outsourcing the editing to free up more of his time.

William said he’s also reduced the number of episodes he’s recording. He doesn’t think this has harmed his growth as he has a large number of evergreen episodes that are always being found by new listeners.

Podcast Promotion

Early on, William did a “couple of massive promotional blitzes” to reach as wide an audience as he could.

William said he did his best to time these promotional pushes so that everything happened on the same day to try and boost his discoverability in Apple Podcasts.

To do this, William found all the relevant Facebook Groups and subreddits he could, asked all his friends to share links to his podcast, reached out to guests on his show, and emailed his mailing list.

Each time he did this, William said it definitely led to a noticeable bump in downloads. He also thinks it helped cement his place higher up in the podcast rankings.

Call to Actions

The main call to actions William is using to bring people into his ecosystem are:

  • Inviting people to join his mailing list. William offers a Study Smarter Cheat Sheet as a lead magnet.
  • Asking people to enquire about coaching. William said he gets a lot of coaching clients through his podcast.
  • Tells his audience about his books if they’re interested to learn more about particular topics.

William said he has a global audience and finds that offering these different calls to action with varying price points helps appeal to students in different markets.

Revenue Streams

William said he has “three big pillars” in terms of revenue streams:

  • Coaching – Most of his coaching clients find him through the podcast. William has three different coaching tiers ranging from $120-200/hr.
  • Speaking gigs – William speaks in high schools across the UK and runs workshops. He charges up to $1,000/day and most of his leads come from organic search.
  • Display ads – William is using Mediavine to display ads on his site and makes around $2,000/mo.

As well as these three main revenue streams, William said he also makes $200-300/mo in book royalties and ~$20 from the Amazon affiliate program.

Coaching and Speaking Gigs

The coaching and speaking side of Williams’s business makes up the lion’s share of his income.

William said he has coaching clients all over the world, and most of his coaching clients find him via his podcast.

For speaking gigs, William had to pitch schools in the beginning to get some traction.

These days most leads come to him via organic search, word of mouth, and returning to the schools the following year.

William said his speaking gigs really picked up momentum after he’d done a few.

Schools that are happy with his work started to rebook William for more workshops and to return the following year. He’s also been added to preferred supplier lists for networks of schools.

Prioritizing Future Projects

William explained that he had a lot of ideas for projects and directions he could take his business.

To figure out where his time would be best spent, William said he did a variation on the ROI calculation Rosemarie Groner has spoken about before on the show.

William said his thought process was that he can earn a livable income on 2.5 days a week with his current coaching and speaking gigs.

So, he has another 2.5 days a week he can allocate for new projects.

To help prioritize which projects William was going to work on, he took a look at:

  • How much time per week the project would take-up
  • The expected run-rate revenue that the project would make in 18 months

William then divided one by the other and came up with potential monthly recurring revenue per day per week on the project.

The project that worked out most profitable — and was also the one William was most excited about — was a tech venture.

William partnered with a tech co-founder, and for the past 6 months, they’ve both been working on an app called MemLock.

William described MemLock as “the next generation of learning and memory consolidation apps.”

Essentially, MemLock helps students better remember what they’re learning using some of the principles William teaches.

They have a working prototype and have been testing it out in a handful of schools.

William said the app has been well received and they’re now planning to add more subjects to the app and build it out further.

William’s #1 Tip for Side Hustle Nation

“Sell your value before you create it.” —Alan Donegan

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Is Your Website Leaking Money?

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You’ll also receive my best side hustle tips and weekly-ish newsletter. Opt-out anytime.

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