Back in mid 2014 I was sitting in a cafe thinking about what to do next.
My lease in Melbourne was coming to an end in a few months, and while I enjoyed my year in the city, I was ready to move on.
I’d mentally planned to head over to San Francisco for a while, but there is a difference between planning it in your head and actually booking tickets.
I decided to move back to Brisbane as a stop-gap solution because I still had my apartment there. However I saw it as temporary choice, giving me a stable location to put my head down to create and launch my flagship training program Blog Mastermind 2.0, then move on to North America.
My year in Melbourne was a relatively lonely one, but I was appreciative of the space that solitude gave me. It was nice to just float around the city and focus on my business for a while, after a rough couple of years looking after my mother in hospital in Brisbane. I needed to be away from all the reminders of that experience.
I put in a lot of hours creating content for my business while in Melbourne. This includes three written e-guides, an interviews club featuring 12 new interviews and six action plans, a brand new community called the EJ Insider, now Laptop Lifestyle Academy, a series of new podcasts with graduates of my original Blog Mastermind program, and all the emails and sales pages to sell these products using my Blog Sales Funnel model.
If I counted up all the words I created during this period I probably wrote the equivalent of two books, typed out in the various cafes in and around downtown Melbourne, Brunswick Street in Fitzroy and Lygon Street in Carlton.
It felt great to be so productive and create the first half of the vision I had for my rebooted business. It was also incredibly satisfying that people actually bought my products. I was reminded that nothing feels as good as someone purchasing and benefiting from something you personally created.
As my lease in Melbourne came to an end in August 2014 I said good bye to what I loved about Melbourne the most – the trams, the long bike rides cruising around the flat streets, the friends I made (hello Nate, David, Californian Simone and Brisbane transplant Jodie Sue!) and the little terrace house I called home.
Ramses my cat and I packed our bags and headed back to Brisbane. My plan was to knuckle down and create Blog Mastermind 2.0 and then head off to the USA.
After my mother died in 2013 I had one of those reactions where you feel like discarding everything and running away. As irrational as that can be sometimes, I really did want to travel, in particular to the tech holy land of San Francisco.
I also felt a strong urge to simplify my life further, including divesting myself of some assets.
I owned an investment property, the first home I ever purchased and lived in thanks to the proceeds of my online business. I was going to inherit an investment property from my mother as part of her estate and I owned the apartment I lived in.
My plan was to sell up everything, hop on a plane to the USA and then just play it by ear for a while.
I didn’t jump into any decisions too quickly because I knew after something as traumatic as the death of your mother you don’t want to rush things and make overly emotional choices. Emotion is the enemy of logic, and logic should be the driving force behind financial decisions.
Although I could have left my investment properties sit in Brisbane while I traveled, I felt a strong desire to remove dependencies. I didn’t want responsibilities, plus I liked the idea of being debt free landing in a new country. It gave me true freedom and tremendous options.
My choice to invest in property in the past was made largely because that’s what everyone else did. My mother did it, my friends did it – everyone I knew talked about. It was just the done thing.
As I thought back to investment advice I read in various books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, and more recently Tony Robbin’s book Money Master The Game, choosing property as a default investment choice is not necessarily the best idea.
Property can be a great investment if you focus on it. If you enjoy researching suburbs and looking for good deals, crunching the numbers, tracking trends, etc, then it’s a solid option. I did not care about property investing, and while I enjoyed inspecting properties, my research process was minimal.
I liked the advice that Tony Robbins offered in his book about the stability of index funds for long term investing. I also felt I should invest in areas where I focus most of my time, since that gives me an advantage. For me, that meant my online business and perhaps shares in companies I knew a lot about.
This thought process reaffirmed my choice to get out of property and slowly reinvest my funds in smarter choices – more relevant investments for me.
By the end of 2014 I sold all my properties except the apartment I lived in, which I own debt-free thanks to my business results over previous years. It sure felt good to have no interest payments, no rental agents, tenants, insurance bills, and all the other things that come along with property investment.
I was still thinking of selling my apartment too, but for the time being I needed to live in it, while I focused my energy on the big task of creating a brand new Blog Mastermind 2.0 flagship course.
The Blog Sales Funnel Front End
I left Melbourne in August 2014 and arrived back in Brisbane ready to put my fibre optic internet connection to work, uploading all the training videos I had planned for my new Blog Mastermind 2.0 course.
I made the choice in 2012 to change my blog strategy to eliminate advertising from my blog, stop doing affiliate promotions and focus solely on my own products.
As I wrote about in – I Killed Almost All My Income Streams, And I Did It On Purpose – this change meant my income went almost down to zero since I had no products of my own on the market at the time.
My blog was at a low point in terms of traffic, less than half of the peak years, and I began to seriously question my future. However I had a plan, a vision for my blog that first formed back in 2007, and I was ready to execute it regardless of results. There were ideas I wanted to teach and I was motivated to share them.
For the first time in a long time I started going backwards financially. I was spending more money than I made, which does not feel good.
It was helpful in one way to reboot my business like this – it gave me insight into what it feels like to be a lost beginner again, to feel that sense of wavering commitment, which I had not felt since I was a newbie online way back in the late 1990s.
Slowly but surely things began to turn in positive directions. After several months of work I released my interviews club, the first new product I had created since 2008. Then over the next year and half I released my three eguides.
With each new release my income crept up, first enough to cover costs, then pushing up towards the all important $5,000 a month, then $10,000 a month thresholds.
What was particularly satisfying about this time was seeing the Blog Sales Funnel work. I was creating low priced front end products full of value, each offering to meet a distinct need in my market, and selling them using automated email sequences. As I added more pieces of the funnel together, my income grew and the sales continued on autopilot.
I still get a buzz when someone buys my mindset and productivity guide and the other guides I wrote because I really believe in them. I feel like a writer now selling my work from my blog, a vast improvement compared to running advertising banners for products I don’t really care about.
One evening in 2014 I found myself playing with a piece of online community software. I had plans to offer a group coaching program eventually, but after exploring the software I decided to test things out immediately. Even if I only had ten paying members I’d happily support them and make myself available as a coach.
I did a soft launch internally for my EJ Insider Coaching Community, now known as the Laptop Lifestyle Academy and also made it available as a bundle with my eguides. Within a few months we had a nice thriving community of around 50 people, and it’s grown to over a 100 since then.
I really enjoy the community because I’m working with motivated people. I fully expect the next success stories I feature one day on my podcast will come from the people in the The Laptop Lifestyle Academy, because they show the drive necessary to get a result. Some already have results, driving traffic, building their lists and even making money selling their own products.
By the time I landed back in Brisbane in August 2014 the front end of my funnel was well developed. It was very satisfying to reach this point, but I felt I was a long way from finished. The biggest job still lay ahead of me, creating the big flagship courses that would function as the back-end of my funnel.
Climbing Back Up The Mountain
At home in Brisbane with all my usual stable routines available, I was able to quickly devote myself to the creation of Blog Mastermind 2.0, a brand new version of the successful program I first created back in 2007.
I put my investment property on the market for sale, and then started a routine that I continued throughout the remainder of the year: Daily trips to the city to work in Starbucks with my laptop, drink ice tea and eat noosa chocolate.
A photo posted by Yaro Starak (@yarostarak) on
Back around 2012 when I first noticed my blog traffic declining I felt somewhat baffled as to the reason why. I hadn’t made any significant changes, yet slowly my traffic dropped from the highs of above 100,000 unique visitors a month down to 45,000 a month. The spinoff effect of this was a decrease in the number of optins to my email list as well. I went from 80 to 100 per day down to around 40 to 50 per day.
However there was a turnaround in late 2013, bringing my traffic almost back to what it was during the peak. It stabilized around 90,000 visitors a month. Then again in 2014 something changed and my traffic started climbing. As I write this I’ve broken through 200,000+ visitors a month, a number I have never reached in the ten years this blog has existed.
I’d like to tell you the traffic increase was because we made design changes to EJ to focus more on content and remove advertising, and other small tweaks here in there, but I can never be certain.
The strange thing is I actually wrote fewer articles than ever before in 2014 as my writing time went into product creation and email funnels, so the “more content” answer certainly does not apply in this situation. Perhaps my blog had some long standing Google penalties that were finally lifted…who knows!
Regardless of the reason, I was feeling pretty pumped as we headed into 2015. My blog traffic is higher than ever, and almost 1,000 new people a week join my email list as I type this.
On top of the fantastic traffic results, in December 2014 I made over $20,000 in that one month, a target I had set to return to at the beginning of the year. What made this especially satisfying was I did it entirely selling my own products. No affiliate products, no advertising, just content of my own creation.
Blog Mastermind 2.0
I began creating the new Blog Mastermind 2.0 in mid-2014, once all the front end products were done.
The first job I focused on was a new sales page. I knew it was not going to be an easy job. I wanted to make sure while I was creating training content, the sales page would come together thanks to help from other people.
I hired a designer from 99designs and gave him instructions on what I wanted. While he worked on the design, I began creating the content for the first core workshop in the program, a bonus called “The Blog Money Finder”, a mini-course that teaches how to find a money making subject to focus your online business on (I plan to sell it standalone eventually too because I know how many people struggle with topic selection).
I completed the topic selection course and wrapped up the sales page after months of back and forwards collaboration with my designer and my chief technology officer Carly, who turned the design into a live sales page.
It was a monster of a job, but by the end I was pretty happy with the new modern version of the sales page.
Working with Carly we set up the membership area for Blog Mastermind, then I spent another few weeks creating the first workshop and all the other little things you need to get set up for a big product like this, including checkout pages, order process, welcome email, transcripts, bonuses, checklists, tasksheets, mp3s, portable video files, streaming video files, and so on.
Once I felt I had enough ready to go for my first charter members of Blog Mastermind, all that was left was to record a sales video to go at the top of the sales page. It took me two days of recording and another two days of editing, but by the end I was happy with the outcome.
By November 2014 I was ready. I only invited the early bird email list subscribers and my current customers into Blog Mastermind 2.0 initially, which thankfully had grown into a fairly large list with all the eguide sales coming in week after week over the previous two years.
The first group joined the program, I gauged feedback to make sure I wasn’t completely off in terms of what people wanted, then dived in to create the rest of the course and host coaching calls.
When 2015 dawned I had met most of the objectives I set for myself. Investment properties were sold, my business was coming along nicely, and I opened up Blog Mastermind again.
Now it was time to realize the final step in my plans – moving to San Francisco.
People have asked me why am I moving away from wonderful Australia? There are many different reasons, but mainly I want to be closer to the action and the online community that exists in the tech-hub of the United States.
I don’t know how long I will stay in San Fran, but while I am up on this side of the planet I intend to visit a few places, including Canada of course, my other home. I’d like to see Europe again (I promised myself I would go to Wimbledon one day) and it seems like every internet marketer and blogger I know lives in San Diego, so it’s on the list too.
To prepare for the move I had a few final problems to solve, including a big one – what to do with Ramses my cat.
What Happened To Ramses The Cat?
If you follow me on Facebook you know that I started putting out feelers for a new home for Ramses in late 2014. I’ve had a number of people ask me what happened to him ever since I started the search for a new home, so I’m happy to answer this clearly important question!
While I’d love to take Ramses with me overseas, he’s getting old and he makes it very difficult to have travel freedom. If I was planning to move and stay put in one place, then I might consider flying him up, but certainly in 2015 that is not the plan. As such I had to find a solution to the cat dilemma.
My calls on Facebook did not turn up any new owners, or at least no people I knew well enough or who I felt were reliable enough to leave him with. It feels like I am handing over a family member, so I didn’t want to give him to a complete stranger.
A photo posted by Yaro Starak (@yarostarak) on
As crazy as this might sound, a big reason why I decided not to sell my apartment in Brisbane was so Ramses could still live there. This meant minimal disturbance to him, besides me leaving of course. I do love the apartment and it’s 100% paid off, so I feel fine keeping it as my only remaining property investment.
My theory was that it would be easier to find tenants to live in an apartment that comes with a cat, than find a new owner for a cat. That theory has proven true, as a newly married couple named Beth and Luke turned up as friends of a friend via Facebook, who were happy to look after Ramses and rent my apartment.
Booking My Trip
I don’t like flying, however it’s because I don’t like flying that I want to fly so I can make it less of an issue in my life. Flying means you can see things, and I don’t want airplanes to be a reason why I make a decision not to do something, which I certainly have in the past.
As such when deciding my flight path to get to San Francisco I decided to take a detour.
Japan is high on my to-visit list, having only ever been there once before for a long weekend trip, which I spent mostly working.
Working you say?
Yes for a brief period of time I was an official reporter for the Sideboard online magazine that covered Magic: The Gathering tournaments. I reported on a tournament in Sapporo way back when I was 19 years old. I didn’t get much of a taste of Japan on that trip, so I feel this time is my first real visit.
I wasn’t sure when I was going to leave Australia, until I did some research on Anime tours (Japanese Animation). I’ve wanted to go on an Anime tour for a long time, and the tour that coincides with a big Anime convention occurs March 18, which gave me a deadline. I decided March was going to be my travel month.
Growing up my father used to go to Hong Kong a lot on his return flights to Australia. He often brought back electronic gadgets and video games for me (that didn’t work in Australia unfortunately!), which made me have fond feelings for the place. As such, I’ve always wanted to visit.
I decided that I would travel in March from Brisbane, to Sydney to get my last taste of the eastern beaches like Bondi, Coogee and Bronte, then off to Hong Kong, Japan and enter North America via Vancouver, since it’s easier for me as a Canadian citizen. From there I travel to San Francisco once I find a suitable place that does not cost a fortune.
Normally I fly cattle class, but I decided for this trip I’d make use of the internet to book some business class flights. In particular I wanted to test out Flightfox, which I did to book my flights from Sydney to Hong Kong, Japan and Vancouver. I saved several thousand dollars on the flights thanks to the service, but of course I had to spend several thousand on the tickets too, much more than economy class.
Saying Good Byes
The start of 2015 has been an exciting one, but also a sad one.
Angela, my long serving virtual assistant, and I chatted about her availability at the end of 2014. Over the years her available time had slowly decreased (having 3 kids can do that!), so I asked her whether she thought it was realistic to keep working with me. Since she was packing up the family to live in Mexico for a few months in 2015 she said it was probably best to hand the job over to someone else.
I’d been talking to Neroli, who you may know as a previous columnist on EJ, to start a project management role to help me get my products out the door for sale. I thought taking over Angela’s position would help make Neroli’s job a more consistent one, so I floated the idea with her. She was keen and said yes.
Angela began training Neroli in January and by February Neroli had resumed control of my email inbox. If you email me, chances are Neroli will be the person who first replies to you.
Angela has worked with me since the BetterEdit days, back when I was running this blog and my proofreading company at the same time. That’s eight years of steady, reliable service.
I’m extremely grateful to Angela for all the help she provided over the years. I felt very comfortable knowing she was there at the front line of customer service for my business.
Saying good bye to Angela was the first in a line of farewells and see-you-laters that I have been going through over the previous couple of weeks as I write this.
I said good bye to some of my Brisbane friends at a dinner I organized in my home suburb of West End. I then had to say good bye to Ramses my cat, which was particularly difficult because he is the last connection I have with my mother, since we’ve been living together since she passed away (he is my mother’s cat) and I don’t know if he will still be alive by the time I return to Australia.
Then of course I had to say good bye to my dad, little brother Jorge and his mum Gemma as well, who are staying in Brisbane, then heading off to Spain for a few months to see the other side of the family.
Since I returned to Brisbane I have seen my family most weeks, which has been great for all of us. With my brother growing quickly (he is six years old), he’s going to look different next time I see him for sure.
Unfortunately with my family divided in Australia and Canada I am always saying good bye to one group whenever I say hello to another. Travel is often a bittersweet experience.
I had one more round of good byes to say in Sydney, after I organized a dinner in Surry Hills for my local friends, most of whom are transplants from Brisbane to Sydney.
As is often the case when you are moving somewhere, I found myself valuing all the friends, family and even the cat so much more knowing that I was leaving them all. My last night in Sydney was certainly a sad one.
I hope one day we develop the technology to travel like they do in Star Trek. Being able to teleport from Canada to Australia in a few seconds just to have dinner and see your friends, would be a wonderful thing. You’d never have to say good bye.
A photo posted by Yaro Starak (@yarostarak) on
The Travels Begin
I’m typing this last part of my article on my flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, where my overseas travels begin.
I’ll be in Hong Kong from March 7th to the 14th, then Japan from the 14th to the 24th, Vancouver from the 24th and then on to San Francisco by the end of March.
I invite you to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up with my micro-updates as I travel. In the spirit of travel blogging, I will also do some longer blog posts to describe some of my experiences as I go, assuming I have the time to do so.
Thanks for reading this far.
You can now read part two of my laptop lifestyle travel diary: Hong Kong.
Here’s to the laptop lifestyle.