Ep. 339: Bootstrapping Your Side Hustle to 7-Figures with Raymond Blakney

I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Raymond Blakney!

Raymond Blakney is probably like every other award-winning Filipino-American entrepreneur who grew up in Turkey and lives in Mexico that you know. He started his first business, with his wife as a business partner, in 2008. Since then he has bootstrapped multiple 6 and 7-figure online businesses. Most of this was done from home in his superman pajamas. He and his businesses have been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Boston Globe, and other top publications. Ray has also been a speaker at multiple conferences around the world.

Push play to listen to this week's episode, or read the full transcript below!

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Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 339 of Pep Talks For Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest Ray Blackney, an award-winning Filipino American entrepreneur who has bootstrapped multiple six and seven figure online businesses. He and his businesses have been featured in Forbes Entrepreneur, the Boston Globe, and other top publications. Ray, thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Raymond Blakney: Sure. Shannon, thanks for having me on the show. I'll try to give you my 30 second elevator pitch, but my wife will tell you I'm not really good at being not being verbose. So it might take a little longer than 30 seconds. So my background, I was born in the Philippines. My dad's from the United States, but grew up in Rhodesia. I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. So I spent the first 15 years of my life there before moving to the U S and finishing up high school, going to college, studying computer engineering. Did a tour of what I like to call a tour of duty in Silicon Valley, because all computer programmers got to make their way through that, and then ended up working for some Fortune 500 companies in the US. Did that for like five or six years and I realized this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Raymond Blakney: And actually the big motivator for this change was a commercial on TV for the U S Navy. Now, I never had any intention of joining the Navy. All respect to people in it, my uncle was in the Navy. But if somebody's shooting at I'm running the other way as fast as physically possible. So it wasn't quite my thing. But the saying that they had was if they were to write a book about your life, would anybody want to read it? And I think I was 26 or 27 at the time, you know, working in a cube with a good job, almost six figure salary as a computer engineer. And I was thinking, if I'm doing this for the next 30 years, I'll probably be fine. But if I wrote a book at the end of my life, I wouldn't want to read it, right?

Raymond Blakney: It would just be kind of a really blah life, at least for me. So literally within a week I quit my job, joined the US Peace Corps for $150 a month. They sent me to work with indigenous communities in Southern Mexico. I met my wife through that. She was one of the staff of the Peace Corps that taught us Spanish. And that kind of led me into entrepreneurship. We started businesses in the language field to start and I expanded out from there and I never expected to be doing this 13 or 14 years later or to have had the success that I've had. It wasn't like when we started off it, let's build seven figure businesses. It was let's pay the rent and then let's figure out what happens after that. But it kind of became something a lot bigger. So that probably took a lot longer than 30 seconds. But hopefully that kind of got the point.

Shannon Mattern: That's why this is a podcast. So we have time to tell all the good stories. So take me back to when you decided to start your first business. You said it was just to pay the rent. What did that look like? And what's the journey to today?

Raymond Blakney: Sure. So the first business that my wife and I started, because we started it together, which I would not necessarily always recommend, but we started two very successful businesses together. So it worked out for us. It was right after I finished the Peace Corps. Keep in mind, I had no money at that time. The Peace Corps gives you $2,000 to fly back, which you're supposed to spend to buy your plane ticket back to the United States, maybe put the deposit on the first month rent on a place so you can start your life back in the U S. That's all we had. And that's what we use to bootstrap our first business. So our first business was actually a brick and mortar language school in Mexico. We rented out an old historic home in downtown in a city called [inaudible]. We couldn't afford furniture, because with only $2,000. We would sleep on the floor on this inflatable mattress that actually had a hole in it, which we didn't know when we bought.

Raymond Blakney: So it would be an inflatable mattress at night, but we would make up on the floor every morning, right. Because as the evening went on it would slowly drain out the air. But we would do that in the classrooms because we couldn't afford a separate building for us to live in. And we would roll that up, throw it under our one office desk so nobody could see this kind of roll up mattress. And I would sit there, I'd be the administrator. My wife would give the classes. We also only had one table, but we had three "classrooms" in the school. So what we did there was we would move the table from different classrooms between classes. So people would have classes in different places. I don't think we fooled anybody. They're like "I wrote graffiti on this earlier today and it's here again."

Raymond Blakney: Right? But it worked out. Within three months, we were fully booked. So we were able to fully furnish this place, kind of get it all up and running. Everything was great. And that's kinda how we got started in brick and mortar business. How we got started on an online business, on the other hand, is due to the Mexican swine flu. Because we had this brick and mortar business and about six months into it, Mexican swine flu hit Mexico. We're recording this during COVID. So people can kind of, you know, probably feel this right now. But swine flu was supposed to be COVID back in 2008. It was supposed to be this plague going around the world. So they closed off Mexico to the entire world right? Let me stop this. I apologize. I have a one-year-old. I told him I was in a podcast, but he did not quite get my memo.

Shannon Mattern: Life happens on this podcast, but it's totally fine. He can chatter away.

Raymond Blakney: I tell him he's like really famous on podcasts now. So swine flu hit and suddenly Mexico got closed down. So our business model was built around foreigners coming and studying Spanish in Mexico. That's how people came. So when they closed the Mexican border, boom. We were fully booked for that month and suddenly all of them canceled because they couldn't get into the country. So we had to think of a way to pay our teachers because our teachers got paid weekly. And like most people in the U S and in Mexico, budgeting is not a big thing. Right? It's, you know, you get paid for the week. By the end of next Friday you need another paycheck because you've used all the money. So we were scrambling trying to figure out how are we going to survive not only as a business, but also to provide things for our staff.

Raymond Blakney: And that's when my wife actually had the idea. Why don't we just contact our old students and offer classes via Skype. This is 2008. Nobody was doing this right. So we emailed our old students and the reception was amazing. So I made another little website, a dinky, awful looking website. I tell people I'm a computer programmer, but that's the guy who makes the fancy stuff happened after you hit the [inaudible] button. Not the one who makes the page look nice. So we did it, we threw it up there. I was like, okay, if we can get one or two students, this will be great. So within 30 days swine flu passed, right? It wasn't a big thing like everybody thought it was going to be. Within 90 days, we were actually making more money on our online lessons than we were in our brick and mortar school.

Raymond Blakney: So we ran both of them for a few years. But we got to a point where we're making more money on this thing we spend an hour a day on, our side hustle, than we are on our main business. We decided to sell our school. That took about two years. Unfortunately, selling a business is not like put it up on eBay and, you know, within 48 hours, the thing is sold. And then we dedicated ourselves 100% to this online school, which is now called LiveLingua.com. And we're the third largest online school in the world. And the only one of the top three that has no venture capital money behind it. We're like the mom and pop going up against the Starbucks. They have $10-$20 million of venture capital behind them. And we're the side hustle that kind of kept up with them and are giving them a run for their money still to this day.

Shannon Mattern: That's incredible. So tell me how did you grow to be giving all of these other companies a run for their money as the mom and pop?

Raymond Blakney: Yeah. So the way we started with something called SEO, right? Search engine optimization. So we started this. This is how we promoted our first school. Again, if anybody's bootstrapping a business, I always say, learn SEO. It's kind of your first step. Because it is pure profit when you get the customers. Because it's not paid ads, not Facebook. And if you're in it for the long-term, it can be a great way to really test out your business. It takes time. It takes a lot of time. But it doesn't take any money to grow your business. Once you get some income from SEO, enough to live and maybe a little bit more, then you can start paying for Facebook ads without having to mortgage a house to see your Facebook ads work. You're already there. You're making some money. Let's try Facebook ads, Google ads,

Raymond Blakney: influencer marketing. You can kind of build up from there. So that's what we did in the beginning. So we had a little bit of the early move advantage. We weren't the first ones. We've outlasted a lot of companies. I mean, a lot of companies have gone up and down in the time that we've been around. But we did it slowly. Again, we bootstrapped it. I mean, it was me and my wife to start. We hired a few teachers. We are a hundred percent virtual company, so I have no rent. I don't have to pay for a fancy office anywhere, which means we can compete on prices because our competitors have to pay for their rent. There are all these benefits of doing it this way. And it also lets you learn your business well. Because I'm not a big fan of those

Raymond Blakney: "let's do a big launch" models for your business, right? Let's get 10,000 people signing up on the first day. If you're new to the business, that might be the worst idea you could have, right? Because your product might not be that good yet. So 10,000 people coming in and hating it is not the right move for you. And it's also not sustainable. Because you got it, you got the buzz up, you get everybody there. And then the buzz dies. And suddenly, let's say if you're an online business, you pay for a server good enough for 10,000 people, which is expensive, but now you don't get anybody else coming in every month. There's a lot of things to it. So if you're doing it as a side hustle, SEO is great, right? Get one client the first month, two the second month, three, after that. That's kind of how we built ourselves up. And now we have thousands of students around the world who take classes with us. But we learned from our mistakes and we're able to fix them really quickly because we didn't have that many people to fix it for.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you brought up that the launch model is not the way to go. I think that that's one of the things that, you know, when I first started my online business back in 2015, that's what you saw everybody doing. And that's what I thought I had to do. And so on one hand, I'm writing blog posts that are SEO optimized, and I'm doing all of that. But on the other hand, I'm also trying to build up this huge audience to launch. And of course you launch to crickets because you haven't done the work to figure out what your clients really need. And so I hit my head against the wall several times in those early days. And I always tell people hindsight, looking back, the things that were working for me that I totally discounted. Like getting new subscribers. I'm getting new customers. That's all coming from relationship building and search engine optimization, not building an audience over here on social media or Facebook ads or trying to launch things. It was like these other things that I wasn't even really trying to do right that I was doing right. But I was putting so much time and energy over here and banging my head up against the wall.

Raymond Blakney: Exactly. The saying is true in the online space, right? The only people to get rich off of miracle marketing strategies are the marketers selling you the miracle marketing strategies, right? So the people who sold you that course on how to do a big launch, he or she is doing fine. And they made a lot of money. But it generally doesn't work for most people. For a launch to work, you need money behind it. I mean, if you have a million bucks launch away. I mean, throw a million dollars at it and it'll probably work. But most of us do not start in that place. Right. If you want to do it smaller, start small. Something you can handle, and then kind of build your way up. You can do a relaunch later. If you just say "here's a new version of our product", try a launch three years down the road, two years down the road, when you have the budget and maybe a few staff members help you out.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. I mean, and just the fact that once I stopped doing that, once I was like, okay, this is just not worth my time, my stress, all the energy that I'm putting into it. And just started focusing on the things that you talked about, those sustainable strategies that like do take longer. There's not the instant gratification to them, but you know, they do build momentum behind you over time. And then you do start to see the results. So that's been my experience. And I mean, just even in the past year when the pandemic is affecting online businesses. Mine didn't seem to be affected. In fact, it grew quite a bit, but I was really well positioned to take on the wave of momentum that I had been building behind me through all of these strategies. I just wanted to acknowledge that because I think it's so important to talk about. I'm so passionate about talking about that.

Raymond Blakney: Yeah. I totally agree with you. I mean, likewise. We're luckily an online education, which our business grew 40% last year. So we had our best year by leaps and bounds than we ever did. Actually, I launched a new business in the last few months because of the extra capital that I was able to have. I launched new business, a SaaS product about 30 days ago. So you're able to do these things, but you're right. We worked for years to get here. I joked with people, I've had the privilege of speaking at a few conferences and some people say you should write a book about your experiences. And I joke and I say, look, my book would be called Seven Years to Seven Figures, and nobody would buy it because nobody wants to work seven years to get there.

Raymond Blakney: Right. Everybody wants "how do I get that million dollar business in 30 days?" I don't know. I can't tell you. I've never done it. You know, I worked for seven years to get seven figures, which in hindsight, people are like, wow, that's actually not bad. If I stayed in corporate America and I was trying to get seven figures with my 3% raise or whatever it was they gave me every year, I would not be at seven figures right now. I can guarantee you that. That's not the gross that would be brought in at this point. But people are just not willing to put in the work. Like you said, you used the word right, the instant gratification that people are looking for is not really what entrepreneurs should be. If that's what you're looking for, entrepreneurship might not be for you because you'll have ups and downs.

Raymond Blakney: If you say, I don't want the stress of having a boss. Trust me. Sometimes that's a lot easier than having the stress of doing everything yourself. Right? I mean, there are days when I'm like, I wish somebody just paid me every 15 days. That would be so nice. But I wouldn't trade what I do for anything. I mean, I love what this is. This is my sports. I mean, I can talk about it for hours. If you're not there, then maybe choose another path. But if this is for you, your life will change entirely.

Shannon Mattern: Oh yeah. Absolutely. If you are willing to be in it for the long haul, your life will change entirely. I was thinking my book of my corporate days would have been "10 Years to Six Figures. , Would anybody want to read that? No! I couldn't agree with you more on just being patient because the rewards are worth it. They are so they're so worth it. I could never go back to corporate. I just could not see myself doing that.

Raymond Blakney: That to me is like worst case scenario. Right? First off, I don't know what would get a job in. Right? I think somebody wrote a book called Unemployable or something like that. It was talking about entrepreneurs, because our skill sets are so diverse. Yeah. I can do marketing, I could program. But you know, there are people who have dedicated themselves 100% to those skills are probably better at it, right? A guy who's been doing marketing for 20 years is better than I am. Somebody who's been programmed for the last 20 years is better at it than I am. But what we bring to the table as entrepreneurs is, we're like 80% at a lot of different things, which is the perfect skill set to run businesses and build businesses. That's not the perfect skill set to be a cog in a machine, which is what going back into the corporate world is in a lot of senses. I agree with you 100%. I'm just thinking working for somebody else. I get like goosebumps, even thinking about that possibility. I'm like, I hope that never happens.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. I made that promise to my husband when I quit my day job three years ago that like, "Hey, if this doesn't work out within the first year I'll go back to corporate", knowing full well it's going to work out because I'm never going to go back to corporate. I will do whatever it takes to make sure it works out. I was just talking on a podcast before this one with someone and we were talking about I'm all for following the rules unless the rules don't make sense to me. And that's why I never really fit in well at a corporate job.

Raymond Blakney: I think if you can be an entrepreneur, kind of following up on that, you might find that that traces back before even working. Right. If you kind of think back to high school where you didn't quite fit into any niche, There was a quote for me in college that a friend told me. So I was in a fraternity in college, but I'm also a bit of a geek, right? So I was in one of those geeky clubs. So I was a little too geeky for the fraternity, but the people in the geek club were like, why are you hanging out with us? They actually said, you're too cool to hang out with us. So I found out I was in this weird space where I just didn't fit in a hundred percent everywhere.

Raymond Blakney: I had friends. I mean, they accepted me, but it wasn't that I fit in in these places. So if you're thinking about being an entrepreneur and you trace your life back, even past in your life and you never quite fit into any of those kinds of holes in the society, maybe being an entrepreneur is right for you because it's kind of a place for misfits, especially the online space where almost anybody can get into these days. It's not the old days where you got to rent a building and get a loan from a bank. No, that's all gone. You can get online, you can start your business for $50, $100. Try it out. And if you're unique, that's actually a selling point. I mean, you will find your tribe. You only need a thousand true fans, as they say, right? So you need a thousand people who are unique, just like you, and you got a seven figure business that you can build out of that.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. Any anyone that was kind of a misfit. I was similar to you. I think that's why I relate to what you're saying so much. I was in band. But I was friends with every group in school, but not like fully in any one of them. I just kind of like floated around. So I totally relate to that. So let's talk more about you can start a business with $50 to $100 and all you need is a thousand true fans. Tell me, what does that look like for somebody?

Raymond Blakney: Okay. So I actually have a process when I'm starting every new business. And just for the listeners, don't worry, I'm not trying to sell you anything. I don't actually sell this process. You know, I don't coach people. I do it. I use this myself and I'm happy to share with other people. So the general process that I use when I'm looking for a new business is step one, I keep an eye out for needs. So in my mind there are two types of entrepreneurs in the world. They're visionaries who kind of imagine things that nobody's even imagined before, like the iPhone, right? And then create it and sell it to us. That's not me. I'm not one of those visionary entrepreneurs. I'm the one who kind of keeps an eye out, for example, if you need something. And I'll talk about the current business I'm watching because it falls exactly into that.

Raymond Blakney: So my current business is a product that helps you get booked on podcasts, on autopilot, right? It's a SaaS product. Why did this start? Because about a year ago I wanted to start appearing on podcasts. So let me just Google some podcasts to appear on as a guest. That that can't be too hard. Google it. Yeah. That doesn't work. Trust me. It's impossible to find podcasts that way. And then I went on I-tunes, can we do it? No. So there was a need. So I'm like, is there anybody that helps? Okay, there's these agencies that charge you $5,000 to get you on like four shows. I'm like, yeah. I'm not paying that. So that was when I found a need, right? There was a need for a better way to get good guests connected with good podcast hosts, like yourself, and nothing was out there.

Raymond Blakney: So I'm like, okay, this is how an entrepreneur thinks, I'll build that. So the next step is, is anybody looking for it? So what I do there is I go into Google and I do keyword research on does anybody look for podcast guests, how to appear on podcasts, all that kind of stuff. I did some Google searches. Yeah. People are looking for this. There's a need, there's a demand. Nobody's meeting the demand. And I have an easy formula I do. I take all those keywords that are kind of related to what I want. Appear on podcast, podcast guests. Add them all together, then I multiply them by 1% and assume I can sell to 1% of those people. And then you multiply it by whatever you're selling, right?

Raymond Blakney: So let's say you do the search. You get a hundred people a month look for this - pink flamingos - a hundred people a month looking for pink lawn flamingos. So great. And I can sell the 1%. And that means I'm selling one a month. Is it worth your time? Well, if you're selling $10,000 launch flamingoes, yes, it might be worth your time. If it's a $5 lawn flamingo, it might not be worth your time. So I do this process for every business idea I have. So before I even start it, before I spend any money, I've already established if there is a need, what the competition is, because I did the research. Nobody's doing this. And how much money could I theoretically make from this. Is it worth my time even to go into this business. Most people skip these steps. They just love the idea of "let's launch it."

Raymond Blakney: They have no idea if anybody's looking for it. They have no idea if it's gonna be profitable to them. I do exactly that step. Pre-launch for every single business that I do. And I recommend it to anybody. I mean, do that. It's one day of work that could save you thousands of dollars and years of your life. Just to do this one little thing, because it can discount ideas. Just go into it without the emotions attached. But sometimes we get so emotionally attached to our business idea. It's our baby. No, no, no. These are numbers. If these numbers don't work out, sorry, look for another baby I guess. That's a bad analogy, but you know, I think you get my point, right? That's what I do when I launch businesses. So there you go. You do that. The next step is just putting up a quick website, getting in front of the right people, seeing if anybody buys, you don't have to create the product yet.

Raymond Blakney: You just kind of do it. You pre-sell it. Try to get some pre-selling out there. Few people buy. Yeah. Then you start building it. You start building the product, you kind of work your way up. And that's generally the way I bootstrapped all of my businesses. I kind of follow this formula. And then when you hire, you hire with Filipino VAs, then I go with ex-pats as my next stop. I find Americans living outside of the US because that's a lot cheaper. And then you hire full-time people in the US or whatever country you're in. That'll take your business up to seven figures. You guys can probably do it faster than me, in seven years. I had no idea what I was doing. But, you know, you could probably do three to five f you strike the right idea and you put in the time and work. You could probably build a seven figure business. Gross, keep in mind. I'm not saying you can take home a million dollars. But you can bring in a million dollars in less than seven years if you follow that path.

Shannon Mattern: I love that step-by-step, because a lot of people I see struggle with this. They have the visionary idea that they have not established and then they would have to take the extra step to create the demand for it. Which is the way longer path to go. Because now you have to build an audience and convince them that they want this thing, instead of just finding the people that already want the thing. How can you tweak the visionary idea to what people might want now and go through that process?

Raymond Blakney: Absolutely. And then you could use the money you get if you find that lead in, from that 10% of the people who want it now. You use that money, build the next 10%, build the next. And then you start building an audience and you kind of get the word out there. This is going back to what we were talking about before. If you don't have a million dollars or you don't have access to these big funds, then you're not gonna be able to get in front of the right people. You could have the greatest idea in the world. It's the old, um, I date myself when I say this, field of dream.

Shannon Mattern: I know exactly what you're talking about.

Raymond Blakney: Oh, I feel old. But you know it's the whole" build it and they will come". It's not the way the world works. I'm sorry. You could have the best website in the world with the best product. If you don't get front of the right eyes, your business is going to fail.

Shannon Mattern: So, so true. Okay. So let's talk about this software as a service, getting booked on podcasts, because I hear this all the time and people don't know how to even get started. Like, get on a podcast. That's the best way to market your business. Well, yes, but like how? So, tell me about your product.

Raymond Blakney: Awesome. So current product is called Podcast Hawk, the animal h-a-w-k. So podcasthawk.com. We're currently in beta. So that means you kind of have to apply. And I do an onboarding call with all the users. So we have about a hundred users. We launched four weeks ago now. So we got about a hundred users on there that are trying it out. I told you the backstory. You're right. Getting on podcasts right now is very hard. So there's two sides to the story. The first one is, I've had my own podcasts in the past. I have one right now, but it's for language education without guests. And I realized, you know, making a podcast is a lot of work. You know what's not that much work? Appearing as a guest on a podcast. Right. Then somebody else edits it. I'm already being interviewed by Shannon, guys.

Raymond Blakney: So I don't think she's going to take me off right now. And it promotes it, it does all that kind of stuff on the podcast. So early last year I wanted to appear on podcast to promote Live Lingua. We were doing well. So I was looking for other ways to kind of get out there and get in front of people. So I did the whole search thing. Didn't work out. Being computer engineer, it occurred to me, hmm, could I get all of the podcasts in the world into a database? So I spend a few weeks. I'm like, yeah, I can do that. It didn't finish in a few weeks, but I did test it and it was possible. Can I get all their contact information, spend a few more weeks? I'm like, yeah, I can do that too. What happens if I make that searchable for people?

Raymond Blakney: And so I went in there and essentially built this little cover skin on top of it and made it all searchable. And I started using it myself. So for example, for you, Shannon, let's say side hustle. So you want to appear on podcasts about side hustles. Right now, if you tried to find that in Google, it'd be a ton of work, right? You might find two or three, but that's about it. With podcasthawk.com you can go in there right now and you can say, okay, give me all the podcasts in the world that use the word side hustle in their description somewhere. I never recommend searching for title because some people try to get really creative with their titles and it has nothing to do with what the show is about. Right? So put side hustle in the description with an established show with at least 25 episodes, that's one of our filters.

Raymond Blakney: I want it to have at least four star reviews. And I need it to have made an episode in the last 60 days. So I know it's active. I tell everybody, I challenge you, go and find that on Google, right? With all those criteria, that would take you days. For us, you hit search. In four or five seconds you'll get thousands of podcasts results back. In our current beta version, you can now download the results for the emails, the social media, everything, into a little spreadsheet, and you can pitch them. What we are building is we're going to send the emails out for you ,by the end of the year, so when you go in there and you say, okay, here are the hundred I like. Here's the pitch. And it'll send out the first email. It'll send up the follow-up. If the person answers before that to your inbox, that's it.

Raymond Blakney: So you can kind of set it up in such a way that you set it up once every few months. And we'll send out a few, maybe a hundred pitches a month. And depending on the responses you get, you just get that in your inbox. The one warning I'll give you there is we've tested it out now for about 10 users. So the idea was with a hundred pitches I get three to five podcasts. That'll be pretty good. Cold email, right? 3% to 5% response rate. Yeah, I did it. I got on 34 in 30 days. And that backfired on me quite a bit. I did it with travel podcasts. I love to travel. Let me just try an area that's not my business. Just low risk If it messes up, nothing happens. I got 34 podcasts in 30 days with a hundred email pitches that went out.

Raymond Blakney: So that's what our system will help you do. It's two sides. It's not only to help good guests get on podcasts. But there's also a lot of podcasts. Especially if you're starting out, it's hard to find guests. So we're trying to kind of connect, make this all easier for the old podcast ecosystem. So you can get on there. We have the big boys. If you were to pitch Joe Rogan, we'll help you pitch you a Rogan. But I can't guarantee he's going to say yes to your pitch. You know what I mean? You know, we have them on our show. So, we've even created something called The Podcast Score of zero to a hundred to rate podcasts. So you can actually find what range you're in. If you're just starting off, go for the ones from 10 to 20, you know, just get your feet wet, get some interviews in there. Then work your way up the podcast ladder, maybe ending up on Joe Rogan, right? Because you know, you kind of worked your way up over a few years. We'll help you do all of that along the way.

Shannon Mattern: That's incredible because I know for me personally, because I've got to hire a VA to scour the internet and go through all those criteria that you just said. They have to actually have an active episode. It's easy to find podcasts, but to find ones that people are actually still doing. Because everyone has the great idea. "Let me start a podcast" and then 10 episodes in they're like, "nevermind, I'm done with that idea".

Raymond Blakney: This is work. Exactly. This is work.

Shannon Mattern: So that's incredible. I want to be a beta tester.

Raymond Blakney: We'll get you set up after the call. Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, absolutely. Because, it's a lot of work to find all of that information on a podcast.

Raymond Blakney: We'll do it in five seconds for you. I mean, literally once you set up the search, it's a few seconds, we'll do it. And our price point is, right now for the beta testers, we give 60 days free to try it out. Then it's $49 a month. We want to get up to $149 a month, but beta testers lock in that price for life. Right? So any new feature they just get it. So if anybody's interested in beta testing, go to podcasthawk.com right now. Click on the signup. All that'll happen is a popup, which will you put your email in. Then I actually personally email you guys and I set up an onboarding call. Me or my partner will set up an onboarding call. And we walk you guys through the thing right now, but we're trying to get to know our customers, trying to get what they do.

Raymond Blakney: If you guys are listening to this, this is a side hustle. We're bootstrapping. We don't have a million dollar business. I don't have a team of people to do this. Right. I do the coding and my partner is a marketing guy. We're doing everything. We do the legwork. Even though we both have quite a bit of experience in what we're doing. So not only could you try out the product you could also maybe learn a little bit about bootstrapping a business and how it works. I mean, it's not glamorous in the early days. You got to get your feet wet, get your hands dirty when you're launching the business. And that's what we're doing at Podcast Hawk.

Shannon Mattern: It's not glamorous, but it's super fun. I want to know how they built the directory. Cause I'm a nerd like that. I was in IT before I started this. I'm like, how did you build the database? And you know, so that's another conversation!

Raymond Blakney: It's still normalizing the data. We're not going to go too down the geek side, but yeah, we're still normalizing some of the data.

Shannon Mattern: I'm a nerd like that, but like no one else listening to this would be like, yeah, Shannon, let's talk about that for 10 minutes. They're like, "no, thank you".

Raymond Blakney: I'll see a big drop in the listenership of the episode right as we start going into detail!

Shannon Mattern: But I just think, back to this topic of bootstrapping, it is so important. I bootstrapped my business from selling my first web design service back in the day where I took on my first client and did it on my work laptop until I made enough money to buy a better laptop so that I wasn't feeling so guilty for using work equipment.

Raymond Blakney: Did you have duct tape holding the screen up? Because that was my first laptop. That was mine. It didn't stay up. I had duct tape around the screen because I couldn't close it or open it anymore.

Shannon Mattern: No, I did have like the external mouse because the mouse pad wasn't working and it was some old crappy Windows laptop. And I took that first payment and I bought my own laptop and then took that money, built my website with that money. And then I started with affiliate marketing. I started teaching people how to set up Blue Host and how to set up WordPress. I was like I'm going to do what Pat Flynn does, but times 10 on the teaching how to build the website side. And that's really how I got my start and never spent a single, personal dollar on the business, which was so important to me to build it with its own money and grow it to where it is now.

Raymond Blakney: It's stressful enough to build a business when you don't have a bank loan hanging over you or something like that. Right? So I agree with you a 100%. I mean, use your own money. Don't spend the money you don't have and just build your business this way. The problem is, again, you read all those entrepreneurial books by famous celebrity entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, and all the rest of them, and they all talk about "we took a hundred million dollar loan out". For the most part, I don't think that's the kind of business most people want to build for their lifestyle. I mean, you know, before you get into business you have to ask yourself why. And really be honest with yourself. There's no wrong answer. If you say, I just want to make a lot of money,

Raymond Blakney: that's fine. If you say, I want to spend more time with your family, that's fine too. But be really clear on what you're trying to do with the business before you build it. Because if your goal is to spend much more time with your family, don't try to build the next Facebook. Because chances are you're going to be working 80 hours a week. I think there's a reason why most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are divorced, like 60 - 70%, because you sacrifice a lo. Be very clear on your why before you launch. Most people will be happy making $100,000 to $200,000 a year. If I could say make a hundred thousand dollars a year working four hours a week and then you can travel around the world and do whatever you want. That would probably make a lot more people happy than saying you make $10 million a year, but you never see your family and you never leave your office. So you kind of have to kind of answer that question for yourself.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, absolutely. And in the beginning, you are working a lot. You're working a lot to get it off the ground, to test your idea, to build the audience, to build your 1000 true fans. But if you've done the analysis that you talked about at the beginning, which is brilliant by the way, you're paddling downstream, right? It's not going to be as challenging as if you're trying to create this thing from no demand and create the demand for it.

Raymond Blakney: One thing I'll add to that is honestly, like, I love what I do and I would never say I don't work a lot. I mean, I work 50, 60 hours a week. The difference is we set our own hours, right. I want to take tomorrow off. In fact, this Friday, I'm taking my son to his first swimming lesson - middle of the day. No, I didn't have to ask anybody. I didn't have to take time off. I am going to the swimming pool, you know, socially distance. We're going to a swimming pool and my one-year-old son is going to take his first swimming lesson. And I'm not going to miss that because I run my own business. And that is the kind of thing that you won't miss. My wife and I, back in the day, you know, would travel two or three months out of the year.

Raymond Blakney: We would work in the mornings and then, you know, go and see. So we went to spend three months in Italy. We we rented a house in Capri for a month and we would work in the mornings. Then we go out and check out the Island in the afternoons. Went to Japan. We did the same thing. That's the freedom. So people ask, are you on vacation or are you working? And I'm like, it depends on your point of view. I mean, you know, we're on vacation and we're working at the same time. So it's not the whole 10 days. I remember corporate - 10 days of vacation and you have to say thank you at the end of the year. Right? You get two weeks off. Yeah. That's not how it works when you work for yourself.

Shannon Mattern: You get two weeks off. It's frowned upon if you take them both at the same time. So you have to separate that. And also you have to like scramble to get everything done before you leave. And then there's a big pile of stuff waiting for you when you get back. It's awesome.

Raymond Blakney: The worst part is you cram the whole vacation into seven days. So if you're doing like an international trip, I remember the last one I did in the corporate days was to China. So I might've done two weeks. I might've squeezed in the 10 days. But remember, you have to squeeze so much stuff in because it's only two weeks. You have jet lag. I'm awful at jet lag. It took me a week just to get over the jet lag to get there. Right? So you go in and you're trying to do it. And I got back from that trip and I was more exhausted than when I left, because I'm like, I have to do this fast. It's my only vacation all year. It's mentally draining. But when you can do the slow travel, right, when you're running your own business and you're cognizant that hey, I might have to work a day every two days on this trip, but let's go for three months. Maybe you work Monday through Friday, but on the weekends, you're in an exotic new place, whatever that is. So every weekend is like a little mini vacation you can take because you know, you're out, you're checking out new places, you're trying new stuff. And at least for us, me and my wife, that's kinda been a life changer for us because we really love those kinds of things.

Shannon Mattern: This is why I keep trying to get my husband to quit his corporate job and join the business. I don't think I'll ever make it happen, but that's why. Because I'm like, that's the lifestyle I would love to have. But for now I will settle for the flexibility of literally like taking a nap before I started these podcast interviews today.

Raymond Blakney: You too? That's why my hair is a little messed up. I just want it to take a nap before doing it.

Shannon Mattern: It's like naps in the middle of the day are a game changer. As you know, I'm in my early forties, I get tired. I don't have kids. So you have a one-year-old. I'm sure that you need all the naps you can get.

Raymond Blakney: In my forties though. So trust me! And we go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning. Right? So like the only way I can keep that pace up is by taking a nap. Me and my wife take a nap at one o'clock every day. Today we took it at noon just for the podcast. But one o'clock every day we take an app for at least 30 minutes. But we give ourselves the whole hour. So if we're real tired, we will sleep for the entire hour. And I think, you know, "saves our marriage" up to a point because we're much better rested now because of that.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. It's just that flexibility. It's so worth it. So I just have a couple more questions for you before we wrap up. You know, this is Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. So sometimes side hustlers need a pep talk because they want the instant gratification. Things aren't going fast enough. They think they should be farther along by now. They just feel stuck. So what is your best advice for, I know you've given us so much good advice already, but what is your best advice for a side hustler who is just kind of feeling stuck and needs that little pep talk. Pep Talk from Ray.

Raymond Blakney: Okay. My pep talk from Ray is move to a beach in Mexico. So I'll put a pause there because that's really the whole, that's like the TLDR of the pep talk. I'll give you a little more details. So my idea behind that is most people get stuck in this space in side hustling where they might be making $1000, $2,000 a month, maybe $3000 or $4,000 a month. But depending on where you live, in the United States especially, that's not enough to quit your day job, right? You're like, I'm stuck. My business could grow, but I'm working 40 hours in my regular job. I do this in my free time. And I'm stuck because the $2,000 a month in New York city and San Francisco and Chicago, I can't live. What do I do now? Right. So I apologize for that noise too, because there's construction going on. Working from home, right?

Shannon Mattern: This is like the COVID life for everybody.

Raymond Blakney: I still apologize. But everybody understands what it is. So what is the solution around that? Move to Mexico or anywhere in Latin America Really. And I'm generally speaking to people in the US. If you live in Asia, move to Bali, right? Or if you live in the UK, move to Portugal. There are equivalent places for you to do that. The reason I do Mexico is my wife's Mexican. And I lived in Mexico. I'm In Mexico right now. Right? So I lived here for many years and it's a way to instantly give yourself a 400% raise. $2,000 a month in the United States might not be enough. $2,000 in Mexico puts you in the top 5% of the income earners. So not only can you come down here and work full time on your business, imagine yourself sitting in *inaudible* de Carmen in a cafe, looking out over the beach, living in a nice condo, which has a cleaning lady cleaning it. You might have a cook at home making your dinner. And you're working full time on your business for the $2,000. That's kind of the pep talk and the hack that I give people for launching their businesses, right? So you do that. It doesn't have to be a permanent move, right? You do it for a few years to get your $2000 up to 10,000. And then you can move back to where you were before in the US.

Shannon Mattern: And then you will teach them how to speak the language with Live Lingua.

Raymond Blakney: That's it. But it's also an added bonus. I mean, even if you don't do Live Lingua, you might learn, the other language. Like move to Mexico, you can learn Spanish. So you go back to the US and you now have a six-figure business because you've been able to dedicate yourself for the last few years. It's been a few years having $1 fish tacos working on your tan in your free time. You might never want to move back. But now you have a six figures. You move back and you might learn Spanish at the same time which expense your business to the whole Latin America. So not only are you English speaking, you go to the second largest language outside of Mandarin and learn that as well.

Shannon Mattern: Ah, I love it. I'm having my husband listen to this. I'm like, we have got to get you on this, on this mindset. I'm dragging him kicking and screaming through my entrepreneurial journey. He's coming along. But my master plan is to get him to leave corporate. So we'll see.

Raymond Blakney: Yeah, you always think, why did it take me so long to do it, right? You and I have come from the corporate background. I'm like, wow. I still actually have some of those buttons shirts, you know, business casual clothes. I haven't used them in years. I don't know why they're sitting in my closet. So I have one suit, which I have to dust off every time I need to wear a suit, which is like once every two years. And that's it. I mean, I don't miss it. You set your own hours. It's wonderful. It's wonderful out here.

Shannon Mattern: So the last question is one that I ask every guest that comes on the show and it is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get where you are today?

Raymond Blakney: Yeah. So this is something I'm still working on. So I work with a mindset coach to get there. But the biggest belief I had was I didn't know what I was doing. And I was stuck there for ages. I had a seven figure business and ,believe it or not, I'm an introvert. So, you know, I never went to conferences. I never met other other entrepreneurs. And I thought I can't go there because then they'll know I don't know what I'm doing, right? Until I realized, wow, most people don't have a seven figure business. It took me a while to get there. And I think this is something in human nature that a lot of us go through. I was the skinny, Asian kid. I'm half Filipino. So right. So the skinny Asian kid for most of my life. But now I'm six foot tall and 190 pounds. And I work out every morning. So I'm not going to say I'm Arnold Schwartzenegger, but but I didn't realize that until I was like 35. Still, when I looked into a room I would say, I'm the smallest guy here. I'm, you know, I'm skinny. My mind did not catch up with my body. And I'm finding that my mindset is not catching up to where I am in entrepreneurship either. It's still eight years ago. And that's what I'm working on. That's been the biggest challenge for me personally in entrepreneurship.

Shannon Mattern: I love to hear when people hire mindset coaches, because that was the missing piece for me too. I didn't even know there were business coaches or mindset coaches when I started my business, I was just like, I just want to quit my job. And so I'm going to just figure it out and, like you, hope nobody finds out that I really don't know what I'm doing. I'm literally just figuring this out as I go. It's like, Oh, can you build a website that does this, this and this? I'm like, sure. And then I'm figuring it out as I go. Just like how everybody else figures out how to do stuff. Google, right? It wasn't until I was trying to solve a different problem. I thought I had a sales problem, but I had a mindset problem. That really kind of opened my eyes to like, wait, it's how I'm thinking about this. And it's how I'm thinking about myself. And all of this, that's making this so challenging. Right?

Raymond Blakney: Absolutely. Yeah. And it's still a work in progress, right. Because it's very easy for us to fall back into our old habits because we were there for years. We're not breaking like a habit of, Oh, I did it for like three days and then now I got a break. No, no, no. This is something that's been in there. And I think 90% of the job of a mindset coach is just to make us realize what we're thinking, because we don't realize that it's so part of who we are. Like, if stress happens, what do you do? What is your immediate reaction? Maybe good, maybe bad. But that's what the mindset coach helps you realize. And then he works through all these things, gives you techniques to deal with that might be more beneficial to where you want to go. And yeah, I've been with them for about a year now. And even the mindset coach even says it's not or the rest of your life. There's a goal you're trying to get to. But also keep in mind, it's a year, maybe two years to get to that goal, to discover the new you, right. Get your mindset in the right place.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. Break out of those old patterns, reach those goals until you get stuck there. And then you need someone to kind of help you stair step up to the next level. I don't know why it's comforting to know that like even when I get to seven figures, I won't have it all figured out, you know, because that means I can still get there how I am now. Like I don't have to get it perfect.

Raymond Blakney: Oh, trust me, every day I still have that feeling sometimes, I don't know what I'm doing. So I got invited to this entrepreneur group, which invites a hundred people, everybody with seven figure businesses. So they invited me to go to their retreat up in Park City, Utah. Rented out a luxury hotel. We were all there for a week and we kind of hung out. Yeah, my business was by far the smallest business in there. I mean, literally we're talking like the founder of Constant Contact was in this a hundred. I mean, hundred million dollar businesses, billion dollar businesses were there, and I'm sitting at tables with them. And the only thing going through my mind is don't say something stupid. Don't say something stupid because I'm like, yeah, in a certain context I might know what I'm doing, but yes, there's so much more to learn.

Raymond Blakney: They started talking about things and I'm like, I have no idea what you just said. I mean, a C Corp with QSBS stocks. I don't know what that means. I'm like, sorry you could have been speaking another language, and I would've had no clue whatsoever. But instead of discouraging me, that motivates me. I don't have to believe I can't learn that. I just know I haven't learned that yet. So as soon as I got back from that I started reading books. Now I know what a QSBS is. I had no idea when they were telling me back then. Right. Ways to save taxes., People at that level have these strategies for businesses that are just mind blowing to me. It's amazing. So make sure you're the dumbest person in the room whenever you can. I mean, that's what I learned. It's humbling. It's kind of nerve wracking, but if you can do it, you're going to get a lot out of it.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. If you're going to go to the next level, that's the place to be. The smallest business of the seven figure businesses on the week long retreat. Sign me up. Heck yeah.

Raymond Blakney: I didn't know I would be the smallest, but when I got there, I'm like, yeah, I am definitely the smallest one here. Not even close to these guys. But nobody treats you bad either. So don't go in there thinking they're arrogant and they're going to say whatever. No, they're really nice people. They don't let it go to their heads. If you met them at a coffee shop, you would have no idea. One of my favorite books of all time is the Millionaire Next Door. Right. And one of the things they teach is live within your means. And most people buy used luxury cars, all that kind of stuff. You find that these people kind of follow that. They splurge on a few things. Like they have a very nice house, but it's well below their means.

Raymond Blakney: I mean, they could have a much nicer house with how much money they have, but they have a nice house, which is more than enough for their family. They drive used luxury cars. You meet them at Starbucks you would not think anything of it. They wouldn't have Gucci shirts on, you know, Gucci suits. They probably have shopped at a Walmart. That's who these people are. And that was kind of a revelation to me because I thought they were going to be like, wow, look at this. No, they're just average people. A little bit of luck and work really hard.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah. And they probably think like, Oh, I've been where he is. And I want to see everybody wins. So let's all get together in a room and like talk about it.

Raymond Blakney: I think that's the key to seven figures, getting past that kind of competition thinking. It's a zero sum game, right? It's not that I can only win by others losing. It's by, you know, let me get together a group of people. We might be even be in the same industry. Let's all get together and let's win together. Right? Especially online, we can reach so many people. It's not like we're in a small little town. There's only a thousand people. And if I open a new grocery store, it's taking away from the other one. Online is not that way. I don't know. How many billion people are on the planet right now. I mean, come on. If you need a thousand of those, 10,000 of those, a hundred thousand of those, that's a pin drop. You know, that's nothing as far as the globe is concerned and you can help your friend get a hundred thousand. You can be like the Oprah of a hundred thousands, right. You'll get a hundred thousand! You get a hundred thousand! You get a hundred thousand! And everybody can be successful as a result of it.

Shannon Mattern: I think that is the perfect place to wrap up this interview. Can you let everybody know where they can go to connect with you and check out Podcast Hawk, sign up for the beta, all of the things.

Raymond Blakney: So I'm actually not that active on social media, oddly enough. I'm trying to become more active because I've never tried to build a personal brand. I'm like, I don't really have time, I'm building businesses, right. So, but if you want to go anywhere on social media, again, dating myself, Facebook. Look for Ray Blakeney on Facebook. I'm actually semiprofessional sword fighter. So look for a picture of a person in a sword fight. And that's me. Otherwise it's not me. But feel free to add me and contact me there. You can also contact me through my two primary businesses, livelingua.com, l-i-v-e-l-i-n-g-u-a.com. Just go to the about us page. My email is right there. So you see my photo, click on that. You can email me. You can go to podcasthawkcom. Go to the contact us form and hit submit.

Raymond Blakney: Because right now I am customer support. So while we're in the beta, that comes directly to me. Even in the future, if you're listening to this few months, few years down the road, we have support team. Just say, this is for Ray. They'll forward it to me. Honestly, reach out. I love talking business. I love talking to entrepreneurs. This is like finding a hobby for me. Again, I'm not going to try to sell you anything. I have no course. I don't coach. None of those things. But I'd be happy to sit and chat with anybody.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Everyone go to shannonmattern.com/339. I'll link up all the things that we talked about there. And Ray, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Raymond Blakney: Thanks for having me on. It was a pleasure.

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