#103: Sam Parr [Asking Questions] – from The Hustle to one of the top podcasts on the planet with My First Million

May 17, 2022

#103: Sam Parr [Asking Questions] – from The Hustle to one of the top podcasts on the planet with My First Million
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Sam Parr is the co-host of My First Million and the founder of The Hustle. My First Million is one of the top business podcasts on the planet, generating more than 1 million downloads per month.

Sam Parr is the co-host of My First Million and the founder of The Hustle. My First Million is one of the top business podcasts on the planet, generating more than 1 million downloads per month.

The Hustle is a business and tech newsletter that had 1.5 million subscribers when it was acquired by Hubspot in February 2021. We don’t know what the terms of the deal are – Sam has said that he’s taking the number to the grave. But Axios reported that The Hustle was valued at $27 million.

In this episode, we talk about the start of The Hustle, how Sam learned copywriting, how he does research, the growth of My First Million, the platforms he sees with the biggest opportunities for creators, and why he’s never been afraid of asking questions.

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Jay Clouse  00:00

Sam, I have a lot of questions for you. But to lay some context for folks, what was going on in the world of email in 2014, when he decided to start the hustle as a daily newsletter.


Sam Parr  00:12

So I actually I didn't, it didn't become a daily newsletter until basically April 19 of 2016. The Hustle started as just a conference that I was doing. And in order to make it popular, I created like, it started as a weekly email leading up to the event. And then I would just use it all the time to talk to people. And so in 2014, Groupon had kind of was past its peak. But I knew that they were email first this company called Thrillist. Well, I also think was past its peak, but they were inspirational to me, and they started as an email newsletter. My friend, Andrew Warner has this website called mixergy.com. And I just read all these interviews about email newsletters, and I loved writing and I liked making content. And so nothing really was happening at the moment, the skim had launched, and they were getting popular, but the skim was happening. And besides that, everything else had already happened. It was past its peak. And I just was interested in email, because it seemed like the easiest way to get my content into people's eyes. And that was probably sounds like you're talking in terms of like organizations with Thrillist. And the scam. Were there as many like, well, how


Jay Clouse  01:25

many newsletter creators were there as individuals, you know, you had like probably James clear still at that time. But


Sam Parr  01:31

James, Tim Paris was a friend of an investor of mine, and he hadn't even started it. He invested because he wanted to get into email. My friend Neville Medora, who's like my best friend, he has this blog called copywriting course. And he helped maybe like not exactly start, but make it popular app sumo and app Sumo was an email. And besides that, I didn't know anyone who was actively in it. And a lot of people like my really good friend now his name is Dave nemetz. He's one of my best friends. He started this company called Bleacher Report. And he ended up investing in my company. And I told him that I'm going to start with an email business and he was like, Dude, I'm gonna invest in you because you're my friend, and I like you. But like, this is not that good of an idea. And so like, a lot of people thought it was pretty dumb. But then like, all my internet marketer, friends, so I'm friends with startup people and internet marketing people. Were crushing it on email, and I'm like, This can definitely work. You guys don't know what he's talking about.


Jay Clouse  02:24

Yeah, I'm wondering what these internet marketing people were doing. That wasn't email in 2014. That was working for them.


Sam Parr  02:31

Well, probably Facebook ads, but like internet, marketers have always done email, because it's always worked. So like, when I was a kid, when I was like, 15, or 16 years old, and I wanted to learn how to meet girls. I remember getting internet marketing emails from this list that I'd signed up for called double your dating. And it was this guy, David DeAngelo, who like would teach you how to like, talk to girls. And I remember getting these like emails, and they're long form text based emails, and I ended up buying like a $14 book. For him. It was basically like the precursor to that book, the game which like anyone, any male born before, between, like 1980, and like 1995 has probably read on how to meet women. And I remember getting his emails and I just always remember those emails when I as I got older, and we started starting a business so that they were always happening. I was gonna say I Loki, I bet that taught you a ton about sales? Oh, yeah. Because like, I knew how to sell stuff, just like using my voice. Like, I could go door to door and sell stuff. I had a hotdog stand and I could sell stuff to like random strangers. And then it kind of hit me. I'm like, Oh, my God, this email thing, I'm pretty much doing the same thing. But like, I only have to write it one time. And I could send it to like an infinity amount of people. This sounds way easier and better. And that's kind of why email was cool to me.


Jay Clouse  03:46

Well, let me take one step back because I had part of your story backwards. I thought hustle con, the conference came out of the newsletter, it sounds like the other way around. So tell me why you want Why do you want to start an events business?


Sam Parr  03:58

I didn't, I sold the company. And I was like, looking for something to do. And so I got into it as like a way to kill time. And I thought the first one was gonna lose money. I didn't think I was gonna make money. And I was like praying that it would break even. And I went and lose money. But it made like 50 or 60 grand in like six weeks. And I was like, Damn, that was cool. Like, I really don't want to do this and make this like a thing. But I mean, $60,000 for six weeks was pretty cool. Let's try it again. And but I went and rode my motorcycle cross country for like three months. And then I came back and I hosted it again. And this time it made like 150 or $200,000 and I was like, golly, I did not think that was gonna happen. I that my expenses, I think was $17,000. And I think the revenue was like 188 grand. I like it between 150 to 100. And I was like Oh, well that's just I just made a year's salary with you know, only two months of work. That's pretty great. But again, I don't want to be doing these conferences. I don't even like them. They're struggling. I mean, I like them. But like, it's like, like, conferences are just crazy high stress and like, there's so much that can go wrong. And then I learned through all about email and I was like, Well, I'm like making this conference popular via my this content. And I would create a blog and a newsletter. And that's like what people love, like, you know, screw it, let's just create like a, like a content site. And we'll use email to make it popular. And the hustle started as basically a blog and I would send out emails telling people about a new blog post. And then eventually, I'm like, I'm an idiot, like this whole, like email thing. Like, it should only be in the email, don't even make people click off. Just put it only in there. Let's do that. And that was it was basically for 20. Because I remember because for 20 of April, so 2016 4419 or 420. Hilarious And


Jay Clouse  05:46

okay, so you were marketing's event, and it was doing as well as it was doing based on blog posts, like it was content that was driving ticket sales when it was


Sam Parr  05:54

Yeah, I don't think I spent $1 on Facebook ads, if I did buy Facebook ads, or any ads, it was like, no more than 500 bucks or $1,000. But I'm almost positive for the first three. I mean, eventually, we bought ads. But for the first three years, probably the first half a million in revenue, I'm almost positive, not a penny. And I would just write a blog post, I would get traffic from Hacker News or Reddit. 3% of people would enter in their email. And then for those 3% of people, I would just send them really cool emails many times a week writing about the speakers. And it built up to like a 10 or 15,000 person email list, like in a matter of a couple of months.


Jay Clouse  06:32

What was like the headline of the blog post, you're writing and then putting on Hacker News.


Sam Parr  06:36

Like how buffer bootstrap to $20 million in revenue. Okay, so


Jay Clouse  06:41

it's like case studies.


Sam Parr  06:43

Yeah, I don't know, I guess case studies. You could call it that. Or like my, I told you like my best friend, his name Neville Medora. He's this Indian guy who's a copywriter, and I call them the brown Don Draper. And so like, I think the headline was like, the brown Don Draper is coming to hustle con or something like that. And then I explained like, what makes copywriting cool how Neville does it and what you're gonna learn at hustle con.


Jay Clouse  07:06

So you were living in San Francisco, you're posting on Hacker News, the event was in San Francisco. Am I getting that? All right. So that was okay, so that was kind of easier to get a flywheel because that distribution mechanism was probably heavily based as far as their user base goes in that same area.


Sam Parr  07:22

Yes, but I didn't know anyone when I started. I lived in San Francisco. But I was 2422. Like I didn't like people or like, I've got a nice network now. And amongst like a little bit of a circle jerky world I'm have like internet celebrity. But like back then I didn't have anything. So I would just cold email these people and write on Hacker News that no one knew what anything was. No one knew what also kind of the hustle was, but I just had a really good website like it was ugly, but the copy was good. So it would capture people's attention. And people are like, What the hell is this thing? Like? What? Hustle con? That's a horrible name. What is this? Like? What's this description like you want to meet and I got really good at capturing people's attention.


Jay Clouse  08:05

I was listening to your interview, I think from last March with Nathan berry on his podcast. You guys talked about copywriting a little bit. And I think this is probably one of the skills that you are best at but don't get enough credit for. How do you feel about that? Do you think that copywriting is one of your most important skills?


Sam Parr  08:21

The most important, maybe the most? I mean, like the ability to control your emotions and copywriting or, I mean, I'm not always the best at controlling my emotions, but I'm decent at it. I'm pretty good at being comfortable during uncomfortable situations and copywriting. Yeah, I need to get back to it a little bit. Because once we hired I didn't have to do it as much. But most everything we did was rooted in copywriting.


Jay Clouse  08:44

How do you sharpen that? If I'm listening to this? And I haven't, if I don't feel like I have that skill as well. What should they be doing to get better at copywriting?


Sam Parr  08:53

So I'm gonna, this is gonna sound like a plug, you know, no one has to do it this though. But people ask me that all the time. So I came up with this course called Copy that. It's like 50 bucks. If you can't afford it, just like, do it for free or just like tell me, but I only did it because if you pay 50 bucks, you're more likely to actually follow through. But basically, when you learn how to play an instrument, let's say you're learning how to play guitar. Or even you're learning how to cook. They don't tell you like, go play make a cool song. You spend years copying other people's music, and you learn the texture of what makes a good song you learn the recipe of what makes a good meal. And you copy other people and you see patterns. And once you see patterns, you know what works and what doesn't. And after a while you know the rules you know how to break the rules, you know how to follow the rules, when to follow when to break. You know how to what style you like and you steal from a bunch of different people. It's kind of like if you want to learn how to be a great artist, like if you traced it for like six months or 12 months like you're going to get pretty good. And the same things with writing and this is like a really famous technique for learning how to write called Copy work. Then up until the 1900s was pretty popular. And for some reason, like something changed in the school system where like we, we decided that wasn't the way that we wanted to teach kids. But I think that's the best way. And so what I, what I did was, I would just find this thing I created called copy that I just find like my favorite bits of copywriting, and I annotate it and I explained why it's good, and people are supposed to like, copy it up by hand. But what I do is I did that for a long time. And also what I do, whenever I'm about to write something, I find like it like I think in my head, what vibe I'm going for, and like which author like whether it's a book author, or like a sales page, has created something of similar vibe that I want. And I just spent a little bit of time copying it by hand to get in the zone. And then I go and write it. I love that


Jay Clouse  10:43

I try to remind myself that anytime I'm about to like buy something, or you know, convert into a subscriber or something like that, to try and pause and see what what worked here. Like, why did that work on me? Now? What can I learn from that? Because sometimes I do what you're talking about. And I'll like, assume that well, this is an organization or a person that I think does really good work, let me look at it, but I don't actually have the data, and then I'll go back like months later, and they've changed their homepage, or they've, you know, scrap that entirely. So it's like that I just copy something that maybe wasn't even working. Do you have any, like screening for that?


Sam Parr  11:14

Well, no, I mean, what I do is like, when I get marketing emails, a lot of times, I'll just reply to it. And I'll say, is this working? Or like, you know, like, like, I just, I'll reply to them all the time. So that works. That's what I do.


Jay Clouse  11:30

That's hilarious. Okay, this, this is a good segue into something I want to talk about anyway, which is, and this is confirmed by this interaction I saw on Twitter today with some of your friends talking about you at a baby shower. You're so good at just asking the questions that are on your mind when they come up. Yeah, it's I imagine that it's just like so surprising to people. Because even listening to you interview people on my first million, like, it was surprising to me as a listener sometimes just like the velocity of questions and the things that I'm thinking, but probably wouldn't ask, but they just ask anyway. How did you build that muscle?


Sam Parr  12:01

It's been like that, since I was a kid. I didn't realize, like, I hear what you're saying. And my friend, Neville, like cat cat makes fun of me all the time for doing that. She's like, you ask these weird questions. And in my head, I'm like, I for a long time, I've heard I would hear people say, I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about. I just that I don't like, it's hard for me to have empathy with what you're saying. Because I don't understand how you don't ask that. And so I was like that since a little kid, I just like, I would just like go into a building. And I'm like, This building's amazing. Who built this. You built it? How long did it take? How did you come up with that idea? What did you pay the people to build? Like, I would just I just ask questions all the time. I don't know why I did it. I just was like, what I'm just, I never took for granted that the things around us were made by people that are just like me, you know, like, if you see like, a big building, or the government or a big company, oftentimes, people just think like, well, it's just there, because it's always been there. And that's just how it's been. It's like, no, there was like one person who like had the idea to convince a bunch of other people. And that turned into a thing. If I can figure out kind of like, copy work. If I could figure out how that's done. I bet I and I see patterns, I bet I can continue to do that for myself. And so I don't know, it just, it just been something I've always done. Also, I asked a lot of questions that people are uncomfortable with, but they're not uncomfortable, I think when I asked them, because typically, I It's a give and take. So for example, if I said how much money do you make last year? I'll say, I made this much last year. How about you? Or you know what I mean? Like, it's like modeling? Yeah. Or I'll ask people questions like, like, let's say, um, okay, one of my closest friends is a lesbian, like, I can't empathize with being a lesbian, like, so I can't like reveal something to her about like that. But when I'm asking her, like, you know, what was that? Like, what, when you came out to your parents tell me about that. But you know, like, and I'll ask him in such a way where I make it very clear that like, this is coming from a place of like, I'm just curious, and I want to know all about you not from a place of crudeness, or you know what I mean. And so oftentimes, if they can tell that your energy really is with good intentions, you could pretty much get away with anything. And this is kind of like what I learned, like when I was dating, I was like, if I can make a girl laugh, I can get away with like, asking her a lot like, I could flirt pretty hard with her as long as I can make her smile. You know what I mean? Yeah, totally.


Jay Clouse  14:30

There's like a couple of different buckets. I feel like this falls into on one hand, it seems like you could use that superpower. And I think you do the superpower as like competitive research in a really powerful way. But then sometimes it also seems like you're doing it for just gathering as much data on inputs as possible, either because you're just curious or because you want to decide like is this? Is this a group of inputs that I even want to do myself to do this thing? But I'm curious about the competitive research side of things. What questions what what cash


Sam Parr  14:59

questions did Did you hear me ask people that you thought was uncomfortable? Or you were? Well, it's


Jay Clouse  15:03

usually it's usually something that's like socially taboo, like, How much money did you do last year in revenue? Or you know how much this cost? That's the type of thing that like most people just wouldn't have the hutzpah to ask someone, even though they're thinking about it, you know, you walk into a house and you're like, Jesus, how much of this thing cost? But nobody says that? Yeah, like,


Sam Parr  15:21

if I walked into a big house, oftentimes, what I do is I triangulate, so I get someone to tell me what I want to know, without them explicitly telling them that and then then when they realize that they've already given me the information for me to get the answer, though, like, I already told you, so I'll just give it up. So for example, I walk into a fancy house, let's say it's a five, if I think it's like a $5 million house, and I don't know the person, well, I would say like, dude, this house is amazing. Like, did you get a loan for this? How did you finance this like? Or what I would say was not Did you get a loan? I'd be like, do you have to go to a special bank to get like a jumbo loan for this? And what are the rates? And maybe they'll say something like, Oh, I just paid in cash? And I'll say, What the hell? How are you so rich? Or they'll say, you know, I actually didn't have to put a lot down because of this type of bank. Like, Oh, tell me about that bank? What does that? Why does that work? So you Oh, so you actually didn't put that much down? Like, so? Are you nervous about paying this off? Yeah, I'm actually I'm nervous. I got to work. You know, I mean, it's like, I understand, like, oh, this person maybe isn't as they're not actually that wealthy, or, wow, they really are wealthy. And this is no big deal. You know what I mean? Like, you can triangulate and get all this information by asking things in such a way. One of my favorite things to do is I'll insult someone, or I'll compliment them a ton and say something too high. And they correct me in the answers in the middle. For example, let's say I think it's a $5 million house. I'll say, Dude, what is this, like? $8 million? This house is amazing. Like, no, no, no, no. Or I'll say like, what is this? Like a $2 million house? Like, it's not that hard to get? Anybody? Yeah, I wish it was about double that. It's like, okay, now I know.


Jay Clouse  16:51

Yeah. So smart. If you're tuned into this now, because maybe, maybe you're not if this isn't something that you're you don't realize is different to the way you ask questions. I would actually guess that a lot of people when you ask these questions, might be excited to talk about it. Because it is taboo. They don't get to talk about it much. Is that your experience?


Sam Parr  17:10

Yeah, because the goal, you have to, at times you you want to with certain types of people, you can sense this, where they want to brag, and if they want to brag, I'm like, that's cool. A like, you're, you're probably like, you should be proud. So go ahead right away. That's wonderful. And be I'll let you brag, because I'm getting all types of amazing, valuable information. And see, I'm making you feel good about yourself, and I want to become friends with you. So like, you're gonna feel good about yourself. So if you like ask people these questions, and you and I can tell that they want to brag, then I flatter them. If they're a little bit nervous to talk to me, then I just act like whatever they're saying isn't a big deal. Yeah, yeah. I'm just like, what a surprise.


Jay Clouse  17:55

Let's, let's take an example. I really listened to your interview with Rob Dyrdek this morning. Incredible episode, that guy on another level. And I've heard you guys reference that show a bunch of times since like, this episode was incredible. So I really listened to it. Are there people that are still at a level that you have to like, get yourself psyched up to interview or talk to? Or is that come up with anybody?


Sam Parr  18:15

So like, we've interviewed a bunch of billionaires, and like, not one billionaire. I've not been nervous about any billionaire. But like, there's two people that we interviewed that aren't necessarily even close to the most financially successful people. But I admire them so much. I was nervous. So Andrews, ubermann. He's like that health and fitness guy who's on YouTube. And like, I was genuinely nervous to talk to him cuz I didn't, I wanted to impress him, and I didn't want to look like an idiot. And then the second guy was Ariel Helwani, who like most people have no idea who he is, but he's a famous MMA journalist, and he like hosts, UFC shows. He's like a commentator. And the for those people. I was like, legitimately nervous besides that, no, I'm not. I'm not nervous. Because when I used to host hustle con, I would have like these like all or billionaire folks. So like, I remember one time it was like me, the founder of WeWork, the founder of OA travel, and then like, this lady, hey, all who started on ClassPass. And then like Casey Neistat were like, all in the same room. And like, I distinctly remember all of them complaining about stuff that I complain about, like they're nervous about firing this person. They're afraid they're things not going to work. They're embarrassed to go public speaking, they're really nervous. And I was like, Oh, wow, okay, you guys, like, let's say, like, this person's a billionaire. And I'm not I'm like, You're not like, a million times better than me. You're, you're maybe like two times or maybe like not better than me at all. But you are, you know, a million times wealthier sex successful than me than me but you're not like a million times different than I am. So I kind of got a lot of confidence in doing that. Once I learned that, like the people I looked up to were particularly special. Some are but most aren't.


Jay Clouse  19:57

I've had that experience also with a lot of people on the human level but still it's like so impressive with what they've built from, like a business or financial perspective, that when I compare that to what I built, it feels like this little thing that I made over here is bullshit. Does that ever get in your head like not now, but Well, early on your career?


Sam Parr  20:14

I think people, of course, early on, but now it's different. It's, I'm less, I'm not impressed with someone just because they're wealthy, or they have a big company. Because if you give it enough time, and you follow the steps, the likelihood that you could build a substantial business in if you like, dedicate 30 years. It's pretty high, I think. And I think that's like a misconception. I think that if you if you're willing to dedicate like 30 years, take risks. And of course, you need some luck, like, yes, stay healthy, like you could build a cool company. So like, I believe, with a high degree of certainty, I could create a business that makes at least $100 million a year in revenue, in most industries, given a 25 year period. So when I meet someone who's if I build in some industries, like software, if it's $100 million business, that means it's worth like $5 billion. And thus, I would be a billionaire. So what some people I'm like, I'm not impressed with you just because you have money. I'm impressed with people who do interesting, bold, courageous stuff. And it just so happens that money is one way that we are measuring that output other ways are like, I don't know, like Mother Teresa. Like she wasn't like wealthy, but like, she just had an idea. This is an example. I've no idea anything about her. She just had like some vision to create, like an orphan minute orphanage and convince a bunch of people to give her money and like live this amazing life, I find that to be just as Martin Luther King, I find MLK to be just as impressive as Jeff Bezos, you know, both men who had bold visions, and were courageous enough to get after it. And one was really wealthy, the wealthiest ever one likely wasn't that wealthy at all. So I'm not like particularly impressed by someone just because they have money. But I am impressed by people who are like wildly interesting and successful, which is defined as they had an interesting vision and they actually achieved it.


Jay Clouse  22:05

Let's go back real quick to what you said about Andrew Huberman in that other person, Ariel Helwani, Ariel, Ariel Helwani, you said, you're a little bit nervous about those interviews? What did you do to prepare for that? Was it any different than what you would typically do? Or did you just deal with the nervousness?


Sam Parr  22:21

No, I don't do it. I'll tweet out that I'm about to interview them. And then it gives me ideas for questions. And then I really like I can mostly not research anyone. But if I do research someone, I just spent 45 minutes ahead of time, I'll read their Wikipedia and read every citation on it. And then I'll scroll through all the comments that I can have all their work, and get the vibe and like see what's going on. And I try my hardest not to ask questions that they get asked a lot.


Jay Clouse  22:47

Yeah. One thing I've heard you say before that I thought was fascinating from a research perspective, is you said you go to, he says, like newspapers.com or salaries? Papers? Oh, yeah.


Sam Parr  22:57

Tell me about that. So newspapers.com I don't know if it's newspapers or newspaper. It was owned, I think by ancestry.com, maybe still is, it's like $10 a month. And it's an archive of like, all the newspapers ever. So for example, I got really fascinated by the guy who started it was called Brock financial now it's called Rocket Mortgage. You know, Dan Gilbert. Yeah, yeah. I was interested about Dan Gilbert. But it's hard for me to learn about someone who's already worth like $15 billion. And everyone agrees that like if his whatever his opinion is, like, we should probably listen to it, because like, the guy's been there, done that type of thing. It's a little bit hard to read about that. So I like to read autobiographies. But then even then it's so hard to read, because we already know the outcome of the decisions made. And so what I like to do is figure out what was going on in their head, and what was the perception of them? And how is it described when they were doing it. And so with Dan Gilbert, his company was called Rock financial, I'm ballparking here, but I think it went public in like 89, or 99, I forget. So when it went public, it was doing like 100 million in revenue. So I went to newspapers.com. I typed in Dan Gilbert, like, rock, financial. And then I like looked at all the articles about the year went public. And then I went even further. And I found the first time that he was mentioned. And then I read every articles, like three or four years before the IPO to figure out what people were saying about them. And it helps me normalize their behavior, and understand what people were thinking about this person and how this person acted. And the confidence that they had early on, and like, oh, wow, this person wasn't that great early on, or didn't come off like right, or, wow, this guy like should not have felt that way. But he was super confident. That's inspiring. So anyway, I do that constantly. I do that all the time. Yeah, I want


Jay Clouse  24:44

to I want to learn more about like the triggers that get you to do this type of stuff. Because when I listened to my first million you and Shawn have clearly just like dug deeper into these nooks and crannies of businesses that obviously like the people love listening to show haven't gone that far into it. So what is the trigger for you to say You know, I'm going to go to newspapers.com. And I'm going to go back 20 years and read about Dan Gilbert.


Sam Parr  25:04

Every single biography that I read, I do that. And I read probably one or two a week, I read a lot. So I'm reading right now about the four seasons, the founder of The Four Seasons, because I, like I'm interested in hotels. And I use it while I'm reading to like, get context, like, oh, he said, his son died of cancer this year, I'll go and like, be like, to the newspaper, talk about it what they say. So I do that for every biography I read. But then the trigger can be way smaller. For example. Let's say that I'm on a road trip. And in like, this is a real example, in the middle of nowhere. There was this massive building, it was huge. And it said, like Smith porque company or something like that. And I was like, What the hell is this thing in the middle of nowhere that I look it up on Wikipedia. First, I go to their website, and on the very bottom, it says, like copyright, and it says, like, who owns it? It says, like Tyson chicken, or something like that. And I'm like, oh, so Tyson chicken bought this company. Oh, and I look it up. I Google it on newspaper or somewhere. I'm like, oh, Tyson chicken bought this building for $100 million. Oh, it was started by this guy. And he actually owned the Rams. And then he sold it to the current owner, like you don't I mean, like, I just like, kept. I'm like, oh, and he made his money from his security company. What's the security company? The security, they had 1000 employees, security companies on 1000 employees? What's ADP? And then or whatever? What's the security? And like, that's just how I do I just like go down rabbit holes quickly. And I read. So I'll read biographies of people like the Wikipedia page. But then I I read all the cited sources. It just fascinates me.


Jay Clouse  26:37

I hear you reference footers all the time, whether it's like citations, or you just said like the copyright. I've heard you say like actually go to a website and go to the advertising link in their footer to find out like, what their traffic is how many visitors I get?


Sam Parr  26:49

Yeah, I do that all the time. And so you always got to I always read the cited sources.


Jay Clouse  26:54

I want to talk a little bit about podcasting now, because that's obviously a huge part of your, your time, I have a vested interest in podcasting. So how does that medium feel compared to like the early days of newsletters, like you're operating in and 2014 2015,


Sam Parr  27:10

newsletters moved quickly. So like starting what, what the hustle nowadays would be way harder today. Possible, but harder, because because there's more competition and the price to acquire customer has gone up. We got to 100,000 people organically. And then we started buying ads. And we acquired users now just more expensive. Definitely not possible, but it's harder. And then in a very short amount of time, it felt like it got like, done well. And there wasn't much software podcasting, you could say the same, like if you started in the 90s, you definitely would have a leg up. But I would say that still the technology around podcasting, although there's a lot of entrants, and there's always new podcasts, and there's a ton of content, the software around behind it is like still pretty shitty. Like, if you buy an ad for your podcast, which we do now we just start doing that. It's not like an email where I know exactly like I can I know the person's like full name, where they work, where they came from how much we paid for them. I don't have that type of data with podcasting. And so the data and attribution is still pretty bad. If like, if I look at which episode worked and why it's hard for me to tell, I'm like, I don't know why it's working. But it is,


Jay Clouse  28:25

have you figured out anything to compensate for that terrible data? Because I knew this would bother you as like a data and optimization person, because the metrics and the analytics are terrible.


Sam Parr  28:34

Yeah, we use this thing called chargeable, which is decent, but it's still like the best, the worse, that helps. And it's so complicated to use that I don't entirely understand it. Like, you have to use this thing called the deep link. And I'm like, I don't fucking know how that works. Like, whereas with Facebook marketing and Google Analytics, I, I just click three buttons. And I can just tell you all I have this dashboard, I can tell you everything. So yeah, it bothers me. And so we use charitable, we also use megaphone, but in my mind, they're all still rudimentary. Yeah,


Jay Clouse  29:05

I use the same stack, actually. And charitable. You're right is like the best of the worst. But you're also only getting data from like Apple podcasts and Spotify, mostly.


Sam Parr  29:14

And it's not even that good of data. It feels like educated guesses. Yeah.


Jay Clouse  29:18

So how are you making decisions on what you guys do with the show?


Sam Parr  29:22

Dude, that's a good question. And I hate the answer. But the answer is, is I don't know. I don't know. People ask me. Why is it working? I'm like, I don't know. We we started buying ads. I think it's February now January, December, I think December. And we're in the range of 2 million monthly we're at we had 2 million monthly uniques in January, or December I forget. So like 2 million a month. I think it's pretty good. And if you ask me why? I don't know. I don't know. We I don't know what we did. We worked hard on making good content, but like I literally have no idea. Now we've got a plan to buy tickets. The 5 million we're gonna buy ads and that's a good plan. That's gonna work. Jordan Harbinger is my buddy and he showed me how to do it. That's gonna work. But like, how do we get the initial traction? Dude? I don't know, man Sean's talented. I'm pretty good. It just worked.


Jay Clouse  30:13

And is that ad buying playbook for podcasts mostly through agencies? Or is it is it shows is it in podcast players? What's your mix look like?


Sam Parr  30:23

Jordan Harbinger has like 10 or 15 million uniques a month or listeners a month. And he was like, in year one, I spent $400,000, a year to 800,000. In year three 1.3 million. And I was making more revenue than that on podcast ads. So it was a profitable venture. But basically, I did I bought ads on other podcasts. And sometimes it'd be really cheap, like $500. Other times like 5000, or $20,000. And I would just track it, whichever one worked, I would just do it a bunch. And then I would buy ads on all the podcast players. So like castbox, I think now you can do on Spotify, and whatever else Stitcher, whatever else there is, I would do it there too. And I did a combination of that. And I just had a spread the way. I mean, you could go to an agency, if you're just starting out, even if we're not just starting out anymore, but it's still better to just make a spreadsheet of the 30 or 50 podcasts that you think would have a good market. And then you should reach out one by one, and try to make it broker a deal. And then you can like, do swaps, like we'll mention you, you us whatever. And that works. And then you also make a list of all the places that you're gonna buy ads that are podcast player, and you just track the results.


Jay Clouse  31:28

Do you use the charitable links for those campaigns to know like, What show is sending you?


Sam Parr  31:33

I don't run that program anymore. But when I but they do and I used to Yeah. How important do you think video is to your podcast? So sometimes not sometimes very. So like, we were going hard on Twitter video for a while. And it didn't make sense. Like we make these cool videos, but they didn't actually drive much views, even though they're sick. And so we're like, this is stupid. And I still think that's stupid to do it. Like there's no I mean, it's fun, but there's no ROI. And then we did this thing where we told our fans that we'll give five grand to the people who make videos from our YouTube clips and put it on Tik Tok, and make it cool. And we got, I believe, 20 million views in like 10 days from those videos. And that made a difference. I had all like, my high school friends would DM me and be like, Dude, you're all over my feed. And that was when I knew multiple people were reaching out to me, or I would have people say like, Hey, on, on the pod, you said this, this or this? And I'm like, What are you talking about? That was six months ago. And then I would look at like the Twitter or the Tick Tock and like, Oh, someone just like, made a video of this like really old thing. And that's when I knew that was working. So that tic tock thing worked. So now we do. We do that now all the time. And that worked. And then we also tried to get big on YouTube, or like, prep, virtually all of our, like, 95% of our views come from podcast players and 5%. From Youtube, we're trying to get that to be much higher. But that's been a hard nut to crack, that's for sure.


Jay Clouse  33:09

When you did that campaign to have your listeners turn your video into tic TOCs was that $5,000 per person who did it? Or was it like, hey, whoever drives the most views,


Sam Parr  33:18

we basically said like, we're gonna give five grand to one or two or three people, and it's just gonna be we're just gonna make up the rules. So like, we're gonna do a combination of whoever gets the most views, whoever's the most creative, like, we're just gonna pick what our favorite and it could be on anything. So just like impress us. And I think we gave away two or three prizes. And if you Google, so I kind of screwed it up. When I told people the hashtag to use, I like said two different hashtags. So I think if you search on tick tock MFM clip, and then if you search MFM, clips, plural, you'll see all the videos and like some of them have millions of views. How many people meet in a tent, it was hard to tell because all their handles were like the same. It was like MFM, shorts, MFM, cons MFM. Short, like so. But maybe between the huge 525 Now probably 10 to 2510 to 20 ish. You could see it though. So if you're listening, just go to tick tock and type in MFM clips, and then do the same on Twitter and Instagram, and you'll see them


Jay Clouse  34:23

and you hired the person who won or at least there. Yeah,


Sam Parr  34:27

well, we know we give him a retainer, and they just mixed up. Yeah.


Jay Clouse  34:31

I was gonna ask what do you think the return is? Would there be diminishing returns and how quickly to just continue to do that same like contest, as opposed to hire one person on retainer?


Sam Parr  34:41

I think it would be wise to do the contest. Again, we should do that contest again. And I'm actually I'll look at it now. We should continue doing that. For sure. Because I believe diminishing returns after a while


Jay Clouse  34:53

for sure. But then you could also have like two or three people on retainer. We


Sam Parr  34:58

probably should do that. So Now our handle has 37,000 followers and 600,000 likes. So it's pretty sick. We definitely should probably keep doing it. It looks like so MFM clips, I can't see I have to be on my phone, I think. But MFM clips if you just search that, like there's so many people who have made videos, and they've got a lot of views. Yeah, it's crazy.


Jay Clouse  35:23

Tick tock. Well, a lot of people this show pretty much everyone that listens to show or creators, but they lean more on like the Craftsman side of things rather than like the growth or marketing side of things I would say. So whether it's email, or podcasting, or just content, generally, what do you think people get wrong when it comes to creating content and trying to build a business around that.


Sam Parr  35:43

So you have to make sure you don't build a prison. And I almost did that. So the hustle is a daily email. That's so much work. At first, it was kind of like the sandbar show it was like built around me. And that is good, because it's actually a really easy way to get traction, you know, people feel like they know you. And if you can sustain that for a while, it's amazing. But I couldn't sustain it. So we hired people. So like, I can make money in my sleep. And that was good for me. I do think it made the product a little worse. But a lot of content creators kind of have to make that decision. Are you going to hire and delegate? Are you going to be the only person and if you're going to be the only person I think that's a fine decision. Just know that like you're grinding is grind mode maybe like your got your you got to keep doing this for like years. There's a reason why Casey Neistat doesn't do daily vlogs anymore. You know, there's a reason why the Paul brothers, they had a vlog and these guys are like the highest energy people there are, and they couldn't do


Jay Clouse  36:41

it, one of them would rather get punched in the head than continue to do like a daily vlog.


Sam Parr  36:45

It's really hard. It's really, really hard to do that stuff every day, in order to in order to make it big in the content world. If you're not putting out something every day, you better be putting something out every week. And I know that some generalization and you'd be like, well, this person only trades once a year, like Steven Spielberg crates once every three years. I'm like, yeah, yeah, that's true. But for a lot of people, particularly the people listening, you're pretty much gonna have to make shit every day. And that's not a problem, but just know what you're getting into. And there are ways around it. So you hire, you don't cover current events. You don't set yourself up on a daily schedule for a long time. It's tough.


Jay Clouse  37:26

There's the the makeshift side of things. But that only matters that people are looking at it to you, you guys did paid acquisition for the hustle, you're doing it now for the podcast? How should people be thinking about that? When does it make sense to start doing paid acquisition?


Sam Parr  37:39

When you've built a machine so like, look like the this guy named Kevin Ryan started this company called Business Insider. And he kind of advised me early on, and he told me the best analogy, he goes, you should you should spend more money to grow. And I'm like, I'm scared. He goes, Look, if I gave you a machine, and you put $1 into this machine, and you got out $1.20 Or any number of above dollar, what would you do? And I was like, I would put money in that machine. He goes Damn right, you would you would get a dump truck, fillo it money and back it up into that machine and pile as much money as you can into it. Because you've got a money making machine, baby, you gotta go. And I realize you're right. So I got to work on my machine. And so we started spending money when we understood what our LTV is when we understood what our cash flow cycle was, and cash management and so like, how much can we spend? How long does it gonna take to earn that back? Are we comfortable with that? Are we comfortable with these margins? Once we figured that out, which happened in about a year or 10 months, then we started spending hard. And one of my mistakes in building the company was I didn't spend enough, I was too frugal, I should have went harder because Facebook ads are way more expensive now than they were right now. Tick tock ads are pretty cheap. So like if you can find something that works, like through paid marketing, and it's profitable, or at a level that you're comfortable with go hard because those windows close.


Jay Clouse  39:02

And I know you did a lot of paid acquisition through product for a while, you know, so when you go directly to a platform or some other digital property that's not a Facebook sized ad broker, do you find that the economics of that are more favorable or less favorable to they're


Sam Parr  39:17

more the economics are more favorable, but they're harder. So the way it works with a lot of stuff when you're growing, even when you're already big. But that's probably not true. It's already big, but like you have to be really big for this to not be true. But basically, most of your users come from one or maybe two channels. And it's like an 8020 rule. So it's like 80% are going to come from let's say Google, like let's say you're this company NerdWallet. They're the founders I know and they have a multibillion dollar company. 80 or 90% of their revenue comes from people searching on Google like best credit card. It's so they like worked so hard to like rank and number one, and now they do TV ads and stuff like that, but I would bet that it's still only like 20% of their customers and that's the thing. Same thing with us. So for a while 100% came from blogging. That's how I got the first 100,000 users, then after that a lot came through Facebook ads, because it was cheap. And I knew that I could spend $1.50 there, and I would make $10. So I'm just spending a lot. And then once I realized, oh, Facebook's not working as well, but it's still working. And then you start trying like product time, or and prototype isn't nearly as big, but it's like an 8020 thing later, maybe it could have been closer to 7030. And that was part of my 30. And so it was important to have that. But prototype simply doesn't have the the traffic that we needed. But 10 products could add up 10 product hunts, which we had would add up to be something interesting, it's just a much more pain in the ass to. So you got to hire people to just manage those relationships. Whereas Facebook, you still need a person, but one person theoretically can manage like, hundreds of millions of dollars. Whereas with like 100 different small publishers, it's a little more challenging.


Jay Clouse  40:58

If I'm a creator listening to this, and I want to build my machine, how do I as someone has a big Instagram following or who has podcast? How am I figuring out my lifetime value of somebody? It's a simple


Sam Parr  41:10

equation. So just Google like what the lifetime value is, but basically, like, from for Instagram person, it's a simple equation, but sometimes hard to find the answer. But a lot of times, what I like to do is I just figure out what other people's are by their interviews. And I just assumed that that's true until I can prove otherwise. But for Instagram, how would they do it? Well, you need to figure out if you're selling a product, let's see for Instagram, if you're selling a $300 product, I would say every time I post this, how much every time I post this, what's my click through rate? And what's my conversion rate of people who pay and how much revenue Am I making. So it's like, alright, every time I post this to a million people, I make $100,000. And I try to do that, I'll do that a couple times. So then I know eventually, it's like, great. So if I have 1.2 million people, I'm now converting of similar ratio. And now I've made $120,000. Therefore, I can spend blank, you know, whatever that math is, you just easily bet math on acquiring a new Instagram user. And I'm going to test it every single week to make sure these people that I'm buying through ads are high quality people, and I'm keeping my rate my conversion rate, similar to the assumptions that I made to calculate my, my lifetime value, which in this case, it would be lifetime value would be just how many what's what's the course that they buy? Or the product that they buy? What's the contribution margin? How often are they buying it? And how many of them are they buying? In this case, I would probably look at like what their annual spend is. Or if you're an Instagram person making money on ads. You, you, you say alright, I have a million followers, can I charge $30 per 1000 impressions, which basically means $30,000 per post? If yes, you could just do a million divided by 1000 divided by 30,000. I think that my math is right. And you'll figure out what is the average revenue per one user. And this is great. Anything I can spend to acquire users that is below that have a rate like below that enough that I'm comfortable. So for example, let's say like like, I'm willing to spend money and not make money off these people for one year. And then you add that into your math and you're like, okay, great, I can spend this much money, because and I know I won't make money off them for the first year. But if I'm below that, and my conversion rate of the clicks to the advertisers is staying at that same ratio, spend as much as I possibly can. Plus, you're putting that on a good credit card. Incredible rewards. Yeah. Did I explain that effectively? It could be complicated when you're not looking at an Excel spreadsheet.


Jay Clouse  43:45

Yeah, well, now you gave me the answer, which is like this is math. And you can figure it out here are the inputs that you need to figure it out. ConvertKit actually has a lot of this built in with their their purchases. And this is something that I need to do better math on to dig into. Because you're right it is it is a machine, you have a product, you have a product, you should know what percentage is converting to buying that product, so that you can treat the business like a machine and not you know, just your your identity.


Sam Parr  44:11

Yeah, and, and I think that like even if you want to be a craftsperson, and stay small, you still don't want to be guessing as much. And so it's important to do that you're like there's so much I make per person. Therefore, I could spend this much money to create more.


Jay Clouse  44:25

Last question, I heard you do an episode with Sean talking about your priorities for 2022. And you kind of settled on real estate but one of your other opportunities that you had in there was building the sandbar brand. Where would you land in terms of where you focus your energy on different platforms today? If you were doing that, tick tock


Sam Parr  44:45

easy. Yeah, tick tock, one, tick tock in the YouTube a few years ago, LinkedIn was like this where you can get famous quickly on it. And I gained that system and I remember getting millions of impressions and I'm like, Oh, I found it. Got a milk that until that's a touch dry. And I did. And then right now it's Tik Tok. This is the version that that window will close soon. But what you look for is the arbitrage between supply and demand of attention versus creators. So for a long time, LinkedIn had more demand, more demand than they did supply. So there was a lot of eyeballs on it scrolling, but there wasn't a lot of people like making content. And so they had to show the content that people posted to a lot of people in order to make it feel full. And once you whenever you catch those, those discrepancies, those gaps, you explained it. And that's what I did with LinkedIn. That's what you can do right now on tick tock, I think that there's a lot of supply actually, but they're so good at categorizing and showing you what you want. That there's still like a little bit of a gap between support like, uh, you know, I don't know, the right phrasing, but there's still like a difference between the supply and demand on tick tock, I think long form YouTube videos are pretty wild. I think those are growing form. Yeah, man, like 20 minute long YouTube videos, if you're a creator, like the enterprise value of your business is basically like, if you're making money through ads, it's like the quality of people that you have, multiplied by the number of people multiplied by your influence over them. So for example, the attention of 1000 billionaires who all want to buy a home in New Zealand to prepare for the end of the world is likely or no, let's say the the attention of 1000 billionaires who are all in the market for 747 Jumbo Jet is likely more valuable than the attention of 10,000,012 year olds in Missouri. Right, because like, right, let's say you have a 1%, purchase rate of Iowa, both of those ones, like way more valuable. And the cool thing about YouTube is that if you're good enough at creating content you can capture, you can have that variable of that equation that I told you, which included like, your power over them. Typically, your power over someone is correlated to the time spent consuming you. So a lot of my heroes I like will consume a ton of their content. I know all about them. So when they say something I'm a little more influenced. But my best friends with YouTube, if you can capture someone's attention for 20 or 30 minutes, which people are doing on YouTube TV, I think it's really interesting. I think it's like incredibly cool.


Jay Clouse  47:31

Yeah, it's interesting that you're going long form on YouTube, a lot of people are like, well, it was tick tock, and reels. And now it's YouTube shorts. I'm more of a long form person generally. So I'm glad to hear that you think there's opportunity there.


Sam Parr  47:42

I also think that if I'm just starting out, which like I was, I was into YouTube, then I was like, I don't want to do content at the moment. I'm still not ready to do it. But I would want to be on that treadmill as opposed to the short shit treadmill. I prefer longer because I think it's my creative itch a little bit. Or it would be better for me to scratch that itch. But also, I think there's a lot of demand for it. I mean, I dude, I just watched a 40 minute long video today of a guy reviewing a Ford Raptor pickup truck. Like I know all about this guy right now. Like I'm like, I feel like I'm unknown. So like whatever He tells me to do, I'm going to buy it.


Jay Clouse  48:21

I would also assume that there's just more evergreen nature to things that are long form than like, there's no way you're going to go back. Five years from now 100 years from now and watch the Tick Tock that you saw today. Like that's just bird time. Exactly.