Ryan Robinson: Blogging Expert & Educator: “Remain Nimble in the Face of Change”
Ryan Robinson teaches 500,000+ monthly readers how to start a blog and grow a profitable online business. He also runs a blog-based education business that generates around $500,000 in annual revenue from a combination of online courses, sponsorships, affiliate partnerships, consulting and speaking. His work has been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., Fast Company, Business Insider, LifeHacker and more.
Ryan’s Original Story: “Remain Nimble in the Face of Change”
I was raised in a small, rural town in California where there are literally more cows than there are people. As an only child to two parents that both ran their own small local businesses, I’m thankful for learning the value of hard work from a very young age. Many of my weekends were spent pouring concrete with my dad’s construction company, or helping my mom figure out how to market her tutoring business “online” around the time that search engines and social media were still relatively new in the mass market.
My fascination with the challenge of how to market a business online really began with my mom’s tutoring company. First, the fun had a lot to do with devising ways to get the right digital ads in front of the right potential customers, with the goal of bringing them to our storefront to inquire about tutoring services. Later on, when I was in college and experimenting with my first online businesses, this challenge expanded to selling my own products online (specifically, the iStash). More on that here: ryrob.com/about
My first real success online came when the iStash (an iPhone look-alike stash device) went viral in the online community of gadget fiends and early tech adopters back in 2012. The avalanche of press the iStash got at the time was jump-started by my efforts at mailing a few of them to editors of niche publications like Cool Material, Complex Magazine, Wired and other big sites at the time, where I thought my audience was spending their time online. It turned out, I got pretty lucky with that campaign and ended up selling about 6,000 of my iStashes, which burned through all the inventory I had. At the end of the day, I still lost a few thousand dollars on that business, but learned the importance of understanding your cost margins and price testing (before producing thousands of units of a product before you’ve actually sold some!). The one instrumental skill I walked away with from this first business, though, was confidence in my ability to make money in a digital world — which is something I kept building on with future businesses and, eventually, taking my blog full-time.
I’m probably one of the few people featured in this book who will actually say college made a difference in my life today, but not for the reasons you’d think. I went to a small liberal arts college (Chapman University) in Orange County, California and graduated in 2012. For me, personally, college was an absolutely essential experience that (in hindsight) I really needed. Not for the sake of attending classes, because I can count on one hand the number of classes and professors that were truly worth the investment, but rather, college is where I found and made myself a community of great friends that I’ve gone on to be in the weddings of and even start businesses with. College was also an important time for me to step outside of the small-town bubble I’d grown up in (not that this kind of experience couldn’t have been achieved through other means), expand my thinking and become a more well-rounded individual. Today, I’m not the biggest advocate of college — certainly not for everyone, at least — but for some, I do strongly believe it can be an experience filled with the kind of major personal growth that otherwise may not get the time and space to bloom.
One thing college doesn’t teach you is how to reinvent yourself time and time again – one of my biggest challenges. As someone who’s chosen to make a living almost entirely online, it’s just a fact of life that everything is almost always changing. And, while it can be a daunting challenge to confront at times, knowing that as soon as a certain degree of expertise is obtained… something fundamental will likely change (or a new platform will come along and disrupt the status quo), I’ve found a lot of success in choosing to frame this reality as a fun challenge. I take pride in my ability to remain nimble in the face of change with my business, and know that about every two years, the nature of my work and where the majority of my revenue comes from usually changes in some meaningful way. That keeps me looking out at all times for the next growth opportunity I should be experimenting with, and for creative people I should meet and collaborate with.
My advice to someone just starting out on their journey today, is to head into your first business knowing that your plan or idea for what you’ll be doing even just a few months from now will likely change a bit. It should be your primary mission to help the people you’re motivated to work with — ideally in a space that allows you to leverage some relevant skills, experience and interest — rather than viewing your business as a narrowly defined entity. If you can solve meaningful problems that you care about, for an audience of people you’re motivated to work with, then you have the foundation for a business that has growth potential for years to come.
Quote: “If you can solve meaningful problems that you care about, for an audience of people you’re motivated to work with, then you have the foundation for a business that has growth potential for years to come.” – Ryan Robinson