Financial Freedom Through Digital Nomadism
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Welcome, everybody to this week's podcast episode for the Financial Freedom for Physicians podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Loo. And as you know, I talked about four different types of freedom: time, financial location, and emotional freedom. And the podcast started out as a cohort of physician guests in the audience and now the brand has expanded, where I'm helping the masses. So hopefully, both sides can benefit. Today, we have a guest, Jonathan Green. And he's actually described himself as a tropical island entrepreneur, which is really interesting. But he's going to talk all about digital marketing, how to grow your audience, and it's gonna be a fantastic discussion. So Jonathan, welcome.
Jonathan Green: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I know, we had connected on PodMatch. And what's interesting, especially for today's post-COVID digital age, social media, how to grow an audience, how to market and sell, is really important. So tell us more about your story and your background. And we'll get started.
Jonathan Green: Sure, when I was in my late 20s, I was in education, I thought I had my dream job at 29. And I got fired during a blizzard. I had bought a new car, signed the papers, then got fired on Monday. And I realized that your boss has so much power over you. It's not just your income. It's where you live, it's your car. It's your ability to pay for food, if you have kids, it’s your ability to send them to school. And I've seen this happen to friends of mine where that is a really big job at a great corporation. And one of my friends went from a four bedroom house and two 80k cars, to a studio apartment where they were dealing with a black mold problem because they couldn't afford a clean apartment. And it's this power that our bosses have over us that I found terrifying. And so in that moment, I said, I never want someone to be able to do this to me again. So my entire business is a reaction to that moment.
And over that journey, over the last 12 or 13 years, I've learned that the first step is the most important because there's all these things we don't realize are possible. Because so much of our education now is to follow the rules, follow the rules, follow the rules, we don't realize that entrepreneurship is an option; I didn't realize it was an option until I was 30. So even knowing that it's an option, and realizing, even if you're a doctor working in any other profession, you can still do things to protect yourself. Because a lot of times, so many times, people lose their jobs and it's not their fault. The company downsizes, the boss buys a company, makes a terrible investment decision, or they're really into private planes. And all the money goes into that. And you see these really big companies, right, they have a billion dollar valuation one year, and they're gone the next. And there's this constant thought that I'm protected because of my career, my expertise. And then it turns out, you're not. Because most of the time when people lose their job, it's not their fault.
So my entire career has really been built around that moment, and helps people to understand that even if you have your job and love your job, your career is your job. And your career can be your business that you're growing. How can you get a raise? How can you prove your qualifications? How can you protect yourself? But also, what do you do when things change or when you get tired or burnt out? And, I know, especially for doctors, it's such a hard profession, I have a lot of friends who enter that field and go through all the years of internship and there's so much stress. And it can be exhausting, because being a doctor is a great job, but it's also a time for money job. So you have to work more hours if you want to make more money. And there's again, that freedom to life ratio. So that's really the part that I'm passionate about. So that's where my career started in 2010. And since then, I started off creating products and writing books and blogging and it just kind of grew from there into going to a lot of other directions online. But it all started with that moment of getting fired from my dream job.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That's really interesting. I think 2020 was a wake up call that the government can just shut down the economy at a whim. So I think people are just waking up; the great resignation. What is the main reason young entrepreneurs fail to gain traction?
Jonathan Green: There are kind of two things that happen, they’re internal and external. I think the first thing that happens is distraction. There's so many different things you can do online that work. You can blog, you can podcast, you can start a YouTube channel, you can start a TikTok, you can start a Pinterest. They will work, but they don't all work at the same time. That's really what happens when people get excited. I see this in my customer base. People buy a top product and they go oh, I want to buy the next one. Like, did you finish the first one? They don't finish the course they got excited about after that excitement phase. And then the second problem is implementation. Most sales material, right? It says Oh, it's so easy. Starting a podcast is easy. Getting guests is easy. Growing traction is easy. And as you know, it's work. Because as you know, you have to record the episode then you have to edit the episode. You have to add the before and the after, and maybe have to clean up the music, and then you have to publish the episode, then you have to promote the episode. There's a lot more to it, sometimes we forget. So if we're not expecting it to be work, then it's really hard.
I have my dream life. I live in a really wonderful house. I never thought I would live in a house that's nice. Never, never, never. We live on a tropical island. Right behind you, I'm watching the sunset on the beach. Like the perfect spot for me to have a great view of my dream. But I grind. I work seven days a week to pay for that because I have four kids going into private school, there's always new surprises, my wife gets sick or the kid gets sick, I need to be able to take care of that. That's my responsibility. But it comes from understanding. People go, Why did you succeed when other people didn't? I just put in the hours. And that's really important to understand is that there's very few things that work without work. And sure, working online compared to any job we have to stand up all day, like I couldn't do that, I couldn't be a roofer or a painter, I don't have that skill set, I have great respect for those jobs, I'm not able to do that. But it's the ability to put in the hours that separate those that don't. So unfortunately, people either their minds get distracted, they're trying lots of ideas, or they just don't sit down because they think it's gonna be easy. It's like, oh, this is hard, I don't want to do it anymore. It's hard, but not as hard as a lot of other jobs.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It's like a lot of upfront work, and then you reap the rewards and benefits later. Whereas a typical job is, for lack of a better term, you slave away for 50 years, and hopefully nothing goes wrong or anything. There's a lot of entrepreneurs, business owners who are interested in this digital marketing realm. What advice would you give, for example, if they're interested in either TikTok, YouTube, a blog, Instagram, or email marketing? What advice would you give to help them narrow down and focus on which particular niche to settle on?
Jonathan Green: Sure. So there's two parts. The first is the niche. Second is the modality. So what topic should you focus on in your business? And my approach is very methodical. What I say is you want to look for the triangle of peace, which is people, problem and profit. Are there a lot of people who have a problem that they'll pay for, and is there money in it? For example, there's a big niche in lap band surgery, because they pay really big commissions, because it's an expensive surgery. So you don't need a lot of customers. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum, if it's a very cheap product, like oh, I help people get their ears pierced, right? That costs $20. There's not a lot of money to go around. So you need a lot of customers. So the lower the price, the larger the number of people you need to buy it.
And then the problem, it's about significance. So for example, I was in a car accident, I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 24. I damaged my back, I was in back pain for many years. Any solution to the back pain, I would try. So when a pain has immediacy or significance, like the bigger or more front of mind the pain is, then it becomes something people will pay more for. Because it's a bigger solution. Kind of like, people don't think about updating their resume until they get fired. And suddenly they're very interested, it becomes top of mind. It's something that I think Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Blink, it’s called the RAS, reticular activation system, RAS, which is, if you're hungry, you're paying attention to food when you walk by it, but if you're full, you don't pay attention. So sometimes things become your focus, you want to look for a niche that way. And then you analyze it.
What I always look for is are there a lot of affiliate offers I can promote, to see if there's money before I create my own offers. A lot of people go, I’m going to make my own coaching program, do my own course, write my own copy, then I'm going to drive traffic. That stuff is all hard. Those are different specialties. And it's much easier to go: Okay, this funnel works, they have a sales page, they have a sequence. I’ll send all my visitors from my TikTok, my YouTube, whatever. And if it works, right, I go, Oh, this is what they're interested in. So I had really great success with a personal development campaign. But people don't know for the first three weeks, the first thing I promoted, we made $0 The second thing $5. The third thing, $0 again. And my friend who was working on the product goes, this project is dead, these people will never buy anything. And I said we have to find the right thing. So we need a breadth of ideas. Eventually, the next product, we did $14,000 in sales the next week, so went from $5 to 14k.
And a big part of it is, even if you and I were providing the exact same course or exact same tools, different people would buy from each of us because we're different. We have different voices, different ages, different approaches, and even if we have the same customers, they'll buy different things for each of us, because they expect different things from us. So the first part is to look at it from those angles. And then the second part, looking at it from, Are there enough offers that I can test to see if this is a good idea, to see okay, this is what they want, this is what they don't want. So I like breadth. So if you look in your niches go oh, there's only five offers in my niche, go a little bit wider.
For example, if you're looking at a retirement niche, you want to help people prepare for retirement, you can just look at IRAs and investment funds and gold retirement and crypto retirement they have now, inverse insurance. Being a bit wider and say well sometimes also older people want to build a secondary business. And so you can start looking at what businesses that people can do even when they're older? You can blog in your 80s, no problem. So there's other things you can do to expand the niche.
As far as choosing the modality, it's what is your Circle of Excellence? So I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who is a really brilliant marketer. And she said, Whatever you do, you always end up writing. I started off blogging, I went into creating direct response books, writing my own books, I've written over 300 best sellers for myself and clients and under pen names. And now that I'm not writing books anymore, I've shifted back. I've written enough books, I've done that. I just started blogging and writing all this blog content and writing 20 to 30,000 words a week on my blog. She's like, you can't stop yourself from writing. And she's right. It is my thing. No matter what happens, I always find a way to get back to writing. I love sitting in front of and typing. That's my thing.
So everything works. You can build a YouTube channel, you can build a TikTok, I'm doing really well on TikTok right now. But here's the thing: TikTok, I have to write the script, film the video, edit it, upload it, choose the right sound; it's a process. I can't do that and also grow a YouTube channel. So you have to pick which thing you really can see yourself enjoying, your audience is already spending time there. And you see it as a business of scalability.
So when I was choosing my social media plan last year, I said, let's try everything. So we tried all these social media channels, and they all tanked. Did horrible on Facebook, did terrible on Twitter, terrible on Instagram. Tik Tok blew up. I go, Okay, then we'll stop the other ones. And we'll just work on TikTok. I was trying to really grow a YouTube channel. To make a YouTube video, that takes me and my team about eight to 20 hours of work. Because we have to write the script, film and edit it, it has to be word for word, there's a lot of complexity to it, to shoot a 20 minute video. Where I can write, edit, and publish a TikTok in about 10 minutes and get way more views. So that's why I lean into it.
So part of it is what you want to do, part of it is paying attention to what the market tells you. So if you are trying Facebook and Twitter and you get 90% of your customers from Twitter, even though you hate Twitter, guess what? You have to use Twitter. So that's kind of my approach to finding the right path for you.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, this is really, really golden nuggets and wisdom. The other thing is, you mentioned you write books. Why did you switch from selling to giving away books? What was the value proposition there?
Jonathan Green: I've always been in competition with other authors. So I was spending at least $5,000 a month on ads on Amazon to break even. So Amazon ads were really cheap when I started, then everyone found out about it and the prices just skyrocketed. Now they're more expensive than Facebook ads. So I can run a Facebook ad for less than Amazon, and people usually think of Facebook as the most expensive ad platform.
So I was thinking about this. I read science fiction. I write nonfiction, but I don't read it because it's work, right? So if I read author A in science fiction, I'm still gonna read author B. And I think about all my friends who have books on their walls, like the people who have like 20 dating books, or 20 business books. They don't just buy one book from one author and lock into it. So I realized what I can do is create a circle of other authors whose books I like, and who I like with their teachings. Hey, guys, let's work together and raise each other up.
So I started with that mindset of, what if I switch from competition to cooperation? Instead of focusing so much on Amazon. I started having trouble generating sales on Amazon at the same level, it's hard to maintain forever. I had been doing really well for four or five years. And I said, What if I just switch? Instead of selling my book - and I'm breaking even and not actually making money from the books, Amazon keeps the money - what if instead of charging the customer, I shift to a giveaway?
Now what's very interesting about books specifically, is that books attract a particular type of person. Maybe you're the same as me. In high school, I had friends who would talk about how they hadn't read a book in two or three years. Those are the friends who didn't get very far in life. I saw a correlation to that, between the friends who were like, I don't read and you can't make me. To the friends who are reading and always have a book with them. And I was one of the kids that was just a voracious reader. So I saw that it attracts a particular type of person.
So people who don't have money and who don't want to build an online business, don't work hard, they don't see a book as valuable. There's a pretty high correlation to people who see a book, despite whether it's free or not, they don't want it. Because if someone doesn't like reading, you're handing them work. They don't want free homework. So it attracts a particular type of person most of the time. And there's a lot of studies on this recently, that show a really high correlation between high net worth individuals and how much they read books about improving themselves and improving their careers. Most people who are making above $150,000 a year read two books per month about improving themselves as a person or in their industry. Whereas people that are making below 60,000, I think 4% of them read books in their niche. So, it's very interesting, that correlation. I found that after I started my idea.
So my idea was to shift. I'm giving away for free anyways, and I know it's attracting the right people. I'd rather have a larger mailing list, a larger audience. So that was the shift in mindset and I began cooperating with other authors. I said let me introduce my audience to you, and your audience to me, and let's see how it works. It just really grew my business, it made a really big difference. And it removes the stress, trying to sell things is hard. I don't like selling. I don't at all, right? I just don't like convincing, talking people into it. I'd much rather say, here's something really cool, it's free, check it out. And then they read that person's book. And if they buy that person's course behind it, because the book was so good, that did all the work. I don't have to do that part. So I like to remove myself from that part of the equation as much as possible, so I can just focus on giving away things that I think are cool, and then letting those people's business or funnel follow up. Because if the book isn't any good, then the person is not going to buy it. So it kind of puts them in a really good position to make more informed decisions. And it keeps my audience from decreasing, because I'm not always pushing an offer. Instead, I'm saying, Hey, here's something cool. If you like it, check it out. If this book appeals to you, I think you should read it. If it doesn't, no problem, because I'll have another free book next week.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, what you're describing is the freemium model. It's putting out a bunch of good, free stuff. And then the better stuff, the more potent stuff is after that, like coaching.
You talk about marketing yourself, finding your niche, freemium. Especially high ticket clients, for example, coaching, speaking engagements or masterminds. How can someone find high ticket clients quickly?
Jonathan Green: You have to tell everyone. So I became a really highly paid ghost writer. And I've never advertised that. And what I find I only meet other ghost writers very rarely, there's not really a community for ghost writers. I don't know why. I've met two in my entire career. And that was in the later half of it. Right? And so what I would do is tell everyone, I'm a really good writer. The first thing I do. Tell everyone you do it, tell them you're good at it. And then I would mimic David Duchovny from Californiacation, because he was a writer, and he was a little bit of a jerk. So you have to calibrate it. You don't want to go too far. But when you're a little bit cocky, and a little bit comfortable, people go, he must be a really good writer, because he's a little bit of a jerk.
And I would say things like, oh, I don't really need clients right now. Unless it's really interesting, I don't have time for a project. Even when I'm desperate for a project, I would project this arrogant confidence that's very attractive. People go, wow, this person doesn't need me. It's like the one girl you want is the one who doesn't want you back, or the one guy you want who doesn't want you back. There's something about that.
So by rejecting, basically letting everyone know what I'm really good at, and then resisting the temptation to let people know, hey, I'm two weeks late on the rent, I really need a job. That is how I really grew. And I would just always put the word out there when I'm looking for a new project. And people will find you. Because not a lot of people know a ghostwriter. So every time someone needs a ghostwriter, they go, their friend goes, Oh, I know, Jonathan, you should talk to him. And so it's all referrals. But the thing about referrals is that nobody ever reads the samples. Everyone's boss is like, can you send me a sample of your writing. They never read it. Never.
They never read it. And I know, because I send them a sample of a biography I wrote about, he was the son of a man who was one of the first African American officers in the United States military in World War two, a really amazing story. And I'm like, there's no way if someone knew I wrote this story, from the perspective of the son, they wouldn't ask about it. And no one ever asks about that. That was the hardest book I ever wrote, massive amounts of research. I found pictures of his father he'd never seen before in a newspaper he'd never heard of, I found a picture of his parents wedding announcement, I found a picture of dad playing high school football. All these pictures he’d never seen before, from like 50 years ago, put in that effort. No one ever asks about that. So I know they're not reading it, because you definitely would, right? It's like if you're if you gave someone a writing sample, and you talked about how you cheated to pass your medical exam, and no one ever asked you about it. Like, they definitely didn’t read it, because they would ask. And I put that in there, because it's like, no one's reading it. It’s pretty interesting, only 1/10 people even ask for a sample and they never read it. Because it's hard.
So, if you want to get high ticket clients, the very first step is you have to tell everyone in your network what you're doing. And you have to say it with confidence. Most people I know who are writers, they're not finding any work. They don't tell anyone, they’re like, I don't want anyone to know, I'm really shy. I don't want people to judge me. Like yeah, that's not where you're getting clients. Most of your clients come from weird relationships. It's not the person you expect. It's not the book agent. It's a random person. I think I got maybe 50 or $60,000 worth of clients, from someone I met in a bathroom at a conference. He was in the urinal next to me. I don't even know why we started talking. We started talking. He's like, Oh, I do books and stuff, too. And then he sent me maybe 10 clients over the next year, from a bathroom meeting. I didn't go to the bathroom to find a client. You just never know. But that's why you tell everyone that that's your one thing.
The mistake is if you go, I'm a blogger and a YouTuber and a podcaster. People won't put you in a category, and so they won't tell anyone about you. But whatever your coaching expertise is, that's the easiest way to do it, then you have to start putting it out there publicly, it should be in your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook profile, your Twitter profile. And then you figure out what's the best way I can get it in front of a lot of people. Right now, I think TikTok is the best thing, because even if you have no existing audience, they'll show your videos to people to see if they like it. Other platforms don't do that. It's why TikTok is dominating. Other platforms are trying to copy it. But they're not performing at the same level. The reason why TikTok is so addictive is because they show you what you like. And nobody sees the same videos, everyone sees different stuff.
So that's really kind of the opportunity, but it's going to shift. The real important thing is to go, what's a platform where my audience spends time, and where I can quickly get in front of them. When I first started out to get all my clients I posted on Craigslist. I was living in Nashville, selling SEO services. And one of my clients went out of town to go win a Grammy, like they were in a really famous band doing really, really well. And he found me on Craigslist. So, it's often just going, well, where are people spending time, where are people shopping? No one goes on Craigslist to research, they go there to shop. So I would post a lot of ads and get a ton of clients. And it's 2010. So maybe it's changed since then. But the important thing is to go where people are spending time, where are buyers, where can I quickly get in front of a lot of people? Because building a blog or building a podcast can take months or years to build that audience. So you want a fast audience growth strategy as well. Something that's more proactive.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's awesome. And now that you mentioned TikTok. Because TikTok, really the shorts, like the short attention stuff. TikTok, YouTube shorts, Reels. That gives you the greatest bang for your buck or your time. So how do you go from zero to 10k on TikTok in 30 days?
Jonathan Green: Oh, that's really easy. Okay, you go through the first process we talked about, you figure out your niche. You figure out who your audience is, then you go on TikTok, and you search for the hashtags that are in that niche. If you're doing affiliate marketing, or you're doing medical experiments, it doesn't matter. You find the keyword. And then you search that keyword and sort by popularity. You take the top 50 videos, and you make your own version of them. You copy them as close to the original as you can. Make those 50 videos as your baseline, and publish those 50 videos over the next five days. So it's a couple hours of work because you have to shoot all the videos, but you have a script you can copy.
So you crank those videos out, and whichever video gets the most views, you go, okay, that's me, and you make a bunch more like that. So my TikTok, if you look, it's a bunch of random videos, and then one hits. And then it's 50 that are just like. So right now all my videos are very, very similar to each other. Because if I post in that style, even a bad one will get 6,000 views and a good one will get 6-800,000 views and they're almost exactly the same word for word. So it's not really a difference in performance. That's what you do to start really exploding fast. So copy the work of other people, whichever one works the best for you, make a ton like it. That's the simplest formula. And you can get to 10,000 followers and start getting sales way, way faster than 30 days.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. Once you figure out the system and the strategy. It's almost like, why didn't I know about this earlier? So it's been a really fascinating discussion. I really love affiliate marketing, content marketing, viral growth, and growing your audience. I know a lot of entrepreneurs out there listening are interested in visiting you, contacting you and working with you. So how can they do that?
Jonathan Green: Yeah, they can visit my website, ServeNoMaster.com. I giveaway several of my best sellers for free and have tons of content. It's got links to my social channels. But that's where I spend the most time, and you can find out everything you want about me. If you Google Serve No Master, every single result is me. So don't worry, you can find me that way.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: And for all the listeners out there, Jonathan's links and resources will be in the show notes. So Jonathan, thanks so much. I really enjoyed this conversation. You're such an expert in this area, and we look forward to hearing about your success in the future.
Jonathan Green: Thank you for having me.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.