Have you seen the film The Big Short? It’s about the investor bets made against the U.S. housing market due to negligence and fraud involving mortgage-backed securities, which ultimately led to the “Great Recession” that began in December of 2007.
At the time, Jordan Harbinger was a young Wall Street attorney at a high-flying firm that specialized in — you guessed it — mortgage-backed securities. It wasn’t long until the firm was bankrupt, and Jordan was out of a job.
Interestingly, Jordan had started something called a “podcast” in 2006 while he was still in law school. He used the severance he received from his failed firm as seed capital to try to make a living from a new media version of a radio show.
Fast-forward ten years, and The Art of Charm podcast is at the center of a multi-million-dollar business. And yet, if you have preconceived notions about how a podcast becomes a business, you’re really going to want to hear Jordan’s story and advice.
The Show Notes
How to Cultivate Authentic Expertise, with Jordan Harbinger of The Art of Charm
Jordan Harbinger: Hey, my name is Jordan Harbinger. I am the host of The Art of Charm podcast, and I have been unemployable for a long time.
Voiceover: Welcome to Unemployable, the show for people who can get a job, they’re just not inclined to take one — and that’s putting it gently. In addition to this podcast, thousands of freelancers and entrepreneurs get actionable advice and other valuable resources from the weekly Unemployable email newsletter. Join us by registering for our Free Profit Pillars Course, or choose to sign up for the newsletter only at no charge. Simply head over to Unemployable.com, and take your business and lifestyle to the next level. That’s Unemployable.com.
Brian Clark: If you spend any time paying attention to the world of podcasting, you’ve probably heard of The Art of Charm. It’s in iTunes top 50 podcasts. It has a gigantic audience. It’s been around for quite a long time, has a huge audience, truly a phenomenon.
Even if you don’t know anything about the world of podcasting, you may already be a subscriber to the show. Now, if you for some reason have not heard of The Art of Charm, it’s a podcast about truly leveling up in life, in relationships, in friendships, at work, at home, and everywhere in between. It’s not like this pop psychology and superficial advice type show. It offers meaningful, fun, life-changing insights with a practical edge, so listeners can apply something right out of the box every show, every day.
I recently had the opportunity to meet one of the founders of the show, Jordan Harbinger, and we hit it off. We were both presenting at the same conference and we just started sharing stories and found out we had a lot in common, notably that we were both former attorneys.
If you haven’t checked out the show, I want you to go over to theartofcharm.com/podcast. They’ve got this great little starter kit of their best shows that you can sign up for and sample and get a feel for it. Or you can just hit the subscribe button for iTunes or for your android device at that URL. That’s theartofcharm.com/podcast.
I’m Brian Clark and this is episode 50 of Unemployable, kind of a milestone. I’m glad Jordan gets to be our guest today.
Let’s just kick it over to him and see a little bit behind the scenes of what might not be apparent when you have a podcast at the center of a business. In fact, I think what you’ll hear today will break almost every conception or misconception you have about how the business of podcasting should and does work. So, let’s talk to Jordan.
Jordan, my man, it’s been like two weeks since we talked.
Jordan Harbinger: Yes, it’s been a maximum of two weeks, yes.
Brian Clark: I think it was… I don’t know, it was a little more fun in the Philippines. I don’t remember, as either do you, but that may be why we had such a good time.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think so. I mean, there’s something to be said for not drinking and cutting that out. And then there’s something to be said for having so much fun that other people have to tell you about it.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I’m definitely on the other side of the cycle now. When I come home, I just don’t touch anything, because I have to save up. I’m not a young man anymore, so if I’m going to go hang out with guys like you, I need to prepare through abstinence.
Jordan Harbinger: I thought that was the key. My friend was moving, I went to a party on Saturday, and I was hung over until yesterday. The time has come, I just turned 36, every passing year the hangover lasts an additional five hours.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I agree with that.
Jordan Harbinger: But I can only imagine. I’ve got friends who are 40 and when they drink, it’s like they’ve got to take a week off work. I mean, it’s over.
Brian Clark: Now combine that with the jetlag from coming back from the Philippines, and yeah, it took me a full two weeks I think to feel like a normal human being again.
What Is Your Experience as a Lawyer?
Brian Clark: Just so everyone is up to speed on what we’re talking about here, Jordan and I were both presenters at a very small but really cool conference called Tropical Think Tank. It was in the Philippines hosted by Chris Ducker. One of the more amazing things (there were a lot of amazing things about it) were there were nine presenters in addition to Ducker as host, and three of us were former attorneys including Jordan. And I did not know that about you.
I think we should start there, because I know we had a great conversation about your experience as an attorney and where that fits in history, which I think also everyone else is going to be very amused by, especially if they’ve seen the movie The Big Short. Take us back to Jordan, the lawyer.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, no problem. I was an attorney. I started in 2006. Technically, if you go to internships and summer associate positions, it was even earlier than that. I started working on Wall Street doing real estate, which is a fancy euphemism for mortgage-backed securities. It’s not real estate like, “Oh, I’m going to buy a house. You can help with that.” It’s real estate finance. So, I’m looking at leases for tons of properties and making sure they go into these things called CDOs and mortgage-backed securities.
It’s funny, because a few months ago whenever I talked about this people were like, “What? Yeah, I don’t know, sure, mortgages.” Now that The Big Short came out, everyone’s like, “Oh yeah, I heard about that.” And they know more about what it is I used to do.
I used to be a paper shuffler at one of the firms that they were showing there, where usually all the douche bags and the people that were evil, like that Asian guy that’s having lunch with Steve Carell and he’s like, “Let’s compare what I’m worth to what you’re worth.” That was the career track that I was on, that guy’s career track. He worked for a bank. That would have been my client as an attorney when I worked there.
Brian Clark: Yeah. And then it all fell apart, I suppose, which you may view as the best thing that ever happened to you.
Jordan Harbinger: It was and the worst thing that happened to lots of other people. So I’ll try to keep that sort of real perspective.
Brian Clark: Yeah, key perspective. That was not a great event.
The interesting thing here, and I should say I also was exposed to packaging loans, doing due diligence for mortgage-backed securities, and it was so awful, I switched to commercial litigation which I hated too. It was just, “Oh boy, I’m going to spend my life spending time with people who are fighting over contracts and stuff. That’s sexy.”
Jordan Harbinger: It’s pretty awful. There’s no getting around it. When you’re a lawyer, unless you’re taking a low paid job, you’re probably going to have to do something that’s not that interesting.
The most interesting stuff I ever did was represent homeless and indigent people in a legal clinic when I was in school who couldn’t afford… these are the most colorful clients you’ll ever have, because half of them do really crazy things to get into or out of trouble.
Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s true. Even now, even though I’m not licensed, you can still help people like that in some capacity, and it’s way more rewarding, not financially but…
Jordan Harbinger: Yes, everything but financially.
Things did fall apart. And, yes, it was for me personally a really good event, because I knew before I became a lawyer that I wasn’t super interested in staying one. I went and got that job simply because when you go to law school, even if you don’t know what you’re in for (because I really didn’t), people are like, “You’ve got to gun for the top market jobs, top market job, top market job.” And then people who like you, who work at top marketplaces are like, “Look, I can get you an interview.”
That’s what I did. I got an interview through a friend, I got hired, because they were hiring pretty much anybody who went to those schools at that time I think, or damn close. And I went there and I wasn’t a total jerk face or socially inept, so they hired me pretty much on the spot.
Then they wanted me to start early and I said no, which is great, because I had an awesome summer before that. Because they start paying you early. They give you these bonuses where they’re like, “Here’s 10 grand to help you move.” And I’m like, “I’m going to blow this on traveling,” which is what I did. And moving was fun.
Then I worked there for nine months and then work slowed down to literally nothing, not even a crawl, nothing. When you’re first starting out, you’ve got to go around the office when you don’t have work and go, “Is there anything I can help you with? Is there anything I can do? Is there anything I can get for you?” You’re supposed to make yourself known to be available.
There came a time where people were emailing all of us as first year associates and saying, “Look, we know you guys are gunning for it, we appreciate it. There’s no need to come knock on doors anymore. There literally is no work. Don’t take it personally.”
HR had to intervene and be like, “Look, if you’re not getting any work, no one is, don’t take it as a sign of your career having… like we don’t dislike you.” Because usually, if nobody gives you work, it’s like they hate you and they want you to get fired. And they’re like, “Look, this isn’t what’s happening here.”
We did that, and then we had this all hands meeting that was really scary where it was like, “Look, we’re not firing you, but if you want to get another job, we won’t hold it against you. Take unlimited amounts of time off from the firm to do that. We have a career counselor who will help you find openings.”
I was like, “This is so weird. I’ve never seen a company or heard of a company trying to dump employees like this or be so ‘flexible.’” Then even then partners were like, “This is all going to blow over by May probably.” This was in 2007. As we know, it just got worse.
How Did The Art of Charm Get Its Start?
Brian Clark: It got worse. Again, a horrible situation for the general public. But for an about-to-be entrepreneur, you had a very kind of cushy transition, I guess. And I guess the biggest benefit here is that you weren’t just standing there going, “What am I going to do?” Because while many people didn’t know that you were an attorney, they do know you as one of the founders of The Art of Charm, one of the most popular amazing podcasts in the world, and you actually started it in law school.
Jordan Harbinger: I did, yeah. I started it in law school, because I had had the summer associate thing where I found that the guys at the top were really well-networked and had really good people skills. And that sort of seemed to be not only the determining factor, even more so now that I fully see it in play, but it was my only potential competitive advantage, because everybody else was either super smart, which I was not. They were like almost talented in this area of corporate transactional work. I was like, “How do you even know this stuff?” They’d read the Wall Street Journal every day since they were 13 or whatever.
I just wasn’t that guy and/or their work ethic. It was kind of like Gary Vaynerchuk only even more where these people would sleep under their desk. Their family still lived in like Russia or something or Bulgaria, so they had nothing to do. You’d ask them to go out to lunch and they would work through lunch.
These guys were putting in 18-hour days, they lived in the middle of New Jersey, so they had commutes and half the time they never made it home. I was like, “I’m never going to be that hungry, because I don’t care about this career path enough.” And they’re like, “I’m going to make partner in 10 years, so that I can finally bring my wife over” or something like that.
Brian Clark: Totally different motivation.
Jordan Harbinger: Totally different, more visceral.
So for me, I had started the show to talk about the skills that I thought were going to get me ahead. By the time the economy hit a downturn, we were still showing up to the office and “working.” But my office mate who was more senior to me and the guys senior to us were like, “Look, you can work on whatever you want.”
I’d come in at 9 or 10 and I would surf blogs until 4 and then I would leave or read stuff or try to help The Art of Charm in any way that I could. Then after a while, the HR department and my office, and even the partners were like, “Look, we appreciate you putting in the facetime, but you don’t have to show up anymore. Just go do your thing — job hunt, relax, whatever. When we need you, if this bounces back, we’ll let you know. You can hang onto your Blackberry, because we’re still going to have times where we need people to come in or there are going to be deals.”
They were moving people to litigation and other departments and stuff like that. I was like, “Screw it. I’m still getting my full salary and benefits for the next… ” They gave us a hard out. They were like, “Look, we’re either going to lay everybody off or things are going to be fine sometime in the next nine months.” And I thought, “I’ve got nine months of making ridiculous Wall Street top market salary. This place isn’t going to go bankrupt before then,” and it did shortly after, I’ll tell you that.
But I was like, “This is great. Basically, I have a company giving me seed capital and I live 10 minutes’ walk away, and I still don’t even have to show up.”
I took all that money and instead of being a dumbass with it and running around New York crazy balling with all my free time and sleeping in, I invested it into The Art of Charm. So our seed capital came from Wall Street law firms doing stupid mortgage-backed securities, getting paid by Lehmann Brothers before they bounced out.
Brian Clark: That is such a fascinating story and such a disciplined, smart move on your part, because I would imagine some of your fellow associates did go party like rock stars for the next nine months and then had nothing to do.
Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah. Because if you don’t get a job… first of all, you’re a first year associate, you’ve already chosen other firms. So, if you’re trying to get another job, every other firm was like, “Look, we didn’t train you and you bet on the wrong horse. And now, it’s like a rat’s trying to flee a sinking ship, and you have no experience.” Because first year associates probably through third or even fourth year associates, you’re a loss leader for the firm in a lot of ways.
Brian Clark: Oh yeah, absolutely. People don’t realize that they lose money on you no matter how many hours you bill.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you lose money. They might bill you out at $300 an hour, but truthfully, you’re not doing anything that’s remotely going to pay your 180 grand a year cost of employment. There’s no chance.
People who come in thinking they’re entitled or they’re valuable, they got a wakeup call, because almost nobody got a different job. The only people who got other jobs moved to other branches of the same firm or had a connection or something like that. Very few people in my class landed on their feet. A lot of people ended up taking huge career steps backwards because of that.
I did too. After that (like I said, I wasn’t very flagrant with my spending), I was making 24 grand a year in Manhattan trying to start Art of Charm. Luckily, we were successful, because if we weren’t, I would’ve just been broke after a while.
Where Is Art of Charm Today and How Did You Get There?
Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s true. And this is the interesting part. I want to hear about post-cushy transition into the hard reality of trying to make a business out of a podcast. And you certainly did.
But first, and again, when you told me this in Cebu, I was surprised, but I don’t know why I was. Because when I tell people, “Well, I started a blog and it turned into an 8-figure a year company,” I’m used to that narrative even though it kind of freaks people out.
You’re doing the same thing with a podcast, and again, why not? But I was still like, “Wow, that’s really fantastic.” Talk a little bit about where we are today with Art of Charm just for some perspective on how you actually got there during the early days.
Jordan Harbinger: Sure, yeah. So, during the early days, we had no idea what we were doing. We were just talking about things we thought were interesting, mostly like dating and meeting girls and stuff like that, because bear in mind, I’m 26-years-old, that’s what I enjoyed. And there was a popular sort of dating men’s pickupy type movement happening — this is before it got real skeezy — and I started meeting these guys in real life and realizing they’re just kind of scummy Internet marketers. Most of them are mentally unstable guys.
We started to focus more on the development of the whole man. It was a lot of fun, because nobody was talking about this. Most of the articles that were for guys were like Maxim, “How to Get Got Girls.” And it was just Douchebag 101 schooling or really terrible advice written by clickbait authors who weren’t experts, hadn’t researched it. They were just rehashing the same tired advice that other people had put out there over the years.
So, we were doing this cutting edge thing, and the problem was nobody knew what podcasts were. We originally were just talking about this stuff off air and my business partner AJ had found a way to record audio and put it up online. It was brand new, it was called “podcasts.”
We didn’t think anybody would listen to it, because there were already, I think at the time, I was like, “There are 800 in the iTunes Store already. No one’s going to find us in this crazy mess of hundreds and hundreds of shows.” Now there are like 300,000 plus podcasts in the iTunes store, so now is even more ridiculously hard.
But luckily at this point, we had evolved into a show that’s unisex for both men and women, talks about personal growth and we know what we’re doing now. So, having mic presence, being able to produce something of quality is something we learned over the years.
We never even thought about monetizing it. At first, it was just something that came about, because we started selling phone coaching over Skype probably after the first year due to people telling us, people basically wrote in and said, “How much would it cost for you to coach me?” We were like, “We don’t do that. We’re not really coaches. Try looking at all of these other folks.”
After a while, this guy who was an investment banker wrote in and was like, “No, I want to talk to you. I’ve already hired all these other coaches. Do you have any idea how unqualified those people are? They’re just marketers. They’re copywriters that have ebooks. They’re not real coaches.”
So, he gave us like two grand, which is more money than I’d ever really seen other than my Wall Street paycheck which came from another planet at that point. I was stoked. All he wanted to do is chat and I would give him advice based on things that I had understood and known. And he was like, “This is brilliant. I’m putting it into action. This is working.”
At that point, I realized, “Oh, I kind of know what I’m talking about.” I just didn’t realize it, because I had imposter syndrome, which is where you think you’re the exception to the rule and other people belong there and you don’t or whatever.
Brian Clark: It’s interesting, because what you did is established learning psychology. What you did was teach others and therefore, ingrained the information in yourself. Before you knew it, you were an expert, and yet that’s not what you were even trying to do.
Jordan Harbinger: Right. We weren’t even thinking about it and it wasn’t something we were like, “Oh, this is going to make us well-known or famous in some way or even turn into a ‘real business.’”
The time it turned into a real business was right before I left the Wall Street firm when a guy said, “Look, I want to come and stay with you and learn this stuff in person, because that’s just how I learn.” And I said, “That’s not an option that we have available.” And he goes, “Look, what if I give you five grand for the week? Can I come and sleep on your couch and just follow you around?” And I was like, “Look, I got a job. I can’t do that, but my business partner can.”
So, we flew one of my business partners over and I was like, “Look, can you do this? You’re going to have to hang out with this guy for a week and he seems cool and everything. But you’re going to have to make up a curriculum. You can’t just sleep in till 2:00 p.m. and hope he learned something through osmosis. You have to think about this.”
We sat down, brainstormed, thought of a curriculum, taught it to him. He said it was amazing. He came back for another week a few months later. He talked about his experience on the show. This is nine years ago now or eight something years ago. And other people said, “Wait, I didn’t know we could just pay you money and come stay with you.” We had dozens of guys saying, “Hey, where do I sign up for that? I didn’t realize you guys had live programs.”
We started selling these live programs and working on the curriculum. Then before we knew it, we had made a 6-figure revenue stream off of doing what we were doing anyway, only in a more structured way and also providing some very comfortable couch accommodation in Manhattan.
Brian Clark: It’s like an Airbnb model with education and coaching.
Jordan Harbinger: It is. Things have changed a ton, but the model is still basically the same. We’re in Los Angeles now, guys fly in from all over the world. We have luxury accommodations now, these are really nice houses in Hollywood. But they come and stay and they learn and they go through the whole program.
Now, of course, the curriculum has been honed really, really well throughout the last essentially decade by people who really know what they’re doing from education and learning experts all the way to coaches and things like that. And of course, the experience we’ve gained over teaching this to thousands of different people has come into play as well.
But yeah, it’s a business that doesn’t exist anywhere else. Whenever I explain it, people are like, “Let me get this straight, what do you do again?” I sometimes still can’t believe what’s coming out of my mouth.
Brian Clark: When people think podcast, they think sponsorships. But of course, I remember 2005, I wanted to start a podcast and I’m like, “No, I’ll never make a dime from that.” And I started Copyblogger instead, which played to my strengths.
I didn’t realize that you were offering coaching and event-based services. So, you’ve been content marketing from the very beginning with the podcast well before you started getting in these big sponsorship dollars.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. In fact, getting ads on the show for people who have been listening to Art of Charm for a long time, if you go to episode I want to say 300 and probably even closer to 400, there weren’t any ads in there. There might have been ads for like, “Hey, come to The Art of Charm Bootcamp because it’s a lot of fun. It’ll change your life and here’s a testimonial,” or something like that. But it’s not, “Oh, Mazda, get a Mazda. Amazon.com, Christmas sale.” The things we have now, they’re all relatively new.
So when people go, “Oh man, you have such a big show, you must be killing it with advertising.” The advertising revenue that we get is essentially almost an afterthought. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we serve our clients really well and we convert for them really well. But it’s a very distant third in terms of revenue coming into the company, whereas training is number one, with the bullet products as the second place winner that’s very rapidly going to eclipse the live training element just because of scalability. And then advertising is a distant third, and probably always will be just because of the way that advertising works.
Even though we get a great advertising rate, great CPM, we would have to have an audience that is several times the size that it is now in order to make what we’re making off of programs and products. At which point, the advertising of those programs and products would then grow exponentially as well. So, I don’t really expect advertising to ever catch up with those things unless we just stop doing those things.
Don’t Pretend You’re An Expert
Brian Clark: Yeah, it’s fascinating. You’re approaching eight figures from a podcast. You’re essentially audio content marketers, but you developed your expertise almost accidentally just by the act of doing it. And I try to explain this to people all the time. They’re like, “I’m not an expert at anything.” Well, you want to get better at something, start teaching people what you do know, then go deeper.
Jordan Harbinger: Although I will throw one caveat on that, because I definitely believe that. The one caveat that I have is don’t pretend you’re an expert so you can teach other people stuff.
Brian Clark: Yes, I agree.
Jordan Harbinger: Get good at it first. One thing I’ve noticed with the new — and I’m not going to say “millennials” — but the new “generation” of Internet entrepreneurs, whatever age they might be, there’s this weird temptation, an almost permissive environment where people go, “Yes, I’m a small business coach and a leadership coach.” And I’m like, “Cool, how long have you been doing that?” “Well, I haven’t officially launched yet.”
“Well, that’s cool. How did you learn all this stuff before?”
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was a kindergarten teacher before that.”
“Well, wait a minute, so you’re just telling people that you can teach them how to make money online/coach/leadership/do some sort of alternative therapy, but you really haven’t ever done it. You just want to convince your first few clients to pay for it anyway, so that you can….” It’s like this weird circular logic.
Don’t do that. You can tell people, “Look, I don’t know squat about Facebook ads other than how to set them up, monitor the campaign and measure the results. I don’t necessarily know all the best practices other than what I’ve read.”
Well, that’s fine. If you’re cheap enough, somebody from a mom and pop business is going to go, “Well, that’s great. I don’t even know how to log into Facebook, so you’re hired.”
Brian Clark: Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: It’s just that people don’t want to. They want to start with, “Oh, I’m the world’s foremost expert on…”
Brian Clark: And no one buys that crap. I mean, all you have to do is say, “I’m currently learning so-and-so, and I’m going to share what I know with you.” You’re one step ahead of them, but you’re being honest and you’re being authentic.
I do a personal development newsletter. I am not some personal development guru. In fact, I ignored personal development outside of entrepreneurism for way too long, which is what finally woke me up. I need to pay more attention to other aspects of my life.
So I just say, “Here’s what I’m reading. Here’s what I got out of it. There you go.” Thousands of subscribers, but not one of them thinks that I’m some kind of Tony Robbins.
Jordan Harbinger: And that’s good, and that’s still what we do at Art of Charm.
The first few episodes, one of the things that a lot of people commented on (and I remember this even though it’s been frigging nine plus years, almost 10 years) is we said, “Look, we’re not gurus. We’re on the same path as you. We might just be a few steps ahead.” And people were like, “This is great.” Because what “gurus” try to do is they make things so complicated and so esoteric so that people buy things from them.
We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to say, “Look, we know all this stuff that you can apply right out of the box. And if you like it, we can teach it to you in person and we have more effective things that we can only really teach in person. If you’re interested in that, cool. And if not, cool, because this stuff that we’re teaching on the show is going to work.”
That worked out really well. And this wasn’t a marketing thing. We never thought about this as a business. Even when we were doing it as a business, we never thought of it as a “real business.” We just thought, “Oh, these guys want to learn from us in person. Cool, we can make that work.” We never thought about this stuff as “marketing” and as a scalable thing and dah, dah, dah, dah.
That turned out to be really good, because when you view this as something you’re currently getting better at and that you’re working on, not only are your clients super forgiving of that, but also you have a totally different outlook than when you need to pretend that you know everything, because that’s what these guru types do. They have to pretend they know everything, they have to complicate everything, and they’re doing their clients a disservice.
Even now, The Art of Charm isn’t just me talking about topics. It’s an interview show. I’m always bringing in experts in other areas and people trust that. Because now people are savvy enough, the Internet’s been around for a long enough time that people can see this. People who claim to know everything about something are clearly full of crap. People that have an open mind and are willing to learn but still demonstrate competency, those people build trust.
That’s what we’ve been doing for nine plus years. And that’s what you cannot do just through clever sales copy and some YouTube videos that make you look like you know everything about the subject that you’re talking about.
How Did You Develop and Hone Your Curriculum?
Brian Clark: Absolutely. You mentioned that you honed your curriculum over time through these one-off interactions and then more group coaching, all the way evolved up to these bootcamp type luxury settings.
I did take a look at the course that you offer, and it looks like a fairly well-honed curriculum. Talk a little bit about course development and how that’s been working out for you.
Jordan Harbinger: Sure. The course development was kind of tricky because back in 2007, 2008 when we were really cutting it up from whole cloth, all we could really do is go, “Okay, let’s take a Dale Carnegie class, find the drills and exercises we like from that. Let’s take Improv, let’s take a leadership course. Let’s read this book, this book, this book and this book and take the best practices out of that. Okay, let’s try a weird drill that I thought of yesterday that a client was having trouble with a certain skill and see if we can systemize this a little bit more. Let’s take this acting class.”
We were doing things like that and bringing those all in and then working on skills that we saw where people were weak — first impressions and body language and things like that.
Then after a while when we thought, “Okay, we’ve got this figured out,” we would have somebody who’s a guest on the show, maybe meet up in real life and go, “Let me just run this by you.” Because, bear in mind, we’re having people on the show, and then they’re like, “I sold 800 copies of my book overnight because of this appearance.” And this is years ago. Now, it’s probably 10 times that.
I would say, “Look, here’s our body language curriculum. Would you mind just commenting on that?” And we could have some of the world’s foremost experts on body language go, “I do this, I like this. Here’s what I don’t like about that and why. And here’s a drill I would use to replace this other thing.” If you do that enough, you start to get the best of the best.
I mean, we’ve got body language drills from the CIA and the FBI. We’ve got negotiation stuff from hostage negotiators and corporate negotiators that work at the highest level where if you hired them, it would be like a hundred grand retainer and the guy just went through our negotiation curriculum and signed off on a few things and made some changes.
If you repeat that enough, you’re going to have the best of the best. And then of course, teaching a bunch of people those same skills all the time, you’re going to find what works for your clients and what doesn’t.
It’s been time consuming, but there is no better curriculum out there, in part because of the level of experience that we’ve got, teaching at the level of experience we had designing it and the people that helped.
But also, primarily, in many ways, because of the following reason: whenever I take some sort of personal growth or self-improvement thing, there’s always a weird upsell to the next thing, which means that they’re withholding something that will help you greatly in order to get you to reinvest.
We only have the one live program and we like it that way, because then people come in going, “Oh, I’m going to get a 100% effort from the guys at The Art of Charm. They’re not going to go, ‘Well, if you like that, just sign up for this and we’ll teach you the real secret.’”
That’s an info marketer thing that a lot of people do and we don’t do that. We just give you everything you need to succeed, knowing that we will generate new business based on your level of success as a client generating word of mouth and things like that.
That’s still radically different, but it was definitely different at five, six, seven years ago — nobody was doing that. People who were selling information or training, it was always a sales funnel, and it always had no end.
Brian Clark: My philosophy on that is you teach them everything in the online training. You don’t have to hold back, because there are certain people who will say, “Okay, are you going to do a workshop where you walk me through it in person specifically or is there a live event where I can do the next thing?”
Those are the only two levels you really need. You need online and certain people, like with your Art of Charm course, are going to say, “Let me come to LA. That’s my next level.” And that’s all you offer.
Jordan Harbinger: Yep, that’s it. Look, I’m not saying we’re never going to offer some other type of live class, but it will be radically different. It’ll be something like, “All right, now we’ve got a program that’s specifically about this totally different subject area, instead of doing the regular bootcamp or compliments it.” Never, “This is the next level on that.”
People tell us we’re stupid for doing that all the time. Even our own clients are like, “You need another program, people will buy it.”
Brian Clark: Just go vertical, curve it up a little bit.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, could always do something like that. And I get that.
The other reason though is, frankly, I know probably too many people who do different types of training in different products. They’ve got 87 different types of things that you can do and all of them are mediocre, because they’ve never focused on getting one thing and knocking it out of the park.
Can People Still Make Podcasting Work?
Brian Clark: Yeah, absolutely. All right, let’s address the elephant in the room as our final question. You talked about starting a podcast back when there were 800 of them in iTunes, and now there are 300,000. Can people still get started (and everyone seems to be) with podcasting and actually make it work?
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, podcasting right now is trendy and I’m always the first naysayer. People go, “Let’s hear from Jordan Harbinger who’s proof that this can work.” And I’m thinking, “Look, I’m the worst guy to ask for launch advice, because I launched mine nine and a half years ago.”
The other big problem that I see with it is, and I mean no offense to the blogging community, many of whom are listening. If you start a blog and you decide, “Man, I need more content or I want to start another blog or I’m sick of writing,” you can hire writers and they can write as you or they can write as them, and it really doesn’t matter. If you start a YouTube channel or a podcast and you decide, “You know what, I need to outsource this,” well, you’re out of luck. People expect to hear from you. They expect to see you.
Additionally, broadcasting is a completely different skill. Everyone thinks, seems to be these days, they can do it, because they bought the equipment and the bar seems to be really low. But anybody who’s listened to a podcast, aside from maybe this one and a handful of others, they listen and they go, “Wow, these are genuinely terrible shows.” These aren’t really good. The interviewer is not that good, it’s not that dynamic. It’s not that funny, it’s not produced that well. The guests aren’t that great.”
There are so many things that can go wrong. Whereas if you’re blogging, you can spend five hours creating a five-paragraph piece based on tons of research with a ton of help and it can do just fine. Podcasts are not like that. You can’t just talk in your garage into a microphone and have it be that good. You can sort of do it now and you could definitely do it back in 2007, but now people expect a show to have high quality.
What’s going to happen and what is continually happening is aggregators and content curators like Spotify who now have podcasts, people go, “Oh, how do I get my show in there?” And the answer is you don’t. They have to pick you, because they don’t want stuff that’s not up to snuff in there.
It takes years for you to become a good broadcaster, a good podcaster. There are shows in iTunes and other podcast aggregators that are from actors, comedians, and they’re still not that good. And these are people that have been performing for years. They just don’t have the audio production skill set.
Most of the good shows are produced by people who have radio backgrounds. They’ve been doing production for a long time. Starting a show was a great place to start. Do not expect it to start to turn into a great business for you any more than you expect to go to open mic night at the Improv and then suddenly get booked to open for Louis CK.
But, somehow, that’s what people expect when they start a show. They’re like, “How many downloads do I need before I get sponsors?” The answer is tens of thousands before it becomes worth your while. And they’re like, “Oh, I’m getting 84 downloads per episode now,” most of which are probably accidental clicks, and then they get discouraged and quit.
When we started The Art of Charm, we thought, “Nobody’s really going to listen to this,” and we didn’t really look at our stats. For years, we didn’t look, and that turned out to be great, because we weren’t measuring ourselves based on the number of downloads per episode. We just did it, because we wanted to do it.
My advice is for anybody that thinks they’re going to start a show or wants to start a show, you have to ask yourself an honest question and answer very honestly: would you do the show even if nobody was listening and you made no money? Because there’s a 99.9%, actually better given statistics, chance that you will not make any money. It’ll have a negative return, because you have to invest and pay for things monthly and buy the equipment, and that nobody will care and nobody will write to you and nobody will listen.
If you’re willing to do the show because of that, just because you think it’s so fun to talk with your friends about topics and get good at this, then maybe this is for you.
Otherwise, pretty much every other business model out there from writing an ebook and putting it online to learning sales copy to just simply starting a blog of your own will be much more effective and have success much earlier than starting a podcast ever could.
Brian Clark: Tough love, but great advice from Jordan.
I will add that, yes, there are tons of podcasts, there is tons of content out there and most of it is terrible. There is always room for a unique and vibrant voice, whether it’s written, video or audio that shares freely. You don’t have to claim that you’re the foremost expert. In fact, your vulnerability will probably help you a lot more, as Jordan said earlier.
I love the advice. Again, I would do the show even if it did nothing for me, because I really enjoy it. I know I get a little bit better each month, each year. For me, that’s the deal. So, I can’t disagree with that advice.
Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I mean, it’s not a good way to get rich quick. It’s promoted that way by a lot of people on the Internet, because it’s trendy. But I can count on one hand, even podcasts…
Let me put it this way, Alex Blumberg who runs StartUp and Gimlet Media, one of the top big podcast companies now, he did an interview recently on another show. And he talked about his biggest revenue earners for the company were shows like StartUp that were returning a million dollars in revenue and stuff like that.
13 people work on the show full time. Each episode takes about a week to produce, so they don’t even do an episode every week of the year. They air like 32 or 38 episodes a year, and it generates seven figures. That might sound awesome, but go ahead and pay your hosting bill, pay for your office space, oh, and 13 people’s salaries. That money is kind of crappy. Most of those people aren’t making six figures. You, as the network owner, are probably netting low five figures off of that. And that’s your top show, and you’re one of the top podcasts networks.
So, you are not going to make that much money doing this unless you turn out to be the next Alex Blumberg and you handle things better. And he’s been doing what? He’s been an NPR superstar for several decades now. This isn’t the kind of thing you just jump into and you start to kill it. It’s just not.
Brian Clark: Yeah, I’m not going to rag on Alex, because their production value is amazing. But we run a podcast network that makes more revenue than they do with none of that, because we have a real business model and all that crap. But, yeah, it’s a business. It’s not just speaking into a microphone, and I think that’s probably the biggest takeaway that anyone can have.
All right, Jordan, I appreciate so much the time. We’re going to have to get together in person soon, but not too soon. We both need to go on a liver detox or something like that.
All right, Everyone, thanks for tuning in. I hope you got some really great insight out of this show. I know I did.
Do what you want to do, commit to it. Don’t necessarily start for the money, because it takes a while to come. But if you’re already running your own business, you’re probably a step ahead of the other dreamers out there who think they’re going to quit their job and get rich like Jordan. Just remember, he had a great severance package.
All right, Everyone, we will talk again soon. In the meantime, keep going, never stop.