Authentic entrepreneur spotlight: Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income

I was super busy last week showing some family friends around beautiful Philadelphia and its surroundings so I kind of fell under the radar. While I missed writing, I got plenty of time to think (I love just having time to let my mind go into grasshopper mode – it’s so refreshing) and take a little break from being in front of a computer screen all day long. If I have been a little slow getting back to you – sorry! Now you know why. 😉

Authentic entrepreneur spotlights – a new feature

I was delighted to see that a lot of you found my last post on writing great content that gets noticed very helpful, so I decided to take this whole “authentic biz” theme a little further and take an in-depth look at the strategies some of the popular authentic bloggers are taking.

A lot of you were, like me, (let’s put it nicely) disenchanted with the slimy internet marketing strategies.

I have been studying several people who do internet marketing in a way that doesn’t make me want to run for the hills, so I figured the best place to start is to learn from what they are doing!

To start off, I will focus on the three main topics of an online business: the content strategy (blogging, video, podcasting), the e-mail list strategy (super important!), and the sales strategy (because we want to make money without having to feel like a used car salesperson to get it.)

Pat Flynn

Pat has a pretty cool story, and he is one of the first people I found in the online business world who was completely open and authentic.  His e-mails feel like they come from a friend (which has an added benefit – they seem to land in the “primary” Gmail tab more often than other newsletter e-mails), he is completely non-salesy, and he shares a crap ton of useful content and strategies for free (starting with his free ebook, Ebooks the $mart way – one of the best written opt-in freebies I’ve read.)

One of the awesome things Pat does is share his income report every single month. Aside from Kate and John’s monthly income reports on Entrepreneur on Fire and Denise Duffield-Thomas’s reports about her first years in business (year 1, year 2year 3), I don’t know of another person who does this (if you do, please link to it in the comments!). This is super valuable for people who are just starting out in online business, but from what Pat has shared in some of his podcasts it can also get you some serious haters. I guess you win some and you lose some!

An example of one of Pat's newsletter e-mails - short, sweet, honest, to the point.

An example of one of Pat’s newsletter e-mails – short, sweet, honest, to the point.

Pat’s communication strategy

Pat’s strategy is pretty unique. He calls it “Be everywhere“. Basically, he posts useful blog posts, podcasts, has a YouTube channel, and is all over social media as well.

But here’s the best part about it (and the hardest, too): he doesn’t post the same content everywhere! I’ve seen other entrepreneurs post a video on YouTube, include the transcript on the blog, and put the audio into their podcast. But by doing that, they are not differentiating between the different kinds of fans they have.

The reality is that some people will prefer to listen to interviews, others will prefer to just listen to your voice as you tell them about stuff, others will prefer to read blog posts because it’s quicker, and others yet will want to see you talk on the screen or watch a screenshare presentation like my 3 habit success framework.

What’s more, your biggest fans will want to consume your content on more than one of these mediums.

By putting the same content on all mediums you are catering to your basic, one-medium fans. But by being on all of them you are adding more value to your biggest fans, who in the end are also the ones who will help spread the word about you (sneezers as Seth Godin calls them) and buy from you.

Pat takes this philosophy even further with his podcasts. He has two of them- the Smart Passive Income podcast (which is long, usually an hour) and Ask Pat, a quick (2-5 min) Q&A podcast. They are both extremely valuable, and cater to different preferences people might have for a podcast.

He interviews some amazing people on his SPI podcast, and also shares a ton of valuable, authentic information when he has no guests. His Q&A podcast is just a treasure trove of useful information – I love listening to both of them!

At the core of Pat’s engagement philosophy seems to be creating trust by offering insanely useful content over and over again, without asking for anything in return.

In addition, he includes lots of links to useful articles or other entrepreneurs in his blog posts, driving traffic to them and building relationships with them. This is a great strategy that emphasizes collaboration between entrepreneurs rather than competition (which comes from the scarcity mindset – “why should I promote their work? I don’t want to send clients away.”)

When entrepreneurs share each other’s work and support each other beautiful things can happen, and I love how some of the best authentic entrepreneurs do that.

Useful links:

Take action:

Create your own blogging pyramid, and write down a list of topics that you could use as case studies for yourself. If you can’t think of anything from the past, start a “case study” project! Choose something you want to work on (related to your niche – something your readers will be interested in), choose a goal and a time frame, and go to town working on it, discovering what obstacles come up, and finding creative ways to overcome them. Then share your experience on your blog!

Pat’s email list strategy

Pat talks extensively about his e-mail strategy in his posts and podcast (I’m going to list some links below). He breaks down his e-mails between blog and podcast updates (which contain links) and autoresponder e-mails, which are like mini blog posts – he shares little stories, useful and actionable tips (a key feature of his listbuilding strategy).

A great strategy he uses in his autoresponder series is to prompt the reader to respond. In the first e-mail you can ask something like, “What are you struggling with?” or “What kind of content would you like to see?”. I personally use this one too, and have found that it increases engagement and trust when people respond (hint: respond back! I always do, even if it takes me a while.)

I have noticed that Pat keeps doing this periodically, asking people for links to articles they have loved around the web, for instance. All great ways to increase trust and start communication with your list subscribers (helping them feel like real people, not just wallet owners).

One thing Pat does very well is have opt-ins everywhere on his site, but not in a way that is pushy. He has no pop-up (Yay! I hate those. That’s why I don’t have one on this site either. And never will. You can hold me to that.) but he does strategically link to his opt-in when the content relates to it and includes an opt-in box at the end of every single post.

Useful links:

Take action:

Start an e-mail list autoresponder! And include a question in your first email and periodically throughout. I love how Pat just adds a new e-mail to the autoresponder every once in a while – keeps him from being overwhelmed (no need to write it all in one day), and keeps the readers constantly engaged with helpful and personal e-mails that don’t contain links – that’s rare in the online marketing world, right?

I have been bad about doing this as well so I’m also jumping on this task right away. You might want to consider creating an implementation schedule for all (or most) of Pat’s strategies – they work very well for him. He has a 60-70% e-mail open rate! Compare that to 20% industry standards. Wowzers!

Pat’s sales strategy

Pat makes most of his money through affiliate sales and ebook sales on his other niche websites. The affiliate links he just includes in his useful blog posts and podcasts as helpful resources, which never comes across as sales-y.

One thing I appreciate about him is that he never sends an e-mail just promoting something. This is made possible by his business model, but I’m not sure it can be 100% sustainable for those of us with a more direct revenue model.

When you sell coaching or ebooks and programs on your own site, it can be important to communicate this with your e-mail list – it’s pretty tough to just squeeze it into blog posts the way he does with affiliate links. So, as awesome as his 100% non-salesy approach is, I don’t it’s not fully sustainable for coaches, for instance. (You’ll see how his strategy slightly backfired when he finally did have something to sell in one of the links I listed below.)

However, I do believe it’s possible to sell to your list in a completely authentic and honest way.

In my opinion, this starts with letting some e-mails be just informational, to connect with your reader – I have to admit I’m tired of how many e-mails tug at my heartstrings just for me to discover the entire sob story was just to sell me something. Barf.

Pat has a brilliant affiliate marketing strategy too. Compared to many other marketers who promote their affiliate links shamelessly to their e-mail list (because it’s the-next-biggest-thing-you-absolutely-need-or-you-will-never-be-successful-period), Pat creates useful how-to articles that are helpful in and of themselves and reviews or promotes the product he’s an affiliate of throughout the post.

It’s a little bit of a sandwich strategy, but he does it in a way that is completely not sales-y, just helpful. Here is example 1 – a how to, example 2 – an in-depth case study, and example 3 – a huge tutorial. And let’s not forget his resources and start here pages – great website real estate for affiliate links, not to mention just how useful they are to a random person that first lands on his site.

Useful links:

  • The right way to add bonuses to your products – a great guide, and I love how he breaks down the mistakes he made and he has seen others make. Very useful for coaches and those selling online products.
  • Pat’s first course on SPI – a good way to see how he sells and promotes a course on the site. Totally non-scammy. However, since he doesn’t normally sell directly to that list, notice the heated discussion that took place in the comments. A reminder of why it’s good to keep a middle ground going between selling and sharing. However, also take notice to the authentic way Pat responds to those criticisms – great to learn from!
  • Are you taking advantage of your unfair advantage? – this is a great post especially for brand-spanking new entrepreneurs who feel like they have “nothing to offer”. Our connections, experience, personality, and unique perspectives give us the leverage we need in business – but first we need to open our eyes and see them, and then we need to get over our fear and use them. I got crickets on my site for a long time because I either didn’t know what made me stand out or was too scared to use it and share it (see my last post about being vulnerable – gulp!)
  • Analysis of his getting started page – Pat includes a lot of these case studies which are insanely useful and popular.
  • How to profit by giving it all away – a super helpful guest post on SPI detailing Pat’s strategy (that I explained a bit above)
  • Pat’s top 30 tips for successful affiliate marketing – all the way down to the most important thing: the mindset!

Take action:

Figure out what your unfair advantage is (hint: you have more than one!) Many creative grasshoppers feel like they’re “Jacks of all trades” with nothing they really excel in. But the reality is that being a creative grasshopper with a lot of passions puts us in a very unique perspective that gives us A LOT to offer! So I challenge you to figure out your “unfair advantages” and commit to an action plan!

Help me out!

This was a lot of fun for me to write, but to tell you the truth I’m nervous! For one, as much fun as it was compiling all of this information, I felt a bit like a stalker doing it 😉 and two, I want to make sure this is helpful to you!

I would love to hear what you think. Did you like it? Do you want more authentic entrepreneur spotlights? Are there any other categories you’d like me to cover? Are there any other authentic entrepreneurs you’d like me to “stalk” and feature? Tell me in the comments!

And I would love to hear the biggest takeaway for you from this spotlight. What strategy are you going to implement right away?

Finally, if you found this helpful please share this post to help other creative grasshoppers learn how to be successful without having to sacrifice their authenticity, honesty, and passions.

Opt In Image
Conquer procrastination
Enter your e-mail below to grab my FREE 9-day flexible productivity email course

This free 9-day course will help you create a unique productivity system tailored to your natural needs, rhythms and priorities - so you'll never, ever have to create another schedule you know you won't stick to!


  1. Laura, I just had to say- this is one of my favourite blog posts ever! In celebrating Pat’s authenticity (thank you by the way as I hadn’t come across Pat before), your own authenticity just shines through. SO much useful and actionable information too. I am committed to authenticity in my business, but there’s still so much to learn. Brilliant, thank you!

  2. Wow Laura, what a great post! There is so much info in here and I can’t wait to dive into these (as I don’t know Pat). I’d love to see more posts like this. I also love it when entrepreneurs share their income. I just did that last month in a Facebook thread related to my free webinar and I grew my list by over 100! I will definitely do a year-end summary and keep you in the loop 🙂

  3. Holy cats, lady. This is like a book! I am in awe at how long it must have taken you to pull this together but talk about VALUE. Well done! Thanks for dissecting Pat for us.

    • Thank you so much, Heather! Yup, it took a while – but it was pretty easy because I’ve read all of these posts on Pat’s site before!

  4. Woah! What an amazingly thorough resource. You’ve hit the nail on the head about so many things re: Pat. I never thought about how he is “everywhere” but with different content. You are right, that makes such a difference. Although, I don’t know how he doesn’t go into mega-overwhelm, but I need to go back to some of his outsourcing posts to get the inside on that! Thank you for this, can’t wait for the next one as it’s super helpful!

    • Thank you, Leah! As you most likely saw in his response, he slowly tackled each media format and didn’t add too many at once. Still, I am having trouble keeping up with the few I am on. It takes being very organized to pull off what he’s doing.

  5. Having never read anything by Pat, I loved this introduction to his work! And I immediately subscribed to this list to see that goodie.
    I like the “give immediate results”. A lot of the time I’m sharing things that are high concepts or need a lot of thinking through, or I pack a post with a bunch action steps that no one will actually take because it’s too much. I see how my writing can benefit from this one thing alone.

    Off to read a bunch of posts I opened in new tabs!

    • Thanks, Nela! Yep, I sometimes don’t even read posts that have 7-100 steps to do X, because I know that it will just be overwhelming. But when someone can present me with 1-3 compelling strategies, I might implement at least one of them! This is one reason why I usually keep my strategies to no more than 3-5.

  6. Laura, that must have taken you ages to pull that together! Thanks for sharing. Pat Flynn is incredible – I highly recommend you all go and check him out. The links Laura provided are great starting points.

    The thing I like about Pat is his commitment to his audience – he has personally responded to a number of emails I sent him with thoughtful advice and answers!

    You also asked about others who produce online income reports. I’d add Niall Doherty of Disrupting the Rabblement to that list! Maybe another candidate for a future authentic entrepreneur post?

    Thanks again for sharing – looking forward to reading more!

    • Thank you, Alistair! You’re right, that’s something really special about Pat. When he said in a recent podcast that he still reads and tries to respond to every single email he gets I almost snorted my drink. Thanks for pointing out Niall Doherty, I’ll definitely check him out!

  7. Laura! You’re amazing! Thank you so much for this wonderful write-up and for sharing my work with your audience. I’m completely honored, and don’t worry in no way whatsoever does this come across as being stalkerish, hehe!

    A couple of notes to go along with your post:

    1. Be Everywhere – yes, that’s my marketing philosophy but I want to make sure people – especially those just starting out – don’t try to put too much on their plate. I’ve ended up everywhere over time, but that was only after first starting a blog, then a year later my YouTube channel, and finally my podcast in 2010. Get familiar and build an audience on one main platform (MAYBE two) and then branch out from there as you see fit. And “be everywhere” is really just a perception – I’m not actually everywhere, just everywhere where most of my audience is, which is where I need to be. Also, I’ve honed in on a lot of systems to keep me focused and able to continue to provide value on each of those platforms I’m on. For example, with AskPat, I’ve hired a VA to help me put the show together, because I couldn’t possibly do it alone with little time I do have reserved for business related items in my life.

    2 In terms of email marketing, I’m not against selling to your list. I am, however, against promoting to your list when they don’t expect it. I chose to go 100% no sell in email, for the most part because everyone else in the space I’m in was crushing their email lists with sell after sell – so I took a completely opposite approach. If you can manage the expectation, and perhaps offer deals specifically to those on your list, then an email about something you’re selling would be a huge value add to those on your list.

    Again, thank you for this Laura you rock! And Alistar, thanks for pointing me toward this article on Twitter, and your kind words here as well.


    • Hi, Pat: I can tell from this assessment that you are extremely prolific and organized; you’ve set up strong brand messaging, too (i.e. email list is no-sell). I have so much respect for all the time energy and effort you must put in to being successful. Thank you for being an inspiration for those of us who always feel like we’re in mile 16 of the marathon! Woot woot! Laura, this post was so interesting. Go you!

    • Thank you so much for joining the conversation, Pat! And, of course, for providing all of the awesome content you provide. I like the idea of introducing new platforms slowly, it’s definitely something to keep in mind. But the tough part still remains keeping up with them. Except for outsourcing (like you did with your VA) I think the most important thing is just setting up systems and strategies that make it as easy as possible for you to keep up with every single platform you’re on. Otherwise we run the risk of being there “in spurts” (something I still struggle with). I love your second point! There’s always more than one way to do things, and entrepreneurs who want to be authentic need to know that they need to strike a balance – make money but still respect their audience. What you said, don’t sell to them when they don’t expect it, is key in my opinion. Thank you so much for commenting!

  8. Holy comprehensive moly! I’m sort of flabbergasted by the amount of value jam packed into this blog post. I only had 1 tab open when I started reading and now I can’t even read the titles on the tabs! The best part is how you homed in on authenticity. There really is such snaky internet marketing practices out there. This guide is the snaky internet marketing antithesis! Best part of the post, by far, is the insight to ASK QUESTIONS. It’s mutually beneficial and keeps the conversation moving right along. Totally undervalued business tool.

    • Ha! Glad I could keep you occupied 😉 (not that you had nothing to do… lol) I love the “snaky internet marketing antithesis” name! I agree, too many people don’t ask questions. How else are you going to know what your audience wants? It’s a no-brainer.

  9. Laura, this was EPIC. Huge thanks for creating something really remarkable and full of valuable content. I’m definitely bookmarking this, so I can come back and get ideas – there’s so many good ones here. Woot woot!

    I loved the part about telling the sob story only to end it with a sale. This is something I DON’T do with my list, but I do definitely tell heart-fuelled stories that are super honest. I feel the best way to to truly connect with anyone is to understand who they are and where they’re coming from- and not always trying to sell them. You can really connect on a heart-level if you are honest with another human being. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Oh, and another thing I do is just look at every subscriber as a friend I haven’t met yet.

    Being authentic is the best business practice there is. 🙂

    • I love these tips, Kristen! Of course, selling is about connecting, and the emotional part of that is super important. But there is a difference between genuinely telling honest heart-fuelled stories and exaggerating everything to get people to buy. I also think it’s important to sometimes just tell heart-fuelled stories for the sake of sharing lessons and experiences. I’ve started expecting a sale every time I start reading a sob story! I also love how you look at your subscribers. It’s all about your perspective! Thank you for joining the conversation 🙂

  10. Thanks so much for sharing all of this Laura! I really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to using some of these strategies with my own business — Authenticity is so important to me!

  11. Thanks for the shout out – awesome blog post.
    xx Denise

  12. This sounds like an awesome new feature! I wouldn’t be concerned about stalking :). I’m sure Pat appreciates it and you’ve shared some really helpful info and resources. I’m off to check out some of the links :).

  13. I love Pat Flynn’s stuff! His autoresponder strategies are particularly smart and helpful. I didn’t know about some of the stuff you shared in this post, though, like his ebook freebie! Off to check that out now. Nice work! 🙂

  14. Laura – so wonderful! I love reading about other internet entrepreneurs and learning from new people. Keep up the spotlights – they are great! Can’t wait to check out all the yummy links you have posted! Thanks again! xo


  15. I loved reading this article so full in resources! I have been following Pat for a while and I love the work he does.
    Here is one more site that talks about income:
    And one more, that talks about how to monetize a blog:

Speak Your Mind