6 Steps to Becoming an Influencer

Pat Flynn, creator of Smart Passive Income, explains what you need to do to get your name out there and build a following.

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By Kelsey Humphreys

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ten years ago, Pat Flynn, the international keynote speaker, renowned podcaster and creator of the Smart Passive Income empire, was at rock bottom. He'd just been fired from his architecture job.

Related: 3 Tricks to Become an Instagram Influencer

"I went through a lot of depression," he told me. "I had done everything the way I was supposed to. I got good grades in school, joined all the extracurriculars, got letters of recommendation from everybody, etc. I got into a great college. Even in the corporate world, I was accelerating and I was the youngest person to be a job captain at the architecture firm and even still, I got let go."

That was when he decided to take control of his own life. Since then, he's launched multiple passive income projects and explained the results of each one on his website (along with transparent monthly income reports showing how he's brought in over $2.1 million in the last 12 months). He has been featured in The New York Times for his accomplishments, spoken at large conferences around the world, grown a YouTube channel to over 124,000 subscribers, and his top-ranked business podcast, The Smart Passive Income Podcast, has earned over 25 million downloads.

Flynn may have been an early adopter in the online influencer, expert and podcasting space, but I asked him about how he'd tackle things if he was starting today, and below are the top lessons aspirers can learn from him, if you're just starting out or just feeling stuck.

Build up your track record.

If you want to become known as an influencer in a larger sense, spend the time and energy creating success in your smaller area first. It's not enough to have a niche; you've got to dominate in that niche. I asked him what that looked like in an average day back in the early years of building.

"It was hours a day just posting information online, doing the research and really trying to get involved in forums and communities. That was a component of my success, being seen as an expert, because I was there communicating with people in architecture forums and then by the nature of just giving and trying to help as many people as possible."

Feel like you're not growing as fast as you want? Flynn says the biggest hurdle rookie entrepreneurs make is trying to do too many tactics, content strategies, business models, etc.

"It's great to see all these different tactics, but there's probably stuff you're doing that you're not doing enough of because you're focusing on all these other things. Focus on what is working and optimize before you start to add all these other elements into it."

Related: What This YouTube Star With 7.3 Million Subscribers Is Doing to Deal With Burnout

Plan ahead for growth.

Flynn shared that at one point a few years ago he stopped blogging and podcasting because the pressure of constantly creating content was too overwhelming. If you've watched my entrepreneur interviews you know that batching -- for example blocking off one day to shoot multiple videos in a "batch" -- is a common tactic among successful marketers, but Flynn said before you get to batching, make a road map.

"What took up most of my time was trying to figure out what I was going to write. I would open up a blank sheet ... I hated to hit publish on my blog, because I knew the moment I hit publish, I had to start thinking about what was coming next," he shared. "Now [myself and my team] ask, what's the content going to be for the next quarter? We plan around what products that we want to launch, we plan around what themes there might be happening around that month. That allows us to narrow our focus for what it is that we should write."

Expand out with strategic content.

The single most important component of Flynn's giant operation? His audio podcast. "People find me through my podcast. The podcast, more than anything, has helped me build a real relationship with my audience."

Your content method for expanding and reaching new people doesn't have to be podcasting. You could choose livestreaming, a YouTube channel or contributing as a writer to bigger websites. No matter which you choose, remember to have niched down, built up and planned ahead first, so you're ready for the new audience growth.

Related: Why This Entrepreneur Says It's Smart to Focus on Microinfluencers

Gather up email addresses.

When I ask rockstar online influencers about their biggest mistakes, most of them share Flynn's answer.

"Start an email list sooner. That was a big mistake. Even my LEED Exam website business didn't have an email list, so when I came out with a second product I didn't have the systems in place to email them and let them know I had something that can help them even more. With Smart Passive Income, I didn't start an email list for a whole year and a half and it crushes me."

So many of my early adopter guests say this, so if you're just getting started, listen and save yourself! Start collecting emails yesterday.

Block out time on your calendar.

Flynn said another one-liner my guests often share: What isn't on the calendar doesn't get done. He explained that this is especially important for solopreneurs or small-business owners working at home. It's hard to turn off as an entrepreneur, but if you don't you'll soon burn out. So, in addition to scheduling blocks for work, carve out time for yourself and your spouse or family.

"The worst thing about entrepreneurship is just catching myself in those moments where I'm blending those two things [work time and family time]. It's not fair to my wife, it's not fair to my kids and I'm still trying to improve on that."

Related: How to Transition From Working Practitioner to Industry Expert

Focus in on who you are and why you are doing this.

I am happy to report that Flynn, refreshingly, is just as approachable and down to earth in person as he seems online. He had no entourage and walked around FinCon, where he was the keynote speaker, talking to anyone and everyone, taking selfies, etc.

"Another important part of [my initial success with the LEED Exam] was just being myself, being real, not trying to be some corporate test helper company. I was just Pat Flynn, a guy who took the exam, just like you guys are about to take it."

He's stayed true to himself, and maintained amazing authenticity and transparency with his followers now for a decade. How? Because his focus has always been not on growing his Twitter account or becoming a billionaire, but rather to help people.

"I think the coolest thing is the stories of people who have consumed my content in one way or another and how it's helped them. That, to me, is just mind boggling, knowing that somebody on the other side of the world has been affected by the work that I do in my home office."

Since our chat, Flynn has launched a series of in-person workshops to further help his community. "So, for anybody that wants that course content in a much shorter time period, in a more intimate environment, I'm going to be holding workshops in San Diego and that's something that is scaring me to death, which means it's probably something I should do."

The first event, which you can learn more about at smartpassiveincome.com/event, will be held in July of 2019.

Watch the full interview with Pat Flynn on Humphrey's YouTube Channel, The Kelsey Show.

Kelsey Humphreys

Producer, Host, Entrepreneur, Journalist, Author

Kelsey Humphreys is a media entrepreneur, journalist and author on a mission to break down "success for the rest of us." She is the author of the Amazon bestseller Go Solo. Catch interviews with today's leaders on her show, The Pursuit


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