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Secret to Success – Lewis Howes

For entrepreneurs, perhaps a greater reward than money is the reward of time and the freedom to do what you want, when you want. As entrepreneurs, we all envision a lifestyle we want to live, one where we aren’t tied down to a specific location or title. The perfect example of the lifestyle entrepreneur is Lewis Howes, a professional athlete who succumbed to injury to only bounce back as one of today’s top online marketers. His LinkedIn, Youtube, Facebook, & webinar online courses have raked in more than $2.5 million a year allowing him to travel the world and fulfill his life-long dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.
Tell us how you got started…

I started playing professional football when I was younger and always wanted to be a pro athlete. So after college, I made All American as a football player and a decathlete. Eventually I had to make a decision, whether I should train for the next few years as a decathlete to try and make the Olympic team or should I go and play professional football right now. I had decided I wanted to play professional football and start getting paid right away. I ended up making the Arena Football League but got injured in my first year so I never really had the chance to make it to the NFL. The goal was to play in the Arena Football League, do well in it, and then move up to the NFL after a year or two.

I broke my right wrist diving for a football under the wall so I had to have surgery. I was in a full arm cast for the next six months and slept on my sister’s couch for about a year trying to figure out how to make a living and what I was going to do next. I didn’t have a college degree at that time so I was trying to figure out if I should even get a job. However, if I didn’t get a job, I wouldn’t have been able to live on my own and pay off the debt that I had from school and the credit cards that I was living off of.

A good mentor and friend said to check out LinkedIn for jobs. So I got on LinkedIn and started to become pretty aggressive on there for about 6-8 hours a day for the next six months just connecting with people, trying to make introductions, and adding value to people in any way I could. That’s kind of how everything else started.

 
LinkedIn was still fairly new. What was your main objective?

It already existed for a few years actually. I got on there in late 2007 and there were about 20 million people on there at that time and now there are over 200 million people. It has grown tremendously since then. It has only helped people even more since then but for me, there are a lot of people on there then that I could connect with still.

Originally, the goal was to connect with as many sports executives as possible to see if I could get back into playing football or work in sports somehow, because sports was what I really liked. I started connecting with every sports professional I could and then just started interviewing them, asking them questions like: What’s your biggest challenge? What are you really working on right now? What’s the biggest thing you’re trying to overcome?

I would always get: “I’m looking for a graphic designer. I’m looking for this type of person, a marketing person, whatever it may be,” and I was just like, “Well, I just talked to the best person in that category a few weeks ago. I would love to make an introduction.” So I made introductions to people and then I became known as kind of like the guy who knew everyone and connected people whenever they needed a challenge. I started to see a lot of dividends pay out the more I connected other people, because I didn’t have anything to offer at that time still. I didn’t have a skill and still didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a business, but I had a large network and database and I was willing to give to other people in that way.

That’s what I started out originally doing on LinkedIn, then people started to ask me, “How did you get your profile look so good? How can I make mine look this good?” I started just helping my friends optimize their LinkedIn profile to help them get a job, get more clients, or get more traffic for leads and sales, and through doing that, they were seeing tremendous results and making a lot of money.

I started charging people for LinkedIn profile optimization. I was making about $50 then $100, then up to $300 and I realized that it wasn’t fulfilling for me to do that anymore. I wanted to get my message out there for broader audience and that’s when I wrote the book on LinkedIn.

at the olympics
handball
team
I was in a full arm cast for the next six months and slept on my sister’s couch for about a year trying to figure out how to make a living and what I was going to do next. I didn’t have a college degree at that time so I was trying to figure out if I should even get a job.
guitar award gym
video prep
with phil jackson
What was the book on LinkedIn?

I’ve got a couple of books. I’ve got a webinar marketing book, but the LinkedIn book is called Linked Working and it’s teaches people how to generate success on LinkedIn. It’s all about real world networking principles and applying it to the online networking world of LinkedIn.

 
How did you personally leverage LinkedIn for yourself?

I started leveraging LinkedIn groups early on for myself to drive traffic back to the site that I created, which is a sports business website and I started to see that I was easily able to get a lot of traffic back to my site by creating my own group, cultivating a network in a tribe of people in a similar industry, and then I just started teaching other people how to do the same so they can get traffic leads and sales through LinkedIn. I became one of the top people teaching LinkedIn for businesses.

 
Weren’t there other marketing experts fighting for that title too?

There were a couple of people who were doing it but had a very corporate feeling, it wasn’t entrepreneurial at all. I was guest posting on the right blogs, I was getting featured in the right places so I was becoming more known than the other people who started out before me. I was showing tremendous results for the clients that I was teaching and helping out. I think that’s what helped me separate myself from the other LinkedIn educators out there and also what separated me today.

 
After all these little successes, what did you do to take it to the next level?

The next thing was really trying to figure out how to make money because I was making a little bit of cash. I was hosting LinkedIn networking events around the country. I did about 20 events in 2009 where I was just bringing people together and helping them connect offline in the real world as opposed to just connecting on LinkedIn. I was making $2,000 in cash a month doing that but it was very time consuming. It took a lot of my energy and it wasn’t helping me really grow and it wasn’t exciting anymore.

I tried to figure out how I could monetize my information. I had already created a book but wasn’t really making a lot of sales off a $20 product. I tried to figure out how I could take this to the next level but also not work as hard, so there is passive income coming and there’s someone buying something every day. I did my first webinar and that’s what really helped me create this idea of what I wanted to do for the last few years. I did my first webinar and made $6,300 in an hour teaching LinkedIn. I thought to myself, “I could do this every day for as long as it takes.”

Lewis Howes

How many people were on that webinar?

It was a free webinar but sold live training, teaching people the beginner, the intermediate, and advanced LinkedIn strategies via webinar later. On that first webinar, about 600 people attended but I think I did a miserable job.

I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t have a great product. I had to figure it out still. I was like, “Okay, do I record this? How do I resell this?” It was a process of figuring all that out as well. I was teaching LinkedIn even though my slides were horrible. I had no practice and I probably lost a lot of money from that but I also saw the potential through the results I did get and it really helped me light a fire under my butt to go in and become better at webinars.

 
Why do you think webinars work so well?

What works the most is webinars. It’s building an email list and giving free content that helps people get the result on that webinar. Then through that, giving them an advanced training of products, services, or software that helps them further achieve the goal that they are trying to achieve based on that webinar topic.

For the last three years, I’ve probably done over 700 live webinars and more automated webinars but they were all free webinars where I would then sell a product that I had already created. After the webinar, people would buy the product then I wouldn’t have to deliver anything. It’s just a matter of building a connection with my audience, giving them new content and then selling them something if they wanted advanced training.

For someone that’s never studied to be a marketer, why do you think you’ve done so well?

I pretty much just studied a lot, learned through trial and error of how to promote things, saw what was working, where was it working, etc. I followed a lot of great marketers online and just emulated what was working for them, using my personal twist. I think over time, if you do it for enough, over three or four years, you start to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

 
You were known first for your book Linked Working but expanded that into a training course called Linked Influence. What is that?

Linked Influence is basically a complete training on how to grow your business or achieve any professional goal using LinkedIn. I talk about leads, traffic, and sales. I talk about how to get a job, talk about promoting events, how to automate traffic, all the different things you need to know about building your business on LinkedIn.

It’s all video training, transcripts, work sheets, and MP3s of the audios. It’s a membership site where you could log in and get access to all the different content. We break it down step by step behind the scenes, making it very easy for people to go to any topic they want to learn about.

It has been around for a couple of years. I’ll probably do another update this year because of some design elements that are different in LinkedIn and we have changed a few features so we would probably do a retraining on that and then launch it again.

obama letter
on stage
 

with dwayne wade
at fox business

Let’s say I want to improve my LinkedIn profile. What do you suggest as critical changes?

The first thing is that you want to optimize your profile first because if your profile sucks, it doesn’t matter what you do. If people go to your profile and it looks like a crap or looks amateur, they are not going to take action on what you want them to do. They are not going to opt in, they are not going to go to your site, and they are not going to respond to your email. You got to give them the perception at least that you’re a qualified person that you have done something, that you’re interesting, that you’re creative, or that you get results which you can add. There are ways to optimize your profile. There are ways to increase your SEO in your profile so people can find you based on keywords. There are all sorts of means you can do but just go ahead and optimize your profile first.

The second thing that you should do if you’re looking to get more leads, traffic, and sales or really grow your business is to create your own targeted group on LinkedIn. Now, this group should be based around the audience that you’re trying to market to in general so if your audience is real estate agents, then you’d want to build a real estate agent group. Now if it’s local social media marketing, then you’d want to build local social media marketing group. If it’s sports professionals, you want to build that.

I’ve created a number of different groups and these groups allow you to send an email out once a week to all the members of the group. Now, one of my groups, Sports Industry Network, has over 120,000 members. It’s a free database that I don’t spend any money that I can send an email out with different links to webinars, videos, my website and sales page, whatever I want to send them to, to help me drive traffic, get more leads, and get more sales. So optimize your profile first then go right into creating a specific group that you want to target for your audience that you want to market to.

 
How did you grow the Sports Industry Network group to over 120,000 members?

Originally, I was just connecting with sports professionals one by one on LinkedIn, reaching out to them. After I connected to them, I would say, “Hey go ahead and make sure you join my group. I’ve got an awesome group of other professionals like yourself that I love to promote you to.” I just started promoting it that way, tweeted that every now and then, posted it on Facebook and after I got to about 1,000 members, it just started to grow on its own. It grows like 4,000 people a month right now just organically because people are searching sports, for groups, and then it grows from there.

Has LinkedIn ever reach out to you?

Yeah, I’ve got a couple of phone calls from them and talked to a few of them before. They are actually doing a feature on me on their LinkedIn blog about my success story. They don’t really want to help anyone outside of the company, even if you’re an evangelist, they are not backing you and supporting you, but they are not against you either, at least in my experience. They are kind of neutral. I think it’s just the way they run their business and it’s completely fine.

 
You mentioned ‘we’ a few times, who is on your team?

Everything could always be better and one of the things is that I’ve got a good business partner and a good tech team who manage all the affiliate stuff, all the launches, and all webinar set ups. I think the key is finding a system or a team that can do everything that you’re not good at so all you need to focus on is doing the things that you are good at and then you can perform at the highest level with those things. But if I have to do all the technical stuff which I have no clue how to do, then I won’t really be able to perform at my highest level if I’m working on that. I think it’s just a matter of finding the right team, finding a good partner, and having people do the stuff that you’re not good at.

 
You’re also often featured on major publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, and other sites. How did you manage to do that?

I think its adding value and building relationships, and hustle. I like to hustle a lot so I’m constantly going to events and constantly calling people, emailing people, trying to just get introduced to other people who are writers, who own these different sites. I’m giving them tips, giving them story ideas, and through that, I’m just able to guest post on a lot of these different media outlets or get featured based on my content. Half of it is just by staying relevant, staying consistent, and putting out great content online so people can find you.

My first big media magazine was a two-page spread in the middle of Details Magazine with Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin. I got that because the writer for the article saw on Twitter an article of mine that someone retweeted. He went back to my website and contacted me and said I’d be great for the article. Again, that was just by being active online, by having the right people tweeting you, and putting great content out for people to share your stuff.

I think the big first place I’ve been on, it’s probably Forbes but I’ve done some other popular blogs before that, but that was a big media site that I started writing for. Through conferences, I met one of the editors and built a relationship and asked if I could write. It’s all about seeing them face to face.

with the girls playing handball signing autographs
You also have other products on how to leverage Facebook and Youtube. Tell us about that.

We publish experts who know the platforms who are the top in the field, Amy Porterfield for Facebook Influence and James Wedmore for Video Traffic Academy. I know a lot about those platforms but I’m not the best so we want to give our audience the best. They’ve got their own products but they didn’t have a big audience so we help sell it for them to a bigger audience. We have lots of affiliates so we can have them promoted as well and they wanted to be more well-known so we were able to do that through our channels.

Our three core products which are basically LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube where we show people how to get more leads, traffics, and sales for those three major sites. We’ve also got a webinar marketing course which teaches people, if you’ve got expertise or a passion, or something that you want to share with people, how to get your message across through webinars and then monetize those webinars. We’ve also got a membership site which is weekly content for small business owners and entrepreneurs called the Social Marketing Tribe which basically gives lessons, webinars, videos, content, to help them get more leads, traffics, and sales and there’s a membership form where they can communicate with us and ask us any questions. We have done bigger events in the past. We have coaching. We’ve got a lot of different things we’re doing.

 
How much of an impact of your success do you think your injury had on you?

It was a huge blessing because it gave me a different channel to really share my message more and I think what keeps me motivated is the value to help people out and really see their dreams come true. As cheesy as that sounds, I get emails every day from people who are just like, “I use your strategy. I applied this method, or I took action on what you told me to do and I made this much more money.” I feel a sense of freedom that I was finally able to figure out how to monetize my passion or my inspiration and I can step away from the stuff that I don’t like. I can have more freedom and flexibility and l can enjoy the lifestyle that I’ve always wanted to live.”

I think when I get those messages from people, that’s one of the things that really inspired me to continue creating information that helps people live that way and also, being able to create the lifestyle for myself. I’ve always been the type of guy that wants to do exactly what I want, when I want to do it and not having to rely on anyone else to live a certain way. Making sure that I can live a lifestyle I want to live inspires me to continue and also helping as many people as well live their lives that they want.

with tim sykes & neil patel
with tim ferriss
 

john chow lewis howes
speech

Do you have any cool client success stories you can share?

I did a three-day workshop and taught them how to grow their online business. There was a woman that had a service. She did a weekend training teaching people, experts, and business owners, how to write a bestselling book in Amazon in a weekend. She would do this weekend retreat and would charge $1,500 but it took a lot of her time and energy because there would be 15-20 people there. She’d have to rent out the space. She’d have to travel, tons of pre-work and things like that.

She wanted to figure out how to create a product from it but didn’t know how to create it. She spent two years trying to brainstorm, “What can I do? How can I teach this? What should I do with the technical aspect?” I said, “Listen, in the next 24 hours, I want you to create a webinar and I want you to not have a product. I want you to see the idea of a product that you want to have that you’re going to give them. You’re going to deliver the product live just like you would over a weekend retreat. You’re going to deliver it live but virtually on webinars.” So you will do a bestseller on a weekend for $300 as opposed to $1,500 from the comfort of your home and from your audiences’ home. You’re going to sell it to the masses as opposed to having to do a lot of one-on-one work.”

In less than 24 hours, she had promoted this to her audience. Her webinar wasn’t that great. She didn’t have a product. She was nervous. Her sales page was horrible. It was like a PayPal link and a video. Within that hour webinar, she made $22,000 and she didn’t even have a product. I think that was a fun success story recently that someone was feeling like they were holding back from their challenges and their fears. They didn’t know what to do and when they just took action and sold something before they had it; they were able to see the result.

 
Let’s talk about your failures. What hasn’t worked for you?

We tried to launch a couple of websites that really we thought were going to be big hits. We tried to launch this quote website that was like thousands of different inspirational and motivational quotes from authors, experts, and leaders because everyone likes to share quotes online. They start to share quotes on Twitter, on Facebook and so we thought, “Let’s build like the ultimate quote sharing site that can help us drive a lot of traffic back and build leads that way.” We spent like 3-6 months trying to develop it and it didn’t go anywhere.

We test things all the time. We’re investing all the time and stuff. We’re trying new marketing strategies, ad campaigns, and some stuff just doesn’t work.

I think it’s just more learning – learning how to be more effective in business and I think you need to do certain things in order to learn how to make things better – so I won’t say they are necessarily mistakes but just learning how to manage people, how to build better relationships, how to deal with crisis and just how to learn how to react better with things. Nothing too major but just all the stuff you need to do.

Is there anyone you look up to as a mentor?

I wouldn’t be who I am today without the help of so many people – coaches, teachers, mentors, and they were just there when I was just learning about business so they really helped shape my mind in the business world.

I had three different mentors over the years. They are probably my closest mentors. I would say I was learning from a lot of people but I had three people that I was pretty much going to every couple of weeks as just mentors. One was a great networking expert and a great writer/author. I was learning how to cultivate those skills with him and he was an amazing mentor. I have a great friend who is a famous inventor and product developer, branding guy, just a really creative mind. I learned about product development and cultivating ideas from him.

I have another great mentor who is the one who suggested getting on LinkedIn. He is just a great business guy in general, very inspirational and just a smart human being.

 
You are the epitome of the ‘lifestyle entrepreneur’, what do you want to do next since a lot of your business is on autopilot?

I would like to share my message and inspire people in a broader audience. The goal would be to develop some type of online show or host one of my own shows on a major network on TV so that I can just get in front of more people and kind of share my message about lifestyle, about business, about marketing, about health and all the things that I like to talk about.

I also interview people on my website in podcast format. The purpose is to one, connect with people on a deeper level that I admire, who I like, who are successful, and learn from them personally. The second goal is to add value to them by sharing these interviews with my audience and the third one is to give value to my audience. Give them some access and inside information that they can’t get anywhere else.

I also love handball and play for US National Team. It’s called Team Handle and that’s my main passions now. After football, I realized that I still want to be a competitive athlete. I haven’t made the Olympics yet so it’s one of my lifelong goals so I took on the sport team handball, learned it, and a year and a half, made the US National Team and now the goal is to go to Rio in 2016.

Lastly, what’s one tip you would like aspiring entrepreneurs to know?

I think the tip would be to find the exact person that you want to emulate or be like in business or in life. Find out the direction you want to be like, find out who that person is and then figure out a way to work with them so you can learn exactly how they did it and then follow your own path in getting there. The biggest thing is just to make sure you follow exactly what you like doing in life otherwise, you’re not going to be as completely fulfilled if you’re not following your passion.

 
We want to thank Lewis Howes for sharing his success story. You can find him at the following places:

Lewis Howes – The official website and blog of Lewis Howes

Lewis Howes – Lewis’ official LinkedIn.

Lewis Howes – Lewis’ official Facebook.

LinkedInfluence – Learn to get more sales, traffic, and leads via LinkedIn

School of Greatness – Lewis’s podcasts with entrepreneurs, athletes, more…

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