Nathan Hangen is half of the superstar marketing team that published the hugely popular ebook Beyond Blogging recently. Nathan also happens to be in the US military and was stationed in Afghanistan. He shares some of his experiences and advice in this interview.
Please tell us a little about your background.
Well, I’ll start by saying I’m 31 going on 19…feel like I’ve gone back in time over the past few years…much of which has to do with finding myself through my entrepreneurial ventures.
I have a wife, Heather, and 2 kids (a 3rd due any minute).
I’ve worked in every industry you can imagine…fast food, service, retail, manufacturing…etc.When I was 18, I worked for a very big company called Lexis Nexis…and having a job there was like a ticket to retirement. You just didn’t question a job like that. But then suddenly, they started laying off people that had worked there for their entire lives…it was really tough to watch…so I quit and went back to school. I just couldn’t take it being in an environment like that. The magic was gone.
I graduated from school 5 years later (had a family and worked my way through, so it took a while) with a B.S in Psychology and a minor in religion. From there, I worked two “management” jobs until I was laid off a week before Christmas without any warning, severance package, or pat on the ass.
From there, I joined the Army, which gave me a great place to both find myself and appreciate the opportunity we have in this country. As I write this, I have four months left and have been home from Afghanistan for nearly a year.
What is it like to be in the US Army?
You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I’ll say that it’s much less exciting than you’d think. We spend a lot of time in meetings…cleaning…and doing basic soldier training. Every once in a while we get to do the fun stuff, like go to weapons ranges and/or practice real life scenarios, but because of my job, we spend most of our time in an office studying culture and talking about the Middle East.
It’s both boring and challenging because you can’t really vent to anyone but your peers, and there aren’t many of them. The rank structure is a unique challenge…you don’t talk to a superior unless you are “at ease” and speak with respect.
New soldiers look up to you, so you can’t really screw around. It’s a different world behind those gates.
What is it like to be stationed in Afghanistan?
It’s like the dirtiest place you’ve ever been. It’s just like what you see on TV, except that’s the nice part…the rest is just a wasteland. It’s sad really, because the people don’t know any better, but being over there gave me a different perspective on what it’s like to be as fortunate as we are in the US or Europe.
They don’t have running water or 24 hour electricity. In fact, many of the houses there run on generators and that’s in the capital. The rest of the country still builds walls of mud and lives in a stone age type of environment. They have things like cell phones and TV’s, but not many of them. It’s really strange.
The people there are great, and there are a lot of kids without families. Kids start working at around 5 years old doing things like filling potholes and selling phone cards. I made a lot of friends there, many of which I’d trust with my life.
The food is decent…but honestly most of what we had was American style food made for us.
Dangerous? Yeah, but no more than any other war torn country. There were some bombings nearby and a few rocket attacks, but you get used to it. I wasn’t in the “mess” like some guys were, but we did see some crazy stuff.
Is the Army a good way to see the world?
I guess it depends on what parts of the world you want to see 🙂
If you love the Middle East…then absolutely 🙂
Sure, you can request to be stationed in Europe or Asia, but those assignments are few and far between. However, it is a great way to get out of a place you can’t stand (like me with Ohio). I’ve lived in Missouri, Georgia, and North Carolina since I joined. I spent 8 months in Afghanistan. But aside from that, I haven’t really had a chance to see the world.
How long do you plan on staying in the Army?
I’m over 4 years now and by the time I leave I’ll be at around 4.5. I don’t regret joining, but for me, it’s not something I could make a career out of. I took the best parts of it and used that to improve my life for the next part of my journey, which starts very soon.
How do you earn money online?
Wow, hard to answer this one. How much time do we have? 🙂
I started off by selling e-courses, such as Twitter Rockstar. From there, I started selling ebooks and consulting services. I also spent some time freelancing as a content provider (fancy name for writer).
That got me started and helped me bootstrap my business, but now I’ve focused heavily on building assets that I can use to move me to the next level of the game.
I make about 25% of my income selling my own ebooks and courses (Facebook Rockstar, Twitter Rockstar, Claiming Your Destiny, etc), 50% via JV deals (Beyond Blogging, Roark Media, etc), and the rest from affiliate sales and consulting.
I view affiliate income as play money because it isn’t really consistent and it’s not expected. I’ve made anywhere from 10 bucks/month to 3k/month doing that. Most of that money goes into a business savings account or straight into my business to pay for expenses.
Beyond Blogging does really well for Mike and I, both the ebook and the print version. We also just launched a low-key consulting project called the Beyond Blogging Project, which is open to only 50 bloggers and is a way that Mike and I can really dig in and help people succeed. That is my primary focus now, and it’s been very successful.
Please tell us about your recent book, Beyond Blogging?
The concept was to create a modern Think and Grow Rich for bloggers. I wanted to create a volume that was timeless, but still provided specific things that people could use for their own blogging business. As it developed, Mike and I focused heavily on the business side of blogging, rather than the stuff that people get hung up on, like finding a niche, where to put ads, how to create email lists, etc.
We interviewed 6 bloggers as our main effort (Chris Brogan, Chris Garrett, David Risley, Penelope Trunk, Chris Guillebeau, and Gary Vaynerchuk) and did a detailed case study on 9 others (iJustine, Steve Pavlina, Darren Rowse, Brian Clark, Shama Kabani, Michael Dunlop, Pete Cashmore, Jonathan Fields, and John Chow).
All in all, the book is over 200 pages and is jam packed with both entertaining stories and information that you can use to change your business for the better…today. We topped it off with a 5 step blueprint for success based on what we learned from the 15 bloggers we studied.
As for the success of the book itself, we reached 5 figures in the first 24 hours, largely thanks to guys like Chris Brogan, Darren Rowse, David Risley, Chris Garret, and others helping with the promotion.
The book still sells regularly on both our site and on Amazon.com. Just recently, we opened up an invite only mastermind group called the Beyond Blogging Project, which we’re using to work hands on with people that want to take their business to the next level. We just started last Friday, and so far, it’s been awesome.
How did you approach all the big name bloggers in Beyond Blogging?
Some were easier than others. Most replied with a yes or no, but there were some that wouldn’t return a single email (John Chow, I’m talking to you).
I met most of them in Las Vegas during Blogworld Expo and I think that really helped them remember who they were helping and why. Mike knew some of these guys very well, and leveraged his network to get guys like Chris Brogan and Chris Garrett.
Guys like Chris Guillebeau were mentors for me early on, so I’d been in touch with him since his blog started.
The key to getting guys like this on your side is not to wait until you need something to contact them. I’d emailed most of them back and forth for months before we even approached them on the issue. I’d guest posted for many of them as well, so the relationship was there already. That was the difference and why it was so successful.
As for getting help with the promotion, all of these guys operate with a high level of integrity, and we knew that they wouldn’t promote the book unless it was good. So our first goal was to make it so.
We sent review copies and stayed in touch throughout the writing process. In the end, they felt like they were part of the project, not just being used so we could namedrop.
Sure, offering a commission helps, but I think the relationships made the difference. We had a lot of offers from people that didn’t want a commission, but just wanted to help out. That was really cool.
In a recent post you said that blogging and ebooks are not a very good way to make money online, can you please elaborate.
Well, let me clarify what I meant there…sure, you can make a few grand selling ebooks, but for most bloggers, that’s not enough to live on. We’ve only got so much great work within us, and selling that work for nickels and dimes, or even for $47 isn’t going to do the job.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to start, but unless you want to write an ebook every 4 months for the rest of your life, then you’re going to have to build a real business…which means having something useful to sell. The blog is just a tool. The ebooks are a way to build customer lists and to get your feet wet, but beyond that, you need something bigger.
For example, we turned the Beyond Blogging ebook into a print version on Amazon and a mentorship program. I’m working with another partner to develop solutions for brick and mortar small businesses. I’m creating a monetized podcast with a friend that makes great original music.
I’m trying to think big, and it’s something I encourage everyone to do.
(Here is Nathan’s blog post on this subject.)
What are your future business plans?
Well, I just hinted at a few of them, but aside from that I’m using my blog as a platform to develop JV deals and meet new people. I’m planning a year or two out (at a minimum) and am always working on future partnerships.
Eventually, I hope to build a portfolio of businesses that I can use to launch me into something bigger…such as the tech scene. I’m really interested in virtual environments, 3D, and holograms. That’s where I’m heading.
Of course, in the short-term, I’m still working for that book deal with Wiley 🙂
NathenHangen’s Webrepreneur Blog
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