Rob Cubbon is a London-based blogger that I connected with several years ago through blogging communities and social media networks. It's been a pleasure to watch Rob build his reputation and authority online through his blog, his freelance work and his professional web design expertise. To date Rob has published several Kindle books on Amazon covering WordPress, passive income, home-based business and more.
It's been several months since the last time an interview was posted here on the blog, but I really wanted to share some of Rob's story here because I know you will get inspired by what he's done just like I did.
For example, one of my favorite Kindle books by Rob is titled, From Freelancer to Entrepreneur: Escaping Work and Finding Happiness. I love this one so much because he reveals a more of personal side of his life and his entrepreneurial journey. I stayed up late reading this one so be sure to check it out!
In this interview, we'll touch on all of that and more, including the use of video as a source of passive income. It's my pleasure to introduce you to my friend from across the pond, Rob Cubbon.
Q.Rob Cubbon, welcome to the blog, please introduce yourself to the readers on Basic Blog Tips, and be sure to include what inspired you to start an online business as a web designer.
Hello Ileane, thank you very much for having me. I’ve been a fan of yours since forever, as you know, so it’s great to be here.
Back in 2005/6, I’d had a succession of really bad jobs doing menial design and typesetting. I was only working for the paycheck. I had no aspirations other than hoping the working week would end quickly. I’d been like that for years.
My only hope was to do boring work at home rather than at a boring office. That’s why I set up a website initially. It was a static HTML site promoting my typesetting skills.
I know that WordPress is your blogging platform of choice, but did you ever use any other platforms? If so what made you decide to stick to WordPress.
I had a bit of luck back in 2005 when I was setting up my HTML site, a colleague at one of my boring jobs suggested installing WordPress. So I tacked a WordPress installation onto my HTML site. I did it just to shut him up because he’d been going on about it. I wrote a few posts and forgot about it. A year later I was checking the visitor statistics and noticed that my WordPress blog posts were getting 10 times the traffic of the static pages. That was the moment when I was hooked. I’ve been blogging ever since.
I’ve never tried other platforms because a self-hosted WordPress blog was just right for me.
Q. Rob, please share your thoughts about the latest trend of bloggers like Brian Clark of Copyblogger and Chris Brogan, removing comments from their blogs? Do you see this as a trend that will catch on with other bloggers? Would you ever consider removing comments from your blog?
It’s not something I would do. I love my comments. They give me valuable information about my visitors. The two blogs you mention are different as they have massive audiences. Personally, I understand if the blog is too busy for the owner to respond to individual messages, but I still like to see the comments.
Making Money as an Online Course Instructor
Q. In addition to your blog I know that you also do web design and you have some online video courses. Tell us what it’s like to get started with making money online. Were you a little nervous about leaving a day job in order to pursue an online career?
When I was doing boring jobs in London, I was freelancing. So I got paid by the hour and the jobs could last a few hours or a few months so I was quite used to the unpredictability and “feast and famine” of an online career. It was perfect because I was able to, for example, freelance for a couple of days a week and work on my own business for the rest of the week. So I was able to “ease myself into” running a business over a two year period.
I didn’t know web design at first. I gradually taught myself while doing other design work. I still do web design and graphic design for clients. I have been since 2006. But, recently, I’ve been earning more passive income as well with online video courses, e-books and affiliate commissions. You never forget the first dollar you make online nor your first product sale. I loved it then and I love it now.
It’s great to make money online – both actively and passively. I’ve made a lot of mistakes but I’ve stuck at it. I can’t speak too highly about regular blogging and email list building because that’s what started this incredible journey!
Q. You’re using two platforms to monetize your video tutorials Udemy and Skillfeed. They seem to have a slightly different business model. Do you like one platform over the other?
Udemy is one of the market leaders in career skills learning (if not, the market leader). They charge a one-off fee for lifetime access to individual courses. Instructors receive a commission every time a student buys a course.
Skillfeed is run by Shutterstock (therefore design-based courses do well there but not exclusively) and they charge a monthly subscription for access to all their courses. Instructors are paid for every minute one of their courses is viewed.
The online learning space is extremely volatile – there are loads of sites trying to get in on the act. The great thing is that none of them insist on exclusivity so you can put your courses everywhere if you want.
Q. Have you ever applied to be an instructor for Lynda.com? How did that go?
I keep tabs on other online learning platforms by liaising with other Udemy instructors and so far nobody’s mentioned Lynda.com so I haven’t tried it yet. SkillShare is another possibility. Unfortunately it takes time to integrate with some of these platforms but I’m certainly keeping my eye open of other opportunities. Watch this space.
Q. Let’s talk a little more about your web design business. What are the steps you take your clients through in the initial consultation? How do you qualify people to be sure that you’ll be paid for your services?
First of all, there are several “red flags” you should look out for, for example:
- “This won’t take you very long”
- “I want the website/page to pop/whizz/sizzle/go bang/go in your face/be touchy-feely”
- “I’m on a really tight budget”
- “If you do a good job I’ll recommend you to lots of great new clients”
- “Can you write a proposal on how to improve these 4 websites?”
If you hear a potential client say anything like the above you should either proceed with extreme caution or terminate the conversation. I go into more detail about this very subject in my blog post How To Deal With Nightmare Clients.
Secondly, there are several questions you should ask before starting a web design project like:
• Who are you and what do you do? (The ‘elevator pitch’ question)
• What is your website’s purpose?
• Who is your target market?
If you don’t get good answers to these questions, you must seriously consider whether the project is worth pursuing. More about this can be found in this post: 8 Questions To Ask Before The First Website Design
I usually ask for 50% of the money up front and then receive 50% on completion. Both client deliverables as well as what they can expect from me are detailed in a contract before commencing.
I don’t follow these “rules” so closely if the client is from a large organisation – as they can very often be great clients going forward.
Q. Rob, can you tell us about a time when you fired a client or at least you wanted to.
I fire clients when they waste time or if there are problems with payments. For me the business is not just about making money and I want to enjoy working with clients. It doesn’t happen much but firing clients should definitely be considered as a last resort.
Do you have a team working for you? What goes into picking a team or finding ways to outsource any of your online tasks.
I outsource quite a lot but I wouldn’t say I have a team. I have someone who helps me with social media, another person who helps me with video editing, someone for InDesign work, for Illustrator work, etc. Outsourcing is a skill and it’s one I’m improving at very slowly.
You have to persevere with outsourcing. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
Q. What’s next for you Rob – where do you see yourself taking your online career?
I’ve decided that the best metric to judge my career is by how much I can help people. So I would like to improve my product creation, write better books and create better video, so that I can help a larger amount of people gain financial independence and lead a better life. I would also like to do more live events, bootcamps and retreats.
I would like to increase the “passive income” side of my business but I haven’t decided if I would like to stop the “active income” or client work completely. At the moment I’m happy to do it.
In closing Rob, please share your advice for someone who is considering started an online business. Any pitfalls they should look out for?
The first thing I would say is “you can do it”. I believe that if you try hard with the best intentions you will be successful. But it won’t happen overnight and not in the way you expect.
I would also say that, if you follow Ileane Smith, you can definitely succeed. Congratulations, you can recognize a genuine online business teacher. You’ve made the first step successfully. Many people, including me, have wasted their time following the latest shiny new thing promising instant wealth for little effort – that never works. Keep learning from the people who are genuinely trying to help.
Be patient. Start a blog and an email list and make it your mission to put out the best content you possibly can every week without fail. Keep going and, even if you don’t see any success at first, have tunnel vision and concentrate on improving your craft.
The more good content you create, the better you get at it. So the secret is to keep going.
The pitfall is if you say, “I’ve been blogging for 6/12 months and I haven’t seen any success so I’m going to give up”. If your traffic and email list are growing – although modestly – you should keep going.
Provide value to an audience, grow the audience, ask them what they want and give it to them. And keep going.
Final words from Ms. Ileane
I'm honored that Rob took time out of his busy schedule to spend some time with us here on Basic Blog Tips. I'm inspired to start creating some courses and uploading them to Udemy myself, so please stay tuned for that. In the meantime, be sure to visit Rob's blog and sign up for his email list. He sends out some great freebies to his subscribers. He also has a YouTube channel where you can get a taste of what those Udemy courses are like. I know you have questions, so please – ask away! If you use the Google+ comments below, be sure to @mention me [Ileane Smith] so I'll get a notification.