Brett is the founder of ‘Learn Thai from a White Guy’; with his courses, he helps people to better understand and be understood in Thai. He focuses a lot on teaching the Thai writing system and pronunciation as this is the key to sounding like a Thai, according to Brett. Over the years, Brett managed to build a lucrative ‘freedom’’ business that has been allowing him to travel whenever he wants, wherever he wants, and for however long he wants. A big part of his success came from really understanding his audience and running ads on Google. In this interview we’re going to learn: – Brett’s background story – The challenges and opportunities that come with running online ads – How you can make a very good living with a small audience – How building a language ‘freedom’ business can change your life
Brett’s breakthrough in learning Thai
While on a backpacking trip in the UK, someone recommended that Brett should visit Thailand where he has now been based since 2003. He started learning Thai from day one, and after the first year or so he got to a point where he thought his Thai was pretty good. When he moved to one of the provinces for teaching jobs, he quickly realized that his Thai wasn’t as good as he thought. The locals couldn’t understand him and he couldn’t understand them. That’s when he really started to study the script and the pronunciation properly. Soon after this, Brett’s Thai skills transformed, and after three years he was completely fluent.
What inspired you to start Ltfawg?
In 2006, Brett started teaching Thai on the side. One of his foreign friends was struggling learning Thai and couldn’t figure out why his Thai wasn’t very good. According to Brett, the problem was that he had never learned how to read and to process the language’s sounds. His friend thought that was a ridiculous observation and ran off, looking for an established language school instead. After a few months, he was still struggling and so he came back to Brett, and became his first student. Brett’s students were making amazing progress, which meant that Brett’s system was working. In 2009, he started blogging about his experiences of learning and teaching Thai. It was only in 2012 that he launched his first course, and he immediately started making sales.
Making online sales for the first time reframed his mindset. It showed him that sending sales emails was not a bad thing; it’s actually beneficial for both you and your audience. They pay you and in exchange you help them solve a problem.
‘’Once you’ve made your first sale, your mindset will change. You start believing in yourself, which will enable you create more stuff and provide more value’’
There are always a few people who complain, but they can just unsubscribe. You only want people on your mailing list who are potentially good clients. It’s good to ‘fire’ bad clients every now and then.
Brett in Tokyo, one of the places he travels to at least a few times per year
From a few sales to a solid business
At first,Brett had no idea how online business worked, but he received guidance from some of his students. They would tell him to build an email list, how to promote his product ,and create a sales funnel. In 2013 Brett started with running Google Ads and everything went very quickly after that.
How do Google Ads work?
When you visit Google and you search for something, the first results you get are always paid ads. Brett runs these ads for Ltfawg, so when you search for ‘learn Thai’ for example, some of his ads will be shown. Once people click on his link, he pays Google a certain amount and in exchange he has the chance to collect an email address and potentially make a sale. Brett’s landing pages often provide the answers to the questions that people are looking for on Google, and then he offers them more useful content in exchange for their email address. That allows him to follow up with his subscribers, send more useful content, and eventually make a sale.
Google Ads vs. Social Media Ads.
You always pay more for an email address that you acquire through Google, than through Facebook ads for example, because there is more ‘search intent’. That means that these people are searching for something that you’re offering, and therefore the chance of that person buying something from you is much higher. Brett has tried both Facebook and Google Ads, but he finds that Google Ads work best for his business. Facebook retargeting ads seem to work every now and then for him, but he’s never seen any good results in the long run.
How to deal withincreasing prices of online advertising
When Brett started running Google Ads, he paid around $2 dollars per email address. Today, he sometimes pays up to $7 per email address. Online advertising is becoming more and more expensive every year.
This forces Brett to be creative and continuously try out different pricing and offers. In the very beginning, he had four products which he was selling lifetime access for. He noticed that 85% of the sales came from only one product. He bundled all four courses and sold them in a subscription based plan. He increased his ‘average cart value’ this way, which enabled him to afford higher prices for online Ads. The key is to know your numbers, Brett says. If you know that every email that you collect converts to $10 or more on average, it is still worth paying $7 for every lead.
Activating old customers
When Brett introduced his subscription-based program, he had a good reason to reach out to his old customers. Some of them were interested in more courses, but they couldn’t afford to buy all courses separately. Now they could get access to all of the courses and pay on a monthly basis. That, for Brett, generated some extra revenue.
Brett enjoying his freedom on the Golden Bridge in Da Nang, Vietnam
Should Langpreneurs run Ads on Facebook, Google or Instagram?
If you have a working funnel and good conversion rates, running paid advertising could be a way to increase website traffic, sales, and eventually profit. Some of the interfaces of these platforms can be really intimidating, and therefore Brett recommends to just focus on one platform in the beginning.
Don’t underestimate how hard it can be to run paid ads, though. Even if you have a funnel that works well for organic traffic, that doesn’t mean that you’re going to be profitable with paid traffic. Conversion rates are lower most of the time, so be ready to lose some money in the beginning. Also, don’t forget that you don’t want your business to solely depend on ads. If ads become too expensive or if your ad account gets blocked, you will soon be out of business. Brett diversifies by investing in new blog articles and he’s also done YouTube collaborations in the past.
How much ‘passive’ income can you really make?
Brett has been traveling the world for many years now. There have been periods where he worked a lot, but there have also been periods where he was literally travelling all the time. It is definitely possible to make a good amount of money while only working a few hours per week, or maybe not working at all. This allowed Brett to travel the world and pursue whatever he’s interested in.
‘’Creating an online language business allowed me to see the world, do what I want, chase after the things that I’m passionate about’’
Most of the successful online business owners that Brett knows, though, work a lot. ‘’There is always competition; you can’t be lazy for too long because some will come and create something better than you eventually’’
Advantages of being a Langpreneur
People want to learn languages from other people, not from big faceless corporations. That’s how we as Langpreneurs can compete against big companies. We have a brand based on our personality, so we can be more personal. Brett does this by sharing with his audience what he has been doing recently and really talking to his audience in the same way he would talk to his friends. The key is really to create a strong personal relationship with your following.
Another benefit that Brett has is that he learned Thai himself. That means that he has a very good understanding of what his students are struggling with. His audience can relate to him, which creates trust, and that makes it much easier to sell. Big companies can’t really duplicate this marketing strategy.
‘’Once you reach a certain level of passive or semi-passive income, there is this weight off your shoulders. Being able to go wherever you want and not having to ask yourself the question of if you can afford it, is great’’
Brett’s number one advice for other Langpreneus:
Brett says: ‘’Once you find your audience, you will be alright. You got to figure out what they want and make them happy. You only need 1000 people to give you $100 per year to have enough money to do whatever you want. That’s much easier than building a YouTube with millions of followers’’
‘’If you can find a 1000 people that you can add value to, that will change your life’’