In today’s interview we learn how Johan Tekfak has built one of the biggest YouTube channels for French learners. He’s going to share with us how he built his massive audience all while holding down a stressful full-time job, and how he turned this platform into a profitable online business. In this interview you’re going to learn the following things: – How to build a business while holding down a busy job – How to become more productive through effective planning – One simple strategy that was key to Johan’s success
Johan started back in 2011 when he was living in Austria. He was struggling to learn English and German and started looking for ways to improve his grasp of these languages. He started looking for effective learning methods and came across people like Steven Krashen, Steve Kaufmann and AJ Hoge. Johan learned more about the study approaches that these three individuals promoted, and really liked the idea of learning language through getting lots of input and consuming interesting content in the target language. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of material out there to help in learning German through this method. He found out that the same was true for French, and that’s when Johan decided to create a YouTube channel and a blog to help people learn French. He called it ‘Français Authentique’!
Johan always believed that if he could help enough people, it would be possible to turn this project into a business. That’s why from day one, he focused on helping people to learn French.
”I knew that if you help enough people and you give lots of value, you will have a business in the end”
In the beginning, Johan recorded all of his videos with nothing more than an iPhone 4, without an external mic and no tripod. The quality was terrible, but it didn’t hold him back from getting started.
If you have an idea but you’re not sure what kind of equipment you should use, just use the equipment that you already have, and get started. Too many people overthink this initial step, and never get started in the first place.
Johan and I at the Youpreneur Summit in London
Building a language business while having a stressful and busy job
His day job always took priority, but Johan would make sure that he worked at least one hour per day on Français Authentique. He really saw it as a side project and he understood that it needed time to grow and become profitable.
His number one focus in the beginning was creating helpful content, and answering his subscribers’ questions. Because of his busy job, he would often record podcast episodes in his so-called “deadtime” – while driving to his place of work, for example.
From a side project to full-time
If you want to build an online language business primarily through content creation, you need to be patient, because building an audience takes time. It’s really the compound effect of your efforts that eventually turns your project into something big.
On the other hand, Johan received very positive feedback on the first wave of content that he published. That’s what gave him the belief and confidence that all the hard work was eventually going to pay off. When he made his sales after six months he knew he had a real business on his hands. After two years, Français Authentique grew to a size where Johan could live off its profits. Surprisingly, however, he only quit his existing job after five years! This was mostly because he had worked hard to get the job in the first place, and it was very well paid.
Quitting a high-paying job in the automotive industry
When Johan quit his job, he didn’t tell most of his colleagues about Français Authentique. He simply wanted to avoid negative reactions. The thing is, most people don’t understand how profitable an online language business can be, and that you can actually earn much more with it than working as an employee at a more traditional workplace.
When he explained to his friends what it was he was doing exactly, he could sense that they didn’t really understand it, and thought that he was crazy to exchange his highly-paid job for a job working as a ‘’language teacher’’.
Building the business behind Français Authentique
After quitting his job, it was time for Johan to turn his project into a real business. Now that he was working on Français Authentique full-time, he could spend more time on creating even more content, developing courses, building a membership site and planning product launches. His main goal was to create systems and to build a solid business.
Johan in action
The secret to Johan’s success
Johan isn’t 100% sure what made Français Authentique so successful, but his best guess would be that it’s his consistency. Johan has been publishing three pieces of content per week and has published over 1200 videos and podcast episodes so far.
Building an audience in the beginning was slow going. It took Johan fours years to grow from 0 to 100K subscribers on YouTube, while it only took him six months to grow from 600K to 700K subscribers. That shows how the compound effect starts working if you manage to stay consistent over a long period of time. One of the things that keeps Johan motivated and his content consistent is talking about topics he’s interested in. That’s why besides talking about French, Johan also talks quite a lot about personal development, which his audience seems to like as well.
‘’It is easier to stay consistent if you talk about topics you’re interested in. It would have been much more difficult for me to stay consistent if I’d only talked about French grammar’’
On top of that, your audience will be able to sense if you’re not passionate about the topics you discuss and that will limit your growth.
Planning as a tool to become more productive
As an engineer and project manager, Johan was used to having structure and he had experienced himself that your productivity increases when you work is well structured. Instead of working with a to-do list, Johan prefers working with so-called time blocks. How it works: – Johan sets three big goals every year. – Every twelve weeks, he defines a project that will help him reach his annual goals. – Every Friday he plans the tasks for the following week that will enable him to complete his current twelve week project. He splits every working day up into four time blocks and usually completes one important task in each. When Johan plans his week on a Friday he acts like the CEO of the company, and when he works during the week he acts like a worker and focuses on getting things done. Taking on both roles is crucial in order to be both productive and strategic.
Using batching to be more productive
Batching is another technique that allows Johan to be more productive. He will, for example, plan one day per month where he shoots all the videos he will publish in the coming month.
How to never run out of content
According to Johan, the key here is to be passionate about what you do. Johan is a big fan of reading and is always learning about new things like business, productivity, and philosophy. As long as you get enough in-depth, quality input you will always have something interesting to share.
If you consume a lot of in depth-content of topics you’re interested in and passionate about, you will never run out of interesting topics to talk about.’’
How Johan monetizes his platform
People come across Johan’s content on YouTube and on his blog. At the end of each video, blog post and podcast episode, Johan has a call to action with a link. After clicking on the link, Johan asks for their email address and in exchange he gives them access to a free course. About one week later, once they’ve gone through the course, Johan offers them a paid course. This is Johan’s main sales funnel, which has been working well for him from the very beginning.
Why would people pay for his courses?
You might be wondering why people would pay for online courses when there is already so much content available for free. When people consume Johan’s free content, they mostly learn in a passive way. The key to creating a good course is to turn the learner from a passive learner into an active learner. Johan does so by going further in-depth.
When people enroll in his paid courses, Johan also provides MP3 audio files, transcriptions, worksheets, and videos where he goes much further into detail, for example with explanations of all vocabulary and pronunciation exercises.
Another way to make the learner more active is by offering a community. Some people have been following him for a long time and just want to be part of the community based on the brand. This way they get more personal attention and they can interact with other community members.
These days we live in a world where we can do almost everything online, which can be isolating sometimes. That’s why the concept of offering a community can be so powerful.
Selling High Ticket Products
Johan also organizes workshops and mastermind events where he teaches self-development. These training sessions are held exclusively in French. This way the students can improve their French and work on other skill sets at the same time, and have an exclusive offline experience with Johan. Only a very small portion of Johan’s following can afford to attend these kinds of events, but it could be a nice additional income stream for those who have big audiences.
Johan’s most popular courses
Johan’s tips for other Langpreneurs
1. Don’t procrastinate and don’t try to be perfect, just get started.
When you start out doing something new, you’re always going to be bad at it. Accept that. The only way to become better is to actually do the job more often. Instead of overthinking, take massive action!
2. Listen to your audience and always think about the value that you bring.
Too many people who are just starting out focus too much on making money. As long you deliver enough value, money will follow eventually. It’s great if you have a stable income stream when you start building a language business. That way you don’t need to think so much about the money in the beginning and you can focus fully on delivering value and serving your audience.
3. Be consistent, patient and choose a good niche.
When Johan started FA he was one of the first people to create a blog and YouTube channel for French learners. However, these days there is much more competition. On the other hand, technology has improved, more people are searching online, and getting started has never been easier – but it’s crucial to choose a niche in order to beat your competition. Once you’ve decided who your audience is and what unique aspect you will bring to the table, be consistent and take massive action. Building an audience takes time but it will pay off in the end.