Today we’re talking to Scott Young, the author of TheWall Street Journal and National best selling book, “Ultralearning”. He’s also the founder of the blog, scotthyoung.com. Scott mainly writes about learning, productivity, career, habits, and living well, and he also covers language learning. One of the projects he completed for his blog was the ‘MIT challenge’, which involved learning MIT’s four-year computer science curriculum in only twelve months. Instead of going to MIT, he used the free resources that it provides online. He also completed ‘the year without English’ challenge, where he stayed in four different countries in one year to learn four different languages.
In this interview you’ll learn: – How Scott made blogging his full-time job – Should you focus on blogging in 2020? – Why your content doesn’t get picked up and what to do about it – Why you should, or should not become an author
The year without English
In order to take his language learning opportunities to the maximum level, Scott decided to go on a one year trip, spending four months in four different countries to learn the local language: Spanish in Spain, Portuguese in Brazil, Mandarin in China, and Korean in South Korea. Most people who move or travel to another country stay in the ‘expat bubble’ and never immerse themselves in the language they want to learn. Scott’s idea was to build an immersive environment from the beginning. He even went so far as to implement the ‘no-English rule’, which didn’t allow him to speak English at all, with only a few exceptions. Scott, along with a friend, documented the entire adventure in a short documentary film, and you can see that they made huge progress in learning the languages they took on, in a very short amount of time.
Scott and his friend speaking Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Korean after they finished their ‘Year without English’
From blogging as a hobby to an online business
It took Scott five years to build an audience to the size where he could generate enough money to live off his blog and go full-time. His first product was a membership scheme called ‘Learning on Steroids’, a weekly email with study advice for students. This was at a time when the landscape of the industry was very different; most social media platforms didn’t yet exist.
From the beginning, Scott knew that it was possible to make a living online because he saw other people who were doing it, mainly in the software industry. He liked the idea of being independent and creating the content he wanted to create.
Back in 2011, Scott made learning the central topic of his blog. At that time he also learned about Benny Lewis from ‘Fluent in 3 Months’ and was very inspired by his writing style. That motivated Scott to do the ‘MIT challenge’ and ‘the year without English’. These projects drastically increased his online exposure. In the years that followed, Scott started to focus more on building an actual business. He created the ‘Top Performer Course’ with bestselling author, Cal Newport. That course did very well and the business became more of a serious undertaking, as they now also had a small team working for them. Together, they launched a few more courses, and last year Scott also launched his book, ‘Ultralearning’, which you can buy in bookshops all over the world.
Scott’s latest book ‘Ultralearning’ is available in bookstores all over the world.
How important is blogging today for an online business?
Blogging is still a big thing, but the landscape has become more challenging. Back in 2006, you had to find blogs through other blogs. Today, other platforms are often leveraged to send people to particular websites instead of organically building traffic through ar site alone. Blogging has definitely become more competitive as well. If your site doesn’t rank already, it’s very difficult to write an article that will rank number one.
Scott’s growth strategy today
His newsletter is the core of the content that Scott creates. He’s started to repurpose that content on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. The website Medium has also been helpful for his business.
At first, Scott wasn’t keen on writing content on other platforms; it would hurt his SEO, as there was a chance of sending traffic to websites that were not his own. However, he soon realized that it’s hard to beat these sites anyway, so he concluded; ‘’If you can’t beat them, join them’’. That’s why Scott now also publishes some of his content on other large websites on a regular basis.
How to get traffic to your website
Marketing is important, but good content drives everything. I’m talking about content that’s original and compelling. Creating content people can’t wait to see is the most important thing to do. The marketing is secondary. Posting on social media is easy, but what is much harder to learn is to create something that rises above, especially in the language space.
If you want to enter the language space, you really have to think about how you can create something that is unique and compelling – and that’s a difficult challenge to face up to.
How to create great content
Scott recommends people not worry too much about creating great content in the beginning. It often takes some time to figure out what works and what people really want. Benny Lewis was doing these extremely compelling ‘language learning missions’ and that’s probably one of the reasons he runs one of the bigger non-specific language learning websites.
If you’re constantly creating compelling content, I think it’s impossible to not succeed. The problem is that it’s really difficult to consistently create compelling content.
‘’If your content is really good, it’s only a matter of time before it gets picked up. If you don’t get picked up, the problem is probably that you’re not yet in the top tier’’
Olly Richards from Langpreneur also did an interview with Scott a while ago.
In this interview, they talk about Ultralearning.
Do you recommend people to write a book?
Scott: Lots of people fantasize about writing a book. If you just want to have your own book, you should self-publish. Publishing a book with a traditional publisher is hard and it doesn’t pay very well compared to other things. It also helps to already have an established audience. If you don’t have a following yet, it will be hard to pitch to a publisher.
If you can’t build a big blog around the topic you want to write about, it’s going to be a lot harder to get a book deal out of it. You also have to be willing to market the hell out of it. If you like marketing, having a book is a good thing to market because it will help get you on a podcast, TV show, etc. If you want to do it, you really need to go all in.
Why did you go for a traditional publisher?
Traditional books can get you into bookstores and it gives you the opportunity to be on bestseller lists. It gives you more authority. Profits are very low though, self-published books are much more profitable.
What is the business?
The majority of Scott’s revenue comes from selling online courses. He also earns quite a bit by selling eBooks and paperbacks in China.
Scott’s Advice for Langpreneurs:
‘’Be in it for thelong haul. I’m very happy with the business I have today, but remember that it took me five years to become profitable. If you’re going to do it, you need to be willing to do it for free for a long time.’’ ‘’Create lots of content and be consistent. You get better by making more content. Commit to a publishing schedule.’’ ‘’You need to create compelling content that people want to click on and want to share. If you don’t get traction, really think for yourself how you can make it better’’