As someone who stumbled into starting an online business and has generated over $1 million in revenue from blogging, I love hearing stories of other successful online entrepreneurs.
It’s rare that you come across a couple who makes more than $45,000 per month and reached that point within a few years of starting their business.
Well, Shane and Jocelyn Sams are that couple. And many months, they make much more.
It was as recent as 2012 that Shane heard about ordinary people radically changing their lives through online businesses. Soon, he and his wife would be on their way to making the big bucks.
I was even more pleasantly surprised this couple lives one state over from we had a chance to meet in person.
If there was any doubt, this couple is the real thing.
They are down to earth with an amazing family and it's been a blast watching your success grow.
Let’s get straight to the interview with my friends, Shane and Jocelyn Sams who can be found at FlippedLifestyle.com.
How much money were you making per month before your current business endeavors?
Shane: Before we started our online business, we were teachers. Jocelyn was an elementary school librarian. I was a social studies teacher. We just had normal jobs that didn't pay a lot. They were good jobs for southeast Kentucky. I would say we probably, combined, brought home after taxes around $2,500 each. We had insurance and things like that through the school, so we didn't have that expense necessarily. We probably brought home about $5,000 per month. That was a good, normal middle-class income here for southeast Kentucky. We had everything we needed, but sometimes the check would run out a little bit before payday. Sometimes it didn't. It was a good life, we were thankful, and we were really blessed coasting along with that income.
How much money are you making now per month with your current business endeavors?
Shane: Our online business has been an absolute windfall for us. It's been incredible watching it grow. We make money now that I never even dreamed possible. That money does float at different times of the year. It's somewhere usually between about $45,000 and $100,000 per month every single month. That's what it has been for the last couple of years. It's a lot higher during back-to-school times of the year because we are heavily into the education market. We sell lesson plans, and things like that, to different kinds of teachers.
I've sold sports play-books in the past. That stuff really kicks in July-October, so those months are huge months. We've also got great sales throughout the year online, mostly through our recurring revenue membership sites. We sell memberships where people pay anywhere from $50 to $100 per month to have access to all of our content. That's a very consistent baseline throughout the year. We do have big spikes during the back-to-school times. It's just absolutely mind-blowing because we pretty much make as much or more now – every single month – than we did when we taught for an entire year of teaching.
How old are you and Jocelyn?
Shane: I am 38 years old and Jocelyn is 36 years old. We have been doing this now for four years. We started in 2012, and it's now 2016. I was 34-ish when we started, and Jocelyn was 32-ish.
What are you doing for a living right now?
Shane: Jocelyn and I have our hands in a number of different pots, stirring, so to speak. Primarily, we focus on education. We sell lesson plans, through digital downloads, to history teachers, social studies teachers, and elementary librarians.
I do still have some sports products for sale, like play-books for football coaches and things like that. We also have an online business coaching website called FlippedLifestyle.com where we help hundreds of people in our membership community start and run their own business. We're kind of like a consulting business, where we coach people and tell them how to get started online – how to help them take their business to the next level.
For our advanced users, we have some high-end masterminds where we bring people in and we help them figure out exactly what they need to do next to scale their business. Those are the two main things we do.
We have our education business. That's very passive. All of the content is already created. All of the marketing systems are automated. That brings in thousands upon thousands of dollars every single month, where people pay monthly to access those lesson plans throughout the school year. Flipped Lifestyle is a huge part of our business now. That's definitely catching up to – and growing rapidly toward – the education business. We do that. We have hundreds of members. We focus mostly on our podcast as our free content: The Flipped Lifestyle Podcast.
What kind of lifestyle do your current business endeavors enable you to live?
Shane: Our lifestyle, now, is so different than what it used to be. We basically had that 9-5 lifestyle. We didn't travel a lot. We couldn't afford it. We couldn't go buy the things we just wanted. Didn't do a lot on the weekends; stayed at the house, things like that.
Now, we have a surplus of money at all times. We have months and months of living expenses and months and months of business expenses saved. We can just do the things that we want to do. We usually travel. About every month, we take off somewhere for a week. That might be just drive down to the mountains in east Tennessee, or it might be jumping on an airplane and running down to Disney World for a week – or a weekend even. A couple weeks ago, we just went out and paid cash, bought a $3,500 swing set for our kids, and stuck it out in the backyard – didn’t bat an eye. I know something like that we would've had to have either borrowed the money for, gotten that on a credit card, or would have tried to find something much less expensive when we were teachers.
It just allows us more peace of mind without having to worry about money as much and the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. It just frees up so much capacity in your brain to start thinking of other possibilities, other things. It's really spiraling and building on itself like an avalanche now in our online business because we have all these things that we get to do.
We have a full-time housekeeper, works for us 40 hours a week. She's our personal assistant as well. We don't have to clean the house. We don't have to do anything like that. She goes grocery shopping for us. She goes and washes our cars, gases them up. She makes all of our appointments. Having a full-time employee to be able to do all those things for us is just mind-blowing. I used to mow my own grass. That's how this whole online business thing started. I was listening to a podcast, riding my lawnmower. Now I pay somebody to take care of my lawn, do all the landscaping, and mow our grass. It's just crazy.
We have employees that handle a lot of the things in our business which gives us that freedom to spend more time with our kids. I can remember when we used to come home dead tired. I would get home from football practice at 7 or 8:00. Jocelyn would get in real late, 5 or 6. We had to be at work at like 6 AM, 7 AM. Just get up super early. We never saw our kids because they were always in daycare. If we did see them, they were sleeping because we were getting home so late.
Now, we get to spend tons of time with our kids. I took my little boy to the gym with me earlier. We just took our time; went for a walk outside and went in. I was teaching him how to lift weights. We get up every morning and get to chill and eat breakfast with our kids. I always notice when we go to school in the morning, Jocelyn and I always take the kids together. Very few cars have the mom and the dad in the car with the kids. I'm always the only dad at most of the school functions when we go volunteer, because we get to volunteer. A lot of dads are working and can't do that. A lot of moms are working and can't do that.
We just have so much freedom, not only just because of the money but because of the way that we work. Having an online business makes you completely location independent. Sometimes, if we want to run up to a doctor appointment in Lexington – a bigger city to the north of – we can just jump in the car, bring the computer, check our e-mail on the way, and handle a few things. We just have so much flexibility and total control over our time, and over our life. We did not have that. We were teachers. We literally couldn't go to the bathroom until the bell rang, just like the kids.
It's just amazing the entire 180 degrees that our lives have taken. Everything has just completely flipped upside down. That's why we call our brand “Flipped Lifestyle.” We are literally living the opposite of everyone else, in the way we live and what we do. It would just not be possible in any other job besides online business – built on passive income, built with memberships and recurring revenue in mind that allow us to do that.
Our online business lets us live a life that some people don't even believe is real – that most people can't even really imagine being possible because we're all trained to work 9-5 and trade time for dollars.
We're very thankful and blessed. It's just an awesome thing, an awesome world we live in that a lifestyle like this is even possible.
I always tell people I didn't get on an airplane for the first time until I was 18 or 19 years old. My little boy and my little girl have probably flown over a dozen times each, just in their few years the last four years. I didn't get to go to Disneyland until I was older. I only got to go once in my entire childhood.
My kids have already been multiple times. It's just amazing the opportunities that are opening up to even them because of this. Isaac and Anna are getting ready to start their own YouTube channel because they wanted their own online business like mommy and daddy had. Just their mindset of what their lifestyle and their life is going to be is totally different now because of our online business.
How did you discover these business ideas?
Shane: Through a series of events that happened with us and our kids. We really got fed up with this 9-5 lifestyle and working for dictator bosses that thought they controlled your whole life. You had to do their beck and call just to keep your job. I started searching for some kind of business that Jocelyn and I could run together. We had no idea, really, that people were even doing this online business thing. We knew you could make a living online, but we didn't exactly know how all that worked.
I started listening to business podcasts and stumbled across a podcast called The Smart Passive Income Podcast by Pat Flynn. Pat was talking about, in this episode, how he had made like $9,000 – or so many thousand dollars – selling an e-book. It was a study-guide for his architecture test. Man, when I heard that it just floored me. It just absolutely floored me that you could make a living online and make that much money just by e-mailing people a PDF file full of information.
Jocelyn and I, through a series of events, realized that this was real. This was possible. Jocelyn was very skeptical at first. She totally was like, “What are you talking about? This has to be a scam. There's got to be something to this. We've got jobs; let's just keep going.”
She basically finally got sick of it and said, “If you can prove it works, I'll get in.” I went out and created some websites, made a little money online. The first money we ever made online was $0.11 off of a Google Ad click, but that $0.11 really made it real that we could create information and send it out into the world and people could send us money back.
Jocelyn got onboard, and we started brainstorming ideas. This guy that we discovered knew about this test. He had taken it; he had passed it. He took that information, put it in a form that someone could consume, and he gave it to them. So we started thinking, “What do we know? What can we give people that they need?” I was a football coach. I realized, “Hey man. I can make play-books. I can make drills. I can make all the resources that football coaches need, at the high school and youth level, for their football team.”
Jocelyn was a librarian. She realized that there were not a lot of library lesson plans out there. She could create, in her spare time, a system where people would have lesson plans for every day of the year. We then mimicked that with another site – USHistoryTeachers.com – that we have. We just kept growing and growing all of this content and started putting that out there.
We started focusing on the things that we already knew – that we knew other people wanted to know, but maybe we were ahead of the game. We were experts enough. They were behind us in their knowledge. They needed us to teach that to them, or provide that for them. Maybe they didn't have enough time to create it themselves.
That's how we came up with our ideas. As we looked at what other people were doing, we realized that basically, people were selling their expertise or they were making things easier for people, like saving them time creating lesson plans. We put those together and we started selling them. We started promoting them and marketing them online. We built communities with hundreds of different teachers, football coaches, and everything else.
Flipped Lifestyle came about because we actually helped a friend of Jocelyn's – her name was Lindsey – make some money online. She was asking us, “What are you doing?” Especially after we quit our jobs, everybody was like, “How did you do that? What’s going on?” We said, “We think we can help you,” so we showed her how to do it. She made like $1,000 online with our help. One day, her husband came up to me at church and said, “Man, I just wanted to say thank you for helping us do that.” They were also teachers, actually. He said, “That amount of money is huge for us.” She had chosen to stay home with her kids. He was working, the sole provider. That really changed their life.
I can remember, we got in the car that day and drove home. I looked over at Jocelyn and I said, “You know, the knowledge that we have to make online businesses work, to make them successful – we've done this! If we taught this to other families, we could change their life. We could change their future. We could change their family tree. We could literally flip people's lives upside down.
That's what Flipped Lifestyle is to us. It is one of our main focuses now. We really want this to grow so we can help as many people as possible find the freedom that we have online. We have a goal to help over a thousand families quit their jobs because of online businesses, so that they can have that flipped lifestyle. They can drop their kids off at school. They can have the money to buy the swing set. They can have the money to go on vacation. That's what we focus on, and that's where Flipped Lifestyle actually came from.
What are some of the obstacles you had to overcome to achieve your desired business goals? How did you do so?
Jocelyn: There are two things you have to worry about in any business: time and money. Those were the two biggest obstacles. How were we going to find the time to work on our online business? We were both working 12 hours per day.
We both had two small children – toddlers basically. How were we going to find the time to be able to work on this? And money? Our budget was spread thin. We didn't have enough money to invest hundreds and thousands of dollars into starting some business, and try this out. We had to do it on a shoestring budget. Those were our two biggest things that we had to overcome.
Shane: Let’s look at the first one: time. Jocelyn was instrumental in getting our time under control. Jocelyn basically said, “We have 168 hours just like everyone else, and it's up to us to use them correctly to make this work.” Jocelyn sat down, and on a piece of paper, drew 168 squares and said, “These are our 168 hours. Where is our time going? We've got to figure that out first.”
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The first thing we did was we put all the non-negotiables on there, like: sleep, going to work, eating, picking up the kids – all of the things we had to do. We realized that once all those blocks of time were blocked out and we couldn't access them, we had 10-20 hours per week that we had free. We said, “What are we doing with all this time?” We're watching TV. We're just kicking back and relaxing after a hard day's work or engaging in some other form of entertainment like going to the movies, going out to eat, or something like that.
We realized that if we would re-prioritize and make the online business the priority instead of all those other things, that we could invest that time now to free up all those other blocks of non-negotiable time later. Jocelyn and I made a meticulous plan of what we were going to do with those extra hours.
We overcame that obstacle by making the online business the number one priority after our life, after the non-negotiables. We carved out about three hours per day. We worked 6-7 days per week. After the kids went to bed, Jocelyn would go for a couple hours and I would work for an hour or two. Then we would go to bed about 11 or 12. We didn't do anything else during that time. We didn't play games. We didn't search on Facebook. We didn't do anything. We worked on the online business.
We overcame the time obstacle by (1) getting organized and getting control of our calendar, (2) realizing all these other successful people have the same amount of time on this earth as we do (and it's up to us to make what's important a priority), and (3) we put the online business on the calendar first, after the non-negotiables. We made sure that we worked hard on the online business when we were doing that. That's how we overcame time.
How did we overcome the obstacle of money? As we were doing this time exercise we realized, “What about money? We're going to have to buy hosting. We're going to have to have a website. We're going to have to pay for ads, maybe.” There are a lot of things you have to buy to start any business including an online business.
We looked at our budget first and said, “What, first, can we get rid of?” We realized that cable TV was a huge waste of time for us. Our kids were really little. Isaac could watch TV at that time; he was like three I think – but we could movies over and over. We could go to the library and check out movies for free. We had tons of options for video content that we could get him. We had YouTube, things like that. We realize that if we would cancel cable, not only would it give us all this time back, it would free up $100 a month. We started our online business with a budget of $100 a month. We canceled cable. We went after it that way.
We needed more money. There were other things we had to buy and invest. The second thing we did was we sold everything that we weren't using. I can remember that I had these autographed books by an author who had passed away. His name was Robert Jordan. They were worth like $100-$200 a piece on eBay. I said to myself, “Are those books really more important than my family's future? Why am I hanging onto these things? I'll go buy those books back once we make our online business work.”
We sold a bunch of stuff. I sold all those books; that gave us like $1,000 that we just kept in an account and said, “That's the business budget when we need to buy software, when we need to buy training to help us ramp past the learning curve.”
Finally, how did we overcome the money thing? We said, “You know what? This house that we're living in costs too much,” so we sold our house and we downsized into a house that was about 600 square feet less, and the mortgage was half. Once we freed up all that money in the second year, now we had hundreds of dollars at our disposal that we could actually really invest into training, hiring virtual assistants, and ramping up and scaling our online business. That's what let us quit our jobs so fast.
Everyone always says, “How did you quit your job in a year?” Because we made the time sacrifices and the money sacrifices. We overcame those two obstacles that everybody else – a lot of other people – make excuses about. We said, “No. We're going to do what it takes to overcome those obstacles and make them happen.” Those are just some of the things that we did to overcome the obstacles of time and money.
What are the top five tips you'd give someone who wants to find success like you have?
Jocelyn: If it's important to you, then you'll make it happen. You'll find a way. If it's not really important to you, you'll find an excuse and do something else.
Shane: The first tip would be stop making excuses. Everybody wants to win; everybody has dreams, but the people that get to live the life that they want to live – the people that are successful, especially in online business – are the people that make this a priority. If you make it a priority and it becomes more important than the fun stuff you're doing on the weekends, more important than that extra TV show at night, or The Walking Dead on Sunday, whatever – then you will find a way to make it happen, and it will happen eventually.
A lot of the people that fail – almost every one that we see – it's just because they make excuses: ”Oh, I had this,” or “Oh, I can't do that.” The people that look at us and say, “I will do whatever it takes to be successful. This is my number one priority,” and actually prove that by bearing fruit, those are the ones that make it. So, if it's important to you, you'll find a way. If it's not important, you'll find an excuse.
Number two . . . . The next thing that we tell everybody when they join our Flip Your Life community, is to focus on what you know. Don't necessarily chase your passions. It's very popular online, and all the gurus say, “Do what you love. Follow your dreams.” What if I love to take naps in a hammock? You're not going to make a living doing that. Everyone has an expertise. Everyone has something they're expert enough in, and they can teach people who are not quite at their level. I taught football coaches how to run a particular defense. Jocelyn taught librarians how to organize and teach in their classroom.
We've seen people that do everything under the sun, from raising Venus flytraps to painting gourds and selling that as art. We've seen everything under the sun. These people focused on what they were really, really good at and that might've lead to their passions. The person who really knew how – maybe he worked at a Venus flytrap store or something. I don't know what he did, but he knew all about Venus flytraps. His passion might be something else. It might be mountain climbing. Once he has a successful income through what he knows, then he can go and do something that he loves.
Same thing with us. Football was not necessarily my number one passion in life, but I really knew a lot about it. Jocelyn doesn't get up every morning clapping her hands, going, “Whoo libraries!” She loves the library; she thinks they're important, but she was an expert in that. She has a master's degree in Library Media Specialist. Basically, focus on what you're really good at first. It might be something related to your job. It might be something that you really know how to do from a hobby standpoint, but don't necessarily go straight to your passions. That's often a recipe for disaster because people want to do what's fun, and not what makes them money.
Jocelyn: Tip number three. This is a big one: calendar everything. You cannot succeed in your own business unless you know where every hour of your time is going. Calendaring all of the events of the week is more important than even your budget for your finances because if you don't have enough time – it’s the only thing we can't get more of and it's the only thing we can't get back. So, you have to calendar everything.
Shane: Jocelyn and I share a calendar. All of our team can see our calendar, everybody that works for us. Everyone knows what's going on with each other's time at all times. If our time is not under control, then nothing else will happen.
The biggest problem we hear when people try to start their own business is, “Oh, I ran out of time today,” or “I ran out of time yesterday,” or “I won't have time to do this until next week.” Really, it's they won't make time, they won't schedule the time, or they won't give up something on their calendar. You have to calendar everything and stick to the calendar.
Number four: You should always pursue your online business out of inspiration, not desperation. People that we see routinely fail are very desperate. They want the miracle. They'll write an e-mail to us that says, “Hey, do you think if I started this online business that I could replace my $4,000 income job in three months, and be able to quit?” No, you can't. That's a miracle. It takes time. It takes a lot of effort. It takes a lot of investment.
You've got to spend money and time to get a return on it later. Don't expect miracles. Be ready to roll up your sleeves and stick with it until it works and that could be a year from now. That could be 18 months. It could be two years before you actually get to the point where you can start thinking about going out on your own, but you have to start if you're going to be able to get it done – and you can't expect miracles. You've got to be ready to do what it takes and make it happen instead of waiting for it to happen.
Number five. Our biggest tip is: Stop talking about it, and just do something. You have to take action. Jocelyn and I take action every single day, every minute we're working, to make sure we're always taking the next step and moving forward. If Jocelyn and I get to an impasse and we can't decide on something – like, we don't know what's the right call – we'll flip a coin and do one of them because then we at least learn if it's wrong and we can go back and do the other one.
You have to stop thinking about it. You have to stop talking about it. You have to stop reading about it. You have to stop listening to podcasts about it. Sooner or later, you've got to move the mouse, click the button, buy the domain, and open the website. You've got to take action if you want to make your business successful. You have to keep moving forward.
Jeff: What are some personal qualities that have allowed you to achieve your success?
Shane: The biggest quality that Jocelyn would say that she has that would make us successful is that she is really, really good at systems and follow-through. You have to follow through; you can't start things and not finish them. Jocelyn is amazing at creating systems – like plans on how to do repeat processes, getting automations set up, or hiring people and getting them working independently. Jocelyn is great at systems. That's really helped us to be able to scale and grow our business, and also to step back and not work so many hours on our business. Jocelyn and I only work between 10 and 20 hours a week, most weeks, on our online business. That's possible because Jocelyn is really good at creating those systems, automating things, and also getting our team to complete their tasks as well.
I think the biggest attribute that I bring to our business is a fearless and relentless attitude toward it. I don't get stuck; I just keep moving forward. I keep the business moving forward. When one of our employees gets stuck on something, I sweep in and tell them what to do next and take action on it. I'm also really good at networking. That's really helped us grow Flipped Lifestyle, expand our network, meet new people, get in the new markets, get on other people's podcasts, get on different magazine articles, things like that. I provide a lot of that leadership, of just moving the business forward. Jocelyn kind of gets in the back end and she makes sure all the gears stay oiled and greased, and keep turning.
I think one of the biggest reasons we've been so successful is because we work so well together. We have opposite personalities, and we get out of each other's way. We delegate to each other, and we don't try to step on each other's toes. Whatever someone's responsible for in our business, it's their job to handle it and we allow that freedom within our business. We don't try to run everything.
By far, the reason we've scaled into such a tremendous income is because we've hired people and delegated tasks out. Anyone who won't let go of tasks in their online business – or they falsely think, “I'm the only one that can do this.” – they’re wrong because everyone is replaceable. Actually Jocelyn and I, every week, try to replace ourselves as much as possible in our business. If we leave for Disneyland for a week, we should come back and everything should be just working perfectly because we have removed ourselves and we do trust our people. Hiring people is another big thing that we've done, and being able to let go of tasks and delegate has really helped our business be successful.
Jeff: What's your number one productivity technique?
Jocelyn: The biggest thing that we do for productivity, is we calendar everything. Everything goes on the calendar, and we live and die by the calendar. We will even plan – we'll block off three hours, play with the kids. Our calendar is completely full every hour. It's just like a zero-point budget, like Dave Ramsey would say, “Budget every dollar before you spend it.” We budget every second before we spend that time, so that we know we're taking care of our priorities. There are a lot of tricks, like Scrum and all these Post-it notes, and all these different things that people do to stay organized. Those are all fine and good, but here's the bottom line: we all have 168 hours. If you want to be productive, spend those hours before you actually get to them. Plan everything on the calendar and stick to it, and you'll be more productive.
Shane: Jocelyn's big on the calendar. My biggest productivity tip? Mine is to try to focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is a lie. I try to finish – get one thing, break it down into small parts, and do those parts as fast as I can before I lose interest. Just try to focus on one thing at a time until it's done and then move on to the next thing. We meet people all the time, who come into Flipped Lifestyle’s membership community, and they have 10 websites and three businesses, and all this stuff. We're like, “No, you start with one and you expand out from there.” That's the best way to build it that we've found, so focus on one thing.
Jeff: What would you have done differently in growing your business, had you known what you know now?
Shane: The biggest thing that we would definitely go back and say that we should've done was hired people faster. We should've been less scared to invest our money. People are always scared to spend money, like, “I can't afford that. I can't afford that. I might lose this $100.” Guess what, if you're going to start a business, you better be ready to lose some money because you're probably going to eventually on something. We were always scared, “What if we hire people and we can't teach them or we don't know what to do?” So we didn't hire people. We tried to do everything ourselves, and it was a big mistake; it held us back. Our business didn't grow as fast as we wanted it to when we quit our jobs and it was because we were scared to open our hand and let go of a little money to hire people. I would say hire people as fast as you can afford it, and you can afford it a lot faster than you think.