eBusiness Institute

How Jack Smart achieved Financial Independence before 30 without going to university

Financial Independence At 26 By Skipping University

Trying to decide if going to university is right for you? This is how Jack became financially independent at age 26 without getting a degree or going into debt…

Most people never ever achieve financial independence. 

And even less achieve it at retirement.

Yet, Jack, at the age of 26 has done it… without going to university and spending 4+ years of his life going into debt.

Today, you’ll hear why Jack skipped University, how he started his business, how he backed himself, and how he has developed FOUR sources of income – all without going to university. Click below to hear how Jack did it so you can too.

Matt Raad: Hello again, everyone. It’s Matt Raad, host of the Digital Investors Podcast. Today, we are speaking to one of our coaches, Jack. 

Jack’s story is interesting because he skipped university to work full-time online after training with us. I know a lot of our readers are either:

  1. Parents of kids who are at the age of deciding whether they should be going to university?
  2. Or teenagers at the age where you decide for yourself, should I go to university?

They might need to take on a student loan debt to go to university and study. As we know, it’s a bit of a controversial topic these days, especially with the cost of living. It’s not like it was 10-15 years ago when we were going to university. These days there is a massive financial commitment and other outcomes there. 

Of course, Jack blitzed it, and he’s very happy. But it’s not always been easy for him. So, I want him to share his story so that you can learn what it might be like to skip university, back yourself, and become an entrepreneur. 

From gap year to industry mentoring, how did Jack’s journey start?

So Jack, when did you start with us? What age were you?

Jack: I was 17 years old, and fresh out of high school when I came along to one of your weekend workshops. I saw what Matt and Liz Raad were offering as a mentoring program. At that stage, I had a lot of questions and things to think about. I needed to consider whether doing an industry mentorship or going to uni was the right path for me

Matt: And what an amazing outcome for you at that time. 

Your mum and dad were both involved in this decision, and you now work very closely with your dad in this space. But was it a family decision for you to skip university?

Jack: Yes, it was a family decision. Mum and Dad were very supportive of me wanting to go out, try things on my own, build a business, and see what we could do with it. They were also both part of the program when we joined, and so we did it as a family project.

Matt: And your dad, Daryl, has a really cool role. What was he doing back then?

Jack: At the time, he was a chief pilot for an aviation company in Adelaide.

Matt: That’s a pretty impressive role. He also scaled back on his work and wanted to transition to earning money online.

Jack: That’s right.

Matt: You two have done this journey together. 

Within our Digital Investors community, we have a lot of parent-kid combos. Jack gets to work with our students and knows them all really well.

Matt: Fast forward to today, how old are you now, Jack?

Jack: I’m 26 years old. I’ve been studying my digital skills with Matt & Liz Raad for 9 years now.

Matt: And now you’re working for us, which is really cool. You are one of our amazing coaches, and you do a lot of work with our beginners who are learning these digital skills.

Let’s take a look at how your journey has gone. You decided to do this with your dad, skip uni, and become an entrepreneur. 

Where are you up to today? What’s the main pathway you have taken with what you learned through us at eBusiness Institute?

Jack: That’s a big question. I think the thing that’s worked best for me has been getting out there and networking in front of business people. I’m also backing myself when I say that I am delivering something of value. It sometimes means saying yes, and figuring out the how later.

Matt: I remember when you started with us. It was a really big thing for you to get out there. One of the strategies I suggested for you was the Digital Agency strategy, building websites for local businesses. This was going to help your dad transition quite quickly, and you needed the cash flow.

But I know you guys have literally done every single strategy we teach over the last 9 years. And you’ve blitzed it on every single one. You have been a huge inspiration for our Champions community, particularly with all that you and your dad have achieved. Your dad must be very proud of you!

Jack Smart with Matt and Liz Raad at the e-Business Institute Day of Awesome

”The thing that’s worked best for me has been getting out there and networking in front of business people.”

You just mentioned the big thing that’s working for you is getting out there and networking. What position has this led you to in your networking group?

Jack: I initially started with more casual networking groups that were being established in the local area. 

I was invited and referred to different networking groups. This eventually led to a startup BNI chapter in my local area, and I became a founding member of it. I was basically made the inaugural president and have been doing that for the better part of two years.

Matt: At that stage, you were young and shy, but working with a lot of older business owners. How old were you when you were made the role of President?

Jack: I was 23.

Matt: So, you were a bit like Kristen from the Anner family, who we also just recently interviewed. You young guys are just blitzing it! 

So, you’re the actual President of your local business networking group. And your Digital Agency is in the beautiful Adelaide Hills. Can you give us an idea of what it’s like there?

Jack: It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world, but it has a very rural atmosphere. There are many well-established businesses, but plenty of new ones start up pretty regularly. It’s a very tourist-centric region with a strong presence of wineries and distilleries, along with the day-to-day businesses that make things happen.

Matt: One of the reasons I really wanted to talk to Jack is that he’s not located in the middle of the city. He’s been able to quit uni and create a full-time business in a rural area of Australia. 

Admittedly, this rural area is world-famous for its red wine. It has the finest cab sabs in Australia. If you’re a wine drinker, you will know the Adelaide Hills. 

So, Jack is located there and decided to start his business. He also started networking with local wineries, tourists, and crafting-style businesses.

You took all our learnings to heart, Jack. We taught you how to expand your networking, and that’s obviously worked really well for you to kick the business off. What are you doing now with your networking?

Jack: I’m really focusing on being of service to people and helping them the same way you taught me to with coaching. I caught the eye of some pretty high-up people in the BNI network, and am now the ambassador for the largest chapter in South Australia.

Matt: Fantastic! What does ambassadorship mean for you? 

For our readers to understand, this networking group is one of the biggest chapters in Australia. It’s based in Adelaide City, so you’ve got to commute to get there. How often do you meet?

Jack: My commitment is once a month, but I’m going a bit more regularly at the moment.

Matt: It’s well worth it. So, you’re in the city of Adelaide as an ambassador. What does that mean, and what doors has that opened for you? 

Jack: It means I am basically an ambassador for the regional team. I’m there to support the chapter with what the regional team can do for them. I also make sure that the new members coming into the chapter have a face to put to the regional team. If they ask any questions about the greater BNI system, I can answer them.

Matt: And are you looking after any new members? This could be potential gold for someone like yourself, an SEO legend running his own SEO digital agency. What type of people are you meeting now?

Jack: I’m meeting all sorts of people.

Matt: It sounds a little bit different from the Adelaide Hills, though. Adelaide Hills is a very rural, touristy wine district. What’s it like being in a city? Who are you meeting there? What sort of clients are you getting through this?

Jack: In the city, there are a lot more professional service-type businesses, a lot of trades, and just a super wide variety.

Matt: Are you finding they’re bigger clients? Particularly now that you’re offering recurring SEO services, are they generally larger clients?

Jack: Yes, that’s right.

Matt: Just like I said to Kristen, at your age, you guys are doing so great. You’re out there networking with bigger business owners, and you’re also in a full-on leadership role. You are now the go-to person for some pretty big business owners down there in the city, which is awesome. At your age, imagine what doors this is going to open for you. 

So, we teach a variety of digital skills to get you to transition your career. Your dad, Daryl, was the first one to come onto our course. He wanted to quit being a pilot trainer, which is a very professional role and has been doing it all his life. 

So, Jack came in and ran with the digital agency strategy, which we teach. But we also teach a lot of other strategies, including:

  • How to buy and sell websites
  • How to build websites
  • Along with different strategies for making money online.

So, let’s look at some of the other strategies that you’ve absolutely blitzed in over these last nine years, Jack. And this is why we have Jack as one of our coaches because he’s so good at all our strategies. 

Networking has opened the door so that you could do another key strategy that we do, which we call rank and rent websites. Now, I don’t want you to say the niche because it’s very unique what you discovered here. But give us a bit of a taste of what you built for this client whom you met through networking.

Jack: Yes, so I met a guy as part of the networking experience. I had a sit down with him, and talked about the sorts of services that we provide in terms of SEO, website design, etc. I also learned a bit about his business.

Around that time, we were learning a lot about the rank and rent strategy, so I just threw it out there. I said, “We also have another strategy where there’s no upfront costs or anything like that. We can build a website and get it ranking in your industry. For any emails, phone calls, etc., from the website that comes to your business, we’ll just charge you along the way for sending you a lead.”

Matt: Obviously he loved that idea?

Jack: He loved it! He had been a bit burnt out working with other marketing companies and just thought it was the greatest way in the world to do marketing.

Matt: There’s no risk for him. If it doesn’t work, he doesn’t pay you a cent. But if he gets a lead he pays you.

Jack: Exactly. So it was a really good experience for both of us. I think it was the easiest sales conversation I’ve ever had, and he is really good to work with. It’s been awesome.

Matt: You’re too humble about this, Jack! You missed out on the exciting big. Because it’s such a good niche, how much does he pay you for a lead?

Jack: Any lead that comes through the website is worth $500 to me.

Matt: That’s awesome. And how long did it take until he got the first lead?

Jack: It would’ve been about two months later. We built it up quite quickly and the SEO kicked in a lot sooner than we were expecting, which was a very pleasant surprise.

Matt: Well done. You’ve had that running for quite a while now. How many leads does it typically get each month?

Jack: About one to two leads per month, on average.

Matt: Nice work, Jack. And it’s really “once done, done forever.” You’ve set this thing up within two months, and it starts pumping out $500 a month. That’s a nice side hustle. 

This is one of your portfolio sites, so to speak. It combines a local business site with a portfolio site idea. 

You and your dad have bought several sites over the years, so you guys have lots of experience. Would you describe yourself as the technical one out of you and Daryl?

Jack: Definitely.

Matt: Jack is a typical millennial and takes to this like a duck to water 🙂 

Matt Raad from e-Business Institute and Jack Smart from Smarter Web Solutions at Brisbane conference

Using emerging technologies for even greater results

Another thing Jack is a legend at is Chat GPT. He did a live demo of Chat GPT to our Champions community when it first came out almost a year ago, and it blew us away. Even as your mentor, I didn’t realise just how talented you are in terms of creating content using Chat GPT. 

While we don’t recommend using chat GPT to create content, Jack, can you walk us through what you showed us that day at the Champions Bootcamp?

Jack: If I remember correctly, that was the day that you set up the famous 10-Day Website Build Challenge for the Champions bootcamp. 

Given I’d done this challenge a few times before, I knew it was coming up. So in one of the breaks, I sat down with my laptop, registered a domain name, plugged in Chat GPT, and used it to draft some content to fill out the website. I had it all finished before we came back into the room 45 minutes later.

Matt: Amazing! For anyone in my age group (fifties and above), this is the first time I have witnessed how quickly chat GPT could create a website.

Because Jack has the skills to build a website, within 45 minutes, he had not only drafted the site but also fully written it. Now, admittedly, it’s AI content, but it looked real. We were looking at the About Us page and said, “Hang on, Jack, do you have experience in mountain climbing?”

Just so you know, Jack doesn’t have experience in mountain climbing. But he was able to build five or six pages within 45 minutes, and it all looked real. In particular, the About Us page blew us away.

How did you create that so quickly?

Jack: Well, beyond a bit of a hobby interest in it, I don’t know anything about the advanced techniques or the sorts of gear you need for mountain climbing. But Michael Sampson, the pseudonym that I put together for the website, is an expert in it.

Matt: Yes, so you used a pseudonym for this. It was a lot of fun for us all to see you put this together. But it was also one of those defining moments, I think, where we all realised, “Okay, this is an interesting space.” 

Just so you know, we don’t teach using Chat GPT to create all your content, but rather drafting up and re-editing the site, just like Jack did.

Jack, you’re really good at programming and have done a few lessons on it with our students. Where are you using Chat GPT in your online business?

Jack: I would say that, at the moment, it’s still an experiment, especially with the most recent Google updates. So, right now, I’m just testing and measuring but not using it for actual publication. It’s very much about refining the process, measuring, and keeping informed about what it’s capable of and where it’s going next.

Matt: You’ve been great at showing our students (us oldies!) how to use and program it very detailedly. I’m seriously impressed, Jack. I love playing with Chat GPT as well but being a younger person, you’re just able to take it instantly to the point where you drill down with the sentences.

So, if you’re on one of our programs and want some training on using Chat GPT, Jack’s the man to speak to. He’s extremely talented and can program it bespoke.

One of the other things I like is that Jack is using it as a tool to help our beginner members do the initial bit of keyword research and planning for their websites. That’s where I think it’s worked really well for our students.

Jack: Yes, and it’s really good at generating content clusters, so then you can plan out the renovation of the website.

Matt: That’s right. So, if you’re currently enrolled in one of our programs, and want some coaching with that, send us an email and get Jack to help you out. He’s a legend at it, and Chat GPT will make your job so much quicker.

We also have many students from all over the world, where English isn’t their first language. We’ve found that Chat GPT has helped those students quite nicely as well.

Jack: Absolutely. Overall, it does write to a very high standard. It’s just that what comes out is usually quite formulaic and easy to identify. But I think it’s really good in terms of the quality of the writing and the English behind it.

Matt: Yes, so it’s good to redo emails and headlines. That’s what we’ve found because headlines are typically formulaic anyway. 

So, if you’re renovating websites, you can use Chat GPT a little bit in terms of the renovation, particularly around headlines, etc. You can also use it for your email lists or anything that doesn’t rely on SEO. It works extremely well, and it’s only going to get better over the coming years.

In terms of strategies that you’ve learned with us, you’ve done:

  • Local Business
  • Bought and sold websites
  • Renovated websites
  • Rank and Rent

But you’re also a legend in our community for which particular strategy?

Jack: We’ve done a lot with Directory websites and were among the first in the Champions community to do it. We began working on this about five or six years ago when we first started our networking efforts. And we use it as a door opener to get in touch with every business in our local community.

Matt: That’s perfect; well done! You built one of the first Directory websites in the Champions community, and to this day, you are still our go-to coach for getting a Directory site up and running. That’s an awesome skill set.

You’ve seen all the various themes over the years that are good and bad for Directory sites, and you’ve worked with our clients on their own sites. So, not only have you got a lot of deep experience with your own Directories, but you’ve worked with a whole bunch of our students as well. 

You have a lot of technical knowledge and strategy behind it all, so well done. How many Directory sites are you currently working on with your dad?

Jack: We have four sites up and running in our portfolio at the moment. To be honest, I haven’t touched them in a while because I’m overwhelmed with other stuff right now.

Matt: Well, the great thing is they’re passive, so they can just sit there. That’s the beauty of Directory sites once they’re set up.

Coaching and Helping Others on Their Journeys

Let’s change gears for a bit. You know what the journey of total beginners in this space is like. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve seen for our students? You would’ve been through all the same challenges as well, especially with your dad, who’s not from a technical background. 

What sort of coaching calls do you typically make when you’re working with us?

Jack: One of the biggest challenges we’re facing at the moment is the recent Elementor update, which is a go-to page builder for the eBusiness Institute community. 

Elementor has been completely overhauled in the way the page builder works. This means beginner students are now experiencing what it’s like to have a software change on you. You’re expecting one thing, but now you have to work with something different

Matt: That’s normal in this environment. How many themes have you used over the years you’ve been with us?

Jack: I’ve used at least five or six different themes now. The first theme we used was Accelerate, and then we moved up to Accelerate Pro, but I didn’t like how it worked. So, I took a tangent and moved to Divi, one of the early page builder plugins.

I’ve also worked with a few Directory themes. Some are better than others.

Matt: At eBusiness Institute, we currently use Elementor exclusively, as it seems to be the industry standard.

Jack: Absolutely. Elementor is my go-to right now. And even though it’s just had a recent update, it’s still really good to use and is the most intuitive of the themes I’ve used.

Matt: You’re also helping us update all the courses to represent that.

I know that might sound very technical to our readers. But if you’re already in our community, you probably know exactly what Jack’s talking about, even if you are a beginner.

We use WordPress sites here because they are the industry standard. And like every piece of software, it’s updated every year, so we have to stay ahead of the times and make changes.

As you said, Jack, one of the biggest things we need to deal with, particularly when you’re a beginner, is dealing with major software overhauls. But it always settles, just like with Google updates, etc.

That’s one of the challenges you’re helping our students with. Even when they’re complete beginners, they still have someone like yourself who is an expert and can help them overcome the technical challenges.

It’s really important for our students to overcome these technical challenges because the rewards are always there once you know how to renovate sites properly. The world is literally your oyster. You can make money from a variety of strategies, just like what Jack is doing. 

You work with both our Champions and Digital Investors communities. Are there any common challenges that you regularly help our members overcome? 

Jack: These calls present a wide variety of challenges. But technically, the number one thing I find helps people overcome any hurdle is having a fallback point.

Matt: What do you mean by that?

Jack: Before you start a large renovation on a website or you’ve reached a point where you’re happy with it but want to take it to the next level, you need to make sure that you’ve got a backup in place. Backups are important because you can always return to that point no matter what happens.

Matt: Right, so you mean a physical fallback point. I was thinking of a mindset fallback.

This is absolute gold because I take this for granted, but you must always have a backup of the website before you start making any major renovations to it.

Jack: That’s right. It’s also a mindset fallback because you know that no matter what you do or what buttons you click on, you can still go back to what you had before.

Matt: Yes, you can’t break it. Would it be easy for you to help a beginner back up a website? 

Jack: There are all sorts of plugins that do it in a single click. Updraft Plus is the go-to plugin that we’re using at the moment. Once you’ve set it up, it’s one click to do a backup and one click to restore it if something goes wrong.

Matt: Perfect. So, Updraft Plus is a free plugin. There is also a paid version, which you don’t necessarily need. But I know for me personally, it’s saved my butt a few times!

Do you think our beginners need the paid version? Or is the free version good enough?

Jack: No, it just lets you change where you save the backups. But the free version gives you more than enough options.

Matt: So literally, if you make a mistake, it doesn’t matter. There’s a big green button that says “Restore Website” and you just click that. 

As many people in our community know, I’m not that technical. So, when I’m renovating sites, I sometimes have to do it early in the morning when Liz isn’t around to keep an eye on things. I’ve been known to crash a few websites! But I literally just hit Restore before she wakes up, and she doesn’t even know that I’ve broken it. 

So, Updraft Plus is awesome. But there are lots of other backup plugins, too. 

What other challenges have you helped people overcome? Are there any other common things that come up that you’re helping our beginners with? Or are there other things you can think of that you’ve seen over the years?

Jack: Another thing that I help people with is taking a step back and making sure that they have a clear customer avatar. Just as important, they reference it when they build their websites.

When doing our keyword research, we’re figuring out everything we need to know about that particular niche. And while we’re building the website, we’re becoming experts in that space, so we start writing like one.

But people who are coming to the website probably aren’t going to be experts. That’s why they’re coming to our site because they’re looking for the information. And so, it’s very easy to lose track of that when you’re deep in the building process and filling your head with the information you need. You just want to get it all out onto your site. 

Most of the time, that’s not useful to your customer avatar. So, you need to take a step back, look at it, and think, “What does a layperson person in this space need to know? “ You need to think of that rather than as someone with all the knowledge you’ve now built up.

Matt: Yes, and we teach you how to do that through our Keyword Research process. This process is the fun part, and once beginners understand it, they really enjoy it.

Jack: Yes, it’s so much fun, and many of the people I’ve coached have enjoyed the process.

Matt: That’s great because that’s where you make the money. It’s all in the setup. This is basically how you plan out your renovation.

If you’re new to this, when you renovate a website, most of the work is done before you start the physical renovation. It’s all about the planning, and we call that keyword research. In other words, you’re researching the marketplace. Just say you’ve just bought a website on dog training. You might not be a dog training expert, but it doesn’t matter. You just go out and do the research. 

And of course, one tool that can help us do that quickly these days is Chat GPT. It gives us a really quick thumbnail overview, so combining Chat GPT with our traditional keyword methods is a really smart way to go.

Jack: Absolutely. If you want to cut some time out of the process, that shaves a few corners for you.

Matt: Great, those are the two main things you look at, which are more physical skillsets you’re using. Is there anything else?

Jack: Well, because you do get so deep into your own head when you’re building these websites (or doing all this content creation), it can be hard for a lot of people to take a step back and recognise that they’ve done a really good job.

So it’s just reminding students to celebrate each win as it comes and pat themselves on the back.

Matt: Yes, and this is what I’m also celebrating here in the podcast. It’s important to celebrate your own success because you’ve helped inspire so many of our students.

So, if you’re working through our course or are interested in getting started, particularly if you’re a bit older, it can be a bit frustrating, especially if you’re dealing with things like Elementor updates, etc. But you need to pat yourself on the back when you achieve a little win. That’s super important, and I’m glad you’re encouraging our students to do that, Jack.

Is it a buzz for you when you first see their sites?

Jack: Yes, it’s awesome just seeing what different students are capable of doing. And with each group that comes through, it seems like what they can create is getting better faster every year. So, to be honest, it’s lighting a bit of a fire under me to step up my own game!

Matt: It’s incredible how these total beginners are building these awesome sites.

But you’ve set the bar for everyone in this community, Jack. Within the break of a bootcamp, you built a website and fully loaded it with content that looked completely real. And we thought Michael Sampson was a real mountain climber! He’d climb the seven different mountains of the world. It’s just phenomenal. 

How Jack’s Dad has also used his digital skills in the community

Jack and Daryl Smart with Matt Raad celebrating the success of an online marketing workshop

I also have to say, talking of proud moments of total beginners building a website, I remember the first website your dad built. Daryl built this awesome website for a local irrigation company in Adelaide.

Jack: Our client still loves that website, and it’s something that Dad can look back at with pride because it’s an awesome site.

Matt: Do you remember how long it took your dad to build it?

Jack: It took him around a month.

Matt: That’s not bad for a complete beginner. This was a paid website build, and the site still ranks to this day, which is pretty exciting. When you think your dad’s a trained pilot and not a website builder, that’s pretty amazing.

And now you get the buzz of training the equivalent of your dad in our program, Jack. So, I want to say a big thank you from all of us here at eBusiness Institute, particularly from our students who you’ve helped over the years. You’ve even helped Liz and I with some technical stuff! And, of course, the legendary effort you’ve made to help our students when they’re setting up their Directory sites.

Thank you for sharing your experience and letting me celebrate your success with us over the last nine years. When you think about that journey over the last nine years, do you think you made the right decision not going to university? If someone else reading this is in your position, what would you say to them?

Jack: Personally, I haven’t regretted a single moment since I made that decision. When I decided to become an entrepreneur, I knew I would never work in a standard job. I was all-in on the business, and I was never going to go back on that decision. I would never look at other opportunities. If things aren’t working well, just work harder!

Matt: Brilliant, so you’re in control of your own destiny. Obviously, you now get to work from home, however you want, with the hours that you want. You’re in control of your own destiny. 

I know a lot of your friends are doing uni and working nine-to-five jobs. Do you have any regrets about not going down that path?

Jack: I have no regrets at all. I’ve seen what my friends went through at university and the jobs that they have now. And so, I’m so happy that I took this path instead.

Matt: Awesome.

Jack: I couldn’t have done it without you, Liz, and the rest of the team. It’s been an amazing journey, and I can say with certainty that without your mentoring and guidance, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, thank you as well.

Matt: Thanks so much, Jack. It’s been unreal having you here.

If you’re a parent reading this, or if you’re Jack’s age, then take onboard what we’ve talked about here today. I’m not giving financial advice but rather just sharing Jack’s experience of becoming an entrepreneur.

In fact, my advice to young people is that if you’re in two minds about going to university, it’s not for everyone. And so, you need to back yourself like Jack did. He had nothing to lose at the time, and each year, he just got better and better as an entrepreneur. 

If you’re brand new to us, check out our Free Masterclass. You’ll actually see Jack’s dad’s website (the gardening site) there right at the end. But go through the masterclass and at least understand where buying and building websites can lead you. You’ll see lots of examples, and maybe it’s something you might want to consider for yourself. Take a gap year and maybe suggest it to your kids. See if it turns out like it has done for Jack.