And he did it by selling a $49 information product that was all delivered online with no staff.
Today, Cole shares with us exactly what he did to turn his website from zero to $10,000 a month, then to a eight figure ($10+ Million) sell-out in just 3 years – selling a simple automated $49 per month information product!
Plus, Cole also shares how you can double or even triple your website income without having to get more traffic.
Now if you don’t know who Cole Humphus is, he’s the CEO of Rapid Scale Group. And through a lot of trial-and-error, he was able to turn his content website into a 8-figure exit in just 3 years.
This is his story of how he quit his corporate job by starting a side-hustle website as a beginner. So even if you are new online, you will get some fantastic insights into what it takes to build a successful semi-passive website.
Watch the interview or read the transcript below to learn how you can add new monetization methods to your passive income website.
How Cole’s Side Hustle Website Turned Into $3+ Million!
Matt Raad: Hi everyone. This is Matt Raad here from the eBusiness Institute, where we teach beginners how to buy and sell websites.
If you are looking to quit your corporate job, get online and start earning income, then today’s interview is perfect for you. I’m excited to have Cole Humphus founder and CEO of the Rapid Scale Group with us.
Cole has gone out there and made the journey that I know many of our readers are doing or wanting to do – quitting a stressful corporate job.
Cole was in a highly paid corporate role, but he wanted to quit that 9:00 to 5:00 grind. He got online with a photography website, and it was hugely successful.
I’m excited for you to hear what Cole has to say today. He took that photography website from $130,000 in his first year (which is impressive) up to $3 million in just three years. Then he took it to a seven-figure sell-out.
So, Cole, I’m excited to have you on today. We will cover some cool stuff for our readers, and I know you’ve got some great insights.
Cole has some unique alternative monetisation strategies for your websites that maybe you haven’t thought about.
So, whether you’re a beginner online or more advanced, today’s interview will be inspirational for you. You will get some practical and actionable tips that you can use straight away.
And, of course, Cole now runs the Rapid Scale Group. So, Cole, you’re a coach yourself and you help people scale websites and do exactly what you did, is that right?
Cole Humphus: Absolutely.
Before we get started, I just wanted to say thanks so much, Matt, for having me here. I’m excited to be able to hang out with you today.
Matt: Yes, well, it was good to chat with you the other day and see your background.
How Cole Humphus got started making money online from his passion
Matt: As you know, we teach people how to build and buy passive content sites. That’s what we do here at eBusiness Institute, and that’s what our whole community does.
But your story is interesting because you started a photography education site. Do you want to tell us about your success there? Let’s inspire everyone because it’s a fantastic story.
Cole: Sure. As you said in the intro, I worked in corporate finance out of college. I live in Sunny, San Diego, and it’s not cheap to live here. I was born and raised here, but I had just recently bought my first house.
It all started with a simple photography side hustle…
Cole: I had this idea one day to become a wedding photographer. And all my friends at the lunch table were like, “But you don’t even have a camera.” They’d say, “Do you even do photography?” And I’m like, “No, but there’s the internet. I’ll figure it out.”
And I was half-joking and half-serious. Well, I was a little joking and a lot serious. Luckily, I enjoyed photography when I got the camera. I enjoyed the challenge of taking a really nice photo. And, of course, there was that financial motivation of doing some kind of side hustle.
It all worked out perfectly; I worked during the week and did this on the weekends.
I’ll spare all the details other than to say that three years into doing wedding photography, I was on a photoshoot with somebody, and they had an online YouTube channel. I said, “Hey, how’s that online thing going?” And he’s like, “It’s going great. I’ve done three six-figure launches this year.” And I’m like, “What? How?!”
At the time, I was making a salary of $48,000 a year, so my ears perked up and said, “Man, I should teach photography online.” And he said, “Yeah, you should. You’d kill it.”
He applied regular, consistent action to build his first online business
Cole: So, I started waking up at 4:30 am before going to my real job and sitting in traffic. And I was not just editing photos from the weekend’s weddings but also writing and making video tutorials.
I was literally producing what you teach everyone – building content websites. Except, instead of outsourcing the work (most people outsource it), it was all me. Every day, every night, I was creating new articles and new videos. I did that every chance I could.
I wanted to quit three times in the first six months because I was burned out, juggling three jobs, and nobody was coming to the website.
I couldn’t help but wonder why the heck, when other people are partying on the weekend and having fun with their friends or family, I’m locked in this spare bedroom trying to produce content, and nobody’s even coming or caring.
Cole realised the value of knowing WHO is visiting your website to earn his first six figures online
Cole: Luckily, one article got picked up on SEO. Since I’m a data guy, I’m like, “Oh, we’ve got traffic coming in, and it’s coming for this topic.” So that was my first win, and that’s probably a perfect segue into what we’re going to talk about today.
That thought of “Who is coming to my site?” started it all for me.
Rather than just thinking, “Okay, I got traffic and here’s a bunch of links for them to go and buy other stuff through Amazon Affiliates”. Instead, I thought, “Well, who is visiting my site?”
The cool thing is that you don’t necessarily have to know who from a demographic standpoint because you can know who based on the article they’re visiting.
In this case, it was a newborn photography tutorial. I instantly knew that most of the traffic was people who wanted help learning how to become a newborn photographer. So, I hired the person who wrote that free tutorial to then produce a course for me. And that was literally how we made the first six figures on the website.
Why you don’t need to be the expert to make money online with a six-figure website
Matt: That is so cool. In less than five minutes, you summarised exactly what we teach here at eBusiness Institute. That is perfect and not even scripted!
I’ll just point this out to our readers, the most challenging part of this journey is staying consistent and sticking it out. And like Cole just said, he nearly gave up three times. And then when he did hit success, it was from one article; that was the tipping point.
Monetising your website doesn’t just have to be via Ads and Affiliates…
Matt: But what’s so great, Cole, is that you outsourced the creation of your first course. You learned how to outsource. You didn’t even build your first course; you just hired that person to do the course for you, did you?
Cole: I was essentially the host. She was the expert, and I was the host.
Cole: Anytime I talk to someone who has a good content site (and I know this is your audience here, that’s why I was so excited to come here), the bulk percentage of people who have content sites are used to monetising in only one or two ways. It’s Amazon Affiliates or ad networks. I didn’t do any of that, and you don’t have too either.
Cole hired an expert for $4,000 and turned it into $3 million in sales within 3 years
Cole: Many people ask, “Well, what if I’m not the expert?” Great! There are a lot of experts out there who are broke. You can find them, pay them, and they’ll be very happy to do that for what you may think is not that much money. And it will generate a lot of profit for you.
In my case, I paid her $4,000 flat, with no ongoing royalty. I paid her $4,000, and I paid a video guy around $1,000. He was someone I knew from doing weddings.
And in one weekend, we shot it all. Some of it was on location on a photoshoot. And others were sitting on the couch together, chatting just like we’re doing now. Then I wrapped it up and sold that baby. But that was the first entry into selling courses.
Matt: And that’s the site that turned into $3 million in sales. I’m presuming there’s a lot of profit with virtually no team there. And you then did a seven-figure sell-out on that, didn’t you?
Cole: Well, I’m happy to say there are some typos in what you just said.
Matt: Oh, okay. And what is that?
Cole: And I say that with all the joking there. I’m a fully transparent guy.
As you said, we went from $130,000 in year one, and year two was $1.5 million, then it was $3 million. And then I went from selling courses to pretty much mainly selling membership.
So, the $3 million went from courses to recurring revenue. And then I grew it to $4.5 million before selling it for an eight-figure deal.
Matt: Okay, eight-figures. So over $10 million.
Cole’s Website Sold For More Than $10 Million!
Cole: Let me also give the caveat here. I’m a humble dude. I’m not a flashy wearing guy. I say that because I don’t want any of that to be boastful or bragging. That’s not my style. But I share that to inspire and motivate.
I’ll tell a very quick story. A lot of your readers probably know Pat Flynn. He also lives in San Diego.
When I was first starting, I would listen to Pat’s podcast on the way to work. Pat was doing an event in San Diego. This was probably back in 2014 because it was basically right after my first year online.
I scrounged up the money. I had the money, but I emotionally scrounged up the money, like $500 or $600, to go to this event.
Pat was a big idol of mine back then. We’re still good friends now. But back then, I didn’t know him. And I remember walking up to him saying, “Pat, so nice to meet you, man.”
I said, “Hey, I just had my first big milestone, $10,000 in a month.” And I remember telling him, “It’s nothing like you’re $50,000 a month, but I’m so pumped to be on this milestone.”
And I say that because I remember the $10,000 a month milestone and how that was already mind-blowing. Then I remember the $50,000 milestone, the million-dollar year, and the height of $400,000 a month.
And I say that once again, not to brag, but to show everyone you don’t necessarily know how much upside there potentially is for you. You just need to keep waking up every day, doing things a little bit better, and moving the needle a little bit higher.
Don’t ever think that your small, little website can’t really be worth a lot of money.
Matt: What a phenomenal story.
The power of selling small monthly memberships when making money online
Matt: We’re big on teaching the compounding effect. You’re plodding along; then there’s a time you hit a tipping point, and it just goes exponential.
And mainly because our background is buying and selling bricks and mortar businesses, what we found when we got online, similar to your story, it’s a lot quicker to compound with websites because they’re going 24/7 worldwide.
So Cole, let’s put these memberships in perspective. It’s not like they were expensive. They’re just $49 a month, aren’t they?
Cole: So, before the memberships, I sold most of my courses between $7 to $49. And then when we went to the membership model, which was $49 a month.
At our height, we had 10,000 members, which was personally a fantastic milestone for me to get to.
You can do a lot of damage without a hefty price point. Every website and business is so different with the optimal way to monetise the traffic.
Matt: So even with just 10,000 members, which I know sounds a lot, there’s no risk to anyone buying a $49 course. And presumably, it was really good.
Matt: This was not a high-end product or anything like that, and you were able to get to an eight-figure sell-out. That is just absolutely awesome.
How being an online entrepreneur helped Cole Humphus live a balanced lifestyle
Matt: So, now you’ve got that success in life, in a very short amount of time compared to traditional bricks and mortar businesses. And I know you’re a dad now, so how is life treating you now? I’m sure it wasn’t all easy. As you said, you nearly gave it all up.
What did you do when you sold your business? Leading to what you do today, how do you help people now?
The importance of keeping up cash flow even after a big sell-out
Cole: Well, I didn’t realise what life would be like after selling. From a financial aspect, you have more freedom when you look at the bank account.
But there’s also something very mentally challenging when you don’t have the same (or sometimes any) money coming in. That was a form of growing pain where I started asking, “Okay, now what?” I still have bills to pay, and you don’t just want to take it from the savings account.
From an emotional (and professional) standpoint, I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed entrepreneurship until it was gone. That’s one of the main reasons why I’m here. It’s not to pitch my business. I know you wouldn’t want to have people who come on and pitch, and that’s not why I’m here either. I genuinely enjoy having discussions and sharing the things I did to help others.
That’s why I enjoy doing podcasts like this now. I’m okay with consulting. It’s something for me to keep my brain sharp and help others unlock a lot of potential that they don’t even see they have within their business.
Cole created Rapid Scale Group to help others achieve online success
Cole: So, I’m glad that I have that now. Because you’re right, I have two little girls, a four-year-old and a one-year-old. They keep me extremely busy and are super high energy.
It’s a true balancing act now. On any given day, I go from work mode to dad mode, to fitness mode, to come home mode, back to dad mode, to husband mode, and then hang out with my wife. It’s like a light switch on/off, on/off, and all the different buckets.
Now, I know that that’s not the most productive use of time, but I need to be very clear on my priorities on a week-to-week basis. And being a great father, a great husband, and even taking care of myself fitness-wise, health-wise, that’s all very important to me. It’s just as important as me being an entrepreneur.
So Rapid Scale Group is my thing now. I help people who are already doing things online unlock a lot of potential and profit to grow it even further.
Matt: And that’s what you and I were talking about and why I’m excited to have you here today.
Cole Humphus shares how to accelerate your online income with alternative monetisation methods
Matt: When I describe our typical student to you, and where they’re at in that journey, they’re literally following your story.
They’re typically quitting a high paying job (or a safe job), and they want to get online. And then they start to get that success. They hit their first $1,000 a month online, and then they hit their first $10,000 a month online.
And Cole, you said to me, “Hey, Matt, I’ve got some alternative stuff out there. They’ll look at my own story of what I’ve done.”
Shall we get into that, Cole? Maybe give us some insights into what you’ve seen where our readers could accelerate a lot quicker with their websites. Or perhaps some alternative monetisation they haven’t yet thought of.
Our students already have good content sites, which they make good money off using ad networks and affiliate offers.
Increase the value of your existing website and diversify monetisation
Matt: Let’s jump into some ideas that you had there for our community.
Cole: I’d love to; let’s do it! Do you want me to start with some ideas?
Matt: You start because I’ve got my notes from when we talked before. It was just incredible. Let’s say these sites are already semi-passive websites, okay?
So, you’ve got your client there, thinking, “All right, there’s a lot more money on the table here that you could be looking at.” What sort of ideas do you have for your clients?
Cole: Yes, so I know a lot of your community probably aspires to grow and sell their websites.
4 reasons why you want to diversify monetisation on your website
Cole: We should always be thinking about things we could do to increase the website’s value, right? And as a buyer of content sites, we want diversity the monetisation.
For example, say we only monetised it with Amazon, but Amazon does another cut. Instead of 3%, now it’s 1.5%. Your site value just literally got chopped in half overnight, right?
This is the same thing with Google (i.e., Google slap). SEO is the main foundation of Google. So, for content sites predominantly built with affiliates or ads, it’s important to start thinking about how to build something that’s a little bit more sustainable and can weather the storm.
Because when you do so:
- It’s going to be less risky for a prospective buyer
- You can command a higher multiple valuation
- You’ll increase the multiple in profits on what the company’s net worth
- You’re also going to make more money.
4 ideas to instantly increase your website income
But first – Identify popular topics and products on your site…
Cole: So, the first thing I would do for any site is to get very clear on what topics most of the traffic is coming into.
I’ll give an example. How about you give me a website topic? I’ll let you put me on the spot. Give me a topic.
Matt: Let’s say a topic that you and I both love – exercise equipment. And maybe we can throw in an exercise lifestyle with that as well? It’s a content site where we help people get fit because they’re working from home. That’ll do?
Cole: Yes, that’s great. So obviously, exercise is a huge topic. But let’s say that one of the main pages or products is monetised by Amazon Affiliates. And that’s an excellent way to monetise, by the way, because then you could see what most people are buying. If you aren’t using Amazon, then you don’t necessarily know.
Idea #1 – Manufacture your own products to increase revenue instantly
Cole: But let’s say everyone’s looking for these yoga mats (or workout mats) and those stretchy elastic workout bands. Perfect.
One of the ways that you can add way more revenue and profit to your website is to manufacture your own easily.
Why did I pick those products? Because maybe everyone’s buying a set of dumbbells. Well, you don’t want to mess with that. That’s a pain in the butt for shipping. It’s going to be costly, and margins are probably not as good.
But little elastic, rubber band, stretchy things? You can bet there are plenty of people in China manufacturing those you could probably sell.
You can have a field day by adding an e-commerce arm to your website where it’s your own brand. And therefore, instead of just collecting 3% from Amazon, now you can collect 100% of the revenue.
So that’s just one idea; let’s keep going.
Idea #2 – Introduce new products that suit your visitor demographics
Cole: Let’s say that you know that the average demographic from Google Analytics is showing you men who are 40 to 60 years old. We can do some research and decide what kind of supplements this type of demographic likes to buy.
I don’t know if protein powder is a thing for that particular age bracket, but just for this example, maybe it’s protein powders or even collagen. I know that’s a big thing, especially in these different age brackets, so another potential product idea.
Idea #3 – Create an Info product
Cole: Let’s say that one of your number one articles on the website is about exercise equipment, but maybe one of the exercises is for people trying to drop 10 pounds. Well, now maybe there’s an info product course you can have.
Info products are always a great example of something you can easily produce. Here’s a great way to do it. One of the best hacks that I’ve given a lot of my students (and other people who aren’t experts) is to go to a website like udemy.com. That’s just like an extensive marketplace of online courses.
If you were to go and search on Udemy for fitness courses or how to lose weight there, you’d see all these people who have already made courses. So, you already know that there are experts on these particular things.
Now the thing is, most of them aren’t making much money on Udemy. But you know they want to because that’s why they did it in the first place. So, you can go and even see a sample of their work because they give a free sample. And then you can go and look them up online and get in contact with them and potentially hire them to make you a course.
So that’s a cool hack.
Idea #4 – Create an online Community
Cole: And then, of course, the last thing I’ll say for now is you can also do a community. Community is huge. And I find that to be just one of those things that every single website could just about utilise.
The reason why is very simple. Content sites niche by topics, so they bring the same kinds of people together. And what’s great about that is that people want to hang out with other people who share the same interest. And people want always to represent themselves as part of their identity.
That’s why I’m wearing a fishing shirt (it’s a fishing brand) because that’s what I do now. I can go on and on, but that’s just one example. It doesn’t matter, even if it’s a cooking topic. Cooking sites are hard to monetise, but the communities could still totally be a valid monetisation point.
And let me just say this one last thing. Let’s just pretend that there was a community with the pure goal of just bringing people together. Super low friction, not like some crazy $49 a month price point. Not that that’s crazy. $5 a month, $10 a month. That’s all we’re talking about, right?
Just bring people together. Put them in a Facebook group or a circle group or whatever the new thing is. And then maybe bring in an expert who does training once a month. And then you hire a community manager to help go in there and spur conversation and bring people together. That’s what we all need right now in the world.
Turning your passion content site into a money-making machine using communities
Matt: That is absolutely brilliant for our readers. Typically, when we buy content sites, the best ones we recommend buying are those passion sites started by hobbyists.
You mentioned cooking, say paleo cooking or whatever, and they’re hard to monetise. But the readers are all passionate about it. Or it’s like you said, fishing or knitting or even flying drones, any of those hobbies.
If you build your content site around a niche that’s a passion for people, e.g., learning how to play guitar or photography, that’s a smart way to add value to the site if you’ve got a long-term vision of building that community.
Is the community part something you did relatively quickly with your photography site? Or did you discover that after a couple of years?
Cole: We did it after a couple of years because we needed to increase the lifetime value of our customers.
So instead of having just a one-time transaction, for me to continue to grow the business with a lot of advertising dollars, we needed to increase the value. Having that recurring revenue increased the value of the company.
Cole: Many people think, “Oh, I don’t want to touch e-commerce.” Listen, don’t make it harder than it is. There are plenty of companies out there.
If I wanted to make a supplement, there are companies that manufacture supplements that work with you to take the formula, tweak it a little bit, add your label on it, and now you have a supplement brand.
It doesn’t mean that it must be an eight-figure business or profit centre. It’s just that now you have something that’s your own.
How to maximise profits from your online community using this unique lead generation technique
Cole: Let’s do the exercise idea one more time. Let’s say that you have a course or a community; it doesn’t matter, just one or the other. This is what I would be doing.
If I was in your community right now and had a golfing website (a golfing community), that was my main info or digital monetisation thing that I want to grow. How do I do it?
Why free lead magnets don’t work anymore…
Cole: Well, the old way of doing things is people would have a lead magnet, “Here’s a free report: How to improve your golf swing”. I don’t like that as much. And here’s why. It’s old and outdated, and basically, you’re just getting a bunch of freeloaders.
They’re already freeloaders because they’re coming to the site, and that’s cool. But I’d rather have somebody who comes to the website for free to get value that way. And then get them to become a customer because they will be so much more valuable.
Use this new low-cost technique instead to increase the value of your website visitors…
Cole: So, let’s pretend now on the golf idea; you have a community, and maybe you have a really cool free offer for them where they can get a pack of golf tees for hitting the golf ball off. Why did I pick tees? Once again, they’re cheap to make and they’re light to ship.
Who wouldn’t want free tees if you’re a golfer, right? Or it could be a t-shirt like, “Kiss me. I’m a golfer” or something cute, you know?
We used to make t-shirts for our photographers too. Once again, this item is cheap to make and easy to ship. So now you’re taking that free visitor who’s coming to your website because everyone wears t-shirts. Everyone. And people like identity.
So, you can make a shirt with a cool saying, and they’re representing and telling the world, “Hey, I’m a golfer, so come talk to me and I’ll be your friend.” But the whole point in doing so is now you have a customer.
You aren’t messing around with the whole free lead magnet thing. You’re going from somebody on your website who’s a free traffic viewer. Now they become a customer.
And the beauty is, now they’re a customer. Right then and there, they get their t-shirt for $6, and they just pay the shipping, or pay $6 and get free shipping etc. It’s just to cover your cost.
A simple low-cost $9 membership can compound to earn you six-figures a year
Cole: But now you say, “Hey since you love golfing, let’s make sure that you don’t forget about this amazing community that we have just for golfers. Here’s exactly why you should join it. Here’s exactly what who it’s for. It’s only $9 a month. Here’s what you’re going to get.” So that’s what I would do right now to everyone’s website.
Now think about it. If you have a website right now, and let’s say you sell a membership (or a community) for $9 a month, and over the course of a year, you get to only 1,000 members at $9 a month. Well, that’s $9,000 a month, which is a little over $100,000 a year of pure profit.
But here’s the beauty, most content sites probably sell for three to four times depending, right?
Matt: That’s right.
Cole: Now you’ve just added $300,000 or $400,000 of value to your website. So when you go to sell, you can go buy the Ferrari or whatever you want. Although I’m sure a lot of your listeners are like you and I who are very modest.
Matt: Very modest. Not the Ferrari.
Cole: You can buy a mountain bike!
Matt: Yes, you can buy a mountain bike and another website.
Matt: You can reinvest your profits.
That is so cool. And of course, Cole, you can compound that even more if you own a portfolio of websites just so you get good at this. This is what we teach too. And I know you do the same.
We’re all still buying up websites. All of us. We can’t help ourselves. That’s what we do with our money.
How can you add more value to your website visitors?
Matt: I would imagine when you’ve got, say three to five sites with a big community, we’re suddenly starting to talk about a significant online asset value now that you and your family can own. It’s like owning physical real estate.
Cole: And that’s exactly why I’ve been starting to shift focus and team up with other content creators.
One of the better things I was known for with what I did with Cole’s Classroom was creative ways of monetising existing traffic. And that means two different things:
- How can we best monetise the organic free traffic we have coming in?
- But also, what’s the different product suite that we can put together? How else can we serve them?
The sky really is the limit. Whether it was the exercise or the golf example, we just barely scratched the surface. There are plenty of options out there:
- Software, etc.
So, it’s really exciting. And I think people just have to keep their minds open. It can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it all at once. There are people like yourself and people like me who. This is what we do and we help other people do it so they don’t have to be so stressed.
What will you do to take your content website to the next level?
Matt: So, I think what’s great is, people like us here at eBusiness, we teach beginners to get those foundations, to get to that first point where they make their first $1,000 online or first $10,000 online.
And then people like yourself can come in and help them take it to that next level. We are just passionate about getting people online because we’re so grateful that we’re able to do it over a decade ago. And it works so phenomenally well with content sites.
But I do want to say a big thank you for sharing what you did today. And what I’d love to do as well is do a follow-up interview with you to continue this discussion and give our readers more insights into where they can take their content sites and grow them even more.
So, a big thank you Cole for coming along today and giving us a bit of a snippet of what you can do with your clients and help them take websites to that seven and eight-figure level. It’s just awesome. Thank you so much.
Cole: Oh, it’s been a blast and I look forward to chatting again. See you.
Matt: Awesome, Cole. Thanks a lot for that.
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