HustleCon 2014 – I went, I spoke, but Sam made $40K from it

Hey, Neville here:
I got invited to speak at this thing called HustleCon in San Francisco.

Overall it went off really well, met some cool people, and got a free trip to SanFran.  What’s even more impressive is that the organizer was a 25 year old named Sam Parr who walked away from the conference with over $40,000 of profit in his pocket.

I was originally gonna just write about my own experience there……but I’d rather listen to how Sam pulled together a conference within 2 months that made as much profit for him as an average American in a year.

Here’s Sam!

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Sam Parr Speaking Now: 

Konichia fellow Nevblogg-ers,

Sam here, from Hustle Con, a badass conference focused on nontechnical startup founders.

I decided to host Hustle Con last May but the real work started the first week of June. Before this, I had never actually been to a conference before, let alone organized one…but my blissful ignorance helped me sell 400 tickets in just 7 weeks and generate over $50,000 in revenue.

This blog post explains how I did it.

How I Hustle And Flow-ed

Since I’ve been asked the same questions over and over, I thought I’d write this blog post in question-and-answer format.

hustlecon-1

“How did I find the speakers?
Did I pay them?”

This is the #1 question people ask me, but the answer is quite simple: I just asked. And no, I did not have to pay a single speaker.

In the early planning stage, I thought founders of big successful companies would be way to busy to speak at Hustle Con. When you think about it, founders really don’t need me. I mean, they’re rich, are stupid busy, and get asked for favors dozens of times a week.

At first, when I pitched founders, I’d try to convince them to come by explaining how fun the event would be or how they could grow their business because there’d be 400 people in the audience.

That pitch left me with jack squat.

Then I tried something a little different.

Instead of telling them I’d how much business would be generated from speaking (very little, realistically) I’d ask them to “come spread your company’s gospel to a live audience of 400 people and an online audience of 2,500 (students in our Udemy course).”

This worked WAY better.

Think about it…it feels good to not only talk about yourself in front of a large audience, but also to appear as an authority figure on your topic.

Additionally, high growth startups can’t hire fast enough, which is why startups pay recruiters around $30,000 per hire. And one thing that I didn’t realize is that a founder’s main job is recruiting top talent.

See where I’m going with this?

Convincing a CEO to speak at my conference was MUCH easier when I told them about the audience. There would be 400 highly qualified startupers who are eager to work hard and thirsty for knowledge…aka a CEO’s dream.

Finally, there was one BIG, BIGGGGG thing that set me apart from everyone else asking: persistence. And not the annoying kind of persistence (although I was accused of that once) but the polite, I-respect-this-guy-for-working-so-hard kind of persistence.

You see, I use to send one, maybe two emails to a potential customer, conference speaker, or anyone else I wanted something from. But if you’re trying to get in touch with an influential person you’ll most likely need to send 5 or 10 emails before getting a response back. I emailed some of the higher profile speakers at Hustle Con 7 times before getting a yes or no.

Now, I know what you’re saying “isn’t that kinda annoying?” No. Not if you do it in a respectful way, such as a reminder email every three days for a couple weeks.

If you wanna see the detailed, step-by-step on how I contacted each speaker, then read the post “How We Found Our Speakers: 4 Ways To Get Ahold Of Anyone And Make Them ACT!”I used these methods to not only get in touch with all the speakers of Hustle Con, but also the founder of Twitter, GoPro, Business Insider, and dozens of others.

Oh, and I almost forgot to address if we had to pay speakers or not. We did not. I did pay for Neville’s flight from Austin to San Francisco, but besides him every other speaker paid their own way. I asked a few authors, like Ryan Holiday and James Altucher to speak, but they wanted between $5,000 and $10,000. I declined.

 

How did I sell 400 tickets in 7 weeks?

I could write an entire freakin’ book on this question, but I’ll sum it up in two words: COLLECT EMAILS!

hustlecon-2

Here’s how I did it:

1. Writing/finding blog posts: I wanted to publish around 12 blogs posts…one for each speaker. I wrote a few on my own, while the others were posts each speaker had already written that were applicable to Hustle Con. I found these posts on their blogs and asked for permission to repost.

2. WordPress plugins: Before publishing the posts, I installed the two plugins to collect emails: Interrupt and SumoMe.

3. Creating a drip campaign: After outlining each blog post, I wrote 12 emails that told a funny/interesting story about the speaker that then made the reader want to click and head to my site to read the entire post in hopes that they’d share it with their friends. I then set the emails up as an autoresponder using Mailchimp so new users would get an email every day for 12 days at 10 AM after signing up. This step is KEY and if you have no idea what you’re doing, then I suggest taking Neville’s Autoresponder Kourse.

Here’s nearly every email I sent: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

4. Publish and distribute the blog posts: Ok, so my autoresponder is set up and posts scheduled to be published. When publishing time came, I posted the blog posts on Reddit, Hacker News, dozens of Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, Growth Hacker, Inbound.org and asked the speakers to share the post written about them.

Bada-bing-bada-boom. That’s it.

Sounds simple, right? Well, kinda. This method took a TON of finesse and time but it really, really worked.

 

A few tidbits I should mention

1. We had linear ticket sales: I’ve never heard of another conference selling tickets as consistently as we did. 99% of conferences sell 80% of the tickets in the last two weeks. But Hustle Con had extremely consistent sales. In fact, we sold out four days before the conference, which is pretty good. Our first ticket sale was on June 9th and the last was July 28th.

hustlecon-3

2. High traffic and strong list: The Hustle Con site launched on June 6th and within just a few weeks we were averaging somewhere around 1,000 to 2,000 unique visitors per day. Our email list jump from 200 (pre-launch) to about 2,500 in 7 weeks. Not bad for such a young site, eh?

3. Branding: People loved our drip campaign because our emails were funny and unique. I know I get like 3,324 emails a day and 99% of them are just flat out crap and go straight to the ole’ trash, so I worked really, REALLY hard to make our emails killer.

My goal for each email was to tell a story, not sell. Storytelling works wonders and this made the Hustle Con brand memorable. In fact, I regularly received replies from folks saying how they couldn’t make it to the event but that they loved the emails and wanted to come next year. Of our list of around 2,500 emails, we average close to a 50% open rate, which is really good.

4. Give away tickets to influencers: To gain some extra traffic, I gave away 50 free tickets to popular friends of mine. This wasn’t a special process…I just found people with tons of Facebook followers and sent them a message inviting them to come for free in return for sharing our page on as their status.Yeah…as in a bribe. I didn’t even bother with asking them to share on Twitter, or as I like to call it, Shitter, because Twitter users rarely ever buy (in my experience).

5. Partner with other lists: Besides the obvious places like StartupDigest, WebWallflower, and Fetch, I made a list of dozens of Meetup groups and bloggers who I knew had huge lists and offered them 35% discounts. Pretty simple.

 

What did my cost breakdown looked like?

Most folks ask “ was Hustle Con was a success?” but I know what they’re really thinking – “how much money did you make?”

Hustle Con took in $56,844 in revenue and $40,212 in profit. I didn’t raise as much sponsorship money as I could have because I didn’t want lame sponsors coming so this number could have been WAYYY higher.

Here’s a breakdown of revenue and expenses

 

How did I get sponsors? How much did I get?

I was shocked so many companies would be willing to pay money to sponsor a conference. We raised around $19,250 in sponsorship money but looking back I think we could have done around $50,000.

In my opinion there are two types of sponsors: those who want brand exposure and those who want leads.

Big companies like, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon have a HUGE marketing budget to spend on conferences. These guys are not looking for a return but just want to be part of cool events to build brand awareness. When I contacted these companies I sold them on the event speakers because that’s what made them want to sponsor the event.

Then there are smaller companies like recruiting firms or startups who are looking for some type of return. At Hustle Con we had a few recruiters sponsor because a potential recruit is worth between $10,000 and $30,000 so the possibility of getting a few quality leads is totally worth a sponsoring.

I’m not sure how other conferences do it, but I looked at my event as having three customers: sponsors, speakers, and attendees.

Because of this, I only chose sponsors who I thought truly added value. This way, I could promote the sponsor a ton to the speakers and attendees without being annoying because it’d be valuable for everyone. After the event I followed up with each sponsor and am happy to say that we totally exceeding their expectations. Attention to detail and taking care of the sponsors is key.

The process of contacting potential sponsors went something like this:

1. Prospecting: I made a list of 120 companies I liked who sponsored 2 or more conferences in the past along with their head of marketing’s email

2. Email: I emailed each company to set up a call.

3. The call: I’ve never had a “normal” sales job so I’m not sure how a typical sales call looks like, but I created my own process that worked really well.

My goal with the call wasn’t actually to get sponsorship money but to get them EXCITED about Hustle Con. This way their company would send 3 to 5 employees regardless if they sponsored the event because they saw how fun and valuable the experience would be. I had around 20 calls with potential sponsors. 7 or so actually bought a sponsorship package and nearly all of them sent at least one employee.

 

Did I work on this full time?

Yes. I loved every second of it.

 

Did the process drive you crazy?

Hustle Con was hands down the most fun I’ve ever had on any project…and it just so happened to make money too. In fact, I really didn’t care about money at all on this project. Sure, I wanted it to be profitable but revenue was not my main focus. This type of attitude made HC so much fun to work on and I wasn’t stressed or going crazy.

 

How did you get 25 awesome volunteers for free?

Hustle Con had 400 people in attendance, 15 speakers, 2 cocktail breaks, 2 meal breaks, and 1 after party. There was NO WAY IN HELL I could do it alone, so I enlisted the help of 25 volunteers to  set up the day before and work the entire event the day of.

hustlecon-4

Most of the volunteers were folks who emailed me directly through the contact form on HustleCon.com and asked if I needed any help. The other volunteers came to me after seeing my Facebook post asking for help. Organizing the volunteers was a HUGE task. My roommate Nathan, who has led teams as big as 200 volunteers, was in charge of all of the volunteers. Him and I worked together to create teams of 4 and assigned each team a leader and a job. Then, we did a rehearsal the day before, which made everything run smooth as a baby’s ass.

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Welp, now you know what I know. If you found this useful then tell me in the comments section below.

And if you have any questions you can email me at sam@samparr.com, friend me on Facebook by clicking this link (I’m super active on Facebook), or read my blog, TheAntiMBA.com.

Oh, and Hustle Con is happening again in a few months. We haven’t released this year’s speakers and topics, but make sure to head of to the Hustle Con site and sign up to be alerted when we do!

Peace out!
-Sam

Click here to download Sam’s full article as a PDF

Burning Man was Awesome

I thought Burning Man was a festival for weird-ass hippies.

I mean here’s what happens:

  1. People drive hundreds of miles out into the middle of the Nevada desert.
  2. They endure hot days and cold nights.
  3. There are no permanent utilities around.  So no water/electricity/phone.
  4. They must bring everything with them, and leave with everything also.

Who the hell would do that for FUN??

But then I was constantly hearing of people I admire going to Burning Man over-and-over, and it got me curious that maybe there’s something more to this event.

SO this year (2014) I got invited by a couple of friends who had already been many times.

They got a hold of a couple of nice RV’s and also got a ticket for me (which are generally quite hard to get a hold of).  They also had everything planned out.

Essentially all I had to do was pack a suitcase and get myself to Sacramento, CA.

SIDE NOTE:
My interest in going to Burning Man was right about here:

burning-man-interest

If my friends hadn’t invited me with the promise of relatively low effort on my part, I wouldn’t have gone.

They DID say despite the fact we’ll have a nice RV and plenty of supplies, it would STILL be uncomfortable and difficult to be there at times.

But hey, I’m an Eagle Scout.  I should be able to handle this!

nev-eagle-scout

(If you can wear THIS in public without getting beat up, you can handle some dust and heat)!

Our plan was to meet in Sacramento, pickup this nice RV, raid a Whole Foods, raid a WalMart for general supplies and bikes, then drive out to the desert.  We were like a yuppie version of the Beverly Hillbillys!

So anywhoozle, the day before Burning Man I started gathering supplies.  I went to a costume store called Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds and bought some outfits and masks.  I gathered up warm clothes for the cold nights, and protective clothing for hot days.

I took along plenty of toilet paper and portable Wet Wipes.  I bought a CamelBack for water on the go.  I bought synthetic fiber boxers that would withstand long walking commutes mixed with very hot weather.

In general I over-prepared for the event.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but I’m gonna travel way lighter next time (keep in mind having an RV helped with this a lot).

I watched about 3 different documentaries about Burning Man that day, and read about 10 different articles.

After consuming all that information, I was still confused about what the hell Burning Man was!  However it seemed cool and I started getting more and more excited.

So on a Thursday I hopped a flight to Sacramento, CA. and took an Über over to the Whole Foods parking lot 30 minutes from the airport.

The parking lot was not fit for large vehicles, so I kind of insinuated my ride was here when this massive 40 foot RV pulled up:

rv4 rv3 rv2 rv1

So basically we brought a house with us and filled it with good food (some of my camp-mates complained they only brought really crappy food one time, so this time we loaded up with good stuff).

We stuffed up two full shopping carts from Whole Foods, then jaunted on down to a Wal-Mart.

At Wal-Mart we picked up goggles (a MUST have at Burning Man), bicycles (another MUST have), lots of water, lots of glow stuff (a MUST have at Burning Man for safety reasons), and other general supplies you’d normally associate with camping.

Besides the obvious stuff like water and food…..I think the GREATEST purchases I made for the Burning Man trip were: A cheap $79 bicycle, glowing stuff for the bikes, my CamelBack backpack, eye goggles with a nice tight seal around your face.

So now we were finally ready for the trek out into the desert.

We thankfully got to the entrance gate very late at night, so there was no traffic.  Otherwise it was common to wait in the hot sun for 6 to 12 hours just to get through the FIRST gate!!!  Yikes.

I’m gonna fast forward now over some details, but I’m gonna write this short bullet-point list for my own personal memories for the future when my brain forgets:

  • The “Lost Tickets Incident” and how we pulled it off with the W Hotel concierge selfie with our tickets.
  • Our not-so-welcome entrance in the wrong spot and our very drunk neighbor from Amsterdam.
  • Team Proton RV.

So finally we get parked and settled (keep in mind most people are already at Burning Man, and we were late-comers, so people don’t particularly like it when you park a 40ft RV next to them mid-way through Burning Man.

We had a rough (but fun) entrance into Burning Man.  We were a 4-person crew in our RV and we all worked well together.  Everyone pulled weight and no one complained.  It was a solid team.

And then….it was time to explore!!  I believe we went out around 11pm, which is super early to go out.  We walked for our first excursion.

  • Goggles.  Check.
  • CamelBack.  Check.
  • Weird costumes.  Check.
  • No ID.  No money.  Check.
  • Time to go!

The sheer amount of “stuff” just going on around you at Burning Man is incredible.  Whether you’re in a “residential” area with camps, or the main playa……there’s literally stuff everyyywwwhheereee.

Want to find a party?  Walk 8 ft.

Want to see people in crazy outfits.  Look in any direction.

Want to howl at the moon like a crazy person, go for it.  No one will bat an eye….and people might even join you.

Want to go up to a random person and hug them?  They’ll hug you back.

Want to climb up on a giant moving art sculpture that seems really dangerous?  Go for it.

The idea behind Burning Man is radical self-expression and self-reliance.

At night every single person is glowing in some form, because it gets so damn dark in the desert at night that you can’t see a thing.  So if you’re not glowing, it’s actually kind of a hazard to yourself and others.  You’ll probably get clocked by a bicycle.

Across the main Playa there are art cars, pedestrians and bikes all zipping around in all different directions.  And if you’re not lit up in some way, no one can see you.

On top of that it gets dusty outside sometimes, so everyone is wearing goggles on their face.  So you look around as walk, and it’s like you’re at a big glow-party on the moon!

Then you might see a MASSIVE pirate ship with a concert-grade sound system and thousands of lights slowly chugging along the desert floor.  And naturally you run after it and join the dance party as it traverses the desert.

I’m not exactly sure who funds these massive art cars or how they even get here (the quality of engineering and sound and light coming from those things was incredible), but they are awesome.

It was mainly a big party at night.

I would have no phone, no camera, no cash on me.  Just the elements for survival (aka water).

It was also cool to see the love in the air at Burning Man (that sounded way hippie).

It would be very frequent to see this occurrence play out:

Two people lock eyes.  They say “Welcome home brother.”  Give each other a big hug.  They both go on their own separate ways.

Seems cheesy, but it was quite nice.  It has no sexual connotation to it.  Rather it was very loving in the agape sense.

(FYI “Welcome Home” is a common phrase there because the story is once you go to Burning Man, it is your home).  I thought it was a cheesy thing at first, but it quickly grew on me.

You unplug.
You are friendly to everyone.
You are surrounded by creativity.
It just physically looks crazy awesome.
You are self-reliant, yet need everyone else there to make it happen.

Roots of this blog

I started NevBlog for one reason:

To track my finances.

In 2004 there were limited ways to do this, so the chronological order of a blog made the most sense.

So NevBlog was born.  You can see it here in all it’s glory thanks to the WaybackMachine!

http://web.archive.org/web/20050830024244/http://www.nevblog.com/

NevBlog then:Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 2.20.31 PM

 

NevBlog now:
Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 2.20.20 PM

 

Through the magic of the internets, people somehow would stumble upon my blog and read it.  The blog was a side-project for fun and documentation.

Somewhere along the way business somehow got mixed up with it.  Which is fine, but moves the blog away from it’s roots.

I think in the next year I’ll be switching that up.  I’ve started posting kopywriting stuff on a different blog now: KopywritingKourse.com/blog

It’s still in the infant stages and will be changing a lot.  But it’ll be nice to separate this stuff from NevBlog stuff.

 

And I REAAALLLYYYY miss that little column on the original NevBlog where’d I’d track all my finances.  THAT was cool :-)