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  • We just arrived here at Valencia. And we have a very interesting interview for today.

  • Hello everyone. My name is Jan van der Aa and today I am here in Valencia with Benny Lewis.

  • Benny has a very big blog which is called Fluentin3Months.com and he has a lot of subscribers

  • on YouTube. How many do you have, 20 or 28,000? Well, he has more than 40,000 followers on

  • his Facebook site. How many followers do you have? How many people have been following

  • your blog?

  • About half a million a month.

  • Half a million a month, so I am going to ask Benny some interesting questions about how

  • he makes his living from traveling and learning languages because that is basically what he

  • does. So, Benny can you give us a quick introduction on about how

  • it started, because you went to Spain ten years ago and from there, you have been traveling

  • for 10 years straight. And how do you do that? Was that your plan when you went to Spain?

  • No, no, it wasn't my plan. I just graduated with a degree in engineering. And in Spain,

  • I took time settling in but eventually, I kept moving country and I would take whatever

  • job I could get in the country. So I worked as an English teacher, mathematics teacher,

  • a manager of a yoga shop. I did not even know what yoga was but I got the job, and a photographer,

  • youth hostel receptionist, many things that I would get on occasion.

  • Which of these jobs did you like the most?

  • The youth hostel receptionist. It was the worst paid as well. They paid me 10 Euros a day

  • because they gave free accommodation. But I find it the most interesting because this

  • was still before I discovered couchsurfing. So I felt like I was in one place and I got

  • to meet international people coming and it was the first time I got to switch languages.

  • And do you have a plan back at the time?

  • No. No I did. You know what Luca had just done? He did a master's in conference interpretation.

  • That was my plan because like Luca, I got my own graduates in engineering. And I was

  • just thinking okay, later I want to do this masters because that's your under graduate

  • combines with completely different masters. But you need to demonstrate the language skills.

  • And I thought okay, I will sit for the set or exams. And that is why I did my Spanish

  • C2, that's why I did the French. I did the B2 in French and I would like to continue

  • improving. And while I was sitting to do the ''chelli'' in Italian and that is why I

  • started looking into working online. I started working as a freelance translator. So my business

  • was all based in Ireland. I pay taxes in Ireland. My clients were in Ireland and I was earning in Euro.

  • And that was my first location, my taste in location independence. I travel the world

  • for four years as a freelance translator.

  • And then eventually you started your work. What was your plan on that? Did you have a

  • goal to become as big as you are now?

  • I did not imagine the blog would be as big as it would be. But I did have a goal when

  • I started the blog -- to make a difference, because for whatever it was, seven years traveling

  • the world until then, many people met me and they were like wow, your are a language genius.

  • And I was like, no, no. I did poorly in languages at school. I wanted to show them that it is

  • about working hard, making mistakes, speaking from day one. My usual things, I write it

  • many times in the blog. I want to share that with the world. And that is one of the reasons

  • I started a blog. At first, it was an experiment. It was just for the summer. And the fluent

  • in three months was just for the first project to try to learn Czech to fluency in three

  • months, and after two months, I ran out of money.

  • What did you do then, how did you earn money?

  • I was still a freelance translator. But then later on, eight months later, I was in Thailand.

  • I met a bunch of bloggers who are now friends of mine. And they came with very interesting

  • ideas on how to monetize a blog make some money from this without having to sell out.

  • What are these tips, this advice that they gave you?

  • What people normally think when they imagine monetizing a blog is that you have to cover

  • with the annoying advertisements or you have to follow sponsorships.

  • You don't do that?

  • No, never. And people ask me to advertise in my blog. I have this little question thing

  • to contact me and it was like do you want to advertise in the blog? If you click here

  • and it was like it is only $17,000,000 to really get rid of them because I do not want

  • any ads. And what you should do if you want to consider making more money off on your

  • blog is rather than promotes other people's products, other people's language products,

  • or other people's travel stuff, makes your own. And then rather than you getting

  • 1 cent per click, you can set the prize that you think is fair and cut out the middle man.

  • And sell it directly on your site.

  • So that is when you started to provide us the ''Language Hacking Guide''

  • I took a risk because I was still in debt. And I took six weeks off in my translation

  • work to run on the guy into research and interview people and then my initial plan was to make

  • a little bit of money to help relieve my financial problems. I still work as a translator.

  • But I did so much research into the marketing side of things, and the presentation, and

  • make it useful to people. It worked out very, very well and the day I released it, I managed

  • to cancel my debt which is something like the week which I was crazy about.

  • Generally, it was a positive cash flow from that.

  • And then it was consistent. It wasn't just the first burst but the thing is, ever since

  • then, most of my work has been to write a very interesting blog. So for instance right now

  • I am learning Japanese in Spain. And many people are following and so my videos are

  • getting 20,000 views just to see me speak bad Japanese. And no one is paying me for that.

  • But the thing is, my job I feel is, to write good blog post, to write encouraging messages,

  • to make fun videos, to make inspirational videos, and if I make something that is good

  • enough, that people think I really like this, they share it with their friends. And if they

  • share it with their 300 Facebook friends

  • They share as well.

  • They shared as well. Some of them may come to my blog. So one of my posts instead has

  • nothing to do with languages what's with a 29 life lessons I learned on my 29th birthday,

  • two years ago. That post went proper viral. It is being read over three million times,

  • one single article. And that brought in new readers who read my blog. And then let's say 0.01%

  • of those people will buy my e-book. And if you look at my sites, there is no buy my e-book.

  • It is amazing. There are no flashing banners. It is a very quiet and I promote my e-mail list

  • but if you first arrived in the site, you don't know that I have and the e-book. You

  • have to kick around a little bit. So I don't push it down on people's necks. So this

  • means, when people buy it, they really do want it.

  • Is that people inspire you? Are you following other bloggers as well where you learn from?

  • From which bloggers do you learn?

  • Oh, so many bloggers. We discussed Tim Ferris. I like his blogging style. He tests everything.

  • So he found for instance posting on Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and Saturdays. For some reason,

  • it gets a little better readership. And I find I have done the test. I find it when

  • I put my video out on a Friday it gets a few more views because it is the week ending

  • whereas videos at the start of the week might not do as well because a lot of people are

  • in their offices. And they might think, oh I will watch that later, they don't get to it

  • So, Tim Ferris is very good in testing. And I test many things. I have a Google analytics

  • on my site to see where people are coming from. And I think okay, if they are searching

  • for something and Google and I might be answering their question, and I look and see how that

  • writing. I do not do any search engine optimization to make my site work better in Google. But

  • I do see when people come to my site, what were they looking for? If they were asking

  • like how do I role my R in Spanish, and that is how I got inspiration to write a blog article.

  • So at first you listen to what the people want, then you will read an article on that topic?

  • Exactly. And I got inspiration from the emails people send me and the questions that they

  • write on comments on my blog, on my YouTube videos or my blog post.

  • So you learned from Tim Ferris. Is there any other big blogger where you learn from?

  • Yeah. I get inspiration from so many bloggers who have nothing to do with language learning.

  • So what good friend of mine, Steve Camp, he writes ''the nerd fitness''. It is a blog about getting

  • in shape. Nothing to do with languages but I like his ideas, and for instance he wrote

  • blog post: ''the worst fitness advice that you will ever read in your life'' and it

  • had gotten a lot of use. And I was thinking that is very clever. So I wrote a blog post,

  • the worst language learning advice.

  • And that worked as well.

  • And it worked very well. So I copied he is idea. And you can get inspiration from people

  • who write about finances from non-bloggers, from people who write about fashion. If you

  • look at the big blogs and see why are they big, it doesn't have to be the same theme

  • as you, there are some techniques that are just working for their blogs.

  • So, which activities are there that helped you the most reaching a bigger audience?

  • Writing consistently, trying to write good messages and not being afraid to share controversial

  • opinion. You don't want to push the controversy too much because that will get annoying. But

  • I do you tell people, when I have strong opinion, I would say this is really dumb, if I think

  • something is really dumb. I have gotten a huge amount of my traffic. My first biggest

  • source of traffic is Facebook because I encourage people to share my post.

  • Nearly all my traffic come from just so many things, oh this article is good, and they shared on

  • their Facebook. It is most of my traffic. My second biggest source of traffic is ''stumble upon''.

  • And this is a tool that you use to discover interesting websites on the Internet.

  • So most people who found my blog on

  • the life lessons post, they came from stumble upon. And my TEDx talk, the two of them, what

  • they did was they had a great effect on credibility because up until then, a lot of people would

  • see me just as a blogger. But when you have the TEDx brand, you are associated with them

  • and people can see you on talk, on the stage, giving a powerful presentation, and present

  • professionally. It is good for your credibility. And a lot of, that is how to get me into more

  • newspapers.

  • Okay. Are they also, from time to time, you visit conferences and events where bloggers

  • come together? Did it help for you? I mean to think it might be helpful to all the bloggers

  • that are not as big as you are now.

  • Absolutely because the greatest things that you can do can come from collaboration, that

  • might most of you, the video when YouTube, is the ''Skype me Maybe'' music video

  • because that is also collaboration. It wasn't me being amazing. It was me giving a chance

  • for other bloggers to be amazing, forother YouTubers or polyglots. So what happens is when you

  • work with other bloggers, you can guess post on their blog, and have them guest post on

  • yours. So I welcome did post on my blog because that because if that is really interesting

  • article, that would get me more traffic. But it is also a chance to have this person

  • says, check out my blog, and they get to a link so my readers can check them out. And

  • it is a great YouTube exchange. But I do come to a lot of these conferences to network and

  • to understand how they think and how they work together and to make new friends.

  • And to make new friends.

  • Exactly.

  • And now you have so many followers that follow your blog. Do you get recognized on the street

  • sometimes?

  • I do get recognized. Here in Valencia, my parents visited me for a weekend. And I was

  • sitting in a café somewhere and I just wanted a photo of me and my parents and my girlfriend.

  • And I just grabbed a random guy and I said, sorry could you take our photo?

  • And he said, Benny Lewis.

  • And he said, sure I can Benny.

  • [Laughter]

  • I am like, I was surprised. And I was like, how did you find an article in my website?

  • And he said the article where you wrote that you don't like Americans. I was like no!