3 years ago, architect Eric Reinholdt started his residential architecture firm on a remote island off the coast of Maine. He faced the challenge of building a successful architecture firm, and winning the kind of projects he wants to work on while also living in a remote location.
Go here to watch the first half of our interview on How To Make Passive Income as an Architect
Inspired by people like Pat Flynn and Tim Ferriss' book, the 4-hour Work Week, Eric knew that he wanted to build a business that wasn't 100% reliant on the number of hours he worked in a day.
Today, you get an in-depth look at how he's built a practice that combines passive income, products, and service offerings.
Specifically, you'll discover how he uses YouTube video marketing to grow both his architecture firm and his passive income streams.
- The truth about earning passive income as an architect
- How to market your architecture firm using low-cost video tools
- A little-known trick to getting your content ranked on Google
Resources for today’s show:
Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:
Eric Reinholdt: People can remove themselves from trading time for dollars, that concept was life changing for me. You know, that certainly feeds into all the frameworks that I've developed for my own business, looking for ways to use your time for it's highest and best use. That's the only finite asset that we have.
Enoch Sears: Business of Architecture episode 176. Hello, I'm Enoch Sears, and this is the podcast for architects. Where you'll discover tips, strategies, and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I'd like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture firm income, and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free 4 part architecture firm profit map. As a podcast listener you can get instant access by going to FreeArchitectGift.com. Today is the second part of my interview with architect Eric Reinholdt. 3 years ago Eric set on a path to build a firm, not only built on service income, but also product and passive income. He was wondering, “How can I decouple my income from the number of hours that I have available to work in a day?” Well he's made amazing progress towards that goal, and today you'll discover that, and also Eric's simple formula for getting clients off his YouTube channel, and much more. With that, let's get into today's show.
Eric Reinholdt, welcome back to Business of Architecture.
Eric Reinholdt: Thanks Enoch, glad to be here.
Enoch Sears: Now in our last episode, you know, probably had a lot of architects were inspired, their minds were spinning, opened up a whole new world to them. Hopefully they reached out, they've gotten both of your books and read those. Fantastic information, so thank you for putting that stuff out there.
Eric Reinholdt: Oh yeah, you're welcome. Thanks for sharing it with everybody.
Enoch Sears: Now for people who are just jumping into this episode Eric, could you give us a quick refresher on who you are in terms of your firm, your office, how long you've been doing this? Just a short background.
Eric Reinholdt: Sure, yeah. I'm an architect who practices in a sort of remote part of the US in Maine. I live on an island, and it's where Acadia National Park is. There's actually a sort of wealthy vacationing public, and the Rockefeller family has sort of donated a lot of the land for Acadia National Park. I practice here on the island. My firm is Thirty By Forty Design Workshop. I started it in 2013 after working for a pretty well known firm in the local area doing high end residential work. It was an award winning firm that I went to work for. The recession sort of took it's toll there, and I took an opportunity as they were sort of doing pay cuts to lay the foundations for my business. I opened that in July of 2013, so I'm into my third year here. I do high end residential work, custom residential work, but I also have a product side to my business. I'm from ThirtyByForty.com, my website, I host a whole number of products and services for people to take advantage of. That's been an important part of my business surviving here in a pretty remote part of the world.
Enoch Sears: Well and I know you and I are both inspires by Pat Flynn, right?
Eric Reinholdt: Ah yes, yes, absolutely.
Enoch Sears: Pan Flynn is an early guest on my podcast. He was also an intern, he was let go during the recession. He actually completely left the field of architecture, and moved into the online income space now. He runs SmartPassiveIncome.com making hundreds of thousands of dollars a month with himself and just a few couple of virtual team members.
Eric Reinholdt: Absolutely. I used to listen to Smart Passive Income on my commute. I had an hour commute to the previous employer that I had and I listened to Pat along with your podcast obviously, and Mark's podcast, Entre-Architect, and a number of other business podcasts. Really Pat Flynn was an inspirational figure, and I talk about that in my book, the volume 2 of my Architect and Entrepreneur book. He makes a lot of his revenue actually off of affiliate sales, particularly Blue Host. I think he's 60 or $70,000 a month with that relationship alone. Certainly an inspirational figure for me and the business that I've setup.
Enoch Sears: I haven't seen, I mean, you're the only architect I know. There's a lot that appeals to a lot of us, right? You're actually the only architect I know who has … there may be others out there, who's actually pursued with seriousness, and with intent the ideas behind what Pat Flynn is doing in terms of establishing some passive income in the business. That's fantastic, congratulations.
Eric Reinholdt: Yeah, thanks Enoch. I've found some real legs in some of the strategies that he was employing, and because not a lot of architects are doing it, I think there's lots of room here for architects to jump into this space. There's actually some pretty easy ways to dip their toes into it without a lot of effort. It is not totally passive I will say. Passive income is somewhat of a misnomer, and I … [crosstalk 00:05:17]
Enoch Sears: Takes a lot of work for that passive income.
Eric Reinholdt: It does, yes, it does. You know, once you establish the products that make it possible, it's great getting those checks in the mail, or those deposits, the direct deposits, right? Into the business account. It's fun to see that happen.
Enoch Sears: Yeah, you know it's up front investment, right? It's you work hard … as Pat says, “I work hard now to try to reap the benefits later.”
Eric Reinholdt: Absolutely, yeah. There are other architects doing this. I have to say there's a number of case studies in the book that I point out, and friends of mine that are experimenting with different aspects of this. Actually some real success stories.
Enoch Sears: Mm-hmm (affirmative), that's good to hear. Now, you talk about, just a little while ago you were talking about some successes, and getting started, dipping their toes in the water with some of these principles. Talk to me more about that. What are some of those successes?
Eric Reinholdt: Yeah, well I would say the successes for my business, and something that I think, you know, architects sort of have a responsibility to get into are … you know, like YouTube. YouTube's been a really huge thing for my business, and maybe surprising for people. I think a lot of people think about, you know, architects worry about, “Well how am I going to market the firm?” Especially new business owners. That's a huge hurdle. Content marketing comes up, and you're obviously familiar with content marketing Enoch. For the people who aren't, content marketing is sort of writing, creating content for people to solve problems. You're basically answering people's questions, so creating content around the questions that people have. For a long time people like Pat Flynn advocated this, blog posts, online content marketing was happening in the form of blog posts. Blog posts take awhile to write, and craft, and you know, I did this when I first opened the business. I was writing for How's.com. I would write, effectively I would be doing content marketing for them and myself, where writing big blog posts.
Blog posts, there are so many blog posts out there, there's so much information that Google is cataloging that it's really hard to get ranked for the topics in those blog posts now because there's just so much information out there. What happens is for a small business, let's say you're an architect just starting your firm. You can blog for years and still not rank for the keywords that you may want to rank for, you know? Say small passive homes, something like that.
Enoch Sears: We're getting, there's a lot of buzzwords here, I'm afraid some people might not know. Explain just what are keywords and what's ranking for anyone who doesn't know.
Eric Reinholdt: Oh, sorry, sure. Keywords, when you type something into Google and you are trying to find something. I'm an architect doing simple modern residential architecture in Maine, and I want to rank for those keywords, or I want to rank for my business name keyword, I basically want to show up at the top of search results. Google takes all of the words that people search for, and they have a stratification. They say, “Okay, someone who types in Thirty By Forty Design Workshop into Google, we want to serve them the best possible result. We want to get them the result they're looking for.” When you are trying to rank for certain keywords, you want to show up at the top of the search list. You know, if you're using Google yourself and you're searching for a certain topic, or answers on a certain topic, you're not going to go to page 2, or 3, or 4. You're going to go to page 1, you're going to click the top result because Google has delivered good information to you that way before.
As a business owner, trying to rank for these keywords is important. If you're selling plan sets, a certain kind of plan set, or you're selling a certain kind of architecture service, you want to be as close to page 1 as you possibly can be. To do that using blog posts, to show up on page 1 of Google using blog posts is really difficult. I was finding it was more and more difficult. I wasn't showing up for some of the things that I wanted to. I hopped over to YouTube, and started experimenting with YouTube. That is a way to show up on page 1 of Google. If no one else is making videos on your keyword, you're going to show up on page 1 of Google and you're actually going to be right at the top of the search results. Google owns YouTube, and obviously they're promoting video in search results. I found YouTube to be a real good strategy for my business. It's definitely an under utilized strategy for a lot of architects. There's very few architects that are using it.
You can record a YouTube video using the camera that's just on your laptop. I mean you can record it using your phone, that's how my early videos were recorded. I just recorded them on my iPhone pointed at me, and I started doing product reviews for different things that I was researching for the business. That's been a really great strategy. In volume 2 of the book I talk about a framework for actually taking YouTube, and making it pay dividends for your business. We could get into that if you'd like.
Enoch Sears: Yeah, give us a little overview of how that works.
Eric Reinholdt: As I said, now trying to rank for these certain keywords, that I want my business to show up when people are searching in certain terms. I'm thinking strategically about what videos I want to be making, what I want to show up. I think there's, the overview is that you want to have a certain strategy that you're plugging into. Every good architect has a plan, they have a program, setup the program first. Then from that you're going to start making, you know, you start making your videos. The videos will appear in search results. There's a couple of things that you can do right off the bat. When you upload a video to YouTube, you can choose to monetize it with ads. You know, Business of Architecture has a YouTube channel. I don't know actually, I don't actually think you monetize it with ads necessarily. I do, and so I have some ad revenue that's coming in from every view.
Then there are also affiliate links that I put into the videos. You want to learn more about this product. Say I'm sketching a floor plan. Some of my early videos I was sketching out some designs that I was working on. I positioned my iPhone over my drafting table, and I was just sketching. Then I said, I had a little link in there that says, “You want to learn more about the tools that I'm using to sketch this?” The tracing paper, or the pens, or the markers that I'm using, I just had a little link to my web page, and then my web page forwards it onto Amazon where I have an affiliate link. If someone's interested in buying those things, it takes them right to the spot where they can pickup the exact pen that I'm using. That's a secondary way to monetize the video, I have some affiliate income that comes in from there.
Really the important 1 for architects is, if you're making a video on a certain topic, you want to bring that person from the spoke that you don't own. YouTube is a platform that I don't own, I want to direct people who are viewing things on YouTube to my website. I'm treating my own website, my business website as the hub, and I'm treating YouTube as a spoke on the wheel. I'm directing people from YouTube to my website, and once I get … I'm doing that with links that are embedded in the video, “Want to learn more? Want to buy this plan set?” Whatever it might be. Once they get on my website then they're converted onto my email list. An email list is just a way that I can use to talk to potential clients, “Tell me what project you're contemplating. What are you working on? Tell me about yourself.” I use that as a way to triage people who may be a good fit for the business.
That feeds back into this brand revenue strategy that we talked about before. Once I start talking to the clients, if they're a target client of mine, they want to design a custom home here on the island, perfect, let's talk. We establish the relationship there. If they're not a target client of mine, they're looking for something that's a little different than I can offer my custom service, then I direct them to other products. Those other products can be other sort of digital products like plan sets, or books, a whole range of other things. That's how you take a sort of platform that you don't own, take a viewer from a platform that you don't own and add them to a platform that you do own, and control, and then build a relationship with them.
That's been really successful for me. I have 2 clients right now that found me on YouTube. I think people are surprised by that sometimes, but it really works very well.
Enoch Sears: What was your early work flow? When you first started doing YouTube videos, what was the video work flow like? You gave us a little picture of it, but just from start to finish how did that go?
Eric Reinholdt: Sure, I would setup everything that I needed. Let's say I'm sketching this sort of … I think one of my early videos was this sort of barn studio that I did for somebody. I just took the plan, and I started talking about sort of how are things laid out. I had all the materials out on my desk, I had a guitar stand. We have a family full of musicians, and I have these sort of guitar stands. I took the guitar stand and propped it against the wall, and I put my phone on top of the guitar stand so it could look down on top of my desk. It was no fancy equipment involved. Put my iPhone on it, I had a little microphone in the iPhone so the sound quality would be as good as it could be for that.
Enoch Sears: Yep.
Eric Reinholdt: I had the whole thing scripted out. I had a script off camera, and I would look at the script and reference, “Okay, this is the outline that I'm going to follow.” I push record on the phone, I'd start sketching, I'd follow the script. I'd press stop on it, I'd bring it into iMovie, I'd process it. I just put a little bumper on the beginning of it, like a little fade in text, and a little fade out logo at the end. I hit share on YouTube, and that was it. You know, looking back at those early videos, they're pretty terrible actually. It definitely fits into this sort of lean startup methodology that I follow, which is try something, see if it works. You know, if there's some success there, then double down on it and pivot, make it a little bit better.
Over time what I found was I was earning some advertising revenue, and people were contacting me. They were asking me questions, and they were giving me more ideas. Now all of a sudden I'm talking to a market that's saying, “Yeah I'm really interested in this thing that you're doing, tell me more about X. Tell me more about Y. How could I do this, or how could I do that?” Not only was I developing new topics for the YouTube channel, but I was also figuring out what the market really wants. There's a market of people out there who are interested in this certain group of things, now I can make more thins like that, that fits that market need. Then eventually I can go ahead and make some products that address some of those needs. I really used it as a way to start talking to a specific market.
The technology involved, pretty much everyone has a cellphone nowadays. If you own a Mac, you probably have access to iMovie. I'm sure there are other PC related sort of movie things. Even, I know the RevIt Kid, Jeff Pinheiro. He has developed a sort of set of training videos that he marketed pretty successfully. I talk about this in the book, “BIM After Dark.” He basically recorded screen casts of, “Here's how you do this in RevIt.” He's teaching people how to use RevIt. He's done amazingly well for himself. He took that just sort of tutorial, that training, and he turned it into a huge passive income stream. He just recorded these training videos, and he's helping people. He's meeting a need in the marketplace, and he's monetizing it. That's essentially, anyone can do that on their screen. You can do a screen flow pretty simply.
Enoch Sears: Fantastic, what is your work flow now for video?
Eric Reinholdt: Yeah, so video, I've definitely tried to up my game because … you know, there's some audio quality issues, and I wanted to stop using … my phone was getting filled with these videos. As you grow, and you learn, obviously you have to upgrade the equipment. I think a lot of people look at it and go, “Oh geez, I have to buy like a $2,000 DSLR to start recording videos.” I'm proof that you definitely don't want to start there. You should just use what you have on hand, whether it's the camera that's in your laptop, or if it's the phone that's in your pocket, you should just use that.
Over time I wanted, I've been more interested in film making, and more interested in producing higher quality videos. Architecture is an experiential thing. It's not something that … sure, we always represent it with photos, but video offers such a different dimension, the experience of space. I really wanted to take not only what I was doing with YouTube and the sort of monetizing of products and make it better, but I also want to explore film making, and how I could represent the architecture that I'm making better. You know, if you own a business you can expense all this stuff. I had some extra income from the product sales, so I decided to up my game and by a DSLR. I've recorded a couple of YouTube videos on all the equipment that I bought. I really dive into all of the products, and my work flow there. If people are interested in that you can find that on my channel, my YouTube channel. You can see exactly all the equipment that I use.
Basically I record using a DSLR, I got some nice lenses for not a lot of money. The video quality is much better, I got a nice microphone so I'm able to have better audio quality. I upgraded to Final Cut Pro 10, which is just a better, it's a little higher quality work flow so I can start color grading. As I step into making films for the business, the architecture that I'm making, that will help make that quality sort of equal to the quality of the architecture. I think it's important to upgrade when you have the funds, definitely upgrade. That's kind of what I've done.
Enoch Sears: Great. Earlier you mentioned, I want to ask you Eric, you mentioned … well you didn't mention the book but you talked about the lean startup methodology. Great book, “Lean Startup,” by Eric Reese. A lot of the concepts you're talking about, now I know you've read, “Rework,” in terms of monetizing the products in your business.
Eric Reinholdt: Sure.
Enoch Sears: What are some other books like that, that you just found to be instrumental, and enlightening along your journey that you can recommend?
Eric Reinholdt: Sure. I mean I would say the fundamental book, the thing that changed my life was reading the, “4 Hour Work Week.” I know a lot of people sort of pan that. It was written awhile ago, more than 10 years ago probably. Some of the concepts there are outdated a little bit, but the idea that people can remove themselves from trading time for dollars, that concept was life changing for me. That certainly feeds into all the frameworks that I've developed for my own business, looking for ways to use your time for it's highest and best use. I mean that's the only finite asset that we have. We have a fixed amount of it, and we actually don't know how much of it we have. To use time wisely is really, it's been a life changing way of looking at not just my business, but also my life. That would be the book above all others that I would recommend to people, “4 Hour Work Week,” by Tim Ferris. He's got an excellent podcast, obviously listeners of this podcast would appreciate that. It's got a whole range of excellent guests.
Also, you know, just even branching out from reading books. This masterclass that I'm taking, MasterClass.com. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but masters of any genre sort of give these. Film, acting, musicians, they give these sort of master classes on how like I got here. Those are really excellent things to watch. Really just remove yourself from the world of architecture. I wrote a couple of business books on architecture, so I'm totally an advocate for reading books about the business of architecture, but anything we can do to sort of cross pollinate, and get outside of our heads a little bit I think is a good thing. This master class I'm taking from Werner Herzog on film making has been, it's been great. It's really changed how I look at my own practice, and moving through space, and thinking about things. Yeah, those would be a couple of recommendations.
Enoch Sears: That's fantastic Eric. You know, you really represent this renaissance spirit that I try to cultivate, that I'm a big fan of, that we're all about here on Business of Architecture. It's absolutely fabulous to have you on here because I think you are 1 of these people who represents what my mission is, and where I'm going, and the things that are possible for architects. Dude, fantastic, thanks for coming on the show today. Of course everyone, you better go get Eric's book. If you listen to these 2 podcasts and you don't have both of his books, I just don't know what's wrong with you. Maybe you want to get the audio book. I know you have an audio book offer there for our listeners, why don't you tell us about that Eric?
Eric Reinholdt: I do, yeah. I just released volume 1 of, “Architect and Entrepreneur,” on audible. I'd like to give away some copies to listeners. I have 5 available, so if people can email me and let me know they're interested, I'll gift you a copy of the audio book. You know, just as a way to share with people who clearly like listening to audio, happy to share those with people who get in touch with me. Yeah, let me know. I'm so appreciative for what you do Enoch, and constantly sort of challenging what the practice of architecture can look like. I think there's so many different ways to practice architecture. The internet has just opened up all these doors, and I think the possibilities are just endless. I'm really excited about it. I don't thing that necessarily the way I've built my business is for everyone, but you know, I think this ethos of experimentation, and relentless executing and pivoting, people should just take that to heart, and go out there and make something.
Enoch Sears: Fantastic, Eric thanks for joining is today. Eric Reinholdt is the owner principle of Thirty By Forty, that's spelled out. Go to ThirtyByForty.com. The author of 2 books, and it has the plus sign in there. How do you actually say, could you tell me again how you say the name of the book? Is it and, or is that plus?
Eric Reinholdt: It's and, yes. No, I like the graphic of the plus, that's all, it's and.
Enoch Sears: So do I, great. Yeah, Eric's 2 books are, number 1 is, “Architect plus Entrepreneur volume 1,” which is as he mentioned about starting a firm and creating it's strong brand identity, fabulous book. Then number 2 is, “Architect and Entrepreneur volume 2, a how to guide for innovating practice.”
Eric Reinholdt: Thanks Enoch, thanks for having me. Good talking to you.
Enoch Sears: Thanks, you to Eric. That is a wrap, thank you for listening today. If you're looking for more time freedom impact and income as an architect, get instant access to my free 4 part architect profit map by visiting FreeArchitectGift.com. The sponsor for today's show is Arch Reach, the client relationship management tool built specifically for architects. If you want to systematize your marketing and business development arch, reach, they'll help you do it. Visit ArchReach.com to learn more.
The views expressed on this show by my guests do not represent those of the host and I make no representation, promise, guarantee, pledge, warranty, contract, bond, or commitment, except to help you conquer the world.