Building digital assets instead of a personal brand with Cora Harrison

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Cora Harrison is a prolific content creator and jack of all trades. She runs multiple blogs and Youtube channels covering topics ranging from travel to personal finance.

In this conversation, we chat with Cora about building digital assets, understanding your audience, blogging, the power of outsourcing, and much more. Enjoy!

Follow Cora:

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Episode Transcript

00:00 Cora: This has become more of a business rather than a hobby or even just a personal brand.

00:13 Akta: Cora Harrison is a serial content creator and a jack of all trades. She has multiple YouTube channels, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, and newsletters, but not all under one umbrella name. Hey everyone, I'm Akta and in today's episode of creators on air, we get to hear Cora's unique approach to content creation and how she's building digital assets to build her business.

00:34 Cora: I guess I'm most known on YouTube for cryptocurrency content. That's not how it started. I used to do a variety of personal finance content. I also do travel content with my wife and we've just started a couple of other channels together. Some of them are with us in them. And then something we're trying sort of this year is outsourcing a lot of the content.

So they're more faceless channels, the same goes for the website. So we have websites in a variety of different niches: cryptocurrency, we have some in travel, we have some in like camping and parenting, and we are looking to start four new websites this year. One in every quarter of the year. So yeah, a lot going on.

01:16 Akta: Oh my God. That sounds crazy. I dunno how you're keeping up with all of that, but I find it really interesting cause lots of people, kind of make one personal brand and then have different businesses within that one personal brand. Whereas you are going on a completely different approach where you're basically setting up loads of different digital assets.

Was that part of your strategy? Like what made you decide to do that?

01:39 Cora: No, to understand it, I think you've got to kind of go back in time. I'll try and be brief as to how I got into this and then how I kind of got into the whole digital asset side of things, cause I think that's probably the best way of describing it, they are digital assets. I used to own a Lego business. I used to sell Lego parts and aside from that. Yeah. Yeah. I used to have like millions of parts that I would sell to model makers around the world. And I got really involved and this was like my final year of university, really involved in the FIRE community, financial independence, retire early.

I was really fascinated by it. And I was reading all these blogs and these websites by like Mr. Money Mustache and 1,500 days. And I was like, do you know, I've got some hints and tips on how to save money. I'll start a blog. It was not with the intention of making money. Despite having a degree in computing and business, I did not know you could make money from a website. So I just made this like a traditional blog, like a diary. This is how I saved money this week. And about a year later, I started finding out that, yeah, you could make money off this. And I started doing really well. I started a YouTube channel, started making money off the blog. By really well, I mean like a hundred pounds a month, but at the time I was. Wow. I can earn money online. This is fantastic. It led me and my wife to go out to Texas and we went to a financial bloggers conference called FinCon. Now at the time we was writing travel content on the personal finance website, and I really kind of didn't like it.

And this was my first big blogger conference. And so I was asking a lot of questions and I decided there, and then in Texas, We're gonna start a travel website. So we've got this per-, I've got this personal finance website. I've got this, then we're gonna start this travel website together. Gonna keep the two separate.

There were both personal brands. Me and my wife still run the travel blog. And then we ha- I had the finance blog. So that's the start of two websites, which happens for most bloggers. I think it's very rare to find a blogger who's really stuck to one without thinking about another, a lot of us joke in the community, we have like 500 domains just on standby. So then I guess fast forward to maybe a year later, everything I had learned in the three years of personal finance blogging was condensed into say a three months worth of writing on, on the travel blog and the travel blog just blew up. It did absolutely fantastic, far better than me and my wife could have ever anticipated.

And so the personal finance blog went to the wayside. And then shortly before, like the pandemic I was debating selling the website, this finance website that I'd had by this point for seven years. I just wasn't as passionate about anymore. So, yeah, I sold that online or I tried to, the reason I struggled to sell that website was because it was so much of me involved in it.

It was so much my personal brand, people didn't like having photos of me on the blog. It needed to be more faceless so eventually I, I took those down and reworded it and kind of made it, I guess, faceless, if you will, anybody could have had that content. Anybody could have had that blog. And I did manage to. Then of course, six months later, the pandemic hit and the travel website did not do so well. We went from earning say four figures, like mid four figure range every single month. So I remember one month it was like March 2020. I think we made $5 in the whole month. And I just thought, oh no, what we're doing.

So with the money that I had from selling the finance blog, we went on to start other websites. And we started during the pandemic. We had nothing else to do. We couldn't travel anywhere. It felt almost pointless right on the travel blog. We had no idea when the world was gonna open again. So we decided to travel the websites and now we own four or five.

Some of which are personal brands and some of which are faceless so we could sell them very easily if we wanted to. And we did the same with YouTube. So then 2021, I really started pushing YouTube. Luckily, when I sold the, the finance blog, I didn't sell the YouTube channel that went with it. That had about 14,000 subscribers.

So then I used that channel and really went from there. Basically.

05:43 Akta: That's so interesting. And I'm, I'm really intrigued by the fact that you have both personal brands and like faceless. Is there a difference in how they grow and how they perform?

05:55 Cora: Yeah, I think the personal ones, I take a lot more of an interest in, I, they are associated to me and sometimes to me, my wife, I want to make sure that they are the best they can be.

They are a reflection of us and our work, the faceless ones are not so much a reflection of us and our work. And therefore we outsource 99.9% of the content. And we're lucky to be in a position where we can do that and employ other people to help us write the content and get a return on investment that keeps them employed then for future articles.

06:24 Akta: So you're doing faceless YouTube videos as well. How does that work?

06:28 Cora: Yeah, so we will come up with the concept. We'll get a script together, we'll get a script writer. When I started, actually I wrote the script and then kind of sent it to a script writer or I did the reading and then people just put over it, an editor we've hired, just puts over it B roll footage that you can get online either for free or from a subscription like ShutterStock or places like that.

06:48 Akta: Amazing. And so are most of your channels either to do with travel or finance? Is it like always one of those two?

06:54 Cora: No, no. They're the two biggest ones.

The faceless is relatively new. I try and only take on one big project a year. And this year is the big project is making these faceless YouTube channels. So it's relatively early days is to find out what works. What we actually are trying to do is make sure that each blog also has an associated YouTube channel with it.

And in most cases that YouTube cha- if that blog is faceless, the YouTube channel will also be faceless. And then they are two assets together that could be sold, you know, together, if we wanted to, or maybe even separately, because in the YouTube videos, we won't mention anything about the blog.

We'll just talk about the project, but we have all the data from the blog so I can go on and I can see, Hey 10 best camping tips is an article that's doing really well for us on our website. We should make a YouTube video about that because it's got the search. We've already got the research. We've already got the demonstrations that, you know, that topic works.

So it is almost market research ready, done for you.

07:47 Akta: And so, because you've got all of these different assets, which basically have their own niche. Yeah. I'm guessing that you're somebody who thinks that niche is really important for growing online. Is that fair to say?

07:57 Cora: I guess niche is somewhat important. Maybe not as important as understanding your audience. I think if you can understand your audience and what they want, then that's more important than niche. I think. Personally, I like everything in its own separate bucket. Interestingly enough, when I went to this finance conference and I was saying, look, I've got these, I've got these websites.

And I I've got this website and I want to put travel content on this finance website. A lot of them said, go for it. And, and I didn't, I chose to separate the two and I'm really, really glad I did. In hindsight, I'd have done far better in the pandemic if I'd kept them both together, cause I'd have had two niches in one area, but I didn't like the idea of somebody coming to a travel website.

And me also talking about how I plan to retire early and things like that. So I think as long as you understand it, from an audience perspective, that's probably the most essential.

08:44 Akta: Mm. So what advice would you give to someone who is say multi-passionate, who's got lots of interest, like you seem to on how to go about it?

Like, do you think it's a better route to have kind of separate buckets? Or do you think that there is a way to combine it on a single platform? Cause I know I struggle with this on YouTube. I don't have a niche at all.

09:03 Cora: Yeah, it is hard. I think you do a really good job of it. I think if you can go not too deep in one particular area and then just do surface level on maybe three or four different areas.

That's fine. The problem with that is you're never gonna get that far. You're just gonna be on a surface level where people have got to love you for you. If that's the case, they've got to come for your content, no matter what you do in, in all honesty, nobody comes for me to my content. They come for the content itself.

Anybody could deliver that content. It wouldn't matter who it is. It it's about the content I am providing. Whereas for you, I think obviously it's a really good example. I think people come for you. They come for your aesthetic. They come for your vibe. For me, they come for the information that I am providing and anybody could provide.

09:56 Akta: And I guess that's quite strategic. If you're thinking about long term, you could sell those platforms as well. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And is that part of your business strategy? Is that what you think about all of your platforms? Like what is their, what's the asset worth in the long term? Like, is that part of the way that you think

10:12 Cora: It's definitely there as an option to sell them?

It's a nice option to have it's something I never plan to do with my first website, but as humans we grow, we evolve and what interests us, you know, 10 years ago, it might not interest us now. And what interest us in 10 years might not be the things that interest us now. So it's definitely nice to have the option.

I also think it is significantly harder to manage multiple websites and multiple digital assets compared to having one single asset. Therefore, if I do get to a point whereby look, I don't want to deal with, you know, seven or eight different, different assets than I do have the option to sell them rather than, you know, not having the option.

So yeah.

10:52 Akta: And does that limit you in terms of how much you can do with each asset? So for example, if we take just a normal YouTuber, who's got that one YouTube channel and like put that one vertical, but then they can build multiple horizontals within that. Like, I don't know, start online courses, start an online community.

They can do different things within that one asset because you're focusing on so many different assets. Do you feel like you can only do so much for each one? Like how are you, how do you manage that?

11:19 Cora: We focus on, on one thing on each asset, I guess some, some are more passive than others. Like the business wants the faceless channels and the faceless blogs and 99% hands off.

Whereas in my YouTube channel, it requires me. Me to be in front of a camera, me to film the content and therefore, whatever I can outsource where there's a positive ROI in that I will. So I have an editor who helps me edit and things like that, but otherwise, suddenly I still seem to do everything in every single vertical.

So I have a community, a paid community for the YouTube channel. I did, I, I guess the only thing maybe I've I've stray away from is the newsletter and Instagram and Twi- like, I don't do much on social media. And I don't maybe other than YouTube, a class, YouTube is slightly different. I class it more of like the search engine that it is. Because then I don't have to depend on me putting out content. The reason I love blogging so much is because I can write, you know, a thousand words go on holiday for six weeks and nobody knows that I've not uploaded a blog post really. People come and they view blog posts from three years ago, which is very, very hard to do on YouTube. People on YouTube come for the content you are making today.

And you have to be in front of a camera every single week or every other week or once a month. Whereas with a blog post, nobody knows if you've not put, nobody knew with my finance website that I'd not posted for two years. Nobody cared. They came for old content that they'd found through Google search, and not from me personally, so.

12:50 Akta: Which platform or which asset is actually bringing you in the most revenue or has been the most consistent for you financially?

12:56 Cora: Aside from the pandemic. Definitely the travel website.

12:59 Akta: Oh, really? More so than the YouTube channel?

13:02 Cora: Yeah. We were really lucky that we worked very hard during the pandemic, not just on the other blogs, but in the end we did decide, you know, this is a great time for us to update our old content and to write extensive content on, on that.

And so, yeah, I mean it, the travel blog does not get the love it deserves. I spend far more time on YouTube and YouTube's probably the second But it does require, if you like split my time or return on investment of my time versus money. The travel blog outweighs the YouTube by miles which is crazy.

13:31 Akta: And is that mostly through sponsored posts?

13:34 Cora: No, that is through ad revenue. So we work with an ad advertiser and the advertiser puts ads on our website and a number of other websites we have. And yeah, when you come to our website to find out information, you see adverts on our website and we get a commission, whether you click on those adverts or not.

So yeah, that's really good. And then after that is probably like affiliates. We don't actually do a lot of sponsored content on the blogs.

13:57 Akta: Incredible. So how happy are you to be transparent with us on like kind of the number of views that you're getting on blog posts and how that translates to AdSense revenue?

14:07 Cora: So on the travel blog, we roughly get about 150,000 pages every single month. 75% of that is from the United States. Despite the fact I am here in the UK which is unintentional. Okay. Yeah. And that's where a lot of the significant ad revenue comes from. Obviously the US has the highest ad revenue, RPM, CPM whichever one you want to go on that you can pretty much get Travel is obviously a high CPM category as is crypto currency so I am in both high CPM and RPM categories.

So yeah, about 140,000 page views every single month. And it is, we are breaking records month on month since the start of this year. I dunno about you, but me personally, like during the pandemic, we were like, when this ends, we are gonna go on the best holiday of our lives. We are gonna go on every holiday.

Every single week, we are gonna do all the things we've put off and said, we'll do later. And I think, I, I think like 50%, maybe more of people are thinking the same thing wherever they can financially, or maybe where they can't financially, because she was like, no matter what the cost, you know, if we get locked down again, if we have to go back in doors, we're lucky to be here.

So I think that's a lot of where the traffic is coming from in the sense of it growing month on month. And it's, it's blowing my mind. If, if I could tell myself like two years ago that we would be doing this well, I wouldn't believe myself.

15:29 Akta: So are you doing better than you were pre pandemic?

15:32 Cora: My, that being like five times better, a hundred times better than pandemic, but and I mean, pre pandemic, that one blog and a little bit of the personal finance blog, I mean maybe 50 50, that was our income. As a couple, we didn't work. That was our income. And maybe at the time that was about, I don't know, $3,000 a month before tax. So yeah, then after pandemic, it's six figures in dollars.

We just had our best ever month.

15:59 Akta: Congrats.

16:00 Cora: Thank you. We are so lucky cause we had a little boy late last year. He was in hospital for like three weeks this year, back in February, that was when we had our best ever month. We were making low four figures per day. Low four figures per day while he was in hospital.

And we didn't have to think about, you know, posting a, a blog post, or it was nice to not even think about posting a YouTube video or anything like that. And I think that's why I love blogging so much. Maybe even more than YouTube, I love them both equally. They each have their pros and their cons, but definitely that was like a highlight of, I, I can just step away and we can do what we need to do and that asset can keep making money. So, so lucky,

16:42 Akta: that sounds amazing. I can't believe it. I didn't realize your potential or blogs because blogs, you tend to kind of associate with kind of like, you know,

16:49 Cora: A lower class. You can say it, a lower class.

16:51 Akta: No, not even that it's just a bit out outdated, I guess. I feel like a lot of people tend to think that everything's video everything's short term, you know, like TikTok YouTube. That's where I feel like a lot of people spend their attention. I didn't realize blogs were still so valuable.

17:06 Cora: That's actually how I got into YouTube. I mean, we're talking like 2015 now, 2016. I remember going to a conference and there was like, video is next. You need to do video. And so I started a YouTube channel off the back of that. But yeah, I mean, YouTube. In the next 10 years, does YouTube have the bigger potential or does video content as a whole, no matter what platform it has no matter what platform it's on, have more potential than blog posts, possibly.

17:31 Akta: So how do you stay on top of all these different platforms? All of these different assets and the trends for each of them as well?

17:39 Cora: I cut myself a lot of slack that I can't respond to trends as much as maybe I'd like to, if I had one asset then, especially the cryptocurrency is so like, you know, if you're an hour behind, things can have changed dramatically.

So I cut myself a lot of slack when it comes to keeping on top of trends. And then I, I have a lot of help. I really focused late last year on creating SRP standard operating procedures and like, where can I possibly outsource, where can I get help? And other than that, like Notion and just being organized and having an operating system where everything is managed and yeah, outsourcing as much as possible

18:16 Akta: And how big is your team at the moment?

18:19 Cora: So we deal with a company who does all our writers. We could hire all our writers individually. We have gone down that road before, but it's more stress for us personally, because then we have to manage the writers. Whereas if we use a company, although it's more money, they then deal with all the writers.

So I deal with one comp, one to three writing companies who have, you know, however many writers under them. And then three assistants who just help with various different tasks and then two video editors. So what's that maybe like five people and then three companies.

18:51 Akta: You've already said that you spend majority of your time on the YouTube channel versus the blog. So what kind of percentage would you say that you spend on each platform or on each asset?

19:03 Cora: I would say the cryptocurrency YouTube channel takes about, on a good week, 12 hours on a crazy week, 30 to 40 hours. Then I would say just like general management of like the team is like five hours a week. The travel blog really varies depending on whether or not we've been on trips and what content we've got to write, et cetera, where I'd say anything from like 10 to 35 hours and then there's, you know, all the websites and stuff. Oh. And then the, we just recently brought back our travel YouTube channel, cause we've been able to travel again.

And that now takes, I don't know, maybe, eight hours a week. And then there's the other couple of new YouTube channels that we're working on. I dunno where I find the time. I see you're shaking your head.

19:49 Akta: Yeah. I'm like, that is a lot of content. I struggle with one YouTube channel. I dunno how you're doing it.

19:55 Cora: I've been able to where possible drop quality over quantity, especially like in the cryptocurrency space. It's completely normal for the quality to be lower and the quantity to be higher. In travel, and in the blogging industry, it's more frequent for the, the quality to be higher and the quantity to be lower and understanding that and understanding whether or not you should post more, or post better, it, it is awfully big like, it really depends on your audience and what they expect and, and your competition as well.

20:26 Akta: Yeah. And do you feel like because you're seeing it from quite a business perspective where you're seeing all of these channels as tools, and you're seeing them as assets that you are using versus being so wrapped up in a personal brand that you are actually able to separate yourself a bit more from what you do. Because I know that I kind of struggle sometimes with, with that.

20:47 Cora: Yeah. And I think maybe not taking things so personally, we've all been there where somebody says a bad thing about us on social media. And I think, I mean, that's why I stepped away from YouTube originally. I was like, oh, I don't want people to say bad things about me.

I'll just hide behind a website. And, and it doesn't feel as personal. But no, I think I've really been able to in the past two or three years, this has become more of a business rather than yeah. Like a hobby or even just a, a personal brand, really separate myself from the business, have an overview of different things and also make better decisions based on the trends in different niches.

I'm so lucky that I, I said that my experience in the finance website originally is what allowed me to be so successful in just like three to six months with the travel website. And I believe that all my assets are successful because, I'm able to get information and data and try things on different websites and different and different YouTube channels and different assets moving forward. I'm really able to be more agile and, and see the full picture.

21:46 Akta: Amazing. I love that. You've given me a whole new perspective on how to approach being a creator and having like a better business mindset. So I'm gonna have a rapid fire now with you. And ask you a few questions that I didn't send over. So just answer as quickly as you can with just, a quick line. That's all. You don't have to overthink it. What's the best thing about being a creator?

22:06 Cora: The flexible working hours, doing what you.

22:09 Akta: What's your favorite tool for creating or productivity?

22:13 Cora: Notion. Definitely.

22:14 Akta: What gives you the most inspiration for your content?

22:17 Cora: Other creators? Seeing what other creators are doing.

22:19 Akta: One thing that's helping you with your creator work life balance.

22:23 Cora: Oh, that's help. Asking for help paid or otherwise.

22:27 Akta: Okay. That's a good one. And one piece of advice that you'd give to other creators

22:31 Cora: Be kind to yourself. I think so many people look at other people and think, why can't I be like them? Why can't I have a successful website? Why can't I have a successful YouTube channel? Why has their newsletter got a hundred thousand people subscribed to it? And honestly, I think more often than not, they don't talk about, or, you don't see the five years, eight years, maybe even more worth of work and research that they've put into it.

And you'd be surprised how many bigger creators that maybe you idolize actually are idolizing other people as well. I think I've been suspect to looking at other people and what they're doing so much, that I've not focused on myself. And while other creators are a massive source of my inspiration, I think you definitely need to be kind in what you're doing to yourself there and, and take a break from looking at other people's content, if you need to and making sure that you're in the right head space, when you do look at other people's content so that it doesn't impact you negatively and is actually helpful in helping you create.

23:31 Akta: Thank you so much, Cora for coming on our podcast. I feel like it's so eye opening because I feel like not many people do what you've done by building different digital assets. So it's such a unique way to approach it. And I think it's gonna inspire a lot of people.

23:44 Cora: All right. Thank you very much.

23:46 Akta: So, did Cora inspire you with her business minded approach? If so, be sure to check her out on Twitter and YouTube. Thanks for listening into our conversation. And if you are a creator, check us out on Twitter at @getpassionfroot stay passionate, and I'll see you in the next one.