JF2274: Real Estate Branding With Jaren Barnes
Jaren is a full-time real estate investor who previously worked with BiggerPockets in 2014 and he helped grow a wholesale company from 8-12 deals per month to 30. He has now grown a small land flipping business over the last 3 years that he runs fully remote.
Jaren Barnes Real Estate Background:
- Full-time real estate investor and is the Senior Creative Director for RETipster.com
- 6 years of investing experience
- In the past, he has worked with Biggerpockets.com, & helped grow a wholesale company from 8 deals per month to 30.
- He has created a land flipping business that he runs 100% remote
- Based in Chicago
- Say hi to him at: www.retipster.com
- Best Ever Book: Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book
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Best Ever Tweet:
“I think grit is the 80/20 of success” – Jaren Barnes
Theo Hicks: Hello Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and today we’ll be speaking with Jaren Barnes. Jaren how are you doing today?
Jaren Barnes: Man, I’m honored. This is a big deal. I really like you and Joe Fairless’s book Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book. I actually say a lot that it was the best course I’ve ever taken on a subject. So I’m a fan.
Theo Hicks: That’s great. We really appreciate that. And thank you for joining us and I’m looking forward to our conversation. So a little bit about Jaren. He’s a full-time real estate investor, as well as the senior creative director for REtipster.com. He has 6 years of investing experience. In the past, he has worked with BiggerPockets and helped a growing wholesale company from 8 deals to 30 deals per month. He also has a land flipping business that he runs 100% remote. He is based in Chicago and the website is REtipster.com. So Jaren do you mind telling us some more about your background and what you’re focused on today?
Jaren Barnes: Yeah. So I got my start in real estate specifically pre-doorknocking, pre-foreclosures in the San Francisco Bay area. I spent half my life in the San Francisco Bay Area and half of my life in a suburb of Atlanta Georgia, so very different places, very eclectic [unintelligible [00:04:23].25] quite a bit. And when I was in the Bay Area, door knocking, I learned a lot. I got a lot of deals, but was connected with some unethical guys that really didn’t have my best interest at heart, and I actually didn’t get paid at all through that whole process.
But I started a blog called realestatecatalyst.org and I did a review on BiggerPockets; this is back in 2014. And at that time, Josh and Brandon over at BiggerPockets were kind of the only two people working at BiggerPockets. And they had a couple of VA’s and programmers and things, but they were looking to grow their team, so I ended up joining forces with them temporarily. It was a temp situation from the beginning, just to help them transition so they can start building the local team there in Denver. So I did a lot of things over there; I learned a lot about real estate. I was the blog editor, the podcast show notes writer, and all kinds of crazy things for them on there.
And then from there, I obviously was exposed to real estate and knew I wanted to pursue that, and ended up moving to Indianapolis of all places, and connected with a guy named Brett Snodgrass, who runs a company called Simple Wholesaling, and I helped him grow. We had a small team around; at first it was 4 guys, and then it grew to about — I think by the time I left we were around 10. But I helped him grow from doing about 8 to 12 deals a month, to doing 25 to 30 deals a month on average.
And they’re a different wholesale operation than most; we didn’t do any assignments, we took everything [unintelligible [00:05:50].21] the title. Then while there, I wanted to use the skills that I had developed as a disposition manager, and knowing wholesaling, in some capacity that wouldn’t create direct competition to my boss, Brett. Because at that time I thought that I was going to be his right-hand man and I was going to be running with him until the hills come home. So I started looking at similar business models that weren’t directly in houses. So that’s where land came up.
We interviewed a couple of land guys on the Simple Wholesaling podcast, because I was a co-host there, and I ended up connecting with Seth Williams. I was in a mastermind group with him for a number of years… And he let me moonlight his course, the Land Masterclass, for free. So I took it and I gave it a really thorough review as a big thank you, and it radically changed my life.
I ended up within my first three deals making $30,000 in one transaction; it was kind of freak deal that doesn’t happen all the time, that’s definitely an outlier [unintelligible [00:06:46].05] But it changed my life radically. So I was kind of doing land after I had left Simple Wholesaling, and it just kind of made sense for me and Seth to merge, because of my background with BiggerPockets, and doing content stuff and podcasting stuff at Simple Wholesaling. There was a lot of overlap between the needs of somebody kind of replicating themselves in a different person [unintelligible [00:07:07].27] REtipster. So I joined the team, about two years ago actually, in July, which is crazy to think. But I have been working my land business and working at REtipster ever since. So that’s where I’m at today.
Theo Hicks: Thanks for sharing that. So out of those two things, what’s kind of your main focus?
Jaren Barnes: Definitely, senior creative director at REtipster. I do content stuff 8+ hours a day, for sure.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. I want to focus on that, but could you just kind of quickly tell me about this land deal. I know you said that it’s kind of not the normal land deal, but it sounded like it was a pretty important part of your journey. So kind of break down what was so unique about it.
Jaren Barnes: I did direct mail, and I got a call for a property in Southern Indiana that was something like 150 acres. And Brett, surprisingly, even though land was not his niche, had a deal in the pipeline that another wholesaler brought him for another a hundred and some acres. If I remember it correctly, it was like 225 acres total… And I did a showing as we were closing to a timber company, and they said. “Hey, we want to do a package deal for that property with Brett, and then your property, all in one”, so we actually did a double closing. And the stars aligned… And Brett still to this day says he has made more money in that one transaction than he ever has in one single transaction. And it was like this weird fluke; there was a really old realtor that wasn’t online at all, and he was probably pushing his 80’s or 90’s, and he was like, “Yeah, I got this client I’ve been trying to sell it for two years. I represent him, and he just wants to move it, so let’s make it happen.” And the spread per acre wasn’t that much. But when you multiply it by 225, it was huge. So it was just really incredible
And I will tell you, land is pretty amazing and a lot of people don’t understand the land business; they’re like “How can you really make crazy money in land?”, but it’s not unheard of to do deals like that. Seth actually showcased a property where he bought a property for $500 and sold it for $25,000. And that’s on our Youtube channel actually, at REtipster.
Theo Hicks: Perfect. So I kind of want to focus on the creative director, just because a lot of people — especially right now, I’m sure a lot of people are focusing on growing their brand online, but they’re not doing as many deals. So before we decide now what you’re specializing in, what’s the main objective as the creative director? Is it just pumping out content, is it driving people to certain actions, is it increasing the website traffic, or is it all those things? What’s the main objective that you’re supposed to accomplish?
Jaren Barnes: My main objective is to be a second origin source of content. So I review courses… I’m literally in a triplex right now that we recently just bought, and I’m house hacking. So I did a huge article about a year and a half ago where I interviewed different ways to house hack, that not a lot of people to talk about… And now that I actually lived it out and I decided what I was going to do, I’m going to update that blog post with my life, and it’ll be like a drone aerial shot of my house, and do a whole thing. I do a lot of video stuff. I do a lot of work on product development. I also am the main contact. Seth doesn’t do any of the coaching at all at REtipsters, so if you apply for our land coaching program, I’m the head coach there. So I work with all of our coaching clients.
Theo Hicks: So you just write content and then someone else is focused on converting people from that content? Or do you do that, too?
Jaren Barnes: I do some of that, but to be honest, something that’s really impressive about REtipster is it’s grown to what it is — I think last time I checked we had somewhere around 150,000 people coming to the website per month… And it grew organically. And we get the majority of our traffic from organic search. Now, I don’t think that in today’s environment you can really start without paid advertising and get there, but Seth started at the right time, and that’s where we’re at today. So, I’m actually being trained by a Facebook guy right now to learn a bunch of stuff about how to start supporting our growth efforts through paid strategies, but we are still very green on that. Most of our traffic just comes from people knowing who we are, and ranking, and re-listing URLs back to our site.
Theo Hicks: So how frequently are you posting content? Is it every week, every two weeks, every month?
Jaren Barnes: It’s a little bit different. So we have probably a content piece that comes out every day, but we have a blog post that comes out — I believe it’s every other week, and then every Tuesday we have a podcast, and we are probably going to switch back potentially to… We’re testing out doing it weekly. For a long time, we’ve done a podcast that came out every other week, and we’re testing the waters… We’re still on the fence as to whether we’re going to stay weekly or not. But that’s coming out on Tuesdays… And then we have a lot of videos that come out randomly… So we could have 3 to 5 videos come out a week, or we might have one video come out on Youtube a week. It just kind of depends. Youtube is more of a support to giving tutorials on our written content, so our main driver is blogging; that’s the cornerstone of who we are.
Theo Hicks: So you’ve said that it starts with a blog, and then from the blog you’ll do daily social media post, as well as creating video content based off of that. But the blog is kind of like the starting point.
Jaren Barnes: Yep. 100%.
Theo Hicks: You said the blog is every week, right? Or every two weeks?
Jaren Barnes: I believe it’s every two weeks, unless something comes up.
Theo Hicks: So you’re doing longer blog posts, I’m assuming then, right? Even the short 600 words, usually how long are they?
Jaren Barnes: Probably on average is about 2,000 words per article, but it can range. Really, the objective is not to hit a certain word count, it’s to thoroughly explain the concept. So a lot of the stuff that we’re working on right now is defining a lot of terms, we have a whole terms directory that we’re flushing out… But if it’s not terms oriented, we really take a subject or a course or something that is extremely helpful, and we break it down to where anybody can understand it. So a lot of our blog posts could be paid content. It’s to that degree that we giveaway value.
Theo Hicks: So maybe walk us through — maybe not the blog post you’re doing on the house hacking, just because I’m sure a lot of people aren’t going to replicate doing something like that and then writing a blog post on it… But maybe give us a recent blog post that you wrote that was long, that was very in-depth, and then explain to us the process for writing that. How does it start? Do I have a topic, and then there is an outline, and then research, and then writing? Tell me about your process.
Jaren Barnes: Yeah. So really it always starts with the overarching question of “What’s the pain point?” Where is something that people need really clear directions on, or a really confusing concept like assignments, for example? I made an assignment video – it was a voice-over video animation, and it has I think last time I checked it was over 10,000 views on Youtube. And we take a concept like that, that for somebody just getting started in real estate can be really confusing to understand, and then they hear things like “It might be illegal… Is it not illegal?”, and what’s going on with it. So we take a complicated subject like that… And I take the elephant essentially and then I break it down into the puzzle pieces. And then I have each puzzle piece explained thoroughly, so that it leads to the overarching goal of understanding assignments, or whatever the objective is.
But at a high level, the way you come up with really high-value content, I feel like, is taking the complicated and then making it simplistic. And the best way to do that is to break it down into baby steps. And even when it comes to goals and other things, too – that’s really a crucial key to being able to write things or to create things of value, and business plans, or action steps within your businesses – it’s to take something, “Okay, I want to make X amount of dollars,” big, hairy, audacious goal, and then break it down into literally like, I pick up a pen, and then I write, and then I do this. Really bringing it down to a very simple level… Which, again, your guys’ book, the Best Ever Syndication Book did a fantastic job. I review a lot of courses, and I mean that full sincerity, it lives up to its name. You guys did a phenomenal job with that.
Theo Hicks: I really appreciate that, and thanks for saying that, because that was a lot of work to put it together, as I’m sure you know from doing this for a job. So I understand the first part obviously, but do you go one by one, where you’ll pick one concept, and then you’ll knock that out of the park, post it, and then you’ll think of the other one? Or are you kind of planning ahead and saying, “Here’s one massive, complicated subject. I want to write ten blog post on this. So for twenty weeks, I know exactly what I’m going to write about.” Or is it every two weeks you’re coming up with something new?
Jaren Barnes: Because I actually do real estate — there’s kind of two ways to approach it, and I’ll get into it in a second… But normally, it’s what am I learning in my real estate game? I’m pursuing apartment syndications and I’m trying to figure out the apartment game. So there’s going to be tons of content, because I have fresh eyes as a complete beginner in that space to run into the things that are extremely complicated, that are not explained well. And I can take notes as I learn, and overcome those obstacles, and then turn around and share that with the audience at REtipster. So that’s a lot of it, is just practical cases; I’m actually doing the stuff, and I learned, “Okay, this voicemail system that used to be great doesn’t work anymore. They increase their prices and they’re a terrible option now.”
Another great example is I wrote an article on Traveling Mailbox, which is a virtual mailbox system where people can send you letters to a physical address, but then they scan it and email it to you. So you can be anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection you can have access to your mail. And that’s huge for somebody like me and other people who do land remote. Most of the guys do land remote; they don’t do it in their backyard, they do it in hotbed markets like Colorado, Florida, Arizona, etc. So to have those kinds of system set up is extremely helpful.
So I go and I figure out how to optimize my business and solve my own problems and then turn around and share that.
However, think if you were starting fresh today and really trying to grow content today, I think keyword research is extremely important, because you can use something like ahrefs.com and you can look at different keywords, or even hire a VA on Upwork who specializes in SEO research and say, “What are people searching for that doesn’t have a lot of actual content?” And you can find that sweet spot. It’s hard to find now, because things are going more and more noisy every single day… But there are subject matters that have a high search volume, but don’t have content that’s actually meeting that in a really high form. So you could start targeting those things if you really wanted to grow in scale.
It depends on how you want to grow a brand. At the end of the day, do you need to be the biggest guy out there? Or do you just need to be a big fish in a small pond in your market and in your niche? If that’s the case, if you just find things that are extremely helpful, even if 500 people watch it… Another perfect example is within Facebook marketing – this is a great example of creating good content. So Facebook has a backend called Business Manager; that’s where you run Facebook ads and things. They had an update recently and it’s been a couple of months since I’ve been in there, and I could not for the life of me figure out where to find my Facebook pixel, for an existing Facebook pixel. I couldn’t find the pixel code. I spent hours and hours and hours trying to find it. I called friends… And you know, it was really frustrating.
So once I found the solution, I created a three-minute video and I said, “Hey, just so that this is somewhere out there on the internet for somebody, I’ve found this. This is the solution.” And I only have probably 10 views on it or something, but I have four comments of people like, “Oh my goodness, thank you so much for finding the solution, this was amazing to find.” And that’s the perfect example.
If I was in Facebook marketing, like that was my thing, I would be answering those kinds of questions all day long, because that’s what people need. People use the internet outside of entertainment; for our space people use it to find solutions to problems, so that’s why you have to provide.
Theo Hicks: Okay Jaren, what is your best real estate investing advice ever? Or since we’ve been talking about marketing and branding, what’s your best branding advice ever? You can take it either way you want.
Jaren Barnes: I think the answer is actually probably the same for both. It’s more of a mindset thing than anything. I think grit is the 80/20 of success. I think that at the end of the day a lot of what success looks like behind closed doors is banging your head against the wall until something works.
And a lot of people don’t like that, because it doesn’t sell well from a stage… But that’s the reality; if you want to get to the other side of success or the other side of greatness, it’s going to take a lot of blunt force, it’s going to take a lot of, “I don’t want to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway”, showing up and getting busy.
For a long time growing up as a kid, I always shied away from the hard stuff. I still to this day don’t understand working out. Why would anybody voluntarily go and get all sweaty and hot and bothered? It doesn’t make any sense. But it’s on the other side of that consistently that you reach what you want; you want to be in shape, you want to carry yourself in a way that’s influential, etc. So if there is one thing I could give to the world, it would be work ethic and grit.
Theo Hicks: That’s a really, really solid advice. Alright Jaren, are you ready for the Best Ever lightning round?
Jaren Barnes: Yeah. Let’s do it.
Theo Hicks: Okay. First, a quick word from our sponsor.
Theo Hicks: Okay Jaren, what is the Best Ever book you’ve recently read?
Jaren Barnes: I’m going to say the Best Ever Apartment Syndication Book. Honestly, I can’t say enough about that book; I went through some courses and I really read through a lot of stuff, and that hands-down is the most like taking a super complicated subject and be like, “Okay, for market research do this; go to this website, and go here.” You guys did a phenomenal job.
Theo Hicks: Thank you.
Jaren Barnes: Definitely.
Theo Hicks: If your business were to collapse today, what would you do next?
Jaren Barnes: Which business? Real estate? Or if I was let go from REtipster?
Theo Hicks: I’ll say both. What happens if both collapsed at the exact same time?
Jaren Barnes: At the exact same time? I’m probably going to go become a contractor.
Theo Hicks: A contractor?
Jaren Barnes: Yeah. I’ve been in about how to swing a hammer. I was super intimidated by the whole concept for a long time, but with this particular triplex I actually learned quite a bit. And it’s interesting when you have skillsets that are related to your hands – you’ll never go hungry, because if you don’t have any money, you can literally go door knocking like, “Hey, is there something I can fix for you? Is there something I can do?” That, or become a truck driver. In America truck driving, you can make some crazy money.
Theo Hicks: Yeah. That’s a good point.
Jaren Barnes: I would do that until I could start real estate again.
Theo Hicks: Tell us about the best deal you’ve done.
Jaren Barnes: Oh, man…
Theo Hicks: Besides that land deal you already told us about. A different one.
Jaren Barnes: So, let me think here… I have one right now that I think is going to be my best deal ever, but I haven’t done it yet so you don’t want to talk about that one.
Theo Hicks: Or we can talk about that one if you want to, it’s up to you.
Jaren Barnes: Probably the closest one was I bought a property, a land deal for $2,000 and I sold it for $18,000; that one was pretty nice. But that was just another outlier. I did blind offer direct mail campaign and he just didn’t want it; he inherited it. It was in Florida, he lived somewhere in New England, and he was like, “Yeah, let’s do it. I just want to get rid of it.” So I gave him $2,000, and with the closing costs it was like $2,500. And then I sold it I think like 2 months later. I think we lease it for 25k and we sold it for 18.
Theo Hicks: And then lastly what is the Best Ever place to reach you?
Jaren Barnes: Probably firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s my personal email. I got a lot of things in the fire. I’m actually working with a passion project, teaching people how to implement profit first in their real estate business, and stuff… And REtipster, and I’ve got real estate stuff… So if you want to reach out to me and learn more about what I got personally going on, I would say email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org, you can use that as well.
Theo Hicks: Perfect, Jaren. Thanks for joining us today and sharing your tips for how to grow a brand, how to grow a blog. Really what your process is you basically do things, you investigate apartment syndications, or something that you don’t really know anything about, something that’s very new, and being a newbie at it, you’re going to come across things that you yourself have a hard time doing, or you’re unclear on, and it doesn’t make sense… And you assume that other people who are also new at it and are getting into this are going to have the same issues, so you do it. You figure out what works, what doesn’t work, and then you simplify that, and then you repeat the process over and over and over again. And it was kind of what you’re focused on now.
Obviously, the other way would be to do the keyword based research, where as you mentioned, you hire someone to do it for you… But really, it comes down to identifying pain points, and the best way to do that is to do things, to investigate things and see what is actually hard for you, and then talk about your journey.
You gave us plenty of examples of that, with the house hacking, through land, and then you talk also about how once you’ve written that blog post, you were able to use that information to post different various things on social media, as well as create different Youtube videos. And again, you gave a lot of examples on that.
So you can have one piece of content and multiplying it into multiple pieces of content to kind of cover the same topic on different channels. You went over a lot of examples and even into more details on that, but that’s really what it comes down to. So thank you for sharing your process with us. Everyone, make sure that if you want to grow a brand or grow a blog, this is the way to do it. So thanks again for joining us. Thank you again for your kind words about our book, I really appreciate that. Best Ever listeners, as always, thank you for listening, have a Best Ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.
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