Ken Okoroafor is a personal finance expert and the founder and CEO of The Humble Penny and Financial Joy Academy, platforms with the core mission of helping at least 10,000 families to achieve Financial Independence this decade. Together with his wife, Mary, they also run a popular Personal Finance YouTube Channel, The Humble Penny, with over 50,000 subscribers and have helped millions of viewers take control of their finances, grow their money and improve their relationships with money over time.
He is a Chartered Accountant and holds an MBA from the University of Cambridge. He has over 12 years of experience as a former Chief Financial Officer in the Investment Management business in London and is deeply passionate about helping families and stressed professionals to live by design and create a life of Financial Joy. His work has been featured across the BBC, ITV, Financial Times, Vogue, Channel 5, The Sunday Times, Metro, The Guardian, Vice, etc.
In today’s interview, Jack Born (founder of Deadline Funnel) interviews him about how he started and grew his online business as well as how he uses Deadline Funnel to create personalized deadlines that increase his conversions.
Watch the video of my interview with Ken or read the transcript below!
LinksThe Humble Penny Financial Joy Academy Deadline Funnel
Jack Born: Hey, everyone. This is Jack Born, founder of Deadline Funnel, and I’m here with another Deadline Funnel client today. I’m with Ken Okoroafor. He is a personal finance expert and the founder and CEO of the Humble Penny and Financial Joy Academy platforms, with the core mission of helping at least 10,000 families to achieve financial independence this decade. Together with his wife, Mary, they also run a popular personal finance YouTube channel, The Humble Penny, with over 50,000 subscribers and have helped millions of viewers take control of their finances, grow their money, and improve their relationships with money over time. His work has been featured all across like amazing networks, including BBC, ITV, Financial Times, Vogue, Channel Five, The Sunday Times, Metro, The Guardian, Vice and on and on and on. So Ken, awesome to have you here.
Ken Okoroafor: Yes. Awesome. I’m really glad to be here. How you doing, Jack?
Jack Born: Yeah, I’m doing great. Right before we hit record, I mentioned to you that many, many moons ago, it seems like another lifetime, I used to work as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch. I think that your chops and your background are a lot more solid in the financial world, but at least I had a base level education. So I really enjoyed going through some of your videos.
Ken Okoroafor: Awesome. Thank you for, thanks for giving me that background. It’s actually quite interesting to know that you had a financial background, and it’s interesting to kind of see where you’re at now. It’s fascinating.
Jack Born: Yeah, so let’s, rather than diving deeper into my background, let’s talk about yours. So why don’t you share with us your journey. You know, how did you, how did you come to start this YouTube channel? Take us back, and what are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Ken Okoroafor: Okay. So I’m a first generation immigrant in this country. I live in the UK. I moved here when I was 14, going on 15 years old, and I started life here with zero money whatsoever. I saw education as my pathway to success, worked my, worked very hard. Then went through college and university and so on, and started a career. Started working in finance and, you know, wanting what everybody else wanted out of life. Wanted a good career, wanted a good family, I wanted to travel. I wanted to just do some really interesting things. My career was going very well. I felt a strange, almost a desire for something else. I wanted, I felt like I was not living out my own life’s purpose. I was on a flight from London to a place called Oaks, Pennsylvania, and I was flying for a bit of my work. And at 36,000 feet, I was looking out the window. You know how when you’re flying, you can see the clouds, a big part of my life, looking at thinking to myself, this is not really what I want to be doing. Like I felt it was something else that I felt as a big draw towards. And I’ve always had an interest in explaining to people how to manage money. And being somebody who worked in finance, my job was really about making the rich richer. I always thought, “what if I could use my skills to help people who were just the everyday person to help them move along with finances?” So my wife and I did a brainstorm and thought we’d start a blog. And the blog, she came up with the name “The Humble Penny” after some brainstorms, wanted something that’d be memorable, something that the ordinary person could relate to, but yet still feel like it was some optimism behind the name. And so we went and bought a domain name, and we started the blog, thehumblepenny.com. And that was it. That was it. I was writing every other day. I’d be writing. Whenever I finished my job in finance, I’d go home, and I’d write some blogs and stuff. And then it started to get the attention of the media, the BBC, and places like that. They wanted to see me ’cause they’ve never really seen, like in the UK, there aren’t many like Black men writing about money, you know, it was just not the normal thing to see. So I kept getting calls, “can we have interviews?” and stuff like that, and this is how it really started. The YouTube channel, however, was an afterthought. It was about 18 months after the blog started that we thought, “we’d love to reach a whole new audience.” But then I was really afraid because I didn’t, I was not used to the camera. You know, I didn’t know whether I might get judged by people with, you know, all that kind of stuff, but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. We started with one video. One video turned to two, two turned to five, five turned to 10 and before you knew it, we’d built some momentum. And that really is how the YouTube channel started and we started to effectively build what’s become a highly recognized brand here in the UK and beyond actually ’cause we have a much more global audience as well.
Jack Born: That’s awesome. How did you, so before we get into what you do with the attention that you have and the audience that you’ve built up and how you’ve really turned that into a business, because I would imagine that even though you’re getting some AdSense advertising, that’s not the whole picture – before we get into that, can you share how you were able to personally get past some of the struggles that you had or doubts, limiting beliefs? Because it seems like once you got past that, you really got the ball rolling and started to stack up video after video, like you talked about.
Ken Okoroafor: Yeah, so I, I have this core belief that life is really about trying things and experimenting. When I was at school, I used to really enjoy my chemistry lessons. I just liked the experimental nature of them. And I saw the whole idea of starting this whole money brand as an experiment, and the experiment was this. I believe that with two hours per day, anyone from around the world, whether they’re in the US or Australia or the UK, or wherever, can completely change their lives, with just two hours per day. So I wanted to test this hypothesis of two hours per day. So my idea was rather than feel scared or feel have this imposter syndrome, if I committed to two hours per day for three years – so for me, it was the 3rd of December 2017 all the way to the 3rd of December 2020. This is my period of experiment. If I commit solidly two hours per day, for three years, I could see this thing become a big success potentially, or just fail. And at least I’d say, “well, actually the experiment did not work.” So a big part of what helped me gradually overcome the many doubts I had was really seeing this thing as a core experiment. I’d have some inputs. My inputs were two hours per day and desire to kind of seriously go somewhere. And every week or every month, I just assess. I’d go, “well, actually this is not working or that’s working or how can we attract more audiences? How can we be, how can we build more trust? How can we start to monetize this thing? How can we hire, you know, some team members to help us?” So the more we experimented, we being me and my incredible wife, Mary, the more we kind of experimented, the more we saw gradual momentum building up. And it’s through that, that I was then able to quit my job. I used to work, you know, as a Chief Financial Officer, full-time job with a board position and all that stuff. But then I left that because this, this whole new brand had been created. And we found a way for this thing to start to generate some income, like you said, beyond just kind of Google AdSense and that sort of stuff. And this is where, you know, the likes of tools like the likes of Deadline Funnel would eventually come into picture because we needed to operate in a slightly different way to drive better conversions and almost drive those conversions more consistently in order for it to actually become a business.
Jack Born: So let’s talk about some of the components that go into that business. Before we do, I just want to mention that bit of advice that you gave about how you looked at it and framed this business startup as an experiment is absolutely fantastic. It’s something that I’ve used myself. And so for anyone out there who’s struggling with imposter syndrome or doubts or fears, if you can just reframe everything to just a sense of curiosity and “let’s just see what happens if I put in the time. Let’s just, let’s just see. Let’s just give it a go.” Let’s talk about your business model because I’m sure as your YouTube subscribers grow and as your people are watching more of your videos and clicking through to additional videos that you have, you’re getting checks from YouTube or Google for AdSense. But tell me what else is making up some of the, some of the business that you’re running. What do you do with this trust in this relationship with the audience that you’ve built up?
Ken Okoroafor: Okay, so we are ultimately taking our audience on a journey, and it’s a money journey from one place, which is where anyone is. So every single person who comes into our world is in a particular place on their money journey. And we’re ultimately trying to take them somewhere. And in that space of the money journey, we have the option to serve them. We have the option to help them in different ways, but we start with all our kind of free stuff. So the YouTube channel, the blog content and things like that, or even some free courses that exist. Those various things help us to build some nurture, build some likeability and trust over time and from there, we’re then able to start to – we think of our business in three core phases. So there’s a “take control” piece where we’re helping people take control of their finances. There’s the “grow your money” piece where we’re helping people start to change their mindset and begin to take some risk and take sets of steps to increase their income. And then there’s the final piece where we’re helping them become financially independent. So along those three core stages is effectively a value ladder being created because at the very core stage where people are coming to our world, I always think of it as top of funnel. Those people are, they’re getting to know us very early on. In the “take control” stage, we have a number of kind of low ticket products, whether they’re the ebooks and, you know, spreadsheets and those kinds of things that help them achieve certain things in their life. Think of them as DIY products that we have, as well as some online courses. Then along the middle, we then have things that cost a bit more money. So again, some online courses, but we also have a membership program, as I mentioned Financial Joy Academy before. So the membership program currently is about 47 pounds a month, which is about $50 thereabouts per month. And that gives us that continuity when you think about essentially the value ladder we’re creating for our business. So there’s sort of essentially there are low ticket products, the ebooks and courses. There’s the ads from Google AdSense, ads from Mediavine, which is another provider on our website. Then there’s the membership which gives us continuity. Then we offer workshops. So we’ll do workshops for corporates as well as just various organizations who get in touch. So think of it as a B2B end of our business. Rather than just the B2C offering, there’s a B2B end where we are dealing with organizations like Google and YouTube and various companies that we’ve worked on to, worked with, rather, to do various workshops. Then we have affiliate revenue that comes in as well from us working with some partners and promoting some of their products. Then we have sponsorships that are coming. So we work with various organizations, monthly. Some of them are on a retainer basis where we promote them every year because we value their product. We use those products, and we really like them and so we work with them on a retainer basis to, to generate an income. And then right at the very top then is a, is a much higher ticket program that we offer, which is like a tailored coaching program, as well as a group coaching program that we’re currently looking to develop a group on. It’s something that we are currently looking into more next month, but the one-to-one slightly tailored program has been in existence for some time. But essentially the journey is moving from much more DIY style products, ultimately to a point where we’re able to offer more value to people and work with them in a kind of done with you style offering, most at the top, essentially of the ladder, if that makes some sense.
Jack Born: It seems like there’s a lot of, a lot of legs or a lot of pillars to the palettes that you’ve built, so that’s really, really inspiring to see that you’ve gone from just a few years ago, starting this experiment with a YouTube channel and now you have this really robust business where you have multiple streams of income coming in. So congratulations to you and your wife, Mary.
Ken Okoroafor: Thank you. Thank you. It’s actually, it’s actually fun figuring this stuff out. I mean, it sounds easy, but it’s by no means easy, but it’s actually fun working out how this stuff works. For example, you know, I’ll use the membership, as a really good example. We had no idea how this stuff works and because we love learning, we figure stuff out. You know, we did lots of research, took some coaching and, you know, we worked stuff out. We had a vision for what we wanted to achieve. We mentioned the number 10,000 before. Mary and I, my wife, needed a vehicle for that to happen. We need a vehicle to help people go on that journey. So we needed to create something around the concept of behavior change. Because when you share information with people, information is not enough for people to take action. There needs to be something else. You need to weave in accountability. You need to weave in elements of community. You know, there’s certain things you need to weave in that mean that people actually take action to see some result in their lives, and we knew that we needed something else. And this is why I talk about like the fun elements of actually building something is just, how do you then create the thing that enables that vision to come into reality? So we had to kind of always start with a vision and then kind of then think what elements would fit into that vision for that vision to start gradually start to come into reality. But it’s taken some work. We’re gradually getting there, I think.
Jack Born: Yeah. So it sounds like you’re thinking about how to work, how to rewire people’s habits, and it’s not just delivering the information because it’s not just knowing what to do, it’s actually executing on what you’ve been told to do. I’m sure there’s a great information that you provide that people didn’t have when they first came across your channel or your courses. But if they don’t implement it, they’re not going to get any results, and a lot of times that has to do with changing their behaviors. Not just delivering information, but actually getting them to take action because, you know as well as I do, it takes time. Like you do the right things, it takes time, and you can have the compounding happen. So, it sounds like you’re having a lot of fun, and it’s almost like you’re back in the chemistry lab and you’re experimenting and trying to figure out like, “how can I build this thing where people are going to actually do the things that we’re telling them how to do?” So that sounds like a lot of fun and you’re enjoying it a lot. Tell me, maybe you can share with me real quick where Deadline Funnel fits into your business and what was going on before you came across Deadline Funnel? Like why did you even sign up for Deadline Funnel at all?
Ken Okoroafor: So I love psychology, and I read a book called, I think it’s called, “Influence.” And, and I read this book and I, I follow a number of like just some experts in psychology. I just love just kind of understanding the psychology of money and just like how marketing works and stuff like that. I always, if you look around behind me, I’ve got like, my house is filled with books. I love reading books from different niches. I love just geeking out on marketing books and trying to figure out how stuff works. And I came across these, this concept of mental triggers. So this idea that, before someone’s actually able to purchase something from you, there’s a bit of a journey that they go through and there’s certain elements that enable that purchase to happen. So it could be some urgency. It could be, you know, anticipation. It could be community, and it could be scarcity. These are all different mental triggers. They’re essentially almost mini superpowers that people, entrepreneurs could have, but they have to use them responsibly. So I’ve been trying to figure out for quite a while, like how do I create a real sense of genuine urgency? Because the type of brand we’re creating is one where we do not want to be clickbait-y. You know, we really want to care for the people we’re trying to help, you know, but to enable a purchase to happen, to enable people, to take certain decisions, I needed something that would truly create a true deadline. Like, you know, that the deadline had to be so real that if you end it, that I couldn’t even do anything about it. You know, that’s it. It’s finished. It’s like, I’m sorry. Like, you know, it’s actually a real deadline. Because previously, I used to have these countdowns in my, when I did email campaigns, but they were not – They were just countdowns, you know. They would just end, but then they did nothing else. So I did a listen – I heard someone on a podcast because I listen to lots of podcasts. I heard someone mention Deadline Funnel, and I was like, “Oh, what’s this thing?” And I went and did some more research. And I was like, “no way, there’s no, there’s no way this actually works.” And I kept trying to find ways to amost break the thing. I was like, there must be a way of gaming it so it doesn’t work. I was trying to figure out a way in which it would not work. But I couldn’t figure out a way of not making it work. So I thought, “you know what? I’m actually just gonna invest in this thing and test it myself. I’m going to try it. I’m going to, you know, put it on a product and see what results we get.” And this is how we started out with Deadline Funnel. It’s just from that curiosity around like creating a real sense of urgency, a true urgency, and personalizing that urgency, that was the other thing. Because remember, every person who comes into our world is on a very individual and custom journey, and so we needed a way of really speaking to those people in their own, almost sphere of, in their own universe, such that we were not speaking to everybody, but we were speaking to that specific person for their specific situation. So I needed a tool that helped me to personalize the experience somewhat. And one element for that personalization was through personalized deadlines, and this is kind of how I came across Deadline Funnel.
Jack Born: Fantastic. So do you use this primarily for your online courses that are self-paced? Do you use it for coaching? For both? Where, what part of this vast catalog of, of resources do you use Deadline Funnel?
Ken Okoroafor: So interesting, so we use it for pretty much all our sales. So if we’re selling an ebook, if we’re selling a course, if we’re running a challenge, if we, we’re about to launch our group coaching program, so we’re gonna be using Deadline Funnel. We use it for, I can’t think of a product we’ve got that doesn’t have Deadline Funnel on it. If we’re making a new offer, we use Deadline Funnel. So we find that it’s highly effective to stack the mental triggers. So not only are you, the one area – this is gonna sound really geeky but, one thing I find really interesting is, is having a genuine deadline, but actually psychologically is when it’s that, it’s that feeling of loss aversion. When someone feels like they’re going to lose something by not taking something up at that particular time. So we’re always experimenting with different offer structures, and Deadline Funnel helps to enable us to actually confidently guarantee that what we say is gonna happen is what actually happens. So for example, if you don’t take this thing, this offer by this time, the price goes up and you lose this bonus. That actually is able to happen because of the Deadline Funnel tool. Whereas before I couldn’t do that. Like, I knew I wanted to do something like that because I knew it was quite powerful stacking those mental triggers, but I didn’t have the tool that enabled that to happen.
Jack Born: That’s great. If I could double click just for a second on, into this loss aversion, it’s clear to me that you’re a student of psychology, just like you mentioned, and buyer of psychology and probably investor of psychology. So the area I want to double click on is the loss aversion. A tip that I love to share and I want to remind everyone about is just the way that you language or verbalize an offer can have a dramatic impact on the way that it’s perceived. So for example, if you said, “hey, if you act before this deadline, you’re gonna get this special deal”, that might feel like loss aversion, but there’s another way to verbalize this where, and you kind of talked about this a little bit, but I really want to underscore this, is that you can say, “look right now, you have in your hands the opportunity to forever change your financial future and your lifestyle, change your habits and, and really go on a journey that’s gonna take you to a better place. And you’ve got this bonus and this bonus. You’ve got the extra help from us, the extra onboarding call and the extra discount that are in your hands right now. However, that’s gonna be taken away if you procrastinate. We don’t want you to procrastinate. We don’t want you to miss the deadline. If you do, you’re gonna miss out on all of those things that we just talked about.” So just by verbalizing the offer in terms of “here’s what you have in your hands right now, and the opportunity is in your hands right now, and these bonuses are in your hands right now, but if you procrastinate and delay and put off the decision, these are gonna, they’re gonna be taken away from you. Don’t let that happen” – that is another way to verbalize that loss aversion. So I just wanted to point that out, but it sounds like you’re doing that already. That’s fantastic.
Ken Okoroafor: Yeah, so that’s fascinating. That’s actually exactly what we’re doing, and it’s, I find that it really does increase the conversion. It really, really does. I mean, I’ll give you a really good example. I mean, we launched a low ticket product. I mean, I’ll use this as a small case study. I can always read you the stats. So we launched a small ebook to, to achieve a particular outcome and that ebook, we had 768 checkout views for that, for that product. And from that product alone, we had 348 orders. That’s a conversion rate of 45.3%. I’m just looking at my stats right now. I took a screenshot of it. And I can tell you, I can tell you the, the biggest driver for why we had that conversion rate was the fact that we use the Deadline Funnel tool. Because the, you know, we had built because again, back to the psychology and back to the where the tool really fits in is we’ve built anticipation as a mental trigger. We had built, you know, the need for, we built in scarcity, again stacking that mental trigger, and then finally the, almost the third, most effective, or one of the most effective mental triggers, the being the urgency that’s connected to, that this tool provides to which then there was the loss aversion element factored in because some of what we knew that if we offered would that for that ebook, which is only 29 pounds was, you know, like three months of, you know, like email, you know, three months of email support and stuff like that, you know, to which was actually a really valuable thing. It’s actually really a really valuable bonus for people to have. People would then lose that bonus if they didn’t, if they didn’t take that up. So I believe very strongly, in fact I know, not I believe, I know that had we not had that tool, we would in no way have achieved that high level of conversion. So yeah.
Jack Born: Thank you for sharing those numbers. One more thing that I want to mention since we’re talking about psychology and persuasion, Deadline Funnel, you may already know this, you might already be using it, but I want to make sure that you and everyone watching this knows, Deadline Funnel has the ability to add social proof of real-time purchases and real-time opt-ins as they’re happening. And so that’s yet another way to really reduce the anxiety for someone who’s thinking about making a purchase. So definitely want to make sure that, that everyone knows about that. So Ken, this is been just absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing your story of your journey. I feel like you and I have some things in common with the financial background. Like I mentioned, you’ve got way more experience in that area than I do. I’ll let you continue with providing the financial advice. No financial advice from me. But where can people, where can people go and find you? I know you’ve already mentioned it a few times, but why don’t you remind us where we can go to find out more about your great products and services.
Ken Okoroafor: Awesome, so you can find us @TheHumblePenny. So, you know, the at sign, The Humble Penny on all the socials, on Instagram. We particularly love Instagram. We just have a bit of fun on Instagram, but you can find us on YouTube. Just search “The Humble Penny” on YouTube, or head over to our website, to our blog at thehumblepenny.com. It’s you know, it’s, I, you know, I run it with my wife, and it’s a great space. If you wanted to kind of check out some of our content on there. Alternatively, please feel free to check out FinancialJoyAcademy.com, which is our other sister brand.
Jack Born: Awesome. Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, and thanks for sharing your story.
Ken Okoroafor: Awesome. Thank you, Jack. Really appreciate it.