In this episode, Emily interviews Dr. Toyin Alli, a lecturer at the University of Georgia and founder of The Academic Society. Through the Academic Society, Toyin teaches graduate students about productivity and time management. After experimenting with many different offerings, both Toyin and Emily have added digital products to their businesses to generate passive, scalable income. Toyin explains what a digital product is and how it can help a graduate student or academic “semester-proof” their business so that income flows in no matter how busy you are with other things. She also shares how to find your “zone of alignment” within your business, which might or might not relate to your academic work.
Links Mentioned in this Episode
- PF for PhDs S3E12: This PhD Lecturer Found Her Perfect Side Hustle and Teaches Others to Do the Same (Expert Interview with Dr. Toyin Alli)
- Plan Your Semester-Proof Business in a Weekend (Free!)
- PF for PhDs Annual Tax Return Workshop
- PF for PhDs Estimated Tax Workshop
- Toyin’s Website
- Toyin’s YouTube channel
- Toyin’s Twitter (@drtoyinalli)
- Toyin’s Instagram (@drtoyinalli)
- PF for PhDs Tax Resources
- The Academic Society Resources
- #GRADBOSS: A Grad School Survival Guide (Book by Dr. Toyin Alli)
- McNair Scholars Program
- PF for PhDs S10E15: This PhD Solopreneur Started His Business During Grad School (Money Story with Dr. Lubos Brieda)
- PF for PhDs S10E16: This Graduate Student Launched a Passion Business Based on His Research (Money Story with Dr. Nelson Zounlome)
- PF for PhDs Subscribe to Mailing List (Access to Advice Document)
- PF for PhDs Podcast Hub (Show Notes and Transcripts)
00:00 Toyin: And so, for me, one way that I feel fulfilled in my life and I found purpose is through my business. And so it doesn’t have to be through your business, but I do encourage everyone to think about like, what’s something outside of academia that brings me joy and brings me fulfillment?
00:19 Emily: Welcome to the Personal Finance for PhDs Podcast: A Higher Education in Personal Finance. I’m your host, Dr. Emily Roberts. This is Season 11, Episode 8, and today my guest is Dr. Toyin Alli, a lecturer at the University of Georgia and founder of The Academic Society. Through The Academic Society, Toyin teaches graduate students about productivity and time management. After experimenting with many different offerings, both Toyin and I have added digital products to our businesses to generate passive, scalable income. Toyin explains what a digital product is and how it can help a graduate student or academic “semester-proof” their business so that income flows in no matter how busy you are with other things. She also shares how to find your “zone of alignment” within your business, which might or might not relate to your academic work. I warn you that Toyin and I jump right into biz-talk at the start of this interview, so it might be helpful to go back and listen to her earlier interview, which was Season 3 Episode 12.
01:28 Emily: I need to warm you up a little bit right now for this conversation. Ask yourself: Do you want to make money on the side of your current position? Are you limited in how much time you can spend on your side hustle and does it have to be flexible? Are you subject to a draconian no-side-jobs clause in your contract? Toyin and I discuss in detail one particular type of business that could be a great fit for a graduate student or PhD: A digital products business. We discuss the pros in-depth and also some of the cons, plus how you can get started even if right now you don’t know what you want to offer or to whom. Don’t be put off by our use of the term business, either. You have a business even if it’s just you and one product or one service. Toyin has an excellent short, free video course on digital product businesses for academics, which you can join at theacademicsociety.com/weekend. I took this course prior to our interview and highly recommend it if you’re interested in this type of business.
02:32 Emily: I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you where you can find my main digital products, which I mention a few times in the interview. You can find my annual tax return workshop, How to Complete Your Grad Student Tax Return (and Understand It, Too!), at PFforPhDs.com/taxworkshop/. You can find my estimated tax workshop, Quarterly Estimated Tax for Fellowship Recipients, at PFforPhDs.com/QETax/. I also share why I’ve transitioned all my tax education work from live speaking engagements to these workshops, which comprise pre-recorded videos, worksheets, and live Q&A calls. Without further ado, here’s my interview with Dr. Toyin Alli.
Will You Please Introduce Yourself Further?
03:21 Emily: I am overjoyed to have back on the podcast today Dr. Toyin Alli. She was first on the podcast in season three, episode 12, where we talked about side hustling and finding a good side hustle fit while you’re a graduate student. And today, several years later, we’re having an evolution of that conversation. So, Toyin is, as she was before, a lecturer, she has a PhD, and she’s a business owner. And her business has, you know, moved on in the past three years and she’s learned a ton and she’s going to share a lot of what she’s learned today with us. And I’m so excited about that. So Toyin, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast. And will you please introduce yourself further for the listener?
03:59 Toyin: Yes. Thank you so much, Emily. I’m excited to be back to share with your listeners. Especially, it’ll be interesting to hear the previous episode and think about like the evolution that has occurred. But yes, I’m Dr. Toyin Alli. I got my PhD in math from the University of Alabama back in 2016. And immediately after getting my PhD, I landed, which is basically my dream job, as a lecturer at the University of Georgia. And I’ve been there for almost six years now. And last year I was actually promoted to senior lecturer. So that is very exciting. And I won a teaching award, which is amazing. I actually won two teaching awards. And I also run The Academic Society, which is my business where I help academics and grad students with time management and productivity.
04:52 Emily: Yeah. And Toyin and I have actually collaborated in the past because she’s incorporated some of my financial teaching into her programs through The Academic Society, which we’re going to learn a lot more about in a few minutes. But Toyin, like right up front, why don’t you say if people want to learn more about the subject that we’re talking about today, which is digital products and a semester-proof business, where can they go to find out more from you?
05:14 Toyin: Yes. So I’ve been talking a lot more about business on my personal Instagram account, which is @drtoyinalli, but you can also check out some videos on my YouTube channel called The Academic Society with Toyin Alli. I have a special playlist called Academic Dream Life where I talk about my life and business.
What is a Digital Product?
05:34 Emily: Oh, wow. That’s so inspirational! I need to check that out. Okay. So, I just mentioned the term digital product. This may be unfamiliar to people, although probably they’ve used a digital product, but they may not know that’s what it’s called. So what is a digital product?
05:48 Toyin: I love digital products. So a digital product is something that you can sell online without having to be involved in really any steps of the process. The whole like transaction happens with systems online. And so it’s how people do passive income online. It’s how people say they made money while they slept. And that actually happened to me. But a digital product can be, I like to classify it into three categories. You can think of it as like an ebook or any type of PDF that someone can download, a digital course where you’re teaching something and people can get access to that, or a template where people can get a link to a template that you’ve created and fill it out for themselves. So this is something that someone can go to your website, sign up for it, purchase it, and consume it without you having any interaction with them.
06:43 Emily: So, the analogy is, okay, let’s say some things that contrast to this. So a digital product contrasted to a physical product: there’s some manufacturing process there. There’s some delivery process there. In addition to, of course, the design and the creation, which you would do for a digital product as well as for a physical product. And then there’s also services. So, you can sell a service, which is sort of selling your time or your expertise, your talent for money. And that’s a great way to have a side hustle, but it’s very different from having a digital product. Like you just said, the delivery, once you’ve made the thing, the delivery is completely hands off. And so, digital products are a way that you can scale your income much beyond what you probably would be able to do with something like a service-based business. And so why do you think that digital products, that kind of business, is a good fit for an academic?
Digital Products and Academics
07:34 Toyin: Yes. So I believe that digital products are perfect for academics, which let’s back up and say, I have a business consultancy. So if you’re a consultant, a coach, or you do speaking, I think those are great side hustles. However, when the semester starts to get hectic and really busy, it can be really hard to deliver or have time to do those types of services. And so, a digital product is really nice because you can have a digital product and have your business be running during the busiest and most draining times in your semester. So for example, all of 2021 was very difficult for me. I just felt very drained from teaching my classes, and I wasn’t able to work in my business as much as I usually did. I wasn’t able to create as much content. I wasn’t able to do like the selling that I normally would. However, I actually made more in my business than I ever had before, because I had digital products. And so people were purchasing my products without me having to do any additional work than I had already done. So, that was really nice. So, I think it’s perfect for academics, for academics who have a business already, but they kind of fall off on working in their business during the semester when it gets really busy.
08:53 Emily: Yeah. So this makes a lot of sense to me if your, I guess, various roles in whatever you are as an academic, whether it’s a grad student, postdoc, faculty member, lecturer like you are, if they sort of ebb and flow with the semester, which so many people’s do with their teaching schedule, you know, summer could look quite different from during the academic year. Even breaks, like your winter break could be, I don’t know, three weeks or a month-long. And you know, maybe you have some grading to do, but then your schedule’s very different than what it is at other times. And so, yeah, I love the idea of being able to sort of consistently deliver the product and make the sales no matter how crazy your life is or is not at that time.
09:29 Emily: And I also really want to add, like, not only is this kind of business I think a good fit for an academic, but I’ll speak, I’m not an academic anymore, but I am a parent. And so listeners, this is actually the third time that Toyin and I have tried to record this interview. And the first two times I had to cancel because of complicated stuff going on with my children. For example, my child’s preschool closed during the Omicron wave. So, things like that can come up for lots of people, not just academics, like parents and so forth. And so having a business like mine is to some extent now that can deliver these products without you having to be on a call or in a room is very, very helpful when your life goes a little bit off the rails.
10:11 Toyin: Exactly. And that’s exactly what happened to me last year in 2021. Probably fall of 2021 was probably the worst semester I’ve ever had. And it was just so draining. And I had all of these intentions on like going live, creating videos, working on my business. And I just wasn’t up to it.
A Semester-Proof Business
10:32 Emily: So Toyin, when we were discussing this episode, you had this term that you used that I love so much that reflects what you were just talking about. Can you share what that is?
10:40 Toyin: Yeah. So I call it a semester-proof business, which means no matter how busy your semester gets, your business is semester-proof. Therefore, you can still make sales. Your business can still run without you working on it every single day. And I think the key to having a semester-proof business is to have digital products as part of your business strategy.
11:05 Emily: You know, this has really been kind of where my business has gone over the, I’ve been doing this for like seven years now. And when I first started the business, I really envisioned myself as a public speaker. That was like the thing that I did. And that was because I loved doing it. I loved speaking publicly, I loved being able to interact with people and like that format, answer questions. That’s awesome. But, I realized over the years that like, it wasn’t scalable in the way that I needed it to be. And you were just mentioning how hard fall 2021 was for you. For me, spring 2021 was also hard, but in a different way, which is that I was really, really busy. I was delivering a lot of webinars. This was during tax season, lots and lots of tax webinars for lots of different universities.
11:49 Emily: And it wasn’t like I was doing that every hour of the day, but it took a lot of energy, and I was really feeling like, kind of getting a bit like burned out on that situation. And so, what I decided to do was transition my tax material, in particular, from doing live speaking engagements for universities to offering a digital product to them, which I had already been offering to individuals, but I just decided to sell it to universities as well. And it’s been going fantastic. We’re in tax season for tax year 2021 now. And I love this delivery model. It’s so much easier on me. And, here’s the other thing. I think it’s higher quality for the recipient too. Like in comparison with the live stuff that I was doing otherwise, in a live speaking engagement, I’m not going to say things perfectly. I might flub up something versus my digital product is a hundred percent scripted. I’ve checked it over multiple times. I know it’s correct. I can expand in all the right places. So I think it’s a better product overall. This is for my business, right? That comparison. But just to illustrate to the listener, like how beneficial it can be. Maybe if you have different, you know, suites of different things that you offer, to have this as one of the things that you do that can help you scale and deliver what you want to teach or what you want to share.
12:57 Toyin: I think this is a great point, because I was talking about how beneficial a digital product could be for the academic, the business owner. But it’s also more accessible to the consumer. The consumer can consume whenever they want, they can consume it as many times as they want, and it just fits into their schedule. They can take the time to digest the material. They can repeat the material. And I think it’s just a great experience. So, it’s nice to have other offers that may be live or in-person, but to have digital products for your audience as well can only help them.
Evolution of The Academic Society
13:34 Emily: So, you and I have both experimented a lot. We’ve been doing business stuff in this space for academics for several years, we’ve tried out different things, we’ve evolved what we offer. How would you describe what you offer? Like, has something clicked for you along the way about what you should be offering, who you should be serving? How did you get to that point, and what was like, not quite there yet? Like what was not quite clicking yet?
14:00 Toyin: Yeah. So in my business, The Academic Society, I help grad students mainly with time management and productivity. And it took me a while to get to like the core digital products that I sell in that business. It took me a while to figure out what actually sell. So there was a lot of trial and error. So, the very first digital product I created was called The Grad School Toolkit. And this was, I would categorize it as a template where I made a Trello template to help graduate students organize their lives, keep track of like their degree, all of the things. And I was like, oh my goodness, I wish I had this when I was in grad school. So I made it for grad students. And I tried to sell it and it just would not sell, but I realized I didn’t really have the tools.
14:49 Toyin: I didn’t really know how to sell. This is the first thing I ever created. And so I kind of chickened out, which I wish I didn’t, but I chickened out and I decided to give it away for free. And what happened, no one even downloaded it, even though it was free. I had to learn how to talk about what I was offering. And in order to talk about what I was offering in a way that people would actually want it and purchase it, I had to get to know my audience even more. So, something that was really helpful for me was my YouTube channel and always asking people to share in the comments and ask their questions in the comments. And so, based on the comments of my YouTube channel and the posts in my Facebook group, I was able to learn more and more about what grad students really needed and what they actually wanted.
15:38 Toyin: And that led me to my two main offers. So, there was a collection of students who were excited about starting grad school and they didn’t know what to expect. So, I created a program just for them called Grad School Prep, which is for incoming graduate students. And then I also had this group of grad students who were like struggling to get their work done and struggling with time management. And they just did not know how to motivate themselves to get their work done. So, I created a program called Focus for them. And so those are my two main products. And I would say it took me about two to three years to actually like get those, like actually in the format that they are in today. So it takes a while it takes a bit of improvement, but I think the best advice I can give is just start, put something out there, see how it’s received, and then go from there.
16:32 Emily: Emily here for a brief interlude! Taxes are weirdly, unexpectedly difficult for funded grad students and fellowship recipients at any level of PhD training. Your university might send you strange tax forms or no tax forms at all. They might not withhold income tax from your paychecks, even though you owe it. It’s a mess. I’ve created a ton of free resources to assist you with understanding and preparing your 2021 tax return, which are available at PFforPhDs.com/tax/. I hope you will check them out to ease much of the stress of tax season. If you want to go deeper with the material or have a question for me, please join one of my tax workshops, which are linked from PFforPhDs.com/tax/. I offer one workshop on preparing your annual tax return for graduate students and one workshop on calculating your quarterly estimated tax for fellowship and training grant recipients. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that tax day is fast approaching on April 18th, 2022. That’s the deadline by which you must file your annual tax return and also make your quarter one estimated tax payment, if applicable. The 2022 quarter one live Q&A call for my workshop, Quarterly Estimated Tax for Fellowship Recipients, is today, Monday, April 11th in the evening. It would be my pleasure to help you save time and potentially money this tax season. So, don’t hesitate to reach out. Now back to our interview.
Knowing Your Audience
18:18 Emily: For someone just starting out thinking, I would love to have a side income, even though I’m an academic and I have a busy semester, and I think this digital product thing could work really well for me. You’ve mentioned a couple times like getting to know your audience and discovering what they really want and need. And I’ve done this too, but how does someone who has no audience figure out how they can serve other people and make money doing it?
18:45 Toyin: Yes. So even if you don’t have an audience of like people to buy from you, you know, people, your friends, your family. And so when I was starting, I like made a little list of things like what do people come and ask me about? Like, what do people get advice from me about? What do I feel like I do better than others? What comes easy for me? And that was a way to get started. A way to figure out how I could help someone else. And then once I figured out who I wanted to help, I actually started asking people who fits this description? What are your questions about this topic? And so I started creating content about the topic. So for me, it was grad students with time management. I started creating content and that started to build my audience. And so, that gave me more people to ask marketing questions too.
19:37 Emily: I think this aspect of the audience is a really important element of selling digital products. And it’s something that, so I said earlier, like you could also sell services. Selling services is a really fast way to make money. Selling a digital product is maybe more scalable, but it’s more of a long-term play because you have to find the audience, you have to figure out what they want. You have to develop the product, you have to tinker around with different things like we’ve been talking about. And so I know like something that you do now is that you create content regularly for your YouTube channel, probably other places as well. And that, you know, brings people into your orbit, they’re interested in what you’re saying, and ultimately, maybe they decide they want to buy this digital product from you because they know it’s going to help them even further than what you’ve been doing for free. Is that the general model that this should follow? I guess someone could get really lucky and put something out there and suddenly people find it and love it, but that’s not typically how things go, right?
20:29 Toyin: Yes. I’m so glad you mentioned that. I would say that having a digital products business and making your business semester-proof, it’s a slow burn. It’s kind of like a snowball that kind of just like builds and builds, but it takes a while. I also agree that having a service like a consultancy or coaching or speaking, that is a much quicker way to make money, but the nice thing about a digital products business is, once you set it up, it’s good to go. So would you rather wait until you have a huge audience for people to buy to set it up, or would you rather set it up now and just start attracting people little by little? And the more you talk about what you do, the more people will learn about it, and that’s, what’s going to build that snowball effect.
Sales on Autopilot
21:16 Toyin: And there are of course things you can do to like kickstart your digital product. So, it doesn’t have to be completely passive at the very beginning. So for example, I created a workshop recently called Sales on Autopilot to help other academics. And I could have just launched it as a digital product that people could watch on their own, but I knew it was new. And so, I needed to build a little bit of hype around it. So I decided to offer it live for the first round, and that is a way to get people excited. And so if you are unsure or if you do want to have a digital product and you don’t really want to wait around to see if it catches on, try to do some type of live event around it and it can get people excited about it.
22:05 Emily: I am literally right now experimenting with this in my business because I’m super interested in reaching out more and more to prospective graduate students. Like you said, that you had a cohort of people who are like preparing for graduate school and trying to figure out all the stuff about how they’re going to succeed in graduate school. I have that same group that I’m interested in from their financial perspective. And so there are different ways that I’ve been doing this over the years, but right now I’m experimenting with delivering some content live for the first time that will ultimately be refined and live as an evergreen digital product. So like, this is something that for some aspect of your business, you may be able to do it once and then, you know, set it on autopilot. But every time you sort of have a new idea, you have to go through the same sort of iterative process on this. So, that’s really, really exciting.
22:51 Toyin: It’s also really fun to do like a live event because when you do something live, you get to hear people’s feedback real-time. And it can tell you how you may want to tweak what you’re offering, or maybe how to reposition it in a way that’s more exciting for your prospective client or customer.
23:10 Emily: I just wanted to share another aspect of my journey on this point that you were just making of, you know, make the product and also grow your audience. And it’s there for them whenever they want it. And as your audience grows more and more, hopefully more people will be finding it and buying it and so forth for me. Like I started teaching the tax material that I do in my business way back from the beginning, because it was one of those multiple personal finance subjects that people really needed to know about. So it had sort of, it was on the level of the other things. And then a while after that I created the digital product version, like my prerecorded tax workshop, but I was only selling it to individuals and I wasn’t selling it to universities yet. I was doing the live stuff for universities. And then like I was saying earlier, when I got so busy that I couldn’t really support the live aspect of it anymore, that product was there. And I could already tell my university clients I’ve been selling this for three years to individuals. It gets great reviews. People love it. And that was a great selling point for me. So like, my audience grew and shifted and so forth, but I was really glad that I had started experimenting with that product like years and years earlier.
24:11 Toyin: Yes. I love that. And I love like how you could scale that one offer. You’re talking about the same thing, but you’re offering it in different ways and in different capacities. That’s actually how I came up with my Grad School Prep course. I wrote a book called #GRADBOSS: A Grad School Survival Guide. And I wanted to expand on that book and go a little deeper. So, that book is available as a digital product or you can buy the physical copy, but if you want something more in-depth, something more interactive, there’s my course. I turned it into a bigger, better thing into a course. And then as you mentioned, we collaborated, and I invited Emily in on my course to help the students in there with the finance. And then that same topic, I actually scaled it up even more. I have a program for if anyone’s heard of the McNair Scholars Program, it’s for first-generation underrepresented undergraduate students. I was actually a McNair scholar, and the goal is to teach them about grad school and have them earn a terminal degree. And I was like, wow, my Grad School Prep stuff would actually be really helpful for McNair scholars. And so I scaled that product again, but tweaked it so that it was personalized for McNair scholars. So, I just feel like there are endless possibilities with digital products.
Find Your Zone of Alignment
25:33 Emily: I’m so glad you brought up the example of working with the McNair programs, which you and I are now doing, and it’s fantastic and it’s so much fun and I feel like we’re making a huge impact and it’s amazing. I think that you now call that your like zone of alignment, right? That you have the material that you’re teaching, you have the audience that you’re teaching it to. Can you expand on what that means?
25:51 Toyin: Yes. I finally discovered my zone of alignment, which is where I can position myself where I can just be myself and just really succeed. So, a lot of people talk about their zone of excellence, which is just things that you’re really, really good at. And then there’s your zone of genius where it’s like, not just the things that you’re good at that may be like draining on you, but the things that you’re good at that feels good to you. But if you take it one step further and add in your background and who you are, you can achieve your zone of alignment. So for me, I am really good at time management, and I am really good at helping graduate students with time management and productivity. That’s what I’ve built my business on. But my McNair program, it is so special to me because I was a McNair scholar.
26:44 Toyin: I achieved the goal of the McNair program of getting my PhD, and I help other graduate students. And now I’m able to help other McNair students actually achieve their goal. And so when I talk to McNair directors about my program, it’s like a no-brainer for them like, oh yeah, we teach our students about grad school. But also, they’re going to be able to learn from someone who was in the exact position as they were. And I just feel like all of the stars aligned when I created that program, and it just brings me so much joy and I feel that I’m working out of my zone of alignment. And I believe everyone has a zone of alignment. So like, if you think back to where you came from and what you’re good at, is there a way that you could help people who were just like you? And if you can find a way to do that, it tends to become almost effortless.
27:38 Emily: I can think of actually a couple recent podcast interviews that I’ve published. One with Dr. Lubos Brieda, and one with Dr. Nelson Zounlome, who were both graduate students who, I think, you know, according to your framework, like discovered their zone of alignment while in graduate school, and then launched businesses out of that zone of alignment. In Lubos’ case, he has a consulting company now. And in Nelson’s case, he’s still in academia like you are, but he has this side business that relates to his research and also his passion. And it just, it all just like feeds into one another in this like beautiful way. And I think that’s like something that our academic audience, you know, your zone of alignment might be something related to the subject matter that you’re studying in graduate school or that you did study during your PhD. You and I took kind of a step side to that of just like, how do you succeed as like a graduate student or PhD in these different areas, but it could literally be related to your research or the population that you are interested in or something like that. Like, there’s probably something about your experience as a graduate student or PhD that will help you figure out your zone of alignment
28:46 Toyin: One hundred percent, one hundred percent. And this is something I actually work on with my clients. So, I have a business consultancy where I help academic entrepreneurs figure out like how do they manage both being an academic and an entrepreneur. And academic work can be pretty draining. And so, you don’t want your business to also be draining if you already have a job that’s draining. So it’s really important to build a business, you know, from your zone of genius, but also really find that alignment so that everything just like falls into place and it becomes way more easy and more joyful and more fulfilling to work in your business when you’re working out of alignment or in alignment, rather.
Seeking Joy and Fulfillment
29:31 Emily: Toyin, I’ve just loved this conversation. Is there anything else that you want to share with us regarding digital products businesses, or zones of alignment, or anything else that we’ve touched on?
29:42 Toyin: As academics, we spend a lot of time becoming who we are and like building to our career. It takes a lot of work, and when we actually finish and make it through the program, we should feel good about that. And we should start to enjoy our lives. And so something that I really hate seeing is an academic who’s gone through the whole process of getting their degree and they get stuck in that grind of academia and their life just becomes academics, and they don’t really find a fulfilling purpose. And so for me, one way that I feel fulfilled in my life and I found purpose is through my business. And so, it doesn’t have to be through your business, but I do encourage everyone to think about like what’s something outside of academia that brings me joy and brings me fulfillment? And so, yeah, that’s just what I wanted to mention.
30:36 Emily: That’s beautiful. Toyin, where can people learn more about this subject of digital products and so forth?
30:44 Toyin: Yes. So I’ve created a free video series, which is a digital product, but it’s called Plan Your Semester-Proof Business in a Weekend. And so, it’s a multi-part video series where I walk you through the process of creating your own semester-proof business, as well as share my complete business journeys, failures, and successes. And so if you’re interested in that, you can check it out at theacademicsociety.com/weekend.
31:14 Emily: And I went through this digital product a couple of weeks ago, and I found it really, really illuminating. Even though I’ve already been in this space for like several years, I still learned several things from this series. Something I really, really liked was that you go through, as you briefly mentioned earlier, just a bunch of different examples of different digital products, but in a little bit more detail in these videos, and it can really spark ideas and just show people also like a digital product doesn’t have to be some like massive thing. Like my tax workshop, for example, which has taken years to create and hours and hours and blah, blah, blah. It does not have to be that big, it can be a small thing. That’s okay. Start somewhere and get your sort of systems up and running. I love the systems focus that you have in that series, because this is a weak part of my business. So that’s where I learned something. So anyway, it’s a free course, y’all. If anybody’s interested in creating digital products, just go and take it. It’s going to be great.
Best Financial Advice for Another Early-Career PhD
32:02 Emily: Okay. So Toyin, last question that I ask of all my interviewees is what is your best financial advice for another early-career PhD? And it can be something that we have talked about already in the interview, or it can be something completely new.
32:16 Toyin: Yes. So my best piece of advice would probably be to not underestimate the power of having savings. I am someone who always struggled with having savings. I think just since graduate school when I was applying for jobs or going to conferences, just the way that things are set up, it’s like you pay your own money and then you have to be reimbursed. And so I was often like using a credit card and then being reimbursed, but also have to use the money for other things. And so I got into a pretty deep debt. And so I was never able to build my savings. But thank goodness I have my business and I was able to get out of debt using earnings from my business. But I am really focused now on building a savings account. I think that’s really important. Like this past summer, my air conditioner broke, so I had to buy a new air conditioner. Luckily, I actually had savings this time, and I was able to do that. But yeah, I think that was something I underestimated before, but I never will again.
33:19 Emily: That’s great. That’s great. I think when you’re in a cycle of like living to paycheck to paycheck or like depending on credit cards, it’s kind of about like getting by, and you think you are. You’re doing okay, using the tools available to you. Yes, that’s true. But once you are not in that position anymore and you have the savings, like you did not even know the peace of mind that was available to you by that savings existing until you got to that point. So, definitely cosign as best you can, as soon as you can get some savings in place. And the thing that’s great, we didn’t even talk about this before, about a digital product business is that it’s so low overhead. So, you can start one without sinking a bunch of money into whatever systems and inventory and blah, blah, blah, blah. You can do it very easily. It’s going to cost you your time, but probably not much more than that. And yeah, so you can make money without having a whole lot on the expense side.
34:12 Toyin: Yes. I love that you said this. So I do this workshop called Sales on Autopilot, and you can literally set up a digital products business for $9 a month. That is it. Like it is probably the cheapest business that you could ever create.
34:29 Emily: Yeah, no kidding. Well Toyin, we’ve gotten so many insights from this interview. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast again, it’s been wonderful to talk with you!
34:37 Toyin: Thank you so much for having me, this was great!
34:45 Emily: Listeners, thank you for joining me for this episode! I have a gift for you! You know that final question I ask of all my guests regarding their best financial advice? I have collected short summaries of all the answers ever given on the podcast into a document that is updated with each new episode release. You can gain access to it by registering for my mailing list at PFforPhDs.com/advice/. Would you like to access transcripts or videos of each episode? I link the show notes for each episode from PFforPhDs.com/podcast/. If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, here are 3 ways you can help it grow: 1. Subscribe to the podcast and rate and review it on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or whatever platform you use. 2. Share an episode you found particularly valuable on social media, with an email list-serv, or as a link from your website. 3. Recommend me as a speaker to your university or association. My seminars cover the personal finance topics PhDs are most interested in, like investing, debt repayment, and increasing cash flow. I also license pre-recorded workshops on taxes. See you in the next episode, and remember: You don’t have to have a PhD to succeed with personal finance… but it helps! The music is “Stages of Awakening” by Podington Bear from the Free Music Archive and is shared under CC by NC. Podcast editing by Lourdes Bobbio and show notes creation by Meryem Ok.