For my Indie Bites podcast I spoke with a chap called Daniel Vassallo, who left a $500k job at Amazon and has since launched 2 info products making over $350k in the process. After the conversation I left feeling inspired to create my own info product - something I’ve wanted to do for years.
I moved quickly on that inspiration. Within 2 weeks I came up with an idea, shot, edited and launched my own course.
I went into it with 0 expectations, but after sharing on Twitter I made $200 in pre-orders and thought I was onto something.
I was dead excited for launch day, thinking I might just be able to make more than I expected. $200 in pre-sales was a fantastic signal. However, when it came to the day I made just 4 sales, making $136. From a financial standpoint, the launch failed.
But from then, things started getting better. Sales slowly trickling in over the next few days. I shared my thoughts the day after I thought the launch was a failure which helped boost the signal for the course. Then, 2 weeks later, the course crossed $1.2k in sales ?
Now that both exceeded my expectations and made me happy with the outcome.
Why the launch went wrong
I stopped counting how long it took me but I suspect somewhere in the range of 30-40 hours of actual work to make.
If that was an hourly rate, I would have made $11.22 an hour.
Some people might not see that as a failed launch - you made internet money! But if I wanted this course to be a success, the launch would be a strong indicator of what’s to come.
After reflecting on it, I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong:
- I have a small audience
- It wasn’t a problem that needed solving
- I didn’t spend enough time before on marketing
- The landing page wasn’t compelling enough
But, you said it’s okay that it failed. How so?
- I didn’t set out to make money, I set out to make a course
- I still made some sales on the internet which is an amazing feeling
- I now have an asset to re-launch if I’d like
- I feel inspired to create again
So that’s the overview of my past few weeks. Let me dig in a little further with my post-mortem.
My small bet
Small bets are a series of bets you place, or projects you start, that can have financial upside. The theory being if you have a lot of these ‘bets’ you have the opportunity explore new ideas while de-risking the outcome of failure. When I was speaking to Daniel Vassallo, he emphasised the /small/ part which I hadn’t thought about. The idea of small bets is that you set a small amount of time aside for it, execute, then move on if it doesn’t work or stick with it if it does.
I’ve always wanted to make a course for myself but have always put up excuses like “I don’t have the time” or “I’ve got no idea what to make”.
But after this conversation with Daniel and the emphasis on small I decided that in the following weekend I’d create, build and launch an info product.
The upside: I’ll have created my first info product that I could sell over and over by only spending a weekend on it.
The risk: Because of doing it so quickly it could be a dead launch or a chance the course would look rushed or unfinished.
Creating the course
So that week I set out to create my first ever info product. Bright eyed and bushy tailed I started speaking to people about my course concept.
I’ve been podcasting for a few years and have gotten pretty good at it. I’ve been a freelance podcast producer making hundreds of top-quality podcasts. And I’ve seen the first hand benefits of podcasting through my show Indie Bites.
I truly do believe in podcasting as a medium and would love more people to start their own shows.
So I thought I’d take all the knowledge I’ve gained since I started podcasting and put it all into a course. The thing is there are hundreds of podcasting courses out there so I needed to come up with an angle to make mine different.
I created a Notion doc and started putting out some feeler ideas. I spoke to a few of my friends and the main challenge they had was speed.
“I want to make a podcast but I don’t have the time.” Bingo.
My course would be focused on speed. From producing so many episodes I’ve figured out some systems that mean I can create episodes super quickly (most of the time). I figured I could also use my own advice in the course and apply it to myself.
So I got to work writing the outline for my course. This outline took me 20 minutes and I’m very grateful for it. I wrote the entire course based on this outline and it would have been very challenging to do without it.
The warning signs - this might not work
The week prior I’d been getting more into using Twitter. I’d been posting a lot about my podcast, Indie Bites, growing my followers and getting loads more engagement than I’m used to.
However, I noticed when I was posting about my course I was only getting a trickle of engagement. People just didn’t seem to be interested.
When I’d tweet about the pod, I’d get 20-30 likes. When I’d tweet about the course, I’d get 2-3.
Here is when I started to re-align my expectations. I don’t think this was a problem that truly had demand, especially with my small audience. I noticed this in the moment but pushed ahead anyway.
I’d shifted my expectations from this being something that could make me some side-income, to a learning experience for creating an info product. I told myself that even if it made $0, I’d still be happy (and that is still true).
Getting excited over pre-orders
That is, of course, until I got my first pre-orders!
Getting that first pre-order in while I was still making the course was absolutely wonderful. I won’t ever forget that feeling. It wasn’t even from a friend (or my mum / dad - I tried). So it was wonderful validation that this course might do better than I thought and I then had 3 more trickle in over the next few days.
I messaged Daniel about the pre-orders and he sent a very encouraging response. If he was right, I could make at least $2,000 from this! Expectations shifted again. Oops.
The false launch
So my goal to outline, produce and launch a course in a weekend was a stretch too far. I wanted it to be quick and dirty, but I also wanted it to be high-quality. Unfortunately those things don’t mix.
I also didn’t quite have the motivation to work solidly all weekend. I did try, but after my tumultuous year I couldn’t quite push through to hit my arbitrary deadline.
Luckily there wasn’t too much demand for the course and the only person that really cared about that deadline was me, so I delayed a week to give me some breathing room.
The next weekend I had a cracking time finishing off my course. I edited the first section and created a whole new podcast called Impactful for the tutorial part of the course, recording an episode with Arvid Kahl.
I was feeling truly inspired during the weekend. On Saturday I even spent 5 hours building a podcast booth in my cupboard.
Monday was launch day. I told all my friends it was happening and spent the day putting the finishing touches on the course. I was completely engrossed in my work for 5 hours straight. I’ve only had that a couple of times in the past year and it felt great. Editing videos, writing copy, shooting thumbnails. I was laser-focused on that launch.
Pressing the red button
I launched the course at 4pm on Twitter to a wonderful reception. My Weekend Club friends jumped on it immediately. Retweeting and sharing.
I knew I wanted the launch tweet to get momentum so this was nice to see. Daniel Vassallo liked the tweet (despite me spelling his name wrong, sorry Daniel) and some of my favourite people like Justin Jackson shared it.
If anything didn’t fail, it was this tweet. I was absolutely delighted with the response. As of writing this (the next day) it’s at 22k impressions, with 19 retweets and 63 likes. This ranks it as one of my best tweets ever.
But, despite all this support, the sales didn’t come rolling in as I might hoped. I got one within a few minutes from my friend Brian. Then another a few hours later. Overnight I’ve made another 2.
212 views total. 151 from Twitter. A 3.7% conversion rate.
Why it failed
Is it too early to say it categorically failed? Yes, but I wanted you to click on this article. However, I’m not sure it’s going to get too much more than on “launch day”.
I mentioned it at the top of the article, but let me explain a few of the reasons my course launch didn’t work out.
My audience is too small
I haven’t spent nearly enough time building my audience like some of those who have had success with their courses. My audience isn’t really podcasters or aspiring podcasters either. I didn’t build up an email list for the launch either.
There wasn’t enough demand for the problem I was solving
It was clear from the outset that this idea was not validated, or at least not for the audience I did have. Most of the people in my circles are indie hackers and they don’t really care about podcasting. Those that want a podcast will probably just use the free resources online and figure it out themselves.
Not enough time spent on marketing
As I wanted to launch the course quickly, my marketing efforts were sub-standard. I really only shared my progress on Twitter. There was no attempt to go broader than Twitter to tell anyone I launched it, nor did I spend time exploring any other channels.
The landing page / copy
Now this is subjective but I didn’t feel when I was writing the copy it was particularly compelling. Over the past year I’ve been trying to get better at writing, hence this blog, and I’m finding it easier than ever to write. However with the course landing page I didn’t have much of a focus so it wasn’t clear what the value prop was. I think I’ll rewrite it.
I probably priced it wrong
There is no way to tell if something is priced right or wrong. My thinking on the $29 was to make it a no-brainer for people, even suggesting they could make it back in the first episode. Most people I spoke to thought it was too cheap. I felt that too but didn’t want to make the price a barrier for anyone.
Why it’s okay that I failed
So many reasons. This course may well have changed the direction of my life for the better, which is not an exaggeration. I’ve had the worst 18 months in my life and haven’t been able to figure out how to fix it. Having a single focus on this course has sparked my creativity and I’ve truly enjoyed working on it. I’ve not worked this hard on something and I’m finally feeling that fire in my belly again.
I learnt how to create a course
Making a course is something I’ve wanted to do for so long, but have always delayed it through lack of confidence or worrying it will take so long. Now I’ve done it I’ve learnt so much about the actual process of making a course from start to finish, which I’ll write more about in the future.
I launched a brand new podcast
The second section of the course was me showing how I took the tips from the first section to create a podcast from scratch in less than 2 hours. From this I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Arvid Kahl, and have another podcast I can grow in the future. Here it is.
I had so much fun making it
What’s the point in doing side-projects if you don’t have fun doing them? The whole process creating this was thoroughly enjoyable and I had a bunch of energy every time I set out to do a chunk of the work. It was nice to set a hard deadline and work towards it, then come out the other side with a piece of work I’m proud of.
I now have a course
I’ve always wanted one and now I have one! I’ve been envious of people that have put in the work to create a course or info product and made some money from it. Now I have a build once, sell twice asset that I can improve over time, run sales on and test out some new marketing tactics. It’s also a place I can send potential clients if they want to learn a little more about starting their show.
I made some money
Internet money made it into my bank account for something I created. There isn’t much of a better feeling than that.
The sales kept coming
So after a somewhat underwhelming launch I shared a tweet thread explaining why I thought the launch failed, which led to overwhelming support.
From that point sales kept coming in regularly. Most days I'd have people see the initial launch tweet or the fail thread and reach out about the course. Some I'd respond to to convine them, others I'd drop a link in reply to what I'm working on. This collective effort compounded into the sales.
I then doubled the price and it didn't really deter people. In fact, Justin Jackson from Transistor offered to gift 6 copies to his community, which he duly did! This was wonderful validation for me and my course, knowing that someone like Justin (who I respect in both the bootstrapping and podcast industry) would do something so kind.
After speaking with Daniel Vassallo I created a course called 2 Hour Podcast that I only made $136 on launch day. I considered this a financial failure. However, my goal was not to make money on this, it was to create a piece of work I’m proud of and can potentially bring me some income for years to come. All that being said, I ended up making $1.2k since launch and I couldn't be happier.