But we need to roll back the clock a little bit further.
The year was 2010. I was designing websites for 8 to 10 hours a day. During my nights and weekends, I practiced hand lettering for 6 to 8 hours outside my day job. I did this every single day for years.
Yes, I really did spend 6 to 8 hours every day practicing hand lettering in addition to having a day job. No, I didn’t do anything else. I sacrificed everything. I dedicated my life to the craft because I enjoyed it. It wasn’t making me any money, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of pursuing it.
I created lettering for two years. Nearly every day I posted, nobody noticed in the first two years. Nobody cared.
Until they did.
Slowly, people did start to care.
Gradually, they did start to notice.
I continued posting. I created art and I continued to share it, not caring what response it got. It did not happen overnight.
I think you may have not read that last sentence, but it’s very important you do: it did not happen overnight.
I showed up every day for two years and nobody cared.
Until they did.
The year was 2012. I got a comment from someone asking if I sold prints of my designs. Then I got another comment. Some people were asking for t-shirts.
They liked my work?
Others were asking for custom commissions. I took these and was able to be selective on what clients I worked with because my day job already covered my bills. If the project sounded interesting, I took it. If not, I passed.
I don’t know what it was. I’d been posting for so long and no one cared. Why did they care now? I’d so long ago given up any expectation of recognition for my work that the interest caught me by surprise.
Two years after I started creating every day, I made my first product. A t-shirt. I used the money I made from client work and invested a couple thousand dollars in a print run.
It sold out.
I reprinted the shirt.
It sold out again.
It was a slow season at the web firm. My business partner took another job and we hibernated the firm.
My choice was to either find another job or start taking this hand lettering thing seriously. I chose the latter.
My bread and butter was client work. I was fortunate to be able do work for big names like Rachel Ray Magazine and Las Vegas, but for some reason it wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. Like I said, the money was great, but it just wasn’t quite what I imagined.
As a designer, when you first get into the field, you think it’s all about working for big names.
“If only I could do work for an organization that popular,” we sigh.
But you come to learn that the biggest clients aren’t necessarily your favorite. Often, it’s the small mom-and-pop businesses that bring the most joy.
The year was 2013. Things were going very well. I was turning down over 90% of the inquiries I was getting simply because demand was too great. I could afford to be selective because I practiced selectivity.
We were still selling physical products every single day and knew all the names of the local post office workers.
But there was an elephant in the room.
I was getting dozens of emails a day. I was still posting hand lettering online and people would often ask questions about how to get started with lettering. So I created an introductory lettering guide.
200,000 people read that guide over the course of a year.
Oh, and they had questions. Lots of questions.
I realized there was an opportunity here. There was clearly a resurgent interest in hand lettering. But I wanted to do something different. I didn’t just want to teach lettering.
What I didn’t mention is that the web firm I worked at is one I started. I’d also run a profitable computer repair business before that which I eventually sold 5 years later.
See, I was an artist, but not your average artist. My background was in business. This gave me a very unique perspective coming into the art world.
I was not plagued by the “starving artist” mentality so prevalent in the industry.
I fully acknowledged and wielded the selling power of my work. I spent months learning about licensing. I had experience with pricing, clients, and design contracts from my career in the design industry.
All of this culminated into my unique advantage: I’m a lettering artist with 9,000 hours of practice under my belt and 10 years of business experience.
I was not only going to teach people how to draw letters, I was going to deliver it along with the business knowledge they need to succeed.
Enter: Learn Lettering.
I needed to make a course. Not just any course, but a Master Class. 50 lessons of highly-condensed and thoroughly prepared material on lettering techniques and business practice.
Client communication, pricing, contracts, licensing, marketing, teaching, products; it had it all.
But it was all in my head. I had to get it out somehow.
I’d worked out that I would need 6 months of time to dedicate to creating the course. The year was still 2013. My bread and butter was client work.
I started charging more. Nobody blinked. So I took on even more clients.
I worked 18-hour days for months. Weekends didn’t exist. It was only working and sleeping (and very little of the latter).
Over the course of that year, I saved up enough money to live off of for 6 months and I quit client work. I quit it completely and removed the option from my contact form. So much work was coming in, they still managed to find my direct email and get to me, but I turned it all down. Every last one of them.
It was time.
I’d carved out half a year for myself to make the course. I made a lot of mistakes and learned many things along the way, but I was determined to finish.
During these 6 months, I immersed myself in the world of marketing. I learned absolutely everything I could. I bought books, read articles, watched videos, and devoured every bit of information I could get my hands on. I even bought a bluetooth shower speaker to listen to marketing podcasts in the shower. I didn’t waste a second.
I applied everything I learned to the launch of this course and the results speak for themselves:
It made six figures in the first 3 days.
The year is 2015. More than a year has passed since the initial launch of Learn Lettering. The case study I linked to above really caught people’s attention.
I didn’t initially plan to share the launch details or revenue numbers. After all, I was just a hand lettering artist. So what if I’d launched a successful course, do I really have to share my income?
I decided to share it anyway. I’d learned so much from the generosity of others in sharing what worked for them that I felt I should give back.
The response was huge.
People were very encouraged by my sharing. It was as if I made something accessible and comprehensible to people that previously seemed unattainable. Not only that but it resulted in a shift in my focus:
I decided to shift to teaching business and marketing. It kickstarted a new era for me in which I embraced total transparency and shared absolutely everything I knew.
Since then, I’ve continued to share the behind-the-scenes of launches and real revenue numbers to help make online business more attainable.
My twice-a-week podcast on creativity and business, the seanwes podcast, surpassed 200 episodes and has received 7-figure downloads.
I started a daily video show, seanwes tv, providing bite-sized inspiration on creativity and business 7 days a week.
While I initially felt like being known as a hand lettering artist was holding me back from being known as someone who teaches business, I came to see it as a true boon.
Hand lettering serves as a real-life case study for my business and marketing expertise. I spent 9,000 hours developing a skill, and have had success in client work, products, and teaching, and now I am able to help others do the same.
The original course was fully produced by me. I wrote the material, set up the microphones, lighting, cameras, and delivered and edited it all myself. The quality was quite good considering, but I wanted to step it up a notch.
After all, I now had a full-time video guy on staff and our camera gear was significantly upgraded since then.
I decided to reproduce the entire course. Not only did I reproduce all of the 50 videos, but I added 50% more videos for a total of 75 lessons, professionally shot as a multi-camera production.
Enter: Learn Lettering 2.0.
Learn Lettering 2.0 launched on July 27, 2015. It also made six figures, only this time in 26 hours.
Here’s the full, 8,000-word launch case study with all of the details.
I want to demystify the production, marketing, and launch of courses for you. That’s why I hold nothing back in the above-linked case study.
The results of the launch were certainly incredible, but I’m here today to celebrate a different milestone.
74 days after launching version 2.0, Learn Lettering celebrated its 10,000th student!
It’s not often I slow down enough to celebrate achievements. I tend to keep pressing on to the next thing. But when I really stop and reflect, it is truly a remarkable accomplishment.
Who knew it was possible to make a living as a hand lettering artist?