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It’s 9pm, the night before this episode publishes. It’s a crazy week. I’ve been working overtime—16 to 18 hour days—every day of the week for some months now.

What is this all for? Why the crazy hours?

The simple reason? My new course, Learn Lettering 2.0, launches on Monday, July 27th, 2015.

The not-so-simple, deeper reasons? Well, that’s what I get into in this episode.

It’s very raw. I share real numbers—both the 3-figure dollar amount I was looking at in the bank as well as the 6-figure launch projections I’m projecting. I’m 100% transparent with it all.

I think this is one of the most real and vulnerable episodes to date. I talk about how even though I hustle like nobody’s business, I still have the desire to goof off and sink a ton of mindless hours into Reddit, YouTube, or Netflix.

I’m not immune to those temptations, but I also know that they don’t pay off. They aren’t fulfilling. It’s a false high.

I talk about how nothing compares to the feeling of satisfaction I’m getting from working hard and helping people and getting their words of encouragement every day. It fuels me. It’s incredibly fulfilling. I feel immensely satisfied and I wouldn’t trade it.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Hiring a team when it hurts means making sacrifices, decisions, and hustling.
  • Life is short, and I want to make a contribution while I’m here.
  • The only difference between people who do something and people who don’t is this: the people who do something just do it.
  • See everything as a challenge, even if it’s negative.
  • The people who accomplish big things are people who set big goals and take one step every day to achieve them—every day for years, not for weeks or for months.
Show Notes
  • 02:50 I’ve been working no less than 16 hours a day since May, every single day—seven days a week. It’s tough, and I know I sound crazy. I think I have some good reasons, but I admit that it gets exhausting at times. That’s why I take sabbaticals and have these breaks, because I am so all in. If I’m going to work, I’m going to be all in. This is all I’m about; I live and breathe this stuff. I do mini sabbatical episodes where I play the kalimba as a reminder for listeners that it’s a sabbatical week. This time, I violated the sabbatical and worked straight through it like it didn’t even exist, but this was planned.

Hiring a Team When it Hurts

  • 03:43 I’ve been hiring a lot of people. At the end of 2014, it was just me! We’re in July of 2015 now and I have seven employees, which is pretty crazy. It’s a big payroll, too. Why am I doing this? I’m doing this because I learned a lesson the hard way with my first business. Any time I go “harsh Sean,” I’m talking to my past self. I messed up and learned something the hard way. That’s why I’m so passionate about it: I don’t want you to mess up. I don’t want you to go through the same thing. That’s why I do these shows—I want to help people.
  • 04:51 Whenever you hear me harp on stuff, it’s because I did it wrong the first time. The thing I did wrong with my first business—my computer repair business—was I hired one guy and I stagnated. I didn’t get more work because I was afraid the guy couldn’t handle it and I didn’t hire more people because we didn’t have the work, so it stagnated and I ended up selling the company.
  • 05:43 This time around, I’m looking at the trajectory for seanwes. I’m going to share real numbers later, because I know you guys appreciate that. Some people get upset when they hear real numbers. Laci nailed it when she said, “People want to learn how to make money, but they don’t want to hear you talk real numbers.” If you’re offended by real numbers, than this isn’t the show for you. I’m not just talking about big numbers for the sake of big numbers. I’m being real here, and I’m going to share some small numbers with you.
  • 06:47 I hired seven employees with a substantial payroll because I learned my lesson the first time and I’m going to try and do it right this time, even when it’s scary and it hurts. I’m looking at seanwes and I see where things are going. This is just the beginning. I believe that 2016 will be our first seven figure year, and I believe even that’s just the very beginning.

Hiring a team when it hurts means making sacrifices, decisions, and hustling.

  • 07:39 The original Learn Lettering class was still making money, though not a tremendous amount. It used to make consistently into five figures a month. Then it dipped below five figures a month. This sounds like a lot of money and it is, but if you’re paying several employees thousands each, it doesn’t go super far if that’s all you have. We have the Community, which is continuing to grow, and that’s going to be great long term, but it’s also a big investment.
  • 08:33 In the Value Based Pricing series, we shared real numbers (Related: e145 Getting Started With Value Based Pricing, e146 Attracting Clients and Positioning the Conversation Around Value, e147 The Nuts and Bolts of Value Based Pricing). This was before Justin was working at seanwes full time, though he’s now our full time developer. I paid him $50,000 for the chat system for the Community, the one Community members are using right now to listen live. Now it’s worth even more, but I originally spent $50,000 of my own money because I care about the Community members’ experience.
  • 09:10 I hadn’t made that much money and I wasn’t going to in the foreseeable future at the time, but I believed in it. I believed that if I made their experience good, it would pay off eventually. It’s a big investment. I’m hiring employees, which means I have to make certain decisions to make money. Learn Lettering was continuing to make money, so that’s fine, the Community was growing, we’re selling products and doing various things, I have long-term projects I want to do, courses I want to do, speaking, people who want consulting from me though I’m not doing client work—there’s things I can do to make money.
  • 09:57 I’m thinking about this like a parent, like this is my family and I have to take care of my people—that’s the number one priority. Yes, I want sabbaticals. I want those breaks, to be healthy, and to rest, but right now, I need to invest. We have somewhat of a runway here with what Learn Lettering is currently making and I could go on to these other projects; I could make other courses. Those are things I haven’t done before, so they’re not proven. What’s proven is Learn Lettering.

Learn Lettering 2.0

  • 10:33 Learn Lettering made six figures in three days last year. People are interested in lettering. Fifteen thousand people were subscribed to the Learn Lettering email list when I launched last year. Now, it’s about 30,000 subscribers. There’s obviously interest. For some reason, I saw this as a good time to move on and do something else. Why do we do this? We stop doing things that work. I’m going to correct that mistake.

Lettering is what people are interested in, so I need to do more of what works.

  • 11:15 I decided to produce a new version of Learn Lettering, reproduce all the videos completely, add 50% more content, new modules, and even greater value. In order to launch this, I wanted to build up a period of momentum and close down the sales of the original version, which meant no sales for a month. Meanwhile, we still have payroll and I still have to take care of my people. When I talk about money to other people, they think differently than me. They don’t see it quite like I do, so I’m going to be honest with real numbers here.
  • 12:18 I did the math, looked at the payroll, the time, the income, what the income would be if I closed down the course, ran out the time we had to do this, and we will have $400 left in the company account. Why am I underscoring this part of the show? I want to contrast it with the other part. I’m going to come back to my reasons for working hard and then share my projections for the launch.
  • 13:14 Working hard gets exhausting at times. Sometimes, I long to sink a ton of hours into mindless Reddit browsing, YouTube viewing, or XBox playing. I got an email from Microsoft the other day saying that my XBox live subscription is about to renew. It’s been so long since I played games that I didn’t realize I had that anymore, so I cancelled it. I don’t do any of that stuff. A lot of you think this isn’t difficult for me and I must not have those desires. Everyone jokes about me being a robot.
  • 14:13 I long for mindless rest, but I also know that it’s not really what I want. It’s an allure. It’s the treat you want to binge on, like wanting to eat the whole tub of ice cream by yourself. You think it’s going to be incredible, but then you do, and it’s not. You feel gross, like you can’t move, and you don’t like yourself. You fall into a slump. I sometimes miss wasting time, goofing off, and not caring, because it seems like it would be a lot easier, but I remember the times in my life when I did those things. It wasn’t nearly as fulfilling as what I’m doing right now. It’s really hard, but it’s incredibly rewarding. I feel satisfied. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I wouldn’t trade it. I know I won’t always have this momentum, energy, and life.

Life is short, and I want to make a contribution while I’m here.

  • 15:04 Focus, energy, and time are scarce. While I have things optimized and dialed in, I’ll produce like my life depends on it. No regrets. I got an email earlier today: “No one else manages to build up my spirits like you guys.” Another email: “I ignored most of your emails for two years, but now your valuable content is shaping the course of my life.” Someone else replied to another email, “I needed this more than I could ever describe.”
  • 15:56 I like helping people. It’s a way of thinking—something shifts. “Content creator” doesn’t live up to the full sentiment I’m trying to convey, but when you are a content creator, how you view the world shifts. My family and friends joke, “Are you going to podcast about this?” Probably, but the lens with which you view the world changes, and I think it changes for the better. The way I look at the world and life is, “What can I learn from this?”
  • 16:49 Maybe it’s a negative situation that’s not positive or fun, but everything is a challenge. What can I learn from this? What could other people learn from this? What could I share? What could I share that I messed up on or that went wrong, so I can help other people? I want to help people and keep doing that long term. I was just realizing earlier today that I used to do the podcast, edit it myself, and write the shownotes myself for it to go out the next day.

The Payoff

  • 17:42 Right now, I’m working really hard. I’m recording this episode the night before. I was up till 2am last night working on one of the daily blog posts I’ve been doing for Learn Lettering for 30 days in a row. It’s an average of 1,500 words. The Learn Lettering class has 75 lessons that are at least 1,000 words each that I’m writing. 75,000 for the lessons plus 30,000 for the blog posts is insane. It’s not magic—I’m staying up late.
  • 18:42 Jenn in the chat room asked, “You have time for this Sean?” No, I don’t have time for this. I literally don’t have time, my to-do list is a mile long, but I’m doing it because I made a commitment. This is what I do. The difference between someone who’s written a book and you is that they wrote a book. They sat down and wrote, because that’s what they do.

The only difference between people who do something and people who don’t is this: the people who do something just do it.

  • 19:38 Today I don’t have time to record the podcast, but I’m recording the podcast. I want to keep helping people. I don’t want to keep doing things at the last minute all the time, it’s craziness here. To keep helping people long term, I’ve realized that I need a team. I can’t do it all myself. It’s amazing that with a team of seven people it’s still coming down to the wire with this launch. Things tend to expand to the time you allot it. It’s the same with a team, too. I don’t know how I did Learn Lettering all by myself, shooting it, marketing it—it’s insane. It’s still really hard with a bunch of people.
  • 20:26 To do this to help people long term, I realized that I need a team, so I hired a team, and it’s hard. We have an expensive payroll. I want to take care of the team. I give them paid sabbaticals because I believe in the sabbatical concept and I believe in them. I believe I’ve picked the right people because I’m very selective. This time, I did work through the sabbatical, even though it’s supposed to be the time to recharge. The nice thing is, the fact that I’ve so enjoyed having that and then not having it this time has made me realize how much I appreciate it. It’s like if you work a job that’s five days a week and you always have weekends, if you have to stay late one weekend, you notice how much you love your weekends.
  • 21:24 Some people think I’m a bad estimator with time and I didn’t give myself time, and you can say that, but I’m pretty good at estimations. You’ll see, because I’m going to tell you my estimations for the launch. You can compare it with the results. I’m pretty good and pretty accurate. I didn’t miscalculate the time, it’s just the time that I have. I have to take care of my people.

If you have a family, you do whatever it takes to provide for them.

  • 22:25 The good news is, for the next sabbatical in September, I’m going to be speaking in LA and then we’re driving to San Diego to stay on the beach. I’m going to live up that sabbatical, and it’s going to be good. My projections for Learn Lettering are that we will break $200,000 at launch. I think we’ll hit $100,000 in the first two days and $200,000 in the two-week launch period. That means the new Master Class with 15 modules is going to be $699. I’m going to debut this class at $447. This is premium stuff. The original version was $299, and I’m adding 50% more content, all kinds of added value, and the production has gone way up. When I look back at those videos, I think, “Who is that person?”
  • 24:14 I have improved tremendously in terms of delivery in the last year and I also have a video guy now. This is a three camera production, high quality. It’s going to debut at $447 for people who buy in the first 48 hours; they’re going to also get a bonus sketch-note workshop module. I’m going to be leading a sketch-note workshop at Circles conference in September—it’s a $97 workshop and the material I’m going to prepare for that is going to turn into a course. I’m adding that value as well.
  • 24:57 The price is also going to go up permanently, and I know that it’s still going to sell at $699 because the value in this course is immense. It’s not just lettering techniques, but it’s also the business principles you need to succeed. I take people behind the scenes of high four figure logo design projects and five figure client projects with hand lettering. If you’re hitting a ceiling and all you’ve ever charged is a few hundred dollars for your work and you don’t understand how you can charge thousands, this class will help you.
  • 25:40 It will immediately pay it back on the first job you do. The value is 10 or 20 times what you pay for it. I know that I’ve priced this right, invested a lot, and given away a ton. I know there will be less people percentage and conversion-wise than the original course, but I also know that because the price is higher and it’s more premium, ultimately the revenue will be greater. That’s assuming the same list size, and this time the list size has doubled. With the $200,000 I’m projecting for the launch period, we’ll have payroll for half a year or so. During that time, we can work on other projects and continue to grow.
  • 26:50 Some people have asked before, “What is it like?” I have employees listening live, and that’s got to be scary for them, but I’m transparent with them. I’m transparent with everyone. I don’t believe in job security with any job anywhere. You have job security until you don’t. It’s just a facade. When you work for yourself, you have to face the fears, uncertainty, and the unknown. When you work for someone else, you’re hidden from it and you can feel insulated from it—you just know that you show up and you get paid.
  • 27:35 Justin says, “Not scary, this is just how it is. The only difference here is that we as employees know about it, which I prefer.” You don’t usually know when your company is scraping by, because all you see is your paycheck. It comes down to whether or not you believe in what your company is doing, whether the people running it know what they’re doing, and you agree with their values. We have $400 because of the order I chose to do things in. I could have stretched it out and had a longer runway with other projects, and those could have gone well, they could have propelled us forward six months or more, building up residual income, so eventually the recurring monthly revenue surpasses payroll and everything else is gravy. That could have been fine, but I chose a more aggressive order by focusing on what went well in the past.
  • 28:37I did it more aggressively, and that’s why I’m hustling. There’s the story. We’re going to launch five days from when this podcast goes out. I’m not going to share the real numbers immediately, because it is a two-week launch period. If you go to Learn Lettering and subscribe, I’m giving away the starter class, which has four modules. That’s going to be crazy. I have no idea what to expect. Long term, it could be the best or the worst idea I’ve ever had. I have premium video hosting and I’m paying for bandwidth. Something like 30,000 subscribers can sign up and watch hours of video for free when I’m paying $0.50 per gigabyte and we’re doing terabytes of data. Think about that!
  • 29:54 Do the math. It’s a four figure video-hosting bill, and I’m giving it away. I don’t know how many of those people will convert, but I know that I’m giving a lot away and I need to give people time to go through the free material before I end the promotion, which is why I’m doing a longer launch period than usual. For that reason, I’m not sharing real numbers immediately after the launch, but I eventually will, and I hope you appreciate that as listeners. It’s kind of scary sharing all that stuff.

Finding Your Why

  • 30:43 I was sharing those emails I got from people. You will get haters when you put yourself out there, it’s just a matter of time. I didn’t believe it; I was naive, I thought, “I’m helping people, who in the world is going to hate?” It’s inevitable, it’s going to happen. I also get encouragement too, which is awesome. Every day, people are saying that this is changing their lives, and that’s incredible. What’s fulfilling you?

The people who accomplish big things are people who set big goals and take one step every day to achieve them—every day for years, not for weeks or for months.

  • 31:30 Every day for years, not for weeks or for months. You have to find your “why”:
    • What are your goals?
    • What do you want to accomplish?
    • Do you want to travel?
    • Do you have a dream job or a dream house?
    • What is the ideal situation look like for you?
  • 32:28 Hold onto that. People will discourage you, saying, “What are you listening to? Some crazy guy talking about success? You’re trying to think yourself into success?” I was talking to one of the Community members earlier this evening, and he’s getting feedback from people saying certain things about what he’s doing. He’s investing in himself, doing his own thing, working hard, and people are asking what he’s doing and telling him to get a “real” job. He’s feeling discouraged. I said, “Are the people who are saying those things living lives you want to be living? Because, otherwise, why are you listening to them?” Are the people making you feel bad living lives you want to be living? Are the people saying the crazy stuff like, “It’s all about your mindset, think long term, do something every day,” living lives you want to be living? I don’t know. Maybe you don’t want to work hard and hustle.