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Hello and welcome to the seanwes podcast!
I’m about to take you behind the scenes of the launch of my hand lettering course, Learn Lettering 2.0.
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So check it out: You’re about to read a MASSIVE case study—but these are actually the shownotes for a podcast episode!
That’s right! This is a podcast! It’s one of hundreds more like it (we produce two episodes a week).
I recommend also listening to the audio recording. It’s at the very top of this post—you might’ve scrolled past it.
After getting a couple thousand words deep into writing this case study, I realized I should move the launch revenue details to the top here because I know it’s what you came to see.
Of course, if you continue to read on, you’ll see that a lot went into this.
Now that I’ve shown you the surface-level numbers, let’s go deeper and I’ll show you exactly how I got those results—including the validation, preparation, and marketing tactics I used for getting the most out of this launch that you can use too.
The Original Course Launch
I’ve been lettering since middle school, but began pursuing it seriously in 2010. In total, I’ve spent 9,000 hours practicing (see gallery).
It took a of couple years of sharing my hand lettering work regularly before I built up enough of an audience and steady stream of client work to do lettering full time.
Eventually, I got to the point where I was charging 5-figure rates with clients and selling physical products every single day. Things were going great! Except, I was ignoring the elephant in the room.
What’s the elephant in the room? Well, for as many people as were buying my products and hiring me for commission work, the vast majority of my audience wanted to learn how to do what I did. They wanted to learn hand lettering!
At the time, I wasn’t aware that searches for “hand lettering” had increased by 1000% since 2007. So how did I know that there was a resurgent interest in hand lettering?
Well, I was getting a lot of emails every day. I mean seriously—a lot.
So I put up a guide. It was 2013. In the year that followed, 200,000 people read that guide.
People wanted to learn.
Clearly there was interest and room for going more in depth.
In March of 2014, I launched the first version of my course, Learn Lettering (this was my very first launch of any kind). In the half year leading up to the launch, I immersed myself in the world of marketing and absorbed everything I could. I applied what I learned to my course launch.
The Result: Learn Lettering 1.0 made six figures in the first three days.
(Previous 2014 case study if you missed it: How Learn Lettering [1.0] Made $80,000 in 24 Hours With the First $10k in 30 Minutes)
This was pretty incredible.
“But do I really need to share the results?” I wondered. “I’m just a hand lettering artist, not a marketer.”
I knew some people shared real revenue numbers and all that, but just because I had a successful course launch, did that mean I had to share the details?
I decided to do it anyway. I wrote an exhaustive 4,000-word case study on the original launch spilling all the nitty-gritty details of everything that went into it. I held nothing back.
Of course I didn’t have to share it. There was no obligation, but I wanted to show that it was possible. I wanted to show that it wasn’t magic. Did some people scoff? Yes, but more people were extremely grateful that I was so transparent in sharing all of the details so that they could benefit.
Other people were able to learn because I shared freely.
I’ve since adopted total transparency in my business. You’re currently reading the shownotes of episode 199 of the seanwes podcast, but in my other show, Lambo Goal (a weekly podcast about business), I make a habit of sharing real revenue numbers on a regular basis.
So when I shared this exhaustive case study about my course grossing six figures in three days, it naturally piqued people’s interest. I have a sizable audience for hand lettering (Instagram), but when people see headlines like, “Hand Lettering Artist Makes Six Figures in 3 Days,” you start to get attention of more than just artists—people in the business and marketing worlds turn heads.
A Shift in Focus
I’d built up an audience of over a hundred thousand people. I was charging $8,000 for logos. Every day, I was selling my own physical products and shipping them to dozens of countries across the globe.
I had tasted what it was like to wake up every day and do what you love and make a living from it. No, it’s not all fun and games all the time—of course there’s things like taxes and accounting—but the work I was doing was so incredibly fulfilling.
These two things became my mantra:
- Share what you learn.
- Teach everything you know.
I not only shared the results of that original launch, but I began sharing literally everything I knew on this weekly podcast.
As a result, people began writing in to thank me. They wrote in to say I inspired them to quit a job they hated and take a risk on something they loved. They wrote in to say that I helped them triple what they were charging clients. They wrote in to say their audience had grown by 420% in less than a year just by applying the things I teach.
It was exhilarating.
That’s when I decided to shift my focus to teaching business.
At first I was afraid that being known as a letterer was holding me back. “How will people ever see me as a source for business knowledge if everyone knows me as a letterer?” I later realized this was a HUGE advantage.
In a world of online marketers making a living by teaching others to make a living with marketing and growing their lists by launching courses on growing lists, I had a real, tangible skill that I spent 9,000 hours acquiring. While those people run the risk of skepticism from recursion, I’m viewed as an artist who successfully grew his legitimate business and is now teaching what he knows.
The Learn Lettering course serves as a real-life case study for my effectiveness as a marketer and vets my business acumen.
Why Relaunch Learn Lettering?
So if I made a shift to teaching business and the original course did so well, this begs the question: Why go back to lettering and launch a new version of the course?
There’s a lot to this answer.
Learn Lettering 1.0 was good. $100,000 in revenue at the launch and then it went on to do several hundred thousand by the end of last year. It had thousands of students and things were great.
However, there were a number of reasons I decided to reproduce it and launch Learn Lettering 2.0:
- Tailor to biggest struggles based on research
- In the year and a half since 1.0, I’ve received hundreds of emails from people sharing their biggest struggles with hand lettering. I have a tremendous amount of new data that has allowed me to further tailor the course to exactly what people are struggling with.
- Significantly improve production quality
- Better audio (multiple NTG-3 shotgun microphones).
- Better video (I now have a full-time video guy on staff and we shot a three-camera production—compare to the single camera I had previously).
- Better gear in general (there’s more than I can mention here, but I made a video if you want to see an exhaustive behind the scenes gear list).
- Better delivery (my teaching skills have progressed tremendously after hundreds of podcast episodes, videos, and conference talks in the past year).
- Added 50% more content (1.0 had 10 modules and 50 lessons—2.0 has 15 modules and 75 lessons)
- Reposition the course as more premium offering (to reflect the increased production quality and new material, the price of the course is higher).
- Added full transcripts for all lessons (tens of thousands of words—no small feat).
- Launch to much bigger audience
- Last year, I launched to a list of 15,000. This year it was at 30,000.
- Do more of what works
- This is probably the biggest one. For some reason as entrepreneurs, we tend to find something that works and then move on to something else. It’s the worst habit in the world, but we all seem prone to it. The most effective way to double your revenue is to do more of what works. I’ve preached this before (see previous link), but now it was time for me to take my own advice.
- Yes, I’d moved on and shifted my focus to business, but what had worked for me in the past? Well, lettering obviously! You saw that search trend chart. Hand lettering isn’t slowing down any time soon. In fact, I was still getting nearly a hundred signups a day on the lettering list—and that was without any promotion.
- The answer was clear: if I wanted the best ROI on my time, there’s no place I’d get better results than investing it in something that had already worked in the past.
It was time for Learn Lettering 2.0.
An Insane Time Frame
Time frame for this relaunch: 50 days.
Yeah, so… there’s one factor I haven’t introduced yet. There’s a big difference between seanwes now and seanwes in 2014. 6 employees to be exact.
We now have 7 full-time people on the seanwes team. This results in a pretty substantial payroll.
Monthly revenue has so far always been below payroll, but course launches and other promotional revenue spikes throughout the year make up the difference.
However, sales from Learn Lettering 1.0 had slowed quite a bit. We might have been able to limp along, but I really wanted to get six months of payroll in the bank. With a nice runway, my plan was to use the next half year to get additional revenue streams in place.
The tricky part: if we were going to launch Learn Lettering 2.0, that meant closing down the existing Learn Lettering 1.0 (our biggest revenue source). That meant we were going to cut into savings pretty severely.
It’s not that I wanted to do it in only 50 days—it’s that I had to ensure we could make payroll.
This meant it was serious hustle time.
I worked 18-hour days, 7 days a week, for two full months. That’s over 1,000 hours.
I talked about it in this episode: Why I Work Hard (where I also predicted the launch revenue within an 11% margin of error).
I had to provide for my people.
I’ll be honest, it’s a month later now and I’m just recovering from that work sprint. I’m still quite young, but even still, it took me several weeks to fully recover from those thousand hours.
This was not an ideal situation. I hired pretty aggressively, but I do think it has been the right move. I have an expansive vision for the future and this is literally just the tip of the ice berg. This is only the beginning.
I’m very confident we’ll get monthly recurring revenue above payroll in 2016. We’re going to be in a very good place because of this hustle and I would not trade it for hiring slower.
Ramp Up Promotion
Here’s something I did wrong in the first launch: I only sent 5 emails 5 days before the launch.
This was a huge mistake. See, I was caught up in thinking that I shouldn’t “bother” a list of 15,000 people unless I had something valuable to offer.
There’s two things wrong with this way of thinking:
- I shouldn’t have thought of it as “emailing 15,000 people.”
- When you send an email to your list, that is one person opening one email from one other person.
- I should have treated it that way. Instead of getting overwhelmed by the list size, I should have thought of it as a bunch of one-on-one interactions—because that’s exactly what it is.
- I shouldn’t have thought, “I don’t have something valuable to offer.”
- Instead of thinking I have to have something valuable to offer before emailing my list, I should have started with a commitment to email them every day.
- If I’d started with a commitment to email them every day and get my back against the wall, then I’d have no choice but to come up with relevant value every single day.
- This would have built substantial buzz leading up to the launch.
So what did I do this time? I corrected the mistake I made last time.
What do I mean by that? Here’s the deal:
People don’t notice announcements, they notice consistency.
I like to think of it as a firework show. If one large firework goes off, a few people nearby will glance over for a moment, but then they’ll immediately go back to work.
But compare that to a 20-minute firework show—with fireworks constantly going off—people are going to notice that. It’s relentless. You have their attention because you’re being consistent.
How does this relate to product launches? You similarly want to be consistent in building up to the launch.
I’m 200 episodes into this podcast and for many of you, this is the first time you’re hearing of it! I’ve been doing it for years! I STILL have people following me that say “How did I not know you had a podcast?”
People miss things. You feel like you’re over-promoting yourself and constantly putting things out there and you’re afraid people are going to get annoyed, but they’re not.
It takes a lot of consistent content to start getting any kind of attention.
So what did I do? I decided to blog every single day for 30 days. I’m not talking about some lame, weak, couple-hundred-word blog post. I’m talking about averaging 1,000+ words for every single post and providing massive value.
You can ignore one post. You can ignore two, three, five, maybe even a dozen posts. But people cannot ignore 30 posts in a row on the specific topic your course is about.
Just take a look for yourself at what I did:
- Day 0: Learn Lettering 2.0 – 30 Days of Lettering Posts Starts Now
- Day 1: Get Better At Hand Lettering the FAST Way by Changing How You Practice (1,426 words)
- Day 2: Is It Really Possible to Make a Living With Hand Lettering? (1,391 words)
- Day 3: How to Find Clients for Hand Lettering (1,363 words)
- Day 4: Are There Too Many People Already Doing Hand Lettering? (1,593 words)
- Day 5: How to Develop Your Own Unique Hand Lettering Style (1,369 words)
- Day 6: “I don’t have an art or design background… can I do hand lettering?” (1,437 words)
- Day 7: Mind Blank? Here’s Where I Get Ideas for Hand Lettering (1,160 words)
- Day 8: The Selling Power of Hand Lettering (3,230 words)
- Day 9: Quick Tip to Draw Straight Lines & Avoid Shaky Hand Lettering (352 words)
- Day 10: How Do You Find the Time to Practice Hand Lettering? (1,171 words)
- Day 11: Save Time in Photoshop With Custom Keyboard Shortcuts So You Have More Time for Hand Lettering (1,320 words)
- Day 12: Has Your Hand Lettering Spark Fizzled Out? Here’s 5 Ways to Stay Motivated & Driven (1,450 words)
- Day 13: Basic Guide to Choosing Harmonious Styles for Hand Lettering (1,721 words)
- Day 14: Do You Need Talent to Do Hand Lettering or Is It Just Hard Work? (1,240 words)
- Day 15: How to Grow Your Hand Lettering Audience (2,536 words)
- Day 16: Hand Lettering as a Left-Hander – Are You Doomed? (1,155 words)
- Day 17: How to Be Inspired Without Copying (1,071 words)
- Day 18: Part 1 of 3: Making A Living With Hand Lettering (Client Work) (1,375 words)
- Day 19: Part 2 of 3: Making A Living With Hand Lettering (Products) (1,958 words)
- Day 20: Part 3 of 3: Making A Living With Hand Lettering (Teaching) (2,064 words)
- Day 21: Other Hand Lettering Artists Aren’t Competition – They’re Your Community (941 words)
- Day 22: Top 25 Things I’ve Learned About Hand Lettering (2,844 words)
- Day 23: Make One Thing Today (403 words)
- Day 24: Hand Lettering Sketch to Vector Process Video (779 words)
- Day 25: Free Learn Lettering Video: Spacing Your Lettering (246 words)
- Day 26: Introduction to Typographic Terms for Hand Lettering Artists (583 words)
- Day 27: “Since this class, I’ve gotten more client inquires, higher paying gigs and more respect.” (714 words)
- Day 28: Pricing Hand Lettering Client Work on Value (1,554 words)
- Day 29: How Long Will the Learn Lettering Lessons Be Available? (833 words)
- Day 30: “When will I make the money back from my investment in Learn Lettering?” (874 words)
Read that number again: 40,000 words. Do you have what it takes? Can you write 40,000 additional words outside the actual material of your course?
There’s still a good 75,000–100,000 words in the course itself.
Why are you so surprised that people don’t care? Why are you so surprised that your own closest friends aren’t even aware of your course? Why are you so surprised that you launch to crickets?
You’re not showing up every day. You’re not hustling.
Let me tell you why you should be sending daily emails…
Daily Emails Are Not Bad – They Are the KEY
Let me guess: you think daily emails are spammy.
How do I know? Because I used to think the same thing.
I’ll take a wild guess and say that you’ve made it this far because you’re interested in marketing. I have a question for you: tomorrow, will you no longer be interested in marketing?
I doubt it. I bet tomorrow, you’re going to read new posts about marketing, new emails about marketing, new videos about marketing, etc.
It’s the same with any interest.
The reason you think daily emails are spammy is because you only notice daily emails that are spammy. The problem is not frequency, it’s relevancy.
There’s nothing wrong with daily. We all consume content surrounding our interests on a daily basis. So the question is: are they going to consume your content or someone else’s? Because if you’re not putting something out daily, you better believe they’re going to consume other content.
So what were the results of the 30-day series?
Incredible! I was getting dozens of replies every day from people saying the emails were the highlight of their day. They couldn’t wait to open their inbox in the morning.
“I know these emails are to promote your course, but it doesn’t feel like an ad! Please don’t stop writing these even after your course launches!”
They didn’t feel like an ad because they weren’t advertisements! It was pure value. I was just teaching. Remember the screenshot of all of those emails replies I get? That’s where I source my topics from.
I never just write whatever I feel. I tap into my audience. I write posts in response to the most common questions people have—and I know what those are because I listen to them. I engage with them.
This is how you get people to feel like you’re reading their mind.
Leveraging My Unique Advantage
We’ve talked about building hype and buzz ramping up to the launch. Now I want to talk about the actual courses.
I’m going to show you how I can charge 36x the industry average for my courses as well as how I’m simultaneously demolishing the lower end market.
Most hand lettering courses are in the neighborhood of $19. They treat hand lettering like an art hobby and show you a few techniques and that’s it.
I come from a different perspective.
My background is in business. I ran a computer repair business for 5 years and then a web firm for 3 years before getting into hand lettering full time. I’m not constrained by the “starving artist” mentality that plagues the art world where if you make money from your work, you’re a “sellout”.
We all have bills to pay and I get that.
What I’ve found is it’s very rare for someone to be a strong hybrid of both an artist as well as a business person. Yet to succeed in this world, you need equal parts creativity and business. You’re never going to pay your bills as an artist unless you learn to wield both.
This is my unique advantage.
I have 10 years of business experience and 9,000 hours of practical, hands-on lettering experience. Most courses out there simply show you how to draw letters. But here’s my value proposition: Make a living as a hand lettering artist.
With Learn Lettering, I am leveraging my unique advantage. I’m not just teaching people how to draw letters, I’m equipping them with the business knowledge they need to succeed in the real world. The Learn Lettering Master Class prepares you for business in the most practical ways: everything from client work, to pricing, to creating, selling, and marketing physical products, and teaching.
My students spend hundreds of dollars on my courses and then tweet me later that week to say they already made their investment back:
@seanwes already made my investment back and then some from Learn Lettering 2.0. Just signed a great client using the info from the course!
— Tommy Creenan (@TommyCreenan) August 5, 2015
I’m providing epic value. I’m teaching my students how to price and use licensing to make residual income off of their work long after they’ve finished. For this reason, I’m able to price the class in the more premium range—because I can effectively deliver on that value.
The Full Module Breakdown
I’ve been talking about the class, but I want to show you just the sheer amount of content inside the class.
It’s quite massive and you really have to see it to comprehend it.
I’ve separated everything into color-coded groups with nifty badges so you can see at a glance which lessons and modules are included in each tier.
- M = Master Class
- I = Intermediate Class
- S = Starter Class
- M I S Typographic Terms & Deliberate Practice
- M I S The Anatomy of Type
- M I S Choosing Harmonious Styles
- M I S Drawing Inspiration from Typefaces
- M I S Deliberate Practice (Part A)
- M I S Deliberate Practice (Part B)
- M I S How to Draw Three Common Hand Lettering Styles
- M I S Drawing Sans-Serif – Capitals (Part A)
- M I S Drawing Sans-Serif – Capitals (Part B)
- M I S Drawing Sans-Serif – Capitals (Part C)
- M I S Drawing Sans-Serif – Capitals (Part D)
- M I
SDrawing Sans-Serif – Lowercase (Part A)
- M I
SDrawing Sans-Serif – Lowercase (Part B)
- M I
SDrawing Sans-Serif – Lowercase (Part C)
- M I
SDrawing Sans-Serif – Lowercase (Part D)
- M I
SDrawing Serif – Capitals (Part A)
- M I
SDrawing Serif – Capitals (Part B)
- M I
SDrawing Serif – Lowercase (Part A)
- M I
SDrawing Serif – Lowercase (Part B)
- M I
SDrawing Script – Capitals (Part A)
- M I
SDrawing Script – Capitals (Part B)
- M I
SDrawing Script – Lowercase (Part A)
- M I
SDrawing Script – Lowercase (Part B)
- M I S Digitizing Hand Lettering
- M I S Digitally Preparing Sketches
- M I S Creating Organic-Style Vectors
- M I S Editing Vectors
- M I S Creating Precise Vectors with Shapes
- M I S Creating Precise Vectors with the Pen Tool
- M I
SHand Lettering Tools in Use
- M I
- M I
- M I
- M I
SWatercolor Brush Pens
- M I
- M I
SMastering the Art of Letterspacing
- M I
SApplying Kerning Principles to Lettering
- M I
SVolumes of Negative Space
- M I
SPlanning Out Lettering for Even Spacing
- M I
SPreventing & Recognizing Spacing Problems
- M I
- M I
SHow to Design Strong Compositions
- M I
- M I
SMaking Thumbnail Concepts
- M I
SApplying Lettering Styles
- M I
SCreating the Composition
- M I
- M I
SCreating Original Artworks With Precision
- M I
SThe Case for Originals
- M I
SCreating the Concept Template
- M I
STransferring Designs to the Canvas
- M I
- M I
SDesigning Custom Type Logos
- M I
- M I
SLogo Design Vectorization
- M I
SRefining the Vector Concept
- M I
SPresentation, Guidelines & Case Studies
- M I
I SFinding Clients
I SHow to Attract More Attention
I SDefining the Right Type of Client
I SGetting the Clients That Pay Well
I SCommon Red Flags to Watch Out For
I SClient Communication
I SPreliminary Discussion
I SPreventing Problems Before They Happen
I SSetting Expectations & Establishing Responsibilities
I SCrafting the Presentation
I SPricing on Value
I SFull Price or Free
I SUncovering Value to the Client
I SHow to Price With Confidence
I SThe True Value of a Logo
I SUnderstanding & Writing Design Contracts
I SStarting with Plain English
I SUnderstanding the Terms
I SPayments, Deadlines, & Deliverables
I SUsing the Contract Template
- M Streamlining Contract Delivery & Getting Paid
I SSelling Physical Products
I SWhat Products Should You Start With?
I SMarketing Physical Products
I SPromoting Products Without Discounting
I SIncreasing Revenue
I SThe Selling Power of Licensing
I SIntroduction to Licensing
I SUnderstanding the Terms
I SExclusive vs. Non-Exclusive Rights
I SBreaking Down Royalties & Advances
I STeaching Hand Lettering
I SBuilding an Audience for Teaching
I SThree Ways to Make Money Teaching
I SMarketing for Maximum Sales
I SHow to Price
I SBONUS: Sketchnote Workshop (Included With Purchases Made in First 48 Hours)
The Learn Lettering Master Class is nothing short of an incredible, chock-full, valuable resource. It is more thorough than a college course, more professional than a college course, better produced and more jam-packed than a college course, and worlds cheaper than a college course.
You will learn more practical, real-life business skills than you did at school.
While we already had 50 videos from Learn Lettering 1.0, I insisted we reproduce everything from scratch. I wanted the quality to be top notch. I’ve purchased thousand-dollar courses before only to find recordings of some guy rambling unscripted into his webcam. What a waste of time!
Not at seanwes.
We set an extremely high bar for quality here. I pre-wrote the lessons and used a teleprompter to deliver the highest concentration of information in the shortest amount of time. We shot the lessons with a 3-camera setup and each video was edited with precision.
This time, we also included transcripts in the lesson notes for each video. This is helpful not only for revisiting a lesson but also translating for non-English speakers.
When I look back on the first launch, I have absolutely no idea how I did all this myself the first time. For Learn Lettering 2.0, there was no way I could have done it in the time we did without help. This was definitely a team effort!
Everyone on the seanwes team put in a lot of hustle:
- Justin Michael: Development (Product and lesson setup, landing and webinar page coding, chat system)
- Cory Miller: Transposing my blog posts into beautiful HTML emails in Infusionsoft
- Cory McCabe: Video Production
- Laci McCabe: Writing Lesson Transcripts
- Aaron Dowd: Proofing Lesson Transcripts
- Kristiana Miller: Proofing Lesson Transcripts
Pricing the Class
For Learn Lettering 1.0, the tiers looked like this:
- Starter Class: 1 module – $29
- Intermediate Class: 3 modules – $99
- Master Class: 10 modules – $299
Note that the Intermediate Class had 3 modules. I sold it for $99 and made hundreds of sales at that price.
This time around, everything got beefed up:
- Starter Class: 3 modules – $99
- Intermediate Class: 10 modules – $299
- Master Class: 15 modules – $699
Makes sense right? The Starter Class now includes the 3 modules the 1.0 Intermediate Class had. I used to sell that for $99, so I should be justified in doing that now.
But then I decided to do something crazy…
The Crazy Idea: Give Away the Starter Class for FREE (Craft A Story)
Instead of selling the 2.0 Starter Class for $99 (the price I sold the same 3 modules for a year ago), I decided to give it away 100% free.
Why did I do this? Two reasons:
- I wanted to craft a story.
- A product launch isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A story about a product launch. Why should someone care? What’s interesting? Why should someone spread the word? What are you doing to be remarkable?
- I wanted to create a story. That story was: “Look. I should be selling this class for $99. In fact, I DID sell hundreds of these classes for $99 just this last year. But I had a crazy idea: I’m going to give it away for free.”
- WOAH! That’s what gets people excited! If I said I was going to sell it for $29 instead of $99, people would only value it at $29. By giving it away for free, people actually value it at the full price ($99). There are only two prices that acknowledge full value: Full Price or Free.
- I wanted to demolish the lower end market.
- I explained earlier how I have the audacity to sell courses at 36x the industry average. Well, that wasn’t enough.
- Without a free tier, this is the story:
- “Well, sure… if you just want a surface-level, tips-and-tricks course about drawing, you can go get someone else’s cheaper offering. When you’re serious, you can come back and purchase Learn Lettering.”
- Now, the story goes like this:
- “Learn Lettering is THE solution for learning to make a living as a hand lettering artist. You simply will not find anything that compares to its material depth and focus on pairing techniques with the business principles you need to succeed.”
- “Oh yeah, and if you’re not ready to invest, you could go get someone else’s cheap offering for $19 —OR… you can get my $99 class absolutely FREE.”
- It’s a complete no-brainer.
In fact, it was such a no-brainer that it had the exact effect I engineered: it spread like wildfire.
Some people share valuable content that’s paid (few).
TONS of people share valuable content that’s completely free (everyone).
People love to share content that’s:
- A) Valuable
- B) Free
- C) Makes them look good
When you hit that trifecta, you win the lottery. I posted a photo on my Instagram letting people know that I was giving away the class. Here’s what I said:
If you didn’t know, I decided to do something crazy: I’m giving away the Learn Lettering 2.0 Starter Class instead of selling it for $99—my original plan.
The classes launch on July 27th, 2015. I’m on Day 11 of a daily hand lettering blog post series ramping up to the launch. You get this email series, my 10-Step Introductory Lettering Guide, and access to the Starter Class when you subscribe.
Tag a friend to go through the course with you! LearnLettering.com (link in bio).
The result? Nearly 300 comments of people tagging at least one other friend!
What better marketing than word of mouth!
This catalyst was accelerated by my daily blogging to result in an additional 4,000 subscribers added to my list during the 30-day blog series. This brought my lettering email list from 26,000 subscribers to 30,000 subscribers by the launch.
FREE Comes at a Price
I knew many people were going to go for the free tier—including those who might otherwise have been candidates for the Master Class. After all, why not check it out? You get $99 worth of modules for free, so no harm in trying out the Starter Class first.
As you can see above, a staggering number of people signed up for the valuable Starter Class compared to the other paid tiers.
My Wistia bill is also in the 4-figures as a result of this. I’m paying big time for the freeloaders.
I’m also having to work to convert people who signed up for the free tier that otherwise might have paid. I knew this would be an uphill battle.
The theory is that I’m playing the long game. The numbers you see from this launch are great, but I’m banking on being able to convert a percentage of the many thousands of new people I have in my ecosystem now. They may not be ready to buy yet, but to them I’m the super-nice guy who gave them a top-notch quality course for free instead of charging them $99. That bodes well and I’m putting in a Relationship Marketing credit I can cash in on later down the road.
Since I knew a lot of Master Class candidates would try out the free tier first, I opted to do a longer launch than usual. Typically, I’ll run a 48-hour launch at an introductory rate and then raise the price permanently.
I did raise the price permanently, but I extended the launch to 2 weeks this time. That way, people have the opportunity to go through the 14 lessons available in the Starter Class to get a good idea of the production quality.
The last thing I wanted was to pressure people to purchase when they still had a ton of free content to go through.
What would have happened if I had priced the Starter Class at $99? Certainly 6,000 people would not have signed up for it at launch. But would I have made more bottom line revenue? I definitely would have—no doubt.
But it would have been at the expense of long term sales. It would be cashing in on all of it up front. Where as now, I have:
- A list of 31,000 people.
- 7,000 active prospects.
- Overall, more leads to nurture and ultimately convert.
Oh yeah… and $177,803.00.
The Bulk of the Revenue Came From the Highest Tier
Unsurprisingly, even though an astonishing 6,000 people got the Starter Class, it results in a whopping $0 in revenue. Actually, it’s negative revenue since there are a myriad of costs associated with servers, video hosting bandwidth, and my email service provider.
But from a mere 400 sales, we’re looking at some pretty substantial six-figure revenue.
Maybe you’re charging $199 for your course and you’re scared to charge more. I want you to think about this simple math:
Will doubling your price result in losing half of your customer base? If not, then you can afford to increase.
Granted, you need to be providing a good deal of value above and beyond your asking price. I like to aim for a solid 10x or 20x value for the asking price. This gives me a lot of room to increase the price.
In fact, after the first launch, I had a bunch of people writing me to say they would have paid more and the value they received was tremendous. This was a good sign and why I was able to charge more (in addition to adding 50% more content).
The Learn Lettering 2.0 Master Class is valued at $699. This is the price it is at now and it will never again be cheaper.
I will occasionally increase the price of my products, but I never bring the price back down. Discounting is a middle finger to your past customers. Nothing infuriates me more than paying full price for something only to see it in the discount bin several months later. What a terrible thing to do. You’re essentially telling customers, “You were stupid to buy from me early when I told you to. If you were smart, you would have waited and got a better deal.”
My customers know that if you buy from me early, you get the best price. Period.
My plan was to debut the Master Class at a one-time, introductory rate of $447 and then increase the price permanently. I have now done this.
Of course if I did nothing to promote any urgency, everyone would simply sign up for the free tier and procrastinate until the end of the two weeks to purchase.
I needed a way to create urgency at the start of the launch.
Remember I said I usually do a 48-hour launch? Well, even though the introductory rate was available for 2 weeks, I decided to add a BONUS module for those who bought in the first 48 hours.
The bonus module was on creating Sketchnotes. Here’s an example of sketchnotes if you’ve never seen them:
I’m leading an in-person Sketchnote workshop next month at a conference. It’s a $97 workshop. I’m taking the material I’m preparing for this event along with the hands-on feedback I receive and turning it into a course. This course will only be available to Master Class students.
Sketchnoting is a fantastic skill that enables you to take visually-interesting notes in real time. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to take live sketchnotes while listening to a speaker and have a finished piece by the end of the talk. You’ll not only remember things better but as a bonus, you end up with a work of art that others will love—and share!
This worked well because it was a related bonus. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to throw random things on top of their offering as “bonuses,” but if the bonus is not related to the product itself, it’s not going to have any impact.
As expected, the first 48 hours saw the most sales because of the bonus urgency. Since I opened sales at 8:00 AM in the states, the 48 hours spanned three total days—which is why Day 3 has a good amount of revenue.
- Day 1: $63,522
- Day 2: $33,548
- Day 3: $38,265
- Day 4-13: $15,648
- Day 14: $18,774
- Day 15: $8,046
26 Hours to $100,000
Last year, it was three days before we hit six figures. This time, it was just 26 hours:
- 8:00 AM: Launch
- 8:45 AM: $10,000
- 9:30 AM: $20,000
- 10:30 AM: $30,000
- 12:30 PM: $40,000
- 4:30 PM: $50,000
- 8:00 PM: $60,000
- 10:30 PM: $70,000
- 2:00 AM: $80,000
- 6:00 AM: $90,000
- 10:30 AM: $100,000
I should note that if you’re trying to do the math on course sales times introductory price and things aren’t adding up, it’s because a number of those sales were Learn Lettering 1.0 customers who got a special upgrade rate from me.
All 1.0 customers received new 2.0 versions of all the material they had access to for free. On top of that, I gave them credit for the amount they spent the first time around toward any higher tier they wanted to purchase. Many of them applied this credit toward the purchase of a higher tier, so the total revenue is a little bit less than multiplying sales with the introductory rate.
Because I added 50% more material to the Master Class, I could have been justified in charging 1.0 customers for the new content—even if at a special upgrade price. However, I decided just to just give it to them free of charge.
Some 1.0 Master Class students paid as little as $199 for the original Class. I gave them the upgrade to the $699 2.0 Master Class for FREE to reward their loyalty.
Rather than try to squeeze a little more revenue out of people, I’d rather create ambassadors. This gift also gave me the perfect opportunity to ask for testimonials. It’s the Rule of Reciprocity 101:
- Give epic value (free $500 upgrade).
- Ask for testimonial.
Doing this landed me some excellent testimonials from past Master Class students to use in my marketing and on the landing page. I also reinforced that I take care of my loyal customers. Playing the long game again.
Sales slowed as expected. We have a nice, long two-week launch period to give people a chance to go through the Starter Class material. If I wasn’t nearly falling over from exhaustion, I might have written some more emails during this period to keep the list warm, but it ended up working out.
I used this time to ramp up to the big closing event: the webinar.
I’d never done a webinar before. I had no idea what to expect. That didn’t stop me from setting some lofty goals, though.
I was shooting for $40,000 in sales. That was my goal based on no prior experience or data. That meant just shy of 100 sales. Even if we could get 1,000 people on the webinar, that’s a conversion rate of 10% which is extremely high. So I knew it was a lofty goal—possibly even unreasonable.
We worked extremely hard to get as many people on the list to come to the webinar as possible. Here’s how we promoted it:
- Email #1 (5 days before): LIVE Webinar: How to Make a Living as a Hand Lettering Artist
- Open registration. One-click registration using some Infusionsoft tagging magic.
- Email #2 (3 days before): Over 800 Already Registered for the LIVE Hand Lettering Webinar – You In?
- Use some social proof to incentivize more signups.
- Email #3 (1 day before): The Hand Lettering Webinar is Tomorrow!
- Reminder of what they’ll learn, when the event starts, and generally build hype.
- Email #4 (6 hours before): How to Make a Living as a Hand Lettering Artist Webinar is Today!
- Provide direct link to webinar page (this way, people who don’t check their email right away will have the link ahead of time).
- Email #5 (1 hour before): The Hand Lettering Webinar Starts In One Hour
- Provide direct link to webinar page. Tell them we just opened up the live chat so they can already get in and start connecting with people.
- Email #6 (15 minutes before): We Are LIVE! Join Us For the FREE Hand Lettering Webinar
- Provide direct link to webinar page. Tell them we are live right now.
- Email #7 (15 minutes after): There’s Still Time to Join the Webinar (LIVE NOW)
- Provide direct link to webinar page. Tell them we just finished up introductions and are getting to the meat of the sessions. There’s still time to participate.
Some of you are thinking, “Holy crap! That’s a lot of emails!” What I didn’t tell you is we also had three different versions of each email, customized based on whether they had registered at any given point. The more you can tailor your message instead of sending generic copy, the more engaged people will be.
The moral of the story: your fear of sending emails is killing your effectiveness.
Send more relevant, valuable emails to your list!
Now, another thing I didn’t mention is we have some fancy conditional logic to stop sending the above emails if someone clicks on any of the live links. If they click, they are tagged as having attended the webinar and are pulled out of the campaign. This way anyone who is already there isn’t getting bombarded with emails. The people who have not clicked get all the reminders.
What are you paying for? People to just sit on your list and not attend your valuable webinar where you’re teaching real skills that help people? If they don’t want to attend, then they can unsubscribe! Good riddance! That’s less people you’re paying for to be stagnant.
During the webinar, there were 500 people in the chat. What I didn’t realize until afterward is that my developer told me he had to limit the number of participants manually because of the server load.
When I look at the view count on the YouTube live stream after the event, I saw that in fact 1,700 people had watched!
I spent a lot of time on this webinar. So many hours preparing. I spoke for over two hours and went through 200 slides. It really was a crash course on How to Make a Living as a Hand Lettering Artist. I provided a ton of value anyone could just take and run with. At one point in the webinar, I asked if there were any people in the audience who weren’t letterers but were just there to study. A surprising number of people spoke up.
I taught for two hours and then transitioned into the close. We had come to the end of the two-week promotional period. The introductory rate was going away forever the next morning. The Master Class would never be available for a more compelling rate.
It was a pretty strong close.
However, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed with the initial outcome.
By the end of the webinar, I’d made $8,000. Ok, I’ll be completely honest: I was more than somewhat disappointed. Because of the expectations I’d set for myself, I was extremely disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, $8,000 is a lot of money. But I don’t think of money like I used to as a kid—imagining Scrooge McDuck swimming in piles of coins—money is all numbers to me now. It’s just pure numbers.
I’ve said it on my shows many times:
If you think a million dollars is a lot of money, you might get $100,000.
If you think $100,000 is a lot of money, you might get $10,000.
That’s another topic (seriously though, click those links).
Anyway, I’d made $8,000. I was a little disappointed after how much work I’d put into it for the past week. I took a break and stepped away from the computer.
I came back an hour later and sales were at $15,000! It turned out, not everyone bought while on the webinar. They needed some time to think about it or get their credit card. By the time midnight rolled around, sales were $18,774.
They wouldn’ve stopped there if it weren’t for two last chance emails we sent over night:
- 6 hours before: LAST CHANCE to Get the Learn Lettering Master Class (Save $252)
- 2 hours before: Learn Lettering Price Increases Permanently in TWO HOURS (LAST CHANCE to Save $252)
Revenue from those two “last chance” emails: $8,046
All in all, $26,820 from my very first webinar—not bad. I probably pushed myself a bit too hard, but who knows what the results would have been if I hadn’t set a goal.
I hope this was valuable to you. Feel free to check out the Learn Lettering landing page and study it.
I used to be scared sharing such real numbers, but I have always been encouraged by others who have done so for my benefit. I’ve learned a lot because someone else was open. That’s why I took the time to write what almost amounts to a small book here—to help you out and hopefully inspire you.
If you’re looking to grow your business and want to connect with likeminded individuals and get real-time feedback instantly—in any timezone across the world—I’d recommend joining the Community!
A Parting Gift
I’ll wager you made it this far because you are interested in online courses.
Maybe you’re thinking about starting a course soon. You want to avoid the common mistakes and obvious blunders that will cost you tens of thousands in revenue. I was the same. I scoured the internet to learn from other people’s mistakes and it paid off big now.
Now, I’m paying it forward.
Let me help you. You’ve already seen how transparent I am with this post—enter your email below and I’ll send you even more.
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