Grow Your Business

Exactly how I made $1.1M in sales in 11 months

Most aspiring entrepreneurs have the same dream: to build a profitable business as quickly as possible. Maybe it’s so they can have greater control, or more freedom, or so that they can make a difference, but the dream is the same. Me? I was in it for the flexibility.

When I started my business in 2014, I had been through the ringer. First with a tutoring company I had scaled to six figures. Then as the co-founder of a mobile payments startup in 2010 that reached a multimillion-dollar valuation before fizzling out. After those two adventures I was worn out by the entrepreneurial roller coaster, and I went back to the corporate world. (In between those two business ventures, I had held corporate jobs in both engineering and financial services.)

But then, in late 2014, my father, mother, and sister all suffered life-threatening emergencies (heart surgery, cancer, and blindness), and because I didn’t have enough vacation days, I wasn’t able to be with them.

At that time, my managerial job gave me a six-figure salary, yes, but, I realized that it meant nothing if I couldn’t be there for the people I loved when they needed me. And so began my next entrepreneurial journey, one I took to maximize the control I’d have over my own schedule.

It wasn’t flexibility and control alone that I was after though. After having spent years constantly stressed about finances, I knew that whatever I decided to do would have to be able to scale, to have relatively low overhead, and to be able to at the very least replace my salary. For all of these reasons, I decided to start an online business.

11 months after my first online sale, I crossed over $1.1 million in sales.

GL Earnings

And now, nearly three years since then, I help ambitious men and women just like me make the journey from employee to entrepreneur. To date, over 500 students have used my digital courses to build their own online businesses. But I didn’t start there. There were a few successful (and failed) attempts along the way…in addition to the five years I’d already spent in my previous two businesses.

My path to a million can be broken into a few key decisions:

Phase I: Finding the right business idea
Phase II: Jump-starting my business with 1-on-1 clients
Phase III: Creating leveraged income with my first course
Phase IV: Increasing momentum with my second course
Phase V: Scaling to $1 million plus

Let’s dive in.

Phase I: Finding the right business idea

Getting started and finding my business idea was actually the hardest part, as I wasn’t sure what I could sell and it took a few tries before I found the “right” idea.

Attempt #1: Choosing a business idea because it seemed easy

My goal was to get out of my job as quickly as possible, so it seemed like a smart move to choose the “easiest” business idea. (Spoiler: this was definitely not smart.)

For me, that was teaching people how to use Microsoft Excel. I knew there were quite a few six- and seven-figure businesses that sold consulting or courses on how to use Microsoft Excel, so I thought — “I do this daily in my job and I’m good at it. If they can do it I can too.”

Making money from Excel

I’m embarrassed to say that I simply saw this guy making seven figures
teaching Microsoft Excel and thought, “I can do it too.”

Spoiler alert: There is no such thing as an “easy” business idea.

And because I was so focused on finding the fastest way out of my job instead of on actually building a business that helped solve a problem, I set myself up for failure by not bothering to research my market and my customer. And, since I was expecting immediate success, I was unprepared for the inevitable setbacks that are a part of every business.

I had no plan, no idea how to speak to my audience (or even who they were), or what products they would want. As a result, when I tried to pitch writing guest post articles about my topic to other sites, I got zero responses.

Guest post pitch

This is a guest post pitch I sent to a Lifehacker contributor, which I (unsurprisingly) never got a response to.

I also couldn’t find a single potential client, because I didn’t know who my potential clients were!

What’s more, in my rush I had failed to take into account that I spent all day working in Excel and didn’t want to spend my spare time also… thinking about Excel. Without realizing it, I set up my life to work on the most boring part of my day job all the time. This is known on the internet as “playing yourself.”

Working on my business felt like a chore that I would put off for as long as possible, to the point that it took me over three weeks to write a single blog post for my personal blog.

About a month after resolving to create a massively profitable Excel tutoring business, I realized it wasn’t going to work because of all the above reasons and started searching for my next idea.

Fortunately, I had learned from my first attempt and did research on my market and customer for my next idea. Unfortunately, despite that, my second attempt was also destined for failure…

Attempt #2: Choosing a business idea I hated because I was good at it

Your business idea does not have to be your life’s passion, but it should be something you enjoy doing. That’s something I forgot to take into account for my next business attempt.

Going back to the drawing board for what I could sell, I realized that I was frequently asked about how I had managed my career so well — from switching industries to negotiating a six-figure salary to getting a managerial position at such a young age.

And so business idea #2 — career coaching — was born.

This time, I did do my market research, speaking to the same people who’d been asking me for career advice so that I could understand what challenges they were facing and what their goals were related to their careers. At the end of each research interview, I asked one simple question: “Would you be willing to pay for help to get a better job/salary?”

Out of the five people I asked this question to, two of them said yes. I offered to help them for a small fee, asking only $300 for a month’s coaching featuring four weekly calls, because I felt uncomfortable charging people I knew. (I seriously undercharged, but still, I was in business!)

Because I actually understood my audience this time around, I was able to pitch more relevant guest-post ideas and was quickly accepted to write my first ever guest-post article, for the career guidance site AfterCollege.com.

My first guest post

My first guest post, talking about how to land a job at a startup even if you’re not a computer programmer

Things were going well, but I soon ran into a problem.

I realized that I hated giving career advice! All I could think about when helping my clients was wanting to tell them, “Stop trying to pursue your career. In a few years, you’ll be like me and want to do your own thing.” It didn’t feel right, and I knew I couldn’t spend my time offering further career advice.

Attempt #3: Third time’s the charm

After two attempts, I was discouraged and wondering if I’d ever be able to find a business idea that would work for me. I also didn’t know if I had any other “sellable” skills in my arsenal. That’s when I got a lucky break that proved me wrong.

I had hired a copywriter to help me write content for my career coaching site and when out of curiosity I asked her where she got most of her clients from, she casually answered, “Facebook groups.”

I was completely thrown — as I didn’t even know that Facebook groups were a thing! I asked her for her top Facebook group and instantly joined it to check it out. It was a group called “Entrepreneur Incubator” with thousands of members, mostly female entrepreneurs.

Browsing over the posts in the group, I realized something — there were a lot of questions about how to set up and run Facebook ads. (This was back when Facebook ads were relatively new and people were still trying to figure them out.)

I was in luck. My job at the time was in digital advertising, and I spent my days managing and analyzing advertising campaigns, especially Facebook campaigns. And so, my third business idea was born — digital advertising consulting.

Phase II: Jump-starting my business with 1-on-1 clients

When I started my business, I was literally starting from zero. I didn’t have a following, any brand recognition, or any social proof. (In other words, I didn’t have endorsements, client success stories, or any proof that I was “legit” to convince potential clients that they should buy from me.)

Because of that, I knew that whatever I sold first had to help me do two things:

  1. Create social proof for my business
  2. Generate as much upfront revenue as possible so that I could invest back in my business and grow it even faster (more on this below)

Plus, it had to do so quickly, without having to spend months building an audience or spend a lot of money upfront before I made any sales.

So, out of necessity, my first “product” was born: coaching. I knew that offering coaching would not only allow me to help my clients get the fastest and best results — and thus social proof for my business — through my personal support, but that it would also help me maximize my revenue upfront because of the premium I could charge for one-on-one attention.

I started spending all my free time hanging out where my potential clients were online (free Facebook groups) and directly engaging with them by sharing valuable content and answering any questions I could about advertising.

That’s how I got my first client. A woman I’d been helping for free — answering her questions about how to set up a basic advertising campaign — asked me how she could work with me, and when I told her the price — $5,000 for six months (calculated based on my hourly salary) — she said, without missing a beat, “I’m in.”

PayPal receipt

PayPal receipt of the first installment from my first client

On a high off that first sale, I started to pitch my offer more…only to repeatedly hear, “You’re too expensive.”

"I can't afford it" message

I repeatedly got responses similar to this “I can’t afford it” message.

I quickly deduced that the reason I’d been able to get my first client so easily was because I’d spent so much time and effort helping her first, so that when I shared my price, she already knew how much value she would get compared to the investment.

Whereas once I started pitching without first giving value, my audience had no idea how valuable my advice was and so couldn’t get past the price. So I went back to doing what had worked originally: offering free guidance before pitching my offer.

I knew though that I couldn’t sustain working for free for weeks before seeing if a potential client would be willing to pay, so I tested offering one-time 30-minute free sessions where I’d answer someone’s questions about advertising or look over their campaigns for 30 minutes.

I posted these offers in the free Facebook groups that I was in, using a template like this:

  1. Start with attention-grabber, such as a question that speaks to the pain/dream.
  2. Get to the point right away and introduce the free 30-minute offer. Note that spots are limited and are first come first served.
  3. Describe the top two to three challenges your clients are facing and how you can help.
  4. Give a very clear call to action (“Comment or PM to schedule your call”).
  5. Introduce yourself briefly to establish credibility.

At the beginning of each call, I would say, “The goal of this call is to make sure we answer your #1 question about your advertising campaign. If you get value out of it and if it feels like a good fit, at the end of the call I’d love to discuss how I can continue helping you get even better results through working together. Does that sound good?” This way, we were both clear on the goals for the call.

After I had delivered on the free guidance I’d promised, I would wrap up the call by asking, “Do you feel that you got a lot of value out of this call? If so, what did you get out of it? I know your goals are to … and considering how much we accomplished in just 30 minutes, I would love to help you more. Would you like to hear about how we could do that?” If they said yes, I would then share my one-on-one offer.

In addition to offering free sessions, here’s what helped to quickly build momentum at this stage:

1. Start with what you know. I still see so many new entrepreneurs trying to start businesses that they don’t know anything about just because they want to build a business around their “passion.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for doing what you love, but I also firmly believe in starting with what you know and building from there.

The reason I was able to quickly build trust with my audience through my free work, and thus grow my business quickly, was because of my ability to deliver real results for their Facebook ad campaigns, developed from my job experience.

2. Be consistent. I was often in Facebook groups multiple times per day, giving value, answering questions, and when appropriate, offering paid coaching on advertising.

I scheduled my “Facebook time” to hold myself accountable.

I scheduled my “Facebook time” to hold myself accountable.

Being so consistent kept me top of mind for my potential clients, and often on those free 30-minute sessions, I would hear from someone that they had requested a call with me because they had seen my posts and could tell that I “knew my stuff.”

3. Be human. When I first started sharing content online, I thought that the more information I shared, the better received my posts would be. Which is why I shared long and dry posts like this one:

Facebook post

As you can see, only a handful of people responded to this post.

As I started testing different types of content though, I realized that it’s not just information your audience craves. They want entertainment and human connection.

So I started adding stories and pop culture references to my posts, as well as making them shorter and easier to read:

Facebook post

My new posts generated a lot more engagement, which helped me build brand recognition much faster.

4. Adapt to market demand. After repeatedly hearing “You’re too expensive,” I knew that I had two options: I could either continue to pitch my current price until eventually my next client said “yes,” or I could lower my price.

Even though lowering my coaching price meant that I would be making less per hour for consulting than I did in my 9-to-5, I knew that doing so would help me get more clients, and thus more social proof, much faster. Sometimes in business it’s hard to keep your eye on the larger goal. And for me, that was getting as much information and social proof as possible for a larger effort down the road.

So, despite popular advice to never lower your price, I decided to sacrifice short-term profit for long-term gain, and offered a new three-month, one-on-one package at $1,500 (down from $5,000). Almost immediately, I got my next two clients.

Afterwards, I was able to raise my price back up to $5,000 and never had to drop it again.

Phase III: Creating leveraged income with my first online course

After getting 10 one-on-one clients, I knew it was time for a change.

I was maxed out and had no more time or energy to give. What’s more, my business had begun to naturally evolve: As it had grown I had begun to attract aspiring entrepreneurs who wanted my advice for building their own businesses.

Skype call request

I frequently got messages and emails like this one asking for business advice.

So I took the logical next step. Taking everything I’d learned from my two previous business ventures as well as what I’d learned about the online business world over the past year, I created a product that would allow me to work with more people in the same amount of time: a seven-week course called Your First Paying Clients.

Here’s the process I used to successfully launch my first course.

1. Create the smallest first course possible.

Many new entrepreneurs try to start with a massive “signature” course that includes everything they can teach on their subject. Instead, creating a smaller course that only teaches a portion of what your “signature” course would contain creates a triple-win situation because:

  1. It’s easier to sell
  2. It’s easier to create
  3. It’s easier for students to implement (which means more testimonials for you)

My first course was a simple, seven-week program designed to get my students a quick but powerful win: their first paying clients as a coach or consultant based on their own sellable skills.

I didn’t know a lot about pricing courses but after a few minutes of Googling “online courses,” I saw that there were four general pricing tiers: $500 or less, $1,000, $2,000, and $2,000+.

I decided to go with the lowest tier to make my course as easy to sell as possible, but to go with the highest pricing possible in that tier to maximize my revenue. And that’s how I decided — in less than 10 minutes — to price my course at $497.

2. Directly engage with your potential customers.

I had less than 300 subscribers on my email list at that point, and in theory, I should have failed.

But I had an ace up my sleeve: Having experienced the power of Facebook groups for building customer relationships, I decided to create my own group and use it to sell my course. What’s more, I was very strategic about how I used my group:

First, I created a live five-day challenge. There participants had to complete daily prompts related to helping them get their first paying clients. The prompts were simple and fun, which made participation easy. In addition, I also used a points system where participants got a set number of points for completing each day’s prompt. This provided further motivation to complete all five days of the challenge.

Here’s an example of one of the day’s prompts:

Daily challenge

Example prompt from my challenge

During the challenge, I responded to every single post and comment in the Facebook group. My leading by example encouraged others to engage with the group as well, and as a result, by the end of the challenge I had a very engaged group of people who had gotten a lot of value from the challenge and who appreciated what I had to share.

Appreciative post

Challenge participants shared their appreciation with posts like this one

At the end of the challenge, I announced the link to my course sales page and told everyone in my group that it would be available for purchase for two weeks.

During those two weeks, I was in the group every day, promoting the course in one way or another:

  • Welcoming students who’d just enrolled in the course and sharing why they’d joined (as social proof)

Facebook post

(Note that the course was originally called “Your First $10K”
and has since been renamed “Your First Paying Clients”)

  • Inviting members in my free Facebook group who I thought the course would be a good fit for or who had questions about the course to schedule a call with me to answer their questions and discuss if the course might be a good fit for them or not.

Messenger1

I had 30 of these calls over the 12 days that my course was available for purchase, and every single person who signed up for the course signed up after one of these calls.

3. Spend money to make money

In general, you can estimate a 1% to 3% sales conversion rate for your audience, meaning that for every 100 qualified people in your audience, you can expect one to three people to buy your offer.

I had a goal of making 10 sales and knew that if I estimated a 1% conversion rate, I would need 1,000 people in my audience.

At that time, I had less than 300 people on my email list. How was I going to add 700 people in just a few weeks? I turned to paid advertising.

Something a lot of new entrepreneurs fail to grasp is that nothing is free. Everything costs you something, either time and/or money.

And since I didn’t have a lot of time but I was already making money in my business from my 1-on-1 work, I decided to take $2,000 of what I’d earned and spend it on Facebook ads to build my audience. Putting the money into a campaign to drive sign-ups for my challenge, I was able to add 500 people to my email list.

I don’t have the original ads for this campaign, but you can see an ad for a similar campaign I ran during a later launch (which we’ll get to in just a bit).

pasted image 016

Clicking on the link took them to a page (similar to this one) that invited them to sign up for the challenge.

4. Overdeliver

Often I see new entrepreneurs finish their first launch and think it’s time to relax because the launch is over. But that’s actually the exact opposite of what you should do, as once you’ve made the sale, now you have to keep it by delivering on what you promised.

I tried my best to go above and beyond. I created a private students-only Facebook group and was in there every day during the seven weeks of the course, answering every question. I also gave private email support to my students and personally responded to every email.

Support

I gave personal email support to every student

Because of the amount of support I gave, my students got amazing results and loved the experience.

Satisfied customer

The same student who had emailed me above was able to get her first paying client after following the advice I gave in response to her email

At the end of those seven weeks, both because they’d gotten such amazing results and because they had seen how I over-delivered and supported them, 5 out of the 16 students who’d signed up for my course decided to either work with me either privately (three students purchased my $5K one-on-one program) or to purchase the next, more comprehensive course (two students @ $3K each) I was planning on creating and selling in two months. This resulted in more than $20K in additional sales.

Which leads me to the final step…

5. Upsell

Two weeks before the end of my course, I started reaching out to my existing students and scheduling 1-on-1 calls with them to talk about what results they’d gotten from the course and what was next for them.

On these calls, I did exactly that. I asked them if they were happy with the results they’d gotten from the course (they were) and what they wanted next.

Most of my students told me, unsurprisingly, that they wanted more clients. And I shared that I could help with that — either through working with them 1-on-1 or through my next, more comprehensive course, which I would be offering in about two months.

I didn’t use any fancy sales strategies or do a “hard-sell” of my two offers. Instead, I relied on the relationships and trust I’d built with my students over the past few weeks.

As I mentioned above, upselling resulted in 3 of my students taking me up on my $5K program and two of my students taking me up on my $3K course for over $20K in additional sales.

Phase III Result: My first course launch generated over $30,000: $8,000 from upfront course sales and over $20,000 from upsells after the seven-week course was complete.

Phase IV: Increasing momentum with my second online course

At this point, I’d crossed over six figures in my business, and was ready to start growing faster. I also had my first course launch under my belt and felt confident I could do a much bigger launch the second time around. So I decided to aim for a $100,000 launch.

I knew though to hit that number with a $500 course, I’d need to sell 200 copies. And assuming a 1% sales conversion rate, I’d need 20,000 people on my email list.

That wasn’t going to work. At this point I only had a little more than 1,000 people on my list, so I knew I needed to create a higher-priced product. That’s how I came to create my signature course, Employee to Entrepreneur, which is a comprehensive course teaching everything I’d learned, tested, and done to do just that by working with one-on-one clients.

While I followed the same principles and strategies I’d used during my first course launch, here are a few additional things that worked well to help me double my total sales up to that point within a few weeks:

1. Obsess over value, not price.

The traditional price for a high-end course is $2K. I didn’t care about that and I didn’t spend much time even considering if I should use that price for my course just because it was the standard. Instead, I simply chose a price that felt good to me, which ended up being $3,000. (This was not a scientific decision. I spent about five minutes writing out possible price points and then picking the one that felt best.)

Then, instead of obsessing over the “right” price for my course, I obsessed over the value that my course would deliver. Examples of what I focused on are:

• Content. I thought through every step that my students would have to take to go from employee to entrepreneur, starting from scratch. The result was a comprehensive, step-by-step system from “Clarity” all the way to “Scaling your business with 1-on-1 clients.”

As a result of obsessing over what I would teach and how I would teach it, I was able to create a robust, step-by-step course

As a result of obsessing over what I would teach and how I would teach it, I was able to create a robust, step-by-step course

• Ease. Having been in the same situation myself, I knew that for an employee trying to build a side-hustle, time and energy are your most limited resources. So I put a lot of thought into how to accommodate that and to make my course as easy to consume and to implement as possible.

As a result, my course is taught in bite-sized chunks, where most videos are less than 10 minutes, and each lesson has a step-by-step to-do list to follow so the student knew exactly what to do next.

• Support. As with my previous course, I knew how much support I gave my students could make the difference between a good experience and an unparalleled one.

So I over-delivered on supporting my students in two ways: First, I was again in the students-only Facebook group daily, answering every question. Second, I scheduled a six-hour group implementation day during the middle of the course to review everyone’s sites, marketing plans, and sales strategies, and to make sure that my students were held accountable to actually doing the work in the course so they could get the results they wanted.

This post summarizes everything we covered during the implementation day

This post summarizes everything we covered during the implementation day

As a result, I got this kind of feedback from my students:

36  Employee to Entrepreneur Members Only Community

2. Know your numbers.

Once again, to be able to hit my goal, I knew I would need to build my audience with paid advertising. Here’s how I calculated what numbers I would need to hit:

At $3K per sale, 33 sales are needed to hit $100K. Assuming a 1% sales conversion rate, that meant I needed 3,300 people in my audience. I knew some people from my existing audience would buy, but I didn’t want to count on that, so doing the math and assuming that it would cost me $3 to acquire a new subscriber, I knew I’d have to spend $10K to build my audience by 3,000+ so that I could potentially make $100K.

And that’s what I did. I focused my budget on driving sign-ups for my pre-launch challenge, and added close to 3,000 people to my audience.

It was a calculated risk, and a big one for me at that time as that was a tenth of all the money I’d made in my business at that point. But, I knew the potential payoff would be worth it. Without knowing these basic numbers though, I never would have known how much to invest.

3. Go deeper, not broader.

Instead of creating a new course from scratch for my second launch, I chose to expand on my first course instead. This gave me two advantages: First, because my new course included all the content from my previous one, I was able to leverage my existing course content PLUS my existing testimonials to instantly boost credibility for my course.

In addition, instead of having to create a completely new product from scratch, I was able to focus on creating a better, more comprehensive version of my existing product.

As a result, I was able to give my students an even better course experience:

Phase IV Results: Following the exact same steps I’d used for my first launch plus the above tips, I ended up making 33 sales for $101K.

Phase IV Results: Following the exact same steps I’d used for my first launch plus the above tips, I ended up making 33 sales for $101K.

Phase V: Scaling to $1 million plus

Now, I had crossed close to $300K in sales and was having a great first year by any measure.

But I figured, since I was doing so well, why not aim for a million dollar launch? (To be honest, I decided to set this goal because it seemed really far off and felt like a good challenge.) Now that I had my signature course and two course launches under my belt, it was time to shoot for the stars. I decided to see if I could launch my existing course one more time, but do it better and bigger than before.

By the end of my third launch, I’d closed over $800K in sales and crossed over the million dollar mark within 11 months of my first sale.

Here are the top three strategies that helped increase my sales by 800% compared to my previous launch. (You’ll see how I didn’t try any fancy new strategies but instead doubled-down on what I’d already tested and knew worked from my previous launches):

1. Segmenting my launch into three phases.

My third launch can be broken into three phases, and I’ll describe what I did during each of these phases in more detail:

1. Pre-launch

2. Live challenge

3. Launch

Pre-launch

For my previous two launches, I had followed a simple strategy of running a live challenge and announcing my course at the end of the challenge.

This time, I spent a significantly longer amount of time priming my audience and building anticipation for my course, before the challenge even began.

Two weeks before I started promoting my challenge, I began sharing strategic posts and emails of my story, emphasizing how I’d made over $100K in sales with coaching before I’d even left my job. I also shared more personal aspects of my story that I’d never shared before.

This created more excitement than ever for my course, as my stories connected emotionally with the same challenges and desires my audience was feeling.

This rare personal post from me was one of my most popular ever

This rare personal post from me was one of my most popular ever


Live challenge

Incorporating what I’d learned from my two previous challenges, I made a few key changes to this challenge:

• Increasing the length. Previously, my challenges had both been five days long. I was curious to see if having a longer challenge (and thus more time to build a relationship with my audience) would lead to more sales, so I decided to make my challenge 10 days long this time around.

While it ended up feeling a little too long for me personally, it did give my participants more time to see results from implementing the challenge prompts, which led to increased trust in me and what I had to teach.

One of the challenge prompts was to pitch a guest-post and the longer challenge length gave my students more time to see results

One of the challenge prompts was to pitch a guest-post
and the longer challenge length gave my students more time to see results

Mentioning my course during the challenge. In my previous challenges, I hadn’t spent a lot of time mentioning the course that I would be announcing at the end of the challenge. I had felt that this might be too “salesy” but realized that it was a mistake when challenge participants often expressed surprise that there was even a course being offered at the end of the challenge.

So this time around, I added short but significant mentions of my course starting from day four of the challenge to the daily emails.

I added short but significant mentions of my upcoming course

I added short but significant mentions of my upcoming course

Adding daily video livestream trainings to the challenge. Around this time, video livestreaming on Facebook was starting to become mainstream and I could see how being able to interact with your audience in real-time on video could be an unparalleled way to quickly accelerate your audience relationship.

So in addition to the daily challenge emails, I added a one-hour video livestream training that would elaborate on that day’s challenge prompt. (You can see one of the livestreams here.)

Daily livestreams like this one helped increase audience engagement even more.

Daily livestreams like this one helped increase audience engagement even more.

I continued to do what had worked well during my previous challenges, including personally responding to every single person who participated in the challenge, using a points system to motivate participants to complete the challenge, and keeping prompts simple and fun.

This 10-day Weekend Empire challenge (I’ve since condensed it into a five-day version, which you can see here) resulted in over $100K sales on the last day of the challenge alone, when I made my Employee to Entrepreneur course available for purchase.

Launch

Again, learning from my previous two launches, I made a few changes to how I sold the course during my third launch:

Kept course available for six weeks. During my previous launches, I had only made my course available for purchase for about two weeks. I wanted to see if having my course be available for a longer period would increase sales, and so decided (pretty randomly) to make it available for six weeks instead.

Used a webinar series. I knew that six weeks was a long time to be talking about one course so I needed to be able to keep things “fresh” and interesting. To do that, I decided to offer a series of four different webinar trainings during those six weeks to showcase different elements of what was in the course.

So, I offered four different webinar trainings on: How I built a six-figure business before I left my job, how to run a webinar, how to build your email list, and how to successfully have a sales call.

Added more social proof. This wasn’t a strategic decision so much as the result of being around longer by this point and having more student success stories. I had more student testimonials to showcase and was even able to host a live student Q&A where I asked a group of five past students the most common questions I was getting about the course. (You can see the recording at this link.)

Here’s my launch calendar that summarizes what I did and when:

April 2: Started Weekend Empire Challenge
April 12: Employee to Entrepreneur available for purchase
April 20: Webinar 1
April 27: Webinar 2
May 12: Webinar 3
May 16: Webinar 4
May 22: Employee to Entrepreneur cart closed

2. Taking a calculated risk for a big potential payoff.

I knew that to hit my goal (I was aiming for a $1 million launch), I would need to invest about $80K into building my audience via paid advertising. It felt incredibly scary, and I found myself often questioning my sanity during my launch, but once again, the potential payoff outweighed the risk.

However, while I’ve always believed in taking risks, I also believe in never taking a risk that you can’t recover from. I knew that if I spent $80K on adding participants to my challenge, and the sales didn’t pan out, that’d be a disaster I wouldn’t be able to recover from. So I divided how I spent the $80K into a few phases to minimize my risk.

My business credit card at the time had a maximum of $30,000, so that’s what I decided to spend upfront on driving participants to my challenge.

The remainder of my budget was spent on driving sign-ups to each of the four webinars in my webinar series, although not evenly. I front-loaded my advertising spend so that the majority of my new webinar sign-ups would have at least a few weeks to consider enrolling in my course.

Here’s a breakout of how I spent my advertising budget:

• Challenge sign-ups: $30,000
• Webinar 1 sign-ups: $20,000
• Webinar 2 sign-ups: $15,000
• Webinar 3 sign-ups: $10,000
• Webinar 4 sign-ups: $5,000

3. Leveraging existing assets.

A lot of my results during each phase were due to leveraging the learnings and assets I’d developed during the previous phases of my business. This launch was no different.

I was able to leverage the first course I’d ever created, Your First Paying Clients, in two ways that boosted sales even more:

1. As a fast-action bonus. Because my launch period was so long, and because the course wouldn’t officially start until the launch was over, I knew that students who purchased at the beginning of the 6-week launch period would start getting antsy if they didn’t have any tangible content to access for the entire 6 weeks.

As a result, I decided to offer my Your First Paying Clients course to any students who purchased within the first two weeks of the launch period to help them get a “jumpstart” on their business.

Doing this also had an unforeseen result, which was that through implementing the Your First Paying Clients course, my students started getting results before the official Employee to Entrepreneur course even began!

One of my students got her first ever paying client — for $2K — from the fast-action bonus alone

One of my students got her first ever paying client — for $2K — from the fast-action bonus alone

While I can’t say exactly how being able to share results like this one increased sales, I can say that this created tremendous social proof and increased my students’ dedication to the course before we even began.

2. As a downsell after my Employee to Entrepreneur launch. I knew that because of the price of my course ($3,000), a significant percentage of my audience had been unable to enroll because it was either too much of a stretch financially or seemed too risky of an investment.

For these people, I wanted to offer them a “smaller bite” that would help them both get results in their business and start building their customer relationship with me.

So for four days after I closed the cart for Employee to Entrepreneur, I made my Your First Paying Clients course available for purchase and positioned it as just that — a “first bite” to help you get started if ETE wasn’t the right fit for you.

This downsell alone brought in an additional $20,000 in sales.

Phase V Results: My 3rd launch brought in over $800,000 in sales.

Phase V Results: My 3rd launch brought in over $800,000 in sales.


Your turn

I covered a lot in this article, but as I mentioned at the beginning, it wasn’t so much that I tested a lot of fancy strategies but that I continued doubling down on a few fundamental ones.

No matter if you’re just getting started on your entrepreneurial journey, or if you’re looking to break six, multi-six, or seven figures in your business, here are a few key strategies that will serve you well at every stage of your business.

1. Solve a problem.

Businesses exist because people pay to have their problems — big and small — solved. Even though the “I’ll teach you to build your business” industry is a very crowded one, I decided to enter it because I saw a gap in the market that no one was addressing.

I had had to invest in multiple courses and coaches at the beginning of my online business journey to piece together how to have coaching sales calls, set up my site, build my email list, host webinars, and write sales emails.

My goal in creating my course was to provide a comprehensive solution for my students that covered all of these areas so that they wouldn’t have to piece everything together as I had had to.

When thinking about the problem that your business solves, you don’t need to solve a new problem. (In fact, I would argue that there’s no such thing as a “new” problem.) You simply need to solve an existing problem better, faster, and/or cheaper.

2. Focus on building relationships with your customers.

As you’ve seen, focusing on driving relationships — through my free content, free offers, live challenges, and live streams — was pivotal to my success. It helped me overcome what would otherwise have been crippling disadvantages, including no brand recognition, no social proof, and mediocre sales and marketing skills at the beginning of my journey.

3. Create an unparalleled customer experience.

After you make a sale, that’s just the beginning, not the “end.” Because then, you have to be able to KEEP it.

Creating a phenomenal customer experience from day 1, even if it means doing things initially that don’t scale (like offering personal email support like I did in my first course), will help you build a loyal client base whose value to your business can’t be exaggerated.

To this day, because of their incredible experiences with my courses, my students are my best advocates for my courses and my business.

When people who are considering my courses ask about them in free Facebook groups, my past students — without my asking — are my biggest advocates

When people who are considering my courses ask about them in free Facebook groups, my past students — without my asking — are my biggest advocates

4. Know your numbers.

At the end of the day, a successful business is a system for making money. As you’ve seen throughout this article, you need to know how much it costs to acquire a new lead, how much it costs to acquire a new customer, and how long it takes for you to convert a lead into a customer.

Note:

While this article focused on using paid advertising (because that’s what I did) to quickly acquire new leads, it’s simply one strategy, just like guest posting is another one, to build your audience.

While I strongly believe in using paid advertising as a lead acquisition strategy, I want to caution that just like any strategy, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

You’ve already seen the advantages it can afford in this article, but I haven’t talked so much about disadvantages, the biggest one of which is — lack of trust.

When traffic comes to you organically, especially when it’s referred to you from a publication or person they already know, there’s a high level of trust in you from the beginning just by dint of that association.

With paid advertising, you don’t have the benefit of that and so are literally starting from scratch with each new subscriber. (That’s why challenges work so well — the live interaction helps you create trust and accelerate that relationship.)

When not addressed properly, this lack of trust can result in lower audience interest, engagement, and ultimately, sales.

5. Perfect one product before creating a second one.

If you take away nothing else from this article, I hope you take away the goal of perfecting one product before creating a second one.

As you can see from my journey, I essentially spent a year perfecting my course, from learning as much as I could about helping my clients through 1-on-1 work, to creating a small test in the form of my Your First Paying Clients course, to expanding on it to create my signature Employee to Entrepreneur course, and then continuing to perfect that course until it was the best it could be.

You Might Also Like

oli-dale-139169

Grow Your Business

Top 5 questions we get on running $1,000,000 launches

Most of the time when I write an article for GrowthLab, I focus on the big picture. I talk about psychology, mindset,...

image5

Grow Your Business

Confessions of a change agent: How I get Fortune 500 companies out of their ruts

“Too often I meet entrepreneurs who actually just have to get out of their own way to be successful”

william-iven-5894

Grow Your Business

Do audio lead magnets really work?

Everyone is offering ebooks to drive leads. What if you tried something else instead?

There Are 56 Comments

Join The Conversation

Awesome article, Luisa! One of this article’s themes is what you said in the beginning: There is no such thing as an “easy” business idea.

What a helpful article! Luisa, you’re an inspiration. I signed up for your masterclass too.

Luisa, great share! I’ve gained a lot of takeaways from your this article, and the biggest one is leaning business by doing it. Customers are the best teachers, you’ve followed their hints and got to where you are today.

I do have a question for you: when you reached out to FB groups and posted ads on one-on-one coaching calls when you were doing coaching, how did you handle the situation where advertising posts weren’t allowed? I find a lot of FB groups very sensitive about advertising and have been holding myself back on it. Was there something you did that allowed you to bypass it?

Thank you!

Leslie

Hi Leslie,

So happy to hear that!

There are a lot of Facebook groups that don’t allow promotion, and that’s actually a good thing. That’s because those groups are often much more engaged, which is what makes these groups so powerful. As I mentioned in my article, focusing on promo-only didn’t work out, and it wasn’t until I went back and truly engaged — not just posting content or promos, but also participating in conversations with others — that I started building relationships and getting seen.

Hope this helps!

Luisa

My question was the same as Leslie’s, about promoting on facebook groups that don’t allow promotion. I understand it’s not just about promotion, but also engaging and offering tips. But on groups that don’t allow promotion, did you still eventually sell the 1-on-1 calls with you? Or did you only do that in groups that don’t have a ban on promotion? I’m just about to launch my site and start building my audience with an aim to start with 1-on-1 coaching, so it would really help to know how to navigate these facebook group rules.

LUISA,

THIS IS SUCH A FANTASTIC ARTICLE. I THINK I’VE TAKEN A REGULAR-LENGTH ARTICLE’S WORTH OF NOTES ON IT :)

A FEW QUESTIONS FOR YOU…

* HOW OFTEN DID YOU MEET W/ A CLIENT DURING THE 6-MONTH CONSULTING PROGRAM?
* I FIND CONSULTING GIVES ME IDEAS FOR CONTENT. DO YOU STILL CONSULT, OR ARE YOU FOCUSED ALL-IN ON COURSES NOW?
* YOU NEVER TOLD US… DID KEEPING THE CART OPEN FOR 6 WEEKS INCREASE THE SALES RATE?

THANKS,
ERIK

Wait, non-caps-lock version below. Note to designer: since the initial textboxes (Name, Email, Website) only show uppercase, I thought I had capslock on, and toggled it. It turns out it was initially off, I turned it _on_, and now I’ve left an entirely uppercase comment. *Sigh*…

Luisa,

This is such a fantastic article. I think i’ve taken a regular-length article’s worth of notes on it :)

A few questions for you…

* How often did you meet w/ a client during the 6-month consulting program?
* I find consulting gives me ideas for content. Do you still consult, or are you focused all-in on courses now?
* You never told us… did keeping the cart open for 6 weeks increase the sales rate?

Thanks,
Erik

Hi Erik,

I’m so happy to hear that!

– I initially started with weekly calls but soon found that it left clients feeling overwhelmed and w/ not enough time in b/w calls to absorb or implement. Then I tested 2 calls per month, 3 calls per month, and ended up with a combo of 18 calls to be used over 6-9 months.

– Not so much, BUT I do still “consult” in the form of being active in my paid and free communities, so I still see everyone’s questions and comments, which does give me a lot of content ideas too.

– Ah! Didn’t realize that! It did, BUT mostly b/c I drove so much new traffic in b/w that time for each webinar — not so much b/c the longer cart open gave ppl more time to decide.

Hope that helps!

Luisa

Luisa, I think you’re one of the 5 entrepreneurs whose professionalism I respect the most. And this kind of post proves it even a little more. The elegance, efficiency and authenticity of your brand has been a deep inspiration for Comme une Française this past year. Without even mentioning the evergreen and membership funnels that are bringing me tens of thousands of dollars, following our conversation at dinner at Forefront. I almost want to start a new business from scratch when I read this.

PS: Your 80k in FB ads still gives me goosebumps. :)

Thank you so much Géraldine – it means a lot to me, especially coming from you!

And I’m so happy to hear our conversation was helpful! :)

Luisa

The part that definitely resonated for me is ‘find the RIGHT business idea’. It’s so easy to get distracted by wanting to do what you enjoy or what you know, without checking that a) people will pay for that or b) you’ll still enjoy it once it becomes a source of income!

Thank you for sharing your story Luisa!

Looking back at your first attempt at offering a course on Excel, do you think you could be successful executing that knowing what you know now? I ask because I feel like I can relate to this idea but with another Microsoft product, SharePoint.

Thanks for your comment Brian!

I do. While I haven’t gone back and tried to launch an Excel course, I’ve used these same principles to help clients launch health, copywriting, design, branding, haircare, psychic, and more types of businesses/courses. Hope this helps — and hope that my sharing my mistakes helps you avoid many of the ones I made!

Luisa

This post is fantastic! The thing I admire most is that screenshot of your calendar and the time you blocked off for Facebook engagement and free calls. It speaks to the discipline and how you prioritized the work that would not scale in order to create a business that would scale in the future. It would be easy to gloss over this post and just get a motivational high while ignoring the reality that there were many focused late nights and weekends you dedicated to make this happen. Thank you, Luisa!

Hi Aron,

Thank you for your comment! And yes — I wanted to show what is possible once you set your mind to it, but I also wanted to emphasize that it was far from an overnight success or easy. So glad that both came across!

Luisa

I loved reading this article. It was amazing to read step by step how you got to a million dollar launch so quickly.

I am just starting out with my business and what I recently learn is to use the first 12 months as learning so I’m making sure not to think of products I can sell and instead create amazing content and build an audience.

The big takeaway from your article for me right now, is that I can offer coaching/consultation sessions from the start. I think I’ll use that as a way to generate some income from my business whilst I spend the first year learning and optimizing it. This article taught me that coaching is a great way to find out what your customers want, and therefore what products to create for them.

Hi James,

I’m so glad to hear about your big takeaway! I am a big fan of first getting to know your customers intimately before creating a product, and I truly believe that offering coaching first will not only bring in revenue into your business but also help you create a much better product down the road. Best of luck!

Luisa

Susan Kuhn

Luisa,

Thank you for this comprehensive article. And congratulations on your hard work and success! I appreciate your emphasis on taking time to find what works for you, and on giving tons of value for free to establish social proof. Very inspiring!

Susan

Luisa, thanks for putting this all together for us!
I am still implementing the strategy and tactics I started this summer from your YFPC course (which is super duper), and it is generating the momentum I need to get my first paying clients. :-)

Thank you Mr. J!

So glad to hear that you are loving my YFPC course. Can’t wait to hear more about your results once you start getting those clients! :)

Excellent post Lisa. It encompasses a lot of business lesssons and tips for budding entepreneurs :) I am going to blog about this article :) You rock!

Petros Eshetu

Great post Luisa .It so so inspiring to see the progress that you made from zero to launch.

Rarely do I find myself totally and completely engrossed in a blog post. How inspirational is this and so simple yet complete, thank you!

Luisa, this is a profoundly valuable post. It’s clear to me you’re a very hard worker, but also a very intentional and strategic thinker. Huge respect. Very grateful. :-)

This article made my day! Lot of questions which I am facing are very well answered by Luisa. Also, your story is so honest that – I feel like its my story – you are just telling it your way! At last, I liked your courage to lower your rates to gain quick and more sales. “Risk your short term profits to gain long term gains” Loved this!

Best Luck, Luisa! Love you :-)

Thank you so much Anand!

So glad to hear that you loved the article and see your story mirrored in it too. Best of luck to you as well!

Luisa

Wow! Love how detailed and down to earth your article is. You’ve had a great journey and success. I have to confess that what I struggle the most with is the “impostor syndrome”. I find it particularly hard to say I’m really good at ___ and to sell that. I am currently working on the engagement and trust with the audience, I’m doing guest posts, my own blog and soon to launch a podcast. Your process is something I will certainly incorporate when starting to monetize!

Rob, I hear you re: impostor syndrome! This reminds me something Maya Angelou said:

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”

Just goes to show how common imposter syndrome is, at any stage! I love what you’re doing first — focusing on building relationships with your audience and giving value. And love that you’ll be using these tips to monetize. Good luck!

Luisa

Fantastic article! I am so grateful I can read your post.
I joined Ramit’s big family just last week. Still looking for good ideas. In the doom and gloom path(I think), your story really motivates me. Here are the takeaways I appreciate most:
1. Do things with clear goal(and specific numbers) and test the ideas as fast as you can
2. You don’t need to be the certified expert at the beginning but the hard work will make and prove you an expert.
3. People don’t need new things; they need you to solve their problems faster, cheaper or both(This is the most important one)
Thank you for your sharing and wish you to hit the target again in near future!

Thank you Alex!

So glad to hear about your takeaways — I love all of them, and completely agree (especially w/ #2 – which I talked about in the comment just above yours too, actually)

Luisa

Great detailed article. But when I started reading 2 sentences threw me off:

“At that time, my managerial job gave me a six-figure salary” And “having spent years constantly stressed about finances”

To people who don’t make six figures this sounds like a lack of money management skills. I don’t know – maybe you live in an extremely expensive city, or you take care of family members, to the point where even a six figures a year leaves you stressed.

As I said, there is a TON of detail and value in this post. But it was “first world problems” that jumped out at me when I started reading.

Thanks, Dave.

Re: “having spent years constantly stressed about finances,” I was talking about my previous business experiences, not my time as a salaried employee.

Re-reading that part, I can see how that could have been misinterpreted — thanks for pointing it out and hope that this helps clarify for anyone else wondering the same thing.

Luisa

Wow, this was a great article Luisa! I feel like I can relate to a lot of the things you say. Reading through the things you’ve done I know now that I need to double down and focus on only a few things. Been trying to do too much. I already have started a FB group of my own and have a small email list, but I’ve been neglecting both because my mind is always thinking about hundred of other things I think I need to do. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and journey! :)

Thank you Ken!

I hear you — there’s always more to do, but love that you got this takeaway, which I completely agree with. Hope it helps clear your to-do list, and best of luck with your journey!

Luisa

Claudia Huber

Dear Luisa, what an awesome post. Thank you so much for not only giving great value, which is btw very well put together, but also sharing your ups and downs. This post hit me just in the right moment and gave me the final push to pursue what I really love doing and am great at. All the best!

Thank you Claudia!

I’m so glad to hear that this post found you when you needed it and that you’re going to be pursuing what you love and are great at.

Luisa

Great article! I love how you went through several ideas and are honest and transparent about that. I’m starting to realise that succeeding in business is about trying and trying until you succeed.

Been going over this article for a long time. So inspirational but I’ve been struggling forever with the idea validation process. I know I have something to offer but not sure what. Thanks for this

Yours is a story rich in detail, and practical advice. Thank you so much for sharing this!
I’m trying to build my own side-hustle, but find myself getting stuck in the market-research phase on Facebook groups.
The problem is two-fold: 1) Finding the right groups where my clients are, and 2) I don’t want to reveal my identity in the groups for fear my day-job boss will find out about my side-hustle.

I am just totally amazed you answered nearly every comment here. I wonder how you track everything in all the spaces you are involved in.
Thanks for the words of wisdom and I just signed up for the 5 day challenge too.

Leave a Comment