SFN223: How to Give Yourself Limitless Job Security
She’s appeared three times on the Starting From Nothing podcast (Episode 107 and Episode 148, and Episode 223), and in today’s post Caitlin Pyle is sharing how her most recent online course generated $100,000 in revenue in its first week -- without a launch. Enjoy!
How to Give Yourself Limitless Job Security - by Caitlin Pyle
You know the gobs of information out there on how to properly launch your product, do at least three live webinars a week, and create scarcity by opening/closing the cart?
Yeah...I ignore 90% of it.
In fact, when Andy asked me to do a guest post on my last big launch for Proofread Anywhere, my initial thought was, “Well, I can’t contribute anything because I don’t really do launches.”
But then I thought, “Hey, why not share how my courses still sell -- even without the “big launches” -- and why the one real launch I actually did totally tanked!?”
This post is for anyone who’s interested in marketing and selling an information product without all the complicated, time-consuming frills of live webinars and big “launches.”
(I call it the “unlaunch.” Grab the Unlaunch Action Guide at the end of this post.)
In fact, this post contains not only all the nitty-gritty details of how I sold more than $100,000 of an online course in a single week -- all without “launching” -- you’ll also read about a major failure I experienced as an infopreneur.
Why share about my failure? Because I want to make it clear that this road is hard. I experienced a lot of self-doubt, fear, and stress. Nobody gets it right all the time, and that’s part of the growth process.
So you’ll learn a lot about what did work for me -- but also what didn’t. Throughout the post I’m going to share, in great detail, how I used a simple, totally automated evergreen system to sell my most recent online course like hotcakes.
My team and I built the whole thing -- course content included -- in about four months. Then we turned it on, sat back, and watched all our work, well... work.
But First… Why I Don’t Do “Launches”
Big launches complete with cart open/close, multiple live webinars, waitlists, and tons of hype are just too complicated for me to even remotely enjoy them. That’s the biggest reason I don’t do them -- because I don’t enjoy them. I love my free time and sleep way too much to be glued to my computer 24/7 for a solid week during a fancy launch.
Big launches are too salesy… so they don’t align with my personality. When I see this sales technique used elsewhere online, it turns me off. I used to actually fall for it when marketers said their course was “closing its doors on Sunday night for good”… but now I know that’s not true. It’s just a tactic.
Wait… Have You Even Launched, Brah?
You might be wondering, “How do you know you don’t like doing launches if you haven’t tried it?”
Well, I’m not just a picky little kid refusing to eat her spinach when it comes to doing “real” launches. I have tried a “real” launch with all the bells and whistles: a waiting list, tight deadlines, a hyped-up launch week, a very expensive giveaway for lead gen, three live webinars, and a hard cart close on Sunday night.
Not even $10,000 in sales.
It wasn’t worth the work. It was way too rushed and haphazardly thrown together. In the chaos, our message was skewed and largely ineffective.
I knew in my gut I could do things my own way and still be successful.
I’d done it before. A little background...
My first course opened in February 2015...I did things my own way and totally crushed it.
After generating more than $130,000 the first 90 days after opening my first online course back in February 2015 -- to a list of just 220 people -- it should’ve been enough proof I didn’t need to follow the rules to be successful.
I wavered from my gut feeling just that one time to try a “real” launch, and it resulted in what can only be termed a failure to launch -- and way too much stress.
In the Beginning There Was Doubt
Even though I had a gut feeling doing things that “felt right” to me was the best thing to do, I still doubted my own ability.
Self-doubt is the newbie curse. Could I really do this? Is the six-figure, seven-figure, or even eight-figure entrepreneur life even possible for someone like me?
And if it is possible, then should I do what everyone else is doing, or should I figure things out on my own?
All the voices shouting from all directions about what I should be doing overwhelmed me so much, though, that I just shut ‘em all out. That was a wise move, in retrospect. Many new entrepreneurs become so paralyzed by those voices -- or get stuck in the perpetual “research” loop -- that they never end up doing anything.
I did think about stopping while I was ahead. Hitting six figures so quickly, I felt like it couldn’t get any better. It felt like this was the top of the world for me, and it was only downhill from here.
(It didn’t help that sooooo many people said that with a tiny niche like proofreading that I’d eventually have to get fancy to keep making sales. Plenty of folks told me I’d eventually run out of people who were interested in making money from home as proofreaders… or that without monthly recurring revenue, my business would slowly peter out. :::facepalm:::)
I guess deep down I did believe that because I didn’t like -- or want -- to do any of the “fancy” stuff that the most prominent marketers espoused, that I’d eventually be penalized for it with plummeting sales, a disengaged subscriber list, and slow growth overall.
I had a pessimistic mentality that eventually the wave I had caught would dissipate. I feared that all that stuff people had uttered about my future was true and that it was only a matter of time before I’d wipe out as fast as I’d began.
But somehow I shut all of that crap out too -- save for that one time -- and I kept doing what felt authentic to me. I remember feeling a bit defiant about it; I had an “I’ll show ‘em!” attitude.
And well… I showed ‘em.
Growth, More Growth, Followed by Even More Growth
In May 2015, shortly after starting Proofread Anywhere I got featured as a successful graduate on the Starting From Nothing podcast with my husband, Ben, and in June 2015, Ben and I attended The Foundation Live -- during which we hit the $150,000 mark.
(Fun fact: Ben was part of the August 2014 Foundation class! Even though I didn’t directly participate, I learned a lot “by osmosis” and consider myself an honorary Foundation alumna -- I believe that if Ben hadn’t been inspired by Dane, Andy, and all of his TF buddies, it’s unlikely Proofread Anywhere would exist today!)
By July 2015, revenue had soared to $250,000, and I was featured on Business Insider.
By May 2016, just 15 months after launch of the first course, revenue reached $1 million.
In March 2017, Forbes featured me in an article about my fast growth and how I used Pinterest to fuel that growth.
Again, it felt like things couldn’t get any better. We offered just a single course for more than two years, and once more I believed that was “it” for me. Except, just like last time, it wasn’t.
(You’d think at this point I’d have noticed a pattern right?!)
Over those years, many students and would-be students had asked for a second course for other types of less-technical proofreading. I brushed it off, made excuses, and allowed my limiting beliefs to convince me I couldn’t make it happen.
Finally, in December 2016, after I’d built a solid management and marketing team, something clicked. I could breathe again. I could get creative and make this second course a reality. So my team and I put our heads together and made it happen. General Proofreading was to be the first major addition to our line of products after our initial course... and even though my audience had specifically asked for this second course, I was still nervous as hell to put it out there.
‘Cuz what if no one bought it? What if no one liked it? What if no one was even interested?
Ironically, I had all the same menacing thoughts I had before releasing my first course more than two years ago.
This time, however, I knew enough to ignore those thoughts and plow full steam ahead.
How I Unlaunched the Second Course
On April 25, 2017, we opened Proofread Anywhere’s second online course. We did it using just a Facebook post the day before the course opened, a second post on the day it opened, and two mass emails during the first week it was open.
No waitlist. No hype.
I didn’t even tell my subscribers that the new course was coming until the day before I released it!
Here’s the Facebook post the day before:
See the whole post plus the comments (worth it!!) HERE
The day the course finally launched (April 25 around 5pm), I posted a second time:
Did you notice in the post how I play back my audience’s requests (for a general proofreading course) and then bring them the answer? Even though I’m not “launching,” I’m still using tried-and-true marketing principles of creating and delivering what my audience has already told me they want.
See the full post plus comments HERE
The course generated $48,997 the first two days it was open… and since we didn’t open until 5pm on the first day, this result is from less than 48 hours of sales.
By the end of the first week, we hit the first $100k: I was flabbergasted. Generating $100,000 in a week is a lot faster than $100,000 in three months!
Because of this new course, we’re on track to cross the $2 million mark in total annual revenue in 2017.
So how did I do it?
How did I get so many people to enroll in my newest course...
- without doing any live webinars
- without opening/closing the cart
- with zero pre-launch emails
- without even so much as a waiting list?!
HOW do I sell so many products without following the “rules”? Without actually “launching”?
You’re about to find out.
The Fully Automated, Evergreen Webinar: My Process
First, I pre-recorded a carefully scripted webinar (the “free workshop”). That’s the only free opt-in for this course. There are no free guides, free email series, eBooks or anything.
I scripted every single word of my workshop. Some people can talk well off the cuff, but I don’t like it much and prefer to use scripts -- that way I’m 100% sure I say exactly what I want to say, when I want to say it. I’m far less nervous because I’m never worried I’ll forget something. Not to mention there are far fewer “ums” to edit out. And no one can tell I’m using a script :-)
The whole funnel is evergreen and completely automated -- designed to take a new subscriber from “just curious” to a paying student in 60 minutes.
See the workshop registration page HERE
Four Essential Elements of a Successful Evergreen Automated Webinar
To help you better understand why using a fully automated evergreen webinar funnel can still be successful -- even though it breaks all the “rules” -- I’ve isolated four essential elements of a successful automated webinar I included in mine:
(Don’t forget to grab your copy of my Unlaunch Action Guide at the end of this post!)
ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #1: Provide real value, not just a sales pitch. I give away some valuable information within the workshop, including a stay-to-the-end bonus called The Work-At-Home Survival Guide, a popular eBook I sell for $17 on my site.
Other things I included were a short quiz to help viewers validate their word skills and ability to spot errors along with quite a bit of detail on my how I accomplished my own professional transformation.
Here’s one of the slides from the quiz:
I give away enough value in the free workshop that, given enough tenacity and perhaps some previous experience, some folks could probably start their business using just that information.
However, I am transparent with them: Information is useless without implementation. So I ask if they want my help to implement. If they do want my help, then the system I’ve created to get them from newbie to polished professional in as little as one month is how I can help them.
ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #2: Stack the value insanely well… just keep piling it on. I share in detail what the actual course includes, making sure to highlight the parts most people are worried about: getting clients. Turns out a lot of people think they already have the skill of proofreading down pat and just want to learn how to get clients and make money. We do warn them it’s not as easy as they think and skipping ahead because they’re desperate for cash would only seem to help -- temporarily -- and it would hurt them in the end.
I get borderline annoying with the value stack. After announcing each bonus, I recap what material and bonuses I’ve already told them they’re getting, then I say, “And you’ll ALSO get …” to announce the next bonus.
Here’s a screenshot of one of the earlier stack slides:
We intro another bonus after each of these slides and keep growing the stack…
And the final stack slide looks like this:
Beautiful, eh?! We return to this screen multiple times throughout the remainder of the pitch portion of the workshop to remind the viewer of everything they’re getting -- it’s not just a course; it’s a system.
The four “regular” bonuses like my eBooks feature more in-depth information not covered in such length within the course. The two super bonuses are high-value bonuses they really, really want. One is a premium workshop titled Money Mindset Transformation, which is designed to help participants uncover self-laid mental obstacles that may be preventing them from earning more money -- and who doesn’t want that?!
(Psst… if you’ve got a course but no eBooks to give away as bonuses, never fear! Two of the eBooks were put together out of blog posts I’d already written, and two of the eBooks were ghostwritten by someone else, then edited by me.)
The other super bonus is the first of four levels of my original course, called Beginner Basecamp, free!
That’s right: We designed the less expensive, easier proofreading course to serve as a bridge… straight into our more expensive, more intense/difficult course. This new course, while high in value by itself, is also an extension to front end of our existing sales funnel for the original, more difficult course. I like to call it a “gateway drug” of sorts.
ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #3: Offer a limited-time discount offer for fast-action takers… after you introduce a price lower than the audience probably expects. The discount offer is made after you stack the value and name a price far lower than the audience expects.
After announcing all the bonuses, I first tell them the total value of everything together…
I make it clear that the “enrollment fee” (I avoid using the words “price” or “buy” in my marketing) is only $497… which, of course, is WAY lower than $3240.
So I set them up for reverse sticker shock with a price much lower than the value…
This makes it an even bigger no-brainer when, a few slides later, I turn around and slash an additional $100 off the already-low price to reward the fast-action takers:
I mention clearly in the workshop that if you take advantage of the discount, it means you can get the premium tier for the normal cost of the basic tier.
Interestingly, 95% of course enrollments are for the premium tier. I did NOT expect that to happen. In fact, when we originally priced the course, we had it priced at only $297, but as we continued to build the content and add value, I realized we’d be severely underselling it by pricing that low, so we bumped it up to $497.
A course like this imparts valuable skills to a person -- skills they can use over and over throughout their working life to earn far more than the cost of the course tuition. I’m never shy about pointing that out to my audience -- especially to someone who says it’s “too expensive.”
ESSENTIAL ELEMENT #4: Include plenty of social proof within your webinar, on the broadcast page, and on the sales page.
I like to think of social proof as having your happy customers/students do the selling for you. SELDOM, SELDOM do I ask for written testimonials anymore. I don’t need to. Instead, we keep an eye on our Facebook groups for posts like these:
We have hundreds of these screenshots from over the years, and we use them ALL OVER our home page, sales page and our reviews page. There are a couple within the workshop itself too. The best part is that I never have to ask for these posts -- they just show up!!
In addition, we started using Proof, a piece of software delivering powerful live stats on who’s signing up for the webinar (shows on the registration page) and who’s signing up for the course (shows on the sales page) straight to the visitor. This is real-time social proof designed to get the visitor on board and engaged by showing them they are not alone!
What about payment plans?
We decided not to offer payment plans. Another course I manage for someone else provides payment plans, and it’s a nightmare -- months go by with failed payments while the student simply takes a break from studies. When they’re ready to resume, they fill in a different card -- completely taking advantage of the system and the instructor. So in an effort to keep things as simple as possible for both me and my support team, we elected to leave payment plans completely out of the picture. That may change in the future (especially if the price increases or the course gets longer), but for now, we love the simplicity.
Do you offer a money-back guarantee?
Shocker, I know. It’s another rule I break gleefully, and the sales don’t seem to suffer for it.
There are two reasons for that decision.
First, we do a lot of qualification/disqualification for students before they enroll. Our website is full of FAQ articles. Some might say we go overboard on the warnings; we are very clear when we tell people NOT to enroll if you don’t plan to work hard and finish the course. The very first thing I say in the workshop is a warning that you cannot learn everything there is to know about becoming a proofreader in a free workshop. I weed out the bad apples as often as I can and don’t sugarcoat what I’m offering -- it’s hard work.
Second, our courses are highly academic. We market them as such and do NOT offer refunds. Occasionally we make exceptions if we can see within the system that the student has not logged in or completed the assignments/tests, but if it has been a long time and the student is trying to use us as a bank to pay for something else, or we can see that they’ve progressed through a large portion of the content, we deny the refund.
Our courses are my intellectual property. Consuming the material then trying to get it for free is a roundabout way to steal that property. You don’t get to sit through a college class all semester, take all the tests, consume the material, then at the end -- or halfway through -- you decide you just don’t like it or you need the money for something else and just ask the college for your money back. Why should we be any different?
Summing It Up
The beginning part of my story as an infopreneur proves you don’t have to already be a “somebody” in the online world before you get started. Everybody who’s become a somebody in the online world was a “nobody” at one point. They weren’t always making $200k a month!
You don’t need a huge list, either. I started in November 2014 with an empty blog and zero subscribers. Three months later I launched my first course to just 220 people -- most of whom already knew me in some capacity. (And for the record, my first 15 blog posts were terrible!)
The story of my second course “unlaunch” is proof you don’t have to follow the “rules” or do what everyone else is doing to make a crazy amount of sales. You don’t have to do live webinars, have a cart-open week, or drum up a huge amount of hype for your launch with expensive giveaways and ads. If you want to do all that, go right ahead -- lots of infopreneurs do it successfully multiple times a year -- but if you’re like me and you’d rather spend your free time playing Nintendo or at happy hour, then you don’t have to do all that!
In the last two years and change, I’ve generated more than two million dollars selling high-quality online courses in proofreading -- and that’s got to be one of the tiniest niches in the world. If I can do it, what’s stopping you?
The Unlaunch Action Guide
I’ve put together an Unlaunch Action Guide for this post! It contains a handy “unlaunch” checklist of everything I did to put together the funnel -- so you don’t forget anything! -- PLUS a step-by-step breakdown of what to do if you don’t have a product yet.
How to Connect with Caitlin: