How I Swapped My Career As A Web Builder To Build A Multiple Six-Figure Business Teaching Tech Online
Hello, I'm Dave Foy
I’m an online educator who helps digital freelancers step off the hours-for-money hamster wheel of client work, by teaching them how to leverage their time, skills, and expertise to create and sell profitable online courses.
As a former primary school teacher, I started out teaching 5-11 year-olds in the U.K., so I know a thing or two about breaking down tough-to-grasp concepts in ways that anyone can understand.
Twenty years ago, I built my very first website. In 2003, I swapped teaching for web design and spent 15+ years hand-coding websites in-house, and latterly for a micro agency that I started with a friend. Despite quickly becoming the co-owner of a profitable and sought-after agency, I found myself feeling unfulfilled and searching for greater meaning.
In 2017, I threw my cards in the air again and returned to teaching—this time, online.
Fast forward today, and I’ve gone from zero (read: no subscribers, no social followers of any kind, and no income) to a business with hundreds of happy students and over $250K a year in turnover.
I’m now on a mission to help others step off the hours-for-money hamster wheel and create more freedom and meaning in their lives by packaging their knowledge and expertise and selling it to others.
This is the warts and all story of the mistakes I made and the challenges I overcame to create the success I have today—and how it, most definitely, did not happen overnight!
Throughout, I’ve pulled out all sorts of useful bits of advice and things I’ve learned along the way. I hope reading my story inspires you as you build your own tech-focused online course business.
Heck – if I can do it, anyone can.
Making Big Leaps
I’m not suggesting there’s a blueprint for making “big leaps”. Mainly because I believe the decision making that surrounds big changes in life is usually highly nuanced and deeply personal.
That said, if you’re deeply unhappy in your current situation and you simply can’t see it getting any better, there are a few things I’d suggest you do:
- Talk about it. Be open and honest about how you’re feeling with your significant other, and explain what you’d like to do next.
- Do your best to explain the reasons behind how you’re feeling. Be prepared that your desired actions may threaten their sense of security and stability, and they may need time to process that fact.
- Know yourself—and your partner—well enough to understand whether you should make a phased transition (for example, in this case I could have freelanced while still teaching) or rip the bandaid off in one go.
One Man Band
To say I had zero experience of building websites before deciding to quit my teaching job wasn’t wholly true.
Always a bit of a geek, I’d been an early adopter of this new-fangled concept called the Internet, messing about with email and newsgroups and Gopher before the World Wide Web was even a thing.
And as the only one among us with the inclination to figure it out along the way, the task of creating a website for our band, Lithium Joe, had naturally fallen to me…
By 2003—the year I threw everything up in the air and decided to reinvent myself as a web designer—I already had five years of self-taught hand-coding experience under my belt. That said, I’d never run a business before, I’d never had to attract clients before, and it was very much a case of sink or swim.
But swim I did!
I was already building my own websites, using the new method of Web Standards and CSS for layout, rather than the outdated ‘tables for layout’ method that most web designers were still using at the time.
You don’t need a certificate or permission from anyone.
Certified qualifications and universities and the like are often waaaaay behind the curve of what real-life pros are cracking on with in the trenches.
Practical up-to-date online courses delivered by your peers actually doing the thing you want to learn? Yes, indeed.
Dusty old academics and certifications? Don’t waste your money.
The Deep Down Niggle
I spent the next seven years building beautiful websites for clients, working for myself.
Here’s my company’s website back in 2007.
Note: content marketing even back then.
For the most part, I loved it. I loved working with clients, bringing their visions to life, and seeing the difference that the sites we built made to the success of their businesses.
But deep down, there was always this niggle, a whisper if you like, that I could never completely ignore:
“What are you doing, Dave? You’re a teacher.”
Every eighteen months or so it’d rear up and I’d find myself back in schools as a volunteer or working a week here and there as a substitute teacher. And every single time, I’d be reminded of all the things that made me leave in the first place, be a little more horrified by how much worse the bureaucracy had become, and, with the itch scratched, I’d pat myself on the back and go right back to web building.
However, as the years kept ticking past and WordPress made building websites and more accessible to the mainstream, I started feeling disillusioned.
I’d been hand-coding HTML since 1998. And yet, I found myself with bags of experience and an overflowing portfolio, being passed over for jobs by upstarts who’d only been calling themselves web designers for six months.
This isn’t a new story by any stretch of the imagination, and if you’ve been around as long as I have, I’m sure you can relate. But with the barrier to entry becoming lower every year, thousands of new and inexperienced designers entering the market with no other option than to compete on price, the industry that I’d once knew was fast becoming a race to the bottom.
Marketing had always been something of a ball-ache for me. I mean, I was a web designer!
And though I understood the importance of building with the business’s end goals in mind, I didn’t really want to bother myself with optimisation and metrics. I just wanted to build beautiful, aesthetically pleasing websites.
Of course, looking back knowing what I know now, this just sounds plain ridiculous. But at the time, I really struggled to get my head around it.
Luckily for me, salvation came in the form of my good mate, Gareth.
I first met Gareth when he was the director of a big local web agency, who hired me frequently as a subcontractor on their projects. We hit it off immediately.
Outside of work, Gareth and I regularly kept in touch to share ideas, discuss strategy, and chat for hours about the finer points of DJing and electronic music. I’d been into DJ-ing for a few years at this point, and Gareth was a dance-floor veteran.
Like me, Gareth was well into web building, though he came at it very much from a sales and marketing perspective. He’d jabber away to me for hours about lead magnets and sales funnels and this brand new form of advertising using Facebook.
We formed our own company and joined forces in 2010, and pretty soon after we started implementing these strategies, our business was going like gangbusters. And once we started implementing them in our clients’ businesses, we became known for building intelligent websites that got results.
Business-wise, things were going well for Gareth and I. But on a personal level, I regularly found myself in a world of pain. We became busier and busier, and I was struggling to keep up.
Ultimately, I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist who hates rushing or doing a half-arsed job. And because of that, I found myself resenting the work, which was starting to feel like a grind.
It all came to a head one morning during a chance meeting with my good mate, Jon Moss.
I’d gotten to the co-working space early, around 7.30am. Jon arrived and saw me, head in my hands, staring down at an enormous list of !URGENT! tasks that had to be accomplished that day.
He wandered over to find out what was up.
All my frustration came pouring out and Jon, bless him, sat there listening, while I got it all off my chest. When I’d finally finished whining, he opened his bag, pulled out a book, and handed it to me saying, “Read this.”
That book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, had a huge, profound and lasting impact on me. Even before I’d finished reading it, I began to make significant changes in my life, changes that reverberate to this day.
Essentialism was nothing short of a revelation to me. After a lifetime of believing that I needed to be doing more—being more—I began to realise that 99% of incoming “stuff” is simply noise.
I realised I couldn’t possibly do everything and shouldn’t even try. I’d been putting effort into a million different things and getting nowhere fast. Instead, Essentialism taught me I can only focus on a very small number of things most important to me.
I shifted my entire outlook to put all my limited energy, attention and focus into making huge progress in a very small number of important things instead.
You're A Teacher
So when I began to hear that familiar “You’re a teacher” message again, somewhere around the middle of 2015, I knew something had to change.
In the past I’d been able to push the thought aside and carry on, ‘mind over matter’ style. But this time was different.
I was different.
By wrapping our head around the true value of the websites I was building for our clients, we’d gone from struggling to charge a few hundred quid for a website build to being able to charge 5 figures and enjoy regular recurring income.
I felt like I’d hit the jackpot, and I wanted all the other struggling web designers to learn what I’d learned, too.
While previously I’d thought teaching meant standing in front of a class of tiny humans, I was fast discovering that online courses were all the rage. There were people far less qualified than I was packaging up their knowledge, skills and experience into digital programs that people were willing to pay good money for.
And thanks to refreshing online educators like Mariah Coz, I was realising that selling a course to people I didn’t know on the internet wasn’t sleazy—it was service. It was helping people.
Finally, here were ideas I could really get on board with!
And so, in mid-2016 after many conversations with my partner, Vicky, I once again threw a career up in the air… this time, to become an online educator.
Three Prerequisites for Success
When brainstorming ideas for courses—and, indeed, services‚—it’s crucial that the idea is something that:
- Your audience wants.
- Your audience needs and will be willing to invest in.
- You are knowledgeable, capable and experienced enough to teach.
Any course idea that doesn’t fulfil these three prerequisites for success will likely amount to nothing but struggle.
The good news is, there are easy ways to figure these things out for sure.
Throughout my career, I’d worked on web projects with a dozen or so extremely talented designers. Only, when it came to putting their work online, they struggled to get their work to appear on the computer screen as they envisioned it.
With the idea of teaching non-coders clear in my mind, I knew I needed to select the best and most appropriate tools to help them master.
As an old-school hand coder, I’d initially hated the idea of using drag-and-drop WordPress page builder plugins. But my mate and business partner, Gareth, had convinced me to give them a whirl.
Mainly, because it didn’t make good business sense for him to wait around for two weeks until I had a gap in my schedule to code a simple landing page that we could otherwise create and start testing in the space of an hour.
In recent years we’d pretty much run the gamut of drag-n-drop page builder tools between us: Divi, Visual Composer, Avada. Bleurgh.
But the one that impressed me was Elementor.
When I first discovered it in July 2016, it was completely brand new, more than a bit buggy and lacking many features that I considered must-haves.
But something about it impressed me, and I thought it had the potential to become the ideal tool for my intended target audience.
I showed Elementor to a bunch of designer friends and colleagues and asked for their feedback. Instantly, they loved it.
That was all the validation I needed.
With my platform selected, I began scouring Facebook groups with the hope of uncovering the kinds of challenges non-coders faced when using Elementor.
By February 2017, I’d unveiled my new website, Design Build Web… to no-one.
Zero audience. Yet.
Of course, I knew that growing an email list would be the key to success—I’d learnt as much from my business partner, Gareth, as well as from my growing list of virtual mentors, like Brian Dean from Backlinko and Mariah Coz.
That’s why, from day one—before I even knew where I was headed—I published a simple one-page website, with just one thing on it: a signup form…
Of course, I knew my first signup incentive was a bit pathetic (“tips!”). But I also knew it was crucial that I had a way of capturing the names and email addresses of people who were interested in what I was up to, so I had a way of building ongoing relationships with them.
So in the spirit of taking imperfect action and starting well before I was truly ready, I ran with it. And you know what? It did a job… even if it wasn’t the best job.
“Always take massive imperfect action towards your goals because the time might never be ‘just right’”—Derric Yuh Ndim
“Winners take imperfect action while losers are still perfecting the plan.”—Tony Robbins
Of course, somewhere down the line I knew that my email list would become a valuable marketing asset—a list of people I could sell my future courses to. But, at this early stage all I genuinely wanted was a way of keeping in touch so I could let them know every time I released a new video tutorial.
Ah yes. Video….
Say NO To Most Things
Whatever your goals, it’s important to consider what you need to STOP doing so you can concentrate more time and energy on the important things that will get you closer to your goal.
I personally credit learning to say NO to most opportunities (to focus on only a very few) as the major key to finally making significant success happen.
Sink Or Swim?
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably wondering how in the world I was financing this 180-degree career shift.
In a word? Barely.
By March 2017 I was yet to generate a single penny of revenue by teaching online.
Thankfully, my past-self had had the good sense not to burn my bridges with client work completely, a decision my March 2017 self was eternally grateful for.
I’d kept a single client on, a salt-of-the-earth top bloke named James Leckie, who I’d been working with since 2005.
James and I had built up a great relationship over the years. He paid his invoices on time (usually before I’d sent them) and he trusted me to do my thing and get the job done. Here’s IT Contracting, just one of James’s excellent websites.
Though it wasn’t a huge retainer—£1000 per month—it was a genuine lifesaver to have some regular cash coming in.
Thank you, James.
However, before long, things began to get tight. I mean, really tight.
Vicky and I had never been credit card people, but month after month we found ourselves charging basic living expenses to the cards and only making the minimum payments. Consequently, the balance was creeping up.
Out of desperation, we started selling stuff to help make ends meet, but it wasn’t really enough to tide us over.
From that point I knew I had to decide: was I going to sink or was I going to swim?
I’m Personally a Big Believer in the ‘Sink or Swim’ Model of Taking Big Leaps in Life.
To Affiliate or Not to Affiliate?
Just as I’d made the decision never to post content for content’s sake, I’d also made a promise to myself that affiliate marketing would never become the basis for my business model.
It wasn’t that I had a problem with mentioning software or products in exchange for a small commission. But as a teacher first and foremost, it didn’t feel right to be encouraging my audience to invest in a particular tool one day, only to be promoting a completely different tool the next.
On top of that, I didn’t want to pour all my time and energy into helping build other people’s businesses for tiny percentages when I could be building my own. I don’t believe you should, either.
That said, there were products that I used and loved and heartily recommended anyway so I figured, why not register as an affiliate for them?
I began including referral links for the tools I recommended in the description boxes of my YouTube videos and pretty soon I started earning commission. It wasn’t much at first—$200 or so—but as my videos gained more views, my affiliate revenue began to grow too.
To this day, I’m an affiliate for only the tools that I personally use and love. Curious what’s on my current list? You can check it out here.
Affiliate income might have got me out of a tight corner, but it was making and selling courses that really moved the needle. And it was making and selling courses that was my main business goal.
Your Email List is Everything
Like I said earlier, the very first thing I did when I started was put an email sign-up form front and centre on my website.
From everything I’d already learned about building an online business, I knew I’d have to build an email list before I could begin actually selling courses.
Building an email list is completely crucial.
It’s not enough to rely on building a following on other people’s platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Those platforms can (and do) change their rules at moment’s notice.
And, of course, they’re free, so who are course creators like me to argue?
But your email list? That’s yours and yours alone, and it’s the best place to start conversations, nurture relationships, provide value, and ultimately, promote your products and services.
I took every opportunity I could to build my email list, but the two tactics I leaned on most were content upgrades and webinars.
A content upgrade is an additional piece of ‘gated’, high-value content, designed to enhance the value of the free content your visitor is already enjoying—examples coming up.
Content upgrades come in a variety of ways, shapes and forms, but what they all have in common is that readers must opt in to access them.
The beauty of content upgrades is they convert really well (like, 40% or more) because they’re directly related to the content the visitor is already reading or watching.
For every single article or video I made, I created a corresponding content upgrade to encourage opt-in to my list. At a 40+% conversion rate, why wouldn’t I?!
No free courses or long-winded ebooks—just small ‘bites’ that were easy to create and offered the reader additional value and a quick win.
Some Content Upgrade examples:
Note: I recently removed the opt-in boxes on the pages below cos the info has since become a little out of date. Enjoy the screenshots of the opt-in boxes instead.
Article reviewing GeneratePress: I gave away a bonus video and article with my preferred GeneratePress settings for maximum compatibility with Elementor.
Video and article on developing your own starter site: I gave away a link to my own starter site that the reader could install themselves to get a head start.
Video showing how to create a high-converting landing page with Elementor: I gave away 3 importable pre-built Elementor landing page templates.
Video showing how to create a sitewide header with Elementor: I gave away a handy one-page PDF cheatsheet reminder of the step-by-step instructions from the video.
Get the idea?
Throughout my research, I’d also seen others marketers using live pitch-free webinars as a list-building tool.
At this point the thought of being on camera still terrified me (evidence: my 2nd ever YouTube video—c’mon Dave, just relax and enjoy it! Sheesh).
But having recently read Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way, I knew it was something I had to do.
And you know what?
Hosting live free training turned out to be the best thing I ever did.
I was completely out of my comfort zone, but I loved having the opportunity to connect with members of my audience on a more personal level.
And it was great for list growth.
And to top it all off, there didn’t seem to be anyone else in the WordPress teaching space doing anything like it at the time.
I held my very first live webinar in April 2017:
Learn How You Can Build Profitable, Custom-Designed, Responsive WordPress Websites SUPER FAST… No Code Required.
I nervously promoted it to my very small email list only.
And what do you know?
184 people registered.
Even better, 74 of them actually showed up live, a whopping 40% show-up rate—a figure I’d still be pretty happy to achieve today!
But despite the healthy show-up rate, my first webinar was far from perfect.
Tech stuff went wrong….
I should have rehearsed way more than I did….
And I’d bitten off waaaay more than I could chew (in hindsight, the title was quite a promise for 45 minutes).
But the feedback was AMAZING. And that made me feel amazing too.
Encouraged, I hosted my second webinar in May 2017:
How To Easily Design Your ENTIRE Website With Elementor
I created this webinar in response to a growing need I’d spotted where people wanted to use Elementor to design every part of their site (not something you could do at the time).
316 registered (whoop!). 129 of those attended live, again, giving me around a 40% show-up rate.
This spurred me on to host another one in August:
Level Up Your Elementor Skills: 10 Killer Tips & Tricks
If you’re keeping up you’ve probably already noticed that I was still biting off more than I could chew…
I could—and should—have stopped at FIVE tips and people still would’ve been happy.
However… this time 485 registered (going up!), and 173 attended live.
It’s fair to say I’d been bitten by the teaching bug.
However, all the webinars I was hosting were still pitch-free.
And it was no wonder really.
I had nothing to pitch. And that was starting to become a huge problem…
While my original business idea might have been to build an email list and create and sell online courses… I quickly discovered that that was easier said than done.
And this was largely down to my own limiting beliefs.
Looking back it was bonkers really.
I had an email list that was growing by hundreds of subscribers every single month…
YouTube tutorials with tens of thousands of views…
And people literally begging me to take their money to teach them how to use Elementor.
And yet, for some reason, I was stuck in a state of inertia.
Obviously, in hindsight, I know exactly what I should’ve done…
I should’ve put together a rough, flexible idea of the course outline, ran a presale to take pre-orders and, if enough people bought, cracked on and made the course.
(Even better as a first step would have been to offer a short series of paid 1 hour webinars… perfect fast validation, AND some quick income, AND a chance to gather tons of questions to answer in an eventual full course. Hindsight is a wonderful thing….)
Instead, I was scared witless of putting out an offer of any kind.
I messed around for a while asking my list to be beta testers for a free Elementor course I had in mind… basically to avoid having to ask for money.
I was afraid of what people would think of me if I did, and resisting at all costs opening myself up to what I considered would be inevitable rejection.
The fear was real.
I’m embarrassed to admit that, at the time—somewhere around the middle of 2017—I had a bit of a meltdown when I privately admitted these fears to a new group of friends I’d recently made in the WordPress community.
I’ll be forever grateful for their support and encouragement. It was a major moment in my journey, fixing my faulty mindset and getting me unstuck.
Despite all my fears, there was however a kernel of reasonableness to my procrastination and delays… because I’d realised something significant about my ideal customers.
Through my interactions with people in Facebook groups and in the comments of my own YouTube videos, it’d become all too apparent that many non-coders considered Elementor to be some kind of magic bullet.
Indeed, the majority of designers I encountered weren’t sure where it factored into the wider WordPress eco-system.
In fact… some didn’t even realise it was a WordPress page builder plugin in the first place! They thought Elementor was WordPress.
I knew that in order for anyone to realise the true potential of Elementor, they’d first need to understand how WordPress works first.
And so, I decided to take a gamble and create my very first course about what I knew people needed, not what they told me they wanted.
I figured it’d be easy to put together—two weeks work, tops.
The Presale Method
But, before I so much as opened a fresh Google doc to start creating module one, I decided to run a presale.
This was a tip I’d picked up during my months of research into making and selling online courses.
On paper, pre-launching was pretty straightforward: I needed to create a rough indication of the possible course outline, then email my list to ask them if they wanted to pre-order the proposed course.
Mentally though, it was a whole different ball game.
I had so many money limiting beliefs about what my knowledge was worth… whether people would be willing to pay me… along with my fair share of, “Who the hell am I to think I can do this?” thoughts.
In the end, I nervously shared my presale with a selected just 50 of my then 2500-strong email list.
Yep – I wrote a personal email to every single one of them.
This then led to a hastily hacked together presale sales page.
Around 20% of them bought WordPress Demystified—the very first version of No Stress WordPress with an eye-rollingly awful name—for $197. Not a bad conversion rate! And a much needed $2000 or so in revenue. Phew.
The human touch beats automation, every time.
Don't Do It.
You may be tempted to give away access to your course-in-progress for free, to attract beta testers.
Don’t do it.
Always have beta testers pay for access—of course, at a lower price than the final finished version.
Beta testers who pay have made a financial investment, they have ‘skin in the game’. This means they’ll be much more likely to take the course, be motivated and engaged, and provide quality feedback.
Free beta testers who have made no investment rarely participate, hardly ever get results, and therefore don’t give you the kind of feedback or raving testimonials you need.
The Perils of Teaching Tech
Creating courses that teach others how to use third-party platforms can be risky. Especially so if your style of teaching is the “watch-over-my-shoulder” approach that I prefer and students value so much.
Before you begin to create any course content to teach tech, consider the following questions:
- Are there any pending updates that would render what you’re about to create obsolete in the 12 months?
- Is there an evergreen and/or strategic component to what you’re about to teach?
- How will you feel if you find yourself in a position where you either have to re-record all the ‘how to’ content, or start over again from scratch?
These scenarios are something you need to consider and factor into your plans.
I Wasn’t Prepared for the Worst
One thing to mention before we move on:
During this event my webinar provider at the time—Demio—had a massive outage. Just as the webinar was about to start, everything died.
All attendees got locked out or couldn’t get in in the first place, and even I couldn’t access my webinar control panel to run the event.
Yes,of course, I had a backup plan. What kind of idiot wouldn’t have a backup plan?!
Errrrrm… that’d be me, actually.
No, I had no backup plan whatsoever.
My wife was manning the webinar chat at the time and also my email. My inbox flooded almost immediately with messages from attendees—some understanding of the situation, others… umm, less so.
In blind panic, I recorded and sent a harried video message to everyone who’d registered. I looked like I was about to cry (I was), apologising for the breakdown and promising to reschedule the event the next day on another platform.
I scrambled to find a new webinar provider (Zoom) and ran the webinar again the very next day. Rather than being annoyed, the vast majority of people said how much respect they had for how I’d remained calm and good humoured about the whole thing.
(You’ll discover later that I learnt well from this tough lesson: once bitten, twice shy).
No Fear Funnels
After my second launch, and with the pending release of Elementor 2.0 on the horizon, I decided it would be a good idea to think of ways to teach more than just the ‘tech how-to’.
I’d had numerous conversations about selling online with one of my mentors, Chris Moore, a seasoned marketing consultant who’d given so much of his time to me over the previous few months.
(Thank you, Chris, for taking me under your wing, giving so generously of your time, and your constant support and encouragement. 🙏)
Sparked by one his insights, I’d spied a new opportunity:
‘Non-marketer’ web designers.
Just like I had been once upon a time as a freelancer, I noticed that many web designers were increasingly being priced out of the market because all they ever did was sell websites. And like these web designers, I’d firmly viewed myself as a ‘non-marketer’ too.
Since then, I’d had 7 years of experience partnering with Gareth in our small web marketing agency. I’d also taken my own business, Design Build Web, to 6 figures in revenue in under a year, without any sleazy marketing tactics whatsoever.
So I knew I had heaps to teach my students about turning pretty brochure web builds into lead and sales-generating machines.
In March 2018, inspired by my mentor Chris Moore’s encouragement to just “sell the damn thing!” (yep Chris—message now received), I ran a presale for course idea #2.
Course idea #2 quickly became known by the far better name No Fear Funnels (here’s that presale sales page).
No webinar, no advertising. Just a series of emails to my existing email list and a few mentions in some Facebook groups.
Priced at $197, I pre-sold 178 slots, made $35K, and, most importantly, validated my idea—quickly, and with no skirting the issue this time.
Then, and only then, did I start fully planning the lessons and recording the content.
Don't Make a Course and Then Sell It
Many people believe you have to have your course finished, locked and loaded before you can launch.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve mentioned the importance of running presales a few times now. For new courses, it’s crucial that you plan a rough curriculum outline and sell your audience on what you intend to teach before you record a single lesson.
People will tell you, “Dude, I’ll definitely buy your course!” till the cows come home. They mean well. Sadly, this is not validation. It means nothing.
Having your audience get their credit cards out to pay in advance for your course is the only way to prove beyond doubt that there’s a market for your idea. You won’t waste a single second of time in producing planning, scripting, recording and editing lessons that might never be bought.
Never make a course before you’ve pre-sold it first. Promise?
Invest in copy—Cash or Time
If you come across work you admire online, get in touch with the website owner and ask who wrote their copy.
Be willing to invest good money in copy. It’s that important.
Be wary of copywriters working on a per word or per hour basis—chances are they are new, inexperienced, juggling dozens of clients to make ends meet, and they won’t treat your copy as if it were their own.
Always ask for work examples and references—any professional writer will be glad to connect you with past clients and share their portfolio with you.
The upshot: investing in good copywriting—whether that’s investing your own time or investing money in a pro—will pay itself back many many times over, I promise.
Turning Down Great Opportunities
Let’s briefly rewind back a year or so to April 2017, a month or so after I’d started teaching online.
Incoming: a message from Ben Pines.
If you don’t know Ben, he was the company’s Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at the time.
This was a BIG deal. All my teaching was based on Elementor, and Ben was a highly visible spokesperson and evangelist for the company.
My first thought?
“Shit. What have I done wrong?”
I mean, why else would the then-CMO of Elementor want a word?
What followed next was a genuine shock:
The guys at Elementor were so impressed with the YouTube videos I’d published so far, that they wanted to hire me to make regular tutorial content for them.
Of course, I was incredibly flattered. And I thought about the offer a lot over the next few days.
I mean, what an opportunity—the chance to become the ‘face’ of Elementor’s content and tutorials to their growing audience?
In the end, though, I decided I had to turn the opportunity down.
In the spirit of what I’d learnt from reading Essentialism, I knew that I made less progress against my goals whenever I spread myself too thin.
My ambition was to make and sell my own online course. So every potential opportunity—even a great one—had to be assessed against whether it brought me closer to that goal or not.
Luckily I later had the chance to make some content for Elementor’s YouTube channel anyway (here’s an example), which got me and my teaching in front of a whole new audience. And judging by the comments on that video, it continues to do that job to this day.
In saying “yes” to these sort of ad-hoc guest teacher opportunities, I became visible to a new audience and grew my authority, while continuing to focus on building my own business.
Similarly, I was delighted to be asked in 2018 to be a guest speaker at the annual Teachable Summit, a virtual event attended by thousands of course creators (and wannabe course creators). I jumped on the chance to speak, a tremendous opportunity to spread my reputation as a course creator.
While I enjoyed it a great deal, I turned down the kind offer to have me speak again at the following year’s summit.
By that point I’d gone ‘all in’ with Thinkific, and since Teachable was not—and still isn’t—my recommended course platform of choice, I felt it would be disingenuous to appear on a panel promoting their product.
Yes, I’d turned down the opportunity to appear in front of tens of thousands of new potential followers. But morally, it felt like the right thing to do.
By October 2018, No Fear Funnels was around 85% complete and it was time to launch again (remember, a course doesn’t have to be 100% complete to launch?).
Only this time, with more of a team around me that I’d gathered over the last few months, I wouldn’t be doing it alone anymore.
With Perry and Larry Yu from High Converting Ads heading up paid traffic, the brilliant John Fraskos from Style Kits looking after design, and Hattie designing the funnel and handling all the messaging and copy, I was freed up to focus on creating an in-depth prelaunch video series and the live masterclass I planned to deliver.
Having a team to help also allowed me to experiment with adding more complex elements to the launch mix.
This time, I released an in-depth 4-part video series on building landing pages with Elementor.
That series featured a range of opt-in incentives to generate more leads: a special 5th video putting all the pieces together, a conversion optimisation cheatsheet, and importable pre-built Elementor landing page templates.
I also heavily promoted a live masterclass—5 Reasons Why Your Landing Pages Aren’t Generating Leads (And How To Fix Them)
This time with Facebook ads thrown into the mix, as well as my usual email list promotion and live appearances on podcasts and in Facebook groups.
This webinar was much more interactive than previous events.
My friend Kyle Van Deusen (from OGAL Web Design and the brilliant The Admin Bar Facebook group) gamely agreed to let me pull one of his live landing pages to pieces, live in front of a global audience.
(I’m still sorry we crashed your website, Kyle.)
1152 people registered for the masterclass with nearly 45% showing up live thanks to plenty of buzz, and a top-notch email sequence to encourage them to do so.
Once I’d finished teaching, I pitched No Fear Funnels for $347—a $150 increase on the previous launch (see the sales page I used at the time).
When the cart closed 5 days later, I’d welcomed 129 new students to the course, and made almost $40,000 in revenue.
Save for another quick 48 hour launch of No Fear Funnels in March 2019, the first eight months of 2019 were devoted to three things:
- Coaching my existing students,
- Collaborating on a course with Troy Dean from WP Elevation,
- And finishing making No Fear Funnels.
Impressed by the quality of my YouTube videos that he tells me encouraged him and his team to up their video game, Troy had reached out to me for the first time in 2018, and had since always been there to offer valuable advice, help and support.
Though we’d become pretty friendly and I’d been a guest on the WP Elevation podcast the year before, the collaboration opportunity with Troy had come somewhat out of the blue.
And when he asked if I’d be up for co-creating High Ticket Sales Funnels, I was in two minds because I still had to finish making No Fear Funnels (which was taking me ages—I’ve learnt many lessons since from this experience).
But co-creating a course with a legend like Troy was too big an opportunity to pass up. So, when he came to the U.K. to speak at a conference I was also speaking at, we met up in London to film all the lessons and video-based marketing assets… as well as have a good old laugh and chinwag over a few pints in the pub.
It’s almost impossible to quantify what I learnt from spending time with someone as experienced in the online teaching space as Troy. In fact, what I learnt from him during the week together in 2019 still impacts my business today.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that your heroes, your peers, your audience, and your customers, are all real human beings. Human beings with the same hopes and dreams and fears as you.
And while I too spend most of my time communicating with people online, I cannot stress enough the value of taking opportunities to meet people in real life where you can, at conferences, events and meet-ups (except in pandemics, obvs).
The conferences I’ve been to and the real-life meet-ups I’ve had with my students have been some of the most valuable and impactful experiences I’ve ever had.
No Stress WordPress — The Remake
About a month later, High Ticket Sales Funnels launched and was really well received by my audience and the WP Elevation community. Given it was a collaboration I won’t share specific stats relating to this launch, but suffice to say it was, and continues to be, a profitable joint venture.
As summer gave way to Autumn, we were gearing up to launch the freshly remade No Stress WordPress 2.0.
Taking my own pre-launch advice, I’d already tested the waters a few months previous, to see if there was still active interest in the course. To do this, we ran a short 48-hour low-key pre-sale to people who’d joined the waiting list.
The fact that that under-the-radar pre-sale resulted in nearly $32,000 of sales was all the encouragement I’d needed to remake the course and bring it bang up to date.
Although I originally planned to do something quite simple, I eventually bit the bullet and decided to go all out with the hope of hitting a milestone we’d privately been chasing for some time: a six-figure launch.
Unlike previous launches, this time I reached out to a bunch of friends and actively asked them to promote the course as affiliates, in exchange for a commission.
We created a simple affiliate info page with all the key information, dates, suggested swipe copy for emails and social posts as well.
And to make it as easy to support the launch as possible, I asked affiliates to concentrate only on publicising the free live masterclass where I’d officially open the cart. They’d still get commission on eventual sales, of course, thanks to the wonder of ThriveCart.
On top of that, we embedded another urgency driver into the launch—the chance to receive a full refund if you invested in No Stress WordPress during the live masterclass.
Hattie had used this tactic in launches with previous clients. As soon as she pointed out that it would give me the perfect opportunity to talk about No Stress WordPress right from the beginning of the free live class, I was sold. I mean… no awkward segue from teaching to selling? I’m in.
Things had stepped up a gear since previous launches. I had a team!
With Hattie producing the copy for landing pages, sales page, thank you pages, affiliate swipe, emails, social posts….
Liaising with Perry over the copy for Facebook ads…
Perry controlling the paid traffic…
Vicky handling customer support and incoming questions…
And my tech VA, Claire, concentrating on all the automation and integrations…
I could focus on producing a top-notch masterclass, and getting the word out.
That meant co-hosting partner livestreams, guesting on several podcasts that would drop during launch week, as well as making sure everyone in my community knew that I was about to open the cart… and for the first time, even making a fancy little Facebook ad video…!
Something else we decided to do a little differently during this launch was to run a private 24-hour pre-launch, exclusively for anyone signed up to the No Stress WordPress waitlist only.
Having listened to my team and my students saying the course was worth waaaaay more than I charge for it, I’d finally decided to increase the investment by $100, making the new price $497.
But, encouraged by Hattie, I decided to give the 647 people hanging out on the waitlist a 24-hour long opportunity to get in at the old price.
Truthfully, I felt a bit bad. By this point, I hadn’t opened enrolment in what seemed like forever. Many of the people on that list had been waiting patiently for over a year by that point, so it felt like the right thing to do.
Plus, it would create some buzz for the launch proper, because new people would already be talking about the fact they’d joined.
We sent a quick email on the Friday before the cart opened, announcing that No Stress WordPress 2.0 would be open for 24 hours at the old price the following Monday, ahead of the live masterclass the next day.
Not knowing how many people on the waitlist would even still be interested, I estimated we’d get around 15-20 sales.
As it turned out, 48 people jumped in… giving the launch a $20,000 head start!
If you already have a few launches under your belt, it’s easy to default to the strategies that you usually use. However, in doing what you’ve always done, you’ll likely only get what you’ve always got.
Never be afraid to ask for help and try different strategies, especially if you’re looking to hit a stretch goal. I don’t believe there’s a “right” way to do anything, but you only know for sure what will work by being unafraid to experiment.
The Christmas of 2019, I took an extended period of time off to be with my family. I ate a lot of meat and cheese, and regrouped.
Life was great… but having some time off allowed an idea that’d been niggling at me for ages to rise to the surface.
Here was where my head was at:
I love teaching tech online—pretty much every aspect of it.
I love the tech involved—who doesn’t love nerding out over apps, cameras, gear, right?
Designing curriculums, creating courses and supporting students…
The freedom this business model provides…
The income which allows me to confidently provide for my family….
But most of all (by a long long way) I love how teaching itself is such an enormously positive force.
I love how teachers have the privilege of making a deep and meaningful impact on other people’s lives.
And I love how me helping others to achieve what they want helps them fulfil their true potential…
…which in return brings meaning and fulfilment to my own life, in spades.
As Zig Ziglar famously said:
“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”
This idea wouldn’t let me go. But I wasn’t sure what it really meant.
I had a few conversations with my eternally supportive partner, Vicky, about it.
Besides knowing me better than anyone, she’s also a coach, making her the perfect person to chat these things through with.
She pointed out what had been staring me in the face all along:
“It’s obvious. If you want to make a bigger impact, you need to teach people how to teach and do what you’ve done.”
To say a lightbulb went off at that moment would be an understatement.
In reality, that light bulb had been blinking on and off for a few years, but every time the idea of teaching people how to teach popped into my brain, I’d shut it down.
I mean—I already love what I do!
But something about this time was different. And in 2020, I was going to do something about it.
Whenever we begin new projects, it’s natural to ask ourselves whether we’ve come up with a new or novel enough idea.
There are thousands of people out there teaching others how to create and sell online courses—you can probably think of half a dozen people right now without even thinking.
I told myself this back in December 2019, and I’m telling you now:
The fact that other people are out there creating and selling courses on a similar topic proves that there’s a market for the problem I want to solve.
And we all bring a unique perspective!
For one, none of them are teaching introvert digital consultants and freelancers how to create and sell tech-focused courses specifically. #niche
But more importantly, I’m all too aware of the obstacles I encountered on the journey:
Mindset issues… fear… imposter syndrome… issues related to being an introvert… and a solid distaste for the brash in-your-face sales and marketing tactics that I previously thought was mandatory to be successful.
In fact, it was because of these reasons that I nearly gave up so many times.
And I 100% know that there are many others out there who will feel the same way and that I can help.