How to create an online course (and get customers to join)

How does a Mixergy fan who couldn’t get a job as a pizza delivery guy end up building a profitable online course business?

Joseph Michael is the founder of LearnScrivenerFast.com, a step-by-step course that helps you accelerate your writing career in less than a week.

His most recent project is ProductCreationLive.com, which takes you behind the scenes and shows you how he’s creating a product.

Joseph Michael

Joseph Michael

Learn Scrivener Fast

Joseph Michael is the founder of LearnScrivenerFast.com, a step-by-step course that helps you accelerate your writing career in less than a week.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. You know me by now, right? Over a thousand times I have told you that I am Andrew Warner, the founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. That means this is the place where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. We go deep in depth and more importantly we pull out ideas and tactics so you can use as you’re building your company. I know that this is not the show for wanna-preneurs, people who listen to make sure the interviews are real builders, real creators. How many people I have interviewed here have told me that they used to listen to Mixergy interviews. It helped them grow their business and now they are here to tell their stories. I have got someone like that for you today. We are about to find out how a Mixergy fan who couldn’t get a job as a pizza delivery guy ended up building a profitable online course business.

Joseph Michael is the founder of the LearnScrivenerFast.com, a step-by-step course that teaches you how to accelerate your writing career in less than a week. His most recent project is ProductCreationLive.com which takes you behind the scenes and shows you how he is creating a product. He is also a guy who’s got a beautiful backdrop, I am so glad to have him on here and I should thank my sponsor, Toptal.

Look, I needed a developer. I’ve got developers here at Mixergy but I need a new developer someone who can take on a role of fixing our search at Mixergy. I went to Toptal. They gave me one guy who is a really good fit but we said we need a better fit, we need someone else. And so they came back to us taking some notes on what we meant by better fit, better culture fit, better tech tops, what we needed the person to do. And they brought us another guy. Perfect, we hired him. He did such a freaking beautiful job so much faster than we expected that I now, this morning just before I recorded this interview, I hired designers to design the software that this guy coded up for us so we can make our site better.

The reason I am telling you is to show you that Toptal will find the right person for you, top of their field, You can hire them and get started with them right away and they will blow your minds like they did mine with how good they are. So if you want to get started with the new developer, do what I did, go to toptal.com. Also they guarantee their work. If you find someone, you start working with them and you say, “Hey, Andrew lied to me or this doesn’t work.” Andrew would never lie to you but maybe it doesn’t work for another reason, you will get a refund. Go to Toptal.com and the audience has been telling me that I should enunciate that clearly and maybe tell you that Toptal means Top Talent. So I’ll spell it out for you T-O-P-T-A-L .com and I am thankful that they’re a sponsor. Joe, welcome to Mixergy. What happened to your audio? Did you go on mute while I did that whole long introduction?

Joe: I did. Sorry about that, Andrew, I am super [inaudible 00:02:49] here.

Andrew: No, I do that too. That is a pretty impressive backdrop. What is that for?

Joe: Thank you. This is where I create my new video. So I am in the studio today creating some new training and stuff like that so this is kind of my inspirational spot. This is where I get creative energy and it’s my favorite place to be so it’s actually my basement, so it’s a home video studio which is always kind of my dream to have.

Andrew: It is so beautifully done. It is really hard to get lighting like that to actually work out.

Joe: You are not kidding. It’s two years of testing in the works so …

Andrew: What’s impressive to me about you how fast you have grown. You launched this site LearnScrivenerFast, how long ago?

Joe: Let’s see, two years ago, just a little over two years ago.

Andrew: and it’s profitable now?

Joe: It’s very profitable now. It is a life changing profitable now.

Andrew: You are supporting your whole family on it?

Joe: Yes, supporting my whole family and home with my whole family so even more importantly.

Andrew: I dig the photos of your family on your website.

Joe: Awesome.

Andrew: I admire what you have done but nobody get rejected for a pizza delivery guy. I see the people who deliver pizza at my house, they are not rejecting anyone. Was this true?

Joe: So it is true. This is what I thought too, nobody gets rejected from pizza delivery so this would be any easy gig, an easy job and turns out I didn’t have any pizza delivery experience, go figure. I thought I could figure it out though, and I was over qualified even though I was almost begging for the job like, “I am a family man. I won’t let you down. I am accountable and I am manager at my other day job, I just need some extra funds to make ends meet, save for a down payment on a house,” and, man, I just couldn’t get a job. I went to three or four these places.

Andrew: You know what? This is one of those statements that is going on piss off half of my audience and it is going to inspire the other half and I know what is going to happen. Some people are going to walk away saying, “Look at this, today even a guy who gets rejected from pizza delivery work ends up creating an info product and selling it.” This is what the internet is come to and they will be frustrated. I can accept whatever frustration people have. On the other side people are going to say, “Look at this. Here is a guy who couldn’t get a pizza delivery job who is now supporting his whole family by teaching what he knows.” I think I know some things that other people want to learn from. I am not going to put this whole thing down. I am going to try it out and my goal here is not to pay attention to the first part, though I love that they are getting pissed off and riled up because they get engaged with me and we have interesting conversations, they are going to get pissed off no matter what we do here. My goal is to take that second group of people, not just the ones who have inspired and have them not to just hear story but assemble some pieces of their puzzle so that they can do this too and I know that’s your goal too.

Joe: Absolutely.

Andrew: So why don’t we go back and see this was not your first attempt at writing and publishing online, right?

Joe: Correct. Yeah, I started with a self-help efficiency blog. It was called EfficientLifeskills.com. That was my testing grounds where I started and it was really just a hodge podge of things that I just threw up there while I was learning about keyword research and all these things. I had no clue what I was doing when I have started. My main thing was just let’s just get in the game and figure it out. I knew I couldn’t figure it out from being on the sidelines.

Andrew: What about this, Joe. I see that you don’t know anything and here you are publishing something and teaching already on a site where you are telling people not just, “Hey, this is my personal blog but I am going to make your life more efficient by teaching you life skills.” Was there any sense of impostor syndrome at that point?

Joe: Oh man, totally, right from the beginning. It is amazing once we put ourselves out there. It’s like this vulnerability and this was part of my struggle in the beginning. Number one, I had a day job and so I didn’t want my day job to know what I was doing online in case there was any conflict there because I was actually excited about something which hadn’t happen in years. And number two, I didn’t want to fail publicly and so I went by this sort of pen-name, Joseph Michael, which is what I am known for now online. It is just my first and middle name, full name is Joseph Michael Micheletti. Now I didn’t really want to use that in case I had failed, or this whole thing can crumbling down. It’d be like, “Oh, yeah, see.” There’s other thing that Joe tried but didn’t work so like the impostor syndrome is very real right from the beginning. But you know it was like I knew I could teach and I could inspire a few.

It was that passion that drove me to help people and not with that but I was excited about it. I was excited about doing something and excited about the opportunity so it would help me push through and test and try something and, “Hey, those who get criticized are those who are out there actually doing stuff anyway.” So I figured if I get criticized than that’s is a good thing, right?

Andrew: It means that you are doing something. Would you recommend that somebody else do that, get a pen-name or a variation of their name?

Joe: You know if I could go back I wouldn’t. I would just own it right from the beginning. I think it was a kind of a safety net, so to speak, but I think it’s also now looking back just shows how insecure maybe, or scared or fearful I was in the beginning and those fears are very real. And I am just glad it not stopped me from moving forward in pushing forward. Unless you are an author, I know it works really well for a lot of authors to do that so I think that just really depends. It’s worked out now and it now makes for great stories. It hopefully inspires and encourages some people.

Andrew: I kind of like having any online name and offline name. It feels like it give me a little bit of protection. If somebody wants to go and do my kitchen, they are maybe going to look me up and if they see what I’m up to they might decide to charge a little bit more than they would otherwise and that kind of protection makes me feels good.

Joe: It’s true.

Andrew: I like the way you did it, too, first and middle name.

Joe: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew: Let’s talk a little bit about the content. I am seeing here “Eating Clean 101,” “Secret to Looking Sexy” and “Stop Feeling like Junk.” Here’s three priorities for parents who care about their children. I have such a hard time saying anything about how to raise kids because you will never know until it is over, until they are 25, 30, a 100, I don’t know when you know that you have done a good job.

Joe: Right.

Andrew: To speak out and say here are the three priorities everyone should pay attention to, is really scary to me. Oh, I see how you got over it. You did not write your own stuff, you said,” Here is what Charles Sindall [SP], says.

Joe: Yes, I grew up in a home reading lots of books, listening a lot of tapes, [indecipherable 00:09:26] CDs. I had a lot of this just information. As I would share this in personal life of people, it was amazing to me that not everybody have this background, this experience of lots of these books or anything. And so they would be really engaged with these quotes or little stories and things. So I was like,”Let’s take these online,” and see if we can help people out. So I did, I curated a lot of content.

A lot of this is just from my own personal life, of my own personal feelings and ambition as a parent and things that I noticed. In fact, that’s where the famous Shoe Tying Post on there came to be. It was something I did with my daughter which was trying to teach her how to tie shoes which is like the hardest thing ever to teach if you remember that or are going through that. It’s amazing we ever learned it by ourselves. But out of frustration of teaching my daughter how to tie her shoes, I did some research and tried to look for different techniques. I found this one, she ended up tying her shoes in five minutes and I was like, “This is incredible.” Let daddy videotape you really quick showing you tie your shoes. I am going to put it on my new blog and maybe this is going to help some people out there who are struggling with this. If anything else, grandma and grandpa will think it is cute.

We did that and apparently there is a huge struggle with parents trying to teach their kids to tie shoes which alerted me first off to finding pain points for people. That’s where it’s at because post took off. There is over a million views or something of that thing now and just to see the viral nature of something that’s summing a problem for people on accident just out of experience of my own life. That was a first class education right there.

Andrew: I see. That’s make a lot of sense, so there may be not a lot of proud parents who are saying, “I don’t know what my priorities are. Where do I go online to finally figure out what my top three priorities are.” But there are parents are trying to help their kids tie their shoe laces and it is a desperate situation. I can imagine how tough it is and that’s what sent people over and that’s a first big lesson. The other thing I noticed is I think the writing and excerpting about what other people have written is a good first start and it lets you kind of get comfortable, writing publicly without necessarily speaking out before you know what you are talking about and lets you learn. The challenge with that is that people don’t want to link to and share and promote and talk about your excerpt of somebody else’s ideas. It’s really tough to get an audience that way, it’s only when you start to put your own stuff out, it seems like that you really can get a massive audience.

Joe: Yeah, and you have got to learn your own voice. There is no way to do that unless you start working at and start writing but that’s first kind of journey and hurdle that I got through was do a mixture of those and then I just started to do, “Okay, I am going to write this post from the heart,” and start to find your voice. And once you do that, I mean, you really become unstoppable, I think, in a way because you realize, okay. People can relate to what I have to share and I can help people and you know there is always this fear of, I guess, criticism and failure that people aren’t going to like which you have to say. But there is some that will and those who are the ones you are after.

Andrew: Yeah, it’s challenging in the moment and I don’t like how when I interview people they forget that that was a challenge. They act like it’s just writing on the internet. We are all online, man.

Joe: Oh man. It’s scary. I mean, these are big hurdles that stop people and you know one negative comment that can send them running and it’s over. You know in the beginning especially when you are so raw and vulnerable. And that’s something I am sure you had to deal with your share of trolls even today. The internet, it’s amazing that people would say things that they wouldn’t normally tell you in person. You got to get some thick skin and really know what you believe in and know who you are, so that you can face those when they comment. People like to attack people that are doing things to bring them down so.

Andrew: You know what, Joe, strangely the trolls out in the world don’t bother me, I kind of love them, I love the feedback, I love the engagement, I love that they are paying attention. It’s the trolls in my head that were a problem.

Joe: Ooh, yeah.

Andrew: I was starting to publish the first interview or edit it and I think, “Boy, that’s what my voice sounds like.” That’s a pretty high pitch voice. I should be deeper. Oh, there are tools for fixing that. And then I get lost in Audacity which was the free editing program that I used and I would just say, “What if I had more bass, what if I had more echo, what if I..” and by the end it just sounds right to me but it is completely unnatural and I had to ditch it.

Joe: I’m glad to hear to say you that you struggled with that too, because, man, I used to watch my videos like you, “Oh it’s so hard.” I remember watching a video from a guy saying, “Here’s how you get over that. Just watch yourself all the time, just keep doing it. It will get more normal to you but it’s so true, the trolls in your head are a thousand times worse than the trolls out there.

Andrew: You know what, I did that but I also at first didn’t watch myself at all. I would edit the interview without looking at the content in between. I would just chop the beginning part off, chop the end part. You know, we were just riffing. And in between I would do a little editing universally without listening because I don’t want to judge it, it’s not that I can just adjust it in anyway. I just need to keep myself going and in anyway, that helped me. You have got this content out there, it’s time to get people start paying attention. We haven’t even gotten to building the first course but it’s important for us to talk about the back story for it. How do get people come on and I hear twitter factored into your marketing at first. What’d you do?

Joe: So one of the things that I learned early on from following guys like you and Pat Flynn and all these people who are out there teaching. The beginning is find out where the people you reach where there are at, where they are hanging out and start to join in the conversations. So I gave twitter a shot and I found twitter to be just a fantastic place for just this conversation and really a load barrier of entry. It was just jump in wherever you want and people were just there and they can interact. So for me finding a writer community on twitter where people are just constantly talking.

I was amazed that there are so many on twitter but it was active and lively and that’s where I started jumping in and engaging in conversation and little by little learning about hash tags work. All these things that are just so foreign looking back like I remember connecting with a guy and saying, “So how does this hash tag thing work anyway, what is the point of it and it’s amazing once you find, okay let’s hash tag everything Scrivener and amazingly there is all this conversation about Scrivener. These are perfect because these are the people that I want to hear from and find their exact language that they are using.

Andrew: So what they are actually doing is they will click on one of the hash tags, that Scrivener hash tags, see lots of tweets on Scrivener and read them and that becomes your audience, that’s one of the things you did?

Joe: Yeah, absolutely, following the Scrivener hash tag or then I found, okay, well the people that are talking about Scrivener, “What other hash tags are they using,” and you find these other writing hash tags and then you have this little collections and so I literally just fired up, tweet that. I have different columns and different hash tags and that where I started, my audience was just interacting. This was before an email list or anything like that because I didn’t really have any opt-in at the time.

Andrew: You are thinking of creating a product to sell and you didn’t have a mailing list?

Joe: I did not. I had zero mailing list. I didn’t really even know that it was important and even if I had one at the time, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. I was just old school kind of interacting with people in real time.

Andrew: Interesting because you know what, I had a conversation with Brian Harris two weeks ago. He is all about email collection and he is so good at it and he said, “You know who just taught me something really amazing, Joe. I did something together with Joe Michael and my email list grew more than I think anything else that I have tried.”

Joe: I’ve come a long way, Andrew.

Andrew: You’ve come a long way. Did you start getting into Scrivener because you were looking for something to sell?

Joe: I didn’t, I was looking for a problem I could solve. Didn’t know if I was going to be able to sell anything with it or not yet. I was still fighting those trolls in my head. This was kind of birthed out of about a six month process that it took me to come up with this e-book for efficient life skills. It was a productivity e-book. It was like 10 mistakes you are making with your to-do list, like this was my idea. And if I was going to sell this book for $39, e-books were all the rage so I created this thing. I tried to make it beautiful and it was like, “Oh, is was the nicest e-book.” Nobody saw it because nobody was going to pay for this. It wasn’t a big enough pain, people …

Andrew: This is brilliant, 121 useful tips and tricks for making everyday life easier or is that a different one?

Joe: No, that’s totally different. So people actually do like those tips and tricks. This one you won’t see because I quickly removed it after I realized nobody was interested in it. I was like okay, I spent six months of my time creating this thing that nobody wanted, that was not cool. So let’s not do that again. Why didn’t anybody want this and what can I do differently. And so I started this research and I kind of went back to Shoe Tying Post of, why did that goes so crazy, like why did everybody like that. And it just kept coming back to this and solved the pain. Find something that somebody struggles with and if you have the answer and if you can solve it, in a way that helps them, people exchange money for that, all day long. I was just super aware of that at the time and at this point I knew that I wanted to find out where the people were and listen to the conversations.

I became a big fan of blog comments which is something lot of people missed is, we also read the blog post right and maybe we will leave the comment because we were told to do that too, get the attention of the writer or whatever. But I just enjoyed reading the comments in the conversation that people would have. It was through reading comments on a post from Michael Hyatt that talked about Scrivener and there was like 200 something comments on there and I could see that, Scrivener A, a very popular program that there is this much commenting about it.

Andrew: What is Scrivener for anyone who doesn’t know. I just kind of assumed everyone knows and I have realized I should have included that in the intro?

Joe: Yeah, I know I forget that too all the time. I am glad that you brought that up. Scrivener is like Microsoft word on steroids. I like to say in a slang way. It is a one stop shop for keeping everything together for your writing. It is mainly developed for long form content, like novels and things like that. More recently people are loving it for blogging which is what I started using it for and all different kind of things, preachers and attorneys and everybody. It can have all of their stuff in one writing program but noy only that it allows you to push button publish to Kindle and things like that so pretty amazing for our time.

The problem is it is not very intuitive. You open it up and you are like, okay what do I do? And for people coming over from stuff like Microsoft Word or pages, it vastly different. I have that same experience even though for me I usually like play with new programs just for fun and this one it was like, “I don’t get,” and I shelved it a couple of times and I kept coming back to it because I kept hearing people rave about it. And I was like, “I am missing something.” And I found everybody had that feeling like, “I know I am not using it to his full potential,” and I kept hearing this over and over and I was like, “yeah,” I remember that feeling. And people would start to say things like, “I wish there was a place I could learn about this and I wish there was an organized course on this.”

Andrew: That’s when you started to see in before I interrupted you are telling us. You were starting to see that in Michael Hyatt’s comment.

Joe: Yes, I was starting to see that there. I like in that post too when you get a new car and you see that car everywhere all of a sudden, so I was using Scrivener. And so any article that was written on Scrivener caught my attention and I was like, “Okay, cool.” Michael Hyatt is using it and I know this specifically, he was using it for blogging which really caught my eye because I was doing that too and people were like, “Oh, what a great idea.” That’s when I noticed, okay, wait a minute here is a pain point, people are struggling with this software. They were asking for a course on it. So I thought well either there is one and nobody is talking about it or maybe there is one and that’s not very helpful because why nobody is talking about it?

So I did some research on my own and figured like, there really was not an organized course out there. The YouTube tutorials that were out there, that was quite a few, this might have had good audio, and terrible video or the next one would be vice versa. This was like my first light bulb moment. I could remember it pretty clearly in a coffee shop, on a lunch break and getting that excited feeling that we do of I wonder if I could create something that could help people. Not knowing that this would be like one of those life altering decision. That’s when it started. So I started get the idea, it would be kind of fun to put together a course. I think I could create a good experience and make it easy for people to learn. I liked the teaching part. I liked teaching on the efficient life skills. I liked the feedback. I was a trainer and developed a lot of training material at my day jobs. So it’s like, I can do it. I had to know where to start, so that started my journey, that’s how it all began.

Andrew: It was seeing people complain. In fact, I was actually looking through Michael Hyatt site to find the comments on this because you have said that one of the commenters specifically said there should be a course on this, it was that much trouble for him?

Joe: Yeah, the people … I think somewhere in there they said,”You know, if there was a course on this I would buy it today.” And I was like, “Oh, okay, let’s create that.” And I will go back to that and I’ll say,” Here it is, buy it.” I couldn’t believe the people were this … they were saying they buy something so quick and easy. When I had so much trouble just selling my e-book, it just really kind of went off in my head and plus I love Scrivener. I was using it and I figured out a lot that I thought people missed. I was like, ” Oh,they don’t know about this and they don’t know about that,” I got that. If I could only show them and I was like that’s it, they need to be shown. There was books on Scrivener but you needed to see that over the shoulder view. If I could just show them, I think they would be like, “Wow! I didn’t know you can do that.” That’s when I got excited about that.

Andrew: I want to emphasize a few things you have said. First, you were looking for pain, frustration that people had and you knew if you could find that and it was big enough that they’d be willing to pay. The second thing is creating a course on software is not necessarily … it’s not easy to spot. I would think you’d need a course on maybe bigger software like Photoshop but on something like Scrivener to me, it felt like a course on Evernote almost, course on Google docs which frankly now that I hear your story, I think maybe that even work too, if people were having trouble with those. What about this? Scrivener people tend to use it professionally unlike other software where people are kind of using it because it was fun, kind of using it because it was useful but not because they needed for their work. People are using it for their work and so they’re willing to invest in their work and so it’s a problem worth paying to fix?

Joe: Absolutely, you definitely hit the nail on the head there. That kind of demystifies a lot of it to this day, reverse engineering, why did this work so well. That is a big, big part of it. It’s a tool that people need for their work and not only that it’s just raved about it in every writing community there is. All the pros are using it and it’s like, “What did they know that I don’t,” and tapping into this nagging feeling that they had, that they are missing something and that they can be better off for it knowing what they need to know.

Andrew: I was so curious about how well you’d do with this when you started. I started to see it, I started to hear about it and I thought interesting but I thought this was just your personal passion for this small community. I didn’t realize how big it could get and we will talk about how big it going in a bit but the start was what is the first version that you are looking to create.

Joe: I was so na├»ve in the beginning, I thought I could create this whole course in a month. Now this is full time job, little kids, a life and a life on top of that not really thinking, okay, when I am going to create this thing and not knowing all the roadblocks that are going to come with it. So I thought well, what’s just a quick version I could get out. I just wanted it to be like a step-by-step module type course. So at the time I remember investing in, I think, two or three different courses. They were a little bit lower budget because I didn’t have a lot to spend on that but I figured I need to see what other people are doing in a course and see what the experience was like.

Right from the beginning I was big on experience because, I mean, somebody is paying not only for the information but for the experience. I thought that was lot of them lacked and so I remember thinking well, “I am going to just create the best experience possible.” And on top of that it’s going to be worth their time. So it was piece by piece and just developing a short kind of basics training. I had about maybe 10 or 15 units. Now I kept them short like three to five minutes because that was part of my strategy, I guess you could say. Looking back it’s a big win today is Scrivener is complicated, right? So how do we break it down and make it less complicated and it’s just really tackling it in pieces.

Once I got that first little raw version and I figured out a way to group it together in an organized fashion. Now this was before I even had a membership software or anything like that because I didn’t even know how to set that up yet. That’s when I started bringing it to people on twitter and interacting with them and say, “Hey, I noticed you mentioned something about Scrivener. Would you mind taking a look at this and seeing if you find this helpful,” and people are going through some of the tutorials and videos and they were just giving me great feedback.

Andrew: How were they seeing it?

Joe: I would sent them a link, literally it was a non-protected site.

Andrew: It was a WordPress post that had a bunch of videos stacked on top of each other.

Joe: Okay, well one of the first things I found was a WP course ware. That changed everything for me.

Andrew: What’s thatA?

Joe: It was a WordPress plug-in that allows you to create these modules in units and create this pretty little structure for you. So where you can click through the units and it’s literally drag and drop easy. If you can create a blog post, you can create a training unit. And it can even convert your blog post into a unit so that’s was like hands down easiest thing for me, I was like, “Cool, I can do that.” I just did that and I wrote each piece like I wrote a blog post, like so, today we are going to learn how to … whatever, organize your Word document and bring it into Scrivener. That was like one blog post.

And then I would just organize them with that little piece of software. At the time it was $60 which was an investment. Again, at the time but it looked great and the user experience so good and it was able to help me create it and so then it was just a Word Press blog. I registered the domain name, ScrivenerCoach.com, in the beginning and then I would just send people to this homepage that had listed out those videos. And they would go threw them and watch the over the shoulder view of my screen. At the time I was concerned like we talked about the beginning of what I sounded. I didn’t have a lot of money to spent on a mic so I invested in tiny little blue snowflake microphone with, “Okay, get this, a sock as my pot filter,” because I was boot strapping …

Andrew: That’s smart.

Joe: … and it worked. People were like you sound great, the audio quality is great, you are very thorough in your explanation and those early things were, oh really: Maybe I’m not as bad as I thought.

The way I got through in the beginning was this simple little mind hack that I realize still do today, in that’s little what I can always go back and improve this later. This is the internet, right? That what’s great about this stuff. I can get a version out there now, I can always go back and fix it later and improve it. That helped me kind of get past that first version fear. So that’s all it was is a WordPress site and just some videos on there and started to help people. And they were giving me great feedback and, of course, I would always ask them, “Is there anything else you wish I included in here? What else you are struggling with?” Nothing beats real feedback from actual people, that are going to be using this, that’s how I started to build it.

Andrew: I want to make sure to say clearly because I spoke over you as you are giving the name of the plug and it’s course-ware, that’s the plug-in for WordPress.

Joe: Yeah, WP Courseware, so for WordPress Courseware made by fly plug-ins.

Andrew: I am on their site right now. It looks like a great plug-in used by CNN, used by Rutgers University and used by you. What about how to teach it, how to lay out the content? When you know a lot it is hard to figure out how to communicate it to somebody new. What is the first thing you should teach them so you don’t overwhelm them and also give them a win. How did you figure out how to do that?

Joe: You know that is a good point. I am glad you brought that up. That’s one of the biggest struggles I’m finding even today creating new courses. It’s that initial ground work and I think the best way to go about it for me anyway, is to go to the furthest point, see that transformation take place in them, go to the end and work backwards like what do they need to know in the least amount of steps possible to get to where they want to be. It’s really just a lot of experimenting which is, I guess, another plug with WP Courseware is it allows to rearrange your units and modules like on the fly so drag and drop.

So in the beginning I just worried about, “Okay, I know I want to create training one this, this, and this. I’ll worry about rearranging it in the correct order later because I think any little thing that can stall us, “Man, you got to be careful because they can stop you.” Next thing it’s one week, two weeks, in a month and six months later you are still talking about thing that you are working on. So really it’s keeping the momentum and keeping the excitement in creating. There is a big difference between consuming and creating. We can think we are studying and then we are never really creating anything so I just was focused on creating and then I would just organize things in a fashion.

I probably move things around you know 10 or 15 times until I finally settle on a structure that I felt walked people through a logical order of they needed to learn but I also branded it as a work at your own pace and like an encyclopedia sort of training for Scriveners. So you can jump in and just search and learn exactly what you wanted to use at that time so you could go from A to B or you could also if you are familiar with it because it is such a massive program. One person might be in the writing stage and the other person is like, ” Okay, I am done, I am ready to compile and put it into an e-book. So what do I need to know, how do I go through …”

Andrew: I really like how you created nuggets of information so that you could find whatever or your audience could find whatever they needed, when they needed it and click around and get to it. What plug-in did you end up using for membership?

Joe: I used, Wishlist Member.

Andrew: Okay.

Joe: I experimented with a couple of others and that one just seemed to work the best for me. I guess, figuring it out was huge so is easy for my to figure it out and it integrated well with everything especially the WP Courseware, which was important and I have been with them ever since.

Andrew: You said that it could take you months and months. It actually took you six months to put it together, which to me seems like a long time. You knew Scrivener, you could learn whatever you didn’t know by Googling and practicing. Why six months?

Joe: Oh, It was a slow process and if anything my wife can tell you I am the least patient person probably on this planet so especially when I get excited about something, I want it done like right away. I was doing this in my spare time, whatever little bit of time I could find. I had a full time job already and I was never a morning person so it was like getting these small chunks of time and that’s where I said, ” Okay.” I don’t really have all that much time. I know we all say that, right? But there’s spots where everybody can find. So for me it was my lunch break, I had a hour lunch break at work and I thought well, I can spent that time going out with the guys or eat lunch or I can grab a quick bite at my desk and let’s record a tutorial or two.

Andrew: You would record at lunch?

Joe: I would. It was kind of the only time I could do. I did some at night and weekends, of course. I would wake up early occasionally but consistently it was Monday through Friday, my lunch time was recording in my car, mind you because …

Andrew: Didn’t you work at the casino?

Joe: Well, I worked at a corporate office of the casino. It still just cubicles and things like that but it wasn’t sound proof and I tried that where I would start recording and then I’d be halfway through and ah, this person will walk down the hallway saying something loud. And I’m like, oh!

Andrew: So you took your blue snowflake mic and your sock and your laptop into your car and sat, and you looked at the screen. I think you used Screen Flow to record, right?

Joe: I did.

Andrew: Then you just do your three minutes, and then do another three minutes, maybe even redo a couple of times, now that I see. I know you are a perfectionist. I think I read that on your site so must have been a while.

Joe: That was my routine. I would kind of make these little hacks. I didn’t have power in the car, so I was like, ” Okay, you have got an hour on time limit, plus you have got this battery issue.” You’ve only god a limited amount of time. So I’d be in my parking garage and yeah, the car turned out to be a pretty good acoustical barrier for sound quality. It sounded pretty good. Anytime I needed internet I would drive down the road to a nearby Starbucks. I would park in their parking lot as close as I possibly go to the building and set up my little laptop in there and people probably see me like doing all these hand motions and recording talking at the screen but …

Andrew: Because there is no video just you doing the walk through. That what is one of the beautiful parts about doing a course on software. People don’t need to see you, they just need to see the screen and there’s constant movements so that it is more engaging. All right. We talked about content, we talked about how you figured out the topic, we talked about how you … software you used, etc. It is time to talk about getting customers because all this would just be a waste of six months if not for the customers who have now signed up and bought. Where did you get your first customers?

Joe: Wow, the first customers were the same people that were on twitter with me so it was reaching out one by one just to say, “Hey, created this thing, come check it out, we all do and I was super scared.” I used a Gumroad link in the beginning just uploaded a simple little PDF with the link to my site. That was it. In the very beginning it wasn’t even protected, like I said.

Andrew: Let me be just clear about this. Someone would pay Gumroad. They would get what they paid for which is a PDF. Gumroad is specially good at selling PDF and digital products like that. The PDF would just say, head over to my webpage, here is the special URL that you need and you can log in. And if they put this up your webpage, if they tweeted it out, then anyone who saw the URL would able to access your site?

Joe: Yeah, pretty much.

Andrew: I admire that. I want to emphasize that because it’s too many people spend too much time trying to lock down their stuff before they could get a single customer. It’s much better to focus on that. Do you remember your first customer?

Joe: I don’t, I wish I did. I wish I could have a picture of them framed or something. They are my first customer. But now it was like, I afraid to even charge. So here is what I did with Gumroad. They allow to create like a coupon code and what I would do is I charge $29 at first and I created a coupon code for $29 off. So I would reach out the people and say, “Hey, here is a new course, I just finished and it’s $29 but here is a coupon code if you like a free pass in exchange for feedback. That way I didn’t have to deal with rejection in case they didn’t like it and it was through that simple process that people would give me this feedback that I needed to get over the hump. They say,” Man, $29, I would have paid a $100 for this or I’d have paid triple for this and it was like, “Really, okay, all right.”

I finally got the guts to finally take off my coupon code policy and as people were kind of getting in, I started thinking maybe I need to make it to where they can’t just type in this and find this on Google or something. That’s when I started messing around with the membership software and realized this could work, like this was a need, people were liking this and people were buying it. I was raising the price incrementally as I starting adding more and more content and getting more and more confident but it was baby steps, for sure.

Andrew: That is not going to get you rich, it is not going to let you quit your job at the casino, it’s not getting let you take care of your family, it’s not enough. And then you had a conversation with a guy named Brett Kelly. Who is Brett Kelly?

Joe: Brett Kelly, as we talked about Evernote before, so he wrote this book called “Evernote Essentials” and it’s kind of the same concept. I modeled a little bit of my system around his was he created a training product around a tool that people were using. And the people were pretty fanatical about Evernote. I am one of them. We had this conversation about what is it that really gets your product into people’s hands because everybody was taking about Brett Kelly and his “Evernote Essentials” and you know he was like Joe, if you could do one thing, get partnerships and affiliates. There is no quicker way to get your product out there and why wouldn’t you gladly pay a commission to somebody who helps you do that. It’s a total win-win. I was like, hmm, it does sounds like a win-win but I was skeptical that it could really work. It was another influential person, Jay Abraham. I was watching YouTube videos of him and things and I remember him saying on one of his videos, “Joint ventures are the quickest way to get a company noticed to get from point A to point B.”

Andrew: Where do you get affiliates? I get that it’s valuable, I get the yeah, of course, you will be willing to give someone a share of your sales if that person generated those sales. Where you get affiliates?

Joe: That was a good question and I was just clueless as anybody in the beginning. Here, let me take you back to my mindset when I was creating this course was, wow, people were talking about Scrivener like in a fanatical way. There’s a webinar that I do. I always mention one of my favorite tweets from this person who says like, they mention that I want to marry Scrivener and have its adorable organized babies. This is a tweet that you hear and you see a lot on twitter, so people are fanatical about Scrivener. And then I thought, that if these same people could recommend something that they love about Scrivener, that helped them learn it and also make a commission. Like in my mind I would totally do that and I was learning about affiliate marketing. I had watched people in the space who were crushing it with the affiliate marketing. I thought that is a win-win if can may that work. I didn’t have the slightest clue about how to make that work. It was just literally reaching out to people and saying, “Would you want to recommend to your audience and I didn’t even know if you were supposed to split it 50-50. I remember Googling that, like what is a normal affiliate split?

Andrew: What do you recommend now? What is a good affiliate split?

Joe: I totally do 50-50. Just because I really think, I like the equal invested interest. You know, like hey we are both equally invested in making this work so let’s rock it and it just feels like a partnership. There’s been times where I have been depending on the person, I would gladly give them a 60-40 just to give them that little bit upper edge. I know some people that do 75% commission. So it really just kind of depends on what you are comfortable with. The norm I think is fifty is what I have found. And then so it was just by connecting with people really, not asking but figuring out what you can give. And so I was always giving as much as I could and connecting, stepping out of my box. I have always kind of been an introvert so naturally stepping out and cold emailing people and meeting and having on Skype and having this conversations, was out of my box. But I kept hearing people say, “You have got to do this together with people. “You will never get to where you want to be without others.” And I was always thinking, I am going to be the exception to that because I just really do not like stepping out. I’ll figure out a way but, man, I can connect the dots now going back.

Leading from this person led me to this person, to this person. I remember meeting Andy Traub online eventually and we talked and he was kind of encouraging me like, “You are going to be that Scrivener coach. You are going to be the guy who helps people who are on Scrivener.” He introduced me to Jeff Goins, who has this fabulous writing community and he’s been such a help to me in my own business. We did a webinar for his Tribe Writers Group, his private writing community and they loved it. I didn’t even know what a webinar really was, how it worked. I was scared to death about going on a teach you something alive. It was easy when I could edit my videos, 10 to 15 times, and make them kind of polished but here we are alive and we’re teaching this thing and we had this crazy like 30%, 40% conversion rates on this webinar for this course. People were just eating it up. And I was like, wow! We made like $2000 in a hour.

Now for me who is just trying to get an extra $300 a month to help save for a house, this was huge and that was just as much as I made my whole month at my day job. There is really something to this.

Andrew: You made just $2000 a month at your day job?

Joe: I made about $3000 take home so this was after working and busting it for eight years. I was frustrated.

Andrew: So let me break down the way that you got people? You would just contact anyone who wrote about Scriveners and said, “if you are looking for something to promote, I have got this course, put it together, I give you 50% of the commissions, it will be recorded by this outside source, so you know you are getting to get paid. Will you do it? Those one on one emails to people, to blogger who are writing about Scriveners essentially got you significant sales?

Joe: It did, I was smart enough to know that, okay, it had to be a what’s in it for them framework. I would never really contacted anybody unless I see that they had written a post about Scrivener. They had gotten decent traction on it. I did find tools like Buzzsumo, and things like that where you can look up, see how many many shares a certain post got, read the comments, see if they are interested, see if they have a community type environment where they actually teach and they bring things to their audience. There’s some variables involved and I would approach them with, “Hey, first of all your article on Scrivener was fantastic.” I pretty much had figured out by this point, nobody feels like they are an expert at Scrivener.

And so I thought if I could come in and be this expert which I felt like a total impostor even saying. I will come on as an expert and teach your audience, your readers for an hour on Scrivener. Give them everything that they need to get going. And if they want more training, then I have that and we can split whatever commissions come in and they would be like, ” Well, this is great” because I get asked Scrivener questions all the time and I never know how to answer them. And we need this.”

Andrew: At first it was, they would write blog posts about it and later on it was this webinar thing. The webinar took it to the next step, to the next level. So Brian Harris, that’s what he told me he did with you as long as we were talking about this. He said, “You don’t promote in a seminar.” It’s not like you get online with people in a webinar and you say, “Buy, buy, buy!” You are teaching them Scrivener. To what point to people who even get a chance to buy? I haven’t heard one of your webinars.

Joe: So it’s all about giving, so on my webinars, right from the beginning I try to make it known that, “Hey, at the end of this hour you are going to be able to close this webinar down and start working at Scrivener like you never thought possible. I am going to give you enough in this hour that it’s valuable, it’s worth your time. It kind of naturally flows that, “Okay, Scrivener’s a robust piece of software and I show you so much but there is so much that I still can’t show you and it is natural, people are like, “We have to end, we are at the hour’s time.” For those of you who want more, I have a full blown step-by-step course that it’s this Scrivener coach guy over your shoulder. that will show you every piece of this offer you want and let me take you to a tour real quick. I just show them behind the scenes, here is what it is. If you are interested, here is where you go. We put together a special bonus. If the partner I am working with has a bonus I throw in, my gosh, the audience loves them for it.

Andrew: I see. So the audience is happy enough to get this discount. You got full course and the person who organized it is also giving you something for free for joining. I see. For them what in it, if guys like Brian … I don’t know him specifically, what his deal is with you but the reason that someone like Brian would do it is it gives him something to put online for his audience but also something for them to share and bring new people into his community. So when someone registers for this webinar, they are also joining his mailing list so he can stay in touch with them after the webinar and that’s a big draw. Who gets the mailing? Him or you or both?

Joe: This is a good point. I really developed a strategy on this in recent times. Now that I know the value of email lists, man, I wish I would have an email list [indecipherable 00:45:58] It would have been so much easier.

Andrew: I can’t believe you did this far without that!

Joe: Yeah, I tapped into other people’s mailing lists which is probably will get you there even faster but now that I have my own, I have really been able to see the power of it because I can bring on other peoples. I am on the other end of it now. What I would do knowing that I wanted the emails that people had registered for, since I had no list, I knew I had to get emails somehow. So I go to the JVs, the JV partners, people that would agree to let me teach their audience and I knew that these people … I went for people who were of influence. I knew that they were busy, they didn’t have time to create content so I tried to make it this is done for them experience. I was good with setting up by this time, setting up to go to webinar page, linking it to lead pages, linking it to the email system. And I would say, I’ll take care of all that. I’ll handle my own registration page. All you have to do is show up. We can use my go to webinar account. You are the host, it’s your audience. I will come on as your guest, nobody will ever know that you didn’t just set this whole thing up.

So in exchange then, the people register and they are added to my list of warm leads or potential people that I know are interested in Scrivener and writing and such. That was my offer and they were, “Great, I don’t want to set that up. I don’t have time to set all that up anyway.” It was truly a win, win, win. I was happy because obviously we always made a decent commission everywhere from $2,000 to $15,000 on a webinar. Thousands were registering for these things because I guess there was just such a need for this.

Andrew: Besides the sales you make on the webinar itself, you are also then getting continuous contact with people who you know are interested in Scrivener. By the way I just didn’t pick up on do you split the emails with the host, or is it just you who gets the emails?

Joe: It is usually just me who gets the emails because they are essentially emailing to their list so most of the people will already be on their list. However there is going to be a few that come from outside sources in that. I always leave the option to them. I say I can easily export the email list and give it back to you. I only had one person ask me to do that so far. I was just kind of surprised by it.

Andrew: Why is Brian so excited about doing this? I know he is all about growing his list, and you helped him grow his list.

Joe: Yes.

Andrew: And if it is secret, I get it but I want to find out. I am sure Bran will tell people anyway?

Joe: Yeah, Brian is one of the best in the industry I know of email marketing strategies and him and I have talked a lot about that in recent times. And so we got to the point now where I said you are talking about email marketing strategies. Why don’t you come on and teach my people, writers and authors, how they can do the same thing. I said, ” But, here is what you do, set up the registration page. You handle all yourself and you will keep all the registrations and the emails and it will be a targeted list for you.

Andrew: I see. You are essentially showing him, “Look, I am going to show you how to build a mailing list because this is what works for me when I didn’t have one.” Whoa, you are teaching Brian Harris about growing a mailing list, that’s something?

Joe: Yeah, I know it was a fun moment because I have learned so much from him and I just devoured his whole video fruit, every reverse engineer blog post he wrote. And so finally I was like, I think I can have something that could knock your email strategy out of the water and sure enough he wound up with close to 2,000 emails in a period of a couple days. Whereas it is really hard to get that any other time. Look, you are utilizing somebody of influence’s list and usually they are very highly targeted too, so it is an amazing strategy.

Andrew: what about ongoing sales from the same person from someone who joined a Webinar. Who gets credit for that?

Joe: Yeah, well there are a few different ways you can do that. Number one, if you are sophisticated like Bryan is, they are all segmented into different lists. If they are interested in this, then they are kind of tagged into something different. When you are out and about and meeting people, you are always kind of thinking what can I bring to my audience. Now I have an audience who is looking to me for resources, the things that make them a better writer. So it is easy for me to bring that different types of training that kind of cover the whole scope of either business or marketing or the writing, crafty writing, there are all these different areas and that was my niche to fill when I was the one out there hustling to get on people’s, “Would you mail and promote this to your audience” I can fill this niche that isn’t filled for you and so I think I am very, very niched type of thing. You know at the beginning going that niche was scary and people always said all the money is in the niche. I am kind of a fan-boy for that too myself now, I got to say.

Andrew: The niche is?

Joe: The niche is huge.

Andrew: You know what? I had no idea because I did not realize how big Scrivener was and how committed their audience is and yes, people who are on Scrivener are passionate about it just like people who are on Evernote love to tell you they are on Evernote. You also frankly, you seem like such a nice guy that I thought, he is just doing something because he’s isa geek for Scrivener. I didn’t realize how big the business had gotten. How big is the business today, we are talking about, two years into it or maybe less?

Joe: It is huge today. I never would have dreamed it that it got to where it would be..

[cross talk]

Andrew: What kind of revenues you are doing on a monthly basis?

Joe: We are doing right around 20,000 a month revenue right now which to me is crazy. We’ve had some huge spikes depending on webinars. We’ve 40 and $50,000 months. Yeah, we are on track to double that this year which is I’m super excited about because now that there is this small affiliate army essentially that is signed up, it’s amazing how that adds to just the passive income. It really is real that I was so skeptical about it in the beginning.

Andrew: And so affiliates are actually continuously sending you traffic and customers?

Joe: Absolutely, yeah. I make it super easy for them to sign up as an affiliate on Click Bank. Really I just used Click Bank in the beginning because it seem like the easiest program to use. Sign up and they will handle all the payment to your affiliates. Create a nice page and show them, “Hey, if you recommend Scrivener in this course if you like it then I will split the commission with you 50-50. Everybody wins. People loved the program so much that they would start to write articles about Scrivener and then easily, the next step would be, oh, by the way if you want to learn it here is the course where I have learned it from.” And there are so many of those out there now and so many affiliates that my wife and I were on vacation in Mexico just last month and our entire trip was paid for while we were sitting on the beach, the whole very cliche. I am on the beach sipping a drink and making money while we’re doing it because of the work that was put in years before so.

Andrew: Look at how smart you are. I’m actually going through now, your new product is, productcreationlive.com. I am hunting through to see what you have done on it, and it looks like you are on smartpassiveincome.com. And so you have created a productcreationlive.com/spi, so you can keep track of who is coming in from there.

Joe: Yes, yes.

Andrew: You have done a couple of other landing pages, one with resources. What is productcreationlive, now that I see how smart you are at marketing. What’s the product here?

Joe: Yeah, so productcreationlive is the behind the scene look at how to create a product and I’ve really liked these webinars so much. I love having this live interaction, this live feedback that I want to do more that but teach a lot of this behind the scene stuff. I think it would be fun to create some products because I’m kind of addicted it to creating products now.

Andrew: What kind of products we are talking about?

Joe: Well, there are a few different products in the works. Right now I also want to create a product teaching somebody how to turn their book into a course.

Andrew: I see.

Joe: So a lot of the people that are on my email list and a lot of the people that have gone through the Scrivener course, they ask me questions like, “Joe, How in the world did you create this course? I want to do this for my community.” And I get that more than I get Scrivener questions. So I started doing consulting with people and saying, “Well, let me show you, let me take you in my WordPress dashboard. It’s really not all that hard. In fact, I boot strapped most of it. I don’t know code or programming language so here’s how I fit.

Andrew: I am sorry, Joe, so what you are saying is you are going to create a course showing people how to take their books and turn them into courses and you’re going to through product creationlive.com allow people to watch you as you do this and understand your process for doing it?

Joe: Yes, I think it would be super coll for somebody to just see the process of, okay, look, here’s … Like if I could brought somebody into that car with me, that day while I am recording the videos in my parking garage, here it is guys, it is not that glamorous but here’s what’s going on. Just bring them behind the scenes and answer the questions that they have along the process. So I am working with a guy who is … there is several different people who have said to me, I wrote this book and I spent all this time and energy, pouring out everything I’ve known about this book. And I think I get like $8 every sale or something, “Man, it will take a hundred book sales to make what I do on one course sale. What if we turn your book content which you’re already halfway there and let’s turn it into a digital course for another audience to access. I think it will be fun to show that transformation and in the process I will get to show people how I have set up a course. How I kind of done it, back stage.

Andrew: All right, that’s productcreationlive.com. Thank you so much for coming on here and doing this. We did it on short notice. I said, Brian is the one actually who introduced us or suggested that we do this interview and I said, “Can you do it?” He introduced us, I think, on Fridays. I said, can you do it Monday? Can you talk to Jeremy Wise, do a pre-interview with him on Monday morning and I will record with you immediately after. I am really grateful to you for putting it all together so fast.

Joe: Well, thank you. Thanks for having me. I jumped at the opportunity so it was a blast.

Andrew: It’s great to have you on here. What’s the best site? I guess we will send them to both, productcreationlive.com if people want to follow along as you create a product and the course we have been talking about is learnscrivenerfast.com. Who knew there would be so much to be had with Scrivener. Congratulations on quitting your job and building this up.

Joe: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Andrew: You did quit your job, right?

Joe: I did, actually there would be no way I would be able to do this interview with you today. My first thought, these interviews used to be so hard before but now it’s, yeah, it’s lot easier.

Andrew: Congratulations. Thank you all for being a part of it. As always if you got anything of value out of this, let Joe know. I have been hearing so much from people who found a way to connect with one of my guests who then end up not just … they start up by saying, “Thank you, I got so much out of it,”
but then they end up doing business together, they end up connecting together. I just got an email from someone who is about to have lunch with a past interviewee of mine who happens to be in Texas where he lives. So good things come for it, I am going to do right now. Joe, thank you so much for being here.

Joe: You bet. Thank you, Andrew.

Andrew: Thank you all for being a part of it. Bye everyone.

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