Even if you never plan to take our class, for whatever reason, these stories have lessons & tips that you can use in your own business.
You’re about to learn how Rob Williams went from frustrated freelancer to making over $10k in monthly recurring revenue (the holy grail of business revenue, by the way) with a product he created from Sales Safari research.
But Rob’s success almost wasn’t – he came close to pulling the plug the first week, when he only had one paying subscriber. The #1 thing that saved his bacon? Investment Mindset.
This case study was last updated in March 2014.
Amy: So, how much money have you made from your product since you took the Boot Camp in July, 2013?
Rob: I’ve made $36,206.90 from Workshop, my first product.
I’ve also applied concepts from the course to my freelance business and made more there, too.
Editor’s Note: we asked Rob to break his total revenue down for us. As of last week, he has 483 Workshop subscribers, and a monthly recurring revenue of $10,346 and growing.
Amy: That’s awesome! Would you say it’s been a lot of hard work? Or has it been pretty easy? Or something in between?
Rob: Undoubtedly, It’s been of a lot of hard work – but compared to freelancing, which is a very grueling experience – it ‘s been a lot less stressful overall. As a consultant there were days I wanted to give up and look for a 9-5 job, but I no longer have those.
I’m content now, even when I’m toiling away at things making little progress, because I know at the end of the day I will reap the rewards of my effort, not some client or employer that can fire me. That’s something that has made the immense amount of work in launching my own product much more enjoyable.
2 months in, I basically put the project on autopilot during a 3-week trip to Vietnam/Bangkok , and revenue dipped a bit then [and then recovered].
Taking a step back from the project helped me gain some perspective and I have a stronger product because of it.
Amy: Where did the concept for Workshop come from?
Rob: Every freelance community had the same question. “What job board has the best leads?” I started to realize there wasn’t a magical place where all the best leads were – in fact these people were asking the wrong question.
Had I not taken the class, I would not have made this connection, but more importantly I would not have known what to do next:
People were asking for the perfect job board.
The natural inclination is to build the perfect job board… but because of 30×500, I counter-intuitively looked beyond their stated wants and independently examined their real pain.
They were tired of using job boards, they were tired of wasting their time on bad opportunities, and they were tired of looking for work constantly. Another shitty job board wouldn’t help them solve any of those problems.
Editor’s note: that big, bold emphasis is ours because so damn important! What Rob is describing is the synthesis of Sales Safari research into core pain. This is one of the key skills you practice (and practice, and practice) in 30×500. This is what separates the “ask your customer want they want” amateurs from “build something they need” professionals.
The class also made me very conscious of the time it would take to build something and this played a big role in coming up with the concept for Workshop.
Instead of looking to build something that included every checklist that people wanted, I thought about how I could focus on value. Reflecting on my experience as a freelancer, I knew I wanted only the best leads, cherry-picked from all the job boards and sent directly to my inbox. Since I had hired a VA to do this for me in the past, I knew that as an experienced freelancer I could provide this to my clients at a higher level than someone like a VA, because I had spent years on this process for my own business, and have made thousands of dollars. When I thought about the value a service like this would provide my business, I was excited.
Reflecting on my freelance business, and rewatching the 30×500 video lessons, are two things I constantly do to make sure I’m on the right track.
Editor’s note: Remember in Sean’s story when he said he wishes he’d picked an audience he was already in? Compare that to Rob’s experience working with an audience he was already a part of. Rob used his advantages to “punch above his own weight”: he had more experience, more confidence, and best of of all MOAR DATA already in his bailiwick!
Amy: What did you do / had you tried before 30×500?
Rob: Before 30×500 I was all over the place. One week I would want to build a fantasy football app, and the next I’d move on to a random ebook idea. Nothing ever really materialized beyond the idea phase. I also was writing a blog and newsletter to prospective clients and other freelancers, but without a product it was hard to stay focused or see results.
Editor’s note: If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Rob’s self-portrait here describes the vast majority of our successful students, pre-30×500.
Amy: How did 30×500 change you/your process/your thinking?
Rob: Being a freelance designer, whenever I got an idea I’d immediately jump into photoshop and start creating logos and visuals, which is the most assbackwards thing I could do, but it was all I knew.
After the class, I started to look at my ideas by focusing on research, the customer, the copy, and the value I was providing. This gave me clarity that I didn’t have when I would jump into designing immediately.
I also broke a mental barrier that I didn’t even know I had. Prior to the class, I subconsciously felt like using people’s own words to sell to them was dishonest. I realize now that using their words to not only sell to them but actually help build the product is the only way to ensure you make something that will actually return value — and that is the more honest way of coming up with a solution to their problem.
Amy: Tell us a bit about your first Sales Safari experience.
Rob: The Safari experience was a little intimidating at first because I knew it would become the basis for the product, and even its marketing. I was scared I would get something wrong early on and mess everything up.
But then I realized the only way to fuck up the Safari is to just not do it.
Editor’s note: in other words, Rob neatly avoided failure reason #1!
It’s not a precious house of cards that need to be neatly stacked in order to work, it’s more like bulletin board with constant additions being chaotically pinned and unpinned that just need to be reviewed routinely and digested internally – the presentation doesn’t matter because it will never be seen outside of the process.
Once you actually start Safari-ing you begin to realize just how valuable it is. I compiled all the job boards I came across as part of my Safari before I even knew what my idea was. Now I use that list everyday. It’s crazy useful.
Amy: What was the moment like when you found / picked that pain?
Rob: The moment I realized I had found an interesting pain was when I felt disgusted by the situation. I felt like job boards were ridiculously inept at helping freelancers. I felt like freelancers were hurting themselves and their clients by looking at job boards all day and I felt like everyone was stupid for not questioning it all.
Editor’s note: The experience of “What the hell? The solution is so obvious!” is a common sign that you’re doing good research, that you’re onto something potentially very valuable. Feeling clever and special is a sign you’re fooling yourself. 30×500 is designed to help give you the less sexy (but waaaay more profitable) “WTH?” experience.
Amy: How much did you make the first week?
Rob: I launched to only one paid subscriber. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think thought about refunding him and cancelling the project.
That day I spent 5 hours looking for leads for this one freelancer. I was essentially getting paid $1 per hour to do it, and I still wasn’t sure I was providing this guy value. It wasn’t until I sent the email off and got a quick reply about how awesome the service was that I felt a little better. That became my first testimonial.
Continuing with the project after an apparent failed launch was counter-intuitive, but because of the hundreds of hours I had spent researching, I KNEW I was killing a pain a lot of people had. No guessing and no validation. I knew I just had to start dropping ebombs and communicate the value to people — and it would sell. It was this objective approach that give me the knowledge and fortitude to continue.
By the end of the week, I had 9 more people sign up, for a total of $340/monthly recurring revenue.
That’s when I began to believe in the potential of this project and how quickly it could help me move away from client work.
Editor’s note: Rob’s launch “failure” was the result of avoidable mistakes, but it didn’t stop him from persevering to succeed. We do teach a concrete and repeatable launch process, which you can learn in the Launch Roundtable videos that come in our 30×500 “Plus” package. Rob opted out of this upgrade when he took 30×500, and it slowed his start.
But he’s still making over $10k a month just 4 months later. That’s the kind of “failure” he can live with. (And just imagine if he’d launched better!)
Amy: Which concepts/skills/rules have made the most difference for you?
Rob: Cutting through the BS to find the true value in what I do and offer.
Design is fun but it’s not as fun as improving my product and business. I prefer to read, research, and reflect nowadays. 30×500 just changed my priorities and pushed me away from spending my time on artificial “value.”
Amy: If you could go back in time and give advice to a Past Rob (say, a year ago?) without disrupting the space time continuum, what would Today Rob say?
Today Rob: Selling something (including your time) is a skill that takes practice to get better at.
You never practice this skill because you’re intimidated by the thought of failing – that’s why you find it easier to settle for a 9-5 job instead of starting your own business. You just need to be half-decent at a few core areas, and you will succeed at it.
My $150k+ college tuition taught me how to be an employee and how to have a pretty portfolio full of fake projects – which I’ll admit, did get me some job offers – but I had to unlearn all of that for starting my own business and working for myself, which is what I wanted to do anyway. I was thoroughly unprepared for basic freelance tasks out of college, which is pretty crazy – not to mention building a product.
Amy: What about Just Before Workshop Launch Rob?
Today Rob: I’d probably just tell myself to relax.
Amy: Would you recommend 30×500? Any type of person in specific?
I would recommend 30×500 to almost any type of person except for someone who has an idea in mind already and just wants a business plan. The value for me was in finding a pain that you can succeed with along with how to market it.
I guess if you already have that, there are still concepts that you can use to really make sure you market the product correctly, but I looked at it as kind of a package deal that went best when used together. It’s a pretty large investment – for a reason.
Success is not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take months or years. But the concepts and lessons are truly evergreen, meaning they will stay with you for good.