Case Study:
Sean Fioritto, Sketching with CSS

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.

Today’s case study is Sean Fioritto, who launched his first product, an ebook called Sketching with CSS in December of 2013.

Amy: So, Sean, how much money have you made since you took 30×500?

Sean: $23,833

Amy: Would you say it’s been a lot of hard work? Or has it been pretty easy? Or something in between?

Sean: In between. It’s been more work than I thought it would be. But it’s not a death march. It is a grind, but a good grind!

Amy: Where did the concept for Sketching with CSS come from?

Sean: So here is where I admit I started this whole thing before I took 30×500. And where I also admit I had an “idea” before I started. Shock! Horror! But really it’s your fault, Amy. My life would have been easier if you had run the bootcamp a few months earlier than you did.

I saw a bunch of people making money writing books and it appealed to me because it was a small project I could finish pretty quickly. Before this I had spun through a few bad web app ideas that had taken years of spare time and netted zero dollars, soOOooo … I was keen on doing something quickly.

I also had this notion of writing a book to teach web development from the beginning. I had no audience in mind. This was in February, 2013.

It was around this time that I discovered 30×500. I ate that shit up. You had me pegged exactly.

Editor’s note: we hear this all the time – “It’s like you read my mind!” That’s the power of Safari at work.

And it was about this time I finally pulled the trigger and decided to get serious, so I quit my job in April of 2013. It’s not what you recommend, and it’s not necessary, but I had to do it. I was going nuts, bored out of my mind, and honestly having a nice, cushy paycheck to fall back on was probably not helping me reach my goals. So I had a “fuck this” moment, as you so aptly put it, and decided to just make it happen.

I knew you weren’t doing a 30×500 classes soon, so I did the only thing I could: I tried to reverse engineer the class by reading everything you ever wrote or recorded and emailing 30×500 alumni to ask them clarifying questions. It was better than nothing, but still, most of the problems I ran into with this product were because of gaps in my knowledge of Sales Safari. So, my original, untrained Sales Safari process and data were not perfect.

As I was reading through web designer articles and forum threads I kept coming across stuff about “designing in the browser”. Before this I had no idea it was a thing because I’m not a web designer. (p.s. if I had taken the class before starting, I would not have picked this audience. oops.)

In the comments there was usually grumbling about “all web designers should know how to code”, or “If you use only code your designs will be boxy!”, stuff I would now call a Worldview. Not a lot of pain, but finally I ran into some articles where people were very frustrated.

Here’s an example:

And there are plenty more where that came from.

So that’s what I based the copy of my first landing page on and the contents of the book. The first landing page was terrible because I didn’t have a very good model for marketing copy until after 30×500.

Amy: What did you do / had you tried before 30×500?

Sean: Before 30×500 I had a landing page and I had written two big e-bombs. I think at that point I had about 500 subscribers on my launch list.

There is no way I could have made so much progress on my own without the help of 30×500 alum Jarrod Drysdale and the teardown at BaconBizConf. At the conference I volunteered to have a panel [including Amy and Brennan Dunn] rip apart my landing page. It was enlightening and really made a difference.

That initial landing page was spectacularly bad. So bad, I preserved it. Here’s a link:

Amy: How much did Sketching make before 30×500?

Sean: $0

Amy: And after?

Sean: $23,833.

I like how I’ve had two opportunities to say this number. I’m just going to do it again for fun. $23,833. I made zero dollars on any products I made prior to 30×500, so … $23,833.

Editor’s note: When we asked Sean this question in February the number was just over $16,000. Investment Mindset results!

Amy: Tell us a bit about your Safari experience.

Sean: Safari is hard.

I think that’s almost the same as saying empathy is hard. I find myself inserting myself or my thoughts or my feelings into the process.

For example, I ran into an a thread the other day where someone was looking for help learning Javascript. Of course I immediately started thinking about all of the products I could sell him and how I could build a class around it and maybe I could have a master class with recurring revenue…yadda, yadda, all things about me.

What I should have been doing is trying to really understand how he was feeling and what he was going through. There are some business reasons for why you should strive to understand how someone is feeling, and there are some human reasons too. If you know how someone is feeling, then your marketing copy will really resonate with them.

But the awesome thing is, if you really know how someone is feeling and understand their problem inside out, your business will really be helping them out on a fundamentally human level. I’m excited to build a business like that, one that’s personal and helps other people. It’s how I’d like to live life and it’s also how I’d like to run my business.

Even though I’m still bad at it, spending any time at all thinking about how someone is feeling is better than not doing it at all and just running around telling everyone how your vision is going to change everything.

When I read your marketing material for the first time I thought to myself, “holy shit, she knows me.” and then I learned from your ebombs and made more progress than I ever had before. Obviously I was going to be your customer.

I want to do that with my customers, and some day I’ll get there.

But Safari is hard.

Amy: How did you launch?

Sean: I did two launches, one for pre-orders and the other when the book was finished.

Getting the book finished was complicated by pre-orders. It would have been no big deal if I had scoped the book correctly to begin with. But the book is huge so it took me too long to get it finished. There were two chapters I had promised in pre-orders but by the end I realized they were going to take a long time to write, and I felt like the book would actually be better without them. But since I had promised them in pre-orders I still wrote them but made them really short. Nobody has said anything.

Editors note: This mistake was avoidable and Sean readily admits it. But it’s a fixable mistake, which is the best kind of mistake to make. In 30×500, you’ll learn how to carefully scope your product during pitch writing so you can avoid this mistake yourself.

I did not do a great job launching, both times. The first launch was to 1,000 people announcing pre-orders and made $5,000 in two days. The second launch was to 3,100 people and made $5,000 in two days. I had no expectations for the first launch and was disappointed with the second launch.

After I launched the book I wrote a big blog post to share my lessons learned with other entrepreneurs. Amy saw it and correctly predicted I was feeling sorry for myself. After putting my results in some context and making me feel a little better, we talked through my second launch.

The problem with my second launch was the series of emails I sent leading up to it. I sent out six emails to my mailing list, only the last two were a pitch. My list loved the emails, (based on open rates and replies in my inbox), but I did not do a good job tying my emails back to the book and I failed to build anticipation. But, I can launch again, and now I have one under my belt to build on.

Amy: How much did you make your first month selling?

Sean: I sold $5,020 of pre-orders in the first month.

Amy: What’s your current marketing plan look like?

Sean: I have a huge backlog of ebomb ideas from Sales Safaris I’ve done. I try to funnel people into my mailing list by offering them a free email course all about flexbox.

Editor’s note: Sean’s most recent ebomb, a Flexbox Tutorial brought him 151 tweets, 36 likes, 312 new email addresses on his list, and has already brought in another $626 in sales of Sketching With CSS.

Amy: Which concepts/skills/rules have made the most difference for you?

Sean: Safari. Safari. Safari.

And don’t bring idea baggage to the table.

Also, start with something small, really, really small.

Amy: If you could go back in time and give advice to a Past Sean (say, a year ago?) without disrupting the space time continuum, what would Today Sean say?

Today Sean: I’d say to scale way, way back. Do something smaller. Think of ways you could do something even smaller, and get it out the door even faster. DO SOMETHING SMALLER. :-)

Also, it would have been best to let go of any idea I had and start with a clean slate. And pick an audience I’m already a part of, it would have made my life so much easier.

Editors’ note: In 30×500, we STRONGLY recommend picking an audience you’re already a part of, and we teach the specific advantages it gives you. A lot of people, like Sean, pick a different audience and then later admit that it was a mistake.

Amy: Would you recommend 30×500 to any type of person in specific?

Today Sean: I highly recommend 30×500.

If you have a pile of projects that have gone nowhere and made zero dollars, and are finally ready to actually create a business instead of a project, take 30×500 ASAP then just do what Amy and Alex tell you to do.

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