by Niall Doherty

I’ve received hundreds of requests to write about this, so here goes.

On July 21st I released a guide called Travel The World + Work Online. The guide is no longer for sale but you can still check out the info page here.

In the 3.5 days the guide was available, I sold 108 copies for a total of $7,622.

Travel The World + Work Online

The sales broke down like this:

  • Travel The World + Work Online (The Guides + Interviews)
    • 57 sales
    • $2,932
  • Travel The World + Work Online (The Guides + Interviews + Audio + Video)
    • 48 sales
    • $3,293
  • Travel The World + Work Online (The Complete Package)
    • 3 sales
    • $1,397

I had some expenses related to the creation and release of the guide that should be taken into account:

  • $388 – Gumroad fees (for payment processing and order fulfillment)
  • $115 – Virtual assistant (for help hosting a webinar)
  • $101 – Affiliate commissions
  • $40 – Facebook ads
  • $20 – Zapier basic plan (to connect mailing list to webinar software)
  • $20 – SumoMe Scroll Box Pro (for lead capture)

Subtract those expenses and I’m left with $6,938 from sales of the guide.

Not bad.

But we should take a few other things into consideration, too:

  • I’m not counting the hundreds of dollars I invested in other digital guides and online courses the past few months as research for creating my own.
  • I’m not counting expenses such as web hosting (Dreamhost) and email marketing (Aweber) since I would be paying for those regardless.
  • Perhaps most significantly, I’m not counting the opportunity cost of creating and marketing such a guide. As a conservative estimate, I would say I spent 300 hours creating and marketing the guide over a period of ten months. If I had instead spent even half of those hours doing my usual freelance web design gigs at a rate of $80/hour, I’d have several thousand additional dollars in my pocket right now.

So yes, July 2015 was my most profitable month in business to date, and yes, I did pull in more than $5,000 within the first 24 hours of releasing the guide, which was all kinds of awesome and had me giggling like a schoolgirl… but let’s not get carried away here.

Given the amount of time and energy invested, I didn’t exactly make a killing.

That said, I did create an asset that I can use to generate additional income in future — I plan to release the guide again at a later date — so the ultimate ROI is still to be determined.

What Worked?

Here are a few things that seemed to work well and helped generate sales of the guide.

1. Creating a quality product

It all starts with creating something that provides great value and people are happy to pay for, and I think I did a solid job of that with the guide. I was very proud of the finished product and the feedback has been excellent so far. Three weeks deep and nobody has requested a refund, either.

Of course, it helps that I’ve been walking my talk for the past five years, having visited and lived in dozens of different countries while working online, and documenting the highs and lows of that lifestyle all the while.

2. Early bird discount

I offered a 15% discount on the guide for the first 24 hours. As a result, I made two-thirds of the total sales in that first 24-hour period.

Generally, it seems to be a good idea to give people a deadline of some sort. We all like to procrastinate and say to ourselves, “I’ll do it later,” so when selling it helps to give people an extra incentive to take action right there and then.

3. Tiered pricing

This means offering different versions of the product. I offered three:

  • The Guides + Interviews ($59)
  • The Guides + Interviews + Audio + Video ($79)
  • The Guides + Interviews + Audio + Video + Personal Coaching ($599)

I wasn’t going to do tiered pricing due to the extra work required to create the different offerings, but then I read this article by Nathan Barry and realized I’d be leaving a lot of money on the table if I didn’t.

If I had just offered the $59 version of the guide to everyone (which was my initial plan), I would have missed out on more than $2,000 in revenue from the same amount of sales.

4. Audio and video version of the guide

The middle tier was essentially the guide plus audio and video walk-throughs. That is, audio and video recordings of me reading all the text aloud and throwing in a few additional tips and anecdotes as I saw fit.

I wasn’t sure that this was enough of an addition to warrant an extra $20 in price, but given how many people opted for that package, plus the positive feedback I’ve received about the audio and video content, I’m really glad I did this.

Seems a lot of people love being able to consume the content in different ways. Sometimes they’re content to sit and read a few pages, but other times they like to kick back and watch a video, or listen to an MP3 while away from their computer.

What could I have done better?

1. Poor sales funnel

I recognized many of the people who bought the guide had been following me online for  quite a while. And many who bought told me it was mainly because they know and trust me.

Given that, combined with the fact that I’m not naturally a great salesman, going forward I realize the need to better nurture leads before asking for a sale. I’ll do that by setting up a special email series for newcomers that drips out valuable content related to traveling the world and working online. That should help them get to know and trust me, and hopefully get a few conversations started.

2. Pitching (repeatedly) to my entire list instead of starting a new list

I have more than 2,000 people on my primary mailing list. Given that I write about a wide variety of topics, not all of those people were interested in traveling the world and working online.

But I pitched to the entire list anyway. Multiple times.

That was a bad idea, resulting in dozens of unsubscribes and a handful of complaints.

A better idea would have been to set up a separate email list and invite people to sign up for that one if they wanted to know more about the guide. I’ve actually gone ahead and created just such a list now. If you want to be notified when the next version of the guide is available, sign up here.

3. Facebook ads

I’m not sure how the Facebook ads worked out. I never quite figured out the tracking there so no idea if the $40 I invested generated a good ROI.

I do like the concept of Facebook custom audiences though, which is what I used. That allowed me to promote the guide only to Facebookers who had visited my site before and were therefore much more likely to be interested in what I had to offer.

I will use FB ads again, just have to make sure I get the tracking right next time.

4. Webinar

On Sean Ogle’s recommendation, I decided to do a webinar to promote the guide, staying up until 5am here in Amsterdam so more Americans could tune in (most of my audience is in the USA).

I was aiming for 100 attendees on the webinar and ended up with 30. Those 30 attendees were great though, staying with me for two hours and asking lots of questions.

Unfortunately I only made 4 sales of the guide during the webinar. Sending out the recording later on seemed to push several more, but given the time and expense of the whole thing I’m not convinced it was worth it.

5. Affiliates

Only two of the 108 sales came through affiliates, despite reaching out to a dozen or so friends with their own online audiences and offering a 75% commission.

I’m not sure I’ll go to the trouble of trying to recruit affiliates for the next release of the guide. I think my time would be better spent on creating new content and building out and optimizing my sales funnel.

6. Showing the highest-priced package first

If you take a look at the info page for the guide right now, you’ll see as you scroll down that I first display the different versions in this order:

  • The Guides + Interviews ($59)
  • The Guides + Interviews + Audio + Video ($79)
  • The Guides + Interviews + Audio + Video + Personal Coaching ($599)

Initially I had them displayed in reverse order, so the $599 version showed up first (or $499 during the first 24 hours).

This was a mistake, and one my friend Karol warned me about before launch. I ignored his advice (sorry, Karol!) because I was sold on the concept of price anchoring (explained here). I still believe in that concept, but my error was not showing all the prices side-by-side at first, so people could see the three options at a single glance.

Showing just the highest price on its own initially resulted in this kind of thinking:

When I opened your first email that made your guide available…I quickly clicked on it…scrolled to bottom…and saw a “500.00” and thought “well that’s not for me at this time”….

That was feedback I received from one reader, and I suspect she wasn’t alone in her reaction.

I later accepted my mistake and switched the packages around so the lowest price appeared first, but I think the damage was mostly done by then. For price anchoring to work, I should have had a quick price comparison table up top of the info page.

7. Reddit AMA

AMA stands for Ask Me Anything, and it’s a good way to get attention on Reddit if you’ve got an interesting story to tell. Back in April of 2014 I did my first AMA:

I usually get ~1,000 visitors a day on my website, but that AMA last year hit the front page of Reddit and sent more than 15,000 visitors my way, eventually crashing my humble online abode.

I figured I could do the same again this year, or perhaps even top it, since I’d now completed my trip around the world and thus had an even better story to tell. So I adjusted my site to handle more traffic and posted another AMA:

Unfortunately, this one didn’t go so well. The AMA never gained traction and resulted in less than 200 visitors to my website.

Why did the second AMA do so poorly?

Methinks I messed up by posting it in the general AMA section of Reddit rather than in the /travel subreddit. First time around I posted it in the general AMA section but the mods moved it for me, no problem. I figured the same would happen this time but the mods said they couldn’t move it and instructed me to start the AMA over again in the correct location. I tried doing that but couldn’t figure it out (it being 3am and me being exhausted probably didn’t help), and soon gave up in frustration.

8. Not giving myself much time to get everything ready

I was initially aiming to release the guide at the end of June, but kept finding more things to add and adjustments to make and eventually settled on the release date of July 21st. Even with that extra bit of breathing room to get everything ready, I was still putting in 60+ hours/week in front of the computer leading up to the launch.

I’m glad I gave myself a deadline and I’m happy with the version of the guide I released, but I don’t want a repeat of that grueling work schedule next time around. It’s not very good for my health.

What’s next?

I was going to relaunch the guide in September/October and leave it up for sale at that point, but now I’m thinking different.

First of all, I’m thinking of transforming the guide into an online course.

Why?

Over the weekend I surveyed the buyers and collected anonymous feedback. And that feedback has me convinced that the existing format of the guide isn’t ideal, because it dumps a ton of information on them all at once. The advantage of this is that people can dip in and out of the guide as they wish and just focus on the content they’re interested in, but the downside is that it can be very overwhelming.

I’m going to investigate some existing online courses in the coming weeks and see if that format works better.

Secondly, I’ve decided against leaving the guide up for sale all the time, for a few reasons:

  • Constantly having it for sale means constantly attending to sales and marketing, which distracts me from attending to the buyers and helping them out however I can.
  • I like to create a community, and this is easier to do with a group of people who buy the guide at about the same time. The first group of buyers are all in a secret Facebook group now and they will learn and grow together. If a new buyer was to join them in a week or two they’d feel like they’re behind the curve and out of place.
  • For me personally, it’s more financially viable to relaunch the guide every few months rather than having it up for sale all the time. I can build buzz and make a big sales and marketing push every once in a while rather than trying to maintain it constantly. This should lead to more sales, which means I can afford to spend more time and money making the guide even better.

More feedback

I mentioned that I surveyed the buyers of the guide over the weekend, receiving 26 complete and 8 partial responses out of a possible 108. All feedback was anonymous. Here are the results of the multiple choice questions asked in the survey:

201508-survey-01 201508-survey-02 201508-survey-03

If you’d like to be notified when the guide is re-released…

…please sign up below and I’ll put you on a special list. I’ll only send you information about the guide and some free stuff related to it.


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Last thing…

If you found this article helpful, please hit one of those share buttons to the left. That would help me out a lot. Thanks!

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